Monday, November 30

Krause, Fiegan, and Conlin: Grassley Challengers

To the point that Roxanne Conlin entered the race to be the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, scarcely a peep had been made by the state's newspapers about the two other candidates running for the Democratic nomination. Bob Krause and Tom Fiegan have been pounding the pavement furiously trying to shore up support ahead of the June primary for months.

To be sure, neither Fiegan nor Krause are as well-known candidates as Conlin who is best known for being defeated in her run for Governor in 1982. And neither are women, which brings excitement to a core constituency, particularly as Iowans have not seen fit to elect a qualified female to Congress--ever. And, if you saw Rekha Basu's column in the Des Moines Register, Conlin has a compelling personal story. Still, since there is so much time to learn about each of the candidates and how they would represent Iowans, it is worth the investment.

For instance Bob Krause was one of the youngest elected members of the Iowa House. He is the only candidate calling for a draw down in Afghanistan. He ran unsuccessfully for State Treasurer and he served in the Transportation Dept. under Jimmy Carter.

Tom Fiegan, a former State Senator who hails from Clarence, is running because "based on my 21 years as a bankruptcy lawyer and an economics professor, I believe we need to do something positive to create a job for everyone who wants to work, provide healthcare for those without, and outlaw the type of financial piracy that got us into this mess in the first place." Fieganomics, as he calls his plans to improve the economy for Iowans calls for using federal monies to lead to full employment, universal health care, and "banning financial piracy on an individual and national level."

Roxanne Conlin's bona fides include currently running her own law firm (she graduated from the Drake Law School in addition to acquiring a Masters degree in Public Administration), serving as the Assistant Attorney General for the Southern District of Iowa, and being the first woman to serve as president of the AAJA (formerly the American Trial Lawyer's Association). She also tried the very 1st Iowa Civil Rights Act in 1969 and was the state chair of the Democratic party. She is running against the special interests and career politicians that run Washington and to help small businesses, creating jobs through alternative energy.

I'll be adding issue comparison's about each candidates in the coming weeks.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Saturday, November 28

Honoring All Our Troops

CNN reports that soldiers who die by suicide will not receive a letter of condolence from the President Obama. The reason for not honoring military personnel? It is an inherited policy. The unwritten policy has been in place "at least since Bill Clinton was president," according to a New York Times article. With 184 military personnel reported dead by suicide in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001 and at least 128 active-duty soldiers confirmed to have killed themselves in 2008, compared with 115 in 2007, 102 in 2006 and 87 in 2005, it makes no sense to dishonor their memories to their families.

Regardless of the reason for death, every military personnel deserves the recognition of the Commander-in-Chief for their service to their country. Contact the President and your Congressional Representatives to call on them to change this disrespectful policy. While you are at it, you might also ask them to stop putting our soldiers in harm's way without a good reason.

President Barack Obama

Representative Bruce Braley
Representative Leonard Boswell
Representative Steve King
Representative Tom Latham
Representative Dave Loebsack

Senator Charles Grassley
Senator Tom Harkin

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, November 24

Thanksgiving Reform

The day after tomorrow my wife and I will likely sit down to negotiate Thanksgiving reform with my Chicago-based father and his wife. On the table will be the required watching of a football game. In past years the football game has been widely popular with the Chicago group, but with one increasingly vocal dissenter favoring a non-football alternative--my wife, the holiday may be more contentious than in years past.

My father or "the majority leader" of the football game party, my wife, the minority leader favoring an anything-but-#%#%$#$-football option, will meet in caucus and hammer out partisan strategies. As I owe allegiances to both points of view, I plan to offer a pumpkin pie amendment that will stipulate that for the non-football option, I would be willing to give up my second slice of pumpkin pie. However, should the other side want to negotiate additional jellied cranberries to take football off the table, in addition to pie--I'll withdraw my amendment. I am open to a yam amendment too, but I understand the Yam Council is sending a lobbyist to arm twist me.

In addition to football reform, there will be endless filibustering between the spouses, who never see eye to eye on any issue (except for their great choices in husbands). No doubt there will be closed door reconcilation that will occur so that the holiday can remain peaceful.

Regardless of the politics in your household, I think we can all be thankful we have the family football to kick around. Because, while Tip O'Neill was close when he said all politics are local, anyone who has spent quality time with their kin knows--all family politics are deeply personal.

Wish me luck.

Monday, November 23

Senate Candidate Krause Calls for Drawdown in Afghanistan

From Bob Krause's campaign:
Speaking to an audience of Democrats at the Iowa Democratic Party's annual Jefferson Jackson Day dinner on Saturday night, Bob Krause of Fairfield became the first candidate in the Iowa U.S. Senate race to call for a drawdown of troops in Afghanistan.

"It is my view as a retired military officer and a student of military strategy that we need to disengage from Afghanistan because what we are doing is not strategically sustainable,” Krause told the crowd at a rally following the keynote speech by Vice President Joe Biden.

"We are in direct danger of committing our remaining uncommitted national reserve of troops so that we have nothing left for emergencies,” Krause explained. “Further, I seriously doubt that we need to keep the Taliban at bay in Afghanistan to secure our national security. We are putting large numbers of U. S. and foreign troops in the land that invented xenophobia. Unfortunately this troop insertion stirs the pot and makes the situation much worse than it needs to be.”

“I hope that, when President Obama makes his troop strength decision after Thanksgiving, he does not accept the advice of the neoconservatives, and instead does the prudent thing and closes out this war that former President Bush lost through inaction several years ago,” said Krause.

In extended remarks after the speech, Krause added, "Joe Biden in right on this one. We are spending $60 billion per year in the war in Afghanistan and 2 billion on Pakistan, even though Pakistan is strategically more important to us.”

“If the Pakistanis can control the Pashtuns within their own borders, it will have a very positive spin-off effect on the Pashtun nation in Afghanistan,” said Krause. “Insuring that Pakistan can continue as a cohesive nation is where our strategic emphasis needs to be. Having our forces in Afghanistan drives Taliban into Pakistan and actually helps to destabilize Pakistan.”

Krause warned that our trying to control Afghanistan directly with U. S. troops not only causes backfires, but it is incredibly costly. “If we put in an additional 40,000 new troops -- at a cost of about 1 million dollars per soldier in the field -- this will put the new war budget for Afghanistan at $100 billion,” said Krause. “This for a war that, even by known guerilla warfare statistical planning factors, we would be unlikely to win because it just is not enough troops.”

Krause also pointed out that this figure does not include the “80 year tail on government costs for treating the additional 10,000 per year Post Traumatic Stress Disorder cases that would likely come from the insertion of the additional soldiers.”

"Iowans need to call President Obama and ask him to listen to those who are urging caution, and not to those who want to continue and to escalate this strategically untenable battle," concluded Krause.

A former state legislator, school board member and transportation official, Krause has served as the president of the Iowa Department of the Reserve Officers Association and is currently chair of the Iowa Democratic Veterans Caucus.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Marriage Equality

A meeting at Peoples Church Unitarian Universalist on Saturday brought social justice activists from liberal faith communities in Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, and Iowa City together to discuss what can be done to support continued Marriage Equality in Iowa. State Senator Bob Dvorsky assured the group that the Iowa Senate would not allow amendments to be attached to bills that would change the current law that allows for same-sex marriages to occur.

Nonetheless, he did say that forces could move through the Iowa House to attempt to bring the issue to a state constitutional convention. However, he was clear that the Democratic leadership would not be supportive of such a push. He did say that proponents for Marriage Equality should not be complacent.

A lobby day will be coming up on February 11, 2010 to talk with House and Senate representatives and make the case that civil Marriage Equality is good for Iowa regardless of religious leanings. OneIowa and the Interfaith Alliance are working within communities to educate the public on the issues.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

What The Corridor Can Learn From New Orleans

When Hurricane Katrina unleashed its fury, it was largely blamed for the monumental damage that followed in New Orleans and its neighbors. Further evidence showed that the failure of the levees were to blame and that the Army Corp of Engineers who manage those levees failed to upgrade them despite reports that the levees were sorely in need of shoring up.

The Corridor and particularly Iowa City and Coralville have relied on the Army Corp of Engineers to manage the waterflow at the Coralville Dam. As we learned, the slowness in releasing the water may have contributed to a lot of the flooding that happened in the area. It is hoped that the improvements that are being planned to improve Park Road bridge and other plans will lead to long-term solutions. additionally, it is hoped that the Army Corp of Engineers have learned from the past and will regulate water flow better in the future.

Perhaps Corridor leaders should consider the measure that the New Orleans City Council did. See the video below.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, November 19

We Represent the Lollipop Kids?

I appreciate the efforts that were made to create the environment for a special Johnson County board of supervisors election, as I support transparency and openness where government is concerned. However, I have to admit when I learned from the Daily Iowan that proponents for the special election were giving out lollipops as a reward for signatures, I found it hugely hysterical. It reminded me of when George Etre was running for Iowa City City Council and he was giving free drinks away to sign his petition to qualify. It kind of dilutes the message when it appears that a "token" is given for something that really shouldn't need any encouragement. I found it particularly tickling to then hear that many of these same students have no plans to vote in the special election. How mercenary is that?

As for the next steps regarding the county supervisor race, each political party will nominate one candidate for the election; and any additional independent candidates would have to garner 250 signatures on a petition to be on the ballot. It is my sincere hope that if anyone who feels their viewpoint is not addressed by either party will go solicit the 250 signatures. Because at the end of the day, the real argument is not whether we have a Democrat or a Republican representing us, but whether we have people with good ideas willing to commit their time to do the job.

For the record, I feel like Jannelle Rettig is a good choice and I think a special election will reiterate this. However, the value of elections, beyond who is running for offices, is the free flow of ideas about what citizens believe their government and communities priorities ought to be and for the offering of solutions to address the problems that concern us all.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Friday, November 13

Special County Election Will Happen

Advocates for a special election to occur to replace the late Larry Meyers and to challenge the seating of appointed County Supervisor Janelle Rettig by special committee have apparently gathered over 8000 signatures which were presented to the Johnson County Clerk's office this afternoon. After the abysmal turnouts for city council races less than two weeks ago, it is hoped that the petitioners will do the service of actually voting in the special election.

Also of interest, staunch Republican supporter Lori Cardella is suggesting she may step forward to run for the office according to the Coralville Courier. I am looking forward to the prospect, as I think it will create the environment for the values of Johnson County to present themselves at the polls.

Janelle Rettig, who has been in campaign mode since last year, will need to be nominated by Johnson County Democrats by county convention according to the their last month meeting notes and Cardella would likely have to be nominated by the Johnson County Republicans also by convention.

According to the auditor's website the rules of going forward are:
Meyers' term was scheduled to run through December 31, 2010. The appointment will run through the canvass of the the November 2, 2010 general election, unless the public petitions for a special election. The petition would require 7,299 signatures (10 percent of the presidential vote in the 2008 general election). The deadline for a petition is November 13, 2009, 14 days after the appointment.

Two supervisors will be elected to four year terms in the November 2, 2010 general election. Following the canvass of votes from the November 2010 election (on November 8 or 9, 2010), an elected supervisor will immediately take office.

Thursday, November 12

Stimulus Monies Shore Up Safety Net on Iowa's Medicaid Recipients

The Iowa Policy Project reports that the stimulus monies used for Medicaid in Iowa have been paying dividends. For every $1 that the state puts in, $1.70 is matched by the Federal government. The ARRA legislation includes certain “triggers” built in for the extra FMAP percentage increases, based on changes in state unemployment rates. Note that as more people have become unemployed that there is a proportional increase in Medicaid enrollment. When Iowa’s three-month average unemployment rate topped 5.2 percent in April, May and June 2009, the state qualified for an additional FMAP increase of about 1.9 percent, bringing the total Federal Matching Assistance Percentage to nearly 71 percent. Due to this raised matching rate, the federal government contributes about $2.42 for every dollar Iowa spends on Medicaid through October 2011.

Here are some interesting factoids about Medicaid courtesy of the IPP

Medicaid: Iowa’s Health Care
Safety Net
 In May 2009, Medicaid
provided essential health
care coverage for 410,857
state residents, or nearly 1
in 7 Iowans.

 Between October 2007 and
May 2009, Iowa’s Medicaid
enrollment increased by 13
percent. Children make up
the fastest growing
population of Medicaid

 54 percent of Iowa’s
Medicaid recipients are
children, a total enrollment
of 221,863 in May 2009.
However children
accounted for only 17
percent of Medicaid
expenditures in 2008.

 Elderly and disabled
populations together
comprise about 30 percent
of recipients, but account for
nearly 72 percent of
Medicaid expenditures.
This is largely due to the
high cost of prescription
drugs, home-based and
community-based services,
and nursing home care.

Monday, November 9

Too Big to Fail: Sanders Says "Break These Babies Up"

Sen. Bernie Sanders makes some very good points. Whether you agree with his assessment that the "to big to fail" companies need to be broken up, the point that these companies are costing us all is irrefutable.

More than a year has gone by since Congress passed the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street. The Federal Reserve has committed trillions of additional dollars in virtually zero-interest loans and other assistance to large financial institutions resulting in the largest taxpayer bailout in the history of the world.

President Bush and Ben Bernanke told us we needed to bail out Wall Street because we could not allow big financial institutions and insurance giants to fail because if they failed it would have led to the collapse of the U.S. and global economies.

Today, most of the huge financial institutions still standing have become even bigger — so big that the four largest banks in America (JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup) now issue one out of every two mortgages; two out of three credit cards; and hold $4 out of every $10 in bank deposits in the entire country.

If any of these financial institutions were to get into major trouble again, taxpayers would be on the hook for another massive bailout. We cannot let that happen. We need to do exactly what Teddy Roosevelt did back in the trust-busting days and break up these big banks.

That is why I introduced legislation that would give the Secretary of the Treasury 90 days to identify every single financial institution and insurance company in this country that is too big to fail and to break up those institutions within one year.

If it’s too big to fail, it’s too big to exist.

Sunday, November 8

Rental Help Available for Iowans

I received this from State Representative Vicki Lensing:

As part of the federal economic recovery program, Iowa has received $11 million to help qualified Iowa renters pay their rental and utility bills. To qualify, you must be at risk of homelessness and your income must be at or below 50% of the local area median income, although in some areas of the state, the criterion is stricter.
The program, called Iowa Rental Help, can help current renters, and families and homeowners who are moving into rental properties. The homeless are also eligible for help. The goal is to help recipients gain stability and adequate housing.
Iowa Rental Help can provide qualified Iowa renters with rent and utility payments for up to 18 months (including up to six months in arrears), moving expenses, security deposits, rental deposits,and more.
When individuals contact Iowa Rental Help, they will be connected with a case manager to determine whether they qualify. If so, the case manager will help develop a plan that will best benefit them. The case manager will also meet with them every six months to reassess the situation. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development administers the program nationally; the Iowa Finance Authority (IFA) administers the program in Iowa. For more information on the program, Iowans can call 877.386.9104, visit, or text RENT to 30644.
A large number of calls have been coming into the program and Iowans should expect some delays in speaking to a case manager.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, November 3

City Council Election: A Sleeper and A Squeaker

Today's Iowa City election netted the lowest turnout since 1985. The Iowa City precincts during September's school board election reported 4,394 voters at the polls, while the City Council election today saw 4,682 voters turn out. As expected Susan Mims and Terry Dickens won the at-large race with 75% and 70% of the vote over The University of Iowa students Dan Tallon and Jeff Shipley. Mark McCallum gave Connie Champion the closest race she has ever had in her four elections as Champion narrowly defeated McCallum by 172 votes.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Gitmo Detainees: Where Are They Now?

One of the earliest Obama pledges was to close the detention camp at Guantanamo. After Congress moved to block any Guantanamo detainee from entering the United States, the courts appear to be relocating the detainees to exotic places like Herzagovinia, Palau, and Chad.

Chisun Lee wrote this as an Op-Ed for the NY Times:
As the Obama administration and Congress try to forge a legal framework for detaining suspected terrorists, they might want to take a close look at what's happening at the federal district courthouse just a short walk down Pennsylvania Avenue from both the White House and the Capitol.

Trial judges there have quietly decided 31 of some 200 cases brought by Guantánamo inmates seeking freedom. Dossier by dossier, the jurists have answered the core questions that policy experts have been addressing in theory: When can the president place someone in preventive detention, and how solid does the evidence need to be?

President Obama, like George W. Bush before him, has claimed the power to detain not only Qaeda and Taliban members, but also those who "support" them. Last year the Supreme Court ruled [2] (PDF) that the courts can scrutinize these detention decisions and overturn them if they are invalid. But the court didn't say exactly what a valid detention looks like, and Congress hasn't stepped in to make it clear.

Nonprofit news source Propublica, has a chart of where 36 of the, as of January 17, 2009, approximately 245 detainees have ended up. Here is what happened to detainees prior to 2009.

It's a Beautiful Day to Exercise Your Vote For Nobody

Some and John Deeth are predicting a miserable voter turnout for the elections in Johnson County. I don't much care what people plan to do, the right to vote or not vote is "democratic" in the literal sense. My hope is that after the dust clears, folks will figure out how their vote woulda, coulda, shoulda mattered, had they informed themselves about the consequences of their inaction.

Generally when people don't vote, it is because they don't see much difference between the leading candidates (sorry Susan and Terry, but blue and white or white and blue signs are not much of a difference maker) or they are so burnt out on all things political that they leave it to the habitual voter to make the decision for them.

Frankly the races in Coralville and University Heights have more riding on them than the Iowa City race because there are clear demarcations of differences on community growth in the UH race and Coralville now has the issue of what happens if Mayor Jim Fausett has to step down because of his health. Iowa City has so little at stake to the average lethargic voter that it is possible that Sara Baird could actually edge out one or both of the students running as a write-in candidate.

The game changer in IC could be if voters accidentally stumble into a voting booth and decide to exercise their privilege by turning in a blank slate. Sometimes a recorded vote for nobody is the best vote of all. It would be extremely amusing to learn that nobody won the IC at-large race. But that isn't likely to happen. Tomorrow's headline-- "A Victory for Apathy."