The Fiftieth Anniversary Of The Last Great Thing About Iowa

If you arrive at the next town before the rhubarb pie is gone you are in the front of the pack. Rhubarb is always the first to go.

RAGBRAI – It’s not about the bikes.

This is the fiftieth anniversary of RAGBRAI.  I have been contemplating lately that RAGBRAI is one of the few remaining great things about Iowa.  We used to have small family farms; we used to be kind of progressive; we used to have the best public schools; we used to have clean water and clean air; we used to have an outstanding Pulitzer prize winning statewide newspaper that Iowa depended on. We used to be able to bike on a two lane rural road without worrying about getting run over or getting a full beer thrown at you.  We used to have Donald Kaul and John Karras. At least we still have Art Cullen. And Caitlin Clark.

Even if you aren’t a cyclist, if you are from Iowa and you have never seen RAGBRAI you should show up for a day. RAGBRAI is Iowa at its best.

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Eggs

I don’t know about you, but I am so sick of hearing about the price of eggs. I guess the price of eggs is supposed to be the symbol of how bad inflation is right now.

The corporate owned media has a culprit for the price of eggs: Avian flu and the culling of sick birds last summer. While that seems like a very rational cause-and-effect classical market driven possibility, Robert Reich in his daily substack newsletter disagrees. 

Considering how much of the recent inflation spiral has been due to rise in corporate profits rather than any real market driven reasons, Reich’s hypothesis has merit.

As to the facts, there’s no doubt egg prices have soared. As CNN reported last week, the average selling price per dozen eggs from Cal-Maine — which controls about 20 percent of the U.S. egg market and sets egg prices nationally — more than doubled last year.

The question is why.

Fox blames avian flu. Avian flu did kill a lot of hens, but according to Farm Action, a farmer-led advocacy organization, in a letter sent last week to the Federal Trade Commission, avian flu did not reduce egg production.

After accounting for chicks hatched during 2022, the average size of the egg-laying flock in any given month of 2022 was never more than 7-8 percent lower than in 2021. And due to record-high rates of egg-laying among the remaining hens — between 1-4 percent higher than the average rate observed between 2017 and 2021 — the industry’s quarterly egg production experienced no substantial decline in 2022 compared to 2021.

So if the supply of eggs didn’t decline, what accounts for the surge in prices?

Fox then blames inflation. “Prices increased across all product categories last year due to high inflation.”

But Cal-Maine’s production costs didn’t jump nearly as high as its prices (as Cal-Maine told its investors).

What did jump was Cal-Maine’s profits. For the 26-week period ending November 26, 2022, Cal-Maine reported a 10-fold year-over-year increase in gross profits. Max Bowman, the chief financial officer of Cal-Maine, conceded that the firm’s high profits were due to “significantly higher selling prices, our enduring focus on cost control, and our ability to adapt to inflationary market pressures.”

Reich’s arguments are well founded and he has the numbers to back up his position. Once again it looks like corporate greed has used the pandemic and the unusual situations that occurred around it as cover to raise prices that raised profits.

Follow the money, follow the money, follow the money.

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Sunday Funday: Is It February Already? Edition

Hey, look who is back up on YouTube? Randy Rainbow!

Four minutes of DEFINITELY NSFW material:

Even with all the strange crap Republicans spew, this story about Republican representative Jeff Shipley of Fairfield really caught my eye. From Iowa Starting Line:

Rep. Jeff Shipley connected the murder of a Fairfield teacher to a student charged in her killing being denied a voucher to leave the public school over his family’s disagreement over masking policy.

Seriously? Seriously? The Fairfield school board’s policy of masking in school during the pandemic caused a teen to commit murder? And this guy represents opinion in his district (Note to self: steer far wide of Fairfield.)

What a strange week. And Republicans’ War on America is just gearing up.

A) Tyre Nichols – who was he?

B) Charles McGonigal – who is he and why is he in the news?

C) How many Republicans in the Iowa legislature voted against Reynolds school voucher bill?

D) What top tech company has had a second antitrust suit filed against them by the DOJ for monopolizing online advertising?

E) Last Friday (January 27th) was the 78th anniversary of what major event that was a harbinger of the end of WWII?

F) What is the theme for Black History Month 2023?

G) In a truly bizarre action Florida freshman congress member Cory Mills sent what strange gift to other members of congress to introduce himself?

H) The New York Times revealed in a massive report Thursday that what two DOJ higher ups distorted their findings to make it look like Trump was being set up by the FBI?

I) What top Democratic leader said “Democrats will not pay a ransom note to the GOP over the debt ceiling”?

J) Speaking of the debt ceiling, what percentage of the debt ceiling was rolled up in the Trump administration?

K) Thursday the FBI acting with international policing agencies announced they shut down an International criminal syndicate that dealt in what cyber crime?

L) Black History Month – who was Fannie Lou Hamer? (Hint: 1964 Democratic convention)

M) Two were killed and one injured at the Starts Right Here mentorship prorgram in what Iowa city last week?

N) Republicans started the week by proposing a what percent sales tax and doing away with all other federal taxes?

O) Who is the first female, first black and first Asian American vice-president?

P) In a surprise during an interview what top religious figure stated that “Being homosexual isn’t a crime.”?

Q) The Biden Administration protected what state’s Boundary Waters Wilderness from mining for 20 years last week?

R) The makers of what famous whiskey brand is being sued because its mini bottle of whiskey have no whiskey in. Them?

S) Iowa Republicans took a lot of heat early this week as they tried to excessively crack down on what recipients of what federal program could buy?

T) Who is the last draftee in the NFL draft last summer (called ‘Mr. Irrelevant’) who will be leading San Francisco in the NFC League Championship game tonight?

holy fucking shit, Donald Trump’s tax cuts for the obscenely wealthy are responsible for a QUARTER OF OUR NATION’S ENTIRE DEBT and Republicans want to cut YOUR social security to pay for it, and that’s what this debt ceiling bullshit is all about. fucking unacceptable – Jeff Tiedrich tweet about debt ceiling and threatened Social Security cuts:

Tip of the hat to EarlG on democraticunderground.com

Answers:

A) Tyre Nichols is the young man who was beaten to death in Memphis following a traffic stop

B) McGonigal was a former FBI counterintelligence officer was arrested Monday for his ties to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska

C) 12

D) Google

E) the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp

F) Black Resistance

G) dummy hand grenades (but they looked real)

H) former AG Bill Barr and his special council John Durham

I) House Minority leader Hakeem Jeffries

J) 25%

K) ransom ware

L) in 1964 Hamer was the vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party which tried to supplant the regular (and racist) Democratic Party at the convention

M) Des Moines

N)  30% – Such a tax would fall heaviest on the poor and middle class and barely bother the wealthy

O) Kamala Harris of course

P) Pope Francis (it is a sin though he noted)

Q) Minnesota’s

R) Fireball 

S) SNAP recipients. Republicans wanted to stop them from being able to buy suck staples as meat and vegetables

T) Iowa Stae’s Brock Purdy

Can’t we please get a single journalist to go to some rural diner and ask republicans there why they support getting rid of their social security and Medicare? – GPovall tweet

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Iowa School Vouchers Redux

Seems like every place I go these days when I run into fellow Iowan, all they want to talk about is why is Iowa trying to wreck its public schools? Why is Corporate Kim taking money from public schools which have school boards and oversight and laundering it through parents to give it to private, mostly religious schools?

I am sure I do not know. Reynolds is merely a cog in a nationwide Republican machine whose goal is to trash anything that has been put together in this country to promote some part of life for the common good. Often these entities have the word “public” in their name. 

Where Democrats see a common good and a common need, Republicans see something that should be trashed in order for some individual or corporation to make a buck on it. Public housing, public parks, public schools, public pools, public transportation, public highways – you name it and somewhere there is a Republican scheming how to trash it and make a buck off of it.

And so we now have Corporate Kim doing what her bosses – looking to make a buck – want by drawing a bead on Iowa’s once highly regarded public school system so it can be targeted for dismantling. And she covers it with bullshit talk about “choice.” She could care less about choice. She cares about handing your tax dollars to private schools, mostly religious in nature through a laundering strategy known as giving it to parents to spend.

As most things in Iowa, there will be some talk for a while and then the Republicans will move on to another insane idea such as starving cities and counties by cutting property taxes and school vouchers will be forgotten. Iowans are great at forgetting about outrages brought on by Republicans in the legislature.

We have been down this road many times. The one that comes immediately to my mind is the privatization of Medicaid in Iowa. Hundreds of millions of dollars that once went to medical services for the poor in Iowa now go to “management companies.” Administration that once cost about $100 million now costs Iowans a $1 billion. The difference is money that once went to medical services now goes to some corporate bottom line.

But, as Republicans have come up with even more outrageous ideas, old outrages simply fall off the radar. Union busting gave way to Medicaid privatization which gave way to property tax cutting and starving of cities and counties, which gave way to voter suppression. 

As Iowans watch their schools, particularly rural schools shrivel under these new policies Republicans will create a new outrageous diversion and we will forget about the schools drying up. 

Iowa Starting Line had a great analysis of how the vouchers will really work and how that will serve in dismantling Iowa’s public schools:  

Over the last week or so I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the arguments lobbed in support and opposition to the Governor’s proposal for state-funded K-12 ESAs. It wouldn’t be news to Starting Line readers that there is a lot to worry about, particularly the deceptive, overgeneralized, and just plain untrue arguments manufactured by state GOP and uncritically repeated by residents in their social circles and on Nextdoor. (I’m not sure about y’all but my neighborhood network has been blowing up.)

In a profession like mine, it’s hard to know where to start when everything is so egregiously out of line, but when I think about the portion of the argument people seem most confident in repeating, I see a path for school advocates to make some headway.

Reynolds’ argument is simple on its face: the state sends roughly $7,500 per student to public schools; why not increase students’ and families’ choices by allowing them to take $7,500 to whichever school they choose, including private/charter schools? It seems rational, especially in a political/economic climate when people already feel pressed by rising costs and stagnant wages. Reynolds’ proposal offers the promise of greater control over your “own” money (that is collected by the state in the form of taxes).

But here’s the thing: it’s misleading to directly attach that $7,500 figure to the idea of a single student or a single taxpayer. Misleading, because: whether a family has one child, no children, or ten children, their tax contribution doesn’t change much, right? This $7,500 is simply a way to estimate the taxpayer portion of the per-student expenditure at the state level, but no one single taxpayer is contributing this amount; like every other tax-funded service, the cost is shared across multiple revenue streams, local taxpayers being only one such stream.

The analysis goes on and gets much deeper. I have reread this article several times to understand the nuances that Republicans are lying about.

Let me add a couple other thoughts. Private schools do not have oversight by any school board or other public group. They are businesses, even if they are religious schools. They are beholden to a board of directors who are in no way picked by any public process. 

Secondly there is some mythos that private is better. That is not necessarily true. Usually it depends on particular schools being evaluated.

Third and finally remember that private schools can reject students whereas public schools have no such latitude. So private schools can to some degree pick their student body.

This also is a very blatant, yet thanks to SCOTUS, legal way to give tax money to church functions through a laundering strategy using parents as the launderer. 

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Robert Reich On The Debt Ceiling

Five truths about the pending debt-ceiling fight that the mainstream media doesn’t want you to know

“Both-sides”ism is rampant. And it’s seriously misleading the public.

For his Tuesday sub stack newsletter former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich takes on the so-called “debt ceiling fight.” Once again it is a fight that Republicans only care about when a Democrat is president. During the presidencies of  both Bushes and Trump Republicans just raised the ceiling without a peep.

Reich also points out is the media’s complicity in making this a “fight.” They do this for ratings. Remember the old axiom about news in general whether it be TV, radio, internet or printed page – “If it bleeds, it leads.” And of course if it doesn’t bleed, the media does all it can to open the wounds so it will bleed and get ratings.

And that is where we are at with the debt ceiling. There is no real fight. What we have is a Republican created terrorist attack on the American economy in pursuit of ending the major safety net programs from the New Deal. They are literally holding the country hostage and threatening to crash the most stable economy in the world. They want to basically end this country as we know it for their goals to make people suffer.

If Republicans were truly serious about their stated goals of taking on the deficit, the first thing they would do would be to reverse their many tax cuts for the rich since the time of Reagan. So where are their proposals for raising taxes? If they were serious about reformingSocial Security they would raise the salary cap for taxes going into Social Security.

They have simply run up the bill and now refuse to pay it, threatening civilization in the process. And our media is giving them cover.

Here are the five points that Secretary Reich makes on the debt ceiling and the media:

Truth #1: The fight is being waged solely by the Republican Party. The Democrats did not pick this fight. When Trump occupied the White House, Republicans voted to increase the debt limit three times without incident. Over the last quarter century, it has been raised over a dozen times.

Truth #2: The fight has nothing whatever to do with controlling the national debt. It has to do with paying the nation’s bills. The “debt ceiling” is merely an accounting convention. The national debt is comprised of obligations already incurred. If Republicans were serious about controlling the national debt, they’d be willing to consider tax increases — including repeal of the giant Trump tax cut that went mostly to big corporations and the very rich. But the national debt isn’t on their minds.

Truth #3: For the last half century, Democratic administrations have been more fiscally responsible than Republican ones. I was part of Bill Clinton’s administration, which balanced the federal budget after Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush had racked up record deficits. Obama cleaned up after George W. Bush’s runaway spending and tax cuts. The Trump administration added a whopping $7 trillion to the national debt.

Truth #4: The real reason Republicans are waging this fight is they see it as a backdoor way of attacking the two most popular (and largest) safety nets in the federal government: Social Security and Medicare. They dare not take on these programs directly. But the GOP believes that negotiating over the debt ceiling gives them an opportunity to begin to shrink these programs.

Truth #5: The act of holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage is the economic equivalent of aiming a nuclear missile at the American (and world) economies and demanding concessions. It’s not a bargaining tactic. It’s a terrorist tactic.

Secretary Reich discusses each point. As usual his comments are pointed, hitting with a powerful punch.

Note the last point – it is a terrorist tactic aimed at OUR country! National policy is to NOT NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS! That includes domestic terrorists posing as a political party.

Posted in debt ceiling, Health Care & Medicare, Medicare, Republican hypocrisy, Republican mythology, Republican Policy, Social Security | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Iowa Democratic Leaders Weekly Live Press Conference

Weekly live press conference with House Democratic Leader Rep. Jennifer Konfrst and Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls.

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We Have More Guns Than People

The latest Podcast by George offers a sobering conversation about America’s continuing sick obsession with guns.  To follow Podcast- By George see links below.

“Why don’t we do something? Joe Gorton with Brady United talks abut gun-toting America on Podcast- By George

 https://ia.bradyunited.org/
https://www.podcastbygeorge.com
www.youtube.com/c/podcastbyge...
https://www.facebook.com/podcastbygeorge
https://twitter.com/PodcastByGeorge
https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast
https://open.spotify.com/show/74LPz0c...

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State Auditor Says Reynolds’ Voucher Bill “Fundamentally Irresponsible”

State Auditor Rob Sand released the following statement yesterday about Kim Reynolds’ school voucher bill. [Bolding is BFIA’s]

Whether you call them ESAs or vouchers, as Iowa’s taxpayer watchdog I am alarmed by the intentional lack of transparency and accountability under the proposed legislation.

This bill gives private schools your tax dollars, and gives you no right to know what they are doing with them.

Existing law requires public schools to have open meetings, maintain and produce public records, and have elected citizen oversight. They must follow budgeting laws. They must have an annual audit. We learn of waste, fraud, and abuse of tax dollars in part because of these obligations. None of these obligations apply to private schools the same way. This bill won’t change that.

Also, this bill provides no rules for how private school use these funds. After a private school gets public dollars as tuition, they could buy a teacher or teachers brand new Ford Mustang convertibles in the name of incentive pay. The public may not find out at all, and if they did, there may be no recourse for taxpayers. That is flatly, fundamentally irresponsible.

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Governor Reynolds Offers Prayers Again

Tragic Shooting: Gov. Reynolds Owes An Apology

Des Moines, Iowa — Progress Iowa Executive Director Matt Sinovic issued the following statement in response to the tragic shooting at the Starts Right Here in Des Moines, and the Governor’s continued failure :

“I’m a parent. I want our kids to be safe at daycare and at school. I want our entire family to live without the lurking fear of yet another tragic shooting. Unfortunately, Governor Reynolds doesn’t care about our safety.

“She has spent years making gun violence worse by loosening or removing common sense safety laws. She has issued statement after statement offering prayers while offering no real action to improve safety. She is gaslighting all of us. We deserve better and so do our kids.”

“My heart is broken for the victims, their families, and the entire community at Starts Right Here. In addition to her prayers, Governor Reynolds should issue an apology for her failure and immediately put forward gun safety measures, like background checks, to keep our kids safe.”

###

Gov. Reynolds Statement on Shooting

DES MOINES – Today Gov. Reynolds released the following statement in response to the shooting at Starts Right Here:

“I am shocked and saddened to hear about the shooting at Starts Right Here. I’ve seen first-hand how hard Will Keeps and his staff works to help at-risk kids through this alternative education program. My heart breaks for them, these kids and their families. Kevin and I are praying for their safe recovery.”

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KCCI Interview Exposes Reynolds’ Deeply Flawed Voucher Plan

Screenshot of Gov. Reynolds being asked a question by KCCI reporter Amanda Rooker

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ voucher scam is being voted on today in the Iowa House and although there is talk that it may not pass, it seems likely that it is a done deal. Still,  kudos to KCCI chief political reporter Amanda Rooker for asking tough questions and getting in follow up questions, politely not letting Reynolds off the hook.

As practiced as Reynolds is in the art of word salad, she stumbled badly at least twice due to skillful questioning from Rooker. There were a couple of very embarrassing pauses, one in which Reynolds visibly stammered and faltered before she got a reply out.  If you were a Reynolds supporter you would have cringed. Rooker got Reynolds to admit on camera (1) she doesn’t know the cost of her plan; (2) there will be an outside entity administering the plan –  and she doesn’t know what company that will be; (3) the legislators will not know the full cost of her plan before having to vote on it; and (4) private schools will not be held to the same standards as public schools.

When Rooker asked her about private schools having the ability to reject any kid for any reason, Reynolds said, “They’ll sit down with the superintendents of the private schools and they’ll have those conversations.” This and more make it an excellent interview that exposes Reynolds’ lack of character, lack of knowledge and in any other world but right wing Trump world, her unsuitability for the job of governor.

I hope you watch and share, even if the terrible voucher plan is a done deal, which at this writing is still not known. Reynolds avoids the press like the plague (preferring to reach her right wing base via Fox) and this interview provides a rare glimpse at how she performs when not at the Iowa State Fair or on the campaign trail or in friendly interviews with the Iowa Press panel.

I still didn’t get my question asked, that being how can she complain about Iowa’s “failed” public schools when Republicans have had a trifecta in state government since 2017 and Republican lack of support over the last decade could be said to be responsible for whatever condition they are in. But despite that frustration, I will say Amanda Rooker did an outstanding job asking  questions  that needed to be asked and to borrow a tired cliche, holding Reynolds’ feet to the fire.  Iowa needs more reporters that are willing to go to bat for the public good.

See links below the video if you would like to take action on on the voucher scam.

Take Action To Stop Vouchers

From Iowa House Democrats:

As of right now, we still do not know if there are enough votes to pass the bill. With all Democrats opposed, there are still many GOP lawmakers on the fence about the bill. It’s no surprise that Reynolds is twisting arms and threatening to primary anyone who doesn’t agree with her voucher bill again this year. For the Governor, this isn’t about kids, it’s about political power.

To counter that, we need more Iowans who live in Republican districts to contact their state lawmakers by 1 pm on Monday.

Here’s what we need you to do:

If your state lawmakers are Republicans, contact them again by email, phone, or come to the Statehouse to try and talk with them in person before 1 pm. It’s likely both parties will be in meetings preparing for debate most of the afternoon. Find the contact info for your lawmakers here. Please be respectful. The folks we need to vote no won’t respond if we just make this a partisan fight. This isn’t about party. This bill is simply bad for Iowa kids.

If your state lawmakers are Democrats, look through your contacts and text your family members, friends, or co-workers who live in GOP districts and ask them to contact their legislators and say vote NO on vouchers. Most people don’t know who their legislators are, so look it up for them and provide the contact information they need to reach their own lawmaker. Find lawmakers here.

Sign our petition: No Vouchers in Iowa and then share it with your friends & family. If you’ve already signed it, please just share it again so more Iowans see what’s happening and take action. The more Iowans learn about it, the less they like it.

If you plan to come to the State Capitol Monday, please know that debate won’t likely start until at least 4 pm. We’ll do our best to keep apprised of any changes to the schedule as the day unfolds.

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