Saturday, March 31

Call On Gov. Culver To Veto SF Bill 139

Senate File 139 is a bill that eliminates the availability of post-conviction applications if the conviction is a simple misdemeanor.  The ACLU of Iowa encourages you to contact Governor Culver within the next 3 days [the governor has 3 days after receiving the bill to sign it or veto it] and urge him to veto this particular piece of legislation.  It¹s as easy as can be.  Call (515) 281-5211 with the following message:

³Governor Culver, I am urging you to veto SF 139, a bill eliminating the availability of post-conviction applications for the conviction of a simple misdemeanor. SF 139 will undercut a precious and historical part of our justice system ­ the writ of habeas corpus. Please correct this legislative oversight by vetoing the bill and restoring justice for all.²

SF 139 passed the Iowa Senate and the Iowa House without a dissenting vote. No lobbying interest, including the ACLU of Iowa, has been registered in opposition to this bill. Like many lobbying interests, we had not registered in opposition to this bill because the bill moved so quickly that we were unable to research the matter properly. Nonetheless, the bill will create an unnecessary void in the process of dispensing justice.

SF 139 is a bill that was originally introduced by the Attorney General [Senate Study Bill 1007].
The matter of post-conviction relief upon conviction of a simple misdemeanor may be one of inconvenience for some county attorneys, but it may result in being a very serious matter for a common citizen of Iowa. It may be the only avenue of relief for someone who has a legitimate complaint with the manner in which a simple misdemeanor case was adjudicated.

A simple misdemeanor can result in incarceration. Even the slightest amount of jail time can result in a person losing a job, putting a financial strain on the family, or lead to a marital rift.

Many employers are now scanning the Iowa Courts website and viewing Online Court Records to weed out anyone with a conviction of any degree. This screening process by employees can affect a person for the remainder of his or her life. For instance, a wrongful conviction of public intoxication may lead a potential employer to inaccurately believe that a prospective employee has a drinking problem.

A deferred judgment is not available for conviction of a scheduled violation, and a scheduled violation is also a simple misdemeanor. In this case, it is imperative that a procedure such as post-conviction relief be available. Many status crimes, those crimes committed only by juveniles [curfew violation, possession of tobacco, etc.], are scheduled fines. In order to provide a fair chance to our Iowa youth, we must make it possible for them to clear up their record if justice was not otherwise obtained in a regular court procedure.

Phil Mears, an Iowa City lawyer specializing in post-conviction relief cases, emphasizes the following:

³Often, indigent defendants are convicted and/or plead guilty and are placed in jail without a lawyer. This often happens with a misdemeanor charge of public intoxication or interference with official acts. It is not supposed to happen but it still does. Post conviction may be the only recourse available.

³Immigrants can experience deportation consequences as a result of simple misdemeanor. If there was a language problem with the early morning guilty plea post conviction may be the only way to correct the error.

³There are very few successful post-convictions for almost any level of crime. The post-conviction applicant faces both procedural as well as substantive law hurdles. If a person has a genuine claim, he or she ought to have at least some opportunity to raise the complaint. If he or she has had a bad lawyer that resulted in ten days in jail, that person is probably not going to know about the fact that he or she had a bad lawyer in time to raise the matter on appeal.²

The legislature, several years ago, recognized that direct appeals were not a good place to raise complaints of bad lawyering. For that reason, the legislature provided that a person could raise a claim of ineffective counsel in post-conviction proceedings without having raised the matter first on appeal.

The enactment of Senate File 139 would essentially eliminate any judicial oversight of the quality of legal representation for indigent persons in simple misdemeanor cases.

Simple misdemeanants do not get an appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court. Any limited appeal is to District Court. Therefore, post conviction may be the only way to challenge something that is very serious and may be very wrong.

T
he post conviction statute was enacted in the early 1970's to codify the historical writ of habeas corpus. Allowing post-conviction applications in simple misdemeanor cases may somehow inconvenience county attorneys to some small degree, but we should not take away the right of a wrongfully convicted person to challenge a simple misdemeanor conviction simply because some government lawyers don¹t care to deal with such appeals.

For all the reasons mentioned above, we strongly encourage you to contact Governor Culver and urge him to veto Senate File 139.

Poor Product Placement?

President Bush apologized Friday for the shoddy conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and promised during a visit to the facility for war veterans that "we're going to fix the problem."

Critics questioned the timing of Bush's visit six weeks after poor conditions and neglect of veterans were exposed there.

Bush toured the main hospital and Abrams Hall, where soldiers were transferred after they were vacated from the facility's Building 18, where moldy walls, rodent infestation and other problems went unchecked until reported by the media. He said his conversations with those who had been in Building 18 left him "disturbed by their accounts."

"The problems at Walter Reed were caused by bureaucratic and administrative failures," the president said at the end of a more than two-hour visit. "The system failed you and it failed our troops and we're going to fix it."

Bush first toured a typical -- but empty -- patient room in Abrams Hall. The room Bush saw featured a wide-screen television and a Macintosh computer on a desk.

"I appreciate that soldiers have got a Mac" to communicate with their families, the president said.

This Feinstein Thing

So far the only story about speculation that California Sen. Diane Feinstein has used her position to direct dollars toward two corporations with ties to her husband come from a single source with many people, including myself speculating as to its meaning. Hyper-conservative talk radio personality, Michael Savage, is running with this story. It is apparent that Feinstein, given her high profile as Chair of the Senate Rules and Administration (which oversees ethics violations) is worth targeting to shift the focus from other scandals including one's previously mentioned on the pages here involving Republicans.

According to the Metroactive story by Peter Byrne, Senator Feinstein, "as chairperson and ranking member of the Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee (MILCON) from 2001 through the end of 2005, Feinstein supervised the appropriation of billions of dollars a year for specific military construction projects. Two defense contractors whose interests were largely controlled by her husband, financier Richard C. Blum, benefited from decisions made by Feinstein as leader of this powerful subcommittee." This story was reiterated in a press release from the Association of Alternative Weeklies in late January.

If there is anything else to this story, the larger mass media isn't picking it up. Still a statement from Sen. Feinstein explaining her side of the story would be helpful. Otherwise, this thing could snowball.

Friday, March 30

The Heat Is On?

I'm curious, what is a visitor from the U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms visiting my humble blog about? Oh, I see, it seems that a story I picked up off the web has some heat to it.


senate.gov 3/30 3:46:18 pm 3 4:13

Gonzo Practices Nuance, Sampson Has Change of Heart

From Bloomberg

AG Alberto Gonzales stated "There obviously remains some confusion about my involvement in this" referring to the firing of 13 Assistant AG's. "At the end of the day, I know what I did. And I know that the motivations for the decisions I made were not based on improper reasons."

Sampson told the panel that the White House had a large role in the firings, not limited involvement as the Justice Department originally claimed.

One-time presidential counsel Harriet Miers joined Gonzales in approving them. And under questioning from Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Sampson said that looking back, he should not have advocated the firing of one prosecutor in particular, New Mexico's David Iglesias.

In his testimony, Sampson said that in retrospect he wouldn't have sacked Iglesias, who was added to the list of dismissed prosecutors after complaints from White House political adviser Karl Rove and New Mexico Republican Senator Pete Domenici. Sampson had called Iglesias a ``diverse up and comer'' and considered him for other administration jobs, e-mails released by the Justice Department show.

``It is imperative that you restore Mr. Iglesias's tarnished reputation by confirming that his performance as a U.S. attorney did not warrant dismissal,'' wrote Schumer, who is leading the Senate's investigation of the firings. ``I urge you to take this step immediately.''

Lawn and Order--That's a Lot of Grass

Continuing on the earlier stream about lawn care...

From Common Dreams

The average lawn is a flat, featureless, artificially maintained environment heavily dependent on synthetic chemicals. The chemicals used in lawn care also have a seedy history. Pesticides, for
example, are little more than nerve agents derived from stockpiled toxins developed during World War Two.

Lawns are holdovers dating from the Middle Ages when the French aristocracy
began converting otherwise productive fields into pleasure grounds, he says.
In gardening-mad England, later generations of the bourgeoisie displayed
their newfound wealth in similar fashion, planting rose beds and
establishing luxuriant green lawns.

This historical trend would have far-reaching repercussions for middle-class
home owners in the 21st century who are willing to spend hundreds of dollars
every year on the upkeep and maintenance of their lawns. According to a 2002
economic impact study published by the University of Florida, the lawn care
and turf industry generated a staggering 57 billion dollars annually and
employed 800,000-plus people.

Using satellite and aerial imagery, research scientists from the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration have calculated that approximately
162,000 square kilometers of the United States is covered in turf -- an area
roughly three times larger than any irrigated crop currently under
cultivation
. And lawns are thirsty, consuming approximately 270 billion
gallons of water a week in the U.S. -- enough to irrigate 327,000 square
kilometers of organic vegetables.

A Shout Out to the Backyard Abundance Group in Iowa City who know how to grow lawns that are spectacular, sustainable, and healthy.


VOICE Your Opinion

From Johnson County Democracy For America

Jedi writes:


HF 805 may not see a positive vote due to the cost associated with the bill. Discussion with couple legislators suggests that the price tag for the billis over double the original bill requirement at from10 million to $25 million.

If you want clean elections and VOICE to pass, you must tell the appropriations subcommittee to pass thebill Jo Oldson (D- 61- Des Moines)Jo.Oldson@legis.state.ia.us
Dave Jacoby (D- 30- Coralville) David.Jacoby@legis.state.ia.us
Rod Roberts (R- 51-Carroll) Rod.Roberts@legis.state.ia.us
Gark note: you might also copy
Speaker of the House Rep. Pat Murphy (D) House District 28 – Dubuque County
Home Telephone: (563) 582-5922
House Telephone: (515) 281-5566
House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D) House District 67 – Polk County Kevin.McCarthy@legis.state.ia.us
Home Telephone: (515) 953-5221
House Telephone: (515) 281-7497
Senate Majority LeaderSenator Mike Gronstal (D) Senate District 50 -- Pottawattamie michael.gronstal@legis.state.ia.us
Home Telephone: (712) 328-2808
Business Telephone: (515) 281-3901

Anti-War Groups present Congressman Loebsack with Dubious Award

From the School for Moral Courage

IOWA CITY - Yesterday, Thursday, March 29, 2007, at 4:30 p.m., five members of national and local anti-war initiatives delivered a "Deed of Ownership" inscribed with Congressman David Loebsack's name to his Iowa City office. The was certificate in response to Loebsack's vote supporting the Supplemental Spending Bill passed last week in the U.S. House of Representatives.

A copy of the certificate can viewed here.
http://www.schoolformoralcourage.com/files/loebsack_certificate2.pdf

or by going to the School for Moral Courage home page
http://www.schoolformoralcourage.com/

All the nonpartisan national antiwar organizations and thousands of state and local groups urged a "No" vote on this legislation. Antiwar groups wanted Congress, instead to craft and pass a bill calling for immediate withdrawal of the troops with only funding sufficient for their safe return.

Members of Congress (all Democrats) who voted against the bill because it did not go far enough are Kucinich (OH), Lee (CA), Lewis (GA), Michaud (ME), McNulty (NV), Waters (CA) and Woolsey (CA).

The certificate states

"CERTIFICATE OF OWNERSHIP
The War in Iraq
In dubious recognition of your vote to continue funding The War in Iraq,
We, the undersigned, do bestow upon
U.S. Congressman, David Loebsack
Deed of Ownership
On this date, Thursday, March 29, 2007."

The certificate is endorsed by and includes the logos of national organizations, Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Veterans against the War, and Veterans for Peace as well as the Iowa Antiwar Coalition. This presentation is in concert with presentations of the certificate throughout the country to members of congress who voted for the bill.

This presentation is also one of several scheduled actions to end the war including "Walk Out on War," a state-wide workers/student strike day scheduled May 1.

Do We Have a VOICE Left?

Earlier this week, I called on Representative David Jacoby to let him know about my interest in Voter-Owned Iowa Clean Elections being funded and voted on. As has been widely reported, the hang up is attributed to the $10 million to fund the program. It has been very quiet since then.

Read what Chris Woods over at Political Forecast has this to say about the financing.

Same Day Voter Registration

From Sen. Joe Bolkcom's Networker

On Tuesday, the Senate passed same day voter registration (HF 653) on a vote of 30-20 with all Republicans voting NO.

The law is modeled after a similar law in Minnesota, which has allowed Election Day voter registration for the last 33 years. In addition to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Idaho, Wyoming, New Hampshire, Montana and Maine have Election Day registration. These states have found voter fraud to be virtually non-existent, and voter turnout averages 10 percent higher than other states.

This change will make it easier for Iowans to participate in elections. I voted for this bill. The bill now goes to the Governor where he is expected to sign it.

You can watch the bill’s floor manager, Senator Staci Appel of Indianola, give her opening address at Senator Appel's video statement.

Fact-Based Sex Education Passes in Iowa House

"It is irresponsible to provide false information to teens," said Rep. Mary Mascher, an Iowa City Democrat who led discussion on House File 611 which passed in the House on a vote of 55-40.

Despite the efforts of opponents to paint the bill as anti-abstinence, the bill would not prohibit abstinence-only education or require districts to teach about specific topics such as abortion, homosexuality, contraceptives or other sometimes controversial topics related to health education.

It would, however, prohibit public schools and accredited private schools from giving information about those topics that is considered inaccurate by science and research.

Take Really Good Care of Your Lawn--Don't Use Pesticides

Now that spring has sprung, it is important to remind people that taking care of your lawn is good, but doing it without herbicides and pesticides is better for all of us.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 100 million pounds of active ingredient from herbicides, insecticides, miticides, and fungicides were applied in homes and gardens in the United States in 2001. Of that, homeowners used 13 percent of total herbicides, 16 percent of total insecticides and miticides, and 16 percent of total fungicides.

The EPA also tells us that the average homeowner uses 20 times the concentration of pesticides on their lawns than a farmer does.

Pesticides, herbicides, and miticides are bad news to little people and other living organisms.

Pesticides drift and settle during application. In the Antarctic ice pack alone there are 2.4 million pounds of DDT and its metabolites from years past.

Pesticides engulf the home and are easily tracked inside, readily inhaled and absorbed through the skin. They do harm by attacking the central nervous system and other essential organs.

The National Academy of Sciences reports that at least one out of seven people are significantly harmed by pesticide exposure each year. Increasingly, reports from many people around the country are "beginning to link feeling terrible with the fact the neighbors had the lawn sprayed the day before", notes Catherine Karr, a toxicologist for the National Coalition Against The Misuse Of Pesticides.

Symptoms of pesticide poisoning are often deceptively simple, commonly mis-diagnosed as flu or allergies. They include, but are not limited to, headaches, nausea, fever, breathing difficulties, seizures, eye pains, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, sore nose, tongue, or throat; burning skin, rashes, coughing, muscle pain, tissue swelling, blurred vision, numbness and tingling in hands or feet, incontinence, anxiety, irritability, sleep disorders, hyperactivity, fatigue, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, spontaneous bleeding, and temporary paralysis.

Long-term consequences include lowered fertility, birth defects, miscarriages, blindness, liver and kidney dysfunction, neurological damage, heart trouble, stroke, immune system disorders, menstrual problems, memory loss, suicidal depression, cancer, and death.

There are natural ways to address your lawn in a healthier way, try them.

Thursday, March 29

Scandal Du Jour: GSA Chief Grilled By Braley

From TPMuckraker

Don't miss this.
Here's a clip from this morning's House government reform committee hearing, investigating General Services Administration Chief Lurita Doan.

In this clip, Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) grills her on a PowerPoint presentation (pdf, gark note: slide 4 is sort of a hoot) given by Karl Rove's deputy Scott Jennings to GSA personnel in January. The slides (13 pages) detailed which seats were "House Targets" and which "Senate Targets", which states were "Republican Offense," and which "Republican Defense." After the presentation, Doan reportedly asked other employees how the agency could help "our candidates." The GSA, remember, is the government's procurement agency, in charge of almost $60 billion each year. All of this seems like a clear violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits using federal resources to aid political parties.

Doan doesn't have a good answer for Braley's questions, stuttering out "I don't recall"s and something about how the meeting was a "brown bag lunch" for the purpose of “team building.” You should "ask Mr. Jennings," she says.

OIL Be Seeing You

From the GAO (Thanks to Rapid Response Iowa)

Most studies estimate that oil production will peak sometime between now and 2040, although many of these projections cover a wide range of time, including two studies for which the range extends into the next century.

The timing of the peak depends on multiple, uncertain factors that will influence how quickly the remaining oil is used, including the amount of oil still in the ground, how much of the remaining oil can be ultimately produced, and future oil demand.

The amount of oil remaining in the ground is highly uncertain, in part because the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) controls most of the estimated world oil reserves, but its estimates of reserves are not verified by independent auditors. In addition, many parts of the world have not yet been fully explored for oil.

There is also great uncertainty about the amount of oil that will ultimately be produced, given the technological, cost, and environmental challenges. For example, some of the oil remaining in the ground can be accessed only by using complex and costly technologies that present greater environmental challenges than the technologies used for most of the oil produced to date.

Other important sources of uncertainty about future oil production are potentially unfavorable political and investment conditions in countries where oil is located. For example, more than 60 percent of world oil reserves, on the basis of Oil and Gas Journal estimates, are in countries where relatively unstable political conditions could constrain oil exploration and production.

Finally, future world demand for oil also is uncertain because it depends on economic growth and government policies throughout the world. For example, continued rapid economic growth in China and India could significantly increase world demand for oil, while environmental concerns, including oil’s contribution to global warming, may spur conservation or adoption of alternative fuels that would reduce future demand for oil.

In the United States, alternative transportation technologies face challenges that could impede their ability to mitigate the consequences of a peak and decline in oil production, unless sufficient time and effort are brought to bear. For example:

- Ethanol from corn is more costly to produce than gasoline, in part because of the high cost of the corn feedstock. Even if ethanol were to become more cost-competitive with gasoline, it could not become widely available without costly investments in infrastructure, including pipelines, storage tanks, and filling stations.

- Advanced vehicle technologies that could increase mileage or use different fuels are generally more costly than conventional technologies and have not been widely adopted. For example, hybrid electric vehicles can cost from $2,000 to $3,500 more to purchase than comparable conventional vehicles and currently constitute about 1 percent of new vehicle registrations in the United States.

- Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are significantly more costly than conventional vehicles to produce. Specifically, the hydrogen fuel cell stack needed to power a vehicle currently costs about $35,000 to produce, in comparison with a conventional gas engine, which costs $2,000 to $3,000.

Given these challenges, development and widespread adoption of alternative transportation technologies will take time and effort. Key alternative technologies currently supply the equivalent of only about 1 percent of U.S. consumption of petroleum products, and DOE projects that even under optimistic scenarios, by 2015 these technologies could displace only the equivalent of 4 percent of projected U.S. annual consumption.

GAO recommends that the Secretary of Energy work with other agencies to establish a strategyto coordinate and prioritize federal agency efforts to reduce uncertainty about the likely timing of a peak and to advise Congresson how best to mitigate consequences. In commenting on a draft of the report, the Departments of Energy and the Interior generally agreed with the report and recommendations.

The prospect of a peak in oil production presents problems of global proportion whose consequences will depend critically on our preparedness. The consequences would be most dire if a peak occurred soon, without warning, and were followed by a sharp decline in oil production because alternative energy sources, particularly for transportation, are not yet available in large quantities.

Such a peak would require sharp reductions in oil consumption, and the competition for increasingly scarce energy would drive up prices, possibly to unprecedented levels, causing severe economic damage. While these consequences would be felt globally, the United States, as the largest consumer of oil and one of the nations most heavily dependent on oil for transportation, may be especially vulnerable among the industrialized nations of the world.

Franker Sense: North Liberty Mayor Resigns For "Legal Reasons"

The Press-Citizen reports that North Liberty Mayor Dave Franker, who won as a write-in candidate resigned today. Franker, who is a former school board member and was the 2004 district 2 Democratic Congressional candidate, made his surprise announcement at a news conference today. Flanked by his wife, Karen, Franker told reporters he was taking an internship in the Linn County Attorney's Office. The resignation is effective immediately, Franker said.

Council member Gerry Kuhl, who is mayor pro tem, will assume mayoral duties.

More in the C.R. Gazette

and the Daily Iowan

Is there more to this story?

One Against the Little Guy: Sonic Room

By a vote of 3 to 2, the Iowa City Board of Adjustment voted to support the rezoning of the soon to be former Coronet Apartment site to put up a Sonic Drive-in restaurant. Jerry Anthony, who is a member of the Housing and Community Development Board and one neighbor spoke against the project siting concerns about lighting, sound, traffic, and public safety concerns. The Board deliberated until 8:25 with members Alexander, Thornton, and Shelangouski supporting Southgate and its partner Nordstrom Oil (the Sonic franchisee) and members Wood and Wright voting against the rezoning exception.

As a result 34 units of affordable rental housing will be removed to make way for the drive-in/drive-thru restaurant.

New Hampshire News

N.H. Bill could force IA Caucus Change according to the AP - The New Hampshire House has approved a bill giving the secretary of state clear authority to schedule New Hampshire's presidential primary before the Iowa and Nevada caucuses -- if he wants to.

State law requires the secretary of state to schedule the primary on a Tuesday a week or more before any ``similar election.'' The bill gives New Hamshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner the sole authority to decide what constitutes a similar election.

A Shout Out to North Libertarians

N. Liberty OKs election law From the C.R. Gazette

The City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday night to stick with its current method of electing its mayor and council with a plurality vote. The council discussed whether to change the city’s election code earlier this year in the aftermath of the city’s controversial 2005 mayoral election, in which the writein candidate won with less than half of the vote. Tuesday’s vote was the first of three required to establish the voting law. Councilman Matt Bahl spent several months in court challenging his 2005 loss to Mayor Dave Franker, who received 366 write-in votes to Bahl’s 338. Bahl challenged whether a run-off election was needed because of conflicting ordinances in North Liberty’s city code. Council members Gerry Kuhl, Jim Wozniak, James Moody and Tom Salm voted in favor of the ordinance; Bahl voted against it.

Democracy is a funny thing, particularly when it doesn't go your way.

Meanwhile in the Polls

From The Des Moines Register
Two recent polls of Iowans show former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards continues to hold an edge in the leadoff nominating state, even amid news that his wife's cancer has returned and that former Gov. Tom Vilsack has endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton.

More on Immigration Policy

From the International Relations Center paper "Toward a Comprehensive Immigration Policy"

Backlash Measures Will Increase Tensions

As discussion continues in Washington over the various reform bills, several measures under debate will clearly have a negative impact on U.S.-Latin America relations and increase racial tensions within the United States without having any countervailing benefits to U.S. society and economy. As such, the following policy reforms should be rejected:

  • Deportation of Illegal Immigrants: While the U.S. government certainly has the right to deport foreigners residing in the country illegally (either entering without permission or overstaying their visas), such an initiative is neither practical nor ethical. By having tacitly accepted that 12 million “illegal aliens” constitute an integral part of U.S. workforce and society, the U.S. government has signaled that there is room in the United States for “illegal” residents. Rounding up and deporting massive numbers of immigrants is not practical, and would lead to human rights violations and an upsurge in anti-U.S. sentiment within neighboring countries. Not only would such a policy initiative—advocated by the restrictionists in the Republican Party—wreak havoc in U.S. communities, it would also severely debilitate the already fragile economies of sending nations by abruptly ending the flow of remittances and dangerously expanding the sectors of the unemployed and homeless.
  • Criminalization of Immigrants: The proposal that those crossing into the country without visas be regarded as felons would constitute an egregious violation of international human rights norms. Not only would such a measure, actually approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, prove costly to U.S. taxpayers, it would constitute another blow against the U.S. reputation and make U.S. citizens traveling abroad vulnerable to in-kind retribution. What's more, those advocating that illegal border-crossers be regarded and treated as criminals also would criminalize the act of sheltering or otherwise assisting these millions of unauthorized immigrants. As part of this criminalization of unauthorized immigrants, restrictionists in Congress and at the state and local levels also advocate that local law enforcement officials and other government employees turn over unauthorized immigrants to federal immigration authorities for prosecution and deportation.
  • Barricading U.S. Borders: Formerly high-trafficked sections of the U.S.-Mexican border are already largely impenetrable because of previous decisions to erect imposing walls or fences. These barriers have proved highly effective in reducing illegal crossings at formerly favored immigrant crossing locations. However, they have not succeeded in decreasing immigration flows since would-be immigrants have sought new points of entry. Presumably, barricading the entire U.S.-Mexico border would dramatically decrease illegal immigrant traffic, but at an extremely high cost to U.S. international standing. As the United States has stepped up border control, including walls along parts of the border, many immigrants have decided to make the United States their permanent home because of the increased difficulty of returning for seasonal, temporary, or steady jobs. Further barricading the border would accentuate this trend.
  • Denial of Basic Services: Contrary to the declarations of the anti-immigration forces, immigrants come to the United States to work, not to avail themselves of the country's quickly shrinking safety net of social services. Measures that would deny immigrants and their children emergency and basic medical services and education are inhumane and would further stratify U.S. society, aggravate the public health crisis, and contribute to delinquency and crime. Such proposed initiatives would violate basic human rights. Contrary to the misinformation disseminated by anti-immigration groups, immigrants who receive basic social services are not getting a free lunch since they are taxpayers—paying their fair share of income, payroll, and sales taxes. But it should also be acknowledged that many communities, especially in the borderlands, are finding that their budgets are being depleted by the increasing immigrant-related services, and the federal and state governments should step in to ensure that these are adequately compensated.

One of the main problems in organizing support for a fair, comprehensive, and effective immigration reform policy has been the lack of a conceptual framework to help policymakers evaluate the problems and benefits of immigration while at the same time linking immigration policy to both domestic economic and foreign policy. To summarize, a comprehensive overhaul of our immigration system would include these components:

  • Occurs in the context of a national economic policy that encourages full-employment at livable wages and with respect for basic rights to organize.
  • Prioritizes the entry of political refugees.
  • Legalizes the presence of the large sector of unauthorized immigrants that have established roots in U.S. society and economy.
  • Leaves open the possibility for guest-worker programs that do not endanger the jobs of legal U.S. residents and guarantees respect for the rights of these temporary workers.
  • Determines a sustainable level of legal immigration that benefits U.S. society and economy.
  • Reduces immigration visas for family reunification to ensure that any earned legalization program does not lead to large increases in legal immigration flows.
  • Deemphasizes border security, and instead places the emphasis of controlling illegal immigration on institution of a worker ID system.
  • Reforms U.S. foreign policy in ways that promote broad development and job creation in “sending” countries.
  • Protects the human rights (with special attention to labor rights and conditions) of all U.S. residents—whether legal or not.

Wednesday, March 28

MADtv - iRack (including blooper in the end)

Watch and wonder...

Sampson and "De Lawyer"

From US News and World Report

When Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's former chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee this Thursday about the controversial firings of eight U.S. attorneys, he's unlikely to throw any big bombs at the Bush administration that are of the magnitude of a direct link between Bush's political advisor Karl Rove and the dismissals, a close associate of Sampson's tells U.S. News. But Sampson will set off some fireworks by contradicting a key assurance that Gonzales made to Congress and the American public last Tuesday that he was not in the loop during the long deliberations leading up to the firings.

One For the Little Guy

Thanks largely to the ongoing efforts of State Attorney General Tom Miller and State Sen. Joe Bolkcom, Gov. Chet Culver signed limits on Iowa’s car title loan industry into law Tuesday, curbing a practice Democrats have described as predatory lending. See Video.

"For far too long, car-title lenders have preyed upon the most vulnerable Iowans," Culver said at a bill signing flanked by supporters of car title loan limits.

The industry has sprouted up in Iowa in recent years along with payday lenders, who offer short-term loans at higher interest rates than typical loans.

Culver said the bill he signed closes an unintended loophole in Iowa law that allowed car-title lenders to charge unreasonable interest rates that could in some cases climb to 300 percent.

The bill limits car title loan interest rates to 21 percent, the same as other consumer loans.

Gark comment--Here's sympathy for ya...

Rep. Jamie Van Fossen, R-Davenport, reluctantly voted for the bill, and said he now wonders where some Iowans will get loans."I’m afraid there will be some consumers in our state who had to go to these places that won’t have the ability to borrow money anywhere else now," Van Fossen said.

Apparent the Rep. mistakes usury with compassionate conservatism.

Gonzo on the Ropes?

AG "You can call me Al" Gonzales had a rocky day yesterday.

Clearly AG the AG is a bit skittish. He cut short a press conference in Chicago yesterday because reporters were more interested in his conduct than his agenda.

Check out this column by Robyn Blumner: Gonzales and the invasion of your privacy

Tuesday, March 27

Twenty Lousy Cents

Last night I was at the grocery store and accidentally wrote a check that was over the amount the cashier told me by twenty cents. Perhaps because I was world weary, or perhaps because I was in a cynical mood I said flippantly, "Well, I don't think that extra twenty cents will change the world--don't worry about it."

The bagger, who was a young woman, looked up from my groceries and said, "wouldn't it be something if twenty cents did change the world?"

I jokingly responded, "Well, if it would change the world-- I'll give it right back."

As I walked home, I thought about it. When I woke up this morning, I thought about it some more. I'm still thinking about it as I write this.

Iowa has 2.9 million people in it. If every person in Iowa ponied up twenty cents, that would be $580,000. Would the world change on account of that kind of money being available?

The United States has , according to the census bureau Population Clocks, 301,473,951 people. If everyone chipped in twenty cents, that's $60,294,790.20. that is slightly more than the entire city budget of Iowa City. Imagine what changes could happen with that kind of money?

The World population is estimated to be 6,584,998,266 (at 21:52 GMT (EST+5) Mar 27, 2007). Of course now you have to factor in currency conversion and the idea that twenty cents here is worth more or less than other places in terms of goods and services, but in US dollars, we are now talking about $1,316,999,653.20. How much world change could come from this?

Imagine $1.316 billion dollars to help feed, shelter, immunize/heal, provide clean water and sanitation, create jobs with.

Twenty lousy cents it turns out may make a world of difference.

Prejudgery or Perjury? Aide Gone "Gonzo"

From AP via Forbes

A senior aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has decided against testifying before lawmakers about her role in the ousters of eight federal prosecutors, the latest flare-up in the controversy surrounding the Justice Department.

Monica Goodling's announcement that she would take the Fifth Amendment to avoid possibly incriminating herself came as the embattled attorney general cast himself as misunderstood in his conflicting accounts of his involvement in the firings.

Start With the End in Mind

I snipped this quote from the Century of the Comman Iowan: "[David] Loebsack quoted a recent blog post by David Sirota that quoted Saul Alinsky. Loebsack said, "start from where the world is, as it is, not as I would like it to be.”"

This is fine for Dave, he's accepted the job of politician. But for those of us who want the war to end or for social justice to prevail, we need to start, in Stephen Covey terms, "with the end in mind". It seems fruitless to be a progressive if you don't fight for progressive ideas. War is never a progressive idea, it is a failure of human decency and its wounds go far deeper than those who bear its scars.

I understand politics, politicians live and die by playing "let's make a deal"--trouble is, the cost of war is the children of our nation, the mothers and fathers of our next generation--this is nothing to raffle off.

Monday, March 26

Ann Wright Ironic Arrest in Congress

This is well worth viewing. Ann Wright is a career army officer and diplomat who quit her job in 2003 and has been a constant critic of the war. Incidentally she was bailed out by the Congressman who the misunderstanding was with.

Jumping on the Train

It is difficult to express the frustration that being involved in politics can bring. Supporting candidates that disappoint for the sake of appeasing the concerns of their handlers or that simply can not broadly appeal to the mainstream of voters can be heartbreaking to a hardcore, true believer.

I purposely did not want to support anyone this early in the cycle, but there is something about John Edwards that makes me believe he is the real deal. Maybe it is the way he has made fighting poverty a centerpiece to his campaign. Maybe it is his populist message. Maybe it is the way he handles extremely difficult things with integrity, like the decision to keeping running despite his wife's health issues (which speaks volumes both about him and Elizabeth--who I am more than sure--persuaded him to keep going).

And then there is his ability to connect with people. Whereas I did not support him in the 2004 caucus (in favor of some guy named Dean), I realized that it was because he has that "charisma thing" that the other Clinton had in buckets--and, frankly, I was wary of him, thinking he was all flash and no substance.

But, as I have listened to John Edwards subsequently, I know now that he is not a one-trick pony, he talks to people about policy with depth, thoughtfulness, and with a desire to really speak to people about what concerns them. He has plans for what to do about Iraq. He has a plan to address global warming. He has a plan to address health care.

I know...but, but, but...Does he benefit from being in the barrel last time? Perhaps, he has his boots on the ground in Iowa, but he was on the losing ticket last time, so it is half and half in my book. Does he benefit from his personal wealth? Absolutely. Does he benefit from being telegenic? For many casual voters, I'm sure.

However, at the end of the day, what I ask myself is, does he demonstrate a depth of character and could he handle the rigors of being president? This is what I hang my hat on. When it all comes down to it, we need a president we can trust to do the right thing and won't wither when a tough decision crosses his desk. I think John Edwards is worth my support. I think he will be a great president. I hope he gets the chance.

P.S. Read this article by Barbara Ehrenreich (author of "Nickeled and Dimed") "Catty about Cancer"

Do Immigrants Really Take Away American Jobs?

Pew Hispanic Research released a report in August of 2006 that seems to refute some of the claims made by anti-immigration folks, namely that "non-native" immigrants are taking away jobs from "native" Americans. What seems to be true is that non-natives are filling jobs in areas where fewer natives live and are generally not affecting employment of natives where the majority of US population lives.

For example,

Among the major findings:

• Eight states had above-average growth in the foreign-born population from 1990-2000 and below-average employment rates for native-born workers in 2000. Those states, where immigration may have had a negative impact, include North Carolina, Tennessee and Arizona and accounted for 15% of all native-born workers.
• Fourteen states had above-average growth in the foreign-born population and above-average employment rates for native-born workers in 2000. Those states, where rapid immigration appears to have not harmed native-born workers, include Texas, Nevada and Georgia and accounted for 24% of all native-born workers.
• The growth in the foreign-born population from 1990-2000 was below average in 16 states with above-average employment rates for native-born workers in 2000. Those states, in which the native born may have benefited from the slow pace of growth in the foreign-born workforce, include Illinois, Michigan and Virginia and represented 23% of the native-born workforce.
• The growth in the foreign-born population was below average in 12 states and the District of Columbia, with below-average employment rates for native workers in 2000. Those states, in which the slow growth in the foreign-born workforce may not have benefited native workers, include California, New York, New Jersey and Florida and represented 38% of the native-born workforce.
• Between 2000 and 2004, there was a positive correlation between the increase in the foreign-born population and the employment of native-born workers in 27 states and the District of Columbia Together, they accounted for 67% of all native-born workers and include all the major destination states for immigrants. In the remaining 23 states there was a negative correlation between the growth of the foreign-born population and the employment of native-born workers. Those states accounted for 33% of the native-born workforce in 2004.
• The share of foreign-born workers in the workforce of a state was not related to the employment rate for native-born workers in either 2000 or 2004.
• Many immigrant workers lack a college education and are relatively young, but the analysis found no evidence that they had an impact on the employment outcomes of those native-born workers who also have low levels of education and are ages 25-34.

Howard Zinn Speaks: "Are we Politicians or Citizens?"


This is a great column from Howard Zinn --I particularly resonated to this: "When a social movement adopts the compromises of legislators, it has forgotten its role, which is to push and challenge the politicians, not to fall in meekly behind them."

and this: "The response of the Bush Administration to four years of failure is to send more troops. To add more troops matches the definition of fanaticism: If you find you're going in the wrong direction, redouble your speed. It reminds me of the physician in Europe in the early nineteenth century who decided that bloodletting would cure pneumonia. When that didn't work, he concluded that not enough blood had been let.

The Congressional Democrats' proposal is to give more funds to the war, and to set a timetable that will let the bloodletting go on for another year or more. It is necessary, they say, to compromise, and some anti-war people have been willing to go along. However, it is one thing to compromise when you are immediately given part of what you are demanding, if that can then be a springboard for getting more in the future."

Iowa Politicians--Don't take our VOICE

Voter Owned Clean Elections Act. This is essential to pave the way for publically funded elections, so that new voices have a fighting chance in politics.

A subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee is trying to kill a bill that would publically fund elections. Call Dave Jacoby and tell him you support HSB 105 as a means to allow more qualified people to run for public office--do it today!

Please call and urge Dave to support the VOICE bill

Rep. Dave Jacoby (D) House District 30 -- Johnson CountyDavid.Jacoby@legis.state.ia.us Home Telephone: 319-358-8538 House Switchboard: (515) 281-3221

Ask him. why are newspapers, broadcasters, and advertisers against it?

Saturday, March 24

FACTCHECK Says White House Spins Iraqi Polling

Tony Snow says two polls on Iraqi optimism are "diametrically opposed." A close look shows otherwise.

March 23, 2007

Summary

Results of an ABC News survey of public opinion in Iraq found much pessimism as the fourth anniversary of the war approached. When asked for comment, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow cited a British poll which he said offered a "different conclusion." The British poll's summary did sound less gloomy, but a close look at the numbers showed that the actual results of the two polls are similar.

Analysis

On March 19th, ABC News, and its news media partners, announced the results of a new survey of public opinion in Iraq, the third in a series of Iraqi polls it has conducted roughly every year and a half beginning in February 2004. The previous poll was released in November 2005, and its findings were trumpeted by President Bush as proof that "Iraqis are optimistic -- and that optimism is justified." At that time we found that Bush was citing the polls findings selectively, and that neither Bush nor his critics had accurately painted the full complexity of Iraqi public opinion.

This time the Bush administration isn't embracing the latest poll at all. It found "a draining away of the underlying optimism that once prevailed." Conclusions were so unrelentingly negative that the report is titled, "Ebbing Hope in a Landscape of Loss."

When asked about these findings at a press briefing, Press Secretary Snow replied that "there was also a British poll at the same time that had almost diametrically opposed results." That mischaracterizes the British poll.

Snow is referring to a poll conducted by the British firm Opinion Research Business . There is nothing in the ORB poll results that contradicts ABC's poll findings. In fact, when the two survey companies asked similar questions, their results were very much in line. For example:

ABC Poll

Q2. Compared to the time before the war in Spring 2003, are things overall in your life much better now, somewhat better, about the same, somewhat worse or much worse?

42% -"Better"

36% -"Worse"

ORB "British" Poll

Q8. Taking everything into account, do you feel that things are better for you now under the present political system or do you think things were better for you before under the previous regime of Saddam Hussein?

49% -“Better under the current system”

26% -“Better under the previous regime”

So the British poll found a somewhat greater share of its sample – 49 percent as opposed to 42 in the ABC poll – saying that life is better under the current regime. However, the difference is not much more than the statistical margins of error (+/- 1.4% for ORB, +/- 2.5% for ABC). The polls were completed within 11 days of each other in February and early March.

Friday, March 23

Vilsack to Support Clinton

According to the New York Times, Tom Vilsack will endorse Clinton.

"Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa, who quickly dropped in and out of the Democratic field for the 2008 race, will endorse Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday when she’s visiting the state, we’re told.

Mrs. Clinton put out a blind release a little while ago, saying she would make a major announcement there with special guests. We’d hazard a guess that Mr. Vilsack is one of those special people."

Congress at Its Worst

They Drank the Kool-Aid

When will the Democratic leadership ever learn that they can't "win" by not living up to the expectations of the voters that put them in office? This is a sad day. It is doubly vexing given that the conference committee will likely take out all of the "offending" limitations so that the president signs the bill.

For those few Democratic Congress members who voted this down because it didn't go far enough to end the war, thank you. They are: Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, John Lewis, Michael McNulty, Michael Michaud, Maxine Waters, Diane Watson, Lee Woolsey

"If you want peace, stop funding the war. If you want peace, stand for the truth," said Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio.

From Marketwatch

Setting a potential showdown with President Bush over the conduct of the Iraq war, House Democrats prevailed Friday in passing a $124.6 billion spending package that would set tough benchmarks for the Iraqi government and withdrawal most troops from the country by next year.

The bill, which cleared largely along party lines in a 218-212 vote, would fund ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but would require the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq by September 2008. The pullout would begin earlier if the Iraqi government fails to meet certain benchmarks.

"I am proud that we have finally done something," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill. "We will fund the troops, and we will also demand that Iraq stand up for Iraq's future and stop leaning on America alone."

President Bush and congressional Republicans argue that the bill would "micromanage" the war effort, while signaling insurgents in Iraq and enemies around the world that the United States will remain only for the short run.

'I am proud that we have finally done something. We will fund the troops, and we will also demand that Iraq stand up for Iraq's future and stop leaning on America alone.'
— Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill

"I believe there's only one outcome if we support all the strings and the handcuffs and that outcome is failure ... what does it say to them that we are not willing to stand behind our troops?" said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

The vote was a triumph for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and top Democrats, who spent the week scrambling to shore up support for the package. Conservative and moderate Democrats worried about looking weak on defense expressed concerns about the bill's timelines, while the party's liberal wing complained that the measure wouldn't immediately end the war.

The bill's backers said that the package offered the best opportunity to begin winding down the war, arguing that a more aggressive approach would be doomed to failure and would effectively give Bush a green light to continue his policies.

"Don't sell short a vote in favor of this bill as if it were a mere political accommodation," said Rep. David Price, D-N.C.

With almost all Republicans set to vote against the package, Democrats could withstand few defections in order to prevail.

Republican leaders decried what they said were a litany of pork-barrel projects, subsidies and other measures added to the bill in order to buy support from wavering lawmakers. In addition to military funding items, the package included previously House-passed language to boost the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 over two years.

The bill includes around $6 billion for hurricane relief, as well as millions in subsidies aimed at spinach growers and peanut farmers.

"What will our soldiers on the front lines think when they hear they've been sold for salmon fisheries and spinach growers?" asked Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga.

Democrats said Republicans were ignoring billions they added to the bill in order to ensure the troops have access to improved body armor and health care.

"If you vote against this, you're voting against the new armored vehicles which we need so badly," said Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa. "If you vote against this bill, you'll be denying the troops better equipment and better protection."

The package will face a tough time in the Senate, where a number of Democrats have expressed reservations about a timetable. Bush has threatened to veto the bill if it makes it to his desk

Congress At It's Best

From Raw Story

After questioning a Republican congressmember's "decency" for seeking to restrict housing reconstruction funds for Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims, a Democratic Representative was barred from speaking Wednesday from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. By a vote of the House's membership, his speaking privileges were quickly restored, and the Member apologized--but, boy did he make his point! Watch the C-SPAN clip at the end of the story.

Click Here For The Full Story

Pity the Poor Citizen from Another Country

Ode Magazine has a great article about the myths around immigration.

It begins:

"We take it for granted that restrictions on the movement of people should exist. In particular, we assume that it is normal and desirable that people in poor countries should be confined within their national borders, just as medieval serfs were once tied to the land. We never stop to think that perhaps we would all be better off if the latter-day serfs were set free, because they would be vastly more productive if they were not confined to their poor native lands.

Just as feudal lords never questioned whether their system made sense because they were comfortable at the top of the pile, people in rich countries tend to assume that immigration controls benefit them by offering protection from the poor in the rest of the world. The controls do protect them—but at what cost? Might we have as much to gain from setting people in poor countries free as we did in shifting from feudalism to capitalism?" Read on.

As I can tell some supporters of the T. Tancredo club have been peeking in on the ol' Pop Prog blog, it might be worth their time to give it a read.

Results of the first Popular Progressive Poll

The "winners" of the last poll of the four most acceptable candidates for president were

John Edwards with 22%
Barack Obama with 17%
Al Gore with 12%
Joe Biden with 8%

Vote this month for your one favorite candidate for president.

This is Why It Matters

War is hell, so says the adage. But for the severely injured soldiers and the families of the soldiers who have been injured or have died, life is hell--this is another reason why not one more ounce of blood should be spilled to fight a war in Iraq.

http://www.schoolformoralcourage.com/michaelstory.html

http://monashaw.blogspot.com/2007/03/another-war-story.html


This is why Congress must not settle on a bill that does not get the troops out of Iraq.

Thursday, March 22

Congress--Don't Drink the Kool-Aid

Here are six important reasons to oppose the supplemental spending bill (also known as the "Iraq Accountability Act") the House will be voting on:

1) It funds both the continued occupation of Iraq and Bush's escalation of the war.
2) It allows Bush to decide when U.S. troop withdrawal should begin -- possibly not until Sept. 1, 2008 -- a full 18 months from now.
3) It is silent on the question of attacking Iran. (Language requiring Congressional authorization for military action against Iran was removed from the bill.)
4) It allows an unspecified number of troops (10,000? 30,000? 50,000?) to remain in Iraq indefinitely.
5) It would bring spending on the Iraq war to more than $500 BILLION!
6) Most importantly, it guarantees that more of our brave troops will likely be injured and killed.

Call the Congressional Switchboard toll-free: 888-851-1879 (ask the operator to connect you to your Representative's office).

Is There a Detention Center Near You?

By the fall of 2007 the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will spend an estimated $1 billion per year to detain over 27, 500 immigrants. ICE operates eight Service Processing Centers (SPCs) and seven contract detention facilities. Additionally, immigration detainees are being held in local jails and private prisons across the United States. According to ICE, the average detention is about one month, although some detainees are kept for several years.


If you live near a detention center (or even if you don't), consider ways to make the plight of the detainees and their families more widely known and what you can do to help them gain fair treatment. Visit the web sites of organizations listed in our Threatened Communities page for more information and suggestions. Also, please see Other Resources at the bottom of this page for further information on immigration detention and deportation, news articles and how to protect your rights. Also view strategies for dealing with local detention centers in your community, from the New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee.

Dream Homes Turn To Nightmares

Housing analysts predict between 1 million and 3 million U.S. homes will be foreclosed upon in 2007. Already a wave of defaults on subprime mortgages held by those with poor credit have caused a crisis in parts of the industry, and some economists believe a recession could result.

Subprime loans allowed many Americans with spotty credit to buy into the housing boom, driving home ownership to nearly 69 percent nationwide in 2006, up from 65.4 percent a decade earlier. But teaser rates that kept interest payments low for two or three years have begun to expire, driving monthly payments through the roof.

Shanna Smith, chief executive of the National Fair Housing Alliance, said lenders often targeted the most vulnerable borrowers for subprime loans, even if they were eligible for loans with lower rates. More often than not, the borrowers had little understanding of mortgages.
"All the predatory lending that has gone on, all of the pushing of exotic loans on people of color, female-headed households, families with children, people with disabilities -- it's all coming home to roost," Smith said.

Once borrowers fall 90 days behind on payments, lenders can start the foreclosure process, which can take up to a year. Owners can try to sell the house, but with prices falling and foreclosed homes flooding the market, borrowers often end up still owing more than they can get for the house.

Feinstein MILCON It for What It's Worth?

From Bohemian.Com

Feinstein Resigns From Subcommittee

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has resigned from the Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee. Feinstein was chairperson and ranking member of MILCON for six years, during which time she had a conflict of interest due to her husband Richard C. Blum's ownership of two major defense contractors who were awarded billions of dollars for military construction projects approved by Feinstein.

The MILCON subcommittee is not only in charge of supervising military construction; it also oversees "quality of life" issues for veterans, which includes building housing for military families and operating hospitals and clinics for wounded soldiers. Perhaps Feinstein is trying to disassociate herself from MILCON's incredible failure to provide decent medical care for wounded soldiers.

Two years ago, before the Washington Post became belatedly involved, the online magazine Salon.com exposed the horrors of deficient medical care for Iraq War veterans. While leading MILCON, Feinstein had ample warning of the medical-care meltdown. But she was not proactive on veteran's affairs.

More at http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=54932

Checks and Balances

The Senate voted overwhelmingly - and with bipartisan support - on Tuesday to strip Alberto Gonzales of the power to appoint US attorneys without its consent.

And the vote on Wednesday authorizing the use of subpoenas to compel White House officials to testify passed on a voice vote with no dissent.


Wednesday, March 21

Primary Motivation

Now New York is moving on up...

From the AP

No, not the budget, which is due April 1. Instead, the New York State Senate and Assembly both passed a bill moving New York's presidential primary date up to Feb. 5, 2008. The idea is to make New York "relevant" in the Presidential sweepstakes.

But with as many as 20 states considering or already having moved their primaries to Feb. 5, it seems unlikely any will gain added relevance. Why? Because that day will now be something akin to a national primary, with perhaps as much as half the country (population-wise) voting.

No candidate can really campaign in all those states in the short window between the South Carolina primary (Democrats on the prior Tuesday, Republicans on the prior Saturday) and the new "Super Duper" Tuesday.

So what will happen? Many now believe Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina (Nevada holds a Democrat-only caucus too, so maybe Nevada) will be more important than ever. Any candidate that can't win at least one of these states may be too hobbled by his or her lack of perceived momentum to win many states on Feb. 5.

Deadlines and Commitments

The Press-Citizen reports Rep. Dave Loebsack said today he would vote in favor of an Iraq war spending bill that sets strict standards for deploying combat troops and a deadline of Aug. 31, 2008, to withdraw U.S. troops.

Gark: When he ran for election he said "The continued presence of U.S. troops near Iraq would only bring more instability to the region and place U.S. troops at constant risk from enemies of America. Complete disengagement from Iraq in the next year will serve to enhance America’s security." Sometimes it is hard to toe the party line.

Homeless in America

The Iowa City Human Rights Commission is sponsoring an event at the Iowa City Public Library at 7 pm to 9 pm tonight (Wednesday 3/21) featuring the documentary film "Homeless in America" in meeting Room A. A panel discussion will follow.

From “ A Comprehensive Homeless Strategy for Iowa” (2006)

The 2005 Iowa Homeless Study found the following:
• 21,000 Iowans were homeless and these persons were largely concentrated in Iowa’s urban
areas
• Iowa’s homeless population is changing – a majority of homeless households in Iowa are
families with children
• Women are more likely to be homeless than men
• 40 percent of homeless Iowans had mental health or substance abuse problems or another
disability
• African-Americans are significantly over-represented in Iowa’s homeless population.
(Although African-Americans represent only 2 percent of Iowa’s population they constituted
almost 25 percent of Iowa’s homeless population.)
• Families with children make up the majority (61 percent) of all homeless households in Iowa
• Seven percent of Iowa’s homeless meet HUD’s definition of chronic homeless
• Almost 20 percent of homeless men in Iowa are veterans
• There are 2,536 shelter beds in the state and
• The inability to find affordable housing is the top reason persons gave for their homeless
status.

Other contributing factors include eviction/foreclosure, domestic violence, job loss, utility disconnection, family breakup/divorce, loss of benefits, institutionalization of family member (jail, hospital) and de-institutionalization (jail, hospital, foster care).

Dave Loebsack -- Please Support the Lee Amendment

Progressive representatives Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, Maxine Waters, Keith Ellison, Maurice Hinchey and our own Jerry Nadler proposed an amendment to the $93 billion supplemental appropriations bill for a fully-funded, systematic withdrawal of U.S. soldiers and military contractors from Iraq by December 31, 2007.

Grass roots groups are asking us to call our representatives and tell him or her to support the Lee Amendment to restrict Pentagon spending in Iraq to funding only the safe withdrawal of U.S. troops and contractors by the end of this year at the latest.

Call toll-free: 1-888-851-1879

Although this amendment has the staunch support of progressive allies in Congress, it faces a tough battle. If the Lee Amendment fails, we will urge our representatives vote NO vote on the supplemental appropriation in the coming weeks.

Following is the text of the Lee Amendment:

AMENDMENT TO H.R. _____, AS REPORTED
(SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS, 2007)
OFFERED BY MS. LEE OF CALIFORNIA
At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following:

SEC. ___. (a) Funds appropriated for Operation Iraqi Freedom or otherwise made available to the Department of Defense under any provision of law may be obligated and expended within the Republic of Iraq only for the purpose of providing for—

(1) the continued protection of members of the Armed Forces who are in Iraq participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Department of Defense contractor personnel who are in Iraq performing contracts related to such Operation, pending and during the withdrawal of such members of the Armed Forces and such contractor personnel; and

(2) the safe and complete withdrawal from Iraq of all members of the Armed Forces and contractor personnel described in paragraph (1) pursuant to a plan that provides for completion of the withdrawal not later than December 31, 2007.

(b) Nothing in subsection (a) shall be construed to prohibit or otherwise restrict the use of funds available to any department or agency of the United States to carry out diplomatic efforts or social and economic reconstruction activities in Iraq.

Tuesday, March 20

Sen. Tom Harkin on Global Warming

I appreciate hearing your thoughts on global warming and your support for S. 309, the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act of 2007. There is growing concern that human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels, industrial production, deforestation, and certain land-use practices, are increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases.

These gasses are leading to changes in the fundamental chemical and physical composition of Earth's atmosphere and have the potential to affect Earth's climate. Indeed, global average temperatures are rising as a result of these atmospheric changes, and that trend is projected to continue. I am very much interested in finding ways to reward those who take steps to reduce or affect greenhouse gas emissions and lessen the threat of global warming. Many states and local governments have already taken the initiative to lower their contribution to global warming and I commend these efforts.

Over 418 US cities, including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles as well as a number of Iowan cities such as Des Moines, Sioux City and Dubuque, have signed the Climate Protection Agreement, which commits these cities to the strict environmental standards of the Kyoto Protocol. California recently passed the Global Warming Solutions Act, committing the world's twelth highest emitter of greenhouse gases to the guidelines of the Kyoto Protocol. If we are serious about taking the necessary steps to curb our contribution to global warming, we need to follow the bold steps of our local leaders. And reducing our greenhouse gas emissions does not have to happen at the expense of American businesses and industries. For example, California as well as a number of Northeastern states are participating in a cap-and-trade program, which allows businesses and industries to earn credits for meeting stricter environmental and emissions standards. These credits can then be sold or traded to other businesses that do not meet these same environmental standards – otherwise, they face penalties. This program gives businesses the incentive to engage in environmentally-friendly practices, while giving them the freedom to decide how and even if they want to participate.

I have recently introduced a bipartisan bill, the Biofuels Security Act of 2007 (S.23), a bold initiative that requires American industries to produce at least 60 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2030. In order to ensure a market for this fuel, it also requires car manufacturers to produce increasing numbers of Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFV's) and major oil companies to install E-85 pumps at stations that they own or brand. This legislation will not only reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, but also move America closer to energy independence and revitalize America's heartland with thousands of new jobs.

I am supportive of the efforts of Senators Boxer and Sanders to seriously address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions and I hope to work with them to pass a comprehensive global warming bill this year.

Loebsack "Stock" Statement

REP. LOEBSACK STATES THAT, AS THE IRAQ WAR ENTERS ITS FIFTH YEAR, CONGRESS MUST CHANGE COURSE IN IRAQ

Washington, D.C. - Today, Rep. Loebsack stated that, as the Iraq war enters its fifth year today, it is long past time for Congress to take action to set a new direction on Iraq.

"In the November election, the American people spoke and they demanded a new direction in Iraq," said Rep. Loebsack. "The American people made clear that the country must turn away from the failed Iraq policies of the Bush Administration."

"As we enter the fifth year of the Iraq war, we must stop and take stock," Rep. Loebsack added. "Our involvement in Iraq has lasted longer than U.S. participation in World War II, World War I, the Korean War, or the Civil War. The war increasingly strains our military and has created a genuine crisis in U.S. troop readiness. As we begin the fifth year of the war, the price we have paid is high. More than 3,000 U.S. lives have been lost, more than 20,000 U.S. troops wounded, and more than $400 billion of taxpayer dollars spent."

"My highest priority is supporting our troops and ensuring their safety. I strongly oppose the President's plan for escalation and I am working with my colleagues to ensure a safe withdrawal of our troops from the region beginning immediately. We must end the President's open-ended commitment to the Iraq war and hold the administration accountable for its mismanagement of the war and subsequent failures," added Rep. Loebsack.

Gark--I would say that we have taken stock and we need to stop. Our Congress needs to act to end this war and appropriately fund the physical and mental health care needs of those veterans !


The Truth, the Half-Truth and Nothing But ..Oh, Crap!

Breaking from CNN

The White House will allow key presidential aide Karl Rove and former counsel Harriet Miers to be interviewed by committees probing the firings of U.S. attorneys, but they will not testify under oath, Rep. Chris Cannon says.

Chris Cannon (R-Utah) is not known for supporting transparency, he voted against legislation to reaffirm aspects of the Freedom of Information Act of 2007, an amendment that would strengthen the Presidential Records Act, a Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act and Presidential Library Donation reform.

Last Night's Vigil and Remembering Those Who Served

Approximately 75 people turned out for the MoveOn sponsored candlelight vigil last night on the corner of Washington and Linn Streets. Participants read off the names of soldiers from Iowa who had died in Iraq. Letters from loved ones about their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and grandchildren were read. Despite high winds, candles were lit and relit in rememberance of those who have perished prosecuting the war.

A particularly poignant moment occurred when a local teacher described the poor treatment her cousin received by the military as he attempts to recover from his very serious wounds. Local musician led the crowd in an acapella version of an Irish protest song.

Tonight, a march is planned to begin at 5 pm beginning at the University of Iowa Pentacrest.

Below are those Iowans who died while serving (including those in Iowa National Guard)

Maj. Stuart M. Anderson 44 3rd Corps Support Command, Army Reserve Peosta, Iowa One of eight soldiers killed when their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed near Tal Afar, Iraq, on January 7, 2006

Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey E. Bohr Jr. 39 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Ossian, Iowa Killed in northern Baghdad while engaging Iraqi forces on April 10, 2003

Spc. Casey Byers 22 Company B, 224th Engineer Battalion, Iowa Army National Guard Schleswig, Iowa One of two soldiers killed when a roadside bomb exploded underneath their up-armored Humvee during a route clearing operation south of Ramadi, Iraq, on June 11, 2005

Pfc. Benjamin R. Carman 20 Company E, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Jefferson, Iowa Killed in a long firefight after Iraqi insurgents launched a large-scale attack in Ramadi, Iraq, on April 6, 2004

Pvt. Michael J. Deutsch 21 C Troop, 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Division Dubuque, Iowa Killed when his M113 Armored Personnel Carrier hit a landmine in Baghdad, Iraq, on July 31, 2003

Sgt. Nathan R. Field 23 4249th Port Security Company, Army Reserve Lehigh, Iowa One of two soldiers killed when their Humvee was hit by a civilian vehicle in Umm Qasr, Iraq, on January 7, 2006

Lt. Col. Paul J. Finken 40 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division Mason City, Iowa One of three soldiers killed when their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad, Iraq, on November 2, 2006

Sgt. Paul F. Fisher 39 Detachment 1, Company F, 106th Aviation Battalion, Iowa Army National Guard Cedar Rapids, Iowa Fisher was seriously injured when his CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down by a surface-to-air missile in Falluja, Iraq, on November 2, 2003. He died of his injuries at Homburg University Clinic in Germany on November 6.

Pvt. Kurt R. Frosheiser 22 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division Des Moines, Iowa Killed when the vehicle he was driving hit a roadside bomb in Baghdad, Iraq, on November 8, 2003

Command Sgt. Maj. Marilyn L. Gabbard 46 Joint Forces Headquarters, Iowa Army National Guard Polk City, Iowa One of 12 soldiers killed when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter they were in crashed.

Sgt. Seth K. Garceau 27 Company A, 224th Engineer Battalion, 155th Brigade Combat Team, Iowa Army National Guard Oelwein, Iowa Died on March 4, 2005, at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, of injuries sustained when his up-armored Humvee was struck by a roadside bomb while traveling between Karbala and Ramadi, Iraq, on February 27

2nd Lt. Richard B. Gienau 29 Company A, 224th Engineer Battalion, Iowa Army National Guard Peoria, Illinois Killed when his up-armored Humvee was struck by a roadside bomb while traveling between Karbala and Ramadi, Iraq, on February 27, 2005

Spc. Dakotah L. Gooding 21 C Troop, 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division Des Moines, Iowa One of three soldiers killed when their Humvee overturned into a canal while on combat patrol in Balad, Iraq, on February 13, 2005

Staff Sgt. Donald D. Griffith Jr. 29 B Troop, 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division Mechanicsville, Iowa Died as a result of hostile action in Tal Afar, Iraq, on March 11, 2005

Sgt. Thomas E. Houser 22 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force Council Bluffs, Iowa Died due to enemy action in Anbar province, Iraq, on January 3, 2005

Spc. James M. Kiehl 22 507th Maintenance Company, 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade Des Moines, Iowa Killed when his convoy was ambushed near Nasiriya on March 23, 2003.

Pfc. David M. Kirchhoff 31 2133rd Transportation Company, Iowa Army National Guard Cedar Rapids, Iowa Suffered heat stroke on August 8, 2003, and was evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where he died on August 14

Spc. Joshua L. Knowles 23 1133rd Transportation Company, Iowa National Guard Sheffield, Iowa Killed when he was hit by a mortar round at a Baghdad International Airport checkpoint on February 5, 2004

Sgt. Bradley S. Korthaus 28 Company C, 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Force Service Support Group Davenport, Iowa Drowned while crossing the Saddam Canal on March 24, 2003

Lance Cpl. William J. Leusink 21 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force Maurice, Iowa One of two soldiers killed while conducting combat operations against enemy forecs in Anbar province, Iraq, on May 22, 2006

Cpl. Jarrod L. Maher 21 Company L, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Imogene, Iowa Died due to a non-hostile gunshot wound at Abu Ghraib, Iraq, on November 12, 2004

Lance Cpl. Clinton J. Miller 23 Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Greenfield, Iowa Killed during combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq, on December 11, 2006

Spc. John W. Miller 21 Company A, 224th Engineer Battalion, Iowa Army National Guard West Burlington, Iowa Shot and killed by a sniper while providing security for route clearing operations in Ramadi, Iraq, on April 12, 2005

Sgt. James P. Musack 23 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Riverside, Iowa Died of injuries suffered in a non-combat related incident in Samarra, Iraq, on November 21, 2006

Pvt. Kenneth A. Nalley 19 501st Military Police Company Hamburg, Iowa Killed when a heavy equipment transporter crossed the median and struck his Humvee in Samawa, Iraq, on May 26, 2003

Staff Sgt. Scott E. Nisely 48 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry, Iowa National Guard Marshalltown, Iowa One of two soldiers killed by small arms fire while operating in Asad, Iraq, on September 30, 2006

Spc. David L. Rice 22 Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division Sioux City, Iowa Died in Balad, Iraq, of injuries sustained when his Humvee rolled over in Muqdadiya, Iraq, on April 26, 2005

Cpl. Jonathan E. Schiller 20 215th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Ottumwa, Iowa One of two soldiers killed when a roadside bomb detonated during a combat patrol in Baquba, Iraq, on December 31, 2006

Cpl. Nathan A. Schubert 22 Company C, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit Cherokee, Iowa Died when the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter he was in crashed near Ar Rutba in western Iraq on January 26, 2005

Spc. Daniel L. Sesker 22 C Troop, 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment, Iowa Army National Guard Ogden, Iowa Killed when a roadside bomb detonated near his Humvee in Bayji, Iraq, on April 6, 2006

Cpl. Stephen D. Shannon 21 397th Engineer Battalion Guttenberg, Iowa Died of wounds suffered when his vehicle was hit by a rocket during combat operations in Ramadi, Iraq, on January 30, 2007

Spc. Aaron J. Sissel 22 2133rd Transportation Company, Iowa Army National Guard Tipton, Iowa Killed when his convoy was ambushed with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades in Haditha, Iraq, on November 29, 2003

Pfc. Nicholas M. Skinner 20 Company A, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Davenport, Iowa Died from injuries received due to hostile action in Najaf, Iraq, on August 26, 2004

1st Lt. Brian D. Slavenas 30 Company F, 106th Aviation Battalion, Iowa Army National Guard Genoa, Illinois Killed when his CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down by a surface-to-air missile near Falluja, Iraq, on November 2, 2003

Chief Warrant Officer Bruce A. Smith 41 Detachment 1, Company F, 106th Aviation Battalion, Iowa Army National Guard West Liberty, Iowa Killed when his CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down by a surface-to-air missile near Falluja, Iraq, on November 2, 2003

Spc. Kampha B. Sourivong 20 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry, Iowa National Guard Iowa City, Iowa One of two soldiers killed by small arms fire while operating in Asad, Iraq, on September 30, 2006

Cpl. Michael R. Speer 24 Company F, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force Davenport, Iowa Died from hostile fire in Iraq on April 9, 2004

Staff Sgt. Eric M. Steffeney 28 18th Ordnance Company, 184th Ordnance Battalion, 52nd Ordnance Group Waterloo, Iowa Killed when a roadside bomb detonated in Tuz, Iraq, on February 23, 2005

Pfc. Brandon C. Sturdy 19 Company F, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Urbandale, Iowa Killed by hostile fire in Anbar province, Iraq, on May 13, 2004

Petty Officer 1st Class Jerry A. Tharp 44 Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 25 Muscatine, Iowa Killed when his dismounted patrol was struck by a roadside bomb while operating in Anbar province, Iraq, on July 12, 2006

Pfc. William E. Thorne 26 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division Hospers, Iowa Died of injuries suffered when a roadside bomb detonated near his Humvee during combat operations on August 24, 2006

Spc. Gregory L. Tull 20 Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 194th Field Artillery Regiment, Iowa Army National Guard Pocahontas, Iowa Killed when a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle during combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq, on November 25, 2005

Staff Sgt. Mark A. Wall 27 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team Alden, Iowa Died from a non-combat related cause in Mosul, Iraq, on April 27, 2006. The incident is under investigation.