Celebrating Easter, Passover in a pandemic

Most Christians (aside from those in the Orthodox Church and Jehovah’s Witnesses) are celebrating Easter today, and Jews all over the world are in the middle of the Passover festival. But the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has disrupted holiday celebrations along with almost every other aspect of normal life.

Many Iowa houses of worship have adapted by live-streaming services or broadcasting them on radio frequencies congregants can hear from cars parked outside the building.

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A response to the FAMiLY Leader's call for dialogue

Heather Marie Dunn is a transgender Iowan and “recovering right-winger” in Polk County. -promoted by Laura Belin

To the FAMiLY Leader,

This open letter was inspired by your call for dialogue. As a fellow evangelical Christian who is a transgender woman, I welcome dialogue. I commend Bob Vander Plaats for being willing to sit down with the late Donna Red Wing for coffee.

However, here is why you may be running into resistance from the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. I can’t speak for them, but I suspect most progressives are hesitant to dialogue with you for the following reasons.

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Stop using professed respect for Jews as cover for racism and Islamophobia

Prominent Iowa Republican Jamie Johnson resigned yesterday as leader of the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships, after CNN exposed a pattern of racist statements and “inflammatory remarks about Islam” between 2008 and 2016.

Johnson told CNN his past comments “do not represent my views personally or professionally”; “Having witnessed leaders from the entire faith spectrum work to empower their communities I now see things much differently.”

Whatever Johnson believes today, his generalizations about lazy, promiscuous, drug-using African Americans and Muslims who “want to cut our heads off” didn’t attract any special notice, let alone condemnation, in Iowa GOP circles. Republican activists elected the reverend to serve multiple terms on the party’s State Central Committee. Presidential candidates also sought Johnson’s support. He worked for Rick Santorum before the 2012 caucuses and for Rick Perry and Donald Trump at various times during the 2016 election cycle.

As a Jew, I want to express my utmost contempt for how Johnson praised American Jewish culture as a rhetorical device while denigrating other minority groups.

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Weekend thread: Best and worst Iowa reactions to Trump's transgender ban

Keeping track of this administration’s scandals would be a full-time job. President Donald Trump has already spent 58 days of his presidency at Trump properties, including 43 days at golf courses. He’s been venting about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who in his view, should have killed the investigation into possible Russian collusion with Trump campaign officials.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke warned Alaska’s senators that Senator Lisa Murkowski’s vote against GOP health care proposals “had put Alaska’s future with the administration in jeopardy.” Richard Painter, former chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, said Zinke should be fired for “threatening to abuse his agency’s statutory mandate to hurt Alaska,” adding that the “Interior Department controls vast parts of our Country and cannot be allowed to use federal lands for an extortion racket.”

Trump’s new communications director Anthony Scaramucci conducted an interview that was beyond parody, trying to lean on New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza to reveal a source. Reince Priebus finally got dumped as Trump’s chief of staff. Alexandra Petri noted in her excellent commentary, “Priebus was one of the last Adults In The Room, not that it mattered because everyone in the room was doing exactly as they pleased regardless. His function was largely decorative. What is the point of adult supervision if all you do is sit back and watch as the children set everything on fire?”

The president politicized a Boy Scouts event, upending eight decades of tradition and prompting the national Boy Scouts leader to apologize. Days later, police chiefs around the country condemned the president’s remarks encouraging officers to be rougher with suspects during arrests.

But of all Trump’s outrages this week, none were more disgraceful than his unprovoked attack on transgender people serving our country in the military. After the jump I’ve compiled some of the best and worst reactions from Iowa political figures.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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The Iowa Republican blog has ceased regular publication

Craig Robinson has stopped publishing regularly at The Iowa Republican and plans to transform the site into a personal blog, he told Bleeding Heartland yesterday. Robinson has been the publisher and primary author at Iowa’s most widely-read conservative political website since its launch in 2009. Other writers have been regular contributors over the years, but since early 2015, The Iowa Republican has published press releases or pieces by Robinson himself. Updates became noticeably less frequent over the past year, compared to the blog’s output during the 2011-2012 Iowa caucus campaign and GOP primary season.

The last new post at the site was a May 9 commentary by Robinson, who took shots at Republicans unhappy about Donald Trump becoming the likely presidential nominee. In keeping with past practice, the author did not mention that the Trump campaign did more than $116,000 in business with the Global Intermediate direct mail firm, for which Robinson serves as president.

Via e-mail, Robinson explained that he will likely continue to publish occasional opinion pieces at The Iowa Republican but has “no time table” for when that may begin. He may also use the site “to promote Global Intermediate’s capabilities to readers and potential clients.” As for disclosing his side work for political campaigns to the many national reporters who quote him about Republican happenings (most recently Matt Viser in the Boston Globe), Robinson sees connecting those dots as the journalist’s responsibility: “I don’t think its necessary for me to provide a list of current and former clients, anytime I have been asked I have been forthcoming. I have hosted CNN, FOX News, NBC, ABC and a handful of local news outlets at my Global office for the past couple of years, I’m not exactly hiding from anyone.”

I enclose below more excerpts from our e-mail correspondence, some passages from the May 9 post at The Iowa Republican, and details on Global Intermediate’s work for the Trump campaign to date.

Iowa is universally acknowledged to be in play this fall. All signs point to Trump investing significant resources here; he needs the six electoral votes and has hired our governor’s son as his state director. Whether or not Global Intermediate produces any more direct mail for the GOP nominee, national journalists seeking local Republican commentary should identify Robinson as someone who has done work for the Trump campaign–not only as a former Iowa GOP political director and publisher of The Iowa Republican blog, as has been standard media practice up to now.

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