So Long Dave, It’s Been Good to Know Ya!

Iowa City Press Citizen, Nov. 8, 2006

Yesterday afternoon, when Congressman Dave Loebsack announced his retirement beginning at the end of the 116th Congress, the reality of it hit home.

Dave and I briefly discussed retirement, his and mine, over the last couple of years. He talked with everyone he met about almost anything. Last summer it became clear his days as a U.S. Congressman were numbered. I posted about it here. To put the date Jan. 3, 2021 on it brings to a conclusion an important part of my political life.

Few political events changed me as much as the Nov. 7, 2006 general election which repudiated the George W. Bush administration, changed the tone in Washington and Iowa, and paved the way for Democrats to elect Barack Obama president two years later.

That’s not to say Republicans didn’t become energized. With losses in 2006 and 2008, and after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law March 23, 2010, they came back. Republicans successfully pushed back the Democratic tide and re-elected Terry Branstad who went on to become the longest-serving governor in U.S. history. Under the leadership of Jeff Kaufmann, who became chair of the Republican Party of Iowa in June 2014, Republicans built a political machine that’s proven hard to beat. Through all of this, Dave Loebsack persisted, continued to win re-election, and remains undefeated.

So what’s next?

Within hours of the press release, people were thanking Loebsack on social media, with some already moving on to the topic of the horse race to replace him. Four names raised yesterday are worth discussing.

Rita Hart (D-Wheatland)

If Rita Hart is interested in running for Congress, she could likely win the June 2, 2020 Democratic primary election. As our candidate for lieutenant governor in 2018, she campaigned throughout the state, including the second congressional district. This experience, and her contact list of district Democrats with whom she has worked, gives her a leg up in fund raising, gaining support, and experience to focus on what matters most in a campaign. She served as state senator in Senate District 49 before accepting a position as Fred Hubbell’s running mate.

Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton)

I asked my state representative, Bobby Kaufmann, whether he would challenge Loebsack during the 2016 and 2018 election cycles. He told me he wouldn’t. Yesterday he told Erin Murphy of Lee Enterprises,

“I’ll look at it, but I’m in middle of legislative session and my first responsibility is to my House district,” the Cedar County farmer and business owner said. “It definitely changes the landscape.”

The Republican Party of Iowa will need new blood if they hope to be competitive in the district, rated a toss up by the Cook Political Report without Loebsack in the race. Three-time loser Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa) went on to become a state senator in District 41. When contacted by Murphy, she said she would give the matter of running consideration. Murphy also contacted two-time loser Christopher Peters (D-Coralville) on vacation in Italy. Peters deferred comment until he returns to Iowa. In an open seat, Republicans would be foolish to run one of these two repeat candidates. The other non-Jim Leach opponent over the years? I met John Archer (R-Bettendorf) in Tipton in 2012 and felt creepy for a couple of days afterward. I doubt he’s interested, and Jeff Kaufmann would likely stop him from running again if he were.

Zach Wahls (D-Coralville)

My state senator Zach Wahls gets mentioned a lot as a potential replacement for Loebsack. Few politicians have as bright a future ahead of them as Wahls appears to. I’m not privy to his plans, although I spend a little time with him at political events like I did with his predecessor, Bob Dvorsky. If one follows Wahls via legislative newsletter, on Medium, on Facebook and Twitter, it is clear he is learning the ropes of being a politician. He has political credibility, beating three opponents in the June 5, 2018 Democratic primary election with 63 percent of votes cast. Janice Weiner ran a serious primary campaign against Wahls, garnering 32 percent. Eric Dirth and Imad Youssif were on the ballot, but not competitive.

Veronica Tessler (D-Iowa City)

Tom Carsner, Group Representative for Our Revolution Johnson County, posted the following on Facebook yesterday: “Veronica Tessler would be a great congresswoman for the Second District.”

I know Tessler only by name and that because of watching her North Liberty operation of Yotopia, Iowa City’s Original Froyo, open then shutter on Pacha Parkway as I drove by to retail jobs in Coralville over the last few years. The Iowa City location has been successful, having opened in  2011. The single time I stopped at the Clinton Street location, I had a frozen yogurt with Carsner. The snack was efficiently delivered and tasty.

Congressman Dave Loebsack chatting with constituents at Dodge Street Coffee, Iowa City on March 9, 2019.

I was an early adopter of Gmail with records going back to 2006. I searched for Veronica Tessler and came back with 23 distinct hits dating back to when she was a delegate to the 2008 Second District Convention. A google search shows plenty of activity, including support for an Iowa City gun violence protest where she was quoted in a March 31 Cedar Rapids Gazette article. If she announces for Congress, some of that may become relevant.

Other potential candidates have been mentioned in social media since Loebsack’s announcement. Right now, I’m processing what Dave’s departure from the Congress will mean personally and to the district. Loebsack did constituents a favor by timing retirement so there would be an open seat. I expect that if the four mentioned candidates jump into the race, more will follow.

Dave Loebsack has been a dependable part of my life since I first started our dialogue via email in 2005. Seems like I should be saying something besides Woody Guthrie’s line, “So long it’s been good to know ya,” but that’s what I have for now.

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Chasing Presidential Candidates

Detail from the Internet Headline of the Monmouth University Poll, April 11, 2019

Our county-wide newspaper reported more than 900 people turned out to see and hear U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) speak at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City Wednesday night. Harris is running for president.

She is one of roughly two dozen presidential hopefuls courting Democrats in the run up to the 2020 Iowa precinct caucuses, which are first in the nation among presidential preference polling. In Iowa we don’t call it voting because we don’t want New Hampshire, which has a law requiring them to hold the first in the nation primary election, to get mad. According to the Des Moines Register, there have been about 300 candidate events like Harris’ this election cycle.

Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to be in the Hawkeye State today, visiting the emblematic disaster wrought by government policy in the form of extreme weather and severe flooding made worse by global warming. Pence and his boss are also running for president and today’s disaster walk also serves as a campaign stop, that’s how base our politics has become.

I’m more interested in Democrats.

Iowa has not dealt with political hugster in chief, Joe Biden, who leads Democrats in the recent Monmouth University poll of 350 prospective caucus-goers.

I don’t see the support for Biden. While his 27 percent puts him in front of this murder of crows, it may be a ceiling, subject to being overtaken as the field consolidates. I also don’t believe my cohort wants someone our age as president. That polling calls were split 50-50, landline – mobile, favors a certain kind of sixty- or seventy-something. The kind that likes what is familiar whether Biden or Sanders. But what do I know? I didn’t ask 350 people and am limited by Dunbar’s Number. If curious about the horse race or this poll, click the image above.

Local elected officials seem to be chasing the presidential candidate selfie with gusto. A few electeds have declared for a single candidate, most have not. The sensible plan is to wait until another 300 candidate visits to Iowa have passed and decide by end of summer. Declaring too early can prove to be problematic, especially if the chosen one drops out early. If Iowa is to remain first in the nation, multiple candidate selfies make things seem welcoming and unbiased during the early days of the campaign.

I don’t feel a need to chase candidates to meet with or hear them in person. I understand how video services on the internet work and for the most part, adequate candidate video becomes available after key events. My personal interaction with candidates is important to personal story-telling. I’d like one or two more encounters to add to my repertory of hearing Julián Castro speak bathed in the light of mobile phones during a power outage (click here for my post on the Castro visit). Deciding by Labor Day allows plenty of time to work in my precinct for a chosen candidate. My current post about the Iowa caucuses can be found here.

All this candidate chasing is fine, but the main prize in 2020 will be the U.S. Senate seat currently held by our junior senator, Joni Ernst. According to news reports, she has $2.8 million campaign cash on hand for the election. Democrats haven’t picked a candidate to challenge Ernst and aren’t expected to finalize a decision until after the 2020 summer primary. We’re starting the race with shackles binding our ankles, but that doesn’t mean we can’t pull an upset. Regaining control of the U.S. Senate is essential to hopes of implementing a Democratic agenda in the federal government under a Democratic president.

When I look at the 24 candidates identified in the Monmouth University poll there are only a few about which I’m interested in hearing more. In no particular order, they are Castro, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Jay Inslee. The ten with less than one percent support in the poll should read the writing on the wall and gracefully make their way to the exits. As for me, I’ll be seeking opportunities to post about the campaign as I attend more events, midst a life of staying active in society. Staying active is about a lot more than politics.

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Long Goodbye to Workforce

Embers

By July 3, the tenth anniversary of my departure from the logistics company, I hope to have my exit from the workforce defined.

I continue to work for pay and barter and am concerned with a loss of income those five jobs currently provide, although, not that much.

I’m ready to focus on work closer to home which pays in ways other then monetarily. Our needs have changed and so have I.

The reason our household is in this position is Social Security and Medicare. At 50 years into the workforce I continue to contribute to both, and the benefits provide a livable financial structure. The fact we’ve been responsible citizens helps as well.

It is time to move on.

That said, I enjoy my five jobs and the people I meet. The home, farm and auto supply store provides insight into low wage workers and the challenges of retail. The two farms where I soil block are quite different if my work is the same in both. I enjoy the farmers, workers and volunteers in each setting for different reasons. Work at the apple orchard has changed since my friend Jack first referred me there. The operation has gotten bigger, the number of revenue streams expanded. I’ve learned a lot about apple culture and the work appears to have run its course for me. My summer coverage of Blog for Iowa has been a time where I am required to put a post up five days a week. It has always provided a chance to think more about contemporary affairs and what it means to be a progressive Democrat.

The long goodbye from all of these jobs is already in process.

What will I do besides slow down my work outside home? That’s an open question, the answer to which depends on continued good health. For now, I am mentally active and undamaged by life’s stresses. Another human working to sustain a life in a turbulent world.

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Burn Pile

Burn Pile

First Spring Burn Pile

I lit the burn pile with two matches and a pile of scrap paper but the long branches didn’t all burn. In fact, most of them didn’t, except in the middle where fire took hold for a while then died out for want of something.

The the partly charred branches need reworking and another ignition after this morning’s rain. Since today is first of two days at the home, farm and auto supply store, it won’t be until Friday.

Yesterday I planted in the ground for the first time this season, using an experimental limited till method. I have so many seeds, if some fail, they can be replaced.The season is late, but still new, and I’m interested to see if the seeds germinate and dig roots.

I planted in the ground,

Lettuce:

Black Seeded Simpson, Ferry — Morse, 45 days.
Buttercrunch, Ferry — Morse, 70 days.
Mesclun Mix, Ferry — Morse, 40-80 days.

Sugar Snap Peas, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, 60 days.

Carrots: Bolero, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, 75 days.

Beets:

Detroit Dark Red, Seed Savers Exchange, 65 days.
Moneta, Johnny’s Selected Seeds. 46 days.
Merlin, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, 48 days.

Turnips:

Purple Top White Globe, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, 50 days.
Hakurei, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, 38 days.

The smallest of the plots is now planted and overnight rain will dampen everything down. Spring hope is in the ground.

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No First Use

B-61 Nuclear Bombs

On Jan. 30, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and U.S. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced companion bills in the 116th Congress to establish the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first.

That’s the bill, 14 words, “It is the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first.”

Sounds like a no-brainer for rational people. Nuclear weapons should never be used. Under what circumstances would our country ever consider using them first? No rational person could come up with a scenario to do so that would stand the light of public scrutiny.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would only use its nuclear weapons in response to an incoming missile attack. He acknowledged the global catastrophe that would result from a nuclear war. “We can’t be those who initiated it,” Putin said.

H.R. 921 has 25 house co-sponsors, all Democrats. S-272 has six co-sponsors including five Democrats and one Independent. None of the six members of the Iowa delegation to the 116th Congress has signed on as a co-sponsor. That is unfortunate.

The reason Iowa’s lack of co-sponsors on this no first use policy is unfortunate includes:

Iowa’s agricultural industry would be particularly hard hit in the aftermath of a limited nuclear war elsewhere in the world. Smoke and debris thrown into the upper atmosphere would disrupt the growing season. Crop yields in Iowa and other Midwestern states, as well as in other parts of the world, would plummet according to a 2012 study, due to declines in precipitation, solar radiation, growing season length, and average monthly temperature. As many as two billion people would be at risk of food insecurity.

There is no adequate medical response to a limited nuclear war. “We know from the International Committee of the Red Cross’s first-hand experience in Hiroshima in 1945 that the use of even a relatively small number of nuclear weapons would cause death, injury and destruction on a massive scale, that there would be no effective means of providing aid to the dying and wounded, and that those exposed to radiation would suffer life-long and fatal consequences to their health,” Kathleen Lawand, head of ICRC arms unit said.

Preparing for a limited nuclear war, one which should never be fought, is costly. The Trump administration is planning to spend more than a trillion dollars to upgrade the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, including improved weapons, delivery systems and labs. They are even considering development of so-called “low-yield” nuclear weapons which were phased out at the end of the Cold War. Those funds could be better used elsewhere or could even pay for tax cuts.

My ask is modest. The Iowa delegation to the 116th Congress should sign on as co-sponsors to the no first use bills. It is a rational first step in reducing global tensions surrounding the use of nuclear weapons. Those of us in the nuclear abolition community would ask for a lot more, but a no first use policy is something upon which people could agree without even considering more controversial aspects of a ban on nuclear weapons.

There is no cure for a nuclear war. We must prevent what we cannot cure.

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Politics and First in the Nation Iowa

Iowa Caucus Goer

On Saturday the Iowa Democratic Party Central Committee addressed the complaint national media and other states have had about an opaqueness of our first in the nation precinct caucuses.

“This year we proposed the most significant changes to the Iowa Caucuses since 1972,” according to the IDP website. “We are confident that these proposed changes will make the Iowa Caucuses the most accessible, transparent, and successful caucuses ever.”

It looks like the state party will release raw support tallies (i.e. not votes) for the first time since Iowa rose to prominence in the wake of the disastrous 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The Chicago convention brought us Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota, the last nominee to emerge from a smoke-filled room.

My friend from the 2007-2008 John Edwards campaign David Redlawsk wrote the book (with others) on the Iowa Caucuses, Why Iowa? People don’t always buy the authors’ answers. I land with my friend and fellow Democrat John Deeth who settled for 10 percent and accepted the IDP changes.

As an Iowan more active than most in Democratic politics, I acknowledge the decreasing significance of what we do in the presidential horse race. While we get to see a number of presidential hopefuls, and garner media attention in the run up to caucus night, the early presidential nominating process includes not only the four early states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — but Super Tuesday (this time on March 3, 2020) when a number of states and U.S. territories hold their presidential primaries. The idea that Iowa would winnow the field of presidential hopefuls is less true than it was because of this.

Clearly there are more than two or three tickets out of Iowa this cycle as smart candidates are already campaigning in California, Texas, and other Super Tuesday states. If viable, they will continue at least that far. It is an easy prediction that the nomination will be winnowed down to two after Super Tuesday, and this year, maybe even to The One.

It’s also true that winning Iowa alone is not enough. John Edwards put almost all the chips on the table to win Iowa and when he came in second in delegate count, he had to scramble to cover South Carolina and Nevada with organizers. Whatever the tallies in the four early states, whatever number spinning takes place, a rationale for continuing has to be credible even with new momentum toward Super Tuesday.

I don’t know if any of them will be my final choice on caucus night.

The Democratic National Committee did the first funnel for us already by requiring participants in the first summer debate to secure at least 65,000 unique donors of any dollar amount. Some may grumble about money in politics or “insiders” controlling who’s viable and not, however, number of donations is a fair and transparent measure of viability. I gave small donations to eight candidates I’d like to see on the debate stage. I don’t know if any of them will be my final choice on caucus night.

The 2008 caucus, the closest to level of participation we might see in 2020, was a nightmare from my perspective. The room wasn’t big enough and I chose to both be a precinct captain for John Edwards and help my friend Bob run the event. Doing both proved to be impossible. We had only about 260 attendees.

We put the Edwards group in the hallway, partly because we had so many infirm and elderly in wheel chairs, but also because there wasn’t enough room in the main room to count. I had to count attendees multiple times, which got everyone mad at me, with accusations that my true purpose was to recruit more people for the Edwards camp. In the end, after the final alignment, Obama had 85 people, and Clinton and Edwards split the rest equally, requiring a coin toss to see who got an extra delegate. (Hillary won the coin toss). Once delegate assignments to the county convention were finished, the mass exodus left Bob and me struggling to fill our precinct’s allocated committee positions.

The Iowa caucuses in presidential years are not as much about organizing the party. There is a legitimate issue with finding enough rooms to adequately accommodate caucus-goers, so it would be great if people caucused virtually instead of showing up to name their candidate, then go home without further ado. To say the actual caucus helps organize the party is inaccurate, it doesn’t. If there wasn’t a shortage of people interested in training to run a caucus, I’d participate virtually and let go the reins.

Iowa retained first in the nation status this year partly because IDP was forced to listen and make the caucuses more inclusive and transparent. Having done that, we have an avalanche of presidential hopefuls arriving in the state. My main goal is to keep focus on what I believe is the prize (the contest for U.S. Senator) and avoid getting trampled by the donkey stampede. In my favor is experience, which will hopefully prevent me from picking unnecessary fights.

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Sound of Children Playing at the Farm

Two Pallets for the Garden

This week at the farm it was another light day of 21 trays of 120 seedling blocks. One of the seeders brought some children whose voices could be heard while they played with the farm dogs most of the time I was there.

My tray of kale in the greenhouse is ready to plant. The ground isn’t ready so I left it behind for a week. Space in the greenhouse is at a premium so planning where to plant needs to happen. I planted from seed:

Bell Peppers:

Snapper, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, 62 days green/82 days red.

Hot Peppers:

El Eden (Guajillo), Johnny’s Selected Seeds, 65 days green/85 days red.
Baron (Ancho), Johnny’s Selected Seeds, 65 days green/85 days red.
Serrano, Ferry — Morse, 73 days.
Jalapeno — Mild, Ferry — Morse, 72 days.
Jalapeno — Early, Burpee, 72 days.
Red Flame, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, 60 days green/80 days red.
Red Rocket, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, 55 days green/75 Days red.
Long Thin Cayenne, Ferry — Morse, 72 days.
Bangkok, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, 75 days green/95 days red.

Except for the rosemary, everything planted previously germinated. I now have 720 seedlings in the greenhouse.

The intent of many varieties of hot peppers is to have a single patch of two or three rows with a couple plants of each kind. Serrano and Jalapeno are for eating fresh. I’ll pickle some jalapenos. I’m experimenting with El Eden  (Guajillo) and Baron (Ancho) for drying and using in chili sauce, so I may plant a separate row of those two. Everything else is to dry and use as red pepper flakes or chili powder.

The cold, wet spring is making the coming week a crunch time to get started planting.

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