The Most Important Freedom Is The Freedom Of Expression

Photo Credit – Simon Gibbs via Wikimedia Commons

The Most Important Freedom is the Freedom of Expression
By Ralph Scharnau

Freedom of expression or speech is the most fundamental right in the United States. It means citizens have the right to freely express themselves and their opinions.

Although our history is replete with examples where it was not always protected and defended, polls indicate that Americans consider this freedom more important than religious freedom and due process rights.

Freedom of expression, after all, captures how we view ourselves individually and as a nation. The utterance is commonplace in everyday conversations among Americans. It provides the historical foundation of our two most revered documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

The history of the republic presents us with a story about expanding freedom of expression to include more and more people. Amendments to the Constitution constitute the primary way this was accomplished. The first ten Amendments (Bill of Rights) guarantee civil liberties. Subsequent Amendments ended slavery, defined citizenship, and extended the franchise to blacks, women, and 18-year-olds.

Women, racial and ethnic minorities, workers, and others have struggled to deepen and transform the definition of freedom of expression. Over several generations, some real strides have been made in reducing disparities based on race and sex. Women and minorities have secured greater access in the areas of employment, politics, education and athletics. In 1998, an amendment to the Iowa constitution brought equal legal rights to women.

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal nationwide. No longer can states deny gay men and lesbian women the same marriage rights as opposite-sex couples. In 2009, Iowa became only the third state in the union to give same-sex couples the right to marry in a unanimous ruling of the state’s Supreme Court.

Belief in freedom of expression as an inherent right of all people has coexisted with persistent efforts to limit this freedom by race, gender, class, and in other ways. Limiting it can be traced to slaves, immigrants, the poor, and others. The meaning of freedom of expression has been constructed at various levels, in congressional debates, in political essays, on picket lines, and even in bedrooms.

The promise of our nation’s freedom of expression for all leaves no one out. All individuals should have the right to pursue their dreams, regardless of who they are, who they love, or where they live.

When Republicans control the legislative and judicial branches, we get government that services the rich and takes from everyone else. Whether it’s health care policies, protecting the environment, supporting workers, advocating for minorities, or promoting safety, profits and wealth “trump” all other concerns.

Presidents and the press have clashed since the birth of the republic. But no president in living memory has conducted such an incendiary, dogged, and slanderous attack on the news media comparable to Trump.

Trump has also spewed his venom on other communities who voiced opposition to his administration, undermining the constitutional freedom of speech and press enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution. While vilifying his critics (MSNBC), Trump applauds and offers special access to those praising his administration (Fox and Friends).

Today the idea of freedom of expression continues to circumscribe our culture and politics. The term remains vigorously contested. The debates will continue and new definitions will emerge.

Liberals insist that freedom should be shared by all, not just the rich and powerful. This is an ongoing struggle to secure the right of everyone to equal opportunity, regardless of skin color, sexual identity, and economic status.

Ralph Scharnau

Posted in Progressive Community, progressive values | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Support For Rita Hart

Rita Hart

I first heard Rita Hart, candidate for U.S. Congress in Iowa’s second district, speak on Friday, June 26, 2015, at Gil’s Restaurant, Ballroom and Limousine Service in Clinton at the Clinton County Democrats Hall of Fame Dinner. I have no recollection of what she said as the number of speakers was large, and my memory not as good as it used to be.

I’m supporting Hart for Congress for three reasons: she is a two-term former state senator, as our lieutenant governor candidate in 2018 she helped organize the second district for Democrats, and she has an education and farming background. I already sent a small donation.

Of the two announced Democratic candidates, I know the other better, Newman Abuissa of Iowa City. I like Abuissa a lot, and am aware of his contributions to Iowa Democratic politics and the peace and justice movement. However, this is his first campaign for elected office and we need an experienced campaigner to keep this seat Democratic. Hart has a D behind her name, won her two races for state senator, and has the bona fides of a campaigner to support it. That’s enough for this open race, one of many important ones in the 2020 general election.

What about policy, one might ask. I didn’t agree with every vote Dave Loebsack made during his tenure, and don’t expect I will like every vote Rita Hart makes. I no longer seek a perfect candidate and Dave Loebsack’s endorsement of Hart is what I needed to hear before putting a check mark next to her name on the primary ballot.

View Rita Hart’s Announcement video here.

View Rita Hart’s TED Talk titled Re-envisioning Education – Seeing Schools Differently here.

Donate to Rita Hart’s campaign here.

Follow Rita Hart on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in politics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Support For Newman Abuissa

Newman Abuissa. Photo Credit – University of Iowa Center for Human Rights

Editor’s Note: Newman Abuissa formally announced his candidacy to represent Iowa’s second district in the U.S. Congress at an event in Iowa City on Sunday, June 30. While Rita Hart is favored to win almost a year from the primary election, Abuissa is well known for his work with the Democratic Party and in the peace and justice community. Ed Flaherty, a long-time contributor to Blog for Iowa and a co-founder of the Iowa Chapters of Veterans for Peace supports Abuissa.

Support Abuissa for Congress
By Ed Flaherty

I support Newman Abuissa’s candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District. Newman was born in Syria, came to the U.S. as a young man, and has been an engineer with the Iowa Department of Transportation for 30 years.

He is a leader in his church, the Iowa City community, and the Iowa Democratic Party.

His candidacy is unique in several ways, all of which will help make him a strong member of the U.S. Congress. As an immigrant, he has a broader view of the world than most.

While he is very thankful for his home and U.S. citizenship, he is particularly disappointed in our country’s failures to live up to its potential. Friends and relatives of his remain in Syria, and his daily worries and thoughts about them help inform his passion.

Newman is unique in that he connects the dots between our huge military budget and the neglect of peaceful priorities. He sees that our endless wars create an awful reputation for the U.S. abroad.

He sees that green economic development here in Eastern Iowa is impeded by our tendency to equate strength with military might.

Please give Newman Abuissa your close consideration.

~ This post first appeared as a letter to the editor of the Iowa City Press Citizen

Posted in Guest Posts, politics, Progressive Community, progressive values | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

We’ve Got To Do Something

U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C.

Over the weekend Erin Murphy, a Lee Enterprises Des Moines-based reporter, said it was quiet in Iowa’s congressional primary races.

“Perhaps in the coming weeks and months, some of these quieter primary races will become more crowded,” Murphy wrote in the Quad City Times. “For now, though, the fairly low level of interest from candidates has been surprising.”

Murphy recounted the five 2020 congressional delegation races, noted who was in each race, and which were conspicuous by the absence of a declared candidate from one party or the other (a Democrat in Iowa 4 and a Republican in Iowa 2*). It is a long time until the June 2020 primary election, so Murphy’s surprise seems premature, even if he acknowledged the 11 months in the article.

My sense, from talking to Democratic voters, is there is near universal belief “we have to do something.” By that, they mean overturn Republican control of the presidency, keep the U.S. House and retake the U.S. Senate, and win one or both chambers of the state legislature. People are dead serious about it and seem willing to devote resources to making it happen. They will be sure to show up to vote in the general election.

The disconnect, and maybe the premise for Murphy’s article, is between the “we have to do something” feeling and nominees produced by the party. Voters I talk to don’t care that much about who is nominated for Congress and U.S. Senate unless they are an incumbent. They just know what we have now isn’t working.

I know what that’s like. We had to do something toward the end of George W. Bush’s first term. My response was to pick a race, focus, donate money, and volunteer every chance I got. I felt long-time Congressman Jim Leach had to go. While the Democratic challenger Dave Franker wasn’t the best candidate, everyone who volunteered on his campaign worked hard toward his election. “It didn’t work out well,” I mentioned to Dave Loebsack via email when he established an exploratory committee for the Second District Congressional seat in March 2005.

I put 2004 behind me and re-started my effort to ouster the incumbent. Voters I spoke with on the telephone and in person had turned against the once popular Leach. It almost didn’t matter our candidate was Dave Loebsack, because the expressed need for change was so prevalent. We went into election night not knowing if we’d win but hopeful based on the large number of voters who’d had it with the incumbent. As we now know, Loebsack was successful in defeating him.

I haven’t started door knocking or calling voters in 2019. As I mentioned, “we have to do something,” and that’s similar to 2006 which was the beginning of a Democratic wave that culminated in a national trifecta in 2008.

Why is it so quiet in the congressional races in July? I’m not sure that’s an accurate statement. Maybe there are less candidates running, however, the noise, if there is any, is more among rank and file Democrats, particularly those who are normally less active, taking it all in and discussing politics with friends and family. They need space to consider candidates in lives that don’t normally revolve around partisan politics. Outside the presidential preference at the February caucus, most don’t really care who nominees are as long as there is a D behind their name and candidates act like it. People are making room for politics in busy lives, but it hasn’t the high priority that will drive a more exciting race of the kind Murphy was expecting.

Resolved not to let Trump and the Republican policies stand, people seem hunkered down trying to make a go of it in an economy that favors the wealthy and where corporations strive to squeeze regular people out of every last dime. Maintaining the type of resolve needed to change our government takes energy, just a different kind than what’s represented in an active, multi-candidate primary.

People say an open primary and debate between multiple candidates is good for the party. I don’t know about that. Rank and file view it differently and people seem to take stock before declaring candidacy, realizing the financial investment in one of these five races will be significant. Maybe what you see is what you get and others don’t want to run of office.

July 2019 may be the quiet before a political storm that’s brewing next year.

* On July 8, Erin Murphy reported that Bobby Schilling filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission to run for Congress in Iowa’s second district as a Republican.

Posted in politics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

$750 Billion, Who Cares?

Ed Flaherty

$750 Billion, Who Cares?
By Ed Flaherty

In another wonderful example of bipartisan cooperation, the U.S. Senate on June 27 passed the National Defense Authorization Act by a vote of 86-8.  The headlines of all media, conservative and liberal, should be screaming.  This bill authorizes a 2020 military budget of $750 billion.  (Compare that to $618 billion in 2017).  Military spending will be $33 Billion more that in FY 2019.  If every man, woman, and child in the U.S. were to pay for the $750 billion military expenditures, it would be $2,278 per capita.  Of course, if war spending were to be financed that way, the voices of protest would be loud.  But, we don’t finance war that way.  We simply add it to our national debt.

There are so many dimensions to this insanity that it is hard to begin.  Some simple comparisons might be helpful.  The 2020 budget for the Center for Disease Control is $6.6 billion.  The 2020 budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency is $5.54 billion.  The 2020 budget for the Environmental Protection Agency is $6.08 billion.  The total of those three agencies’ budgets is $18.22 billion.  The INCREASE in the military budget is 1.8 times those three agencies’ total budgets.

A big increase in the budget for mental health may be what is most needed now.

~ Ed Flaherty, a former banker, now works for peace.

Posted in Progressive Community | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Reminder: ProgressIowa Corn Feed Next Sunday

Reposted from last week. Being lazy on the holiday weekend

Coming off some great performances by nearly everyone at the debates last week we want to remind you that Progress Iowa will have their annual get together know as the corn feed. In a major change this year the gathering will be taking place at the New Bo district of Cedar Rapids. This is a major shift from their old venue in Des Moines.

With the election looming, Progress Iowa will be bringing in any candidate looking for a crowd. As of this writing 12 of the current candidates are planning on appearing. There may be more yet to sign up.

Sunday, July 14th starting at noon in Cedar Rapids New Bo district, 1100 3rd St SE, Cedar Rapids, 1100 3rd St SE, Cedar Rapids, 1100 3rd St. SE Cedar Rapids, Ia.

progressiowa cornfeed

Posted in #trumpresistance, 2020 election campaign, Blog for Iowa, Progress Iowa | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sunday Funday: “Drunken History?” Edition

Trump history

tip of the hat to EarlG at

Dear Leader vs. history (excerpt from July 4th, 2019 speech at the National Mall):

“In June of 1775 the Continental Congress created a unified Army out of the Revolutionary Forces encamped around Boston and New York, and named after the great George Washington, commander-in-chief. The Continental Army suffered a bitter winter of Valley Forge, found glory across the waters of the Delaware and seized victory from Cornwallis of Yorktown,” Trump said.

Then, he went off the rails and seemingly mixed up the Revolutionary War with the War of 1812. “Our Army manned the air, it rammed (?) the ramparts, it took over airports, it did everything it had to do. And at Fort McHenry, under the rockets’ red glare, had nothing but victory. When dawn came, the star-spangled banner waved defiant.”

In fairness, Dear Leader did not serve in either war because of his bone spurs.

It just gets worse.

  1. Despite Dear Leader’s event being on a national holiday at a national park, tickets were distributed by what group for the event?
  1. Can’t be too tough. Dear Leader is reportedly ready to let what country keep its current stockpile of nuclear weapons?
  1. In a major lie upon meeting with Kim Jung Un, Dear Leader claimed that what other American leader had begged to come to North Korea but was denied by Kim?
  1. Wednesday brought the report of the demise of what publication that is considered one of the great humor magazines in American history?
  1. The 4th of July saw Democratic presidential candidates all over Iowa. What 2 candidates ran into each other at an Iowa Cubs baseball game Thursday night?
  1. Which Democratic candidate raised an astounding $24.8 million last quarter?
  1. America was fooled into thinking that Dear Leader had given up on the census citizenship question Monday because Monday (July 1) was the deadline for what to happen?
  1. In ongoing protests in what Chinese territory, protestors broke into the legislative chambers Monday?
  1. What administration official was roasted on Twitter for inserting herself in inappropriate historical situations after she did so during the G20?
  1. For the final photo of the G20 meeting, Dear Leader poses himself next to what Middle Eastern monarch?
  1. Once the only Republican to stand up and say Dear Leader was involved in crimes as reported in the Mueller Report, what Michigander left the Republican Party this week?
  1. What business leader, who counted the Ford Mustang and saving Chrysler from bankruptcy among his accomplishments, died this week at age 95?
  1. WNBA star Sue Bird expressed outrage because Dear Leader was publicly bashing Bird’s girlfriend. Who is Sue Bird’s girlfriend?
  1. The US was screaming last week the Iran had exceeded the stockpile of what commodity agreed to in a treaty that the US has pulled out of?
  1. “I’m 10-15” is a secret facebook group with crude jokes about the death of immigrants and other similar crude material, included nearly half of what group that deals with immigrants?
  1. Anchorage, Alaska called off fireworks on July 4th die to what weather phenomena?
  1. Speaking freaky weather, what major Mexican city was blanketed in as much as 5 feet of hail last Sunday?
  1. During an interview with Tucker Carlson, Dear Leader claimed that what is a new problem (in the past two years) in cities?
  1. “Super nests” of what insects – some as big as VW cars – are appearing across Alabama due to much warmer winters?
  1. What early American flag has been tied into a new controversy where flags before slaves were freed have become symbols for right wingers?

Image (2) fugelsang-republicans-love-government-300x283.jpg for post 31993


  1. Republican National Committee – that seems to make it a partisan event that we paid for
  1. North Korea. After all if you can’t trust Kim Jung Un, who can you trust?
  1. President Obama
  1. Mad Magazine
  1. Joe Biden and Beto O’Rourke
  1. Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  1. July 1 was the deadline for the questionnaires to begin printing.
  1. Hong Kong
  1. Ivanka Trump
  1. MBS of Saudi Arabia
  1. Justin Amash
  1. Lee Iacocca
  1. Soccer star Megan Rapinoe
  1. Enriched uranium.
  1. Border patrol agents
  1. Extreme heat and fire hazards
  1. Guadalajara 
  1. Homelessness
  1. Yellow Jackets
  1. The Betsy Ross flag

identity politics Tim Wise

Posted in #trumpresistance, Humor | Leave a comment

Lights For Liberty Protests July 12



At hundreds of locations around the country Friday night July 12th there will be vigils to protest the inhumane incarceration of immigrants at the border. We have all seen the incredible photos and videos of children in cages on cement floors cakes in feces and urine. This is not the America we grew up in, this is not the Americ we believe in!

Events in Iowa:  (more may be coming so check again before Friday)  


  • Friday, July 12, 2019 at 7:00 PM CDT

Homestead 1839  701 W. Agency Road, West Burlington, Iowa 52655


  • Friday, July 12, 2019 at 7:00 PM – 9:30 PM CDT

Federal Court House in Cedar Rapids , IA Lot 44 861 2nd St. SE , Cedar Rapids



  • Friday, July 12, 2019 at 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM CDT
  • Iowa State Capitol1007 E Grand Ave, Des Moines, Iowa 5031 



  • Friday, July 12, 2019 at 7:30 PM – 9:15 PM CDT
  • Polk County Jail1985 NE 51st Pl, Des Moines, Iowa 50313



  • Friday, July 12, 2019 at 7:30 PM – 9 PM
  • City Square ParkFort Dodge, Iowa 50501


  • Friday, July 12, 2019 at 7 PM – 9:15 PM

Story County Justice Center, 1315 S B Ave, Nevada Iowa


  • Friday, July 12, 2019 at 8:30 PM – 9:30 PM

Awaysis Park, 1409 E Lakeshore Dr, Storm Lake, IA 50588

Posted in #trumpresistance, Immigration | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Great Ideas For All VS. A Party Of A Few

Among the many truisms about America that we learn growing up is the concept that elections are usually fought on the plain of ideas. That is that the candidate or party with the better ideas for making citizen’s lives better will be the candidate that will carry the day. The coming presidential election will be a real test of the truth of that little saying.

An article on caught my eye on the night of the fourth. The story was of yet another Democratic presidential candidate proposing yet another solid and workable solution to yet another looming problem. 

In this case the problem is the coming long term care that will be needed for the aging population that currently has no good solutions. The state of Washington, under the governorship of Democratic presidential candidate Jay Inslee, is implementing a plan that will begin covering folks in in a couple years. The plan looks like one that could be implemented nationwide:

“The slowly ticking time bomb all health care wonks have been thinking about for decades is inextricably speeding up as the population ages: long-term care and the utter lack of humane solutions we’ve been able to come up with as a society. One state, however, is figuring out how to do it. Absent inclusion of long-term care in an eventual top-to-bottom healthcare system reform, Washington state is providing the model.

There are essentially three ways that care for sick, elderly, and fundamentally disabled people is covered: personal wealth (which runs out fast); private insurance; and Medicaid. Private long-term coverage plans are often prohibitively expensive, with people paying for coverage they may never use. Unlike standard health insurance, which some people seem to have a hard enough time grasping as essential, no one can be certain they’ll use that long-term care insurance, so it has a limited market. That means premiums have to be set high. The Medicaid alternative is the most common, forcing families to deliberately impoverish themselves to meet the income limits.

What Washington has done under Gov. Jay Inslee (a Democratic candidate for president), is to create the Long-Term Care Trust Act. Christopher F. Koller, president of the Milbank Memorial Fund and Terry Fulmer, president of the John A. Hartford Foundation, describe it: “It is old-fashioned social insurance, collecting funds from a broad population to pay for the future needs of those who need assistance. Workers will pay a mandatory payroll tax, but a small one: 58 cents per month for every $100 income starting in 2022. That works out to $18 a year for the average wage earner. These contributions will be banked in a trust fund.

A very sensible plan for a looming problem that will be hitting nearly every family at some time. 

This is yet another in the string of policy proposals from Democrats to address many of this country’s problems large and small. Many of the proposals have come from current Democratic presidential candidates. Other ideas have come from members of congress. 

Proposals that have been offered by Democratic candidates include among others:

  • Climate solutions for what will be an existential threat for the planet. Perhaps the first proposal offered was by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but pretty much every presidential candidate has offered some solution.
  • Solutions to get access to health care for every American
  • Solutions to address the student debt crisis and to stop it from happening again.
  • Solutions to immigration questions. The Trump created problems on the border are as inhuman as America has ever had.
  • Strengthening and extending Social Security. Medicare and Medicaid would be strengthened through universal health care coverage.
  • Addressing environmental problems that are beyond climate change problems.
  • Addressing wealth inequality which leads to a huge discrepancy in political power.
  • Addressing near monopolistic corporations.
  • Addressing racial divisions and other divisions ( eg gender) in our society
  • Make elections more transparent and open to all citizens.

We have major problems. The Democratic Party through its members and candidates have at least proposed solutions. Something simply must be done. If ignored, many of these problems will become (some already are) disastrous situations for our country.

The right in this country is generally devoid of ideas beyond letting those chosen by some God (as evidenced by their wealth) run things. Trump is the essence of that philosophy. What are their proposals for the above problems?

  • Continue on the path we are. Ignore warning signs and deny humanity’s role in climate change.
  • Privatize health care. End the ACA, Medicare and Medicaid. The invisible hand of the market will create solutions.
  • Leave student debt as it is. Do nothing to make college more available to lower and middle class students.
  • Basically shut down immigration from all but a few countries.
  • The current administration is working on a plan to gut Social Security. Known as chained CPI,  their plan will choke the value of SS payments.
  • Let industry do what they want to the environment.
  • Make wealth inequality greater, end minimum wage, bust unions.
  • Once again, allow the market to do what it wants.
  • Use societal divisions as a tool to whip up and control their base.
  • Suppress voters and use gerrymandering to maintain control of elections.

Stated simply. One side has ideas and the other side simply wants to make society worse to maintain their control. Now – will you choose those who have solutions to the problems?

Posted in #trumpresistance, 2020 election campaign, Republican Policy | Tagged | 1 Comment

Can Educationism Solve Anything?

One-room school house

Blaming the woes of society on our K-12 education system is a habit I need to break.

In the post below the target was a failure to teach children about their responsibilities when signing student loan papers. A high school graduate is an adult at age 18 in our culture, so when taking on debt that has the potential to cripple them for decades, they should be equipped to know what they are doing.

Parents also play a key role in educating youth, however my grievance with the way the Iowa legislature funds public schools is they are not spending enough money where it is most needed, and the results show in the form of an ill-educated electorate that makes what I believe are bad decisions.

It is unfair for me to pin this on public schools as State Senator Claire Celsi immediately pointed out:

In the July issue of The Atlantic, author Nick Hanauer addresses the tendency to blame public schools in an article titled, “Better Public Schools Won’t Fix America:”

Long ago, I was captivated by a seductively intuitive idea, one many of my wealthy friends still subscribe to: that both poverty and rising inequality are largely consequences of America’s failing education system. Fix that, I believed, and we could cure much of what ails America.

This belief system, which I have come to think of as “educationism,” is grounded in a familiar story about cause and effect: Once upon a time, America created a public-education system that was the envy of the modern world. No nation produced more or better-educated high-school and college graduates, and thus the great American middle class was built. But then, sometime around the 1970s, America lost its way. We allowed our schools to crumble, and our test scores and graduation rates to fall. School systems that once churned out well-paid factory workers failed to keep pace with the rising educational demands of the new knowledge economy. As America’s public-school systems foundered, so did the earning power of the American middle class. And as inequality increased, so did political polarization, cynicism, and anger, threatening to undermine American democracy itself.

Hanauer assigns blame to our economic system: income inequality and the fact workers are underpaid.

“Allow economic inequality to grow, and educational inequality will inevitably grow with it,” he wrote. “By distracting us from these truths, educationism is part of the problem.”

While sad that my participation on Twitter is sometimes a distraction, eventually I can get around to a more reasonable position thanks to the commentariat. One commentator accused me of adopting the policies of U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst. That’s not the case, but at least we didn’t have to invoke Godwin’s Law to resolve the issue. Despite any issues with an ill-educated electorate, hope for a better world remains.

Read Hanauer’s entire article here.

Posted in Education | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment