# Veterans Issues

Massive Iowa Legislature linkfest (post-funnel edition)

The Iowa Legislature has been moving at an unusually fast pace during the shortened 2010 session. It's time to catch up on what's happened at the statehouse over the past three weeks. From here on out I will try to post a legislative roundup at the end of every week.

February 12 was the first "funnel" deadline. In order to have a chance of moving forward in 2010, all legislation except for tax and appropriations bills must have cleared at least one Iowa House or Senate committee by the end of last Friday.

After the jump I've included links on lots of bills that have passed or are still under consideration, as well as bills I took an interest in that failed to clear the funnel. I have grouped bills by subject area. This post is not an exhaustive list; way too many bills are under consideration for me to discuss them all. I recommend this funnel day roundup by Rod Boshart for the Mason City Globe-Gazette.

Note: the Iowa legislature's second funnel deadline is coming up on March 5. To remain alive after that point, all bills except tax and appropriations bills must have been approved by either the full House or Senate and by a committee in the opposite chamber. Many bills that cleared the first funnel week will die in the second.  

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Bleeding Heartland Year in Review: Iowa politics in 2008

Last year at this time I was scrambling to make as many phone calls and knock on as many doors as I could before the Iowa caucuses on January 3.

This week I had a little more time to reflect on the year that just ended.

After the jump I've linked to Bleeding Heartland highlights in 2008. Most of the links relate to Iowa politics, but some also covered issues or strategy of national importance.

I only linked to a few posts about the presidential race. I'll do a review of Bleeding Heartland's 2008 presidential election coverage later this month.

You can use the search engine on the left side of the screen to look for past Bleeding Heartland diaries about any person or issue.

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New thread on vacancies to be filled in the Senate and cabinet

The big news of the day is that the FBI arrested Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on federal corruption charges. Apparently he has been under investigation for some time, and he was caught on tape talking about trying to get something of value in exchange for appointing someone to fill Barack Obama’s Senate seat. Click the link for more details.

If the allegations are true, Blagojevich needs not just to resign, but to go to jail. Also, way to hand the Republicans another great talking point against “corrupt” Illinois Democrats and the Chicago machine. That is sure to be used against Obama and whoever succeeds him in the Senate.

The possibility that New York Governor David Paterson will appoint Caroline Kennedy to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate has divided the blogosphere, with more and more heavyweights speaking out against the move. Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake explains why this would be a “truly terrible idea”:

Her leadership could have been really helpful when the rest of us were trying to keep the progressive lights on and getting the stuffing beaten out of us by a very well-financed right wing for the past eight years.  But when things were tough, she was nowhere to be found.

Now that the Democrats are in power, she’d like to come in at the top.  We have absolutely no idea if she’s qualified, or whether she can take the heat of being a Kennedy in public life.  She’s certainly shown no appetite for it in the past.  She’ll have a target on her back and if she can’t take it, if she crumbles, she will become a rallying point that the right will easily organize around.

The woman has never run for office in her life.  We have no idea how she’d fare on the campaign trail, or how well she could stand up to the electoral process.  She simply picks up the phone and lets it be known that she just might be up for having one of the highest offices in the land handed to her because — well, because why?  Because her uncle once held the seat?  Because she’s a Kennedy?  Because she took part as a child in the public’s romantic dreams of Camelot?  I’m not quite sure.

And the guy with the biggest megaphone, Markos, piles on:

I hate political dynasties. Hate them. But Jane is right, in this case, the idea is particularly egregious — Caroline has done nothing to help beat back the right-wing machine. But now, she’s supposed to be handed by fiat what others fight their whole lives to attain?

I would like to see Paterson appoint one of New York’s 26 Democratic members of Congress. It would benefit the state to have someone with legislative experience replace Hillary. Daily Kos diarist Laura Stein made a strong case for Representative Carolyn Maloney.

Moving on to the cabinet, on Sunday Obama named retired General Eric Shinseki to run the Department of Veterans Affairs. Everyone seems to think this is a great idea. From the Boston Globe:

In the Bush administration, General Eric K. Shinseki committed the crime of truth-telling: He told the Senate in early 2003 that maintaining order in Iraq would take far more US troops than Donald Rumsfeld planned for. It cost him his job as Army chief of staff. That same virtue, honesty, should stand him in good stead now that President-elect Barack Obama has nominated him to be secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The choice is a stinging rebuke not just of Rumsfeld and President Bush for failing to take Shinseki’s advice on the Iraq war, but also of the administration’s weak effort to solve the medical, educational, emotional, and employment problems that veterans are having in returning to civilian life. Just as the Bush administration thought it could oust Saddam Hussein and create a peaceful, democratic Iraq with a bare-bones force, it has tried to skimp on veterans services.

Daily Kos user Homer J wrote this interesting reflection on an afternoon he spent with Shinseki.

Al Gore is going to Chicago today to meet with Obama, leading to speculation that he may be asked to head the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Energy. I think it’s more likely Obama is seeking Gore’s input on other possible choice. I’d be surprised if Gore would consider a cabinet position now. Some people have suggested Obama might create an environment/climate “czar” position, which could go to someone with stature like Gore.

Interior is emerging as a major battleground, with  more than 130 environmental groups signing a letter backing Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona for the position, even though he is rumored to have fallen off Obama’s short list.

Meanwhile, environmentalists are upset that Blue Dog Congressman Mike Thompson of California appears to be the leading candidate for Scretary of the Interior. The environmental blog Grist has some highlights of Thompson’s voting record:

In 2003, he voted for Bush’s controversial Healthy Forests Restoration Act, which enviros saw as a massive gift to the timber industry.

In 2004, he voted against an amendment to an Interior appropriations bill intended to protect wildlife and old growth trees in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest by stopping taxpayer-subsidized logging road construction. The measure passed by a vote of 222-205, and he was the only California Democrat to vote against it. He also opposed an amendment to ban the act of bear-baiting in national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands.

He was also one of only 30 Democrats in 2006 to vote against an amendment to the Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act that would maintain areas of the national forests protected under the Roadless Rule. He also voted against another amendment that would have required the Forest Service to comply with environmental protection, endangered species, and historic preservation laws when conducting “salvage logging” operations in national forests. The amendment failed.

Anyone who supported Bush’s policies on “healthy forests” and road-building is by definition not “change we can believe in.” I sincerely hope Obama will do better than this. Another top-tier candidate for Interior is said to be Kevin Gover, who would be the first Native-American cabinet secretary if appointed.

Here’s a list of people rumored to be in the running for secretary of education.

Over the weekend, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius took herself out of the running for any cabinet position, saying she needs to finish her term and deal with budget and economic challenges in Kansas. She had been mentioned for several possible cabinet positions. Some believe she withdrew her name to save face, having gotten the word that she was being passed over. It seems just as likely to me that she has decided to run for Senate in 2010. Scout Finch has more on that possibility.

UPDATE: Maine Senator Olympia Snowe wants Obama to elevate the head of the Small Business Administration to a cabinet-level position. I fully agree with Jonathan Singer that the best move for Obama here would be to elevate the SBA and appoint Snowe to head that cabinet department. She’s a moderate Republican, and it would free up a Senate seat in a blue state.

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Report: Gulf War Syndrome "is a real condition with real causes and serious consequences"

Sobering news emerged today from the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses:

A report released Monday concluded that “Gulf War Syndrome” is a legitimate condition suffered by more than 175,000 U.S. war veterans who were exposed to chemical toxins in the 1991 Gulf War. […]

“Scientific evidence leaves no question that Gulf War illness is a real condition with real causes and serious consequences for affected veterans,” said the committee, which has been looking into the problem since 2002. […]

Gulf War Syndrome affects at least one-fourth of the 700,000 U.S. troops who served in the 1991 effort to drive Iraq out of Kuwait, or between 175,000 and 210,000 veterans in all, the report found. Few have seen their symptoms improve over the past 17 years, the report said.

Symptoms include persistent headaches, widespread pain, cognitive difficulties, unexplained fatigue, skin rashes, chronic diarrhea and digestive and respiratory problems.


The panel found two possible causes: a drug given to troops to protect against nerve gas, known as pyridostigmine bromide, and pesticides that were used heavily during the war.

The panel said other possible causes could not be ruled out, including extensive exposure to smoke from oil-well fires and low-level exposure to sarin gas when captured Iraqi stocks were destroyed.

I hope that further research will uncover effective treatments for these veterans, as well as more details about the causes. We need to make sure that future veterans are not exposed to whatever toxins caused this illness in so many Gulf War veterans.

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Polk County Democrats to hold DAV clothing drive during Palin's visit

I forgot to put Sarah Palin’s Iowa visit on my calendar of events coming up this weekend. Fortunately, I received this e-mail from the Polk County Democrats to remind me:

My Fellow Americans,

As the Iowa Chair of Veterans for Obama, I was thinking of ways to best welcome Sarah Palin when she visits Des Moines this Saturday. Knowing that jobless rates are up and temperatures are going down, I heard about Sarah Palin needing extra help with clothing recently and thought there might be others who really need the help. So, I thought we might do a clothing drive across the street from her event and donate to the Disabled American Veterans. (By the way, they rate Obama’s voting record at 90% and McCain’s at 20%.)

Here is what is going on Saturday in brief:

First of all, Polk County volunteers are going to knock on over 10,000 doors in a canvas this Saturday, so contact your local organizer to get involved in that.

Secondly, there will be a greeting party across the street from Hy-Vee Hall at 777 Third Street (corner of 3rd and Center). We’ll be visible, vocal and starting about 10:30.

We’ll be taking donations for the clothing drive in the parking lot at 777 Third Street, so stop by with your donations (tax deductible) and maybe knock on some doors or make some phone calls too. I’ll be standing next to my truck with the American Flag, Airborne and Obama stickers to take your donation.

Contact me with any questions or if you’d like to help. Tell your friends.



I’ve got clothes I can give to this drive on Saturday. Disabled Veterans of America is a group worth supporting. Note from the above e-mail that Obama rates higher on their scorecard than McCain.

Speaking of scorecards, the non-partisan Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America released their own scorecards for members of Congress recently.

John McCain earned a D, because he did not co-sponsor the post-9/11 GI bill and voted for only three of the nine bills supported by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. McCain missed more than half of the Senate votes this year.

Barack Obama earned a B for co-sponsoring the GI Bill and voting with veterans five out of nine times. Obama has also missed quite a few votes, though not as many as McCain.

(Side note: If you’re curious about the Iowa scores, Tom Harkin, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack received perfect A+ scores from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Leonard Boswell and Tom Latham got As, Steve King got a B and Chuck Grassley got a C.)

Getting back to the Polk County Democrats’ clothing drive this Saturday, what a great idea for a visibility event. Not only will the crowd attract attention, the clothing drive will spur more media commentary about Sarah Palin’s $150,000 designer wardrobe.

I haven’t piled on to this story, because what is there to say? Every aspect of her image has been so stage-managed and phony. I already found it amusing that she panders to “Joe Six-pack” while owning multiple pairs of designer eyeglasses (the ones she’s made famous cost at least $900, not including the lenses).

Weeks ago, I read a comment on some blog by a wardrobe consultant who said Palin’s suits were not only expensive high-couture items, but also very “current,” and so couldn’t have been clothing she owned before McCain put her on the ticket. This commenter estimated that Palin’s wardrobe for the general election campaign would have cost $200,000 (which turned out to be a pretty good guess).

The other thing I’m enjoying about the Palin story is the outraged comments from major donors to the Republican National Committee. They are angry that their money was used in such an extravagant (and incompetent) way. With any luck they will hesitate to give at the same level next election cycle.

Speaking of sleaze, why was I not surprised to learn that the Republican operative who went shopping for Palin is also the McCain campaign’s main robocaller?

You cannot make this stuff up.

UPDATE: Saw on Ben Smith’s blog at Politico that the watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed an FEC complaint relating to the Republican National Committee’s clothing purchases for Palin.

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Veterans ask, "Why, Congressman Latham?"

Fourth district Democratic candidate Becky Greenwald launched this new web ad yesterday:

This is a solid ad, and I’d like to see it on television screens as well as computer screens. You can donate to the Greenwald campaign through her website.

Incumbent Tom Latham started running this negative ad about the bailout last week:

As I noticed while listening to the two radio debates between Latham and Greenwald, Latham is clinging to his bailout votes like a life raft, and yet:

Here’s Latham’s voting record on corporate subsidies.

Here’s Latham’s voting record that relates to government checks on corporate power.

Here’s Latham’s voting record on corporate tax breaks in general (including sub-categories on tax breaks for the oil and gas industry and for the wealthiest individuals).

Latham must be very grateful to be able to talk about the bailout instead of his long record of standing with corporations rather than middle-class taxpayers.

If you live in the fourth district or have friends and relatives there, please spread the word about Latham’s voting record as a whole.

But more important, please get involved with the Greenwald campaign as a volunteer in the final stretch.

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