Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dahms Gets Press-Citizen Endorsement

A very strong Terry Dahms endorsement in today's Press-Citizen: spells out how Terry is able to hit the ground running on day one as a supervisor while noting that Republican John Etheredge is, to put it politely, not ready for prime time. (Even some Republicans, while still backing Etheredge, are grumbling about his inaccessibility.)

The local Republicans are spamming the comments with the lie, repeated on one of the TV stations, that none of the supervisors are rural. This too conveniently dismisses Terry Dahms' and Pat Harney's rural residences. It also ignores the years of history showing no pattern of under-representation for rural residents on the Board of Supervisors.

Turnout this election is, frankly, pitiful. It's running at half the pace of the last supervisor special in January 2010. (Meanwhile, the Linn County gambling vote is looking like governor-level turnout.) The rumor mill says "this is a done deal" but that's not necessarily so. More chances to vote early remain; a four day run at the Iowa City Public Library starts today.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Loebsack Event for Dahms


A couple upcoming Terry Dahms events:

 Lunch with State Representative Sally Stutsman
When: Friday, March 1
Time: Noon
Location: Lone Tree Senior Center

Get Out The Vote with United States Congressman Dave Loebsack
When: Friday, March 1
Time: 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Location: Gus' Bar and Grill, Coralville

With the election just six days out, turnout is sloooow: running at less than half the pace of the Janelle Rettig supervisor special in January 2010. What's the deal, people? Did the school vote suck all the oxygen out of the air?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Parsing Ed Fallon

From the Inbox this weekend:  

From: Ed Fallon Subject: Campaign Announcement Yes, you read the subject line correctly. This Friday, March 1st, at Raccoon River Brew Pub at 6:30 p.m., I will announce a campaign. I realize this probably comes as a surprise, and two weeks ago I would not have predicted it. But upon deep reflection and deliberation, I am certain this is the right thing to do.

Some of the politico-journalist-sphere was fished in: "Fallon to announce candidacy for unnamed office." Some, however, parsed the wording: "a campaign" does not say "I Ed Fallon an a candidate." Indeed, "a campaign" does not even necessarily mean electoral politics.

Fallon tips his hand a bit in paragraph 2:

That's all I'm saying for now, as I work to learn a new element of political discipline: timing. In the 2006 Democratic Primary for Governor, Mike Blouin proved to be a wizard at timing. First he announced an exploratory committee announcement. Then he announced the actual exploratory committee. Then he explored. That was followed by an announcement that there would be an announcement on a decision as to whether he would actually run for Governor. Finally, Blouin announced he was running. It didn't matter that there were less than 20 people at each essentially redundant event. The media were dutifully interested and in attendance each and every time.

One of my pet peeves, too: in my rule book you get to announce once, and you can't do it after you file because filing is of itself a public action. In any case, my bet is the big "announcement" is that it's some sort of fundraising campaign for the radio show. But more power to Ed for playing with our expectations on this.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Why Horizontal?

Is a portrait-oriented computer screen just one Deeth tech quirk too many? I'm deciding.

My home setup of late is Laptop In Name Only: I use an external keyboard, mouse and monitor. The laptop itself is rarely physically touched except to shoo away a cat. (When I'm mobile for a meeting I take the number two or three laptop.) As a writer I like a physical desk and a desktop computer arrangement - especially with my too noisy for a shared office IBM Model M keyboard.

Over the weekend I picked up a bigger monitor at University Surplus, and getting home I realized it rotated 90 degrees. It's tech, it's quirky, let's do it.



Results are mixed. I like it a LOT for reading long articles full of text, and for writing this post, from what little I've been able to find on the subject desktop publishing people like the vertical setup too. It doesn't work as well for the checkbook spreadsheet. I find myself not using one of my other quirks as much: the second, horizontal scroll wheel on my mouse. Switching back is one setting away, but it would be a really swift trick if it could auto-sense the move like a smart phone or tablet does.

Which begs the question: Hey, why ARE computer screens horizontal anyway?

Some of it may just be tradition, like the QWERTY keyboard layout. And if your keyboard is horizontal and your portable device is a clamshell-designed laptop, that kind of by force makes the screen wider than tall too.  (Once setting up a netbook I accidentally switched to a rotated screen and it was a challenge to all I know about dimensions to set it back. That said, I can read upside down with little effort.)

Yet why in the mobile and e-reader era does the desktop environment by default stay horizontal? If you're working at a desktop setting you're working with a lot of paper and the default mode of paper is letter rather than legal... and why is THAT?


I'm not finding reasons so I'll speculate. Scroll down with me... because scrolls were the pre-book paper format, and going the short way rather than the long way let you complete more thought with less unrolling. Then books come along, and two side by side pages is horizontal.

Think now of our climb down from the trees, when our climbing up to reach the next banana started to matter less than looking left and right to chase the next mammoth. And think of live stage theatre, in buildings and amphitheatres that were wider than tall. This translated to motion pictures which then translated to television which then transferred to computer monitors.


Good lord, I've gone all first half hour of 2001: A Space Odyssey to rationalize rotating a monitor by a right angle. I'm going to have to ask for more bananas.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Back On The Grid

Two and a half days with no TV and basically no internet at home - just a carefully rationed 3G connection. It was like a trip to the 90s, when I was too grad-school cool for cable TV and only turned on the tiny rabbit ears set for Major Events. Berlin Wall coming down? Yeah, I'll watch that. Internet? Like my ancient Juno account: dial up, grab, read offline, compose replies, back online, send.

It was also a little like the early days dating Koni, when I'd go to her old house way outside town and maybe check my messages on a run to town via McDonalds' free wifi- So yeah, some nice family bonding the last couple TV free days - but it's good to be back doing my usual mouse potatoing, or as I describe it to Koni, research for my next post. (Cracked: "4 Things Politicians Will Never Understand About Poor People")

Low point of the Great Outage was yesterday at lunch. Our neighbor had the same basic and obvious problem - tree limb knocked the line off the pole - and the Mediacom crew was next door with a crew and ladders. "You're getting 313 next?" I ask. The guys literally stared at me speechless and denied we'd ever made a call. So we repeat our call to their bosses and get a bureaucratic run-around -- and as a professional bureaucrat I don't use the word lightly.

Punch line? I was late back to work because they were blocking my driveway. And they still didn't fix us till today. More efficient to send a different crew to the same block the next day, I guess.

Enough rant. A few short political notes:

11 days to the supervisor election and last night Terry Dahms scored a unanimous endorsement from the Iowa City Federation of Labor. Iowa Democratic Party chair Tyler Olson writes:
I hope you can join me this Sunday for a "Get out the Vote" rally in support of our Democratic Nominee for Johnson County Supervisor, Terry Dahms. Terry has been chair of the Johnson County Democrats for the last two years, and has worked hard to help elect Democrats up and down the ticket. Now it is our time to show our support and put another great Democrat on the Board of Supervisors in Johnson County!
The rally will take place at:
Capanna Coffee 
1:30pm - 3:30pm

Also 11 days to the much more publicized Linn County casino election. I don't honestly know how I'd vote... but I do know that you could build a casino across the street from me and I'd never play. I might catch a concert from some Too Old To Be Cool band though.

Point is: gambling dollars are finite and we're well past the point of saturation. Are you "creating" jobs, or just taking them from Riverside? I suppose on a pure green perspective, if people are going to gamble anyway, put the damn thing in the bigger town and reduce the carbon footprint from the cars driving from CR to Tama. Not sure that's a convincing argument either way.

More fallout from John McCain's hostile town hall on immigration:
The Republican political establishment sees immigration reform as a political necessity. Much of the party’s base sees it as the end of the rule of law.
McCain’s testy townhall typifies the divide between a party in Washington that, for the most part, simply wants to find a way to get to a “yes” on immigration reform and an activist base who views that effort as contradictory to the foundational principles of the party.
I think the usually spot-on Chris Cilizza misses here. I believe it's less about "rule of law" and more about fear and hatred of a multi-cultural, multi-lingual America. And no one -- are you reading, Steve King? -- no one has yet articulated how "rule of law" means anything other than mass deportations, and not Romneyesque "self" deportations either. And if you're doing that let's tear down the Statue of Liberty, or at least sandblast away that Emma Lazarus amnesty crap about huddled masses yearning to be free.

Finally, Janelle Rettig with the weather. Get your eyes very close to the screen to read this:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Ugly Americans

Hopes for a humane immigration reform bill took an ugly hit yesterday at an Arizona town hall.

Immigration, and outreach to Hispanic America, used to be signature issues for John McCain, before his presidential run and the Senate primary challenge he faced in 2010. With those intra-party contests behind him, and four years left on what could be his last term, McCain looked ready to once again lend his special level of credibility to the current efforts to fix a broken system.

But the Republican base ain't buying it:

“There are 11 million people living here illegally,” McCain said during a heated town hall gathering in the Phoenix suburb of Sun Lakes. “We are not going to get enough buses to deport them.”
Some audience members shouted out their disapproval.

Confirming again my theory that mass deportation is exactly what the Know-Nothing wing of the GOP wants, only this time more explicitly than ever. Watch the ugly yourself.

One man yelled that only guns would discourage illegal immigration. Another man complained that illegal immigrants should never be able to become citizens or vote. A third man said illegal immigrants were illiterate invaders who wanted free government benefits.

Leaving aside, of course, that literacy exists in languages other than English.

McCain urged compassion. “We are a Judeo-Christian nation,” he said.

Leaving aside that compassion exists in other faiths or in people of no faith at all.

But while McCain misses a little on PC inclusiveness, at least he's trying to make our country and his party a welcoming place. Wish the same could be said of his constituents... or of our own Steve King.

Elections Don't Get Snow Days

We Iowans are about to be rudely reminded that it's still winter.

Strange things happen in winter. For example, the cable line to our house blew over in the wind so the Deeth Blog World News Center has been without internet or cable TV for a day. This explains the slow posting schedule, though for an emergency like this I can fire up the smart phone as a hot spot.

Other than that, we have the usual late starts and cancellations and fender benders and runs on essential groceries: TP, beer, or in our house milk and cat food.

But what happens if a blizzard hits on election day?

Answer: Too bad. It's election day. Iowa law has no provision for delaying or postponing an election.

Bob Dvorsky could tell you about that one. He had a winter special election in 1994, which fell on February 22. You know what else fell on February 22? 16 inches of snow.

Oh my lord, I really am an old man, talking about a horrible blizzard in the previous century. I'm so old I remember when this was a new song:



That was one of my last elections spent in a headquarters, and I went missing - this was when only Republicans could afford the newfangled brick sized cell phones - on an hour and a half excursion to take ONE voter to the polls. When I finally returned Sue Dvorsky actually told me she valued my life more than she valued Bob's victory (hard to believe, I know) so I was forbidden from going out again.

We actually lost on that election day. On that DAY. It was a milestone for us: the first election we ever won on early votes. Which is the moral of my story here. While you are out stocking up for the storm, stop by the auditor's office and get that vote in. Weird stuff happens so don't take the chance.

And get your Terry Dahms yard sign pounded into the ground before the snow flies, too, or else you'll have to put it in a drift or on a snowman. That's my other vivid memory of that 1994 election: Bob's dad Ernie Dvorsky, in his 80s, all over Coralville with a sledgehammer and wooden stakes and the yard signs. I'm still working off that list.

In other Dahms campaign news, the Iowa Democratic Party's new chair Tyler Olson will be making a visit for Terry on Sunday afternoon from 1:30 to 3 at Capanna Coffee in Coralville.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Maps and Legends




Maps: The gradual erosion of choice not solely by legislation but via lack of access is an issue dating back at least to my youth in western Wisconsin when "she had to go to Madison" was a well-known euphemism. The issue has gotten a little publicity - Rachel Maddow recently did a feature on the sole clinics in North Dakota and Mississippi - but I've never seen it it in map format like this. Here's the original, as an interactive.

Legends: Since when was Kentucky a Confederate state? That's what I'd call a reconstruction of the fables.

Maps AND legends:



A legend in his own mind: hey, who ordered yet another Steve Rathje campaign? It's like that old New Hampshire primary joke first attributed to Mo Udall. He introduces himself to some old farmers or barber shop customers and says "I'm running for president" only to be told: "I know, We were just laughing about that this morning."

Maps again: a map to 270 Republican electoral votes is very difficult if we get a swing state Texas.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Supervisor Districts: The Numbers Don't Add Up

The Officially stated goal of the Republican Party's scheme to gerrymander Rod Sullivan or Janelle Rettig out of office by carving the county into five districts is "to increase rural representation."

As we all know from Bush-era budgets, the Republicans have trouble making numbers add up. So today we'll do some math. And I've brought along my favorite expert.

I'm here with redistricting consultant Jerry Mandering. Thanks for stopping by, Jerry.

Deeth, you know I hate this squeaky clean Iowa districting stuff, but you gotta work with the rules ya got.

So what are those rules?

Well, assuming the Republicans get the signatures and win the election, and those are two big ifs, we need to chop the county up into five equal parts. Did you get me those Census numbers?

Right here, Jerry.

City 2010 Census
Iowa City 67,862
University Heights 1,051
IC-UH Combined 68,913
Coralville 18,907
North Liberty 13,374
Tiffin 1,947
Hills 703
Lone Tree 1,300
Oxford 807
Shueyville 577
Solon 2,037
Swisher 879
City Total 109,444
Rural/West Branch Total 21,273
County Total 130,882

Thanks. I forgot about that weird city surrounded by a city thing. They ever get that church zoning thing figured out?

Not yet. Another election this fall.

OK. So youse got 130,882 bodies. Divide that by five, and that's your ideal population for a district: 26,176, give or take a half a body.

You're scary when you talk about a half a body.

I used to work in New Jersey and if you asked for a half a body, well, I knew a guy.

OK, so Iowa law says you can only chop a city into the smallest possible number of pieces. And Iowa City is your 800 pound gorilla, almost 53 percent of your population. Throw in that Unihoosity Heights thing and you get two districts all out of Iowa City and more than half of a third one. Even if you add a piece of rurals to each Iowa City seat, that's still an 86 percent city seat.

So that means Iowa City permanently controls three Board seats?

Probably. Depends on the plan. You chooses from three plans: the supervisors have to live in the district and everybody votes, they live in the district and only the district votes, or you keep the at large which youse got now.

Bob Dvorsky told me to ask about Coralville.

That's 72% of a district. Kind of like Marion in Linn County, just the right size. Didn't you call that The District Draws Itself?

Yeah, I did. Can you take Coralville and put it with the rest of Iowa City, kind of like Dave Jacoby's House seat?

Nope. Coralville and the rest of Iowa City is 35,467, almost 9000 too many.

How about Coralville and PART of the rest of Iowa City.

You weren't listening. Iowa City has to be chopped into the smallest number of pieces, and that's three.

I got scared when you started talking about half a body.

Kid, if you can't chop things into pieces you don't belong in this business.

Sorry, I'm from Iowa.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, go milk the pigs. Anyway, that was the problem Linn County had, see? Cedar Rapids had exactly the right number of bodies for three whole districts. The county wanted to make four, with each city district gettin' a slice of rural, like they had before. But the state said no. So they had to do three all in Cedar Rapids and the fourth one mostly Marion.



What about the fifth?

A work of art. Accidential genius. It's a big freakin' donut with one little bite out of it down by the airport.  I would be proud to call it my own work.

Great. Can't you make one like that for the Johnson County Republicans? I think that's what they want: an all rural district they can win.

They ain't gonna win it anyway but I'll humor youse for the sake of argument. You gotta deal with North Liberty yet. They're 51 percent of a district and they have to stay together. So you have to put some of your rurals with Coralville, some with North Liberty, and some with that leftover part of Iowa City.

Can you do Coralville and North Liberty together?

Nope. You got about 6000 excess bodies. Or as we call it in New Jersey, a landfill.

So the only way to make five districts is: three mostly in Iowa City, one mostly in Coralville and one mostly in North Liberty?

There's some brains under that beret after all.

The Republicans think this is their way to elect more rural supervisors.

You kiddin' me? Yeah, good luck with that, pal. You permanently lock in at least two from Iowa City and one from Coralville, and probably a third one from Iowa City and one from North Liberty. The rurals don't have nothin' left. You told me yesterday they did pretty good electing rural people at large, as long as it was rural Democrats they was electing.

That's right.

Well, you still got a lot of room in how you chop up those rural pieces.

Not really. We have to do this the clean Iowa way.

Deeth, you are no fun at all. But I like ya anyway. Come out to Jersey sometime and I'll show youse how we do it.

OK, as long as we don't go near that landfill.

Or as we call it in New Jersey the 86th Assembly District.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rural Under-representation? Just the Opposite

UPDATED MARCH 2017

On two fronts - the John Etheredge campaign and the petition for a supervisor district system - Johnson County Republicans are arguing that rural residents have been under-represented on the Board of Supervisors.

Like so much that Republicans say, that's so not true that in fact the exact opposite is true.

The myth got started because for a brief period of a couple years, between Janelle Rettig's appointment/election and Terrence Neuzil's move across town, they and Rod Sullivan lived close together on the east side of Iowa City.

But that was an anomaly, a coincidence. If anything, rural voters have historically been OVER-represented on the Board.

A look back over my 22 years living in Johnson County shows that now is the only occasion when three supervisors lived in Iowa City proper - even though the city averaged about 3/5 of the county population. (Update: During 2015, four supervisors were in the city limits, but that has dropped to three again.) Before Sullivan joined Neuzil on the Board after the 2004 election, there hadn't been more than ONE Iowa City resident Supervisor at a time.

And as recently as 2000, all five supervisors were rural residents.

Even the in-town addresses have rural ties. Terrence Neuzil's family has deep rural roots, and Rod Sullivan grew up on a century farm near Lisbon.

So if you're arguing for more rural representation, why fix what ain't broke? The group that's under-represented isn't rural voters and the government with historic under-representation isn't the Board of Supervisors. (Correct answer: the Iowa City Council, where no member of the 25,000+ student population has been elected since 1979.)

And as we'll see next, the Republican district plan would actually reduce rural representation.

Supervisor Residency 1991-present 

Present
  • Rod Sullivan - east side
  • Janelle Rettig - east side
  • Mike Carberry - east side 
  • Lisa Green-Douglass - rural North Liberty, Madison Township 
  • Kurt Friese - rural, Penn Township

2016
  • Pat Harney - rural, Newport
  • Rod Sullivan - east side
  • Janelle Rettig - east side
  • Mike Carberry - east side 
  • Lisa Green-Douglass - rural North Liberty, Madison Township
2015
  • Pat Harney - rural, Newport
  • Terrence Neuzil - west side
  • Rod Sullivan - east side
  • Janelle Rettig - east side
  • Mike Carberry - east side
March 2013-2014
  • Pat Harney - rural, Newport
  • Terrence Neuzil - west side
  • Rod Sullivan - east side
  • Janelle Rettig - east side
  • John Etheredge - rural Kalona, later moved to Lone Tree
Oct. 2009-2012
  • Sally Stutsman - rural Hills
  • Pat Harney - rural, Newport Township
  • Terrence Neuzil  - east/west side
  • Rod Sullivan - east side
  • Janelle Rettig - east side
2007-Sept. 2009
  • Sally Stutsman - rural Hills
  • Pat Harney - rural, Newport Township
  • Terrence Neuzil  - east side
  • Rod Sullivan - east side
  • Larry Meyers  - rural, Newport Township
     
2005-2006
  • Sally Stutsman - rural Hills
  • Mike Lehman   - rural, East Lucas
  • Pat Harney - rural, Newport Township
  • Terrence Neuzil  - east side
  • Rod Sullivan - east side
2001-2004
  • Sally Stutsman - rural Hills
  • Mike Lehman - rural, East Lucas
  • Carol Thompson - rural, Penn Township
  • Pat Harney - rural, Newport
  • Terrence Neuzil  - east side
1999-2000
  • Charlie Duffy - rural Solon
  • Sally Stutsman - rural Hills
  • Jonathan Jordahl - rural Tiffin
  • Mike Lehman - rural, East Lucas
  • Carol Thompson - rural, Penn Township

1997-1998
  • Charlie Duffy - rural Solon
  • Steve Lacina - rural, Scott Township
  • Joe Bolkcom  - east side
  • Sally Stutsman - rural Hills
  • Jonathan Jordahl - rural Tiffin
1995-1996
  • Charlie Duffy - rural Solon
  • Steve Lacina - rural, Scott Township
  • Joe Bolkcom - east side
  • Don Sehr - rural Sharon Center
  • Sally Stutsman - rural Hills
March-December 1994
  • Charlie Duffy - rural Solon
  • Patricia Meade - rural, Penn Township
  • Steve Lacina - rural, Scott Township
  • Joe Bolkcom - east side
  • Don Sehr - rural Sharon Center
1993-January 1994
  • Betty Ockenfels - Hills
  • Charlie Duffy - rural Solon
  • Patricia Meade - rural, Penn Township
  • Steve Lacina - rural, Scott Township
  • Joe Bolkcom - east side
1991-1992
  • Betty Ockenfels - Hills
  • Dick Myers - rural, Penn Township, former Coralville mayor
  • Charlie Duffy - rural Solon
  • Patricia Meade - rural, Penn Township
  • Steve Lacina - rural, Scott Township

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

If You Can't Win, Change The Rules: Local Version

The recent Republican effort in swing states to game the electoral college by changing to a district system died a quick death, in large part out of its own shamelessness.

But as usual, the Johnson County Republicans are behind the curve, so they're getting ready their own local If You Can't Win, Change The Rules plan. After failing to get the signatures two years ago, they're making another attempt to change the Board of Supervisors to a district system.

Right now, all county voters elect all the supervisors. It's worked well. No matter where the supervisors live, they have to listen to voters from Sutliff to Frytown, from Lone Tree to Swisher. Under the most restrictive district system, it would be very easy for an urban supervisor to oppose, say, the whole Secondary Roads budget, because her or his district had zero miles of those roads.

The Republicans will no doubt make arguments about increasing rural representation, the same kind of rhetoric their special election candidate is using even though Democrat Terry Dahms is ALSO a rural resident. As I'll show in upcoming posts, the math and the history don't match the rhetoric.

But as usual the real reasons aren't as high-minded as the surface arguments.

The district plan is, frankly, an blatant effort to gerrymander one of either Rod Sullivan or Janelle Rettig out of office. Both are hard-working officials who have won multiple contested elections, and by coincidence they live in the same east side precinct. (As we'll see, NOT a historic pattern.)

Rod annoys them because he's an unapologetic liberal; Janelle annoys them even more because she's that AND a lesbian AND she stomped their candidate last time they made a serious run at a board seat in 2010. In an ideal set of circumstances for Republicans, a low turnout January special election with a deep pockets candidate, they lost by more than 20 points.

They forced that election by a petition, and the bill was in the $75,000 ballpark. And because they can't win by the rules, the Republicans, self proclaimed guardians of tax dollars, are now trying to force you to pay for a FOURTH special election of the year in August.

And they're trying to force that election because they can't win.Ex-chair Bob Anderson directly admits it's a motivation: “Those (rural)  areas are much more competitive in elections, it’s not to say they are heavily Republican, but they’re much more competitive and that’s certainly a side benefit to the Republican party,”

The Republicans are oh-fer-a half century on the Board: their last winner was Oren Alt in 1958. Their last win for any courthouse office was Sheriff Gary Hughes in 1984. It's not just the courthouse jobs. Take away a couple Jim Leach and Chuck Grassley races, and some legislative districts based mostly in neighboring counties, and the record is dismal. The last Republican presidential winner in the county was Nixon - not over McGovern, but over JFK. That was before I was born, and I'm a grandfather.

True, just on sheer size their varying margins of defeat have played important roles in statewide wins. There are more Republicans in Johnson County than in overwhelmingly Republican Sioux County.

But at some point you have to conclude that Republican ideas are just not popular here. If anything, they are getting less popular. A public university town where even the rich doctors are government employees isn't going to respond positively to tea partyish spending and tax cut talk. Our 25,000 extra young people think opposition to marriage equality is a joke. Our fast growing Hispanic community is threatened by Steve King's anti-immigrant rants.

Local Republicans could choose to adapt by recruiting popular candidates with popular ideas. Most elections, they don't even try; the Greens and Libertarians are more likely to find a legislative candidate for one of the core Iowa City/Coralville legislative seats than the Republicans are. In 2010 Dave Jacoby's opponent actually left the Republicans specifically to run as a Libertarian. That's how damaged the GOP brand is here.

Or they could do as they have done: accept a lesser local role, settling for winning "nonpartisan" city races and occasionally helping swing a Democratic primary, while trying every couple years to cut their losses by a few percentage points and contribute to a statewide win.

Instead, as is so often true with today's Republican Party, they're gaming the system.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pope Resigns

It looks like we're going to have another special election squeezed in between the supervisor vote and Justice Center 2, but at least the auditor's office isn't in charge of choosing the pope. I'll see if we can install a black smoke/white smoke system for election results.

So for the first time in 598 years we need to figure out what to call an ex-pope. Is it Former Pope Benedict? With or without the XVI? Or does it go back to Joseph Ratzinger, the former pope Benedict? Personally, I prefer The Artist Formerly Known As Pope.

Since this is a low turnout conclave, the Liberty Republicans think they can pack it and win. They're not letting the fact that their candidate is a Baptist stop them, and they're shouting the slogan "Ron Paul Not John Paul." Though I think the key to winning this is the all-important Catholic vote.

And for those of us old enough to remember the back to back elections in 1978, it's time to finda da popes inna da pizza.

Extended Reads

If you have a LOT of time, invest it in this New Republic piece, "Original Sin Why the GOP is and will continue to be the party of white people."
The true problem, as yet unaddressed by any Republican standard-bearer, originates in the ideology of modern conservatism. When the intellectual authors of the modern right created its doctrines in the 1950s, they drew on nineteenth-century political thought, borrowing explicitly from the great apologists for slavery, above all, the intellectually fierce South Carolinian John C. Calhoun. This is not to say conservatives today share Calhoun's ideas about race. It is to say instead that the Calhoun revival, based on his complex theories of constitutional democracy, became the justification for conservative politicians to resist, ignore, or even overturn the will of the electoral majority.
If you don't have as much time, Michael Lind at Salon hits similar themes:
It is difficult, if not impossible, for many white Southerners to disentangle regional culture (Southern) from race (white) and ethnicity (British Protestant). The historical memory of white Southerners is not of ethnic coexistence and melting-pot pluralism but of ethnic homogeneity and racial privilege. Small wonder that going from the status of local Herrenvolk to local minority in only a generation or two is causing much of the white South to freak out.
Both pieces touch on the current conservative effort to cling to power through electoral gamesmanship, such as cuts to early voting. ANother semi-related issue that could hurt early voting: the likely end of Saturday mail.

One place where early voting ISN'T likely soon: New Hampshire, where Secretary of State Bill Gardner is the law unto himself.
Gardner said he doesn't favor early voting; data from the recent federal election proved it doesn't improve turnout. And he contends it "diminishes the significance of Election Day itself."

There's another problem with early voting, Gardner said: "We've had people that have pulled out of the presidential primary the week before the primary."

He recalled former Republican presidential candidate Alexander Haig did just that in 1988, endorsing Bob Dole just days before the primary. Gardner's office started getting calls from people who had voted for Haig by absentee ballot and wanted to vote again.
Probably from all three of Haig's supporters.

As an Iowa Democrat I'll just say the realignment corner of the room is over there.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Two Way Race For Supervisor

The filing deadline for the March 5 special election has just passed, and it's a two-way race. No independent candidates filed, so Democrat Terry Dahms and Republican John Etheredge will face off.

In the 2010 supervisor special, Jim Knapp, now better known for getting arrested at Hawkeye football games, filed as an independent and won 3% of the vote. (He also carried the homophobia ball for the Republicans in the candidate forums.)

Both candidates are making their second run for the Board. Dahms ran in the 2008 Democratic primary, and Etheredge ran as an independent in November.

Both candidates are also, despite Republican insistence, rural residents. According to current GOP logic, anyone with a rural Iowa City address like Dahms is considered a city dweller. Yet 41% of the county's rural voters, over 6,000, are in the Iowa City ZIP codes, almost twice as many as runner-up rural Solon. There's also a lot of high-CSR farm ground with a 52240 ZIP.

Early voting for the election starts next Wednesday at the auditor's office, so get there early if you want first voter bragging rights. Satellite sites start Feb. 25 with a schedule here. Auditor Travis Weipert makes one unfortunate note: "Our office contacted the Hy-Vee stores, but management does not wish to participate for this election. We thank Hy-Vee for its past support of satellite voting and hope we can return in the future."

Serve The Servers Or Serve The Lord

The cultural divide between secular America and cultural conservatives is both deep and broad, and every so often an odd issue pops up that illustrates this gap in sharp relief.

Recently Chelsea Welch, a waitress at a St. Louis Applebee's, was fired after posting a customer's receipt on line. The customer, a pastor, had crossed off the automatic 18% large group tip, written in zero, and added: "I give God 10% why do you get 18?"

The result has been a public relations nightmare for Applebee's and sparked a larger conversation.

Iowans all know that at Sunday brunch time, restaurants are packed with the after church crowd. But what we generally don't know is that the wait staff dreads these customers. "No one wanted the church crowd," writes Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon; "they don't tip."



Wait staff generally earn sub-minimum wage, and rely on their tips as the main portion of their income, so a stiffed or shorted tip hits them where they live.

"The pastor simply exposed something that is all too common to Christian thinking," writes Vaterie Tarico of AlterNet: "the sense that giving to the church and to religious charities is the be-all and end all of generosity."

This is hard to document and largely anecdotal, and I know plenty of generous conservatives and tightwad liberals. But the tipping issue is in part a question of empathy, writes Tarico:
Many of us give generously to wait-staff because we know what it’s like to be in their shoes. “Servers work hard for little money. A lot are just trying to pay their way through college or even just trying to make a little cash in high school, or even supporting a family.” “My friend works in a restaurant and I asked him how much he get paid. He said $2.00/ hr. and only depend on tips. I said, that’s against the minimum wage law? I need work just to survive to eat. Thinking about him, I always give at least 18% or 20 for the services they do.”
It's also a dynamic of social distance. Half the small towns in Iowa have a change jar on the counter to take donations for the local sick child or family whose home burned down, and those are regularly filled by the neighbors and friends who know them and are like them. But if you go into town to a sit-down restaurant, the waitress may well be of a different age or class or race or personality, and thus they're less of an individual.

It's a phenomenon Cracked - yes, I'm citing Cracked - calls the "monkeysphere." Our brains are literally only big enough to make X number of people, about 150, "real" to us. Our chimpanzee relatives live in clusters of 30 to 50, because that's all the social relationships their smaller brains can handle. Any individuals above that are dehumanized, or rather de-chimp-anized.

The tipping ethic would be an interesting and difficult phenomenon to study. It also helps explain why some social conservative candidates have struggled to raise money.

Neither Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum were able to turn their Iowa caucus wins into long-haul sustainable campaigns, and money was an issue for both. If your base supporters are all tithed out with ongoing commitments to their own churches and charities, they may not want to or be able to fill out a quick check to a surging campaign. Or if they do, the check might be for $25 instead of $250.

That's not to say social conservative causes aren't well financed. But it does help explain why those issues are often organization-driven rather than candidate-driven, and why social conservative appeal alone has not yet been enough to clinch a Republican presidential nomination.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Students: Republicans Don't Want You To Vote

A new bill in Indiana proposes that students who pay out-of-state tuition would not be able to vote in the state.

It's unlikely to take effect even if it passes: "Conditioning voting rights on a 12-month residency is so clearly unconstitutional that it would be an utter waste of the legislature's time to consider such a bill."

That's not a hypothetical unconstitutional: this already got fought to the Supreme Court in 1972. In Dunn v Blumstein the Court that states cannot require residents to have lived in that state for more than a month before registering to vote.

But the legislation is of a piece with last year's local Farm Bureau platform resolution, which said that students should be required to vote by absentee ballot from their parent's address - a harder process which makes it less likely to actually happen. (There's still some smoldering hard feelings from the two 21 bar votes and from the passage of the 2008 conservation bond. Can you imagine how freaked out people would get if a student actually made it to the Iowa City council?)

As always thanks to the vigilant Ballot Access News for catching this one.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Republicans nominate Etheredge

It's officially a contested race for the March 5 special election for county supervisor. As expected, county Republicans tonight nominated John Etheredge of rural Kalona without opposition. He'll face Democrat Terry Dahms, and any independent who might show up to file by the Friday 5 PM deadline.

The Press-Citizen's Adam Sullivan tweeted: "Etheredge says rural Johnson County deserves representation on the board." I'll just note that Dahms is also a rural resident.

Etheredge ran for the Board as an independent last fall, with de facto Republican support, and finished a distant fourth in the race for three seats.

I noted last fall that there's a down side to running as an independent in a general election, because even as a Republican in a heavily Democratic county you sacrifice straight ticket votes: 6457 of them in Johnson County to be exact. (Granted, some greater than zero number of straight ticket Rs also marked Etheredge on the ballot.)

Nearly 30 percent of the total vote in Johnson was cast as straight tickets, with Democrats gaining a nearly 9,000 vote edge just on that. No wonder GOP Rep. Peter Cownie wants to get rid of straight tickets and make people vote for "the person not the party." But if close to a third of the voters like the convenience, and if "Republican Party" after the name says enough about the candidate, why change a popular feature of the ballot?

Now Etheredge has switched to run as a Republican - and again disadvantaged himself. There are no straight tickets in a one-office special election, thus no advantage to running with an affiliation that gets you some number, smaller but still some number, of automatic  votes.

So all Etheredge gets from the label, as opposed to working with the same core people but running as an independent again, is the baggage. Which party would YOU rather have below your name in a 67% Obama county? Sure, a Grassley or a Leach can occasionally carry the day in these parts, though Grassley lost to Roxanne Conlin in 2010, his first county loss anywhere in the state since 1980.

Two reporters have asked me the same question today so you're wondering too: The last Republican to win a courthouse office in Johnson County was Gary Hughes. He got elected in 1972 with just 48%, thanks to a factional split in the Democrats, and proved to be a pretty popular guy once he was in. Hughes won his last term in 1984 and retired in 1988.

As for the supervisors, the drought is even longer. The last Republican elected to the Board was Oren Alt, who won his second term in 1958 and lost in the 1962 general election.

Now, the Republican losing streak is not a Democratic undefeated streak. Don Sehr won an April 1994 special as an independent. But he'd been a multi-term Democrat on the Board from 1976 to 1988, and he was already filling the vacancy by appointment when the liberals petitioned for the election. He tried and failed to win the party nomination at convention. Nasty, nasty party split that year. Sehr ran as an "independent Democrat" long before Joe Lieberman did, and he won the special. But when he tried to re-join the party fold he lost the 1996 primary.

So a LOT of asterisks on that one Democratic loss, and the critical precondition of a party split that we saw in the `72 sheriff race and in 1994 isn't there. Defeated Democrats Dawn Suter and Mike Carberry both promptly endorsed Dahms after last week's convention.

Still, weird things can happen in a low turnout special election. Best advice for any candidate is to feel confident you'll win but work like you're about to lose.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Revenue Purpose Statement Passes

I'll confess to a little surprise at the outcome of tonight's vote. I had the percentage close - I was privately saying 57-43 and it was 56-44. But I had the numbers reversed and the loss I expected was a win.

The evening felt scripted for drama, as North Liberty and Coralville, the expected centers of opposition, reported late turnout surges that boosted turnout to 6079 voters, up from my late in the day guesstimate of 5000. And the absentee results, the first numbers in, were tight with just an eight vote lead for yes.

(That's part of why my prediction was off - the early voters were more negative.)

Yes took a more solid lead as polling places reported and the east side reported earliest. City High and Lemme had the highest Yes percentages in the mid to high 60s, with Lucas and Horace Mann close behind. Lemme also had the highest turnout percentage at over 15; the east side has historically dominated city and school elections and they turned out.

Coralville and North Liberty came in later. Most of the media - and the school board - called Yes a winner after Coralville reported just a narrow No vote (51-49%). One new twist at the office this cycle (along with a new auditor) was getting the top-line results out fast on Twitter. And the reporters - mostly busy with the simultaneous school board meeting - ate it up.

North Liberty sealed the deal by actually voting in favor of the plan. After that, the 80% No out of the last precinct, Hills, was anticlimactic. Hills is by far the smallest school precinct and has often been an outlier in results.

While the numbers were coming in the school board was casting its third and final 4 to 3 vote on the diversity policy. So the immediate battles are over, but we can look forward to a hot school board election this September...

... and probably two more elections before that. Republicans meet tomorrow night to nominate their supervisor candidate, and that vote is just 28 days away.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Your Tax Dollars, My Overtime

As a political and elections "insider" sometimes I forget how much I know and I blow past basic explanations. Time to step back and answer one of the most common questions I'm hearing these days: "why so many elections?"

We vote Tuesday on the Iowa City School District's revenue purpose statement. Just 28 days later, we will vote again, in the special election to replace Sally Stutsman on the Board of Supervisors. Democrat Terry Dahms will face a Republican to be named on Wednesday night, most likely John Etheredge, who ran as an independent last fall.

All signs are that the THIRD election of the year will be on May 7, as the county makes another attempt to pass a revised justice center proposal, which won 56% support in November but needed a 60% super majority.

Common sense would indicate that you could put a couple of these things or even all three together. But common sense is not necessarily the law.

Under Iowa election law, no non-school election can ever for any reason be combined with a school election. Doesn't really matter why - "it's the law" ends the practical conversation - but the reasoning seems to be that school districts and precincts have different boundaries than cities, townships and regular precincts.

And don't get me started on school district boundaries, which are confusing even to redistricting consultant Jerry Mandering. They've got more notches and diversions than the Norwegian coastline, and they're all based on where Grandma and Grandpa wanted to send the kids to school in 1960, when the old township-based school system consolidated into districts.

(If you think that's confusing, can you imagine the logistical difficulties of breaking up a school district? Who would own which schools? Who would inherit which share of debt? Who would draw the line? How would you calculate all the real estate and tax implications?)

So nothing gets combined with Tuesday's school vote. Fine. What about the other two?

May 7 is the earliest date legally available for Justice Center 2. Two reasons: since a similar issue failed to pass in November, the county has to wait at least six months to try again. That pushes things back to May.

Also, under a relatively recent change to state law, governments are limited as to which dates they can place issues on the ballot. This was a change auditors wanted a few years back; large counties sometimes had a dozen election days a year. In the summer of 2004, Johnson County had five elections between May and September. Five of the smaller cities had cable franchise issues, but didn't coordinate the dates. So three additional dates on top of the regular June primary and September school board election.

That couldn't happen now. Current law limits ballot measures to eight dates. This year schools get February, April, and June, or can place issues on their regular September ballot. Cities and counties get March, May and August, or could use the regular November city election.

Could the school district have waited till September? Yeah, but they originally wanted to do this last December, and their argument is they need to secure the funding stream before summer construction. Could the county wait till November? Maybe, but financing is an issue there too as they hope to deal with the issue during the present fiscal year and while last fall's discussion is still fresh in people's minds.

One kind of election isn't limited to those eight dates - an election to fill a vacant office. The law envisions that as sort of an emergency, as the public is under-represented or represented by an appointee. (All other things being equal, which they aren't always, electing > appointing.)  The fastest elections are vacancies during the legislative session, which can go from vacancy to seating the successor as fast as three weeks.

The supervisor vacancy isn't seen as that urgent, but the law still says an election must be conducted at the "soonest possible date." And four months - from Sally Stutsman's Jan. 2 resignation to the May 7 justice center date - doesn't pass the "soonest possible" sniff test. February was both TOO soon, as parties needed time to nominate candidates, and was in conflict with that un-combinable school vote.

Sure, someone could have been appointed. But last time that happened, when Larry Meyers died and Janelle Rettig was named, the Republicans petitioned for a special election (which Rettig won in a landslide). So even if the deciders had decided to skip an election, it could have and probably would have happened anyway.

So we are in the situation we are in. You can make a case for changing the law, even if it's too late for our county this year, but that's a heavy lift. It took decades of effort by auditors, against counter-efforts by the school board association, to get the Legislature to change school elections from every year to odd years only.

And that was in an era of united trifecta government. The reality of election law this session is a standoff. The House won't pass anything, even an innocuous clean-up bill endorsed by 99 auditors, without amending it to include photo ID. (Doesn't help that House speaker Kraig Paulsen can't control his own caucus. Even if he got a non-controversial bill out of committee onto the floor, someone would amend it.) And the Senate won't take up anything that does include ID.

So the status quo stays. Vote often and early, we say: vote early tomorrow and we'll see you again next month.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Old Enough To Be Cool Again?

I'm about a month away from my second non-consecutive term as the parent of teenagers. As a result, I'm once again catching up with youth culture through osmosis, as it's impossible to avoid the tastes when you're in close proximity. (I REALLY got caught up during that long drive to and from Florida last summer.)

The nostalgia curve, such as it is, runs roughly two decades behind.  Do you want to know what age group an ad is targeted at? Take the year of the song, subtract 20, and that's the birth year of the target audience give or take five years either way. That investment firm using "Human" by the Human League? 1986, right at my age group. This explains the Everly Brothers in a denture cream ad and the simplified senior cell phones called the Jitterbug. Whatever was cool when you were 20 is what you will always think is cool.

The next generation then adopts the fashion with irony - the Happy Days fad of the 1970s, faux hippies in the late 80s. I slammed head on into this mid-last decade when my then-teen daughter (born '89) played me Bowling For Soup's "1985,"a direct shot at my college years and my stage in life:



Now it's happened again. My tween almost teen (not till March but he's already rounding up) has introduced me to a new song - the current number one hit, actually. But this time I don't feel mocked - I feel celebrated.

Our chart topper is "Thrift Shop," performed by - this is the actual artist credit - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Featuring Wanz The Heist. Featuring is on most hits these days, but never puts out his own songs. When we finally get that album by Featuring it'll be the biggest hit ever.

"Thrift Shop" has got a few NSFW words, but without Tipper Gore's help I listened myself. The song is about, can you believe it, getting the coolest and most unique clothes at the secondhand store when there's only "20 dollars in my pocket." (Bonus retro points for the DeLorean in the video. 1.21 jigawatts!)



Savin' my money and I'm hella happy that's a bargain, bitch
I'ma take your grandpa's style, I'ma take your grandpa's style,
No for real - ask your grandpa - can I have his hand-me-downs? (Thank you)
Velour jumpsuit and some house slippers
Dookie brown leather jacket that I found diggin'
 

I'm digging, I'm digging, I'm searching right through that luggage
One man's trash, that's another man's come-up
Thank your granddad for donating that plaid button-up shirt
'Cause right now I'm up in her stunting
I'm at the Goodwill, you can find me in the (Uptons)
I'm not, I'm not sick of searchin' in that section (Uptons)
 

And some harsh words for bought-new designer label clothes:

Fifty dollars for a T-shirt - that's just some ignorant bitch (shit)
I call that getting swindled and pimped (shit)
I call that getting tricked by a business
That shirt's hella dough
And having the same one as six other people in this club is a hella don't


Thrift store shopping for grandpa-style clothes? And it's cool? I've been doing that for close to 30 years. I remember a certain song* about fining a hat at a secondhand store, in fact. (Yes, that's actually where I got it.) And while my tastes (and my hairline) may not fit in at the club, this granddad can't help but feel just a little bit cooler.

I have to be very careful not to tell the boys, or the concept will lose all coolness. However, we reserve the right to remind them of this song when it's back to school clothes shopping time.

* The Warren Zevon cover version; Prince is the most internet-unfriendly artist on the planet.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Medical Marijuana Killed For Now

It's a damn shame that the medical marijuana bill was not only killed, but treated as a joke, in the Iowa House this week.

I prefer full legalization, but medical would have been a nice first step in the way civil unions were a step toward marriage equality a decade ago.

But it's a lesson that the rest of the state is not Johnson County. And Republican House control put the worst possible legislator in charge of the relevant subcommittee. Semi-coherent redneck Clel Baudler once sought a California medical marijuana prescription for "hemmorhoids" just  to mock the idea. He called the bill "asinine" and "stupid" despite some eloquent testimony and the unanimous support of the State Board of Pharmacy. Game over just three weeks into the session.

It's a setback not just for legalization, but for the justice center in Johnson County, where opponents want to see real changes in law and law enforcement. (So do a lot of us supporters.)

There's a perception - a mis-perception - that the current jail is full of weed smokers. That mis-perception is fueled by the police blotter, as the Iowa City Police Department and especially Campus Security have a Reefer Madness Zero Tolerance mindset. Back in my day, if the RA caught you with a doobie, the worst you would get was a "formal" - a simple written warning. The cool RAs would tell you to stuff a towel under the door. The REALLY cool RAs would take a hit and say "you know, I'm supposed to tell you not to do this."

Now they literally make a federal case of it - university grants are tied to zero tolerance.

So the fault lies with the city and the legislature and the feds - everywhere except the people who have to clean up the aftermath: the sheriff, the county attorney and the courts. They deal with it positively and, unfortunately, too quietly. Simple possession cases are released from custody promptly. Prosecutors are reluctant to pursue cases - in part because, as one once told me privately, they know there are a lot of prospective jurors like me who would never vote to convict for a law they don't support.

Instead, Lonny Pulkrabek and Janet Lyness, who are pretty darn progressive-minded for a cop and a prosecutor, have established an excellent jail alternatives program. Not quite a towel to stuff under the door, but if  ICPD and Campus Security are adamant about drug busts, it's a distinct improvement.

Problem is, the alternatives program is maxed out because of lack of space- and the only way to solve that is to expand the justice center. But the very people who would benefit the most and would support the changes the most are the ones who are opposing the justice center... because we aren't doing enough.

The circular illogic continues: some of the strongest drug reform advocates and justice center opponents were also the harshest pre-election critics of defeated Democratic House candidate Dick Schwab. Bobby Kaufmann = Republican House Control = Clel Baudler chairing a subcommittee instead of Deborah Berry, who represents the second most Democratic seat in the state in inner city Waterloo.

We need to be hearing more from the local officials about their support for changes in law and policy. Pulkrabek and Lyness have been too modest for their own good. The arrest makes the blotter, the quick release and diversion don't.

The legislators need to speak up as well - Joe Bolkcom is the Senate sponsor of the medical marijuana bill, so our local people get it. Unfortunately, we're still up against a lot of Clel Baudlers in Des Moines.

“When the law enforcement community comes to me en masse wanting something done like this, I’ll pull out my sword and I’ll charge forward,” Baudler said. “Until then, the bill’s dead.” OK, cops. Speak up.

UPDATE: One local official promptly responded to this: Board of Supervisors chair Janelle Rettig.
I 100% support medical marijuana legislation. How it is that some drugs are OK to treat illness and others are treated as jokes is beyond me. I think medical trials would find many uses for marijuana. I 100% support hemp and have always thought Iowa would benefit from this crop. The war on drugs has not worked very well and we need grown ups to address the issues.
Will be glad to add any other electeds to the honor roll, below:

Supervisor Rod Sullivan: "Interestingly, I actually prefer legalizing it for recreational (rather than medicinal) use. My wife is very knowledgeable on the topic of prescription drugs, and she says smoking is a very bad way to deliver medicine. She says it can/should be delivered other ways to ensure dosage, quality, etc. I tend to trust her expertise here. 
 
That said, I don't see why it should be illegal in the first place. You'd need to observe the existing ban on smoking in the workplace, and you'd need some way to test for people who are too affected to drive. If you can work that out, then I say legalize it and tax it.
"

Read the memo, Murphy

As a blogger I should know better than to try subtlety.

So Monday I make note that the Labour Party in the UK has a little tool called the all-women short list to increase gender equity, and suggest that maybe male candidates in the likely open Iowa congressional seats could defer some personal ambition.

But Pat Murphy clearly didn't get the memo. Thursday, the former House speaker said he's interested in the 1st CD if - and it's not really an if - Bruce Braley makes the Senate run.

So I'm dropping subtlety. No, Pat. No, Jeff Danielson, another rumored name. And while it's not my business what Republicans do, no, Kraig Paulsen and Bill Dix.

No, guys. No guys. Liz Mathis. Or Pam Jochum. Or, wouldn't this be the best story ever, Anesa Kajtazovic. Or any one of a whole bunch of really talented and experienced women of both parties in northeast Iowa.

The fact that Iowa is one of just two states that has never sent a woman to Congress or the governorship is a national embarrassment, made worse by the fact that the other one is Mississippi.(Sometimes this stat gets reported as four states that have never sent a woman to Congress. The other two, Delaware and Vermont, have one-member House delegations and have had female governors.)

Men in the possibly open 3rd CD should think twice, too. I have some sympathy for Matt McCoy, in part because he adds his own type of diversity and in part because he got screwed a decade ago when Boswell carpetbagged in on him. And my bet is Jack Hatch is more likely to take a shot at governor instead (though that's also Christie Vilsack's best shot).

As for the other team, c'mon. You guys can do better than another Brad Zaun race, can't ya? A lot of qualified women in Polk County, and even a few unqualified ones you could run. You have my full permission to nominate Kim Pearson.

(And before I get bashed by the Loebsack haters: Yes, he moved - three miles over the line - into a district that had given up just the one county. Yes, Christie wanted the seat - but she and Tom had re-registered in Des Moines, NOT back in Mt. Pleasant, as soon as Tom's term ended. By all rights it was Boswell who should have stood aside, and we all saw how that turned out. Why is it always Dave Loebsack who's treated like the Rodney Dangerfield of the delegation? I don't see anyone else in this bunch who's knocked off an "unbeatable" 30 year incumbent...)

Maybe you want to reject my premise here, and give the guys a shot. If so, is Murphy really the guy? Not that 2010 is Pat's fault. The national zeitgeist takes most of the blame, and in-state we had a weak re-elect campaign (while I'm at it: No, Chet Culver. Hell no.) But Murphy oversaw a House campaign where nearly 30 seats went uncontested, his caucus shrank to just 40 members, and he nearly lost his own seat. His 2012 rematch with the `10 opponent was a more comfortable win, in a better year and without a leadership target on his back. But it's hardly a case for a promotion.

Pat Murphy's a good guy. And sure, what I'm arguing might seem a little unfair to him personally. But this cycle is a rare opportunity, and Iowa has something to prove. Any male candidate for an open congressional seat really needs to balance his personal ambition against generations of inequity.