Joni Ernst town hall: The overflow edition

Thanks to Stefanie Running for talking with Iowans who had hoped to question Senator Joni Ernst yesterday. -promoted by desmoinesdem

It was unusually warm for St. Patrick’s Day in Des Moines. Despite being spring break week for Drake University, the campus where Senator Joni Ernst chose to hold her town hall had remarkably little available parking. I arrived about 4:45 p.m., fifteen minutes prior to the start of the event, but was unable to join the throng inside; Sheslow Auditorium had reached capacity.

There were about 200 of us still outside, unsurprised but still disappointed. We were given the opportunity to fill out the question cards, the same as our comrades who made it inside. It was a consolation prize of sorts, knowing the questions wouldn’t be asked. A few people wrote their names and their questions, the rest either left or milled about. A few groups crowded around those who were playing live-streams the discussion on their phones.

I was able to speak to a handful of folks who had come to hear Ernst address their concerns, ask their own questions, or see if she actually engaged honestly.

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Postcards & Pale Ale

Wondering how to put your activist energy to good use? Johnson County Supervisor Kurt Friese has ideas. -promoted by desmoinesdem

So here’s what happened. Like so many people, I was all jazzed up off the energy of the #WomensMarch last week, thrilled with my wife and many other friends who were in DC, other friends around the world standing up, and just being here in Iowa City with around 2,000 people, all of us being a part of what is undoubtedly the largest protest in human history. The next day I was looking for how to act up next. Knowing that writing to congress, especially to my own rep’s and sen’s, can be effective, I decided to get a couple friends together over a couple of pints at Iowa City Brewlab and write some postcards.

Now as you probably know I am a serial overposter on Facebook, so I created an event page there and shared it to a couple of activist sites last Sunday (Jan 22). Within a day or two over 100 people said they were coming. By Friday, the day of the event, 170 had clicked “going” and over 700 had clicked “interested.”

About 350 showed up.

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Weekend open thread: Bad signs for education

The next few years won’t be a good time to be a public school student in the U.S. generally or in Iowa specifically. Betsy DeVos is likely to be confirmed as secretary of education, despite bombing in her confirmation hearing, where she dodged some important questions and revealed shocking ignorance about basic education policy matters. Only two GOP senators say they will vote against the billionaire, who has given generously to Republican candidates and causes and worked to undermine public schools for decades.

Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst have yet not published statements about DeVos, but I enclose below comments confirming they will support her nomination.

Meanwhile, in a party-line vote on February 2, Iowa Senate Republicans approved a bill to increase state funding for K-12 school districts by just 1.11 percent for the year beginning on July 1. Under state law, the Iowa House and Senate should have set school funding for fiscal year 2018 more than a year ago. However, statehouse Republicans have refused to follow that law for the past several years. Last year was no exception: despite action by Iowa Senate Democrats, House Republicans did not vote on fiscal year 2018 “allowable growth” (now officially known as “supplemental state aid”) during the 2016 legislative session.

If Senate File 166 is approved by the Iowa House and signed into law by Governor Terry Branstad, next year’s 1.11 percent growth in K-12 funding would be the third-smallest increase in more than 40 years. I enclose below a chart showing allowable growth levels approved by the state legislature since 1973. Branstad requested 2 percent more funding for K-12 schools in his draft budget. To my knowledge, the governor has not said whether he would sign Senate File 166 in its current form.

Recruiting and retaining educators to work in Iowa may become a lot more difficult after Republicans destroy collective bargaining rights for public employees, including thousands of teachers. House and Senate leaders have indicated that they will make the first significant changes in Iowa Code Chapter 20 since 1974. Details about the plan have been hidden from public view up to now, but a bill on collective bargaining is expected to appear on the state legislature’s website on February 6.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Jalapeno Pepper, Hot Sauce and Gasoline Tart

Howard County Democratic Party chair Laura Hubka is ready to fight. Who’s with her? -promoted by desmoinesdem

Does everyone else feel like they are in a dream? Not a nice cream filled donut dream but a jalapeno pepper, hot sauce and gasoline filled tart, a terrifying joke of a dream. One where you feel like you know all the players and the places but something is just off. Totally ridiculous and confusing. Its like we all went to bed after way too much to drink and are having a really bad nightmare. Up is down, down is up.

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Weekend open thread: Preparing for the worst edition

A belated happy Thanksgiving to the Bleeding Heartland community. I didn’t cook this year, but for those who did, here are four ways to make soup from Thanksgiving leftovers; two involve turkey, two are vegetarian. My favorite way to use extra cranberry sauce: mix with a few chopped apples and pour it into a pie crust (I use frozen, but you can make your own crust). Make a simple crumbly topping with a little flour, rolled oats, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle over the top. Bake and you’ve got an extra pie to share.

If your family is anything like mine, you’ve had a lot of conversations this weekend about the impending national nightmare as Donald Trump prepares to become the world’s most powerful person. Can Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hang on as the fifth vote to preserve Roe v Wade for five more years? Could Trump have chosen a worse candidate for attorney general than Jeff Sessions? What about his National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a hothead with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin who has compared Islam to a “cancer,” and had technicians break security rules to install an internet connection in his Pentagon office? Then there’s Trump’s pick for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos: she’s never worked in the education field, has long sought to undermine public schools, is a well-known homophobe and hostile to the concept of church/state separation. DeVos has admitted to using her family’s wealth to buy political influence. Mother Jones has taken a couple of deep dives into the DeVos family’s efforts to change American policies and policies: click through to read those pieces by Andy Kroll and Benjy Hansen-Bundy and Andy Kroll.

One of the most disturbing aspects of this election is how the Russian government got away with brazen attempts to get Trump elected. Craig Timberg’s report for the Washington Post is a must-read: independent researchers described how Russia’s “increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery […] exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment.” Whether Russian subterfuge was decisive can be debated, but we all saw the extensive media coverage of mostly unremarkable e-mails among Clinton campaign staff and strategists. Most of us had fake news pop up on social media feeds. I can’t believe how many journalists and politicians have reacted casually to this development. Eric Chenoweth of the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe is nailed it in his editorial for the Washington Post: “Americans continue to look away from this election’s most alarming story: the successful effort by a hostile foreign power to manipulate public opinion before the vote.”

Two people who aren’t looking away are Yale University history Professor Timothy Snyder and Masha Gessen, who reported from Russia for many years under Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin. I enclose below advice from Snyder on how to adapt to authoritarian government and excerpts from Gessen’s recent commentary, “Autocracy: Rules for Survival.” Like the old Russian saying goes, “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

UPDATE: My husband Kieran Williams, who has studied democracy in other countries, shared his perspective on how “normalization” happens after a “shocking event”: “people in a position to stop it decide to play along, and find ways to convince themselves that they are doing the right thing, for either the greater good or the narrow good of kith and kin.”

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