Monday, February 28, 2011

The Return of Linux Monday

The Return of Linux Monday

Political fans, don't fret: We'll have some Mike Huckabee later today. But for now, it's the return of Linux Monday. It's been about seven weeks since I've inflicted a Linux Monday on the loyal readership; it's starting to turn into more of a monthly feature than a weekly.

Leading distribution Ubuntu - which for non-Linux geeks us de facto synonymous with "Linux, though there are a bunch of hidden places where Linux dominates - has of late suffered some loss of love in Linux Land:
Instead of being the model corporate member of the community that it first appeared, today Ubuntu/ Canonical increasingly seems concerned with its own interests rather than those of FOSS as a whole. No doubt there are sound business reasons for the change, but many interpret it as proof of hypocrisy. Added to the suspicion towards the corporate world that lingers in many parts of the FOSS community, the change looks damning, especially when it is so clearly documented in Canonical's corporate history.
In response, it's a geek thing:
FOSS fans tend to be passionate. They don’t dislike something, they “hate” it. They don’t like anything, they “love” it. To which I can only say, “It’s just software people!”

What Ubuntu has done for Linux is to market it to the masses. CIOs and CTOs, know Red Hat and Novell’s SLES (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server), but if ordinary people know any Linux, it’s Ubuntu.
If you fall on the don't love Ubuntu side, here's The best Linux distros you've never heard of, releases to watch this year, and a bunch of the best Linux window managers.

One of my favorite window managers is the low-resource Fluxbox, which just released a new version.

For teh uber-geeky, a look at the Linux boot process.

And lastly, the most important tech development since the mousepad: the death of the power brick.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

More Maps by Jerry Mandering

More Maps by Jerry Mandering

My redistricting consultant, Jerry Mandering, called again and told me he had taken - and beaten! - my challenge to draw a district with more than 51 counties.

Jerry presented two plans which each had a 54 county district. Ther both broke up the six county Polk-Linn district.

Here's Jerry's first effort...

And another.

The largest county in both of the 54 county districts is Cerro Gordo (44,000). I like the first one better; the second one produces an unfortunately plausible Des Moines district.

While he was at it, Jerry presented the plan he really wants to see:

I had to actually trace the districts with my finger to see, yes, they are contiguous.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Smallest Possible District

Yet Another Map: Smallest Possible District

My redistricting consultant, Jerry Mandering, tells me I'm wrong when I say you can't draw a district smaller than eight counties, and gave me this map.

The goal here was to make the largest and smallest districts possible, while still slopping together two other contiguous seats.

I - I mean, Jerry - started with a list of counties sorted by population and the answer was so obvious that it slapped me in the face:

Connect the two largest counties, Polk and Linn! The corridor goes through Jasper, Marshall, Tama and Benton for a mere six county district. That might actually pass commission muster, but I can't see it flying politically.

The biggest district was harder. Theoretically, the smallest 64 counties would add up to a district, with 20,000 population being the cutoff. But several of the smallest counties are on the northern and southern borders, and there's the problem of two big counties, Woodbury and Pottawattamie, isolated on the west.

In the end, I had to include PottCo to make the population balance between four districts and to connect low-population Monona and Harrison. I also had to include mid-size Cerro Gordo and Webster, for a 51 county district with no diagonal-corner cheating.

Going along the south border works better than the north; the south has more of the sub-10,000 counties. If you go through the north you have to use Woodbury instead of PottCo, and Woodbury is about 30,000 bigger.

Challenge: Draw a district bigger than 51 counties.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

One More Bad Map

In retrospect...

...appointing Jackson Pollock to the redistricting commission may have been a bad idea.

Coralville Courier notes, unhappily, that Johnson County Republicans elected their mostly incumbent slate of officers a couple weeks back.

WashPo's Aaron Blake looks at Romneycare and the GOP primary and concludes:
It may be more helpful to compare Romney's health care bill to something else: then-New York Sen. Hillary Clinton's vote for the Iraq war in 2002.

That vote turned the front-running Clinton into a vulnerable candidate in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, as it put her at odds with the general sentiment within the party about the war. Clinton's refusal to apologize for the vote -- as John Edwards did -- ensured that the vote dogged her wherever she went on the campaign trail.
To me, more interesting about Hillary than about Mitt. And as much as I've come around on Madame Secretary, the quote was, “If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from.”

Speaking of which, a random Reddit reader notes: "If Iraq had never been invaded, there may have been a revolution there now overthrowing Saddam, creating a stable democracy and saving countless lives."

And after donating to anti-gay Minnesota candidates, Target has agreed to support some LGBT groups as well, in a story that includes the classic line "following a meeting with Lady Gaga."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Charlie Duffy Dies

Former supervisor Charley Duffy dies

One of the last of a kind left us yesterday, as former Johnson County Supervisor Charley Duffy of Solon passed away at age 83.

I hadn't seen Charley in a year or two; his health had been declining and his visits to the county building were becoming less frequent. But I did have the pleasure, and it was a pleasure, of working with him for several years.

Charley was a man of the farm, the kind of old-school rural supervisor that used to dominate county government. That meant we didn't always agree on any given zoning issue or primary election. But Charley was a proud Democrat and a strong supporter of Bob Dvorsky, Dave Nagle and Tom Harkin.

Charley's wife Joyce worked on the absentee ballot board for many years and Charlie would come into the office every election night to pick her up. He'd usually want to shoot the breeze, speculate on the outcome, and tell a few stories.

Hard to believe now but Charley actually lost his first run for the board, in 1986. He was the head of Johnson County Farm Bureau at the time, and ran a very close third out of five for two seats, finishing behind two other county government legends, Bob Burns and Harold Donnelly.

But Duffy led the field in his second try in 1988 and served three terms, retiring in 2000. In 1992 and 1996 he trailed a bit in the primary but was first in the general. The Duffy Number is still a good diagnostic; compare Charley's results by precinct to an urban liberal like Joe Bolkcom, and you get a good measurement of the farm vote.

Visitation is Thursday from 3 to 7 at Lensing's; services are Friday at his beloved St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church. Thoughts and prayers to Joyce and their children.

Worst. Iowa. Maps. Ever.

Worst. Iowa. Maps. Ever.

I know, I said I wasn't going to draw maps. I get too much anxiety thinking about something that I can't impact. But the Register's tool is too much fun.

So I drew maps. Just not serious maps.

Instead, I tried to imagine ridiculous configurations that would look cool and mathematically work, but which would fail on every other possible level.

I started this one by just going horizontal across the state, starting with the northern and southern borders, hoping to have four districts span the state east to west. Didn't quite work but came close; moved a couple counties around for population balance.

In Map 2 I start with a vertical line based in the Des Moines longitude. I got four districts that border both Minnesota and Missouri, though I don't quite get the stripe look I wanted thanks to the bulge west and then east in the Des Moines district. The western district actually looks plausible.

I also, accidentally, got a Latham-Boswell pair and the other three on their own, though Loebsack loses Johnson.

I'm looking for diagonal stripes these next two.

In map three I start in the northwest and southeast. And again I get the Latham-Boswell pair.

This time, while striving for ridiculous, I get TWO reasonable looking districts, one for King and one for Loebsack.

The same member combinations, and the same two plausible districts, happen when I start with the southwest and northeast. Though I do like the very narrow Polk-Marion connection where the district narrows to a mile or so south of Runnells.

I guess I have to try harder... I manage to give Steve King all four corners of the state! Hey, other states draw districts like that for real.

While I'm at it, I try to make the smallest possible metro area district I can, which I can't do with less than eight counties. In the 60s, when we had seven districts, Neal Smith had four counties: Polk, Story, Boone, Webster.

I also like the Clayton to Carroll turf I gave Bruce Braley. But that's nothin' compared to the grand finale...

My goal was to make the state into a bulls-eye of concentric circles. It's impossible; the border counties are more than a district, so I had to leave a gap in the neighborhood of Flav's Fried Chicken in Clinton.

I cheated a little by connecting Humboldt on a point both at the northwest and northeast. But that might actually pass constitutional muster; districts connected by a point exist in other states. And I don't think we have any now, but there have been districts entirely surrounded by another district. I remember a two district Nevada, 80s I believe, when one district (Middle of Vegas) was surrounded by the other district (Entire Rest Of State).

I challenge anyone working with the 99 puzzle pieces of the 99 counties to draw a worse map than this.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Name That Dictator

Name That Dictator

Back when I was on the college speech team my best-known speech was a humourous look at spelling. One of the jokes I cracked was about the many different ways to spell the name of the dictator of Libya.

25 years later and I'm still recycling the joke. Who'd've though we'd still be worried about this guy?

In any case, as he doubles down and prepares to go out all Ceaucescu style, this may be the last chance. The Times of London has compiled a handy list. I only offered three different spellings; I was always lazy on the homework in college and three was enough for the laugh. But here we have a whopping 37:
1) Muammar Qaddafi

2) Mo'ammar Gadhafi

3) Muammar Kaddafi

4) Muammar Qadhafi

5) Moammar El Kadhafi

6) Muammar Gadafi

7) Mu'ammar al-Qadafi

8) Moamer El Kazzafi

9) Moamar al-Gaddafi

10) Mu'ammar Al Qathafi

11) Muammar Al Qathafi

12) Mo'ammar el-Gadhafi

13) Moamar El Kadhafi

14) Muammar al-Qadhafi

15) Mu'ammar al-Qadhdhafi

16) Mu'ammar Qadafi

17) Moamar Gaddafi

18) Mu'ammar Qadhdhafi

19) Muammar Khaddafi

20) Muammar al-Khaddafi

21) Mu'amar al-Kadafi

22) Muammar Ghaddafy

23) Muammar Ghadafi

24) Muammar Ghaddafi

25) Muamar Kaddafi

26) Muammar Quathafi

27) Mohammer Q'udafi

28) Muammar Gheddafi

29) Muamar Al-Kaddafi

30) Moammar Khadafy

31) Moammar Qudhafi

32) Mu'ammar al-Qaddafi

33) Muammar el-Qaddafi

34) Muammar Gadafy

35) Muammar Gaddafi

36) Muammar Gadaffy

37) and finally the Libyan Embassy spelling: Muamar Qadaffi
Try fitting all that on a visual aid.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday clips

Monday clips

The Packer A List gets involved in the Battle of Madison as defensive captain (and NFLPA union rep) Charles Woodson shows his solidarity:
It is an honor for me to play for the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers and be a part of the Green Bay and Wisconsin communities. I am also honored as a member of the NFL Players Association to stand together with working families of Wisconsin and organized labor in their fight against this attempt to hurt them by targeting unions. I hope those leading the attack will sit down with Wisconsin's public workers and discuss the problems Wisconsin faces, so that together they can truly move Wisconsin forward.
Still waiting to hear from union rep and Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers.

Texas Democrats offer practical advice to the cheeseheads about life on the lam, including: "If you are going to be out more than two weeks call your spouse for conjugal visits."

Here in Iowa Craig Robinson notes that, desptite Tampa snaring next year's Republican National Convention, Florida is playing primary date leapfrog. Right now they're scheduled for January 31, which is not just before their window but before Iowa.

Remember that last cycle it was the GOP, in full control of state government, that drove Florida to play leapfrog; the Dems were just dragged along. In contrast, it was Democrats, led by caucus hater Carl Levin, who pushed Michigan, and while Florida just wanted to be a player, Michigan was explicitly about killing off Iowa and New Hampshire.

Other stuff: An interesting map that re-imagines the Mississippi river watershed as a metropolitan subway system. Kinda cool but with one big flaw from my admittedly local angle: In the name of simplification it depicts the Iowa-Cedar system as one river and thus places Iowa City downstream from Cedar Rapids, rather than as part of a separate system that meets below both cities at the Greater Columbus Junction Metroplex. A point of confusion that buffaloed all my out of state family and friends during June 2008.

And on the all-important Lady Gaga front: after just five days of availability at radio and three days at online retailers (people BUY music on line?!?) rather than the full week, "Born This Way" debuts at Number One. That makes it, by coincidence of timing, the 1000th chart-topper in the history of the Billboard Hot 100.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

2011, meet 1958

2011, meet 1958

As the battle of Madison continues, I'm remembering another time anti-unionism over-reached: the "right to work" (sic) ballot initiatives of 1958.

Bills banning the union shop were on the ballot in two mega-states, California and Ohio, and also in Idaho. A full court press by labor beat all three handily. In the process, Democrats gained a Senate seat, a governorship, and three house seats each in California and Ohio. (To be fair, some circumstances were very different: it was the Dreaded Year Six of a Republican administration.)

Wisconsin may not even have to wait till 2010, due to recall; this Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel piece looks at the most likely target districts.

Of most interest to me is Dan Kapanke of La Crosse; that's my parent's district. The minor league baseball owner is in the middle of a first term and fresh off a congressional loss to Rep. Ron Kind. The northern third of Kapanke's Senate seat -- again, mom and dad's turf -- is already looking at a special House election to replace former speaker Mike Huebsch (a poisonous little squirt who I went to high school with), recently appointed Walker's Administration Secretary (i.e. likely one of the goon squad behind all this.)

Other stuff that doesn't fit elsewhere: The Register offers another 10 congressional maps, including an I-80 Polk to Johnson district that would let me personally participate in that primary to Boswell. And Helen Thomas doubles down.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saturday Clips

Something In The Cheese

Something is definitely in the cheese in Wisconsin; Between the mass rallies and the Texas-style Legislators on the Lam, I haven't seen them this excited since the last time the Packers won the Super Bowl. I would have loved to have seen this much base excitement BEFORE the election, but maybe sometimes you just have to see how bad it can get first.

Wisconsin has recall, but you have to be at least a quarter through the term before it can happen, unlike California when Gray Davis was terminated just nine months in. I have mixed feelings about recall. It's good for extreme situations (like this) but if we had it, we'd never see an Iowa City council finish a term.

On the redistricting front, the Press-Citizen re-runs my piece about Boswell, the Patriot Act vote and where Christie Vilsack runs. Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson shares his map, whicf pairs Braley and Latham in a fair-fight seat, keeps Linn and Johnson together and adds Scott to include the entire 1990s Leach district, preserves the present Steve King seat by shoring it up with Dallas, and gives Boswell Ottumwa. Is that paging Dr. MMM, stat?

Finally, as I continue to rationalize my life choices from circa 1992, there's always room for a good Why You Should Quit Your Ph.D. post.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday's Reads

Thursday's Reads

I promised I won't draw maps, but I will share them. Craig Robinson at TheIowaRepublican has dropped fourteen of them. It's an imagination-expanding must read because he's done a good job at making no assumptions. Most folks doodling maps seem to start with a scenario in mind, such as a Loebsack-Braley pair, or "there HAS to be a western district like King has now just bigger."

No there doesn't.

What happens in reality is that the entire map is torn up and drawn from scratch. I have never, for example, heard someone drop a scenario where Johnson County ends up in Braley's district, while Loebsack ends up with Linn and Scott. Or maps where three members are in one district. One scenario I didn't see, Mrs. Vilsack: Polk combined with Henry. There are, however, scenarios where Black Hawk and Henry are together. (Polk and Johnson never end up together; anything based in the east ends by Jasper.)

Also at TIR: speculation on who if anyone the GOP heavy hitters will endorse come caucus time. What's most interesting is Branstad.

For my money the smart move for any Iowa governor is to Protect The Caucuses first rather than backing any one candidate. Presidents come and go but the caucuses are (we hope) forever.

The actual track record of Iowa governors is either safe front-runners or no pre-caucus endorsement.

Branstad 2.0 and 4.0 (the one drawing the pension, not the one drawing the salary) stayed neutral in `88 and pre-caucus endorsed caucus winner and nominee Bob Dole in 1996. Tom Vilsack went with Gore pre-caucus, but as a Bill Bradley guy I can tell you there was significant institutional pressure for Gore on Democrats at all levels (Actual quotes: "We [sic] want to keep Gore from having a primary," "all the GOOD Democrats are for Gore.") And as I like to remind folks, Johnson County was the top Bradley county in the nation.

But I digress. In 2004 Tom Vilsack stayed neutral, though Christie was on team Kerry. Similarly, Mari Culver was with Edwards through 2007 while the governor was Officially Neutral. (Chet's Obama endorsement, a month after the caucuses, was either a meaningless joke or a national get on the bandwagon move that had nothing to do with the caucuses.)

I think in the privacy of his straw poll Terry will vote for Mitt, but we won't hear about it.

After all that Republican stuff you need a shot of Democratic info and snark; UnderTheGoldenDome is a great new spot for that.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wednesday clips

Hey, Terry:

If you wanted to collect your pension, you could've stayed retired. We wouldn't have complained. Really.

But Branstad the Bargaining Buster seems like Norma Rae compared to Wisconsin's Scott Walker. Walker's launching a multi-prong attack on state workers. I hesitate to list specifics because I don't want to give Terry any ideas. The rhetoric is as bad as the substance: Walker is deliberately dropping the "call out the National Guard" threat to perpetuate the stereotype of labor=mobbed-up goon squad.

But labor has a secret weapon that is all-powerful in Wisconsin: Packers.
"We know that it is teamwork on and off the field that makes the Packers and Wisconsin great. As a publicly owned team we wouldn't have been able to win the Super Bowl without the support of our fans.

"It is the same dedication of our public workers every day that makes Wisconsin run."
This in a state where John Kerry's mis-calling the stadium "Lambert Field" was a serious issue.

Closer to the People's Republic, sometimes this stuff just writes itself:
The (Iowa City) council then shot down those objections and voted 7-0 to approve a resolution that prohibits firearms and other dangerous weapons from city buildings, grounds, buses, parks and areas designated as a farmers market.

The meeting remained mostly civil, although after the vote David Telliho of Kalona said some council members had “made yourselves targets tonight.”
Constructive Criticism Department: Mike Thayer wants less Lady Gaga, more Obama Budget. So here's six words to fix the deficit. Tax. The. Rich. End. The. War.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Boswell votes Blue Dog on Patriot Act

Boswell votes Blue Dog on Patriot Act

Bleeding Heartland notes yesterday's vote on Patriot Act extension, where Leonard Boswell b\voted with Steve King, Tom Latham and the GOP majority and against Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack and most House Democrats.

Look at the Democratic yeas (in italics here) and you'll see a who's who of the diminished Blue Dog caucuss: Ross (AR), Kind, Peterson, Kissell, Shuler, Boswell.

The defection on an issue so important to the Democratic primary base, right when we're drawing maps, tells me Boz is more worried about a general election against Tom Latham than about a primary from Christie Vilsack. It's a poor decision, both on the merits of the issue and because it won't actually gain him any votes.

Option One for Iowa Democrats should be gently, or firmly, persuading Boswell that his day is done. (This post is in the "firmly" category.) But so far Leonard shows no signs of budging. What are the former first lady's options?

Option 2) Primary him anyway. In which case, expect Boswell to get ugly like he did with Ed Fallon

Option 3) Run out of Mt. Pleasant, which splits the eastern Iowa party instead of the central Iowa party. Iowa needs to leave the no women club with Mississippi, but we've got three House Dems to fit into three potentially winnable districts (there's a Steve King seat no matter what). Who gets shoved aside: the fund-raising machine who's on a fast track to leadership, the progressive giant-killer who knocked off a 30 year incumbent, or the guy whose retirement we've been speculating about for four cycles?

Option 4) Run against Latham in 2014 after he beats Boswell. Iowa Democrats, with the possible exception of the Vilsacks, seem content to let this happen rather than hurt Boswell's feelings, because Leonard is such a nice guy.

In my book, nice guys don't endorse domestic espionage. And I want to come out of this with a delegation of Braley, Loebsack, Vilsack and whoever wins a Steve King-Tom Latham celebrity deathmatch (which would be King). But I'm just a crazy blogger in a hat.

I've made a deliberate decision, despite the temptation of all that beautiful data, NOT to draw congressional maps. I've been through two of these cycles before, and learned that nothing I say or do changes the eventual map I see. I'm looking at numbers, of course, but saving the serious crunching for actual released maps.

(The most important thing I learned from covering the 1991 map as a journalist: the attention will be on the congressional map, which is big enough for a relative amateur like a journalist to understand, and will be the focus of the debate and the public rhetoric. But what's more important to passage of the package is the legislative map. It's not a party line thing, it's the legislators looking at their own turf.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Born This Way

Born This Way

The most important action on the marriage equality front this weekend wasn't a bill or a rally.

It was a song.

The most important popular musician of our moment, Lady Gaga, released her new song over the weekend, with a high-profile rollout: a "60 Minutes" interview followed by a live (more or less) debut of the song on the Grammy awards.

"Born This Way" is, lyrically and musically, an anthem, a call to celebrate who and what you are. The very title takes a side in the nature vs. nurture debate, and the message is gay in the old, joyous sense of the word.

"I liked it the first time I heard it," you say in your David Spade mocking voice, "when it was called 'Express Yourself'." But while Madonna was herself very gay-friendly 20 years ago (where do you think "Vogue" came from?), the personal pronouns and imagery of 1989's "Express Yourself" place it firmly in heterosexual relationship territory. "Born This Way" is not specifically about relationships and clearly gay friendly.
Whether life's disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
'Cause baby, you were born this way

No matter gay, straight or bi
Lesbian, transgendered life
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born to survive
"Don't be a drag, just be a queen," Gaga tells her fans.

And they are legion: Lady Gaga has more Twitter followers than anyone else, over six million. And that's why this matters in the context of a political blog in Iowa.

I'm too damn old to be a Lady Gaga fan; she's of my daughter's generation, not mine. But like the blog motto says: too old to be cool, too young not to care, and I've become a slightly late to the party true believer.

Don't lump her in with the shallow Spearses of her musical generation. Behind Lady Gaga's gimmickry there's an actual musician, a serious songwriter and a committed young woman with strong opinions. The gimmicks are just a tool, attracting attention to the real substance: the music.

Here it is: no gimmicks, no meat dress. Just listen to the song and follow the lyrics.

Lady Gaga got her first big break in the gay-friendly New York club scene and she's fiercely committed to equality and justice for the community that first believed in her, literally dancing with those that brung her. Her biggest focus has been Don't Ask Don't Tell: bringing discharged troops as "dates" to award shows, speaking at a Maine rally in an (unsuccessful) effort to persuade Senators Snowe and Collins, and firing up that six million strong Twitter list to bring her "Little Monsters" to the cause.

Now the cause is in the music itself.

While the generation of the past pushes its agenda of hate through the Iowa Legislature, the generation of the future is on their smart phones (iPods are soooo 2006) downloading "Born This Way," even in Sioux County, Iowa. While Dwayne Alons and Richard Anderson are talking about God making marriage between a man and a woman, Lady Gaga sings: "I'm beautiful in my way, 'cause God makes no mistakes."

Lady Gaga is dancing on the grave of bigotry. But some people just can't hear the music yet.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Wright not Wrunning

Wright not Wrunning

Garry Klein
scoops the papers:
Iowa City Council member Michael Wright is not seeking to run for re-election when he completes his term which ends in January 2012. Citing personal reasons for his decision, Wright has served as a progressive voice of reason on a council that has dealt with many highly charged issues including choosing two city managers, public safety concerns, and the issues surrounding abuse of alcohol in Iowa City.
I take issue with the idea that taking rights away from legal adults is "progressive," but I seemed to be the only one who did last year. It's funny that in a political climate where hauling a gun into a courthouse is a serious topic for discussion, the drinking age can't even get a mention, and the idea that a voting age adult should be able to walk into a bar and have a beer is considered "extreme."

This solves one of my dilemmas for the fall. I supported Michael in 2007, despite his stand on the bar issue that was on the same ballot. Matt Hayek was clearly a consensus choice winner, and Wright was far preferable to incumbent Dee Vanderhoef and Mid-American Energy's man Terry Smith. (Think I'm bitter about 21 bars? I'm still PU'd about how bad public power got screwed.)

But this cycle, I wasn't so sure. Last year would have played out very differently if the students had voting representation on the city council. We've got 25,000 students in a city of - Officially - 67,862 and no student has served on the council in three decades. If an ethnic minority had been that poorly represented for that long, we'd be up for a Voting Rights Act lawsuit.

Other similar-size cities have far better track records of electing young officials. So if you're more than 25 years old, you're going to have to give me some really good reasons to support you this year. (Having voted against 21 bars in the first place would be a good reason.)

Wright's wretirement marks the second open seat, following Ross Wilburn. It's an at-large seat so anyone anywhere in the city can run. It's not too soon to be getting the band together; bet your bippy that the Dickens-Mims axis already had the next anointee picked out.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Census Data Released

Census Data Released

The numbers are out. This starts the super-secret map making.

Raw census data, which I'm still trying to grok, is here. Register has an article and an interactive map with county level data.

Locals: Johnson County is Officially at 130,882. Divide that by the ideal Iowa House district size (30,463.55 or 1/100 of the state) and you get 4.29 House districts, up from 3.79 seats in 2001. (Senate: that's 2.145 this cycle, 1.895 in 2001). In 2001, the People's Republic would up with three whole House districts, half of one, and parts of two others, and one whole Senate district, 3/4 of one, and parts of two others.

Developing, for the next few months.

UPDATE: Gazette has semi-usable city details. Here's the largest cities. Any city over 30,463.55 is split between House districts. Any city over 15,232 "dominates", or is more than half, a district.

Key local numbers:
Iowa City: 67,862
Iowa City plus UHeights: 68,913
Coralville: 18,907
North Liberty: 13,374
Coralville plus North Liberty: 32,281
Tiffin: 1,947

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Dropping Pretense, Doubling Down

Dropping Pretense, Doubling Down

I expected some blowback the other week after I called a majority of the Iowa House, quoting myself here, "bigots." Nope, no objections to the characterization.

Indeed, the Republicans, and some "Democrats," are now openly embracing the notion that the marriage fight is about the "right" to openly discriminate:
It would be legal for an Iowa business owner who cites religious beliefs to refuse to provide jobs, housing, goods or services to people involved in a marriage that violates his or her religious convictions, according to a bill an Iowa House subcommittee will consider on Wednesday...

Drake University constitutional law scholar Mark Kende said of the bill, "It seems to have some significant constitutional issues that are problematic."
But this isn't about making policy that sticks, since we all know those evil Activist Judges will Legislate From The Bench. It's about making statements. We hate faggots and we get to say we hate faggots.

Here, for me, is the worst part:
A similar bill, House File 2350, was introduced last year by Rep. Kurt Swaim, D-Bloomfield, a lawyer. That bill had 21 sponsors, including Democrats and Republicans, but the proposal did not advance past the committee process.

"I think it has some merit," Swaim said of the bill. "I think this may be a way that we could approach the issue (of same-sex marriage) and hopefully come to some consensus."
The Iowa Democratic Party needs to cut off every dime to this yay-hoo ASAP. See, here's the deal:

Swaim makes the case, implicitly and explicitly, that he needs to vote his district: “Sometimes when I represent my district I have to differ from other members of my caucus that come from more liberal parts of the state.” But in this day and age, a party can't get away with saying one thing in Bloomfield and another in Iowa City.

The real danger from Democrats, on this issue and so many others, doesn't come from Republicans or from the Ralph Nader Boogeyman. The real enemy is disillusionment.

As long as there's one Democrat siding with the conservatives, the ever-"objective" media will pounce on it and play it up. See this morning's Register: "It seems this is a bipartisan notion: State Rep. Kurt Swaim (D-Bloomfield) filed a similar bill last session."

No, it's not "bipartisan." It's 100 percent of the Republicans and three out of 40 Democrats.

But as long as there's even one, as long as there's a Ben Nelson arguing against health care, or a Heath Shuler bashing a Nancy Pelosi, or a Kurt Swaim arguing for prejudice and bigotry, with the excuse of "voting my district," there will be a generation of new voters looking at the process, saying "there's no difference between Democrats and Republicans," and dropping out.

Last week the eloquent floor speeches by House Democrats like our own Mary Mascher, Vicki Lensing and Dave Jacoby, and the pointed, unanswered questions from our own Nate Willems, were undercut by the votes of Swaim, Dan Muhlbauer and Brian Quirk. Those three yes votes were worse for our party than all the Republican votes.

On no issue is this generational divide so pronounced as it is on marriage equality. The marriage issue is not a threat for Democrats. It is an opportunity. Young people GET it: discrimination is wrong. If young people didn't get it, Zach Wahls wouldn't have gone viral. And we're not going to get the bigot vote anyway. Between this, the birthers and Don't Make Me Press 1 For English, that's solidly in the other camp. The Republicans couldn't be trying harder to push millenial generation voters away.

Do we really want to play that game too? Harry Truman saw the flaw in that strategery: give `em a choice between a Republican and a Republican, and they'll vote for a Republican every time. We're risking a future generation for a handful of rural districts, and we could end up with neither.

I can't do this justice anymore. We need the truth-tellers at The Onion:
DECATUR, IL, THE YEAR 2083—According to students in Mr. Bernard's fourth-period U.S. history class, it's "really pathetic" how long it took for early-21st-century Americans to finally legalize gay marriage.

"Wow, that is nuts," said student Jeremy Golliver, who claimed he knew gay rights was a struggle "like, a hundred years ago" but didn't realize it lasted so long.

"I mean, was everybody just a huge bigot back then or what?" Golliver added.
Not everyone, Jeremy, just a majority of the Iowa House.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Hillary to Pentagon?

Hillary to Pentagon?

"I wrote there was a rumor. I made up that rumor" - Hunter Thompson

The buzz of the week is that John Kerry wants to be Secretary of State. All well and good--except we already have one, and an unusually prominent one at that.

But it does set up some interesting personnel management possibilities for President Obama.

Despite her denials, for my money Hillary Clinton remains the Democratic front runner for 2016. The right may fantasize about a 2012 primary challenge, but Clinton's only path to the White House is being the best possible member of Team Obama.

Two ways that can play out:

The easy way, and what I expected, is that Clinton steps down to start her campaign in late `14 or early `15. This would dovetail nicely with the end of Kerry's term in 2014. This would also mean Israeli-Palestinian peace high on the agenda after the re-elect in 2013.

But with the Kerry noise I see another route.

It goes through the Pentagon.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is a short-timer. And Defense is the only cabinet post that could be spun as a "promotion" from Secretary of State, even if it's really a lateral move. (Worst Demotion Ever: Henry Wallace from VP to Commerce.)

Also significant: The Pentagon is, short of the presidency and vice-presidency, the highest remaining glass ceiling in American politics, and would give Hillary a "first." (Tangent: 14 years since last white male Secretary of State, Warren Christopher.)

It also covers a gap that's still significant with the American electorate. A USA Today headline from 2005: "Can Hillary be elected commander in chief?" I wrote then:
It's as if we still envision the president as our king, Richard the Lionhearted personally leading the troops into battle. Any military thinking a president does should be strategy, not battlefield tactics. The personal scars candidates like Bob Dole and John McCain suffered were noble - but does it necessarily make either of them specially qualified in any of the non-military duties of a president?
A stint at the Pentagon would close this "commander-in-chief gap" way more than, say, a term as Vice President. (Plus, ya gotta love Joe Biden and his unique blend of public goofiness and private sage advice.)

The main issue with this plan is timing. In order for Clinton to credibly move from Foggy Bottom to the Pentagon, the administration needs one big foreign policy triumph credited to her. (Egypt is waaay too unpredictable.) While the President himself would prefer to claim full credit for any major success between now and the election, that would push the State -> Defense move to early `13. That gives Hillary only an 18 to 24 month window at DoD before she quits to start her campaign.

So Obama, wanting to set up the succession, finds a way to share the foreign policy credit and spin the move: As we wind down our mission in Afghanistan, I need the very best at the Pentagon.

Kerry is clearly antsy, for what that's worth. (The hints are too unsubtle; if I'm reading it in the papers, it's too public.) Massachusetts Democrats proved themselves quite flexible last year with the Ted Kennedy vacancy, repealing the law they passed to keep Mitt Romney from appointing a replacement for President John Kerry, and they could flex again. They won't get Scott Browned again.

A Kerry resignation in `11 or `12 would allow Gov. Deval Patrick to clear the primary field for a successor. It would help the Massachusetts pols if the Clinton-Kerry swap and subsequent temporary appointment and special election all happened before they draw the new, one less seat congressional map. But that's a minor facet of this Grand Unifying Theory.

All this presumes a second term for Obama--which I presume. The modern Republican Party can't nominate anyone electable and can't elect anyone nominatable.

I obviously have no insider Beltway poop; I'm just a crazy Iowa blogger with a goofy hat. But I can speculate with the best of them. So my advice is to watch the foreign policy and Pentagon fronts with this frame in mind.

Robinson Ranks the Rs

Robinson Ranks the Rs

Fascinating series posted over the last 24 hours or so by Craig Robinson at TheIowaRepublican, the parti's quasi-official one-stop blog.

First posted sequentially, in countdown format, Robinson ranks the GOP presidential field in likeliness of caucus success. The top ten list is most notable for who's NOT included: Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee.

Here's the list and the "highlights", with a few of (my comments).

  • 10: Herman Cain: "Cain’s 2012 campaign will probably look more like what Alan Keyes’ campaign looked like in 1999 and 2000... If this was just about getting to ten names, Jon Huntsman would have made the list." (Morrie Taylor + Alan Keyes = Herman Cain.)

  • 9: John Thune: "Thune will have a better 'neighbor' advantage than Pawlenty or Bachmann would have from being for Minnesota because of his proximity to the most conservative part of the state... Those people get their news from South Dakota, so not only have they seen Thune’s campaign ads, but they are also kept abreast of what he’s doing." (Anyone else remember when Larry Pressler had the same idea?)

  • 8: Mitch Daniels: Here in Iowa, Daniels already has one big fan in Governor Terry Branstad..." (How fast will the denial come here?)

  • 7: Haley Barbour: "While many might discount Barbour’s chances to be the 2012 Republican nominee, it’s safe to say that most people would have ranked him ahead of several 2008 candidates like Sam Brownback, Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo, Tommy Thompson, Duncan Hunter, and even Mike Huckabee." (That's setting the bar pretty low, though my bet is Tommy Thompson is the best analogy.)

  • 6: Ron Paul: "While Paul will have to campaign hard to win a majority of the tea party activists in the state, it’s safe to say that nobody will have a more loyal and dedicated group of supporters than Ron Paul will have. " (Will run, may improve slightly on `08 support, but his people are basically indigestible for the eventual nominee.)

  • While we're in this mode, Nate Silver has a fascinating, four dimensional graph (must be seen to be believed) of who's competing with who for what niche. Ron Paul has a whole quadrant basically to himself. If the word "quadrant" even applies in four dimensional space:
    "It's time to move on to the next quadrant. Quadrant. Quadrant. Quad... It's a weird word when you think about it. Quadrant. Quaaadrant. Quad... See, now it doesn't even sound like a word. " -Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz

  • 5: Rick Santorum: "It’s the margin of Santorum 2006 defeat that’s going to be difficult to overcome, not that he lost. In fact, it’s probably an advantage that he is not associated with the 2007-2010 Congress that remains unpopular with the American people." (That's, um, a really creative argument.)

  • 4: Mitt Romney: "Romney is quickly becoming the Rudy Giuliani of the 2010 campaign. Skipping two of the first three states is not only a sign of weakness, but also a clear indication that Romney is once again going to morph into another version of himself. Making us all wonder who the real Mitt Romney is." (Oh, SNAP!)

  • 3: Tim Pawlenty: "Pawlenty’s problem is that he’s probably going to be a lot of people’s second choice. For that to benefit him, he needs to see some big-name candidates drop out." (See my impressions on TPaw from yesterday.) "Maybe the biggest obstacle that has come his way is..."

  • 2: Michele Bachmann: "A Bachmann run would create a perfect storm in Iowa. Bachmann is already the darling of the tea party, and knows of one big tea party endorsement she would likely receive if she runs. When you combine that with Steve King’s statewide network of conservatives in the state it’s a recipe for success." (Presumably this fills the Palin niche?)

  • 1: Newt Gingrich: "as formidable of a caucus candidate as Iowans have ever seen. The combination of being a storyteller, historian, political operative, and excellent speaker make him the clear frontrunner in Iowa."

  • Newt Number One?!? Wow. Just wow.

    The exclusion of Huckabee and Palin is huge. I don't see both of them not running. And I also don't see both of them running. It comes dowm to whether Palin is motivated more by money or ego.

    Monday, February 07, 2011

    Semi-Live with Tim Pawlenty

    Semi-Live with Tim Pawlenty

    Football season over, caucus season starts. The circle of life continues, and Tim Pawlenty brought his soon to be announced campaign for Secretary of Something Or Other to Iowa City.

    Nah. For president, of course. The former Minnesota governor hopes to find a sweet spot in the caucus electorate: just religious enough for the Huckabee voters, just businesslike enough for the Romney establishment, and let the other candidates mutually destruct.

    Monday leaned to the religious end of the equation as Pawlenty spoke in the Family Leader's “Presidential Lecture Series,” with stops in Pella, a nice Republican town, Sioux Center, a reeeealllly Republican town, and... Iowa City?!?

    (Administrative note: I'm sort of chronological here: the University of Iowa seems to have improved its wireless internet policy and even acknowledged the existence of Linux, or at least “Ubuntu,” but I wasn't able to hack my way in quick enough. So this is more or less live blog structured.)

    “We do not view this as a campaign stop but as an educational stop,” says Bob Vander Plaats, who to my amazement is still on speaking terms with me. Pawlenty also arrived with a few other big names: Chuck Hurley, Matt Riesetter and Chuck Larson.

    Perhaps they're hoping for a confrontation in the People's Republic; they very nearly get it from the media. At one point Vander Plaaats ijumps in to grab a question aimed at Pawlenty to defend his organization: “We sperak the truth but do it with love.”

    “I'm both a fiscal and social conservative,” says T-Paw (not to be confused with 80s one hit wonder T'Pau, named for a Star Trek original series character). “As I try to persuade people, I try to be thoughtful and respectful.” But thoughtful and respectful still comes down to: “We as a society should support traditional marriage between a man and a woman. It does not mean people who have other situations can't be successful. The point is what kind of environment makes it likely to be successful. I don't think it's radical or extreme to say marriage should be between a man and a woman.”

    That answer, uttered next to Vander Plaats, is no surprise; Family Leader is part of the somewhat confusing network of “traditional values” groups that gave you the three fired Supreme Court justices, and it's what Bob is doing these days instead of being governor or lieutenant governor.

    After press time Pawlenty was off to a closed door meeting with activists (a “clutch event” in caucus parlance). The press corps and early arrivals listened to the rally music. “I Can't go for that (No Can Do)” by Hall and Oates is presumably some sort of Republican policy statement, while Jewel singing “Am I standing still?” is a good question if you're at the asterisk level in the polls. (But Jewel Kilcher isn't the woman from Alaska that Pawlenty needs to worry about.)

    Monday's event is the first in the series of “Presidential lectures” that BVP is sponsoring across the state. Thy're starting low key but the next two should be pandemonium: Ron Paul on March 7 and Michele Bachman on April 11. Bachmann. In Iowa freakin' City.

    We're going photoless today – the 2nd floor IMU ballroom has terrible lighting and my hobby-level camera can't capture it. If someone wants to get me a big time writing gig I'll use the proceeds and buy professional equipment, I swear.

    At 3:52 the local GOP dignitaries file in from the clutch event. That brings our body count to 75 or so– more townie than student despite the campus location. Proportionally, press interest seems bigger.

    Showtime at 3:55. BVP takes the intro. “Strong marriages lead to strong families lead to a strong society. We always try to communicate in the right tone.” (Or as I said the other week, the tone is Fred Phelps with cookies).

    “I really hope he does get in the race,” Vander Plaats says of T-Paw, “but that's not an endorsement,” At least not until Huckabee makes his decision, I mutter.

    Tpaw takes over at 3:59. He congratulates the guy in the Aaron Rogers shirt; I applaud pretty much by myself.

    As he touches on the basics of biography, Pawlenty seems to be saying one very long sentence, with lots of 'ands' connecting.

    “We have been the free-est and most prosperous nation in the world's history We need to restore America's freedom, goodness and common sense.” American Exceptionalism all around, but if Obama's doing it too it must be OK..

    “This is a country that was founded Under God. That's not just my opinion, it's in our founding documents. That example is repeated over and over in the early history of our country,” Pawlenty says, claiming that 49 of our 50 states mention God in their constitutions (the implication is that means preambles, but he doesn't specify.) The pauses are few – wonder how he'd handle an applause line? But he didn't get any interruptions, not even when he's talking about “traditional marriage.”

    “When we talk about family matters, it also touches on other issues. It's important to have a strong economy so moms and dads can have jobs.” He doesn't say single people and childless couples can rot, but he doesn't say they need jobs either. Still, not as bad as “heterosexual couples can accidentally reproduce.” It made me wonder how much of the Pawlenty Stump Speech (still nascent in form) is being skewed by the specific demands of the Vander Plaats-led event.

    “We want a culture that celebrates life. We want to do those things that protect life and I'm proud to say I'm pro-life.”

    “We shouldn't ask politicians who've never been in the private sector. Ask the entrepreneurs, farmers, people with small businesses. And the thing those people say is 'make my costs more competitive.' In the United States our costs need to go down not up, to make it the kind of place where jobs want to go. You can't be pro jobs and anti business. That's like being pro egg and anti chicken.” The obvious laugh line doesn't get a reaction. Salmon are funnier.

    In general, Pawlenty sounds more sincere on the economic and education stuff than on the social stuff. And as for education, he just lost my official middle of the road barometer: my retired teacher parents by talking about home schools and charter schools. “We need to break up this lethargic government monopoly.” But the caucus base should love it.

    He closes by riffing on the Reagan inauguration; everyone wants to grab that mantle this week. Apperantly the force of Ronnie's sunny personality was enough to make the clouds part the second Jimmy Carter left office. Or something like that; there was a broader point but nothing that I could capture in a phrase.

    Q and A at 4:20. So much for confrontation: All questions were submitted in writing and Vander Plaats is reading them. That might work for this particular event, but advice to T-Paw: real caucus goers, on both sides, like to do the asking themselves, and they like to know that the other people doing the asking are genuine. It's in the U.S. Constitution that a true test of presidential leadership is your ability to handle a question from a crazy person in Iowa City.

    Greatest threat to and asset for families: “Families are stressed out. They're worried about time, money and stability.” Refers to “Sam's Club Republicans,” (meaning small business owners and families that are just getting by. “They want the best value they can get for their money, so they can save money for things that are more important that I can invest back in my family.” He mentioned seeing carts loaded with Doritos, which apparantly are the best value for your money.

    But it really all comes back to tax cuts. “One thing that really pressures family is health care.” Complains that Obama broke a promise because health care was not bipartisan, which takes some real chutzpah. He also says it's “government run.” Now we're into pants on fire territory.

    Next question from BVP: College affordability. T-Paw: “Why are costs at a public university going up 7 to 12% a year when the rest of the economy is hardly growing at all?” “The system doesn't require as much productivity from faculty as it should.” Wants “measurable” research results, emphasis on measurable. Works in sabbaticals as well. “Every university can't be everything to everybody anywhere.” Also talks about cutting staff benefits: “Public employes used to be over benefited and underpaid. Now they're overbenefited and overpaid. You can't have public employees getting paid better than the people paying the bill.” (Did Branstad HQ write this?)Says of college classrooms: “ridiculous prices sometimes with ridiculous propositions on the curriculum.”

    Stem cells. “Most of the things that have been most promising have come from adult stem cells. The science and technogy is actually leapfrogging the debate” The question didn't specify adult vs. embryonic, so Pawlentyu gets away with it.

    Deficit. “You can't spend 1.5 trillion more than you brought in. A lot of that was stimulus money that maintained govt bureaucracies.” But still says shouldn't cut military. “Anyone who says they're not going to touch entitlements is not telling you the truth. It's not an easy thing to do but we have to look the American public in the eye.”

    Vander Plaats holds up a card for one last question and, incredibly, makes a joke about Karnak The Magnificent. The students in the crowd were barely born when Johnny Carson retired in 1992. It's Egypt. Tpaw discusses multiple Middle East trips (but not Egypt) “What was the plan? It's fair to say Mubarak's time was, to be charitable about it, winding down.” Team Obama's initial reactions seemed confused and conflicting. “We need to follow our principles and priorities” which are 1) minimize risk of radical Islamic regime 2) freedom and democracy (“but you can't just flip a switch when there's been no infrastructure. There needs tyo be some interim time”)

    I can see this guy being a lot of people's second choice. But with a secret caucus straw vote, instead of the Democrat's complex realignment system, second choices matter less on the GOP side.

    Vicarious Happiness

    Vicarious Happiness

    I stumble into work on a Monday morning and pull off my green and gold coat. "Congratulations," people say, as if I somehow had anything to do with it. Like I broke my collar bone making that tackle at the end of the first half, or scooped up that fumble to grab the game momentum back after that awful third quarter.

    The vicarious psychology of the sports fan fascinates me even as I indulge in it. "We" won. Not "they," not "the Packers": "WE."

    It's an accident of the time and place I came from, really: Wisconsin at the height of the Vince Lombardi era (though my actual birth was during the interregnum in the team's five championships in seven years). Dad was a high school coach and ball games were part of day to day life for us.

    So we grew up with the Packers, through the dreadful 70s and the frustrating 80s. Dad's an offensive line guy. Everyone else sees the big run; Dad sees the block that made it happen. He taught us that it was better to do than to watch, and rarely gave up on a fishing or golfing trip to sit in front of the TV. If the weather was nice we'd bring the radio along and listen on the lake.

    If it was cold or rainy, we'd turn down the TV sound and listen to the radio play by play from Packer announcer Max McGee. He was the improbable hung-over hero of the first "NFL-AFL Championship Game" -- not even the "Super Bowl" yet, let alone a Roman numeral. Max was a classic "homer" announcer with no pretense at objectivity, and that's what we wanted: to hear him cheering on "our" Packers.

    And it's those memories, more than the hired hands in the uniforms, that I was really cheering for yesterday. The connection is entirely vicarious. The contracts expire, the bidding begins, the players move on. That's especially true for us Packers fans, booing our one-time hero because he now wears a purple number 4 shirt instead of a green one. We have always been at war with Eastasia, star-bellied Sneetches have always been better than plain-bellied Sneetches.

    Yet millions of us get caught up in it, our moods wildly swinging from elation to despair based on the performance of a few dozen physically abnormal, incredibly well paid men who most often have no real identification with or relationship to the team's town beyond some high profile feel-good PR/charity projects.

    But the team stays. The fans stay and still say "We won". The tears on their faces as "We Are The Champions" plays are genuine.

    A huge question mark hands over football's future. Money disputes between players and management may scuttle the next season. I can't even pretend to understand the dollars and egos involved, though my thoughts on sports economics are best summed up by Chris Rock, explaining the difference between riches and wealth: "Shaq is rich. The white man who signs his check is wealthy."

    So this particular collection of Packers may not get the chance to defend their title. But for today, at least, even though my joy is vicarious, it's no less real.

    Friday, February 04, 2011

    Dahms for Dems

    Dahms for Dems

    Delayed update from last night's meeting of the Johnson County Democrats: Terry Dahms announced his candidacy for county chair.

    Dahms has made a couple runs at elected office, running for supervisor in the 2008 Democratic primary. His true claim to fame, however, is his fall through the cracks of democracy in 2006: Dahms finished second of three candidates for the soil and water commission, in a race for two seats, yet lost because of an obscure provision of state law limiting that board to one member per township. Two offices you can win with less votes than your opponent: soul and water commissioner and President of the United States.

    Undeterred, Dahms is now on the appointed Planning and Zoning commission. The county chair election is March 3rd; incumbent Dennis Roseman announced last month he's not seeking a second term.

    Thursday, February 03, 2011

    Thursday's Clips

    Thursday's Clips

    If you're dug out yet, and you're not going to the Democratic Central Committee tonight, here's an evening activity at the Law School:

    “The New Politics of Iowa’s Judicial Retention Elections”

    Thursday, Feb. 3
    7:00 PM
    Boyd Law Building, Levitt Auditorium

    Michael Streit, formerly of the Iowa Supreme Court
    Seth Andersen, Exec. Director, American Judicature Society
    Kathie Obradovich, columnist, The Des Moines Register
    Brian Fitzpatrick, Professor, Vanderbilt Law School
    David Perlmutter, Professor and Chair of the UI School of Journalism and Mass Communication
    Moderated by Professor Todd Pettys, UI College of Law

    The event is cosponsored by law student groups: American Constitution Society, The Federalist Society, The Iowa Student Bar Association, and The Outlaws.
    The ridiculous on the issue didn't end with the House vote, as Craig Robinson plays the hillbilly incest card:
    Since Iowa’s marriage laws currently say nothing about same-sex marriages, there is nothing that prevents a man from marrying his father, his father’s brother, his brother, and nothing preventing a woman from marrying her mother, her mother’s sister or her own sister.
    Everybody, sing it with me, I am my own grandpa.

    David Broder, who's old enough to your grandpa's grandpa, yearns for the good ole days of favorite son candidates and puts Terry Branstad in the Pawlenty camp. Meanwhile, others at the Post notice that Iowa teabaggers aren't like other teabaggers.

    But the most important Iowa political news of the day: Census details due next week...

    Wednesday, February 02, 2011

    In Wisconsin We Call This Football Weather

    In Wisconsin We Call This Football Weather

    I can only see the nationwide blizzard as a good omen for Sunday. It seems all of America, even western Pennsylvania, is now Frozen Tundra.

    Garbage-man Butch Vig has updated his stadium anthem "Go Pack Go" and you may see some unexpected Packer fans in the video:

    (Audio only here.)

    I'd say this ranks right up there with "Nevermind" and "Siamese Dream" as one of Vig's finest productions. But for the record, Jesus no longer drinks Old Style as they stopped making it it God's Country (a/k/a La Crosse) in 1998. Only Bears fans drink Old Style anymore. The Lord will, however, occasionally have a La Crosse City instead.

    As for "Go Pack Go," the update was a necessity according to Butch: "In our original version, in the middle break, there were all these references to Favre, so we went back in and did a new version about a month ago, and deleted, of course, any references to Favre." Of course.

    Tuesday, February 01, 2011

    Dropping all pretense

    Dropping all pretense

    Last week, in anticipation of the debate of the last 24 hours, I wrote: "Drop the pretense that this is about anything other than prejudice. Get up on the House floor, say 'I hate fags,' and sit back down. It’ll save us all time and it’ll be more honest."

    That's now happened, as the ugly, hateful side of our state emerged.

    Mark Doland of Oskaloosa complained that, paraphrasing, 'he pulled his child out of school and is having to pay thousands of dollars to educate his child because somebody at a public school taught his child that it is all right to be gay.'

    “Telling people in the medical field that they have to perform services that go against their beliefs? Whose rights are more important? It will filter into all aspects of life, school, medicine. At some point enough is enough. My rights are under siege,” said Karen Mogenhan of Montrose, who apparantly believes her "right" to have her prejudices officially sanctioned by the state is more important than a gay Iowans right to, well, be alive.

    "I don’t think we should open it up and let the people who have a sinful lifestyle … have a special (sic) right," said David Selmon of the Word of Life Church in Burlington. He can preach what he wants there, though Christ Himself was silent on the subject of gay marriage. But state sponsorship of his theology is another matter.

    The hate in the public hearing was bad enough, but it reared its head on the house floor as well, where Judiciary chair Rich Anderson played everything short of the bestiality card: "a male and a female can do something that a homosexual couple cannot: They can create children accidentally. That’s the issue. It’s not about love. It’s not about romance. It’s about driving state policy toward responsible procreation."

    You better believe it's not about love. Not today.

    The only good thing that came out of the last 24 hours was the heartfelt conversion of Jeff Angelo, the former Republican state senator who testified against the amendment he once voted for:
    This debate centers around the devaluation of the lives of a select group of people. At its worst, we are being asked to believe that our gay friends and neighbors are involved in a nefarious agenda. The outcome of which, supposedly, is the unraveling of society itself. My friends, Iowans are discomforted by this debate. We know it not to be true.
    Angelo is a true conservative who understands that the proposed amendment is the ulitimate in big government: "It does not restrain government intrusion in the lives of law-abiding citizens and therefore it violates the very purpose of our Iowa Constitution."

    But for most "conservatives," that's not what this debate is about. I'm relieved, in a way, that the House vote is over. I've always wanted more brutal honesty in politics, and the witnesses and legislators were brutally honest: we hate gay people.

    Sixty-two Iowa state representatives, including "Democrats" Kurt Swaim, Dan Muhlbauer and Brian Quirk, are formally on the record as bigots. "Sometimes when I represent my district I have to differ from other members of my caucus that come from more liberal parts of the state,” Swaim said by way of excuse.

    And sometimes leaders have to lead, too. That's what Mike Gronstal is doing, and Council Bluffs ain't exactly Iowa City. Here's hoping that the 26 Democratic senators are more courageous than Swaim, Quirk and Muhlbauer, and that a few Republicans are as brave as Jeff Angelo.