Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Voted Today

Voted today. Wrote myself in.

I'm still planning on voting in November for whichever two students get through the primary. I'm just agnostic about which two should.

Dickens raises $15,915

Squashing a fly with a sledgehammer: Dickens raises $15,915

In an apparent effort to squash a fly with a sledgehammer, local jeweler Terry Dickens has raised nearly $16,000 in his effort to defeat three unfunded student candidates in Tuesday's primary.

Susan Mims, the other "long-time resident" in the race, has raised $7010, also near the high end for city primary candidates. Students Jared Bazzell, Jeff Shipley and Dan Tallon have not yet filed the reports, due tomorrow. If they raised or spent less than $750, they don't have to.

Iowa City has a $100 donor limit.

Dickens' total is the second-highest sum raised on the pre-primary report by any Iowa City candidate since 2003 (the year that Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure took over local reports from counties). Only consensus contender Matt Hayek, with an incredible $22,709, raised more.

But Hayek had serious competition, from incumbent Dee Vanderhoef, eventual co-winner Michael Wright, strong challenger Terry Smith, and third-time candidate Brandon Ross. Dickens and Mims face the three little-known students.

Here's a look at fundraising by candidates with contested primaries in Iowa City since 2003, along with the final outcome:
Hayek (2007, first place in primary and in November): $22,709
Dickens (2009): $15,915
Amy Correia (2005, second in primary, first in November): $8300
Mims (2009): $7010
Bob Elliott (2003, first in October and November): $6189
Rick Dobyns (2005, first in primary but narrowly defeated in November): $5663
Terry Smith (2007, third place both times for a win in October and a loss in November): $5605
Regenia Bailey (2003, first in primary and general) $4730
Dee Vanderhoef (2003, second in primary and re-elected November) $4525
Michael Wright (2007, second in primary and elected in November): $3905
Mike O'Donnell (2005, third in primary but second and re-elected in November): $3505
Vanderhoef (2007, fourth in primary and incumbent defeated in November): $2905
Garry Klein (2005, fourth in primary and defeated November): $2491
Larry Baker (2005, lost in primary): $1784
Dean Shannon (2003, got through primary and lost November): $1310
Irvin Pfab (2003, incumbent defeated in primary): $1175
Below reporting threshold of $750: Brandon Ross, Steve Soboroff, Kathy Huedepohl, Rachel Hardesty, Holly Berkowitz (2003); Ross (2007). All lost; Ross and Captain Steve made it through the primary in 2003.

What's the pattern? Not left vs. right, as both are represented on the upper end. The top fundraisers have been first-time candidates. And the top fundraisers tend to win.

Still, they all pale next to the $630,000 Mid-American Energy spent in their No on public power campaign in 2005. (The $100 limit and the ban on corporate contributions didn't apply, so that was virtually all straight corporate support; your utility bill dollars at work. Yeah, I'm still bitter about the Public Power death march.)

(Aside: I've been critical in the past, but the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure site has improved the past year or so.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Biden Keynotes Iowa Jefferson-Jackson Dinner

Joe for JJ

Folks should get a nice long speech for their money at the Iowa Democratic Party's big fundraiser, as Vice President Joe Biden comes back to Caucus Land.

The date's set for Nov. 21, which also relieves Johnson County Dems; nothing ruins a county barbecue like being stepped on by JJ, but our Oct. 24 date is now clear.

Maybe this will add some fuel to those Biden 2016 rumors. (Vice presidents get to work the rubber chicken circuit; the Secretary of State doesn't.)

City Primary Slow

No Waves of Student Voters Seen

It doesn't seem like it, but we're only a week away from the October 6 Iowa City primary, the first round of Iowa City's town vs. gown election.

Chances are strong--no, make that certain--that the final on November 3 will feature two townies, Susan Mims and Terry Dickens, vs. two of the three student candidates: Dan Tallon, Jeff Shipley, or Jared Bazzell.

So how are the students doing at getting their base registered and voted?

Friday was the traditional voter registration deadline for the October 6 city primary. (People can still register when they vote, with ID and proof of address.) Since the school board election, Iowa City registration of voters aged 18 to 24 has actually dropped by 102 people, to 16,577.

That's normal attrition of the voter files as people move away, but in a big election that trend gets buried under waves of new registrations. At the time of the 2007 city election, with that big ole 21 bar vote on the ballot and the caucuses looming, 18-24 registration spiked by 4,500 voters.

Granted, registration is already high since we're only a year past the record turnout presidential election, but seeing an actual decline is a bad sign for the student candidates. And just anecdotally, there haven't been mass waves of address changes either.

Maybe things will turn around before the November 3 election, but so far the signs aren't there.

Meanwhile, letters to the editor for Dickens and Mims are trickling in. No outrageous anti-student rhetoric seen, but nearly all include the code phrases "long-time/lifelong resident" and "not a single issue candidate."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Committee plans to appoint Meyers replacement

Committee plans to appoint Meyers replacement

Johnson County plans to appoint a supervisor to fill just over a year of the late Larry Meyers' term.

The committee of the auditor, recorder and treasurer has tentatively scheduled an Oct. 28 date for the appointment. The application deadline is Oct. 16.

The signature threshhold for a special election is 7,299 (10 percent of the `08 presidential vote).

Meyers' term was set to run through Dec. 31, 2010. But any appointee would leave office as soon as the results of the November 2010 election are certified.

Monday clips

Minimal Effort Monday

The big local political news comes out later this afternoon as the supervisor vacancy committee has its second meeting. Till then:

  • I find myself in surprising agreement with Art Smith at the Conservative Reader on term limits. (We already have them. They're called elections.)

  • Bangladesh bans suits. It makes more sense then wearing a jacket and tie in the tropics; Miami could use the same fashion sense. Or even Iowa in July.

  • Listverse lists controversial flags.

  • And if you're confused on the internets, Balloon Juice has a hilarious and informative glossary for the lefty blogosphere.
  • Friday, September 25, 2009

    Deeth joins Des Moines Register

    A New Relationship

    I started a new relationship today.

    Don't worry, Koni and I are still happily married. My new relationship is a journalistic one.

    I will be appearing on the Des Moines Register site, and perhaps occasionally in print, as a guest political blogger. The Register has expanded its political blog section, and my mission is to provide "strong opinions" "from the left." Several of Iowa's bloggers of the left, right and middle will also be there.

    Long-time Deeth Blog readers will notice some subtle changes here. Some of my writing will be exclusive to the Register. My first is already there. In general, I plan to post more of my state and national level commentary there. The Deeth Blog will still host my local stuff along with all the music, Smallest Farm, and Linux Monday posts you've learned to love.

    So thanks again for reading, now please read me both places. And as you see from my Official Register Portrait, I get to keep the beret.

    Mims Mailing Lands

    Mims in Mailboxes

    Iowa City council candidate Susan Mims hit mailboxes with her first piece this week. "I consider myself a political moderate," begins one paragraph.

    Back of the flyer is a list of prominent supporters, duplicated on her web site. It's very similar to the Terry Dickens list, mostly prominent business types associated with past "Chamber" type campaigns. But a couple prominent Democratic names pop up for Mims, most notably new school board member Sarah Swisher.

    Mims, after a slightly later start, also seems to be catching up with Dickens in the sign war contest.

    Student candidates Jared Bazzell and Jeff Shipley also have full-blown web sites, while Dan Tallon is limited to a Facebook presence. But as of today's deadline for traditional voter registration for the Oct. 6 primary, the massive waves of student interest that we saw in 2001 and especially 2007 don't seem to be happening.

    Voters can still register after today with the election day registration procedure, which requires ID and proof of address.

    Meanwhile, the race between challenger Mark McCallum and incumbent Connie Champion for the District B seat looks invisible, but with only two candidates that one's not on the primary ballot and goes straight to the Nov. 3 general.

    Thursday, September 24, 2009

    October Johnson County Democrats

    October Johnson County Democrats

    It's a week early but we're at the "October" Johnson County Dems meeting stuffing envelopes. Me moved it up a week to get the mailing together for the October 24 BBQ in Hills. Our guests of honor, it says here, are Congressman Loebsack, new state rep Curt Hanson, US Senate candidates Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen, and Sec of Ag candidate Francis Thicke.

    We start by remembering Larry.

    Pete D'Alessandro and Jesse Harris are representing for the governor. We're getting the band back together. "We're up against some pretty significant folks who want to turn the clock back on us," says Pete. "They (GOP) talk abut me, we talk about we." Jesse talks details and my beret slipped off for that part.

    Sue Dvorsky plugs the IDP web site Iowa Knows Better which had lotsa good stuff about the GOP governor candidates. ("Good" from a Dem's perspective, natch)

    The Yoda of Voting Equipment, Doug Jones, discusses his paper Early Requirements for Mechanical Voting Systems (pdfan "The average UK voter casts as many votes in a lifetime as an American casts in one election" (how many of YOU get through all the judges?) We get the history of serial numbering ballots in the UK and why that doesn't fly here.

    We're at our usual spot, the school district building, where the wifi gives me:

    This site is blocked by the SonicWALL Content Filter Service.


    Reason for restriction: Forbidden Category "Personals and Dating"

    But Twitter apparantly is okee. Anyway we get a lot of interesting trivia while everybody stuffs envelopes. Everyone except me; I'm telling you all about it instead. "Elections should satisfy the least educated supporter of the losing candidate that they lost fair and square," says Doug.

    "I'm not impressed with the move toward monopoly" in voting equipment, he concludes.

    "I think the best system available today is optical sense scanning" he says when asked. He specifies the ES&S M100 which is what Johnson County has.

    Our only elected official is Bob Dvorsky; a lot of folks are still at Larry's service. No city candidates.

    Jean Falk talks BBQ details, Ed Flaherty rallies the troops. Robin Roseman talks parade details. I offer the second half of the database report (the rest of the mailing labels.)

    We decide to apply to hold the 2nd CD convention next year. And we adjourn.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    King: Gay Marriage is Socialist

    King: Gay Marriage is Socialist

    No one can mix Republican memes like our own Steve King, and today he hit the Daily Double by working gay marriage and SO-cialism into one sentence on WorldNetDaily (audio) today: "not only is it a radical social idea, it is a purely socialist concept in the final analysis."

    All he has to do is work in illegal immigration and death panels and he'll hit for the cycle. Give him time, Steve's fully capable of it.

    Hat tips to ThinkProgress with the transcript and Kos for the front page link.

    Supervisor Vacancy Committee Meeting

    Supervisor Vacancy Committee to Meet Thursday

    The statutory committee charged with replacing Supervisor Larry Meyers is scheduled to meet Thursday rescheduled Friday at 2 PM at the County Health and Human Services building. (That's where most County meetings are happening these days while the board room's being rebuilt.)

    The meeting lands just before Larry's memorial visitation, which is 3 to 7 PM Thursday at the Brosh Chapel and Community Center in Solon.

    The committee of the auditor, recorder and treasurer has 40 days from Larry's death Tuesday to either appoint a replacement or schedule an election. An election can also be called by petition.

    Cheech, Chong and Cyclones

    Something smells funny in Ames

    The drug war summed up in two Des Moines Register headlines hilariously placed this AM (big screen capture):

  • "Cyclones suspended after pot charges"
  • "Cheech & Chong to 'Light Up' Ames"

    Who would have ever though that THIS dude was toking?

    Heeeeey! Whaddare ya tryin' to DO?!? You ruined my police record, man!

    It's the perfect metaphor for our hypocrisy on marijuana laws: kick the players off the team but celebrate two comedians whose entire career has been a 40 year long stoner joke.

  • School Board Sworn In

    New School Board Members Sworn In

    Michael Cooper sworn in for a second term, and Tuyet Dorau and Sarah Swisher join the board. Congrats to them and to Patti Fields, elected Board president.

    Here's some random stuff:

  • Why Obama's approval is "slipping" (sic): "He's more or less in the same place he was on Election Day. In short, the people who no longer approve of the president's job performance probably never voted for him in the first place."

  • Why Grassley's approval is slipping (for real): health care, health care, and health care says Nate Silver.

  • Yet Another Journalism Obituary worth the read:
    In other countries, there are larger numbers of national newspapers with stronger political viewpoints. That might be what American journalism will look like in the future. Imagine online news sources with immediacy, lower costs and greater impact. They might be aimed at a more targeted demographic that reflects specific interests and political views instead of the one-size-fits-all type of approach used before.

    Generally, I think journalism in the future will tend to be more cutting-edge, more controversial, than have been media financed solely by advertising. Compare HBO to network television. On the whole, advertisers do not like controversy. And “interesting” and “controversy” go hand in hand.

    Like I been sayin'.

  • Rings of Saturn at equinox = way cool.

  • And it was 40 years ago (more or less) today: the Iowa connection to Paul Is Dead.
  • Tuesday, September 22, 2009

    Larry Meyers

    Supervisor Larry Meyers loses cancer battle

    We lost a great guy, a great public official and a great Democrat this afternoon. Johnson County Supervisor Larry Meyers lost the battle with cancer that had lasted most of his three years on the Board. Larry was 58. Visitation is Thursday from 3 to 7 PM at the Brosh Chapel and Community Center, 100 South Cedar Street, Solon.

    Larry was an odd recruit to electoral politics. In the spring of 2006, the hot issue was the fight over Newport Road, and opponents of the proposed widening were struggling for a candidate. Larry was the one who stepped up. He was a building contractor who lived on the road and hadn't really been active in politics.

    You can still see the DON'T TREAD ON ME flags on Newport Road. That was the symbol the neighbors adopted, and it was on all Larry's signs and flyers. The "6-6-6" election (June 6, 2006) was the highest turnout Democratic primary in county history, and Larry did what no one had done in a decade: he beat a courthouse incumbent in a primary.

    A lot of folks assumed Larry was going to be a one-issue supervisor, and indeed the Newport Road decision was reversed. But Larry Meyers took his job, the whole job, seriously. I had the chance to work literally side by side with Larry for a year taking Board minutes. Larry played a bigger role in the details of the new Health and Human Services Building than people know; he was the guy who could look at building plans and translate them from contractor language into Supervisor language.

    And he always kept his sense of humor, even when he was battling through chemo. We joked about our bald heads as the illness took away his scruffy beard. For a little while it looked like he'd turned the corner.

    May 2006, Dubuque Street north of town

    Larry got active in the rest of Democratic Party politics, too. He was a frequent feature of the central committee and caucused for Joe Biden. (I tried really, REALLY hard to get him to publicly commit on that one, so I could do a "Five Supervisors Back Five Different Candidates" story.)

    Larry had been hoping to run for another term next year, and it's sad that he didn't get the chance. In his short time in office he earned respect across County government, even from those who disagreed with him on his signature issue.

    I feel a little ghoulish but there's a what happens next story here. The basics: The statutory responsibility for filling a vacancy on the Board falls to a committee of the auditor, recorder and treasurer. This last happened in 1998-99, under less sad circumstances when Joe Bolkcom was elected to the state senate. The committee can either appoint or go straight to an election. The public can petition for an election after an appointment. That happened in 1994 and in the 1997 recorder vacancy, and in both cases 1) the appointee was elected and 2) the election itself was the big issue in the election.

    Sorenson vs. Appel

    Sorensen vs. Appel

    Craig Robinson at Iowa Republican has a must read as first-term State Rep. Kent Sorenson announces a state senate challenge to Staci Appel. (Note to my Dem friends: no one ever feeds me scoops like this...)

    I guess that means Sorenson isn't going to primary Chuck Grassley. Yep, Sorenson is that breed of Republican, a "Chuck Grassley's too liberal" type. So he'll no doubt be running against Justice Appel as much as Senator Appel. (And as we saw in House 90, people have lots of stuff other than gay marriage on their minds.)

    This could also mean a comeback attempt by Democrat Mark Davitt, who Sorenson knocked off in a 2008 upset.

    Most interesting part of Robinson's article is at the end:
    Sorenson’s announcement is a big boost in the arm for Senate Republicans and their recruiting effort. His decision, however, is bad news for House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen, who already has to deal with some key retirements. Paulsen and House Republicans already have their work cut out for them in needing to win seven seats to wrestle control away from the Democrats in that chamber.

    In addition to Sorenson leaving to run for the Senate, Representatives Rants and Roberts are running for governor, and Jodi Tymeson isn’t seeking re-election. That means House Republicans would have to elect 11 new members to gain control, a difficult task even in the best of political environments.

    Recall that in 2008 the Iowa GOP scuttled a lot of other efforts at end game and concentrated on the House, the only thing the felt they had a shot at winning. In the early stages of 2010, it looks like they're throwing everything they have at the governor instead. (I'm still betting they blow that by nominating Vander Plaats...)

    Monday, September 21, 2009

    Polls, Values and Marriage

    Polls, Values and Marriage

    A slew of polls over the weekend with implications for 2010 and 2012.

    Nationally, the big news was out of the Value Voters' summit where 2008 Iowa Caucus winner Mike Huckabee scored a good-sized plurality win:
    Huckabee took 28.48 percent of the vote, while Romney was in a four-way tie for second place with Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence. All four won 12 percent of the vote in rounded numbers.

    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich placed fifth. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and the "undecided" option finished with less than 4 percent each.

    My take-away from this remains the same as it was in late 2007: Mitt Romney's religion gets him vetoed by the fundamentalists. But Huck's economic populism will get him vetoed by the money boys in the GOP. Look for them to line up early with... Pawlenty.

    Republicans, of course, always nominate whoever's Turn it is next. Question is, who gets credit for the Turn? Romney, who was running consistent second to McCain in the primaries before dropping out and getting on board? Huckabee, who stayed in the race past the point of mathematical elimination and thus technically came in second? Or VP nominee Palin?

    But Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight says another poll at the conference is more significant: the ranking of issues. Abortion was way out front at 41 percent of the vote, with "protection of religious liberty" (the religious right has an eternal persecution fantasy, remember the "war on Christmas?") second at 18 percent. Opposition to same-sex marriage was third at 7 percent.

    Silver finds that third place significant: "The last time this poll was conducted, in October 2007, gay marriage was the top choice of 20 percent of the attendees. That's quite a decline, particularly given that gay marriage has been more in the news than abortion for the past couple of years."

    Marriage equality was on the mind of Des Moines Register pollsters who see an even split: 41 percent opposed, 40 percent supportive. The opposition has stronger feelings, but most interesting:
    The overwhelming majority of Iowans - 92 percent - say gay marriage has brought no real change to their lives.

    Sixty-three percent say candidates' stands on other issues will be more important in making their decisions in the 2010 elections.

    Ask State Rep. Steve Burgmaier how well gay marriage plays as an issue. Oh, wait, that's right. Burgmaier lost that special election to Curt Hanson, despite marriage equality opponents throwing everything they had at Hanson.

    Another interesting Iowa Poll tidbit is the approval ratings on our U.S. Senators:
    Approval for Grassley dipped to 57 percent in the survey taken last week, having stood at 75 percent in the Register’s January poll and 66 percent in April... Harkin’s approval, 55 percent in the new poll, has fallen 15 percentage points since January and 4 since April. It is his lowest since he joined the Senate in 1985.

    That's not great news for Harkin, but of course he just got re-elected and there's a hard core of Iowans who just plain will never support him. Witness the 37 percent for invisible Republican candidate Christopher "Not Tom Harkin" Reed.

    But what's interesting is that Grassley, who has won his last three terms with somewhere around 70 percent, is only two points ahead of Harkin. He's been suddenly, through seniority and default, been thrust into a position as a national Republican leader, at a time when the Republican brand is at its weakest since Goldwater.

    As for governor, it's good for Terry, not so much for Chet. But what matters most is what's missing: crosstabs by party. Most voters don't know enough about Bob Vander Plaats to offer an opinion, but I'll bet most Republican primary voters do.

    Sunday, September 20, 2009

    Sunday Summer Into Fall

    Sunday Summer Into Fall

    As summer turns to fall, just a few personal observations:

  • The Smallest Farm is in decline as the pole beans begin to collapse the fence. I'm still picking some, but I'm leaving the last of them to dry and go to seed. The purple pole beans are the hit of the year as the classic Kentucky Wonders did poorly.

    The last of the tomatoes are ripening. I remembered most of what I'd forgotten about canning so I'll be dining on salsa for quite some time.

    We are in prime pepper season, as green turns to color. Best of all, the biggest of the big pumpkins is close to picking.

    Not quite big enough to store a two year old nephew, but success. Guest blogger Hayden has learned about the negative effects of juglone (walnut stuff) and offers his latest on the garden:

    Once upon a time an evil walnut came. So John called George Washington to chop it down and lie about it.

    Goals for next year: cage the peppers so thet don't collapse, plant the squash family farther apart so we don't get mutant squashkins, and as always build a better bean fence.

  • Seen while driving through the football game crowd yesterday: Large sign that said JESUS WILL RETURN. Apparantly Christ is now on the Hawks' special teams :"Jesus will return... the kickoff for a touchdown!"

  • The Gazette has a nice piece on the history and nightlife of the Ped Mall.
  • Friday, September 18, 2009

    Johnson County's Other Cities

    Johnson County's Other City Elections

    Thursday was filing deadline in most Johnson County cities. We've already looked at the upcoming city elections in Iowa City and an unusually hot University Heights because they have earlier deadlines because of primaries (which almost happened for the first time since before God in UHeights).

    Here's what's up across the county:

    In general, council races are contested and mayors are not. There will be a couple of new mayors, with council incumbents stepping up a notch.

    Coralville has a six candidate field for three council seats. Incumbents Tom Gill, Henry Herwig and John Lundell face challengers Chad Chase, Bill Hoeft and Laurie Goodrich. Mayor Jim Fausett is unopposed.

    North Liberty will have one open council seat out of two as incumbent (and ex-Grassley staffer) James Wozniak steps down. Gerry Kuhl is seeking re-election and three new candidates fill out the field: David Grex, Brian Wayson and Jonathan Waller. The mayor's race looks quiet with Tom Salm unopposed for re-election and 2005 write-in winner Dave Franker no longer in the state.

    Hills may not be as hot as two years ago, when a defeated water referendum drove record turnout. But they still have four contenders for two council seats. Rachel Ramirez and Deanna Emerson are challenging incumbents Tim Kemp and Thomas Kirkpatrick. Johnson County's other Mayor Bailey, Russ, is unopposed.

    Lone Tree will have a new mayor as Eldon Slaughter steps down and Rick Ogren looks to move up from the council. Stealth watch: Lone Tree had a big write-in effort in 2005 and in this year's school election. In the race for three council seats, incumbents Helen Lemley (a 2005 write in contender) and Carl Kice Brown (a great guy who took my campaign photos back in 1996) are looking for another term. They're joined on the ballot by Todd Hayes, another past write in candidate, and first-timer Alysa Coppinger.

    Oxford sees mayor Don Saxton unopposed for a 15th (!) term, and the two council seats are also uncontested (incumbent Darrell Ealy and new candidate Bryan Cooling). One of my favorite things about The Oxford Project, which photographed dozens of Oxford residents 20 years apart, is that the two pictures of Saxton look almost identical--and he was mayor the whole time.

    Shueyville will see a write-in winner with only four candidates for five seats. Council member Jerry Cada is moving up to mayor unopposed. Incumbents Bryan Bredman, Mickey Coonfare and Steve Kass and newcomer Jennifer Winter are competing for a vote total; this is Shueyville's transitional year to go to a four year term that voters approved in 2007. The top two candidates get four years, the other three get two years.

    Solon is the quietest of all: three seats, three candidates, three incumbents.

    Swisher has an unbalanced cycle since voting to switch to four year terms in 2001. The mayor and three council members are up in 2007 and 2011, and only two council seats are up this year. Incumbent Larry Svec and new candidate Angie Hinrichs are the only candidates.

    Tiffin has five people running for three seats. Incumbents Chris Ball and Jim Bartels are both running (one seat is vacant since John Wright moved out of town). The new candidates are Brian Benest, Michael Ritchie and Travis Weipert. Mayor Royce Phillips, who knocked off long time incumbent Glenn Potter two years ago, is unopposed.

    These mere lists don't tell the real story. This blogger will do his best to keep you up to date on whatever dramas emerge...

    Tea Party Deja Vu

    Tea Party Deja Vu

    Check back later today for a look at city council races across the county after yesterday's filing deadline. (Gazette has a Cedar Rapids roundup: 17 candidates for six jobs and the ever-popular PT Larson is back)

    In the meantime: Who do the tea partiers and birthers remind you of more: Ron Paul or Ross Perot? (both long but worth it reads)

    Who are tea partiers most like?
    Ross Perot
    Ron Paul
    What kind of Nazi Commie question is this?
    Free polls from

    Thursday, September 17, 2009

    Will Iowa City Progressives Sit This One Out?

    Will Iowa City Progressives Sit This One Out?

    Under-rated songwriter James McMurtry once wrote a song with a chorus "I'm not from here, I just live here," in which he decries the aesthetic decline of his adopted town:

    I'm not from here
    but people tell me
    it's not like it used to be
    they say I should have been here
    back about ten years
    before it got ruined by folks like me

    I'm one of those; I arrived close to 20 years ago seeking a degree I never finished, and I just... stayed.

    In my early years here, candidates liked to call themselves "lifelong resident" in their campaign literature, or if that wasn't possible, advertise a 30-plus year longevity in town. It was a code word against candidates who Weren't One Of Us, the Julianna Johnstons and Rusty Martins who showed up on mid-1990s ballots.

    Those terms have popped up again in this year's council race as "Lifelong Resident" Terry Dickens and "32 Year Resident" Susan Mims face off against students Jared Bazzell, Jeff Shipley and Dan Tallon. Assuming Dickens and Mims lead the October 6 primary, as seems likely, the November 3 election will be a faceoff with clear-cut lines. Town vs. Gown for the first time in the 34 years since Iowa City adopted its current convoluted district election system.

    I call the system "convoluted" because there's only mimimal geographic representation. If Dickens and Mims win, we'll have five of the seven council members from two north side precincts, and no one at all from the west side, which has been completely unrepresented at least since I've lived here (technically Naomi Novick, but despite the 52246, Manville Heights ain't really "west side.")

    But most notable, of course, in a town with 25,000 students out of a population of 60,000, is the indefensible lack of any student representation since David Perret won 30 years ago. That's the sole issue for me; I'm voting for whichever two students make it out of the primary.

    In the Somewhere Else where I grew up city councils were elected on a true ward system, with roughly a member per precinct. In the three college towns I lived in, a 25 member council typically had two or three students.

    But that's a matter for a charter review. For this election, all we can do is look at the choices we have. Two years after students proved they could control a city election with their emphatic NO! on the 21 bar ordinance, student candidates have finally emerged. If students had run for council in 2007, we'd have two, maybe even four students on the council today. But will the students show up without the black hole gravitational force of the bar referendum pulling them to the polls?

    The town-gown relationship, and particularly the 21 bar question, divides the traditional labor-environmental-Democratic progressive coalition in local elections. On one side, there are public health advocates still pumped from their statewide smoking ban win and perpetually concerned about binge drinking, joined by feminists angered by boorish frat-boy drunken machismo and worse.

    On the other hand are civil libertarians who think the Iowa City Police are out to get the students, fear the impact of 21 bars on the arts and music scene, and who believe the drinking age and drug laws are unenforceable and should be changed to reflect reality. These differences are so fundamental and irreconcilable that even married couples took opposite stands in the 2007 referendum.

    Candidate recruitment on the traditional left fizzled after Colin Hennessy ended a brief campaign. It's the job nobody wants amidst flood reconstruction and tight budgets, and the politically delicate youth issues on the southeast side.

    But the traditional old-guard sources of candidate recruitment were ready early. "We do not recruit or endorse 'chamber' candidates," Chamber of Commerce President Nancy Quellhorst writes in the Chamber's July newsletter (.pdf). "We do, however, encourage pragmatic individuals with the potential to improve our local business climate (and therefore our community) to run for office. A subcommittee of our Local Government Affairs committee has led this initiative and as a result three local leaders have announced their candidacy to date: Terry Dickens, Mark McCallum, and Susan Mims." (That was before Connie Champion announced that she was running again in District B. She and McCallum won't be on the primary ballot and will face off in November for that seat.)

    "Honesty, integrity, common sense" is the Dickens slogan, a far cry from my Freak Power On The Prairie platform of Five Dollar Footlong coupons for pot smokers. Maybe Dickens and Mims will make it a competence vs. ideology race. For the best recent example, see Ross Wilburn in 2003, who whomped unfunded gadfly Karen Pease with 71 percent.

    The fact that three student candidates have emerged muddles the primary. There's a certain contrarian core of the 'townie' electorate ready to vote for whichever two students get through the primary, but unsure WHICH two to vote for yet.

    Shipley has more city council background as the council's nonvoting student liaison, but seems to have quickly realized that without an actual vote the job is mere window dressing. Tallon has a National Guard background and Bazzell has worked with the James Gang community organization. Which two of the three get through the primary is likely to depend on who has the best social network (online and off) and can get just a few more friends to show up October 6.

    Dickens seems to be more organized than Mims so far, at least on line and in the sign war. His web site features a long list of supporters that mostly looks like a list of past supporters of 'chamber' candidates. It does include a few prominent Democratic Party supporters. An unspoken truth in Johnson County politics is that a number of people who are very liberal on state and national issues, and enthusiastically seek student votes at general election time, turn quite conservative on local matters.

    Will Dickens (and Mims) be able to portray themselves as near-consensus candidates? Matt Hayek pulled that off in 2007, with support from everyone from John Balmer to, well, John Deeth. But the names on the labor, liberal and environmental end of the spectrum are missing from the Dickens list.

    This could, of course, turn into an ugly Us vs. Them election, good drama but bad civics. We saw that in the aftermath of the general election, with conservation bond opponents openly saying students should not be allowed to vote in local elections. Will someone on the townie side stumble and make a similar egregious anti-student comment that backfires? Conversely, will the University of Iowa Student Government's first-ever candidate endorsements get the old-guard townies out to the polls with pitchforks and torches? Will the student candidates get a single vote east of First Avenue? Will the bar owners who were involved in 2001 and 2007 get active?

    Will progressives, torn between Yet Another Downtown Retail ticket and the unknown students, and already focused on next June's primary and Janelle Rettig's county supervisor campaign, just sit this one out?

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009

    Live from West Liberty with Michael Reagan

    Live from West Liberty with Michael Reagan

    6:00 on a Weds and good evening from the West Liberty Community Center where I'm at my first GOP event since maybe the tax day tea party. Michel Reagan, son of Ronald, is the featured guest at a $raiser for state Rep. Jeff Kaufmann.

    Turnout estimate is in the 300 ballpark. The draw for me anyway is the presence of three candidates for governor: Chris Rants, Christian Fong and Rod Roberts. I see Rants working the room, Sen. Jim Hahn is also on hand.

    Dinner is sitdown and a little bit dressed up. Press corps seems to be mostly Muscatine based except for James Lynch of the Gazette sitting next to me in the media exile of Table 35 (back row).

    Judging from the license plates the draw is from Muscatine Johnson and Linn counties. The cars are relatively free of bumper stickers, either for the gubernatorial hopefuls or for last fall's candidates. I only noticed one anti-Obama sticker on the way in ("HITLER GAVE GOOD SPEECHES TOO").

    The Reagan connection to Wilton's Jeff Kaufmann seems to be an effort to establish a memorial to presidential dad Jack Reagan in the Tipton area, where Jack lived briefly. "This is the first time Jack had been honored anywhere," Reagan told the press corps as he spent a fair amount of time with us.

    Early on, he was on GOP message: "When they passed that spending bill, you're the one who's gonna pay the bill." But he turned to analysis and legacy... and at this point live speeches start, but pretty much everything Reagan said in the press time he said in the speech anyway.

    Our emcee for the evening will be Dr. Miller-Meeks, which is interesting.

    MMM introduces the assorted dignitaries; apparantly it's Fong's birthday. Legislators from across Eastern Iowa: Sands of Louisa, Annette Sweeney who is I think from Tama? Betty DeBoef, Kraig Paulsen... Nick Wagner of Marion... so the big crowd in the parking lot is not just a function of how Republican West Liberty is (which I learned the hard way) but more a matter of Reagan and Kaufmann's draw.

    Sandy Greiner is also on hand, presumably carrying the "Draft" Branstad ball.

    Young speaker Robert Kaufmann (son of Jeff) with a joke: Clinton, Gore and Obama go to heaven... punchline is Obama think's he's God.

    Pat Grassley gets the intro of Jeff Kaufmann; he's so Republican he named his daughter Reagan. Grandpa briefly mentioned, grandpa's re-elect not at all.

    Jeff offers a shout-out to his Dem and indy constituents and gets solid applause; mostly he's doing family introductions.

    "Things aren't always going the way we'd like in Des Moines, but I am very, very proud to represent you and grateful from the bottom of my heart."

    Seems that the gubernatorials are not going to speak. (Knowing that might have changed my plans.)

    Kaufmann "announces" for re-elect and notes everyone clapped but Mrs. Kaufmann.

    "Don't you ever concede that the Republicans aren't for the little guy. Every single time the R's have been there for the little guy," focusing on his property rights efforts. "You stand on principle and conservatism and attract independents and Reagan Democrats. Ronald Reagan gave us that model."

    Reagan takes the podium to a standing O that includes half the press corps (which makes up for my getting Franken's autograph I guess).

    He calls himself a "Beverly Hills brat" at a small town potluck and picks on Nancy's (non)-cooking (before reminding us that he's Jane Wyman's son). "I didn't know if Jeff was running or if my dad was running again," which of course in this room is Highest. Praise. Possible. Dad's picture is over the speaker's shoulder, but the glare hits it so I can't capture the moment.

    Into the body with a dad story. "He didn't say I just got a call from (bigshots) to run. He ran because people he met at the street level, the chambermaids and bellhops, asked him to run. He never forgot his roots."

    RR would have scoffed at "demise of GOP," he would have seen it when Goldawater lost or at Watergate: "Ronald Reagan always had that positive attitude that was bred in him in this part of the world. He found good in every human being, and because of that he was able to build coalitions. And he never made politics personal." I asked him about this stuff in the press avail and he finished my sentence with the Tip O'Neill "politics ends at 5:00" reference.

    Reference to "trickle up poverty" is first real red meat. (The actual menu is chicken not red meat) Then he tells his oft-told story of asking for an allowance raise and getting a tax lecture from the Gipper. "And he gave me a bigger raise when he cut taxes in the 80s."

    "John Kennedy would be a conservative Republican today."

    MR returns to the Reagan personality as coalition builder theme. Talking about the military and the SS Reagan (I think he briefly acknowledged that a soldier could be an Obama supporter) AND he tells a story of RR granting amnesty to illegal immigrants, and a child who got citizenship through that joining the Navy. Both those references are interesting.

    But the big theme is coalition building. "The way you win the challenging period is fining ways to work together toward a common goal." Acknowleges that RR made decisions he didn't always like to reach the bigger goal, such as tax increase. "The people of California got the surplus back."

    "In California they want to raise taxes and over-regulate, then ask why people are leaving."

    Tells stories of 1980 caucuses and does a Dad impersonation. Says RR included him in some significant decisions, which "made up" for some of how bus he had been.

    "Building coalitons doesn't mean you give up your core values. There are gonna be people in the party who disagree with you."

    Best joke: "Dad had to sit down to dinner with people he disagreed with at Thanksgiving dinner - but he still fed Patti and Ron."

    "Dad understood how important it is that the party not infight. You go through the primary process then you support the nominee." Tells story of conservatives who asked Gipper to bolt in 76 and how he turned them down. (MR doesn't seem to like people who tell him "your father would have done...") All this in reference to Mc

    "The Republican party was still using pencils and erasers, Barack Obama was using iPhones and iPods."

    "Don't make the battles personal, make them political. When you make the battles personal, people walk away."

    "He made us all feel good and proud to be Americans." (I don't rember that myself, but at the time I was in a minority...) "We should be happy that we had RR in our lifetimes, that we had a president who never looked down to us. Let's not make the mistake of not walking past the next great leader. Let's move this party forward again."

    Overall the tone is... wistful? Very short on the red meat I was expecting. (Then again, I was just at the Harkin Steak Fry so maybe I was expecting the anthithesis of Al Franken.)

    MMM tells story of a family member who was in Secret Service and Michael responds with more storied. "My code name was Riddler. Your tax dollars actually paid for someone to think of these names." Then he gives us: "Don't take the Secret Service to a Mexican restaurant, they chase all the help away. ¡Immigracion!"

    "My dad did not call the UN to get permission to do what he had to as President of the United States."

    Kaufmann again with the goodbyes and music, so I'll make a retreat.

    Back home safe in my bunker of socialism and getting over my bemusement that Michael Reagan made a Mexican joke in West Liberty. Pics didn't turn out great, combination of bad shots and/or goofy looks (the old John Edwards Blink factor)

    On the way out I saw one more anti-Obama bumper sticker, a NOPE with an Obama logo for the O. Now, I wasn't privy to the dinner conversations. First off, the beret is a red alert givaway. Second, I'd forgotten that an announced start time of 5:30 actually means 5:30 at a GOP event, and I was operating on what we used to call "Clinton Standard Time" on the `92 campaign.

    But by and large there was almost no tea party rowdiness or rhetoric amongst what looked like a mid to high end by Iowa standards GOP fundraising crowd. Reagan and host Kaufmann both struck conciliatory big-tent tones. Could it we that, at least at some levels of the GOP, there's a recognition that the over-the-top rhetoric is damaging? Or was it just a matter of setting aside internal differences in honor of the Gipper?

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    Iowans vote party line on Wilson

    Iowans vote party line on Wilson

    No surprises this afternoon as the House voted to "rebuke" Joe Wilson for his Tourette's outburst the other night. Boswell, Braley, Loebsack yea, Latham, King nay...

    But what's with the 12 no Dems? Gene Taylor of Mississippi I get, he's practically a Republican anyway. But Gwen Moore of Milwaukee? And Dennis freakin' Kucinich?!?

    City Council Developments

    City Council Developments

    Early voting started this afternoon for the October 6 Iowa City primary, and another sign that we're 21 days from the first round of voting: the first yard signs are sprouting.

    Light blue Terry Dickens signs are popping up on business lots (such as Pleasant Valley at Highway 6 and Gilbert, usually a reliable indicator of local conservative support) and lining the far north end of Dodge Street.

    Meanwhile, the Daily Iowan reports that UI Student Government is considering a rules change that would allow them to endorse in the city council election...

    Monday, September 14, 2009

    Senate Candidates Krause, Fiegen Work Steak Fry Crowd

    Senate Candidates Krause, Fiegen Work Steak Fry

    "He's gonna get the election of his life next year," State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald said of Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. Fitzgerald got a big whoop from the crowd at Sunday's Tom Harkin steak fry.

    The two main Democrats hoping to take on Grassley were also on hand, working the edges of the crowd hoping to gain an edge with the party faithful.

    Former legislators Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause are hoping to give Grassley his first tough race since he was a challenger in 1980. But first they need to get past each other.

    Bob Krause talks with a reporter before Sunday's Harkin Steak Fry.

    Krause and Fiegen, neither of whom spoke from the podium, didn't have a negative word for each other Sunday, preferring to keep the focus on Grassley.

    "Philosophically, we're very close," Krause said of Fiegen. "In terms of style, I'm a fairly aggressive campaigner."

    "Every day is a gift," Fiegen said of Grassley. "Every town hall brought out a quote or an event and normal Iowans are saying, 'I'm embarrassed to be an Iowan, someone has to retire this guy.'"

    "Grassley's polls keep going down, ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk," said Krause. "He's getting close to 50 percent," a mark that generally is interpreted as trouble for an incumbent.

    But a phantom hovers over the Senate primary: if Grassley's numbers dip low enough, someone better known than Krause or Fiegen may jump into the race.

    "It's getting later," said Krause. "Labor Day is traditionally a benchmark. There's going to be a point where people will give the guys who were in there first some credit."

    "I hear the rumors and there isn't anyone who scares me," said Fiegen. "I expect someone else to get in, but I can compete. It's just a question of organization and money."

    Senate candidate Tom Fiegen greets Democrats following the steak fry.

    "You have to make the case that Chuck Grassley needs to be retired to start," said Fiegen. "Next thing is to talk about your goals as a senator and with our Fiegenomics program we've done that."

    Fiegen has knocked off a five term senator before--former Iowa Senate GOP leader Jack Rife in 2000. But redistricting truncated Fiegen's term. He lost a two-incumbent race in 2002 and a comeback attempt in 2004.

    Krause's time in the legislature was in the 1970s, and he lost a bid for state treasurer in 1978.

    Perennial candidate Sal Mohamed is also running. Having failed in his bids for Congress, governor and teh presidency (despite his constitutional ineligibility) with his patented sandwich board campaigning, Sal is trying to hit oh-fer the cycle with the Senate.

    Sunday, September 13, 2009

    Harkin Steak Fry with Al Franken

    Harkin Steak Fry with Al Franken

    It shouldn't surprise anyone anymore that Al Franken is a serious minded senator, but still, you keep waiting for the punchline.

    Instead, Tom Harkin cracked more actual “jokes” than his guest speaker at the 32nd Harkin Steak Fry. Franken's humor was restrained to a few witty turns of phrase as he laser-focused on the theme of the fall for Democrats, health care.

    The steak fry is one of Franken's first political events since taking office, but he's been on the Iowa political scene before. He was keynote speaker at the 2004 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, and had been scheduled to appear at the 2001 steak fry. That event was canceled after 9/11, the only cancellation in the event's history.

    Franken, like every speaker, focused on Harkin's new chairmanship of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Harkin took over the chair last week from the late Ted Kennedy.

    “Its not that big a deal,” said Franken in one of his few jokes. “It's only health... education... labor... and pensions. Who really would care about those things? People who work? People who expect to get a pension someday?”

    Harkin was somber about the shoes he has to fill. “We lost a great friend, a great leader on so many issues that go to the heart of what kind of nation we are.”

    “It now falls to me to pick up the torch and chair the Kennedy committee,” said Harkin. “And Senator Franken will be with us on that committee. No one can take Ted Kennedy's place, but I'm ready for this fight to carry on his fight and get a health care bill to President Obama before Christmas . And mark my word, I'm the chairman, it's going to have a strong public option.”

    More than one speaker took care to mention that Harkin was not giving up his seat on the Agriculture Committee. Harkin has relinquished the gavel to Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, since rules prohibit chairing more than one committee, but remains second in seniority.

    The food line: Not a bad crowd, but smaller than 06 and 07...

    “We had a short mixed feeling when he moved to the new committee, but he'll still be on Agriculture,” said Rep. Leonard Boswell. Boswell got shout-outs from both his House colleagues, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack, for backing the public option.

    Franken was deferential during a brief press availability with Harkin and Governor Chet Culver. “He's already proven to be a great colleague,” Harkin said of Franken, who said he'd been honored to be invited as a guest in 2001 and was “humbled” to be on hand this time as a senator.

    “Out of 150 people at my town hall, I had maybe three or four yelling, but that's who seems to get on the evening news,” Harkin told the assembled press corps by way of mild admonishment. (Painful: one TV reporter tried to catch the Minnesota senator's eye with a Vikings number 4 jersey. I'll admit it, I wore a Packer jersey to cover Tommy Thompson during his brief presidential campaign.)

    “I think the president is doing a terrific job of explaining his plan,” Franken said of Obama's Saturday speech in Minneapolis. “It's easy to say 'death panel' but it ain't true.”

    By the time the press avail was done the opening act of the House members and statewide officials was underway. Attorney General Tom Miller and Treasurer Fitzgerald both mentioned Obama's visit three years ago (they were key early backers) mention their own bids for term number... we've lost count. As for Secretary of State Mike Mauro, he was on hand but if he spoke I completely missed it (Update: he did).

    “We're Democrats, we're proud to be Democrats and we're not going to put up with this crap any longer,” Braley said of the Republican attacks of the summer. (A handful o tea partiers were on hand at the gates, but I guess maybe 20 tops.)

    “The tough part is governing every day. We assumed our opponents got the message and would just give up and be quite. But we have put up with a campaign of lies and fear to keep the American people from knowing what is really going on,” said Braley, launching into a Speak Truth To Fear theme. “I want you to yell so loud that Joe Wilson and Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin can hear you.” (Those names are always good for laughs and applause in a highly partisan crowd like the steak fry.

    Last time the steak fry was at the Warren County Fairgrounds, Dave Loebsack was largely ignored amidst the Obama crush and the hot prospect of the moment, 4th District candidate Selden Spencer. Three years later, Braley ribbed his colleague Loebsack for having “the cushiest congressional seat in Iowa.” As opposed to Braley's motivational pitch Loebsack stuck mostly to policy. The trial lawyer and the professor, each playing to his strengths. “Tom Harkin gets it. He understands what needs to get done to get health care for everyone in America. That committee is going to be our committee, folks.”

    Boswell was mostly folksy and cracked a joke about his own age: “Back in 1935 – I wasn't there –when they were passing So'Security...” (That's how he pronounced it, like Regular Folks do, “So'Security” like one word) He also praised Obama for taking on the health care battle rather than “kicking the can down the road.”

    “We can do this, let's git-r-done,” he said in another colloquialism.

    Many crowd members, and more than one member of the press corps, toted copies of Franken's books, with “Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot” the most common. This fanboy brought “Why Not Me,” the fictional saga of a Franken Presidency (my now-autographed copy is a gift for my Minnesotan brother). Hey, he's in Iowa, and Harkin introduced him as “the new kid from the neighboring state who needs some exposure,” which is the exact same thing he said about his 2006 speaker. (The professional comedian, though, must have cringed at Harkin's convoluted introductory joke that tried to work in Sarah Palin and Mark Sanford for the partisan crowd...)

    Culver also noted Harkin's staying on Agriculture despite the HELP chairmanship, and reminded the crowd, packed with county chairs and precinct captains, that it's only 414 days to his own re-election. “We're going to run on that record of getting things accomplished,” said the governor, who also gave a shout-out to special election winner Rep. Curt Hanson (strategically seated near the front.)

    (Trivia: Harkin and Culver both referenced Franken as “the newest Senator,” apparently missing Thursday's swearing in of Florida appointee George LeMeiux. Hey, Franken's up to #98 on seniority...)

    “This event is an important platform to promote progressive policies and celebrate what it mean to be an Iowa Democrat,” said Ruth Harkin, the only female speaker of the day and, as is often noted at the steak fry, “the first Harkin to win an election.” (In 1972, she ran for county attorney and he ran for Congress. She won, he lost.)

    “Give em hell, Harkin,” yelled an audience member as Tom Harkin started to speak, as he muttered, “I will, always do...”

    “Not all of the nuttiness has been funny,” Harkin said of the town halls of August. “It was Sarah Palin that came up with those death panels, and shame on anyone who repeats it.” (I'd have to do some Googling to see who said 'death panel' first, but we had no wifi at the event so I'm a few hours later than I wanted to post and the Packers have already kicked off.) “Some of these folks just want to bring down President Obama. Some just hate what we stand for as progressives.,” said Harkin, referencing FDR's 1936 remark “I welcome their hatred.”

    “Yesterday (in Minneapolis) the President said two times we'll have a string public option, and we've got to stand behind him.” Harkin listed all the social programs that warm Democrat's hearts: “The powers that be didn't give us (Social Security fully pronounced and insert several more in the cadence)… we had to fight for every single one of them.”

    “He is as serious as they come as a policy expert,” Harkin said of Franken by way of introduction, citing the Harvard credentials and radio hosting and skipping over Stuart Smalley. Franken's only reference to his prior career was when he discussed John Culver's moving and funny tribute to Ted Kennedy.

    “If you have even half the sense of humor your dad has,” Franken said to the governor as random crowd members rushed forward to take pictures, “don't let them see it till you retire. It'll just get you in trouble. I should know.”

    (Packers just intercepted!!!)

    Franken referenced the barely remembered Harkin presidential campaign that won “76 % in Iowa and 76 votes in New Hampshire” and suggested that in the spirit of health care and the oft-mentioned dangers of red meat, 2010 should be the “first annual Tom Harkin Tofu Steam.” (Not sure if Culver, wearing a BEEF: IT'S WHAT'S FOR DINNER shirt, laughed at that one.)

    But most of Franken's humor was muted and on-point, as when the non-lawyer discussed his assignment to the Judiciary Committee “I did some deep digging and discovered most Americans aren't lawyers.”

    “The challenge is not to get caught up in the questions asked in Washington, but to ask the questions the American people want answered,” Franken said of the health care fight. “Republicans are busy asking Washington questions: how do we make sure President Obama fails. Well, I don't think this debate should be about President Obama. It should be about the people who are going bankrupt because they don't have health care.”

    (Field goal, Pack leads 3-0. Trying to channel Hunter Thompson with this politics-football combo.)

    And Franken said that even rank and file non-Congressional Republicans share the same concerns, citing a conversation with several tea partiers at the Minnesota State Fair that's gone viral on YouTube. “When you look your opponent in the eye it's a lot easier to reason with them They realized I was a real person, not a caricature of a left wing demon.”

    “These people weren't nuts at all. We really had a great conversation. I told them the issue was too complex for people to spread misinformation that that engenders fear,” and said the conservatives had acknowledged that the death panel rhetoric was wrong.

    “What they wanted to know is how are we going to pay for this. And that's a great question. It's a question Tom Harkin and I are asking every day. We did agree that doing nothing is just not an option.”

    But as for the elected leaders of the GOP, Franken said, “President Obama could propose just about anything and some of these people would oppose it. They don't even think the president should be allowed to tell kids to stay in school. Their goal isn't to see how much we can do but to see how much THEY can Undo.”

    “They run for office telling people the government can't run things, they get elected, and then they prove it.” A funny line, but not unusually or uniquely so.

    “When we talk about reforming the health care system, we're really talking about two different things. We have great health care in this country,” said Franken, often citing his own state's Mayo Clinic. “We just have a terrible SYSTEM. And if we don't fix the system, most of us are going to lose the health care,” he said, citing atrocities like a Minnesotan with diabetes who splits her insulin with her uninsured son.

    “We have great doctors” – thank you! shouted a crowd member; “Not necessarily you,” deadpanned Franken.

    Franken cited the accomplishments thus far of the Democratic DC trifecta of House Senate and White House, with little reference to his absence from the early votes. After noting that his campaign seemed “so long ago,” without elaboration on the months-long court battle to take his seat, Franken said “I may have arrived late to the Senate, but I didn't arrive TOO late.”

    (Pack intercepts again)

    After a long series of examples of how government had helped his wife's family through hard times, Franken said people should indeed pull themselves up by their bootstraps, “but first you gotta have the boots – and that's what we're about.”

    Retured Americans rate the Iowa delegation, with a special F minus for Steve King

    Urging progressives to stay on task, Franken said “This year we have a chance to confront the single biggest threat to our future. We don't want to have to say we voted for change and then got scared of actual change.”

    (Safety?!? 3-2 Bears after two innings.)

    Part two: Senate sidebar as Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause work the crowd.

    (TD Packers! for a bizarre 10-2 score. I remember a Packers-Bears game tied at 11-11 once...)

    (10-2 at halftime and channeling football and politics seems to work for NBC halftime analyst Keith Olbermann as well. Knows more about both FB AND Politics than the aforementioned Big Fat Idiot.)

    Friday, September 11, 2009

    Friday Clips

    Friday Clips

    I'm slacking this morning but check back Sunday for reports from the Harkin Steak Fry featuring him, Al Franken. For now:

  • Larry Sabato gets Iowa's 2nd District way wrong by putting Dave Loebsack on the lowest tier of races to watch. Uh... why? The only currently announced opponent is Steve Rathje, the last-place finisher in last year's Senate primary. Christopher "Not Tom Harkin" Reed is also likely. Sure, 2008 nominee Mariannette Miller-Meeks is lurking, but the state and national climate isn't THAT different that she jumps to victory from a 20 point deficit.

    MMM's case (other than her admittedly interesting biography) was attacking Loebsack as a solid vote for Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic leadership -- as if that was a BAD thing in a Democratic district. She also had trouble keeping her own party united behind her, with anti-choice forces within the GOP sent out late attacks and fed the rumor mill.

    Only thing I can think of is that Sabato just looked at the Loebsack percentage of just a hair under 60. The Green and independent candidates account for that; in Johnson County at least MMM's percentage almost exactly matched McCain's, and Loebsack trailed Obama by almost exactly the third party vote.

    Looks to me like Sabato just threw every 2006 and 2008 upset winner (Space, Shea-Porter, Walz, etc.) on the "Likely" list. Like I was saying even BEFORE the 2006 election, the real fluke is that Jim Leach held the seat as long as he did.

  • In the wake of Joe Wilson's Tourette's episode, Tom Schaller at FiveThirtyEight looks at South Carolina history. Here's one I never knew:
    Well into the 20th century, this was the state where black citizens observed the Fourth of July mostly alone. Why? Because--get this--the vast majority of whites preferred instead to celebrate Confederate Memorial Day, May 10, a practice that continued into the early 50s,

  • And an interesting long read on class issues between Facebook and MySpace.
  • Thursday, September 10, 2009

    Grassley a Knucklehead

    Grassley on Knucklehead List

    Salon lists 12 Senate "knuckleheads." Woowoowoowoowoo. Not listed: Congressional nitwits, morons and nincompoops.

    "Evidence of knuckleheadedness: Oh, pretty much just the entire debate over healthcare reform. Grassley's the primary Republican negotiator on healthcare in the Senate, and Democrats have been working hard to please him, but at this point no one besides Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., understands why.

    And don't even get us started on his use of Twitter."

    It's a mostly GOP list, but Baucus and one other Democrat qualify.

    Early Polls Say Obama Speech Worked

    Early Returns: it Worked

  • Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research: Presidential approval jumps 8 points

  • Democracy Corps (Carville's outfit): Support for plan up 20

  • CNN: Support for plan jumps 14
  • Wednesday, September 09, 2009

    Joe Wilson Takes One For The Team

    Joe Wilson Takes One For The Team

    I can only find one explanation for the episode of Tourette's by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-Asshole) during the president's health care speech: stagecraft.

    Joe Wilson took one for the team. They looked at the advance script, picked the point in the speech, and through some process Wilson's the guy. Relatively safe district, though he got a scare in 2008.

    If we've learned anything in the year of tea parties and town halls, it's that the media loves a dramatic distraction. Even if it's by a tiny minority. (One in this case).

    The stunt will backfire, of course, just like the tin-eared official response by Rep. Charles Boustant (House of Lords-La.) Despite the birthers and the anti-school speechers, people still want the President to get a minimum level of respect, especially in a State of the Union style setting. But this wasn't for the masses. It was, as in most things GOP these days, a move for the base.

    The "not in my House" look on Pelosi's face is priceless:

    What this does is keeps us from paying attention to the gems in Obama's speech. Without the shouting, we'd be remembering the ghost of Ted Kennedy and the actual calling out of insurance companies as the bad guys and the most impassioned case for liberalism that Obama has yet made, as candidate or as President.

    Instead, a cheap, probably staged moment of mock outrage takes a bit of the shine off a fine speech. I give Obama an A minus, with a couple points deducted for using single payer as a straw man.

    Iowa CIty School Board Numbers

    School Board: Crunching the Numbers

    The Iowa City school district sees the highest turnout since the record set in 1995, and the highest in a year without a bond on the ballot since 1993. Big fields of strong candidates in local elections drives (relatively) high turnout. 6% in this case.

    Here's the numbers.

    Sarah Swisher is the night's big winner. The political veteran put together a strong message (that banner headline in the P-C about a pilot program for year round school got noticed) and get out the vote effort in her first bid as a candidate in her own right. It also didn't hurt that, in a 70% Obama county, she was the candidate most strongly identified with the Democratic Party.
    (Aside: Contrast the first place finish of former JCDems chair Swisher with the last place finish of former Linn County GOP chair Jim Conklin in Marion. I'm just sayin'.)

    Swisher won strongest at Twain (where equity was a winning issue) City High (her Longfellow geographic base) and on the progressive north side. Perhaps most impressive, Swisher finished first on the west side. She maintained dignity in fourth in Coralville but finished a poor fifth in North Liberty.

    Tuyet Dorau, a likable candidate with a unique personal story, put on an impressive campaign for a relative political newcomer in second place. Dorau picked up a lot of second votes from Swisher supporters, but ran ahead of Swisher in Coralville, North Liberty, and (statistically insignificant) Hills. Not first anywhere, but not below fourth anywhere.

    Incumbent Mike Cooper ran strongest in his North Liberty-Coralville base but held his own across the district for a solid third place re-election. Despite a mood of change, enough people gave him credit for effort (including fellow incumbent Michael Shaw who sent out a late endorsement). Cooper trailed on the east and north side but was first in Manville Heights, Coralville and Hills. One advantage of the higher name ID of incumbency: Cooper ran second to Swisher on the early vote.

    Anne Johnson led the field with a whopping 77% in North Liberty (and helped boost turnout there to the highest levels in ages), but was perhaps identified TOO strongly with the North Liberty high school issue and fell about 300 votes short. Johnson ran poorly on the east and north sides, where Cooper maintained dignity.
    (Tangent: My election returns pet peeve is the misleading reporting of percentages in contests where you vote for more than one. Adding up all the votes then dividing by the grand total tends to understate the candidate's real support. See this otherwise handy KCRG list for examples. 54% of voters marked a ballot for her, but Swisher's big win gets reported as a puny "21%".)

    Jean Jordison, the most east side identified candidate, actually finished first at Lemme. At one point before North Liberty results came in she was running ahead of Cooper in third place. But she ran last* (not counting dropouts Kaine and Manthey) in Coralville, North Liberty and Manville Heights. She wound up just about 100 votes behind Johnson for a relatively respectable fifth.

    The big surprise may be April Armstrong's relatively poor sixth place. She had a lot of signs co-located with Cooper and Johnson, and ran best where they ran best... yet well behind them in every precinct. Nearly 200 votes behind Johnson in North Liberty, fifth behind Dorau and Swisher in Coralville. And a dismal 10% at City High and 11% at Horace Mann.

    Bullet voting was less of a factor than I'd guessed. The average voter cast 2.6 of the three available votes. I'd guess a lot of Swisher-Dorau-Blank and Cooper-Johnson-Blank.

    Bullet votes loomed larger in Solon where Dick Schwab finished a strong first in his comeback bid after one year off. An average Solon voter marked only 2.2 out of three available votes. I was expecting people to vote all three choices to block their least favorite. Instead, I think Schwab got a lot of unique support.

    Elected incumbent David Asprey is a comfortable second while appointee Liane Westcot gets a narrow third over newcomer Gene Lawson.

    Clear Creek beats Amana. Big turnout spikes in North Liberty, Oxford, Cosgrove and Tiffin are met with no response from Amana (Western Hills basically is a non-participant in CCA elections).

    Amana's horse in the race was District 2 incumbent Kathy Zimmerman, who was knocked off by Eileen Schmidt (a write-in last year). Zimmerman managed 84% in Amana but Schmidt won 80% in Tiffin.

    In the at large race, relative newcomer Barbara Kounkel wins North Liberty but Aimee Pitlick carried everything else. Amana didn't seem to care about this one; a couple dozen people who voted in the Zimmerman-Schmidt race skipped it and, in what is probably a first, the Amana precinct had a one vote margin. Pitlick 51, Kounkel 50. Amana never, never, never splits its vote; it votes 97-3 or 99-1.

    Mick Kahler nets almost all the votes in the all write-in District 4.

    Lone Tree had a surprise. True, all three unopposed incumbents got re-elected, but SOMEbody tried a write-in campaign and pulled about a third of the vote. Turnout was respectable, so word of a stealth campaign must have gotten out. You can't keep a secret in Lone Tree. Believe me, I lived there.

    Taxpayer rebellion fails to materialize as the Kirkwood levy carried Johnson County 71-29. Johnson cast about three times as many votes as Linn (no contests in Cedar Rapids), but Washington County may be the key: close to 3000 votes in the Washington school district as a high school bond fails for the fourth time, falling victim to the supermajority with only 52% yes.

    Tuesday, September 08, 2009

    School Election Day

    School Election Day

    Don't forget it's school polling places today and polls close at 8.

    As per usual on E-Day, updates will be intermittent and The Grand Analysis will be late. Watch the turnout by precinct, especially North Liberty.

    Also one nearby to watch: Washington makes its fourth try for a new high school. Those are always hot; I remember Highland, West Liberty and Columbus Junction making multiple attempts to pass bonds in recent years, and Iowa City took three tries in the early 90s.

    UPDATE 9:00 -- 372 in Iowa City for a half a percent. Highest number since 1999, highest percentage since `03. Highest on north and east sides, North Liberty in the middle of the pack. Clear Creek Amana: Oxford and Tiffin running ahead of Amana, but Amana tends to turn out later in the day.

    UPDATE 12:30 -- The 11:00 turnout follows the same trends. 708 in Iowa City district, just a skosh under one percent. Sounds awful but pretty good by school board standards. Highest at Mann, City and Lemme with North Liberty still middle of the pack. All pointing toward highest turnout since 1999 when two incumbents got knocked off. Record is 1995 but that was the bond to build Wickham; we won't break that.

    23 mailed ballots still out in Iowa City; remember if they're postmarked today they're no good. Gotta get hand delivered to auditor's (not polls). Clear Creek still leading Amana.

    UPDATE 3:00 -- Turnout picking up at 3:00, now 1589 in Iowa City which is the highest since that 1995 record. Increase from 11 to 3 is more than usual yet looks proportional across precincts. Clear Creek still leading Amana; the hot spot of all is Solon.

    Monday, September 07, 2009

    Prescreen Your President

    Prescreen Your President!

    Your radical agenda as prepared for delivery:
    I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.

    I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.

    I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.

    But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.

    And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.

    Republicans need to wise up: you've got Obama telling kids to stop playing Xbox and go study. That has the potential for creating a whole generation of young Republicans!

    Maybe, but what does it say when you play it backwards?

    That's it! Obama's message of work hard, listen to your parents and teachers is really satanically backmasked (I learned that term from Tipper Gore) to preach just the opposite: youth rebellion! It's not Speak To The Students Day tomorrow; it's OPPOSITE DAY!

    Hey, What happens when you play a country song backwards? You reconcile with your wife, your runaway dog comes home, your overturned pick-up rolls back on its wheels, and you get out of prison.

    Loebsack backs Public Option, Reimbursement Reform at Labor Picnic

    Loebsack backs Public Option, Reimbursement Reform at Labor Picnic

    Nick Johnson
    gave me a hard time for using a pen and paper to take notes at the Iowa City Federation of Labor picnic, but after trying to liveblog from the Blackberry at Dave Loebsack's health care forum my thumbs were typed out.

    Loebsack was the big speaker at this afternoon's picnic and while he pledged to fight hard for the public option, he said Medicare reimbursement reform was a critical part of health care reform for Iowa.

    "Right now the public option reimbursement rate is based on Medicare," said Loebsack, "and those rates need to get fixed so that Iowa does not get hurt in the process."

    Iowa is among the states with the lowest reimbursement rates.

    That said, "we've got to have a strong, robust public option," said Loebsack. However, "not all the Democrats even want a public option, and I'm not sure any Republicans do. But I'll do everything I can to keep it in there."

    There is bipartisan agreement on ending pre-existing conditions, said Loebsack. "Never again should an insurance company have the ability to throw you off your plan because you have an illness they don't want to cover."

    Loebsack said over 2700 2nd District residents had attended 14 town halls, with two yet to go (one in each county seat, which means two in split-courthouse Lee County).

    "We made them as fair as we possibly could," Loebsack said of his random question system. "Iowans are respectful and we want a good dialog. We've proven that at caucus time and for the most part we've done that here."

    But the forums were "a little less than civil at times. Jim Leach and I ran a respectful and civil campaign, and I pledge to keep doing that. But it's been challenging at times."

    "The public option is absolutely important," said City Fed president Pat Hughes while introducing Loebsack. "Without it the insurance companies keep making their 1000 percent profits. They're not gonna reform on their own. We've been talking about national health care since Teddy Roosevelt was president."

    "I'd like to thank Pat Hughes for giving my speech for me," said the congressman.

    Loebsack pledged continuing support and co-sponsorship of the Employee Free Choice Act and bragged up his membership in the American Federation of Teachers, dating back to his pre-congressional days. (Several local political figures who aren't bargaining unit members hold AFT cards.) "The pendulum of power needs to swing back toward the employees and workers."

    About 100 people were on hand for Loebsack's speech, "a heck of a turnout for an odd-numbered year" according to Loebsack. We have no photos to share with you; a north-facing congressman is a backlit congressman and the couple shots I tried were silhouettes. Y'all know what Dave looks like anyway.

    The only other candidate to speak was school board contender Sarah Swisher. She was the only school candidate on the scene but city council candidates Terry Dickens, Dan Tallon and Jeff Shipley were on hand along with supervisor candidate Janelle Rettig. (A few Tom Fiegen for US Senate T-shirts were also spotted.)

    And the roll call of the electeds: Michael Wright and Mayor Regenia Bailey from the city council, Mitch Gross of Coralville, Patti Fields of the school board, Mary Mascher and Bob Dvorsky from the legislature. (Larry Marek was not sighted; Hughes took a shot from the podium at "the fellow from the south who kind of back stabbed us at the last moment" on labor bills that lost by one vote last session.)

    Representing for the county were supervisors Sullivan and Neuzil, auditor Slockett, attorney Lyness, and Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek who got treated (?) to a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday.

    Linux Labor Day

    Linux Labor Day Links

  • In honor of football season, Windows users are the Charlie Browns of computing, always believing that THIS time Lucy won't pull the football away at the last second.

  • My music player of choice in Ubuntu is Rhythmbox. In fact it was one of the keys to my switching from Windows. Windows Media Player had too many DRM issues for me. WinAmp had one problem I just couldn't live with: it was impossible to remove tracks from the playback library.

    Rhythmbox has been really useful as I go through and de-duplicate my library. A few hundred tracks are gone but I could still do a no-repeat month or two. Rhythmbox also has some interesting add-ons here and here.

  • For ubergeeks: Update Twitter and Facebook from the Linux command line. Worth doing just to say you did.

  • Keep your kernel as up to date as possible with KernelCheck
  • Sunday, September 06, 2009

    Gazette School Board Endorsement

    Gazette Endorsement

    also goes with Swisher and Dorau, but picks incumbent Cooper. What the P-C sees as failings the Gazette sees as valuable experience. Short, to the point, no mention of other three candidates. Kind of like this post.

    Trivia: the last time we had this calendar alignment of Labor Day followed by Election Day was 1998, and the next will be 2015.

    Saturday, September 05, 2009

    Swisher and Obama

    The Grand Unifying Theory

    Local conservatives mad that school board candidate Sarah Swisher is an ex-Dems chair, as if that's a bad thing in a town that voted 70% Obama... local conservatives mad that Obama's speaking to school kids Tuesday... which is school election day... does this mean local conservatives are worried Obama's secret indoctrination agenda is a Swisher endorsement? I'm just sayin'.

    Iowa City School Board Endorsments and Early Vote

    School Board: Endorsments and Early Vote

    The Press-Citizen backs Dorau, Johnson and Swisher, splitting the more difference between the Armstrong-Cooper-Johnson clusters of signs and the COPE endorsement of Dorau, Jordison and Swisher. Armstrong and Jordison are scarcely mentioned, and significant space goes to the non-endorsement of incumbent Cooper. Tomorrow the Gazette endorses.

    I said early on that geography mattered in this election. Let's look at the returned absentees.

    PrecinctRegistrationBallots returned%
    IC01 (Coralville)10472380.36%
    IC02 (North Liberty)8310280.34%
    IC03 (Manville Heights and downtown)13178240.18%
    IC04 (northside)6973460.66%
    IC05 (west side)114451141.00%
    IC06 (southeast side)6306220.35%
    IC07 (near east side)9298890.96%
    IC08 (far east side)5525330.60%
    IC09 (Hills)81420.25%
    CC01 (North Liberty)181340.22%
    CC02 (Oxford)110590.81%
    CC03 (Cosgrove)51230.59%
    CC04 (Tiffin)1303282.15%
    CC05 (Western Hills)75300.00%
    CC06 (Amana)148410.07%

    So Iowa City has 398 votes in, which is more than we've seen since 2003 when Mary Vasey made a strong but unsuccessful challenger bid.

    We don't see the big turnout spike in North Liberty or Coralville that would indicate a surge specific to the third high school folks. Instead, the early votes came from traditional every-election voting areas: east siders and west siders.

    That west side precinct covers a lot of ground, from the immediate Roosevelt neighborhood all the way out past the proposed Crossings school site. It also includes the Oaknoll vote.

    But there is a specific spike in Clear Creek Amana: lots of early ballots from Tiffin.

    There are still 32 domestic mail absentees out in Iowa City and 53 in Clear Creek Amana (the majority of those, again, from Tiffin). There's also close to 300 overseas ballots out; as we learned when we were watching closely in the dead heat sales tax election, most of those standing requests came in at presidential election time and they tend not to come back in local elections.