Monday, December 28

2009: The Year That Almost Is (Over)

It is a tradition of the Fourth Estate to review the year as soon as it draws to an end. It sells papers, magazines, and brings in muchas advert dollares. Since bloggers are not reliant on ad revenue, I will summarize 2009 now (not beholden to any corporate entity except Google who owns Blogger.Com. For all your blogging needs, choose Google).

2009 saw the first African-American President inaugurated and ammunition and gun sales skyrocket--welcome to "Change America Needs."

2009 saw a drawing down in Iraq and a loading up in Afghanistan. It saw a reup of the Patriot Act and Guantanamo still in operation.

Congress allowed the national debt to increase to 12.4 trillion dollars while 40+ million people continue to not have health care. The health care that is likely to occur in 2010 will cut that number to 24 million.

The Supreme Court welcomed a new member of its rowing crew when Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed despite the NRA, the Republican Party, and others who objected to her. The Supreme Court continues to function, as of this time.

Iowa saw its state income decrease 7.8% at the end of October and 6.7% of its workforce unemployed. The universities of Iowa stimulated the economy by using Federal tax dollars to encourage employees to retire early.

2009 saw Tea Partiers, Birthers, Obamafacists, and come together and Jon and Kate break up. 2009 saw "King of Pop Music" Michael Jackson pass away and Glenn Beck become the king of pop punditry.

2009 also saw Sarah Palin go rogue and Edward Kennedy go underground. It saw a Tiger and a governor lose their marriages and marriage equality to occur in Iowa and Washington DC.

In Johnson County, urban chickens, school plans and closings,curfews, and a bridge to nowhere (actually to Sutliff) were debated ad infinitum. To build or not to build led to the biggest voter turnout of residents in University Heights for a council election, while Iowa City saw the lowest turnout in twenty years. A County Supervisor's passing led to an appointment and a special election. The killing by a sheriff's deputy of a homeless refugee was ruled justifiable, but holding the man accountable who likely caused it was deferred.

Finally, 2009 saw people affected by job losses in record numbers, corporations being bailed out, and housing markets collapsing. So to those of us who escaped 2009 in good shape, remember that 2010 is just around the corner. Happy New Year?

Thursday, December 10

Scattershooting About Johnson County Politics

So the two parties have had their conventions and (D) Janelle Rettig and (R) Lori Cardella are their parties' candidates. If there is any drama to unfold it would have to involve a brave soul gathering 250 signatures to be placed on the ballot to run a third person for the controversial seat. It would actually be a more compelling race if that would happen. Failing that, it will rely on the candidates to turnout their bases.

And what will happen come June? The seat that will be decided by special election will be up for grabs again. Is this an effort to turn out the base for the Senatorial and House primaries? I would hate to think that people would have ulterior motives--I'd be "shocked."

You never know who you'll run into at a pizza place. Mike O'Donnell may be leaving the Iowa City Council, but his longer term aspirations may involve being the next County Recorder. He was notably absent from the Democratic special county convention.

And what was the Iowa City Council thinking when they approved a 2% franchise fee acknowledging that they might be able to do without half of it? They have deferred action in the past, why not wait until they have more information? As it stands most of us would not feel the pinch of a 1% hike, but the University of Iowa and other tax-exempt entities will in April--unless the council brings it up after the new members are seated.

Question for Sheriff Pulkrabek and JC County Attorney Lyness--what, if anything, have you decided to do about John Bohnenkamp? You may recall that he disregarded a public safety officer's order last July (and his own wife's pleas) to clear out of the crime scene which may have contributed to the shooting death of John Deng. I seem to recall that there was a continuing investigation about this point that has not been reported.

And area State Legislators--why not look at taxing non-residential uses of condominiums for rental property? Clearly it is disadvantaging those communities like Iowa City that have large numbers of absentee landlords. $2 million dollars can help a city keep it's budget balanced without the residents taking it fully on the chin. Also, it probably is keeping apartments from being built which in less supply.

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Wednesday, December 9

Runaway Iceberg Heads for Warmer Climate

According to CNN and other sources, an iceberg, more than twice the size of New York's Manhattan island, is drifting slowly toward Australia.

The iceberg, measuring 54 square miles, cleaved off the Ross ice shelf nearly 10 years ago and had been floating near Antarctica before commencing on its unusual journey north.

Named B17B, it was about 1,056 miles off the coast of West Australia, according to the country's Antarctic Division.

"B17B is a very significant one in that it has drifted so far north while still largely intact," said Australian Antarctic Division glaciologist Neal Young, who spotted the slab using satellite images taken by NASA and the European Space Agency.

It was three times its current size when it broke off Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf in 2000 and Young said it was one of the largest to be spotted so far north.

‘It’s one of the biggest sighted at those latitudes."

Scientists believe the iceberg will break up and melt rapidly as it continues its journey north. Before it melts, however, it could present a danger to ships navigating the region, Young said.

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Friday, December 4

Kotowing to Big Insurance: All in the Grassley Family

With thanks to Peter Hansen for this information below. If there was any doubt that Sen. Charles Grassley has compelling reasons to deny a public health care option, the information below will certainly add more.

*For Grassley, insurance is a family business – two of his children are
on the payroll of the industry.*

* Daughter Michele Grassley Clarke is the Executive Director for the
Iowa chapter of the National Association of Insurance and
Financial Advisors.
* Grassley daughter Wendy Grassley Speckerman is also listed on the
staff of the association. [National Association of Insurance and
Financial Advisors <>]
* This group is opposed to any public health plan option as part of
a national health care reform package. [Press Release, Association
of Health Insurance Providers
<>, April
20, 2009]

*Grassley’s campaigns have benefited from industry largesse.*

* He has received $493,149 in campaign contributions from health
insurance companies over his career. [Center for Responsive
Politics <>]
* His number 1 career contributor is Blue Cross/Blue Shield at
$81,200. [Center for Responsive Politics <>]

Wednesday, December 2

Braley and Loebsack Want More Specifics About Obama's Plans

Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) released the following statement tonight in response to President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan.

“In September, I sent a bipartisan letter to President Obama outlining many of my concerns about the situation in Afghanistan and stating my strong belief that we should not commit more troops to Afghanistan without a clearly defined exit strategy. As the Iowa National Guard prepares to deploy more than 3,000 soldiers to Afghanistan, we owe it to them and their families to have a comprehensive strategy that addresses fundamental military, political and economic challenges in Afghanistan and the surrounding region.

“I look forward to reading the specific details of the proposal laid out by President Obama in order to work with my colleagues to determine the best way forward for the people of the United States and Afghanistan.”

Congressman David Loebsack said:

“I firmly believe that we must put policy before politics, and I intend to hold the Obama administration as accountable as I did the Bush administration,” said Congressman Loebsack. “As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I plan on asking some tough questions during hearings and briefings in the coming days and weeks with our senior military and civilian leaders. Our servicemembers and their families deserve a thorough and accurate assessment of the President’s strategy, and I intend to make sure that they get it.”

“I plan to review the President’s decision extremely carefully to ensure that it supports our national security and lays out achievable and well-defined goals that will effectively deny al Qaeda a safe haven and allow our troops to come home,” added Congressman Loebsack.

Congressman Loebsack will be seeking some of the following details on the President’s strategy:

· Clearly laid out goals, a well-defined mission, and a rubric for measuring progress.

· An organized political-military structure within the plan that will fully utilize and coordinate our civilian economic, agriculture, political, and development resources with the military mission.

· A realistic accounting of the cost of this plan.

· A well defined plan to transfer responsibility for Afghan security and stability to the Afghan people so that our troops can come home. This includes a plan to help the Afghan government combat corruption and assume responsibility for their country’s future.

· A commitment from our NATO allies to support this plan with additional troops, civilian experts, and resources.

· A plan to work with the Pakistani government to further secure and stabilize the region and deny extremists who wish to do us harm a safe haven.

Loebsack Supports Fair Elections Now Act

Response from Congressman Loebsack to my recent inquiry about publicly funded elections which I favor.

Thank you for contacting me about the Fair Elections Now Act. I'm honored to represent you in Congress. Your opinion is very important to me and my priority is to provide Iowa's Second District with the best representation possible.

I share your concerns about the rising costs of Congressional campaigns and the potential influence of large campaign contributions. In the past, Congress has enacted statutes that have restricted or banned certain funding sources, limited certain expenditures and required disclosure of funds in an effort to enhance electoral competition and allow candidates to focus on important issues rather than fundraising.

The Fair Elections Now Act, H.R. 1826, was introduced by Representative Larson on March 31, 2009. I am proud to be a cosponsor of this bill, which would establish the option of publicly funded campaigns. A candidate who chooses public financing would receive a base grant equal to 80% of the national average of spending by winning House candidates in the previous two election cycles and a 400% match of contributions that do not exceed $100 per individual contributor per election. In addition, this bill would provide broadcast vouchers of $100,000 and would also prohibit the candidate from spending funds raised from Political Action Committees (PAC's).

H.R. 1826 has been referred to the House Committee on Administration, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the House Committee on Ways and Means. Should this bill come to the full House of Representatives for a vote, please be assured I will keep your views in mind.

Thank you again for contacting me about this important issue. I encourage you to visit my website at and sign up for my e-newsletters to stay informed of the work I'm doing in Congress. I am proud to serve Iowa's Second District, and I am committed to working hard for you.


Dave Loebsack
Member of Congress

Obama's Resurgance in Afghanistan

In an elegant show of reasoning and logic, President Barack Obama, with his security team in tow, spoke in front of 3400 West Point cadets and explained why he was committing 30,000 more American troops to the War in Afghanistan beginning in January 2010. Despite his reassurance that the war will be limited to:
• Denying al Qaeda a safe haven
• Reversing the Taliban's momentum to overthrow Afghanistan's government
• Strengthening Afghanistan's security forces and government,
what is being repeated is a surge policy. With the idea being to have enough boots on the ground to finish what has been, to this point, a largely unwinnable war, his hope lies in repeating the relative success that his predecessor's policy had in Iraq.

To his credit his plan has a timeline, but like all war plans, there is an escape clause depending on what is happening in the country when the withdrawal of troops is scheduled to start in July 2011. The plan also includes commitments from 43 countries to step up and support the effort, which is commendable if it works. Lastly, Obama pointed out that the extra $30 additional billion price tag per year will have to be paid for and that he would work with Congress to do that. With the current plans to overhaul health care and to invest in job creation, one has to wonder what will be cut to accommodate two wars that have already cost taxpayers over a trillion dollars.

As the President travels to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize in nine days, one has to wonder if he should decline the honor. To accept such a prize under the shroud of escalating this war is tragic, regardless of his reasoning for doing so.

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