Monday, November 30, 2009

Linux Monday: Karmic Koala vs. Windows 7

Black Friday meets Linux Monday

My latest effort to inflict Linux on a new user got more complicated, but more interesting this weekend.

Like all geeks, my holiday family visits include a fair amount of tech support. A month or so ago my sister in law's laptop died so I promised her a rebuilt machine at Thanksgiving--with of course the qualifier that it would be a Linux machine. She was cool with it, I promised to make it easy, she's not doing much more than browsing, web-based email, and the occasional word processor document, so the FUD (that's geekspeak for "fear uncertainty and doubt) was minimal.

The machine itself is an old Dell with a 2.0 gig processor. It was hers in the first place, then got passed along to my father in law where it died. So the family geek here determined the issue was a dead hard drive, grabbed one from the parts pile, threw Ubuntu on it, and happily detected aliens with it for a few months.

I checked the box out thoroughly while I got it ready for her; by coincidence this was while my laptop was in the shop and I used it as my main machine for a month, long enough to know I should bump the memory up from 512 meg to a gig. Also by coincidence this time frame fell during the updrade of Ubuntu upgrade from Jaunty Jackalope to Karmic Koala, so I was able to work through the upgrade issues on a "test" machine.

(Tangent: Jaunty to Karmic has been an unpleasant move. I've had no one major problem, like the audio issues I had the past two upgrades... but boot time and responsiveness just seems a little slower.)

Delivery was scheduled for last Saturday (she has the biggest place and the central location so it's always the holiday meeting place). Unfortunately, this fell the day after Black Friday, and Best Buy was having a sale...

So the geek and the Linux box were greeted by a cute little netbook (I didn't bother to get the specs), and I came face to face with Windows 7 for the first time.

She still wanted two machines, one for portability and one as the base station mothership sort of machine. Yes! The mission is still on!

My mission also included setting up a Linksys wifi hub which I'd picked up used while junk crawling. I decided to try that in Windows 7, just to see if it would be a straight plug and play thing. That didn't happen. A little Googling later, I found myself at, of all things, a DOS prompt! running ipconfig. Maybe a brand-new router would have worked straight out of the box I dunno (my issue was that I didn't have a router name and password and had to reset it to the defaut factory settings.)

Printer setup was smoother. The setup CDs weren't handy but weren't needed. I had to select the printer from a list but after that it was just a bunch of next, next, next. While I was at it I noticed a "system issues" or something icon in the system tray; most were readily resolved including setup of the "Free for 60 days" Norton antivirus. (I saved the "you don't need antivirus with Linux" lecture and the joys of AVG's free antivirus program, for another time; we're still back at the difference between antivirus, anti-spyware and firewall.)

So far so good. But after the printer setup it came time to, you guessed it, reboot. And the little thing refused to fully power off for at least a half hour as it processed 24 Windows updates. I've gotten spoiled with the Linux approach: no need to reboot unless it's the kernel, and even then you can choose when to reboot. Obviously Windows 7 isn't approaching that model yet.

While that endless reboot happened, I moved on to my true mission: the Linux box. Most of my work was done back home. I set it up to auto-log in to her account, and selected a very Windows-XP-y theme in Gnome. I started with this (which has actually fooled a few folks) then toned it down to at least acknowledge that no, this is not Windows. Boot up, connect the printer, we're ready.

Here's the extent of the Linux lesson.

  • "Pretend this little round logo thingie is your start button."
  • "This is Open Office." "Oh, that looks just like Word." "Just remember to save files as .doc if you want to re-open them at work in Word."
  • "This is Firefox. It looks just like Internet Explorer but it's better."
  • "Oh look, you got my pictures on my screensaver."
  • "When you see a little sunburst or red arrow down here that's an update. Just click on it and enter your password, which is (very easy to remember). If you see a little blue recycle thingie after you need to restart but you don't have to do it right away."
  • "If you want to play around with it here's an instruction manual on your desktop."

    This isn't really a fair test because we're not just comparing operating systems, we're comparing netbook vs. desktop. My prediction is the netbook will get more use for browsing but the desktop will get seriously checked out for writing a paper. We'll keep you posted. Now all I have to do is fix my father in law's Mac.
  • Sunday, November 29, 2009

    MMM is back

    Miller-Meeks joins deja vu primary field

    It's deja vu on the GOP primary ballot as three of the players from 2008 are facing off in a slightly different configuration in 2010.

    The big news over this long holiday weekend (four days with no post is the longest I've been off the grid in years) is Mariannette Miller-Meeks announcing her second run at Dave Loebsack. To be honest, I was expecting MMM to hold off until the map got redrawn. But I was wrong there, so let's see what else I can be wrong about.

    Miller-Meeks was a bit of a surprise winner in the `08 primary. The early frontrunner and DC favorite was Peter Teahen, but he was greeted by grassroots loathing as Teahen's donation to 2002 Democratic candidate Julie Thomas became an issue. (The "donated to Dems" card is getting played by Vander Plaats in the governor's race, as he points out Terry Branstad's erstwhile support for Nebraska neighbor Ben Nelson.)

    So MMM was the conservative choice in 2008... but seems to be the establishment pick this time, launching the race with a tour with Barbara Grassley. But in the intervening months, has the party lurched enough to the right that a hardliner like Christopher "Not Tom Harkin" or Steve Rathje can get taken seriously? It helps MMM that the two will split the vote, but don't forget that late in the general election conservatives shot her in the foot by arguing she wasn't "pro-life" (sic) enough. And the primary dynamic is different this year; the top of the 2008 GOP primary ballot was a battle of also-rans for the right to lose to Tom Harkin, while 2010 will be the hottest governor primary since, well, since the last time Branstad was on the ballot.

    Speaking of tours, Roxanne Conlin is hitting the road with Bruce Braley. Just, you know, listening to people, not endorsin' or anything.

    And completing the sense of deja vu, it seems ole Stew Iverson may be making a comeback--on the HOUSE side against Six Packer McKinley Bailey.

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Thanksgiving Side Dishes

    Thanksgiving Side Dishes

    Just a reminder that if it seems like there's less on the ole Deeth Blog these days to check out my Des Moines Register stuff. Now on with the clips:

  • New census numbers mean new analysis of the now year-old presidential election. Marc Ambinder has analysis:
    No wonder Republicans worry about a Democratic demographic storm. Young voter turnout has increased at a rate of about 30% per general election since 2000. Indeed, the rate of increase was higher from 2000 to 2004 than from 2004 to 2008.

    Or to put it my way: the nation got more like the People's Republic of Johnson County.

  • As for Obama's drop in approval, Charles Franklin writes:
    Obama has not plummeted among independents, and that needs to be clarified before it becomes erroneous conventional wisdom... There is no evidence that any group of Dems, especially liberal Dems are unhappy with Obama's performance. Critical is that moderate and even conservative Dems have not moved away since August. Angry conservative Reps are indeed very unhappy with Obama, at almost the same level of disgust as Dems felt for Bush, but they too have reached a plateau at a steady 10% approval.

    Public Policy Polling puts it more plainly:
    In June Obama had an 82% approval rating with Democrats. Now it's 83%. He had a 46% approval rating with independents. Now it's 47%. No real change on either of those fronts. But with Republicans he's dropped from an 18% mark to just 10%. That shift is what put his approval rating below 50%- he's gone from a small amount of crossover support to a very small amount of crossover support... you have to ask though: was there any chance of many of those people actually voting for him in the future?

    Republicans have moved from give the guy a chance tolerance to tea party oppositional defiance.

  • All this begs the FiveThirtyEight question: How Bad Could Obama Screw Up and Still Beat Sarah Palin? Iowa version: How Bad Could Culver Screw Up and Still Beat Bob Vander Plaats?) Local version: How Bad Could Rettig Screw Up and Still Beat Lori Cardella?

  • Meanwhile, over in libertarian la-la land, a spirited defense of Ebenezer Scrooge:
    If Cratchit's skills were worth more to anyone than the fifteen shillings Scrooge pays him weekly, there would be someone glad to offer it to him. Since no one has, and since Cratchit's profit-maximizing boss is hardly a man to pay for nothing, Cratchit must be worth exactly his present wages.

    No doubt Cratchit needs—i.e., wants—more, to support his family and care for Tiny Tim. But Scrooge did not force Cratchit to father children he is having difficulty supporting. If Cratchit had children while suspecting he would be unable to afford them, he, not Scrooge, is responsible for their plight. And if Cratchit didn't know how expensive they would be, why must Scrooge assume the burden of Cratchit's misjudgment?

    I can't tell if this is a joke or not. The fact that I can't tell if this is a joke or not is the main reason why Libertarians have been stuck in the half a percent range for three decades.

  • But one place where libertarians have it right and are ahead of the curve is drug law:
    A Gallup poll in October found 44 percent of Americans favor full legalization of marijuana -- a rise of 13 points since 2000. Gallup said that if public support continues growing at a rate of 1 to 2 percent per year, "the majority of Americans could favor legalization of the drug in as little as four years."

    Advocates say the biggest surge came with the election of Barack Obama, the third straight president to acknowledge having smoked marijuana, and the first to regard it with anything like nonchalance.

  • But on the Free Market, the price of music has dropped to zero, prompting this when I was your age musing from a guy about my age:
    The younger generation has no romantic attachments to records as physical objects. To them, music exists as a kind of omnipresent atmospheric resource.

    And it’s not that I begrudge them their online treasure troves or bite-size iPods. But I still miss the way it used to be, in the old days, when fans had to invest serious time and money to track down the album or song they wanted.

    Uphill, both ways, get off my lawn.
  • Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Running-Marquardt Wins House 33

    Running-Marquardt Wins House 33 with 78%

    And it's a Democratic hold in House District 33 in Cedar Rapids, as Kirsten-Running-Marquardt wins with 78% over Republican Joshua Thurston. One of the bluest districts in the state stays blue.

    9.5 percent turnout (for Iowa Citians, that's what we saw in the city election). Nearly half the vote on absentee, a sign of the Democratic field operation at work. And Cedar Rapids goes to the polls again in a week for the city runoff...

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Scheffler backs GOP Purity Test

    Scheffler backs GOP Purity Test

    Back in the early days of teh interwebs, various versions of "the Purity Test" floated about. It was scored like golf; the lower the score, the less "pure" you were and vice versa. Some of the questions on the deluxe 500 question version wend beyond funny into the zone of the disturbing, but it was all meant in good clean (well, dirty) fun.

    Of course, the modern GOP would have no part of such a purity test, at least outside the Minneapolis airport bathroom. But a number of members of the Republican National Committee, including Iowa's own Steve Scheffler, are backing a ten question Purity test with a real cost: get more than three wrong and they cut off the $. Apparantly the lessons of New York 23 are not yet learned.

    Here's the test.

    (1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill;

    (2) We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare;

    (3) We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;

    (4) We support workers’ right to secret ballot by opposing card check;

    (5) We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;

    (6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;

    (7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;

    (8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;

    (9) We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and

    (10) We support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership; and be further

    RESOLVED, that a candidate who disagrees with three or more of the above stated public policy position of the Republican National Committee, as identified by the voting record, public statements and/or signed questionnaire of the candidate, shall not be eligible for financial support and endorsement by the Republican National Committee

    Scheffler, whose political roots are in the Iowa Christian Alliance, was elected to the RNC at the 2008 state convention, ousting longtime member Steve Roberts.

    Litmus tests this strong are a bit scary... but why is it that Republicans are able to enforce support for the platform where Democrats can't?

    Linux Monday

    Linux Monday

    Second Linux Monday in a row as I try to re-establish the feature.

  • Forget Obama's Nobel Peace Prize; these folks say it should go to Linux founder Linus Torvalds!

  • Remember Chuck Norris Facts? We ubergeeks have Linus Torvalds facts: "Linus Torvalds can divide by zero. Linus Torvalds can do an infinite loop in five seconds… in his head. Linus Torvalds only has 2 buttons on his keyboard: ‘1′ and ‘0′..." Also, Richard Stallman Facts in tribute to the other godfather of open source.

  • Cracked takes a crack at the joys of installing Linux:
    Ubuntu is slim enough that you can install it inside of Windows. That's right - you can actually have a fully functional, surprisingly powerful OS completely contained within the pale bloated mass that is Windows Vista.

    Is it easy? No, but nothing worthwhile ever is. Does it work? Damn right it does.

    Plus, penguins are awesome. Just sayin'.

  • Why can't I pick the technology I use in the office? It's a question I ask every day as all the anti-virus and "security" I have to run to make Windows as secure as Swiss cheese such up two-thirds of my system resources before I even open an app... Hey, it's the early stages of budget season in local governments around here. When the IT people present theirs, see if you can find out how much your taxes are subsidizing Bill Gates...
  • Sunday, November 22, 2009

    JJ and More

    JJ and More

    I skipped out on Jefferson-Jackson this year; I wasn't the only one as Tom Harkin stayed in DC to vote on health care and Dave Loebsack was MIA on “a mission out of the country,” which likely means some Armed Services related work on the front lines.

    The Reg, O. Kay and Charlotte Eby were there.


  • No one has updated their campaign music iPod since last year. All they needed was "Beautiful Day" to complete the cliche collection.

  • Carol Hunter describes applause for the governor as "polite."

    The Register also reports "Obama Below 50% Approval," but a closer look shows 49-44 with 7 percent undecided. Basically that means the McCain voters disapprove. As for that seven percent, considering the alternative...

    Speaking of which, of the infinite takes on Palin this week, Matt Taibbi has one of the fresher ones:
    Listen to Rush any day of the week and you’ll hear him playing the old-fashioned pundit game: he goes about the dreary business of picking through the policies and positions and public statements of Democrats and poking holes in them, arguing with them, attacking them with numbers and facts and pseudo-facts and non-facts and whatever else he can get his hands on, honest or not, but at least he tries.

    Sarah Palin’s battlefield, on the other hand, is whatever is happening five feet in front of her face. She is building a political career around the little interpersonal wars in the immediate airspace surrounding her sawdust-filled head. And in the process she connects with pissed-off, frightened, put-upon America on a plane that’s far more elemental than the mega-ditto schtick.

    Most normal people cannot connect on an emotional level with Rush’s meanderings on how Harry Reid is buying off Mary Landrieu with pork in the health care bill. They can, however, connect with stories about how top McCain strategist and Karl Rove acolyte Steve Schmidt told poor Sarah to shut her pie-hole on election day...

    I can't add anything to that except: wouldn't it be awesome if Earth had rings like Saturn?
  • Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Republicans set convention, too

    Republicans set convention, too

    And now the Johnson County Republicans have set their nominating convention. The Courier has the details and the party line, but the key facts are: Saturday afternoon Dec. 5, Coralville Library, Lori Cardella announced for nomination.

    Even though the petition drive was Republican-led (though by no means exclusively partisan), it was still a live question as to whether the GOP was going to take its own name into the election. As noted earlier today, in the last three county-wide specials (1994, 1997, 1999) the GOP did not have an official nominee--but clearly favored an independent-in-name candidate running against an official Democratic nominee.

    Personally, I think the label "Republican" is a negative in a 70% Obama county... but that certainly ain't my call to make.

    Johnson County Dems Set Convention Date

    Dems Set Nominating Convention Date for Dec. 3

    Johnson County Democrats will nominate their candidate for the Jan. 19 special supervisor election at a Dec. 3 convention at the Pappajohn Business Building on the UI campus. Registration begins at 6:30 p.m. and the gavel drops at 7.

    "We hope to have special guests and have a short convention," says chair Dennis Roseman in the release. Business will be limited to the nomination itself. Thus far, only appointee Janelle Rettig has announced plans to seek the convention nod.

    The delegates and alternates will be those folks elected nearly two years ago on presidential caucus night, but seating will not be by presidential preference group. (Which should be a relief to people who made the then seemingly sensible but now embarrassing choice of John Edwards.)

    This is the fourth special election for county office in my two decades here. History lessons: tempers flare, appointees win, the side that petitions loses, the election itself is the main issue, Democrats who bolt the party lose in the following primary, and conservatives have backed independent candidates rather than officially nominating someone under the Republican label. (This last has changed; see next post)

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Team Cardella Over The Top already

    Special election: Over the top rhetoric already

    The Coralville Courier is really a must-read with your morning cup of coffee. Actually, tea (as in bag) might be more appropriate. It's a great insight into the mindset of local conservatives as the special election effort moves from petition stage into Lori Cardella campaign stage.

    One of the first hot-buttons in the campaign is the petitioner's reliance on student signatures: "Cardella said about half of her signatures came from UI students."

    I'm uneasy with criticizing that tactic--like I keep saying, I more than anyone argued in favor of students in the just-finished city election. The petitioners made a good effort and get a Hee-Haw salute:

    But it's--let's think of a mild word here... cynical to do so when the rhetoric at the time of the conservation bond recount was, to quote Tom Cardella, "the student body population may override the wishes of long-term rural residents of Johnson County."

    And even in attempting to defend the student signatures -- which are legitimate and don't even need defending -- local conservatives' contempt for the students shines through. Deb Thornton writes: "Johnson County Democrats - who by the way, just love all of the student votes, as long as they are voting straight ticket Democrat as they are told!"

    There's no way to truly ferret out the student vote; ballots are secret and University enrollment is not on the voter file. But I think even Deb and I can agree that Iowa City precincts 3 and 5 are the most student-dominated precincts.
    Straight ticket Democratic voting, 2008
    (absentee and election day combined)

    Iowa City 3: 19.35%
    Iowa City 5: 19.48%
    County wide: 19.61%
    The students voted straight ticket D a tiny bit lower than average but basically no more or less than any other voters in the county.

    But most of Wednesday's sputtering rage of over-the-top rhetoric was directed at Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek, who wrote in the Tuesday DI:
    I will now look forward to the special election so that we can welcome Janelle Rettig to the supervisors a second time and to tell Lori thanks, but no thanks. That $75,000 could have been put to a much better use. It could have been used to pay for the ever-climbing costs of bringing forward a new Justice Center.

    Now, I'm not yet convinced on the need for a new building (I could be persuaded, but I want some changes in law and in law enforcement policy in exchange), but Lonny is far more receptive to public opinion and input than his predecessor Bob Carpenter, who went into the 2000 jail bond campaign with the attitude of "I'm the sheriff, I say this is what I need, and how dare you have an opinion."

    Lonny started running in 2002, before Carpenter announced his retirement, meaning he was potentially running against his own boss. Hardly the move of a loyal "member of the local Democrat party machine" (though, in fairness, Carpenter was no more a Democrat than the man in the moon) or someone who's afraid of an election.

    Yet the headline blares, in the inimitable teabagger style, "Pulkrabek questions Constitutional right to vote." If anyone has questioned people's right to vote, it's Thornton, who led a GOP effort in 2004 that challenged 2000 Johnson County absentee ballots. Most were, you guessed it, students, but others had "flaws" such as living in a Systems Unlimited house or having bad handwriting--an effort that drove one woman with a degenerative disability to tears of rage.

    Back to Lonny, an anonymous writer ("from fear of reprisal from my own Sheriff") complains, "You are a sheriff now, sir, supposedly, a non-partisan position."

    Uhhh... actually, sheriff is a partisan position. We even had a Republican sheriff here as late as 1988. I seem to remember Lonny beating a Republican who said some rather unfortunate things about his horse.

    The rhetoric of Anonymous isn't quite to that level, but "supporter of one party rule, sort of like a dictator" doesn't 1) sound like the Lonny Pulkrabek I know or 2) raise the level of discourse. But it does fit the Tea Party line: Iowa City as Little Chicago. Ostensibly about corruption, but it bashes students, Chicago People If You Know What I Mean, and "President" Barrack Hussein Osama all at once.

    The "machine" rhetoric is amusing to this little cog, as it presents the Johnson County Democrats as some sort of efficient monolith, awaiting marching orders. Obviously, these folks have never been to any of our meetings. The Republicans should know about our primary fights, though; enough of them regularly participate as "Democrats for a day" using, as is their right, our rather loose laws on party registration.

    This may be as good a point as any to make it clear that Janelle Rettig is not necessarily the Democratic candidate in the Jan. 19 election, though she has announced her intent to seek the nomination at the special convention. (And I've announced my intent to support her at that convention--more info on that as details are announced.)

    Back to Anonymous, he/she/it writes: "How about some justice and protection for the south side! It is a war zone down there," apparently unaware that Broadway and Lakeside are city, not county, jurisdictions. (Aside: if the city was less concerned with harassing 18 19 and 20 year old adults downtown, they could devote more resources to public safety in other parts of town.) Just throw enough irrelevant stuff at the wall to see what sticks.

    (Anonymous also keeps posting comments on some of my blog's four year old posts, usually about Viagra. I suspect this may be unrelated.)

    One thing Anonymous does get right: "How many of the Johnson County Supervisors are Republican? That’s right, NONE!" True, because none have been elected to the job in 50 years. And if the low tone of rhetoric keeps up, Janelle Rettig should extend the Democratic winning streak.

    Mid-Day Clips

    Mid-Day Clips

  • A good and rather objective post at the Iowa Republican on next year's primary for the right to lose to Dave Loebsack (hey, I never claimed objectivity.)

  • What we all suspected: John Edwards wanted attorney general.

  • What we all suspected 2: CNN paid embarrassment Lou Dobbs to quit.
  • Bar War in Iowa City

    Go Get `em Mike

    City votes to deny liquor license to the Summit; Summit owner Mike Porter (the political deep pockets behind 2007's successful no campaign on the 21 bar issue) sues the city. At issue is the policy of basing license renewals on the rate of PAULA citations (that's Possession of Alcohol Under Legal Age for you non-Iowa Citians)

    Read the full lawsuit at the Gazette. The gist is, says the PC:
    The lawsuit states the resolution is illegal because, among other things, it:

  • Does not require a PAULA conviction, only a citation;

  • The city is intentionally targeting certain establishments; and

  • Punishes plaintiffs retroactively by considering PAULA citations before the resolution's adoption.

  • That's an ex post facto law, for you first year law students.

    It's great that Mike is taking on this fight now, even though it's self-interest. I wish we'd seen him get engaged in this year's city election, but the choices weren't especially credible. (I noticed BoJames owner and 2001 candidate Leah Cohen on Terry Dickens' donor list--is that an indicator of sorts?)

    The Register points out some ugly incidents tied to abusive drinking by young people, and that sort of stuff needs to stop. But we can't credibly address those until we have a credible attitude toward the drinking age. How many crimes have gone unreported because the victim is afraid of getting in trouble for "underage" (sic) drinking?

    If I were on the council, which I'm not or ever planing to be, I'd ask for those PAULA citations broken out: 17 and under minors vs. 18-20 ADULTS. Every time this comes up, I want to hear someone on the council saying "This is a bad law that should be changed."

    The council met a couple months back to discuss legislative priorities. Where was the drinking age? Nowhere.

    I'm not quite to the point of calling for the city to commit civic disobedience and stop enforcing this law; nullification is an ugly legal ground with an ugly history.

    What I am looking for is public statements, I'm looking for lobbying the legislature.

    I've helped a lot of city candidates in the past and overlooked differences on alcohol issues. I'm not going to do so in 2011. Freak Power on The Prairie candidates, call me.

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Monday Miscellaneous

    Monday Miscellaneous

    It's Sarah Palin week and while far too many bytes have been wasted here's a couple takes worth reading:

  • Jon Meacham at Newsweek seems to see Palin as the spiritual godmother to teabaggerism: "Her political celebrity is so powerful that it has reduced a large part of the Republican Party to irrationality and civic incoherence. According to Gallup, Republicans are more likely to say they would seriously consider voting for Palin for president (65 percent) than to say she is qualified for the job (58 percent)."

  • In the same publication, the unpredictable but always interesting Christopher Hitchens is harsher:
    The problem with populism is not just that it stirs prejudice against the "big cities" where most Americans actually live, or against the academies where many of them would like to send their children. No, the difficulty with populism is that it exploits the very "people" to whose grievances it claims to give vent...

    The Palin problem, then, might be that she cynically incites a crowd that she has no real intention of pleasing. If she were ever to get herself to the nation's capital, the teabaggers would be just as much on the outside as they are now, and would simply have been the instruments that helped get her elected. In my own not-all-that-humble opinion, duping the hicks is a degree or two worse than condescending to them.

    Much like Reagan, or closer to home in that same era our own resrugent Terry Branstad.

  • Branstad, of course, may have his own problems; the consensus conventional wisdom emerging from the weekend Register poll is that it undercuts his electability argument and that Republicans will look at it and want to go for the whole schmeet with Vander Plaats. (My thought is that the still largely undefined BVP has nowhere to go but down, hopefully after clinching a nasty nomination.)

  • Geek Alert: Andrew Gelman at FiveThirtyEight explains "Why Compact, Contiguous Districts are Bad for the Democrats".

  • Geek Alert 2: Weird Al lists his "9 Most Underrated Funny Songs" (other than his own). What kind of ice cream do the Martians like?
  • Friday, November 13, 2009

    Thoughts on the Special Election

    Thoughts on the Special Election

    So there's going to be an election. Date's set for January 19.

    First off, congrats to the petitioners. Believe it or not--and look back over the blog--I'm actually agnostic on the appoint vs. elect issue. Fifteen years ago, I was on the petitioning side for an election a lot like this. There's a process, the petitioners made a good effort, so it goes.

    That said, two things.

    First, I'll be supporting Janelle Rettig for the Democratic nomination and in the election.

    Second, a note on how the petitioners got their names. "Well, they were all over the Pentacrest yesterday at lunchtime, and most people had no idea what they were signing, from what I could hear," writes Aletia Morgan at my Facebook page.

    I have nothing against the petitioners soliciting student signatures. I argued loudly in the city election that the students were full-fledged, and under-represented, members of our community. Property qualifications for voting were eliminated even before race and gender qualifications were.

    But there's a big group of people in this town who openly argue that students shouldn't be allowed to vote. Last year the conservation bond opponents, Lori Cardella chief among them, argued that students should not be allowed to vote on local matters because they're not "taxpayers". “The student body population may override the wishes of long-term rural residents of Johnson County,” she said a year ago in the losing Flip No effort.

    Now, Cardella puts herself forward as the likely candidate for the special election, and that attitude is relevant in how she hopes to represent the community.

    I'm glad that the petitioners tacitly recognized that students have a right to participate in Johnson County's political process, even if it was only to serve their own interests. But in doing so, don't they by extension acknowledge the legitimacy of the conservation bond?

    I'm just sayin'. Now let's go vote.

    Petitioners Say They Have The Signatures

    Petitioners Say They Have The Signatures

    The special election petitioners say here at Coralville Courier that they have enough signatures.

    Developing; check back tonight for updates.

    Weekend Events

    Weekend Events

    Some free plugs here for candidates:

  • Kirsten Running-Marquardt, the Democratic candidate in the Nov. 24 special election in House District 33, is having a get-together at the home of Bob and Sue Dvorsky, 5 to 7 tonight. That's 412 6th Ave., Coralville.

  • Rod Sullivan is hosting a pre-game party at his home with Dave Loebsack. That's 2326 E. Court St., 11:30-1:30.

  • And US Senate candidate Bob Krause will be at the Mill Sunday afternoon 2 to 3:30.
  • UI Staff and Thinly Veiled Temperance Threats

    Thinly Veiled Temperance Threats

    Secure in the wake of last week's Iowa City election, the University's neo-Prohibitionists are at it again with. Yesterday's Daily Iowan offers this bit from Wallace Loh, UI executive vice president and provost, and Tom Rocklin, interim vice president for Student Services:
    We’re funding alcohol-free social activities. We’re communicating with parents regularly. We also administer sanctions. We suspend students and allow readmission only under strict conditions. With advice of counsel, we’re revising our policies to extend UI jurisdiction over student misconduct that occurs off-campus.

    Soulnds like a return to in loco parentis to me. How many non-alcohol alternatives do we have to subsidize before we listen to what 18, 19 and 20 year old adults really want? As usual, the comments are better than the aricle itself:
    Here's my radical idea: how about stopping the continued harassment of students? In Europe (and in just about every other country that values personal freedom), cops don't routinely harass students like here, forcing them to drink in large quantities secretly in the corner of Jakes in a short amount of time, causing them to become paranoid and sometimes unnaturally violent, before the cops show up to hand out another PAULA. They don't have the luxury of drinking in peace, so they get drunk in other ways. See the problem here? It's NOT the students, Iowa City city council and the university, and it never has been. YOU are the problem.

    Of course, we HAD the chance to change this last week and elect some students to the city council, but their own peers let them down and no grown-ups wanted to go there.

    Also from the comments, more concise and to the point:
    If you're old enough to take a bullet for your country in Afghanistan, you're old enough to drink a beer. Period.

    Loh and Rocklin, of course, make no acknowledgement at all of this critical point. We can't address the very real problem of alcohol abuse until we recognize the rights of legal adults.

    Tell your city council members to take the cops from downtown and send them someplace where actual crime is happening.

    Tell your state legislators to shove the federal highway money.

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    One Big Long Tangent

    One Big Long Tangent

    Open Left takes a look at some of the reddest and bluest counties in the country and notes that enclaves of strong, historic ethnic identity plays a big role.

    Makes some sense to me; I mean, everyone knows us Swedes are a bunch of socialists.
    Our own Sioux County, very Dutch and very red, is offered up as one example. And I've lived in another one of the places listed: the very Polish, very blue Portage County in central Wisconsin. I lived there when the Berlin Wall fell, and believe me it was a big deal. Our local TV news came from a town the next county over, Wausau; we used to call it "Warsaw" and that wasn't much of an exaggeration.

    The part I can't figure out is just why the Dutch community, and the old-line Protestant Dutch Reformed Church, is so particularly conservative, especially considering the you put your weed in it direction the mother country has taken.

    Speaking of which, the American Medical Association is taking a break from the health care war to get behind medical marijuana.

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Taking the day off

    Taking the day off

    Veteran's Day is traditionally my outdoor cleanup day, as it comes at a convenient time just after election day. (I've got a lull for at least a couple days... after that we'll see.) Plus it's one of those rare days that I get off but the kids don't. Now with the sun down and the Smallest Farm sleeping under a bed of leaves for the winter, I get to tweak the Linux on the just-returned laptop.

    So I got a lot done but not nearly as much as Phineas and Ferb get done in a typical morning. Who? You like Calvin and Hobbes? Of course you do. Well, multiply him by two, keep the creativity but inverse the polarity on the attitude, and that's them. Oh, I forgot: remember when Calvin built the time machine out of the same cardboard box that used to be the transmogrifier? When Phineas and Ferb make one it really works. And the tiger is a platypus instead.

    What I need is a giant Rake-inator to rake up all the leaves in the Tri-State Area for my evil plan.

    But we do have a Backyard Beach:

    Aren't I a little old to be watching cartoons? Why, yes. Yes I am.

    Kids: the best excuse ever for not growing up.

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    DI nails city election a week too late

    A little late for this

    The Daily Iowan editorializes about city issues:
    The city should also shift downtown police tactics. The police should concentrate their forces on the Pedestrian Mall — rather than inside the bars — and target public intoxication and violence instead of PAULAs.

    Gee, this would have been nice LAST week, when, you know, there was an ELECTION with STUDENTS ON THE BALLOT... at least they give you a little poll to vote in.

    In other events: you can tell the GOP is stressing about Roxanne Conlin because they've already burned more bytes bashing her in one day than they've spent on Fiegen and Karuse combines in months. A lot of it's the Microsoft suit, but as you know I'm a Linux geek so anyone who sues Bill Gates is fine by me.

    Monday, November 09, 2009

    Conlin Launches Web Ad

    Conlin Launches Web Ad

    The soon to be officially launched Roxanne Conlin Senate campaign hit the webwaves with a two-minute re-introductory ad Monday morning.

    "The special interests have had their turn, now it's our turn," Conlin says in the tag line (she does the full voiceover herself). There's no specific mention of Chuck Grassley, but some references to "career politicians" imply the target. O. Kay has full text and press release.

    Indeed, "target" is the wrong word, as Conlin plays up her humble roots. Defusing the Rich Trial Lawyer attack that's soon to be sure to come, she talks of living paycheck to paycheck and working through school. We see lots of Ken Burnsy still photos of Ordinary Iowans; the only moving pictures are of Conlin.

    No work yet on whether it will hit broadcast; my bet is that a short version is in the can ready and waiting for the Official Announcement.

    Linux Monday

    Linux Monday

    With local election season over--or at least on hold until Friday's petition deadline for a special supervisor election--I'm trying to revive some of my other writing habits. It's Monday, so that means Linux.

    Geeks out there know that the much-promoted launch of Windows 7 coincided with the latest upgrade to the top Linux distribution, Ubuntu. With my best machine in the shop, I haven't been able to test out version 9.10 ("Karmic Koala") in my usual setting. But I've been testing out Karmic on one of my old machines that's slated to go to a family member as soon as the laptop gets back.

    For the most part, no problems; the always touchy audio and flash-based video are working well. The only issues have been byproducts of my dozen windows at once work style and limited (512 meg) memory. I've done several of the top ten things to do listed here, with the exception of the snazzy visual effects. (Never been a big fan of those.)

    I also seem to be selling Linux well, at least according to this piece at the well-named Terminally Incoherent. The intended user of my old machine doesn't do much: browses, web-based email, and occasionally takes a Microsoft Office file home. Firefox and Open Office can cover all those needs. Termilally Incoherent writes:
    Now, I’m fairly sure my friend will continue using Windows. I didn’t “convert” him and made him into an exclusive Linux user. But he will give Ubuntu a try, and hopefully will like it becoming an OS agnostic nut bag like me. And that’s more than I could ever ask for.

    We really don’t need to convert people, or try to wean them off of Windows. All we need to do is to show them the alternatives and find places in which they work well – like mini notebooks for example.

    As for those netbooks, my occasional bored forays into big box retailers find Linux netbooks less available to the non-techie masses than they were say 18 months ago. But this article says Microsoft is lowballing the Linux market share:
    The study shows that 32 percent (about 11 million netbooks) of this year's netbook shipments will be used with a Linux-based operating system. Since Apple has yet to release a netbook, the remaining 68 percent belongs to Microsoft Windows, projects ABI.

    As Lai points out, despite the two to one edge for Windows, this is a far cry from the 96 percent advantage Microsoft claimed to have enjoyed in April.

    While I'm MS-bashing, here's a nice understandable article on why Windows security is lousy:
    Desktop Windows stands firmly on a foundation as a stand-alone PC operating system. It was never, ever meant to work in a networked world. So, security holes that existed back in the day of Windows for Workgroups, 1991, are still with us today in 2009 and Windows 7.

    How many people, in two thousand freakin nine, are using PCs in a stand-alone, non-networked environment. Heck, since the entire netbook market is based on the concept that a computer is just a device that you use to connect, why would you even look at a Windows netbook?

    Saturday, November 07, 2009

    Saturday Clips

    Saturday Clips

    There's only one story in Iowa City today, of course, but here's a few other things:

  • It's an administrative recount Monday in University Heights to double-check the two vote margin. The best part here: In the Iowa Code, recounts are covered under section 50.50. Think about it a moment.

  • Steve King does it again, attending a teabagger rally instead of voting.

  • And while I'm still gloomy about Maine voting no on marriage equality, there's literally hope for the future in this graph. The takeaway quote: "Even in states that we normally consider quite hostile to gay rights, there is still a significant age difference: 18-29 year-olds in Alabama, for example, are more supportive of gay marriage than people 65 and older in Massachusetts."
  • Thursday, November 05, 2009

    November Johnson County Dems

    November Johnson County Dems

    After a longer than usual gap the Johnson County Democrats are back. No liveblog thanks to my once-again out of action laptop but here's some highlights:

  • A unanimous endorsement of a One Iowa resolution opposing the constitutional amendement against marriage equality. (There's a double negative here: Yes means no means yes, meaning yes to marriage equality.) This position should go without saying among Johnson County Democrats, but in the wake of Maine is worth saying.

  • Janelle Rettig on hand, in her new role as supervisor.

  • A couple events coming up: A Friday the 13th party at the Dvorsky's for legislative candidate Kirsten Running-Marquardt, and US Senate candidate Bob Krause at the Mill Sunday 11/15.

  • Let's not forget Vice President Joe at the Jefferson-Jackson 11/21...

  • And the rest was administrivia focused on the Jan. 23 caucuses.

  • As for the laptop, it's my own damn fault for dropping it on a hardwood floor in a Wisconsin hotel room three weeks ago. That's one of the limiting factors in my writing productivity, along with a nasty cold that I'm just shaking and my bad attitude about the city election.
  • Tuesday, November 03, 2009

    City Election Wrap-Up

    Well, That's Over

    Aaaand... just like the primary. Near-record low turnout and Susan Mims and Terry Dickens win with almost identical percentages as they had four weeks ago: 75 and 70 respectively.

    It used to be progressive orthodoxy in Iowa City that the students should be represented, but I was literally alone in holding that position. The lefties found Jeff Shipley's libertarianism unpalatable, and Dan Tallon hurt himself with potential allies (Two elected officials, independently, have told me that Tallon told them he planned to run against them in the future. Word like that travels among their supporters...)

    So instead lefties got behind Sara Baird's last-second write-in, and it looks like she may get the moral victory of breaking 2 percent and getting reported by name instead of as "scattering" in the final results.

    It's hard to see microtrends under this deluge. Mims generally did just a little bit better than Dickens most places and Shipley just a little better than Tallon most places.

    Buried under the apathy was an actual close race, where District B incumbent Connie Champion held off challenger Mark McCallum by 172 votes. This makes Champion the first person to win a fourth term since the current council format was established in 1975.

    Who would have figured that Connie Champion would be the heroine of the left, but her best showings were in lefty strongholds on the north side (precinct 21) and her own Longfellow neighborhood (18). McCallum ran best in senior-dominated precinct 6, relatively high-income precinct 8, and the southeast side hotspots of precincts 12, 14 and 15. They're mad at the incumbents and Champion was the only one to vote against. McCallum's respectable showing under poor circumstances--he was recruited on the premise Champion was retiring--suggests he may be back in a couple years.

    The surprise of the night came out of Coralville where 16 year incumbent Henry Herwig lost. First-timer Bill Hoeft, up and running for months, came in second behind John Lundell, with Tom Gill in third.

    The Coralville Courier, blogging arm of the Ax The Tax/Flip No crowd, backed Hoeft, and Gill (an early Conservation Bond and Janelle Rettig supporter) was likely the target. But instead, ironically, the "fiscal conservative" Hoeft knocked off the business conservative Herwig. Hoeft finished first in his far-north Coralville base (precinct 6) and it looks like that cut into Herwig's support. Gill finished first in old-town Coralville (precinct 1) and Lundell led everywhere else.

    Donald Baxter, our man in U Heights, writes: "Looks like the pro-density side will mostly win in University Heights. This is a good thing." The Lesotho of Johnson County saw 52 percent turnout, which is pretty darn close to the 56 percent we had countywide in the 2006 gubernatorial election.

    But back on campus, Iowa City 5 at the UI library tells the story. Dan Tallon carries the precinct... and it's less than one percent turnout.

    Things to Watch Tuesday

    Things to Watch Tuesday

    The DI chimes in with an election morning endorsement of Connie Champion, Dan Tallon and, again, Susan Mims: "While many have lined up behind UI senior Jeff Shipley, we view it as more important for a candidate to substantively represent student and community interests than to merely be a student."

    Here's some numbers to watch for until the numbers that matter come out at closing time:

    Turnout: Our benchmark is record low 1999: 7,842 Iowa City voters. The early voting is barely half the already low `99 level: 1065 in the box vs. 2017 a decade ago. You might even want to look at the 5,914 voters from October 1979, the record-high primary. We might be hard pressed to top that.

    Turnout by precinct: That's the ball game in Iowa City, but 1999 doesn't work for comparison because the lines are different. (Especially precinct 6. In the 1990s that was a campus precinct; in the 2000s it's a senior-heavy east side area.) Look at 2003, the only city election under the present lines with relatively low turnout. Then look at the 2008 presidential election. Basically, if you don't see presidential numbers in the key student precincts, you know how this will turn out. Precincts 3, 5, 11 and 19 are student-dominated. 20, 21 and 22 have significant student populations, but 22 is also home for Terry Dickens and Susan Mims.

    The Southeast Side: Watch turnout in 12, 14 and 15. How will that play in the Champion-McCallum Race?

    University Heights: By all accounts this is the hot spot in the county. Don Baxter notes:
    "The pro-rezoning/density group can be remembered by the male candidates first letters of their last names coincide with the first letters of our town 'slogan', 'Height of Good Living', plus all the women candidates: Haverkamp, Giese, Laverman, From, Yeggy and Moore."

    UPDATE: 9:00 turnout is only 435, less than 1 percent and less than half of 1999. Factoid: the four core student precincts (3,5, 11, 19) have seen a total -- a TOTAL! -- of three voters.

    UPDATE 2: 11:00 Iowa City turnout is 933 (1.93%). In the first 4 1/2 hours, Precinct 5 at the UI Library has seen ZERO VOTERS. And it turns out 1985 actually had lower turnout than 1999--but we're below even that.

    UPDATE 3: 3:00 Iowa City turnout is 1772 (3.7%) At least someone finally voted at the UI library, but the student precincts are all still under 1 percent.

    U-Heights is already over 20% turnout; once the absentee is figured in they could to 50 percent. Getting up toward governor's election levels there... Hills is emerging as another hot spot.

    Monday, November 02, 2009

    Iowa City Election: Slow Weekend Voting

    The Townies Don't Care Either

    Last week's early voting on campus showed how disinterested students were in getting out to vote for fellow students Jeff Shipley and Dan Tallon. But weekend voting has illustrated that the Lifelong Residents and Taxpayers are either confident in a Susan Mims-Terry Dickens landslide, or just plain bored.

    Sunday saw only 288 voters at four sites, vs. 502 the Sunday before the 2003 election. That was the last "normal" Iowa City election with no ballot issues and the last city election with early voting Sunday instead of Saturday. (Saturday voting on home game days just doesn't work.)

    1999 is the record low turnout year (7,842 votes, a record likely to stand just two more days), and that year saw 502 weekend voters at two Saturday sites. 1999, of course, was the year that the election only got interesting AFTER it was over and Steven Kanner wound up two votes ahead of Charlie Major.

    This year is likely to be... significantly more decisive.

    Iowa City has rarely seen true landslides in November city elections, because the primary system culls the weakest candidates. The biggest margins have been in years without primaries, as in Ross Wilburn's 71-28 thumping of the eccentric Karen Pease in the 2003 District B race.

    The last at-large blowout was in no-primary 1991 when we schizophrenically, simultaneously, re-elected socialist Karen Kubby with 80% and conservative Bill Ambrisco with 66. Then there was a big drop to Paul Egli at 33% and John Crabtree at 21. So, a two to one gap between second and third place. (Compare that to the nearly five to one gap between Dickens and Shipley in the primary.)

    I don't remember much about Egli; he ran again in 1993 and finished last in the primary. Crabtree was a progressive guy and was active in the Democrats. Unfortunately for him, the lefties were distracted by a library levy, Jim St. John's district race against Susan Horowitz, and a sense of urgency for re-electing Kubby. So the relatively unknown Crabtree was left hanging while Kubby picked up a lot of bullet votes and set a record for most votes in city history that stood till 2005. Crabtree, meanwhile, is continuing his progressive activities at the Center for Rural Affars in Nebraska.