Wednesday, January 31, 2007

TWO Iowa Dems are Running for President

TWO Iowa Dems are Running for President

Lest we forget. Of course, one is constitutionally ineligible, as a naturalized citizen. Sal Mohamed For President: coming soon to a street corner near you.

A fetus probably called in

A fetus probably called in

Daily Iowan has the only coverage and great quote on the Prairie Lights cancellation.

And in 1992, Mitt Romney has a Democratic fundraiser; one more drip in his slow death.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Prairie Lights Threatened, Closed; Supporters Freeze

Prairie Lights Threatened, Closed; Supporters Freeze

Krista Jacob (second from left) with supporters at Prairie Lights

Tonight's Live from Prairie Lights reading from Abortion Under Attack: Women on the Challenges Facing Choice by Krista Jacob was cancelled due to anti-choice threats.

With an hour or so's notice by email, about 15 of us showed up in front of Prairie Lights to take some sort of stand for choice and free speech. We told folks arriving for the reading what had happened; most left in disappointed disbelief but a few joined us.

To our surprise, Jacob herself arrived and thanked us. She said she'd gone to the Deadwood (one of our most famous local watering holes) to commiserate for a bit, wondering what the hell had happened to the Iowa City she knew (she attended UI and interned at the Emma Goldman Clinic). Her first thought had been that we were picketers AGAINST her, but a closer look and she realized we were there to support her. Krista thanked us and we apologized for this out of character happening (as Iowa Citians we were all pretty embarrassed.) Krista had already ordered some dinner but felt more like standing with us, and said we'd restored her faith in Iowa City.

Mutual warm fuzzies aside, we all acknowledged this was an anti-choice win; one threatening email succeeded in censoring Krista's reading. She said she has protesters on a regular basis, but this was the first event that had actually been cancelled. One supporter noted the irony: we should have been inside the store attending the reading, and it should have been the anti-choice picketers outside and freezing.

No press present, so this blogger gets an unwelcome scoop.

Prairie Lights Threat?!?

Prairie Lights Threat?!?

Prairie Lights will close tonight at 6 p.m. because of a possible threat . The reading tonight was scheduled for 7 p.m., but has been closed to the public due to a possible threat.

Tonight's reading was:

Activist/Journalist Krista Jacob will read from Abortion Under Attack: Women on the Challenges Facing Choice. “This book will challenge you, infuriate you, sadden you, empower you, and freak you out. Most of all, it will inspire you to start a new conversation about abortion—even if you thought you never wanted to talk about that again.” —Penny Lane, director of the Abortion Diaries

Vigil, 6:45 PM in front of Prairie Lights, downtown IC.

Culver Budget: The $140 Million Question

Culver Budget: The $140 Million Question

Given the amount of time devoted to it in the speech, and the numbers in the budget that depend on it, it's clear a dollar a pack is at the top of Governor Culver's agenda.

The $140 Million Question: Can he get Gronstal and Murphy on board for a buck?

Taking bets: what'll be the final smokes tax hike?

  • Leadership's 60-odd cents?
  • 80 cents or so - split the difference?
  • Culver gets the dollar?
  • $1.17 to match South Dakota?
  • or Mary Mascher's two dollars?
  • Republicans Still Don't Want You To Vote

    Republicans Still Don't Want You To Vote

    From Iowa Progress:

    In the State Senate, Assistant Minority Leader David Johnson has recently introduced a bill that would require voting places to close two hours earlier.

    7 PM is a pretty tight deadline for workin' folks...

    Contrast this with the Dems attitude, noted at Iowa Voters: Rep. Pam Jochum of Dubuque has an election day voter registration bill. (I suppose I should note that the registration deadline for the February 13 election is this Friday; folks who've been reading since last October know this means Robot may make a comeback)

    Iowa Voters also looks at the pollworker shortage and notes that Omaha "drafts" pollworkers, jury-duty style, and that Ohio is looking at it. Not sure we're at that level of crisis yet, but having worked with this stuff for a number o years here's some thoughts.

  • The single biggest barrier to recruiting and retaining pollworkers is the length of the work day. Count the set-up and shut-down time and pollworkers put in a 16 hour day in a general election. That's a long time for a population that's overwhelmingly older, yet law requires that they're hired for the whole day. (Backups are allowed for emergencies) If auditors could hire for half days they could fill more slots.

    And no, I'm not contradicting myself by arguing against shorter voting hours while saying the pollworkers have too long a day. We don't expect clerks at open-all-night stores to work a 24 hour shift...

  • Iowa law requires precincts to be balanced by party affiliation: half GOP, half Dem (it can be off by one if it's an odd number of workers). When he was secretary of state, Chet Culver backed changing the law to allow no-party registered voters to work the polls; I'm not necessarily against that but I don't think it would significantly help fill vacancies; in nine years I don't recall anyone saying "I'd love to work but I absolutely refuse to declare a party." Aside: I wonder how an overwhelmingly Republican place like Sioux County manages to staff an election with 50% Democrats...

  • The best thing I've seen help the pollworker shortage is frontloading the process. The more votes that are cast early, the less the workload at the polling place. Iowa law changed in 1990 and allows anyone to vote early for any reason or no reason, and in Johnson County the absentee rate in big elections has gone up from 3-5% in the `80s (when it was only the traditional travelers and shut-ins) to the 30's and 40's today; early voting even topped 50% in a 2003 special. If half the votes are in the box before election day, it follows that you won't need as many folks staffing the polls.

    Oregon has a different solution: there are no polling places, all elections are by mail.

    I'm early-morning oversimplifying all this, but it's nice to see some election reform discussion out here in the `sphere that's about something other than paper trails.
  • Monday, January 29, 2007

    Breakfast With Andy Stern

    Breakfast With Andy Stern

    Much delayed but finally served.

    Well, that wasn’t anything like I expected. I went in expecting a speech, or a low-key talk, and instead I got a discussion. I thought maybe I was doing too much talking before we started, at the beginning, then I realized, wait a minute! We HAVE started and this is what it’s going to be!

    Anyway, here’s some of the play by play. We had a dozen or so of us: long-time and new activists and a couple elected officials (Amy Correia from the city council, and later county auditor Slockett arrived)

    Stern said labor’s membership in 2004 was looking less at the candidate “who can win” and more at the candidate who was best on the issues, and in the very glitzy 2008 cycle he hopes labor can steer the campaign back toward issues. He asked us – asked us! - how best to do that, when the press is already focusing on glitz.

    Amy Correia cited a local group, The 49 (named for the 49% of Americans who DID NOT vote for George Bush) that was involved in local races in 2005 and in the 2006 general. Another local group cited was FAIR. (Pardon the GeoCites URL. Local activism doesn't have to be fancy, he said from the free Blogger account.)

    Amy C: the 49 – issue forums

    Other comments:
    Jason Friedman: Iowans are very conversant in issues. Get candidates to focus on them. We believe Dems will win in 2008, and want to make the right choice.

    Me: Sometimes Iowans also over-think the electability “issue.” (OK, I was a bruised Deaniac.)

    Stern had a great analogy: Democrats think a campaign is Jeopardy, where you win if you get the most answers right. "But Republicans know it’s American Idol." So we get folks who win the quiz but don’t connect with people.

    Mike Carberry wants an American Idol winner who’s talented! Some thoughts that Hillary’s events this weekend seemed scripted, and we Iowans don’t want fawning and star worship. I ask if it will wear off; most of us think so.

    Stern talks about the incredible new level of accountability the net (particularly youtube) creates. Candidates have less control, and the roots can use the net do drive the campaign.

    Andy then discusses SEIU’s “Running for president? Walk In My Shoes” campaign; they’re trying to get candidates to spend a real day with a real person, getting members to tell their unfiltered stories then have that person report their real-world observations.

    He noted SEIU’s working on a health care forum in Nevada, but the DNC trying to shut down, since candidates are saying they’re not ready for joint appearances (“they’re ready to be president, but not ready for a debate.”

    Andy notes that an interesting thing about the globalized economy is that multinationals now do business in countries where the health care issue has been dealt with (Everyone else in the world has it figured out”), and are learning that “you don’t have to have socialism to have health care.” This reduces the old-fashioned ideological opposition.

    One of us asked what were the three most important issues SEIU’s dealing with. The bullets:

    In health care we’re reaching a 1994 moment. Even insurance and business and GOP governors are discussing universal coverage. (He thinks we’ll have to get universal coverage first before pushing ahead to single payer.) Right now, labor is telling the Democratic leadership “you don’t have to wait for a Democratic president.” Unlike `94, one-time opponents now believe collapse of the health care system (“we have a SECTOR not a system”) is worse than change. Now it’s about political will

    People understand we’re in an economic revolution, akin to the agricultural or industrial revolution but in a much shorter time frame. But while the economy is GROWING growth is not DISTRIBUTED. Even Alan Greenspan says the rich poor gap is threatening capitalism. And unions are part of the solution. “Unions are one of the few anti poverty programs that work and that don’t cost the government money.” Sharing when a company succeeds is what used to make America great. People should have a stake, a voice.

    This war is a huge problem. Militarism is not our future, and being a world community is different than being a superpower

    When asked if progress is likely on labor organizing rights, Stern says it’s rhetorically closer. People feel the balance of power in the economy is tipped to capital. In many states, unions are not a factor. And we’re beginning to be a public sector movement – one risk of that is private sector unions are associated with fighting corporate greed while public sector unions risk association with higher taxes. Labor to give a vision of unions as part of solution. Labor is not talking about other country’s models of unions (as opposed to health care). He notes we’re as far in time from the New Deal as the New Deal was from the Civil War. And we can’t build a 2007 economy around 1935 laws or mindsets.
    And he adds “I cringe when John Sweeney says ‘we won they owe us’”

    Peter Fisher notes that the immigration issue is puzzling to labor.

    Stern says a consensus is growing that we need a path to citizenship for the 12 million people already here, and that we can’t vilify people who are trying to do what’s best to take care of their families. It’s getting hateful – when people are economically insecure they look for someone to blame. A lot of problems get solved when economy gets better.
    We also need a plan to match immigration and job skills without driving down wages, and make it a criminal offense to hire the undocumented; he notes employers have a hard time complying without slipping into racially profiling. And once you tie a guest worker program to a specific job and employer, there’s a risk of exploitation.

    The discussion turns to Wal-Mart; I ask how to make the case against shopping at Wallyworld to folks who worry about making their own ends meet. Andy says to keep at it; they’re lost 5-8% of sales on negative PR. The argument “You’re paying for their employee’s health care is also is effective. He notes the “fear based” corporate culture of Wal-Mart; the’;; pay for security cameras if anyone mentions low wages, but once the union talk simmers down, they stop staffing the cameras for less important matters like people getting mugged in the parking lot.

    Back to the subject of other international models of labor, Stern notes that China is obsessively scared of scared of instability, and a large wealth gap is unstable. So China is actively, ironically, promoting unions.

    And a quick straw poll of the Iowans at the table produces this list of likely caucus winners (predictions, not endorsements!) Edwards 3, Clinton 1, Obama 1, and one Edwards/Obama waffle. (No one actually had waffles but there was a nice looking omelet. Andy’s not a breakfast guy, which is a shame because the Hamburg Inn is the best in town). As we leave Stern “we’re counting on you for the methods and the methodology” to put issues in the forefront.

    Followup: Andy is reading tonight at Prairie Lights, the greatest bookstore on the planet, from A Country That Works: Getting America Back on Track. The reading will be broadcast on public radio WSUI's "Live From Prairie Lights" rogram. I was a semi-conventional journalist at WSUI back in the first Bush era.

    Sitdown with Andy Stern (just a teaser)

    Sitdown with Andy Stern (just a teaser)

    Just back from a chat at the Hamburg Inn here in Iowa City with a dozen or so locals and Andy Stern of SEIU. No time to write now (I have a job and stuff) but check back tonight.

    Matt Stoller of MyDD was there and has this post of a talk with Andy last night. I haven't read it yet (don't want it to impact my own writing) but there's video with it.

    Sunday, January 28, 2007

    Iowa Against The Grain, Post-Hillary Notes

    Iowa Against The Grain, Post-Hillary Notes

    A Kos post notes that Iowa isn't polling like other states:

    For the moment at least, Iowa isn't following the national trend. Instead, Iowa is more in agreement with... DailyKos. The straw poll taken here earlier this month put neither Hillary nor Barack Obama at the top of the heap. Instead, honors went to the man who hasn't been getting as much attention in the press of late -- John Edwards.

    Senators Obama and Clinton may be absorbing most of the national news, and may suck the air out of pundit conversations from now till the opening of the polls, but if the past is any evidence, that may only cause Iowans to look elsewhere.

    We could be a giant killer. Will be interesting to see the poll after this weekend's Hillary visit.

    Speaking of which, the Gazette appears to have been at Marcia Rogers' house in Cedar Rapids even though I was told "no press or bloggers" by HRC staff. Doesn't look like the pool report I was offered; there's an in-the-house photo with a Gazette photographer credit. Sharp contrast to last weekend's blogger sit-down with Edwards and Edwards...

    Meanwhile, Roger Simon at The Politico pulls this lead out of Des Moines:

    A man, who identified himself as a Gulf War vet, asked the New York senator at a town meeting in a high school gym here Saturday if the surge of new troops to Iraq “was going to be enough?”

    Instead of answering, Hillary (as she is officially called by her campaign) said, “Thanks so much for your service” and then talked about how she visits military hospitals and believes America needs to provide good medical care for its veterans.

    In the one-hour town meeting, Hillary did not mention Iraq a single time. She mentioned ethanol twice.

    This goes for all the candidates, especially the top tier: here's hoping we Iowans let the star-struck novelty wear off and keep asking the tough questions till they get answered.

    And O. Kay has a colorful write up of Des Moines. including the music review I usually provide.

    Saturday, January 27, 2007

    Hillary In The Bubble

    Hillary In The Bubble

    Senator Clinton comes to Des Moines:

    Clinton's entourage included 10 vehicles and included a Secret Service detail.

    That makes it difficult to work the chat and chew cafe in West Pole Bean. Today may be a harbinger of the campaign: mega-events or invite-only, no in between. As for invite only, the Gazette looks at Marcia Rogers' housecleaning:

    Rogers is planning tonight's private party for invited guests in her southeast Cedar Rapids home as ``a conversation with Iowans.'

    The point of the house party is to welcome Clinton to Iowa, for her to get to know Iowans, Rogers said. All people should feel like they have access to the candidates...

    Emphasis added.

    So what's the track record of candidates who are entombed in the Secret Service bubble? Leaving out uncontested re-nominations there are three modern caucus cases:

  • 1980 Dems: Carter and Kennedy both in bubble and Carter left most of the campaigning to surrogates anyway. So it's a non-test or a draw, since main surrogate Mondale was also bubbled.
  • 1988 GOP: Bush Senior blindsided by non-bubbled Dole and Bibled Robertson. Bubble hurts candidate.
  • 2000 Dems: Bubble doesn't hurt Gore, but speaking as a Bradley supporter it was hardly a fair test; the word was passed down from DC and Des Moines that Good Democrats were for Gore (yes, I was called a Bad Democrat over it)

    So we really don't know. My gut check: Bubble hurts Hillary.

    Chris at MyDD handicaps the front-loaded Dem calendar and speculates on the political junkie's wet dream, the brokered convention. He also maps the rote to the nomination; worth a read but here's the bullets, the first the most relevant:
  • Edwards must win Iowa.
  • Clinton must finish in the top two in two of the following three: Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
  • Obama must win an early state, and do "better than expected" in at least one other.
  • Everyone else must win an early state. Period.

  • Those recent Edwards first in Iowa polls have set the bar high...

    And from the right, Charles Krauthammer has a surprising energy plan:

    The president ostentatiously rolled out his 20-in-10 plan: reducing gasoline consumption by 20 percent in 10 years. This with Rube Goldberg regulation -- fuel-efficiency standards, artificially mandated levels of 'renewable and alternative fuels in 2017' and various bribes (er, incentives) for government-favored technologies -- of the kind we have been trying for three decades.

    Good grief. I can give you a 20-in-2: tax gas to $4 a gallon. Just look at last summer. Gas prices spike and, presto, SUV sales plunge, the Prius is cool and car ads once again begin featuring miles per gallon ratings.

    No regulator, no fuel-efficiency standards, no presidential exhortations, no grand experiments with switchgrass. Raise the price and people change their habits. It's the essence of capitalism.
  • Leagueblogging 3: Questions 2

    Laptop dies from heat during question on teacher salaries: all the legislators love it. Jacoby notes that with the new majority it's no longer a question of philosophy but one of revenue. My loud, Windows default boot sound is obnoxious.

    Johnson County health director Ralph Wilmoth asks about bill for food inspection fee increase. Bolkcom expects progress, has been meeting this week. Need to fund adequate personnel. Wilmoth says inspections split between counties and state; some counties sending responsibility back to state; staffing inadequate. Johnson County spends $230,000 on it; half tax dollars half fees. Mascher notes e.coli outbreaks and says this raises public awareness of the importance.

    Foege notes that legislation has "three p's: Partisanship, policy, and personalities." And veto of previous bill had much to do with personalities. Wilmoth said food inspection is not about punishment, it's about protection.

    Liz Crooks from the school board asks about early childhood.

    Mascher says many K12s have preschools included now, but not one per building and some districts have none. Looking at allowable growth for other preschools in area, for consistency and continuity. Also looking at hiring and qualifications. Important not to shut down private programs. Some districts have private providers in the K12 building, and many provate providers making important contributions. Need private provider registration. Everyone should be registered in 3 to 5 years.

    Foege says it's great that Mascher is so passionate about this issue that she ran through the timer's STOP sign (many chuckles) Important that kids get home visits from day one.

    Schmitz says Senate looking at same issues; districts crying out for help in this area.

    You know, I almost miss the old bash the Republican leadership rhetoric. Almost.

    Some discussion of kids with disciplinary issues and the difficulties thereof. Jacoby says need to work with DHS on payments, current rate structure antiquated.

    Bob Welsh encourages bipartisanship (with trifecta what's the point?!?) Senior Living Trust Fund restoration and livable communities.

    Dvorsky suggests amending stem cell research to clone Bob Welsh. Jacoby discussed joint communication centers, says he's had help from rural Republicans. Not all splits in legislature are partisan. Dvorsky notes bipartisan help on minumum wage. Foege says he was always included in process while in minority because of some personal relationships, those relationships remain even though roles have changed.

    So they disagree with me on the bipartisanship. Oh well... the difference btween the legislators who have to get stuff done with the other side, and the activist who's focused on elections.

    Mascher notes that only one House Republican has ever served in the minority. (she ignore Dough Struyck who served as a minority Dem and then turned traitor). Dvorsky says only two GOP senators have been in minority, but the 2005-06 tie has helped working relationships. Schmitz notes a "hazing" question from a GOP senator; other GOP senators apologized later.

    Pat Jensen asks about electoral reform issues. (speaking of I'm now noting the presence of Auditor Slockett as well)

    Lensing has electronic filing bill; it's bipartisan. Main argument against has been that some legislators have computer-illiterate camwhich paign treasurers (!) Campaign reform election being split into smaller pieces, as many as 60 bills.

    Jacoby says chair Pam Jochum is very active. Elctronic filing: timing is another question. Good joke: "Data entry error: couldn't tell if Rants got $100,000 or $1 million from tobacco."

    Bolkcom supports public finance, but not sure if public support is there. Current e-filing system is very archaic and tedious. Bill filed to make stricter referendum filing (cited public power) and mentions smae day voter registration (I applaud but no one else does)

    Dvorsky notes public finance passed but vetoed in Branstad era. Praised Mike Mauro and expects initiatives from his office including same day legislation.

    Mascher: "yes, yes, yes." Foege: "Ditto." Foege notes that legislators specialize and he's looking to Lensing and Jacoby's leads on these issues. Dvorsky says Charlie Smithson underfunded.

    Janelle Rettig asks broad question about alternative transportation: aviation, trails and ethanol.

    Bolkcom expects trail $ to double to 2 million. Bill Dotzler looking at bonding to raise funing to 30 million. Rails good in long run but in short run should increase bus and van in IC-CR corridor. Not much point in putting ethanol in 18 MPG vehicles, need to look deeper.

    County Attorney Janet Lyness gets applause at self introduction. Says new Johnson County Human Rights ordinance should expand to state. Asks legislators to review the 2000 foot law - ineffective and counterproductive. Has seen jurors acquit despite evidence because of the law! Also seeing people less willing to plea because of it. Also wants to see a drug court at 6th judicial district; we're the only one without one.

    It's damn nice to see her here and engaging the legislators; never saw Pat White at one of these. Public statements matter.

    Lensing and Foege discuss supportively. Bolkcom says county attorneys have been helpful and educational on 2000' law, but public still supports it. Dvorsky says intent is to be tough on sex offenders and make policies that work; hearings start Monday. Hoping for human rights ordinances in other communities.

    Auditor Tom Slockett offers support to cleean elections, paper trail and election day voter registration. Also plugs the February 13 election, says turnout is low thus far. Asks for legislative changes to ease early voting process. Jacoby asks about workability of same day registration.

    Nearly quitting time and here come the students! Always the best questions. The kids are older this year as the teacher who does this has moved to the new North Central Junior High.

  • State tax incentives for hybrids (Ro notes his wife's recent hybrid purchase)
  • Mandatory sentencing
  • Livable wages
  • Cigarette tax (was she listening earlier? Aaah, give her a break, she did her homework and asked one of the big questions)
  • Ethanol and corn production
  • Interesting question on the relative energy efficiency of ethanol vs. transportation alternatives
  • Teacher salaries (see notes on cigarette tax above)
  • An annexation law question! (You can tell these kids go to school in the north corridor)
  • Tuition costs
  • Assistance for children of military parents in war
  • The Regents (none of the grownups dared bring that 800 pound gorilla up...)
  • Expanding the bottle bill.

    Long applause for the kids. Out of time, Beaumont signs off the air. But the legislators will go ahead and answer the kids.

    Mascher reiterates the tobacco tax and discusses affordability of higher education and full regents institution funding.

    Jacoby discusses efficiency of ethanol production. Says it reduces foreign oil dependence, but we weren't prepared for increased corn production. Need to look at switchgrass and other methods. Says "right on" to the regents question.

    Schmitz says re: mandatory sentencing we need to look at treatment as well as punishment, and praises the troop kid support question. Foege says he'll ask veterans' commission about the issue.

    Lensing says we need to increase bottle redemption rate before expanding bottle bill. Bolkcom says there's a bill for hybrid tax breaks. Dvorsky discusses upcoming appointment of four new regents.

    And that's the ball game!
  • Leagueblogging 2: Questions

    First question from League: Last year passed tax credit for private schools but not public schools. Reconsider?

    Bolkcom: Bill was passed to facilitate low income scholarship funds. Was part of an agreement Vilsack made, did not have support of senate tax committees. Bill was dead but was worked into final agreement package. Worth reconsidering.

    Questioner adds unclear comments in opposition. Mascher says many of us voted against it; hard to undo once it's done, not sure votes are there.

    Christopher Squire, anti-smoker: pushing for the dollar, rather than the 64 cents on the table. Concerns that industry can neutralize the lower increase.

    Bolkcom: Important for members to push leadership on the higher amount. Culver got elected on $1 and that raises the ante. Schmitz: Keep people coming up to the legislature so we can tell leadership there's support. Foege: Don't want grocers etc. to set public health policy. Tuesday Culver will be loud and clear for $1; met with gov on Thurs. and he's adamant for $1. Lensing: Love Mascher's $2. $1.17 Mascher says contact other legislators as well, support governor. Tobacco and grocers have the same lobbyist: "interesting." Dvorsky: Murphy and Gronstal telling folks 62 cents; it's difficult to stand against leadership even though governor is at $1. Jacoby: Next week is important.

    Next up: Superintendant Lane Plugge: thanks legislators for incentives on SILO tax; making the pitch for the yes vote.

    Dvorsky notes Johnson and Linn are last two without SILO; if it doesn't pass there's already bills to pass it statewide. Clear Creek Amana and Solon in worse financial shape than Iowa City and need the resources.


    OK, it's hardly live with presidential candidates, but it's one of the staples of the blog: the monthly league of women voters legislative forum.

    Barbara Beaumont is trying to gavel us into submission.

    I see Senators Becky Schmitz (the empty Dave Miller chair is filled!) Joe Bolkcom and Bob Dvorsky and Reps. Vicki Lensing, Dave Jacoby and Mary Mascher. Rep. Ro Foege gets here a tad late. So all 7 Dems from Johnson County districts present, with the GOP as usual absent. Other dignitaries in the audience include county attorney Lyness, suprevisor Neuzil, sheriff Pulkrabek, school board members Fields and Crooks and superintendent Plugge, and Dave Leshtz newly of the Dave Loebsack staff.

    Iowa City Education Association, school district and CAFE (anti-smokers) are the cosponsors.

    Bob Dvorsky goes first. Minimum wage passes, signed Thursday. Bullying bill moving forward. Bob's on juduciary, rules, labor, and chairing appropriations. Looked at Governor's budget. Will be good budget for state and E Iowa. Culver wants 4 or 5 big items, not a laundry list. Senate gets more organized each day.

    Bolkcom: Commerce, Approps, Nat Resources, and chairing Ways/Means. Cites min. wage and bullying again. Thanks Jacoby and house commerce for work on predatory lending and car title loans. Ways and Means moving forward on $1 a pack on cigarettes. Ment in the Smoking Room for some ironic chuckles. Culver proposing $1, legislative leadership wants lower. Joe looking at energy policy and what Iowa can do on global warming.

    Mascher: We're all smiling and excited; new energy in the capitol, we're not playing defense all the time. Culver has clear message about moving state forward; discussed inaugural events. Praises Chet for binging events to other parts of state than DM. Notes that 257,000 Iowans see wage increase because of minimum wage hike, 58% women. 98,000 kids helped. Discusses cost of living hikes since last minimum wage increase 9 years ago (gas=1.22 a gallon.) On Edu.cation and Educ approriations, human resources and labor. Focused on early childhood ed: accessability, affordability and quality. Allowable growth will be between 4 and 6 %. K12: looking at mandatory attendance till 18, good as long as alternatives for at risk kids. Tobacco tax big priority: has a $2 tax bill in just to make the point. Mentions stem cells.

    Jacoby: Appropriations, commerce, state government, human resources. Dave working on midwest rail compact, looking at passenger rail. Also freight: ethanol increases the amount of corn we're hauling around. Looking at smoke free Iowa bill. Car title loans thought committee, to House floor next week; expects "lively discussion" and passage. Some across the rotunda joking with the senators.

    Lensing: Enjoying hard work of majority. Environmental protection - looking at expansion of bottle bill, no bill yet. Complexity of ciminal code: may not take on in entirity but looking at impact on prisions. Working on election reform including electroning campaign finance. Oversight: was investigating CITEC in interim. MEdiacom vs. Sinclair: we owed it to constituents to have hearings. But got no real answers. Will talk to federal delegation.

    Schmitz: Education, State Govt, Human Resources. Just learning the volume of work... I was school social worker, and was frustrated by dwindling resources. Minimum wage is a start but working families need more help. Bullying bill; long sessions to get through committee. Bullies victims too, they isolate themselves with their behavior. Gets school on page that this is important. Health care: accessibility and cost, hoping for action this session.

    Foege: Also an old school social worker. Bullying committee session ran close to midnight; discusses some experiences with Peter (of Paul and Mary) Yarrow and song "Don't Laugh At Me." Also mentions min waye. Ro on admin and rules, approps, education , hum resources, chairing heath human services appropriations Provides services/funding for the most vulnerable, powerless Iowans. Working on comprehensive health care bill. Main pieces: 1) commission to build a plan for covering all Iowans, including mental health. 2) stitch up safety net. Something wrong when 15,000 people in Linn County going to free clinic. 3) $1 pack on smokes to finance. Also looking at statewide smoke free, and funding for prevention/cessation. People need help to quit.

    Friday, January 26, 2007

    RAGBRAI Flat; Loebsack says 'Out In Six Months'

    RAGBRAI Flat; Loebsack says 'Out In Six Months'

    RAGBRAI stops (not full route) released. That first leg in the far northwest - Rock Rapids to Spencer - looks tailor made for a GOP candidate. Betcha "Biggest Loser" Huckabee rides... plus we got the Field of Dreams this year.

    So I'm taking bets: which Dem, if any, gets the Bruce Babbitt Award for riding RAGBRAI? Won't be one of the Big Three... and which Republican loses style points for too blatantly trying to schmooze Lance?

    Meanwhile, another of a thousand cuts for Mitt Romney: contributions to Democrats. Romney seems likely to be the Dogs Don't Like It candidate of 2008. And now that McCain has sold out in order to get the Turn, Chuck Hagel is the new McCain.

    Iowa Citians off to the peace march in DC this weekend, while our new congressman signs on as a cosponsor of the measure by Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) that requires all U.S. troops to be withdrawn within six months. This is considered the toughest anti-war bill and the list reads like a House lefty who's who. And I'm happy to see Loebsack in such company. Iowa Progress gets the hat tip.

    And evvvvvvrybody wants to sit by Tom Harkin at the State Of The Union.

    Thursday, January 25, 2007

    Hillary in C.R. 7 p.m. Saturday

    Hillary in C.R. 7 p.m. Saturday

    Update: The Gazette story gives an address but no name; it's the home of Dem activist and onetime Iowa House special election candidate Marcia Rogers.

    From the In Box

    From the In Box

    Hillary in Cedar Rapids is private residence, no media new or old. But they got back to me. So the media Saturday is all Des Moines event.

    Iowa's political glass ceiling

    Iowa's political glass ceiling

    Women Not Winning In Iowa, the lecture. Does not reference current holders of congressional seats. Or senators from New York (details of that Cedar Rapids visit still TBA)... So let's look deeper at 2008:

  • GOP: I'm digging through my brain and not coming up with an Iowa Republican woman congressional candidate. This thing works both ways, ya know.
  • Senate: Harkin is clearly up and running again.
  • Districts 1 and 2: Braley and Loebsack brand new.
  • District 4: While he's not prohibitive or presumptive at this point, Selden Spencer is making another bid.
  • District 5: Joyce Schulte has made two bids on this tough turf, which could open up in `08 if Krazy King runs for Senate. Instinctively I I think this would cultrally be the hardest district for a woman - even a Republican - to win, but it hasn't been close enough to make a difference.

    That leaves the 3rd, with an aging incumbent who only won by five or six points in a banner year for Dems. Looks like the strongest potential chance to me, be it `08, `10, or reshuffle the map `12...

    Leach to alma mater Princeton thus once and for all killing my UI president theory. Still, I hope he finds time to write a book; he'd likely have some interesting things to say about the current state of his party. Would likely get national attention as the anti-Zell Miller.

    Iowa Senate approves minimum wage increase 40-8. Jim Hahn, the last Republican Senator representing a sliver of Johnson County, was a no. Hahn was one of the walk-out of the caucus, right-wing Stewie Iverson allies post-election.

    Nationally, Kos looks at the calendar and New Hampshire not being with the program.

    Ultimately, New Hampshire only has as much power as the presidential candidates give it.

    What better way to show the rest of the country that they can lead and show strength than by standing up to New Hampshire's blackmail?

    Same thing I've been saying. If the candidates boycott an unauthorized pre-window primary, it's a tree falling in the forest with no one listening.

    And the real story behind the Kerry withdrawal comes out: The "The Money Just Wasn't There".
  • Wednesday, January 24, 2007

    Kerry won't run for president in '08

    Kerry won't run for president in '08

    Boston globe sez. I think we all saw this coming: from nominee to asterisk, Senate re-elect in the same year, overwhelming "you had your chance" buzz...

    Little impact on the race, but still big news.

    Iowa Minumum Wage Hike

    Iowa Minumum Wage Hike

    US House passes it faster, Iowa house kicks in faster.

    79-1p passage, with half the area Republicans signing on. Sandy Greiner takes the extremist position and votes NO.

    Professor Loebsack at the State Of The Union, sitting with Tom Harkin:

    Loebsack said he then realized he was surrounded by an array of Democratic presidential candidates in various states of announcing or exploring their campaigns: Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. Chris Dodd, Sen. Joe Biden.

    “It was kind of like being in Iowa for the caucuses,” he said.

    More substantively
    : "I strongly disagree with the president's approach to foreign policy and his proposal to escalate our involvement in the war in Iraq. "

    Tuesday, January 23, 2007

    Paper Trails

    Paper Trails

    Thirty minutes tonight to do my entire income tax return, without touching a piece of paper.

    Three plus hours grappling with a printer trying to make some mailing labels.

    I HATE paper.

    Post Of The Month

    Post Of The Month

    "Why Does Anyone Take Dennis Kucinich Seriously?" at Iowa Progress:

    This guy will eat up 1/8th of the time allotted in every Presidential debate between now and next year. What a waste. At least Mike Gravel has one unique issue with his desire for national referendums and initiatives. The only thing that’s unique about Kucinich is that he’s nutty and really goofy looking.

    Lots of Details emerging for Hillary in Des Moines, but anything out there yet on Cedar Rapids?

    MyDD has a nice all in one place summary of Iowa's latest poll-a-minute:


    CandidateSt. Vis.ZogbyARGR. 2000


    CandidateSt. Vis.ZogbyARGR. 2000

    In case you haven't guessed, I'm skipping old 28% and the State Of The Union...Post Of The Month

    Meddling In Republican Primaries?

    Meddling In Republican Primaries?

    Chris at MyDD recommends it and while I'm philosophically opposed, it would be the easiest way to get rid of Krazy King. Unless, of course, he falls on his sword against Harkin, in which case you've got an open seat primary on both sides. And Berkeley Bedell held a lot of this turf once...

    Monday, January 22, 2007



    Let's go Colts. I don't need a year of gloating Bears fans.

    SI Coverage of Edwards and speculation that Hillary will tank in Iowa. And an observation from Newsweek:

    The Clinton campaign knows that Bill is a major campaign asset. But they believe the asset depreciates when the former president—one of the great political talents of modern times—appears alongside his wife. To avoid these comparisons, the two Clintons will rarely appear together, and never speak back-to-back. This has the added and powerful advantage of essentially allowing Hillary’s campaign to appear in two places at once.

    And John Kerry "is in the final stages of his decision-making process regarding a run for president and an announcement is expected soon." I still think it's possible he bails and stays in teh Senate. He's got the presidential size ego and knows it's his last chance, but the reality of those 3-5% polls has to be sinking in.

    Sunday, January 21, 2007

    Hillary In State Next Week

    Hillary In State Next Week

    The Underrated One has the story. No event details; I'm predicting a quick flight in and out of Des Moines for the first event. Hillary's also announced: no matching funds for primary OR general.

    Register looks at congressional voting scores: Harkin lads the Senate in opposition to Bush. Jim Leach came in #2 among House Republicans in Bush opposition but that couldn't save him. Latham is the leading Bush clone, while Krazy King scored lower in Bush support by going to W's right.

    George Smathers, Former Senator from Florida, is dead. This speech from The Red Pepper campaign of 1950, when Smathers red-baited and slimed Claude Pepper out of the Senate, is perhaps apocryphal. But the story is just too good:

    “Do you know that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert?” Mr. Smathers was quoted as saying. “Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law and he has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper, before his marriage, habitually practiced celibacy.”

    The definitive negative speech of all time, even if it was never actually delivered.

    Edwards: Other Coverage

    Edwards: Other Coverage

    As promised, link love:

  • Josh Brown at Kos
  • Ed Fallon and Lynn Heuss at Edwards
  • Tony Loyd at Republicans for Democrats, includes video from the blogger event
  • Iowa for Edwards with pics

    Old media:

  • Press-Citizen
  • Gazette
  • Register
  • Saturday, January 20, 2007

    John Edwards 3: Questions from Iowa City Audience

    John Edwards 3: Questions from Iowa City Audience

    JE says you can ask about non-war subjects too. “Try not to give a speech.” Obviously he’s been to Iowa City before.

    Pat Minor of West Branch. “The root of the terrorist problem is Israel-Palestine.” (Scattered applause). JE starts to cut off speech… “We need to ask Israel to accept Palestine.”

    JE: I went to Israel last year, met with leaders of both sides (but not Hamas). We want Israel and a Palestinian state side by side with security and peace. Bush has disengaged from peace process (obsession with Iraq). The difficulty now – and I have a different perspective than you – is that Hamas is a terrorist group. (One applauder) But there are clearly moderate Palestinians who want peace, and America needs to empower the moderates. Israel was considering unilateral withdrawal from West Bank, but would prefer a joint process. The 2002 road map is good but someone has to get us moving. We should not ignore and misunderstand that there are other undercurrents for terrorists. Arab world sees no sign of things getting better, and they see America using its power to spread its influence. World also needs to see America’s “better angels.” We have an enormous responsibility to the world, and the next president needs to spread our moral authority. Raw Power does not work. Next president needs to tell the people of world that America at its best IS diversity, and believes in embracing other cultures and faiths. And they need to see us leading on moral issues not in our short term self interest (applause) Includes Darfur (“Sudanese govt. propped up by Chinese oil money.”) What kind of signal does our silence send? Where is the America all of us believe in? They need to hear words, and they need to see action.

    Hands up all over the place.

    A Jennifer from Iowa City asks about prescription drug costs.

    JE: I voted against prescription drug bill. We tried to put in Canada provisions, we tried to get price negotiations, got voted down due to pharmaceutical lobby. We need to stand up to drug companies, take their power away. “Never taken a dime from Washington lobbyist” (applause). If we want to get money out of politics, go to public finance (biggest applause yet) “The real solution is universal health care.”

    Carlton of Iowa City (an 04 Edwards caucus vet) asks about gay civil rights. The hoodie is off and JE jokes about being worried about anyone wearing a tie on a Saturday afternoon.

    JE: we need to treat gay couples with dignity and substantive rights. For me a hard issue personally because of my faith tradition and Southern raising. My daughter totally believes this issue will disappear with her generation and it’s silly to have this debate. But it is real. The difficult question is marriage. For civil unions and substantive, not at this time for marriage. Some of that is personal and I feel internal conflict.

    Regular reader Josh on the mic! Asks Elizabeth what issues she’ll take on as first lady. I expect the same answer she gave the bloggers. “Laura Bush has not used that megaphone.” She is indeed giving the same answer. I’m feeling that crowded rally room heat building up, no one’s cutting out early, not even the TV folks, and none of the usual back of the room schmoozing. Still nothing about same-day voter reg.

    Melissa of IC asks about death penalty. “You’re not gonna like the answer.” I have historically supported it. Some crimes deserve ultimate punishment.” But there are huuuge problems in our justice system. I respect anti-death penalty views (hints that EE disagrees with him). Particularly people of color and crime is against a white person, you see over and over disproportionate punishment. Need to make system racial fair, provide good attorneys. “Rich people get one kind of justice and poor another.” (applause) There are also inequality problems in a number of our laws (powder cocaine vs. crack) Mandatory sentencing is also troublesome. We can’t build enough prisons to solve crime, many underlying conditions (poverty) contribute. “America is better than this.” We need an infrastructure to pull people out of The System.

    EE reminds JE that he supports NC death penalty moratorium.

    Jerry of IC is worried about manufacturing jobs going overseas. What’s your plan?

    JE: A lot of dishonest rhetoric here. Some parts of globalization are beyond our control. But some we can control such as trade agreements. Should be fair, just, lets American workers compete. Bust must recognize shutting down trade with developing world dooms them forever. Should have trade agreements with international labor and environmental standards, real and enforceable. Should not be a ruse to shut down trade (the North Carolina accent stands out on “rooooooose”.) We could set impossible standards. We could pretend we’re trying, or we could measure and set achievable standards. No child labor. Talking about China – I tried raising human rights issue and heard “we won’t be lectured by the country responsible for Abu Gharib and Gitmo.” “We have to be the light.” Repeats the China internal focus line. “China could soon be largest English speaking country in the world, because they require a second language.” He’s turned the question into Bush and education funding.

    Now completely on education and student debt (this is a campus speech after all).

    The rally room temperature is in full effect.

    Iowa City bearded fellow asks about deficit spending.

    “Put your truth monitor on every candidate on this.” He makes fun of over-promising. Priorities are difficult judgment. I’m committed to not making deficit worse, I’ll try to reduce… but we need universal heath care more. (applause) Same goes for energy and global warming. “If deficit reduction is your thing, I may lose you on this one.” All I can ask: “make `em be honest with you. You can’t do universal health care, energy independence, AND deficit reduction.”

    An Ottumwa woman asks about emotional wounds from the Iraq war.

    JE: Americans need to feel next president is an honest decent human being . Sometimes it’s obvious what you questioners want me to say, but you need to hear what I really believe. Character decency honesty and trust are important. America wants to trust and be inspired again. We need to be a “national community” again. Millions of Americans worry literally about feeding and clothing the kids, and it matters. “I confess I got an ego, just like everyone else.” But are you driven by that, or by a belief that this is the best way to serve? You’ll be troubled by that every day as President.

    And with that, he wraps and they crank up the Mellencamp, and the handshake scrum forms. Folks are saying “lookin’ forward to the blog” so I better go post.

    Post speech: this is the only Iowa event of the day, he's back to North Carolina to watch some hoops. So some of this is fodder for the Sunday talk shows. And I never did catch Ed Fallon.

    John Edwards 2: Iowa City Speech 1/20/07

    John Edwards 2: Iowa City Speech 1/20/07

    In the hall and we get BOWIE doing “Young Americans.” Not a bad pick though I’m a “Rebel Rebel” guy myself. Now we get a cover of Van Halen’s “Jump” (why not the real thing?”

    I’m scrunched in front of the sound guy; we’ve got half a dozen cameras, a full press table and several hundred in the ballroom. Standing room only. This feels like opening weekend of 2008.

    Took a break to look for local pals. Rep. Ro Foege’s here. Says the Harlem sermon on MLK day was fantastic, and he’s back on board. Ro was one of the few legislators with Edwards early in `03; most were with Kerry. Also sighted: Aletia Morgan from the school board, Recorder Kim Painter, former city councilor Larry Baker, and ubiquitous local Edwardian Tom Carsner working the room and no doubt persuading, persuading, persuading. Several purple and gold SEIU folks. Can’t remember if they’re officially on board but it looks like they’re headed that way.

    More Van Halen, this time the real thing: “Right Now.” Wonder if they know how much of a Republican Sammy Hagar is? Now they’re Beatling with “Here Comes the Sun.” Overall musical assessment: half a notch better than usual, which makes up for the dread I felt when I walked in and heard, you guessed it, Mellencamp.

    Crowd seems to be a young-old mix; lots of folks are apparent caucus veterans but the students are pretty well represented.

    The war came up not at all in our pre-rally discussion, perhaps because that’s the topic of the day for the main event.

    Three nice, hot wifi signals and I can’t touch any of them. Thanks, UI IT folks…

    “One Minute, Media…” and applause to that. I assume for the one minute, not for the media. And he hits the stage to… ooh! Mellencamp! John, you lose points for that!

    JE’s in green shirt no tie, hoodie sweatshirt. Yes, I can actually see. Elizabeth intros JE, gets big points for going to Nile Kinnick Elementary School. She cites Newsweek poll; JE leading McCain by largest margin among Dems and only Dem beating Rudy. They dispense with the usual protocol of introducing the local dogcatchers, and just go straight into JE.

    He leads, as always, with the “Elizabeth’s healthy and feelin’ fine” line. Talks about going on Jon Stewart:

    JS: “If you’d been elected VP, who would you have accidentally shot?”
    JE: “Dick Cheney.”

    On to the meat.

    Bush war speech. It was very clear what we needed from Bush: Honesty, openness, decency, and a sense he was doing his best. Instead I saw a sales job, reading a speech someone else wrote.

    We deserve truth. First, how we got there. I voted for this war, and I was wrong.

    Second truth: ground in Iraq today. No good choices: only bad and worse. I’m dead against an escalation. (applause) McCain advocated escalation long before Bush. (running in the general, john?)

    JE refers to Harlem church speech. 40 years ago MLK spoke in Riverside Church about Vietnam. MLK said he was silent too long and “silence is betrayal.” Those words apply today. America needs to hear from all of us. “America doesn’t just belong to the president, it belongs to all of us.” (applause)

    Congress also has a responsibility. Those who know escalation is wrong have the power to act. Not enough to pass resolutions. Congress has power not to fund escalation. “If you know the escalation is wrong and you know you can stop it by not funding escalation, it is time to use that power.”

    Big applause. This feels like a Major Speech with a national audience in mind.

    Congress needs to hear how strongly you feel about this, and your country needs you.

    Why is escalation a mistake? It misunderstands what's happening in Iraq. No military solution is possible. Only potential solution is a difficult political solution. Sunni’s need to be let back into the government. That’s the underlying dynamic to the violence. The militias are contributing, but there will be no peace until Shiite government lets Sunnis in so they have a stakehold in unified Iraq. We are enabling the pattern of exclusion.

    Military says it would take 100,000 troops to pacify the ground, and we’re talking about sending 20,000 into the crossfire.

    Iranians don’t want a chaotic Iraq. If Iraq goes, Iran as the only other Shiite majority country is in trouble. Syrians have a different interest. We need to make it clear we’re leaving, and the only way to make it clear is actually start leaving. (big applause)

    It’s clear what America should do. Our leaders should not evaluate in terms of their own political careers, but need to stand up and do what’s right. They can stop this surge. It’s a test of leadership and courage. Don’t go home and worry – take action. We can’t wait for somebody else to do this for us. Your county needs to hear your voice.

    John Edwards 1: Bloggers Meet with John and Elizabeth

    John Edwards 1: Bloggers Meet with John and Elizabeth

    Half dozen of us, they’ll all get the link love later.

    We’re talking about Edwards’ community service programs including the comedy even “Laugh your cans off.” Sounds like Dean Corps, but a good idea is still a good idea even if borrowed.

    Political Fallout is here, Iowa for Edwards, and mostly people who blog on the Edwards site. So kind of softball today? We’ll see.

    National day of action energy project – that’s next week. I biked here today so that’s good (if cold).

    She’s here. He is too, and so’s Ed Fallon. That ought to help on the left edge of the People’s Republic…

    Lots of insider virtual-Edwards jokes flying, I guess I’m missing out, huh.

    Elizabeth has been sneaking peeks at source code, something about an Edwards link going to Hillary …

    Kyoto treaty? Edwards says 1) we have to engage on the issue and if we had to sign to make changes, we should. CAFÉ Standards? JE doesn’t nail down a specific MPG but the numbers 38-42 slide out?

    Military Commissions Act? “Every time I hear the name I get thrown off.” Eliz says “sounds like base closings. JE: We should meet Geneva accords, which we have not. There must be some method for anyone to challenge custody and get a hearing. Gitmo sends terrible signal to world. Heard it over and over in China.

    Would you demilitarize space? JE: China a difficult question. China has no interest in letting us know what they’re doing. We have treaty obligations with Taiwan and how do we best deter a conflict. F22 should be kept, F35 could be cut in half. We’ve thrown enormous money away on Star Wars.

    China is a very complicated relationship for the US – human rights, environment… they are entirely inward focused which drives their foreign policy. Thus difficult to get them to act on international issues. Would like to quietly build up military, but they need world to be relatively stable. Rocking the boat might cut off energy supply.

    Mental health parity. JE says should be federal issue. We should have complete parity, mandated in health insurance contracts. I think we need universal health care with no distinction.

    JE leaves.

    Political Fallout and I raise gay marriage. EE says, “We don’t stand exactly same place. I don’t think he believes US constitution should be amended to limit state.” The light we see: next generation does not have same fear. JE completely against DOMA. A lot of analogies with 14 year old marriage – states can make good decisions as well as bad decisions.” Says we need to do all we can at fed level to eliminate discrimination.

    EE says her health is good, some discussion of personal cancer issues. Blames fatigue not on cancer but on having a husband running for prez and two young kids, and some discussion of Kate and law school.

    Getting really really softball here, chit chat about the “Home” book. Nice stories, but clearly an Edwards bunch here. Discussion of a Des Moines book signing.

    First Lady cause? “Can’t do everything”, but she talks about after school programs, they started programs in memory of their late son. Actually mentions white flight. Second - She’s a Navy brat, I hadn’t heard that before. Military families can’t complain about living conditions for fear of hurting promotion chances. Finally – election reform. Against electronic voting. People turned off to voting to begin with, and even worse if people doubt the counting. (But no mention of e-day registration and campaign finance reform)

    Education – what can we do to change focus to make a classroom enriching? EE says “teach critical thinking”. Creative and critical think are first things out the door when rote memorization for standardized testing is emphasized. Problem with No Child is less testing than penalties. NC program doesn’t penalize; sends in “SWAT Team” to look at all possible shortcomings. “Then they fund the fix.” Turned around 70-80% of failing schools. But not working now with No Child on top of it.

    Wrapping up here. Hoping to catch Ed sometime today.

    First Name Basis

    First Name Basis

    A couple years back I got grouched at by a reader for referring to the junior senator fron New York by her first name while referring to male candidates by last names.

    Well, now she's in and Political Wire says:

    Of particular interest is that her website references her only by first name.

    So from today on, Hillary it is.

    Wilie I'm at it: I'm watching more TV than usual and seeing heavy rotation "public service announcement" type spots featuring McCain from a Support The Troops group called Operation Home Front; what's with that?

    Cheering For Colts, Saints

    Cheering For Colts, Saints

    Just a diversion into football for the moment.

    AFC: Time for Peyton Manning to have his turn. Remember, they're not saying "boo," they're saying "mooooovers." A Patriots win, however, would be sweet revenge against NFL parity: a dynasty of four Super Bowl wins in six years would match the `70's Steelers.

    NFC: Do you even need to ask? The Saints are by definition one of my two favorite teams (the Packers and whoever's playing the Bears). Plus New Orleans needs something to celebrate more than anyone, and they'd throw a nice early Mardi Gras for a world championship.

    So Colts and Saints, with Archie Manning choosing his kid over his old jersey. Though Patriots and Saints has a weird Religious Reich ring to it, and Colts-Bears is zoologically symmetrical.

    Friday, January 19, 2007

    Three Years Ago Today

    Three Years Ago Today

    It's 2004 Caucus Anniversary.

    This is what it really sounded like.

    But this one's funnier.

    Use the comments to share your 2004 caucus memories, or read my January `04 archives.

    Friday Morning Roundup

    Friday Morning Roundup

    Looking ahead to the weekend, I'll be blogging John Edwards. Not live, because of the University of Iowa's obnoxious IT policy. You have to be affiliated with UI (faculty, staff, student) to connect to their wifi; apparently it's not good enough to be a mere Iowa taxpayer. The Edwards folks tried to help me out (thanks, Kevin) but no joy, so I'll be scooped by any student bloggers. Slight delay while I run upstairs to post.

    Elizabeth Edwards will be there too
    and I've been told some bloggers will be meeting with her before John's speech.

  • DI gets Headline Of The Day: IMU & you are me & we are all together. Goo Goo g' joob.

  • Iowa City Council UNANIMOUSLY shows its priorities again, with their deep deep concern about young ADULTS getting PAULAs in Coralville and North Liberty. I pledge a legal maximum $100 campaign donation to the first Iowa City councilor who PUBLICLY says the 21 year old drinking age is unworkable and goes to Des Moines to lobby the legislature for an 18 year old drinking age.

  • Meanwhile in Des Moines the cig tax is still smoking:

    Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, heads the tax-writing Senate Ways and Means Committee, and he said most legislative leaders have suggested an increase of between 40 and 60 cents per pack.

    'It's been widely vetted around the state,' said Bolkcom. 'Gov. Culver campaigned on it and got elected on it. At the end of the day we will in fact raise the cigarette tax.'

    A jump, not the dollar Culver and anti-smokers are asking.

  • Krazy King watch: A flurry of King For Senate 08 articles. Harkin might actually break 60% against Stevie. Oh, and he wants to amend the constitution to abolish the income tax.

  • A little late but Leonard Boswell says he was wrong about the war.

  • Next week the Women's Resource and Action Center is hosting a lecture by Dianne Bystrom of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics on "Unfinished Business: Electing a Woman to represent Iowa in the U.S. Congress." The name Sally Pederson has bounced around a bit.

  • Finally, a concise Kos deserves quoting in entirety:

    You are Rep. Jim Nussle. You decide to vacate your seat to run for Governor of Iowa.

    The Republican Governor's Association, headed by Mitt Romney, chips in $1.2 million.

    Romney himself throws in $100K -- the largest contribution Nussle received the entire campaign.

    How do you reward such largess?

    You join the Giuliani campaign.

    How much did Giuliani give to Nussle's gubernatorial effort?

  • Counting at the Caucuses

    Counting at the Caucuses

    Loads of link love yesterday for Will the non-secret caucus ballot be a factor; thanks for reading. The other interesing caucus piece was from Geraldine at Iowa Progress. She does the county by county math for the `08 state convention.

    However, she argues that the caucuses are "undemocratic." In fact they are a representative democracy, like any legislature. The idea is that at every Democratic convention or central committee meeting, the delegates and/or committee members are representing the caucus-going Democratic voters of their precinct or county. That's why none of the votes are secret.

    It should also be noted that the counts she provides are for the STATE convention, and she's concerned that small sizes leave low-polling candidates unrepresented. Each county sets the size of its own COUNTY convention, and it's on that basis that COUNTY convention delegates are elected at the precinct caucuses.

    I've done the math for this in Johnson County for a number of years; if anyone wants to see a monstor geeky elaborate Excel sheet let me know. Convention size is driven by the point at which the smallest precinct rounds up to one delegate. By "size" we mean vote for Democratic presidential candidate plus vote for Democratic gubernatorial candidate. This seems fair and small d democratic; it takes into account population and party performance.

    In Johnson County, our minumum county convention size for 2008 is 323 because we have one very small, not especially Democratic precinct. From there, convention size is determined by the will of the Central Committee as to how many seats we think we can fill - both in the delegate sense and in the convention hall sense.

    Thursday, January 18, 2007

    5 Minutes To Midnight

    5 Minutes To Midnight

    That Cold War icon, the Bulliten of Atomic Scientists doomsday clock, is still around has ticked forward to 11:55.

    We have concluded that the dangers posed by climate change are nearly as dire as those posed by nuclear weapons. The effects may be less dramatic in the short term than the destruction that could be wrought by nuclear explosions, but over the next three to four decades climate change could cause drastic harm to the habitats upon which human societies depend for survival.

    Remember the End Of History back around 1991, anyone?

    Cedar Rapids has a non-dramatic but interesting idea: abolishing bus fares. Just the kind of incremental, day to day change we need.

    The House Dems are again unanimous on cutting student loan interest:

    “I think this will help first-generation students, and working and middle class students,” Loebsack, D-Mount Vernon, said about the measure that passed the Democrat-led House on a 356-71 vote.

    “I grew up in poverty and relied upon loans and grants to pay for my education,” the former Cornell College professor said in a statement. “I saw first hand the financial struggle so many students face.”

    Steve King, once again, does the wrong thing.

    And must see TV: Reporter asks Tony Snow "What's an appropriate way to dissent?" Snow can't answer.

    Wednesday, January 17, 2007

    Will the non-secret caucus ballot be a factor in Iowa?

    Will the non-secret caucus ballot be a factor in Iowa?

    The rap against Iowa, and the stated reason for the 2008 primary schedule shuffle, is lack of diversity. Barack Obama faces an Iowa that’s one of the whitest states in the nation. Hillary Rodham Clinton opens the campaign in one of only two states that have never elected a woman either to Congress or as a governor. The other is Mississippi. We Iowans are a bit embarrassed about that.

    But not embarrassed enough to elect Julie Thomas, Ann Hutchinson, Elaine Baxter, Jean Lloyd-Jones, Bonnie Campbell or Lynn Cutler.

    Pollsters are flummoxed by an inherent weakness in their trade: there’s no way to account for the “none of your business” answer or, even less, the bald-faced lie. Time and again surveys have confronted the “white lie”: voters are statistically more likely to report a vote for a minority or female candidate that they are to actually cast that vote for said candidate. They know they’re “not supposed” to be prejudiced, but in private, well, they are. The classic case is the 1989 Virginia governor’s race. Doug Wilder was something like a dozen points “ahead” going in and won by about 0.1%.

    (Tangent: Contests in the four off-cycle states that elect governors in odd numbered years are always overanalyzed. That’s particularly true of Virginia and New Jersey due to their proximity to D.C. and New York.)

    Iowa saw a misleading poll in the 1992 ERA ballot issue – well ahead in advance, on the losing end on election night. Susan Faludi’s “Backlash” was published a year earlier, and in that moment of privacy in the booth, Iowans could take out their secret frustration against having to replace Miss or Mrs. with Ms. and child support payments and not being able to hit on your secretary anymore and all the other “evils” of feminism. Not a proud night for our state.

    Well, on caucus night Iowa Democrats don’t get that in the booth moment. You literally stand behind your choice, in front of your neighbors.

    That’s one of the reasons caucuses have mostly moved out of picturesque private homes the last couple cycles. If the caucus is in Millie’s house, and Millie is for Dick Gephardt, it’s damn hard to go to Millie’s house, eat Millie’s cookies, and caucus for Howard Dean under the big picture of Millie giving Dick Gephardt a tray of cookies.

    (The other reason residences have died as caucus sites is the Americans with Disabilities act – that was Tom Harkin’s baby after all.)

    It’s actually a lot less neighborly than Millie’s cookies; picture a crowded school cafeteria. And given the changing social dynamics in 21st century Bowling Alone America, with personal networks based around factors other than neighborhood, there’s some anonymity. But there’s still that exposure. And in this cycle with two superstar barrier-breakers running, it makes me wonder if the lack of secrecy will affect voting behavior.

    Democrats lean more PC than the GOP (new slogan: “Talk English!”), and know they’re supposed to care about this stuff even if they privately really don’t. So will that sort of pressure and expectation influence caucus goers? Think of Catholic John Kennedy essentially daring protestant West Virginia to prove they weren’t bigoted in the primary by voting for him over Hubert Humphrey in the 1960 primary.

    How do you deal with this if you’re Humphrey?

    Or, more to the point, John Edwards? Will folks who sincerely support a white male candidate stand up instead for Barack or Hillary, for fear of accusations of prejudice?

    I don’t see how Iowans will feel like we’d “prove” anything by caucusing for Obama. We’re not much accused of being old-South style racists in national Democratic circles; we’re just blamed for being very very very very white. Guilty as charged, pass the tuna fish casserole.

    My guess is the uniqueness of Obama’s story and his much-vaunted charisma will make the race thing a non-factor. Besides, the real vitriol in Iowa is reserved for Hispanics anyway and we do have something to prove there (paging Governor Richardson...) Tom Vilsack will suffer less nationally for the questions of racial bias in state job promotions that came up late in his tenure than he will for signing – signing! - Steve King’s English Only bill in `02.

    It’s with the Clinton campaign that things get interesting.

    How does a white male candidate compete against a “time for a woman” subtext that will never be explicitly stated? In a situation where every single vote is public, in a party where gender balance is mandated down to the precinct level?

    (Aside: gender balance doesn’t always WORK down to the precinct level, but by the time you’re at county convention it’s being raised, and at district and state convention it’s enforced by electing Male Delegate and Female Delegate as separate offices.)

    During the World War 2 generation, when male military service was nearly universal, candidates used “served in wartime” as a surrogate line for “vote for the man.” Eseentially it argues that Commander In Chief is the ONLY presidential role and only a combat vet can fill the role. That’s not an option for some of the male contenders, and seen as ham-handed and transparent by an increasingly sophisticated electorate.

    But how many Democratic men are gut-level uncomfortable both with a woman president AND at the same time uncomfortable saying “I’m uncomfortable with a woman president” in public?

    And how many WOMEN feel that way? The dynamic is fading with age, but polling shows that women born and raised in the pre-feminist era are a tough demographic for female candidates.

    And another interesting question: are the other early Democratic caucus states, Nevada and South Carolina, operating under similar stand behind your vote rules? Race could be a verrrry interesting factor in South Carolina…

    No answers. But they’re good questions.

    A Message To You, Rudy

    A Message To You, Rudy

    So Jim Nussle got a real job.

    Stop your messing around
    Better think of your future
    Time you straightened right out
    Creating problems in town

    A message to you, Rudy...

    If Giuliani DOES get the nomination this Specials classic will make for great rally music in the best tradition of the English Beat's "Stand Down Margaret."

    I always qualify any campaign advice I give with "remember: I lost." Something for Rudy to consider. Anyway I'm still thinking Nussle has another campaign in him. With high name ID he can launch a Senate race right up to filing deadline in 2008 (just as Jim Ross Lightweight did in `96) and be an instant prohibitive favorite for the nomination over any third-tier candidates. (Quick quiz: who were the other two candidates in the `96 GOP Senate primary?)

    Tuesday, January 16, 2007

    Edwards in IC Saturday

    Presidential Candidate John Edwards to visit Iowa City this Saturday!

    What: A town hall meeting with Presidential Candidate and Former Senator John Edwards.

    Why: To discuss the troop surge in Iraq.
    When: This Saturday, January 20th at 2:00 PM

    Where: The Iowa Memorial Union, located at the corner of Madison and Jefferson Streets on the University of Iowa Campus.

    This event is free and open to the public. Questions? Contact Kevin Sherlock at 847.627.0006 or

    Like We Didn't See This Coming

    Like We Didn't See This Coming: Bye Bye Tait's, Hello Tancredo

    Another one bites the dust:

    Tait's Natural Foods, a deluxe grocery store on the ground floor of the Plaza Towers in downtown Iowa City, will be closing because of low sales.

    Ah, Tait's. Another one of those funky downtown places that added color and atmosphere to downtown Iowa City that no one spent any actual money at. Hey, the Pearson's soda fountain at That's Rentertainment really worked, huh? Or Great Mid, which was always jam-packed with people - each one filling up a table alone and nursing one 85 cent cup of coffee through a seven hour study marathon.

    Developer Marc Moen said "he felt terrible" for Tait and his wife, Joan, about the closure. He said the site will remain a grocery store despite the closure.

    "Our goal at this time is to find another operator," he said.

    When people said "we want a downtown grocery store," they meant a HyVee with a big flat parking lot. And the big flat parking lot doesn't work downtown because it'll be full by 7 AM with people going to class and work. Besides, there already IS a downtown grocery store:

    "It was interesting," said Jason Thrasher, a store manager at New Pioneer. "Our business grew every month even when Tait's was open."

    Tom Tancredo: even crazier than Steve King? The GOP Kucinich? Or the Buchanan of 2008? There've been a spate of Right Wing Seeks True Love stories lately and Tancredo sees an opening. "I'll only run if my issues aren't addressed." Riiiiight.

    Tancredo could pull off a surprise second or third as the Iowa Republicans show their true xenophobic, don't talk Spanish in front of me in the Walmart line roots. The frontrunners will overreact and alienate Hispanic America from the GOP even more.

    Monday, January 15, 2007

    Winter My Fault

    Winter My Fault

    The temporary setback to the global warming winter is entirely my fault: first I bough a new bicycle, in JANUARY, then I traveled out of town twice on a four day weekend. So cast any and all blame toward Iowa City as Yepsen usually does.

    The overrrated one actually had a decent historic piece on the 1965 legislative session Sunday. But of course i must give link love to the Surviving Yepsen blog.

    Saturday, January 13, 2007

    Noted At The Ball

    Noted At The Ball

    Big applause for the Vilsacks who were pretty low key most of the day near as I could tell.

    A couple might have beens: Denise O'Brien and Pat Deluhery.

    But most noted by observers: Chuck Grassley got a reasonable amount of unity applause, but Steve King walked across teh stage to dead silence. He was quite lucky to get by without boos. One wag suggested he should have been introduced en sepanol. OK, that wag was me, but the salsa band was singing in Spanish early in the evening making me wonder if they'd gone ahead and repealed English Only during the day.

    Friday, January 12, 2007

    Down Time

    Down Time

    Exploring the Des Moines skyway, which gave me an excuse to sing "Skyway" by the Replacements. Needed to explain to my daughter that this wasn't one of those goofy songs I make up, but a real song.

    The skyway is actually needed today, they called off the global warming winter for the occasion.

    Inaugural 3

    Inaugural 3

    Chet and Mari Culver at the Capitol

    Not a lot of substance to report, as the day's really just a big party. Lots of food and schmoozing at HyVee hall over lunch. Chris Dodd worked the room a bit, but the food seemed to be a bigger deal to folks. Pork Chop On A Stick was the big hit with a line stretching to about Newton The new guv showed up toward the end of lunch after most folks were clearing out.

    Patty and Chet made a few brief welcoming remarks in the rotunda and folks were off to roam the Capitol, with music in the rotunda, both chambers, and the law library. The performers are talented and diverse, but the dome isn't designed for acoustics. A few brave souls were trying to work in Mike Fitzgerald's office. The giant vault was open but it seemed to be full of documents and not all the money as one would imagine (I was picturing Scrooge McDuck's money pit). My favorite human being moment was a peek at the cheat sheet at the Speaker's rostrum; pics of the House freshmen (well, it has only been a week). The performers are talented and diverse, but the dome isn't designed for acoustics.

    Johnson County Dems are well represented with (in addition to the legislators) Tom Carsner, Tom Larkin, Pauline and Kristine Taylor, Dave Leshtz, Duncan Stewart and the Governor's own counselor Jim Larew sighted.

    It's odd running into legislators in their seventh, eighth House terms who are in the majority for the first time. They seem to be racing the feds on minumum wage, though Iowa's chances are better since Culver's going to sign and Bush is stubborn enough to veto it.

    Not to be all Jimmy Stewart but the openness of the Capotol is nice and inspiring. It's my first post 9/11 visit and the metal detectors are new to me, but it still has a feel of go pretty much anywhere and talk to pretty much anyone.

    Now it's off to SHOP briefly with my young companions, and find a place to get dressed up for the ball...

    Inaugural 2: Culver Speech

    Inaugural 2: Culver Speech

    It's official and we're going through the obligatory thank yous to assembled dignitaries. Some standing applause for Private Citizen Vilsack but no presidential references.

    Tem minutes in and we get to content. Opportunity For A New Era Of Greatness, there's the theme.

    Drawing an extended metaphor of exploration and invoking JFK.

    Energy capital of the world, and we must explore this frontier immediately. Reference in here to "keeping our children in Iowa where they belong." Iowa Power Fund - first really specific reference. Big applause for energy independence. I know this was a big campaign theme but it's still an interesting lead and interesting use of what seems to be the biggest chunk of time devoted to any specific item.

    Addressing Legislature, says "may our inevitable differences reflect convictions and not contempt." That said...

    Iowans have spoken and respect results: specifies minimum wage, teacher pay, health care, tobacco tax, stem cells. Mentions commercial property tax relief.

    Calls for diversity (and invokes Bob Ray in that regard...) mentions bullying bill to non-unanimous applause in the legislative section.

    Scattered hoots as he gives Mari a brief kiss after the speech. Not bad - not wonky but it's not a wonky occasion. The thing that sounds interesting to me is the "expect results" challenge to the legislature.

    Batteries are my bottleneck so more later.

    Inaugural 1

    Hello from the inaugural. Patty Judge has just been sworn in and is speaking. Doing the alternative energy rap at the moment.

    The most unusual thing that has slipped through was the priest slipping the line "those waiting to be born" into the invocation.

    Tom Harkin escorted Chris Dodd in. This is an interesting stop for Dodd, wonder if he AND Vilsack are gettin' together later? The ceremonial tension of this stuff is always interesting; wonder what it's like to be a Republican legislator or ex-governor at one of these things?

    Judge mentions an administration role in homeland security and emergency management. That may not be news, I don't really know. She's wrapping with a quote from 2 Corinthians: "ample means within yourself to meet every situation." I'm guessing about 12 minutes of speech focused mainly on the environment-agriculture turf she's most familiar with.

    Road Trip To Des Moines

    Road Trip To Des Moines

    I skipped out on the Iowa City part of the festivities last night, though I'm close enough to Hancher that it felt like my apartment was being shelled during the fireworks. So I'll let old media suffice:

  • Press-Citizen (a couple locals note the big Johnson County Culver margin)
  • Gazette
  • Register
  • Sioux City was happy to get a piece of the action too.

    The roads look good (whew!) so I'm off to Des Moines with darling daughter for the swearing-at and additional events. Coverage as I can, stay tuned.
  • Thursday, January 11, 2007

    Loebsack's First Speech, Jail Talk in Johnson

    Loebsack's First Speech, Jail Talk in Johnson

    Dave takes to the House floor:
    Loebsack, D-Iowa City (sic), focused on the minimum wage Wednesday in his first statement on the floor of the House.

    "My constituents in Iowa and people all across America are working harder, but they are not receiving the fruits of their labor, and many face daily financial hardships," Loebsack said.

    By increasing the minimum wage, Loebsack said, Congress would "show America that we are about fairness, about rewarding those who work hard day in and day out."

    Aside: While we Iowa Citians are proud of Dave, I'm sure his neighbors in Mt. Vernon are too.

    On the horizon: Johnson County studying a jail. Lonny Pulkrabek's taken a lot of steps these last two years to divert people from jail when mental health or substance treatment is more appropriate, and to question the mandatory drug sentencing laws that trickle down to his jam-packed jail. Can Lonny and Janet Lyness make the jail case where Pat White and Bob Carpenter couldn't? The big barrier now is still the book-em Dan-O attitudes at the University and Iowa City police.

    And John Edwards is looking to the Deaniacs.

    Steve King TODAVÍA no quisiera que usted votara

    Steve King TODAVÍA no quisiera que usted votara

    Steve King appears to be adjusting to life in the Washington minority by tending to matters back home. Of course, he's doing it with his usual wrecking ball charm, working the base by suing Chet Culver and Mike Mauro.

    "This is a non issue," Anderson said, "and Representative King is well aware that Attorney General Miller said Culver followed the letter of the law."

    The Iowa Attorney General's advice to two Secretaries of State that non-English voter registration forms are just perfectly okee-dokee isn't enough to stop King on his mission to personally alienate an entire generation of Hispanic Iowans from the Republican Party.

    Hmmm... uh, keep talking, Steve. Yeah.

    Meanwhile, the trifecta legislature can make all this moot by repealing English Only. Then King can go back to ranting about the border fence. You know, the one about which Republican nominee-designate John McCain said "I think the fence is least effective. But I'll build the goddamned fence if they want it."

    Esos republicanos locos...