Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Letter to Bruce Braley

A letter written to my Congressman Bruce Braley. Iowa 1st Congressional District.

Dear Congressman Braley,

I am writing with concerns over the US military action occurring in Syria.

Let me start off by stating that I do believe that the terrorist group called ISIS or ISIL is a regional threat that contains the capacity to attack us on US soil. That they have clearly stated their intentions and identified themselves as an enemy of the United States and our allies. This threat must be confronted.

However, I strongly disapprove of President Obama's liberal interpretation of the War Powers Act and prior authorizations of similar uses of military might as a means for his actions against this threat.

I am lead to believe you feel the same way.

Last September, you wrote to me and other Iowans asking our opinion for taking military action against Syria for the threat they posed as a result of their use of Chemical Weapons. The results were greatly opposed to taking action in Syria without international and congressional support and approval.

Prior to that, in August of 2013, you signed a letter with other members of congress addressed to President Obama stating, among other items; "Congress should be a part of deciding the proper use of American force"

I understand that authorization for resource assistance to vetted forces in Syria was approved last week, though I generally oppose attaching controversial items that involves the topic of war on to something essential like a continuing resolution, I believe this vote granted the President to take that action in Syria. I also believe we have an obligation to assist Iraq as an ally nation. I do, however, condemn the President for taking further military action against a country in which we have not declared war against, and am asking you to join me and many other of your constituents in Iowa in condemning the President for this over reach of his authority.

I would support congress in authorizing these actions, but I more passionately support the need for due process and a voice of the American people, through congress, to be heard before we take actions that will kill human beings in our name. I hope you feel the same way, thank you.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Who's Buying Elections?

It's as sure as the sun rising, Democrats claiming that GOP candidates are trying to buy elections with outside money from billionaire donors and PAC's, yet thanks to campaign finance disclosure requirements, we can see that Republicans aren't the only ones with deep-pocketed friends.

The latest disclosures to the Federal Election Commission indicate the 2014 race for campaign cash is a little different then what a typical voter may think.

In fact, Democrats are actually outpacing Republicans when it comes to total fundraising for the political parties and their committees. Senate Democrats have out raised Senate Republicans, $111 million to $82.5 million. House Democrats are ahead of House Republicans, $146 million to $113 million. Over $60 million dollars difference.

And in my home state of Iowa, that statement is especially prevalent, with Republican Joni Ernst being out raised by Democrat Bruce Braley $2.5 million to $7.1 million.

But it is independent expenditures by outside groups that really rile up the likes of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Reid has been railing against the libertarian-leaning billionaire Koch brothers for years. They have pledged to spend some $290 million this year to elect conservatives. But Reid's fundraising juggernaut, the Senate Majority PAC, plans to spend $46 million by itself to thwart Republican rivals.

Also, the Democracy Alliance, a coalition of 180 progressive groups and individual millionaire and billionaire liberals who gathered in Chicago this spring to make so-called investment recommendations to their members. They have pledged to spend more than $374 million to help defeat Republicans.

What's more, the AFL-CIO by itself has pledged to spend an additional $300 million to help elect Democrats.

That's not all. In the 10 Senate races where the most outside money's been spent, liberal groups have spent $97 million compared with $79 million for conservative groups.

The Center for Responsive Politics calculates that liberal outside groups have spent $126 million for Democrats and against Republicans this year -- while conservative groups have spent $114.7 million for the opposing purpose.

Add this all up, and you have coffers for Democrats and their supporting groups that well outpace anything that Republican candidates have been able to gin up, by 9 digit margins. The Koch Brothers appear to be less about giving Republican soft money some un-American advantage, and more about trying to let Republicans keep pace.

So let's scratch those evil rich republicans buying elections off the list of reasons why Democrats are going to loose the Senate this midterm. Do not fret, that still leaves the ;War on Women' and the 'Race Card'.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

NFL Good Guys

We've been bombarded with negative news about the NFL these last few weeks. The league's crisis over domestic violence, substance abuse, and the administrative incompetence in addressing it has cast a pall over the popular sport.

But amid the relentless stream of devastatingly sad news, there are a few heartwarming stories that reaffirm the good that can come from the people who are a part of this great game.

Here, in an effort to restore some of your faith in humanity and the NFL, so as to allow you to continue enjoying watching these multi-millionaires do celebratory dances after hitting people in a way that would get a typical man on the street thrown in jail, and do so without a guilt ridden conscious keeping you awake at night, are the good guys of the NFL:






These are not the Make-A-Wish or My Wish charities. Which are great organizations that approach athletes and organizations. These are players that are actively seeking out ways that they can make a positive difference with their time and resources.

Faith in NFL humanity restored.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

My 9/11 Story

I was in college, it was my sophomore year and my class schedule for that particular day didn't begin until early afternoon. Hence, I was sleeping in atop my loft in the dorms.

The phone awoke me, not a smart phone or even cellular phone, I wouldn't possess one of those until a year later. It was a simple wireless phone purchased from Target for no more then twenty dollars. My friend from down the hall was calling me.

"Dude, turn on the TV!" he said excitedly.
"Why?" I sleepily replied.
"Just turn it on, doesn't even matter what channel."
"Dude, I'm up in my bed, and I'm not getting down unless you tell..."
"The world trade center has been hit."
"Hit? What do you mean."
"Turn on the TV!"

Yes, we did, and still do to this day, use 90's nomenclature like 'dude'.

More confused now then in a typical day of college class work, I proceeded to do my grip and slide with a nice thunk onto the tile floor, as my roommates rug did not quite extend to the base of my loft. Spinning to address my 19" tube TV, I reached for the remote that was resting directly next to the front facing power and channel buttons, and turned he device on.

The very first image was of a plane striking one of the famous twin towers buildings, with it's smoking, smoldering twin behind it.

I never really knew if that was a live shot or a replay of the scene moments earlier, and I don't know if the cries and gasps that were audible through my heavy wooden door were always there, or if I was still opening up my senses for the day. All I know is that I didn't understand.

A plane striking a skyscraper, though I had no knowledge of that ever happening didn't seem like such a far fetched concept, but two planes at twin towers. Pajamas and all I entered the dorm hallway intended to seek my friend hoping to gain some new insight, I must have passed three or four of my floor mates that shared my expression along the way. Looks of shock, shrugged shoulders, and awestruck while attempting to consider the implications.

Once in my friends room, the stuttered questions and wordless explanations came fast. News mutterings of victims counts possible being over 30,000 lives. Other students stopped in trying to garner other insights as we began to form small groups. It was in these groups that terms like 'terrorist attack' were first uttered. It was the only explanation that added up. This was not an accident, this was not a coincidence. This happened because someone wanted to harm America.

Shortly after, reports of the Pentagon being hit in a similar manner and a downed plane in Pennsylvania began to confirm this theory.

I remember thinking that this doesn't happen here. Far removed from the volatility of dictators and constant state of rebellion by oceans coupled with the prosperity and general state of domestic peace some how made American soil immune from almost any kind of attack.

I wasn't afraid, I don't recall fear ever really entering my mind. Despite how close New York felt in that moment, being on the 2nd floor of a 10 story dormitory in Iowa did allow my some sense of separation still. That myself, my family, and my friends were still safe. Perhaps that was just a reaction, as any attempt I made to put myself in the shoes of those people we saw covered in ash and running away from clouds of dust was met with an overwhelming sense of helplessness and fear. I had to take the role of spectator watching from a safe distance, allowing my mind to go anywhere else was too terrifying.

In the days and weeks to come, as we began to learn more about the motivations and identified some of the suspected masterminds I remember thinking how bold we were being as a nation. It seemed like such a petty way for a war to be declared against the United States, but mistakenly, it was a war that had been declared.

I still struggle many days with what misguided ideals motivated those men who flew the planes. I have little doubt that they in some way had been affected by an action the U.S. perpetrated in the region at some point. That there was some aspect of them that felt victimized that opened the door for the line of logic that led them to believe such an unorthodox attack against so many civilians was justified. These deep reflections play a huge part in how my political thinking was shaped at the time.
Trying to grapple with how we dither in matters on the other side of the world while still being appalled when they dither in ours. Trying to justify launching missiles at them while being appalled when they crash planes into us.

No line of logic can perfectly justify either sides actions at any specific point over the past several decades. And we can look back for a long time at the list of mistakes we made that helped bring this moment along. Yet there is a singular guiding principle that is evoked in almost any conflict in human history, and that is, once war has been waged, each person must call upon their insight and perspicacity and envision a world in which they win, and one in which the opposition win.

We are not perfect, and perhaps we do meddle in the affairs of other too often. We strive for virtues such as freedom and liberty, yet often find ourselves wanting. This is ok, much like a child who will err from time to time so will we as a people make poor judgments, but as long as we hold those guiding principles true, that man kind's ultimate potential is realized when we have freedom, then I will always feel that our cause is just when faced against a cause that believes in a religious central state that justifies genocide.

There are many innocents that will die in this war, as there always seem to be. And we will question our methods and our means throughout as any rational person would do. The most important lesson that I can take away from that September morning twelve years ago is to remember try again to place myself in the shoes of those who lost their sense of safety and security. To remember those on Flight 93 and their bravery. And to take a moment and close your eyes, and think about those two different worlds. One were we win, and one were they win, and to use those images to strengthen our resolve.