Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Filing Day Three: Former Johnson County Candidates Run Elsewhere

Two candidates who ran past races here in Johnson County filed for legislative seats today in other parts of the state. And there's a libertarian connection to both.

Jeff Shipley, a Republican state central committee member and liberty/Paulworld activist, filed in Fairfield based House 82. Shipley also filed there last cycle but dropped out in time to get off the ballot. Jeff ran for the Iowa City council in 2009, getting through the primary but losing in the biggest landslide in city history as the two townies clobbered the two students. (I saw the blowout coming the minute filing closed, but endorsed him anyway.) The incumbent is Democrat Curt Hanson.

Dubuque's House 99 is Pat Murphy's open seat, the third tier down ripple effect from Tom Harkin's retirement. Today Steve Drahozal was the first of three announced candidates to file today. Abby Finkenauer and Greg Simpson are also announced in this solid Democratic seat (though Murphy as a sitting speaker almost lost in 2010.)

Drahozal is making his second House race. In 2000, when he lived in Coralville, he challenged then House Democratic leader Dick Myers as a Libertarian. He lost 85-15% with no Republican in the race, then left town for Dubuque.(HD73 candidate David Johnson lost to Myers by about the same margin in a 1994 Democratic primary.)

The only other filing today was from Republican Crystal Bruntz of Baxter in Senate District 15. At one point Bruntz looked like she'd be in a three way primary. But former state party "co-chair" and Paulite David Fisher, after resigning his party post to run, dropped out. And the first announced candidate, Patrick Payton, switched to the House 29 race against Newton Democrat Dan Kelley. That leaves Bruntz as the only likely challenger to longtime Democrat Dennis Black.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Day Two: Branstad Files - For Now

Some dude named Terry Branstad filed for governor for the sixth time Tuesday, so I guess we can call him a "perennial candidate." (Most perennial candidates don't have lifetime undefeated records, though.) But conspiracy theorists note: one can still drop out at a later date...

Also note that, despite all the Branstad-Reynolds branding, the lieutenant governor does NOT appear on the primary ballot. That's determined by the state convention, the shape of which will be set at county conventions March 8. From 1990 till 2010 that convention vote was just a rubber stamp of the nominee's pick, but then Bob Vander Plaats decided to throw a hissy fit. I'll take side bets on who Jack Hatch will eventually pick for a running mate...

Today's ticket topper deserved a post. I may or may not post every day during filing time, and Branstad is the only activity above the legislative level.

In Ames based Senate 23, Democrat Cynthia Oppedal Paschen is launching a primary challenge to three term incumbent Herman Quirmbach. I speculated without actual facts last month: "Ames has a tradition of electing female legislators, and some folks were miffed when Quirmbach narrowly beat Karen Bolluyt in the 2002 primary on the retirement of (female) Johnie Hammond." And Paschen openly said on announcing that Quirmbach is hard to get along with. Any central Iowans with actual facts can jump in. The winner faces Republican Jeremy Davis, who stepped down from the city council for the race. Republicans are talking up his chances but the district's numbers are good for Democrats.

On the House side, landscape business owner John Blue of Council Bluffs is a Republican candidate in House 15, the more Democratic leaning of the city's two seats. It's open as Mark Brandenburg, who drew the short straw and moved in after getting paired in redistricting with fellow Republican Mary Ann Hanusa, is running for county recorder. (Council Bluffs was one of the Dems' weak recruiting spots last cycle.)

Also filing, two house incumbents:

Sioux City Democrat David Dawson wants a second term. He won an empty House 14 seat in 2012 when two freshmen, Democrat Chris Hall and Republican Jeremy Taylor, were paired up. This seat had more of Taylor's turf but he didn't move, and lost to Hall.

And Republican Joel Fry of Osceola is running for a third term in House 27. He knocked off Democrat Mike Reasoner in an unanticipated 2010 upset, then beat a Some Dude in the primary and an independent in the general last cycle.
Republican Jeremy Davis

Was The 26th Amendment A Mistake?

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe 18 ISN'T adult. Maybe 21 is. 

That seems to be the consensus among everyone over 21, at least based on my complete inability to get anyone interested in the issue after decades of banging my head. Pragmatic  concerns about alcohol about behavior overshadow the point of principle I've been trying to make.

Now a study is arguing "Case Closed: Research Evidence on the Positive Public Health Impact of the Age 21 Minimum Legal Drinking Age in the United States."

Which was never. my. point.

My point is, and always has been, the huge contradiction in the law. 18 is considered the age of majority for military enlistment, marriage without parental consent, binding contracts, virtually everything EXCEPT drinking.

And most to the point for me, we underscored and emphasized that 18 Is Adult in the strongest way we could. In the middle of our most unpopular war ever, we changed our nation's most basic law to give 18 year olds the right to vote.

Amending the Constitution is a huge deal. It's a statement by a supermajority that would be nearly impossible to attain on ANYthing today that we need a change in our most fundamental law. And yet in 1971, we did it in just two months. Can you imagine ANY issue going from idea to done in just two months today? THAT'S how strongly we believed 18 Is Adult in 1971.

But now we waver on that principle, on the grounds of "public health."

If we were consistent in saying a public heath issue overrides a Constitutional principle, there are a LOT of studies saying we could save a lot of lives if we weren't so absolutist about the 2nd Amendment, and you see how far THAT got us the last time we tried after Sandy Hook.

See, when conservatives say "this is about principle," their people listen. When libertarian-liberals say "this is about principle," we're told to "be practical."

OK, I'll be practical. We've only ever repealed a Constitutional amendment once - when we realized banning alcohol was unworkable. Even the public health do-gooders who wrote this study admit it: "The weight of the evidence suggests that even though  the law is widely disobeyed, it does have a protective effect" in keeping alcohol away from 16 and 17 year olds.

The law doesn't say "keep alcohol away from 16 and 17 year olds." The law says "keep alcohol away from 18 19 and 20 year olds," and they admit it doesn't. Seems to me the appropriate way to keep alcohol away from 16 and 17 year olds is to make alcohol illegal for 16 or 17 year olds - WHICH IT ALREADY WAS.

A law honored mainly in the breach, and designed to do something other than what it says, makes a mockery of all law.
But for the sake of argument let's pretend I'm wrong. So let's say now 21 Is Adult. If so, be consistent. Maybe if the politicians want a 21 drinking age so badly, the Democrats can give up those millions of votes and the Republicans can give up all those young military recruits?

Age Distribution of Active Duty Force
Service 18-21 22-30 31-40 41-50 51-59 Average Age
Army 18.3 % 48 % 25.6 % 7.9 % 0.7 % 29
Navy 18.6 % 46 % 26.3 % 8.3 % 0.8 % 29
Marine Corps 36.9 % 46 % 14 % 3.1 % 0.2 % 25
Air Force 14.4 % 46 % 28.3 % 10 % 0.6 % 30
Coast Guard 12.2 % 48 % 27 % 12 % 1 % 30

The ugly reality is, the only reason the 26th Amendment passed was because "old enough to die, old enough to vote" was such a powerful argument. And rather than give up the bodies they needed so badly for Vietnam, the establishment conceded the point on the voting age.

The voting age was less important to their purposes. They predicted, correctly, that the youngest voters wouldn't do much with their franchise except, maybe, in the biggest presidential elections. Certainly not in the local elections and the party primaries where most of the decisions really got made. They gave up little, and took away the most powerful argument.

Of course, the Vietnam War collapsed of its own contradictions not long after. And more important politically, the draft ended, just as the peak of the Baby Boom aged out of the lottery. My sub-generation of "Shadow Boomers," without the immediate threat of the draft despite Reagan threatening to begin bombing in five minutes, never took to the barricades in quite the same way. "Free Nelson Mandela," a song Barack Obama and I both sang, was real. But not as immediate and personal as Four Dead In Ohio, and not as relevant to most of us as "The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades," which too many of my peers took straight up no irony.

So my less active generation, not a real political saw the drinking age, not a great moral cause but still a right we had, creep up from 18 back to 19 and then, in 1984, back up to 21. We said it sucked but did nothing.

But there was still the vote, that right the hippies and Yippies and Vietnam Vets Against The War got cemented into the Constitution Itself.

Now the Boomers are looking back and seem to be thinking: maybe we were wrong. Maybe 21 Is Adult after all. But because of that success in the 60s, that can't get taken away.

There's a contradiction here. Too many, a vast majority, are comfortable enough just to ignore it. And too many - pretty much everyone, really - lose all interest the moment they hit 21 themselves.

But for me this contradiction is like walking through a store where the speakers are wired wrong. Only one stereo channel is playing. It's one of those old 60s songs where the stereo separation was wide: one side was the vocals, one side was everything else. You know the song by heart - us Shadow Boomers always had to listen to our older brothers' music. You just hear the drums and the backing vocals and it  doesn't sound right and what's not being sung or heard is a bigger deal than what is. "The Roaring Silence," one album was called.

There's a roaring silence on this contradiction.We can admit there's a contradiction and figure out how to resolve it. My preferred approach to that is to bring alcohol into synch with everything else, but some may prefer to change everything else instead.

Or we can be upfront and say yes, there is a contradiction, and here's why. If public health is the reason for that, then we need to talk about the public health risks of things like guns, either domestically or in Afghanistan. All the convoluted logic should make for good entertainment.

The option I can't accept is what we have now: simply ignoring the contradiction.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Schaben First For Only Time on Day One

For what's likely to be the only time, Scott Schaben is in first place. The Also Running GOP Senate candidate was the first one in the door at Matt Schultz's office yesterday on Day One of filing for the June 3 primary. Bookmark this and you'll be as up to date as I am, though probably not as obsessive.

I'm pegging Schaben for fifth place in that race, ahead of book salesman Paul Lunde but behind the four main-chance contenders. His presence, though, could be significant: he soaks up a few percentage points and makes it harder for any of the Big Four to reach 35, increasing the odds of a convention.

Schaben was the only candidate above the state legislative level to file on Day One, with no one turning in papers for the statewide or congressional races, which earns him the lede for the day.

Two Republican early birds for the State Senate: Incumbent Roby Smith of Davenport in District 47 will likely face Democrat Maria Bribriesco, who lost a 2012 House race.

Michael Moore of Washington is one of three Republicans (along with Royce Phillips and Bob Anderson) announced in open Senate 39 where Sandy Greiner is retiring. The winner faces the winner of a likely Democratic primary where Kevin Kinney of rural Oxford is a likely favorite over Rich Gilmore of Washington. This is one of the must-win seats for Senate control, and as the son of Wisconsin teachers I can tell you how important that is.

So the rest of the action is on the House side:

Locally, Democrat David Johnson of West Branch (not to be confused with the Ocheyedan GOP Senator) is making his fourth run: he lost as an independent in 1992 and Democratic primaries in 1994 and 2012. He looks to be the only Democrat challenging GOP freshman Bobby Kaufmann.

Craig Johnson, head of the Heartland Acres Agribition Center in Independence, is running on the GOP side in House 64. This seat was technically a Democratic gain for Bruce Bearinger of Oelwein last cycle. But the turf had changed a lot. Republican Dan Rasmussen retired at the last minute, and the GOP dropped the ball on candidate recruitment. This could split on both party and geographic lines.

HON executive Gary Carlson is first to file in the once-crowded House 91 Republican primary. Mark Lofgren is vacating the seat for a congressional race that will almost certainly end at the hands of Mariannette Miller-Meeks. At one point there were briefly four candidates, but Lofgren's daughter Emily quit days after Carlson's announcement, and Mark LeRette dropped out after losing his city council seat last fall. That leaves Carlson and Mark Cisneros; the winner faces Democrat John (We Got) Dabeet, who lost to Mark Lofgren last cycle.

Incumbents filing  Monday include Greg Heartsill, R-Chariton, seeking a second term in House 28. He has an announced primary challenger, Jon Van Wyk.

John Landon, R-Ankeny, is seeking his second term and first primary win in This Is Where Your District Went, known to people who don't read my blog as House 37. Landon finished third in a six way primary, with just 16.5%, when the district was new in 2012, but won the nomination 12 to 11 at a convention.

Other incumbents with less singular circumstances:

  • Dwayne Alons, R-Hull in District 4. Excitement in this race goes downhill from here in the most Republican seat in the state.
  • Tedd Gassman, R-Scarville, narrowly beat Democrat John Wittneben in District 7 for his first term last cycle.
  • Henry Rayhons, R-Garner, was a real survivor. He wound up keeping District 8 when he was TRIPLED up in redistricting with Stew Iverson and Linda Upmeyer, both better known and higher profile. Then he fended off a primary from a newcomer.
  • District 23 freshman Mark Costello, R-Imogene
  • The newest legislator, District 25's Stan Gustafson, R- California Cumming, elected just last month in a special to replace Julian Garrett, who moved up to the senate to replace Kent "My Support Can't Be Bought But It Can Be Rented" Sorenson.
  • Art Staed of Cedar Rapids is seeking a third total term in House 66: Won in 2006, lost to Renee Schulte in 2008, sat out `10, beat Schulte in `12 on improved turf.
  • Garwin Republican Dean Fisher won an open House 72 fairly easily in 2012 after the Democrats' preferred candidate couldn't get through the primary.
  • Larry Sheets, R-Moulton, is seeking a second term after beating Joe Judge of the Monroe County Judges in a close 2012 race when the seat was new.
  • And Monticello Republican Lee Hein, seeking a third term in House 96.

Upcoming Events: February 24-March 3

State and federal candidate filing starts today, and the research staff at the Deeth Blog is preparing to give this the usual blanket coverage, from Some Dude to Senator, through the filing period as we have since the 2006 cycle.

This may not mean a post EVERY day through the three week window. The typical pattern is a big flurry of candidates filing the first day. Then there's a lull, because filing the SECOND day is no big deal. So the rest of week one and most of week two are slow. The pace picks up through week three. Thursday we get the shock retirements, and we end with a Frantic Friday on filing deadline.

Rick Perry is returning to Iowa, in Des Moines and Davenport on Feb. 27 and Feb. 2. Hillary Clinton has no scheduled Iowa events this week.

This week we'll see one of the more expected announcements, as Mariannette Miller-Meeks makes her third bid for the 2nd CD official. The day is Wednesday and the local stop is 530p-630p at the Iowa City Cancer Treatment Center, 3010 Northgate.

Democrats have two local events this week. Friday night they're hosting a (maybe first annual?) "Black and Blue Ball" at the Mill. Schtick is: you wear blue jeans, black tie, or some bizarre combo thereof. Music by the Tanya English Band and The Tornadoes and no speeches! Time 7 to 11, cost $9.

Sunday is the Janet Lyness campaign kickoff, 2 to 4 at the home of Jean Lloyd-Jones.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Week In Review: February 17-23

We had yet another long Facebook war about Hillary (not) In Iowa but no one has asked me yet what I meant by this.

It was Funnel Week in Des Moines and Rod Boshart has his annual Funnel vs. Fail list of which bills are alive or dead. This is the kind of story that is hard, tedious work, unappreciated because there's no room for creative flourishes, yet priceless. But the Register's Jason Noble won the week for getting the headlines "Spay-and-neuter bill needs to be fixed" and "Distillery bill on the rocks" in the same news cycle.

It seems City Hall is the new hot spot, or warm spot, for homeless sleepers. Terry Dickens is OK with that because it's not in front of his jewelry store.

Legislative announcements: Rep. Jeff Smith, R-Okoboji, is stepping down in House District 1. Kevin Wolfswinkel of Sibley, who polled 45% primarying Smith from the right and from the new post-redistricting turf in 2012, is running again.

Cedar Rapids Democrat Art Staed is seeking a second consecutive third total term in House 66. Staed won one term in 2006, lost by 13 votes to Renee Schulte in 2008, then came back to beat Schulte in 2012 after the new map improved the turf.

Former Grinnell-Newburg School Board President Eric Pederson is running as a Democrat in House 76. He's challenging GOP freshman David Maxwell, who won a close 53-47 race against Rachel Bly when the seat was new last cycle.

New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio was busted for speeding in his official vehicle WHICH WOULD NEVER EVER EVER HAPPEN IN IOWA.

The Secretary of State's office is fixing a glitch in driver's license voter registrations which was causing some Greens and Libertarians to show up as No Party. Some Libertarians, including Secretary of State candidate Jake Porter, had grumbled about the issue but no press seems to have picked up on it till Friday's release.

The funny part is this is happening soon before the partisan primary, which the third parties don't participate in, so a lot of these same folks will soon be changing to Democrats or Republicans anyway.  But the funniest part is the staffer quote: “We want their information to be 100 percent accurate.” Like when people's rights have been restored?

And one last note on my unanimous rejection for the Iowa City Charter Review Commission: I specifically requested a creative rejection letter, but got back a form letter which may or may not have been signed by Matt Hayek. Let's hope the commission itself is more creative.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

King Re-doubles Down, Both Parties Push Back

It must be nice to be soooo wrong yet so sure of yourself: Given the chance to apologize by the Spencer Reporter, Steve King declined to retract last summer's comments about about the immigrants brought to the United States illegally by their parents, the “DREAMers.”

Refesher: “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” 

This week's followup: “I’m not going to apologize. What I’ve said is objectively true, and any time that Republicans have criticized me, it’s not because of what I said, it’s because they disagree with my agenda.,”

In related news, Speaker John Boehner is also not apologizing for calling Steve King an asshole. I don't generally agree with Boehner but he is smart enough to know that truth is a defense against libel.

King's Democratic opponent, Jim Mowrer, was quick to reply:  "Steve King won’t back down from his comments and we need to let him know that we won’t back away from continuing to hold him accountable. Click here and condemn Steve King’s words." Capitalizing? Sure, but remember, Mowrer has outraised King the last two quarters.

Also weighing in and raising cash, Anesa Kajtazovic: "As an immigrant and an Iowan, I know that we can do better. My parents brought my sister and me to this country for better opportunities, and King’s ignorant statements don’t represent true Iowa values. Stand up against Steve King’s offensive rhetoric – sign on and tell him it’s time to apologize!"

Kajtazovic and the other 1st CD candidates (all the Democrats and some of the Republicans) held a forum last week outside the district in Desmoines, presumably to accommodate the three legislators The Iowa Republican's coverage drew criticism from fellow Republican Brent Oleson, a Linn County supervisor.

Kevin Hall wrote: "Swati Dandekar is obviously an intelligent and accomplished woman. However, she speaks in broken English and I don’t think that translates very well to a wide electorate."

Oleson via Facebook called that critique "the absolute dumbest, out-of-touch, superficial, insensitive and untrue (she's won Iowa House and Senate races) reason I have ever heard for judging her message, how its conveyed, or whether it appeals to voters."

I could care less about Swati's accent. It's the content of what she says and the record of what she's done that bothers me: waffling and caving on key social issues, quitting mid-term and risking Senate control to take a job from Terry Branstad. THAT speaks louder than words.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Wasting more bandwidth on Ted Nugent

I can't help myself. I'm a straight white guy who grew up in the Midwest in the 70s. Even though he hasn't been pop-culture relevant since Damn Yankees broke up 20 years ago, when Ted Nugent says something stupid, I react.

The latest Motor City Malaprop is Nugent's description of President Obama as a "subhuman mongrel." That's an especially offensive remark to direct at a biracial person, with all the ancient southern taboos about "race mixing" which we all know was code for Negroes Lusting After Our White Womenfolk.

But the phrase "Subhuman Mongrel" also has a certain... feel to it, in keeping with the Nugent persona that he would call Gonzo (I reserve that sacred term for the mighty Dr. Thompson, who at his best was far more offensive than Nugent). "Subhuman Mongrel" sounds like an outtake from his 1981 album "Intensities In 10 Cities," which included "My Love Is Like A Tire Iron," "The Flying Lip Lock," and the all too autobiographical "I Am A Predator" and "Jailbait." (By his own admission and behavior, Nugent likes 'em young.)

The "subhuman mongrel" remark was made a while ago but spiked in the news late this week as Nugent campaigned with Texas governor candidate Greg Abbott. The Nuge was quickly Denounced! by Abbot's Democratic rival Wendy Davis, but also, yesterday, by GOP Sen. Rand Paul. Good for Rand, but I suspect his motivation is less about doing what's right and more about his 2016 rivalry with Texan Ted Cruz.

I looked way too much like this when I had hair.

Nugent's persona back in the day was always ridiculous on purpose and over the top (see David Lee Roth and Kiss for other, better examples). You don't wear a loincloth as your stage costume to be taken seriously as an artisté.

The 21st century politicization of it is only part about the politics. I'm sure he means it and he's got the same First Amendment right as anyone to say dumb shit. But the WAY he does it is all in keeping with the act. Which makes me think his "activism" is more about tweaking his schtick to extend his career. Old White Guy Music meets Old White Guy Politics on the county fair and casino circuit, but the marquee was supposed to say Spinal Tap and THEN Puppet Show.

There's a certain level of FAIL in this strategy; Nugent's entire image is based around being a "Madman" yet we're now supposed to take him seriously even as he still plays the same act. It's as if Al Franken had run for the Senate while in character as Stuart Smalley. When Franken got serious about the politics, he got serious period. Which, again, tells me that for the Nuge, it's about the biz.

And Meat Loaf? That's your fault, Ted.

Some of my generation never outgrew their Disco Sucks phase. (I remember the exact day I did: B-52s on Saturday Night Live.) In part that was about the music, though Nile Rogers of Chic could match Nugent on guitar any day. But in part that was about the black and gay people who danced to the music, just like the PMRC's attacks on Prince were attacks on the people who listened to Prince. Who could MORE than match Nugent on guitar.

I remember discovering Prince on a hostile dorm floor and seeing my copy of "1999" unstrung down the hallway, with a few comments about n***er music on the side. In Wisconsin there were three kinds of guys: guys like me from outstate who knew almost no one of any diversity and guys from right in Milwaukee who had six black best friends. And then there were the guys from outer suburbs who were close enough to see only difference but not close enough to see people. They didn't like Prince.

And those guys, probably those exact same guys, are still driving the politics of Wisconsin, and probably still listening to Ted Nugent. Joan Walsh today:
Scott Walker is the product of suburban Milwaukee backlash politics, which buoyed Republicans in what had become for a while a Democratic stronghold – think Gaylord Nelson and William Proxmire — and also helped make the Milwaukee metropolitan area the single most segregated place in the country. White flight to the suburbs and exurbs explains why, and so does the failure to develop any kind of regional transit system connecting the inner city and those suburbs – and Scott Walker helped block the light rail proposals of Milwaukee’s mayor and other city leaders as Milwaukee County executive.

As University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Marc Levine told Salon’s Daniel Denvir in 2011: “Most of our history is very similar to Chicago, Cleveland or even Baltimore. Every place has had the zoning ordinances, then restrictive covenants, the practices of realtors. The standard history. What makes Milwaukee a little bit different than these other places, which explains why we’re consistently in the top five and often No. 1, in segregation? We have the lowest rate of African-American suburbanization of any of these larger cities.”

Of the 30 biggest metropolitan areas, Levine’s research found, Milwaukee also had the largest vote gap between city and suburb in 2008. City residents supported Obama by more than 30 points over suburbanites.
That’s the context in which Nardelli and Kindfleisch chuckled over comparing welfare recipients to dogs, and shared nightmares about waking up black, Jewish and gay.
Not so different from Ted Nugent. Neither of them have had a new idea politically or musically since Reagan. But at least Nugent has to his credit "Cat Scratch Fever," which 1) raised public awareness of subacute regional lymphadenitis 2) kicks MUCH ass which is really the only rational measure of his work and 3) got the phrase "I make the pussy purr with a stroke of my hand" on the RADIO without Tipper Gore noticing. Which is more than Walker has ever done. All Walker did was ruin the month that the Packers won the Super Bowl.

EPILOGUE: Nugent fake apologized today: "I do apologize–not necessarily to the President–but on behalf of much better men than myself,"i.e. his candidates. Keep it classy, Nuge.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Politics and Potluck with Labor Chili Supper

Honors, politics, and food were on the menu Thursday night at the Iowa City Federation of Labor's annual chili supper, held for the first time at the new Worker Justice Center on Gilbert Court.

The big award was a surprise extra Lifetime Achievement Award, given to City Fed president Patrick Hughes. Also taking home a previously planned lifetime award was Pauline Taylor of SEIU.

Jim Walters earned a Community Activist award but spent most of his speech talking up Jack Hatch. "If we don't beat Branstad I don't know if I want to live in this state." Hatch had been scheduled as the main speaker but stayed in Des Moines due to weather.

The annual Organization Award was given to Tom Harkin and his staff, represented by Tom Larkin. "We're on our last lap and we need to appreciate these moments," said Larkin, "but our job is to pass the baton on to Bruce Braley."

The hot issue of the evening was the proposed Community ID program, a plan to provide a local government ID to people who can't get official state ID. "It's not just immigrants," said City Fed VP Jesse Case. "It's senior citizens, it's flood victims. It's not an easy process without a birth certificate."

In order to help built legitimacy for the program, Case urged all in attendance to get a Community ID.

"We can make it work," said county attorney Janet Lyness, who's seeking re-election this year. "It will help protect vulnerable people in our community."

Four of the five county supervisors - Janelle Rettig (seeking re-election) and Pat Harney, Terrence Neuzil and Rod Sullivan (not up this year) - were on hand. Some smartass asked "where's the other one?" OK, it was me. Republican John Etheredge was not sighted. However, two possible successors, candidates Mike Carberry and Lisa Green-Douglass, were on hand.

Three members of the legislative delegation, Senators Joe Bolkcom and Bob Dvorsky and Rep. Mary Mascher, made it back from Des Moines in time for the event. All are seeking re-election this year. Also on hand was challenger David Johnson, hoping to "end the Kaufmann reign of error" in House 73, and Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Winning By Losing On Medical Marijuana

My theme for the day seems to be how you can take a defeat and call it a victory. That's why Joe Bolkcom's dead on arrival medical marijuana bill is a big win.

Bolkcom's bill goes nowhere in the house because the Republican in charge of the committee, Clel Baudler, is beyond hostile: He's an ex-state trooper who actually got a medical weed prescription for fake hemorrhoids in California to prove it was a "joke."
The fact that Joe's bill is getting this much attention, mostly positive, and that people are saying in public what the once only admitted in private is a big win. It's not enough progress to get passage in our particular state in this particular year, but this is a long haul fight. Every month, every year, it gets easier to get politicians to come out on this.

But here's the best sign of progress. Used to be that whenever a drug legalization story came up, it was treated as a joke. Even the "objective" press made fun of it, and invariably there was a Cheech and Chong joke.

No one's laughing anymore. Not one story treated the bill as a sideshow. Instead, it's the naysayers like Clel Baudler, a character straight out of Reefer Madness, who now look ridiculous, while Joe Bolkcom, standing alongside sick kids, looks rational. Joke's on you, Clel. Even though you win this round, we'll get the last laugh.

Charter Review - My Proudest Achievement

I'm quite proud of polling no votes at all in my effort to be appointed to the Iowa City Charter Review Commission. One or two would have been the meh of indifference, but zero is an accomplishment. My campaign strategy of open hostility has been reciprocated with equal and absolute hostility, in a landslide of negativity.

I can now say that the city power structure sees me as more radical than Karen Kubby, and that may be the single proudest achievement of my life.

Rod Sullivan can share that honor, though he can comfort himself with the 41,937 votes he got for supervisor. All I have is that big, round zero, staring at me like an empty oval on the ballot, never to be colored in.

But I give the council credit for seeing their vulnerabilities. They knew they'd be bashed if they named an obvious Good Old Boys And Girls body, and of the nine names only two - ex-city manager Steve Atkins and defeated three term council member Dee Vanderhoef - are truly of the old guard.

For the record I called six out of nine correct: four of my six "locks" and two of my three wild cards.

But one of my five No Way folks was named, so I'll have to dine on boiled beret.

Serving suggestion.

Adam Sullivan is an outstanding choice. In principle I like having someone who's 24 on the panel, but Adam's not just J. Random Some Young Dude. He's one of the smartest people I know with a perfect mix of cynicism and idealism. And while he's no longer a working journalist, Adam you'd sure better write about this ride. This blog post appears to be the only coverage anywhere about the appointments.

There's three other people I know well and think well of here. Karen is of course an Iowa City legend who I've worked for and with on many things. Andy Chappell is an assistant county attorney who also served on the 2004-05 charter review. And I worked with Mel Shaw far too briefly a few years ago.

I'm very surprised Bob Elliott didn't make the cut. I thought he'd be acceptable to the council majority, he gets along well with folks he doesn't agree with, and gets folks on board. Maybe a third former council member was one too many. Also surprised that Matt Hayek couldn't round up a fourth vote for Paul Burns.

Some hinted that my own application was a joke, since I openly mocked my own chances and asked for a creative rejection letter. I was, perhaps, the Slightly Silly candidate. But my agenda is entirely serious.

And maybe my agenda played a tiny role in shaping this commission. I myself am too toxic to touch, as are some of my specific ideas. But this isn't about me and never has been about me. I'm just another old straight white guy.

My complaint about the Iowa City government-power structure has always been its open contempt for the student population. It's that attitude, more than any specific policy, that I want to see change. I didn't really like making that stand on the weakest possible ground with a bunch of self-interested bar owners, but that's where the fight was.

The point is, there are a lot of more substantive issues which would play out differently if the student community had a real seat at the table. Forget the local culture wars over the bars. That's a game of Candy Land. The REAL fights are where the money is. In local government that's real estate and in Iowa City that's an extortion-priced downtown rental market. Bar money is just loose change compared to rent money.

You think people were mad when the students were voting to stay in the bars? What if they started voting on housing regulations or rent control? Maybe they'll never get the votes to do it, but with a couple kids on the council they could keep talking about it. Which is exactly why the Iowa City political structure is the way it is. To gain a seat, you have to win city-wide. The four year term is as long as an undergraduate degree plan.

Maybe this commission will look at some structural change. At least I know there's a few folks willing to talk, which is better than I had hoped.

One Map And One Word Explain Everything In Ukraine

This same one map also overlays on where the protests are happening. Half of Ukraine looks to the West, half looks to Russia, and the protests are in the pro-Western part.

And if you want one word that explains how bitter this history is, that word is Holodomor.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Upcoming Events: February 17-24

Tomorrow night the Iowa Iowa City City Council Council picks the nine members of the charter review commission. The names of the 26 applicants are on page 277 of a 359 page packet. Here's an easier way to get both the names and a few objective facts that the city leaves out but people like to know, like age and party. And, using my usual ruthless objectivity, sorted into tiers.


Stephen Atkins 68, no party, north side, former city manager
Paul Burns, 46, D, Manville Heights, Matt Hayek's Mini-Me on 21 Bar Round 3
Andy Chappell, 42, D, Manville Heights. assistant county attorney and member of 2004-05 commission.
Bob Elliott, 78, D, east side. Former council member.
Karen Kubby, 53, D at the moment, Twain area. Former council member and member of 2004-05 commission.
Dee Vanderhoef, 74, R, east side. Former council member

So four solid pro-establishment, no-change votes plus one guy, Chappell, who has been through this before and Kubby as the token progressive.

The three remaining slots will come from these contenders:

Larry Baker, 66, D, east side. Former council member
Nancy E. Carlson, 66, D, east side
Gene Chrischilles, 58, D, west side.
Karrie Craig, 46, R, east side
Charles Eastham, 72, D, Peninsula
Catharine Eisenhofer, 62, D, West side
Nikki Herbst, 63, D south sidePolly Horton, 63, R, downtown
Scott McDonough, 49, D, north sideRyan L. O'Leary, 37, R, east side
Brian Richman, 47, D, east side
Mark E. Schantz, 73, D, east side
Linda Schreiber, 66, D, west side
Melvin O. Shaw, 46, D, east side
Anna Moyers Stone, 33, D, Manville Heights

Since I have to bet I'll bet on Schreiber, Shaw and Craig.

The fact that I can read the tea leaves this accurately should automatically qualify me for the commission. But the fact that I then go ahead and blog about it puts me on the next tier of the list: these folks have said and done enough things in public that they won't be seriously considered by the five member establishment majority of the council:

Rockne Cole, 39, D, east side. Attorney, recently defeated council candidate.
Adam B. Sullivan, 24, R, north side
Rod Sullivan, 47, D, east side, county supervisor.
Caroline Dieterle, 78, D, Longellow neighborhood.
And last and least: John Deeth, 50 (!), D, Miller-Orchard.

I'm technically last since I goofed up and left my address off my application, which I've attempted to correct since I prefer to be rejected on my own merits, not on a technicality. I'm sure I'm at the top of at least three Hell, No! lists: Dobyns, Hayek and Dickens.

So don't expect massive change. If I may humbly ask, please just one little drives-me-nuts thing from my platform: Get rid of the stupid "qualified elector" thing and just let petitions be signed by "eligible" electors like everyone else.

Later this week: Chili!

Join State Senator and Gubernatorial Candidate

at the

 Join us for an evening of fun, friendship and food as we celebrate the contributions of working women and men in our community.

What:       Iowa City Fed Chili Dinner

Who:        Union members, Friends of Labor and Community Members

When:      Thursday, February 20, 2014  6:00 pm
Where:    940 S. Gilbert Court, Iowa City
                   City Fed Office  (Center for Worker Justice Hall)
Bring a dish to share (optional)


For more information contact Joe Marron at 319-400-6391
2/22 LWV forum at NL city council

Feb 24
Filing starts today for fesaral and state offices

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Guest Post: The Folk Alliance Embraces Al Gore, or Pete Seeger Wept

I'm doing something different and kind of old school here. Rock writer Dave Marsh is probably my second favorite author behind only Dr. Gonzo himself. Dave does have a web site but he prefers to do things old school, by newsletter and, only fairly recently, by email list. And with his latest, Marsh asks:

Please feel free to forward or post this RRC Extra widely. We only ask that you include the information that anyone can subscribe free of charge to Rock & Rap Confidential by sending their email address to rockrap(at) If you ever wish to unsubscribe, just send an email with “unsubscribe” in the subject line to

I followed up for an OK and got one so I'm posting the whole thing, because Marsh explains better than me something I've been trying to say for a decade and a half, and because it's emotionally relieving to know I'm not the only one who's still pissed.

RRC Extra No. 42: The Folk Alliance Embraces Al Gore
by Dave Marsh

PETE SEEGER WEPT... As a life member of the Folk Alliance International and until recently a member of its board, I’d like to be able to congratulate the organization on its move from Memphis to a much better situation in Kansas City.

But the first annual FAI Conference in KC will feature Al Gore in a special presentation, for conference attendees only, of his quasi-prophetic fantasy, The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change. It makes me feel like FAI is dancing on Pete Seeger’s grave. Does it really matter much whether they’re doing it out of ignorance or making a deliberate effort to steer folk music far to the right of where its political and social allegiances have traditionally belonged?

Am I over-reacting, refusing to come to grips with contemporary political reality and with Al Gore, the wronged should-have-been President, moral beacon, intellectual paragon, and his role as a leader of the ecological movement?

Gore’s approach to solving the world’s problems centers on venture capital firms, such as his own Generation Investment Manager and the firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, in  which he is a partner. Exactly how he rationalizes such projects of these firms as AOL, Amazon, Electronic Arts and Google as good for the environment and harbingers of a better future isn’t all that interesting. It’s just the usual neoliberal blather, the liberal version of the conservative lie that a rising tide lifts all boats. Neither ever asks whether everybody has a boat, or whether the boats we do have will carry all the people now living, let alone coming generations, or how there can be life-sustaining air, water, soil and minerals if the depredations of high-tech capitalism, which are at least as devastating as those of earlier versions, are allowed to continue.

Folk music is supposed to side with the people whose lives are ruined, from West Virginia to Japan, not the exploiters who mask and attempt to explain away the all-but-irreversible damage that has already been done in the name of “growth.” The question that no Gore speech or PowerPoint  has ever answered is “Sustainable for whom?”

It’s a question to which previous generations of folk musicians and activists associated with it have never failed to demand answers.

Gore’s six drivers include nothing remotely related to the kind of human-scale empowerment projects (for instance, the civil rights and anti-war movements, Operation Wall Street, and labor rights) that folk music has traditionally been involved with.

From this point of view, Al Gore is the anti-Pete Seeger: Deceitful where Pete was honest, cowardly where Pete was brave, an apologist for continuing to destroy the environment where Seeger was an ecological champion, a censor where Pete stood on the rock of the First Amendment even when Congress and his own lawyers told him it was a loser. (Pete won his case.)

Above all, Pete Seeger was a champion of music, all kinds of music, in America and the world, whereas Al Gore spent much of the ‘80s berating and belittling popular music, even helping convene a Senate hearing on the “threat” of  lyrics to the nation’s children. Ten years later, in typical fashion, he denied he’d even attended most of the conference, although he was the only Senator who was present for all of that travesty (take a look at if you must, but I was there and my own eyes swear to it).  He and his wife Tipper wanted to raise my kids while at least one of theirs turned out to be a drunk (or was that a druggie?) with a penchant for driving while intoxicated. (Is this unfair to Al Gore’s kids? Much less unfair than the Gores were to the kids—current and former--who loved and found emotional refuge in heavy metal and hip-hop. )  Finally, the moral exemplars’ marriage dissolved as Al was found creeping out of a massage brothel in the middle of the Oregon night.

One wonders if Al Gore ever met Pete Seeger. It’s hard to imagine where it might have been.

It couldn’t have been at a peace rally—as Congressman, Senator and Vice President, Gore voted yes on every war question from Grenada to Iraq to Yugoslavia. He pretended to agonize over whether to support the first Bush invasion of Iraq but, it turns out, this was simply because he was guaranteed to get network TV time with his speech.

It couldn’t have been at a rally for women’s rights. Gore never supported abortion rights more than halfheartedly, and while in the House, played a meaningful role in ending Federal financing of abortion—which had the effect of denying any practical right for the poorest American women to exercise their freedom to choose.

It couldn’t have been at a rally for the environment, because Al Gore’s so-called “environmentalism” ends just about where the deep commitment of Pete Seeger began. Gore is the kind of ecological advocate who damns, say, timber mining in Brazil while either supporting or never uttering a peep about coal companies strip mining the Appalachians. Gore grandstands as Barack Obama’s moral scourge on the Keystone pipeline, but he treads much more carefully around actual energy executives. His inherited wealth stems from favors done for his father, Senator Albert Gore Sr., by Armand Hammer, the owner of Occidental Petroleum. Al Gore’s environmental forte is failed adventures in public relations, such as his mild support for the Kyoto Climate Accords, a cost-free move since there was never any realistic chance of ratification by the U.S. Senate.

It’s not possible that it would have been at a labor rally. Gore blabbers about “growth” and “jobs” just like every other neoliberal bullshit artist. He also was a prime champion of NAFTA, which has been devastating to workers rights and livelihoods in both the United States and Mexico. (He “won the debate” against Ross Perot during the ’92 election, but Perot, reactionary as he is, was right to sneer at the baloney Gore was spouting.) In the 2000 election Gore claimed he agreed with unions “90% but not on free trade.” This is about like the claim that humans share 98% of their DNA with chimpanzees.

God knows, Al Gore wouldn’t have met Pete Seeger at an Occupy Wall Street event. Gore’s politics have never been remotely inclusive—he is another neoliberal devising programs “for the poor” without consulting anyone who is actually poor. (The first Senator Gore used to boast about his country roots and being sent to a one-room schoolhouse. He never did mention that the vast majority of the children around him—white as well as black—had no schools to attend at all. They were already too busy working for a living as sharecroppers and miners.)

Gore and Seeger definitely would not have bumped into one another at one of the annual rallies held at Fort Benning, Georgia to protest the continued existence of that dictator/torturer training camp, The School of the Americas. Pete never missed one. Gore was never there because he backs U.S. foreign policy, which essentially attempts to treat the nations of South and Central America as a string of colonial outposts led by children who must be instructed by the self-proclaimed grown-ups in Washington.

And for God’s sake, it wouldn’t have been at any kind of music conference because, for two decades, Al Gore has been scorned as wanna-be censor and father of the PMRC. He was the eager assistant for his now ex-wife Tipper in her falsehood and fantasy ridden campaign against rap, heavy metal and rock that didn’t abide by the Gore family’s supposed Baptist principles.

Pete Seeger was one of the half dozen greatest figures in American folk culture.

Al Gore was a Congressman and Senator who opposed gun control and declared that homosexuality was not another “normal optional life style.” (It also might be said that while Pete Seeger was a remarkably coherent, focused and cogent writer and speaker, Al Gore has the verbal felicity of a wooden carving.)

This is the man behind the “frank and clear-eyed assessment” of the present  that Folk Alliance International will present as an exemplar of  “The Future.”  It’s hard to know what Gore’s going to talk about, but it’s most likely to be an extension of his self-promoting film, An Inconvenient Truth.

There is also the significant question of whether Gore is being paid to do his “presentation.” In early February, Gore was paid 100,000 English pounds (more than $160,000) for a speech to the Forbes Forum. In the history of the Folk Alliance, singers and musicians making appearances have never been paid. In most cases, they must pay for their own travel and lodging.  It is hard to believe that Gore’s PR machine would not be braying loudly if he were giving away his precious time and PowerPoint to struggling folk singers and banjo players. It’s even harder to believe that the FAI, whose board isn’t even interested enough to have a fundraising committee, is spending the big bucks. It will be a wonder to see how the FAI membership reacts if Gore’s fee is revealed...or if FAI refuses to reveal it, for that matter.

Is it absolutely morally “wrong” for the FAI to invite Al Gore despite all that he has done and represents? Of course not. Is it entirely reasonable to draw the conclusions drawn here about what that tells us about FAI? Of course it is. It would be one thing, for instance, to invite Gore to speak on a Conference panel with divergent views about the future. (That might even be refreshing, since so much folk discussion centers on the past.) But what the FAI has actually done is given a green Bernie Madoff a platform for his sales pitch.

Coda: One might wonder what Pete Seeger would think of a right of center (the center being the American people, not the denizens of the Beltway) politician at a folk music festival. I don’t know. But I do know this:

In October 2000 with the Presidential election between Al Gore and Shrub Bush running neck and neck and a third candidate, Ralph Nader, running on the Green ticket while receiving substantial support and also receiving vicious jibes and threats from loyalist Gore supporters, I attended a dinner party of about a dozen at Harold and Natalie Leventhal’s Riverside Drive apartment.  Early in the evening, we were each asked to state our preference in the upcoming presidential campaign. It got to Pete about halfway through. He talked about how he had been doing this a long time, and about his thoughts on splinter political parties.  To him three choices was not enough. He said, if I remember the number right, that what was really needed was about eighteen different parties: A party for the vegans and a party for the pacifists and a party for....I don’t know, he might even have said a party for the fascists. (I don’t think so.) What he meant was, I know myself well enough that nobody can bully me.

And then he said: I’m voting for Ralph Nader.

Please forward this RRC Extra to five friends. To subscribe to Rock & Rap Confidential, just email rockrap(AT) Subscriptions are free.

Week In Review: February 9-16

Tweet of the week:
Not that I remember anyone other than Jennifer Jacobs even ASKING if Chet was running, and I'm sure she did so only out of thoroughness.

Bullying is again on the legislative Democrats agenda, and getting stalled mainly because the famIly leader wing of the GOP tacitly think bulling gay teens or even percieved gay teens is just acceptable social pressure to conform to thier social-moral" norms. Heaven forbid if anyone, like say Michael Sam or Ellen Page, tries to say it's actually OK...

(And Packer Pride: “Any player who can come here and be a good teammate and follow the rules of our program, which is one be respectful and produce on the football field, we have room for that guy,” says coach Mike McCarthy. Echoing Vince Lombardi, who had closeted players way back when and told his staff: "If I hear one of you people make reference to his manhood, you’ll be out of here before your ass hits the ground.”)

I'm a bullying survivor.  Maybe there's some personal growth in that, and maybe it's an evolutionary holdover like apes displaying at each other. But all these years later I still have a chip on my shoulder and I still think the appropriate penalty for bullies is expulsion. Permanent, absolute expulsion. And, since it's such a huge part of the social hierarchy for young people especially young men, a lifetime ban from athletic competition at all levels. Just one plank in my Platform To Offend Everyone.

Some no-surprise legislative re-elect announcement: GOP Senator Bill Anderson and our own Democratic Rep. Sally Stutsman, each seeking second terms. And Newton Democrat Dan Kelley is seeking a third House term. Not announced, but on file once again with the FEC: Mariannette Miller-Meeks,who seems to be stepping up her Twitter critiques of Dave Loebsack.

Crazy quote of the week: "The Tom Perkins system is you don't get to vote unless you pay $1 in taxes" and "if you pay $1M in taxes you get 1 million votes." I thought that was settled, for white males anyway, in the 1840s. But maybe not, I've seen an ONLY TAXPAYERS SHOULD VOTE bumper sticker right here in the People's Republic.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Anyone else think we need more young pro choice women in congress?

Via the inbox:

Anesa Kajtazovic defends telemedicine on House floor
Waterloo—Representative Anesa Kajtazovic defended telemedicine, including for abortion, during today’s debate of House File 2175 in the Iowa House. House File 2175 is a bill aiming to ban the use of telecommunications technology in the termination of pregnancy. Kajtazovic noted that telemedicine is practiced in much of the medical field and in rural Iowa it has been used to deliver lifesaving medical services to those in need.

“This bill before us today and the bills I’ve seen in this chamber the past few years, will take women’s health decades back and endanger the lives of women,” said Kajtazovic, “We don’t need to go back to the days when thousands of women died seeking health care services.”

“I hope we won’t see any more of these bills targeting women’s health care this session. This GOP obsession with women’s health care choices needs stop,” Kajtazovic urged the legislative body, “Instead; let’s focus on ensuring that a woman has the resources and healthcare options available to make the best and safest decision for her and her family.”

More Facts on Alcohol Sting

The Iowa City Police Department issued a press release yesterday on one of their ongoing operations:
Alcohol sales law compliance checks were conducted on November 15, 2013 and again on February 7, 2014 at several businesses licensed to sell alcoholic beverages. Working with plainclothes officers, underage persons entered these businesses and attempted to illegally purchase alcoholic beverages.
Long list, long story short: 60 places passed, 6 busted.

The release goes into great detail about the rationale and funding:
Current research shows that effective and regular compliance checks helps decrease alcohol sales to minors; helps reduce underage drinking which in turn reduces alcohol related traffic crashes, violence, and other health problems associated with alcohol; and helps build healthier and safer communities. Some of the Compliance Checks are being funded through the Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant (SPF SIG) by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP). The goals of the grant are to prevent the onset and reduce the progression of substance abuse, including childhood and underage drinking; reduce substance abuse-related problems in communities, and build prevention capacity and infrastructure at the state/tribal and community level.
But one key fact is omitted: the AGE of the people involved.

As you know, my beef is with the drinking age law itself. To me, there's a big difference between selling to a 16 year old juvenile who probably shouldn't be drinking vs. an 18 19 or 20 year old who had all the rights of adulthood EXCEPT drinking. If a 20 year old goes into Kum & Go (one of the places busted) and buys beer, Kum & Go shouldn't get a $500 ticket - they should get the person's money and that's all.

This omission has long been a pet peeve of mine, so yesterday I finally followed up and asked for the birth dates, expecting to get a long delay and a refusal. Instead, I got a reply within about an hour from Chief Sam Hargadine himself.
The birth dates for the actor(s) are:

November 2013 sting
Nov. xxx, 1993
Apr xxx, 1994

February 2014 sting
Nov. xxx, 1993

Both actors were 20 years of age when the alcohol purchases were made.  Only one actor was utilized in the latest compliance check.
Hargadine supplied the full birth dates. I chose to omit the exact day to make the buyers harder to ID.

I was pleasantly surprised by the response, but disappointed and unsurprised by the facts. The buyer this month was near the very top of the age range: 20 years and 3 months, a legal adult in my book. Hargadine again:
You make a good point.  We usually get our actors from the Kirkwood Criminal Justice program.  When the notice goes out it usually is filtered through teachers and they simply ask for those interested that under the age of 21.  Sometimes we get 5-6 interested and other times just one or two.
I don't have any suggestions on that point, as my answer is "change the bad law" and that doesn't help Hargadine any. But in the meantime, why is the city pursuing these grants to hyper-enforce a bad law by playing a gotcha game using people on the highest end of the "underage" (sic) drinking range?

Society's attitude is "well, it's kinda sorta OK for college age kids to drink, though we want to keep it illegal to keep it down, but what we REALLY want is to keep it out of high schools." With that in mind, I'd refocus the compliance efforts, if we insist on them, on high school aged people.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Democrats pushing back on Voting Rights

A fundamental difference in world view is at the root of the mixed reviews that Secretary of State/congressional candidate Schultz drew for his performance - and political theater it all was - at the Senate state government committee on voting rights and felony restoration last week. People's thoughts on the hearing split predictably along the lines of preconceived opinion.
The Republican push-back on this has been "Democrats don't care if people break the law,"a gross over-simplification they apply to immigration as well.

I'm a clerk, not a lawyer, but what I'm looking for is justice. Soon after news broke of the three legitimate yet disenfranchised voters, I wrote:
Scaring away people who have the right to vote is just as bad. For that's the real point of this crusade: not the tiny handful of people who made a mistake, misunderstood a confusing law that has changed and then changed back, and then got caught and prosecuted when a strongly worded letter should have been sufficient.

No, the real point is the hundreds and thousands of people who will hear those stories and say to themselves, "I'm not taking any chances." The poor and the disenfranchised and the marginalized are USED to the system messing with them. They EXPECT it. If you make voting a hassle with the law, people will avoid the hassle.

Even more to the point, the poor and the disenfranchised and the marginalized are overwhelmingly likely to vote a particular way.
I'm looking for people who've done their time and re-entered society to get their full rights of citizenship back, quickly and reasonably and with a minimum of bureaucratic games.

That's how Iowa did it under Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver. Ex-felons regained their voting rights once they were discharged from state supervision, automatically, and the fair and just policies got a lot of attention.

Terry Branstad changed those policies on literally his first day back in office, enacting some of the toughest restoration of rights policies in the country.  He didn't make it impossible, but he came close with "a 31-question application that asks for information such as the address of the judge who handled the conviction." In his first 18 months, of more than 8000 people who completed their terms, less than a dozen had their voting rights restored.

Branstad eased up on the restrictions, a little, a month after the presidential election. After. And, notably, the prosecutions underway now are for people who tried to vote just before the policy change.

The pace picked up a little: "Branstad used his power of executive clemency to restore the right to vote and hold public office to 21 offenders who applied in 2013, compared to 17 in 2012 and two in 2011."

Now Democrats are are pushing back. Senate File 127 would reset the restoration of ex-felon voting rights back to what it was in the Vilsack-Culver era: "upon discharge from certain criminal sentences, citizenship rights related to voting and holding public office must be restored." Changing a MAY to a SHALL is a big difference.

 And the public is speaking up too. It's not coincidence that the two women being prosecuted in Muscatine are named Mayra Alejandra Lopez Morales and Sylvia Rada. And at least some of the people charged in Waterloo have ties to the black community:
“This is an act of gross injustice,” said Creighton-Smith, calling the charges voter suppression and bullying. The Faith Temple Baptist Church pastor said several members of her congregation arrested in the past but never convicted of a felony have been told they can’t vote because of their criminal record.

“African-Americans are 13 times more likely to be denied the right to vote,” she said.

While the NAACP members attended the hearing to support “everyone that was there for voter fraud,” Creighton-Smith was familiar with the backgrounds of Rosa Lee Wilder, 49, Robert Earl Anthony, 56, and Ricco Terrell Cooper, 39 -- three black people who were charged.
This is where the focus should be. Did a tiny handful of people inadvertently violate the law? Maybe, but that's different than violating the law with criminal intent, the higher standard needed for a conviction. What's more important is the chilling effect these prosecutions, and misinformation, is having on people who want to and should be able to legitimately vote.

Upcoming Events: February 10-17

I'm short on political events this week, but the pace picks up next. The comments section is open, and this post is up for revision.

Speaking of which, a note to readers I've been passing along. Deeth Blog comments are moderated. That's ONLY to keep out spam and some personal nastiness from former family members. Feel free to bash my politics all you want; my GOP readers will tell you I OK all of it. If you don't see your comment right away, that just means I haven't had a chance to OK it yet. (Sometimes I see that people have tried to re-post a comment.)

That said, one item for each party:

Bob Anderson, a Republican candidate in open Senate District 39, is having an open house at the University Club in Iowa City at 6 p.m. Tuesday, February 11.

Jack Hatch is having a fundraiser Thursday from 5 to 7 at Legion Arts, 1103 3rd Street SE, Cedar Rapids. Suggested donations start at $25.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Week In Review: February 3-9

I'll never get back the 3 1/2 hours I wasted on a spectacularly dull Super Bowl. But at least that multi-lingual Coke ad made Steve King's brain explode. The important thing: A corporation as big as Coca Cola had to have market research and focus grouped that thing to the tenth of a percent, way way way beyond anything a political campaign can do. They had to have seen there would be a Know-Nothing backlash. And yet they must have also seen that positioning themselves on the side of diversity and pluralism would be a net positive and sell more carbonated water flavored with corn syrup and coca leaf extract.

Congrats to Kevin Kinney, winner of the 2013 American Legion Iowa Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award. Kinney's also a Democratic candidate in open Senate District 39.

Legislative announcements: McGregor Democrat Patti Ruff seeking a second term. Ruff knocked off one term Republican Bob Hager in 2012.

Anesa Kajtazovic scores another big on-line poll win, this time via conservative site the Coralville Courier. Jack Hatch doesn't do as well in the governor poll, but keeps it close. And Mike's GOP Senate primary contest - "poll" grants too much legitimacy though he does block multiple votes - gives Sam Clovis a lead.

I almost missed a holiday: Turns out Friday was the 2nd annual International Clash Day. Of course, for me EVERY day is Clash Day. We'll have it on the calendar for next year and I'll work on getting it declared a paid holiday in the next union contract.

Duly noted:Former Iowa public health director sends out a tweet.
Captain Obvious was a little confused by that.

And since I as an American am not allowed to say anything on the subject, I'll shut up and link to Israeli publication Haaretz for the Must Read Of The Week: "47 years a slave: A new perspective on the occupation" of Palestine.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Dumb And Dumber And Dumbest

They're making a new Dumb and Dumber movie, and rumor is they may be filming in the Iowa State Capitol.

Yes, it's early in the session again: Silly Season, when dumb ideas crawl out from under rocks. The problem is, I already wrote the headline "Dumb And Dumber And Dumbest" and now I'm having trouble placing them in a rank order.

I'll start with the anti-choice bills, not because they're LESS dumb but because they're so routine that they're not UNIQUELY dumb. Matt Windschitl takes a brief break from guns to declaim, “If I could stop all abortion in this state, I would,” presumably soon to be followed by arming all Iowa fetuses. (And is ANYONE going to primary anti-choice DINO Joe "Fibbin' Fisherman" Seng in his solid Democratic district?)

Term limits, at least, have been dead so long that the Republican pushing them, freshman Greg Heartsill, is at least introducing teh dumb to a new generation. The cure-all of 1990 passed at the state level several places, but got ruled unconstitutional at the federal level. The States that do have them haven't seen Citizen Legislators returning to Glorious Private Sector after their six or eight or twelve years. They've seen musical chairs, with everyone getting up and swapping seats, and government by permanent staff.

The thing is, we already HAVE term limits. Every two years in this case. We call them "elections." And As luck would have it, Heartsill has a potential term limit in the form of a primary challenge.

Matt Schultz is trying to revive term limits in his congressional campaign, but he gets a daily double of dumb for having the nerve to ask for yet MORE money for his voter fraud witch hunt that has turned up no true fraud, merely confused and mistaken people, but more to the point has scared countless others from even trying.

(And even if you DO think finding the slimmest degree of fraud is significant, we need to ask: WHY weren't these people's rights restored? Because what was once a fairly routine or even automatic thing in the 2000s decade became a next to impossible thing in 2011... literally the first thing Terry Branstad did when he came back.)

But I do have a winner for dumbest, courtesy of Carroll's Douglas Burns:
State Sen. Mark Segebart, R-Vail, says Iowa shouldn't have three state universities. The population just doesn't justify it, says the lawmaker-farmer who represents a vast swath of western Iowa.

"We probably have, for 3 million people, having three huge universities, and all the infrastructure and employees that go with that, it's probably too many for just 3 million people when you think about it," Segebart, a graduate of Iowa State University, said Saturday morning during a legislative forum at New Hope Village in Carroll.

If there were fewer universities, Segebart said, Iowa lawmakers could provide more funds to K-12 education.

In an interview after the forum, Segebart declined to say which state school - or schools - he thinks should be closed.
Isn't that obvious? Legislate the People's Republic of Johnson County out of existence! Lock in Iowa as a red state forever!

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Big Win For CCA Bond

An interesting election last night in Clear Creek Amana: a case where a drop in turnout may actually indicate an increase in support.

The CCA bond issue passed 78-22%. It's a general rule of our local politics that any money  issue starts off with about a 20% automatic no vote, driven by either ideology (Tax Bad) or self-interest (MY kids are out of school). So to reach that magic 60% for a bond, and subtracting that 20% Automatic No, you have to win 75% of the remaining 80% of the electorate.

Yesterday's issue won pretty much everyone EXCEPT the Automatic No. As expected, the Yes was highest in the high-growth areas on the east end of the district: 83% in Tiffin and a North Korean 93% on the west side of North Liberty.

During the day, based on turnout and based on past elections, I was predicting a 67 or 68% win. My benchmark was the February 2006 vote that built North Bend Elementary, the "new" school that's already crowded. That vote saw similar high support in North Liberty and Tiffin, but strong opposition in Iowa County in the former Amana school district, where growth is slower.

Amana voters have always shown a sharply different voting pattern to the Johnson County part, both for candidates and for bonds. So my 67-68% estimate was based on a 75% No vote out of Amana like they saw in 2006.

Instead, Amana voted two to one YES yesterday, kicking the result up from the solid win of 2006 to the near-consensus level of 78%.

That near consensus may have been why turnout dropped. In 2006, with active opposition from Amana, both the Yes and No sides stepped up their early voting and election day efforts, and cranked turnout up to 41%.

But yesterday, turnout slipped to 16%. Weather may have been a factor; I can't remember the exact conditions of 2006 but it was at the same time of year. But weather didn't hurt turnout in Swisher, where a divisive mayor's race yesterday drew 48% to the polls.

More of a factor, I think? With no active opposition and a near consensus that the project was needed, there was less of a sense of urgency and more confidence. So paradoxically, the drop in turnout was likely an indicator of the increase in support. I'm just a blogger not a professor, but someone should write a journal article.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Benign Neglect Won't Fly In Secretary of State Race

Great political theater yesterday at state senate hearings, where Matt Schultz was grilled on his office's problems with felony lists that left (at least) three legitimate voters disenfranchised in the last presidential election. You could smell the schadenfruede in the Twitter feed (Kathy Obradovich captured it best).

Matt McCoy, who opted out of running for the same congressional seat Schultz is now seeking, summed it up best: “You’re using (Federal Help America Vote Act) money for the DCI investigations,” McCoy said. “I’d say it’s better spent getting the right technology implemented in your office.”

Schultz for his part doubled down, blamed Democratic predecessors Chet Culver and Mike Mauro, and argued that the Senate state government committee - read that as "Democrats" - did not take voter fraud seriously enough.

And that really tells the story. Schultz was elected as a byproduct of a wave year, a wave caused by national impatience with an economy that was recovering surely but too slowly, and exacerbated by state frustration with a governor who even many in his own party thought was the Peter Principle incarnate. Yet in his heart of hearts, Schultz truly believes he was elected to stop "voter fraud" and bring photo ID to Iowa's polling places.

Democrat Brad Anderson says his number one goal is making Iowa the highest turnout state in the nation. It'll be refreshing to have a Secretary of State again who believes the mail job is helping people vote, not keeping them from voting.

Now I know Anderson isn't running against Schultz any more. He's running against Paul Pate. Pate's done the job before. He wasn't the best Secretary of State - that would be Mauro. But he was better than Schultz, if I can set the bar that low. He treated the job with the kind of benign neglect most people show toward a stepping-stone office as he prepared to run for governor, unsuccessfully, after one term.

But Pate's 1994 to 1998 term is ancient history in election administration. That was the the dark ages, before the hanging chads. It was also ancient history to the politics of election administration, before there really was such a thing as a politics of election administration, before gaming the system became part of the game.

Pate didn't play those kinds of games in his term. But back then, no one did. There was no mad rush in early 1995 to change election rules and lock in the Republican gains of 1994, the way there was after 2010. There was no wave of mid-decade re-gerrymandering in 1995, the way there was in 2005 in Texas and Georgia. Even term limits, the cure-all of 1990 and an issue Schultz is trying to revive, had fizzled out by 1995.

In Iowa, Republicans had the trifecta of House, Senate and Branstad in 1997-1998. Full control of state government. They didn't dismantle our best in the nation fair redistricting system. They didn't push back registration deadlines from our reasonable 10 days (not as good as the same day registration we have now, but among the best for states without it.) They didn't shorten early voting from the generous 40 days we had and still have. They didn't shut down satellite voting.

There were a couple bills, sure. Relatively mild by today's standards: pushing the registration deadline back to 20 days, limiting satellite voting to public sites and excluding stores. But those were only a priority for a handful of legislators. Most Republicans, though, thought it was OK to play by the rules within the electoral system we had.

Would the 2015 edition of the Iowa Republican Party do the same with a trifecta?

Terry Branstad's never been a True Believer in this stuff. He barely lifted a finger for Schultz and gave Mike Mauro a job. Branstad's always had a If You Can't Beat `Em Join `Em approach to Democratic early vote drives, running excellent programs in the 1990s and again in 2010.

But if a dream bill loaded up with ID and killing election day registration and early voting passed a Republican controlled House and Senate, he sure wouldn't veto it.

Jack Hatch would. With majorities behind them, Mike Gronstal and Mark Smith would kill it. Something to remember this fall all the way up and down the ballot.

No, Paul Pate had the job in another era, before "ballot integrity" was a Republican dog whistle, before Schultz became a base hero by playing a gotcha game of fraud prosecution where there was nothing more than confusion and mistakes.

In the Republican Party of 2014 a Secretary of State can't treat the job with benign neglect. The base demands more. Can Pate make a place for himself in the current, dysfunctional, Vander Ized, Paulified, Iowa Republican Party without fully embracing Schultz's agenda?

Campaign Finance Chart Cribbed

Before I made time to dig through US House campaign finance reports, Daily Kos did all the legwork. The full national post is well worth a look, but I cut to the chase and pulled out just the Iowa House races.

All numbers are in thousands. Also note that this is through December 31, 2013. That was just days after Tom Latham's retirement, and thus the crowded clown car in the 3rd CD Republican primary isn't listed.

CD Name Raised 4th Quarter Self
Spent Raised to date Cash on hand
IA-01 Swati Dandekar $151 $0 $30 $101 $374 $263
IA-01 Monica Vernon $144 $81 $0 $116 $449 $271
IA-01 Anesa Kajtazovic $120 $0 $0 $45 $157 $105
IA-01 Patrick Murphy $99 $6 $0 $57 $333 $224
IA-01 Dave O'Brien $78 $0 $0 $33 $182 $125
IA-01 Walt Rogers $127 $1 $0 $57 $127 $71
IA-01 Rod Blum $42 $19 $0 $27 $225 $175
IA-01 Steve Rathje $13 $0 $0 $20 $125 $50
IA-02 Dave Loebsack $145 $0 $0 $51 $544 $425
IA-02 Mark Lofgren $29 $5 $0 $27 $91 $32
IA-03 Staci Appel $261 $0 $0 $91 $500 $369
IA-04 Jim Mowrer $173 $0 $0 $95 $354 $206
IA-04 Steve King $163 $0 $0 $116 $506 $139

One thing I like about the format: it splits out self-funding from the total raised.

That's especially noticeable in the 1st CD. Take away Monica Vernon's self-financing and Swati Dandekar has raised the most money from other people. Mostly outside the district is my bet, and I don't think spending big and late on TV will help as much as she thinks it will. Primaries are base election and the Democratic base will be enraged at the sight of her.

My choice in this race, Anesa Kajtazovic, still trails, but she picked up the pace a lot from her first quarter. This past quarter she outraised both Pat Murphy and Dave O'Brien, who seem to have called in all their chips already.

On the GOP side, late starter Walt Rogers is raising it but also spending it, while Rod Blum has the most on hand and Steve Rathje is anemic.

In the 2nd CD, Dave Loebsack is on about his usual pace but Mark Lofgren has a dismal report. He's certainly dreading the any day now announcement by Mariannette-Miller-Meeks and the donors are likely waiting for her.

Staci Appel raised $261,000 in a quarter that was mostly as a challenger to Tom Latham. Once it became an open seat, her half million raised to date scared almost all competition away. There's still Gabriel de la Cerda, who seems to be below the $5000 reporting threshold.

And for the second straight quarter Jim Mowrer outraised Steve King and even leads him in cash on hand.

While I'm cribbing from Daily Kos, here's another good one: What Year Did Your County's Population Peak? It explains a lot about Red and Blue, and there are a lot of places in Iowa that had their biggest populations before 1900.