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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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...


...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.


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.

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