Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Take over the Democratic Party

Real change never occurs from the top on down; always from the bottom on up. — Bernie Sanders

RECENTLY I passed along The Michael Moore Easy-to-Follow 10-Point Plan to Stop (He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named)Number six on that list is Take Over the Democratic Party. Here's what he had to say about it:


#6

"The old guard of the Party has twice in 16 years presided over the majority of Americans electing the Democrat to the White House — only for us all to see the losing Republican inaugurated as President. How is it that we have won the popular vote in SIX OF THE LAST SEVEN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS — the Republicans have only won ONCE since 1988 — and yet, we hold NO power in any branch of government?! 

That, plus losing 1,000 local seats in this election that the Dems use to hold — plus watching many Dems in Congress unwilling to stand up to Trump — PLEASE, the old leadership has to go. God love ’em for their contributions in the past, but if we don’t enact a radical overhaul right now, we are doomed as far as having a true opposition party during the Trump era. And that, more than anything, will help to usher in the vice-grip of a totalitarian culture. Locally, you need to start attending your county Democratic meetings. If possible, organize your friends and others and take over your local Dem organization. More on this at a later date."





But we don't have to wait for Michael. If you live in Iowa, I can tell you what the first step is: attend your local off-year caucus. 


Here's the thing about attending — it's your way to have a say in who runs the party in your precinct, your county, your district and our state. In Polk County for example, although new precinct chairs won't be elected, alternates will be, and if your precinct chairs aren't attending County Central Committee meetings, you take their place, and if you serve on the CCC, not only do you get to vote on who runs the Party at that level and make other decisions, you yourself could run. It also affords you the opportunity to serve on the District Central Committee.


If you don't think the Democratic Party represents you, show up and add your voice!


I mistakenly believed that like presidential-year caucuses, off-year caucuses would be held on the same day in every county around the state. Nope.


I've gone through the Iowa Democratic Party calendar to find all the county caucus dates I can, but not all of them are listed. For example, Polk County's off-year caucus isn't listed on the calendar. (They should also be listed county-by-county to make finding each one easier, instead of having to poke around the calendar.)


Below are the ones I've found, but HERE IS A LINK to the page on the Iowa Democratic Party website that lists contact information county-by-county. There's a phone number for each one and many have live links to a Facebook page or website, so you can find out when your off-year caucus is.


Thursday, March 2 — Johnson County — Iowa City Public Library, 123 Linn, room A; caucus to follow central committee meeting at 6pm


Thursday, March 2 — Worth County — Kensett town hall, Kensett at 6:30pm 


Saturday, March 4 — Cherokee County  — Supervisors Room, Court House, Cherokee at 9:30AM 


Saturday, March 4 — Linn County 

  • District 35 — Taft Middle School cafeteria 5200 E Ave NW, Cedar Rapids at  9am
  • District 34 — IBEW Hall 1211 Wiley Blvd SW, Cedar Rapids at 9am
  • District 33 — Washington High School 2205 Forest Dr SE, Cedar Rapids at 9am
  • District 48 — Gwen's 119 W Main St, Lisbon at 9am

Monday, March 6 — Muscatine County — MCC student Center, Muscatine at 5pm 


Monday, March 6 — Polk County — various locations — Link to the locations


Wednesday, March 8Woodbury County 


Thursday, March 9Howard County — Kesssel building, Cresco


Saturday, March 11  Union County — 116 W Adams St, Creston at 9am 


Saturday, March 11 — Wapello County 


Saturday, March 11 — Woodbury County — Wilbur Aalfs Public Library meeting room, Sioux City at 6 pm


Thursday, March 16 — Cedar County — Courthouse in Tipton at 7pm


Thursday, March 16 — Hancock County — 235 State St, Garner at 7pm


Thursday, March 16Pottawattamie County — Council Bluffs Library, registration at 6:30pm, call to order at 7pm


Saturday, March 18Dubuque County — Northeast Iowa Community College, 8342 NICC Drive, Peosta at 9am


Saturday, March 18 — Plymouth County — Merrill Kissinger Center, Merrill at noon


Monday, March 20Buchanan County — Pizza Ranch, 1900 1st St W, Independence at 6pm


Saturday, March 25Allamakee County — Robey Memorial Library Community Room, Waukon at 10:15am


Saturday, March 25 — Boone County — Boone Historical Building, 6th and Story Street, Boone at 10am 


Saturday, March 25 — Montgomery County — Fire Station at 10am 


Saturday, March 25 — Story County — Ames High School, Ames at 9am


Sunday, March 26 — Clinton County — Clinton Community College, Clinton at 1pm


Monday, March 27 — Wayne County — Courthouse meeting room, Corydon, registration at 6:30, call to order at 7pm


Tuesday, March 28Cerro Gordo County — Village Court Family Restaurant, 687 S Taft Ave #4, Mason City at 6:30pm



BE THE CHANGE

Monday, February 27, 2017

A private signing ceremony

“There are three major political organizations in this country: the Republican Party, the Democratic Party and the Koch Brothers Party. With billions to spend on campaigns. think tanks and 'educational' organizations, the Koch brothers are the most powerful.” — Bernie Sanders

MANY OF those who called Iowa Governor Terry Branstad's office in the days before the Iowa legislature voted to kill Chapter 20 of the Iowa Code, a bipartisan piece of legislation signed into law by Republican Governor Robert Ray in 1974, discovered that phones to the governor's office were not being answered. 


Evidently the governor didn't want to know what Iowa citizens thought about the proposed sweeping changes to a law that for 43 years has guaranteed public employees the right to bargain collectively . . . because he'd already decided what he wanted. Or rather powerful private interests had decided what they wanted, Branstad passed along that wish list to the Republican-majority legislature, and it delivered. 


Adding insult to injury, the governor signed the bill in a private ceremony with Drew Klein, the state director and lobbyist for the Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity.


Americans for Prosperity. How ironic. What a perfect example of naming an organization exactly what it isn't. Prosperity for whom? Not the 180,000 Iowans who are public employees. Prosperity for the 1%. Bernie was right.


Below is a piece from the Iowa Starting Line and the Iowa Daily Democrat.



Governor Branstad signing away public employees rights.

Branstad Celebrates Behind Closed Doors With Koch Lobbyist


By Rick Smith

February 22, 2017

Governor Terry Branstad’s bill signing ceremony for the most anti-labor bill in recent Iowa history was reserved for a very special guest. Drew Klein, the state director and lobbyist for the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP) got an extraordinary front row seat at the private closed door signing. Branstad demanded a secret signing ceremony, shutting out both the press and the public as he signed away the rights of 180,000 Iowans.


The Republicans’ devious manipulation of this labor-killing legislation has repeatedly betrayed the Iowa legacy of open and transparent government. Governor Branstad’s final poke in the eye to Iowans was to reward the Koch Brothers-funded lobbyist with a special audience as Branstad signed the anti-labor bill.  Teachers, police, firefighters and other loyal public service employees were mocked as their Governor arrogantly shook the hand of the lobbyist that assisted him and the Republicans in destroying their rights.


Klein had testified in favor of the anti-labor bill at the open hearings but meekly denied receiving any special treatment. “I don’t know how the governor’s office made final decisions on who was or wasn’t invited, but as someone that stood by the Legislature throughout the process and championed these reforms, I don’t understand why it would be abnormal for me to also stand next to the governor in support of his signing,” Klein told the Des Moines Register.


At Monday’s press conference Governor Branstad further insulted the intelligence of the press by lamely claiming he didn’t even know Klein. “I really don’t even know him. So it is not that big a deal as far as I am concerned.” He said he wanted to be accommodating, as “quite a few people that had made a specific request.”


Are we to believe that Governor Branstad doesn’t know Drew Klein? Are we to believe Klein, the Iowa lobbyist representing the Koch empire, the single largest funders of Republicans nationwide, is unknown to Governor Branstad? Are we to believe Governor Branstad doesn’t know the state director of the Koch-funded AFP that played a key role in electing Senator Joni Ernst?


In a special Koch sponsored retreat June 16, 2014, candidate Joni Ernst thanked the Kochs for launching her Senate race.  “I was not known at that time,” Ernst said. “A little-known state senator from a very rural part of Iowa, known through my National Guard service and some circles in Iowa. But the exposure to this group and to this network and the opportunity to meet so many of you, that really started my trajectory.”


This is the Koch “network” Governor Branstad knows nothing about. Are we to believe Governor Branstad was unaware of the hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV ads that the Koch network spent in 2014 electing Senator Ernst?


That Koch network has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to crush unions in the past several years. In 2011, the Michigan AFP executive director said, “what we would like to see is to take the unions out at the knees so they don’t have the resources to fight these battles.”


The Kochs donated to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and played a crucial role in the destruction of public sector unions in Wisconsin six years ago. It’s crystal clear that the Kochs and their front group brought that strategy to Iowa. The Iowa Republicans in the legislature held a conference call via Skype with Governor Walker just prior to their vote on the bill. Walker said he offered the Iowa Republicans “encouragement.”


Governor Branstad must be the most out touch Iowa Republican in history if he doesn’t know Drew Klein and his relationship to his Koch puppet masters. Should Governor Branstad be more ashamed for signing this evil bill or for denying knowing who pulled the strings that engineered it? 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Iowa teachers: Minnesota welcomes you

“Everyone who remembers his own education remembers teachers, not methods and techniques. The teacher is the heart of the educational system.“ — Sidney Hook, American philosopher known for his contributions to the philosophy of history, education, political theory and ethics

THE POST I wrote two days ago about the hardship that the loss of collective bargaining is inflicting upon Iowa teachers and other public employees as well as our state's education system, clearly struck a chord. In less than 24 hours, it became the single most-read post in Hey Look Something Shiny's six-year history.

As a follow up to that post, below is a letter to The Des Moines Register from a Minnesota school district superintendent thanking the Iowa legislature for treating teachers poorly. It seems our progressive neighbor to the north is in need of certified teachers and appreciates the encouragement our governor and legislators have given Iowa teachers to move there.





Minnesota superintendent thanks Iowa lawmakers for passing collective bargaining


By Joseph E. Brown Sr. 

February 17, 2017 

As the Fairmont Area School district superintendent, located in south central Minnesota, I want to personally thank the Iowa Legislature for dismantling Chapter 20 of the Iowa Code. You see, this country is facing a serious shortage of qualified and certified teachers.


Ten years ago, Fairmont would receive more than 100 applications for an elementary opening. Two years ago we had three openings due to retirements and we only received five applications and hired three of them. Last year we had a 5th grade opening due to a retirement and we did not receive any applicants. I had to personally recruit a teacher from a neighboring district that was a resident of ours to teach at Fairmont.


By the way, our starting salary is $40,000. Teachers at the top of our salary schedule may earn $70,000.


When Gov. Scott Walker and the Wisconsin legislature reduced collective bargaining rights, Minnesota became the net gainer as we recruited Wisconsin teachers to relocate to Minnesota. I anticipate that if and when Iowa destroys Chapter 20, once again, Minnesota will be the net gainer by making it easier to recruit Iowa teachers to relocate to Minnesota. This will result in a shortage of Iowa teachers.


As a born and raised Iowan, I gladly tell people that I have the best of both worlds: an Iowa education and a Minnesota paycheck. Please note that I served two terms in the Iowa Senate from 1979-1986. During my first four years I served as the ranking member of the Senate Education Committee. During my last four years I served as the chairman of the Senate Education Committee and vice chair of the Senate Labor Committee. It doesn’t surprise me that the Republican legislators are pushing H.F. 291 and S.F. 213. It does disappoint me. It will result in Iowa becoming a loser and neighboring states becoming winners.


Joseph E. Brown Sr., superintendent, Fairmont School District 


Friday, February 24, 2017

Why teachers are quitting in Iowa

"There is an old saying that the course of civilization is a race between catastrophe and education. In a democracy such as ours, we must make sure that education wins the race." — John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States

I WAS standing in line in Dollar Tree two days ago waiting to pay for some note cards, when I noticed that the young woman behind me had a hand-basket full of purple, hinge-lidded, plastic boxes. 


Making idle conversation to help pass the time in line a little faster, I said, "Looks like you've got yourself a big project there."


"Oh these aren't for me," she said. "I'm a teacher. They're for my students."


"If you don't mind my asking, are you paying for these personally?" I asked.


"Yup," she replied. 


"I've heard teachers do quite a bit of that."


"Well," she answered, "the principal of our school is really good about trying to help out with extra money here and there so we can buy what we need, but if you need something right now, what are you going to do?" 


We're always hearing about teachers digging into to their own pockets to buy supplies. We hear about it with such frequency that I think we become inured and tune it out. 


Here was a perfect example standing next to me . . . a young woman trying to do her best for a class of kindergarteners in a small school in northeast Des Moines in a state whose governor, Terry Branstad, has proposed a paltry 1.1% increase in funding for education, which isn't an increase when inflation is factored in . . . a young woman who just had her collective bargaining rights for everything except base pay stripped away by the Iowa State Legislature, a young woman who happens to be pregnant, so you know her family expenses aren't going down.






February 11, prior to the vote on collective bargaining, Paul and I attended a legislative coffee with the our district's Republican State Senator and our two Republican State Representatives hosted by the Ankeny Chamber of Commerce. It wasn't so much a 'coffee' as it was a full-on protest. The room has a capacity of maybe 100; an estimated 500 people showed up, packing the room like sardines and filling the hallways in both directions. The vast majority of them were teachers and other public employees.

Seventy or 80 signed up to 'ask a question' and of those perhaps 20 were granted time to speak. One man stood at the microphone and, in tears, said that his daughter who is attending college to be a teacher, is now thinking of dropping out of the program based on the grim and unrewarding prospects of being a teacher in Iowa


Listening to him reminded me that I recently bumped into a lovely, now grown, woman I've known since she was five, who became an Iowa teacher. When I asked Michelle if she were still teaching, she told me, no, she'd quit because the budget cuts year after year after year had made her job so difficult that she just couldn't keep doing it anymore.


Below is a brief summary of recent events from WGEM TV.


Teachers in Iowa worried about collective bargaining bill impact


By Don Dwyer

February 22, 2017

DONNELLSON, IA (WGEM) — Teachers in southeast Iowa are worried about the future now that a new collective bargaining law has kicked in.


They say the new law could impact your child's education.


The new law limits the power of public sector unions by only allowing them to negotiate base pay.


Teachers at Central Lee High School in Donnellson say that's going to create a teacher shortage.


Governor Branstad signed the bill last week, meaning unions can't negotiate health insurance or supplemental pay.


The teachers say they could work in Illinois, Missouri, or Minnesota with better offers. 


"My only fear is that there will not be able to fill positions or you may have someone that will fill in for a position they are not totally qualified for because they can't find someone for that position," High School English teacher Anna Westermeyer said. "I was already suffering a teacher shortage and I am sure this will be another barrier for that." 


Tech teacher Hollie Weber says this will mean more competition with teachers moving around to different schools, something she's seen personally when she works in Des Moines.


"Whichever district was offering the incentive to work there, maybe an extra planning period, or better benefits, there wasn't a problem with people saying, 'I will work there.' There are three to four districts that are within driving distance of Central Lee," Weber said. 


Weber says the impact wouldn't be seen immediately but it would be seen more in the coming years. 


Iowa's largest state employees union has filed a lawsuit challenging the new law. 


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Michael Moore and more

“The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.” — Albert Einstein

I DON'T know about you, but I'm tired! The slash and burn on the federal and the state level — at least in the state I live in — is wearing me down. I might as well be in Kansas, for god's sake.

You're familiar with the famous line from The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy says, "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." (FYI: that's the actual line; almost everyone gets it wrong.) 

Well, my problem is that I think I actually am in Kansas.

But wait there's more: attempted legislative mischief attacking the city water system, right on down to interpersonal ground level in the form of blatant sexism in a club I belong to. I'm fighting a battle everywhere I turn. It's whack-a-mole.

But then again, that's the aggressors' strategy, is it not? Sustained and repeated attacks on so many fronts at once — shock and awe — that we wear out or give up because we literally can't keep up.

I want to tell you all about what I've been up to — I really, really do — but I'm bone weary.  So tonight I'm sharing a piece by Michael Moore that several of you have sent my way, plus an agreeable video from Samantha Bee. If you don't feel like reading everything Michael has to say, just skip on down to the bottom for dessert. It's not exactly a G-rated video, definitely not, but it's satisfying.

Hey, we all could use a good laugh at the expense of the orange obscenity. 



From Michael Moore

Friends, I welcome you to “The Michael Moore Easy-to-Follow 10-Point Plan to Stop Trump.”

First, let’s acknowledge what we all know to be true: Trump is in deep, deep trouble — in the pocket of Russians, surrounded by alt.right idiots, alone in his bathrobe in a mostly-empty White House — and caught inside a disgusting “shit-sandwich”, so said his supporter who turned down the NSA job.

Only one month into his So-Called Presidency — and yet there is good news, as this is what the American landscape looks like:

• Tens of thousands of citizens across the country have stormed Congressional district offices and town hall meetings to express their rage at the Trump agenda (a dejected Republican congressman, after a 3-hour verbal assault from his angry constituents, said on TV last night, “let’s face it – they [the Obamacare supporters] have won.”).

• A federal court halted Trump’s first Muslim Ban — actually, make that FOUR federal courts have ruled against him! He’s conceded defeat and will not appeal to the Supreme Court (though he will try a new ban – and good luck with that, you son of a Scottish immigrant).

• Progressive Democrat Congressman Keith Ellison appears to be the front-runner for this Saturday’s vote to head the Democratic Party — and to FIX the whole damn mess! Also, a recruitment drive has begun across the country to find the best local candidates to run for state and federal offices in 2018. Millions are committed to never letting the Debacle of ‘16 happen again.

• Our beautiful Army of Comedy – with its Platoon of Satirists led by Alec Baldwin and Melissa McCarthy – is killing it! The devastating impersonation of White House spokesman Sean Spicer by McCarthy has Trump fuming to the point where he has considered getting rid of Spicer. Politico says he simply can’t watch one of his top aides being portrayed by…a woman!

So the momentum is with us right now — and if we all just take a little time to do the Action Plan below, I’m convinced we’ll succeed in halting the dark force that is Trump. We can tie him up in knots at every turn, and eventually, we can bring him down.
So let’s get started with our…

10-POINT ACTION PLAN TO STOP TRUMP

1. THE DAILY CALL

You must call Congress every day. Yes – YOU! 202-225-3121. It will take just TWO MINUTES! Make it part of your daily routine, one of those five things you do every morning without even thinking about it:

1. Wake up.
2. Brush teeth.
3. Walk dog (or stare at cat).
4. Make coffee.
5. Call Congress.

It is impossible to overstate just how much power you have by making this simple, quick DAILY CALL. I know from firsthand experience the impact it has. These politicians freak out if they get just 10 calls on an issue. Imagine them getting 10,000! Holy crap – the dome will pop off that building!
NOTE: if you’re saying to yourself, “I don’t need to call because my rep is a Democrat!” — that is NOT true. They need to hear from you. They need to know they have your support. Don’t believe it? Our beloved Sen. Elizabeth Warren voted in favor of Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development! I’m sure no one in Massachusetts thought they had to call her. YOU DO! She and the other Dems need to hear from the boss — YOU! They work for us – and what boss doesn’t have daily contact with his or her employees?

It’s easy to make The Daily Call. To call your U.S. member of Congress or Senators in D.C., dial 202-225-3121 (or 202-224-3121 if busy). It’s even better to call their direct line. For Senators, find each of their numbers here: http://bit.ly/2kko0Ao. For the direct line to your member in the House of Representatives: http://house.gov/representatives.

Here’s some great news: Someone has created an app to make this very easy: Go to the App Store and get “5 Calls”. The app will dial the friggin’ phone for you and give you talking points for when you speak to your reps!

Here’s what a sample week of your DAILY CALL can look like:

On Monday, call your Congressman/woman and tell them you do not want them to repeal Obamacare. In fact, you want them to improve it so that we have single-payer universal health care like all other “civilized” countries.

On Tuesday, call the first of your two U.S. Senators and tell him to vote NO on Rick Perry for Secretary of Energy. He couldn’t even remember there was a Department of Energy – or what it did!

On Wednesday, call your other U.S. Senator. Demand she do everything in her power to block the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Thursday, call your local State House/Assembly representative in your state capital. Tell her you want the House to vote for legislation that prohibits the incarceration of nonviolent drug users.

On Friday, call your State Senator. Tell him you want him to support all efforts to reduce those activities which cause climate change.

If you’d rather to write to your reps, you can find the best way to do that for each of them here by typing in your address on: democracy.io.

I will post updates on the actions we’re fighting for each day and week on my Twitter and Facebook pages. If you want to know what to call your reps about, I encourage you to follow me right now on Facebook at facebook.com/MMFlint and on Twitter at @MMFlint. All my social media sites are at my website www.michaelmoore.com.

Remember — A call a day keeps the Trump away.

2. THE MONTHLY VISIT:


To add even more pressure, SHOW UP! Your member of Congress has a local office in your town or somewhere nearby. So do both of your U.S. Senators (often in the nearest federal building). Go there and ask to speak to their aide about the issues we’re facing (again, I will continually post them on my social media sites).

Also, don’t forget to visit the local office (or the state capitol office) of your State Representative/Assemblyperson, and your State Senator.

And, if you’re lucky to live within driving distance of Washington, DC, show up on Capitol Hill and pay an unannounced (it’s legal!) in-person visit to your U.S. Senators and your Congressman/woman. They pay serious attention to this. It blows their mind that you’d drive that far to see them. Do it!

I know not everyone has the time to do THE MONTHLY VISIT — but if you can, please do!

3. YOUR OWN PERSONAL RAPID RESPONSE TEAM:

You and 5 to 20 friends and family members must become your personal RAPID RESPONSE TEAM. Sign everybody up so that when we need to leap into action (like we did at the airports the hour after Trump signed his Muslim Ban), you can email and text each other and make an instant plan. On other days, you’ll share links to good investigative stories and TV news items. Come up with a name for your RAPID RESPONSE TEAM — mine is called “The V for Vendetta Rapid Response Team” and it consists of myself, my daughter and son-in-law (and their new baby!); my two sisters, their spouses and adult children; my cousin; 8 friends; 6 co-workers; and my next door neighbor. That’s 27 of us and we live from Seattle to Michigan to Maryland. And each of them are forming their own local Rapid Response Teams. So that means the 27 on my team are so far responsible 405 new Rapid Responders overnight! And each of those 405 are doing the same – they’re recruiting their own 5-20 people – and BOOM! 4,050 more Rapid Responders tomorrow — and growing!

4. JOIN! JOIN! JOIN!:

We all know it’s time for all of us to be part of a greater whole, so let’s actually physically sign up online and JOIN some of our great national groups. I’ve joined Planned Parenthood, ACLU, Black Lives Matter, Democratic Socialists of America, and ERA Action. Some charge money to join, so if you don’t have much, pick the lowest amount ($5 for ACLU for example) — or join groups that don’t charge anything (but if you can help them financially, please do). They will keep you informed of national actions and fight for us in court.

5. THE WOMEN’S MARCH NEVER ENDS:

The historical, record-breaking January 21st Women’s March on Washington — and the hundreds of other Marches that day across the US and the world, with over 4 million in attendance! — brought massive numbers of people out who had never protested in their lives. It inspired millions of others and ignited so many local movements we still can’t count them all. The day after the Women’s March, another two dozen protests took place. The day after that, 2,000 Utahans jammed into their state capitol in Salt Lake City. Then, on the following Saturday, tens of thousands of Americans occupied their local airports to oppose Trump’s Muslim ban. And on and on and on. Every day — still! — dozens of actions continue to take place as if the Women’s March never ended. It hasn’t. Join it!

I and a group of friends have set up THE RESISTANCE CALENDAR (www.resistancecalendar.com) that is updated daily, where you can find out what actions are taking place near where you live. All you have to do is type in your city or state in the search bar.

It’s critical that large numbers of us continue to march, protest, sit-in, and be very visible — to Trump, so he knows we are the majority; to put the Dems on notice that we expect them to grow a spine; to our fellow Americans who live in Boise or Tulsa or Grand Rapids and have been feeling alone and afraid since the election. Our mass presence reminds them the people didn’t elect Trump. And it is good for each of us to operate in concert with each other, to feel the solidarity and the hope.
And the official Women’s March on Washington — they’ve called for a national Women’s Strike on March 8th. Let’s join them!

6. TAKE OVER THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY:

The old guard of the Party has twice in 16 years presided over the majority of Americans electing the Democrat to the White House — only for us all to see the losing Republican inaugurated as President. How is it that we have won the popular vote in SIX OF THE LAST SEVEN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS — the Republicans have only won ONCE since 1988 — and yet, we hold NO power in any branch of government?! That, plus losing 1,000 local seats in this election that the Dems use to hold — plus watching many Dems in Congress unwilling to stand up to Trump — PLEASE, the old leadership has to go. God love ’em for their contributions in the past, but if we don’t enact a radical overhaul right now, we are doomed as far as having a true opposition party during the Trump era. And that, more than anything, will help to usher in the vice-grip of a totalitarian culture.

You must do two things:

1. Let the DNC know that THIS SATURDAY, February 25th, the Democratic National Committee MUST elect reform and progressive candidate, Congressman Keith Ellison, as the new DNC chair. Keith is a former community organizer, the first Muslim elected to Congress, and a key backer of Bernie Sanders. He not only has Bernie’s support – and mine – but he’s also backed by Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, Gloria Steinem, John Lewis and many others. Sign his petition of support at www.keithfordnc.org/howyoucanhelp. Let the DNC know how you feel.

2. And locally, you need to start attending your county Democratic meetings. If possible, organize your friends and others and take over your local Dem organization. More on this at a later date.

7. HELP FORM BLUE REGIONS OF RESISTANCE:

People keep saying to me, “Mike – I live in a Blue State – what can I do?” If you live in a Blue State, you have one of the MOST important tasks to complete: Show the rest of America what it looks like when Trump isn’t in charge! Blue States and Blue Cities must do an end-run around Trump and create the America we want to live in. That means New York goes ahead and offers Free College for All. California can create its own Universal Health Care. Oregon can stop mass incarceration of African Americans. Hawaii can enact its own climate change laws. Blue States can show the rest of country how much better life can be. Important historical note: Before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal, California and New York passed their own state laws to make it legal. This greatly helped pave the way for CHOICE being the new normal — and the enactment of Row v. Wade.

8. YOU MUST RUN FOR OFFICE:

I know, that’s the LAST thing you want to do. But if we keep leaving the job up to the dismal, lame, pathetic political hacks who have sold us all down the river, then what right do we have to complain? This is only going to get fixed when you and I decide we are willing to put in our time — even if it is a brief time — and run for office. I ran when I was 18 and got elected. You can, too. We need good candidates for the 2018 elections — and not just Congress and State Houses, but also school boards, city councils and county commissions. Why not take out a petition today and run next year? Heck, I’ll bet I’ll even support you!

I realize most of you can’t do this — but there is one office every one of us can and SHOULD run for next year: PRECINCT DELEGATE. Every precinct, every neighborhood can elect x-number of Dems to the county Democratic Convention. It’s on the ballot and it’s usually blank – no one runs for it. So the precinct delegates end up being appointed by the party hacks. And that’s who ends up eventually at the national convention to pick the next presidential candidate. So this is an important position to run for. The time commitment is just 3 hours a year! You attend the county convention — that’s it. Call your city or county clerk and find out how to get on the ballot. If you’ll do it, I’ll do it. It’s the first step to making sure we put a candidate on the ballot who can win.

9. YOU MUST BECOME THE MEDIA:

Stop complaining about the media, stop wishing they were something they’re not, find the ones who are doing a good job and then start your own “media empire” by sharing their work and your work on the internet. Use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media sites to spread news and information. Make sure all your friends and family are signed up. Yes, I’m talking to you, Baby Boomers. Get over it, put down your postage stamps and your “TV clicker” and find a six-year old to show you how to start tweeting. You can be your own reporter, your own editor. You can curate the news for your friends. And now Facebook lets you have your own network with Facebook Live! It’s all free. Get on social media now. Imagine, your own CNN is in the palm of your hand.

10. JOIN THE ARMY OF COMEDY:

Trump’s Achilles heel is his massively thin skin. He can’t take mockery. So we all need to MOCK HIM UP! Not just the brilliant people at SNL or Colbert, Seth Myers or Samantha Bee — but YOU. Use your sense of humor and share it with people. Get them to do the same. Keep sending around the SNL links spoofing Sean Spicer, Trump and Kellyanne — there’s no such thing as watching them too many times! Hahaha. I truly believe the final tipping point for Trump will be when he implodes from all the laughter — the mocking, the unbearable ridicule of tens of millions of Americans that will discombobulate him and force him out of the White House. I know this seems like Mike’s fever dream, but I believe it can work. I don’t know what happened to Trump in boarding school at 13 and I don’t care. Whatever it was, let’s use it. He’s used all the other things he picked up over the years – misogyny, bigotry, greed – against the powerless and the unfortunate. It’s time to laugh him outta town. And if there’s one thing we all could use right now is a good laugh — AND the possibility of a much-shortened presidential term.

So, there you go! The 10-Point Action Plan to Thump Trump. Something for everyone. And every one of us needs to do them. Please share this and spread the word. We can stop him. We can nonviolently block and obstruct halt the damage he’s doing. But it’s going to need — and take — ALL HANDS ON DECK!

Let’s make Trump toast again.

— Michael Moore

And from Samantha Bee and our practical Scottish friends across the pond.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Decimating mental healthcare in Iowa

“Mental disorders contribute as much to a lifetime of disability as do cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and surpass all cancers and HIV.” — Neal L. Cohen, M.D., CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College and former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

TRULY AWFUL things are happening in the state where I live. Below is just one of them, affectingly described in a letter to The Des Moines Register


As retired nursing professional and friend Shari Hawk cautioned, "If you or someone in your family suffers from a chronic mental illness, loss of a case manager is terrifying."


Governor Terry Branstad by Alexander Hunter for The Washington Times

Caseworkers lost their jobs; thanks, Branstad

By Kurt Michael Friese
February 17, 2017

I have only been a county supervisor for a few weeks, but this is the first time I have come home simply seething with anger. The five of us on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors had to tell roughly five-sixths of the Mental Health and Disability caseworkers that they were going to lose their jobs, leaving 500-plus of the county's most vulnerable twisting in the wind, and there’s not a thing we can do to stop it.


With a zeal that was supposedly going to make government “more efficient,” Gov. Terry  Branstad turned Medicaid management over to private firms with the Orwellian appellation of “managed care organizations.”


These caseworkers did nothing wrong. Neither did their clients. But the former are out of their jobs and the latter are in limbo with a 800 number because some distant CEO needed to pad their stock value. Can’t blame the CEO though, they were just doing what they were hired for. It’s the ones who did the hiring. And that, my friends, is Terry Branstad and the Republicans in the state Legislature.


Here’s what I told the caseworkers that day: “There’s not one thing that’s fair about this. Not one thing. And I’m the new guy here so I do not know many of you, which has its own kind of sadness to it. But maybe because I am the new guy I can say this: It’s been mentioned here that this is all the fault of one person, Governor Branstad. But I submit to you that there are a lot of others who are at fault, and they all work on the hill in Des Moines. I suggest that if they are going to force you to lose your jobs, that you see to it that they lose theirs."


— Kurt Michael Friese, Johnson County Board of Supervisors

Friday, February 17, 2017

The abdication of all honor

“National honor is the national property of the highest value.” — James Monroe, American statesman and fifth President of the United States

HOW DID we get to be a country that is this corrupt? I apologize for not being able to say more than that. Honestly, words fail. 


David Fitzsimmons for the Arizona Star

Below, from The New York Times

Bring On the Special Prosecutor

By The Editorial Board
February 17, 2017

In light of the stunning events of the past week, the question is not whether the Trump administration’s ties to the Russian government need to be investigated immediately and fully — clearly they do. It’s who will be in charge of that investigation?

The Republicans in Congress can’t decide whether they would rather act like a responsible, independent branch or just the friendly legislative arm of the White House. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House oversight committee, would sooner investigate a cartoon character named Sid the Science Kid than any allegations relating to President Trump.

The prize for partisan candor goes to Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who said on Tuesday, “We’ll never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we’re spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans.”

James Comey, the embattled F.B.I. director, can’t be trusted to be a neutral investigator, either — not after his one-sided interference in the 2016 election compromised the bureau’s integrity and damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign in its final days. Anyway, Mr. Comey reports directly to the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who was not only Mr. Trump’s first and most ardent supporter in the Senate, but the chairman of the Trump campaign’s national security advisory committee.

Despite his closeness to Mr. Trump, Mr. Sessions has said he sees no reason to recuse himself from any inquiry into the relationship between the president’s top aides and Russia. Mr. Trump’s unexplained allegiance to that country and its thug of a president, Vladimir Putin, has been a major concern from the start of his candidacy. But the scope of a potential investigation expanded sharply in the last four days, with the firing of Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, for lying to the White House about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, and the news that members of the Trump campaign’s inner circle were in repeated contact with Russian intelligence agents last year, at the same time that Russia was actively attempting to swing the election to Mr. Trump.

There is, in fact, only one person who could conduct such a high-profile, politically sensitive investigation fairly and completely — a special prosecutor.

Some Republican senators have recognized the need for an investigation, and it would be right for the Senate to move ahead in its role as a check on the executive.

But the need for an independent actor who can both investigate and prosecute criminal wrongdoing in the executive branch is clear, because the attorney general and the Justice Department cannot be reliably impartial about their own bosses. Of course, what’s simple in theory has been politically fraught in practice. In scandals from Watergate to Iran-contra to Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky, special prosecutors have butted heads with presidents and their staffs, sometimes with calamitous results.

A 1978 law, the Independent Counsel Act, created a mechanism for appointing special prosecutors who were empowered to investigate broadly and protected from presidential meddling. But the law expired in 1999 amid partisan dispute; today only the attorney general has the power to appoint a special prosecutor.

In this case, the need couldn’t be more obvious. For starters, did Mr. Trump order Mr. Flynn, directly or indirectly, to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador? If not, why did he not fire Mr. Flynn weeks earlier, when he apparently first learned of his lies? Were Mr. Trump’s aides colluding with Russian agents during the campaign? Perhaps most important are Mr. Trump’s tax returns, which could tell us whether he is beholden to, and thus compromised by, the Russians? House Republicans, assuming their standard supine stance toward Mr. Trump, voted on Tuesday against requesting the returns from the Internal Revenue Service; a special prosecutor would not feel so politically constrained.

It’s never easy to conduct robust, independent investigations of the most powerful people in the world, but it is one of the foundations of a functioning democracy. The concern is particularly great in the case of the Trump administration, which seems uninterested in telling the truth in matters large and small.

Mr. Sessions must appoint a special prosecutor, and he knows why. As an article published on Fox News’s website days before the election said, “The appropriate response when the subject matter is public and it arises in a highly charged political atmosphere is for the attorney general to appoint a special counsel of great public stature and indisputable independence to assure the public the matter will be handled without partisanship.”

The article, which called for an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server and pay-to-play allegations surrounding the Clinton Foundation, argued that Loretta Lynch, then the attorney general, could not serve as a neutral arbiter, given her impromptu meeting with Bill Clinton on her airplane earlier in the year. One of the article’s co-authors was Jeff Sessions.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ordinary, extraordinary inhumanity

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke, Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist, philosopher and parliamentarian

THE BELOW sobering op-ed piece, which appeared in The Baltimore Sun, came to me by way of Galen Brooks. The hypocrisy of SCROTUS (So-called Ruler of the United States) banning immigrants — he who not only is the son of an immigrant, but is currently and previously married to immigrants — is jaw-dropping. 

Ordinary Americans carried out inhumane acts for Trump


By Chris Edelson

February 6, 2017

A week ago, men and women went to work at airports around the United States as they always do. They showered, got dressed, ate breakfast, perhaps dropped off their kids at school. Then they reported to their jobs as federal government employees, where, according to news reports, one of them handcuffed a 5-year-old child, separated him from his mother and detained him alone for several hours at Dulles airport.

At least one other federal employee at Dulles reportedly detained a woman who was traveling with her two children, both U.S. citizens, for 20 hours without food. A relative says the mother was handcuffed (even when she went to the bathroom) and threatened with deportation to Somalia.



The Baltimore Sun

At Kennedy Airport, still other federal employees detained and handcuffed a 65-year-old woman traveling from Qatar to visit her son, who is a U.S. citizen and serviceman stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C. The woman was held for more than 33 hours, according to the New York Times, and denied use of a wheelchair.


The men and women who work for the federal government completed these and other tasks and then returned to their families, where perhaps they had dinner and read stories to their children before bedtime.


When we worry and wonder about authoritarian regimes that inflict cruelty on civilians, we often imagine tyrannical despots unilaterally advancing their sinister agendas. But no would-be autocrat can act alone. As a practical matter, he needs subordinates willing to carry out orders. Of course, neither Donald Trump nor Steve Bannon personally detained any of the more than 100 people held at airports over the weekend pursuant to the administration's executive order on immigration, visitation and travel to the United States. They relied on assistance.


The men and women who reportedly handcuffed small children and the elderly, separated a child from his mother and held others without food for 20 hours, are undoubtedly "ordinary" people. What I mean by that, is that these are, in normal circumstances, people who likely treat their neighbors and co-workers with kindness and do not intentionally seek to harm others. That is chilling, as it is a reminder that authoritarians have no trouble finding the people they need to carry out their acts of cruelty. They do not need special monsters; they can issue orders to otherwise unexceptional people who will carry them out dutifully.


This should not be a surprise. The famous Milgram experiment and subsequent studies suggest that many people will obey instructions from an authority figure, even if it means harming another person. It is also perfectly understandable (which does not mean it is justifiable). How many of us would refuse to follow an instruction from a superior at work? It is natural to want to keep one's job, even if at the price of inflicting cruelty on another human being, even perhaps a child.


The question we need to ask ourselves is: What will we do? This is not a hypothetical question. Most of us will not face the stark choice employees at airports faced over the weekend. But we are all democratic citizens. Ultimately, our government can only act if we allow it to act. Under our Constitution, the people rule. Our elected officials, including the president, are accountable to us. We possess the power to reject actions we see as out of bounds. We are used to doing this in elections, but democratic tools go further. Even once an election is over, we can exercise our First Amendment rights to contact elected officials, speak, write and protest.


It is far easier to do nothing, to trust that, somehow, America's dangerous course will be set right. But this is a dangerous gamble, and in fact an abdication of our responsibility as Americans and indeed as human beings. If we do nothing, that is a choice. It means we accept a government that has demonstrated it is capable of inflicting cruelty on the innocent and defenseless.


What will we do?


Chris Edelson (edelson@american.edu) is an assistant professor of government in American University's School of Public Affairs. His latest book, "Power Without Constraint: The Post 9/11 Presidency and National Security," was published in May 2016 by the University of Wisconsin Press.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Two CMA concerts

“I consider myself very fortunate.” — Aaron Diehl

PAUL is busy enough as a musician that he not infrequently ends up having a gig on a night I'd like for us to be able to go somewhere together. And so it was that I attended two Des Moines Civic Music Association concerts without him: Manhattan Transfer with Take 6 on November 5 and Aaron Diehl with Warren Wolf February 10.


At least for the first one, I knew in advance that he had a musical conflict so I only bought one ticket. Paul had purchased two tickets and planned to take me to the Aaron Diehl/Warren Wolf concert until about a week before the performance when he recollected that he was playing two shows in Davenport that same night. Ah well.


The two concerts yielded two widely varying experiences for me.


I don't know what I was thinking in wanting to hear Manhattan Transfer. We have a Take 6 CD that we play from time to time, and I remembered that I like it, but apparently I forgot that I really don't like Manhattan Transfer very much at all. My opinion wasn't changed hearing them in person. I squirmed and was bored when Transfer performed; when Take 6 joined them it was better, but the only time I relaxed and enjoyed any part of the evening was when Take 6 performed alone.


Paul said, "Yeah, I kinda wondered about you wanting to go to that one. Manhattan Transfer is too square for you." I was thankful Paul was spared.



Take 6


Manhattan didn't transfer for me.

Oh but the Friday, February 10 concert was a different experience all together! I loved jazz pianist Aaron Diehl and vibes player Warren Wolf's performance. They're both phenoms. The New York Times has described Aaron's playing as “melodic precision, harmonic erudition, and elegant restraint.”


Aaron, who is a graduate of Juilliard, began studying classical piano when he was seven. His appetite for jazz emerged at Interlochen Summer Camp in Michigan where pianist Eldar Djangirov’s avidity for Oscar Peterson and Art Tatum made a lasting impression.



Aaron Diehl

Aaron's virtuosity has not gone unrecognized. In 2002 he was a finalist in Jazz at Lincoln Center's Essentially Ellington competition where he was chosen as Outstanding Soloist, and the next year he was invited to tour with the Wynton Marsalis Septet in Europe. In 2011 he was the winner of the Cole Porter Fellowship from the American Pianists Association. He received the Jazz Journalists Association Award for Up-And-Coming Artist in 2013, and in 2014 he was chosen as the Monterey Jazz Festival Commission Artist, one of the youngest musicians ever named.


For it he composed Three Streams of Expression, dedicated to pianist and composer John Lewis, and I was lucky to get to hear it played live Friday night. A fusion of classical music and jazz, it's beautiful!


Baltimore native, Warren Wolf, began classical musical training, studying vibraphone, marimba, drums and piano under the tutelage of his father, when he was just three years old. Warren is a graduate of Peabody Preparatory, Baltimore School for the Arts and Berklee College of Music, where he was asked to join the faculty soon after graduation. He's now a full-time touring musician, composer and recording artist.



Warren Wolf

Aaron and Warren were backed up by bassist Peter Washington and drummer Pete Van Nostrand. Peter is the best bassist I've ever heard. Paul says that Christian McBride often plays bass with Aaron, and Paul really likes Christian, but not having heard him myself, I'll take Peter any day.


My two favorite pieces were Aaron's Three Streams of Expressions and the encore, an original composition of Warren's 
called Wolfgang, played by just the two of them, which is the title song of his sophomore album. Listening to it felt like floating.

For those of you might want to catch either one of these virtuosos, their upcoming schedules are below. To purchase CDs go to Mack Avenue.


Aaron Diehl

February 16 — University of Massachusetts | Amherst, MA


February 17 — Berklee Performance Center | Boston, MA


February 19 — University of Michigan | Ann Arbor, MI


February 21-22 — The Dakota | Minneapolis, MN


February 23 — Koerner Hall | Toronto, ON


February 24 — Centre Pierre PĂ©ladeau | Montreal, QB


March 3 — Center Theater | Skokie, IL


March 5 — Holland Performing Arts Center | Omaha, NE


March 7 — Campbell Hall | Santa Barbara, CA


March 10 — Walt Disney Hall | Los Angeles, CA


March 11 — Bing Concert Hall | Stanford, CA


March 13 — Kuumbwa Jazz Center | Santa Cruz, CA


March 14 — Jackson Hall | Davis, CA


March 16-19 — SF Jazz | San Francisco, CA



Warren Wolf


February 2 — Dizzy's Club Coca Cola | New York City, NY


February 18 — West End Cultural Centre | Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


February 22 — Northwestern State University | Natchitoches, LA


March 1 — WBGO-FM radio show | Newark, NJ


March 4 — Folly Theatre | Kansas City, MO


March 7 — Howard University | Washington, D.C.


March 7 — Towson State University (5:30pm) | Towson, MD


March 9 — National Gallery of Art | Washington, D.C.


March 10-12 — Dizzy's Club Coca Cola | New York City, NY


March 13-19 — Columbus Jazz Orchestra | Columbus, OH


March 24-25 — Spring Festival of Percussion | Phoenix, AZ


March 28 — Brooks Center for the Arts | Clemson, SC


March 30 — Shalin Liu Performance Center | Rockport, MA


March 31 — The Egg | Albany, NY