The Fourth Estate And The Iowa Caucuses Of 2016

The 2016 Iowa Caucuses are coming up this Monday. Since 1972, the Iowa caucuses have been the first major electoral event of the nominating process for President of the United States. As of this year, this process only involves Democrats and Republicans in Iowa. You must register as as one or the other to participate at either respective caucuses location. This can be done at the caucus location on the evening of the caucus. Each party has information about where your caucus will be held on their party website. Every candidate, as well as the Secretary of State of Iowa, will be happy to help you find this information. Historically about 20% of Iowa’s voters participate in the process, however, when it came down to election day in 2012, 69.9 percent of the state’s voting-eligible population cast ballots. It seems to me that the caucus order should be different each year but since Iowa has gone first for so long I decided to figure out why this has been the case. I also wanted to take a look at the overall landscape as of press time.

Due to a chaotic 1968 election, new national party rules led Democrats in Iowa to implement a proportional representation system, giving more candidates room to compete in the state. The state party chairman was determined to give every delegate a copy of the rules and platform proposals. Officials determined that they would need four months to print the materials on their mimeograph machine. Iowa Democrats enjoyed the increased attention stemming from the date change, and Iowa Republicans found themselves wishing they had an earlier caucus as well. The parties agreed to hold caucuses on the same January date in 1976, the practice has continued ever since.

The last Democratic debate before said first caucuses saw candidate Bernie Sanders asking for additional DNC sanctioned debates in its aftermath. It is worth noting that there are Democratic candidates still running that have, as of yet, been excluded from debating. This includes Lloyd Kelso, Willie Wilson, and Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente. The last Republican debate before the Iowa Caucuses saw Rand Paul in on the main debate and Donald Trump absent. It is worth noting that the ratings were considerably higher at this Republican debate than they were at their previous debate. It is also worth noting that the last qualifying candidate to skip a final debate before the Iowa caucuses was Ronald Reagan.

As pointed out earlier, only Democrats and Republicans currently hold caucuses in Iowa. If the Green Party were to caucus, attendees would be choosing between Darryl Cherney, Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza-Curry, Bill Kreml, Dr. Kent Mesplay and Dr. Jill Stein. You can find out additional information about these candidates at the Green Party website. If the Libertarian Party was to caucus attendees would be choosing between candidates including Gary Johnson, Austin Peterson, John McAfee, Marc Allan Feldman, Cecil Ince, and Steve Kerbel. Jesse Ventura has suggested an attempt to gain the nomination but he has not yet officially entered the race. You can find out additional information about these candidates, including a full candidate list, at the Libertarian Party website. If the Reform Party were to caucus attendees would be choosing between Dr. Lynn Kahn, Ken Cross, and Ed Chlapwski. You can find out additional information about these candidates at the Reform Party website.

I have two favors to ask of you Iowa. I must ask that you consider participating in your caucus no matter what party you currently belong to and especially if you do not currently participate. Iowa has one of the oldest populations in the country. Many older Iowan’s rely on the major news outlets for their information. I ask that you talk to your parents, grandparents, and older friends about their options in the elections. It is no secret that certain candidates receive more air time than other candidates, thus, older citizens may not be informed of all of their options. I see this as the fourth estate not doing it’s job. Why else do I think that the fourth estate, as well as your participation in the democratic process is especially important right now? Well, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell just unveiled a sweeping war authorization bill and cleared it for a Senate vote. McConnell used a procedural rule to waive the requirement that his bill go through the committee process and instead have it ready for a floor vote at any time. He already has four co-sponsors on it: Sens. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Or­rin Hatch (R-Utah) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who introduced a nearly identical AUMF last month. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) called it “dangerous” because it effectively strips Congress of its constitutional role in voting on matters of war. “This resolution is a total rewrite of the War Powers Clause in the U.S. Constitution,” Murphy said. “It is essentially a declaration of international martial law, a sweeping transfer of military power to the president that will allow him or her to send U.S. troops almost anywhere in the world, for almost any reason, with absolutely no limitations.” Not only do I suggest you that you participate, I suggest that we need a full on revolution. I am inviting you to rage against the machine with me on Monday. Let us get it started.

“Burke said that there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate, more important far than they all.“
Thomas Carlyle

Marco Battaglia writes for the Iowa Free Press and is a proud member of The Fourth Estate

Photo Credit: ©ottawawebdesign / Dollar Photo Club

Fight for $15 to Protest GOP Debate in Des Moines

Workers from the Midwest will make their voices heard during the Republican presidential debate at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines on January 28.

On the night of the final Republican debate, days before people cast their ballots in the Iowa Caucuses on February 1, protesters from across the region will rally in favor of the Fight for $15, union rights and racial, economic and immigrant justice.

Every Republican presidential candidate is opposed to increasing the minimum wage, meanwhile Democratic hopefuls Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley say they are in favor of it.

Organizers say the demonstration is a way of telling “all politicians that they’re not getting our vote if they don’t stand with the 64 million workers making less than $15 an hour.”

Fight for $15 describes itself as an organization of workers who “are taking a stand against low pay.”

“Fast food workers are coming together all over the country to fight for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation,” Fight for $15 announced in a public statement.

“We work for corporations that are making tremendous profits, but do not pay employees enough to support our families and to cover basic needs like food, health care, rent and transportation. Too many of us are forced to rely on public assistance to scrape by.”

Organizers say they hope for hundreds of workers to march in support of the demands for Fight for $15.

According to the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa, based in Iowa City, a bus at the CWJ Office located at 1940 S. Gilbert Court, Iowa City is scheduled to leave at 2:30pm to Des Moines for the rally. The bus will head back to Iowa City at 7pm and is scheduled to arrive around 9pm.

“Our message is that any candidate, regardless of political party, who wants our vote, needs to talk about our issues,” a CWJ statement reads.

The Huffington Post reports that 14 have states have raised minimum wages starting this year.

Fight for $15 adds that “The District of Columbia and three other states — Maryland, Minnesota and Nevada — will also be raising wages later in 2016.”

For more information, visit

Center for Inquiry Weighs in on 2016 Election

Michael De Dora is the Director of Public Policy for the Center for Inquiry, a non-profit secular organization that “does not promote any political party or political ideology.” He graduated with a master’s degree in political theory from Brooklyn College, as well as a bachelor’s degree in rhetoric and communication from the University at Albany.

As reported by Iowa Free Press, “For the last couple of years secular organizations such as Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers and Iowa Skeptics have been working with AtheistVoter, American Atheists, the Freedom from Religion Foundation and SecularityUSA to help spread the message of secularism in American politics.”

On January 21, CFI and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science Inquiry announced that the two organizations are merging to become “the largest secularist organization in the United States.”

A former journalist for and the City University of New York, De Dora “previously spent three years as executive director of CFI’s office in New York City,” according to the CFI. In addition to these responsibilities, he serves as the CFI Representative to the United Nations.

In an interview with Iowa Free Press, De Dora shared his thoughts on the grassroots efforts of secular voters in the build-up to the 2016 election.

What is the Center for Inquiry’s opinion on the grassroots campaign efforts to promote secularism in American institutions, enforcing the notion of “Separation of Church and State,” during the political season?

The Center for Inquiry strongly supports efforts to promote secularism in American political institutions — at least secularism as we see it. Our view is that the government and its various institutions should remain neutral on matters of theology: that they should not favor one religion over others, or favor religion over non-religion. We are not necessarily opposed to individual elected officials and political candidates expressing their religious values in public; doing so is their right. However, we stress that elected officials and political candidates must realize that they represent pluralistic states and districts, which include citizens of all different opinions on religion. Our public policies should reflect and respect this fact, and be based on broader concerns than sectarian inspiration.

But, CFI advances more than just secular government. If laws should not be based on religion, what should they be based on? We hold that reason, empirical evidence, and humanist moral values are reliable guides.

What has your organization done to spread its message to voters in the last 2-3 years?

As a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, CFI is restricted in its capacity to directly address political candidates and their campaigns. However, over the past couple years we have worked in a variety of ways to spread our message to Americans.

At the grassroots — the local and state levels — we issue regular advocacy alerts on bills and other political and legal proposals. In some places we have staff and volunteers who spread awareness and take action on policy issues. At the national level, we are a registered lobby organization, and engage in direct lobbying with Congress and the Administration. All of our efforts are regularly communicated back to the public. In addition, we issue regular advocacy alerts on bills before Congress and rules and regulations under considered by federal agencies. Further, we often issue press releases and statements on pressing political issues. So, there are a variety of ways we seek to spread our message.

What are some of the biggest contributions your organization is responsible for in pursuit of such goals?

One of our most significant contributions in advancing secular government happened in 2014. We had sued the state of Indiana claiming that the state’s law excluding certified secular humanist celebrants from the list of individuals who can solemnize marriages in Indiana was unconstitutional. After an initial loss, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled in CFI’s favor, and ordered the State to allow our celebrants to conduct weddings. The Supreme Court denied appeal, so the case is now binding. We continue to work in several other states to gain equality for secular celebrants.

At the federal level, we have focused a significant amount of our lobbying efforts to protecting public education, mainly by opposing attempts to funnel taxpayer money from public school systems to private and religious schools (often called “school voucher” or “portability” programs). We oppose government support for schools which are completely unaccountable, free to discriminate, and advance sectarian doctrines.

For instance, this past fall Congress worked on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Some members of Congress sought to turn the $14 billion in federal funds dedicated to the nation’s poorest schools into a portability program. We worked with our allies in the National Coalition for Public Education and helped defeat this effort. Additionally, we helped keep reauthorization of the District of Columbia school voucher program from being tucked into the Fiscal Year 2016 Omnibus Appropriations measure — although this program’s reauthorization remains alive in Congress as a standalone bill. We have had similar successes in the past and will continue to defend public education as a common good, and oppose attempts to publicly fund unaccountable private and religious schools.

What have some of the obstacles been in promoting the message of Secularism in American politics?

I think the biggest obstacle to promoting secularism in American politics is the misconception that secularism is the same thing as atheism. This is not true: atheism is a position on theology — and secularism is a way of thinking about the relationship between religion, morality, and government. CFI does not try to convert elected officials or political candidates. We try to stress the importance of pluralistic, secular, science-based policymaking. One need not be an atheist to agree with us.

Do you think that most people have the wrong impression of your organization and its work? If so, can you explain what is misunderstood and how this affects your work?

Sadly I do think that many, though perhaps not most, people misunderstand our organization and its work. For example, many people believe the Center for Inquiry is an “atheist organization.” This is true insofar as the majority of our members are atheists, or else humanists or agnostics; and as one of our goals is to end the stigma attached to being non-religious. But we are much more than an atheist organization.

This problem affects our work because if people believe we are just an “atheist organization,” then they might operate under the assumption that we are out to simply criticize their beliefs rather than find ways to engage in constructive dialogue centered [on] shared values. To be clear, there are times at which we do directly criticize an elected official’s beliefs, if we find said beliefs are at odds with science or reason. But our policy focus is not debating theology; it is advancing secular principles.

What are the CFI’s thoughts on what is at stake for the 2016?

Obviously the result of the 2016 presidential election will have implications for the relationship between religion and government. Some candidates will be more inclined to base public policies on their religious beliefs; others will be more inclined to pursue a secular, pluralistic agenda.

Aside from the election, however, there are several cases before the Supreme Court which will impact the state of secularism in America. In Zubik v. Burwell, the Court could massively expand the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act; in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, the Court could eviscerate Roe by allowing states to work around it with bogus restrictions; and in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley, the Court could allow or even require states to funnel money to religious schools and social program providers.

And, of course, as it is an election year, statehouses and Congress will consider a flurry of measures designed to rally members’ political bases. Citizens should be alert to this and use this as an opportunity to engage with and possibly even create positive relationships elected officials and political candidates.

Has there been a lot of progress, in your view, in the last few years due in part to the efforts of organizations such as yours?

There certainly has been progress in the last few years due to CFI’s efforts. Beyond some of the aforementioned issues, I think we have been able to increase the visibility and acceptance of the non-religious in policy and advocacy. For instance, just a few weeks ago I spoke on a panel discussion at the White House, as part of the launch of a new inter-religious initiative called Know Your Neighbor. CFI was asked to represent the secular community on this initiative, and I was asked to speak briefly on secularism and atheism. I have also know colleagues who have been invited to speak by religious groups in many respectable forums. I consider it a step forward that the non-religious are being included in such conversations. It has not always been the case.

More specifically to my work, there is no doubt that on Capitol Hill the non-religious are better represented than ever before. In the past year there have been several Congressional briefings sponsored by atheist and humanist organizations, including CFI. Additionally, two resolutions in the House of Representatives — H. Res 290 and H. Res 396 — explicitly mention attacks on atheists for exercising their right to free expression. This is in part due to CFI and other groups going to Congressional offices and talking about these cases, and calling for policies which better reflect all the facts.

Is there anything else you would like the readers of Iowa Free Press to know?

I would stress to voters that they must not only realize, but embrace the fact that elected officials and political candidates work for us — and will only listen to us if we speak up. So often I meet people who have issues with their elected official’s vote or position on a particular policy, and I ask “Have you communicated your views to this person?” Rarely have they — and this is a problem. We live in a democracy, and it is essential in a democracy that citizens be both informed and engaged. Whatever a voter’s views, I would encourage them to learn more about the issues and engage with their elected officials and political candidates. It’s the only way anything will every change.

Opinion: From Lotus Land to the Hawkeye State for Bernie

As January pivots to February, Southern Californians head to the beach (as we do all year) to watch, Margaritas in hand, as bikini-clad aspiring starlets play beach volleyball with the sun setting slowly behind them into the Pacific.

So why will I be in Iowa, freezing to within an inch of my life?

Two words: Bernie Sanders.

For only the second time in my political life, the Democratic Party stands a good chance of nominating a genuine liberal, a progressive who has a chance to win it all and who will move heaven and earth to implement the values the Democratic Party and the United States have always claimed to stand for. Not since South Dakota Senator George McGovern ran in 1972, have I been this excited.

The fact that Bernie Sanders is a newly-minted member of the Democratic Party bothers me not a whit. If you look at his positions and those of former Goldwater Girl Hillary Rodham Clinton, you will have no trouble discerning who the true Democrat (either with a capital or a lower-case D) is.

But securing the Democratic nomination won’t be easy. The corporate media studiously ignores Bernie to the point that #BernieBlackout is a popular hashtag on Twitter. And then there’s the Democrats’ own Queen of Mean, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who neglects her duties representing the 23rd District of Florida in the House of Representatives so she can put her thumb on the scale and deliver the Democratic nomination for president to Hillary Clinton, who she served as a campaign manager in Hillary’s unsuccessful 2008 run (great job, Deb).

Unlike the more than 20 Democratic debates in 2008, there are only six scheduled this campaign season. The second one, held in Iowa, was on a Saturday night. And, as I don’t need to tell you, not just any Saturday night, but the Saturday night the then-undefeated (sorry about that, guys) University of Iowa football team won a thrilling 40-35 victory over Minnesota. The third debate was the Saturday before Christmas when everyone was traveling over the river and through the trees to Grandma’s house. Rumor has it the only reason Debbie didn’t schedule another debate on New Year’s Eve was that she couldn’t book a hall on short notice.

So Bernie doesn’t have the corporate media. And he doesn’t have the Democratic Party establishment. He only has good old “We the People,” of whom I am a charter member.

When I can tear myself away from the beach, I volunteer for Bernie in Southern California: phone banking, donating, importuning friends to donate, tweeting and putting a sign in my window. But here’s why I want to parachute into Hawkeye-land: You guys are first. If Hillary wins by even one vote, the corporate media will cry crocodile tears over Bernie in such profusion it will outdo the spring flooding of the Mississippi. They will attempt to prematurely bury Bernie’s campaign, and I don’t want to give them the chance. So I’m Iowa-bound.

Being recently retired as a teacher of English as a Second Language in the adult schools of Los Angeles, I know that Bernie has the most humane policies toward undocumented workers. Even as I type this, Mr. Hope and Change himself is giving the green light to a series of raids around the country that will break up many families at the bottom of this country’s economic food chain.

As a freshly-minted retiree, I also have the time to do this thing. So I will.

That’s my story. Please say hi to me when I arrive: I’ll be the one who’s shivering and asking for directions to the nearest game of beach volleyball.

Jon Krampner is a retired adult-school instructor of English as a Second Language and the author of three books: The Man in the Shadows: Fred Coe and the Golden Age of Television (Rutgers University Press, 1997), Female Brando: The Legend of Kim Stanley (Backstage Books/Watson-Guptill, 2006) and Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food (Columbia University Press, 2013). He tweets at @bantorture.

Photo Credit: By Phil Roeder [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Secular Voters to Protest GOP Debate

Secular voters will protest outside the Republican presidential debate to be hosted at the Iowa Events Center on January 28.

The Central Iowa Coalition of Reason and the Eastern Iowa Coalition of Reason will be leading a demonstration from 5-8pm on Thursday. A public statement from AtheistVoter promotes the rally as “a demonstration to promote free speech and to raise the visibility of the voice of non-theistic voters and the issues that they care about.”

Participants will meet at the west side of the Events building on 5th Avenue between Crocker Street and Center Street in downtown Des Moines.

AtheistVoter describes itself as a non-profit group that seeks to ensure that “elected officials know that atheists, agnostics, and other nonreligious constituents vote–and vote in huge numbers–so they can no longer simply ignore us or take our votes for granted.”

For the last couple of years secular organizations such as Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers and Iowa Skeptics have been working with AtheistVoter, American Atheists, the Freedom from Religion Foundation and SecularityUSA to help spread the message of secularism in American politics.

Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers member Jason Benell told Iowa Free Press that IAF has grown since it was founded. “IAF went from a small group of less than 100 to a relatively active group numbering in the hundreds (plus many more that may not wish to be identified).”

With this, the organization is planning more functions and grow their membership as more people feel comfortable “coming out” as an atheist, agnostic, or non-religious person.

“Despite the overwhelming political and economic power of religious institutions, secular membership is increasing in the United States and IAF is no exception,” Benell said.

With atheists numbering more than 15 million in the US, the number of religiously unaffiliated voters continues to grow, with more than a third of younger Millennials reporting no religious preference, AtheistVoter reports.

“This has led to more reaction at the [voting] polls as well as questions being asked directly of candidates-and they feel compelled to answer now,” Benell said.

In April 2014, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins was joined by former Maine legislator Sean Faircloth for fundraiser at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines for SecularityUSA, a non-profit organization that wants to “return America to a secular government.”

They were there to discuss building a multi-faceted coalition as part of a grassroots effort to “rebuild the wall” between religious organizations and the federal government, an effort that has been gaining momentum, supporters say.

Their plan is to implement a strategy “that will be instrumental in springboarding secularism to prominence and credibility in 2016, substantially diminishing the power of those who want to impose a religious bias in government.”

“Iowa can serve as a megaphone for secularism,” Dawkins said.

According to SecularityUSA, “The 2016 Presidential Iowa caucuses will be used as a springboard to achieve these goals— to engage a coalition of activists and to effect change throughout America, both in 2016 and beyond.”

Congressman Steve King of Iowa’s 4th District has been listed by Faircloth in his 2012 book Attack of the Theocrats as one of “the Fundamentalist Fifty” in Congress who are trying to push legislation based on the Bible instead of the Constitution.

Fairthcloth notes that King also opposed a commemorative plaque honoring the slaves that helped build the US Capitol by claiming that it was initiated by “liberals in Congress to scrub references of America’s Christian heritage from our nation’s Capitol.”

“The Constitution of the United States of America is a secular one,” Dawkins said while speaking to the Hoyt Sherman audience, “And it is this reason why it is admired and envied throughout the world.”

The Iowa Events Center is a multi-venue convention center comprised of Hy-Vee Hall, Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center and Wells Fargo Arena. Participants are encouraged to bring their own signs as long as they keep the message on track, meaning that of separation of church and state. #AtheistVoter pins will be made available for attendees, according to organizers.

The Central Iowa Coalition for Reason encourages people who cannot attend the demonstration to follow it live on Twitter with the following hashtags:

#IAGov (for all things Iowa government)

#IA01 (for all things related to the 1st Iowa district, probably something similar with other districts around the state)



#IowaCaucus and



Photo Credit: By freddthompson (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Will Palin Endorse Trump In Ames Today?

Yesterday, we were the first in the Iowa media to report on the rumors that Donald Trump’s Facebook post about a major announcement and very special guest was Jerry Falwell Jr or Iowa Governor Terry Branstad.

Join me on Tuesday, January 19th at the Iowa State University Hansen Agricultural Student Learning Center in Ames, Iowa! I will have a major announcement and a very special guest in attendance. You will not want to miss this rally!

Today, the Iowa political rumor mill continues with speculation that the announcement will not be from Governor Branstad, but instead from, former Alaska Governor and 2008 Republican Vice Presidential nominee, Sarah Palin.

But what evidence do they have?

It looks like a private plane from Anchorage, Alaska had landed in Des Moines and then took off to Tulsa, Oklahoma.  That itself doesn’t sound so odd, but Donald Trump has listed that he will be in Tulsa tomorrow.  Is it possible that instead of refueling, the plane dropped off Palin in Des Moines where she will travel with Trump tomorrow for his event in Tulsa before flying back to Alaska?

Perhaps it will be both a Palin and Branstad endorsement?  Maybe neither.  It could be that some person flying his or her private plane has unintentionally caused the media to chase a story with no truth behind it.  All I know is that in a few hours we will find out the truth and the rumors and speculation will finally end.

Photo Credit: “SarahPalinElon” by Therealbs2002Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Primary Challenger Announces Against Grassley

On Friday, January 22, 2016, Robert Rees will kickoff a campaign for U.S. Senate as a primary challenger to Senator Chuck Grassley.

Rees announced a campaign on YouTube and his Twitter account yesterday.


On his website, Rees provides his reasons for running and why he is challenging Senator Grassley:

Senator Grassley has been in D.C. since 1975, a year before I was born!

I don’t think anyone should be in office that long, and I don’t believe that only one person can do the job.

Incumbents have a staggering 96% re-election rate even though Congress has an approval rating in the low teens! The best chance we have of ending an incumbent’s permanent stay in D.C. is through the Primary, and Senator Grassley has NEVER had a primary opponent since winning the Senate in 1981. This election is the first time Iowans can vote to keep similar representation, yet change the individual.

Senator Grassley will be 83 years old if elected again, and 89 when his term ends. I see a very real possibility that the Senator may retire sometime during his term. The Governor would then appoint someone to take his place in the Senate. I think the people should decide who chooses to replace Senator Grassley.

Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina pledged to only serve two terms. He was recognized as one of the most conservative members of the Senate and his constituents begged him to stay in longer. He did retire, though, and his replacement, Senator Tim Scott, has turned out to be a great conservative leader in his own right.

I am asking you to trust the system by swapping me for Senator Grassley.

Wild Rumors Around Trump’s Announcement Tuesday

Update: January 19, 2016-11:40 A.M. CST The New Rumor Is That Sarah Palin Will Endorse Trump

Speculation Includes An Endorsement By Iowa Governor Terry Branstad And Possible Announcement Of Branstad Being Named Trump’s VP Candidate.

Donald Trump has posted on Facebook that there will be a major announcement in Ames tomorrow.

Join me on Tuesday, January 19th at the Iowa State University Hansen Agricultural Student Learning Center in Ames, Iowa! I will have a major announcement and a very special guest in attendance. You will not want to miss this rally!

A lot of speculation has been occurring on social media.  Radio host Steve Deace posts that sources tell him it is an endorsement from Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr.  He later on posted that sources tell him that the endorsement may not happen.

Now that possibility wasn’t enough for some people on Facebook and Twitter that are speculating that Governor Branstad will endorse Trump.  Sounds crazy for someone who predicted Trump would not be the nominee just a month ago right?

  • Donald Trump’s son decided to take part in Branstad’s annual deer hunt.  Reporter Rebecca Berg posted the photo on the left to her Twitter page on January 10th.  Notice the Trump “Make America Great Again” hat worn by Branstad. CYX74CxWMAAdbP9
  • Last August, Governor Branstad told the Des Moines Register that he would not rule out running as Vice-President.
  • Branstad has been viciously attacking Senator Ted Cruz who is, along with Trump, leading the nomination.  Some believe that if Cruz wins Iowa, Branstad’s threats against candidates who don’t support the ethanol mandate largely goes away.  Branstad cannot afford Cruz to win Iowa.

While an endorsement from Branstad or Branstad agreeing to be the Vice-Presidential candidate under Trump appears to be unverified rumors that are not all that credible, it is fun to think about.  It would make Trump winning Iowa very likely and would likely stop Cruz which has been what Governor Branstad has been trying to do for the past month.

Tomorrow we will know for sure what Trump’s announcement is.  If somehow true, which I very much doubt, and this article by the Iowa Free Press reported the possibility first, I expect to be on national TV talking about it.  It all sounds very crazy, but that is the Internet for you.

Photo Credit: By Michael Vadon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Op Ed: When Peace Breaks Out With Iran…

This has been the most dramatic week in US/Iranian relations since 1979.

Last weekend ten US Navy personnel were caught in Iranian waters, as the Pentagon kept changing its story on how they got there. It could have been a disaster for President Obama’s big gamble on diplomacy over conflict with Iran. But after several rounds of telephone diplomacy between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif, the Iranian leadership – which we are told by the neocons is too irrational to even talk to – did a most rational thing: weighing the costs and benefits they decided it made more sense not to belabor the question of what an armed US Naval vessel was doing just miles from an Iranian military base. Instead of escalating, the Iranian government fed the sailors and sent them back to their base in Bahrain.

Then on Saturday, the Iranians released four Iranian-Americans from prison, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. On the US side, seven Iranians held in US prisons, including six who were dual citizens, were granted clemency. The seven were in prison for seeking to trade with Iran in violation of the decades-old US economic sanctions.

This mutual release came just hours before the United Nations certified that Iran had met its obligations under the nuclear treaty signed last summer and that, accordingly, US and international sanctions would be lifted against the country.

How did the “irrational” Iranians celebrate being allowed back into the international community? They immediately announced a massive purchase of more than 100 passenger planes from the European Airbus company, and that they would also purchase spare parts from Seattle-based Boeing. Additionally, US oil executives have been in Tehran negotiating trade deals to be finalized as soon as it is legal to do so. The jobs created by this peaceful trade will be beneficial to all parties concerned. The only jobs that should be lost are the Washington advocates of re-introducing sanctions on Iran.

Events this week have dealt a harsh blow to Washington’s neocons, who for decades have been warning against any engagement with Iran. These true isolationists were determined that only regime change and a puppet government in Tehran could produce peaceful relations between the US and Iran. Instead, engagement has worked to the benefit of the US and Iran.

Proven wrong, however, we should not expect the neocons to apologize or even pause to reflect on their failed ideology. Instead, they will continue to call for new sanctions on any pretext. They even found a way to complain about the release of the US sailors – they should have never been confronted in the first place even if they were in Iranian waters. And they even found a way to complain about the return of the four Iranian-Americans to their families and loved ones – the US should have never negotiated with the Iranians to coordinate the release of prisoners, they grumbled. It was a show of weakness to negotiate! Tell that to the families on both sides who can now enjoy the company of their loved ones once again!

I have often said that the neocons’ greatest fear is for peace to break out. Their well-paid jobs are dependent on conflict, sanctions, and pre-emptive war. They grow wealthy on conflict, which only drains our economy. Let’s hope that this new opening with Iran will allow many other productive Americans to grow wealthy through trade and business ties. Let’s hope many new productive jobs will be created on both sides. Peace is prosperous!

Originally posted at the Ron Paul Institute.

Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Photo Credit: “Ronpaul1” by R. DeYoung – Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

$750,000 in CAT Grants Awarded to Seven Projects

At a meeting last Wednesday, the Vision Iowa Board approved $778,601 in Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) grants to the Iowa Quilt Museum in Winterset, Dragoon Trace Nature Center in Ringgold County, the Garner Public Library, an aquatic center in Lake City, a splash pad in Bristow and sports complexes in Dike and Carroll.

The following projects were approved for grants from the Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) Fund:

Iowa Quilt Museum, Winterset
Total Project Cost: $439,000
Amount Requested: $57,725
Amount Awarded: $57,725
Award Contingencies: Completion of fundraising within 30 days.
Project Description: This project includes the purchase of a historic building in downtown Winterset. The building will be remodeled to create exhibit space and new exhibits. Work includes installation of upgraded electrical and HVAC systems, permanent fixtures and museum exhibits.

Dragoon Trace Nature Center, Mount Ayr
Total Project Cost: $365,520
Amount Requested: $50,000
Amount Awarded: $50,000
Award Contingencies: Completion of fundraising within 30 days.
Project Description: This project includes the construction of a multi-use facility in Poe Hollow Park. The nature center will be a custom, historical barn structure with a porch on the front side the building. The interior will contain two rooms for educational displays, a conference room, restrooms, office space and storage facilities. The nature center will use a geothermal system for heating and cooling.

Garner Public Library Renovation and Expansion Project, Garner
Total Project Cost: $1,556,500
Amount Requested: $310,000
Amount Awarded: $310,000
Award Contingencies: Completion of fundraising within 30 days.
Project Description: This project includes the renovation of the interior and exterior of the current library building as well as a 1,834 square foot addition to the south and east sides of the building. Renovations includes installing energy efficient lighting, a drive-up book drop, multi-media and video conferencing equipment; remodeled staff areas, bathrooms and meeting rooms; expanded community kitchenette and opening up the floor plan of the main library area.

Lake City Pool Project – Phase II, Lake City
Total Project Cost: $242,187
Amount Requested: $98,219
Amount Awarded: $98,219
Award Contingencies: Completion of fundraising within 30 days.
Project Description: Phase II of the pool project includes the addition of a double loop, open flume water slide; night lighting; donor wall; bleachers; and swim team equipment, including diving blocks, racing lane lines and lane line reel.

Bristow Betterment Splash Pad Project, Bristow
Total Project Cost: $105,000
Amount Requested: $28,760
Amount Awarded: $28,760
Award Contingencies: Completion of fundraising within 30 days.
Project Description: This project includes the construction of a splash pad in Memorial Park in Bristow. Project components include the splash pad foundation, waterspouts, sprays and required water lines, electrical needs and drainage.

Kruger-Hemmen Sports Complex – Phase II, Dike
Total Project Cost: $500,658
Amount Requested: $100,131
Amount Awarded: $100,131
Award Contingencies: Completion of fundraising within 30 days.
Project Description: This project includes the construction of a one-mile recreational trail that will circle the sports complex and connect to other existing trails, a trailhead, a small playground, concessions and restrooms and a shelter and picnic area.

Carroll’s Merchant Park Redevelopment Park Project, Carroll
Total Project Cost: $850,000
Amount Requested: $133,766
Amount Awarded: $133,766
Award Contingencies: Completion of fundraising within 30 days.
Project Description: This project includes the replacement of benches, the widening of stairs and the installation of handrails and new ADA handicap accessible seating; renovation of under-stadium restrooms; plaza redevelopment; and historic displays at Carroll’s historic Merchants Park Baseball Stadium.

The Vision Iowa Program provides financial incentives to communities for the construction of recreational, cultural, educational or entertainment facilities that enhance the quality of life in Iowa. Currently, 412 CAT awards have been granted by the board, totaling $153,443,436. The next Vision Iowa Board meeting is tentatively scheduled for February 10, 2016, in Des Moines.