2018 A Year Of Threats And Advances

by Ralph Scharnau

The news stories of 2018 reveal a flurry of political and societal events. A remarkable range of happenings unfolded across a wide spectrum of issues. Here is a selective look at some of them.

Internationally, daily scenes of human misery were brought to our consciousness. We also witnessed heroic efforts by organizations and individuals to provide health care. Meanwhile, environmental degradation creates pollution, brings long term health problems, and compounds human suffering.

Reporting on environmental damage continues in ever more alarming ways. Global warming, for example, means more severe weather patterns with stronger storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and flooding. There are examples, too. of nations, regions, and municipalities banding together to combat the loss of structures, land, infrastructure, wildlife, and even entire ecosystems. The large corporations seek ever larger subsidies while shifting costs onto the people.

People’s safety and security are undermined by violence. The potential and actual use of force can be seen in insurrections, the steady build-up of weaponry, and invasions. The world seems awash in guns.

The reality of mass shootings is no longer limited to the battlefield; it has happened in schools, clubs, places of worship, and other community venues. Arms control agreements between nations are modified, leaving millions of people vulnerable. Among the nuclear powers, a new arms race could threaten those in Europe and beyond. As great powers unilaterally flex their military muscles, dispute resolution by diplomacy becomes more fragile.

Fueled by the twenty-four-hour-news-cycle and large voter turnout, the year’s mid-term elections in the United States attracted an explosion of commentary in this country and around the world. At the national level, Democrats broke the Republican monopoly on law-making by becoming the majority party in the House of Representatives. Republicans retained their majority in the Senate. The Democrats will now chair important committees (Intelligence, Ways and Means, Foreign Affairs, and Judiciary), play a new role in drafting bills, have a voice in making appropriations, conduct inquires, and establish their own legislative priorities.

The American economy seems to be humming along at a healthy rate. Unemployment levels have reached historic lows. At the same time, wages and workforce participation rates are rising. But even with these positive economic signs, wage levels for millions of workers are still persistently low, and many hold two or three jobs to eke out a minimal standard of living.

It can be argued that women made the greatest gains in 2018. Women everywhere are rising up. They are speaking out about attacks on women’s legal rights, slashing essential health benefits, and the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault. Men with prestigious positions are increasingly being held accountable for using their power and privilege to abuse women.

Women are protesting, marching, organizing, and building power. Thousands of females from all ages, ethnicities, religions and walks of life have surged into the political arena as candidates, campaign workers, fund raisers and lobbyists. Breaking the masculine imposed double standard for women has also translated into new job opportunities, more responsibility, and better pay. And some men have joined women leaders in calling for equal rights.

2018 proved to be a remarkably important year. The possibility of changes marked a strong characteristic of the year. Simultaneously, the suddenness of change could be both exhilarating and frightening. In the midst of these circumstances, most people displayed coping skills.

What all this means for the future will slowly become apparent. The 2020 elections should provide some answers.

Ralph Scharnau

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Help Iowa’s Puppy Mill Dogs: Register for Iowa Voters For Companion Animals Lobby Day


Registration is now open for Iowa Voters for Companion Animals’ Ninth Annual Iowa Humane Lobby Day!

We are thrilled to be bringing animal welfare advocates and organizations together for one of the most important days of action for Iowa’s animals. As Iowa continues to be a leading puppy mill state and remains 49th in the nation for animal protection laws, our unified voices are needed now more than ever.

Lobby day is perfect for seasoned advocates, newbies, and everyone in between. If you want to make a positive impact for Iowa’s dogs and companion animals in 2019, this is the event for you!

We will all come together to hear from a guest speaker (stay tuned!), review current companion animal welfare bills, learn some tips to effectively lobby legislators, and then all go to the beautiful Iowa State Capitol to speak with our senators and representatives.

New addition this year: an option to take an official tour of the Capitol while you are in town! Space is limited, so don’t delay! Register today!

IVCA has been meeting with legislators throughout the interim and we are looking forward to a positive and productive legislative session. Please join us in being the voice of Iowa’s dogs and companion animals to ensure companion animal welfare is placed firmly on the 2019 legislative agenda.

Thank you for all you do and I hope to see you soon!

Sincerely,

Haley Anderson
Executive Director
Iowa Voters for Companion Animals

Follow IVCA on Facebook

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Why Are 90,000 Veterans Being Denied Agent Orange Coverage?

…because a lone Republican senator and Dear Leader said so, that’s why.  The injustice  is magnified by the fact that Trump dodged being drafted himself, while these veterans did not have that privilege. They were called upon to serve their country and they did so with bravery and honor. Please read this post by my friend Mel McMorris, a Vietnam veteran, published here with permission.

by Mel McMorris

Agent Orange. During my time in Vietnam my area of operations, according to a Department of Defense interactive map, was the most heavily sprayed area in all of Vietnam. I’m on the Agent Orange (AO) Registry. This is my AO newsletter. Page 2 lists the medically proven terminal illnesses caused by Agent Orange. There’s a second list you can ignore unless you were stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC and drank its polluted water. (Flint, MI sound familiar?)

Many veterans, boots on the ground in Vietnam or Korea, have VA healthcare coverage for AO illnesses. Blue water sailors who served off the South China Sea coast of Vietnam are not covered even if they handled or were exposed to AO.

In 2018 a bill, HR 299, was introduced to correct this. It passed in a bi-partisan vote by 382-0, after the House of Representative rules were suspended.

In the Senate, one Republican, Mike Enzi (WY), held it hostage until it ultimately died. The president publically supported passage but flipflopped (?) and opposed the bill. The two VA Secretaries, so far, opposed passage. EVERY major veterans organization strongly supports passage and have vowed to never give up this fight. When numbers get crunched about 90 senators have indicated they’ll vote for it if given the opportunity.

These are the details, associated with this bill, provided by the Congressional Budget Office: 10 years of coverage (because after that time most of those exposed to Agent Orange will be dead from at least one of the fifteen diseases) at a cost of $2.2 billion for 90,000 blue water sailors.

I believe 90,000 soldier’s lives are worth it. And I would guess their families would agree.

 

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Iowa High School Scheduled To Have A Religious Assembly Wednesday

From the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF):

“Mount Ayr High School reportedly has scheduled an assembly by the Todd Becker Foundation during the school day on Wednesday, Jan. 9. The Todd Becker Foundation is a Christian ministry that travels throughout the Midwest putting on assemblies in public schools with the explicit purpose of converting students to its brand of evangelical Christianity.

According to the group’s website, its purpose is to “draw young people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ” and to “motivate high school students to discover their potentials and ultimately discover themselves by placing their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.”

The Todd Becker Foundation fulfills its mission by putting on an in-school program that uses a passage from the bible to impart a strong religious message on students. Immediately following the in-school presentation, students are approached by Todd Becker Foundation staff and local church representatives. Foundation members and church representatives ask students about their respective religious beliefs and “share with the student the gospel of Jesus Christ and point them to the hope of a new beginning found in Christ.” Not only do they discuss their religious beliefs with students, students are “brought to a decision to surrender their life to Christ or to walk away from Him.”

It is well-settled law that public schools may not advance or endorse religion, nor may they use instructional time to allow outside groups to proselytize to students.

“The Todd Becker Foundation is only focused on one thing, evangelizing,” FFRF Legal Fellow Christopher Line writes in his letter to district Superintendent Joe Drake. “When students are provoked through the assembly into talking with Foundation members about very serious issues in their lives, such as physical or emotional abuse, drug or alcohol use, or other serious concerns, the only solution offered by the Foundation is Christianity.”

Considering the Iowa legislature’s and the current governor’s stances on education in Iowa – basically choke it through low funding – you may wonder why having a Christian group in to a school to use valuable class time to promote religion is such a  big deal. The basic answer is that it is simply unconstitutional.

If the Mount Ayr school district allows the assembly to take place they are rather blatantly promoting Christianity in their role as a governmental body. Most know the first amendment to the constitution which very clearly states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…..” By extension courts have ruled over the years that promoting one religion over another is also illegal.

Besides the very blatant breaking of establish laws, the school district is also teaching its students that they can pick and choose which laws to follow and which to simply ignore. This is a very powerful and very wrong message for a governmental body to send.

Finally at a time when school dollars are tough to come by and school time is precious the school board is sending a message that that precious time and money doesn’t mean that much to them when they can give over precious teacher time to a proselytizing group. Makes you wonder how deeply tied to actual education members of the school board are.

Let us hope that the Mount Ayr school board will do the right thing and stop this illegal waste of time.

From the Mount Ayr Record News of December 26th:

The Todd Becker Foundation has announced its plans to bring their Brand New Day Tour to Mount Ayr High School on January 9, 2019. 

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Sunday Funday: House Majority Edition

See my huge smile? I just got what I asked for for Christmas – a House majority headed by Nancy Pelosi. Could not have done it without Dear Leader, though. His ineptitude and stupidity were instrumental. So glad to see Ernst lined right up with Dear leader in 2020.

Well, this was a Christmas many will never forget. The Christmas that Dear Leader took their jobs away.

  1. Things are happening fast in the US House. Friday morning the House voted to be allowed to intervene in a court case involving what law Republicans have been trying to kill for 10 years?
  1. In a strange, rambling talk during a cabinet meeting Dear Leader defended what countries invasion of Afghanistan 30+ years ago?
  1. Rachel Maddow researched the background of the above talk and found it to be a series of talking points put out by whom?
  1. In what seems to be a reversal of normal positions, Iowa’s Gov. Reynolds has called for the sale of what medication without a prescription?
  1. In Toronto, a woman running to escape a rape ran into what kind of business where the assailant was subdued?
  1. During the voting for House Speaker, when Speaker Pelosi’s turn to vote came she was distracted so who spoke up to vote for her?
  1. What new member of the senate took the oath of office on a law book?
  1. Two new members of the US House took their oath of office on what historical book owned by Thomas Jefferson?
  1. In Iowa climate news, were temperatures in December higher or lower than normal?
  1. Paul Whelan is a name suddenly in the news. What did Paul Whelan do to get in the news?
  1. Potential presidential candidate announcements include Julian Castro, Elizabeth Warren and what governor of Washington?
  1. So far, what is the date for next year’s Iowa caucuses?
  1. What newly elected senator was scolded openly by his own niece for the senator writing an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal discussing some of Dear Leader’s faults?
  1. The stock market once again took a deep dive Thursday when what company announced it would lower its revenue guidance for the the first quarter of 2019?
  1. Quietly and almost without notice what internet related policy died with the beginning of the New Year Tuesday?
  1. What country landed a probe on the far side of the moon last week?
  1. Musician Daryl Dragon died last week. Mr. Dragon was much better known as half of what musical act that had 7 top ten records in the 1970s?
  1. In arguing for his wall, Dear Leader falsely claimed that who has a 10 foot wall around his house?
  1. On January 1st, the US and Israel dropped out of what UN organization?
  1. Who placed Speaker Pelosi’s name in nomination to be Speaker?
  2. Today is in many countries considered to be the final day of what season?

Chad Pergram

@ChadPergram

I ask Pelosi as she leaves the Capitol for WH mtg on gov’t shutdown if she will speak to Dem MI Rep Rashida Tlaib about the language Tlaib used when discussing Trump:  Pelosi responds “I’m going to talk the President about his language.”

Answers:

  1. The ACA or Obamacare
  1. Russia
  1. Vladimir Putin. Seems Russia is now claiming they didn’t invade Afghanistan but rather tried to stop terrorism there.
  1. Birth control pills
  1. A Karate studio. And subdued is a mild word for what happened.
  1. Her grand daughter actually spoke up to vote for Grandma.
  1. Kirsten Sinema. She has no stated religious preference
  1. A Quran owned by Jefferson. Tlaib from Michigan and Omar from Minnesota did so.
  1. Decidedly higher by 5 degrees on average
  1. He is an American arrested in Moscow as a spy. Hmmm.. could be a chance to exchange him for Maria Butina so she can’t testify?
  1. Jay Inslee. 
  1. Feb. 3 2020
  1. Mitt Romney. His niece in national Republican chair Ronna Romney McDaniel
  1. Apple
  1. Net Neutrality
  1. China
  1. The Captain and Tennille. He was the Captain
  1. Barack Obama.
  1. UNESCO (UN Education, Science and Cultural Organization
  1. Hakeem Jeffries of New York

21. Christmas season – or the 12th day of Christmas

John Fugelsang: 

“Mitt Romney, a millionaire-at-birth who supported the Vietnam war but avoided going, who likes to fire people & thinks millionaires have really had it rough, is here to present himself as a GOP alternative to Trump.”

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Reminder: Women’s March January 19th

Women's March 2019

 

In two weeks – January 19th, 2019 – there will be another women’s  march in Washington and sister marches across the country. 

With Rep. Nancy Pelosi making on her second round as US House Speaker plus the victories by women across the country this is a great time to let our leaders know you support women’s causes. March locations can be found here. 

 So far Iowa has a march scheduled in Des Moines:

2019 Women’s March Iowa

January 19, 2019 • 11:00 AM

Des Moines Capitol

1007 E Grand Ave

Des Moines, IA 50319

Another march is scheduled just across the Missouri River in Omaha that same day for the folks in western Iowa:

Omaha Women’s March

January 20, 2019 • 1:00 PM

Downtown Omaha

TBD

Omaha, NE 68102

There is also a facebook pager the Women’s March which may have some additional information here. An Iowa page which includes march merchandise for sale can be found here.  

Posted in #trumpresistance, Blog for Iowa | Tagged | 3 Comments

Iowa Policy Project: Is Iowa’s Job Situation As Good As It Appears?

Image (1) IPP-webbanner.jpg for post 16869

Once again our friends at the Iowa Policy Project ferret out the reality behind the glossy glow of political rhetoric. The subject for today is whether what appears to be a good Iowa jobs report is actually as good as it appears. In their newsletter that came out just after Christmas, the analysts take a close look at Iowa’s job numbers and where they should be.

From the IPP blog of December 27th, IPP points out that:   

“Over a decade since the housing bubble burst in late 2007, and almost nine years since the start of the recovery, we are far from where we should be in job growth, wages, and economic security.

<<snip>>

Just to keep pace with growth in the working-age population (about 7 percent since 2007), while sustaining pre-recession rates of employment and labor force participation, we should have added (as of last month) 106,100 net jobs over that span. Instead, we gained back only 67,800 jobs — leaving a jobs deficit of 38,300.  For the latest numbers, see our monthly “JobWatch” report.

In turn, we face another persistent deficit: a shortage of good jobs. In our State of Working Iowa discussion of wages, we underscored remarkably weak wage growth in Iowa despite historically low rates of unemployment.

This partly reflects the lack of worker bargaining power: Without access to collective bargaining and robust, well-enforced labor standards, there is little prospect of winning wage real and lasting gains. And in part, this reflects the changing contours of Iowa’s labor market. Over the last generation, and across the last business cycle, we are steadily trading good jobs for bad.” (bolding mine)

This is a very sober eyed look at what is really going on in Iowa’s economy. IPP did a great job of cutting through the fog to show what reality is. What they nor anyone else can really do is to be able to assess how the policies fostered by the Trump administration are going to affect Iowa’s economy.

Trump’s tariff policies have put Iowa’s farm economy in a world of hurt. I will be honest that I do not understand where the tariff battles between China and the US stand at the moment. From what I can glean there are some vague discussions going on concerning the boycott that China is employing in retaliation to Trump’s tariff policies. Planning for planting season is happening now and loans must be secured. If this issue is not resolved what will be the consequences?

At the same time the country is beginning to see what looks like the bursting of some of the bubbles in the economy that have been built over the past couple of years. When things are sorted out, where will Iowa’s economy land? How will Iowa be affected?  

One other thing not mentioned that is becoming a drag on the economy is student debt. With the cost of post secondary education having been so high in this country over a relatively long period, we are seeing the up and coming generation saddled with hefty debt and high interest that must be paid on before they can even consider buying newer cars or homes. 

As with the tariff policies and the bubbles bursting the policies that put our coming generation into deep debt before they even get a job are the result of Republican policy decisions. These are policy decisions that could be changed. Republicans will not do so. The reason they became policy in the first place is that they rewarded some segment of the Republican donor class. So expecting those who benefit to change the policies that benefit them just won’t happen.

Until Iowa is willing to face up to the mediocre and poor results by electing new leadership, expect to keep getting the same results.

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The Case For Impeachment

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Indivisible To Take Action On Day #1


Here is an action alert from Indivisible. If you haven’t joined yet, sign up here.  Sign up with the Iowa chapter here.  https://www.indivisibleiowa.us/

Tomorrow morning [today] your new members of Congress (MoCs) will be sworn into the 116th Congress. It is an enormous honor and responsibility to serve in Congress, one that very few people ever get to experience.

New House members will go to their new offices, settle in, and begin their time in Congress with important votes. They’ll vote to elect the next the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. And after they get sworn in, they’ll vote on the rules of the House, which will govern House procedure over the next two years. Then they’ll begin what is their most important job: responding to the needs of our country.

One of the first votes they’ll take will be to end the #TrumpShutdown. The previous Republican-controlled Congress failed to pass a clean continuing resolution and partially shut the government down on December 22.

Meanwhile, Indivisibles all over the country will start their day off at district offices and rallies to welcome their new MoCs and remind them of the blue wave that voted them into power. They’ll also welcome back incumbent MoCs to remind them that we’re ready to fight for progressive policies and hold both Republicans and Democrats accountable when they don’t fight for their constituents.

Tomorrow [today] is a HUGE day. And we’re ready to start 2019 off with a bang.

This blue wave, our movement, doesn’t slow down or give up after elections. We keep going until we’ve done everything possible to fight the Trump agenda, and undo the damage done during the past two years. Now, we’re going to ask you — are you all in to tell the White House, the Senate, and the House that this is #OurHouse?! Good.
Here’s how we kick off 2019, Indivisible style.

1. Show up. Find a day of action event near you on our map. Get your new Whose House, Our House! gear, gather your friends, and tell your MoCs to end the #TrumpShutdown.

2. Don’t have an event near you? Call and tell your MoCs to end the #TrumpShutdown. The Republican-controlled Congress gave into Trump’s tantrum in the final days of 2018, and now it’s time for the new Congress to fix the mess that Trump and the GOP created.

3. Learn more. Sign up and join us for our next Indivisible National Call on January 10 at 8pm ET/ 7 pm Central/5pm PT to find out what’s coming up next during these #100Days!

This week we get loud… again. And make sure to tag us in your pictures and videos by using @IndivisibleTeam on Twitter and @IndivisibleTeam on Instagram!

In solidarity,
Indivisible Team

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Nuclear Abolition in Trump World

B-61 Nuclear Bombs

Elimination of nuclear weapons remains a priority for many of us who followed disarmament progress through the years. Our work hasn’t ended. What should be our priorities in Trump World?

To a large extent, society answered that question in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), to which the United States is a party. Article VI has been and remains a sticking point in meeting treaty obligations. Here’s the text,

“Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

Nuclear states have taken inadequate steps toward compliance with Article VI. U.S. backpedaling on disarmament treaties began when in 2002 President George W. Bush removed the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) signed by President Richard Nixon in 1972. Under Donald Trump, the United States is expected to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), and negotiations for renewal of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) have yet to commence. The Trump administration is heading the opposite direction of good faith negotiations to end the arms race. It is creating a political environment for a new arms race, a complete refurbishment of the U.S. nuclear triad, and development of new nuclear weapons.

Where should disarmament advocates focus their efforts? Here’s my list.

As the two largest nuclear states, the U.S. and Russia should de-escalate nuclear competition and establish a regular dialogue on strategic stability. At a minimum, we should make a mutual decision to extend the New START Treaty before it expires in 2021.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said publicly Russia would not make first use of nuclear weapons. The United States should adopt a no first use policy regardless of what Russia says or does.

During negotiations for U.S. Senate ratification of New START, Arizona Senator Jon Kyl negotiated a refurbishment of the nuclear weapons complex. Under President Trump, this budget has grown to over a trillion dollars. We should encourage the new U.S. House of Representatives leadership to cut back on the administration’s plan to upgrade the nuclear complex.

There has been talk of developing new types of more usable nuclear weapons. We should advocate to block administration plans to develop such weapons.

As President Trump withdraws from the Iran Nuclear Deal we should encourage and support our international partners to implement it without us.

Now is the time to implement realistic, action-for-action steps toward disarmament with North Korea. Any dialogue with North Korea should proceed with that goal as the basis for talks.

Finally, advocates should promote compliance with Article VI in the run up to the 2020 NPT Review Conference.

A nuclear weapons-free world remains possible. In Trump World making progress toward that goal will continue to be challenging. Like most citizens we have limited resources and a large number of issues wanting our attention. This list serves to focus on what’s most important politically, and look for opportunities to advance each item as they present themselves.

To learn more about nuclear disarmament efforts in the U.S., check out the Arms Control Association website by clicking here.

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