Wendy for Governor Campaign

Wendy Barth is running for the Governor of Iowa on the Green Party ticket, along with running mate Richard Johnson candidate for Lt. Governor.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Is there an anti-livestock sentiment in Iowa?

At the Iowa Farmer's Union meeting, I heard some people mention an "anti-livestock sentiment" - a phrase I had never heard before.

When I think "anti-livestock" I think of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and their obnoxious "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaign that really offended me. I have never supported PETA. Like most kids in Iowa, I learned the difference between livestock and a pet. While, like all good people, I am opposed to cruelty to animals, I accept that livestock gets slaughtered. That's why they were bred in the first place.

The Animal Liberation Front, whoever they are, freed laboratory animals in Iowa City at the University of Iowa's Psychology Labs. That's not anti-livestock. I haven't heard of them breaking into an egg factory and freeing thousands of beakless scrawny laying hens.

I know a few vegetarians. I respect their convictions. They talk about how we could feed 7 times as many people with the grain used to raise the meat. There may come a time, as the human population on the earth reaches 9 billion, when meat will be a luxury that we simply cannot afford if we are to feed everyone. But we are not there yet.

I don't believe there is much anti-livestock sentiment in Iowa, but I know there is an anti-CAFO movement, started by people who lost the value of their farms and their health, due to the outrageous air pollution from a neighboring CAFO. I know there is an anti-CAFO movement, joined by fishermen whose favorite trout stream or fishing hole was killed off by manure spills. I know there is an anti-CAFO movement, and the momentum is building with each community that faces the prospect of the stench, dirty water and manure from a CAFO that bullied its way into the neighborhood over the objections of the neighbors. I invite consumers to make the effort to find locally grown meat, grown the old fashioned way, and compare the quality. If you taste the pork from the pork guy at your local farmer's market, I think you'll join the anti-CAFO movement too.

Just how much manure do you suppose Iowans are willing to put up with?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Iowa Farmers Union Convention

I spent Friday evening and Saturday at the Iowa Farmers Union annual convention in Ankeny. What a great group of people! Their dedication to supporting farmers, their mastery of the issues, their convictions – I’m very impressed. Several people have asked for a copy of the speech I gave, (which was enthusiastically received) so I posted it on my web site, www.votewendy.org/ifu_speech.html

Let me share some of the things I picked up on while I was there.

The CAFO problem is worse than I realized. There’s a hog rush going on, like a gold rush but with a cloud of ammonia gas. Corporations are rushing to get their confinement buildings built before the next legislature writes stricter laws to rein them in. The corporate hog industry believes that if they build the buildings, they will get “grandfathered in” and not have to abide by the new restrictions that eventually will be passed. But hey, we took those faux slot machines out of the convenience stores after they were established, and we can shut down the these bad neighbors too. Just because you’ve been here a couple of years does not give you the right to make your neighbors sick and destroy their property value.

Not everyone is giddy with the prospect of corn-based ethanol, but there is some excitement for it.

Some people say they detect an “anti-livestock sentiment” in the ammonia-laden political wind, with opposition to CAFO siting as proof. Is being anti-pollution and anti-having knee-deep hog manure spread all over everything the same as anti-livestock? Is being anti-vertical integration anti-livestock? This is worthy of its own post, which I’ll get back to.

Bill Northey, the Republican candidate for Secretary of Agriculture, is firmly against allowing counties the authority to regulate where CAFOs may be sited, although they have that authority over other types of industry (this is what’s called the “local control” issue). It’s like:

“Hi, I want to build a factory in your county. Can we put a steel mill on this piece of land here?”

“No, sorry, that is not an appropriate use of that land. It is not allowed.”

“Okay, then, how about a confinement building with 30,000 hogs in it?”

“Well, that’s not an appropriate use of that land either, but I can’t stop you.”

Northey apparently does not believe that people living in the neighborhood should have any right to prevent the destruction of their property values or the quality of the air they breathe.

Jeff Vonk, Director of the Department of Natural Resources, believes his days in that position are numbered – no matter who wins the governor’s race, he will be replaced come January. It’s too bad, because the movement spent a lot of effort educating him. Vonk for President, anyone?

As illustrious an environmentalist politician as Joe Bolkum doesn’t realize that environmental issues are farmer’s issues. When he got their letter announcing that they wanted to give him their “Friend of the Farmer” award, he said he wondered, “What in the heck for?” The Farmer’s Union is wise to forge new alliances with urban politicians who coincidentally support positions favorable to farmers.

I heard from several people that the Farm Bureau is just an insurance company, they don’t really advocate for farmers any more. It’s similar to the fact that General Electric is mostly about financials and not making small appliances any more. It seems like they should change their name, rebrand themselves with a more accurate moniker. Suggestions?

Chet Culver came in, shook everyone’s hands, went to the podium and gave his prepared speech, shook everyone’s hands again and left without answering any questions. He did, however, finally recognize that there are more than two candidates for governor, asking me (from the podium) for the correct tally. Why should I know that better than the Secretary of State? (the rumor is that there are 5 - Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian and Socialist Workers.)

Chet blasted Nussle for living in Washington D.C. and then this graduate of a Maryland high school and a college in Virginia let us know that he is a real Iowan, since as a child he visited Effigy Mounds and Pikes Peak State Park. I love those parks. I also love Palisades-Kepler, Backbone, Wildcat Den, Makoqueta Caves, Ledges, and Dolliver. I like to take an afternoon and rent a canoe at Lake MacBride or Wapsipinicon. I feel a bit inadequate that I don’t know the parks in western Iowa very well. Western Iowans, please add a comment to this post and tell me - what are the best state parks in western Iowa? We could set a date to meet there and discuss issues. How about Oct 1, 2, or 3?

Chet’s suddenly all about pollution control. He promised $3 million towards cleaning up Iowa’s waters (which are a disgrace to the state, by the way. Rumored to be the worst in the nation.) I didn’t get a chance to ask him how he would spend that $3 mill, he left so quickly. If you see him, would you ask him about it? I mean, he could give all that money to a company like Halliburton and get basically nothing for it, if he’s not careful. Also, if you get a chance, please remind him that it’s a lot easier to keep the pollutants out of the stream than it is to take it out once it gets in.

To be fair, Republican Bill Northey also is concerned about pollution. He is especially concerned about run-off from city streets into streams. And he is right, the cities should do a better job of keeping lawn chemicals and motor oil out of the river. Bill points out that farmers plant big wide strips of grass between the field and the stream. When it rains, these grassy regions filter out the chemicals which leach off the field. Unfortunately, when city dwellers see a big wide strip of grass, they saturate it with chemicals. When it rains, the chemicals are going to wash out of the grass into the stream. As much as I’d like to see more strips of grass in the city...

A big thanks to Iowa Farmers Union. I had a great time and learned a lot.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Frequently Asked Questions

"Why not start with a lower office, such as city council or state house, and work your way up to governor?"

A high profile race such as Governor gives the Green Party statewide visibility, and I hope, by my example, to give Greens throughout the state encouragement to run for office. The response to my campaign has been very encouraging. My campaign will pressure both of the big-party candidates to take a more progressive stand on the issues, and will highlight for the voters the undue influence of corporate power on our elections. True I have little experience governing, and the Iowa Green Party is small compared to the political machines I'm up against. But I am willing to publicly stand up for what we believe in, and that will force the other candidates to confess their beliefs or look foolish and deceitful. It seems to me the best strategy long-term for weaning our politicians from the corporate money - to rally the common folk who are being trampled in the corporate race to the bottom. Because, after all, votes trump dollars.

"Why run if you know you won't win?"
In order to be recognized as a political party in the state of Iowa, we have to get at least 2% of the vote for the highest office on the statewide ballot, which is either president or governor, depending on the year. Thanks to Ralph Nader, we had this in 2000, but we lost it again in 2002. During those two years, there was a check box for Green Party on the voter registration cards. The state collected the names and addresses of everyone who checked Green and gave that list to us, so we knew who our supporters are. There is the possibility of getting funds from the state for campaigns. All of this is very valuable to the future of the party. Becoming governor would be great. But just having the option to register Green means a lot to me, and would be a victory as well.

"Won't you just spoil the race so the lesser of two evil candidate will lose and the really evil candidate will win?"
I'm disgusted when I see lame candidates get into office just because the other guy is even worse. Iowans deserve the opportunity to vote for their hopes instead of their fears. The only way we can counteract that phenomenon is to run good candidates. Both Jim Nussle and Chet Culver have the opportunity now to convince voters that they are the right choice, and whoever the voters of Iowa choose, I'm fine with it. But they have to earn it. This is not going to be a "hold your nose and vote" election if I can help it.

Friday, August 18, 2006

upcoming campaign events

Some upcoming campaign events:

Iowa Farmer's Union State convention August 25-26 in Ankeny

I-RENEW Energy Expo, September 9 & 10 at Solon High School

University of Iowa Energy Expo September 27 in Iowa City

Thursday, August 17, 2006

ICCI candidates survey

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement sent me the following questionnaire. They requested that each answer be 50 words or less. Great for sound bites!


1. What is your position on air quality standards for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in Iowa?

People who live in the vicinity of a CAFO are actually getting sick from the air pollution. This is intolerable. Anyone who creates such a stink that it imperils the health of their neighbors must be stopped.


2. What is your position on counties having the ability to site CAFOs in Iowa?

Local control is the heart and essence of democracy. Anything else is un-American.


3. Where do you stand on public financing of political campaigns at a state-wide level?

Public financing would be a step in the right direction. A free public forum for candidates to present themselves, and strict limits on the amount of advertising that could be done outside of that forum, would be even more fair. How much junk mail did you toss, unread, in the last campaign?


4. What is your position on energy policy changes to accommodate renewable energy sources?

I am in favor of supporting renewable energy, to:

· end our dependence on foreign oil,

· promote local business,

· curtail pollution, and

· to meet the goals of the Kyoto treaty.


5. What is your plan to address illegal drug usage in Iowa, including meth issues in rural areas?

The “war on drugs” is the wrong approach, it is filling our prisons with nonviolent offenders that would be better served with rehab and parole. Controlling the raw materials used to create meth is working. An anti-meth education campaign could be effective.


6. Where do you stand on combating predatory mortgage lending in Iowa?

Where do these weasels come from, and what makes them think they can get away with those kind of shenanigans here, in Iowa? We’ve got to draw the line on unscrupulous lending practices.


7. What is your position on undocumented students having access to higher education in Iowa?

Iowa welcomes people from all over the planet to study in our institutions of higher learning. A diverse student body is an asset to our colleges and universities. Positions should be filled based on talent, not politics.


8. What is your position on payday loan centers and check cashing stores?

I favor reinstating Iowa’s usury laws limiting the annual percentage that can be charged for loans. Check cashing should be free – no one should have to pay for access to their own money. We need to protect the people who can least afford to be taken advantage of.


9. What is your position on increasing Iowans’ access to healthcare?

Health care is a right, not a privilege. I support a single-payer Medicare-for-all type of approach. Insurance is for mitigating risk, it is not suited to the task of promoting healthy lifestyles.


10. Where do you stand on limiting the amount of punitive damages rewarded for non-economic damages in civil lawsuits?

How do you impose a meaningful punishment on a corporation that can afford to pay its executives millions of dollars in salary? What will stop them from willfully damaging their customers? Why should they care?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Working Families Win House Party, P.S.

See my previous post for a description of the Working Families Win house party that I attended.
What strikes me, as I mull over the event, is the dedication these working class people have for capitalism. Their focus, their intent, their faith lies in finding jobs with decent wages. There was no talk of anarchy, no Marxist overtones, and I was the one who brought up socialized services, to not much enthusiasm. Even their call for health care asks for affordable quality health care, not a hand out.

Does the executive class realize how valuable that sentiment is? Their faith in capitalism is what drives the working class to seek employment. If people lose faith in capitalism, the willing work force evaporates. If people despair of finding employment, they will turn to other means to provide for themselves, and that certainly won't be directed toward making the rich richer (as factory jobs inherently are.) The harder it is for them to make ends meet, the more resentment they have for the uber-rich. The executive class needs to take note, and realize that there is a partnership of sorts between these two classes. Treat your workforce with dignity and living wages, and they will reward you with dedication, loyalty and hard work. As you chip away at that dignity and force wages ever lower in a race to the bottom, you will lose that loyalty. This is one cost that in the long run you cannot afford to externalize - the cost to support the public's faith in the capitalistic system. For that faith is the glue that holds the system together and makes it work.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Working Families Win House Party

Last night I attended a house party at the home of an activist in Cedar Falls, organized by Working Families Win. We packed the living room of this working-class family's home and had a very lively discussion. Their issues are:
  • A Living Wage - Raise the minimum wage to $7.50/hour
  • New Trade Rules - international trade agreements must protect workers rights and the environment.
  • Affordable Quality Health Care For All
  • Worker's Rights - stop union busting
I heard the first hand account of a young man who was between jobs, and went to a temp agency to get some work. The temp agency sent him to a job and paid him minimum wage. At the end of the day, after they deducted his child support payment and taxes, he took home $17 and change for 8 hours work. That's not much incentive to come back tomorrow for more.
I heard the grandfather telling how hard it is to watch your children be unable to support themselves through no fault of their own.
I was pleased to hear these working class people stand in solidarity with the immigrant population. They respect the willingness to work and the basic humanity of the immigrants, and spoke of solidarity.
I heard that worker's rights are human rights.
In our state, the working class population is well educated, honest, and willing to work. This is a great asset to the state of Iowa, one that is is not being used to its fullest potential. Employers need to realize that they get a high quality workforce when they employ Iowans, and that quality is worth paying a living wage.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Fighting for clean water

Yesterday at the invitation of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) I went to the state capitol and attended a committee meeting to support clean water in our state.

Here is a link to a good story on the hearing from Radio Iowa

The committee was set to reject the rule, but we managed to convince them to merely object to the rule, thus letting it take effect.
One woman whom I found particularly compelling came with a map representing 5 mile square area around her home where a new CAFO is scheduled to go in. She had the planned manure fields shaded in yellow, and she had a school drawn in green - right in the middle of the of the manure field! She said the Board of Supervisors just throw up their hands and give up regulating CAFOs, so powerful is their lobby.

The senators and representatives expressed difficulty at legislating how to be a "good neighbor", so for my testimony I said, "I can understand your dilemma, because you often don't realize what a good neighbor you've had until a bad neighbor moves in. However, this much seems straightforward:
  • A good neighbor does not spread hog manure on frozen ground.
  • A good neighbor does not spread hog manure near environmentally sensitive areas.
  • A good neighbor does not spread hog manure on highly erodible land.
  • A good neighbor does not spread hog manure in the capture zone for a public water supply.
As I understand it, that's what this rule proposes to enforce, and for the life of me, I cannot understand how anyone could be opposed to it."

As always, working with CCI is an invigorating experience. And it felt great to win.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Organic Consumers Association Survey

The Organic Consumers Association asked me to fill out their candidates survey.
You can see my answers here.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Quality Pork

If you missed the story, type "ultrasound pork" into Google search engine (which was almost certainly a Googlewack a week ago) and you will find the news that researchers are proposing using ultrasound to improve the flavor of pork, which is not as tasty as it was 15 years ago.

The past 15 years has seen the rise of factory farm CAFOs with thousands of animals in one building, each confined to a tiny stall. The animals never get to walk around, never get to see the sun or wallow in the mud. The air in these buildings is so thick with ammonia that humans wear gas masks when they go in - but the animals, future pork products, breathe that foul air all their lives. To prevent epidemics in these operations, the swine are fed antibiotics as part of their standard diet.

Now they propose to use ultrasound to create a hog that can live like that and still taste good. There is an easier way to get tasty meat - buy your pork from small family farmers who are concerned about the health and welfare of their animals, and who are raising heritage breeds, with flavor and quality that has been bred over thousands of years. Find a producer near you from the list of organic pork producers in Iowa, look for pork at your local farmer's market, or ask your local grocer to stock the Niman Ranch or Organic Prairie brands of pork products. Or find your neighborhood in the Local Harvest online map tool.

There is a huge difference in the flavor. Let the factory pork go to the big cities, we Iowans know better.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Electronic Voting

Seems another software engineer has turned politician. This software engineer's name is Clint Curtis. He claims that in October 2000 as an employee at a software company called Yang Enterprises Inc. (YEI), he created a prototype of a computer program that would fix an election, at the request of a customer, US Congressman from Florida Tom Feeney. When he realized that the congressman was not just researching possible frauds, but intended to use this software to actually fix elections, Clint Curtis then quit his job and became a whistleblower, exposing YEI and Tom Feeney.

He switched parties from Republican to Democrat in order to run against Tom Feeney for the US congressional seat, with verifiable elections as his main issue.

This document is really interesting, considering how many votes come up 51% to 49% these days, even those with exit polls that say otherwise:
Clint Curtis' Affidavit to the US Congressional Hearing on Vote Fraud (.pdf)

An excerpt:





Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Medicare Part D Meeting

I went to Davenport yesterday and attended a meeting titled " Forum on the future of Social Security and Medicare Part D" sponsored by Iowa Citizen's Action Network (ICAN) and the Center For Active Seniors, Inc (CASI). The bottom line is that Medicare Part D is terribly flawed. The "donut hole" is just crazy. The prices are balloning for drugs on the plan. Even people who are savvy had a hard time calculating which plan was the best for them because formularies and prices keep changing, even though seniors are locked in to the plan they choose until November. It's so totally unfair, skewed towards profits for the pharmacutical companies. I wonder if anyone calculated how an uprising of seniors could change things - after retirement, they have a lot of time on their hands, if they get organized, hmm..

We need to look into the possibility of crafting a better program for Iowa's seniors - one that negotiates for bulk prices, one that is easy to understand and explain, one that is fair.