O’Malley Re-enters The Battle

OMalleyOne has to credit former governor Martin O’Malley—he listened.

After a lackluster and downright dull answer to a question about reducing greenhouse gas emissions at a house party in Mount Vernon last month, he now has a clearly defined plan to act on climate.

An audience member in Mount Vernon asked O’Malley what he would do as president about CO2 and methane emissions. The answer should have been easy.

President Obama presented the U.S. plan for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or 21st Conference of the Parties in Paris this December. The plan relies on the Clean Power Plan advanced by the Environmental Protection Agency for most of the proposed reductions. All O’Malley had to say was, “I support the Clean Power Plan” to satisfy climate voters. He didn’t.

Instead of a simple answer, he changed the question to one about “climate change.” He enumerated 15 things he did as governor to address climate change. It was an admirable punch list, but reducing CO2 and methane emissions is not the same thing.

He missed the point of the question and gave an answer that muddied the water on his climate change position.

Since then, he went into his fortress of solitude equivalent and came up with a plan to combat climate change focused on transitioning the U.S. electricity generating capacity to renewable sources by 2050. He is visiting Iowa this weekend to roll out his plan.

If you don’t think bird dogging candidates in the early caucus and primary states makes a difference, O’Malley’s adjustment reminds us of why being first in the nation matters.

Or does it?

O’Malley polled at three percent among likely Iowa Democratic caucus goers in today’s Quinnipiac University poll—less than the margin of error. While he may be doing the right things in Iowa—securing commitment cards, listening and adjusting positions, shaking hands, and answering questions—it doesn’t matter unless he can generate more buzz around his campaign.

He’s fighting a battle to gain recognition and create excitement that may not be winnable given his personality. He’s an excellent story teller, and I heard he sings and plays the guitar. It seems clear people don’t like the O’Malley narrative enough to commit to his campaign, even if they have heard it.

It’s still early, and people could line up behind his policy positions, which are mainstream Democratic. But a big shell from the Clinton-Sanders artillery could easily take him out, leaving him behind to lament:

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

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What an Iowa Progressive Reads

Summer Reading

Summer Reading

Most millennials I know don’t subscribe to cable television or read many books. That’s not to say they are uninformed, just that with the explosion of the Internet after the mid-1990s, there is so much to occupy one’s attention and keep current, and not all of it is reading.

That progressives read, and who we read, makes a difference. Here is my list of people to consider. Maybe readers will find something new to add to yours. If I’m missing someone important, please comment below.

Reading local newspapers is a must. I subscribe to the Iowa City Press Citizen (digital version), and the Solon Economist on newsprint. Whatever arguments one may have with the editorial viewpoint of a specific newspaper, understanding what is going on in the community has few better sources. Always of interest are the opinions, obituaries, front page and community calendar sections.

Supplementing local news is a set of RSS feeds (using Feedly) that expands into Iowa. I subscribe to Radio Iowa, John Deeth’s Blog, Art Cullen’s editorials at The Storm Lake Times, Frank D. Myers’ The Lucas Countyan, Mike Owens’s Iowa Policy Project blog, Chris Liebig’s A Blog About School, Cindy Hadish’s Homegrown Iowan, and The Iowa Farm Bureau’s Farm Fresh Blog.

If readers haven’t dozed off, there are some more progressive-sounding things to consider reading.

Des Moines is a cornucopia of political writing. While steering clear of capitol city politics most of the time, it would be a disservice to omit them completely from a progressive reading list.

The Des Moines writer to whom a subscription is essential with reading high on the list is Ed Fallon. Not because we agree with every word that comes out of his mouth, we don’t, but because of the range of his topics. Find him and links to his other publications here.

In the also ran category are the Iowa Daily Democrat, Michael Libbie’s Sunday Morning Coffee (for the gossip), The Iowa Starting Line, and she who must not be named.

There are more in Des Moines, I suppose. John Deeth continues to highly recommend following Craig Robinson’s blog to stay apprised of the competition, but progressive competition is more with Netflix, craft beers, vintage clothing, restaurant food and other distractions from politics, so I take a pass.

Finally, there is Twitter, the source of all things banal and some profound, trending toward the former. Today’s Blog for Iowa faves include:

Locals: @Bmkimz; @suedvorsky1; @LJYanney; @janicero; @JeffRBiggers; @AriBerman; @mistyrebik; @Deborah_Donohoe; @witsenddaily; @johndeeth; @LyndaIowa.

Nationals: @unreasonable; @ThePlumLineGS; @jimcason; @David_Shorr; @DavidCulpDC.

If you want to stay abreast of what POTUS is doing in the real world, @markknoller.

And of course, don’t forget to subscribe, follow or bookmark BlogforIowa.com. We’re now on Twitter @blogforiowa and Facebook too, https://www.facebook.com/blogforiowa.

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A Case of Bernie

Iowa Row Crops

Iowa Row Crops

Editor’s Note: Trish Nelson is taking time off and will return to regular posting on Blog for Iowa after Labor Day. Here is my first offering in an effort to fill her shoes as we enter high summer in the land of corn, conversation and caucuses).

For those who remember the political environment before Blog for Iowa’s humble beginnings in 2004, politics has changed. Enter Bernie Sanders for president.

David Corn of Mother Jones recently wrote about Sanders’ long-time relationship with Tad Devine of Devine Mulvey Longabaugh, and his strategy to win the Democratic nomination for president. The article is worth a read.

“Sanders has survived and thrived in politics by neutralizing negative ads and resisting the urge to attack,” Corn reported. Resisting negative attack ads has been a hallmark of Sanders’ previous campaigns.


Progressives have the 2016 presidential election to lose if the primary turns into a frenzy of negative publicity. Corn asserts Sanders has a proven way of approaching the electorate in a positive manner. Sanders’ methods seem similar to what Iowa Republicans did to elect Senator Joni Ernst: bypass the television and go directly to voters with a strong narrative.

Some of us recall political consultants James Carville and his rapid response operation, and Joe Trippi and his book The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, The Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything. They seemed revolutionary at the time, even if their stars have faded. Rapid response and use of the Internet in campaigns have been assimilated as boilerplate campaign tools, and to a large extent have been eclipsed by the power of unlimited money in politics.

Sanders has disdain for unlimited money in politics and rejects super PACs, successfully focusing fundraising efforts on smaller, individual campaign contributions. Progressives like Sanders because of it.

All five Democratic presidential hopefuls agree there is a problem with Citizens United and the influx of unlimited money from a small number of donors. They differ in approach to solving the problem, and the bottom line is, as Elisabeth MacNamara, president of The League of Women Voters of the United States said recently in Des Moines, there is no political will to amend the constitution regarding Citizens United.

Sanders’ opposition to super PACs has done little to stop them from forming to support his candidacy. In a Burlington Free Press article, author Nicole Gaudiano quoted Sanders:

“I have not sanctioned any super PAC,” Sanders said in an interview. “A major problem of our campaign finance system is that anybody can start a super PAC on behalf of anybody and can say anything. And this is what makes our current campaign finance situation totally absurd.”

His comments notwithstanding, PACs like Progressive Democrats for America and Bet on Bernie 2016 hope to raise millions to support Sanders’ campaign. The former designed a two-fold, web-based donation platform where a donor can contribute directly to Sanders’ campaign and to the PAC with a few easy clicks.

Will the nuanced approach Sanders used previously regarding going negative in campaigns be possible during the Democratic primary/caucus season? How will he parse the tendentious issue of money in politics when his campaign must raise about $50 million for the primary campaign?

Sanders’ supporters I know have not thought much about this. There is social buzz about Sanders where his every word is like a drop of wine. Will Sanders still be standing after his supporters drink a case?

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Mulching the Kale

The Kale has been Mulched

The Kale has been Mulched

The kale is mulched and ready for a long season of production. I harvested a bushel today and most of it went to friends at the library. We already have more than enough  in the ice box, and with so many plants this year, we can be picky about what we eat.

Underneath the grass clippings is a layer of newspaper. Once it is dampened down and moistened, weeds will have trouble poking through. It should be worth the extra effort because the way the plants are growing, with the pick leaves from the bottom strategy, we should be in kale through November.

Broccoli Seedlings

Broccoli Seedlings

Since rabbits got to my broccoli, I planted more seeds for a second crop. I put the starter tray outside and the seeds are germinating more normally than they did in the bedroom window. There is something to the idea that light is the key to growing broccoli and I’ll re-think how I do it next year.

Yesterday I got out the ladder, climbed on the roof and cleaned out the gutters. While up there I noticed how many pears were forming at the top of the tree. It is going to be a puzzle to harvest those when ready. They were growing higher than my head while standing on the roof.

There’s more to life than gardening, but the green beans for dinner last night, and the promise of carrots, kale and fresh tomatoes keeps me working at it steadily.

It’s all part of sustaining a life in a turbulent world.

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The Eyes Have It

First Tracks in the Dew

First Tracks in the Dew

My distance vision is improving, whereas my near vision is deteriorating, said my eye doctor during a recent examination.

I had broken three pair of glasses with the two most recent prescription lenses, and it was time to get a new pair. I don’t like it, but accept the inevitable progress of aging.

“Forget about those reading glasses they sell off the shelf,” he said. “Just take off your glasses and hold the book closer.”

So, I will.

This week will be spent close to home. Because of temporary changes in my warehouse schedule, I have six days off work in a row. It will be a time for catching up on household chores and setting an agenda for the rest of summer and beyond.

For the most part, this week’s writing will be on paper. I’ll begin cross posting content I write for Blog for Iowa Thursday.

Once I get my new glasses, I’m hoping for a totally new perspective, and from that, better writing.

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Clinton County Democrats Hall of Fame Dinner

Jim Webb Sign

Jim Webb Sign

CLINTON—Every parking spot at Gil’s Restaurant, Ballroom and Limousine Service was filled, so latecomers had to park on the grass next to the road leading to the Clinton County Democrats Hall of Fame Dinner on Friday.

A few Jim Webb ’16 signs marked the way. The one term Virginia senator, author and Vietnam combat veteran was keynote speaker. His staff had been in town for a couple of days helping Jean Pardee, county chair, and the local Democrats make final preparations. Pardee characterized turnout as “good,” and the room was filled.

Gil's Ballroom

Gil’s Ballroom

A satellite remote truck was parked near the building, indicating national interest in what would normally have been, except for the February 2016 Iowa caucuses, a nondescript annual political event. As I approached, I took off my name tag from the warehouse and put it in my pocket.

The Webb campaign had paid for my ticket after I introduced myself to Iowa organizer Joe Stanley via twitter. The campaign is not well known in Iowa outside political activists. That afternoon I ran into a former chair of the Johnson County Democrats, and he knew my alignment with Webb from previous conversations. He wasn’t hearing much about the campaign either.

During a brief chat with Craig Crawford, Webb 2016 communications director, near the bar, he summed up the situation, “We need people, lots of people.”

Webb surrounded himself with people he can trust for the campaign. Both Stanley and Crawford are long-time friends. In the audience were cousins from Cedar Rapids, and three former Marines, including at least one who was in his Vietnam combat unit.

Clinton County Democrats Hall of Fame Dinner

Clinton County Democrats Hall of Fame Dinner

I don’t think Webb expected Iowa politics to be what it is. A day or so before the event, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) was scheduled as a speaker. She spent half of her speech advocating for Hillary Clinton. Too, Pardee read a letter from Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) who was unable to attend. There was no O’Malley or Chafee presence at the event. Despite the friendly competition, Webb had a chance to get his message out both time-wise and by exposure in the run up to the event.

Second District Congressman Dave Loebsack spoke after Dr. Andy McGuire, Iowa Democratic Party chair. Some of us hear Loebsack speak so often the themes and tales are very familiar. What stood out about Loebsack’s speech was his underscoring how the next president would impact the judiciary. He or she may have an opportunity to appoint as many as four U.S. Supreme Court judges. That matters to Democrats according to Loebsack.

Six members of the local party were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Distinct from my home county, they were honored for their grassroots work to elect Democrats, and their acceptance speeches were very brief with some saying less than a dozen words. Perhaps Merlin Schmidt said the most, recounting how the first president he voted for was Harry Truman. Schmidt was glad Truman dropped the atomic bomb on Japan. He claimed his life could have been saved by this action, even though historians have debunked the idea that dropping the bomb saved lives.

The Cedar County Democrats made me an honorary member for the night and I sat with chair Larry Hodgden, treasurer Laura Twing, and U.S. Senate candidate Tom Fiegen. Our most animated conversation was about guns after I mentioned that Colt Manufacturing had filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Colt made the .45 caliber revolver I carried in the military and the M-16 on which I was an expert marksman. Their AR-15 is very popular with local militia types and loss of their military contract led to Colt’s demise. While “Second Amendment Rights” doesn’t carry the same cache among Democrats, most knew people with gun collections, including assault rifles, and it is an accepted part of Iowa life.

I left without getting “a moment” with the candidate. I had to be at work in the morning and it was more than an hour drive along the Lincoln Highway. If Webb decides he is running for president, there will be plenty of chances for that.

The towns along Highway 30 have become a part of my life. Grand Mound, Wheatland, Calamus, Lowden, Clarence, Stanwood and Mechanicsville are familiar markers on the path home. I stopped in Clarence to use a rest room and grab a beverage to quench my thirst. Unlike some, my thirst for politics can be quenched by attending an occasional political event.

Despite the odds against him, I would like to see Jim Webb run. He is supposed to decide during the next few days.

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Summer Arrives as SCOTUS Rules

U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Supreme Court

Another sign summer has arrived is the release of opinions by the United States Supreme Court as they end the current session. Yesterday they ruled on King v. Burwell, and on Texas Dept. of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., two significant cases on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and on housing discrimination respectively. Earlier in the week SCOTUS issued rulings in City of Los Angeles v. Patel, and Kimble v. Marvel Entertainment LLC.

The supremes are just getting started and my view is to hunker down in the bunker until all of the opinions are out there.

Most of my friends are interested in the imminent ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges, which has the potential to clear the way for marriage equality in all 50 states.

Glossip v. Gross will opine as to whether lethal injection of midazolam causes cruel and unusual punishment banned by the Constitution; Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission in which Republicans want redistricting (a.k.a. gerrymandering) done by the legislature rather than by an independent commission; Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA et. al. in which coal companies and power plants challenge new EPA rules regarding mercury, nickel and arsenic; and Johnson v. U.S., in which white supremacist Samuel Johnson complains about his sentence being increased from 10 to 15 years in compliance with U.S. law. There are others.

Once all of these rulings have been released, there is a lot to consider.

Here’s the brief point of this post. The members of the Supreme Court will change over the next ten years. By birth year, the four oldest justices are Ginsburg (1933), Scalia (1936), Kennedy (1936) and Breyer (1938), and as many as all of them might retire or die during the next president’s term in office. Whoever is elected president will have a chance to remake the supreme court in a way that will have lasting implications.

That’s why the 2016 presidential election matters, and is reason to engage not only in first in the nation Iowa, but all over. This decision is a lot more important than what beverage to take to the beach or which sandals to buy as summer begins.

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