Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year In Review 2013

In best Hunter Thompson style I have delayed the Year In Review post till 6 1/2 hours before deadline. I may have to resort to heavy drugs to meet the mark, although in my case "heavy" is caffeine and the greater hazard may be that midnight New Years Eve is pretty late for an old man like me.

New Years Eve is of course also the anniversary of the Deeth Blog, in this case 11 years. I celebrated by shameless self-promotion, nabbing my 1000th Twitter follower today, the same day Jack Hatch got his 100th and Pat Murphy got halfway there.

Step into the DeLorean and floor it till we hit 88 MPH:


Iowa's political story of the year is no contest, because every other big political story of the year flows out of it.  Tom Harkin's January 26 retirement sets up the first open seat US Senate race in 40 years, moved Bruce Braley into that race from a widely rumored run for governor, opened up the governor field on the Democratic side AND Braley's congressional seat on both sides, and led every major GOP pol in the state to consider - and reject - the Senate race.

The biggest event of my year happened on day one. We got a new auditor and despite the naysayers (and despite HyVee) you could still vote early in Johnson County. Not holding my breath waiting for the mea culpas. We put Travis Weipert to work right away with three big elections in the first four months.

Those votes weren't in January but the stars aligned for two of them. Dems prepped for the second of these with a nominating convention, choosing Terry Dahms to run for the supervisor seat Sally Stutsman vacated to serve in the legislature. The four remaining supervisors, meanwhile, decided to give a minor variation of the narrowly defeated justice center another try. (This is the literary tactic we call foreshadowing.)

Nationally, it looked like something might finally happen on immigration reform. Hillary Clinton left her job yet did not immediately come to Iowa. Joe Biden hosts re-inauguration party and invites entire state.


Pat Murphy jumps into the congressional race and I immediately start making maximum efforts to annoy him. We need a woman, I say, though Swati Dandekar is NOT what I mean. All eyes turn to Liz Mathis...

Local Republicans make noise about supervisor districts. I definitively disprove their case while mocking no-chance candidate John Etheredge. Quote of the year from redistricting consultant Jerry Mandering, trying to equalize population: "I used to work in New Jersey and if you asked for a half a body, well, I knew a guy."

In the spring's first election, the Iowa City school district passes a revenue purpose statement, though the fighting was about the equity plan and whose school gets closed. The No side's "People for All" (huh?) wins the prize for vaguest campaign committee name ever.

Yet ANOTHER special election gets scheduled, this time in the Vatican.

Song of the year competition is over: I've been shopping at Goodwill for decades but Macklemore makes me cool for the last time in my life.

The Olympics threaten to cancel wrestling. Dan Gable threatens to beat the crap out of them with his gold medal.

GOP gets so dysfunctional that they have to have TWO separate State of the Union rebuttals, as Marco Rubio is feeling a little parched. And John McCain gets booed out of his own town hall for saying mass deportation of the undocumented might be a bad thing.



Every star aligned just right for John Etheredge and just wrong for the Democrats, for a Republican win in the People's Republic. The second biggest electoral surprise of the month, trailing that Some Dude from Argentina winning the Special Pope Election. Local election returns need to incorporate that black smoke/white smoke thing.

Contrary to our initial reactions. the Admin Building did NOT collapse when a GOP supervisor walked in the door. Etheredge has been relatively quiet, casting some symbolic lone no votes on stuff like Earth Week and Pride Month and more substantive votes on a few borderline zoning issues.

Endorsement of the year: Zombie Reagan supports Cedar Rapids casino. Must have helped; it passed.

Some other state passes marriage equality.


Election season yet again as both sides of the justice center fight repeat themselves.

State auditor David Vaudt resigns to take a job as head of the government accounting association, a path that looks like a permanent exit from politics. Terry Branstad appoints Mary Mosiman, who immediately looks like a candidate.

Republicans announce a 2014 caucus date of Saturday 1/25 - which comes as a complete surprise to Democrats who at least expected a heads up. I spend the next several months seething and working the back channels on both sides. 

Liz Mathis finally and definitively takes herself out of the running for the 1st CD.

Maggie Thatcher dies.  Elvis Costello and I spit on the grave; Ian Rubbish's take is probably more interesting.

Question for Hawkeye hoops fans: Would you trade the NIT runner-up, with its five extra games including two at home and two at Madison Square Garden, for a #13 seed and a first round loss in the NCAA?


After the same justice center argument, the same result give or take a point. The lefties and libertarian message carried No to another minority-victory, yet Americans For Prosperity (making their first appearance in this review) was remarkably fast to claim it as a "taxpayer victory" on election night. Also remarkable: the vagueness of the No side's campaign finance reports. Coincidence?

It takes the rest of the year for the county to regroup, and no one expresses any interest in my master plan to move the UI Art Museum to the old courthouse.

Petitions float around Iowa City. The city attorney applies some deft maneuvering to keep red light cameras off the ballot, and more importantly to de-motivate their voters. But the bar owners can't resist giving 21 bar repeal just one more try, and even though I know what's gonna go down as soon as I hear about it, I also know exactly what I'm going to say and do.

The floodgates open on the GOP side of the Senate race. After months of tease, Steve King, in a 9:35 Friday night news dump, opts out. Every second tier GOPer in the state opts in. And with session ending, the Democratic governors race gets moving, with the names Tyler Olson and Jack Hatch popping up.

The name Monica Vernon starts to circulate among Democrats seeking a woman other than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick in the 1st CD. Does that complete the field?

Caucus rumblings start as Rand Paul shows up in town, but Hillary Clinton does not.

Some other state passes marriage equality.


Back to back Supreme Court bombshells, with the evisceration of the meat of the Voting Rights Act buried, seemingly on purpose, the day before the demise of DOMA. That cast a little pall over the celebration. Southern states spent the rest of the summer passing vote suppression laws they'd been itching to enact for decades.

The mass deportation now crowd beats up on a 10 year old kid singing his national anthem for his basketball team. The Spurs respond by inviting him back.

Locally, a legislative seat opens up as the GOPs Sandy Greiner steps down in swingish Senate 39. Republicans rapidly announce; Democrats hold off.

THAT was what I was looking for as Kajtazovic explored (across 20 counties) then joined the 1st CD race. My support was so immediate and enthusiastic that it became a bit of a meme. Inexplicably, another straight old white guy also announced.

After I dismiss Jim Mowrer's chances in the race against Steve King, he calls me up and wins me over. Good move by a good guy, More politicians should try that approach.

Terry Branstad got caught traveling too fast, then compounded the problem in a failed damage control effort that stretched a one day story into a three week flop (I tried hard to extend it). Low point: Autobahn jokes.

Of all the things I've ever written, THIS gets the most traffic? The Johnson County Dems accidentally stumble upon Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis at the Oxford 4th of July parade, I snap a couple (really poor quality) photos, and I get a month's worth of traffic in a day.

False alarm of the year: UI announces Cory Booker as welcome week speaker without realizing that the New Jersey special Senate election has changed his availability. National political twittersphere blows up - IOWA! - for two hours till UI retracts. Despite the suddenly open speaking date for August 29, Hillary Clinton does not come to Iowa.

August was also a bumpy month for the university, beginning with Number One Party School and ending with Vodka Samm. Sounds like an opportunity for the 21 Bar repeal campaign, but they continue to lay low.

As bad a month as Sally Mason had, Kent Sorenson had it worse as The Iowa Republican displayed the smoking guns on his payoff for his last-second caucus flip from Team Bachmann to Big Liberty.

House Democratic caucus change as minority leader Kevin McCarthy resigns to start his 2018 attorney general campaign go to work for Tom Miller. Mark Smith wins the leadership in what was reportedly a close race, while Brian Meyer eventually wins McCarthy's safe House seat for the Dems in the October special election.

Republicans, meanwhile, get crosswise with their base with an effort to push the state convention (which could nominate the Senate candidate) back from June 2014 to July. I use the flap to make the case, in exquisite detail, for getting the two parties to caucus on the same date. It draws far less traffic than Ashton Kutcher. But maybe it helps.

Locally, the school board race is like the weather unusually hot, with shifting Survivor-like alliances, conditional "IF you use your third vote" support, and lesbian-bashing. As for the next election, the city council fields are set. Iowa City gets a clear insider vs. outsider choice and manages to avoid an October primary for the first time in two decades.


The school election turns into the Battle of the Boot. A united West High base elects Coralville's Tuyet Dorau and Chris Lynch, while giving few votes to their "IF you use your third vote" candidate, Sara Barron. The east side vote gets split between a Hoover faction and a City High faction, with Brian Kirschling taking the third seat and incumbent Karla Cook losing. Turnout nearly doubles previous records.

Immediately after the election, board member Jeff McGinness gets in got water over his legal practice. Calls for resignation are difficult to separate from school agendas.
The week of his 80th birthday Chuck Grassley announces, three years ahead of time, that he's running for a seventh term in 2016.

To the amazement of everyone, the Republican state central committee not only moves their 2014 convention back to June, but also does the right thing and coordinates their caucus schedule with the Democrats. Both parties are set for January 21. I sigh in great relief that I don't have to lead a lonely and likely to fail effort to get Dems to move to the GOP's original Saturday date. But that doesn't stop me from ranting "18 is adult" about the 21 bar vote at every opportunity.

Some other state passes marriage equality.


The government goes off line and Obamacare goes on line.  Sort of.

Game over for Kent Sorenson, who keeps his defiant attitude yet resigns. The special election never really gets all that hot as GOP Rep. Julian Garrett defeats ex-Dem Rep. Mark Davitt with relative ease.

I take a break from beating up on Pat Murphy and start in on Hillary Clinton instead, just to prove I'm not sexist or something. I like Hillary. Really I do. I like her so much I want to see her in Iowa.

The fate of the 21 bar vote is cast within a couple hours of the start of the first satellite voting site. Turnout is just high enough to scare the Love The Hawkeyes Hate The Students vote, but people who know how to count realize that even though the numbers LOOK big, they're half of the total from previous efforts. Meanwhile, the entire off-campus campaign consists of my editorial.

As for the candidates, you can't cross the street without bumping into a forum. Unless you're Terry Dickens, who skipped out if he didn't like the hosts. Coralville suddenly finds itself with the hottest local election as Americans For Prosperity staffs up, targets incumbents, and reportedly offers large sums to get challenger candidates on board.

Johnson County Dems have a barbecue and four candidates for governor show up. Don't know who the winner is, but the loser is clearly Some Dude Paul Dahl. Just for fun, I go the the Republican barbecue the same weekend where they have five Senate candidates.

Aaron Rodgers gets knocked down and doesn't get back up.


Our top story this month: JFK is still dead.

I find myself backing a winner for the first time all year as Kingsley Botchway earns a council seat. Royceann Porter and Rockne Cole fall short, but the biggest loser is Catherine Champion, who fails to grab the baton in the smooth hand off attempt from Mom.

But it's 21 Bar, not the candidates, that drove Iowa City turnout, as a fifth of the voters and not just students skipped the council races. Team 19 took a brutal beating; I had my "you know, the drinking age is still actually a real issue" postmortem written six days before the election. Still waiting for some serious feedback on that one.

Americans For Prosperity read Coralville completely wrong as an incumbent slate, led by John Lundell moving up from council to mayor, won a solid victory. Joe Biden called Lundell; Hillary Clinton didn't.

And if they can get the church torn down and the foundation poured in two years, the Battle of University Heights may finally be over as the Build It Bigger coalition swept all five seats and defeated three Build It Smaller incumbents.

In the Democratic governor's race, it's becoming clear that Tyler Olson is gaining an edge over Jack Hatch.


Deadline is 58 minutes away. The first two hours were wasted on a trip to Hy-Vee and cooking the purchases. Since all these events are more recent, I'm merely skimming now.

Some other state passes marriage equality.

Two more campaign bombshells. Out of nowhere Tyler Olson announces that his wife wants a divorce. He first suspends the campaign then ends it. There is no great rush by Olson supporters to endorse Jack Hatch. Instead, names like Janet Peterson start coming up.

Probably even more important, Tom Latham announces (on the same day as two other senior congressional Republicans) that he's not seeking re-election. The line for the GOP nomination forms on the right. There is no great rush to endorse Democrat Staci Appel. We're not done with the aftershocks of this one, let alone the fallout.

Aaron Rodgers gets back up in the best way possible.

Some other state passes marriage equality.

I mark a major personal anniversary, a birthday with an age ending in zero. I celebrate by permanently retiring "too old to be cool too young not to care," as at 50 I am now to old to care.

As always the Deeth Blog New Year's Resolution is to spell-check before I publish, and looking back over these posts it's clear I broke it again last year.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The last couple o' weeks in review

I've gotten pretty sloppy with this feature, and writing in general, the last two weeks. Chalk it up to the mandatory political break of the holidays. Right before the break I speculated that lots of serious discussions with families would be happening that will impact Iowa's suddenly reconfigured governor and 3rd CD races.

Your inbox, like mine, is no doubt rapidly filling up with last-second pleas from federal candidates before tomorrow night's quarterly federal finance filing deadline. The actual reports aren't due till the 15th but by weeks end candidates who think they've had good quarters will be bragging. But silence speaks louder and this may be the moment some of that crowded Republican Senate fields reconsiders that 3rd CD race.

Brad Zaun seems to be calling dibs on that one, though I don't see losing to chronic under-performer Leonard Boswell in the best Republican year in two decades as a resume bullet point.

The rumour mill also seems to include every mid-term central Iowa GOP senator, and of course Matt Schultz. If he runs for something other than Secretary of State, he has to talk about something other than photo ID and I don't know if he is able. I repeat: that signature issue serves him best in the race for his current job.

Republican Mark LeRette dropped out of the crowded House 91race in Muscatine but offered some good GOTV advice:
Which would be good, if the Johnson County Hy-Vees hadn't kicked early voting out of their stores this year.

This might solve the problem of more candidates than seats: do our congressional districts have too many people? Apparently there's a rule of thumb that the ideal size of a legislative body is the cube root of the population. That'd give us a US House of 675 members and Iowa would at least gain the 5th CD back. The Iowa House would have 143 which isn't so far off the House plus Senate total of 150.

Late entry in Tweet Of The Year contest:
But loses points for not using the Chuck Grassley Assume Deer Dead format.

Here's something that would never ever ever happen in Johnson County politics:
I briefly used a pen name in grad school on advice of advisers. My campus only had about nine TAs and our very existence was mildly controversial. But I've always been a strong believer in putting your real name on stuff, which I've done since 1990. I still think so even though I was in a situation - a boss with a reputation for retaliation - where anonymity would have been useful.

Speaking of grad school, among the reasons I dropped out: http://lolmythesis.com/. "One sentence summaries of years of academic work, by that work's author."

And Johnson County journalism loses one of its best as Adam Sullivan is moving from the PC to a new job as communications coordinator at the Crisis Center. Congrats and don't lose your voice.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Jacobs' Double Registration A Common Thing

Matt Schultz has yet to charge GOP US Senate candidate Mark Jacobs with voter fraud for the recent revelation that's he's simultaneously registered to vote in both Iowa and Texas. This rare restraint is actually a good thing.

Oh, it's a problem for Jacobs, sure, just as it's a problem for Senate candidate Liz Cheney, whose husband found himself registered in both Wyoming and Virginia. But the problem is simply a political embarrassment, a reminder to the press and public of the major criticism against both Cheney and Jacobs: that their adult ties to their states of birth are tenuous.

Judgement on that will be passed by the voters, not the courts. Those trial dates are later. For now, I'll look at some of the reasons this is a common problem and more of a glitch that a crime.

Most of you readers know I've worked in the auditor's office for 16 years, so for this story I'll be my own source.

IИ SФVIЗT ЯЦSSIД VФTЭ Я3GISTЭЯS УФЦ! Seriously. Most countries handle voter registration as part of a census or address registration process. But in the US, the burden is on you, the voter, which means the data is self-reported.

That includes current addresses and old addresses. There's a spot on the form to put down a former address. That's because we're required to notify the old jurisdiction that you've moved-which of course relies on you telling us in the first place.

Within the state it's easy and has improved a lot since the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002. There's a statewide database. You move from Ankeny to Iowa City? We look you up and take you away from Polk County in one step.

But if you move from Rock Island? We can't get into the Illinois database.  We have to count on you knowing you were registered there and telling us. Then we have to send a notice to Rock Island. And then we have to count on Rock Island getting it and processing it.

Which isn't HARD but frankly if it's presidential election crunch time we work on the people who want to vote here and now first, and play catch-up on the cancellations both incoming and outgoing. There are some cross-state checking processes which have started the last few years. Those are slow and tend to get worked on during "down time."

There's also an annual mailing based on data from the postal service, which I'll talk about more when we do it. One step of this process is a status called "inactive" registration which no one outside of an auditor's office seems to understand. Think of it as preliminary cancellation. You can even send the card, which is really poorly designed and non-intuitive back to us and check the box that says "yes I moved to Wyoming," but if you forget to SIGN it we can't dump you.

Rarest of all: a person who comes in and actually asks to be un-registered. Usually it's for an unusual reason and usually un-registering doesn't solve it, and almost never is it about "I'm moving away." We actually had one last week, took three of us to find the form.

Remember, normal people who don't read political blogs on a Sunday morning think about this process every two or four years. They frequently don't remember whether they last voted in their parent town or their college town or that place they had a job for one year.

Even more often they can't remember a four year old address or the name of the county. If they're in an office with me standing there I encourage anything. Just "Illinois" helps. But if they're doing it on their own, or with a campaign staffer who's in a hurry and only cares about NOW, it can get left blank without invalidating the registration.

So all these things are just human error, simple mistakes in a bureaucratic process. Actually, you can say that about virtually all of the "fraud" our Secretary of State is seeking so diligently.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sharp Contrast in Sec of State Race

It's been buried in an avalanche of debris from the Olson and Latham dropouts, but two stories this week perfectly illustrate the stark contrast in the Secretary of State race.

Democratic challenger Brad Anderson set a goal of getting Iowa's vote turnout to top that of Minnesota, which has long been number one in the nation.

“Good isn’t good enough,” Anderson says of this electoral challenge. “We’re Iowa. We should be number one. That should be our goal.”

By coincidence, next year's Iowa-Minnesota game is the Saturday after the general election, so we should be able to keep Floyd of Rosedale and celebrate beating Minnesota twice in the same week.

Not so fast, says Mark Jenkins, chair of Minnesota's Independence Party. "JD, don't worry, coming in second in voter turnout will be a very admirable accomplishment." So the smack talk begins already. 

Anderson also hopes to set up permanent absentee ballot status, rather than the present practice of requiring a new request each election. It's common in other states and as a front line election office worker I can tell you it's a very common question. It's how some of the western states like California get to 50 and 60 percent absentee rates. He's also like to consolidate some elections, which would have helped us out here in Johnson County where we had three special elections in four months early this year.

GOP incumbent Matt Schultz has a different set of goals. Schultz is a hero to the GOP base for pushing ID, one of their pet issues. But I think he's a hero to the base in his current job which won't translate to the 3rd CD race he's now flirting with. So I expect him to stay in his re-election race. (Though Bleeding Heartland offers a counter-argument.)

This week the Des Moines Register editorialized:
After 18 months of scouring the state for voting scofflaws and spending $150,000 in tax money on the effort, what serious problems have been uncovered? None — other than we now know that there isn’t a problem with voter fraud in Iowa and that some Iowans are confused about voting laws.

Schultz’s efforts have yielded criminal charges in a total of 16 cases, according to an investigation by Des Moines Register reporter Jason Noble. Five have been dismissed. Five other cases have resulted in guilty pleas. There is no “voter fraud ring” or significant number of people wrongly registering to participate in our democracy.
And, significantly, none of the cases would have been prevented by Schultz's cure-all, photo ID.

Even the office of state auditor Mary Mosiman (not just a fellow Republican but a former auditor and former Schultz employee!) recommends that Schultz develop a plan for repaying the $150,000 provided under the - this is ironic - "Help America Vote Act."

Help America Vote. See, that's what this race is really about. Brad Anderson wants to help people vote. Matt Schultz wants to stop people from voting. That's the whole story of the race.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Caucus Logistics May Speed Candidate Decisions

The upcoming caucuses and holidays are likely to speed up the decision making process for candidates looking to jump into the 3rd CD and Governor races following the dropouts of Tyler Olson and Tom Latham.

Democrats had a county chair conference call last night. I sat in because I'm coordinating the caucuses here in Johnson County and because our chair, Mike Carberry, is stepping down tonight to focus on his supervisor campaign.

We're a little more than a month away from the (mutually agreed upon!) January 21 caucus date, but it takes time to put all this stuff together: sites, chairs, and most to the point here, materials. Democrats will be getting their packets out to the counties in the first few days of the new year, and I assume Republicans have a similar schedule.

Historically, candidates get a lot of their nomination petition signatures at the caucuses, and that's also a good night just to to get your name in front of the core activists.

So to get your petitions into the caucus packets, you'll need to get them to the state parties before those packets get sent to the counties and delivered to the precinct chairs..

Sure, it's possible to get the sigs other places - GOP Senate candidate Sam Clovis says he already has what he needs. But it's harder, and it's harder still because this is an off year.

Signature requirements for governor, Senate and US House are based on the top of the ticket vote (president or governor) in the last general election. Because this is a governor cycle, that means the numbers are based on the higher turnout presidential numbers, and of course also means that the caucus attendance will be lower.

The governor and Senate requirements are 4113 signatures statewide for Democrats and 3654 for Republicans. The congressional requirements are relatively higher, roughly twice as hard. In the 3rd District it's 2037 for Democrats and 1867 for Republicans in just a quarter of the state. There are also county requirements, all detailed here.

US House is a tough bar to clear - the caucus signatures may not be enough on their own which makes them even more valuable. It's definitely easier than doorknocking or standing on a street corner in February to meet a March 14 federal/state filing deadline. Dave Loebsack actually failed in 2006 and had to get nominated at a convention, and would have had to run a primary write-in effort if Some Dude had filed. (OK, Dave was a Some Dude at that point himself, but that was four wins ago, five if you count the Fibbin' Fisherman.) So getting into that caucus packet is a motivator.

Expect a lot of heart to heart discussions with spouses and family members over the couple of mandatory shut down days right at Christmas, a good chance to get them all together. That'll be followed quickly by some announcements - or more likely announcements of announcements or "explorations", because everyone falls for that trick of covering the same announcement multiple times.

And Now The Aftershocks

In politics as in seismology, you get aftershocks following the big earthquake. After the grand tectonic shifts of the Olson and Latham faults on Tuesday, more dishes rattled Wednesday.

It seems that Jack Hatch's phone calls didn't go well Tuesday night, as no key Olson supporters were quick to get on board. Rather, Janet Petersen, a fellow Polk County senator who had endorsed Olson, hinted that she was now interested in the governor's race.

Bleeding Heartland was quick to naysay, arguing that Petersen should get into the 3rd CD race instead. But another Democratic woman, Staci Appel, is already in that race, and either way Petersen is in mid-term so doesn't give up her seat. Challenging the lifetime undefeated Branstad is an uphill fight, sure, but even a reasonably close race raises your profile.

As for the 3rd CD, the dust is still settling. Doesn't look like anyone is dropping down from the Senate race - yet. Jennifer Jacobs has a handy scorecard.

I made the mistake of getting into a massive online flame war on the value of recruiting female candidates. It's not an absolute, but all other things being equal I'd like to see more young and female and minority candidates running in winnable, high-profile races.

We're a state that has something to prove, and if you're yet another old straight white guy you'd better have something special to bring to the table. Bruce Braley's got that which is why he cleared the field. Pat Murphy? If he were all that special he would have cleared the field too, rather than drawing FOUR primary opponents.

Brian Schweitzer? Maybe, maybe not. But at least he came to Iowa.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Random Thoughts On Latham Retirement

The implications of Tom Latham's retirement are too big for me to wrap my head around at the moment, especially as I'm simultaneously engaged in an online pissing match over one of the sidebars to the story.

Much like January's Tom Harkin retirement this has ripple effects all up and down the ballot - all the way to the Speaker's office. The simultaneous retirement of Latham and fellow Boehner ally Frank Wolf of Virginia may be tea leaves to read about the future of House GOP leadership.

That's above my pay grade. Here in Iowa it potentially shakes up legislative races and especially the crowded Republican US Senate primary. Senate candidates Matt Whitaker, Joni Ernst, David Young and Mark Jacobs all live in the 3rd CD, as does Secretary of State MAtt Schultz. Biggest loser: Latham's tea party primary challenger Joe Grandanette, whose hopes of a fluke anti-incumbent win, slim at best, are now none.

Jack Hatch catches a bit of a break: any prominent Democrat considering jumping in after Tyler Olson's dropout will now look at this race instead.

Democrat Staci Appel now faces a critical few days of trying to consolidate support. An entire generation of Polk County Democrats - Matt McCoy, Hatch, etc. - waited and waited for Leonard Boswell to realize, as Latham put it in his release, "For me, this is the time." Boz never did, and paid for it with a career-ending loss.

(In retrospect, that was Latham's job here: take one for the team, run one more race in the redistricting year to get rid of Leonard, then retire in peace.)

When it looked like an uphill fight against a successfully relocated Latham, Democrats were all too eager to twist Appel's arm to get her into the race, even after she demurred once. But now are they going to stick with her? She does have a head start, and that loss of her Senate seat to Kent Sorenson in 2010 now feels less like a demerit and more like: told ya so.

Sidebar: AFSCME's Marcia Nichols was quick to play up the already endorsed Appel:

Pro tip: If you're going to brag about breaking glass ceilings in one race, don't endorse a straight white male over three women in another. The hypocrisy is unbecoming, Marcia.

Gabriel de la Cerda is also running on the Democratic side; his long shot looks longer. As for other names: McCoy ran for this seat briefly once, in 2001, until Boswell carpetbagged in. Janet Petersen is in mid-senate term so could run without risking her seat. Chet? Lord, no.

On the GOP side I expect a clown car and maybe even another convention. A lot to watch the next few days; don't expect a holiday hiatus.

What I DO expect is a lot of attention for Iowa from national folks next fall, with three major open seat races. The Republican presidential wannabees will all be here - and maybe I'll be able to remove that Hillary Clinton clock I just added to the page.

Olson Out Of Governor Race

Well this sure shook up our Tuesday morning: Tyler Olson, two weeks after announcing his wife had asked for a divorce, is now dropping out of the race for Iowa Governor.
While focused on supporting my children through the transition in my personal life it is clear they need my full attention. It is time to end my campaign for Governor.

I will continue to focus on my family, finish my term as state representative, rejoin Paulson Electric and look for opportunities to serve my community as time allows.
Totally steps on that Women For Murphy release (though if Pat Murphy really wanted to do something for women he'd drop out and endorse one of the three actual women who are running).

Olson's news is really only a surprise in its timing. He had announced he was cancelling events through the holidays and would resume his campaign in January.

But Olson faced not just a relaunch, but an entire re-invention. His image as a young family man was central to the rationale of his whole campaign, with his wife and children featured heavily in his announcement and stump speech. The end of the marriage, and the inevitable rumor mill, cut close to the core, and in the end made the campaign unsustainable.

Privately, many Democrats initially inclined to Olson had made the same assessment, and presumably that feedback had reached Olson. That "hiatus" now feels like the denial and bargaining stages of the grieving process, which has now reached acceptance.

The next couple days are important for Senator Jack Hatch, the other leading candidate in the race. He promptly said the right things, both when the news initially broke two weeks ago and again today. Hatch doesn't seem like the kind of guy who keeps an enemies list of the many legislators and unions who had already endorsed his main opponent, unlike certain big lugs we all know.  He seems like someone who will be calling those folks and asking for support, and not coincidentally trying to head off another big name from getting into the race.

There are two other names actually in the race. Former legislator Bob Krause has pointed out, with some justification, that he's being ignored in the media despite a higher favorability rating in last weekend's Register poll than Hatch or Olson. Granted, 3/4 of respondents didn't know enough about any of them to have an opinion, and The Iowa Republican was reeeeally stretching to call Krause a "frontrunner," but he may get a little more attention now. (The other contender, Paul Dahl, is a Some Dude of questionable credibility.)

As for Olson, he'll finish up his last legislative session. Fellow Democrat Liz Bennett announced for Olson's house seat months ago.

Olson's divorce isn't a career-ending scandal, it's just a marriage gone bad for whatever reason at a really bad time politically. I see Olson taking a few years to regroup and then getting back into the ball game some point in the future, when his life has settled and his kids have grown some more. This isn't an end for Olson; it's a pause.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Non-Linux Monday: The Coming XPocalypse

The holidays, of course, are that time of year when we geeks provide tech support to family members. And this Christmas is XPecially crucial for those of us with relatives on old machines.

2013 is the last Christmas for Windows XP, which will reach its "end of life" - now THAT'S a scary phrase for a guy on his 50th birthday - on April 8 after 13 years.  So this is the year when we have to pull the plug on Grandma, or at least on Grandma's old computer. You may need to convince your relative to get a new machine - and more than likely pick it out for them.  Which is what I've done.

But even if you're gifting, they may need some convincing. "But my computer still works, why do I need a new one?"

Because of the Coming XPocalypse.

"End of life" means Microsoft will no longer release security patches for XP after April 7. They're calling Zero Day Forever. In techie parlance, "Zero day" is the moment a previously unknown vulnerability is discovered, because programmers have had zero days to fix it. If they're NOT fixing it anymore, it's Zero Day Forever.

That meme is almost as old as... Windows XP.

But a lot of XP code still exists in 7 and 8. So every time Windows patches a hole in 7 or 8, it'll call attention to something which could also be a problem in the no longer protected XP. There's even speculation that the bad guys are holding exploits in reserve now, waiting until after April to drop them on the 500 million remaining XP machines.

So who still runs a 13 year old operating system? ZDNet:
They're the people who don't want to learn an new OS. The people who don't want to buy new machines. The people for whom XP is good enough. The people who aren't technically savvy enough to upgrade their operating system. The people who have some legacy application they must run on an old XP environment and don't know how to make that work on a modern OS. The people who are just simply too lazy to upgrade and those that don't think the security problem is a real enough threat to them to justify doing anything.

In other words, we're looking at a population of defenseless, self-identifying sheep in a world where there are hungry wolves 200 milliseconds away.
This has global economy implications. Roughly 30 percent of the world's computers or devices (ATMs in particular) still run XP. In China that's 70% (more than a few copies pirated) and the government is asking Microsoft to extend support.  And China has nukes and a moonmobile.

But Microsoft is standing firm. They extended XP support far longer than they'd ever intended, after the netbook fad and the release of the godawful Windows Vista, both circa 2007. Since the launch of Windows 7 in 2009, they've been warning that XP will be going to live with a nice farm family.

But that may be short-sighted for Microsoft, says Robert Pogson:
Hundreds of millions of working PCs are not going to be scrapped simply because the OS no longer works on them. China is not going to send $10billion to M$ to get “7″ or “8″ going next year. “8″ won’t even boot on most PCs. “7″ will be a pain for lots of older hardware.

No. The problem is M$’s. Hundreds of millions of Chinese PCs are going to be installed with GNU/Linux next year. China has the software ready. China has the manpower. In Mao’s time, they could have issued an edict and made it happen in a few days. These days, it might take a month, but it will happen. What won’t happen is junking that many PCs in a single year. These are not worn out PCs. It’s the OS that’s worn out.
Paid enterprise support will still be available, at an ever increasing price, for three years, but that won't help you or your Aunt Millie.

Anyone running XP is probably on at least a six year old machine - I had to look hard to get a non-Vista machine in late 2007. (A year before I made the full commitment to Linux; by the time I got my current machine in 2010 I was comfortable enough to buy it with no operating system at all and load Linux myself.) A machine that old, especially the kind of low-end machine that an apathetic user would have bought, almost certainly won't have the oomph to run Win7 or 8.

So you're running out of time to order a machine, get a machine, and get it set up.


If your family member is a browser-only user, you could do this. Take the old machine, wipe the hard drive and thrown on a user-friendly Linux distro like Linux Mint or something else. Most major Linux distributions have lower system requirements than Windows 7 and 8, and most important of all, unlike XP, support will continue. (Linux is generally more secure than Windows anyway but that's another story.) Not to mention the cost is $0.

if you're feeling really sneaky you can doctor it so it looks like XP.

The same site also offers a tool to make Windows 7 or 8 look like XP, if cosmetic change is a source of stress.

Anyone beyond the most minimal user will see that SOMEthing is different, but depending on your ethics you could try explaining that you upgraded and in Windows 7 they renamed Internet Explorer and Outlook Express to Firefox and Thunderbird. And Libre Office is just the new version of Microsoft Office. Yeah. That works.

Week In Review and Upcoming Events: December 9-23

Kim Jong Un killed both his uncle and any hope for reform this week, though it doesn't seem to bother his buddy Dennis Rodman who's visiting North Korea again. But the North Korean rhetorical style is an art form of its own.

Beyonce shook up a music industry that could use some shaking up: An A-list superstar drops a new album with no notice, no warning, no advance promo, and gets rave reviews and instant sales. Compare/contrast with Lady Gaga; I'm still a true believing Monster but the roll out of her latest has been difficult.

Latest journalism business model to fail: Patch.

Matt Schultz call your office: Democrats are targeting secretary of state races and Brad Anderson is sure to be high on the list.

Linn County supervisor Lu Barron is stepping down next year after 18 years. Kim Taylor, a Harkin staffer and spouse of Rep. Todd Taylor, will seek Barron's seat. That's big courthouse news, of course, but not nearly as big as this past weekend big news:  Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert got married to Abbie Ferguson Saturday. Congrats, boss.

It's been a week since the Democrats House 25 nominating convention and the only news I've gotten about the nomination of Pam Deichmann is from The Iowa Republican. I suspect the GOPs Stan Gustafson is favored in the January 7 special election.

Other legislative notes:Carroll County businessman Brian Best announced on the GOP side against Dan Muhlbauer, probably the most conservative Dem still in the legislature, in House 12. And in House 5, which is I think the second most Republican seat in the state, Chuck Soderberg is running again.

Political events are getting fewer and farther between as the holiday blackout looms. Rep. Dan Lundby is having a fundraiser in Marion Wednesday, but that's about all.

Of course MY big event is today. Check the top of the page and note that the former slogan had been displaced. That space will probably be used for rotating comments and quotes, which should give you a reason to check back even if I don't have an actual story.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Register Polls Proves Little

I have no idea what drives the question writers at the Des Moines Register/Selzer poll, but they seem to be speaking an entirely different language than the rest of the polling universe.

The poll released last night is the second consecutive Register 2016 presidential poll that doesn't ask the obvious question of likely caucus goers: who would you caucus for right now?

In September, Democrats got a bizarre choice between not names but "A candidate with decades of public service in the U.S. Senate and executive branch" and "A fresh face who will represent a new generation with new ideas." Republicans chose between "A candidate focused on civil liberties and a small government rooted in the U.S. Constitution," "A business-oriented fiscally conservative candidate, and " A candidate who emphasizes Christian conservative values."

In the poll released yesterday, potential caucus goers were asked not who they would caucus for, but a multiple choice "likability" question.

I "like" Joe Biden. Who doesn't like Joe? You look up "likeable" and there's a picture of  Joseph Likeable Biden Jr. right there. I also, despite my ongoing criticism, "like" Hillary Clinton. I don't "like" Dennis Kucinich even though on issues we're very close. Based on our brief conversations I "like" Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum and John McCain though I would never caucus or vote for them.

(Question: What do Iowa social conservatives do if BOTH the last two caucus winners, Huckabee and Santorum, run in 2016? Based on past experience-see the collapse of Sam Brownback and Michele Bachmann- my bet is they unite late behind one and win.)

"Like" doesn't tell me anything. Elections and caucuses aren't an approval voting system where you can vote yes or no on multiple choices. You only get one.

But the greater flaw on the Democratic side of the poll isn't the multiple choice. It's the menu itself.

The Register asked about four names: Clinton, Biden, and two others, ex-Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. Half our central committee hasn't heard of the last two.

The buzz among those looking for a Clinton alternative isn't Schweitzer or O'Malley or even the vice president. It's Elizabeth Warren. Yeah, yeah, I know she's said she's not running. So did Senator Obama in 2005. That's just something you have to say, a non-optional social convention.

These Register polls tend to roll out additional numbers on various items for several days after the top-line release. Here's hoping that we see some concrete horse race numbers for the 2014 races this week.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Taking Up A Collection

As dear readers know, Hillary Clinton has traveled the globe yet not visited the exotic landscape of Iowa in almost six years, since caucs night 2008. But according to this Politico piece, tellingly titled Lament of the Plutocrats, she did find time to give a recent speech at Goldman Sachs HQ:
Clinton offered a message that the collected plutocrats found reassuring, according to accounts offered by several attendees, declaring that the banker-bashing so popular within both political parties was unproductive and indeed foolish. Striking a soothing note on the global financial crisis, she told the audience, in effect: We all got into this mess together, and we’re all going to have to work together to get out of it. What the bankers heard her to say was just what they would hope for from a prospective presidential candidate: Beating up the finance industry isn’t going to improve the economy—it needs to stop. And indeed Goldman’s Jim O’Neill, the laconic Brit who heads the bank’s asset management division, introduced Clinton by saying how courageous she was for speaking at the bank. (Brave, perhaps, but also well-compensated: Clinton’s minimum fee for paid remarks is $200,000).
I've been doing this all wrong. My asking nice - ok, my obsessive kvetching on a blog with literally tens of readers - won't work. It's time to take up a collection. Let's pass the beret and get a couple hundred grand together.

I'll take the money and start a SuperPAC: Joint Organization Helping Negotiate Democratic Early Engagement Toward Hillary. If that won't fit on your check just use the acronym.
Then we can pay Hillary to give a speech in Iowa. It'll be an invite only event of course but I'm the fat cat who raised the money so I do the inviting.

Speaking of fat cats did you see where these feral felines took over the Nativity scene? I CAN HAZ BABY JESUZ? IT WUZ NOMS

Anyway. I do the inviting and I may even ask some of my old Iowa CCI friends to stop by, on the condition that their chants exclude the phrases HEY HEY HO HO and WHEN DO WE WANT IT? NOW!

If we up the ante to a half million, we might even get Hillary to take questions.

One question raised this week: how good a Secretary of State, really, was Clinton? I'm actually kind of agnostic on this one, and this piece also offers a mixed verdict.
Howard Berman, a strong Clinton backer who chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee during her tenure, offered me a great example of the first line of reasoning: You don’t pick your moments, but deal with the world as you find it. “I don’t believe Secretary Clinton was constrained by future political considerations,” he wrote to me. “Let’s look at the issues Kerry is working on and it is clear that Clinton, for rather obvious reasons, couldn’t have replicated what he has done because those issues weren’t ripe then. … It’s about a different time.”

Blaming the White House, of course, is a common theme in any critique of a foreign policy record, and that’s especially so when it comes to the question of Clinton’s dealings with the White House of the president she ran against in 2008. Throughout her tenure as secretary of state, Washington wondered over the extent of Clinton’s actual influence in foreign policy decision-making (“she’s really the principal implementer,” Obama adviser Denis McDonough told me, when I asked about the division of labor between Obama’s White House and Clinton’s State Department for a Foreign Policy article last year). And it was by all accounts Obama himself who was reluctant to take on some of the challenges, like Middle East peace talks or a more activist stance toward the civil war unfolding in Syria, that Clinton is now dinged for avoiding.
Of course, you can only negotiate across a table from the other side. And government change in Iran has given Obama and John Kerry new opportunities. But we were reminded of the biggest obstacle to comprehensive middle east peace this week when Benjamin Netanyahu pointedly dodged Nelson Mandela's memorial. Haaretz writes:
His message is clear: My Israel, which spends untold tens of millions on such matters as bolstering and protecting settlement construction during peace negotiations with the Palestinians, or erecting detention facilities for African asylum seekers rather than formulating coherent and just refugee policies, has nothing left over for this man Mandela.

But that's only the beginning. With a wink and a nod to the settler right, the academic rabid right, and the KKK-esque far right, Netanyahu is sending an even stronger message:

This is where I stand on this Palestinian-lover, Mandela. And this is where I stand on his Palestinian-lover heirs.
Kind of draws an obvious parallel, doesn't it? And the biggest problem in our American domestic debate over foreign policy is that I only dare say any of this because I'm quoting an Israeli publication.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Kajtazovic wins Women Under 40 nod

Anesa Kajtazovic picked up an endorsement today from national group WUFPAC. The WUF is for "women under 40, and the bipartisan group has a twofold goal:
  • To help elect more young women to elected office so that young women have an equal voice in shaping public policy.
  • To build the seniority of women in Congress by electing women at a young age.
Kajtazovic has draw criticism, mostly under the radar, for being "impatient" in running for Congress at 27, after getting elected to the legislature at 23. But strong young female candidates are few and far between. Only five members of Congress qualify as "women under 40," three Democrats and two Republicans who all earned WUFPAC support.

Even in 2013 women are more likely to wait longer before making their first run. In this very race; when Liz Mathis opted out her daughter's last year of high school was a factor. Sure, men wait for personal and family reasons, too, but not as often and not as long.

Mathis was 53 when she made her first legislative run in 2011. That's not too different from two of the other women in the race. Monica Vernon was 51 when she first ran for city council in 2007, and Swati Dandekar was 46 when first elected to school board in 1996.

Compare that to the men in the race. Pat Murphy was 29 when first elected to the legislature, and Dave O'Brien ran for Congress at age 30 in 1988.

"I am excited to receive WUFPAC's endorsement for Congress and join the likes of incredible women like Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, Tulsi Gabbard and Debbie Wasserman Schultz," Kajtazovic posted today. "I also share an aim with WUFPAC to involve a younger demographic into our political process and let young Americans know that they are represented."

Kajtazovic is in Iowa City Friday to make some friends and raise some money. The event is at the Hampton Inn, 4 Sturgis Corner Drive. One of Iowa City's leading MUF, Zach Wahls, will also be on hand.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

So you're telling me there's a chance.

Read The Memo ICPD

The city election is safely over, and there's some improvement, with Kingsley Botchway set to replace Connie Champion. But there's not enough change to upset the long-term status quo, and the Iowa City Police Department seems intent on continuing its ways.

I don't know what the end game here is, but yesterday ICPD made its second arrest in a week of a pound-level pot dealer, so clearly they're pursuing something.

In Colorado and Washington, those dudes are called entrepreneurs. But the past couple weeks have made it clear that ICPD is continuing to emphasize marijuana arrests.

Iowa City's recent push comes just as legislators and county officials prep for their annual meeting, at 1:00 today. While the supervisors prepped, the subject of the drug war came up. This past weekend Rod Sullivan wrote that the Board rejected the language he'd hoped to present to the legislators on a 3-2 vote...
...with Supervisor Rettig and I in favor. I was REALLY disappointed by this vote.

Far too many people in Johnson County go through life dogged by marijuana convictions. And for what? Who is hurt by marijuana use?

This topic is particularly timely, because it would send a message to the voting public. The public needs to know we are serious about keeping our justice system focused on the things that are truly important.
It's hard to get to 60%. You start off with 20% or so of the electorate who will automatically vote no on anything that spends money. In Johnson County, add maybe 10 points to that for rural votes, because the farmers are still mad that they don't have four or all five of the Board seats like they did till roughly 20 years ago, even though the county's population is about 4/5 urban.
Then there's five percent or so that didn't like one facet or another of the plan: Has to be downtown, has to be not downtown. Has to be a combined building, has to be separate. Those groups are mutually exclusive.

My best bet, and I'm a pretty decent political number cruncher, is that the decisive factor that killed the justice center was 10 to 15 percent of the electorate who might otherwise look favorably on courthouse or even jail expansion voted no in November 2012 and May 2013 because they decided this was where they drew the line on the drug war.

The sheriff and county attorney tried to point out their good work on diversion and drug court - but this chunk of the electorate knows and doesn't care. They want those arrests to not happen in the first place and they want officials saying so in public. Which, to his credit, Sullivan does here.

Also note that the initial charges are filed by the police and amped up as high as possible. The guy arrested last week was "booked and later released (the same day) from the Johnson County Jail." People read the arrest blotter in the paper: PAULA, PAULA, possession, PAULA. But the jail roster isn't in the daily blotter. That looks more like assault, domestic assault, assault, attempted murder. Since print media is in its Terminal Great Depression and looking for free content, I recommend that jail roster.

Sullivan continues:
But frankly, the vote is not what makes me mad. I have been on the losing end of MANY 3-2 votes; I expect there will be more in my future. What makes me angry is the complete lack of political courage demonstrated by my colleagues.
One Supervisor said he “needed more time to study the issue.” I think that is a pretty lousy justification. Unfortunately, it was the best justification of the three.

Another Supervisor was opposed because, “hemp is an invasive species.” While it is true that around ten states list hemp as a “noxious weed”, this is strictly due to its illegal status. A quick review of the literature shows that countries where hemp is legal have no problems with it being invasive.

The final Supervisor refused to support it unless our County Attorney and Sheriff went on record supporting it first. Sorry, but that move is completely lacking in political courage.

Look, if you are against this, fine. Say so. Take a stand. Take your vote and explain your reasoning. But do not patronize me. I do not appreciate it, nor does the public.

Supervisors are elected to lead. This was a missed opportunity. Legal marijuana is an idea whose time has come. Johnson County is not on the leading edge of this issue, but some day we’ll get there.
Our legislative delegation is leading, with Joe Bolkcom the lead sponsor of the medical marijuana bill (the civil union compromise of full legalization). But some of the other locals are being relatively quiet because "it won't pass." That's true. It won't. It'll get sent to the same House committee as last year, where retired state trooper Clel Baudler, a Republican who calls medical marijuana, quoting here, a "joke," will kill it before it sees the House floor.
That's not the point. The rhetoric is the point. Minnette Doderer used to both enrage folks and endear herself be being on the short end of 99-1 or 98-2 votes (with the 2 usually being Ed Fallon). But eventually 98-2 becomes 90-9 becomes 80-20 becomes 69-31 becomes a live issue at campaign time.

The tide is turning on this issue, not as fast as it did on marriage but darn close. The Iowa City Police Department is on the wrong side of history here.

And without full-throated support for legalization from a majority of local elected officials, it's unlikely a jail cell or even a courtroom will be built in this county for many years.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Week In Review and Upcoming Events: December 2-16

I have little profound to add to the weeks biggest story, just a couple personal observations.

Michael Moore refreshed this memory: when Mandela walked out of prison in 1990, no one knew what he looked like. That face that is now the very symbol of his country, that gentle smile under that snow white hair, that man was a stranger. All we in the West had seen was a 27 year old photo, almost a mug shot. In South Africa even that was illegal.

How many of us roughly my age learned our first lessons about South Africa in the 80s from Peter Gabriel and Bono and Steve Van Zandt, and first heard the name "Nelson Mandela" from the Specials? Not to overstate the point, but apartheid was an issue where the artists actually made a difference, raising their voices when Mandela and his supporters were forcibly silenced. The pressure and education of popular culture strengthened the sanctions, the sanctions isolated the white government, and finally they gave in.

After that, after what little we in the rest of the world could do, the real work was up to South Africa. They could very easily have been Zimbabwe, with the corrupt, venngeful and inept Mugabe, still in power after three decades. South Africa has severe problems to this day. But the moral leadership and incredible forgiving grace that Mandela lived and set as an example set the country at least on the right path.

The image that stays with me the most is that line from the 1994 election, the people who had waited all their lives waiting final hours and even days to vote. 

In this context, our local and Iowa struggles, while still important, feel small.  But they're exactly the same kinds of rights Nelson Mandela fought for, and we honor his memory by not taking them for granted.

House 25 Democrats meet tonight to choose a special election nominee. Republicans nominated retiree Stan Gustafson last Monday, in the GOP leaning open seat; no Democratic names have emerged in public. That's unusual. While in the Spiker era the GOP is quick to call a nominating convention even if they end up nominating a volunteer from the audience, Democrats usually don't set one till and unless they have a candidate.

Look for a hot school board meeting Tuesday night, discussing the ID policy and the MLK holiday (or, rather, lack of) at the school district office on North Dodge.

At about the same time, 6:00pm until 6:15pm at City Hall Kingsley Botchway has his swearing in ceremony (though he doesn't take the seat till the new year).

Wednesday from 6:00 to 8:30pm Democrats are phonebanking for Bruce Braley at the Iowa City library.

The week ends with a couple fundraisers. Jack Hatch will be at the home of Dr. James & Mary Merchant, 329 Hutchinson Ave. from 5:30 to 7, with suggested donations starting at $100. Joe Bolkcom will also be on hand.

Friday Night Anesa Kajtazovic comes to the Sturgis Corner Hampton Inn (two blocks from Casa Deeth) from 6:30pm until 8:30pm. Zach Wahls will also be speaking. Suggested donations starts at $50.

And of course the BIG event, the Half Century of Deeth, is one week from today. What do I want for my birthday? Well, I'd pay good money to see a movie based on the P-FUNK universe. Sir Nose D'Voidofunk vs. Starchild on the Mothership. What say,  George Clinton?

Friday, December 06, 2013

Olson Aide Discusses Marital Issue

A top aide to gubernatorial candidate Tyler Olson addresses what he called "the elephant in the room" last night in a room that never has elephants: the Johnson County Democrats' monthly meeting.

Stacey Walker, Olson's political director, said no endorsers or supporters have backed away since Monday's announcement that Olson and his wife Sarah were ending their marriage.

"This was shocking and sudden even for Tyler who learned about it shortly before Thanksgiving," said Walker. "His wife approached him and asked for a divorce. But it's a story as uninteresting as two people deciding to separate. That happens in our society."
"We've cancelled our public events for this month, but we'll resume in the New Year," said Walker. One of those postponed events, a fundraiser at Bob and Sue Dvorsky's home in Coralville,  had been scheduled for immediately before last night's meeting.

"There's no grounds for any of these rumors," Walker said of the inevitable gossip. "Folks don't want to believe a politician can separate from his spouse just for irreconcilable differences."

Rumors that may be more substantial: another Democrat getting into the open Senate 39 race... Also at last night's meeting, labor activist and ex-school board member Jim Tate elected as fundraising chair for the JCDems, and I talked about the caucuses a lot. Have I mentioned I need precinct chairs?

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Nothing To Add

But if I say nothing they'll say I said nothing.

Thursday at 5:30 the Dvorskys are hosting a Tyler Olson fundraiser at their place, 412 6th St., Coralville. Suggested donations start at $50.

Jack Hatch said it well: personal matter, wish the Olsons the best, no further comment.

Don't look at me for gossip. Obviously the race changes, too soon to say how.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Week In Review and Upcoming Events: November 25-December 9

Having watched site traffic for a decade, I decided there wasn't much point in wasting good writing over a holiday weekend, or week, or whatever that just was.

Tweet of the week:
Showing up? We wouldn't know anything about that; we're Iowans and Hillary's only sending surrogates. But there's hope, I guess:
Two years from now, on the eve of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, it’s possible that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could be running for the nomination without a major opponent to her left.

But even if no serious Clinton challenger in the mold of progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren emerges, a nonprofit group called the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, or PCCC, is prepared to take up the mantle.

PCCC members will attend her town hall meetings and “ask the same questions over and over again until they get an answer.”
Flaw in that strategy: it assumes Clinton will HAVE town hall meetings.  And at speeches she can use the method she did in Iowa in 2007: "I can take a couple questions, OR I can shake hands."
Below the radar on Wednesday: "Top officials from past presidential campaigns have quietly formed a group to push for major changes in the general-election debates, with recommendations expected by late spring... A likely recommendation is an earlier start for the debates, in response to the increase in absentee voting."

Makes some sense. By the date of the first 2012 debate, one out of eight Johnson County ballots had already been cast. On the other hand, no one makes their decision based on watching the debates except the news media's hypothetical high-information undecided voter, who no longer exists. And the people who are voting EARLY-early, four to six weeks before Election Day, likely had their minds made up the day after the previous presidential election.

Still, one good thing earlier debates could force: earlier conventions. The September conventions are so late they're actually bumping into legal filing deadlines.

Tom Latham drew a tea party primary challenger this week: Joe Grandanette lost an `04 House race in Jo Oldson's solid D district and is going after Latham on a long-ago term limits pledge. I prefer tea party in lower case; Upper Case gives them more credit for unity than they deserve. There are many flavors of tea.

Even though The 52246 has been declared The Eighth Most Hipster ZIP Code in America, and even though I think it's too mainstream, I still accept that I am now too old to care about cool. The slogan will be retired two weeks from today...

The Johnson County GOP central committee meets tonight and elects a new chair.Rumor is that Bill Keettel, a past chair and my Republican counterpart in number crunching, is likely to get the nod.

Also tonight, House 25 Republicans meet to pick a nominee to replace newly minted Senator Julian Garrett. As I predicted, not that it was hard given the limited options, election day is January 7. Democrats meet a week from tonight.

Thursday at 5:30 the Dvorskys are hosting a Tyler Olson fundraiser at their place, 412 6th St., Coralville. Stggested donations start at $50. You can go straight from the event to the Democratic central committee meeting at 7, at the school district office.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving From All Of Us At WKRP

If you want to kill a huge amount of time through the slow news days, here's a couple suggestions: Daily Kos diarist Stephen Wolf asks: what if Appalachia was a state?

And check out this map that mashes up 2012 election numbers by TV market. Eight years later, Red State Blue State TV View State, in which I correctly predicted that 2008 Omaha electoral vote, is still the top-viewed post in Deeth Blog history.

Speaking of Deeth Blog history, just three weeks till Too Old To Be Cool Too Young Not To Care is permanently retired...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Week In Review and Upcoming: November 18-December 2

Cheating this week and combining a pair of features. Our top story tonight: JFK is still dead.

Word of the week: Fili-busted.

Tweet of at least the month:
Must read of the weekend: Zaina Arafat's "The Problem With Being Palestinian On Thanksgiving."
Wary of a holiday that celebrates one group of people who seized land from another, I learned to love Thanksgiving only when our friends created an Arabized version of it. Now, as the Middle East falls into further turmoil, even that is threatened.
Was halfway through eating up every word when she noted she's currently based in Iowa City.

Don't give the Iowa City Council any ideas; In Brooklyn, Rowdy Bar Hikes Drinking Age to 25 to Pacify Neighbors. For some reason multiple people forwarded me that article.

Another 4-1 vote on the Board of Supervisors last week, as Republican John Etheredge opposes a project labor agreement supported by the four Democrats..

Speaking of labor we lost another great union Democrat last week with the passing of IBEW's Dennis Ryan.

Ex-Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a one-time Harkin Steak Fry keynoter, says the Full Grassley of visiting all 99 Iowa counties is on his bucket list. Hmmm....

Legislative announcements: 
  • At least two Republicans, retired attorney Stan Gustafson and ex-Madison County Supervisor Joan Acela, are running in the yet to be scheduled but probably January 7 House 25 special election. That'ss replace Julian Garrett who won last week's Senate 13 special to replace Kent Sorenson. It's Acela's third try for the seat. She lost the primary to Garrett when the seat was open in 2010 then primaried him again in 2012.
  • For next year: Altoona Democrat Joe Riding announced for a second term in House 30.
  • In the QC, Republicans Rep. Linda Miller and Sen. Roby Smith both announced for re-elect in overlapping House 94 and Senate 47.  Both won their seats via primary challenges. Miller knocked off moderate Joe Hutter in 2006; Smith defeated right winger Dave Hartsuch in `10. Democrat Maria Bribriesco, who ran a credible challenge to Miller in 2012, is challenging Smith for 2014.
  • Republican Ken Rizer is challenging Dan Lundby, the Democrat seeking a second term in Marion bnased House 68.
  • Democrat Laura Hubka, challenging GOP incumbent Josh Byrnes in House 51. 
I said this was a combo week in review/upcoming events, but the calendar is a little sparse for Thanksgiving week. Try not to encourage the stores that are starting their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving night.

Dave Loebsack is having a fundraiser at Dick Schwab's Celebration Farm, 4696 Robin Woods Lane NW on Sunday from noon to 2. Suggested donations start at $25.

Johnson County Republicans have their central committee meeting Monday December 2; top of the agenda is replacing chair Deb Thornton who's moving overseas for about a year.

And I'm just going to put this out there: If you're reading a blog like this you likely know that Iowa has caucuses in non-presidential years, too. They're set for January 21st at 7 PM. I'm looking for Democrats interested in chairing a precinct or otherwise helping out. Contact me if you're interested. Heck, if you're a Republican contact me and I'll get you in touch with them.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Other 50th Anniversary

I have nothing profound to add to today's retrospective of tragedy. But nothing heals music.

It's not part of American cultural memory. But in Britain, six time zones ahead of Dallas, millions of teens had gotten out of school, raced to record stores and were gathered around record players listing to their brand new copies of the second Beatles album, released that very day, when the news came from America.

We didn't pick up on the Beatles for a couple more months. There's been mountains of sociological scribbling that American Beatlemania was in some way a reaction to, or distraction from, the murder of the young president. Maybe. But that ignored the intense impact the Beatles were already having in their home country and across Europe.

And it ignores the timelessness of their music. An album of Beatle radio broadcasts, mainly from 1963, was just released and is sitting right now in the 21st century top ten.

I was about to be born in November `63, and thus I'm also too young to recall Beatlemania, but With The Beatles, in its American variation Meet The Beatles, was the first record I ever owned and central to so many of my earliest memories.

It's impossible to look back 50 years today without sadness, and even this joyful music is shadowed by the cruel irony that John Lennon would himself be killed by an assassin's bullets far too young. But these are the guys who a few years later said the love you take is equal to the love you make, and the love in these songs and those that followed is its own type of immortality.

So shed a tear for the Kennedys today, Then listen to this and feel alive.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Does Clinton Bandwagon Mean End of Caucuses?

Sen. Claire McCaskill admitted that she and her fellow Missourians are jealous of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status.

“Why Iowa?” she said at the Linn County Democratic Hall of Fame Dinner Saturday night. “We’ve got corn. We’ve got pigs. We’ve got people who want to be talked to over and over again. We have all of that. But you all have the corner of the market.”

But the second-term senator had some bad news for Iowa.

“You’re not going to have as much action” in 2016,” she said.

That’s because as unusual as it is, the Democratic Party, she believes, already has found a nominee: Hillary Clinton.

“When she announces, for the first time I can remember when we have an open seat for the presidency, we won’t have a primary and she will be the consensus choice,” McCaskill said.

It was a good thing I skipped last weekend's Linn County Hall of Fame dinner.  I'm a long-time McCaskill fan but it almost seems like her words were calculated to send shivers up the spines of us locals who cherish, and frankly are very good at, our role as retail stand-ins for the nation when it comes time to choose presidents.

The caucuses are literally what brought me to Iowa, more than two decades ago, as an eager grad student intending to write the definitive academic study of them. I got sidetracked into participation instead, found the place that feels like home, and in the process wound up friends with the guy who wrote the book instead. And even in the off-cycle I'm busily getting ready for caucuses, two months from today.

So as an adoptive Iowan I defend Iowa's role, maybe more fiercely than the native-born. And McCaskill's remarks were especially unnerving for a contrarian like me, who bucked the current the last time there was a "consensus" nominee, the last time we heard people saying "we want to avoid a primary."  I love hopeless causes, as any reader knows, and it didn't make much difference, but I'm still proud that Bill Bradley carried MY county.

McCaskill's remarks came just two weeks after another senator, New York's Chuck Schumer, rolled out his own Clinton endorsement, delivered in Des Moines at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.

It's hard not to notice that even though it's insanely early, Iowa Republicans are not just getting surrogates visiting the state, they're getting actual potential candidates: Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul.

Hillary Clinton, however, has literally not set foot in Iowa since January 3, 2008, the night she finished third in the caucuses, and shows no signs of doing so. Her huge looming shadow is also keeping other potential presidents away, save for the indefatigable Joe Biden.

As an overwhelming front runner it serves Hillary's interest to keep would-be rivals guessing, to keep people from committing, to delay as long as possible. She wanted to delay longer in 2007, until the dynamic that became Yes We Can 2008 started building to the point where it could no longer be ignored, and she had to launch when not quite ready.

And one of the biggest failures in that launch was the Clinton campaign's shocking lack of preparation for the logistics of caucus states and the retail realities of Iowa.  As famously quoted in Game Change:
If Hillary was going to be competitive in Iowa, she would need to go all out. The problem was, she hated it there….

She found the Iowans diffident and presumptuous; she felt they were making her grovel. Hillary detested pleading for anything, from money to endorsements, and in Iowa it was no different. She resisted calling the local politicos whose support she needed.

One time, she spent forty-five minutes on the phone wooing an activist, only to be told at the call’s end that the woman was still deciding between her and another candidate. Hillary hung up in a huff. “I can’t believe this!” she said. “How many times am I going to have to meet these same people?”
Anti-caucus and anti-Iowa rhetoric started from the Clinton campaign long before the caucuses themselves. There was the widely publicized and denied Screw Iowa strategy memo. There was the Clinton campaign's flirtation with campaigning in Michigan and Florida, states that had broken the party's calendar rules in a challenge to Iowa and New Hampshire. There was results spin in the last days before the caucuses, implying that a caucus process was inherently unfair.

Finally, worst of all, there were the whispered accusations. The infamous caucus night quotes from Game Change are loosely attributed but capture the flavor:
How did this happen?… The turnout figures made no sense to them: some 239,000 caucus-goers had shown up, nearly double the figure from four years earlier. Where did all these people come from? Bill asked. Were they really all Iowans? The Obama campaign must have cheated, he said, must have bussed in supporters from Illinois.

Hillary had been worried about that possibility for weeks; now she egged her husband on. Bill’s right, she said. We need to investigate the cheating. “It’s a rigged deal,” Bill groused. Hillary was trying to rein in her emotions. The former president was not. Red-faced and simmering, he sat in the living room venting his frustrations.
After the national attention was gone and we locals were left to clean up, the accusations were quietly disproven. Only one, now off-line Register article noted that of the tens of thousands of new voter cards were mailed out post-caucus, only tiny handfuls came back with bad addresses. In my town that was mostly simple mistakes like missing apartment numbers. But the hard feelings about caucuses in general and Iowa in particular lingered late into that endless nomination process.

And apparently they linger still. Hillary Clinton is doing her best to maintain an Above Politics, Rose Garden type of strategy, which serves her purposes well because the longer she delays, the less traction a potential rival can get. But Bill speaks his mind, people make assumptions, and no one ever seems to take exception these days. Just a couple months ago, Clinton 42 told his old consigliere George Stephanopoulos:
I still think we have way too many caucuses. They’re not democratic. And unlike primaries, they have no legal enforcement. You can break the rules, nobody’s gonna say anything. I think there are way too many of them.
So it's not a stretch to imagine that the Clintons still have a bit of a chip on their shoulders about Iowa.

Going back two decades, Bill Clinton never did the real Iowa caucus thing, because Tom Harkin ran in the same cycle. Harkin's enthusiastic endorsement of Bill was unique among the other 1992 candidates; I still bet that Bob Kerrey and Jerry Brown wrote themselves in that fall. That Harkin support probably saved Iowa for the next couple cycles.

But that lack of a Bill Clinton 1992 caucus campaign meant there weren't the same kind of Clinton roots in the Iowa soil as Bill and by extension Hillary had in New Hampshire and other early states. Hillary's biggest allies from 2008 are gone now, the Vilsacks decamped for DC, Leonard Boswell in involuntary retirement.

And of course there's Iowa's almost unique history, shared only with Mississippi, of never electing a woman to Congress or a governorship. That's probably due more to the details of specific races than to special innate sexism above and beyond other similar states, but it stands out.

I don't want to sound all Vince Foster paranoid here. But the Cintons keep score, reward friends, shut out non-friends. Everyone in politics does to some extent, and the Clintons aren't quite Nixonian in their enemy list, but they have long memories. Hillary was out of the ball game doing her job in 2010 and 2012, but Clinton 42 made countless campaign appearances - almost invariably for people who had supported Hillary over Barack in spring 2008.

A lot of my discussion of 2016 and beyond is getting seen as an anti-Hillary thing, Absolutely not. I was for Obama in 2008, and I had crossed Hillary off my list early, not long after she said of her Iraq War vote “If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from.” So I did.

So did a lot of other people. The context of election 2008 changed radically in the fall when the housing bubble went supernova, but in the trenches of Iowa in 2007 the Iraq War was Topic A.

Caucuses aren't inherently "unfair." Elections reward raw numbers but caucuses reward something different - strength among the most committed. It's the strength you need to fill the phone banks and walking lists that eventually fill the booths with the like minded but less committed.

And that was and is exactly where Hillary Clinton is weakest. Not that she didn't and doesn't have deeply committed supporters, both on issue specifics and on persona and experience and biography. We had a Solomon's Choice in 2008 of which historic barrier to break first, and that deep desire to shatter the last glass ceiling has grown stronger in the past six years.

Now after a stellar term as Secretary of State her foreign policy credentials are unassailable. But in a cruel irony, her weaknesses are now on the economic issues that were once her strength. In 2007 the left was defined by the war. But in 2013 it's defined by the terms raised by Occupy Wall Street: Too Big To Fail, the 99% vs. the 1%. It's a vulnerable spot an Elizabeth Warren could exploit.

None of this is to say I'm crossing Clinton off my 2016  list. I'll give her every consideration, even if the Overwhelming Favorite dynamic is such that my "every consideration" is just a tiny joke. I still expect someone else to step in, even if just to play the Bill Bradley role.

But for me, the caucuses are an issue in the caucuses. Parochial? Perhaps. But it's not just or even mostly about 2016. It's about 2020 and 2024 and beyond.

Iowan's fates are tied together, Democrats and Republicans, and an incumbent president has near-absolute influence over internal party politics. (Witness the squashing of the Middle East platform plank at the 2012 Democratic convention. Remember the "booing God" controversy? The boos weren't for the God reference. They were for Netanyahu.)

A president determined to change a nominating process to, say, ban ALL caucuses and require primaries only, could probably make it happen, at least in her own party, and often parties follow suit within states.

On some anti-caucus issues Clinton had some high ground. Caucuses are a party meeting, not an election. But caucus states need SOME very limited provision for the truly absent: not as easy as the no fault absentee voting we have in Iowa's elections, because that would turn the town meeting into a months long absentee chase. But enough that the troops and the true shut-ins could participate by proxy.

The problem is, New Hampshire is as determined to hang onto its co-First In The Nation status as Iowa. And any process that involves absentee voting, or that releases a hard vote count like Iowa Republicans have tied to a delegate count like Iowa Democrats have, gets close enough to an "election" that New Hampshire declares war. And probably wins, because the national media hates Iowa's process and distance from DC.

I'm concerned that the combination of Hillary Clinton's dislike of caucuses per se and her poor relationship with Iowa, based on her past statements and actions, means that a President Clinton 45 would move to change the nomination process to ban caucuses, which would mean Iowa would be voting in a meaningless June primary in 2020, 2024 and forever.
Our well-honed skills at questioning and evaluating candidates up close, which despite recent Republican stumbles have served the nation well in the long run, will be wasted in 2024 on a vote between Presumptive Nominee Chelsea Clinton and the ghost of Lyndon LaRouche.

There's a real shot that, between the second coming of Hillary Inevitability and the general dysfunction in Iowa's other party, that we may be at the end of our run, that the caucuses may no longer matter, that we'll be just another flyover state again. Which might make some Beltway types happy, but our rivals like Florida and Michigan are too big for one to one politics. It would be a loss for democracy to close down the last retail store on the town square and exchange our intimate events for tarmac rallies, completing the Walmartization of the national process.

Sure, we're used to lavish attention, and we get that Hillary doesn't "need" to do that. But a lot of this anxiety could be eased by just a few kind words. Iowans are a forgiving folk. If Hillary is willing to let bygones be bygones, so are we. Fair warning: we'll give everyone else a fair shot, too. Madame Secretary, if you're reading, we've got a barbecue scheduled for October 4, 2014. You're warmly invited, and bring Bill.