Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Best. Band Name. Ever.

Best. Band name. Ever.

Rod Sullivan: No To Sales Tax in Johnson County

Rod Sullivan: No To Sales Tax in Johnson County

Johnson County is the only major metro county* in the state with no local option sales taxes. But ever since the Temple of Consumerism (a/k/a Coral Ridge Mall) opened in `98, the sales tax has been a tempting treat for local governments.

* OK, so I'm applying an Iowa standard to the phrase "major metro."

The Iowa City School District is looking at taking a bite. County Supervisor Rod Sullivan shot this out to his email list this week:

Dear Progressive Friends:

The issue of a sales tax is once again before us.

The ICCSD Board will be discussing the matter at their February 14 meeting.

We need to help our elected officials recognize that a local option sales tax would fall directly upon those who can least afford it.

The people the ICCSD serves every day are the very people who would be burdened. Children are our poorest segment of society. I will quote one of my favorite authors, Jonathon Kozol: "Charity is no substitute for economic justice."

You cannot raise money for Family Resource Centers and believe they will make up for the damage done by a local option sales tax. The ICCSD and other governmental agencies cannot improve their budget situations on the backs of the poorest of the poor. The needs of the poor will outpace any and all services that they have helped to fund.

Sales tax proponents frequently use the argument, "Sales taxes are better than property taxes." This argument is akin to saying, "Drinking is better than smoking, so we need more smoking." Neither tax option is good for the poor.

What's more, the argument that higher property taxes are automatically passed on to renters is simply false. Studies show conclusively that housing costs depend primarily upon the supply and demand of housing, not property taxes.

In the ICCSD, parents and kids at Twain, Wood, and Hills will pay about the same amount as parents and kids at Wickham, Lincoln, and Shimek. Does this make sense?

I cannot, in good conscience, support a shift of the tax burden to people who have less money. What's more, I have trouble saying that a person earning $25,000 should pay more tax just because she lives in Williamsburg, Riverside, West Branch, Mount Vernon, Tipton, etc. Especially when the local wealthy would be let off the hook at her expense.

I encourage you to take quick and decisive action to oppose any sales tax proposals. I hope you will consider acting proactively.

Sales taxes impact those least able to pay to a much greater degree than they affect others. I have been a proud opponent of each of the last three attempts (all failed) at passing a local option sales tax. Over 70% of the voting public has seen fit to agree with me each time.

Look at the Iowa City Public Library. It is undoubtedly the most popular institution in Johnson County. Parents have issues with the school district; rarely do they have issues with the Public Library. Yet that same Library was on the wrong end of a 70-30 vote. And that election was held in the midst of an economic boom!

But in difficult budget times, the issue continues to resurface. I urge you to preemptively contact the ICCSD to speak against this action.

I urge you to show up at the ICCSD Boardroom Tuesday, February 14 at 7 PM to oppose a sales tax.

Some history and rules:

A bond issue needs 60% to pass in Iowa. In most cases, you start off with about 20% that's going to vote NO on anything, for reasons of ideology (read my lips) or self-interest ("MY kids are done with school" or, more charitably, "the farm's barely making it"). That means to pass a bond, you have to get 3/4 of the remaining voters, and that's a steep hill to climb. And that's before you even factor in other reasons for opposition, such as dislike of a specific proposal.

But a sales tax only needs 50%, and is easier to portray (falsely) as something that's a "choice", that "someone else pays."

Every precinct in Johnson County voted no on a sales tax in 1999. (Word to the wise: never schedule a vote on a money issue the day before property taxes are due. And always schedule your pool vote for the hottest day of summer.) Iowa City would have used a chunk of the loot on a library; a year and a half later a BOND issue for the library passed with 67%.

While there were some read my lips types voting no on the sales tax, the predominant argument was regressivity.

There were some feints at a school sales tax in 2002, but the district decided to pursue a bond instead. That one passed with 71% - almost everyone but the Automatic No Vote.

Sullivan, then chair of the county Democratic Party, worked on that campaign, and so did I. So it's not funding for education that Rod and I are questioning - it's the regressive mechanism of a sales tax.

Alito Confirmed - Here's The Roll Call

Alito Confirmed - Here's The Roll Call

House 89 Gets a Dem Primary

House 89 Gets a Dem Primary

A rural Iowa City resident announced his intentions to be a candidate in the Democratic primary for Iowa House District 89.

Steve Miller, 57, of 4358 Sharon Center Road SW lived in Washington County for more than 20 years before moving to Johnson County. He served 10 years on the Riverside City Council and said he initiated the idea of Riverside being the future birthplace of Capt. Kirk of Star Trek fame.

So Miller joins Mark Nolte in the race. Either one would be a vast improvement over GOP incumbent Sandra Greiner.

Coretta Scott King dies

Coretta Scott King dies

Morning Miscellany

Morning Miscellany

The Register has several interesting items this AM.

  • Vilsack is sounding like the head of the DLC again as he sticks up for the Bush domestic spying program: "Democrats are falling into a very, very large political trap. Democrats are not going to win elections until they can reassure people they are going to keep them safe." Maybe Joe Lieberman can be his running mate, too.

  • Blouin and Culver are pointing fingers and playing Dueling Donors. Maybe party activists make moral distinctions, but Real People don't care about this and file it all in the "They're All Crooks" file.

    If this primary sinks to mutual name calling and finger pointing, it could be an opening for Ed Fallon. I think of Russ Feingold's 1992 primary win in Wisconsin, where people got so sick of the two big-spending, main chance contenders that they said "what the hell" and went 70% for Russ.

    But Feingold played things a bit differently. He had enough money for some advertising, and it was brilliant: the Elvis endorsement, the pledge on the garage door, the mud flying between the two opponents. He came off as earnest and self-effacing. There's a fine line between that and the self-righteousness of a Dennis Kucinich. Fallon needs to be seen as quirky but not flaky.

    More important, he needs to be really, really careful about going on the attack himself. Keep the message positive and let someone else carry the ball about Patty Judge's agribusiness money. (He may have already lost that high ground).

  • Meanwhile, the touchplay issue has cost Jim Nussle the support of the Kum & Go owners. Nussle, to his credit, holds to his "get rid of them all" position. Vander Plaats is there, too, and the Dems seem to have consolidated behind a status quo/more study position. It would be interesting to hear Jeff "Casey's" Lamberti's thoughts...

    Does anyone else have to suppress a Beavis and Butthead "huh huh, huh" at the name "Kum & Go"? I heard there was a chain called Pump & Munch somewhere...

    Update: Iowa Ennui gets what I, on my first cup of coffee, didn't think of first.

  • On State Of The Union morn, W is at 37% in Iowa.
  • Monday, January 30, 2006

    Legal Drinking Age

    Legal drinking age in the US highest in the world

    With a nice comparison chart. It appears Iowa City's "massive underage drinking problem' is a matter of definition.

    Vilsack: Rein car title loans

    Vilsack: Rein car title loans

    The Gov gets on board to fight the loan sharks:

    Vilsack called loans provided at interest rates of 264 percent backed by a vehicle as collateral are the "worst form of predatory lending" that take advantage of low-income people struggling to make ends meet. The governor said he supports legislative efforts to limit the interest that can be charged on car title loans to 21 percent.

    Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said he hoped the support of top executive-branch officials would convince leaders of the Republican-controlled House to consider legislation this session that previously won Senate support but stalled en route to the governor's desk.

    In other news, Vilsack's cheering for the Steelers. Not a surprise. (Nothing personal, Gov, but I'm rooting for the Seahawks.)

    Dusky Terry in Iowa City 2/12; Picking up support?

    Dusky Terry in Iowa City 2/12; Picking up support?

    Got an invite in the mail today for a Dusky Terry $raiser here in Iowa City on February 12.

    The interesting part was the list of "special guests" - all six Democratic members of the Johnson County legislative delegation: Bolkcom, Dvorsky, Foege, Jacoby, Lensing, Mascher.

    (Technically Ro Foege is Linn, but the district is almost exactly half Linn half Johnson, and we think of him as one of us.)

    Denise O'Brien was here in December and picked up some locally prominent names at that time, most notably City Council member Regenia Bailey. I don't see the word "endorse" for Terry, but the legislative names weren't on the O'Brien invite...

    The legislative perfecta for Terry probably means more here than the Vilsack endorsement.

    Since folks don't even know who's running for governor, this ag secretary primary is waaaay way under the radar. I'm still undecided.

    Gubernatorial candidates not well known

    Gubernatorial candidates not well known

    The only poll that really means anything at this point. Joe and Jane Average Primary Voter don't know who any of these guys and gal are. Which means, four months out, that it's still pretty much anyone's ball game.

    Is this a sign that people are just not tuned in, or a sign of a weak field? Judge and Culver have run statewide in two generals, Vander Plaats ran statewide in a primary, and Nussle has represented nearly a third of the state in the three versions of his district. Blouin's been out of office a long time but was in the headlines off and on as a state department head. Only Fallon and the Lesser Knowns have an excuse to be Lesser Known.

    Interesting that despite his money and endorsements, Blouin's numbers are similar to Fallon's, both in ID and in favorable/unfavorable.

    I'd like to see these polls include Iowans from other fields as a benchmark. How many people are familiar with, say, Dan Gable? What's the favorable/unfavorable number for Slipknot?

    Sunday, January 29, 2006

    Arab Holocaust centre reaches out

    Arab Holocaust centre reaches out

    An interesting attempt at understanding and an attempt to address the Holocaust denial issue decoupled from blind apologia for Israel. There may not be a receptibe audience, unfortunately:

    Even though Palestinians are taught about the Holocaust in school, the continuing Israeli occupation means that many Palestinians find it difficult to sympathise with Jewish suffering, says Dr Sami Adwan, a professor of education at Bethlehem University.

    "And there is feeling that the Holocaust could undermine the Palestinians international status as victims - that the horror of the Holocaust is so big that it could overpower our own suffering."

    Saturday, January 28, 2006

    Johnson County Caucus Finals

    Johnson County Caucus Finals

    Not much change in the final report: the last three precincts had eight attendees and no delegates.

    Total turnout: 354. Up from 280 in 2002.

    No preference groups: 180
    Elected not present: 18
    Uncommitted preference group: 8
    Total variations on uncommitted: 206
    Fallon: 18
    Blouin: 3
    Culver: 3
    Judge: 1
    Seats not filled: 69

    Liveblogging: Johnson County Legislative Forum

    Liveblogging: Johnson County Legislative Forum

    Good morning! 9:31 and I'm at the monthly League of Women Voters state legislative forum. They do one each month during the session. Co sponsor this month is the Iowa City Education Association, the school district, and Clean Air for Everyone (anti smoking)

    The lawmakers are all running late which usually means another event. Wait, here comes Joe Bolkcom.

    Other notables present include

  • the next congressman, Dave Loebsack

  • The whole school board

  • a city council member Bob Elliott

  • A lot of others who I recognize as regulars.

  • Almost an entire sixth grade class from Lucas Elementary - this is a project one of their teachers does every year.

    Teachers are wearing stickers that say "25." Had to ask. They want teacher salaries raises to #25 in the nation - average.

    9:35: Mary Mascher and Vicki Lensing (D's - Iowa City) are here.

    Eats are good this AM - Bruegger's bagels. The LWV must have some spare bucks.

    9:39 - Here's Sen. Bob Dvorsky (D-Coralville and the senior member of the Johnson County delegation.) Also Mark Nolte, Dem candidate in House 89.

    9:40 - We're underway. The League has the disclaimer about "everyone was invited" so it looks like the GOP won't show.

    9:42 - Rep. Dave Jacoby (D-Coralville) is here. Dvorsky speaks first:

    Senate has passed veterans bills in first three weeks. Appropriations has passed out bills on Honey Creek Park in S. Iowa and something enabling a UIHC grant for Iowa Care.

    Lots of talk on education: Vilsack looking for comprehensive bill, not piecemeal.

    9:46 - Jacoby is up. House committees has reviewed Grow Iowa and Medicaid. Says Grow Iowa Values Fund working well. Bringing business to Coralville - 15-20 jobs averaging $57k.

    Medicaid Iowa Care - money being spent fast, may have to cap enrollment. More solid figures next week.

    Cell phone use by young drivers may reach floor.

    Budget remains top item. Going well so far except education.

    9:49 - Vicki Lensing. Committees just starting. Oversight is active but they meet year round. Looking at sentencing reform next couple weeks. Will continue through and after session. Judiciary/State Government - eminent domain, touch play lotto. Sex Offendres moving to Public Safety but whole leg will discuss.

    Two election reform laws - clarifying procedures and extended date on state voter reg system system conversion. Bills recommeded by bipartisan auditors.

    Budget and education are priorities.

    9:52 - Mary Mascher is on her turf here, she's a teacher. Education got 4% allowable growth (House Dems wanted 6%). "We're on a race to the bottom." Attacks Republicans for their deceptive talk on education funding. "We used to be able to say we were at least better than Missouri - not any more." (Uneasy laughs from crowd).

    High school reform - curriculum and standards. Need to adopt state standards (only state without). We want public feedback.

    State Hygenic Lab - looking at building a new one, need support.

    Stem Cells - has big impact on professor recruiting. We can do the research but not benefit the patients. (Human cloning ban would remain)

    David Skorton is a loss to whole state and will be missed. Imporant to keep quality funding, we'll keep losing people.

    9:57 - Joe Bolkcom. Still not out of woods on budget. Still $250 in hole on funding for education, health, salaries. But revenues are rebounding. Education - class size reduction remains important.

    Good news last year - 30 million in new $ for regents institution. Proposing 40 mill this year. Need to keep competetive with salaries. Hygenic lab, need home for College of Public Health. Need to repeal stem cell.

    Rally this week for increase tobacco tax. Might actually get to floor.

    Joe will continue to work on predatory lending (this is a big one for him!) Reiterates Mascher's comments on Skorton. Hiring process needs to include faculty, students, community.

    10:01 - Questions begin. First up is Superintendent Lane Plugge. Asks about funding and low increases in allowable growth, and salaries.

    Bolkcom - thinks education is top priority across board, Senate Dems also proposing 6% this week. Looking at comprehensive.

    Jacoby - "Pay Attention." People who pledge education support don't always follow up. Watch the votes. House GOP arging 6% irresponsible. He says NOT doing 6% is irresponsible. Reports from school dance that "the bad news is disco's back." Dave has a sense of humor. Or so he thinks. :)

    Dvorsky - Need to ask "the people who aren't here" (i.e. the GOP) where they stand. (The outlying areas of the county have some Republicans.) Vilsack recommended 4% and was surprised by 6%. Dems want resources, GOP wants vague "reform." Vilsack asking all 4 caucuses to seek common ground. Most of public does not understand "allowable growth" - state controls local budgets.

    Mascher - Institute for Tomorrow's Workforce appointed by Vilsack to make education recommendations. Names some names - included some prominent Republicans (Doug Gross, Brent Siegrist!) #1 recommendation - $300 million for salaries. House education chair said commission "did not understand budget constraints." But that wasn't the task. Diversity is increasing and that has education impact. 529% increase in Hispanic students!

    Dvorsky - Commission hints at school district consolidation ("the C word") political will is not there. Group waws very business oriented.

    10:15 - Next question is from Nancy Porter of ICEA. Reading recovery teacher, longtime active Dem.

    Here's our No Shows: Sens. Dave Miller and Jim Hahn, Reps. Jeff Kaufmann and Sandra Greiner (all R's) and Ro Foege (D - who had another event). So the Dems are 5 of 6 and the GOP is 0 for 4.

    Porter's question is essentially a statement: $, $, $, Plugs nea.org so I'll link. The question: "Any chance cigarette tax will increase revenue for ed"

    Bolkcom: "Yes and yes." We have had little hope for cig tax - GOP solidly opposed and winning out at present. But Jeff Elgin (R-CR) held a little hope out.

    Lensing: Rally this week on tobacco tax. Ex-Gov Branstad supports. But Rants refuses to allow it to come up. Two ways to look: She sees it as a health issue to discourage. Other side: what would we do with revenue. Many ideas, but we need to pass it first.

    Jacoby: I'd like to pass it and just save the $. People say "I'd support it IF" money went to their favorite specific cause. Repeats his Pay Attention theme. People saying "I don't like tax but if it went up I might quit" and that's decisive.

    10:23 - Question from CAFE speaker. Mostly thanking legislators for support. Brings up secondhand smoke and smoking bans.

    Dvorsky - Realpolitik is blocking bans - follow the money. Rants got $60,000 from tobacco interests. Smoking opponents need stronger strategy and allies with clout like hospitals, nursing homes, etc. to make it a priority. Need to talk to legislators from other parts of state.

    Jacoby: Smoking opponents banging drum loudly "like a Who concert." Need to decouple ban from tax.

    Bolkcom: Great arguments, and none of it has succeeded. It will take new leadership (i.e. beating Republicans). When Senate went 25-25, every area of state government improved. First time we're seeing tobacco $ going directly to legislators. Campaign finance reform desparately needed - 5 figure donations to gov candidates!

    Mascher - make across the state effort to support those who supported you (i.e. campaigns). Trying to add tobacco tax as a rider to every bill to force vote.

    Lensing: 80-90% support, need a statewide network. Need people to VOTE that way. Undemocratic that we can't even bring it up!

    10:36 - open questions. Lauren Reece, former school board member. School wellness programs. At this point I got sidetracked by the need for additional coffee. Legislators are providing informal suggestions to improve program. Mascher mentions the importance of dental health.

    10:42 - Sue Dvorsky, teacher and spouse of senator (key activist in her own right). Lots of chuckles of recognition. Praises delegation (meaning those present and Ro). Frustrated that Rants can block discussion; wants to discuss to realpolitik of the session but will wait for answers.

    10:45 Janelle Rettig brings up campaign finance and details of filing requirements. Specifically mentions MidAmerican. Need same requirements on year and off year. Also mentions touch tabs and regressivity.

    Bolkcom - bill is in to increase campaign reporting requirements. Touch tabs will be debated; we're so far down the gambling road we're hooked on the money and that's bad. Payout should be looked at.

    Lensing - Lottery has its own authority but must report to Oversight committee. When touch play started, we didn't expect the numbers and types of locations. The more we learn the more complicated it gets. Businesses claiming they can't live without.

    10:52 - Ann Bovbjerg - crime and prison construction.

    Dvorsky - Prison director went through details of the Great Escape and is moving forward well. Supplamental funding bill coming through. Vilsack wants the facility IN Ft. Madison. Legislative leadership looking at system wide study money this year. 700 inmates considered highest risk. But the rest (8000) need to be dealt with appropriately.

    10:57 - Don't know the speaker, subject is seniors. Title XIX nursing home allowance, standardizing long term care insurance.

    Bolkcom - we've introduced the priority senior bills, some growing GOP support. Met this week with insurance committee on standardization.

    A couple more adults, and then the sixth graders are lined up.

    11:00 - Jim Bailey, teacher: preschool and early childhood ed. These things are well organized and the questions are quite often statements. Now he's discussing the proposed increase of dropout age from 16 to 18.

    Mascher takes on early childhood. Vilsack looking at $15 million for staffing and salaries. This will be part of the entire ed. debate.

    Bolkcom - Senate proposing increase in funding for English as second language. Dropout issue - truancy task forces, some interest in increasing dropout age.

    Dvorsky - not as much support last year from school districts on pre-K. Senate Dems are supportive of increase in dropout age. Worried that the various education priorities will be forced to compete.

    Jacoby - Not everyone in state understands importance of pre-K education. Need to work on programs to keep kids in school. 89% graduation rate is good, but still needs to improve.

    11:09 - Pat Jensen, longtime LWV activist. Asks for Legislative Politics 101 for the benefit of the cameras.

    Bolkcom - money, money, money. Did I say money? We've seen that today with tobacco.

    Mascher - We can all propose bills. Committee chairs or leadership can prevent action. And that often happens.

    Dvorsky - The caucuses are very important. Senate Dems and Senate GOP meet in caucus and set priorites, same in House. Leadership has a lot of power. And with the tied Senate, Iverson and Gronstal have to agree on what moves forward - so BOTH of them have veto power. Republican caucus is more top-down, Dems give more autonomy to committee cochairs. Lobbyists know how to work it, ignore everyone but leadership.

    Jacoby - Out of 100 Representatives, "I think 92 people have the best interests of Iowans and their districts in mind. No, I won't name names." We all take our responsibility seriously. We may need to change those 8 people.

    11:17 - Moderator givs the wind-down warning. Third grade teacher Jacob Kummer looks at teacher salaries, I missed the stats.

    Jacoby - We don't respect educators.

    Mascher - People don't know how classrooms have changed. Disciple, diversity, powerty, health, nutrition. "Hard to teach a hungry kid." Iowa City has great programs that rural Iowa does not. Legislators not aware of these issues. Out of pocket teacher expenses. "Even shoes." Educate people about what it's like.

    Lensing - Teachers need to make a living - student loan costs prohibitive and drive people out of teaching and out of Iowa.

    11:24 - Here come the sixth graders. These questions are always the best.

  • First kid looks at spending on the war and how much Head Start and housing and hunger and health and education we could pay for instead. Best question yet, though the state of Iowa can't really solve it.

  • Next: public smoking ban.

  • Urban sprawl and protection of farmland.

  • Two kids on teacher salaries - "You're going to start thinking Mrs. Meggitt put us up to this" gets a big laugh.

  • College tuition and child labor.

  • Teacher salaries AGAIN.

  • Death penalty - this kid's against.

  • Antibiotic resistant infections in livestock - interesting. My college speech students had trouble coming up with topics this good.

  • Here's Mrs. Meggitt, "allegedly underpaid teacher". She gets a round of applause. Talks about corn-burning stoves.

    11:37 - One last grownup talks about health insurance for students with enrollment issues. Example: Student with cancer who would have to withdraw from class would lose insurance. New Hampshire passed a bill to address this.

    Mascher - also an issue with foster kids who age out. 25% end up on streets.

    11:42 - the moderator wraps it up. This is pretty typical how how it goes.

    Bolkcom - went to Meggitt's class yesterday. Rapid-fire answers the kids questions and generally makes them happy.

    Mascher - looks at the kid's smoking ban question. Wants ban in any public area. Also looks at college tuition programs. Calls all the kids by name, what a teacher. :)

    Lensing - got some of these questions in letters and has written some replies, encourages the kids. Missed out on the class tour because she was in jail ("On a tour, VISITING"). Jacoby makes a joke at her expense ("Nice ankle bracelet, Vicki") and responds to some more of the kids.

    Dvorsky dittoes Joe's answers. In 1996 a majority of both parties voted no on death penalty and doesn't expect it to pass now. Looks at the war issue: war spending is double the size of the entire Iowa economy.

    It's 11:49 and that's a wrap! Off to schmooze.
  • Friday, January 27, 2006

    Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore

    Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore

    A John Prine classic that, sadly, is still timely after 35 years:

    But your flag decal won't get you
    Into Heaven any more.
    They're already overcrowded
    From your dirty little war.
    Now Jesus don't like killin'
    No matter what the reason's for,
    And your flag decal won't get you
    Into Heaven any more.

    And the same goes for magnetic yellow ribbons. (What level of commitment is that? "I support the troops, but not enough to permanently affix my statement"?)

    Joe Bolkcom's latest update

    Joe Bolkcom's latest update

    My state senator, Joe Bolkcom, puts out a weekly newsletter during the session full of the week's action and with some Iowa City events thrown in. You can get it by email or on his web site.

    Another during-session event is the monthly League of Women Voters forum. Last Saturday of the month (hey that's tomorrow) 9:30 AM at Iowa City Hall. All the local legislators are invited and most of them usually show up. The Republicans (we do have some in the districts that border Iowa City, a situation that needs to change) show up less often, but once in a while you get one and that makes things fun. Usually you get some good free food, too.

    Thursday, January 26, 2006

    Kos on Filibuster: Reality Check

    Kos on Filibuster: Reality Check

    Kos underscores my point on a filibuster. He looks at it senator by senator, but here's the bottom line:

    I'm not saying "don't filibuster". I'm saying, "the math is not good. We need to make it better in the future".

    Game over. For now.

    SurveyUSA - 100 US Senator Approval Ratings 01/06 Sort by Net Approval

    SurveyUSA - 100 US Senator Approval Ratings

    Much love for Daniel Inouye. Conrad Burns, Rick Santorum: not so much.

    RAGBRAI coming to Coralville

    RAGBRAI coming to Coralville

    Third time since I've lived in Johnson County, but the first time since I've been semi-seriously biking. I may just have to sneak into the mass of bikes...

    Although the full route will not be announced for several weeks, organizers at the Des Moines Register have released the towns that will serve as overnight stops for the thousands cyclists who will take part in the annual event. They are: Seargeant Bluff, Ida Grove, Audubon, Waukee, Newton, Marengo and Coralville. The tour ends in Muscatine. The ride will be 444 miles long.

    Alito and Grassley: Well it's too late baby, now it's too late

    Alito and Grassley: Well it's too late baby, now it's too late

    With apologies to Carole King.

    Just as I predicted, my in box is now filling up with sincere folks invoking us to Call Now To Stop Alito. Some bright bulb on the ICProgressive listserv tell us: "there is also much talk that Judge Alito will not uphold women's rights either." Gee, ya think?

    Becky Sharp retorts to this message concisely: "It's a little bit late to be doing this."

    Absolutely. The time to stop Alito is not January 2006; it was November 2004. And the tactic is not Call Now, it should have been Vote Now - for John Kerry to appoint instead of Bush and, as a backup, Art Small to vote Nay instead of Chuck Grassley voting Aye.

    There's only an outside shot at a filibuster - Three Dems are voting yes and there's several Dems who'll vote no on confirmation but won't support a filibuster:

    Three Democrats (Nelson, Johnson and Byrd) will vote for Alito. Senators Landrieu and Salazar have stated their opposition to a filibuster, and Senator Feinstein, if you'll recall, was also hesitant.

    This fight was decided on Election Day. Don't waste your phone calls now - make them next November. Republicans can't be persuaded but they can be defeated.

    Windows Woes

    Windows Woes

    A corrupt file escalated into a Windows XP reinstall last night which put the laptop out of commission for an hour. A great sigh of relief when my data and settings seemed to have survived. But now the laptop keeps demanding that I reformat my flash drive, which works just fine on my backup machine (an old Pentium 3 450 running XP on 384 meg memory). I also seem to be using about 100 meg more of memory running XP than I did pre-crash, so maybe some hidden tweak got untweaked.

    I suppose I could put some more work in on the Linux Box, which is functioning mostly as a clock at the moment.

    My cats have a new bad habit

    My cats have a new bad habit

    Xavier, better known as "Xavier the cat with bad behavior" has developed a new early morning communication strategy. First he does the usual rubbing and nudging stuff that we humans anthropomorphize and interpret as "affection." THEN he gives me a nice sharp NIP on my shoulder. I interpret this as "Hey, human food provider, the dish is empty!"

    There are four cats.

    There is one of me.

    Cats are carnivores (as the bite reminds me).

    I am made of meat.

    I get up and fill the dish, though they could all live off their FAT for several days and probably be better off.

    On the up side, this cat bite thing DID get me up for work one morning last week when I set the alarm clock for PM instead of AM.

    Wednesday, January 25, 2006

    I Don't Support the Troops

    I Don't Support the Troops

    Joel Stein at the LA Times dares say it:

    After we've decided that we made a mistake, we don't want to blame the soldiers who were ordered to fight. Or even our representatives, who were deceived by false intelligence. And certainly not ourselves, who failed to object to a war we barely understood.

    But blaming the president is a little too easy. The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying.

    Political Wire: Baucus Makes Donation to GOP Candidate

    Baucus Makes Donation to GOP Candidate

    Political Wire passes on this story from the pay to play Roll Call:

    Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), "in a rare bipartisan gesture in the increasingly caustic Abramoff era, took the bold step of cutting a $1,000 check to a 22-year-old political neophyte running for the Republican nomination to a state House seat" in Iowa, Roll Call reports. "The candidate? Pat Grassley, grandson of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Finance Committee."

    "Together, Baucus and Grassley have developed one of the better chairman-ranking member relationships in the chamber, a situation that has at times alarmed the leadership of both parties who fear too much compromise on Finance matters might leave both political wings unhappy."

    Pat Grassley wasn't even BORN when Grandpa got elected to the Senate... and Grassley was in public office for 22 years BEFORE he went to the senate.

    Draft Watch: Coming Soon to a Theater of War Near You

    Draft Watch: Coming Soon to a Theater of War Near You

    Stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has become a "thin green line" that could snap unless relief comes soon, according to a study for the Pentagon...

    Chuckie: More Love For Sammy

    Chuckie: More Love For Sammy

    Over the top praise straight out of the talking points:

    Grassley said that Alito possesses the knowledge of, and respect for, the U.S. Constitution necessary for a justice, and understands the separate functions of the judicial and political branches of government. "He will, in the end, be an independent judge," he told other members of the committee.

    Alito "also recognizes the importance of modesty and humility in the role of a justice," Grassley said. "And he's a man of honor, integrity and principle. The ethics charges generated by Judge Alito's opponents are completely off the mark and should be dismissed."


    Iowa City and Wal-Mart? Separate these strange bedfellows

    The Register's Rekha Basu weighs in on the Iowa City stop Walmart fight:

    A Wal-Mart Supercenter flies in the face of at least two fundamental Iowa City values: its small-business, pedestrian-friendly character and its social conscience...

    Clearly she hasn't tried shopping downtown in the post-Coral Ridge era. Still, the state-wide publicity escalates things a notch.

    Tuesday, January 24, 2006

    College and Linn-Mar Vote Yes On Schools

    College and Linn-Mar Vote Yes On Schools

    Especially nice after College Community lost by about seven votes last year. I didn't get a vote but as a Prairie dad I'm pleased.

    Someone is REALLY missing out

    Someone is REALLY missing out

    Last week I linked, with little notice, to a top ten list of why geeks are the best lovers.

    Here's another take on that, along with reasons we geeks also make the best friends and dads.

    Yepsen spins the fundraising

    Yepsen spins the fundraising

    Main bullet points: Good for Culver and Nussle. Bad for everyone else. A nightmare for Judge.

    A relatively coherent, rant-free column today. Maybe a little obvious, but influential because it's Yepsen.

    Prosecutors call for end to 2,000-foot ban

    Prosecutors call for end to 2,000-foot ban

    The Iowa County Attorneys want to replace the radius with a variety of more sensible items. Proof positive that prosecutorial office can be used as a bully pulpit and a good first step. (Statements on the drug war and the drinking age would be welcome additions.)

    Legislative Republicans, led by Rants and Lamberti, are continuing to demagogue this of course. Rants is declaring it a non-starter.

    Monday, January 23, 2006

    Democrats: Get Up and Walk Out

    Democrats: Get Up and Walk Out

    Advising the Dems to stage a walkout at the State Of The Union:

    The days of walking the halls of the Rayburn Building, sharing a bourbon with a colleague from the other side of the aisle, and hammering out a compromise are as dead as Julius Caesar. Collegiality is out. Mutual respect is out. They want you gone for good. Erased. Destroyed.

    It'd be the biggest thing since impeachment. Would it backfire? The GOP would sure try to make it backfire... or would it clearly, finally draw the lines?

    A moot question because they won't have the gonads to do it.

    Live Election Blogging thread now open - The Surly Beaver

    Canada: Live Election Blogging thread now open

    I guess this Canadian election thing is tough for the first couple hours due to Canadian law. Here's a link to someone liveblogging.

    IT communications security handbook for political activists and Democrats. - Brainshrub.com

    IT communications security handbook for political activists and Democrats

    This might sound paranoid... but if you're in politics, you KNOW you have enemies. A nice handy list of common sense stuff. Some campaigns might not need the most extreme measures, though.

    CBC - Canada Votes 2006

    Canada Votes 2006

    OK. Our topic tonight is election results, eh.

    UPDATE: I just got a bazillion hits from Canada; I guess this Canadian election thing is tough for the first couple hours due to Canadian law. Here's a link to someone liveblogging with access to actual numbers.

    Nussle wants to subsidize parochial school

    Nussle wants to subsidize parochial school

    "Nussle would expand the current $250 tax credit for parents who send their kids to a private school to $1,500... He estimates parents with kids in preschool or a private K-through-12 school would avoid paying about $10-million in state taxes under his proposed credit."

    So, does that money come out of the PUBLIC education budget?

    Looks like Nussle is hustling for the Dubuque vote; I don't have the latest stats but as of the 1990 census, Dubuque had the highest percentage of students enrolled in parochial school in the whole country - nearly 40%.

    Lieberman Looking More Vulnerable

    Lieberman Looking More Vulnerable

    In a national mood today:

    The subject of a Lieberman primary challenge popped up again on the major political blogs this weekend. He'll have to be beaten twice, since if he loses the primary he'll likely bolt and run as an independent.

    The primary challenge that DID surface recently was unexpected: Rep. Ed Case is challending Daniel Akaka in Hawaii. The issue is pretty explicitly age: Case is in his early 50s and Akaka is 81 with 30 years in DC. Case is the brother of AOL's Steve Case so money should be plentiful; Hawaiians should hope that he doesn't mail his campaign lit out on ever-redundant CDs.

    And in Minnesota, Patty Wetterling dropped out of the Senate race but appears to be dropping into the House race instead.

    Sunday, January 22, 2006

    Roe-Wade Day and the Governor's race

    Roe-Wade Day and the Governor's race

    Blog For Iowa has a handy, clip-n-save guide to choice in the governor's race and other key Iowa contests. Fallon and Culver good; Judge has good rhetoric but shaky record; Blouin bad, bad, bad.

    Candidates put forth energy policy views

    Candidates put forth energy policy views

    Behind the Gazette wall, a look at yesterday's energy debate. Nussle felt free to skip out.

    Here's the Register's look at the debate.

    Coaches vs. Roads, Part 2: Going to the Mats?

    Coaches vs. Roads, Part 2: Going to the Mats?

    Today's P-C guest editorial on the Newport Road battle comes from one Annie Gavin - who makes sure to drop in her pre-marriage name - Gable. The end of the column notes: "She said this opinion represents that of her entire family."

    Saturday, January 21, 2006

    Iran's Ahmadinejad tells Europe to "take back the Jews" - Special Wire - News

    Iran's Ahmadinejad tells Europe to "take back the Jews"

    Saw this posted on Reddit with the headline "President of Iran - insane?"

    So, call me crazy, but

    Ahmadinejad said that the Europeans should “prove their sincerity in advocating freedom” by allowing the Jews of Israel to resettle in Europe, Iran’s official news agency IRNA reported.

    “Would you open the doors of your own countries to these immigrants in a way that they could travel to any part of Europe they choose?”, Ahmadinejad asked European nations.

    doesn't betray any signs of any ideations associated with any known, diagnosed mental illness.

    Caucus Followup: The Official Johnson County Scoop

    Caucus Followup: The Official Johnson County Scoop

    The Johnson County convention committees met this morning and I'm Officialy, once again, co-chairing credentials. Sorry to be slow on my numbers, loyal readers, but I sorta DID want to Officially tell the Actual Committee before I blabbed and blogged it to the world.

    Here's the delegate count we have at THIS TIME. The chair still has packets from three precincts (of 57; two of those are one delegate precincts so no preference groups were possible).

    Total delegate seats: 300. 293 when you don't count the three remaining precincts.

  • Elected without stating a preference: 180 (including me)
  • Elected from an Uncommitted preference group: 8
  • Elected without attending: 18. That's perfectly within the rules.

    That's a total of 206 that are variations on "uncommitted". As for the candidates:

  • Fallon: 18
  • Culver: 3
  • Blouin: 3
  • Judge: 1

    And 62 seats that simply weren't filled. That's a little higher than typical off years but not much.

    Now, here's the catch, and here's where our math differs from the "Fallon declares victory math." Let's say Delegate X is elected in a Johnson County precinct with no preference groups. X then e-mails Fallon HQ and says "I'm a delegate and I support Fallon." Fallon's math counts that as a "Fallon delegate." MY math counts that as a "no preference stated" delegate.

    Here's another note: As many people were elected without even showing up as were elected pledged to Fallon.

    Anyway, this only takes on potential meaning at county convention time when we elect state delegates. For the moment it's just bragging rights at stake.
  • Nussle presses for local control over location of factory farms

    Nussle presses for local control over location of factory farms

    Huh? Part of me thinks this is a brazen move like all the Republican "ethics reform" we saw in DC last week. But if the traditional press is taking it at face value, it raises the bar for the Dems on this issue - especially Patty Judge.

    Speaking of Judge, her fundraising numbers looked pretty low this week - closer to Fallon than to Blouin and Culver. And Fallon has an excuse since he's the anti-fat-cat guy. (My feline housemates take offense at that term, but they definitely need to lose weight.)

    My experience is that candidates who take the "I refuse big money" approach have nothing to lose, because they wouldn't be getting any big money. But do Real People outside the journalist-politico-blogger echo chamber really care about campaign finance? My guess is a casual do your civic duty primary voter is relating to this race on the level of "maybe it's time for a woman" or "he looks just like his daddy".

    Friday, January 20, 2006

    Skorton leaving UI for Cornell

    Skorton leaving UI for Cornell

    Well, this oughta make life in Iowa City interesting in 2006.

    Conventional wisdom was that Skorton's big plus was that, after the relatively brief Mary Sue Coleman era, he was seen as a "UI lifer" who'd be around a while. Instead, "his three-year term as president would be the shortest since that of Thomas Huston Macbride, who led the university from 1914 to 1916."

    A visualization of where the American tax dollars goes…

    A visualization of where the American tax dollars goes…

    Neat graphic about the federal budget. (The full version is really big - 1.8 meg, so if you're on dial-up you'll be waiting a while.)

    Thursday, January 19, 2006

    My cats get upset when the food dish is empty

    My cats get upset when the food dish is empty

    Wilson Pickett dies

    Wilson Pickett dies

    Now you come around signifyin' woman, you don't wanna let me ride...

    Caucuses: Slogging Through The Paperwork

    Caucuses: Slogging Through The Paperwork

    Took the day off work to try to assemble Johnson County's caucus lists. One can only stare at the paperwork so long, so I took an exercise break. The blogging is a break in the middle of the exercise break. You still following this?

    Ed Fallon is claiming "victory" but I suspect that's dubious at best.

    The overwhelming majority of Johnson County precincts did not break into preference groups. Attendance was low enough that nearly anyone who wanted to be a delegate could get a seat. So... Fallon is claiming hard numbers of delegates, but how do you measure that? There was no reporting system, as there is in a presidential year.

    I got elected as a delegate, with no contest in my precinct. We has 16 people, and 9 delegate seats. I suggested we see how many people wanted to be delegates. Seven hands went up quickly. Two more hands went up after a little coaxing. End of election. I never told anyone at my caucus who I supported for governor.

    It's also unclear from looking at all this paper who was elected from an organized preference group, and who merely thought they were supposed to indicate a preference on the sheet.

    I think what's really happening is that Ed Fallon is a candidate who is attractive to issue-oriented party activists. That base is highly concentrated in a setting like an off-year caucus, and heavily diluted in a high-turnout primary.

    Let's say there's 15 of these folks in a precinct. Ten of them go to an off-year caucus, where a grand total of 20 people show up. That's 50%. That's great. So now it's June 6. All 15 go to vote in the primary - but 200 people vote in the precinct. That's 7.5%. A bigger shot of gin, but diluted with a lot more tonic.

    Let's switch analogies. Last year Jimmy Buffett released a new album. It hit the charts at Number One its first week - without making any impact on the contemporary music scene, and sank from sight like an old pirate boat the next week. And without a major hit in 25 years, Jimmy continues to sell out shows across the country. Why? Because of the Parrotheads. He has a devoted, loyal base that buys everything he puts out on release day (a cynic might say "that's because they're too old to grasp the concept of downloading"), that follows him on tour and goes to multiple shows.

    But in politics, you're not looking for the most LOYAL base of fans. You need the BIGGEST base of fans. And it's rare that the best is also the most popular. I could really stretch this analogy...

    Not saying any of this to diss Ed - I like him, and I may still go there. But I think we just need to be realistic about the relative insignificance of the caucuses as a show of support. It just mean Fallon has the most Parrotheads. But depth of support does not equal breadth of support.

    Wednesday, January 18, 2006

    Why Geeks and Nerds Are Worth It

    Why Geeks and Nerds Are Worth It

    Somebody's missing out...

    Senator Clinton Makes Her Run While Tiptoeing Around 2008

    Senator Clinton Makes Her Run While Tiptoeing Around 2008

    And tiptoing around Iowa and New Hampshire, sez the New York Times:

    When Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton recently headlined a fund-raiser for the governor of New Hampshire, her aides sought to ensure that the event was held not within that state, but rather in nearby Boston, where a visit would not set off frenzied speculation about her political plans...

    Tom Miller endorses Blouin

    Tom Miller endorses Blouin

    And the steamroller rolls on. Those with long memories know that Tom Miller was the anti-choice candidate in 1990, and though he had a "conversion" in `94 when he got his old job back, it seems he hasn't converted too darn much.

    The thing I hear from Blouin supporters is "he's smart" followed by a beat in which one is supposed to hear an unspoken "and Culver is dumb." If Blouin were really smart, he'd start using the word "veto" in public.

    And even if he does, that won't get me for the primary. I don't want a candidate who says "I'm pro life but." I want a candidate who says "I'm pro choice." I don't even like the "safe legal and rare" language Hillary Clinton's been using. When are we going to hear "safe, legal, and accessible"?

    And the arguments that "we gotta go this way to win" doesn't work for me. Unlike most lefties, I've actually run for office in a conservative district. Granted, my success was incomplete. But I knocked on several thousand doors and almost no one mentioned abortion. Of the hot button, argue with the relatives issues, know what I heard about? Guns. And in the ensuing decade, we've pretty much conceded that one.

    I have a visceral distaste for guns. I cope with that by not owning one, and not by telling other people they can't. And perhaps fiftysomething men like Mike Blouin can best deal with abortion by not getting one and keeping their nose out of young women's business. That's my problem with anti-choicers: ultimately, they're coercive, not persuasive. Americans have a deep libertarian streak: we may hate abortion, or guns, or gambling, take your pick. But whet we REALLY hate is someone, especially someone from the gub-mint, telling us what to do.

    The Democratic Party has no credibility with the theocratic right on abortion. Anyone whose voting right to life (sic) as a single issue is already cemented to the GOP. So there's no strategic advantage in nominating Blouin to go after votes we won't get anyway. All it's going to do is alienate lefties like me. Of course, the Democrats have been doing that for ages.

    Political Forecast has good analysis and scooped me while I was unstuffing caucus packets.

    Lie detectors may be next step in airline security

    Lie detectors may be next step in airline security

    Another step in the guilty until proven innocent mindset:

    A new walk-through airport lie detector made in Israel may prove to be the toughest challenge yet for potential hijackers or drug smugglers.

    Tested in Russia, the two-stage GK-1 voice analyzer requires that passengers don headphones at a console and answer "yes" or "no" into a microphone to questions about whether they are planning something illicit.

    So now we get to live like Israel and Russia.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2006

    QC Times looks at GOP race

    QC Times looks at GOP race

    I've looked more at the Democratic side, but the QC Times has a pretty darn good look at the Republican race. I don't think Vander Plaats has a prayer, but neither does anyone else. So the expectationd for Nussle are sky high - and anything short of an overwhelming win will hurt him just as bad as it hurt Greg Ganske in `02.

    Ganske got held to about 55% by out of nowhere "conservative activist" Bill Salier who had nothing but organization - the entire power wstructure of the party was with Ganske. And after Ganske almost got taken out in the freakin' PRIMARY, the serious national money went elsewhere.

    Another lesson that's applicable to both parties: in the `02 governor's race the GOP never really reunited. Gross barely avoided a convention; he was at 35.6% in a three way race! Sukup, in third place, was over 30. It was essentially a three way dead heat with 2/3 of primary voters against Gross.

    Several of the names I've just dropped are in the QC Times article.

    Slow day of posting while I recuperate (and, not to mention, squeeze in a workday.) We organized our caucus materials tonight. Tomorrow I start trying to assemble a delegate list and a central committee list. It looks like a few more precincts split into preference groups than the mere two I reported last night - maybe more like a half dozen. But still, the overwhelming majority did not declare preference in Johnson County.

    Caucus roundup

    Caucus Roundup

  • DM Register looks at Dems and the GOP in separate articles. Key quote:

    Fallon asked his supporters to push for preference groups, as did some of his opponents. Iowa Democratic Party officials quietly discouraged them...

  • CR Gazette was first to the presses late last night.

  • IC Press-Citizen completely missed the boat.

  • QC Times spends too much time on the GOP.
  • Monday, January 16, 2006

    Post Caucus Roundup

    Post Caucus Roundup

    In Johnson County it looks like only 2 precincts (of 57) split into preference groups. One precinct had 2 Fallon 1 Judge; the other had 3 Fallon 4 uncommitted.

    I'm thinking Fallon set out to work this and line up captains precinct by precinct, the others followed suit, and all of them failed. Based on the bar conversations, folks aren't ready to commit yet other than a a sense of who they like LEAST (Fallon and Blouin get mentioned most often in this context, though Culver gets dissed a bit too). But even their favorites seem to be more "least objectionable."

    But now the convention strategy narrows; now there's a list of delegates. (Well, not yet; that's a fair amount of work yet.) A candidate could focus on that small universe and on getting commitments by early March when the county conventions happen.

    Attendance was mixed. My precinct was on the high end with 16 people, the largest turnout was around 30 in Iowa City 17. But at least four places had three people, and in one rural precinct no one at all showed up. The only pattern I saw: a few of our precincts (like mine) have strong activist traditions and that's where folks show up. I'd say we're up from 2002.

    As the week goes by I'll have more of a sense of turnout - I'm temporary co-chair of the credentials committee so I'll be working with this stuff pretty intensely between now and our first meeting Saturday.

    Other caucus night reports from Drew Miller in Ames and Chris Woods in Des Moines.

    Live At The Caucus

    Liveblogging the Caucus

    Slightly revised to fix typos and clarify a bit.

    5:58 - Greetings from Horace Mann School in Iowa City, site of the Iowa City Precinct 21 and 22 caucuses! I'll update as I'm able. Right now the key caucus issues are along the lines of "where is the tape' and "where are the markers."

    6:21: 4 people from our precinct, half a dozen or so from the other. We have press here - local NPR.

    6:33 - Starting to pick up a bit... about 15 people here between the two precincts. No early signs of preference other than one CULVER sticker.

    6:48 - Precinct 21 is getting started; we're running behind due to some site confusion. But thanks to the miracle of cell phones the people who went to the wrong place (which is the usual place) are on the way...

    6:52 we're ROLLIN'

    6:54 I just got drafted as temporary secretary. This may inhibit my blogging.

    6:59 Letters are read and the hat is pa$$ing.

    7:02 I guess I'm secretary so this is the real minutes. We adjourn to find a better room so we can hear ourselves.

    7:07 Reconvened in a kindergarten room with very small chairs.

    7:08 move to elect delegates before resolutions. Official attendance 16.

    7:10 Delegates elected by the "who wants to be a delegate raise your hands" method. NO PREFERENCE GROUPS. I'm a delegate.

    7:13. Everyone else who showed up is an alternate. So are two people who didn't. (This is perfectly legit. Need not be present to win.)

    7:20. We elected the central committee; I'm an alternate. (New blood showed up and I deferred because new blood is good. I'm running for re-elect to my spot on the county executive board anyway.)

    7:21 - Slate ratified. (For some reason this is very important to the state party.)

    7:24 - Discussion of the party's scheduling of the caucuses on MLK day; we voted that this is Bad.

    7:33 - Discussion of media ownership and broadband cable.

    7:40 - Discussion of Iraq withdrawal resolutions; the language is being debated.

    7:45 - 4 separate resolutions approved. The platform committee will sort it out.

    7:48 - On to health care. Aaaaand… the wi-fi went out.

    7:57 - Three health care resolutions Okd.

    8:05 Continuing discussion of health care; I’m doing paperwork. This is the most spirited, interesting offyear caucus I’ve been to yet. One other laptop here – but it’s a Powebook. Finally found an outlet before the battery died. (The wifi is back on.) No major dignitaries in our precinct; the other precinct has the county auditor (my boss), a city councilor, and a past party chair. They're also the precinct where George Bush came in THIRD in 2000.

    8:14 Done with health care. International poverty has reared its head. Question of domestic poverty raised; we agree we can do both.

    8:25 We're DONE.

    It be time to go to caucus

    It be time to go to caucus

    The Register has a solid Tom Beaumont article: discusses 35%, says it's gonna be quiet, mentions the GOP but acknowledges the relative unimportance.

    Press-Citizen has a piece of crap that's not even worth link love: 50-50 with the parties, misses 35%. Most irritating: a couple useless person on the street quotes along the lines of "uuuuh, I'm not going." That's actually a paper POLICY: they have to have X number of person on the street quotes, even if it's impossible to find a random citizen who's informed.

    In any case there's been far more publicity than we saw in 2002. More reports later.

    Sunday, January 15, 2006

    Governor race gets early test

    Governor race gets early test

    Behind the Gazette wall, they define tomorrow night as "a test of strength." No mention of the magic 35%, which perhaps explains the over-"balance" to the GOP (with a two way race it doesn't matter.)

    Panthers down Bears 29-21

    Panthers down Bears 29-21

    And a big meow for the Panthers. Like I learned growing up, I cheer for two teams: the Packers, and whoever's playing da Bears.

    But next week I gotta root for Mike Holmgren's the Seahawks.

    As for the AFC, what a wild ending on that Indy-Pittsburgh game... I feel for the Colts but now I'm pulling for the underdog Steelers over Denver.

    The Bears can watch them both on TV.

    Saturday, January 14, 2006

    Caucus Training: Slow News Day

    Caucus Training: Slow News Day

    The whole Channel 9 crew showed up at our caucus training this morning. Must have been an extremely slow news day. Missed the broadcast but I see a quote here

    This supposedly has all registered democrats in your precinct.

    that looks like me rapping about sign-in. (UPDATE: Yup, it was.)

    If I had known I was going to be on camera I would have shaved, and maybe dressed a bit better. My wardrobe was living in the past ("Super Bowl XXXI Champions"). But at least my moment of stardom consists of me dissing the poor quality of the Iowa Democratic Party's lists. Long a sore spot for me.

    We get to do it again tomorrow. As John Gielgud said to Dudley Moore, "I'll alert the media."

    103 Congress members to Israel in 2005

    103 Congress members to Israel in 2005

    Interesting tidbit from the Israeli press:

    In his summary to the Israeli Cabinet this week on relations with the United States, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said 23 U.S. senators and 80 members of the U.S. House of Representatives visited Israel last year, some multiple times.

    “The legislative branch has maintained its unique and long-standing status as a stronghold of support for Israel, transcending party lines and Congressional houses.”

    That's sure gonna help win hearts and minds on the streets of Iraq...

    Friday, January 13, 2006

    American Foreign Policy is not consistent: Nuke States Israel, Pakistan and India in Different Category than Iran

    American Foreign Policy is not consistent: Nuke States Israel, Pakistan and India in Different Category than Iran

    From the BBC:javascript:void(0);
    Publish Post

    The developing diplomatic row over Iran's nuclear ambitions has highlighted the question of consistency in US and Western efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons.

    Close US ally Israel is widely believed to have an advanced nuclear arsenal which rarely, if ever, draws any criticism from Washington

    Mike McCarthy Named Packers Head Coach

    Mike McCarthy Named Packers Head Coach

    How'd I miss THAT for a whole day:

    Schooled in the 'West Coast' offense, McCarthy has coached 19 years combined at the pro and college levels, including 13 in the NFL.

    Most importantly, including 1999 as the Packers' quarterbacks coach. Maybe, just maybe, a certain three time MVP will stick around one more year?

    "I don't think there's a coach in the National Football League who wouldn't love an opportunity to work with Brett Favre," McCarthy said. "We had a very positive working relationship in 1999, and I'm definitely looking forward to working with him again."

    Fist head coaching job. Kind of a dark horse. Youngest coach in the NFL (He's MY age for crying out loud!) And today, heads rolled:

    McCarthy Friday announced that the team has released six assistant coaches and two other staff members. Released were secondary/safeties coach Joe Baker, offensive line coach Larry Beightol, special teams coordinator John Bonamego, linebackers coach Mark Duffner, offensive coordinator Tom Rossley and strength and conditioning coach Barry Rubin. The team also released director of football administration Bruce Warwick and weight room assistant Vince Workman.

    I see defensive coordinator Jim Bates is still around; he did a decent job as the Dolphins' interim head coach in late `04 and I thought someone might make an offer.

    So. The steps to rebuilding begin. As for this weekend: Go Carolina! Make these guys


    The Politics of Celebrity: I Like It, I Love It

    The Politics of Celebrity: I Like It, I Love It

    I want some more of it:

    Tim McGraw says he and his wife, Faith Hill, might be another celebrity couple hitting the political campaign trail.

    "I think it's something I'd do well," McGraw, who is a Democrat, tells the February issue of Esquire magazine (on stands Monday). He announced his plans to run for governor of Tennessee someday. "I just think as governor of the state, there would be a lot more opportunities to make some decisions and change some things."

    It's not the first time McGraw has expressed an interest in politics. In 2004, he told Time magazine: "I want to run for the Senate from Tennessee. Not now, but when I'm 50."

    McGraw, 38, and Hill, 38, have three daughters, ages 8, 7 and 4. He tells Esquire he plans to wait until the girls are older — "maybe in 10 or 15 years."

    So our NASCAR dad strategy for 2018 is all set!

    Register and Rivals See Through Blouin

    Register and Rivals See Through Blouin

    Tom Beaumont, the Register's REAL political reporter, artfully cuts through the crap without violating the objective paradigm. The other candidates aid this task.

    Blouin said he would name a Cabinet-level director of women's and children's health issues and double spending for smoking prevention if he is elected.

    Blouin, the former state economic development director, also said he would promote universal access to prenatal care for pregnant women and postnatal care for new mothers.

    The announcement prompted accusations by his opponents that the announcement was an attempt to reassure Democrats who are uneasy about Blouin's personal opposition to abortion rights...

    "Prompted accusations by his opponents..." aah, the old "some observers say" approach. The rules of objectivity are tough (and bogus), but sometimes you can tell the truth.

    I'm one of those Democrats who are uneasy and I'm not reassured.

    Meanwhile, Chet says he's a million dollar man.

    Thursday, January 12, 2006

    Pro-Choice Caucus Resolution: Print, Save, Annoy The Blouin Preference Group

    Pro-Choice Caucus Resolution: Print, Save, Annoy The Blouin Preference Group

    From Karen Kubby of the Emma Goldman Clinic.

    Iowa Caucus Resolution on Reproductive Rights

    Since 1973, women have had the Constitutional right to control their fertility. Being able to decide for oneself the outcome of a pregnancy is an important factor in establishing gender equity in our country. We affirm these rights and agree that:

    1. No US Supreme Court justice should be approved by the US Senate who would erode or dismantle Roe v. Wade.

    2. There should be no further Federal or State legislative action eroding a woman's right to all pregnancy options, including the option for women living on lower incomes to parent.

    3. The Federal government should require insurance companies that provide prescription coverage to cover all FDA approved contraceptive options.

    4. All hospitals should be required to offer emergency contraception to victims/survivors of sexual assault.

    5. Only comprehensive sexuality education that is medically accurate and age-appropriate should be financially supported by Federal or State funds.

    6. Iowa should pass legislation that affirms Roe v. Wade, so that all women in Iowa maintain access to abortion services, in the event Roe is overturned by the US Supreme Court.

    7. The government should stay out of the private sexual lives and reproductive decisions of its citizens and residents.

    Seven good points. A couple more notes on choice:

  • The clinic's annual Choice Dinner is January 28. I went last year and had a great time; check it out.
  • I crossposted yesterday's fetus in the carpool lane story to a couple local listservs but due to some poor editing on my part it looked like I was disagreeing with the ruling. Any regular readers would know better but I got some polite negative feedback and just thought I'd clear that up.
  • Patty Judge Caucus Call; Mohamed Misses Out

    Patty Judge Caucus Call; Mohamed Misses Out

    Just got the Patty Judge call on my voice mail. That makes three out of four (but perhaps I'm crossed off the Blouin list).

    Judge used a recording, rather than the volunteer or staffer calls from Culver and Fallon (maybe Chris or KLSnow can elaborate). Bullet points:

  • environment
  • stem cells
  • go to the web site
  • go to the caucus
  • campaign finance disclaimer ("paid for by")

    One of our local politicos reports a pro-Judge call from another area politico of medium prominence. Will report more if I hear more.

    Also, Rasmussen has a poll:

    "Nussle is now nose-to-nose with Chet Culver (D), each man receiving support from 40% of likely voters. Nussle now leads Michael Blouin (D), 39% to 34%, Patty Judge (D), 40% to 36%." Only Ed Fallon (D)," trailing by 15 percentage points, is a clear loser to Nussle at this time."

    Spent last evening helping put together the Johnson County caucus materials. State party sent out a lot of the usual stuff: the four Big governor contenders have letters but there's nothing from Sal Mohamed. Is Sal out of the loop, or just disorganized?

    Excluding a "fringe" candidate can backfire; back in `92 a candidate who was more or less certifiable (believe me, I had to interview her) raised a big stink because the state party was helping one of the statewide candidates pre-primary. The basket case managed to get a lot of free publicity, but the Objective Journalism Paradigm did not allow the press to report "this woman is a basket case." (I had the luxury of a ten minute time slot on public radio and gave her enough rope to hang herself. One way to get the point across - and I used it as leverage to line up an interview with the REAL candidate.)

    Anyway, Grandma Goofy managed to ride the publicity to 40% in the primary. Then she bolted the party, endorsed Perot, and ran as an independent. The high point of the campaign was her a cappella rendition of "Jesus Loves Me Yes I Know" at a seven candidate debate that was skipped by the GOP incumbent. Who was re-elected in a landslide.

    I've been doing this stuff WAY too long.
  • Chuckie and Sammy: The Love Continues

    Chuckie and Sammy: The Love Continues

    Jane Norman works The Iowa Angle on the Alito hearings. Grassley works horses and football into his statements, but fails to mention softball while tossing several.

    First comes love, then comes marriage (heterosexual only)
    then comes the women of America with a baby carriage (in the post Roe v. Wade era.)

    And I'm just waiting for the lobby groups to stuff my email box with wasted bytes of "Call Grassley Now" messages. Why bother? Some dies are just cast on Election Day.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2006

    AlterNet: Swimming With the Sharks

    Predatory Lending: Swimming With the Sharks

    LoanMax's interest rates would make even Tony Soprano green with envy. According to the Justice Department, one underworld crew operated a large-scale loan sharking and bookmaking operation that preyed upon employees of stock brokerage firms. The crew made illegal loans at interest rates of one percent to five percent a week, or the equivalent of a 52 percent to 240 percent APR. This would be a bargain for auto title pawn customers. In fact, the phenomenal growth of legal fringe lenders may be cutting more into Mafia profits than the FBI's anti-racketeering efforts.

    Don't Count Fetus for Carpool Quota

    Don't Count Fetus for Carpool Quota

    This would be funny...

    Unborn children don't count when it comes to carpool lanes, according to a judge's ruling.

    Even after being fined $367 for improper use of a High Occupancy Vehicle lane, Candace Dickinson stood by her contention that Arizona traffic laws don't define what a person is, so the child inside her womb justified her use of the lane.

    "To follow her philosophy would require officers to carry guns, radios and pregnancy testers, and I don't think we want to go there," said Sgt. Dave Norton, the Phoenix police officer who cited Dickinson on Nov. 8.

    ... except that there are people who actually DO want to go there.

    Lieberman Loyalty? Limited.

    Lieberman Loyalty? Limited.

    Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman said Tuesday he is ready to fight to retain his seat in the Senate even if it means running an independent campaign...

    He then added, in response to a question, that if he were to lose a primary he would still seek re-election.

    "I intend to be on the ballot in November," he declared.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2006

    Grassley loves Alito

    Grassley Alito

    Chuckie and Sammie, sittin' in a tree:

    Grassley, a Republican and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, pointed to Alito's "tremendous record of accomplishment and public service" in his positions working for the Department of Justice and as a federal judge, according to a text of Grassley's prepared statement.

    "Not only that, Judge Alito has a reputation for being an exceptional and honest judge devoted to the rule of law, and a man of integrity," Grassley said.

    However, Grassley said, "some liberal interest groups have come out in full force and have attempted to paint Judge Alito to be an extremist and an activist." Grassley said, "That's what these outside-the-mainstream groups always do - attack individuals who they don't believe will implement their agenda on the Supreme Court."

    Well, he's not as colorful as Crazy Doc Coburn, but Grassley's doing the same non-lawyer on Judiciary job: carrying the far-rights water.

    The Coach Meets The Board

    The Coach Meets The Board

    Aaaaand the spectre is raised:

    If supervisors approve the road plan, Ferentz said, it would not influence him to look more heavily at professional coaching jobs, though it would encourage him and his family to move to another house.

    'They're totally unrelated,' he said of the roads controversy and current head coaching vacancies in the NFL...

    That's not exactly a Sherman statement.

    Monday, January 09, 2006

    Welcome to the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Reznor

    Welcome to the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Reznor

    head like a hole
    black as your soul.
    i'd rather die than give you control.

    bow down before the one you serve.
    you're going to get what you deserve.

    Kos on Vilsack, IA-Gov

    DKos on Vilsack, IA-Gov

    From Kos and the midday open thread:

  • Vilsack is moving ahead on his potential presidential bid."

  • (note: the Political Wire article mostly just links to today's Register.) Kos continues:

  • Step one? Ensure that a Democrat retains his governor's seat once he steps down. Given Iowa's purple status, helping a Dem retain the seat won't be as impressive as Warner's feat in Virginia. But failure to do so would be pretty damning.

  • Which makes the man from Mt. Pleasant's decision to de facto endorse Blouin all the more problematic. What happens if we on the left refuses to accept a shoved down our throats Blouin nomination? The best thing about the Vilsack Era has been some critical pro-choice use of the veto pen; Tom should discuss this at length with his good friend Mike...

    Division threatens session

    Division threatens session

    The Register does the session opening thing, but without the cool blind quotes the Gazette had yesterday.

    Looks like it's gonna be gay, gay, gay and death, death, death. Buried deep: "A wrinkle for Senate Democrats is Secretary of State Chet Culver's support for capital punishment..."

    Sunday, January 08, 2006

    Johnson County Democrats Caucus Sites

    Johnson County Democrats Caucus Sites

    Who's Not Helping Nussle in Iowa?

    Who's Not Helping Nussle in Iowa?
    Via Political Wire, some of the GOP wannabees aren't $haring the love:

    When Nussle asked the political action committees of some possible 2008 candidates for donations, not everybody ponied up. Those who did, according to soon-to-be-released financial reports: Virginia Sen. George Allen $10,000; Arizona Sen. John McCain $5,000; Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback $2,000; and Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum $1,000. Who didn't: Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist, New York Gov. George Pataki, and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. But, we're assured, Pataki and Romney showed their love by offering to help raise money...

    Politics likely to rule session

    Politics likely to rule session

    Sneak behind the locked Gazette door for their look at the legislative session. A brief quote:

    "It’s all election-year spin, according to former legislators who spoke on the condition they not be identified. Instead, the entire session will be about politics and the November election.

    Republicans will put up a handful of ‘‘campaign pieces,’’ such as the death penalty and limits on abortion — wedge issues they can use in campaigns — pass a budget and get out of Des Moines as early as they can, they predicted.

    Democrats will push their campaign issues, ‘‘but their mistake is that they try to set up 350 issues instead of four or five,’’ one former lawmaker continued. That’s because Democrats are ‘‘discombobulated,’’ and lack a driving force other than to win the majority in both the House and Senate. "

    Friday, January 06, 2006

    DNA Offers New Insight Concerning Cat Evolution - New York Times

    DNA Offers New Insight Concerning Cat Evolution

    Friday cat evolution blogging:

    About nine million years ago - two million years after the cat family first appeared in Asia - these successful predators invaded North America by crossing the Beringian land bridge connecting Siberia and Alaska, a team of geneticists writes in the journal Science today.

    Later, several American cat lineages returned to Asia. With each migration, evolutionary forces morphed the pantherlike patriarch of all cats into a rainbow of species, from ocelots and lynxes to leopards, lions and the lineage that led to the most successful cat of all, even though it has mostly forsaken its predatory heritage: the cat that has induced people to pay for its board and lodging in return for frugal displays of affection.

    And pick up their hairballs, and scoop their poop, and move them off the mousepad...

    North Liberty election stands

    North Liberty election stands

    ... and Franker and Wozniak are sworn in.

    DNA to Be Retested for Man Executed in '92

    DNA to Be Retested for Man Executed in '92

    Gov. Mark R. Warner on Thursday ordered DNA evidence retested to determine whether a man convicted of rape and murder was innocent when he was executed in 1992.

    If the testing shows Roger Keith Coleman did not rape and kill his sister-in-law in 1981, it would be the first time in the United States a person has been exonerated by scientific testing after his execution...

    Good and interesting on a couple levels:

  • finally proof that the death penalty has killed the innocent
  • let's not forget Warner's ambitions
  • why do only lame ducks take on the death penalty?
  • Thursday, January 05, 2006

    John Edwards in Iowa City Feb. 25

    John Edwards in Iowa City Feb. 25

    News flash from the Johnson County Central Committee meeting:

    John Edwards in Iowa City Saturday, Feb. 25, at noon. Interesting... wonder whe HE'S coming to IOWA?

    Judge wants much more support for ethanol

    Judge wants much more support for ethanol

    "Democratic gubernatorial candidate Patty Judge said Wednesday that the state needs a dramatic boost in support for E85 fuel, a push that would mirror the marketing of gasohol in the 1980s..."

    Wednesday, January 04, 2006

    Preference groups at Caucuses?

    Preference groups at Caucuses?

    Spirited discussion, mostly at Political Forecast and also at Drew Miller.

    In my years - this will be my 4th non-presidential caucus - I've never seen gubernatorial preference groups. However, I've been told it happened in a couple of Iowa City's most activist precincts in 1990. That was also:

  • the last year we had a multi-lateral gubernatorial primary. At caucus time there were four major candidates: Don Avenson, Tom Miller, John Chrystal and JoAnn Zimmermann. Zimmermann dropped out late, after the filing deadline, in a deal with eventual winner Avenson where she was named his running mate before the primary. It was an odd situation: 1990 was the transitional year when lt. gov was first elected on a ticket rather than independently. So she was a Democratic incumbent lieutenant governor, running for re-election on a ticket against the incumbent Republican governor.

  • the last time a right-to-lifer - Miller - tried to win a top of the ticket Democratic primary. By the time he ran for his old job as attorney general in 1994 (after the one term Bonnie Campbell interregnum) he had seen the light and adopted the "personally oppose but politically support" stance of which Mike Blouin should take note.

  • about six months before I moved to Iowa so all of this is second hand.

    The 1994 and 1998 primaries were bilateral so the impetus wasn't there for the 35% rule. They were also both rather low-key, despite the near-dead heat of 1998 (Vilsack literally won it in his home county with high turnout and a 10 to 1 margin).

    If our room divides on January 16 I'm not sure which side I'll walk to. All I know for sure is where I WON'T go.

    As for public interest, I haven't heard a single "where is my caucus" call at work.
  • Wilburn voted mayor

    Wilburn voted mayor

    I called it, though not exactly.

    On the council's first vote, councilor Bob Elliott voted for Mike O'Donnell to be the next mayor while the rest of the council voted for Wilburn. After that vote, Elliott moved that the council re-vote in order to give Wilburn a unanimous vote.

    Regenia Bailey is the mayor pro tempore...

    It's interesting that the P-C doesn't mention the historic first here. Or maybe it's a sign that the historic first is widely considered no big deal. Anyway, along with the woman-majority council, we now have our first African-American mayor.

    And bets are: Bob Elliott isn't running in `07.

    Abramoff Gave Only to the GOP

    Abramoff Gave Only to the GOP

    Contrary to GOP spin.

    Also: Loved Keith Olbermann's use of Godfather 2 clips last night, casting Abramoff as Senator Geary. But he got the analogy wrong:

    GEARY: All right, all right -- some people have to play little games. You play yours. So lets just say that you'll pay me because it is in your interest to pay me. But I want your answer and the money by noon tomorrow. And one more thing: don't you contact me again -- ever. From now on you deal with Turnbull.

    Tom DeLay is Geary, and Abramoff is the unseen behind the scenes guy, Turnbull.

    Olbermann then re-cast Abramoff as Frankie "Five Angels" Pentangeli, the Corleone capo who is getting ready to testify, then finds a surprise waiting at the hearing:

    CHAIRMAN: We have a sworn affidavit -- we have it -- your sworn affidavit that you murdered on the orders of MICHAEL Corleone. Do you deny that confession, and do you realize what will happen as a result of your denial.

    PENTANGELI: Look the FBI guys promised me a deal. So I made up a lot of stuff about MICHAEL Corleone 'cause that's what they wanted -- but it was all lies -- uh -- everything. And I kept saying -- MICHAEL Corleone did this and MICHAEL Corleone did that -- .uh -- so I said yea sure, why not.

    SENATOR #2: Mr. Corleone would you kindly identify for the committee the gentleman sitting to your left.

    HAGEN: I can answer that. His name is Vincenzo PENTANGELI.

    SENATOR #2: Is he related to the witness?

    HAGEN: I believe he is in fact his brother.

    The last cross of what's about a quadruple-cross.

    I don't think Tom DeLay will get out of it as easy as Michael Corleone did...

    Gasoline prices by country, ranked

    Gasoline prices by country, ranked

    USA: 102 out of 141 (with 1 being most expensive). Driving the suburban assault vehicle is still a subsidized bargain.

    Mom comes first, even when your boss is Bush

    Mom comes first, even when your boss is Bush

    Followup on the four way Texas governor's race:

    "The president will support the Republican nominee, and it's pretty clear the Republican nominee will be his friend Rick Perry," McClellan said Tuesday.

    The White House spokesman has a different pick in that race: his mother, Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who is running as an independent...

    So bolting the party, even though it might get you booted from the Johnson County Democratic Central Committee, won't get you fired in the Bush White House.

    Vilsack Travels

    Vilsack Travels

    The Gazette does a document search dirt-dig on Vilsack's travel schedule. I'm trying to pass it along. Here's the lead (I learned it as "lead" even though "lede" seems to be current usage):

    "Exploring the far reaches of national politics and policy has taken Democrat Tom Vilsack where no Iowa governor has gone before. Vilsack's 2005 travel log included stops in places like Lambertville, N.J., Macon, Ga., Wichita, Kan., and New York City as he has expanded his national reach toward what could blossom into a 2008 presidential bid. Much of that activity was documented in his weekly public schedules, but a fair amount of travel with little explanation or detail also took place under the radar of public scrutiny."

    The Gazette appears to have yet again revamped their E-Edition format to make it even MORE user-surly. Here's what you get when someone emails you the article. Worst. Site. Ever.

    Tuesday, January 03, 2006

    Term Limits Have Weakened State Legislatures

    Term Limits Have Weakened State Legislatures

    Interesting article from Governing magazine: "Legislators become like people who inherit large, complicated appliances for which the owner’s manual has been tossed aside..."

    Tax changes may not materialize in election year

    Tax changes may not materialize in election year

    Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, co-chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, says the parties are so far apart on most tax issues that one side would need a two-thirds majority to pass anything major. The reality is a razor-thin 51-49 GOP edge in the House and a 25-25 tie in the Senate.

    "I think there will be some more modest proposals," Bolkcom said. For instance, he said he expects to see an expansion of tax breaks to encourage using alternative energy sources...

    How To Keep Favre Playing

    How To Keep Favre Playing

    The only scenario in which I can see Brett Favre returning for 2006:

    The Packers hire deposed Detroit coach Steve Mariucci, who was the Pack's QB coach in glory days of the mid-90s and is still personally pretty tight with Favre.

    Just a thought.

    Monday, January 02, 2006

    School for Moral Courage: Upcoming Events

    School for Moral Courage: Upcoming Events

    Couple good things coming up the next two weekends:

    Saturday, January 14, 2006, 2:30 p.m., Iowa City Library, Meeting Room A

    Citizen King, a screening of the documentary illustrating a lesser-known chapter of the life of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Much is known of Dr. King's tireless efforts as a civil rights leader, but in the last five years of his life, King spoke out against the Vietnam War and became an advocate for all of America's have-nots, regardless of race. This film explores King's work during those years, which caused some to accuse him of abandoning his original mission.

    Saturday, January 21, 2006, 4:30 p.m.,Iowa City Public Library, Meeting Room A

    Ethics in Politics: When is it compromise? When is it selling out?

    An open discussion of holding ourselves, our organizations, and our leaders accountable for human rights. Part of the discussion will include consideration of candidates in 2006 county and state elections.

    Texas Governor Now a 4 Way Race

    Texas Governor Now a 4 Way Race

    The Texas governor's race already looked way more interesting than ours and it just got better.

  • State comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn bailed on a primary challenge to GOP incumbent Rick Perry and is instead running as an independent. Making it even more interesting: her son is Bush press flack Scott McClellan.

  • Already in as an independent is country music outlaw Kinky Friedman, who was polling above 20% in some recent polls and who has some of the crew who elected Jesse Ventura on staff

  • The Dems are usually badly outnumbered but are fightin' mad in Texas after the DeLay re-redistricting. Chris Bell, one of the Dems drawn out of office, is seeking the nod.

    So you have Strayhorn cutting into Perry's vote, and perhaps a Democrat could win. But Friedman will cut into the Dem's vote, though he'll draw from both sides. I'd expect Perry to hold the social conservatives, Strayhorn to win over a fair share of moderate/business type Republicans, Friedman to win support among pure independents and disaffected Dems, and the Democrats to hold a black/Hispanic base. Late polls might be key, with people swinging support to their second or even third choice. (This would be a great test case for instant runoff voting...)

    Ballot access is tough in Texas: if you sign Strayhorn or Friedman's petition, you can't vote in a party primary. No doubt Perry will challenge every line of Strayhorn's documents.

    Another difficulty that may hurt Friedman more: Ventura's 1998 win was in large part fueled by first time voters who registered on Election Day - not an option in Texas. The disaffected voters who may say "why the hell not?" (that's Friedman's actual, for real campaign slogan) won't be registered in time.

    This will be a fun one to watch.