Monday, January 31, 2011

Local GOP Watch

Local GOP Watch

Groundhog Day is coming up, and like the elusive critter the Johnson County Republicans are emerging from what conservative blogger Mike Thayer of the Coralville Courier last week called "hibernation." And like Bill Murray they seem to be living the same day over again.

The JC GOP is electing officers for the next two year term on Monday, Feb. 7, and a largely incumbent slate is running:
Candidates nominated include Bob Anderson, Chairman; Dave Yansky, Co-Chairman; Cyndi Michel, Secretary; and Debra Stannard, Treasurer.
These are all incumbents in their current positions except for longtime activist Michel.

This won't make Thayer, a frequent critic of the local GOP organization, happy. He's frequently attacked the "progressive" (sic) party leadership for, among other things, failing to recruit candidates locally. And the party's big February event won't please him either: a fundraiser for twice-defeated congressional candidate Mariannete Miller-Meeks. The newly named state health department head needs to retire over a half million dollars in campaign debt to herself, and Steve King is the big name they're bringing in.

Thayer has a unique take on events in the Middle East:
All these riots and protests have a common thread.... An anti-government connection. In these cases it's not about a lack of food, or disease, or being war torn.... It boils down to government mismanagement.

So is America next?

Half of the people in this country are upset with government for its callous, unwise and unconstitutional spending, putting the U.S. on a path to bankruptcy and burdening our children and grandchildren with unprecedented debt. The other half of the people in this country are upset with government for not giving ENOUGH handouts, be they Nanny State gimmes like food stamps, two years of unemployment checks and housing subsidies or be they luxury items like bike trails, theatres and *free* internet. These people WANT new 'entitlements' and government largesse, it's about 'stuff'.

Something is going to give folks, and that's why I've been encouraging you to buy food, guns, ammo and gold.
That was Friday. Saturday Thayer got into the details of warehousing:
Are you paying attention to the expiration dates of your food stock? It's important to rotate your canned goods, jar goods, dried goods, medicines, etc. Did you know that something as everyday as aspirin has an expiration date? How many bandages and wraps do you have?

Most canned goods stocked on store shelves these days have an expiration date of the years 2012, 2013, depending on the food type. Things like vegetables and fruits are likely to be in the 2012, 2013 range. Meat based items such as canned soups, chili, ravioli, chicken breast, that kind of thing - probably 2012. Canned fish like tuna, salmon, sardines, those typically have a stamp for 2013, 2014 or even 2015.

Jar goods don't go quite so far out...
Handy and thrifty advice regardless of your politics, if you're stocking up at Aldi's. But I don't think we'll be retreating to our bunkers quite yet.

My team is also electing officers soon, on March 3. Current JC Dems chair Dennis Roseman is not seeking another term.

Also noted over the weekend: While all six local Democratic legislators attended the League of Women Voters forum, the four Republicans were no-shows. Reps. Jarad Klein and Jeff Kaufmann showed up for a members-only Chamber of Commerce forum, held immediately before and one block away from the LWV event. Senators Sandy Greiner and Jim Hahn didn't attend either. (Klein's newsletter notes he attended a Jefferson County Farm Bureau forum Saturday.)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Did Anyone Ask?

Did Anyone Ask?

"I don't want to go out and campaign for candidates" - George W. Bush.

But somebody, who's back on the ballot, DID ask Bush's successor:

"I needed somebody at my side who I could count on to get the job done. There was no candidate for the job of chief of staff who would meet the bill as well as Rahm Emanuel, which is why I told him that he had no choice in the matter. He was not allowed to say 'no.' This was a great sacrifice for Rahm, Amy and the family, to move out here. He has been a great friend of mine, he has been a selfless public servant, he has been an outstanding chief of staff."

As for Obama's potential competition, they're not exactly lining up fast behind the Mitt: "In each of the traditional early states, top Romney supporters from the last campaign tell POLITICO that they’re hesitant to get behind the nearest thing the GOP has to a frontrunner." Two Iowans quoted: Chris Rants sounds noncommittal while Branstad consigliere Doug Gross is flat out dismissive: “I haven’t talked to (Romney) in a long time.”

And indeed, Team Mitt is leaking word that Romney may skip Iowa -- forgetting the lesson from four years ago when Hillary tried leaking the exact same memo.

A frontrunner who tries Screw Iowa boxes herself in so she HAS to run on unfriendly turf. And Screw Iowa has never really worked for anyone. McCain gets an asterisk here. In 2000 he ran a true Screw Iowa campaign, but in 2007 he bailed out of financial necessity. If you're a frontrunner, you have to go all-out in Iowa, but McCain wasn't a frontrunner anymore. He didn't really win the nomination as much as everyone else lost.

Mitt was all-in for Iowa last time and got burned by finishing second, and the dynamic of internal GOP politics has if anything gotten worse for him. (I mean, if Doug Gross isn't in his corner at this point, who the heck is?) If he runs here he has to win here. The only way he does that is: 1) Ron Paul (or Rand, or Gary Johnson, but probably Ron) increases his indigestible share from 10% to 15, thus lowering the victory bar a bit; and 2) the 2008 Huckabee-Thompson vote splinters just right between Huckabee, Palin, Bachmann, Frosty The Snowman, and Rick "Most Likely To Drop Out The Day After The Straw Poll" Santorum. Then Romney's 30% or so is a weak first... but first is first.

Face it: Romney's only the GOP "establishment" choice because W screwed up so bad that they're too chicken to get behind Jeb till at least 2016. Just think how things would have been different if Jeb Bush hadn't been the only Republican in the whole country to lose in 1994...

Two more thoughts that don't fit elsewhere: This diary at Swing State Project has a bunch of four district Iowa maps and commentary. And Rachel "Now The Big Star At MSNBC" Maddow talks about some of our past socialist presidents:
"Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things, but their number is negligible and they are stupid."
Hint: Five stars.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Practical Issues With Photo ID

Practical Issues With Photo ID

I said it during the secretary of state race, I said it way back when Steve King got the Spanish voter registration forms banned. Democrats talk about helping people vote, Republicans talk about making it harder to vote. Unless it's about taking people's rights away, in which case they say "let the people vote."

The Iowa House gave us hard proof this afternoon, passing a photo ID to vote bill on a straight party line vote: 60 Republicans for, 40 Democrats against. And the Iowa Senate gave us proof this morning, where Democrats stuck together on a procedural motion to protect marriage equality: 26 Democrats for, 24 Republicans against.

Iowa City's own Mary Mascher said it best in the House photo ID debate: "The name of this bill should be changed. It should be called the ‘Voter Suppression Act,’ Voting is a right … it is not a privilege. We should protect that right and make sure that it is equitable for all Iowans.”

The photo ID bill goes next to the Senate where majority leader Mike Gronstal will again need to keep his one seat majority solid to kill the bill.

"I have worked in professional politics for the last 13 years and have not seen one case of voter fraud in the state of Iowa," wrote Iowa Democratic Party executive director Norm Sterzenbach. "This is a costly solution to a problem that doesn't exist. I would rather they spend the money on pre-k, or K-12 education or, I don't know, putting people back to work."

Democrats were also quick to note the cost of solving the nonexistent problem. "Similar legislation has cost other states between five and six million dollars to implement," said state party chair Sue Dvorsky in a release. "At a time when Republicans are making deep cuts to education and other successful programs, spending millions to hamper voting in Iowa shouldn’t be a priority.”

But one angle Iowa Democrats have missed -- until now -- comes from the Texas Senate, which debated the same issue Tuesday night. (Notice how this issue is a top-level priority for every Republican legislature in the country...)
Even if you have the necessary photo I.D., you still might not be accepted to vote. The reason is simple: too many people simply do not look like the photo on their drivers license.

Senator Zaffirini was the one who brought it up. She shared a photo from a drivers license, and challenged Senators to name the person whose photo it was. None of the Senators had a guess.

She then asked the person whose photo it was to stand up. Her Chief of Staff, Ray Martinez, stood up. At the time, Ray had been sitting next to Zaffirini, in plain sight of all the Senators who couldn't guess that it was his photo.
If they start weighing us in at polling places, there won't be anyone left to vote.

I shouldn't laugh, but it beats crying. Between the marriage vote, the photo ID vote, and Terry Branstad's drown government in a bathtub budget, what I called "silly season" yesterday is rapidly turning mean. The first League of Women Voter's legislative forum this weekend (Saturday, 9:30 - 11:30, Iowa City hall) should be epic, as Johnson County's mostly Dem delegation shares tales from the front.

Silly season in Des Moines

Don't Bother, They're Here

The late Molly Ivins, a far greater writer than I can even dream of being, was at her finest when describing the crazy antics of her home state politics: “The Texas Legislature will soon be in session, God forbid, leaving many a village without its idiot.”

We need Molly back from the dead and we need her in Des Moines. The capitol dome seems to have been replaced with a circus big top. Ivins had just the right mix of outrage, exasperation, dung on the boots and sense of the absurd to do justice to the likes of Dwayne Alons.

Alons has taken a break from solving global warming with air conditioning, but he can't decide if he's more obsessed with guns or gays. He's the leading light, or dimmest bulb, behind what the cops are calling House File 007. As in Licence To Kill. The bill stands up for our Constitutional right to go packin' at day care centers, shuffleboard matches and Pizza Ranches. The hearings yielded this priceless exchange:
Rep. Bob Kressig, D-Cedar Falls, asked what would happen if a person kills someone thought to be a threat when “actually it’s the next door neighbor coming over to borrow a cup of sugar.”

“The neighbor should’ve knocked first,” Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, answered with a grin.
As Sondheim said, don't bother, they're here. (In fairness, a number of Democrats have to share some blame for this one...)

Meanwhile, legislative n00bs Kim Pearson and Glen Massie are arguing with their fellow Republicans about how many fetuses can dance on the head of a pin:
The legislators, The FAMiLY Leader, and (non-Polk County Republican chair Steve) Deace, object to the bill because they believe all life should be protected, not just unborn children after twenty weeks of fertilization. On his radio show on Tuesday night, Deace called legislators who believe that life begins at conception, but who are supporting House File 5, “evil,” because he says the goal is to protect all unborn life, not just babies over 20 weeks.
The split on the right may yet abort chances for a bill coming out this session and turn western Iowa into a, quoting here, "a midwest mecca for late-term abortions." And we all know who prays to Mecca.

In the third ring of this circus we have Clel Baudler's clown act. Baudler, last seen having his clerk push the voting button in the 2010 session, is now taking a page out of the James Traficant textbook (Democrats have clowns too) and conducting his own sting operation--in California:
Baudler, 71, made public his plan to lie about a medical condition to obtain a medical marijuana prescription almost a year ago when the Iowa Board of Pharmacy voted unanimously to recommend that legislators reclassify marijuana in a way that could allow people to use it for pain, nausea and other symptoms from diseases such as cancer, AIDS or multiple sclerosis.

He told how he planned to go to California.

“Then I’ll lie about having hemorrhoids so I can get medical marijuana for hemorrhoids and get smoke blown up my rear end,” he said.
Ole Clel has inadvertently stumbled onto the right metaphor. A lot of smoke went up a lot of rear ends this last campaign season.

Terry Branstad got elected on a platform of 1) I'm Not Chet 2) I'm Not Vander Plaats either and 3) did I mention I'm not Chet. Yeah, we all knew the unionized public employees were screwed; that goes with the territory with Terry.

But Branstad 5.0 was supposed to be the Grownups Back In Charge administration, not Silly Season On The Right. Yet so far the legislative session is playing out like BVP's wildest fantasies, and I'm really sorry to have put that image in your head.

True, the governor's influence over the legislative branch, even of his own party, has its limits. Just ask Chet Culver. But the governor can do more to set the tone. Even his main economic focus, the battle with the state employee unions, seems less about budgets and more about political payback, and under the dome the ugliest and meanest obsessions of the far right and far far right are on center stage.

(And people think I'm extreme for saying a voting age adult should be able to go into a bar and have a beer.)

"It's a low-tax, low-service state--so shoot us," Ivins said of her beloved Texas. "The only depressing part is that, unlike Mississippi, we can afford to do better. We just don't. " And this session, Iowa seems to have that attitude as well.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The First Bear In Packerland

The First Bear In Packerland

Fresh off his State of the Union, the President goes into the heart of enemy territory. Not a red state or a blue state, but a Green state. Better yet, right into the heart of Packerland. The locals tell it best:
The president arrived ahead of schedule at about 10:15 a.m. at Austin Straubel International Airport in Ashwaubenon.

Obama was greeted at the airport by Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt. The local officials each presented Packers jerseys to the president, who the White House called the "First Bears Fan" in its report.

Walker gave the president a jersey that had an Obama 1 on the back and the mayor presented Obama with a Woodson jersey to the grinning president.

The Obama 1 jersey was autographed by Packers cornerback Charles Woodson. Also on the jersey, Woodson wrote "See you at the White House ... Go Packers!"

Obama had indicated before the game that he would travel to Texas for the Super Bowl next month to watch the game if the Bears beat the Packers last Sunday. The Packers, however, won 21-14.

Following the game, Woodson was captured on Packer's video delivering a pep talk to his teammates. "The president don't want to come watch us win the Super Bowl?" he said. "Guess what? We'll go see him."

"They're rubbing it in," he yelled to the pool reporters as he held out the Obama shirt...

The president's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, told the pool reporter, "We're going to need another plane to take back all the Packer paraphernalia we're going to get today."
There's some serious political reasons for the stop; WI-08 is one of those districts that flipped blue to red last fall. (But don't you DARE call Wisconsin a purple state, at least not until after the annual Favre retirement press conference.)

Still, the references were unavoidable:
Obama, a Bears fan, told the audience that he has not "come to Packer Country because I lost a bet. Sunday was a tough day to be a Bears fan.

"But even if it didn’t go the way I wanted, I’m glad we got to see one of the greatest rivalries in sports go another round. And so, in the spirit of sportsmanship, let me just say this: congratulations, and good luck in the Super Bowl."

"Last night, I gave a speech some of you may have seen. And what I said was, in this new and challenging time, when America is facing tougher competition from countries around the world than ever before, we’re going to need to up our game. We’re going to need to go all in. We’re going to need to get serious about winning the future.

"In the words of the man the Super Bowl trophy is named after: 'There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game, and that’s first place.'
But notice he's not wearing the jersey. As Politico noted once:
As White House senior adviser David Axelrod puts it, the president dislikes it when “folks try to get him to wear baseball gear for teams other than the White Sox.”
One must assume that goes double true for football arch rivals.

Wednesday Clips

Wednesday Clips

Didn't catch much of Bachman's response to the response (bla bla taxes bla bla Tea) but she deginitely gets the Bobby Jindal no-prize for looking weird. Some TV techie gets fired this morning for having her look at the wrong camera.

The Christie Vilsack for Congress boomlet bubbles up to the Politico level, but Leonard Boswell (last seen on the aisle whispering in Obama's ear) still won't take the hint.

Bob Dvorsky puts the smackdown on Branstad;s budget.

House hearing next Monday on marriage (in)equality They accept emailed testimony, I sent this.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the Union Liveblog

State of the Union Liveblog

Greeting from Flav's Fried Chicken in CLinton -I mean The Mill in Iowa City - where a bunch of us Obamabots are gathered to watch the state of the union.

There will be an empty chair in the Arizona delegation, and as we're watching MSNBC an empty chair there as well. Too much bipartisanship to keep track of, but I did notice Elliot Engel of NY got his aisle seat.

I myself did not bring a bipartisan seating date, but I have a spare seat if any of my Republican readers show up. We got 80 or so bodies here as the Cabinet walks in (on screen, not into the Mill) I see Kerry and McCain together in the unity of losership, though my understanding was that AZ is sitting together.

Thanks to the White House press office: An advance transcript makes live blogging waaay easier.

Boswell on the aisle as the Prez strolls in. Next table over is playing SPot The Congressman, which is one of my favorite games too. I'll miss the dichotomy of the standing and sitting, but not as much as I'll miss seeing Pelosi on the rostrum. Adjust the color on your sets for bright orange...

Applause at the Mill as Prez starts speech.

The empty Giffords chair is next to Raul Grijalva (as is the district) Prez picks up where he left off in AZ speech:

We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled.

"What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow."

"We will move forward together, or not at all" (not at all...)

Is Cantor twittering yet?

I got your American Exceptionalism right here:
America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world. No workers are more productive than ours. No country has more successful companies, or grants more patents to inventors and entrepreneurs. We are home to the world’s best colleges and universities, where more students come to study than any other place on Earth.

What’s more, we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea – the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That is why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here. It’s why our students don’t just memorize equations, but answer questions like “What do you think of that idea? What would you change about the world? What do you want to be when you grow up?”
But Boehner doesn't well up. Sorry for the snark, I just don't have this Bipartisanship (TM) thing yet.

"Facebook" gets incongruous mono-applause from one live audience member, to the amusement of the Mill crowd.

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.
"Clean energy technology" gets a big hand at the Mill. "With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015."

"And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies" Iowa City loved that one. Boehner not so much. Derisive laughter at "clean coal" but that was for Joe Manchin, not the Mill.

"We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair" Bear fans are sore losers.

President briefly channels Cuba Gooding: “If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we’ll show you the money.” He knows from caucus time that "and no child left behind" is an automatic applause line.

Neighbors note that the Lenny Skutnik examples are all from swing states.

Harkin spotted; sitting with Pat Leahy.

"If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child – become a teacher. Your country needs you" hgets a spotty congressional standing o. In general Bipartisanship (TM) has them sitting more.

"Last month, I saw the promise of these schools at Forsyth Tech in North Carolina" SWING STATE! "Many of the students there used to work in the surrounding factories that have since left town. One mother of two, a woman named Kathy Proctor, had worked in the furniture industry since she was 18 years old." Poor Kathy is spotted in the gallery pointing at herself and mouthing "that's me."

Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. I know that debate will be difficult and take time. But tonight, let’s agree to make that effort. And let’s stop expelling talented, responsible young people who can staff our research labs, start new businesses, and further enrich this nation.
Camera on Kerry and McCain as he said this. (shouldabeenme shouldabeenme shouldabeenme...)

"To attract new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information – from high-speed rail to high-speed internet." (Is Branstad watching?)

"For some trips, it will be faster than flying – without the pat-down." Yes the joke was in the script. As prez says "Iowa or AlaBAMA" CAMERA CATCHES GRASSLEY YAWNING

Didn't mean the all caps but I left it. ZZZZZ

Token references to trade... Health care coming up soon...

we passed reform that finally prevents the health insurance industry from exploiting patients.

Now, I’ve heard rumors that a few of you have some concerns about the new health care law. So let me be the first to say that anything can be improved. If you have ideas about how to improve this law by making care better or more affordable, I am eager to work with you. We can start right now by correcting a flaw in the legislation that has placed an unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses.

Everyone likes...

What I’m not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
Not Everyone likes...
I’m not willing to tell James Howard, a brain cancer patient from Texas, that his treatment might not be covered. I’m not willing to tell Jim Houser, a small business owner from Oregon, that he has to go back to paying $5,000 more to cover his employees. As we speak, this law is making prescription drugs cheaper for seniors and giving uninsured students a chance to stay on their parents’ coverage. So instead of re-fighting the battles of the last two years, let’s fix what needs fixing and move forward.

"But now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in." ("raise taxes" says Iowa City, booing as Bachmann is on camera) As Obama discusses domestic cuts, someone says "get out of the war."

"Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you’ll feel the impact." Boehner laughs Biden doesn't.
And if we truly care about our deficit, we simply cannot afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. Before we take money away from our schools, or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax break. It’s not a matter of punishing their success. It’s about promoting America’s success.
Iowa City roars with approval. Bernie Sanders on camera.

Here's your bipartisanship: get rid of waste and inefficiency! And apple pie is good! (but Joe likes the smoked salmon line)

"if a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it." McCain likes, but your earmarks are my district's jobs...

"America’s commitment has been kept; the Iraq War is coming to an end." Mild applause in Iowa City, more out of doubt.

"This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead. And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home." Again, cautious support in IC.

"we will not relent, we will not waver, and we will defeat you." (That's what he said about the Bears too...)

Obama to Rio for Carnaval? Trying to figure out if South Sudan and Tunisa are swing states.

Troops as always get biggest applause from Congress. Iowa City holds applause for Hiawatha's Sal Giunta and for "yes some of them are gay."

More American exceptionalism: "And yet, as contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be, I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth."
That dream is why I can stand here before you tonight. That dream is why a working class kid from Scranton can stand behind me. That dream is why someone who began by sweeping the floors of his father’s Cincinnati bar can preside as Speaker of the House in the greatest nation on Earth.
Waaaaaaaah.... and he really does..

Verbal slip as Obama talks of rescue workers working "three or four hour days." Now THAT's a good contract!

As we wind down, the embrace of American Exceptionalism is what I'm taking away. Not that he hasn't before, but that's been one of the right's more ridiculous criticisms. He throws in "the state of our union is strong" at the very end, not at the beginning where it usually goes.

This crowd is extremely unlikely to stick around for Ryan and Bachmann.

Chris Matthews appears to be feeling the old Obama Tingle. MSN crew almost looks like it DID set up an empty chair, with a big gap between O'Donnell and Maddow. Ed Schultz seems to also be taking away the Greatness of America thing. I grew up on Reagan doing that, but it worked for him.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Super Bowl, Baby!

Super Bowl, Baby!

Spent my weekend focused on non-political stories.

Great pick and dance, Raji; you're just really lucky you didn't lose the ball holding it at arm's length.

Ao the first Super Bowl for my beloved Pack since the 1997 season, and Vegas has us as an early 2 1/2 point favorite.

Us. As in "including me." Like I have anything to do with it. The whole vicarious sports fan thing is funny. The success or failure of a group of highly paid hired gun pro athletes has little or nothing to do with my preference on the outcome. Yet I still say "we" won. The link is imaginary but the feelings are real; I can still say January 26, 1997 was one of the happiest days of my life.

The advertising folks were probably hoping for a New York vs. Chicago matchup, and are cringing at a game between two of pro-sports smallest markets. But the true fans appreciate the first-ever post-season matchup between two of the NFL's most storied franchises. (Folks forget that, before the Steelers moved from the pre-merger NFL to the AFC, they were the perennial doormat of the league.)

Downside: Fox has the game and Terry Bradshaw will no doubt be insufferable for all 56 hours of the pre-game show.

Since I'm on a map kick, here's another oldie but goodie: the Common Census Project's map of pro football loyalties.

There seems to be a slight Bear plurality in eastern Iowa, but it's really blotchy, and notice how closely that Packer-Bear line sticks to the Wisconsin-Illinois border. The little green patches in southern Mississippi have dried up to almost nothing, as the area reverts to its historic Saints loyalty.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mapping the Traffic

Mapping the Traffic

One of the things I told the journalism class I spoke to last month was: You never know when the big story will hit, and invariably it won't be the one you expected or really worked on.

I've been writing this thing for eight years now. Out of the nearly 5000 posts I've made, the all-time traffic champ is probably "Red State, Blue State, TV View State" from waaay back in the summer of 2005. To this day, it's as much as 10 percent of my total traffic. (I'm still hoping to get viral with "Call it what it is: Bigotry" but no luck yet.)

It's one of my better posts from the early era of the Deeth Blog, though unfortunately my habit of posting before I spellcheck hsan't improved since then. I didn't get really serious about the writing until early 2006, which is also the time when an Iowa political blogosphere started to reach a critical mass. (I still miss Patriot Skullface from back in that era...)

I looked at how TV markets overlap and don't coincide with state lines, and the implications for campaign strategy and Electoral College math. The thesis is that campaign stops or ads in red state TV markets that overlap into blue states would be well worth it:
In addition to the wall-to-wall local live at 5, you'd get national coverage with a dog-bites-man twist. By going to a place like Fargo or Couer d'Alene, even if the state stays non-competitive, the candidate creates the impression that they're fighting for every vote in every state.
But the piece isn't popular for its analysis. The traffic comes, rather, from Google image searches. Apparently it's really hard to find a good copy of the Arbitron Designated Market Area (DMA) map of TV markets.

In the early days when I got a bunch of irrelevant hits for some image that's only tangentially related to the point of my post, like a gratuitous pic of an attractive actress, I'd go back and take it out. But in this case, the market map was central to my point, and even a bit prescient:
Western Nebraska is so overwhelmingly GOP that the state could never flip. But there's that weird congressional district electoral vote thing. With a little work you could try for one electoral vote in Omaha's CD, while the western third of Iowa watches.
Looking back, I think the analysis still holds. I envisioned a campaign trip up the middle of the country, from Kansas and Missouri up to the Dakotas. A run up that I-29 corridor may well be worth it in 2012, both for the presidency and down the ballot. Working our way north:

  • Claire McCaskill is up in dead-even Missouri and the House map is getting shuffled with the loss of a seat.

  • Ben Nelson may barely be a Democrat, but he's a vote for Senate control and sure to face a fight in Big Red Nebraska.

  • No Senate race here in Iowa but we're usually close for the presidency, plus who knows what the House map will look like.

  • First term in South Dakota is the best chance to beat new rep Kristi Noem.

  • North Dakota already is an open Senate seat, but fair warning for Obama: they don't think Sarah Palin talks funny.

  • Just across the Red River in Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar seems to be in better shape. But Minnesota, despite only one Democratic presidential win since Ike (Nixon over McGovern and even that was close) has gotten closer lately, and could use some Obama love. Especially if Pawlenty or (shudder) Bachmann is on the ticket.

    I do recommend the trip stop south of Winnipeg, as Manitoba is solid for the NDP.

    Of course, by RE-posting the map, I just increase my level of irrelevant traffic. But as a map geek, I'm OK with that. Two of my regular web stops are Twelve Mile Circle, which focuses on geographic quirks and oddities, and Strange Maps, recently published in dead tree format.

    Just to make this post vaguely related to contemporary Iowa politics: one of my fun moments came at a county Dems meeting in early 1999 came when someone yelled out "The new road maps are here!" and held up a map with the Vilsack and Pederson pictures replacing Branstad and the now pariah Joy Corning. Perhaps Team Terry can now save a few bucks by getting the old 1998 maps out of storage and printing some Kim Reynolds stickers. It'll give Terry a flattering youthful appearance, and who needs to know how much of 218 and 20 have gone four lane in 12 years anyway?
  • Friday, January 21, 2011

    Weird stuff for Friday

    Weird stuff for Friday

    After my rant yesterday where I called 56 legislators bigots, I settled for a light breakfast this morning, designed to offend no one but Bears fans.

  • 127 mobsters busted in New York and Joisey. Best nicknames: Bobby Glasses, Vinny Carwash, Jack the Whack, Johnny Cash, Junior Lollipops, and Tony Bagels.

  • The titular insect of "La Cucaracha" smokes weed. Seriously, the original lyrics:
    La cucaracha, la cucaracha, (The cucaracha, the cucaracha)
    Ya no quieres caminar, (Doesn't want to travel on)
    Porque no tienes, (Because she hasn't)
    Porque le falta, (Oh no, she hasn't)
    Marihuana que fumar... (Marijuana for to smoke)

  • Speaking of insects, scientists have determined the date humans started wearing clothes by studying the DNA of body lice.

  • My D.C. readers may be familiar with this, but my summer in DC I commuted via the Red Line and Blue Line and thus never discovered the Slug Line.

  • Skywatchers can plan the year with the Top 11 Astronomical Events of `11.

  • And I've been forced to side with the Republicans yet again as the governors of Wisconsin and Illinois bet on Sunday's game. Loser volunteers at a food bank in the other state (a good thing) and has to wear the other team's colors (a bad thing... for Pat Quinn!) Kos gets in on the buildup:
    Sunday's game is much bigger than even the Super Bowl. Nothing can ever top beating the Packers in a conference championship (sic). In fact, the two teams haven't even met in a playoff game for over 70 years.

    Sorry Jets and Steelers fans, but this is the game of the year.
  • Thursday, January 20, 2011

    Call it what it is: Bigotry

    Call it what it is: Bigotry

    The rights of minorities have never been popular. That's one of the reasons rights are cemented into constitutions, the most fundamental law and the hardest to change.

    Yet the Iowa House's move to amend the state Constitution and end marriage equality is pushing in just the opposite direction. Despite this paper's slanted headline: "Bill introduced to allow public to vote on same-sex marriage," this is a move to take rights away.

    The Iowa House has dropped all pretense with its wording: "Marriage between one man and one woman shall be the only legal union valid or recognized in this state." That's not a defense of freedom of religion, of the right of churches to recognize what they want. It's a call for official state discrimination. It excludes not just civil marriage but the Marriage Lite of civil unions and domestic partnerships.

    The lead House sponsor of the amendment is Dwayne Alons, the same yo-yo who once said "We shouldn't be as concerned, actually, about warming, especially now that we have modern refrigeration and air conditioning."

    Here's Alons' rationale: "I think the biggest issue is that if that (a same-sex marriage ban) is carried forward, and then Iowa does civil unions and recognizes that as a substitute status, then, from what I've seen in other states," people would come to consider same-sex civil unions as equal to marriage."

    While Alons, and all but four other House Republicans, work that track, newly minted state rep Tom Shaw is doubling down on the impeachment rhetoric: The opinion, written by Justice Cady, rendered that the definition of Iowa’s law declaring that marriage is between one male and one female, was unconstitutional. Furthermore, they ordered that same-sex “marriage” licenses must be issued.... Note the condescending and delegitimizing quotation marks around "marriage."

    Let's just call this what it is. The amendment and impeachment have absolutely nothing to do with "co-equal branches of government." It's not about separation of powers. It's about queers.

    It's bigotry.

    If you are against marriage equality, you are by definition a bigot. You might be a "nice" person who bakes cookies for the neighbor and loves kittens, but you're a bigot. In some ways that makes it even worse because it legitimizes it to other people. You're Fred Phelps with cookies. You are prejudiced against gay people, and believe they should not be given the same rights as others. You are simply arguing that your particular prejudices and bigotries should be endorsed with the force of law--just as bigots have throughout the ages.

    Perhaps you believe this bigotry is a tenet of your religion. If so that's your right, but I feel sorry for you. The leader of my religion, a long-haired sandal wearing guy, was silent on the subject of gay marriage, but He had a lot to say about loving thy neighbor.

    I'm a believer in secular states myself, from here to the Middle East, and don't believe anyone's religious bigotries should be given the force of law.

    This debate, and the related gays in the military debate, comes down to one question: is it OK to be gay? More specifically, is being gay just a way people are, or is it a sinful choice? Overwhelming evidence is that it's just what some people are, no more a "sin" than hair or eye or skin color or set of genitals.

    That's part of why these fights have been so bitter. Bigots are clinging to the thinnest straws, desperate for the state to endorse their prejudices. Saying gay marriage and military service are OK means saying being gay is OK, and that backs people into a corner.

    Much of this is a generational thing. Many people born pre-Baby Boom simply can't conceive of homosexuality and react with hostility and loathing. That's why they're so eager to cement this discrimination into state constitutions; they know time is not on their side as more tolerant generations follow.

    Fifty years after the civil rights movement and two years into the first black president's term, there are still racists, far too many. But our society no longer endorses these prejudices with the force of law, and generational change has eased the most blatant forms of discrimination.

    Read the Varnum v. Brien court ruling. It's eloquent and air-tight. Same goes for the rulings in California's Proposition 8. Denying gays and lesbians equal marriage rights is the very definition of discrimination. Think: if such discrimination weren't so fundamental, would it be necessary to amend the Constitution to "fix" it? The only way to argue against it is to argue against the system itself. Don't like the call? Fire the referees. Don't like the rules of the game? Change them.

    Drop the pretense that this is about anything other than prejudice. Get up on the House floor, say "I hate fags," and sit back down. It'll save us all time and it'll be more honest.

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

    One Year Ago Today

    One Year Ago Today...

    Dems win big in Johnson County special election, but not so much in Massachusetts. Janelle Rettig goes on to win a full term later in the year (with Republican Lori Cardella, despite pledges to run again, nowhere to be seen).

    As for Scott Brown... we'll see next year.

    And seven years ago today: Caucus `04 and The Scream Heard Round The World

    What's Worse

    Q: What's Worse to the BVP constituency: Mitt Romney's religion or Newt's three marriages?

    A: Fred Karger's sexual preference.

    What's worse for me:
    It was not quite a Joe Namath-style guarantee of victory, but President Obama came close on Wednesday when he declared that he's heading to the Super Bowl if his beloved Chicago Bears make it to the game.

    At the end of a quick media spray of his Oval Office meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Obama was asked by a journalist if he's planning to head to the big game on Feb. 6 in Dallas.

    "If the Bears win, I'm going no doubt," Obama said matter-of-factly.

    If nothing else, Obama perhaps put a little bit more pressure on "Da Bears" this weekend because they first have to beat their rival, Green Bay Packers, in the National Football Conference championship game.
    So what's worse: a happy President but a Bears win, or the entire Tea Party suddenly becoming bandwagon Packer fans? (Except for Limbaugh, who will stick with his Steelers.)

    Let's put it this way: I've been a Packer fan a lot longer than I've been a Democrat. And as a Cheesehead who survived the painful mediocrity of the 70s and 80s, I've earned it.

    And doesn't the Legislature have important things to do like firing the state employees, cancelling pre-school and disenfranchising voters? Nope, looks like we get to waste a couple days on dove hunting again.

    Randall Terry in Democratic primaries

    Randall Terry in Democratic primaries?!?

    Here's something to look forward to on TV; those Randall Terry stir-fried fetus ads, aired under the guise of protected campaign speech. The punchline? The Operation Rescue (sic in both senses) founder is looking to run for president in the Democratic primaries:
    Terry added that his campaign had two goals: creating “a crisis of conscience for Americans regarding the slaughter of the unborn and thereby hastening the end of legalized child-killing” and attacking “President Obama’s agenda starting with child-killing, but also including our battle against socialism, our enslavement to debt, and more.”
    So does the party have to open the door to everybody? Not necessarily. Parties control their own nomination process, as the Supreme Court settled in a fight between the Democratic National Committee and Wisconsin in the 80s. And the Democrats have used that power against fringe candidates before:
    In the 1996 Democratic presidential primaries, LaRouche received enough votes in Louisiana and Virginia to get one delegate from each state. However, before the primaries began the Democratic National Committee chair, Donald Fowler, had determined that LaRouche was not a "bona fide Democrat" because of his "expressed political beliefs ... which are explicitly racist and anti-Semitic," and because of his "past activities including exploitation of and defrauding contributors and voters." Fowler instructed state parties to disregard votes for LaRouche.[123][124] LaRouche sued in federal court, claiming a violation of the Voting Rights Act. After losing in the district court, the case was appealed to the First District Court of Appeals, which upheld the lower court's decision.
    So we won't see Terry delegates at the convention. Not that we would anyway, as he'll probably finish behind Mike Gravel and Uncommitted. It's a topsy-turvy world, when Randall Terry, so pro-life that he wants the death penalty for abortion, is a Democrat, while the working class messenger who says "The Rent Is Too Damn High" will run as a Republican.

    But the only barrier to seeing those ads during Super Bowl XLVI may be Terry's checkbook. Fortunately, the price of the Super Bowl ads is Too Damn High.

    The Terry article name-checks Sargent Shriver, who died yesterday, as one of the last significant, presidential level anti-choice Democrats when he was George "Acid Amnesty and Abortion" McGovern's second running mate in the last presidential election before Roe v. Wade.

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    Train in Vain?

    Train in Vain?

    Republicans Don't Want You To Ride The Train, and funding for passenger rail from Iowa City to Chicago is at risk. Who's your pro-business, pro-jobs party here? Democrats, of course:
    “It’s now or never,” said state Sen. Robert Dvorsky, a Coralville Democrat and a passenger train supporter. “I think the stars are in alignment, there is a need and this will create jobs.”

    Nancy Quellhorst, president of the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce, said today the train will provide a transportation choice for travelers.She added that the twice-daily service will be reliable, citing 95 percent on-time service for a similar train operating between Chicago and Quincy, Ill. The Iowa City train, which would also stop in the Quad Cities, would have a projected ridership of 246,000 annually...

    Can't help but note some irony: Demand for trips from Iowa City to Chicago is up, what with the city council and university's determination to kill Iowa City's downtown nightlife. So if the political process can take away those downtown jobs, maybe it can make some new ones in passenger rail.

    Conrad Retires Again

    Conrad Retires Again

    Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) announced his second career retirement today, which gives me an excuse to recall how Conrad kept a term limits pledge yet stayed in the Senate with no break in service. It was a tough trick which may not be possible without some death involved.

    Us old-timers remember that first Kent Conrad retirement. Back in 1992. When he was first elected in `86, Conrad pledged that he'd step down after one term if the deficit hadn't been cut by 80 percent. Despite realizing fairly soon how tough a call that was, Conrad kept his word and stood down in 1992.

    A few months later, the state's other senator, Quentin Burdick, died. (They called him "Young Burdick," even though he was 84 when he died, to distinguish him from his father Usher Burdick, who served in the House.) Conrad had been popular when he retired, and his stock had jumped even higher since he kept his term limit pledge. So he easily won a December `92 special election for the last two years of Young Burdick's term.

    In fact, depending on who you believe, Conrad may have been two senators for a few minutes on December 14, 1992, much in the way Barry Wom was two hairdressers.

    This time Conrad, while still a budget hawk, didn't make any one-term pledges. He won a full term against the tide in 1994, and by the time he was up again in 2000 Bill Clinton had turned the deficit into a surplus. 2006 was a great Democratic year...

    ...which brings us to the present day. Conrad's second retirement still leaves him one short of the career record held by Michael Jordan and Brett Favre, though Favre is likely to break that tie soon if anyone cares. And after Saturday no one in Wisconsin does anymore.

    As for North Dakota, that one'll be a tough hold. It was looking tough even for Conrad; Republicans were already (!) running ads against him in the uber-cheap North Dakota media market.

    I'm not sure what's sillier: the man who was two hairdressers senators or the cat in Boston who got jury duty.

    What's not silly: full court press appears to be on for photo ID to vote. That's not why Mike Mauro lost. Mike Mauro lost because it was a really bad no good horrible year for Democrats, and because with only one term under his belt, a vote for Mauro wasn't yet ingrained to the point of muscle memory the way it is with eight-termers Tom Miller and Mike Fitzgerald. It's time to make Republicans Don't Want You To Vote an acronym, as I'll be using it often and the full phrase fills up 24.2% of a tweet.

    With "the new-found-civility after Tucson" (sic) in the air, Dave Loebsack is all up for shuffling the seats at next week's State Of The Union, but Steve King ain't. I kinda like the spectacle of one side giving standing O's and the other sitting on its hands and glaring, but then I'm a hyperpartisan.

    Hyperpartisan enough, in fact, to wonder what the answer was to this question:
    With doctors preparing Giffords for the rehabilitation stage of her recovery, the discovery Monday of a little-known statutory provision in Arizona law raised the prospect of a legal complication that, if left unamended, would endanger her hold on her seat.

    A statute buried in state law says that if a public officeholder ceases to "discharge the duties of office for the period of three consecutive months," the office shall be deemed vacant and that at such time, a special election could be called to fill the opening.

    But in Washington, lawyers quickly concluded that the statute does not apply to members of Congress. The U.S. Constitution provides the qualifications for service in Congress and makes the House the sole judge of those qualifications.
    More important: that had to have been the Best. Neckrub. Ever.

    Monday, January 17, 2011

    12th Most Tolerant - Or Are We?

    12th Most Tolerant - Or Are We?

    Daily Beast crunches stats on t crimes, legal rights and religious acceptance and finds Iowa as the 12th most tolerant state. Slideshow format is inconvenient but has lovely pics of rainbow flags in front of the Old Capitol at Pride Fest 2007.

    After last fall's Supreme Court massacre, we're considered 12th BEST?!? Hate to be in the 38 that are worse. (My native Wisconsin, tolerant of everything except Bears fans, ranked Number One.)

    Newly minted state rep Tom Shaw likely sees that top twelve as a dirty dozen, and is doubling down on the impeachment rhetoric, complete with the word marriage in delegitimizing quotation marks... The opinion, written by Justice Cady, rendered that the definition of Iowa’s law declaring that marriage is between one male and one female, was unconstitutional. Furthermore, they ordered that same-sex “marriage” licenses must be issued....

    Let's just call this what it is. It has absolutely nothing to do with "co-equal branches of government." It's not about separation of powers. It's about faggots and dykes. It's bigotry. If you are against same-sex marriage, you are by definition prejudiced, bigoted, against gay people, and believe they should not be given the same rights as others. You are simply arguing that your particular prejudices bigotry should be endorsed by law.

    Perhaps you believe this bigotry is a tenet of your religion. If so I feel sorry for you. The leader of my religion was silent on the subject of gay marriage, but had a lot to say about love thy neighbor.

    I'm a believer in secular states myself, and don't believe anyone's religious bigotries should be given the force of law.

    Sunday, January 16, 2011

    Sunday Stuff

    Sunday Stuff

    First thing Branstad does is screw the unions... second thing he does is make it harder to vote... third thing he does is campaign rally for Republican candidate.

    But in Wisconsin the Republicans are looking at taking away election day registration.

    Gerrymandering is hardball at its finest:
    The intent is always blatant, though not usually expressed as forcefully as by one Illinois Democrat who told an opponent, “We are going to shove [this map] up your f——— ass and you are going to like it, and I will f—- any Republican I can.”
    And gun control winds up on the agenda post-Tucson, like it or not... here's a gallery of the top 20 gun lovers and haters in Congress.

    And credit where it's due as John McCain says the right thing.

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    The Great Candidate Mash-Up (or mosh-up?)

    Alan Keyes: Blustering African-American conservative talk radio host who ran against Barack Obama...


    Morrie Taylor, eccentric businessman and self-financing presidential candidate...


    Herman Cain, blustering conservative African-American talk radio host, eccentric businessman and self-financing presidential candidate running against Barack Obama. The first official Republican preidential candidate, and he's a-headed to Iowa! But will he jump in the mosh pit like Keyes?

    With foreword by Zell Miller... must... post... clip...

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    Eloquence and Tone-Deafness

    Eloquence and Tone-Deafness

    I can't think of anything to say that remotely approaches the President's eloquence so I'll let him talk.

    "Gabby opened her eyes" was a remarkable piece of stagecraft, a Lenny Skutnik moment that permanently raises the bar for speeches like this.

    So I feel somewhat small for anything that can be seen as partisan.


    Sarah Palin was part of this story whether she wanted to be or not, whether it's fair or not. We all know "targeted districts" does not literally mean "go shoot your congresswoman in the brain." She had a tragic yet real opportunity to, like Obama, elevate the debate, to appear, shall we say, presidential.

    Instead, she dropped an egocentric, isolated, tone-deaf, and at times even whiny, vanity video. I mean, good God, even Jan "papers please" Brewer managed to rise to the occasion.

    I've been saying "Palin gets nominated, Obama wins 45 2/3 states." I take it back now. She has once and for all proven herself incapable of anything beyond the defensive politics of resentment. She is, in the end, just another "pundint", speaking only to one side of The Great Cultural Divide. Palin is no longer, if she ever was, someone who deserves to be taken seriously, not in the league of a Romney or a Huckabee or even a Pawlenty.

    This is the moment that Sarah Palin has, at long last, jumped the shark.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    Hopson Wins in UHeights

    Hopson Wins in University Heights

    A seat flips in University Heights as Rosanne Hopson defeats appointed city council member Jim Lane in tonight's special election, 262 to 233 (53% to 47%).

    The election in this odd enclave surrounded on all sides by Iowa City (apparently an annexation war was fought in the late 1950s and early 60s) saw high absentee voting: 248 ballots counted, one more than the election day vote. It's the third time a Johnson County election has seen more early voters than election day voters (the others were a 2003 Iowa City school bond and the 2008 presidential election).

    Interestingly, Hopson won the absentees with 58%, while Lane carried the election day vote with 53%.

    The combined turnout of 495 voters sets a University Heights city election record, topping the 414 votes in the hard-fought 2009 election. But it falls short of the 570 voters U. Heights saw in the general election last fall, and the 56% turnout falls short of the 70% local special election turnout record, set in a 1999 Swisher water utility vote.

    The election was fought almost entirely over redevelopment of the St. Andrew Church property (ironically, the church has long served as the city's polling place). Last month, the council voted 4 to 1 to approve a site plan for the project, though the church has not yet sold the property.

    Lane, appointed to fill a council vacancy last summer, was part of that 4 to 1 council majority. Hopson and other project opponents petitioned for the special election.

    Hopson's win ends a long streak in Johnson County, dating back to at least 1994. Until tonight, every special election required by petition saw the original appointee win and the challenger lose. That pattern has held whether the petition came from the left (Pat Gilroy vs. Don Sehr, 1994) or right (Lori Cardella vs. Janelle Rettig, 2009-10; Steve Lacina vs. Deb Conger in 1997) of the local spectrum.

    University Heights council members serve two year terms, so all five members including Hopson will be up for re-election this fall.

    Uncommitted Campaign for Iowa Democrats?

    Uncommitted Campaign for Iowa Democrats?

    A former county party chair in Iowa's most Democratic county is organizing a campaign for uncommitted "Healthcare not Warfare" delegates in next year's first in the nation caucuses.

    But another former county chair who caucused against Bill Clinton's renomination in 1996 says the effort is unlikely to see much success.

    Jeff Cox, a University of Iowa history professor who chaired the Johnson County Democrats in the early 1980s, is hosting an initial uncommitted campaign meeting on Monday, which is not coincidentally the national Martin Luther King holiday.

    "Dr. King argued that it was time for Americans, including loyal Democrats and independents, to oppose the Viet Nam War openly, not only on the grounds that it was destructive, unwinnable, and lacked the support of the American people, but also because it was preventing Americans from dealing with urgent domestic social problems," said Cox, who supported Dennis Kucinich in the 2004 and 2008 caucuses.

    Cox hopes to elected uncommitted delegates who will support universal health care and "the withdrawal of all American forces from Afghanistan within the first year of the next President's term in office."

    Johnson County, home to Iowa City and the University of Iowa, is well known as the most liberal part of the state. Local Democrats have taken the pejorative "People's Republic of Johnson County" label popularized by long-time Des Moines Register writer David Yepsen and turned it into a badge of pride. The county was the state's number one spot for Barack Obama both in the January 2008 caucuses--52 percent of delegates--and in the November 2008 presidential election, where Obama overwhelmed John McCain 70 percent to 28 percent.

    "We welcome participation in the Iowa Democratic Caucus and look forward to a campaign that addresses the issues important to all Americans, including access to health care and ending the war in Afghanistan," said Iowa Democratic Party communications director Sam Roecker.

    "Over the past two years President Obama has already championed reform that expands health care access to millions of Americans, while working with our nation's military leaders to bring a responsible end to combat operations in Iraq as we focus on ending the war in Afghanistan," Roecker added. "President Obama and our Democratic leaders continue to be strong advocates for peace and increasing the welfare of the American people."

    In 1996, the last cycle in which a Democratic president sought re-election, Johnson County elected a handful of uncommitted and Ralph Nader delegates. The exact number is unclear. "The results were suppressed by the Johnson County Democratic Party until a few days later, when it didn't matter," says Cox, who was among the Nader supporters.

    The day after the 1996 caucuses, the Iowa City Press-Citizen (2/13/96) reported results from 46 of the county's then 51 precincts and a unanimous result for President Bill Clinton. Subsequent editions did not follow up.

    One of those invisible 1996 delegates was Rod Sullivan. "You can fix things from within, or you can leave," says Sullivan, who went on to chair the Johnson County Democrats from 2000 to 2003. He resigned as chair to successfully run for the county Board of Supervisors, where he still serves.

    Sullivan was one of Barack Obama's earliest and most prominent supporters in the run-up to the 2008 caucuses, and says he still plans to support Obama. "I'm both happy and disappointed" in Obama's performance in office, says Sullivan. "I think dissent within the party structure can be healthy."

    "It was the only party-sanctioned place to express any dissent, so I did," Sullivan says of the 1996 uncommitted/Nader effort. "Many of us were social workers, there were a few people of color, and some gay rights activists. There was no single theme."

    Sullivan has remained active in the nuts and bolts of county party politics since moving from county chair to elected office. Cox has been much less visible at party functions in recent years, focusing instead on direct issue-related work.

    Since 1996, the caucus reporting process has been changed. Precincts report results directly to state party headquarters, bypassing the county chairs.

    "I don't think that will happen again in 2012, i.e. renomination will not be unanimous in Iowa, assuming the results are reported in a timely manner," says Cox.

    "In contrast to 1996, it is also more likely that there will be some debates in the caucuses about the direction of the country under current Democratic leadership," says Cox.

    Uncommitted actually won the 1976 caucuses, but that result was considered less important than Jimmy Carter's unexpected second place finish. In 2008, handfuls of uncommitted delegates were elected (1.5 percent in Johnson County. 0.2 percent statewide), but most of those wins resulted from coalitions of second tier candidates in the wheel-and-deal of second choice votes in Iowa's unique process.

    Under Iowa Democratic caucus rules, attendees indicate their support by going to different parts of a room and counting off. Thus any Democrat opposing President Obama's nomination will do so in full view of their neighbors, without a secret ballot. Uncommitted supporters will need to attract at least 15 percent of the caucus attendees in a precinct to their corner--literally--in order to elect delegates to the next level, the county convention. This 15 percent rule, called "viability" in caucus-speak, repeats itself at county, congressional district, and state conventions.

    Sullivan says it is "extremely doubtful" that uncommitted can reach the 15 percent viability threshold against Obama.

    Republicans, in contrast, handle re-election years differently, holding no vote at all in 1984, 1992 and 2004 when Ronald Reagan and the Bushes sought re-election. The lack of a vote in 1992 was significant, as Pat Buchanan was running a high profile challenge to George H.W. Bush in New Hampshire.

    Iowa's Republican caucuses are a simple one person one vote straw poll, with no direct relation to the election of delegates.

    Next year's caucuses, for both parties, are currently scheduled for Monday, February 6, but in recent years caucus dates have been announced and later changed as other states try to knock Iowa out of its first in the nation slot. Iowa Democrats and Republicans have traditionally cooperated to keep their caucuses on the same date and to protect their treasured first slot.

    Details for the locals: The Iowa Healthcare not Warfare Caucus Campaign will hold its initial meeting in Iowa City on Monday, January 17, 4:30 p.m., at the Iowa City Public Library, Room E.

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Is Next: Linux Monday

    Is иext: Liиux Moиday

    In America, you put in Linux. In Soviet Яussia, Putin Linux you! Da, everybody's favorite autocrat is going open source. Even has five year plan (more like four). Best line: "If Putin says: 'make it so', I suspect that a lot of people will jump pretty fast to make sure that it is so."

    Wall Street Journal speculates:
    Putin's motives are not strictly economic. In all likelihood, his real fear is that Russia's growing dependence on proprietary software, especially programs sold by foreign vendors, has immense implications for the country's national security. Free open-source software, by its nature, is unlikely to feature secret back doors that lead directly to Langley, Va.
    "I can see Linux from my house," twittered one Wasilla, AK reader.

    On this side of the bering strait, the big Linux news is in the tablet market, as the iPad gets some open source competition.

    And speaking of Apple, that app store was in the Linux world in 1998...

    Sunday, January 09, 2011

    Thoughts on Gabby Giffords

    Thoughts on Gabby Giffords

    I was checking my Blackberry on my way out the door yesterday when I saw the messages about Gabrielle Giffords; as it turns out, the first one I saw was the erroneous NPR report that she had died.

    My first thoughts were of my friends in elected office. I mean that in the actual "friends" sense, not the political BS "my honorable friend" sense. I'm talking about help you move kind of friends, people I've known 20 years, whose children I've watched grow up.

    I've seen some of these friends dehumanized for their views or personalities. Even as a bit player, I've been a caricatured target of hate speech myself. I've never felt in fear for my safety, but I have been intimidated out of discussing some topics, and it's making me choose my words differently now.

    Metaphors of battle are part of the fabric of politics on all sides. I'm trying to think of a term to use in place of "targeted district" and I can't. But in all fairness, the rhetoric of the right has been uncomfortably loaded with gun and combat imagery the last couple years, escalating exponentially since Obama's election. It's eerily reminiscent of the climate of 1995, just before Oklahoma City.

    Two years ago, as state senator Matt McCoy was getting death threats, David Niewert called this sort of rhetoric "eliminationism":
    "Right-wing rhetoric has been explicitly eliminationist, calling for the infliction of harm on whole blocs of American citizens: liberals, gays and lesbians, Latinos, blacks, Jews, feminists, or whatever target group is the victim du jour of right-wing ire."
    No other country, save perhaps some banana republics in the middle of civil wars, is as gun-fixated as we are. I'm never going to run for public office again so I'll say it. The 2nd Amendment is my least favorite part of the Constitution. Maybe it's because my dad went fishing instead of hunting, but I simply do not understand why anyone wants or "needs" a gun. The most I can muster is a begrudging acceptance that some people are absolutists about their 2nd Amendment the way I am about my 1st.

    I recognize the contradiction; Sarah Palin has the absolute right to put gunsight targets on a map. The correct response is not to ban such rhetoric, but to call it out. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik says it best: "It may be free speech, but it does not come without consequences."

    Iowans with long memories know that Tom Vilsack got his political start when a disgruntled gunman opened fire on the Mt. Pleasant City Council. Here in Iowa City, we had an ugly public meeting last month, with a followup on the same subject scheduled for Tuesday. A rough draft first attempt to regulate a trailer park slum is being mis-represented as The Gubmint Trying To Take My Farm, with a corresponding escalation in rhetoric:
    "Portwood said people wonder why some of these people go off their rocker, and go around and get a gun and get even. He said sometimes it makes a guy even consider it. Stutsman said she hopes not. Portwood asked if Board members understand what he is saying; there are people who go berserk, that's it, they snap."
    Our state gun laws have been loosened, to an uncomfortable degree, as of a week ago. Only four senators and sixteen representatives, all Democrats, resisted the gun lobby pressure and voted against this flawed law. We're seriously asking questions like: Can we legally say no guns in the library? No guns in the courtroom? The fears now being expressed by public officials and staffers aren't paranoia. As the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords shows, those concerns are real.

    Friday, January 07, 2011


    BozWatch: Where's Leonard?

    Swing State Project picks up on Roll Call's article on Iowa redistricting. Emphasis added:
    Septuagenarian Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell, who's been a prime candidate for retirement for a number of cycles now, tells Roll Call that he will be running again in 2012, regardless of what district he gets stuck into. Tom Latham, Bruce Braley, and Dave Loebsack all plan to "plow ahead" as well; only Steve King didn't comment, although his district, by virtue of geography (having the state's western half pretty much to itself) seems least likely to get messed with. A collision between Des Moines-based Boswell and Ames-based GOPer Latham seems likeliest to me, but with a commission making the decisions, almost any configuration seems possible.
    The latest test of Blue Dogness happened this morning when the House passed the rule for debate on the "job-killing health care law" (sic; one more dose of petty). But two important things: 1) four Dawgs (Boren, Kissell, McIntyre, Ross) voted with the Republicans and 2) on the two roll calls (#9 and #10), Leonard Boswell was absent. Not decisive to the margin, but symbolically significant. Boz also missed the vote to cancel the votes by the two House Republicans who skipped their own swearing-in to attend an illegal fundraiser.

    Speaking of blue dogs, anyone else remember when Steve from Blues's Clues quit to start a punk rock band?

    Thank You, Governor

    Thank You, Governor Culver

    From the jam-packed mid-day Hamburg Inn crowd of 80ish to the long list of accomplishments, you'd have though it was a victory lap.

    With one week to go in his term, Chet Culver reflected only briefly on the central reason for his Thursday Iowa City, part of an eight city “Thank You Iowa” tour: his own defeat in November.

    "Winning is more fun, but I'm at peace that the people of Iowa have chosen another direction," he said of his loss to Terry Branstad, wishing the old/new governor well. "We have our differences, now we need to convince them to change their minds."

    "I'm just one voice. I'm sleeping better at night knowing these folks are still gonna be there," he said of legislators Mary Mascher (who will be in a 60-40 Democratic minority in the House) and Bob Dvorsky (part of a one-vote Democratic Senate majority).

    The legislators were among a multitude of elected folks on hand to with Culver well: a large courthouse contingent (Rettig Sullivan Slockett Painter Lyness) and four mayors of cities that suffered from the floods of 2008. Two of those were Iowa City past and present - Regenia Bailey and Matt Hayek. Also on hand were Jim Fausett of Coralville and the mayor of the city that got hit hardest of all, Benita Grooms of Oakville. Remember when both the Iowa and the Mississippi were overflowing their banks? Oakville's where they meet.

    (Tangent: Benita was one of my strongest supporters long ago in my house race, and I giver her more credit than I give myself for winning Oakville. She was traveling with another of my `96 allies, Don Paulson of Muscatine County.)

    Flood survival and recovery topped Culver's list of accomplishments. "We were faced with unprecedented challenges the last four years," he said. "We've never had a disaster of that magnitude. THe same is true of the economy, with the worst downturn since the Great Depression."

    "The thing I'm taking away from this office is how Iowans have come together through these challenges, and that'll make us stronger for our future. We're leading America out of the recession, we have $900 million in the bank and a AAA bond rating. 99 percent of our children have health care. We've added 58,000 kids to our health care rolls and we're number one in terms of adding children to preschool."

    That last item is in particular jeopardy, as preschool spending is on the chopping block for Branstad and the House Republicans. But on another hot issue, soon to be private citizen Culver offered an unequivocal opinion: "We're NOT going to amend the Constitution in a way that's discriminatory and wrong."

    "I'm not sure what's next for me," Culver said of his own immediate future. He said his children are looking forward to spending more time with Dad, and he's signed up for one old pursuit again: "I'll be coaching my son's fourth grade football team."

    As for career prospects after 12 years in elected office (eight as Secretary of State before his term as governor), Culver said he wants to stay in Iowa and work in the renewable energy sector.

    More photos at Facebook

    Thursday, January 06, 2011

    Two Good Things

    Two Good Things Under Speaker Boehner

    I hate to say it but two good things have already happened since Republicans took over yesterday:

  • When they divvied up the Constitution to read, they made a perfect choice and gave the 13th Amendment to John Lewis: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States." Would have been more powerful if preceded with the 3/5 Clause, though.

  • And Boehner's not a Birther: "The state of Hawaii has said that President Obama was born there. That's good enough for me."

    Still, Iowans will have one point of confusion. US House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), meet Iowa House Ninority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Des Moines)...
  • Reading List

    Reading List

    As the House Republicans read the Constitution, they dodge a few issues:
    "They're going to read the founding document, as amended... without the spectacle of repeating passages such as 'Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.'
    Thus softening the history lesson, much in the manner of the new censored edition of Huck Finn.

    Rumors that the Iowa City Council and UI administration had volunteered to read the 18th Amendment are not yet proven as of press time.

    Still, the GOP has a couple problems:
    But I'm wondering if, amid all the comity, we'll hear some booing from the House floor during the reading of some of the less sacred parts of the sacred text — say, when someone intones the words from the 14th Amendment about how, according to the Constitution, so-called anchor babies are actually American citizen babies.
    I nominate Steve King for that one...
    Or how about the 16th? Do you want to be the Republican who's stuck reading, "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration"?
    In other House action, Leonard Boswell passes the first test of Blue Dog vs. Actual Democrat by backing Nancy Pelosi for speaker; 19 fellow "Democrats" fail that test.

    Here's a thought:
    No matter how aggressive the policy, we are not going to find 11 million new jobs soon. So common sense suggests we should make some decisions about who should have the first crack: older people, who have already worked three or four decades at hard jobs? Or younger people, many just out of school, with fresh skills and ambitions?

    As a rough cut, why not enact a three-year window during which the age for receiving full Social Security benefits would drop to 62 -- providing a voluntary, one-time, grab-it-now bonus for leaving work? Let them go home! With a secure pension and medical care, they will be happier. Young people who need work will be happier. And there will also be more jobs. With pension security, older people will consume services until the end of their lives. They will become, each and every one, an employer.

    A proposal like this could transform a miserable jobs picture into a tolerable one, at a single stroke.
    And a massive time sink: a map of North American accents. With Sarah Palin literally as an archetype. I never did think she talked funny: That lime-green blob in Alaska's Mat-Su Valley matches the North Central region stretching from Da UP to Nort' Dakota and including my paternal ancestral roots in northern WisCONsin, where my relatives talk like Fargo characters. You betcha. Also.

    Tuesday, January 04, 2011

    Truncated Headlines

    House GOP budget bill could kill Iowa City

    Funny how tabbed browsing will reveal the truth by truncating a headline. The whole thing says "House GOP budget bill could kill Iowa City passenger train" but I think the short version is more accurate, if not quite as funny as "News From The Ass... ociated Press."

    The centerpieces of the Iowa House Republican budget plan are an end to faculty sabbaticals and cuts in state employee benefits.

    These cuts fall heaviest on The People's Republic of Johnson County. Given the anti-intellectual, evolution and global warming denying bent of the current Iowa Republican base, this serves a dual purpose for the GOP agenda. It shrinks government closer to their dream of drown it in a bathtub size, and it punishes the number one Chet Culver county in the state by ten points and the ONLY county Roxanne Conlin won.

    Could this be a coincidence? I'm thinking not.