Quad-City Times. April 24, 2015.
Iowa egg industry hit by double whammy
How bad is Iowa's egg industry crisis?
Mexico this week halted imports of Iowa eggs because of safety concerns.
The place that advises tourists not to drink tap water has banned Iowa eggs for health reasons. Mexico is the largest importer of U.S. chickens and enacted the ban after a turkey production plant in Buena Vista County reported avian flu and destroyed 27,000 turkeys. Then an egg production plant in Osceola County reported the flu and destroyed 5.7 million hens.
The rest of Iowa's egg producers are stepping up precautions to stop this infection that doesn't hurt humans, but can devastate commercial flocks in days.
All this follows criminal convictions and prison sentences for one of Iowa's largest egg producers. Austin "Jack" DeCoster and his son Peter, 51, were accused of altering records to sell eggs that caused a widespread salmonella outbreak in 2010. Their deliberate deceit caused 1,939 confirmed infections of humans. The Centers for Disease Control estimated the DeCosters could have sickened up to 56,000 others. The DeCosters' actions led to the largest egg recall in U.S. history.
A federal judge in Sioux City this month issued three-month prison terms and fined both DeCosters $100,000 each. Their company, Quality Egg, was fined $6.79 million after pleading guilty to bribing a federal inspector and other charges.
The severe penalties follow a 2010 salmonella outbreak on the DeCosters' Maryland and Maine operations. That prompted former Iowa Gov. Chet Culver to initiate specific Iowa inspection reforms to keep the DeCosters and other lousy operators from ruining the Iowa egg business.
Gov. Terry Branstad scrapped all of those reforms, allowing Iowa egg producers to avoid mandatory reporting of suspected salmonella, and halting creation of lab testing standards and training standards that might have stopped the DeCosters before they sickened thousands.
Preventing this month's avian flu outbreak is beyond the influence of this governor, or the last. But clearly, this important ag industry will need state help to recover.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker this week deployed a small unit of National Guard soldiers to assist in the destruction of birds and cleanup in three counties.
Now Iowa needs to take action. The nation's No. 1 egg producer is under siege from preventable disease and an infamously unscrupulous operator whose crimes escaped regulatory detection until it was too late.
Neither must happen again.
The Hawk Eye. April 26, 2015.
Shameless effort: GOP presidential hopeful Cruz shills for evangelical votes by introducing bills to stop gay marriage.
Ted Cruz is a U.S. senator. He wants to be president. And he doesn't think certain people should be allowed to marry.
Cruz has introduced two bills that would allow states that now ban gays from getting married to keep gays from getting married.
Cruz's legislation would establish a constitutional amendment shielding states that define marriage as between one woman and one man from legal action.
A second bill would bar federal courts from further weighing in on the marriage issue until such an amendment is adopted, according to a report in Bloomberg News.
It will be interesting to see how Cruz's position on gay marriage plays out in Iowa as he seeks the Republican nomination.
Iowa's firstinthenation caucuses have, since 1972, played a pivotal role in who sits, or rather, who doesn't sit, in the Oval Office.
Iowa eliminated its discrimination against samesex marriage six years ago. And nobody has reported the state Supreme Court's decision has degraded society in the state.
That's because it hasn't. It's not an issue.
It really never should have been an issue that ultimately required action by the highest court in the state. But it did, though it's nobody else's business who marries who.
Why people such as Cruz still try to legislate this sort of thing is unfortunate. It's time to let it go.
But Cruz doesn't really care who marries who. By offering these two bills neither of which has a chance of getting through Congress or getting the president's signature he plays into the hands of evangelical voters. He's shilling for votes. And this ploy will backfire on him.
It's shameful, but sadly, not all that surprising.
Telegraph Herald. April 24, 2015.
Election brings new loopholes in campaign funding
Just when it seemed that money's influence on politics couldn't get any worse, it does. Wannabe presidential candidates have found new ways to funnel even more money into the system.
Next year's presidential election is likely to attain a new high — or is that a new low? — in the amount of money raised and spent by and on behalf of candidates. However you describe it, the precise dollar figure will be hard to pinpoint because so much of the money doesn't have to be reported.
One of the latest ways we're seeing candidates skirt the already weak campaign finance laws is by delaying their announcements.
Remember when candidates would form "exploratory" committees before announcing for office? These committees were dedicated to testing the waters, to see whether the conditions were favorable for a given candidate. Guess what? Virtually every exploratory committee ever formed found conclusively that yes, indeed, the conditions were in fact, just right for said candidate to enter the race. Yet, even with that successful track record, no one does exploratory committees anymore.
The reason is simple: Cha-ching. It's about money.
Before a candidate declares herself or himself in the running, she or he can ride around in friends' luxury jets and accept checks with six or seven zeroes on them from passing billionaires. After a candidate commits to running, the donations he or she can accept fall all the way down to a maximum of $2,700 per person. That's substantially fewer zeroes.
Even when a candidate is deemed to be "testing the waters" — that's actually a legal term in this context — she or he is confined to the $2,700-per-donor cap.
That's why we're just now seeing candidates jump off the dock and into presidential waters. Was there any doubt in March that Hillary Clinton or Marco Rubio or Rand Paul was running for president? No, but they hadn't declared anything because they weren't ready to cut the flow of donor money from a gush to a trickle. In March 2007, the last time there was no incumbent seeking the presidential nomination, 15 candidates had already announced, compared to just one (Ted Cruz) in March 2015.
Meanwhile, a dozen or so more would-be candidates continue to pull in greats gobs of money, outside of campaign finance laws, without officially declaring for the office. The charade is easy to recognize: A dozen non-candidates already have spent significant time in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first states on the nomination-process calendar. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has an office in Iowa. But he's not running for president? Not even testing the waters? Right.
Jeb Bush has pushed the envelope even further by creating a PAC and a super PAC. Super PACs may not have any coordinated connection to a candidate's campaign. Under the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, super PACs can accept unlimited money from individuals, corporations, unions and anyone else. So Bush's "Right to Rise" super PAC is collecting money hand over fist while Bush — who is not running for president (wink wink) — can most assuredly control how that money is spent. The non-candidate has headlined 47 Right to Rise events already, with five more slated this week, according to the Sunlight Foundation.
Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has listed campaign finance reform one of her "four big fights" of this election. Kind of ironic coming from a candidate who had the "Ready for Hillary" super PAC essentially clearing the field of other Democratic contenders before she even declared herself.
The influence of money in politics will undoubtedly be greater than ever this year. The Koch brothers have already pledged to spend $889 million to get their candidate elected.
Americans should demand an end to the candidate charade and a change in the system.
Fort Dodge Messenger. April 23, 2015.
National Debt is $18.2 trillion and growing
Within a decade, the U.S. national debt, now $18.2 trillion, will soar to $27 trillion, the Congressional Budget Office predicts.
Paying the interest alone on that will cost American taxpayers $722 billion a year.
Far from curbing deficit spending that builds the debt, Congress and the president are spending more money that we don't have.
During the first six months of this fiscal year, federal spending was up 7.1 percent compared to the same period in 2014. Deficit spending also was increased.
What's the answer? Some lawmakers say higher taxes are needed. They want Congress to approve $2 trillion more in taxes over the next 10 years.
Americans are being told we have to pay more taxes at the same time our government continues digging a debt hole out of which our children and grandchildren may never climb.
What will it take to stop this fiscal insanity? When will our federal lawmakers understand it is their job to control debt?