Help For Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Photo Credit – Campaign Website

A lot of pixels have been spilled over the primary election win of Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on June 26.

Regardless of the methods of her election or her platform — or the buzz around beating 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th Congressional District — if she wins in November she will be one of 435 members of the House of Representatives.

To get anything done, she will need help from other legislators as she attempts to carry the momentum from her district to the Congress. What help can she expect?

Establishment Democrats

“Establishment Democrats” is shorthand that rose to common usage during the 2016 primary season to serve as the whipping boy for all that was perceived to be wrong with the Democratic Party. Think of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz or maybe John Podesta. To the extent members of congress have been categorized as part of the establishment, I believe Ocasio-Cortez will find more common ground with them than not. In any case, she could take a lesson from establishment pol in chief Hillary Clinton when it comes to legislating. Become less a personality in the Congress and more someone willing to work hard to find common ground on issues that matter as Hillary did when she was elected to the U.S. Senate from New York. If she does this, such establishment Democrats as there are will reciprocate.

Hispanic Caucus

The Hispanic caucus has been welcoming despite being more conservative than Ocasio-Cortez. One of her signature policies is abolishing ICE and she outlined a process within the caucus to legislate it.

“What we can do is — I’m unafraid to champion a really bold and strong stance in the sand, and what that does is give us an anchor, a negotiating point,” she said. “I think the abolishment of ICE makes a lot of sense, and I’m willing to have those conversations and figure out how we get that done as a caucus.”

Abolishing ICE is a lightning rod that could diminish Ocasio-Cortez’ influence. I predict regardless of the outcome of abolishing ICE, media (and not just FOX News) will paint her as either a hero or the goat soon after the 116th Congress convenes based on this sole issue. A competent legislator will find there are a lot of ways to shave ice. The Congress has been unwilling to address immigration and naturalization since the Reagan administration. If the time has come, I believe Ocasio-Cortez and the Hispanic caucus will be part of it, bringing new energy and ideas to the stale debate.

Democratic Leader

More than anyone in the U.S. House of Representatives, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi knows how to count votes. While Ocasio-Cortez indicated she may vote for someone else as speaker/leader if elected, unseating Pelosi seems unlikely in the 116th Congress. That means Ocasio-Cortez will have to develop a relationship with her to get anything done. She would be foolish not to.

For Iowa Democrats who worked on many campaigns, it was great to see someone use the skills and techniques in the progressive activists kit bag to win big against an entrenched incumbent. Winning in November looks like a cake walk in Ocasio-Cortez’ heavily Democratic district. Assuming she wins, her real work will begin in the 116th Congress. She will find plenty of Democratic help among liberals, centrists, conservatives and everyone in between.

Adrian Carrasquillo wrote about Ocasio-Cortez’ potential relationship with the Hispanic Caucus at The Intercept here.

~ First posted on Blog for Iowa

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Elect Fred Hubbell – Rita Hart

Rita Hart and Fred Hubbell Photo Credit Hubbell Campaign

Since Iowa Democrats picked Fred Hubbell as their nominee for governor he’s honed his message to a few major issues. In a recent letter Hubbell wrote,

I want to be clear about one thing: I’m not just running against Governor Reynolds and her failed record. I’m running for the people of Iowa. All of Iowa. I’m running on a vision to get Iowa growing the right way and a record of bringing people together to get things done. We’ve got to turn this state around and we don’t have time to waste.

We are all Iowans and we stand united by a simple vision — that if we invest in the future, the people of our great state will benefit.

Hubbell’s priorities are straight forward: make Iowa first in education again; get incomes rising across our state; restore funding to Planned Parenthood; improve our health care system, including mental health; invest in renewable energy; preserve our topsoil; address water and air quality concerns; and restore workers’ rights.

“Blue waves are not automatic; they must be created,” Hubbell said. “It’s on us to make sure every voter has the opportunity to engage with our campaign and hear our vision for Iowa.”

Consider this an invitation to get involved with the Hubbell-Hart campaign.

Check out the Hubbell-Hart website at

Sign up for campaign updates here.

Sign up to volunteer here.

Make a monetary donation here.

“I know we can take back Terrace Hill, but we can’t take it for granted,” Hubbell said. “Can we count on you to join the team today? With your help we can win in November.”

~ First published on Blog for Iowa

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New Potatoes and Cucumbers

Morning Harvest

The ambient outdoor temperature is 89 degrees and the heat index is 100. Another midday spent inside.

I feel caged.

Near sunup I harvested cucumbers and watered. I tasted a red tomato — they are not ready.

Won’t be long.

In the kitchen I emptied the crock of fermented dill pickles and started another batch. I washed and sorted cucumbers on the counter: first the dills, then sweet pickles, then some for eating, then a pile of too plump ones for juicing. There are so many cucumbers I could be selective. Soon I’ll run out of things to do with them… not yet.

I felt restless. I feel restless.


I cleaned under the kitchen sink and returned the soaps, cleaning supplies and waste basket to their appointed places. I’m glad that work is done. I’ve been putting it off.

Using fruit thawed from the freezer, I made a smoothie for lunch with cow’s milk, kale, a banana and the fruit. It was satisfying…  and very blue.

There is only so much kitchen time a person can take before moving on.

Someone spotted water coming up through the ground near a main water line junction. I emailed our crew of well volunteers and we met near the leak. We saw water seeping up but couldn’t diagnose the problem. I told them I’d call our well service to come out and fix the leak. It was a productive exchange as I hadn’t seen some of them for a while. It was a chance to do something outside home. It will be an ongoing project for the weekend.

I came back. It got hot and here I am.

Our president had tea with Queen Elizabeth II today. I wonder if they had scones like she did with Ike. In Washington, D.C. Robert Mueller’s investigation produced 12 indictments of Russian intelligence officers who had been hacking U.S. computers in the run up to the 2016 general election. The hacking was with nefarious purpose and intent. The press event was at the same time the president was having tea. It will give him something to discuss with Vladimir Putin next week in Helsinki.

In the hottest part of the day I feel an urge to go somewhere else. I felt the same way when I lived near the main train station, the Hauptbahnhof, in Mainz, Germany, especially on weekends away from the kaserne. I would drive to the big box stores over in Wiesbaden… or maybe walk to the small grocery store down the hill and buy fresh fruit and a liter of Coca Cola. I had to time it right because they closed for a couple of hours in the early afternoon. About the same time it is now. I feel connected to those days 40 years ago.

I just got the call the well technician is on his way. Guess I can meet that urge… for now.

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Writing My Way Out

Compost Bin

The culprit is a long, engaging worklife. The crime? Diminished creative output.

Early on I realized, with a few exceptions, creative endeavor doesn’t pay. To support it I took work… for over 50 years. We raised a daughter, built a home, worked outside home, and lived an often exhausting life.

Older, I’m not sure I’m much wiser. I’m worn down and less productive than I hoped to be. Yet the creative impulse persists. I hope to write my way out of the current situation into new energy and creativity.

I haven’t given up.

The wellspring of creativity has been several things, most important among them is meeting and engaging with new people. If we are to be successful as artists we need an audience. I’ve been lucky to find one on this blog and in our community. Relationships with people are important.

Here’s my problem. For too many years reading and writing has been a way of processing society and the world around me. Such processing engaged me and produced two results: a good quantity of writing and distraction from more specific creative output. At age 66 there’s no time for distraction so I must renew focus on writing.

Like the compost bin in the garden I keep throwing life experiences in, hoping to get to something elemental and nourishing. It’s time to spread compost on the garden plots and see what grows. No doubt there will be some weeds… and hopefully a flower or two… and vegetables for nourishment.

Life, its beauty and ugliness, is all around us. An artist must be able to perceive it, process and make something useful of it. On a summer Tuesday that’s what I’m hoping to do.

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Garden is In

Friday Harvest

It may seem late yet I declared the garden planted on Friday.

We’ve already had a bumper crop of vegetables and we’re not even started with tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, green beans and more. There will always be garden work to do but for now it’s planted.

Time to turn to other things.

What I mean is between now and Aug 4, when orchard work begins, there is writing, household repairs and cleaning, and loads of work to improve our home life. At some point I switched from being a consumer to a doer and that makes the difference in my mid-sixties. I just stay home and do.

Water Bottles

Politics plays a role in current affairs and it’s much different than it was. My focus is to understand the complex world in which we live and work to make a positive impact. My themes haven’t changed (environment, social justice, economic survival, good governance) although my understanding of what needs doing has. During the re-election of George W. Bush I re-activated in politics. Each succeeding campaign was both learning and engagement. After seven campaigns, I enter my eighth with a deeper understanding of the role social networks play in determining winners and losers. I’m not referring to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter here, but broader social movements and the momentum they bring to an election.

The first Obama campaign, with its demographics analysis and targeted voter lists seems like ancient history. What Obama did can’t be replicated, even if we wanted. To better understand the electorate, we must knock on every door, hear every voter, and determine how to fix the broken politics endemic to our lives. Creativity and networking are important. We don’t know if what’s broken can be fixed in a generation. If we don’t start now, it may never be fixed.

Flower at the Farm

Politics is not everything. After only three hours at yesterday’s garlic harvest at the farm I felt a bit dizzy, presumably because of hard work in the sun. It was a temperate day, nonetheless, I played it safe and called it early. My point is I’m not getting any younger. Working a six or eight hour shift in the sun doesn’t work as well as it did a few years ago. Working smart is replacing working harder.

The rest of the year goes something like this. July is a month to work at home: advance my writing projects, get space at home to be more livable, and work to get the yard into better shape. August through October is work at the orchard. This year I may be taking on additional responsibilities, but for sure I’ll be there weekends and on Friday Family nights. November and December will be focused on writing. While this is going on, I’ll continue to work at the home, farm and auto supply store two days a week. Every dime of income has a place to be used at this point.

Declarations like mine about the garden are ephemeral. What matters more is a process of continual improvement in which life goes on as best we can make it until the final curtain falls. In the meanwhile, we expect there will be garden vegetables to eat.

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Why Stop Denuclearization at North Korea?

On June 14, 2018 PSR Board member Ira Helfand, MD met with South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon in Seoul.

Responding to citizens everywhere who yearn for peace, political leaders in South Korea, North Korea, China and the United States staged a flurry of diplomatic activity this year to avert a Korean crisis.

We are not yet out of the woods. Physicians for Social Responsibility’s health professionals advocated for peace in Korea and will continue to promote diplomacy to denuclearize not only North Korea, but the rest of the world as well.

On June 7, PSR released and delivered to Congressional offices a “Health Professional Open Letter to Congressional Leaders” on Korea with signatures from 16 prominent health professionals including presidents of national physicians’ associations as well as deans and former deans of medical schools and public health schools. PSR members met with staff for their U.S. Representatives and Senators, placed op-eds at, the Boston Globe,  the Baltimore Sun, and Quartz (see In the News). Immediately after the June 12 Singapore summit PSR issued a statement welcoming the outcome..

PSR will continue to advocate for careful and deliberate diplomacy toward a genuine peace accord between the Koreas.  The cancellation of joint U.S. – South Korean “Freedom Guardian” military exercises that were scheduled for August will surely help the peace process.

But for now, North Korea retains its nuclear arsenal, and eight other nations cling to their arsenals as well. The harrowing months of provocations, threats and counter-threats between the U.S. and North Korea showed once again that nuclear weapons do not provide security for any nation.  As experts explored the possible military scenarios involving Korea, the world was reminded of the horrific humanitarian impact of modern warfare, especially if nuclear weapons come into play.  To remove this profound public health threat, PSR joins with International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons in prescribing total elimination of all nuclear arsenals with a strategy of “stigmatize, prohibit, eliminate.”

For more on this story, see a list of relevant current Congressional legislation, a PSR report onWhere Do We Go From Here?” and an overview of reactions to the Trump-Kim Singapore summit across the American political spectrum.

If you’d like to stay in touch with Physicians for Social Responsibility’s subscribe to the activist list by clicking here.

~ Cross posted from the Physicians for Social Responsibility blog which can be found here.

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Iowa’s Medicaid Toothache

I worked as an admissions clerk at the University of Iowa Dental Clinic after graduate school. We saw patients from all around Iowa — wealthy patients with private insurance, indigents with limited means, and everyone in between. Anyone who came to my desk was accepted for treatment. What I knew then seems poised for change.

Cuts to regents university budgets combined with an Iowa Medicaid administrative disaster led the university to cut off new dental patients on Iowa Medicaid because of difficulty collecting fees and complicated new rules.

“The dispute pits state administrators at the university against their counterparts at the Iowa Department of Human Services,” Des Moines Register reporter Tony Leys wrote last Saturday. “It is the latest skirmish in the bitter controversy over whether Iowa should have private companies run its $5 billion Medicaid program.”

Over 600,000 poor and disabled Iowans are eligible for Medicaid and most adults are covered by its “Dental Wellness Plan,” according to the article. Existing patients will continue to receive treatment. People with pain or swelling will receive emergency treatment at the clinic. As for the rest, the future is uncertain. Read Leys’ article for more details.

The University of Iowa Dental School likely changed since I worked there. What hasn’t changed is Iowa’s poor and indigent populations need our help. Under Republican governance the state is creating obstacles to limited, reasonable dental care offered under Medicaid.

Governor Kim Reynolds is looking into the situation, according to the article. Since she’s all-in on Medicaid privatization, it may be a case of what you see is what you get.

~ First posted on Blog for Iowa, July 5, 2018

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