Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dems Still Worried About Boswell

DCCC Still Worried About Blue Dog Boswell

Most of the attention paid to a leaked memo (scanned pdf) from Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Rep. Chris Van Hollen is on Democratic plans on offense in 29 GOP-held districts carried last fall by President Obama (that would, narrowly, include Tom Latham's 4th CD). But the list on defense is worth noting.

Leonard Boswell, who chronically underperforms his district, is in the list of 41 "Frontline" members who the DCCC is keeping an eye on just in case. Boswell is by far the senior member on the list. Other than the chronically endangered Baron Hill of Indiana and Ciro Rodriguez of Texas, both of whom have lost and won again in gerrymandered districts from hell, the rest of the list is from the classes of `06 and `08.

Shouldn't a six term incumbent in a reasonable solid be able to take care of himself? Maybe a Democrat whose voting record actually matched the district could have... or could yet.

When the map came out in 2001, Matt McCoy was already up and running, and the Boswell farm was in the open 5th District. How's that for an alternate history: a Blue Dog is a great improvement over Steve King, and Des Moines doesn't have to settle for less than a progressive..

Johnson County Board Backs Marriage Equality

Johnson County Board Backs Marriage Equality

The Johnson County Supervisors passed a resolution Thursday supporting the Iowa Supreme Court's Varnum v. Brien decision that made Iowa the third state to allow gay marriage.

The resolution was in response to a vote by the all-Republican Jefferson County Board that opposed Varnum and called for a state vote on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. The Jefferson County Board called on all other 98 counties to join them, but the Johnson County board, all Democrats, voted 4-1 to take the opposite side.

LGBT activist Robin Butler denounced the lone holdout, Pat Harney. "After Harney demanded changes in the letter to weaken the language of support, he voted against the letter being sent," Butler wrote in a mass-circulated email.

Butler's wife, Janelle Rettig, recently opened a campaign committee for the 2010 Democratic primary for county supervisor. She won't face Harney, who was re-elected to a four year term in 2008.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Press-Citizen Endorses Sales Tax Yes

Press-Citizen Endorses Sales Tax Yes

Key points from the endorsement editorial:

  • Quote from Former Mayor Ernie Lehman, leader of the council's conservative faction during his time in office: "While I am not a proponent of higher taxes, I am even less a proponent of paying the tax and not sharing the benefits. The projects slated to be done are projects that need doing and will be done in time. This represents an opportunity to do them in a timely fashion -- at a fraction of the cost that would otherwise prevail."

  • "Much of the tax revenue collected in Iowa City and Coralville will go for the local matches required to receive those federal and state funds." Tax opponents are deliberately fudging this point, claiming that incoming state and federal dollars make the local matches unnecessary.
  • Specter Switch Day Two

    All Specter All The Time

    I'm in six days to election busy mode so haven't had as much time to dig into the Specter stuff (or for that matter the end of the Legislative session) as I'd like. With all my rambling on seniority I can't believe I missed the Tom Harkin angle, but Bleeding Heartland has it covered.

    And apparently Vice President Joe is the guy who made this happen, with five years of serious work and groundwork going all the way back to the Robert Bork hearings. Biden is more a Man Of The Senate than any VP since LBJ; you don't spend 36 years in an institution like that without leaving some mark. And now it seems Biden may have even more influence on the Senate than Johnson did, in part because he's been just deferential enough (whereas LBJ tried to keep running the Senate and was quickly shot down.)

    "It is true that being a Republican moderate sometimes feels like being a cast member of Survivor -- you are presented with multiple challenges, and you often get the distinct feeling that you're no longer welcome in the tribe. But it is truly a dangerous signal that a Republican senator of nearly three decades no longer felt able to remain in the party." -- Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.

    Or RINO-Maine, as the conservative bloggers would say. Overwhelming rightroots reaction, from Boss Limbaugh on down, is good riddance to Specter. In fairness, we had much the same reaction to Joe Lieberman. (Though with better reasons, and Specter to his credit made a clean break rather than coming up with a sham "Independent Republican" or "Connecticut for Lieberman" kind of label. Not that he didn't consider an independent run--he did.)

    And not only has Specter joined the Democratic Party, it appears he's also now a member of the Wu-Tang Clan.

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    Specter Switches

    Specter Joins Dems

    "Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.

    "When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But, I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.

    "Since then, I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.

    "I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary."Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.

    "When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But, I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.

    "Since then, I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.

    "I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.

    Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), April 28, 2009

    Great statement, but Kos is cynical:
    This move is about political survival, and nothing more. Specter's overriding concern is staying in the Senate, and he'll bend whatever conviction is necessary to make that happen. And since it was clear he wasn't going to survive a primary challenge, well, he did what he needed to do. I wouldn't be surprised, if the Dems pick up a good primary challenger to Specter, for the incumbent to suddenly re-find religion on EFCA.

    Still, it's one more vote for control. That'll still affect cloture on an issue by issue basis, but now Specter will be looking for potential opposition over his left shoulder rather than his right. So welcome aboard, Senator Specter. You're one of us now, and we expect you to vote accordingly.

    Another way this gets us closer to 60: without a new Senate organizing resolution, Specter keeps his committee seats--seats which come out of the GOP's share. And the Democrats could put a big condition on that re-organizing resolution: seating Senator Franken.

    Specter referred to Reagan's big tent, and while he doesn't explicitly say that the big tent is Obama's now his action says so loudly. This is one more toll of the bell for the Jim Leach version of the GOP, as the moderates abandon the regional remnant of the Party of Lincoln to the likes of Huckabee and Palin and Limbaugh, who will no doubt argue that this defection PROVES that the way to win is by being even MORE conservative. (Whether or not it's metaphysically possible to get more conservative than neo-con and neo-Confederate is another question.)

    The Iowa angle here: Chuck Grassley is now the last survivor of the Republican Class of 1980, which gave us giants like Jeremiah Denton, Paula Hawkins, and of course Dan Quayle. This doesn't boost Grassley's seniority at all; as I noted recently Grassley outranked Specter by a notch based on House service. Back home, last of the class is just one more small facet of the 52 consecutive years in office card that Bob Krause, or some other Dem, can play next year. Laugh if you will, but remember that the `58 Studebaker worked for Greg Ganske (I suggest an Edsel myself).

    Monday, April 27, 2009

    Johnson County Licenses Outnumber Petitions

    Johnson County Marriage Licenses Outnumber Petitions

    Having spent most of the day at ground zero of the Gaypocalypse, I am pleased to report that the world did not end, my hetero marriage is as good as ever, and I boldly predict the sun will rise tomorrow.

    The Register is reporting roughly 18,000 signatures on anti-marriage equality petitions ("that amounts to less than 1 percent of the state’s population") and 386 same sex marriage licenses today.

    In Johnson County: more marriage licenses (46) than objections (17 signatures). I love the People's Republic. Pottawattamie can claim the same distinction, thanks to Nebraskans.

    Marriage Monday in Iowa City

    Marriage Monday in Iowa City

    Recorder Kim Painter issues marriage license as TV crew films.

    Approximately ten same-sex marriage licenses have been issued in Johnson County as of 8:40 this morning.

    The Iowa Supreme Court issued procedendo, the last formal legal step to marriage equality in Iowa, at 7:52 a.m. "I was tingling and got choked up for a minute" when the legal notice arrived on her Blackberry, said Recorder Kim Painter.

    40 to 50 people, including couples, supporters and media (two TV stations, several print organizations, and a blogger), were on hand just after 8 a.m. The crowd was much smaller than it had been at a 2004 protest, when Painter was forced by the law as it stood to deny licenses to more than 50 couples.

    "We don't have the rush feel that other states have had, we don't have the fear it'll be taken away," said Robin Butler. She and partner Janelle Rettig were married in a ceremony in Canada a few years ago, and that ceremony is now recognized in Iowa.

    Painter said no judicial waivers of the three day waiting period had been issued so far.

    Indeed, big and fast ceremonies may be the exception rather than the rule, as some of the couples had the "big wedding" years ago. That includes the first couple in line, Lisa Harbit and Lolita Blaha, who arrived at 7:10 a.m. "This is history in the making and we want to be part of it," said Lisa. The couple had a large commitment ceremony years ago, and plan to have a small ceremony for family and friends in the near future.

    Couple Sue and Lucy (no last names please) also had a commitment ceremony ten years ago, and "this won't be as big a bash as last time."

    There were no signs of counter-protesters. Connections, an Iowa City LGBT organization, had a table, and one family had a small tailgate party. Loud cheers went up as each couple (about 10 by 8:40 a.m.) left the building with licenses in hand.

    Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek, who was in the building with two officers just in case, said there were no incidents, and about 8:30 he and the officers left.

    County Attorney Janet Lyness was also on hand in case legal issues came up, but none did and she instead was greeting friends and taking pictures.

    Butler said she recognized many of the people on hand as active members of the LGBT community, but there were other couples she had never seen before. She also noted a broad mix of ages.

    At the far end of the counter, away from the marriage hubbub, one person was getting a real estate deed. Just another day.

    Jaunty Jackalope

    Linux Monday: Leaping to the Jackalope

    Linux Monday is back even though my laptop isn't. Last week I finally configured a backup machine that does everything I need except fit under my arm, and on Thursday night/Friday morning I upgraded Ubuntu from version 8.10 to the brand new Jaunty Jackalope, version 9.04.

    If you saw the liveblog you'll see I had a couple bumps in the road. Turns out my problem was a font package that was messed up in my 8.10 install in the first place. I chose an upgrade that kept my configuration, so what was a problem before remains a problem. Fixing the install took a couple (sorry) command line commands, (sudo apt-get upgrade, for those of you who understand) but then all was well. I also found instructions to fix the font issue as well.

    The second machine I upgraded, which was a bit older, had no problems.

    I know this doesn't make my proselytizing case well, but truth is the best option here. And for me, the silver lining is that I get a dry run on the backup machine before I work on the laptop.

    Semi-random thoughts:

    Boy does this version boot FAST.

    Audio and video are working well; audio was an issue for me in the upgrade from 8.04 to 8.10. And my Flash video plugins (which you need for YouTube) are working better than they did on this machine in 8.10.

    Open Office is upgraded from 2.4 to 3.0 (which just barely missed the cutoff for Ubuntu 8.10). I'd already upgraded that myself on the good machine but this made it easier.

    Included by default is KStars, a nice little astronomy program that was configured with one question (where are you), so if you're a space geek like me it's a nice touch. There's also a neat little disk cleanup utility called "Computer Janitor" that clears away unnecessary files and explains why they're no longer needed.

    Something I haven't tried yet but plan to: a wizard for creating a bootable USB druve.

    The tiny feature I miss the most from the early versions: the clock screen-saver. I think Ubuntu dropped that after 6.06. It's not hard to figure out, but why not just keep it?

    So, so far so good. More to come when the laptop returns.

    Sunday, April 26, 2009

    Maher has Best Line Yet on GOP

    Maher: The GOP as Angry Ex-Boyfriend

    Bill Maher, the spiritual godfather of Stewart and Colbert, has the Best. Analogy. Ever. to explain the tea-partying GOP's behavior at the dawn of the Obama era:
    Look, I get it, "real America." After an eight-year run of controlling the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court, this latest election has you feeling like a rejected husband. You've come home to find your things out on the front lawn -- or at least more things than you usually keep out on the front lawn. You're not ready to let go, but the country you love is moving on. And now you want to call it a whore and key its car.

    That's what you are, the bitter divorced guy whose country has left him -- obsessing over it, haranguing it, blubbering one minute about how much you love it and vowing the next that if you cannot have it, nobody will.

    But it's been almost 100 days, and your country is not coming back to you. She's found somebody new. And it's a black guy.

    The thing that you people out of power have to remember is that the people in power are not secretly plotting against you. They don't need to. They already beat you in public.

    In a similar vein, Washington Monthly praised the president for cooling to the idea of an elusive "bipartisanship":
    The parties disagree with one another. They want to take the country in very different directions. The majority party will offer proposals, and the minority party will criticize the proposal with varying degrees of rage.

    If the White House really is done taking Republican outreach seriously, it's about time.

    Saturday, April 25, 2009

    Polling Place Exclusion in Sex Offender Bill

    Ecection Exception in New Sex Offender Law

    The most unenforceable aspects of the 2000 foot sex offender zone are finally going away once Governor Culver signs Senate File 340 (which he's said he will).

    Instead of focusing on where offenders live, the new law will focus on where they can be. The bill aims to keep offenders 300 feet away from schools, libraries and other such facilities.

    Only the most serious offenders will still be under the 2000 foot restriction which has concentrated sex offenders into the tiny handful of places where it was legal for them to live.

    There's a few reasonable exceptions, one of which went unreported: On election day, and offender may go to their polling place if it's in a school "solely for the period of time reasonably necessary to exercise the right to vote in a public election."

    Friday, April 24, 2009

    Roosevelt Winning Sign War

    Sign War

    In the yard sign war between YES FOR ALL and AX THE TAX, the winner seems to be SAVE ROOSEVELT SCHOOL... and not just in my neighborhood.

    Jaunty Upgrade Liveblog 2

    Jaunty Upgrade Liveblog 2

    7:42 and of course because I tried to show off it didn't go as perfect as I'd hoped. But I'm now up and running. Will have to fill in details later.

    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    Jaunty Upgrade Liveblog

    Jaunty Upgrade Liveblog

    Jaunty Jackalope Thurday here in Ubuntu world as the new version 9.04 is ready.

    If you've been using Ubuntu you can set yourself up for automatic notice of new versions. From the menu it's System > Administration > Software Sources. Click the Updates tab, and at the bottom of that menu there's a dropdown box for Release Upgrades. You can choose between Never (to stay with an old version forever), Long Term Support Releases only (that's currently 8.04; the next update 9.10 is scheduled to be an LTS), and Regular Releases, which today's Jaunty is.

    Having done that, the release upgrade is pushed to my Update Manager. It's 10:07 and I've had a red arrow on my toolbar since this morning indicating a significant update.

    New Distribution Release '9.04' is available and an Upgrade button. Let's hit it at 10:15 (blogging will slow my upgrade down, but I'm doing it for you.).

    Not at 10:16 we see:

    = Welcome to Ubuntu 9.04 'Jaunty Jackalope' =

    The Ubuntu team is proud to announce Ubuntu 9.04 'Jaunty Jackalope'.

    Ubuntu is a Linux distribution for your desktop or server, with a fast
    and easy install, regular releases, a tight selection of excellent
    applications installed by default, and almost any other software you
    can imagine available through the network.

    Some more minor legalese and two buttons: Cancel and Upgrade. CLICK

    Now we see
    Downloading the upgrade tool
    The upgrade tool will guide you through the upgrade process.
    Downloading file 1 of 2

    A Cancel button is offered. 10:19.

    Failed to extract
    Extracting the upgrade failed. There may be a problem with the network or with the server.

    Not unheard of on release day: the servers and mirrors get really busy. There's ways to get there but I want to keep this easy. I'll go back to the top to try again. I remember the old days of war-dialing the ISCABBS for an hour at a time to try to connect. This shouldn't be that bad.

    The machine is a Dell, 2 GHz Celeron, 512 Mb of RAM. 40 gig hard drive. It's my main backup machine; the good laptop is in the shop with a blown video card.

    10:35 and now things are moving. I have a small window with each of the following highlighting in turn:

    Preparing to upgrade
    Setting new software channels
    Getting new packages
    Installing the upgrades
    Cleaning up
    Restarting the computer

    Notice how I'm happily blogging away while all this is happening.

    There's a progress bar below this list; at 10:42 we get another window. Tells us we have 14 packages to remove, 206 to install, and 1086 to upgrade. 901 meg of download, or 1 hour 43 minutes at my speed. This is my last chance... go for it. CLICK Start Upgrade.

    I'm now fetching file 1 of 1292. But I really don't have to DO anything, except tell you about it. Sit back and surf, let Ubuntu do the rest.

    11:26 -- That went well for a while but then it stalled out; says I kept what's downloaded so far. A few clicks later I'm back in business and apparently competing for bandwidth with every other Linux geek on the planet. Note to self: next time, wait a couple days...

    11:42 and we have indeed picked up where we left off. Download speed varying a lot. I'm not staying up all night on this; I tend to wake up in the middle of the night so I'll check when I do.

    Ubuntu 9.04 Released

    Jaunty Jackalope Day

    It's a big day in Linux land: The new Ubuntu upgrade, version 9.04 ("Jaunty Jackaloe") is out today, and my good laptop is STILL in the shop. Seven weeks and counting.

    Fortunately, I'm finally set with a half-decent backup machine: a Celeron 2.0 GHz with 512 Mb of RAM, so I'm able to have more than three Firefox tabs open without grinding to a halt. It's running Ubuntu 8.10, so soon as I have time I'll liveblog the automated upgrade.

    When the laptop gets back (latest estimate: Tuesday) I'm thinking of doing a new install. It was working fine when it left (the problem was a fried video card) but I'd like to go to the 64 bit version. I'll decide after I play with Jaunty a bit.

    Thursday Clip Show

    Clip Show

    Or if you prefer, highlight reel.

  • Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek backs sales tax: "Take a drive through the Coral Ridge Mall on a Saturday or Sunday and look at all those cars with license plates from counties other than Johnson. You will be amazed. The May 5 vote is your opportunity to have all of those non-Johnson County residents help lower your taxes and send extra money to help maintain your rural roads."

  • Here come those gay marriage tourism dollars: "The couple organized the "Show Me Marriage Equality Bus," which will depart from St. Louis at 6 a.m. May 1 for Iowa City, where the couples will obtain marriage licenses and head to a non-denominational space for more personal ceremonies. Fourteen couples are signed on to ride the bus, but there is room for 20 couples if more are interested..." It may be non-PC, but the idea of Big Gay Al's Big Gay Wedding Bus just won't leave my head.

  • Saw One Iowa's pro-marriage equality ad on actual TV last night--but as it was MSNBC during Rachel Maddow they were pretty much preaching to the choir...

  • Hillary kicks House Republican butt and (I love when we do this) plays the We Won card:
    Well Mr. Pence, I have lived a long time now. I grew up during the Cold War when we were on hair trigger alert of nuclear war. I remember virulent anti-American communist dictators threatening our country on a regular basis. I remember our presidents meeting with them, shaking their hands and negotiating...

    I have also seen us establish normal relations with Vietnam. I have seen 30 years of normalized relations with China. And I don’t think there is any contradiction between standing strongly for our principles and our values, and the give and take of diplomatic encounter...

    My bottom line is I am here to serve my country, which I have loved since I was a little girl. I support my President because he is committed to doing whatever he can in the time he is given to serve to make this a better more secure safer world. There are different approaches. I respectfully say we spent 8 years trying to isolate Chavez, and what has been the result?

    I don’t think it’s been in America’s interest. So we are gonna try some different things. I respect your disagreement. We want as bi-partisan a foreign policy as possible.......constructive criticism. We want your feedback.

    But President Obama won. He beat me in a primary in which he put forth a different approach. And he is NOW our President, and we ALL want our President to succeed...

    All except Rush anyway. Oh, and Clinton and committee member Ron Paul has nice things to say about each other: “Having campaigned [with you] during the last presidential election, you had the most enthusiastic supporters of anyone I ever saw.” Secretary Clinton continued, “Your message obviously resonated with a lot of people.”

  • Speaking of Ron Paul as I shamelessly shill for traffic: Nate Silver thinks the tea parties, and perhaps the future of the GOP, are more Paulish than Paliny: "Although many conservative groups were eager to co-opt their purpose, the core of the message -- anti-tax, anti-big government -- was about as libertarian as it gets."

  • And speaking of undeserved traffic: A lot of people using The Google for "Obama Iowa Earth Day" yesterday found my story from the Pentacrest rally. Has it been two years already?

  • Socialism and capitalism in action:
    The 47,000 residents of Wilson, NC got tired of paying for slow broadband, so the city government launched its own fiber ISP called Greenlight that offers some pretty solid packages ranging from $99 for 81 cable channels, unlimited phone service, and 10Mbps (down and up) internet to $170 for every single channel including premiums and 20Mbps up/down internet. (There's even a "secret" 100Mbps up/down internet plan.) Of course, these prices blow TWC and Embarq out of the water -- the comparable basic Time Warner plan has fewer channels and less bandwidth for an "introductory rate" of $137 -- and rather than compete, the two giants decided to lobby the North Carolina legislature into proposing bills that outlaw community services like Greenlight.

  • The Million Militia Man March: how Confederate. I can't decide what's better: the far far right stealing a line from Louis Farrakahn, or the fact that the pictures of massive crowds in their video are from Obama's inauguration.
  • Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    Asteroids protest Earth Day

    Asteroids Protest Earth Day

    Chanting "We're here! We're Small! Get Used To It!" residents of the asteroid belt Wednesday protested the designation of a special day, "Earth Day," to honor only one planet.

    Objecting to geo-centrism and size-ism, asteroids demanded that the Solar System recognize small bodies that do not clear their orbits as equals to the eight so-called "major planets."

    "We are the invisible majority," said a 100-meter jagged rock who preferred to remain anonymous. "Just because you can't see us with the naked eye doesn't mean we don't orbit the sun. Some of us have moons just like you big planets."

    A threat believed to originate with the Asteroid Liberation Front (ALF for you 80s TV fans) demanded recognition from Earth, "or else we might send a suicide bomber to smack into you. Don't forget what happened to the dinosaurs."

    ALF also demanded that Jupiter stop disrupting asteroid orbits and release the outer moons it captured from the asteroid belt, calling them "prisoners of gravity." The group also called for an end to the use of prejudicial terms like "minor planet" and description of their off-center, out of ecliptic plane orbits as "eccentric."

    But other asteroids denounced the ALF threats. "I've been discovered since 1861, and I keep quietly orbiting between Mars and Jupiter every 3.437 Earth years," said asteroid 65 Cybele. "We're not all a bunch of burn-outs like those damn comets."

    Of the larger planets, only Mercury expressed any solidarity with ALF. "First they came for Pluto, and I was silent," said the rarely visible first planet from the sun.

    "Stop laughing at my name," said Uranus.

    Earth, as usual, ignored the asteroid threat.

    Earth Day

    More Seriously on Earth Day

  • Evolution in action: Monsanto breeds killer weeds, makes money.

  • And what ever happened to last year's bottle bill?
  • McCarthy Says Culver Not Talking

    How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore Part 2

    Last week it was just Crazy Ed, but this week:
    House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy blamed the governor as activity ground to a halt in the House, days before the Legislature was expected to adjourn.

    "All of our work is pretty much done now, except for negotiations with the governor's office. And we're waiting for the governor to engage in negotiations," said McCarthy, a Des Moines Democrat.

    Culver's spokesman denied that the governor is refusing to negotiate with lawmakers.

    So Liebercrat Kevin McCarthy is saying roughly the same thing as Ed Fallon. That pretty much covers the whole spectrum of the Democratic Party (with the exception of DINO's Geri Huser and Dolores Mertz).

    Bonus points to anyone who recognized the headline reference.

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    Bartz urges recorders to break the law

    Bartz urges breaking the law

    With Republican legislative efforts to attach gay marriage amendments as non-germane riders to must-pass legislation, opponents are now trying to stop marriage equality with civil disobedience. State Senator Merlin Bartz is urging county recorders to break the law they're sworn to uphold and encouraging an astroturf petition effort by the Iowa Family Policy Center. But one leading recorder says she expects her colleagues to follow the Supreme Court's ruling in Varnum v. Brien and begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples on Monday.

    The petitions urge recorders "to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples on April 27th, 2009, and every day after, until such conflict between the Supreme Court’s opinion and the law (sic) is addressed by a VOTE OF THE PEOPLE OF IOWA."

    A strongly worded letter last week from the state Department of Health, but drafted by the state Attorney General's office, says recorders must issue same-sex licenses on the same basis as opposite-sex licenses, or they will be in violation of their oath of office.

    "I expect all 99 recorders to issue licenses and be completely professional, as always," says Johnson County Recorder Kim Painter.

    "I really respect my colleagues in the Recorders' Association," Painter said. "Some of them are coming under very heavy fire. I have heard from Recorders who have been harrassed at their counters, literally threatened with hell-fire and damnation by clergy at their local legislative breakfasts, and other like encounters. Some of those taking the most flak fundamentally disagree with the ruling in Varnum. But all are ready to issue licenses on Monday, come, well, hell or high water. I'm really proud of them."

    Johnson County, the most liberal in the state, seems like particularly unfertile soil for one of the petitions. "I anticipate no trouble, really," said Painter, one of the first out lesbian elected officials in the state when first elected in 1998. "Perhaps one of Bartz's petitions will make its way here, I'm not even sure about that."

    "I'm coordinating with law enforcement to assure relative calm here as we conduct business on Monday," said Painter. She's heard of no planned protests in Iowa City, but noted that notorious picketer Rev. Fred Phelps claims to be coming to Polk County on Friday morning.

    Stuff Other People Wrote

    Stuff Other People Wrote

  • Devilstower at Kos says the tea partiers looked really, really familiar. Highlights:
    It was 1992. All that was missing was a big eared guy and some flip charts.

    If Republicans are thinking these are the guys who are going to be manning their phone banks in 2010, the ones who are going to be knocking on doors, or coughing up checks for the RNC -- they better think again. These folks are gone. They've left the reservation -- a lot of them left it back in 1992 -- and they're not going to come back.

    Like the folks who backed Perot, the baggies are not Republicans. The signs there were a mixture of libertarian and populist, corporatist and anarchist, simply unhappy and deeply disturbed. Taxes were far from the only concern -- they weren't even the primary concern. They were simply upset, and momentarily excited to share that unhappiness with others, even if those others didn't care one whit about the cause of their unhappiness.

    There are two big problems for the baggies (and the lobbyists who put together the tax day events) if they hope to match what Perot did in 1992. If they want to turn a one time outing into a political movement, they need acceptable, inspiring leadership. Ron Paul is not that guy. Neither is Bob Barr or Rick Perry.

    They also need a coherent message. One that's not a mix of "I'm paying too much tax," "cap and trade is evil," "secession is legal," and "Obama is a fascist/socialist/communist wussy."

  • Senator Al Franken is staffing up.

  • And the Press-Citizen gets it wrong on the bar "problem" downtown, concluding:
    We're happy with this (proposed) ordinance (500 feet between new bars) only in as much as it becomes a first step toward addressing those broader concerns. Only as much as it leads the City Council to even more aggressively recommend denying liquor license renewals for problem bars. And, more importantly, only as much as it leads the City Council to finally do what it should have done years ago: establish a 21-only policy for bars in the city.

    Uh... we had that conversation two years ago, and the voters, ALL of them, including the young and the landless, rejected it.

    The city is stuck enforcing an unenforcable law. The Constitution says you're an adult at 18, and our alcohol laws should reflect that. Only when we separate the artificial age issue from the alcohol abuse issue will we be able to deal with actual problem drinking, as opposed to wrongly illegal drinking by rightfully legal adults.
  • Monday, April 20, 2009

    Tax Election Moves Forward Post-Lombardo

    Tax Election Moves Forward Post-Lombardo

    In the wake of Friday's shock firing of Iowa City manager Michael Lombardo, the Yes side is moving forward with its campaign for the May 5 sales tax vote. Yes For All added four more members to its steering committee over the weekend, including mayors Louise From of University Heights, Don Saxton of Oxford, and the other Mayor Bailey, Russ of Hills.

    (Tangent: My favorite thing about the Oxford Project, a series of photos of Oxford residents taken 20 years apart, is that Don Saxton, who has been mayor that whole time, looks almost identical in his two portraits.)

    The No side, meanwhile, is using the firing to repeat their case, with some evidence-free speculation thrown in. Some Press-Citizen commentators believe the termination is a leftist coup of sorts. Others are in a Worst. Council. Ever. mood, forgetting the clownish and dysfunctional 2000-2003 Kanner-Pfab era. User dethorn (presumably Ax The Tax member and GOP activist Deb Thornton), writes, "Bet they were mad that he didn't stop the TEA party rally on Wednesday."

    No one involved is that ham-handed. The seven council members, all of whom support the tax, are politically savvy enough to have gotten through at least one competitive election each. Four of them defeated incumbents to win their seats. As for the myth that the left is either all-powerful or monolithic in city politics, two words: Public Power.

    People will engage in whatever gossip they will; I'm on the record here and won't. The rapid move into closed-door session Friday is not unusual; indeed, an open session for an evaluation would have been far more unusual. But the unusual suddenness, speed, unanimity and worst possible timing indicate a compelling reason, and Mayor Regenia Bailey's careful comments have a city attorney vetted feel to them. The city council is smart enough to know that Friday's firing doesn't help politically, and has to hope that the public can separate the Lombardo issue from the flood relief issues at stake in the election.

    420 Day

    Happy 420

    I just looked at the topic a couple weeks back, but what's 420 day without a little reggae:

    Also, with Columbine's ten year anniversary rolling around, here's something old I wrote on the five year.

    Sunday, April 19, 2009

    Deeth's concert list

    A lifetime of live shows

    There's a Facebook list going around of top five concerts you've been to. I found five to be too limiting so I got inspired to do one of my periodic music posts.

    Thinking back, I'm not really embarrassed by any of these, and I'm kind of embarrassed by that. I mean, I lived through the 80s and there's not a single MTV haircut band on here. I missed the Thompson Twins for a national speech tournament, and that show would have filled a big gap on the resume.

    Hop in the Wayback Machine with me:

    Heart, 1978: Ooo! Barr-a-CU-da! My first concert ever, in 19-Seventy-freakin-8, the Dog and Butterfly tour, original lineup before the intra-band relationships tanked, before MTV and the outside songwriters. If they'd had less personal and record company drama they'd be recognized for the great band they were. After this show I had a crush on Nancy for years. We took black and white photos that looked a lot like this one.

    The opening act was Player. That's right, "Baby Come Back" Player of Swiffer ad fame is technically my first-ever live act.

    Cheap Trick, 1981: They were my favorite band at the time but they played too much of the weak All Shook Up album and nothing from the lost classic first album. What I remember most was the giant eyeball over Bun E. Carlos' head and Rick Nielsen's insane five neck guitar.

    Styx, 1981: Technically at their career peak: the week Paradise Theater was the number one album. My first drunk concert. My best friend had died at age 18 a week earlier so I really needed to cheer up. The show was framed by the current album but not really a "concept" show. All the hits you know except for "Mr. Roboto" which was still in their future.

    The Association, 1982: "Windy," "Along Comes Mary," "Cherish"... They were reunited with some quotient of original members doing the oldies circuit. We were 60s retrophiles, in that one generation behind nostalgia curve way. It was just down the hill from the dorm, we figured what the hell. We were the youngest people at the show by at least a decade.

    Two days later with the same bunch of guys:

    The Who, 1982: The greatest regret in my life, other than ways I may have mistreated people, is that I never saw the Clash. They were opening for the Who this tour, and I had expected to see them, but they skipped this particular leg.

    The Milwaukee Brewers clinched their only pennant on our way to the show. I got really drunk and passed out during the emergency backup opening act, T-Bone Burnett, but recovered in time for the Who.

    They opened with "Substitute." I had never heard "Eminence Front" before (the It's Hard album was just barely out) and wondered what the hell Roger Daltrey was doing playing guitar. Lost my I'D TRAMPLE YOU TO SEE THE WHO T-shirt (tasteless but funny; this was the first post-Cincinnati tour) on my way out. This was supposed to be The Last Time Ever, but it turned out I'd have another chance.

    Running joke for the semester: "The Who was OK, but the Association kicked their asses."

    John Mellencamp, 1985: He opened the Scarecrow tour with "Small Town" in a small town--my hometown, La Crosse. I went with the rebound girl I was briefly dating, her friend, and my brother.

    Mellencamp was at his career peak, but the sound was poor; I got the sense he was opening in the sticks to live-rehearse the show. (Rush used to do the same thing; they went through La Crosse on about the third date of several tours, so early that the album wasn't even out yet.)

    It was the debut of the hoedown-style band that he used more prominently on The Lonesome Jubilee. I remember him hauling an audience member on stage to sing "Hand To Hold On To," and closing with a beautiful "Under The Boardwalk" that was later an obscure B side.

    The Suburbs, 1986: Twin Cities dance-rock band that fell just short of the big time and broke up right after I saw them. Their non-hit "I Like Cows" was the de facto theme song of my college radio show.

    Bob Dylan, 1988. It was a year after the Dylan and the Dead album and the night before the Dead was moving into Wisconsin's Alpine Valley for a multi-night stay. The Deadhead caravan was already settled in and the rumor or hope was that Jerry and the guys were going to show up. They didn't, so I never got to see the Dead, but I got to see the Deadheads.

    Bob, touring behind the weak Down in the Groove album, hit all the usual highlights. In fact, was was most interesting was opening act the Alarm. We were up in a section of 40-somethings who grumbled about "punk rock" as singer Mike Peters intro'd "Spirit of 76" with some lines about how much the Sex Pistols meant to him. But there were three people way down front who were there not for Dylan, but for the Alarm, and they left before Dylan.

    Crosby Stills and Nash, 1988. The Liver Transplant tour. The deal was: Graham and Stephen would agree to tour and David would agree to not die. The universally panned American Dream, the 18-year delayed CSNY follow up to Deja Vu, had just come out, but Y was absent from the tour (see Farm Aid below). Free tickets from the radio station I worked at. Followed the classic CSN format: Band set, acoustic set, solo sets, band set again. All classics; the new album was absent save for Crosby's sobering up song during the solo set.

    Arlo Guthrie, twice in 1989: Once at Wolf Trap with Pete Seeger, where they played mostly old folkie stuff, once in Madison on his own where he did his own stuff. Got to meet him the second time and he signed my CD. At one point he'd talked about retiring "Alice's Restaurant" from live performance, but by the Madison show he's fortunately reconsidered that.

    The Who, 1989: One of the most uncomfortable nights of my life. The summer internship in DC was a good experience that was motivated by the wrong reason. She was a redhead. She met The Other Guy, who she eventually freakin' married, get this: while was in line buying tickets for us to see this show. But believe it or not, she and I still went to the concert together anyway. Awk-ward.

    As for the band, they were better in `82 when I was drunk. They opened with a 45 minute compressed version of "Tommy." But mostly what I remember is riding home alone on the subway.

    Of all the bands I love, the Who makes me the saddest. The endless farewell tours, including the one just days after John Entwistle died. The aggressive sale of songs for ads. In retrospect, I never really saw the Who--because Keith Moon was already dead.

    The Violent Femmes, 1989: I got into this show free by working as--get this--security. With the rugby team. In my grad school poverty I couldn't afford the tickets, but one of my fellow TAs was a rugger and snuck me in that way. Easy work: I frisked a bunch of girls with the back of my hands, then enjoyed the show.

    Titling your fourth album "3" is one way to disown the third album. It was only their first or second gig since they'd been effectively broken up for three years, but they seemed to have their act together. One guy rushed the stage and the rugby team took care of him real good.

    Bob Dylan twice again, 1990: I hate to say it but not much really stands out. These two were a lot like the `88 show except they were inside. Same backing band, similar sets. Still, it was Bob freakin' Dylan. At the La Crosse show, he went straight from song to song with only one stage remark. No one could understand it so half the hall was buzzing with "what did Bob say?" as if trying to decipher an oracle's riddle.

    Farm Aid, 1993. The Bryan Adams "Summer of '69" opening riff sounds like rock heaven in a stadium. Roger Clinton made me briefly wish that Bush 41 had been re-elected. Lyle Lovett wore his old FFA jacket. An all-starr band led by Don Was had a low-key drummer named Ringo, the only time I've ever seen a real live Beatle. Saw Arlo a third time and Mellencamp a second time, and of course for the occasion he led with "Rain On The Scarecrow.".

    Bit that's just the random stuff. The highlights:

  • We saw the full Highwaymen supergroup: Waylon and Willie, Kristofferson, and Hello, I'm Johnny Cash. (Yes, he said it.) And with two of those legends now gone, that's a treasured memory.

  • But half of Cyclone Stadium was there for one man: Neil Young.

    He was just off the Unplugged album and played Transylvania pipe organ versions of "Helpless" and "Like A Hurricane." Then he grabbed his acoustic and said, "Hey, Willie, get out here," and as an aside to the audience, "I like playin' with Willie." Then they did about four more songs, including a custom-written unreleased song ("Goin' up to AMES, I-o-WA... lookin' for a country that don't need Farm Aid.") Neil played his usual banga-banga-banga rhythm style (as opposed to his one-note solo style), and Willie added these cool solo flourishes. The man can freakin' PLAY.

    So Neil was great, but I still want to see him in loud Crazy Horse mode.

    Paul Westerberg, 1993: Another regret is that I skipped the Replacements in 1991 to go to a night class: "I'll catch them next tour." Oops. Meanwhile, grad school turned out to be a dead end and the Replacements mean far more to me that that never-earned degree.

    It was Paul's first solo tour post-Mats, and he was sloppy casual but not sloppy drunk. Favorite moment: Westerberg, an underrated genius, introduced his then current single with "Here's out latest flop." He then launched into a stellar version of the now-forgotten coming of age song "First Glimmer." The details were all wrong for me but the emotion was perfect.

    Sugar, 1994: Bob Mould's short-lived post Hüsker Dü band. The LOUDEST show I've ever been at. I wrote a total fail review for the DI; the end of the show was the Beaster EP played in full in sequence and I hadn't heard it yet, so I completely missed the point. No Hüsker material.

    Liz Phair, 1999: This was the night of Iowa City's great concert duel: Liz Phair on campus vs. Vanilla Ice at Gabe's. Babe with talk-dirty-to-me lyrics; yeah, I drank the Liz Kool-Aid. As I think back I remember less about the music and more about how hot she looked in the red dress, but in her case the sexuality and the music are hard to separate.

    Liz had gotten over early-career stage fright and was just starting out with live performance. Switched back and forth between playing and just singing and focused on the better first two albums rather than the then-new one. I was the oldest person at the show by at least ten years, which makes up for the Association.

    James McMurtry, 2001: I was just into a marital separation and a girl danced with me. I should have stayed separated. She and I got to talk to James post-gig. He's really cynical about corporate record labels and thinks "I'm Not From Here" would have been a much better single from the Too Long In The Wasteland album that "Painting By Numbers" was. Never saw that dancer again.

    The Know-It-All Boyfriends, 2003: KIAB is an unrecorded side-project with Butch Vig and Duke Erickson of Garbage, Freedy Johnston, and a local Madison musician. So I got to see the guy who produced Nevermind and Siamese Dream in a bar band.

    They get drunk and play no-rehearsal classic rock covers: "The drunker you are, the better we seem." Shouts for Garbage songs were ignored, this was clearly a guy's night out. But they did play Freedy's one almost-hit, "Bad Reputation" (no, not the Joan Jett song). Speaking of which:

    Joan Jett, 2004: Only saw two of the four songs she played at the Howard Dean rally the night before the caucuses and the Scream. We had an, er... issue between the county party and the state party and I had to deal with a state staffer, who I will never forgive for making me miss Joan Jett singing "I Love Rock N' Roll," on the phone. If you thought Dean was screaming, you should have heard that call.

    Garbage, 2005: This one was "Special": the Madison home-town stop on the world tour, with all the families and friends present. For once, I was not the oldest person at the show. I blogged this one the morning after, following an overnight drive back.

    Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne, 2007: This one's liveblogged. Campaigning for John Edwards. Got to meet them. Bonnie Raitt is tiny.
  • Saturday, April 18, 2009

    Al Franken Seniority

    How much seniority has Franken lost?

    Senator Al Franken continues to languish in legal challenge hell, as the man he beat, Norm Coleman, plays the slowest stallball seen in Minnesota since the George Mikan era. My brother and the rest of Minnesota remain underrepresented. If you have to have only one senator, Amy Klobuchar ain't bad, but Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken is better.

    Eventually, of course, the frivolous appeals will be exhausted and Senator Franken will take his proper place. But there's still some lasting harm: Minnesota has lost Senate seniority.

    Senority, while not as all-important as it was before the 1970s, is still a big deal, determining committee asignments. Day of swearing in rules over all, but after that there's a strict set of criteria for classes sworn in together, which gives you an interesting, Senate-centric view of the world:

  • Former Senators returning to the august body jump to the head of the class. Thus Frank Lautenberg is at the top of the class of January 3, 2003. But he does NOT get back his seniority from his three terms of prior service (which apparently is a sore point for him).

  • Former House members are next, in order of length of service. This helps both of Iowa's senators. Chuck Grassley's three House terms put him ahead of Arlen Specter, and Tom Harkin's five terms bump him ahead of Mitch McConnell. (Harkin would rank ahead of John Kerry, too, but Kerry was sworn in one day early specifically to gain seniority, a practice that's since changed.)

  • Interestingly, prior House service is more important to seniority than being a former president or vice president, If Walter Mondale had beaten Norm Coleman after Paul Wellstone died, his past Senate service would have mattered more than his term as VP. He would have ranked near the top of the class--but behind Lautenberg, who had been a senator longer (18 years vs. Mondale's ten years and change).

    (Aside: Had the third candidate in the Franken-Coleman race, Dean Barkley of the Independence Party, won, he would have ranked at the top of the class, since he was Jesse Ventura's interim Senate appointee after Wellstone's death. And where's he been in this recount? My buddy who's an IP activist says Barkley said at this weekend's IP convention that early on he'd been asked what role he wanted in the recount and replied "none whatsoever.")

  • In an inside the Beltway way, prior cabinet service trumps governor, as Lamar! Alexander, who was both, can tell you. In the class of 2009, this puts Mike Johanns of Nebraska (also both) ahead of former governor Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. Length of service puts Shaheen (6 years as governor) above Mark Warner of Virginia (4 years) and Jim Risch of Idaho (seven months of interim service after Dirk Kempthorne went to the Interior Department to remodel the bathrooms.)

  • When all else fails, we turn it over to the BCS computers and try to figure out which team had the stronger schedule. No, actually, it's population of state based on the most recent Census at the time of election. (Thus Russ Feingold outranks Patty Murray even though Washington is now larger than Wisconsin.)

    This tiebreaker puts Chris Dodd one notch ahead of Grassley--which doesn't matter much. Seniority within your party is what makes the difference in committee assignments and chairs. So seniority, even though it's lumped together, is really two different contests, just like an AFC team can make the playoffs with a weaker record than an NFC team that misses out.

    So how does the delay affect him, Al Franken? More than it normally would.

    Had Senator Franken been sworn in on January 3rd, 2009, he would have been near the bottom of the class. Former five term House members the Udall cousins are tops, with Mark of larger Colorado ahead of Tom of New Mexico. Next is Johanns, then, as noted, the three ex-governors.

    This leaves first-time office holder Franken tied with three others. They are all prior elected officials, but Kay Hagan and Jeff Merkley's service in state legislatures and Mark Begich's time as Anchorage mayor count for nothing. Franken would rank behind Hagan from larger North Carolina but ahead of Merkley from smaller Oregon and Begich from smaller Alaska.

    That would have put Franken at number 97 out of 99 on January 3, with Obama's seat vacant amidst the Blagojevich opera buffa. By now Franken would have already moved up to 94th with the resignations of Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Ken Salazar.

    But remember: date of swearing in trumps all. The tradition is so firm that Harry Reid or his successor would have a tough time making an exception for Franken. And because of Norm Coleman's delaying tactics, Franken drops behind not only Merkley and Begich, but also behind the four appointees who have taken office since Franken's original swearing in date.

    Making matters worse for Minnesota: all six of the senators Franken should outrank, but doesn't, are fellow Democrats.

    How much this matters in the long run depends on the longevity of the six senators who leapfrogged over Franken. Two of the appointees don't really matter. Ted Kaufmann, Beau Biden's placeholder, isn't running. And even if Roland Burris--who raised all of $845 last quarter--survives a primary and general election, at age 71 he won't be around long enough to move too far up the ranks.

    Michael Bennet and Kirsten Gillibrand will probably face primaries, too, but after a first electoral test they, and Merkley and Begich, could last awhile (particularly Gillibrand, who at 42 is the youngest Senator). Franken, at age 57, could be around long enough that those lost months of seniority will make a difference between him and let's say Gillibrand getting a chairmanship sometime around 2018. And Minnesota will have Norm Coleman to thank for that.
  • Friday, April 17, 2009

    Sales Tax Yes Steering Committee

    Team Yes Launches Site, Committee

    One day after the tea parties, the Yes side on the May 5 sales tax vote rolled out its web site and its "steering committee."

    The committee includes the full membership of the Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty city councils. This being Johnson County, that's mostly Democrats (even though the offices are nonpartisan, people are what they are). Yet some Republican names pop up, like realtor Rex Brandstatter and council member Henry Herwig of Coralville, and councilor Jim Wozniak of North Liberty (a former Grassley staffer). And others, like Mike O'Donnell and Bob Elliott (who had this guest piece in today's Press-Citizen), aren't exactly associated with the left end of local politics.

    Business and labor names fill out the list, as follows:

    Steve McGuire, Co-Chair
    Sue Dvorsky, Co-Chair
    Jerry Anthony
    Mayor Regenia Bailey, Iowa City
    Joan Benson
    Senator Joe Bolkcom
    Rex Brandstatter
    Connie Champion, Iowa City Council Member
    Coleen Chipman, North Liberty City Council Member
    Amy Correia, Iowa City Council Member
    Terry Donahue, North Liberty City Council Member
    Senator Bob Dvorsky
    Bob Elliott, former Iowa City Council
    Mayor Jim Fausett, Coralville
    Brian Flaherty, former Democratic Party chair
    Karin Franklin, retired city planner, Iowa City
    Tom Gill, City Council Member
    Kathy Gloer
    Mitch Gross, Iowa City Council Member
    Matt Hayek, Iowa City Council Member
    Henry Herwig, Coralville City Council Member
    Chris Hoffman, North Liberty City Council Member
    Patrick Hughes, City Federation of Labor President
    Representative Dave Jacoby
    Keith Jones
    Gerry Kuhl, City Council Member
    Representative Vicki Lensing
    John Lundell, Coralville City Council Member
    Diana Lundell, former Coralville City Council
    Representative Mary Mascher
    Supervisor Larry Meyers
    Dick Myers, credentials too numerous to list
    Rebecca Neades, Chamber of Commerce
    Mayor Pro Tem Mike O'Donnell, Iowa City Council
    Nancy Quellhorst, Chamber of Commerce
    Dick Querrey
    Mayor Tom Salm, North Liberty
    Ruth Spinks
    Scott Smith
    Supervisor Sally Stutsman
    Randy Ward
    Larry Weber
    John Weihe, Coralville City Council Member
    Jim Wozniak, North Liberty City Council Member
    Mike Wright, Iowa City Council Member
    Ross Wilburn, Iowa City Council Member and past mayor

    One more thought on the tea parties: thereisnospoon at Kos writes an excellent diary that revits personal experience with protests on the left and advises the right:
    Public opinion was irrelevant. Protests were irrelevant. All that mattered was the individuals who controlled the levers of power. The only thing that mattered, in the end, was elections.

    And locally, the partiers will get to test that theory soon.

    Fallon and Culver

    How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore: Fallon and Culver

    In the small world of Iowa politics and journalism, "Chet Culver's not returning my calls" is not a unheard-of sentiment. What's unusual is that someone said it on the record. But what's not unusual was that the person who said it on the record was Ed Fallon.

    In a release issued to his email list and all media Thursday, Fallon denounced and detailed the governor's lack of responsiveness.

    Fallon has a sizable base--26 percent in the `06 primary, which shocked folks who had him pegged at 10 or 15. He was close to 40 percent against Leonard Boswell, who had the full support of the entire Democratic power structure, from Tom Harkin on down, in the 2008 congressional primary. Fallon clearly feels, with some justification, that this earns him a place at the table. But the governor is not alone in not asking Ed to sit down.

    (One thing that's weakened Fallon since the 2008 primary that's not his fault: Ed was one of the earliest and biggest John Edwards backers, and since the affair story broke the Democratic Party has pretended John Edwards never existed.)

    Ed's many sins, if you want to call them that, are all variations on the same theme: he doesn't play ball. That's both his strength and his weakness.

    In 2008, Fallon was one of the two Democrats in the state willing to stand up and say it's time for Blue Dog Boswell to go back to the farm (the other, of course, was me, and I'm just a crazy blogger with a funny hat so who cares). In doing so, he played into the pattern that marked his legislative career: He took on a likable guy with a lot of friends, and he said something uncomfortable that needed to be said. (Funny; Fallon talked issues while Boswell refused to debate and screamed Nader Nader Nader, yet Leonard's the good guy and Ed's the bad guy. Huh?)

    Before that, it was the 99-1 votes in the legislature (98-2 when Minnette Doderer was still there). People either love Ed for that kind of stuff or hate him for it. It gets you a base between 26 and 40 percent in a primary, but it doesn't get your calls to the governor returned, and during his legislative tenure Fallon was one of the least popular members under the dome. This year they literally changed the law to keep candidates from paying themselves a salary from campaign funds and openly called it "the Fallon law."

    Fallon is seeking a role. Or a job, which is the claim from the governor's office. Problem is, he doesn't have that role yet, which leaves him on the outside looking in. And now that he has no official portfolio and people who didn't like Ed or his approach to government in the first place don't have to include him by virtue of his legislative seat, they, well, don't.

    But Fallon's uncompromising progressive streak is symbolic of a big chunk of the Democratic base that's often forgotten and needs to be part of the dialogue, whether that's in the person of Fallon or not. Right now, that dialogue is likely to be one-sided and along the lines of, "we only have 50 votes on federal deductibility and the labor bills and we need 51" or "you've got years of educating the public before VOICE is ready to move to the floor." But still, it should be happening.

    Lyndon Johnson had great words of wisdom about the relative locations of tents and urine streams. Fallon campaigned loyally for Culver in the fall of 2006, but now he's redirected his aim. In the ways of politics, Fallon's public complaint probably makes it much less likely that he'll be getting a call from Terrace Hill soon. Watch the statements from other officials, or watch to see if there's a lack thereof. Is Ed Fallon being blown off because he's Ed Fallon, or is he just saying in public what others are saying in private?

    Thursday, April 16, 2009

    National Popular Vote Passes Washington

    National Popular Vote Passes Washington

    At the rist of reigniting this fight again, Ballot Access News writes:
    On April 15, the Washington State House passed SB 5599, the National Popular Vote Plan bill. The bill had passed the Senate in March. It now goes to the Governor, who is likely to sign it. If she does, Washington will be the fifth state to have enacted the pact, which does not go into effect until states containing a majority of electoral votes have passed it.

    Linux Links

    Police Profiling... Linux?!?

    You thought I was mad about the Missouri cops profiling people based on bumper stickers? Well now it seems at least one campus security operation (Boston College) is going after someone because he's a Linux user:
    "Mr. Calixte uses two different operating systems to hide his illegal activities (sic). One is the regular B.C. operating system and the other is a black screen with white font which he uses prompt commands on."

    Aside from the remarkable overreach by campus and state police in trying to paint a student as suspicious in part because he can navigate a non-Windows computer environment, nothing cited in the warrant application could possibly constitute the cited criminal offenses.

    Don't get scared, people. The cops may bust you for using the command line, but remember, it's a non-essential, like a keyboard shortcut, in most distributions.

    The biggest distro, Ubuntu, upgrades next week with the release of version 9.04, "Jaunty Jackalope," on Thursday the 23rd. That's only 12 days before our sales tax election; why do they always upgrade right when I'm busy? Version 8.10, Intrepid Ibex, came out just five days before the presidential election, and 9.10 ("Karmic Koala"; Ubuntu is always Alliterative Animal) will land right before next fall's city election.

    But no matter if you're a yes or no on the sales tax, Ubuntu is tax free.

    Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    Iowa City Tea Party

    Iowa City Tea Party Gets A for Turnout, Incomplete on Message

    What's it like being a liberal blogger at the Iowa City tea party? It's taking your life into your hands.

    No, not because my conservative friends would harm me. It's because the location on the Burlington Street bridge was fraught with potential peril: four lanes of zooming traffic that literally shook the bridge, a six inch wide center walkway, and a raging dam below. Yet I have survived to tell the tale.

    The tea party in "the San Francisco of Iowa" (as one speaker put it) gets an A for effort but an incomplete on message. The A for effort goes to a crowd of, my estimate, 300: the north side of the bridge lined across the river, the south side maybe 3/4 full, all one person deep (Deb Thornton was duly making sure the pedestrian traffic wasn't blocked).

    The incomplete on message will have to wait for which soundbites and visuals are selected by media outlets larger than the Number Four Political Blog In Iowa. The signs carried a lot of mixed messages. Ax The Tax, the group opposed to the May 5 tax vote, was the largest single contingent, but their specific local message may have been drowned out by the larger national and general anti-tax message on what one speaker called "the government's favorite holiday."

    That was one of the very few quotes I picked up over the bullhorns, but it didn't really matter. This was a visual event, as the water buckets labeled "TEA" (actual tea bags were seen, but tea dumping was verboten by the DNR) were carefully adjusted for the convenience of the TV camera. The speeches were drowned out by the traffic, the river, and the 12:00 "yabba dabba doo" steam whistle at the University of Iowa power plant. (Tangent: the Daily Iowan did a story on the whistle years ago and the workers actually yell "Yabba Dabba Doo!" How could you not?)

    A brief chant of "no more taxes!" went up, on message, but whether this meant no increased taxes or an end of all taxation wasn't specified. (One good thing about Republican rallies: you don't hear the dreaded lefty "What do we want? _______! When do we want it? NOW!" and "Hey Hey Ho Ho Something Something's Got To Go" chants.)

    One sign on message, one sign off message. Just like progressives can't shoo the Socialist Workers Party newspaper sellers away from a rally, conservatives draw, um, "allies" as well. As I rounded the corner near the rally, literally the first person I saw had a sign reading


    Organizer Mike Thayer tried to urge the guy off the median strip, but Sodomy Guy, armed with his own bullhorn, didn't budge. "You're on your own," Thayer told Sodomy Guy, who started into his riff ("Rivers of innocent blood shed," etc.) but got sidetracked and spent most of the rally engaged in spirited debate with a passer-by as bits and pieces of speeches drifted over during gaps in traffic: "Iowa is sick of this spend and spend and spend and spend and spend mentality," "email your legislator," and such.

    I saw a little abortion here, some term limits there, but most signs, a mix of the pre-printed, the stenciled, and the hand written, were on the anti-tax message, if not the specific sales tax message.

  • "Capitalism Not Socialism"
  • Some leftover Fair Tax signs
  • Don't Tread On Me flags
  • "No One Deserves What I Work Hard 4"
  • "My hope is in Jesus Christ, Not In Government" (held by a child)
  • "Revolution is Brewing" (one of many tea puns)
  • "I'll keep my money and guns, you keep your 'change'" (one of many riffs on the Obama campaign's change theme)
  • "Stop economic child abuse"
  • "Obama plan: Create emergency, grab power"
  • "Don't Tax Me Bro" gets bonus points for using an internet meme. Unfortunately no one thought of All Your Tax Are Belong To Us. You guys can use that next year.
  • "Prison not Bailouts"
  • "Audit the Fed; Abolish the IRS"
  • "Not all the thieving pirates are in dinghys"
  • Handwritten and the beginning of a longer 'manifesto' style sign: "Taxation kills--look what happened to the British."

    And so I leave it at that, kind of impressionistic. I'm sure Thayer's Coralville Courier will have its version of what went down, but like I said, what really matters is what plays out in news sources bigger than mine.
  • PVI Shows Iowa getting bluer

    PVI Shows Iowa getting bluer, and a tale of two counties

    Political numbers geeks are familiar with the Cook Political Report's Partisan Voting Index, usually known by the "PVI" acronym. It's a simple measure; compare a congressional district's presidential results to the presidential results of the nation as a whole.

    A little too simple, I think; I tend to make any kind of political numbers too complicated but I'd like to see the down-ballot reflected somehow. But Charlie Cook argues:
    While other data such as the results of senatorial, gubernatorial, congressional and other local races can help fine tune the exact partisan tilt of a particular district, those kinds of results don't allow a comparison of districts across state lines. Only Presidential results allow for total comparability.

    And Charlie's math is the accepted unit of measure. It looks at the last two elections and Cook just released the new numbers. The 2000 dead heat rolls off and the decisive Obama win takes its place.

    Iowa's numbers don't change a lot, because we behaved like the rest of the nation (we Iowans prefer to think of it as the nation following our lead): a razor thin Gore popular vote win in 2000, a narrow Bush win in `04, and a solid Obama win in 2008. The state as a whole is D +1, meaning we voted one point more Democratic than the nation as a whole.

    Cook's ranked list runs, inexplicably in a Democratic era, from most to least Republican. I'll correct that in my analysis and note that Dave Loebsack's (and my) 2nd CD is Iowa's most Democratic at number 132, with a PVI of D +7. That means that, in 2004 and 2008, we voted 7 points more Democratic than the nation as a whole. Bruce Braley's adjacent 1st CD is number 151 at D +5.

    Steve King's 5th District is an R +9 and the 318th most Democratic in the nation. Put Cook's way, it's the 118th most Republican, meaning there's 117 districts that are even worse. Still, there's a silver lining; W carried it by 21 points in 2004 but McCain only managed to win by ten.

    It gets most interesting in central Iowa, where the two incumbents most likely to be paired in redistricting--Leonard Boswell and Tom Latham--are evenly matched. Boswell's 3rd District is the 186th most Democratic at D+1, while Latham's 4th is ranked as EVEN at number 195. Remember the definition: this means Latham's district is nationally average, not that it's evenly split. And nationally average for 2004/2008 is 51.3 percent Democratic (because Obama won by more than Kerry lost).

    Still, this is turf that could swing either way, making the candidates, rather than the parties, the key element. Factors like energy and health (Boswell's attendance is OK this session, so far) and personal style (low key Latham vs. Good Ole Boy) are going to matter. Both parties will need their strongest possible candidates.

    Splitting this down to a county level, The People's Republic of Johnson County is a D +16. The closest fit politically, culturally and demographically is just up Highway 151 in Tammy Baldwin's Madison-based Wisconsin 2 (a D+15). And that's nowhere near the top Democratic turf; the urban minority districts in New York, California and Chicago max out at about D +40.

    But on the other end, and this surprised even me, Sioux County at R +32 is more conservative than any congressional district in the county. I knew they were conservative up there, but what makes them THAT much more conservative than everyone else? I mean, I know there's a long Dutch Reformed and conservative tradition up there, but that's a very different culture than Southern Baptist, racially tense white rural Alabama 6 (R +29 in a map carefully drawn to place black voters in another district) or Mormon rural Utah 3 (R +26). And while parts of western Iowa have people few and far between, it's nothing like the Texas panhandle 13th (R +29) or depopulated western Nebraska 3 (R +24).

    Those types of districts fill Cook's top ten, and empty ranch counties are about the only places that top 80 percent GOP, but Sioux County is growing and becoming an exurb. Those kinds of congressional districts top out at about an R +20, not R +32. Put another way: when you look at my community's D +16, you see the exact same kind of community in the neighboring state. When you're looking at a place as Democratic as Sioux County is Republican, a D +32, you're looking at places that resemble absolutely nothing in Iowa: the Hispanic Chicago district, the black Cleveland district, and Tip O'Neill's old district in Boston.

    Only thing I can conclude is that while Iowa's crazy liberals may be crazy liberals, we're not nearly as krazy as our krazy konservatives.

    Tuesday, April 14, 2009

    Primarying Grassley

    Primarying Grassley? Naaah, just sending a message

    Political junkies love fantasy scenarios, clashes of the titans. The ultimate fantasy is the old-fashioned brokered presidential convention, but we've all grown older and wiser and wistful and realistic about that.

    Next on the list is The Killer Primary: donkeys and elephants eating their own, with ostensible differences in policy but really about interpersonal drama and raw power. We had the primary of a lifetime last year and we're jonesing for more. So we turn to... Iowa Republicans?

    The rumblings on the right about primarying Chuck Grassley won't lead to a serious challenge, but they do shed some interesting light on the state of the GOP in 2009.

    How sad is this: In the Iowa Republican Party of Bob Ray and Mary Louise Smith, people are now complaining that Chuck Grassley, who beat John Culver on the Reagan-era triple threat of ERA, abortion and Panama Canal, isn't conservative enough?

    What this is really about, as I see it, is a shot across Grassley's bow. Iowa Republicans are preparing to define themselves entirely in terms of the Varnum v. Brien gay marriage ruling, and Grassley's sin is that he did not immediately join the pitchforks and torches mob. Chuck has other stuff to do; with the Republican ranks decimated in Washington, he has by default become one of the national leaders of the party.

    To the Iowa GOP, Grassley's not wrong on substance, he's wrong on emphasis. Iowa Republicans are thinking parochial these days and don't want their most popular vote-getter acting all Washington on them. They want General Grassley working the home front and they want him on message.

    The primary speculation will likely fizzle as the governor's primary heats up. The still-sizable moderate contingent isn't going to give the nomination to Bob Vander Plaats without a fight, because they know he won't carry a county east of I-35 in a general election. As for the religious conservatives, The Gay is their priority and with VP, one of their own, in the governor's primary, they'll work that rather than fight a quixotic effort against the dean of the state party.

    But let's suppose it does happen.

    No careerist is going to do this; people understand that Grassley's running one last time and grandson state Rep. Pat Grassley is waiting in the wings till he's old enough in 2016. You don't strike at the king unless you kill him, and a careerist can wait six years and joust against the young prince instead.

    Bill Salier ran a half-decent primary campaign in 2002, sure, but it was a challenge only in function, not in fact. Greg Ganske was only an anointed one, not a true incumbent, and he was no Chuck Grassley in the trenches.

    Unlike some long-time Washingtonians who haven't had a tough race in decades, Grassley's kept the home fires tended. This latest dust-up is the first ever sign of trouble in his own back yard, and for an incumbent to get a serious primary challenge there's got to be a long-term pattern and $eriou$ backing. If there was going to be a serious challenge from the right to Chuck Grassley, Club For Growth would have recruited the candidate and started raising the money alreadt. Anyone hearing Club For Growth bashing "taxpayer watchdog" Grassley yet? All I hear is crickets chirping.

    The ur-primary in Iowa history was the Branstad-Grandy battle of 1994, and Branstad, for all his longevity, was never really adored. He was just kind of there, meh with a mustache. There's nowhere near the "been there too long" grumbling against Grassley that there was against Branstad, maybe because senators have a longer shelf life. And for all the Gopher jokes, Fred Grandy was a serious guy and a real threat.

    There is only one Republican in the state with the name ID, base popularity, and fund raising potential to mount an even remotely serious primary challenge to Chuck Grassley: Steve King. He loves being the center of attention, and plants his own speculation. But King has shown throughout his career that he's all talk and no action.

    The killer argument against a King primary: you passed up Harkin in `08, and now you're eating one of your own? Grassley would say it folksier than that and swat King away faster than a cow flicking shit off its tail.

    Hey, if the metaphor fits.

    Eliminationists in Iowa

    Eliminationists in Iowa

    Monday's death threats against state Sen. Matt McCoy can be understood, to the extent one can understand such things, with a review of The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right by David Niewert.
    Eliminationism: a politics and a culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas in favor of the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through suppression, exile, and ejection, or extermination.

    At the risk of a Godwin's Law fail, where have we heard that one before?

    Niewert writes:
    "Rather than engaging in a dialogue over political and cultural issues, one side simply dehumanizes its opponents and suggests, and at times demands, their excision. This tendency is almost singularly peculiar to the American Right and manifests itself in many venues: on radio talk shows and in political speeches, in bestselling books and babbling blogs."

    Neiwert acknowledges that leftists have been known--less frequently--to toss around talk of assassination or insurrection but, he points out, they tend to focus on threatening talk toward an individual (think Cheney or Bush), not an entire category of human beings. The far right, on the other hand:

    "Right-wing rhetoric has been explicitly eliminationist, calling for the infliction of harm on whole blocs of American citizens: liberals, gays and lesbians, Latinos, blacks, Jews, feminists, or whatever target group is the victim du jour of right-wing ire."

    No gay senator, no problem.

    Monday, April 13, 2009

    UI Student Government Election Postponed

    UI Student Government Election Postponed

    A student government election that set new heights in online campaigning has been delayed a week after hours of timing out and crashing.

    An emergency Student Elections Board meeting rescheduled the online voting, already underway, for April 20 and 21.

    The University of Iowa campus election drew statewide attention for its Facebook-driven campaigns and as a political proxy war. The name GO Party was unsubtle, and local student Obama organizers have been active in Your Party. Even the colors--Democratic blue for Your Party and Republican red for Go Party--are partisan. A third group, the L Party, was also contesting the election; their ties to the political parties were less apparent to this aged observer.

    Student government elections at the University of Iowa have strict, unenforcable and somewhat silly rules--"adding friends to a Facebook group before the allowed time" was an actual charge that was flung--and a dustup over an allegedly biased debate moderator led the Go Party and the L Party to boycott a debate. But one rule everyone seemed to understand was that voting was from 12:00 Monday the 13th to 5 p.m. Tuesday the 14th.

    Voting started at midnight Monday but quickly stalled, Students logged onto their University accounts and clicked an external link to vote. "Right at midnight people were having issues voting," Your Party presidential candidate Emily Grieves told me. "At some point there was a crash with this third party server."

    Grieves said some people were able to vote Monday, with better luck in the wee hours of the morning, but others weren't. "What's disturbing is some students were able to log on, but a lot more tried and were turned away at the virtual polls."

    "People were calling, texting, messaging me all day asking what the deal was," said Grieves, adding she had seen no pattern, partisan or otherwise, as to who was able to log on. "I met with the Go Party candidate and he was experiencing the same thing."

    The Facebook pages are dealing with the fallout. Your Party supporter Atul Nakhasi "finds it ridiculous that we pay to export our voting system to a third-party company in Washington DC, which doesn't even function when it matters." Other posts charges that the election was outsourced "because the IT people didn't want to do it anymore." (Elections have been online since 2000; before that the Student Elections Board contracted with the county auditor's office and voting was on paper ballots.)

    But Your Party supporter Caitlin Ross is gearing up for the extended campaign, telling her Facebook friends "Please change your statuses and pictures accordingly. We will continue rocking out later on!"

    Vander Plaats Vows To Violate Law

    King Bob Vander Plaats: "I'll Break The Law"

    Republican candidate for governor Bob Vander Plaats seems to think he's running for supreme monarch. To hell with We Are A Nation Of Laws Not Of Men; we must stop The Gay! BVP vowed Monday:
    "On my first day of office I will issue an executive order that puts a stay on same-sex marriages until the people of Iowa vote, and when we vote we can affirm and amend the Constitution.”

    Leave aside that you don't "affirm" the Constitution by amending it; the realy scary thing here is that Vander Plaats puts himself above the law:
    “Governors in Iowa do not have the ability to prevent or overturn a decision of the Supreme Court through an executive order,” Roeder said. “It’s disappointing that some people, especially politicians, would try to mislead the public into thinking that governors do have such power.”

    Confronted with this radical notion, Vander Plaats said: “Who says the courts get the final say?”

    Now, I ain't no smart lawyer or nuthin' but even I know there's more to the law than Varnum v. Brien and Roe v. Wade. I suggest King Bob brush up on his Constitutional Law 101, starting with Marbury v. Madison.

    Human Being Monday

    Human Being Update

    In a case of poor content management, I posted a lot of actual political stuff over a low-traffic holiday weekend. So now I'm fresh out of real news for today. Go back and read the weekend stuff while I give you a couple personal updates:

  • The Smallest Farm is slowly but surely starting. The first planting of peas, spinach, lettuce and radishes from three weeks ago survived the late snow and is sprouting, so I planted a second wave of the same stuff yesterday. The bee balm that's been transplanted three times (from friend's farm to first marriage house to Bohemian Paradise to new place) is popping up through the mulch of old leaves, and the catnip crop will be plentiful.

  • Linux Monday still awaits the return of the laptop (now at 5 1/2 weeks on the injured reserve list). Upcoming topics will include: managing your music, the late April release of Ubuntu 9.04, nicknamed "Jaunty Jackalope," and an update from a newbie; a while back I gave away a Linux machine to a fellow Freecycler and I'm hoping to see how she's doing.

  • I may be doing more of that in the future; I picked up more than a dozen old machines in a Freecycle grab and am going through them a couple at a time for parts and refitting. Most of them are in the 400 to 500 Mhz CPU range; too slow for Vista and borderline for XP, but fine for Ubuntu. My bottleneck at the moment is hard drives (I have some small ones on the way), followed by memory (I have a lot of 32 and 64 meg chips but need some 128s and 256s). If you have parts, you know where to find me.
  • Sunday, April 12, 2009

    Aging pre-boomers and the electoral future

    The future's so bright we gotta wear shades

    Charles Franklin at graphs voter turnout by age, which is worth a look given my recent obsession with the literal death of conservatism and growing support for gay marriage and marijuana legalization.

    I have a theory that you spend your life listening to the music you liked when you were about 20. Note that the nostalgia curve runs about 20 years or one generation behind; "Happy Days" was the top show on TV in the `70s, there was a hippie revival in the late '80s that put the Grateful Dead in the top ten (hey, man, is that Freedom Rock?), and nostalgia caught up to me when Bowling for Soup released "1985" in 2004.

    You can tell who ads are marketed at with the music: take the year the song was released, subtract 20, and that's the year your audience was born. The simplified cell phone aimed at seniors isn't called Jitterbug by accident; the dance peaked in the immediate pre-Elvis era. That denture ad that uses "Bye Bye Love" by the Everly Brothers? 1958 minus 20 equals 1938 or a target age of 71. Swiffer is moving to a slightly younger demographic by dropping 1978's "Baby Come Back" for 1982's "Don't You Want Me."

    Much the same is true of politics. A look at the graph shows voting behavior peaking between ages 55 and 75. There's a key breaking point within that bracket. Conventional calculations have the Baby Boom starting at 1946, making those voters 62 in 2008. Their first presidential election would have been the tumultuous year of 1968.

    My pre-boomer parents (75 and 73) would have first voted in 1956, the staid Ike-Stevenson rematch. And it's at the dawn of the boomers that support for marriage equality and drug decriminalization starts going up; the first boomers were 22 when Stonewall happened in `69.

    There's a rapid dropoff in voting after about age 85 (World War II generation, born 1923; first votes in FDR vs. Dewey 1944), and that dropoff will push deeper into the pre-boomer generation with each passing year. The few Harding-Coolidge-Hoover Republican era voters who remain, whose voting peaked in the Nixon-Wallace backlash era, are now at least 101 years old.

    Most demographers define the baby boom as 1946 to 1964, which makes me technically, just barely, a boomer (December `63). But I don't think you're a true boomer unless you remember JFK getting shot and the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Some scholars refer to us as "shadow boomers," born between 1958 and 1965 or so. But that term has us eclipsed by the `60s. I prefer to think of us as "the Obama generation." The millenial generation born in the `80s might claim that term, but the president (August `61) is practically my peer. The boomers had their presidents with 1946-born Bill Clinton and Bush 43, now we've got ours. And much as I hate to say it, the Republicans have Palin, born two months after me on the very day the Beatles played their first U.S. concert.

    Our sub-generation, 43 to 50 in 2008, still has some room for increased turnout. We're at about 65 percent, while the peak turnout at around age 65 (the cusp of pre-boomer and boomer) is closer to 75 percent. And as more and more of the electorate is made up of people who came of age after the `60s, those old culture war notes will resonate less and less.

    The only question in my mind is about the Gen-Xers just younger than me, who grew up under Reagan. When I was a college freshman, the seniors were liberals; when I was a senior the freshmen were conservatives. But my gut feeling is that the W trainwreck shattered any loyalty they may have felt to the GOP.

    The McCain vs. Obama election was symbolically perfect: pre-boomer McCain (1936), white and military, vs. shadow boomer Obama, multiracial and international. To cite a song of my generation: the future's so bright I gotta wear shades.