Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Which Item Will Annoy The Most people?

So the Clippers owner is banned from the NBA for life and likely to be forced to sell the team. Any way the NBA can make sure he gets no more than the $12.5 million fire sale price he paid for the team in 1981? A profit of hundreds of millions ain't a "punishment..."

John Kerry's also in a little trouble for off the record remarks. Using the word "apartheid" in the context of Palestine is entirely acceptable in Israeli domestic politics,, but not in US domestic politics. Kerry's statement reminds me of the classic definition of a gaffe: when a politician inadvertently speaks the truth...

Johnson County's jail diversion program is setting such a good example that other counties are looking to us. One of the key staffers involved, Jessica Peckover, is working with  Wapello County supervisors to bring the program to Ottumwa.

But the House Republicans loaded the mild medical marijuana bill up with killer amendments last night. Clearly, Janet Lyness should be blamed.

Students are voting today, which usually annoys people in Iowa City. (Pro tip: Students also get annoyed when they get stereotyped as stoners, especially this close to finals.) Voting at the UI Main Library from 3 to 7. Also in Cedar Falls from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm at UNI's Maucker Union. The six hour time frame says "petition" and the site says "Kajtazovic." No ID required, here or in Wisconsin.

French (!) author Thomas Piketty's Capital In the 21st Century "has blown up libertarian fantasies one by one" :
The reason a person like the fictional John Galt would be able to rise from humble beginnings in the 1950s is because the Gilded Age rentiers lost large chunks of their wealth through the shocks the Great Depression and the deliberate government policies that came in its wake, thus loosening their stranglehold on the economy and society. Galt is able to make his fortune precisely because he lives in a society that isn’t dominated by extreme concentrated wealth and dynasties. Yet the logical outcome of an economy in which there is no attempt made to limit the size of fortunes and promote greater equality is a place in which the most likely way John Galt can make a fortune is to marry an heiress. So it was in the Gilded Age. So it may be very soon in America.

And this one will annoy my long suffering wife Koni as it combines two of my repetitive humor obsessions: apes and Harry Nilsson's insanely catchy song "Coconut" (as in Put The Lime In The). This is an actual music video made back in the day, four years before Bohemian Rhapsody and a decade before MTV (younger readers: that used to be a channel that showed music videos 24/7). Nilsson was notoriously stage shy and never ever played a live concert in his career.

The economy of the music business would never sustain someone like Nilsson today, a brilliant but quirky artist with marginal sales and the occasional fluke hit who worked exclusively in the studio. How many Nilssons are we losing today because of that?

Bonus: Harry heads insist that the gorilla at the piano is Nilsson's notorious drinking buddy John Lennon.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Upcoming Events: April 27 - May 4

It's County Government Week - for me that's every week - and this year we're showing off some emergency vehicles with a theme of "Ready and Resilient." Stop by the Admin Building parking lot 4:30pm - 6:30pm. Stop in first because we're ready and resilient for election emergencies.

Wednesday sees early voting sites on two campuses: the UI Main Library, which Team Zimmerman hopes to push, and Maucker Union at UNI, which the Anesa Kajtazovic campaign is promoting.

The Clothesline Project is a display of t-shirts in honor of victims and survivors of all genders who have experienced sexual assault, domestic violence, child sexual abuse, and homicide. This year it's Tuesday 9 to 3 on the Pentacrest.

The Johnson County Dem's monthly Central Committee meeting is on Thursday, May Day. That's Labor Day in the rest of the world, and the meeting fittingly is at the labor hall at 940 Gilbert Court.

Congratulations to Johnson County's newest lawyer, John Zimmerman, who takes his bar oath Tuesday after getting his passing grade a week ago Friday. (He's been a little shy about teh milestone, no mention from the campaign.) He's hoping his first job as a brand new lawyer will be supervising an experienced staff of 13 attorneys.

And of course Sunday is that annual geek holiday, Star Wars Day, as in May The Fourth be with you. Sorry.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Week In Review: April 21-27

One of the things about being your own publisher and editor is you write when you feel like it. So instead of having a weekly rundown in the can Saturday night like a good reporter should, I wake up Sunday several hours after "deadline," check the headlines, and start writing late morning. Then I post the post and check the spelling, in that order.
Senate debates medical cannabis, and then orders eight pizzas. With a veggie lover's special for Joe Bolkcom, my senator and the godfather of the bill. Question: if your whole campaign is based around not enforcing drug laws, and the legislature starts to loosen those laws up, what do you have left?

THIS from Lynn Vavreck at NYT. So much this:
There just aren’t that many swing voters.
Many people change their minds over the course of a campaign about whether to vote and even which candidate they’re leaning toward. Ultimately, though, voters tend to come home to their favored party. There are relatively few voters who cross back and forth between the parties during a campaign or even between elections.

Most identify with the same political party their entire adult lives, even if they do not formally register with it. They almost always vote for the presidential candidate from that party, and they rarely vote for one party for president and the other one for Congress. And most voters are also much less likely to vote in midterm elections than in presidential contests.

The 2014 fight is not over swing voters. It’s for partisans.
Attention: objective journalists and people who claim to "study the candidates."

We started voting this week and for lack of anyone else available the Press-Citizen talked to me. Voting got off to a faster start than I expected and was overwhelmingly in the Democratic primary, even more overwhelmingly that you'd think in the People's Republic.

The thing about primaries is you have two elections more or less competing with each other, and voters can only vote in one. This year Republicans have a top of the ticket race and Democrats have a courthouse primary. Republicans have no contested races below state senate, Democrats have no contests above state senate.

The Republican Senate race is still taking shape, so many Republicans may be keeping their powder dry to see which two of the four serious contenders (sorry, Schaben) look to be strongest. At the moment that's Ernst and Jacobs but that may shift.

I expect a nudge sometinme soon. Terry Branstad always always always does a big absentee mailing in his campaigns and he has incentive to do it in this primary. He wants to bury Some Dude opponent Tom Hoefling, he wants to freshen up his absentee list for the fall race against Jack Hatch, and he'd like to help his preferred Senate candidate Joni Ernst. My bet, and I have no inside knowledge of GOP internal strategery, but my bet is those mailers hit sometime this week or next.

It's the kind of organizational thing Branstad has always been good at and that the AJ Spiker era Republican Party of Iowa was poor at. So yesterday's counter-revolution, where "establishment" Republicans knocked the Ron Paul supporters elected in 2012 off the state central committee, is a big deal.

Still, the administration's ethics scandal and tightening polls have the political number crunchers at Smart Politics asking: Could Terry Branstad Lose?

Russia doesn't consider Ukraine a "real country" and Joe Biden says "No nation has the right to simply grab land of another nation." I shouldn't be afraid to write what I really think in response to that. Must ask in person and answer will be off the record. I've got enough former friends already who've abused past trust lately.

She's over the top in some spots ("Exhilaration, ecstasy and communal vision are the gifts of Dionysus, god of wine') but of all people the eternal contrarian Camille Paglia comes closer than anyone to my thoughts on the drinking age:
It is absurd and unjust that young Americans can vote, marry, enter contracts and serve in the military at 18 but cannot buy an alcoholic drink in a bar or restaurant. The age-21 rule sets the U.S. apart from all advanced Western nations and lumps it with small or repressive countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Learning how to drink responsibly is a basic lesson in growing up — as it is in wine-drinking France or in Germany, with its family-oriented beer gardens and festivals. This civilized practice descends from antiquity. 
Plus bonus points for, you know, actually raising the subject.

And I finally give up all hope on a crush I've nurtured since the original Freaky Friday as Jodie Foster gets married.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Praise For Pat's Plates

Iowa City Federation of Labor president Patrick Hughes accepted an award from the Johnson County Supervisors this morning for City Fed's license plate recycling program. The project has raised over $30,000 for charities, mostly local ones, over the years.

Pat tells the story better than anyone else so here's one of my first attempts at news video.

Last summer

Hughes worked with the treasurer's office and apprentice carpenters to install an outdoor plate recycling box at the Administration Building.

Hughes is in line for another award soon. He's one of this years inductees for the Johnson County Democrats Hall of Fame. That event's coming up on May 17.

Hey, Matt, Can I Get A Paycheck And Not Work Too?

Three and a half years into what thankfully is a single term, Secretary of State Matt Schultz looks like a classic case of the Peter Principle, in which people rise to their level of incompetence. His latest screw-up: keeping political crony Jim Gibbons on staff in a no-show job.

Excuse? Schultz "didn't want to fire Gibbons sooner because Gibbons' wife was recovering from a serious illness," said the guy whose first campaign pledge was, you guessed it, repealing Obamacare.

The icing on this irony came: just recently Schultz sent out a press release bragging about how much money he's saved with office re-organization. Some of us were wondering when this mystical $200 K was going to be used to repay the ""Help" America Vote Act money that Schultz misused on a "voter fraud" crusade that gave us a handful of plead-outs from frightened ex-felons, a Not Guilty in 40 minutes, and a dozen wrongly disenfranchised voters.

Not only did state auditor Mary Mosiman say Schultz should pay that back - oh, this keeps getting better - she was the one who got Gibbons' admittedly minimal job duties dumped on her when Gibbons switched to a "work from home" job.

Work from home.

Every so often, someone gets elected who's just in over their head from day one. Sometimes it's a fluke, sometimes it's an ideology over competence thing, sometimes it's just sheer voter ignorance. In Schultz's case it seems to be all three, and he's a classic cautionary tale of the risk.  The only good news here is that Schultz's reach for a congressional seat is exceeding his grasp and the public sector is likely to be done with him soon. And we'll all be better off when Matt stops coming in to work.

I'd write more but now that I'm done expressing my own opinion on my own time, a right guaranteed in my union contract, I actually have to show up to work. When I'm at work I talk more objectively, like this. See the difference?

And I help people vote.  Which you can do today.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hatch: "We have a race"

Has Iowa's once sleepy election for governor, which recently looked like a coronation, suddenly a real contest?

Jack Hatch thinks so. Of course Terry Branstad's challenger would think so, but the Des Moines legislator says new numbers back him up.

A recent PPP poll showed the gap between Branstad and Hatch narrowing, with a top-line number of Branstad 43 Hatch 38.  "We have a race," the challenger said of the numbers.

The poll comes after weeks of news coverage of questionable hirings and firings by the Branstad administration.

"Iowans are paying attention to Branstad's mess," Hatch said of the scandals.  "This goes to the heart of what people think of their governor. When I'm elected they'll have a governor they can trust."

"This is the first time his approval has been negative," Hatch said of the poll's report that more voters disapproved of Branstad's job performance than approved.

Hatch noted than any one poll is just a snapshot, but the important thing to look at is the trend. "It's a slow climb but he is trending down and I'm beginning to trend up." The previous PPP poll, earlier this month had shown Branstad at 48 and Hatch at 32.

The horse race question came at the beginning of the survey. After job approval and discussion of the hiring/firing, the poll reported and end-of-call number of Branstad 41, Hatch 40 - the score Team Hatch put at the top of yesterday's press release.

That may be an exaggeration of the present state of play, but it does show an opportunity for Hatch. He said "I'll be raising money and traveling and meeting as many people as I can" as soon as the legislative session ends, which should be within days.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Kajtazovic a Target - Literally?

An ugly turn in the 1st District Democratic primary over the weekend as a gun group encouraged people to hassle Anesa Kajtazovic at home for her vote against the silencer bill earlier this session.

Iowa Gun Owners posted Kajtazovic's home address and personal cell phone number on their Facebook page, telling readers: "Apparently, she has something to hide when it comes to your gun rights though as she refused to even open IGO's candidate survey! Let her know what you think of this." Several people did let her know, making threats.

"I’m adamantly opposed to Stand Your Ground laws, and I’ve always advocated for universal background checks," Kajtazovic said in a press release. "Publishing my home address was not right, but no measure of intimidation will cause me to change my views on these important issues.”

Because when it comes to intimidation, Anesa has been through a lot worse. Anyone with the least familiarity with the Kajtazovic story knows she survived the civil war in Bosnia and fled with her family to Waterloo when she was ten. So crank callers? You're trying to scare a woman who doesn't scare easy.

“The bottom line is that silencing devices on firearms disguises the fact that a shot has been fired, and in a time where gun violence is so prevalent, I will always take the side of common-sense legislation that aims to protect the people,” Kajtazovic said of being one of just 16 House members, all Democrats natch, who voted against a bill that would have legalized silencers and suppressors for firearms in Iowa. Worth noting: Pat Murphy voted FOR the bill.

"Unlike some of my opponents in this Primary, I’m not afraid to stand up to powerful interest groups, including the gun lobby. When it comes down to it, I’ll show them that I too can stick to my guns.”

Upcoming Events: April 21-28

All candidates and most of my readers know but it can't be said enough: Voting starts Thursday! Johnson County kicks it off at the office 7:45 to 5:30 and at Old Capitol Mall from 11 to 7.

That evening from 5 to 7 Janelle Rettig is having an early voting and early birthday (actual date Saturday) party at Bob's Your Uncle on North Dodge. Checks welcome, teal clothing encouraged.

The Center for Worker Justice knows how to get a regular mention in this feature: give your ongoing event the same name as a Clash song.

"Know Your Rights" is the first track on Combat Rock. Six sessions are planned even though Joe Strummer said you only have three of them. Sessions are at noon and 6 at 940 S. Gilbert Ct. and are planned for the last Friday of the month. Friday's event is "Protecting Your Health and Safety at Work: OSHA Rights."

Or, as Joe said, "you have the right not to be killed." (He put some qualifiers on that, though. Just listen to the song.)  A Workers Memorial Day event is planned for the Ped Mall Sunday at 2:
Each year dozens of Iowa workers are killed and hundreds more suffer work-related injuries or diseases.  Join us to remember those who died on the job last year and hear from workers and safety advocates who are confronting workplace hazards and renew our dedication to creating safer work places.

Both parties have congressional district conventions on Saturday. It could be the first of TWO conventions for 3rd District Republicans and 1st District Democrats, depending on how those primaries turn out. It also means a lot of scrambling for statewide candidates. The Democratic conventions are a bit off the beaten path. My guess is more state contenders will be at the 1st and 2nd CD in Vinton and Newton, a reasonable hour-forty drive apart, then at the 3rd in Council Bluffs or the 4th in Storm Lake. 

Sarah Palin will be in Iowa Sunday for a ShePAC "Heels On Gloves Off" rally in Des Moines, with Joni Ernst the apparent beneficiary(?). At least SOMEone is willing to visit Iowa. A nice round 2300 days today since we've seen Hillary. Dems are asking around about ways to boost caucus participation, and I'm thinking that one through, but top of the list would have to be candidates who show up...

And not quite as cool as a lunar eclipse, but seeing a real live spaceship is still pretty cool. Or at least the boys used to think so when they were younger. Monday and Tuesday the International Space Station makes two very visible passes over Iowa City at viewer-friendly hours - evening as opposed to pre-dawn.

If you know when and where to look and if weather cooperates you can't miss. Monday at 9:17 PM it's almost straight overhead and Tuesday at 8:29 it's also very visible. Looks a lot like an airplane only moving way too fast and way too steady, and it will be brighter than the brightest star or planet (in this case Jupiter and Mars).

Monday 21 April 2014
Time (24-hour clock)Object (Link)Event
 Observer SiteIowa City, Ia, United States
WGS84: Lon:  -91d27m42.12s  Lat: +41d38m30.84s  Alt: 174m
All times in CST or CDT (during summer)
→Ground track →Star chart
Appears      21h12m50s   3.5mag  az:304.7° NW   horizon
Culmination  21h18m19s  -4.1mag  az:215.5° SW   h:89.9°
 distance: 422.8km  height above Earth: 423.0km  elevation of Sun: -15°  angular velocity: 1.08°/s
at Meridian  21h18m19s  -4.1mag  az:180.0° S    h:89.8°
Disappears   21h19m36s  -3.5mag  az:126.0° SE   h:35.3°

Tuesday 22 April 2014
Time (24-hour clock)Object (Link)Event
→Ground track →Star chart
Appears      20h24m23s   3.4mag  az:307.0° NW   horizon
at Meridian  20h29m25s  -3.1mag  az:  0.0° N    h:49.9°
Culmination  20h29m49s  -3.6mag  az: 31.2° NNE  h:54.4°
 distance: 512.7km  height above Earth: 423.4km  elevation of Sun: -7°  angular velocity: 0.89°/s
Disappears   20h33m10s  -1.9mag  az:110.5° ESE  h:9.9°

You can get geeky details like that here at CalSky or sign up for email alerts.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Labor Likes Lyness

The Iowa City Federation of Labor Thursday offered a unanimous endorsement of incumbent county attorney Janet Lyness in her primary against challenger John Zimmerman.

In a brief speech before the endorsement voted Lyness noted her support for the Community ID program and her work on the county's first project labor agreement. Zimmerman was not present.

This little thing after the word "treasurer" is called a "union bug."

City Fed also declined to make a second endorsement in the Board of Supervisors primary. While various members said both Mike Carberry and Lisa Green-Douglass had completed "acceptable" surveys, the body decided to stick with the full endorsement of just incumbent Janelle Rettig made last month.

Labor has a busy month ahead but I'll save all those events for the weekly calendars.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Loras Poll Shows 1st CD Dems Wide Open

Counter intuitively, Pat Murphy's lead in a Loras College poll shows him in a weak position seven weeks out from the June 3 primary.

True, Murphy is well ahead, with 30 percent in the poll to 11 percent for his closest competitor, Anesa Kajtazovic. And that's not far off from other polling, showing Murphy close to, but not quite at, the 35 percent needed to win the nomination outright.

Murphy                        30 percent               
Kajtozovic                   11 percent
Dandekar                       9 percent
Vernon                            9 percent
O’Brien   6 percent
Undecided                34 percent

It's safe to say that a former House speaker who not only couldn't clear the field after being first to announce, but drew FOUR challengers, isn't going to be anyone's second choice.

Put another way, that 30 percent Murphy is 70 percent Anyone But Murphy. That 34 percent sitting out there undecided isn't likely to go for Murphy this late.

But, as in other polls, the three women in the race seem to be splitting about evenly.  There's strong sentiment among Democratic activists and primary voters that Iowa is way overdue for a woman in congress, so let's assume a big chunk of that undecided is struggling over which woman to support.

Let's also assume that this race may break late. We're one or two good polls away from one of these three women becoming the Not Murphy candidate, and at that point the other two women lose their soft support.

So who has the most room to grow?

Swati Dandekar's 9 percent may be a ceiling. While she's been good at raising money (mostly out of state), she's toxic to the party base for her less than progressive record and for her sudden resignation from her Senate seat, which risked Senate control, to take a six figure job from Terry Branstad.

So that leaves Vernon and Kajtazovic competing for the Not Murphy slot at end game. Vernon's been better able to raise money (though according to this this latest report she's kicked in $170,000 of her own money). But she shares her Linn County base with Dandekar and Dave O'Brien, the other middle aged Irishman in the race. And some voters are still uneasy with her relatively recent (2009) switch from the GOP to the Democrats. Still, at least she moved in the right direction, unlike Dandekar.

Kajtazovic - no secret I'm supporting her - has had a harder time with the money. But after a slow start had kept pace with the others once self-funding is out of the mix, almost matching Murphy for the quarter. And she has a Black Hawk County base all to herself.

So it's way too early to call this one, but if it comes down to Murphy and Kajtozovic at the end, I like Anesa's chances.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Upcoming Events: April 14-21

It's WAY too late for snow but if the skies clear by tonight, we'll have a good show. A total lunar eclipse is a very noticeable and easy to observe event. 

Lunar eclipses happen at full moon, so the moon rises at sunset. Also rising near sunset is Mars, White tonight makes its closest pass to earth since January 2008 at 57.4 million miles. The moon passed very close to a bright (but not as bright as Mars) star, Spica in the constellation Virgo, at about midnight, just as the less visible partial phase of the eclipse starts.

The earth's shadow moves across the moon till it covers the whole moon at 2:08 a.m. Lunar eclipses vary a lot, like sunsets, because you're looking at the moon and seeing the light from all the sunsets on Earth. If you were on the moon, you'd be seeing a solar eclipse, with a pitch-black Earth surrounded by a sunset ring.

The moon will be at it's darkest at 2:48 and starts to move out of totality at 3:23. Everything is done by 5:36.

It might be a good night for a a "split sleep" pattern, the way people used to sleep in the era before electric light: go to bed around sunset, wake up for a couple hours in the middle of the night, go back to sleep till dawn. I've done it a couple times, usually on weekends, and it's not bad.

Tuesday is Tax Day but I can't find any evidence of any local rallies, either by anti-war left or anti-tax right. Both groups sometimes protest Tax Day, not the only way the left and right are starting to resemble each other around here...

Thursday at 6 the Iowa City Federation of Labor has its monthly meeting at 6 PM at the labor hall at 940 S. Gilbert Ct. Endorsements for the June 3 primary are likely to come up.

Saturday is the seventh annual Record Store Day, an event dedicated to the joy of those great common spaces where we spent our weekend dollars and hours, back when being a music fan in search of new sound was an active ongoing commitment that was more than a mouse click away. If I sound like an old man it's because I am. Major artists participate with special limited edition vinyl only releases. This year's releases run from Hank Williams radio broadcasts to a special edition of the latest Katy Perry. Not everything is available everywhere - kinda like the old days. Iowa City's Record Collector, the last record store in town, is the place.

And 4/20 is not only Easter, it's 420. Maybe in honor of that we'll see a breakthrough this week on the medical marijuana bill?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Week in Review: April 6-13

Johnson County lost a giant on Friday with the passing of Harry Seelman. Harry was a leader of the Johnson County farm community and a Hall Of Fame Democrat along with his wife Lucille, who he's with now.

And with a dozen children, you could almost win an election just on the all important immediate family vote. Harry and Lucille passed public service on to the next generation and three of their children are in public office: Jim Seelman on the Clear Creek Amana school board, Colleen Chipman on the North Liberty city council, and most prominently State Rep. Mary Mascher.

Visitation will be from 3 to 7 p.m. this afternoon at the Cosgrove Institute, next to the church Harry and Lucille cherished. Mass is at  at 10:00 a.m. Monday at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Cosgrove. The National Catholic Society of Foresters will recite a rosary at 9:45 a.m. prior to the Mass. Burial will be at the Church Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Harry Seelman Memorial Fund.

Compared to Harry Seelman's 92 years anything I say is trivia, but you must like my trivia because you're here. Yesterday on my bike ride I saw someone simultaneously riding a bike and reading a book, which is probably the most Iowa City thing ever.

I KNEW there was a reason I liked the Democratic candidate for state auditor:


Say what you will about Paul Ryan and his Friday visit to Cedar Rapids for a Republican Party fundraiser. For the record the ONLY thing I agree with him on is the Green Bay Packers. But at least he's willing to visit the first in the nation caucus state. Unlike someone we all know.

HOW do you say it? Anesa Kajtazovic has people mispronouncing her name in a new video, reprising this classic Ed Mezvinsky pronouncer ad.

Where are they now: Dropped out House 28 candidate Jon Van Wyk had his Jasper County voter registration challenged and canceled for non-residency.  Van Wyk had tried and failed to move in March for a primary challenge to fellow Republican Greg Heartsill.

A challenge to a voter registration is extremely rare. The former auditor told me it had only had happened once in his tenure. I remember the case: A homeowner got really paranoid about identity theft because he got a card for someone who didn't live there. We tried to assure him it was a mistake but he insisted on the challenge. We had no phone number or way to contact the kid getting challenged other than sending a letter to the same wrong address. So we had a hearing, the homeowner testified that the kid didn't live there, and we cancelled the guy.

Months later we founds out what had happened which we'd suspected all along: when the kid who got challenged had gone to get his drivers license and registered to vote, the DOT made a typo in the house number. Of COURSE we found out on presidential election day, I want to say 2000 but maybe 2004, and since this was before election day registration he didn't get to vote.

Speaking of the former auditor, he would never have done this:

Nice to smile and laugh at work once in a while nowadays. We public employees get to do that sometimes.

Since we're not in Wisconsin, and since we still have 26 Democratic state senators, we public employees also get to express our political opinions on our own time. Says so in my union contract. Also important for Democratic candidates to use union printers. They teach you that in campaign 101.

John Zimmerman's signs started going out this week and they're non-union printed.  I pointed this out and was met by some very creative mental gymnastics from old-school "progressives" (?) trying to explain away the cognitive dissonance. Gems: the accusation that only campaigns with "lots of money from rich people" used union printing, and the charge that I was being "like a nasty Republican" for raising the point.

Zimmerman himself said I was trying to "nitpick" his campaign, indicating he considers support of labor a trivial issue. Not surprising, as he was the only announced county Democratic candidate who skipped out on the City Federation of Labor's annual chili supper in February, labor's second biggest event of the year after the Labor Day picnic. He seems to have made the counter-intuitive decision that libertarians are more important than labor in a Democratic primary.

My personal recommendation for union printing needs is Adcraft of Cedar Rapids. Most local progressives go there or Carter in Des Moines. Of course, in the local politics context there's a fierce fighting over the definition of "progressive"; I have a future post planned on that.

And if you're looking at Julia Louis-Dreyfus nude on the cover of Rolling Stone and what you notice is that  the signature is wrong…

Friday, April 11, 2014

Schultz: Nine Additional Voters Disenfranchised

Nine additional voters were disenfranchised because of Matt Schultz's inaccurate list of felons, the Secretary of State admitted in a Friday memo to county auditors.

The additional errors brings the total to 12 Iowa voters wrongly denied the right to vote in the 2012 presidential election. Cerro Gordo County auditor Ken Kline had previously announced that three voters in his county were wrongly excluded.

"Following a review of additional voters who also had rejected provisional ballots for reason of felony conviction in the 2012 general election," Schultz says in the memo, "the (Department of Criminal Investigation) determined an additional 9 voters were affected by similar issues that ultimately resulted in the wrongful rejection of their ballots." The memo also pledges steps to prevent the problem in the future.

Schultz, who's leaving the Secretary of State office for a 3rd CD congressional bid, has used federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) money to dedicate a criminal investigator to research voter fraud. The investigation has let to a handful of plea agreements and just one trial, in which a Lee County jury took just minutes to determine that a woman whose rights had not been restored made an honest mistake and did not willfully break the law.

State auditor Mary Mosiman,a fellow Republican and former Schultz employee, questioned the use of up to $280,000 of HAVA money and recommended that Schultz “develop a plan to repay HAVA funds should the US Election Commission not allow the activity and request payment.”

Yesterday Schultz issued a press release that he had repaid the state $200,000, but it turns out that was money returned to the state general fund for staff cuts, and not the HAVA money.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Inconsistent Message In Social Host Bill

I'm not a fan of the social host bill just passed by the Legislature and certain to be signed by the governor. But in the fine print of the legislative process, there's a hint to the point I've been arguing all along.

The bill would hold "social hosts" (parents, homeowners, names on the lease, etc.) criminally liable for underage drinking on the premises, with a $200 misdemeanor fine.

But here's where it gets interesting. The bill as originally drafted fined hosts for drinkers under 21. But House Republicans - and I recognize the irony that I'm taking the House Republicans side here - changed that to 18, and the Democratic-run Senate was willing to accept that on a unanimous vote.

This is a rare open acknowledgement that there's a difference between college aged adults drinking and high school students drinking. It's an admission that the 21 year old drinking age isn't really about 19 and 20 year olds. It's about 16 and 17 year olds. Three years worth of adults have fewer rights than other adults in order to create a cultural barrier until their younger friends age out of high school.

It's a confession that 21 is unenforceable. It's a pretty open statement about our societal double standard that it's OK, or at least less bad and more culturally acceptable, to drink when you're old enough to vote, as long as you're low key about it.

Low key about it? Ames, you're doing it wrong.

So we're going to punish social hosts for some illegal drinking but not all illegal drinking? And my logical solution of one consistent age doesn't look like it was discussed.

We're left again with our bizarre, bifurcated, uniquely American dual age of adulthood, with 18 constitutionally locked in for voting but alcohol counter-productively singled out for 21, as the ultimate symbol of adulthood. 

I'm close on giving up on ever expecting that contradiction to change, but I'll point it out when I see it. And this example is especially glaring.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Which Was The Wrong Statement?

Sam Clovis, shock jock and would be Senator, says some interesting things. That's part of his appeal in the conservative counties of western Iowa that make up his base.

But those statements don't play as well to the national press. and Sam said a couple interesting things yesterday in an interview with Douglas Burns of the Carroll Daily Times Herald, for my money the most under-rated journalist in the state (and a former colleague from my Iowa Independent glory days of 2007-08).

The national folks like Talking Points Memo are zooming in on this exchange:
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sam Clovis, a firebrand northwest Iowa conservative, says he believes many congressional Republicans want to impeach President Obama. The only thing standing in their way, Clovis said in an interview, is the color of the president's skin.

"I would say there are people in the House of Representatives right now that would very much like to take the opportunity to start the process," Clovis said of impeaching the nation's first African-American president. "And I think the reason that they're not is because they're concerned about the media."
TPM also calls Clovis "a long shot GOP Senate candidate," which understates his significance to the race. I can still see a vote-splintering scenario in the five way race. Well, four way plus Scott Schaben, but he soaks up 4 percent just for being better than Paul Lunde at qualifying for the ballot, which makes it a little harder for anyone to get the required 35 percent. I can see Clovis being very appealing to a convention.

No, a REAL long shot candidate would be independent Bob Quast, such a Some Dude that even I never heard of him. Quote of the day: "If you come to my front door to do harm to my girls, I'm going to use my Glock. To blow your balls off."  He was going to take this message into the Democratic primary, but apparently attended the Jonathan Narcisse School of Ballot Access Law.

But my point before this tangent was that the national folks are focusing on the "Obama won't get impeached because he's black" aspect of the Clovis-Burns interview.

But there's another story from the interview, which Doug headlines Clovis: Criminalizing abortion 'a bridge too far'.
Clovis told the Daily Times Herald in an interview Monday he wants to see a "cultural decision" that makes abortion something no longer done "because it's the taking of a life."

"If we're going to put a penalty or a punishment on that and criminalize that, I think that's a bridge too far," Clovis said.

But Clovis believes life begins at conception. So wouldn't abortion be the same as a convenience-store stick-up gone bad, with a dead clerk?

"I honestly don't know about the criminalization of this," Clovis said.

Isn't that the end game of the pro-life movement, criminalizing abortion? If it's not illegal, then isn't abortion what it is right now - a fierce fight for the hearts and minds of women and their physicians?

"I don't know," Clovis said. "I don't think so. That's not my endgame."
As an Iowa City liberal I'm not an expert on internal Republican primary politics in western Iowa. But I know enough about the party's direction to think that "Criminalizing abortion a bridge too far" probably costs you more votes in the context of a Republican primary than "Obama won't get impeached because he's black."

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Anderson offering new tone to Secretary of State race

“This race is about one of the most important civil rights issues of our generation, the right to vote,” Brad Anderson told a Democratic group at an Iowa City fund raiser yesterday.

The secretary of state candidate was in town raising both dollars and his profile. Neither party has a primary so Anderson faces Republican Paul Pate, who held the job for one term in the 1990s, in November. (Libertarian Jake Porter, who ran in 2010, is also running again.)

The race has changed radically since December, when GOP incumbent Matt Schultz shifted to the open 3rd CD race after Tom Latham retired. But much of Anderson's speech, at least in front of a partisan crowd, focused on how he would differ from Schultz.

“Voter suppression is un-American, it is un-Iowan and it is ending the day I take office,” Anderson said.

A particular concern, for Anderson and the attendees, was Schultz's use of federal money to hire a criminal investigator to seek out voter fraud cases.

“Millions of votes have been cast in Iowa these last three years, and just six people have plead guilty.  In Lee county for the first time a case actually went to a jury. A mother of three young kids was facing 15 years in jail for what the lead juror called an honest mistake," he said, adding that the jury took just 40 minutes to find her not guilty.

The sentiment was echoed by county attorney Janet Lyness, who said she had been approached by the investigator about one case, a non-citizen who had inadvertently registered when getting a driver's license because of a language barrier.

“Instead of spending time on a murder or a sexual abuse case," Lyness said, "we had an agent spending hours and hours on a case where I said we’re not going to prosecute because there’s not enough evidence he willfully violated a law.” (This is what experienced attorneys call "prosecutorial discretion.")

Worse, Anderson said, was an incident in Mason City where, “For the first time in Iowa history three eligible voters got their votes thrown out because they were on a bad list (of felons). And that was only one county. We don’t know how many other people wrongly got their votes thrown out because they were on a bad list.”

Anderson said fixing these list problems and making better use of electronic poll books, rather than investigations and voter ID laws, would be a better way to improve election integrity. , increased use of electronic poll books would be a better way to insure election integrity. “Electronic poll books immediately lets (workers) know if you’re on the felon registry, if you’re eligible, and if you’re in the right place. That would do way more to insure integrity than voter ID would.”

 As for ID itself, Anderson said “The face of voter ID is not students. It’s the disabled community.”

Anderson has set a goal of making Iowa number one in voter turnout. "I’m tired of getting beat by Minnesota.” To do this, he recommends making voter registration available on line ("They do it in over a dozen other states”) and allowing permanent absentee voting.

“If you could check a box when you register that said send me a ballot for every election period, you want to talk about increasing turnout, that would be amazing,” Anderson said. Under current Iowa law, voters must request mailed ballots separately for each election.

Still, Anderson, Iowa has one of the best early voting laws, letting voters cast early votes up to 40 days before primary and general elections with no reasons required. He also noted that Terry Branstad had signed the law.

“This idea of suppressing votes is new to Iowa. These are not Democrat vs Republican ideas. These are Iowa ideas. These are Bob Ray ideas and Tom Harkin ideas.”

The race is low profile so far, but Anderson said national superPACs plan to throw tens of millions into secretary of state races in Iowa and a handful of other states.

In addition to Lyness, other elected officials and candidates on hand included the three leading Democratic supervisor candidates, incumbent Janelle Rettig and candidates Mike Carberry and Lisa Green-Douglass, along with Rod Sullivan whose seat is on the presidential cycle. Auditor Travis Weipert and Kingsley Botchway from the city council were also there.

Pure Trivia: Two Specials In One Congress?

I may have hit a new low in political trivia.

That's not as low as Vance McAllister has gone, though. The newly minted congressman, winner of a November special election with a big boost from a Duck Dynasty endorsement - you can't make this stuff up - has just been caught smoochin' a staff member not his wife.

McAllister took over from Rod Alexander, most famous for a filing deadline switch from Democrat to Republican. (He may have stole the idea from Doug Struyck.) Alexander quit to take a better paying job from the governor (he definitely stole the idea from Swati Dandekar).

This may break the land speed record, though, breaking the old record set seemingly yesterday by Trey Radel (Congressman Busted For Coke his likely obit headline) In the social media age, these scandals move fast, from revelation to resignation within days.

Which begs the question: had a congressional district ever gone through a SECOND special election cycle in the same term?

Greg Giroux keeps a comprehensive list of House specials, dating back to 1961, and it hasn't happened in that time frame. The most recent case I can find is in a hard copy of Congressional Quarterly's Guide to US Elections - why yes, I own one - that lists House races back to the 1820s.

Luckily I only had to go back to 1930-31. Congressman John Quayle of New York's 7th District died three weeks after being re-elected in 1930. Matthew O'Malley won a Feb. 17, 1931 special election. But the hapless O'Malley expired himself on May 26, without ever attending a session (before the 20th Amendment, the new congress convened in December of the year after the election. Which was screwy. Which was why the amendment.)

This meant a second special election in November 1931, won by John Delaney. He died in office, too, but not till 1948. All three winners were Democrats, all were by similar 2 to 1 margins and the Republicans nominated three different losers.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Scouting The Other Team: Johnson County GOP Dinner

Greetings from the Coralville Mariott and the Johnson County Republican dinner where I'm not a tracker. I'm scouting the other team because we have a big game in November and I need to check out their moves.

The program proper starts at 7:30 so right now the eating is happening. Governor Branstad is slated as a keynote speaker. The US Senate candidates are mainly on the other side of the state though Mark Jacobs is on hand. He and Ernst and Whitaker have big tables of Stuff but, surprisingly, I see no presence from Sam Clovis.

Mariannette Miller-Meeks is reportedly on hand though I've yet to actually see her; line of sight is probably obstructed by a taller person. Mark Lofgren isn't here but his stuff is. And state senate candidates Bob Anderson and Royce Phillips are working the crowd. Mike Moore reportedly RSVPd but isn't on hand. Sending the check helps too in such things.

I'm skipping our own central committee meeting for this assuming it'll be more interesting. Our chair conceded the point but she had to run the meeting.

The press platform is straight back from the stage and I'm directly in back of the governor, which marks the first time I've ever been behind Branstad on anything. Organizers report a paid attendance of about 130 which looks about right. Will be interesting to compare room capacity when the Dems host our own event in this same room on May 17.

And now I see Miller-Meeks working the crowd. Dinner proper is winding down. My bet is for a brief Branstad speech and lots of humor at Bruce Braley's expense.

Karen Fesler is handling the MC duties and thanking the organizers and sponsors. Some things are alike on bothsides. Some things different: Republican events start with much more prayer/national anthem stuff. Another elected official spotted, Laurie Goodrich of Coralville City Council.

Karen hands off the mic to Bill Keettel, the chair. Bill repeats many of the thank yous. First shot at Braley comes with the Jacobs introduction. Ernst has a surrogate on hand. The other event is apparently in greater metropolitan Mt. Ayr. Miller-Meeks gets louder applause than Jacobs, Lofgren gets an excuse for legislative duty. My applause meter can't detect a difference between Bob Anderson and Royce Phillips.

As for the House seats (where there are no candidates in the four core seats) "we're building the party and intend to contest those seats in the future." Finally, waaaay down the list - Danny Carroll, who takes the mic.

Carroll reminisces about his legislative days and tax cuts which leads to a call for the GOP trifecta and much rejoicing. Keettel gives John Etheredge a shout out for supporting a bill that lets us auditors offices scan and discard some ancient voter registration forms after we scan them. Bill also gives some credit to Sally Stutsman and ("I'll praise him just this one time") Mike Gronstal.

Sandy Greiner handles the Branstad intro. I'm not expecting to hear much about hiring and firing in this speech. Greiner: "The governor treats the lt governor as a 100% equal." Or heir apparent... yet I don't see her here. Brags up Iowa's low unemployment rate of 4.2%... *COUGHdEMOCRATICpRESIDENTCOUGH* but "when you get farther away from the metro areas things get more difficult but things are coming back and we thank the governor and lt governor for that."

Greiner continues to talk economics and taxes, with a mention of tuition freeze; this doesn't seem like a social issues crowd tonight. This time next year at an event like this it may be very different with presidential candidates keynoting.

And The Guv is on.

Lovely room but the lighting is poor for photos, especially from the cheap seats. 

Branstad shouts out to the absent Reynolds: "I have met my match in enthusiasm and energy." Seems it's her wedding anniversary. Also reminiscences about ex-press secretary Susan Neely. Praise of women seems to be a theme here.

"I became a Republican in Iowa City. I was pretty disillusioned with the Democrats and a law student named Julian Garrett said the Republicans aren't as bad as you think. So I went to a meeting and the speaker was a young state representative from New Hartford named Chuck Grassley, this was in 1966."

"We know this is a challenging difficult county but I just want to thank all the people who volunteer."

"This is our best opportunity in 30 years to win this senate seat. The Democrats made a big mistake they had no contest and united behind a flawed candidate. Our beloved Senator Chuck Grassley has more intelligence than all the trial lawyers of Texas. We need a senator who will vote WITH Chuck Grassley, not put him down." So no jokes, full-throated attack.

"I've never lost an election, and one of the reasons for that is no one will ever work harder." Some not-necessary Culver bashing - dude, you won -  but also telling that he went after Braley before Hatch. "Iowans don't want to go back to the debt and excessive spending of the past. They want to see the state grow and prosper."

"You may remember in the Vilsack administration, 18, 19% increase in tuition. Now for the first time we have two years in a row of no tuition increase." Again to a predecessor. He's dismissing Hatch by omission.

"We also need to recognize the importance of investing in the rest of the state of Iowa." Brings up Lee County fertilizer plant - is he going to work in a Democrat bash here? "We didn't give them a handout - we gave them a credit against future taxes. And you got a senator in Iowa City, Bolkcom, who said that was the worst deal he's ever seen." Yep, called it. "They're still gonna pay a heck of a lot in taxes, and if they'd located in Illinois we wouldn't have gotten any of those jobs." Bolkcom's attacks are "purely for politics. They could have passed a tax cut, but instead he wants to take those 1000 jobs.  There's only two counties I've never carried: Johnson County and Lee County. Your Senator may make it possible for me to carry Lee County." (interesting omission... for the record Bob Ray did win Johnson County twice, in his last two runs. And Chuck Grassley won four in a row here before trailing Roxanne Conlin in 2010.)

Speech running must longer than I anticipated. I expected brief remarks.

"2014 can be the year I lead this team to victory. We can win that senate seat, we can win a bunch of congressional seats, and we can win both houses of the legislature. "

He wraps with not a mention of his actual opponent, just a brief painting of "failed policies of the past." A harsh dismissal of omission. A brief goodbye from Fesler and exodus to the doors begins. Standing by to see what happens.

There's a little traffic at the Jacobs table, less at Ernst's, none at Whitaker's. Exodus to doors is slow. So is news so I'll sign off. 

Afterthought: Branstad avoided taking any sides in the contested primaries even though it's well assumed that Ernst is his preferred Senate candidate and almost certain he favors his former department head Miller-Meeks. You might try to take a hint from his praise of female candidates at the beginning of his speech as he discussed Greiner and Reynolds, but you'd have to be looking for it. Also, absolutely zero acknowledgement that technically, Branstad has a primary challenger of his own. Not that it merits much mention. 

Nice Bank Shot In Sec of State Race

Attn haters: THIS is what campaigning on the job actually looks like:
For Immediate Release:

April 2, 2014                          

Matt Schultz Caught Using Secretary of State’s Office for Personal Political Agenda

Follows Paul Pate’s 1997 Playbook

Des Moines – Following Paul Pate’s 1997 playbook, Secretary of State Matt Schultz has once again been caught misusing the Secretary of State’s office to further his congressional campaign.  In 1997, the Iowa State Ethics Commission began an investigation into then-Secretary of State Paul Pate for improperly using the Secretary of State’s official office, voter registration lists and computers to further his campaign for governor.  Following the investigation, Pate was formally reprimanded by the Commission.

Today, Matt Schultz was also caught using his official office for political gain -- this time to further his congressional campaign.  A mailer from the Second Amendment Foundation signed by Schultz has been made to look like an official mailer sent by the official Secretary of State’s office, going so far to say far “Official Ballot Enclosed,” on a political survey.

“What we are seeing here is a classic play out of the Paul Pate playbook – abusing the Secretary of State’s office for personal political gain,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chair Scott Brennan.  “Iowans deserve a Secretary of State who will focus on modernizing the office and increasing voter turnout, rather than abusing the office to score political points like Matt Schultz and Paul Pate have."

Ethics board investigating Pate Campaign. On October 14, 1997, the Des Moines Register reported that “A state board that enforces ethics laws decided Monday to investigate a complaint that the office of Iowa Secretary Paul Pate, a candidate for the republican nomination for governor was used improperly for campaign activities. The complaint by Steven Hulsizer, a former employee, alleges that voter registration lists and computers in the secretary of state’s office were used in the distribution of campaign materials, and staff members helped with political mailings during and after hours.

Pate gets formal reprimand from state. On February 13, 1998, the Des Moines Register reported that “State campaign regulators have reprimanded Secretary of State Paul Pate because a worker in his office conducted political business on state time. ...Pate, a Marion Republican, must establish formal procedures prohibiting political work in his office and establish strict separation between office and campaign work under the settlement. He also got a formal letter of reprimand and agreed to reimburse the state $250.”
Sorry to be behind the curve on this one, but I was AT WORK and needed to wait till I WENT TO LUNCH at my HOME where I have a big old sign in my yard.With a (correction) COMPLETELY VOLUNTARY paid for by disclaimer.

It's a nice twofer, hitting both Schultz and his replacement candidate for his current job, the once and not future Paul Pate. Democrat Brad Anderson faced a suddenly changed race when Schultz switched contests after Tom Latham's retirement, but Pate looks like a classic case of Meet The New Boss Same As The Old Boss (definitely not true at my job).

Reminder: Anderson's in town next Monday, 5:30-7 and the Sturgis Corner Hampton Inn.

And writer's block officially over.