Thursday, January 31, 2013

Democrats Nominate Dahms

Johnson County Democrats nominated their chair, Terry Dahms, as their candidate for the March 5 special election for county supervisor.

With 113 delegates on hand, Dahms just cleared the 50% requirement on the first ballot with 58 votes. Dawn Suter won 30 votes and party vice chair Mike Carberry won 25. A fourth potential candidate, Cedar Township trustee Ron O'Neil, decided not to run.

Via Facebook, Carberry congratulated and endorsed Dahms, and said "I may run again in a few years for another office or maybe this one. I will remain an active Democrat in electing Democrats up and down the ticket." UPDATE: Wednesday morning Suter also posted her support of Dahms, saying "he'll be a great supervisor."

Republicans have scheduled a convention for February 6, the day before the filing deadline. John Etheredge, who ran for supervisor as an independent last year, is the only publically announced Republican candidate.

The special election is to fill the vacancy left when Sally Stutsman resigned mid-term after winning election to the Iowa House. Stutsman brought things full circle by chairing tonight's convention.

A few unfiltered live thoughts below:
6:11 PM and Sign in starting at special nominating convention at NW Jr High.Twitter will be the main medium tonight but will update here as I can.

At the moment my perspective is limited; I'm in the credentials bunker doing data entry.

7:11 PM - still in credentials bunker - a science classroom, actually - as Secretary of State candidate Brad Anderson speaks. Alternate seating beginning. New IDP chair Tyler Olson is here. Electeds spotted: Dvorsky Jacoby Stutsman Sullivan Rettig Neuzil Pulkrabek Gross.

(The teacher was still in the classroom after 6 PM as credentials and rules moved in. And that was on "early out" day, so four hours after the kids went home. Thanks, teachers. He assured me there was no acid on the counter. There is, however, one very scary looking beaker that I'm not going to touch.)

7:36 PM and seating is done, with 113 delegates seated.

741 and I've been released to the convention hall. Sally Stutsman, who made this evening possible by winning her legislative election, is convention chair. Nominations proceed quickly: Carberry, Dahms, Suter. O'Neil did not follow through. Carberry speaks first, Dahms second. Not sure if the speeches matter much at a thing like this, it's more a who shows up thing. I'm not betting the beret on who wins this. (I'm not actually wearing it either.)

This is my sixth special nomination convention but the first I've been able to vote in that was seriously contested. Two of them were not contested at all. We had a hot one for a legislative seat in 2003, but not my district.
1994: State Senate and House
1994 again: Supervisor
1997: Recorder
1999: Supervisor
2003: State House (not my district)
2009: Supervisor
and tonight
This is why it's really really important to get on that delegate/alternate list on caucus night. Especially for this one, because we expected this a year and a half ago as soon as Sally announced for the House.

We've bypassed Q and A; straight to voting.

RESULTS Terry Dahms 58 Suter 30 Carberry 25

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Immigration: Good Luck With That

After an eight year lapse, immigration reform is finally, seriously on the table, as agroup of eaight -- oops, in DC speak a Gang Of Eight, rolled out a plan Monday. The framework is the same basic, centrist framework we've been hearing for the past decade. Back of the line path to citizenship ("amnesty" to some), border security, take care of the DREAM kids brought here as children, etc. etc. There's something for everyone to love and hate.

My pet peeve is the "learn English" requirement. It feels like a bone thrown to the xenophobes. And those are the folks who will never support this bill. For them the issue isn't "secure borders." That's just the politically acceptable face. The issue is a multicultural America.

The aging rural base of the GOP is uncomfortable with a multi-cultural, multi-racial, and especially multi-lingual society. They're Know-Nothing nativist and the cry of "enforce the law" needs to be understood in all its implications: they want mass deportation.

During the Republican presidential primaries I read a post-debate poll, then immediately lost the source, which showed a split on immigration roughly 40-30-20-10 as mass deportation-guest worker program-path to citizenship-don't know. That 40 is pretty high and probably gets magnified in the context of a primary for Senate or US House.

Which is the dilemma for all Republicans: position yourself for a general election, put yourself at risk in a primary.

Iowa could be a very interesting test case of this dynamic next year. Steve "herd 'em like cattle" King would be an instant favorite in a Senate primary, and if anyone can get boxed into finally blurting out the ugly truth, that he really wants mass deportation, Steve's the guy.

So I'm still pessimistic about immigration reform's chances. We seem to be in that brief moment of a second term when things can get done. We'll soon return to some of our old divisions. But maybe, just maybe, some of the changes resulting from the 2008 and 2012 elections are permanent cultural shifts.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Long Wait, A Short List

As the fallout continues from Tom Harkin's retirement, we Iowans are sure to hear much about the No Women thing we share with Mississippi.

Under-representation of women is a problem in every congressional delegation except Maine and New Hampshire, and it's been an issue worldwide.

The United Kingdom, specifically the Labour Party, took a very specific step to address this in the last decade: the "all women short list."

Great Britain does not have party primaries like the U.S. They have a shorter general election season and a permanent party structure. Each district (or "constituency") has a committee and those committees formally nominate the candidates, sort of like we're doing at our special convention this week.

But the local groups aren't fully in charge. The national party presents the locals with a list to choose from, called the "short list." This may include people who don't live in the area, since that's not a requirement. The national parties often slate their cabinet officers or other key members in the safest seats, for example.

In the mid 1990s, Labour addressed gender inequity by presenting some constituencies, particulary open seats with good numbers, with short lists made up entirely of women. This succeeded, in no small part because 1997 was such a landslide for the party.

It backfired sometimes. In 2005 a local official in Wales who had patiently waited for his seat to open up was passed over for an all-women short list; he ran as an independent on the issue and won.

The all-women short list option is open to all parties but only Labour uses it. The Tories, in fairness, just remind people about Margaret Thatcher instead.

In an open, primary-based system like the U.S., an all women short list is impossible. Personally, I like the way the Democratic Party picks its national delegates. Half the seats are male, half are female, and the elections are separate.

Theoretically you could do the same for a legislative body. Instead of four Congressmen, Iowa gets eight. Still four districts, but each district gets a man and a woman. There's a lot to think about: the ideal maximum size of Congress, the very notion of single member districts, maybe even the value of gender balance itself, though I think it's important.

We're not working in a theoretical world. But Iowa's reality is that we may well have three US House seats open in addition to the Senate seat, and that comparison to Mississippi is especially galling to Democratic women. Male candidates, especially in the 1st District, might need to make a stronger personal case for themselves.

Other Than That, Tyler Olson, How Was Your First Day On The Job?

Here's some items you almost certainly missed over the weekend.

The most concise summary yet of the 3 tensions that are breaking apart the Republican Party:
1. Libertarians vs. social conservatives
2. Right wing populists vs. the pro-business crowd
3. Deficit reduction hawks vs. small government activists
Could have added Neocons vs. Neo-isolationists, but the "non-interventionists" overlap a lot with the libertarians.

Three more bullet points to address the gerrymandering of the electoral college -- still out there, but it appeard to be dying a deserved death from its own foul stench.

A colorful look at ballots in other countries and some of the reasons they may not work as well in the US. Interesting how many are wordless and incorporate pictures for illiterate voters.

And the worst idea yet to come out of the Harkin retirement from India America Today, making the case for... Swati Dandekar?!? Which party? Smoke is still billowing from all the bridges she burned.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Clearing Up Convention Confusion

I've been getting a lot of questions about Thursday's Democratic nominating convention for the March 5 supervisor election. I'm credentials committee co-chair so I kinda sorta know what's going on. So here's the facts for my tens of readers.

Where and when?

Thursday, Jan. 31 at Northwest Junior High. Convention begins at 7. Sign in is from 6 to 7:30.

I've heard both that this is open to the public and not open to the public.

Official events of the Johnson County Democratic Party are open for public attendance. We may have some guests on hand, including new Iowa Democratic Party chair Tyler Olson and Secretary of State candidate Brad Anderson.

However, ONLY persons who were elected as delegates or alternates on presidential caucus night will be seated and allowed to vote and otherwise participate. (You do not need to be a delegate to be a candidate, but you need to be nominated by a delegate.) This is both a matter of party rules and state law.

If you are not a delegate or alternate and want to attend, feel free--but do so with the full understanding that you will not be seated or allowed to vote or otherwise participate. For example, questions and discussion about the candidates will be limited to the seated delegates.

Also understand that the ONLY item of business is the nomination of our candidate for Supervisor. There will be no platform discussion, party rules/constitution changes, etc.

Will the alternates get seated?

No promises... but in my 20+ years as a JCDem every alternate who showed up at a county convention has been seated as a delegate, with the sole exception of 2008 when the presidential nomination was still up in the air. This convention is interesting, but not Barack vs. Hillary interesting. So alternates, I strongly encourage you to be there.

Who's running?

Any Democrat can get nominated from the floor. Four people have expressed interest: Mike Carberry, Terry Dahms, Ron O'Neil and Dawn Suter.

Who are you endorsing?

The Democratic nominee. Nice try.

What about the Republicans?

You'd have to ask them.  The filing deadline is February 7 and as of this writing I see no mention of a convention, Their central committee meets Monday, February 4.

I heard the convention isn't a secret ballot.

That's correct. Under Democratic party rules, delegate is a representative function. I was elected a delegate and caucus night for a two year term, I represent the Democrats of my precinct at conventions, and I'm accountable to them at the next caucus.

Theoretically, someone could look at the ballots. However, that's another thing I've only seen once in 20 years. Sunday night Carberry, Dahms and Suter issued a joint statement:
We have joined together to urge you to attend the Johnson County Democratic Special Convention, which is this Thursday night, January 31st. The convention is at Northwest Junior High in Coralville. Registration begins at 6:00pm; the convention begins at 7:00pm.

During the convention, we will be using numbered ballots. As you may know, party rules do not make these ballots completely confidential, as someone can request to see the ballots, which have the delegate/alternate's number on them. We want to assure you that none of us will request to look at these ballots to determine an individual's vote, and we urge all other Democrats to follow suit.

Your attendance at convention is more important to us than anyone knowing for whom you voted.

With the political news of recent days, Johnson County Democrats are even more important to the future of Democrats in Iowa. We hope to have a great convention to kick off the up-coming election adventures.

We pledge to you that we will not ask to look at the convention ballots, and encourage no one else to ask for the ballots.

We hope to see you Thursday night -- regardless for whom you vote for at convention.

Mike Carberry
Terry Dahms
Dawn Suter
(O'Neil hasn't formally announced but I sent him a copy. )

Are you gonna live blog this thing?

I have a lot of work to do but I'll update when I can.

So that's the question's I'm getting so far, but there's room for more in the comments.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Harkin Retiring

Excuse me, I need to pick my jaw up off the floor. Talk about blindsided.

Every indication, from the increasing pace of emails to the Lady Gaga fundraiser to the role in the Iowa Democratic Party chair race, was telling me that Tom Harkin was in for one more term. It was a key assumption during the rah-rah speeches last night at our post-election volunteer party.

This. Changes. Everything. in the calculus for next year's elections. It amps every race in Iowa, from the courthouses to the Capitol, up to eleven as the national political infrastructure will descend on Iowa for a must-win race.

The 800 pound gorilla here is Bruce Braley, whose Iowa Press appearance this week is suddenly obsolete with all speculation revolving around governor. My bet is this shifts to Senate and he either gets a walkover in the primary, as then-congressman Harkin did in 1984, or he dispatches a couple Some Dudes.

I can't intelligently speculate on the GOP side in the likely open 1st CD, where I expect another clown-car primary. But the race will be almost as big a deal for Dems as the Senate race.

That Iowa-Mississippi no women thing is huge for party activists. And Democrats are well situated with a potential candidate with 100% name ID in Cedar Rapids and Waterloo, and a proven track record of winning in a light red district. And if, God forbid, she wouldn't win, she doesn't have to give up the present job. Say hello to Congresswoman Liz Mathis.

UPDATE: If as speculated we see a Steve King-Tom Latham primary, then we see three open, competitive House seatswhich just amps things up that much more.

And Braley, Mathis, and whoever may be the nominee for governor - we still need to deal with that - will be showered with friendly visits from Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley and Andrew Cuomo and Amy Klobuchar and the list goes on and on and on.

As for the man himself, I'm still looking ahead rather than back at the remarkable career. But Politico tweets: "No coincidence Harkin decides to call it a 30-yr Sen career the wknd after Sen declined to truly reform filibuster. Twas his passion."

Electoral Vote Scheme Seems Familiar

There's a familiar tone to the Republicans' latest effort at gaming the election process, but maybe not quite the way you think.

To get you up to speed: A half dozen swing states where Republicans won full control of state government in 2010, but President Obama won the winner-take-all electoral vote in 2012, are looking to change the way they allocate presidential electors.

The tool of choice is splitting electors by district, which Maine and Nebraska do already. Those those are small states, and nether has been either close or hyper-gerrymandered in recent years (though we remember that Omaha electoral vote Obama won in 2008). 

The states looking at district systems now, however, are all swing states, and most went through pretty shameless re-drawings of the lines in 2011.

To be clear: the electoral college reform I favor is its abolition. In the 21st century a system that can elect someone with fewer votes is indefensible. That said, the Constitution leaves it up to states to choose electors however they want. As late as 1876 - a year all electoral college geeks know well - newly admitted Colorado let its legislature choose the electors.

The partisan intent is pretty transparent here. If you can't win, change the rules; everyone gets that.

But there's another historic dynamic here, a dynamic that we see in Appalachia's Obama-era shift to the GOP, in the rural vs. urban gun debate, and in those election results maps that show vast cattle counties of red with little patches of blue.

The sponsor of Virginia's vote by district bill, Sen. Charles W. Carrico Sr. of rural Grayson County, said “the last election, constituents were concerned that it didn’t matter what they did, that more densely populated areas were going to outvote them.”

Captain Obvious notes that by definition, "more densely populated" is a different way to say "more people live there." But Carrico and his kin are tapping into an old wound that hasn't entirely healed.

America fought this fight in the courts about 50 years ago.

The constitutional purpose of the Census is to allocate representation. As early as 1920 it was clear that rural America was losing population to the cities. A rural-dominated Congress stalled reapportionment for the entire decade. Iowa lost two seats when the day of reckoning came in 1932, dropping from 11 congressmen - all congressMEN then as now - to nine, on our way to the present four. It took us 40 years to recover from the loss of political clout by accidentally inventing the caucuses.

Rural America managed to stall off redistricting within the states three more decades after that. Some especially egregious examples:
New Hampshire House: one township with three people had a Representative; this was the same representation given another district with a population of 3,244. The vote of a resident of the first township was therefore 1,081 times more powerful at the Capitol.
Utah State Legislature, the smallest district had 165 people, the largest 32,380 (196 times the population of the other).
California State Senate: Los Angeles County, California, then with 6 million people, had one senator, as did the 14,000 people of one rural county (428 times more).
People didn't vote; land did. It wasn't as much a partisan thing, back in those dinosaur days when segregationist Democrats still stalked the earth. In some states like it Illinois it was rural Republicans clinging to power over urban Democrats. In Tennessee, there was a city-dwelling Republican battling a rural-dominated Democratic machine, upset that his Memphis congressional district had ten times the population of a rural seat.

His name was Baker, and in 1962 Baker vs. Carr went to the Supreme Court. That ruling, along with Reynolds vs. Sims two years later, changed the map forever.

The court rulings meant that districts had to be drawn with substantially equal population, with "substantially" later interpreted as meaning "almost exact." (Ironically, it's the strict enforcement of those exact equal population standards, along with computerized mapping technology, that made today's hyper-gerrymandering possible.)

Iowa's legislature had traditionally been organized on county lines and rural counties had more than a fair share. We struggled through the 60s, going through three maps and two delayed primaries in less than a decade. Eventually, when our clean nonpartisan system took effect with the 1981 map, we got it more right than anyone.

But those rural resentments about lost political power due to lost population still linger in the Capitol and in the countryside, as anyone who's been through a hearing on the road use fund or agland tax credits can tell you. For every set of rural Iowa legislators who got paired up in the 2011 legislative map, an empty seat sprouted in the suburbs. "This is where your district went" wasn't just a joke; it's the reality.

So this latest Republican effort, part of the GOP's retreat from the cities and suburbs into the rural fields and mountains, fueled by resentment of a black president and his urban supporters, is part of a broader arc of American history.

The party labels have flipped over time, but the story is the same. Rural people, old people, established people, white people, the previous generation of immigrants in the door -- they always remember a time when they had more power. They feel threatened by demographic change and want to hang on.

No one ever gives up power easily. But wise people, wise parties, adapt as the world changes around them. Clinging to more power than your fair share, with a gerrymandered map or a rigged system, may keep us barbarians from the gates a little longer. But it will always backfire in the end.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Least Surprising Hearings Ever

The 2016 presidential campaign, in both parties, kicked into high gear Wednesday in congressional hearing rooms.

In the least surprising development ever, a whole bunch of people had preconceived opinions about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Benghazi testimony, and those opinions broke exactly along party line.

In her last trip to Capitol Hill until the 2017 State Of The Union, Clinton 45 - not a bet the beret prediction, I just love teasing my Republican readers - Clinton 45 locked horns with at least two likely Republican contenders. It was as close as America can get to that grand moment of the British Parliament, Prime Minister's Question Time. And no one was ever better at it than the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher. Hear, Hear.

Marco Rubio at least managed a minimum of decorum while he postured for the primary voters, and almost anyone would look good in juxtaposition with Wisconsin tea party cipher Ron Johnson. (How can the same state send Johnson and Tammy Baldwin to the Senate? I mean, even Harkin and Grassley can agree on basic facts like "corn is good." But Johnson and Baldwin aren't even in the same dimension. It's like my third favorite lightbulb joke. How many surrealists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Blue.)

But Rand Paul looked foolish by being too presumptive. “Had I been president at the time, I would have relieved you of your post,” fantasized A.J. Spiker's favorite son, the likely winner of a rump 2015 Iowa Straw Poll over Alan Keyes and the ghost of Thaddeus McCotter.  (And the Paulistinian flaming in my comments section will start in 3, 2, 1...)

That's two fantasies in one for Rand Jong Un, because firing Hillary once and for all is almost as big a Republican dream as the White House itself. The loathing rage Republicans felt for both of the Clintons from 1992 until the moment Barack Obama burst onto the scene has never really gone away. Because if there's anything the Know-Nothing, cultural Luddite base of the current, sad incarnation of the Republican Party hates more than the idea of a black president, it's a strong woman.

Democrats, female Democrats in particular, went nearly as far the other direction in their laudatory praise. A lot of that praise was earned, but all politicians are self-interested and Madame Secretary remains beloved with the base.

The Clintons are also known to keep score; well worth noting that The Big Dog's campaign stops for downballot Democrats were almost exclusively made on behalf of those who were with Hillary rather than Barack in 2008.

That was a long, long time ago politically, and Secretary Clinton has followed the one path available to any future ambitions she may have: doing the best job possible for the President and the American people. That leaves her as the frontrunner for next time... but of course, we said that in 2005, too.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

An Iowa Political Writer's Prayer

Biden at the Hamburg Inn, with a sugar shaker representing the billions of dollars in the health care economy. You had to be there.

Please, Lord, let Joe Biden run for president again. No one was more fun to cover. Back in the Iowa Independent glory days, we used to scrap over who got to cover Joe, even when he was in the 1 percent zone, because you never knew what he was going to say but you knew it would be interesting. Winner got Biden, loser got third Bill Clinton event of the week.

This prayer may well be answered... but somehow I don't expect both the VP and the departing Secretary of State to run. Very noteworthy that just before departing, Hillary has finally paid off the campaign debt. Not sure who's happier: overpaid consultant Mark Penn, or Hy-Vee's catering division. Admit it, you stopped and ate a Clinton sandwich on your way to the Obama or Edwards corner of the room. (Admit it, you went to the Edwards corner of the room.)

Clinton 42 and Clinton 45 are also welcome back, and Hillary starts with a big edge over Joe. But that's what we said in 2005, too. Friendly advice: This time, you need to do it the Iowa way.

It could also be fun just to keep Biden as vice president forever. He could be 100 years old and still washing his Trans-Am in the driveway during the Malia Obama Administration.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

You May Have Missed

Spent my Inauguration Day watching the pageantry , since I didn't think I could add anything original to an event that was already being covered by every journalist on the planet. We local Dems didn't have a get together like we did four years ago, but we have something planned for Friday:
Reception/Thank You for OFA volunteers
Friday, Jan. 25 from 5-7 p.m.
Gus' (in Coralville, off HW 965)
You are cordially invited to a reception/thank you for OFA volunteers.
The Central Committee (or if you wish to help) and local elected representatives
are hosts.  Refreshments and snacks will be provided.
The response from OFA volunteers has been very positive.
There will be brief remarks at 6:00 p.m.

Late in the evening as I struggled in vain to catch up on the Twitter feed I found a few gems:

While Sue Dvorsky led the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, State Rep. Tyler Olson told Radio Iowa he's got the votes lined up to take Sue's place as Iowa Democratic Party chair. (Of course, only one vote REALLY matters in a Tom Harkin re-elect year.) One of Olson's jobs will be to defend First In The Nation, and it won't be easy: Arizona is pushing legislation to set its primary ON caucus day. Ever worse: Cracked just ran an article on 5 States That Secretly Control the Rest of America that fails to even MENTION the caucuses.

Obama won his big day the Iowa way: lots and lots and lots of hard work in the field. The weekend saw the relaunch of Obama For America as Organizing For Action. We also saw the detailed post mortem at the "Obama Campaign Legacy Conference." There's a full report (97 page pdf) or Patrick Ruffini tweeted a LOT of highlights for the Cliff Notes version.

It's the high-tech version of what we've been doing for ages locally, and that's actually how I spent my day, getting into the hyperfocus zone of several hours of political data work, losing track of time and surroundings.

The Boswell-Fallon grudge match won't play out in court, as the EX-congressman dropped his defamation lawsuit against Fallon. Fallon claimed a Boz staffer offered him a job-to-drop out deal. Best part is this Boswell quote: " I will not be seeking elected office in the future."

News you were supposed to miss: In an Inauguration Day news dump, House GOP announces they will vote to raise the debt ceiling Wednesday.

And Mike Gronstal, take note: The Virginia Senate is tied 20-20. So when one Democrat took the day off to attend the inauguration... Republicans shoved through a re-redistricting map.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Labor: Neutral Stance on School Vote

The Iowa City Federation of Labor last night did not make an endorsement on the Iowa City School District revenue purpose statement.

A 10 to 6 vote on a motion to endorse a Yes vote on February 5 fell just short of a required two thirds majority.  Opponents in general said they would consider a Yes vote at a later date but wanted more information from the district first.

The school discussion capped off a long evening at the City Fed's annual chili supper, which also included the re-election of officers and presentation of awards.

Dan Daly received the Jean Martin Community Service Award and Tom Jacobs earned a lifetime achievement award. Both men are AFSCME members. The Center for Worker Justice, a group that works with the immigrant community, won the organization award.

Elected officials and politicos on hand were Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek, Supervisor Rod Sullivan, and Johnson County Democrats chair/supervisor candidate Terry Dahms. The Democrat's vice chair, Mike Carberry, also a supervisor candidate, stopped by early. Staffers for Tom Harkin and Dave Loebsack also attended.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Not Helping, Dennis

In political jargon, useful idiot is a pejorative term for people perceived as propagandists for a cause whose goals they do not understand, and who are used cynically by the leaders of the cause.

Well, looks like Dennis Kucinich, defeated last March in a gerrymandering-forced primary, has found post-congressional employment. But it's unlikely to help his progressive causes:

Former Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich has just signed as a paid contributor to Fox News and Fox Business Network. His new gig will begin on Thursday's edition of The O'Reilly Factor.

(Yes, I know the picture is Elizabeth Kucinich. I got really tired of getting baited into opening fund raising emails sent out under her name, only to find pictures of Dennis instead. And no, I still can't figure it out.)

I've never really been a Dennis Kucinich fan. Sure he had a mostly good issue record, though it's worth noting that he had a 100% anti-choice record... until he decided he wanted to run for president.

It was more a matter of his style. A little too intense, a little too self-important, a little too self-righteous... a little too, well, odd. He's like a caricature of what conservatives hate about liberals.

And there were his supporters. Sure, some good Democrats opted for "pure" and there's a niche for that in any caucus. But Kucinich also attracted the Hey Hey Ho Ho crowd. They'd do tacky stuff like crash other candidate's events and bully the actual supporters out.

The Kucinich folks had a particular hostility toward us Howard Dean supporters. They were, frankly, jealous that Dean had taken over their anti-war niche. Kucinich's final middle finger to the Deaniacs was his caucus morning pact with John Edwards, calling on his supporters to realign for the then still pro-war Edwards rather than with the more logical choice of Dean.

(Not just ANY blogger can cross-reference nine year old posts. Or hold a nine year grudge. Or remember ANYTHING about the 2004 caucuses except that one thing everyone remembers about the 2004 caucuses.)

Shilling for Fox is pretty cynical. But that's not shocking coming from Kucinich. See, Dennis is mostly about Dennis. And for his end of this shameless sell-out he gets a nice paycheck and more important, he gets to see his own face on TV daily rather than doing some noble but obscure work, while no doubt plotting a comeback as Cleveland Commissioner of Canine Containment or some other office.

Fox News CEO Roger Ailes said, "I've always been impressed with Rep. Kucinich's fearlessness and thoughtfulness about important issues. His willingness to take a stand from his point of view makes him a valuable voice in our country's debate." 

Ailes is a genius. An evil genius, but a genius. Ailes gets to define liberals, and the Democratic Party in general, through the frame of Dennis Kucinich's most goofy moments and outlandish statements. His audience will get its daily dosage of stereotype reinforcement.

Kucinich will get to be the Democrat that Republicans love to hate, and he'll revel in his own martyrdom. The only question left: is Dennis Kucinich smart enough to realize that the joke is on him?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hastert Rule Dead?

It's a good thing the the US House passed Hurricane Sandy relief funding last night. And it's a bad thing that Iowans Tom Latham and Steve King voted no, which may haunt us next time the flood waters rise.

But mostly to me it's an interesting thing the way it passed.

Previous Republican-run Houses had operated on what's been dubbed "the Hastert rule," named after puppet speaker Dennis Hastert (de facto speaker Tom DeLay was really running the show). The DeLay era House only moved legislation when it had "a majority of the majority" i.e. support from over half of the Republican caucus.

It was a sharp departure from past congressional practice. Through the long decades of uninterrupted Democratic control, the decades of Rayburn and O'Neill, legislation often passed with a coalition of Republicans and conservaDems, because those speakers saw themselves as Speakers Of The House, not majority leaders with an extra star on their shoulders.

We saw an abandonment of the Hastert Rule on the fiscal cliff vote on New Year's Day, but that looked like a one time thing.

Sure, self-interest was involved this time. The GOP votes (roll call one and two) came mainly from the districts affected. And it's self-interest on Boehner's part, too. He knows the House Republican brand is damaged, and he's trying to limit the self-inflicted damage.

Maybe it's just to escape blame - and it's unfair if he does- but it's a start.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Second Term Breakthroughs

President Obama's second term honeymoon, if such things even exist anymore in our hyper-partisan age, looks to be especially short. We're only at a brief inaugural lull in the multi-front fiscal war.

But on two issues which have long vexed Washington - immigration and the Middle East - Obama looks poised to make key, generational breakthroughs.

Immigration reform will roll out in the next few weeks, just in time for the February 12 State of the Union address. Rather than a piece by piece approach, Obama is expected to make a broad proposal:
The White House will argue that its solution for illegal immigrants is not an amnesty, as many critics insist, because it would include fines, the payment of back taxes and other hurdles for illegal immigrants who would obtain legal status, the officials said.

The president’s plan would also impose nationwide verification of legal status for all newly hired workers; add visas to relieve backlogs and allow highly skilled immigrants to stay; and create some form of guest-worker program to bring in low-wage immigrants in the future.

Immigration reform is popular with the president's minority and youth base, and organized labor seems to be ending its longtime ambivalence on the issue.

So what about the other side?The political side-effect of an immigration debate is it will further split and box in the Republican Party. The business, "pragmatist" wing of the party has long wanted a stable source of cheap immigrant labor. But as we've seen from countless 2010 and 2012 primaries, they're outnumbered by the tea partyish nativist wing.
These modern Know Nothings like Steve King want an immigration policy of "Enforce The Law," but won't yet openly admit that the implication of that, what they really want, is mass deportation.

The aging rural base of the GOP is uncomfortable with a multi-cultural society and wants to roll the clock back to an imagined 1950s. The goal seems to be a redefinition of rights - voting, of course, but also education, health care, employment, due process - as belonging to "citizens only" rather than to humans, and then redefining citizenship itself, as King seeks to do with his proposal to repeal the 14th Amendment's birthright citizenship clause.

Not to violate Godwin's Law. But since the right has been playing the Nazi Card - inaccurately, as it turns out - on gun control, I'll just say that this sounds eerily familiar.

The Nazi card gets played on the Middle East, too. Dissent on Israel policy is tolerated more in Tel Aviv than it is in Washington.So the nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense is another breakthrough moment.

Now, I have some other issues with Hagel. Democratic presidents are far too eager to put Republicans in charge at the Pentagon. And Hagel said some anti-gay things a decade and a half ago. But so did a lot of people, and I've never seen public opinion move as rapidly on any issue as it has on gay equality. So Hagel's not alone.

But the focus against Hagel is Israel policy. Confirmed or not - and I expect he will be - Hagel, or more accurately, Obama, has already changed the rhetoric if not yet the substance. Peter Beinart at Daily Beast:
(Hagel's) nomination has been about more than just the policies he’d pursue at the Pentagon. It’s been about the terms of legitimate discourse in Washington, D.C.

Simply by being nominated, Hagel has dealt a blow to the silly, lazy charges of anti-Semitism that have grown commonplace in Washington in recent years.  Over the past week or so, for the first time I can remember, the Jewish right’s tactic of calling people they disagree with on Israel policy anti-Semitic has begun to backfire.
It's a tactic that's been fought hard, whenever the slightest dissent from the Likud Party line is heard. It's even, so one current accusation goes, being pushed through shadowy use of paid social media. (Here's a second link; the original original source has already vanished.)

Beinart continues:
What’s new about the Hagel case isn’t the promiscuous charge of anti-Semitism. It’s the pushback against it. One New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, has called the claim that Hagel is an anti-Semite “disgusting.” Another, Nick Kristof, has called it “shameful.” In The Washington Post, Richard Cohen has accused Stephens of “character assassination.” Abrams’s boss at the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, has forcefully rejected even the claim that Hagel is anti-Israel, let alone anti-Semitic.
And in response, lo and behold, the accusers are starting to retreat.
Strictly speaking Department of Defense isn't a diplomatic job. But it's a key part of the national security team and Hagel if confirmed would be in The Big Room when the Big Decisions are made. Having a different voice in that room could make a big difference, if Middle East peace is going to be a serious second term effort.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Checkbook Journalism With A Twist

Apparently the leadership of the Republican Party of Iowa is so busy worrying about the 2nd Amendment that they're having some issues with the 1st - and from their own side of the aisle.

Kevin Hall of TheIowaRepublican writes that Republican Party of Iowa leadership attempted to charge 's leadership to charge TheIowaRepublican $50 to cover a Republican legislative breakfast today, while other news outlets were not charged.

Hall said he refused to pay and instead walked out.

TheIowaRepublican has often been critical of current RPI chair A.J. Spiker and the current staff and leadership at RPI, dominated by supporters of Ron Paul.

"Because you deemed it necessary to charge, and no other media members, it is obvious this decision was purely in retaliation for the things we have written, and nothing more," Hall wrote in an open message to RPI leadership posted on Facebook 
I thought you were "constitutional conservatives". What happened to the First Amendment and freedom of the press? In RPI's mind, does the Constitution only apply to the press as long as they doesn't write negative things about you? What would "Mr. Constitution" Ron Paul say? I doubt Dr. Paul believes the First Amendment applies to only selected media. 

 It's interesting that the State of Iowa recognizes TheIowaRepublican as legitimate media, but the leadership of the Republican Party of Iowa does not. 

"Is this really how you're going to bring 'unity' to the Republican Party," asked Hall, "like you promised one week ago" at the state central committee meeting that re-elected Spiker and a Paul-dominated executive board.

Hall's had "legitimacy" issues before, getting tossed from a Leonard Boswell event last August
. But it's more shocking when it comes from his own team.

For my money, TIR is one of the best sites in the state, an every-morning must read. True, the editorial stance isn't my taste, but there isn't a better source for the inside scoop in internal Republican politics in the state, and Kevin and partner in crime Craig Robinson always make for good reading.

And Republicans have almost always been accommodating when I show up, even though I stand out a bit in their crowd. I get just the right amount of a hard time and then I'm always more or less welcomed.

Now that I think about it, only one campaign ever threw me out... Ron Paul. Word to the wise campaign: when you throw a writer out, that becomes the story.

Public Praise of a Private Person

The fire you like so much in me
Is the mark of someone adamantly free
But you can't stop yourself from wanting worse
'Cause nothing feeds a hunger like a thirst

- Liz Phair, "Strange Loop"

I know nothing about Jodie Foster.

Oh, I've been a fan for 40 years, from Tom Sawyer and the original Freaky Friday, with the far too adult for me at the time Taxi Driver in between. We've soared to the stars and dived into the depths of the human soul together. I've watched Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter's iconic psychological duels dozens of times, finding a new nuance each reviewing. The rape of Sarah Tobias I found more disturbing than Buffalo Bill's crimes, and I've endured it exactly once. That once was indelible.

On my first date with my wife we watched Flight Plan, and I was immediately forgiven for my celebrity crush.

But I know absolutely nothing about Jodie Foster.

From a distance she appears to be an extraordinary human being, gifted with a rare intelligence and sensitivity in addition to her incredible talent. And at age 50, a year and a month older than myself, she remains stunningly beautiful. "Can I get a wolf whistle"? Jodie, you didn't need to ask.

But she did ask last night, in a remarkable speech accepting a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes. The initial reactions were a mixture of "weird" and "wow," before the consensus came to label it the "coming out speech."

"No," Hannibal Lecter would say, "that is incidental." It was so much more.

Sure, some of it was about who we choose to love. But that doesn't just mean our intimate partners.

While the rest of Hollywood shunned Mel Gibson, a flawed human being with genuine talent, Foster stood by her Maverick co-star and friend and worked with him on the quirky The Beaver. The fact that Foster and Gibson can look past the vast gulf of their religious and political differences and love one another speaks to how remarkable they both are. "You know you save me too,” she said of him.

Another longtime friend, Robert Downey Jr., handed Foster the trophy. Long before Downey rehabilitated his career and got his big payday as Iron Man, he had hit the rock bottom of drug addiction. Her star was on the rise in the 90s as his was on the wane, yet Foster stood by Downey as well.

In your darkest hours you find your truest friends. I have friends like that. But I can only imagine what kind of friend Jodie Foster is. Because I know nothing about her.

For fundamentally this speech was about freedom, freedom from expectations and prejudices and assumptions and the fantasy that we truly "know" the character of our celebrities. It was about sharing ourselves on our own terms. And it would have surprised no one who's read Foster's spirited defense of Panic Room co-star Kristen Stewart, who topped tabloid headlines for little more than an It's Complicated love life that's not unusual for a twentysomething.

There may be a teacher or a doctor or a lawyer or an obscure artist in an obscure field as talented and brilliant as Foster, yet we will never know.  The difference is, we can't pretend to know.

No, I don't know Jodie Foster. I only know Sarah and Clarice and Nell and Iris and Ellie Arroway. And they only live, and some of them will live for as long as people watch movies,  because Jodie Foster gave them life. Because she chose to share that part of her spirit with the world. Having given that much, Foster demands the right to keep the rest for herself and the people she truly loves.

"If you had been a public figure from the time that you were a toddler," Foster said last night, "if you’d had to fight for a life that felt real and honest and normal against all odds, then maybe you too might value privacy above all else."

Foster's cri de couer last night was an indictment of an entire culture, an entire age, of instant and complete knowledge, of leaks and satellite photos and 24/7/365 "news" cycles and the politics of celebrity. No, not a Luddite retreat to the rigid past that never really was, but rather a plea for our own humanity in the midst of the madness. Foster has lived with that far more than most of us, with far worse consequences, but the lessons resonate for all of us.

And if you don't get that, well, then, you know nothing about Jodie Foster.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Notes For Student Journalists

Once again, Professor David Perlmutter has invited me to talk to his interim session journalism class. To save the students a bit of note taking - which any journalist should appreciate - I've updated my top ten list format of tips for writers.

10. Just. Start. Writing. As much as you can. Everywhere you can. 6 Reasons Writing for the Internet is the Best Job Ever (Cracked)
If you're making money online, it's because you kept at it for zero reward until that happened. Some people want to quit their jobs because they hate them and go write instead, which is the exact wrong attitude for a writer. You write because you love it. You write on top of your regular work, because words might be the true expression of your soul, but your unique spirit doesn't pay the rent.

Also recommended: Making Things (The Oatmeal)

9. Read. Read as much as you can. Read the competition. Read the amateurs (but give us credit). If you have a viewpoint, read the other team. It'll give you stylistic ideas and story ideas, good and bad.

8. Find Your Niche. Figure out what you're good at and play to those strengths. My nice is political process: election number crunching, caucus rules, redistricting - because I'm PART of that.
  • Ron Paul Welcomes Democrats... Sometimes: "Here's the catch: A lot of people, after the vote is reported, go home. And it's the people who STAY that choose the delegates, undifferentiated by candidate preference. And the people who stay choose the committee members and write the platform and that's why Ron Paul's supporters are heavily represented on the state central committees -- because Ron Paul supporters are the ones who stay at the meeting."
  • Caucus night itself sucks: "The process has grown so big that it has outstripped the size of the biggest rooms and parking lots in the precincts, and the reality of the Magic Minute of alignment was stuffy and unpleasant. At some point, Iowa is vulnerable to an ADA lawsuit."
  • Clinton Understood Surface, Not Spirit, Of Caucuses
  • District Of The Day
7. You never know when the big one will hit. And invariably it will NOT be the one you worked the hardest on or wrote the most creatively. You'll be in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time. It may even be something you did ages ago that suddenly becomes more relevant.
6. There is NO Rule 6.

5. Build your brand. Don't be afraid of personality. Social media is part of the job now and it's a good way to show some personality outside of the copy.
Fair warning: branding tricks may backfire...

4. Don't be afraid to have an opinion. Admit it, as your reputation may precede you, especially if you wear a red hat. My approach is to acknowledge then proceed. This may not be your editor's model so your immediate mileage may vary.
Number Crunching The Justice Center Part One and Part Two
3. Don't be afraid to be wrong. Get the facts right, of course. But draw your own conclusions and be honest with yourself and your readers when you do. Because if you're afraid to be wrong, you'll never be right.
McCain: Not Dead, but Neither Was Terri Schiavo
Don't forget to laugh at yourself when you are wrong. And you will be.

2. Call your own fouls. If you're coming from a viewpoint, you'll be more credible if you occasionally point out your own side's flaws.
One of the C's is for Counterproductive: "There's absolutely a place for vocal protest, even civil disobedience, in our political culture. But CCI, while presenting themselves as spiritual heirs to the 1960s, doesn't have the dignity of the civil rights movement or the genuine mass support of the anti-war movement. What do we want? To be on the news! When do we want it? Now!"

An Old School Endorsement: "DMReg ed bd punishing BO 4 fumbled 'off record' intvu. See 08 primary endorse of Fallon when Boz skipped debate; they care about that stuff"
Amateurs may need to be careful how hard they bite hands that feed...

1. Enjoy the ride: "Unless there's an unprecedented upset and Duncan Hunter and Mike Gravel win the Iowa caucuses tonight, I've seen the next president speak. And unless it's Rudy Giuliani, I've spoken to her or him in person, however briefly. I've been interviewed live on C-SPAN, Googled by campaigns, shown up on the front page of one of the home town papers, had my headwear praised by Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd, and had hundreds of people a day pay attention to my opinion on the whole thing. And even more incredibly, I've gotten paid to do it."

0. My annual New Years resolution: spellcheck before hitting sedn. Did it again.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Second Clip Show In A Row

A lot of thoughts the latter part of this week, few of them longer than 140 characters.

GOP operative Don McDowell, who I first met via his long ago blog Cyclone Conservative, is now the proud (?) owner of the 300 pound steel Mitt Romney sign. My suggestion for best use would be melting it down to mint the coin; Don says for a trillion dollars he'd seriously consider it.

Long, long ago in my radio days, one of my first big interviews was with Senator Jay Rockefeller, riding in the back of a car with him and Tom Harkin on the way to the airport. Now Rockefeller is retiring, and the DC punditocracy keeps speculating that his Senate classmate Harkin may too. We Iowans know better. Note the increasing pace of emails and press releases.

And of course the DC fundraiser at the Lady Gaga concert that Republicans have been mocking. That's probably because Republicans don't have entertainers who can compete with Gaga's popularity - 32 million Twitter followers and growing - and have to settle for Kid Rock and Ted Nugent. 

We have a Secretary of State race as Obama operative Brad Anderson jumps in. Todd Dorman bemoans the politicization of the race: "Who were the refs in the best-officiated football game you ever saw? Don’t recall? Perfect. That’s what I’m talking about." (Still a sore subject for us Packer fans.)

In principle, I would agree. I've worked with five Secretaries of State over the years and Mike Mauro was by far the best. His 2010 defeat was as big a tragedy as the loss of the three justices. 

But Mike was one of a kind. And judging from the high-powered Anderson endorsement list, the train has left the station. The next Secretary of State will be a partisan, and it's just a matter of which kind of partisan you want: one who wants to help people vote or wants to keep people from voting.

So Flavor Flav is going to the Hall of Fame, but Barry Bonds is not. Seems fair to me. Reportedly, Flav is working on a new Public Enemy track about baseball in the steroid era, "762 Is  A Joke." Hey, if the man can rock the beat to Differential Emergency Response Rates In Urban Minority Neighborhoods, he can find something to rhyme with Balco.

Washington Post picks the Top 10 Most Interesting Political States and we Iowans land at Number Three, with a John Hedgecoth shoutout to the Hamburg Inn. List slants heavily to the early presidential primary states: three of the top five.

And if you've been called a Nazi lately: 1) it may not be accurate and 2) someone might have been paid to do it.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Wednesday Wrapup

Better late than never for a Deeth Blog update.

Today would have been Richard Nixon's 100th birthday, and in tribute, an excerpt from the obituary written by his greatest chronicler and nemesis, Hunter Thompson:
If the right people had been in charge of Nixon's funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin.

These are harsh words for a man only recently canonized by President Clinton and my old friend George McGovern -- but I have written worse things about Nixon, many times, and the record will show that I kicked him repeatedly long before he went down. I beat him like a mad dog with mange every time I got a chance, and I am proud of it. He was scum.
Nixon's spirit will be with us for the rest of our lives -- whether you're me or Bill Clinton or you or Kurt Cobain or Bishop Tutu or Keith Richards or Amy Fisher or Boris Yeltsin's daughter or your fiancee's 16-year-old beer-drunk brother with his braided goatee and his whole life like a thundercloud out in front of him. This is not a generational thing. You don't even have to know who Richard Nixon was to be a victim of his ugly, Nazi spirit.
Harsh words, even during the NFL playoffs.

But amazingly, Nixon was the last Republican presidential candidate ever to win The People's Republic of Johnson Couunty. No, not against McGovern -- by then teh 18 year olds were voting. Against JFK, despite the best efforts of the County Johnson Irish.

We slipped a bit for the Democrats this cycle, with Obama all the way down to 67 percent. But here's some places that made Iowa City look like West Jesus, Idaho by comparison:
Following are the counties or county equivalents where President Barack Obama took his largest share of the vote. Most are black-majority areas that historically are staunchly Democratic and were eager to re-elect Obama, the first black president in the nation’s history.
1. Shannon, South Dakota (93%): included within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the southwestern part of the state.
2. Bronx, New York (91%): about one in nine residents in New York City’s northernmost borough is non-Hispanic white. Bronx has been the most pro-Democratic New York City borough in five straight presidential elections.
3. Petersburg, Virginia (90%): a black-majority area about 25 miles south of Richmond.
4. Prince George’s, Maryland (90%): a black-majority area that abuts Washington, D.C.
5. Jefferson, Mississippi (89%): a sparsely populated, black-majority area by the Mississippi River south of Vicksburg.
And that last is part of an interesting tend:  Democratic gains in the deeeep Deep South,
Obama polled as well in Georgia as any Democrat since Jimmy Carter, grabbed 44 percent of the vote in deep-red South Carolina and just under that in Mississippi — despite doing no substantive campaigning in any of those states.

The results show a region cleaving apart along new electoral fault lines. In the region’s center, clustered along the Mississippi River — where Bill Clinton polled most strongly — the GOP remains largely unchallenged and the voting divide between blacks and whites is deepening. Nearly nine of 10 of white voters in Mississippi, for instance, went for Republican nominee Mitt Romney this year, according to exit polls. About 96 percent of black voters in the state supported Obama.
And if you don't think that's polarizing, Drudge on behalf of the gun lobby is playing, yes, the Hitler card. So, coming full circle from one Nazi reference to another.

And from the Department of Excuses, Excuses: If we hicks here in Iowa can figure out how to do early voting, why does New York think it's so hard?

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Special Supervisor Election Set

Sally Stutsman's replacement on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors will be chosen in a March 5 special election.

The statutory committee of Treasurer Tom Kriz, Recorder Kim Painter and Auditor Travis Weipert met this morning and opted to go directly to a special election, rather than making an appointment.

The filing deadline for a March 5 election is February 7, 25 days before the election. Democrats had anticipated the committee opting for the straight to election route, and have already scheduled a nominating convention for the evening of Thursday, January 31, at Northwest Junior High. Two Democrats, county party chair Terry Dahms and vice chair Mike Carberry, have announced.

(Here's a nyah-nyah nya-nyah-nyah to the Republicans For A Day who crossed over for Ron Paul last year: The delegates to the supervisor convention are the same delegates who were elected on caucus night last January 3. If you went to the Republican caucuses, you're not a Democratic delegate or alternate. Told ya so.)

Republicans also have the option of a convention; independent or other party candidates can petition to get on the ballot with 250 signatures. The election winner will take office a few days after the vote and serve the last two years of Stutsman's term.

The last supervisor vacancy, with the death of Larry Meyers in 2009, was filled by the appointment of Janelle Rettig. A Republican-led petition drive forced an election, which Rettig won.

The special election means three votes are likely for the first half of the year. The February 5 Iowa City School District election is already underway, and a May 7 ballot is expected for a second attempt to pass the justice center proposal.

Iowa law won't allow a school election to be combined with any non-school vote, and requires a six month wait to re-try bond issues. And the law addressing vacancies in county office requires seats to be filled by the "earliest possible" date. At last week's justice center meeting, County Attorney Janet Lyness said waiting until May 7 to fill the supervisor seat and combine the vote with a justice center vote would be too long a delay.

As for Stutsman, she takes up her new legislative duties on Monday. The county is hosting a farewell reception for Stutsman Thursday afternoon.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Women Winning, Not In Iowa

As Iowa politics watchers well know, our state and Mississippi are the last two states which have never elected a woman to Congress or as governor. (It's impossible for me to emphasize enough just how big a deal this is to Democratic Party activists.)

The other state that leads off the presidential nominating process, New Hampshire, has reached the opposite end. The governor, both senators, and both US House members are women, for the nation's first all-female delegation.

So how'd it happen? One theory: Amateur politics.
In a state with an abnormally large, unpaid legislature, the ground-level civic engagement that has always been the province of stay-at-home-moms — school boards, letter-writing campaigns — becomes the work of low-rent state legislators. These positions carry less of the fanfare or pay that come with legislatures in almost any other state. But they do something else: They offer a path past a glass ceiling that, in other states, can block women with similar career paths from running for Congress from their perches on, say, school boards or community groups.

The result is hard to argue with: Women wield virtually all of the political power in the state.
Maybe. But Iowa has a seasonal, "citizen" legislature, in contrast to other states where legislators have large staffs and year-round sessions. So why hasn't it worked here as a stepping stone to bigger things? Why is lieutenant governor, a tool for gender-balancing the ticket since we went to a ticket-style election two decades ago, the de facto glass ceiling? Is is some unique sexism, or just happenstance?

My bet is it's a cultural thing in Mississippi. Note that in neighboring Alabama, the one female governor was Lurleen Wallace subbing for her term-limited husband George, and the female Senator was a widow.

But I argued a long while back in two parts that the defeat of women in high-profile Iowa races was a combination of the individual circumstances of those races. That was 2005, and I'd contend that the same applies to the three most prominent female candidates since.

Hillary Clinton's shadow looms large over the 2016 field, as does her 2008 Iowa failure. I believe she lost for reasons that were uniquely Iowan, yet not gender-based. Her loss was more a result of her presumptive nominee attitude and her thinly-veiled contempt for the retail nature of the caucuses. But I think Iowans are more than willing to give her another shot after her outstanding job as America's ambassador to the world. I know I am. But: No matter how many world leaders you've dined with, to win Iowa you still have to go to the East Pole Bean casserole supper.

Roxanne Conlin in 2010 and Christie Vilsack in 2012 had difficult races. Conlin was also battling a bad election cycle for Democrats, yet ran the most serious-ever challenge to Chuck Grassley.

Vilsack was battling a bad district and yes I'll say it again probably would have won in the Des Moines based 3rd CD where she lived on Map Day. She took one for the team and remains a viable candidate for something else. Indeed, I think that was the plan all along.

A National Party or a Nationalist Party?

"There is no conservative party in the West - except for minor anti-immigrant neo-fascist ones in Europe - anywhere close to this level of far right extremism," Andrew Sullivan said of the Republicans a couple weeks back. So this might actually be a GOOD thing for the elephants:
Conservative radio host Michael Savage Sunday called for a third, "nationalist" American political party to challenge the Republican Party on the right of the political spectrum.
“We need a nationalist party in the United States of America,” said Savage on Aaron Klein's WABC radio show. "There is no Republican party. It’s an appendage of the Democrat machine as we’ve all just seen. It’s two card Monte, as we all know. It’s a game being played against the American people."
Wait... we are talking about the same Republican Party, aren't we?

Savage does have a point in seeing the irreconcilable schism between the business wing of the party and the increasingly nativist base. That tension, best seen in primaries, is why John Boehner gave us the quote of the weekend: "Most of our members wanted this (the fiscal cliff bill) to pass, but they didn't want to vote for it."

So are the Republicans en route to being a nationalist party? Or do they need to become a no -ist national party? Paul West, LA Times:
To an unprecedented degree, today's Republican majority in the House is centered in the states of the old Confederacy. The GOP enjoys a 57-seat advantage across the 11-state region that stretches from Texas to Virginia.

In particular, the South's preeminence could pose challenges to national GOP efforts to broaden the party's appeal on social and cultural issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

"An increasing challenge for Northeastern Republicans, and West Coast Republicans, for that matter, is the growing perception among their constituents that the Republican Party is predominantly a Southern and rural party," said Dan Schnur, a former GOP campaign strategist who directs the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. "There's always been a political and cultural disconnect between the South and the rest of the country. But as the parties have sorted themselves out geographically over the last few decades, the size of that gap has increased."

And we know what happens when the Deep South is diametrically opposed to the rest of the nation:

Even though it’s a truism of American public discourse that the Civil War never ended, it’s also literally true. We’re still reaping the whirlwind from that long-ago conflict, and now we face a new Civil War, one focused on divisive political issues of the 21st century – most notably the rights and liberties of women and LGBT people – but rooted in toxic rhetoric and ideas inherited from the 19th century.

We’ve just emerged from a presidential campaign that exposed how hardened our political and cultural divide has become, and how poorly the two sides understand each other. Part of the Republican problem, in an election that party thought it would win easily, was that those who felt a visceral disgust toward both the idea and the reality of President Barack Obama simply could not believe that they didn’t represent a majority.

As many Republicans are now aware, the party now faces an existential crisis. It’s all very well to go on TV and talk about attracting Latinos and downplaying cultural wedge issues. But the activist core of the Republican Party is neo-Confederate, whether it thinks of itself that way or not. It isn’t interested in common cause with Mexicans or turning down the moral thermostat. Just ask Rick Santorum: What it wants is war.

If you though the fiscal cliff fight, or the health care battle of 2009-2010, were ugly, just wait until we see a serious immigration debate.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Tune In Today for Presidential Election Results!

That's right, today is the very last step of the presidential election process: the formal count of the electoral votes. Good thing, since New York just got done counting its popular vote. Yes. This week. Seems they had a buttload (legally defined as 126 gallons) of provisional ballots.

Joe Biden - the man they should have named this Amtrak station after - is expected to preside over his own re-election as vice president. Which is better than being Al "Jazeera" Gore announcing his own "defeat" (sic) in 2001.

So attention AJ Spiker (who faces his own election tomorrow): this morning is absolute, positive last call for Ron Paul Can Still Win.

Because Ron likes his precious metals (especially with his own face on them) I'm still wagering a Ron Paul Liberty trillion dollar platinum coin that the now EX-representative, who as his last act in 30-odd non-consecutive years of taxpayer funded public office skipped the fiscal cliff votes, gets an electoral vote.

Update: WRONG! Will be dining on beret tonight; accepting cooking suggestions.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

We Take Care Of Our Own?

Somehow I think that when Bruce Springsteen came to Iowa and sang "We Take Care Of Our Own," this wasn't what we had in mind:

Gov. Terry Branstad today appointed Stewart Iverson of Clarion to a $137,000-a-year post on the Iowa Property Tax Assessment Appeal Board. The governor said Iverson, a former Iowa Senate Republican leader who also served in the Iowa House, has agreed to his request to chair the panel...

Iverson had picked up a job with Jerry Behn, even resigning early from the House to take it. But when Behn was ousted as Senate GOP leader, Stew was gone too.

This job has a bit more security that Senate Republican leader, but then, so does Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts. Iverson stays through April 30, 2017, well into the third year of Chet Culver's comeback term.

Justice Center 2 Looks Like May

 Justice Center Round Two has moved up the charts. While official action hasn't happened, county officials are targeting a May 7 election date.

Personally, I was hoping for November, to put it on the same ballot with city council members. That way, the justice center, and the related issues of Iowa City law enforcement policy, would be central to the city council races. But the needs are more urgent, and the costs and interest rates have nowhere to go but up. So I expect to support this again -- but there's still a lot of opportunity for dialogue during the campaign.

The basic plan is similar - a new jail-court room facility on the west side of the old courthouse - but with some changes. Some of the courtrooms and cell space will be unfinished ("shelled in") and capacity on opening would be 195 beds, down from the 243 in the November proposal. The revised plan would improve the exterior aesthetics of the new facility, a move that also trimmed the costs.

The design changes, and additional money from county reserves, would lower the ballot sticker price to $43.5 million, down from $46.8 million in November.

Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek and County Attorney Janet Lyness both emphasized that practical capacity would be less than the number of beds because of security, turnover, and requirements to separate men and women. They also detailed the too often below the radar efforts to process people quickly, getting them out of jail faster or keeping them out in the first place.

So. Cost and aesthetics. That touches two of the three big critiques from last November. What about the Larger Justice System Questions?

I heard the beginnings of a critique of city and university law enforcement at yesterday's meeting, but it was too veiled for my tastes. More along the lines of "we share the concerns about disproportionate minority contact" where I'd be more likely to say "the Iowa City Police Department defeated this in November, clean up your act."

But there's still not official critiques of some of the bad laws themselves. It was the minority contact issue came up, rather than the drug war and drinking age.

The legislative session and the campaign effort are at the same time. Perfect opportunity for elected officials to go on record and lobby the legislature for changes.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Stutsman Resignation Official

By the time you read this, Supervisor Sally Stutsman is former Supervisor Sally Stutsman.

The newly elected state representative handed her resignation in Monday, dated for today. Stutsman had served 18 years, the longest board tenure in at least 60 years.

The decision on her replacement will be mad by Treasurer Tom Kriz, Recorder Kim Painter and Auditor Travis Weipert. They can either appoint a replacement or move directly to a special election. Watch this post for updates today.

The Big Winner, The Big Choice

You know who gets the gold medal for making the fiscal cliff deal happen? Joe Biden, that's who. The much-mis-maligned VP managed to negotiate with the legislative hostage-takers and get. the. bill. done.  2016, take note.

Sure, it's a flawed bill. That was inevitable. Like it or not, blame gerrymandering if you will and you're right, but we have a divided government and so it was inevitable that the president's target dollar amount of raising rates at $250,000 was going to move.

The biggest question mark hangs over John Boehner. There will certainly be a lot of symbolic votes against his re-election as Speaker tomorrow - Iowa's own Caffeinated Thoughts is on the Dump Boehner bandwagon - maybe enough to force the first multi-ballot Speaker election since 1925, when a split between progressive Republicans and party regulars dragged out the election.

Assuming he is re-elected, Boehner has a choice. He can return to the path he was previously on, managing the house under the so-called "Hastert rule." Dennis Hastert, the puppet house speaker from 1999 to 2006 (Tom DeLay was actually running the show) wouldn't move legislation forward without a "majority of the majority."

But that was a new management style. Boehner could also choose to work as he did yesterday and be speaker of the HOUSE, passing legislation with bipartisan support. Yesterday proved that non-crazy Republicans, in coalition with the Democrats, can actually shape and pass compromise legislation. There's not many to work with and not much margin; the roll call shows nearly two-thirds of House Republicans, including our own Steve King and more surprisingly supposed Boehner ally Tom Latham - chose ideology over country. (Here's more analysis of the roll call.)

It's risky for Boehner personally, but it's better for the country, and better for the severely damaged brand of his party. It's not what I want; I'd rather have Nancy Pelosi running the show. But it's the hand we've been dealt and given the nature of the district lines, it's probably the way things will be till 2021.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Tax, Tax, Tax that Cigarette

"It was Jimmy Burke who put me into cigarettes. I knew about them from having been in North Carolina. A carton of cigarettes was $2.10 in the South at the time, while the same carton would cost $3.75 just because of the New York taxes. Jimmy came by the cab stand one day with his car full of cigarettes. He gave me a hundred cartons and said I should try to sell them. I went over to a nearby construction site and sold every carton I had in ten minutes. The working guys were saving about a buck a carton. I could make 25 cents a carton in ten minutes on my end.

Pretty soon me and Tommy were importing the cigarettes ourselves. We'd fly down to Washington, DC, take a cab to the truck rental place, use a fake license and ID to get the truck, and then drive to one of the cigarette wholesalers in North Carolina. We'd load up with about eight or ten thousand cartons and drive north. We burned out half the U-Haul places in Washington, DC. They went bust, Eventually we had to buy our own trucks - the business was that good."

-- Henry Hill, Wise Guy

We all know the phenomenon, but I've never seen it in this format.

NOW it's easy to see why there's so many cigarette stores on the Missouri border. Iowa hiked its tobacco tax a dollar a back in the Culver trifecta era, though we're still on the low end. But Missouri has the lowest rates in the nation.

So they probably don't sell that many smokes in Keokuk... but it looks like they would in Marquette and Lansing.

I suspect the border stores are even more prominent just east of Spokane, given the $2.46 tax difference between Washington and Idaho. And it's a no-brainer for a commuter smoker living in DC but working in NorVa; that's probably the biggest gap in the middle of a major metro area. (New York to New Jersey seems like a longer haul than DC to Arlington.)

But the MOST worthwhile drive for smokes is from New York to Pennsylvania. The Keystone State's tax is higher than ours... but New York still, fifty years after the Goodfellas era, has by far the highest per-pack tax. If you live in Binghamton or Elmira, a little drive will save you $2.75 a pack. A lot more worth the trip than taking your cans to Michigan.

There seems to be a high correlation between extreme low tobacco taxes and GOP voting patterns--look how the old Confederacy (with its many tobacco growers) stands out. Likewise, the region with the highest cigarette tax rates is the deep blue Northeast. Makes you wonder what's up in California.