Friday, December 13, 2013

NATIONALLY-RECOGNIZED AUTHOR SPEAKING TO 50-50 IN 2020 ACADEMY PARTICIPANTS

Businesswoman, political consultant, author and advocate for women's issues Kathy Groob will be keynote speaker at the 50-50 in 2020 Blueprint for Winning Academy banquet, taking place Friday night, January 10, 2014, at the West Des Moines Marriott.

Groob, who founded and facilitates ElectWomen.com, is author of "Pink Politics: The Women's Practical Guide to Winning Elections."

As as entrepreneur who served as senior vice president of a $716 million construction and real estate company in her home state of Kentucky, Groob has been a mentor and advocate for women in the workplace throughout her career. Her own experiences in running for and holding local and state offices provides Groob with real-world lessons in politics that she uses to instruct women candidates on how to inspire voters and get the most from campaign teams.

"I am honored to take part in Iowa's 50-50 in 2020 Blueprint for Winning Academy to train and prepare more women to hold public office," Groob said. "Iowa is one of four states that have never sent a woman to Congress. The leaders of 50-50 in 2020 are taking strong steps towards changing the face of politics in Iowa forever."

Complimentary copies of "Pink Politics" will be given to all those attending the Blueprint for Winning Academy and to those purchasing two tickets for the January 10 academy banquet. Dinner tickets are $50 per person and can be purchased through the 50-50 Web site at 50-50in2020.org.

Participation in 50-50's bi-partisan Blueprint for Winning Academy is open to all Iowa women considering running for state, legislative or congressional office, and their campaign managers. The academy takes place Friday and Saturday, Jan. 10-11, at the West Des Moines Marriott and features classwork in campaign finance and organization, getting media coverage, using social media, and one-on-one image and message coaching by nationally-known expert Chris Jahnke.

This is the second time 50-50 in 2020 has offered its Blueprint for Winning Academy. Results from the group's 2012 training program showed that 40 percent of academy graduates won office, compared to just 14 percent success by women who did not take part in the Blueprint for Winning Academy.

The goal of 50-50 in 2020 is to recruit and elect enough women so that by 2020 – the 100th anniversary of the year American women won the right to vote – Iowa will have elected females to fill half the Iowa Legislature, half of Iowa’s congressional delegation and the office of governor. Currently in the Iowa Legislature, only 23 percent of the seats are held by women, who make up 53 percent of Iowa voters. Iowa and Mississippi remain the only states to have never elected a women governor nor sent a woman to Congress.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Let's you and my campaign manager fight

So this is rich.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tyler Olson has suspended his role in the campaign.

So he can't attack the governor — or his primary opponents.

But while Olson is dealing with family matters (pending divorce), his campaign manager sends out attacks like this?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MONDAY, December 9, 2013
CONTACT: Alex Youn, alex@tylerolson.org

Governor Branstad's Mismanagement of the Toledo Juvenile Home Continues

CEDAR RAPIDS – Today, Rep. Tyler Olson's Campaign Manager, Alex Youn, released the following statement regarding the news of the Toledo Juvenile Home closing:

Governor Terry Branstad's mismanagement of the Toledo Juvenile Home continued today. Choosing to close the Toledo Juvenile Home is a poor decision made in secrecy. Governor Branstad's lack of oversight resulted in unsafe conditions and now further turmoil for the home's residents.

Ray Walton named interim director at Culver Policy Center

Simpson College has announced that Ray Walton has been named interim director of the John C. Culver Public Policy Center, to be effective at the end of this semester.

Walton will replace Mary Sheka, who will be leaving the college to become director of the Iowa Mentoring Partnership.

Ray Walton
The Culver Center, a non-partisan organization, strives to inspire students to public service and civic engagement, and to educate them about policy issues facing the community, the state and the nation.
Walton is a member of the center’s advisory board. A graduate of Simpson and a native and resident of Indianola, he has experience in the U.S. military and private sector. He previously served as director of the Iowa Department of Administrative Services and currently serves as executive director of the National Association of State Chief Administrators.

“We are most grateful to have the benefit of Ray Walton’s expertise at this time of transition,” for the Culver Center, former U.S. Sen. John Culver said. “His abilities, talent and commitment to the Center and to Simpson will be invaluable.”

The Culver Center will be busy in the spring of 2014.

Speakers will include former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyoming), Co-Chair of the Simpson-Bowles Commission (National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform), and David Axelrod, who was the senior advisor to President Obama and senior political advisor in the 2008 and 2012 Obama presidential campaigns.

In addition, Walton said, “In March we will honor the first recipient of the Inspiration to Service Award, given to an outstanding Iowan for inspiring young people to engage in public or civic service.”

Funding the nation’s common defense


By U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley
Iowa Republican

Among the objectives named in the preamble of the Constitution, the Founders specified one of the primary responsibilities of governance for the newly formed republic is to provide for the nation’s common defense.  For more than two centuries, the United States of America has protected its borders, people, international commerce and national security backed up by a civilian controlled military funded by the taxpaying public.
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley

Our system of checks and balances works to keep the military under civilian control.

The Constitution specifies the president serves as commander in chief. The people’s branch appropriates and the executive branch spends money to provide for the Armed Services.  This dual authority works to ensure the military serves, not subverts, we the people.

Since our nation’s founding, policymakers have debated the merits of the size, scope and strategy of the nation’s military. Between the White House and Congress, presidents and lawmakers have used the strength of the U.S. military to maintain peace, protect and defend the blessings of freedom and provide for national security.

Generations of Americans owe a debt of gratitude to those who have served in the Armed Forces, putting their lives on the line and often separating from their families to serve, defend and protect.
Although the U.S. military serves a critical role in upholding the nation’s common defense, lawmakers should not issue blank checks to the Department of Defense.

In fact, my longstanding crusade to protect the taxpaying public has exposed serious financial mismanagement at the Pentagon that undermines military readiness and exposes cultural, systemic flaws that weaken this critical institution of the federal government.

Protecting the taxpaying public and providing for the nation’s common defense are not mutually exclusive.  Too many people in Washington think that throwing more money at something will solve the world’s problems.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

As Congress works to dial back the spending spigot that has created a $17 trillion national debt, I am working to hold the line on overspending.

As keepers of the public purse, lawmakers need to demand more accountability for each tax dollar, including defense spending. Although no one thinks the across-the-board sequester was the smartest way to hold spending to the level Congress agreed to live under, I reject the notion that there are no parts of the federal budget that can be cut and the only solution is to ditch the spending caps that have forced Uncle Sam to borrow and spend less of taxpayers’ money.

For those who ballyhoo that the sky will fall if the Pentagon’s budget is trimmed further, I would direct their attention to the apparent shenanigans of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS).  What’s worse, the independent watchdog at the Pentagon may have schemed with DFAS and turned a blind eye to problems with the agency’s financial statements to snow policymakers and the public.

One of my earliest crusades against government waste started at the Pentagon.  At that time, a Pentagon maverick reported serious fiscal mismanagement and an astonishing waste of tax dollars.  Remember the $500 hammers and $7,600 coffee pots?  It’s been a few years since I drove my orange Chevette to the Pentagon from Capitol Hill to track down answers about bloated defense budgets.

Thanks to the courage and pursuit of the truth from a civil servant at the Defense Department, we succeeded in exposing fantasy financials that front-loaded the budget with massive, unaffordable programs.

At the time, the Pentagon was flushing tax money down the drain with $700 toilet seats.  His testimony at a joint congressional hearing helped lead to a freeze on the defense budget build-up at the height of the farm crisis in the mid-80s, sparing taxpayers billions of dollars.  Ever since, I’ve championed all means necessary through oversight and legislation to hold the Pentagon accountable for the money it spends to uphold the nation’s common defense.

As Abe Lincoln discovered during the Civil War, there’s no shortage of profiteers who troll federal spending for financial gain.  Or in the case of the DFAS, allegedly fudging the numbers to mislead policymakers and protect its funding stream.

It takes a tireless commitment to prevent the taxpaying public from getting fleeced. Sometimes it feels like paddling upstream, especially as the federal government has a record of using antiquated systems to track spending and prevent fraud.

Rooting out waste, fraud and abuse is hard enough even with proper auditing tools.  So if integrity at the auditing shop in the Inspector General’s office is up for grabs, policymakers would have better luck finding a needle in an Iowa haystack than getting accurate numbers to make the right spending decisions.  If this episode is a reflection of widespread “financial delusions” the DFAS conducts throughout the Pentagon, then Congress needs to tighten, not loosen, the purse strings until the Department of Defense can right its fiscal ship.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Roberts sees ‘window’ for possible U.S. Senate race




Saying deliberations on a possible U.S. Senate bid have “widened and deepened,” former State Rep. Rod Roberts remains “seriously interested” in the prospect of running to succeed Tom Harkin.

“I still believe that this fall is the window of opportunity for others to come in,” Roberts, a Carroll Republican, said in an interview.

Roberts, who lost a GOP gubernatorial primary in 2010 to Gov. Terry Branstad, built a statewide network in the process. At a Republican event in May in Cedar Rapids Roberts sat with members of the Johnson County Republican Party. He is approached regularly with questions from party regulars and other Iowans about the prospects of a Senate campaign.

“The conversation with regard to me has widened and deepened,” Roberts said.

Several weeks ago, Roberts said he likely would make a decision by the time gravy flowed onto Thanksgiving turkey and potatoes.

“Some people serve that at Christmas as well,” he joked.

Roberts, the director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, said he sees a path to the nomination if he would enter the race in December or even at the beginning of 2014.

He said the Terrace Hill run gives him an understanding of the sort of infrastructure, from money to boots on the ground, that it will take to compete in a Senate race. He’s using that experience to assess his options in a Senate race.

The Republican U.S. Senate field now includes state Sen. Joni Ernst of Red Oak; David Young of Van Meter, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley’s chief of staff until recently; radio-talk personality Sam Clovis of Sioux City; former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker of Des Moines; Ames author and attorney Paul Lunde; and former Ames car salesman Scott Schaben, a Kuemper Catholic High School alum.

Mark Jacobs of West Des Moines, the former CEO of Texas-based Reliant Energy, is expected to enter the race this week. He has scheduled an interview with The Carroll Daily Times Herald for next Monday.

U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, R-Clive, Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds have all passed on running for the Senate.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley of Waterloo is the presumptive Democratic candidate. U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, a veteran Democrat, is not seeking re-election.

Thanks For Nothing



Native American perspectives on Thanksgiving

By Douglas Burns

For most of the United States, Thanksgiving is a day during which that most popular of contemporary sins — gluttony — is celebrated with gusto and gravy.

Americans eat, watch football and stop stuffing the stuffing into their gullets in just enough time to hit the Christmas shopping season starting line.

But for many Americans, those descended from the first Americans, in fact, Thursday is a day that marks centuries and generations of betrayal and horror.

“It’s a difficult time for many of our people,” says Jeanne Marie Brightfire Stophlet, a Shawnee Cherokee. “We came in friendship and caring, and we suffered from that friendship and caring.”

Read the rest of the feature in Des Moines' Cityview newspaper ...

Monday, November 18, 2013

Assault on Ethanol Misses Its Mark


By U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

As its market share dips, Big Oil is doubling down to swat down its perennial piƱata. This time around, petroleum producers and food conglomerates are using environmental groups as political cover to gain traction on efforts to pull the plug on the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).

Despite the ridiculously transparent and self-serving assault by these special interest groups, the relentless campaign to discredit ethanol undermines America’s longstanding efforts to diversify its energy landscape, fuel the economy and strengthen national security.

The predictable efforts to smear ethanol’s reputation ignore the renewable fuel’s valuable contributions to clean energy, rural development, job creation and U.S. energy independence. The latest round of misguided untruths disregards the plain truth. Ethanol is a renewable, sustainable, clean-burning fuel that helps run the nation’s transportation fleet with less pollution. Yet, critics continue to hide behind distortions that claim ethanol is bad for the environment.

Let’s talk turkey and separate fact from fiction regarding ethanol’s impact on the environment.

Critics say farmers are putting fragile land into production to cash in on higher corn prices at the expense of soil erosion and clean water. They point out that five million Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres are no longer enrolled in the conservation program since 2008. They want to pin the blame on ethanol.

First of all, fewer acres enrolled in the CRP has more to do with federal belt tightening than land stewardship decisions by America’s corn farmers. The 2008 farm bill built upon other stewardship incentives for America’s farmers and ranchers administered by the USDA, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, wetlands restoration and wildlife habitat programs. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), no new grassland has been converted to cropland since 2005.

Fact: The Wetlands Reserve Program in 2012 had a record-breaking enrollment of 2.65 million acres. WRP lands cannot be farmed for 30 years.

Farmers must make marketing, planting and stewardship decisions that keep their operation financially sound and productive from crop year to crop year. Even more importantly, these decisions must be environmentally sustainable for the long haul. Let’s be clear. Farmers simply can’t afford not to take scrupulous care of the land that sustains their livelihoods.

Fact: Fertilizer use is on the decline. Compare application per bushel in 1980 versus 2010 – nitrogen is down 43 percent; phosphate is down 58 percent; and, potash is down 64 percent.

Fact: Ethanol burns cleaner than gasoline. According to the Argonne National Laboratory, corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 34 percent compared to gasoline. If the oil industry wants to talk about the environment, let’s not forget the 1989 Exxon Valdez and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spills.

Critics also say the RFS is driving more acres into corn production. In reality, the RFS is driving significant investment in higher-yielding, drought-resistant seed technology. This is a win-win scenario to cultivate good-paying jobs and to harvest better yields on less land.

Fact: The total cropland planted to corn in the United States is decreasing. In 2013, U.S. farmers planted 97 million corn acres. In the 1930s, farmers planted 103 million acres of corn. Farmers have increased the corn harvest through higher yields, not more acres.

Critics contend the nation’s corn crop is diverted for fuel use at the expense of feed for livestock and higher prices at the grocery store.

Fact: In reality, the value of corn increases during ethanol production. One-third of the corn processed to make ethanol re-enters the marketplace as high value animal feed called dried distillers grain. Livestock feed remains the largest end-user of corn. When co-products such as dried distillers grains are factored in, ethanol consumes only 27 percent of the whole corn crop by volume; livestock feed uses 50 percent of the crop.

Fact: The USDA Secretary has said farmers receive about 14 cents of every food dollar spent at the grocery store. And, the farmer’s share of a $4 box of corn flakes is about 10 cents.

So what’s at stake when a coalition of special interests tag teams to pull the rug out from underneath the nation’s ethanol policy?

Unfortunately, these flawed attacks on ethanol and next-generation biofuels undermine America’s effort to move forward with an aggressive, diversified energy policy that takes into account global demand, geopolitics and U.S. economic growth.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ike’s House



Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum honors distinguished Midwesterner

By DOUGLAS BURNS

ABILENE, Kansas
After the success of D-Day, a reporter asked Ida Eisenhower, mother of the commander of the Allied invasion of Europe, if she was proud of her son.

“Which one?” replied Ida Eisenhower, who had seven sons — including President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

That Midwestern humility forms the foundation, both in atmosphere and architecture and a general feel at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kan., a city of 6,800, located at what was once the northern terminus of the Chisholm Trail, a cattle route that started in Texas.

Ida Eisenhower had more reasons than motherly love and devotion girding her famous retort. Ike’s brother Milton served as president of Kansas State University, Pennsylvania State University and Johns Hopkins University. Brothers Arthur, Edgar and Roy succeeded in business, and Earl Eisenhower was an accomplished electrical engineer.

“The proudest thing I can claim is that I am from Abilene,” Eisenhower said in a June 1945 homecoming speech.




Eisenhower, in a 1953 speech, talked of how the Western prairie town informed his values.

“I was raised in a little town of which most of you have never heard,” Eisenhower said. "But in the West it is a famous place. It is called Abilene, Kansas. We had as our marshal for a long time, a man named Wild Bill Hickok. If you don’t know anything about him, read your westerns more. Now that town had a code, and I was raised as a boy to prize that code. It was: meet anyone face to face with whom you disagree. You could not sneak up on him from behind, or do any damage to him, without suffering the penalty of an outraged citizenry. If you met him face to face and took the same risks he did, you could get away with almost anything, as long as the bullet was in the front.”

Eisenhower earned $500,000 for authoring the book “Crusade in Europe” about his role in World War II.

“I’m just a Kansas farm boy,” he said of the take. “These numbers are making my head spin.”

Eisenhower’s family emigrated from Karlsbrunn, Germany, in 1741, settling in Pennsylvania and then moving to Kansas in the 1880s. Visitors can tour the president’s modest boyhood home on the library grounds — which are flanked to the north by a rail line and grain elevator. A introductory film refers to Eisenhower as “the son of America’s heartland.”

Ida Eisenhower came from a pacifist Mennonite sect and was greatly displeased when her son pursued a military career.



The museum focuses as much on World War II as it does Eisenhower specifically.

Recruited by both parties, Eisenhower ran for the presidency as a Republican.

In 1956, Eisenhower signed Federal Aid Highway Act financing the interstate highway system.
A few years earlier, Eisenhower extended Social Security coverage to 10 million more Americans — including farmers.

The publisher of the Houston Post, Oveta Culp Hobley, a Democrat, called that expansion “criminal.”
The Eisenhower Iowa connection is explored in great detail in a section of the library devoted to Mamie Eisenhower, the first lady who hailed from Boone.

She referred to herself as “Mrs. Ike” and once described her career as “Ike.”

The couple, in the White House, often would eat dinner on TV trays. Mamie Eisenhower liked soap operas — but not hospital-theme ones as President Eisenhower suffered a suffered heart attack on Sept. 24, 1955.

On Jan. 17, 1961, Eisenhower delivered one of the more significant farewell addresses of any president as he warned of the rise of the “military industrial complex.”

Eisenhower also offered an observation with modern relevancy.

“If all that Americans want is security, they can go to prison,” he said in 1949.


Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home
200 S.E. 4th Street
PO Box 339
Abilene, KS 67410
785-263-6700 or 877 RING IKE
eisenhower.library@nara.gov

Hours
9:00 a.m. - 4:45 p.m. daily
Closed on Christmas, Thanksgiving, and
New Year’s Day

Summer Hours
June & July
8:00 a.m. - 5:45 p.m.

Admission Fee
$10 Adult
$9 Senior 62 & Over
$2 Ages 6-15
FREE Ages 5 & Under
FREE Active Military




The 13 Official Presidential Libraries

Herbert Hoover Library, West Branch, Iowa
Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N.Y.
Harry S. Truman Library, Independence, Mo.
Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Abilene, Kansas
John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, Mass.
Lyndon B. Johnson Library, Austin, Texas
Richard Nixon Library, Yorba Linda, Calif.
Gerald R. Ford Library, Ann Arobor-Grand Rapids, Mich.
Jimmy Carter Library, Atlanta, Ga.
Ronald Reagan Library, Simi Valley, Calif.
George H. W. Bush Library, College Station, Texas
William J. Clinton Library, Little Rock, Ark.
George W. Bush Library, Dallas, Texas

Friday, November 08, 2013

Whitaker would only serve two terms?

Just going through my emails and came across this letter sent from a supporter of Matt Whitaker -- a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. So he would serve only two terms?

One of the reasons smaller, rural states are able to get favorable federal action is through seniority — of the likes Senators Harkin and Grassley amassed.

A pledge to serve only two terms shows a fundamental lack of understanding of this vital fact for Iowa.



Good Afternoon,

Joe and I are working with Matt Whitaker on his US Senate campaign to replace Senator Harkin, who is retiring.

Matt has been traveling our state to hear from Iowans and let them know why he running. We are supporting Matt because:

- he believes and teaches his 3 children that America is still the greatest country on earth and we all have a responsibility to maintain the gift
given to us by God and those who have come before us;
- he has committed to only serve two terms;
- he is fighting mad about this Obamacare mess and is willing to go to DC to help support other senators who are working to defund it;
- as an owner of several small businesses he completely understands that our current tax system penalizes business. He will go to DC
to draft/support legislation that revamps the IRS, eliminating penalties to both businesses and individual tax paying Americans.
- he is pro-life and will fight hard to end tax payer funded abortions:


These are just some of the reasons we're working with Matt and his wife, Marci, in their commitment to serve our country, not for their own benefit but to protect what our forefathers fought so hard to pass on to all of us. We appreciate their commitment to this race and the people of Iowa.

For more information on Matt Whitaker's senate race please go to: MattWhitaker.org You can also call me with more specific questions at 515-202-3733 (cell).

Have a great weekend!!!

Susan Geddes
515-202-3733

ART FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


Gerald F. Schnepf, Executive Director, Keep Iowa Beautiful
Co-Author: Martha McCormick – Education Consultant


November, 2013


When the discussion turns to the topic of economic development, we quickly shift into thinking about traditional approaches – attracting new business, new factories or growing an existing industry. Seldom do we embrace the concept that the “cultural climate” of a community may not only be an element for improving the economy, but in some cases, it may be the key target. Communities that promote a high standard of living and economic health tend to include art as a major ingredient.

Art occurs in many forms - sculpture, painting, poetry, music and theater are just a few forms that appeal to our senses and provide added value to our lives. The challenge is for most of us to embrace art in our everyday lives instead of viewing it as an occasional treat or something extra.

To quote David Dahlquist (Des Moines Artist and Creative Director – RDG Planning and Design Art Studio) – “Art is a way of telling stories”. It creates images and ideas in our minds. Art entertains, challenges, encourages new ideas and perspectives, takes us to new places and may even offend our values. Or it may simply offer pleasant memories and moments of reflection and enjoyment.

It can be a challenge to bring or enhance the role of art for economic development This concept requires us to step out of our usual definition of economic development where art is often excluded. Bringing art into the mix requires a change in thinking. Change is not readily accepted by many of us. At one time in our history, art was a key element in the economic enhancement of a community. During the Renaissance, much of the settlement grew around great architecture and the masters of art.

Art in all its forms - from festivals, events, books, murals and dance must be considered in the assessment of the cultural climate for every community. Including the arts in planning will provide the dual benefits of economic and cultural vitality. Inclusion of art in a community communicates the community respect for the values that art provides of vitality, excitement, intelligence and creativity in creating a sense of place.


Not only should the private sector and government embrace and support art in buildings and grounds but they need to invest in art through tax incentives, direct investments, contributions and volunteerism.

It is like the proverbial “chicken or the egg” – which comes first? If government supports the arts, the private sector will soon follow or in some instances the reverse – private art investments can encourage government commitment to the arts. Whether looking at the chicken or the egg, involving youth in the arts provides a long term investment in the future of your neighborhood, community and countryside of Iowa.

Q&A on National Adoption Month with U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley



Q: Why is National Adoption Month observed in November?
A: During this season of thanksgiving, millions of American households open their homes to friends and family from near and far. We come together to celebrate cherished traditions that have been handed down for generations. Hospitality, hearth and harvest come to mind as families gather at the table and give thanks. As Americans make plans for the holiday feast, we can quibble about giblets in the gravy or whether to roast, deep fry or brine the turkey. Each family enjoys its own unique traditions and family favorites on the Thanksgiving menu. When it’s all said and done, there’s really no place like home. That’s why it’s especially fitting to commemorate National Adoption Month in November. Tens of thousands of foster children in America long to have a permanent place setting at their very own family’s table on Thanksgiving Day and every other day of the year. Last year, nearly 400,000 children lived in the U.S. foster care system. Of those, nearly 102,000 awaited adoption. More than 26,000 aged out of the system before ever securing a permanent place to call home. Since 1990, National Adoption Month has helped to raise awareness for children awaiting adoption and appreciation for those who have answered the call to serve as foster or adoptive parents. So many of us look forward to celebrating the homecoming of friends and family on Thanksgiving Day. Just consider the hope-filled anticipation of a child longing to be welcomed home for good to a forever family.

Q: What can be done to help more children awaiting adoption to find a permanent, loving home?
A: As co-founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, I’ve worked to raise public awareness and educate policymakers about the challenges facing foster youth, especially those who age out of the system with no long-term support structure in place. Children and adolescents need stability, certainty and constancy in their lives. A permanent, loving home provides the most nurturing foundation to help youth reach their fullest potential in society. We should acknowledge foster youth throughout the year, not just November, and give thanks to parents who heed the call to adopt a child. And, we can always do more to ensure that children who await adoption get the assistance they need, including support to stay in school and sustain their education. Earlier this year, I introduced the Foster Youth Stamp Act of 2013 that would provide for the issuance and sale of a postal stamp by the U.S. Postal Service. Revenue generated from the stamp would support state-based programs, including the Adoption Opportunities Program – which seeks permanent outcomes for foster care youth through adoption, guardianship or kinship care – and the State Court Improvement Program – which seeks to improve legal representation for youth and addresses caseloads and the court’s role in achieving safe, stable, permanent homes for children in foster care.

Q: What other legislative provisions have you championed to promote adoption?
A: As an outspoken advocate for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” at the policymaking tables in Washington, I believe these founding principles apply especially to vulnerable children in our society. I’ve worked with Iowa families, foster youth, child welfare advocates, court representatives and social workers to help identify financial, legal and bureaucratic roadblocks that make it difficult for kids to find a permanent, loving home through adoption, guardianship or reunification with their birth family. Through congressional hearings and legislation, I’ve worked to raise awareness about the stability that adoption can bring to a child in need of a loving home as well as the public good adoption brings to society.

• In 1997, I worked to advance the Adoption and Safe Families Act that is credited with doubling adoptions from foster care in many states.

• As then-chairman of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, I secured an expansion of federal tax credit assistance in the 2001 tax law that increased qualified expenses for adoption from $5,000 to $10,000. Today the tax credit is indexed for inflation and was made a permanent provision of the federal tax code earlier this year. Adoptive parents this year may apply $12,970 in qualified adoption expenses to their 2013 federal tax return.

• In 2006, congressional hearings in the Senate Finance Committee led to the passage of the Child and Family Services Improvement Act that improved programs designed to help troubled families and increased caseworker visits for foster care youth.

• In 2008, I authored the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions law which increased federal incentives for states to move children from foster care to adoptive homes; made it easier for children to be adopted by relatives; made children with special needs eligible for federal adoption assistance; and, established new educational opportunities for youth who age out of foster care at age 18.

Q: What is National Adoption Day?
A: Since 2000, 44,500 families have finalized adoptions on National Adoption Day. Organizers single out the Saturday before Thanksgiving to raise public awareness and honor adoptive families across the country. As Iowans count our blessings and celebrate family on Thanksgiving Day, let’s remember the children in our communities who dream to find a family to call their own once and for all. Have you, a family member, friend or neighbor considered adoption? On behalf of the thousands of foster children whose single-most important wish upon the turkey’s wishbone would be to take a seat at their very own family’s Thanksgiving table, I encourage you to prayerfully consider the call if you’re in a position to do so.

Statement by the President on Senate Passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013



For more than two centuries, the story of our nation has been the story of more citizens realizing the rights and freedoms that are our birthright as Americans. Today, a bipartisan majority in the Senate took another important step in this journey by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would help end the injustice of our fellow Americans being denied a job or fired just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Just as no one in the United States can lose their job simply because of their race, gender, religion or a disability, no one should ever lose their job simply because of who they are or who they love.

Today’s victory is a tribute to all those who fought for this progress ever since a similar bill was introduced after the Stonewall riots more than three decades ago. In particular, I thank Majority Leader Reid, Chairman Harkin, Senators Merkley and Collins for their leadership, and Senator Kirk for speaking so eloquently in support of this legislation. Now it’s up to the House of Representatives. This bill has the overwhelming support of the American people, including a majority of Republican voters, as well as many corporations, small businesses and faith communities. They recognize that our country will be more just and more prosperous when we harness the God-given talents of every individual.

One party in one house of Congress should not stand in the way of millions of Americans who want to go to work each day and simply be judged by the job they do. Now is the time to end this kind of discrimination in the workplace, not enable it. I urge the House Republican leadership to bring this bill to the floor for a vote and send it to my desk so I can sign it into law. On that day, our nation will take another historic step toward fulfilling the founding ideals that define us as Americans.

Harkin Welcomes White House Support for Minimum Wage Proposal



WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today issued the following statement upon learning of President Barack Obama’s support for legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 and index it to inflation.

The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, introduced by Harkin in the Senate and Congressman George Miller (D-CA) in the House, would increase the minimum wage to $10.10 in three steps and provide for automatic annual increases linked to changes in the cost of living. It would also gradually raise the minimum wage for tipped workers, currently $2.13 an hour, for the first time in more than 20 years——to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.

“President Obama sent a key message in his State of the Union: raising the minimum wage is a crucial factor to strengthening the middle class and growing our economy. Low-wage jobs and income inequality are only increasing and families are struggling just to put food on the table. Put simply, this legislation would result in raises for 30 million American workers. It also has broad support: eighty percent of Americans support this raise, including majorities across political parties.

“Our legislation would also give a boost to our economy as workers spend their raises in their local stores and communities, increasing GDP by nearly $33 billion and generating 140,000 new jobs over the course of three years. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 is not just a popular idea or the right thing to do for working families—it is also the smart thing to do for our economy. I thank the President for his support in this effort.”

A Hart Research poll released in July found that 80 percent of Americans support the Harkin-Miller minimum wage proposal. Ninety-two percent of Democrats, 80 percent of independents, and 62 percent of Republicans support the Harkin-Miller proposal, and three-quarters of Americans also say that raising the minimum wage should be an important priority for Congress to address over the next year, including 38 percent who say it is very important.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Big Can Be Beautiful

Smart government is better than small government.

 By DONALD KAUL
I have a question: If this is the greatest country in the world, why do we keep acting so dumb?

I suppose the sequestration of the federal budget isn’t as dumb as deliberately going over the fiscal cliff, but it’s plenty dumb. Just as the economy was showing signs of climbing out of the hole it’s been in for four years, along come the Republicans to stomp on its fingers.

The best you can say is that it won’t be as quick a demise as a trip over the cliff — it’s more like waterboarding. Some people will hardly notice it at first — the exceptions being the poor, the young, the sick, and furloughed government workers — but it will eventually send unemployment back up and tax revenue down.

And, curiously enough, it will do virtually nothing to address our long-term budget deficit. And that’s what all of this brouhaha is supposed to be about.

The good news is that Mitt Romney will now be able to afford Muzak for his car elevator.

Which apparently pleases Republicans just fine. So long as taxes don’t go up, everything is good.

Conservatives in general, and Republicans in particular, worship at the altar of small government. A government that governs least governs best, they say. Oh, and government isn’t the solution, it’s part of the problem. They’re wrong.

We are a large, wealthy country, home to scores of giant multinational corporations. We live in a global economy. What makes you think we can get by with a small government?

Big government, far from being a terrible thing, is a necessity if we’re to compete in the global marketplace and take care of our responsibilities at home.

Without big government, who will protect the public from the rapacious instincts of capitalistic forces? Who will work to make our air clean, our water pure, and our drugs safe? Who will try to see that the average working stiff gets a fair shake?

I’ll save you the trouble of trying to think of an answer — it’s nobody.

It’s not as though we haven’t tried small government laissez-faire capitalism before. The industrial revolution of the 19th century was the very model for it. Companies did pretty much as they pleased.

The result: company towns that enforced a form of serfdom on their workers, child labor, open and sometimes brutal discrimination against women, blacks, and other ethnic minorities. We had fraudulently promoted unsafe drug supplies, unchecked pollution, and hellish working conditions in mines and factories — all in the name of making a buck for the privileged few.

That’s your small government.

We slowly crawled out from under that oppressive system through government action fueled by the progressive movement of the early 20th century, the New Deal of the 1930s, and many vibrant social movements.

And now Republicans want to take us back to that Hobbesian, all-against-all society? Count me out.
You’ll notice that I’m blaming Republicans exclusively for this mess we’re in. That’s because it’s all their fault.

There are those who claim that Republicans and Democrats share equal blame, or that President Barack Obama has refused to compromise. Don’t believe it.

Obama wore out two sets of trousers during his first term going on his knees to Congress and pleading for cooperation. He got none.

Republicans are still playing that game. They think they can solve our deficit problems by cutting government alone. They can’t. That’s the path Europe has taken.

How’s that working out for them anyway?

I don’t want to sound as though big government is the answer to every problem or that it’s an unadulterated good. It’s not. It too can be oppressive, wasteful, and stupid. You have to watch it like a hawk.

But the solution to bad government isn’t small government. It’s smart government.

OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. OtherWords.org

Head of FOX News expects to talk from the dead to his kid



Fox News boss Roger Ailes is thinking a lot about mortality these days, according to excerpts Vanity Fair published of a biography soon to be released.

Ailes, 72, is putting together a memory box for his 12-year-old son including quotes from Sun Tzu's "The Art Of War."

Ailes also thinks he'll be able to give advice from the grave to his kid.

“This is advice Zac might need to hear from me in 10 years and I won’t be here to give it to him,” Ailes said as he closed the box. “I’ve told him, if he has a problem or he feels he needs me, to go off to a quiet place and listen, and he will hear my voice.” 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ladbrokes odds on the 2016 presidential race



The British gambling operation has the following odds for the winner of the 2016 presidential race:



Hillary Clinton          4/1
Marco Rubio 10/1
Paul Ryan 12/1
Jeb Bush 16/1
Chris Christie 16/1
Joe Biden 20/1
Bobby Jindal 20/1
Andrew Cuomo 25/1
Martin O'Malley 25/1
Condoleeza Rice 25/1
Elizabeth Warren 33/1
Scott Walker 33/1
Michael Bloomberg 40/1
Kirsten Gillibrand 40/1
Rand Paul 50/1
Rick Santorum 50/1
Eric Cantor 50/1
Deval Patrick 50/1
John Hickenlooper 50/1
Mark Warner 50/1
Brian Schweitzer 50/1
Bob McDonnell 50/1
Sarah Palin 66/1
Rahm Emmanuel 66/1
Jon Huntsman 66/1
Mike Huckabee 66/1
Amy Klobuchar 66/1
Janet Napolitano 66/1
Nikki Haley 66/1
Cory Booker 80/1
Ron Paul 100/1
Mitt Romney 100/1
David Petraeus 100/1
Donald Trump 100/1
Julian Castro 100/1
Michele Bachmann 100/1
Rick Perry 100/1
John Kerry 100/1








What is Businessweek thinking?

Really, this latest Businessweek cover -- from 2013 -- would have been considered racist in the 1970s. Wow.

Statement from President Obama on economic issues

Statement from the President

Today, Republicans in the Senate faced a choice about how to grow our economy and reduce our deficit.  And instead of closing a single tax loophole that benefits the well-off and well-connected, they chose to cut vital services for children, seniors, our men and women in uniform and their families.  They voted to let the entire burden of deficit reduction fall squarely on the middle class.

I believe we should do better.  We should work together to reduce our deficit in a balanced way – by making smart spending cuts and closing special interest tax loopholes.  That’s exactly the kind of plan Democrats in the Senate have proposed.  But even though a majority of Senators support this approach, Republicans have refused to allow it an up-or-down vote – threatening our economy with a series of arbitrary, automatic budget cuts that will cost us jobs and slow our recovery.

Tomorrow I will bring together leaders from both parties to discuss a path forward.  As a nation, we can’t keep lurching from one manufactured crisis to another.  Middle-class families can’t keep paying the price for dysfunction in Washington.  We can build on the over $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction we’ve already achieved, but doing so will require Republicans to compromise.  That’s how our democracy works, and that’s what the American people deserve.

Bicameral, Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Bring More Transparency to Federal Courtrooms


            WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley and Congressman Steve King, both of Iowa, are leading an effort to bring more transparency into federal courtrooms by introducing the “Sunshine in the Courtroom Act.”  The legislation allows judges at all federal court levels to open their courtrooms to television cameras and radio broadcasts.

            “The federal court system is unknown to many Americans.  C-SPAN’s coverage of the House and Senate has led to greater transparency of the legislative branch of government, and transparency leads to accountability.  Video coverage of our courts can be a great learning tool for the American people and will contribute to a better understanding of the American judicial system,” Grassley said.

            "The responsible televising of courtroom proceedings will allow Americans to better understand the important decisions that are made in the federal judiciary every day, that affect all of our lives," said King. "The Sunshine in the Courtroom Act will provide that much needed transparency by allowing Federal judges to televise coverage of proceedings in their courtrooms. This is a common sense step towards matching the overwhelming number of states that allow televising of at least some trial court proceedings, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate and the House to make this a reality."

The bicameral, bipartisan bill includes a 3-year sunset to provide Congress the opportunity to study the effects of the legislation before making any permanent changes.  The bill protects the privacy and safety of non-party witnesses by giving them the right to have their faces and voices obscured, and it prohibits the televising of jurors.  The bill also includes a provision to protect the due process rights of each party.

            The Senate bill is being introduced with Senator Chuck Schumer, who has joined with Grassley in introducing the bill since 1999.  King is joined in the House by Representatives Jason Chaffetz, Ted Deutch and Zoe Lofgren.

Since Grassley and Schumer first introduced legislation, the Chief Justice has immediately released audio of oral arguments of compelling cases.  The first release came when then Chief Justice William Rehnquist allowed for the release of audio immediately following oral arguments in the Florida election matter in 2000.  Since then, Chief Justice John Roberts has released audio recordings the same day of the oral arguments for more than 20 cases, including Grutter v. Bollinger, D.C. v. Heller, the Guantanamo Cases and the Citizens United Case.

Studies and surveys conducted in many states which permit some form of audio-video coverage in their courtrooms have confirmed that electronic media coverage of trials boosts public understanding of the court system without interfering with court proceedings.

Senator Charles Grassley on sequestration