Four links for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

For some, today’s holiday is just a day off from work or school. But thousands of people will be honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at events around Iowa. State government’s official celebration begins at 10:45 a.m. at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, 909 Robert D. Ray Drive in Des Moines. Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker will discuss Dr. King’s legacy and various justice reform issues at three events in Mount Vernon or Cedar Rapids.

The African-American Museum of Iowa (55 12th Ave. SE in Cedar Rapids) is offering free admission between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, with children’s activities between 11 and 3. After the regular opening hours, the museum is hosting a job fair and a free screening of the movie “Hidden Figures.” On January 25 from 6:30 to 7:30 pm, museum staff will hold an event at the North Liberty Public Library highlighting “the fight for equal rights, both nationwide and in the state of Iowa. Featured individuals include Alexander Clark, the man who helped desegregate Iowa schools in 1867, and Edna Griffin, the woman who led sit-ins at the Katz Drugstore in Des Moines in 1948.”

I enclose below excerpts from a few articles related to racial inequality or the civil rights movement. Bleeding Heartland has compiled other links related to this holiday or to Dr. King’s work here, here, here, here, and here. The quote pictured at the top of this post first appeared in Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (April 1963).

Many politicians will quote the civil rights icon today. If Iowa lawmakers want to honor his legacy, they could pass some of the criminal justice reform bills introduced in recent years, or other ideas advocated by the NAACP. Instead, members of the Iowa Senate and perhaps the state House are likely to debate a bill to reinstate capital punishment this year. Many years of data point to racial disparities in how the death penalty is applied. (Rod Boshart’s reporting suggests the death penalty bill probably will not pass.)

Continue Reading...

Weekend open thread: Accountability

Senator Chuck Grassley hit a new low last week in running interference for the White House on the Trump/Russia investigation. After leaders of the private research firm Fusion GPS called on Congressional Republicans “to release full transcripts of our firm’s testimony” about the so-called Steele dossier, Grassley and Senator Lindsey Graham wrote to the Department of Justice and the FBI “urging an investigation into Christopher Steele.” Ranking Senate Judiciary Committee Democrat Dianne Feinstein was not consulted about the referral, which she accurately characterized as “another effort to deflect attention from what should be the committee’s top priority: determining whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the election and whether there was subsequent obstruction of justice.”

Here in Iowa, the Department of Human Services recently acknowledged that privatizing Medicaid “will save the state 80 percent less money this fiscal year than originally predicted,” Tony Leys reported for the Des Moines Register. The Branstad/Reynolds administration has claimed since 2015 that shifting care for one-sixth of Iowans to private companies would result in big savings for the state. Officials were never able to show the math underlying those estimates. Staff for Governor Kim Reynolds and the DHS now portray the miscalculation as an honest mistake, which a more “comprehensive methodology” will correct. The governor would have been wiser to pull the plug on this disaster last year.

Forthcoming Bleeding Heartland posts will address those failures in more depth. But now it’s time to hold myself accountable for the 17 Iowa politics predictions I made at the beginning of 2017. Did I improve on my showing of seven right, two half-right, and seven wrong out of my 16 predictions for 2016?

Continue Reading...

The 17 most-viewed Bleeding Heartland posts of 2017

I had mixed feelings about compiling last year’s review of highest-traffic posts. Being hyper-aware of clicks and views can be demoralizing, because the most labor-intensive stories rarely attract the most attention.

On the other hand, it’s fascinating to see what strikes a chord with readers. A preview of stores coming to an outlet mall in Altoona was the fourth most-read Des Moines Register article of 2017. The second most popular New York Times story contained highlights from a boxing match. And this year’s highest-traffic piece at USA Today was about the “kiss cam” at the NFL Pro Bowl.

During an unusually eventful year in Iowa politics, some hot topics at Bleeding Heartland were predictable. But surprises were lurking in the traffic numbers on posts published during 2017 (418 written by me, 164 by other authors).

Continue Reading...

Recognizing Bleeding Heartland's talented 2017 guest authors

Bleeding Heartland published 140 guest posts by 81 authors in 2016, a record since the blog’s creation in 2007.

I’m happy to report that the bar has been raised: 83 authors contributed 164 guest posts to this website during 2017. Their work covered an incredible range of local, statewide, and national topics.

Some contributors drew on their professional expertise and research, writing in a detached and analytical style. Others produced passionate and intensely personal commentaries, sometimes drawing on painful memories or family history.

Continue Reading...
View More...