Wednesday, October 31, 2007

UI Pollster Stands By Methodology

UI Pollster Stands By Methodology

Reaction to Monday's release of the latest University of Iowa presidential poll has focused almost as much on polling methodology as on the results.  But David Redlawsk, the UI political scientist who conducted the poll, stands by the screen of likely caucus goers that critics called too broad.

"We think the critics are missing what we are doing," Redlawsk told Iowa Independent, "but we think that's mostly our fault. at some point I said -- and I think it is in the press release this way too -- that Edwards supporters are more likely to caucus than Obama's."

The poll (complete results) showed a close race on the Democratic side, with Hillary Clinton at 29 percent, Barack Obama at 27 percent and John Edwards at 20 percent.  The Republican results showed a strong lead for Mitt Romney at 36 percent, with  Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee at 13 percent and Fred Thompson at 11 percent.

Redlawsk explained the poll's three-step screen of likely caucus goers.  "First, we ask people if they caucused in 2000 or 2004. Technically this isn't done as a screen, but it allows us to understand the real likelihood of folks caucusing this time around, since probably the best predictor of caucusing is having done it before.

"Second, we ask people to indicate their likelihood of caucusing this time on a 4 point scale, very, somewhat, not very, and not at all," Redlawsk continued. "We drop the not at alls completely - they're done. We then ask the remaining three levels -- 1's, 2's, and 3's -- which party they plan to caucus for. Anyone saying 'don't know' or some party other than Republican or Democratic is also dropped -- if they can't name the party, they're probably not caucusing."

Redlawsk said at that point the 1's and 2's are considered "likely" caucus goers, and the 3's are "potential" caucus goers.

"Edwards' supporters are more likely to be 1's -- in the VERY category, while Obama has more 2's," he said

The poll did not look at the possible impact of different caucus dates.  "At the time we were in the field, the Republicans had set Jan. 3 and the Democrats had not yet moved," said Redlawsk.  "We simply did not have time to query the Democrats on different date options, since the survey was already too long.  And frankly, I assumed the Democrats would end up on the 3rd in any case."

Plenty of people say they are still "somewhat likely" to change their mind but fewer than 10% said they are very likely to do so, said Redlawsk. "Republicans though are noticeably less firm than Democrats."

Iowa City Council Candidates Consider Impact of 21 Bar Referendum

Iowa City Council Candidates Consider Impact of 21 Bar Referendum

Young people are statistically the least likely voters, especially in local elections in high-turnover college towns.  But last week, Iowa City saw a burst of presidential-level voting activity on the University of Iowa campus.  This burst of civic activism was prompted by an issue with direct impact on most students: their nightlife.

Iowa City voters are considering an ordinance that would prevent anyone under age 21 from entering bars after 10 p.m.  The question was placed on the ballot by a citizen petition allowed under Iowa City's home rule charter.  Proponents argue the ordinance would reduce underage and binge drinking, while supporters contend it would merely push partying to the less controlled house-party environment.  (Lost in the shuffle: the legislative question of whether or not a 21-year-old drinking age law is either just or workable in a college town.)

The referendum has stirred the sleeping giant of student apathy. Members of the whimsically named Student Health Initiative Taskforce (the Iowa City Press Citizen, which has endorsed a yes vote, is reluctant to print the name because of the acronym) petitioned for five satellite voting sites on campus before last Friday's voter registration deadline, and nearly 2,900 people voted on campus.  The satellite vote effort followed a vote-by-mail drive the previous week that netted about 1,800 requests.  In this world turned upside down electorate, the most likely voters to have requested absentee ballots were independents aged 18 to 24 in Iowa City Precinct 5, a downtown area made up almost entirely of dorms and fraternities.

Of course, a requested ballot isn't the same thing as a counted vote.  In 2001, bar owner Mike Porter led a similar but smaller vote-by-mail drive on behalf of city council candidate Leah Cohen, owner of bar-restaurant Bo James in downtown Iowa City. Four hundred people, mostly young, never returned their ballots, and Cohen lost by 58 votes.  This year, Cohen and Porter are leading Bloc21, the "adult" vote-no group.

Even in smaller numbers, the student vote can be decisive in city elections.  Rick Dobyns, the doctor who led the petition drive, was a council candidate in 2005 and led in the October primary.  But he lost by wide margins in student precincts in November, and even though the absolute numbers were small, they were enough to cost Dobyns the election by 194 votes.

The 21 bar issue was on the minds of the four candidates for two at-large council seats.  The candidates met Monday at a "No Baloney" forum hosted by Gary Sanders, a longtime fixture on the Iowa City political scene. It is believed that in some dictionaries, under the word "gadfly," a portrait of Sanders appears.  He hoisted an actual ring of baloney, which he threatened to use as a gavel at the debate.  Sanders is an ardent 21 bar supporter who conducted a recent Sunday morning "vomit tour" of downtown sidewalks.

Attorney Matt Hayek was an overwhelming primary winner and has drawn support from both sides of the Iowa City political spectrum, including conservative former Mayor Bill Ambrisco and progressive County Supervisor Rod Sullivan.  Hayek opposes the 21 bar referendum but acknowledges "there are good intentions on both sides."

Mike Wright, a University librarian, finished second in the primary and is seen as the progressive candidate.  Wright is a neighborhood association activist on the north side, an area of mixed student and non-student housing, and supports the 21 bar referendum citing a number of problem houses in his neighborhood.  "Part of the solution is we need to find a non-alcoholic venue for students," he said in the forum.

Terry Smith finished third in the primary.  Smith is a manager at Mid-American Energy and led the 2005 effort against a public power referendum.  Public power lost two to one but was outspent about 20 to one.  Smith opposes the bar issue and positioned himself in the forum as a defender of "adult rights," citing his 20-year-old son who is about to be shipped off to Iraq.  Smith said his son frequently goes out to bars as a designated driver.  As for underage drinkers, Smith said, "Since these people are already breaking the law, is it really going to be effective to put one more law on the books?"

Bloc21 is backing Hayek and Smith.  Hayek said the endorsement was without his consent.  "We want to be completely independent of the referendum," he said at the forum, saying he contacted Porter after the first day of early voting and asked him to remove Hayek signs from a colorfully festooned "Hawk Patrol" SUV that Porter was driving around campus.  Smith said he'd been tipped off by Hayek and had also asked Porter to remove his signs.  But as of Friday, referendum opponents were still handing out fliers on campus urging students to vote Smith and Hayek as well as no on the referendum.

Seemingly lost in the shuffle is incumbent Dee Vanderhoef, coming off a fourth-place October primary finish.  Vanderhoef is a downtown business owner and a 21 bar supporter.  "How can a non-alcoholic venue succeed without the (21 bar) law?" she asked rhetorically at the forum.  "The business plan does not work in competition with an alcohol venue."  Vanderhoef appears almost resigned to defeat.  In Monday's forum, she didn't contest claims that the "real race" is between Smith and Wright, and said she was hearing concerns from voters that her 12 years on the council is long enough.

After the petition was submitted, under Iowa City's charter the city council had the option of either passing the 21 bar ordinance outright or placing the issue on the ballot.  "I personally support the ordinance, but it's time for the citizens to speak," Vanderhoef said.  She contends there was a council majority for 21 bars from 1999 to 2003, but passage was prevented because one member wanted to use the bar age as a bargaining chip on other issues.

With the unprecedented student turnout, referendum supporters will need overwhelming "townie" support to succeed, and absentee voting rates show no signs of a corresponding backlash vote.  At Monday's forum, Sanders asked if students should even be voting in a local election.  "It's the law; we have to let them," said Vanderhoef.  "Democracy isn't always perfect," said Wright, earning himself a whap from the ring of baloney.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Democratic Debate Liveblog

Democratic Debate Liveblog

7:42 PM and good evening from the home of Kent and Gretchen Fuller in rural Hills, where Iowa Independent is joining about eight Edwardians at a John Edwards house party. We also have a couple folks at a couple other parties who'll be jumping in under the comments.

The buzz is, "this is the debate where the gloves come off" and one of the candidates -- some say Edwards, others think Barack Obama -- goes after frontrunner Hillary Clinton. That's not the buzz here at Hills, they're talking about upcoming Edwards visits and phone banks. There's an invitation on the counter for a local candidate fundraiser with Edwards in a couple weeks.

7:58 and the TV is switched on with Olbermann and Matthews doing the pre-game. Matthews: "4/5 of the Democratic party are doves..." When is Keith Olbermann going to moderate a debate? Talk in the room turns to Mike Gravel's absence tonight.

SHOWTIME! A brief cheer goes up as Edwards' head flies by on the graphics. Straight in. To Obama: what does "more aggressive" mean, and is Hillary trying to "sound Republican"? In the room; "That would take all night."

Obama: Some of this gets overhyped. But I want to offer sharp contrasts with GOP and we have to be honest about challenges. Then he hits HRC on NAFTA, torture, and the war vote. She doesn't break format but they go to her.

Clinton: If you watch GOP debate I'm the topic of consternation -- because I've stood against Bush and his failed policies. "I want to go against the rush to war" gets groans in the Edwards room.

To Edwards: What "double talk" has HRC done on Iran? Edwards: Bush has destroyed trust and Dems need to decide who they can trust. I think it's fair to look at what HRC has said -- she defends a broken corrupt system and voted to give Bush authority on Iran. Also hits social security, different statements in private vs. public. I think we have our ledes for tomorrow already.

Clinton: "fighting for women and children and invisible people" (playing to her base). Namechecks SCHIP. "I've been taking on special interests for years" gets negatives from Edwardians. Back to HRC and social security fiscal responsibility.

To Clinton: Webb says Kyl-Lieberman "mandates military option." Why did you vote for that? HRC: I'm against a rush to war and have spoken out. I'm also not in favor of doing nothing and Iran wants nukes. "I prefer vigorous diplomacy" including sanctions. This is only an expression of support for sanctions. We must prevent Bush from acting unilaterally. "Very defensive" says the room. They're noisier than the Hillary crowd at the last debate party.

Dodd: There's been a series of drumbeats toward military action in Iran. Lugar and Hagel voted against Kyl. "Those 76 votes will be waved at us as a justification." That was a critical moment and wrong decision was made.

Speaking of Dodd:

Biden: We have a problem in the senate -- in the room "get her, nail her." Gee, get the idea there's some tension between the Edwards and Clinton camps? Back to Biden: "This plays into the urban legend that America is on a crusade against Islam."

Obama, when should we attack Iran? Obama: We've seen drumbeat of war in GOP debates. That's a continuation of military action as only tool. Instead, we need to talk to our enemies. This resolution sends wrong signal. (Is anyone gonna get him for missing the vote?)

Hillary: Sanctions are part of diplomacy and we're trying to pressure Bush, rein him in. I invite GOP colleagues to pass something now. "Everything should be on the table, not just their nuclear program." Bashes revolutionary Guard again. Russert pushes more, Clinton restates much of what's been said.

Edwards: The way to pressure Bush is a yes vote that gave Bush/Cheney what they wanted?!? (applause in room). The WMD talk sounds familiar, he says. "A lot of us on this stage have learned our lessons the hard way" on trusting Bush.

20 minutes in, Richardson debuts. (still no Dennis.) "I'm the only one on this stage who's negotiated." (That's not true says another candidate.) He says we can get compromise on the nuclear issues. "This resolution saber-rattles." Ticks off resume points some more. Need Europeans, Russia involved.

Heeere's Dennis! Reject any move to war with Iran. Democratic enablers have said "all options on the table" and that licenses Bush. Preemption is
illegal, including Iraq war. (Richardson and Kucinich are on one end.) Oh, and impeach now. Gets good marks in Edwards room.

Clinton: I will do everything I can to prevent Iran developing nuke bomb. Says it three times. Russert goes around the room, Obama suggests cutting it short. Obama: "We're seeing the same pattern now" and is drowned out by drink orders, one downside of a house party. Biden: "we can't talk about this in isolation" from Pakistan.

Dodd turns it to experience and background (ahem, here I am). Agrees with Biden on Pakistan. Audience: "who's this guy,"
apparently genuine.

Richardson: I'll pledge no Iran nukes, through diplomacy. Loose nukes are the bigger threat. "I want head to head with
Saddam and brought two Americans out" and he brought one to the debate. Experience, experience, experience.

Dennis K: "The media has to be careful how it phrases these questions." I'd urge Iran to give up nuke power, too. Ultimately, abolish all nukes.

Clinton, do you oppose the war? HRC: "absolutely" but praise the troops praise the troops praise the troops. Says war can't end under Bush. Bush has alienated world.

Obama: HRC answer not consistent with her vote on Iran resolution. "Another rationale." We need someone with the credibility who didn't vote for this war in first place.

Edwards: "If you believe combat missions should continue, etc. Clinton is your candidate. I don't."
Sound bite for the morning -- or did I say that already? I worry that I'll hear "If only I knew then what I know now" again. We need to be in tell the truth mode not "general election mode."

HRC: rebuttal seems to be point by point, not visceral like the Edwards attack. "I don't know how to engage al Qaida without engaging them in combat." Edwardians call that "a royal screw up." HRC continues point by point.

First ad break. Hope the commentary from the peanut gallery isn't disruptive -- it's what's happening here. What's happening in the other camps? The Dodd Talk Clock reads Hillary 9:19, Edwards Obama tied at 5:37.

Edwardians watch the debate at the Fuller's in rural Hills.

Back on at 8:42. Electability! This oughta be fun, it goes to Hillary. Williams reiterates Rudy's attacks. "The kind of experience GOP candidates have is experience we don't need." Children, families, children... "in a perverse ways the GOP obsession with me says I'm communicating effectively." Edwards room erupts in shouts. "They want you, you can't win!"

To Hillary again: will Nat'l Archives release your records? HRC: "The archives is moving as rapidly as they do." Health care is already out. Russert pushes. HRC: "not my decision to make."

Obama: "this is an example of not turning the page." We need to be open to rebuild trust. That's part of the job of the next president. GOP is obsessed with Hillary because they're used to that fight, we need people to work together to solve problems not eight more years of bickering.

Edwards: "They may actually want to run against you so they keep bringing it up." Does the entrenched interests rap... "do you believe the candidate who's raised most money from lobbyists, defense
industries.. will she bring about the change? I believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy but not that." "If you like status quo Clinton's your candidate."

Yeah... I guess the gloves did come off.

"I'll be fine... will America be fine?"

Hillary: We made good progress in the 90s till "the supreme court handed presidency to Bush" (playing that card for the base) Hard to hear with the Edwardians hooting.

To Obama on experience. Obama says his experience is in bringing people together. The Edwardians grumble, but not as much as they do at Hillary.

Richardson: "I'm hearing holier than thou attitude" to Hillary, "Its getting close to personal attacks we don't need." Notes differences on issues, but "save the ammo for the Republicans." Keep it positive. And... the resume again.

Dodd: "We need a Democrat in the white house... and whether it's fair or not, 50% of public says they won't vote for her." They let Dodd do the heaviest lifting. Attacks Edwards for trial lawyer money, talks public finally. He sound a little... not desperate, but maybe frustrated. "Don't discount the importance of electability."

Edwards: "no one on this stage is pure, and that includes me." But I don't want to attack personally. "This is about whether we believe this system works." Power to the people not the rich and powerful (cue John Lennon...) "Can you look your children in the eye and say I'm turning this mess over to you."

Kucinich bashes Edwards on hedge funds. Touts single payer health care, and
canceling NAFTA.

Biden: "I'm not running against Hillary, I'm running to lead this country." Repeats his rap on Rudy G. about Rudy G. and describes his speeches as "a noun a verb and 9/11." Oh, and Richardson, "I was negotiating when you were still in congress, man." He's having fun.

Russert moves to Social Security. (Are all questions going to Hillary first?) "Why one public position and one private? HRC: I don't. Fiscal responsibility first, and I don't want to balance SS on "backs of seniors and middle class families" Edwards room wants to raise the cap. "Bush wanted to decimate the surplus to privatize SS," and even the Edwardians agree. "For us to act like SS is in crisis is a Republican trap."

Russert brings up a 1998 Bill Clinton quote. HRC: He moved us to a surplus. 'He believed in SS which Bush does not."

Obama: All us candidates are against privatization. But there is a long term problem: 78 million retiring boomers. One option is raising the cap. "We've got the facts on our side." Clinton has not been truthful about the actuarial gap.

HRC jumps in uninvited, which may have been a smart format break. "Best way to handle it is a bipartisan commission." Fiscal responsibility Fiscal responsibility Fiscal responsibility.

To Obama on Romney's Obama/Osama Tourette's. "I don't pay much attention to what Mitt says this week -- it may be different next week." Notes he is a bit... different for a presidential candidate. Says he's been through this before in Senate race. "respond forcefully and truthfully" to swiftboating.

Second ad break. People discuss the oddness of the name Mitt. Edwards staffer raps during the break: calls for letters to editor. Time clock: Hillary 14:58, Obama 12:49, Edwards 9:09. Damn near a three way debate with three candidates under five minutes and Bill barely above. Anyone miss Mike Gravel yet?

Back on, OH NOES! LIGHTNING ROUND! The bane of the liveblogger! Oil prices first to Dodd. Dodd: me and Dorgan have discussed consumer rebates. But that's short term.
Drops the url.

Biden: why do we keep the foreign policy that drives up prices?

Edwards: investigate oil companies. "Be patriotic about something other than war." Satellite glitch. "The aliens don't want Edwards to win," says one wag.

Hillary offers several points: weatherization, help to low income, efficiency, etc.

Obama: we need to lower the rhetoric to lower the risk cost. Car fuel standards, go to Detroit like I did.

Dennis K: The war is about oil and everyone knows it. And impeach now.

Richardson: 50 MPG fuel standard. More numbers faster than I can type. Doesn't even mention he was energy secretary.

Dodd: Corporate carbon tax. "Need to deal with price, frankly." Consumers can't afford the newer technologies without it. Namechecks Al Gore (must not be worried about Gore getting in).

To Edwards: should there be bottomless $ for rebuilding risky areas? Edwards: takes Southern California fires and turns it into a Katrina answer. "We need a surge in New Orleans not Baghdad." Russert repeats. Edwards: "Our country needs to be there for our people."

To Hillary on Bill's support of Rangel's tax plan and alternative minimum tax. "I don't know all the details of what Charlie's recommending but I agree with the goals." "We've not been asked to sacrifice anything," she says of the well off. "I never thought Bill and I would be in that category. We should be investing in" (a laundry list). The Edwardians grumble more the longer she talks. Definite dislike in this room...

The question of this debate: will Edward's attack earlier on stick tomorrow?

Obama: "There has to be a restoration of balance in the tax code." Restore some fairness.

Kucinich asked about hedge funds. (Throwing him a softball right up his alley) DK: People are asking what's the difference between the Dems and GOP, Democratic congress has let people down. Single payer gets some cheers. Kucinich says impeach again, everyone the room takes a drink.

Edwards: "this is an example of corruption in the system. hedge fund lobbyists killed it." "There's nothing wrong with the American people but their voice needs to be heard." (applause)

Lighting round again: Classroom days. Extend the year? Richardson: yes. Competitiveness gap. (They actually show a 30 second clock.) Bill goes over. Dennis: "peace protecting genius." Cut military 15%. Impeach now (just kidding) Obama: more classroom time, feds need to help local districts, more research grants. Clinton: help families (play to the base play to the base), pre-K... Edwards: two Americas. Biden:
minimum 16 year education (half his answer drowned out by Edwardians). Dodd; this is the single most important issue (everyone else said everything else).

I get a break before more lightning round.

A time clock check shows Biden dead last even behind Dennis. The top three are getting roughly double the time of the rest.

Back on at 9:45. Student question, how do we expect to get people to go into medicine? Dodd:
couldn't answer in 30 seconds. Biden: Help pay off education, get insurers off their backs. Edwards: get docs out of dealing with insurance every day. nursing nursing nursing says Mr. SEIU. Clinton: I agree with everybody, make
insurance actually cover people. Obama: Medicare Medicaid reimbursement, preventive care, overall college costs, nat'l service. Dennis: single payer. Richardson: 2 years of tuition for 1 year national service.

To Obama, is commercial aviation Aeroflot-bad? Obama: Blames deregulation, need connections in remote areas.

Drivers license for illegal aliens? Hillary: need to fill vacuum of Bush failure on comprehensive immigration reform. Only Dodd says an illegal immigrant should not get a license. "This is a privilege." But health care is OK. Dodd and Hillary go after each other. Dodd takes a stand, Hillary talks around the NY governor's stand without committing. Russert follows up with HRC; she doesn't answer.

To Edwards: gov't internet content guidelines? Edwards instead says "Clinton said two different things in the course of two minutes." Obama tries to get in on it too. "Leadership is not looking backwards and saying what's popular."

Dennis gets asked about seeing UFOs. He says he did. "I'm moving my campaign office to Roswell NM" and Jimmy Carter saw one too.

Obama says he doesn't know about life on other planets, but "there's life here on earth" and tries to bring the debate back down to earth.

Hillary and cancer research: "will do everything I can."

Decriminalizing marijuana: Edwards says no. "Sends wrong signal." Dodd: "We're locking up too many people." I didn't see who all raised hands.

To Biden, Chinese toys: "I'd shut down the imports." Gets applause in the room and at the debate.

Halloween costumes?!? Obama: "I'm thinking about wearing a Mitt mask, it has two sides." No one else has time for that one, ball game over!

The room is glad the students will be out of town for the caucuses: "throws Obama down the tubes." Someone dissents. Staffer thanks the room, candidate spouses work the stage. Room wonders where Elizabeth Edwards is, but Elizabeth Kucinich is sighted.

Room asks what letters to editor are needed: staff talks electability. "He puts southern swing states in play." Audience member: "he's not a black and not a woman and that helps in southern states." Staffer notes that Edwards has said he doesn't want that type of support. "He's the only one talking about the poor." Staffer notes no PAC $ and no lobbyist $, public financing. "Trial lawyers aren't an entity, they're individuals. Atticus Finch was a trial lawyer." And a fictional character, but we'll let that slide for now. Does Edwards fancy himself as Atticus Finch, I wonder?

Behind Chris Matthew's head, several Ron Paul signs. Some staffers in charge of sign war will be packing their desks tomorrow...

First post debate interview to... Richardson?

Final time clock shows two completely different debates: a three way frontrunner debate and a four way Other Guys debate.

Sound bite of the night is this Edwards sequence:

Edwards: "They may actually want to run against you so they keep bringing it up." Does the entrenched interests rap... "do you believe the candidate who's raised most money from lobbyists, defense industries.. will she bring about the change? I believe in Santa and the tooth fairy but not that." "If you like status quo Clinton's your candidate."

Dodd might get some play for actually citing Hillary's 50% unpopularity but it's less likely because he's Dodd. With that, we'll sign off.

Monday, October 29, 2007

No Baloney, 4 Candidates

No Baloney, 4 Candidates

Hayek, Wright, Smith and Vanderhoef in the PATV studios before the forum. Seated in order of finish in the primary -- by design? I thought I had a picture of moderator Gary Sanders but I lied. So here's a picture of Sanders with Bill Richardson.

I'm part of an all-press at the PATV studio in Iowa City for the Gary Sanders No Baloney candidate forum. With us are the four contenders for the two Iowa City at large council seats. Incumbent Dee Vanderhoef is coming off a fourth place primary finish. Progressive newcomer Mike Wright was in second, but may have been hurt by the 2900 on campus satellite votes last week that'll be overwhelmingly NO on the 21 bar ordinance that he and Vanderhoef endorse. Anti-21 groups Bloc21 and Student Health Initiative Taskforce were leafletting for the other two contenders, both newcomers. Matt Hayek was the overwhelming first choice in the primary, with double the support of anyone else. He's gotten endorsements from everyone on the Iowa City political spectrum from conservative ex-mayor Bill Ambrisco and uber-landlord Ed Barker to progressive supervisor Rod Sullivan and, well, crazy blogger John Deeth. The other contender with no on 21 support is third place primary finisher Terry Smith.

Will enough students vote on just the bar ordinance and skip the council races -- an often overheard though -- to give Wright a chance? We shall see in eight days. Will this forum persuade anyone? With thousand of votes in the bank, is there anyone left TO vote?

7:30 and Gary is introducing everyone. If you look up gadfly in the dictionary, you'll see a pic of Gary. He has an actual ring of baloney which will be used as a gavel if there is too much baloney from the candidates. Gary hopes for some hostile questions. "The show will end when I think it's boring."

We run a tape from the League of Women Voters forum which banned "hostile questions." Terry is quoted saying: there are substantial differences between me and Wright. Mike's supporters include "Karen Kubby and Brandon Ross, 'activists.' I'm more moderate. My supporters include Ernie Lehman and Terrence Neuzil." (note: In Iowa City-ese, "activist" is code for "lefty.")

Mike cops to being an "activist." But terry says he never was. Terr, what about Public Power? "I was doing my job, I believe it was right but it was part of my employment." Terry: "There's clear differences between Mike and myself."

Matt calls himself an activist but says it's a loaded, code term. Gary cuts to the chase "do we have left wing vs right wing?" Mike: "I think Terry meant it to mean left wing vs. moderate-conservative."

Gary moves to 21 bars. Notes the Mike Porter (Bloc 21) endorsement of Hayek and Smith. Matt: "I'm not in bed with any group." They got my signs from... someplace, we have 500 of them. We didn't think it was appropriate. We want to be completely independent of the referendum, they took the sign off the car. Terry: Matt filled me in on it and my sign came down too. Matt: I don't represent any bar owners in my law practice... my firm might represent one or two. If there were any perceived conflicts I'd check with city attorney.

Gary asks Matt about the ordinance itself. Matt: you can enforce law through liquor license review. Gary: Why did this have to go to a petition? Dee: 21 has been in from of the council for years. "It is impossible to make charges against the bar itself unless the owner is actually doing the serving." Gary: A few years ago at the last minute the council chickened out on 21, what happened? Dee: Ex-councilor Steven Kanner changed his vote and wanted to negotiate something else -- I don't even remember what -- and broke the deal. Gary: "Kanner screwed up."

Smith: "We have laws on the books." Gary: "Why aren't they working?" Smith: enforcement may be easier downtown, but it'll push parties outside of downtown. Dee disagrees: "There's a lot of house parties right before they go downtown. They choose to go to parties, get well on their way, then they go downtown." And then they go to parties again afterwards. Smith: "I'm opposed because we treat 18 year old students as adults." Smith's 20 year old son is shipping out to Iraq next month, and the 21 ordinance is a denial of adult rights. Drinking downtown is a problem, but I don't think denying rights is a solution.

Wright: "Are their rights being denied because the age is 21?" or because of being denied admission. "Part of the solution is we need to find a non-alcoholic venue for students." Dee: "How can a non-alcoholic venue succeed without the (21 bar) law? They cannot compete, the business plan does not work in competition with an alcohol venue."

Gary: If 19 and 20 year olds in a bar worked, wouldn't other cities copy us? Matt: Big 10 towns are split, Ames is doing it but has other issues. Some problems are unique to cities and geography (where students live). Gary: this is a failure on the part of the city. Dee: "I agree, and we've had a split council every single group. I personally support the ordinance but it's time for the citizens to speak."

Gary: could the city council revisit this? (He gets a fact wrong: an amendment that's gone to the voters can't be considered for two years by the voters.) Gary asks about admitting under-21 with a military ID. Terry: "Since these people are already breaking the law, is it really going to be effective to put one more law on the books?" Mike: Chief of police says he'd rather check out house parties than bars. Dee says it's about "problem residents."

Gary: "Regenia Bailey says old people shouldn't be making laws about young people's fun." He's amused. Smith: base law on majority, and old people don't necessarily support the ordinance. Everybody agrees it's a problem, disagree on solution.

Gary: if students carry this, what will they demand next? Hayek: "elimination of grades? Seriously, this is a difficult issue with good intentions on both sides." Gary attacks faculty senate for not taking a stand. Hayek: "This'll let us put this one subset of the issue to rest," and look at the rest of the problem. Matt: we'd all favor ramping up enforcement. Gary: Is there $ for more cops? Dee: No. Matt: stiffer penalties, some of which is local.

Gary: nobody's had more than a slap on the wrist on this. I came close on the baloney a couple times.

Moving on to TIFs. Dee, do you support the TIF for Mercy? Dee: still looking at details. Terry: this project is a new trend and will come to IC whether it's TIFed or not -- so we don't need to TIF. Mike more or less agrees. Matt: a prudent and cautious answer, I'd use a similar test.

Hieronymous project? Matt: That's a good example of a decent TIF, nothing was happening on that property. Dee: I voted for that, the developers could have done a smaller project w/o a TIF, but could maximize with a TIF. Mike: It had some issues, has been sitting for years. I probably would not have supported. Do we need another downtown luxury hotel? Dee: what's luxury about it? I did not vote to support The Towers, it was supposed to have a hotel. I feared the hotel rooms would be made into condos and the conference space into offices.

Gary: why DO we give property tax breaks to people who can't make the deal with private funding? Dee: Hieronymous will bring spouses of convention goers to shop downtown. Smith: In year one of Hieronymous, the city gains tax $ even with the TIF. This is a mix of housing and not just what the market wants (which is student housing student housing and student housing). He likes the square in the middle too. Where's the downside? Mike: something was going to get built anyway. Whatever happened to venture capitalism? TIFs slow real economic growth. Citys without TIFs invest more in the community. Hayek: TIFs are one of a number of economic tools. So is infrastructure, and arts and culture. Iowa City needs to pursue economic development more aggressively, and we have slow, steady, barely with inflation growth. We need to grow long term. Gary: "I was going to vote for you until you used 'incen' as a verb."

Gary: "Dee, I don't see any of your council colleagues with your signs." Dee; Connie Champion does. Gary: "have you alienated anyone like Steve Kanner?" Dee: not that I know of. Gary: you seem to have less support. Dee: If I hear anything, it's that's you've had 12 years and it's time to turn it over.

Gary: "A number of Midamerican employees running for councils in Eastern Iowa. What's happening here?" Smith: "There's two including myself. That's not uncommon at all. Midamerican has always encouraged employees to be active in the community, and utilities work closely with city govt." Gary: is this the fox guarding the henhouse? Matt: you do what's right and check with city attorney (he sounds OK with it.) Wright: "I won't have too many conflicts from my employment side." As for Terry, "I'd be fine with Terry if we hadn't just put the (Midamerican) franchise agreement out there." Hayek: discusses a conflict case he worked with as an attorney. Wright: "It looks funny, that's the best I can say."

Gary throws it open. Matt asks: "How do we pay for what we've talked about?" He sees three options: "Make cuts in other areas." Dee: "or reallocating staff." Matt "second option is some sort of tax increase, and one option is local option sales tax which has been voted down twice." Smith: or the new emergency dispatch levy. Dee: Almost a shell game unless we explain it carefully. Smith: The city has $50 million general fund but $167 million total.

Gary: why is this stuff so boring? Smith: "until a few years ago I didn't follow local elections so closely." Gary says people understand Iraq or global warming, but not the city budget. Wright: "this is the stuff that affects my daily life." Hayek: with the exception of students, Iowa City has a very engaged local electorate. "We're a society that watches television and increasingly lives on cul de sac and backyard focused homes, increasingly less engaged in the public sphere."

Gary tongue in cheek (?) so should students vote? Hayek: "you can't fault the system when people vote." He gives me a shout out and calls it a night?

Candidates exchange notes about dealing with colds eight days before election.

Gary says the local press is not engaged in the horse race aspects of local politics, and Hayek adds the lack of institutional memory in local press.

Tancredo: Up Or Out

Tancredo: Up Or Out

It’s the White House or bust for Rep. Tom Tancredo, the long-shot Republican presidential candidate who has decided to forgo a bid for re-election next year in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District.

Tancredo, who has represented the Republican-leaning district in fast-growing suburbs west and south of Denver since 1999, had previously stated that he would reveal his intentions about the 2008 House race after baseball’s World Series, in which Denver’s Colorado Rockies participated as the National League champions. Tancredo announced his House retirement shortly after the American League champion Boston Red Sox completed a four-game sweep of the Rockies late Sunday.

Speaking of which, just ran into Iowa City's number one fan of both John Edwards and the Boston Red Sox, Tom Carsner, and he's still beaming, perhaps humming "We Are The Champions" under his breath... but interrupting his celebration just long enough to keep twisting my arm for the man from North Carolina.

Council Liveblog and Drinking Age Poll

Council Liveblog and Drinking Age Poll

Blogging Gary Sanders' No Baloney candidate forum tonight at his invitation. Not sure if I can get a question in, but here's what I'd like to ask:
Let's say you're a state legislator, and the federal highway money issue has vanished. What should the legal drinking age be?

Let's see what You The Reader says.

What should the legal drinking age be?
Under 18 - Euro-style
18 - old enough to get killed in Iraq, old enough for a beer
19 - to keep it out of high school
21 - the MADD status quo works
Five years younger that I am
No drinking age - let people figure it out
Same goes for weed dude
No drinking - back to Prohibition
Ron Paul
Free polls from

As for my last poll, Should I push recycling vs. Walmart, my new bride is doing very well on both fronts (I promised her I'd update the readers), though the Walmart thing is harder as the five year old thinks of Wallyworld as Toy Heaven and doesn't yet get the concept of a boycott.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Comet Alert

Comet Holmes Alert

UPDATE 8:30 pm: Found it, both naked eye and scope, even in my well-lit neighborhood. Bonus: got to show the boys too. Perfect night: go out and look.

We missed the really big one last year because it was in the southern hemisphere, but Comet Holmes is circumpolar in the north and naked-eye visible. It got brighter really, really fast and you never know with comets. Still, it's not going to be an across the sky spectacular like Hyakutake in 1996 or Hale-Bopp in `97, two once in a lifetime comets in back to back years. Because of the angle we're seeing Holmes head-on, like looking down the barrel of a gun, so we can't see the length of the tail.

Clear skies willing, check it out. Should be bright enough that the near-full moon won't inrterfere.

Democrats Settle In For Jan. 3

Democrats Settle In For Jan. 3

Now that Iowa Democrats are preparing to officially join the Republicans and set Jan. 3 as caucus night, the only question mark left in the convoluted and contested calendar is the continuing game of brinksmanship between New Hampshire and Michigan.

It's still widely assumed that New Hampshire will vote on Jan.8, leaving a five-day gap after Iowa. That's less than the eight days the two states have agreed upon since 1984. But it may still give Iowa the same importance as it's had in recent years. "Given the 'speeding up' of news cycles in the last four years, five days could be 2004's 8 days in terms of impact," University of Iowa political science professor David Redlawsk told Iowa Independent. "And 8 days was enough for John Kerry to ride the wave."

But New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner still hasn't set the Granite State date, and Michigan made noise last week about setting a Democratic caucus on whatever day the New Hampshire primary is scheduled. The threat seems less an effort to increase Michigan's influence, and more an attempt to push New Hampshire (and, by extension, Iowa) off the table.

So what happens if, in a worst case scenario, New Hampshire and Michigan move to December and Iowa isn't first? "It doesn't matter if New Hampshire and/or Michigan move into December," said Redlawsk. "There would be a couple weeks after them to focus back on Iowa. And given the investments in this state, I don't see candidates suddenly pulling out of here no matter what New Hampshire and/or Michigan do."

Meanwhile, the top Democrats in two other early states are telling Gardner to get a move on. "It is time for the nominating process to be settled," wrote Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Rep. James Clyburn, the top elected Democrat in South Carolina, in a Friday letter. Reid and Gardner also took a shot at the leapfrog states:
If Florida, Michigan or any other state wanted to be a part of the “pre-window,” its opportunity to say so was last year, when the decisions were being made.

Florida and Michigan are important states in the general election, with issues that are unique and imperative to be addressed, but by unilaterally setting their dates in the “pre-window,” they are flouting the rules set up by the entire Democratic National Committee.

The uncertainty still evident in the nominating process makes clear that we need to have more discussion about how to ensure that more Democrats have a say in picking our eventual nominee.

However, the unilateral approach being taken by states to bypass the rules and stall finalizing the calendar is the type of intransigence that only hardens feelings from other states.

Back home in Iowa, campaigns are settling in for Jan. 3. In Johnson County, turnout may be dramatically affected. The original Jan. 14 date fell near the end of the University of Iowa's break, but Jan. 3 is right in the middle.

"Having the caucus date on break in the first place made it a great challenge to reach out to students in order to get them to caucus," said Atul Nakhasi, head of the University of Iowa Democrats.. "With the move to even deeper within the break, the challenge will be a bit greater even more so now."

"We hope to have an immense caucus educational/awareness push in the month of December that hopefully will give students motivation and momentum they can carry over break until Jan. 3rd," said Nakhasi. "And I know campaigns are orchestrating their own efforts geared towards getting students out on Jan. 3rd as well."

The Obama campaign has a program of "Hometown Caucus Captains" for students who'll be in their Iowa home towns on caucus night. "This program is so students will know their caucus location in their home town," said Emily Jakobsen of Students for Obama. "This has been going on even before the caucus moved up."

Nakhasi said the University Democrats are also encouraging in-state students to caucus back home if it is most convenient and simple for them to do so. "Out-of-state students are highly encouraged to contact the various campaigns in Iowa City to arrange for their transportation and housing over break back in Iowa to participate in the process as well," he added.

At Bleeding Heartland, desmoinesdem speculates that football may play a role in the outcome: "Hillary could benefit if more men than women stay home to watch the college football championship game." But two months out, nothing is easy to predict (other than that Iowa's teams won't be in the big football game, despite Iowa's big overtime win against Michigan State -- take that, leapfroggers!).

"At this time in 2004, it would have been two tickets out," said Redlawsk, "and Dean and Gephardt would have them."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Meanwhile, In The Leapfrog States

Meanwhile, In The Leapfrog States

While Iowa Democrats gear up after yesterday's long-awaited announcement that Jan. 3 is Caucus Night, the calender-violating states are facing a couple problems.

  • Ballot Access News reports that Michigan's Jan. 15 primary is under legal challenge from, of all people, journalists. Michigan does not have party registration. Each party gets list of people who voted in its primary, but the public doesn't, and the plaintiffs want the whole primary law declared unconstitutional.

  • Florida Democrats head to Orlando for their convention this weekend, but the Big Six are nowhere to be seen. Instead, Floridians will get... Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel. The man from Alaska has now been deemed so fringe that he's been uninvited from the next debate.
  • Thursday, October 25, 2007

    Newsbabe Cuts Off Ron Paul

    Will Ron Paul Bolt GOP?

    We're not going to know, because just when Paul starts to finally hint at it... MSNBC newsbabe Norah O'Donnell cuts him off. Political Insider has it:
    Rep. Ron Paul was asked if he would run for president as a third-party candidate. Paul replied, "No, I don't plan to run in a third party. That's not my goal. But if we have a candidate that loves the war and loves the neocon position of promoting--" Interviewer Norah O'Donnell cut Paul off at that point, and did not return to the topic during the rest of the interview.

    Robot's Last Appearance

    Robot's Last Appearance

    If You Don't Register By 5:00 Friday YOU CAN'T VOTE November 6

    Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!

    With same day registration starting Jan. 1, tomorrow is (barring some small special election) the last voter registration deadline ever in Iowa. So Robot will bid a fond farewell.

    Of course, at the pace students are voting, they may be no one left to register...

    Wednesday, October 24, 2007

    The Yankee Flipper

    The Yankee Flipper

    I'm behind the curve here but I just have to stop and give ROO-DY! the Bronx cheer. As I noted, a real fan stands by the team, even in the heart of enemy territory.

    One of the few things that seemed genuine about Giuliani was his rooting for the Yankees -- heck, he spent more time at Yankee Stadium than at Ground Zero -- but with the New Hampshire primary sometime next week, he's changed his pinstripes.

    The excuse? "I'm an American League fan, and I go with the American League team." By that logic, I would have been cheering for the Bears last February, but my statement is on the record.

    Youse gotta problem wid dat? Dese Noo Yawkers do, so dey gets da last woid:
    "Any Yankee worth his salt cannot root for the Red Sox under any circumstance at all. Period. End of story," said Ken Schlesinger, 44, a lawyer from the Upper East Side.

    Armando Quintero called Giuliani a "fake fan" for backing Boston. "He needs a true Yankee fan to talk to him, put him in his place, let him know what a real Yankee fan is all about," said the 39-year-old dry cleaner from Queens.

    "I question his Yankee credentials. If you're a big Yankee fan, you have to hate the Red Sox," said Guy Molinari, New York co-chair of the Giuliani campaign.

    Carl Levin Drops All Pretense

    Caucus Leapfrog: Carl Levin Drops All Pretense

    From The Politico, Carl Levin wants Michigan to move to... whenever they have to to burn New Hampshire.
    Sen. Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, threatened Wednesday to hold Michigan's presidential nominating contest on the same day as the New Hampshire primary in order to end New Hampshire's "cockamamie" first-in-the nation role.

    "No state should have that dominant a role," Levin said at a breakfast with reporters. "New Hampshire has a hammerlock, folks."

    Levin admitted that New Hampshire might be able to beat Michigan to the punch, but said one of his purposes was to register his "disgust" with New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation status.

    The move would mean a switch from a primary to a caucus for Michigan Democrats.

    Bill Gardner, New Hampshire's secretary of state (official state motto: "Vote First Or Die"), countered quickly: "We could have a primary in early December if need be."

    Loebsack Visits Iraq: Troops Doing Great Job, But Overextended

    Loebsack Visits Iraq: Troops Doing Great Job, But Overextended

    This past weekend, freshman Iowa Congressman Dave Loebsack took his second trip to Iraq since his election last year. Speaking with Iowa Independent from his Washington office Tuesday, the Mount Vernon Democrat said, while the troops are doing a great job, they are overextended and need to come home as soon as possible, with withdrawal complete within a year.

    Loebsack, who serves on the Armed Services Committee, led a four member delegation that visited Baghdad, Ramadi and Balad in Iraq, Kuwait and the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. His traveling partners were fellow freshman Democrat John Hall of New York (best known as former front man for the rock band Orleans) and Republicans Tom Cole of Oklahoma (who heads the GOP congressional campaign committee) and Ric Keller of Florida.

    My conversation with Loebsack:

    Deeth: How thin are we stretched over there?

    Loebsack: That is part of the problem, isn’t it? We have about 160, 170,000 troops there. What’s happened, as you know, is our involvement in Iraq has really made us less safe at home, it’s made us less able to respond to threats that may arise in other parts of the world, and obviously with the National Guard, the 833rd out of Ottumwa, what’s happened is the war in Iraq means we’ve got a shortage of equipment, in Iowa we’re probably at 38-40% of capacity, and it makes us less capable of responding to natural disasters should they occur in Iowa. And those troops that are there, they have a very short amount of time btw deployments, about 14 months is all. And now they’re redeployed and it’s been very difficult for them.

    Deeth: fatigue issues and back home issues.

    Loebsack. Yeah. They’re overstretched, there’s no doubt about it, and some of them made that very clear.

    Deeth: Do you really get a lot of chance to talk to rank and file troops on a trip like this?

    Loebsack: As a matter of fact I do. I had lunch with some of these folks. One of them was Gabe Whitaker, (State Rep.) John Whitaker’s son, and I’ve known Gabe for some time. Not only that, but at the Embassy, and even out at Ramadi, I got to meet a number of troops out there from Iowa, and it could be because I was the leader of the congressional delegation that a number of them just happened to turn up, I don’t know that for a fact but something along those lines. It was great seeing some folks from Iowa City, from Sioux City. And I got to talk to people about the logistics issues, when we actually make the decision to disengage, how long will it take. As you know, John, all along I’ve been in favor of beginning the disengagement immediately. Not getting everybody out immediately, but beginning the disengagement immediately with the goal of getting out over the course of the next 12 months. That might be difficult, because we’ve got to do this safely and responsibly.

    Deeth: So what’s the holdup? Is it really the logistics, the domestic politics here, Iraqi readiness?

    Loebsack: The fact of the matter is the troops are doing a fantastic job in Iraq for the United States. But it‘s the Iraqi politicians who are not really stepping up to the plate to the extent which they need to be. That’s the key to this, the Iraqis stepping up to the plate and engaging the political reconciliation in a productive way. Obviously I’m not seeing that to the extent which we need to do it. And it’s making us less safe at home and it’s making us overstretched, obviously, around the world. And my position remains the same. We need to begin disengagement immediately; the goal has to be to get us out over the course of the next 12 months.

    Deeth: How are the troops and the commanders reacting toward the increasingly bellicose rhetoric about Iran, about bringing something else into all this?

    Loebsack: You know what, we didn’t talk about those issues when I talked to the troops and the commanders. Although, it did come up with General Petraeus, and of course he is concerned about Iranian influence in Iraq. But we talked about home issues with the troops, we talked about their mission and that sort of thing, we didn’t talk about Iran.

    Deeth: They were focused on the task at hand.

    Loebsack: That’s exactly right.

    Deeth: Now, what are the troops saying or thinking about the “support the troops” rhetoric or how the anti-war movement is going back here?

    Loebsack: They’re not talking about any of that. They’ve got a mission to do and I think it’s really hard for us, unless we’re there, what they go through every day. They go out on patrols, the 833rd is an engineering group and they go out and deal with IEDs. You know, this is what they’re concerned about.

    I brought care packages and letters from students, calling cards so they can call home from people in the district, and we talked about that, they were just really happy to get those gifts.

    Deeth: Good. Now, is there really any chance politically that we’re going to start coming home before January 20th of `09?

    Loebsack: I can’t say, John. All I can say is I’m going to continue to push as hard as I can to make sure that happens. That’s my job here, that’s what the people of America want us to do. Definitely that’s what the vast majority of the people of the 2nd District want me to do. And I’m going to continue to do that to the best of my ability.

    Deeth: You stopped at the hospital (Landstuhl Regional Medical Center) in Germany, was that on the way our or the way back?

    Loebsack: On the way out. That was a big part of what I was doing, too, looking at the medical system. In Balad, that’s where it all begins. It begins on the battlefield, obviously, when a troop is injured. Then they bring him or her via medevac helicopter. And we went to the helicopter pad at Balad, went through the ER, and went through all the stages of their care. Sometimes they go right back to their units. Others then if they need help and they need it quickly, they go on to Landstuhl, which is right near the Rammstein Air Base. And I got to visit that hospital and they’re there for not very long, actually. The success rate is fantastic. And they’re then either sent back to Iraq, or they’re sent on to Walter Reed or Bethesda, somewhere here in the United States. And the whole point is to provide the critical health care that is necessary for the long-term recovery of these folks.

    One other thing I should mention. I found out, and I didn’t realize this before I left, that everyone who leaves Iraq, whether they’ve been subject to an IED explosion or not, is screened for traumatic brain injury (TBI). This is really fantastic, because we’re seeing so many people who don’t show the effects of that there in Iraq, even those who are in explosions and they get rattled around in a Humvee or an MRAP or something. On the surface, it looks like they’re doing fine, but then they come back here and they have a lot of problems and they have TBIs. And that’s connected also to the posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that is manifested oftentimes much later down the line. And we’re going to be seeing a lot more of that as you might imagine.

    Deeth: A lot of long-term implications for that.

    Loebsack: Also we’re seeing some Vietnam veterans who are manifesting PTSD because they are watching on the news or they’re talking to or seeing Iraq war vets having the same problems. So it’s amazing what’s happening. And we’re doing everything we can obviously to treat them. On the Armed Services Committee my goal in terms of oversight is to make sure we’re doing the best we can for these folks. I’m a cosponsor of a number of bills that continue this screening for TBI and PTSD once the troops get home.

    Dumbledore, Tinky Winky, and Missing The Point

    Dumbledore, Tinky Winky, and Missing The Point

    Predictable backlash to the posthumous outing of one Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore:

    Psycheout at Blogs 4 Brownback called it “revolting,” saying “Dumbledore is a gay homosexual who doesn’t deserve to live on G-d’s green earth.”

    Well, uh, he doesn't. Ever notice how the Harry Potter books are in the fiction section?

    Don Surber wondered why the audience would “applaud” the revelation and suggested that Rowling was “knock[ing] the Christians” to “sell books.”

    What does Rowling have to do to get the Christian analogy through your head, Don? Wasn't the whole death and resurrection thing enough, or does Harry have to actually get nailed to a cross for you to get it?

    Meanwhile, from the other angle, John Cloud at Time wishes Dumbledore had outed himself, or at least that Rowling had tried to put the tolerance lesson directly in the texts instead of as a spoken afterthought:
    In a typical passage, the briefly mentioned Blaise Zabini is described as "a tall black boy with high cheekbones and long, slanting eyes." Would it have been so difficult to write in a line in which Zabini takes the exquisitely named Justin Finch-Fletchley to the Yule Ball?

    Yes, duuuuh, it would have, because Zabini is a Slytherin and Justin Finch-Fletchley is Muggle-born. Or am I too into this? (I'm still wondering whether Harry and Ginny wind up living at 12 Grimmauld Place...)

    Tuesday, October 23, 2007

    Beam Me Up Dennis

    Beam Me Up Dennis

    Did Dennis Kucinich see a UFO? That's what Shirley MacLaine says:
    Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich has claimed to have seen a UFO, according to Shirley MacLaine in her new book, "Sage-Ing While Age-Ing."

    Kucinich "had a close sighting over my home in Graham, Washington, when I lived there," the actress, a close Kucinich friend, wrote. "Dennis found his encounter extremely moving. The smell of roses drew him out to my balcony where, when he looked up, he saw a gigantic triangular craft, silent, and observing him.

    "It hovered, soundless, for 10 minutes or so, and sped away with a speed he couldn't comprehend. He said he felt a connection in his heart and heard directions in his mind."

    Kucinich's campaign and congressional representatives did not return calls and e-mail asking whether the Cleveland Democrat, now in his sixth congressional term, in fact saw a UFO or if there was some other explanation for MacLaine's recollection.

    Of course, this IS Shirley MacLaine we're talking about here. Notoriously wacky... but quite the looker back in the day.

    Meanwhile, Rosemary Palmer, one of Kucinich's primary challengers back home in Cleveland, says: "We might have a couple extraterrestrials on the staff. No, just kidding. No encounters." (An excuse for the periodic Seti@home alien detector link.)

    Monday, October 22, 2007

    Caucus Leapfrog: Republicans Impose Delegate Penalties

    Caucus Leapfrog: Republicans Impose Delegate Penalties

    In a long-expected move, the Executive Committee of the Republican Committee voted Monday to strip half the delegates from five states that moved their primaries up beyond a start date of Feb. 5.

    But even though the Iowa GOP jumped from Jan. 14 to Jan. 3, they won't be penalized, because the presidential vote at the Iowa Republican caucus is non-binding, the AP reports.

    Iowa Republican caucus goers vote at a "straw poll" and then later in the evening select the county convention delegates who ultimately choose state and national delegates.  The results of the delegate vote are not connected to the votes in the presidential straw poll.

    The RNC voted to sanction New Hampshire -- even though the state hasn't yest set any primary date.  The other penalized states are Florida, South Carolina, Michigan and Wyoming.  Nevada, which votes early but with similar rules to Iowa, was not penalized.

    The GOP has no equivalent to the Democrat's official four early states -- Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina -- allowed to go before Feb. 5 without penalty.

    But it also has nothing like the early state pledge signed by the top six Democrats, who vowed not to campaign in leapfrogging Florida and Michigan, and the Republican 50 percent of delegates penalty is more lenient than the Democrat's 100 percent. Republicans are spending plenty of time in the two states, and have debated in both recently.

    In a move reminiscent of Florida's Democrats suing Democrats case, the South Carolina GOP chair said he will consider legal action if the state is penalized delegates.

    But other states seem content with the attention from candidates and delegate penalties which may never be enforced.  Florida GOP chair Jim Greer issued this statement:
    "While we disagree with the Republican National Committee's recommendation to sanction the State of Florida, at the end of the day this is a disagreement among friends and we recognize that we are all working towards a common goal -- re-electing a Republican President in 2008. With that in mind, we are confident that Florida will retain our full delegation to the Convention and all 114 delegates will be seated."

    The proposed penalties go before the full national committee next month.

    Sunday, October 21, 2007

    Endorsement Update: Brownback Departure Leaves Two Legislators Up For Grabs

    Endorsement Update: Brownback Departure Leaves Two Legislators Up For Grabs

    Sam Brownback's departure from the presidential race Friday places two Republican state Senators up for grabs in the legislative endorsement sweepstakes.  Brownback had support from Senators Mark Zieman and Nancy Boettger.

    Other than that departure, the only activity on the Republican endorsement from is from retiring state Rep. Sandy Greiner of Washington County, who endorsed Fred Thompson at his Coralville rally Oct. 3.

    The Republican score, now with stacks of little elephants:

    Uncommitted (so far)34277

    To help you keep score at home:

    NameDistrictHome CountyEndorsement
    Sen. Mark ZiemanSenate District 8AllamakeeBrownback
    Sen. Nancy J. BoettgerSenate District 29ShelbyBrownback
    Sen. E. Thurman GaskillSenate District 6HancockGiuliani
    Sen. Mary LundbySenate District 18LinnGiuliani
    Sen. Jeff AngeloSenate District 48UnionGiuliani
    Sen. David HartsuchSenate District 41ScottHuckabee
    Rep. Dwayne AlonsHouse District 4SiouxHuckabee
    Rep. Carmine BoalHouse District 70PolkHuckabee
    Sen. John PutneySenate District 20TamaMcCain
    Sen. Larry McKibbenSenate District 22MarshallMcCain
    Sen. Pat WardSenate District 30PolkMcCain
    Rep. Mike MayHouse District 6DickinsonMcCain
    Rep. Bill SchickelHouse District 13Cerro GordoMcCain
    Rep. Steven LukanHouse District 32DubuqueMcCain
    Rep. Rod RobertsHouse District 51CarrollMcCain
    Rep. Walt TomengaHouse District 69PolkMcCain
    Sen. Dave MulderSenate District 2SiouxRomney
    Sen. David JohnsonSenate District 3OsceolaRomney
    Sen. Brad ZaunSenate District 32PolkRomney
    Sen. James F. HahnSenate District 40MuscatineRomney
    Rep. Dave DeyoeHouse District 10StoryRomney
    Rep. Tami WiencekHouse District 21Black HawkRomney
    Rep. Chuck SoderbergHouse District 3PlymouthRomney
    Rep. Ralph WattsHouse District 47DallasRomney
    Rep. Dave TjepkesHouse District 50WebsterRomney
    Rep. Christopher RantsHouse District 54WoodburyRomney
    Rep. Jodi TymesonHouse District 73MadisonRomney
    Rep. Linda MillerHouse District 82ScottRomney
    Rep. Steven OlsonHouse District 83ClintonRomney
    Rep. Rich AndersonHouse District 97PageRomney
    Rep. Greg ForristallHouse District 98PottawattamieRomney
    Rep. Doug StruykHouse District 99PottawattamieRomney
    Rep. Sandy GreinerHouse District 89WashingtonThompson
    Sen. Jerry BehnSenate District 24Boone 
    Sen. Steve KetteringSenate District 26Sac 
    Sen. Ron WieckSenate District 27Woodbury 
    Sen. James A. SeymourSenate District 28Harrison 
    Sen. Larry NobleSenate District 35Polk 
    Sen. Paul McKinleySenate District 36Lucas 
    Sen. Hubert HouserSenate District 49Pottawattamie 
    Rep. Royd ChambersHouse District 5O'Brien 
    Rep. Henry RayhonsHouse District 11Hancock 
    Rep. Linda UpmeyerHouse District 12Hancock 
    Rep. Chuck GippHouse District 16Winneshiek 
    Rep. Pat GrassleyHouse District 17Butler 
    Rep. Dan RasmussenHouse District 23Buchanan 
    Rep. Kraig PaulsenHouse District 35Linn 
    Rep. Dawn PettengillHouse District 39Benton 
    Rep. Lance HorbachHouse District 40Tama 
    Rep. Polly GranzowHouse District 44Hardin 
    Rep. Gary WorthanHouse District 52Buena Vista 
    Rep. Dan HusemanHouse District 53Cherokee 
    Rep. Clarence HoffmanHouse District 55Crawford 
    Rep. Matt WindschitlHouse District 56Harrison 
    Rep. Jack DrakeHouse District 57Pottawattamie 
    Rep. Clel BaudlerHouse District 58Adair 
    Rep. Dan CluteHouse District 59Polk 
    Rep. Libby JacobsHouse District 60Polk 
    Rep. J. Scott RaeckerHouse District 63Polk 
    Rep. Jim Van EngelenhovenHouse District 71Marion 
    Rep. Rich ArnoldHouse District 72Lucas 
    Rep. Betty De BoefHouse District 76Keokuk 
    Rep. Jeff KaufmannHouse District 79Cedar 
    Rep. Jamie Van FossenHouse District 81Scott 
    Rep. Tom SandsHouse District 87Louisa 
    Rep. Dave HeatonHouse District 91Henry 
    Rep. Cecil DolecheckHouse District 96Ringgold 

    There's been more activity on the Democratic side, as several legislators have endorsed recently.  Barack Obama is only one legislator behind Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden continues to lead on the House side.



    NameDistrictHome CountyEndorsement2004 Endorsement
    Sen. Dr. Joe M. SengSenate District 43ScottBidennone
    Rep. McKinley BaileyHouse District 9HamiltonBidennew
    Rep. Doris KelleyHouse District 20Black HawkBidennew
    Rep. Roger ThomasHouse District 24ClaytonBidenKerry
    Rep. Polly BuktaHouse District 26ClintonBidenDean
    Rep. Dick TaylorHouse District 33LinnBidenKerry
    Rep. Lisa HeddensHouse District 46StoryBidenKerry
    Rep. Kevin McCarthyHouse District 67PolkBidenLieberman
    Rep. Jim LykamHouse District 85ScottBidennone
    Rep. John WhitakerHouse District 90Van BurenBidenGephardt
    Rep. Mike ReasonerHouse District 95UnionBidenLieberman
    Sen. William A. Dotzler, Jr.Senate District 11Black HawkClintonGephardt
    Sen. Roger StewartSenate District 13JacksonClintonKerry
    Sen. Michael ConnollySenate District 14DubuqueClintonKerry
    Sen. Wally E. HornSenate District 17LinnClintonnone
    Sen. Dennis H. BlackSenate District 21JasperClintonKerry
    Sen. Dick L. DeardenSenate District 34PolkClintonGephardt
    Sen. Staci AppelSenate District 37WarrenClintonnew
    Sen. Becky SchmitzSenate District 45JeffersonClintonnew
    Sen. Gene FraiseSenate District 46LeeClintonnone
    Rep. Roger WendtHouse District 2WoodburyClintonKerry
    Rep. Mark KuhnHouse District 14FloydClintonGephardt
    Rep. Swati DandekarHouse District 36LinnClintonKerry
    Rep. Paul BellHouse District 41JasperClintonKerry
    Rep. Mary MascherHouse District 77JohnsonClintonKerry
    Rep. Vicki LensingHouse District 78JohnsonClintonnone
    Rep. Cindy WincklerHouse District 86ScottClintonDean
    Sen. Jeff DanielsonSenate District 10Black HawkDoddnew
    Sen. Tom HancockSenate District 16DubuqueDoddnew
    Rep. Ray ZirkelbachHouse District 31JonesDoddnew
    Sen. Daryl BeallSenate District 25WebsterEdwardsDean
    Sen. Keith A. KreimanSenate District 47DavisEdwardsEdwards
    Rep. Wes WhiteadHouse District 1WoodburyEdwardsGephardt
    Rep. Andrew WentheHouse District 18FayetteEdwardsnew
    Rep. Ro FoegeHouse District 29LinnEdwardsEdwards
    Rep. Art StaedHouse District 37LinnEdwardsnew
    Rep. Geri HuserHouse District 42PolkEdwardsEdwards
    Rep. Nathan ReichertHouse District 80MuscatineEdwardsnew
    Rep. Kurt SwaimHouse District 94DavisEdwardsEdwards
    Sen. Steve WarnstadtSenate District 1WoodburyObamaKerry
    Sen. Rich OliveSenate District 5StoryObamanew
    Sen. Bill HeckrothSenate District 9BremerObamanew
    Sen. Robert E. DvorskySenate District 15JohnsonObamaGephardt
    Sen. Tom RiellySenate District 38MahaskaObamanew
    Sen. Frank WoodSenate District 42ScottObamanew
    Rep. Pam JochumHouse District 27DubuqueObamaKerry
    Rep. David JacobyHouse District 30JohnsonObamaKerry
    Rep. Tyler OlsonHouse District 38LinnObamanew
    Rep. Mark SmithHouse District 43MarshallObamaKerry
    Rep. Donovan OlsonHouse District 48BooneObamaKerry
    Rep. Helen MillerHouse District 49WebsterObamaGephardt
    Rep. Janet PetersenHouse District 64PolkObamaKerry
    Rep. Ako Abdul-SamadHouse District 66PolkObamanew
    Rep. Elesha GaymanHouse District 84ScottObamanew
    Sen. John P. "Jack" KibbieSenate District 4Palo Alto Kerry
    Sen. Amanda RaganSenate District 7Cerro Gordo none
    Sen. Brian SchoenjahnSenate District 12Fayette new
    Sen. Rob HoggSenate District 19Linn none
    Sen. Herman C. QuirmbachSenate District 23Story none
    Sen. Matt McCoySenate District 31Polk Kerry
    Sen. Jack HatchSenate District 33Polk Kerry
    Sen. Joe BolkcomSenate District 39Johnson Dean
    Sen. Thomas G. CourtneySenate District 44Des Moines Gephardt
    Sen. Michael E. GronstalSenate District 50Pottawattamie none
    Rep. Marcella FrevertHouse District 7Palo Alto Dean
    Rep. Dolores MertzHouse District 8Kossuth none
    Rep. Brian QuirkHouse District 15Chickasaw Kerry
    Rep. Bob KressigHouse District 19Black Hawk new
    Rep. Deborah BerryHouse District 22Black Hawk Kerry
    Rep. Tom SchuellerHouse District 25Jackson new
    Rep. Pat MurphyHouse District 28Dubuque none
    Rep. Todd TaylorHouse District 34Linn none
    Rep. Beth Wessel-KroeschellHouse District 45Story new
    Rep. Jo OldsonHouse District 61Polk Kerry
    Rep. Bruce HunterHouse District 62Polk Dean
    Rep. Wayne FordHouse District 65Polk Edwards
    Rep. Rick OlsonHouse District 68Polk new
    Rep. Mark DavittHouse District 74Warren Kerry
    Rep. Eric PalmerHouse District 75Mahaska new
    Rep. Dennis CohoonHouse District 88Des Moines Edwards
    Rep. Philip L. WiseHouse District 92Lee Lieberman
    Rep. Mary GaskillHouse District 93Wapello Kerry
    Rep. Paul ShomshorHouse District 100Pottawattamie Lieberman

    Saturday, October 20, 2007

    Officially Fringe

    Gravel Now Officially Fringe

    The statue of limitations on former senator status has finally run out:
    Mike Gravel will not be part of the next Democratic presidential debate, Oct. 30 in Philadelphia.

    The former Alaska senator did not meet fundraising and polling requirements for the forum, said NBC News political director Chuck Todd.

    All the other Democratic candidates are expecting to participate.

    Gravel has been a lively presence in past debates despite having no campaign staff to speak of and virtually no money. He has raised about $287,000 overall and had $17,000 on hand at the end of the quarter that ended Sept. 30.

    Let's see, at an average of about five minutes of time per debate, that's about 43 seconds more for each of the other seven. Even Sam Brownback is smart enough to quit when he's going nowhere...

    Speaking of which, the big beneficiary of Brownback Mountain's departure seems to be Mike Huckabee, winner at the Family Research Council's "values voters" summit today and beating the rest of the field combined. "Values" in this case translates as "fetus worship."

    Friday, October 19, 2007

    Not That Funny Is It

    Not That Funny Is It

    Reporter: Mr. President, following up on Vladimir Putin for a moment, he said recently that next year, when he has to step down according to the constitution, as the president, he may become prime minister; in effect keeping power and dashing any hopes for a genuine democratic transition there ...

    Bush: I've been planning that myself.

    It's not that funny is it
    When you don't know what it is 
    But you can't get enough of it 
    It's not that funny is it?

    Fleetwood Mac, 1979

    Tusk is the underrated album of all time. It was rejected by the public on its release, in part for the massive price tag on the mammoth double album which hit the market just when a glut of other excessive double albums came out for the 1979 holiday season.

    Even the packaging was massive, sleeves within sleeves that made the thing feel like a slab of marble when you picked it up in the $1.99 cutout bins where it resided until vinyl died in the late `80s. And as the CD era dawned it was truncated by the still-developing technology, and issued with a short version of "Sara" that helped deny the album its proper retrospective reassessment. Judged by the standards of the vinyl era and its 35 to 45 minute, intermission to flip the side expectations, it seemed long. But in the CD era with its 70 to 80 minute average running time, it would have fit right in. And judging from its appearances in random play, its individual pieces hold up in the one song at a time, everyone as their own DJ playing for an audience of one, iPod era.

    It didn't help in 1979 that Lindsey Buckingham insisted on making a single out of that bizarro world title song with its murmured background sounds, that `70s rock star excess marching band in a $50,000 rented empty Dodger Stadium, and those wild incongruous shouts of "Tusk!" What the hell was that? Probably the most avant garde piece of audio ever to hit the top ten. That's right, it was right there on top 40 radio between the Bee Gees and the Knack. Real savage like.

    But mostly people wanted it to be Rumours 2, which it emphatically wasn't. But Lindsey Buckingham was at his quirky coolest on songs like "The Ledge" and "I Know I'm Not Wrong," and mellow and thoughtful on "Walk A Thin Line" and "Save Me A Place." Some of his stuff was barely more than home demos -- the band was falling apart, no wonder with all those drugs and affairs -- and sometimes he just worked alone. Buckingham is the great underrated rock guitarist, largely because his band dealt in pop-rock and not in metal-rock. Any doubts? Listen to the last minute or so of "Go Your Own Way."

    Stevie Nicks was always more interesting when her cosmic tendencies were fused with Buckingham's off kilter but always pop musicality, as on "Sisters Of The Moon" and "Angel." Way better than what she cranked out a couple years later with the California mellow mafia on the solo album "Bella Donna" (except, of course, for the incredible "Edge of Seventeen" and its bootylicious groove). Sure, she got sued for "Sara," but that was just legal harassment. And the overshadowed Christine McVie is at her sweetest, easing us into the marathon listen with "Over and Over" and sending us home with a sweet kiss on "Never Forget."

    Took me forever to find all 20 tracks to download -- if I paid $15.98 for it in 1979, am I really stealing if I download it in the 21st century? -- and one might actually have to buy it somehow. There's a deluxe edition out now that has demos on disk two and the full-length "Sara."

    All my music listening these days is on the media player anyway, a 30 gig Creative Zen that I deliberately got instead of an iPod because 1) I'm quirky and 2) it has an audio recorder so I'm able to rationalize it as a work expense. Back in the college house, in the basement music room, we had a door on its side with a eight foot row of 500 or 600 vinyl albums, that I used to shuffle through as I DJ'd our countless parties. Today, I've got that 600 albums worth of music in my pocket, and the vinyl collection is down to a couple dozen sentimental souvenirs. One of those is that slab of Tusk.

    Thursday, October 18, 2007

    Steve King Makes An Ass Of Himself Yet Again

    Steve King Makes An Ass Of Himself Yet Again

    Rudy Giuliani Meets The People's Republic

    Rudy Giuliani Meets The People's Republic

    It may not have been the first Republican candidate appearance in Iowa City this cycle, as the student introducing Rudy Giuliani claimed. But it was the first large-scale rally for a Republican candidate in the liberal dark heart of the People’s Republic of Johnson County, as the former New York mayor drew a crowd of several hundred to the University of Iowa campus Wednesday night.

    Giuliani repeated the claim that his visit was the first Iowa City stop and joked about the liberal reputations of his city and Iowa City. “There’s more Republicans just on this side of the room than in New York City,” he said. New York City Board of Elections statistics count 459,645 registered Republicans in the Big Apple, and the room definitely wasn’t that full.

    The first-visit claim is false both in fact and spirit. Ron Paul spoke on campus in April, long before the Ron Paul Revolution kicked into high gear. John Cox, the longest of long shots, visited Iowa City in July. Tom Tancredo appeared just outside the city limits in March, and now-departed candidate Tommy Thompson visited the Wig and Pen, a tavern that straddles the Iowa City-Coralville boundary, in July. John McCain made an unannounced stop at the Hamburg Inn in May. And Fred Thompson, Sam Brownback, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee have all had big events in next-door Coralville.

    Giuliani drew a respectable crowd of several hundred, three-quarters filling a room that Barack Obama packed two weeks ago. A long time Democratic observer said the event was the biggest of three in the building that night, outdrawing an Iowans for Sensible Priorities event that featured ice cream moguls Ben and Jerry.

    Despite the lefty reputation, due to sheer size, Johnson County is among the top ten counties in the state for number of registered Republicans, noted former state Senator Jean Lloyd-Jones, a Democrat. She was filming the event for Iowa City’s Senior Center TV.

    The introduction also noted that Giuliani’s Iowa City office was the only Republican headquarters east of Des Moines. “Giuliani setting up his office here in Johnson County says something,” local Republican activist Todd Versteegh told Iowa Independent. “He’s definitely playing an interesting strategy. I think what he’s doing, he’s pretty much writing off western Iowa. He’s focusing on eastern Iowa and focusing on soft Republicans, Independents, and maybe even going for some soft Democrats.”

    The big crowd may not translate into caucus votes for Giuliani. The Jan. 3 GOP caucuses are in the middle of the University’s winter break, and many in the crowd were curiosity seekers. “I’m just checking it out,” said student Ryan Noser, who likes Giuliani but is leaning toward Mitt Romney. The curiosity seekers included a fair number of Democrats. “I’m on my See The Candidates Tour, and Rudy is an essential stop,” said Tom Carsner, a former Democratic county chair supporting John Edwards. “Rudy so rarely comes here, and I have to make the most of these rare opportunities.”

    Student Kyle Blanchard, chatting with a friend about tests and weekend plans, was an enthusiastic Giuliani backer. “Rudy rocked the shit on 9/11. I dig the guy.” He thinks the crowd is a good sign for the GOP. “This is one of the most liberal campuses in the Big Ten, and look how this room is filling up,” he said before the speech.

    The mood in the room was rowdy Rudy rally. While Democrats seem to parse rally music lyrics for political message, leaving us with a steady diet of John Mellencamp and U2, Team Rudy served up apolitical classic rock for the aging frat boy in all of us: AC/DC, Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, with no discernable message other than kick ass. Most of the room was set up for standing students, with just a few chairs near the back for older folks who wanted to kick back and listen.

    In a move not seen even at events for Secret Service-protected candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, two Iowa City police officers were looking in backpacks and inspecting crowd members on the way in.

    The brief speech itself hit a macho tone. Repeated attacks on taxes and “socialized medicine” drew loud, throaty cheers. “Democrats do not trust the growth principles America has always had,” Giuliani said.

    He defined America in terms of the free market: “The essential nature of America is, 'We’d like to sell you something.'” In an extended fable, Giuliani described a “recurring dream” that two planes pass each other. New French conservative president Nicolas Sarkozy is flying to America to get our ideas of free enterprise and low taxation, and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards are flying to France to steal their socialized medicine and 35-hour workweeks. “Only one group of people in the world wants to raise taxes – and they’re all running for President as Democrats,” Giuliani said.

    Perhaps hedging his bets, Giuliani is including Edwards and Obama in some of his Democrat bashing. Moving to tort reform, Giuliani said, “If you get a Hillary or Edwards or Obama you’ll get a lot more suing going on. If I become president you’ll see loser-pays rules and caps on damages.”

    But Hillary Clinton was named two to three times more often, even in the introduction where Giuliani was praised as “the only candidate who can beat Hillary Clinton.” “You should be able to make your health care choices with a doctor, not a Hillary bureaucrat,” Giuliani said to loud cheers.

    Giuliani wrapped with a brief discussion of the war, offering no Q and A, no specific plans and no apologies. “We’re at war because others want to be at war with us,” he said. Perhaps to remind him he was, after all, in liberal Iowa City, scattered protesters started chanting “BULL-SHIT! BULL-SHIT!” This was quickly drowned out by chants of “ROO-DY! ROO-DY!.” Once the shouting subsided, Giuliani picked up without missing a beat, saying, “Islamic terrorists attacked us and killed us and we have to be on offense.”

    The “ROO-DY! ROO-DY!” chants were revisited in the lobby, as several dozen supporters marched down to overwhelm four Ron Paul supporters handing out flyers. “They did all this just for us?” one Paul supporter quipped, handing a curiosity-seeker a flyer.