Sunday, July 31, 2005

Less Than Zero?

Less Than Zero?

"Close to a zero-percent chance."

-- Al Gore, quoted by Time magazine, on the probability he'll ever run for elective office again.

Happy Birthday Harry Potter

Happy Birthday Harry Potter

"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies.."

Actually, it's got something to do with July 31 being the birthday of one Joanne K. Rowling.

Parties Are Tracking Your Habits

Parties Are Tracking Your Habits

And the LA Times says the Republicans have the edge:

Both parties gather data on registered voters through public records such as voting history, voting registration rolls, driver's and hunting licenses and responses to issue surveys. Consumer data, often gathered from supermarkets, liquor stores, online book vendors, drugstores and auto dealerships and used increasingly in marketing campaigns, also are finding their way into the voter files kept by both parties...Where a voter lives, what car she drives and what magazines she reads are all used to predict her position on specific issues.

Bourbon drinkers are more likely to be Republicans; gin is a Democratic drink. Military history buffs are likely to be social conservatives. Volvos are preferred by Democrats; Ford and Chevy owners are more likely Republican. Phone customers who have call waiting lean heavily Republican.

What both parties seem to think is that doing this on a centralized basis is the best approach - and when it comes to buying consumer data there is an economy of scale. But when it comes to knowing the turf, the local quirks and organizations and habits, you can't beat going local.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Slughorn, Slytherin, and Second Thoughts

Slughorn, Slytherin, and Second Thoughts

There's some Harry Potter spoilers in here, but it's been two weeks. I'll try to keep the serious spoiling to a minimum.

Early in Half Blood Prince we meet Horace Slughorn, a professor Dumbledore coaxes out of retirement to help fill that recurring vacancy issue. (Defense Against The Dark Arts teachers have roughly the lifespan of Spinal Tap Drummers, though I'm not sure whether spontaneous combustion or having Voldemort sticking out the back of your head is worse.)

Slughorn was once head of Slytherin house, thus was once a Slytherin himself. Given that Slytherin's best known alumni are Lucius Malfoy, virtually evey Death Eater, and, oh, one Tom Marvolo Riddle, you'd think Slughorn would be mean and evil and nasty like his successor as Slytherin head of house, Severus Snape.

But Slughorn illustrates another facet of Slytherin history. He's a social climber, a backstage operator, the living embodiement of "it's not what you know, it's who you know." In short, a political schmoozer. He displays a slight prejudice against Muggle-borns, but nothing like the "m-word" vehemence of the Malfoys. And he immediately latches onto Harry, drooling over his celebrity and connections.

The Sorting Hat, voice of the Four Founders, NEVER describes Slytherin as "evil" or "dark." "Those cunning folk use any means to achieve their ends," it sings in Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone. That might make the Slytherins the Omega House in some Hogwarts meets Animal House sense, but it doesn't mean they're all the spawn of Satan.

Well, OK, Draco is... but perhaps in the post-Voldemort era (we hope), Slytherin will return to something no nastier than the bully-jocks rather than the Death Eaters Club.

Friday, July 29, 2005

KKK Turns Focus on Hispanic Immigrants

KKK Turns Focus on Hispanic Immigrants

Awful, of course, but the last quote is so bizarre that it just has to be propagated:

Former Klansman Daniel Schertz, a 27-year-old from the southeast Tennessee town of South Pittsburg, was indicted in June on charges of building pipe bombs to kill Hispanic immigrants.

Imperial Wizard Billy Jeffery of the North Georgia White Knights denied any connection to the bomb plot and said he banished Schertz from the group, but he readily admits he isn't happy with the flow of immigrants to the region.

"The blacks fought for their civil rights. These illegal immigrants are coming in here and having everything just handed to them," Jeffery said.

It's clearly begrudging, and in the context of bashing another group, but here we have props for the civil rights movement from the Imperial Wizard. Weird, weird, weird.

CAFTA Aftermath

CAFTA Aftermath

Good roundup and links at MyDD documenting the netroots rage at the single-vote CAFTA win. And the fallout is interesting:

Roll Call has a new report up about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D) holding an emergency meeting of the House Democratic Steering Committee tonight to discuss formal sanctions against the 15 Democrats who sold out their party and voted for the corporate-written Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Pelosi raised "the likelihood that defectors' committee assignments would be reviewed at tonight’s meeting of the Steering Committee." That's absolutely necessary - why should Democrats who undermine their party be given plum committee assignments over other, far more loyal and principled Democrats? Pelosi should be commended for her courage - and now she needs to back up her words with action.

Sirotablog states:

"All of these people should never get a red cent from labor unions or the progressive community again, and that goes even for the ones who represent marginal districts. They are the people who undermine the vast majority of honest/courageous Democrats who fight for ordinary people in Congress everyday. They are the ones who make it consistenly impossible for Democrats to deliver a message that they are the party that stands up for ordinary working people in this country. The fact is, if Democrats are going to be in the minority for the forseeable future, it would be better if these folks were defeated, because they do more harm than good to a party that desperately needs unity to let America knows what it stands for."

There's far more ideological cohesion in the House Democratic Caucus now than there was even 15 years ago, as the last generation of Souther white conservative Democrats has faded. But the netroots wants more, and isn't buying the conventional argument that anyone with a D after their name in a red district or state is acceptable. The counterargument is that such Democrats lite weaken the larger case to be made against the GOP, allows independent voters to be lulled into thinking there's "no real difference," and lets the Republicans get away with the fig leaf of token bipartisanship.

We're seeing the same tension in the Iowa governor's race, where Mike Blouin is premising his campaign on taking choice off the table - that is, selling out women - so that other fights can be fought. I don't buy it in Iowa - and I'm beginning to see the point nationally.

Loebsack: Making it Official

Loebsack: Making it Official


After traveling around the district and talking to friends and relatives and in particular after lots of discussion with my wife Terry, we have decided to move forward in this process. I will make a formal announcement of my candidacy for congress in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I will continue to visit as many folks in the district as I can and address as many groups as possible. It has been far too long since the people of the second district have had a representative who will fight in Washington for the interests of ordinary Iowans. Iowans in this district deserve nothing less than a decent job at a decent wage, health care that will provide more than crisis care, Social Security that will assist them in retirement, and a safe environment to sustain all of us into the future.

At this point, it is absolutely critical that you help on two fronts. First, this campaign needs volunteers in every county so when the time comes for canvassing, stuffing envelopes, getting up yard sign, etc., as the election approaches, voters will know what we stand for and why.

Second, none of this can be possible without adequate resources. And that means funding. The reality is that this district will be a difficult one to take back from the Republicans. The incumbent is well-entrenched and his reputation as something other than a real Republican needs to be questioned and countered. And now is the time for us to begin to reclaim at least one branch of our national government, beginning in the second district of Iowa.

Also, we will have to demonstrate that we are serious about this race and that there is the grass-roots and financial support to sustain a winning campaign. That can be demonstrated best by making a contribution early in the process. If enough of you give enough of a donation soon, success will lead to success on this front. And when that happens, our message will get out to the rank and file Democrats and others who need to hear it.

In the coming days I will be putting up a website where it will be easy to sign up as a volunteer and help financially. The e-mail address will be For now, you may simply respond to this e-mail to let me know how you will help. And checks may be made out to Loebsack for Congress and sent to P.O. Box 81, Mount Vernon, Iowa 52314.

As always, please be in touch with me if you have any questions or suggestions. And as always, take care.

David Loebsack


Friday Cool For Cat Blogging

Friday Cool For Cat Blogging

Two blogger traditions - traditions, in a medium that's existed for like, three years? - are Friday Cat Blogging (posting picture of your felines) and the Friday Random Top Ten (randomizing your iPod and posting whatever appears).

I'm fresh out of cat pix and I don't have an iPod though I use the laptop to much the same purpose sometimes. But I'll adapt these traditions and share some music that's not really about cats at all:

The Indians send signals, from the rocks above the pass
The cowboys take positions, in the bushes and the grass
The squaw is with the Corporal, She is tied against the tree
She doesn't mind the language, It's the beating she don't need
She lets loose all the horses when the Corporal is asleep
And he wakes to find the fire's dead and arrows in his hat
And Davy Crockett rides around and says it's cool for cats, its cool for cats.

The Sweeney's doing ninety 'cos they've got the word to go
They get a gang of villains in a shed up at Heathrow
They're counting out the fivers when the handcuffs lock again
In and out of Wandsworth with the numbers on their names
It's funny how their missus' always look the bleeding same
And meanwhile at the station there's a couple of likely lads
Who swear like "how's your father" and they're very cool for cats
They're cool for cats

To change the mood a little I've been posing down the pub
On seeing my reflection, I'm looking slightly rough
I fancy this, I fancy that, I wanna be so flash
I give a little muscle and I spend a little cash
But all I get is bitter and a nasty little rash
And by the time I'm sober I've forgotten what I've had
And ev'rybody tells me that it's cool to be a cat
Cool for cats

Shake up at the disco and I think I've got a pull
I ask her lots of questions and she hangs on to the wall
I kiss her for the first time - and then I take her home
I'm invited in for coffee and I give the dog a bone
She likes to go to discos, but she's never on her own
I said I'll see you later, and I give her some old chat
But it's not like that on the TV when it's cool for cats
It's cool for cats

Those early Squeeze albums are wonderful, and all anyone knows is "Tempted."

More trivia:

The quarter collection is now up to date with the exception of the just released Oregon P.

Since no other news organization wants to report on it this year, here's the results of the county fair mock election. Our first ever tie, though I'm guessing if anyone does report it they'll get it wrong and say "Nussle wins" even though it was two PRIMARIES and twice as many people voted for Dems. In case you don't know: if there's a tie in a real election in Iowa, you draw a name out of a hat or other suitable receptacle. But this one was supposed to replicate a primary and the rule there is if no one gets 35% you have a party convention. In any case I thought is was a surprisingly strong showing for Judge.

And if I ever get splattered on the side of a highway, please do NOT do this. I guess if it provides people some comfort, if it helps them, that's OK, but I don't get why anyone would want to remember you at the place where you DIED rather than at a place you loved and enjoyed when you were ALIVE.

Pretty grim for my first cup of coffee...

Thursday, July 28, 2005

US House passes Central American trade pact

US House passes Central American trade pact

The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly approved a free-trade agreement with Central America on Thursday, handing
President Bush a hard-fought victory in difficult times for efforts to expand global trade.

The Republican-controlled House voted 217-215 in favor of the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, after a final push by Bush and top aides to win over many reluctant Republicans.

Only 15 of the House's 202 Democrats backed CAFTA, and 27 Republicans opposed it.

Leach: Yea. Bush and DeLay can always count on Jim when they REALLY need him.

UPDATE from David Loebsack:

Indeed, when the chips are down, our incumbent congressman comes through for his party. This vote is just one more tangible piece of evidence regarding what should be obvious to all. Every day of this campaign, I hope folks will remember what Jim Leach said on election night as it appeared that Bush was headed for victory, "It's looking like a wonderful night for our party." (Reported in the Cedar Rapids Gazette the day after the election).

Since I began exploring the possibility of running for this seat, I have been calling for a moratorium on such trade pacts. We know the widespread negative effects of unfettered globalization. We also have enough evidence available regarding NAFTA to know that such agreements, while they certainly have their advantages and disadvantages for those affected, are very harmful to the average worker in all countries and in the case of Mexico, the small-scale landowner in particular. The predictions about such negative effects have come to pass.

Our incumbent congressman often refers to himself as an economic conservative. We know that those are in effect code words for his preference for big business and his lack of concern for workers. In that regard, perhaps one of the worst things about CAFTA is that it weakens labor standards in the region affected. And on the home front, Jim Leach recently voted for a series of Republican measures concerning OSHA standards that have the real potential to benefit businesses at the expense of the health and well-being of workers. (See votes 369-372 at

The CAFTA vote is, I believe, just one more reason why we need to replace Jim Leach with someone who will work every day to represent the vast majority of Iowans in the second district. A modern-day congressional campaign is a long and arduous task. I hope you will join me because with your help we can win and we can send a representative to congress who will vote consistently for the interests of the workaday citizens of the our district.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Casing John Roberts

Casing John Roberts

Will the Dems have the guts to ask?

As for Supreme Court rulings, senators should spend August compiling their short lists of cases to bring up at the hearings.

Here are five recent blockbusters that make mine:

GRUTTER v. BOLLINGER (2003) Justice Sandra Day O'Connor led four others in allowing the University of Michigan Law School to consider race in admissions in order to assemble a diverse student body. To agree with the four dissenters is to condemn virtually all race-based programs. It is also to minimize or ignore national reliance on Justice Lewis Powell's writing in University of California v. Bakke, an opinion 25 years earlier that embraced careful race-based diversity plans.

STENBERG v. CARHART (2000) In another 5-4 ruling with Justice O'Connor in the majority, the court struck down Nebraska's ban on late-term abortions. The Stenberg opinions reflect three distinct positions on Roe v. Wade: overrule it (Chief Justice Rehnquist, and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas); preserve it, but limited to its narrowest core (Anthony Kennedy); or apply its protections more expansively (the majority).

ATKINS v. VIRGINIA (2002) A majority of six (including Justice O'Connor) held that executing mentally retarded criminals violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The opinions assess the relevance of foreign law to constitutional rights, and they discuss whether and how the Constitution's meaning evolves.

McCREARY COUNTY v. A.C.L.U. (2005) Justice O'Connor joined four others to end Kentucky's display of the Ten Commandments in its courtrooms. To embrace the dissents is to abandon the requirement of government neutrality toward religion and instead to permit significant government promotion of Christian doctrine.

SEMINOLE TRIBE v. FLORIDA (1996) In this seemingly technical 11th Amendment dispute about whether states can be sued in federal courts, Justice O'Connor joined four others to override Congress's will and protect state prerogatives, even though the text of the Constitution contradicts this result. Questions about this case will test the nominee's commitment to carefully following the literal text of the constitution.

If senators cannot unearth and examine Judge Roberts's specific views about these and other actual cases, we might as well not waste time on a hearing.

GM crops created superweed, say scientists

GM crops created superweed, say scientists

From the UK, of course. Think the people against genetically modified crops are paranoid? Check it out:

"Modified genes from crops in a GM crop trial have transferred into local wild plants, creating a form of herbicide-resistant 'superweed', the Guardian can reveal.

The cross-fertilisation between GM oilseed rape, a brassica, and a distantly related plant, charlock, had been discounted as virtually impossible by scientists with the environment department. It was found during a follow up to the government's three-year trials of GM crops which ended two years ago.

The new form of charlock was growing among many others in a field which had been used to grow GM rape. When scientists treated it with lethal herbicide it showed no ill-effects."

Vaugely related aside: There's no such thing as "canola," it's a marketing term created because people didn't want to buy rape seed oil.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Gonzales: High Court Not Bound by Roe V. Wade

Gonzales: High Court Not Bound by Roe V. Wade


The legal right to abortion is settled for lower courts, but the Supreme Court "is not obliged to follow" the Roe v. Wade precedent, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday as the Senate prepared to consider John Roberts' appointment that would put a new vote on the high court.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Gonzales said a justice does not have to follow a previous ruling "if you believe it's wrong," a comment suggesting Roberts would not be bound by his past statement that the 1973 decision settled the issue.

2008 Roundup - The Democrats

2008 Roundup - The Democrats

Touch-all-the-bases roundup of the '08 field.

Iraq Constitution May Erode Women's Rights

Iraq Constitution May Erode Women's Rights

Why We Fight:

"A part of Iraq's draft constitution obtained by The Associated Press gives Islam a major role in Iraqi civil law, raising concerns that women could lose rights in marriage, divorce and inheritance."

Better than Saddam HOW? OK, maybe electron microscopically better than Saddam. But it makes you wonder. Thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis die for "democracy" and then they get what - an Islamic Republic?

Sure, democracy in and of itself is a valuable. But just as importnat are other, at least theoretical pillars liek equality and freedom and the rights of the minority...

Energy Bill Abandons Renewables

Energy Bill Abandons Renewables

Under-reported story:

Working furiously to try to strike a deal on broad energy legislation, Congressional negotiators on Monday killed two major provisions aimed at curbing consumption of traditional fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal...

Any way the Dems can spin this into a "real defense in the war on terror" issue?

Massively Mixed Metaphors

Massively Mixed Metaphors

"'Part of the problem [of the proliferation of Muslim extremists] is that Islam doesn't have a Pope. So there isn't one guy who can say, `This isn't kosher.''
--Newsweek columnist Fareed Zakaria, on the July 20 edition of The Daily Show"

The Dalai Lama and Archbishop of Canterbury were unavailable for comment.

Romney vetoes law on pill, takes aim at Roe v. Wade

Romney vetoes law on pill, takes aim at Roe v. Wade

In a written response to a questionnaire for candidates in 2002, Romney told Planned Parenthood that he supported ''the substance of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade," according to the group. Today, Romney describes himself as a ''pro-life governor" who wishes ''the laws of our nation could reflect that view."

Here's a guy who's clearly looking not to the politics of a Massachusetts re-elect, bit rather at the dynamic of a right-wing dominated GOP presidential nomination. And who loses? The women of Massachusetts. Go back to Utah where you came from, Mitt...

In other 2008 GOP news, Rick Santorum has bowed out - probably realizing he'll have a massive fight just to hold his seat.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Monday Miscellany

Monday Miscellany

  • It seems Stealth President Cheney has a plan to Nuke Iran, which dovetails nicely with Tom Tancredo's plan to Nuke Mecca.

  • Russia’s Biggest Spammer Brutally Murdered in Apartment, and some would consider that just punishment.

  • Things I've Learned From Blogging: not especially important, but I found it interesting.
  • The Big Labor Breakup

    The Big Labor Breakup

    Leaders of four of the country's largest labor unions announced on Sunday that they would boycott this week's A.F.L.-C.I.O. convention, and officials from two of those unions, the service employees and the Teamsters, said the action was a prelude to their full withdrawal from the federation on Monday.

    The schism is the biggest rift in labor since the 1930's, when the Congress of Industrial Organizations, which was trying to unionize mass production workers in automobiles, steel and other industries, split off from the American Federation of Labor, which largely represented elite craft workers. This week's labor convention here was supposed to be a celebratory occasion marking the 50th anniversary of the merger.

    This split has been a long time coming and was perhaps inevitable in the face of a changing economy. I think the issue is simply: do we want to play offense or defense? Does labor want to expand into new, traditionally unorganized areas or do we want to defend our status in industries we already HAVE organized, which often are dying smokestack industries? I suppose my analysis indicates which way I lean.

    This makes the University of Iowa's professional and scientific staff's imminent organization vote a critical first test of the SEIU/Stern philosphy...

    Kerry Sees Armstrong As a Politician

    Kerry Sees Armstrong As a Politician

    "I think he'd be awesome, he'd be a force. I just hope it's for the right party," said Kerry, an avid cyclist and longtime fan of the Tour de France.

    You can insert your punchline about John Kerry and the French here, but here's a tip of the helmet to Lance Armstrong. Best cyclist in the world, beats cancer, and he got to go out with Sheryl Crow. Life is good.

    UPDATE: Ron Gunzburger at Politics 1: "During his racing career - and particularly during the 2004 elections - Armstrong was very careful to never express support for any candidate or political party, or even define his political views beyond some rather vague comments implying he is moderately liberal on a few social issues..."

    In general, athletes lean toward the conservative, and I have a half-formed pet theory. Unlike other business, and unlike even other performing arts and forms of entertainment, sports is a relative meritocracy. There's a concrete and absolute standard of measurement: the ball goes in the hole or basket or net, you cross the finish line or goal line ahead of the competitor. And this may inspire a sort of social Darwinism among athletes (who at the pro level also tend to be wealthy). Sure, some competitors are unpopular pains in the butt (Randy Moss springs to mind) but barring extreme cases the player can get away with a lot as long as the winning continues.

    There's also the impetus of marketing, summed up in Michael Jordan's infamous quote when he shied away from endorsing Harvey Gantt over Jesse Helms: "Republicans buy shes, too." And bikes.

    There's exceptions to all, of course, as I remember caucusing for Bill Bradley (who His Airness did endorse, probably with a nudge from Bradley teammate Phil Jackson). And my dear father the Coach is a raging moderate who serves as my reality check when I occasionaly exit the cocoon of the People's Republic of Johnson County. But I think there's some truth to my theory and I'd be interested in the thoughts of my tiny handful of readers.

    UPDATED update. TIME reports:

    "Armstrong has hinted at a future in politics. He’s inspired millions of Americans to wear yellow Livestrong bracelets, so he has a base. “Lance showed everybody that willpower matters,” says Giorgio Andretta, a Charlotte, N.C. bicycle importer who traveled to the Champs-Elysées to catch Armstrong’s last win. And his home state of Texas will elect a governor next year. “Never say never,” Armstrong told TIME about his political ambitions. “I’m a fighter, and I do have certain beliefs. I don’t think I’m truly cut out for it, but if people want it in ten years, who knows?” Ten Tour de Frances, or Senator Armstrong in ten years? If we have to settle for elections, his greatest wins may still be down the road. "


    Saturday, July 23, 2005

    Coffee with Chet

    Coffee with Chet

    My connection at home is messed up and my ISP insists it's my fault; yet the is the second wireless network I've effortlessly connected to downtown.

    Chet Clulver was in town pressing the flesh in the early days of his gubernatorial bid. I caught him with a crowd of about 30 at a coffee shop and hit him up on the death penalty. His verbatim response:

    "I don't support reinstatement of the death penalty and I won't sign a death warrant if one reaches my desk."

    Nice to clear that up; I wanted to get that quote out on line for all the world since I had heard otherwise. But one tip to the staffers: Make sure, if you are printing a list naming prominent supporters, to proof it carefully. A couple "maybes" and, worse, one "no" slipped through...

    Friday, July 22, 2005

    Friday Afternoon Music

    Friday Afternoon Music

    I miss SIDES. Album sides. That 18 to 22 minute span of time that one half of a piece of vinyl occupied.

    My daughter makes fun of me for using archaic terms like "album" and "record store."

    I have it on CD now but THIS is an Album Side.

    Welfare Mothers.
    Sedan Delivery.
    Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).

    More on Muggle Prime Ministers

    More on Muggle Prime Ministers

    Question Time yesterday:

    Miss Anne Begg (Aberdeen, South) (Lab): Now that the summer recess is almost upon us, will my right hon. Friend have time to do what millions of people did this weekend and read the new Harry Potter novel by Scotland's most successful writer? What would he say to people who have been critical of those books, especially as they have done more to improve literacy and children's enjoyment of reading than even this Government's excellent education policies and everything that I did in 19 years as an English teacher?

    Blair: The Harry Potter brief in my file is somewhat thin, which only shows that my officials' sense of importance is not what it should be. I was told by someone, however, that in the first chapter of the new book the Minister of Magic comes out of a picture to confront the Prime Minister. I am still searching for the Minister.

    Small picture, corner of the office, Tony. And it seems the Ministry of Magic's policy is "don't call us, we'll call you"...

    Mississippi Court Rules State Not Liable To Pay For Legal Help For Poor

    Mississippi Court Rules State Not Liable To Pay For Legal Help For Poor

    Speaks for itself: "The Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled that the state is not obligated to help counties pay for hiring lawyers for poor criminal defendants..."

    Muggle Prime Ministers

    Muggle Prime Ministers

    There's some Harry Potter spoilers here - but if you care about such things you probaably should have at least the FIRST CHAPTER done by now.

    When I opened up Half-Blood Prince and looked at Page One, I expected to encounter... well, Harry Potter. or maybe the Dursleys. I certainly didn't expect to land in the office of...

    Tony Blair?

    Being a geek of All Things Potter and All Things Political, I enjoyed the summit between Muggle and Magic politicos immensely. I especially liked the little dig at Blair's distaste for "the President of a distant land." But then I looked at the timeline and I need to tweak Rowling a little.

    The exact timeline really isn't all that important to the saga of The Boy Who Lived, but fan communities do this kind of thing. The one firm date that sets the timeline is October 31, 1992: the date of Nearly Headless Nick's Deathday Party (that's what ghosts have instead of birthday parties) in Chamber of Secrets. This establishes July 31, 1980 as Harry's date of birth, and October 31, 1981 as the date of James and Lily Potter's death and Voldemort's fall.

    So the events of Half-Blood Prince take place in 1996-97, and that makes the Muggle Prime Minister NOT Tony Blair, but John Major. And here's where the wonderful fantasy of Rowling's world doesn't match the mundane realities of British Muggle Politics.

    Cornelius Fudge recalls the reaction of the previous Prime Minister on the revelation of the wizarding world. But Rowling uses the word "he" when of course Major's predecessor was my least favorite redhead, Margaret Thatcher. (Speaking of redheads, Harry seems to share my tastes - but read on.) Further, as established in Goblet of Fire, Fudge takes office after the trial of Barty Crouch Jr., which is AFTER the 1981 fall of Voldemort. This means that Fudge's predecessor would have been the one to reveal the existence of the magical world to Thatcher, and Fudge's introduction to Thatcher would have been less shocking since she had already met the previous Minister of Magic, Millicent Bagnold (also a woman; interesting) in 1979.

    (Update: Fan timelines have the Bagnold to Fudge transition in 1990; the Thatcher-Major switch was in very late 1990.)

    The Muggle Prime Minister recalls that his first meeting with Fudge occured after an election, when of course John Major took office not upon an election but following an intra-party leadership fight.

    The question I have left is: what happens to the outgoing Prime Minister after a change of Muggle government? Does someone perform a memory charm and erase her or his knowledge of the magical world?

    The timeline also means that the President subtly derided by Rowling is not Dubya, but Clinton. Needless to say, I prefer to think of Blair and Bush.

    I am SUCH a geek. It's only a children's book... It's only a children's book... It's only a children's book...

    Friday Farm Report

    Friday Farm Report

    No fresh cat pics so you get the Smallest Fram update. Not much change since the last: the pole beans continue to grow tall and sturdy vines but no blossoms yet. Can't determine if the problem is not enough sun or not enough water; yesterday's rain should sort that out. The weeds are at last under contol and the Wisconsin transplants are thriving and spreading.

    Patriot Act renewed

    Patriot Act renewed

    257 to 171 in the House. Leach: YES.

    UPDATE from David Loebsack:

    To all, as you know, the Republican MAJORITY allowed this bill to pass without the necessary amendments. So long the incumbent is a Republican, there is no hope to change who determines the agenda and outcomes of the House.

    Also, I will in fact be declaring my candidacy in the coming weeks. I am now very serious about raising significant funds before issuing a press release. I hope all of you can dig a little (or a lot!) into your pockets and help me get this campaign off to a great start.

    I think this is the earliest anyone has ever started against Jim Leach. I know for a fact that he has already begun, as his fundraising reports indicate. I don't know what that means exactly (I spoke with him last Sunday at the Islamic Center in Cedar Rapids and he was none too friendly) but it does mean he is serious about a re-election campaign.

    At any rate, I would be greatly appreciative if you could send a contribution to me at this point (I will have a website up soon). Any amount would be wonderful but of course the more the better and the sooner the better.

    We can do this if we come together for an enterprise that begin to take back at least a part of our national government from the radical right of the Republican Party. We can begin this process right here in the second district of Iowa.

    Thursday, July 21, 2005

    Think Like Michael

    Think Like Michael

    As in Corleone. Whiskey Bar looks at the Roberts nomination and launches into a Godfather riff:

    The Dems don't want to be like Fredo -- weak, insecure and eager to earn the good will of people who are inevitably going to be enemies of "the family." (That's where too many of them are at now.)

    They shouldn't be like Sonny -- impulsive, emotional and a few quarts short of a full crankcase. Shrub is like that and it's usually what gets him into trouble. ("Bring 'em on!")

    The Dems need to try to be more like Michael -- cool, analytical and totally pragmatic. "It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business."

    So where's Tom Hagen? One would think the family lawyer would have some thoughts on the Supreme Court...

    Women turn up heat to beat the freeze

    Women turn up heat to beat the freeze

    From the men are from Mars women are from Venus department. It seems men dress for the Martian climate even when the weather is Mercurial:

    Don't run your dishwasher during the day, authorities advise. Lower the thermostat. Keep your curtains drawn. In all that energy-saving advice, they forgot one thing: Don't switch on that space heater.

    Ms. Godkewitsch, 32, isn't the only one in her office to use space heaters in summer. "Quite a few of us use them. All women,"

    Office air conditioning appears to be calibrated for men, fully dressed men, in shirts, ties, suit jackets, pants, sock and shoes.

    Of course, Amanda brought this to wider attention.

    Air conditioning cranked on high to drop office buildings to a temperature comfortable for men wearing enough clothes to stay warm in November is an electricity-sucking monster. Can you imagine how much more electricity they had to use just so the men could wear ties and the women could shiver all day?

    Most offices have some kind of recycling program going on with the blue tubs everywhere for paper to recycle. I don't see why there couldn't be a similiar movement to ban ties and jackets from summertime wear for enviromental reasons. If it were promoted like that, people not only wouldn't mind the more casual summer atmosphere, they'd feel down right righteous about it, I think.

    Cool idea (literally).

    Larson to bow out of Iowa Senate

    Larson to bow out of Iowa Senate

    Buh-bye, Chuckie:

    Sen. Chuck Larson, R-Cedar Rapids, announced this morning he will not seek re-election in 2006.

    Larson, 37, cited growing responsibilities in his job as general counsel for the ESCO Group, including the possibility of working overseas.

    Larson, who represents Senate 19, which includes parts of southeast and northeast Cedar Rapids, was first elected to the Iowa Legislature in 1992.

    And that year I knocked n every door in Hiawatha with our candidate, trying to stop him.

    Good riddance but I fear we haven't seen the last of Chuckie... in the mean time best wishes to Rob Hogg, the Dem in this race.


    Wednesday, July 20, 2005

    A toast for James Doohan

    A toast for James Doohan

    Preferably with some very old Scotch if you're so inclined.

    When the series ended in 1969, Doohan found himself typecast. In 1973, he complained to his dentist, who advised him: "Jimmy, you're going to be Scotty long after you're dead. If I were you, I'd go with the flow."

    "I took his advice," said Doohan, "and since then everything's been just lovely."

    And so it is today, as every obituary includes THE line - not even HIS line.

    The Canadian-born Doohan fought in World War II and was wounded during the D-Day invasion. He was enjoying a busy career as a character actor when he auditioned for a role as an engineer in a new space adventure on NBC in 1966. A master of dialects from his early years in radio, he tried seven different accents.

    I told them, 'If this character is going to be an engineer, you'd better make him a Scotsman.' "

    In a 1998 interview, Doohan was asked if he ever got tired of hearing the line "Beam me up, Scotty" - a line that, reportedly, was never actually spoken on the TV show.

    "I'm not tired of it at all," he replied. "Good gracious, it's been said to me for just about 31 years. I hear it from just about everybody. It's been fun."

    It was fun to watch, too. Thanks, Jimmy - you meant a lot to one geeky pre-teen, racing home afer school to catch the Enterprise's latest adventures. Favorite Scotty moment: "The Trouble With Tribbles," when he stops Chekov from fighting while the Klingons insult Captain Kirk, but then throws the first punch when they call the Enterprise a "garbage scow."

    I think the line got reversed and was originally "Scotty, beam me up."

    Rhetorically speaking: Roberts and Bloggers

    Rhetorically speaking: Roberts and Bloggers

    "Rhetorically speaking" is actually the name of the blog, where an interesting analysis of the initial Roberts React resides.

    The early responses at Daily Kos have been fairly moderate, focussing on his fitness to serve rather than his ideology... However, feminist and pro-choice bloggers have been rather less willing to extend the benefit of doubt.

    Feministing adds to the shared sense of dismay ('So pretty please take some fucking action and put a stop to this nightmare nominee'), while a host of other liberals instead worry that the Roberts nomination is going to push the Rove-Plame scandal off the front page...

    The Roberts nomination is going to tell us all whether (abortion) is going to have the support of the big liberal web voices or whether abortion law is something that they're willing to trade for something else.

    Flashing back for a moment to the discussion of anti-choice Dem Mike Blouin's campaign for governor. A friend asked me "is there anything the Democrats wouldn't sell out?" Now is the time to ask, and even if the battle doesn't look winnable, it's worth the fight.

    Uncle Sam wants you – even if you’re 42 years old

    Uncle Sam wants you – even if you’re 42 years old

    Sure to get buried today:

    The Defense Department quietly asked Congress on Monday to raise the maximum age for military recruits to 42 for all branches of the service.

    Under current law, the maximum age to enlist in the active components is 35, while people up to age 39 may enlist in the reserves.

    That age has now creeped above my own superannuated status! And if they'll take you as a volunteer, will they eventually draft you?

    Rounding Up Roberts

    Rounding Up Roberts

    Still reading up. Lots of commentary on the timing to push Rove off page one, but that's too obvious to even grouch about. Greatest hits of the blogosphere this AM:

  • Amanda Marcotte:

    We know that Justice Roberts will get voted in. But that in no way means that he should go without a fight. I'm an optimist. I say we have a basketful of lemons, let's make lemonade. This is leverage to expose the fact that the Republicans, including the President, are a bunch of far-right wingnuts who are beholden to Bible-thumpers who are single-handedly determined to ruin the lives of average Americans by taking away, first and foremost, the right to privacy that ensures that we can live as we choose...

    Bush the First appointed a misogynistic wingnut named Clarence Thomas, helping drive female voters into the arms on one Bill Clinton. It's worked before. Let's work it, folks.

  • MyDD offers a risky analysis:

    Roberts is a DC partisan political insider hack operative Republican. He's basically a politician that, because he lives in DC, cannot run for office anywhere, so he's become a political Judge instead, fighting to institutionalize the Republican Party within the Federal branch of the government. There's no doubt about it; but that also makes him likely to be confirmed.

    Being a political operative, Roberts might just calculate that having Roe vs Wade around to hoodwink anti-abortionists into voting Republican is better than overturning the right to abortion and seeing the theocons win, and the Republicans then lose their power.

  • Washington Post offers a Roberts primer: "As a lawyer in the administration of President Bush's father, he helped write a Supreme Court brief that said, 'We continue to believe that Roe (v. Wade) was wrongly decided and should be overruled.'"

    MoveOn's sound bite: "The president has chosen a right wing corporate lawyer and ideologue for the nation's highest court instead of a judge who would protect the rights of the American people."

    Right Wing News reports joy, joy. joy across the right side of the blogosphere. Power Line says "Pop the champagne corks, conservatives. Roberts is a fantastic choice, a brilliant and bulletproof conservative" and notes a Democratic weakness:

    "When he was a deputy Solicitor General is that in 2003, he was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the traditional training ground for the Supreme Court, by a unanimous vote of the Senate. So it seems a little difficult for the Democrats to go back now and try to resurrect these old issues."

    Instapundit notes that "Joe Lieberman put him forward as a compromise candidate who would be easily confirmable." So again Fake Dem Joe becomes the GOP's bipartisan fig leaf.

  • Impending Vote On Student Aid Ban For Drug Convictions

    Impending Vote On Student Aid Ban For Drug Convictions

    Had an evening of human being and local politics stuff and haven't yet absorbed the Roberts nomination. This story is easier to get a handle on over the first cup of coffee:

    The House Education and Workforce Committee will be voting today on an amendment by Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) to completely repeal the Higher Education Act Drug Provision. This will be the first time Congress has revisited the Drug Provision since it was slipped into the Higher Education Act Reauthorization as an amendment in 1998. Since then, more than 160,000 students with drug convictions have been blocked access to federal financial aid.

    Tuesday, July 19, 2005

    Can Hillary be elected commander in chief?

    Can Hillary be elected commander in chief?

    Interesting headline above, seen in USA Today. Not "President," but "Commander in Chief". It illustrates to some extent the barriers to women candidates - but in perhaps a larger sense it goes to the heart of the presidency and indeed the national identity.

    The implication is that the primary duty of the presidency is military, and by extension the primary function of the government is the use of force. You also see this in the use of the phrase "serving your country" as a synonym for military service. You don't hear, say, a teacher described as "serving our country," though one could make a strong case that educating children is a greater service than carrying a weapon and shooting it on order.

    We tend not to think of women as military leaders, though Joan of Arc might disagree. But we're asking the wrong question. It's as if we still envision the president as our king, Richard the Lionhearted personally leading the troops into battle. Any military thinking a president does should be strategy, not battlefield tactics. The personal scars candidates like Bob Dole and John McCain suffered were noble - but does it necessarily make either of them specially qualified in any of the non-military duties of a president? Or even in global-political type thinking?

    Soon post-draft era people of my generation will near the top of the leadership ladder and maybe then this false emphasis on personal military experience will end. Perhaps we will one day be a stronger country if we focus our identity on our non-military strengths.

    Weekend Weather Forecast With Gene Simmons

    Weekend Weather Forecast With Gene Simmons

    A recovering politician

    A recovering politician

    Quote of the Day: "I consider myself a recovering politician. I'm on step nine." -- Al Gore, quoted by the AP, saying "he's shunning politics -- and so is his media venture."

    Hmph. Gore as a twelvestepper is an interesting concept. As I understand it, one of the steps is to apologize to the people you screwed over.

    Still waiting, Al.

    Tuesday Headlines

    Tuesday Headlines

    Still getting up to speed but wanted to pass along a couple items:

  • Clinic bomber Eric Rudolph, so "pro-life" that he killed people, was defiant at sentencing: "Abortion is murder, and because it is murder, I believe deadly force is needed to stop it." Really scary if you follow the faulty logic; our own Taliban.

  • Grants for Gifted Children Face Major Threat From Budget Ax, notes the Washington Post. Back in my day, the "gifted" program was skippng kids a grade - which educators later figured out was really bad.

  • Condoleezza Rice seems to have some folks playing along with her "draft" strategy.

  • Supreme Court Watch all over the place - which when it hits may save Karl Rove's ass in attention-span-addled America. UPDATE 9 PM DC time tonight...

  • Monday, July 18, 2005

    San Diego acting mayor convicted of corruption

    San Diego acting mayor convicted of corruption

    New land speed record: "Michael Zucchet, who became interim mayor over the weekend, was found guilty of conspiracy, extortion and fraud on his first business day in office. He was immediately suspended from office, his attorney said."

    A Time of Doubt for Atheists

    A Time of Doubt for Atheists

    Redundant and Repetitive Headline of the Day...

    Tancredo: U.S. could ‘take out’ Mecca

    Tancredo: U.S. could ‘take out’ Mecca

    How not to make a good impression overseas:

    “Well, what if you said something like — if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites,” Tancredo answered.

    “You’re talking about bombing Mecca,” Campbell said.

    “Yeah,” Tancredo responded.

    Monday Catchup

    Monday Catchup

    Still catching up on reading the weekend news. My analytical skills have been more focuses on Voldemort's next moves than Bush's, though similar principles may be applicable. And Rowling gets a subtle dig at Bush into the new book, though not by name.

    But for now I've loaned Rowling's latest out to a friend so before I do the obligatory re-read I'll get up to date on Muggle news.

    Sunday's big news was fallout from Plame/Rove and I have little to add. Today this tidbit shows up in the New York Times: "The F.B.I. has in its files 1,173 pages of internal documents on the American Civil Liberties Union, the leading critic of the Bush administration's antiterrorism policies, and 2,383 pages on Greenpeace..."

    Saturday, July 16, 2005

    It's time to eliminate causes of terror

    It's time to eliminate causes of terror

    A leading Detroit imam condemns the London bombings and offers interesting thoughts:

    To win the war against terror, force alone is not enough. Honesty and openness come first. The double standard on democracy and human rights doesn't help.

    As long as Jews can immigrate to Israel by the tens of thousands each year while Palestinians stay hungry and homeless, I am afraid this will contribute to the violence in the Middle East and elsewhere.

    Harry Potter Works His Magic Again in a Far Darker Tale

    Harry Potter Works His Magic Again in a Far Darker Tale

    Lots of spoilers in this review - how the hell did they get an advance?

    I finished at 4 in the afternoon. Still thinking - and grieving someone special a little.

    Draco Malfoy Made My Coffee

    Draco Malfoy Made My Coffee

    I showed up at 10:30 and I was #225 in line. Must have been about 500 people there by the, uh, witching hour. Probably half kids, though few younger than 10. Maybe one out of five was in some kind of costume (not counting the giveaway Harry glasses), including a whole Quidditch team and a very convincing Professor Trelawney.

    At the magic moment (accompanied by a New Year's Eve style countdown) a Molly Weasley lookalike directed the first fifty toward the cash registers, as the local TV crews filmed. Number 225 was out the door by 12:30; last thing a saw was a young girl sitting on the hood of a car, reading by the parking lot light.

    Time to read.

    Friday, July 15, 2005

    More Potter ramblings

    More Potter ramblings

    Four hours to go and we're past zero hour in the UK; from the passage Rowling read at the premiere it seems Fred and George are making galleons hand over fist at the joke shop (look out, Zonko's!)

    The political bloggers are hetting in on the act today; Washington Monthly looks at the numbers.

    First, the increasing first run sales:

    And of course the page length:

    Pandagon: Your Harry Potter Spoilers

    Pandagon: Your Harry Potter Spoilers

    Jesse Taylor ruins the entire experience:

  • "Hogwarts replaces Defense Against The Dark Arts with abstinence-only education. Hermione excels at the class, but after she and Ron decide they're mature enough to handle the consequences of sex, she ends up preggers for the last year of school."
  • "Draco Malfoy is gay, gay, gay, gay, gay."

    Thirteen hours, nine minutes...
  • 264 percent interest for a loan on your old car?

    264 percent interest for a loan on your old car?

    The Register takes a look at the under-reported bad credit no credit issue:

    Consumer advocates say this is a loophole in the law that needs to be changed. "Car title loans are virtually unregulated," Coates said. "They have really pushed it to the edge with these."

    The bill Miller and others supported this year would have limited annual interest on car title loans to 21 percent. The measure, co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, passed unanimously in the Senate, but the bill was never considered by the House.

    "This was a bill that would have been no cost to the state and would have provided protections for consumers who are getting ripped off by these companies," said Bolkcom.


    Thursday, July 14, 2005

    Rove vs. Nixon

    Rove vs. Nixon

    Blogging (minimally) on the road today from the New Parental Homestead in Wisconsin. A couple stories stand out from the day:

  • My favorite is at Washington Monthly, comparing Karl Rove's leak with Nixon's stance when confronted with Kennedy's non-existant "missile gap" in the 1960 debates:

    Richard Nixon lost that election by a hair, and public perception of the missile gap was probably one of the reasons. Despite that, he never revealed — either publicly or privately — the classified information about Soviet capabilities that could have saved his campaign.

    Think about that. This is Richard Nixon we're talking about. His opponent was spreading clear misinformation that he knew to be untrue. And there was a presidential election at stake!

    Even so, he kept classified information classified and went down to defeat. Maybe this was because he took national security seriously or maybe it was just because he was too smart to use classified information in a pissing match. Who knows? By contrast, when Karl Rove was faced with a trivial piece of unfriendly spin that had no major consequences for anyone, his first instinct was to systematically call half a dozen reporters and peddle classified information to them even though he didn't need to. With no apparent qualms at all, he did something that even Richard Nixon with an election on the line wasn't willing to do.

  • Punchline of the day was at TalkLeft, noting Rehnquist's statement that he will stay on the job as long as his health permits: "with luck (although these are not the Chief's words) until President Bush surrenders his office. Send your positive energy toward the Chief Justice, and drink to his health."

  • Wednesday, July 13, 2005

    Gore dinner may signify return to political arena

    Gore dinner may signify return to political arena

    I thought he'd already ruled it out, but maybe that was my wishful thinking:

    The Davidson County Democratic Party is holding the first annual Gore Family Dinner later this month at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel.

    That’s Gore as in Al and Tipper.

    The stated purpose for this dinner is to raise money for Democratic candidates in 2006, but it’s also the first time we’ve seen Al Gore politically back in his home state in some time.

    Even though the Gores maintain a home in Belle Meade, Gore’s new cable channel has kept him on the move. The channel will be geared towards young people and will debut in August.

    But Gore’s name is already out there for the presidential election in 2008. Enough time has elapsed since the Florida presidential election fight of 2000 for Democrats to put it behind them.

    At the same time, Gore’s tremendous popularity is still intact and he would not be the divisive candidate that Sen. Hilary (sic) Clinton would be...

    I'd certainly find another Gore candidacy divisive - as in it would divide me from the Democratic Party...

    Nice to see that Al and Tipper's hometown paper can't spell HiLLary Rodham Clinton's name right. In any case she's a virtual lock on the nomination so I shouldn't waste much time worrying about Gore 08.

    But you know I will anyway.

    Patty Judge to divulge political goals

    Patty Judge to divulge political goals

    Women Winning (or not) in Iowa, 2006 Edition:

    Iowa Agriculture Secretary Patty Judge is scheduled to hold a press conference today at which she is expected to announce plans to run for governor...

    Things get more interesting in the wide-open `06 primary. She'll have some questions to answer on her environmental record, particularly hog lots. And though she's won two statewide races, her wins were down-ballot. Whether her rural background will play in Des Moines in a top of the ticket race is yet to be seen.

    Still, I'll consider her, which is more than I'll say for Mike Blouin.


    School Board: 2 Open Seats

    School Board: 2 Open Seats

    My fall looks more interesting: "Cilek said she thought it was important to have continuity on the School Board as it addresses ongoing issues, especially after incumbents Don Jackson and Lauren Reece decided not to seek re-election after serving two 3-year terms..."

    Harry Potter and the Wrath of the Vatican

    Harry Potter and the Wrath of the Vatican

    In a letter dated March 7, 2003 Cardinal Ratzinger thanked Kuby for her "instructive" book Harry Potter - gut oder böse (Harry Potter- good or evil?), in which Kuby says the Potter books corrupt the hearts of the young, preventing them from developing a properly ordered sense of good and evil, thus harming their relationship with God while that relationship is still in its infancy.

    "It is good, that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly," wrote Cardinal Ratzinger.

    His Infallibleness obviously never got as far as chapter 37 of Order of the Phoenix, in which the parallels to certain aspects of Christianity smack one over the head. Bet he never read C.S. Lewis either.

    Tuesday, July 12, 2005

    Thompson's Ashes to Be Blasted From Cannon

    Thompson's Ashes to Be Blasted From Cannon

    On again, off again... now ON again: "Friends and family of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson are preparing to pepper the sky with the late writer's ashes. His cremated remains will be shot into the air Aug. 20 from a cannon installed on a 150-foot-high tower behind his home in Woody Creek..."

    Women's Role in Iowa Politics Examined

    Women's Role in Iowa Politics Examined

    Mike Glover, the true dean of the Iowa press corps, looks at Women Not Winning In Iowa:

    There's considerable frustration among activists. Campbell noted that Florida has an older population yet little hesitation sending women to Congress. Nebraska and Kansas are rural, too, but have had female governors.

    "There have been women elected in far more conservative states than Iowa," Campbell said. "It is a bit of a perplexing question."

    "It may be the candidates," Conlin said. "It may be the right woman has not come along."

    I wrote about that very question in the context of 1992 and 1994, and never followed up on 2002.

    After the 2001 redistricting Iowa became one of the nation's hot spots. Because our districting process in more nonpartisan than anywhere else we emerged with four competitive races for five US House seats. In two of those contests the Democrats ran women - Ann Hutchinson against Jim Nussle in the 1st CD and Julie Thomas against Jim Leach in my 2nd CD. Both ran close. Both lost.

    Hutchinson had some problems with party activists. She had been a registered Republican until shortly before the race, and her primary opponent was former congressman Dave Nagle, a lovable rogue who had seen some hard times in a very public struggle with alcoholism. There was some resentment in the ranks that the DCCC was clearly backing Hutchinson over a former House member and party chair on the issue of "electability," and a lot of residual sympathy for Nagle who had lost his seat to Nussle when the two were paired in the 1991 redistricting. How much of this resentment was sexism, and how much was a simple matter of the two individuals? Hard to say but Hutchinson won the primary. A year later she lost her re-election bid for Bettendorf mayor. Nagle has continued to function as an éminence grise in the Democratic Party.

    I'm more familiar with the Thomas campaign. The party powerful pulled behind the scenes strings to clear the field for the Cedar Rapids doctor and the DCCC made the race a top priority. She was exactly their type of candidate - one who could raise a lot of money. It looked good - for a while.

    Late in the campaign the Iraq war came to a vote. Tom Harkin, who was also up for re-election, voted yes and party activists were furious. But Harkin was in his usual tough race and there wasn't an instinct to punish him. Meanwhile, the house leadership had the votes they needed and Jim Leach cast a symbolic no vote. (Iowa's lone House Democrat, Leonard Boswell, voted yes.) Thomas came out against the war, but it was too little, too late. I still remember seeing the trio of signs: Peace, Harkin, Leach. The punishment for Harkin was votes for Leach over Thomas.

    The DCCC also made the mistake of oversimplifying the race. They looked a party ID numbers and past elections for other offices and concluded that the path to victory was simple: just get out all the Democratic votes. Which we did, very well. But a quarter of those voters supported Leach, just as they have for nearly 30 years.

    Did gender play a role? I'm treading on thin ice here but I'm thinking of one ad.

    Leach has a hypocritical approach to advertising. The official Leach material is all positive and stresses "independence," yet he allows the Republican Party to do the dirty work. One party ad had a long, negative text about Thomas that I can't recall a word of. But the visual sticks in my mind. It's a slow motion clip of Thomas walking in a parade. Julie Thomas is a short and stocky woman. In her own advertising she emphasized her profession - it was always "Dr. Julie Thomas." Repeatedly I heard non-political people comment on her appearance in the Republican ad, usually with some variation on the theme of her body type and profession. Would they have said the same thing of a male doctor? That's hard to say, but I've never heard any similar comments about male candidates.

    I'll stick to the analysis that this defeat had more to do with the unique appeal of Jim Leach than anything else - but I still wonder if that one ad, and the underlying issue of the physical appearance of women candidates - made the margin bigger.


    Don't call Rove at the Congressional Hearings

    Don't call Rove at the Congressional Hearings

    The blogosphere is afire with Rove and Plame and various calls for various actions against the mighty Turd Blossom. But this at Talk Left has an angle that recommends restraint and patience:

    Please investigate. Investigate the entire mess, and start with the leak and move to Cheney's profiteering, and then to impeachment.

    But, if you expect any one to prosecute, do not call the target as a witness and make him or her testify and compromise any prosecution. Back during Iran-Contra, I couldn't tell whether Congress was handing Oliver North a "get out of jail free" card, trying to get at the truth to embarrass the administration, or both.

    In the modern term-limit turnover political culture, institutional memory gets lost. It's easy to forget that North got off on... perhaps not a technicality, but because of the exclusion of anything to do with his Congressional testimony.

    Rove is a tempting, emotionally satisfying target, but perhaps he can get us to the big fish.

    Monday, July 11, 2005

    New book no kid stuff for these Harry Potter fans

    New book no kid stuff for these Harry Potter fans

    Who can say whether Harry Potter would be as successful without those fans old enough to order a martini?

    Sarah Blair can.

    “Absolutely not!” says the 26-year-old Potter fan from Gladstone. “All the fans I know are adults.”

    The Kansas City Star has tracked down other weirdos like me:

    With childlike enthusiasm they stick lightning bolt tattoos to their foreheads, collect wizard capes and foreign-language Potter books and spend hours chatting online.

    This week is like Christmas Eve as they wait for the stroke of midnight Saturday morning and the arrival of the sixth book in the series — Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. You’ll see them at the more than 5,000 Harry Potter book-release parties around the world.

    An incredible number of adults come to the midnight parties, says Jennifer Pasanen, a Scholastic executive in New York City. “Granted, they are parents … but also at these midnight parties in the New York area we saw a lot of adults without kids, 20-somethings, 30-somethings. At one store the first woman who came racing with her credit card had to be 50.”

    More on the parties:

    More than 660 Barnes & Noble stores across the country will also host 'Midnight Magic' parties on that evening. Potter fans young and old will be treated to everything from wand-making lessons and face painting to live magic shows. In preparation for these parties, Barnes & Noble has:

  • Purchased one million commemorative Harry Potter bracelets.
  • Printed one million in-store posters.
  • Purchased one million pairs of Harry Potter glasses.
  • Inked one million temporary lightning bolt tattoos.
  • Plucked 370,000 feathers.
  • Rounded up numerous live owls, snakes and magical critters.

  • Hopefully the magical creatures do not include blast-ended skrewts.

    Barnes & Noble expects:

  • 375,000 magic wands to be made.
  • 250,000 children to take home a photo of themselves with Harry Potter.
  • 100,000 chocolate chip cookies to be sold.

    Well, at least I have the excuse of being a dad so I can say the glasses are "for my daughter" (though, with my green eyes, they WOULD look pretty sharp...) But I get to read the book first. And maybe I'll have a cookie.

    So all this begs the question: why, Deeth, why? And the only answer I can think of is I always wanted to believe in magic. Sure, the marketing is overblown and overwhelming - but it's also very easy to forget once you open the book. And Jo Rowling, who in this day and age has made millions of children want to read, is truly a powerful magician.
  • Israel Cabinet Endorses Jerusalem Barrier

    Israel Cabinet Endorses Jerusalem Barrier

    Israel's Cabinet on Sunday affirmed a plan to surround Jerusalem with a barrier, despite protests by Palestinians, who say the Israelis are unilaterally redrawing the disputed city's boundaries and shifting its demographic balance in favor of Jews.

    The Israeli ministers acknowledged about 55,000 Palestinian residents in four neighborhoods will eventually be cut off from their city by the separation barrier...

    It's eerie and creepy how much Israel doesn't get how the symbolism of the wall recalls the most enduring image of the Cold War. Or the primitive, medieval image of a walled city. Or (channeling Pink Floyd for a moment) how a wall isolates you from the rest of the world.

    UPDATE: Washington Post quotes an Israeli Cabinet minister saying the wall is meant to ensure a Jewish majority in the city and not just serve as a buffer against bombers:

    Besides keeping suicide bombers out, the route of the barrier "also makes Jerusalem more Jewish," said Haim Ramon, the minister in charge of Jerusalem. "The safer and more Jewish Jerusalem will be, it can serve as a true capital of the state of Israel."

    Michigan Governor's Race a "Free For All"?

    Michigan Governor's Race a "Free For All"?

    The politics of celebrity takes a double-live-gonzo turn:

    Motor City madman Ted Nugent continues to stoke speculation that he'll attempt to unseat Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm next year, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.

    He is ''getting real close to deciding to run,'' the rocker and hunting advocate told The Corpus Christi Caller-Times in an interview published Friday.

    The guitarist and author of Kill It and Grill It said he'll make his decision ``in the next few weeks. That will blow some minds.''

    A vocal advocate of the NRA and staunch Republican, Nugent raised eyebrows in April when he made a gung-ho speech at the organization's annual convention.

    At the convention, the rocker said, ``To show you how radical I am, I want carjackers dead. I want rapists dead. I want burglars dead. I want child molesters dead. I want the bad guys dead. No court case. No parole. No early release. I want 'em dead. Get a gun and when they attack you, shoot 'em.''

    The Detroit Free Press
    reports Granholm leading likely Republican opponent Dick DeVos 51-33.

    Monday Morning Farm Report

    Monday Morning Farm Report

    Pole bean futures are climbing on the Smallest Farm as the first tendrils climb over the top of the teepee (8 feet). No blossoms sighted yet. Unfortunately the weed crop is also doing well, led by grass and trash tree sprouts. The transplanted mint from the original parental homestead has settled in nicely and looks likely to establish itself as a perennial.

    The catnip is growing nicely too and some of it will be harvested today in honor of the 8th birthday of Original Cats Butt(er)(scotch) and Spot.

    The B-52s saved me from dorkitude

    Pandagon: The B-52s saved me from dorkitude

    Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon strikes again.

    I didn't know their entire story then--I didn't know about how they were just jamming and having fun and how Ricky Wilson played on a Sears Silvertone and how they got swept into the New York scene and how they inspired John Lennon to get back into writing music and how Ricky, whose underrated guitar work was the backbone of the band, died of AIDS and how their popularity on the mainstream charts came after they lost his brillance or anything like that. If I had known those things, maybe I wouldn't have learned the prejudice that was hard to unwind that bands peak early and decline. Who knows what they would have been, after all, if Ricky had lived? But I did learn something that would fuck me up from then on--I related to the B-52s, which made me a weirdo and I would never, ever fit in.

    They taught me about being weird, being yourself. They encouraged my ongoing love of female vocalists. They taught me that not everyone who deserves accolades will get them. They even taught me about how homophobia and sexism will marginalize some of the best musicians out there. They taught me that it's important to dig and not just accept what's spoonfed to you.

    Here comes a bikini whale! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

    For me it was the Clash, but I can relate.

    The B-52s played Saturday Night Live my junior year of high school - Rock Lobster and Dance This Mess Around. I can still see Fred pounding on that toy piano on a stick. After that our class was divided into two camps - the minority of us who thought the B52s were cool, and the majority who thought they sucked (I think the actual word used was "queer", then as now a catchall term of derogation). The first B-52s album was the first record I ever taped on my first real stereo.

    The Love Shack era Second Coming was a decade later and I was in grad school, and EVERYONE thought they were cool. But some of us had already known that for a long time.

    Sunday, July 10, 2005

    Cellphone Numbers Overtake Land Lines

    Cellphone Numbers Overtake Land Lines

    I'm no longer trendy:

    The number of mobile-phone users in the U.S. surpassed the number of conventional land-based phone lines in the second half of 2004, the government said Friday.

    By the end of the year, there were 181.1 million cellphone subscribers, compared with 177.9 million access lines into U.S. homes and businesses, the Federal Communications Commission said in a biannual report.

    About 6% of phone customers have cut the cord to go entirely wireless.

    Which I did nearly four years ago. Wonder how many of the land-line-lubbers only keep the wire for DSL purposes?

    Friday, July 08, 2005

    Dictator of the Month

    Dictator of the Month

    This page was so weird I had to share it. The Score Card Explanation page is especially noteworthy in a dark-humor way:

    Charisma/ Popularity with the Population
    1. Very unpopular- widely hated
    2. Unpopular
    3. Population ambivalent/ indifferent
    4. Popular
    5. Zealous following- demagogue status

    In apparant honor of the October revolution, October seems to be reserved for despots of the Stalinist ilk.

    This month's dictator: the wacky and weird Kim Jong Il of North Korea!

    Thanks to old standby The Dictatorship for linking to this.

    Tancredo peddling his message in Iowa

    Tancredo peddling his message in Iowa

    Tancredo is scheduled to appear at small receptions hosted by the Christian Coalition of Iowa in homes in Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls and Dubuque. In between, he plans to do interviews with the state's largest Christian radio outlet and others, and to meet with the man who once managed the presidential candidacy of Pat Buchanan.

    The trip is being coordinated by Buchanan's sister, Angela "Bay" Buchanan, who leads the Team America PAC that Tancredo founded to advance tougher enforcement of immigration laws.

    Don't look for Tancredo for President lit en Espanol...

    I'm surprised not to see Muscatine on that list. Having run for office not too far from Tancredo's stops, I can assure you that nativist sentiment runs deep and strong among Iowa Republicans in the eastern Iowa meat-packing belt.

    The Buchanan connection is also interesting. Buchanan came very close to winning the 1996 caucuses, and indeed would have upset Dole had not the leading fundamentalist minister in Cedar Rapids endorsed Alan Keyes instead. Keyes wound up winning Linn County and little else.

    In a splintered field with no clear front runner, Tancredo could have a strong surprise showing and accomplish his goal of forcing the eventual GOP nominee to take an explicitly anti-immigrant stance. That would be an open repudiation of W's attempts to woo the Hispanic vote, and a great opportunity for Democrats.

    However, I'd still be ashamed if Iowa made that kind of statement.

    By the way, check the photo credit on the story: Barry Gutierrez.


    Friday Cat Blogging

    Friday Cat Blogging

    Xavier The Cat With Bad Behavior lounges on top of my desk. In other feline news, original cats Butter and Spot have their 8th birthday Monday. I'll need to pick some catnip from the Smallest Farm.

    The Smallest Farm (40 Square Feet and a Mule) is growing a thriving crop. Unfortunately, the sprouts I thought were wildflowers turned out to be mostly grass, so weeding is intense. The main crop of pole beans is nearing the top of the bean teepee. The Old Smallest Farm is winding down as the last peas have been picked.

    The choice is clear on Blouin

    The choice is clear on Blouin

    Newly minted gubernatorial candidate Mike Blouin spoke at our cnetral committee meeting last night. The questioning was polite until the subject touched on choice - and thank you, THANK YOU Regenia Bailey for asking.

    Blouin referred us among other things to this David Yepsen column. But push came to shove, and when directly asked "If Roe were overturned and the Iowa Legislature passed an abortion ban, what would you do," he dismissed the question as hypothetical and expressed incredulous doubt that the Supreme Court would reverse Roe.

    The correct answer, Mr. Blouin, is to say without hesitation the word "veto."

    Sometimes I wish our political system weren't bipolar. Sometimes I wish there was a party for old-school seamless garment Catholics like Mike Blouin, where they could have their percentage of a legislative body, and the majority of socially liberal Democrats and libertarian Republicans could keep choice safe legal and accessible. Then we could form a nice alliance with Blouin and his like on economic issues.

    But it doesn't work that way. And in this era, with the Supreme Court about to turn over, choice is a defining issue. I'm not a woman, I'm only the father of one, so I can't begin to speculate on the personal implications, the sense of invalidation at being denied the right to control one's own body. Those statements are best left to others.

    I am, however, a politician who specializes in counting the numbers. And an anti-choice Democratic nominee would be a disaster in this community. In a Blouin-Nussle race the Greens would get 20% of the vote in Johnson County, and Blouin would drag down the entire ticket including our local pro-choice legislators.

    There are some circumstances where I could, with reservations, support an anti-choice Democratic nominee for a legislative office - if that candidate were clearly better than the Republican on all other issues, if electing that Democrat would turn over a legislative majority and put pro-choice Democrats in charge of the chamber and the agenda. But with a governor, and the prospect of a Republican legislature, the veto pen is a huge part of the deal. So Mike, sorry but the moment you didn't say "veto" without hesitation, you lost me.


    Thursday, July 07, 2005

    UCC takes strong Israel stand

    UCC takes strong Israel stand

    Linking to the dreaded Washington Times, because I haven't seen the story anywhere else. Of course, they see this development quite differently than I do, and put the rebuttal before the statement itself:

    Jewish leaders condemned resolutions passed by the United Church of Christ that call for Israel to dismantle its security fences around Palestinian territories and for companies to use "economic leverage" to promote peace in the Middle East.
    The measures, passed by the UCC's rule-making body at its annual meeting Tuesday, seek to hold Israel to a different moral standard, said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He called them "functionally anti-Semitic."

    Someone make this guy write on the chalkboard 100 times "Opposition to the policies of Israel does not equal anti-Semitism. Opposition to the policies of Israel does not equal anti-Semitism. Opposition to the policies of Israel does not equal anti-Semitism..."

    Peter Makari, the church's executive director for the Middle East and Europe, defended the General Synod's votes, saying the church remains committed to religious dialogue and participation among Jews, Christians and Muslims.
    "These resolutions condemn all acts of violence on both sides and indicate a clear desire by the synod to end violence and promote peace," Mr. Makari said.
    The synod discarded a previous resolution endorsing divestment against companies involved with Israel in favor of a proposal to use the tools of "economic leverage" -- including divestment -- to promote peace, Mr. Makari said.
    Such efforts would begin with trying to persuade companies to stop profiting from conflicts in the Middle East. If that failed, church officials might sell stock in those companies.
    The second resolution calls for the Israeli government to tear down the security barriers around the Palestinian territories.
    "The wall has devastating effects on the lives and livelihoods of Palestinians," Mr. Makari said. "It prevents the opportunity for interaction for people who desperately want there to be peace."

    YAH! The guts to say "Mister Sharon, tear down this wall."

    Meanwhile, Israel has the chutzpah to ask US, that is U.S. us, to pay $2 billion for the Gaza pullout. Let's see: you're leaving land that belongs to someone else in the first place, and you want US to pay for it? (This story, of course, is from a UK news source.)

    Saudis warn of shortfalls as oil hits $61

    Saudis warn of shortfalls as oil hits $61

    Just what I wanted to read immediately after buying a car:

    Oil prices hit new record highs above $61 a barrel on Thursday, driven by short-term supply fears as the first hurricane of the season threatened crude production and refinery operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

    But private warnings also point to a worsening long-term outllook, with Saudi officials saying that the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will be unable to meet projected western demand in 10 to 15 years.

    All the more reason for my two point national security program: Manhattan Project of energy independence and get the hell out of the Middle East.

    Wednesday, July 06, 2005

    Law and Order: Special Nominations Unit

    Law and Order: Special Nominations Unit

    Life imitates Art imitates Life imitates Art... where did we start, anyway? Department:

    President Bush has named former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson to help shepherd his yet-to-be named Supreme Court nominee through the Senate, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Wednesday.

    Thompson, a Republican and actor on the NBC television series "Law & Order," agreed to accept the post in a telephone conversation with the president on Monday, McClellan said.

    Unfortunately, since he's only on screen about one minute per episode, this is unlikely to reduce the approximately seventeen times a week that some variation of Law And Order is on TV...

    Court Fight: Time to See the GOP's True Colors?

    Court Fight: Time to See the GOP's True Colors?

    Excellent post and comments at Washington Monthly:

    One argument that I hear frequently from moderate conservatives is that although they don't like the Christian right much, they continue to support the Republican party because they don't think it has that much influence. Liberals, they say, are just overreacting.

    If there's anything good that might come from the impending Supreme Court fight, it's the possibility that these folks might realize that times have changed: the Christian right is no longer just a bunch of marginalized yahoos who get nothing but lip service from cynical Republican leaders.

    We started to see that in Schaivo but that was just batting practice. This might be the moment where the fundamentalists overplay their hand and the whole Republican Party rips apart.

    I just have this sneaking suspicion - a hope, perhaps - that Bush will choose this moment to pursue his personal Grail. He badly, badly wants to win Hispanics over to the GOP. That's a flawed strategy, given the depths of nativism in the GOP base. But he's a true believer and might be blinded to the downside. The fundamentalists have made it clear that Gonzales is unacceptable because he's not a guaranteed vote to overturn Roe, and more and more broad hints keep popping up that make me expect a Gonzales nomination.

    Tuesday, July 05, 2005

    Daily Kos: How the Islamic crazies are like the Right

    Daily Kos: How the Islamic crazies are like the Right

    Just passing it on to my five or six loyal readers:

    Funny how the wingers try to claim American liberals are in league with crazy fundamentalist Muslims.

    Reality is, we hate everything Islamic fundamentalism stands for. On the other hand, the Dobson's of the Republican Party -- you know, the people running the show -- have far more in common with the enemy than they'd ever like to admit.

    The list is here; add your own!

    Monday, July 04, 2005

    If Ax Falls on Roe, It May Also Split GOP

    If Ax Falls on Roe, It May Also Split GOP

    Too risky, but something to think about:

    Roe's demise could transform American elections by crippling the conservative political majority that opposes abortion and by giving new life to hobbled liberals who support the ruling's preservation.

    But the prospect of progress toward overturning Roe — and the realization that President Bush could have at least two chances to make transformative appointments to the court — has exposed a disagreement between conservatives who want abortion criminalized and pragmatic Republicans concerned that shifting the issue from the courts to the ballot box would lead to massive GOP losses.