Adios Bleeding Heartland

The Department of Homeland Security has decided to start seizing websites for “copyright infringement”.

See example here: http://torrent-finder.com/

Thus far there are 76 websites reported seized under U.S. Copyright Law.  Apparently this was done under the auspices of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act?

Our favorite Iowa senator, Chuck Grassley just voted a newer broader reaching bill, Combatting Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act (COICA) out of the Judiciary Committee.  

In the past, Internet sites deemed guilty under DMCA were allowed to remove the offending portion of the website in question until the issue could be resolved. Apparently now the Feds are simply seizing the entire Domain.

Opponents to COICA seem to believe that if enacted as written, search robots could be used to find specific words and terms on websites, and then automatic seizure would take effect.  I have not had the opportunity to review the study bill in question, so further research is needed to verify or reject these claims.

Any BH readers with a sense of this issue?

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No RAGBRAI for my friends this year

My friends from Little Farm Fair Trade will not be showing up at RAGBRAI this year, along with several other long time participants. 

Little Farm is a tiny collective that provides Fair Trade coffee at a lot of fun events during the course of the year.  Like the Rainbow Gathering, Burning Man, and usually, RAGBRAI.  They leave a jar out for anybody that wants to drop in a donation, but don't charge for the coffee at any event.  It's a hippee cosmic kind of organic experience for them.

No longer.  Last year several people were charged for not having a vending permit along the route by various counties.  Taking a lesson from last year, the counties along the route this year have apparently decided to set fees for folks “vending” along the route.  Anything from $700-$1000 a day.  

Little Farm, and several of the others don't really even cover the cost of their gas on these trips, it's just something they do for fun and laughs, kind of a vacation.  

Now it will only be the big money folks along the route, not the fun mom & pop eccentrics.  Our loss.

UPDATE:  Here's RAGBRAI's response; http://ragbrai.com/index.php/2010/07/14/ragbrai-vendors-towns/

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Finally, a Response From Tom Harkin on War Funding...

sort of.

"How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Comittee, as given by John Kerry, member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1971.

 Those in the Peace Movement have a lesson learned from Howard Zinn and Father Dan Berrigan, veteran peace activists.  In their opinion, the Vietnam War did not end until Congress stopped funding it.

To that end, a number of affinity groups from various activist communities have been calling on members of Congress to stop funding the U.S. activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This started last October.  A number of people started delivering petitions and engaging members of Senator Harkin's and Sentor Grassley's staffs on this issue in October.  Weekly, some members of the Des Moines Peace community have been delivering petitions, and evidence of atrocities, to staffers at both offices.  When there was no response from either senator, things were escalated to include non-violent direct action, in the form of sit-ins, with some people risking arrest by staying in the offices past closing time.  One woman, frustrated by a lack of response, escalated non-violent resistance to include a weekly "die-in" where she would simply lie on the floor, in solidarity with those being killed on the taxpayer's dime.  She would remain on the floor until federal Protective Service police would place her in a wheelchair, cite her for "criminal trespass", and then dump her on the sidewalk in front of the Des Moines Federal Building. 

During one of these "die-ins", a 12 year old became so frustrated by a lack of response from Senator Harkin, that she told her mom she was going to risk arrest by staying with her friend who was engaged in the die-in.  The police charge the mother with "Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor".  The local and national press picked up on this,  and the charges against the mother were eventually dropped. 

But, in the meantime many called on Senator Harkin for a response, including activist media mogul, Michael Moore.

Today, finally, after more than six months of delivering petitions, staging sit-ins, die-ins, involving national activists, and media, we finally got a response from Senator Harkin.  Since everyone in the local Des Moines Peace Community tend to not be millionaires or multi-national corporations who can hire a K Street lobbying firm to represent their interests, I guess we now know what it takes to get Tom Harkin's attention.  A complete transcript of the letter follows.


April 23, 2010

[Insert Name and Address of Constituent]  

Dear [Insert Constituent's Name]:  

Thank you for contacting me to share your thoughts regarding Presidents Obama's proposed strategy for Afghanistan.  

As you know, in December 2009 President Obama announced his decision to deploy 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan after conducting a thorough policy review.  These forces will supplement the approximately 68,000 United States troops already in Afghanistan at the time of the announcement- including 21,000 additional troops from the 42- nation NATO International Security Assistance Force (IASF), which will also be contributing at least 7,000 more troops.  This plan would increase the total international force to over 150,000, with 98,000 U.S. troops.  [ed. note, this number does not reflect the independent military contractors on the U.S. payroll, i.e. Halliburton, Xe (formerly Blackwater), KBR, etc..]

I have deep reservations about the President’s plan to deploy these additional troops to Afghanistan.  I strongly believe that our brave men and women in uniform will continue serving with unparalleled capability, bravery and honor to fulfill their new mission.  I do not believe, however, that the future of Afghanistan rests solely with our military.  If the Government of Afghanistan and its security forces are not able to take control of the country, keep Afghans safe, maintain accountability to the Afghan people, and enforce and obey the rule of law, then any military success would only be temporary. Lasting success is dependent upon developing a better, more responsive civil government in Afghanistan, including combating rampant levels of corruption, forming strong regional partnerships, and equipping Afghan security forces to provide for the country’s own security.  That is why I feel that increasing civilian, economic and agricultural assistance and implementing good governance programs are just as important as military action.

In addition, I have strong reservations about how the President’s increase in troop levels will be funded.  I believe that our federal budget must account for the ongoing cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The open-ended spending of the past administration added a trillion dollars to the deficit.  We must have a responsible financial plan in place as we move forward.  Furthermore, I feel it is irresponsible to place the sacrifice of war on only members of our armed services and families.  I will work with my colleagues to find a way to fund this effort, instead of continuing to pass the full financial cost of our wars to future generations.  

Again, thanks for sharing your views on Afghanistan and the President’s decision with me. Please rest assured that I will continue to follow our progress in Afghanistan and will continue to pray for the safety of our brave young men and women serving so far from home.

Sincerely, Tom Harkin

United States Senator

Update, found this in my email inbox today, May 19.  

Dear Elton:

Thank you for visiting my office and expressing your views on H.R. 4899, the Supplemental Appropriations bill currently being considered by the Senate, and S. 3197, which requires a plan to withdraw U.S. armed forces from Afghanistan.  As you may know, the Supplemental was recently reported out of the Senate Appropriations Committee and will soon be considered by the full Senate.  I understand that you care deeply about these issues, and I will be sure to keep your views in mind as the Senate considers legislation on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Again, thanks for reaching out to me on this important issue.  I look forward to hearing from you again.


Tom Harkin

United States Senator

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Our Response To Local School Fundraising Scheme.

(I love this idea. You might also send the materials to members of the Iowa House and Senate committees responsible for education funding. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

When it came time for back to school shopping, my wife and I diligently went through the list of classroom supplies requested by our daughter's teacher, and purchased a couple of large shopping bags worth of stuff.

Then, last week, my eight year old came home with a fundraising request from her school. Basically, the school was asking us to fill out cards with our friend's and relative's names and addresses on them, to be solicited for magazine subscriptions.  A small portion of the proceeds would then be donated to our local school. There was a place on the card for a personalized message, and the sample message was, “Help my school!”

My wife suggested that perhaps the best way to help our daughter's school get adequate funding would be to address the cards to members of the Administration and Congress serving on various education committees with the message, “Fund Our Schools!”.

The following is a list of the people we addressed cards to, along with address information, should you find yourself in a similar situation and are inclined to follow our example.


Current Occupant

1600 Pensylvania Avenue | Washington, DC 20500


Secretary Arne Duncan

U.S. Department of Education  400 Maryland Ave, SW | Washington, DC 20202


Members of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education


U.S. Congressional Representative Dale Kildee (D Chair)

2107 Rayburn House Office Bldg | Washington, DC 20515-2205


U.S. Congressional Represesntative Mike Castle (R Ranking Member)

1233 Longworth House Office Bldg | Washington, DC 20515-0801


U.S. Congressional Representative Dave Loebsack (D Committee Member)

1513 Longworth House Office Bldg | Washington, DC 20515


Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families


Senator Chris Dodd (D Chair)

448 Russell Bldg | Washington, DC 20510


Senator Lamar Alexander (R Ranking Member)

455 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg | Washington, DC 20510


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Marriage Equality Comes to Iowa (My Wife's Blog Entry)

(Thanks to Elton for posting this piece by Sally Frank, who has also been a trailblazer for equality. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

I just spoke to my wife, and she agreed to allow me to post her entry from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism today.

Since she is a law professor, I thought her take on this might be of interest to some.

Sally Frank is a member of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Commission on Social Action and a Professor at Drake University Law School.  All views expressed are her own.

Last Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court overturned Iowa’s ban on same sex marriage in a unanimous opinion authored by arguably the most conservative Justice on the Court.  It is obvious in reading the opinion that the Court is anticipating the negative reaction it will get from some.  After describing the ordinariness of the twelve plaintiffs and how they stand out only because of their sexual orientation, the Court went on to give a civics lesson.  It reminded its readers of the roles of each branch of government and that it was fulfilling its role in determining the constitutionality of a statute.  The Court then summarized its history of leadership in civil rights issues.  The first case in the territorial Iowa Supreme Court ruled that no one could be property and therefore refused to allow the return of a fugitive slave years before the Dred Scott case, it outlawed school segregation and ruled against separate but equal in the late 1800’s.  It was also the first state to admit women to the bar.

Another important aspect of the ruling was that it analyzed discrimination based on sexual orientation with heightened scrutiny.  This is the level of scrutiny used when reviewing laws discriminating on the basis of gender.  To pass this scrutiny, the government had to show that the law was closely related to a significant governmental interest.  The Court held open the possibility of analyzing future cases involving sexual orientation under the even higher test of strict scrutiny which is the test used for race discrimination.

Once the Court determined how to review the statute, it analyzed every argument raised to support the marriage ban and found all of them lacking.  It then addressed the unstated argument- – the objections of some religious groups to marriage equality.  In a footnote, the Court specifically referred to Reform Judaism’s support for marriage equality.  The opinion clearly stated throughout that the issue before it was civil marriage.  In this section of the opinion, the Court made clear that religious marriage is up to each religious group and would not be affected by this ruling.

Lastly, the Court ruled that Civil Union or any other attempt to address the ruling without having civil marriage would fail constitutional tests.  This ruling, as with all rulings from the Iowa Supreme Court will be effective in twenty-one days, unless the County seeks further review.  The County Attorney has said he will not do that.  Thus, we in Iowa are ready to welcome our own residents and those from around the country to come and get married starting April 24.  (There is a 3 day waiting period from getting the marriage license to getting married, though.)

I was in the County Courthouse the morning that the ruling was issued and the excitement was palpable.  Several people were stopping by the courtroom of the judge who issued the ruling that was upheld by the Supreme Court.  He quickly told us that the cake we saw sitting there was because it was his birthday not to celebrate the ruling.  Modestly, he said merely that he was glad that the Supreme Court had found his reasoning sound.

Friday night, there were celebration rallies throughout the state.  In Des Moines, about 1,000 people came for a rally that lasted just over one hour.  Many had tears in their eyes as we greeted the plaintiffs, their lawyers, and those from organizations supporting them.  Des Moines’ mayor also spoke.  There were similar rallies with hundreds of people all around the state.  One speaker mentioned discussing with a California chapter of her organization how to celebrate Iowa.  She announced that there would be popcorn on the street of the Castro that night. After the rally there was a party celebrating the ruling, which was widely attended.  The joy is still palpable today.

For those wondering about the possibility of an amendment to the state constitution, nothing will happen soon.  A letter was read at the rally from the majority leaders of our state assembly and state senate hailing the ruling and saying that given the short time left in this legislative session and the pressing budget issues facing the state there would be no reason to waste time debating this issue.   A constitutional amendment in Iowa has to pass two separate legislatures before it can get on the ballot.  This is the first year of our current legislature.  Thus, no amendment can pass for at least 2 ½ years.  The momentum may not be strong to amend the constitution either.  Even a conservative columnist for the Register suggested that people look at the tourist dollars the ruling will bring before they get too upset and try to overturn the ruling.

To read the ruling of the Court, go here

and click on ruling.

Posted by Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism on April 6, 2009 4:55 PM |  

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Cramer v. Stewart

I'll own it, I'm a big Daily Show fan.  Jon Stewart has seen me through some tough times these past few years.  After a hard days work dealing with the consequences of being an activist, [FBI surveillance, named on terrorist watch lists, months of incarceration] and that just for speaking out about stuff, it's been nice to be able to just kick back and get my “news” from America's most trusted name in fake news.

Sadly, that all changed for me last Thursday night.  Sure, my folks lost a bunch of money out of their retirement stuff. My daughter had a morgage with Countrywide and ended up sleeping in her car for a couple of months after they foreclosed on her. And now, I'm having a really hard time picking up any part time work.  I'm as upset about the whole corporate greed thing as anybody.

Be that as it may, the last thing I want to see on the Daily Show is real news. I don't need that shit.  If I wanted real news, I would turn on the real news.  I want fake news, news in small doses edited with a healthy dose of sarcasm and wit.

I guess I don't blame Jon at all, he did what he felt he had to do.  I have to put the blame on Jim Cramer.  He wanted to use this self-induced “feud” with Jon Stewart for purposes of self promotion.  

What I simply can't believe is that Jim Cramer is so far removed from the pulse of real America, that he thought he could get away with being “cute” about being a Wall Street pundit at this point. 

 I've seen where folks have compared Jon's interviewing style with Cramer to an old school Mike Wallace face-off.  For me, it looked more like an Edward R. Murrow moment.

I'm going to miss my old Jon Stewart, he was a really fun and witty guy, the guy who helped define an era of my life. But now, I can never look at him the same, not after squirming in my seat for the twenty minutes of that interview.  

As for Jim Cramer? Maybe if the folks at CNBC and the other so-called “Mainstream” networks had stuck to the REAL news, my beloved Jon Stewart wouldn't have had to go there.

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