Friday, July 28, 2006

There's just no match for incompetence...

Three great examples today:

1) As mentioned earlier, Sal Mohamed is running for president.

2) Kay Henderson is reporting that now-former candidate for Secretary of State Chuck Allison didn't know if he'd be able to vote in the primary. Let's simplify that a step farther: The guy who wanted to be in charge of Iowa's elections didn't know the law.

3) According to the WCF Courier, two boys were injured in Humboldt when their mother left them in the custody of a man who went to a convenience store and left them unsupervised while they were playing with gunpowder.


Lynn Heuss' guest blog on last night's Democratic Women's Event

Lynn Heuss is a long-time Fallon staff member and good friend who attended last night's Democratic Women's event with Elizabeth Edwards and authored this post.

Like Kyle, I’m not usually one to support or attend the ‘typical’ Party events. That’s because they’re not for ‘typical’ Iowans. Between the venues they are held in and the pricetag to attend – they’re not accessible to most people. One of the first things I saw when I walked in the door was two huge posterboards with the names of big donors. They also typically lack diversity. Last night’s event was another example.

However, there were a few men in attendance. Actually one of them was the first to speak, which I found odd. I’m all for gender parity, but if you’re going to call it a women’s event, doesn’t it make sense to have women giving leadership?

And, if women are going to take the lead, I would like to encourage them to do so in non-stereotypical ways. Politics should be a discourse between different groups in the hope of making decisions that will be of benefit to the greatest number of people. Is it really necessary to make statements like, “Talk to your girlfriends about politics, because we all know that womens what runs the place.”?

However, all the other speakers were articulate, passionate, energetic women. Denise O’Brien only spoke briefly, but she’s the real deal. She does indeed talk about creative, innovative solutions to some of the problems facing farmers and small-town Iowans.

Mari Culver comes across as a confident, articulate woman with a great sense of humor. It was hotter than blazes and the first thing she said when she went to the podium was, “This proves that you’ll see more than one Culver sweat!” But she went on to present a nice introduction for Elizabeth Edwards.

Elizabeth Edwards is the reason I came to the event. I like what John Edwards is saying and doing. Before I got involved in politics, I worked with the homeless, low-income and working poor in Des Moines. The reason I re-engaged with politics (kicking and screaming at first) was because I eventually realized that without changing the current system, simply trying to meet people’s daily needs for food, clothing and shelter would never allow them to help themselves. And actually, it’s not the system that needs changed as much as changing those who make up the system. So far, Senator Edwards is the only one talking about and giving priority to addressing issues of concern to what is becoming the majority population in America – the poor.

However, after working on the Fallon campaign and clerking for Rep. Fallon in the last legislative session, I still find myself with enough cynicism resident inside that it takes more than a couple good speeches to convince me support someone. I thought that listening to Mrs. Edwards would give me additional information and I did walk away with more to think about.

I like her. And she only made me frustrated once, so let’s get that out of the way.

Near the beginning of her speech, as part of her thanks to Dr. Andy McGuire for hosting the event, she also thanked her and Mike Blouin for standing behind Secretary Culver after his win. She made reference to the way they handled themselves on election night and expressed effusive thanks for their continuing support of Secretary Culver. Wait a minute! You’ll find no disagreement from me on Mr. Blouin’s gracious concession speech on election night, nor on his public statements in support of Chet at the unity event and State Convention. But those are the only times and places I’ve experienced their support. I’ve seen no action to back up the words.

On the other hand, Rep. Fallon, who I have already admitted to working with, not only also expressed support on election night, at the unity event and at State Convention, but he’s getting involved by doing more than giving a couple of speeches. He has agreed to work with the Culver campaign as a consultant. They recognize the need to address the issues that 38,000 Iowans found important and they asked Rep. Fallon to share his expertise and knowledge with Secretary Culver. Yet there was no mention of this support by Mrs. Edwards. Perhaps it was an honest mistake, but I do think it needs to be corrected.

Back to the good stuff, as promised. She comes across as someone who does not take herself too seriously but who does take certain issues very seriously. She’s not pretentious, but she is very intelligent. She addressed several of the important issues facing our country: healthcare, economic development, stem cell research, the war in Iraq, alternative energy AND conservation (she scored big with me on the conservation part!), and restoring integrity to government.

She did not go on (what is sadly becoming) the typical rant of negative accusations about the “other side.” She did speak to the notion of personal responsibility, i.e. Bush and Nussle needing to do this as it relates to the budget deficit. And then she did something that increased my respect for her and for her husband – she said that he was taking responsibility for his decision on the war in Iraq. Wow – a politician admitting he made a mistake! Believe it or not – that increases my confidence in him. He knows he’s not infallible and might actually be willing to work well with others.

Finally, she concluded her speech by admonishing us to not be people of the polls. She said she had recently read something about “psychographic targeting” and while she could accept that it probably had some value, she wasn’t sure what it even was. Although I agree with her completely about all the political jargon, this was not the first time I had heard that term. Our media consultant had provided us with three pages of information on the psychographic issues we needed to be aware of during the campaign! However, I believe her point was that we can over-analyze things to death, and it’s more important to return to our own internal moral compasses to make decisions on policy and public officials. If we listen with an ear for authenticity and if we make choices based on principles, we may actually end up with a government of the people.

I would have liked to meet her, but she only had a few minutes to visit with people before leaving to catch her plane. She said both she and Sen. Edwards will be in Iowa a lot, so maybe there will be opportunity in the future.

Lynn Heuss

Death, Taxes and Sal

As the gears of inevitability grind on, we all should have seen this coming:

Sal Mohamed is running for president.


Five things to read today:

So we've all had this moment. We're living in a place where the doors lock behind us, and we're just out of the shower, or there's a knock on the door, or we're drunk off our asses and see something outside, so we go outside to look. And the door closes behind us.

Some of us take a towel with us, but apparently not this guy, whose neighbors called the police. Now he gets his own Register story. Tom Alex wins today's anti-Pulitzer for the coverage.

Nick Johnson responded a few days ago to a post I wrote about a post he wrote about TIF districts, where I made a joke about his lack of brevity. This letter writer in today's Register has the opposite problem.

Does this mean that if we could do it all over again, we'd arm our navy ships with ethics and accountability instead of cannons?

Typo headline of the day: "GOP hustles to fill opening in race candidate." Seeing as it's the GOP, my guess is the "race" involved is probably caucasian.

The follow-up story for this piece will probably be "Teenagers scramble to clean up before Mom gets home."

For the third time in July, yesterday I set a record for most visits to my blog in a day. So thanks for that. Keep reading, and I'll keep trying to make it interesting.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

One of these things is not like the others...

Six headlines in the "Breaking news" section of the WCF Courier front page right now. Five of them are as follows:

AP Interview: Andrea Yates' (who drowned her five children in a bathtub, reportedly because she thought she was Satan) ex-husband says prosecutors' case 'built on lies'

3 injured in roller coaster accident at Adventureland

Yates (see above) not guilty by reason of insanity in children's drownings

String of 'bizarre' killings leaves 9 dead in Seattle area

Man gets life sentence for killing Burlington drug center worker

And the sixth, you ask?

Report: Lindsay Lohan overcome by heat during LA movie shoot

Maybe what we need is a new definition of news.


One more thing:

As Chris mentioned a while ago, Elizabeth Edwards is in town tonight for the 7th Annual Polk Co. Democrats Women's Event. I will not be attending, but I do have a guest blogger who has promised to attend the event and write a review for me. So hopefully I'll have that tomorrow or Saturday.


Bold prediction: Featherlite, Inc.


William Ryberg of the Register is reporting today that Cresco-based Featherlite, Inc. has been sold to an investment company in Ohio for $79.5 million. My understanding is that, following the finalization of the sale, the company will then be re-sold to a group which includes Featherlite's current chairman, executive VP and yet another investment company. Featherlite currently employs 1010 workers in Cresco and Shenandoah.

Let's see if I can simplify that a step further. Featherlite, currently a publicly traded company (shares are currently trading at $4.25, get yours today (see update)), is being sold to an investment company, who will then re-sell the company back to its present management.

Here's my bold prediction: the current management team at Featherlite already knows exactly what they're going to do to eliminate the $29.1 million in debt the existing company has run up. But they're going to saber-rattle and tell Gov. Vilsack and IDED that they're looking at new manufacturing options outside of Iowa. The state will offer an aid package, almost certainly more than $5 million, possibly as high as $20. At that point, New Featherlite (for lack of a better name) will either:

a) Take the offer and stay put, paying off as much as two thirds of their "new" company's debt in the process, or

b) Drive their RV's off into the sunset, citing decreasing market demand, etc, and go somewhere where making RV's is a better investment.

The deal becomes final on October 31, so I'm expecting most of this to play out in November. You heard it here first.


UPDATES: Since the announcement, Featherlite's stock has ballooned from $4.25 to $6.33/share. I'm not sure if that has anything to do with my blog being listed in the "Blog Posts" section on their Google Finance page.

What I'm reading today:

David Yepsen continues to pile on RAGBRAI, making this possibly the only week where I will ever agree more than I disagree. A good teaser quote:

When I casually asked her last week if she was going on RAGBRAI, she wrote a Saturday item reporting my comments about how we overdo our coverage. She quoted me as saying it was a waste of resources.

Actually, I said it was a "monumental" waste of resources.

John Sarcone's decision to come out and clarify his stance on Archie Brooks is a pretty stupid move. It's like confessing to another crime on your way out of prison. Join us tomorrow when he re-clarifies and gives us another front-page CIETC story.

When you start 5,000 cars on fire, it takes some time to put out. Who knew?

As an aside, I haven't heard any speculation on who may have caused the blaze, but I think I know...

Finally, the hardest interview to line up on Earth may be David Oman of the Ranforest project, but Kay Henderson was on a conference call with him yesterday and got this answer on how he could possibly find enough money to complete the project. It's a great read.


Two Gravel related tidbits:

My past posts on former US Senator Mike Gravel (D-AK):

Notebook 1
Notebook 2A
Notebook 2B
Notebook 3

Anyway, if you don't want to read all those, Mike Gravel sat down this week with someone from the Greenwich Post and they wrote this article. It's considerably more concise than what I wrote.

Second, for all the jokes I made while writing them about people accidentally getting here by googling "Composition of Gravel," at around 4:10 yesterday afternoon someone really did. I was amused.

I'll probably be back later this morning with my usual review of the Register and then some un-related posting.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Real discussion? Who needs it?

The Iowa Democratic Party just issued a press release about half an hour ago to announce the speaking lineup for their 2006 Jefferson/Jackson Dinner, to be held on October 14th. I'm not a big fan of these dinners, as you may recall from this post.

Again today, on the surface we've got great news. Former two-term Democratic president Bill Clinton will give the keynote address at the party's largest annual fundraiser. The telling quote from Party Chair Sally Pederson:

“President Clinton’s visit will provide a terrific opportunity to showcase Chet Culver and our impressive group of candidates for 2006 to a large state and national audience,”

Here's what it should also say:

"It also means we can hold an event for our current governor, who's running for president, without him being overshadowed by any of his competitors."

Make no mistake, getting Bill Clinton to come to this event is huge for the party. But it's also huge for Vilsack, because it means that Edwards, (Hillary) Clinton, Kerry, Gore, Feingold, Bayh, Biden, Warner, Gravel and any of the others I may have left out will not be on hand to overshadow our own federal office-seeker. And my guess is that was the goal all along.


Four tidbits this morning:

First three are from this morning's Register:

Jeff Vonk of the IDNR takes a lot of heat, some deservedly so, but this Op-Ed calling for local control of hog confinements is about as good as any I've ever seen on the topic.

Marc Hansen put two and two together in a way I hadn't previously considered in regards to Rock In teaching our kids that all substances are bad, aren't we creating unrealistic expectations for them? Once they realize that one beer or one hit off the bong won't kill them, isn't it natural to think they'll keep experimenting?

Taking another step, the next question: Wouldn't we create the same problem by only teaching abstinence in schools?

After months of non-linkage, State 29 was drawn in again by my posts on giant testicles and chicken shit bingo. I wonder what he'll do today when I link to a story on a car accident caused by oral sex?

Finally, hat tip to John Deeth for alerting me to SurveyUSA's approval ratings for all 100 senators. Sometimes simple things like this can show us the problem with the way we're looking at politics. My guess would be right now Congress as a whole has an approval rating somewhere in the mid 40's. But when you ask people what they think of their own senator, about 53% nationwide approve, and only about 38% disapprove. In Iowa, it's pretty rare to find Harkin and Grassley on the same side of an issue, but 55% of Iowans approve of Harkin and 64% approve of Grassley. That means, bare minimum, 19% approve of both.

So if you enjoy gridlock, partisan bashing and no progress, apparently you're not alone. 19% of Iowans are there with you.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The dangers involved in not allowing local control:

I read this story on the Register's website right after lunch, and on the surface it's good news: MidAmerican Energy, which recently announced plans to build 66 wind turbines in Carroll and Crawford counties, today announced plans to build 82 more turbines in Pocahontas county.

As an aside, western Iowa is a great place to find wind. Just imagine how great it could be if Steve King were home all the time. One more reason to vote for Joyce Schulte.

Anyway, environmentally this is great news. Everyone loves renewable energy, and many of us love it even more when we can have a conversation about renewable energy without it starting and ending with ethanol. The problem is the lost potential. From the Register story:

The new turbines, to be constructed by enXco Development Corp., will generate 123 megawatts of energy.

EnXco Development Corp. is based in Minneapolis. I haven't been able to find out where they get the materials for their turbines. But certainly, the manufacture and installation of almost 150 turbines in 3 counties in western Iowa could have been an economic development boon for these three counties. Instead, MidAmerican Energy's investment is going to a company in Minnesota.

Renewable energy can be a key economic development asset across rural Iowa. But it won't be if we continue to let MidAmerican Energy control it.


New poll on RAGBRAI

Last week, 36% of you thought drunken driving with no injuries should carry penalties including a temporary suspension of license, but not a permanent revocation. Second place was a tie between "Permanent revocation of license" and "Re-election to the Senate." Thanks for voting.

Today I put up a new poll on RAGBRAI. Go weigh in.


We're all for feeding the poor, just not here...

With Nicolai Brown on vacation, I guess it becomes my job to point out stories like this one in today's QC Times about two food pantries in downtown Davenport that are closing their doors.

Certainly some people will rail, as they always do, about the wastefulness of social programs and how people who need assistance are all just reaching out for handouts so they don't have to go back to work. But there are also lots of people who legitimately need programs like this, and Mississippi Valley Neighborhood Services' decision to evict one of their sources of help is borderline criminal.


How people got here (again)

So checking out how people got here on SiteMeter can be pretty funny to me sometimes, hopefully it's amusing to you too. If it's not, feel free to skip to the next post.

From the last 24 hours:

If you got here via Blogger search: "Free Sex in KL", sorry, not today.

For the person who Googled "Chris Woods Iowa", my guess would be this is the link you're looking for.

If you Googled "ragbrai news," you may have been excited to see this post come up #2, but you probably didn't actually enjoy the post.

And finally, for whoever Googled "Culver for Governor" and got this post, you should probably also read this one. And maybe this one.


Three things from today's Register, and a side note:

Continuing their theme of finding newsworthy things on RAGBRAI, today we have a whole story devoted to giant testicles. (Photo courtesy of Fallon for Governor)

Speaking of giant testicles, Archie Brooks still won't resign and Polk County Attorney John Sarcone won't go after him.

Imagine for a minute you hired a mechanic to handle the day-to-day maintenance of your car. The mechanic then allowed others to come in and work on your car unsupervised, causing your gas mileage to drop from 30 mpg to 4, and paid them about ten times the market rate for their time. Would you ever let that mechanic work for you again?

Archie Brooks isn't wasting your gas, though, he's wasting your money. And the Polk County Attorney refuses to even look into it.

Lastly, I don't know if someone on the Register's staff got robbed, or if there's a massive outbreak of harpaxophobia going around, but the Register simply will not stop reporting about robberies this summer. Today's latest revelation: Thieves will steal things from your house before it's even finished. Common Iowan has also noticed the trend.

Finally, I wanted to throw out a pitch for tonight's DFA Night School on Working the Mainstream Media. I'll be listening in. Check out Blog for Iowa for more details.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Random comic blogging:

Ok, so I'm getting ready for the blogger bash tonight, and someone sent me this comic which I had to share:

Thank you, Pearls Before Swine.


Is RAGBRAI news?

State 29 doesn't like Register columnist Andie Dominick so they wrote this post complaining about her column from today.

If you're not going to follow the links, I'll give you the short version. David Yepsen apparently thinks it's a waste of time and resources for the Register to send columnists (including Dominick) along on RAGBRAI. He thinks there's more important things to cover than people biking between towns.

The thing is, he's right.

Make no mistake, RAGBRAI is cool. I know people who do it every year and they love it. They cite the people, the exercise, the food, the culture. But it's not news. Last year Erin Crawford wrote a piece on people playing chicken shit bingo. Does anyone really think this belongs in a newspaper?

Furthermore, does anyone really think the Register would go all-out to cover this if it was anything but the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa? I don't see Kay Henderson on a bike. Or Todd Dorman. They'll be out covering news. Register columnists will just get paid for a week of promoting their own event.

So mark it on the calendar: today, July 22, 2006, David Yepsen was right.


TIF Tidbits to Transfer to Text

Nick Johnson of FromDC2Iowa is becoming the guy who consistently digs deeper into an issue than I would be able to on my own, and today is no exception.

Today, Nick writes about the more subtle features of TIF, or Tax Increment Financing, how it impacts developing businesses and why calling it anything but "corporate welfare" is a mistake.

Go read the whole thing, but pack a lunch and something to drink, cause it might take a while.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Ever look at what people google to find you?

Here are some of my recent favorites:

Google "bad luck yellow lighter" and the first result is this post.

This post is the seventh result under Rick Dickinson Dubuque

I'm proud to be result #2 under taking the high road quotes.

Someone apparently found me on Page 14 of "Nickelodeon Studios."

Finally, someone Googled "Nussle Culver Issues Comparison" and I come up 3rd. Maybe that's because neither campaign wants to do that themselves.


Not much going on today...

But I will point out the poll on the front page of the WCF Courier. The question: Did the United States make a mistake in invading Iraq?

After 1028 votes, it's dead even. Go make your voice heard.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Find something soft, part 2:

Remember the domestic assault couple from Tuesday's Register? They're back today. Their charges have been dropped.

The "worth quoting" moment from today's story:

Consorti claimed Miller butted her into a wall with his head and that she later fell over a chair and hit her head on a coffee table. Miller countered that he did not head-butt Consorti, nor did he push her into the wall. He claimed she couldn't have hit her head on a coffee table, as police reported, because they don't have a coffee table.

I'd say they're about a week away from getting their own reality show.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Four thoughts for this afternoon

Greetings and welcome to the 50314 zip code of Des Moines, where the local time is 4:28 and the local heat index is 114. I hope you didn't intend to play outside today.

I've got four things for you today:

1) According to TTLB, more people read this blog yesterday than ever before. So, if you're new, welcome. Make yourself at home.

2) If you're one of those people who believe the Governor has completely stopped paying attention to Iowa while he runs for President, here's some proof: It took him weeks of 90-degree heat before he issued a press release to let us know it's hot. On Friday it's supposed to be 73 for a high. Think he'll take credit for it?

3) Sometimes I miss things that people post in the comments of other blogs, because I read the story once and then wander off. I'm glad Bacon alerted me to the debate over this post at Political Forecast, which I think says a lot about the candidacy of Leonard Boswell.

4) Also, make sure you check out the comments on this post, where RF and some others, including myself, have debated whether or not Russ Feingold is a polarizing figure and whether or not he is someone the country could unite behind. I tend to think he's exactly what the Democratic party needs to generate independent support, but RF doesn't. Feel free to weigh in.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

New poll

Last week I asked how we should pay for new prisons. 80% of you say we shouldn't at all. That's probably what I should have expected.

Anyway, there's a new poll up, go ahead and vote. I'm curious to see if the whole blogosphere thinks about drunken drivers the same way State 29 does.


Finally, the Feingold post

I apologize for the delay in posting my reaction to the Feingold events over the weekend. Sometimes life gets in the way.

Let me start out with a basic overview. I like Russ Feingold. I'm now the proud owner of a "Run Russ Run!" button, and I would be surprised if the issues he presents don't resonate with the large portion of Iowa voters who supported Ed Fallon. Feingold is also probably the only candidate I'd get up at 5:45 on a Sunday to see, and as it turns out, that's what I did.

Thneed, (of Iowa for Feingold and Century of the Common Iowan) Ilya (of Russ for President) and I attended small private events in Clinton and Davenport on Sunday. Feingold does things a little differently from the other candidates I've seen. Instead of standing up and commanding attention and giving long speeches, he sits down in the room, introduces himself, gives a short overview, and then opens the floor up for questions.

I think this is why a lot of the press coverage about Feingold's visit was directed towards his stance on the war. Yesterday I referred to this Register piece as "worthless tripe," but it's a good example of the situation. The QC Times piece isn't as bad, but the same problem is there. I can see how someone who wasn't paying attention at the events could come across with that notion. But I think this stat puts it in perspective:

At the two events I attended, Feingold was asked 24 questions. Twelve of them were about foreign policy. When you allow the crowd to ask you questions, you allow the crowd to determine your direction. Feingold spoke to two groups with large contingents of people concerned about foreign policy on a day when tensions between Israel and Lebanon were peaking. As a result, he ended up answering a lot of questions about foreign policy.

And the fact remains that Feingold's foreign policy stance, among other things, continues to get him reelected. In 2004, Feingold's opponent spent $11 million on ads bashing him on his stance on the Patriot Act (only Senator to vote against) and his vocal opposition of the war, claiming he "doesn't get national security." A funny thing happened, though. Feingold didn't run for cover like most Democrats do. He stood up. He took on their concerns head-on. And he won big. In fact, he outperformed Kerry in 71 of Wisconsin's 72 counties and won 27 counties that Kerry lost.

I grew up in northern Wisconsin. It's not a good place to be a liberal. If Russ Feingold is just the far-left's candidate, then why do people back at home keep voting for him?

It's simple. They're voting for him because he's the candidate that can fix what's wrong with the Democratic party. They're voting for him because he cares about people and social programs, but he's also a strong fiscal conservative. They're voting for him because he's not afraid to stand up. Consider some of these quotes from Sunday's events:

"Everywhere I go, people ask me, 'When are Democrats going to stand up?'"

"Voters are looking for vote for people who will stick to their guns."

"Republicans are most afraid of us when we stand up."

And this one, my personal favorite and the new subheading of my blog:

"People aren't gonna vote for you just because the other guy's no good."

Are you listening?

Lots of people are asking if 2006 can be for Democrats what 1994 was for Republicans. In 1994, Republicans had the "Contract with America." Most of us find a lot of things in the contract deplorable, but at least it showed that Republicans stand for something. We're at a position of great opportunity, but if we want to take back the Legislature, if we want to take control of our country back, we've got to show that we stand for something too.


Put something soft on your desk...

Or this may make you hurt your head.

This Register story today starts out like the typical domestic disturbance story: two morons fight over the TV, rough each other up, break some stuff, and police come.

Buried in the tenth, or second to last, paragraph of the story is this tidbit of worthy information:

Police said that because she is in her seventh month of
pregnancy, she was taken to Iowa Methodist Medical Center for a check up before she was taken to the Polk County Jail.

I told you to put something soft on your desk.


Monday, July 17, 2006

The last word on Bayh

Within the last hour I've spoken to Ryan Alexander from All America PAC and read the comments by Chris Woods on my previous post, both of them seem to feel that I reacted a little too quickly/harshly to my situation with Bayh.

They're both probably right. I talked for several minutes with Ryan and I think that, given the situation to do over again, we'd both handle things a little differently. I apologize for flying off the handle, but I also feel that I had reason to be frustrated with the way I was handled.

Anyway, that's that and it's time to move on. Regular posting will probably resume late tonight or tomorrow morning.


Bayh-passing an opportunity

And for those of you who don't know, yes, that is how you pronounce it.

I know Evan Bayh was here in Des Moines today, but I didn't go for two reasons:

1) I'm unusually busy at the office today, probably partly because I took the morning off to go to the gym.

2) I'm getting a little frustrated by his campaign's sometimes amateur effort to get bloggers involved.

Case 1: As I mentioned here, I was tenatively scheduled to go see Bayh in Davenport before I got sick a week and a half ago. Like many bloggers, I had gotten an email from Ryan Alexander with Bayh's All America PAC asking us to come out and cover Bayh's events. The email that I received had this line:

"In particular we are looking for people to go to the Bruce Braley event in Davenport on Friday."

I'm all for going the extra mile to make a good impression, so I scheduled it. I've exchanged IM's with Ryan several times since, who was supposed to pass me along to Bayh's Communications Director to make arrangements for me to ask Bayh a few questions. This was Monday.

Tuesday passed, Wednesday passed, and finally on Thursday I asked Ryan why I hadn't heard back from anyone yet. I was told to just show up at the event, "you shouldn't have any problem getting in," and "you might be able to ask the Senator a question."

344 miles is a long drive to MAYBE get to see a presidential candidate. So when I was starting to feel sick on Friday, I maybe could've pressed through, but seeing as I was only driving across the state to potentially interview a candidate, I decided to cancel and get some rest.

Case 2: Fast forward to last week. On Thursday, I got the same email the other bloggers got, saying: "Senator Evan Bayh's All America PAC would love for you to attend a major speech on the future of America's economy...This event is open to the public, but if you would like press passes for the event ... please email me back as soon as possible so we can make it happen."

I sent an immediate reply. Again, I was told "you'll hear back from our communications director by the end of the weekend."

And again I waited. Finally, at 8:23 this morning I received an email from Ryan saying I didn't need a press pass. That's fine, but being run around like this just looks amateur and disorganized. I'm not entirely interested in wasting any more time chasing my tail. So I skipped the speech today. Chris Woods went and posted this.

Instead, I stayed in the office and worked on my post on Feingold. I've got an event at 5 tonight and I'm supposed to go see Superman at the IMAX at 9. I'm hoping to finish my post on Feingold in between the two.


More Feingold buzz

Ed Tibbetts has a pretty good piece in the QC Times today about Feingold's event in Davenport. Better than the Register piece, anyway.


A quick good morning post:

Good morning one and all, sorry if you missed me over the weekend, I had a busy schedule. Without going into too much detail:

I'm still the only person on Earth who likes both politics and pro wrestling. As such, Saturday night I attended the 3XW Anniversary Show in Waukee. I was pleasantly surprised.

Sunday morning I was up at 5:45 and on the road at 6:30 to catch two Feingold events in eastern Iowa. I took seven pages of notes and will post on them later today, but while you're waiting for that, check out coverage in Iowa for Feingold and the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, or if you want to read some worthless tripe about how Feingold will only appeal to anti-war types, here's the Register's piece.

I caught Feingold events in Clinton and Davenport, and while in Davenport, I promised someone I'd use my space to help promote this event today. There you go.

Then I came home, and I've been living far too long with one window unit air conditioner on the top floor of a brick building with all westward-facing windows. So after 8 hours in the car yesterday, I went to Target and picked up another one. Yesterday morning when I woke up it was 87 in the apartment, even after cooling all night. Today, it's 81. I'm calling that progress, but it came at a cost. I sliced the crap out of my right thumb installing it. So, no video games for me for a couple of days.

Wings and baseball with an old roommate is a Sunday tradition, so we did that at about 10:30 last night, then I came home and went to bed. With the new AC, I slept better than I have since I was in Wisconsin. That brings us up to now.

A couple of things I'm reading this morning:

Someone is inspiring the phrase "compassionate conservative" again, but even Iowa Ennui is skeptical.

If you're one of 1,400 people who gathered at Merle Hay Mall on Saturday morning to try to get on national TV and be embarassed by Howie Mandel, I'm not sure I want to be your friend anymore. Seriously, that's just sad. How desperate do you have to be for your 15 minutes of fame and the possibility of winning $6 to camp out overnight outside Merle Hay Mall to be mocked and humiliated by the voice of Bobby Generic?

Of course, you can always scroll down the right side of the blog to check my status on my weight loss plan. Yesterday morning I was down 2 lbs, but apparently yesterday was a bad day. I'll probably cheat the system a bit and update that with my new weight after my planned trip to the gym this morning.

Other things on tap for today:

It's Monday, and that means we need a new Monday poll. So if you haven't voted in this one yet, or want to vote again, I'd say you should do it now.

A full report on my visits with Feingold yesterday.

I know Evan Bayh is in town for a "major speech" at 1, I'm not sure if I'm attending or not (I'll explain later).

So stay tuned, it should be a busy day. But for now, I'm off to the gym.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Senate passes veto override

The Senate passed the override, 41-8.

Now, we have to ask if Vilsack will take it to court.


Cleaning out the backlog

Kay Henderson is doing a better job liveblogging the legislature's special session, so if you're looking for news on that today, go read her blog.

In the meantime, while we're waiting for the Senate to vote, I decided to page through the stuff I had saved and meant to post on over the last few days:

Nicolai Brown wants you to break a law today. I drove 26 in a 25 zone. I feel so liberated.

Teh Debewke Telagraf Harold thinx blogin wil rewin my grammer.

Also, the Telegraph Herald criticizes the "old, stale arguments" for increasing the minimum wage, and suggests an alternative: argue that raising the minimum wage will raise everyone's wages. The problem: if you make that argument, aren't you also saying you're going to drive the cost of labor for small businesses through the roof? Thanks for thinking that through, TH.

Here's a simple argument for raising the minimum wage. If you work 40 hours every week, you don't deserve to live in poverty.

Beth Cody of the Iowa City Press Citizen wants to eliminate public schools.

The most ridiculous lines from this one:

Many in Iowa City believe that we have good schools. And if by "good" they mean relatively safe, they are right. However, the high test scores are evidence of good students (with highly educated parents).

I love it when people lampoon teachers who aren't succeeding, then credit their successes to other factors.

Instead of "reading, writing and 'rithmetic," the new "3 Rs" are "rain forest, racism and recycling."

I attended five years of Catholic school and eight years of public school. In Catholic school, I spent much of third and fourth grade teaching the "slow" kid phonics because my teachers couldn't. Yeah, I heard about the rain forest and learned the recycle song in public school, but at least my teachers didn't refuse to teach their students.

Would poor children end up attending less expensive schools? Undoubtedly, but cheaper doesn't necessarily mean less effective.

No, under this system, cheaper would mean poorly funded. And poorly funded would translate to "unable to hire and retain quality teachers." Right now none of the schools in Iowa can afford to hire and retain quality teachers, so at least they've got the same problems. But when the newly privatized Valley can afford to pay $20k/year more than the newly privatized Roosevelt, the gap between rich and poor won't just grow, it will skyrocket.

Moving on.

I hate slanted headlines. From the Muscatine Journal: Woman quibbles over her neighbor’s parking: She says the issue is getting personal but neighbor says she didn’t know there was a problem

Along the same thread, this AP piece was "Breaking news" in Tuesday's WCF Courier: Ethanol use growing but far from cure-all for energy problems. That isn't breaking news, that's broken reporting.

I also hate panic-based reporting. A sex offender in Sioux Falls, SD is missing, and based on no current evidence, the Ottumwa Courier gives us: Sex offender may be in area

Someone asked me the other day if I'd like to run for City Council. I didn't hesitate before saying no. Discussions like the comments section on this letter in the QC Times are the reason why. The City Council is often powerless, completely thankless and the first to take the blame for every issue.

Less and less college students are graduating with degrees that promise a career sticking their hand up a cow's ass. Who'd have guessed?


Thursday, July 13, 2006

The thunderstorm to end all thunderstorms

Holy crap.

So I was just at an event for State House candidate Eric Palmer, which Chris will probably blog about later. I looked outside and it was raining, but it was time to go, so I decided to walk to my car.

I walked a block and now I'm soaked to the skin. I came home and all the windows in my apartment are leaking. It's raining and blowing so hard that water is coming in through my window unit air conditioner.

Now this is a storm. :)


Breaking news:

I'm hearing from the O'Brien campaign this morning that Mark Warner, during his visit to Iowa earlier this week, cut the campaign a check for $10,000 to help Denise win her race for secretary of ag.

In an ideal world, huge campaign contributions like this wouldn't be necessary, but in our current world, donations like this from presidential candidates could be what it takes to get Denise over the top.

It's also great to see this after noting that Warner, as other candidates often do, completely failed to acknowledge O'Brien at the event earlier this week.


What I'm reading today...

Four things worth noting:

Gavin is back, and while most of his posts have been about the Lamont/Lieberman race in Connecticut, which doesn't need any extra attention, he did provide this response to a ridiculous email from the Nussle campaign.

Denise O'Brien has a blog I'm adding to the links on the right. It's not much for content, but it does have a lot of pictures, so, y'know, if you're into maximum pictures with minimal content, go check it out.

David Yepsen also has a blog. The RSS feed doesn't work, but so far the content is decent. Yepsen takes a beating around the blogosphere, sometimes deservedly so, but he does have access to people most of us will never have access to, and as a result, he's sometimes ahead of the curve.

Finally, the Register has a pretty good editorial today pointing out the hypocrisy of Jeff Lamberti's decision to blame Leonard Boswell for record deficits. I know the Boswell campaign is excited about this: they emailed me this morning to make sure I saw it. The question is, now that Lamberti is lampooning the budget process and blaming all responsible, how does Nussle feel about it?


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Here's something that probably won't surprise you:

I’m not entirely non-partisan.

While I’ve certainly been pretty critical of the Democratic Party lately, I’d like to make sure you all remember that the Republicans have some problems too.

Earlier today, Chris Woods mentioned a Civic Skinny column in Cityview that referenced the Iowa GOP platform, in all its crazy glory.

I don’t think most Republicans are crazy. In fact, I know some Republicans who are great people, more so than most Democrats I know. But it seems rather obvious to me that reasonable Republicans avoided this event like the plague, or were shouted down on a wide variety of right-wing, homophobic, xenophobic, bible-thumping issues.

In his post, Chris asked for readers to look over the platform, pick a favorite crazy plank, and post it in the comments. I read over the platform, and copied down my favorites to narrow down to one. I can’t. Here are my favorite 33. I haven’t doctored them at all, except fixing the typo in 1.6.

1.6 We support agriculture and value added agriculture products in Iowa; therefore, we support the livestock industry in this state and support those who engage in it while recognizing the need to protect the environment, but no(t) at the expense of a vibrant livestock industry.

Or, to shorten: “We’re sorry about our pig shit, but the industry is more important.”

2.6 We support a landlord’s right to refuse leasing property and business owner refusing service based on moral grounds of individuals not covered by the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

The biggest group left out of the Iowa Civil Rights Act is the GLBT community, so apparently, if you’re gay, the Republican Party wants the right to kick you out of your home.

3.4 We support the teaching of alternative theories on the origins of life including Darwinian Evolution, Creation Science or Intelligent Design, and that each should be given equal weight in presentation.

In high school, a friend of mine decided to create a religion to see how many people he could force to react to it. It was Captain Crunchism, the belief was that Captain Crunch was the supreme entity in the universe. I don’t know about that, but I will say this: He’s been a Captain since 1963, isn’t it time to promote him?

Anyway, when public schools accept my friend’s assertion and teach Crunchism on equal footing with evolution, then they can also teach Creation Science and Intelligent Design. Until then, not allowed.

As an aside, there’s lots of bitching in the education section about how our schools don’t get anything done. Maybe they’d get more done if they weren’t mandated to teach creationism and intelligent design?

These three go together:

3.5 We believe that educators should stress abstinence outside of marriage as the surest way to prevent pregnancy, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and associated psychological problems. We also oppose the distribution of condoms in tax-funded schools.
3.6 We oppose the teaching of sex education in any form, at any grade level without written parental consent.
3.8 We oppose the teaching of homosexual behavior as a normal, acceptable or alternative lifestyle, and believe that sex education must emphasize traditional heterosexual lifestyles.

So, ideally, our schools should not teach what people do, but if they do, they should teach and above all else encourage not to, but even if they can’t do that, they are absolutely not under any circumstances allowed to be accepting and/or understanding of homosexuals.

3.12 We believe that all public employees should receive equal treatment for all employee benefits and policies regardless of organizational affiliation.

I agree. Being in a gay pride group shouldn’t bar you from working as a public employee. I don’t think that’s what they had in mind, though.

3.15 We believe increased funding should not be the measure of support for the education in Iowa. Rather, support for policies and curriculum that returns the focus of Iowa K-12 education to basic academic achievement and appreciation for Western Civilization should be the measure of excellence in education.

This is pretty awful. We’ll measure the excellence of our schools by their appreciation for Western Civilization? What’s the xenophobia standardized test going to look like?

“I’m sorry Billy, we know you were looking forward to fourth grade, but we’re going to have to keep you back a year, you haven’t developed a significant hatred for foreign culture yet.”

3.17 We call for the repeal of the ban on reasonable corporal punishment in Iowa schools, and for legal protection for teachers and principals who reasonably punish students for misbehavior. We believe that students’ civil liberties are not being infringed upon by punishing wrong behavior.

Do I really need to say anything about a movement to reinstate corporal punishment?

3.19 We oppose scholarship programs that exclusively benefit homosexual students.

I bet you do. Heave forbid we’d let gays get educated. Someday they might try to overthrow us.

Of course, the “Family Values” section:

5.1 We support an amendment to both the state and federal Constitutions defining marriage as the exclusive union between one man and one woman.

5.2 We support the elimination of no-fault divorce.

5.3 We support adoption by heterosexual married couples only.

I think those three speak for themselves.

5.4 We oppose the creation of a protected class based on sexual orientation.

Ok, so gays can’t get married, adopt, their lifestyle can’t be portrayed as “normal, acceptable or alternative,” and if they’re discovered as being gay, they can be fired from their jobs and evicted from their homes. Is there really any danger of them becoming a “protected” class?

5.5 We believe that parents are responsible for their children, and we support the rights of parents to discipline, protect and educate their children.

Discipline translates to “I’ll beat my kids if I want.”
Protect from what? Gays? Foreigners? Dr. Phil?
Is there any limit on how parents can educate their children now?

6.6 We support building new prisons, as necessary to protect the public from violent criminals.

Less than 20% of Iowa’s prison population is there for a violent crime. So in reality, to protect the public from violent criminals, we need one wing of Fort Madison. No new construction necessary.

6.10 We support the right of employees to organize, and to not have dues used to support political candidates, and requiring unions to receive written permission from each member before collecting funds for political purposes.

Translates to: We support the right to form unions, as long as they remain as powerless politically as they were before they organized.

6.13 We assert that the phrase, “the separation of church and state” as is commonly used, contradicts the original intent and practice of the Framers of the Constitution.

Many of the founders of our country were Deists. I’m pretty sure this is exactly what they had in mind.

7.10 We are opposed in principle to Universal and/or Nationalized Health Care, believing that common sense and the market place can do what government can not: bring customers, health care providers and health care professionals together in a mutually beneficial union.

I really honestly don’t think the problem most Americans face is a total lack of common sense. I think the people who say that are usually saying it because they’re upset over someone else’s views on an issue.

Health care, like education, is a right, and the second we rely on the market to provide us with a right, we give the market the opportunity to do something unexpected and cause a crisis.

8.3 We believe in a strong national defense.

Democrats, on the other hand, would take away guns from our armed forces and give them daisies to hand out to would be attackers.

8.6 We support a physical barrier along the entire Mexican/American border.

Democrats should offer to compromise and build a 6-inch tall tripwire along the border.

8.10 We believe the government should not reimburse families for the loss of a loved one due to an act of God, natural disaster, or terrorist attacks unless the individual was a member of the armed services or in the employ of the United States Government.

Is this happening somewhere?

9.12 Our judicial system should not use precedents or rulings from any source outside of the United States.

Because only legal proceedings held here in the United States are worthwhile. I feel like I’m using the word xenophobia a lot in this post, but can you really argue with it?

9.14 We support the repeal of state and federal “hate crimes” legislation.

Translation: If I want to string up a black or a gay, that’s my right.

9.15 We support a parental rights amendment to the United States Constitution stating that parents have the right to direct the upbringing and education of their children.

Because they certainly aren’t allowed to raise their children now. I'm getting close to demanding a constitutional amendment banning these people from having children, much less raising them.

10.2 We oppose any further financial obligations being placed upon the United States by the United Nations.

International organizations are full of foreigners. We can’t be paying for that.

10.4 We support the mission of the troops in the war on terror and full prosecution of the war until our goals are achieved.

I think “full prosecution” is what a lot of Americans want.

10.11 We oppose reinstating the draft.

Even the farthest right wing of the Republican party isn’t this crazy.

10.13 We support development of controls so that foreign governments are never in a position to influence the outcome of an American election.

Xeno...oh, what’s the point?

11.6 We believe that the Department of Natural Resources should stop the protection of cougars, bobcats, wolves, bears, porcupines and other dangerous animals in state parks and timbered private property.

Porcupines? PORCUPINES? Are you out of your mind? Who the hell sat down and decided that porcupines are dangerous? What next? Are the squirrels attacking?

13.5 We resolve that the income tax be repealed on Social Security and pension income.

Before this session, it had been mostly done, with only the largest pensions and Social Security payments being taxed. Then another law was passed during session making it all tax-free. Now, there’s definitely no need for this plank.

14.15 We expect political campaigns to be conducted in a positive and truthful manner.

Much like we “expect” to find WMD’s.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Had the chance to see Mark Warner today

Took a long lunch break to see Mark Warner (campaign page, Wikipedia) stump for Chet Culver this afternoon. The crowd was probably in the 40-50 range, which is pretty good for a daytime Tuesday event.

Before I could hear Warner speak, though, Culver opened with this line:

"It's great to see so many people coming together to beat Jim Nussle!"

I can't adequately express my frustration.

Anyway, after going on for way too long, Culver gave the floor to Warner, who produced the following notables:

Before becoming governor, Warner helped 400,000 Virginians receive health care. If anyone can provide proof/details, please let me know, because I'd hate to just throw that number out with no credibility like the press does when they say Vilsack created 25,000 jobs.

Warner seems to think America is capable of great things but no one has called upon them to do it. I find that interesting. Perhaps I'll stew on it some more and produce something deeper later.

Warner acknowledged Culver, Attorney General Tom Miller, and Ed Fallon, but failed to acknowledge Denise O'Brien, who was standing in the front row with her arms crossed the whole time.

Lots of elected officials in attendance, including State Senators Jack Hatch and Dick Dearden, as well as the above mentions.

Also lots of people who were on the payroll of the IDP. They were also the first to arrive, leading me to wonder if they were sent by the bosses.

Anyway, perhaps more depth later, but for now, a quick impression on Warner: I liked him. He seems genuine enough, and his apparent campaign theme of "A fair shot for everyone" resonates with me. Maybe at some point I'll get to hear more from him and I'll have more to add.


Monday, July 10, 2006

Now that we know you're paying for it...

Paging through the old emails this morning, I found a story from the Muscatine Journal I had sent myself so I would remember to write about it. I promptly forgot. It happens.

Anyway, in case you didn't read it, here's the gist of the story. Louisa County is getting a new jail. On November 7, while voters in Wapello are choosing between Chet Culver and Jim Nussle, they'll also vote on a 1-cent sales tax to be used to pay for said jail. When I first read that, I thought, "Here's a real opportunity for criminal justice advocates. Vote no on the sales tax, and if it fails Louisa County will be forced to rethink who it imprisons." Then I read the last line:

Supervisors said if the bond referendum does not pass, the jail costs would probably have to be paid for through property taxes.

So now it's a different matter altogether. Louisa County is getting a new jail, it's just a question of who will pay for it. And who should?

I feel like three arguments all make sense here, let me see if I can do them all justice:

Everyone should. The jail should be paid for through a sales tax, ensuring that everyone who needs the jail, and even some out-of-towners who don't, pay a share of it's construction costs.

Those who can afford to should. Property taxes should be used for the jail, as owners of larger properties are more likely to have the resources to pay for the jail.

No one should. The need for a new jail is a sign of the failings of our criminal justice system. We should halt the construction of new jails and instead re-evaluate who we're sending to them.

Which answer do you agree with? Vote in the poll on your right. I'll publish the results on Monday and post a new poll.


So I didn't go see Evan Bayh

But I got a quick feel for him from this Daily Iowan article and video. The video is higher quality in production than one would expect from a college paper, but the content is about what one would expect.

Bayh doesn't start speaking until about halfway through, but before that, they do talk to a local party activist who's supporting Dave Loebsack because "we need to beat Jim Leach." I'm going to get a welt in the middle of my forehead if I keep seeing that.

Hat tip to John Deeth for alerting me to the coverage.


Maybe not what you came here for, but nonetheless...

I've decided it's time for a change.

As many of you have met me know, I'm overweight. I clocked in this morning at 5'10", 247.4 lbs. It's been a pretty constant struggle for me for a long time. I remember going home from college once, weighing myself and being shocked by the fact that I had ballooned to 217 lbs. Then I had to start moving up from XL to XXL clothes. When I broke 240, I swore it was time to change. I gave up ice cream and deep fried foods and started going to the gym every other day. And I lost 13 lbs.

Then I started working more leading up to election day, and as a result I stopped going to the gym. And I put 20 lbs back on.

This morning I read Ennui's post about Democrats and how they blather about Social Security but can't fix the problem. And I realized I've been doing the same thing with my weight for years.

So here's the new plan. On your right, below the blogroll and the newspapers, is my current weight. I'll do my best to update it every day, good or bad. I'll also keep you posted on what I'm doing about it.

(As an aside, I've got the greatest job ever. I just called the office to ask if I need to come in right away or if I could sneak in a trip to the gym before work. I was told to take my time. Seriously, who gets away with calling in fat?)


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Composition of Gravel Part 3: Candidacy

Editor's note: After being out sick most of Friday and Saturday, I wrote this today at about 3:00 pm, and when I finished it, the internet was out. When it rains it pours.

Thanks to everyone who has commented, called, IM'ed or emailed this weekend to check on my health. I'm feeling considerably better. Still a little fatigued, but I was feeling well enough to disc golf 9 holes this morning and I'm still scheduled to umpire a softball game tonight, so I'll live.

I think I'm ready to wrap up the conversation on Gravel, but before I do, some related links:

Part 1 of my notebook from my meeting with Gravel.
Part 2A.
Part 2B.
Mike Gravel's Wikipedia page.
Gravel's campaign page.
The National Initiative for Democracy.

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I walked into the lobby of the Hotel Fort Des Moines to interview Mike Gravel. Certainly I had underestimated him, and that's probably my fault. I met with Gravel for over an hour, then his communications director, then I met a Boston Globe reporter who was sent to cover him. I heard an idea I'd never heard before, another idea I'd never heard a Democrat endorse before, and then had an independent political professional tell me he was the real deal.

Truth is, I wanted to like Gravel. For those of you who don't know, if you were writing Mike Gravel's biography, the first thing you would call Gravel is "former Alaskan senator." The second thing would be "American hero." We're talking about the guy who helped release the Pentagon Papers, and the guy who embarked upon the one-man filibuster that led to the end of the military draft in 1973. If you were to make a list of people most responsible for the end of the war in Vietnam, Gravel would be one of your first entries.

He's motivated by a lot of the same things I am. He wants to get special interests out of politics. He wants a simpler tax system which will both ensure that everyone is paying their fair share and shift our societal emphasis from consumption to savings.

I don't talk a lot about the war in this space. I think the war is a dangerous subject for liberals because of things liberals have said about it. I think, to a point, State 29 is right when he says that the most vocal war protestors are only interested in screaming about the lies of our president, not in solving the problem.

I'm not going to take a stand on that now. This isn't the place for it. But I will say this. The possibility that the current administration lied to send us down this path, the possibility that the war in Iraq is merely a continuation of a Bush agenda instead of a response to a national security threat and the possibility that thousands of Americans have died and thousands more could die based on a move made on faulty intelligence and lies would suggest that perhaps we, as Americans, need a new method to determine the actions we are going to take to defend ourselves. I think the possibility that it happened with Iraq also demands an investigation to see if it did happen. I think Gravel is with me on that.

So while Gravel and I stand together on our goals, I find that I can't stand behind any of his proposals to reach those goals. I don't think the National Initiative would get special interests out of politics. I think it would make them worse. I don't believe the Fair Tax would actually solve the problems with our Tax Code. I think the shifts involved would create economic disaster, at least in the short term. I like his stance on the war. But I think several other Democrats, Feingold included, will come forward with similar stances.

While I was taking a nap Friday night in an effort to get some rest and feel better, the phone woke me up twice. The first call isn't relevant to this conversation. The second call was Gravel, and we spoke for over an hour. To his tremendous credit, he allowed me to tell him about every concern I have with his two major plans. To his discredit, he didn't have a single answer that led me to change my mind about my concerns. I still think, mathematically, the Fair Tax is a flawed argument. I still think the National Initiative would be nearly impossible to enact, incredibly expensive to follow and frighteningly ineffective once it was in place.

For those reasons, and some others, I continue to field Mike Gravel's calls, I continue to answer his questions, and I will continue to at times offer him advice, but I do not intend to support him, and I'm not sure I would recommend others do so either.


Friday, July 07, 2006

Today's plans

I'm not feeling well today, so I won't be making the trip across the state to see Evan Bayh in Davenport tonight. I'd probably throw up on his shoes and no one wants that. I've emailed my contact with the All America PAC to let him know I'd be interested in rescheduling the next time the Senator is in town.

I do, however, still have a relatively full slate of things to talk about, so keep an eye on this space over the weekend.

Right now though, I think it's time for a nap.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Composition of Gravel, Part 2B: The National Initiative

Click here and here to read the earlier parts of this post, and here to learn more about gravel.

As I mentioned in Part 2A, I had promised Senator Gravel I would send him my concerns on the National Initiative before I published them. I sent them Monday night. I know Gravel is in New Hampshire for the Fourth, but I want to finish my thoughts on Gravel before I leave for my meeting with Bayh tomorrow. Therefore, as I did with Part 1, I'm going to express my concerns now, and if I receive corrections from the Gravel campaign, I'll update the post, and add a new post to let you know I did so.

When I met with Gravel, the National Initiative blew my mind. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the National Initiative is a plan to allow more laws, amendments and other legislative actions to be done via direct democracy, with registered voters receiving the opportunity to sponsor, vote on and pass laws at all levels of government. To get a more detailed version of the proposal, read the National Institute for Democracy's Democracy Amendment, Democracy Act and The Parrish Report, which explains some of the finer points of both. Combined, they're about 30 pages of reading, but if you really want to get a feel for where Gravel is going with this, they're well worth the read. I put about 3 1/2 hours into them Monday night.

What I emerged with, though, were concerns. Lots of them. In the email I sent Gravel, I ended up breaking them into seven groups. Two of them are relatively small procedural details, but these five are huge:

Issue 1: Philadelphia II.

Gravel and NI4D estimate that they will need 50 million votes for the Amendment to pass. That's a huge number to gather, but it becomes even more difficult when you consider that the government isn't even going to be responsible for the vote. Instead, Gravel has created an organization, Philadelphia II, to handle the counting of votes. Philadelphia II is not composed of any current elected officials, was not chosen by the public and is not recognized by the government as an entity qualified to perform an election. Furthermore, on this issue Philadelphia II is not an impartial entity. According to the Parrish report it "has been fostering the principles embodied in the National Initiative since 1992."

NI4D says this is not a problem. In the Parrish report, they say that, "The election enacting the National Initiative is a self-enacting process whereby the People are able to vote for the Amendment and the Act because of the election itself." They compare it to the voting process by which the states ratified the Constitution. Very rarely in politics do you get away with something by saying "Well, we did it this way 225 years ago."

Finally, the process of allowing the election to be performed by a partial entity creates the potential for voter fraud on an unbelievable scale (see section on Internet Voting).

Issue 2: Interest Groups

From Section 3P of the Act:

"Only United States citizens may contribute funds, services or property in support of or in opposition to an initiative. Contributions from corporations including, but not limited to, such incorporated entities as industry groups, labor unions, political parties, political action committees, organized religions and associations, are specifically prohibited."

Here are the three red flags that went up when I read that:

* Since the regulations you've proposed on elections involving initiatives are significantly different from the regulations in place for existing elections, won't the differences create a system of confusion in regards to what is legal in which election?
* Aren't the existing regulations (or lack thereof) a function of decades of specific regulations being rejected by the Supreme Court? As such, isn't there precedent to suggest that the Supreme Court would find these restrictions similarly unconstitutional?
* By holding relatively frequent, likely low-voter-turnout elections to pass initiatives, wouldn't the Initiative actually create a system where more power rests in the hands of interest groups like labor unions, religious organizations and political parties, who have built-in grassroots capacity?

Right now interest groups give financial support to candidates who then go to their legislative body and vote the interest of their donors. If interest groups didn't feel they were benefitting by spending the money, they wouldn't do it, plain and simple.

But by allowing citizens to vote directly on laws, all you would do is remove the middleman. Since you'll never be able to keep special interest groups from exercising their right of free speech, instead of spending money on candidates, they'll spend it directly on voter persuasion. They'll probably be better off.

Issue 3: The Electoral Trust

The Democracy Act calls for the creation of the Electoral Trust, a body that will oversee elections where initiatives are in play. The Electoral Trust will be responsible for all initiatives, be they local, statewide or nationwide, and will read and review all proposals before they may even begin the work of qualifying to be put on the ballot. To put it simply, to achieve the proposed results it seems as if the Electoral Trust would have to be the largest governmental organization in history, which would be both tremendously unwieldy and expensive.

During his first year in the Legislature, Ed Fallon proposed over 100 bills, causing a legislative colleague to propose a bill limiting the number of bills one could propose. Allowing all citizens to propose laws will create an environment where some people considerably more unhinged than Fallon will get a chance to do a lot more damage. And every time the crackpot down the street decides to write a federal law banning the sale of pastrami on Tuesdays, the Electoral Trust will have to proofread and approve it. It'd be an organizational nightmare.

Issue 4: Deliberative Committees

Under the Democracy Act, every so often you'd get a letter. It'd look a lot like the one that comes when you've got jury duty. Only in this case, you'd be called to a deliberative committee.

Deliberative committees would be chosen at random to read over and create recommended results on pending initiatives. They would have access to experts and researchers on the subject, and would publish their decision.

In concept, it seems like a good idea. The problem would occur when legislation starts to hit complicated issues. A large percentage of initiatives will probably relate to issues that don't relate to a fair amount of the electorate or are complicated enough to be largely unknown. When John Doe, for example, a plumber with a high school education from small town Iowa, is called to a Deliberative Committee in Washington to discuss foreign economic policy, do you believe he'll have much to add to the conversation?

Then they'll publish their results. The concept of having Deliberative Committees write reports on their findings seems like asking everyday citizens to write Supreme Court decisions. I don't think they'll come back with results that are useful in the average American's decision making process very often.

Finally, I have no idea how we'd pay for it. The Parrish Report calls for deliberative committee members to "be compensated at their respective usual rates of remuneration, up to a reasonable limit determined by the Electoral Trust." These groups will often be convened for weeks or months. They won't cost as much as the Electoral Trust, but they won't be cheap.

Issue 5: Internet Voting

Philadelphia II will allow internet voting for the National Initiative, and once the Democracy Act is in place, they will allow internet voting on all resolutions going forward. Between a newfound epidemic of identity theft, entire generations that are computer illiterate, increasingly low voter turnout and groups that don't take online elections seriously, this is like holding up a sign saying "defraud me please." Nevermind the fact that the elderly and lower income people have less or lower internet access.

Finally, since online voting has never been done in a major election before, Philadelphia II's decision to allow online voting on the National Initiative would give any and all opponents a leg to stand on when challenging the Initiative in court, which they would inevitably do.

When Gravel explained the Fair Tax, I disagreed, but I could at least envision an environment where it could work and see the benefits of it. As it turns out, the Fair Tax would create a budget shortfall on the "National Disaster" level.

When Gravel proposed the National Initiative, I couldn't believe anyone would think this could possibly work. I took the advice of some people I met and took some time to think about it, do my homework, and discuss it with people. I did all that. I still can't believe anyone would think this could possibly work.

As I said before, I'm hoping I'll hear back from the Gravel campaign on this. If I do, I'll let you know.


Gander Mountain: Taking the High Road.

A hat tip today to Joe Kristan over at Roth and Co., who was the first to discover this interview with Gander Mountain CEO Mark Baker. At first glance, you may think Baker is a little taller than his competitors. That's an optical illusion created by the fact that his competitors are on their knees, begging for your tax dollars.

Gander Mountain is standing tall because they've refused to play the game that way. Some quotes from the interview:

Playing one community off another, these retailers push for tens of millions of dollars from taxpayers to help finance their stores. Even more troubling, in some cases they are persuading states to give them favorable "nexus rulings" that are costing taxpayers even more in lost sales tax collections ... Neither Cabela's nor Bass Pro would disclose the total amount of public money they have received over the years, but our estimates put the combined total at well over $400 million. When you add the value of the nexus rulings, the total goes even higher.

"We believe in the American system of free enterprise and consider these demands to be anti-competitive and fundamentally inappropriate. We cannot in good conscience go down that road and maintain our integrity as a good corporate citizen. We think it's wrong. So we are unwilling to accept the 'everyone is doing it' argument and become part of the problem."

"Resources that could be used for education or true economic development are being wasted on private retail developments. Communities have been paying big money to bring in low-paying retail jobs. Buda, Texas, for instance, gave Cabela's subsidies worth $61 million, or about $271,000 for every full-time job, according to our estimates. Reno, Nevada spent $54 million, or $208,000 for every job."

I'm not really an outside kind of person, but quotes like this make me want to shop at Gander Mountain. Also, in the article, Baker mentions materials and studies Gander Mountain routinely shows to local governments. A quick phone call to Gander Mountain Base Camp in St. Paul got me a link to Say No 2 Outdoors Retail, which is a terrible name for a great site.

They do have a blog, but more importantly, they've got this page of studies done on public incentives for retailers. If you're still not sure corporate welfare is a problem, check out:

This study done at Iowa State on how big box retailers affect their community and the surrounding areas,

This study, done in Pittsburgh, on how subsidizing retail has cost the metro area millions and produced next to nothing in new jobs,

This economic impact analysis from Florence, Alabama concerning a proposed Bass Pro Shop,

and this list, which lays out the multitude of reasons why corporate welfare typically fails to produce jobs.

I only wish the current administration would read some of this.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A new blog, and Warning Labels Gone Wild

Hat tips are due to State 29 and Side Notes, who beat me to the punch on FromDC2Iowa, a great new blog written by Nicholas Johnson, former Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission and current Iowa City School Board member and U of I Law Professor. Johnson does a great job pointing out arguments for a Clean Elections Act, check them out here and here.

Then, if this guy got his way, steak knives would have to come with a warning label: "Best when not used on genitalia."

At least, not your own genitalia.


Monday, July 03, 2006

Composition of Gravel, Part 2A: The Delay

Gentle readers:

I know I'm weeks overdue on Parts 2 and 3 of my reaction to my meeting with Senator Mike Gravel, and for a variety of reasons, they're not done yet. Here's a quick rundown of the holdup:

1) I didn't get as much done on vacation as I would've liked, but then again, it was a vacation.

2) My increased frustration level makes it hard for me to focus on politics for extended periods at times.

3) I promised Senator Gravel I would share my concerns with the National Initiative with him before I published them. I finished them tonight and I've sent them off to him. As a courtesy to him and an effort to make sure I'm not wasting your time with incomplete or inaccurate info, I'm going to give him a few days to respond before I post on it.

So, rest assured, I intend to have my analysis on Gravel done before I meet with Evan Bayh on Friday, but it's not quite ready for you yet.


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Culture of Corruption vs Culture of..."Not Culture of Corruption."

So, I'm back from Wisconsin. Actually, I've been back since Thursday. The break was nice, thanks for asking.

Actually, the break came at a very opportune time. I departed the state right after State Convention two weeks ago, and it's a good thing I did, because I've never been more frustrated with politics in my life than I was on that day. In fact, it only took about 3 hours for the party to enfuriate me to the point where I needed to be somewhere else.

What pushed me over the edge, you ask? The Iowa Democratic Party's total lack of direction. I tried to sit through all the speeches. I made it through Tom Miller, the guy who spoke for Denise O'Brien, Mike Mauro, Blouin, and Fallon. If you missed it, here was the basic theme of every speech:

Democrats: We're not the Bush Administration or Jim Nussle.

Beyond that, we could be absolutely anything. Nothing would surprise me. Or, as we often are, we could be nothing at all.

I'm enfuriated by Democrats who spend more time on the stump talking about their opponent's failings than their own strengths. Maybe 8 years ago we could have made an argument that running as non-Republicans might win an election. By now, we should be pretty sure that's not going to work.

But we haven't learned our lesson yet. Certainly, no one at the State Party Convention is voting for Nussle. But we still spent all day bashing him. Even Ed Fallon got into the game:

"I want to close with a chant that I recommend you use to help motivate you in the campaign this fall. 'Out-muscle Jim Nussle, out-hustle Jim Nussle, let's tussle with Nussle and win!'"

That's when I left. But at home, and even in Wisconsin, I couldn't get away from it. As if James and the Giant Deficit and Gordon Fischer weren't enough, now we've got Nussle and Flow, and just so he won't feel left out, Steve King's perpetual bashers have created King Watch. And of course, at first opportunity, Chris Woods and NoNeed4thneed heralded them. I'm not surprised by our actions, in fact I'm frustrated by the fact that I've come to expect them. Soon I'm also expecting to see the launch of Lamberti's Lies, Loser Leach, Liberals for the Last Term of Tom Latham, Whalen's Weaknesses, Dumb Doctor Dopf, Negative Northey, and of course, after the runaway success of Growing Up Gotti, it's only a matter of time before someone makes Growing Up Grassley. We'll do anything we can to beat the Republicans without being forced to stick our own necks out. The problem is, with this strategy, we won't beat many Republicans.

I spent a lot of time fishing with my dad while I was home. Apparently muskies are motivated by specific moon cycles. After a few hours with no success, my mind was somewhere else when I absentmindedly had this exchange with my dad:

DAD: Tonight's a moon phase, but the fish don't seem to know that.
KL: It's cloudy, maybe they can't see the moon.

Maybe we can't see the moon either. It's certainly not that we as Democrats haven't had the opportunity to bite. We're in a largely unpopular war, an economic downturn, and we're waist deep in corruption, but our candidates seem to stand with us on less issues every election cycle.

To carry the analogy a step further, it's not the clouds that get in the way, it's our rhetoric. Here's a great example:

In the fourth congressional district, I've only heard Selden Spencer speak a few times, and I've only spoken to him once, but the phrase "Bush clone" has come up in reference to Tom Latham every single time. Here's the problem: in 2004, Bush received over 153,000 votes in the district, and won it by over 7,000 votes. He won 17 of the district's 27 counties. Kerry won Ames and Mason City by 4,889 votes, and lost the rest of the district by almost 12,000. In the immortal words of P.O.D., If you wanna you can check my stats. Spencer has offered little or nothing else memorable in his message.

An early prediction: Spencer will win Story County. Latham will sweep the other 26 en route to a landslide victory.

Even in the perfect storm, we're unlikely to unseat any sitting Republican congressmen in Iowa this fall. And we're going to be stuck with this situation or worse for a long time unless we do the following things:

Provide reasonable alternatives: Here's the new rule in regards to the Iraq War, privatization of Social Security, tax cuts for the wealthy, and violations of privacy: If you're going to complain about any of these things, make sure you've got a solution. Don't just bitch about the problem. Don't support candidates who just bitch about the problem. Support candidates with legitimate plans to fix the problem.

Vote, campaign and work FOR change, not AGAINST the problem: Whether it was the 2004 IDP Coordinated Campaign or the Fallon campaign, I've worked with a ton of people who have told me the following:

"We need to work for (Kerry/Fallon) because we need to get rid of (Bush/Culver/Blouin/Nussle)."

If you're one of the people who say things like that, don't ever do it again. For people who are on board with your candidate, you're preaching to the choir. To independent and Republican voters, you're whining. And it's really, really irritating.

What's that mean for 2006? It's simple. Support candidates you can vote FOR. Don't vote AGAINST Jim Nussle, don't vote AGAINST a Congressional candidate, or a candidate for any other office. Either vote FOR Chet Culver and the other Democratic candidates, or don't. Either campaign FOR Democratic candidates, or don't.

And if you're one of the people who's gotten yourself fully absorbed in campaigning against someone, stop it. You're part of the problem.