How to write an Iowa caucus party platform resolution

Many Iowans leave their precinct caucuses after the presidential selection process, but the caucuses also provide an opportunity for politically-engaged people to influence their party’s platform. If you bring a resolution to your precinct caucus, you have a good chance of getting it approved and sent to the county platform committee, which decides what will come to a vote at the county convention.

Little-known fact for those who want to exercise this option: platform resolutions should be written in a different format from other political resolutions you may have read. Follow me after the jump for details and examples of resolutions you can bring to your caucus on Monday night.

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Yes, Maybe, We Still Can

Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts on issues or candidates. -promoted by desmoinesdem

For the past several months, both online and out in the real world, I have advocated for the candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders. I believed then as I believe now that he is an honest, principled advocate for the concerns of working people who are seeing their livelihoods imperiled on a daily basis by political process that is rigged against them and an economic system that favors massive, inherited wealth and fosters inequality. I believed then as I believe now that the vast and growing gap between the wealthy elite and the struggling masses threatens the very foundation of our collective society and that the only way to prevent a new-fangled aristocracy from permanently seizing the reins of power would be for immediate and drastic actions to not only stop but reverse this devastating growth of inequality. I believed then as I believe now that, even though Secretary Hillary Clinton is an eminently qualified candidate to lead our nation, it was necessary for someone like Senator Sanders to challenge her to confront these issues and speak to and up for the losers of our economic system.

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Why I encourage Iowans to caucus for Bernie Sanders

Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts on topics of statewide, local, or national importance. -promoted by desmoinesdem

My name is Aaron Camp. I’m not an Iowan, in fact, I’m a lifelong resident of Vermilion County, Illinois who has never been to Iowa. I’m a staunch supporter of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, although I am not officially affiliated with the Sanders campaign in any way. With the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses just days away, I’ll take this opportunity to encourage Iowans to participate in the Democratic caucus and caucus for Bernie Sanders.

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How Iowa political leaders could honor the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When Congress finally passed a bill establishing a federal holiday named after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1983, national public opinion was split down the middle on whether the civil rights leader should be honored in this way. The holiday is no longer controversial, and members of Congress who voted against it, such as Senator Chuck Grassley, are quick to explain that they admire King’s work. Bleeding Heartland has compiled links related to Dr. King’s legacy and the long slog to establish this national holiday here, here, here, here, here.

I’ve been predicting for months that this year’s legislative session would mostly be a giant waste of many people’s time. I hope Iowa lawmakers and Governor Terry Branstad will prove me wrong by enacting not only the criminal justice reforms Branstad advocated in his Condition of the State speech last week, but also legislation to reduce mandatory minimum sentences, and improve police identification and interrogation procedures as well as police use of body cameras. The NAACP is pushing for a bill to ban racial profiling by law enforcement, which should not be controversial but probably will be a very heavy lift at the Capitol.

Branstad could act unilaterally to reduce one of Iowa’s massive racial disparities by revoking his 2011 executive order that has disenfranchised thousands of people, disproportionately racial minorities. (The procedure the governor established for regaining voting rights is "just about impossible" for felons to navigate.)

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. All three Democratic presidential candidates mentioned Dr. King during their opening statements during last night’s debate in South Carolina, and I’ve enclosed the videos and transcript below. I also included the part of the transcript containing Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sanders’ remarks on criminal justice reform.

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High points for Clinton and Sanders in the South Carolina Democratic debate

Expanded from a short take for CNN

Hillary Clinton was solid and Bernie Sanders turned in his best debate performance yet in Charleston last night. Can anyone deny that Democratic National Committee leaders should have allowed more debates and scheduled them on nights when more voters would watch? The sometimes sharp exchanges between the front-runners probably didn’t change many Democratic minds, but Clinton and Sanders both delivered plenty of lines that should reinforce the inclinations of voters who are supporting them or leaning in that direction.

I suspect the following moments will particularly resonate with Iowa caucus-goers, based on my conversations with hundreds of Iowa Democrats and on how I’ve seen multiple crowds react to the candidates.

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Weekend open thread: "Making a Murderer" edition

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

The more I hear about "Making a Murderer," the more tempted I am to become a Netflix subscriber so I can watch the ten-part documentary myself. The series follows the case of Steven Avery, released from prison after 18 years when DNA evidence showed he was innocent of the rape for which he had been convicted. A few years later, Avery and his teenage nephew Brendan Dassey were charged and convicted of murdering Teresa Halbach. The documentary suggests that Avery and Dassey, who are both serving life sentences, did not kill Halbach and did not receive fair trials.

Lee Rood has a front-page feature in today’s Des Moines Register about how problems highlighted in "Making a Murderer" point to the need for criminal justice reforms in Iowa, such as "uniform best practices for eyewitnesses and the mandatory recording of law enforcement interrogations." I’ve enclosed excerpts after the jump, but I strongly recommend clicking through to read her whole story.

Avery’s wrongful conviction for rape rested primarily on eyewitness testimony. The latest edition of the New Yorker contains an excellent piece by Paul Kix on how a similar "travesty led to criminal-justice innovation in Texas." Passages enclosed below cite Iowa State University Psychology Professor Gary Wells, who "has spent decades researching ways in which police lineups can be made more accurate." Wells testified at a hearing seeking to exonerate a man who had died in prison, serving time for a rape he did not commit. Some of Wells’ recommendations for improving police identification practices were incorporated into a Texas law.

Those measures are different from the reforms an Iowa working group proposed and Governor Terry Branstad endorsed in his speech to state lawmakers this week. But with statehouse Republicans and Democrats deeply divided over education spending, Medicaid privatization, and Planned Parenthood funding, criminal justice reform may provide a rare opportunity for bipartisan cooperation this year. I hope members of the Iowa House and Senate who applauded Branstad’s call to reduce racial disparities will also consider some of the steps Texas has taken to prevent wrongful convictions.

Speaking recently to the Marshall Project, the rape survivor whose mistaken eyewitness testimony sent Avery to prison during the 1980s recounted how seeing a picture of her real attacker doesn’t stir up any emotion for her. In contrast, she says, "I still see Steven Avery as my assailant even though I understand he wasn’t." I have read other accounts of traumatic memories being altered so that misremembered details evoke panic and terror. The way trauma affects the mind and body and the malleability of traumatic memories are major themes in Dr. Peter Levine’s latest book Trauma and Memory. I hadn’t heard of the book until I received a copy from a friend who found Levine’s approach to healing trauma life-changing.

A videotaped confession by Avery’s "low-functioning" nephew became a key part of the prosecution’s case in the trial that is the focus of "Making a Murderer." Des Moines defense attorney Gary Dickey told Rood, "Set aside Avery’s innocence or guilt, the most striking thing of the whole series is the clearly coerced confession of Brendan Dassey." It is surprisingly easy to manipulate a person to admit doing things that never happened, as shown by the New York Police Department’s ability to obtain false confessions from five teenagers accused of assaulting the "Central Park jogger" during the 1980s. Discussing that notorious crime, Saul Kassin, Psychology Professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Williams College, pointed out that "in some cases people accused of crimes, particularly kids and others who are limited intellectually, become so confused by the lies that they actually come to believe they have committed this crime they did not commit."

A chapter in Trauma and Memory focuses on "the pitfall of false memory," such as when therapists (either unscrupulous or well-meaning) induce patients to believe wrongly that they suffered ritual or sexual abuse as children. At the end of this post, I enclose a passage from Levine’s book addressing "malevolent police interrogation methods" used to implant inaccurate memories and thereby obtain false confessions or wrongful convictions.

Among other things, the final installment of "Making a Murderer" covers a post-script to the Avery case: the downfall of District Attorney Ken Kratz, who prosecuted Avery and Dassey. Ryan Foley, an Associated Press correspondent in Iowa, was working for the AP in Wisconsin when he reported that Kratz "sent repeated text messages trying to spark an affair with a domestic abuse victim while he was prosecuting her ex-boyfriend." Kratz lost his job over that despicable abuse of power, which he later blamed on mental health conditions and prescription drug dependence. All journalism students should listen to Foley’s interview with Kratz before the story appeared, a fascinating example of a newsmaker trying to intimidate a reporter. In quite a show of interrogation techniques, the DA warned that a "hatchet story" on his inappropriate behavior would reveal the journalist to be a "tool" for someone else’s political agenda. Kratz modulated his voice frequently—lecturing, mocking, shouting, even whispering—hoping to throw Foley off balance and trick him into revealing his sources.

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