# Activism

Why is this time different?

Writing under the handle “Bronxiniowa,” Ira Lacher, who actually hails from the Bronx, New York, is a longtime journalism, marketing, and public relations professional. This year, Passover began on the evening of April 22.

We’re well into the Passover festival, when Jews recall our exodus from slavery and bondage in Egypt on our way to establishing a Jewish nation. We’re also well into the ongoing ritual of college students protesting the existence of that nation, and authorities responding with censure and arrests.

Media representatives—sorry, but I can’t refer to all of them as journalists—have portrayed this conflict the way they usually portray it: in binary terms, as in either you’re pro-Israel (and therefore pro-Jew) or against Israel (and therefore antisemitic).

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Iowa House Democrats strangely quiet on eminent domain bill

Protester’s sign against a pillar in the state capitol on February 27 (photo by Laura Belin)

What’s the opposite of “loud and proud”?

Iowa House Democrats unanimously voted for the chamber’s latest attempt to address the concerns of landowners along the path of Summit Carbon Solutions’ proposed CO2 pipeline. But not a single Democrat spoke during the March 28 floor debate.

The unusual tactic allowed the bill’s Republican advocates to take full credit for defending property rights against powerful corporate interests—an extremely popular position.

It was a missed opportunity to share a Democratic vision for fair land use policies and acknowledge the progressive constituencies that oppose the pipeline for various reasons.

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Uncontested races are undemocratic

Jess Piper speaks at a Progress Iowa event at the Tom and Ruth Harkin Center in Des Moines on March 22 (photo by Laura Belin)

Jess Piper is the Executive DIrector of Blue Missouri. She is a former high school teacher and former nominee for Missouri’s House district 1. She lives on a small farm in northwest Missouri with her family and is the author of The View from Rural Missouri newsletter, where this essay first appeared.

Uncontested races are undemocratic. They are also immoral. If we say we stand with all communities, we have to prove it by showing up on every ballot.

I live in Missouri. I understand supermajorities and the consolidation of power under a supermajority, but I also understand how we get ourselves out of this mess. It isn’t the conventional wisdom of flipping a couple of seats. It’s running everywhere no matter the fact that most of these uncontested seats won’t flip in one cycle.

I hate the phrase “the long game,” but this is literally the long game. It takes time and patience and money and fortitude. It also takes candidates with grit. If anyone has grit, it’s a Missouri Democrat—especially a rural Missouri Democrat. 

I should know. I ran in 2022.

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Marcia Nichols: A legacy of advocacy

Photo of Marcia Nichols is by Charlie Wishman and published with permission.

AJ Jones is a writer. She is a creator of art and expresses herself across different mediums. She embraces her neurodivergence as a unique way to view the world and create a better future.

I remember the first time I met Marcia Nichols at my initial meeting with the Marion County Democrats. It was less than a year ago, and she was serving as ambassador to the Iowa Democratic Party. I was struck by how intently she listened to every word I said and gauged me steadily with her eyes. She asked clarifying questions, as if I had ideas which had never been considered before. Whether true or not, I felt seen and heard.  

Life happens and even remarkable events fall by the wayside. I learned of her death on a cold January day. People felt the impact as the news reverberated across the state. As Iowa geared up for a winter storm, people were making travel plans to see her one last time.

Sometimes you only realize later that you have been embraced by someone’s legacy.

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Iowa caucus reflections, fifty years apart

Photo by Julie Gammack of an Iowa Democratic caucus on the south side of Des Moines, January 15, 2024. Published with permission.

Kurt Meyer writes a weekly column for the Nora Springs – Rockford Register and the Substack newsletter Showing Up, where this essay first appeared. He serves as chair of the executive committee (the equivalent of board chair) of Americans for Democratic Action, America’s most experienced liberal organization.

The Facebook message came in late Monday morning. “Just wondering if you are going to your caucus tonight. I’m worried that there will only be a few people there. Nobody seems interested this year in the Dem caucus.”

My friend, who lives 200 miles distant, began this exchange by noting a recent column I had written. I respond, “Yes, you bet I’m going. Sometimes we send important messages simply by showing up, which is why I named my column such.” 

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From Greenville to Greenfield: Jesse Jackson's 1988 Iowa caucus campaign

John Norris grew up in Red Oak, Iowa, and now lives in Des Moines. He delivered these remarks at the Jesse Jackson campaign reunion at the Rainbow PUSH Community Hall in Chicago on July 15, 2023.

I am John Norris. I was the first person hired in Iowa for the Jesse Jackson 1988 campaign, serving as Jesse’s Iowa State Director. After the Iowa caucuses I worked for a while in his national headquarters, then organized several western states, and continued on through the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta.

Also here today from Iowa are George and Patti Naylor from Greene County and David Leshtz from Johnson County. George and Patti are Iowa farmers; nothing says “white voter” quite like “Iowa farmer.” I think it is fair to say the Naylors are on the left spectrum of the Democratic Party, but in ’88 Jesse had support from liberal farmers to conservative farmers like Steve and JoAnne Heaberlin from Pleasantville. All over Iowa I witnessed farmers hugging Rev. Jackson and sometimes crying as he connected economic injustice from rural Iowa to urban Chicago.

David Leshtz is from Iowa City. He is a great organizer, but he had to take on the “I like Jesse, but” crowd. You know, those academic liberals who said, “I really love Jesse, but he can’t win.” David, who was also a Jackson ’84 supporter, did a great job challenging that “but” crowd. He helped build a stellar organization in Johnson County and continues the fight for economic and social justice to this day.

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Four ways (besides voting) to help preserve abortion access in Iowa

Iowans face more threats to their reproductive freedom now than at any time in the past 50 years.

After Governor Kim Reynolds signs House File 732 on July 14, restrictions that would prohibit an estimated 98 percent of abortions will go into effect immediately. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, the Emma Goldman Clinic, and the ACLU of Iowa have already filed a lawsuit, but there is no guarantee courts will block the law temporarily or permanently, once the case reaches the Iowa Supreme Court.

During a large rally at the capitol on July 11, many pro-choice advocates chanted “Vote them out!” State Senator Sarah Trone Garriott recalled that being present when Iowa Republicans approved a near-total abortion ban in 2018 inspired her to run for office. Organizing and volunteering for candidates who will defend reproductive rights will clearly be an essential task. And if Iowa Republican lawmakers put a constitutional amendment about abortion on the ballot next year, we’ll need all hands on deck to defeat it.

That said, you don’t need to wait until 2024 to help others avoid being forced to continue a pregnancy. So I’m updating this post with some concrete steps people can take today—or any day—to preserve abortion access in Iowa.

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Field day for the heat

Writing under the handle “Bronxiniowa,” Ira Lacher, who actually hails from the Bronx, New York, is a longtime journalism, marketing, and public relations professional.

If you’re reading this on Wednesday, July 12, you will likely find that Iowa has a new law prohibiting abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. Legislators met in special session on July 11 so that Republicans could send this bill to Governor Kim Reynolds by cover of night for her to sign. Which made Tuesday’s protest at the Iowa capitol pretty much confined to letting off steam.

And steam they did. The steam was so thick, you couldn’t cut it with a chainsaw.

But what did it prove? Informal talks with folks on both sides—those carrying signs reading “No Bans,” as well as those carrying signs reading “No Murder”—only illustrated that the special session accomplished exactly what Reynolds and the Republicans wanted: to elevate the rhetoric on both sides to show the state and national media that only those in power can accomplish their aims, and rational discussion is impossible.

Walking amid the roaring crowds on the first floor, it was quite clear that strategy was working.

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Reaffirming my faith in politics

Kurt Meyer writes a weekly column for the Nora Springs – Rockford Register, where this essay first appeared. He serves as chair of the executive committee (the equivalent of board chair) of Americans for Democratic Action, America’s most experienced liberal organization.

Some people live in town and have a second home on a lake or in the country. For almost two decades, we’ve reversed these items. Our primary residence is in rural North Iowa – in the country – with a turnkey town home in the greater Minneapolis area. There, for the last ten weeks, we’ve provided “supporter housing” for a political campaign worker in the Twin Cities.

Accommodating this short-term boarder was not demanding duty. We’re often not there, more true recently as delayed travel plans were rescheduled for earlier this fall. Furthermore, providing temporary housing is consistent with a vague “transition strategy” as we seek different ways to support causes we believe in.

Let me explain how this relates to politics.

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Four ways (besides voting) to help preserve abortion access

It’s been a rough week for abortion rights advocates. Many of my own friends, relatives, and acquaintances feel helpless and hopeless in the face of Roe v Wade‘s likely demise. These people don’t need to be reminded to vote. But voting for Democrats hasn’t stopped the rollback of reproductive rights. Anyway, the next opportunity to vote for pro-choice candidates is six months away.

If you believe no one should be forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy, here are some concrete ways to help keep abortion available for those who need the procedure.

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Environmental scorecard for the Iowans in Congress

Sheri Albrecht is a member of Indivisible Cedar Rapids Metro and on the executive committees of the Sierra Club’s Iowa Chapter and Cedar-Wapsie Group.

EcoFest 2022 was held on April 23 at the NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids in celebration of Earth Day.

Our local Indivisible CR Metro group hosted a table. We had three goals: 1) Find out what issues were most important to the people who visited our table; 2) In keeping with the ecological theme of the event, provide data showing attendees how their legislative representatives voted on environmental issues; and 3) Encourage ordinary citizens to engage with their elected representatives.

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Why I'm quitting the Iowa caucuses

John Deeth has volunteered for the Johnson County Democrats and been involved in caucus planning since 2004. He was the lead organizer for the Johnson County caucuses in 2016 and 2020. Deeth has also worked in the Johnson County Auditor’s Office since 1997.

I never set out to be The Caucus Organizer for the Johnson County Democrats. The role landed on me by accident in 2004. Nearly every experienced party activist was involved in a presidential campaign, and almost no one was doing the logistics work of finding rooms, recruiting chairs, stuffing packets, and getting training done. The skill set overlapped closely with my job at the county auditor’s office, so I stepped in to help. 

Each cycle, my role got bigger and bigger. By 2016 I was seen as the Person In Charge, a role I repeated in 2020 and again in the recent midterm caucuses.

But after a lot of struggling, I’ve decided it’s a role I won’t take on again.

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Rural county chair on some changes Iowa Democrats need

Brian Bruening chairs the Clayton County Democrats.

The Iowa Democratic Party is passing through dire straits right now. We have a lot of energetic folks stepping up to run (Iowa Senate candidates Austin Frerick, Todd Brady, Sarah Trone Garriott, and Deb VanderGaast, to name but a few), but I’m worried that the stampede of Democratic legislators heading for the exit heralds a self-fulfilling prophecy of November defeat. 

Ras Smith dropping out of the governor’s race after being unable to find serious funding this cycle, and then announcing he’s not seeking re-election to his House seat, should’ve been treated as a more ominous a sign than it was. Indeed it was a bellwether in January when former House Democratic leader Todd Prichard announced he was bowing out of the legislature.

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The story of the Safe at School Sit-In

Julie Russell-Steuart is a printmaker and activist who chairs the Iowa Democratic Party’s Disability Caucus. -promoted by Laura Belin

The Urgency

On August 11, a Wednesday morning, four moms of school-aged kids arrived at the Iowa State Capitol to put on an event called the Safe at School Sit-In. Two of them had met the previous day, but this was the first time everyone had met each other in person. The fifth member was anxiously keeping an eye on her Facebook Messenger and waiting for the live feed from the Iowans for Public Education Facebook page.

Twelve days earlier, Erin Dahl and Julie Russell-Steuart, both disability advocates, had discussed wanting to do something about the failure of virtually every state institution to protect vulnerable kids and Iowans in general from COVID-19. The next day, Erin saw a post by Brook Easton on Educators for a Safe Return to School Facebook group, saying how it was incredible no one had organized a protest yet, and tagged Julie.

The post turned up more moms wanting to take action. A group was quickly formed and the first of many Zoom meetings and probably hundreds of Facebook Messages started.

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1968 Olympics revisited: Prep for 2021's 200-meter final

Herb Strentz reviews the most famous 200-meter final in Olympic history and its aftermath. -promoted by Laura Belin

With the 2021 Olympics nearing the finish line, one of many track events to watch will be the 200-meter men’s final, scheduled for Wednesday, August 4.

While we don’t know who this year’s finalists will be, we can say with certainty the 1968 final for the 200-meter distance will be revisited, as it is every Olympiad and many times between.

Judging from past press coverage, Peter Norman will not be mentioned. That’s because on the 200-meter victory stand, two Black Americans, Tommie Smith (gold medalist) and John Carlos (bronze) raised gloved fists in a Black Lives Matter protest — back then it was called Black Power.

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A new path for Iowa Democrats

Lori Hunt is a Democrat from Polk County, a member of the Planned Parenthood Speakers Bureau, professional cat wrangler, writer, breadwinner, and bread baker. -promoted by Laura Belin

The first time I got into a cab in DC, the driver asked me where I was from. When I said Iowa, he turned around and told me Senator Tom Harkin had ridden in this very same cab, and how lucky we were to send a very good man like that to Washington.

Since then, we’ve lost Congressional seats and state legislative chambers, watched Iowa Supreme Court justices thrown out for an unanimous ruling on marriage equality, and lost the governorship again and again.

My, how far we’ve come, Iowa Democrats. And not on a good path either. What can we do to turn this around? I’d be foolish to say this can all change in a cycle or two. The New Iowa Project is a fantastic start. It’s amazing to see activists fired up and ready to work year round to have the deep conversations needed to change hearts, minds, and votes.

Here are some things I’d like to see us focus on as well. It’s not exactly rocket science.

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Next up: Democracy Defenders of America

Julie Stauch is a longtime Democratic campaign staffer and candidate consultant. Democracy Defenders of America is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. -promoted by Laura Belin

The Annenberg Institute timed the publication of their 2020 Civics Knowledge survey to coincide with Constitution Day on September 17. Only 51 percent of respondents could name the three branches of government. It’s appalling news, because knowing that there are three branches of government is like knowing a building has four walls and a roof. It’s all much more than that basic knowledge.

I’ve had more years than I want to admit to working in the governmental, business, and political arenas. No matter where I worked or volunteered, there have always been people who don’t know how our various governments work. Time and again I’ve explained things ranging from how a given state’s city council system operates to why states have different constitutions to “No, ma’am, the Attorney General can’t represent your son in his divorce. The Attorney General represents the state, not individuals.” But it is much worse today.

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Combating voter suppression, "Iowa Nice" style

Bryce Smith chairs the Dallas County Democrats. promoted by Laura Belin

Iowa has a rich tradition of voting integrity, from the way we draw legislative districts, to our access to early voting, election day voting, and ways in which to register to vote. We might call the system the “Iowa Nice” part of the U.S. election system.

Sadly, Iowa’s GOP-led legislature recently approved and Governor Kim Reynolds signed yet another bill full of voting restrictions, labeled “voter suppression” by Democrats and hailed as “election integrity” by some Republicans. This comes just a few years after the GOP-led legislature in Iowa passed sweeping voting rights changes and restrictions in 2017.

Republicans across the country have no plan for how to become more competitive in the national popular vote, so they have focused on keeping power by making it harder for those who don’t support them to cast ballots.

With no clear path to enact a federal Voting Rights Act, given the Senate filibuster, how can Democrats defend democracy in GOP-controlled states?

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A path forward for Democrats

Rosanne Cook, Sarah Prineas, Emily Silliman, and Janice Weiner co-authored this post. -promoted by Laura Belin

November 3, 2020 was a kick in the teeth for Iowa Democrats. We lost in Iowa and we lost badly. What should we do about it, other than feel disheartened?

The Potluck Insurgency is a grassroots activist group based in Johnson County. After the 2020 election, four members of Potluck’s steering committee undertook a project to debrief candidates from urban, suburban and rural districts; former officials of the Iowa Democratic Party; and activists from other grassroots organizations.  Seeking to identify reasons for our losses in 2020 and to formulate recommendations for a path forward in Iowa, we interviewed 34 people over the course of three months, in hour-long interviews, working from questions prepared in advance.   

After these interviews, we drew some conclusions about next steps. The following advice is directed at everyone from Iowa Democratic Party leaders, to activist groups like ours, to candidates. These are concrete actions that all of these groups can take to improve our chances in 2022.

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Relational campaigning and our roles as influencers

Charles Bruner is a longtime advocate for policies that support children and strengthen families. -promoted by Laura Belin

Relational campaigning is back. Out of necessity, campaigns have had to adapt to the strictures of social distancing. 2020 has not been a year for mass gatherings, nor for packed party headquarters of volunteers to disperse leaflets door-to-door or operate phone banks. Instead, much of the volunteer work has relied upon people in their own homes and with their computers and cell phones doing what they can.

The plus side of this has been an increased emphasis upon “relational campaigning,” asking volunteers to reach out to the people they know best about issues that matter to them.

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How to make your own pallet flag yard sign

Emilene Leone explains how to make a sturdy, eye-catching pallet flag yard sign that costs “next to nothing.” -promoted by Laura Belin

I am such a fan of Bleeding Heartland, and am perpetually in awe of the intelligent, well-researched, and incredibly informative writing that contributors bring to this site. With that in mind, I was almost embarrassed to ask if I could submit a post to talk about my idea for a fun, political craft project….but I did it anyway, and here it is!

Another election season is upon us, and with election seasons, come fights over signs. Iowans plead, beg and ask for yard signs. Campaigns often seem to respond to those requests either slower than we’d like, or not at all. The saying “Yard signs don’t win elections” seems to run rampant, yet those of us here on the ground get more and more worried as we see signs for the opposition seem to pop up all over town overnight.

So, I’ve got a solution: let’s make our own signs!

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To see the racism of Kenosha, look beyond the videos

Jeff Walberg: The diagnosis begins by attending to where the pain is and listening to the part of our collective body crying out “I can’t breathe.” -promoted by Laura Belin

If you find yourself dissecting fractured images of chaos to find the proof of racism (or its absence) in Kenosha or similar scenes, let me suggest taking your eye from the microscope and widening your view.

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Lessons learned from our giving table

Todd Struthers chronicles “what went right, what went wrong, and the lessons we’ve learned running our 4H Giving Table in Waukee.” -promoted by Laura Belin

It started for us on May 26. The idea came from a post by Andy Slavitt, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Barack Obama. He linked to an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch titled, “After losing loved ones to virus, Maplewood woman makes her yard a lifeline for others.” 

Slavitt occasionally showcases people doing good in these “difficult times,” to quote an overused phrase. The feature was about a cancer survivor named Shana Poole-Jones, who lives in the suburbs of St Louis. She had family who died or had gotten sick with COVID-19, and she had created these grab and go tables where people can drop off or pick up food or toys. 

One thing she said resonated with me: “I realize that I’m a broken person and most of the people who to the table are broken right now. But all the broken pieces pieces come together and make a soft of community to survive this.”

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When Iowa farmers took to the streets--and got results

Dan Piller: The “Farmers Holiday” movement was the Black Lives Matter of the Corn Belt during the early 1930s. Mass protests, including blocking traffic, changed government policy.-promoted by Laura Belin

The churches, coffee shops, and co-operatives of northwest Iowa that gave us Steve King and a huge majority for Donald Trump in 2016 are no doubt generating massive disapproval of the Black Lives Matter protests, adding their voices to the call for “law and order” in the distant cities.

It might come as a surprise to many of these folks, who probably nodded through their Iowa history courses, that they enjoy their status as entitled owners of some of the richest farm land in the world primarily due to the government rescue of agriculture in 1933. That policy was a response to civil disorders that on several occasions prompted the governors of Iowa and Nebraska to call out their National Guards.

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The Disability Caucus: Fighting for inclusion

Eric Donat: “It’s important for inclusion to show people with disabilities in all possible roles – not just in disability-specific ones.” -promoted by Laura Belin

I’m excited to be part of the new leadership on The Iowa Democratic Party Disability Caucus as vice chair. I am Eric Donat of Waterloo and Black Hawk County.

I got my start in politics through advocacy training at the Center for Independent Living in Waterloo, Iowans with Disabilities in Action, and the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council. Consumers at the center were connected to state legislators via our work on systems change advocacy.

Through being an advocate, I supported legislation making it easier for people with disabilities, particularly those using wheelchairs, to travel about in their communities. I also supported reorganizing Iowa’s counties into today’s mental health service regions. In addition, I advocated against privatizing Medicaid in Iowa.

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Three notable Iowa events that happened on July 4

Independence Day was established to celebrate the July 4, 1776 vote by the Second Continental Congress to adopt Declaration of Independence. But many other noteworthy historical events also happened on this day. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826. New York state abolished slavery on this day in 1827.

July 4 has also been a significant date in Iowa history. Two of the events described below happened within the lifetimes of many Bleeding Heartland readers.

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My awakening moment in the fight for justice

Erika Brighi of Marion has been working with Advocates for Social Justice, based in Cedar Rapids. -promoted by Laura Belin

Black. Lives. Matter. We have heard these three words before—yet this time, the fight feels different.

All lives matter, right? Yes. That’s the goal. But all lives matter” can’t be true until black lives matter as well. The fight for justice has never stopped, but this time, there are more voices and they are louder; they aren’t being silenced after your typical week of anger and outcries on social media. 

The voices are still there. Allyship is becoming stronger.

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What's a white person to do?

Ira Lacher: It is appropriate for me to admit that I benefit from white privilege, and humbly suggest ways we can learn to combat and one day overcome it. -promoted by Laura Belin

In 2016, I told anyone who would listen (and more than a few who wouldn’t) that if Donald Trump were elected president, there would be riots in the streets.

I take no satisfaction in being prescient.

All over America, people rioted over the weekend, stoked by anger and desperation at continued and unending wrongful deaths of black people by police and vigilantes, combined with the despair at a hapless federal government unable to save people from dying, whether from a virus or institutional racism.

I refuse to join the chorus of those who have admonished protesters on how to react to this latest in an unending series of violence against African Americans. But it is appropriate for me, as a white person, to admit that I benefit from white privilege, and humbly suggest ways we can learn to combat and one day overcome it.

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Perhaps Justice should rear its head, too

Herb Strentz comments on reactions to George Floyd’s killing, including “a white person’s headline” in the Sunday Des Moines Register. -promoted by Laura Belin

Ten reactions to the killing of George Floyd and protests around the nation, including, of course, in Des Moines:

1. Recall the names of four kids: Addie Mae Collins (14), Cynthia Wesley (14), Carole Robertson (14) and Carol Denise McNair (11). We’ll get back to them later.

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Why I am supporting Elizabeth Warren

Amanda Rex-Johnson is an activist in central Iowa. -promoted by Laura Belin

I started volunteering on presidential campaigns last year long before I had identified my favorite candidate. My goal was to support folks getting more involved in the Iowa caucuses while advocating accessibility needs directly to the campaigns.

Not all the campaigns were easy to engage with. Despite multiple efforts, I was unable to connect with a top candidate’s operation here in Des Moines. When I found out that one of his top staffers would be a guest speaker at a training I was attending, I was excited to finally have a chance to ask how to volunteer and what they were doing to make their campaign more accessible for volunteers and organizers.

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What I learned talking to a Trump supporter for five minutes

TJ Foley grew up in Clive and is a junior at Harvard College studying social studies with a focus on technology policy. -promoted by Laura Belin

On my 18th birthday, I proudly registered to vote as a Democrat. Like my parents and grandparents before me, I believe this nation is better off when we prioritize equal opportunity, economic equality, and collective progress. My earliest political memory is sitting on my Dad’s shoulders at a frigid John Kerry rally in November 2004. I will always carry with me the memory of grandmother’s tears shed the night that Donald Trump won the presidency while losing the popular vote. I deplore this president and regard him as one of the most destructive forces on the planet.

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Climate action at the Latino Heritage Festival: How you can help

Tyler Granger works for the Iowa Wildlife Federation. -promoted by Laura Belin

2019 has been a disappointing year for environmental protections, from the Trump administration allowing drilling in the Arctic Circle to Congress failing to renew the Endangered Species Act.

This year’s Iowa Climate Strike was a march of hope, and we hope a majority of Iowans can unite in support of environmental protection. In climate strikes across Iowa and all over the world, people marched in solitary with scientists who have gone from sounding alarm bells to screaming from the roof tops that our climate cannot sustain the amount of pollution we are putting into the atmosphere.

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Iowa youth go on strike demanding response to climate crisis

Isabelle Brace of Des Moines is the state press organizer for Iowa Climate Strike. -promoted by Laura Belin

Des Moines area students, community members, and youth organizers banded together at the Iowa Capitol on September 20 to strike from school and work, demanding comprehensive action against climate change. This strike started off a week of action and solidarity around the world.

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Sunrise Movement dawns on Iowa

Charlie Mitchell reports on what the Sunrise Movement is up to in Iowa, one of only three states where the group’s deploying dedicated field teams. -promoted by Laura Belin

Sunrise Movement, the high-profile youth-led climate activist organization, has stationed six full-time organizing staff in Iowa, with the goal of galvanizing young voters to caucus for candidates who are progressive on climate.

Sunrise, which is not making an endorsement in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, is on the ground to cultivate youth political leadership and activism, engage candidates in person on climate issues, and support progressive and climate-oriented events and actions. The locus of the movement’s political change is its flagship policy, the Green New Deal. Candidates who support that policy stand to earn political support from Sunrise. (Here is a comprehensive guide to the 2020 candidates’ climate positions.)

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Remembering my dear friend, Jerry Tormey

Many central Iowa Democrats are grieving for Jerry Tormey, a tireless activist who passed away on July 23. Tamyra Harrison now works for The Salvation Army but got to know Jerry well as executive director of the Polk County Democrats, a job she held from 2004 to 2017. -promoted by Laura Belin

There are a lot of different people we meet on the journey through our lives. Some people bring joy to a room just by being present. Some people are so kind of heart they bring out the very best in those around them. Some people radiate joy. Some people always think of others, putting their needs, or that of a greater cause, above themselves. Some people give more of their time to make the world a little better than seems possible, yet always makes time for doing a little more when asked. Some people perform little, seemingly insignificant, acts of kindness every single day without even trying, just by calling to say hi, checking on someone who had bad news, being an ear when needed, remembering a birthday and so much more.

It is rare to find all of this in one individual, but that was Jerry Tormey. We were so blessed to have had our lives touched by him in so many ways, and his influence and legacy will live on.

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In defense of survival

Ed Fallon: We need an all-out assault against climate chaos. We need bold action, not timid half-measures. We need a cascade of people rising. -promoted by Laura Belin

Earlier this month, while testifying about climate change before the British Parliament, renowned naturalist David Attenborough said, “We cannot be radical enough in dealing with the issues that face us at the moment.”

Indeed, as people wake up to the utter urgency of our situation, it’s easy to understand how desperation might set in. I witnessed that five years ago on the Great March for Climate Action, when marchers proposed actions that, to me, seemed crazy:

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I don't want allyship when it's conditional

Kyla Paterson chairs the Iowa Democratic Party’s Stonewall Caucus. -promoted by Laura Belin

You’ve heard in the past about trans people becoming targets for hate crimes, but their stories are largely ignored. You may be part of the LGBTQIA+ community, and you may even give your one day of support to stop trans people from being murdered, but will you continue being supportive of your trans siblings? Are you a genuine “ally”?

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Revolution Redux?

Ira Lacher comments on signs of growing youth activism: “The revolution will not be televised. But it may be streamed, Instagrammed and tweeted.” -promoted by Laura Belin

“The revolution will not be televised,” Gil Scott-Heron wrote in an iconic 1970 anthem that many of us digested over and over while we considered what should happen with America.

My generation marched to end the Vietnam War and police brutality, advance the Equal Rights Amendment and other “socialist” causes. We said we want a revolution, but well, you know, there were the needs of getting jobs, starting families, buying homes, putting children through college. The ideals of revolution transmogrified into the reality of Reaganomics, fear of being blown up by terrorists and the creaks of advancing age.

But if recent events in New York City are an indication, the revolution may be stirring once again.

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Are Democrats also climate deniers?

Ed Fallon is a former Iowa lawmaker who directs Bold Iowa. He is the author of Marcher, Walker, Pilgrim, a memoir about the 2014 Great March for Climate Action. -promoted by Laura Belin

“The Democrats Are Climate Deniers.” That’s the jarring headline of an article this week in Jacobin that Jon Neiderbach brought to my attention. The sub-heading reads, “If the Democrats really believed the science on climate change, they’d be offering far more radical proposals. We have to make them.”

Sad but true. It’s one thing for a politician to say, “I support the Green New Deal (GND).” But when pushed for specifics, most aren’t on board with GND’s “transition to 100 percent renewable energy within 12 years — the time frame set by the world’s leading climate scientists.”

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The 18 most-viewed Bleeding Heartland posts of 2018

Sometimes I feel nostalgic for my “past life” covering Russian politics. Social media didn’t exist, and my colleagues and I had no information about which articles most interested our readers. Potential for clicks or shares didn’t factor into our story selection. We wrote up what seemed important to us.

On any given day, a half-dozen or more newsworthy Iowa politics stories present themselves, but I only have the capacity to cover one or two. I look for ways to add value: can I highlight events not covered elsewhere? Can I offer a different perspective or more context on the story everyone’s talking about?

Although chasing traffic will never be my primary goal, doing this for more than a decade has given me a decent sense of which topics will strike a chord with readers. But you never really know. Just like last year and the year before that, surprises lurked in the traffic numbers on Bleeding Heartland posts published during 2018 (353 written by me, 202 by other authors).

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Recognizing Bleeding Heartland's talented 2018 guest authors

The Bleeding Heartland community lost a valued voice this year when Johnson County Supervisor Kurt Friese passed away in October. As Mike Carberry noted in his obituary for his good friend, Kurt had a tremendous amount on his plate, and I was grateful whenever he found time to share his commentaries in this space. His final post here was a thought-provoking look at his own upbringing and past intimate relationships in light of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Friese was among more than 100 guest authors who produced 202 Bleeding Heartland posts during 2018, shattering the previous record of 164 posts by 83 writers in 2017. I’m thankful for every piece and have linked to them all below.

You will find scoops grounded in original research, commentary about major news events, personal reflections on events from many years ago, and stories in photographs or cartoons. Some posts were short, while others developed an argument over thousands of words. Pieces by Allison Engel, Randy Richardson, Tyler Higgs, and Matt Chapman were among the most-viewed at the site this year. In the full list, I’ve noted other posts that were especially popular.

Please get in touch if you would like to write about any political topic of local, statewide, or national importance during 2019. If you do not already have a Bleeding Heartland account, I can set one up for you and explain the process. There is no standard format or word limit. I copy-edit for clarity but don’t micromanage how authors express themselves. Although most authors write under their real names, pseudonyms are allowed here and may be advisable for those writing about sensitive topics or whose day job does not permit expressing political views. I ask authors to disclose potential conflicts of interest, such as being are a paid staffer, consultant, or lobbyist promoting any candidate or policy they discuss here.

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Historic meetings seek to end racial profiling in Des Moines

Laural Clinton is a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement’s racial justice team and the mother of Jared Clinton, who was the passenger in a recent racial profiling video released to the public. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Racial profiling. It’s a tough topic to discuss. But for us in the Black community, racial profiling is a reality we deal with every day–when we go to the store, when we drive our cars, when we eat at restaurants.

As a mother of three Black sons, I am intimately familiar with this issue.

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What to do if you get push-polled or message-tested (2018 edition)

Revised from a Bleeding Heartland post first published ten years ago.

Republicans have polls in the field this week testing negative statements about Democrats and praise for their GOP opponents in targeted Iowa House races. Two years ago, similar surveys informed talking points used for Republican-funded direct mail or other kinds of advertising.

Activists often become angry when they hear biased or misleading claims about candidates they support. But if you want to help Democrats win elections, my number one piece of advice is do not hang up the phone.

Do not hang up the moment you hear an automated voice on the other end.

Do not hang up the moment you are asked to participate in a brief survey.

Do not hang up the moment you realize that the poll is asking skewed questions about your candidate.

Stay on the line and either start recording or grab a pen and paper.

Follow me after the jump for further instructions.

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Movement to battle climate change demands unity, civility

Ed Fallon, a leading opponent of the Dakota Access (Bakken) Pipeline, recently told the Des Moines Register that acts of sabotage were “very misguided,” “didn’t accomplish anything significant in terms of stopping the pipeline,” and “alienated a lot of people who we need on our side.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

I want to respond to feedback I received, some of it harsh, to a recent article I wrote about the destruction of equipment along the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline by Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya in 2016/2017. I concede that some of what I wrote previously could have been explained more clearly, so here goes.

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It is time to go for broke

Adam Kenworthy, chair of the Iowa lawyer chapter of the American Constitution Society, sees a message for all Democrats in a recent New York Congressional primary. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in the Democratic primary for New York’s fourteenth Congressional District showed that authenticity, passion, and a strong commitment to a democratic socialist vision of policies for all people can win elections. That bright spot in an otherwise dark period in our country’s history offers hope for the future of the current Democratic Party.

Her victory should also illustrate the risk of relying solely on political pundits to explain, and validate, her individual impact and the root causes of her success. Ocasio-Cortez’s victory was inspiring, both for the boldness of her platforms and for two very striking factors: young age and lack of money. At 28, her obvious maturity and depth is portrayed as rare among her generational peers. But is it truly rare, or have we Democrats simply failed to explore the potential of a new generation or candidates that challenge conventional assumptions?

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66 photos from Keep Families Together rallies in Iowa

Despite heat advisories across most of the state, at least 2,000 Iowans turned out for rallies and marches on June 30 to oppose the Trump administration’s family separation policy and demand justice for immigrants.

Like the Women’s March and similar mass protests from the past two years, the Keep Families Together events were a target-rich environment for creative political signs and t-shirts. With thanks to those who gave permission to publish their photographs here, I’ve compiled some of my favorite images from the weekend.

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Which candidates for governor are organizing statewide?

Emily Silliman and Ellen Marie Lauricella maintain an impressive “information infrastructure for progressive organizations, campaigns, and activists in Iowa” (website, Facebook, Twitter). -promoted by desmoinesdem

We at Activate Iowa keep a calendar of political events statewide. Activists can use the calendar to find organizations in their area. They might also be looking to find friendly, like-minded people. Our premise is that if you connect activists with each other, and with candidates, Iowa can make a major turn for the better in the next election.

As a result of this activity, we have noticed a pattern. Some of the candidates for governor are organizing events around the state and some aren’t. Although most of the candidates attend party forums, parades and the like around the state, we are looking for events that the campaign itself arranges, as a sign that the campaign is building an organization in different parts of the state. The candidates who are the most active statewide are John Norris, Nate Boulton, and Cathy Glasson. We would argue that the choice for governor should be between those three candidates.

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Flip the Iowa House

A view from the trenches by Christine Lewers, an organizer of a new group working to help Democratic candidates win Republican-held Iowa House districts. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Most Iowans don’t know who David Reid is. I didn’t either, until last spring, when the national Sister District Project sent an e-mail asking me to contribute to his campaign. I sent $20 and forgot about Reid until November 7, 2017, when Democrats in Virginia won fifteen Republican-held seats in the Virginia House of Delegates. Reid’s win was among them.

That got me wondering. Why not do the same thing in Iowa? The Sister District idea is to move resources from safe blue regions of the country to places where it can have the most impact: state legislative races where a Democratic challenger is taking on an incumbent in a flippable district.

Unfortunately, Iowa is not currently a focus of Sister District’s 2018 political strategy. That shouldn’t stop Iowa’s Democrats from building a similar strategy to help win back the state House themselves. I’m part of a politically active group of friends, neighbors and family that during the past year has marched and protested and called and more. None of that is enough. Democrats must win elections.

That’s why my group and I started Flip It Iowa.

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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.

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The line against hate is drawn in Oakland, Iowa

Thanks to Glenn Hurst for sharing this inspiring story of local activism. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Not long after Charlottesville, the Nazi menace attempted to slither into peaceful rural Iowa; Oakland, Iowa to be precise. As I laid fingers to keyboard, another ugly head attempted to sprout in northwest Iowa’s heavily Republican Sioux County. We took the same tactics spelled out here and successfully reproduced the protest in this Republican stronghold.

I had just emceed the vigil for Charlottesville held in Omaha a few weeks prior to the Oakland event. I was also providing the media coordination for the upcoming DACA event (scheduled for the following week) when murmurs about an anti-Islamic group snaking into Pottawattamie County started to get louder. Rallying against hate was becoming all too common.

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How three new activists got involved in Scott County

Guest posts on local political happenings are welcome at Bleeding Heartland. -promoted by desmoinesdem

In the last year, we have seen a flood of new energy and political involvement throughout the country, from the Women’s March, to the Indivisible movement, to protests, letter-writing campaigns, and citizens showing up at forums to confront their elected officials.

We have also seen a great deal of new people get involved with the Scott County Democratic Party since the election. We spoke with a few of our newer activists to ask how they decided to get involved and what their experience has been like.

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Hey Democrats: Where’s our leadership?

Democratic volunteer Jonathan Wilder feels Iowa party leaders haven’t been welcoming enough to young activists who could help change our state’s political direction. -promoted by desmoinesdem

“I don’t think people want a new direction, our values unify us and our values are about supporting America’s working families.”

Those are the words of Democratic House minority leader Nancy Pelosi speaking on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation.’ Pelosi’s words seem to ring of confidence, but how can she be filled with so much confidence, when, while under her watch, Democrats have lost over 1,042 state and federal Democratic posts since 2008; including major governorships, Congressional, and state legislative seats?

The question that should be on everybody’s mind… Especially in the minds of party leaders like Nancy Pelosi, is why? Why have people stopped turning out and voting for Democrats? What has allowed the Republicans to gain so many positions in so little time? Why are the people of this country, who when polled issue by issue, are shockingly more in line with leftist thought; are choosing to vote against their own interests and giving their support to the Republicans?

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SERENITY NOW! Forget unity; Dems need a strategic alliance

Practical advice from Lauren Whitehead, a Solon City Council member, longtime Democratic activist, and Indivisible organizer in Johnson County. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Y’all, we’re about to hit the anniversary of the worst day ever and I’m maxed out on rage. I’m beyond maxed out. I’ve reached a level of chronic underlying frustration and anger that is simply unsustainable, and I know I’m not the only one.

As a recovering addict AND a person with a diagnosed mental condition, I’m familiar with what “unsustainable” feels like. It impacts work, relationships, and ability to take care of your basic shit. It traps you in what feels like an inescapable situation of being unable to stop but also being unable to keep going on. So I know when I’ve hit a point where this is just not going to work, and I know I’m there, and I think a lot of other people are there, too. Rage is not an unlimited resource. It is the fossil fuel of our movement. It’s gotten us this far but we will run out. And it’s not good for us.

So here’s my proposal.

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Facts matter, but not if they fall on deaf ears

Matt Chapman’s advice to activists engaging with potential allies on the left: “If your conversation starts out by denigrating someone they worked hard for, you can’t expect them to listen.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

I have read quite a bit and have noted a few workshops on how to talk across the aisle. A lot of folks who canvass or have political conversations to influence voting habits focus on talking to others on the political left, since trying to convince hard-right voters seems like a waste of time.

The strategy for trying to break through to Republicans was to take the facts out of the conversation and focus on the morality of positions. The idea was that people who hold Christian values as their moral compass should be persuadable on issues such as poverty, bigotry, and a host of other issues.

I want to focus on how we communicate on the left from moderate Democrats to progressives and other allied parties, including the Green and Socialist parties as well as independents all across the spectrum.

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Social capital and party building

Scott Thompson, a rural sociologist focusing on social capital and community development as well as an active volunteer for the Democratic Party, was inspired to research the condition of our party’s “social capital.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

I am engaged in a research project stemming from my personal observations and social interactions. Full disclosure: I am a Democrat and I possess partisan views. I’m also concerned for the long-term health of the party for which I am a part. I felt compelled to write this, not to point fingers, place blame, ridicule, or complain. In this brief, you will not find the names of candidates, past or present.

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Can We Make A Difference?

Rev. Dr. Bill Ekhardt delivered this speech as a representative of Indivisible Iowa at the Our Lives on the Line rally at the State Capitol on Saturday, July 29.

Can We Make a Difference?

Thank you coalition leaders for the opportunity to come and speak today. It is a privilege to represent Indivisible Iowa. Today I come with the question:

Can we make a difference?

We are here today to stand up for health care for all Iowans and citizens across our country and for health care as a right. We are standing against the efforts of a Republican Party that for seven years has been promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act. When President Obama invited them to join them and build a bipartisan health care plan that the whole country could get behind did the Republican leaders accept? No, they refused! They stood against health care reform from the beginning. They cynically decided it was in their best interest to oppose any change rather than join in the process to make the reforms our country needed. Instead of offering up solutions, they conjured up images of death panels pulling the plug on grandma.

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What you can do to stop senators from taking health care away from millions

The U.S. Senate is fast-tracking a vote on its “health care” bill–more aptly described as a trillion-dollar tax giveaway for the rich, paid for by spending cuts that will cause millions of Americans to lose their health insurance. Older people and those with low incomes, especially people on Medicaid, are at greatest risk of losing access to health care.

Senate leaders are sticking to the plan of having no public hearings on the revised American Health Care Act, no committee markup, and no amendment process. An all-male group of thirteen Republican senators–not including Iowa’s Chuck Grassley or Joni Ernst–are drafting its terms in secret. (UPDATE/CORRECTION: Ernst has been added to the informal working group.) Other Republican senators have only been briefed on progress. Leaders will send the unpublished bill to the Congressional Budget Office, planning to bring the legislation straight to the Senate floor this month, possibly with only 24-48 hours for the public to learn about its provisions before senators vote.

Calls to U.S. Senate and House offices have recently returned to “normal” levels from before President Donald Trump was inaugurated. That needs to change immediately.

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The importance of direct action and organizing the Roast and Ride protest

Elizabeth Dinschel, state leader of Action Iowa, makes the case for public protests and for good communication between activists and law enforcement. -promoted by desmoinesdem
Passive resistance is not the “high road.”  The world never changed because of a Facebook post or a counter event.  The world has, however, changed because of the brave, nonviolent direct actions taken by leaders such as John Lewis, Malcolm X, the Dalai Lama, Marsha P. Jackson, the organizers of the Arab Spring, the Orange Revolution, and many more nonviolent revolutions in Central and South America.

In America, however, we are being conditioned to believe that direct action is somehow rude or impedes on the free speech of other Americans. This is patently false and is a direct result of people enjoying their privilege. If a person cannot understand how civil disobedience could change the narrative of history or politics it is because they are treated with respect in public or can afford things such as food, healthcare, or housing. Are you uncomfortable?  Good, because that is what direct action is.

Direct action forces politicians to hear the messaging of people and groups they do not typically communicate with or, maybe, do not even care about.

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Organizing the Indivisible Iowa Network

Lauren Whitehead explains Indivisible Iowa‘s unique approach to acting on the wise words, “Don’t mourn, organize.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

Did you know that there is a network of Indivisible chapters covering all 50 state Senate districts in Iowa? Here’s how it came about.

Like most readers of this blog, I was invited to join around a thousand progressive resistance startup groups during the weeks following 45’s election. My Facebook feed became an overwhelming and relentless stream of calls to action, warnings, memes, speeches, and existential angst as we all processed what had changed on November 8. Post-election, aside from the emotional fallout of such a horrible outcome, I was exhausted from 2 years of organizing for the election. I thought I might not be able to do it again. I thought that perhaps it was all pointless.

But unsurprisingly, I just can’t quit political activism, and over time I started to sort through the groups I had joined to find the diamonds in the rough–the groups that I felt had the most potential for focused and efficient accomplishment. Ten years into my amateur activist life, I was not in the mood for a group that couldn’t get it’s shit together, even though I felt the value in the organic gathering all around me. I wanted to be a part of group that offered something unique, and not a replication of the info every other group was sharing, one that was taking that frenetic energy we were all feeling and channeled it into a structure with goals.

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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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The Higher Moral Ground

An important message from Gary Kroeger, as the actions of a small minority of protesters in Berkeley are receiving national attention. -promoted by desmoinesdem

What is the greatest threat to our political system? Oligarchic control? Elections manipulated by wealth? Economic disparity?

Those are all issues in crisis, but they are results of inattention to foundational principles. The root cause of our dysfunction is: Hypocrisy.

Until we discover the enlightenment that allows us to be honest; that mediates the deflection of accountability; we will continue on a course of political divides that will deepen, obscure reality and remove us from responsibility.

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Facebook and the Women's March

Johnson County Supervisor Kurt Friese on the big news from this weekend. -promoted by desmoinesdem

If you follow me on Facebook then you know I post a lot. Too much for some. I get that. But Saturday was special.

As an active FB user I notice the responses (or lack thereof) that my posts get. In 10 years on the medium, I have never seen a response like I did on Saturday as a result of the #WomensMarch. By far the most likes, reactions, replies, reposts, etc. that I have ever received. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a chef and a politician, so I have a healthy ego, but even I know that the reason for this huge reaction has nothing to do with me. It ain’t the messenger, it’s the message.

I am old enough to remember the protests against the war in Viet Nam. The first protest I ever saw live was in DC in 1974, a large crowd outside the Soviet embassy shouting “Freedom for Ukraine.” (Guess we might see that again). The biggest I ever participated in was the protest against the Iraq war. Until yesterday.

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The Office Kitchen Model of Activism

A metaphor for those wondering, “What can I do now?” -promoted by desmoinesdem

If you’re a regular reader of Bleeding Heartland, I suspect you’ve been increasingly anxious about life in an America lead by our new birther-in-chief. There are policies on the table literally threatening every progressive social or political advancement of the last 85 years. There’s no way any individual can prepare to push back effectively on every issue, and it’s hard to know which fight to freak out about first.

I can’t help you with that question.*

What I have instead is a suggestion for a way to think about how you can have an impact on the issues you care about.

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Single-issue voting is only dumb when other people do it

John Deeth is fed up with “narrow-focus ‘progressives’ [who] apply tests of absolute purity on their pet issues,” and in so doing “lost touch with bigger picture values.” The hard-fought Democratic primary for Johnson County supervisor was Deeth’s trigger. Some locals are trying to oust Supervisor Janelle Rettig over a 2013 zoning vote. Deeth thinks it’s unfair to toss out a longtime progressive leader over one issue.

I haven’t closely followed the Johnson County campaign. I think highly of Rettig and Mike Carberry, one of the other Democratic candidates, but know too little about the other candidates to form an opinion. I think it’s reasonable and even admirable for people to be concerned about land use, and specifically the rampant suburban sprawl that is swallowing farmland in growing metro areas like Iowa City. We’ve got too much retail space per capita already, as well as vacant lots in many cities, but it seems like every time you turn around there’s another strip mall or subdivision going in on prime farmground. That’s not a narrow-focus issue from my perspective, even if some of the Johnson County activists are motivated by a Not In My Backyard syndrome.

Deeth’s diatribe against narrow-focus progressives caught my attention because he has been known to support city council candidates over single issues such as the 21-only bar rule or the importance of having student representation in Iowa City’s local government. CORRECTION: Deeth says he’s never cast a single-issue vote against an incumbent because of the local ordinance keeping people under age 21 out of bars.

Single-issue voters often look ridiculous when you don’t share their passion. I remember talking with a frustrated political volunteer who was spending a general election season in Iowa. He was sick of nurses who line up with Democrats on almost all the issues (health care, safety net spending, education, etc.) but planned to keep voting Republican because they were anti-choice. I couldn’t disagree with them more on the choice issue, but who am I to say their priorities are wrong? They are adults and have the right to decide what’s most important in a candidate.

I’m rarely in a position to consider becoming a single-issue voter, because most of the time one candidate clearly aligns more with me on a wide range of policies. I’d never vote out an incumbent for the sole reason that s/he didn’t support letting 19-year-olds hang out with their friends in college bars. On the other hand, I have voted for or against Windsor Heights City Council candidates based solely on whether they favor new sidewalks. I don’t care if you’re a wonderful person and good Democrat and dedicated volunteer anymore–you’re not getting my vote in Windsor Heights unless you recognize that putting sidewalks on some key streets would improve safety, public health, and the quality of life. There’s no way to move forward besides replacing one or more city council members. If that’s unfair to some otherwise good public servants, so be it.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers? Are you or have you ever been a single-issue voter? Would any one mistake inspire you to vote out an otherwise solid incumbent?

Climate change events around Iowa this weekend

Iowans will gather in at least eleven cities and towns this weekend as part of the Moving Planet rally for action on climate change. Groups organizing the effort include 350.org, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Oxfam and the World Council of Churches. Click here to search for rallies, walks and bike rides taking place in 175 countries.

Details on the planned events in Iowa on September 24 and 25 are after the jump. I hope to see some Bleeding Heartland readers on the bicycle ride through downtown Des Moines.

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 1)

I expected 2009 to be a relatively quiet year in Iowa politics, but was I ever wrong.

The governor’s race heated up, state revenues melted down, key bills lived and died during the legislative session, and the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Varnum v Brien became one of this state’s major events of the decade.

After the jump I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from January through June 2009. Any comments about the year that passed are welcome in this thread.

Although I wrote a lot of posts last year, there were many important stories I didn’t manage to cover. I recommend reading Iowa Independent’s compilation of “Iowa’s most overlooked and under reported stories of 2009,” as well as that blog’s review of “stories that will continue to impact Iowa in 2010.”

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Pronoun trouble at Organizing for America

Around 5:30 on Friday afternoon I received a robocall paid for by the Democratic National Committee on behalf of Organizing for America. The voice informed me about a rally for health care reform, scheduled for Saturday at 6 pm just west of the state capitol building in Des Moines. Press 1 if you plan to attend.

I didn’t press 1 and stayed on the line to see what would happen. The voice came back, telling me “The president needs you to show support” for reform.

The folks at Organizing for America have some pronoun trouble. It’s not President Obama who needs us. We need him to show support for real reform.  

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Events coming up during the next two weeks (updated)

Political activity slows down during the summer, especially in an off-year, but there’s still plenty for progressives to do. Event details are after the jump. Please post a comment or send me an e-mail if you know of other events I’ve left out.

If you live near southeast Iowa, please consider volunteering for Curt Hanson, Democratic candidate for the September 1 special election in Iowa House district 90. UPDATE: Senator Tom Harkin is headlining a fundraiser for Hanson on Saturday, Augsut 1. Details below.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is looking for volunteers during the Iowa State Fair (August 13-23):

The Iowa DNR River Programs will be at the Iowa State Fair this year and requests your help to staff our booth at the DNR building. We will have a River Programs staff person there the whole time, but our space is much larger this year. Because of the large number of visitors who pass through the building, any help we can get is greatly appreciated. We are asking for a 5 hour shift from each volunteer. You may sign up for more than one shift if you’d like. The morning shift will be from 9:00 to 2:00 and the afternoon shift will be from 2:00 to 7:00.  What you get: A River Programs Volunteer Cap and a ticket to the fair the day you volunteer, and the satisfaction of knowing you made a difference.

Please respond by email or phone with your desired shift(s) and availability Thursday, August 13th through Sunday August 23rd to John Wenck, IDNR River programs outreach coordinator, John.Wenck@dnr.iowa.gov, 515-281-8969 or 515-491-9881.

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Events coming up during the rest of July (updated)

The RAGBRAI riders are enjoying some relatively cool weather this week, although last night’s rain may have been unpleasant for campers. If you’re riding and have any anecdotes to share, post them here.

Details on other events going on around the state are after the jump. As always, post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of something I’ve left out.

Occasionally I put a river clean-up on these event calendars, so I wanted to let the Bleeding Heartland community know about this opportunity:

The Iowa Whitewater Coalition today announced the Clean Rivers Team Stewardship Program (CRTSP) — a mini-grant program to help fund local river clean-up activities across Iowa.

Any community group or organization in Iowa is welcome to apply for a grant from the CRTSP for the purpose of paying expenses related to river clean-up activities. Grants are limited to a maximum of $500.

Details are available at www.iowawhitewater.org and a Letter of Application may be submitted at any time to Iowa Whitewater Coalition, PO Box 65453, West Des Moines, IA 50265. Questions can be addressed by Peter Komendowski at 319-269-8493.

UPDATE: Added details on the Iowa Politics forum for Republican gubernatorial candidates (July 22) after the jump.

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July 4 links and American patriots

Happy Independence Day to the Bleeding Heartland community! I’m hoping for dry weather today after rain soaked parade-goers in West Des Moines last night.

How are you celebrating the holiday? Charles Lemos listens to the Broadway musical 1776 every year on the 4th of July. Sounds like a good tradition.

Over at Slate, Troy Patterson made the case against fireworks.

I enjoy big fireworks displays, but I don’t like amateurs messing around with firecrackers. Not only are those dangerous, they can be very upsetting to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder:

These days I dread the 4th. It’s not for the jingoism I was too young to understand as a child, which irks me, but I try not to let other’s infantile politics change the spirit of the holiday for me.  The real reason is I’m not much for fireworks anymore.  I haven’t been since I came back from Iraq. […]

Not the big, professional kind.  While I don’t enjoy them nearly as much as I used to, I can observe them with no apprehension.  It’s the amateur fireworks I can’t stand.  The whistling, popping, exploding-at-random-intervals kind that rub my nerves raw.  All of my neighbors, it seems, are fireworks enthusiasts, and every 4th they come out of the woodwork.  The night’s events bother my dog less than me, while I spend the evening on pins and needles, jumping at every explosion, transported for a split-second back to that hellhole until I remind myself that I am home, that I am safe, that I survived.

If you know a veteran of this or any other war, take a moment tomorrow to make sure that they are all right, that the images of horror and death don’t weight too heavy on them.  That they are as close to normal as they’ll ever be.

I never thought about that until I read this post by Steve Gilliard on Independence Day three years ago:

Personally, I hate fireworks, the noise, the explosions. Always reminded me of Pathfinder Force over Germany. Don’t much like the 4th of July either.

But I just wanted to say that for a lot of people, this is a very tough day, especially with PTSD. While everyone else is celebrating, they’re either alone, or pretending nothing is wrong. And every firecracker reminds them exactly what is wrong, and why they aren’t the same.

It’s easy to talk about sacrifice on the 4th of July. But who talks about what people live with?

Final note: military service isn’t the only way to serve your country. In my book, Rob Marqusee is a true American patriot. I’m inspired by his personal commitment to improving health and economic vitality in his community. Marqusee recently completed his “local food challenge,” and I recommend reading his online journal about the experience.

Few people will take on the challenge of eating a completely local diet, but small steps by many to eat more local food and buy from locally-owned shops will make a difference.

Share your own thoughts about holiday celebrations and American heroes in this thread.

UPDATE: Fun parade in Windsor Heights despite overcast skies and unseasonably cool weather. Most people kept it civil, but some weird group of wingnuts filled their yard with signs about Obama being MARXIST and shouted “Obamanation!” at the Polk County Democrats as we passed by. I laughed at them and threw candy to their kids.

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Open thread on July 4 activism

Iowa communities of all sizes will hold public celebrations of Independence Day this weekend. Most of the parades take place on July 4, but a few cities, such as West Des Moines, schedule a parade for the evening of July 3. As I wrote here a year ago, I encourage Bleeding Heartland readers to volunteer with your local Democrats on this holiday. Parades are a fun way to spend an hour or two with like-minded people in your area.

I’ll be walking with the Polk County Democrats in the Windsor Heights parade on Saturday. I haven’t decided what to write on my hand-made sign. In past years I’ve tried to express my values without a partisan slant: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women!) are created equal…”

Some environmental organizations, including Repower America, are encouraging people to “declare their energy independence” on the 4th of July.

This thread is for any comments on your plans for the holiday. Please also post any suggestions for a good parade sign.

If you’re traveling this weekend, drive safely and consider “ecodriving” to improve your mileage.

Welcoming wishes for Iowa Democratic Party field director Dena Gleason

The Iowa Democratic Party announced yesterday that Dena Gleason will be field director for the 2009/2010 election cycle. From the IDP’s press release:

“Grassroots organizing has been the foundation of recent successful Democratic campaigns. Dena learned the value of these techniques while working for now President Barack Obama. She will be a key player in implementing a field strategy to mobilize the thousands of new Democratic registrants and volunteers recruited over the last two election cycles,” said Michael Kiernan, Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party. “Dena brings with her cutting edge organizational techniques that were used so successfully to elect President Obama. I am excited to welcome Dena to the team as we prepare to re-elect Governor Culver and the Democratic Ticket.”  

Gleason, originally from southern Minnesota, worked for President Obama during the primary in Iowa, Kansas, Texas and Pennsylvania. She returned to Iowa in the general election to continue her work for President Obama. Most recently Dena worked for SEIU’s Change that Works where she mobilized health care supporters across Iowa.

I would like to congratulate Gleason and wish her every success in her new job. I have a few other wishes too:

May Culver and our legislative leaders remember that Gleason can’t wave a magic wand and deliver an effective GOTV campaign.

May Iowa leaders motivate newly-registered Democrats to vote in a non-presidential year by showing them tangible results from Democratic control of the legislature and governor’s chair. Many big problems in this state haven’t been addressed during the past three legislative sessions.

May legislative leaders excite key constituencies about volunteering next year–for instance, by passing a good labor bill and moving forward instead of backward on environmental protection. I currently hear a lot of “Why should I bother?” from experienced phone bankers and door knockers.

May Gleason’s field plan prioritize legislative districts we won and lost by narrow margins in 2008, so that Democrats are not left wondering what might have been parts of the state where Democratic turnout was weak last year.

May Gleason learn from the Obama campaign’s mistakes as well as its successes, so that field organizers and volunteers do more to educate new voters about filling out the whole ballot.

Please share your own welcoming wishes in this thread.

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Don't blow it, Democrats: Stand up for Iowa women

Looking ahead to the 2010 elections, I’m concerned  that Iowa Democratic leaders will try to coast on our party’s voter registration advantage and well-organized early voting effort.

As I’ve written before, I believe Democrats need to have big successes to show for 12 years of control of the governor’s office and four years of a legislative majority. Democrats have posted net gains of seats in the Iowa House and Senate for four straight elections now. Voters are going to ask what have we done for them lately, especially if the country is still in recession 18 months from now.

Trouble is, the budget outlook continues to deteriorate. Deep cuts to education and other popular programs are expected when Governor Culver submits his revised draft 2010 budget to the legislature. Iowa’s budget problems are nowhere near as bad as those faced by some other states, but they’re bad enough to prevent legislators from throwing money toward every good idea.

For those reasons and more, it’s important for Democrats not to blow it when they have a chance to do something tangible (yet inexpensive) for a key voter bloc. You know how they say, “When women vote, Democrats win?” Now Democrats in the Iowa legislature have a chance to return the favor. I enclose part of an action alert the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women sent out on Wednesday:

We need your help today to contact your legislators on all three issues.

   * SF 137 Being the first state in the nation to extend the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to the state level

(The House and Senate have passed different versions and are working to reach consensus.)

   * HF243 Tripling the number of women making decisions that impact our communities by requiring gender balance on local boards and commissions

(Passed the House and now deferred on the Senate Floor for later action. Local government officials have been contacting legislators, urging them to oppose the bill “because it would be difficult” to achieve gender balance.  Please contact your Senators!)

   * Justice Systems Appropriations bill: Keeping Iowans safe by restoring a $4 million state appropriation to fund victim services

For more information on any of these issues, please visit our policy page. Also, you might want to listen to yesterday’s Talk at 12 on Iowa Public Radio, which featured discussion on the wage discrimination and gender balance bills and the issue of women running for office.

If your representatives are Democrats, please contact them about these issues. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is a no-brainer. Frankly, refusing to pass it would be a tremendous insult to all the women who have worked so hard for so many years to elect Iowa Democrats.

It’s false to imply that Iowa lacks enough talented women to serve on boards and commissions.

There aren’t many well-organized interest groups working the phones to demand appropriation for victim services, but cutting those funds would cause real suffering.

It’s time for our leaders to step up and show that when Democrats vote, women win.

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Legislators, show engaged citizens some common courtesy

During the caucus campaign, one of my pet peeves was the tendency for Iowa voters to complain about all those phone calls and knocks on the door. When volunteers care enough about the direction of this country to advocate for their candidates, and all they are trying to do is engage you politically, the least you can do is be courteous. People in many other states would love to have as much influence over the presidential nominating process as Iowans have.

Similarly, politicians who sought out the opportunity to represent Iowans in the state legislature should not complain when engaged citizens contact them for a cause they believe in.

The Iowa legislature’s “funnel deadline” is approaching, and with very few exceptions, bills that have not been voted out of a committee will be dead within a few days. So, many Iowans are calling or e-mailing legislators regarding this or that bill.

I have friends who are passionate about a particular bill and are mobilizing a lot of people in favor of it. They don’t have money to hire a lobbyist or run advertisements. (Slight correction: Although my friends who are getting involved don’t have spare cash for lobbying or political donations, an organization has hired a lobbyist to help pass this bill.) It’s not a high-profile issue getting a lot of media attention. All these people have is the ability to ask friends to write legislators directly. They’ve been sending out contact information for the people on the relevant committee. They feel they need a lot of grassroots support to counteract the efforts of at least one well-funded interest group that is actively opposing the bill.

I received an urgent message from an acquaintance saying that no one should write to one particular legislator. This person responded to a message by saying he or she supports the bill but will change his or her mind if he or she continues to receive numerous messages about it.

Threatening to change your vote on a good bill because you are hearing from a lot of its supporters is immature and unprofessional. Show some understanding, legislators. A bunch of ordinary people are doing their best to get involved in a positive way. The funnel deadline will pass soon, and you will stop getting so many e-mails.

If you don’t like hearing from citizens about pending bills during a few busy weeks out of the year, may I suggest that you not run for re-election. Plenty of other people would be happy to take your place at the statehouse.

UPDATE: Someone who works at the statehouse suggested to me that the offensive e-mail my acquaintance received may have been written by a clerk without the legislator’s knowledge. Many clerks routinely respond to e-mail correspondence on behalf of the Iowa House representative they work for. My point still stands–representatives should be respectful in their communication with engaged citizens.

A Dream Of Peace (IA Congressman Works To Ease Gaza Humanitarian Crisis)

(Thanks to rbguy for the post--I hadn't read about this anywhere else. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

In response to the recent Gaza War, a fundraising page was set up on ActBlue.com in order to contribute to elected officials who have been supportive of the peoples of Israel and Palestine.  The page is called “A Dream of Peace: Justice and Equality for The People of Israel and Palestine”, and can be found here.

The mission of the page states “All of the people of the Holy Land need to live in peace and security. We need to support and elect candidates that are willing to stand up for the rights of the citizens of Israel and Palestine. These candidates support measures to stop violence, increase economic and humanitarian aid, actively engage in negotiation, and promote co-existence among these two Peoples.”

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Yes, the Waterloo coal plant is dead

On Saturday I asked whether the proposed coal-fired power plant near Waterloo was dead now that Dynegy has pulled out of a joint venture with LS Power and Associates.

I am pleased to bring you the answer to the question:



WATERLOO, IOWA (January 6, 2009) – LS Power affiliate, Elk Run Energy Associates, LLC, announced today that it will forego further development of the Elk Run Energy Station in Waterloo, Iowa.

Given the slowing load growth in the region due to the current downturn in the U.S. economy, and the fact that LS Power has more advanced projects under development in the region that could serve the same need, the Company will redirect its development efforts to other projects.

“Elk Run Energy has been a proud member of the Greater Cedar Valley community, and appreciates the unwavering support of so many individuals and organizations throughout the development process,” said Mark Milburn, Assistant Vice President of LS Power.

LS Power continues to develop a portfolio of coal, natural gas, wind and solar generation facilities and transmission projects with ongoing development activities in Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Texas, Virginia and other locations.

Did you catch that bit about “slowing load growth” in the region? That means that future electricity usage is projected to be lower than previously thought, because of the current recession. People are tightening their belts, and conserving energy is a good way to save money. We could do even more on this front with aggressive state or federal policies on energy efficiency.

Thanks again to all the environmental and community advocates who helped doom the Elk Run project. One coal-fired power plant down, one to go.

Will Alliant and its subsidiary IPL keep trying to build a new coal plant near Marshalltown? I don’t know, but it’s worth noting that Dynegy’s stock went up 19 percent the day they withdrew from the joint venture on developing new coal plants. Alliant’s stock price could use a shot in the arm right now.

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Is the Waterloo coal plant dead?

The Houston Chronicle reported on January 2:

Stingy credit markets and high regulatory hurdles have spurred Houston-based Dynegy to step back from new coal-fired power plant projects by ending a joint venture with LS Power Associates.

Dynegy will keep the right to expand its 27 existing coal, natural gas and oil-fired plants in 13 states, and it retains stakes in a pair of Texas and Arkansas coal projects.

But Dynegy will pay New York-based LS Power $19 million as part of the split and let it take full ownership of new projects under consideration in Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan and Nevada.

Shares of Dynegy closed up 38 cents, or 19 percent, to $2.38 on Friday.

Dynegy Chairman and CEO Bruce Williamson said the power plant development landscape has changed since the company entered into the joint venture with LS in the fall of 2006. Funding new projects is much more difficult given the worldwide credit crunch and the possibility of new climate change legislation under the Obama administration.

“In light of these market circumstances, Dynegy has elected to focus development activities and investments around our own portfolio where we control the option to develop and can manage the costs being incurred more closely,” Williamson said in a statement.

Here is the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier’s take on the story:

The future of a proposed coal-fired power plant near Waterloo became a little cloudier Friday when Texas-based Dynegy Inc. announced that it and New Jersey-based LS Power Associates were dissolving their joint venture to develop that plant and others in several states.

The move transfers to LS Power full ownership and developmental rights associated with various “greenfield” projects in several states, including the 750-megawatt Elk Run Energy Station proposed for construction northeast of Waterloo.


Separation from Dynegy puts the Elk Run plans in doubt, said Don Shatzer, a member of Community Energy Solutions, which opposes the Elk Run Energy project.

“LS Power has no experience developing/operating coal plants and so is unlikely to proceed (without) a new partner,” Shatzer said in an e-mail note.

Bruce Nilles, director of the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign, shares Shatzer’s opinion, according to The Houston Chronicle.

This sounds quite promising, although neither the Houston Chronicle nor the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier were able to get a comment from LS Power on whether it will continue to pursue this project.

Incidentally, the Waterloo plant is not needed to meet Iowa’s energy demand; most of the electricity the plant would have generated would have gone out of state.

Many thanks to all those who have worked hard to prevent this plant from being built, notably the Waterloo-based grassroots organization Community Energy Solutions, the Sierra Club Iowa chapter, Plains Justice of Cedar Rapids, and the Iowa Environmental Council (with which I am involved).

Well-organized activists helped prevented LS Power from annexing some farmland for the coal-fired plant.

In March 2008, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources denied a construction permit for the project. Apparently the county zoning for that land was not in order, so the DNR concluded that LS Power “hadn’t met our requirement to have the full ability to put the power plant on that property.”

These small victories were not themselves enough to kill the project. However, the setbacks delayed the process until “external credit and regulatory factors that make development much more uncertain” prompted Dynegy to walk away.

Lesson for environmental activists: it is worth exercising every legal option to put up obstacles to a bad project.

Lesson for Alliant, which wants to build a new coal-fired power plant near Marshalltown: Dynegy’s stock shot up 19 percent in one day after they pulled out of the joint venture with LS Power. The market favors abandoning new coal projects. Dropping your plans to build a power plant near Marshalltown would not only be good for public health and the environment, it could boost your stock price.

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Five reasons to get involved in state legislative races (w/poll)

cross-posted around the blogosphere

On July 4 I marched with volunteers and staff for Jerry Sullivan, Democratic candidate in Iowa House district 59.

We don’t hear much about state legislative races on national blogs, because it would be overwhelming to keep up with what’s going on all over the country.

But you should get involved on behalf of a good Democrat running for your state’s Assembly, House or Senate. Five reasons why are after the jump.

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Tips for Democrats volunteering in July 4 parades (w/poll)

If you’re not going out of town for the holiday weekend, I highly recommend that you march or ride with fellow Democrats in your local Independence Day parade.

These events are fantastic outreach opportunities for campaigns and a great way for you to meet like-minded neighbors.

It’s not too late to volunteer. Just contact your county Democratic Party, or the campaign of a local candidate, or the Obama campaign office if there is one in your city. Ask where and when you should show up if you want to help out during the July 4 parades. (Keep in mind that some communities have parades on the evening of July 3.)

A few more tips to help you enjoy the parade are after the jump.

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For those following the debate on Obama and FISA

Did Barack Obama sell us out by endorsing the new version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and not showing up to support a filibuster of that bad bill last week?

Are too many Obama supporters in the netroots making up excuses to cover for him?

Or are the bloggers criticizing Obama being way too tough on a guy whose overriding concern has to be to get elected?

Is it right for some activists to say they no longer plan to volunteer for Obama’s campaign because he has failed to stand up for us on FISA?

Here are some links to good diaries exploring those questions.

Nathaniel Ament Stone is sure that Obama’s actions on FISA are better than they appear at first glance: Obama’s Outsmarted Us Again.

Big Tent Democrat argues that Obama is just like any politician and contrasts Obama’s previous statements on retroactive immunity for telecoms with his recent actions.

JedReport thinks the activists vowing not to lift a finger to help Obama (beyond voting for him) are making a big mistake: President McCain Just Got Elected, But That’s Okay.

Mike Lux seems to think the criticism of Obama over FISA is a waste of time, since “there is literally no acceptable way of holding a Democratic Presidential candidate accountable in the last few months before a general election.”

Chris Bowers counters, I Thought I Was Helping Obama. His point is:

First, we lefties are repeatedly told that it is necessary for Democrats to distance themselves from us in order to win elections. However, we are then we are told that we should be quiet in our criticism of Democrats, even though such criticism overtly distances Democrats from us.

I don’t get it. Aren’t we helping Democrats out by distancing them from us? Won’t Obama be helped by news stories about how he has angered the left? Won’t it make him look like he has Sista Soulhaj-ed us, or something? Why is our criticism a negative? Either Obama will be helped by distancing himself from the left, or he won’t. And, if he will be helped by distancing himself from the left, then our criticism should actually help him, especially when it starts to appear in news stories like these:

–National Journal: The Netroots Push Back

–Newsweek: Netroots Angry At Obama

–CBS: Netroots Feel Jilted By Obama Over FISA

Through our criticism of Obama, aren’t the netroots providing exactly the distance from lefties that we have always been told Democrats need to win? And, as such, aren’t we really helping Obama?

Attorney NCrissieB, who has experience with legal arguments surrounding the Fourth Amendment, offers A pragmatist’s view on FISA.

Wmtriallawyer, a vocal supporter of Obama this past year, has a warning: Barack, Take Note: FISA Demonstrates What’s Wrong with Washington. Key excerpt:

Sen. Obama, are you getting to see the problem now? As much as you talk about the partisan rancor that usually stalemates Washington (and I agree with you believe me), you’ve got to watch out for the so-called bipartisan compromises that actually serve noone but a few entrenched interests.

THIS has been the problem in Washington for years now.  The partisan fights occur over issues that actually matter and can benefit the people, and the bipartisan stuff compromises are over insidious stuff that benefits noone but the entrenched few.

Chris Bowers makes a strong case for taking Obama at his word instead of constructing theories about how he secretly agrees with FISA opponents, even as he fails to help stop the bill.

David Sirota notes that Obama has explicitly said, “You should always assume that when I cast a vote or make a statement it is because it is what I believe in.”

The exchange between Salon’s Glenn Greenwald and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann is worth your time. Here is Greenwald’s original post, which contrasted Olbermann’s scathing commentary about President Bush’s support for FISA a few months ago with Olbermann’s cheering as Barack Obama goes along with the same bill.

Olbermann posted a response that shot to the top of the Daily Kos recommended list, even though he admitted not to have read Greenwald’s entire post.

Greenwald’s next shot was wonderful: Keith Olbermann’s reply and Obama’s secret plan to protect the rule of law.

Then Olbermann changes the subject with a crowd-pleasing diary about Grover Norquist saying Obama is “John Kerry with a tan.” Nice try!

The final vote on FISA will take place after the Senate’s July 4 recess, but efforts to remove the provision granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies appear unlikely to succeed.  

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What to do if you get push-polled or message-tested

cross-posted around the blogosphere

Two days before the June 3 Democratic primary in Iowa, I received an automated push-poll, followed the next day by a second robocall containing “important information” for me. Both calls were hit jobs on Jerry Sullivan, the leading Democratic candidate in Iowa House district 59.

Many of us will receive similar calls between now and November. We need to be prepared to help the Democrats who will be targeted in this way.

My number one piece of advice is do not hang up the phone.

Do not hang up the moment you hear an automated voice on the other end.

Do not hang up the moment you are asked to participate in a brief survey.

Do not hang up the moment you realize that this is not a legitimate opinion poll.

Stay on the line and grab a pen and paper for taking notes.

Follow me after the jump for further instructions.

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Events coming up this week

It’s a very busy week. Please put up a comment if you know of anything important going on that I’ve left out.

Tuesday, April 29:

IowaPolitics.com and Drake University are hosting a forum at which top leaders from Iowa’s House and Senate will discuss the 2008 session and election year. The forum will be held from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Levitt Hall in Old Main at 2507 University Ave. on the Drake University campus. The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. More details about the event and how to reserve a spot are after the jump.

The DNR will convene a stakeholders meeting at 1 pm and a public meeting at 6:30 pm in the Scott County Administrative Center, 600 W. 4th St in Davenport, to discuss air pollution in Scott County. A recent DNR report showed that fine particulate matter air pollutant levels in Scott County have exceeded Clean Air Act standards from 2005 through 2007. More background and details are after the jump.

Ed Fallon will appear on Mac’s World Radio Show, 98.3 WOW.FM (show starts at 2:45 pm)

Metro Arts Alliance of Greater Des Moines and other hosts present a reception to honor the artists selected for the City of Des Moines 2007 Performance Report, Following Your Lead: The Road Ahead, 5-7 pm 800 19th Street (corner of 19th and Center) in Des Moines

Sierra Club, Iowa Global Warming Campaign and I-RENEW present the Everyday is Earth Day event, featuring a free film screening of “Global Warming: the Signs and the Science,” 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Cedar Falls Public Library, 524 Main St. in Cedar Falls (more details about this event are after the jump)

Wednesday, April 30:

The DNR will hold a stakeholders meeting at 1 pm and a public meeting at 6:30 pm to discuss air pollution in Muscatine County (more background after the jump). The meetings will be at the Muscatine County Conservation Board Environmental Learning Center, 3300 Cedar Street in Muscatine.

Tom Henderson, chairman of Polk County Democrats (live) and Comedian Jeff Kreisler (via phone) will appear on Mac’s World, 98.3 WOW-FM, 3 pm to 4 pm.

Thursday, May 1:

One Iowa presents May Day Mayhem–Free Food, Cheap Drinks with other LGBT and progressive professionals. Special guest Evan Wolfson from Freedom to Marry. Star Bar, 2811 Ingersoll in Des Moines, from 5 pm to 7 pm. Light appetizers, cash bar, and a chance to mingle with other LGBTA Professionals. Please RSVP by April 30th (288-4019).

Ed Fallon will be at Green Drinks, Saints Rest Cafe, 919 Broad St. in Grinnell, beginning at 7 pm

Friday, May 2:

Ed Fallon will be at the Eastside Senior Center, 1231 E. 26th St. in Des Moines, beginning at 11:45 am

Comedian Jeff Kreisler will do a show for the Polk County Democrats, Val Air Ballroom, 301 Ashworth Road, West Des Moines. Dinner will be served at 5:30 P.M., program begins at 6:30 P.M. Cash bar available. Regular tickets – $25.00 per person (Dinner and show only) 5:30 P.M. Host Reception with Elected Officials and Jeff Kreisler – $75.00 per person (includes dinner and drink tickets). Tickets are available by calling 515-285-1800; for $27.50 at the Val Air box office or through any Ticketmaster outlet.

Saturday, May 3:

Iowa Citizen Action Network 2008 annual convention, 10 am to 5 pm at the Hilton Garden Inn, 8600 North Park Drive in Johnston (suburb of Des Moines). Jim Hightower will be the keynote speaker. More details about the day’s workshops are after the jump, or you can see a flier for this event at


Iowa Corridor’s second annual Hike to Help Refugees in Iowa City (more details are after the jump)

Maifest parade in the Amana Colonies, starting at 10 am

I-RENEW is hosting a tour of the Clipper Turbine Works, the largest wind turbine manufacturer in the U.S., in Cedar Rapids at 1 pm. At 3 pm, Brian Crowe from Iowa’s Office of Energy Independence will speak about the agency’s activities at the Coffee Talk Café, located off Kirkwood Avenue down the road from Clipper. More details about these events are after the jump.

The Tulip festival in Pella runs from May 1 to May 3 as well.

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BlogPAC Progressive Entrepreneurs Contest Winners

Over at OpenLeft Chris Bowers has announced the winners of the First Annual BlogPAC Progressive Entrepreneurs Contest.  Here is how he summarizes what they’ve been doing:

“Five weeks ago, BlogPac put out a call to “find the five best new, grassroots progressive infrastructure projects in America, and provide those projects with the money, exposure, and connections necessary to get off the ground.” Originally, I had scheduled the announcement of the winners for the contest on Thursday, August 2nd. However, due to the sheer volume of submissions, over 100, and to the high quality of many of those submissions, it took us a much longer time to reach a decision than I had originally envisioned.”

This has been an amazing endeavor and a lot of great applications went through and the winners are very deserving.

However, the reason I’m posting the link to Bowers’ post is to get you all to go over and look at the winners’ project descriptions but I also wanted to highlight one of the winners.

“The Candidate Source internet video project, submitted by Brian Amos on behalf of CandidateSource.com. Candidate Source is a project to transcribe and catalog political content found on video sharing sites like YouTube, including stump speeches, debates, and interviews.  It will be launched on September 1st, and create a free, large, fully searchable database of political video featuring speeches and interviews with both Democratic and Republican candidates. Anyone will be able to search for video by the candidates who appear in it, topics discussed, or quotes contained in it.  Once launched, progressive activists will be able to find particularly eloquent or explanatory speeches from her or his favorite candidates, and also to check for inconsistency in opposing candidates. Further, bloggers, mainstream media, or even an average citizen will be able to easily compare candidate stances on a certain issue. This project will help further engage people-powered activism in American politics.

Brian Amos is the brother of a good friend of mine from Drake and I’m really excited that this project is coming to fruition and hopefully going to take off.

Brian’s brother first introduced me to the proposal last spring and I told him it was a great idea and to go forward with it.  I haven’t heard from him much over the summer, as the brothers Amos have been on a student-run film tour across the country this summer called Student Films Across America.  Hopefully, as classes start up I’ll be able to offer you some more information about CandidateSource.com and hopefully will be able to invite the brothers to come to Bleeding Heartland and talk about the project.

As I learn more about the project I will make sure to fill you in.  But keep your eyes on the site–it should hopefully uncover another “macaca moment” for the Republican candidates.

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