Do Gillibrand’s arm-wrestling and drag-queen moments help or hurt her?

Dear Friends,

[Check out the press release about Thursday’s Climate Bird Dog Workshop, below and at this link.]

Climate Bird Dogs video Kirsten Gillibrand talking about climate.

On this week’s Forum, Charles Goldman and I reflect on the Republican Party, which spends so much time pledging faux fealty to a strict constructionist interpretation of the US Constitution, yet has no problem with President Trump’s latest attempt to override states’ rights. Yes, by executive order, President Trump hopes to put the kibosh on states that refuse to allow pipelines to cross their borders. It’s too early to tell, but the courts may, again, put the brakes on Trump’s latest attempt to weaken democracy while rewarding fossil fuel giants.

Charles and I also talk about the ironic spectacle of Jamie Dimon (JP Morgan Chase), Ray Dalio (hedge fund Bridgewater Associates), and other billionaires who have publicly questioned whether capitalism is in crisis due to rising income inequality. Maybe a charitable non-profit can form out of this new-found empathy: Billionaires for the Poor. Any billionaires who follow the Fallon Forum are invited to launch the effort.

Relevant to income inequality, Charles and I also take a look at the various Democratic suggestions for making the ultra-rich pay a greater share of their assets to care for the commons. Most of these ideas, including those from presidential candidate US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and US Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), revolve around some form of a “wealth tax” — certainly a non-starter in the Republican-controlled US Senate, but red meat (or juicy slabs of tofu, take your pick) to Democratic caucus goers and primary voters.

Finally … Will US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) become the second presidential candidate to prioritize the climate crisis, after Washington Governor Jay Inslee? She seems to be hedging that direction. But will arm wrestling an ISU college student, swapping clothes with a Des Moines drag queen, and other spontaneous outbursts of genuineness elevate her profile or tank her candidacy?

Thanks, and here’s the press release about Thursday’s big climate event:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, April 23, 9:00 a.m.
Contact: Ed Fallon at (515) 238-6404 or ed@fallonforum.com
Contact: Samantha Kuhn at (847) 682-2924 or sam@boldiowa.com
(Visit www.boldiowa.com/climate-bird-dogs)

Over 200 sign up for Bold Iowa’s Climate Bird Dog campaign
Since January, Bold Iowa supporters have grilled candidates on climate

DES MOINES, IOWA — On Thursday, April 25 from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the Mickle Center, 1620 Pleasant Street in Des Moines, Bold Iowa will host a Climate Bird Dog Workshop. Participants will hear from Iowans on the front lines of the climate crisis and from Climate Bird Dogs about their experience interacting with presidential candidates (details here). The bulk of the workshop will involve a series of role plays, demonstrating how bird-dogging progresses from a simple Q&A exchange to edgier, more creative tactics — and possibly into civil disobedience.

“Since January, our supporters have attended dozens of events across the state,” said Bold Iowa director, Ed Fallon. “We’ve asked presidential candidates to make the climate crisis their top priority. So far only one, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, has done that, although US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) might be getting close. This week’s workshop will fire-up even more caucus goers to take aggressive action. We hope to convince every presidential candidate — Democrat and Republican — to make climate change their top priority.”

One of the front-line presenters to kick-off the workshop is John Davis, a long-time climate activist who lost his Hamburg home to this spring’s historic flood. “This unprecedented flood in southwest Iowa was caused by humanity,” said Davis. “As we continue to pour carbon into the air — causing an ever-increasing rise in temperature, particularly in the Arctic — more of these catastrophic weather events are certain.”

Donnielle Wanatee of the Meskawaki Nation will also address attendees. Wanatee was one of the first Iowans to speak out against the Dakota Access Pipeline. She participated in the Climate Justice Unity March in 2017 and the First Nation – Farmer Climate Unity March in 2018, which crossed the route of DALP through Story, Boone and Webster counties.

Bold Iowa’s mission is to build rural-urban coalitions to (1) fight climate change, (2) prevent the abuse of eminent domain, (3) protect Iowa’s soil, air, and water, and (4) promote non-industrial renewable energy. Workshop facilitators include Bold Iowa’s director, Ed Fallon, who brings thirty-two years of bird-dog experience to the conversation, and Samantha Kuhn, a Climate Bird Dog team leader.

# # #

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Most Recent Podcast

Featured

On this week’s Fallon Forum, Charles Goldman joins us to discuss:
(03:20) President Trump attempts to override states’ rights on pipeline siting;
(26:07) Divestment is having an impact!
(30:48) Even some billionaires have doubts about unbridled capitalism;
(47:22) Will Kirsten Gillibrand be second candidate to prioritize climate? And will arm wrestling and swapping clothes with a drag queen help elevate her profile?

All previous episodes are available here.

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Britain’s Anti-Extinction Invasion

Dear Friends,

[Check out Ed on Lee Camp’s show Redacted Tonight.]

At the tail end of a presidential candidate event recently, I ran into an old friend, a woman I’ve known since we were in college together in the 1980s. I told her I was encouraged by the candidate’s strong stance on climate, but concerned that it wasn’t their top priority.

My friend responded, “Climate’s not my issue. It’s maybe ninth or tenth on my list. I don’t have kids and won’t even be alive in another ten years or so.”

I was shocked. How could an intelligent, progressive woman who is genuinely concerned about human welfare be so dismissive of future generations? The exchange reminded me that our challenge is not simply to get politicians and the media to wake up to the existential threat of climate change. Our challenge is also to wake up our friends, families and neighbors.

A recent Extinction Rebellion protest in Oxford Circus targeted fashion’s toll on the environment. Photograph: Brais G Rouco/Brais g. Rouco

While Bold Iowa’s Climate Bird Dog campaign continues to produce solid results, it’s clearly time for a new level of agitation. The question I always ask when debating the merits of an edgy action is, “Will it bring new people into the cause or drive folks away?” In the past, I’ve tended to come down on the side of not wanting to alienate potential allies.

Channing Dutton

As Britain’s Extinction Rebellion ramps up its colorful campaign of creative nonviolence, moving from the streets of London to cities across the US, that’s the conversation attorney Channing Dutton and I kick around on this week’s Fallon Forum. Are shutting down roads and bridges, disrobing in front of politicians, blockading media conglomerates the kind of actions the climate movement needs? Does posing that question even matter any more? Is it time for an all-out assault on climate apathy?

Sheila Knoploh-Odole

Later in the program, Sheila Knoploh-Odole joins me to discuss pushing city governments to address climate change, since state legislatures and the US Congress are mostly doing nothing, or in some cases digging the climate cavern even deeper. For those in Des Moines, on April 22 at 4:30, come to the Des Moines City Council’s meeting where the Energy and Water Use Benchmarking Ordinance will be discussed.

Climate March reunion with Glenn Gilbert, Ed Fallon, Clifford Peterson, Lisa Peterson. One of Ed’s book readings visited Goshen, Indiana where the March came through five years earlier. Photo by Kathy Byrnes.

Also on the program, I talk about the recent book tour that took Kathy and me to five states for eleven presentations. We hated to burn so much carbon to fight climate change, but at least we were getting 50 MPH in Kathy’s Prius. It’s hard to measure the success of such a tour, but the following message I received from a young man in Pittsburgh was enough to declare the trek a success:

“I picked up a copy of Marcher, Walker, Pilgrim at your talk in Pittsburgh a little over a week ago, and I devoured it, and I’m totally floored. It’s wonderful that you wrote it, because it could inspire countless people to go many steps further than they currently do in the fight against climate change, and help them understand what that fight could look like. Also, fantastic writing. It’s filled with with deeply poetic and pointed passages. … Reading your book has inspired me to write about climate change and take larger strides in the fight against it.”

Onward! — Ed Fallon

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Farewell, LaVerne Johnson

Dear Friends,

Sadly, those of us fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) lost one of our strongest allies this week. LaVerne Johnson died suddenly and unexpectedly on Sunday. My heart goes out to his wife, family, and closest friends — though he will be missed by more people than he would have imagined.

LaVerne Johnson standing by his gate, showing me the intake that pipeline workers placed on the wrong side of his fence.

I first met Vern four years ago this month, when I walked the proposed Iowa route of DAPL.

Recalling my first conversation with Vern always brings back a smile. In the most calm, polite, Iowa-nice tone imaginable, Vern told me how delicately he had eviscerated the lies and empty rhetoric of the land agents sent to convince him of the virtues of running an oil pipeline through his farm.

Later, in response to pipeline workers tearing through his tile and then placing an intake on the wrong side of his fence, he took out a full-page ad to let the world know the kind of people he had to deal with. I believe the title of the ad was “You Can’t Fix Stupid.”

Vern and Ed in front of the DAPL valve placed on Vern’s land over his strong objections.

Some landowners opposed DAPL in the beginning, then buckled under pressure. Hard to blame them, given the relentless badgering and how quickly Iowa’s political “leadership” acquiesced to the company’s demands once they were bought-off with a campaign contribution or two.

But not Vern. Vern fought to the end the “sons of bitches,” as he called them in his ever-so polite, Iowa-nice manner. In fact, he’s still fighting. Vern is one of nine landowners on the lawsuit before the Iowa Supreme Court — a lawsuit that has cost Vern and other plaintiffs so much in terms of time, money, and stress. Hopefully, when it finally issues its ruling, the Court will understand the grave injustice of allowing eminent domain to be used for a distinctly private and destructive purpose.

As harsh as Vern could be with those who did him wrong, he was an impeccable gentleman with everyone who acted with respect and integrity toward him. The second or third time I visited with Vern, he told me we really needed a more lengthy, unrushed conversation, one that involved a mint julep. I told him I’d provide the mint if he could come up with the “julep.” I’m sorry we never got to follow through on that possibility.

Well, Vern, if and when I see you in that Great Swath of Cropland in the Sky, I’ll bring along some mint, if I can sneak it past St. Peter. And being a man of your word, I’m sure you’ll have the rest of the ingredients ready to go. It’ll be a good conversation, and one that we won’t have to hurry through.

Thanks again, Vern, for all you’ve done. We will never forget your commitment to fighting what will, in the annals of history, surely go down as a great evil foisted upon Iowa’s people, land, and water.

— Ed Fallon

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Can we have a little truth on socialism please?

Dear Friends,

Dr. Charles Goldman

The Goldman brothers (no connection to Goldman Sachs) host this week’s Fallon Forum. Writes Charles: “It’s now pretty clear that Republicans plan to have two points of emphasis in their 2020 campaign to retain control of the Presidency and the US Senate.

(1) They’ll protect us from the ‘socialists’ of the Democrat Party, and

(2) Their first order of business will be to pass the greatest health care program in history.

“Just kidding on the latter. Like Nixon’s promise to end the Vietnam War in 1968, congressional Repubs have zero intent to offer the American people a decent health care system. On this week’s Fallon Forum, we devote most of the program to examining the history of socialist movements in the US, assessing how socialist ideas led to changes in the role of the federal government and, in the process, saved capitalism. We also offer the Democratic Party suggestions on how it might answer the inevitable barrage of Republican dog-whistle accusations.

“Finally, we check in with the Iowa Legislature, to see what havoc has been wreaked to date and what more might be on the horizon as the session winds down. We’ll also look at how an obscure case before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission brought by, of course, a wealthy backer of President Trump, threatens to upend California’s ambitious carbon-free electric power goals.”

Thanks again to the Brothers Dr. Goldman —  Stephen and Charles — for an invigorating conversation. Hope you can check out the podcast, and feedback welcome.

Thank you.  –Ed Fallon

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An Iowa climate refugee speaks out

Dear Friends,

John Davis

If President Trump were, instead, Governor of Nebraska, perhaps he’d build a wall along the right-descending bank of the Missouri River to keep immigrants like John Davis from sneaking across the border.

John is one of many southwest Iowa residents punished badly by last month’s historic flood. He’s sorting out how to adapt: “As soon as I get my 90-year-old mom moved, I’m going to box-up what’s left so I can move, too. With my home destroyed, there’s just nothing left for me in Hamburg.”

The pile of destroyed belongings in front of John’s neighbor’s home. “I’ll have twice that amount, representing most of my life,” says John. “I’m looking at a $60k loss.”

John will probably relocate to Council Bluffs. In the New Climate Era, any town with the word “Bluff” in its name is probably a safer bet than living in a floodplain, low-lying coastal community, or fire-prone area out West. Unlike President Trump, John understands that climate change is real. He’s been talking about its inevitable impacts for years. Now he’s a victim.

Unfortunately for John and others, the government’s response has fallen short. “I’m not getting any help from FEMA,” says John. “They sent me a denial letter, reasoning that I can still stay in parts of my house and that I have flood insurance. FEMA sets up programs to give people hope, then crushes them with denials. I’m hopping mad.”

Want to lend John a hand? “Money will help, but people’s activism is more important to me,” writes John. That level of altruism is commendable. Still, John could use our help. Join me in pitching in here.

It’s impossible to know how many flood, fire, and food-shortage refugees there will be in the New Climate Era. Tens of millions will likely come from within our own borders. John Davis represents the growing tip of that iceberg.

Not that America needs another wake-up call, but last week, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released its State of the Global Climate report: “The increasing number of natural disasters and dangers linked to climate change represents ‘another strong wake-up call’ to the world, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said.” (Click here for full story.)

America Duran lobbying in Washington DC. She came to the US as a young child and has been living in Iowa ever since.

Climate change is the crisis that affects everything. EVERYTHING. It’s already impacting immigration. On the Fallon Forum this week, we dig into that subject with Jon Krieg of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Des Moines, who fills in as guest host. Jon writes, “America Duran, a young immigrants’ rights advocate, joins me on the program to report on her lobbying trip to Washington, DC. She joined hundreds of young people from around the US at a spring lobby weekend organized by the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

“America talks about new legislation supporting Dreamers and people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), as well as work to defund ICE and CBP, two federal agencies terrorizing immigrant communities with detention and deportation.

“We also talk with Erica Johnson, who directs AFSC’s Immigrant Rights Program in Des Moines. We discuss where Iowa’s members of Congress stand on immigration and how you can get your voice heard by elected officials. Finally, we look at legislation at the state level and what’s being done among faith communities to build the Sanctuary Movement.”

Thank you. — Ed Fallon

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Live from Gaza …

Dear Friends,

Steve King

US Representative Steve King (R-Middle Ages) just can’t help himself. King is, perhaps, the most honest politician in America. No matter how hard he tries, King simply can’t conceal the fact that he’s a flaming racist.

At a public forum last week in Algona, for reasons that boggle the logical mind, King couldn’t resist bashing the victims of Hurricane Katrina. He accused the mostly Black victims of New Orleans of wanting government to bail them out, instead of turning to their neighbors and helping each other, like the mostly White victims of the recent flooding that socked King’s congressional district.

Markalain Dery

It doesn’t take a masters degree in anthropology to read between the lines and detect the not-so-subtle racial bias behind King’s comparison. Again, I want to thank King for being the most honest politician in America. Well, alongside Lousiana’s David Duke.

On one of three topics in this week’s Fallon Forum, I dig into King’s most recent racist rant with Dr. Markalain Dery of New Orleans. Dr. Dery is an infectious diseases physician who owns and operates WHIV 102.3 FM. (Yeah, I know — an infectious disease physician with a sense of humor. Full disclosure: WHIV rebroadcasts the Fallon Forum.)

I also talk with Maria Filippone about the latest flare-up in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Akram Al Satarri joins us on the phone from Gaza. Yes, from Gaza — as Israeli missiles are landing within earshot. This was probably the most disturbing live interview I’ve ever conducted. I kept wondering whether, at any moment, we would hear a loud explosion and the end of our conversation with Akram. This is the frightening reality that the Palestine people live with constantly.

Maria Filippone

To be clear, I condemn the missile launched from within Gaza that struck near Tel Aviv. Yet the all-out assault against Gaza in response is completely unjustifiable.

Maria and I also discuss the political establishment’s response to Rep. Ilhan Omar’s — what shall we call it? — candid honesty about the plight of Palestinians and the insidious role of powerful lobbyist groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in contorting public opinion in the US. As with many issues, the old guard within the Democratic Party appears out of step with rank-and-file Democratic voters, who are increasingly inclined to side with Palestine in a protracted conflict that is further isolating Israel on the world stage.

Finally, we discuss the latest developments in Bold Iowa’s Climate Bird Dog campaign. So much is going on! I’ll simply direct readers’ attention to the Bold Iowa website for an update on our interaction with many of the candidates running for president. In particular, check out our engagement with Bernie Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand. To all who, understandably, feel despair over the worsening climate crisis, have hope. We are making a difference and, step by step, moving America closer to the decisive climate action demanded by science. — Ed Fallon

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The other existential threat

Dear Friends,

Climate change is an existential threat in progress. As scientists warn, we must act decisively by 2030 if we are to avert disaster — and possibly extinction. It’s encouraging to see more and more people waking up to the urgency of climate action. The ongoing School Strike for Climate is particularly inspiring.

Meanwhile, for more than sixty years, the existential threat of nuclear war continues to hang over our heads. Given the list of horrific near misses, we’ve actually been lucky. Yet the nuclear threat languishes on the back burner of both the general public’s attention span and the national news media’s priority list. That’s why the work being done by Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) is so important.

Dr. Maureen McCue of Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility

I was honored to have PSR’s Dr. Maureen McCue on this week’s Fallon Forum. (My other guest was Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie. Check out our conversation about climate change at the 2:17 minute mark.) Maureen writes:

“Now that we’ve survived St. Patrick’s Day, I again turn my attention to the growing risk of nuclear war. Why growing? Largely because President Trump’s bellicosity is taking us to the brink. Trump’s decision to pull out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia is a huge step backwards. Add to that his making nice with Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s dictator, his ignoring of the tensions between Pakistan and India, and his promotion of the myth that Iran may soon have nuclear weapons (even as he pulls out of our treaty with that country), and we have an escalation of nuclear tension like none we’ve seen in a long time.

“On top of that, President Trump is committing trillions of dollars to building more nuclear weapons that will only further destabilize the world. And I would be remiss not to mention his lack of attention to any of our real needs — like climate mitigation, environmental clean up, health care, etc.

“With all these actions by a president who seems remarkably disconnected from reality, we should pause to consider the risks to our future. One upcoming effort to work our way back to a saner, safer nuclear policy is the Nuclear Abolition Training scheduled for March 30 in Iowa City and March 31 in Des Moines. The events are open to the public.

“Climate change is being brought on by powerful industries indifferently heating the atmosphere. Nuclear winter could be brought on by an exchange of only 100-200 ‘small’ (Hiroshima-size) bombs. Further, if Earth’s climate continues to unravel, food and water resources will dry up, tensions will heat up, populations will move, conflicts will escalate (as in India-Pakistan, Iran-Israel, etc.) and boom, you have the kindling for setting off a nuclear nightmare. It’s all connected, and needs to be seen as part and parcel of the many myths undergirding both existential risks.”

Check out our conversation with Maureen at the 29:00 minute mark. And if you have questions about the trainings or the work of PSR, Maureen can be reached at info@psriowa.org. Thanks!

Ed

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This week’s forum smorgasbord

Dear Friends,

Dr. James Zogby

Dr. Charles Goldman is the guest host on this week’s Fallon Forum. Due to technical difficulties, Charles was unable to connect with Dr. Jim Zogby, co-founder of the Arab American Institute, to discuss the recent controversy over Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) comments regarding Israeli influence on American politics. Instead, we invite you to listen to Dr. Zogby in person tonight (Wednesday) in Des Moines, where he will discuss “Undoing the Damage We’ve Done Across the Middle East: The Current Situation and What We Can Do About It”.

Charles’ other guest on the program is State Senator Jim Carlin, Republican from northwest Iowa. They discuss some of the Iowa Legislative action not making headlines in the local media, topics other than abortion rights, Iowa’s purportedly activist judiciary, and once again fixing the essentially non-existent problems with voting.

Also on Charles’ docket: No, we don’t need a US constitutional amendment to fix the Electoral College. Enter the National Popular Vote Plan, an interstate compact, already enacted in 12 states that will take effect if it is passed into law in further states totaling 98 electoral votes. Should it be brought to fruition, the national popular vote winner of the presidential election will automatically become the next Chief Executive. No more popular vote losers becoming President (6 out of our 45 presidents) or “near misses” (4 out of the last 25 elections).

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School Strike for Climate!

Dear Friends,

Socrates was condemned for corrupting the youth of Athens. At the risk of being accused of corrupting the youth of Iowa, I ask K-12 and college students to join School Strike for Climate on March 15 … and beyond.

Alexandria Villaseñor, a 13-year-old climate justice activist from New York City.

All successful movements are built on a foundation of failure interspersed with moments of incremental progress. It’s important to recognize the seeds of climate action sown in the past. But with only eleven years to transform our world to keep global warming below 1.5° C, we’re beyond incrementalism. An all-out mobilization to fight climate change is all that can save us.

Who better to lead the fight than children and young adults — those who will suffer the consequences of our fossil-fuel addiction well into the 21st century and beyond. Tens of thousands of young people across the world have stepped forward to demand action. School Strike for Climate is one vehicle to further grow the movement.

School Strike for Climate in Great Britain

But, “Shouldn’t those kids be in school?” you ask. Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swede who skipped three weeks of school to protest in front of the Swedish Parliament, responds, “If you think that we should be in school instead, then we suggest that you take our place in the streets, striking from your work. Or, better yet, join us, so we can speed up the process.”

School Strike for Climate‘s website reads, “We, the youth of America, are striking because our world leaders have yet to acknowledge, prioritize, or properly address our climate crisis. We are striking because if the social order is disrupted by our refusal to attend school, then the system is forced to face the climate crisis and enact change. We are striking for the Green New Deal, for a fair and just transition to a 100% renewable economy, and for ending the creation of additional fossil fuel infrastructure.”

Climate Bird Doggers Sam Kuhn and Sid Barfoot question John Delaney on climate.

Yes, we are running out of time. Young or old, get involved! Strike from your school or job. Lobby relentlessly until our elected officials listen. Practice non-violent civil disobedience. My preferred strategy at this time: Join Bold Iowa’s Climate Bird Dogs to compel the presidential candidates to prioritize the climate crisis as the urgent, existential threat it is.

Through all of human history, there has never been a crisis such as what we now face. We have to look beyond the immediate challenges of our daily lives and focus on the frightening reality that life on Earth is in jeopardy. As Greta says, “[E]veryone keeps saying climate change is an existential threat and the most important issue of all, and yet they just carry on like before. I don’t understand that, because if the emissions have to stop, then we must stop the emissions. To me that is black or white. There are no gray areas when it comes to survival.”

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