Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Here comes the second penny?

Here comes the second penny?

Daily Iowan and no one else picks up on this:
"Looking for options to staff the fourth fire station with an already-tight budget, Wilburn said he was pleased to see the community pass the school local-option sales tax, which was approved Feb. 13. The mayor said he is gauging local interest for proposing a similar tax to pay for improving both the Fire and Police Departments.

"I would be interested in doing this, but only if I get the sense that the public is interested in doing so," Wilburn said.

I wound up reluctantly supporting the school sales tax, mostly because the diference between the money kept local if we passed it now and the money shipped to Des Moines if the state passed it later was roughly one high school. But one of my misgivings was that the cities would view passage as an opportunity to try again. It's only been two weeks, and here we are...

Shocked! Shocked I am!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Kos To Yepsen: Hogwash

Kos To Yepsen: Hogwash

Well, the headline says hogwash but the copy is better:

David Yepsen, the dean of the Iowa political press (sic), writes:

Tom Vilsack's withdrawl from the 2008 race for president is bad news [...] For those offering the most strident anti-war messages. (They also didn't go the distance for Howard Dean four years ago.) [...]

Vilsack's departure is also evidence a strong anti-war message isn't enough. Today, everybody wants out of Iraq and bashes the war. The question is finding a credible way to do it, and Democrats are having trouble agreeing on a plan.

Bullshit. Vilsack was never a credible anti-war voice.

In reality, Vilsack's departure is bad news for 1) those without credibility on Iraq, and 2) for no-name obscure candidates easily overshadowed by the Democratic titans slugging it out at the top.

Glad to see that the dean of the blogosphere sees through the "dean" of the Iowa press corps. Maybe everyone will soon figure out Yepsen's The Overrated One and start going to Mike Glover for their meta-interviews.

Hollywood Loves Al Gore, I Still Don't

Hollywood Loves Al Gore, I Still Don't

Al Gore’s Oscar, like the Dixie Chicks’ Grammies, gave Hollywood a chance to flip the bird at Bush. Good thing, as is the additional publicity given Gore’s global warming message. But despite the importance of the message, still I find myself unable to overcome my hostility to the messenger.

I’ve been bashing Al and Tipper Gore for over two decades now, longer and harder than any Republican now obsessed with Gore’s personal energy bill. But my reasons are very different.

Four word explanation:

Those who know me are groaning: "oh, God, Deeth's doing the Tipper rant for the thousandth time."

Ancient history lesson for the uninitiated. In September `85 the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing for the Parent’s Music Resource Council, better known by its initials PMRC and for its spokeswomen: Susan Baker, wife of Reagan administration official James Baker, and Tipper Gore, married to freshman Senator and Commerce Committee member Al Gore, Jr. Colorful opposing testimony was provided by Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, for some bizarre reason John Denver, and Frank Zappa, who album "Frank Zappa Meets The Mothers of Prevention was the most memorable document of the hearings.

The first voice you hear is Al Gore's.

No legislation ensued but soon thereafter records (black pizza-sized things that used to have music on them) were being “voluntarily” labeled by the music industry with black and white things I still call “Tipper stickers.”

I was 21 when the Tipper hearings happened and I was mad about it. So were a lot of people. Everybody else let it go. I couldn’t.

Still preoccupied with 1985

Is Al Gore’s message on global warming important? Absolutely. Are the war and global warming and attacks on personal freedom more important than `80s gross-out metal? Sure. But formative political experiences are powerful ones, and I can’t respond to Gore as a messenger. To me, he is always going to feel like a Christian Coalition conservative.

People indulged me in this view until the summer of 1992. After that, it became a problem, one which has caused me a great deal of self-inflicted political damage.

I actually met Gore once, late in `99. We talked about it briefly, he stuck to the story. I stuck to mine. I was literally called, to my face, a “bad Democrat” on Caucus Night 2000 for supporting Bradley over Gore. My deepest regret in my political life is that I didn’t resign my Democratic Party posts in 2000 and openly campaign for the candidate I reluctantly voted for, Ralph Nader. I was too scared, afraid that if I left that year I would never be welcomed back to my political family.

After literally years of self-examination, I realized that the reason this matters so much to me, the reason I’ve personalized it so much into a conflict between the Gores and myself, the reason I just can't drop it, is it was a deep revelation of Al Gore’s character.

The PMRC hearings were about positioning. Let’s flash back to 1985 (I've certainly been accused of that). It’s the height of the Reagan era and the Democrats were fresh off a 49-state loss. The South was in the early stages of what we now call frontloading, setting up a “Super Tuesday” of Dixiecrat states in an effort to nominate a moderate Southerner in the Sam Nunn mold.

Gore, then in his first year in the Senate wanted to BE that Southern “moderate” Taking a cheap shot at long haired rockers with potty mouths was an easy way to do it. With the Cold War escalating and Central America burning, Al Gore's priority was... Purple Rain.

Freedom Of Speech - Just Watch What You Say

In my mind, progressives are supposed to stand for freedom of expression. When you’re betrayed by someone who’s supposed to be a friend it hurts worse. Let’s not kid ourselves – the `85 hearings weren’t about “parental notice.” They were about pressuring the industry to get offending product off the shelves, about intimidating musicians. These were attacks not just on the musicians, but at the fans. Like me.

In `85 I had long hair (I had hair) and was a college DJ, and I still cringe at the memory of our program director gouging out the grooves on great albums because some of the tracks were “questionable.” The Tipper hearings were pretty damn intimidating back in the day. Metallica's "Master Of Puppets" was tossed unheard because obviously they were one of those bands. There was open talk at the hearings of “clean up your act or we’ll ban this stuff.” The industry quickly caved because the pressure got in the way of more important matters, like the blank tape tax they so wanted (1985’s equivalent of the DRM issue).

I get lots of privilege being a straight white middle-aged English-speaking male. I’m not used to being a scapegoat. The Tipper hearings were the one and only time I felt like I was the political target. It was a small taste, compared to say the immigrant bashing of today. But it still hurt to be vilified and used in that way. I took it personally.

Again and again since 1992 I’ve heard “that was Tipper, not him.” But the circus of that hearing happened largely at the behest of Senator Gore, not Mrs. Gore. Al Gore was willing to make alliances with the Reaganites, capable of compromising freedom of speech and expression, and happy to attack a group that was young, dispossessed, and not very likely to vote. All in order to score political points with cultural conservatives. That said a lot about who he was inside.

Is he still that person? The one-time southern conservative Gore is now a liberal darling. Is that a sign of change on Gore’s apart, or an indicator of how far rightward the American polity has moved? He’s aged, I’ve aged. The once hypothetical question about parental oversight of teen musical tastes has become an actual question for me as a dad. (My response: we listen together and talk about music without Tipper’s help. She’s even tipped me off to some good stuff. )

More important and direct attacks on freedom of expression have risen over the Bush years. And the mechanics and software of entertainment are completely different than 22 years ago. My records are long since replaced with CDs, the CDs giving way to MP3’s, and the “porn rock” of Prince is now safe halftime entertainment compared to the actual porn that’s a mouseclick away.

But what hasn’t changed: cheap shots at youth are still live political ammunition. Today the scapegoats are usually video gamers – one of the reasons I’m reluctant about Hillary Clinton. The political math remains the same: teenage metalheads don’t vote.

Presumably Gore made his amends with the entertainment industry in private before his 2000 run. But he has yet to do so in public. He’s said the hearings were a bad tactic, but he’s never distanced himself from the substance. Indeed, in one of his last major appearances as an active politician, the final 2000 debate, he praised Tipper’s PMRC work:

We do have a serious problem in our culture. Tipper and I have worked on the problem of violence in entertainment aimed at children. She's worked on it longer than I have. But I feel very strongly about that. And if I'm elected president, I will do something about that.

And the VP nomination of de facto Republican Joe Lieberman, another notorious entertainment basher, didn’t allay my concerns either.

I still think I did the right thing with that Nader vote, even though it made me some enemies. Yes, even knowing how things turned out…

Al, you got screwed in 2000. Even I have to admit things would probably have been a lit different. You’ve done great stuff with the global warming thing. Maybe you’ll get in the race.

But I hope you don’t. I don’t want to go through that kind of personal-political trauma again. But if you do, even though it’s “ancient history,” my standard remains. I may be the only one who still cares. But before I consider you, before we can make peace, you’ve gotta eat shit for the Tipper stickers.

Grassley Office Arrests And The Efficacy Of Protest

Grassley Office Arrests And The Efficacy Of Protest

Civil disobedience is a powerful, legitimate takes a fair amount of nerve and I tip my hat to the folks who got arrested at Chuck Grassley's offices yesterday. Yet I'm not sure how much they accomplished.

I leave aside the alienation effect. I admire protest but I acknowledge that some people reject the tactic and question its legitimacy.

(Aside: for the worst writing in the Iowa blogosphere you can't beat James Eaves-Johnson's From Right To Left at the Press-Citizen. No link love for his simplistic arguments and blatant Israel pandering.)

The success of protest depends on how you define the target. If the goal is publicity and attention to Grassley's pro-war policies, they were a success. Front pages, and here I am writing about it. But if the idea was to actually persuade Grassley, then it was a waste of time.

Attempts to persuade seated politicians only work on small to medium size issues. On the hot buttons issues, on questions of basic philosophy, politicians are either firm or, if not, they are hurt more by the obvious pandering (see The Entire Career of Mitt Romney for details).

There's also a certain lack of credibility. Oh, so lefty students are protesting Grassley on the war? Like they were ever gonna vote for him anyway? Even if he flips on the war he's still an anti-choice, cut taxes for the rich conservative.

The only way to deal with politicians who can't be persuaded is to work around them, persuade the larger public, and defeat them. That's why I've chosen to focus my activism on electoral politics.

Chuck Grassley has not had a well-funded, top tier race since he was first elected as a challenger in 1980. That's a whole generation ago - literally, as the son of the incumbent he beat is now our governor. He's held public office continually for two generations - literally, as his grandson now holds his old legislative seat. Fifty years in office with perhaps three serious races (1958, 1974, 1980 - one for each rung of the ladder.) Just the kind of candidate whose campaign muscles atrophy.

It's long past time for someone to really take on Grassley, and the candidate is waiting in the wings, just off a presidential race that never really got off the ground. I hope Tom Vilsack keeps his profile high and close to home the next couple years on the sidelines, and gears up for a big return to the ball game in 2010.

Monday, February 26, 2007

No pressure or anything

No pressure or anything

The REAL Register political writer, Tom Beaumont:

Vilsack's decision Friday to quit the race shifts much of the burden of expectations in the caucuses to Edwards, the front-runner in early Iowa polls.

Just the kind of bar-raising one doesn't need at this stage of the game.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Kos Disses Dennis

Kos Disses Dennis

It's like shooting a fly with an elephant gun but Kos's dismissal of Kookcinich is worth the read:
"Higher evolution of human awareness"? "Transform consciousness"? "Paradign shift"? What the hell is this crap? I expect this kind of crap out of Deepak Chopra (or Tom Cruise), not a serious presidential candidate.

Kucinich is using his "faith" as the basis of his "Department of Peace". In other words, he's trying to inject his faith into the public sphere.

And by the way, the "Department of Peace" already exists. It's called the "U.S. Department of State".

And Kos doesn't even mention the bad hair. But he does cover the anti-choice record and the campaigning as dating strategy.

Anyone know any good Mike GraVEL jokes?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Jerome Armstrong on Vilsack

Jerome Armstrong on Vilsack

"There was just not a road beyond Iowa. Whoever lands John Norris will be the winner from Vilsack dropping out."

Vilsack Dropping Out

Vilsack Dropping Out

The Underrated One has the story.

Taking bets: Vilsack's Hillary endorsement will no doubt follow soon. But that'll be less imortant than who, if anyone, Tom Harkin endorses.

This frees up an amount of Iowa talent and experience that's disproportionate to Vilsack's poll standing. I expect Vilsack's home state support to splinter among the rest of the field. The commanality among the Vilsack list - excluding the Mt. Pleasantries - seemed to be Inside The Des Moines Beltway and/or personal loyalty.

UPDATE: "It is money and only money," says TV in the speech.

What's The Bullying Bill About?

What's The Bullying Bill About?

The joys of the trifecta as the bullying bill, which I offered my personal perspective on last fall, moves to Culver's desk for a 100% certain signature. Looked like a near party line vote and the GOP got their last shots in:

Opponents, including Rep. Cecil Dolecheck, R-Mount Ayr, had argued that the legislation was less about protecting students than it was about foisting cultural views on schools.

'It has everything to do with a culture of acceptance,' he told the House. 'Not bullying.'

Well, no but yes. Bullying is important, but so is the statement "it's OK to be gay." I kid around about the Seinfeld Disclaimer a lot, but "not that there's anything wrong with that" is a powerful statement. That's part of what this is about, part of what marriage is about, part of what military is about. What Dolecheck and the Republicans want, the reason they opposed this, is the right to be bigoted. Glad you're being up front about that, Cecil.

Geek With An Alien Detector Saves The Day

Geek With An Alien Detector Saves The Day

Best geek story I've heard in ages:

SETI@home uses volunteers' computers when they go into screen-saver mode to crunch data from the Arecibo radio observatory in Puerto Rico. The computers are trying to spot signals in the radio noise from space.

They've found no aliens yet, but they have at least turned up one missing laptop.

Jodie Foster is not actually using SETI@Home in the photo above, since "Contact" came out two years before SETI@Home got started. However, she is brilliant, talented and gorgeous.

James Melin, a software programmer for a county government agency in Minnesota, runs SETI(at)home on his seven home computers...

Seven home computers?!? Clearly we're in serious geek territory here. (I'm, uh, running it on nine.) home computers, which periodically check in with University of California servers. Whenever that happens, the servers record the remote computer's IP address and file it in a database that people running the SETI software can view.

One of the computers on which Melin installed SETI@home is his wife's laptop, which was stolen from the couple's Minneapolis home Jan. 1.

Annoyed - and alarmed that someone could delete the screenplays...

Screenplays? Maybe a new movie for... Jodie Foster? Sorry. Got distracted. Proceed:

...screenplays and novels that his wife, Melinda Kimberly, was writing - Melin monitored the SETI@home database to see if the stolen laptop would "talk" to the Berkeley servers. Indeed, the laptop checked in three times within a week, and Melin sent the IP addresses to the Minneapolis Police Department.

After a subpoena to a local Internet provider, police determined the real-world address where the stolen laptop was logging on. Within days, officers seized the computer and returned it.

"I always knew that a geek would make a great husband," Kimberly said. "He always backed up all my data, but this topped it all. It became like `Mission: Impossible' for him, looking for hard evidence for the cops to use. ... He's a genius - my hero."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Loebsack home from Iraq

Loebsack home from Iraq

Loebsack said seeing the situation in Iraq for himself reinforced his belief that it was proper for Congress to oppose the troop increase.

“Yeah, I do even more so, believe that it was the right thing to do,” he said. “I don’t see how escalation is going to accomplish what we want.”

But he also said he was "amazed" by the spirit and dedication of U.S. troops deployed in the war zone. All those involved are 'giving it their best,' including the troops, said Loebsack. 'They are doing their job ... they're there to do a job and they take it seriously and I am amazed they manage to do it in the face of all this.'

No one asked about the nonbinding resolution passed by the House this month opposing President Bush’s decision to deploy 21,500 additional combat troops to Iraq.

Loebsack said the troops weren’t interested in politics. “‘We’re just here to do our job,’ is what they told me.”

As a next step he said he is looking toward helping support legislation by Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., that will put conditions on money for the war and "we can begin to be serious about disengagement and send a very serious message to George Bush, not just a nonbinding resolution."

Mid-Day Mix

Mid-Day Mix

Feeling lousy today so just passing on a few things:

  • Obama in Des Moines: Drew liveblogs at Bleeding Heartland and the Overrated One says Obama needs a nap.

  • Latest Poll:
  • Edwards 24%
  • Clinton 18%
  • Obama 18%
  • Vilsack 14%
  • everyone else 5 or less

  • Little change: three rock stars and the home town boy. Edwards continues to do better in Iowa than nationally.
  • Giuliani 29%
  • McCain 22%
  • Gingrich 11%
  • Romney 9%
  • Hagel 5%
  • everyone else asterisks

  • GOP still looking for love, as the unannounced Newt and Hagel poll significant numbers. McCain continues to slide, Romney still isn't selling.

  • Same-day voter registration moved forward. Republicans have fits of paranoia but Mike Mauro has the most accurate quote:

    "I don't think that people put themselves in harm's way to go to jail for a vote. Usually it's the result of confusion or misunderstanding."

  • Cutesy Gazette story on the toys legislators have on their desks; Wally Horn is the candy man. (My desk has a Godzilla, an Etch-A-Sketch and a Magic 8 Ball.)

  • Open Seat Alert in Iowa City as Bob Elliott re-announces his retirement from the city council. Seat will be filled in the November slugfest that's likely to include 21-bars on the ballot.
  • Caucusing With Santa?

    Caucusing With Santa?

    A fair number of Iowa Dems were unhappy in 2004 and 2006 when we held caucuses on Dr. King's holiday. Several precincts passed resolutions against holding the caucuses on a holiday. But I don't think anyone was worrying about Christmas Eve at that time.

    Courtesy of NPR's Ken Rudin, whose Political Junkie column at NPR is a must for trivia geeks and button buffs, we have historic Iowa and New Hampshire dates:

  • 1972: Iowa: Jan. 25; NH: March 7
  • 1976: Iowa: Jan. 19; NH: Feb. 24
  • 1980: Iowa: Jan. 21; NH: Feb. 26
  • 1984: Iowa: Feb. 20; NH: Feb. 28
  • 1988: Iowa: Feb. 8; NH: Feb. 16
  • 1992: Iowa: Feb. 10; NH: Feb. 18
  • 1996: Iowa: Feb. 12; NH: Feb. 20
  • 2000: Iowa: Jan. 24; NH: Feb. 1
  • 2004: Iowa: Jan. 19; NH: Jan. 27
  • 2008: Iowa: Jan. 14; NH: Jan. 22 (subject to revision...)

    The parties started worrying about the schedule getting too early in `84. Iowa moved a month later while New Hampshire stayed the same week, thus beginning the tradition of the Eight Day Gap. The caucuses drifted between Groundhog and President's Days for four cycles, until frontloading started to get really crazy at the turn of the century.

    The Saga of 2000

    Three different 2000 caucus dates were scheduled during 1999, and it wasn't nailed down till October 14, 1999. This was spurred by activity on the GOP side, as South Carolina leapfrogged back and New Hampshire responded.

  • September 18, 1999: Iowa Republicans moved the caucus date from February 7, 2000 to January 31.

  • September 28, 1999: New Hampshire moved back from February 8 to February 1, foiling the now sacred Eight Day Gap.

  • October 14, 1999: Both Iowa parties moved to January 24, 2000. We kept that one. And the Democrats stuck with the IA-NH only "early window" which led to an odd month where only the Republicans had contests while Bill Bradley withered on his deathbed awaiting the final flatline in California.

    So Iowa returned to the January dates of the `70s, but with the now set in granite Eight Day Gap New Hampshire went zooming into January for the first time in 2004.

    2008 can't leapfrog back much more. You thought I was kidding about Santa? We're already into the University's Christmas break. Assuming the caucuses stay on a Monday, Iowa can only move back about a week, to January 7, 2008. Going back any more causes two problems. It lands us in a whole other calendar year which would probably prove unpalatable to the DNC and the punditocracy.

    Making matters worse, the next two Mondays going back are December 31, 2007 and December 24, 2007.
  • Wednesday, February 21, 2007

    Iowa City Mayor Ross Wilburn Backing Obama

    Iowa City Mayor Ross Wilburn Backing Obama

    From the in box:

    Johnson County for Obama Kickoff Meeting
    When: Tuesday, March 6, 6:30pm
    Where: Holiday Inn Conference Center
    1220 1st Ave, Coralville
    rsvp link

    Iowa City Mayor Ross Wilburn is going to be our keynote speaker and we'll also have live music, and of course, food.

    This is a confirmed Obama endorsement:
    “I support Senator Obama because of his views on education, healthcare and his ability to discuss faith in an inclusive way. I'm impressed by his state and national experience in reaching across the aisle to bring divergent views into consensus action” said Wilburn.

    Ross was an early Howard Dean supporter; I remember him from meetings as early as April `03.

    Loebsack and PACs

    Loebsack and PACs

    Dave Loebsack’s been in for a bit of right-wing baiting here on the internets for taking a few PAC contributions, and getting unfavorably compared to his predecessor who trumpeted a no-PAC pledge. The noise calls for a reasoned response.

    Civics 101: Present interpretations (Buckley vs. Valeo) hold that campaign spending is a form of free speech. And PAC is short for political action committee, a form of free association protected under the constitution. A PAC is just a mechanism to bundle smaller donations into larger ones, and a no PAC pledge just a buzzword.

    Rather than bashing the mechanism, it’s important to look at the details. Which PACs are we talking about? I recall Tom Harkin discussing labor PACs back in his presidential campaign days: if the boss writes a $5000 check, that's OK, but if 1000 workers kick in 5 bucks each, that's not? How is a donation from a corporate PAC worse than a donation of equal size from a "private citizen" CEO?

    And that appears to be what’s happened with Loebsack. The vast majority of his PAC contributions have been from organized labor. That’s a funding stream not generally available to Republicans, and it underscores the emptiness in Leach’s no-PAC stance. In 2006 Leach received $62,429 from persons listing an occupation of “president,” CEO,” “owner” or some combination of those. Compare that to no CEOs or presidents and $6,015 from “owners” for Loebsack (and they tend to be owners of things like the Lincoln CafĂ© in Mt. Vernon)

    Another source of Loebsack’s PAC money was candidate committees, largely presidential campaigns. Democrats supporting Democrats. What a shocker. (That’s also just about the only sort of national party support Dave got; by and large this was a locally funded and operated campaign.)

    Leach also, throughout his career, took indirect PAC money laundered through Republican Party committees and independent expenditures. That only amounted to $34,000 this cycle but was over $270,000 in the 2002 race. The Republicans who continue to trumpet “no PAC” ignore this hypocrisy.

    It should also be noted that Leach had a $187,000 debt to himself in October (a loan likely to be eaten since no one donates to defeated politicians). That's a pittance by modern campaign standards, but well over a third of his total budget and well beyond the means of a professor at a small liberal arts college. It was easy for Leach to live with a no PAC pledge because he always had that personal wealth at his disposal.

    The Loebsack-Leach race was a model for voluntary spending restraint on both sides. Each spent roughly a half million – which pales in comparison to Bruce Braley’s $2.2 million, Mike Whalen’s $2.3 million, and Leonard Boswell and Jeff Lamberti’s $2.0 million each.

    Systemic campaign finance reform is needed, and ultimately public finance is the best and fairest solution. In the short run, the single greatest campaign cost is broadcast advertising, and some fair system of time allocation would reduce costs and financial demands.

    Republicans Don't Want You To Vote: Papers, Please

    Republicans Don't Want You To Vote: Papers, Please

    Here's why the GOP is so obsessed with ID requirements:
    States that imposed identification requirements on voters reduced turnout at the polls in the 2004 presidential election by about 3 percent, and by two to three times as much for minorities, new research suggests.

    The study, prepared by scholars at Rutgers and Ohio State Universities for the federal Election Assistance Commission, supports concerns among voting-rights advocates that blacks and Hispanics could be disproportionately affected by ID requirements.

    Tim Vercellotti, a professor at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University who helped conduct the study, said that in the states where voters were required to sign their names or present identifying documents like utility bills, blacks were 5.7 percent less likely to vote than in states where voters simply had to say their names.

    Dr. Vercellotti said Hispanics appeared to be 10 percent less likely to vote under those requirements, while the combined rate for people of all races was 2.7 percent.

    Way more important than voting on pieces of dead tree.

    Dodd in Iowa City here and here and here.

    Obama in Des Moines tonight
    . He's also speaking to a meeting of Democratic legislators.

    Tuesday, February 20, 2007

    Blogroll Update

    Blogroll Update


  • Mike Hlas at the Gazette (but the E-Edition still sucks)
  • Bleeding Heartland, Drew's new project
  • iPol
  • LeftyBlogs Iowa feed - was going to add BlogNetNews Iowa but they seem to be on the frits, what's with that?


  • Drew Miller's old, somewhat cobwebbed site
  • Political Stategy - moribound since October `05
  • Iowa Ennui - appears to be a suicide marked with a last post of Daria as an angel.

    If any of you cats can hep me to some swingin' jive, I'll lay those stacks of wax on the tracks. Or just tell me about blogs I've missed. Either way.
  • Dodd: Afterthoughts

    Dodd: Afterthoughts

    This is what a caucus event is supposed to be like. The Edwards and Obama events I covered recently felt like general election rallies. But this is the kind of gathering on which the caucuses built their reputation, and which remains Iowa's raison d'etre. A small group of dedicated activists sitting down with someone who, by any reasonable standard, deserves serious consideration as a potential president.

    The people waiting to talk to Dodd were not waiting to touch the hem of his garment, as I said of Obama. They were all armed with detailed questions.

    But in the Cycle of the Rock Stars, does that matter? Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama simply could not do this type of event, and John Edwards probably can't either. The fire code alone makes it impossible. Obama and Clinton simply do not have enough hours in the day or enough energy in their bodies to spend three minutes with everyone who wants to see them, because so many many people want that moment with them. U2 doesn't play clubs anymore, and you don't get to have a Guinness with Bono between sets. And so every show is a stadium show, every early caucus event becomes a general election rally...

    If we can't do these one on one events, that undercuts our case that the caucuses are special and should continue as the first event. Are we soon to be victims of our own success?

    (Aside: my pics still aren't downloading. Maybe later...)

    Chris Dodd, Iowa City 2/20/2007

    Chris Dodd, Iowa City 2/20/2007

    11:31 and good morning live from the NY Deli in downtown Iowa City. A coiple dozen folks are here. Dood - I mean Dodd but the typo is priceless - is on the other end of the room doing an old media interview. I'm guessing things'll be low key casual.

    Having the usual chronic laptop heat issues so I may get knocked off the air; I have my 74th Iowans For Sensible Priorities pen to take notes with.

    11:43 Eileen O'Toole of the Loebsack staff is intoducing, and thanking Dodd for coming here for Dave last fall. Dodd begins with mich praise of Loebsack.

    Also praise for Iowa/NH for giving a less known candidate a chance. Giving the bio and the mini-bios of the family. Peace Corps, congressional class of 74, Senate in 80. Calls self proud progressive Dem. Family/Medical Leave Act, call himself "the children's senator". Talks up foreign policy experience particularly Latin America. Pulls out his copy of the Constitution "that I carry every day." A very very fast talker...

    Jokes about the youth of his kids: 5 year old asks "what sort of life will I have." Now he slows down a bit so he's zooming in on the message. Our kids will ask "what did you DO to get it right." And I can do a lot in the Senate, but the place to make change is the presidency. And Iowa gives me a chance. Don't believe the inevitability of the pundits.

    11:54 and he moves to questions. First question is in Spanish. Dodd asks if he wants answer in English or Spanish. Immigration. Don't want to go back to Know-Nothings and shut the doors - we've been a welcoming nation and that's been a strength. That said, border security is paramount and we need co-op w/ Mexico. I argue for criminal penalties for employers. This would have negative traction to slow it down. Also need a path to legal status, and raise minumum wage so people will do these jobs (Insulting to say only immigrants will do jobs) Uneasy about guest worker programs. Need to consider norther border as well. North Dakota has 19 ports of entry only one is staffed. The other 18 have traffic cones.

    Iowans for Sensible Priorities asks about health care for kids vs. military budget, the usual Sensible Priorities rap.

    Dodd: This administration has left a bigger deficit than all 42 prior admins, I call it a birth tax. A mess. I want to redeploy forces TONIGHT out of Iraq. I was disappointed in nonbinding debate. Am people want this brought to a close. (first applause lines) Not arguing for unilaterally disarming - in Clinton era we were buying weaponry from third countries. Tremendously reduces risk of accidental launch. Our military has deteriorated because of Iraq - units not ready, troops not reenlisting. Need to make more intelligent investments.

    Virginia Stratton-Coulter, now of the Loebsack staff, was on Dodd's staff in the 80s and tells an old story.

    Kathy Huedepohl asks about anti-gay discrimination.

    Dodd says he has 100% HRC record. How would I want my kids treated? Just as I would. Everyone should be treated equally. Will fight for these issues if elected.

    12:05 Question about investigating Bish administration and how, if president, would you handle issues of opennness?

    Dodd jokes about broadness of question. (Long ago Sunday talk show: "Senator, we have 30 seconds left. Middle East.") In six years I've seen assault on constitution that's unprecedented. A great victory for the terrorists. I have a bill to reverse on habeas corpus. I've been called "one of two patriots left in America." (Other one must be Feingold). He's touching bases fast, John Bolton goes flying by... Says his vote for war in `02 was a mistake "I wish I could have it back. The Only thing I can do is not compound it." Scattered applause. "Show my why this is necessary before reaching into people's lives." Talks about father's experience at Nuremburg court.

    Public part of questions winds down. Applause as Dodd says "Iowa, give me a chance."

    12:12 Overheard: "I'm falling in love with them all as they come through." The staffer notices me blogging and stops by to chat. We're sparse on the local electeds, though I do see Tom Gill here. The line of folks wanting to say hi is three or four people deep.

    12:24 and he's departed. Got a couple decent pix that I can't seem to download off my phone.

    Dodd preview

    Dodd preview

    Check back mid-day for Chris Dodd at the NY Deli. In the meantime, the Gazette and Register cover yesterday's stops. Says I Was Wrong re: the war, and discusses his asterisk status:

    "'Polls at this point are almost irrelevant,' he said. 'Bill Clinton was at 2 percent in the polls with 14 weeks to go, ranked sixth in 1991. John Kerry was 1 point behind Al Sharpton in December of 2003.'"

    Monday, February 19, 2007

    Four Long Reads

    Four Long Reads

    Over the long weekend I accumulated some lengthy articles that I recommend to one and all.

  • Ten ways to prepare for a post-oil society at The Bridge is a look at just what post peak oil is going to mean:
    Expand your view beyond the question of how we will run all the cars by means other than gasoline. This obsession with keeping the cars running at all costs could really prove fatal. Get this: the cars are not part of the solution (whether they run on fossil fuels, vodka, used frymax™ oil, or cow shit). They are at the heart of the problem.

    This is the sunset of Happy Motoring (including the entire US trucking system). Get used to it. Don't waste your society's remaining resources trying to prop up car-and-truck dependency. Moving things and people by water and rail is vastly more energy-efficient. Virtually every place in our nation organized for car dependency is going to fail to some degree. Quite a few places (Phoenix, Las Vegas, Miami) will support only a fraction of their current populations.

  • Mark Kleiman writes in the American Interest at great length on US drug policy. It lends itself poorly to excerpts, but among many other things it includes alcohol as part of a comprehensive drup program, recommends aboloshing the drinking age, and rather than suspend drivers license, suggests a suspendable "drinking license." Doesn't call for full blown legalization, but does suggest tokers should be able to grow their own.

  • Richard D. Kahlenberg in Washington Monthly on race, class, the overlap and the difference:

    Part of the resistance to policies like class-based affirmative action is that its color-blind approach is seen as suggesting that racism is no longer a problem, a thing of the past. But in fact, class-based programs incorporate not only the legacy of past discrimination but also the reality of current-day discrimination.

  • ANKOSS at Kos examines the Sacred Cult Of The Soldier:

    Through a confluence of militaristic propaganda, ruthless self-interest, and the spontaneous growth of popular myth, a cult of glorification of the common American soldier has arisen.

    What are the consequences of making soldiers sacred?

    1. Anything that can be said to endanger our soldiers becomes a lever for political action. This is how Bush is ginning up a casus belli against Iran. THEY ARE ENDANGERING OUR SOLDIERS!

    2. What the military wants, the military gets. You name it: F22, F35, V22, high-tech, low-tech, no-tech, working, junk, vaporware. OUR SOLDIERS DESERVE ONLY THE BEST!

    3. Military sevice becomes a prerequisite for political office. HE/SHE UNDERSTANDS THE IMPORTANCE OF PROTECTING OUR SOLDIERS!

    4. Perpetual conflict and low-intensity war become a norm. OUR SOLDIERS NEED COMBAT EXPERIENCE!

    5. The civil sector is sacrificed to fund an ever increasing military establishment. WE CAN'T LET OUR SOLDIERS DOWN!

    6. Criticism of the military becomes taboo. One bad joke at the expense of US soldiers ended Kerry's presidential hopes. INSULTING THE HONOR OF OUR SOLDIERS IS FORBIDDEN!
  • Saturday, February 17, 2007

    Republican Idiocy and Futility Two-Fer

    Republican Idiocy and Futility Two-Fer

    Federal Edition: Krazy King kontinues his obsession with the way people talk.

    A drive to make English the nation's official language once again has kicked off in Congress, spearheaded by Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa.

    "Language is the bonding agent. It's the glue that holds us together."

    The English-language bill draws intense opposition from groups that advocate on behalf of immigrants, who contend that English is not under attack and that a law is unneeded. What's necessary, they say, is more federal support for overcrowded adult education classes teaching English to immigrants.

    Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Ia., has expressed hesitation about an English-language law.

    State Edition: Not satisfied with opposing Fair Share, Mary Lundby and the Senate GOP wants to actively insult labor.

    They’ve introduced a bill to declare May 1 as Iowa’s Right To Work Day to remember the passage of Iowa’s anti-labor “Right To Work” Act.

    Hat tip to Iowa Progress on this. May Day is Labour Day in most civilized countries of the world.

    News bulletin, Republicans: You lost the last election. Actively insulting new Americans and working people may shore up your shrinking base, but it's no way to work your way to a majority. Divide no longer means conquer.

    Profiles In Contrast

    Profiles In Contrast

  • "This is a rare Saturday vote. We’ve had only a handful of votes on Saturdays in the last 20 years. Even though I had to cancel a couple of speeches in Iowa, this is the place to be because the War on Terrorism is the most important issue facing Americans"
    -Chuck Grassley, speaking today in Washington DC

  • John McCain in Des Moines today blasted the Democrat-controlled Senate leadership for calling a Saturday session to debate a "meaningless resolution" of disapproval for President Bush's Iraq war strategy.

    "It's insulting to the public and our soldiers to pretend we're discharging our responsibility in any meaningful way."

    Thanks to O. Kay for pointing this out and pushing the objectivity envelope.

    Vote was 56-34, but needed 60. Ten absent, including McCain. Washington Post adds to his sense of false priorities (i.e. me, me me):

    Most Democrats were already seated at their desks when the roll call began shortly before 2 p.m. The only Democrat who missed the vote was Sen. Tim Johnson (S.D.), who is recovering from brain surgery. Democratic Sens. Robert P. Casey Jr. (Pa.) and Max Baucus (Mont.) canceled plans to visit Iraq this weekend and were present on the floor. Their traveling companions, GOP Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.), went ahead with the trip and missed the Senate action.

    All actual Democrats voted to stop the surge - Joementum, of course, showed his true colors and voted like a Republican. But seven GOP senators defected from the Bush line:
    Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Susan Collins of Maine, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and John Warner of Virginia. All but Snowe and Specter could face the voters in 2008.

    Norm Coleman. How will his vote affect me, Al Franken?
  • Biden Goes To Work, McCain Goes To Campaign

    Biden Goes To Work, McCain Goes To Campaign

    I've dissed Joe Biden's long-shot candidacy recently but give him credit: he's cancelled some (all?) of his Iowa campaign events in order to participate in the Senate vote on the anti-surge resolution. He also had to cancel a Marshalltown event Friday due to an unscheduled plane stop reports Common Iowan.

    But John McCain? He's skipping work, blowing off the most important Senate debate of the year, and sticking to his full weekend campaign schedule. And Straight Talk (sic) Iowa Style is damn proud of it:

    The foolish cowardice of Senate Democrats will not keep John McCain from hearing out the good people of Iowa.

    Here's more credit where credit is due: the 17 House Republicans who crossed party lines to vote against Bush and the surge.

    Castle (DE)
    Coble (NC)
    Davis (VA)
    Duncan (TN)
    English (PA)
    Gilchrest (MD)
    Inglis (SC)
    Johnson (IL)
    Jones (NC)
    Keller (FL)
    Kirk (IL)
    LaTourette (OH)
    Paul (TX)
    Petri (WI)
    Ramstad (MN)
    Upton (MI)
    Walsh (NY)

    Saving their own butts or principled opposition? Some of each, perhaps, but they did the right thing. Two Dems went the other way: Jim Marshall (GA), who's in one of the gerrymander districts, and museum piece Gene Taylor of Mississippi, who votes like an old fashioned Southern conservative Democrat but resisted many attempts to get him to cross over in the Gingrich-Hastert era.

    Friday, February 16, 2007

    Loebsack Going To Iraq

    Loebsack Going To Iraq

    Part of an Armed Services Committee trip next week:

    "Since being sworn in to Congress I have attended many briefings on Iraq, and one thing is clear, the current conditions are dire and quickly deteriorating," said Congressman Loebsack. "But the knowledge obtained in these briefings pales in comparison to what is gained from being on the ground and meeting with the soldiers currently serving."

    "I am going with a bipartisan group of Congressmen to Iraq to speak directly with our brave soldiers on the ground and thank them personally for their great commitment, service and sacrifice. Additionally, I hope to gain a better perspective on how to best end this conflict and bring our troops home safely," Congressman Loebsack declared.

    Return of tha Rage?

    Return of tha Rage?

    "Killing In The Name," remaining relevant 15 years after the fact. Lyrics NSFW, as if I needed to remind you. I won't do what you tell me...

    Chris Cornell is leaving rock group Audioslave, citing "irresolvable personality conflicts as well as musical differences."

    Never really cared for Audioslave, even though I loved Rage and liked Soundgarden; it was always Zack's amped up political lyrics that drew me to Rage Against The Machine.

    Meanwhile, Rage Against the Machine planned to reunite to perform at this year's Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival, which runs April 27 through 29. Tom Morello, the lead guitarist of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, has said the concert is a one-shot deal.

    Here's hoping they make it work and make it last. We need Rage Against The Machine even more than we did in 1992, 1996, 2000... and I'll forever treasure the look of discomfort on Steve Forbes' face when he had to introduce them on Saturday Night Live.

    Loebsack on Surge, Vilsack on Leno

    Loebsack on Surge, Vilsack on Leno

    Debate on the anti-surge resolution continues, and everyone is stating their case. Here's Dave Loebsack:

    For too long Congress refused to stand up to the administration. Our actions today must mark the beginning of Congress's oversight role, not the end.

    The time has come to tell President Bush enough is enough! Last November, the American people spoke. They spoke loudly and clearly on a number of issues but none more passionately and forcefully than the war in Iraq. The American people, long before this debate this week, decided that the misadventure in Iraq must end.

    More from Loebsack later today says the in box:

    Rep. Dave Loebsack to comment on President Bush's plan to escalate the war in Iraq Friday, February 16. The footage will be sent from Washington, D.C. via satellite FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 16 FROM 4:30 - 5:15p.m.

    The Reg provides handy-dandy complete statements from all five Iowans. And the Iowa Senate lends its support on a voice vote.

    But will the House sign on too? Pat Murphy doesn't think so, and he's not sure on stem cells either: "At this point, I don't know if we have enough votes to pass it." Well, why not?

    All the papers have their reviews of Vilsack on Leno which I missed apparantly he did a bit where the security guards didn't recognize him and repeated the basic bits - rock solid, never been ahead and never lost, etc. for a new audience.

    Maybe more significantly, the Vilsackers are phonebanking and my phone rang yesterday with the basic pre-caucus call. The Ex Guv is coming to town March 2 to the Hamburg Inn, which I could actually see from where I was standing in the laundromat. It was a decent earnest kid for hire on the other end; I felt more informed than the caller but then I'm probably not a typical call.

    Thursday, February 15, 2007

    A Young Child Describes A Democratic Party Meeting

    A Young Child Describes A Democratic Party Meeting

    "Grownups go blah-blah-blah, blah-blah-blah...

    "...and I'm boooored, bored bored booooored."

    Verbatim quotes, I swear, including the hand-puppet gestures. I hope these are submitted as the meeting minutes.

    Dodd in Iowa City Tuesday 2/20

    From the in box again:

    Presidential Candidate
    U.S. Senator Chris Dodd

    Tuesday, February 20
    for a lunchtime gathering at
    The New York Deli- Capanna Coffee
    136 South Dubuque Street (next to Iowa City library)

    Think I can make that.

    DCCC Shortlist Boswell, Not IA Freshmen

    DCCC Shortlist Boswell, Not IA Freshmen

    DCCC announces 29 members for "Frontline" program for the 2008 cycle - Frontline sounds like a news magazine show... call it what you will, it's the short list for defense.

    Iowa freshmen Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack are not on the list - DC must think they're OK compared to the 21 true freshman and the three red shirts who were out for a term.

    But six-term incumbent Leonard Boswell, who won by only six points last year, is one of only five re-elected incumbents on the short list. Boswell is listed with narrow second term winner Melissa Bean (IL) and three members from Texas and Georgia who survived gerrymanders.

    Obama Organizing In Johnson

    Obama Organizing In Johnson

    From the in box:

    I'm writing to invite you to attend the kickoff meeting of our group, "Johnson County for Obama"... Tuesday, March 6 at 6:30pm. Even if you're not sure if you're going to vote for Senator Obama, you're invited to learn more. We're still looking for a location...

    I'm not committed yet and I'll pass this sort of thing along as I hear about stuff.

    Under the Des Moines Dome: Stem Cells, Surge, Greiner

    Under the Des Moines Dome: Stem Cells, Surge, Greiner

    Stem cells move forward in Iowa Senate, 26-24:

    Four Democratic senators broke party lines on the issue. Nay votes from Tom Hancock of Epworth, Bill Heckroth of Waverly, Brian Schoenjahn of Arlington, and Joe Seng of Davenport joined all 20 Senate Republicans in coming up just two votes short of the 26 needed to kill the measure.

    What's the deal with these guys?

    Also, 28 Dem Senators co-sponsor an anti-surge resolution. Obviously non-binding, but where are Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids and Steve Warnstadt from Sioux City? And why did they stop making Surge, anyway?

    And lame duck Sandra Greiner gives the Register some remarks that sum up her whole attitude toward public service:

    She said her decision has nothing to do with Republicans losing control of the Legislature. "Listen: This is the easiest money I've ever earned," she said. "Why would anybody walk away from an easy check like that? It has absolutely nothing to do with being in the minority."

    Easy money, huh. That helps explain all those missed League of Women Voters legislative forums in Iowa City - she was off the clock! Just running for the Legislature was the hardest job I ever had, and our local folks keep up nonstop insane campaign-plus schedules during session weekends.

    Don't let the door hit you on the way out, Sandy.

    Wednesday, February 14, 2007

    Edwards: The other shoe drops

    Edwards: The other shoe drops

    Melissa McEwan quits too:

    I would like to make very clear that the campaign did not push me out, nor was my resignation the back-end of some arrangement made last week. This was a decision I made, with the campaign's reluctant support, because my remaining the focus of sustained ideological attacks was inevitably making me a liability to the campaign...

    A cautionary tale to bloggers with ambitions. Of course, it may be too late for some of us.

    Gazette has Joel Miller's slam-dunk Linn County Auditor win and more on SILO.

    And the Register digs through the pile of applications for the Board of Regents and finds Johnson County Treasurer Tom Kriz:

    Thomas Kriz of Iowa City, the Johnson County treasurer, said the Board of Regents "has been tarnished by its lack of leadership and its poor decision-making on critical matters."

    Loads of other prominent names...

    Tuesday, February 13, 2007

    SILO Wins Johnson, Linn, Democrat Miller Wins Linn Auditor

    SILO Wins Johnson, Linn; Democrat Miller Wins Linn Auditor

    Quick exhausted look at the numbers:

  • Turnout picks up a bit late in the day as the snow slows, still a bit short of 1999
  • Hot Spot: Iowa City 4 (Manville Heights and Peninsula)with 86%; Lone Tree with 81%
  • West side pretty warm, upper to mid 70s, also IC24 (City High) and North Coralville)
  • The cool spot in town, as always for school measures, was southeast Iowa City. Not so much regressivity as read my lips working class tories here.
  • A few scattered rural precincts, mostly in the south, were weak or actual no votes.
  • Top percentage turnout was Solon
  • Student turnout near non-existent.

    Now that the penny SILO tax is consistent statewide, the Johnson-Linn legislators can better make a case for some restructuring of education funding.

    And congratulations to new Linn County Auditor Joel Miller who won a 26 point victory over the GOP and a clear majority in a six candidate field. Your next election night will be less celebrating and more work...
  • Greiner will not seek re-election

    Greiner will not seek re-election

    UPDATE: Mark Nolte responds, see comments below.

    Sandra Greiner, GOP House 89 incumbent, stands down. Did Mark Nolte's 44% on a small budget give her a scare? Or was it Becky Schmitz knocking off Dave Miller on the same turf in the Senate 45 race? Either way this district is swinging and a great opportunity...

    Hat tip to Garry.

    THIS is why you should always vote early

    THIS is why you should always vote early

    A storm predicted to start about midnight Monday is projected to bring 5 to 7 inches of snow to the Iowa City area through the end of the day today...

    School's Out, headlines the paper, which gives me an excuse to show Alice Cooper again.

    But in Iowa, at least, elections don't get cancelled. So if you didn't vote early, get your snowshoes.

    Blogger Quits Edwards, So She Says

    Blogger Quits Edwards, So She Says

    Amanda Marcotte quits the Edwards campaign. Will the netroots buy her statement - worth a full read but here's the kernel:

    The main good news is that I don’t have a conflict of interest issue anymore that was preventing me from defending myself against these baseless accusations.

    Or will they contend she got fired? See comments at MyDD for more.

    Self-centered quote of the day

    Self-centered quote of the day

    Dyersville, the field of We Don't Care:

    The state's top sheriffs, police and prosecutor associations contend Iowa's existing state and local residency requirements are nothing but feel-good laws, which heap work on law enforcement while doing nothing to make children more safe.

    But the City Council in Dyersville went all the way, banning all convicted sex offenders from living anywhere in the northeast Iowa town of just more than 4,000.

    "Our responsibility as the mayor and the City Council is to protect the citizens," Dyersville Mayor Jim Heavens said in defense of the controversial move. "Where sex offenders go afterward is not our problem."

    Sounds remarkably like several David Yepsen columns on the subject...

    Monday, February 12, 2007

    If The US Senate Were Apportioned Like The House

    If The US Senate Were Apportioned Like The House

    As Mitch McConnell geared up to filibuster a symbolic toothless The Surge Is Kinda Bad resolution, I contemplated the US Senate and its all states are equal math.

    Every State Gets Two Senators is the only remaining unamendable clause in the Constitution (the other was no interference with the slave trade till 1808) so discussion is moot. But I just got the sense that a disproportionate number of very small states have two Republican Senators, and California has two Democrats.

    So, what is the Senate were apportioned like the house? How's the math look? California has 53 House seats and two Democratic Senators, credit the Dems with 53 seats. Wyoming has one House seat and two GOP Senators, so credit the GOP with one. Florida: 25 House seats, one Dem and one Republican Senator, that equals 12.5 seats for each.

    Run the math all the way through and you get a population-apportioned Senate of 247.5 Democrats, 184.5 Republicans, 2 and a half Liebermans and half a Bernie Sanders. Even more Democratic than the actual House.

    But that's just a nice fantasy. Without 60 votes, and with even Republicans who question the war valuing party loyalty more than their own doubts and their own constituents, even symbolic gestures are impossible.

    Is this going to be up to Pelosi and the House Democrats?

    Im In Ur Blogz Steelin Ur Linkz

    Quick and dirty this AM.

    Had my second highest traffic day ever yesterday and the most I've ever actually earned (Election Day was #1 but I didn't post all day). Obama gets the credit for that... Common Iowan does the same kind of writeup I did only at Ames. Feedback: you regulars like the live pseudo-transcript style, or would you prefer think now, write later?

    The Daily Iowan, meanwhile, doesn't publish on the weekend so catches up on Cedar Rapids today. And Hotline continues to obsess on the Dave Loebsack Obama "endorsement" (sic). The acknowledge it wasn't an endorsement but they really really want to read a lot into it - but that at least gives Dave some nice attention.

    O. Kay
    has some backstage Obama stuff and the Vilsacker's reax to Tom Miller and Mike Fitzgerald.

    Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, one question sums up Hillary Clinton's big vulnerability for the nomination:

    "I want to know if right here and right now, once and for all, without nuance, can you say that the war authorization vote was a mistake?" one questioner asked.

    That question was how one voter welcomed Clinton to New Hampshire. It was a zinger that put her on the hot seat.

    "I've said and I will repeat, that knowing what I know now that I would never have voted for it," Clinton said.

    But was that the answer he was looking for?

    "Absolutely not. And I love what she's talking about with health care. I love what she's talking about with the war now and capping the troops. But until she says it was mistake, she's not gonna get my vote," the questioner replied.

    In Iowa City, the Press-Citizen luuuuuuvs Rick Dobyns' initiative to keep legal adults out of bars.

    And in Hollywood the music industry flips Bush a giant middle finger and the Dixie Chicks win the Grammies in a landslide (apologies to Stevie Nicks). Natalie Maines: "I think people are using their freedom of speech with all these awards. We get the message." So do we, so do we...

    Sunday, February 11, 2007

    Tom Miller, Mike Fitzgerald... Barack Obama

    Tom Miller, Mike Fitzgerald... Barack Obama

    From the inbox:

    U.S. Senator Barack Obama's campaign today announced that Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and Iowa State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald have endorsed Barack Obama for President...

    No wonder they weren't on that Vilsack list yesterday... that's a big zing to the former guv: the two longest serving statewide elected officials, so popular they ran unopposed last year.

    I'm remembering Tom Miller was a Lieberman guy in `03. I considered that myself since my caucus support is the kiss of death (Hart, Jackson, Harkin, Bradley, Dean... my only caucus for a nominee was the `96 Clinton re-elect) and I wanted to be sure Joementum would lose. But luckily he didn't need my help.

    Hey, Drew, do you have the inside dish here?

    Tangent: As an Iowan I hate to say it, but some of the second-tier folks would be best advised to adopt a Screw Iowa strategy rather than try to break through the Three Rock Stars and the Home Town Boy. The true second tier, Vilsack included, each has a needle that could in theory be threaded:

  • Bill Richardson needs to spend every free moment in Vegas (he may already be doing that)
  • New Hampshire is a short hop for Chris Dodd
  • Wes Clark, if he gets in, should focus on vet-heavy South Carolina.

    At this point it should be noted that the Screw Iowa Strategy (Gore 88, McCain 00) has never worked.

    The articulate Joe Biden has no viable options, so from this day on I include him in the third tier with Dennis Kookcinich, Sal Mohamed and Mike Gravel (it's pronounced graVEL and not like rocks).
  • Endorsement Hoopla, Obama Roundup

    Endorsement Hoopla, Obama Roundup

    A couple sources this morning discussing Iowa's congressional delegation and presidential endorsements.

    Hotline jumps on Dave Loebsack's appearance at the Obama rally and asks "is it an endorsement." And while my new congressman did say some nice things about that guy from the next state over, I didn't hear a commitment. Here's what I did hear, as fast as I could type:

    Iowa takes its job seriously. The caucus process is the most democratic - small d - way to do this, we have the opportunity to talk about the issues and ask the hard questions, and a lot of us have been doing that for a lot of years.”

    Let’s do our job and choose the best person for the Democratic nomination and let’s begin here in Iowa.

    "Choose the best person", not "Barack Obama is the best person."

    And as Iowa Progress and Jane Norman note, Leonard Boswell will share a stage with anyone, anywhere, anytime:

    The no-endorsement policy at the moment extends to former Gov. Tom Vilsack, and Boswell even said he is not sure he will ever endorse anyone.

    "This is nothing new," he says. "We have an awesome responsibility having the first caucus. ... I want people to come to Iowa, and I'll offer up what I can do."

    "I reserve the right to decide, but in the past I have not."

    Some other reports on Obama in CR yesterday:
  • Chris Dorsey, Iowa Politics
  • Gazette
  • Mike Hlas, also Gazette
  • Associated Press (where were you, Mike Glover?)
  • Register has the civilian, from the hall story. But Yepsen, being Yepsen, of course, gets the exclusive on the bus (was it ethanol-fueled?) from CR to Waterloo.
  • Saturday, February 10, 2007

    Obama: Cedar Rapids 2/10/07

    Obama: Cedar Rapids 2/10/07

    There was a rumor of wifi but it appears to have been only a rumor. So this is live written, delayed posted (with overdubs, even KISS Alive! had overdubs.)

    2:30ish and Settling in at the press platform…

    Operation looks major league but perhaps a touch over efficient. Maybe it’s an excess of volunteers; a lot of Fresh Faced Young People were tasked with keeping the press in the press area. I made the mistake of trading my civilian tix for a press pass.

    Had a nice brief chat with Joel Miller, Linn County Auditor candidate who was not missing the chance to shake a few thousand hands before Tuesday’s special election. I let him get on with talking to folks who can actually vote for him and wandered down the line. But I’m hoping today’s obsession with press corralling is a brief bump in the road and not a sign of things to come

    The Overrated One has been sighted though he did have a nice summary today. Chris Dorsey of Iowa Politics is here as is And loads and loads and loads of national press. I’m squeezed in between a couple cameras. While I was wandering the folks in line looked young, young, young.

    3:42. Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s colors are green and gold and I wonder how a certain Bears fan will like that. The hubbub is overpowering the music but it’s four or five songs on a loop. One hip hop, one country, Sly Stone’s Everyday People, the Rascal Flatts version of “Life Is A Highway” (I guess Tom Cochrane’s origninal is too Canadian) and John Mellencamp’s ubiquitous “This Is My Country”…

    Congressman Loebsack – I still love saying that - gets a nice cheer. Linn activist DJ Arnold says Obama had a short get together with a few of his ilk just now and some of them are trickling into the seats saved next to him. Mayor Kay Halloran is here (despite the Vilsack endorsement mentioned this morning).

    4:07 now and underway. Joel Miller is getting a moment at the platform. The party line is “he’s the only qualified person in the race.” (repeated by every Linn County Dem I talked to)

    Congressman Dave Loebsack

    Dave Loebsack is up and thanking all of us for his big surprise win last fall. Says he recognizes a lot of national press - not from his race but from past caucuses as a party activist.

    “Iowa takes its job seriously. The caucus process is the most democratic - small d - way to do this, we have the opportunity to talk about the issues and ask the hard questions, and a lot of us have been doing that for a lot of years.”

    “In America, we do have hope and opportunity, and those of us in Congress are doing all we can to restore that.” He announces for re-election – but we knew that so we chuckle.

    “The Democrats have Congress, we’re halfway there. We can try to negotiate with the president. But let’s do our job and choose the best person for the Democratic nomination and let’s begin here in Iowa.”

    A brief lull. Dave had a good meeting with labor folks in Iowa City just before this. The Kennedy kids are starting an O-BA-MA! Chant but it dies out.

    4:16 and the Congressman asks the folks in the bleachers to scoot closer together so we can get more folks in. In a nice professorial voice of a guy who’s done a lot of caucus events before.

    4:20 and a Kennedy High senior intros Obama. He makes the entrance to loud cheers, though I remember basketball games being louder. No entrance music – apparently that’s the drill for Obama as that was what he did at the DNC last week. Crowd is standing so my once good vantage point is shot. Now the noise approaches hoops level…

    The family is with him, he has the tie on today and not the usual Obama no tie uniform. Steve Sovern is handling the re-intro. I guess introducing Obama is a dual duty.

    Sovern: “This is a hugely different way to start the campaign – but this is a hugely different candidate.” The idea here is this is a conversation, not a speech. Obama is introing the electeds: Loebsack and Joel Miller get more love. His Illinois cohort Dick Durbin is here, hanging back by the press mostly unobserved.

    4:30 and on to the meat: leading with health care; energy as national and environmental security. Education and global competitiveness. Internationally people recognize the terrorist threat is real. But can’t solve it till “we bring this ill conceived are in Iraq to a close.” (first big applause.

    We have faced similar challenges in the past: we faced it with slavery, name checks Lincoln, we overcame great depression and fascism – here’s that big historic arc he likes to draw. “We’ve been able to meet every challenge; there’s no reason we can’t meet today’s challenges.”

    I don’t just want to win, I want to transform this country. Only way I can do it is if you make this a vehicle for your hopes and dreams. No matter how able the individual, ultimately the country changes in when the people speak out for change. What I hope will happen is through meetings like that is we see reengagement and excitement from ordinary citizens – because they can accomplish extraordinary change.

    Rolling applause.

    Sovern says he gets a few more questions, then it’ll open to the crowd. He was watching C-Span calls – JFK comparisons. people saying Obama leads people back to Dems because of HOPE. How do you deal with responsibility?

    Obama: “I hope all the questionss are like that. (ha ha ha) JFK comparison is premature… town hall meetings will let people “kick the tires and see what this guy’s about.” Hope people say “this guy’s agenda makes sense.” Our politics feels like an insider’s game with ordinary voters left out (applause) Special interest have an extraordinary influence – hard to get any energy bill through, drug bill, due to lobby influence. Recently passed ethics reforms. The aggregate over time of influence gives some people access others not and that excludes people. Kennedy era gave people sense everyone could be involved. The call to action has been missing, replaced by corrosive cynicism\m. When asked “who’s your biggest rival” I say “cynicism.”

    Sovern: How do you maintain integrity while raising millions?

    Obama “It’s hard” Makes no PAC pledge and gets applause. But we must raise $ to compete. Town halls are great but if I don’t get on TV, I’m a wonderful footnote in campaign history. Internet has put power back into people’s hands. $5, 10, 20 from millions of people lets us raise as much $ with more stake holders. It’s a pain in the neck raising money all the time, takes time away from finding solutions. Only 1% makes contributions, disproportionately wealthy. Not quid pro quo, but you spend time with them “and they’re not struggling.” High dollar donors can have progressive ideals, but they don’t feel daily struggles the same way.

    Sovern: Ethnicity and “what is he”? What are you, Senator?

    Obama: Uses the Alabama and Yo Mama joke he used last fall, does the mini-biography. Dad from Kenya, mom from Kansas, grew up in Hawaii: “Typical for an Illinois politician.” (ha ha) Went to Chicago to be a community organizer starting at $13,000 a year. “Best education I ever had – realizing that Washington has the power to influence the way locals cannot – and that ordinary people can do extraordinary things if given a chance.” One of my strengths as a leader – there are a lot of different pieces of American in me. As a teen that caused me some problems, I felt pulled in a million different but as I got older I learned that it was an enormous benefit because people are people. With similar hopes and dreams and common values – and that’s a foundation around which we can build a better politics.”

    Sovern laying down ground rules for questions: “make it quick and make it a question.” (People mostly follow that, except maybe the teacher at the end but the crowd was on her side.)

    Kyle from Naperville asks: How do we get troops out of Iraq?

    “I opposed this war from the start” gets biggest applause since entrance. Whether you were for or against we must face facts; will not be a military solution, the problems are political. Shia, Sunni, Kurds have not come together on a host of issues to resolve peacefully. Our troops cannot maintain order in a civil war. So candidates have obligation to offer a specific plan. So I would begin phased redeployment – troops out by 3/31/08. Binding legislation. (interrupting applause) If at any point Iraq meets benchmarks we can reassess. Commanders have flexibility and Iraqis have incentives. Not putting troops (praise praise) in a situation where they can’t succeed. This parallels what Iraq Study Group recommended. The notion that this approach is irresponsible flies in face of military experts. We have genuine national security interest and responsibilities. “We should be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in.”

    Linda of CR: North Korea.

    Obama: In many ways North Korea a greater danger than Iraq was pre-invasion. Nukes nukes nukes… We should have built on some of Clinton administration’s work: exchange inspections for assistance. “They cheated, nevertheless it kept a lid on.” Bush cut it all off. So North Korea just broke the deal. So we have to rebuild a constructive process. North Korea wants bilateral talks with US. I thiNorth Korea we should talk to North Korea (applause). They are a rogue state we must be tough, but the US doesn’t punish anyone by not talking. As a consequence we have no leverage. UN Sec General says “the simple act of the US acknowledging NORTH KOREA” would help.

    John McCauskely (that's how I typed it and now I can't recall the pronunciation) of Sensible Priorities. He’s a Chicago native. Obama: “White Sox or Cubbies?” John is a Cub guy; Obama is a Sox fan. John backpedals saying his folks were a Cubs-Sox mixed marriage. Getting serious, he asks about cuts in Pentagon budget.

    Obama: getting out of Iraq will save billions… yet in terms of overall military budget we have problems with immediate cuts because this war has depleted our military. My ADD is kicking in, a reporter is doing his standup loudly and I get distracted. Obama says career military are opting out, can’t take third rotations. We need to build up size of active regular forces and replace equipment lost in war, probably a bump in initial Obama Administration (he sayss it, picture me as a president) military spending just to catch up. Then we go through budget to see which programs and weapons systems are effective, which are outmoded. We are not fighting the wars our parents fought. Potentially over time we could see some savings but we still need to address threats. (In sum: Get out of Iraq but I’m not a Disarm Now kinda guy)

    Krista from UIowa asks about college costs.

    Obama: I have a self-interest in college costs with two young kids (no one laughs at the joke surprisingly). Half of student loans go directly to students, works well. Other half, because of banking industry clout, goes thru banks and takes out $2 billion in profits. Not enough influence from students – students don’t vote enough. I’d make all programs run efficiently. Let the banks make money on my mortgage, my credit card, but don’t let them impede kids ability go to college.

    Mix of loans to grants has changed. My era (which was roughly this blogger’s era): was 70% grants to 30% loans, and the debt burden was less and people could be teachers or social workers. With $100,000 in debt, those options are hard (applause). We should give incentives for kids to go into teaching (applause) and give them a huge break on their education.

    Sovern: one more question.

    Jean an Iowa City Teacher: No Child Left Behind (the Kennedy kids cheer) and vouchers (which she doesn’t like).

    Obama: Left the $ behind. Applause But things were good: 1) high standards – we have to compete 2) Did ID a problem of schools doing well as a whole but some tee not result groups left behind, so we need to identify that. America is not a guarantee, but everyone should have a shot. But No child did not provide the $. Chicago is 3000 teachers short. Assessments penalize good schools because some schools have hard time meeting standards – more poor kids, etc. We should look for a trajectory of improvement instead. Most important ingredient is the quality of teachers. Need to make up for baby boomer retirements. We need to pay teachers more (applause) The most important job in the country, barely making enough $ to support.

    But there should be more accountability. Can’t be test performance only – but that s/b part of the mix. The teachers can tell you who the good teachers are. (The voucher part of the question, which had been partially drowned by applause anyway, does not get taken up.)

    Closing remarks: First of many visits to CR (yaaaaaaaaaaay they say) The novelty will wear off ("Do I want to see Obama AGAIN? Naah, the ball game's on") so we can meet in smaller groups so people can ask more questions. Making change in this country will depend on your decision that problems are SO important (a bit of Obama Oratory here…) If you feel that sense of urgency, don’t just wait for me. I’ve gotta have YOU get involved. He’s making the pitch for the pledge cards, nicely distributed on every seat (along with the Joel Miller flyers)… We can completely change how we do business in this country.

    5:26. The crush of bodies is waiting for the moment with the man, perhaps to touch the hem of his garment. It may take a while to get out and get posted.

    The bit of Oratorical Obama at the end really got folks going but that wasn’t the event intent. They’re playing Mellencamp AGAIN. Makes we want to buy a truck. Durbin is to my left doing an interview. One of his staffers picks my brain a little. An Iowa City guy has a pro-Palestinian sign, good for the national cameras to see.

    Follow-up: State Rep. Tyler Olson is present, says his first session is going well. As I leave the press area Yepsen is approaching Loebsack: “Congressman! Haven’t seen you since the election…” I hope he dined on a full plate of crow… A camera guy based out of Springfield says 18,000 were at the announcement event.

    On the way out Obama folks are signing folks up and handing out buttons and stickers, no abandoned signs were noted on the floor. Dem volunteers are handing out flyers for Joel Miller, and one of the independent candidates is seen as well. Odd, since the Democratic Senator who is a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination was nice enough to endorse Democrat Joel Miller from the platform. I share this oddity with DJ Arnold, who is both a very loyal Democrat and a rather big guy, and as I leave he’s going over to discuss the matter with the independent candidate.

    I’ll put up pics later if they turn out.

    Vilsack Has A List, Obama Has A Rally

    Vilsack Has A List

    An interesting tactic: Vilsack publishes a list of 1159 Iowa committments. The list geek in me loves it but I don't have time to dig into the whole thing; it's Obama Day (hence the timing, Tom?) and it's what we in Johnson County call Hy-Vee Saturday. Six early voting sites for Tuesday's SILO election.

    But I had time for a quick look. The gems of the list are the Harkins of Cumming; Secretary of State Mike Mauro is listed too, as is one of his predecessors, Elaine Baxter. The name Culver is absent... no Tom Miler... no Fitzgeralds... no Blouins... Look, here's Gordon... seeing a lot of Mount Pleasant here... Cacciatore... Gene Fraise...

    Here's the eastern Iowa names I'm recognizing:

  • Cedar Rapids Mayor Kay Halloran
  • Former state senator Jean Lloyd-Jones of Iowa City (1992 US Senate nominee)
  • Former Linn County Supervisor Ken Perry

    Anyway, if someone doesn't beat me to it (oops, looks like Iowa Progress already has) I'll do a deeper analysis later. Maybe after Tuesday...

    Speaking of lists and SILO, they ran a several-hundred name list of supporters on a full page of the Press-Citizen yesterday... and on the left Joe Bolkcom's name is on it plus a mention in his newsletter.

    Ans speaking of Obama, his site's got live video of the announcement. I'm not sure if my coverage is live or pseudo-live yet. Gazette has a teaser:

    "The Obama campaign would like to do a living room campaign", said Steve Sovern of North Liberty, who will introduce Obama. (Deeth notes: Sovern=prominent area attorney, former congressional candidate) "They know it'll just have to be a larger living room."
  • Friday, February 09, 2007

    Loebsack Joins Progressive Caucus

    Loebsack Joins Progressive Caucus

    Hat tip to Popular Progressive. Any word from Bruce Braley?

    21 Bars on November IC ballot?

    21 bars on November IC ballot?

    Failed city council candidate Rick Dobyns wants to put the 21 bar admission issue on the ballot this fall. This should give me good material for several months of rants.

    Rick, Rick, Rick. Haven't you learned? Didn't you look at the numbers and your overwhelming defeat in the student precincts? Didn't you see the student liaison to the city council at Mike O'Donnell's victory party? We don't know if you're running again, but 21 bars cost you the seat on the council. And now you're doing the one thing that will guarantee a high student turnout this fall. Young candidates: this year is your opportunity. At least one at-large seat is likely to be open as Bob Elliott is pretty openly acknowledging he won't run. And Dee Vanderhoef, up for re-election, is solidly pro-21.

    There's almost no honesty from anyone on this issue.

  • Political figures: Please say publicly what you admit privately, and what reasonable folks know: the 21 year old drinking age is an ineffective and unjust law and should be scrapped. I hear 19 from a lot of folks but I prefer 18; an adult is an adult and let the schools figure it out.
  • Bar owners: Acknowledge your economic self-interest. You make a lot of money selling to those "underage" folks and that fake ID looks just fine to you in the dark.
  • Students: Come on. You don't really want to get into the bar to "dance" and "hang out with your older friends".
  • Self-proclaimed public health do-gooders: You have enough advanced degrees between you to know that age and alcoholism, use and abuse, are different questions. Some 18 year olds can drink responsibly; I can't and I'm 43. And you know enough psychology to realize that the forbidden is enticing:
  • 'An Age Line!' Fred Weasley said, his eyes glinting, as they all made their way across the Hall to the doors into the Entrance Hall. 'Well, that should be fooled by an Aging Potion, shouldn't it?
    (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Two For One Mixed Drinks at Happy Hour, p. 3462)
    Barring young adults from the bars will just lead to bigger and badder house parties and new advances in fake ID technology.

    Yet I wish the good doctor good luck in his petition drive, as I think the result will be the opposite of his intent.

    Why NASCAR is not a sport

    Why NASCAR is not a sport

    I promised I'd deliberately piss people off in my next post: Lord, I loathe NASCAR.

    This one has been simmering for years but I am so tuned out of motor "sports" that I keep missing the beginning of the season.

    Last week we had the biggest sports event of the year, played at the end of the NFL season. We're coming up on college basketball's March Madness, the championship tournament at the END of the season. Baseball climaxes with the World Series - at the END of the season. Opening day is nice but it's a relatively minor celebration.

    But in NASCAR Opening Day - the Daytona 500 - is the biggest event of the year. How can you love a "sport" where it's all downhill after opening day? (You can make your own skiing joke here if you wish.)

    And, face it, the biggest event in NASCAR history was when Dale Earnhardt was killed at the Daytona 500. Blood sport has always had a grim fascination. I don't know how much of this is about the crashes, but I suspect it's a lot more than fans will consciously acknowledge.

    I know there are a lot of gearheads out there, I'm the same way only with computers. And I can see where driving a car really really fast would be fun. But I don't get the excitement of watching someone else drive a car really really fast. Maybe a Cannonball Run sort of thing would be interesting - shut down an Interstate and race cross-country. Like the Tour de France does with bikes only waaaay faster. But the round and round and round format is lost on me. There's no visual cue as to which lap someone is on, so for the uninitiated it's impossible to tell who's ahead. (Granted, the Tour de France has some of the same issues in its multi-leg format...)

    All these are quibbles of the ignorant. But here's my case, which even the aficionado must acknowledge:

    The reason NASCAR is not a sport is because the equipment is all-important.

    Equipment matters in most competitive endeavors. There's a range from crappy dime store toy equipment to amateur equipment to world class equipment. I just got a new bike. It's a decent bike. But it's not as good a bike as Lance Armstrong's bike.

    Yet if you were to put me on Lance's bike, and Lance gets this:

    who would win? Lance, of course, because he's a better athlete.

    After that disaster, I meet Tiger Woods for a round of golf. I swap Tiger and get to use his Special Super Swoosh clubs with the shafts made of Ultimate Golf Atoms. (I really don't know shit about the technical specs of golf clubs but that's not the point.) Tiger gets a rental bag from the caddy shack with a bent putter. Do I win because of the better clubs? Noooo! Tiger whoops my ass because of his skills.


    Now. Let's go to Daytona. I get Jeff Gordon's race car. (I can name exactly two NASCAR drivers: Jeff Gordon because I saw him on some ads, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. because his dad went wham into the wall.) He gets my four cylinder Suzuki.

    Who wins THAT one?

    Sure there's some skill involved and I'm likely to smack into the first turn, but I suspect an average driver with a super powered car could beat a professional driver in a crappy street vehicle. The decisive factor is the car, not the driver. So the superstars should be the engineers and the pit crew, the way the stars of horse racing are the horses rather then the secondary factor the jockeys.

    So enjoy it if you will. I wish it wasn't inflicted on the rest of us as much as it is - there's only so much room for sports coverage and a lot of more interesting things are happening. But it doesn't offend me so I can easily ignore it from now until whenever the hell it is the season ends.