Thursday, June 22, 2006

Practicing what you preach doesn't get you money from Rod Aycox.

Again, internet is still a $7.50/hr investment (the Minocqua public library has non-functional free computers, but the function is kinda important), so I'll post something quick and snarky and let both of us get back to our lives:

Bret Hayworth had a great post this week where he talks about Chris Rants' affection for Teddy Roosevelt. In it he lists Rants' six favorite Roosevelt quotes. The first one is this one:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiams, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I decided to rewrite it as it would be written if it had actually been said about Rants:

“It is not the critic who counts prevents forward momentum on cigarette taxes, car title loans or minimum wage hikes; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles stands in the way of progress, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better eluded the will of the people. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood that no amount of money from Rod Aycox can remove; who strives collects money valiantly; who errs, who comes causes efforts for change to come short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming corruption; but who does actually strive to do stop the deeds; who knows and halts great enthusiams, the great devotions to his contributors; who spends himself and his money in against a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high non-achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring profiting greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. didn't use their office to make a buck.”


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Greetings from Wisconsin

So, as it turns out, I had hoped to do some posting from two different locations on this trip, and on both, I've found non-working computers. So now, faced with the possibility of posting all week at a cost of $.12/minute, I'm facing the reality that I probably won't post much for the next week.

With that said, I did some work this morning updating this post on Gravel's Fair Tax proposal, using some insight I received from the Gravel campaign. Given his corrections, it's slightly closer to balancing. Still not there.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Off to Wisconsin

Good morning one and all,

Just wanted to let you know that within the next half hour or so, I'll be leaving for Wisconsin until around July 1. I'm still working on parts 2 and 3 of Gravel, in fact a change of scenery will probably help me finish them. I'll also still be posting on stuff that I see in my e-mail and other blogs, but probably not as quickly, as I'll be 500 miles away and internet access will be sporadic at best.

I guess to sum it up, for the next two weeks my posting will probably come in streaks and stops, which I guess isn't all that unusual.


Saturday, June 17, 2006

So this is what I get for blogging about my sleep cycle...

So remember yesterday, when I told you about how great I slept?

The sleep gods are kicking my ass for that. Maybe it's the aftermath of my meeting with Gravel, maybe it's the fact that State Convention is today, or maybe it's the fact that it's f*cking hot in my apartment (even after cooling off overnight, it's 83 in here this morning), but I didn't fall asleep til after 2 and at 5 I had been lying awake long enough to give up.

Funny story: When I first started working for Fallon, I'd wake up in the middle of the night struck by an idea all the time. I'd get up, write a few paragraphs about it so I'd remember in the morning, and go back to bed. Sometimes the stuff would be useful, but on a few separate occasions I got up, wrote a few paragraphs of gobbeldy-gook without any coherent elements, and woke up a few hours later only to stare at it and wonder what the hell I could've been thinking. I should've saved some of that stuff.

So, with that said, since I can't tell if I'm coherent or not, I'm limiting myself to some relatively mindless meta-blogging this morning.

I've cleaned the inactives out of the list of favorite blogs on your right. If you've got a blog you think should be in my favorites, let me know.

I've also added about half a dozen newspapers to the list of newspapers farther down on your right. If you're going to have a list of newspapers, might as well have a complete list.

Bret Hayworth finally came around on what the Fallon campaign was telling the press for months: Iowans don't care who their elected officials are voting for.

Chris Woods attended the Democratic Elitism dinner last night, but so far has only posted a quick roundup. Read the comments on Chris' post to see the transcript of a speech given by Berkley Bedell which I wish I had seen live.

John Deeth is skipping state convention today. If I lived outside Des Moines, I probably would too.

I'll take notes at convention today but I doubt I'll bring a laptop to liveblog, and by the time I get home I probably won't feel like writing about it, so Political Forecast is probably your best bet for convention coverage.

Time to get in the shower.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Composition of Gravel, part 1:

Updates on the post are below:

For those of you that got here via Google and aren't going to find what you're looking for, click here.

Now, on to business.

One of Gravel's key campaign issues is actually typically proposed by Republicans, which explains its swank name, "The Fair Tax."

Here's the basic premise. We eliminate the income tax and the IRS altogether. What we replace it with is a 23% federal sales tax on all products, including food and other current tax-exempt items.

Yes, sales taxes are regressive. To negate this fact, the first $20,000 (Update: Gravel's actual number is $16,000, which lowers the prebate a fair amount) is tax free. But since sales tax is paid at the point of purchase, not annually, instead of an annual refund, one would have to create a "prebate." The prebate could be paid in any variety of fashions, but the easiest would be monthly or annual checks.

Here's the problem, though. For the sake of this argument, let's create 15 people, with the following assumptions:

A) Anyone making less than $50,000 is living hand-to-mouth, or spending everything they take in. This is probably a stretch, but certainly people who make over $50k save more (by percentage) than people who make less.
B) People making more than $50k do not spend 10% of their income (with one exception)

Let's see what happens:

IncomeExpensesFair TaxPrebateFair Tax Paid% PaidCurrent Tax% Paid

So, this tax plan has some merits. It's simple, for one. And it promotes saving money over consumption, which could very well save the environment. But I'm hoping you'll notice the problem.

Everyone is paying less. Overall, 40.6% less. I'm not sure how we'd cut government spending 40.6%, especially if we're going to pay for universal health care, properly funding education and fixing the environment.

Two parts remain:
Part 2: National Initiative
Part 3: Candidacy

I may post Part 2 tomorrow, if State Convention ends early enough.


UPDATE: I received two corrections on this post from Elliott, Gravel's Communications Director.

The first was the correction from $20,000 tax free to $16,000. This makes the plan come a little closer to balancing, but still significantly short.

The second was an assumption: It is assumed that the removal of the income tax would cause 10% economic growth. Since I'm paying $7.50 an hour to sit in an internet cafe and work on this post, I'm not tremendously eager to go through and re-calculate all my numbers to see if that would fill a 40% gap. I'm doubtful, though. And furthermore, even if the Fair Tax did create 10% economic growth, it certainly wouldn't happen overnight, meaning the government under the new tax structure would either have to borrow resources on a massive scale or dramatically cut spending while waiting for the economy to catch up. Neither of those concepts are something I'm comfortable with.

No, I'm not at the "Democratic Unity" dinner tonight.

It's probably safe to assume that most of my readers read Political Forecast too, so you've probably seen these two posts about tonight's Iowa Democratic Party "Democratic Unity" Hall of Fame Dinner tonight. I'm not there. Not because I'm not interested in promoting Democratic unity, but because I'm not interested in promoting that kind of unity.

You see, if you're going to hold an event as an attempt to promote party unity, you should make it accessible to:

Culver, Blouin and Fallon supporters (check)
Pro-life and pro-choice (check)
Pro and anti-death penalty (check)
Rich and poor...

We have a problem. This "Democratic Unity" event is unavailable to anyone who couldn't afford or didn't want to attend a $50/plate event. I was fortunate enough to work for a candidate in the primaries, so I was invited to attend for free. I declined. Most other Iowans in poverty, as usual, were ignored.


What I intended to have for you today:

Before today, I hadn't slept a full night since about March. The combination of allergies, stress and other factors woke me up 2-3 times a night and meant I almost never actually had to set an alarm to wake up.

Last night, for once, I actually slept straight through...and woke up at 10:30, too late to finish work on the stuff I intended to blog about this morning. Oops.

Then, this afternoon, I interviewed former US Senator and Democratic candidate for president Mike Gravel (campaign site, Wikipedia). I had read this AP story about his visit to Iowa, and figured I'd sit with him for about 15 minutes, get enough material to write about, and come back and use one of the following headlines:

Gravel paving the way towards 2008 caucuses

Gravel won't appeal to those looking for concrete solutions

Gravel hitting the asphalt in Iowa

Fact of the matter is, I underestimated him. I interviewed him for almost an hour and a half, met with one of his staffers, spoke to a reporter from the Boston Globe who came to Iowa with him, and returned with pages upon pages of notes, a press guide full of material and a lot of topics to research. I'm going to work on those tonight and I'm hoping to have something up in the next few days.

So, to sum it up, I'll be back with the dirt on Gravel later.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Eminent Domain Debate Imminent

Chris Woods was the first on the scene with a letter Ed Fallon sent out yesterday asking state convention delegates to add the following plank to the state platform:

There are legitimate uses of eminent domain for public purposes, but Iowans need greater protection from its abuses. Therefore we support legislation giving greater protection to property owners from the seizure of private property for economic development purposes.

I would encourage potential delegates any anyone else politically involved in Iowa to consider getting on board with this. I'm sponsoring the amendment to the platform, and will be speaking on its behalf Saturday at the convention. We as Democrats cannot be seen as dragging our feet when the property rights of Iowans across the state are at stake.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Maybe some substantial posting later, but for now...

Bloggers, one and all:

I've got nothing notable that I'm allowed to talk about right now. So while you're waiting for me to explode from my shell of writers block-flavored uselessness, go help Bob plan the Summer 2006 Blogger Bash!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

After a few days of contemplation...

A lot of you have probably seen this piece in the QC Times, Chris Woods mentioned it on Saturday. In it, there's a mention of a 2-hour meeting between Fallon and Culver from Friday. I was in that meeting, along with another Fallon staffer and a Culver staffer.

Since then, I've been debating how much of that meeting I should or should not blog about. The meeting was held behind closed doors for a reason, certainly the entire conversation wasn't meant for public consumption, but there really wasn't much there that I would define as "negative," so certainly some of it could and maybe even should be shared. I've also delayed my reaction to give things a bit of time to sink in: there's nothing worse than jumping to a conclusion and then ending up opposing it over time.

As it turns out, the anonymous commenter in this post helped me make up my mind.

TANGENT: I really dislike anonymous comments. If you're writing something that you wouldn't want people to know you're writing, maybe you should re-think your motives. Even when I comment on blogs where I don't have a username (LiveJournal, for example), I sign my name to my posts. Standing behind what you say is a key part of being a responsible adult. I'm not saying I'm going to remove anonymous comments from my blog, I'm just saying...y'know, think about it before you abuse the privelege. END TANGENT.

I think the easiest way to show the results of my meeting with Culver may be to show the question we asked, the answer I was afraid we would get, and the answer we received.

ISSUE: Would you support and advocate for a Clean Elections Law?

FEAR: "That's just sour grapes on your part because you didn't have the connections or willingness to raise money."

REALITY: Chet was unapologetic about the amount of money he's raised, and we didn't press him on where it had come from. His line on the issue, though, rang of truth: "I can't let Jim Nussle buy this election." I saw in him someone who's tired of having to spend half his campaign searching for money, someone tired of being forced to do something entirely irrelevant to politics to continue a career in politics. I laid out some specifics on a Clean Elections system in place in Maine, he showed interest. I sent more info to the other staffer in the meeting and heard back almost immediately. I have hope that he will see the need to eliminate the connection between special interest money and politics. I think he's tracking with it.

ISSUE: Civil rights, civil unions in particular.

FEAR: "I don't think there's support for it right now, so I don't want to fight over it."

REALITY: I've heard a lot of politicians talk about the need for civil unions. I think Culver is the first politician I've ever seen lay out groundwork for how to get there. Before making a move on same-gender marriage, he wants to get sexual preference added to the anti-bullying and anti-discrimination laws in Iowa, so that, when making an argument for same-gender marriage, the proponents have solid footing to stand on. It made sense to me in a "if you'd said it this way all along, it wouldn't have been an issue" kind of way.

ISSUE: Intelligence

FEAR: I think we've all seen this.

REALITY: While I didn't specifically ask questions like "Chet, what's your IQ?" or "Chet, what's the biggest word you've used today?", over two hours, he didn't have a single moment where I would've been embarassed to have him as my governor. Most politicians wouldn't live up to that. He's not polished or a rocket scientist, but I think he's smart enough to handle the job.

ISSUE: Death Penalty

FEAR: "This is flatly a case where the Republicans are right."

REALITY: I think he realizes he's far away from the crowd on this one. He favors the death penalty for extreme situations like the abduction and murder of a child, murder of a police officer, etc. He realizes that his stance on the death penalty puts him at odds with both his party and his church, but says he's not interested in having a purely political "change of heart" on it. All in all, I would rather have a candidate who's against the death penalty in ALL cases, but I'm pretty sure Culver is as close to that as you can get without being there. He was willing to hear the argument against it, which I'm sure he's heard a million times since coming out in favor, but he left with his same position.

This is where the anonymous commenter I mentioned before comes in. This first quote was addressed to Chris Woods:

Anonymous said…

Chris, Culver's stance on executing people is just as two-faced and weasely as Blouin's stance on abortion. Do you recognize that?

And I responded with:

Actually, for once I'll step up on Culver's behalf here.

I've never heard Culver say anything but the fact that he supports the death penalty in exceptionally limited cases. His position isn't two-faced, in fact it's remarkably consistent.

I, along with some other Fallon staffers and the candidate himself, met with Culver today, and while I disagree with him on some issues and don't feel he's exceptionally bright, I do respect his stances, largely. They don't look contrived for political gain. In fact, I don't think Chet COULD fake a stance for political gain.

Also, I'd like to stress that this argument isn't about Chet. Again.

The anonymous commenter wasn't done:

Still not buying it. Two-faced doesn't mean he's flip-flopped. It means he's trying to have it both ways. The weasely part is saying you'll support ending abortion/bringing about state executions and also saying you'll do nothing to make it happen.

Both Blouin and Culver talk out of both sides of their mouths hoping the red-meaters hear the "pro-life" or "pro-state-execution" and the more enlightened voters concentrate on the "but I won't lift a finger to bring about my desired result." This is weasly and two-faced.

You could say that Culver has been consistantly weasly and two-faced on the death penalty issue, much more so than Blouin was with abortion. But he's still a weasle.

This argument is weak when it comes to Culver. As I've mentioned before, and in the comment, while I don't always agree with his logic, I'm struck by how often and how well Culver sticks to his stances on issues: there's been minimal to no deviation from him in a very long time.

The second problem with this argument is the "but I won't lift a finger" part. While Culver has said that passing a death penalty law would require:

a) A legislature, almost certainly Republican led, willing to pass a death penalty bill, which isn't a certainty, and
b) Said legislature passing a bill narrow enough in scope to meet Chet's specific requirements concerning the types of crime involved, amount of recourse available, etc.

If, IF, these conditions were met, he would sign the bill. Hence, he's not two faced on the issue. Given the opportunity to do what he feels should be done, he'd do it. There's just a very narrowly defined situation where that could occur.

Personally, I feel like leaving anonymous comments spreading misinformation is "weasly" too.

With that covered, allow me to clarify my new position on Culver:

I plan on voting for Chet Culver on November 7, actually probably before, as I tend to vote absentee. I'll vote for him because I think, at the very least, the gears in his head are turning in the right direction on the issues I care about, more so than the gears in Jim Nussle's head. I think others, including those who supported Ed Fallon in the primary, should take the time to look at the candidates, and once they do, I'm betting they'll consider Chet the better candidate, as well.

I don't intend to use this space to write glowing endorsements of Culver's candidacy. I still have concerns about the origins of his money, the outside chance his running mate will become governor, the people he surrounds himself with (Bill Knapp, specifically, but there are others), and his intelligence. I don't intend to work for him at this point. If someone writes a comment about Culver's weaknesses in regards to one of those issues or others I may have forgotten, I'll probably agree.

But with that said, when I read misinformation, I do intend to stand up and correct it. It's part of being a responsible blogger.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

I went to the edge today...

Before I get started, I'll answer two questions that seem to come up a lot lately.

1) No, I haven't received any form of response from Tom Beaumont, or anyone at the Register, for that matter. I'm disappointed but not surprised.

2) No, still no takers on the Death Penalty Debate. The right(ish?) blogs I've been in touch with have had varying replies...Iowa Ennui doesn't actually favor capital punishment, while Brian from Iowa Voice emailed to let me know he doesn't have time right now, but maybe someday. Challenge still stands if anyone else wants to take me up on it.

Now, our feature presentation:

I've been to Jordan Creek Mall twice now, once shortly after it opened, and today. I really don't like it very much. I don't like crowds, unnecessary travel or urban sprawl, so really, the mall was more or less doomed before it opened for me.

They do, however, have a Scheel's, the only place I've ever been able to find my favorite kind of golf discs. And someone else in my apartment has a weakness for shoes. So today, when she was going out there, I rode along, to shop for discs and books.

While there, I saw a few things that made me laugh:

1) On the way into Scheel's, a couple in front of us stepped in front of three sets of doors, waiting for the automatic doors to swing open. (There are no automatic doors.) All three times, they stood in front of the door, easily within arm's reach of the door handle, but didn't enter: the door wasn't opening for them. As Laura and I walked in, they were searching for the button to press to open the handicapped door. I found this pretty typical: a function we're all capable of performing ourselves, but we refuse to do it because we're sure someone else should be.

2) A waiting line to get onto the up escalator, right next to an elevator and a completely vacant set of stairs.

3) A completely unwalkable "mall" community. Make no mistake, Jordan Creek Mall was built in a place where everyone will have to drive to get there, but even once you're there, you can't just park your car and walk. Case in point: the mall and DSW are about 4-5 blocks apart. One could walk there, in fact I did, but why? Isn't that what our SUV's are for?

I hate Jordan Creek Mall, but I think I hate the way it encourages people to act even more.

As an aside, I did pick up a copy of our Governor's favorite book, The World is Flat, today. Once I'm done reading it, we'll have one thing in common.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Death penalty debate update:

So up to this point, I've got two people excited about the potential debate on the death penalty, Chris Woods and Nicolai Brown from Ames Wire.

Just one problem: No one's answered the challenge yet.

Doesn't anyone want to play with me?

How about you?




Let's engage in some informed debate on the issues.

Here's an open invitation:

I'm in a unique position right now to talk to a lot of Democrats that didn't back Culver in the primary, and hear what they're thinking about November, who they'll support, how strongly they feel about it and why. Just over 36 hours after the polls closed, I haven't asked anyone about it, but I've already had two lifelong Democrats tell me straight out they won't support Culver because of his stance on the death penalty.

I'm not wanting to get into the death penalty as a Culver-specific issue at this point. I've heard Chet and others say he's not running to reinstitute the death penalty, and I've heard varying levels of likelihood concerning the Legislature's ability to get him a death penalty bill to sign. I feel like it's a very vague problem at this point. So I want to open it up to a broader spectrum.

I'm strongly against the death penalty, and I feel like, given my own personal experiences and my connections to others with strong ties in the criminal justice community, I'm relatively good at the argument against it. I'm looking for someone to play the other side. Drop me an email at FFGKyle(at) if you're willing to take the opposing view by:

a) Posting the responsible opposing view on your blog and doing some blogging back and forth,

b) Directly emailing me your opinion under your name, and we can play both sides here, or

c) Emailing me your opinion for anonymous posting here in this blog.

While I'm bullet pointing, here are the groundrules I want to lay out:

1) Keep it clean. As I said in the title of this post, I want this to be informed debate on the issues, not a flame war.

2) Be willing to stick it out. I see this lasting maybe a week at one/two posts a day. If you're going to get bored 10 minutes into the conversation, this may not be the thing for you.

3) Keep it one on one. While the comments section will remain open for people to say whatever they have to say about my posts, I'd like the two people involved in the debate itself to remain the same throughout, for coherency's sake.

4) Keep it efficient. I think if we go back and forth with 3000 word diatribes, people will get bored. Unless I see objections, I think it's probably fair to give both parties involved 500 words to establish their position, then no more than 500 words for each post from that point forward.

So, with that said, the challenge is down. Email me at FFGKyle(at) and we'll get the party started.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The morning after

I probably got to bed at an earlier hour than most political workers on election night...I was asleep by about 2:45. By 9:20 I was awake and had slept off last night's vodka. Almost 7 hours of sleep is a big bump up for me, it'll probably take a few more days to condition myself to 8 or 9 hours.

Anyway, this morning I got up and did what I usually do: wandered over to my computer to catch the latest from blogs and the Register in my Google Reader.

Warning: I'm about to show a Fallon bias.

I'm not intending for this blog to become the place where I bemoan Ed Fallon's defeat, nor the place where I lay blame for Ed Fallon's defeat, nor the place where I repeat, over and over, "this wouldn't happen if Ed Fallon were governor." No one wants to read that and carrying those sour grapes for the rest of eternity would just accelerate my heart attack schedule.

With that said, this morning's Beaumont piece was too much. The whole piece is better than 800 words long. Here's the 87 words that focus on Ed Fallon:

Fallon, a 14-year Des Moines lawmaker, capped his outsider campaign by winning in Polk County, where he captured 41 percent of the vote, compared to 31 percent for Culver and 27 percent for Blouin.

"The naysayers said we couldn't do this good," said Fallon, who limited the dollar amount of campaign contributions and took no money from political action committees.

About 150 supporters gathered outside Fallon's house, north of downtown Des Moines, at a block party that featured jugglers and the musical group, "Flying Pig Fiddle Banjo."

So, since I no longer have a campaign for my actions to reflect poorly upon, I decided to fire off a quick email to Tom Beaumont this morning, and share it with you.


I'm hoping you won't take this personally, or see it as sour grapes on my part. With that said, I wanted to drop you a line to get something off my chest today.

I've been severely disappointed for months, but even more so recently, with both the Register as a whole and more specifically your coverage of our campaign.

I don't even need to go back a whole week for specific examples. In your candidate profiles over the weekend, while you talked about other candidates' strengths, you profiled Ed's lack of executive experience (being Executive Director of 1000 Friends of Iowa apparently wasn't enough for you), and then flashed his work with the Pagan community. Yeah, Ed stands up for people he feels are underrepresented. It's part of what makes him a great legislator. Would it have killed you, though, if you were going to pick one of those groups, to talk about his work for can redemption centers, people threatened by eminent domain, or owners of small grocery stores?

Now, this morning I'm paging through today's news, and I spotted your three paragraphs on Fallon in a piece of almost 900 words. In your 87 words on Fallon, you managed to find a gramatically incorrect quote from the candidate, and you followed it by giving more space to the jugglers and the band at the event than Ed's position on money in politics. Culver was last night's winner and I understand he's the focal point of the story. All we asked for, all we've ever asked for, is a fair shake from you. I feel this story is a great representation of your inability to take Ed seriously. While he didn't win last night, he did better than anyone outside his office would've predicted. Instead of reading about that today, your readers will find out "Flying Pig Fiddle Banjo" played at his victory party.

I want to make it clear to you that this is not an email where I lay my dead campaign down at your feet and point the finger at you. I'm not sure how much of a difference, if any, the Register's coverage of Ed made in this campaign. But I would encourage you to take a look back and see if you feel your treatment of Ed was really justified.

Feel free to offer your thoughts.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

A new toy to play with:

A good friend passed this along to me this morning:

The Iowa Gubernatorial Stock Market

It's the only chance you'll ever get to buy or sell Ed Fallon. If you've got more time than I do, go play.