Saturday, September 30, 2006

A One Story Town

A One Story Town

Anything happening in Iowa City today?

Gazette goes through history and Officially ranks tonight's Ohio State game as the Number Five Biggest Game Ever at Kinnick and the Biggest Deal since the Number 1-Number 2 matchup with Michigan in 1985.

The DI looks at the tailgating angle:

'We did a study, actually,' said Hans House, a UI clinical assistant professor and emergency-medicine physician at the UI Hospitals and Clinics. 'Hawk fans tend to start their tailgating at the same time no matter what time the kickoff is.' House will run the emergency medical station at Kinnick Stadium. 'We're expecting a busy day. The last thing you want to do is pass out and miss the game.'

There. That's out of the way.

Register acknowledges that Dave Loebsack is making it a bit of a race out here in eastern Iowa. That's more thann Iowa Press will do, says Ellen Ballas:

I just talked to "Sid" at Iowa Press... The reason they won't interview Dave Loebsack is because they don't find the race compelling and don't see any difference between this race and the race 2 years ago (Franker v. Leach). Sid admitted he only glanced the Gazette article on the poll that was reported on Sept. 6th. When I told him the Gazette report was posted on Taegan Goddard's Political Wire, he admitted he didn't know who or what that was.

When I asked Sid to recite the mission statement of Iowa Press: "Report the news as we see it" ....sounds a little like Fox News to me.

Meanwhile up northeast, the GOP is tired of tagging Democrats as terrorists and has decided to call BЯuce BЯaley... a Commie:

The National Republican Congressional Committee sponsored the new TV ad, stating that Braley has been endorsed by the Council for a Livable World, a nuclear disarmament and anti-Iraq war group, and "has been called a peace candidate by the Communist Party." The Braley campaign denied any Communist endorsement and called the ad a "joke."

Might have been a good tactic in 1986 or so. Besides, everyone knows the truly revolutionary candidate in that race is James Hill of the Pirate Party! ARRRRRRRRRRR!

More blasts from the past we'll see in 2008:

  • Those old bumperstickers that say CLINTON with a hammer and sickle replacing the C

  • References to Harkin as "Tommy the Commie"

  • Redbaiting brings back a lot of memories: that Frankie Goes To Hollywood video for "Two Tribes" with Reagan wrestling with one of those Soviet leaders who lasted about a month between Brezhnev and Gorbachev... the NUCLEAR FREE ZONE signs that still grace the entrances to Iowa City and will puzzle Ohioans today... "Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall" (someone should give the same speech in Israel today).

    I had a kitten once that had a goofy blotch on its forehead and I wanted to name it Gorby but my wife wouldn't let me.

    Friday, September 29, 2006

    SurveyUSA - 50 State Senator Rankings

    SurveyUSA - 50 State Senator Rankings

    Look at the bottom of the charts:

    100. Burns, R-MT: 36% approve, 57% disapprove
    99. Santorum, R-PA: 39% approve, 53% disapprove
    98. DeWine, R-OH: 42% approve, 50% disapprove
    95. Kyl, R-AZ: 44% approve, 47% disapprove

    All GOP incumbents who are up this year... Jon Kyl, son of former Iowa US Rep John Kyl, could be the surprise of the year.

    Aside: isn't that the story of the Midwest in microcosm - father from Iowa, son from Arizona?

    Kent Conrad (D-ND) is still number one.

    Grassley's 14th with net +37%. The GOP did its biennial Chuck Grassley absentee request this week, following up on the Dan Gable mailing a couple weeks earlier. Again, no Bush mailing sighted.

    Tom Harkin is as usual middle of the pack, 56%-38%.

    Spot the wannabees yourself...

    Thursday, September 28, 2006

    Proposal would kill Electoral College

    Proposal would kill Electoral College

    The local angle on the National Popular Vote campaign, which would pledge each state to cast its electoral voted for the popular vote winner, but ONLY after states contolling an electoral vote majority also pledge to do the same.

    "We haven't considered it," said Sen. Robert Dvorsky, D-Coralville. "It wouldn't be good for Iowa, because small states benefit from the Electoral College."

    I must disagree with my friend Bob here. I remember giving a presentation to a group of Russians on this issue, showing the 2000 vote and explaining that Gore got more votes but Bush won and they laughed at me. Russians, laughing at an American about democracy. They have, what, 15 years or so of democracy in the last 1000? Yet even they understood: the person with more votes is supposed to win. The Dems didn't make nearly enough of a big deal about this in 2000. Just one more election reform issue starving for oxygen while all we hear is paper trail, paper trail, paper trail.

    Yes, perhaps Iowa's influence would be less. But it's not possible to justify a system where the person with less votes wins.

    Football hype
    is at fever pitch here in Iowa City - the Ohio State game is the biggest regular season game I've seen in my 16 years here. The Outback blimp flew over my head yesterday.

    Between increasing time demands as election day approaches, the demise of my bicycles, and the spinach ban, my fitness program is taking a beating. I'm getting close to my scale's red "danger" mark (which is still 30 pounds below my peak). Unfortunately I've also been on a roll with the blogging. Got a couple interesting things in the works but some mornings I'm just going to have to work out instead of writing.

    At least my face is healing well.

    Thanks for all the feedback on the bullying story - I even got link love at Kos! What's odd is I feel really good yet people are being sympathetic - I'm OK. Really. All that crap happened 25, 30 years ago, not Monday. I just WROTE about it Monday.

    Wednesday, September 27, 2006

    Six Weeks Out

    Six Weeks Out

    Going national this morning.

  • Chris at MyDD lists 20 US House districts that look like pickups and another 15 that look really really good.

  • The AP considers the possibility that we might go to overtime:
    (If) both parties are short of the 218 seats needed to guarantee control. The outcome will be decided by run-off elections in Louisiana and Texas.

    "All of your focus and energy will be on trying to get to 218 in two ways," said Steve Elmendorf, who was chief of staff to Dick Gephardt, former Democratic leader. "One, in recounts and trying to make sure you're throwing every legal strategy and lawyer you can find into try and win the recounts.

    "Secondly, you're going to be looking for every potential person on the other side who can switch."

  • As regular readers recall, I'm absolutely not convinced that elections are being hacked and (while I'm not OPPOSED) I think the paper trail issue is sucking all the oxygen away from more important things like same-day registration. But this is so funny I have to share it:

    In a dramatic development that has come as a surprise to pundits and the public alike, a 19 year old technician with Diebold, Inc. has emerged as the unlikely winner of the 2008 U.S. Presidential election...

  • Tuesday, September 26, 2006

    In Praise of Partisanship, or: Does an Iowa Governor Debate Matter?

    In Praise of Partisanship, or: Does an Iowa Governor Debate Matter?

    The Overrated One touches on the periphery of the two dominant memes in the campaign, but he dances around the real buzzwords:

    Iowans don't want a stumblebum in the governorship, nor do they want someone who is a smart aleck. Each candidate has made noteworthy flubs in his campaign, mistakes that have underscored these criticisms.

    Or: Chet Not Dumb vs. Nussle Hustle.

    Yepsen thinks governor debates are really really important and has a definite idea about how they should be conducted:

    As they do those preparations this week, each candidate has a fundamental choice to make about what he wants to do on stage: Does he work to "whip up his base"? Or does he appeal to the 12 percent of the voters who are undecided?

    The 12 percent who can't decide between Culver and Nussle aren't the Mythical Pure Independents that pundits so love and want us all to be. Reality is, the undecided are the least informed and least likely to vote. But Yepsen keeps dreaming:

    Let's have a civil discussion of the real issues most Iowans believe face the state, questions about jobs, education, health care or the environment. Most people are already tired of the negativity of this campaign and its focus on hot-button issues such as abortion.


    Undecideds aren't "studying the candidates and the issues." That's what undecided are taught to say when the real answer is "I have no clue."

    Old joke:
    What's worse: voter ignorance or voter apathy?
    "I don't know and I don't care."

    No one watches debates - even presidential debates - except committed partisans. The only things that matters in the debate is which headline the Register runs and which lines Mike Glover puts on the wire. Maybe - MAYBE - the undecided will notice those.

    What the hell is wrong with being a partisan anyway? It's a lot more consistent than marking the same ballot simultaneously for John Kerry and Chuck Grassley, who probably would vote on opposite sides on a resolution saying "puppies are cute."

    I voted on the first day of early voting in 2004. Someone asked me "how can you decide so early?" I replied without missing a beat "how can you NOT?"

    The world has changed and bipartisanship-nonpartisanship is dead, making the Jim Leachs and Leonard Boswells obsolete. 2006 is about get out the vote, not about persuasion. It's not about that other mantra of the Mythical Undecided: "I vote the person not the party." It's ALL about the party - about the committee chairs, about setting the agenda. And about the pen - what gets signed, what gets vetoed.

    The biggest vote a legislator takes in control: Pelosi vs. Hastert. Pat Murphy vs. Christopher Rants. Which is why despite similar scores from the interest groups Boswell should be re-elected (one LAST time) and Leach should not. And I'd rather have Chet Culver signing what Mike Gronstal passes than have Jim Nussle vetoing it.

    Who Cares?

    Who Cares?

    The Register left the question mark out of the headline.

    It's not the Who playing in Des Moines tonight. Not as long as The Ox and Moonie are still dead. I saw 3/4 of the Who. On their "farewell" tour. 24 years ago.

    Tne I saw them AGAIN on ANOTHER "farewell" tour. 17 years ago.

    When DID the Who jump the shark?

  • When Keith Moon died?
  • The 1982 farewell tour, one of the first big corporate sponsorship gigs ("Schlitz Rocks America")? While Townsend was simultaneously touting his alcoholoism recovery?
    It may not be a graceful way to end the Who's career, but it's hard to imagine a better testament to why it was time for the band to come to an end.

  • The SECOND farewell tour in 1989? With Pete windmilling on ACOUSTIC guitar?
    Bloated with horns, backing vocals, keyboards, and extra guitarists -- it sounds like a house band for a talk show, while the Who at its prime sounded like a small army on the rampage.

  • Tommy on Broadway? Tommy the movie? Symphonic Tommy?
  • "Hope I die before I get old" at 40? 50?? 60?!?
  • "Bargain," "Love Reign O'er Me" and the Tommy Overture in ads?
  • "Isn't that the guys who do the CSI song?"

    No, my vote for All Time Worst Who Moment was when John Entwistle died and Pete and Roger continued with the tour - FIVE DAYS LATER. The Who Sell Out, indeed.

    The sad thing is the music, at its best, kicks the ass of the overrated Doors. I mean, it wouldn't matter if I didn't CARE so much. Pete Townsend on a good day - and he had a lot of good days - was in a league with Dylan, Jagger-Richards, and Lennon-McCartney. They, too, have had some lame senior moments (save, sadly for Lennon) but none seem to have crashed and burned as badly as the Who.

    Save the money ($48 - $178!) on the ticket. Buy or download Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy (the best of the bajillion greatest hits sets), Who's Next and Quadrophenia. Maybe Tommy too.
  • Monday, September 25, 2006

    Just Ignore It

    Just Ignore It

    A letter signed by Senate co-leaders Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, and Mary Lundby, R-Marion, calls for a vote on anti-bullying legislation next session. A bill proposing the reforms has circulated for three years but failed to clear both houses of the Legislature, despite bipartisan support.

    Back in my day they told me “just ignore it.” Over and over and over again.

    I was surprised a couple weeks back when Tom Vilsack spoke of being bullied in school, of the need for this bill. He didn’t offer details of his hurt, but there was an odd catch in his voice.

    I’m going to fill in the gaps as much as I can make myself.

    I was young for my grade, had no athletic or social skills, geeky interests back before geeks embraced the word and made it cool.

    I walked home each night to taunts and often in tears, and escaped to the Starship Enterprise. Then I'd wander around the woods behind my house alone, losing myself in fantasies. Often I wished Scotty would just beam me up, to that imaginary world that seemed so much better than junior high, where people were accepted as they were.

    Just ignore it.

    “Name-calling and bullying have very serious consequences.” said Brad Clark, executive director of the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Youth in Iowa Schools Task Force.

    According to the anti-bullying letter, 83.3 percent of gay and lesbian students in Iowa are verbally harassed...

    I still remember the specific nicknames – those I can’t make myself say. I still remember the Beavis and Butthead age when “gay” was the catchall derogatory term, when “faggot” was the ultimate putdown. Still is for an adolescent male. And sometimes I got so angry, so hurt, that I lashed out with my screaming unchanged voice, my skinny toothpick arms, my laughable little fists, wanting desperately to do SOMETHING, to have someone do something, to make it stop. That just made it more fun to pick on me.

    Make it stop… make it stop!

    Just ignore it.

    ...and 33.6 percent are physically abused.

    And then I was the one who got in trouble, from the teachers or worse yet from my peers. More than once that landed me in the garbage. Literally. I was gang-banged in dodge ball, I was tackled with cigarettes shoved in my mouth.

    In seventh grade, I was afraid to go to my locker so I carried my mountain of books and messy papers around all day. They were heavy and my arms were tiny. I had to set them down once in a while.

    One day, a guy pissed on them.

    Try to forget this,
    try to erase this
    from the blackboard...
    - Pearl Jam

    And two decades later, I heard “Jeremy” on the radio. I saw the reports from Columbine. And while I could never condone the violence, I could understand why a kid could hurt so much, feel so hopeless, that he’d bring a gun to school.

    Nothing has changed.

    Being bullied made me what I am. I’m more insecure, more afraid to be alone without a relationship, less self-confident. You get told how much you suck every day from fifth through eight grade, it sinks in pretty deep. It made me more desparate to be loved and accepted, prone to unrequited crushes on unattainable girls, later unattainable women. Sometimes I’ve thought that I ran for office because I sought that kind of mass approval, that very public acceptance, that I could not win from my adolescent peers because I couldn't shoot a basket.

    It drew me away from my family for a while – it was the jocks who bullied me, Dad was a coach, and I blamed him. It took me till I was 25 before I figured out he’d been on my side all along, working behind the scenes to soften the blows yet keeping silent to protect my pride. I’m glad he’s been around long enough for us to make amends. Thanks, Dad. And I was distanced from a brother who was two years behind me, close enough to see it happening, close enough to be put at risk himself through guilt by association, caught in the middle of it, torn between support and self-preservation.

    And when I was away from home for the first time, away from the teasing but still seeking acceptance, I tried desparately to finally be One Of The Guys. But I couldn't do it with basketballs or with women. So I tried to do it with beer. I hurt my grades, I hurt my friends, I hurt my first love and lost her. Would I still have been an alcoholic if I hadn't been bullied? I don't know and I take responsibility. But those underlying emotions, shaped by countless adolescent incidents, definitely played a role.

    I sobered up 21 years ago but bullying hurt my physical health for decades. It took till I was 40 years old and 40 pounds overweight to reject my aversion to exercise and fitness, to break my association between the weight room and the jerks who hung out there. And it was a woman I loved, not my dad the coach, who got me over it.

    But if I could, would I change what I am? Did being bullied break me out of the framework of my white skin, my middle class background? Would I have been as supportive of gay civil rights if I hadn't been called a faggot a thousand times? Did it help me look beyond the privilege of my straight male orientation? Would I still have found the punk rock music that I so love even to this day?

    Did being a scapegoat trigger my passion for justice, my sympathy for underdogs, my adamant egalitarianism? Did it make me a better father, help me teach lessons to my daughter? Or do I just sound pathetic, preoccupied with 1985 (few years earlier, actually) and fixated on "The Breakfast Club"? Maybe this sounds like cliches, but it was my own very real life and it's still relevant, now on the political stage.

    I’m 42 and I like myself - more than I ever have. I'm comfortable enough in my own skin to tell these stories. They still hurt, but maybe sharing them helps. And the geeks have inherited the earth. No, I would not change who I am.

    But it wasn't worth seventh grade.

    House Speaker Christopher Rants, R-Sioux City, has said anti-bullying legislation should not offer protections to specific groups.

    To the theocratic wing of the Republican Party, ideology is more important than reality. They actually believe that if this bill passes, we’ll be saying that it’s somehow wrong to hurt a young boy by calling him “queer,” and we’ll maybe just maybe imply that it’s NOT WRONG to be young and gay.

    Which of course it isn’t. But they’re more concerned with their dogma, with Motivating The Base, that with the real tears of our children. Kids like me.

    We can’t just ignore it.

    Sunday, September 24, 2006

    Sunday Roundup

    Sunday Roundup

    Human being weekend, parents in town. Here's a few headlines:

  • Biden in Cedar Rapids and Vilsack in New Hampshire - the Gazette does decent political writing once in a while and would have a much greater influence if they weren't a user-surly, pay to play saite. Even a forwarded article now is an image file - not cut and pasting to quote. Get with the new paradigm.

  • Meanwhile in the Register, the Iowa Poll results continte to trickle out and fuel the "Hillary can't win" meme. The Overrated One gleefully sprays lighter fluid.

    But Yepsen alludes to one GOP problem: their most electable candidates are the least nominatable.

    McCain gets criticized by some conservatives for not being conservative enough on issues such as treatment of terrorist detainees or illegal immigrants. Others are likely to remain troubled by things like Giuliani's support for abortion and gay rights.

    For many of the social conservatives, those positions are heretical.

    And, though Yepsen doesn't say so, so is Mitt Romney's Mormon faith.

  • The Register also sums up the Sec of Ag race in two lines:

  • Northey favors state regulation of livestock operations.
  • O'Brien wants to give local and county governments a say.

  • Or: Agribusiness vs. family farms.

  • Iowa City peace fest: "Criticizing Bush, immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and global justice were among the focal points of the second annual event. Organizers estimate about 1,500 people stopped at College Green Park for the event." Only candidate/elected official sighting: Dave Loebsack. (Later reports: Dem Supervisor candidate Larry Meyers and Green governor candidate also seen.)
  • Friday, September 22, 2006

    Live at the Mill with Loebsack and Fallon

    Live at the Mill with Loebsack and Fallon

    Ed Fallon playing "The Beer Barrel Polka."

    He switched to guitar after a couple on accordion - and now playing Monty Python's "Galaxy Song!" Don't worry, we get political rap between songs. Says Democratic control vis a vis the war "is reason enough to elect Dave Loebsack."

    Long time activist: "I still haven't seen a Hillary supporter."

    Ed's closing with "This Land Is Your Land." Dave promises a short speech.

    "As long as W is president and GOP is in control of congress, we'll be going on the wrong track." I'm catching bits and pieces, everyone wants to say hi and ask about my face. "Disengage immediately" in Iraq gets nice applause.

    Some officials and candidates here: Larry Meyers, Rod Sullivan, Aletia Morgan (wearing a mini neon sign scrolling "VOTE FOR DAVE"; I'm settling for a plain Loebsack button.)

    Would love to tell Rumsfeld: "You've been a horrible Decretary of Defense and it's time for you to resign." (Aside: Leach doesn't remind folks of this but waaaay back when his first "real" job was on Rumsfeld's congressional staff.) Dave also gives us a nice clear health care plan: "Time for single payer."

    Dave joins my table for a few; says he launched the single payer line yesterday in Cedar Rapids and expects it to hit the old media soon.

    Keep Away the Vote

    Keep Away the Vote

    The New York Times looks at the Real ID bill just passed by Jim Nussle, Jim Leach and their friends:

    The bill was sold as a means of deterring vote fraud, but that is a phony argument. There is no evidence that a significant number of people are showing up at the polls pretending to be other people, or that a significant number of noncitizens are voting.

    The actual reason for this bill is the political calculus that certain kinds of people — the poor, minorities, disabled people and the elderly — are less likely to have valid ID. They are less likely to have cars, and therefore to have drivers’ licenses. There are ways for nondrivers to get special ID cards, but the bill’s supporters know that many people will not go to the effort if they don’t need them to drive.

    If this bill passed the Senate and became law, the electorate would likely become more middle-aged, whiter and richer — and, its sponsors are anticipating, more Republican.

    That's not to mention the cost:

    New federal security rules for issuing driver's licenses could cost $11 billion to implement, raising concerns among states about paying for the changes, according to a national survey of states released Thursday.

    'There's no question that state legislators believe driver's licenses should be as secure as is possible,' said William Pound, executive director of the National Conference of State Legislatures which helped conduct the survey. 'The $11 billion question is, 'Who's going to pay for it?''"

    Hm. I think that's easy to guess...

    This guilty till proved innocent mindset is all the more reason to elect Mike Mauro Secretary of State. Back to my thesis in that race: Democrats want to help people vote; Republicans want to keep people from voting.

    Can the Bicycle Save Civilization?

    Can the Bicycle Save Civilization?

    What if someone invented a vehicle that had a long range and an average speed that matched cars in today's city streets, took up very little space for use and storage, operated in a variety of conditions both on-road and off, and provided phenomenal fuel efficiency?

    Leg muscles are about 20 percent efficient, so a three mile ride consumes 80 kilocalories, or about one small apple. If you are wondering, this translates into a fuel efficiency of 1,400 mpg of gasoline. Apples are renewable and clean; gasoline is neither.

    Thursday, September 21, 2006

    Jim Leach Doesn't Want You To Vote Either

    Jim Leach Doesn't Want You To Vote Either

    Neither does Tom Latham. (Steve King? Do you even need to ask?)

    HR4844 amends the Help America Vote (sic) Act to require photo ID to vote, a copy of an ID to vote by mail, and proof of citizenship to register.

    The rhetoric in the House yesterday was particularly heated, with a stream of African American and Latino Democrats taking to the floor to denounce a voter ID bill that they called a "modern-day poll tax" designed to disenfranchise minority, elderly and disabled voters who lean Democratic.

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the bill "a tawdry attempt by Republicans to suppress the votes of millions of Americans."

    Under the bill, all states would be required to check photo identification by the November 2008 elections. By the 2010 elections, states could accept only identification that shows proof of citizenship, a passport or a new federal "Real ID" card...

    Sweet "moderate" Jim Leach voted his true Republican colors on this one. Nasty for old folks, young folks, poor folks, any kind of people who move a lot. No major inconvenience for Republicans homeowners.

    Krusty takes me to issue on this one:

    Any United States Citizen should easily be able to produce two forms of identification. I don’t think it’s asking too much of people to provide a birth certificate, social security card, drivers license, bank account record, or a pay stub to get a voter ID card.

    That assumes you have a job, bank account and car... and spare cash to spend on copies of vital records instead of oh, say, generic mac and cheese for the kids. A lot of seniors don't have ready access to those records, and some very elderly women (say, 85 or older) don't even have their own social security numbers - just their late husband's with an A suffixed at the end!

    Let's also consider folks who spend different parts of the year in different places: students and snowbirds. Different records will have different addresses and interfere with the legitimate right to vote.

    For the sake of argument, let me put a proposal on the table for my Republican friends. A tradeoff. You want photo ID to vote? Let's talk about election day voter registration.

    Fallon takes a shot at Boswell

    Fallon takes a shot at Boswell

    I still get a lot of email from the Ed Fallon list (probably more that I get from the Culver-Judge list). It's always chock full of content and message, and today Ed uses the dustup between Swaim (D) and Wiskus (formerly R) as a lens to look at negative campaigning.

    I've got mixed feelings: I'm a free speech absolutist, and a well done "comparative" ad is a work of art. But too often they sink campaigns into irrelevant, least common denominator issues, and they have an overall negtative effect on turnout (encouraging the "they're all crooks" mindset.)

    But isn't campaigning against negative campaigning in and of itself negative? And how much wood WOULD a woodchuck chuck? In any case, THIS is an interesting shot:

    The third district congressional race is especially discouraging. Jeff Lamberti’s disingenuous ad about Leonard Boswell’s determination to raise your taxes is being countered by a Boswell ad on immigration and criminal justice. The Boswell ad (entitled “Keeping Iowa Secure” and viewable on his website) is so offensive that it runs the risk of alienating a significant portion of Boswell’s Democratic base. It’s unfortunate that this race has deteriorated to name calling, record-distorting and fear mongering at a time when the nation faces a war, a health care crisis and skyrocketing tuition costs, among other problems.

    Kyle strongly agrees.

    Is Fallon, a 3rd CD resident, positioning himself as a progressive challenger to Boswell (or, God forbid, Lamberti) in 2008? Or is a push from the left what is needed to get Boswell to, as the Brits say, stand down? I know you read me, Ed; the comments are wide open...

    Ed'll be doing some congressional campaigning and music playing this weekend, but over in my 2nd CD:

    Fundraiser for Dave Loebsack
    Friday, September 22
    The Mill, 120 E Burlington St, Iowa City
    6:00 PM

    Say Hello To My Little Friend(s)

    Say Hello To My Little Friend(s)

    Regular readers know I am somewhat indulgent of my felines. About 5:30 yesterday morning I was slumbering peacefully when I suddenly felt eight kitty feet. It seems two of the furry four - I didn't even see which two - decided to run laps, and the route was across not my leg, not my back. Nope. Right across my FACE.

    I hollered, said a few coach words, and stumbled off to the bathroom to watch the blood drip. Washed up, Bactined up, gave up on the idea of more sleep. Poured the coffee, started blogging.
    Didn't realize how bad it looked till I went out in public. Kept score and I was asked sixteen times "what happened to your face?"

    So now I'm Scarface.

    I tried to blame Voldemort but unfortunately the scar is not in the proper lightning bolt format.

    Plus I just figured out why my page width was all messed up the last three days - that was the cats too. Gave me an excuse to clean up the blogroll and the code.

    As for the Nuge, I'm not in tune with him politically or lifestyle-wise (I'm a hypocritical non-veggie who prefers my meat pre-killed by others), but back in the day he rocked. "Awriiiiiight, it's ze WANGO ze TANGO!" One Two Three Aaagh! And while my face, in its present condition, is NOT a Maserati, my hair (when I had it) used to be almost that long.

    Wednesday, September 20, 2006

    Jim Nussle Doesn't Want You To Vote

    Jim Nussle Doesn't Want You To Vote

    Jim Nussle joins in the Steve King papers-please, go back where you came from mentality:

    Nussle's proposals include requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote and photo identification to cast a ballot, as well as requiring that ballots be printed only in English.

    Nussle said his measures would ensure no one votes who cannot prove his eligibility.

    So. Guilty until proven innocent. And a "solution" to a problem that doesn't exist, says Mike Mauro:

    "We don't have a history of any prosecutions because of someone voting illegally or improperly. What we have right now works."

    Even Nussle admits it:

    Nussle said he had no proof of illegal immigrants trying to vote in Iowa.

    Vote suppression tactics like this, under the guise of "ballot integrity," are all the rage wherever Republicans can shove them through. Here's how it would have worked in Missouri:

    In order to receive a state ID in Missouri, one must present three separate forms of ID. 'Acceptable' ID is as follows:

    Birth Certificate (Required) Cost $30.
    Plus 2 supporting pieces of ID from the following list:
  • Passport. Cost $20. (COMMENT: A few commenters are now telling me that the current cost of a passport is $100.)
  • A copy of your mortgage statement. Cost: $100,000 plus or minus, depending on the real estate market.
  • A baptism certificate: $20 appears to be the minimum fee involved in document requests of this kind. I was baptized once but I've gotten too old to remember what church I baptized at, since I was a 6 months of age, at the time.
  • College Picture ID: $3000 which is a lowball estimate of the tuition you'd pay to attend a public university for one semester.
  • Bank Book or Checkbook: $50-$100 whatever is the minimum deposit required by most banks to open a bank account. Most poor people cash their paychecks at the local grocer, or check cashing store because they can't afford the initial deposit or all the fees involved in maintaining a bank account.
  • And lest we not forget: The $11 fee to pay for your certified Missouri Photo ID that is the requirement to vote.

  • The cheapest way to get the necessary documents for a photo ID costs $81. This means in Missouri you must pay $81 for the right to vote.

    The Missouri courts found this de facto poll tax beyond the pale and overturned it late last week.

    This move shows Nussle's working an All My Base Is Belong To Me strategy. And it's revealing about the nature of the GOP base in Iowa: xenophobes who are afraid the person speaking espanol in front of them in the Wal-Mart line is talking about them. That unwelcoming, gee I wish it was 1950 again attitude is a big reason why Iowa is one of the slowest growing states in the nation.

    Tuesday, September 19, 2006

    A Fair Shot with Mark Warner

    A Fair Shot with Mark Warner

    Greetings from the Iowa River Power Company. Had the brief chitchat with Warner and a couple staff folks; most of the local legislators are here as well.

    Some buzz in the room about the Kurt Swaim attack mailing; apparently copycat attack pieces are rippling through the state. I think Wiskus gets to have it both ways: he gets to be a "good guy" by denouncing it, his name gets out there, AND the charge gets repeated. (Swaim is basically guilty of being a lawyer.)Plus, despite his renunciation, he stays on the ballot as a Republican - it's too late to make ballot changes, even DEATH is insufficiant and Mary Sue Freeman will be re-elected posthumously) so he gets every straight ticket GOP vote.

    Intros were fast and Warner is already on. Pics won’t work with sunlight behind him; the river is picturesque and we even saw a heron.

    He says Iowa Dems have high expectations of politicos of his ilk (he doesn't say "presidential" but we all get it) “Thanks for what you did for us LAST week...” He’s talking Forward America’s Map Changers project; I’ll give it the link love when I get home.

    He’s got a commanding presence with the speech – as he starts into the biography bit. Not a stiff podium thing, just working the front part of room.

    DNC post-law school, Talking business background – a couple flops then success with Nextel and venture capital, Doug Wilder campaign. Intros the Virginia pals who are traveling with him, whose names we may all know somday if he pulls this thing off… and get some humor out of the Mark Warner vs. John Warner race and his MARK NOT JOHN bumper stickers (“Is that a Biblical reference?” - only in rural Virginia). He does NOT repeat the Liz Taylor joke. After that “silver medal” he worked on expanding health care…

    Crowd is what we call a “heavy hitter” crowd – by local standards. Not private reception at Jefferson-Jackson level, but doctory, lawyery, folks who set their own schedule and can take time at lunch. (Not a price prohibitive event, and a couple of us schlepped in on volunteer skill.)

    “If everyone has to move to a big city to get a job, the character of our country will change.” Started regional venture capital program. Worked on hi tech at black colleges.

    The Why Politics question : “I feel blessed to live in this country, had more than my share of fair shots. The quintessential American value is everyone ought to get a fair shot. More important then who parents were, where born, color of skin.”

    Fair Shot. That’s the phrase. That's the theme. He hits it several times.

    DC is still the old dividing lines (Warner hates Red Vs. Blue). "It’s really future vs. past." We need to address those if the notion of Fair Shot is to survive.

    Now on to the gubernatorial tenure… campaigned in rural areas that hadn’t seen a Dem in a long time. “The best evidence of what someone is going to do is what they’ve already done.”

    Budget deficit of 6 billion. We made hard choices, reformed state IT, procurement _ “not sexy but raised value.” Without competent government, it can be life and death (Katrina)

    We had a real debate about taxes – even with a 2 to 1 GOP legislature. In Virginia “we're so tired of spin a little truth goes a long way.” Most extensive tax reform in the nation. And best place in country to do business. We made record education investments. Made some changes – reshaped K-grad school.

    We’d consistently in the past put newest teachers in toughest schools – and they got hired away by wealthier districts in 3-5 years. My administration gave bonuses to experienced teachers in tough schools. Every HS in state allows for a semester of college credit. For the non-college bound, we guaranteed industry certification. Raised both graduation standards AND remedial programs.

    Revamped kids health care program. 98% reach.

    Tobacco, textile, furniture economy in rural Virginia. One small town got 300 software jobs – rural broadband. Young people started saying “Now I can stay here” rather than moving away for jobs.

    We in Virginia know Dems are fiscally smart, invest in future, Fair Shot. GOP is the ANTI party. My successor won bigger than I did ("mixed feelings about that" gets a laugh)

    We need to take our country back with Democratic leadership. He attacks the 2004 18 state strategy. We need to compete everywhere (applause). Don’t just criticize – lay out how to fix. We have never in my life faced as many major problems at once. No one in DC is stepping up. Our standing in world has never been lower. Unite friends divide enemies – we’re reverse.

    We need to get out of Iraq – and we need a plan to do so. No permanent plans to stay (applause). Send troops back to Afghanistan. Iran is a real threat – WMD, jihad leadership – but Iraq undercuts. Need help of allies.

    Energy policy = Buy $ from China to buy oil from people who hate us. Namedrops alt energy – even nuclear must be on table. Alt energy could drive economy like IT does.

    2 weeks of Iraq $$$ could create US jobs and make us safer.

    Energy, jobs, security, global warming. All connected.

    Now moving to health care – looking at cost containment.

    Our fiscal policy is am embarrassment. "Borrowing from China to but oil from people who hate us."

    As for campaigning - “Never though being unemployed would be this much work.

    Biggest problem with Bush – is something he’s NOT done – he’s never leveled with the American people and asked for shared sacrifice. If Bush a year ago had said “we’re going to build infrastructure” after Katrina or “free ourselves from fossil fuels” after 9/11 – but instead we get Rove and co. polarizing America. People want to be proud.

    A couple times he’s adopted the device of “I know this in uncomfortable” or “heresy”, just did it again on bipartisanship.

    Winding down with the appeal to the “3et’s ta2e 64r c64ntry bac2.” (That's "Let's take our country back - I can't blame my cats on that one, I just slammed my number lock.)

    Mary Mascher - one of the local state reps for you Warnerphiles reaching this from far away - offers the thank you…and Warner takes a few questions

    Privatization of govt. services - ”we need efficiency, but the mantra of privatization hadn’t done it.” Won’t say no but says he’s skeptical. There are areas to find savings… and we used some private vendors. But it’s not a carte blanche answer.

    Which countries have you visited etc. Israel Jordan and west Europe. We can keep America safe and I won’t cede to anyone. It was my state attacked on 9/11 and we have highest concentration of military bases. We have the kind of intelligence center other states need. When people who deplore govt. try to reform govt. – what happens? Military is frustrated, looking for someone with a forward view. Bush has 19th century worldview – we're the superpower, to heck with consequences. My view is shaped by technology – everything is global. America’s strengths: Military, economy, strong alliances, and we were viewed as a force for good around the world. Rest of world would love that America

    First action as president? I would go to place that voted the least for me and ask for their help and ideas. "Change won’t happen in a 51-49 nation."

    How would you try to reform health care? “Start with an administration that believes in science” Applause. There’s a better chance now to fix health care than 1993. We need universal coverage. Not necessarily single payer – not necc. 1) Everyone who can afford to pay should pay something. Larger pools, no opt out. 2) Good patient data. 3) Split long term care from health care. 4) Not fair that American pay for whole world’s drug research and development. We want to retain that intellectual capital, but our drug costs are 4-5 times the rest of world. 5) Without prevention, it’s all for naught. We need to step up on that.

    Labor issues – my state has traditionally been weak and we moved forward. Key to help keep balance. Tough to regulate capital in a global economy. I don’t want to stop trade, but countries need to play by the same rules.

    How do we get back moral standing in world? Rest of the world would welcome it – they sure liked us over last 50 years at tough times. 1-Work with international organizations. 2-Take world lead in alt. energy. 3-Foreign and domestic policy that matches our own values. Cites Nigerian woman who said, “growing up all my friends wanted to come to America.” I want that back. Humility would be a sign of strength not weakness.

    If global warming demands less energy use, can you sell that? Needs to be holistic – auto industry needs to be exponentially more efficient and hybrids. Willingness to focus relentlessly on energy independence, jobs, natl. security. With carter we focused only on prices. Focus more on jobs and security. Need a sense we’re all in this together.

    American people ready to make a change – but we need to lay it out. “Virginia was not the easiest place to start.” But we offered hope. We can’t out-fear them – but we can offer hope.

    The Register question: “Don’t always believe papers.” Tax cuts for rich at time of war wrong – need to repeal Bush cuts. The Register asked, “How’d we get GOP to go along in Virginia?” I said we were viewed as anti-success. With success comes responsibility. We need to look broader – spending and tax codes. Everyone needs to do their part. It’ll take revenue, spending cuts, AND overall reform. “I almost fell out of my chair at that story today.”

    Last??? = What can feds do to reverse decline in org. labor? For 50 years biz and labor agreed to a fair framework. Don’t repeal labor protections like Davis-Bacon and NLRB that were FAIR and not biased. My SEUI friends would recommend more I’m sure – but a big piece is just rolling back reversals of the last 6 years and get back to fairness. AT least that was relatively fair compared to now. Must put new emphasis on job skills – and takes it back to industry certification for the non-college bound. Hits the Fair Shot line.

    Wraps up praising the tough questions. I’m willing to do bold things. Says he’s going to go shoot some hoops with some students, watch for the injury report.

    That’s it for now… Just time for spellchecking and posting. More thought later and maybe some forwarded pics. Press secretary grabs my url.

    Talk Like A Pirate Day - September 19

    Talk Like A Pirate Day - September 19


    Oddly, Pirate congressional candidate James Hill makes no mention of this on his site.

    Monday, September 18, 2006

    John Deeth Blog: Not Really All Obama, All The Time

    John Deeth Blog: Not Really All Obama, All The Time

    Just seems like it today. Tomorrow is Mark Warner day; Warner is at a fundraiser for the Johnson County legislators and I will be live or close to live at noon. Evan Bayh on October 1st depends on family matters; that's my daughter's birthday.

    Thanks to all for the link love on yesterday which shot me to my highest traffic day in almost four years of blogging. The links at and of course were especially nice.

    Before caucus season starts in earnest I need to take some of my election overtime and invest in an actual camera. For now I'll just link to Chris Woods' Flickr set.

    Another write up, which catches one really key point that I missed, is from Lynn Heuss, guesting at Political Madman.

    Even the normally just the facts maam Politics1 (Run Gunzburger is my true blogfather and he's been doing this since 1998) gets in on the act; also Dan Conley writes at Political Wire. He doesn't gush as much as me:

    Perhaps the best was Obama saying that the war on terror has become a war fought between September and November in even numbered years. But like other rhetorical high points, Obama fouled the line off and only seemed comfortable with his oldest material.

    To the Iowa faithful, though, a B+ Obama sure beats anything else they have to listen to on a beautiful fall day.

    OK so I'm a hick blogger, too cheap for a camera and a url. Guess I'll go milk the pigs now. That was a line I used to use on urban ubersophisticates - if they laughed I knew they were OK but if they took me seriously we were definitely in trouble. Legendary perhaps apochryphal story about the East Coast staffer - HAD to be Dukakis since I heard the story pre-Kerry - getting their first ride through a harvest time Iowa field:

    Is that a CORN field?
    How come the corn in that field is so short?
    That's soybeans.

    50 Days Out

    50 Days Out

    The Register's Real photographers get the Victory Tableau shot.

    Barely time for shaving let alone writing this AM. A very quick, know I'm miss something link roundup, subject to additions:

  • Obama coverage: DI, Mike Glover, Tom Beaumont, Smoky Hollow (Dien Judge has a real camera). Glover also has a Mark Warner piece.

  • Meanwhile a former primary rival says Run, Barack, run.

  • Saturday's John Kerry tailgater complete with beer bong pic that will no doubt haunt him...

  • Please God No Department: Gore's 2008 Plans May Become Clearer After Release of Book

  • And they might take away all Reggie Bush's trophies, but he still got to play against the Packers yesterday. He didn't accomplish much personally, but unfortunately the Saints ended up on top. Sigh...
  • Sunday, September 17, 2006

    Obama at Harkin Steak Fry, Part 3: The Main Event

    Obama at Harkin Steak Fry, Part 3: The Main Event

    Folks passing an Obama 2008 petition got some TV attention.

    Harkin acknowledges Obama IS The Main Event with avuncular humor about “giving the kid next door a chance” after he couldn’t get Bono to headline. My notes say I noticed Obama glancing at notes earlier but I’m guessing that was just to be sure to get the local names right because I never though of it again till looking at MY notes.

    During the obligatory props to everyone his first memorable line is that too many politicians “represent Washington to their constituents, instead of representing their constituents in Washington.” He notes how easy it is to get comfortable in ones position and let things go to your head (in praising Harkin for not doing so). For all I know this may be part of the boilerplate Barack Obama speech but it still resonates.

    The extraneous chatter is absolutely dead – the only sounds are occasional airplanes, a little wind on the mic, and Obama’s voice. He talks about his first state senate race and how he was faced with two questions: “where’d you get that funny name” (he pulls off a Yo Mama joke about his name) and “why does a nice guy like you want to get into a dirty nasty thing like politics?”

    Obama acknowledges that all of us, even the activists at this event, feel a cynicism about politics. He then introduces the woman who will structure this speech – a 105-year-old black woman born in Louisiana who he met the night before his general election win (and the Alan Keyes reference gets a good chuckle). He filters 20th Century American history and experience – flight, two world wars, the New Deal, the labor movement, immigration, civil rights – through this woman’s lifespan, showing how she kept the faith in “this idea called America” and kept the faith that “at some point it’s going to be my turn.”

    “We don’t SETTLE in America,” Obama says, giving us a statement and a challenge all at once. The whole speech, really, is challenging and is ABOUT challenging – challenging us to live up to our ideals.

    I may be too much of a speech-style person, as an ex-teacher and old college speech circuit hack. But I like oratory and consider it a lost art. And Obama’s style is special. Quiet, yet commanding. Fiery yet not over the top. Conversational and at the same time challenging. You can tell in the phrasing, the pronunciation, that this is a guy who fully absorbed Harvard Law while keeping the ability to connect to South Side Chicago.

    Obama looks at the challenge and goes on the attack, making his case against Bush (who gets a chuckle) and the Republican congress who gets booed. I found those reactions interesting: Bush is a joke; the GOP majority is an enemy? In any case Obama says the Republican America is “a little bit meaner, a little bit poorer” and gets it all down to:

    “They’ve got a different idea of America. They believe in different things. They believe government is the problem. They believe you’re on your own.” Obama says this is a tempting idea – since is doesn’t require anything from us. But he rejects that in Biblical terms in asserting “I AM my brother’s keeper… we understand that in our churches, synagogues and mosques, on our blocks… but we need to understand that in our government too.”

    Like I said, this may be the boilerplate Barack Obama speech. But like the 2004 convention speech it’s a concise and moving statement of vision, of why one is or could be a Democrat.

    From there Obama moved into the litany of issues, noting Newt Gingrich suggested that Democrats would do best campaigning on two words: “Had Enough?” (A phrase I saw on lots of Dave Loebsack yardsigns on the way… speaking of which I saw a lot more recorder, supervisor and state rep signs in rural Iowa than Nussle or Culver signs.)

    Obama’s issue list was better than anyone else’s, was excellent, but wasn’t as stratospheric as his take on the Big Picture. The single biggest applause seemed to be for attacking the GOP on using terrorism as a wedge issue.

    Concluding with the call to action that’s as obligatory as the props to the fellow politicos, he reached to the Big Picture again, back to the device of stating our values and challenging us to meet them: “the strongest thing we have as Americans is our ideals and our values.” After 32 minutes we were back at the biggest Victory Tableau of all and playing, you guessed it, more Mellencamp and that other 80s chestnut “Born In The USA.”

    A couple slightly hipper selections emerged while the Obama handshake line stretched to near football-field length. There were rumors of post-event media availability depending on time. It soon became obvious that time wasn’t going to happen. My brother called not long after I got home, having watched the whole thing on CSPAN. His big impression was at Obama’s genuineness working the reception line – which I noted from about a three-people away distance just in the facial expressions – and in the sheer number of people begging him to run for president which I was too far away to overhear.

    So that was my day. I hope I didn’t gush here but Obama was really damn impressive. The challenge is if he can stay that adored when the time comes that he steps into a presidential contest and faces others of infinite ambition.

    P.S. Here's to the volunteers who do the thankless jobs. Thanks, garbage volunteer (sung to the tune of "Bud Lite Real Men Of Genius"). I hope you got a moment with Senator Obama, too.

    Obama at Steak Fry: Part 2

    Obama at Steak Fry: Part 2

    Back to the platform as Leonard Boswell introduces the down ballot folks one by one for their short speeches. I seem to have missed Dave Loebsack, who I have many an occasion to see, and Bruce Braley who I still haven’t seen. Met Chris of Political Forecast fame for the first time; he said uberblogger Jerome Armstrong wanted to meet us locals but I failed to make that happen.

    Dave Loebsack with Linn County's Harvey Ross.

    Denise O’Brien made one of the few specific mentions of winning votes from independents and Republicans. Mike Mauro, as I noted, seemed to hold audience attention and talking about how important it is for the Secretary of State to actually PROMOTE voting. He played the Ken Blackwell and Kathleen Harris cards to good effect for the partisan crowd.

    Patty Judge seemed to hiave gotten bullet point duty:

  • Minimum wage
  • Stem cells
  • Education
  • Choice

    Seemed like everyone mentioned stem cells. It must poll very, very well. Everybody also used the Nussle Hustle line (except Obama).

    My photography skills and equipment stink but this is the basic view from the press box.

    A couple noted random observations at this point: The stage d├ęcor was hay bales, pumpkins and a Patton-sized flag. And I stumbled over a BETAMAX (!) tape labeled WGN, wonder what kind of equipment THAT goes in. The media scrum was in full effect – Chicago stations, all of central Iowa (though no Eastern Iowa TV), CNN, etc.

    Mark Warner was in town and got the same two minutes as everyone else. Just enough for a first impression: fiery, handsome, blatant name ID pitch (no, I’m not the Warner from Virginia who was married to Liz Taylor, but turns it around to praise JOHN Warner for coming out against administration). The short time seemed to focus him. He held attention better than Dodd did last week – of course, Dodd had a lot more time and was the main speaker. Hoping for a better look at Warner later in the week.

    At this point they took an attention span break after a half hour of short speeches. The Obama scrum continued relentlessly; I made my first Culver sighting as well. Notice an abandoned Register on the press platform with a big write up on state senator Jack Hatch.

    The speeching resumed with the national anthem. Just before that someone shouts “take your hats off.” I always feel awkward at rah-rah moments but I oblige; the network camera guys don’t. I eyeball the crowd and realize my crowd-estimating ability doesn’t go that high. The male speaker uniform appears to be khakis and identical blue shirts; amazingly no one else makes the joke and Obama gets to do it going last. Not even Harkin, on his home turf, is going to risk speaking after Obama.

    The green and gold signs wave and I wonder how my Packers are doing (answer: badly.) Governors Old And New are announced with the oompah band plating the Iowa Corn Song; Harkin and Obama get Happy Days Are Here Again; my streak of waiting in vain for “New Day Rising” by Husker Du remains unbroken. It takes all of Happy Days and a whole Mellencamp song for Obama to push to the stage; I was beginning to think it would take the entire Scarecrow album.

    Sally Pederson appears wearing more her party chair hat than her lt. Gov. hat. She brags up the Dems voter registration edge and I verbally scoff “it’s because we had a contested primary.” Then I realize that I just referred to the Dems as “we” on the press platform and I feel as good as I always do when I break a foolish rule.

    The serious speeching begins with Vilsack. Each speaker has to eat up several minutes welcoming and praising the other speakers, part of the ritual is remembering to do so and finding a way to do so creatively. After honoring the ritual, Vilsack describes a statue in Marshalltown of a man holding a child, using it as a lead in to: “we have a responsibility to show our children a more hopeful America.” Sounds like the Theme for Vilsack 08 here. I notice a little more audience hubbub. Then he hits his stride with some trifecta trifecta trifecta and a litany of Republican policies and mistakes that takes a “doncha' think?” cadence. More conversational and less call and response than such repetitive language usually is.

    He does the Victory Tableau (you know – hands clasped and raised over heads) with Chet and hands off. I just saw the Chet Speech last week and this sounds like the same basic one: the Nussle as Bush Clone line, the Fuel the World/Feed The World line. I notice that some of the shirts that say HARKIN STAFF have the same color and font as Hormel SPAM shirts.

    Culver gets off a three V’s for Victory get out the vote alliterism (“Vote, Volunteer, Visibility”) and launches a basketball team metaphor (“I’ll play center because I’m the tallest and you get the ball a lot.”) The coach stops the jock metaphor just barely in the nick by starting Harkin at point guard; another Victory Tableau.

    Harkin riffs on the trivia tidbit that he’s defeated more sitting GOP members of congress than anyone else in history and gives Yepsen a shoutout for printing this (OK, but Mike Glover showed up at least an hour and a half earlier today)



    The preceding paragraph represents the opinion of Xavier the neglected cat who is wondering why I’m not giving him more attention after being gone all day.

    After roughly ten minutes of shoutouts to Culver, Obama, Vilsack, the congressional candidates, and every Democrat in a three mile radius – and that was a lot of Democrats – Harkin gets to business. Over the years I’ve noticed he’s at his best in this type of setting: partisan crowds, longer speeches. There was a lot of Republican bashing through the day but Harkin’s was wittier and his timing was surer. “Folksy, yet reasoned,” say my notes. He notes pro-American rallies in Tehran – in IRAN! – in the days after 9/11 and “Bush has squandered all that good will.” He goes beyond the generic “Nussle Hustle” line and zooms in on Nussle’s role as budget chair. At that point I remember wondering: if the Republicans did not impose term limits on their chairs, would Nussle even be doing this? Why give up all that seniority and a leadership track career for a 50-50 shot at governor? Does he really WANT to be a governor? Or does he figure he can’t beat Harkin in `08 and this is the best rest stop until Chuck Grassley retires?

    Harkin talks about brain injuries to troops and talk of fully funding vets’ health care gets biggest applause yet. A couple lines are slightly shopworn; I remember the one about the gut complaining about not getting any rain from trickle down economics and saying “I’d settle for a heavy dew” from back in the 1991 presidential speech. But maybe he retired it for the Clinton years and it became relevant again. Unfortunately.

    The speech wraps with a Harkin self-portrait of Iowa values defined as “hard work… integrity… community…” a whole litany of the best of the small town America myth. He has the timing and the wistful tone just right. He’s a master of the form...
    ...compared to the previous speakers.

    But then… then he gets to introduce Barack Obama. That’s in part three.
  • Obama at Harkin Steak Fry: 1

    Obama at Harkin Steak Fry: 1

    Obama in The Scrum.

    So today was the 29th Annual Harkin Steak Fry, long enough that Harkin joked bout the years. He’s also gearing up for the re-elect and has been doing some nice blogger outreach, and thus, there I was invited and press-credentialed. It was my first time on a press platform in about 14 years, since my lifetime ago career as a local NPR reporter, and I marveled at my ability to have it both ways as a citizen journalist who still gets to have bumper stickers on my car. I was next to Fox News, which I delighted in.

    They were without wifi though I’ll bet they shoot for it next year with al 372 Democratic presidential candidates likely to attend. I heard a rumor that there was a hotspot at the CNN bus but I’d already committed to a plan: pen and paper, written up after the fact, which I’m now executing.

    Roadtripped up on back roads through town full of grand old buildings that were outsized for what little town was left. One town billed itself as “quietly progressive” (with a couple letters missing and I thought the day was likely to be progressive, but certainly not quiet.

    The morning Register greeted us with a dead heat 44-44 governor poll but surprisingly I never heard that mentioned the entire day. First friendly faces I recognized were a couple Linn County folks I’ve been on a bazillion campaigns with – Rep. Todd Taylor and labor star Norm Sterzenbach – both think the legislative seat outlook in Linn is good, look for gains there.

    Strolled the midway of campaign tables - “midway” seems like the right word. The atmosphere at the Harkin Steak Fry is old-timey, harkening (ha) back to a bygone era where political matters were a major source of public entertainment and social life. The music was mostly of the oompah-band variety playing hot hits like the Marine Corps theme. When they took breaks we got Mellencamp. Lots and lots of John Mellencamp.

    Had a nice chat with Susan Radke of Nevada, running for a suddenly open House seat. She sounds sharp and has a good human services type background, and we compared notes on trying to doorknock on football game days. Sometimes dodging the issues is a good thing – if the issue is Hawks vs. Clones.

    The Evan Bayh table made the case with maps: Bayh making Indiana blue county by county and winning by about 20 in `04 while W was likewise winning by 20. Chris Hayler took some time to talk and just barely added the obligatory “if,” I’d be surprised if he even leaves the state for Thanksgiving. Notes that his cell phone number spells out BAYH even though he got it 4 years ago – must be destiny.

    Holy Shiite, I was so anxious to write that I just started and forgot to plug in; started getting the Dying Battery Beep.

    Mike Mauro works the crowd before the speeches.

    Mike Mauro spotted me and grabbed me for a moment; I asked about his missing in action opponent and he says he hasn’t seen or heard much; very quickly turned my attention back to how his own side of things is going. Later Mike made a speech that seemed to hold the audience more than most of the downballot folks.

    The Denise O’Brien campaign was also on the midway. Their opponent seems to be working western Iowa which indicates a play to the base strategy. Meanwhile Denise and the green bus are covering the state; I later inadvertently cut the green bus off trying to get out of the fairgrounds. Oops…

    After rain on the way it turned into one of those nice fall days – a little warm, a little cool, all at once. Leonard Boswell walked by and I had to do a double take because I barely recognized him; he really has dropped the weight. Also walking by was a stunning redhead waaay below my age line who appeared to be with some sort of Nebraska young Dems bunch, and she seemed to keep popping up wherever I went. Or maybe I just noticed her more because of my personal tastes. I’m sure paid journalists think like that too but they don’t get to write about it.

    Also on the midway are the 21st Century Forums, aimed at young folks. I joke that I no longer qualify; the staffer responds that while voting membership is limited to under 40, we (ahem) older folks are still welcome. I note that’s a better option than Logan’s Run. In any case it was a good hit on a day that saw more young folks at a political event than usual.

    The crowd started to get tighter a bit before 2 which was also my first Yepsen sighting; he spent the speeches hanging behind the press riser. He caught sight of me and I hope my laptop bad which I’d festooned with sever stickers in open contempt of objectivity.

    Shortly after 2 the downballot and congressional folks started speaking, but the crowd’s attention was still all over the place – food, conversations, logistics. Ran into an Iowa City friend who’d been at the “heavy hitter” event with Obama and was giving rave reviews; no one was able to speak after Obama as he was mobbed by folks wantiong to meet him.

    Caught a couple riff of Selden Spencer’s speech: he noted that as a neurologist, people say that most of the people who see him have something wrong with their brain. He set it up better in a self deprecating way that I failed to record; anyway he turned it into “under Bush and the GOP there’s something wrong with the country.”

    Right around this time Obama arrived and he was easy to spot: follow the rugby scrum of TV cameras and folks wanting their Moment. (I no longer seek The Moment; I had my share of Moments long ago and prefer to step back and defer to other folks to whom a Moment would mean more.

    I’ve decided to chunk this up and post part 1. As they say in Old Journalism:


    Obama - the first impression

    Obama - the first impression

    Just getting home after some road destruction.

    The thought that surfaced on the drive: Obama was great on the issues but stratospheric on the Big Picture.

    Just sitting down to write. Check back...

    Friday, September 15, 2006

    Where there's smoke there's ire

    Where there's smoke there's ire

    Profoundly mixed feelings:

    Culver accuses his Republican rival, Congressman Jim Nussle, of opposing a cigarette tax hike because Nussle has taken campaign contributions from the tobacco industry in the past. 'He has taken $70,000 in campaign contributions from Big Tobacco and it's no wonder,' Culver says.

    I've been mashing this up with Johnson County's furtive move toward smoke-freeing the county buildings.

    Is a tobacco tax a revenue source, a dterrent, or a "stupid fee"? Iowa Ennui presents the class argument:

    Chet, what about your base? Sure, you need those country club soccer moms who don't buy smokes to be all about softer side issues and their kids, but you just sold out every working man & woman that can’t quit. It’s well documented that tobacco taxes are extraordinarily regressive; the habit can financially crush a low-income smoker. A few will find the costs prohibitive and quit, but the rest will keep using and fattening up the state’s coffers...

    I'm not necessarily AGAINST tobacco taxes. What I AM against is hypocrisy and disingenuousness. Which means I may have chosen the wrong ball game when I got into politics.

    I'm a non-smoker (I smoked the first month I quit drinking but realized in the nic o'tine, I mean nick of time, that I was trading one bad habit for another) but I'm not an ANTI-smoker. There's a big difference.

    If you listen to an anti-smoker speak for more than about three sentences, you hear a sinister undertone to the earnest health arguments. I'm not denying their sincerity, but anti-smokers are truly contemptuous of people who smoke and find it impossible to hide their visceral disgust. Even if they are trying to understand the nature of addiction, they still react to it as a weakness rather than as an illness. The attitude seems to be "you smokers could just quit if you weren't... weren't... weren't Bad People!"

    Maybe it's just my own experience with alcohol addiction, but I'd just like honest rhetoric: "Yes, we want to raise the tax three bucks a pack and put the smoking area four blocks down the street next to the sewage treatment plant - because we don't like other people's habits and we want to punish them for it."

    What prohibitive tobacco taxes and increasingly isolated smoking areas are really about is socially stigmatizing smoking and, by extension, smokers. It reinforces the Smokers = Bad People subtext. That may be a public health positive, but it's rather dehumanizing.

    Not That There's Anything Wrong With That

    Not That There's Anything Wrong With That

    From Political Wire:

    Former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE) had the best analysis of why she'll run:

    "I think it's ninety-nine percent certain that Hillary will run, but that one percent is where the world lives. She's got everything to run: the intellect, the money, the people, the national campaign -- and she has the best political spouse in the business. If I were running for President, you can bet that I'd want Bill Clinton as my spouse -- even if it meant a change in sexual orientation!"

    Obama coming to Harkin steak fry and (the plan is) so is Deeth. But I'm out of town for the John Kerry tailgater. The Daily Iowan phrasing is priceless:

    Kerry will raise funds for 2nd District congressional candidate Dave Loebsack at a tailgate on Iowa City's famous street of inebriation, Olive Court. Kerry's visit gives the Bay State's junior senator a special insight into alarming Midwestern-morning, alcohol-imbibing rates. And perhaps, the man from Sam Adams' land will give Busch Light a try.

    The tailgating is bipartisan; seems Jim Nussle's having one too.

    The DI also talks to Joe Bolkcom

    "'We need to rebalance our economic-development programs to focus more on workers' skill development and away from just writing the standard checks to get businesses to stay here,' the senator said.

    Meanwhile, Bolkcom also advocated raising of Iowa's minimum wage. He proposed boosting the hourly wage $2.15 over the next two years, which, he contended, would dramatically assist the roughly 100,000 Iowans who earn the base wage...

    Thursday, September 14, 2006

    Goodbye, Ann Richards

    Goodbye, Ann Richards

    One of the greats is gone; just think how different everything would have been if she'd been re-elected in 1994. Retrospectives from Dallas Morning News and Houston Chronicle.

    Mostly just a link roundup this AM.

  • KCCI does a poll. 48-43 Culver and - this may be the first or even only poll on this race - Sec of State Dem Mike Mauro 43, GOP last-second carpetbagger Mary Ann Hanusa 31.

  • Chuck Grassley gets his copy of the GOP fall script:

    Grassley said Wednesday that criticism of the war in Iraq has a "demoralizing impact on our troops."

    But Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Ia., said in a sharply worded retort that Grassley's comments "are clearly part of a Republican election-season strategy."

    Said Harkin: "Republicans have been clear about their intent to politicize the national security issue in an attempt to divert the public's attention from the administration's failed leadership in Iraq and around the globe."

  • In Missouri Senate challenger Claire McCaskill makes a brilliant move:

    A local St. Louis television station was able to broadcast the Rams season-opener only because McCaskill bought the remaining 100 tickets, which resulted in the NFL lifting their local blackout rule. The station later aired a press conference where McCaskill gave the tickets to two charities.

    The bottom line: For $4400, McCaskill bought several hours of very good media coverage.

    Touches all the bases (sorry to mix my sports). Poor kids get a treat, casual voters who aren't tuned in yet actually notice this, female candidate seems like one of the guys, go team fight team yay team.

    Of course, no Wisconsin politician would ever be able to copy that play, because the Packers are ALWAYS sold out.
  • Wednesday, September 13, 2006

    Returns, Returns, We Got Returns

    Returns, Returns, We Got Returns

    Amazingly, the normally lame Gazette site has the best comprehensive roundup of eastern Iowa school results. Moustly routine - sad to see all the uncontested races. But in skimming I picked up a few anomalies.

  • Incumbents knocked off in Muscatine and West Liberty, and a few other small spots beyond my radar screen
  • A three vote squeaker in Mid-Prairie
  • Though we couldn't do it in Iowa City, Write-ins beat ballot-listed incumbents in Keota and Belle Plaine
  • Postville votes no on money

    In Solon, last year's stealth candidate David Asprey wins; he was one of the leaders of attempt to remove some gay-friendly books. Just in passing - literally, driving through town - it looks like he and incumbent Ben Pardini shared support or at least yard sign spots. Laura Reed, who had progressive support, came close. At least this time it looks like Asprey's supporters, who nearly defeated a funding measure last year, got behind the instructional support levy which passed easily. Turnout was down a notch - 19%, from last year's 25%. (Iowa City was at a whopping 3%.)

    Nationally, Political Wire has a good roundup of yesterday's primaries.
  • Tuesday, September 12, 2006

    Lessons from the Write-In

    Lessons from the Write-In

    Just a couple thoughts before I call it a night.

    The short sweet Sam Garchik campaign taught us how many people are plugged into the Iowa City progressive infrastructure - about 500.

    And look at the precinct results. Krumm and Leff almost exactly matched; Write In and Under correlate even more closely. Looks like the Garchik voters bullet-voted.

    Slow day, late night

    Slow day, late night

    Turnout is extremely low in Lone Tree and Clear Creek Amana, low in Iowa City, high in Solon. But Iowa City topped the all time low from 1992 (the election even I missed) before 3:00.

    I did something weird today: I went to the polls. Oh, I always vote - save for that one oops in `92 - but given the nature of my job it makes a hell of a lot more sense to vote early at the convenient location three steps in front of my desk.

    Last time I voted on Election Day was in the 1995 school election, because it was my stepson's 18th birthday that day and I wanted to go with him. This election I just felt like it. It had been so long I forgot how it works, and the pollworkers, who all knew me from the office, seemed to think I was just checking in and were pleasantly surprised that my visit was actually to vote.

    Postmortem may or may not be tonight. Love ya Sam, voted for ya Sam, but write-ins just take a little longer to get counted. The RESULTS will be out tonight, but once I get home I may decide my sleep is a higher priority than my analysis.

    Nick Johnson: Voting for Garchik

    Nick Johnson: Voting for Garchik

    Know the difference:

    Good in spaghettiGood for school board

    Nick Johnson, damn good blogger and former school board member, endorses Sam Garchik and offers more advice:

    The two candidates (a) whose names are the only ones on the ballot, (b) have widespread name identification among the voters, and (c) have the support of a major voting block, go into this election with an overwhelming advantage. Given the number of letters to the editor supporting both of them, it would appear that block is supporting both. Nonetheless, some voters will, undoubtedly, split their vote (giving one vote to Sam), or vote for only one of the two on the ballot.

    Given these disadvantages, there is little probability that Garchik can finish in first place. He has to aim to finish second.

    Thus, if you vote for Sam -- and one of the other two candidates, whose names are on the ballot -- you are only increasing the likelihood that he will come in third rather than second, and -- since there are only two board positions to fill -- effectively lose the election.

    So if you want to make your vote count for Sam Garchik -- rather than just show your support by voting for him as one of your two choices -- you will want to consider only voting for Sam Garchik and not casting your second vote for anyone.

    Polls open, 7 AM to 8 PM tomorrow. Write in the name AND fill in the oval.

    Monday, September 11, 2006

    Sullivan, School Board, and Sales Tax

    Sullivan, School Board, and Sales Tax

    From Supervisor Rod Sullivan's weekly email newsletter "Sullivan's Salvos":

    I was extremely disheartened to read the op-eds by Board candidates Jan Leff & Tim Krumm. In her piece, Ms. Leff says that one of the uses for a one-cent Local Option Sales Tax would be "property tax relief."

    If the ICCSD really needs the money this tax will generate to fulfill unmet needs, that is one thing. But to shift the funding of our schools from property taxes (paid by those who have greater resources) to a sales tax (paid in greater percentages by those who have less) is unconscionable.

    Mr. Krumm talks about "being sensitive to the needs of at-risk students." Statistics show that at-risk students are overwhelmingly poor students. How is making these poor students pay more being sensitive? Actions speak louder than words.

    Using sales tax revenue to reduce property taxes is a conscientious effort to move the burden of paying for schools from the rich to the poor. I find this to be immoral, and I think we should be ashamed. Candidates who claim to be advocates for people in need should take a hard look at the policies they promote.

    We also need to end our hypocrisy. The same people who gush about their commitment to United Way will likely vote to tax the poor for the cost of schools. No charitable giving will make up for the amount of hardship a sales tax will cause.

    The Day Nothing much Changed

    The Day Nothing Much Changed

    Amidst the rah-rah and flag waving, an espresso shot of reality:

    If you were in either of the two cities that were attacked on September 11, you might have picked up a copy of one of the daily newspapers. The headline of one story in the Washington Post read, “Israeli Tanks Encircle a City in West Bank.” The front page of the New York Times led with a story headlined, “Scientists Urge Bigger Supply of Stem Cells.” Inside the paper, readers might have also noticed a small item that read, “Iran: Denial on Nuclear Weapons.” The headlines on that morning—before the world learned of the attacks—suggest that our pre-9/11 preoccupations are certainly not that different from those we carry today.

    Rounding up some weekend stuff:

  • The Overrated One gets it wrong again, this time on last wee's choice wars

    At the end of the day, we knew what we knew before the flap started: Culver is a strong pro-choicer while Nussle is a big pro-lifer.

    Other issues need attention, too. They may not whip up supporters like the abortion issue does, but they're profoundly important to more voters...

    He then goes on to his usual litany of eat your peas economic issues. Meanwhile, in the same edition of his own paper, Tom Beaumont: gets it right:

    With South Dakota’s abortion ban and a new U.S. Supreme Court as the backdrop, the question of what role state governments could play in determining the future of abortion is expected to weigh on voters more this year than in past elections.

    If that’s the case, Nussle could face a heavier burden than Culver in this campaign, given independent voters’ tendency to support abortion rights in Iowa.
    “Independent voters … are more likely to believe abortion should be legal ,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer of Des Moines. “They are definitely swing voters, and if they can be persuaded to vote on this issue, the sheer numbers at stake give the advantage to the Democrats.”

  • Tom Harkin at Fighting Bob Fest in Madison this weekend:

    'We need to elect a Congress that will start having hearings and holding investigations and put their feet to the fire,' Harkin said. Harkin, who sits at La Follette's former desk at the U.S. Senate, called the Wisconsin progressive icon one of his heroes.

  • Common Iowan's take on the JC Dem's BBQ.

  • Please. God. No:

    Al Gore said Sunday he hadn't rule out making a second (sic; they seem to have forgotten `88) bid for the White House, though he said it was unlikely.

    "I haven't completely ruled out running for president again in the future but I don't expect to," Gore said to reporters in Sydney, Australia, where he was promoting the local premiere of his documentary on global warming...
  • Sunday, September 10, 2006

    It's Going To Be A Loooong Fall

    It's Going To Be A Loooong Fall

    Bears 26, Pack 0. Ouch.

    "'Yeah, give them credit,' Favre said. '(But) maybe we just ain't very good.'"

    First shitout - I meant to say "shutout" but the typo was better - since Don Majkowski was quarterback.

    Johnson County Dems BBQ on Tape Delay

    Johnson County Dems BBQ on Tape Delay

    The liveblogging didn't quite work out at the barbecue - too much multitasking, and spending time having a personal life. So I figured later and better was preferable to live, and I spiced it up with pictures to make it worth the wait.

    My stuffed donkey, Hotie (Donkey Hotie.. ha ha ha) worked the greeting table. He brought a date, too...

    Stars of the show: Dave Loebsack, Chris Dodd, Chet Culver and Tom Vilsack.

    A few hundred folks showed up - all the regulars plus old friends we see about once a year. The early evening was dominated by the Hawks' dramatic if lengthy victory; Mike Mauro made a brief hello and said some really good things about voting rights, but no one seemed to hear (he was the de facto guinea pig for the sound system). The food was the usual high quality - the first caveman to roast a wild boar over a fire must have been a Neuzil.

    Overtime had one merciful outcome: they dropped the speeches from the unopposed candidates. Larry Meyers gets the prize for shortest speech: "The Republicans want a seat in the Board room, and they can have one - in the audience." That's not a line, that's a transcript. A few other folks - most notably Denise O'Brien - were there but had to cut out before speaking.

    Our opening act was the live debut of the Nussle Hustlers, with MC Jim Larew rockin' the mic. The dancing was bad enough that the bags were justified, but rumor was they only had one rehearsal. And the dancer on the far end...

    the dancer on the far end missed even that. He looks a little familiar.

    While this was going on we were silent-auctioning some miscellaneous political chum - Janet Lyness successfully bid on a Nick Maybanks t-shirt.

    A few awards:

  • Outstanding central committee members - Paul Deaton, who quietly does lots of car pools and event arranging, and Janet Lyness who's helping all the other candidates.
  • The outstanding newcomer is second vice chair Alicia Trimble who jumped right in only about four months ago and is already indispensable
  • Special awards to Gary Sanders for Stop Wal-Mart, and to Ellen Ballas and Trish Nelson for the Rapid Response Network.
  • The elected official award goes to Ro Foege
  • The Pioneer Award – for long time activists – Gina and Mae Schatteman.
  • And the Chair’s award – went to the whole exec board so I had to go up to the front of the room.

    Dave Loebsack followed the awards. Here's my live notes:

    People think my opponent is a “good Republican” but his first vote will be for the GOP leadership – I will vote for Dem leadership and real alternatives. (He’s phrasing this is a call and response question format) Throwing in Rumsfeld, minimum wage, health care. I throw in a solo applause for “keep this short and Dave picks on my blogging, I’m getting a reputation here. He’s getting the biography paragraph out – family history – Democrats gave me hope and opportunity

    Chris Dodd was next (here he is in the media scrum after the show's over). The Hartford Courant
    and what looked like some national print press were along for the trip.

    My notes:
    Makes a couple jokes about being able to have a Senate caucus out here in Iowa, joshing around the edges of the presidential race.

    Now he’s going over his credentials, mention Senate Children’s Caucus, FMLA, etc. Discussing “the notion of the common good, coming together as a community” and Bush destroying that with an attitude of “you’re on your own." That sounds like the overarching theme.

    Talking about poverty and health care issues as matters of priorities, we need to keep people in need first in our minds. Also applies to foreign policy.

    Talks about Peace Corps background. “I want to see a generation that reaches out to the rest of the world in a positive way – and not just lashing out on our own.”

    Tells story about DeGaulle in Cuban missile crisis. US Intelligence is setting up a big visual presentation to prove the missiles are there and DeGaulle stops him and says “the word of the American President is proof enough for me.” Talks about how far from that we are now and how we can get back to that.

    The old governor fared better in his speech than with his dancing. The Press-Citizen zoomed in on the conclusion:

    "'Please, please do everything you can do, donate every penny you can,' he said in remarks that ended with his dropping the microphone as he left the stage. 'You can change a nation. If that isn't enough to fire you up, then you can go home.'"

    He did seem to have some extra oomph in his Wheaties at the end - but for the most part the speech was mostly similar to last
    , though with a lot more mention of Chet Culver. Talked up The Nussle Hustle and added "I’ll take a plan over platitudes any day" while reiterating the talking points and the trifecta.

    Dick Myers introduced Chet Culver. Here's the new stuff I picked up:

  • The race boils down to one question. Continue our progress, or turn the clock back and hand the state over to a Bush clone.
  • Name checks George Washington Carver, Norman Borlaug, and Henry Wallace – "Iowa fed the world, now we can fuel the world." Good line. Wants a state director of renewable energy and tax credit on hybrids
  • Not just about issues, about values – Iowa roots and experience vs. DC values. (That’s an interesting spin for the senator's son... taking a perceived weakness and aiming it at his opponent.)
  • Describes GOP: “Deficits, debt, cronyism and corruption”

    Fearless Leader Jen Hemmingsen, Chet, first vice chair James Moody. One last note:

    Seems like EVERYONE is crossing over this year.