Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Federal Deductibility Debate Is About The Rich

Republican Rhetoric on Federal Deductibility Is About The Rich

Republicans are responding to the effort to restructure Iowa's income tax system to help working families and eliminate federal deductibility in typical fashion: with a simplistic slogan ("Tax on a tax") and a screaming performance at a conservative-packed legislative hearing Tuesday night.

But once you actually LOOK at the proposals, you see why the Republican puppet masters are so upset. The Iowa Policy Project notes (.pdf):
Federal deductibility overwhelmingly benefits higher income taxpayers, since most low-income taxpayers don’t pay any federal taxes. A 2003 analysis of Iowa’s income tax system found that 80 percent of the benefits from federal deductibility went to the wealthiest 20 percent of Iowa taxpayers.

My own anecdotal example: The federal refund goes to cover what I owe the state. This plan also helps a working dog like me with kids this way:
The child and dependent care credit allows eligible taxpayers to receive a credit for a portion of their child care expenses. This proposal would increase the size of the credit and expand it to families earning between $45,000 and $50,000 who are currently ineligible for the credit.

That's in my ballpark. So I have a self-interest here. But so, apparently, do wealthy Republicans, as the Legislative service Bureau notes:
The income tax reform plan proposed by legislators would reduce average taxes for Iowans earning below $125,000 — but would be revenue neutral for the state because it would increase taxes for those earning above that level.

Revenue neutral. So calling the elimination of federal deductibility a "tax increase' is disingenuous. It's an increase for those more able to pay, and a decrease for people who need the help. Which, of course, is exactly why Republicans are so vehement. Watch out, Ways and Means--you've got a Gucci riot on your hands.

Whatever happened to the old Republican rhetoric about government red tape and paperwork? (Who would have ever thought I'd be nostalgic for Reagan?) Maytbe an enterprising conservative can calculate the accountant-hours this simplification of the tax code would save.

Nate Silver on National Popular Vote

Partisanship and National Popular Vote

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight looks at National Popular Vote, and some Republican vetoes of it, and notes:
People, obviously, are going to remember 2000 for a very long time, in which Al Gore was screwed by the Electoral College. But throughout most of 2008, our simulations showed that the Democrats, not the Republicans, had a structural advantage in the Electoral College, something which was also apparent in 2004 when John Kerry nearly won the Electoral College in spite of trailing in the national popular vote by 2.5 points.

Indeed--and I don't have evidence at hand or time to dig at the moment--in the runup to Election Day 2000, there was more discussion of Bush taking the popular vote with a Gore electoral vote win, rather than the way it really happened. A split result is most likely in the last election of a census (like 2000, or 1888) because the discrepancy between census apportionment and actual vote is bigger. So the way it went wrong in 2000 was counter-intuitive: the popular vote winner took the states that were about to lose electors. Bush gained five or six electoral votes in 2004 from reapportionment

Silver continues:
What would it take for there to be a real chance of abolishing (or end-arounding, as the Compact seeks to do) the Electoral College? I think it would take two elections in relatively rapid succession in which there's a popular:electoral split, particularly if these two elections are won by candidates of opposite parties. The memories of 2000 should linger for a few more cycles, and so if there's another such occurrence before, say, 2020 or 2024, things could get very interesting.

A 50 state strategy (OK, maybe a 40 state strategy for Obama in `08) made an Electoral College mistake less likely. To win while losing the popular vote, you have to win the squakers and lose the blowouts, and when you work more states the blowouts aren't as bad.

Monday, March 30, 2009

legislators and labor back sales tax

Legislators and labor back sales tax

All five state legislators who live in Johnson County personally endorsed the local option sales tax Saturday at the League of Women Voters forum.

"This has been a difficult tax to pass in Johnson County, with the concerns about regressivity," said Senator Joe Bolkcom. "But the flooding was terribly disruptive and this is our opportunity to help ourselves. I am supporting the tax." Bolkcom said he's already voted early for the May 5 election.

Senator Bob Dvorsky also plugges early voting ans said, "It's critical to get this passed. If the floods come again in Coralville, you can turn out the lights, frankly."

"This is a special instance," said Rep. Vicki Lensing. The money from the sales tax would help the people who lost their businesses and homes. A lot of people who might not be in favor would be more inclined to support if they knew the specific use."

"This is really and truly salvation for our community. I'm very supportive of this," said Rep. Mary Mascher. "If we aren't willing to do our part it'll be harder for the state to be supportive." Proponents say funds from the tax could be used to leverage additional dollars.

Rep. Dave Jacoby also offered his support.

"I normally am opposed to sales taxes, but this special instance is so important that it's the right thing to do," said Pat Hughes, president of the Iowa City Federation of Labor, noting that both labor and the Chamber of Commerce have endorsed the sales tax. "It would improve the quality of life for the people I represent both upstream and downstream."

So far, the main opponents in the "Ax The Tax" group are the same people who made up the "Flip No" group that opposed last fall's conservation bond. The axthetax.net website still pops up in a frameset that says flipno.com. The Johnson County Republicans have also endorsed a no vote.

The Johnson County Democrats have not taken a formal stand. Party rules require a two meeting process or a special convention before an endorsement could happen. "I hope our local Democratic party will hold a special meeting to endorse this," said Mascher.

Monday Mix

Monday Mix: Linux Free

Linux Monday is postponed again this week, with the main laptop STILL in the shop. I've got some good ideas for the coming weeks but I need my tools back.

Meanwhile, we'll dig into the mailbag:

  • Dale Shultz attended Dave Loebsack's Cedar Rapids fundraiser and writes:
    There were about 60 people there, despite the snow, and one group drove up from Mt. Pleasant. Dave is working hard to make sure that Iowa gets its fair share of the disaster relief money. He has met with Axelrod and Rahm Emmanuel (Rahm has a nickname for everyone - he calls Dave, "Lobes"). Dave said that Culver was very effective at a meeting with the HUD Secretary.

    Dave and Terri arrived about 4:30, and Dave started speaking around 5:00, and then he answered some questions from the floor. He said that he is concerned about the lack of an exit strategy in Afghanistan, and said that he is good friends with Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), who turned against the Iraq invasion.

    Elected officials that were present included CR Mayor Kay Halloran, Linn Supes Lu Barron and Ben Rogers, State Senators Rob Hogg and Tyler Olson, plus Jack Evans from the Board of Regents. I saw some JC activists there too, including Dick Myers, Brian Flaherty, and Emily Silliman.

    Rahm could call people a lot of worse things.

  • Senate Candidate Bob Krause checks in on my post about him from last week:
    Mr. Deeth, I think, depends too much in his analysis on the monoculture of the state legislature as a proving ground for candidates. He probably does not recognize that as chair of the Iowa Democratic Veterans Caucus that I have electronic access to literally thousands of veterans in Iowa, and they hear from me regularly. This is a unique state-wide base that cannot be duplicated by other candidates.

    Fair enough, Bob; the Vets Caucus is a nice start. But that base will need to expand to the hundreds of thousands.

    Thanks for reading, Bob, and for running. I took on a tough race myself a dozen years ago and it's easier to be a critic than to make the run. And also credit for the early start, the earliest for a Grassley opponent in ages.

  • No action on the Smallest Farm this weekend. They say spinach and peas are cold-hardy and now I'll find out; I've never had post-planting snow before. The seemingly innocuous White House veggie garden is under attack from... the big ag lobby, who writes to the First Lady:
    Much of the food considered not wholesome or tasty is the result of how it is stored or prepared rather than how it is grown. Fresh foods grown conventionally are wholesome and flavorful yet more economical.

    Hey, Michelle, the doctror called. Says Sasha and Malie aren't getting enough Roundup.
  • Saturday, March 28, 2009

    March LWV Forum

    March LWV Forum Liveblog

    Welcome to the Msrch LWV legislative forum. We have all Dems as usual today: Bolkcom and Dvorsky from the Senate. House side is Jacoby, Mascher, Lensing, Marek. (Kaufmann reported at Chamber of Commerce forum just before.) Cosponsors are Environmental advocates, Sierra Club, Iowa City Federation of Labor. Willems ill.

    Bolkcom starts with federal deductibility: eliminating "will put more money into the hands of middle class families" and simplify tax code. "We should eliminate this really arcane part of our tax code--only Alabama and Louisiana have it" and we should be more progressive. It's tilted toward the wealthiest among us and it's long overdue.

    I'm fumbling in Windows with a bad keyboard so bear with the typos. I busted the DELETE key off liveblogging Obama in December `07. My small portable keyboard seems to be helping (even though Deb Thornton says it's loud).

    Lensing up now. Iowa is one of 16 states selected to follow flow of federal stimulus money, Lensing will work on this via Oversight Committee.

    Dvorsky: Budget budget budget. Revenue estimates down substantially so we have to lower budget targets. Main stimulus money is education and health care. "It's a moving target on the budget." Also working on guv's bonding bill. Deductibility: says 80% of people will get tax cut from dumping deductibility.

    Jacoby: unemployment insurance modernization bill extends benefits and training. "It does not raise employer rates but does extend benefits." Curently 81000 people receiving benefits, some northern counties at 11%. $72 million from feds in bill.

    Mascher: Hoping to adjourn early, funnel dates moved up. Gender balance and pay equity bills had bipartisan support. "Our version of Lilly Ledbetter" (applause) "Bipartisan support is no small task."

    Marek: "The numbers are good numbers" on the deductibility, to his own surprise. Wind energy tax credits moving forward. Need to use stimulus dollard before bonding on roads, but bonding still needed. (Hope I characterized that right.) Unemployment is better than other states. "Bad enough being at 4.9 but California is at 11."

    Question one from League: coal plant moratorium. Bolkcom: don't think that's going forward. Marek: Marshalltown dropped, need to invest in wind.

    Tom Carsner of Environmental Advocates: manure on frozen ground. Notes Bolkcom;s opposition and now move to House. Bolkcom: bill provides more protection than the none at all that we have. I opposed even though it's an improvement, wanted to show some solidarity with the regulation process. Dvorsky: We're not weaking anything that's now in places, rules haven't been adopted. Bill strengthens the current law. "We passed what we thought was good but maybe not perfect." EPC and DNR need to work with legislators and not in vacuum.

    Jacoby: talking to rural legislators about consequences. Floods raised awareness of water quality.

    Non-legislative electeds are scarce today: only one I see is next to me, Patti Fields of the school board wearing her Bears blue and orange.

    Mascher: I'd rather have something and be proactive than do nothing. Bolkcom: If this passes, and it will, it's an improvement. Maybe ouse can improve it.

    Marek: equipment can till a two-inch deep frost and the manure is valuable. We're hitting a compromise with this bill. Without action there will be bigger problems. I'll support.

    Mike Carberry of Sierra Club: general environmental update. Marek talks win credits, filter strips. Lensing: thinks wind energy bill will pass. Schools also eligible for the tax credits. Jacoby: "For my first two years I thought 'flip the grid' meant we were having waffles for lunch." (Gotta blog the Jacoby Joke.) Wind credits help smaller units including homeowners. Mascher: the bonding bill will be monumental: flood mitigation, wetlands, levees sewers. Small town sewers have been bad for years, with no funding sources. Bolkcom: $1 million energy efficiency grant program, signage bill for waste discharge (passed Senate 26-24). Dvorsky: Hoping to protect REAP from cuts, unfortunately we're in cutting mode. "Something like 600 cities in Iowa are unsewered." Trying to get downtown Cedar Rapids viable again.

    Pat Hughes of Iowa City Federation of Labor: thanks for support on unemployment, middle class taxes, and sales tax bill. "I normally am opposed to sales taxes, but this special instance is so important that it's the right thing to do." Notes City Fed and Chamber of Commerce endorsement of sales tax. "It would improve the quality of life for the people I represent both upstream and downstream." This can leverage federal dollars. "Maybe we can get some of this work done with a prevailing wage." (applause)

    Marek: If stimulus dollars can help rail line to Chicago that's jobs. (And wind again.) Lensing: "This is a special instance. The money from the sales tax would help the people who lost their businesses and homes. A lot of people who might not be in favor would be more inclined to support if they knew the specific use.' Dvorsky: early voting has started. "It's critical to get this passed. If the floods come again in Coralville, you can turn out the lights, frankly." Jacoby: "If we put a wind turbine at the state house we'd all have free power." Bolkcom: "This has been a difficult tax to pass in Johnson County, with the concerns about regressivity. I am supporting the tax. The flooding was terribly disruptive and this is our opportunity to help ourselves." Mascher: "I hope our local Democratic party will hold a special meeting to endorse this. This is really and truly salvation for our community. I'm very supportive of this. If we aren't willing to do our part it'll be harder for the state to be supportive."

    Larry Marek discusses the logistics of runoff.

    Janelle Rettig asks about air quality, specifically auto traffic and UI power plant. "Once we go out of containment our options are limited." Bolkcom: metro bike plan, energy efficience. "We've got to engage more people right here at home, we are extraordinarily wasteful." UI looking at green solutions. (Regular bikers Rettig and Bolkcom both confess to driving today, unfortunately I did too.) Marek notes we have to meet air quality to get road $. "I don't think it's getting worse but we are more conscious of it." Jacoby: "Rails and trails. We have to think big on this. Let's get enough right of way to run rail and trail parallel."

    Charlotte Walker asks about nursing home bills. Says agencies and legislators have not been forthcoming on information. "The nursing home lobby wrote these bills."

    Bolkcom: SF433 has been under discussion between lobbyists and legislators; Sen. Bill Dotzler is the point person here. Bill increases some fines and tightens inspection and conflict of interest. "The Department of Elder Affairs should be knowlegable about this. The bill strikes a decent balance." Charlotte goes away still unhappy.

    Gay marriage: Mascher: Court ruling coming this year. "We're very hopeful that ruling will be a positive step towards equality." But we need to wait for that ruling before legislative action. Discusses parenting issues. "I'm very hopeful the ruling will be upheld and we'll see gay marriage in Iowa in the near future."

    Judicial branch furloughs: "This amounts to 10% of our take home pay." If that continues, make judges take part too. "It's hurting people close to retirement" and will reduce their retirement pay. "We need to fully fund the court system or we won't have justice in Iowa."

    Dvorsky (a judicial branch employee himself): "in 2010 we might be in a better situation. We may also increase filing fees" to match neighboring states. Jacoby: "This underlies how serious the economy is."

    David Smithers: There's a cognitive dissonance when we're talking abot cutbacks yet the governor's talking about bonding for building." "Some of the numbers in the paper (on fed. stimulus) are inflated and aren't what actually comes down o the state." Smithers: "Ribbon cutting projects are nice but so is taking care of people." Mascher: "There's a resistance to bonding for ongoing expenses. It makes big holes in future years. You don't borrow money to pay the light bill."

    June Judge: mental health funding. Bolkcom: Parity legislatin is improving. "We've had a few steps forward, a step or two back." "We have a lot of people in jail who shouldn't be in jail because they have mental health issues." Dvorsky: "We're making cuts, we don't have the reveniue. But we are doing some things, I wish we could do more."

    The junior high kids are lined up for their questions, but I have to sneak out early to do stuff with my own kids.

    Friday, March 27, 2009

    Saturday events

    Busy Saturday

    A lot of interesting things happening Saturday:

  • The monthly League of Women Voters legislative forum at City Hall in Iowa City, 9:30.

  • Partying for peace on the Ped Mall with "Funk The War" starting at noon.

  • Partying for Dave Loebsack at 4:00 at the at the African American Museum in cedar Rapids.

  • Iowa Citizen Action Network celebrating its 30th anniversary in Johnston.

  • Iowa Democratic Women's summit in Des Moines, with Senator Amy Klobuchar.

    I might make one of these if I'm lucky.
  • Biggest and Smallest House Districts

    Never Ending Post Mortem 2008: Geographic Size

    Why is there a big bump in election analysis now? Because states generally release results by county, and it's taken this long to go through the precinct results and break things out by congressional district.

    The latest CQ crosstab sort of the data is by physical size of congressional district, and there's a strong correlation: the smaller the space, the better for Obama, and for House Democrats. Republicans like to brag about the seeming redness of the map, but as we'll see a lot of that red is the more cows than humans turf of the Great Plains.

    The full chart is here (pdf).

    Some superlatives:

  • Smallest district: Charlie Rangel's New York 15 in Harlem, also the #2 Obama district.
  • Largest district: the state of Alaska, which scandalized long-term Republican Don Young barely won, and which was on the outer fringes of the Obama radar until Palin was picked.
  • Smallest McCain district: New York 13 on Staten Island, which Democrat Mike McMahon took over after Republican Vito Fosella's triple threat scandal (drunk driving... on the way to the not his wife girlfriend's house... to see their baby).
  • Smallest House Republican district: Ed Royce's southern California 40, which was also the second smallest McCain district. I thought for sure this would be Joseph Cao in New Orleans, but the suburbs of LA, Houston and Dallas are more tightly packed.
  • Largest Obama district: Texas 23, represented by Democrat Ciro Rodriguez. It's got some lower Rio Grande valley, and takes in a lot of the empty turf between Mexico and San Antonio.
  • Largest House Dem district: The state of South Dakota, represented by my old flame Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. On the outer outer fringes of the radar but wound up safe for McCain.

    In Iowa, we have some relatively large districts; in fact, Loebsack's 2 and Latham's split-ticket 4 are near the top size for Obama districts. (The chart's not numbered, but Loebsack is on page 9 of an 10 1/2 page list, while Latham and King are on page 10.) So by national standards, we're few and far between out here.
  • Grassley's priorities

    Grassley's priorities: Helping His Senate Buddy

    CQ writes:
    Charles E. Grassley is thinking about passing up the top spot on a committee he really likes in order to help colleague Arlen Specter .

    Faced with Senate GOP term limits that will force him to step aside as the Finance Committee’s ranking member in 2011, Grassley said he might bypass the chance to become the top Republican on Judiciary.

    “From my heart, I’d rather have Judiciary than Budget. But out of respect for Specter, I might take Budget,” Grassley said of his Pennsylvania colleague, who is facing a tough re-election in 2010.

    Grassley and Specter are among a number of Republican senators looking ahead to a round of musical chairs that has stirred maneuvering by lawmakers and revived grousing about 12-year-old GOP rules that limit senators to no more than six years each as a ranking member or chairman.

    Of course, they both have to get re-elected before they play musical chairs.

    Specter needs all the help he can get, pinned between a primary challenge from the right and outrage from his sometime allies in labor after he flip-flopped on card check.

    On the other hand, I'd rather have Specter as the top Republican on Judiciary when a Supreme Court nomination rolls around than non-lawyer Grassley.

    Wednesday, March 25, 2009

    Political Profiling In Missouri Update

    Political Profiling Update

    The Missouri state troopers must have found out what it's like to raise the ire of the Ron Paul Rзvoution (remember the comment wars and endless internet poll packing of late 2007? Remember the blimp?) after their publication on “The Modern Mililtia Movement” suggested that troopers be on the lookout for Ron Paul, Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin bumper stickers. Story, if there was one, over: the guide's revised and the director has officially apologized:
    While the intent of the report was only to identify certain traits that are sometimes shared by members of militia organizations, this report is too easily misinterpreted as suggesting that militia members may be identified by no other indicator than support for a particular candidate or political organization. That is an undesired and unwarranted outcome. Upon review and reflections, it is the judgment of the Department of Public Safety that the report should have made no reference to supporters of Ron Paul, Bob Barr, Chuck Baldwin or of any other third-party political organization or candidate.

    In recognition of the mistaken inclusion of this information by the MIAC in its February 20, 2009, report on the militia movement, I have ordered that the offending report be edited so as to excise all reference to Ron Paul, Bob Barr or Chuck Baldwin and to any third-party political organizations.

    Klein Lombardo and Sales Tax

    Misgivings Mollified?

    Garry Klein, who earlier expressed some sales tax misgivings, now writes:
    Despite earlier misgivings I had, particularly about funding the projects, I do not believe there is a better alternative to taking care of these essential projects. If someone has a plan to do it more economically, I hope they will bring it forward. However, I feel strongly that the city manager "gets it" regarding public input as to how these projects are accomplished and is done to improve the quality and safety of the community. I also think that the knives are sharpened (axes are ground?) to prevent this referendum from being successful. May our better selves prevail.

    Bonus points for the Ax The Tax pun.

    The Never Ending 2008 Post Mortem

    The Never Ending 2008 Post Mortem: More Maps, More Fun

    Kos front pager Dana Houle ("DHInMI"; Kos is going all legit name with their a-list) overlays the maps and notes how much the Hillary 70% map looks like the Kerry Did Better Than Obama map:

    But she sees a silver lining:
    The Obama campaign didn't fight hard in many of the Congressional districts colored red. Only in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri and West Virginia do you seem much red in a state contested by Obama. But look at two other states with overwhelmingly white regions that gave Clinton over 70% of the primary vote but where Obama improved on John Kerry's performance. In the Appalachian regions of Virginia and North Carolina, it's clear that the hard work of the Obama campaign paid off.

    Speaking of Silver, Nate says it's not a matter of vote percentage, it's a matter of white vote percewntage, and all-white Appalachia does better than the Deep South:

    The Appalachian counties don't stand out in this map. McCain did extremely well among whites in a much broader area in the southeast, with the Appalachian counties standing out in the earlier map only because they had very few black votes to cancel out the swing among the whites. Actually it looks like McCain did even better in some of the counties just south of that Appalachian belt.

    Tuesday, March 24, 2009

    Tom Miller Named to Calendar Commission

    Leapfrog 2012: Tom Miller on Calendar Commission

    The most important battles for the survival of The Caucuses As We Know Them have already been won, with Obama's nomination and election. But part of the peace deal between then-rivals Obama and Hillary Clinton was a "calendar reform commission," which has now been named. The designated defender of the caucuses is to be... Attorney General Tom Miller, one of Iowa's earliest Obama backers.

    "President Obama has repeatedly shown his commitment to Iowa’s First-in-the-Nation status, and his commitment was demonstrated once again with his appointment of Miller,” says the blurb from the IDP.

    Miller's not a bad choice for Iowa. My list would have started and ended with Dave Nagle, but then I'm not Tim Kaine or the president.

    The commission is headed by Rep. Jim Clyburn of 2008 early state South Carolina, and early and enthusiatic Obama backer Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Conspicuous by their absence are Iowa haters the Dingells of Michigan, though both Michigan and fellow 2008 calendar cheater Florida are represented. "Doesn't sound like there's much interest in letting Florida or Michigan bump ahead of the likes of New Hampshire," writes tampabay.com.

    The Democratic Change Commission will address three issues: 1) changing the window of time during which primaries and caucuses may be held 2) reducing the number of superdelegates and 3) improving the caucus system. The Commission must issue its report and recommendations to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee no later than January 1, 2010.

    New York Times: "Next time, party leaders say, the primaries and caucuses will start no sooner than Feb. 1, which is a month later than the 2008 race. The Democratic rules, of course, are subject to change, which is how the extraordinarily front-loaded system came about last year." That's a lot saner start date than January freakin' third.

    Ben Smith at Politico: "The dominant figure will likely be Obama's delegate guru, Jeff Berman, a largely unsung, key player of the primary season who is close to David Plouffe, also on the commission, and to Bill Carrick, another commissioner."

    And at least one PUMA is unhappy.

    Updated with further reflections:

    Some of our problems were unique to 2008. We won't see two candidates so strong and so evenly matched, and such an intense level of interest, for a very long time.

    We Dems are process obsessed. Republicans just do what they'll do. Michigan and Florida Republicans lost half their delegates, said OK, and no one mentioned it again.

    Michigan and Florida really should have been punished somehow. The politics of the Hillary-Obama truce and the general election demanded that they weren't, but it'll make it that much harder to enforce whatever rules we make now.

    We Iowans are gonna have to give in and set up an absentee process. Problem is, unrestricted absentee will turn the heavily staffed caucuses into a de facto absentee ballot drive and kill the town meeting tradition. Personally I'd like some reasonably broad but somewhat restricted list of reasons: "I'm on duty in Afghanistan" OK, "the game's on TV that night" no. I don't know where to draw the line between those two extremes.

    Superdelegates are problematic and I don't have a good answer. I think every delegate should be elected, and elected with a preference (or as a formal Uncommitted). But if you make the congressman run against everyone else, the congressman will win, and the congressman doesn't want to win by beating the 19 year old volunteer.

    There should be some kind of two-track system where the congressman runs in a pool with the majority leader and Secretary of State and governor and so on, and the volunteers run against other mortals. The question there is a) how many delegates come out of each pool and 2) which pool does the union president or county chair swim in, because they'll usually (but not always!) beat the 19 year old doorknocker too.

    Here's the list, which has a cute habit of describing high-end lawyer/fundraisers as "grassroots activists." Deeth's annotated version:
    Jeremy Alters, Miami, Florida: trial lawyer and fundraiser

    Jeff Berman, Washington, DC: Obama political consultant who helped engineer the successful focus on delegate counts and caucus states

    Ashley Bliss, Atlanta, Georgia: Obama field organizer in Ohio

    State Representative Dan Blue, Raleigh, North Carolina: former Speaker, endorsed Obama

    Bill Carrick, Los Angeles, California: Consultant for Ted Kennedy, Dick Gephardt and Bill Clinton presidential campaigns.

    Mayor Michael Coleman, Columbus, Ohio: Endorsed Obama in October 2007, re-elected a month later.

    Jeff Forbes, Washington, DC: political consultant, Hillary supporter in `08.

    Joan Garry, Montclair, New Jersey: Former Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation head; co-chaired National LGBT Finance Committee for Obama. Also donated to Edwards early in `08 cycle.

    State Chair Larry Gates, Overland Park, Kansas: Endorsed Obama late in 2008 cycle, long after Kansas voted.

    School Board Member Adelita Grijalva, Tucson, Arizona: Daughter of Congressman Raul Grijalva, served on DNC credentials in 2008.

    Professor Rob Hampshire, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Early Obama supporter.

    Former State Chair Ned Helms, Concord, New Hampshire: Endorsed Obama March 2007. (Not present: Secretary of State Bill Gardner.)

    Former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, McLean, Virginia: Long Clinton history but was ostensibly neutral; major role in 2008 credentials committee.

    Chairman Ron His Horse Is Thunder, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, North/South Dakota: Joined a rollout of 100 tribal leaders for Obama.

    James Hoffa, Detroit: Teamsters endorsed Obama post-Michigan but early enough to matter.

    Roseanne Hope, Minneapolis, Minnesota: Commercial real estate attorney; endorsed Obama January 4, 2008.

    State Senator Steven Horsford, Las Vegas, Nevada: Another early-state early Obama endorser.

    "Grassroots Activist" (sic) Suzie LeVine, Seattle, Washington: Microsoft connection.

    UAW CAP Director Dick Long, Detroit: UAW did a no-endorsement in the `08 primary. My guess is this is the Dingell's proxy.

    Andres Lopez, San Juan, Puerto Rico: Obama supporter before that late-late Puerto Rico primary; statehood advocate.

    Former Attorney General Patricia Madrid, Albuquerque, New Mexico: Lost a close congressional race in 2006. Backed Obama after Richardson got out but before Richardson did.

    DNC Member Debbie Marquez, Edwards, Colorado: Backed Obama before Colorado's Super Tuesday caucus.

    State Senator Iris Martinez, Chicago, Illinois: Hometown Obama backer, no friend of the Blagojevich/Mell family.

    Delegate Jennifer McClellan, Richmond, Virginia: Superdelegate who flipped from Clinton to Obama May 7.

    Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, Helena, Montana: Newly elected, knocked off GOP incumbent.

    Attorney General Tom Miller, Des Moines, Iowa

    DNC Member Minyon Moore, Washington, DC: Hillary's national black outreach director.

    Sunah Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: politically active attorney.

    Obama Campaign Manager David Plouffe, Washington, DC: The guy running the show.

    Rebecca Prozan, San Francisco, California: Past head of Alice B. Toklas Democratic organization, went with Obama.

    DNC Member James Roosevelt, Jr., Cambridge, Massachusetts: Big role in 2008 credentials, stayed neutral to the end.

    Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, Lakewood, California: She backed Obama, sister Loretta was with Hillary. They debated each other a lot on talk shows during The Long March To The Nomination.

    AFT President Randi Weingarten, New York City: AFT endorsed Clinton in October 2007.

    State Chair Meredith Wood Smith, Portland, Oregon: Endorsed Obama the day after he won the state's late May primary.

    Martin Yeung, Rapid City, South Dakota: LGBT activist and Obama delegate.

    Johnson County Sales Tax Vote

    Sales Tax and the Audacity of No

    As Johnson County gears up for the May 5 sales tax election, Yes forces are assembling the kind of both ends of the spectrum coalition that won the 2003 Iowa City school bond and the 2007 SILO election, with both the Chamber of Commerce and City Federation of Labor signed on in support.

    The No team is nearly indistinguishable from the Flip No group that opposed the 2008 conservation bond; Indeed, their "Ax The Tax" web site pops up in a frame that reads flipno.com. The committee chair is Deb Thornton, until recently vice chair -- oops, co-chair of the Johnson County GOP. Treasurer is Chuck Seberg, one of the co-chairs of the Johnson County Republican finance committee.

    The county Republican Party has formally endorsed a no vote, possibly putting the ideological, partisan wing against the pragmatist business win. It's a small scale version of the national fight, where Republican governors (those without presidential ambitions) have been more practical while the Congressional conservatives indulge in the Fierce Urgency of No over the stimulus plan.

    Ax The Tax is underscoring the Read My Lips No New Taxes message with an April 15 Boston Tea Party, of the type that Linn County opponents held before their March 3 vote. (There was some media mirth; apperantly the DNR won't let you dump actual tea.) The contact for the tea party is Mike Thayer of Coralville Courier fame.

    (Everyone knows, of course, that a proper Boston Tea Party should be held on Dec. 16 in honor of my birthday.)

    So while the Yes camp (which hasn't rolled out its leadership yet, but expect big named) is the proverbial big tent, the No team looks like a Republican central committee meeting. The partisan stance runs the risk of pushing potential allies away and makes for a confusing message, as the libertarians meet the left group that opposed SILO learned. It's hard to reconcile "vote no because we want no taxes" with "vote no because we want a different tax." Garry Klein writes:
    The best solution for the long-term health of the communities is one that isn't on the table. State Senator Joe Bolkcom tried to get a bill considered to allow localities to impose a local income tax.

    Fair enough, but note those four words isn't on the table.

    Monday, March 23, 2009

    Bob Krause

    Bob Krause in Senate Race

    The Iowa Demosphere is abuzz with the news that Chuck Grassley's first opponent has emerged. But the question is still "Bob WHO?"

    Even among party activists, the name Bob Krause is little-known. His party work has focused on the Veteran's Caucus which he chairs.

    Krause was once a wunderkind, elected to the legislature at 23 in 1972 and running statewide for state treasurer before he was 30, in 1978. In 1982 he tried a comeback in the state Senate but lost the primary. He now lives in Fairfield but his House district was on the north central border in Kossuth, Emmet and Palo Alto counties.

    So the profile fits the pattern of Grassley opponents, all of whom would have been great candidates in 1986:

  • 1992: Near-retirement legislator, eastern Iowa
  • 1998: Retired legislator (4 years out), eastern Iowa
  • 2004: Retired legislator (18 years out), eastern Iowa
  • 2010: Retired legislator (32 years out), eastern Iowa

    The good news is that Krause is getting into the race against Chuck Grassley early, earlier than we've seen in a few cycles. (Art Small's 2004 campaign was literally last minute; there were some worries that we wouldn't get ANYone.)

    By all accounts Krause is a good guy, but this is hardly an A list or even B list candidacy. Don't get me wrong; I've known Jean Lloyd-Jones, Dave Osterberg and Art Small for ages, and supported and voted for all of them. And my personal politics are more in line with someone like Osterberg than with Tom Vilsack.

    But Vilsack was the A lister here. God bless the President, but he screwed at least three Senate races (ours, Kansas and Arizona) putting the cabinet together, and shuffled the deck dramatically in the four with appointees (Colorado, Delaware, New York and his own seat in Illinois). We won't necessarily hold all those.

    Tom Vilsack was three points behind Grassley in a Kos poll a week before he was named to the cabinet. But now, instead of fighting the home front battle against newly anointed national GOP spokesman Grassley, Vilsack is hanging out with Cookie Monster. A potential Senate vote for the President's program is much more important than a low-key Cabinet spot.

    But you run the race you have, not the race you want. The A lister is gone, and the other A listers (Braley and Loebsack) are settling into the House. But there may be some B+ listers out there yet.

    Maybe Krause is the guy after all. Unknowns have won before--just ask Congressman Loebsack. But Not Chuck Grassley isn't a winning campaign any more than Not Tom Harkin was. Krause retired from the Iowa Department of Transportation, and was involved in trail issues, so he could potentially work the Obama infrastructure issues. (In the `08 caucuses, Krause endorsed Chris Dodd verrry late: December 31. With the trouble Dodd's in back home, maybe we should get him to move back to Iowa and run against Grassley..)

    Krause announces his exploratory committee on Saturday. Not many folks other than us junkies will be tuned in to this introduction. And an introduction is definitely what this guy needs. If there's some substance there, starting early helps, but if not, then you're just the next Steve Rathje.

    There's not much time left to get someone--Krause or another--up and flying. The brutal, national level triage will happen really, really soon and Iowa is dropping off the radar by the month as the handicappers accept that Grassley isn't retiring.
  • Personal Politics of Stallman and Torvalds

    Linux Monday: Political Perspectives From the Übergeeks

    My move to Linux started as a political thing—I am, after all, a political guy and this is first and foremost a political blog. My personal politics, for you Linux Monday-only readers, are left end of the U.S. Democratic Party, anti-corporate, with a cranky libertarian and politically incorrect streak thrown in. A nice fit for Linux.

    But it's not essential that your personal politics match my own to give Linux a try. In fact, the first time I ever saw anyone out and about in public using Linux was at a Ron Paul table in 2007. I find it hard to imagine corporate-style conservatives buying into my anti-corporate mindset, just like I could never understand why there were Republican fans of the Clash or Rage Against The Machine. But as Whitman said, “I contradict myself? Very well. I contradict myself.” (The Clash and Rage contradicted themselves too, preaching revolution while corporate conglomerates marketed the records. “Turning rebellion into money,” as Joe Strummer said.)

    So let's just accept that Linux geeks land on all points of the political spectrum and take a look at the personal politics and styles of the two godfathers of the open source movement: Linus Torvalds and Richard Stallman.

    Torvalds (L), Stallman (R)

    Linus (Torvalds is usually “Linus,” but Richard is usually “Stallman”) wrote the original Linux kernel as an undergrad in Finland in the early 1990s. Linus has since moved to the U.S. where he has a long-term Green Card but not citizenship. He's a classic red-diaper baby; his leftist parents met at a protest rally. But Linus' politics are low-key, like his personality.

    “I'm absolutely uninterested in politics,” Linus famously (well, famously if you're a Linux geek) said in 1999. “It was a fairly political family, so I may have reacted against that by being non-political.” Yet pressed a little further, he acknowledges leaning more left than right and has expressed opposition to US foreign policy of the Bush 43 administration (along with the rest of the civilized world).

    As an immigrant in America, Linus has some comparative thoughts on our system:
    The whole US voting system is apparently expressly designed to be polarizing (winner-take-all electoral system etc). To somebody from Finland, that looks like a rather obvious and fundamental design flaw.

    Design flaw. Spoken like a true programmer. Linus continues:
    In Finland, government is quite commonly a quilt-work of different parties, and the 'rainbow coalition' of many many parties working together was the norm for a long time. And it seems to result in much more civilized political behaviour.

    You couple a polarizing voting system with a campaign that has to make simplified black-and-white statements, and what do you get? Ugly, is what you get.

    This political philosophy (even though Linus defines it as non-political) in support of multi-party democracy plays itself out in the Linux world's let a thousand distributions bloom mindset. Don't see a party (or distribution) that meets your needs exactly? Try another one.

    Richard Stallman couldn't be more different. Stallman founded the Free Software Foundation in 1983 to create a free Unix-like operating system. He is an active Green Party member whose personal web site is a very busy read. It's got a retro-simple style like the Drudge Report and a dense, on a mission from God writing style. He's occasionally dogmatic on issues of terminology, preferring the term 'free software' to 'open source':
    Free software is a political movement; open source is a development model. The term "open source" was promoted in 1998 by people that did not want to say "free" or "freedom." They associated their term with a philosophy that cites only values of practical convenience. If you neglect the values of freedom and social solidarity, and appreciate only powerful reliable software, you are making a terrible mistake.

    The fact that Torvalds says 'open source' instead of 'free software' shows where he is coming from... I respect his right to express his views, even though I think they are foolish. However, if you don't want to lose your freedom, you had better not follow him.

    (I'm taking just the smallest of excerpts here for my regular readership. Übergeeks, please, no holy wars.)

    As befits the guy who coined the Linux—oops, GNU-Linux, Stallman is firm on that point too—slogan “free as in beer, free as in freedom,” Stallman is especially interested in privacy and copyright issues. The current front page includes opposition to national ID cards in several countries, calls to sign a petition “to bring the ex-officials of the Bush regime to justice,” and a pro-choice link. It also, high on the page, urges: “Don't Buy Harry Potter Books.”


    Well, it seems that in 2005, some copies of Book Six leaked early and the Canadian publishers went to court. Stallman posted the plot spoiler (you know, ***** kills **********), just to prove he could and in keeping with the information should be free mindset. “When governments spit on human rights, posting what they wish to suppress is one way humans can protest,” writes Stallman, with an intensity better suited for a secret yellowcake uranium report than a plot detail of a work of fiction.

    Or maybe Stallman's just mad because someone said he looks like Hagrid.

    In contrast, Linus' personal site uses a low-key standard Blogger template and focuses on the personal ("It's getting later in the release cycle, so I'm spending more time in my 'wait for people to complain' mode, allowing me to read more," begins a typical post.) Updates come every few days to two weeks, and where Stallman is serious, Linus is wry. Picking up on Facebook's “25 things about me” meme, he responds with this list, reposted in its entirety:

    1. I get bored really easily

    Sunday, March 22, 2009

    Smallest Farm Sunday

    Season Starts on Smallest Farm

    I'm not going to claim the Obamas stole my idea--there was a grassroots or shall we say carrot roots effort behind it--but we Smallest Farmers now have the presidential seal of approval.

    Here in the Miller-Orchard neighborhood, we have an earliest ever start on the smallest farm, with the first official crops going in the ground on Saturday, March 21. That's a week ahead of last year. It was a perfect all-sunny day, with rain forecast (accurately) for today, so I spent about nine hours straight digging and planting and pruning, with help from the junior farmhands. We're seeing the catnip sprouting in several patches, which is a good sign that we actually have spring.

    Last year I spent all winter planning and mapping on graph paper, with mixed success in the final product. My pumpkin and squash vines overran the south garden, and my hot peppers were too close to a walnut tree that lowered their yield. (Walnut roots contain a chemical called juglone that inhibits growth of nightshade-family plants like peppers, tomatoes and eggplant). The boys are hoping for better pumpkin success than last year, when the giant pumpkins stared to grow, reached about normal pumpkin size, then inexplicably rotted on the vine.

    This year I'm less scripted, with little more than a big-picture plan. We'll let the volunteers grow where they grow, and this being an odd-numbered year the elections are smaller so I'll have more time at the end of the season.

    The two gardens are flipped this year. Hayden learned about George Washington Carver and crop rotation in school and now he's getting a real life lesson. (He also wanted to plant peanuts but he's accepted that we can't grow them this far north). The north garden will be dominated by corn and the pole bean fence. A massive trimming on an inconveniently placed tree (now just a tall skinny twig with a tuft of leaves at the top) has increased the sunshine just south of the north garden. The vining plants will be planted along the south edge of the north garden, trained out through the fence, and allowed to sprawl out into the yard. This will expand the garden size yet save me the work of moving the fence. (I still need some chicken wire; the fence kept big wabbits out but let baby wabbits in).

    The south garden will have the peppers and tomatoes, and was the site of yesterday's season-starting planting of peas, spinach, lettuce and radishes. The north row will be a wall of sunflowers, planted from last year's saved seed. I've also got saved seed from beans, catnip, cilantro, and acorn squash. I wish I still had saved seed from my purple pod pole beans; I haven't been able to find that since about 2000. All I find now are purple bush beans and I haven't planted a bush bean since 1995. That was the first year I planted pole beans, still my favorite garden thing.

    I'm also making a second effort at what we'll call the west garden--a round patch maybe 10 feet circular that had been dominated by a weed patch. I dug it up last year and planted flowers, but the weeds overtook them. Only the catnip held its own. This year I dug it up again, yanked up some more roots, and planted some herbs yesterday: basil and cilantro. I may try to get some okra over there, or I may put that in the south garden.

    We also have a remnant of this neighborhood's orchard roots: an actual apple tree. I'd like to prune that to help its fruit production, but it's also Ethan's favorite climbing tree. I'll settle for just actually picking apples this year; that was one of the casualties of my late season lack of time in a presidential year.

    We'll have pictures through the season, unfortunately my camera's memory card is in my still in the shop main laptop.

    One last ag note: next year's sec of ag race is warming up as Bleeding Heartland reports on Fairfield organic dairy farmer Francis Thicke getting in on the Dem side. Folks think this means Denise O'Brien is out; in the meantime I can't find any evidence on what Dusky Terry has been up to since the end of the Vilsack presidential race.

    Friday, March 20, 2009

    Command Line as Keyboard Shortcut

    Command Line as Keyboard Shortcut

    I scared the crap out of my regular readers a couple Linux Mondays by delving into Command Line Hell. In an article about why people don't just adopt our beloved free operating system--and the dreaded termininal prompt is one of the reasons--David Williams makes the point better than I can:
    I consider the command line analogous to using keyboard shortcuts.

    For instance, I can log in faster by typing my username, pressing tab, entering my password then pressing the enter key than someone who clicks into the login box, type their username, moves the mouse to the password box, clicks, types their password, then moves the mouse to the login box and clicks again.

    I can create five directories faster by calling up a terminal window (even in Windows Vista, by pressing the Windows key + R, then typing cmd and pressing enter) and using the mkdir command five times, than someone who opens up their file system and has to click the File/New Folder menu five times, entering a directory name each turn.

    Similarly, I can stop and restart services quicker, or search for specific words in a log file or many other activities far more swiftly if I do it on a command line than by using the graphical tools.

    That’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s perfectly fine. In modern Linux distros there is no need for anyone to ever to use a terminal window if they don’t wish to. It’s a myth you must type in commands.

    It's a great analogy. I'm still amazed to see people who've been in Windows for years going Menu, Edit, Cut, menu, Edit, Paste rather than ctrl-c, ctrl-v. But to each their own, and that's the good thing about multiple routes to the same destination. You can take the shortcut or the scenic route.

    Thursday, March 19, 2009

    There's No Scooter-Thru Lane

    The Scooter-Thru Lane is Closed

    Three of my pet peeves intersected last night: fast food, car culture, and petty authority.

    As my family has blended we've all adapted. Koni has been excellent with the Wal-Mart non-shopping and knows the ins and outs of recycling and composting. But I lost the fast food war before I ever met my wife and kids. Left to my own devices, I'd never go near a franchise joint (why would you when you live in the same town as the Hamburg Inn?), but we have to choose our battles, and I've reluctantly accepted that the drive thru is part of our life.

    Some of you know that the Smallest Farm is located a couple blocks from a good-sized commercial strip, rotten with fast food joints. So I got home on my late night at work and was faced with competing needs: the need to feed, boys who wanted to play outside in perfect weather, and a request for a certain brand of nearby fast food. The multitask hit me: "let's ride the scooters to the Junkfood Joint!"

    So the boys scootered while I walked and the three of us arrived in one piece, despite the traffic and the limited attention spans ("WATCH FOR CAAAAARS!" I screamed in my best loving father voice.) Then Ethan, my six year old, asked an impish but innocent question: "Daddy, can we ride our scooters through the drive thru?"

    Why the heck not, I thought. I've walked or biked through the drive thru at countless banks and a few fast food joints, and reactions have ranged from at worst mild irritation at my hippie quirkiness and more often friendly chuckles. This is, after all, Iowa City. The boys giggled as we went around to the drive-thru line, where we wound up next behind the person currently ordering.

    As we heard the staticy voice over the speaker I sensed that this wasn't going to go over well. "I'm sorry, ma'am, I can't hear you, those people standing behind you are too loud." I tried to shush the boys, who were still giggling. The car behind me pulled forward and I got ready to order. But before I could:
    "Sir! You're going to have to get out of the way of our customers."


    "We are customers." (with a big "look at me, I'm so cool walking through the drive thru" smile on my face.)

    "No, you can't come through here."

    "Huh?!?" (Smile vanishes)

    "You have to go inside."

    Now I had a dilemma. Had I been on my own, I would have walked off without handing them my money. But I had children in tow who'd been prooooomised this particular brand of processed food-like product. If I was pure and living in Fantasy Land I could have fed them the organic sprouts, so figuring I'd already compromised enough and might as well sell out completely, I hauled the boys in, ready with the Ask For The Manager act.

    But Mister Assistant Manager has seen the whole thing and made matters worse claiming: "It's against the law for us to serve you without a car."

    I openly laughed at that one. Even though I didn't have the Code of Iowa handy to check, I'm reasonably certain that law's not on the books. At the laughter, Mister Assistant Manager acknowledged that it was just "our policy." Ooh, he waved the red cape of Policy. We've entered the Zone of Petty Authority.
    "I walk up at the bank all the time."

    "We're not a bank."

    "I walk up at The Artery Clogger too."

    "No. You have to have a car."

    "You have to have a car." You just told the proud bike commuter, who nearly gets run over every day biking past The Artery Clogger's drive thru, "You have to have a car." A perfect spring day, two blocks from my house, and a six year old's idea of fun? Nope. "You have to have a car." American junk culture in a nutshell--or in this case a throw-away condiment pack. Clearly, the management of this particular fast food joint doesn't get why someone might want to take a walk for their health. (There's probably a negative correlation between this place's patrons and bike commuters, but you never know what year RAGBRAI might ride through.)

    There's not a good dramatic ending to this story. The kids had made their minds up, and Petty Autocrat was getting ready to play his Reserve The Right To Refuse Service card. I was impotent and gave them money for treating me like crap. My revenge was small: I'd been on the cusp of indulging one of my occasional weaknesses, but instead I withheld that small portion of the order and made a batch of my famous pepper-spray fajitas. Like I said: not dramatic.

    The thing was, they never gave me a verbal response to the question, "Why?" If you're a parent, you know the "Why?" question, repeated till it becomes existential. And I was on the spot with my kids: having to explain Those Are The Rules (already hard for a gut-level anti-authoritarian like me) when they could already tell the rules made no sense even without my open laughter. Of COURSE you can walk up to a drive thru; Daddy said it was OK. And Daddy is one of the highest authority figures there is (oh, the irony).

    But without saying it explicitly, the fast food fascists made the answer clear. (Sorry for the Godwin's Law fail; the alliteration was irresistible)

    Steve Martin had an old routine that everything at a fast food joint was really all the same substance scooped out of one vat: "Burger? SCCCHLURRRP. Fries? SCCCHLURRRP. Shake? SCCCHLURRRP. Change? SCCCHLURRRP." And in the fast food culture of mind-numbing nationwide sameness, me and my boys walking up were different. And that made them uncomfortable, to the point that they had no way to cope other than forbidding it. Scooters? No SCCCHLURRRP for you!

    Even a six year old knows better than that.

    Thursday is Area Code Day

    Happy Area Code Day

    So far this month we've had Square Root Day (3/3/09), Pi Day (3/14, best celebrated at 1:59) and a second consecutive Friday the 13th. Today we have a purely local celebration, and I don't mean St. Joseph's Day (the Czech St. Pats). It's Area Code Day! We celebrate by playing Ludacris. Here's what's happening on 3/19 in the 319:

  • One person's "pork" is another person's local economy.

  • Poll (pdf): Obama beats Palin by 20 points. "Obama would easily win more than 400 electoral votes in a contest against Palin at this point in time."

  • To celebrate, the Prez is taking the Smallest Farm concept to the White House lawn, which was last done by Eleanor Roosevelt during WWII. Maybe Vilsack can come over to help detassel.
  • Wednesday, March 18, 2009

    Reality TV Product Placement

    Noted Flipping The Channels Past "Reality" TV

    I like reality TV, except that what I call "reality TV" others would call "the news."

    What I don't like is putting people in artificially contrived circumstances and then calling it "reality." They're characters acting as much as any SAG members. In fact the whole initial boom of reality shows was during an actor's strike and it was a way to keep the tube lit without union members. So to me "reality TV" is kind of like scabbing. I prefer the term "show without professional actors"

    Flipping past a "reality" TV show (featuring a group of sisters Sir Mix-A-Lot would admire) I noticed that almost every product logo was blurred: you couldn't see the brand on a water bottle or a shoebox in the trash; even a t-shirt logo was obscured.

    Yet one character is very clearly seen using a Mac. So did the producers just miss that one? Or is that a paid product placement and the rest of the banned brands didn't pay up? Is this tne way of the future to get around the ease of ad-skipping, or is it already happening and I'm just behind the curve? It's been happening significantly enough in movies for so long that it was already ripe for parody nearly two decades ago:

    While I'm on the subject of TV I've figured out what the commonality between all of the Disney Channel's live human being shows: they're about what pre-teens and tweens imagine being a teenager is like. Also, they have this weird habit of showing computers that are clearly Macs but with a pear where the apple should be. Must be someone's in-joke.

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    Three More Nails in Journalism's Coffin

    Three More Nails in Journalism's Coffin

    Three vaguely related stories tied by the common thread of The Death Of Journalism As We Know It:

  • Another week, another dead tree edition death as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer prints its last. At least they're surviving online, which is better than the Rocky Mountain News managed. They're almost impossible to keep up with; next week the Tucson Citizen dies.

  • The old school of Beltway journalism takes a hit to its ego as President Obama decides he's rather spend spring break with the kids than attend the Gridiron Dinner, the DC press corps' occasion to play dress-up, socialize with the people they're supposed to be covering, and watch lame comedy skits performed by the politically powerful.

    "Make no mistake," writes The Politico, "Obama deciding that he is too busy to attend the Gridiron’s annual banquet later this month is a slap." (This is a bigger slap to the ego of the old school, but the more substantive slap was calling on Huffington Post at his first press conference.) "He’s the first president since Grover Cleveland to skip the white-tie-and-tails affair in his first year in office." Not noted is whether that's Cleveland 22 or Cleveland 24; I'm guessing Grover just had a sore throat and couldn't wow the crowd with a rousing chorus of "Ma, Ma, Where's My Pa."

    The Gridiron club is so old-school that it wasn't until 2005 that broadcast journalists were able to join. At the rate papers are dying, there'd be no membership left.

    Politico describes the Gridiron membership as "aging" and notes that their balloon of self-importance has been popped. More ominously, we read:
    The regional newspaper bureaus from which the club drew many of its members are on the ropes. Leubsdorf works for The Dallas Morning News, which has scaled back its capital staff. George Condon was bureau chief for the Copley newspaper chain — owner of the San Diego Union-Tribune — which recently shuttered its bureau. He now writes for CongressDaily. Dick Cooper worked for the Los Angeles Times, which has suffered severe cuts to its D.C. bureau and was merged with the Tribune Co. for whom he now works.

    Here's another example: the Des Moines Register's downsized Jane Norman, who just got her membership last year and "got" to play half of a horse on stage (front half). That's the kind of print reporter for whom the Gridiron Dinner would be the night of the year.

    Gridiron humor is old-fashioned non-partisan Mark Russell stuff; "singe but never burn" is their motto. What kind of motto is that for a group of journalists? The ur-Gridiron skit was Nancy Reagan's song and dance about her china, but while they were chuckling no one seriously questioned her husband's actual policies. (Blast from the past: the leftist FMLN that we financed so many death squads to stop just came to power in El Salvador.) Which leads to my next nail:

  • Jon Stewart's smackdown of CNBC's Jim Cramer on the Daily Show last week. Can you imagine Jon Stewart buying into "singe but never burn"? "Somebody's not doing their fuBEEPn' job," he'd say, then he'd burn them at the stake and roast marshmallows over the coals, using the bones for sticks.

    It speaks volumes about the state of journalism that it took a partisan comedian to do the job that no economic "journalist" could do in the leadup to the collapse of the markets. The old school journalists of the Gridiron ilk are still wedded to Objective Neutrality, while Stewart and Olbermann--hell, even the likes of Buchanan and Scarborough--run rings around them by simply having a viewpoint.

    More fuel for my conclusion that what will eventually evolve out of The Death Of Journalism As We Know It is an American partisan press like the rest of the world has. I have seen the future and... well, you're reading it.
  • Monday, March 16, 2009

    Biden Uses Cheney's Language

    Vice Presidential Cussin': Joe vs. Dick

    Joe Biden opened his mouth again over the weekend, with some vocabulary that would get me blocked by the filtering software.

    But even when Joe cusses, it's with warmth and affection. Listen for yourself as Joe reacts with jovial yet obscene modesty ("Give me a f---ing break!") when a former Senate colleague addresses him by title "Mr. Vice President." This is defnitely a guy who, despite his love of his own voice, is not too full of himself. Reminds me of seeing him at the Hamburg Inn, as he cut off the person introducing him with a long CV of his Senate years and simply said, "I'm Joe Biden."

    Compare that to Dick Cheney's well-publicized F-Bomb: he was angrily telling a political enemy, Sen. Pat Leahy, where to stick it.

    The real obscenity, of course, is Cheney's continued defense of the Cheney-Bush Administration and its torture policies this past weekend on CNN.

    Political Profiling In Missouri

    Your Bumpersticker May Get You Pulled Over Missouri

    Mister State Trooper Please Dontcha Stop Me: The lowly bumpersticker is one of the simplest tools in the political kit. And now in Missouri, law enforcement is looking on them as tools as well, in a bit of political profiling that could get you pulled over for Driving While Right.

    A February state report titled “The Modern Militia Movement” (.pdf) includes the following criteria for identifying the next Timothy McVeigh:
  • Bumper stickers for third-party (sic) candidates like Ron Paul, Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin
  • Opposition to the Federal Reserve and support of the gold standard
  • Opposition to US Army takeover of Homeland Security
  • Opposition to the North American Union
  • Opposition to universal military service
  • Tax resistance

    That's not entirely a right-wing list but that's not the point either, as sources from the Libertarian-leaning Ballot Access News to antiwar.com are uniting on this one. And in Kansas City:
    Tim Neal, a military veteran and delegate to last year's state GOP convention, was shocked by the report's contents.

    "I was going down the list and thinking, 'Check, that's me,'" he said. "I'm a Ron Paul supporter, check. I talk about the North American union, check. I've got the 'America: Freedom to Fascism' video loaned out to somebody right now. So that means I'm a domestic terrorist? Because I've got a video about the Federal Reserve?"

    Neal, who has a Ron Paul bumper sticker on his car, said the next time he is pulled over by a police officer, he won't know whether it's because he was speeding or because of his political views.

    "If a police officer is pulling me over with my family in the car and he sees a bumper sticker on my vehicle that has been specifically identified as one that an extremist would have in their vehicle, the guy is probably going to be pretty apprehensive and not thinking in a rational manner," Neal said. "And this guy's walking up to my vehicle with a gun."

    The Deethmobile has a noisy slate card on the back (all winners since I covered Denise O'Brien up with Harkin) and also advertises my tastes in music and football. My views aren't all that controversial here in the 70% Obama People's Republic, but I drive through Missouri a lot to see my in-laws, and I'd think twice about taking my car through Oklahoma (or parking it at Soldier Field). I did get a McCain sticker stuck on it when I covered the rally in Davenport last October, but I just had a good laugh over that. Easier to laugh when you aren't being asked for license and registration.

    (I think my bumper stickers got me out of a ticket once during the 1992 campaign, but that just makes up for the one my long hair cost me in 1988.)

    And you never know how the local will translate across state lines. One of the Warning Signs for a Missouri state trooper might be the "Don't Tread On Me" flag. Around here, that became the logo for opponents of the Newport Road plan and supporters of successful county board candidate Larry Meyers. Larry incorporated the flag into his flyers and bumper stickers, but most of the road opponents didn't bother with extra explanations. In the local debate, the flag spoke for itself.

    So drive that car with the unexplained "militia flag" from a three year old campaign down to Missouri for the weekend, and you may find yourself with some `splainin' to do.
  • Progressive Trend Map

    More fun with maps: The progressive trend

  • Ruy Teixeira, who wrote The Emerging Democratic Majority back in the dark ages of the early Bush 43 era when it seemed like a cruel joke, is on the Center for American Progress site with some cool toys: an interactive "how progressive are you" quiz (I scored an "extremely progressive" 343 out of 400, no surprise there) and a map of progressive trends that you can zoom down to the county level.

    The map shows Iowa growing 1% less "progressive" 1988 to 2008, but its shorthand for "progressive" is the Obama and Dukakis vote. That's probably the one comparison since the 1968 realignment that would show Iowa trending away from Democrats. Michael Dukakis over-performed in Iowa and was the first Democrat to carry the state since Johnson in `64. (There was a near-miss in `76; Ford won with less than 50% and Gene McCarthy's independent vote was more than the margin.) The Reagan years were not kind to the farms, and Iowa was at the leading edge of the Democratic trend that went national in 1992. That was the first election where the map showed that upper Midwest block of Wisconsin-Minnesota-Iowa that's been a feature (now expanded with Illinois) of electoral maps since.

    That said, there's interesting patterns within Iowa, with the state getting bluer in the east and redder in the west.

  • Clay Shirky with the best article I've read yet on The Death Of Journalism As We Know It:
    When someone demands to know how we are going to replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place. They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril, that core institutions will be spared, that new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than upending it. They are demanding to be lied to.

    There are fewer and fewer people who can convincingly tell such a lie.

    Or, why Wal-Mart won't subsidize the Baghdad bureau.

  • No Linux Monday this week; being without my main tool the #1 laptop has slowed my productivity and learning curve. Specifically, I'm surviving on a Pentium III 550 MHz with 512 meg of RAM (in Ubuntu 8.04--this machine would barely function in XP let alone Vista), and Firefox grinds to a crawl whenever I have more than about three tabs open. Typically, I have 8 or 10 tabs open when I'm in active writing mode.

  • Happy 40th to desmoinesdem who gives me a shout-out in 40 Good Bloggers Over 40, a recommended diary at Kos.

  • And the next hot retirement spot: Detroit!
  • Sunday, March 15, 2009

    Chuck Grassley and Peter Teahen Clips

    Chuck Grassley: the Face of the GOP (for a day, anyway)

    Cuuck Grassley, not the fourth most senior Republican Senator, took another step forward as the national face of the GOP Saturday with the Republican response to the President's address.

    It was old radio hand Ronald Reagan who started the weekend address. He'd done short form syndicated editorials in the interim between the 1976 and 1980 campaigns; I remember funding a vinyl LP of the "best" of them at the country radio station I worked at during the second term, and re-editing them so Ronnie sounded more like Gorby ("Private enterprise has failed and socialism is the only answer," I took out of context.) 1981 was also near the dawn of the 24 hour news cycle, with CNN brand new, and Reagan's people saw the news hole on Saturday morning and helped plug it.

    Tax and spend, tax and spend, tax and spend is the summary of Grassley's response. In many ways he's the perfect GOP face to present opposite Obama: old and white. On the other hand, Chuck also wins the prize for Least Likely Tweeter, as he's become a big Twitter fan.

    There's risks for Grassley being the face of the GOP when he faces re-election next year in a state that's trending blue. The Iowa race remains at the outer fringes of the national radar screen, mostly premised on the idea that Grassley may retire. You all know my theory on that: one more term and then grandson state Rep. Pat Grassley is old enough in 2016.

    But even with Grassley in the race we were briefly on the radar, until the president took Tom Vilsack out of the mix. That's really my biggest beef with The Prez so far (well, second biggest; I want the troops home last week and not in 20 months). He's messed up three good Senate races with cabinet appointments. Vilsack was our best shot, Sebelius was the ONLY Democrat who could have won Kansas, and Janet Napolitano was leading John McCain in some early polls. (There was some speculation that Napolitano was names to Homeland Security--I HATE that term, it sounds all Third Reich to me--to get McCain on board. Nice how that turned out.)

    But even without Vilsack there still may be someone who can knock off Grassley. We just don't know who that is yet, and time's a-tickin'.

    One name we WON'T be seeing on a ballot is Peter Teahen, who was supposed to be the main-chance candidate against Dave Loebsack in 2008 until 2nd CD Republicans revolted and wentr with MMM instead. Teahen has now signed on with the Bob Vander Plaats campaign. To me that looks like an attempt to get the Huckabee Band back together: the Fair Taxers meet the fundamentalists. It's the national GOP's problem writ small: that which the base loves, everyone else hates.

    I think this primary--and there WILL be a primary--will come down to VP vs. Not VP, and the live questions are who Not VP will be and will that be enough. It's not going to be one of the Frequently Mentioned First Tier--King, Latham, Northey, Vaudt. They might be able to out-poll BVP, but they all have reasonable comfy gigs(with the possible exception of Latham) but would have to give those up. So, is there anyone in the GOP second string who can win a primary running from the middle and not the right?

    Thursday, March 12, 2009

    Foreclosure Map

    Half of Foreclosures in only 35 Counties

    A map of where home foreclosures are concentrated has been making the rounds the last couple days, with the accompanying story that over half of all forclosures have happened in only 35 counties.

    Granted, those tend to be metro mega-counties, but even then that's still pretty concentrated.

    It seems we have not so much a national foreclosure crisis as we have a sunbelt foreclosure crisis: California, Texas, Arizona, Florida, Vegas. The original version in USA Today gives you a slider that lets you compare 2008 foreclosure rates to 2006, and shows that the crisis hit Colorado early, and a secondary rust belt cluster of Illinois-Indiana-Ohio-Michigan later.

    Rural America is blank on the map; Iowa is at the eastern end of a seven-state area with no colored-in counties. Of course, maybe we all got foreclosed in the farm crisis of the 80s.

    This mak led me to a neat site, The Electoral Map, which notes: "Many of the areas hit the hardest voted for Bush in 2004 and then Obama in 2008, including the I-4 Corridor, exurban Washington and the Inland Empire."

    Will Steele Outlast Westwood

    The Jean Westwood Line

    In the realm of political celebrity, chair of the out party usually ranks somewhere below the Secretary of Agriculture who parties with Cookie Monster. Sure, Howard Dean raised the bar, but he had a presidential campaign and an unforgettable, parody perfect moment behind him.

    Yet Michael Steele has been chair of the Republican Party all of 42 days, and he's already the punchline of Saturday Night Live humor. All Dean had was one YEEEEAH! but already Steele's given us hip hop Republicans, the buzzer controlled by Limbaugh, Michelle Bachmann saying "you be da man"... oh, the laughs. How many late night comedy fans can even name Tim Kaine?

    Who? I'm guessing most of you who read the Deeth Blog know, but for the Linux geeks who wandered over on a non-Monday, that's the DNC chair.

    Steele's runner-up in January, Katon "White Country Club" Dawson, is showing the kind of unite-the-party loyalty to the winner not seen since the Johnson County Democratic Chair race of 2007. The buzz is Dawson's calling for a do-over vote of no confidence sometime in early April.

    But Steele's real competition isn't Katon Dawson. It's Jean Westwood.

    Like Steele, the first black RNC chair, Westwood broke a barrier: she was the first woman to head the Democratic National Committee when she was elected on July 14, 1972. And like Steele, her term got off to a rocky start: the first ever and still only post-convention dumping of a vice presidential candidate.

    It was all downhill from there for George McGovern's campaign, even though he had the honor of being chronicled in the greatest book ever written, Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail `72 by Hunter Thompson. (True story: one of the first times I met McGovern, the guy in front of me had a book he wanted autographed. Not one of McGovern's books--Hunter Thompson's. George laughed and said "I must have signed hundreds of these over the years.")

    McGovern, of course, was elected president of Massachusetts, DC, and Johnson County Iowa. Hunter Thompson takes the story from there:
    We had to catch a plane back to Washington, where the Democratic National Committee was scheduled to meet the next day -- Saturday, December 9 -- for the long-awaited purge of the McGovernites. In the wake of McGovern's defeat, the party was careening to the right. John Connally's Texas protege, Robert Stauss, already had more than enough votes to defeat McGovern's appointee, Jean Westwood, and replace her as Democratic National Chairman. Which is exactly what happened the next day. George's short-lived fantasy of taking over the party and remolding it in his own image had withered and died in the five short months since Miami. Now the old boys were back in charge.

    As they would remain until 2008.

    149 days. That's how long Jean Westwood was head of the DNC. 149 days.

    Baseball fans have a term called the Mendoza Line: an impenetrable wall of fortresses protecting France from Nazi Germany. Oops, that's the Maginot Line. The Mendoza line, named for weak-hitting shortstop Mario Mendoza of the 1979 Kansas City Royals, is a measure of mediocrity separating the merely poor from the pathetic, usually defined as a batting average below .200 (more precisely, .198).

    149 days is the Westwood Line. That's the mark Michael Steele has to beat to avoid going down as the fastest failure as a party chair in modern history. That means that to pass the Westwood Line Steele has to last until June 27.

    (JC Dems: the answer is August 1.)

    He may not have that long. The big test in March 31--Day 61. That's the date of the special election in New York's 20th district, Republican-leaning turf that Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand won in 2006, held in 2008, and left for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. If the GOP loses the first big test on Steele's watch, he may be gone in under ten weeks, establishing the Steele Line at less than 70 days and rivaling the Pope John Paul I Line and the William Henry Harrison Line.

    Dozens of Republican National Committee Chairs spontaneously combust each year; it's just not really widely reported.

    Wednesday, March 11, 2009

    No Pattern to Cell Only

    No Pattern to Cell Only

    I've been trying but I can't see a pattern on this list of states ranked by percentage of people who have cell phones only. Iowa is number five on the list. I see a cluster of plains and rural states at the top and New England near the bottom--but I also see next door states on opposite ends like North Dakota high and South Dakota low.

    As for Iowa we're 22.2 percent of households and 18.9 percent of adults cell-only. It's probably a lot higher here in the People's Republic, where I've been wireless only for 7 1/2 years and I don't know anyone under 30 with a land line.

  • "I don’t see how you can get around a filibuster" on card check, says Chuck Grassley, "and it will be filibustered.” So let them, Harry Reid. make them talk. That's what Howard Dean said last night on MSNBC. I still love Howard, even if I don't love the way DFA in Johnson County has been the Dennis Roseman Personal Political Organization the past two years.

  • See! Tom Vilsack hanging with Cookie Monster! How the mighty fall. No, not Vilsack--Cookie Monster. His career hasn't been the same since he became politically and nutritionally correct and changed his tune from "C Is For Cookie" to "A Cookie Is A Sometimes Thing." The once mighty muncher is now reduced to pushing broccoli--broccoli!-- with the Secretary of Agriculture. Hey, Cookie Monster always had MILK with his cookies, that's healthy. OM NOM NOM NOM.

    As for Vilsack, he stays dressed in suit and tie, having learned his lesson from the infamous Winnie The Pooh costume.

  • Crazy Jim Bunning is at it again, teasing the Kentucky press with an internal poll:
    "Let's say I did the polling," the senator told reporters on a conference call this morning.

    What does that mean?

    "That means it's none of your goddamn business," Bunning said, who then followed up with a laugh. "If you paid the 20 grand for the poll, you can get some information out of it."

  • An interesting and very religulous piece by Michael Spencer in the Christian Science Monitor (reminder: now an online only publication) posits a major collapse of evangelical Christianity:
    Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.
  • Shades of Green

    What's Your Shade Of Green?

    Interesting article at Worldchanging that argues there's really three different types of environmentalism going on: bright green, light green and dark green. Shorthand definitions:

  • Bright green: "any vision of sustainability which does not offer prosperity and well-being will not succeed." This reminded me of Rep. Jay Inslee's book, Apollo’s Fire: Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy.

  • "Light greens strongly advocate change at the individual level. The thinking is that if you can get people to take small, pleasant steps (by shopping differently, or making changes around the home), they will not only make changes that can begin to make a difference in aggregate, but also begin to clamor for larger transformations."

  • "Dark greens, in contrast, tend to emphasize the need to pull back from consumerism (sometimes even from industrialization itself) and emphasize local solutions, short supply chains and direct connection to the land."

  • Then there are of course the "grays" who deny there's any problem at all. Other names for this group include "browns" and "Republicans."

    As a blogger, I delight in saying uncomfortable things, and my periodic rants about motor homes towing SUVs at two gallons a mile, and my belief that we can't sustain refrigerated cities in the desert complete with golf courses, you might call me a dark green. But my bike to work, grow food in the back yard lifestyle makes me a light green whenever I can. (But with kids, sometimes you land in the dark brown zone of the McDonalds drive thru.)
  • Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    Tuesday Clips

    North Korean Election Results

  • Kim Jong Il wins re-election with 99.9% turnout. In other news, 0.1% of North Koreans put into labor camps.

  • Over at Kos, a comment on the stem cell exec order:
    (House Minority Whip Eric Cantor)'s not even pretending there's a moral objection any more. It's just knee-jerk contradiction for the hell of it at this point.

  • Bleeding Heartland has fun redistricting Iowa down to four; insert my standard Leonard Boswell Needs To Retire Or We Lose To Latham rant.

  • And a Linux bonus: PCMag guru John Dvorak, long seen as a Windows booster, says good things about Ubuntu and bad things about Micro$oft:
    With few exceptions, each time a patch is installed with the Mac OS, the performance of the machine improves. With Windows, the performance always declines.

    I don't think Microsoft has ever sent out a patch that improved the performance of the machine. Ever.

    And of course, the biggest differences between Ubuntu and Windows are the cost and the subsequent headaches, because Microsoft is constantly fretting over bootleg copies. The company monitors machines to make sure they are running legal copies of software. There have already been instances of computers shut down by Microsoft HQ because of some glitch in the cloud. This is simply unacceptable. I don't want to rely on a system like that.
  • Monday, March 09, 2009

    Linux clips

    Linux Monday Clip Show

    The temporary displacement from my main machine (nothing to do with Linux! it's hardware, my video card fried) has me a bit disoriented.

    Friday I said I was going to try working in Puppy Linux for a while, but that didn't go so well. The browser, a low-resource version of Firefox called Sea Monkey, didn't cope well with my ten open tabs style of working. So for the moment I'm on a Pentium III 550MHz running Ubuntu 8.04. That's one of Ubuntu's Long Term Support releases; most versions are supported for 18 months but every third version is Long Term Support and is supported for three years.

    With all that machine shuffling, plus a son's birthday thrown in, it's been a little busy for deep writing, so this Monday I'm cleaning out the closet of saved Linux clips.

  • Distribution Choice. This article says it's about skill level and purpose. Assuming that my audience is desktop beginners, that points to Ubuntu or Mandriva. This Information Week piece is a little more in depth but says much the same thing:
    Ubuntu is hardly the only starter distribution, although it's certainly the most well-known and significant. Linux Mint (itself an Ubuntu derivative), PCLinuxOS, SimplyMEPIS and Mandriva also follow the "it should just work" philosophy, each with their own variant approaches to usability, package management and migration from Windows.

    PolishLinux has a useful if somewhat dated interactive tool. And if you're really ambitious, you can build your own distribution here. ("Number of Linux Distributions Surpasses Number of Users") Does the world really need Deeth Linux? (I can't call it Raspberry Beret Linux; too close to Red Hat.)

  • Global Popularity. Based on Google searches, "the interest in Linux seems to be the strongest in India, Cuba and Russia."

    Free Software Really IS Communism: Cuba was in the news recently when the Castro Brothers decided to tell Bill Gates to stick it and launch, you guessed it, their own Linux distribution called Nova. This revived all those Chevy Nova "doesn't go" translation jokes from the early 80s.

    StatCounter, my little spy under the hood of the blog, recently launched a global stats site that includes OS stats. I played with the toys to see where people are into Linux but the overall stats are relatively low so they don't stand out. What does stand out is the zigzag pattern of XP vs. Vista. If you zoom in to a shorter time frame like a month it's clear: Vista spikes on weekends and drops during the week, indicating the work world is sticking with XP while home users are getting it stuck to them with Vista,

  • OK, you've made it this far, time for some command line.
    This tutorial gives you troubleshooting tips. I learned the top command, which tells you what's using the most system resources. (In Puppy it told me more than 100% of the memory was in use, which I'm still trying to figure out.)

    a list of the 50 most useful commands. And if you're really brave, try Linux tips every geek should know.

  • Microsoft bashing.
    Top 10 worst uses for Windows
    and Ten More Stupid Uses for Windows.