Sunday, January 24

Bawking at Mid-Term Caucuses

While a relative handful of people turned out for area Iowa Republican and Democratic mid-term caucuses, many stayed home. I was among them. In the past, I waded into the Democratic Party's caucus mechanism only to become frustrated by the work as it moved away from the county and on to the district level. For instance in working on the platform committee, I watched as agendas to remove women's right to choose were attacked by more conservative members of the party. I saw union influences that pushed their agendas. In fairness, I was a party newbie and didn't really understand the not so unsubtle nuances that play out by the true believers.

However, while I did not caucus, I do understand why the faithful do. When the party is not moving in the direction you's hope they might or when new issues present themselves, it is good that there are people who will act as the canary in the coal mine and raise the issues by presenting petitions that often lead to planks in the party platform.

I applaud those who work at that level of politics and wished that more would do the same. Admittedly my stomach for it has been weakened by my experience and has strengthened my resolve to work at the local level to improve conditions. However jaded I have become, I believe that young adults should particularly dive in deep in party politics. The decisions that are made today will affect more people tomorrow than today because it takes a long time for change to be effected.

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Some Gitmo Detainees In For the Longer Haul

CNN reports that sources within the Obama administration are reporting that 47 detainees who are considered too dangerous to be released and unable to be tried because of national security concerns, will continue to be held.

"If you close Guantanamo but leave individuals detained without charge or trial you're just making a cosmetic change," Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU National Security Project, told CNN.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, which has represented several Guantanamo detainees in federal court cases, blasted the administration.

"Today was supposed to be the deadline by which President Obama would close Guantanamo. Now it will be the anniversary of the president's decision to abandon our most fundamental constitutional principles, the center said in a written statement.

Amnesty International USA chimed in with a stinging criticism.

"If the president accepts the DOJ task force recommendation to hold anyone indefinitely, this policy will not keep Americans safe; instead it will ensure that Guantanamo will continue to be al Qaeda's top recruiting tool," said Tom Parker, Amnesty's policy director for counterterrorism.

Federal officials expect to imprison the group to be held under the laws of war in a facility in the United States. If Congress approves funding, the most likely site is a prison in Thomson, Illinois.

A senior administration official cautioned against concluding that all the task force recommendations will be approved, and said numbers that have been reported may ultimately prove to be wrong.

Sources familiar with the report said the task force has recommended 35 detainees face either civilian trials or military commissions in the United States.

The remaining approximately 110 detainees - most of them from Yemen - are eligible to be transferred to their homeland or a third country once officials determine they can be held securely in their home country or a suitable third country will take them.

The recommendations of the Detainee Review Task Force were received on the date Obama set exactly a year ago as the deadline for closing the prison facility at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay. The administration now concedes it may be many more months if not longer before the prison can be emptied.

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Thursday, January 21

Why Politicians Matter So Much...And So Little

Reading that John Edwards finally confessed to fathering a child with a woman he was having an affair with while his wife continues to battle terminal cancer reminds me that while not many people love politics, they do seek politicians that they can believe in. John Edwards was the fair-haired candidate when he ran as John Kerry's VP choice and was a front-runner until Obama ran him over him in Iowa.

It was difficult, as a supporter of Edwards, to comprehend the depths he would sink in chasing his political ambitions. To that end, not only did he betray his wife, Elizabeth, but he betrayed the trust of thousands of people who worked hard on his behalf. Couple this experience with many other politicians from all parties who have operated in a similar matter and you begin to understand the problem of politics--the lack of trust that politicians create with their constituents.

As we are in a time when good decisions are important and we need our best and brightest to make them, it is very important that these men and women step up and do the work. At the same time, it is important that they act like adults and not like sweaty teenagers. If we hope to have better government, we need to have better politicians.

When voters become jaded to the idea that really hard-working public officials are out there, they stay home and leave the political arena to the partisans who are not invested in solving the problems that affect the rest of us, so much as working their agendas. We need and deserve better than this.

Free Speech Sponsored by...?

The US Supreme Court's ruling today to allow corporations and unions to spemd freely from their coffers to influence politics in the United States through advertising is nothing short of the worst decision ever perpetrated by that institution short of upholding segregation. The Supreme Court's 5-4 vote overturns a 20-year-old ban on businesses and unions using money from their own funds to pay for campaign ads.

The idea that corporations have the same rights as US citizens has been a bone of contention for many years (again due to the Supreme Court) and this ruling continues to erode personal freedom. The recognition by the court that these institutions are allowed to freely spend their capital to influence an election is chilling in states where corporations already have immense influence. The coup de gras is that The Supreme Court also said that any campaign ads that were not paid for by the candidate or their party must be clearly marked with the name of the sponsor.

I think that Justice Stevens in dissenting from the majority has it right when he said the court's decision "operates with a sledge hammer rather than a scalpel" and warned that it may "undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the nation."

Check out this video from Free Speech for People.

Monday, January 18

I Have a Dream: The Party Is Over

In my years being involved in the political process, I believed that party membership had it's privileges. However today, I am convinced that while I can and will support individual candidates for public office, my days of valuing party membership are nearing their end. And this is why.

As any reader of this blog knows, I am a populist progressive. I believe that both parties are in dire need of embracing their grassroots and moving their agendas forward in a way that benefits people. As Paul Wellstone, the late FDL Senator from Minneaota said, "Politics isn't about big money or power games; it's about the improvement of people's lives." Clearly this is not the environment that we are in today.

I believe that the far Right has recognized this and it's Tea Party is a movement that feeds off the frustration that people have in mistrusting the government. Troubling is that the feeding of mistrust has burned from raw emotion and does not rely on much fact.

The far Left, on the other hand, is reeling in bitterness over helping to elect a President and Congress that may only slightly better than its predecessor on important issues. The left is not short on emotion either, but does value good information to make decisions from.

In following the debate on health care reform, it has become imminently clear that a world-class health care program for those without access will not happen and it is not because of demand or good information, it is because of ham-fisted politics. As long as those interests who fund campaigns and write legislation continue to hold sway, it does not matter which party is in power.

On this, the eve of Martin Luther King's birthday, I have a new dream. I dream of a multiparty democracy where no two parties can accomplish their will without collaboration from a third and/or fourth party. Said differently, it is in the national interest of this country to end our dependency on the two party system.

I have a dream that our children and grandchildren will support candidates from the Green Party and Socialist Party, as others support Natural Law or Libertarian candidates. I may not be there to see it with you, but I'd look forward to the seeds being sown in my lifetime.

I have a dream that a Green President will have to negotiate with a Republican/Libertarian majority House, and a Democratic/Socialist majority Senate.

My guess is it will create a challenging environment to get the People's business done, but I also believe that better legislation will come out of it. I also believe that people who have a genuine commitment to public service will step up and true progress can be made.

I look forward when the character of one's soul holds more sway than the letter on the person's voter's registration card. If we can arrive at a place where we can deal with our problems in ways that benefit people, we will be, in the word's of the spiritual, "Free at last, free at last..."

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Statue (of Liberty) "Tory" Rape

The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States to mark the centennial of the Declaration of Independence and "in recognition of the friendship established during the American Revolution." As it turns out, "We the People" weren't originally so crazy about receiving the gift because we had to raise the money privately for a foundation on which it would stand.

According to the Ellis Island-Statue of Liberty Foundation, "Joseph Pulitzer (noted for the Pulitzer Prize) opened up the editorial pages of his newspaper, "The World" to support the fund raising effort. Pulitzer used his newspaper to criticize both the rich who had failed to finance the pedestal construction and the middle class who were content to rely upon the wealthy to provide the funds. Pulitzer's campaign of harsh criticism was successful in motivating the people of America to donate."

Fast forward to noted modern historical authorities Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin discussing our Lady Liberty on his show on 1/14:

BECK: You were — you bring up France — you were telling me before we went on the air stuff I didn't know about the Statue of Liberty and the
24 windows.

PALIN: Twenty-five windows. Yes. [This number is correct, There are 25 windows in the crown which symbolize gemstones and the heaven's rays shining over the world. ]

BECK: What is this?

PALIN: Gems, representing the natural resources in our nation.

BECK: Yes, I didn't — I didn't know that.

PALIN: Well, I had my son Google for me real quick. What does everything mean? What are the symbols?

BECK: Did you think there will be a test on this?

PALIN: Yes. I thought, oh, no, he's going to do a gotcha on what do those seven points mean and that's why I google — I had Track google real quick.


BECK: ... seven points are just rays of light. They're not crown — it's not really a crown of seven, it's the rays of light. Did you ever see the Michaelangelo's Moses where he has horns? [Fact: The seven rays represent the seven seas and continents of the world]


BECK: That's a misinterpretation from the Latin. It can be interpreted rays of light or horns.


BECK: And somehow or another, they interpreted it as horns, but it's actually just the rays of light.

PALIN: Well, so full of symbolism, though. And those seven points represent our seas, our continents. Anyway, my son, I asked him very quickly, "Tell me what all this means." He says, "Quite timely, mom. I'll tell you what the Statue of Liberty means. It just got a tattoo of the Statue of Liberty on my arm." Thanks, Track, for letting me know that.

But I learned a lot about it this morning.

BECK: It's — what people don't understand about this is this almost a — this is France saying to the French, "We need to be more like America." [False: The French government was in the Third Republic by then, already having deposed emperor Napoleon III.]


BECK: And it's interesting now that we have so lost our way.


BECK: ... that we say we need to be more like Europe.

PALIN: Right.

BECK: What we ran from, we seem to have so many in our country trying to run back to.

PALIN: And you're right. Even the French recognized, too, the potential in this free country. And the French gifted this to us, this, in partnership, this international symbol of liberty and freedom — the French hoping that we wouldn't lose that and we won't evolve into something more along their lines. And yet, yes, right, look at this full circle thing.

BECK: Here we are.

Yes, here we are.

More on the Statue of Liberty's actual history here.

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Tuesday, January 12

Viewpoint: The Johnson County Supervisor's Race

Janelle Rettig, Lori Cardella, and Jim Knapp are running hard for the Johnson County Board of Supervisor's vacancy. As such, the campaigning has turned bruising. This is politics--opposing ideas attempting to find concensus.

As a progressive, it would be difficult not to support Janelle Rettig as she is the only true progressive candidate running for the office. What makes the endorsement of Rettig easy for me is that she is the only candidate that has a track record of supporting a human rights ordinance in the county to make sure all residents have the same rights and has fought for sustainable land use and worked for well over a year to secure the support for a land conservation bond issue that passed with over 60% of the voters. She is not a "one trick pony." Add to this that she has studied, participated in boards, and worked for former Congressman Leach and dealt with constituent issues, she understands how policy is made.

Added to this is her commitment to Johnson County as a place where quality of life is part and parcel of "economic development." Taken on the face, Johnson County is the home to a state university and whose largest employers' jobs are in human and educational services. Additionally, it is a destination for retirees and mid-career professionals who seek quality of life issues such as good schools, excellent health care, and recreational amenities. Add to this a mixture of service workers from lower SES to upper middle class who see Johnson County as a more affordable, growing community with opportunities, then you could imagine the importance of amenities like recreation areas, trails, parks, senior services, schools, and the arts.

On the other side of the ledger as the area continues to grow, there are growing pains and conflicts in values. It makes sense to elect people who appreciate diversity of thought as well, and it is a compelling argument to say that a county that has had one party running the show may be seen as being insensitive or uncaring of differing viewpoints. But this may be overstated by those who see themselves as representing those opposing viewpoints.

Partisan politics means that elections have consequences. People vote the way they do for many reasons, not the least of which is they desire the same things that candidates are campaigning on. For opposing views to be successful, they have to understand and articulate what a majority of voters desire and run for office to support those views. Once elected though, those same persons have the responsibility to serve all constituents.

The good news about this special election is that there are two candidates, Lori Cardella and Jim Knapp, who express those opposing views and are campaigning for them. Credit should go to those who petitioned for a special election, and hopefully the state statutes will be changed or be made more specific about when it is appropriate to appoint or hold elections. Whether they are in step or out of step with the majority of voters in the county will be known on January 19th. But it should be noted that they are acting with the same sense of conscience as Janelle Rettig is in standing in opposition to them.

I fully expect that with a reasonable turnout, that Rettig will be handily elected and that it will remove the perceptual "whammy" that being originally appointed has created for her. As both Cardella and Knapp have committed to running in the November election, I sincerely hope they do a good job in listening to all residents of Johnson County, as they have said they would. Perhaps then their message of fiscal conservatism will have to reckon with a constituency that wants to maintain a quality of life. It's a tough balancing act, and frankly, I think that is why Janelle Rettig is so formidable an opponent, she understands this already.

But it is now our responsibility to vote our values and to do it between now and 9 pm on January 19th.

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Friday, January 1

FAIR! and League of Women Voters Sponsor Board of Supervisor Forum

From Carol Spaziani, FAIR! Steering Committee member:

FAIR! will be co-sponsoring with the League of Women Voters a forum for the candidates running for the unexpired term on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors. The election is on Jan. 19 at your regular polling place. The press release below gives you all the details about the forum. We hope many FAIR! members turn out to ask these candidates questions on progressive issues. There are sharp differences among the candidates. Janelle Rettig is currently filling the vacancy by appointment until Jan. 19.

FAIR! has chosen not to endorse a candidate this time in favor of co-sponsoring this opportunity to hear these differences for yourself! If you are unable to attend, try to catch it on a local cable channel, and do definitely VOTE. Given the uncertainty of the weather, it is best to vote early. You can vote now during regular business hours at the County Auditor's office in the County Administration building on So. Dubuque. There will be other opportunities at Hy-Vee, the Public Library,the North Liberty Community Center. Watch the news for times and places.

The candidates vying for the current vacancy on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, Lori Cardella (Rep), Jim Knapp (nominated by petition) and Janelle Rettig (Dem), will share their perspectives and answer audience questions at a candidate forum on January 7th, 2010. The forum, co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Johnson County (LWVJC) and FAIR!, will be held at the Iowa City Public Library,Room A, from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm. A meet and greet will follow from 8:30 pm to
9:00 pm. Refreshments provided by FAIR!

The Special Election is scheduled for January 19th, 2010. The shortened period for campaigning heightened the need for public forums, a need the League of Women Voters of Johnson County consistently meets in the community. The forum will be broadcast live on the Iowa City Public Library Station(cable 10)and rebroadcast on City Channels in Coralville, Iowa City and North Liberty. Allison Werner-Smith, a lawyer and League member, will moderate.

Voting on January 19th, 2010 will be at your regular voting location with early voting available throughout the county. Visit for more information.

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