Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Heath aster and Calico aster

After today’s installment, Iowa wildflower Wednesday is signing off for the winter and will return sometime in March or April. All previous posts in the series are archived here. I often hear positive feedback about the wildflower diaries. To my surprise, one that struck a chord with lots of readers this year featured Poison hemlock and Wild parsnip, a pair of potentially harmful invasive plants.

Guest authors are welcome to contribute posts anytime at Bleeding Heartland. Please get in touch if you would like to be part of Iowa wildflower Wednesday during 2016. I’d be particularly grateful if some talented photographer could capture usable shots of "plants that got away" from me: Cardinal flower (Red Lobelia), Four O’Clock, Purple poppy mallow, or Common rose mallow. I never get any depth or definition on flowers with red or deep pink petals.

In keeping with a Bleeding Heartland tradition, I’m closing out this year’s series with asters, some of which are among the latest-blooming fall wildflowers. Click through to see New England asters and Frost asters (I think) from 2012, 2013, and 2014.

According to Elizabeth Hill, the first plants you’ll see after the jump are Heath aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides). I took those pictures in early October at the Grinnell College Conard Environmental Research Area. Elizabeth deserves a lot of credit for Iowa wildflower Wednesday’s existence, because she inspired me to learn more about native plants.

Iowa naturalist and photographer Leland Searles identified the next plant featured today as a subspecies of Calico Aster called Symphiotrichum lateriflorum ssp. lateriflorum. They are growing near the bank of North Walnut Creek in Windsor Heights.

I have trouble distinguishing aster species with white ray flowers and yellow disk flowers, so a few mystery plants are pictured below too. They include some unidentified asters I found today just off the Windsor Heights bike trail, behind the Iowa Department of Natural Resources building on Hickman Road. Last weekend’s snowfall finished off the last few flowering black-eyed Susans and brown-eyed Susans, but even now, a few asters are in full bloom.

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Three reasons Geri Huser should not have picked the fight the Iowa Utilities Board just lost

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The Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) announced yesterday that it "has started the process to transfer funds earmarked for the Iowa Energy Center (IEC) at Iowa State University and the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research (CGRER) at the University of Iowa." The retreat came less than a week after a spokesperson had insisted, "The board will disburse the funds when they are satisfied (the centers) have answered all the board’s questions."

Restoring the flow of money means the centers charged with promoting alternative energy and efficiency and "interdisciplinary research on the many aspects of global environmental change" no longer face possible staff layoffs or program cuts. But yesterday’s climb-down won’t erase the damage done by IUB Chair Geri Huser’s unwise and unprecedented decision to withhold funding, in the absence of any legal authority to do so. She miscalculated in three ways.

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Iowa Senate district 30 preview: Jeff Danielson vs. Bonnie Sadler

A Republican challenger to three-term State Senator Jeff Danielson in Iowa Senate district 30 emerged last week. Bonnie Sadler is on Facebook here and on Twitter here. Danielson has a campaign website as well as a Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Danielson was the Iowa legislative incumbent re-elected by the narrowest margin in 2008, beating Walt Rogers by just 22 votes out of more than 32,000 cast. Although Danielson won his third term by a somewhat larger margin in 2012, Republicans are still likely to target this race as one of their top two or three pickup opportunities. The Republican State Leadership Committee has committed to play for the Iowa Senate majority in 2016. Democrats currently control the chamber by 26 votes to 24.

I enclose below a map of Senate district 30, a review of its voter registration numbers and recent voting history, background on both candidates, and first thoughts on what should be a central issue during next year’s campaign.

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Incoming Iowa House Speaker promises to fund education "early," not fund Planned Parenthood

Incoming Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer says the majority House Republican caucus will handle education spending early during the 2016 legislative session, and will likely not approve funding for Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa. I recommend reading Erin Murphy’s whole interview with Upmeyer, which appeared in the Quad-City Times on Sunday. Follow me after the jump for more thoughts on Upmeyer’s comments and how state support for public school districts and Planned Parenthood’s family planning programs may play out next year.

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Weekend open thread: Threat assessments

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Arguments over the appropriate U.S. response to refugees from Syria were a hot topic this week in personal conversations as well as in the news media. I saw some longtime friendships strained over heated Facebook threads about the question. Governor Terry Branstad’s order "to halt any work on Syrian refugee resettlements immediately in order to ensure the security and safety of Iowans" provoked commentaries in several major newspapers and an unusually strong statement from Iowa’s four Catholic bishops.

The U.S. House vote to in effect stop the flow of refugees from Syria and Iraq generated passionate comments from supporters and opponents of the measure. Dozens of Iowans expressed their disappointment on the thread under Representative Dave Loebsack’s official statement explaining his vote. In an apparent response to negative feedback from progressives, Loebsack’s Congressional campaign sent an e-mail to supporters the following day, trying to distinguish his position on refugees from the Middle East from that of many Republicans, and assuring that "we will not turn our backs on those in need." (Scroll to the end of this post to read that message.)

Calls by some politicians to admit only certifiably Christian refugees from the Middle East triggered strong emotions in many American Jews this week. I saw it on my social media feeds, where many people reminded their non-Jewish friends and acquaintances that the U.S. turned away a ship carrying hundreds of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum issued a rare statement on a political matter (enclosed below), urging "public figures and citizens to avoid condemning today’s refugees [from Syria] as a group."

I’ve seen many people object to that analogy, saying reluctance to admit Syrian refugees is grounded in legitimate fears for public safety, unlike the prejudice that influenced U.S. immigration policy during the 1930s. But as historian Peter Shulman explained in this commentary for Fortune magazine,

Opposition to Jewish refugees was not simply timeless bigotry. With today’s talk of “Judeo-Christian” values, it is easy to forget the genuine alienness and threat to national security these refugees represented. […]

Behind these [1939 poll] numbers [showing widespread hostility toward Jews] lay a toxic fear of Jewish subversion. For decades, Jews had been linked to various strains of un-American threats: socialism, communism, and anarchism, of course, but also (paradoxically) a kind of hyper-capitalism. Many believed that the real threat to the United States lay not from abroad, but within.

One author of a recent letter to the Des Moines Register called for vetting Syrian refugees at the U.S. facility for holding suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay: "My Irish ancestors went through a similar process at Ellis Island. The vetting procedure was very different for them. They were checked to be sure they weren’t carrying diseases into America. We need to be sure that the refugees coming into our country don’t come with a mind disease goal of killing us, instead of seeking a new life for themselves, like my Irish ancestors did." Here’s some news for letter-writer Janet Boggs: when the first large waves of Irish ancestors entered this country during the 1840s and 1850s, many native-born Americans considered them and other Catholic immigrants an existential threat to this country, not harmless migrants seeking a better life. Read up on the Know-Nothing Party.

Today’s Sunday Des Moines Register includes a letter to the editor from Republican State Representative Steve Holt, who thanked Branstad for making "the safety of Iowans" his priority. Holt warned, "If we expect Western civilization to survive, we must abandon political correctness and educate ourselves on the realities of Islam, and the instrument of its implementation, Sharia law." Holt represents half of GOP State Senator Jason Schultz’s constituents in western Iowa; Schultz has been beating the "Sharia law" drum for months while agitating against allowing any more refugees from the Middle East to settle in Iowa. UPDATE: I should have noted that today’s Register also ran a letter to the editor from Democratic State Representative Marti Anderson, who made the case for welcoming refugees. I’ve added it after the jump.

Speaking of security risks, yesterday Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press on questions surrounding the threat assessment teams many universities formed after the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech. I didn’t know that the University of Iowa sent "a detective with the campus threat assessment team" to a fake news conference communications Professor Kembrew McLeod organized in August to poke fun at efficiency measures outside consultants recommended for Iowa’s public universities. I had forgotten about the lawsuit stemming from false accusations that a whistleblower employee in the Iowa State College of Engineering’s marketing department might be a "potential terrorist or mass murderer." Officials spreading such rumors about the employee included the former boss whose shady conduct he had exposed. Excerpts from Foley’s article are below, but click through to read the whole piece.

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IA-03: More signs Chet Culver may run

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Former Governor Chet Culver "is getting closer" to joining the Democratic field in Iowa’s third district, Civic Skinny reports in the latest edition of the weekly Cityview.

He is looking at the numbers — the money numbers and the registration numbers — and lining up a staff. He is studying the issues and talking to longtime supporters. He is looking at the problems of running — and, he hopes, serving — while still being a good father to two teenagers and a supportive husband to a wife who works part-time as a lawyer in Des Moines. […]

Culver says he is getting in shape physically for a run and just got a good report from his doctor.

Last week, Culver made clear that he would enjoy returning to public service, views IA-03 as a "good fit," and is confident he could raise the resources to run a successful campaign.

Civic Skinny speculated that beating the other likely candidates in the Democratic field (Desmund Adams, Jim Mowrer, and Mike Sherzan) "probably wouldn’t be hard [for Culver], with his name recognition and zest for campaigning." But I would expect a battle royal in an IA-03 primary involving the former governor. Not only has Mowrer lined up support from many prominent local Democrats, he is rumored to have strong backing in labor circles. Culver’s uneasy relationship with organized labor dates to the 2006 gubernatorial primary, when some large unions including AFSCME endorsed his main rival Mike Blouin. The bad blood really set in when the governor vetoed a collective bargaining bill in 2008.

It’s also important to remember that for a Congressional race, Culver will not be able to collect very large donations from his strongest supporters. Individual contributions for federal candidates max out at $2,700 for the primary election and $2,700 for the general election (but that money can’t be used until after the June 2016 primary). During the first four months of 2006, Culver’s campaign for governor collected $25,000 gifts from three donors, $10,000 from five more donors, and $5,000 from more than a dozen others. Two more $10,000 gifts and some $5,000 checks came in during the final weeks before the 2006 primary. Culver’s 2005 campaign disclosure report included several $10,000 gifts and one for $15,000 as well.

Running a Congressional primary campaign will be less expensive than running for governor statewide, especially since about two-thirds of the registered Democrats in the district live in Polk County. Nevertheless, Culver will have a short time span to raise a lot of money in increments of no more than $2,700 from any one person.

Any comments about the IA-03 campaign are welcome in this thread.

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