Saturday, February 28, 2009

February LWV Forum

February LWV Forum

Good morning from Harvat Hall at Iowa City Hall and a special thanks to Janelle Rettig and crew for saving my favorite chair. (My battery will last, but I prefer plugging in) It's the monthly League o Women Voters legislative forum.

Our cosponsor is the faculty senate. Our legislators (all D) are Sens. Bob Dvorsky, Joe Bolkcom and Becky Schmitz; Reps. Mary Mascher, Vicki Lensing, Dave Jacoby, Nate Willems. Interestingly, Larry Marek's not here, he was last month. Also Jeff Kaufmann's not here, though he was scheduled to be in town this AM.

Mascher: 2% allowable growth passed "Many were of the opinion that should be zero, but that would have sent a bad message" to districts. Stimulus money should help.

Other electeds I see here: Supervisors Rod Sullivan and Pat Harney, Patti Fields of the school board, Iowa City Mayor Regenia Bailey.

Willems: Prevailing wage "would have been biggest victory for Iowa working families in 30 years," on back burner and regrouping. Has a bill on changing city election hours from 7 AM to noon. (I'll need to check the details on that one)

Jacoby: The budget is very serious so I won't tell my usual joke here. People are really passionate about the driving with cell phone bills on both sides.

Lensing: We're stuck in the twilight zone of committees with the next funnel Friday the 13th. Pay equity, open meetings, wind energy tax credits. Atalissa investigation on hold pending the criminal investigation.

I don't see the junior high kids, which would be a first.

Dvorsky: Budget targets came out Thursday. Still trying to work out differences with the Guv. Notes May 5 sales tax vote.

Bolkcom: Senate first funnel on Thursday. Working on health care. Senate has passed his bike safety bill amid "contentious" debate. Predatory lending in subcommittee.

Larry Marek has arrived. So we have 8 of 10, missing only Kaufmann and Hahn. Marek was one of the Democratic nays on prevailing wage, and there are a lot of labor people here to greet him.

Bolkcom continues: a lot of energy bills and flood plain management.

Schmitz: Economic Growth has tweaked the film industry bill. Should be abl to hold the line on Medicaid, if not expand efforts.

Marek: Budget's tough. We're very limited on revenue. Vets bill that would expand forfeiture protection to reserve troops. Transportation: gas tax would raise revenue but slow economy. (Doesn't bring up the prevailing wage vote. I suspect someone else will.)

First question from league: payday loan caps. I bet Bolkcom takes this and yes he does. Bills are introduces capping at 36 to 150 percent. Current average is 350 percent States that have passed 36 percent have seen the industry leave the state and Iowa needs to decide if we want to do that. "I'm not convinced at this point that we should drive this industry out of the state but I might be convinced." Car title companies now largely out of state. Jacoby: payday loan will be a tougher fight than car title. Payday loans took your $ but car title people took your car too.

Marian Wilson Kimber of Univ. Profs asks about budget. Dvorsky: everyone on this panel is supportive of the regents institutions; should take their share of the cuts but not more than that. Notes Sally Mason turning down her raise. Bolkcom: we managed state finances poorly during last economic downturn (2000-04) while tuition skyrocketed, and we continued to cut taxes in that era. There's a lot of tax cut proposals now but virtually none to raise $. Need to figure out how to fund important public services. Schmitz: Legislators find it easier to give away $ than to collect it. "People say we have a spending problem but really it's a revenue problem." Jacoby: The regents took a cut before the cut hit, in the last two years. Mascher: as much as $600 million in tax credits with little accountability as to if they work. They should all be sunset in 2 years and then you make the case for keeping them. I hupe UI does not hire more adjuncts. They fill a hole but are not there for the long term and that hurts quality.

Dave Redlawsk, wearing a faculty senate hat: faculty understands the budget challenge. Flood is still a major issue for UI. Not just physical buildings; hard to recruit students without the facilities esp. music and art. I agree with Mascher on the adjuncts, but that's different than grad student/TAs. UI has impact on whole state.

Dvorsky: It's the University of Iowa, not the University of Iowa City. UI has dealt with flood commendably. Some west campus bildings will be replaced others wont. (Aside: I've heard as long as 2 years on Hancher.)

Room is standing room only even without the junior high.

Dvorsky: Sales tax vote will be important, we need to make sure we have enough funds here. "I hope people support that. I don't think there's really any other funding source." "I had hoped it would have been five years but we couldn't get that through the Board of Supervisors."

Pat Harney: Please look at the roads the states turned over to counties a few years back. "We have to address those costs." Road costs are becoming prohibitive, and there's not a fair cost share. Jacoby: We're woking on an antiquated road tax formula and we need to change that to reflect population and revenue shifts before we raise gas tax. Lensing and Marek note gas price disparities across state. Dvorsky: levels of govt. worked together so well on flood, now less so; notes again that Iowa City wanted 5 years on sales tax but BOS voted for four.

Peter Fisher: state budget and federal stimulus. Talk me down here (he must be a Maddow fan. SEIU's Sarah Swisher is next in line.) Mascher: if stimulus money is a one time thing we create a hole for 2012. The stimulus money is for a 27 month period. Jacoby: state still needs to learn which fed. strings are attached. Some people were looking at negative allowable growth. Dvorsky: "I have great faith in President Obama and the stimulus. If Gov. Jindal doesn't want the stimulus money in Louisiana we'll take it here."

Swisher: "Every one of these issues can be aided by a strong organized labor movement in Iowa." Atalissa: "If there had been a strong labor movement at West Liberty, and the union there was defeated twice, this would not have happened." Do you have a moral obligation to support labor? Jacoby: "I think fair share is fair but I don't think we have the votes in the House. I think prevailing wage certainly would have raised the 44 cents an hour those people (in Atalissa) were getting." Dvorsky: By not having prevailing wage, we drive down wages (applause). We need prevailing wage AND fair share. (more applause). Bolkcom: income disparity is a esult of long-term anti-labor policy in thsi country. Tax code, too. "We have some modest labor proposals, really worker proposals, that we can't seem to move." Schmitz: very disappointed in vote last weekend.

Last in line, by chance, is Marek: "I know I disappointed many here today. But the people I live with have concerns about this, including many small contractors." Concerns about immigration status. "I can see where labor's coming from, but I've got to represent the views of people who voted for me." Murmurs in audience, but folloups are directed to end of line.

Bob Oppliger: bike bill in House. Jacoby: some house members concerned that there also be rules on the biker side. Bolkcom: it got partisan in Senate. When drivers don't follow rules, we don't see the same indignation we see directed at bikers.

Paul McAndrew: workers comp bill. Willems: I support some sort of doctor choice bill, hope we can get a bill. But it's very hard to get 51 in House. There is a connection between doc choice bill and prevailing wage. Bills getting watered down. Lensing: Labor needs to educate both public and legislators. Some of our colleagues on both sides don't understand. "Our vision of labor is back in the 40s."

Jason Norris of Carpenter's Union: UI gets millions of tax dollars, but current practice depresses wages because bid drive down wages. Need responsible bidder criteria on wages, health care, retirement. Small contractors aren't competing on big state bids, and wages get returned to communities.

Marek: some of these local contractors do school projects. "I admit I don't understand labor as well as some of you do. There needs to be more communication with areas that are more conservative like mine." Local contractors are using good, legal labor "and they just do not want to go that direction, and until they are educated it is very hard for me to go that direction. I have to listen to what they say and I was very hesident to be the vote that made the difference." Mascher to Marek: every state that had prevailing wage has better worker safety. Jacoby: we saw over 100 full time construction workers treated at UIHC on Medicaid because they were uninsured. This bill had big support from young people.

Royce Peterson, another carpenter: How can I help Larry educate his constituents? What amendments would change your vote? Marek: the people in my area just don't want to see it happen. Contractors say their employees are happy. Mentions illegals again. Schmitz: I've been trying to educate people (her district overlaps Marek's). Prevailing wage helps apprenticeships.

Bill Gerhard, construction trades: Iowa's one of 8 states that have never had prevailing wage, notes apprenticeship again and safety. Prevailing wage does not increase costs; increased safety and productivity offsets wage costs. "This is bigger than a half dozen small contractors in Washington county." "The people in this room, Johnson County, carried you in the election, and we want to have you carry our water in the state house."

Nancy Porter, Iowa City teacher: collective bargaining and open scope. Mascher: Working with Guv on drafting the language. "You're going to see a different kind of partnership than last year"; we don't want another veto. "It's open-ING the scope, it's not total open scope" and bill will likely be more narrow. Dvorsky:discipline/discharge still an issue. Marek: "We need our local schools to have authority, and I'm going to have to see the details."

Mental health parity. Schmitz: working on gathering support. Working in house first, senate likely to approve. Willems: Still hard to get to 51; the same people who were on the fence on labor will be the ones on the fence here.

Just one student; cancellation of school ski trip. Mascher: this was a local decision; district decided they couldn't justify it as an academic thing (though some would say it would qualify as PE). Jacoby: an unintended consequence of No Child Left Behind.

Gender equity on commissions. Lensing hopes to get it out of committee next week with one small amendment.

Brian Flaherty notes Democratic platform in support of Fair Share. And that's the end of the show.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Bunning Gets Better

Bunning Gets Better

The saga of Jim Bunning gets sillier as his home state paper writes:
Sen. Jim Bunning has reportedly said privately that if he is hindered in raising money for his re-election campaign he is ready with a response that would be politically devastating for Senate Republicans: his resignation.

“I would get the last laugh. Don’t forget Kentucky has a Democrat governor,” one of the sources quoted Bunning as saying.

The implication was that Bunning would allow Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, to appoint his replacement — a move that could give Democrats the 60 votes they need to block Republican filibusters in the Senate.

This after his threat to sue to Republican Senate campaign committee. When you have sources un your own party saying, “It’s not because he’s old and senile," you know it's bad.

Chalk this one Likely Democratic Pickup. The threat to resign might get him just enough McConnell-Cornyn support and money to shut him up and get him through his primary. Seriously, the whole story is a great read.

Colorado Cop backs 18 drinking age

Presented without Comment

CBS via Kos:
This trend toward releasing non-violent offenders naturally begs the question: what about legalizing marijuana possession and lowering the drinking age? A California lawmaker Monday introduced legislation that would legalize (and tax) pot there. In Colorado, as seen this past Sunday on 60 Minutes, the police chief in Boulder (which houses a raucous University of Colorado) made a compelling case for saving money by reducing the drinking age from 21. Better to have police officers tracking violent crime, the argument goes, than writing tickets for college kids who are going to drink no matter what.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Evolution and Rod Roberts

Rod Roberts must be running for governor

Douglas Burns of Carroll has been saying for a while that his hometown state Rep, Rod Roberts, is in the mix the GOP gubernatorial nod in 2010.

With Roberts introducing an anti-evolution bill, I'm now convinced.
The bill maintains that teaching religious theories of evolution falls under academic freedom. It would allow teachers at all education levels to teach religious theories as science, and it would forbid teachers from discounting non-science based answers from students on papers and tests.

That no wrong answers provision should do wonders for state test scores.

You don't introduce a bill like to get it pased. You do it to make the base happy. Is Bob Vander Plaats looking over his shoulder yet? Meanwhile, Pastafarians are sure to demand equal time.

(And Republicans are complaining that the Dems are "wasting time" talking about the Electoral College?)

E-Publicans

Epublicans or just twits?

I completely overshot my intended audience this past Linux Monday with all that command line stuff. I promise I'll scale it back next week.

Meantime I have the strangest technical glitch ever in any operating system. Evolution, Ubuntu's default email program, will not allow me to type the letter R. Every other program lets me, and I've tried different keyboards, but no R's in email. It reminds me of the old Monty Python sketch about the man who can't say the letter C.



This means I could not, for example, email the Republican Party. I would have to contact the Epublican Paty. Ooo, sounds all snazzy and techie. And that's their latest greatest Path Back To Power: The Mini-Me blogosphere of Twitter.

Twitter 101: It lets you post very short text messages from your phone or blackberry or your pretty much whatever, the idea being that you do it a whole lot. This week marks the big political breakthrough for Twitter. Politico kicked off the week with a top ten list of best political "Tweeters" (for some reason, you "tweet" on twitter," but the moment was the image of Epublicans in the House chamber Twittering during President Obama's speech.

It seems like a natural; Twitter's 140 character limit forces you to talk in soundbites. That might not be a good thing for public discourse, but oversimplifying complex issues worked for the GOP for a long time. Read my lips: no new taxes. 27 characters counting spaces and punctuation. Government is not the solution, government is the problem: 58. Just recycle the old lines as often as needed--which is about all they're doing anyway.

Of course, John McCain would waste 10 characters by prefacing everything with My friends. But G-droppin' Sarah Palin would be a natural, saving a full letter on most common verbs.

Unfortunately, you can't spell twitter without twit, and the content is only as good as the commentator. Texas Rep. Joe Barton got some flak for encouraging "followers" (you "follow" a "tweet") to tune into the Aggie game instead of watching Nancy Pelosi cheer on the President. Worse, he almost immediately disclaimed it and said a staffer had written it. Which breaks Rule 1 of tweeting: you do it yourself. Cracked (one of my favorite time wasters) has a list of best celebrity Twitters and of all people, Shaquille O'Neal tops the list. And yes, it's really him.

There's Democrats who tweet, too, and the consensus champ is Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. As for me, the tight limits would keep me from rambling for 1000 words about the Linux command line. Hell, there's command line commands longer than 140 characters. I won't scare you with them. You don't need them. Linux is easy. Really.

But it would be had to twitte without the key for the lette between q and s. So as the Epublicans try to tweet their way back to power, I should be bipartisan with my tech glitch and also look at the Emocatic Paty. This invokes images of myself in the Dukakis era, the dark doom and gloom days of the Permanent Republican Electoral College Lock, and playing Echo and the Bunnymen on college radio. Completely the wrong mood for the Dems of 2009, who would be euphoric if the economy didn't suck so bad.

So, should Deeth twitter, or fergit `er? And is there anything you regular non-Monday readers want to know about Linux that I haven't already said?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wednesday's clips

Your Non-Presidential Update

  • Sales tax election is official.

  • Journalism's Great Depression claims more victims as the Gazette "restructures." 13 reporters out of jobs.

  • National Popular Vote moves forward on an 8-7 Senate committee vote, with the GOP and two Democrats (Wally Horn and Dennis Black) in opposition.

    The only two offices where the person with the most votes can lose are President of the United States and Johnson County Soil and Water Commissioner. And that's just not defensible in the modern world.

    This isn't really an end-around on the Constitution--that document allows states to choose electors however they want. That said, I'd still rather do it by amending the Constitution, because I'd really like our highest law to say "the person with the most votes wins." What's partisan about that?

    I don't get why this is breaking out on partisan lines (my suspicion is it's Republicans reflexively defending the Bush 2000 "win.") The Republican rhetoric of calling this the "Iowa Voter Irrelevance Act" ignores that it doesn't take effect until 270 electoral votes worth of states approve it. It isn't unilateral disarmament. Conversely, if the large states want it, we'll have it whether we want it or not.

  • Besides, our real importance isn't our measly seven (soon six) electoral votes. It's the caucuses. Elesha Gayman has a bill to address one of the big criticisms of the caucuses: the exclusion of night shift workers. Gayman's bill would require unpaid time off to caucus, with some emergency workers excluded. (How many of Chris Dodd's firefighters couldn't get Caucus Night off?)

    There's a difference between the right to get the time off and the ability. That three hours' pay might be too much to give up, or the boss might have a way of letting you know better than to ask. Still, it's a good step forward.

  • The Seminal:
    All 50 Republican Senators voted against the Clinton plan in 1993. Of these 50, 11 are still United States Senators. 10 of these 11 voted against Obama’s economic recovery package. Here are the 10 big winners:

    Bennett (R-UT)
    Bond (R-MO)
    Cochran (R-MS)
    Grassley (R-IA)
    Gregg (R-NH)
    Hatch (R-UT)
    Hutchison (R-TX)
    McCain (R-AZ)
    McConnell (R-KY)
    Shelby (D-AL, note: Shelby was supposedly a Democrat at the time. He switched parties shortly thereafter.)

    These people have literally been fighting for the same failed economic theories for more than 16 years.

  • The one who didn't was Arlen Specter, but new GOP Chair Michael Steele says primary him. “My retribution is the retribution of the voters in their states.” Club For Growth... of the Senate Democratic Caucus, that is.

  • The other Republican they want to primary is Jim Bunning of Kentucky, who's so over the hill that he's embarrassing even to Mitch McConnell. But Bunning won't go without a fight; he's even talking lawsuit. When you're talking about suing your own party, you know it's bad (ask calendar cheating Florida Democrats for details)

  • Bunning is in a tough race for Stubbornest Senator with Roland Burris. Conflicting reports on whether he's pledged to not run... or not. Lynn Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times:
    Scoop: Burris will also be sending, directly or indirectly (maybe this is it) two messages: he will not resign in the wake of the controversy surrounding his appointment by the ousted Gov. Blagojevich and he will not run for the seat in 2010. Burris has finally realized that not seeking election next year is the least price he will pay.
  • Tuesday, February 24, 2009

    School Board Liveblog

    School Board Liveblog

    Someone else will have to tell you what the President said; I'm at the School Board. Probably about 200 people here. One scenario in district proposals calls for closing Roosevelt School (disclaimer: I'm a Roosevelt dad)

    Klouda, Plugge: Acceptance of plan is not approval of all items.

    Plugge: First focus of plan is Roosevelt, Weber, Horn, Kirkwood, second focus is high schools. Then presentation moves to Roosevelt's weaknesses. Least expensive plan is closing Roosevelt, most expensive plan is building new school on Roosevelt site; renovations to Roosevelt falls in between. New Camp Cardinal school needs built no matter which plan. Longfellow and Mann plans are down the road.

    Cooper: I'm not ready to vote on a plan that feels like it's doing something to Roosevelt (applause). Klouda: No, it's just a working document, we can send it back to be revised. We don't have to vote on it, we can just work with it.

    Cilek: The older schools are more expensive and facilities not as good.

    Cooper: Do we have to vote on it? Klouda: Just a guideline, I think the community misunderstands (audience scoffs) but we don't have to vote. Cilek: I don't think we vote, we just accept a document.

    Shaw: We need to acknowledge how full this room is.

    Fields: do we want to include optimal sq ft per kid? Plugge: varies by grade.

    Fields: A working document with annual review, not a Masterplan. Cilek: as we get community input plan will change. Cooper: the things that aren't in there are still a concern: City High gym? Mann Elevator? Shaw: We'll pull parts out in sequence.

    Krumm: Annual review; no point in accepting plan if it creates (unneccessary) anxiety. What's best way to engage the community? (chuckles in audience) Cilek chides crowd a bit.

    Shaw: is web site input set up yet? Plugge: will do. Shaw: I hope we see this many people still here at end of process.

    Klouda: People think my mind's made up, not true. All these decisions affect the whole district. Difficult tradeoffs.

    Fields: need to work with the cities. Shaw: Don't forget UHeights! Audience member: "Let The People Speak!" Cilek: Audience, be respectful. We have a tough job making the decisions as your elected officials. I'm frustrated that people think we're not getting public feedback. (Audience member: "You're ignoring us!" Other ambers: "Shh" at the counterproductive strategy.)

    About 20 people are signed up to speak; Cilek says please talk about general plan but I understand you have specific concerns. (My battery may not last the whole way.)

    Rachel Zimmerman Smith: Should have used community as your consultant rather than outside firm. Questions school size in plan; what will happen with the smaller schools? We like smaller neighborhood schools. Smaller schools have good test scores. Does economic efficiency outweigh educational performance? We need a parent committee, and Board members need to not just rely on staff. It's condescending to imply we don't understand. Don't accept, send it back for revisions, involve public

    Single mom (Beth, I think?) gives them all she's got, I can't do it justice.

    Charles Stannard: Plan flawed, send it back. Bias against older schools. Do Version 2 and make it more transparent.

    Patty McCarthy, NW Jr High PTO: we like the locker replacement, we have petitions for it. The Roosevelt heavycrowd applauds politely.

    Lori Enloe: we need to address Roosevelt inequities before a new school is built. We need more info.

    Mary Knutson-Dion, Miller-Orchard neighborhood: we have a weak voice with a largely renter neighborhood. Lincoln, Mann and Longfellow have stronger voices. We're working to improve our neighborhood and the school is key. In a low income neighborhood transportation matters and a neighborhood school is important (Aside: I see lots of cabs, meaning car-less parents, dropping kids off at school when I take the boys)

    Battery gone. Will update more after I'm home and plugged in.

    Brandon Ross: Neighborhoods good, sprawl bad.

    Followup: Board takes no formal action re: plan.

    Sales tax and school plan

    Choose Your Meeting

    It's a competition for same-night crowds not seen in Iowa City since the great Liz Phair vs. Vanilla Ice concert battle of April 14, 1999: dueling meetings on hot topics.

  • The City Council is expected to make the sales tax election official. No big announcements from Team Yes, but Team No says it'll be there.

  • The School Board is voting on its plans for use of SILO sales tax money, and the draft version of the plan calls for closing the present Roosevelt School. The City Council, on a 4-3 vote last night, expressed its disapproval of the plan; there's a group organized on this issue as well.

    UPDATE: Mayor Regenia Bailey writes:
    To clarify—there WAS NOT consensus at Council’s Monday evening work session to send a letter of concern about the SFIP to the School Board. Therefore, at this time, no letter will be sent on the part of Council.

    It is correct that there were four members of Council who were supportive of sending a letter, however, it was felt by some that there should be a consensus (rather than a vote) to send a strong unified message.

  • Making matters worse, these two meetings are also in competition with President Obama's speech tonight. We're not supposed to call it the State Of The Union but that's what it is. So choose your meeting, keep your remarks concise whatever you think (we need the conductor who cuts off the Oscar speeches), and get home.

    (Oh, and back in `99 Liz drew a much larger crowd than Vanilla. Word to ya mother.)
  • Monday, February 23, 2009

    Software as a Subversive Activity, Part 14: The Directory

    Linux Monday: Directory for Beginners

    One of the things that throws people when they're first looking at Linux is that they can't find their C:\ drive. Linux looks at files a little differently than Windows, but it's not too complicated and you shouldn't have to look too deep to find stuff.

    You won't see drive letters in Linux. Everything is a directory within a single file system: your hard drive, your flash drive, your CD drive—all of it. Think of the file system as if it's My Computer, and you'll be pretty close.

    You can look at your file system structure at the command prompt or with your distribution's file manager. Let's use the command line because that's the same across distributions (and easier to cut and paste).

    Open the command line and type cd /

    john@john-firebolt:~$ cd /

    This navigates you to the root directory. Sometimes it's actually called root, but usually it's just the slash. The root directory holds as few files as possible. Let's peek with a ls command::

    john@john-firebolt:/$ ls
    bin dev initrd lib mnt root sys var
    boot etc initrd.img lost+found opt sbin tmp vmlinuz
    cdrom home initrd.img.old media proc srv usr vmlinuz.old
    john@john-firebolt:/$


    Only the listings in bold are files; the rest are directories. Linux keeps as few things as possible in the root directory.

    Most of your stuff is going to be in the home directory. If you're moving from Windows, think of this as My Documents (or, more accurately, Documents and Settings\Users)There will be a subdirectory under home for each user.:

    john@john-firebolt:/$ cd home
    john@john-firebolt:/home$ ls
    dumbledore ginny harry hermione john ron voldemort
    john@john-firebolt:/home$


    The system's administrator or root user has more magical powers than all these wizards put together. Voldemort can't get to my stuff, unless he has my password. (Most hackers are unable to obtain the root password by use of Cruciatus, Imperius, or other Dark Arts, so it's not yet considered a major Linux security flaw.) But let's check in on him:

    john@john-firebolt:/home$ cd Voldemort
    bash: cd: Voldemort: No such file or directory
    john@john-firebolt:/home$


    Everything in the file system is case sensitive. Voldemort is different than voldemort. Let's try that again.

    john@john-firebolt:/home$ cd voldemort
    john@john-firebolt:/home/voldemort$ ls
    Desktop Examples Music Public Videos
    Documents Firefox_wallpaper.png Pictures Templates
    john@john-firebolt:/home/voldemort$


    Only the wallpaper is a file (I gave Voldy a nice ugly picture of himself, but he can change that) .Ubuntu will set up several default subdirectories within your home folder: Music, Pictures, etc. Again, we're case sensitive here. I have Pictures and PICTURES directories. (Don't ask.) Ubuntu's file manager program, Nautilus, has some skills in organizing, but just as with My Documents in Windows, some of that is up to you. Voldemort likes order and has a less cluttered directory than Harry or Ron. Or me.

    That's fine for the hard drive. But what about your portable gadgets?

    Linux connects to external devices through a process called mounting. In the dark ages you had to do this manually at the command line, even for a floppy disk, but a modern distribution will do this for you automatically.

    You can mount a device within any directory, though you don't generally need to think about it. Ubuntu uses the directory /media, and some distributions use the directory /mnt

    john@john-firebolt:/home$ cd /
    john@john-firebolt:/$ cd media
    john@john-firebolt:/media$ ls
    CAMERA cdrom cdrom0 Sansa View STORE N GO
    john@john-firebolt:/media$


    You see my various devices show up as subdirectories within the /media directory.. The cdrom directories are included by default. Again, you can navigate all this through Nautilus or another file manager.

    So you know where to find your “My Documents” and your drives and gadgets. The rest of the directory structure is fairly standard across Linux, with minor variation. Here's a wallpaper-friendly chart to help you learn through osmosis. If you're in an environment where you're forced into Windows, this is a nice little Stickin It To The Man wallpaper.



    The Linux kernel files are in /boot, and /bin has contains the system binary files that load right after the kernel. /sbin is similar to /bin, except access is restricted to the administrator-level user (the "root" user, or someone using the temporary, password-protected root-level powers of the sudo command).

    /lib has most of the important system files, sort of like Windows\system32. /usr has most of the application files, you can pretend it's C:\Program Files if you like. Note that in the Linux directory, the slashes go lower left to upper right, like when you're browsing the web. In the Windows directory tree, slashes are upper left to lower right. I can never remember which one is a slash and which is a backslash--hell, I'm doing well to remember left and right in any context other than the political.

    /opt has some configuration files for applications. The only thing I have here is some config files for Open Office.

    /lost+found is usually empty, but if you have a system crash the system will temporarily store recovered files here. My only system crashes since moving to Linux have been to to 1) power failures or 2) overheating (a problem that plauged by laptop in Windows, too. In Linux I'm able to contol my CPU speed and thus my temperature, more easily.

    /etc contains configuration files specific to your system: your network card, graphics, etc. The rest are various sorts of Don't Muck With Them things, the distinctions of which are detailed well in this article.

    If you have a CD in the drive, the files will show up BOTH in the /cdrom directory and in the /media/cdrom, which seems a little redundant and repetitive, but is harmless. And there I leave you for the week, one step closer to being a Linux wizard instead of a Microsoft Muggle.

    Sunday, February 22, 2009

    Sunday Clips

    Stuff from Sunday

    A Human Being day today so not much news. But check out these three:

  • Bleeding Heartland has an excellent look at the weekend-long prevailing wage vote in the Iowa House that focuses not on the naysaying Democrats, but on the races that got away. Bet the Iowa Democratic Party regrets locking no-show Geri Huser's labor-backed primary opponent out of access to the party's voter file now, huh?

  • Nate Silver crunches the numbers on California's jungle primary proposal. "Land of a Thousand Liebermans," he calls it, which if you read my whole series last week on partisanship, you know I say noooo, no no no noooo, no no no no, no no no, no no no, no no no noooo! Not to mention No no no no no no no no no, No no no no no no no no, No no no no no no no no, No no no no no. I always thought "Nobody But Me" would be put to good use in a negative referendum campaign.

  • In our Dynasty Watch series, 32 year old George P. Bush is out campaigning at the Young Republicans convention. Chelsea Clinton, of course, had no comment. Won't that be a fun 2016 race?.
  • Saturday, February 21, 2009

    Socks Dies

    So Long, Socks

    Former First Feline Socks Clinton died yesterday at the approximate age of 20, which is pretty darn good for a cat.

    Socks was an issue as late as the 2008 primaries, when Hillary and Bill were bashed for cynically using the cat and then "dumping" Socks on the president's personal secretary, Betty Currie. The reality is somewhat different: Socks adopted Betty, not the other way around, and the Clintons' gift was a great kindness to both cat and Currie.

    Bill and Hill sent out a brief pres release, but Chelsea, of course, had no comment.

    Friday, February 20, 2009

    Bipartisanship and the new Parliamentary Era Part Five

    Bipartisanship and the New Parliamentary Era Part Five: Into the Present

    I feel like a professor who has dwelled too long on the old stories and run out of time at the end of the semester. You're all familiar with the recent history, but let's briefly review it through my thesis, that the stumilus vote represents the final realignment of American politics into two parties centered around consistent ideology and party discipline.

    The rise of the netroots, which in its primitive form can be traced back to MoveOn in 1998, gave progressives an organizing, fundraising and news network to compete with the right's talk radio, mega-churches and mail lists. And as a result, the Democratic Party got nudged a notch or two leftward, especially when “no chance” netroots candidates won in 2006.

    The hanging chads of 2000 united Democrats in we-was-robbed outrage and, also important, killed progressive third party prospects (We forget now that Al Gore ran as a moderate, not as Saint Global Warming, and Ralph Nader had a lot more progressive support than we care to remember). There was only one game in town for the left now: working inside the Democratic Party, where it was an article of faith that Bush had stolen the election.

    Rubbing salt in the wounds, Bush proceeded to act like he'd won a Reagan-size majority, governing from the right after campaigning from the center.

    2004 was a throwback, Cold War style election. Howard Dean had proven that the new ways worked, but at the last second before Iowa, Democrats had a panic attack and decided they HAD to go with the “safe” choices: John Kerry (“They can't attack him, he's a war hero!”, ignoring the lessons Max Cleland learned in 2002) and John Edwards (“He'll help us win the South!”)

    The abysmal fall Kerry campaign was the end of an era. The end of 50.1 to 49.9. The end of running 18 state campaigns funded by large donors and ignoring important down-ballot races. The end of “I was for it before I was against it.” The end of the Vietnam-Boomer generation. The end of cautious, cold feet choices.

    Republicans overplayed their hand with remarkable cynicism and chutzpah, as symbolized by the mid-decade re-gerrymander in Texas. In the short term, it was successful, replacing five moderate Democrats with arch-winger Republicans and pushing the poles further apart. But it was just one of many things that said, these guys don't play by the rules.

    2005 was the breaking point. So many milestones. Social Security privatization. Roberts and Alito. And every day the war, the war, the war. And worst of all, Katrina.

    In both parties, activists tried to enforce party discipline. The anti-tax purists Club For Growth targeted open safe seats and “RINO” incumbents, and Democrats went after Joe Lieberman. While Joementum won the 2006 general as an independent, Ned Lamont had sent a message that ending the war was a core Democratic issue.

    The 2006 massacre landed hardest in the northeast and rust belt and on the few surviving moderates, “Bush enablers” as Dave Loebsack called Jim Leach. New England, the bedrock of the GOP in the New Deal Era, was down to a lone Republican House member, Chris Shays of Connecticut.. By 2008 he was gone and only three were left from New York. What was left of the House GOP was disproportionally Southen, male, and white (all but the three South Florida Cubans).

    Finally, victory seems to have had a liberating effect on congressional Democrats, no longer scared of Rovean retaliation.

    So Democrats now have something to build on: not just a big majority like 1965-66, which was infected with segregationists. They have a progressive majority, and hopefully the will to use it. And the face an opposition party that is nothing BUT an “opposition” party, revelling in the fierce urgency of no.

    President Obama's hand of conciliation has been slapped away, and the American people, sickened from decades of least common denominator politics, are smart enough to see it. In a parliamentary system, you don't consult the minority. You govern. Which is what needs to happen now.

    Grassley Town Hall in Mechanicsville

    Grassley Offers Vague Answers in Cedar County

    It seems like I get even my local news out of the blogosphere these days. Check this Kos diary (also at Bleeding Heartland) on Chuck Grassley's recent town hall in Mechanicsville:
    Grassley started putting on his coat as soon as this guy mentioned impeachment. He stomped out like a 5 year old throwing a temper tantrum and didn't even let the guy finish talking.

    Now how did the state press miss this?

    Reagan Centennial

    Here's Some Government Spending To Cut

    Irony alert: a bill to spend a million taxpayer dollars on the centennial of Ronald Reagan's birth. The Gipper hinself would probably find this a waste of taxpayer dollars. He'd praise the private sector and then get some military contractor to pony up the money.

    I think they should use it to hire this guy, seen literally dancing on Reagan's grave. (I only did so figuratively.)

    With Ranking the Presidents out earlier in the week, I mentally started organizing the Top 42, but I get bogged down in the mediocre zone. And I can't do the "objective historian" thing. Reagan was too formative an experience. I opposed Bush 43, but I hated Reagan, in a deep and personal sense made all the stronger by the ascendancy of his ideology at the time. Everything that I am politically is because of, and in direct opposition to, Ronald Reagan, and there's no way he's ever anything but dead last to me. I'm just glad I had Joe Strummer to help me survive it.

    Roosevelt School

    Roosevelt School

    Spend a chunk of time at a meeting about my boys' school last night.

    My Miller-Orchard neighborhood is one of the hidden gems of Iowa City. If you've been following the blog, you know bits of the story: our backyard is big enough for two Smallest Farms and a football game, and my office is a five minute bike ride or a ten minute stroll (the main factor in commute time is the red light at Riverside and Benton). Roosevelt School is another short stroll; we're busy enough that the morning usually involves a car, but on nice days we often walk home. And we were just high enough to stay dry at flood time.

    Speaking of Roosevelt, our school is Teddy, not FDR (built in 1931 when Roosevelt 33 was just an up and coming governor) and this meeting delayed my editing of the next part of Bipartisanship and the Parliamentary Era. But as I think Back to Part One, I realize that if TR had won that 1912 battle, our realignment could have happened 100 years earlier. Progressives of both parties could have taken over the GOP, leaving conservatives to fend in the segregationist remnant of the Democrats. Don't fret, regular readers; I'll return to the topic soon. Meanwhile, the City Council's talking about this Monday and the School Board Tuesday.

    Thursday, February 19, 2009

    Bipartisanship and the Parliamentary Era Part 4

    Bipartisanship and the Parliamentary Era Part 4: The Gingrich Era

    As the 1990s dawned, the status quo of the Nixon years had returned to Washington. A Democratic controlled Congress had recovered from the 1981-86 Republican Senate interregnum. The Republicans had become more conservative and more Southern, and the Bush 41 Administration's legislative hoped depended on a "conservative coalition" of the GOP and Southern moderate Democrats. There were stil quite a few; the old-school segregationists had died off but there were new-school military hawks like Ernest Hollings, Sam Nunn, and Al Gore Jr., who helped Bush start the first war against Saddam Hussein. Bush also saw victory in the high-profile Supreme Court battle over Clarence Thomas.

    But the deck was about to shuffle wildly in 1992 and 1994. The next key phase of our transition to parliamentary style party discipline in Congress, defined ideologically, was the Gingrich Era.

    I call the 1990s "the Gingrich Era" rather than "the Clinton era" deliberately. If anything, Clinton and Gore delayed the transition to a parliamentary-style disciplined party system by running explicitly against cutting "triangulation" deals with the Republican Congressional majorities on issues like welfare reform, and by focusing solely on the re-election race of 1996 and not down-ballot races.

    While Clinton was a lonely leader, operating in detachment from his congressional party, Newt Gingrich was a classic parliamentary leader. He made his bones with the "special order" speeches of the 1980s, spouting conservative ideology and standing up to the Speaker Tip O'Neill, in "question time" fashion. He stage-managed the overthrow of O'Neill's successor, Jim Wright. Gingrich whipped his members into nearly unprecedented unanimous opposition to Clinton's 1993 tax bill. Most dramatically, he took the friends and neighbors politics of House elections and nationalized them, like you see in a parliamentary system, with the Contract With America.

    Even Gingrich's departure from Congress, as the era climaxed with the Clinton impeachment, was in parliamentary style. After a disappointing 1998 election, when impeachment backfired as a campaign issue, Gingrich resigned. But by the time he left, the modern Congressional Republican Party, defiant and near-unanimous, had taken shape.

    It took the Democrats longer. Clinton's conciliation set the stage for the timidity Congressional Democrats showed in the Bush 43 era. But the elections of 1992 and 1994 pushed the Democrats toward their own modern model.

    1992 was a wacky election, full of primary defeats, scandals, and the on-again, off-again candidacy of Ross Perot. Perot's electoral impact was ephemeral, a one time tantrum that built nothing. Perhaps it was a catalyst in the throw-the-bums-out mood of 1994, but by 1996 it was little more than an ego trip.

    Perot's support was strongest in the Mountain West, in two distinct kinds of places: depopulated ranch country and the newly settled, rootless suburbs around sprawltropolises like Phoenix and Vegas. But what's more interesting is that in the South and the cities, Perot totals were low. He had zero appeal to African Americans, and white Southerners were less likely to reject Bush 41 than the rest of the country.

    Clinton carried scattered Southern and border states in his two runs, usually with under 50 percent, on a combination of near-unanimous black support and a slightly higher than average white vote. This was a brake on the realignment to ideological parties, as Democrats misread the numbers and fretted about alienating the white South.

    As we saw during the 2008 Democratic primaries, a Clinton Democratic coalition is rather different than an Obama Democratic coalition. And there was movement toward our modern Democratic Party structure in 1992--but the important part was down the ballot.

    1980s court rulings required the creation of majority-minority districts wherever possible, and computerized matting technology had made gerrymandering easier. Eight southern states created new first black majority districts, and sent new black representatives to Congress--the first since Reconstruction in most states. The districts were works of modern art -- the "Melting Z" for Cleo Fields of Louisiana, the "I-85" North Carolina district of Mel Watt (connecting the black neighborhoods of several metro areas by a corridor that got as narrow as a median strip), and the "squashed headphone" district in Chicago, which connected two Hispanic areas by a strip of parks and cemeteries.

    But by packing minority voters into extreme gerrymandered districts, there was a tradeoff. Often, two moderate Democrats were replaced by a liberal black Democrat and a very conservative Republican. Ben Erdreich of Alabama, Jerry Huckaby of Louisiana, Tom McMillen of Maryland, Liz Patterson of South Carolina, and Richard Ray of Georgia all lost to Republicans, as new African American Democrats were winning one district over. And the moderate white Democrats who held on in `92 were swept out in `94, two each in Georgia and North Carolina.

    This change in districting law meant more members who were not responsive to the needs and arguments of the other side. Another consequence was a House Democratic Caucus that was blacker, more Hispanic, and by coincidence more female, than any before. And not by coincidence, more liberal than any before.

    The trend accelerated in 1994 when Democratic ranks were decimated. It was the moderates in swing districts, not the liberals in safe seats, who lost. The result was a remnant that was more ideologically consistent--the same thing we see in the Republican Caucus today.

    1992 and 1994 also saw an unusually high number of retirements concentrated in the South. These were spurred both by a change in campaign finance law (and by reading the writing on the wall). Congressional ethics rules had changed and a big group of senior members retired just in time to pocket their campaign treasuries. Some of the last senior Southern Democrats left; the archetype was 53-year member Jamie Whitten of Mississippi.

    A retirement on the GOP side was especially key: House Minority Leader Bob Michel, one of the last of the go along to get along school. In the House, he was succeeded by longtime aide Ray LaHood (now in the Obama cabinet), and in the leadership he was replaced by Gingrich. It's likely that had Bob Michel stayed on one more term, he would not have been Speaker; he would have been Minority leader again because the the landslide of 1994 might not have happened.

    The unprecedented levels of retirements, redisticting and defeats meant that in January 1995, as Gingrich took the gavel, about a third of the members were in their first or second terms. The House was now dominated numerically by the Democrats of 1992 and their polar opposites, the Republicans of `94.

    After these two wild elections, things settled back into stalemate. Some of the wins in both 1992 and 1994 had been flukes, but the long-term survival rate was far higher than the Senate class of 1980. Both sides had the power to block each other; neither could win alone. The modern congressional Republican Party was firmly in place, and the outlines of the modern Democratic Party were visible.

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    Bipartisanship and the new Parliamentary Era Part Three

    Bipartisanship and the new Parliamentary Era Part Three: The Reagan Era

    As the Carter Administration dawned, it seemed that the momentum had stalled. 1974 was the Watergate backlash, and in 1976, regional pride in Jimmy Carter overcame the long-term trend to the GOP. It even seemed that within the Republican Party, after a hard-fought convention, conservatism was on the decline.

    We all know what happened next. In retrospect, Carter was a historic aberration after Watergate, a speed bump on the road to the partisan alignment into two parliamentary style, more policy consistent parties than America has ever seen before. That realignment was fully, finally realized in the debate and vote on the Obama stimulus plan, with near-unanimous Democratic support and unanimous Republican opposition. Today in part three of the series, I look at the Reagan years.

    Ronald Reagan's 1976 convention loss is easily explained. Republicans have a long tradition, from Dewey through McCain, of nominating the guy whose turn it is next. That tradition is so strong that, hard as it is to imagine now, Jerry Ford is the only person who ever beat Ronald Reagan. Why? Because it was Ford's turn. In fact, the remarkable thing is that the conservative movement was so strong that Reagan came so close.

    And it's the movement that matters. 1980 marked the first time that the Republican Party was electorally successful when it defined itself prominently, indeed almost exclusively, as a conservative party.

    Some of the key players, like Reagan and Senator Jesse Helms, were candidates. But the 1980 era also saw the rise to prominence of high profile movement conservatives like direct mail fundraising guru Richard Viguere, Terry Dolan of the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC or "Nik-pac") Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority, and Equal Rights Amendment opponent Phyllis Schlafly.

    ERA, and its sister issue of abortion, were the first of the modern cluster of non-race social issues to become electoral wedges. ERA fell from the near-consensus bipartisan support in 1972 (it was in the GOP platform as late as that) to a hot button by 1978.

    1978 saw some important set-up for 1980 and the future. Here in Iowa, the social issues helped defeat Senator Dick Clark, who lost to the inept Roger Jepsen. In Mississippi, one of the last old-time segregation era Democrats, James Eastland, retired, and Trent Lott won a 45% win over a moderate Democrat and a black independent to became Mississippi's first Republican Senator since Reconstruction era African-American Blanche Bruce.

    The first African-American senator since Bruce, liberal Massacusetts Republican Ed Brooke, tinged by a money scandal. lost to Rep. Paul Tsongas. Another northeast liberal Republican, Clifford Case of New Jersey, was knocked off in the primary by conservative activist Jeffrey Bell. But Bell lost the general election to basketball star Bill Bradley. (New Jersey Republicans haven't won a Senate race since.)

    And Republicans won their first House race in Georgia since the 1964 Goldwater landslide. Some college professor named Gingrich.

    So conservatives were on the march into 1980, and the party's ideological struggle played out in the primaries. It was Reagan's turn, but just enough Republicans were worried about age and electability that he was challenged from the center by walking resume George Bush (no H.W. back then) and from the left by Illinois Congressman John Anderson.

    Anderson is the forgotten story of 1980. After a flurry of media attention as a novelty (by 1980, a liberal Republican was a novelty) and some very close second places, Anderson quit the party and ran as an independent. He built no lasting party or movement, not even in the pathetic sense that Ross Perot did. But Anderson is more than a footnote that his 6 percent of the November vote would indicate. He was the counter-trend that indicated a true realignment, the point of final exit for the liberal wing of the Republican Party. Only the ineptitude of Mondale, Dukakis and Kerry, and the triangulation of Clinton and Gore, kept the Democrats from capitalizing on the split and fully claiming those voters until the Obama era.

    Another point of exit was the New York Senate primary, where conservative Al D'Amato beat aging liberal Jacob Javits. Javits carried the battle into the general election on the Liberal Party ballot line, which Anderson also had, but both Reagan and D'Amato won with under 50%.

    Anderson ran best in New England and the Northwest, bulwarks of old-school Republican moderation, and foreshadowed the trends we saw in 2006 and 2008. He was over 10 percent in all of New England, which paradoxically masked the long-range trend to the Democrats in the Northeast. Reagan carried Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont and Connecticut with less than 50 percent, while Carter won only Rhode Island. (Reagan had a clear majority in New Hampshire, which lagged behind the rest of the region in its Democratic trend and stayed Republican as late as 2000.)

    So the liberal Republicans left, but the moderates sold out. Bush, who ran as a pro-choice, pro-ERA moderate George Bush (no H.W. back then) made his deal, changed his positions, and wound up as a fall-back Veep when the great Reagan-Ford "co-presidency" deal tanked at the convention.

    Carter almost swept the South in 1976, losing only Virginia. But Reagan did just as well in the South in 1980, with Carter holding only his native Georgia. There was no appetite for a moderate Republican in the deep South; in sharp contrast to their love for the segregationist third party candidates, Louisiana, South Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama each gave Anderson less than 2 percent.

    1980 was the beginning of the era of the "Republican lock" on the Electoral College; the math supposedly indicated that so many states were so securely and permanently Republican, like California and New Jersey, that no Democrat could ever get to 270.

    And unlike the lonely Nixon landslide of 1972, Reagan had coattails. 1974 had been an unusually good Democratic year, but in `80 the tide was flowing the other way. Republicans gained a dozen Senate seats, sometimes by defeating incumbents, sometimes by beating the winners of an unusually high number of fratricidal Democratic primaries. The effect was stunning in part because of the prominence of those defeated, including former presidential candidates Birch Bayh, Frank Church, and most symbolic of all George McGovern. Ironically, the only Republican to face a tough general election race in 1980 was Barry Goldwater.

    The Class of 1980 had some spectacular mediocrities -- Mack Mattingly, Paula Hawkins, James Abdnor, Jeremiah Denton, and of course Dan Quayle. Today, only two of the 1980 GOP freshmen still serve: Pennsylvania's throwback moderate Arlen Specter and Iowa's own Chuck Grassley.

    The 1981-82 Congress saw the agenda set by Republicans and conservative Democrats. The big tax cut and spending cut bills were Gramm-Rudman and Gramm-Latta, and Gramm was Phil Gramm, elected as a conservative Democrat from Texas in 1978 (the same year Republican George W. Bush lost a West Texas House race.)

    Gramm worked both sides of the street, sitting in on Democratic caucus strategy sessions and then reporting back to the GOP. Just after his 1982 re-election, he resigned and ran successfully for his own vacancy as a Republican--a high profile stepping stone to his 1984 Senate win.

    The backlash hit in 1986 as Democrats took back the Senate. The landslide brought in some fresh Southerners: Bob Graham, Terry Sanford, Wyche Fowler, and the lamentable Richard Shelby. These Senators were certainly moderates by national standards, but not hard-line, old-fashouned conservatives. Even Shelby's record before his 1994 party change was relatively moderate and certainly more liberal than one term Republican Jeremiah Denton.

    More in tune with the long term trend was Mississippi in 1988, when John Stennis, last of the old-time Democratic segregationists (Republican Thurmond would last another 14 years) retired and Trent Lott took his place.

    Thus we reached the end of the Reagan years with more of the modern system in place. Voting behavior settled down from the wild swings of the civil rights era into more consistent patterns, and though there were still moderates in both parties, the Republican Party was clearly the place for the conservatives. The Republican Senate of 1980-86 seemed like a short-term trend, and the long-range pattern of nominal Democratic control had returned.

    The Bush 41 era was a holding pattern of low turnover. But in our next chapter, the face of Congress changes drastically.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009

    Kaufmann has Iowa City listening post

    Credit Where It's Due: Kaufmann plans Iowa City listening post

    Regular reader Dave Bradley of West Liberty passes this along:
    I was looking at the weekly Jeff Kaufmann newsletter and I see that he will be having a listening post in Iowa City Saturday Feb. 28 at 8AM at the Iowa City Chamber of Commerce - 325 east Washington Street.

    Don't know if this is widely disseminated or not. Mr. Kaufmann really needs to be challenged on his stances on unions (especially fair share), health care and many other things. Sure would be nice if a contingent of Johnson County Dems went to hear what he has to say.

    Policy views aside, I give Rep. Kaufmann (R-Wilton) credit for coming over to the Johnson County side of the district. With Sandy Greiner's retirement and Larry Marek's election, Kaufmann's the last House Republican representing any part of the People's Republic. It's a small piece of the district -- only about 8 percent -- but it's nice to know he thinks it matters. Especially since they voted Democratic in his race even though the Democrat had dropped out of the race months before Election Day.

    I want to turn Johnson County solid blue as much as anyone, but for the moment he's the only State Rep Scott and Lincoln Townships have. So thanks, Jeff; I also see a gap on the listening post schedule that same day that just so happens to coincide with the monthly League of Women Voters legislative forum...

    UPDATE: Jeff reads and replies:
    I appreciate your fairness. This will be the second Iowa City forum where I appeared in the past year.

    This forum is not one of my Listening Posts rather a Chamber forum for Chamber members. I have an extensive Johnson County e-mail list that receives my column weekly, I appear regularly at events in Iowa City, I am a regular fall presenter at a University classroom, I do a lot of constituent work for Johnson County residents, I have co-sponsored legislation with my other Johnson County colleagues across the aisle, and I have been endorsed by the Iowa City Press Citizen three election cycles in a row. In 2006 I actually won some of my precincts in Johnson County in a hotly contested race.

    I have 23 forums and Listening Posts in a two-month period this session. I will accept invitations at any event that I believe is not stacked against someone expressing Republican ideas and thoughts. My thoughts on Fair Share and health care should not surprise anyone as I have a reputation of articulating my views clearly and publicly.

    I am telling you all of this, not to convince you I am special, but rather to let you know that my appearance in Iowa City next week does not come as surprise to a lot of Johnson County residents. I am proud of my three degrees from the University of Iowa and the one and one-half years I lived in Iowa City. I am proud to represent my two Johnson County townships.

    Bipartisanship and the Parliamentary Era Part Two

    Bipartisanship and the New Parliamentary Era Part Two: The Electoral Revolution of the Civil Rights Era

    Lyndon Johnson famously said that he'd signed the South away from the Democrats for a generation when he signed the Civil Rights act, and he was about right. The civil rights legislation of the mid-1960s was both the high water mark and the beginning of the end for bipartisanship. The coalition of liberal Democrats and moderate Republicans overcame the Solid South in Congress, but in doing so, it shook the Southern electorate loose from its partisan moorings.

    But we were still a generation away from the full realignment that solidified last week with the unanimous zero on the stimulus bill: an America with two parties fully distinguished by ideology without overlap.

    A look at Southern election results from the 1960s shows nothing short of a revolution: bizarro world swings, depending on whether the white South was using a third party strategy or backing the GOP that year. Look at Mississippi: 58% Democratic and 17% Unpledged in 1956, 39% Unpledged in 1960, 87% Republican in 1964, 65% Wallace and 14% Republican 1968, 78% Republican 1972.

    1964 was the turning point. And the most important thing that happened in terms of long-term realignment that year wasn't that Barry Goldwater was nominated. That wasn't even second place. The second most important thing was that the Goldwater convention booed Northeastern moderates William Scranton and Nelson Rockefeller, their first explicit rejection of the old liberal tradition.

    The most important thing that happened in 1964 was that Strom Thurmond endorsed Goldwater. (That or the Beatles.) Thurmond was the first big-name Southerner to not just bolt from the Democrats (he'd done that once before), but to go so far as to join the Republican Party. It was a tough move for Southern whites, who grew up on stories from Confederate grandfathers. Even 100 years after the War Between The States, Republican was still a cuss word.

    The first electoral moves after the Brown decision of 1954 were tentative and ad-hoc, against the national Democratic Party but not yet toward the Republicans, like segregationist Dale Alford's 1958 write-in House win in Arkansas and the unpledged Democratic electors of Alabama and Mississippi in 1960. There was almost a downballot Republican breakthrough with a near-win in the 1962 Alabama Senate race.

    Segregation was a winning issue for Orval Faubus and George Wallace in a still all-white electorate, and Wallace expanded that into the 1964 Democratic presidential primaries where he rolled up a significant protest vote, even in border and Northern states. But all of those were within, rather than away from, the Democratic Party.

    Texas, where the Republican Great Plains met the Democratic South, was almost ready to embrace the Republican Party, voting twice for Eisenhower and barely for Kennedy-Johnson. They broke through in 1961, electing Republican John Tower to LBJ's Senate seat. But suddenly, one day in Dallas, Johnson was president, and the home state presidency stalled those GOP gains for a few years.

    But in the Deep South, without Texan pride, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the last straw. Goldwater rejected the Civil Rights Act of 1964 out of small government libertarianism rather than racism, but to the deep South, no was no and they embraced him.

    The 1964 landslide was really two separate elections: a Johnson landslide in the Union and a Goldwater landslide in the Confederacy. It was only close in a handful of border and Western states. Goldwater swept in five House Republicans from Alabama, one from Georgia, and the only one who ran in Mississippi. (Few of them lasted; several of them overplayed their hands and ran unsuccessfully for higher office a little too soon in 1966.)

    But the bigger milestone than that handful of Goldwater newcomers was before the election, when Thurmond joined the GOP. There was another minor aftershock in South Carolina; Rep. Al Watson was booted from the Democratic Caucus for endorsing Goldwater, resigned, and won the special election as a Republican.

    Ole Strom made it OK for a redneck to be a Republican. And in the end it's the Thurmond tradition, dominated by stirring the hate pot of social wedge issues and racial code, that's more important than Goldwater's Wild West small government libertarianism. ("You don't have to be straight, just shoot straight," Goldwater said of gays in the military late in his life.)

    At the same time, newly enfranchised African Americans were moving more solidly to the Democratic Party. It wasn't always successful, as Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party found out (there was also a black National Democratic Party of Alabama). Bt in the end blacks opted to overcome segregation within the Democratic Party, where at least nationally they seemed welcome. Nationally, black voters had been about two to one Democratic in the pre-Goldwater era, but now those numbers jumped to the 85% range. And in a conundrum we still see today, the higher the black percentage of the electorate, the higher the percentage of white vote goes Republican.

    The 1965-66 Great Society Congress had an overwhelming Democratic majority, but the Democrats didn't consolidate on ideology. There were still some old-time Southern conservatives like Herman Talmadge, John McClellan, and James Eastland to contend with, and the divisions of the Vietnam War were soon to surface.

    As the national party moved left, at least on social and economic issues if not in peace, in the `60s, the southern Democratic bulwark that was Virginia crumbled. Conservatives Senator Willis Robertson (Pat Robertson's father) and House Rules Chairman Howard Smith lost their primaries; Smith's seat went Republican. Republicans won the governorship in 1969, and by 1970 Harry Byrd Jr., the scion of the old party machine, was so pessimistic about his chances in a primary that he ran as an independent. In 1973 former Democratic governor Mills Godwin made a comeback as a Republican.

    Other breakthrough electoral victories popped up in the South: Howard Baker in `66 and Bill Brock (who beat Al Gore Sr.) in 1970 in Tennessee, Ed Gurney in Florida. More and more, new conservatives in office were Republicans. There were still some occasional arch-conservative Democratic newcomers, like Louisiana Rep. John Rarick, but most of the new generation of Southern Democrats were moderates like Reubin Askew of Florida, Terry Sanford of North Carolina, and Jimmy Carter of Georgia. And most new conservatives, like Lott and Gurney, are Republicans.

    George Wallace's independent race in 1968 was the more or less permanent exit ramp for Southern conservative whites from top of the ticket national Democrats in 1968. But Strom Thurmond was a significant player again, allying with Nixon and thus undercutting Wallace. He held several states for Nixon, and 1968 would be the last stand for the third party strategy.

    Nixon led the late `60s transition from flagrant race baiting to code words and issues: law and order, welfare, busing, "values" issues. In 1972 he ran more against George McGovern's supporters ("aacid, amnesty, abortion") than he did against McGovern, a war hero who got swift boated three decades before we heard the term. Democrats grappled with the symbols left over from the McGovern campaign, and the Battle of Grant Park at the 1968 convention, for 36 years. Now, McGovern's national percentages in 1972 were only about five points below Hubert Humphrey's in 1968, but in a two-way race rather than a three-way it was devastating. Yet it was a lonely landslide for Nixon as the government stayed divided.

    In Texas, with Johnson now gone, outgoing Gov. John Connally first joined the Nixon cabinet and then the Republican Party itself. Other than Thurmond, the high-seniority DC delegations of the South played out the string as Democrats. Southerners got more and more used to splitting their tickets: Republican for president and then Democratic for good ole Congressman Bollweevil. But the GOP's success gradually trickled down and there were some Southern firsts, usually when Ole Bollweevil retired. Trent Lott went to the House with his Democratic predecessor's endorsement, the Republicans finally took that Virginia Senate seat, and Jesse Helms, who plays so big a role in the next chapter, won the 1972 North Carolina Senate race.

    In the other direction, handfuls of northerners were shifting to the Democrats, like Congressman (later Senator) Don Riegle in Michigan. New York Mayor John Lindsay lost his 1969 Republican primary, was re-elected on the Liberal ticket, and eventual ran for president as a Democrat (very badly). Yet there was still a strong centrist element in the GOP. Great moderate hope Charles Percy failed in his bid for Illinois governor in 1964, but made it to the Senate two years later.

    Divided government now became the norm for the first time in American history. From 1968 to 2002, only 6 1/2 years (Carter, first two years of Clinton, first six months of W) saw a President and both houses of Congress under one-party control.

    So by 1972, the elements of the modern system are in place. Led by Thurmond and Nixon, white Southerners have largely migrated to the Republican Party at the top of the ballot, and are beginning to consider some down-ballot Republicans. The move to ideologically defined parties seems to be underway, awaiting only the generational attrition of senior Democrats.

    But for today, our story ends with Watergate. The first beneficiary of the Southern Strategy was flushed from office, the Democrats made huge Congressional gains in 1974, and Jimmy Carter swept in on a reform wave in 1976. For a moment, it seemed Carter had re-created the FDR coalition. It was a brief and misleading moment.

    Monday, February 16, 2009

    Bipartisanship and the new Parliamentary Era Part One

    The End of Bipartisanship and the new Parliamentary Era

    In the wake of the partisan passage of President Obama's stimulus bill, many electrons and dead trees have been devoted to Obama's "failure" to win bipartisan approval. Most of this has focused on short-term Republican strategy.

    But I think something bigger is at work here. What we've seen this month is the fourth, and final, stage of a decades-long shift in the American party system toward the model that the rest of the world has: political parties centered around consistent ideology.

    For decades, divisions in Congress were dominated by a "conservative coalition" of Republicans and Southern Democrats. That day is done. voting Sure, we still have Blue Dogs, but only seven that voted no on final passage (the eighth, Pete DeFazio of Oregon, opposed the bill from the left). Near-unanimous Democratic support was met with unanimous Republican opposition. It's an ideological consistency and level of party discipline never before seen in American politics.

    It's been a staggered but steady trend, with roots dating back nearly a century and four distinct modern phases.

    1964-72: The backlash era
    1978-84: The Reagan era
    1994-2004: The Gingrich-Bush era
    2006-08: The Obama era

    What's important is not so much the overall numbers as the regional and ideological sub-trends of conservatives toward the GOP and, more often ignored, liberals toward the Democrats.

    This week, I'll look at these eras in a way too long multi-part series. Today, we start with the pre-history, and why our split into ideological parties didn't happen sooner.

    It almost did. The Progressives left the Republicans in both 1912 and 1924, and in an alternate history one of those splits could have realigned the system. But those candidacies were driven as much by personality as ideology, and the deaths of Teddy Roosevelt and Fightin' Bob LaFollette made the first two Progressive Parties dead ends. Republicans also learned their lesson from the divide-and-conquer politics of the 1912 Roosevelt-Taft split, when Democrats made big House gains and took control of the Senate while Wilson was winning with only 41% of the vote.

    So the progressives delayed America's split into ideological parties for nearly a century, and returned to the Republican Party, where the great battles of the late teens and twenties were fought out. The conservative Taft-Harding-Coolidge-Hoover-Taft wing prevailed over Teddy Roosevelt, Fighting Bob LaFollette, and the Non-Partisan League of the Dakotas (which fought its electoral battles in GOP primaries, primaries themselves being a Progressive Era reform).

    The Democrats were reduced to a regional party: the Solid South, voting as they shot in the Civil War, and a handful of northern urban ethnic machines (some but not all; the machine politics of Pennsylvania were Republican, which is why the Keystone State held for Hoover in 1932).

    Machine politics, be it Boss Tweed in the North or Boss Hogg in the South, are essentially conservative: buy in and keep the establishment in power, in exchange for some petty patronage. Wilson, the lone Democratic president of the 1896-1932 Progressive Era party alignment, was deeply conservative on matters of race and dissent.

    The New Deal coalition relied in part on these machines north and south, but put the internal contradictions of the Democratic Party into sharp and uncomfortable relief. A thin common thread of economic interventionism, and the force of FDR's personality, held them together. Roosevelt himself saw those internal contradictions and tried unsuccessfully to goose the Democrats left in the "primary purges" of 1938 (another historic turning point when we could have seen modern ideological parties).

    The internal strain grew as northern blacks, their numbers swollen to electoral significance by migration from the South, left the Party of Lincoln. The milestone here is 1934 when Republican Oscar DePriest of Chicago, the lone black congressman, lost to Arthur Mitchell, the first black Democrat in Congress. But in the South, the tiny fraction of enfranchised blacks stayed Republican, in opposition to the segregationist Democratic establishment. Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. remained a Republican until 1960.

    The Republicans were now the ones shrunk to a regional rump party. They lost the House in 1930, when a handful of progressives (in one of their last hurrahs) voted with Democrats on organization (much like the recent coup in the Tennessee House where Democrats elected got one moderate Republican to defect). The Republicans lost seats four cycles in a row and were down to only 88 House seats in 1936. The dominant wing was rock-ribbed rural Midwesterners, as epitomized by Alf Landon, against intervention both foreign and domestic. But there was a smaller yet still significant Northeastern wing: good-government moderates put off by the New Deal's price tag and genuinely offended by segregation.

    The handful of remaining Roosevelt 26 era rural progressives, like George Norris of Nebraska (who abandoned the GOP label and won as an independent in `36) and Bill Langer of North Dakota, faded away with the years, The LaFollettes experimented with a Wisconsin Progressive Party, as did Minnesota with the Farmer-Labor Party. These one-state movements weren't tied too much to the 1948 Progressive Party of Henry Wallace (a registered Republican until nominated for Vice President in 1940), though there was at least one connection to the Dakota tradition: a young George McGovern backed Wallace over Harry Truman.

    By 1946 Farmer-Labor had merged with the Democrats, an early watershed in the move to national ideological parties. The Minnesota DFL has played an outsized role on the national stage: Hubert Humphrey, Gene McCarthy, Walter Mondale, and Paul Wellstone. But in Wisconsin the Progressives unsuccessfully re-joined the GOP, and there was another watershed: Robert LaFollete Jr.'s primary loss to Joe McCarthy, the spiritual godfather of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove.

    Humphrey helped bring about the first big revolt of Southern segregationists at the 1948 Democratic convention, as his civil rights plank led to Strom Thurmond's candidacy (a precursor to the next chapter in our story). But the Dixiecrats weren't the first Southern electoral revolt. An anti-New Deal slate of "Texas Regulars" pulled nearly 12 percent of that state's presidential vote in 1944.

    While there weren't many rural-style progressives left in the Republican Party after the New Deal, there were still a lot of urban moderates and liberals, and their numbers grew as the GOP recovered from the near-knockout punches of the 1930-36 elections. This wing prevailed, for the last time, in 1952 when Eisenhower defeated Robert Taft for the GOP nomination (while Adlai Stevenson appeased the South by naming Alabama's John Sparkman as his running mate). The Republicans made some presidential inroads into the outer South in 1952 and 1956, but that was more about Eisenhower than party.

    So that gets us to the end of our set-up chapter, in 1952. We had two parties defined as much by region as ideology. While agrarian progressives had mostly moved toward the Democratic Party, there were still liberals, moderates, and conservatives in both parties. The party label you chose had as much to do with the traditions of your state as with your ideology. It was the age of bipartisanship that the David Broders of the world pine for, an Era of Good Feeling where Sam Rayburn, Lyndon Johnson, Joe Martin and Ev Dirksen would gather for drinks and cut the deals. As long as no one touched the third rail of race, everybody got along.

    But that third rail was electrified in 1954 with the Brown decision. In Part Two I'll look at the electoral trends of the civil rights era, the real beginnings of our modern partisan era.

    Ranking the Presidents

    Ranking the Presidents

    It's President's Day ("Washington's Birthday" for you conservative traditionalists out there) and if you go to the bank, you may be able to get yourself a shiny new William Henry Harrison dollar. They're going through the presidents and it's Number Nine's turn, thus putting to lie the Simpsons' Mediocre Presidents Song.

    Except you can't go to the bank because it's President's Day.

    One of my more popular old posts was from last year during the Democratic nomination stalemate, when I suggested that Barack and Hillary adopt WHH's old 1836 strategery of splitting up the nomination. Is it really only a year since the Democrat's internal anxiety of that doom and gloom battle?

    They'll be making those dollars three times longer than Tippecanoe and Tyler Too was president. Which is why it surprised me that C-SPAN's latest version of the Historians Rank The Presidents survey actually included William Henry Harrison. How does one really rank his job performance? I mean, was he better at laying around dying than James Garfield was? Most of these surveys exclude those two, but this one lists them all (although I noticed David Rice Atchison is missing).

    The big news in this survey is that 43 was included for the first time, and he ranks down in the Tyler-Fillmore zone, 36th of 42. (They don't rank Grover Cleveland's two terms separately, though the first would clearly rate higher as the second was dominated by the Panic Of 1893. Back then we didn't have recessions or depressions, we had "panics" which sounds way scarier.)

    W is for all intents and purposes dead last in international relations, ahead of only William Henry Harrison. And how could WHH screw up as bad in a month as Bush did in eight years?

    The exit interviews and rhetoric, and the post-inauguration comments by Cheney, clearly indicate that Bush is hoping for Truman-like historic revisionism. Harry climbs to his highest ranking I've ever seen in these, number five. That's just below the Rushmore line, for those of you playing at home, and without the benefit of a hagiography campaign like the one Reagan has.

    I've always thought Woodrow Wilson was by far the most over-ranked in these things. The 1919-20 Red Scare domestic spying and repression of dissent was in some ways worse than Bush; even the Gonzo Justice (sic) Department didn't have elected members of Congress arrested the way A. Mitchell Palmer went after Milwaukee Socialist Victor Berger. And Wilson let ole Eugene Debs rot in jail; it was Warren Harding who finally pardoned him.

    Wilson's biggest foreign policy initiative, the League of Nations, was an abject failure, amd there was also Wilson's serious irresponsibility in staying in office when he was not fit physically, and probably not fit mentally, to serve. Vice President Thomas Marshall deserves some of the blame there for refusing to act. Is anyone ever going to do one of these for the Vice Presidents? Even Cheney would have a hard time beating Aaron Burr for last on that list. And that very first Got Milk ad is still the best:



    Awon Buh.

    I also have a little Iowa pride and feel like Herbert Hoover gets a lot of the blame that Calvin Coolidge deserves. Since we're into revisiting the causes of the Great Depression, let's note that the setup for that was all on Harding and Coolidge's watch, and they dumped the load on Hoover. Granted, Hoover handled it badly, but in a lot of ways he resembles Jimmy Carter: he did a lot of great things in his life and only ever failed at one job.

    Anyway, the birthday of John Adams, the first Vice President, is October 30. I say we celebrate by making the first Monday in November Vice Presidents Day and get another holiday. Works for me.

    Software as a Subversive Activity, Part 13: The Linux Repository

    Installing software on Linux Monday: The repository is your new best friend

    Our word for the day this fine Linux President's Day Monday is “repository.” I admit, it was one of those alien words that buffaloed me when I first started learning. Linux geeks, like any group of insiders, throw around terms that are incomprehensible to outsiders, but it turns out the concept is really easy. A repository is simply an online software library that's built into the operating system.

    We've all learned how to install Windows software. You either buy an expensive CD or you go out to the web to find and download a file. Either way, you follow the prompts, wait, wait some more, and then usually get prompted to reboot.

    In the early days of Linux, software installation was trickier, with lots of text command voodoo and even compiling code. That reputation is one of the things that scares people away. But modern distributions have for the most part made this unnecessary.

    For one thing, there isn't as much need to install programs in the first place. With Windows you install the operating system, or get the machine with Windows pre-installed, and you can't do much. You have to install the OS and then install the applications. In Linux, most distributions have applications like office suites and media players bundled in, so you can start crunching your spreadsheet right away.

    But if you do need some additional software, the repository is waiting for you.

    The ├╝bergeeks in charge of each distribution manage the repository on their end. One of the criticism of open source world, in fact, is that there's not One Big Repository. But Linux is not one size fits all like Windows or (especially!) Mac, and different distributions have different philosophies about how and how often they update the repositories. Some repositories are very strict on including only free and open source software, while others make exceptions for frequently needed drivers. The repository is free, but some distributors will sell you a disk(s) with the whole thing on it/them for a nominal price.

    Some distributions make it a priority to have the latest versions of programs, others prefer versions that are a little older but more thoroughly tested. For example, there was a lot of discussion in the Linux community last fall when Ubuntu decided to stay with version 2.4 of Open Office for their October release of version 8.10 (“Intrepid Ibex”; Ubuntu names each upgrade after alliterative animals) rather than upgrade to the relatively new Open Office 3.0. And the current buzz is that the next update (“Jaunty Jackalope”) won't have the newest version of the Linux kernel.
    You talk to the repository on your end through a program called a package manager. Steven Vaughn-Nichols explains it well:
    Most Windows users have already seen downloadable software sites like TuCows and Download that resemble Linux's package managers. The difference is that package managers are integrated into Linux, while download library Web sites are stand alone operations.

    In Ubuntu, the package manager is called Synaptic, and it's easily accessible through the menu: System> Administration>Synaptic Package Manager.

    You'll be prompted for your password before you make any actual changes. Synaptic has a search function, so if you know the name of a program you can find it. If you select a program that requires additional software, Synaptic will inform you of these dependencies and select them for you. This means you won't be stuck with an incomplete install that's looking for OBSCURE.DLL like you are in Windows.

    Ubuntu takes a middle ground on the free software issue. The prepackaged software includes some non-open source drivers. It doesn't include the “codecs” (short for code-decode) that you need to play popular audio and video files like .mp3s. The lawyers think this would raise legal issues that would interfere with the open source mission.

    But the team at Canonical, Ubuntu's distributors, are realistic and know that you're gonna want that stuff, and they make it an easy one-step in the repository. Open up Synaptic and search for ubuntu-restricted-extras. You'll be playing your tunes and watching YouTube in no time.

    Beginners who are happy with the distribution as packaged don't even need to look at the package manager. Ubuntu will push the updates toward you. A couple times a week, at about 8 a.m., I see a little icon that tells me an update is available—-a sunburst for a minor tweak, a red arrow if security is involved. Usually I deal with it right then, but if I'm running late for work I can wait. Unlike Windows, Linux doesn't keep bugging me.



    Another advantage to the repository system is that it gives you some reassurance. If the distribution managers include a program or upgrade in the repository, it's a sign that they've checked it out for security and compatibility. You're not left hanging on your own. Synaptic also lets you repair and uninstall programs and clean your system.

    In open source you also don't have to deal with a couple of special Windows annoyances. You know those “trial versions” that get you started, but then after X number of days want you to pay, or don't let you save? (The worst is that brand-new big-box-boughten computer with the trial version of Microsoft Office, that you can keep after 30 days for just a few hundred bucks.) There's no crippleware, nagware or begware in the open source world.

    The other thing you won't find yourself doing is constantly rebooting. Only Linux kernel upgrades require a reboot. (My current no-reboot record is 28 days; I could do better but last week's minimal distribution post had me re-booting almost as much as I did back in Windows.)

    If you want to get geeky you can try the command line. In Ubuntu,
    sudo apt-get update

    and a password will update your whole system.

    You can also download a file and do it yourself. Here, for example, is a cheat sheet on installing Open Office 3.0 on Ubuntu. If you decide to get adventurous, blogger Skuunk offers some good advice:
    Make sure you have more than one Internet enabled computer in the house before you do anything...

    When going online for info on configuring your computer, don't automatically use the first solution you read... if an article tells you to go to your terminal and do anything with sudo, vi, pico, rm or gedit think twice. Also be wary of shell scripts (.sh files).

    You can take it even further and do it the old fashioned way: get and tweak the source code and compile it yourself. There might be some benefits in customizing your software to your system, but most of the users I know think “customizing” means choosing a wallpaper, which they invariably call a “screensaver.”

    Friday, February 13, 2009

    House Passes Stimulus Plan

    House Vote An Outrage!

    No, not the stimulus plan. While I was looking for the roll call on that I found THIS:
    H. Res. 110: congratulating the National Football League champion Pittsburgh Steelers for winning Super Bowl XLIII and becoming the most successful franchise in NFL history with their record 6th Super Bowl title.

    What?!? Most successful franchise in NFL history?!?

    The Steelers may have won all their titles in the Super Bowl Era, but before Terry Bradshaw and company there were four decades of futility in Pittsburgh. Let's look at ALL of NFL history:
    Most World Championships:
    Green Bay Packers, 12
    Chicago Bears (booooo), 9
    New York Giants, 7
    Pittsburgh Steelers, 6
    Dallas Cowboys, 5
    San Francisco 49ers, 5
    Washington Redskins, 5
    Cleveland Browns, 4
    Detroit Lions, 4
    Indianapolis/Baltimore Colts, 4
    Minnesota Vikings: 0

    Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau are spinning in their graves.

    As for the stimulus plan roll call, once again we have unanimous Republican negativity because they don't know how to do anything else, and a tiny handful of Democratic nays. Here's the changes:
    No on first plan, yes on second
    Allen Boyd (D-FL-02)
    Jim Cooper (D-TN-05)
    Brad Ellsworth (D-IN-08)
    Frank Kratovil (D-MD-01)

    No on both
    Bobby Bright (D-AL-02)
    Parker Griffith (D-AL-05)
    Walt Minnick (D-ID-01)
    Collin Peterson (D-MN-07)
    Heath Shuler (D-NC-11)
    Gene Taylor (D-MS-04)

    No on first plan, Present on second
    Paul Kanjorski (D-PA-11)

    Yes on first plan, no on second
    Pete DeFazio (D-OR)

    So four Blue Dogs liked the Senate cuts enough that they came back--but that cost the vote of Pete DeFazio on the left. And Kanjorski must have been holding out waiting for that Steelers vote.

    I still think Harry Reid should have made the Republicans talk it out. Now the only question left is how Judd Gregg will vote...