Sunday, September 30

Bush and Global Warming: Leading the Coalition of the Unwilling

George Bush has suggested that where global climate change is concerned, he would rather go it alone. The president declared that each country needs to make their own decision, rather than signing on to a global agreement such as the Kyoto Protocol. "Each nation must decide for itself the right mix of tools and technology to achieve results that are measurable and environmentally effective," Mr Bush told delegates in Washington.

South African Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk put the sense of the 16 nations at the conference best by saying "What [the US] placed on the table at this meeting is a first step, but is simply not enough. We think that the US needs to go back to the drawing board."

Bush said, "We must [address global warming agreements] in a way that does not undermine economic growth or prevent nations from delivering greater prosperity for their people," he said.

"Greater prosperity" will be hard to guarantee if we superheat the planet and kill off the very things that benefit from doing so, namely us.

Saturday, September 29

Blackwater Muddies Investigative Waters

A report from CNN says:
  • House probe: Blackwater tried to delay, impede investigation into 2004 killings
  • Four Blackwater employees ambushed, killed in Falluja in 2004 incident
  • Company said unclassified documents were classified, report says
  • Blackwater calls report "a one-sided version of this tragic incident"

Private military contractor Blackwater USA "delayed and impeded" a congressional probe into the 2004 killings of four of its employees in Falluja, Iraq, the House Oversight Committee said Thursday in a report.

Blackwater contractors Jerry Zovko, Scott Helvenston, Mike Teague and Wesley Batalona were ambushed, dragged from their vehicles and killed on March 31, 2004.

The burned and mutilated remains of two of the men were hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River, an image that fueled American outrage and triggered the first of two attempts to retake the city from Sunni Arab insurgents.

The company stalled the committee's investigation into the incident by "erroneously claiming" documents related to the incident were classified, trying to get the Defense Department to make previously unclassified documents classified and "asserting questionable legal privileges," according to a report from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's Democratic staff.

According to Blackwater's reports on the killings, the men killed in Falluja had been sent into the area without proper crew, equipment or even maps.

One company document found a "complete lack of support" for its Baghdad, Iraq, office from executives at the company's headquarters in North Carolina, the committee report states.

"According to these documents, Blackwater took on the Falluja mission before its contract officially began, and after being warned by its predecessor that it was too dangerous. It sent its team on the mission without properly armored vehicles and machine guns. And it cut the standard mission team by two members, thus depriving them of rear gunners," the report states.

The committee previously disclosed that the day before the fatal mission, the manager of Blackwater's Baghdad office warned his bosses he lacked armored vehicles, radio gear and ammunition.

During February's hearing and in a subsequent written response, Blackwater general counsel Andrew Howell told the committee that documents on the attack had been classified by the U.S. government. But the Pentagon later told the committee the documents had not been classified.

In addition, Blackwater made "multiple attempts" to get the Defense Department to declare company and Coalition Provisional Authority reports on the incident classified, the report states. The Pentagon refused.

The families of the slain men have sued Blackwater Security Consulting, one of the most familiar of hundreds of private military contractors operating in Iraq. The families allege the company failed to provide their relatives with adequate gear and weaponry. Blackwater has denied the allegations and argued the men agreed to assume the risks of working in a war zone.

Friday, September 28

Interactive Edwards: Speaks with Gen MTV

John edwards answered audience questions and got instant feedback.

Edwards Goes Public

From Real Clear Politics

For one Democrat, today is going to bring a lot of questions that will send the campaign off message. Former Senator John Edwards yesterday said he would accept public financing for the Democratic primary, a change from his previous plan to raise and spend amounts not subject to the FEC's spending limits. The campaign's point of view: Adhering to spending limits draws an important distinction between Edwards and the two free-spending front-runners. The immediate reaction from other campaigns: Stick a fork in him; Edwards is done. The spending limits, they say, will mean Edwards gets to spend less on advertising in Iowa than New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson already has spent. Really, can you get by with just $1.48 million in Iowa (FEC limits here)?

This change of heart could be tied to the mega-millions that Clinton and Obama have raised or it could be that it is consistent with Edwards shift away from big money donors and PACs. Given that the rules of the road favor the privately funded candidate, Edwards campaign will have fewer arrows in the quill and will depend on more volunteer power to get out his message. Still, in Iowa, Edwards may do just fine without flooding the airwaves with 30 second spots--time will tell.

George McGovern to endorse Hillary in Iowa City?

The rumor mill and now ABC News has it that HRC may be getting George McGovern's endorsement and may bring him to Iowa City to do so during the Johnson County Democratic Picnic on October 6th.

For those of us with long memories (or the ability to Google), McGovern won Johnson County during his bid for the presidency in 1972. Bill and Hill volunteered for him in 1972 in Texas.

"I think it was a mistake to support that war at any time," McGovern said of Clinton's vote to authorize use of force against Iraq in October 2002. "I don't expect to find a mistake-free candidate; we all have made mistakes." He said that Clinton's position today on the war is "pretty good." In 2004, McGovern endorsed Gen. Wesley Clark.

Pencil In January 3rd for Iowa Caucuses

According to the AP story below, we could be receiving robo-calls that say "Happy New Year, see you at the caucuses."

Iowans could still be humming Auld Lang Syne as they gather to choose among presidential candidates, thanks to decisions by other states to move up their election dates.
Party leaders in Iowa are edging toward holding the state's leadoff caucuses as early as Jan. 3, although they'll hold off on a decision until New Hampshire selects a date for the nation's first primary.

"There are only a couple of days that work, and we don't want to go into December," said Iowa GOP head Chuck Laudner, who mentioned Jan. 3, 4 and 5 as dates being considered.
Iowa and New Hampshire have made clear they won't stand pat as states such as Michigan and Florida move up their election dates, but don't expect a decision soon. New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner has the sole power to schedule his state's primary, and he's not talking.

"I'm not any closer," Gardner said Thursday. "I can't (pick a date) at the moment because I don't know."

Iowa and New Hampshire party officials have been hearing that line for months.

Response From Sen. Harkin on Farm Bill

Thank you for contacting me.

I am always glad to hear from you. I appreciate hearing your support for Bread for the World's farm bill proposal. As you may know, Rev. David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, testified in front of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Nutrition on April 25. He offered his thoughts on how to improve farm policy to help the poor and hungry here in the United States and around the world.

Along with an effective safety net for farmers to alleviate their risks, I intend to provide farm programs that strongly support conservation, rural economic development, farm-based renewable energy and bio-based products to provide broad, long-term benefits to our environment, our economy and our rural communities all across America. I believe our farm programs must differentiate between those who most need federal assistance and those who are better positioned to manage economic risk.

I share the concerns of many Iowans about excessive farm payments to the largest farm operations and the impact this skewed distribution has on the ability of smaller farm operations to compete. I believe there should be a much stronger focus in farm programs on promoting opportunities for family-sized operations. As I draft the upcoming farm bill, I will work hard to include meaningful payment limitations and farm programs that provide the loans, financial assistance and safety nets programs to support the farms and families that need it most. I also appreciate hearing your thoughts on farm program payments. I share your concerns about the effect that excessive farm program payments to the largest farm operations have on the ability of smaller farm operations to compete.

A balanced farm income support policy should differentiate between those who most need federal assistance and those who are better positioned to manage economic risk. I believe there should be a much stronger focus in farm programs on promoting opportunities for family-sized operations. In addition, agricultural programs supporting conservation, rural economic development, farm based renewable energy and bio-based products will provide broader, long-term benefits to the smaller farms and communities in rural America.

While I fought for stricter payment limitations in the 2002 farm bill, the final bill did not go as far as I would have preferred. As I draft the upcoming farm bill, I will work hard to include meaningful payment limitations and farm programs that provide the loans, financial assistance and safety nets programs to support the farms and families that need it most. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on the upcoming farm bill. Please rest assured that I will consider your thoughts and concerns as my staff and I continue work on the 2007 farm bill.

Sincerely, Tom Harkin

Homecoming Fever

Film Actor (Superman) Brandon Routh, Three Dog Night, Ben Kweller, Every Democrat and Republican in the county, Anti-War Protestors, Greeks, Freaks, GLBT, Jocks, Wonks, Has-beens, Never-was, City Council candidates...

Thursday, September 27

Perino Grilled on El Pais Transcript

If this is true, impeachment procedings of the President should be begun.

Bush Bugged by Noise

From US News "Washington Whispers":

President Bush has a thing about noises. First we learned that he absolutely hates when a cellular phone starts ringing during meetings. Now we're told that he can't stand buzzing bugs in the West Wing. Former Press Secretary Tony Snow says that when a little black fly shows up, Bush gets to work "chasing flies around the Oval Office. It drives him crazy when flies get in." And Bush is so well known as a fly hunter among his White House staff, says Snow, that somebody "made him White House fly swatters."

Pop Prog knee-jerk reactions:

a) All that noise must get in the way of the voices in his head.
b) Solution: Call Dick Cheney--just take cover first.
c) I guess he's worried someone is bugging his phone.
d) "Chasing flies around"--Wasn't Larry Craig doing that in airport restrooms?

Harkin Pastes Pace For Propaganda

Sen. Harkin does a good job of laying out Gen. Pace for his his view that gay sex is immoral and should not be condoned by the military.

Frontrunners--End the War -- Yes, well sort of: Remove All Troops? I'll Get Back to You...

Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama all agree that they can't ensure that U.S. forces would be out of Iraq by the end of their first term in 2013.

Sen. Hillary Clinton said it was her goal to have all troops out by 2013, "it is my goal to have all troops out by the end of my first term. But I agree with Barack [Obama]. It is very difficult to know what we're going to be inheriting."

Barack Obama, informed the crowd, "What I can promise is that if there are still troops in Iraq when I take office, which it appears there may be unless we can get some of our Republican colleagues to change their mind and cut off funding without a timetable, if there's no timetable, then I will drastically reduce our presence there to the mission of protecting our embassy, protecting our civilians and making sure that we're carrying out counterterrorism activities there.

I believe that we should have all our troops out by 2013, but I don't want to make promises not knowing what the situation's going to be three or four years out."

John Edwards said if elected, he would "immediately drawn down 40,000 to 50,000 troops"-nearly half of the 100,000 troops General Petraeus believes could still be stationed in Iraq when President Bush's presidential term expires in January 2009.

Edwards also added that, unlike his fellow candidates, he does not support continued combat missions in Iraq. "I do not think we should continue combat missions in Iraq," he added. But when asked whether he would commit to have all troops out of Iraq by the end of his first term, Edwards said "I cannot make that commitment."

Edwards, today, told a middle school student that the United States has troops in many parts of the world, and the key issue is combat troops. If elected, "I would have combat troops out of Iraq in about nine months," he said.

Transcript of Debate here

After the Safe Streets Forum

Myself and around 90 other people were at last evening's forum that was moderated by Johnson County District Attorney Janet Lyness at the majestic Englert Theater. Panel members included both ICPD Chief Sam Hargadine and UIPD Chief Chuck Green, Ashley Peterson, and Iowa City Councilor Amy Correia. Current city councilors Bob Elliott and Regenia Bailey were in the audience. Also, candidates Matt Hayek and Mike Wright were there, puzzling were the absences of the other candidates.

A good deal of time was spent addressing audience questions and clearing up some miscommunications about safety. The university is starting up a van shuttle to bring home women who want to avail themselves of the service on Fridays and Saturday nights.

Kudos to the organizers of the event and to Chiefs Green and Hargadine for attending. Also, it was great to see a cross-section of the community at the forum, not ust students. Neighborhood leaders like Tim Weitzel were there, as well as bloggers like John Deeth who was liveblogging.

If you witness suspicious acts, do call the police 358-TIPS (8477). It is up to the community to make Iowa City safe, the police are doing the best they can.

EarthPORK: It's Alive and Other News Shorts

EarthPork continues on life support thanks to a $10 million atta boy. The Gazette reports.

Canadian Drugs are too dangerous for Americans? Try the one's the FDA puts on the market without inspection. From CNN

End World Hunger, fill out a credit card application. From the Gazette

Out, Out Damn Monks--Government army of the country formerly known as Burma opens fire on Buddhist Monks. Yahoo Noos reports.

Buddy can you spare 190 Billion dollars? Robert Gates goes to the well for another drink in the bottomless spring of hope that is the Iraq War. Yahoo's got it.

Momma's let your babies grow up to thank Norwegians. Norway pledges $1 billion for saving lives of millions of mothers and babies in developing countries. What say you Yahoo?

The other Clinton says Make a Commitment. Bill Clinton's Global Initiative group has room for us small changers.

Eastern Nebraska Congressman (Really, should Iowa be stuck with this guy), Steve King raises the flag against "socialized medicine" in his latest tirade.

Don't Tase on Me, Bro

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports

According to a study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office in 2005, about 40 percent of the country's 18,000 law-enforcement agencies use Tasers. No such statistics exist for college police departments, but they are largely keeping up with their municipal counterparts, says Steven J. Healy, the police chief at Princeton University and a former president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

But even officers who like Tasers say they should be used judiciously: when a person is threatening himself, police officers, or others and physical restraint is not an effective option.

Amnesty International has expressed concerns about the weapons, which have been associated with at least 70 deaths in the United States and Canada since 2001 and may increase the risk of heart failure, the organization said in a report.

What could be done differently,
More here.

Judge Not Standing PAT(RIOT ACT)

The Bill of Rights Defense Committee reports:

PATRIOT Act Declared Unconstitutional - Thank You Brandon Mayfield!
Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield was once accused of participating in the March 2004 Madrid bombing, because the FBI refused to believe Spanish National Police that Mayfield's fingerprint did not match. Today, Mayfield is a real American hero. After being released by the government in May 2004 because he was completely innocent, and after winning a $2 million settlement from the government, Mayfield didn't stop working for justice. He insisted that parts of the PATRIOT Act are unconstitutional, and he hired attorney Gerry Spence to help him prove it.

On Wednesday (Sep 26), Federal Judge Ann Aiken (U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon) ruled two provisions of the PATRIOT Act unconstitutional -- specifically, Section 213, the "sneak and peek" provision and Section 218 amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which were used to search and wiretap Mayfield's home and office. "The Fourth Amendment has served this nation well for 220 years, through many other perils," Aiken wrote in her decision.

Federal Judge Rules 2 PATRIOT Act Provisions Unconstitituional
Judge Aiken's 44-page decision:
Aiken wrote, "In place of the Fourth Amendment, the people are expected to defer to the executive branch and its representation that it will authorize such surveillance only when appropriate." She continued, by saying the government "is asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. The court declines to do so." Finally, a federal judge has named what the government has done via the PATRIOT Act -- amended the Bill of Rights without using the constitutional process for amending the Constitution.

We can thank Brandon Mayfield by continuing to work locally with allies to fight back against the PATRIOT Act, and all the other unconstitutional Department of Justice orders, signing statements, executive orders, and laws passed by Congress since 9/11 that have grossly infringed upon our Bill of Rights protections against governmental excess. Let's mark the anniversary of the PATRIOT Act on October 26 this year with assurance that our efforts to win back the Bill of Rights will prevail! (BORDC has a video documenting the FBI abuses of its PATRIOT Act-enhanced NSL powers that you can show locally to stimulate public discussion. )

Restoration of habeas corpus, an end to warrantless wiretapping, and sharp curbs on National Security Letters are three issues before Congress right now. Let's show Brandon Mayfield that we will stand up for justice too!

Contact Congress.

Wednesday, September 26

JCCOG Installs More Bike Parking Lots

More and more Iowa Citians are opting to save fuel, avoid parking hassles, and enjoy a bit of daily exercise by riding bikes rather than driving cars within the City – and as a result, several new bike racks have recently been installed throughout the community. Look for them at the following locations:
- southwest entrance to Old Capitol Mall
- east side of Old Capitol Mall, on Clinton Street
- corner of Clinton and Washington Streets, near Pancheros
- Washington Street, near the Englert Theatre
- east side of City Hall
- 100 block of Linn Street, near Devotay
- Iowa City Airport
- Riverside Festival Stage in City Park

For more information, contact Kent Ralston at Johnson County Council of Governments (JCCOG) at 356-5253 or

Iowa City Council: Who I Am Endorsing

With the Iowa City Council primary two weeks away (Tuesday October 9th), it is becoming clearer to me about the differences between the at-large candidates in the pool. Since it is no secret that I am a Populist and a Progressive, some of what I say will reflect this perspective. The forum that was held Sunday by the organization I am chair of, FAIR! and Democracy for America and Sierra Club addressed many questions that I and others have (and sadly, many questions are left to be answered). The candidate pie can be sliced a number of ways, but here are three factors I use to gauge candidates:

1) Innovation v. Conservation: When a city has finite resources, how will the candidate favor spreading them furthest?

2) We (the People) Market v. Free Market: To accomplish the goals, will the candidate favor public or private sector solutions?

3) Forest v. Trees: In thinking about prioritizing needs of the community, is the candidate present problem focused or "big picture" focused.

For me, the ideal candidate would lean more to the conservation side, trying to reuse resources in a way to get more mileage from them. Innovation would stem from using public and private resources to creating efficiencies or new services. Also, the ideal candidate would use both private and public sector solutions, wielding the public policy stick firmly for goals like human services and affordable housing. Finally, I favor candidates that think of current problems through the big picture lens; placing band-aids on gaping wounds is not the way to go. Prioritizing needs (with public input) should be the first step that any city council should make.

Lastly, and this is a disclaimer, where a candidate seems to hang their hat, should matter. Not only where in the community they live, but also with whom they affiliate.

Based on these criteria (and each with a disclaimer), the candidates that stand out for me are:

Mike Wright, Brandon Ross:

Challenger Mike Wright, a first time candidate, comes from a neighborhood leadership perspective (He was the neighborhhood leader in Longfellow and now in the Northside Neighborhood), is serving on the Board of Adjustments (which is where zoning decisions go when there are exceptions to existing rules), and has been a long-time supporter of historic preservation. He is not flashy, but he is is thoughtful, articulate, and public-service oriented. He supports public processes and balances private and public needs well in his philosophy. Disclaimer: In fairness, I have known Mike a while because of our participation in the Neighborhood Council and have donated to his campaign and advised him.

Challenger Brandon Ross comes from a more progressive perspective than Mike and is more idealistic in his beliefs about sustainable community. However, as I look at the current council, I see Brandon as a good fit, because he would bring a different community-oriented perspective and is articulate and respectful in conveying his ideas. He would be one of three council candidates who does not live or work directly downtown, so he is more sensitive to other community needs, He has run twice before (once at-large, once in district B) so it is not possible to dismiss him as a "not serious" candidate, though his manner is admittedly more casual. He is principled in his approach and straight forward in speaking. Disclaimer: In fairness, I also have known him for a while. Brandon supported my candidacy and I did play on the Preemptive Strikes softball team with him this summer. I have offered advice to him.

Why Not Hayek, Smith, or Vanderhoef

Challenger Matt Hayek, a first time candidate, is a principled candidate. I appreciate Matt as a good listener and thoughtful about how he would represent the community. Where I hesitate to support him fully is on policy matters, as he is more middle of the road on important issues like affordable housing and downtown development. Matt has shown great community leadership, both with the Englert Theater and with the Housing and Community Development Commission, under which he headed the taskforce that looked at scattered site housing. Matt is more of a pragmatist than a progressive, but does believe in social justice, as he represents some non-profit organizations in the community. Disclaimer: In fairness, Matt and I are Unitarian Universalists, so I know him inside and outside the political realm and he is a highly likeable guy. I also offered him advice.

Challenger Terry Smith, a first time candidate, is involved and intelligent. I respect him as he has been with Mid-American Energy for 27 years and worked himself up the chain of command. He has been on both the Telecommunications and Planning and Zoning Commissions and is invested in the community with Junior Achievement, Goodwill Industries and other organizations. Unfortunately, for better or worse, Terry is connected to the development community in a way that is hard for him not to reflect their values over other community members. With Mike O'Donnell on the council acting as a voice of the Chamber of Commerce, Terry does not offer a different voice. With the need to meld public policy with private interests, Terry is unlikely to be dispassionate about how the council decides issues. Disclaimer: In fairness, I have not had a pure social interaction with Terry, although I did visit with him and his union foreman at Mid-American when I ran in 2005 and had a great conversation with him then.

Incumbent Dee Vanderhoef has been one of my favorite council members for one reason, she is a excellent source of information about issues in front of the council. On a personal level, I admire and respect her in part for being one of the few council members who asked good questions about the development that became the Plaza Towers. She does her homework and has a mind for detail, that is for sure. With regard to vision and ability to get her point across to other members of the council, I believe she has had a lack of success. Generally, I see her as supporting the status quo, but on issues like parks and recreation, she is more progressive. She has served the community well in her twelve years, but a more cooperative and effective voice is needed. Disclaimer: In fairness, I called on Dee when I ran for the council and have found her to be quite helpful in talking about issues.

Silent Running: Primary Season Iowa City

Generally, readers of my blog get a Whitman's Sampler of issues: locally, statewide, and nationally. Today, it is all about Iowa City.

Folks who live in Iowa City do not generally get terribly worked up over the city council primaries--and this is too bad. For instance, in 2005, there was an 8.5% turnout for the primary (compared with the general election, for which 29% turned out).

In this primary, the only contested race is for two at-large seats on the city council. Of the five candidates (Matt Hayek, Brandon Ross, Terry Smith, Dee Vanderhoef and Mike Wright), four will move ahead based on the primary outcome and appear on the November 6th ballot. At that point, the four remaining at-large candidates, uncontested District seats A and C candidates Reginia Bailey and Ross Wilburn, and Public Measures C and D which address bar admission age and amending the Home charter to change the responsibilities of the Police Citizens Review Board will be voted on.

On October 9th, all registered city voters may vote for two of the five candidates in the at large race. In the November 6 election, all Iowa City voters may vote in the at large and in the District A and C contests.

Early Voting

Early voting for the October 9 Iowa City Primary is now available at the Auditor's Office, 913 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City, weekdays 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Satellite voting sites:

Iowa City Public Library

123 S. Linn St., Iowa City, IA

Saturday, October 6, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Sunday, October 7, noon - 5 p.m.

Monday, October 8, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics

200 Hawkins Dr., Iowa City, IA, First Floor, Fountain Lobby (inside the old main entrance with the circle drive).

Monday, October 8, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Tuesday, September 25

State Dept. to Blackwater: Loose Lips Sink Ships

Talking Points Memo snagged this letter which seems to say, "don't do anything until you hear from us."

Besides the James Bond reference (i.e., State Dept. worker named "Moneypenny"), this seems more Tom Clancy-like. No doubt the reason House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair, Henry Waxman waxed philosophical to Secretary of State Rice.

Progs and Cons: Media Voices in Iowa

Media Matters reports that when it comes to the media, Iowa is more Red than Blue. Fortunately in the Iowa City area, it is fairly divided when it comes to syndicated columnists, but not so in Des Moines and elsewhere. Check out the full report here.

IOWA MEDIA: Daily Newspapers at a Glance

- In Iowa, there are 37 daily newspapers with a total circulation of 589,975.

- Conservative syndicated columnists appear a total of 62 times per week in Iowa newspapers. Centrist columnists appear a total of 10 times, while progressive columnists appear a total of 40 times.[1]

- Taking newspaper circulation into account, these columnists have the potential to reach Iowa readers a total of 2,671,629 times each week.

- Nationally syndicated conservative columnists account for 48 percent of the column impressions in Iowa, while nationally syndicated progressive columnists account for only 40 percent of the column impressions.[2]

- Those conservative columnists reach Iowa readers 225,066 more times than their progressive counterparts.

- The top nationally syndicated columnists published regularly in Iowa consist of five conservatives, one centrist, and four progressives.

[1] These figures account for columnists appearing in multiple papers; if a particular columnist is in five separate papers, he or she is counted in these figures five times.

[2] Similar to the advertising term “ad impressions,” “column impressions” counts the number of copies of each column that appears in print.

Grassley: "Yes" Bush Holding SCHIP Bill Hostage

A battle over the President's policy view of using tax deductions to afford private health coverage rather than helping uninsured kids to Medicare coverage may lead to a dissertion by Iowa's Chuck Grassley.

The Washington Post reports that our most senior Senator accused President Bush yesterday of holding up a bipartisan three months, along with campaign advertisements accusing Republicans of abandoning children. That way, pressure would mount either on Bush to sign the bill or on House Republicans to override the veto.

expansion of the popular State Children's Health Insurance Program hostage. Asked if Bush was holding the children's health bill hostage, Grassley said, "Yes." Grassley said if he were the Democrats, he would send the SCHIP expansion to a vote every

"The president has a goal that I share, that we need to take care of the uninsured through private health insurance," said Grassley, relating a sharp conversation he had with Bush on Thursday morning. "But you can't put that on this bill."

Bush on GOP Prospects in 2008

Bush Doublespeak
not cutting taxes = increasing national debt
asset = liability
do well = crushed in 2008

Leahy to McConnell: Stop 'Irresponsible Statements'

Good for Senator Leahy. The fearmongering is what keeps us from doing what is right and decent

Disagreeing Without Being Disagreeable

Civility is constantly challenged by those wishing to be heard. Sometimes they are heard, sometimes they are drowned out by a sea of objection. The controversy over the Colorado State University editorial (Taser this, F**K Bush) is that the larger point was missed by going for shock value. While sometimes it works (e.g., Hearst News' "Remember the Maine!" led to the Spanish-American War), this time it didn't.

Interestingly, the offending editorial has been purged from the CSU Collegian website, so you'll have to take my word that it made a valid point, albeit in a less than agreeable manner. Freedom of Speech was the premise of the editorial. A student in Florida was subdued by use of taser when, in the opinion of university police, he was being disruptive during a Q and A after a speech made by Senator John Kerry.

The editorial board at the Collegian was making the point that the person's first amendment rights were violated by the police's action. They also took aim at the President and the chilling effect his administration has had on civil liberties, but that was largely lost because many folks were stuck at the headline.

The editor of the Collegian, J.David McShane, is unrepentant for the editorial and, perhaps, he shouldn't be. An editorial is an opinion and in this case, an opinion endorsed by the Collegian's editorial board. Opinion is protected free speech, just as the opinions of those who were offended by the editorial with some 21 webpages of LTES and 870 plus comments on the Collegian Website.

The sad thing is the offending editorial has been removed so intelligent discussion of its merits are largely stifled. As Voltaire said, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." My addendum, whether I defend it or not, I will reserve the right to chastise both the opinion maker and the audience for missing the forest for the trees.

Does anyone disagree with the notion that free speech is something worth defending? Should we be in danger of physical attack over the words we say? Like the word choice or not, the editorial and the student in Florida challenge our beliefs and force us to look at expressed opinions without the filter of our experiences.

Let us hope that after the cacaphony simmers down that cooler heads will look at the serious issue of free speech and we can have an intelligent discussion of ideas.

The Little Rock 9 and the Cedar Rapids 19: Parallels in Justice

At a gala on Monday evening, Former President Bill Clinton said Americans needed to continue to improve race relations.

"It is easy to celebrate the courage of others for what they did 50 years ago. It is another thing altogether to build the world our children would like to live in 50 years from now."

Without lessening the impact of the Little Rock 9, it occurs to me that a similarity can be drawn between justice seekers of any generation. The people right here in Iowa who sat-in at Senator Grassley's office to ask him to help end the war in Iraq, the mayor of San Diego who voted his conscience to challenge the ban on same-sex marriage in California, the UAW strikers all are helping to build the world our children will live in.

If there is a reason to value the Constitution of the United States, it is this, the ability of free people to speak their minds and take action against tyranny. While it is nowhere near "a more perfect union," the Constitution allows us the possibility.

Monday, September 24

Edwards: Will He or Won't He Walk the Line?

In August, before the Daily Kos convention, John Edwards walked the line with striking hotel workers in Chicago. With 73,000 of the UAW striking against General Motors, the question is, will Edwards join them too?

Earlier this month in Des Moines Edwards is quoted as having said, ``I want to be the president who walks down the White House lawn and says the word union, who walks down the White House lawn and makes certain that America understands the importance of the organized labor movement in the history of America.'' Edwards also said he has shown his support for labor and ``over 200 times over the past few years I have walked picket lines, worked personally in organizing campaigns, worked with employers to get them to open the process of union organizing in their personal business.''

Mr. Edwards, the UAW is calling.

UPDATE 9/24: Today, Senator John Edwards released the following statement in support of the striking UAW workers:

"I offer my strong support to the striking auto workers and look forward to a fair and speedy settlement that will improve the lives of these hard-working UAW members. And I call on General Motors to do what is right and realize that it has a responsibility to negotiate fairly and move quickly to settle a contract that respects the health, safety and economic security of the auto workers and their families. I also salute the courage of the auto workers to go on strike. Their fight for fair wages, safe workplaces, affordable health care and a secure retirement helps raise standards for workers all across America.

"Sadly, the issues on the bargaining table between General Motors and the United Auto Workers are not unique to Detroit - they represent the larger failures of Washington and public policies that have weakened unions and the middle class. The truth is now, more than ever, it's time for America to go in a new direction and start doing much more to strengthen America's unions and protect the rights of working Americans."

9/26 UPDATE: Elizabeth Edwards Walks UAW Picket Line.

9/26 UPDATE: STRIKE OVER - The United Auto Workers and General Motors Corp. tentatively agreed Wednesday to a contract that ends a two-day strike — the first nationwide walkout against the automaker in 37 years — and puts responsibility for retirees' health care into the union's hands.

Union members were told to begin reporting to work Wednesday. UAW officials said they hoped to begin talks with Ford and Chrysler even before GM workers vote on ratifying the pact.

News of the settlement sent GM shares more than 4 percent higher in morning trading Wednesday as Wall Street interpreted the deal as a win for the automaker.

GM and the UAW confirmed that the deal creates a GM-funded, UAW-run trust to administer retiree health care. The two sides gave no other details, but two people briefed on the contract told The Associated Press that it also would give workers bonuses and lump-sum payments and would pay some newly hired workers at lower rates.

The people requested anonymity because the details of the contract haven't been released publicly, including whatever concessions GM may have made over job security, which was the reason the UAW gave for walking off the job.

The union said the agreement with the nation's largest automaker was reached shortly after 3 a.m. The UAW canceled the strike about an hour later.

This is What Democracy Looks Like - Part 4: A Mayor's Decision

Republican San Diego, CA mayor Jerry Sanders "leads with his heart" in authorizing City Council resolution supporting a challenge to California's gay marriage ban.

Says Fox News

In the end, I could not look any of them in the face and tell them that their relationships _ their very lives _ were any less meaningful than the marriage that I share with my wife Rana," Sanders said.

The mayor, a former police chief who is up for re-election next year, acknowledged that many voters who supported his earlier stance might disagree with his shift, but said he had to do what he believed was right.

In 2000, 62 percent of San Diego voters endorsed a statewide measure to restrict marriage to a union between a man and woman.

The City Council voted Tuesday 5-3 in favor of joining other California cities to back a lawsuit pending before the California Supreme Court attempting to overturn the gay marriage ban.


Republican Party Fear and Terrorism Strategy: Gitmo Mileage

Two powerful motivators for human beings are fear and money, which do you think works better to win elections?

The LA Times reports:

A lightning rod for international criticism, the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, not long ago appeared headed for closure. President Bush and his top advisors said they wanted to shutter the controversial lockup.

But the latest attempt to shut it down is facing collapse: The detention facility has been embraced by many Republicans as a potent political symbol in their quest to seize the terrorism issue ahead of next year's elections.

The Senate Republican leader has accused Democrats of wanting to move terrorists "into American communities."

And the president, who last year told German television that he "would like to end Guantanamo," is now threatening to veto any move to "micromanage the detention of enemy combatants."

"It's a Republican litmus test this year," complained Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, one of the few GOP lawmakers calling for the swift closure of Guantanamo.

"The Republican Party has won two elections on the issue of fear and terrorism," Hagel said. "[It's] going to try again."

Mission Accomplished: Prognosticator in Chief Predicts Hillary to be Party Candidate

Given the President's inability to be prescient, it should not make the folks in the HRC camp glad to know that he has named her the Democratic party candidate for 2008.
According to the AP

President Bush, breaking his rule not to talk about presidential politics, says he believes Hillary Rodham Clinton will defeat Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential primaries.

Bush also predicts that Clinton will be defeated in the general election by the Republican nominee.

"I believe our candidate can beat her but it's going to be a tough race," the president said.

I think there are at least seven people who are glad that the Prez went out on a limb: Edwards, Richardson, Obama, Biden, Dodd, Kucinich, and Gravel.

Opposites Attract? Covering the News versus Interest in the News

Another shout out to Pew Research who points out the difference between what people are paying attention to and what the news media is feeding us.

So either we the people are more interested in what is actually happening in Iraq and in the 2008 campaigns or we are way behind the news cycle curve. Still, for those who tell us that the market should decide, the market clearly wants more on these two story lines.

Cult of Personalities:Oprah and the Factor

Pew Research demonstrates the double edge sword of celebrity endorsements. Accoring to Pew, Oprah's endorsement of Barack Obama would have "no effect on vote" for 69% of surveyed folks, but 60% thought it would help Obama's candidacy. In other words, it won't change my mind, but I'm sure it will change somebody else's. Interestingly, Oprah has more pull than Bill Gates, the local newspaper and less than the clergy, and Alan Greenspan.

In the celebrity endorsement camp, an endorsement by Bill O'Reilly is likely to negatively affect twice as many people as it would positively effect. Likewise, an endorsement by Jon Stewart would be a more likely to influence 1 voter for every 1.5 voters it didn't. Kanye West and Donald Trump? 1:4.

Also interesting is the influence of endorsements of the press: the same percentage of people would be influenced by the local paper positively as negatively, according to Pew.

The most important finding of this research is that between 61 to 79% of people would not be incluenced by anybody's endorsement--that speaks volume for either a) the educated voter b) the uneducated voter. I hope it is the former and not the latter.

Bayh Back Plan

It wasn't that long ago that Indiana's square-jawed Senator Evan Bayh was making rumblings of running for president as a DLC supported candidate. But suddenly, with favorite son Tom Vilsack staking out Iowa, Bayh went bye-bye.

Well Bayh's back! And this time he is endorsing HRC for president.

From Talking Points Memo
Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana will endorse Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential bid on Monday, sources close to both lawmakers say.

A colleague of Clinton's on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Bayh actively pursued a possible presidential bid until late last year, when he dropped out of the race amid evidence that Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois were building formidable campaign organizations.
"The odds were always going to be very long for a relatively unknown candidate like myself, a little bit like David and Goliath," Bayh said at the time.

Clinton and Bayh traveled together to Iraq in January, just before Clinton announced she would seek the Democratic nomination. Bayh is one of several potential presidential contenders who abandoned their own bids to endorse her.

Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack dropped his bid last winter to become the New York senator's campaign chairman. Last week, retired Gen. Wesley Clark also announced he was backing Clinton.

Bayh, a former governor of a Republican-leaning state, is in his second term in the Senate. A centrist who won re-election with 62 percent of the vote in 2004, he is likely to be considered for the Democratic ticket in 2008.

Candidate Forum: Downtown-centric

From right to left: Brandon Ross, Dee Vanderhoef, Matt Hayek, Mike Wright, and Terry Smith

The FAIR!/Sierra Club/DFA at-large city council candidates forum was centered in the center--downtown Iowa City. With the exception of Dee Vanderhoef and Brandon Ross who live on the eastside of the city, all of the candidates running in the at-large race live in or near downtown. Many of the responses reflected the importance of downtown to the economic development of Iowa City, but did not address the needs of other parts of town, with the exception of Brandon Ross who mentioned placing a branch library on the southside.

Questions were raised about both referendum items: the 21-only (in bars after 10 pm) ordinance and the change of the charter to allow the Police Review Board to have subpoena power to essentially allow the board the "teeth" to seek information from reluctant witnesses. Smith, Hayek, Ross all said they would vote against the 21 ordinance personally and Vanderhoef and Wright said they would vote for it.

The most interesting question may have been about when a candidate believed they would have to excuse him or herself from a vote. Dee Vanderhoef said she had recused herself three times, twice when a vote involved a social group she is affiliated with and once when, under advice from the city attorney, she recused herself because of a vote that involved the business interest her husband has as owner of Iowa Book and Supply. Terry Smith said that if the franchise agreement with MidAmerican Energy, who is his employer and for whom he has been negotiating the agreement, is not decided before he would be on council, he would have to recuse himself from that vote. Matt Hayek said, because of his representing non-profit organizations as an attorney, he would either have to turn over the cases or recuse himself from a vote. Neither Mike Wright nor Brandon Ross could think of reasons to recuse themselves from votes involving those organizations.

Faces in the crowd included district C unopposed candidate, Regenia Bailey, and James Moody from the North Liberty City Council. Attendance was light with 36 people in the audience.

The forum, which was broadcast live on cable channel 10 will be rebroadcast.

In the meantime, the League of Women Voters Candidate Forum is tonight in city council chambers at 7 pm.

Saturday, September 22

Watch Out Iran, Blackwater Smuggles Arms Too

The BBC reports that US private mercenary firm Blackwater USA (Which employs 231 non-USA guns for hire) is bringing unauthorized weapons into Iraq.

Last July the Turkish government complained to ours that arms sold by Blackwater were ending up in the hands of the Kurdish PKK.

It looks like we have a little explaining to do about how the War on Terror works, if US companies supplying arms to terrorists.

The report from the BBC says "Federal prosecutors are investigating whether staff from US security company Blackwater smuggled weapons to Iraq, according to reports. Some employees are alleged to have sent over unlicensed weapons and equipment, that could have been used by a group labelled as terrorist by the US. Reports said two ex-Blackwater staff had admitted weapons charges and were co-operating with federal officials."

The News and Observer in North Carolina quoted two sources as saying officials were investigating whether any Blackwater staff shipped weapons, night-vision scopes, armour, gun kits and other equipment to Iraq without the required permits.

The firm resumed limited operations in Baghdad Friday providing security to all US state department employees in Iraq, following US consultation with the Iraqi government.

Peace for a Night

After participating in the usual Friday end the war rally by the Pentacrest, I attended the International Day of Peace celebration last night at the Unitarian Church, which was surprisingly lightly attended. However, city council candidate Brandon Ross made a non-partisan appearance and joined in the festivities. You've got to like a guy who makes events like this.

Reminder: City Council Candidate Forum Sunday

FAIR!, Sierra Club, and Democracy for America of Johnson County are sponsoring a candidate forum for at-large candidates for the Iowa City Council at 2 pm on Sunday, 9/23. Tom Carsner of the Sierra Club will moderate and questions from the audience will be taken. With issues like public safety, the home charter vote, and the 21-ordinance, it should be a lively affair. Mike Wright, Brandon Ross, Matt Hayek, Terry Smith, and Dee Vanderhoef will be on hand. The event is in meeting room A of the Iowa City public library.

Friday, September 21

Jim Zogby Back in Iowa

Arab American Institute President and Polling PrognosticatorJames Zogby will first deliver his talk, entitled “The Mess We’re In: How U.S. Leaders Have Failed Us in the Middle East and What You Can Do,” at the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23. The event is not open to the public, but is open to the press.

Zogby will also speak at the Iowa City Public Library as part of the University of Iowa International Mondays series, at Iowa State University as part of the Iowa State World Affairs Lecture Series, at Kirkwood Community College, at the University of Northern Iowa, and at Grinnell College. These college and university events are free and open to the public.

A listing of Zogby’s speaking engagements is below:

The events below are free and open to the public:

Mon., Sept. 24
12 p.m.
Iowa City Public Library
123 S Linn St.
Iowa City, Iowa
Part of the University of Iowa International Mondays series.

2:30 p.m.
Kirkwood Community College
Cedar Hall, Room 234
6301 Kirkwood Blvd., SW
Cedar Rapids, Iowa

8 p.m.
University of Northern Iowa
Maucker Union Expansion
1227 W. 27th St.
Cedar Falls, Iowa

Tuesday, Sept. 25
12 p.m.
Grinnell College
Rosenfield Center, Room 209
Grinnell, Iowa

8 p.m.
Iowa State University
Memorial Union Sun Room
Ames, Iowa
Part of the Iowa State World Affairs Lecture Series.


Johnson County Educators Well Represented on Edwards Team

John Edwards announced a 214-member strong Iowa Education Professionals for Edwards organization. He has numerous friends among education professionals in Johnson County.

“Iowa needs a leader who will fight to improve our schools and make sure every child gets a quality education,” said Aletia Morgan, Technologies Director at the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Information and a former member of the Iowa City School Board. “John Edwards has stood up for children his entire career and as president, he will work every day to make sure every child has the chance to succeed. He has proposed a detailed plan to reform our education system and ensure that our children have the tools they need to get ahead.”

Morgan and a number of other area educators support Edwards including:

Ben Vanzante, Retired High School English and Journalism Teacher
Michael Fritz, Elementary School Teacher
Willis Harte, High School Math Teacher
Dave Redlawsk, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Iowa
Kay Mescher, Dental Hygiene Professor, University of Iowa
Susan Spaziani, Retired Special Education Teacher
Barbara Gingerich, 5th and 6th Grade Teacher
Janet Smith, Test Development Editor for Iowa Testing Programs
Ed Rolenc, Math and Computer Science Teacher
Jill Neuzil, 1st and 2nd Grade Teacher
Virginia Ordman, English Teacher
Eugene Spaziani, Retired Biology Professor

Fox Says Bush All Hat, No Cowboy

From UK Telegraph

President Bush may like to be seen as a swaggering tough guy with a penchant for manly outdoor pursuits, but in a new book one of his closest allies has said he is afraid of horses.

Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico, derided his political friend as a "windshield cowboy" – a cowboy who prefers to drive – and "the cockiest guy I have ever met in my life".

He recalled a meeting in Mexico shortly after both men had been elected when Mr Fox offered Mr Bush a ride on a "big palomino" horse.

Mr Fox, who left office in December, recalled Mr Bush "backing away" from the animal.

''A horse lover can always tell when others don't share our passion," he said, according to the Washington Post.

Mr Bush has spoken of his fondness for shooting doves and cutting brush on his Crawford ranch in Texas, which he bought in 1999.

The property reportedly has no horses and only five cattle.

Fox is the latest old friend to turn on Mr Bush as the US president faces a lonely final 18 months in office, derided for failures in Iraq and at home.

Donald Rumsfeld, his defence secretary until last November, asked recently if he missed the president, said flatly: "No."

Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, has attacked the Bush administration's economic policy at length in a new autobiography, accusing the Republican president of poor fiscal discipline and betraying the party's basic principles of low spending.

Asked for his reaction to criticism from former aides, the president replied: "My feelings are not hurt."

Old Blackwater Keep on Rolling

(CNN) -- The security firm Blackwater USA is starting to resume normal operations in Iraq after a hiatus sparked by concerns among Iraqi and U.S. government officials over its actions.

Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman, said on Friday that Blackwater and two other security firms that provide protection for U.S. diplomats in Iraq are resuming civilian convoys on a case-by-case basis.

All Blackwater USA operations in Iraq will be back to normal on Saturday, a highly placed industry source told CNN on Friday.

A deadly shooting incident on Sunday prompted the Iraqi government to bar the firm from operating. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has been prohibiting staff-member trips by land outside the Green Zone amid investigations into the incident.

Sunday's shooting has created tension between the U.S. and Iraqi governments. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed regret about the incident in a phone call to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and promised an open and transparent probe into what happened. Watch heavily armed private contractors at work in Iraq »

The Iraqi government has said as many as 20 civilians were killed by gunfire from Blackwater USA contractors who were guarding a U.S. diplomatic convoy. Iraqi officials dispute the U.S. claim that the guards were responding to an attack.

Multiple Choice Question

Which situation is President Bush addressing with the following statement:

"The events have saddened me," the president told reporters at the White House. "All of us in America want there to be, you know, fairness when it comes to justice."

a) The devastation of Katrina to New Orleans neighborhoods.
b) The Jena 6 protest.
c) The war in Iraq.
d) The shootings at Delaware State University.

Answer is here

American Against Escalation in Iraq: Thanks Sen. Grassley--Not!

AAEI’s ‘Iraq Summer’ Campaign today denounced Senator Chuck Grassley’s latest vote to continue President Bush’s reckless Iraq War policy by voting against legislation that would have begun the safe and responsible redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq.

The public demand to end the war is unmistakable. Nearly 80 percent of Americans believe the U.S. should withdraw troops from Iraq [New York Times, 9/10/07]. The American public did not buy Bush's “PR” campaign and demand to bring the troops home is stronger than ever. Before the hearings and speeches last week 65 percent of Americans wanted the U.S. troop presence in Iraq reduced or removed entirely; now 68 percent support such a move [CBS News, 9/17/07]. But today Senator Grassley joined with Senate Republican leadership to block an end to the war.

The measure, offered by Democratic Senators Carl Levin and Jack Reed as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization bill, would have begun the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq within 90 days and wrapped up the process within nine months.

“Senator Grassley’s vote today is extremely disappointing for the majority of Iowans who oppose continuing President Bush’s endless war policy,” said Sue Dinsdale, mother of an Iraq War veteran and Field Director for the Iowa “Iraq Summer” Campaign. “After four and a half years of war 3,800 of our troops are dead, and nearly 28,000 more are wounded or injured. America’s brave men and women have sacrificed enough, yet the senator voted to continue President Bush’s reckless war on the backs of our overextended troops. Opposition to the war in Iraq is stronger than ever and Senator Grassley’s vote to keep our troops bogged down in an endless civil war in Iraq won’t be received well by Iowans who simply want an end to the war.”

“Instead of voting on behalf of a majority of Iowans – Senator Grassley shirked his duty to represent their views and voted to continue waging President Bush’s endless war on the backs of our soldiers. Today Senator Grassley proved today he still stands with President Bush over the best interests of America’s security and our troops,” added Dinsdale. “Especially our troops.”

Republicans; You Broke It, You Own It

From Yahoo Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Republicans, along with Bush, now own the war.

"Back home they assert their independence, but in Washington they walk in lockstep with the president and continue to support his failed policies," said Reid, D-Nev.

Frustrated by the lack of Republicans willing to break ranks, Democrats this week abandoned attempts to reach a bipartisan compromise on Carl Levin's legislation. Levin had said he would have been willing to turn the nine-month date into a goal for troop withdrawals, rather than a mandated deadline.

The Senate blocked legislation Friday that would have ordered most U.S. troops home from Iraq in nine months, culminating a losing week for Democrats who failed to push through any anti-war proposal.

The vote, 47-47, fell 13 votes short of the 60 needed to cut off debate.

"We're going to continue to lose lives and squander resources while they (the Iraqis) dawdle," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who sponsored the bill.

Republicans blocked the measure, contending it would have dire consequences for the region and usurp control of the war from seasoned war generals on the ground there. Last week, Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, recommended to Congress and President Bush that some 130,000 troops be kept there through next summer — a slight decrease from the more than 160,000 troops there now.

"It would be a very overt rejection of Gen. Petraeus' leadership," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The military commanders "have earned the ability to carry on their mission," he said at another point.

"If we leave, we will be back — in Iraq and elsewhere — in many more desperate fights to protect our security and at an even greater cost in American lives and treasure," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a presidential candidate and the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee.

On Thursday, Republicans successfully pushed through a resolution condemning an advertisement by the liberal activist group Displayed in The New York Times, the ad taunted Petraeus as "General Betray Us." The resolution, sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, passed by a 72-25 vote.

House Republican leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the House should consider a similar measure. But when asked if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., would allow it, spokesman Nadeam Elshami said in an e-mail: "The House is going to devote its full attention to providing health care to children, promoting energy independence to improve America's security, reducing global warming, and responsibly redeploying U.S. forces now in Iraq.

"These are the priorities of the American people," he said.

Recent polls show that American views of the war largely have not changed since Petraeus appeared before congressional committees two days last week.

A poll released this week by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 54 percent of Americans still favor bringing troops home as soon as possible. And despite slight improvements in the public's view of military progress, more said the U.S. will likely fail in Iraq than succeed — by 47 percent to 42 percent — about the same margin as in July.

Thursday, September 20

343,100 to 351,000 Reasons to End the War

Beyond the troops that are in Iraq, there are tons of contractors and they are not all "security" mercenaries like Blackwater, DynCorp and so on.

The Gazette reports that:
180,000 (the CS Monitor estimated it at 182,000) = Number of people working in Iraq under U.S. contracts
169,000 = U.S. troops in Iraq, according to the Pentagon
163,100 = U.S. troops in Iraq, according to the U.S. Central Command

In 2006, the Washington Post reported that there were 100,000 government contractors there. With the additional 80,000, this is 18 times the number of US contractors that were there during the first Gulf War.

The Christian Science Monitor estimates tha 20,000 to 30,000 are mercenaries. DynCorp International has about 1,500 employees in Iraq, including about 700 helping train the police force. Blackwater USA has more than 1,000 10 1,500 employees in the country, most of them providing private security. Kellogg, Brown and Root, one of the largest contractors in Iraq, said it does not delineate its workforce by country but that it has more than 50,000 employees and subcontractors working in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. MPRI, a unit of L-3 Communications, has about 500 employees working on 12 contracts, including providing mentors to the Iraqi Defense Ministry for strategic planning, budgeting and establishing its public affairs office. Titan, another L-3 division, has 6,500 linguists in the country.

Unfortunately, without the military leaving Iraq, it is likely that these other workers are not either. As the CS Monitor story said, "Nobody is going to be able to throw the contractors out of there," says David Isenberg of the British-American Security Information Council. "They're the American Express card of the American military. The military doesn't leave home without them, because it can't.""

This is What Democracy Looks Like - Part 3: Jena 6

Background from Facing South

Reuters reports Tens of thousands of black Americans descended on a small town in central Louisiana on Thursday to protest what they say is injustice against six black teenagers charged over a high school fight.

Protesters arrived in buses and cars from cities as far away and apart as New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles and New Orleans for a rally in support of the "Jena 6."

The case has become a symbol for many African Americans of a wider struggle against racism and perceived discrimination against black males by the criminal justice system.

"I came because enough is enough. I am tired of the way the courts have been treating African Americans historically," said Doug Martin, a computer analyst from New Orleans.

Most shops were closed but organizers urged the protesters not to spend money in Jena so the town would not profit from what residents said was the biggest event in living memory.

Most of the demonstrators were dressed in black. Some held banners reading "Free the Jena 6" and chanted "no justice, no peace, no racist police," while others lounged in lawn chairs or took pictures of each other. More

Military Cemetery: No Vacancy

Reuters reports - A Kansas military cemetery has run out of space after the burial of another casualty of the Iraq war, officials said on Thursday.

"We are full," said Alison Kohler, spokeswoman for the Fort Riley U.S. Army post, home of the 1st Infantry Division.

Since the 2003 beginning of the war in Iraq, Fort Riley has lost 133 soldiers and airmen, though not all are buried in the Fort Riley cemetery. Sgt Joel Murray, who died September 4 in Iraq, took the last available plot, said Kohler.

Fort Riley can bury bodies on top of other bodies if family members want to share a plot, said Kohler.

Elizabeth Edwards Stands by Her Man

Another CNN story:

Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, attacked Sen. Hillary Clinton's health care plan Wednesday as a carbon copy of her husband's plan, and accused the New York Democrat of selling lobbyists insider access to the government.

Mrs. Edwards said that she sees almost no differences between Clinton's health care plan, unveiled Monday in Des Moines, and that of her husband.

"I don't call it Senator Clinton's health care plan," Edwards said. "I call it John Edwards' health care plan as delivered by Hillary Clinton. The truth is that anyone who tries to describe Hillary's health care plan will run through every material part of John's health care plan.

"I just have to wonder, if John released his plan at the beginning of February, what took her seven and a half months to endorse it? We're glad for the endorsement."

If Bush Gets His Way: SCHIP is Sinking

Taxing cigarettes at a higher rate equals hurting poor people. This is the logic that Preisdent Bush uses to explain why he would oppose the proposed plan by Democrats to fund the SCHIP program to include an additional 4 million uninsured children for healthcare coverage.

According to CNN
Speaking to reporters at a White House news conference, Bush threatened to veto the bill, which he said Democrats in Congress have come up with to "score political points in Washington." He said it would "raise taxes on poor people and raise spending."

The president said he supports reauthorizing the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, at $5 billion above its current funding.

Democratic congressional aides say their party wants to expand the program to cover an additional 4 million children and pay for it by raising the tax on cigarettes by 61 cents per pack. Bush opposes that, and has threatened to veto the bill.

"The legislation would raise taxes on working people," Bush said, and would include children who could receive health care elsewhere.

Bush urged Congress to pass an extension of the current plan, "that I can sign," by its expiration date of September 30, or, he said millions of children might be at risk.

Critics say the funding that Bush favors won't pay for the 6 million children covered over the next five years.

The bill would add $35 billion over five years to the current $25 billion.

Two House Democratic aides said the deal is a bipartisan one because Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Charles Grassley of Iowa negotiated and signed off on it.

The aides said they have a veto-proof majority in the Senate and that it will pass in the House with some support from moderate Republicans, but concede they may not have a veto-proof margin.

Democrats emphasize that Bush is reneging on his campaign promise during his 2004 convention speech to cover children's health care.

About 9.3 percent of children under the age of 18 and 43.6 million Americans -- 14.8 percent of the total population -- had no health insurance last year, according to a government study released in June.

Bush Iraq Plans Cost: In the Trillions According to Congressional Budget Office

From Talking Points Memo Muckraker

A new Congressional study finds that President Bush's plans for the U.S. in Iraq over the next several decades will reach the trillions of dollars, on top of the approximately $567 billion the war has already cost. That accounting assumes a significant troop draw-down -- and still tallies a daunting expense for the United States.

On June 1, during a trip to U.S. Pacific Command in Honolulu, Defense Secretary Robert Gates mused about how to "posture ourselves" in Iraq "for the long term." The Vietnam experience underscored the undesirability of a sudden, abrupt withdrawal. Far better for the U.S. to follow the experiences of post-conflict garrisoning in Korea and Japan, he said: "a mutually agreed arrangement whereby we have a long and enduring presence." President Bush is reportedly intrigued by the so-called Korea model, wherein the U.S. has guaranteed security on the Korean peninsula with at least four U.S. Army combat brigades for half a century. Indeed, in his speech on Thursday, Bush declared himself ready to build an "enduring relationship" between the U.S. and Iraq.

The study, conducted by the Congressional Budget Office, decided to follow the Korea model to calculate its expense. Since it's unclear for how long or under what conditions combat operations will ensue, the CBO projects both a combat and a non-combat presence. Both, however, are projected to require 55,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. The combat scenario entails one-time costs of $4 to $8 billion, with annual expenses of $25 billion, projected outward. Under the non-combat scenario, a $8 billion one-time cost -- mainly for the construction of additional "enduring" bases -- would be followed by annual costs of $10 billion or less.

City Council Candidate Cook Off

On Sunday 9/23 from 2 to 4 pm, progressive groups FAIR!, Sierra Club, and Johnson County Democracy for America will sponsor an at-large Iowa City Council candidate forum at the Iowa City public library in meeting room A. Tom Carsner from the Sierra Club will moderate. Questions form the public are encouraged.
The at-large candidates are Mike Wright, Brandon Ross, Matt Hayek, Terry Smith, and Dee Vanderhoef.

The forum will be broadcast on the Library Channel 10.

Get Your Peace On

Mona Shaw does a fine job with her blog Witness from the Fence over at the Press-Citizen. She does me the favor of summarizing some of the many events that are happening in the area relating to peace today and this weekend. To wit:

Today, Thursday, September 20, 2007The UI Antiwar Committee Die-in
Pedestrian Mall (Dubuque and Washington streets)
6-8 p.m.

The purpose of the action is to give a fraction illustration of the lives lost in the Iraq War. A literal illustration of war's human loss would require more than everyone from the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids corridor to participate. It will be powerful.

Tomorrow, Friday, September 21, 2007
Cost of War Rally and Delivery of Petitions to De-Fund the Iraq War
10:00 to Noon

Downtown Cedar RapidsFirst Ave and First ST NE (Tree of Five Seasons Park)Rally at 10:00Press Conference at 10:30Delivery of petitions at 11:00Women for peace Iowa has collected hundreds of signatures (and still counting) for its petition to de-fund the Iraq war, bring our troops home safely, and put the money to better use here at home. Members of the group will illustrate the astounding impact of this war by presenting the community with a list of programs that the cost of just ONE DAY in Iraq would fund.The event will culminate in the presentation of the petitions to the offices of Senator Grassley, Senator Harkin, and Congressman Loebsack. The event is co-sponsored by American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).

International Peace Day Observance
Unitarian Universalist Society of Iowa City10 S. Gilbert Street (corner of Gilbert & Iowa)
7:00 pm
Why: To promote peace through peaceful means
Who: All are welcome!

This event observes the UN International Day of Peace and seeks to promote peace through peaceful means. This is a nonsectarian, interfaith and multi-generational observation of this important day. The purpose of this event is to promote peace through connection, words, song, ritual, and meditation. Anyone who would like to offer a short reading promoting peace, is invited to bring it.

Cedar Rapids 19 Support ConcertThe Mill
8:00 pm

The “Cedar Rapids 19” are a group of peace activists who sat-in, were arrested and charged with criminal trespass at the offices of Senators Harkin and Grassley last July in protest over their votes to continue funding the war in Iraq. Enjoy a showcase of diverse music, something for everyone, no matter the age or taste. Cover charge is $5. All proceeds from this event will go into a fund for the legal fees and fines of the “Cedar Rapids 19.” Performers include:Drew Hayward – native New Yorker and alt-rocker turned acoustic folksinger.Greg and Jean Thompson –master songwriter Greg and folk diva Jean take the cliché out of “perfect harmony” and mesmerize with songs that speak to our collective soul.Pigs and Clover – "post-cool" duo specializing in acoustic swamp-folk Kate Kane –solo performance by rising star and singer/songwriter/guitarist for Lipstick Homicide Marv "there’s no W in peace" Hain, Jr. – political protest singer/songwriter and humorist.Matthew Grimm & The Red Smear –-rattling rock meat-grindered with hefty doses of power pop, punk and habaneros.

Saturday, September 22, 2007
Peace Concert on the Ped Mall

Singer-songwriter Jerry Leggett will sing out for peace at a free concert. Traveling across the US on a year-long mission in a vintage RV christened "The Peace Bubble," Leggett will perform classic peace standards by the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Tracy Chapman, along with original songs.Leggett describes his tour as "a nonpartisan effort to celebrate the ideals that make for peace in the heart and peace in the world. What if we all paused for a moment of peace at noontime and pondered another world? What if the world we imagine is possible?" Besides singing, Leggett has been collecting interviews with people that share their vision of a more peaceful world.This local concert is being organized by the PEACE Iowa and Faith United Church of Christ.

Wednesday, September 19

Harkin Steak Fry Video

If you, like me were unable to make the Indianola Express to the Harkin Steak Fry, here is an opportunity to watch it, thanks to Ryan Alexander.

We Are in the Days of Awe

In the Jewish faith, we are well into Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe, that cover the couple of weeks from Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) to Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). This is the period when God supposedly writes our names in the books of life, writes whether we will live or die in the coming year, whether our lives will be good or bad. This is God as Santa Claus (He knows when we've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake),as racehorse handicapper--or as James Zogby.

Apparently it is also when Congress and OJ Simpson make poor decisions, the President begs us to keep letting him do what he has been doing to Iraq despite the carnage, and when Madonna goes on her Israeli "Like a Kabbalistic Prayer" tour. Apparently it is also when Kanye and "Fiddy" chose to hype their new Cds.

I admit here and now, that I was born a child of Canaan, a "chosen person," but decided a few years ago that Unitarian Universalism was less guilt producing, at least until I call my can take the boy out of the bagel, but you can't take the bagel from the boy.

Still, I have deep respect for the efficient method of exonerating one's self from bad decision making which this time of the year allows Jewish people. Of course this does require meditating on the subject of the holidays and ask for forgiveness from anyone who has been wronged--yes, you too Larry Craig.

Given the vote on habeas corpus today, I think a Congressional shoutout to the boys over at Camp X-Ray might be appropriate too. If I were an elected official in Washington DC, I would convert just to feel better about myself. On the other hand, there is Joe Lieberman to consider.

Shout Out to Demo Memo

Claire Celsi has a nifty blog from Des Moines called The Demo Memo, you might want to check her out.

Deeth Ties the Knot

Fellow blogger (actually, he is an old school Kurtis Blow MC blogger, whereas I am like Jazzy Jeff to Will Smith's Fresh Prince) and all around good Progressive Dem John Deeth got married last Friday. I feel for his partner, but I'm sure she knows what she's gotten herself into.

Congratulations you crazy kids!!

North Liberty Names Heiar as City Administrator

The Press-Ctizen reports that the North Liberty City Council on Tuesday picked Ryan Heiar of Eagle Grove to be the city's new city administrator. Heiar was one of 21 candidates for the job.

Some background about him:

According to a web source, Ryan Heiar didn't always want the job of being a city manager. Growing up the son of Manchester, Iowa's city manager, Dave Heiar (now the Economic Development Director in Dubuque), he knew about the long hours away from home and the sometimes angry phone calls his father received. "I always said there was no way I was ever going to be a city manager," said Heiar.

A public administration class Heiar took in college at the University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, changed his mind.

In 2006, he won an award from the Iowa League of Cities. Heiar was honored with the Rhonda Wood Smith Award was created to recognize exemplary work of young city officials and those new to city government. The criteria included innovation, bold leadership, commitment and sacrifice.

He served the Eagle Grove community by delivering meals of wheels and serves on the Country Club Board as a Director. He demonstrates sacrifice to the community by contributing countless hours to make events such as the 125th Eagle Grove Birthday Bash and the 2004 RAGBRAI stop a success. He has also been a big supporter of the Iowa City/County Management Association, serving as the Chairperson of their Diversity Committee last year. He also has served as a member of the Iowa League of Cities Annual Conference Site Selection Committee.

There is Low Approval Ratings and Then There Are Low Approval Ratings

President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress registered record-low approval ratings in a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday, and a new monthly index measuring the mood of Americans dipped slightly on deepening worries about the economy.


Only 29 percent of Americans gave Bush a positive grade for his job performance, below his worst Zogby poll mark of 30 percent in March. A paltry 11 percent rated Congress positively, beating the previous low of 14 percent in July.

The Reuters/Zogby Index, a new measure of the mood of the country, dropped from 100 to 98.8 in the last month on worries about the economy and fears of a recession, pollster John Zogby said.

"Since the last time we polled we have had the mortgage crisis, and we are hearing the recession word a whole lot more than we've heard it in the past," Zogby said.

"There are things that happened in the September polling that drove the number down a bit, and they are mostly economic worries," he added.

The Index, which debuts this month, combines responses to 10 questions on Americans' views about their leaders, the direction of their country and their personal situations. Polling for the Index began in July, and that month's results provide the benchmark score of 100.

A score above 100 indicates the country's mood has improved since July. A score below 100, like the one recorded in September, shows the nation's mood getting worse. The RZI, which will be released the third Wednesday of each month, had remained at 100 in August.

"The public mood is not just dark. What's darker than dark?" Zogby said. "The mood is getting ugly." More

Senate Kills Habeas Corpus for Guantanamo Detainees

From Reuters

The Senate voted on Wednesday against considering a measure to give Guantanamo detainees and other foreigners the right to challenge their detention in the U.S. courts.

The legislation needed 60 votes to be considered by lawmakers in the Senate, narrowly controlled by Democrats; it received only 56, with 43 voting against the effort to roll back a key element of President George W. Bush's war on terrorism.

The measure would have granted foreign terrorism suspects the right of habeas corpus, Latin for "you have the body," which prevents the government from locking people up without review by a court.

Congress last year eliminated this right for non-U.S. citizens labeled "enemy combatants" by the government. The Bush administration said this was necessary to prevent them from being set free and attacking Americans.

The move affected about 340 suspected al Qaeda and Taliban captives held at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba. It also affects millions of permanent legal residents of the United States who are not U.S. citizens, said one of the sponsors of the bipartisan measure, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

"Any of these people could be detained forever without the ability to challenge their detention in federal court" under the changes in law Congress made last year, Leahy said on the Senate floor. This was true "even if they (authorities) made a mistake and picked up the wrong person."

Dodd in Iowa City to Promote Book About Dad

U.S. Senator Chris Dodd will talk about his new book, "Letters From Nuremberg: My Father's Narrative of a Quest for Justice," and sign copies on Friday, September 21, from 12:30 to 2:30 PM at the Prairie Lights Bookstore.

Prairie Lights Bookstore is located at 15 S. Dubuque in Iowa City.

Tuesday, September 18

Who's Got the Hooch?

In the parlance of our time, the Iowa delegation has mid-grade renewable "hooch" in terms of power rankings as compared to others in the land of legislation.

As a state we are ranked #19 (Illinois and Missouri are #22, Minnesota is #44, South Dakota is #41, Nebraska is #52, and Wisconsin is #9)

As power hitters, we have at #17 in the Senate, Tom Harkin and #25 Chuck Grassley.
In the House, we have at #45 Leonard Boswell, #250 Dave Loebsack, #290 Bruce Braley, #335 Tom Latham, and pulling up the rear, #374 Steve King.

Assaults in Iowa City--Let's End this Craziness

The Gazette reports yet another woman has been assaulted in Iowa City. This is a sick disease that is going around and our community has to do a better job of banding together to stop it. Regardless of the size of our police force, it comes down to people saying "no more" and organizing around keeping these creeps off the streets.

This does not let the police off the hook, but simply means we all need to be part of the solution. No one should have to walk in fear--No one.

Catch 22 for Ethics Violations

22 members of Congress have been singled out for being "most corrupt." In their annual report, The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics named:

Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-NM): His ethics issues stem from his contacting the U.S. Attorney in Albuquerque, New Mexico to inquire about an ongoing corruption probe of Democrats.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY): Senator McConnell’s ethics issues stem from earmarks he has inserted into legislation for clients of his former chief of staff, lobbyist Gordon Hunter Bates, in exchange for campaign contributions as well as the misuse of his nonprofit The McConnell Center for Political Leadership at the University of Louisville.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK): Sen. Murkowski’s ethics violations stem from her purchase of land in Alaska for a price below market value, her acceptance of a mortgage on terms not available to the general public and her failure to accurately disclose the transaction in her 2006 financial disclosure report.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK): Sen. Stevens’ ethics issues stem from his ties to the VECO Corporation; earmarks he has inserted for companies that paid his son, Ben Stevens; his relationship with his brother-in-law, lobbyist William Bittner; his relationship with Alaskan real estate developers Jonathan Rubini and Leonard Hyde; as well as the activities of his non-profit, The Ted Stevens Foundation.

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA): His ethics issues stem from his use of earmarks for personal gain and his connections to a lobbying firm under investigation.

Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-CA): Doolittle’s ethics issues stem from his wife’s relationship to his campaign and political action committees, as well as campaign contributions and personal financial benefits he accepted from those who sought his legislative assistance. Rep. Doolittle is currently the subject of a Department of Justice investigation.

Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL): Rep. Feeney’s ethics violations stem from his relationship with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and three trips he took in apparent violation of House travel and gift rules.

Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA): His ethics issues stem from his improper contact with a Washington U.S. Attorney.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA): Rep. Hunter’s ethics issues stem from his connection to now former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham and now indicted defense contractor Brent Wilkes. In addition, Rep. Hunter purchased his home in a questionable land deal, escaped paying full property taxes for many years, and gave conflicting reports of the property’s true value. Rep. Hunter also used the power of his office to financially benefit his brother and his presidential campaign has violated federal election law.

Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-LA): Rep. Jefferson’s ethics issues stem from his business dealings and from the misuse of federal resources.

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA): Currently the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, his ethics issues stem primarily from the misuse of his position as chairman of the committee to steer hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks to family and friends in direct exchange for contributions to his campaign committee and political action committee.

Rep. Gary G. Miller (R-CA): His ethics issues stem from his relationship with Lewis Operating Company and the sale of property.

Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-WV): His ethics issues stem from misusing his position to benefit himself, his family and his friends and misreporting a dramatic increase in his personal assets.

Rep. Timothy F. Murphy (R-PA): Rep. Murphy’s ethics violations involve his misuse of official resources for political campaign activity. Rep. Murphy currently is the target of a Department of Justice investigation.

Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA): Rep. Murtha’s ethics violations stem from abuse of his position on the subcommittee to benefit the lobbying firm of a former long-term staffer and from threatening to block earmarks of other members for political purposes.

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM): Rep. Pearce’s ethics issues stem from his failure to properly report a transaction on his financial disclosure report and from trading legislative assistance for campaign contributions.

Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ): Rep. Renzi’s ethics issues stem from assistance he offered to a former business partner and legislation he sponsored that benefitted his father’s employer.

Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY): Rogers’ ethics issues stem from misuse of his position to steer millions of dollars in earmarks to campaign contributors, including a company that employs his son. A newspaper in his district, The Lexington Herald-Leader, has called Rep. Rogers the “Prince of Pork.”

Rep. David Scott (D-GA): Rep. Scott’s ethics issues stem from allegations of tax evasion and misuse of official resources for political campaign activity.

Rep. Jerry Weller (R-IL): Rep. Weller’s ethics issues stem from his repeated failure to report assets he bought and sold in Nicaragua, the misuse of his position to sell foreign property, his acceptance of campaign contributions from Puerto Rican interests in apparent exchange for supporting legislation that benefitted Puerto Rico, and his acceptance of campaign contributions in return for assisting a telecommunications executive in a dispute with a foreign government. In addition, there is a question as to whether Rep. Weller qualifies for a waiver allowing him to exclude his wife’s assets and liabilities from his financial disclosure forms. Then there is the matter of one of his staffers knocking a reporter down the stairs.

Rep. Heather A. Wilson (R-NM):Her ethics issues stem from improperly contacting a sitting U.S. Attorney.

Rep. Don Young (R-AK): Young’s ethics violations stem from the misuse of his position to benefit family and friends and to steer millions of dollars in earmarks to corporations in exchange for contributions to his campaign committee and political action committee, Midnight Sun PAC (MSPAC). Rep. Young is currently under four separate federal investigations including an investigation into his role in securing a $10 million earmark for a road in Florida, assistance he offered to recently convicted VECO executive Bill Allen, his ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his financial relationship with recently indicted businessman Dennis Troha.

Dishonorable Mentions: Larry Craig and David Vitter