Crops in Northwest Iowa Suffer Due to Drought

Photo credit: Josie Taylor | July 6, 2022.

Ten years ago I posted about the impact of the 2012 drought on Iowa agriculture. Read the post here, yet the crux of the article was climate change was absent from public discussion of the drought. Nothing has changed since then.

Drought conditions continue to affect Iowa crops. Josie Taylor with Iowa Environmental Focus writes about how the current drought impacts crops in Northwest Iowa:

“Corn and soybean plants are continuing to suffer in some parts of Iowa from excessive heat and drought,” she wrote. “This has been seen especially in far northwest Iowa where drought conditions are worsening. Large areas of Plymouth and Woodbury counties are in extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.”

Read the entire article here.

Isn’t it time, ten years later, we acknowledged the 800-pound gorilla in the room? Climate change is real and Iowa agriculture won’t discuss solutions to it. We are running out of time to address the climate crisis before it is too late.

Learn more about The Climate Reality Project and how you can get involved in solving the climate crisis by clicking this link:

If Iowa agriculture won’t take action to mitigate the effects of climate change on their primary industry, the rest of us must.

~ First posted on Blog for Iowa


Neoliberalism in Iowa: An Interview with Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann

On Wednesday, June 29, I interviewed Thom Hartmann in advance of the September release of his new book The Hidden History of Neoliberalism: How Reaganism Gutted America and How To Restore Its Greatness.

This will be the eighth book in Hartmann’s Hidden History series reviewed by Blog for Iowa. My reviews of the Hidden History books have been very popular.

The interview covers a wide range of progressive topics and Hartmann demonstrates his deep knowledge of them all. We discuss the exit of manufacturing jobs from the United States, Iowa soybean exports to China, the right-wing propaganda machine of talk radio and FOX News cable television, ALEC, Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, and the influence of dark money that permeates Iowa society and our politics.

We read in the news media that Americans broadly support Social Security, gun control, abortion, universal health care, equal treatment under the law and more. At the same time, we send Republican politicians, who don’t support any of these things, to Washington, D.C. I’m speaking of Chuck Grassley, Joni Ernst, Ashley Hinson, Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Randy Feenstra.

The gadget below will play the 34 minute, 51 second interview. I hope you will listen to this timely, informative conversation.

Thom Hartmann interview June 29, 2022

~ First published on Blog for Iowa


Independence Day 2022

Blog for Iowa publisher Alta Price (right) in a Quad Cities parade entry. Photo provenance unknown.

Happy Independence Day from Blog for Iowa.

Where I live Independence Day is often about the weather. Today, the weather was exceptional: scattered clouds set against the azure sky, moderate temperatures and low humidity. It was a great day to be outdoors, and that is where many of us spent much of the day, celebrating the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

While tradition and family are part of holiday celebrations, the enactment of tribal culture, and each perceived instance of it are most significant. As we stood in the Ely parade lineup area, people walked past us in what seemed like an endless procession: to town, with folding chairs, in small groups, to watch the parade. It is this walking and the beliefs and artifacts around it that are at the core of shared values. It is less about the parade entries, even though they may be what people saw and talked about. It is more about the social behavior enacted by the larger group.

At the Ely Firemen’s Breakfast, compliance with cultural expectations was visible everywhere. The fire station was arranged for efficiency in handling the large number of people, there are public health considerations with food preparation. Extra activities, like the raffle, were organized to occur outside the fire station and after people had eaten breakfast. During breakfast, people gathered around the tables in family groups. There was not a lot of mingling. The expectation was that people would be friendly, but not intrusive. In this setting, it would be hard for an outsider to penetrate a specific social group without a means of introduction. Participation in the Firemen’s Breakfast becomes a cultural marker for such an introduction, which is unlikely to occur at the event and more likely to occur in other circles at other times. I enjoyed this event immensely and it looked like a lot of money would be raised for the fire station.

As a walker in several parades, I found joy in the interaction between participants and observers. Along the route, those closest to the parade were the youngest. Interaction with very young children, mostly through giving them a gift, made the day. I would present a sucker to the child, say “happy Fourth of July,” and wait for them to take it. Only one child did not take the candy, and most said thank you. At Fourth of July parades, the children are on display as much as the parade entries.

There were reactions to each entry in which I participated. The favorable reactions, cheering, clapping or thumbs up hand signs provided validity to the work we had been doing to get our message out. I am not sure we convinced anyone about any politician or cause we were supporting that day. Like all messaging, penetration can occur only with repetition. What I do believe is that in this aggregation of tribal groups, we were tolerated, and there were some supporters for our causes. These things make us Americans as we celebrate Independence Day.

~ This post is recycled from July 4, 2008, my first Independence Day blog post.

Living in Society

Miller-Meeks: Divisive Blabbermouth

Mariannette Miller-Meeks on the Iowa State Fair Political Soapbox on Aug. 13, 2010. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Mariannette Miller-Meeks ran a successful fourth campaign for congress and now represents Iowa’s Second Congressional District. People argue with that statement, saying they stopped counting the votes, yet it is accurate.

Her first three campaigns (2008, 2010 and 2014) were won consistently by Dave Loebsack, even in 2010 when Republicans began taking back control of the state. Loebsack won in 2010 with 51 percent of the vote to Miller-Meeks’ 46 percent.

Her several campaigns created many opportunities to hear her speak and ask questions over a 13-year period. She is a relatively known entity.

What is new and a bit unexpected, is she used her long awaited victory to become a blabbermouth. Today, my Google Alert finds Miller-Meeks saying something noteworthy to someone a couple of times a day. With her regular appearances on FOX News, she attempts to carve a peculiar narrative of her drawn-out election victory. I preferred it when our district’s member of Congress had less to say and wasn’t constantly spinning talking points.

During the time constituents were represented by Jim Leach and Dave Loebsack, we didn’t hear from them much. Our expectation was we wouldn’t hear from them unless it was important. We are used to our member of Congress being above the fray. Leach and Loebsack were the ones who evaluated data and legislation with their district foremost in mind. While Leach was definitely a Republican, he presented an image of bi-partisanship that won him many district fans. Miller-Meeks evaluates legislation based on her partisanship first and make no pretense about it.

Miller-Meeks’ no vote on the American Rescue Plan epitomizes her partisanship. No Republican in the Congress voted for the law. At the same time Iowans specifically benefited from features of the law. Although the congresswoman has been less vocal about the benefits, her staff is in a position to have to help Iowans with the programs. While voting no, she gains favorable attention by helping constituents.

It is more than she speaks excessively. Miller-Meeks is purposely divisive and the district has not seen this for decades. Jim Leach’s reputation was built on being the guy who could be persuaded to cross the aisle on legislation. Miller-Meeks votes against laws she recognizes will pass without her vote and enjoys the benefit of Democratic policy among voters. She is able to cynically say, “I voted against that bill” to her base, while her staff helps constituents secure benefits. Perhaps the correct descriptive term is Rep. Miller-Meeks is a “divisive blabbermouth.”

For the present, the congresswoman is who she is and as she speaks openly and often, constituents have a chance to get to know her. I doubt people are as tuned into her daily activity as we are at Blog for Iowa. Her frequent unexpected and divisive statements are money in the political bank for Democrats–a reserve that will be spent as Democrats identify a candidate and begin the 2022 Congressional campaign.

Let her go on talking. There will be a price to pay before her term is up.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

Living in Society

Laundering Face Masks-Again

Washington Post Screenshot, July 21, 2021.

Laundering home sewn face masks is back on the to-do list. It looks like we’ll need them.

On Monday I wrote we are not really taming the coronavirus in Iowa or in the United States as a whole. Too many unvaccinated residents are in social situations without protection. The unvaccinated make up the vast majority of hospitalizations for COVID-19. If you missed it, click here to read the post.

To my point about children returning to school this fall, also on Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended universal masking in schools for everyone older than age two.

While that recommendation was churning in the vessel, both political commentator Sean Hannity of FOX News and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made strong public statements that people need to get the COVID-19 vaccine in their arms. McConnell was particularly direct, with a “get vaccinated or else” statement. Here is the clip:

What gives? Are we at a turning point in addressing vaccine hesitancy? We know Hannity and McConnell are not sincerely concerned about those who died or are afflicted with COVID-19. Was it Monday morning’s 750-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average? Did they have a come to Jesus meeting… with Jesus? I’m sure I don’t know, other than it is self serving. Maybe they are worried too many of their anti-vaxx constituents will die of COVID-19, yielding the political fight to Democrats.

My cynicism about conservatives’ motivation aside, the increase in number of COVID-19 cases is alarming. While the majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated, there have been prominent people who, while fully vaccinated, have contracted a new variant of COVID-19. On the one hand we have to go on living. On the other, there are unknown risks to be addressed.

The upshot is get vaccinated if you aren’t.

If you are vaccinated, the CDC recommends you comply with federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations regarding protection from the coronavirus, including local business and workplace guidance. If a merchant requires you to wear a mask on their property, just do so or walk away. Seek to get along in society knowing the pandemic brought out the worst among some people. Seek safer activities if you are in doubt, the CDC made a handy list.

And launder those reusable masks. Don’t be afraid to wear them in public. A mask won’t kill you but the coronavirus might.

Editor’s note: Sean Hannity spent time on his Thursday radio program back tracking on his encouragement to the unvaccinated to get vaccinated.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

Living in Society

Iowa’s 2022 Campaigns Haven’t Truly Started

Small yet mighty turnout of Democrats at the July 17, 2021 Solon Beef Days parade in Johnson County.

The deputy chief of staff to Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks was recently bragging on Twitter, “When you got $1.17 million in the bank and no democrat opponent.” With it he posted an image of an apparently happy, but not smiling congresswoman.

Not so fast buckaroo! There will be opponents… and money.

If you’ve been following along, there are currently only two declared Democratic candidates for statewide office in Iowa: David Muhlbauer for U.S. Senate and Ras Smith for Governor. Others are kicking the tires on runs for congress, senate and governor, but until the districts are defined–hopefully in September–a lot is up in the air. For the time being Muhlbauer and Smith have the Democratic playing field to themselves. One hopes they are taking advantage of their early entry into the 2022 campaign.

If I were a Republican, I’d say the current districts, with a few tweaks to even out population growth, could serve. We became a Republican state with these districts. There is no evidence they want that or are planning anything but accepting the first map from the Legislative Services Agency. Republicans are also good at keeping secrets, so who knows? What they do shall be revealed.

To fill the absence of campaigns, I walk in parades where it makes sense, write letters to the editor and blog posts, and try to support the county party from a distance in my Republican pocket of Iowa’s most Democratic county. I donate a small, monthly amount to the Iowa Democratic Party and get no further than the state borders with my donations.

I could speculate about potential campaigns but what would be the point? After the drubbing we took in 2020, it seems best for Democrats to keep our powder dry until we know something. As we get through redistricting, and the rest of this post-pandemic summer, we’ll find out where we are heading. I’m okay with periodic gaps in the action.

This morning I opened my father’s King James Bible and found the well read passage from Romans 13:12, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” We’ll be casting off the tweets of Miller-Meeks’ staff. Democrats have to work smarter because, as Alexander Pope put it in the 18th Century, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

Democrats can’t afford to be fools in 2022.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

Living in Society

Shrinking the Tax Gap

On July 14, I participated in an online briefing with former IRS Commissioners Fred Goldberg Jr. and Charles Rossotti on modernizing the IRS and shrinking the tax gap.

Goldberg was appointed as IRS Commissioner by President George H.W. Bush in 1989 and served three years. Rossotti was named IRS Commissioner in 1997 by President Bill Clinton. He served five years. Both former IRS commissioners are members of the group Shrink the Tax Gap, which states each year there is a tax gap of $574 billion in taxes that are owed to the IRS but not paid. Their position is simple and clear. Most people pay their taxes. Some people don’t, and that’s not fair.

In an article by James Q. Lynch, Congresswoman Ashley Hinson (IA-01), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said of bills the committee was marking up, “I think that these bills disrespect taxpayers.”

What if we collected taxes due the IRS to help pay for them? Would that respect taxpayers?

Hinson supports expanding the child tax credit in the American Rescue Plan, but has concerns about the price tag of the bill that includes sending payments averaging $423 a month to about 35 million families with children. Hinson, like every Republican member of Congress, voted against the American Rescue Plan. When we are talking about price tags, the elephant in the room is the hundreds of billions of dollars in unpaid taxes created by the tax gap.

President Joe Biden proposed spending more money on the IRS so it could pursue tax deadbeats. We’re talking about people who have unpaid tax bills, not creating new taxes. Republican U.S. Senators want no part of this.

“What Republican senators object to here is training IRS investigators on people and corporations who are deliberately trying to cheat the system (not to mention the American people) and have the resources to do so,” wrote Kerry Eleveld at Daily Kos. “Instead, (they) would clearly rather just keep the IRS focused on smaller fish, who may have messed up some calculation on TurboTax, for instance. Why? Because the small fries aren’t delivering enough to GOP campaign coffers, that’s why.”

Paying taxes is so basic to being an American I believe most voters would support collecting taxes due. Yet that’s not how our government is evolving. The Republican minority seeks to retain control over the tax system to benefit the minority of wealthy Americans.

In Sunday news, Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) announced Biden’s plan to fund the IRS is officially off the table in the bipartisan infrastructure bill because he got “pushback” from fellow Republican lawmakers who dislike the idea of giving the IRS the tools it needs to collect taxes owed. Portman is a key negotiator for Republicans on this bill. It will be up to Democrats to pass this provision through reconciliation in the separate $3.5 Trillion infrastructure bill to which their caucus has agreed.

Do your job Congress. Shrink the tax gap.

For more information about Shrink the Tax Gap, click here.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

Living in Society

Is Jessica Reznicek a Terrorist?

Jessica Reznicek Photo Credit: Twitter @FreeJessRez

Jessica Reznicek, a 39-year-old environmental activist and Catholic Worker from Des Moines, Iowa, was sentenced in federal court June 30 to eight years in prison for her efforts to sabotage construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.

In November 2016, Reznicek and Ruby Montoya, a former preschool teacher, set fire to heavy construction equipment at a pipeline worksite in Buena Vista County, Iowa.

Over the next several months, the women used oxyacetylene torches, tires and gasoline-soaked rags to burn equipment and damage pipeline valves along the line from Iowa to South Dakota. Their actions reportedly caused several million dollars’ worth of damage and delayed construction for weeks.

Catholic activist sentenced for Dakota Access Pipeline vandalism by Claire Schaeffer-Duffy at To read the rest of the article, click here.

Reznicek’s criminal penalties were substantial. In addition to jail time, U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger included $3,198,512.70 in restitution and three years’ post-prison supervised release after she plead guilty to a single count of damaging an energy facility, according to Common Dreams. It’s hard to argue her protest was intended to be non-violent. She used an oxyacetylene torch to damage the pipeline without knowing if fuel was in transit.

Reznicek is being prosecuted as a terrorist. Is that what she is? It seems unlikely the board of directors or billionaire Kelcey Warren of Energy Transfer Partners felt terrorized. They had reason to know there would be protests during construction, and likely built defense from them into their operating, overhead, and risk management budgets. For ETP, pipeline protests represented business as usual. In 2018 there was a “protect the protests” direct action in Dallas, Texas where demonstrators accused ETP at its corporate headquarters of attempting to silence them with lawsuits.

Like many in the Des Moines Catholic Worker community Reznicek has been willing to break the law in peaceful protest and has been arrested. In 2014, she was detained for nearly 48 hours and then deported after flying into Israel to support Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, according to the Des Moines Register. It seems obvious the Iowa Legislature had people like Reznicek in mind when they recently increased penalties for protesters.

I received the first of a series of emails from Reznicek during the Occupy Movement in 2011. She was an organizer for Occupy Iowa, Occupy Des Moines, Occupy the Caucus, Occupy Monsanto, Occupy the World Food Prize, and other direct action protests. She was arrested at some of these protests. It seemed like boilerplate organizing. Whatever cache the Occupy movement may have had, the work she did was straight forward with transparency. It was not a terrorist plot the way in 1995 Timothy McVeigh plotted to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. It would be better for the peace and justice movement if Reznicek did not have to spend her time serving time and defending herself in this prominent case. It goes with the territory, though.

The answer is no. Jessica Reznicek is not a terrorist. Society needs more people like her to call attention to injustice. If there is a cost to her protests, she has been willing to accept responsibility. If asked, my neighbors would say justice was served with Reznicek’s prosecution and sentencing. As it plays out in the judicial system, some of us wonder who will step in to fill her shoes in the peace and justice movement. It may be someone, but it won’t be her for a while.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

Living in Society

There’s a Reason Republicans Call It ‘Communist China’

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

“The unprecedented global challenges that the United States faces today—climate change, pandemics, nuclear proliferation, massive economic inequality, terrorism, corruption, authoritarianism—are shared global challenges. They cannot be solved by any one country acting alone. They require increased international cooperation—including with China, the most populous country on earth.” ~ Sen. Bernie Sanders, June 18, 2021

Readers have likely noticed recent Republican reference to “Communist China.” They seek to create a bogeyman to scare the electorate–one more trick in their fear-mongering bag used to dominate low-knowledge voters.

In a recent article on the Portside website, Sen. Sanders laid out how relations with China have changed, why they remain important, and require further change despite challenges.

“It is distressing and dangerous, therefore, that a fast-growing consensus is emerging in Washington that views the U.S.-Chinese relationship as a zero-sum economic and military struggle,” Sanders wrote. “The prevalence of this view will create a political environment in which the cooperation that the world desperately needs will be increasingly difficult to achieve.”

As far as a military struggle goes, the claim that China challenges the U.S. militarily is exaggerated.

It’s important to begin any assessment of the challenge from China by noting that the United States currently outpaces it militarily by a large margin. The U.S. has a more modern air force, a more capable navy and a far larger nuclear arsenal than China, and it spends roughly three times as much on its military. The spending gap widens considerably when U.S. allies in NATO, Australia, Japan, and South Korea are taken into account.

The nuclear gap is especially stark – the United States’ active nuclear stockpile is 11 times the size of China’s and deployed U.S. warheads are five times what China possesses. The gap between the U.S. and Chinese militaries is documented in detail in a recent analysis by the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation.

William Hartung, Forbes Magazine, June 22, 2021

As recently as 2000, the consensus in the United States was that China should be granted “permanent normal trade relations” status or PNTR, according to Sanders. It may be familiar to hear that to compete in a global economy, U.S. companies require access to Chinese markets.

“At that time, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the corporate media, and virtually every establishment foreign policy pundit in Washington insisted that PNTR was necessary to keep U.S. companies competitive by giving them access to China’s growing market, and that the liberalization of China’s economy would be accompanied by the liberalization of China’s government with regard to democracy and human rights,” wrote Sanders.

This approach was wrong according to Sanders, as is the current approach of casting China as villainous. “For the American people to thrive,” Sanders wrote. “Others around the world need to believe that the United States is their ally and that their successes are our successes.” He supports President Biden’s approach toward relations with China.

To learn more about the change in Republican views toward China, and why it is important to coming elections, I recommend reading the two linked articles. I also recommend we don’t let Republican scare tactics divide us.

~ First Published on Blog for Iowa.

Living in Society Sustainability

A World Without Nuclear Weapons

B-61 Nuclear Bombs

While it got scant notice in the U.S. press, the joint statement after the Geneva, Switzerland meeting between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin was significant:

We, President of the United States of America Joseph R. Biden and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, note the United States and Russia have demonstrated that, even in periods of tension, they are able to make progress on our shared goals of ensuring predictability in the strategic sphere, reducing the risk of armed conflicts and the threat of nuclear war.

The recent extension of the New START Treaty exemplifies our commitment to nuclear arms control. Today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.

Consistent with these goals, the United States and Russia will embark together on an integrated bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue in the near future that will be deliberate and robust. Through this Dialogue, we seek to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures.

The White House, June 16, 2021.

The joint statement echoed what President Ronald Reagan and Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev said 36 years earlier in Geneva, “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

“The complete abolition of nuclear weapons is the only way to be safe from their threat,” president of Physicians for Social Responsibility of Los Angeles Robert Dodge, M.D. wrote in Common Dreams.

The United States and Russia possess far more nuclear weapons than the rest of the nuclear states combined, enough to destroy life as we know it on Earth many times over. The two states working toward strategic stability is essential to compliance with Article VI of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. During the previous U.S. administration, future compliance with the NPT came into doubt. President Biden is getting the U.S. back on the right track.

That’s not to say it will be easy. As Dodge points out, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons went into force January 22 this year. Currently it has been signed by 86 nations and been ratified by 54. Neither Russia nor the U.S. have joined the treaty and the prospects of them doing so near term are dim.

All nine nuclear states must take a step back from the brink of nuclear annihilation. The Geneva statement on strategic stability suggests it is possible to do so.

To learn more about the U.S. grassroots organizing effort to produce the safer, healthier and more just world that is possible without nuclear weapons, visit the Back from the Brink website.

~ First Published on Blog for Iowa