Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 In Review

End Of Another Year

New Years Eve is also the anniversary of the Deeth Blog, which has now been on the air for seven long years. Looking back at the year that was:

January

Senators shuffle as the cabinet is named (appointed senators briefly become a hot issue) and as Norm Coleman plays stallball. Bill Richardson (later exonerated) takes one for the team. Chuck Grassley, though attrition and by default, becomes one of the national faces of the GOP. Nevertheless, that's not good enough for some Iowa Repubs who talk primary.

But all that seemed little on January 20. There was much ado about a middle name and a bumbled oath. The glorious images of the inauguration were forgotten quickly, but they were really special at the moment. The GOP tried to trump the first black president with a black national chair... and gave us months of endless amusement as Michael Steele proved to be God's gift to gaffes.

February

Daschle out at Health and Human Services, but Dr. Dean doesn't get the call. Republican Judd Gregg resigns from the Senate to become Secretary of Commerce... oh, never mind.

Brett Favre retires again... oh, never mind.

Big transition in Iowa journalism and politics as David Yepsen departs for academia. (That one sticks.)

Back in DC, late February is all about the stimulus bill. In Des Moines a weekend-long roll call fails to persuade Geri Huser and the Six Pack on the high-priority labor bills. Recall briefly becomes a hot issue until Linn County rolls back an elected official pay raise.Here in Iowa City, the Roosevelt School fight gets underway and the sales tax gets fast-tracked for a May vote.

March

The electoral college takes center stage as Republicans, and some Democrats go all intense to block the National Popular Vote bill in the legislature. Emotions are way stronger than I anticipated. The other big legislative distup is over making Iowa's tax structure more progressive by dumping federal deductibility. This leads to the year's first room full of screaming Republicans, a motif which continues all year.

Democrats start the quadrennial work on "nomination calendar reform" with Tom Miller representin' for Iowa's first slot. The president's birth certificate and Joe Biden's cussing are a big deal. Only one of these gains any traction.

Chuck Grassley's self inflicted damage starts to draw initial interest from potential oponents, but the big name of March is Bob Krause. Recruiting continues.

Johnson County Dems have a close chair election with a nasty ripple effect after.

The laptop physically dies for the first time in the year. But an early thaw leads to an early start on the Smallest Farm.

Missouri state troopers are accused of "political profiling," and are briefly urged to be wary of cars with Ron Paul stickers. The Paulosphere explodes.

Kim Jong Il wins re-election with 99.9% turnout. In other news, 0.1% of North Koreans put into labor camps.

April

A joyous Pentacrest crowd of several hundred as Iowa legalizes marriage equality. Vermont follows suit within days. As the year progresses, Iowa City becomes a destination of sorts as couples come to the People's Republic for validation that's only symbolic in their home states. Bob Vander Plaats, meanwhile, promises to break the law to stop the Gaypocalypse (a new word I invented).

The month in which we first hear the words "tea party" and "teabagger." Local tax opponents have an actual tax election to oppose at their tea party--but the sales tax No campaign is more about the "Ax The Tax" message than about building a coalition with folks on the left whose problem was regressivity. Team Yes, meanwhile, puts together a cross-spectrum who's who. And SAVE ROOSEVELT SCHOOL wins the sign war battle, if not the war.

The Curtis Fry murder trial leads to over the top neo-prohibitionist rhetoric. The rhetorical excess prize, however, goes to Rick Perry, would-be President of the Republic of Texas.

Ed Fallon says Chet won't return his calls; Chet's people tell Ed to go get a job.

Arlen Specter does not, as rumored, join the Wu-Tang Clan, but he does cross the aisle as 58 Democratic senators become 59. And Minnesota loses senate seniority day by day.

I get a feather in my beret as I'm named the fourth best political blogger in the state by the Washington Post. And Minnesota loses senate seniority day by day.

May

A split, and very close, decision on the sales tax vote. It passes in Iowa City by seven votes (I credit my sandbagged yard sign for the margin), loses Coralville by eight, sweeps the small towns handily, clobbered in North Liberty and the rural.

"Strong Latina woman" is the meme of the month as Souter steps down and Sotomayor steps up.

Scariest moment of the year: the execution-style murder of Dr. George Tiller at his church.

Brett Favre starts talking un-retirement, in an effort to break Michael Jordan's career record. John Edwards, however, is permanently retired from politics, as the staffer who took the blame says the kid is not my son. Meanwhile Iowa City peace activists are singing "I always feel like somebody's watching me," as national security goons apparantly have little to do except infiltrate the "Hey hey, ho, ho, cause of the moment has got to go" crowd.

In one of the year's great quotes, the man with the original raspberry beret, Prince disses Guitar Hero: "I just think it's more important that kids learn how to actually play the guitar." Still, not as good as Michael Steele: "If President Reagan were here today he would have no patience for Americans who looked backward.”

June

Media frenzy of the year as we lose Michael Jackson. Much navelgazing as we weigh the timeless music against the personal problems. (But by years end I have figured out who Lady Gaga is.)

Jim Leach officialy joins Team Obama--not, as was briefly rumored, as ambassador to China (that job joes to another Obama Republican, the governor of Utah) but heading the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Obama, meanwhile, wows the Muslim world with the Cairo speech, and Nirvana's Krist Novoselic briefly rund for local office.

The city election field starts to take shape and it becomes clear that the left is going to sit this one out. I respond by launching the diatribe of the year, "Freak Power on the Prairie," and demand that cops give five dollar footlong coupons to pot smokers.

John Whitaker leaves the Legislature, setting up a special election showdown in Fairfield, and Ed Fallon starts talking about primarying the Six Pack.

On the Smallest Farm, the gopher is back. They're like the Viet Cong--Varmint Cong. I find myself bizarrely sticking up for Billy Ray Cyrus.

July

I write a long rambly piece about Sarah Palin, and the next day she up and quits her job. Coincidence? I'm not sure, but I get inspired to Twitter in the middle of all that.

Al Franken FINALLY takes his seat and immediately makes plans to visit Iowa.

Sinclair Broadcasting is near bankruptcy... which may explain some of the cable vs. broadcast brinksmanship we see in December.

The Republican gubernatorial field starts to grow to the point where I suggests a playoff bracket; we see it shrink again by year end as the Back To The Future with Branstad rumors start to come true. The Iowa City school board field looks really small... then at the last second gets really big. I get bashed a bit for party-IDing the field (which includes only one Democrat).

Iowa Chief Justice Marcia Ternus gets in some hot water for a young adult party at her house, which gives me another excuse for the drinking age rant.

"Birther" is big in the lexicon, as Robert Gates is declared the Real President. But I liked it the first time I saw it, when it was Al Smith's tunnel to the Vatican.

Caucus Day (NOT "night") gets set for Jan. 23, 2010; part of the deal to Stay First. And while Leonard Boswell doesn't quit the Blue Dogs, he does lose their logo.

At some point, student bashing becomes soooo 2007; Iowa City's new scapegoats are Chicago People If You Know What I Mean.

August

The long hot summer of health care town halls, as the teabaggers (by now this is an accepted political term and no longer just a crude sexual reference) hit new rhetorical levels of apoplexy.

In Iowa, the culture war takes a detour down a country lane as bike haters try to ban cycling on county roads.

The Smallest Farm is is full swing as I dine on a mostly veggie diet.

Justice Sotomayor takes her seat, and when Ted Kennedy misses the vote we know the end is near. The end of the month is a goodbye to an era. There's a couple Iowa angles, as John Culver delivers a funny eulogy and Tom Harkin takes over Kennedy's committee chair.

The Iowa City council race takes shape as town vs. gown, as a two month march toward a predetermined outcome begins. At the last second we end up with a primary. But the real local election hot spot is... University Heights?!?

Brett Favre makes the face heel turn complete as he heats to the hated Vikings. (The Pack manages to do well with the new guy anyway.)

September

The Deeth Blog proper steers in a more local direction as I start a new relationship with the Des Moines Register.

The President tells kids to study hard and stay in school; apparantly Republicans oppose this. Later "You lie!" enters the lexicon as the name Joe Wilson emerges from obscurity. (The best part of the whole exchange was the look on Nancy Pelosi's face.)

Tom Harkin's steak fry stars Al Franken, while Harkin pledges "a health care bill by Christmas with a strong public option." On the other side of the aisle, I meet Son Of Reagan at West Liberty.

Sarah Swisher has a strong first place for school board, with newb Tuyet Dorau and incumbent Mike Cooper also winning. A week earlier, it's Dems with an epic win for Curt Hanson in the Fairfield legislative special election.

But a sad event overshadows all the fall elections and sets the stage for the rest of the year, as Supervisor Larry Meyers loses his battle with cancer.

October

The record-low turnout city primary is both a landslide (for Dickens and Mims) and the closest primary ever (between Tallon and Bazzell for fourth place). Bazzell loses, endorses Dickens, and vanishes. I write myself in. Dickens raises $16,000 to squash the student flies with a sledgehammer.

Later in the month, the last hope of a student win fizzles as the petitioned satellite voting sites on campus (Bazzell's doing) are ignored.

We wake up one morning to find that overnight the President has won the Nobel Peace Prize, which everyone acknowledges as being mostly a You're Not George Bush prize.

In Iowa's US Senate race, Fiegen and Krause get stepped on as (after much Mystery Candidate speculation centered on Christy Vilsack) the Dems come up with their own blast from the past: Roxanne Conlin.

At month's end Janelle Rettig gets the supervisor appointment, which sets up...

November

...the special election petition, which lands on Friday the 13th and sets up the January 19, 2010 showdown.

The city election is nearly identical to the primary: record low turnout and a Dickens and Mims landslide. I defiantly say "screw it, I'm voting for the kids," which gets me in some hot water, but no one follows my lead. Sara Baird launches a last-second write in; an announcement for 2011?

The city's neo-prohibitionists, reassured that the students no longer care, responds to the results with some selective law enforcement targeting the opponents of the 2007 21 bar referendum. And University officials start talking about double jeopardy for student drinkers.

Elsewhere there's a squeaker in UHeights and a shocker in Coralville.

Up in Cedar Rapids, Kirsten Running-Marquardt holds a seat for the Dems in another legislative special.

But the big story of the month is football. For a few days we dare to hum "We Are The Champions" under our breath, but the dream ends in a Sports Illustrated cover jinx when Ricky Stanzi is tackled in our own end zone... and doesn't get up.

Terry Branstad makes it more official, and other Republicans start dropping out. In the 2nd CD we see the return of MMM. At the national level, Republicans talk of "purity test" and "Scozzafazza'd" (however you spell it) enteres the lexicon as a fratricidal Republican vs. Conservative split lets a Democrat win an upstate New York district for the first time since... well, since there WAS a Republican Party.

Jefferson-Jackson attendees get their money's worth of a speect as the loquacious Vice President Joe returns to Iowa.

December

The grudge match is complete as both parties have conventions and nominate Janelle Rettig and Lori Cardella for supervisor. At month's end, Jim "I lost to the person who dropped out of the race" Knapp joins the fray. Cardella's robocalls, not especially targeted considering even I got one, start.

Obama ships more troops to Afghanistan, which if anyone had been listening is exactly what he promised. Days later he picks up his Nobel prize and the irony is not lost, even to him.

Health care battles to a Christmas Eve party line Senate vote. Dems give away the store to stop a filibuster. Iowa gets invited to the Orange Bowl as Mediacom and Sinclair Broadcasting play Grinch. Both of these will see their final chapter in the next year, so Happy New Year to all.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Make Her Spend It All, Janelle

Make Her Spend It All, Janelle

Back when Jay Rockefeller first ran for office in West Virginia, his opponent had bumper stickers that said MAKE HIM SPEND IT ALL, ARCH. Now, it seems to be happening here.

Lori Cardella may claim to be a taxpayer watchdog, but she's quite free with her own campaign money. After the robocalls of a couple weeks past, we now hear widespead reports of Cardella mailers in pretty much every mailbox in the county addressed, with that personal touch, to RESIDENT or OCCUPANT. My letter carrier must have has a good chuckle; she has to detour around my Rettig sign to get to the mailbox.

Speaking of signs, Janelle Rettig's proudly say Democrat (though, as it's at the bottom of the sign, it may be drifted under) while Lori's signs and flyers, um, don't mention the R word.

Also worth noting: Republican blog Coralville Courier is running a straw poll on the race. As I write, yeah, Cardella's ahead. But barely, just 49% to 43% for Janelle among a heavily Republican readership. Feel free to check it out.

Democrats make calendar recommendations

Dems calendar commission reports

The Democratic Party's nomination "reform" commission promised a report by the end of the year, and late today it quietly arrived.

The big story, at least according to Politico's headline, is "Dems move to sack superdelegates." Not entirely true... but they'd no longer be automatic or unpledged. Instead they'd be "National Pledged Party Leader and Elected Officials" and allocated by preference group.

Which, of course, matters little in 2012; it's hard yet to imagine a scenario where anyone mounts a serious primary challenge to Obama, especially with his main potential rival on the team and safely occupied at the State Department. Oh, sure, Dennis Kucinich will run again, especially if he gets screwed in redistricting with Ohio set to lose representation. But I don't expect him to be over the 15% needed to win a delegate anywhere. So the real fight will be who gets to go to the big party, I mean convention, which will almost certainly be in Chicago (Obama's consolation prize for losing the Olympics to Brazil).

The big question, of course, is what's in it for us Iowans? Well, probably still a first out of the gate date, but muuuuch later than the insane January 3 we had in 2008. The new rules say nothing before February 1st, and only four states before March 12.

Next month's Saturday (1/23) caucus is supposedly part of the deal, a bone thrown to Hillary Clinton's argument that a weeknight discourages attendance. That'd put us on Saturday 2/4/2012, with New Hampshire probably Tuesday 2/12, Nevada Saturday 2/17 and South Carolina on Tuesday 2/19.

The million dollar question: will the GOP cooperate? What if Iowa Republicans start playing leapfrog and land on January 21 or 14? Which takes precedent: Iowa's 30 year tradition of the parties going on the same date, or the Democratic Party rules?

UPDATE: David Chung at Hawkeye GOP notes that the Dems moved from Saturday 1/5 to Thursday 1/3 in response to the GOP; I remember talking to Leon Mosley at an October `07 McCain event and having him be very firm on that point... Chung predicts a Tuesday night in January for Republicans.

Hayek likely mayor

Hizzoner Hayek

Gregg Hennigan has the scoop: "A majority of council members told The Gazette they would back (Matt) Hayek to replace current Mayor Regenia Bailey... Connie Champion and council members-elect Terry Dickens and Susan Mims said they would vote for Hayek..."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ballots Ready

Ballots Ready for Special Election

21 days to the January 19 special supervisor election and ballots are ready for voting. The choices are pretty darn clear and the weather is only gonna get worse, so why wait?

Stop Faxing

My Least Favorite Technology

Anyone who works with me for long hears The Paper Rant. I hate printed copies of things that could better be done by an attachment.



And I really, REALLY hate faxes. Seems I'm not alone. Mike Elgan at Computer World writes about 10 obsolete technologies to kill in 2010 and fax tops the list:
The document almost always begins and ends in digital format. But during this epic journey, the document is digital four times, paper twice and sound once.

The mass delusion that perpetuates this obscenely inefficient technology is that paper "hard copy" is somehow more legitimate. In fact, gluing a copy of someone's stolen signature to a document, then faxing it, is the easiest way mask a forgery because of the low quality of fax output.

Surprisingly, print newspaper is not on the list. My main old fuddy-duddy habit? Even though I know I can look up any phone number on the planet on line, I still reach for a phone book. Even though I've been cell-only since 2001. (Yes. land line is on the list.)

  • Thanks for all the love over the death of my friend Spot. Or, in lolcat speak:
    HAI I IZ OK
    SPOT IS IN KITTEH HEVIN
    I CAN STILL HAS TWO KITTEHS

  • Over at the Register I look at the absurd response to the Christmas incident in Detroit.
  • Monday, December 28, 2009

    Goodbye Spot

    Goodbye To Another Friend



    Of all the cats I've known, Spot was the gentlest. She was small and unassuming, and had a crackly little meow that sounded almost shy. But she was always sweet-natured and affectionate, and took well to new people especially the two sons that joined my life these last three years.

    She'd been in weak health the last few months--never in pain, but losing weight and less and less active, so we knew it was coming.

    She couldn't eat her dry cat food any more so we switched her to cans (in the process, spoiling the other two cats), and we made her a special litter box upstairs because it was hard for her to get down the steps. I was worried about leaving town for Christmas and leaving her. The weather had other plans, which turns out to have been a good thing. She had our company these past few days, and last night we played catch-the-string. For a few moments she was kittenish again.

    This morning she and the boys yowled for their breakfast, and Spot and I had a little time together alone. She was eating and purring. After I went to work she curled up and took a nap on her favorite pillow by the heating duct. And that's how Koni found her.



    And this is how I see her now, curled up with her brother Butter who we lost a year and a half ago.

    Knapp Files for Board on Deadline

    And Then There Were Three

    On today's filing deadline, a third candidate had joined Democrat Janelle Rettig and Republican Lori Cardella on the Jan. 19 special supervisor election ballot.

    James Knapp, who applied for the Board vacancy in October but was not interviwed, is running as an independent candidate (the legal term is "nominated by petition") He's currently a registered Republican, but ran for the Board in the 2004 Democratic primary. He finished in eighth place out of eight candidates. That's only remarkable because the seventh place candidate had dropped out of the race.

    In any case, this ought to make the candidate forums more interesting. Assuming, that is, that there ARE any more; we hear Lori's been turning down some invitations after a couple poor performances...

    Linux Monday

    Last Linux Monday of the Decade

    2010: Year of the Linux Desktop. (Laugh if you get the joke.) Here's our Alternate Operating System tips of the week:

  • It's a little late for holiday travel, but here are "tips for traveling with Tux" that may even be useful to Windows and Mac folks. Plus I love the name "Unethical Blogger" as I'm accused of that occasionally.

  • This list of Linux cheat sheets is useless to all but the converted, and will likely scare off the unconverted, but still a good resource.



  • And in China they're responding to Microsoft's latest piracy crackdown by... making Ubuntu look like XP.

    Spent some weekend time kernel crunching and have been learning the interconnectedness of the Linux kernel ecosystem. Moral of the story: Use the scientific method and change one thing at a time. And backup, backup, backup.
  • Saturday, December 26, 2009

    Catching Up

    Deeth Blog Still Exists

    We've been hibernating the last few days, as the holiday travel plans were iced out. Which leaves plenty of time for writing... except there's no actual news other than year/decade anthologies and the navel gazing over the latest steps on health care--which, lest we forget, still isn't done.

  • Eric Alterman thinks the Christmas Eve morning vote is an Epic Win, not so much for the specifics of the bill itself as for the precedent:
    Democrats (have) redefined the playing field of American politics to ground that is inherently favorable to their team. When Americans complain about their health care in the future, are they going to look to the party that wants to do nothing to fix it? No, they’re going to go with the side of political activism and government involvement. The other side, after all, isn’t even in the game.

  • But Ezra Klein is focused on the bill's flaws and blames the filibuster:
    The modern Senate is a radically different institution than the Senate of the 1960s, and the dysfunction exhibited in its debate over health care -- the absence of bipartisanship, the use of the filibuster to obstruct progress rather than protect debate, the ability of any given senator to hold the bill hostage to his or her demands -- has convinced many, both inside and outside the chamber, that it needs to be fixed...

    Arlen Specter's defection from the Republican Party earlier this year gave Democrats 60 votes in the Senate -- a larger majority than either party has had since the '70s. Democrats also controlled the House and the presidency, and were working in the aftermath of a financial crisis that occurred on a Republican president's watch. This was a test of whether a party could govern when everything was stacked in its favor.

    The answer seems to be, well, not really.

    Shoutouts to Tom Harkin included.

  • John Richardson at Esquire asks "Whaddaya Mean Obama Hasn't Done Anything?" and offers a list with a summary:
    The first half of Obama's accomplishments above is mostly liberal stuff. The bottom half is all pretty dang conservative. Which brings us to The Problem With America Today: Blame it on the Internet, on partisan politics, on the economic crash, on the legacy of war or Fox News or Michael Moore, but our vital center is getting stiff — and it is starting to stink.

    Liberals are upset because Obama didn't shut down Guantánamo or stop the wiretapping program or end all wars or support gay marriage and kill Don't Ask Don't Tell. Conservatives are pissed off because they hate health-care reform, family planning, ending any war at all, organic gardening at the White House, and government in general.

    Not that I accept the David Broder "vital center" premise here; I'm firmly in the "Obama abandoning the left that elected him" qualified support camp. But it is a good list of what HAS gotten done, and anyone fretting that Obama's support has dipped to the low 50s has forgotten that W was in the 20s a year ago.

  • On the home state front, Craig Robinson had a good piece early in the week on the Branstad comeback:
    The political comeback that Branstad is now attempting would never had been possible had the entire bench of potential Republican gubernatorial candidates not been wiped out in 2006.

    While many believe that Branstad’s remarkably high name ID is what allows him his instant credibility, it’s actually the void that was left unfilled after Jim Nussle lost to Culver in 2006.

    Visions of an alternate universe with Governor Nussle and Congressman Dix...
  • Wednesday, December 23, 2009

    Ballots and Blizzards

    Ballots and Blizzards

    As the Christmas 2009 ice storm bears down on us, I wonder if the Neanderthals were smarter than us. If they got hit with three inches of ice, they didn't try to travel to the land of their ancestors just because it happened to be solstice. They just stayed in the cave by the fire (if you don't have electricty, you don't have a blackout so you don't have a problem).

    But we modern, "advanced" humans govern ourselves by the clock and the calendar, rushing off in the worst possible weather to punch a clock or meet a calendar date.

    Which brings me to the subject of the January 19 election.

    I've been asked more than once: "what happens if we have a blizzard on election day?" I answer: "We vote." Iowa law has some very limited emergency provisions for closing or moving polling places on Election Day (we had a tornado warning in the `06 primary, and Linn County had a flash flood once), but there are no provisions for completely postponing the election.

    The question came up during the 2001 school election, held on... September 11. School board results were not the top story on the news hat night. (New York law is different and they happened to be having a primary for mayor that day. It got pushed back two weeks. There were four polling places in the twin towers themselves...)

    But the one we locals remember was Bob Dvorsky's state senate special in February 1994. Sixteen inches of snow after 3 p.m. That was before I had my present job, so I was volunteering. Went to give a voter a ride to the polls a little after 3, and the round trip took me an hour and a half. I got back to HQ and was pretty much physically restrained from driving or calling any more. And, of course, in the end that one was much closer than it would have been without the snow, and early votes were a huuuuge part of the Democratic edge.

    Back in the Kerry-Bush presidential election, I voted on day one. A non-political friend asked me, "how can you have your mind made up already?" I replied, how can you not?" The supervisor special is one of those kinds of elections between polar opposites. Republicans are already on the record saying they're hoping for a low-turnout win. But if your vote's in the bank, you may avoid being in a snowbank on Election day.

    Tuesday, December 22, 2009

    Going Mobile

    Going Mobile


    Here's
    the mobile-firendly url for the Deeth Blog. And here's the quick and easy way to do it for yours.



    Speaking of mobile, "Going Mobile" is really an underrated moment on the flawless Who's Next.

    Also speaking of mobiles, the Deeth Phone is finally back on the air after three weeks in repair hell, but all my numbers are lost. Reprogramming that should keep my buy over Christmas, and if I don't call now you know why.

    Monday, December 21, 2009

    Headline of the Year

    Headline of the Year

    From FiveThirtyEight: "What Republicans can learn from the French Communists." Fun on soooo many levels.

    Linux Monday

    Linux Monday: Getting Philosphical

    Last Linux Monday I was all pragmatic about how to optimize the kernel. Now let's get philosphical with the ideological underpinnings of the Free Software Movement:

    If you're really really into it, here's a long interview with free software guru Richard Stallman and his anarcho-libertarian worldview:
    In that Stallman is such a renowned programmer, if he'd chosen to travel that route, it's not inconceivable that he could be a billionaire like his co-generationists Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Instead, he's never owned a home. Or a car. Or even a cell phone. He admits, "I think my main expense literally is food."

    His lifestyle is a pointed rejoinder to this mediated consumer culture of litigiously enforced copyrights, trackable GPS-equipped cell phones, radio-frequency identification chips, and omnipresent surveillance cameras. And his pronouncements — on matters technological, but also geopolitical and environmental — mean to stir us to join his fight.

    The tricky part: far fewer people than he'd wish share the courage of his convictions.

    David Sterry is on a more down to earth level, but preaching the same gospel: "It is a choice between contributing to a growing community of hopeful free software users or settling for a life of product activation, vendor lock-in, and increasing developer power."

    I'm more sympathetic to this stuff than most; I've long admitted that my Linux curiosity was driven largely by anti-Microsoft corporate contempt. Plus there was this old machine I wanted to fix up, no Windows license, and the free as in no money aspect appealed to me. But in the past few weeks, as I re-compile kernels, I've come to appreciate the free as in freedom aspect of it as well.

    And, while we're dreaming here, imagine the perfect ISP.

    Friday, December 18, 2009

    Lists and Lists and Lists

    Lists and lists and lists

    I've loved lists ever since I spent my childhood Sunday afternoons listening to Casey Kasem's American Top 40 and writing down all the songs. To this day I'm a sucker for anything in list format or, especially, in countdown format. Probably just the way my Aspergery brain is wired.

    List making is, of course, a cheap way to get yourself some traffic and a good cure for writer's block. It also helps get you through a slow news season (ever try to do a Christmas Eve 5 PM newscast> I have), as the end of the year is glutted with lists. End of the decade, too? Bonus!

  • Listverse recaps the top vice presidents. Iowa's own Henry Wallace makes the list, but half of the list is really presidents while a sixth was a nominee and a seventh was a de facto president. Garrett who?

  • Oddeeis usally good for a few fun lists

  • Cracked lists 6 Adorable Cat Behaviors With Shockingly Evil Explanations. The Furry Three have done most of these.

  • For the Linux geeks, 25 things about Linus Torvalds that even non-geeks will get.
  • Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    Demolition Man

    Demolition Man



    I learned a couple things from Ghost In The Machine: the Latin deus ex machina and the phrase "three line whip." For more on the three line whip, see my Register post.

    Tuesday, December 15, 2009

    Courts overrule Iowa City liquor license denials

    Take That, City Council

    Gazette: "Administrative Law Judge Margaret LaMarche reversed the City Council’s denials of liquor license renewals last summer to downtown bars Fieldhouse and Etc."

    But of course we'll waste the money defending it: "The battle is not over, though. City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes said the city would appeal the decision ..."

    Look, City Council, stop wasting money on law enforcement as selective harrassment.

    Meantime, every, every, EVERY discussion of the "problem" downtown needs to be prefaced with clear statements that the 21 drinking age is unrealistic, unenforcable, and unjust, and some references to "when you're 18 you're an adult" would be nice.

    Till then: Ha, ha, ha.

    Mediacom Not Winning Friends

    No Good Guys in Broadcast vs, Cable Fight

    You know, I'm no big fan of Sinclair Broadcasting and their tactic of sneaking conservative propaganda into their "news"casts.

    But if Mediacom Cable is going to go to the mattresses with Sinclair again, they could have picked a better time for an "upgrade."

    It's the same fight we saw three years ago: Sinclair wants Mediacom to pay more money for rights to CBS affiliate KGAN (and, this time, Fox affiliate KFXA) And the whole fight is strategically timed to impact the biggest broadcast events of the year: the Super Bowl and the Hawkeye bowl game.

    Both sides are taking their effort to the viewers and spinning their spin. But Mediacom's not winning friends this week. As luck would have it, the cable company is "upgrading" its internet service. Email has been interrupted for days at a time, and once it's back up, the spam percentage seems to have climbed. Last night my home had no television or internet service. TV was back this AM but the net was still down.

    Gotta love private sector monopolies. Remember a few years back when McLeod got a referendum passed to run a competing cable system, and then right after that they went broke?

    Way back in 2005 when I was working on the public power death march, we did some polling that showed Mediacom being far, far less popular than MidAmerican. We lost the public power fight two to one, but if we were voting this week I think Mediacom would lose by about the same margin... meantime, get your rabbit ears ready, Hawkeye fans.

    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Monday Miscellaneous

    Monday Miscellaneous

    Here's some goodies for my regular, non-Linux readers:

  • Tom Harkin tells the Burlington Hawk Eye (the state's most under-rated small paper), the filibuster must go:
    "I think, if anything, this health care debate is showing the dangers of unlimited filibuster," Harkin said Thursday during a conference call with reporters. "I think there's a reason for slowing things down ... and getting the public aware of what's happening and maybe even to change public sentiment, but not to just absolutely stop something."

  • On the other hand, Ezra Klein nails Joementum, and says 2009 health care is all about Ned Lamont and the 2006 primary:
    "At this point, Lieberman seems primarily motivated by torturing liberals. That is to say, he seems willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in order to settle an old electoral score."

    Just remember: back in 2000, I told ya so.

  • Speaking of which, here's an analogy scientifically designed to make me cringe:
    If Copenhagen is the enviros' Woodstock, then Gore is The Who, the Grateful Dead and Creedence Clearwater Revival as a one-man band.

    Three great bands, but I'm still partial to Prince, Frank Zappa and Twisted Sister.

  • Closer to home, a must-read at Iowa Republican on Terry Branstad's primary woes:
    There is one thing that Branstad continues to struggle with – his own record.

    While Branstad’s general elections polling numbers are stellar, winning the Republican primary will be no easy task. The last thing Branstad’s staff should do is take their Republican opponents for granted. Thus far, it seems as if the Branstad campaign is living off of the inevitability that they will win the nomination. That’s a strategy that invites failure.

    Most of the article focuses on the road use tax fund, but the 800 pound elephant in the room is Varnum v. Brien. My money's still on BVP in June and a Culver win (more accurately a BVP loss) in November.

  • Last of all, a super-fun toy that lets you redistrict your state. And yes, I've tested it in Linux.
  • Linux Monday: Kernel Check

    Linux Monday: Fine-Tune The Kernel

    One of the advantages we Linux geeks like to claim over competing operating systems is the flexibility of the system. We're not talking about changing your screen saver--we're talking the guts of the operating system itself.

    The most basic, core level part of an operating system is called the kernel. The term "kernel" is generally used to refer to the Linux kernel, but more accurately every OS has a kernel. This piece is slightly dated but has a still sound description of kernels:
    The kernel is the first part of the operating system to load into memory during booting (i.e., system startup), and it remains there for the entire duration of the computer session because its services are required continuously. Thus it is important for it to be as small as possible while still providing all the essential services needed by the other parts of the operating system and by the various application programs.

    As small as possible. That's where you come in.

    Every operating system kernel contains a lot of extras that a just a tiny share of the market needs. Sometimes it's code for backward compatibility, other times it's highly specialized (for example, ham radio software), or things that only programmers need.

    Problem is, we have no idea what's embedded in the Windows or Mac kernel, because it's proprietary and locked in place. Thus your Windows system is doing work that you don't need and can't stop. But the open-source Linux kernel can be fine-tuned to your system's specs and for your style of use.

    This used to be at the high end of geeky. But KernelCheck is a relatively painless way to optimize your kernel.

    I first mentioned, and used, this little gem a few months back. I've managed to speed up my personal benchmark, detecting aliens, about 60% with a somewhat optimized kernel.

    But unfortunately, not too long after I discovered it, the site that maintains the downloadable kernel code moved some file directories and KernelCheck stopped working. Some geeks put together patches, and after a couple tries I figured out how to use those (after some command line voodoo). But now other geeks have put together a downloadable file with those patches already installed. Installing in Ubuntu or another Debian-based system is easy: download and click.

    First, make sure you have an old kernel backed up in case something goes wrong. (Ubuntu already did this for me). You can make sure this is available be rebooting and looking at your GRUB menu (that's GRand Unified Bootloader). If you dual-boot with Windows and Linux, you'll be familiar with this. If not, hitting Escape on bootup usually works.

    KernelCheck showed up on my Ubuntu menu under System Tools. Start it up and you'll be prompted for your password. Follow the series of fairly intuitive prompts. Eventually you'll get to a big tree diagram with a lot of checkmark. The first time you may just want to leave all these at their defaults and close the checkmark screen.

    That'll start the build of your new kernel. The screen will tell you this takes two to four hours. The higher-end the machine, the faster this will go. Once you're done, reboot and make sure everything's in one piece.

    If that was fun, you can try it again and uncheck some stuff to make a smaller, faster kernel. You need to be careful the first time you try this not to take too much stuff out. I had to go back and re-do one when I accidentally disabled my external hard drive. This piece has some good suggestions of what's safe.

    So proceed carefully, but check it out.

    Saturday, December 12, 2009

    Cardella's Calling

    Guess Who's Calling

    The phones started ringing tonight with the robocalls from Republican Lori Cardella's campaign. Not sure who they're calling; my phone remains dead but my wife got a call despite her Democratic affiliation and the Rettig sign in our yard snowbank... where it's frozen so firmly that I won't be able to get it out till the June primary.

    One Deethblog reader reports that the robocall message included complaints about "stolen" yard signs. The implication, of course, is that The Democratic Machine is behind it, with a subtext of Tea Party martyrdom. First the Obamabots took our country away, now they're taking our signs.

    My experience with signs in my high-visibility location is that there are direct relationships between sign damage, home football, weekend bar traffic and proximity to the sidewalk. In 2007 I thought someone had it in for Mike Wright when I lost two of his signs (one was actually burned and melted into a little green globule like a Spinal Tap drummer). When I got my third one I rotated my signs, moved Mike in toward the house and Matt Hayek next to the sidewalk--and then it was Matt who got trashed. That points toward passer-by stupidity more than political malice.

    I also remember chasing one of my signs--I think maybe a Land Water Future--a block and a half down and across Benton Street on an especially windy Sunday last fall. So check the bottom of your snowdrift for your Cardella signs.

    Both the robocalls and the complaints about sign stealing are reminiscent of the conservation bond fight last year. Robocalls are easy when your campaign manager and husband owns a telemarketing firm. But be careful, Tom; corporate contribution laws are different for a candidate campaign than they are for a ballot issue campaign. Looking forward to the campaign finance report.

    One last thought on signs: My yard has been pretty lucky in 2 1/2 years on West Benton. The only losing signs I've put up here are Jeff Shipley--which given his chances and the outcome was really just a big middle finger gesture--and Save Roosevelt School.

    Friday, December 11, 2009

    Delegation Notes

    Congressional Delegation Notes

    National Journal's Hotline drops some lists on DC, full of mosts and leasts, and some Iowans merit mentions.

  • When asked "Which voice in your party would you most like to mute?" the GOP members of Congress surveyed ranked Steve King in the league with Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. (King's constituents may think that's a good thing.)

  • The Reg notes that Bruce Braley is on the "prightest future" list.

  • And while none of the Congressional delegation is on the list of those surveyed, the "political insiders" list seems to have more than its share of Iowans. Gotta love those caucuses.

    One other note: Charlotte Eby picks up on grumbling that GOP congressional candidate Jim Gibbons has carpetbagged into the 3rd CD to run against Boswell. I must, yes I must, note that Leonard Boswell himself is a carpetbagger. He was placed in what's now the 5th CD in 2001. As a proud Blue Dog, he might have held on--and even with his pre-Fallon primary voting record he would be a great improvement over Steve King. The 5th is the kind of district where a Blue Dog is acceptable.

    But instead he took the easy pickings of Des Moines and muscled Matt McCoy, already up and running, out of the open seat race (that was the year Greg Ganske was running against Harkin). We got a Blue Dog where we should have gotten a progressive. So basically, Leonard's got no room to complain about carpetbagging.

    Tangent for the personally acquainted: Apparantly the Mediacom email issue was a nation-wide problem--it actually shoed up on Google's hot search terms yesterday. Seems to be kinda working now, but as for the phone, it's still dead. So your blogger is still suffering off-the-grid anxiety.
  • Thursday, December 10, 2009

    A poor excuse for a post

    A poor excuse for a post

    If you don't know me personally you can skip this: By coincidence, both my phone AND my web mail are dysfunctional today (the email appears to be related to some Mediacom upgrades, the phone's just simply not working). So alternative means of communication are necessary. I have a soft spot for smoke signals or semaphore.

    Wednesday, December 09, 2009

    Cardella's Conundrum

    The Conservative Contradiction

    You can't put a pricetag on democracy... but elections cost too much. The people want to vote... but "We think with a low turnout, we can win this." Students shouldn't vote in local elections... but should sign our petition.

    There are a cluster of contradictions at the core of Republican Lori Cardella's campaign for the Board of Supervisors. But in a bigger sense, those contradictions aren't unique to her campaign.

    Supervisor Rod Sullivan gets bashed for his weekly newsletter's "government is good" feature, but he's merely pointing out the easily overlooked obvious: Government does stuff. And it does stuff that the market economy doesn't do.

    It's always been one of my pet peeves when people say government should be run like a business. The goal of government is fairness, equality and service. The goal of business is profit. Maybe that's why conservatives gravitate to business and progressives self-select the public sector.

    But if conservatives hate government so much, what happens when they participate in government? The contradiction at the heart of conservative governance is that, if your basic default answer is "no, government shouldn't do stuff," then you're rejecting the whole premise.

    There is a model for conservative governance, or at least there was up until the late 1970s. But through the Reagan era, into the Gingrich Era, and now into the Tea Party era, the old paradigm of responsible, frugal stewardship has been abandoned by Republicans. In its place we have a shrill no, no, no cry, couched in Stamp Act rhetoric that was shopworn back when Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan were using it in 1992. There's little more substance than "we hate taxes and we hate anything Obama wants to do."

    The late years of the Republican congressional majority were like the last pages of Orwell's Animal Farm. Spending and deficits hit record highs. There were a lot of reasons for that, but one key cause is that the post-Gingrich, post-Reagan Republican Party is ill-suited for governing. We went from Building A Bridge To The 21st Century to building a bridge to nowhere. "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again," Orwell wrote, "but already it was impossible to say which was which."

    That leaves it to Democrats, supposedly the "tax and spend" party, to be the responsible stewards, to deal with the realities of challenging budgets rather than mere rhetoric. Janelle Rettig joins the Board of Supervisors right at budget time, and keeps telling people, "you're going to be surprises how fiscally conservative I am."

    Out on the west side of town stands the old county poor farm. You can tour it and still see the shackles where the indigent mentally ill used to be chained. We don't treat human beings like that any more. But humane treatment costs more money than putting people in irons and feeding them gruel did.

    That's an extreme example, but one of many. The bulk of local government budgets are paying for people,and the biggest expenses are safety, health, and education. The patrol cars and plows out on the streets, the H1N1 prevention, the teachers getting a snow day today (don't worry, taxpayers, they'll make it up).

    Johnson County voters are more tuned into this than most. We're a public sector town. We teach, we heal, we research. One person's tax cut is another person's layoff. And as one Press-Citizen commenter writes, "given that (Cardella) is a freemarket libertarian who believes that the less government the better, what does she hope to accomplish in a county where the largest single employer is the state?"

    Tuesday, December 08, 2009

    Boswell on Republican Retirement Target List

    Boswell on GOP "Dem Retirement Assault List"

    National Journal:
    GOP strategists are putting extra pressure on more than a dozen Dem lawmakers, hoping to convince them to retire rather than face difficult re-elections.

    An informal list of 17 members the NRCC believes can be convinced to step down, privately called the "Dem Retirement Assault List," makes clear the party needs Dem incumbents to step aside if they have hopes of taking back the majority. The NRCC has taken pains to attack those lawmakers in recent weeks.

    The list includes 14 members whose districts voted for John McCain in '08... (and) Reps. Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) and Leonard Boswell (D-IA), three members who already have credible opponents but who occupy seats Pres. Obama won in '08.

    "Applying constant pressure in combination with the looming threat of a credible challenge is what should make every single one of these guys think twice," said a GOP strategist involved in targeting the Dems.

    Hey, Repubs: I'm with ya on this one, but let the record show I was doing it before you were....

    Why, Deeth, why? 1) the war vote in 2002 2) chronically underperforms the district 3) doomed to lose a redistricting matchup with Tom Latham but most of all 4) despite a little bit better voting record (thanks, Ed, for the push) he continues to self-ID as a Blue Dog. Quit the Blue Dogs, Leonard, then call me.

    Libertarian Elected in Cedar Falls

    Libertarian Elected in Cedar Falls

    Ballot Access News points me to a footnote from last week's city runoffs: up in Cedar Falls, a bona fide Libertarian was elected to the city council.

    The Waterloo Courier covered the election itself, where Libertarian Nick Taiber beat Gary Winterhof in a runoff for an open seat. But they don't even mention the Libertarian angle, focusing instead on Winterhof's endorsements from the mayor and much of the sitting council.

    Independent Political Report, in contrast, leads with the Libertarian angle and notes that Taiber is on the state Libertarian Party Executive Committee and campaigned for libertarian Republican Ron Paul and, later, Libertarian Party nominee Bob Barr, last year.

    Trivia: the job is non-partisan, as are all city councils and mayors in the state. But Iowa law allows for partisan city council elections. The last city to actually do it was Davenport; they voted in 1995 to go non-partisan effective in `97.

    Monday, December 07, 2009

    A Snowy Linux Monday

    A Snowy Linux Monday

    Happy Godfather's Birthday, everyone. Here's the weeks alternative operating system news:

  • A comprehensive review of Ubuntu 9.10 ("Karmic Koala")

  • Two o the things I do a lot are web design and astronomy. There's open source programs for both, and if you're not ready for The Big Switch from Windows to Linux, many of them work cross-platform. The only one of the astronomy apps I've used much is Celestia, which gives you a fun, fly around the galaxy feel.

  • SliTaz: yet another minimalist distribution to compete with old standbys Puppy and Damn Small. Which reminds me, I need some more old junker machines to fix up; I'm down to only six computers up and booted as I write. The aliens won't wait forever to be detected, you know. Reader donations welcome.

  • For the geeky: Syncing up your smart phone in Linux.

  • For the ubergeeky: Editing your GRUB2 menu. For the slightly less geeky that means GRand Unified Bootloader (I had to look it up) and the 2 means, yes, it's an update.
  • Sunday, December 06, 2009

    Sarah Sunday

    Sarah Sunday... and more

    It's Palinsanity in Sioux City as the Rogue herself goes to Sioux City to, ya kno, sell books, just happens to be in Iowa. O.Kay is waiting in line with the most devoted.

    Elsewhere:

  • The expected has happened again as the Johnson County GOP nominates Lori Cardella for the Jan. 19 special election. The Courier has the Official Party Line. So now we wait till the Dec. 28 filing deadline to see if any self-starters emerge. Democratic convention attendance (83) was about twice that of the GOP (43), which pretty closely matches the registration numbers and historic voting patterns of the county...

  • That Jonathan Narcisse primary challenge to Chet Culver ain't gonna happen. In a long, rambling piece on Iowa Republican, Narcisse, the former Des Moines school board member, endorses Chris Rants, with a plug for Rod Roberts as lite guv.

  • Today's must-read is the Register's piece on "stayers," the guys and gals fron your class who married each other and never left that small town.
  • Thursday, December 03, 2009

    Rettig nominated

    Rettig nominated, Senate candidates speak

    Not a surprise but now official-Janelle Rettig is the Democratic nominee for supervisor in the January 19 special election. Rettig handily won the vote at tonight's special convention.

    Self-starter Mary Jo Meggers put her own name forward but the vote wasn't close-76 to 7.

    Of more interest to those outside the People's Republic, all three Democratic senate candidates were on hand. I completely missed Tom Fiegen, but Bob Krause assured me his own speech was excellent.

    But the attention was on Roxanne Conlin, making her first big appearance here since joining the race. She turned the trial lawyer thing on its ear with an "I fight for a living" line. (Also of interest-the pro-Conlin buzz among the key Johnson County players after the convention.)

    The convention has now morphed into the regular monthly central committee meeting, with little major activity other than prep for the January 23 caucuses.

    Wednesday, December 02, 2009

    Conlin, Fiegen, Krause in Iowa City Thursday

    Three Senate Candidates at JCDems Special Convention

    All three Democratic challengers to Chuck "Public t*t" Grassley will speak at the Johnson County Democrat's special nominating convention Thursday night.

    Roxanne Conlin, Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause will address delegates gathered to nominate a county supervisor candidate for the January 19 special election. Krause and Fiegen both attended the October barbecue, but it's Conlin's first big appearance in the People's Republic since joining the race in November.

    The three candidates will speak at the beginning of the program, and the general public is invited (i.e. you don't have to be a delegate to show up and hear the speeches). Details:
    Special Convention will begin at 7 p.m. December 3 in the Buchanan Auditorium (Room W10) Pappajohn Business Building, 21 E. Market St., (Main Campus) University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa. Registration of delegates and alternates begins at 6:30.

    (This means I'm probably going to miss the speeches since I'll be tied up with my usual credentials duties. But I'll do my best to get delegate reactions after the fact.)

    As for the nomination itself, appointee Janelle Rettig is the only announced or even rumored convention candidate. Republicans meet Saturday afternoon and are expected to nominate Lori Cardella.

    So Much Election News 2

    So Much Election News 2

    Bleeding Heartland has a much better on-the-ground analysis of Des Moines area local elections than I did: "If Griess becomes a rising Republican star, just remember that it could have been avoided if some people had talked Vlassis into retiring."

    Aside: Only six cities in the state have Iowa City style primaries; more of the larger cities have runoffs. If Iowa City had a runoff, we could occasionally save ourselves one election; this year Dickens and Mims would have won outright the first round. Of course, that's not the reform I'd make to Iowa City elections (remember, I want precinct-sized districts so students will get represented) but it's worth mentioning.

    Up in Waverly, former state senator Bob Brunkhorst is now mayor.

    And over at Iowa Republican, Craig Robinson has a minimal-spin analysis of the state of All Things Culver:
    Since Roos joined the campaign on September 8th, former Governor Terry Branstad entered the gubernatorial race, Culver was forced to make massive cuts to all levels of state government, the Culver campaign spent $250,000 on two different TV ads in an effort to reassure Iowans that he is up to the task, and the Des Moines Register’s Iowa poll came out showing Culver is in serious trouble. Making matters worse, last weekend, the Iowa Progress Project ran a scathing ad that blames Culver’s mismanagement for cuts made in education.

    It’s impossible to lay the blame for this predicament at the feet of Roos since he has not been on the job long, but when things get bad in politics, heads begin to roll. The bad news for Culver is that things are unlikely to get better soon enough to help him with his re-election effort.

    This is why Democrats have gone out of their way to take the focus off of Culver. The most significant example of this is the recruitment of Roxanne Conlin...

    I'm also going to have to write my take on the demise of Mike Huckabee, but that'll probably be at the Register. Stay tuned.

    Tuesday, December 01, 2009

    So much election news

    So much election news

    Many things on the Iowa scene in the last 24 hours...

  • Probably the big news is the departure of manager Andrew Roos from the Culver/Judge(?) campaign team after just three months. On the record all is cordial, but off the record who knows? The Register had the scoop and comment speculation ranges from rat deserting a sinling ship to the lousy dating pool for a single guy in Des Moines. No, really.

  • On the other side of the ballot another one bites the dust as Christian Fong bails on the governor race after the money dries up. It doesn't change the dynamic of the race much, except for saving Ed Failor some Iowans for Tax Relief Money to spend on someone else. Governor may have been a stretch for the first race but we'll see Fong again, perhaps when district lines shuffle in 2012. Who quits next: Rod Roberts or Jerry Behn? My bet is Roberts, who as a House member has to give up his seat. Behn is a mid-term senator.

  • Dave Hartsuch of Davenport didn't have to give up his Senate seat to challenge Bruce Braley, but he who lives by the primary challenge (knocking off Maggie Tinsman in 2006) may die by the primary challenge.

  • Speaking of Braley, that trip with Roxanne Conlin was an endorsement after all. It's mentioned as part of Bleeding Heartland's further wrapup of campaign events, which I'm trying to not overlap too much.

  • In local events, Cedar Rapids and Des Moines had their runoffs. If Iowa City had a runoff instead of a primary, we could have saved an election. But then, Des Moines elected a 23 year old which is more than Iowa City could manage.
  • Afghanistan: Obama has told us before

    Afghanistan: Obama has told us before

    Short version:

    Waaaay back in 2002, state senator Barack Obama told us that Iraq was the wrong war and Afghanistan was the war we needed to fight. But at caucus time, progressives pretended not to hear the Afghanistan part of Obama’s statements. It was, so to speak, drowned out by the applause, ignored in our disgust with Bush’s main war.

    Long version: my Des Moines Register post.

    Monday, November 30, 2009

    Linux Monday: Karmic Koala vs. Windows 7

    Black Friday meets Linux Monday



    My latest effort to inflict Linux on a new user got more complicated, but more interesting this weekend.

    Like all geeks, my holiday family visits include a fair amount of tech support. A month or so ago my sister in law's laptop died so I promised her a rebuilt machine at Thanksgiving--with of course the qualifier that it would be a Linux machine. She was cool with it, I promised to make it easy, she's not doing much more than browsing, web-based email, and the occasional word processor document, so the FUD (that's geekspeak for "fear uncertainty and doubt) was minimal.

    The machine itself is an old Dell with a 2.0 gig processor. It was hers in the first place, then got passed along to my father in law where it died. So the family geek here determined the issue was a dead hard drive, grabbed one from the parts pile, threw Ubuntu on it, and happily detected aliens with it for a few months.

    I checked the box out thoroughly while I got it ready for her; by coincidence this was while my laptop was in the shop and I used it as my main machine for a month, long enough to know I should bump the memory up from 512 meg to a gig. Also by coincidence this time frame fell during the updrade of Ubuntu upgrade from Jaunty Jackalope to Karmic Koala, so I was able to work through the upgrade issues on a "test" machine.

    (Tangent: Jaunty to Karmic has been an unpleasant move. I've had no one major problem, like the audio issues I had the past two upgrades... but boot time and responsiveness just seems a little slower.)

    Delivery was scheduled for last Saturday (she has the biggest place and the central location so it's always the holiday meeting place). Unfortunately, this fell the day after Black Friday, and Best Buy was having a sale...

    So the geek and the Linux box were greeted by a cute little netbook (I didn't bother to get the specs), and I came face to face with Windows 7 for the first time.

    She still wanted two machines, one for portability and one as the base station mothership sort of machine. Yes! The mission is still on!

    My mission also included setting up a Linksys wifi hub which I'd picked up used while junk crawling. I decided to try that in Windows 7, just to see if it would be a straight plug and play thing. That didn't happen. A little Googling later, I found myself at, of all things, a DOS prompt! running ipconfig. Maybe a brand-new router would have worked straight out of the box I dunno (my issue was that I didn't have a router name and password and had to reset it to the defaut factory settings.)

    Printer setup was smoother. The setup CDs weren't handy but weren't needed. I had to select the printer from a list but after that it was just a bunch of next, next, next. While I was at it I noticed a "system issues" or something icon in the system tray; most were readily resolved including setup of the "Free for 60 days" Norton antivirus. (I saved the "you don't need antivirus with Linux" lecture and the joys of AVG's free antivirus program, for another time; we're still back at the difference between antivirus, anti-spyware and firewall.)

    So far so good. But after the printer setup it came time to, you guessed it, reboot. And the little thing refused to fully power off for at least a half hour as it processed 24 Windows updates. I've gotten spoiled with the Linux approach: no need to reboot unless it's the kernel, and even then you can choose when to reboot. Obviously Windows 7 isn't approaching that model yet.

    While that endless reboot happened, I moved on to my true mission: the Linux box. Most of my work was done back home. I set it up to auto-log in to her account, and selected a very Windows-XP-y theme in Gnome. I started with this (which has actually fooled a few folks) then toned it down to at least acknowledge that no, this is not Windows. Boot up, connect the printer, we're ready.

    Here's the extent of the Linux lesson.

  • "Pretend this little round logo thingie is your start button."
  • "This is Open Office." "Oh, that looks just like Word." "Just remember to save files as .doc if you want to re-open them at work in Word."
  • "This is Firefox. It looks just like Internet Explorer but it's better."
  • "Oh look, you got my pictures on my screensaver."
  • "When you see a little sunburst or red arrow down here that's an update. Just click on it and enter your password, which is (very easy to remember). If you see a little blue recycle thingie after you need to restart but you don't have to do it right away."
  • "If you want to play around with it here's an instruction manual on your desktop."

    This isn't really a fair test because we're not just comparing operating systems, we're comparing netbook vs. desktop. My prediction is the netbook will get more use for browsing but the desktop will get seriously checked out for writing a paper. We'll keep you posted. Now all I have to do is fix my father in law's Mac.
  • Sunday, November 29, 2009

    MMM is back

    Miller-Meeks joins deja vu primary field

    It's deja vu on the GOP primary ballot as three of the players from 2008 are facing off in a slightly different configuration in 2010.

    The big news over this long holiday weekend (four days with no post is the longest I've been off the grid in years) is Mariannette Miller-Meeks announcing her second run at Dave Loebsack. To be honest, I was expecting MMM to hold off until the map got redrawn. But I was wrong there, so let's see what else I can be wrong about.

    Miller-Meeks was a bit of a surprise winner in the `08 primary. The early frontrunner and DC favorite was Peter Teahen, but he was greeted by grassroots loathing as Teahen's donation to 2002 Democratic candidate Julie Thomas became an issue. (The "donated to Dems" card is getting played by Vander Plaats in the governor's race, as he points out Terry Branstad's erstwhile support for Nebraska neighbor Ben Nelson.)

    So MMM was the conservative choice in 2008... but seems to be the establishment pick this time, launching the race with a tour with Barbara Grassley. But in the intervening months, has the party lurched enough to the right that a hardliner like Christopher "Not Tom Harkin" or Steve Rathje can get taken seriously? It helps MMM that the two will split the vote, but don't forget that late in the general election conservatives shot her in the foot by arguing she wasn't "pro-life" (sic) enough. And the primary dynamic is different this year; the top of the 2008 GOP primary ballot was a battle of also-rans for the right to lose to Tom Harkin, while 2010 will be the hottest governor primary since, well, since the last time Branstad was on the ballot.

    Speaking of tours, Roxanne Conlin is hitting the road with Bruce Braley. Just, you know, listening to people, not endorsin' or anything.

    And completing the sense of deja vu, it seems ole Stew Iverson may be making a comeback--on the HOUSE side against Six Packer McKinley Bailey.

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Thanksgiving Side Dishes

    Thanksgiving Side Dishes

    Just a reminder that if it seems like there's less on the ole Deeth Blog these days to check out my Des Moines Register stuff. Now on with the clips:

  • New census numbers mean new analysis of the now year-old presidential election. Marc Ambinder has analysis:
    No wonder Republicans worry about a Democratic demographic storm. Young voter turnout has increased at a rate of about 30% per general election since 2000. Indeed, the rate of increase was higher from 2000 to 2004 than from 2004 to 2008.

    Or to put it my way: the nation got more like the People's Republic of Johnson County.

  • As for Obama's drop in approval, Charles Franklin writes:
    Obama has not plummeted among independents, and that needs to be clarified before it becomes erroneous conventional wisdom... There is no evidence that any group of Dems, especially liberal Dems are unhappy with Obama's performance. Critical is that moderate and even conservative Dems have not moved away since August. Angry conservative Reps are indeed very unhappy with Obama, at almost the same level of disgust as Dems felt for Bush, but they too have reached a plateau at a steady 10% approval.

    Public Policy Polling puts it more plainly:
    In June Obama had an 82% approval rating with Democrats. Now it's 83%. He had a 46% approval rating with independents. Now it's 47%. No real change on either of those fronts. But with Republicans he's dropped from an 18% mark to just 10%. That shift is what put his approval rating below 50%- he's gone from a small amount of crossover support to a very small amount of crossover support... you have to ask though: was there any chance of many of those people actually voting for him in the future?

    Republicans have moved from give the guy a chance tolerance to tea party oppositional defiance.

  • All this begs the FiveThirtyEight question: How Bad Could Obama Screw Up and Still Beat Sarah Palin? Iowa version: How Bad Could Culver Screw Up and Still Beat Bob Vander Plaats?) Local version: How Bad Could Rettig Screw Up and Still Beat Lori Cardella?

  • Meanwhile, over in libertarian la-la land, a spirited defense of Ebenezer Scrooge:
    If Cratchit's skills were worth more to anyone than the fifteen shillings Scrooge pays him weekly, there would be someone glad to offer it to him. Since no one has, and since Cratchit's profit-maximizing boss is hardly a man to pay for nothing, Cratchit must be worth exactly his present wages.

    No doubt Cratchit needs—i.e., wants—more, to support his family and care for Tiny Tim. But Scrooge did not force Cratchit to father children he is having difficulty supporting. If Cratchit had children while suspecting he would be unable to afford them, he, not Scrooge, is responsible for their plight. And if Cratchit didn't know how expensive they would be, why must Scrooge assume the burden of Cratchit's misjudgment?

    I can't tell if this is a joke or not. The fact that I can't tell if this is a joke or not is the main reason why Libertarians have been stuck in the half a percent range for three decades.

  • But one place where libertarians have it right and are ahead of the curve is drug law:
    A Gallup poll in October found 44 percent of Americans favor full legalization of marijuana -- a rise of 13 points since 2000. Gallup said that if public support continues growing at a rate of 1 to 2 percent per year, "the majority of Americans could favor legalization of the drug in as little as four years."

    Advocates say the biggest surge came with the election of Barack Obama, the third straight president to acknowledge having smoked marijuana, and the first to regard it with anything like nonchalance.

  • But on the Free Market, the price of music has dropped to zero, prompting this when I was your age musing from a guy about my age:
    The younger generation has no romantic attachments to records as physical objects. To them, music exists as a kind of omnipresent atmospheric resource.

    And it’s not that I begrudge them their online treasure troves or bite-size iPods. But I still miss the way it used to be, in the old days, when fans had to invest serious time and money to track down the album or song they wanted.

    Uphill, both ways, get off my lawn.
  • Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Running-Marquardt Wins House 33

    Running-Marquardt Wins House 33 with 78%

    And it's a Democratic hold in House District 33 in Cedar Rapids, as Kirsten-Running-Marquardt wins with 78% over Republican Joshua Thurston. One of the bluest districts in the state stays blue.

    9.5 percent turnout (for Iowa Citians, that's what we saw in the city election). Nearly half the vote on absentee, a sign of the Democratic field operation at work. And Cedar Rapids goes to the polls again in a week for the city runoff...

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Scheffler backs GOP Purity Test

    Scheffler backs GOP Purity Test

    Back in the early days of teh interwebs, various versions of "the Purity Test" floated about. It was scored like golf; the lower the score, the less "pure" you were and vice versa. Some of the questions on the deluxe 500 question version wend beyond funny into the zone of the disturbing, but it was all meant in good clean (well, dirty) fun.

    Of course, the modern GOP would have no part of such a purity test, at least outside the Minneapolis airport bathroom. But a number of members of the Republican National Committee, including Iowa's own Steve Scheffler, are backing a ten question Purity test with a real cost: get more than three wrong and they cut off the $. Apparantly the lessons of New York 23 are not yet learned.

    Here's the test.

    (1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill;

    (2) We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare;

    (3) We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;

    (4) We support workers’ right to secret ballot by opposing card check;

    (5) We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;

    (6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;

    (7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;

    (8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;

    (9) We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and

    (10) We support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership; and be further

    RESOLVED, that a candidate who disagrees with three or more of the above stated public policy position of the Republican National Committee, as identified by the voting record, public statements and/or signed questionnaire of the candidate, shall not be eligible for financial support and endorsement by the Republican National Committee

    Scheffler, whose political roots are in the Iowa Christian Alliance, was elected to the RNC at the 2008 state convention, ousting longtime member Steve Roberts.

    Litmus tests this strong are a bit scary... but why is it that Republicans are able to enforce support for the platform where Democrats can't?

    Linux Monday

    Linux Monday

    Second Linux Monday in a row as I try to re-establish the feature.

  • Forget Obama's Nobel Peace Prize; these folks say it should go to Linux founder Linus Torvalds!

  • Remember Chuck Norris Facts? We ubergeeks have Linus Torvalds facts: "Linus Torvalds can divide by zero. Linus Torvalds can do an infinite loop in five seconds… in his head. Linus Torvalds only has 2 buttons on his keyboard: ‘1′ and ‘0′..." Also, Richard Stallman Facts in tribute to the other godfather of open source.

  • Cracked takes a crack at the joys of installing Linux:
    Ubuntu is slim enough that you can install it inside of Windows. That's right - you can actually have a fully functional, surprisingly powerful OS completely contained within the pale bloated mass that is Windows Vista.

    Is it easy? No, but nothing worthwhile ever is. Does it work? Damn right it does.

    Plus, penguins are awesome. Just sayin'.


  • Why can't I pick the technology I use in the office? It's a question I ask every day as all the anti-virus and "security" I have to run to make Windows as secure as Swiss cheese such up two-thirds of my system resources before I even open an app... Hey, it's the early stages of budget season in local governments around here. When the IT people present theirs, see if you can find out how much your taxes are subsidizing Bill Gates...
  • Sunday, November 22, 2009

    JJ and More

    JJ and More

    I skipped out on Jefferson-Jackson this year; I wasn't the only one as Tom Harkin stayed in DC to vote on health care and Dave Loebsack was MIA on “a mission out of the country,” which likely means some Armed Services related work on the front lines.

    The Reg, O. Kay and Charlotte Eby were there.

    Observations:

  • No one has updated their campaign music iPod since last year. All they needed was "Beautiful Day" to complete the cliche collection.

  • Carol Hunter describes applause for the governor as "polite."

    The Register also reports "Obama Below 50% Approval," but a closer look shows 49-44 with 7 percent undecided. Basically that means the McCain voters disapprove. As for that seven percent, considering the alternative...

    Speaking of which, of the infinite takes on Palin this week, Matt Taibbi has one of the fresher ones:
    Listen to Rush any day of the week and you’ll hear him playing the old-fashioned pundit game: he goes about the dreary business of picking through the policies and positions and public statements of Democrats and poking holes in them, arguing with them, attacking them with numbers and facts and pseudo-facts and non-facts and whatever else he can get his hands on, honest or not, but at least he tries.

    Sarah Palin’s battlefield, on the other hand, is whatever is happening five feet in front of her face. She is building a political career around the little interpersonal wars in the immediate airspace surrounding her sawdust-filled head. And in the process she connects with pissed-off, frightened, put-upon America on a plane that’s far more elemental than the mega-ditto schtick.

    Most normal people cannot connect on an emotional level with Rush’s meanderings on how Harry Reid is buying off Mary Landrieu with pork in the health care bill. They can, however, connect with stories about how top McCain strategist and Karl Rove acolyte Steve Schmidt told poor Sarah to shut her pie-hole on election day...

    I can't add anything to that except: wouldn't it be awesome if Earth had rings like Saturn?
  • Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Republicans set convention, too

    Republicans set convention, too

    And now the Johnson County Republicans have set their nominating convention. The Courier has the details and the party line, but the key facts are: Saturday afternoon Dec. 5, Coralville Library, Lori Cardella announced for nomination.

    Even though the petition drive was Republican-led (though by no means exclusively partisan), it was still a live question as to whether the GOP was going to take its own name into the election. As noted earlier today, in the last three county-wide specials (1994, 1997, 1999) the GOP did not have an official nominee--but clearly favored an independent-in-name candidate running against an official Democratic nominee.

    Personally, I think the label "Republican" is a negative in a 70% Obama county... but that certainly ain't my call to make.

    Johnson County Dems Set Convention Date

    Dems Set Nominating Convention Date for Dec. 3

    Johnson County Democrats will nominate their candidate for the Jan. 19 special supervisor election at a Dec. 3 convention at the Pappajohn Business Building on the UI campus. Registration begins at 6:30 p.m. and the gavel drops at 7.

    "We hope to have special guests and have a short convention," says chair Dennis Roseman in the release. Business will be limited to the nomination itself. Thus far, only appointee Janelle Rettig has announced plans to seek the convention nod.

    The delegates and alternates will be those folks elected nearly two years ago on presidential caucus night, but seating will not be by presidential preference group. (Which should be a relief to people who made the then seemingly sensible but now embarrassing choice of John Edwards.)

    This is the fourth special election for county office in my two decades here. History lessons: tempers flare, appointees win, the side that petitions loses, the election itself is the main issue, Democrats who bolt the party lose in the following primary, and conservatives have backed independent candidates rather than officially nominating someone under the Republican label. (This last has changed; see next post)

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Team Cardella Over The Top already

    Special election: Over the top rhetoric already

    The Coralville Courier is really a must-read with your morning cup of coffee. Actually, tea (as in bag) might be more appropriate. It's a great insight into the mindset of local conservatives as the special election effort moves from petition stage into Lori Cardella campaign stage.

    One of the first hot-buttons in the campaign is the petitioner's reliance on student signatures: "Cardella said about half of her signatures came from UI students."

    I'm uneasy with criticizing that tactic--like I keep saying, I more than anyone argued in favor of students in the just-finished city election. The petitioners made a good effort and get a Hee-Haw salute:



    But it's--let's think of a mild word here... cynical to do so when the rhetoric at the time of the conservation bond recount was, to quote Tom Cardella, "the student body population may override the wishes of long-term rural residents of Johnson County."

    And even in attempting to defend the student signatures -- which are legitimate and don't even need defending -- local conservatives' contempt for the students shines through. Deb Thornton writes: "Johnson County Democrats - who by the way, just love all of the student votes, as long as they are voting straight ticket Democrat as they are told!"

    There's no way to truly ferret out the student vote; ballots are secret and University enrollment is not on the voter file. But I think even Deb and I can agree that Iowa City precincts 3 and 5 are the most student-dominated precincts.
    Straight ticket Democratic voting, 2008
    (absentee and election day combined)

    Iowa City 3: 19.35%
    Iowa City 5: 19.48%
    County wide: 19.61%
    The students voted straight ticket D a tiny bit lower than average but basically no more or less than any other voters in the county.

    But most of Wednesday's sputtering rage of over-the-top rhetoric was directed at Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek, who wrote in the Tuesday DI:
    I will now look forward to the special election so that we can welcome Janelle Rettig to the supervisors a second time and to tell Lori thanks, but no thanks. That $75,000 could have been put to a much better use. It could have been used to pay for the ever-climbing costs of bringing forward a new Justice Center.

    Now, I'm not yet convinced on the need for a new building (I could be persuaded, but I want some changes in law and in law enforcement policy in exchange), but Lonny is far more receptive to public opinion and input than his predecessor Bob Carpenter, who went into the 2000 jail bond campaign with the attitude of "I'm the sheriff, I say this is what I need, and how dare you have an opinion."

    Lonny started running in 2002, before Carpenter announced his retirement, meaning he was potentially running against his own boss. Hardly the move of a loyal "member of the local Democrat party machine" (though, in fairness, Carpenter was no more a Democrat than the man in the moon) or someone who's afraid of an election.

    Yet the headline blares, in the inimitable teabagger style, "Pulkrabek questions Constitutional right to vote." If anyone has questioned people's right to vote, it's Thornton, who led a GOP effort in 2004 that challenged 2000 Johnson County absentee ballots. Most were, you guessed it, students, but others had "flaws" such as living in a Systems Unlimited house or having bad handwriting--an effort that drove one woman with a degenerative disability to tears of rage.

    Back to Lonny, an anonymous writer ("from fear of reprisal from my own Sheriff") complains, "You are a sheriff now, sir, supposedly, a non-partisan position."

    Uhhh... actually, sheriff is a partisan position. We even had a Republican sheriff here as late as 1988. I seem to remember Lonny beating a Republican who said some rather unfortunate things about his horse.

    The rhetoric of Anonymous isn't quite to that level, but "supporter of one party rule, sort of like a dictator" doesn't 1) sound like the Lonny Pulkrabek I know or 2) raise the level of discourse. But it does fit the Tea Party line: Iowa City as Little Chicago. Ostensibly about corruption, but it bashes students, Chicago People If You Know What I Mean, and "President" Barrack Hussein Osama all at once.

    The "machine" rhetoric is amusing to this little cog, as it presents the Johnson County Democrats as some sort of efficient monolith, awaiting marching orders. Obviously, these folks have never been to any of our meetings. The Republicans should know about our primary fights, though; enough of them regularly participate as "Democrats for a day" using, as is their right, our rather loose laws on party registration.

    This may be as good a point as any to make it clear that Janelle Rettig is not necessarily the Democratic candidate in the Jan. 19 election, though she has announced her intent to seek the nomination at the special convention. (And I've announced my intent to support her at that convention--more info on that as details are announced.)

    Back to Anonymous, he/she/it writes: "How about some justice and protection for the south side! It is a war zone down there," apparently unaware that Broadway and Lakeside are city, not county, jurisdictions. (Aside: if the city was less concerned with harassing 18 19 and 20 year old adults downtown, they could devote more resources to public safety in other parts of town.) Just throw enough irrelevant stuff at the wall to see what sticks.

    (Anonymous also keeps posting comments on some of my blog's four year old posts, usually about Viagra. I suspect this may be unrelated.)

    One thing Anonymous does get right: "How many of the Johnson County Supervisors are Republican? That’s right, NONE!" True, because none have been elected to the job in 50 years. And if the low tone of rhetoric keeps up, Janelle Rettig should extend the Democratic winning streak.