Monday, March 31

April Fools Day in Congress

Tomorrow is April Fool's Day, and Congress is giving us a chance to have some fun while taking a serious look at the impact of Big Oil.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass), who chairs the Energy Independence and Global Warming Committee, is calling in top executives from the five largest oil companies in the world: ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell and Conoco. Markey is asking these companies to answer for their world record profits while gas prices squeeze the working class, climate change proceeds and energy independence receeds.

Oil Change International will be watching the hearing closely, and we hope you can watch it with us! With Oil Change Director Steve Kretzmann inside the hearings and the rest of the staff on a live blog, we'll watch the hearing together online while we chat about it and share with you commentary and facts about the attendees. You can submit questions and comments to us, and you get a chance to talk online with fellow friends of Oil Change.

I Am Every Day (Earth Day) People

‘Everyday is Earth Day’
Film event brings together green activists, public

The Iowa Global Warming Campaign, the Cedar-Wapsie group of the Sierra Club and I-Renew are hosting a special “green” event on Monday, April 7, which is open to members of the public. The event offers free admission and refreshments and will feature a film screening of “Global Warming: the Signs and the Science,” a film that uses expert dialogues on global warming to talk about how we can reverse its course. After the film, attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and participate in a discussion about the film and related issues.

The Iowa Global Warming Campaign seeks to have state and national leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, discuss publicly, frequently and specifically how they will address global warming, and pledge that they make that plan a top priority. Iowa Global Warming’s founding members are the Iowa Environmental Council, Iowa Renewable Energy Association (I-Renew), Environmental Law & Policy Center, League of Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, and Union of Concerned Scientists.

WHAT: “Everyday is Earth Day” event featuring ‘Global Warming: the Signs and the Science’ film screening and discussion. Free and open to the public.

WHEN: Monday, April 7, 2008 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

WHERE: Beems Auditorium, Cedar Rapids Public Library, 500 1st St. SE

WHO: Iowa Global Warming Campaign, Sierra Club and I-Renew supporters and the public

Carpooling?

200 Protest the War in Iowa City

From UI Anti-War

Approximately 200 University of Iowa students and Iowa City members rallied and marched for peace Saturday afternoon at an event organized by the University of Iowa Anti-war Committee. The theme of the rally and march was "No war, no warming, no poverty, no borders. Yes to peace."

Speakers included Dr. Ahmed Kanna, an Iraqi-American with a PhD insocial anthropology from Harvard University; Jamila Yakubu, thepresident of the Black Student Union; Karen Kubby, the director of the Emma Goldman Clinic; and Andy Duffy, founder of the Iowa City chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War who served one year in Iraq with the Iowa National Guard.

200 people rallied and marched in Iowa City Saturday, and about 500 more people attended at least one Peace Week event throughout last week. Peace Week, organized by the UI Anti-war Committee, came at a time of increasing violence in Iraq. 25 U.S. soldiers were recently Killed In Action during a two-week period, one of the highest since the war began.

Over 4,000 U.S. troops have been KIA. Spectacular car bombs by Sunni insurgents have led to ghastly death tolls, including one incident that killed at least 54 people and wounded dozens more, and the Mehdi Army - led by radical anti-American nationalist Moktada al-Sadr - has been fighting the Iraqi Army, U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, and the Badr Brigade to stalemates in Sadr City, Baghdad and Basra this week. This increased violence in Iraq calls into serious question the Bush Administration and mainstream media claims that the surge is working.

PACS, 501s, 527s, and You

Because most people don't know what the difference is between a contribution from a PAC, an individual, or a 527 group, the water is muddy enough for all candidates to cast aspersions on others. An example of this is between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, a summary below is from the AP

THE SPIN: In his ad, Obama states: "Since the gas lines of the '70's,
Democrats and Republicans have talked about energy independence, but nothing's
changed except now Exxon's making $40 billion a year, and we're paying $3.50 for
gas. ... I don't take money from oil companies or Washington lobbyists, and I
won't let them block change anymore. They'll pay a penalty on windfall profits.
We'll invest in alternative energy, create jobs and free ourselves from foreign
oil."

The Clinton campaign last week accused Obama of "false advertising."

"Senator Obama says he doesn't take campaign contributions from oil companies but the reality is that Exxon, Shell, and others are among his donors," Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said.

THE FACTS:

Obama does not take money from oil companies. No candidate does. It is illegal for corporations to give money to politicians. Corporations, however, do have political action committees that collect voluntary donations from employees and then donate them to candidates. Obama doesn't take money from PACs. He also doesn't take money from lobbyists.

But he does accept money from executives and other employees of oil companies and two of his fundraisers are oil company executives. As of Feb. 29, Obama's presidential campaign had received nearly $214,000 from oil and gas industry employees and their families, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Clinton had received nearly $307,000 from industry workers and their families

and Republican Sen. John McCain, the likely GOP presidential nominee, received nearly $394,000, according to the center's totals.

Two of Obama's fundraisers are Robert Cavnar, the chairman and chief executive of Houston-based Mission Resources Corp., and George Kaiser, the president and CEO of Tulsa-based Kaiser-Francis Oil Co.

In January and February alone, Obama received nearly $18,000 from ExxonMobil workers, according to Federal Election Commission records. Most of the donations were of $250 or less; the money came from workers ranging from executives to engineers to geologists to shift supervisors.

Overall, he has raised about $34,000 from Exxon Mobil workers since the beginning of his campaign. Exxon Mobil employees have given Clinton about $16,000 since the beginning of last year.

But this story neglects to say that Clinton has received $713,780 from all PACs so far for 2008 according to Open Secrets, although, to be fair, only $2300 come from Oil/Energy PACs.



And what about other groups?

There are the 501s and these aren't your United Way agencies or similar non-profits:510(c)(3)s. These are your 501(c)(4) groups are commonly called “social welfare” organizations that may engage in political activities, as long as these activities do not become their primary purpose. Similar restrictions apply to Section 501(c)(5) labor and agricultural groups, and to Section 501(c)(6) business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards and boards of trade.

Then there are the more well-known 527s which are tax-exempt groups organized under section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code to raise money for political activities including voter mobilization efforts, issue advocacy and the like. Currently, the FEC only requires a 527 group to file regular disclosure reports if it is a political party or political action committee (PAC) that engages in either activities expressly advocating the election or defeat of a federal candidate, or in electioneering communications. Otherwise, it must file either with the government of the state in which it is located or the Internal Revenue Service.

Many 527s run by special interest groups raise unlimited "soft money," which they use for voter mobilization and certain types of issue advocacy, but not for efforts that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a federal candidate or amount to electioneering communications.

Then there are the Non-Federal Groups – groups set up to raise unlimited contributions called “soft money,” which it spends on voter mobilization efforts and so-called issue ads that often criticize or tout a candidate’s record just before an election in a not-so-subtle effort to influence the election’s outcome. 501(c) groups and 527 groups may raise non-federal funds.

These groups are different from PACS in that they have no limits, as set by the McCain/Feingold bill. PACs are limited to giving up to $5,000 to a candidate per election and $15,000 to a National Party annually. PACs must also file with the Federal Election Commission within 10 days of formation.

As you can see, following the money trail is difficult and it is mostly about appearance or propriety. This is why a National Clean Election Law is needed. Call on all the national candidates to call for Clean Election laws.

At this point, over $791,766,183 spent on the campaigns (Roughly the cost of one day of war in Iraq, I might add), this campaign shapes up to be the most expensive ever and for what? What we have seen is more focus on motives than issues.

Democrats Have No Mandate?--Yepsen Is Wrong

In his Sunday column, fiction writer David Yepsen said, "Democrats have no mandate to do it [improve public employee collective bargaining laws]. When Iowa voters gave them control of both houses of the Legislature and the governorship in 2006, they were voting for better jobs, health care and education, not more power for unions."

If collective bargaining leads to better jobs (i.e., wages and benefits, working conditions) and health care, excuse me, but DY, didn't you just sunk your own battleship? You just said Iowans want these things and, frankly, unions seem to help Iowans to get them.

When the free market doesn't do the right thing, binding arbitration is a useful tool. David Yepsen seems to forget who keept little kids from working in meat packing plants, that the weekend is a 20th century innovation (Thanks unions!). Those of us who are not in unions do not dismiss the need for them.

As for whether Governor Culver vetos this bill, let him wrestle with his own conscience on whether he is doing what is right for Iowans.

Honoring the Soldiers

It is up to us to give their lives meaning. To poach a phrase, we are the deciders.

THE YOUNG DEAD SOLDIERS
by Archibald Mcleish

The Young dead soldiers do not speak. Nevertheless, they are heard in the still houses: who has not heard them?
They have a silence that speaks for them at night and when the clock counts.
They say: We were young. We have died. Remember us.
They say: We have done what we could but until it is finished it is not done.
They say: We have given our lives but until it is finished no one can know what our lives gave.
They say: Our deaths are not ours; they are yours; they will mean what you make them.
They say: Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say; it is you who must say this.
They say: We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning.
We were young, they say. We have died. Remember us.


We need to finish it--by bringing the troops home.

Saturday, March 29

Aggressive Marketing v. Aggressive Panhandling

I have been thinking about the amendment to the panhandling ordinance that Iowa City is in the process of passing and something about it really sticks in my craw. The city on a regular basis issues permits for restaurants to expand their seating to outdoor cafes which impinge on the sidewalks and thus pedestrian traffic. Anyone who walks the Ped Mall when the weather is good notices this and, for some, may enjoy the benefit of it. This aggressive seasonal expansion/marketing is seen as good for Iowa City businesses and the welfare of residents.

Now flip the coin to panhandlers who if they are within 10 feet of a storefront or 20 feet from an ATM are "aggressively panhandling". As with the patios, for some this aggressive marketing effort is okay and for others annoying or fear-provoking.

Now it can be argued that the businesses pay for their expansion while the panhandler does not and, I'd concede the point. However, just as taxation is progressive with the poor paying less and the more affluent paying more, it would make sense that a business would pay for the privilege.

So here is a possible solution, the city should issue panhandling permits. These should be offered at no cost to the person. The benefits would be to allow the public to know who is panhandling from them, that the panhandler has been informed of the rules, that they are responsible for abiding by them, and would apply the rules to all areas of town. Legal opinion holds them to be valid and cities like Cincinnati, Memphis, Orlando, and Durham.

True it would be more regulation, but it would also have a number of social benefits, like providing an opportunity to inform panhandlers where human support services can be found, to know the number of persons panhandling (and hence, perhaps having more accurate accounting for persons in need), and, perhaps, would be a deterrent to persons who exhibit strong anti-social behavior.

Friday, March 28

Michael Stipe Comes Out For R.E.M. Bandmates

In this shocking video, R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe confronts his bandmates questionable sexuality.

Peace Week, Days 5 and 6

March 28:

Veterans' Forum on Benefits, Health Care, and Homelessness. Speakers: Mike Hull, post commander of American Legion Post #17, Iowa City; Stephanie Linn, President of UI Veterans Association; Tom Kelly, co-founder of Vets Helping Vets. Illinois Room (#348), IMU. 7pm. Sponsored by UI Veterans' Association.

"Make Art, Not War": Art Show and Campus/Community Literature Fair, 2-7pm. IMU
Ballroom. 2nd Floor. Website: www.aaronbos-wahl.com/imuartshow.

Saturday, March 29:

Brunch and signmaking for the rally and march, 11am, Women's Resource and Action
Center. Sponsored by Iowa Women Initiating Social Change.

Rally and march through downtown Iowa City. Rally held at Pentacrest, 2pm.
Featured speaker: Dr. Ahmed Kanna, Iraqi-American, cultural anthropology doctorate from Harvard University. Other speakers will include Jamila Yakubu of the UI Black
Student Union; IVAW member Andrew Duffy; and Karen Kubby of the Emma Goldman Clinic. Music will be performed by King Dipshit, Broken Spokes, and Pigs and Clover. March through downtown Iowa City to follow. The theme for this action is 'No War, No Warming, No Poverty, No Borders'.

Cosponsored by the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance.

Thursday, March 27

Needed: A Heart Transplant

Welcome to Iowa City in the Heart of the Republic of Johnson County, the bastion of liberalism. Here are some great examples of the townspeople's opinions.

Letter 1: Rif Raf to City Council.

And this one

Letter 2: Potholes.

To be fair, these are the exceptions, not the rule.

Iraq War: Deja Vu All Over Again

Rasmussen Reports latest survey shows that short-term optimism about the Iraq War has decreased over the past month. Compared to 38% last month, 33% now say the situation in Iraq will get better in the next six months. Still, this is the sixth consecutive month in which a plurality believes things are getting better in Iraq. Last July, voters believed things were getting worse by a two-to-one margin.

Similarly, long-term optimism has fallen slightly over the past month. Thirty-four percent (34%) of Likely Voters now say history will deem the U.S. mission in Iraq a success a three-point decrease from last month. Nearly half (48%) say the mission will be considered a failure, which is a three point increase from last month. Forty percent (40%) of Likely Voters say the United States is safer today than it was before 9/11 while 43% say it is not.

Just 31% say Bush has done a good or excellent job handling the situation in Iraq. Nearly half (47%) disagree and give him a poor rating. A separate survey has consistently found that roughly six-out-of-ten Americans would like to see the troops brought home from Iraq within a year.

Two World Views About Iraq

From McClatchy News

As President Bush insisted Thursday that the Iraq government is making progress, noisy demonstrations filled the streets in Baghdad and the southern port city of Basra to protest the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki.

Protesters in Baghdad's Shiite Muslim Sadr City neighborhood carried a red coffin with Maliki's picture on it crossed out with a black marker. Under his face were the words "The New Dictator."

"They're trying to build a modern democracy on the rubble of three decades of tyranny, in a region of the world that has been hostile to freedom," Bush told an audience of about 1,000 people at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio , "and they're doing it while under assault from one of history's most brutal terrorist networks."

The protests came on the third day of a U.S.-supported Iraqi security offensive against Shiite militants in Basra that's spread to neighboring provinces and to Baghdad .

In Baghdad , the Green Zone where U.S. and Iraqi leaders live and work continued to come under heavy mortar fire. On Monday, Paul Converse , a U.S. citizen who works there, died from his injuries, and three other Americans and a Jordanian citizen are receiving treatment for their injuries.

In Sadr City, the death toll rose from 20 to 38, and in Wasit province 40 civilians have been killed since Tuesday, police chief Gen. Abdul Hanin Saleh said.

Peace Week, Day 4

Thursday, March 27:

Talk by law professor Tung Yin on dual prosecution/armed conflict paradigms as applied to 9/11. 12:40pm, Room 225, Boyd Law Building. Sponsored by Iowa
Campaign for Human Rights.

All ages benefit show with local punk bands. Picador, 5-9pm. Bands include: Shores of the Tundra, Open Goat, So Long! , and Lord Green.

***Speaker: Eli Painted Crow, served 22 years in U.S. Army, Iraq Veteran who served in 2004, also a female Indigenous American. 7pm, Iowa Room (#335), Iowa Memorial Union. Website: www.elipaintedcrow.org.***

Showing of "For LIfe Against the War...Again", 7-9pm, Michigan Room (#351), IMU.
Sponsored by the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance.

Wednesday, March 26

Chet Culver Union Breaker?

The repercussions of the Collective Bargaining Bill that was approved by the Iowa Legislature are being heard around the state and from some unlikely sources including city and county governments. At stake is the ability for public employees to have the ability to go through arbitration to settle labor disputes.

Sadly, they find no friend in Governor Chet Culver, who has threatened to veto the bill. The governor who is feeling heat coming from anti-union groups, city and county lobbying groups, and others who are reframing the outcome to suggest that property taxes are likely to rise if this bill is signed into law.

The foes argue that if lawmakers do not have the power to stymie labor costs then the cost will be passed on to the taxpayer. However, what these critics fail to point out is that school boards and lawmakers do have the inherent fiduciary responsibility and authority to limit other areas of budgets and even freeze hiring to keep their budgets in line with community needs.

As Speaker Pat Murphy said, "We believe that the collective bargaining bill approved last week is good for middle class families, including Iowa teachers, police officers, and fire fighters. Our collective bargaining laws have not been changed in over 30 years and the bill is a responsible approach. Open scope bargaining simply gives public employees the same bargaining power as private employees in Iowa and it is also used in 27 other states."

The Governor will find it difficult to say no to the one's that brought him to the dance and, in this case, if he were to use his veto power, he will likely be known as "One Term Chet."

Gravel: I Hope You Are Near the Phone Ron Paul

CNN reports that one-time Democratic presidential hopeful Mike Gravel announced Wednesday he is abandoning his political party and will run for the White House as a Libertarian.

Gravel, a former senator whose presidential campaign was never taken seriously by most political observers, made the proclamation in a message posted on his Web site.

“The fact is, the Democratic Party today is no longer the party of FDR,” Gravel said. “It is a party that continues to sustain war, the military-industrial complex and imperialism — all of which I find anathema to my views.”

Despite his long shot bid, Gravel was successful in sharing a stage several times with the more established candidates during this election cycle. He used these nationally televised opportunities to rail against his opponents and highlight his opposition to the Iraq war. Gravel represented Alaska in the U.S. Senate from 1969 to 1981, and is best known for publishing the Pentagon Papers.

“I look forward to advancing my presidential candidacy within the Libertarian Party, which is considerably closer to my values, my foreign policy views and my domestic views,” Gravel said in the statement, in which he also solicited small dollar donations from supporters.

What Iowa's governor Can Learn From Kansas' Governor

The Wonk Room reports:

In October of last year, the administration of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) denied permits for two new coal-fired plants in her state because the greenhouse gases such coal plants would emit constitute a threat to the environment and public health. Last Friday, she also vetoed a legislative attempt to reverse the decision. Opponents of the veto claimed “the decision is costing the state jobs and economic investment” and warned of “higher electric bills for Western Kansas,” where the plants were proposed.

But a landmark report released yesterday by an esteemed financial research firm finds that, in fact, Sebelius has been acting in her state’s best economic interests.

Innovest Strategic Value Advisors finds that Sunflower Electric Power Corporation, the company whose proposal was denied, failed to account for the effects of the likely regulation of carbon dioxide on the cost of coal-fired electricity when it sought to build two 700 MW coal plants in Holcomb, Kansas:

Innovest examined the economics of the transaction and determined that under the most plausible regulatory scenarios the decision to build new coal generating capacity will put Sunflower Electric’s ratepayers – who in this particular case are the actual owners – at significant risk. The report concludes that Sunflower’s management has not adequately addressed the competitive and financial risks associated with climate change in deciding to pursue the expansion of its Holcomb Station power plant.

Sunflower was remiss in not considering that federal legislation that places a price on carbon emissions is extremely likely, considering the bipartisan support and strong international pressure for such action.

The report compares the economics of coal plants versus natural gas plants, which have a considerably smaller carbon footprint.

American Drivers Put on the Brakes

As gasoline prices broke records in 2007, Americans cut back on their driving for the first time in more than 20 years, according to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration.

What do you know? I wonder how this will affect oil company profits? On the other hand, imagine what would happen if we also increased our MPGs as well as drove less...

According to Reuters:

Total travel fell 0.4 percent to 3.00 trillion miles from 3.01 trillion miles in 2006.

In December, when U.S. retail gasoline averaged $3.02 a gallon, travel fell 3.9 percent to 236.6 billion miles from 246.3 billion miles in 2006.

With gasoline prices still climbing, other data shows Americans are responding by changing their gas-guzzling habits. Not only are they driving less, but they are buying more fuel-efficient vehicles and utilizing more public transportation. Daily ridership on U.S. subways and public buses is at the highest level in more than 50 years.

Protestors Say: Help Main Street, not Wall Street

Reuters reports that about 60 protesters opposed to the U.S. Federal Reserve's help in bailing out Bear Stearns (BSC.N) entered the lobby of the investment bank's Manhattan headquarters on Wednesday, demanding assistance for struggling homeowners.

Demonstrators organized by the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America chanted "Help Main Street, not Wall Street" and entered the lobby without an invitation for around half an hour before being escorted out by police.

"There are no provisions for homeowners in this deal. There are people out there struggling who need help," said Detria Austin, an organizer at NACA, an advocacy group for home ownership.

This on the heels of a report that there is a 13 year low in sales as new home sales fell in February for the fourth straight month. While the rate of decline has slowed, the worst slump in more than two decades has not runs its course, analysts said.

The 1.8 percent drop sent the annual sales rate down to 590,000 units in February, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. That was the slowest pace since February 1994 and down 57.5 percent from the sales peak of 1.389 million units in July 2005.


Bear Stearns employees were alternatively amused and perplexed, taking pictures on their cell phones.

"Homeowners, that's more than $1 trillion (in mortgage debt), you're crazy," one man in a suit screamed at a protester on the street.

Mark Your Calendar for Gandhi Workshop at PEACE Iowa

Free Gandhi workshop at PEACE Iowa

GANDHI, NONVIOLENCE, AND US
FRIDAY APRIL 25
6:30-8:45 p.m.
PEACE Iowa, Old Brick
Common Room (ground floor)
26 E. Market St., Iowa City
Facilitator: Chris Klug
Refreshments will be served.

Participants in this workshop will explore nonviolence as Gandhi understood and practiced it. They will be encouraged to consider how the practice of Gandhian nonviolence could change their ways of responding to the difficulties and conflicts of everyday life. Through experiential activities, participants will apply Gandhi’s philosophy to personal life and political activism. The workshop is designed for adults and high school students.

About the facilitator:

Working with the Gandhi Peace Foundation in New Delhi, Chris Klug has travelled to India more than a dozen times since 1983, leading groups to learn about Gandhi and nonviolence. He also has extensive experience with conflict resolution and violence prevention, including directing peace centers in Virginia and South Dakota. Chris is currently a grief counselor at Iowa City Hospice, and teaches Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction through the Department of Psychiatry at UIHC.

If you plan to attend this workshop (even if you're not sure), please RSVP to this and help us with planning the event.

Morford: Tax My Rich White Torturer

Mark Morford is columnist in San Francisco and he writes with delicate sensibilities that Iowans are accustomed to...hats off to Larry Baker for passing this mental two-by-four my way.

Just so we have this straight: You are not paying taxes merely to fund torture and bomb-dropping and the killing of countless innocents in Iraq in a futile and lost war that's not really a war and is far more of a massive fiscal, tactical and moral failure which will end up costing the nation an estimated $3 trillion, burn through any remaining sense of national dignity and leave repercussions that will last for generations.

Ha. You should be so lucky. Because your tax money is right now also funding the Fed's unprecedented and rather shocking multibillion-dollar bailout of rich bankers and fund managers who have, through their greed and excess and with the implied blessing of former Chairman Alan Greenspan (whom many consider the architect of the collapse in the first place), helped bring about what is shaping up to be the worst fiscal crisis since World War II.

There now. Don't you feel better? Isn't it a good time to be an American? And is it not, despite the notorious dishonesty of the players involved, still a bit hard to believe?
Keep reading...

Peace Week, Day 3

Wednesday, March 26:

***Speakers: Iowa City native Andy Duffy, founder of Iowa City Iraq Veterans Against the War chapter who served as an Iowa National Guard medic who served at Abu Ghraib prison, 2005-06 and Jason Munford, an Air Force veteran and G.I. who engaged in active resistance to going to war as a conscientious objector. More IVAW speakers from Illinois are also scheduled to speak. Held in South Room, Iowa Memorial Union, 7pm.***

Listen to Andy Duffy speak at Winter Soldier.

Andrew Duffy: Bio and Testimonial - Listen to the audio clip (or download)

warcomeshome.org


Free screening of "Healing Iraq: a Tale of Two Doctors" with a discussion afterwards led by Dr. Maureen McCue of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Northwestern Room (#345), Iowa Memorial Union, 7pm. Sponsored by Global Health Club and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Sick Puppies to Return to Iowa City

As if it weren't tragic enough, the death of the Sueppel family will be used by Fred Phelp's Westboro Baptist Church to rail against gays according to the Press-Citizen

A well-known church that protests against gays plans to picket the funeral of the six deceased members of the Sueppel family.

The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., announced in a news release that it plans to picket the Sueppels' funeral Saturday, claiming "God sent the shooter" as punishment for Iowa's sins.

Tuesday, March 25

Wonk This Way

Hey Progressives, there's a new progressive politics site that I just learned about called The Wonk Room and it is serving up some interesting topics, if you are so inclined to partake:

- Grover Norquist: ‘More People Will Die’ Because Bush Raised CAFE Standards

- John McCain’s Record Of Denying Assistance To Homeowners

- China’s Chance To Impress World As A Great Power: Negotiate ‘True And Final Automony For Tibet’

- Sen. John Kyl Tries To Pin Blame For Economic Mess On Democrats, ‘Minorities,’ ‘The Poor,’ And ‘The Young’

Land for Oil Swap Raises Concerns

A controversial land swap proposal could open portions of an Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling, dividing Alaska natives and stoking opposition from environmentalists seeking to protect the bears, moose and birds that live there.

Supporters of the plan to exchange land in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, which lies just south of the more-famous Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, say they would like the plan to be approved by the administration of President George W. Bush before the election in November.

"The window is the election," Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young, a staunch backer of the plan, said at an Anchorage news conference. "We'd like to have an executive order out of the administration before they leave office."

The proposed land trade would give 110,000 acres of hydrocarbon-prone uplands within the refuge, plus mineral rights to another 97,000 acres, to Fairbanks-based Doyon Ltd. In exchange, the refuge would gain 150,000 acres of bird-friendly wetlands now owned by Doyon, plus 56,500 acres on which Doyon has pending land claims.

Doyon, owned by Athabascan Indians of interior Alaska, has long envisioned such a trade to give economic benefits to its shareholders while preserving traditional culture and the environment on which it depends.

"You can have both the subsistence lifestyle and the protection of that lifestyle, and you can have oil and gas exploration," said Norm Phillips, Doyon's resource manager.

But many people living closest to the potential development -- many of them Doyon shareholders -- oppose the plan because of the likelihood of oil pollution and the possibility of social upheaval such as a flow of drugs, alcohol and poachers over new roads.

"Usually, the indigenous people are at the losing end of any sort of oil development," said Dacho Alexander, first chief of the Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich'in Tribe in Fort Yukon, a village of 600 near the proposed exchange parcels.

Greenhouse Gas Emission Concerns Won't Slow Marshalltown Plant

Questions over a greenhouse gas emission plan at a proposed coal-fired energy plant in Marshalltown are not enough to derail the project, state regulators have ruled.

The Iowa Utilities Board said Alliant Energy had not "been as forthcoming as it should have been" in its response to questions about its emissions plan for the proposed Sutherland Unit 4 Generating Station.

But the board said it would not be appropriate to toss out the project now, as several environmental groups had requested.

According to the board's March 21 ruling, Alliant's greenhouse gas emissions plan was not filed properly with the utilities board. If it is to be considered, the overall project plan would have to be resubmitted to the board.

Will (Miller-) Meeks Inherit Congressional District 2?

Not quite seeing eye-to-eye with Dave Loebsack, Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, an ophthalmologist from Ottumwa, Iowa, today announced her bid for the Republican nomination for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District. Dr. Miller-Meeks is a long time resident of Ottumwa, a retired Lt. Colonel in the US Army Reserve, and is the past President of the Iowa Medical Society.

Apparently distancing herself from both Congressman Loebsack and former Republican Congressman, Jim Leach, Miller-Meeks said, “It is with great humility and honor that today, I announce my bid to represent the great people of the 2nd District of Iowa. Iowa’s 2nd District has much to be proud of, and it is time that we have a representative in Congress of whom we are proud.”

Dr. Miller-Meeks indicated many pressing issues that directly effect the people of the 2nd District are not being addressed.

“We have a Congressman who campaigned in 2006 as an ‘agent of change.’ Health care costs are still spiraling out of control; reimbursement rates for our rural areas are still lagging; fundamental earmark and spending reform is blocked; our borders are still porous and our national security threatened; and our social security system is closer to financial calamity. The only thing that has changed in the last two years is our Congressman. He’s morphed from an agent of change to an agent of the status quo.”

Dr. Miller-Meeks said her experience as a doctor, veteran, and nurse give her a unique perspective on how to solve problems facing Iowa. “My life’s experiences have taught me to think critically about the issues, to provide independent solutions, and most importantly, to be honest and straightforward in my advice. That is the way I will conduct myself as a representative in Congress, and I think the people of the 2nd District deserve nothing less.”

Dr. Miller-Meeks’ practices in offices in Fairfield and Ottumwa. She served for 8 years as a surgical nurse in the US Army and 14 years as a doctor in the US Army Reserve, retiring as a Lt. Colonel. She is the first woman and immediate Past President of the Iowa Medical Society. She has served on the faculty of the University of Iowa, and the University of Michigan Medical Schools. She and her husband reside in Ottumwa with their children Taylor, a senior at Ottumwa High School, and Jonathon, a student at Colgate University in New York.

Miller-Meeks joins Lee Harder of Spencer who is also vying for the opportunity to contest the 2nd District seat.

Peace Week, Day 2

Tuesday, March 25

"Food For Peace" discussion on the connections between food production,energy consumption, and U.S. foreign policy. Held at Fair Grounds coffee shop, 345 S.
Dubuque St., 6:30-7:30pm. Speaker: Jon Camp of Vegan Outreach. Sponsored by FAWN.

Movie: "V-Day: Until the Violence Stops," 6:30pm, Women's Resource and Action Center. Sponsored by Iowa Women Initiating Social Change.

Film screening of "Breaking the Spell," which documents the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999. 7:30-10pm, Meeting Room D, Iowa City Public Library. Sponsored by the Wild Rose Rebellion.

Superdelegates: We're the Deciders

What if the superdelegates had a convention and decided whether Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton were the Democratic Party nominee? The trial balloon is out there. But, as Democrats, will the party rank and file feel that the party nominee is the result of backroom dealing, rather than democracy in action?

From McClatchy News via Truthout

Democrats, looking for a way out, are pondering a new idea: an unprecedented "mini convention" to bring their punishing presidential season to an early close.

The proposal surfaced during another week of pushing and shoving between the Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigns and a growing concern that the party may be hurting itself beyond repair.

Without some resolution, they fret, Republican John McCain will win the presidency.

"If we continue down the path we are on, we might as well hand the keys of the White House to John McCain," said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo.

The mini-convention would bring together nearly 800 superdelegates after the last primaries are held in early June.

Given the current math, superdelegates - party officials and elected leaders - will decide the nomination, one way or another.

"There would be a final opportunity for the candidates to make their arguments to these delegates, and then one transparent vote," Tennessee Gov. Philip Bredesen suggested in the New York Times.

Superdelegates, both pledged and unpledged, reacted cautiously to the idea. But they all agreed that something needed to be done to bridge the growing gap between Clinton and Obama supporters.

"We've got to stop the bickering that's going on," said Leila Medley of Jefferson City, Mo., an uncommitted superdelegate. "There's no doubt about that."

"While you trade barbs, McCain is uniting the Republican Party," U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon wrote both campaigns in mid-March. "In the next six weeks, McCain can sit back, amass his war chest, concentrate his base and delight as you deconstruct each other."

That outcome seemed unthinkable just weeks ago, when record voter turnouts, the ongoing Iraq war, a slumping economy and a fat bank account convinced many Democrats they had a clear path to the presidency.

But new polls tell a different story: Some last week showed McCain beating Obama and Clinton, after he trailed both candidates just two weeks ago.

A focus on race and gender hasn't helped. Neither did more name-calling after Florida's Democrats, then Michigan's, failed to reach agreement on a plan to seat their disputed delegates.

And the party still hasn't figured out how its superdelegates should vote - as independent agents or as a reflection of the popular vote.

"It seems to me if we have a nominee come Labor Day with a very deeply divided party and morally exhausted party, I think we have a problem," Bredesen said.

He promised any superdelegate gathering would be "tight" and "businesslike," helping the party avoid "brutal and unnecessary warfare" this summer.

Obama called it "interesting." Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Charles Schumer of New York said the idea might have merit. Clinton, Bredesen said, did not reject the idea.

But several rank-and-file superdelegates in Kansas and Missouri called the trial balloon a lot of hot air.

"I'm sure there are a number of us who would get beat up behind closed doors," Medley said. "I think what we need to do is get the two of them in a room."

Monday, March 24

On the Serious: What Was Gordon Fischer Thinking?

Gordon Fischer, a former chair of the Iowa Democratic Party and part of Barack Obama's Iowa support team, entered the realm of the detestable over the weekend railing against Bill Clinton's equally silly comments over the weekend that a race between Sen. John McCain and Hillary Clinton would be a contest between two people who love their country.

Fischer said:

"When Joe McCarthy questioned others' patriotism, McCarthy (1) actually believed, at least aparently (sic), the questions were genuine, and (2) he did so in order to build up, not tear down, his own party, the GOP," Fischer, wrote on his blog

"Bill Clinton cannot possibly seriously believe Obama is not a patriot, and cannot possibly be said to be helping -- instead he is hurting -- his own party. B. Clinton should never be forgiven. Period. This is a stain on his legacy, much worse, much deeper, than the one on Monica's blue dress."

Both campaigns need to cool down the rhetoric. This campaign he said/she said resembles rival high schools on game day. And seriously, Iowans deserve better than this.

Fischer, normally a gentleman has come forward andissued an apology.

Of Course, compared to James Carville's "Judas" statement about Bill Richardson...

Ed Fallon Tells Leonard Boswell to "Cease and Desist"

Ed Fallon wants Leonard Boswell to end his negative attacks and stick to the issues. In a press releas that came out this morning Fallon said,

"Iowans want campaigns focused on issues and facts, not innuendo and negativity," said Fallon. "Unfortunately, Congressman Boswell's campaign is opting for the latter, with allegations that I am a 'bad' Democrat and even unethical. People are sick of this stuff. Let's have an open, fact-based discussion of the real issues."

Over the years, Fallon has apologized repeatedly for his 'Nader mistake.'

"During the past 15 years, I have campaigned for dozens of progressive Democrats, and in 2004, I wrote to Ralph Nader asking him not to run for president. Yes, my support for Nader in 2000 was a mistake," said Fallon. "But what about Congressman Boswell's mistakes, such as voting for funding for the Iraq War repeatedly, for the PATRIOT Act, for warrantless surveillance, for a punitive bankruptcy bill, for tax breaks for oil and gas companies? On these and so many other issues Leonard Boswell has voted against Democratic priorities, the very priorities that I have fought for these past 20 years. If he feels those votes were mistakes, then let's have an apology. If he feels they were right, then let's have a debate."

A recent e-mail sent by Boswell's campaign also alleged that Fallon has acted unethically in his work with I'M for Iowa. "That's absurd," said Fallon. "I'M for Iowa is simply an organization that enables me to consult with activist across the state on a wide range of issues."

"Every campaign I've ever run has been run without PAC and lobbyist money. The focus of my life has been to live simply so I can devote my time and energy to advocating for people in need. Just as Republicans attacked John Kerry in 2004 for his military service, Boswell is trying to attack me on my strength as a fighter for clean, accountable government."

Fallon concluded, saying, "The Democratic Party is changing. New energy at the grassroots promises to restore true democratic principles to our government. I've got a lot of energy and passion for reform - including campaign finance, health care, and the environment - and I'm eager to put my commitment to public service to work in Washington, DC."

Follow the Oil Money

Oil Change has a nifty new tool that tracks the flow of oil money in US politics. Find out which companies are pumping money into politics, who is receiving it, and how it correlates to key climate, energy and war votes.

In our state our Senators record:

Harkin, Thomas D IA Money from Big Oil $56,086, Voted with Big Oil 44%
Grassley, Charles R IA Money from Big Oil $95,300, Voted with Big Oil 100%

our House members records:
Boswell, Leonard D IA Money from Big Oil $4,500, Voted with Big Oil 45%
Braley, Bruce D IA Money from Big Oil $0, Voted with Big Oil 0%
Latham, Thomas R IA Money from Big Oil $26,000, Voted with Big Oil 91%
Loebsack, David D IA Money from Big Oil, $0, Voted with Big Oil 0%
King, Steve R IA Money from Big Oil $15,450, Voted with Big Oil 91%

Go here.

Michael Moore on the Anniversary of the Iraq War

Friends,

It would have to happen on Easter Sunday, wouldn't it, that the 4,000th American soldier would die in Iraq. Play me that crazy preacher again, will you, about how maybe God, in all his infinite wisdom, may not exactly be blessing America these days. Is anyone surprised?

4,000 dead. Unofficial estimates are that there may be up to 100,000 wounded, injured, or mentally ruined by this war. And there could be up to a million Iraqi dead. We will pay the consequences of this for a long, long time. God will keep blessing America.

And where is Darth Vader in all this? A reporter from ABC News this week told Dick Cheney, in regards to Iraq, "two-thirds of Americans say it's not worth fighting." Cheney cut her off with a one word answer: "So?"

"So?" As in, "So what?" As in, "F*** you. I could care less."

I would like every American to see Cheney flip the virtual bird at the them, the American people. Click here and pass it around. Then ask yourself why we haven't risen up and thrown him and his puppet out of the White House.

The Democrats have had the power to literally pull the plug on this war for the past 15 months -- and they have refused to do so. What are we to do about that? Continue to sink into our despair? Or get creative? Real creative. I know there are many of you reading this who have the chutzpah and ingenuity to confront your local congressperson. Will you? For me?

Cheney spent Wednesday, the 5th anniversary of the war, not mourning the dead he killed, but fishing off the Sultan of Oman's royal yacht. So? Ask your favorite Republican what they think of that.

The Founding Fathers would never have uttered the presumptuous words, "God Bless America." That, to them, sounded like a command instead of a request, and one doesn't command God, even if they are America. In fact, they were worried God would punish America. During the Revolutionary War, George Washington feared that God would react unfavorably against his soldiers for the way they were behaving. John Adams wondered if God might punish America and cause it to lose the war, just to prove His point that America was not worthy. They and the others believed it would be arrogant on their part to assume that God would single out America for a blessing. What a long road we have traveled since then.

I see that Frontline on PBS this week has a documentary called "Bush's War." That's what I've been calling it for a long time. It's not the "Iraq War." Iraq did nothing. Iraq didn't plan 9/11. It didn't have weapons of mass destruction. It DID have movie theaters and bars and women wearing what they wanted and a significant Christian population and one of the few Arab capitals with an open synagogue.

But that's all gone now. Show a movie and you'll be shot in the head. Over a hundred women have been randomly executed for not wearing a scarf. I'm happy, as a blessed American, that I had a hand in all this. I just paid my taxes, so that means I helped to pay for this freedom we've brought to Baghdad. So? Will God bless me?

God bless all of you in this Easter Week as we begin the 6th year of Bush's War.

God help America. Please.

Michael Moore
MMFlint@aol.com
MichaelMoore.com

Military KIA Reaches 4,000 in Iraq

The AP reports:

A roadside bomb killed four U.S. soldiers in Baghdad on Sunday,
the military said, pushing the overall American death toll in the five-year
warto at least 4,000.

The grim milestone came on the same day that rockets and mortars pounded the
U.S.-protected Green Zone, underscoring the fragile security situation and the
resilience of both Sunni and Shiite extremist groups despite an overall lull in
violence.

A Multi-National Division -- Baghdad soldier also was wounded in the roadside
bombing, which struck the soldiers' patrol vehicle about 10 p.m. in southern
Baghdad, according to a statement.

Identities of those killed were withheld pending notification of relatives.

Navy Lt. Patrick Evans, a military spokesman, expressed condolences to all the
families who have lost a loved one in Iraq, saying each death is ''equally
tragic.''

''There have been some significant gains. However, this enemy is resilient and
will not give up, nor will we,'' he said. ''There's still a lot of work to be
done.''

The 4,000 figure is according to an Associated Press count that includes eight
civilians who worked for the Department of Defense.

Last year, the U.S. military deaths spiked along with the Pentagon's ''surge''
-- the arrival of more than 30,000 extra troops trying to regain control of
Baghdad and surrounding areas. The mission was generally considered a success,
but the cost was evident as soldiers pushed into Sunni insurgent strongholds and
challenged Shiite militias.

Military deaths rose above 100 for three consecutive months for the first time
during the war: April 2007, 104; May, 126 and June at 101.

The death toll has seesawed since, with 2007 ending as the deadliest year for
American troops at 901 deaths. That was 51 more deaths than 2004, the second
deadliest year for U.S. soldiers.

Sunday, March 23

Money Talks

This may make you think about money in a different light. Give yourself 47 minutes and see what you think.

Friday, March 21

Paper Ballots Prevail

This from Kyle Lobner of Common Cause Iowa:

I have great news: all Iowans will vote on a paper ballot and have their vote counted by optical scan machines in the November elections and all elections to follow.

Yesterday, by a vote of 91-6, the Iowa House passed the House File 2630, which requires all 99 counties use optical scan machines. Last week, a similar bill passed the Senate 47-1. The Governor is expected to sign it soon, and it will take effect immediately. Along with thousands of Iowans statewide, I'm relieved that we've taken one more step towards ensuring that all Iowans know that their votes are counted fairly and accurately.

This is not just a news update; it's also a thank you! Common Cause members played a key role in convincing legislators, Secretary of State Mauro and Governor Culver with your phone calls, emails, and other actions to support this critical legislation just in time for the big November election.

Yet this bill is still only one more step towards making government open, reliable and representative of Iowa voters and their interests. We have a lot left to do, especially:
- Public financing of campaigns. The "Clean Elections" system created by the VOICE Act (SF 553 and HF 805) would curb the influence of big special interest money in Iowa politics.
- Random hand audits of election results. Paper ballots only add security to elections if we use them to double-check the results. Hand counted audits are the only defense against security weaknesses in vote-counting devices.
- Open government. Making government information more accessible by creating an Iowa Public Information Board, as outlined in SF 2378, is a critical step.

Thank you again for your help in making Iowa democracy healthier and more responsive. To continue to work on these issues, we need the support, both volunteer and financial, of Iowans like you who understand the need for open, accountable government and are willing to stand with us to fight for it. Please make a contribution to help us continue to fight and to add new victories.

Thanks so much for all you do!


Hopefully Gov. Culver will sign this very soon!

Shaw in the Running for Auditor's Job

Friend and deeply-rooted social activist, Mona Shaw has thrown her hat into the ring to become Johnson County's next County Auditor. She brings a wealth of experience to the position as a former worker in the Auditor's office and as a person who is deeply invested in everyone getting a fair shake.

I wish her well in her endeavor.

The Wheels Come Off: Scooter Libby Disbarred

While, thanks to the generosity of President Bush, he avoided jail time for his role in the outing of former CIA operative, Valerie Plame, Scooter Libby is now legally unable to practice law in the District of Columbia until at least 2012.

Richardson Endorsement Goes to Obama

Here's what Richardson had to say a few days ago, before he formally decided to endorse Barack Obama about the Democratic nomination.

Thursday, March 20

Death (Comparisons) Be Not Proud

A story that is widely circulating points out that there were more military deaths during the Clinton Administration than during the war in Iraq. Numbers don't lie, right? Well, it ain't necessarily so.

According to a CRS report to Congress from June 2007, during the 8 years of the Clinton Administration (including peacekeeping efforts in Kosovo and Somalia), the were 76 military personnel that died in battle or by terrorist attack, compared to 2,651 that had been KIA or by terrorist attack from 2001 to 2006 during the Bush administration during which we have been at war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It is true that 7500 soldiers died from 1993-2000 (Clinton's 8 year administration), but 8792 have died in 6 years from 2001-2006 of G.W. Bush's. The important distinction is cause of death.

Many military personnel die in accidents, illness, homicide, and suicide and in the case of Clinton's administration, 1% were killed in action/terrorist attack, 52% died in accidents, 20% committed suicide, 6% by homicide, and 19% died by illness.

In the Bush years through 2006, 30% were killed in action/terrorist attack, 36% in accidents, 11% committed suicide, 6% by homicide, and 15% by illness.

Iowa Citians Turnout to Protest on Iraq War Anniversary






Over 500 people in total attended an all day vigil and candlelit remembrance was held on the Pentacrest yesterday to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the Iraq War. A cross-section of the community joined together and held signs, sang songs and beat drums to remember those who have died in this war both the military casualties and civilians.

Organized by Peace-Iowa and supported by the community, the vigils were under-reported.

Here's the P-C version and the Gazette.

Wednesday, March 19

Support from PAC Supporters V. Taking PAC Money

Ed Fallon is being accused by Leonard Boswell's campaign of being hypocritical about receiving support through PACs. At issue is that Democracy for America, which is a PAC has encouraged its members to support Ed Fallon, who has not received a SINGLE dime from DFA, but did receive direct contributions from 730 DFA members to the tune of about $20,000.

Many people are members of organizations that encourage supporting candidates, the National Association of Realtors as an example encourages its membership to choose pro-real estate candidates, but that doesn't mean the same thing as the NAR cutting a check for a candidate.

Because Leonard Boswell does take money DIRECTLY from PACs, it would appear that the longtime Congressman is trying to justify his own behavior. According to Iowa Progress, "in the first three quarters of 2007, Boswell has taken in $433,000 in contributions from PACs, making up 75% of total contributions recieved."

Testifying to Congress Not in Cards for Credit Consumers

Partisan shenanigans appears to be one reason why credit card consumers did not testify to a House committee investigating the interest rate and other fees charged by lending institutions.

From the Washington Independent

They
came to the nation’s capital this week from as far away as Denver, Chicago and Niagara Falls—five people who’d had tough experiences with their credit cards and were asked to share those tales with a House panel. Instead, they ran headfirst into the buzz-saw of Washington politics when the panel’s Republicans insisted the visitors allow their lenders to discuss their financial histories publicly—in any forum, at any time.

For four of the five, it was a deal-breaker. Instead of signing the waivers (pdf) allowing them to testify Thursday, they all sat silently in the audience.

"I didn’t want all my … information out there for just anybody," said Denver’s Susan Wones, who saw the interest rate of her JP Morgan Chase card jump from 0 percent to 23 percent in one month last summer, without notification or explanation. "I’m extremely upset I can’t talk about this."

Marvin Weatherspoon, a grandfather from Chicago, echoed the tale. "The waiver was very vague," said Weatherspoon, who claims his card rate jumped from 4.25 percent to roughly 25 percent in the wake of one late payment to Bank of America. "It didn’t address the issues we were here to deal with."
More

How Much Is Too Much

From Americans United For Change

Bush Does the Safety Dance

With President Bush now touting the relative worth of the war saying "Five years into this battle, there is an understandable debate over whether the war was worth fighting, whether the fight is worth winning, and whether we can win it. The answers are clear to me: Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision, and this is a fight America can and must win."

I wonder if the people of Iraq who have had their lives irreparably changed share his view.

According to the BBC, Iraqis were the largest group among asylum seekers to the world's industrialized countries for the second year running, according to a UN report. More than 45,000 Iraqis applied for asylum in 2007, up from 22,900 in 2006, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said.

Meanwhile, there are an estimated 4.5 million Iraqis uprooted by the war.

A House Divided

We are at a telling crossroads in our country. We are divided on matters of race, of economics, and of peace. Today, as the US enters a sixth year of war in Iraq, as a recession, caused in part by this war and in part on a war between those who have and those who have not, causes strain and anxiety, and as a stymied conversation on race relations and classism has been pushed front and center in the heat of a presidential nominating process, we are challenged to find common ground.

And still, I believe, the greatness of this country is that we will find a way.

Self-reflection tells me that I have not always been the best emissary in trying to understand or communicate to those who I disagree with and I feel lessened for it. Preaching to our own choirs, while comfortable and comforting, does not help to heal old, festering wounds.

Barack Obama's speech yesterday was remarkable and risky. In light of the polls, it would have been safer to distance himself from Rev. Wright, but to address the American people in such a deeply personal way on a subject that is so incendiary for so many, is not the easy road. And yet, isn't that what we want from our leaders? To put themselves on the line for difficult problems.

As for me, I hope that his speech is remembered as Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech is, because it is truly does seem to reflect the state of the union of race relations in our country. I'm certain that Obama's speech will encourage a national dialogue, but I'm hopeful that it will be cathartic.

We need this moment of grace because as Obama said, we are in "...a racial stalemate [that] we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so na├»ve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy�” particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction�” a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people�” that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union."

We have a defining moment in front of us, will we take this opportunity to engage in conversations and actions that propel us forward or will we remain in a stalemate and forever have time stand still?

Monday, March 17

St. Patrick's Day is Misunderstood

Erin Go Bragh!

It's a good day to be a Kerry, Kennedy, Dodd, Daley, Fallon, Sullivan, etc...

The following are the states with the highest percentages of residents who claimed some Irish ancestry.

Massachusetts (24 percent)

New Hampshire (22 percent)

Rhode Island (20 percent)

Delaware (19 percent)

Pennsylvania (18 percent)

Connecticut (18 percent)

Maine (18 percent)

Vermont (17 percent)

Montana (17 percent)

New Jersey (16 percent)

Among the esoteric information examined by the Census Bureau are findings that Irish-Americans have higher levels of formal education and income than the national average.

and then there is this.

Really...Funny

Cheney: Iraq a "Successful Endeavor"

What planet is he living on?

Reuters reports that Vice President Dick Cheney declared the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq a "successful endeavor" in a visit to Iraq that included a suicide bombing that killed at least 25 people. "If you look back on those five years it has been a difficult, challenging but nonetheless successful endeavor ... and it has been well worth the effort," Cheney said in a news conference in Baghdad.

As it enters it sixth year, the war has cost the U.S. economy $500 billion and seen nearly 4,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis killed.

Shortly after Cheney spoke, a woman suicide bomber blew herself up in a cafe in the southern holy Shi'ite city of Kerbala and killed 25 people. Bombs in Baghdad killed four and wounded 13.

Friday, March 14

Service to the Republican Party Is It's Own Re-"Ward"

Apparently at least $740,000 has disappeared from the coffers of the National Republican Congressional Committee. The FBI has been called in to look into allegations against longtime NRCC treasurer Christopher J. Ward who is accused of making substantial transfers to his own business and personal accounts since at least 2004.

Rep. Tom Cole, the committee's chairman said, "Based on analysis conducted to date, it appears likely that over a period of several years Ward made several hundred thousand dollars in unauthorized transfers of NRCC funds to outside committees whose bank accounts he had access to, including joint fund-raising committees in which the NRCC participated."

Also, the NRCC notes at the end of 2006 there was a $990,000 shortfall, and the committee hasn't had a "completed" outside audit since 2001, which is longer than some media reports have indicated.

More from Real Clear Politics

Also, Ward, after becoming treasurer in 2003, "submitted to the NRCC's bank and to the NRCC leadership bogus audit reports for 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005. The aditional bogus audit was submitted to the NRCC's bank for 2006."

House Shows No Immunity to President or Senate

Despite threats by both the Senate and the President concerning the revised FISA Bill that would remove immunity for telephone companies who provided private data to the Bush Administration without a court order, the House voted for a stronger bill that would allow court cases to move ahead.

CNN reports:

The House of Representatives voted Friday to back the Democratic-sponsored
revisions to federal surveillance laws.

The vote was 213 to 197 in favor
of a revision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) bill that was
backed by the Democratic leadership.

One member voted present.

The vote came after a secret session Thursday night in the House. It
was the first time the House has met in secret since 1983.

The Democratic plan would allow telecommunications companies to be sued
for their role in the administration's much-disputed warrantless surveillance
program .

The bill now goes to the Senate, but both the Senate and President Bush
have made it clear they will not support the bill without the immunity
provision.

Factual Friday

FactCheck has these factual pearls of wisdom.

Q: Do middle-income persons pay lower federal income taxes under Bush than they did under Bill Clinton?

A: Yes, middle-income taxpayers pay less, but not nearly as much less as claimed in a widely circulated chain e-mail. Moreover, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton propose additional middle-income cuts, contrary to what the message insinuates.

Q: Is the Secret Service paying the Clintons' mortgage?

A: No. And Hillary won't get a full-salary Senate pension, either.

Q: Has any presidential candidate won the general election without winning the Ohio primary?

A: Yes. Richard Nixon did it in 1968, and John Kennedy in 1960. But "favorite son" candidates won the Ohio contest both those years.

Q: Is it true that even though John McCain calls himself a Republican, he has sided more with the Dems than with the Repubs?

A: Not true at all. He voted in support of President Bush 95 percent of the time last year, for example.

Bush Responsible for weakend EPA Clean Air Standards

As the Bush Administration continues its wind down, the president continues to make decisions that will affect us all long after he leaves office via executive order.

CNN reports

The Environmental Protection Agency agreed to weaken an important part of its new smog requirements after being told at the last minute that President Bush preferred a less stringent approach, according to government documents.

They show tense exchanges between the EPA and the White House Office of Management and Budget in the days before the smog air quality standard was announced Wednesday.

Changes directed by the White House were made only hours before the agency issued the regulation. The late activity forced the EPA to delay the announcement for five hours.

The disagreement concerned the amount of protection from ozone, or smog, that should be afforded wildlife, farmlands, parks and open spaces.

This "public welfare" or "secondary" smog standard is separate from a decision to tighten the smog requirements for human health, which the EPA decided to do by reducing the allowable concentrations of ozone in the air from 80 parts per billion to 75 parts per billion.

More

Thursday, March 13

Olbermann Hits the Nail on the Head

Recent Iowa Legislators Endorsing Obama

Smoking Ban Going To Conference For Compromise

Yesterday, the Iowa House rejected the Senate's version of the smoking ban bill and offered a version that lifted the ban from bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. Today the Senate stuck by their bill by rejecting the House's weakened version.

The Des Moines Register continues:

“Folks, this amendment goes against the intent of the bill as it does nothing to protect the health of those who patronize or have to work in these establishments,” said Sen. Staci Appel, an Ackworth Democrat. “Secondhand smoke knows no age limits. It doesn’t discriminate at all by age. Age really has nothing to do with it.”

The Senate’s 27 to 23 decision to reject the House’s version means that leaders from both the House and the Senate will likely form a special committee in an attempt to reach compromise. The decision to create the committee will be made next week.

Once a compromise through the committee is reached, the full Senate and House can only give a thumb up or a thumb down to the proposal, which means that the month-long amendment process and shuffling of the proposal between the House and the Senate is done.

Respect My Lack of Authority--FBI

According to a CNN article, which is condensed below:

The FBI continued in 2006 to badly mishandle letters that it uses to obtain personal records without a court order, according to a Justice Department report released Thursday.

The new report shows the FBI continued in 2006 to increase its use of the secret letters. The 49,425 requests represented a 4.7 percent increase over 2005.

The new report cites "issuance of NSLs [national security letters] without proper authorization, improper requests and unauthorized collection of telephone or Internet e-mail records due to FBI errors or mistakes made by NSL recipients."

In an accompanying report the inspector general said the FBI made 47 requests to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for warrants to pursue business records. All requests were approved.

The report, however, singled out one classified case in which the FBI was turned down by the FISA court, and pursued the matter anyway. Although the details were blacked out in the report, the inspector general said Congress was provided a classified version of the report, which contains the information.

Dr. Death goes to Washington?

With Dr. Jack Kevorkian entering the political arena, it looks like there is someone other than Eliot Spitzer, a victim of political suicide, who will make headlines for less than optimal reasons. Kevorkian, most noted for helping well over 100 people die during the 1990s, was formally convicted on second degree homicide for assisting in the death of Thomas Youk, who suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease.

If he gets the needed 3000 signatures to get on the ballot in Michigan, it could be said that he will be committing assisted political suicide.

Florida Has a Plan

According to CNN

Florida Democrats want a do-over, and state party officials have a proposal for recouping the 210 delegates that the Sunshine State lost when it moved its primary ahead of the approved time frame.

The party is proposing a combination mail-in and in-person election to be held June 3. Fundraising and public comment would begin immediately.

"The plan would be inclusive of all Democratic voters," according to a memo accompanying the draft plan that was sent Wednesday night to party leaders, including Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the party's candidates for the presidential nomination.

Any plan would need the blessings of the DNC and the Clinton and Obama campaigns.

"We really believe that all Floridians deserve to be heard," said state party Chairwoman Karen Thurman, but "if this is not what the people of Florida and our presidential candidates want, then we're not going to do it."

Wednesday, March 12

Former Ohio Senator Howard Metzenbaum Dies

Howard Metzenbaum was a true Ohio Buckeye. Tough, poisonous if you were on his wrong side, but a true progressive when progressive meant the "L" word--Liberal. He was the first politician I voted for in 1977.

Metzenbaum, an Ohio Democrat who made his millions in correctly investing in airport parking lots in Cleveland. The enterprise expanded to Cincinnati and San Juan, Puerto Rico, and eventually became APCOA, the world's largest parking lot company before he began a long career fighting big business in the Senate. He died at age 90.

During 18 years on Capitol Hill, from 1977 to 1995, Metzenbaum was called "Senator No" and "Headline Howard" for his abilities to block legislation and get publicity for himself.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer said, "Metzenbaum built a reputation as a Horatio at the bridge. He was credited with saving taxpayers millions of dollars by standing in the way of "Christmas tree bills," adorned with costly favors for a given state or corporation. Metzenbaum was often at the forefront of Democratic opposition to Reagan administration cabinet and Supreme Court nominees.

Although he felt the anger of his colleagues -- Alaska Republican Ted Stevens once called him a "pain in the ass" -- he also won their respect. Former Sen. Howard Baker, the Tennessee Republican, said, "The Senate needs someone like Howard Metzenbaum -- but only one.""

He was a tough bird who held a room spellbound while drop kicking oil companies, the insurance industry, savings and loans, and the National Rifle Association (Metzenbaum once said, “No, we're not looking at how to control criminals... we're talking about banning the AK-47 and semi-automatic guns.”).

As a former labor lawyer and union lobbyist considered himself a champion of workers and was a driving force behind the law requiring 60-day notice of plant closings.

Iowa City Events Commemorating of Year Five of Iraq War

With 3984 US soldiers killed and 29,275-49,275 injured in Iraq, an estimated 81,881 – 89,360 Iraqi civilians killed, and $12 billion dollars a month being spent to keep the war going, March is an important time to reflect on the costs of this war with respect to the costs of human suffering and treasure.

On Wednesday March 19th, there will be an all day vigil from 6 AM to 12 Midnight commemorating the anniversary of the start of the Iraq War at the corner of Washington and Clinton Streets. Sidewalk on the east side of the pentacrest (Clinton St, between Washington & Jefferson). Join for 18 minutes or 18 hours, Just come. (Bring signs and candles if you can for a MoveOn Vigil at 7 pm). There will be some available there too). For further info, contact Ed Flaherty @ 621-6766 or
Peggy Stokes (evening) @ 338-2924 or info@peaceiowa.org for more information.

'Peace Week 2008', March 24-29 in Iowa City. Peace Week is a campaign to mark the 5th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq with a week of events dedicated to exploring aspects of the U.S. war policy in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the rest of the Middle East that are often left out of the mainstream media debate. Go to WWW.UIANTIWAR.ORG for more information about the campaign and the groups involved.

Highlights of the week include:

Monday, 3/24: 'Occupation 101: Voices of the Silenced Majority', an award-winning documentary about the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Wednesday, 3/26: Iowa Army National Guard and Iraq veteran Andy Duffy and Air Force veteran and conscientious objector Jason Munford will talk about their experiences in the military.

'Healing Iraq: a Tale of Two Doctors', a film about two doctors--one Iraqi, one American--and their perspectives on treating civilian casualties in Iraq and U.S. military casualties in Germany.

Thursday, 3/27: California Army National Guard and Iraq veteran Eli Painted Crow will speak about her life as a Native American woman in the military, her experiences in Iraq, and her 22 year career in the military. ***If you would like to help defray the costs of bringing Ms. Painted Crow to Iowa City, just reply to this e-mail and we'll forward you details.***

Friday, 3/28: 'Make Art Not War' art show and tabling fair: this is an opportunity to see local artists and their work, and meet and talk to local campus and community groups interested in social justice. Music will be provided. ***We are currently looking for more artists and groups to be involved in this event. Please reply to this e-mail if you are interested in participating.***

Forum discussion on veterans' benefits, health care, and homelessness: panelists include Iowa National Guard and Iraq veteran Stephanie Linn, American Legion Post #17 commander Mike Hull, and Vets Helping Vets co-founder Thomas Kelly.

Saturday, 3/29: Rally and March through downtown Iowa City. The theme for this action is 'No War, No Warming, No Poverty, No Borders'.

If you have any questions or comments, send them to uiantiwar@riseup.net.

MONDAY MARCH 31
BAN CLUSTER BOMBS LETTER-WRITING AND FUNDRAISER
THAI FLAVORS
(Corner of Burlington & Gilbert, downtown Iowa City)
11:00 am-2:00 pm, 5:00-9:00 pm

We will write to congress and write letters to the editor of local papers regarding current legislation banning cluster bombs, while eating delicious Thai food.
Supplies and background info provided.
Thai Flavors will donate 10-15% of their sales that day, half to PEACE Iowa and half to an organization removing cluster bombs.

New House Bill: No Immunity to Telecoms

House Democratic leaders unveiled legislation Tuesday to update the nation's wiretapping program, rejecting a Senate-passed version of the bill that would give telecommunications companies legal immunity for agreeing to participate in the program after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

President Bush secretly instituted the National Security Agency's domestic spying program after 9/11.

President Bush and House Republicans have insisted that the House pass the Senate version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) bill.

Instead, top Democrats -- including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, House Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes and Judiciary Chairman John Conyers -- proposed that lawsuits against the phone companies could move forward through U.S. district courts.

The government has effectively frozen all litigation by invoking the "state secrets" doctrine, arguing that documents detailing the phone companies' activities are classified.

Iowa City Council to Consider After Hours Club?

The Gazette reports:

The owners of an after-hours nightclub in Waterloo are exploring opening a similar establishment in Iowa City that would allow patrons to drink until 5 a.m.

The City Council was just alerted of the proposal on Tuesday. It seems sure to spark debate in a city that has struggled with alcohol-related issues and is home to the University of Iowa, which has a reputation of being a party school.

"We're certainly going to discuss it," Mayor Regenia Bailey said with a smile.

Any discussion eventually may be moot. Co-owner Justin Smith of Waterloo said in an interview that he and his partners haven't settled on a location to open another club. They sent letters to several cities across Iowa as "feelers" to see what the reaction would be.


The club would not sell liquor after hours and patrons would have to bring in their own.

Spitzer Quits

CNN just announced the resignation of Governor Eliot Spitzer.

"The remorse I feel will always be with me and words cannot describe how grateful I am for the love and copmpassion they have shown me," Spitzer said.

The announcement came as the New York governor faces allegations -- but no charges -that he is tied to an international prostitution ring ensnared in a federal probe.

Current Lt. Gov. David A. Patterson will take the reigns "within days."

Obama Wins Handily in Mississippi

Barack Obama, as expected, won the Mississippi primary 61% to 37%. Meanwhile, the state party leaders in Texas have announced that the final tally of the Texas caucuses (The second step, in the "Teaxas Two Step" primary and caucus process) will be announced on March 29. With 41% of the counties caucuses polled, Obama leads 56% to 44% over Hillary Clinton).

With his win in Mississippi, Obama has 1,596 delegates, including separately chosen party and elected officials known as superdelegates. Clinton has 1,484, according to The Associated Press count.

The popular vote tally is complicated. Blake Fleetwood at the Huffington Post reports that "Obama has the lead in the delegates and in the popular vote, but that is not exactly true as far as the votes are concerned, according to Clinton supporters. The figures from NBC are:

Including Florida And Michigan, Clinton wins by 30,657:
Clinton 13,521,832
Obama 13,497,175

In the Approved Contests Obama wins by 598,266:
Obama 12,920,961
Clinton 12,322,695

With Florida, where both were on the ballot, Obama wins by 303,494
Obama 13,497,175
Clinton 13,193,681"

With it 99.9% likely that Michigan and Florida will have mail-in "do over" primaries, Obama's and Clinton's campaigns are going to have their work cut out to wrap up the delegates ahead of the convention.

Ethanol Production and the Dead Zone

Cause and effect can be interesting and can make you question the wisdom of our collective thinking, particularly on a state wide level. According to the World Resources Institute,

"Human activities, mostly agriculture and the burning of fossil fuels, have also disrupted the nitrogen cycle. As agricultural production has increased to feed a global population that almost quadrupled during the Twentieth Century, humankind doubled the flow of nitrogen into the environment and tripled the flow of phosphorous. Half of all the nitrogen fertilizer ever used has been used in the last two decades."

From Yahoo News

A boost in corn production will worsen the Gulf's so-called "dead zone," an area with so little oxygen that sealife suffocates, said Simon Donner, a geographer at the University of British Columbia in Western Canada.

"Most organisms are not able to survive without enough oxygen," Donner told AFP. "All the bottom-dwelling organisms that can't move away are probably going to die, while fish will migrate if they can."

Donner and Chris Kucharik of the University of Wisconsin used computer models to conclude that growing enough corn to meet US biofuel goals set for 2022 would cause a boost of 10 to 34 percent in nitrogen pollution in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers, which run into the Gulf of Mexico.

In turn, the study said, there will be more than a 95 percent probability of failure in American targets to reduce the Gulf dead zone.

The study is published Monday in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Journal of Sciences.

The Gulf's dead zone, first measured about three decades ago, has grown to cover an area as large as 20,000 square kilometers (12,400 square miles) each summer in the Gulf, which is ringed by the southern United States, Mexico and Cuba.

The zone is caused indirectly by nitrogen fertilizers used on cornfields in states like Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin. Excess nitrogen runs into the Mississippi River, becomes nitrate, and feeds algae growth. When the algae eventually dies it sinks to the bottom and rots, a process that sucks oxygen out of the water and kills all other life forms.

Donner noted the continental United States already produces about half of the world's corn, in part for human consumption but mostly to feed livestock or make ethanol.

The authors predict the only way nitrate pollution could be controlled and ethanol targets met would be if American farmers stop raising meat animals on corn and dramatically change agricultural management techniques.

With oxygen levels in the Gulf's dead zone already as low as two parts per million or less, all commercial and sport fishing in the zone has been wiped out, said Donner.

But the fishery "doesn't have the economic value that corn production does," he noted. "You can think of it as an equity problem in a way. It's pollution from one part of the US damaging another part of the US."


Here is a map of dead zones around the world.

Time picks it up on 3/13.

Blackwater Blacklisted from California Town

From the Associated Press: "Military security contractor Blackwater Worldwide has pulled its plans to build a training facility in a remote area about 45 miles east of San Diego."

It's a modern-day story of David vs. Goliath, a grassroots victory of monumental proportions. After a long battle to block the building of Blackwater's mercenary base, the people of Potrero (population: 899) are rejoicing. Blackwater is gone. Gone from this pristine area of East San Diego County. Gone from California.

As you may know, for the last year the Courage Campaign has been working to help the people of Potrero get their message out to Californians. We wanted to amplify the stories of people like farmer Carl Meyer, a soft-spoken community leader who was the subject of a short, poignant video on our "Block Blackwater" web site.

In December, Carl and a slate of "Save Potrero" community leaders shocked the world, overwhelmingly winning a recall election to replace all five Potrero Planning Group members who had previously approved Blackwater's plans to build a mercenary base in their beautiful and serene small town.

Under people-powered pressure, Blackwater caved. You can watch our short, two-minute YouTube video highlighting Carl's activism and send a message of congratulations to the people of Potrero by clicking here:

http://www.couragecampaign.org/congratulations

Tuesday, March 11

Kettle, I Believe You Know Pot

From Yahoo

The United States dropped China from its list of the world's worst human rights violaters, but added Syria, Uzbekistan and Sudan to the category in an annual report released Tuesday.

The State Department's 2007 Human Rights Report said however that China, which has raised hopes internationally that it would improve human rights by hosting the 2008 Olympics, still had a poor human rights records overall.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the report was aimed at highlighting the struggle for human rights around the world.

"In the long run, we are confident that citizens who sacrifice for their dignity and their rights will prevail, just as the Havels and the Mandelas did before them," Rice told reporters.


Uh, does that apply to us too? See China's thoughts on the subject.

US to Iraq: When We Get Behind Closed Doors

U.S. State Department and Iraqi foreign ministry officials opened negotiations Tuesday over formal arrangements for a long-term relationship in the political, economic and security fields.

The talks will also focus on establishing a status of forces agreement (SOFA), a standard arrangement that spells out the legal basis for the presence of U.S. troops on Iraqi territory and establishes legal rights and obligations.

Negotiating a SOFA begins with the assumption that the presence of U.S. military forces is in the interests of the host government as well as the U.S. government. The starting proposition is that the host country exercises complete authority over all of its territory and over anyone who is in that territory, subject to any agreements that make exceptions to that authority.

The Iraqi foreign ministry, in a statement, stressed the talks would focus on finding middle ground that would accommodate the needs of both nations. U.S. officials have sought to deflect publicity and close public scrutiny of the talks, which are being held behind closed doors.

159,000 troops are in Iraq and is expected to cut them to about 100,000 by next January.