Thursday, August 31, 2006

Can I suggest a compromise?

Two distantly related stories have come up over the last two days:

a) Jim Leach has been handing out fake Native American headdresses at parades throughout his district. I have no idea why one would do that, but he seems to think it's fun. Jacki Rand, history professor at the U of I, is thoroughly unimpressed.

b) According to an AP report, The University of Illinois is thinking of retiring their long-time Native American mascot, Chief Illiniwek.

If Dave Loebsack can beat Jim Leach, can we convince Illinois to keep the Chief and let Leach fill the role on a permanent basis?


Debate debate

On Monday, the three debates for gubernatorial candidates were announced, and appeared in most newspapers on Tuesday. Now, it's Thursday, and the complaints from the snubbed are deafening:

In today's Ottumwa Courier:

Also disappointing is that Ottumwa, which had been suggested by Nussle as one of eight possible debate sites, has been left out.

Southern Iowa, for too long, has been ignored by politicians. They usually focus on the state’s largest urban areas like Des Moines and Cedar Rapids.

And again, this part of the state as well as other locales have been ignored.

“I am disappointed that Chet Culver has agreed to only three of the eight debate invitations our team has accepted ... ” said Nussle’s running mate Bob Vander Plaats.

We couldn’t agree more.

And in today's Sioux City Journal:

That Iowa Democrat gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver didn't want to include Sioux City as one of the sites for a debate with his Republican opponent, Jim Nussle, is a snub, plain and simple.

The three cities agreed to by the Culver and Nussle campaigns this week as debate host locations are Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Des Moines. Once again, the mindset appears to be that Iowa's borders are the Mississippi River and the city limits of West Des Moines. Residents of western Iowa have become accustomed to that way of thinking through the years, but that doesn't make it right.

For once, the voice of reason comes from David Yepsen's blog:

I see the campaign for governor has sunk to a debate over whether Democrat Chet Culver and Republican Jim Nussle should have had a debate in western Iowa.


This happens in every campaign. We get sidetracked into silly things like a debate over debates. During the slow news month of August, such silliness takes on an oversized importance. (See, I’m even blogging about it.)

The fact is, most people could care less where candidates debate. For that matter, most people could care less about anything to do with political debates, given the poor ratings they get. Many people who watch them already have their minds made up and are just watching to see if the guy they hate goofs up.

These debates are television shows. It’s what’s on the tube that is the political reality, not where the studio is located.

Just in case anyone out there doesn't see the strategy, let me explain to you what just happened:

Nussle didn't want eight debates, but by proposing them, he forced Culver to make an unpopular choice. Culver could've chosen to debate in Dubuque, Muscatine and Council Bluffs and five other cities would've been upset about not getting a debate. As a result, Culver gets to have the debates in three Dem-friendly cities, and Nussle gets to use the other five suggestions to rile up voters in "neglected" areas.

And besides, was anyone really excited to go see said debates?


It's a long way from Iowa, but...

Even if you're not planning on supporting him, you should be reading Selden Spencer's blog from Afghanistan.

It's not a long read, and it's not overly political, but it is an excellent narrative of the unique and challenging nature of adjusting to life in a place many of us have already forgotten about.

Go check it out.


The Board of Regents responds to Jeff Cox

On Tuesday, I posted a link to this piece by Jeff Cox in the Press-Citizen, where he accuses Vilsack of being "Iowa's most anti-higher education governor," politicizing the Board of Regents and pushing a political agenda which caused the U of I to slip in rankings of public universities.

Today, Michael Gartner responds. On funding:

Cox criticizes Gov. Tom Vilsack as Iowa's "most anti-education governor" because the state universities' funding was cut during the first years of Vilsack's governorship. In fact, the funding was cut by the Legislature, not the governor. In fact, the governor has consistently requested more money than the Legislature has appropriated. In fact, the governor has been phenomenal in his support of education at all levels for all Iowans.

On politicizing:

Cox says that under Gov. Vilsack, the Board of Regents has "become politicized." In fact, that is impossible. By law, the board, like most state boards, can have no more than half-plus-one of its members from the same party, just as it must be balanced in terms of men and women. I suspect Cox and most other Iowans would have a hard time naming the parties of the nine members, who volunteer their time, their energy, their ideas and, quite often, their money in the cause of public higher education in Iowa.

He remains silent, however, on Cox's accusation that the Regents have de-emphasized research in favor of entrepreneurship. I tend to believe that's true. At any rate, I had hoped the Regents would do more in their response than pass the buck on funding issues and negate charges of politicizing the board.

I think there is a difference of opinion in Iowa on the need for public funding of education (see this exchange), but I think there's also a less-discussed difference of opinion on the role of education. The two sides I see in this debate are:

Intellectualism, or education as the gathering and sharing of knowledge. I think Jeff Cox would fall under this criteria. Simply put, people on this side would value educators decision to publish a paper or write a book, much as the Regents universities had largely done before the Vilsack era. The end result is institutions of higher learning focused more on debate, discussion and research than real-world applications.

Utilitarianism, or education as training for the real world. Education done under this model would focus more on end results. Test scores, economic impacts and job-preparedness are the goals here. As a result, institutions are produced which drive students towards specific destinations, removing creativity and learning for the sake of learning from the equation.

Both arguments have some merit and I don't think most people would advocate for the total use of either side. But I do think Vilsack and the Board of Regents have shifted the scales too much towards utilitarianism, and the result is an educational system that emphasizes production of cogs in a machine, not higher learning.


Morning roundup:

Four things of note this morning:

Via Radio Iowa: It seems like common sense, but apparently the DOC needs some help with it: If you put 1300 prisoners in a building designed to hold 850, you're going to need more staff, too.

Joe drew my attention to this one: Radio Shack recently laid off 400 workers by email. That seems pretty cold and impersonal, but also a bit uncreative. I mean, we're talking about a company that sells all kids of gadgetry. Couldn't they have sent a little robot to sing a "you're fired" song to the newly unemployed?

I had a praying mantis on the hood of my car as I was leaving for work the other day. I was in a hurry so I just brushed it off. Perhaps I would've behaved differently if I had known it had "ferocious claws of death," as the Register says. Of course, way down the page they reveal that the mantids are harmless, but nonetheless, they have ferocious claws of death.

Finally, if you've moved to Iowa since 1988, you should probably read Yepsen's history lesson on Joe Biden. I had the chance to meet him on Tuesday, and was fairly impressed, but I'm also concerned by the list of charges State 29 has run up against him.

Also, this the the 300th post on this blog. So, y'know, feel free to make your own streamers or party hats.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Anyone having trouble viewing my posts through readers?

Quick question:

If you usually read my blog through RSS or XML or other feeds, have you been able to read it lately?

State 29 says my feed has been dead since the 23rd of August. He also lists some other blogs he's been having trouble with.

I read blogs through Google Reader, and I haven't been experiencing any problems with other blogs. Let me know if you've been having a problem with mine so I can start to look at feeding options if necessary.


Rules for submitting your own book/video game/wrestling show for listing in the sidebar.

I'll go in order on this:

Rules for wrestling shows:

I'm only going to list two months in advance. Right now, that means September and October. If you send me an event farther in advance than that, I'll hold on to it.

I'm unwilling to travel to (or list events) more than 250 miles from the 50311 zip code. Anywhere in Iowa is fine, Twin Cities is fine, Omaha is fine, but not Chicago or St. Louis.

Do not send me events until you have a confirmed location. I don't want to be pulling down/changing events once I've listed them.

If you've met all three criteria, email me at FFGKyle(at) to post your event.

Rules for books:

I'll read most things political or baseball related, within reason. For example, if you tell me to read Ann Coulter, I'll probably tell you to go away. I don't post on every book I read because sometimes I don't find much to post about. Also, I'm always five books or more behind on my reading list, so it may take me a while to get to your book, and if I'm bored halfway through it, I'll probably put it down.

Email me at FFGKyle(at) to suggest a book.

Rules for video games:

I'm not a fan of fighters or shooters. In fact, all I really play lately is RPG's and sports games. I have a PC, PS2 and Gamecube.

Email me at FFGKyle(at) to suggest a game.

There's the rules. I'll get back to politics now.


Poll results and personal notes:

Let's start with the poll results:

On the Republican side, 24% of you would ask Condi Rice not to run for president. 17% voted John McCain and Sam Brownback, and four other candidates all received 7 to 10%. A pretty even split.

On the Democratic side, a full 45% of you voted Hilary Clinton least desirable, giving her a wide margin over Gov. Vilsack (21%) and John Kerry (16%). Only one other candidate received 5% (Al Gore).

Finally, 47% of you thought candidates for office should answer any and all questionnaires. 35% of you would decide based on the importance/credibility of the sender and 18% felt candidates shouldn't answer questionnaires at all.

Now, on to what's next for that space on the sidebar. As my long-time readers (both of you) will know, this hasn't always been a political blog. It used to be my personal space to rant on whatever. Very few people read it. Looking back at the content, I'm not surprised.

I don't intend to turn this blog into that again, but I do feel an urge to inject a little more of my personality back into it. So I've created some space over there for my three current hobbies:

Pro wrestling: It's possible I'm the only person on Earth whose interests include both politics and pro wrestling. The people I shock by admitting my love for it usually ask questions like, "You know it's fake, right?" and "So you must love the Rock's movies, right?"

The answers to those questions, before you ask, are: "There's a big difference between choreographed and fake," and "No, in fact I can't stand the Rock's movies."

I'm considering starting another blog to talk about the local pro wrestling scene in Iowa. Until I decide on whether or not to do that, though, I've put a schedule of Iowa events for September on the sidebar. If you're curious about local wrestling, check one out. Momentarily I'll be posting rules for submitting your own shows.

Books: This is usually pretty socially acceptable. I read books on recommendations from people a lot. For example, right now I'm reading "The Great Good Place" based on the recommendation of a man I met at an event for Bill Richardson. I'll post reviews of books when I think they warrant it, but I won't if they don't.

Video games: I play a fair amount of video games, depending on my other schedule and my addiction level to the current game. Atelier Iris has gotten me to the point where I get up early to play before work. That doesn't happen often.

The new sidebar entries will be up in a few minutes.


Slow news morning:

Not much in the Register today: County treasurers are getting grabby with money and a big-time ethanol investor wants us to spend more on ethanol. Shocking.

State 29 also must be bored, last night he posted twice within an hour, the first one about Sioux City women he found on Hot or Not and the second one about women in the Polk County Jail. Groundbreaking.

Admittedly I'm still pre-caffeine, but I'm not finding much to get excited about this morning. I'm sure something will grab my attention eventually. I'll be back when it does.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Access for a price:

You may recall from past posts my absolute hatred of "Democratic Unity" events with a "pay at the door" policy. Simply put, you can't claim to represent all your constituents when your events are only open to those who can afford them.

As it turns out, it appears I have a kindred soul in this feeling in Nick Johnson, who has a great post up comparing Harkin's Steak Fry (elite only) to State Senator Bob Dvorsky's birthday party (all welcome).

I recognize candidates need money, but there's a correct and an incorrect way to ask for it. Nick has the details.


Problems with Regents' universities: Is Vilsack responsible?

Jeff Cox, history professor from the U of I, thinks so. Some quotes from his argument:

Democratic Gov. Harold Hughes and Republican Governors Robert Ray and Terry Branstad were all notable for their commitment to public funding for higher education even during times of severe economic hardship.

What has changed recently is neither the Iowa economy nor Iowa public opinion; it is the advent of the administration of Gov. Tom Vilsack, who will go down in history as Iowa's most anti-higher education governor...

In the past when faculty did things like "publish a paper" or "write a book," they were rewarded, but that has to change. "Now it's come up with an idea and start a business and you'll get rewarded." Hired for their expertise in research and teaching ... faculty are now expected to become entrepreneurs who serve private investors.

Go read the whole argument and decide for yourself. I'd also love to hear a response from Vilsack or the Board of Regents, since this piece appears a bit one-sided.

In a related note, the Board of Regents' supposed sabotage of the U of I didn't keep 40 people from applying to be the university's next president. No word on whether Sal Mohamed is among the applicants.


I couldn't have said it any better myself.

David Kraft, Republican candidate for State House in District 15, has a letter in the WCF Courier today defending his decision not to answer Project Vote Smart's questionnaire:

I have never shied away from telling voters where I stand as I knock on doors in my district.

Meet with me face to face and get to know me. I will answer questions on any issue. We can examine my arguments for why the majority of surveys go unanswered.

This time, however, I don't have to respond. The Courier did so for me:

Editor's note: By their nature, editorials are opinions and judgmental. We hope Mr. Kraft is able to meet with all his constituents since he prefers not to make his views easily accessible on the Internet.

I have three more questionnaire responses to post, and will do so all at once after I have the time to transcribe the hand-written answer I received over the weekend.


Pulling Polls

If you haven't yet voted in the polls on the right side of the page, or would like to vote again, today is the last day, I've got plans for that space starting tomorrow.


Monday, August 28, 2006

Iowa Ennui is bored.

From Iowa Ennui tonight:

Writing a blog is similar to an overly long season of little league where the players and parents, except Super Jock Dad, want it to end. But it keeps going on and on, providing ever more opportunity for parents to deep end with embarrassing displays of unfulfilled childhood ego needs.

I suppose that’s a long way of explaining how I feel about this project; it was fun, but now I’m showing up out of some odd sense of obligation. Funny, nobody really misses this stuff, so it’s hard to figure out to whom I feel so obligated.

Seeing comments like that from one of the first bloggers I started reading makes me think about all the bloggers who have quit since I started.

State 29 has been here and gone and kinda back and then gone and back again. It's kinda like A Hobbit's Tale with some hesitation in the middle.

I miss Bacon's blog all the time. I also miss Midwest Mesopotamia, both of the bloggers I know personally but won't name who gave up their blogs for work, PatriotSkullFace, Bob Again, and others. In most cases, they said something like this about feeling "obligated" to blog before they left.

I guess this would be a good time for me to tell you that I'm not going anywhere. I can't imagine giving up blogging. I will admit I probably have it easier than most: I have a job where it's not a problem if I blog at work, and at home my computer is in my living room, so if I decide to come post while I'm watching TV at night, I'm three steps from internet access.

Maybe my ego is just a little bigger than most, but I love having this venue to tell people what I think on a moment's notice, edit-free, and get instant feedback from anyone who wishes to praise, criticize, or do anything else with it. In a world and a state where our media seems to under-cover everything but scandals and our politicians are hiding in the corner and hoping no one will ask a hard question, I like being the honest and unfiltered guy, and having the capability to be unmerciful when it's called for.

Anyway, it appears I've proven my own point about my ego, I didn't intend for this post to be about me and now I'm writing about myself.

To get to my point, I guess I feel like I read posts every so often from friends and colleagues in the blogosphere about how difficult blogging is. In the interest of fairness, I thought I'd write a post about how great blogging has been for me. This is my 291st post, and it's far from my last.


BREAKING: Three gubernatorial debates announced

From a Culver press release:

In a letter to the Nussle-Vander Plaats campaign, Culver campaign representative Jim Larew set dates and cities for three gubernatorial debates:

October 2, 2006
Cedar Rapids
Hosted by the Cedar Rapids Gazette and KCRG-TV
Live feed made available to ABC affiliates statewide

October 16, 2006
Hosted by the Quad City Times and KWQC-TV
Live feed made available to NBC affiliates statewide

October 21, 2006
Des Moines
Hosted by the Des Moines Register and Iowa Public Television
Live feed made available to IPTV transmitters statewide

The Culver-Judge campaign also reiterated its proposal for two televised debates between the candidates for Lieutenant Governor. The campaign has suggested that these debates take place in Sioux City and Ottumwa, but no specific dates, cities, or sponsors have been set.

Some thoughts from my end:

Televised Lt. Gov. debates will never happen. Would anyone in their right mind sit through an hour of Judge and Vander Plaats? The continued call for these debates combined with the fact that Culver named Sioux City and Ottumwa as their likely locations, is just a political move by the Culver camp to avoid angering voters in those cities. The Ottumwa Courier has already called Culver out on this.

If you live in Dubuque, Decorah, anywhere in the 4th district, anywhere in the 5th district, or anywhere in SE Iowa, sorry, you're not going to get to see any debates. With the possibility of Lt. Gov debates removed, the regions listed above are going to get neglected. SE Iowa, SW Iowa and north central Iowa get their TV largely from out of state networks, so they might not even get a chance to catch one on TV.

All three debates are early enough for both campaigns to use them to create attack ads. My prediction: Culver's camp will get Nussle on tape talking about protecting pensions, then destroy him for it. Nussle will catch one of Culver's stumbles and make ads asking if he's ready to be governor.


How people got here: The Fifth Installment

Some great ones over the weekend:

If you googled the euphoria with bashing is over, I'm sorry, but you really need to look around more.

If you googled how to deal with paranoid coworker, I'm glad you found this post. I'm pretty proud of it.

If you googled McCain older than dirt, you probably should've googled How old is John McCain, where you would have discovered that he'll turn 70 tomorrow. Instead, you got this post about the Golden Girls and health care. Sorry.

If you googled bad headlines, welcome. Take a seat and grab something to drink. I love ranting about bad headlines.


Responding to comments:

While I was gone (mentally and physically) over the weekend, comments in a couple of my posts from last week took on a life of their own, and I'm feeling a need to respond to both.

First, a few readers have taken offense with my decision to call Musco a "good corporate citizen." Apparently Joe Crookham, the organization's president, is a heavy donor to Republicans.

Here's something that may come as news to some of my more partisan readers: You don't have to be a registered Democrat to be a good citizen.

The facts in this case are simple. Crookham and Musco are creating jobs without asking for a state subsidy in return. I don't care if Crookham is a Democrat, Republican, Independent, Green, Socialist, Libertarian or Pirate. His company is doing something laudable.

Second, I'm taking a beating (more or less as expected) for what I said about small-town life in this post. A lot of what I said is being distorted or taken out of context in the comments. Let's see if I can bullet point some thoughts on small towns, so if you're going to rip me on this, you can do so accurately:

- I lived for 18 years in small towns.

- I don't hate people who live in small towns.

- I don't think people who like living small towns are in any way inferior.

- I think small town residents are capable of making a difference, although sometimes finding an opportunity to do so can be more difficult.

- I, personally, don't miss small town life very often.

- I, personally, think getting out of Northern Wisconsin (where I could've spent the rest of my life working in radio for $7/hour) and into Des Moines (where I've found real opportunity) was one of the best moves I've made in my life.

- I, personally, can understand where someone is coming from when they decide to leave a small town for the big city.

There you go. Have at it.


Doing it the right way: Newton and Centerville

When I saw this headline:

Knocked down, towns resolve to bounce back
Centerville, Newton aggressively work on ways to offset losses of jobs, plants

I thought the ensuing story would be about corporate incentives and the like, and would make me want to scream. I was pleasantly surprised. Two quotes from the article:

"We can't approach economic development as we have in the past," said Kim Didier, executive director of the Newton Development Corp. "Now, there's an incredible sense of urgency."

Part of Newton's strategy is to provide quality-of-life benefits designed to maintain the community's population, helping to attract retail businesses and new employers. The old economic model emphasized creating jobs to attract people. The new model is to keep and attract people, with the jobs to follow, drawn by a quality work force, Didier said.

I am thoroughly impressed. A big round of applause to Newton and Centerville, who did what our state legislature cannot seem to do: They were hit with a problem, looked at it, and changed their approach to keep it from happening again.


Biofuels: A good overview

For all the Register (or RAGBRAIster, depending on the season)-bashing I do, every now and then they do find useful topics and devote the space they deserve.

This morning's Doak column is a perfect example. Agree or disagree with some of his premises and projections as you will, but if you're looking for an opinion on how biofuels affect Iowa's future, Doak provides one that's as well researched, well written and detailed as I've seen.


Weekend roundup:

Notes that didn't deserve their own posts today:

The motion picture industry would like some cash to make more movies in Iowa. If we snuck it into the annual budget, we could name it Iowa Film Funding Yearly, or IFFY. As it turns out, this wouldn't really be new: the state makes IFFY investments all the time.

Letter writers continue to pile on Culver's IPERS plan: here's five more.

On a serious note, if you haven't experienced it and would like to get an idea what life in prison is like, read Frank Cordaro's journal from his most recent six-month stint in prison. Whether you agree with his cause or not, it's a compelling read.

Via Radio Iowa, I've found the answer to the acronym adjustment I requested on Thursday: Nachos. I should've thought of that.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Morning roundup:

First and foremost, I've been hearing that some people aren't seeing my updated posts when they come to the mainpage. I'm having that problem too, but if I refresh the page it usually fixes itself.

I'm encouraged to see the City of Des Moines decreasing their reliance on fossil fuels and picking up some hybrid cars for their fleet. I'm even more encouraged to discover the Register is covering it.

Also from today's Register, Des Moines ranked 94th out of 100 cities in Men's Health Magazine's ranking of angry cities. Mayor Cownie said:

"I think that it has to do with Iowans and the quality of life and the quality of people in Iowa and their ability to work through problems,"

I personally think it might be because people aren't paying enough attention to their elected officials.

When I discover a new blog, I usually watch it for a few days or weeks via RSS to see if it's worth linking on the sidebar. Iowa Guy passed the test with this post on Joyce Schulte and Steve King. I'm having a hard time editing my template this morning, but once Blogger caves in and does its job, he'll have a shiny new link.

Finally, Nick Johnson took the time yesterday to acknowledge a good corporate citizen: Musco in Oskaloosa. Musco is tripling their workforce in Osky and refusing all government incentives/bribery to do so. A quote from their President, Joe Crookham:

"It’s part philosophical, philanthropic, in part it’s just plain good business to say we’ll spend our money to do this stuff and you guys spend the community’s money on making it a better community,"

I think that line by itself qualifies Musco for a spot alongside Gander Mountain in the "Good Corporate Citizen" Hall of Fame.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Be prepared to adjust your acronyms:

Breaking news from Prague, via the QC Times: Pluto, the celestial body which is either just beyond or just inside Neptune, depending on when you ask, is no longer a planet. The cartoon dog of the same name will remain a cartoon dog.

In grade school, I was taught the following phrase to remember the planets:


I always thought nine pizzas seemed a little wasteful. Thankfully, science has stepped in and made that phrase obselete. Instead of NP, now we just have N. The two options that occured to me:


Do you have any ideas?


A different understanding of happiness

I realize we've had this conversation before, but State 29 has a habit of bashing people who go to college to pursue anything but lucrative careers. Today he writes this about the career choice of former U of I Daily Iowan editor Annie Shuppy (no gratuitious picture with this post, sorry):

Are you sure you want to work for the dying newspaper industry?

I can't imagine why anybody would want to work for a major newspaper in a big city. Almost all of them are experiencing circulation and advertising downturns. Stock prices of major newspaper chains have been falling for years. Mergers and consolidations keep happening. And layoffs are a regular occurrance. Good luck.

I can imagine it. Annie, like me, has life goals that don't center around money. Some of us pursue careers where we can make a difference. Some of us pursue career goals that will get us out of the John Mellencamp-esque small town existences we'd otherwise be trapped in. Some of us would rather not choose a profession based on stock prices and circulation trends. And some of us would rather give up a few bucks here or there to chase that.

I can't understand people who live their lives with money as a primary goal. Even if I'm deluding myself into believing I'm making a difference, I'd rather keep chasing that.

As an aside, if you haven't read Annie Shuppy's full piece from Poynter, you should go do that now.

Three morning tidbits:

Iowa may be soft on drunk drivers, but utility poles are not.

I've never been one to advocate for organized religion based on a wide variety of influences, but I do agree with Tony Perkins, who advocates for faith-based programs to be allowed in prisons in today's Register.

Finally, Nick Johnson offers a point that seems logical, but apparently needs to be hammered into the heads of some: the best tourist attractions focus on what you have, not creating what you don't.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What I hoped to have today:

As a Fallon staffer, I have ties to a lot of people within the housing and homelessness advocacy community, so this morning's Register story about the closing of Paradise Mobile Home Park in Windsor Heights and its impact on the residents of the park struck me as a tremendous opportunity to raise awareness on housing issues and possibilities in the Des Moines area.

I've been chasing leads all day, but within the next few days I hope to have guest posts on this issue from:

Des Moines City Council candidate Joe Henry,
Robert Simmons from the Iowa Coalition for Housing and the Homeless, and others.

If you are in a position to offer some insight on this issue, feel free to email me at FFGKyle(at) and we'll work something out.


Can I propose a solution?

This story made me laugh too loud for my surroundings:

A “handful” of Logan Elementary School parents in Moline were shocked this week when they opened their children’s school-issued assignment books and found a list of profanities, including the f-word.

A school district spokeswoman said Tuesday that the “inappropriate language” list was accidentally printed inside books being passed out to students in grades 3-6. The list included “ho,” “whore,” “fag,” “slut” and one sexually explicit term that is widely regarded as degrading to women.

The list contained 20 words, most of which cannot be published in this newspaper.

It appears the school district is working to make sure they get the pages back out of the handbooks, but if they were to decide to go another direction, no unit on profanity would be complete without doing some research and making a list of offensive/profane things State 29 has said.

Still not soft.

A quick note to get the day started:

While State 29 will take every opportunity to tell us that Iowa is soft on drunk drivers, I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that cars are not soft on drunk walkers.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Slow news day today:

I spent 2 hours in the chair at the dentist's office this morning, so I probably won't be posting a ton today, unless something huge happens to change my mood.

They did something new today that I've never had done before. First thing after they got me in the chair, they took out a little needle and prodded at my gums to check their depth.

Who the hell decided this is a good idea?

Imagine for a moment anyone else trying this. Imagine having a doctor look at your knee or back, pull out a needle and prod around to determine how far it is to the bone. We would never allow anyone but a dentist to do this. (Acupuncture doesn't count. There is nothing therapeutic about having needles in your gums.)

My dentist also has a TV in his office. During my two hours in the chair, I got to watch Tony Danza trade back surgery stories with a guest, then sing along with "The Wayne Gretzky of the Ukelele." Finally, the noon news started and I thought the worst was over, but I was wrong. I got to witness Channel 13's ongoing coverage of the eternal CIETC hearings.

I left with bleeding in my mouth that didn't stop for almost an hour. I'm not sure if it was from the dentistry or the TV.


Monday, August 21, 2006

Clean Elections Legislation 101: An exchange with Brian McLain

On Thursday, I published the questionnaire response from Brian McLain, and that's sparked a discussion that has raised almost every misconception about Clean Elections legislation, so I figured I'd re-post it here, refute some of the misconceptions, and in the process make sure the rest of my readers understand how Clean Elections legislation works as well.

In his response to the questionnaire, McLain said he does not support public financing of campaigns. In his rating, I said "Clean elections are a deal-breaker for me, but once you get past that, he's good on most issues."

Brian said:

I gues I'm curious how my disagreement of publicly funded campaigns implies that I do not support clean elections. Please explain.

For this point I do owe an apology. Once I got around Matt trying to put words in my mouth, I explained:

By "Clean Elections," I was referring to a "Clean Elections Act," like those in Maine and Arizona. These are the laws that allow for public financing of campaigns in these states. So while you're not against clean campaigns, you said you are against Clean Elections legislation.

In my mind, one equals the other. A Clean Elections Law is just a spiffier term for public financing of campaigns, the same way the Death Tax is a stronger term for the Estate Tax. I can see how that would be confusing to people who aren't familiar with the terminology.

Brian's next comment is the one I need to respond to:

Ah, I understand your meaning then. But wouldn't it be better stating my position if you simply said I did not support public funding of campaigns and limits on campaign spending? I'm all for clean election legislation, however I believe that the Maine act is not the way to go about it.

Regardless of the amount of income a person, group of people, corporation, etc make, the contributions that they donate are, in fact, a part of political speech. They are supporting candidates they feel would best serve their needs. Also the money spent by a candidate is an extension of their political speech. That is, this funding is giving them the ways and means of getting their message out. While PACs and special interests are a problem in this system, and the amount of money often spent is obscene in many regards, I feel it is unnecessary to quell the whole thing by limiting what may be raised and what may be spent. That is a rather iron fisted method of dealing with the problem.

First off, one of the points I am making in my own campaign is that I am running out of my own pocket. This is not the only reason I am running, however I would like to be an example that no matter what party you are running with (if any) and how much money you are able to raise, one can still run for office, and make a legitimate run at that. All you need is a little bit of a shoe string and the willingness to do some hard work.

Secondly, to require my tax dollars, your tax dollars, and everyone elses' tax dollars to go to any and all candidates, regardless of whether such taxpayers actually support the individual or not, is rather tyrannical. I have the option to put money or not put money into the coffers of a candidate, and I would like to keep that option. I don't think legislation requiring public money (that could be going to schools, infrastructure, aide programs, etc) to go to somebody just because they were able to get a few signatures on a piece of paper, or worse yet, impress their friends at the party headquarters enough. To put it bluntly, I don’t think they are entitled to my money without saying a word to me about why I should be voting for them in the first place.

Third, how can we be certain that publicly funded and limited spending campaigns will actually be clean?

Why don't we try this...better visibility of who is donating and how much and to whom. You are doing your part by selecting certain individuals and showing where their money is coming from. Cityview sort of does the same thing, but seems to only focus on those who are currently in trouble in the public eye. I would like to see at ever polling place a list of contributors that each candidate took money from, including city and state location of said contributors. Every candidate would be listed; therefore it would only be more information for the voters to base their decision on and nothing for or against any candidate in particular.

I apologize for the long response. What do you, or anybody else, think of this idea?

I'm going to need to go step-by-step on that. First paragraph:

Ah, I understand your meaning then. But wouldn't it be better stating my position if you simply said I did not support public funding of campaigns and limits on campaign spending? I'm all for clean election legislation, however I believe that the Maine act is not the way to go about it.

Clean Elections Legistation DOES NOT involve any kind of limitations on campaign spending. Under Clean Elections legislation, there would be two types of candidates:

A) Candidates who qualify and choose to run under public financing. Those candidates who choose to run this way would be given X amount of public funding to run their campaign but would not be allowed to raise any more money.
B) Candidates who reject public funding and are free to fundraise and spend as they always have.

If a candidate from group B were to spend more money than a candidate in group A was given by the state, then the state would match that total for the Clean Elections candidate.

Second paragraph:

Regardless of the amount of income a person, group of people, corporation, etc make, the contributions that they donate are, in fact, a part of political speech. They are supporting candidates they feel would best serve their needs. Also the money spent by a candidate is an extension of their political speech. That is, this funding is giving them the ways and means of getting their message out. While PACs and special interests are a problem in this system, and the amount of money often spent is obscene in many regards, I feel it is unnecessary to quell the whole thing by limiting what may be raised and what may be spent. That is a rather iron fisted method of dealing with the problem.

I agree wholeheartedly. And Clean Elections Legislation would do nothing to limit what can be raised or spent by candidates who choose not to use the system.

Third paragraph:

First off, one of the points I am making in my own campaign is that I am running out of my own pocket. This is not the only reason I am running, however I would like to be an example that no matter what party you are running with (if any) and how much money you are able to raise, one can still run for office, and make a legitimate run at that. All you need is a little bit of a shoe string and the willingness to do some hard work.

When the financial playing field is leveled for candidates, the winners will be the candidates with better stances on the issues, better strategy, and perhaps most of all, the candidates with the greatest capacity to work hard and organize.

Fourth paragraph:

Secondly, to require my tax dollars, your tax dollars, and everyone elses' tax dollars to go to any and all candidates, regardless of whether such taxpayers actually support the individual or not, is rather tyrannical. I have the option to put money or not put money into the coffers of a candidate, and I would like to keep that option. I don't think legislation requiring public money (that could be going to schools, infrastructure, aide programs, etc) to go to somebody just because they were able to get a few signatures on a piece of paper, or worse yet, impress their friends at the party headquarters enough. To put it bluntly, I don’t think they are entitled to my money without saying a word to me about why I should be voting for them in the first place.

First of all, candidates would have to prove they qualify for public financing to receive it. At the very least, they'd have to get enough signatures on their nomination petition to qualify for the ballot. Party allegiance has nothing to do with it. I'm not one to advocate for good ol' boys networks.

Second, estimates on the cost of this program range from $3 million annually on the low end to $5 million on the high end. Worst case scenario, the whole program would cost each Iowan less than $2, or approximately 1/10th of the state's annual investment in the Values Fund.

Fifth and sixth paragraphs:

Third, how can we be certain that publicly funded and limited spending campaigns will actually be clean?

Why don't we try this...better visibility of who is donating and how much and to whom. You are doing your part by selecting certain individuals and showing where their money is coming from. Cityview sort of does the same thing, but seems to only focus on those who are currently in trouble in the public eye. I would like to see at ever polling place a list of contributors that each candidate took money from, including city and state location of said contributors. Every candidate would be listed; therefore it would only be more information for the voters to base their decision on and nothing for or against any candidate in particular.

First, we've already established that there's no "limited spending" element here.

Beyond that, I agree wholeheartedly with what you've said. I'm a huge fan of increased transparency in government. But I want to take it a step farther. I don't just want a better window through which I can see the problem. I want to end the problem.

Herein endeth the lesson.


The AP skims the surface of Iowa blogs

Over the weekend, this piece from AP reporter Henry C. Jackson ran in several papers, I saw it in the Mason City Globe Gazette along with the Register, it probably ran in other papers as well.

The piece mentions a handful of Iowa bloggers specifically, with some hits and some misses. State 29 appears miffed that he wasn't listed, and he also lists me among the blogs he thinks should've been noticed.

I think the story did a pretty good job, for the most part, of catching the blogs of most public interest. Chris and Krusty are probably the most read blogs on the left and right, respectively, and Gordon and Ted Sporer are both newsworthy because of their past or current affiliations with their respective parties. Here's where I think the reporter missed the boat.

The blogosphere isn't just about the caucuses. In fact, I'd rather write about state issues. I think there are a ton of people out there with more time on their hands who cover national politics and perhaps do it better than I would. And I think I can make more of a difference on the local level. That's the reason I don't report on boring interviews, like the one I had with Bill Richardson. I could tell you that Bill Richardson seems nice and is capable of going skin-deep on four issues, but I feel like there are bigger things I could tell you about with a bit more relevance.

I don't know Henry Jackson, but my guess is he's not from Iowa. Saying the Iowa blogosphere is only about the caucuses is like saying the state of Iowa is only about RAGBRAI and the State Fair.


What is a "political machine," then?

Yesterday, Ted Sporer went after John Mauro in a post, which really isn't all that surprising. But this time he used a US News and World Report article featuring this quote:

Mauro, a Polk County supervisor in a state where county supervisors are powerful figures, controls thousands of votes on the sprawling Italian South Side of Des Moines, almost all of them through absentee ballots. Decades ago, it occurred to Mauro that people didn't really like to go out and vote and that if you could make it easy for them, if you could get a ballot mailed to their home and then pick it up from them, that was a guaranteed vote. In the old days, absentee ballots had to be notarized (which meant that few people bothered with the process), but Mauro hadn't built up a successful insurance business by being dumb or lazy. He had an idea, and he and about 25 of his boyhood friends (who would become the nucleus of La Macchina) became notaries and carried the heavy seals around in their pockets as they went door to door collecting absentee ballots.

So let me start by saying that the concept that anyone in Des Moines controls "thousands" of votes is pretty absurd. I don't think it will come as an epiphany to most people to discover that south side residents are not sheep. They're Democrats. More of them are voting (and voting for Democrats) because people like John Mauro work to make sure more of them can vote.

On to the second part of the quote. I think the phrase "political machine" or "la macchina" or whatever you want to call it carries a negative connotation. One would think a political machine would steal elections, subvert the will of the voter, or engage in some other nefarious activity. I have yet to see any proof of wrongdoing on John Mauro's part. I've seen some accusations that led to nothing, but no actual wrongdoing.

So it appears, going all the way back to the days when John and friends carried notary seals from door to door on the south side, John Mauro has won elections by helping people vote. And if that's what a political machine is, then I'm glad we have one.


Tidbits this morning:

Here are the things in my reading list this morning that were worth mentioning but didn't merit their own post:

It appears my post on, among other things, Aaron LaCock's letter to the Register about the dangers of anal sex drew the notice of Aaron LaCock himself, who commented. Before I could get back from Wisconsin and reply, Heather Youngblut made the point I would have made. Go check out the exchange, and as an aside, welcome back to the blogosphere, Heather, I'm hoping this means you'll be blogging again sometime soon.

While I'm on the subject of Aaron LaCock, a related note: Sometimes the wonders of the internet allow you to share the spotlight with sites with names like "Fields of Poopy." On that google search, I'm right below Poopy and above the Register. That seems about right.

About an hour and a half ago, someone got here by Googling jim leach opponent. I'm glad David Loebsack is taking the time to walk around in all the counties in his district and raise name recognition, but really, he should've been doing this while he was collecting all the petition signatures he didn't collect this spring.

On the subject of livestock, the Register has a good piece this morning combining the views of Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Network for Local Control, Iowa CCI, the Iowa State Association of Counties, a farmer from Inwood and Ed Fallon. Instead of interviewing all five, they published letters from all five together. The Register should do this more often: gathering opinions via letters means Tom Beaumont doesn't get to decide who gets more space.

That covers the small stuff. Now on to bigger things.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

I'm back from Wisconsin, and I have a question for you:

And it looks like the activity here didn't stop while I was away. Thanks to everyone who's stopped by over the last few days and offered a comment on the issues at hand.

While perusing the comments tonight, I noticed that there seems to be some legitimate disagreement amongst the commenters in these three posts over the wisdom/obligation/danger involved in answering questionnaires, whether they're presented by me or anyone else. I'm curious to see what you think about that.

There's a new poll along the right side, above the presidential polls. Go weigh in. Feel free to elaborate on your position in the comments.


Friday, August 18, 2006

I couldn't resist this:

So, one day after I told you that the Iowa Democratic Party is advising candidates not to respond to my questionnaire, the WCF Courier has this editorial based on the fact that 95% of candidates have also refused to return a survey sent out by Project Vote Smart.

Richard Kimball of the Project has the best quote:

"If candidates are so afraid of letting their opponents know where they stand on key issues, how can they possibly let the voters know how they will handle the job if they are hired? Candidates have lost sight of who their prospective employers are," Kimball said.

"One campaign consultant told me, 'It's not our job to educate --- it's our job to win.'"

WANTED: One set of guts and/or testicles for 148 legislative candidates to share.


Good morning

Before I get to my usual morning routine (What's wrong in the Register today?), I wanted to encourage everyone to take a look at Nicolai Brown's last post at Ames Wire this morning. Nicolai and I have had some whole-hearted agreements and some relatively heated disagreements, but I'll miss him. Nicolai, thanks for all your hard work.

Now, on to the Register.

Homophobia is on the rise today, and the first two letters take two different tracks in showing it.

First, Aaron LaCock of Ankeny:

“Homosexuality cannot hurt anybody in a way that heterosexuality can’t.” And, “The fact is that every one of the health risks he identifies is equally true for heterosexuals.” ... For heterosexual men, dividing 5,149 by 124.2 million shows your chance, per year, is .004 percent to contract AIDS. This simple math calculation shows that you are at 50 times greater risk, per year, to contract AIDS if you engage in male-to-male sexual contact.

Then, Chuck McLaughlin of West Des Moines:

The rectum is not designed (by God or by nature — you pick) to be used as a sex organ.

Its lining consists of only a single layer of nonflexible, highly absorbent cells, which aids in the absorption of water and nutrients, but also makes it susceptible to tearing. Tears in this lining allow direct contact between the feces and the bloodstream.

There are health problems associated with this. Seventy-eight percent of homosexuals contract a sexually transmitted disease during their lives. Hepatitis (caused by fecal contamination) is epidemic among homosexuals.

I'm not sure I can make this any simpler. If you object to anal sex, then don't have it.

Maybe I can draw you a picture instead: I don't have studies on hand but my guess would be studies have been done showing that the repeated consumption of alcohol makes you more likely to commit domestic abuse, experience liver failure, drive erratically...etc. But we as a society don't ban alcohol. We encourage people to drink responsibly.

In this case, homophobes across the metro area oppose the gay lifestyle, so instead of encouraging responsibility, they're encouraging outlawing the practice. As an aside, does anyone really think banning gay marriage is going to deter gay sex?

Moving on: Cindy McDonald from Iowa Falls has decided coaches make too much money.

I propose the Register add a sentence about the salary earned by the athletic coaches at the major universities. Report how much of the salary is paid from the university budget as supported by tuition and taxes.

Coaches are faculty members and part of their salary is from the same budget as English and economic professors.

The problem is, that's simply inaccurate. Take, for example, Kirk Ferentz at the U of I. He makes millions of dollars annually, but he also has repeatedly taken the Hawkeyes to New Years Day bowl games. Those games alone generate new revenues for the University to the tune of millions of dollars.

Compare that to Baylor. I wasn't able to immediately find a salary for Baylor's head football coach, but it's safe to assume it's significantly less than what Ferentz will take home this season. I can tell you that Baylor has won a grand total of 5 games over the last two seasons, 2 in the Big 12. They have not reached a bowl game in several years, and their game attendance and TV revenue are dwindling.

So I guess the argument for competitive coaching salaries is simple in my eyes: Better teams generate more income, so if you can prove that spending more on a coach will improve the team, go for it. And if the coach doesn't produce, you're going to fire him anyway.

I'm off to Wisconsin again in a couple of hours, so unless something major breaks, this will be my last post until I return on Monday.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

The source of my greatest frustration

As you may remember, last Tuesday I announced that I had sent out a questionnaire to all 150 candidates in contested races here in Iowa. I posted a response today from Brian McLain, who is running as in independent in a 3-way race on southeastern Polk County. I've also listed his result below.

But if you've been paying attention, you also know that after 10 days this is only the second response I've received from 150 candidates. One Republican has replied, and one Independent. No Democrats. Also, no incumbents. Walt Tomenga (R) sent me this:

Please be advised that it is my policy not to fillout any surveys. To fill out one and not anotehr could infer something that is not ture. I stand by my voting record. After reviewing it if you have any questions please contact me.


That's the full, unedited text of his response. It's not the BEST response, though. On Thursday, a source that will remain anonymous forwarded me this email from the Iowa Democratic Party's Deputy House Caucus Director, Kevin Boyd:

Lots of folks have gotten a survey from a blogger. We recommend not answering questionnaires like this. There is no benefit to filling it out and there are lots of potential problems in completing it. Please don't complete it.

Yes, that's right, a paid employee of the Democratic Party is telling candidates for elected office not to tell people where they stand on issues.

I've touched on this problem with the party before, as you may recall. But seeing the Democratic Party literally muzzle candidates on issues is absolutely enfuriating to me.

By the way, as I mentioned before, I received the forwarded email from Kevin Boyd last Thursday. When I got it, I called him to ask about it and left a voicemail. It's been a week today and I've received no response. Imagine that, he doesn't want to stand up for his decisions either.

When I sent out the questionnaire, I imposed an August 25 deadline for replies. That deadline is eight days from today. If you're a candidate who would like to prove you stand for something, you've still got time to send it back.

Here are Brian McLain's answers:

Brian McLain (N), House District #67:

Public financing of campaigns: DO NOT SUPPORT There is something that I would find amusing about anyone complaining about government handouts to those in need, then turning around and getting the same to run a campaign. Maybe I'm a little biased, but I am running out of my own, lower middle-class pocketbook. If I can do it, then there should be no reason for taxpayers to foot the bill on obnoxious ads and annoying automated calls.

A woman’s right to choose: SUPPORT Abortion, in my opinion, is a wretched thing. However I will steadfastly defend anyone's rights so long as it does not infringe upon the rights of others, and with abortion being proven as a valid medical procedure, it should remain legal and I would make no attempt to ban it. Everyone should have the ability to receive or decline any medical treatment they would receive, it only makes sense.

Iowa Values Fund: DO NOT SUPPORT The values regarded to in this misappropriation of taxpayer revenue are not the real values of the state. If companies need a bribe to do business here, then let them stay out of the stay and make room for companies that recognize the hard-working and educated people who live in Iowa, contribute to their community, and raise their families here, as great people to do business with and employ. I want to restructure this fund to serve a more important and useful purpose as a 10-year graduated student loan forgiveness program. This will offer an incentive for our best and brightest to stay in the state, support those who took the initiative to further their education, and draw business into Iowa the right way.

Universal Health Care: SUPPORT As a national system, this idea would be a disaster, but at the state and local level it could be more easily managed and appropriated system. Necessary medical treatment should always be available to all, regardless of income level. After all, it is the duty of the state to insure the health and welfare of its citizens.

Local Control over CAFO’s: SUPPORT I shudder at the idea of passing the buck to anyone higher up the food chain as it becomes more general and more book smarts come into play then common sense. If there must be regulations, let them come from the region that knows about this sort of thing (I will be honest, I did have to Google CAFOs and study up before answering this question).

Local control and ownership of renewable energy: SUPPORT See my answer above. What's the point of developing something great and then selling control over it to the highest bidder? It would be much more economically prudent to retain local control and ownership in the long run.

Raising the minimum wage (please include amount in comments): DO NOT SUPPORT. What purpose would raising the minimum wage serve, but to increase the cost of living. It's a big catch-22 if you ask me, as more money in the system means inflation creeps up in general area. I believe that other alternatives such as better accessibility to education, health care, and job training programs (that aren’t managed by Archie Brooks) would be much more effective than just jumping the base wage up again.

More community based corrections for non-violent offenders: SUPPORT After all, where would you have a better time learning how to behave like a good community citizen? A community or jail?

Civil Unions for same-gender couples: SUPPORT. No changes in the law required in this one, which is why many moralists are scrambling to amend their states' constitutions. Honestly, government is not in the business of determining morality. If two people are perfectly capable of placing a valid signature on a contract then so be it. Government services are available to all, it's called EQUALITY. The opposite of DISCRIMINATION. Leave morality to the churches and get back to legislating.

My rating: 7/9, or 77.8%. Clean elections are a deal-breaker for me, but once you get past that, he's good on most issues.


How people got here (Version 4.0)

Some unexpected ones from the last 24 hours:

Flying pig fiddle and banjo: I know they played at Ed Fallon's victory party, but I had forgotten that I mentioned them in this post, one of my favorites.

RAGBRAI: Someone blogger searched RAGBRAI and found my post on how inescapable RAGBRAI is. I found that ironic.

Vilsack: Someone Technorati'd him and found this post. I would've recommended this one and this one as a better sampling.

That's all for now. Chris Woods, Drew Miller and I met with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson briefly this morning, I'm working on a bigger project tied to that and will hopefully have it tomorrow. Random posting will continue through today.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

An argument for Clean Elections: Chuck Gipp

I was reviewing financial reports this afternoon when I had reason to look over the last two financial reports of House Majority Leader Chuck Gipp.

I can't think of a better argument for clean elections. Gipp is opposed this year, but it's not a serious race: his opponent, Thomas Hansen, claims to have raised $249 for his campaign. Since May 19, Gipp has taken the following donations from PACs:

PACDonationsAmount% of total% of Opp.
Associated General Contractors of Iowa1$50009.63%2008%
Bankers Unite in Legislative Decisions1$50009.63%2008%
IHA PAC1$50009.63%2008%
Iowa Realtors PAC1$25004.82%1004%
Deere and Company PAC1$20003.85%803%
Meredith Corporation Employees Fund for Better Gov't1$15002.89%602%
Heavy Highway PAC1$10001.93402%
Iowa Industry PAC1$10001.93%402%
Iowa LawPAC2$10001.93%402%
Iowa Telecommunications Assoc PAC1$10001.93%402%
Monsanto citizenship Fund1$10001.93%402%
Waste Management Inc. Employees' Better Gov't Fund1$10001.93%402%
Iowa Cable PAC2$7501.44%301%
Citigroup Inc PAC1$5000.96%201%
Homebuilders Assoc PAC1$5000.96%201%
Iowa Optometric Assoc1$5000.96%201%
Iowa Veterinary Assoc1$5000.96%201%
Manufactured Housing PAC1$5000.96%201%
Medco Health Solutions PAC1$5000.96%201%
Principal Life Insurance PAC1$5000.96%201%
Roche Inc. Good Gov't Committee1$5000.96%201%
Independent Insurance Agents of Iowa PAC1$2500.48%100%
Iowa Friends of Rural Electrification1$2500.48%100%
Iowa Rural Water State PAC1$2500.48%100%
Iowa Chiropractic Society PAC1$2000.39%80%
Property Casual Insurers PAC1$1500.29%60%
Iowa Assoc. of Nurse Anesthetists PAC1$1000.19%40%
Verizon Iowa State Good Gov't PAC1$1000.19%40%
Iowa Insurance Institute PAC1$500.10%20%
Total30 PACs$33,60065%13494%

KEY: % of total = Percentage of Gipp's total donations from May 19-July 19 represented by that PAC.
% of Opp. = That donation as a percent of Gipp's opponent (Tom Hansen)'s fundraising total.

As you can see, 65% of Gipp's donations, or over $33,000 in two months, have come from PACs. Take a look at that list again. Would you be comfortable with all those groups influencing your legislator? I'm not.

Now, I'm not saying Tom Hansen would win if a Clean Elections Law was in place. What I am saying is this: The current system allows political action committees to give so much money to candidates that it scares potential serious challengers off the field.

Whether you agree with Gipp's politics or you don't, I think we can all agree that he and many others in his position don't deserve repeated free passes. The only way to allow challengers to compete with them is to pass a Clean Elections Law to level the playing field.


Iowa Corn Growers to sponsor and promote waste of ethanol

From the WCF Courier:

Corn-based ethanol will power Indy cars when they race next year at the new Iowa Speedway, and an Iowa corn promotions group will help finance one of the speedway's biggest races, track officials said Tuesday.

Former NASCAR champion Rusty Wallace and Indy Racing League driver Jeff Simmons were at the Iowa State Fair to announce that the Iowa Corn Promotions Board will sponsor the Iowa Corn Indy 250 on June 24.

"It makes so much sense to have these race cars running on ethanol, a fuel that we don't have to go overseas to get, a fuel that is better for the environment and a fuel that makes some big-time horsepower," Wallace said.

As I've said before, the fact that Indy racing is driving up the demand for ethanol at a time when ethanol is in a shortage does not make me more inclined to support Indy racing. It's like having a group promote clean water by gathering people to dump shit in the river.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Who do I trust? Not these "insiders"

Sharon Holle used to send me consistent emails about former congressional candidate Rick Dickinson, in fact my reaction to one of those emails is still the fifth result if you google Rick Dickinson Dubuque.

Now apparently she's moved on to working for Senator Joe Biden, because today she forwarded me a press release from Danny O'Brien, Biden's former Chief of Staff and current Executive Director of . The press release makes a claim that seems mildly outlandish:

The good news to report is that late last week, The National Journal released a survey confirming what I learned firsthand working and traveling with Senator Biden: he is the most trusted Democrat when it comes to issues concerning foreign policy and national security.

According to a National Journal poll of "insiders," 29% of those polled trust Joe Biden more than any other Democrat on national security.

So I asked myself, who did they poll? Here's what I discovered:

Sixty-seven Democrats voted in the poll. Some of them gave multiple answers to the same question. I scanned the full list of names and found these notable Iowans, most of which I wouldn't actually consider Washington "insiders,"

Former Iowa Attorney General Bonnie Campbell
Des Moines Lawyer and Dem activist Jerry Crawford
Iowa State Senate co-president Mike Gronstal
Dem Operative Jeff Link
Marcia Nichols of AFSCME
Sarah Swisher of SEIU
Iowa Attorney General's Chief of Staff Eric Tabor

And I'm sure there are other Iowans I don't know or didn't recognize in the full list.

There's no one on that list that I voted for, and there's no one on that list whose opinion I would request on national security issues. One of them also appears to have voted for Vilsack, and Jeff Link happens to be on Heartland PAC's payroll. Makes me wonder how many "insiders" are on Biden's payroll.

As an aside, the full poll document shows that 61% of Democrat insiders think Al Gore would be a good candidate for President in '08. That's interesting.


Local control update:

Courtesy of Radio Iowa and Political Forecast: Denise O'Brien has come out in favor of local control.

The tide is turning on this issue, but we need to keep working. Contact your candidates and find out where they stand today!

Tragic loss this morning...

For me, anyway.

This morning I was trimming the goatee I've had in one form or another since my senior year in high school when the trimmer got stuck somehow and yanked out a chunk of it by the roots.

I swore about as loudly as you'd expect. Then I had to shave the rest of it off.

It'll only take a week or two to grow back something comparable, but as I sit here right now with a strange cold spot on my chin where hair used to be, I can't help but wonder one thing:

If this had happened 6 months from now, when Chet Culver is governor, could I have applied to use Pension Fund money to work on the technology to grow it back faster?


Monday, August 14, 2006

A penchant for plundering pensions:


Hat tip to Political Forecast and State 29, who both beat me to this Register story/Culver press release concerning economic development. If you read Chris' post, you'll see that the plan is multi-faceted, but State 29 found this line, and had reason to be upset:

Culver also suggested investing state pension dollars in venture capital funds that support Iowa businesses, especially high-tech companies.

This is insane. Thankfully, the Culver plan only calls for 1 to 3 percent of the Pension fund to be used in this manner, leaving the remaining 97-99% to be invested in Powerball tickets or left to ride on the roulette wheel.

I'm not sure how much clearer I can make this: People who have worked for the state for decades, likely at below market value, are relying on that money for food and medicine. There is absolutely no excuse for gambling that money away on the highest of all high risk investments, high tech startups.


UPDATE: Chris updated his post with a link to this one. I quoted the salient points of his update in my reply:

You (Chris) said:

“I do, however, agree with Kyle to the extent that I’m glad the investment is limited that way — if for some reason — the plan would fail, only a limited amount of the total pension fund would be impacted. However, what I would like to see is a guarantee written into whatever proposed legislation that they pension fund will never go below the total amount guaranteed to recipients (based on inflation) — if that makes any sense (it made sense in my head).”

That sounds a lot like: “I’m for it, as long as it doesn’t fail.” And that’s exactly the problem. If you were looking for a place to lose money, investing in high-tech start-ups might be your best possible opportunity. I’m also not sure how that’s an agreement with what I said. Even if this idea was successful, I’m against it. At best it’s like luring a tiger into a cage with a live human child.


More on hogs and two more news pieces

Earlier I mentioned Ed Fallon's piece on Blog for Iowa about hogs. As it turns out, he also had a piece in the Dubuque Telegraph Herald over the weekend on hogs. The TH is subscriber only, but the full piece is available here, on Fallon's front page.

If you need a history lesson on politics at the fair, Todd Dorman wrote this above-average piece specifically for you.

Finally, it's not really news, but I couldn't resist saying it: Something is unpaved in the town of Denmark.


Bad headlines and polls: The Muscatine Journal doesn't appear to have any clue on how to properly headline their articles and stories

I tried to write a longer headline, but Blogger cut it off.

I'm a journalism geek, so one of my first reads everyday is the front page of the Muscatine Journal, so I can laugh at poorly written, sometimes incoherent run-on sentence headlines.

Today there's two:

Not losing sight of what’s important: It may have taken some blood, sweat and tears, but several Wapello residents are learning to deal with - and form a new outlook on - vision problems

In it for the long haul: Athletic director may have 38 years of service under his belt, but that doesn’t mean he’s still not looking forward to retirement, too

Bear in mind, those aren't the first paragraphs of the stories, those are the headlines. My high school newspaper editors would have thrown me out of a second story window for that.

Also, at the bottom of the Journal's front page, there's a poll asking if you think Culver and Nussle need to debate. Go vote.


I'm back: Let's see what I missed.

I drove 6 hours there for a four hour party, got sick, then drove 6 1/2 hours back, 2 1/2 of those hours through heavy, driving rain, but made it back from Wisconsin in time to spend some quality time with my couch last night.

Here's some stuff I found when I got back:

China Place, just down the street from my place, is more secure than I would have expected.

The Register has a good pro-and-con for raising the minimum wage. State 29 offers a wonderfully uninformed response:

You know who's earning less than $7.25 an hour in Iowa? Meth addicts and child beaters. And a whole bunch of high school or college kids working part-time. That's it.

Now, if he had actually bothered to read the whole piece in the Register, he would've found this:

About 257,000 Iowans, or 18 percent of all workers, would receive a pay raise if the minimum wage rose to $7.25 per hour. This figure includes employees who receive tips and workers earning less than $7.25, as well as workers earning slightly above $7.25 who would benefit as companies adjust their pay structure. Seventy-five percent of these workers are at least 20 years old, and 20 percent are parents to some 94,000 children.

Thanks for playing, State. You win a copy of the "Jump to Conclusions" home game.

Just two weeks after writing this about the pedestrian bridges over 235, Marc Hansen gives us this about the new plans for the Ingersoll Dinner Theater. Don't get me wrong, the story is interesting, but one has to ask if Marc is capable of finding stories more than three blocks from his house.

Ted Sporer is looking for suggestions on who the Republicans should nominate for SoS when they meet tonight. No one has nominated Krusty yet. I'm pleasantly surprised.

I'm torn on how I feel about Dubuque city manager Michael C. Van Millegan's proposal for a sales tax rebate in downtowns across Iowa. For one: how do you define downtown? His other proposal, though, for an increase in historic tax credits, is right on. The waiting list for these credits is over 10 years, and our historic buildings are deteriorating while we're waiting for them.

Perry Beeman of the Register
and Ed Fallon (via Blog for Iowa) have said the same thing I've been saying for a few days now: The fight for local control over hog confinements is not over and we need to keep working to elect candidates who support it.

Hat tip to New Iowan for alerting me to a great summary of what progressives want from the Democratic Party.

Finally, if you're looking to get out of the house but you've already been to the State Fair, Chris Woods has finished his Iowa Events page. Get out and meet some candidates.

And that brings me back to the present. I need caffeine now.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Something to use to entertain yourself:

Good morning,

I'm a little burned out on the news, so my daily flip-through the Register didn't produce much I wanted to write about.

But remember when I wrote about the Republican platform? If you enjoyed that, you'll love this, my good friend Tim Ryder's reaction to the student expectations and dress code at Bob Jones University. Like my post on the platform, it's funny because it's so ridiculous.

As an aside, I'm leaving in a couple of hours to spend the weekend in Wisconsin for my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary. I'll be back Sunday night and back to posting Monday morning.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Mary Lundby: Let's throw money at it.

Yesterday, Governor Vilsack held a press conference in Clear Lake to promote awareness on clean water and air issues in Iowa, I covered it here.

This morning, Mary Lundby had a statement in my inbox defending the Republican position on this issue and showing her commitment to it by displaying $18 million the legislature spent cleaning up water in 2006.

This seems backwards to me. For as much as Democrats get accused of throwing money at problems, Mary Lundby is doing it here in a big way. Let's look at the problem step-by-step:

Massive hog confinements have had a competitive advantage over small family farms since 1995. Since then, annual hog production in Iowa has gone up about 20% (it was 16.1 million in 2004). But in 1995, there were 25,000 hog producers in Iowa. In 2004, we were down to 9,300. I'll save you the math: in 1995 the average hog producer had 537 hogs. Today, the average hog producer has 1731.

Larger hog confinements mean (surprise!) larger volumes of manure. Despite the best efforts to prevent it, much of this manure ends up running off into our rivers and streams. Some of it is dumped directly into our rivers and streams.

Increased volumes of manure in our rivers and streams leads to increased bacteria and algae growth in the water (even Gray's Lake wasn't safe for a few days this week).

The logical solution: Take steps to lower the volume of pig shit going in the water.
Mary Lundby's solution: Spend $18 million to treat the symptom, not the disease.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Vilsack on clean air and water

Governor Vilsack held an event in (not so) Clear Lake today to raise awareness on the ramifications of a Iowa Administrative Rules Review Committee decision from yesterday. The Register has the story.

Here's the short version: The Rules Committee voted on whether or not to give IDNR director Jeff Vonk greater authority on the siting of hog confinements. While the Rules committee did give Vonk the power, the fashion in which they did so left the matter open to legal challenge, which it will almost certainly face. Agribusiness, as you may recall, has some money to throw around on this issue.

Giving Vonk greater power over CAFO's is definitely a step in the right direction, but really, there's only one way to fully solve the problem: local control. The people who are going to have to live near a proposed hog confinement are the most qualified to determine its location. I don't know how you can argue against that.

So far, on the questionnaire I issued yesterday, I've received one response (none so far today). The one responder didn't know how to answer the question about local control, because they didn't know what a CAFO is.

We all need to do what we can to make sure we're electing people who get it on this issue. For once, I'm with Vilsack on this.


A quick run-around:

Some things I've found since coming to work this morning:

Clean Air Waterloo, listed on your right amongst the "lapsed blogs," did post this morning to let us know about their new website, which is either "Clean Energy Solutions" or "Community Energy Solutions," depending where you look on the site. They also have a link to this, Iowa Interfaith Power and Light, a faith-based group intended to promote conservation and improve energy efficiency. I wasn't waiting for God to tell me to conserve energy, but if you needed another reason, there you go.

The Des Moines City Council decided this morning to hold a special election to fill Archie Brooks' seat, and already four people are interested, prompting them to hold a primary before the special election. I guess if you were unsure on whether or not you'd like to be a city councilman, serving a 1-year term would be one way to find out. Given all the public outcry over this lately, the citizens of Davenport may want to elect all their city council members to one year terms.

Finally, Joe Kristan has posted Volume 5 of our debate on tax policy. We've reached agreement on one point: The Fair Tax is not the answer.