Sunday, May 31, 2009

Inarticulate Rage On The Murder of George Tiller

Inarticulate Rage On The Murder of George Tiller

In a long-unissued song, "Who Killed Davey Moore," Bob Dylan looked at the death of a boxer in the ring, as each in turn--the referee, the crowd, the press, the other boxer--all deny their culpability.

That's how I was feeling yesterday as the "segitimate" (sic) "pro-life" (sic) groups, our own jihad of religious maniacs, muttered their rote and insincere condemnations, upset only because it made them look bad when someone extended their absurd argument to its implied conclusion, walked into Dr George Tiller's CHURCH, and blew him away with one shot.

That's not how we are supposed to settle things here.

The anti-choice terrorist networks are going to try to pin a Lone Gunman theory on this, but you don't get the kind of logistics and information to do something like this all by yourself. Anyone who lifted a finger to help needs to by prosecuted just as hard.

And as much as I believe in the First Amendment as an absolute, we need to hold the rhetoric of the right responsible as well. The remnants of conservatism, the Limbaughs and Palins and Gingriches, are just as responsible for this as Davey Mooore's crowd.

The most infuriating part is, it works. Who the hell is going to take over Dr. Tiller's practice? That apparantly is the point. Welcome to Gilead.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Republican's 2012 Know-Nothing Strategy

The New Know-Nothings: A 2012 Strategy So Crazy It Might Work

The great Nate Silver is back from a break at FiveThirtyEight with a must-read on how the GOP can get to 270 electoral votes in 2012. It's a variation on the Don't Make Me Press 1 For English theme (or as I call it, the Don't Habla Espanol In Front Of Me In The Wal-Mart Line Because It Makes Me Think You're Talking About Me mindset).

Nate calls it "Operation Gringo":
It depends, of course, on exactly how much more ground they lose (with Hispanics), as well as how much ground they could hope to gain among white voters. If they chose to pursue this strategy, the Republicans would probably elect to make immigration a linchpin issue of their campaign, perhaps coupled with the adoption of some paleoconservative, protectionist rhetoric on issues like NAFTA. While this strategy would be at best a temporary fix -- it would become less effective each passing year as the country continues to grow more diverse -- it might have some strategic benefits in the next two elections.

Nate walks through it state by state and under all scenarios, Iowa is a target (which should make Steve King happy). Problem is, it's a very, very thin needle to thread. The more they amp up the nativist rhetoric, the more Hispanic-heavy states like McCain's Arizona and even Bush's Texas are at risk.

Still, it's a stratgery, albiet one that's as desperate as it is reprehensible. Tom Tancredo (remember how I thought he was the sleeper in the 2007 pack?) may have run one cycle too early. Of course, it could also backfire spectacularly.

Shwartzenegger Disses Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot: GOP Version

AHnold vas never much of an actor, but he could always nail those catch phrases, and here The Governator and his script writers grab a Quote Of The Day: "They say that Rush Limbaugh is the 800 lb. gorilla in the Republican Party, but I think that's mean spirited to say that because I think he's down to 650 lbs."

He also manages not to laugh at his own joke (Mr. President, you need to work on that) and make the larger point that his party needs to embiggen its tent. Question: Without the bizarre circumstances of the 2003 recall, could AHnold have gotten through a Republican primary?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Counting the votes on Sotomayor

Counting the vote on Sotomayor

My firs bet on the Sotomayor nomination was, she gets confirmed 80-20. Now that I think it through, I'm guessing more like 70-30. I looked at the Senate roster and I just can't think of 20 Republicans who'll vote for her.

Traditionally, the President got the man (always a man) he wanted for the Supreme Court. There were exceptions, to be sure, like the Fortas-Haynsworth-Carswell trifecta of failure in 1968 and 1969. But it wasn't until Bork and Thomas that the modern high stakes circus atmosphere of confirmations became more or less permanent.

The Dems will be unanimous, including the occasionally unreliables (Ben Nelson). That's 58 to 59 yes votes, or 60 if both 1) Ted Kennedy is well enough to vote and 2) Franken is seated. Add Collins and Snowe from Maine and that's 60 votes even without Kennedy and Franken. So we're above the filibuster bar already and the rest is posturing.

And the GOP is all about the posturing these days. Sotomayor can cross anyone off the list who either has national ambitions (DeMint, Ensign, Thune) or is worried about a primary back home (Vitter, Murkowski, Bob Bennett of Utah, maybe even McCain?). Grassley was a no vote in Sotomayor in 1998 and my guess is he's more worried about tending to his base than he is about the general election.

But Sotomayor could still pick up a few GOP votes. The four retirees--Voinovich, Gregg, Bond and Martinez--have nothing to lose, and I say she gets them. That's 64 to 66 votes. Dick Lugar and Orrin Hatch are old-school senators of the pre-Bork school. Let's call that 66 to 68 votes.

Then there's some wild cards:

Kay Bailey Hutchison is an exception to the primary rule. Normally one would worry about the right flank, but she simply has no room to maneuver to the right of Secession Rick Perry in the Texas governor's primary. She may think ahead to the general, with an eye to female and Hispanic votes.

Lamar Alexander is approachable on nominations and a decade past his national ambitions, but his spot in party leadership makes him iffy.

Lindsey Graham is feuding with colleague Jim DeMint and even though he's very, very conservative has an occasional reasonable streak.

Let's give Sotomayor two of three wild cards. That's 68 to 70 votes.

My prediction: a 69 to 29 roll call. Dems lose one vote, either Kennedy or Franken, to absence. GOP loses one vote: by the time it gets to the floor Jim Bunning will have been forced out of his re-election race and will quit coming to work just to spite Mitch McConnell.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Obama and the New Triangulation

Obama and the New Triangulation

Back in the dark days of 1995 and 1996, Bill Clinton was all about the "triangulation." He positioned himself between the Gingrich Republicans who had just taken over Congress and the supposedly out of touch liberal Democrats left playing defense in Congress. It was an era driven by both sides of the fence consultant Dick Morris, marked (or marred) by "micro" policies like school uniforms and V-chips, and capped by The End Of Welfare As We Know It.

This course steered a two-lane-wide Clinton straight down the yellow stripe, dominating both lanes through his lonely 1996 re-election while the GOP held Congress.

E.J. Dionne, while not calling it such, notes that on Guantanamo, Barack Obama is doing some triangulating of his own:
The idea, as far as I can determine, was to sell the liberal group on those aspects of Obama's plan that are a break from George W. Bush's policies, and to sell the centrist group on the toughness of the president's approach and the fact that it squares with Bush's more moderate moves later in his second term.

And Dionne says the remnants of the GOP are helping the triangulation:
For the left, which is unhappy about Obama's decisions on such issues as preventive detention, Cheney's outlandish explosion was a reminder of how much better Obama is than the guys who came before. While civil libertarians grumbled about parts of Obama's speech, much of the left concentrated its fire on Cheney.

So Obama's triangulation is positioning him between the left and the center, not between the left and the right as Clinton did. He's not all the way over into the bike lane the way I'd like, but he's driving on the left side of the road--and passing Republicans in the process.

Great Plains the next Democratic target

Great Plains the next Democratic target?

Kos diarist faveinchi argues, "Conservatives will lose the Great Plains next," which nicely echoes my map of a 2012 landslide from last week.

Can we turn that middle of the map red stripe blue? Well, Oklahoma is a lost cause, but even Big Red Nebraska showed a shade of blue in Omaha's district-based electoral vote. Montana, where New West Dems Gov. Brian Schwietzer and Sen. Jon Tester are riding high, was seriously contested last time. Kansas was briefly under consideration, while Kathleen Sebelius was on the veep shortlist. The Dakotas were briefly in play as well.

Targeting the Plains is a good offensive strategy that I saw, based on TV markets, back in 2005. Targeting Kansas helps in Missouri, targeting Omaha helps Iowa, targeting the Dakotas helps Minnesota.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Republican Run Reagan Ad Against Reid

Zombie Reagan Campaigns Against Harry Reid

Former President Zombie Reagan, despite being dead for five years, campaigned against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) this week.

"Reid doesn't have the braaaains to run the Senate," said Zombie Reagan, "because I ate them."

A conservative political action committee known as Our Country Deserves Better PAC launched an attack Monday that quotes Ronald Reagan criticizing the Nevada Democrat back in 1986. The ad, which will run on Nevada radio and TV stations, says Reid is “emblematic of all that’s wrong in Washington.”

Remember, Ronald Reagan was always looking forward, never living in the past, says Chairman Steele.

Iowa Republican Senate Goals: A Two-Cycle Process

Iowa Republican Senate Goals: A Two-Cycle Process

Last week Craig Robinson at the Iowa Republican was very optimistic about picking up seven state Senate seats in 2010 to take over the chamber. But today, buried deep in an article about minority leader Paul McKinley maybe running for governor, is this more realistic goal (emphasis added):
McKinley has been the 4th Republican Leader in the State Senate since 2006. Such rapid turnover is one contributing factor for why Republicans are out-numbered by Democrats 32 to 18. Senate Republicans are bound to gain seats in 2010. Even if they only pick up three seats in 2010, Republicans will look favorably on McKinley in the future if he leads them in a successful effort now.

That would put them at the short end of 29-21 in January 2011, and 2012 is a total crapshoot because the whole deck is shuffled by redistricting (I seem to be mixing my gambling metaphors). No one knows how the district lines will be drawn and how many seats will be up.

I followed this pretty closely in 2001-02, and redistricting years prompt more musical chairs than typical cycles. People realize their district looks bad, or that a run for another office looks good, or someone gets squeezed out in a backroom deal.

Some districts come up empty, with no incumbent living in the lines. Some come up with two or even three senators (as happened in current district 45, which explains Sandy Greiner's reluctant 2002 return to the House after a two-year visit to the Senate).

In 2002, there were ten "extra" contests for two-year terms. One was a two-senator faceoff where Republican Dick Drake topped Democrat Tom Fiegen. Both had been elected to four year terms in 2000, and if either one had decided to step down, the way the law works, the other would simply have kept the seat without an election (note that Drake retired only two years later). Other states handle this differently; the half of the seats that are up in the zero year are all two year terms. Then in the redistricting year, all seats are up: half for two years, half for four.

In addition to the Drake-Fiegen race, there was one other two-senator race, where Republican Dave Miller beat Democrat Mark Shearer (in the same seat where Greiner got burned), but they were both elected in `98 and thus due to run anyway. We also had nine empty even-numbered districts with two-year terms, for a grand total of 35 contests.

They called it the "double witching hour" in 1992: redistricting and presidential in the same year. Assuming roughly the same proportion of empty districts--and it's really dangerous to assume anything about Iowa's nonpartisan, tear up the whole map and start over districting system--and assuming that the GOP picks up their three seats in `10, that means the Republicans have about 35 theoretical targets to pick up four seats in 2012, against a presumed Obama tide.

In any case, Robinson's between the lines note today indicates that Republicans see retaking the Iowa Senate as a two-cycle process, with Phase 2 of the plan yet to be written.

Republicans Must Evolve Or Die On Marriage

Republicans Must Evolve Or Die On Marriage

Evolve or die, Darwin says. Of course, a lot of Repubicans these days have trouble with evolution, literallly and figuratively, as we're seeing on the marriage equality issue. Marriage is all about the reproductive biology (Darwin be damned), as we see in Steve King's latest rant in the Register. The Iowa Supreme Court "abandoned the words and wisdom of centuries of natural, Roman, common and Iowa law," King writes.

That should play well with the remaining Republican remnant. But traditionally, Republicans have been about the money, too. And here in the People's Republic, the business community is adapting:
"An informal committee made up of tourism officials, wedding service providers and hotel operatorsis working to market Iowa City for same-sex weddings.

The committee is made up of tourism officials, wedding service providers and hotel operators.

Josh Schamberger, the president of the Iowa City/Coralville Convention and Visitors Bureau, says the court's ruling provides an opportunity for economic development through tourism, and he says the Iowa City area is poised to capitalize on that opportunity."

Two different visions for the future--one growing and rooted in the future. Michael Abernathy writes:
As more courts and legislative bodies recognize the legal aspects of marriage, separate from the religious, and more people grow comfortable with their gay neighbors, co-workers, friends, and relatives, gay marriage will become a reality. There will be a time when it is legal in all 50 states, and it will be such a part of our societal fabric that people will look back at this fight for rights with amazement and disdain that such a violation of human rights continued for so long in America.

The other vision is vanishing into the past. Metavirus at Library Grape reviews Sam Shulman in the Weekly Standard and writes:
Many opponents of gay marriage simply haven't gotten over the decades-old fight against redefining gender roles into anything that doesn't lock a woman into a child-bearing role in the home while the husband ventures forth to hunt work to put food on the table.

Looks like the GOP is pursuing the all-important Flintstone vote. Perhaps the Geico cavemen are available as candidates.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Linux Monday: A Glass of WINE

Linux Monday: A Glass of WINE

The biggest problem most people have with making The Big Move from Windows to Linux, indeed the problem I had, is the One Critical App. Yes, you say, the cost is great, the security is better, the use of resources is better, I even like the open source philosophy. But there's this one program I absolutely can't live without, and it won't work.

For me, Microsoft Access was the deal breaker. I'd checked out Open Office, the open source community's main office suite, in Windows. And while the word processor and spreadsheet (and as I later found the slide show) worked just fine with my legacy windows files, Open Office Base was useless to me. I had a decade plus of legacy data locked into Access -- custom reports, countless queries, million record data tables -- and without Access I couldn't budge.

I settled for dual-boot for a while, gradually moving more and more of my work to Linux, getting more and more comfortable there, until my Windows partition was just that place I booted to occasionally for some database work.

But my open source ideology and stubbornness got the better of me, and despite my sobriety I got some WINE.

The name WINE is an inside joke--it allegedly stands for WINE Is Not an Emulator. The program allows you to, after a fair amount of tweaking, run Windows programs on a Linux system. It's a controversial issue within the open-source community. Like libertarians arguing whether we should privatize the streetlights now or later, open sourcers disagree in whether the community is better served by the tough love of breaking Microsoft addiction cold turkey, or by using the nicotine patch of WINE to ease people's withdrawal and overcome their fear of transition.

Working with WINE is a multi-step process and is for the committed. You start by installing the WINE program itself from the repository. You then need to open up WINE and install the Windows programs themselves from whatever software source you have (for example, your Microsoft Office disks).

WINE is under constant development and is very version-sensitive. And it supports some programs but not others. I failed with iTunes, and Photoshop doesn't work either. Be prepared to do some Googling to get things to work.

Once you do get things working, you don't on the surface "run WINE." A Windows Programs entry appeared on my desktop menu with Excel and Access and all the usual suspect (even Internet Exploder and Windows Media Player). You just run them like any other program and WINE works under the hood.

My install appeared to go successfully and I could open Excel and Access, but when I tried to open an actual file in Excel or Access the program would crash. Eventually I got my big database to work, but when I checked it out again back in Windows, the file was corrupted. My most recent work was lost, but fortunately I wasn't too long past a backup.

So I seemed to be stalled and went back, chastened, to the occasional Windows boot until I met Crossover.

Crossover Office really isn't in the open source spirit. It's based on WINE but contains additional, proprietary code and costs money. They had a free download day last fall, when I grabbed it, but normally each version--Crossover Linux, Crossover Mac and Crossover Games--is $39.95. I'd call it good value for the money.

Setting up Crossover is pretty similar to WINE: install the program itself, then add the apps. But once that was done, I was in, without a lot of post-install tweaking. Access is working fine, and once I determined that I quit working in Windows once and for all. I occasionally boot it up, but all I do in Windows is... maintain Windows: run the updates, update the firewall, update the antivirus. You know, all the stuff I don't have to think about in Linux.

The only problem I've had is saving in Excel. When I open a file that's saved as .xls, it tells me I have it open as read-only. My next step is making my system open .xls files by default as Open Office, rather than with Crossover-backed Excel.

In other tips: Ubuntu fans have been grumbling about the way Jaunty Jackalope deals with update notification. This tip shows you how to set it back to the way it worked in 8.10 and before, with an arrow in the tray. It's one line of command-line voodoo:
gconftool -s --type bool /apps/update-notifier/auto_launch false

Reboot and the next time you get an update, the friendly old arrow is there. Worked for me.

Another thing I've been playing with is Fluxbox, a minimalist desktop designed for use on low-resource machines. Low-resource distribution Damn Small Linux uses Fluxbox, but it's readily availible in the Ubuntu repositories as well (open Synamptic Package Manager and search on fluxbox).

It's not as user-intuitive as "pretty" desktops like GNOME, KDE and xfce; you have to right-click on it to pull up your menus, and the font is something old, monospaced terminal-looking thing. But on my main laptop, where I normally use GNOME, it automatically included menu items for all the apps (despite scary-sounding menu editing instructions that I didn't need to try). A little tweaking makes it look OK, and if you're using this on a higher end machine it's about performance not looks. I'm running Fluxbox on one of my old backup machines where the goal is to detect as many space aliens as possible, and where I plug in a monitor once a week or so just to make sure the thing's still running.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Redlawsk leaving University of Iowa

Redlawsk leaving University of Iowa for Rutgers

University of Iowa political scientist David Redlawsk is leaving the state for a position as Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, NJ.

Redlawsk's Hawkeye Polls were frequent newsmakers in the caucus and general election season, and he also took a personal role in the political process. Redlawsk was elected as a national delegate for John Edwards in 2008, switching to Obama pre-convention, and was interim chair of the Johnson County Democrats through the late stages of the 2004 caucus cycle.

"My experience with JC Dems and the Iowa Democratic Party has been an amazing ride. I feel very lucky to have been a part of a great organization that is driven by a sense of purpose, to make this world a better place for all," Redlawsk said in an open letter to the county party's listserv. "And I feel doubly lucky to have been a part of the campaign that elected our great Congressman Dave Loebsack, something 'they' all said couldn't be done!" Redlawsk was Loebsack's campaign treasurer in the 2006 cycle.

As for the career move, Redlawsk said, "this opportunity is simply too good to pass up, representing both a promotion to full professor and an opportunity to try out something new and exciting for my own career development." The move is also a return to East Coast roots for Redlawsk, who came to Iowa from New Jersey in 1999.

Redlawsk said his wife, former school board member Aletia Morgan, plans to stay in Iowa City a few months past his September 1 start date at Rutgers.

Whig Party Revival

The Whigs Are Back

The GOP is rapidly turning into the Know-Nothing Party, but they no longer have exclusive rights to the Party of No label. The Whig Party, notable in its 1840's prime for avoiding issues and existing primarily to opposed Democrats, has been revived in Florida and New Jersey, reports Ballot Access News.

The national group, at, claims chapters in 28 states, though in many the contact information is along the lines of "seeking a chair." The "modern Whig philosophy" is summed up as:
We represent moderate voters from all walks of life who cherry-pick between traditional Democratic and Republican ideals in what has been called the Modern Whig Philosophy.

This includes general principles of fiscal responsibility, strong national defense and bold social progression.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Clips

Friday Clips

  • As Mississippi Gov, Haley Barbour prepares to come to Iowa next month, the National Journal looks at just how much the GOP has become a Southern regional party. Yee-haw.

  • Iowa Republican: "Either (Bill) Northey is about to run the most extensive and expensive Secretary of Agriculture re-election campaign in Iowa’s history, or he is exploring a run for governor." Staffing up with big names... the anti-Vander Plaats may have emerged. (And Chuckie Larson is officially out.)

  • And sorry, kids, but Godzilla-size monsters are officially biologically impossible; it's a volume to surface area thing.
  • Thursday, May 21, 2009

    Marek Equivocates on Marriage

    Marek Equivocates on Marriage

    I know the district is tough, I ran in part of it. But I would have preferred a stronger statement on marriage equality than what freshman Rep. Larry Marek (D-Riverside) gave the Lone Tree Reporter:
    Marek said same-sex marriage is a highly emotional issue on both sides of the debate. The best way he says he can represent all of his constituens (sic) is to see that the issue goes before the citizens of Iowa on a ballot.

    "There are a lot of tough decisions to be made," Marek noted, "and emotional feelings involved. I try to do what's best for the area, with some people happy and some unhappy."

    In other bad news, New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch (D) vetoes marriage equality in what Dana Houle at Kos calls a "profile in cowardice."

    Unsustainability in the Desert Suburbs

    Unsustainability in the Desert Suburbs

    The United States is Not Carbon Flat, Kos writer devilstower argued last weekend while looking at different methods of electrical generation by state.

    That's one interesting way to look at it, and something that can change without fundamental lifestyle changes (except perhaps fr people working in the coal industry). But some of the changes people need to look at run deeper.

    Simple physics dictates that energy is used when you move matter--to heat or cool things, transport things, or push electrons into the grid.

    One of the biggest piles of matter we move is people, and at MyDD Charles Lemos writes:
    Suburbia is proving the greatest misappropriation of economic resources in human history. They are simply unsustainable and America's future is an urban and denser one. While urban sprawl is a worldwide problem, American cities have been built primarily for the ease of vehicular traffic with livability for humans seemingly an afterthought. As James Howard Kunstler notes the United States has invested all of its post-World War II wealth in an infrastructure for daily life that has no future. It is the Secretary LaHood's credit that he sees that the writing is on the wall.

    Heating and cooling are also a big factor, and this handy-dandy calculator tells me what my northern biases have suspected all along: cooling off in Arizona is way more pricey than keeping warm in Wisconsin. About twice as expensive, in fact.

    This is the third rail of the future that no one wants to touch: we simply can't keep living in deserts and tropical swamps that are 50 miles away from work. We need to move to town and get on the subway. In a real interesting numbers piece, Steven Strogatz notes:
    Bigger cities have more gas stations than smaller ones (of course), but not nearly in direct proportion to their size. The number of gas stations grows only in proportion to the 0.77 power of population.

    The same pattern holds for other measures of infrastructure. Whether you measure miles of roadway or length of electrical cables, you find that all of these also decrease, per person, as city size increases. And all show an exponent between 0.7 and 0.9.

    Steele: Reagan Never Looked Backwards

    This Stuff Just Writes Itself Sometimes

    As Dave Barry says, I Am Not Making This Up:
    “Ronald Reagan never lived in the past,” Steele (said). “Ronald Reagan was all about the future. If President Reagan were here today he would have no patience for Americans who looked backward.”

    We need to get Michael Steele a job at Saturday Night Live writing the script for his own self-parody. Remember, he still has to last till June 27 to beat the modern short-term party chair record set by Democrat Jean Westwood in 1972.

    Wednesday, May 20, 2009

    Higher Development Linked to Obama Vote

    Third World Republicans

    The Cman Blog, via Andrew Sullivan and The Map Scroll, links me to this map of US states ranked by the UN human development index.

    The UN defines the index as "a summary composite index that measures a country's average achievements in three basic aspects of human development: health, knowledge, and a decent standard of living. Health is measured by life expectancy at birth; knowledge is measured by a combination of the adult literacy rate and the combined primary, secondary, and tertiary gross enrollment ratio; and standard of living by GDP per capita."

    Where have I seen this before? Oh, yeah:

    Every one of the dark green "Scandinavian states" (as a descendent of socialist Sweden I like the term) went for Obama. And what of the light green states and yellow Mississippi? Original source the American Human Development Report calls those "the Underdeveloped Core."

    And not only are all of these states red, they're the very states that swam against the national tide and trended MORE Republican in 2008: Appalachia, depopulated Louisiana, racially polarized Alabama and Mississippi, depopulated and destroyed Louisiana, pining for Hillary Arkansas, and every county red Oklahoma.

    It's a very telling map and yet, at the same time, a very frustrating one. The very Americans who could most benefit from education, health care and jobs are the most resistant to the Obama program, voting against their economic self-interests. Maybe they're clinging to religion and guns? (Last map is from US Election Atlas; colors reversed from conventional blue and red.)

    (UPDATE: FiveThirtyEight takes issues with this map as meme and says it's just a glorified income level map.)

    Iowa GOP Targets State Senate Seats

    The Iowa Republican Runs State Senate Target List

    Craig Robinson at The Iowa Republican, as close to an Official blog as it gets, runs a list of the party's top seven state senate targets for 2010.

    2010 is a weird year because of the way redistricting works. We don't even know which or how many seats are up in 2012 and who gets two year vs. four year terms in 2010. Some of the 2010 senators may get their terms cut short if they get paired.

    The climb is steep from a 32-18 deficit, with the seats on the 2010 ballot checking in as 19 Democrats to only six Republicans. Here's the `06 returns (.pdf); thorough detail but as for me I like having percentages handy.

    Republicans may have to play a little defense, too; Larry Noble of Ankeny had a close 2006 race and Dave Hartsuch barely won Maggie Tinsman's moderate GOP district after bumping her off in the primary. His failed Congressional bid may have helped his name ID, but not necessarily in a good way.

    But Robinson is in an optimistic mood and playing offense, so let's look at his list. Remember, they have to sweep these, AND hold all their own, to take control.

    Some of these names are easy. Landslide Rich Olive? Sure. Our own Becky Schmitz? Yeah, I can see that.

    But others are more, well, interesting arguments. Robinson paints the Staci Appel race as a surrogate fight on gay marriage and her husband Justice Brent Appel's vote for it on the Supreme Court.

    A couple are sheer fantasy. The seventh pickup Robinson says the GOP needs for control? Amanda Ragan of Mason City, who won with 72 percent last time. And who's the guy to do it? Bill Salier, the holy warrior of the 2002 Senate primary.

    The most intriguing notion is Robinson's take on Keith Kreiman's Ottumwa-based District 47, where he touts none other than... Mariannette Miller-Meeks. That's a creative, turf-expanding idea, since she did run well in the southern tier in her congressional race. Though not as well as Republican bloggers hoped, as she was everyone's pick for Upset Of The Year No Really She's Gonna Win I Just Know It.

    (Speaking of which, failed GOP Senate primary candidate Steve Rathje is in my inbox again with another appeal for a congressional "exploratory" committee that looks more and more like a go.)

    MMM has kept her profile up since the loss last fall, but a quick peek at her intermittently updated blog shows her still focused on federal issues.

    So Robinson's put a brave face on things in his must-read piece, but the more realistic Republican target, as in 2008, is the House. Here's hoping we get a list for that chamber too.

    2012 looks like 1964

    How low can Republicans go?

    “If it’s 2012 and our party is defined by Palin and Limbaugh and Cheney, then we’re headed for a blowout. That’s just the truth.”
    - A GOP strategist for John McCain and Jon Huntsman

    It's almost sad to watch the Republican Party's ongoing death spiral. The moment any Republican even hints at distancing the party from the Bush legacy or moderating their policies, they're immediately declared persona non grata.

    Friday another sailor deserted the sinking ship. Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is a pretty conservative guy (how else do you get elected governor of freakin' Utah) but he's hinted that maybe just maybe the GOP should rethink its homophobia. But now Huntman is on Team Obama as ambassador to China, a high-profile job for which he's apparantly extremely qualified.

    Huntsman's defection makes both teams more conservative, in the paradox you see in the old joke: When Ole and Lena moved from Sweden to Norway they increased the average intelligence of both countries. (Insert your own geography or ethnicity here; I use Scandinavia because it's pretty safe plus it's my own ethnicity.)

    The battle for the direction of the GOP is in its early stages, but increasingly it looks like it'll be delayed. Huntsman's move prompts Senate Guru at My DD to ask, Are Some Top Republicans Conceding Obama's Second Term?

    The way this theory goes, the silent moderates, the 57 percent of Republican leaders who anonymously tell pollsters Dick Cheney should STFU, but are afraid to say so in public, decide that it's fourth down and punt the 2012 elections. They let the wingnuts choose Palin or Huckabee for a worthless 2012 nomination so they can say See I Told You So (no apologies to Limbaugh) in 2016.

    They did it once before, in 1964, when the Nixon wing rightly realized that America wasn't going to elect a third president less than a year after Kennedy's assassination. Their vote percentage bottomed out at 38.5 percent that year (better than HW got in `92, but Perot makes the 1990s worthless for comparisons). The GOP did a modified version of this in 1996, conceding Dole's defeat and focusing successfully on holding Congress.

    1972 is the mirror image of 1964, with McGovern dropping to 37.5. Thus it looks like in that era, three-eighths of the electorate was solid Republican, three-eighths of the electorate was solid Democratic, and a quarter was up for grabs.

    The increasing polarization of the parties means we probably won't see popular vote percentages that rival 1964 or 1972. It's hard to say how big the maximum landslide is, since we haven't had a true two party blowout since 1984, when Mondale sank to 40.6 (still three points above McGovern). But one can guess that the GOP bottoms out somewhere below McCain's 45.6, especially if the nominate a candidate from the extreme edge. I'll pull a number out of this air and say... 42.5. That assumes that the number of persuadable voters, who won't automatically vote for a Goldwater-weak Republican or a McGovern-weak Dem, has dropped from 25 percent to about 15 percent.

    In `12, Republicans lose their biggest case against Obama, experience (though, come to think of it, they threw that argument away with Palin). It'll be hard to argue that the four year incumbent president is "inexperienced," just like we had a hard time arguing that Ronnie was gonna blow up the world when he hadn't yet.

    Sow what does a modern-era Democratic landslide look like in the electoral college? Kinda like this.

    This was built at Dave Liep's US Election Atlas, only I reversed his colors to show the more conventional interpretations of red and blue. Also, these are mostly 2008 electoral college numbers. Of the red states Utah is gaining a seat, which I took from Iowa; doing a full reapportionment doesn't change the rest of the map.

    The red states above are the places where McCain topped 60 percent. It's generous to Obama to assume that much flips, but I'm just illustrating the 500 year floodplain of a mega-landslide. Appalachia flips, most of the south flips, and Lincoln, Nebraska flips. Even Palin's Alaska and W's Texas flip. The GOP is left with 5 1/3 states: a compound in Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and west Nebraska, with outposts in Oklahoma and Alabama.

    That's a 508-30 score (Utah gains a vote), better than McGovern and Mondale's one state plus DC losses. The GOP low point still seems a little higher than the Dem's low points; even Goldwater took six states and 52 electoral votes.

    How does this ripple through the downballot races? The House is hard to predict, as 2012 is redistricting year. But a landslide year would help in the Senate, when the class of 2006 is up. A weak top of the GOP ticket helps some of the senators that squeaked by in that watershed year. The names McCaskill, Tester and Webb come to mind. Virginia just flipped red to blue in 2008, and Missouri and Montana were Obama's nearest misses.

    Mondale and Dukakis were not truly of the left, though they were protrayed as such in the flag factory ads of the era. But even seeming "moderates" like the Mitt are pretty far to the right. The Republicans are entering their version of the Mondale-Dukakis years in the wilderness, and their death spiral is likely to take them lower yet.

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009

    Ted Nugent Conservatives

    Double Right Gonzo: The Biz vs. the Nuge

    Way back in the Reagan era, P.J. O'Rourke called them "pants-down Republicans" (who wanted both tax cuts and Debbie Harry) and later "Republican Party Reptiles":
    We are opposed to: government spending, Kennedy kids, seat-belt laws, busing our children anywhere other than Yale, trailer courts near our vacation homes, all tiny Third World countries that don’t have banking secrecy laws, aerobics, the UN, taxation without tax loop­holes, and jewelry on men. We are in favor of: guns, drugs, fast cars, free love (if our wives don’t find out), a sound dollar, and a strong military with spiffy uniforms.

    There are thousands of people in America who feel this way, especially after three or four drinks.

    At the turn of the century, the label was "South Park Republicans":
    "The term refers to a kind of irreverent post-liberal or anti-liberal attitude or sensibility, one very in tune with popular culture. But it's not a coherent, fully developed political philosophy. You do find this attitude among a lot of younger Americans, as I show in my concluding chapter, which is based on lots of interviews with right-of-center college kids."

    Those right-of-center college students, for the most part, aren't Alex P. Keaton-clones, decked out in Ralph Lauren double-breasted navy blue blazers. They're more likely to look like every other college kid: jeans, sneakers, and T-shirts advertising their favorite rock groups. But there's one thing that South Park campus conservatives abhor: "Political correctness drives them nuts", Anderson says. "In interviewing students, for instance, it was clear how much the PC conformities of the campus Left turned them off."

    The new description for the same old concept was a headline I couldn't resist: "The Ted Nugent Conservatives."

    Author Bernie Quigley doth quote his Tedness:
    RINOs are Fedzilla punks who feign support for conservative principles only when it serves their political interest. RINOs are also known for their moderate positions such as supporting tax increases, federal "bailouts," "comprehensive immigration reform," advocating more counterproductive gun control that guarantee more innocent victims, opposing the death penalty, and growing and sustaining Fedzilla and all its toxic mongrels by going along with the liberals.

    I say we launch an attack on all fronts. Uncle Ted hereby declares it is open season on RINOs. No bag limits or permits required. Conservative ideas, arguments and votes are the weapons we will use.

    Quigley adds:
    Mitt Romney, said to have been first choice of the Bush camp in 2008, with Eric Cantor, representative in Virginia and Jeb Bush are... carry(ing) the torch of the Eastern Republican tradition.

    Ted Nugent Conservatives would include (Tex. Gov. Rick) Perry, Mark Sanford, Governor of South Carolina, Libertarian Ron Paul and Sarah Palin.

    While Palin and Nugent share an affinity for killin' fur-bearin' critters like moose, it's telling that the image of a "hip" GOP draws on an entertainer 30 years past his prime. Hell, even the metaphor isn't fresh.

    While I can't come close to endorsing the Motor City Madman's politics, it goes without saying that he nevertheless kicked ass back in the day.

    Vaudt For Re-election Not Governor

    Vaudt Out; Who's In For Governor?

    The real issue in State Auditor Dave Vaudt's yesterday's announcement that he was running for re-election (and, by extension, NOT running for governor) is that a name is scratched off the Anyone But Vander Plaats list. If you read the GOP blogs you see the broad theme: the business wing of the party, with 2002 governor nominee Doug Gross as point person, is desperately searching for someone, anyone, who can beat the evangelical's choice in a primary. Because they know Vander Plaats will sweep the primary, then lose every county east of I-35 in November.

    How desparate? The name Terry Branstad is being mentioned. That would be in keeping with the national GOP's pantheon of fresh faces: Gingrich, Cheney, and Limbaugh. Where they hell is Gopher when they need him? (Answer: doing talk radio in DC. He's fluent in French and Arabic... looking for another Republican Ambassador, Mr. President? Algeria and Tunisia are beckoning...)

    Beating Bob in a primary is a tough call, since the deck of likely primary voters is stacked in his favor. The religious right is motivated, and they're also scaring moderates away (to the wishy-washy "No Party" designation or all the way over to the Dems). If you want All Gay Marriage All The Time, Vander Plaats is your guy. Unless it's Steve King, but I think he keeps dropping his name because he likes the attention, and is content with his safe seat and the bully pulpit it gives him.

    Even the national political press is picking up on the Iowa GOP dynamic with this Congressional Quarterly piece.

    Apart from ideology, BVP also risks a "loser" tag. He came up short in the 2002 primary against Gross and Steve Sukup (though in fairness that was a three way tie with less than six points between first and third), and got bought out of a losing primary bid in `06 when Nussle made him the running mate.

    The centrists's problem is getting one and only one candidate to take on Vander Plaats, who'll easily prevail if the votes split. The name Bill Northey gets mentioned a lot; he was an unexpected winner in 2006 (granted, Denise O'Brien got slimed in the end of that Sec of Ag race) and he's been reasonably adept at reaching across the aisle while doing his job. But an ag-based candidate might also have trouble in urban Eastern Iowa.

    Douglas Burns keeps mentioning his hometown legislator, Rod Roberts of Carroll. Burns argues that he splits the difference, with an evangelical background and business ties. His biggest problem is "Rod Who?"

    Bleeding Heartland also has a good overview of the field as it stands and doesn't.

    As for Vaudt's own race, the state auditor actually audits, unlike county auditors who run elections, pay the bills and map the plats. So there's not an obvious talent pool for Dems, who will have to hustle just to avoid the embarrassment they faces in 2006 when Vaudt was completely unopposed for a second term. He was the GOP's only statewide winner in 2002 when the job was open for the first time in a lifetime or so as Richard Johnson retired. (Johnson and Branstad tangled from time to time during some of the more gimmicky budgets of the mid-90s.) The only issues I remember in his 2002 race against longtime legislator Pat Deluhery (who made the statewide run when the legislative map looked bad) was party label and "Vaudt is a CPA and Deluhery isn't." It's an odd elected office, as accounting and charisma aren't often linked. Maybe the Dems will recruit this guy.

    Monday, May 18, 2009

    FBI Infilitrates Iowa CIty Peace Group

    Harrassment or Stupidity?

    The FBI seemed to think this a ragtag band of Iowa City based peace protesters was a Threat To National Security--or at least to a smooth Republican convention last fall. The Register has the details on how and when the FBI infiltrated them.

    This hits kinda close to home, as I'm only about a couple Kevin Bacons removed. I spent two days with some of the people named in the article as they prepped for, and then got, arrested at Harkin and Grassley's Cedar Rapids offices in 2007. (Wonder if that writeup is in the files?)

    The hints were there--remember Lara Elborno getting hauled out of a Cedar Falls McCain event before the candidate even showed up? But why bother with sending in the undercover spooks, when even reading a news source as minimal as me would show the same bunch of people yelling at Johnny Mac in Cedar Rapids and Davenport? As the great Rockwell once said, I always feel like somebody's watching me. (Actually Michael Jackson said that part I guess.)

    Even Bush-backing conservatives should be asking, "we wasted our tax dollars on THIS?!?" Goodner and Group's goals are clearly publicity oriented in nature: yell, get arrested, get on TV. See the career of spiritual godfather Frank Cordaro for details. These are folks who get bummed out that they don't get to go to jail for the night.

    I guess in the mind of the Bush-era FBI, the Hey Hey Ho Ho Something Something's Got To Go chant was a Threat To Democracy. Doesn't the FBI have better stuff to do, like finding some Klansmen or clinic bombers?

    Friday, May 15, 2009

    No Sales Tax Recount

    No Sales Tax Recounts in Johnson County

    The 5 p.m. deadline three days after the canvass has passed, and neither side petitioned for recounts in the close Iowa City and Coralville sales tax elections.

    Thursday afternoon Yes For All issues a release stating, "Members of our committee have observed the standard process of the Johnson County Auditor’s Office to come to a certified final result and, as a committee, we are confident in the accuracy of the certified count."

    “We’re willing to accept the yes in Iowa City if they’re willing to accept the no in Coralville,” Ax the Tax organizer Deb Thornton told the Press-Citizen earlier in the week. Does 'accept' meant 'no recount' or 'no do-over'? With the recount deadline passed, we'll know more soon.

    PIRG recommends registration reforms

    PIRG recommends registration reforms

    A new US PIRG report (PDF) looks at voter registration reform as a way to save tax dollars. It's a conservative dilemma: if you're going to try to suppress the vote, it'll cost you tax dollars to check all those IDs and birth certificates.

    I've always thought that registration reform is far, far more important than the equipment issues that the left obsesses about. (I had a nice long talk with a fellow techie, a non-political guy, this week, and in the circles he runs in, people want to vote on line.) Iowa has come a long way on registration reform with election day registration. Our last-chance provisional ballot numbers plummeted last year, because the overwhelming reason people cast them was "not registered."

    But we still have room to improve, and PIRG has a series of recommendations to streamline the process and save money, and oh yeah, votes too:

  • A federal mandate should be passed to require affirmative and automatic registration. Specified and privacy-protected data transfers and information sharing should occur from federal and state databases to the state voter rolls as a means of continuously updating the list. By eliminating the data entry and duplicate and error verification follow-up responsibilities of local officials, there will be large cost savings at the county level.

    That's what other countries do: you don't register to vote, the government registers you. Unfortunately, America has a fair share of idiots who are actually proud of not voting, who'd resist this as an "invasion of privacy." As if we have any realistic expectation of privacy in this era.

    A lot of people misunderstand the way Motor Voter works. You don't automatically get registered when you get a driver's license; you're asked if you want to register.

    And locals are scared of the words federal mandate, so PIRG recommends:

  • Federal funding should be provided to make it possible for states to implement this mandate.

    That's what it usually comes down to: where's the $$$.

  • States should also use specified private database transfers or information sharing to keep citizens on the rolls permanently at their most up-to-date address.

    One of my biggest frustrations with Iowa law is the way we handle the annual National Change of Address (NCOA) mailing, which went out from the Secretary of State early this month. The legally required language on the card is unclear. Someone gets a card that says: "Your old address is Iowa City. Your new address is Des Moines." They sign it and send it back. A reasonable person would assume they'd updated their address to Des Moines. Nope. They just cancelled their registration entirely, and need to to take the additional step of re-registering in Des Moines.

  • States should perform same-day balloting as a catch-all for citizens.

    Works in Wisconsin, works here.

    Obviously, this report is a lefty wish list. In many places we're still fighting to keep what we already have, as the Know-Nothing anti-immigrant right fights for photo ID and proof of citizenship, which instead has the effect of disenfranchising 97 year old nuns.

    It's even an issue here in the People's Republic. The Flip No conservation bond opponents argued loudly that it was unfair that non-property owning students were able to vote, an issue I thought was settled in the 1840s. Even Hillary Clinton argued that students shouldn't caucus (she was rewarded with non-viability in our student precincts).

    In the present political climate, it's hard to imagine compromise on process issues like voting. But just for discussion,what do my readers, left and right, think of this trade-off: you get photo ID, we get same day registration and no-excuse absentees? That would be a step back in Iowa that I wouldn't support, but it would be a big improvement in most places.

    Often the best defense is a good offense, and a tip of the beret to PIRG for putting this stuff on the table. Also a hat tip to this Kos diary that brought it to my attention.
  • Thursday, May 14, 2009

    Obama vs. The Left

    Obama vs. The Left

    Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post looks at Obama and the left, in the context of the President's efforts to keep torture photos from being released.

    I consider myself "of the left," though some may see me as a hopeless sellout. "The Left" within our local Democratic Party is hard to define anyway; our splits are more about personalities and competence than about issues. The truly conservative, rural wing of the party left the formal party structure here sometime in the mid-`90s, popping in only occasionally in even-numbered springs for local primary season.

    The splits aren't even a Hillary-Obama thing; the Clinton wing was relatively small at caucus time and the Edwardians made it clear early that, after they'd elected their own people to some party jobs, they'd get on board with Obama. Again, that was more personalities than policies.

    It's hard to specify, and none of these are perfect descriptions, but those are the broad outlines of current splits in the Johnson County party are:

  • Platform people vs. GOTV people.

  • DFA people vs. non-DFA people. Though DFA is seen nationally as a "progressive wing" thing, it's not as simple here. A lot of the key non-DFA people were nevertheless Dean people.

    The roots go back before the 2004 caucuses, when a schedule conflict made people choose between the Howard Dean Meetup and the central committee proper's meeting. This led to one cluster of people getting committed to DFA as an organization, as opposed to Dean himself, while others had made the commitment to the formal party structure.

  • Non-labor people vs. labor people.

  • Talkers vs. doers.

    Despite these splits, the party structure here is basically the left of the party, and with all those caveats offered, here's what I see the left of the Democratic Party wanting.

  • Single payer health care: Officially labeled a non-starter, a victim of DC Realpolitik. The way single payer pays for itself is by cutting out the profit and the people in the middle, the insurance industry. So it's a life and death battle for them, which they'll attack with the full arsenal of lobbying and campaign finance at their disposal.

  • The troops home now: This resonates less than one would think. The self-selection of an all-volunteer military has created a subculture of military families who disproportionately supported Bush and his policies to the bitter end, which creates a paradox: The people most likely to benefit from the troops coming home are the most likely to continue supporting the war.

    This leaves the larger public less engaged than they were 40 years ago in the Vietnam draftee era. Their kids aren't getting shot at, but the 401k is vanishing right here right now. (There's some class issues here, too, which I can't wrap my head around in any sort of ideologically consistent way.)

  • Serious environmental and climate action: The opportunity came a few months too soon, wasted on Drill Baby Drill. Non-ideological Real People stopped caring the minute gas dropped back under $3 a gallon.

  • Accountability for torture. The uncomfortable and irreconcilable facts: 1) Based on their own public admissions, offered as rationalizations, W and Cheney belong in prison. 2) A serious effort to make that happen would be a national trauma that would stop everything else in Washington dead in its tracks.

    And maybe everything should stop in its tracks, you could argue. Problem is, this is an--oh, I hate to use this word but nothing else works--elite issue. Establishing precedent is important, but it's something civil libertarians and ideologues (like me) care about. Regular folks maybe feel bad about it, but they care about the economy, the economy and the economy. figure it's over now and go back to worrying about their jobs. (Accountability advocates also face the same problem death penalty opponents face: unsympathetic victims.)

    What will eventually happen is less than what the left wants and won't come from Obama. We'll see a watered down truthiness commission, probably with John Conyers carrying the ball, that punishes people somewhat above Lynndie England but somewhat below Rumsfeld.

    So where does this leave Obama vis-a-vis the left? I'm not feeling the frustration there was with Bill Clinton circa 1993. Obama controls the turf and the parameters of discussion, which is more than Clinton did with his triangulation approach and Republican-designed issue frame. I don't see Obama taking a deliberate base-alienating move like, say, NAFTA.

    Obama also has a more united party; the Blue Dogs feel like isolated individuals rather than a full-blown wing like they were in the 1993-94 Congress, when Dixiecrats like Jamie Whitten and Sonny Montgomery still stalked the earth, their seats to be taken by Republicans upon retirement.

    Obama's opposition is a rudderless, extremeified GOP with no leader as visionary as Newt Gingrich seemed in the dark days of `94. All these things together have moved the mainstream a few notches to the left.

    The left is also stranded without viable alternatives. The 2000 outcome set the prospects of an independent party of the left back at least a generation, and those wounds are still festering almost a decade later (still an effective tool in a Democratic primary, right, Leonard?) Obama's main rival for the nomination could hardly be described as left, and she's on the team anyway. And the fellow who campaigned on the Two Americas class issue is persona non grata.

    So the left of the Democratic party is likely to settle into a pattern of qualified, occasionally critical support, pushing for the full loaf but happy with half after eight--some would say 28--years of starvation.
  • Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    Carter: Told You So

    Carter on Capitol Hill: I Told Ya So

    Jimmy Carter testifies to the Senate Armed Services Committee and rubs in the last 28 years:
    "I dedicated solar collectors on the White House roof in 1979," he said, "but the 32 panels were soon removed almost instantaneously after my successor moved into the White House."

    The I-told-you-so theme recurred during his nearly 90 minutes with the panel. "When I became president, the average gas mileage on a car was 12 miles per gallon, and we had mandated, by the time I went out of office, 27.5 miles per gallon," he said, as his wife, Rosalynn, and daughter, Amy, listened from the first row. "But President Reagan and others didn't think that was important, and so it was frittered away."

    So once again, The Onion had it right first (original uncensored):
    "I was telling you morons to turn off your lights and unplug all your shit at night to conserve energy in 19-f***n'-75, for chrissake. Gee, I wonder what woulda happened if we'd all switched to solar power like I f***ing did back when we had a f***ing chance to do something about it."

    Bar as Smoking Research Center

    Bar as Smoking Research Center

    With the lawsuit by bars challenging Iowa's no-smoking law dropped, owners of erstwhile smoky taverns may want to try the trick one UK pub pulled:
    The landlady of a British pub has exploited a loophole in the country's smoking ban by opening a "smoking research centre" where drinkers can light up legally, reports said Wednesday.

    Locals at the Cutting Edge pub in Barnsley, northern England, must fill in a questionnaire on their smoking habits to satisfy legal requirements before sitting down for a drink and a cigarette in the centre.

    "Centre." That British spelling is my favourite.

    The lawyer for the Iowa bar owners, failed Senate candidate George Eichhorn, is no doubt checking that "research centre" loophole against Iowa law even now.

    Wonder if British law applies at the Wig and Pen? It's in a legally weird zone anyway, straddling the Iowa City-Coralville line. Will they charge sales tax on the east end of the bar and not the west? Or only on five slices of eight in the pizza? Something we should all ponder over a pint of Guinness.

    Wednesday mix

    Back from the garden

    Here's some of the cuttings, or weeds, I've dug up:

  • desmoinesdem plays off my more recent Boswell bashing and splits the difference, saying Boswell should be out of the remedial "Front Line" group of first and second termers and should pony up his DCCC dues, but arguing that recent improvements make up for his lousy lifetime record.

    I think the lifetime record matters, a lot, especially a certain October 2002 vote that my then-congressman, a Republican, got right. And, let's be blunt: Leonard is getting old and has had health problems. desmoinesdem argues that there's no evidence yet that the GOP is seriously targeting IA-03. True. But no one took Dave Loebsack seriously until the last second, either.

    I think Boswell is a Front Liner because the DCCC is worried about another primary from the left, which is really Iowan's business rather than Washington's.

    Like I keep saying: Dems in Des Moines and DC would rather lose the seat than hurt Leonard's feelings. And they also have an outsized chip on their shoulders about Boswell's last primary challenger.

  • Speaking of Boswell's `08 primary challenger: Not even any symbolic pro-marriage equality rhetoric yesterday from the state Senate ethics committee, which in a mere seven minutes dismissed a complaint that Sen. Merlin Bartz was urging recorders to violate the law. Wonder if the words, if not the outcome, would have been different if someone other than Ed Fallon had made the complaint?

  • The interwebs have been full the last few days of the name the Dems dare not speak: John Edwards. Most of it has been spent on the psychology of the marriage, but there's been a little number crunching like this piece by Mark Blumenthal that says an earlier Edwards dropout would have meant a bigger Obama primary win (in three words: anyone but Hillary). Take That, Mark Penn, and I hope you never get paid.

  • Nate the great at FiveThirtyEight looks at voting behavior and high-level education, which goes a long way toward explaining Obama's 70 percent in Johnson County.

  • The whole piece plays off conservative Richard Posner's lament about the decline of intellectual conservatism and, indeed, the growth of conservative anti-intellectualism: "By the fall of 2008, the face of the Republican Party had become Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber. Conservative intellectuals had no party." No wonder William F. Buckley dropped dead.

  • Larry Littlefield compares print papers to dying elite art forms:
    Governments in the United States have generally provided financial support only to those sources and styles that no longer appeal to popular audiences but still appeal to elite tastes, even if the elites are more affluent than those who get their information and culture without subsidy. Thus, when a jazz venue was added to Lincoln Center, you knew jazz was on its last legs as popular music.

    But he has one possible solution: the most valuable asset the print press has is its archives.
  • Tuesday, May 12, 2009

    Smallest Farm Planting

    Smallest Farm Update

    The May 5 election slowed me down, but I'm now in the midst of my now-annual garden planting vacation. Four straight days of perfect weather has meant a lot of progress. Today's project is fortifying the fences.

    The gardens are flipped this year, with tomatoes and peppers in the south. Got 18 tomato plants in the ground yesterday, along with 16 peppers, four eggplants, and another salad planting. The north row of the south garden is the sunflower row. I transplanted those over the weekend, but unfortunately a few were already wabbitized. Peas are off to the side with the first planting now about 18 inches tall.

    The middle garden is reserved for corn with squash growing out the south end. The squash transplanting is awaiting the weekend as the boys want to transplant their giant pumpkins. The north row is the pole bean fence which is built to Berlin Wall strength.

    The tiny north garden is the hot peppers and a couple stray okra plants. The side weed patch, which failed last year, is sprouting some cilantro. If I can weed fast enough I should get something this year.

    Sunday was the first harvest: a salad-thinning salad with an unexpected bonus. While I was mowing the lawn I found morel mushrooms in my own yard.

    I finally went mobile wireless with a Motorola Q. Haven't figured out how to make it run Linux yet so I'm in Windows Mobile. It's got Windows Media Player and I've loaded music onto a 16 gig mini-card. 16 gig on the size of my pinkie thumbnail... anyway part of the deal is supposed to be Koni eventually gets the Sansa.

    I find myself in the garden using headphones less and the little built in speaker more, which gives me a transistor radio effect. Unfortunately when I use it that way the battery life is roughly equivalent to an old transistor radio, making the effect all too realistic.

    Monday, May 11, 2009

    No Change In Sales Tax Count Monday

    No Change In Sales Tax Count Monday

    The final numbers to be presented at Tuesday morning's canvass have the sales tax winning in Iowa City by seven votes (3641-3634) and losing in Coralville by eight (964-956).

    Two overseas ballots arrived in Monday's mail before the noon deadline, but one was unvoted and the other was returned as undeliverable. The absentee board also officially rejected the three ballots that arrived Friday with late postmarks.

    Cellphones vs. Twitter

    Tech Trend, Tech Fad

    Perhaps Twitter will find its niche, perhaps it'll be the of our decade. But a negative sign for the flavor of the week: "more than 60 percent of U.S. Twitter users fail to return the following month."

    Contrast this to a longer-term tech trend: one in five US households are now cellphone only.

    Linux Monday

    Linux Monday: The Laptop Update

    If you tuned in last week, you'll recall that I'd done an Ubuntu upgrade on my laptop, from version 8.10 to version 9.04, and I was having some problems with sound and with reading CDs. Searching the forums proved fruitless so I decided to do a new installation.

    Step one was backing up my whole /home/john directory. If you're doing this, be sure that you're copying the hidden directories as well; these store configurations and other little stuff like your entire Evolution email directory. Hidden directories in linux all start with a period, for example .mozilla

    That took 45 minutes or so to copy to the external hard drive, but that was no-work free time. Once that was done I popped in the Jaunty Jackalope CD and started over. The migration utility did appear, but what it wanted to import was my settings from my rarely used Windows partition, rather than my settings from my old Ubuntu installation. Again, this may be bcause I had already used the upgrade process to move from 8.10 to 9.04. I'm curious to see if anyone has tried doing a new install of 9.04 over an 8.10 install and seen the migration tools.

    Once I was past that, it was just a nice smooth 25 minute or so Ubuntu install, like I've done dozens of times. I rebooted (which was nearly twice as fast as 8.10) and heard the log-in drumbeats, and knew the audio issues were fixed.

    That done, I needed to manually copy over the configuration files I'd backed up. To do this, I opened the file manager, Nautilus, from the command line as the super-user (sudo nautilus) All I really wanted to save was my email in Evolution and my Firefox bookmarks (and of course my documents, which I mostly keep on the flash drive anyway). My in-box was all happy, and when I opened Firefox I had the same set of tabs I'd seen just before the reinstall.

    Way more geeky than I had hoped; somehow I feel like I'm not persuading you. But it is for the most part working well. Laptop hibernation, often a Linus problem, still isn't perfect. The only thing I've tried to do and completely failed is getting my CPU temperature meter on the task bar. I was having overheating issues pre-repair, and that probably led to my fried motherboard and CPU (thankfully, under warranty) so I want to keep an eye on that.

    Once again, the Open Office upgrade (3.0 to 3.1) just misses the Ubuntu upgrade. One of the more controversial decisions in Ubuntu 8.10 was to stick with Open Office 2.4 rather than going with the just out 3.0.

    Here's some instructions to upgrade yourself to Open Office 3.1 in Ubuntu 9.04 (warning: command line voodoo).

    Friday, May 08, 2009

    No Change In Sales Tax Count

    No Change In Sales Tax Count Friday

    No changes Friday in the razor-close margins in Iowa City and Coralville's local option sales tax votes, which stand at yes by seven votes in Iowa City and no by eight in Coralville.

    Three ballots arrived at the auditor's office on Friday (two from Lone Tree and one from Iowa City) but all were postmarked too late. Ballots needed to be postmarked by Monday the 4th to count. The provisional ballot board will meet again on Monday to formally reject these, and to consider any ballots that may arrive in Monday's mail. The formal canvass of votes is Tuesday, and any recount activity would happen after that.

    Comic Relief with Prince and Rathje

    Comic Relief

    1: Steve Rathje, last place finisher in last year's three way Republican Senate primary despite about a two year head start, just shot off an email to his list (which he neglected to bcc: so now I have his list) with a "paid for by Steve Rathje for Congress Exploratory Committee" disclaimer.

    2: Now here's an elaborate way to fix the Electoral College: remapping the states to equalize population. Would we have to change our name to High Plains City, High Plains?

    3: Prince has said he turned down a deal to put his songs in Guitar Hero. "I just think it's more important that kids learn how to actually play the guitar," Prince said.

    "It's a tough instrument - it's not easy. It took me a long time, and it was frustrating at first. And you just have to stick with it, and it's cool for people who don't have time to learn the chords or ain't interested in it. But to play music is one of the greatest things." The other greatest things being purple rain and raspberry berets, presumably.

    Thursday, May 07, 2009

    Bob Krause at Johnson County Dems

    Johnson County Dems Liveblog with Bob Krause

    Last month I purposely skipped the Johnson County Dems monthly meeting for the first time in forever (I have missed a couple of just before election day meetings for work). Since I didn't run for the executive board, through the month of March my only formal affiliation with the Democratic Party was the D on my voter card.

    My intent was to take a break. But in my absence at the April meeting I was elected a precinct captain.

    So here I am again. US Senate candidate Bob Krause is supposed to stop by, after a Hamburg Inn visit with the UDems. As for business, we're electing 2nd CD district reps, and Dennis Roseman is supposed to present the chair's two year plan--which as of yesterday was not on the party site.

    I actually get to vote now.

    The core of the group that was on the anti-Roseman side two months ago is clustered together in the back. The party has no fundraising chair (despite Roseman's begging, a call for volunteers is met by silence: anyone... anyone... Bueller) and attendance is light tonight. We have only one elected: Joe Bolkcom (who praises my Ramones shirt).

    Former chair Sarah Swisher is offering a lot of suggestions from the floor, which nudges Roseman forward a bit.

    Now Krause speaks. How are you going to beat Grassley? He's dropped from 71 to 59% approval in last few months. "What were you doing in 1958?" is his rhetorical question -- he's using the Greg Ganske Studebaker strategy. "When you become a careerist, something happens."

    On prescription drugs, "He's pinching pennies but throwing $10 bills all over the floor."

    Krause is leading with issue details (Lilly Ledbetter now), not telling us biography yet. And most of the people in this room -- and this is core activists, at least the ones Roseman hasn't driven away -- don't know this guy yet.

    On veteran's issues, he makes his first biographical mentions. Krause's latest gig is chairing the IDP's vet's caucus. After a long anti-Grassley rap sheet, he moves to his lead issues: the green economy and vet's health care.

    First question asks to fill in the gaps in biography. Six years in the legislature, regional paratransit was his big accomplishment there. Lost state treasurer race, regional head of US DOT in Carter era. Has done a fair amount of transportation work. Tried to revive Hoover Nature Trail. Consulted in Dubai birefly, got out just in time. 28 years in Army Reserve.

    Employee Free Choice Act? "Yeah, absolutely." "I had a perfect labor voting record, except for the bottle bill" (whic labor opposed back then).

    An odd duck asks about English Only (which he favors), some audience members hiss the question. Bob: "I'm probably on a side other than you" so points for candor. And we can't send all the undocumented pdeople back. "We can't logistically move that many people out without concentration camps." The answers get applause. Immigration issues are, quote, "complicated as the Dickens." (God bless us every one.)

    I ask how do you, another eastern Iowa former legislator, win? "In 1958 he came from one of the most conservative areas of the state, where Democrats wear camouflage. When he ran for Congress he ran from the old HR Gross district. In 1980 he ran against John Culver being ground up in the Reagan landslide." Republican philosophies were ascendant in his re-elect runs, Osterberg (98) and Small (04) got in late. "I've started early, and while yes, I was in the legislature I got out and did some other things in life, many of the things that real people do." He drops the url so I link.

    Now we move on to electing 2nd CD committee members. We get 14 members. We elect by the Put Your Hand Up Till We Get To 14 method.

    Kiran Patel
    Vik Patel
    John Jadriev
    Jerry Lorimor
    Luke Oglesbee
    Robin Roseman
    Ruth Spinks
    Brad Selken
    Eric Solomon
    Carol Kula
    Dave Redlawsk
    Corey Stoglin

    And... Terry Dahms had to leave, wants to be on, but Dennis insists on taking the last seat for himself.

    Some complaints that meeting notices for 2nd CD have been poor; Dennis says "I don't want to blame anyone here" which prompts a shout of "you never had a problem with that before."

    Dennis presents a two year plan which is pretty bare-bones compared to Flaherty's two years ago which had the whole core of the GOTV plan. Tabled until the next meeting, with only two members (Robin Roseman being one) voting no as the chair had wished. While we slog through this, a quick impression of Krause: issues good, but he needs an overarching theme or story.

    Sarah Swisher discusses Iowa City sanctuary city movement.

    FOLLOWUP: I realize that one of my critiques of Roseman during the Flaherty administration was how he undercut the chair, and that I'm now here being critical of the chair. How do I rationalize that? Roseman's method was passive aggressive, best demonstrated by his "I don't want to blame anyone here" remark last night even as he was blaming someone else. He constantly denied he was being critical of Flaherty as he was doing it.

    I'm being direct here: I don't think Roseman is up to the job, I'm saying it directly and publicly, and I've said it to him. And last night's meeting is just more evidence. The difference is my honesty and openness vs. Roseman's denial.

    Sales Tax Vote Count Update

    Margins Widen By One Each in Sales Tax Votes

    The special ballot board met today and looked at additional ballots. Here's what happened:

    Iowa City: Six mailed ballots came in (two domestic, four military/overseas), plus one provisional ballot which was counted. Add 4 to yes and 3 to no. Margin now stands at yes by seven.

    Coralville: One mailed ballot came in, margin grows to no by eight.

    North Liberty: one provisional ballot, counted.

    Unincorporated: two provisional ballots rejected. The voters went to the wrong precinct.

    Provisional ballots are now done. Mailed ballots can still be added if 1) they were postmarked by Monday the 4th and 2) they get here by Monday the 11th.

    Wednesday, May 06, 2009

    Marriage in Maine

    Marriage in Maine

    That's five, with New Hampshire next... it's just a wave of copycats post-Iowa.

    (and if you look at the governor's pic you'll see that Baldacci is an apt name.)

    Sales Tax Post Mortem

    Sales Tax Post Mortem

    In the midst of recession, right after income tax season, and in the wake of controversial city council actions (buh-bye Mike Lombardo), the most anti-sales tax city in the state recognized the flood relief need and battled to a de facto tie: a six vote win in Iowa City and a seven vote loss in Coralville.

    Expect those results to hold. The chance that outstanding absentee ballots will flip things is slim in Iowa City and only theoretical in Coralville and Shueyville. Only three came in on Wednesday (all Iowa City), and those numbers diminish day by day.

    Almost all of the unreturned ballots were sent out under the The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act ("UOCAVA" in election speak.) This law requires that overseas and military voters who request ballots with a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) are automatically sent ballots for all elections through the next two general elections.

    Put more simply: expatriates in Germany and soldiers in Afghanistan who requested ballots for the presidential election got their mail one day and found a ballot for a local election they'd never heard of. A few of those came back, but most didn't and won't.

    Recounts, if any, are also unlikely to change the results. Last year's conservation bond recount shifted a net six votes in an electorate roughly six times the size of yesterday's. In the last Iowa City election this close, the 1999 city council race, an administrative re-feed (not a formal recount) changed the margin from three to two in a similar-sized electorate. (Trivia: this is the closest Coralville election of any type in at least the last 30 years.)

    Direct comparisons to the 1999 sales tax vote are hard because the absentees were counted differently: six cities lumped together ten years ago, broken out by city yesterday. The best we can do is use the 1999 polling place numbers. Despite coming just short, Coralville swung even more dramatically to the Yes side than Iowa City did, from 86 percent No to seven votes short. Iowa City shifted from 31 percent Yes to 50.

    It was the flood survivors themselves who put the tax over the top in Iowa City, with a three to one win in hardest hit precinct 4 (Manville Heights, City Park and the Peninsula). Lefty precincts 18 and 21 and Oaknoll-dominated precinct 1 (Save Roosevelt School) also topped 60 percent. The strongest numerically significant opposition was in the usual working class Tory southeast side belt of 12, 14 and 15, never friendly to spending issues. (Student precincts had high No percentages but miniscule totals.)

    The specifics of the projects, and the lefty argument against tax regressivity that the opponents cynically picked up, likely swayed more votes than the blunt axe Taxes Suck argument. In fact, in the one place where tax cuts were specifically on the table, the rural area, the tax lost badly.

    The rural county is clearly in a different place than the cities; the tax cut argument lacked credibility because everyone knows a jail is in the works. If that's ever going to happen, Iowa City and the University need to take some responsibility, both financially and with changes to their War On Young People law enforcement policies.

    The Democratic Central Committee, under weak new chair Dennis Roseman, chose to be irrelevant in this election. But the legislative wing of the party, and individual Democratic activists from the prior Brian Flaherty administration, were key players. The traditional left, regressivity-based opposition to sales taxes emerged late, was not united, and was not part of the organized Ax The Tax campaign.

    In the 1999 sales tax election, when conservatives joined the left in the organized opposition, the defeat was overwhelming. But in 2009, the No Regressive Taxes and the Taxed Enough Already arguments were so disconnected that the Press-Citizen ran two separate No guest opinions last Saturday: Deb Thornton from the right and Jeff Cox from the left. The Yes piece was a united and co-signed message from Yes For All co-chairs Sue Dvorsky and Steve McGuire.

    I happened to travel by Cox's home over the weekend; he lives on a busy street and usually advertises his thoughts with a yard sign. But the front yard was bare. Either the No message was so clearly Tea Party that he didn't like the signs, or the No outreach didn't pull in progressive opponents.

    Could a campaign where Thornton and Thayer and Cox and Carsner were on the same team, with a cohesive voice, have flipped seven votes? And how many people voted Yes just to spite `em?

    Tuesday, May 05, 2009

    Favre to Vikings?

    Favre to Vikings?

    It takes a lot to distract me on an election day but the latest by the drama king qualifies:

    Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress and quarterback Brett Favre plan to meet at an undisclosed location later this week to discuss the possibility of the former Packers and Jets quarterback renouncing his retirement from the NFL to play the 2009 season with the Vikings, according to a source with direct knowledge of discussions between the two parties...

    Early Votes Down in Johnson County

    Early Votes Down from `99, `07 in Johnson County

    UPDATE 3: 3:00 (last turnout update before polls close) shows 4774 or 5.47%. Still in between 1999 and 2007, but edging closer to the higher 1999 number.

    Coralville has pulled ahead of 1999 and 2007 in numbers (not in percentage). Iowa City's still in between. For the rural, the three years are bunched really close.
    Turnout details are here, and results here after 8.

    UPDATE 2: 2467 at 11:00 for 2.83%. Still ahead of 2007 and behind 1999. In numbers, today is about halfway between. In percentage, closer to the low-end `07 than the high-end `99, because registration is high in a post-president year.

    UPDATE 1: 9:00 turnout 1263 (1.45%). In numbers and percentage, ahead of 2007 but behind 1999.

    Between the icky looking weather and the low early voting, looks like it could be a slow day today. 3050 early ballots were requested through the end of business yesterday with 2756 returned. That's down from 3834 in the 2007 SILO vote and 3806 in the 1999 local option sales tax.

    This year's numbers are a bit inflated because of changes in overseas voting law. Most people who requested an overseas ballot for the presidential election were automatically sent a ballot for this one, which wasn't the law in 1999. It was the law in 2007, but we were coming off a governor's election that year and not a presidential. Overseas ballots account for most of the 294 that aren't back. Those earlier elections were also in a smaller universe of registered voters.

    So it looks like today will be decided by whichever side has the every election type of voters, and that of course could be you. As usual on election day, my thoughts will be intermittent and very late.

    Your Vote Today
    Yes For All
    Ax The Tax
    Save Roosevelt School
    Ron Paul
    Free polls from

    Monday, May 04, 2009

    Linux Monday Jaunty Reviews

    Linux Monday: The Laptop and the Jackalope

    After an unbelievable eight weeks and a day in repair, the laptop is back. The entire motherboard and CPU were fried, so it's basically a new computer. (The actual repairs were completed long ago; my techies shipped it to an outside vendor for a warranty-covered job and the idea I get is that they had a $$$ dispute and my machine was held hostage.)

    So I did the upgrade from Ubuntu 8.10 to 9.04 Friday night, and it appeared to go smoothly. But as soon as I had time to sit down and try stuff I found two issues.

    Problem 1) No. Sound. At. All. That's one of the raps on Ububtu setup and Linux in general: sound is tricky. And as someone with a massive music library, that matters to me. (It's worth the effort to me to avoid the DRM issues with Mac and Windows; we choose our tradeoffs.)

    In an effort to solve Problem 1 I downloaded the full CD and tried to burn it when I found:

    Problem 2) Intermittent recognition and burning of CDs. I wasted several blanks before I succeeded. Then the Jaunty disk worked in other computers but showed up on the laptop as a blank. So I burned another Jaunty CD, on another computer (in, er, another operating system, sorry) and this time was able to boot from the CD on my laptop.

    As the CD boot completed I heard the happy drumbeat of Ubuntu, which told me that the problem was with my install, rather than my hardware (being fresh off of hardware issues I wanted to rule that out). So the next step will probably be a clean install.

    Jaunty has a migration utility that will let me keep settings; I tested that on the number two machine first. It popped up, but only offered to import my settings from an old Windows install. Perhaps that was because I'd already installed Jaunty through the upgrade process. Don't know if it would have imported my settings if I'd still had 8.10 installed.

    I tried to explain all this to my wife, who has a vested interest in me not banging my head, but her response was, "John, as soon as you say 'Linux' all I hear is 'Linux bla bla bla.'"

    The big news in Linux Land this week is that in April's monthly Market Share statistics, Linux topped 1 percent for the first time ever. Hey, that's a bigger share of the vote than Bob Barr got... Windows has dropped to an all-time low of 87.9 percent, meaning one of eight Internet users are using something else. Lots of little systems are nibbling away, like iPhone and iPod Touch.

    Other than that, the talk is still Jaunty Jackalope. Several reviews:

  • Information Week: "With each release to both the left and the right of the decimal point, Canonical's Ubuntu shapes up all the more as the Linux distribution for the end user. Critics are calling it as slick and seamless as the Mac's OS X, and it's come that much closer to being a one-for-one replacement for the Windows operating system as anything yet seen.

    That said, Ubuntu isn't without its pitfalls and gotchas -- as well as its hidden delights..."

  • Tech Republic tries it on an aging machine: "It’s faster than any distribution I’ve seen. It’s more stable than any other Ubuntu release to date. Everything is exactly where you would think it SHOULD be. And it all works perfectly, seamlessly, beautifully."

  • PC World: Are you impatient? Do you want your computer to work when you're ready to work? While Ubuntu 9.04's no instant-on operating system, like the embedded Linux SplashTop, it is mighty darn fast.

    How fast? Well, I didn't see a boot time of 17.5 seconds like some people have, but I was up and working in 41-seconds, which for a box from 2006 and a conventional hard drive is pretty darn impressive."

  • But Tux Radar misses an old feature: "In the old days, a tray icon would appear with a bubble telling users that updates were available. But as of 9.04, that's been dropped in favour of Update Manager automatically appearing on the screen, only to be minimised. The thinking is that this makes Update Manager harder to ignore, presumably because it's more annoying now.

    If people were ignoring the system updates bubble, couldn't you just have done something with the new notifications system to make security updates clearer - something like "Critical updates are available for your computer - click here to install them now." Then don't ask any further questions: if they click that, install the updates straight away rather than showing Update Manager."

    My guess is these reviews are of fresh installs, and that the problems I'm facing are by-products of the upgrade install I did. I'll let you know.