Saturday, December 31, 2005

Rest Of U2 Perfectly Fine With Africans Starving

Rest Of U2 Perfectly Fine With Africans Starving

The Onion ran that headline three weeks ago. Ha, ha, ha.

Today, from CNN, we get:

Bono: My campaigning upset U2

Which makes the Onion that much funnier.

Without peeking, can you tell which quote is real, and which is Onion?

  • Bono acknowledged that his campaigning had sometimes "raised eyebrows" among his fellow band members.

    "When I do my rant on making poverty history, I have got Larry Mullen, our drummer, behind me looking at his watch, timing me."

  • Larry Mullen Jr.: "If I could wave a magic wand and cure Africa's problems, I would do that. But someone has to take care of the more practical, day-to-day stuff that Bono doesn't really bother with. Like, for example, how's the next album going to sound? How're we going to keep our live act fresh? I can't tell you how many millions of decisions go into making one Elevation tour."

  • Bono: "There was one point when I thought `I'm going to be thrown out of the band for this stuff. People just openly jeered, and I felt like I was a weight around my band's neck for doing this kind of work."

  • "I was happy to help out with the Live 8 thing," said Adam Clayton, referring to the July mega-concert benefit. "But ever since I discovered rock 'n' roll in the mid-'70s, music has been my passion, and I'd be lying if I said it was something different, like helping people."

    Clayton added: "I don't have a problem with [Bono] trying to save Africa. Who knows, it might inspire some decent songs. But just as long as it doesn't interfere with the band."
  • The dangers of random music

    The dangers of random music

    I have way way way too much music on my hard drive. Radio stations brag about no-repeat weekdays? I could do a no repeat month.

    And of all that music, what does my random function grab?


    Look, I'm a big Lennon fan, and I'm not of the "love John/hate Yoko" school. That's a contradiction and disrespectful of both of them.

    And I KNOW that the song is about her ex kidnapping their daughter. And the backing track with John and Eric Clapton wailing on guitars is pretty damn good. And some of her songs on "Double Fantasy" are listenable.

    But you know all those rants about Yoko's screeching vocals? They're true, and "Don't Worry Kyoko" is the definitive example.



    You get the idea.

    Yet in the true sprit of Random, I endured the whole thing. For the first time ever.

    Another year of blogging ends

    Another year of blogging ends

    New Year's Eve is my blogging anniversary, which gives me way too much excuse to think retrospectively.

    Yep, I've been doing this for three years now, and here's my very first post. I was on line way before that with a dreaded Personal Home Page. I even had a campaign web site when I ran for office. In 1996.

    But blogging, to me, is about WRITING. And in my third year of blogging I finally found a focus and an audience. Thanks to all of you who discovered me this year.

    Had one big victory in `05 - Amy Correia - and one huge defeat with public power.

    Slipped a little at the holidays but I'm in much better shape that I was last year. The bulk of the weight loss was in `04 but I proceeded from there. My biking peaked with 40+ mile rides this summer and though it remains boring and painful I've stuck with the weightlifting.

    This was the year my folks moved out of my childhood home. And I finally got my daughter to the family reunion.

    My material needs are all met for the first time in... my adult life, I guess, with the midyear purchases of the laptop and the car. Today when I shopped my only material need was a lightbulb.

    Bono was Time's co-person of the year, which feels like vindication to this guy who's been with U2 since War.

    Finally saw Garbage this year, and Shirley Manson is even more beautiful in person. Belatedly discovered Bruce Cockburn and Oasis in 2005. Was a dork and went to a Harry Potter party.

    Without question the best day of my year was July 9.

    Personally I've had lots of ups and downs; I'm on the down side now. I look back at the day I started this project and I'm much better off than I was three years ago. But I look back one year and something's missing. So for the year it's... a wash, at best.

    Friday, December 30, 2005

    Fallon: Get The Lead Out

    Fallon: Get The Lead Out

    Just an excuse to write the cute headline: "State Reps. Ed Fallon and Wayne Ford, both Des Moines Democrats, said the state should increase the amount spent on lead removal by about $1 million..."

    Raiding The Icebox

    Raiding the Icebox

    Invading Canada won't be like invading Iraq: When we invade Canada, nobody will be able to grumble that we didn't have a plan.

    It sounds like a joke but it's not. War Plan Red is real. It was drawn up and approved by the War Department in 1930, then updated in 1934 and 1935. It was declassified in 1974 and the word "SECRET" crossed out with a heavy pencil. Now it sits in a little gray box in the National Archives in College Park, available to anybody, even Canadian spies. They can photocopy it for 15 cents a page.

    Check it out here

    Support for IC mayor candidates unspoken

    Support for IC mayor candidates unspoken

    A little explaining for non-locals. Iowa City doesn't directly elect the mayor. The council chooses the mayor from among its members. It's a pretty weak position, you get to sign the paperwork and chair the meetings. Which can be important.

    The biennial dance amongst the seven voters is beginning:

    At least two council members — Mike O’Donnell and Ross Wilburn — are seeking the two-year appointment that Lehman has held for the past eight years.

    Regenia Bailey, who is supporting Wilburn, is the only one of the remaining five members of next year’s City Council to publicly disclose who she’ll support.

    That's two votes for Ross, probably three since I'd guess newbie Amy Correia will join them.

    I know who I probably will nominate. After that, I am just wanting to get someone named mayor and named mayor pro tem, and let’s get on with it," said Elliott, who declined to make his nomination choice public.

    So there's two votes for O'Donnell.

    Dee Vanderhoef, who is in the middle of her third term, said Wednesday that she considered seeking nominations for mayor but decided not to pursue it. She said she is interested in becoming mayor pro tem.

    Mister Subliminal says: didn'thavethevotes. I'd bet she goes with Mike as well.

    So that leaves Connie Champion holding all the cards.

    My support is going to Burgermeister Meisterburger.

    'Lucky' the cat saved by ice

    'Lucky' the cat saved by ice

    Haven't done any Friday cat blogging in ages:

    If cats have nine lives, a kitty here definitely has used one up.
    The house cat survived being locked in a cage, thrown off a bridge and stranded in an icy puddle of river slush.
    The ordeal ended Tuesday morning when a pair of passers-by spotted the calico cat while crossing a footbridge and called for help.
    Missoula firefighters arrived minutes later, donned wet suits and launched a rescue boat.
    Someone had put the animal in a cage, with a rock weighing about 16 pounds, and tossed it into the Clark Fork River. But instead of landing in the water, it bounced several times on the ice and then became stuck.
    The firefighters named the cat "Lucky."

    Authorities have warrants out for Bill Frist.

    Thursday, December 29, 2005

    Primary Colors

    Primary Colors

    A look at how Granite Staters are coping with the DNC 2008 schedule - or late 2007 schedule as it may be. Defines "diversity" as "a code word for diminishing the significance of Iowa and New Hampshire."

    Data mining for voters

    Data mining for voters

    One of those periodic database stories that usually shows how much more the GOP understands connections that are not ostensibly political, but are good indicators:

    "Lifestyle is what determines political choice. I would rather know where they shop, what they buy, what kind of car they drive, what sports they watch, where the kids go to school. Income is no predictor ..."

    I've got a half-baked theory that sports fans trend conservative, in a social Darwinist, bootstrap sort of way. Of course that doesn't explain ME...

    Wednesday, December 28, 2005

    How many football coaches does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

    How many football coaches does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

    Answer: One coach (or spouse) to hold the bulb and the world revolves around the Ferentzes.

    Instead of meeting Thursday to discuss controversial road designs proposed in the North Corridor, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors postponed the matter until after the Iowa Hawkeyes' bowl game.

    Supervisors had scheduled a work session for Thursday. However, during a meeting earlier this month, Mary Ferentz, wife of Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz, told supervisors it is well known her family would be out of town Thursday because of the bowl game.

    In pursuit of support: Crowded Dem field laying groundwork for gubernatorial bid

    In pursuit of support: Crowded Dem field laying groundwork for gubernatorial bid

    The Gazette runs a State of the Race overview, looking ahead to the Jan. 19 campaign finance reports. This link should get you there. The Judge campaign goofs up by not granting an interview - reporters hate that and usually find a way to get you back for it.

    A fresh-faces phoner for the Culver camp phoned me last night. That's two now; the Fallon camp checked in a month ago.

    Piracy is Progressive Taxation, and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online Distribution

    Piracy is Progressive Taxation, and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online Distribution

    Interesting analysis of downloading:

    Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy. For all of these creative artists, most laboring in obscurity, being well-enough known to be pirated would be a crowning achievement. Piracy is a kind of progressive taxation, which may shave a few percentage points off the sales of well-known artists (and I say "may" because even that point is not proven), in exchange for massive benefits to the far greater number for whom exposure may lead to increased revenues.

    Tuesday, December 27, 2005

    Voting and the feminine mystique - Opinion Anjana Ahuja - Times Online

    Parents of daughters are more likely to be left-wing

    British study finds link:

    The more daughters there are in a household, the more likely the parents are to vote Labour or Liberal Democrat. In an unpublished paper that has been submitted to an economics journal, the pair declare: “This paper provides evidence that daughters make people more left wing. Having sons, by contrast, makes them more right wing.”

    This doesn't explain ME, since I was a lefty long before my daughter came into my life. But I can see, as my daughter approaches voting age herself, that while my issue POSITIONS are consistent, the PRIORITIES are shifting. Gender discrimination and choice are becoming more central, more PERSONAL, to me. So maybe that explains the study.

    Monday, December 26, 2005

    National Roundup

    National Roundup

    I'm short on Iowa news here in Wisconsin so my attention is drawn to Herb Kohl's reelect next year: looks good unless Tommy Thompson runs.

    In Deepest Dixie, the Alabama Governor's Race Is Must-See Politics is a gothic spectacular, and in Mississippi the Senate seat might, inconcievably, go Democratic if Trent Lott quits.

    Meanwhile in New Jersey, new governor Corzine grandstands and refuses his salary, which means any furure governor of New Jersey who's not a gazillionaire is screwed.

    AIDS Chief: Drug Companies Won't Create a Vaccine

    AIDS Chief: Drug Companies Won't Create a Vaccine

    The joys of private sector medicine:

    In an unusually candid admission, the federal chief of AIDS research says he believes drug companies don't have an incentive to create a vaccine for the HIV and are likely to wait to profit from it after the government develops one...

    "The science is difficult, and the developing countries that need a vaccine most are least able to pay."

    Sunday, December 25, 2005

    Mexico Ends the Death Penalty

    Mexico Ends the Death Penalty

    Nice to know we live between two civilized countries:

    On December 9th, President Vicente Fox signed off on constitutional amendments that abolished capital punishment in both civil courts and military codes. Executions in Mexico have been suspended for decades - the last Mexican to be executed went before a military firing squad in 1961...

    Mexico still has 46 citizens awaiting imminent execution on Death Row.

    In the United States.

    Saturday, December 24, 2005

    The 50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years

    The 50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years

    PC World ranks the toys Santa will be bringing your way. The Walkman ranks number one - it may seem passe in the iPod era but the Walkman was the real paradigm shift, from a den full of records to mobility, from speakers to headphones.

    Friday, December 23, 2005

    Cooper Evans dies at 81

    Cooper Evans dies at 81

    Heard this on the drive north.

    A little before my time but some of my friends with longer memories recall the two epic battles in 1980-82 between Evans and Democrat Lynn Cutler, and his recast from hard right to moderate (sic) when the 1981 redistricting gave him Johnson County.

    taking off to the great white north

    Political news is sparse today and I'm hitting the highway later. So Merry Christmas; there may be dispatches from the road.

    Thursday, December 22, 2005

    Christmas for Jews: How Hanukkah became a major holiday

    Christmas for Jews: How Hanukkah became a major holiday

    Interesting article from Slate, dating back seven years, on how a relatively minor religious festival became a Big Deal. Obviously, proximity to Christmas is a major factor, but here's an interesting political subtext:

    Zionism, which gathered converts in the years before World War II, also boosted Hanukkah's stock. The holiday's emphasis on self-reliance and military strength in the face of persecution dovetailed with the themes of nationalists seeking to establish a Jewish state. The warrior-hero Judah Maccabee, leader of an ancient revolt, morphed into a proto-Zionist pioneer. At first, Zionist organizations used the holiday as an excuse to prod individuals to donate coins to the cause. In later years they packed Madison Square Garden for Hanukkah fund-raising galas, featuring such keynoters as Albert Einstein and New York Gov. Herbert Lehman.

    Bolkcom, Car Title Loans in Register

    Bolkcom, Car Title Loans in Register

    The coalition members also will aim at payday loans and inflated appraisals of homes, which can cause homeowners to unwittingly borrow more on their home than it's worth.

    The group took aim at title loans in 2005, and a bill that would cap the interest rate at 21 percent annually passed the state Senate but died in the House. Joe Bolkcom, a Democratic senator from Iowa City who spearheaded the 2005 car title bill, said he'll use essentially the same language in 2006.

    Rod Aycox , owner of LoanMax, which has operations in Des Moines as well as Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Sioux City and Waterloo, said he already has cut his interest rate in Iowa from 365 percent annually to 260 percent...

    Isn't that charitable. I also hear Tony Soprano is only breaking one kneecap instead of two these days.

    Not sure if the issue will go anywhere with the tied Senate and barely GOP house, but Bolkcom is keeping it on the map.

    Group Delivers Petition To Deny the Broadcast License of KGAN Channel 2

    Group Delivers Petition To Deny the Broadcast License of KGAN Channel 2

    Neat local organization that got rolling back at Swift Boat time. Channel 2 has run notoriously bad, consistently conservative editorials for years at the direction of corporate HQ.

    Aside, and not relevant, they also have the worst signal of any station I've ever dealt with. Seriously. My daughter lived within sight of the towers on the north side of Cedar Rapids for a while and you could barely get the station.

    Anyway, since it's not on their web site yet, here's the whole press release.

    Iowans for Better Local Television to hold broadcaster to a higher standard of service

    Iowans for Better Local Television (IBLTV) are gathering at the offices of KGAN-TV to deliver a copy of their Petition to Deny the License Renewal to Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The petition requests that KGAN-TV Channel 2’s application for license renewal not be granted until a public hearing is held to ascertain whether the broadcaster has met the “statutory public interest” standard.

    Television station licenses are granted by the FCC for an eight year term. The deadline for Iowa television stations to apply for license renewal was October 1, 2005. The public has until December 30, 2005 to file petitions to deny these renewals, or informal comments to the FCC. Thus, it will be another eight years before citizens have a chance to examine the performance of their local stations. According to IBLTV Co-Chair Trish Nelson, KGAN and its corporate owner, Sinclair Broadcast Group, have failed to meet the FCC’s programming and management standards required of all television license holders.

    The petition states that KGAN owner, Sinclair Broadcast Group, appears to have lied to the FCC, violates the FCC’s ownership rules, has a technically inadequate signal, fails to meet standards for children’s programming and does not do an adequate job of reporting local issues.

    “Filing a license challenge against a broadcaster is an enormous effort,” Nelson said. “We’ve met to work on the petition twice a month for the past year; we’ve visited KGAN nearly a dozen times; we’re recorded, watched and analyzed hundreds of hours of KGAN programming; we’ve read hundreds of public comments; many of us have even taken vacation time from our jobs to complete the project by the FCC’s deadline.”

    In the coming months the FCC will review IBLTV’s license challenge and report back its findings to the group. “If the FCC is ever going to deny a television station license renewal, this is the case,” IBLTV member Arron Wings said. “Sinclair, honored by Business Week as one of the worst managed companies in the country, manages to increase profits, while its revenues decrease, by engaging in joint operating agreements, cutting staff, and totally ignoring its statutory and moral obligations to the community. If the FCC won’t deny a license renewal for one of the worst television stations, and worst broadcasting companies in the United States, perhaps there ought to be a congressional hearing on the FCC’s performance as well.”

    Wednesday, December 21, 2005

    Head of CIA Tells Turks to Prepare for Attack on Iran

    Head of CIA Tells Turks to Prepare for Attack on Iran

    THIS story is flying under the radar. Apparantly the Turkish Press picked it up:

    Goss also asked Ankara to be ready for a possible US air operation against Iran and Syria.

    Analysis from and hat tip to (Canadian, natch):

    Goss and Mueller were sent by the neocons to shop around an “air operation against Iran and Syria” in Turkey in exchange for a hardline against the Kurds. As we should know if we pay attention, the Bushcons are playing by the Zionist script in an effort to balkanize the Muslim Middle East...

    A Christmas Wish

    A Christmas Wish

    Nagle: Iowa should join in primary fight

    Nagle: Iowa should join in primary fight

    Dave Nagle blasts Tom Vilsack with both barrels:

    "New Hampshire is going to do what Iowa didn’t. It's going to fight. It will move its primary in front of the new caucus state, probably a day after us. We will then need to honor our state law, which requires us to be eight days before any other process, and move back a week.

    We will receive heavy pressure from the governor not to do so and to honor his political manipulations the weekend of the vote. Fortunately, we will, by then, have a new governor in Terrace Hill."

    A must read for anyone interested in Iowa politics. Anyone know who Nagle likes for governor?

    The analysis is right: New Hampshire's fate and Iowa's are joined, and New Hampshire WILL leapfrog. I repeat myself: it all comes down to whether the candidates honor the official calendar or not.

    Tuesday, December 20, 2005

    SurveyUSA - 50 State Governor Approval

    SurveyUSA - 50 State Governor Approval

    Vilsack near the middle of the pack: 53%-39% favorable, ranked 28th. Others we may see come caucus time:

    7. Warner leaves office 66-26 positive.
    8 (tie). Long Shot Brian Schweitzer (D-MT)
    13 (tie). Bill Richardson, up 64-33.
    23. Huckabee (R-AR) 60-37
    32. Romney barely favorable, 49-44.
    36. Pataki even weaker, 48-46.

    Bob Taft of Ohio remains dead last, 19% approval. And Nebraska's Dave Heineman keeps a 63-24 favorable but is still a certain primary loser when Coach Osborne comes home next year.

    Boller leads Ravens to rout over hapless Packers

    Boller leads Ravens to rout over hapless Packers

    Hapless. HAPLESS.

    I gave up late in the third quarter; the Packers may have given up well before that.

    Bush Vigorously Defends Domestic Spying

    Bush Vigorously Defends Domestic Spying

    This is so big it's taken a few days to sink in.

    I've long said George W. Bush combines the worst of Reagan and the worst of Nixon. We've seen Reagan's oversimplification from day one; now we have Nixonian paranoia, a Watergate bugging writ large. We are all Daniel Ellsberg and our phone calls and surfing are our shrink.

    Without even asking, one instinctively knows that every prominent Democrat, every war critic, has a bulging file. I'm confident, after posts like this and this and this, that my humble blog is cached somewhere at the Department of Homeland Security (sic). ("Homeland Security" sounds so Third Reich, although Orwellian may be more appropriate.)

    I once said I would rather see another plane hit a building than live this way. I meant it then and I mean it now. (So add that to the file.) An open society is a risk. But the benefits of our openness far outweight the costs, even a cost as great as 9/11. The "war on terror" as it is currently being fought calls into question the very nature of our democracy, of our society.

    Yet Bush has the nerve to brag about it AND chide the New York Times for reporting it. I am reminded of a Hunter Thompson quote, which I cannot find at this early hour, that when Nixon looked upon an anti-war crowd, he did not see protesters, "he sees enemies."

    The war, the paranoia, the American KGB, the no fly lists, it all needs to end now.

    Double impeachment.

    Manhattan Project for energy independence.

    Get out of that whole part of the world including Israel.

    Let them fight it out.

    Take care of America.

    Monday, December 19, 2005

    Iran bans Western music

    Iran bans Western music

    Where have I heard THAT before?

    Alternate punch line: So now they no longer have both kinds. Inc. - The original online game that spawned the 2004 Toy of the Year Inc. - The original online game that spawned the 2004 Toy of the Year

    Just for fun. Spooky but it seems to work...

    Q18. I am guessing that it is Brett Favre?
    Right, Wrong, Close
    17. In your sport, do you require a lot of skill ? Yes.
    16. Are there different kinds of you? No.
    15. Does one bet on you? Sometimes.
    14. Do you throw a ball? Yes.
    13. Are you played on hard surfaces? No.
    12. Are you played on grass? Yes.
    11. Does your sport have a time limit? Yes.
    10. Is green a part of your team color? Yes.
    9. Is grip important? Yes.
    8. Do you use a bat? No.
    7. Are you larger than an average person? Yes.
    6. Are you a speed skater? No.
    5. Do you play alone? No.
    4. Are you from Brazil? No.
    3. Can you seriously injure someone? No.
    2. Do you use a ball? Yes.
    1. It is classified as Person.

    The Medical Malpractice Myth

    The Medical Malpractice Myth

    Interesting debunking. Thesis: "the real problem is too much medical malpractice, not too much litigation...."

    Sunday, December 18, 2005

    A late read of the morning Register

    A late read of the morning Register

    Not much blogging this weekend. My college roomie had to burn some use it or lose it vacation time and decided to come down from Minnesota to celebrate my birthday. Mostly this meant mallcrawling as my daughter and I finished our Christmas shopping.

    So in this token post I'm just now catching up on the morning Register where Rekha Basu all but endorsed Ed Fallon.

    Meanwhile, Yepsen parses the gay marriage lawsuit and his main regret seems to be that it will distract from his "eat your peas" issues. One insight I hadn't seen elsewhere: the timing is being driven by Chief Justice Lavoroto's impending retirement.

    Saturday, December 17, 2005

    State steps up efforts to keep our plates clean

    State steps up efforts to keep our plates clean

    I've always despised vanity license plates. Just a stupid egalitarian feeling that in some ways everyone should be treated the same. But I suppose if people want to waste their money, fine.

    What this article really needs is a link to the full list.

    And somebody tried the Beastie Boys bit:

    Hargis said plate screeners view proposed plate messages in mirrors or other angles to decode hidden meanings, having learned from a Black Hawk County case in which a man challenged DOT efforts to recall his ‘‘3MTA3’’ plate.

    I also recall a story, perhaps apocryphal, where a group of prisoners who were charged with making plates for Cass County, left the initial C off the county name...

    Friday, December 16, 2005

    SEIU endorses Blouin: WTF?!?

    SEIU endorses Blouin: WTF?!?

    Very disappointing that an organization dominated by health care professionals is supporting an anti-choice candidate.

    This is going to make things really interesting in Johnson County: a stronghold for both anti-Blouin sentiment AND SEIU membership... I have a bad feeling it's going to be deeply divisive within the Johnson County party.

    Hat tip - Drew Miller. This happened way back on Monday and I didn't know, so much for ME being in the loop.

    Nussle: $2 million for campaign, pennies for poor

    Nussle: $2 million for campaign, pennies for poor

    Two Nussle stories in today's Register:

  • Nussle has $2 million for governor's race

  • Basu: Nussle's budget sells out the vulnerable to benefit the wealthy
  • The world revolves around the Ferentzes

    The world revolves around the Ferentzes

    Or doesn't. But Mary thinks it should:

    The board took no action Thursday. But supervisors did schedule a work session to further discuss the issue at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 29.

    That date upset Mary Ferentz, wife of Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz, who said her property, along with Dooley's, would be the most disrupted. She said it is well known that her family would be out of town at the time because of the Iowa bowl game.

    The Newport Road folks are playing their ace in the hole exactly wrong by making Mary Ferentz so public. If they were smarter they'd be working behind the scenes, winning over the big-money movers and shakers who are big University donors and football fans, lining up some private conversations along the lines of: "If that road gets built our top twenty coach will go straight to the NFL, and if that happens my checkbook closes up." Hardball? Sure - what's your point?

    Instead they've played Mary Ferentz as a point person, and gotten some public backlash and resentment as a result. The Ferentz thing is a distraction from the larger development issues.


    It's official: I'm two whole people old enough to drink. Which, since I don't, is even less of a significant milestone. Though 42 is, of course, a significant number.

    Celebratory details, if any, TBA. Don't expect I'll get what I want, but at least I'll get what everyone else wants (bagels).

    The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything

    So, what's the question?

    Thursday, December 15, 2005

    Prairie Progressive Publishes

    Prairie Progressive Publishes

    The Prairie Progressive is a newsletter of nearly 20 years standing published here in Iowa City by the inimitable David "Prairie Dog" Leshtz. I haven't been able to persuade him to join the 21st century yet and put it on line, so consider this post one big hat tip.

    Here's the January 2006 edition's highlights:

  • Prairie Dog's annual honor roll, led this year by Gary Sanders, Wally Taylor and Stop Wal-Mart
  • A look at Democratic Socialists for America by Jeff Cox
  • County Supervisor Rod Sullivan on TIF districts; Rod's campaign website is dead but he has a nice weekly e-mail newsletter "Sullivan's Salvos" that I'll pass along next week
  • Brian Depew (`02 Green candidate for Ag Secretary) on Patty Judge's campaign donors

    To sign up ($12/year) snail-mail to PO Box 1945, Iowa City.
  • Former Sen. Proxmire dies

    Former Sen. Proxmire dies

    William Proxmire was the first person I ever voted for, in 1982, and he's one reason I'm against term limits. One of a kind, with his Golden Fleece Awards and his refusal to spend money on campaigns.

    Mr Visible

    Sideblogging and a Meta-Post

    Traffic's been booming - all of a sudden I've become the Mr. Visible of the Iowa blogosphere - and I made a minor change that I hope makes the reading experience more enjoyable for my new regulars.

    Sideblog is a neat little tool that I used a couple years ago and have decided to use again. It's a little script that I use to post short headlines that are just a little off-topic - now that I seem to be emerging with a semi-consistent topic after three years.

    Don't worry, old timers, my charming personality will still shine through. Newcomers, thanks for respecting my ideas enough to stop by - but as usual insert the Dennis Miller disclaimer. Feedback welcome.

    Wednesday, December 14, 2005

    New dollar coins to feature dead presidents

    New dollar coins to feature dead presidents

    Putting to lie the Simpson's "Lesser Known Presidents Song":

    New dollar coins featuring all 37 of the nation's dead presidents will begin rolling out of the U.S. Mint in 2007 under a bill Congress is sending to President Bush. Four coins a year would be issued, beginning in 2007, in the presidents' order of service.

    Which means it'll be about 2016 before I'll have to hand back my Reagan dollar and ask for four quarters.

    None of this has anything to do with the movie.

    Ahmadinejad moves Israel yet again

    Ahmadinejad moves Israel yet again

    On live TV, he called for Europe or North America - even Alaska - to host a Jewish state, not the Middle East.

    In which case this moose menorah might be useful.

    Don't get me wrong, I've got some serious problems with Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial. (I also have problems with western European states that make Holocaust denial illegal - the best way to expose an idiot idea is to EXPOSE it, not silence it.) But amidst the rhetoric, there's a point to consider:

    Since the de facto raison d'etre for the state of Israel is the Holocaust, why isn't it the states that committed the Holocaust that give up territory for a Jewish state? And while we're at it, wasn't it the Romans who initiated the Diaspora in the first place? Doesn't somebody owe someone a piece of Italy?

    (Latin and French in one sentence. Pretty pretentious, no?)

    The first Jewish "state" (or territory) was the Jewish Autonomous Oblast in Siberia. Granted, that was a cynical propaganda ploy by Stalin, but back in the early days of Zionism, Theodor Herzl himself proposed a Jewish state in Uganda. Just like today, a very European answer: "we feel guilty about historic wrongs, so we'll give you a piece of someone ELSE's land."

    All this reduces the argument to the absurd.

    Which is my point. I really have no right to have any say over this unless I book the next flight back to Sweden. There have been a lot of holocausts and my ancestors are responsible for some. But I'm not doing that. Some historic wrongs can't be fully corrected or atoned. They must be acknowledged, and never forgotten. But trying to make up for it with land just creates new injustices. My consistent belief is that people should be able to live and work where they want, in equality under the law, whether they're Jewish, Muslim, or even Mexican (a whole 'nother set of issues...)

    Johnson County Development: Three Front War; Statewide Ripple Effect in `06?

    Johnson County Development: Three Front War

    Statewide Ripple Effect in `06?

    It took me a few years in local politics to figure it out, but development fights are the nastiest, because that's where the money is.

    Last night the planets aligned to give us three simultaneous battles:

  • In the county, the fight over expanding Newport Road, complete with "Don't Tread On Me" flags and the celebrity clout of Mary ("Hi, I'm Kirk's wife") Ferentz

  • The high/low drama of the North Liberty City Council and its "who's the mayor" fight. One point the press gets wrong: whether or not the election had been challenged, James Wozniak would NOT have been serving on the council at last night's meeting. The mayor is vacant so the mayor-elect would have taken office right away. And since mayor-maybe-elect David Franker was an appointed council member, he was immediately replaced by the top vote getter Gerry Kuhl. But Rob Gardiner's council term runs through the end of the year, even though he was maybe-defeated.

  • The Iowa City Wal-Mart fight, which goes curiously unreported in today's Press-Citizen.

    Here's how this matters outside Johnson County: attitudes toward development are the traditional fault lines that normally divide Johnson County politics. The typical coalitions are: on the right, rural voters, developers, business conservatives, and for lack of a better term old-line families. (The religious right is so weak here that the last time they ran a candidate, in 1994, she couldn't even win the GOP primary.) On the left it's Iowa City, environmentalists, Democratic activists, University types.

    These battles are fought out in city council elections and Democratic primaries.

    This dynamic leads to very, very high turnout in Johnson County. In 2004 we had the highest Democratic primary turnout in the state. Not just in percentage: in raw numbers. Johnson 8,675, Polk 5,290. Hot sheriff's race.

    So Johnson County has an impact in statewide primaries that's disproportionate even considering our two to one Democratic registration. Does that help the most liberal candidate? Not necessarily; because the primary is seen as the "real election" for courthouse jobs, crossover voting is high. But that gets blunted somewhat because conservative "Democrats" frequently under-vote. Here's a case in point: in the 1998 Democratic primary, which was razor-close statewide, Johnson County saw 1000 more votes for county recorder than for governor.

    The Johnson County conservatives could care less who's governor; they want the local positions because zoning is where the money is. The left is at a disadvantage because they care more about presidents and legislators, and because the primary falls in early June when the University is either out of session or just getting back for summer session.

    Hard to tell yet how the dynamic plays out for `06. The premier Johnson County race seems to be between Janet Lyness (site's still a placeholder) and Nick Maybanks for the vacant county attorney's post, which has been uncontested since 1978 and may not break along the traditional "brown vs. green" lines.

    Does crossover conservative turnout help Blouin? Does disproportionate rural voting help Judge? Does high turnout in the People's Republic help Fallon? Stay tuned.
  • Praying against Nussle

    Praying against Nussle

    "Religious leaders and activists protesting a budget plan spearheaded by House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, R-Ia., plan to conduct a 'kneel-in' and prayer vigil today on the steps of Nussle's office building here.

    In addition, Iowa activists and church leaders are planning prayer vigils and other protests against the proposed budget today in Des Moines, Iowa City and Storm Lake..."

    Now THAT can't look good for a would-be governor. Especially when the DC protesters get arrested, as they expect.

    If you're in Iowa City, the event is on the Ped Mall in front of Leach's office at 4:30. (Don't expect you'll get busted there, unless you have a beer and you're 19, or if your bring your skateboard which would be inadvisable in this weather anyway.)

    Tuesday, December 13, 2005

    Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska reach election agreement

    Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska reach election agreement

    Surprised the news release from the Culver campaign hasn't come out yet:

    Election officials in four Midwestern states have reached an agreement aimed partly at making sure people aren't registered to vote in multiple states.

    The agreement among secretaries of state in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska calls for the creation of a task force to study ways of cross-checking voter registration rolls in the various states.

    The task force also is to study joint training of election officials, testing of election systems and ways to improve election security procedures...

    Instead I found it on the really neat Election Law Blog.

    Suppose Israel were to give up nuclear weapons

    Suppose Israel were to give up nuclear weapons

    "To avert Iran's apparent drive for nuclear weapons, concludes Henry Sokolski, a co-editor of Getting Ready for a Nuclear-Ready Iran, Israel should freeze and begin to dismantle its nuclear capability..."

    West Virginia State Quarter First Reports

    West Virginia State Quarter First Reports

    Another very small victory:

    First Reports - West Virginia

    Dec. 2: John Deeth of Iowa reported receiving four 2005-D West Virginia quarter dollars from a bank in Iowa City.

    The English-to-American Dictionary

    The English-to-American Dictionary

    "English" as in British. Just for fun.

    Monday, December 12, 2005

    Vilsack punchline in Florida

    Vilsack punchline in Florida

    Credit where it's due for Vilsack or his gag writer:

    It began with a quick one-liner, delivered on opening night by one of the presidential hopefuls who rallied Florida Democrats at their 2005 convention at Walt Disney World over the weekend.

    Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack remarked that Reggie Bush, the starting tailback on the University of Southern California football team, was about to win the Heisman Trophy as the country's top player.

    'It'll be the first time a Bush has won when all the votes have been counted,' he said, eliciting laughter and applause from the partisan throng...

    Union Ads Aim to Pressure House Members

    Union Ads Aim to Pressure House Members

    And who are the targets?

    The $500,000 ad buy by AFSCME includes a national ad starting Monday on CNN and local ads on both cable and broadcast TV starting Tuesday in markets covering the congressional districts of GOP Reps. Mike Castle of Delaware, Jerry Weller of Illinois, Jim Nussle of Iowa, Joe Schwarz of Michigan, Jo Anne Emerson of Missouri, Sherwood Boehlert of New York and Steve LaTourette of Ohio...

    Iowa likely to lose seat in U.S. House

    Iowa likely to lose seat in U.S. House

    So, before Dave Nagle has even gotten over losing his seat in Congress, we're losing another district.

    An anecdote about what's happened to Iowa's population and representation over the years: John Kyl the elder represented an Iowa District in the house. His son Jon Kyl the younger (yes they spell it differently) is an Arizona senator, and probably represents a fair number of his dad's former constituents.

    I've been through two redistricting cycles: 1991 as a journalist, 2001 working in the auditor's office. There's not much point in speculating about exact lines yet. The key players, at the congressional and state legislative level, will all be different. The one thing that's certain is Polk County will dominate one district because it's the only county in the state that's bigger than half a congressional district. If you want to crunch the numbers yourself, here's a link to census population estimates by county.

    Iowa's plan is held up as a model for the nation since it takes politics out of the mix as much as possible. A little too much in my opinion, but at least we don't have the works of modern gerrymandering art you see in other states.

    Here's the nitty gritty details of how it works.

    The Legislative Service Bureau, which is the nonpartisan research arm of the legislative staff, draws a map in deepest darkest secrecy in a bunker 500 feet below the Capitol. Congressional districts can't cross county lines; legislative districts are supposed to keep counties and cities together where possible. Senate districts consist of two whole house districts, and under the current plan Senate districts stay together in congressional districts. (That will have to change: five congressional districts equals 10 senate districts per congressional, but fifty senate districts divided by four CD's equals 12 1/2.) They're specifically prohibited from considering incumbent's addresses or party stats. Despite the growing Hispanic population, the state is still homogeneous enough that Voting Rights Act provisions requireing "majority minority" or "minority influence" districts don't kick in. The process is ruled by population, population, population.

    The map comes out and the legislature gets an up or down vote with no amendments allowed. If they vote it down, or it the governor vetoes, the Legislative Service Bureau goes back to the dungeon and writes Plan B. Lather, rinse, repeat. If Plan B loses, we go to Plan C. If Plan C loses, then and only then the legislature can amend the map.

    We've never gotten that far. In `91 they approved the first map. In 2001 they rejected Plan A and approved Plan B. The rejection of Plan A was GOP driven; there was a lot of rhetoric about the "urban-rural mix" or congressional districts but the reality was the wrong key legislators (and I can't even remember who) were burned.

    Which leads me to the the important point: the congressional map doesn't mean squat for final approval. It's the LEGISLATIVE map that matters, because it's the legislators who are voting. No matter how much you try to sanitize the process, ultimately redistricting is a political decision.

    I learned this the hard way in 1991 when I looked at the congressional map, put on my News Analyst hat, and boldly broadcast that the plan was doomed to lose. The press, to the extent they're looking at all, are looking at congressional districts. You can get your head around four or five congressional districts, and people have at least heard of the key players. Even the party activists can't really grasp the legislative map beyond their own backyards (I've tried).

    But the legislators looked at their own seats, figured "better the devil we know than the devil we don't," and passed it. Only the political pros can really get a handle on the legislative district map. And they have the most self-interest in doing so. And when you think about it, a legislative district is a pretty artificial construct anyway. I live at the corner of one - my across the street neighbors in three directions are in Mary Mascher's district but I'm in Vicki Lensing's. I can say from experience as a journalist, candidate, and staffer that the overwhelming majority of folks have no idea what state legislative district they're in.

    Which brings us back to the real problem with any districting process: no matter how transparent the process is, it remains invisible except to insiders.

    Patriot Skullface writes today too.

    What's The Story?

    What's the Story?

    Nice Way To End The Weekend

    Nice Way To End The Weekend

    Packers Top Lions 16-13 In Overtime. Don't know if Favre will retire but maybe Samkon Gado can be the new quarterback. It's a fumble! No, it's a safety! Wait, it's a pass!

    Don't worry, readers. Substantial political writing later today.

    Solutions for fat cats

    Solutions for fat cats

    No, this is not a campaign finance story - it's actually about obese felines.

    My cats have been switched to diet cat food and like to nap on my treadmill.

    Sunday, December 11, 2005

    Vilsack Declares Caucus Victory; Game Not Yet Over

    Vilsack Declares Caucus Victory; Game Not Yet Over

    National Journal Hotline has an interesting take on why Iowa, seemingly against the odds, kept first place while New Hampshire was the big loser: subtlety.

    As he dodged the question, Vilsack seemed to suggest that IA's cautious, private lobbying won out over NH's public campaign. We had also asked, as part of a preface, whether Vilsack regretted not speaking up in public about proposed calendar changes.

    "There are two ways to operate this process. You can be public about it and you can be very private about it," he said. IA chose the former. (sic)

    I think we mean latter, but that's how the original reads.

    This is contrasted favorably with New Hampshire's public statements. Not mentioned: the Granite State's threats to ignore the calendar and frontload the primary back into 2007.

    I'm guessing at this point they'll do just that. The DNC will threaten or even take away their delegates, but as we all know that's not the real importance of New Hampshire, or Iowa. The key question is what the candidates will do.

  • Will they ignore an off the calendar New Hampshire primary, the way they blew off the non-binding DC primary in 2004? A cautionary tale from the right side of the aisle. In 1996 Louisiana held an pre-Iowa GOP caucus that MOST candidates skipped. But Phil Gramm and Pat Buchanan went to LA in `96 and there were some interesting trick pool shots. Essentially, Dole's folks (and others - I can barely remember who ran!) got behing Buchanan to take out the better-funded, more threatening Gramm. So anyone who skips an "unofficial event" may run a risk.

  • Will they campaign on as if nothing has changed? New Hampshire has one thing that DC and Louisiana did not have: tradition.

  • Remember how well the To Hell With Iowa strategy has worked for Presidents Al Gore (1988), John McCain, Wes Clark and Joe Lieberman.

  • What are the negative consequences? Does the mainstream media and the blogosphere criticize candidates who campaign in off-the-calendar states? The left side of the national political blogosphere is not a very Iowa-New Hampshire friendly place, though there's not a consensus coherent alternative. The MSM hates hates HATES Iowa and prefers New Hampshire. It's more commuter flight friendly, and the rules are more comprehensible than Iowa's four-tiered system that never gives you an actual statewide count of voters.

    Everyone wants a system that serves their interest. The MSM would love the whole process to take place at a DC cocktail party (no bloggers allowed), or if there HAS to be a primary and a caucus, make it Maryland and Virginia. The bloggers would like more input and influence (and maybe more hits and ad revenue).

    Me? I'm in Iowa. And anything that hurts New Hampshire ultimately hurts Iowa in a "you pig farmers are NEXT" way.

    New Hampshire has gotten lucky the last few Democratic cycles by giving victories, moral or otherwise, to the ultimate winners. In 1992 it was the scene of Clinton's Comeback Kid win. Oh wait, he was second behind Tsongas. No one else noticed either. Gore essentially finished off Bradley in 2000, though Bradley might have won without massive McCain crossover. And Kerry picked up his second win there.

    Similarly, Iowa's fate comes down to this: The ultimate winner needs to come out of Iowa with at least a moral victory. For Kerry Iowa was the whole ball game. Gore won big in 2000 with the entire structure of the state party behind him. (I was actually called, to my face, a "bad Democrat" by a state central committee member for supporting Bradley.) And as I've noted, we survived the 1992 Harkin campaign when Harkin immediately and enthusiastically endorsed Clinton - something Paul Tsongas, Bob Kerrey and Jerry Brown never did.

    But we won't get lucky again if Vilsack runs.
  • Hillary Hires Harkinista

    Hillary Hires Harkinista

    From Jane Norman today in the Register:

    "Democratic political professional Lorraine Voles has been hired to handle communications in Sen. Hillary Clinton's office, according to the Washington Post's Web site.

    Now, let's see — Voles also has many connections in Iowa as a former press secretary to Sen. Tom Harkin, for whom she worked prior to joining the White House communications shop during the Clinton presidency. Could it be that Iowa insight might be thought to come in handy . . . oh, someday? You never know."

    A more entertaining tidbit than Yepsen, who looked at health care reform today and warned Iowa of the Red Menace of Socialism. Reads almost like one of those John Birch screeds from the dark side of the 60s. No link love for him today.

    Saturday, December 10, 2005

    Eugene McCarthy dies

    Eugene McCarthy dies

    One of the great ones, who wound up a prophet without honor - overshadowed first by Bobby Kennedy, then by George McGovern. And he sadly drifted into irrelevance with increasingly quixotic campaigns over the years.

    I interviewed him the last time he ran, in 1992, and by then the slow degenerative process that ended today was already taking hold. I was really torn about what to do with the halting, stumbling tape that contained moments of the old brilliance.

    I cleaned up my audio for brevity all the time; Chuck Grassley has a lot of articulated "uh"s and Tom Harkin has taight himself to say "quite frankly" at those kinds of pauses. And those add up in a 20 second news bite.

    But for Gene McCarthy I cleaned up the audio for an entire ten minute interview piece to make him sound more articulate, less halting. I did it out of respect for who he had once been and what he had accomplished. So what's the journalistic ethics of that?

    And even the day he died, he's overshadowed by another great social critic - Richard Pryor.

    Commission: Keep Iowa presidential caucuses first-in-nation

    Commission: Keep Iowa presidential caucuses first-in-nation

    Weeeeeeeeeeee are the champions, my frieeeeeeeeends:

    A special commission of the Democratic Party voted Saturday to uphold Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status in nominating presidential candidates.

    Meeting in Washington, the party’s Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Scheduling agreed that under no circumstances would the selection process begin before Jan. 14, 2008, the scheduled date for the Iowa caucuses.

    Oblique Strategies

    Oblique Strategies

    Friday, December 09, 2005

    Global Rich List: How Rich Are You?

    Global Rich List: How Rich Are You?

    I'm loaded.
    It's official.
    I'm the 173,871,305 richest person on earth!

    How rich are you? >>

    : As it's payday and I grapple with my budget, this little tool comes my way. Punch in my salary and I get:

    You are in the top 4.87% richest people in the world.
    There are 5,707,426,086 people poorer than you.

    Patty Judge: Significant Johnson County Endorsement

    Patty Judge: Significant Johnson County Endorsement

    Jean Lloyd-Jones, retired Johnson County legislator and `92 US Senate nominee, is having Patty Judge over to the house on Sunday afternoon. Interesting.

    I'm going to miss the event; my Sunday afternoon is already blocked up with working political meetings so I won't have time for a booze 'n schmooze. I'm just lucky my Packers are the ESPN Sunday night game (though ESPN isn't so lucky, saddled with a dud game matching the 2-10 Pack with the 4-8 Lions). But if any gentle readers want to check it out: 160 Oakridge Avenue, 3-5 PM.

    Caucus status on line this weekend

    Caucus status on line this weekend

    The winds seem to have shifted in the last week and now post-Iowa pre-NH caucuses are back in the mix.

    Other than my Iowan bias I have just a couple thoughts:

  • Whether or not Iowa/NH are the leadoffs, there shouldn't be a damn thing before March 1.
  • The biggest threat to Iowa's first place status is not the DNC, it's Tom Vilsack. We only survived 1992 because Harkin cuddled up to Bill Clinton the moment he dropped out of the race himself. We won't get lucky a second time.

    I'm operating under the assumption that Iowa will be first in 2008 - but for the last time.
  • Ames Elects Student: How'd they do that?

    Ames Elects Student: How'd they do that?

    Just noticed this in the Register:

    An Iowa State University student from Cumming has been elected to the Ames City Council.

    Ryan Doll, a senior in political science, defeated incumbent Daryle Vegge 623-458 in a runoff election Tuesday for the 3rd Ward seat...

    So Ames has accomplished what Iowa City has not. How?

    I'm still working that one out. Drew Miller worked on the campaign and is writing up the experience. Not to take away anything from the achievement, but one BIG factor is a true ward system that's unlike Iowa City's bizarre district but not really system. Doll only had to win votes in one part of town, while any UIowa student who got through a primary would have to run city wide.

    Still, Doll knocked off an incumbent and that's tough. Looking forward to reading more. I like the suggestion of a two year term (more student-friendly). My biggest question is: what motivated the student turnout?

    Thursday, December 08, 2005

    Israel vs. Iran: Double Standard

    Israel vs. Iran: Double Standard

    Why is the West so outraged by this headline

  • Iran leader: Move Israel to Europe

    Our question for the Europeans is: is the killing of innocent Jewish people by Hitler the reason for their support to the occupiers of Jerusalem? If the Europeans are honest they should give some of their provinces in Europe -- like in Germany, Austria or other countries -- to the Zionists and the Zionists can establish their state in Europe. You offer part of Europe and we will support it."

    but not THIS headline:

  • Netanyahu Backs Pre-Emptive Strike on Iran -

    "I will continue the tradition established by Menachem Begin, who did not allow Iraq to develop such a nuclear threat against Israel, and by a daring and courageous act gave us two decades of tranquility. I believe that this is what Israel has to do. If it is not done by the present government, I intend to lead the next government and to stop this threat."
  • Stay Warm, Irving

    Stay Warm, Irving

    Wish I had a camera:

    Some wag has addressed the intense and ongoing snowfall here in Iowa City by giving the downtown statue of Irving Weber a scarf.

    Iowa Voter Registration Lawsuit

    Ballot Access News: Iowa Voter Registration Lawsuit

    Ballot Access News:

    The Iowa Secretary of State has finally responded to the lawsuit filed in mid-September by the Libertarian and Green Parties, over whether voters should be able to register into parties other than the Democratic and Republican Parties. However, it’s still too early to tell if the state will fight the lawsuit or talk about a settlement. The state’s only response so far is to answer the allegations in the complaint. They acknowledge there are no factual disputes.

    Watching for more coverage.

    Coralville to Rainforest: Buh-bye

    Coralville to Rainforest: Buh-bye

    Hot off the Press (Citizen):

    "The City of Coralville will begin looking at development options other than a proposed $180 million indoor rain forest project for land it owns south of I-80, it said in a statement today."

    Gazette leads with

    "Leaders from the proposed $180 million rain forest told Coralville city officials they will be looking at other cities after months of unsuccessful negotiations to obtain land the city had promised."

    Supposedly Coralville is still an option, but I think this is the real end of the road.

    Got a phone call last night

    Got a phone call last night from the Fallon campaign. They asked if I was going to caucus for Ed.


    This strategy can hardy be a secret if they're making lots of calls like this, so I'm not letting any cats out of any bags. I'll note that I haven't gotten any other calls from any other campaigns yet.

    Shout-out to KLSnow who was working one of the other phone lines.

    Instant Karma's gonna get you

    Instant Karma's gonna get you

    All these years later...

    and we still haven't learned to give peace a chance.

    You think about might have beens. How much music did we lose - or, like McCartney, had Lennon said most of what he had to say? Would he have found some other way to cause trouble? Would he have been as outspoken about this war as he was about Vietnam?

    People make the mistake of reading what they want to read, and John Lennon is a particular victim of that. We'll never know, of course, and that's just one piece of the tragedy.

    Wednesday, December 07, 2005

    Happy Birthday Vito Corleone

    Happy Birthday Vito Corleone

    Is Clinton Avoiding New Hampshire?

    Is Clinton Avoiding New Hampshire?, asks the New York Observer.

    Dunno, but I don't think she's set foot in Iowa since November `03 when she upstaged the `04 presidential field (with the possible exception of the peaking at that moment Dean) at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner. If anyone has sighted her between the Missouri and Mississippi in the past 24 months, please correct me.

    Rainforest: Mistrust ran deep

    Rainforest: Mistrust ran deep

    As the rainforest continues its death rattle, the Gazette offers several juicy tidbits:

  • City and area economic development leaders here wanted the $180 million Environmental Project rain forest’s executive director to resign quietly in April after they saw no tangible progress in fundraising and project planning, a document The Gazette obtained reveals.

    The request that David Oman resign as executive director came from leaders of the Iowa City/Coralville Convention and Visitors Bureau, Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce and Iowa City Area Development Group and was supported by Coralville City officials, a briefing written in April by those groups and interviews indicate...

  • Coralville’s local legislators told city and economic leaders they were ‘‘the laughingstock’’ of the Legislature and had serious communication problems with Oman. They also said they would not support any Vision Iowa grant application for the rain forest unless Oman was replaced.

  • Nice work by Zack Kucharski, one of the better local reporters.

    Of course, 18 long months ago I noted that the real problem was the thing looked too much like the giant egg incubator from Godzilla vs. Mothra.

    Nussle backs student loan cuts

    Nussle backs student loan cuts

    The Daily Iowan picks this one up:

    Nussle is helping to promote the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which passed by a slim 217-215 vote in the House. The measure could reduce federal money by nearly $14.3 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office...

    Pataki heading, again, to Iowa and New Hampshire

    Pataki heading, again, to Iowa and New Hampshire

    Caucus Watch 08: Poor George Pataki, the third most famous presidential candidate from New York.

    He seems to be on the career path of `70s Oklahoma populist Fred Harris: running for President to avoid being beaten for re-election in his own state.

    Kinda like John Edwards, only he took it farther than Harris did and much farther than Pataki will.

    UPDATE: Register story.

    Tuesday, December 06, 2005

    Iowa Response to Voter Registration Suit

    Iowa Response to Voter Registration Suit

    From Ballot Access News:

    On September 15, 2005, the ACLU of Iowa sued the state, over the policy of forcing all voters to register Republican, Democratic or Independent. The suit was on behalf of the Green and Libertarian Parties. The state has still not responded to the complaint, but has promised to do so on December 7.

    Ongoing: Iowa's got one of the tougher party status laws. Two percent for president or governor, each genera election, no exceptions. People want their G or their L on their voter cards. Bills easing the standard have been proposed in the last several legislative sessions (usually by Joe Bolkcom), but have died more out of disinterest than hostility.

    So there should be more on this tomorrow. Might be a small ripple in the Culver campaign.

    Previous posts here and here.

    The Waiting

    The Waiting

    is the hardest part...

    North Liberty: Sides can't agree on run-off judge

    North Liberty: Sides can't agree on run-off judge

    I've been chicken on commenting re: the North Liberty election challenge. But I am going to pass along a few factoids.

    The Press-Citizen headline today is

    Sides can't agree on run-off judge

    which is just wrong. The RECOUNT, which affected only the mayor's race, is done. There was no change on the numbers that came out of the machine; the panel interpreted three write-ins differently but that wasn't decisive.

    What's going on now is the election is being CONTESTED which is a different breed of cat. It's two separate challenges - one for mayor, one for council - though the issues are similar. And, as noted, the two sides in each case can't agree on who to name as the neutral third party.

    Meanwhile, the guys who won, er, got the most votes, want the council to hold off on a 200-acre housing subdivision - and other major development issues until this is sorted out. (It's worth noting that the previous mayor, a real estate developer, resigned in anticipation of conflict of interest questions.)

    And while I won't stick my own neck too far out, here's County Supervisor (and former Democcratic Party chair) Rod Sullivan from his weekly e-mail newsletter yesterday:

    I am concerned about recent comments and actions regarding the municipal elections in North Liberty. Run off elections were eliminated there in 1985. Since then, candidates need only get a plurality of the vote to be elected. Several former councilors (and at least one current councilor) would not have been able to be seated if a majority vote was required.

    I am an unashamed booster of Johnson County Auditor Tom Slockett and his office. There is no question in my mind that this election was handled properly. People may not like the results, but to question the integrity of the Auditor's office is uncalled for. This is not blind faith; the Auditor's track record is excellent.

    It is one thing to be disappointed following an election. Been there, done that. It is entirely another matter when you hire attorneys and call into question the integrity of the Commissioner of Elections.

    The people of North Liberty have spoken, and they deserve better than they are getting. I hope this issue is resolved soon.

    NH Official wants to lower drinking age for troops

    NH Official wants to lower drinking age for troops

    The Daily Iowan is trying to put lowering the drinking age on the map, using a New Hampshire proposal as a starting point and actually nailing down one area legislator (Dave Jacoby) for some quotes that are unfortunately too ambiguous.

    Mixed feeling: I despise the concept of special privileges for the military, but like the idea of lowering the age. If the war puts the issue of the age of majority on the table, I suppose that's a small good thing out of a big bad thing, but it won't really go anywhere until, inevitably, Bush starts to pust the draft (probably right after the midterm elections).

    Monday, December 05, 2005

    Kos: Secretary of Defense Lieberman?

    Kos: Secretary of Defense Lieberman?

    Joementum to the administration? It surfaced again in Sunday Talk world.

    Kos and I agree:

    This would be the best chance to get rid of someone who is corrossive to Democratic unity. And someone who is tragically wrong on the war. Would he better than Rumsfeld at the Pentagon? Yeah right. They're two peas from the same pod. The job should go to someone who has a firm grip on reality, not someone who will keep pretending we are turning corner after corner in Iraq.

    So things would be a wash at the Pentagon. We'd lose a seat in the Senate, and add a seriously contested Senate race to the 2006 calendar. But, we could finally get rid of Lieberman and we'd stand a good chance of replacing him with a better Democrat, one who isn't typecast as the go-to Democrat for Fox News and the Wall Street Journal when they need a Democrat to bash other Democrats.

    Congress votes database at

    Congress votes database at

    This looks like an EXTREMELY useful tool. Check it out.

    Vilsack staffer leaves to join Blouin campaign

    Vilsack staffer leaves to join Blouin campaign

    More inside baseball stuff leaking into the Gazette:

    Matt Paul was one of Vilsack's original administrative team, first handling scheduling duties once Vilsack began his first term in January 1999 and then becoming the governor's press secretary in November 2002. He took a three-month leave in 2003 to work on former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's presidential campaign in the Iowa caucuses...

    Howard Dean to Mike Blouin is quite a journey.

    Vilsack's given us _NDORS_M_NT, we hardly need to buy the vowel to solve this puzzle.

    NASA ditches IE in favor of Firefox

    NASA ditches IE in favor of Firefox

    So: Does it take a rocket scientist to figure that out?

    Iowa ranks 41st in teacher pay

    Iowa ranks 41st in teacher pay

    One reason for our brain drain:

    "I want to know why a teacher in Minnesota earns almost $8,000 more than an Iowa teacher," said Linda Nelson, president of the Iowa State Education Association, which represents 32,000 teachers. "This has gone from being a state embarrassment to a disgrace."

    Well, that and there's more to do in the Twin Cities than in East Soybean.

    Stewart Iverson wants to know: "Where's the money coming from?" (David Yepsen suggests raising regressive taxes.)

    Iowa needs modern campaign disclosure

    Iowa needs modern campaign disclosure

    The QC Times looks at Iowa's campaign finance web site and finds it sorely lacking. I've grappled with it for ages myself, at home and at work, and it's ad bad as it can possibly by while still being able to say "campaign finance data is available on line."

    Often you have to know the exact form and function of the specific report you are looking for. And the vast majority of reports are scanned images in .pdf format that take forever to download and, once loaded, are illegible often as not. It combines the worst of paper with the worst of the web; you more or less have to print the things out to make any use of them. No one has time for that except newspaper interns.

    Iowa needs, number one, mandatory on-line reporting. No more chicken scratching. We also need a searchable database. And there should be some way to link variations on a name so that donors can't fly under the radar as John Smith, John Q. Smith, J.Q. Smith and J. Quimby Smith.

    Isn't there a way we can use some of the HAVA money for this? The answer is no, but campaign finance is as underrated an issue as parts of HAVA are overrated (there's no massive waves of mail-in voter fraud by dogs).

    Thanks for the hat tips: State 29, Diary of a political madman, and Political Forecast.

    Sunday, December 04, 2005

    Hey, man, is that Freedom Rock?

    Hey, man, is that Freedom Rock?

    If you're of a certain age, you remember. It was late at night in the late 80s, during one of those seven minute ad breaks that always show up when you watch TV too late.

    Cut to a camper, which may or may not be at a Grateful Dead show. Two guys who look like either Tommy Chong or David Crosby hear the opening chords of "Layla" and exclaim:

    "Hey, man, is that Freedom Rock? Turn it up, man!"

    In one of those moments of post-Gutenberg curiosity - you know, think of something obscure, the Internet puts it at your fingertips - I decided to look back and recall just what, excactly, constituted Freedom Rock. Well, call now and you get:

    Derek & The Dominos

    The Story In Your Eyes
    The Moody Blues

    Five Man Electrical Band

    Jonathan Edwards

    Love Train
    The O'Jays

    White Room

    White Rabbit
    Jefferson Airplane

    Both Sides Now
    Judy Collins

    We May Never Pass This Way Again
    Seals & Crofts

    In The Year 2525
    Zager & Evans

    Alice Cooper

    Deep Purple

    Get Together
    The Youngbloods

    The Beat Goes On
    Sonny & Cher

    Abraham, Martin & John

    Lay Down

    I Got A Line On You

    Fire And Rain
    James Taylor

    Me And You And A Dog Named Boo

    Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay
    Otis Redding

    They were shooting for a certain 60s nostalgia vibe that was in vogue in that era, and with some of the songs ("Get Together" and "White Rabbit" best fit the bill) they catch the patchouli. The word we're looking for here is "groovy." But some songs are chronologically right but not quite "hey, maaan" enough, Alice Cooper and the O'Jays are too late, and "Me And You And A Dog Named Boo" is just dumb.

    But wait! You also get:

    Turn, Turn, Turn
    The Byrds

    I'd Love To Change The World
    Ten Years After

    Locomotive Breath
    Jethro Tull

    The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
    Joan Baez

    Edwin Starr

    Black Magic Woman

    Jump Into The Fire

    Smoke On The Water
    Deep Purple

    United We Stand
    Brotherhood Of Man

    One Tin Soldier (The Legend Of Billy Jack )

    Somebody To Love
    Jefferson Airplane

    Going Up The Country
    Canned Heat

    Reach Out Of The Darkness
    Friend And Lover

    A Horse With No Name

    Free Bird
    Lynyrd Skynyrd

    Ramblin' Man
    The Allman Brothers Band

    Share The Land
    The Guess Who

    Elton John

    Put Your Hand In The Hand

    Black & White
    Three Dog Night

    I think it's so groovy now that people are finally gettin' together. Indeed.

    A little more granola on this volume, though they missed the opportunity by skipping Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit In The Sky." They also forgot the Coke ad, "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing," although Oasis didn't. You get America trying to be Neil Young instead of actual Neil Young. Jethro Tull is so awful that to call them "awful" is to overrate them. The Southern rock is too `70s, though I suppose Freedom Rock lets you get away with "Free Bird". Unsure whether that's the short version, the long version, or the live, "play it pretty for Atlanta" version.

    Don't know anyone who actually Called Now and got the thing. I could home burn one, I suppose. But what I'd REALLY like would be a tape of the ad. Maybe there's one copy that actually sold out there, some sort of Holy Grail.

    Wait a minute.

    "Jump Into The Fire"? This was 1987, a good three years before Goodfellas resurrected Harry Nilsson's followup to chart-topper "Without You" from mid-chart obscurity and granted it cinematic immortality. (You know, the Day Henry Gets Busted sequence.)

    And what does Freedom Rock start with? "Layla," as used memorably in the Everybody Connected With The Heist Gets Whacked sequence. ("When they found Carbone in the meat truck, it took them two days to get him thawed out for the autopsy.")

    So that's who bought the one copy of Freedom Rock actually sold:

    Martin Scorsese!

    Just got re-acquainted with the obnoxious MARQUEE tag for that late-night TV ad (wait! slow down!) look.

    Bears Top Packers 19-7 At Soldier Field

    Bears Top Packers 19-7 At Soldier Field

    Four field goals and a defensive touchdown. Not even fun to watch. Best part of the game was the hour of treadmilling - I've managed to pick up my pace a bit. Perhaps my Packer exasperation has something to do with it. If they lose to Detroit next week I'll be sprintin on the damn thing.

    Bolkcom: Iowa nurses need to be able to speak up without fear

    Bolkcom: Iowa nurses need to be able to speak up without fear

    ouple good guest editorials today:

  • Joe Bolkcom in the Gazette on the nursing shortage

  • Mona Shaw in the Press-Citizen on workers's rights.

  • Iowa Taxes: Regressin' With Yepsen

    Iowa Taxes: Regressin' With Yepsen

    The Overrated One on the school sales tax today:

    The 1-cent local-option sales tax for local schools should be made a statewide tax. Only two counties don't have it...

    Johnson County being one. We've never voted on it, but in `99 when we voted on the local option sales tax, it was overwhelmingly rejected. it's clear the vast majority of Iowa voters support the need for school construction.

    As do the vast majority of Johnson County voters. Witness the huge YES votes for school construction bonds in Iowa City (2003), Solon (2000), and Lone Tree (2001).

    This tax is one way to do that without raising Iowa's already-high property taxes. Districts that don't need buildings could lower their property taxes.

    In other words, shift the tax burden from property owners to lower income folks.

    How about local option INCOME tax instead?

    Snowed In on Sunday

    Snowed In on Sunday

    My little car is fuel-efficient but doesn't handle especially well on snowy streets. And biking is certainly out. So I'm settled in for the day; Packers, Bears, and treadmill.

    Managed to get my usual weekly junk shopping done yesterday and had a couple major scores:

  • A pair of vintage stereo speakers the size of small refrigerators.

  • Five computers for a total of $25. The catch: they don't work. I've already created one bootable machine out of parts from three of them. But it's running Windows ME. A bad OS, even by Microsoft standards; it seems to combine the worst of 98 and XP.
  • Saturday, December 03, 2005

    Iowa man facing drug sentence says he's too overweight for jail

    Iowa man facing drug sentence says he's too overweight for jail

    "A Waterloo man who allowed his home to be used to store crack cocaine that was shipped by mail was sentenced to 14 years in prison, federal officials said.

    Michael Washington, 32, pleaded guilty last January to making his home available for the storage of crack cocaine, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office.

    Washington, who weighs 574 pounds, argued during sentencing that he was too obese and in too poor of health to be adequately cared for in prison, and requested home confinement. "

    Friday, December 02, 2005

    Top referrers: Sharing some link love

    Top referrers: Sharing some link love

    A meta post here: some blogging about blogging. A nice little Iowa blogosphere seems to be coming together and I'm noticing a lot more traffic recently since my writing got more Iowa-centric. (The occasional Godzilla post will still sneak through.)

    Here's a few good sites that are sending me business:

  • Midwest Mesopotamia


  • Diary of a political madman

  • Patriot Skull Face (love the Gonzo logo)

  • Political Forecast

  • Rising Hegemon

  • Tusk & Talon

  • And to catch a little of everyone there's LeftyBlogs.
  • Tattoo removal comes at a big price

    Tattoo removal comes at a big price

    Ha ha ha ha:

    ‘I’ve had (a few) people say, ‘I went out and partied last night. I don’t remember what I did, but I woke up and I have this,’ ’’ said Dr. Chris Arpey, a dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon who has treated tattoos at University Hospitals in Iowa City since about 1999.

    Removal bills run hundreds of dollars per visit, depending on tattoo size.

    And the pain.

    ‘‘Most people say it hurts about as much removing it as getting it, except that getting it was once and fading it is eight to 10 times,’’ Arpey said.

    I'm all for freedom of expression. But tattooing went mainstream just after my youth (the male pierced ear was cutting edge 25 years ago) and I have to admit I'm a geezer who doesn't get it.

    Besides, I'm too furry for a tattoo. Unless I put it on top of my head.

    Thursday, December 01, 2005

    Ancient 'Godzilla'-like sea creature discovered

    Ancient 'Godzilla'-like sea creature discovered

    With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound he pulls the spitting high tension wires down:

    "The sheer strangeness of the Dakosaurus andiniensis, found in South America and announced today, led its discoverers to call it Godzilla after the huge, amphibious, dinosaur-like movie icon."

    Dems question Nussle contribution

    Dems question Nussle contribution

    Nussle got a thousand bucks from Duke Cunningham. Sally Pederson gleefully says give it back.

    Does this stuff resonate with real world voters? Do they even know who Duke Cunningham is? My sense is stories of this nature only matter to party hacks and journalists, and the average voter (wrongly) dismisses it and files it (wrongly) as "they're all crooks anyway."

    GOP renews death penalty drive

    GOP renews death penalty drive

    House Speaker Christopher Rants is prepared to waste three days of the session debating the death penalty when it's already clear the Senate won't bring it up. More proof that it's all just posturing for November.