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Sunday Funday: Happy Caucus Eve

Who will emerge tomorrow night?

Who will emerge tomorrow night?

Well I guess this is Iowa’s version of the Super Bowl. The eyes of the nation, and some around the world will be watching to see what the farmers, factory workers, clerks, small business owners, students and professionals that call Iowa home will do as they gather in community centers across the state tomorrow. Then at 9PM as if ordered by some supreme master people and equipment will be leaving Iowa en masse to swarm on the next step in the process.

While Tuesday morning may feel like the day after Christmas to many here in Iowa – you know the “is the magic really over?” feeling – Mother Nature has already chosen an activity for us. Snow removal. One of Iowa’s favorite wintertime activities will be there waiting for us the next morning. Isn’t Mother Nature wonderful?

Were you paying attention?

1) When the clown bus unloaded in Des Moines Thursday night and attendance was taken before the Republican debate one was missing. Which one?

2) Friday (Jan. 29) was the seventh anniversary of the Fair Pay Act being signed into law. This law is better known by what person’s name?

3) Iowa’s caucus system was forced to move to much earlier in the process following new rules for selecting Democratic delegates following what tumultuous convention?

4) As the biggest newspaper in the first state test of presidential politics, the Des Moines Register endorsed what two candidates last week?

5) Super Bowl next week. Who’s playing?

6) In Des Moines what Republican presidential candidate hijacked a pre-school field trip to the botanical gardens to use the kids as props for an anti-abortion rally?

7) The owner of what major league baseball team is running ads against Bernie Sanders in Iowa prior to the caucuses?

8) Last Sunday in Muscatine Donald Trump added what religious group to the long list of groups he hates?

9) Feb. 1, 1960 in Greensboro, NC, 4 black students were refused service at a Woolworth lunch counter but stayed at the counter starting what form of protest?

10) Texas tried to prosecute Planned Parenthood, but last week the prosecution had some surprise results when the grand jury instead indicted who?

11) When federal officials arrested protesters near Burns, Oregon one protester was shot and killed. This man was best known for pictures of him covered by what?

12) Canada announced they will screen travelers to Central and South America from blood donations in an attempt to slow the spread of what virus?

13) President Obama banned what for juveniles in federal prisons Monday?

14) Prior to the Republican debates in Iowa Thursday fast food workers picketed the venue with what demand?

15) A $25 repair fee seemed to be the cause of a gunfight between the owner of what kind of store, his son and two customers in Mississippi last week?

16) Iowa’s caucuses got big media attention when what democratic candidate was propelled to an eventual gig in the White House with a good showing in Iowa?

17) Now here’s endorsements that might mean something. Donald Trump was endorsed by what two U of Iowa groups at a rally at the U of Iowa Fieldhouse Tuesday?

18) What evangelical ran second to Bob Dole in Iowa’s Republican caucus in 1988?

19) McDonald’s latest offering, mozzarella sticks, is facing a hard introduction due to what problem?

20) In 2008, Hillary Clinton finished in what position in the Iowa caucuses?

Now don’t forget we are all democrats, so play well together.


1) Donald Trump. They lost the Donald

2) Lilly Ledbetter

3) Chicago 1968

4) Hillary Clinton (dem) and Marco Rubio (rep)

5) Denver and Carolina. The game will be played in San Francisco a city that now seems to located in Santa Clara

6) Carly Fiorina

7) Chicago Cubs

8) Sikhs – Trump had a Sikh man removed who was silently holding a sign that said “Stop Hate”

9) sit-ins

10) the pair that filmed the bogus”documentary” that led to the investigation for falsifying records.

11) a blue tarp

12) The zika virus that may be the cause of microcephalic babies

13) solitary confinement

14) $15/hr. minimum wage

15) a gun store. The shop owner and his son were killed and the cutovers, also father and son, were gravely injured. Not sure who the good guy with the gun was here.

16) Jimmy Carter

17) members of the U of Iowa football and wrestling teams

18) Pat Robertson. Just imagine him as president

19) the mozzarella cheese is often missing from the sticks

20) 3rd behind Obama and Edwards

Will The Legislature Let Medical Marijuana Happen This Year?

medical marijuana

Two years ago, Iowa seemingly became the latest in a string of states to allow marijuana to be used in limited medical situations. In Iowa, the situations were centered around epilepsy. All agreed this was very necessary and very good policy.

What was missed in allowing the use of medical marijuana in Iowa was that the possession of marijuana continued to be illegal. In order to legally use marijuana a person had to possess it first which is illegal.

Last year Republicans in the Iowa legislature refused to even discuss legalizing possession of marijuana by those who needed to use it medically.

Republicans need not wonder too long why Iowans think their legislators are a joke. They won’t fund schools, they keep women’s wages stuck in the 1950s and when they do try to take a step forward it appears they can move only leg.

This is not rocket science. In order to use the marijuana that will alleviate a terrible medical problem a person must first be able to possess the marijuana. This will be a huge step forward for those who need it. To the Republicans in the Iowa legislature, please do the right thing and make it possible for those who need this drug to be able to get it.

If I was cynical I might think that their opposition was based on getting “campaign contributions” from drug companies that are working across the country to halt the use of medical marijuana. But surely that couldn’t be it.

An Unspoken Message From Flint

Flint water sample (hat tip to

Flint water sample (hat tip to

Simply stated while more and more Americans concentrate in urban areas, right wing propaganda pushed by corporate media portrays America’s cities as crime ridden hell holes run by incompetent politicians and inhabited by slothful citizens who live off the dole, spawning generation after generation of citizens dependent on government. Right wing politicians at the state and federal level have used these perceptions to push laws that make it difficult at best for cities to even run let alone succeed. That is the crux of my rant.

While most news sources and opinion leaders are rightly hammering about the tragedy in Flint and how easily it could have been avoided, as far as I know no one has spoken of one of the underlying reasons that goes totally unspoken and ignored. Simply stated, America hates its cities. Americans through its politicians day after day and year after year creates hurdles and barriers to keep cities from operating in a manner that could optimize life for its citizens.

This should hardly be a surprise to anyone. Since the day a European first set foot in the new world, owning land and being beholden to no one has been what is now called the American Dream. Being a self-sustained family unit growing your own food, making your own clothes, living on a large acreage in a home built with your own hands. Land is at the basis of much of the American Dream. “A man’s home is his castle” and all that, but the bottom line was that every person was expected to strive for that little chunk of land that is their own.

Wars and famines in Europe in particular and elsewhere to a degree sent droves of refugees to our shores in the 19th century. Many of these folks were considered less desirable. Often for their own protection as well as the need for some familiar setting, these folk often congregated together. The congregating places became the cities. As most know living conditions in the cities were often that of hell holes. Thanks to social activists living conditions were gradually raised. Open sewers and dirty water eventually became indoor plumbing. Electricity was deployed. Cities slowly became more livable. Businesses and jobs moved into the cities where labor was cheap and plentiful.

The pastoral American Dream gave way to a reality of life in or near a city. The Great Migration of rural southern blacks to jobs in northern cities was the next phase. At this point race became a factor in how cities were treated. Following WW2 transportation and government policies around land and housing led to a movement to the suburbs by whites. Segregationist governmental policies led to white suburbs with good jobs surrounding an increasingly poor and jobless inner core city.

Mostly this was ignored by our media except for uprisings borne out of frustrations in the inner cities. While the pastoral American Dream remained as the ideal, reality was that most of America became increasingly tied to cities either in the city itself or as part of the burgeoning suburbs. As of the 2010 census slightly over 80% of Americans are listed as urban dwellers. Thus the vast majority of our population is tied to cities.

Over the decades as African-Americans became majorities in urban areas, they took the reins of government. During that same time period it seems that restrictions on what cities were allowed to do became much more restrictive, mandates on what a city must do for its citizens became broader without accompanying tax increases and the tax base deteriorated as industry and wages left town.

Post WW2 as inner cities began to deteriorate, the federal government made at least an attempt to help solve the problems through a program known as revenue sharing. Money was returned to cities based on population for them to use as they saw fit. Unfortunately this revenue stream was cut by the Reagan administration. Funds from this program were for the most part not replaced. Thus programs and improvements went by the wayside and cities really began to struggle to simply provide basic services amid lower revenues and another new wrinkle from the Reagan Administration. unfunded mandates. Prior to Reagan, new rules in areas such as environmental standards would come with some money from the federal government to implement programs. Under Reagan no money was attached to mandates which left cities scrambling to readjust monies to meet the mandates. The money often came from social programs.

As cities were lost revenue and faced new outlays a new anti-tax movement began to take hold in this country thanks in great part to corporate media constantly driving the propaganda that government doesn’t work. It is hard to beat propaganda pushed on nearly all TV and radio stations day in and day out. Cities were often used as examples of government failure where jobless people lived off government checks and sat around doing nothing all day while schools failed and local governments dithered. Pictures on TV cemented that view.

Cities unfairly became the right wing’s and the media’s example of out of control government spending that fostered dependency and sloth. Stories made it seem that incompetence and greed abounded. Forget that the financial binds that most cities were driven to were impossible to solve. TV and radio pushed the meme that cities were wastes of tax dollars and were incapable of solving their own problems. Add into the mix the toxic mortgage backed bonds that many cities used to park some of their funds in hopes of making some interest while waiting to use the money. City after city saw their money disappear while they were stuck with sales charges connected to buying the toxic bonds. This only added to the story of incompetent governments running cities.

All of this along with a racist lore that “others” were incapable of self-government. One more toxic item to add into the mix was the move to starve government at all levels of revenue along with the related push to privatize or profitize goods and services that were once the province of government. At the local level this meant hiring janitorial services for building maintenance rather than employing their own people and it meant hiring garbage pick up services. This also meant that parks went up for sale, buildings were sold for pennies on the dollar, water services were privatized. In Illinois and Indiana toll roads were privatized; in Chicago parking meters were sold to a private concern for a one time shot of money at pennies on the dollar.

With all this as a background, Michigan enacted a series of “emergency management” laws that stripped elected city officials in cities that the governor decided could not run themselves. As has been noted over and over the only cities so designated have been majority African American. And under an emergency management situation with no real check on their powers, the decision was made to change Flint’s water system.

More and more Americans live in a fantasy world where every man has a castle to protect with a cache of weapons. Bad people are consigned to a deservedly lousy existence in the teeming cities where sin, drugs, disease and desperation are rampant. But those who live there deserve what they get because they have somehow offended God and are being punished. Government doesn’t work and only fosters the wretched conditions in the cities. The only hope is dispense with government and empower strong and wise men to run the affairs of the cities without being encumbered by trivial rules.

Reality is that most of America lives in or near cities. Trends seem to show that renting will be the norm and home ownership will suffer a downward trend. What i happening in the inner cities will move to the suburbs as jobs flow overseas or become more and more concentrated as giant corporations continue to merge and consolidate.

America needs visionary leadership that will begin to address these problems now. These problems will not go away, nor can they be legislated or wished out of existence.

Iowa has these problems. There is nothing that makes Iowa cities immune from shrinking revenues and huge burdens. The state legislature continues to enact legislation that makes it harder and harder for cities to maintain libraries, parks, cemeteries, fire services, police and other services. Profitizers are already licking their chops and getting ready to buy up Iowa’s municipal water systems and sewer systems. Experience shows that once something is profitized it is hard to unprofitize. Beware Iowa and watch your legislature closely.

Democrats Lay Out Agenda For 2016 Legislative Session

Gronstal: “There is no net to the general fund. That is the fiction they’ve created.”

Children Should Not Have Guns

iowans-guns-web-version-jpeg300X300Why do we even have to say this stuff? 

Below is an action alert from Iowans for Gun Safety. The bill mentioned here appears to be sponsored by Matt Windschitl (R) who also helped pass it out of subcommittee and whose family happens to own a gun store in Missouri Valley.  Windschitl introduced “Stand Your Ground” legislation in 2013 based on a model bill originally promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  In 2014, Windschitl  wanted silencers:   “Another bill I am working on is to allow Iowans the opportunity to own a firearm suppressor,” said Rep. Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley) in a newsletter. “As I have said before, law abiding citizens are just that, law abiding. We should be allowing Iowans to exercise their rights to the greatest degree possible and not be imposing burdensome restrictions on their Constitutional rights.”   Or burdensome restrictions on the ability to profit from the sale of guns and gun accessories?

HR 2042 would allow a child of any age to possess a pistol or revolver under direct supervision of a parent or guardian.  Watch the Iowa legislature for more great Republican ideas on how to get more guns into the hands of more people.

Please contact your state representative to oppose HF 2042, Kids under 14 handling guns. View the bill at

The proponents of this bill refer to it as a “gun safety” bill, but Iowans for Gun Safety sees it as opening up many dangers. Our argument against it is that children do not have sufficient judgment to understand the permanent consequences of misuse of guns. Children are the most frequent victims of gun accidents. This is true for children from 2-5 who may find a gun in the home and not understand the difference between a toy and a real gun. It is also true for children 12-14, who may want to show off a gun they found in the home and fire it in the process, killing or injuring a friend.

We also think a common sense approach to guns includes other principles, such as the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, violated when a gun is used to take a life, intentionally or accidentally. Common sense also needs to balance parental rights with public rights. The good of the community needs to be taken into account in gun laws. As the community includes people with many different approaches to parental rights and responsibilities, the law needs to take the broadest approach to safety and health.

To contact your legislator, click here.

Iowans for Gun Safety


Democratic Candidate Supporters Unite Against GOP

Iowa-Dem-Caucus-Logo_FDES MOINES—Before the Republican presidential candidates take the debate stage Thursday night for another display of failed policies and school-yard name calling, IDP Chair Dr. Andy McGuire and supporters from the campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders will stand united against the hate and division of the Republican field during a press conferences tomorrow, Wednesday, January 27, at 1:45 p.m. CST in the State Capitol.

As the three Democratic candidates demonstrated Monday night during the CNN/IDP/Drake Town Hall, all of our candidates are committed to addressing the issues that matter to working Iowa families and to building an economy where all Iowans have the chance to succeed. Our candidates showed that we can have spirited disagreements without resorting to name-calling, fear-mongering, and hateful rhetoric.

Press Conference: Clinton, O’Malley & Sanders Supporters Stand United Against GOP Field

Who: IDP Chair Dr. Andy McGuire, supporters from the campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders

When: Wednesday, January 27; 1:45 p.m. CST

Where: State Capitol, Room. 116

How: RSVP To

The Beautiful Arabs of Iowa by Amer Zahr

Comedian Amer Zahr

Palestinian-American Comedian Amer Zahr

Amer Zahr, popular Palestinian-American comedian, is hosting the first-ever live Palestinian-American comedy event at Carnegie Hall in NYC on February 5, 2016, called Being Palestinian Makes Me Smile. For more information or to contribute, click here. For tickets, click here. This blog post originally appeared on Used with permission.

by Amer Zahr

A couple weeks ago, I performed at the invitation of the Arab Student Association at the University of Iowa.  Yes, there is an Arab Student Association at the University of Iowa!  I was just as surprised as you are.

I really thought I would never have a reason to go to Iowa.  I mean, I never knew anything about Iowa except what I saw on TV.  OK, I never saw anything on TV about Iowa.  So, I really knew nothing about Iowa.

I was pretty sure that Iowa would produce a few Arabs.  Every town needs a jeweler and a gas station.  And I’m never surprised when I find a few Arabs in any small town.  You can drop us just about anywhere and we find a way to survive.

When I arrived at the airport in Cedar Rapids, I was immediately surprised when I looked at my iPhone.  Iowa had 4G service!  I then remembered that I had heard of this city before.  Cedar Rapids, Iowa is actually home to America’s first mosque.  Yes, Iowa!  The Arab community of Cedar Rapids has a story that is not much different from that of other Arab-American communities.  One guy from Lebanon came, hustled, made some money, and before you know it, the whole village is there.

Then I made my way about 25 miles south to the University of Iowa.  Now, I already knew the student leader that arranged for my visit to the university was an Egyptian-American.  He was a very nice Midwestern boy with olive skin and a funny name.  Imagine Aladdin, all grown up.

But it didn’t stop there.  In Iowa, there were Arabs from everywhere.  And I’m not exaggerating.

I met a beautiful couple from Morocco.  The husband is a French-trained chef and operates a popular creperie in Iowa City.  I know, crepes in Iowa!  He and his wife both run the restaurant, and though he came up with all the recipes, has all the culinary training, and has all the experience, she still lets everyone know that she is “the boss.” And although she said this many times in front of many people, he never objected.  As it turns out, Arab couples are just like any other.

Then I met another Egyptian-American who was a graduate of the University of Iowa and continued her career there as a coordinator at a domestic violence intervention program.  I don’t mean to burst Bill O’Reilly’s bubble, but Arab women aren’t just the victims of domestic violence.  As it turns out, they lead the effort to help prevent it, too.

Then, I met a Saudi Arabian woman who was studying dentistry at the university.  And she was gorgeous.  And I know many people reading this column might not know that there are gorgeous Saudi women since all we ever see on CNN are their eyes.  But take my word for it.  And don’t worry, I don’t think she is going to get in trouble with her family for appearing in my blog.  I’m sure they already know she is studying dentistry.

I met more and more Arabs.  I was overwhelmed.  I met a young man from Yemen.  His mother was actually visiting him in Iowa, all the way from Yemen.  I don’t think that’s a direct flight.  During my whole show, he sat with his arm around her and they laughed together.  I don’t think I’ve ever made Yemenis laugh, so seeing two generations laugh at the same time warmed my heart.


A Palestinian Applies for a Job at Starbucks (video)


There was a very loudly laughing Lebanese man in the front row.  He was one of my favorites.  As it turns out, he owns a successful engineering company in Iowa City.  After the show, I met a young Pakistani man who was one of his employees.  That’s right, Arabs employing Pakistanis in Iowa!  Someone should tell the Republicans that the economy isn’t that bad.

Oh, and the crowd had a bunch of Sudanis.  It turns out that Iowa City has a significant number of them.  And in a place like Iowa City, they get noticed.  They live there and occupy all kinds of professions.  There is actually a “Sudanese Center of Iowa City,” but don’t tell Sarah Palin.

Then I met some of my Palestinian people.  This always makes me extra happy.  I don’t mean to be biased, but we have an extra hurdle.  We always have to succeed wherever we go.  We have no choice.  We don’t have a Plan B.  We can’t mess up and go back to our country.

The first Palestinian I met was a PhD student studying Pharmacy.  She had completed her undergraduate studies in Jordan.  And Palestinians are in Jordan because… well, that’s a whole other column.  She made her way to Iowa because… Ok, I don’t know why she ended up in Iowa, but she seemed very happy to be there.

Then I met another Palestinian woman.  She was also getting her PhD (we Palestinians shoot for the stars).  Her specialty was genetics.  I think she is researching how Palestinians can genetically trace their ancestry in the Holy Land ever further back than the Jewish people.  Ok, I don’t know if she is researching that, but I can dream, can’t I?  She was sitting in the front row of the show.  And her laugh was infectious.  After the show, I met her and was surprised to hear that she had an accent.  It wasn’t Arabic, and it wasn’t Midwestern.  It was… Australian!  This Palestinian woman had made her way from Sydney to Iowa City to continue her education.  See, that’s what it means to be Palestinian.  We can travel from one home in Australia to another in Iowa, only to catch a small glimpse of Palestine along the way.

Finally, I met an Iraqi named Talib.

Talib was born in Iraq and was a teenager when America invaded Iraq in 2003.  His life changed instantly.  He went from a young man looking to embark upon his life in his homeland to a young man forced to leave his country in search of hope.  He told me something like, “I was living in Iraq, then one day America invaded, then the next day I had a gun in my face, and then the next day I was like ‘F&*k this.’ So I left.”  And when you really think about it, that’s why most Arabs immigrate to America anyway.  They eventually just say ‘F&*k this.’

Well, Talib had an aunt in, of all places, Iowa.  He found refuge in the heartland of the country that had invaded his homeland. And you wonder why we Arabs are so messed up.

In Arabic, “Talib” means student, or “knowledge-seeker.”  Well, Talib studies business, and is definitely putting his classroom lessons to work. My trip to Iowa ended in Talib’s hookah café in Iowa City.  As I sat there enjoying laughs with Iraqis, Egyptians, Lebanese, Palestinians, Moroccans, Somalis, & Yemenis, I actually said something I never thought would escape my lips:

“I can’t wait to go back to Iowa.”

* Amer Zahr is a Palestinian-American comedian, writer, and speaker living in Michigan. He is also the editor of “The Civil Arab” blog and has written a book called “Being Palestinian Makes Me Smile.” In addition, he is an adjunct professor at the University of Detroit–Mercy School of Law.

We Need To Overturn Branstad Education Veto


During the 2015 legislative session, Iowa lawmakers agreed to give Iowa schools $56 million in urgently needed funding. Iowa school leaders say this will help prevent larger class sizes, fewer teachers, and higher property taxes.

On July 2nd, Governor Terry Branstad vetoed this school funding compromise.

A special session of the Iowa Legislature is the only way to overturn this veto and help our local schools. For a special session to occur, two-thirds of Iowa lawmakers (67 in the House/34 in the Senate) must formally request one.

Sign this petition to encourage your state representative and state senator to join the call for a special session.

change petition

Letter to
Members of the Iowa Legislature
Call for a special session to restore school funding

You know what to do.

Iowa Caucus — Seven Days Out

Iowa Caucus

Iowa Caucus

Stuff is getting real as we enter the last days before the first in the nation Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1.

The Democratic race has been somewhat dull and uninspiring. Set aside the hubris-imbued early drop-outs (Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb), those in the race, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders, bring little we don’t already know to the political discussion.

Although there are differences between the candidates, the 2016 election is about one thing: retaining a Democrat in the office of president. Err… two things… funding the Democratic campaign effort with cash in donor poor states like Iowa being the other. People tend to forget the latter because by and large few engage in party work other than during the final days before elections.

The good news is recent analysis showing Iowa is expected to retain four congressional seats after the 2020 census. The other news is our races for congress will continue to be competitive. With three of four seats being held by Republicans, 2016 will be pivotal in determining whether Democrats can retain the second district and maybe pick up first and third if the planets align, we recognize the opportunity, and execute upon it. Democratic chances to pick up a seat or two diminish outside the presidential election years. We will have to work smart and hard to keep what we have and maybe add one or two Democratic congress members in 2016.

The U.S. Senate? Unless incumbent candidate Chuck Grassley does something radically different for him, he holds the upper hand before the November general election. A well financed insurgent campaign could end his too long run. State Senator Rob Hogg offers the best hope for doing that among the three current contenders in the June 7 Democratic primary. Retreads Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen are also running with little change since they were last defeated in their primary with Democrat Roxanne Conlin. Fiegen has gone all in trying to grab the coattails of Bernie Sanders. Whether that will work, whether more detailed positions than appear on his website, especially his position regarding a woman’s right to choose, would gain traction among voters in the general election is an open question.

Seven days from the Iowa Caucus, the Democratic presidential race is too close to call.

This is a season of pollsters, and clouds have risen above the two leading Democratic candidates for president. Like with our warming planet, the political atmosphere absorbs more moisture because it is warmer, and when turbulence and precipitation come, it may be a gully-washer, clearing the field.

I don’t want to be dismissive of O’Malley, but what else is there to do? The gent has no chance of winning the Democratic nomination for president. I expect him to drop out on or before Super Tuesday. Prove me wrong on that, maybe say a prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe for a miracle.

Hillary Clinton’s main challenge is whether or not voters find her trustworthy. Along with that is the unspoken (at least in public) issue of her female gender.

As the Des Moines Register pointed out in yesterday’s endorsement of Clinton, “no other candidate can match the depth or breadth of her knowledge and experience.” This harkens back to September when I decided to support Clinton for president, in part because of her knowledge and experience. Along with her global advocacy for women and children, and the potential to appoint multiple Supreme Court Justices, my decision was practical: pick the candidate with the best qualifications for the job. As others have pointed out, the practical vs. idealistic discussion is one voters are having. Based on people I talk with, the number of realists and idealists seems about even today.

We won’t hear so much about the fact Clinton is female, but opposition to a female president runs deep, not only near where I live, but across Iowa and the country. Expect this to come up during the general election, but whispering has already begun.

As far as being trustworthy, WYSIWYG with Clinton. She is unlike the Republican field in the Greek Drama politics has become in the corporate and social media. She wears a complex wardrobe of masks asserting her policy positions. If one looks behind the masks, at her core she is a Democrat, and likely a better pick than her husband was back in 1992.

What about Bernie Sanders? When I met him at a Johnson County Democrats event in 2014 I liked everything I heard. The Des Moines Register endorsement of Hillary Clinton lays out the case against Sanders — the unanswered question of how he might gain traction for his policy ideas in the stalemated political partner that is the U.S. Congress. He has had no answers to this criticism other than the need for a political revolution.

Like with Clinton, a whisper campaign about Sanders has begun, and can be expected to increase should he win the Democratic nomination. There are two things: “he’s a socialist,” and “he’s a Jew.”

Sanders describes himself as a “Democratic socialist,” but expect this to get morphed into “socialist” or the more disparaging “communist” in the general election. This is less whisper campaign than a reflection of Sanders unwillingness to embrace conventional politics. I believe we can weather the storm on this one should Sanders be the nominee. I’d like it more if he signed up for the Democratic party other than as its potential nominee, but elections are about compromise. I’ll let go of that one.

What has been written about less than I am hearing is American antisemitism that has been problematic since the nation’s inception. Wikipedia characterizes the current issue as follows:

An ABC News report in 2007 recounted that about six percent of Americans reported some feelings of prejudice against Jews. According to surveys by the Anti-Defamation League, antisemitism is rejected by clear majorities of Americans, with 64 percent of them lauding Jews’ cultural contributions to the nation in 2011, but a minority holding hateful views of Jews remain, with 19 percent of Americans supporting the antisemitic canard that Jews co-control Wall Street in 2011.

Wall Street and campaign finance reform have already become a topic among Democrats, and is expected to remain through the November election. Canard or no, if 19 percent believe Jews co-control Wall Street, the question is what percentage is in play regarding a specific vote for president. Antisemitism is real, and may be a factor if Sanders is the nominee. I’m already hearing talk about it.

As recent polls have indicated, Sanders, like Clinton, is electable against a Republican opponent. What those of us who can remember know is the margin of victory will be close in the 2016 presidential race. If the Anti-Defamation League’s analysis is accurate, Sander’s religion may come into play enough to swing the election. For me, it’s not an issue in the caucus, but then politically active Iowans are more open minded than in other states, especially in the electorate for the general election. Democrats are already talking about Sanders’ religion as a liability.

I’ve been fighting the good fight for Hillary Clinton and will until the tally is made at our caucus. I’ll support the Democratic candidate nominated July 25 in Philadelphia. Some questions will be answered Feb. 1 and seven days out which ones they are is obscured by noise in the corporate and social media.

The Courtney Report

Courtney Report

The Iowa Legislature is back in session. We are quite happy to once again turn a corner of this blog over to excerpts from the newsletter of State Senator Tom Courtney and occasionally others. The full newsletter can be read here.


Another year of inadequate state funding for K-12 schools will result in larger class sizes. That’s what school administrators tell us in a new survey.
Superintendents, principals and other school officials completed the survey in recent weeks to help us better understand the consequences of shortchanging public schools, and to determine the impact of the Governor’s veto last summer of bipartisan school funding.

Underfunding local schools limits educational opportunity for our students. That’s bad for Iowa’s future at a time when business leaders say Iowa needs more skilled workers just to fill current job openings. When we underfund education, we undermine our state’s economy and the ability of Iowa families to get ahead.

In addition to packing more students into classrooms, school leaders say underfunding schools will force them to:

* Delay purchasing books and classroom materials (77 percent of respondents).
* Leave positions unfilled (71 percent).
* Delay new technology purchases (56 percent).
* Cut back on programs that help kids learn to read (43 percent).

An increase of at least 4 percent in basic state aid to schools is what’s needed for the next school year to avoid these types of drastic cuts, according 88 percent of school leaders who responded to the survey.

It’s time to make public schools a bipartisan priority of the Legislature again. We can afford to do it. Our state savings accounts are full at $719 million. That’s a record high level, equal 10 percent of state budget. In addition, we expect to end the year with a surplus of $264 million.

To view complete results from the school administrator survey, go to here.


Medicaid is the health care safety net for 560,000 Iowans. One in five Iowans depends on Medicaid for vital health care services, including the elderly, people with disabilities and mental health concerns, children and moms.

Because of an ill-conceived and poorly executed plan by the Branstad/Reynolds Administration, Iowa families may not be able to count on that safety net anymore.

The Governor’s unilateral decision to turn Medicaid and $4.2 billion over to a few private out-of-state companies is fiscally irresponsible and risky to the health of Iowans. The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has stepped in to slow down the process until at least March 1, but many are still concerned that the Iowa Department of Human Services and the out-of-state companies will be not be prepared to make the transition by then.

Members, caregivers and families are in turmoil over the major changes to Iowa Medicaid. It could result in increased costs to taxpayers and denial of health care to Iowans. Some providers are unsure they’ll survive the new payment structure.

We will continue to help Iowa patients and local community health care providers as best we can with their individual circumstances.

In addition, Senate Democrats are developing stronger oversight legislation this session. We want safeguards in place to protect Iowans who rely on Medicaid and our local health care providers from potential negative impacts of privatizing Medicaid.

Veterans from across Iowa visited the State Capitol on January 20 for the annual Veterans Day on the Hill. I was pleased to welcome veterans from our district, and to listen to their concerns and ideas.

They had a full schedule of activities, including a special ceremony in the rotunda honoring their service. In addition they had the opportunity to meet Adjutant General Timothy Orr of the Iowa National Guard, Commandant Jodi Tymeson of the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown, Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs Executive Director Col. Robert King (Ret.), and members of the Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs.

The Legislature’s Veterans Affairs Committee has worked in a bipartisan way to expand benefits for our veterans, service members and their families. For example, last year we:

* Provided a stable source of revenue for the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund by transferring $2.5 million in lottery revenues each year to the trust fund (SF 323).
* Offered flexibility in using college aid by providing a total of 120 undergraduate credit hours through the National Guard Educational Assistance Program, instead of administering aid by term (SF 130).
* Expanded college credit for military education, training and experience to include National Guard members and Reservists, saving them time and money in completing their degrees (HF 205).
* Ensured a full property tax exemption through the Disabled Veterans Property Tax Credit to veterans who have 100 percent service-connected, permanent disability that makes it impossible to work (HF 166).
* Added “service-disabled veteran” to the definition of targeted small businesses, which are eligible for low-interest loans and grants, as well as consideration when that state seeks bids for goods and services (SF 499).

This year, we continue to explore opportunities to support our veterans, enhance existing services at the state and county levels, help returning service members reenter civilian life, and encourage more veterans to make Iowa their home.

Iowa troops who have answered the call to duty deserve this dedicated support.