Monday, May 31, 2010

Linux Monday

The Dreaded Return of Linux Monday

Just because Smallest Farm Sunday is getting popular doesn't mean I've completely given up on proselytizing for open source.

Good news from the One Laptop Per Child project, which helped pioneer the netbook market by shipping $100 laptops to third world kids, is returning to its Linux roots after briefly being seduced by Micro$oft.

Here's some mainstream publicity and an article aimed at the non-geek: a Washington Post review of Ubuntu Lucid Lynx. Mostly positive except for sound.

Speaking of sound: tips on organizing a music library.

The kid-oriented distribution Qimo launches version 2.0. My older son used Qimo as his main OS for close to a year until a Windows-only game killed that experiment.

And For the geekier among you, a comprehensive yet readable look at just how Linux works.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Smallest Farm Sunday

Smallest Farm Sunday

The Climbing Tree

I've used up my Flickr quote for the month so just one pic this week. Our apple tree is also our climbing tree. This year I'm hoping to do more with the apples than just run over them with the mower.

The garden is at that odd Tom Petty stage where the waiting is the hardest part. The corn hasn't yet sprouted, but the big pumpkins have. This year the Most Sincere Pumpkin Patch is located just east nf the north garden, with one excess plant transplanted to the south garden.

This is supposed to be the peak of strawberry season but all I have so far is some baby berries. But we're just a couple days away from huge quantities of mulberries. They've gone from green to reddish pink, and purple and edible is next. Sometimes last summer I'd have to weed on my knees in the mulberry zone, and when I got up my legs looked bruised.

The peas that survived wabbits are starting to blossom. Pole beans are my favorite plants to grow, but sugar snap peas are the produce I like to EAT the most. None yet, but I am getting a couple salads a week.

I just love vertical stuff. One year when I was in a small apartment my garden was 20 feet long and nine inches wide: one fence of beans. I hardly need to go vertical now, but I'm learning the skills because in a few years I may be in a smaller space than my football-field size lot. Plus Koni's favorite flowers - morning glories - are vertical.

So the beans and cukes are starting to grab onto the Giant Fence, with the tallest bean nearing the two foot mark. (I actually measured a vertical scale). The single-vine tomatoes are also reaching the fence, though they need to grow a little more before I start the aggressive pruning. The more traditional caged tomatoes are starting to grow their first unproductive "suckers" between the main stems, so they'll need trimming too.

When I was weeding behind the Giant Fence I made a discovery: yet another nest of baby wabbits. They breed like, well, you know. They're still at the pink, eyes-closed stage.

A couple of interesting articles: The craze of upside down planting and a look at the ancestry of corn.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

P-C backs Conlin

Press-Citizen endorses Roxanne

"The only way the Democratic Party can hope to persuade voters to give up Grassley is to field a candidate who shows the promise of being an even more effective senator than Grassley has been. And of the three candidates running for the Democratic nomination, the one who can best hit the ground running in Washington, is Roxanne Conlin."

As for the guys: "Fiegen himself does not yet come across as ready for prime time. A recent example is his bizarre demand that he be allowed to take reams of notes, despite agreed upon rules against it, onto the stage during a recent debate ..." and Krause is good on vets and the war.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Clips

Endorsement Season Starts

It's close enough to primary day that newspaper endorsements are starting to roll out. The P-C starts today with legislative seats and goes with Dave Jacoby:
We're a little confused about the reasoning behind the primary challenge in the first place. Stellmach's campaign was financed largely by (AFSCME)...yet Jacoby has a much more pro-labor voting record than many other Democratic incumbents representing parts of Johnson County -- especially Marek.

We see no need for District 30 Democrats to vote against someone who has represented the district well for seven years.
In the Republican races to the southwest the P-C goes with the main chance contenders Sandy Greiner and Jarad Klein. Tomorrow: US Senate.

  • Speaking of which there was a two-way Senate debate last night, as Bob Krause's plane was stranded. Tom Fiegen's promised revelations about the deep dark secrets of Roxanne Conlin's past failed to materialize.

  • Also in Senate Land, Grassley tries to step on the debate as he reports another bucketload of money:
    The reaction that provoked from the candidates for the Democratic nomination to face Grassley was as different as anything that divided them during the hour-long forum.

    “We won’t match him dollar-for-dollar,” Conlin said. “He may have the money, but we have the spirit, we have the volunteers that he just can’t match.”

    Conlin, who reported raising $181,553 and having 870,643 cash on hand, said she will have the resources to compete with Grassley.

    Fiegen, who has yet to report his latest fundraising numbers, but raised $15,219 last quarter and had $582 cash on hand, said he’s “not in awe” of Grassley’s money.

    Fiegen, a bankruptcy attorney, took another tack. Given the anti-Washington, anti-incumbent mood this year, “Money is the enemy,” he said.
    Yet more proof that Tom Fiegen doesn't know how to fight the real enemy.

  • Thursday, May 27, 2010

    Primary Observation

    A Pre-Primary Observation

    Twelve days out, Republicans seem to have some real splits (here and here and here).

    Democrats seem to have, well, Tom Fiegen.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010

    Happy Birthday Kos

    Daily Kos Turn 8

    Happy blogiversarry to the mothrship of lefty blogs, Daily Kos, which logged in eight years ago today: "which is 56 in dog years, or 2,349 in blog years," writes Markos. That's back in the Flowgo era of the interwebs, when dialup was still a significant chunk of the market.

    I joined the fray just seven months later, though I really only got serious in early 2006.

    Boswell bad on net neutrality

    Boswell bad on net neutrality

    Just passing it on:
    Seventy-four members of Congress have just signed an industry-drafted letter urging the FCC to abandon efforts to protect Net Neutrality and promote universal broadband access. By signing this letter, these members have sold you out to Comcast, Verizon and AT&T.
    Sadly, all 74 are Dems. The one Iowa name on the list? You guessed it: Blue Dog Boswell.

    The list also includes how much money each member got from telecoms: Boswell's take is $53,500.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    Laundry Lessons

    Sock Matching as Social Tool

    One of my favorite domestic jobs is matching socks. We keep a "mismate bag" which, with two small boys, fills up fast. Once a week or so I go through them. It's like a big fuzzy jigsaw puzzle, or minesweeper with mismates. I always though that would make a good laundry product ad: a balding middle age type - like myself - matching socks to the tune of "Reunited" by Peaches and Herb.

    My 10 year old, however, has more rigid gender role ideas: "The ultimate... destruction... of man! Matching socks!" he intoned in a all start wrestling announcer voice, emasculating me in the midst of my weekly ritual.

    Koni thinks this is a consciousness raising opportunity. She also thinks summer room cleaning is a similar opportunity. The guys, however, seem more interested in the lawnmower. Not the boring, pick up the sticks part; the cool, pull the starter and listen to the rrrrrrroar part.

    Monday, May 24, 2010

    Fiegen gives Grassley a Talking Point

    Fiegen gives Grassley a Talking Point

    Debates are big opportunities for heavy underdogs, but too often the desparation for attention of any sort during a brief moment in the spotlight leads to cheap shots. Remember Christopher Reed calling Tom Harkin "the Tokyo Rose of Al-Qaida?"

    Well, Tom Fiegen's big accomplishment at this morning's debate was to give Chuck Grassley a talking point. Rather than focusing on issue differences (which frankly, other than Fiegen's anti-choice stance, are small between the three contenders), Fiegen took a personal shot at Jim and Roxanne Conlin's business finances. Team Grassley quickly rewrote that into a press release with the line "forced by a Democratic opponent" in paragraph one.

    Thanks, Tom, for giving the Republicans ammo to shoot at the certain nominee. "The winner of that exchange was Grassley," writes the Reg's Kathie Obradovich. "He should send Fiegen a thank-you note."

    On the plus side, I don't remember Grassley having to attack Jean Lloyd-Jones or Dave Osterberg or Art Small, bless them all, this early in the cycle, because none of them had Grassley under 50 percent. And Team Roxanne shot right back:
    "It is just shameful that Senator Grassley would make such a misleading attack," said Mark Daley, Conlin's campaign manager. "Roxanne's family has created hundreds of jobs in Iowa building and maintaining low and moderate income housing for thousands of Iowa families. After 36 years in Washington, it's not surprising that Senator Charles Grassley decided to attack Roxanne Conlin. That's what they do in Washington: sit back, make false, personal attacks and focus on the next election instead of the next generation. The Conlins have paid every penny of taxes they have ever owed."

    Grassley, a career politician, became a multimillionaire over 51 years of receiving paychecks funded by taxpayers. In addition, his family has received more than a million dollars in farm subsidies
    The reply is to Grassley's release, of course, and not to Fiegen's debate attack.

    Such an attack is not unheard of in this rough business, but Fiegen of late seems to seethe with resentment of Conlin, either for being more financial successful than he is or more politically successful or both. That played out on the pre-debate stage today, as Obradovich details the intensity ploys of Drama King Fiegen. The photo says even more, as Fiegen, who's a big guy, jabs fingers in Conlin's face while poor Bob Krause literally rolls his eyes.

    Or, as O. Kay Henderson said: "My parents would have put it this way: Tom Fiegen 'threw a kitten fit' right before show time because he couldn’t have his huge stack of notes on the set."

    I understand his frustration, and Krause's (though Krause is much more good-natured about it.) Both of them were out there early when Grassley seemed invincible, then once things looked good Conlin stepped on them. But it wasn't Krause and Fiegen that damaged Grassley's lifelong aw-shucks brand. Chuck did that all by himself, and Democrats needed someone who was capable of taking advantage of the unexpected opportunity.

    But today Tom Fiegen forgot Sinead O'Connor's advice and hurt his own team rather than fighting the real enemy.

    Sunday, May 23, 2010

    Smallest Farm Sunday

    Smallest Farm Sunday

    SaladSmallest Farm Sunday seems to be more popular with my regular readers than Linux Monday, so I'll oblige. We've had a couple of milestones this week. Monday I had my first significant harvest and ate the salad pictured here.


    Tuesday I got home from seeing Joe Biden fairly early, and I had taken the whole day off, so I got Pepperland planted. That's the small patch nearest the house that I have set aside for hot peppers. I started this habanero from saved seed from one of last year's painfully hot treats. These are a key ingredient to my infamous Pepper Spray Fajitas, which I'm making tonight. The peppers are obviously still store bought, but home grown cilantro and garlic greens are in the mix.


    From Pepperland we move to the Sea of Holes (my pop culture references are 40 years out of date). Today's big project was corn planting. 18 dozen seeds are in the ground. I had a good system this year; I drilled corn holes (huh huh, huh he said in a 15 years outdated pop culture reference) with a hole-digging drill attachment, then covered the seeds with potting soil. It wasn't pleasant going today, but the farm will love the heat wave even if the farmer didn't.

    Mr. Snake

    Mr. Snake is harder to photograph than plants because unlike plants he doesn't stay still. But Saturday he slowed down enough for me to get a camera phone shot. He's well camouflaged but moving lower left to upper right.


    I may be a teeny zucchini now, but by July I will take over the entire Tri-State Area! (That's a current pop culture reference but only if you have kids.)


    Lettuce and volunteer tomatoes. I'll keep whichever one does better.


    We have a couple dozen mulberry trees on the lot and the first berries are ripening. (This was a surprisingly hard shot to focus...)

    Mr. Hoot Hoot

    Shamed at his inability to scare wabbits, Mr. Hoot Hoot hides in the bee balm. Carol DeProsse gave me a couple bee balm plants about ten years and three addresses ago, I transplanted some each move, and now it's proliferated to the point where it was very close to taking over the whole north garden as a de facto weed. But in a good way.

    Anyway, anyone who wants some, I'll share.


    This pole bean may be only four inches tall, but it's looking at those trees and has big ambitions.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010

    Three Senate Candidates in Coralville

    Three Senate Candidates in Coralville

    Here's pix from the three-candidate "Grassley Retirement Party" hosted by the Johnson County Democrats Saturday night. My writeup is at the Register.

    All Four

    Conlin, JCDems chair Dennis Roseman, Fiegen and Krause draw names for the speaking order (which wound up Fiegen, Conlin, Krause)

    Ross and Roxanne

    Ross Wilburn of the Iowa City Council, who was our "Bikin' Mayor" in 2006 and 2007, chats with Conlin.


    Bob Krause with Karen Disbrow and Doug Jones.


    Tom Fiegen speaks.


    Carol Spaziani has had this shirt for a very long time.


    Secretary of Ag candidate Francis Thicke


    Conlin's speech


    Krause gets some good sunset lighting.

    Friday, May 21, 2010

    Branstad Back to the Future with Absentees

    Branstad Back to the Future with Absentees

    Terry Branstad is going back to the future in more ways than just his very presence. He's also revived the old-school Republican vote by mail drive.

    Back in the `90s, GOP general election campaigns always featured a mass absentee request mailing to registered Republicans. These usually featured the stalwart Chuck Grassley, then beloved by all Republicans.

    But things changed in the 21st century, and I don't just mean Grassley's approval ratings. In the post-Florida era, Republicans started to get away from early voting, pushing their voters to hold off till Election Day and selling the idea that early voting is "fraud." "Voter Integrity" (sic) programs popped up to challenge absentees in college towns.

    But Terry Branstad, who I remind you retired in 1998 with a lifetime undefeated record, has revived the old-fashioned mail drive. Even many Democratic households are getting the absentee mailer, and today Mike Mauro reports that Republicans have a three to one absentee edge in the June primary.

    Some of that is that the GOP has more interesting down-ballot races with big fields (four congressional candidates in CD 2 and seven in CD 3). But as I tell my former colleague Douglas Burns, who as a really good overview of the governor's race, most of that is Terry.
    “Johnson County is one of the top 10 Republican counties in the state,” Deeth said, noting that there are more Republicans by the numbers there than in decidedly more GOP geography in the state.

    This year, Deeth said, there are no contested courthouse races for Democrats in Johnson County. The only contest for the Democrats in Johnson County is the U.S. Senate race, widely believed to be a lock for Des Moines lawyer Roxanne Conlin. This means Democrats and independents will be more likely to vote in the GOP gubernatorial primary — which Deeth said is clearly to Branstad’s advantage.
    Typically our Democratic primaries are about the courthouse; I refer you yet again to 1998, with 1000 more votes for county recorder than for governor. The crossover Republicans left governor blank. This year, with five unopposed Democratic county incumbents running, those folks are staying in the GOP.

    Here in Johnson County we have five registered Dems for every two Republicans, yet Republicans are running nearly even in returned ballots, with 146 to the Dems' 175 through the end of Thursday. And Democratic requests stopped dead in their tracks early last week when John Stellmach dropped his primary challenge to Dave Jacoby.

    Friday Clips

    Friday's Clips

    My eyes are still numb from campaign finance reports so here's some miscellaneous.

  • Roxanne Conlin is no fan of Kentucky GOP Senate nominee Rand Paul, who's expressed opposition to the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
    "Rand Paul's views are dangerous to Iowans," said Conlin. "Paul's condoning of racism could have repercussions beyond imagination for veterans, teachers, police officers, students and families across our state. I'm calling on Senator Grassley to join me in opposing the Republican nominee in Kentucky because his views are greatly out of touch with our values. We must never return to the days of segregated lunch counters and segregated workplaces."
    Puts Chuck on the spot: Paul is a hero to the Tea Party wing of the base and Grassley, who after opposing the bill on early votes crossed the aisle and voted last night for final passage of the financial reform bill, still has some vulnerabilities on the right.

  • Speaking of Roxanne, she and the Other Two Guys will be in Coralville tomorrow night:
    On Saturday, May 22 the Johnson County Democratic Party will host one of the first in a series of statewide “Grassley Retirement Parties.” Roxanne Conlin, Tom Fiegen, and Bob Krause, candidates in the June 8th primary for the Democratic nomination for the 2010 US Senate race, plan to attend.

    Details: 6:00 to 9:00pm at Morrison Park (near the Aquatic Center) in Coralville.

    The event is free and open to the public.The suggested donation is $10 for individuals and $20 for families.
    That's kind of rich for Fiegen and Krause's blood but I suppose that's what the "free and open to the public" clause is for.

  • Also passing through the People's Republic tomorrow: Rod Roberts in North Liberty. Saw one of his ads the other night during the Olbermann/Maddow block on MSNBC, which seems like an odd pairing. In any case Rod "respectfully asked" for my vote. It's perfectly made for Rod's nice guy run up the middle, but unfortunately for him the dynamic between BVP and Terry didn't turn out that way.

    But I've heard reports that BVP alienated some folks up in deeeeep red northwest Iowa by coming out against the Lyon County casino; one conservative's moral crusade is another conservative's economic development.

  • I've also seen TV ads for Coralville Courier, which means someone someplace has some money (let's just say the Deeth Blog won't be up on TV any time soon). But they're a corridor must read as we see today: in a bigger piece re-emphasizing support for Steve Rathje in the 2nd CD race, reports that Mariannette Miller-Meeks was on the verge of dropping out of the general election race in August 2008. Courier cites this 8/13/08 email:
    "I thank everyone for their efforts and thank you for being forthright with me. We should go about disassembling the campaign as smoothly as possibele.

    God bless, Mariannette"

  • Face Palm Week as The Guv steps on his own rollout AGAIN. First, the trooper chase (which played into SO many sotto voce verdicts on Culver's persona) bumped the Vice Presidential visit down a notch in the Tuesday/Wednesday news cycle. Then SOMEone loses a briefing book - which I have to admit makes for fun reading. They were kind enough to redact all my friend's cell phone numbers.

  • Iowa Dems are looking at a rule change that simply makes established practice official: the candidate for governor chooses the running mate. Barb Kalbach, who's determined to poke Culver and Judge in the eye by challenging Judge at the convention, is PO'd.

    Like I said before, the time for an internal challenge to Team Chet ended on the March 19 filing deadline. Kalbach should do Democrats some good by challenging one of her GOP legislators, Sen. Nancy Boettger or Rep. Clel Baudler - who are running unopposed. Baudler only won 58% last time and, I'm told, got caught having his clerk push the voting button this past session...
  • Thursday, May 20, 2010

    Campaign Finance Down The Ballot

    Campaign Finance In Down-Ballot Races

    By now anyone reading this blog has already seen the fundraising totals in the governor's race. All I have to say there is: the big loser is Rod Roberts, whose only path to victory was a brutal Branstad vs. Vander Plaats air war. But BVP doesn't have the $$$ for that, and Branstad has already turned his focus to Culver.

    So since we all know that, let's look down the ballot at those low-information statewide and my county's local legislative races.

    I guess I'm obligated to disclaim that money isn't everything, but I know from my own experience that the triage process is brutal and if you can't bring in some bucks, you don't make the list of targeted races.

    Attorney General

    We may have found our downballot sleeper race for the general election: GOP candidate Brenna Findley is nearly even in cash on hand with long-time incumbent Democrat Tom Miller. Findley raised $124,078 and spent $28,549, leaving $95,528 on hand. Miller started out with $89,700 in the bank and raised another $15,748. He spent next to nothing ($257 for one fundraising event) and has $105,200 in the bank. Findley's donor list runs to 65 pages; Miller's donors are fewer and larger.

    Secretary of State

    Financially this is a two-way competitive primary. Matt Schultz raised $9,055 in the last four months, spent $6,772.48, paid back a $1400 self-loan, has $3,806.45 on hand, and has $11,404.16 in outstanding bills. The donors seem to cluster around his Council Bluffs base and include Rep. Doug the party switcher Struyk, also of Council Bluffs, and Sen. Kim Reynolds.

    Two-time loser George Eichhorn has raised $9,020, spent $6,386.60, has $2,633.40 on hand and $4,768.31 in bills. Donors of note include a fair number of current and former legislators: Jim Hahn, Joe Hutter, Janet Metcalf, Dan Boddicker, Jeff Elgin, Paul McKinley, Betty DeBoef, Royd Chambers, Danny Carroll, Carmine Boal, Teresa Garman, Steve Sukup, Steve Olson, Maggie Tinsman. The only Johnson County name I see is Cathy Grawe.

    The third contender, self-starting perennial candidate Chris Sanger, has $397, all from bake sales. With that budget, maybe he should have run in the Democratic U.S. Senate race.

    Democratic incumbent Mike Mauro raised just over $30,000 from January to May, spent under $3,000, and has about $130,000 in the bank.

    State Treasurer

    Republican James Heavens of Dyersville has "raised" $30,145.13 and spent most of it, with $2,228.04 left. Local legislators Rep. Steve Lukan and former Sen. Julie Hosch have kicked in, but almost all the money is from a $25,000 self-loan.

    In contrast, the other primary candidate, Story County treasurer Dave Jamison lists 27 pages of donations. He has raised $31,214.92 and spent $24,070.12, leaving $7,144.80 in the bank.

    Jamison's donations are centered around Ames (including six donations from Story auditor Mary Mosiman), but legislators also pop up: McKinley, DeBoef, Reynolds, Hahn, Sukup, Dwayne Alons, former congressional candidate and Casey's tycoon Jeff Lamberti, and 2002 statewide candidate and Bush 43 era US Attorney Matt Whitaker. I don't see any single huge checks.

    On the surface this primary is dollar for dollar, but Jamison's broader fundraising indicates broader support. Plus, many of these low-info contests come down to friends and neighbors, and central Iowa is a bigger base than Dyersville.

    Incumbent Democrat Mike Fitzgerald has $117,769.57 on hand.

    Secretary of Agriculture

    This one's the best true test of grass roots vs. cash. Democratic challenger Francis Thicke has raised $58,438.96 and spent $25,118.71, leaving him with $33,320.25. The mostly small donor list runs to 37 pages.

    Republican incumbent Bill Northey started out with $261,627 in the war chest and added $39,829 for a total of $301,456. Northey has spent $53,920, leaving him at $247,535.50. Compare that to, say, Bob Vander Plaats ($247,613.29 on hand) and Rod Roberts ($32,615.49). Northey's donors run 25 pages and the mix is PAC and people, with more big checks than Thicke.

    Legislative races

    House District 30

    Organized labor, specifically AFSCME, recruited AFSCME member John Stellmach for a primary challenge to Dave Jacoby (despite Jacoby's 94% labor record) in this Coralville, North Liberty, Tiffin and west side Iowa City turf. Then last week Stellmach, citing his wife's poor health, dropped out of the race, though his name remains on the ballot.

    Stellmach's campaign finance report reveals that this was a major effort; he reported raising a leadership-level $36,170.19 and, in a phenomenal burn rate, spending $33,326.29. Virtually all of the money was from labor: $30,000 from AFSCME and $4,000 from other unions. Who knows how deep that well would have been had he stayed in the race, but only two donations, totaling $600, were from within the district.

    Stellmach's spending was also unusual, with more paid staffing that a typical legislative primary campaign. Staffer Dan Tallon was paid $7,000 for two month's work, and a James Stellmach was paid $1500 for canvassing. The candidate reported $563 in mileage (the Register reported that Stellmach moved into the district from Washington County just before filing), and loads of office equipment and GPS systems. Oddly, for a labor campaign, $941 of that stuff was bought at Wal-Mart. Oops.

    Jacoby raised $24,517.06 during the four months, and had $22,869.84 in the bank. His 15 page donor list is a mix of labor (including, ironically, a check from AFSCME before the inexplicable rift) and business, district residents, local politicos and legislative colleagues (16 House members and his own Senator Bob Dvorsky). The only legislator to donate to Stellmach was Fairfield freshman Curt Hanson, who gave an equal 50 bucks to Stellmach and Jacoby.

    No Republican is in the race; Jacoby last saw GOP opposition when he first won the seat in a 2003 special.

    Senate District 45

    This primary looks almost like the Democratic U.S. Senate race. Sandy Greiner, looking to return to the legislature after a two-year hiatus, has raised $24,220.50 and is still sitting on $17,184.76 of that. A few Des Moines area donations pop up, but most are local.

    As for her primary opponents: Randy Besick, who was supposedly a serious candidate, has only raised $635, $250 of that from himself. And self-starter Rick Marlar has raised $300: 50 from himself and 250 from one donor.

    The winner, which I assume will be Greiner, takes on first-term Democrat Becky Schmitz, who knocked off two-term Republican Dave Miller in a 2006 squeaker. This is certain to be a top-tier race in a sprawling five-county district (Ottumwa, Iowa City and Fairfield media markets) with the parties and assorted groups kicking in major money. Schmitz has $19,569.21 on hand.

    House District 89

    Two Republicans are in this race, which covers the northern half of Senate 45; 70% or so of the seat is Washington County, plus Lone Tree, Hills and Sharon Center in Johnson. Second-time candidate Jarad Klein has $3205 cash on hand, mostly from in-district or near, and reports zero (!) expenditures other than a from-self in-kind for setting up the web site. His opponent, Chris Canny, has raised $265 and has $49.92 in the bank.

    The winner (I'm betting on Jarad) takes on first-term Six Pack Dem Larry Marek, who narrowly beat Klein in `08 when Greiner stepped down. At the moment, Marek and $16,912 in the bank.

    House District 29

    First-term Dem Nate Willems, who took over from Ro Foege in `08 in a 50-50 Johnson-Linn district, has $22,142 on hand, with $9,330 of that raised the past four months. First-time GOP candidate Shawn Graham has raised a total of $4,112.95, spent $1,235.78, and has $2,877.17 cash on hand.

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    Great Night for Dems

    Great Night for Dems

    Last night's primary and special election results were good news for the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party Tuesday. I have more at the Register.

    Heck, we even won the bike-bus-car race.

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010

    Biden and Culver live in Cedar Rapids

    Biden and Culver live in Cedar Rapids


    11:10 and a beautiful day here in Green Square Park in downtown CR where VP Joe Biden and Governor Chet Culver are due at high noon. There's no official internet on site so I'm doing the tethered blackberry thing (unfortunately, that still means Windows rather than Linux)

    At the moment it's just the VIPs and the press in the fenced-off park. A couple blocks of Joe security bubble are closed off. A few VIPs of note already on hand: some legislators, former mayor Kay Halloran, Johnson County's Dick Myers, and Culver consigliere Jim Larew (also of IC).

    11:20 and while we wait we have music from a live combo: it's jazzy and bluesy.

    This is the third high-level administration visit to the 2nd CD in two months, following President Obama's March Iowa City stop and his April three stop tour of the southern tier. Consensus (MMM aside) is that it's not about Dave Loebsack; instead the focus on the most Democratic district in the state is about base enthusiasm for the top of the state ticket. And enthusiasm is Joe's middle name. (Actually it's Robinette but who's counting.)

    Coincidentally, the Loebsack staffers show up as soon as I write that. Once again the congressman is missing all the hometown fun as he flew back to DC last night.

    The press corps is in the one small spot of shade; the advance staff must want a good story.

    Just on the surface, it was hard to tell just how devastated midtown Cedar Rapids was two summers ago, as I orbited the Vice Presidential Security Bubble a couple times looking for parking. You'd have to know, for example, that the Library was destroyed.

    Culver sign

    Sec of Ag candidate Francis Thicke is in the house and working the crowd. He's prlanning on keeping up with the weekend farmer's markets (he hit Iowa City last weekend but I was too busy with my own smallest farming) and also has a book tour in mind for post-primary. "I've been doing a lot of radio interviews," he adds.

    I tacked my press pass to the beret, and Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt says it gives me a Minnie Pearl look.

    The fenced in crowd zone looks half-ish full at 11:54. (I'm betting on a late start) A couple caucus era Biden shirts sighted. The band keeps playing.

    Buuuut, I'm wrong. The patriotic start at 12:03 followed by Patty Judge. She starts with multiple height jokes, then moves on: "Despite some bumps in the road, we'ce moved forward." So, she asks, what dos a lieutenant governor do? Sounds like she's on eyes and ears duty as she talks pre-school. "I am very proud about what we have been able to do for the youngsters of this state." (Patty can get away with the folksy word "youngsters.") Moves on to I-JOBS and what it's meant for rebuilding CR. "Chet Culver and I will stand beside you until that job is completed."

    "When our governor gets an idea in his head Patty Judge better be ready to execute." Talks about Chet's "genuine kindness and big heard" and says she's a good team member with her "Iowa stubbornness." And two more height jokes.

    Biden Judge Culver

    12:15 and the announcer announces Mari Chet and Joe. Boy they snuck HIM in. I was just gearing up sor stall ball. They throw Springsteen on the sound system ("The Rising")

    Mari Culver handles the introductions, from legislators on down to the Palo City Council level. Chet's on by 12:20. He runs down the roll call of accomplishments in the last four trifecta years. Uses the "Silicon Valley of the Midwest" line about green jobs.

    "Let me tell you the truth about the budget: it's been balanced every single day I've been governor and it's smaller than it was when I inherited the job in 2007." And to my annoyance he "announces." Which he did yesterday. And which he did by filing two months ago. But I digress as he talks of flood recovery and infrastructure as priority one. "This will create jobs in every part of Iowa."

    Bullet point two here is pre-school. He also talks stem cells for the second time in the speech; is this some sort of code? One could be explicit with that point, that the social conservatives want to roll that back. But he's not going in an attack the opposition direction yet, he's laying out his own case.

    "I have no illusions. I know many of our people are still hurting and I get it. The lingering effects of the Bush economy have taken their toll on Iowa." OK, no he's in attack mode. "They believe inaction is leadership." "I say yes, we will help you recover."

    "Wise public investment will lead to lasting job creation. Our opponents want to take us back to the failed economic policies of the Bush and Branstad eras." OK, so that's ONE opponent names. But that's it as he pivots into the Joe intro.

    Joe's on at 12:33; we'll take an over/under on how long it goes. There's teleprompters; the guv was off a paper script for the Biden intro so it looks like the teleprompters are for Joe. He doffs his jacket, which appears to be official Administration policy.

    Joe starts with some self-aimed humor about people being foolish enough to support him at caucus time.


    "The President and I have absolute total confidence can turn around the status we inherited" from Bush "because the American people are determined to.. reverse the slide of the past 8 years to lead the world in the 21st century as we did in the 20th."

    "In the toughest and darkest days Americans are strongest and most resolute."

    "Ive known Chet since he was seven years old, and I can say the certainty that he has the gumption to handle the job at this time."

    "This is no time for small bore solutions. The margins cannot be altered enough."

    "I trust people whose instincts start in their gut, moves to their heart, and then to their head. These are the ones who don't walk away when things get tough. They actually believe in the grit and courage of ordinary Americans. Chet's that guy. That's why I'm here."

    "No state on its own could overcome" the economy, but "With Chet at the helm Iowa is better off than almost any state in the nation." He moves into an Iowa specific part of the stump speech talking about state legislation on renewable energy. "Government is not the answer but it can prime the pump and encourage the private sector."

    "45 out of 50 governors, Democrat and Republican, are sitting on their hands. Because of Chet's leadership Iowa is better prepared." Makes a self-pointed joke about "a big (pause) big deal." "I was glad my mother wasn't there to hear it, I was embarrassed, but I guess we're selling t-shirts and making hundreds of thousands of dollars." That'll be in every story as all of press row takes it down, while renewable energy continues.


    As we divert to Newton and Maytag Joe goes on point: "What are Republicans FOR? Not a joke. Tell me one affirmative thing the Republican Party is for."

    The speech itself is stats heavy and program heavy but I'm remembering so many Biden speeches now, and in particular his ability to vary the voice from quiet and conversational to bold oratory within a couple sentences. A glass breaks and Joe interjects "I didn't do that" without missing a beat.

    "It all adds up to a state on the upswing when so many states are down and out. That's no accident, it's because of Governor Chet Culver." (The second sentence gets repeated a few times for emphasis.)

    "This guy is Iowa from belt buckle to shoe sole." (Where does that lead the upper half of Chet?) Joe had Chet wading into the water a couple paragraphs back, maybe he only got waist deep? Local touchpoint after local touchpoint gets touched: the Czech museum, the courthouse...

    Seems to be wrapping up at 12:57. "Now it's time for you to stand up and fight for Chet Culver." We're quoting John Wayne now: "Tomorrow hopes we've learned something from yesterday." (I wonder if this is an Iowa-specific thing or a standard Biden stump line.)

    "Everything about this guy is strong and real. He's inherited his father's brains."

    Joe wraps at straight up 1:00. So I count 28 minutes. The traveling press immediately starts packing up as the band plays "I Can See Clearly Now." The handshake scrum looks three or four deep near the locus of Joe activity, but the vP is hard to spot. The Guv is easy to see and who knows if Patty Judge is in there. (Did we mention she's short?)


    The band wraps at 1:20 but VP Joe is still shaking every hand he can reach like it's caucus season. Technically, the Berry connection is OK for text but sloooow for uploading photos. Almost the entire crowd is gone, but the couple dozen who've stayed are getting some high quality Joe time. Biden finally departs at 1:30 having shaken hands with the fire fighters, shaken hands with the sound guy, giving the band a thumbs up, and even saying hi to a crazy blogger. (I think he remembers the beret but hard to tell.) Francis Thicke is still on hand chatting with the stragglers. I'll sign off as soon as the photos are ready.

    Vander Plaats at Hamburg Inn

    Vander Plaats at Hamburg Inn

    Vander Plaats

    There's a certain apples and oranges to comparing crowd sizes, especially in Iowa City between second semester and summer term. But if crowd size is any sort of measure, Bob Vander Plaats has some catching up to do in Johnson County before the primary three weeks from today.

    In February, Terry Branstad packed the house at the Hamburg Inn. This morning, at a far more casual event, BVP worked a room with a dozen or so diners, most of whom looked like they were there by happenstance rather than for the special guest.

    BVP said he drew a larger crowd of 100 or so to a Cedar Rapids event at the home of former congressional candidate Peter Teahen last night.

    The Hamburg Inn was a change of fare for Vander Plaats, who's well known for scheduling events at Pizza Ranch's across the state. "It worked out for Mike Huckabee, so why change," said BVP, one of the leaders of Huckabee's winning 2008 caucus campaign. The Pizza Ranch connection was BVP's idea; a high school friend founded the chain.

    BVP worked the room after an extended chat with those of us in the press corps. A lieutenant governor question gave him the opportunity to mention Branstad's recent heart stent and a chance to contrast his LG priorities with Branstad's. "If you look at the past, his lieutenant governor didn't follow the platform. Was that a mistake in `90? Was that mistake repeated in `94, or is that who you really are?"

    BVP said he wanted people in his administration to have different life experiences than his own but to share the same core valies of "the sanctity of life, traditional marriage and a clear understanding of the constitution." Those social conservative stands have been the hallmark of this three campaigns; he finished a very close third in the 2002 gubernatorial primary, and dropped out in 2006 to become Jim Nussle's running mate.

    "I'm more trusted on the fiscal issues and on teh social issues" than Branstad, said BVP. "If you grow government 2 1/2 times in your time in office, is that being a fiscal conservative."

    Asked about Branstad's campaign finance report from yesterday, BVP said "the big thing I was impressed with was how much Branstad spent." He says his own report, due by tomorrow, will be good, but he's running a more grass roots campaign. "We don't stay in a lot of hotels," said BVP, who instead stays at 'safe houses' of supporters. "I'm impressed with the statewide network we have."

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    Culver and Vander Plaats to Iowa City Tuesday

    Culver and Vander Plaats to Iowa City Tuesday

    If you want to see an event with a candidate for governor in Iowa City Tuesday, the bigger crowd may be at the Hamburg Inn for an 8 AM breakfast with Bob Vander Plaats.

    Culver and Company will be in town, too, but the 3 PM Iowa Memorial Union event (campus the week after finals) is clearly just a check the county off the list afterthought. Over the weekend I got an invitation postcard and a call -- both for the noon Cedar Rapids event with VP Joe. I can take a hint, so I'm doing that one instead. The empty Iowa City event will get no coverage because the whole eastern Iowa press corps will be filing the Biden stories.

    Joe at noon means missing Bike To Work Week's big annual Bike/Bus/Car Race. It's a library to library (CV to IC respectively) run this year between Tom Gill (on bike), Mike Wright (in car) and Janelle Rettig (bus with bike). I don't have the Vegas betting line, but we'll try to get you those final results.

    And as now seems to be routine before Obama Administration visits (is it caucus season again?) the R P of I is having a pre-event the night before, billed this time as a "Real Leadership for Iowa rally." 5:30 PM at the 5 Seasons tree.

    Linux Monday

    Linux Monday

  • Puppy Linux issues version 5.0:
    Puppy 5.0, code named "Lupu" and also referred to as "Lucid Puppy" as it is built from Ubuntu Lucid Lynx binary packages, is now available. It is typically Puppy, lean and fast, friendly and fun, with some new features. Puppy 5.0 features Quickpet, with some of the best Linux productivity and entertainment programs, configured and tested, available with one-click. Puppy 5 also introduces choice in browsers: pick one or all and choose the default.
    I've tried a couple different low-resource distribution and for my money (which of course is zero with Linux being free as in gratis, free as in beer) Puppy is the best combo of user friendliness and light footprint. One of my backup machines has no hard drive at all and is running Puppy 4.2.1 off a flash drive.

  • Check out Swiftfox, a build of Firefox that's optimized for Linux. I'm trying it out, Still too soon for a verdict on speed, but it imported everything and even opened to my previous Firefox session, so as far as interface it's no different at all.

  • These tips on how to make Open Office a bit faster did seem to work.

  • My oldest son's Linux adventure ended because of games. A game developer talks about why games aren't ported to Linux, and contrary to what I expected it's not so much about $$$. It's about audio.
    It's 2010, and yet it's shocking how messy the whole affair is -- you can't even count on something as simple as simple non-streaming playback, never mind any kind of processing. There are a variety of standards (ALSA, OSS, PulseAudio, etc -- which does a developer choose?) which is another of saying this: effectively, there are no standards.
  • Finally, it appears Apple's ┼▒ber-closed source approach is... to keep us free from p0rn?!?
  • Sunday, May 16, 2010

    Smallest farm: planting day

    Big Planting Day on Smallest Farm

    The weather and the calendar finally cooperated briefly Saturday for a big day of planting on Iowa's smallest farm. We had steady rain through Thursday, and then again last night. So Saturday was a little muddier than optimal but it was my best chance.

    First up: the smallest residents of the Smallest Farm have moved on to bigger and bunnier things. The nest was empty by Wednesday, and Friday I found the last two banging up against the fence. Unlike Mom they couldn't hop high enough to get out. So I scooped them up in an empty pot and gave them a lift.


    There’s something magical about planting tiny tomato plants the second week in May, and they'll be taller than me in mid-July.

    We have 14 tomato plants in big cages along the south end of the north garden. I've also got one small cage with cherry tomatoes on the south garden, and I'm going to try to grow some single-vine style on the Giant Bean Fence. I had marginal luck with that in 2008. The trick is supposed to be training the plants and pruning aggressively to one tall, skinny tomato-producing vine. I started strong but ran short on time (tends to happen to me in presidential election years). The plants got away from me and I got about one tomato from that setup.


    Here's the South End North Garden setup. The eggplants are under those milk jugs. As you see I still have a lot of weeding and mulching to do.


    The peppers are along a fence so I can tie them up later. Last year they flopped over and I lost some really good bell peppers that got icky on the ground.

    Everything seems to have survived the transplant process well. A couple tomatoes and the tomatillos looked really droopy last night but they perked up after they got a drink.

    Other highlights:

  • Squash family members on the north garden, where they'll overtake the salad as we pick it.
  • Just outside the north garden is a pumpkin hill on the site of a short-lived compost heap. That's the boys' favorite part of the garden (their least favorite part: eating the vegetables)
  • Seven out of eight sections of the Giant Bean Fence are planted. One section is for verticalcukes, one has tomatoes and tomatillos, the rest is four kinds of pole beans (Kentucky Wonder, Romano, purple beans and the long skinny Asian kind.)
  • I had bad luck with okra last year (I blame the bunnies) but I have a patch of six plants in the south garden. I've only successfully grown it once but if I remember right it's extremely prolific once it gets going.
  • North edge of north garden is supposed to be a wall of sunflowers. They did fantastic there in `08. Last year they were in the south garden and they got wabbitized.
  • So did the peas. They've suffered a few bites this year but most of them made it. I'm looking for blossoms soon.

    The hot peppers are not in the ground yet; their tiny patch near the house (the "pepper garden" or, better yet, Pepperland) was still too wet, and the hot pepper plants are still small enough that getting them out of pots and into the ground was less urgent. Other than that, the main thing left to plant is the corn. Gotta have corn; it's Iowa. The Smallest Farmers want to help on that, especially since it involves a drill bit to gig the holes. It'll be a photogenic moment to be sure.
  • Friday, May 14, 2010

    The Easy Way to Facebook Privacy

    The Easy Way out of Facebook

    I grew up in a public school teacher family and the single most important fact about my dad's job was a highly public matter: the final score of the basketball game. I'm also a public employee in a town full of public employees where everyone's salary gets printed in the paper. And as a self-appointed journalist it's my "job" to find stuff out.

    So I've never worried a whole lot about privacy. I've deliberately made myself easy to find on line. My first online adventures were 20 years ago, on the old ISCA BBS (any other geezers remember that?) I chose my real name as my user name because I didn't think not to, and ever since I've stuck with that, most prominently with the Deeth Blog these last 7 1/2 years.

    But not everyone wants to do that. Bleeding Heartland has had a good thread going on real names vs. anonymity. I can see some of the reasons people give, but I'm most comfortable standing behind my name. That does, sometimes, mean I err on the side of caution.

    My thought is anonymity should be reserved for issues of safety and security, be it physical safety and security or job safety and security. Too often, though, people use anonymity as an easy excuse to detach themselves from responsibility for hate speech. That's one reason I've decided to opt out of the cesspool of my local newspaper's online forums.

    The latest focus of the privacy debate is Facebook, which for a lot of n00b users IS the internet. Recent changes in privacy settings, which presumably will make someone more money, have online privacy advocates worried. The New York Times writes: "To manage your privacy on Facebook, you will need to navigate through 50 settings with more than 170 options."

    But one user has found the easy way out:
    My friend wanted to get even with Facebook, in a sort of childish way. He uploaded a picture of a male genitalia as a profile picture. Harmless enough. Friends seeing his profile picture would laugh or become a bit annoyed that they have a childish friend.

    So what happens when you do something like that? Facebook deletes you. They erase you from the digital earth. All pictures that he was tagged in seems to be gone (I can’t find one single picture with him on there right now). He’s no longer in my list of friends. Facebook didn’t send out a notice saying that my friend was erased. I actually found out that he was gone from Facebook when he didn’t show to the moving in party...
    I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me.

    But now I'm worried. My normal process is to promote my posts via my Twitter, which automatically posts to my ("my"?) Facebook. But if I pass this "tip" along, will Facebook whack me?

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    Republican Infight Watch

    Republican Infight Watch

  • Who's winning the Republican governor primary? Hard to tell with no polls bit over at Iowa Republican, James Johnson seems to think the winner is... Chet.
    Democrats are crafting a gubernatorial campaign based solely on the hope that many Republicans will grow so bitter over the current feud for the gubernatorial nomination that, whichever candidate does win it, he will surely not receive the full support of the party faithful — thus making possible what had been considered (even by Democrats) a very unlikely event, namely, a second term for Culver...

    Could it be that the average Iowa voter — not the politico but the average one — is growing tired of the in-fighting and sniping and mudslinging within the Grand Old Party?
  • Coralville Courier (which has endorsed Steve Rathje) is re-playing the "Miller-Meeks holds liberal view on abortion" card.

  • And in a longer piece about a lot of stuff, Marc Ambinder sees Iowa's RNC members getting into, then back out of... the Massachusetts governor's race?!?
    Four members of the Republican National Committee have signed on to a letter asking RGA chairman Haley Barbour why he's spending so much money in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race. (The RGA just upped its ad buy by $1 million.) Well, eight members signed originally, including Iowa's two RNC members. (Barbour has presidential ambitions.) Four, including the two Iowans, retracted, but not before a reporter got one of the them, social conservative activist Steve Scheffler, to call Barbour "toast" in Iowa...

    Here's the language the two Iowans used to withdraw their names from the letter: "We are strong conservatives and signed a letter we initially thought would send a message of support for conservative candidates in our party. Upon further reflection, we understand this letter could be interpreted as meddling in the affairs of an independent Republican organization and we wish in no way to harm the efforts of the Republican Governors Association in the pursuit of its work."
  • Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Stellmach Drops Primary Challenge to Jacoby

    House District 30 Challenger Ends Campaign

    Well, Dave Jacoby's get together tonight just turned into a victory party. Buried deep on the Press-Citizen site:
    John Stellmach, Democratic candidate for Iowa House District 30, has ended his campaign.

    Stellmach, of Coralville (sic), said he is withdrawing because of his spouse's serious medical condition. Stellmach said he would be unable to continue to be an effective candidate or voice for voters while focusing on his family.

    Stellmach had filed papers in March to run against fellow Democrat Rep. Dave Jacoby for the Iowa House seat.
    Best wishes to John and his wife. But this one never made sense. Being a union guy, I know labor's frustrated; four years of state government trifecta and nothing to show for it. But why take it out on a guy with a 94% labor voting record?

    In any case, Stellmach stays on the ballot, but this shifts the ground in the Johnson County Democratic primary. The US Senate primary is now the only game in town.

    Jacoby Mayors Event Tonight

    Jacoby Mayors Event Tonight

    In the hot House District 30 Democratic primary, incumbent Dave jacoby hosts a party tonight with the district's mayors:
    I hope you can join me at a special event we're having next Wednesday, May 12th 5:00 PM-7:00 PM at Gus' Food & Spirits in Coralville. Special guests include Mayor Jim Fausett of Coralville, Mayor Matt Hayek of Iowa City, Mayor Tom Salm of North Liberty, and Mayor Royce Phillips of Tiffin.
    That last name is really interesting, as Mayor Phillips is pretty prominent in the local GOP.

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    Iowa First Looking Good for 2012

    Iowa First Looking Good for 2012

    Below the radar, Republican moves that both Keep Iowa First for 2012 and keep the other early contests in the same states as the Dems:
    A temporary delegate selection committee will recommend allowing IA, NH, SC and NV to hold contests in a pre-window period that begins in Feb., a month later than the '08 process began. Other states may begin holding their contests in March, rather than in Feb.

    The new nominating system maintains traditional spots for early states like NH, which will still hold the first contest, and IA, which has the first caucuses. SC will hold the first-in-the-South contest it covets, with NV maintaining a post it first held in the '08 cycle.
    Iowa and New Hampshire have longer traditions. Democrats moved South Carolina up for 2008, both to match the Republicans and to add a state with a large black population to the early mix. THis, of course, gave Bill Clinton a change to insert foot deeply in mouth repeatedly.

    But Nevada is the interesting Republican choice. It mirrors the Dems moving Nevada up in '08 and signals a bipartisan effort to keep contests together and move the dates back:
    Moving the beginning of the nominating contest back has been a priority for prominent members of both the DNC and the RNC. RNC members have worked closely with DNC member James Roosevelt, the chairman of the party's rules committee, to jointly move the process to later dates.
    How does this ripple through nomination politics? If anyone gains it's Mitt.

    Cameron Takes Over as PM

    Pretty Much as I Predicted, Except That the Silly Party Won

    That's what I get for handicapping horse races in other countries: After my bold prediction last night that Labour was close to making a deal with the Liberal Democrats, the talks collapsed, Gordon Brown resigned and David Cameron is Prime Minster at the head of a Slightly Silly Tory-Lib Dem coalition. (Does that mean this evening Cameron will be getting his visit from the Minister of Magic?)

    What happened between Labour and the Lib Dems, the far more Sensible coalition? Well, last time I speculated I got it wrong, but a lot of UK media has talked about back-bench revolts in all parties, and my guess is the Lib-Lab deal was scuttled by an old internal Labour fight that hasn't really been resolved.

    Let's rewind to 1994. Labour leader John Smith died suddenly, and the party, fresh off four straight losses to Margaret Thatcher and John Major, found itself in a soul of the party leadership fight (which, to remind you, fills the niche in the system that our presidential nomination process takes).

    On the right was Tony Blair, already drawing Bill Clinton comparisons, with his "New Labour" rhetoric and telegenic looks. The Labour wing of the Labour Party wasn't comfortable, but failed to prevail.

    It was an epic battle, much like Barack and Hillary only shorter. And much like Barack and Hillary, after Blair prevailed he brought longtime rival Gordon Brown, an old-school-sort, on board in a high-profile post.

    That uneasy partnership moved from opposition into government in 1997 and won a second consecutive landslide in 2001. It was more or less understood, explicitly so by the time of the 2005 election, that Brown would eventually take over, and when he did so in 2007 he was elected party leader - and thus Prime Minister - unopposed.

    My point here: it's been 16 years since Labour has had a true leadership contest. The New Labour vs. Old Labour fight has been on hold, simmering just below and sometimes above, the surface that whole time.

    If you're Old Labour, already frustrated by rightward drift and Blair's controversial role in the Iraq War, do you really want to make a coalition with a centrist third party to form a barely stable government? Especially when the agenda for the next government is fiscal crisis and budget cutting that would embarrass Maggie Thatcher? Why saddle yourselves with that baggage? It's going to be a really good time to be out of power.

    A successful Lib-Lab coalition would have inevitably pulled Labour to the economic right, and given New Labour the edge in the upcoming, soul of the party leadership fight. With a new election with a new Labour leader likely within a year, the leadership fight matters even more than usual. Old Labour has decided to make that fight rather than cling to unstable power. Call it a strategic retreat.

    If you're really, really geeky, the Guardian has a complete results spreadsheet.

    Biden to Cedar Rapids for Culver

    Joe comes to CR for Chet

    Well this is a big f%$#in' deal: Linn County Dems tell Facebook :
    Tuesday, May 18, mark your calendar for Governor Culver's Campaign Kick off featuring special guest Vice President Joe Biden. Here is the info for this event - you will need to RSVP.

    Cedar Rapids Rally
    Greene Square Park, 12:00 pm
    The RSVP page on the Culver site still lists only the governor, Patty Judge and Mari Culver as guests.

    This might explain why the Iowa City event - 3:00 on a weekday afternoon on campus the week after finals - is so low-profile. (Still, even as a lower priority event: campus the week after finals?!?) However, that gives the Guv only three hours to get to Iowa City, so he may need to leave before the VP is done talking.


    Tuesday clips

    Another dropout in the 1st CD; Iowa Liberty Report says this sets up a two-way fight between "the Will Johnson campaign which hopes to unite conservatives, libertarians, and tea partiers against the establishment neoconservative Ben Lange." Guess which one they like.

    Over at the Register I argue that Chuck Grassley saved himself from Bob Bennett's fate, but at a heavy cost.

    And AHnold's scriptwriters still come up with a good one every once in a while: "I was also going to give a graduation speech in Arizona this weekend. But with my accent, I was afraid they would try to deport me."

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    Brits Sort It Out, Sorta

    Brits Sort It Out, Sorta

    The very short version of UK developments: Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown is quitting, which tells me that the Lib Dem-Conservative talks are fizzling and that the more ideologically sensible Labour-Liberal coalition is likely, because "it was understood that one of the stumbling blocks to any Labour-Lib Dem deal was Mr Brown himself."

    The BBC reports some tidbits for voting geeks:
    The Tories, who won the most seats and votes, reacted to Mr Brown's announcement that he was standing down as Labour leader by making a "final offer" to the Lib Dems of a referendum on changing the voting method to the Alternative Vote (AV) system.

    The Lib Dems have long campaigned for a change to the voting system - something which the Conservatives have strongly opposed.
    In large part because, as party number three in a single member district system, the Lib Dems don't win nearly as many seats as they do votes. Americans, think of 1992: Ross Perot winning 19% of the popular vote but winning no electoral votes, no congressional districts, and finishing first in just a handful of counties. The math doesn't match up exact (because 12% of the UK votes went to yet more parties), and the ideology not at all, but that's the basic gist.

    BBC continues:
    But speaking after a meeting of Conservative MPs, following Mr Brown's statement, shadow foreign secretary William Hague said they were prepared to "go the extra mile" on electoral reform - and offer a referendum on switching to AV in return for a coalition government.

    (Hague) also said the Labour offer was for a switch to the AV system, without a referendum, which he believed was undemocratic. The BBC understands, from Lib Dem sources, that the Labour offer is legislation to introduce AV, followed by a referendum on proportional representation.

    Under AV no candidate is elected without at least 50% of the vote, after second preferences are taken into account, but it is not considered full proportional representation.
    William Hague. I though we'd seen the last of him in 2001 when he lost to Tony Blair.

    The Brit's "AV" is what we Yanks would call Instant Runoff Voting. That frees up voters to vote honestly with their first choice and strategically with their second. A point the even smaller UK Independence Party made: "YOU-kip" said the offered the Tories a deal: give us a referendum on quitting the European Union, their signature issue, and we won't oppose your candidates. UKIP argues their candidates pulled away enough Conservative votes to cost at least the 20 seats that the Tories fell short. The Daily Mail says it's more like 10 seats, but AV would have re-allocated those as second choices.

    AV is half a loaf to the Liberal Democrats. They want full proportional representation: 23 percent of the votes, 23 percent of the seats (instead of the 9 percent or so they got.)

    So the Conservatives are offering a referendum just to get half a loaf, while Labour is offering the half loaf now plus the referendum on the full loaf, and they've sacked Brown.

    Still a couple spanners in the works: Labour's leadership election process and rules means that Brown stays on, either as Prime Minister or as The Leader Of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, for a few more months. Remember: in the UK the process of choosing the party leader, the functional equivalent of our presidential nomination process, happens after, not before, the general election.

    And Labour's 258 seats (likely to grow to 259 in a couple weeks; one Labour seat's vote was delayed because the UKIP candidate died) plus the LibDems 57 only gets you to 315 and a majority is 326. There's scattered seats held by other regional parties. Remember how putting together the health care bill magnified the importance of every last fence sitter? Americans would deal with this by building a big dam in Scotland and a bridge to nowhere in Wales. The English would respond by saying Wales already IS nowhere.

    This also probably all means a whole nother general election in less than a year. Having been a candidate, campaign staffer, and election office worker, I feel pain for all those involved. The quick turnaround might also impact results. In the UK you qualify for the ballot by paying a £500 deposit. Less than 5% of the vote and you lose your money. That's a burden for a small party, especially if you just lost bunches of deposits AND ran a campaign just months previous. Indeed there's a website that gleefully celebrates how much money the white power British National Party lost just on deposits.

    Culver tour drops the ball in Iowa City

    If a Governor Falls on an Empty Campus, Does He Make a Sound?

    Governor Chet Culver will be doing an "Announcement Tour" next week. It's a Good Thing that The Guv is getting out and about, especially while the three wannabees in the Republican primary are all over the place.

    But if you're going to do it, do it right. Not to be parochial, but my first move was to check the local stop on the 41 county tour:
    WHAT: Johnson County "Choosing a Better Iowa" Event
    WHO: Governor Chet Culver, First Lady Mari Culver
    WHEN: 3:00 PM
    WHERE: IMU River Terrace
    125 N. Madison St.
    Iowa City, IA
    A campus event the week after finals? At 3:00 in the afternoon? Do they even WANT people there?

    The students and faculty who'd usually show up are gone, and the seniors who are free at 3 in the afternoon won't want to walk the block and a half or so from the nearest parking ramp. Heck, it's even on the river side of the IMU, so you can't even drop people off then go park. (At least the ramp will be empty.) There's no way to get a moving vehicle within a touchdown of the site, unless you're a State Trooper.

    I reluctantly admit that the state does not revolve around Iowa City (except on football game days) so the timing of the tour, during the three deadest weeks of the year for my town, is what it is. And with 41 stops in a week, someone's gonna be stuck with the middle of the workday.

    But even assuming your slot is 3:00 in the afternoon the week after finals, you'd think Team Culver would have come up with something else. Do a hospital thing. Do a Coralville thing. Do an Oaknoll thing. Do anything but a freakin' campus event.

    I hate to embarrass anyone, but the small crowd will be more embarrassing.

    While I'm grumbling, and this isn't Culver specific because everyone is guilty: call it something other than an "announcement." As the guy who diligently tracked the 125 legislative races, I'm a stickler: any "announcement" that comes after the nomination papers are filed is superfluous. Glad you're "announcing" your candidacy, Governor, but I voted last week and saw your name on my ballot so I kind of figured it out already.

    I hate "exploratory committees" too. And people who say "I'm not a politician." If you're seeking an office, you are by definition.

    Sunday, May 09, 2010

    Slow on Smallest Farm

    Slow Start on Smallest Farm

    The Smallest Farm in Iowa is off to a slow start so far, as the weather has soaked the soil as soon as it dries out. Could be worse; I could be trying to farm on Mars. "A frost warning has been issued for... well, the entire planet, for tonight through... uh, forever I guess."

    One thing I have managed to grow:

    Mr. Hoot HootObviously, the plastic fake owl and my loud choruses of "What's Opera Doc" are ineffective means of pest control. These wittle wascals were born literally in the middle of the garden, just inches from my spinach and lettuce. Hope they tell me how it tastes. The lower level of the fence has been reinforced with chicken wire, but I've seen mom hop over it.

    What am I gonna do about it? Well, nothing; my need for salad has been overruled by teh cutes.

    Mr. Snake has also been seen in the garden, but he doesn't like getting his picture taken. Here's hoping the baby bunnies are faster than he is.

    Slow start
    Fortunately, last night's near frost didn't harm my warmer-weather plants as they're still in the seed starters. Managed to grow some of my peppers from saved seed and a couple kinds of tomatoes from seed too. But some of my early starts died so I had to get the plants last weekend.

    Also in the shot is the $8 rain barrel. No tap on the bottom so I have to siphon the water out, but it works and the price was right (I've seen "good" rainbarrels for $100.) And, of course, it's full these days.


    Another bargain was the composter, which I got free,


    One person's weed is another person's pretty volunteer.

    As you're seeing, I've gotten more prep work than planting done. My crowning achievement:

    Bean Fence

    The bean fence. Last year the beand grew over the top of a seven foot fence and dragged the whole thing down. So this year I got PVC pipe, reinforced it with the old stakes, and took it up to 8 1/2 feet by 40 feet long. That's in the south garden this year, whhere it'll share space with the corn and pumpkins.

    For those of you tuning in I have, depending on how you count, five garden spaces in my football-field sized lot. Two of those are properly, if inadequately, fenced.


    This pea is growing in what I call the "north garden."


    This is some sort of crossbred squash that emerged from last year's compost heap. Just like last year, I'm going to let it grow and see what happens; last year I got green-gold football sized mutants that looked like a cross between pumpkins and spaghetti squash that the boys named "squashkins."

    Not pictured: the "pepper garden," a tiny patch near the house that I use to keep the hot peppers away from the sweet peppers.


    Volunteers of America... This is from what I call "the catnip garden" or "Spot's garden" (since I laid my old friend to rest there amongst her favorite herb.) Scattered other herbs are growing there, deliberately or inadvertently. But mostly it's catnip...


    ...and apparantly it's high-grade, duuuude.

    Sunday clips

    Sunday clips

    Still no government in the UK, so I'll focus back home.

  • I briefly noted in the midst of Thursday night's anglophilia that the new KCCI poll (conducted by Research 2000, which also polls for Daily Kos) has Roxanne Conlin only nine points behind Chuck Grassley. Conlin blogs on Kos to play this up.

  • New Iowa blog The Gold Dome asks why no one's polled the GOP governor primary.

  • Distubing development in Utah as very conservative Sen. Robert Bennett loses re-nomination for the sin of trying to govern, or even pretending to try to govern (he was one of the group, along with Grassley, who sat down with the Dems to stall, I mean negotiate, on health care.)

    Part of the loss is a convention-based nomination system. Bennett might have had a tough time in a primary but would have had a fighting chance. Grassley is really, really lucky they didn't come after him, too. Maybe he was smart enough to see that, and "pull the plug on grandma" was a pre-emptive strike. That saved him his re-nomination, but cost him his brand and earned him a serious general election opponent instead of the usual token challenge he had at the time.

    As for Bennett, he still has a shot at a write-in nomination, but he can't do a Lieberman because the independent filing deadline has passed.

  • Meanwhile in Pennsyslvania, another guy the tea partiers forced out, newly minted Democrat Arlen Specter, could lose in his new party, as new polls show the real Dem, Rep. Joe Sestak, now pulling four points ahead. It's what the insiders told us all along: look for Sestak to make his move late.
  • Friday, May 07, 2010

    Brits: The Morning After

    Brits: The Morning After

    Or rather the afternoon after, as negotiations went on hold for a couple hours sleep for all involved.

    To get you up to speed, the last* result was declared a couple hours ago. (The * is because one seat will have a late election; that's how they do it when a candidate dies.)

    The hung parliament appears to be a UK politics junkie's wet dream, just like old American political journalists still fantasize about brokered conventions. With 326** seats needed for a majority, here's how the seats shake out:

    Conservative 306 (gain of 97)
    Labour 258 (-91)
    Liberal Democrat 57 (-5)
    Democratic Unionist Party 8 (Northern Ireland hardline Protestant, -1)
    Scottish National Party 6 (no change)
    Sinn Fein 5 (hardline Northern Ireland republican, no change)
    Plaid Cymru 3 (Welsh independence, gain of one)
    Social Democratic & Labour Party 3 (moderate Northern Ireland republican, no change)
    Green 1 (same as our Greens, first ever seat)
    Alliance Party 1 (Northern Ireland non-sectarian, first ever seat)
    Independent 1 (northern Ireland moderate protestant)

    The ** is for Northern Ireland's Sinn Fein. They don't actually take their seats (Irish Republicans don't swear allegiance to the English Queen) so in reality 645 MPs will be seated. So in a pinch one could argue that 323 is a majority--which may matter.

    The Liberal Democrats, despite losing seats when they were expected to make double digit gains, are the kingmakers. The law says the incumbent prime minister gets first crack at building a coalition, but the Lib Dem leader says the Conservatives, having won the most seats, should try to form the government.

    Complicating matters: the Lib Dems price is electoral reform, so that they can win seats in proportion to their votes. Conservative leader Cameron is willing to discuss it but probably won't be able to sell it to his members. The offer on the table seems to be: the Tories will give the Lib Dems a referendum or a study on the electoral system issue, but will actively oppose it. Doesn't sound like a very generous offer.

    Labour is more willing, and probably more able, to make that deal, but there's another condition being floated: someone other than Gordon Brown as prime minister. Ideologically, the Lib Dems are closer to Labour than to the Tories, but Liberal Leader Nick Clegg hates Brown. Plus, the "Gordon Brown has been rejected" argument has some currency. Remember, he took over in mid-term, vice present style, from Tony Blair and was elevated unopposed to party leader, so this was his first big electoral test.

    Even if Labour (under Brown or someone else) and the Liberals do ally, 258 plus 57 only adds up to 315. At that point they could try to stumble along, issue by issue, as long as they can. Add six Scots Nats (Conservatives won only one Scottish seat making SNP a very unlikely Tory ally) and the three from Northern Ireland's SDLP, a historic Labour ally, and you get 324 -- a one seat majority when you subtract those five abstentionist Sinn Fein members.

    The Tories, too, could try to stumble along with a minority government. The eight Democratic Unionists gets them to 314; almost exactly equal to Labour plus Lib Dem. (Subtract one because the Speaker, who happens to be a Tory, doesn't vote and by tradition is not opposed by the other big parties. Usually that one seat is insignificant, but not today.) They won't gain the Northern Ireland independent; her break with the old Ulster Unionist Party was explicitly over their alliance with the Tories.

    All this disproportionately magnifies the importance of those various shades of Green and Plaid (think of them as the favorite son candidates in the brokered convention), both in forming the government and, later, in bringing a government down. Not to mention that one delayed vote and the possibility of special elections ("by-elections") if results are challenged in places that had voting irregularities. (The closest race appears to have been a four vote win; but that's a Sinn Fein seat so it has no impact on the coalition-building.)

    So it's hardball all around. My bet is that the Times' prediction is the best: "the only certainty is another general election." They had two eight months apart in 1974.

    From the source:
  • Telegraph
  • BBC
  • Times
  • Guardian
  • Thursday, May 06, 2010



    Just having fun - my nerdy idea of fun - with the UK returns. As I throw thoughts out there I'll focus on the comparative aspects. BBC is streaming and tweeting live and they can do the details better than some Yank.

    First impressions I hear: "looks like a bad night for Labour" but "the Conservatives may comne up just short." BBC and 538 are feuding about the exit poll accuracy.

    Polls have been closed 75 minutes: they stay open till 10 PM UK time. Iowa stays open till 9 and we're one of the late states. I think New York may be the only state that stays open that late. A more urban nation I guess.

    Turnout is high, and there's reports of people being turned away and counter-reports of people being locked in at the polling "station" to vote after official closing time. No one seems to know if you're allowed to vote if you're in line ("on queue") at closing time or not. (In Iowa it's clear: you are.)

    Only one result in in and Labour wins but with a "swing" (word of the night) to the Tories of 8%.

    Also remember if you're looking at candidates and maps: in the UK red is left and blue is right, as it should be. ("Red states" and ""blue states" is an artifact of the 2000 election.) The Lib Dems are yellow, the anti-Europe UK Independence Party is purple.

    One question I haven't seen addressed yet: If the result is a close election with a hung Parliament, what kind of spin war do we see as the parties try to form coalitions?

    The "presenter" just prouncounced UKIP as "You-kip" rather that "U.K.I.P."

    Another result and Labour holds but with an 11.6 swing to Tories. Not. Good. "More of a swing than Blair got in 1997." I know I've said this before but they way they do results is: there's no "x% of precincts reporting." You get the final result and that's it. The candidates and their supporters all go to the local equivalent of the auditor's office to hear the result together. Then adding insult to injury, the losers have to list to the victory speech. At this result the last candidate, from the racist British National Party, got boos. And 1000 or so votes (the Labour winner had 19,000.)

    Still talking about people not getting to vote. Apparantly this hasn't happened before and there are no consistent rules. "There may be challenges to results." Could this be Britain's Florida? (Stay tuned) Much like here, conservatives tend to vote earlier in the day and the working class votes after work, so people being turned away has a partisan impact.

    The dispite over the swing between 538 and BBC seems to be over the issue of "uniform swing." 538 argues that the swing ina three-plus party system is multidimensional.

    Tory shadow minister is starting the spin: "with this result I don't know how Labout can try to stay in power" with a hubng Parliament.

    Labour keeps a third seat; wing to Tory only 5 percent in the most targeted of the three seats in the Sunderland area (that priides itself on getting the first results.) Lib Dems seem to be disappointing.

    While I'm at it my Berry goes off with a poll in Iowa: Grassley 49 Conlin 40. Also Culver only down 7 to Branstad, leading BVP and Roberts.

    More about that tomorrow, but back in the UK they're showing block-long lines of voters. One woman very upset about not being able to vote, as the crowd behind her shouts, Parliament style, "hear, hear." Apologies from the Sheffield "returning officer." (For some reason when they announce results they always refer to themselves as "acting returning officer.")

    A lull for a while at just before midnight now that the early-early results are in. They're showing BNP leader Nick Griffin at his returning office and the BBC openly calls him "racist."

    So, how much of a meltdown was the voting process? A real crisis or just something to talk about while we wait for results? Also discussed: one ok the "You-kip" (apparantly the standard pronounciation) was hurt in a light aircraft crash this morning while trying to fly a banner from the plane.

    I'm assuming that anyone reading this knows at least a minimal bit about British politics.

    The spin war explaines: analysts saying that Cameron can't just form a government; Brown needs to resign first. So the game is to pressure him to do that.

    The worst case scenario is what happened in 1974: no stable majority and a second election in a few wonth's time. Do the polling problems increase the chances of that be delegitimizing whoever forms the government?

    Waiting in line not the biggest problem: bomb threat in Norther Ireland. And a Joan Collins sighting at the Tory victory party. How Thatcher of her.

    Another discussion: "If Brown loses who should be the next Labout leader?" In America we choose our party leader just before the election; in the UK the defeated party has the equivalent of primary season AFTTER the election.

    Another point made about hight turnout: late results. 12:30 UK time and still just the three early bird counts. (Sort of like looking at the Dixville Notch results.)

    Looking at the smaller parties: the Greens have thrown all their resouces into one seat and they think they won it. Brighton Pavilion sounds like the UK equivalent of Iowa City. Meanwhile, Cameron is stopping off at the pub for a pint before going to his result.

    THe words "disgrace" and "scandal" are getting tossed about re: the voting problems. The head of the Electoral Commission (equivalent of Iowa's Secretary of State) says the law is clear: you have to have the ballot ("voting paper") in hand by 10 in otder to vote. But she says they;'ve been arguing for ages that the system is at the breaking point. Sounding more and more like Florida 2000, especially of the result is muddy.

    Results now showing as 3 in Labour red and one in green. Is that Green green? Or is that one of the Republican Northern Ireland parties that also use green as a colour? (Northern Ireland is a whole nother post. Let's just say: completely different party system.) Turns out it is Irish green.

    "What a tragedy that, after a campaign which engaged and energised many who were previously cynical about politics, tonight's story may be being overshadowed by the extraordinary revelation that Britain cannot competently run the most basic part of the democratic process." - Nick Robinson BBC

    Surprise in Northern Ireland as the Alliance Party, the non-sectarian party, wins its first ever seat, defeating the Unionist first minister of NI. Must... avoid... Ireland... tangent. Results coming in faster now. 9 seats declared as of 12:52 UK time, won by five different parties. Tories still at zero.

    "Maybe we should do it all again" is said for the first time.

    For some reason NI is coming in fast (in 2005 they were last). Now the Tories are on the board and the seventh party wins a seat: Plaid Cymru, the Welsh independence party. Confusingly, Plaid's colour is not plaid, it seems to be green, which when mized with Green green and Sinn Fein green is confusing. Last election ten separate parties won seats (though the Big Three accounted for maybe 98% of that.)

    More significantly, this is a Conservative gain from Labour on a 9.4% swing.

    0104: The Press Association is reporting that Downing Street sources say the prime minister will try to form a coalition government in the event of a hung parliament.

    Blast from the past: Neil Kinnock is on the BBC. Someone alert Joe.

    Throw in another wacky Northern Ireland result: an independent but it's really more complicated. Call it eight parties with wins.

    Hey, wonder what's happening at Central Committee?

    Gordon Brown's been re-elected to his own seat, but that's not really what matters.

    We now have our ninth party on the board: the Scottish Nationalists. "The people have spoken but we don't know quite what they said." Labor folks saying lots of nice things about Lib Dems as the spin war works on the coalition.

    Yet another Northern Ireland party wins; that's 10. More mad non-voters on the BBC. About a tenth of the seats are called and the Scotland map is getting confusing; SNP is dark yellow and Lib Dem is light yellow. ?!?

    Took a break; back at 2:30 UK time. About a quarter of the seats are called; Tories have taken 12 from Labour. Things now moving faster than my typing. They're only showing the key races and the contests with big names. 538: "Lib Dems look like they're having a flop of Howard Dean proportions." Yeeeeah!

    Cameron's result is announced; Howling Laud Hope of the Monster Raving Loony Party ran in the same seat for fun.

    3 AM and for the moment it's ties at 76 seats each Labour and Conservative. (Labour has been ahead in raw seats until now). "There;'s no sense of real drama, just everyone biting their nails and waiting, waiting." The discussion of polling place problems, as I expected, seems to have died down amongst the results.

    3:30 and another celebrity Tory: retired Rolling Stone Bill Wyman. About 1/3 in; Tories with an 8 seat raw lead and gaining two dozen seats. "All the momentum is to the Tories but is it quite enough?"

    Another possibility that gets mentioned: a Labour-Liberal coalition with someone other that Brown at the head?

    Halfway home at 4 AM. Tories 33 seats ahead and have gained 33.

    Sounds like Labour is doing a decent job targeting their most vulnerable seats and cutting their losses... and I'm starting to wear down.

    Another difference because of the counting system: the close races are interspersed with the landslides. Daen breaks and the Greens win their first seat; our 11th party.

    By 6:30 the pace is slowing down. Brown, Camron and the rest need sleep and so do I.