Friday, June 29, 2007

House Votes Down Fairness

House Votes Down Fairness Doctrine

Half of House Democrats contributed to a rare GOP win this week, helping pass an amendment by Rep. Mike Pence, R-IN, prohibiting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from using taxpayer dollars to impose the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters. The Reagan-era FCC abandoned the Fairness Doctrine, designed to direct broadcasters to present multiple viewpoints on issues.

Iowans split on party lines on the 309-115 roll call as Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack were among the 115 Democrats voting no. 113 Democrats joined the unanimous Republicans on the Yes side.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-IL, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, both discussed reviving the Fairness Doctrine in a move that was widely seen as a shot at conservative talk radio.

Iowa Party Registration Case Resolved

Iowa Third Party Registration Case Resolved

Ballot Access News reports that the lawsuit filed by the Iowa Libertarian and Green Parties in 2005, with the support of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, was settled this week.

Iowa will now print a blank line on the “political party” question on the voter registration forms. Voters will be allowed to register into any “unqualified party” that (1) submits 850 signatures and (2) has placed candidates on the ballot in the last ten years.

Before this agreement, the only way Iowa law allowed for voters to register in a third party was for that group to earn qualified party status. There was only one route to that status: winning 2 percent of the vote for president or governor. Two parties qualified in recent years -- Reform in 1996 and the Greens in 2000. Both lost their status after two years by failing to poll 2 percent for governor.

Other parties that have run candidates in the last ten years include the Constitution, Socialist, Socialist Workers, and Pirate parties, and the now-defunct Natural Law Party.

Kansas is now the last state in which it is physically impossible for a voter to register into any party that is not a ballot-qualified party.

Gingrich's Flawed Vision

Gingrich's Flawed Vision

Since hearing Newt Gingrich say the Republican Party needs "to do more than attack Hillary and Obama," I've managed to recover from the hypocritical irony of such a statement from the man who led the charge to impeach Bill Clinton. In fact, I've thought about what else he had to say Thursday in Iowa City.

I've always begrudgingly respected Gingrich as a brilliant tactician with a flawed ideology. He's unquestionably the second-most important figure in modern American conservatism, behind only Ronald Reagan. But unlike the warm, sunny Reagan, Gingrich has a cool and aloof manner in person. It's all about the ideas for Newt. Intellectually, he could run rings around George W. Bush. If you buy into his basic premise -- the free market solves all -- he could be seen as very persuasive.

But, as libertarian Republican candidate Ron Paul becomes the internet fad of the month, a political version of the lolcats or the O RLY? owl or All Your Base Are Belong To Us, it's important to remember that the free market does not solve everything.

Unfettered capitalism gave us sweatshops and robber barons. Only the reforms of the Progressive era in the 1900s and 1910s, a period Gingrich cited as a turning point, returned us to a more level playing field with progressive taxation, worker's compensation, popular election of senators and more. The pendulum swung back in the 1920s, and the ideological rigidity of Coolidge and Hoover deepened the Great Depression. Again, government under Roosevelt and Truman restored some fairness.

The result of the Reagan-Gingrich-Cheney era has been the increased concentration of wealth, the inversion of progressive taxation, and the shredding of the safety net. Perhaps Gingrich sees this as a mere adjustment in markets, a simple disagreement in the political who-gets-what of our economy.

But there's also been a spiritual change in the character of America. Gingrich singled out Wal-Mart and McDonalds as innovative companies with new ideas. Which is fine, if all that you're valuing is the bottom line. But uniqueness, diversity, local color and flavor have increasingly been crushed by the malling and chaining of America. Starbucks coffee shops have become symbols of this dynamic, a focus for protests in hip cities and abroad that often have little to do with coffee. There's even a word for it - "Generica," signifying those endless edge-of-town highway strips of franchises and access roads with no organic indicators of where you are.

As an Iowa Citian I treasure my local one-of-a-kind businesses. I've written here of the Record Collector and the Hamburg Inn. The corner market may be an anachronism, but no one can deny that John's Grocery is one of the special things about my town. Who needs a Waldenbooks or a Barnes and Noble when there's Prairie Lights nearby? Why would anyone order from Dominos with Pagliai's in town?

I sense that my stance is atypical. But Newt Gingrich's vision of America misses much of what makes America special.

Caucus Leapfrog: Happy New Year

Caucus Date Leapfrog Update: Happy New Year!

Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic says South Carolina GOP chairman Katon Dawson will “definitely” move the party’s primary from January 29. SC Republicans believe he could choose Jan. 15. That's a week before the currently date for New Hampshire, and NH Secretary of State Bill Gardner would almost certainly react.

And he can, reports Ron Gunzburger at Politics1:
Governor John Lynch (D) signed a law this week that gives Gardner virtually unfettered discretion to set the primary date, along with the candidate filing period, absentee ballot mailing date, and so on. The move is intended to enable the Granite State to outmaneuver all other states. This mean the NH primary could be in November if Gardner wants -- but look for him to keep it in the early January period barring unforeseen moves by states he sees as encroaching on their coveted status.

The South Carolina move would put New Hampshire, which demands a week before any other primary, on January 8. And if Iowa sticks with eight days before New Hampshire... New Year's Eve, folks. Calendar Year 2007 and the national parties and pundits will have kittens.

  • Rahm Emanuel calls Dick Cheney on his claim that he's not part of the executive branch and proposes defunding the office of the Vice President. Almost pulls it off, too, losing only 209-217. Iowans vote on party lines; Ron Paul one of only two Republicans in support.

  • Williamsburg's parade organizer is now saying candidates weren't asked to stay away and that one parade committee member simply "indicated" they "should" stay away. Which may scratch the free speech issue but doesn't change the negative attitude. The Des Moines Register, in its initial article, played into that attitude as well with this graphic taking up most of the front page above the fold:

    Displaying your support for the candidate of your choice is as all-American as it gets and should be welcomed, not discouraged, on the 4th of July and every day.
  • Thursday, June 28, 2007

    Democratic Debate: Collaborative Colorado Couchblog

    Democratic Debate: Coordinated Colorado Couchblog

    A live blogging experiment tonight. I'm joining other bloggers in a joint effort at covering the PBS Democratic debate. As per usual you can use the window below or visit the host site directly, in this case the Rocky Mountain News.

    My colleagues tonight are:

  • M.E. Sprengelmeyer of the Rocky Mountain News. He's Denver's caucus guy in Des Moines.

  • Jason Bane of and Iowa Independent's sister site

  • The Cedar Rapids Gazette's Mike Hlas, whose blogwork is on "A Year in Iowa" and

  • Columnist Mike Littwin of the Fair and Unbalanced blog.

  • "A fellow named JJ." (UPDATE: He never showed.)

  • And anyone else who cares to join in. Update: My Iowa Indy colleague Lynda Waddington of Essential Estrogen and noneedfortheneed at Common Iowan were part of the crew too.


    The bite of the night: Hillary's AIDS answer.

    Third tier winner: Kucinich did better in this more equal format. I think part of his "hysteria" in the other two debates was simply fighting for a turn. GraVEL just had longer versions of The Rant.

    Second Tier: Biden was more forceful than a still-solid Dodd. (In a field like, say, 1988, Dodd would be a player.) Richardson was off.

    First tier: This should have been Obama's night but wasn't. Edwards held his own. Clinton had a couple wonky answers but when she connected, she connected. Give it to Hillary.
  • A Cause for Celebration: Progress for LGBT Rights

    A Cause for Celebration: Progress for LGBT Rights

    The Iowa City LGBT community and supporters took time out Wednesday night to celebrate several milestones in the LGBT movement: 30 years since Iowa City added sexual orientation to its human rights ordinance, six months since Johnson County passed a human rights ordinance and this year’s passage of a state civil rights bill.

    “Whatever’s next, whether it’s marriage or something else, it is important to step back and see what’s been accomplished,” state Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, told 100 supporters at the Hotel Vetro in Iowa City.

    Mascher co-sponsored civil rights legislation in 12 consecutive sessions under a Republican majority before finally seeing passage this year after Democrats took over the House and Senate. Senate File 427 added "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to the civil rights code, which prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, lending, education, public accommodations and other areas.

    “We’re not done, but we need to stop and reflect,” Mascher said.

    She singled out Iowa City couple Robin Butler and Janelle Rettig for praise. “Any time we had questions in the Legislature, we knew we could have their advice, solicited or not.”

    Rettig said the effort started 30 years ago -- "with four people who had a lot of courage.”

    One of those early pioneers was Mona Shaw of Iowa City, who helped organize the first legislative lobby day for LGBT rights in the nation. The night before the event, she said, organizers were scared.

    “We didn’t think we’d have 10 people show up, and we’d already told the press we’d have 25 or 30. And not all of our legislators wanted us to do this," she recalled.
    "So we went to the Capitol, and we’d made 100 "Iowa Human Rights Coalition" buttons. And we ran out of buttons. I was in the basement, and I walked upstairs and it was a beehive filled with 125 lesbians and gay men and their parents pulling out every legislator to talk to them.”

    “That sense of hope means more than any political office, any paycheck, or any girlfriend. You don’t start something like this for a political career or because it looks good when you’re running for office. It wasn’t cool at first,” she told a crowd that included more than a dozen elected officials.

    “Sometimes we chicken out, to keep a job or impress someone. But someone told me, every time you chicken out and don’t do the right thing, you make room for someone to do the wrong thing – and they will.”

    Legislators shared credit for passage of the civil rights bill with colleagues from across the state. Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, praised Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs. “A couple years ago, with the constitutional amendment (banning gay marriage), it was a more difficult vote for some of our senators," Bolkcom said. "Mike did a masterful job of making the case to our caucus, and all 21 of us who were there at the time opposed the amendment,” which was blocked with the help of four Republicans. “From that point on, Senate Democrats understood the importance of civil rights for all Iowans.”

    Rep. Vicki Lensing, D-Iowa City, thanked Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, for her floor leadership during consideration of the civil rights bill, and said passage of the bill was “solemn and dramatic.” House leadership used a rare “call of the house” procedure that literally locked members in the chamber and made them vote, rather than “taking a walk.”

    Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said colleagues Jack Kibbie and Gene Fraise helped illustrated the solid support of Senate Democrats. “These are gentlemen in their 70s from rural Iowa who stood up to oppose the constitutional amendment.”

    Mascher said passage of the civil rights bill sends an important signal to Iowans and the nation. She introduced Dustin Wagner, her clerk for the 2007 session, who is now working as the Johnson County Health Department’s HIV outreach coordinator. “These are the young people we need to nurture and encourage,” said Mascher. “This is our future.”

    Newt Gingrich: Live in Iowa City

    Newt Gingrich: Live in Iowa City

    1:30. Just back from a short press conference. Highlights.

    Iraq. "If you do what the liberals want you'll have chaos and massive death, and send a message that America can't be counted on." He would triple the Iraqi forces and get the US out of cities and not use Americans for policing. Holly Berkowitz starts to argue about the illegality of the war while Newt repeats, "that's not true, that's not true." "All the intelligence agencies in the world believed Saddam was dangerous." After three or so minutes a radio reporter says "this isn't a debate, Holly," and the questioning moves on.

    "How does your party win Congress back?" I ask. "Our job is to offer better solutions, not focus on attacking Hillary or Obama."

    Immigration: "I would hope the President would let it go. We don't need a comprehensive bill. We need to keep the promise of 1986 and control the border."

    My bottom line: Not running, using the forum of Caucus Land to get attention for his self-appointed elder statesman role. But we haven't seen the last of Newt.

    1:15 Health care: "Doctors are interested in billing for care, but not in seeing that I'm getting better." How to make accountable? Newt: Shift incentives away from acute care and toward total care. "Stopping at the gas station before you hit E is more practical than getting towed. But our health system pays for the towing and not the refill."

    Staffer: "We're gonna miss our plane."

    1:12 How do you solve apathy? Newt: Don't worry about the apathetic: that's the norm for 90% of people. Make activism fun and interesting and personal.

    How are elected officials responding to you? Newt: Younger Republicans responding; since Contract we've offered few real solutions, there's a hunger. Questions winding down, this is the longest Q&A session I've seen all year. "We're starting with the premise that you're smarter than the media" gets applause.

    1:08 Teacher Hani Elkadi asks about youth drug use. Newt: "My answer is radical. Adolescence is a failed idea. That's why I can't ever run for president, I say stuff like that." In the 18th century, you were a child, and then you were adult. Adolescence was invented in 19th century. Education bureaucratic and boring, and doesn't let people exploit their talents. Adolescents not allowed to be responsible. "Why do you at 13 follow someone who's 15 instead of a 45 year old mentor? No one in their immediate peer group has a clue." Meth is a symptom of a boring social structure. Being productive and making real mistakes because a real adult talks to you... that's where we should be.

    1:02 Isn't the problem that people don't demand solutions? Newt: "only government has a monopoly." We're working toward a historic wave of change, like progressives, new deal, and Reagan.

    How to fix social security? Newt: "We need to give young people the power of compound interest. The group that matters most is under 40. We need to guarantee the older people that they'll have what they have now, and give their grandchildren the power of compound interest. We need to finance it over 30 years" like a 30-year mortgage. Questioner: how do we guarantee other than just rhetoric? Newt: Individual accounts for the older. Under 40: "don't put the money in the government. In 1935, you couldn't manage money like we do now."

    12:57 Long term solutions vs. short term "shelf life" of politicians. Newt: "We did it. But we didn't have a second wave of ideas. Only 10 or 15 people understood the purpose of the Contract with America. We elevated a whole generation of chairmen who didn't understand."

    12:55 Detroit public schools have a 21% grad rate. "At first I thought this was a crisis. But I realized that I misunderstood the purpose. The purpose of the Detroit school system is to pay the people who are already there." Laughs. "Let's start this conversation over again. What is the purpose of a school system?"

    12:52 Bipartisanship and solutions, "it seems like a real frustration now." Newt: "Congress has lowest approval rating in history. This means some of their mothers don't approve of them."

    12:49 Fusion? "I would like to see basic fusion research. We have been 30 years away from fusion for 70 years. It's still at a pre-engineering phase of real science."

    12:45 Long question ends 2with "Should we reward public employees for having good ideas?" Newt says its good, put it on the wiki.

    Global warming and emissions cap: "I'm for incentives on emissions, I'm very cautions on a mandatory cap." It's corrupted in Europe. "I'm not for regulation, litigation and tax increases. I'm for incentives." The left says worry about carbon. "If Jane Fonda and The China Syndrome had not scared Americans, and we'd followed France's strategy of nuclear power, we'd be 15% better in the Kyoto plan."

    12:41 Campaign finance and gov't transparency. Newt's all for, also says every appropriations bill should be on line 48 hours before vote. Says the blogging world will get involved and pressure. Notes that immigration bill killed because "the Senate switchboard actually stopped." Applause. Urges bush to drop it till border secured.

    12:40 Todd Versteegh asks the Fair Tax question. Newt "a lot to be said for it, depends how you define it. I would never be for a consumption tax without repealing constitutional amendment for an income tax" because otherwise "they'll tax you both ways and we can't have that" applause.

    12:37 How about your polling process? Newt: just a standard professional poll, I think it was 800 sample.

    Holly Berkowitz of Iowa City: "I fear it's based on an assumption that private property trumps all, and doesn't look at productivity." Gingrich says there can be a green conservatism: caring for nature, with free markets.

    12:33 Q & A. Marriage tax penalty. Why no repeal? "I suspect because of cost." Questioner is angry-"You spend millions to promote marriage and then you tax it. The tax code promotes having children and penalizes getting married." Newt says it's a good question.

    Automatic citizenship for babies of illegals. "That’s a good example of what's wrong in DC. Nothing in the 14th Amendment has anything to do with people born outside the law. It's a modern left wing interpretation." We need absolute control of the border, and not "accept any of this baloney. Biggest applause yet. Questioner: "There were planeloads of pregnant women from around the world, the LA social workers would take care of them, and then they'd bring their whole families in."

    12:31 In a science and technology based market entrepreneurs ought to provide more options at a better price and higher quality and convenience. (appl.) That's our core model. We need a fundamental shift from the obsolete bureaucracy model. "People are so hungry for a positive vision of a workable future."

    12:27 July 23 online forum focusing on moving gov’t to "world that works." Says he'll be at state fair and in Ames for straw poll... "We’ll hold eight workshops, and we'll announce the topics in July. One will be on curing Alzheimer's... one will probably be on the fair tax or flat tax."

    September 27 and 29 is "the big, key workshop."

    "If we can build a powerful presentation and get people all around America engaged, reporters will have to cover it and learn about it and cover things differently." We're sharing our polling data will all campaigns in both parties, and inviting them to the forum on 9/29. "We think it ought to be Americans talking as Americans, and not as liberals and conservatives."

    12:18 Our work based on three principles. 1) We have been successful over 400 years due to key values like work ethic, private property.

    2) "There’s a world that works and a world that fails." World that works is markets and investment and capital, like "the miracle of camera phones. 50 years ago you couldn't have explained any of this." The world that fails has no consequences. We tolerate the failures in the world that fails that we would never accept in the world that works. UPS tracks millions of packages while they move, but gov’t can't find illegal immigrants sitting still. Proposes sending a package to every illegal immigrant to much mirth. "How can you have this gap of capability?" Need to migrate gov’t to the world that works. "That's the key to competing with China and India."

    3) Recognize that the world is dangerous, our enemies would destroy us, and we have an absolute obligation to defend (big applause).

    Leads into a discussion of technology and wikis that I'm not sure how ties into defense. But he ties it into finding solutions to many issues.

    12:13 I kept telling GOP "we’ve been presiding over a mess" - big city schools, immigration, international trade. "We have a lot of appeal to people who don't want America to be on wrong track."

    "Then we asked people how effective is government." Laughs. 7 percent "and we're checking to see if those are gov’t employees".

    "People want to be united in red white and blue -- not divided. There's a pretty big base for what we want to accomplish." He's walking up and down the center aisle, glancing at notes. Notes that people have a strong belief in science.

    12:09 His Organization's survey: 92-5 people want focus on long-term solutions. Not what you usually get from govt. 85-10 people believe we have to defend America (he acknowledges that's an easy question.) 75-16 want to "defeat enemies." Iraq problems are a "performance issue"

    Strengthen and revitalize America's core values? 80-9 say yes. He picks on University towns that question if we even have core values, which gets chuckles.

    He sums his numbers and says there's a vast majority supporting. "No red, no blue -- we're really a red white and blue country." Overwhelming majority for our values.

    12:07The Speaker is speaking. Sound is a little muffled. Newt notes this. People are tired of red vs. blue and negativity. Want positives and solutions.

    He ditches the mike.

    American Solutions organization is his outfit,

    Gingrich signs his book for Cyndi Michel.

    12:05. Cyndi Michel says she likes "two or three candidates," doesn't name them. "I'm so undecided, isn't that terrible." I reassure her that it's pretty early yet.

    11:56. Gingrich worked his way through the handshake line and is close to ready to speak. People waiting in line had little better to do than talk to me.

    Former Johnson County GOP chair Cathy Grawe would be glad to back Newt for president: "I don't think he's electable but I love him to death." Of the candidates running, she likes Tom Tancredo. "He's good on immigration and a solid conservative."

    Royce Phillips of Tiffin likes Mike Huckabee. "He's saying what I like to hear. A lot of people on the secular side don't understand that Christian conservatives are not monolithic, and we have a deeper philosophical process than we're given credit for. Governor Huckabee verbalizes that well." John Nolan also like Huckabee -- though not as much as Newt. But he expects the next president will be -- al Gore. "He's already won the popular vote once, except for that terrible Supreme Court decision." Nolan says Turkey, with its secular history and former role as the Ottoman Empire, should play a big role in Middle East peace. "We should encourage the Turks to move in as we move out. They're the toughest SOBs in the world."

    Another former JC GOP chair, Todd Versteegh, says it's hard to say whether Gingrich will run. "He'll have a large presence at the straw poll, he'll certainly make a name for himself." Versteegh is working for Fair Tax; they're not endorsing.

    11:33 and hello from the Quality Inn in Iowa City. We locals still call it the Highlander. A line of local GOP activists is forming in the lobby for a greet and photo op with former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who's in Iowa "promoting his book." C'mon, it’s IOWA.

    Willamsburg Hates Politicians

    Williamsburg hates politicians

    I knew an attorney who won a landmark lawsuit against a small Iowa city. Subsequently, she was pulled over every time she drove through town. Winning rights doesn't always win friends.

    Williamsburg doesn't want politicians in their parade. This raises some questions -- what are the rules for other organizations? Someone might have a First Amendment case here if politicians are the only ones singled out.

    But no one's likely to fight it. My attorney friend and her client didn't have to care about being liked, but a politician does. And a candidate who pushes to be where she or he isn't wanted isn't going to win over small town Iowa caucus goers.

    With or without a fight, Willamsburg's stance perpetuates the attitude that politics is a nasty nuisance and that it's rude to ask someone for a vote. Attitudes like that push down turnout and participation and ultimately make our system weaker.

    I'll be spending my Fourth at parades; my almost grownup daughter hasn't outgrown them yet. Dick Myers in the Coralville parade in his white suit on his Harley is as Americana as it gets. Brian Flaherty is trying to get my to liveblog from the back of his Jeep but I'm not sure how many people would get the joke.

    Debates vs. Forums

    Debates vs. Forums: Getting My Definitions Straight

    There's so many it's confusing but let's get the terms settled.

    A "forum" is an event where multiple candidates appear in sequence but do not interact. The Iowans for Tax Relief event Saturday night is a forum. Which, since Ron Paul is speaking in the same town immediately following, makes his "exclusion" even less important, He's not being left out of any interaction, and has gotten more mileage out of the snub than he could have hoped for with an invitation.

    A "debate" has multiple candidates on stage at the same time, interacting with a moderator or one another. Tonight's Democratic event is a debate. I will be live-blogging with a new twist. I'll be joining M.E. Sprengelmeyer and the Rocky Mountain News team with my instant reacts.

    Also, check back after 11 as I follow Newt Gingrich here in Iowa City.

    Wednesday, June 27, 2007

    Group forms to stop 21-ordinance

    Group forms to stop 21-ordinance

    Don't get me wrong, I'm fully supportive.

    But "Student Health Initiative Task Force" makes a very unfortunate acronym. At least Van Halen was trying.

    The link doesn't fit anywhere else so here's Nate Willems' take on Richardson yesterday.

    Ron Paul, Tancredo, Tax Protesters

    Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo, and Tax Protesters

    Tom Tancredo is now calling on Iowans for Tax Relief and the Iowa Christian Alliance to reconsider and invite Ron Paul to Saturday's forum. Maybe he thinks this wins some points from the Paul People, but I doubt it. I would think the libertarian position on immigration would be open the borders and let employers hire who they want -- the diametric opposite of Tancredo's "stop legal immigration" view.

    Paul, meanwhile, has taken up the cause of two New Hampshire tax protesters:
    Paul expressed his sympathy for Ed and Elaine Brown, who have been holed up in their hilltop home for several months, threatening violence if marshals come to arrest them.

    The Browns have each been sentenced to 63 months in prison for crimes related to their refusal to pay federal income taxes for nearly 10 years. The Browns contend that there is no law compelling Americans to pay income taxes.

    On which count they are so so wrong, says attorney Daniel Evans in an exhaustive tax protester FAQ.

    In the Concord (NH) Monitor:
    "People who point this out and fight the tax code and fight the monetary code are heroic," Paul said in a video that's been linked to several pro-Brown websites. "I compare them to people like Gandhi, who was willing to speak out and try to bring about change in a peaceful manner. Martin Luther King fought laws that were unfair and unjust, and he suffered, too."

    Paul has missed a key phrase, however:

    "...threatening violence if marshals come to arrest them."

    Weren't Gandhi and King all about, well, non-violence?

    This cognitive dissonance came up later in the day on Fox News:
    Cavuto: So Congressman, you're not saying Ed and Elaine Brown can be compared to Gandhi?
    Paul: I never said that... in matter of, in fact I know very little about that case, I've never talked to them.

    "I never said that?" See quote above.

    The Paul supporters went gonzo in the comments overnight demanding a "retraction" (for the record, I reject anonymous comments). So, I'll duly note that Ron Paul spoke without knowing all the facts and acknowledges that he has no clue.

    Tuesday, June 26, 2007

    Obama's Gloves Come Off

    Obama's Gloves Come Off

    In Chicago Monday, dueling fundraisers: Clinton and Obama. And this feisty quote from the gentleman from Illinois. Quoth the Sun-Times:
    'The only person who would probably be prepared to be our president on Day 1 would be Bill Clinton -- not Hillary Clinton,' Obama said when asked about unnamed Clinton backers questioning Obama's experience.

    'I think that we're all very qualified for the job,' the freshman senator said. 'The question is who can inspire the nation to get us past the politics that have bogged us down in the past. That was true, by the way, in the '90s as well as more recently.'

    It was an obvious dig at the political divisions of the Clinton years."


  • Tom Tancredo on YouTube demands that the Mitt tell us what to do with the immigrants already here. In Dubuque Sunday, Tommy the Tank repeated his call for a moratorium on legal immigration.

  • The Employee Free Choice Act that scotched today's five candidate forum in Iowa City failed on an almost party line cloture vote, with Joe Lieberman and Arlen Specter voting with Dems.

  • And from the punditocracy: Sally Quinn of Wash Post calling for Cheney's resignation and suggesting as a replacement... Fred Thompson.
  • Keith Olbermann's Harry Potter spoiler

    Keith Olbermann's Harry Potter spoiler

    It didn't reach the heights of his Special Comments, but Keith Olbermann weighed in last night on one of the critical issues of the day:

    Harry Potter's fate.

    I've been relatively restrained on the Hogwarts front, resisting the daily countdown...

    ...until now.

    As for Olbermann's "Countdown," he looks at the big question that anyone with even a minimal interest in Pottermania has been addressing since that fateful day in July 2005 when we first read the word "horcrux" and wept over page 596: Does Harry have to die?

    If you don't want Keith's spoiler don't follow the link, but here's the gist:
    Consider it from the marketing standpoint. Book number seven, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows ,” reaches sweaty palms on July 21st. But the movie reaching theaters July 13th, “The Order of the Phoenix” is only the fifth film. What is the box office going be like for that one if eight days later Potter is killed off?

    So Keith has an ending in which the hero sacrifices, but not his life. Makes sense to this reader... and to expert Emerson Spartz at MuggleNet:
    It is my personal belief, and not necessarily that of the rest of the MuggleNet staff, that he is not far off the mark in his guesses. Except for that whole _____ turning into a ______ business.

    24 days to the book, 14 days to the movie...

    Bill Richardson: Iowa City Liveblog

    Bill Richardson: Iowa City Liveblog

    12:09. About 50 people waited loudly for the handshake moment while Richardson took three or four press questions. Staff literally had to drag him away to the next event. The press questions mainly got answered with his emphasis on experience/resume items, though his sense of humor was noted: "I'm a regular guy, I use humor," he said, mentioning the ads.

    Karen Refusedtogive-Lastname thinks I'm a staffer and asks if she can have a sign. I explain that I'm press and ask if this means she's committed. "No, but I'm very impressed. He's very thoughtful, very diplomatic." She also likes Edwards, but has harsh words for one candidate: "I wish Hillary would apologize for her vote on the war. I can't get over it, never will."

    11:56 Let everyone buy into fed plan if they want, bring Medicare down to 55, vets can use "Heroes card" and go anywhere not just VA. Refundable tax credits for businesses and individuals. Cap credit card costs -- that relates. Negotiations for prescription drug costs. And focus on prevention. I see I librarian hovering nearby...

    "One last point. I'm gonna be back a lot. I appreciate your time. Give me a chance. Don't you want to take your country back? Thanks you all very much."

    11:49 and "the library police' are threatening. (Now I can see why he was running late -- he just can't stop taking questions.) Immigration: 1) Secure the borders, but "I'm not for this wall. If we build a ten foot wall, they'll build 11 foot ladders." We need more PEOPLE, people will contain the flow. Penalize employers. I'm for increasing LEGAL immigration quotas. Have a conversation with Mexico: "give your people jobs, take care of them." May mean joint border projects.

    Legalization: "Here's where I'll go from 13% to 2%." You can either do nothing (worst alternative), 2) round them up (not practical, not America) "the hotel industry, meatpacking, will end." 3rd alternative makes the most sense - not amnesty, but earned path to citizenship. English, pay back taxes, fine for coming here, get in back of line. "Taking those steps will make the problem... (pause) a little better."

    Health care: Take the 400 billion to Iraq to health care and domestic. In my plan everybody pays and shares: worker, employer, state, and feds. We ensure everyone can afford. "No new bureaucracies." No tax increase: health care is 20% of GDP yet 47 million uncovered, we spend twice what Canada does and they cover everyone. 31% of health costs are administration. (Wonder if he's seen "Sicko" yet).

    11:35 "I'll have six of you ask a question, I'll answer it all at once." health care, favorite book, Blackwater, global warming, comm. center in New Mex, Iran and Palestine, voting equipment., deficit, immigration, "will you pledge to stop our war of terror because we're now a terrorist state," cutting pentagon budget.

    Ballots: we're going to paper in NM, I'd do it national (gets applause) William Faulkner and Profiles in Courage, Doris Kearns Goodwin. Staffer reads question: "health care." BR: "do the easy ones" laughs. Blackwater: No residual forces, our people are targets. The community center in New Mex - "this is that Imus thing. He's a little cranky to say the least."

    He's barely used the podium -- out from behind it, only bout a step back from the front row.

    The $ is there for the center. "But I'm not Bush; I have to go to the legislature."
    Middle east - "what we do in the region is interrelated. To make Israel-Palestine better, you have to deal with Iraq." I'd have a mid east peace envoy, pushing both sides every day for a two state solution. "I say to my Israeli friends, do you feel safer since bush? We need some diplomacy in the region; we need to talk to Syria. We can't say 'you don't exist'" Need Hamas-Fatah unity govt. Hamas needs to renounce 'destroy Israel." I'd talk to Iran, they're susceptible to sanctions. he's going very fast, as if he can't wait to be at the table negotiating, like he really misses it.

    Deficit: I've had to balance budgets. Support balanced budget amendment. "We can do it; we did it in Clinton admin." Line item veto. Audience member: "the supreme court ruled against it." BR: "I know, I know but you really need that." Dump earmarks (gets applause) Pay as you go policies. Corporate welfare. "I'm also for shifting from the pentagon into our domestic needs" 1/3 of the $ in Iraq has been wasted. "Now, I do want to see more men and women in the military." But should be shift.

    11:31 Caroline Dieterle: War on drugs? BR "it's not working." In New Mex, we combine proper incarceration with treatment. I've discussed this with... "what's his name?" Mirthful discussion with staff it turns out to be Ako. Supports med. marijuana (applause). Helps 199 people in NM. It deals with the pain, "but what about the cure?" We need more cancer research. Lack of funds and commitment. Internationally I've spent time on this, we need to re-evaluate those. "What do you think?" he asks back at Caroline. She discusses prisoners ratting each other for lower sentences, and police infractions. "it isn't right or fair; the laws are not enforced equally on a racial basis."

    11:27 Nick Johnson asks "what can citizens do for you after you're president?" Question leads into overall corporate influence on American life. "What have you thought of that will empower us." BR: "Whew!" Discusses national service plan -- not mandatory. Much like Peace Corps and ACTION. "Citizen's cadres" that would help not only local communities, but also a corps of pub. service vols. that would be a strong grass roots movement. "I'll strongly fund any civil rights entity in the govt. I'd revitalize all of them." FCC will encourage small media. "It's a question of leadership. Special interests -- you're gonna have some battles now."

    11:19 Dave Bradley asks about campaign finance. "I wish I had Clinton and Obama's $." We need public finance (appl.) "Half of my time, I'm raising money." People need to meet candidates instead.

    Social security solvency. BR: "1) stop raising SS trust fund. 2) Stop talking about privatizing. 3) tie SS to the budget because it isn't right now." I'd consider universal pensions with portability. Bankruptcy law winds up eliminating pensions. "That's slightly unfair" (laughs) Soc Sec counts on a low growth rate, but with a pro-growth economy -- along with good jobs and wages.

    Gay marriage? "I can't hear you." (laughs) The questioner is fished in by the joke and repeats teh question to more laughs. "I'm not for gay marriage but I believe in civil unions." (No laughs now and a hiss is overheard) Federal hate crimes law (mild applause) "I want America to be a tolerant nation." Don't ask and DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) -- I'd repeal. Gets a fact wrong - thinks IA has civil union. He's loudly corrected but accepts that.

    11:17 Restoring professionalism to Justice Dept. "I'd fire the present A.G.." My AG's job is to be atty. for the people not for me. US atty's will need senate confirmation, upgrade civil rights and worker safety divisions. This administration it's been a political arm that's unacceptable.

    Next ?: NATO, OAS, we've lost respect. BR: "We're rejoining the international. community. We're gonna be partners now." The way to build intl. support is to get orgs. behind us. But I'd also say we have to modernize. Get UN fiscal house in order, expand security council. Emphasize human needs, not pork. "I'm sorry to mention pork in Iowa, I mean wasteful spending, not your pork, your pork is good." Laughs. "Hey, when you're at 13% you gotta say stuff like that." Talks about micro-lending.

    11:13 Question 1: Coal power plants. "You have to sequester 60% of your carbon, you've gotta be clean." We have the tech to shift, it's gonna cost a bit more.
    Question 2: Pat Hughes assigns him Day 7 "because you aren't on a union agreement." Audience laughs knowingly. Pat asks about Free Choice Act, what would you do? "I will stand with you, and a union member will be Sec. of Labor" Card check, fair share. "I will make sure we win a veto fight. I've been a legislator, I know how to work with legislators. I'm a negotiator, I know how to get things done."

    11:09 closing ... "we need someone who can bring this country together." Deauthorize war "before the summer."

    11:04 and Day 5, revitalize the economy (like we've done in New Mexico.) "I'm a different kind of Democrat." (think I hear that in debates) I'd invest in high tech, take away tax incentives for outsourcing.

    Day 6: restate what we are as a nation. "We're gonna respect a woman's right to choose" applause. promote adoptions, family planning. "We will not discriminate. on basis of sexual orientation." Don't' ask don't tell scrapped. (all these are applause lines.) "America will be respectful of the constitution" gets biggest applause. "I will not go to war w/o approval of congress." Will shut Gitmo, restore habeas corpus - applause building.

    Mentions multiple foreign policy issues incl. Rwanda, Darfur.

    11:00 "Day three -- every American with universal health care." Reduce Medicare to 55, everybody shares in plan, major focus on prevention. "We're gonna do what we did in NM - get rid of junk food in schools." appl. "Make sure private sector gets exercise/wellness incentives. Stem cell research (appl.)

    "Day 4 -- I gotta take a day off." Education. Notes short time to discuss issues in debates. Full day K, teacher pay, update curriculum. $40k minimum for teachers, strict licensure. "Emphasize civics and languages in our curriculum." "If we're spending $400 billion in Iraq we can have universal college education."

    10:54 Day One: Get us out of Iraq. No residual forces. Our troops have become a target. I'd personally lead diplomacy. Iraq federal gov't, all-Muslim peacekeeping force. Iran and Syria would be in discussions. Bill Clinton used to tell me "bad people like Richardson, that's why we'll send him." That's a laugh line. Withdrawal fro Iraq signals that US will be a moral leader. Shift foreign policy from aggression to diplomacy - applause.

    "Day two." (laughs.) Apollo energy program. (he seems to prefer this construct to Manhattan project.) 30 MPG CAFE insufficient, should be 50. Takes opportunity to mention time as energy sec. Solar, wind, biomass, etc. (Unlike the GOP contenders, does not mention nukes). "I will ask every American to sacrifice - just a little bit - because it involves our natl. security." Gas prices - this is also a moral imperative. Nat;. campaign to make us more fuel efficient in the way we live. (appl) Reduce greenhouse gases 90% by 2040.

    10:51 Showtime. Flaherty's intro is swift resume points.

    Richardson makes a robo-call joke and greets the "big shots" meaning the electeds. I missed State Rep. Todd Taylor. Says he's gonna do the first six days in office bit and cut it short for questions. He's glad election will be settled in Iowa not beltway, pledges to visit every Iowa home.

    10:46. Campaign Standard Time is kicking in. Still a few stragglers trickling in but the room is beyond full as folks are perching rather than sitting. Some bird-doggers sighted. Chairman Brian is hovering near the side door on alert for the arrival.

    10:27. Folks are still streaming in and we're now up over 150 bodies. Good for midday, though leaning a little older than usual for Iowa City. Fellow bloggers Nick Johnson, the podcaster Rosemans, and II colleague Tom Lindsay are here. Also spotted: county treasurer Tom Kriz, Iowa City Fed. of Labor leader Pat Hughes, state central committee member Al Bohanan, Johnson Co. Dems chair Brian Flaherty, county attorney Janet Lyness.

    Only two TV cameras sighted. Buzz dies down a little, must be nearing show time.

    10:20 AM and good morning from the Iowa City Public library where 100+ folks are awaiting Governor Bill Richardson.

    This event is billed as a "job interview" in keeping with the theme of the fun TV spots. The hoopla level is medium: no music (this is after all a library) but significant signage.

    The Richardson event is the last remnant of what would have been a campaignapalooza today in downtown IC. Five candidates and Son Of Biden were to have spoken at the firefighters' convention, but the sitting senators had to actually go be Senators.

    A couple electeds sighted: supervisors Stutsman and Sullivan (both committed to other candidates).

    The Vanishing Canadian

    The Vanishing Canadian: Where's Celine?

    NBC covering Hillary Clinton:
    Her speech ended to a standing ovation and the familiar strains of KT Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See.” But nowhere to be heard was her anointed campaign tune, Celine Dion’s “You and I.”

    I predicted in mid-May that the Tunstall tune, best know for its use in the movie "The Devil Wears Prada," was the real choice all along... So, unlike the Iraq War vote, acknowledging that Celine was a mistake? And how many posts am I going to wring out of this thing?

    (Tune in later for actual content as I liveblog Bill Richardson.)

    Monday, June 25, 2007

    Ron Paul Debate Exclusion: Much Ado About Little

    Ron Paul Debate Exclusion: Much Ado About Little

    The internets are ablaze with righteous indignation that libertarian slash GOP longshot Ron Paul has been excluded from Saturday's Iowans for Tax Relief/Iowa Christian Alliance debate. The conspiracy minded even note that Iowans for Tax Relief's Ed Failor Jr. is a major McCain backer.

    But McCain's not even showing up. And the Daily Iowan, while also objecting to Paul's exclusion, makes the point no one else has bothered to mention:
    Romney, the debate's "front-runner," has the support of a whopping 12 percent of GOP voters, according to a June 20 poll conducted by Newsweek. Huckabee, Thompson, Brownback, Tancredo, and Hunter and are polling at an abysmal 4, 2, 2, 1, and 0 percent respectively.

    What about Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Fred Thompson? Apparently, they are far too popular - Newsweek has them at 27, 15, and 19 percent respectively among Republican voters. That's right: The top three candidates for the GOP nomination won't appear at a Republican debate, if it can still honestly be called such.

    Forum attendees in Des Moines, then, will be treated to an awe-inspiring political bout between six candidates who share the same positions on nearly every issue and who, if victorious, may be able to move up from fourth to third among Republicans (i.e., have no chance at the nomination). Far from compelling, the debate is doomed to irrelevancy.

    I'd beg to differ as to Romney's chances, but the DI's argument stands. Indeed, by joining a forum of second and third tier candidates, Romney runs the risk of reducing himself to their level. Meanwhile, Paul is playing the classic card of the uninvited, holding a counter-debate event immediately following. Such events usually rally a candidate's own die-hards, but are rarely if ever persuasive. Paul's protestation of exclusion from this bush-league event reeks of the paranoid.

    More news on minor GOP candidates:

  • Tom Tancredo spent Sunday campaigning alongside fourth-tier contender John Cox (who, for some reason, the Iowa GOP and no one else seems to have bumped up to the third tier) and fifth-tier "contender" Daniel Gilbert (who?) in Dubuque. I'm in the process of backing away from my earlier judgement that Tancredo was the sleeper candidate to watch.

  • Back in my native Wisconsin the GOP has a dilemma: Tradition calls on folks to back a home state candidate, but Tommy Thompson doesn't have a prayer. What to do?

    And, from the Only In Wisconsin files: In Wisconsin charity race, runners are encouraged not to drink water, but beer.

  • Finally, Barack Obama picks a significantly hipper song than Hillary Clinton.
  • Saturday, June 23, 2007

    Kucinich: New Challenger At Home

    Kucinich: New Challenger At Home

    Last month the Columbus Dispatch reported that Parma, OH mayor Dean DePiero is considering a Congressional primary challenge to presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.

    Nothing more on that front yet, but now the Cleveland Plain Dealer says another challege has emerged:
    Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who is busy running for president largely on his anti-war stance, lost an ally today and gained an opponent.

    Rosemary Palmer, an anti-war activist whose son died in the war in Iraq in 2005, announced her candidacy for Kucinich's 10th District seat.

    "We need a full-time congressman for this area whose interests lie in developing this district," Palmer said during a short news conference before addressing the war issue.

    Palmer is opposed to the war in Iraq and wants the troops home. But she does not believe an immediate U.S. withdrawal is a realistic or productive goal. Kucinich has called for an unconditional withdrawal with international peace keeping presence.

    "Standing on principle doesn't mean standing in cement," she said.

    Friday, June 22, 2007

    Loose Ends

    Loose Ends

    The big stories of the week -- Jim Nussle to OMB, Mike Bloomberg and his little balls switching parties, and the UI presidency search finally ending -- were better covered by others. But I've got a few tidbits.

  • Krazy King strikes again. The Hill reports:

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will not be permitted to use State Department funds to travel to nations that are known to have sponsored terrorism if a Republican amendment to appropriations legislation passes the House on Thursday.

    The amendment to the $34 billion State and Foreign Operations bill, offered by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), prohibits funds to be used to travel to Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan or Syria.

    UPDATE: Crushing defeat, 337 to 84, losing even among Republicans. Tom Latham joins King and votes with the minority of the minority.

  • Ron Paul is one of only two house members to oppose the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act. At Kos, mcjoan calls Paul "that darling of people who aren't paying close enough attention to reality."

  • Speaking of not paying attention to reality, Alan Keyes seems to think the third tier presidential field is too small. Politics1 is reporting that Alan Keyes, R-Maryland Illinois Maryland, is readying to enter the race. Ron Gunzburger writes:

    Check out -- a site which Keyes has controlled for many years. The website disclaimer said it is paid for by "We Need Alan Keyes for President, Inc." The group is described on the site as "a political action committee organized according to rules established by the FEC ... [and] not managed by Alan Keyes, but rather is an organization designed to determine and rally support for a presidential candidacy by Dr. Keyes, should he choose to run."

    Yup, Alan Keyes is drafting Alan Keyes to run for President.

    Don't laugh yet, Ron: Remember Keyes winning Linn County in the `96 caucuses? Of course, he fared less well in 2000. There's also those three Senate defeats, two in Maryland and that three-to-one slaughter in 2004 as the self-appointed, only one willing, last second GOP nominee against Barack Obama in Illinois.

  • In Georgia's 10th CD Tuesday, the top Democrat finished third in a special election to fill the seat of the late Republican Charlie Norwood. This sets up a runoff between two Republicans next month.

  • I was, of course, all over the Hillary Clinton-Celine Dion story, but I ignored the Air Canada angle. And one commentator at the Albany Project speculates that the Dion "win" was the result of a Sanjaya-like effort. Though that assumes that the vote actually had anything to do with the song choice. C'mon.

  • Tuesday the Iowa City council voted to put 21 bars on the ballot rather than just passing it, which was what we knew was gonna happen so it wasn't much of a story. Still, duly noted.

  • Information Swimming watched the shuttle and space station fly overhead in tandem Wednesday, as I did too.

  • And a milestone: I see that this is the 3000th post on John Deeth Blog. (That's about 1.8 a day for 4 1/2 years.) Thanks for reading, folks.
  • Thursday, June 21, 2007

    Brownback Live Blogging: Cedar Rapids

    Brownback Live Blogging: Cedar Rapids

    11:23 and hello. Our venue for the morning slash afternoon is the Elmcrest Country Club on the north side of Cedar Rapids where we're awaiting Sam Brownback.
    Elmcrest is the home course of Iowa's most famous golfer, Masters champ Zach Johnson. There's a large shrine in the entryway, right outside the dining room where the Linn County Republican Women are having lunch.

    Channel 2 appears ready for Live At Noon coverage. Speech was originally announced for 11:15 or 11:30 but now looks more like 12:15 or 12:30.

    12:03 and things are starting.

    Elmcrest Country Club's Zach Johnson display.

    Steve West has a lot of stories. The former Hiawatha mayor is now parade chair for the Linn County GOP. West's family settled in Iowa in the pre-territorial era and ran a bank "until 1933 when Roosevelt took it away." Steve committed to Brownback early, but also likes the Thompsons Fred and Tommy. "The Republican Party is kind of up for grabs now," he says. "I hope the conservative wing doesn't sit it out if someone like Giuliani gets it. We need to stick together and keep Hillary of Obama or Edwards out of there."

    Sherin Gifford thinks it's too early to decide but likes Brownback: "He's pro-life, that's the main thing." Willa Richey agrees: "He's honest, consistently pro-life. And he's also mentioned immigration, and we need to secure the borders first."

    12:09. Nick Pottebaum is only 16 but already active in the GOP. The Linn-Mar junior, already a veteran of the Nussle and Leach campaigns, is backing Rudy Giuliani because "he can beat any Democrat." Nick thinks Giuliani has performed well under pressure. "Every day the president might be put on the spot, and it's at those times that he shines the brightest -- in the dark times."

    Asked about differences between Giuliani and Brownback on abortion, Nick points to the increase in adoptions and decrease in abortions in New York City while Giuliani was mayor. "Rudy's personally pro-life but as a lawyer he respects and abides by the law, and Roe v. Wade is the law now based on what the judges said at that time. We need to protect life and also respect the law."

    If Giuliani is not nominated, Nick might consider other options such as Giuliani's successor Mike Bloomberg, who's contemplating an independent bid. "He has a lot of experience in the corporate world and has the ability to be president."

    12:14 the prayer "in Jesus' name" and the pledge. Announcements and dining commence. 50 or so people here.

    Before lunch I spotted Wendy Barth, the 2006 Green candidate for governor. She's bird-dogging for Iowans for Sensible Priorities, wondering if she can get Brownback's reaction to the 10,000 nuclear weapons still around.

    Brownback is in the building, but doing TV interviews.

    12:21 Brownback walks in.

    The crowd is dressier and older than I've seen at other GOP events, fitting with the country club atmosphere. The dining room has a nice view of the driving range. Feels like a luncheon and not a rally. No signs or music.

    12:23 Sam's low-profile in Dockers, tie-less shirt and a Blackberry on the belt. Casually sits down at the sign in table while being introduced.

    12:25 Sam starts with several jokes about common county names between Iowa and Kansas, including his Linn County birthplace. More geography and sports which eventually comes around to "we share Iowa values." I vote the same as Grassley. "I don't lust after the power of the presidency, but I think we need to get back to our common values."

    12:29. 36% of kids out of wedlock, God out of schools. "We need to get the basics right" applause. Like Reagan: get the basics right and be optimistic.
    Welfare -- encourage marriage. Keep Nativity on the courthouse square (applause). To win war with Islamofacism, rebuild the basics.

    12:32 We're in a long term fight and we're seeing it in Gaza. A clear trend: Islamofascists gaining territory. We have to be capable of winning this fight (applause)

    He has a good sense of timing with the applause, knowing how long to pause and not step on it.

    Historic opportunity for energy independence. (My bus is 20% biodiesel) . Talking about other bio-products, cellulose ethanol. "More dependent on the Midwest, not the middle east."

    12:36 I'm for an alternate flat tax and personal Soc Sec accounts. "It worked for my parents but it stinks for my kids." Make accounts optional.
    in 2006 we lost, not because the Dems were winning, but because we lost our principles. We need a better political solution for Iraq, I'm offering 3 state solution.

    Straw poll pitch: he has rubber wristbands and "brown goes with anything."
    "Don't let the media tell you to vote with someone who doesn't share your values. Vote for someone you believe in."

    Basic values, basic values, basic values.

    Emma Nemecek with Brownback and Curt Hames post-speech

    Namechecks Emma Nemecek, "let's give them a round of applause." So apparently the e-mail forwarder is still on board.

    12:37 He wraps the speech. Diners settle down to the hubbub of eating.

    12:38 Questions: Copyright and China. Sam: stop talking, use tariffs. We've been jawboning 20 years and not getting anywhere. Also, China not letting currency float, which creates a permanent imbalance. Tariffs may cause difficulty.

    12:39 Immigration. Sam: I didn't think the bill was comprehensive. 1) Secure the border. I voted to fund fence (applause) 2) Interior enforcement. Integrate Social Security number with INS for immediate check. Half a trillion in Soc Sec money is from bad numbers. We need some guest worker program. Most people not opposed to immigration, opposed to illegal. We want people to come here -- but legally.

    12:42 Sensible Priorities and 10,000 nukes. "Will you follow Reagan's path of verifiable disarmament" down to 1000? Sam catches who they are, won't commit. But he wants to expand military base closing procedure to rest of govt. "We've lost our way on federal spending" (applause). "The system is built to spend." No one asks for their own program cut.

    12:45 he wraps questions. "We win on hope and ideas," and I want to be big ideas person.

    1:00 and the lunch plates are clearing. Brownback shook some hands and took some questions on the way to his big blue bus, which was playing Willie Nelson's "On The Road Again." (Willie's a Kucinich man but I digress.) Partner in Crime Tom Lindsey says they were jammin' on the Allman Brothers' "Ramblin' Man on the way in." Brownback departed 20 minutes after his scheduled start time in Marengo...

    Update: Iowa Independent colleague Tom Lindsey's take on the event.

    Volunteers Needed to Interrogate Presidential Candidates about Torture

    Volunteers Needed to Interrogate Presidential Candidates about Torture

    An anti-torture coalition is urging activists and elected officials to help in its effort to put torture and extraordinary rendition on the presidential caucus agenda.

    Randi Aho, a fellow with the Center for Victims of Torture and also with the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights, met with a dozen Johnson County elected officials and community leaders Wednesday. Aho is seeking volunteers to question presidential candidates at events about their stances on torture. “We want it to be something people are concerned about.”

    The Midwest Coalition for Human Rights was founded in 1995 and has about 40 member centers in eight states. The Minnesota-based Center for Victims of Torture, founded in 1985, is the first such center in the United States and only the third in the world. The group has healing facilities for victims in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (the former Zaire), and Jordan. The center is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. “The aim of this project requires us to be nonpartisan," said Aho, adding that most of their contact thus far has been with Democrats, but they are still hoping to work with Republicans.

    Aho will be based out of Iowa City for the next two months. Torture does not work, she said, because “victims will say whatever they have to, to make the pain stop. Additionally, it opens up our own soldiers for torture.”

    One of the roadblocks to getting candidates to take strong stands against torture is that “this issue always gets framed in the context of the war," she said. "We want to address it as a broader issue.”

    Aho noted Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's citation this week of the TV show "24. Arguing that interrogators "require latitude in times of great crisis," Scalia said of the show's lead character, "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles... He saved hundreds of thousands of lives." But in real life, Aho said, “The ticking bomb scenario has never happened -- and yet torture continues.”

    While the group has yet to talk to many candidates, Aho said John Edwards had a good answer recently, pledging to close Guantanamo Bay and "end torture." However, she said "end torture" was ambiguous. "We have quotes of people saying, `I’m against torture,’ but we want to nail them down very specifically. One of our biggest challenges is spin.” Aho said the sometimes evasive definitions were why the center asks about “torture and other abusive treatment.”

    Aho cited several key laws permitting and restricting torture. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 denies detainees their right to habeas corpus, while preventing them from invoking their rights under the Geneva Conventions. Candidate John McCain's amendment to the 2006 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill prohibits torture and other abusive treatment by the Defense Department. The Detainee Treatment Act prevents State Department entities from performing interrogation techniques that are not listed in the Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation. However, these restrictions do not apply to the Central Intelligence Agency.

    That issue is one of the first questions the center wants to pose to candidates -- do they support extending the Geneva Conventions to the CIA? “In theory there’s nothing the Geneva Convention doesn’t cover,” said Aho, except it does not address habeas corpus. “What we’re really looking for is one standard that outlaws torture and other abusive treatment.”

    Aho cited the Restore the Constitution Act, proposed by candidate Chris Dodd,as a positive bill that makes important changes to the Military Commissions Act. It restores habeas corpus, makes coerced confessions inadmissible and extends the Geneva Conventions to the CIA. However, it does not support one standard on torture. Another bill, proposed by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., aims to end the practice of extraordinary renditions, the extrajudicial transfer of a person from one country to another country known to use torture.

    "There used to be a time where torture was never an option. We want to bring us back to a place where that’s the case," said Aho. "That allows us to be a moral authority. Our practices have allowed other countries to justify torture. Regardless of whether candidates will abide by what they say, we need them to say it.”

    Johnson County Recorder Kim Painter agreed. "Window dressing has some importance, and we’ve lost the ability to even say we’re against torture." Citing Bush administration policies terming injuries like organ failure "acceptable," Painter asked, “What are these candidates going to be telling their attorneys general?"

    “The danger is we’ll get a Democrat in who’ll just continue it, and we need to get them on record that they won’t," said University of Iowa history professor Jeff Cox. "We need to stop being so deferential to the rock stars.”

    Aho said training sessions for volunteers are tentatively planned for Iowa City, Ames and Des Moines in early August. For more information visit or contact Aho at (651) 301-1688.

    Wednesday, June 20, 2007

    Transit Officials Urge "Dump The Pump" Thursday

    Transit Officials Urge "Dump The Pump" Thursday

    Transit systems across the country will mark "Dump The Pump" day Thursday. The second annual event sponsired by the American Public Transportation Foundation is a public awareness day that emphasizes the environmental benefits of using public transportation. The foundation says public transportation produces nearly 50 percent less carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide per passenger mile than as private vehicles.

    In Iowa, Iowa City is offering a $5 discount on monthly bus passes sold Thursday. Sioux City and Des Moines are also noting the day.

    Clinton’s Celine Choice Finds Few Fans at the Cool Record Store

    Clinton’s Celine Choice Finds Few Fans At The Cool Record Store

    The Record Collector in downtown Iowa City is a dead ringer for Championship Vinyl in the movie High Fidelity.

    I've always connected to this movie -- though tracking down my own real life Charlie Nicholson may have been too much. But that's another story...

    It’s the Cool Record Store where you wonder if what you’re buying is hip enough to impress the clerk, or if Jack Black will leap out from behind the counter and slap you for daring to utter the words… “Celine Dion.”

    On the afternoon that Hillary Clinton's campaign announced that Celine Dion’s “You and I,” had, well, won the online vote for Clinton Campaign Theme Song, defeating rivals like U2 and Smashmouth, Gary Kuhlman was at Record Collector buying two albums. He held a collection of circa 1966 Byrds outtakes on two ten inch disks. But his big find was a vinyl copy of the Smashing Pumpkins’ breakthrough album, Siamese Dream, released in 1993 when vinyl had already all but vanished from music stores.

    “I didn’t even know they had that on vinyl.” “Oh, I’ve seen it before,” said Gary, “but someone always grabs it before I can.”

    Celine Dion, somewhat like Hillary Clinton, has a tendency to draw strong, opposing reactions – people tend to be devoted admirers or fierce critics with little middle ground. Clerk Lindsay Schroeder had not yet heard the news from the Clinton campaign; her mouth and eyes opened wide but she was speechless.

    “You’ve got to be kidding me,” said store owner Kirk Walther. “She’s a loser – big time.” From the context it was unclear whether he meant the Canadian singer or the New York Senator.

    Record Collector specializes in used and rare vinyl and CDs, and over the years has been a haven for many a broke student evaluating the resale value of a music collection against the need for food or beer money. Could you still get cash for Celine? “We bought them in the past, but there’s no interest now,” said Kirk.

    Lindsay checked the store’s inventory software and determined that Record Collector had last sold one (and only one) Celine Dion disc two years ago, “but before that it was sometime in the 90’s that we last sold one.” That was when Dion’s career was on the rise, during the first Clinton era. It peaked in 1997-98 with the inescapable theme from “Titanic,” “My Heart Will Go On,” of which critic Rob O'Connor wrote:
    What never ceases to amaze me is how the trite-est, most cliché-ridden music often takes an assembly-line of lauded professionals to perfect... Sinking ships are what I imagine as this tune plows onward of four-plus minutes, and this album feels as if were never to end. Is it no wonder why I have such fears of going to the dentist?

    “You And I” is somewhat newer, a studio track appended to the 2004 A New Day: Live in Las Vegas which documents the stage show that’s been running for nearly four years in what's now the second caucus state.

    The bins at Record Collector, split 50-50 between CDs and vinyl, appeared to be Celine-free Tuesday afternoon. The only Clinton seen was an old poster depicting George Clinton of P-Funk fame. Who would be buying a Celine Dion live in Vegas CD? “Someone my age,” said Kirk, who’s 51. “Average, mainstream… women.”

    “Someone at the mall,” said Gary, asking for a vinyl sleeve to protect his long-sought Smashing Pumpkins album. “Go to Best Buy” added Kirk, with just a hint of derision on the last two syllables.

    Lindsay said she’s undecided in the presidential race. Gary said he’s “leaning undecided,” acknowledging he has a favorite but declining to offer the name. “I like some things about Barack,” said Kirk, but “I’m so disenchanted with both parties.” His favorite candidate is Ron Paul. “I don’t agree with everything he says but I like some. Get rid of the Federal Reserve, get us out of the war.”

    Yet Kirk thinks Clinton’s chances are strong. “All she has to do is get half the women to vote for her and she wins.”

    So the hipness quotient of “You And I” may be low – though Team Clinton did better with the Sopranos parody video clip announcing the choice.

    Near dead-on, except for not back timing the Journey track so that the cut to black at the end synced up with the words “Don’t Stop –“ That's the kind of detail a record collector would notice.

    But in politics the goal is not a rave review from a handful of critics. It’s hitting Number One. And Celine Dion sells out every night in Vegas.

    Tuesday, June 19, 2007

    Space Geek Alert

    Space Geek Alert

    The space station flying overhead with the shuttle nearby. This link is for Iowa City; you can adjust your location.

    Freakonomics luuuuvs high gas prices:
    The reason we need high gas taxes is that there are all sorts of costs associated with my driving that I don’t pay — someone else pays them. This is what economists call a “negative externality.” Because I don’t pay the full costs of my driving, I drive too much. Ideally, the government could correct this problem through a gas tax that aligns my own private incentive to drive with the social costs of driving.

    And in Toronto, bikers are painting their own bike lanes.

    Monday, June 18, 2007

    Clinton 42 to campaign in Iowa with Sen. Clinton July 2-4

    Clinton 42 to campaign in Iowa with Sen. Clinton July 2-4

    The Clinton campaign just announced that former president Bill (Clinton 42) will be campaigning in Iowa with Senator Hillary (Clinton 44, perhaps), in Iowa July 2-4. Details TBA.

    Staffers were enthusiastic to near-giddiness in announcing the visit; the first two calls were near-simultaneous with the second call interrupting the first...

    Nemecek: Forwarding Email "Honest Mistake," Still Backs Brownback

    Nemecek: Forwarding Email "Honest Mistake," Still Backs Brownback

    A Linn County supporter of presidential candidate Sam Brownback told Iowa Independent that she made an “honest mistake” in forwarding an e-mail that asked pointed questions about rival Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith to Republican leaders.

    “I didn’t intend to smear anyone,” said Emma Nemecek of Mt. Vernon, who chairs the 2nd Congressional District committee for Brownback. “I don’t think people should choose based on how a person worships – I have six Mormon family members myself.”

    The email included statements such as “Theologically, the only thing Christianity and the LDS church has in common is the name of Jesus Christ, and the LDS Jesus is not the same Jesus of the Christian faith.” Nemecek said it originated with an organization of conservative Asian Americans, and she simply forwarded it last month “with no opinion of my own or anything.”

    “If people go after anyone, it should be the originator,” she said. “The (Brownback) campaign was not involved at all.”

    The Brownback campaign has distanced itself from the email and offered an apology to the Romney campaign, which was accepted. The campaign also “reprimanded” Nemecek.

    Nemecek, who lost an Iowa House race to Rep. Ro Foege (D-Mt. Vernon) last year, says she will continue to support Brownback whether or not she continues to play an official role in the campaign. “He stands for what I believe in – pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, pro-gun, and he strongly opposes amnesty.” She also cited his personal style on the several occasions she’s met Brownback. “If a guy treats a waiter decently, that’s a sign of his character.”

    Thanks to Iowa Independent colleage Lynda Waddington for assistance with this story.

    Opposite Day

    Iowa Blogosphere Opposite Day

    In Bizarro World Sunday, it was John Deeth at Mitt Romney and Cyclone Conservatives at John Edwards. Best line: "They played some really bad country music. So bad, that it reminded me of a Republican event."

    With that, the Romney afterthoughts.

  • Part of the pitch, though not said in these words, was "we need a CEO president." Wasn't that what Bush was supposed to be?
  • The overall feel was candidate as motivational speaker.
  • The name "Bush" was scarcely mentioned except by the man who said he hated even saying the name.
  • Maybe it's just the contrast from covering Pride Fest the day before, but it's interesting the issues that don't come up. Don't ask don't tell, civil unions and marriage -- not mentioned, as if one simply assumes a default GOP position. Just passing references to family and "husband and wife." Much like choice is one applause line in a Democratic speech, and not a line of questioning.

    The DI was at the fairgrounds with John Edwards and said it was hot, hot, hot.
  • Sunday, June 17, 2007

    Mitt Romney: Muscatine Liveblog

    Mitt Romney: Muscatine Liveblog

    4:15 and greetings from the Rendezvous in Muscatine, where Mitt Romney is reportedly 15 minutes away -- they say he likes to stay on time.

    We have a large flag backdrop, probably seven or eight feet tall -- now "Born In The USA" is stuck in my head. No music yet -- the early arrivals are trickling in, TV folks are setting up, and my Iowa Independent partner in crime Tom Lindsay is checking in with the rank and file.

    4:29 and the room is filling up and the hustle is bustling. A staffer with an earpiece who could almost pass for Secret Service is getting the TV cameras lined up, making sure they're positioned for The Shot of Mitt in front of flag.

    I catch up with John and Sue Hatfield and Debbie Hendricks, all of Muscatine, in the front row. Sue and Debbie say the blueberry pie is wonderful; John is abstaining from pie.

    All say they're uncommitted. Debbie says, "Well, I'm definitely voting Republican." John says he likes how Romney turned around the 2002 Olympics post-scandal. What's the most important issue? Almost in unison, all thre say "Immigration." John has a few choice words for the Administration plan: "I don't even like to say Buuuuush." Debbie: "Oh, be careful, you might get in a fight here," and all chuckle. I ask John what to do about those already here: "How many bus companies do we have?" Debbie adds, "take away the entitlements and part of the problem will take care of itself.

    4:39. State Senator Jim Hahn (R-Muscatine) is here; says he's been on board with Romney for a long time. "I like his background, his family style." I ask if that's a reference to some rivals who've had more turbulent family lives. "Well, he's a family man, and a husband and a wife... that makes up the nucleus of a family." Hahn also cite's Romney's experience in Massachusetts and (again) the Olympics; "that's the kind of experience we need in Washington." He moves on to greet more arrivals.

    They're not stickering or nametagging here, and no music; apparantly Ask Mitt Anything is more Serious Time than Rally Time.

    Room holds 150 or so, full and standing room. Unexpected, or the old plan of book a room just a little too small so it looks full (everyone does it)?

    4:51. Last event of the day so perhaps even Team Romney is running a little late. Crowd's a little older than an Iowa City crowd, just demographics at work. Overheard a couple folks saying they're from across the river in Illinois. Three TV crews, plus two that look to be from the campaign. The pie has been put away.

    4:55. Stage is very well lit, with eight foot tall portable lighting. The wall signs have different color schemes -- mostly blue and white, but some versions have a bit of red. The pledge cards, carefully set on every chair with little golf pencils, are bright orange. Hubbub is diminishing just a little as the crowd settles in. This is in an in the round format but a couple angles only have two or three rows.

    4:57 Hahn starts the program with pledge of allegiance. Muscatine County Treasurer Jerry Coffmann pushed the pledge cards, makes a reference to Mitt "not abandoning us" with the straw poll.

    5:00 Showtime. Ann Romney jokes about a stage collapse in northeast Iowa: "I fell on da butt in Dubuque." She then proceeds to introing. Focusing on family life on Dad Day. Then moves on to Olympics; "Changed our directiion and put us on a path to public service" (no mention of that previous `94 race.) Intro gioes long enough that Mitt makes "I'll sit down" joke and then does.

    5:02 Mitt begins, has already made two straw poll references. "That IS part of the process of choosing a nominee." Names Rudy and McCain.

    Talks about a relative who lived in Muscatine in his youth, assorted other Iowa ties. "The most important work in America goes on in the four walls of the family home." Emphasizes marriage again. Talks about family gift of `62 Rambler which lets him reference his father's career, and the old car story becomes "In the private sector things get better." "I went from that world into government" gets chuckles from GOP crowd and allows him to riff. "We're spending too much in Washington"gets first applause. "And we're using too much oil." Wants to invest in energy independence. Ethanol, biomass, liquid coal, nuke, more drilling in ANWR.

    5:10 Inner city schools "the civil right issue of our era." Health care and portability and preexisting. "The Democrats have their answer: Socialized medicine Hillary care is not the answer." Big applause. Cites Mass. program and private sector.

    Immigration. "I want to stop illegal" gets interrupted with "yes"s.

    Radical Islam: Wants collapse of West and USA. Praise for troops gets usual applause. Need 100,000 more in military. "Ultimately moderate Muslims themselves who need to reject."

    "Democrats turn to government, that's not the source of our strength." Quotes Reagad on liberals. "Source of our strength is the Am. people. God fearing people who'll sacrifice for freedon. Don't grow government, grow the American people." And the key is strengthening homes "Helps if kids start off with a mom and a dad" applause. "You get your education, then you fall in love and get married, THEN you have babies."

    5:18 and moving into questions. Acts surprised that "there are mikes everywhere."

    First question is a blast from the past: a notch baby!

    "It just doesn't seem fair, does it? I'll take a look at it, I'll be happy to get your perspective." Dems try to scare you about Social Security, we're not going to touch it. But we need to look at reform down the road. But seniors now "don't let people scare you." Audience member says notch bill "has been languishing 5 years."

    5:21 A cap on emissions, it's Mike Carberry from Iowa Global Warming!

    "I have not put a position paper out yet."

    "It's not America warming it's global warming, and caps need to be on a global basis." Ye's we're number one now but China will pass us in 2 years. "No regrets Policy" is energy independence. Repeats energy sources, biomass, ethanol, nukes.

    5:23 a coach asks about nuke power. Mitt: 1) streamline licensing process. "It's been so long we might have to ask the French how to do it." Invest in fuel reprocessing tech.

    5:25 "What do you truly believe about abortion". Mitt: "If you go from being life to choice, the media says congratulations." I changed like Reagan, Hyde, etc. When I became governor, the rhetoric became reality. "Embryo Cloning and Embryo Farming" came up in Massachusetts and I said "this is wrong" and I vetoed. Reagan mentioned again, applause.

    5:27 A softball: "give us a resume of your executive experience" with much praise from the questioner. Mitt wants to take the guy everywhere. "I want a person with compassion, who believes in family values. Secondly, I want a person with experience in running things. There are people running for president who've never run a corner store." "I acquired Domino's Pizza -- not by the slice, the whole company." Moves into Olympics, governor. "What I've learned in managing is the key is bringing good people together. Look at who people have been associated with."

    5:31 Mitt: `86 bill was amnesty but border security and verification. "We got the amnesty, but not the security." The new bill has good security provisions and verification provisions. But I don't like the Z visa. "Everyone here illegally gets to stay here the rest of their life and that's unfair. Get in line with everyone else but no special deal" gets big applause.

    5:33 The wifi dies briefly during returning disabled vets. The guy talks fast.16 wounded troops for every death in combat. Calls for increase in vet spending.

    5:35 Should we give people in Gitmo due process? Mitt: "I've been there, it's a fine prison facility." "We don't want them having the kinds of legal rights associated with being on US soil." It depends on the circumstances what their rights should be. We didn't give German POWs in WW2 lawyers.

    5:37 What's happening to the money in Iraq, and "how's it so easy for those foreigners to get lawyers, when it's hard for a black man like myself to get a lawyer, and what about racist judges, should they go to prison?"

    Mitt: We didn't lose the war to replace Saddam, but reconstruction has been tough and expensive. "I don't think we planned on being there this long." I hope surge works. I want a task force to look at military spending, to make sure we don't get fleeced by contractors (applause) because that's how private sector works. "I want to see judges who follow the law, not legislate the law." Cites Chief Justice Roberts: A judge is an umpire not a ballplayer.

    5:42 last question: "my first priority is what we're going to with terrorists and Iran. At what point does the US use force on Iran? All the politicians say 'nothings off the table' and i want more."

    Mitt: No one wants to say "if they do this then we bomb `em." What Iran has already done is of the nature that would allow us to respond if we chose. We want to tighten sanctions, but we need to evaluate military options - such as embargo, blockade. "No price of oil justifies a nuclear Iran." I want to sit down with generals and look at specifics. Rips on Edwards "no war on terror." We need strong military and support for moderate Muslims. Drops in the url.

    5:47 winding down. "What were talking about relates to the nature and mission of America over the coming years." America is a unique nation. Strong military, strong economy, strong families.

    Coffmann makes the pledge card and straw poll pitch again, and "the governor will be shaking hands at the entrance."

    6:02. Don Barko of Muscatine says he's "probably" decided on Romney. "He's probably the most qualified. I'm not looking for small ideas, I'm more interested in the big picture." Don says the most important issue is "protecting our shores, both in terms of immigration and terrorism." Asked what can be done about illegal immigrants already here, he pauses thoughtfully and says "I'm not sure, there's smarter people than me trying to figure that out."

    Regina Day sees our interview underway and has an important point to make: "People don't get off their duff when they ask the Governor a question! Stand up, show some respect." Don offers the though that some folks may not be comfortable or have difficulty standing. He continues, calling himself a fiscal conservative: "Ronald Reagan would pick out three objectives and work on them. The governor is right, a good executive surrounds himself with good people."

    Is President Bush doing that? Thoughtful pause: "I think so... some of them are a bit recycled from his dad... I think so."

    Saturday, June 16, 2007

    Iowa City Pride Celebrates 30 Years, Legislative Achievements

    Iowa City Pride Celebrates 30 Years, Legislative Achievements

    Partying on the steps of the Old Capitol to Haddaway's "What Is Love" (Saturday Night Live fans: that's the Roxbury Guys song)

    Iowa City celebrated its 30th annual Pride Fest with an upbeat parade and rally that focused on national, state and local progress made in the wake of 2006 elections that put Democrats in the majority in Congress and the Iowa Legislature.

    Dave Loebsack attended last year's Pride Fest as a long-shot candidate.  Saturday he returned as Iowa City's incumbent congressman.  Loebsack said one of the House's big accomplishments was passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, telling the story of a meeting with House Democrats just before the vote that included a speech by the mother of the murdered Matthew Shephard.  "There were a lot of hard-bitten politicians there and I tell you, there wasn't a dry eye in the room."

    Loebsack, an Armed Services committee member, also said he supports a repeal of the military's don't ask, don't tell policy.  "It's long past time, folks, for those who are openly gay or lesbian who want to serve our country to be allowed to do the things everyone else has a right to."

    State Rep. Mary Mascher (D-Iowa City), is seen above in the parade that preceded the rally, with Johnson County Democrats chair Brian Flaherty at the wheel.  She told the crowd that when she was county party chair, her proposal to bring the local party to Pride Fest was controversial.  But that was 22 years ago and "we haven't missed one since."  She praised the Clinton, Dodd, Edwards and Obama campaigns for their presence and said "each and every one of the Democratic candidates for president is committed to lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender rights."  (Update: Teams Biden and Richardson, while not at the parade and rally, completed a six-pack of candidates by joining the aforementioned four at the post-rally festival at City Park.)

    Mascher cited dramatic progress in the 2007 Iowa legislative session due to the new Democratic majority.  Citing civil right legislation that included sexual orientation, and the bullying bill, Mascher said "We've tried to promote those as Democrats for years, and we were stymied until this year.  It sends a very clear message that Iowa is a welcoming state.  That diversity is clear -- we want you and we need you."

    Hillary slug bug, no slug bug back.  Not to be outdone...

    Iowa City Council challenger Mike Wright gets points for 1) working VW into his slogan and 2) getting a hold of a classic era Beetle (courtesy of his campaign manager Duncan Stewart).

    Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness waves, carrying the Democratic party banner.  As an assistant county attorney, Lyness drafted the county human rights ordinance that was approved in December 2006, just days before she took office.  Also seen: James Moody of the North Liberty city council (green shirt).

    Iowa City Council member Regenia Bailey read the city's Pride Month proclamation.  Coralville also offered a first-ever proclamation, presented by Council member Tom Gill.  James Moody joined in on North Liberty's behalf.  Other politician sightings: State Senator Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) and Coralville Council candidate Mitch Gross.

    A young Bailey backer's hair matches the campaign's color.

    Update, courtesy of Donald Baxter: here's your reporter on the scene.