Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Chris Woods responds to my thoughts on Vilsack

Chris Woods has a post up where, among other things, he takes a shot at my earlier comments on Vilsack's "visit" to Iowa tomorrow:

One other thing: I felt obligated to respond to this post by Kyle where he laments the title of the email Christie Vilsack sent out from the campaign entitled “We’re coming to your state this week” because its emblematic of the traveling Gov. Vilsack has been doing and because he hasn’t been focused on governance. I think there are some legitimate discussions to be had over his level of involvement in governance and policymaking in Iowa over the last 6 months, but in large part I say Vilsack has done a fine job of being politically involved by making sure that Democrats won — and won big — on election day. Sure he was out working on a run for President but that’s what happens when you’re holding one elected office and are seeking another that’s higher than you. I’m sure Ed Fallon’s run for governor took a bit away from strictly focusing on the issues facing House District 66, but it didn’t stop Fallon and the circumstances facing Vilsack’s current position and the one he’s seeking now shouldn’t stop him in his endeavors. Not to mention the fact that the email was a bulk one sent from the email address info@tomvilsack08.com, so it likely went to folks in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania as well as folks in Iowa.
I tried to post a comment but it's not showing up for some reason. So I'll do my best to recreate my three points in response here:

I say Vilsack has done a fine job of being politically involved by making sure that Democrats won — and won big — on election day.
Vilsack certainly deserves some credit for the financial help he gave several candidates, including over $1 million to Chet Culver. But I think it would have been a good year for Democrats with or without Tom Vilsack's help.

I’m sure Ed Fallon’s run for governor took a bit away from strictly focusing on the issues facing House District 66, but it didn’t stop Fallon
This is apples and oranges. From time to time Fallon was in Dubuque or Sioux City, where he was perhaps 2-3 hours drive away from his constituents. He did not, however, spend whole weeks in New Hampshire. Fallon was also off the road for most of the legislative session. Furthermore, Fallon was one of 150 legislators during his campaign, not the top executive official of a state.

Not to mention the fact that the email was a bulk one sent from the email address info@tomvilsack08.com, so it likely went to folks in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania as well as folks in Iowa.
This is exactly the point. Iowans have voted and paid for Tom Vilsack to serve as governor of Iowa for nearly eight years. The nearly is very important there, because his eight years aren't over yet. While he's still collecting a paycheck and serving as the state's top executive official, his trips back to Iowa should be more than just "visits."


Tuesday, November 28 is...

Independence Day (Mauritania, Albania, Panama and East Timor)

Tuesday, November 28 is also almost over. Sorry for the delay.

There are, however, three things I wanted to respond to today:

I consider Elesha Gayman a friend and I'm proud to have helped elect her to the legislature. I'm glad she's getting press coverage, but if I read one more story like this one, I'm going to scream.

I donated to Elesha's campaign, I volunteered for her campaign, and on more than one occasion I used this space to promote her campaign. I can tell you from experience that she's more than just a young woman. Elesha is a solid progressive on the right side of most issues and she'll be a breath of fresh air in Des Moines. At some point the press is going to have to take a step closer and realize she's more than just a sideshow. But right now, all they seem to notice is her age and her lack of testicles.

Moving on, I got an email from Christy Vilsack today, subject line "We're coming to your state this week." Never has this site been more appropriate. I think it says a lot about the way Tom Vilsack has operated over the last six months that he'll be "visiting" Iowa this week.

Finally, I wanted to respond to this comment, which Ted Sporer left on this post regarding Bill Northey:

Give Bill a chance-he's a good guy and not a pawn of big agriculture. No one really gave Bill a lot of money and he comes into the office beholden to few if any particular constituents.
I think the "no one gave really gave Bill a lot of money" line is particularly ridiculous. If you've lost your scorecard, allow me to remind you of something: Iowans for Agriculture, which was funded by Iowa Farm Bureau, outspent both candidates. If that figure, nearly $200,000, is not "a lot of money" to you, then we must run in significantly different financial circles.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Vilsack running for president...of the U of I?

Kay Henderson has an interesting rumor: That Tom Vilsack's efforts to help the Regents find a new president for the U of I could lead to Tom Vilsack as president of the U of I. Check it out.


Welcome Dan Ehl and other Centervillians

Dan Ehl of the Centerville Daily Iowegian wrote a piece over the weekend which is largely about State 29's decline from "insightfully vulgar" to over-the-top, porn-obsessed, hateful and vulgar. You may remember Ehl from this story in September.

Ehl makes an interesting case for labelling State as a conservative, which is something that's been done before, but the case has never been made quite as effectively as it is in this case:

But, being the bleeding heart liberal that I am, I’m afraid I have to feel compassion for him (State) since a federally-funded study says that people like him are, ah, not as well balanced as others.

Called “Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition,” known to others as the “Conservatives are Crazy Study,” it linked together Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Ronald Reagan and Rush Limbaugh.

"One is justified in referring to Hitler, Mussolini, Reagan, and Limbaugh as right-wing conservatives," the authors write in a published adjunct to the study, "not because they share an opposition to 'big government' or a mythical, romanticized view of Aryan purity — they did not share these specific attitudes — but because they all preached a return to an idealized past and favored or condoned inequality in some form."

There's also a quote from me in the article, which drew my attention.

So Dan, if you're reading, thanks for the mention, and if you're a reader of the Daily Iowegian checking me out after the mention, welcome.


Monday, November 27 is...

Onion Market (Bern, Switzerland)

From Wikipedia:

Zibelemärit - The Zibelemärit (onion market) is an annual fair held on the fourth Monday in November.
So, if you didn't finish your holiday shopping with the crazy people on Friday, I guess today you could buy some onions in Bern. If, of course, you live in Bern. You probably don't.

I haven't been sleeping much lately, which has more or less eliminated my need for an alarm. I could go to bed at 7:15 and I'd be up and wide awake sometime between 7:30 and 8. For whatever reason, though, today something was different and I slept until 8:30, meaning I accidentally lost an hour out of my only opportunity to get things done this week. So, I'm limiting myself to short reads today so I can go jump in the shower:

File this one under the heading "shocking news": Students who gain weight as freshmen often continue to gain weight as sophomores. Stay tuned for tomorrow's follow-up story: students who drink today are also likely to drink tomorrow.

On the terrible headline scale, this is almost off the charts: Wife killer opens taco stand. It's actually not a bad story, but it's a terrible open. I would guess most people who spend 20 years in prison don't come out and immediately contribute to society. James Klindt committed a terrible crime, but he's paid his debt to society and now he's making it on his own. I think that's both admirable and praiseworthy.

Of course, now that he's been in the paper, some asshole in Davenport will do their damnedest to get him shut down.

Nick Johnson's great coverage of the presidential search at the U of I continued through my absence, and yesterday he joined me in calling for Gartner's resignation. Hopefully Vilsack will put his boot squarely in the middle of Gartner's back in their meeting today.

Speaking of Nick Johnson, as a former commissioner of the FCC, I'm really curious what he thinks about the situation between Sinclair and Mediacom. I'll drop him an email and see if I can get his thoughts on it.

Finally, T.M. Lindsey, formerly known as Jimmy The Hustler of Nussle and Flow, has created a new blog, Political Fallout, which I've added to the links on your right. I think I was outspoken enough on my disapproval of Nussle and Flow, which I won't link from here, but this blog seems a little less personal and perhaps more useful.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A new high score:

Killing some time at the office waiting for a meeting:

#1 and #2 are both from today.


Tuesday's reads

I absent-mindedly took the calendar off my wall at work so I could put it on my wall at home, so today I have no idea what the date is, much less the holidays. Sorry. I do have some reads for you, though.

Via the often excellent Freakonomics blog, I found this NY Times story on wineries in Iowa. Some salient points:

“I will make as much selling grape plants off of two acres this year as I did many years on 1,000 acres of corn and raising 3,000 head of hogs,” said Mr. Olson, who makes much of his money selling cuttings to other aspiring vintners.

Corey Goodhue is one such young farmer. His family cultivates 3,300 acres of corn and soybeans near Des Moines. Upon graduation from Iowa State University in December, Mr. Goodhue, 23, will have many options but says he will go back to the farm. He has big ideas about grapes.

“We’re not getting enough value out of corn and beans,” he said. “But these grapes, there’s a tremendous market emerging. On one acre of ground, if we net $40 with corn or beans we’ve done good. With grapes, you could net upwards of $1,500 an acre. For us, growing grapes, it’s the holy grail of high-value crops.”

It all comes back to diversity. We can plow all of Iowa under and use it to make ethanol, or we can diversify and make our family farms profitable again. It really is that simple.

Moving on, there's no way I could provide coverage of the U of I presidential search to compare to what Nick Johnson has done, so again today I'll link you to his coverage.

Finally, BREAKING NEWS: Vegetarian didn't like steakhouse. This story is one of those stories that Chelsea writes every now and then that you think just might end in sex. It doesn't, of course, but it could have.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Monday, November 20 is...

Rights of the Child Day (UN)
Revolution Day

It's ironic that on Rights of the Child Day the conversation has come back to education and the Board of Regents.

If you haven't heard, the U of I isn't getting a new president anytime soon. The Board of Regents decided on Friday to scrap the current set of applicants (over 150) and start over. There's enough great coverage of this to go around, so if you haven't yet, be sure to check out the following:

Nick Johnson
The Register
Radio Iowa
State 29
Iowa City Press Citizen

The Press Citizen piece marks the first editorial I've seen calling for a shakeup within the Board of Regents to end all this crap. I agree wholeheartedly. In fact, I started calling for Michael Gartner's resignation a month ago.

Even if you're willing to give Gartner the benefit of the doubt on some of his actions from before his time with the Regents, the fact remains that he has lost the trust (and deservedly so) of many members of the faculty and staff at the Regents universities. If this isn't remedied, it will get worse. There have been accusations that Michael Gartner wants to end public funding to our state universities. Let's end public funding to Michael Gartner first.

Other notes today:

I live in the Drake neighborhood, and I used to worry when I read stories like this one about muggings. But I've also gotten used to reading lines like this:

The men struck Noonen in the head and took his wallet, which had $10 in it, the report said.
I think the easiest way to prevent crime is to show how it doesn't pay. Four men in my neighborhood are splitting $10 today, and all they had to do to get it is risk years in prison. I'm carrying $7 in cash today, a Wisconsin fishing license, my Cosmonaut Club card for Mars Cafe and my Frequent Noodler card for Z'Marik's. I'm rarely, if ever, worth the effort it would take someone to get my wallet.

Finally, Common Iowan has a good post up on the dangers of overexpansion of ethanol in Iowa. The need to diversify is greater than ever. Good thing we elected a past president of the Iowa Corngrowers Association as Secretary of Ag.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

General Disarray

The move went well, but things are still in a state of General Disarray, so I may still be gone for a day or two.

Here's a picture of General Disarray, by the way.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006


I get the keys to my new place in 20 minutes, and I'm not sure when the internet will be hooked up, so if you don't hear from me for a few days, fear not, it's nothing personal.


Tuesday, November 14 is...

King Hussein Day (Jordan)
Children's Day (India)

I was going to skip the reads and just go straight into the debate today, but then I saw one thing in this morning's Register that demanded my attention:


By the way, here's my Myspace.

Anyway, on to a more worthwhile discussion. I mentioned yesterday that Joe had offered a platform for his (hypothetical) political party (can we call it the Kristan right?). Today Iowa Ennui offers a post-election post on what the Republican party needs to do to rebuild. They both seem to have a point in common, which seems about as accurate as the Myspace comment from before: that Democrats are bound and determined to raise your taxes and blow the money.

I think it's important to put that argument into context. Say you were faced with two options:

a) Raise taxes, balance the budget and continue to operate on the status quo,


b) Cut taxes, raise spending, spend approximately $1 trillion more than you brought in over a three year stretch, and sell the debt to the nation's ever-growing economic competitors.

I'd take the first option, and I think most Americans would be with me. Sadly, over the last 6 years of more-or-less one party rule, we've gone down the second road. Way down the second road. Blame it on whatever you want, it's still tremendously irresponsible. So if your argument against Democratic leadership is their fiscal irresponsibility, I'd say they can't be much worse than their predecessors.

Furthermore, you can't consider taxes in a vacuum. Everyone likes the concept of lower taxes. Everyone likes the concept of being able to work less and take home more. But it's not that simple. There are expenses to consider.

Here's a real life example. In 2006, I'm going to make about $24,000, all told. Based on the fact that I have student loan debt, rent to pay and bad teeth, I'm probably also going to spend about $23,999 in 2006. I could pursue jobs that pay more, but I like where I'm at right now. I could cut some corners and spend less money too, but I like how I live right now. I don't, however, have a long-term option of keeping my current spending habits but making less money. Eventually I'd max out my credit cards and tap out my other options and I'd be forced to return to fiscal reality. Government needs to come back to fiscal reality too. If they're going to make less money, they also need to find a way to spend less money. Right now they're about $400 billion annually in the hole on that.

This is where Joe takes it to the next level, and makes real suggestions where government could cut costs to pay for tax cuts. Some of his suggestions:

...Get the government out of the business of allocating investment capital. This means no research credits, no ethanol credits, no historic building credits, no venture capital credits, no tuition credits. Then...

Shrink Iowa's government. Iowa delivers government services with the same structure that it has had 100 years ago. Does any business operate that way? Go to 10-15 counties; we sure don't need 99. Force more school consolidation. Stop squandering money on convention centers, stadiums, and the like. And maybe trim duplicated programs at the state universities. What about our "unmet needs?" If jobs are going begging in Iowa, like the Register keeps telling us, any such needs aren't likely things the state of Iowa will be very good at fixing.
I'm in favor of some of those things. Not all, but some. Ten years ago, the Hotel Pattee in Perry was vacant. Today, it's struggling, but it's also valued at about $3.7 million and it was a key part of the revitalization of downtown Perry. Historic tax credits played a part in that. Research credits save lives, flatly. And while I can't justify taking Iowa down to 10-15 counties, I think 30-50 is a viable option. But if lower taxes are your highest priority, I think these are some of the points that need to be considered.

If you started skimming when I started ranting, this is the time to start reading again. This isn't about higher or lower taxes. It's about fiscal responsibility, and the way I see it, fiscal responsibility can be divided into two equally important points:

1) Don't take more than what you need.
2) Don't spend more than what you have.

Any solid fiscal strategy needs to include both of those points. And anyone who suggests that one party does both things better than the other is full of crap.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Monday, November 13 is...

Republic Day (Brazil)
Remembrance Day (Bermuda)

The photo above (via Wikipedia) is of the Remembrance Day parade in Hamilton, Bermuda, taken in 1990. I didn't post on Saturday for Veterans Day, but I do think it's important for all of us to take a moment from time to time to honor those who have left behind their lives to defend their country. I think it's also important to remember that there are veterans everywhere, and that taking a moment to remember those who have shown bravery, patriotism and commitment to their country and their fellow countrymen should not be something we limit to those inside our borders. Bravery is not a purely American concept.

Moving on. I was greatly disappointed, as were many others, by Russ Feingold's decision over the weekend not to seek the 2008 nomination. The best post on the matter comes from Noneed4thneed, who published it at Common Iowan and at Iowa for Feingold. You can also read the letter he sent to supporters announcing his decision at Blog for Iowa.

Another topic gathering a lot of discussion is the restructuring, or the need for restructuring, within the Republican party. Krusty, Ted Sporer and State 29 have all weighed in, but I think the most interesting and thought-provoking proposals have come from Joe Kristan and Steve Salem via Bret Hayworth. As a registered Democrat, I'm not exceptionally inclined to support and probably not qualified to assist in the rebuilding of the Republican party, but both Joe and Steve Salem add something else to the debate: an opportunity to have a legit discussion on issues, which I'm always in favor of. I'm keeping Joe's post starred in my Google Reader so I can do a more in-depth response later.

Finally, from the Register via State 29, apparently my alma mater, Drake, along with the U of I and DMACC, is considering banning smoking on the entire campus. As a non-smoker and someone who uses his voice for a living, I'm always in favor of smoke-free places, but this seems a little extreme. Even at Drake's relatively small campus, a campus-wide smoking ban would turn some students and employees' five-minute smoke break into a half-hour walk. An outdoor smoking ban would be difficult at best to enforce, and it's not really necessary. We're talking about college campuses, not hospitals. Anyone who's lived in a dorm for a week has undoubtably been exposed to a variety of smells and pollutants that make cigarette smoke seem pleasant.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Let's let the voters decide:

State 29 produced an almost obscenity-free post yesterday in response to my claim that Dave Loebsack's win was among the biggest upsets of my lifetime and the biggest turnaround I've ever seen.

State made a fair point: Vilsack's 1998 win was also a pretty major upset.

I'd have to say that Tom Vilsack's defeat of former Iowa Supreme Court justice Mark McCormick in the 1998 Democratic goobernatorial primary (52% to 48%) was huge. McCormick had a 20 point lead in the polls just a couple weeks before the primary.

Couple that victory with Vilsack's come-from-behind-and-ass-slapping defeat of two-time loser Jim Ross Lightfoot in the general election later that year and this particular double-shot multi-orgasm has to qualify as the biggest political turnaround in Iowa that I've ever seen.

I'll try to narrow this down to bullet points:

Vilsack (1998):
Overcame double digit deficits in the polls in two different elections.
Won with no coordinated campaign and an Iowa Democratic Party that was bankrupt.
Defeated a Republican with high statewide name recognition due to previous runs for office and a former Iowa Supreme Court justice.

Loebsack (2006):
Overcame a failure to gather enough signatures to appear on the primary ballot.
Was only seen as the third-best Democratic prospect in his own state.
Defeated a 30-year incumbent.

Which upset was bigger? I don't know. I think I'll let you decide. Here's the poll:

Which was the bigger upset?
Vilsack (1998)
Loebsack (2006)
Free polls from Pollhost.com

I'll post something on the results eventually.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

An election roundup, part 2: Statewide races

Like most of my readers (probably), I voted for Culver, O'Brien and Mauro, and got two of the three desired results.

I think there are some lessons to be learned from the Secretary of State race, but I think they're different from the one David Yepsen claimed today:

So, for example, when a little-known candidate is chosen at the last minute to run for secretary of state based on her religious views and not her electability, well, it just cedes the job to a Democrat.

I don't think Hanusa lost because of her religious views. I think Hanusa lost because she was a non-Iowan nominated at the last minute against a well-qualified Democrat. If Hanusa had started running for the office when Mauro did, I think we would have seen a legitimate race. As for her lack of qualifications or electability, the only things I know about Hanusa is that she used to live in western Iowa, and she also used to work in the White House. I don't know if she was qualified to be SoS or not. Most voters probably didn't.

But for any challenger, it would have been a tough run. Mike Mauro is a well-known, well-liked man who has spent decades running elections in the state's largest county. I can't think of anyone more qualified to oversee our state's elections. He's light years more qualified than his predecessor.

I'm disappointed but not entirely surprised by the results in the race for Secretary of Agriculture. I do think Denise O'Brien was the better candidate, with better ideas for the future of agriculture and the wellbeing of all Iowans, not just the Farm Bureau, in mind. However, I think her campaign made tremendous missteps in their handling of the allegations that came out in the last week and cost themselves the race. Saying that's unfortunate would be putting it mildly. The race did teach me a lot about agriculture, though, so at least I can be grateful for that.

I voted for Chet Culver. I helped Ed Fallon write and produce "Don't Write Me In," which hopefully convinced others to vote for Culver. So I was pleased to see him win, although I was surprised by the margin by which he did so.

Early on election day, in an email to a friend, I said this:

I think the long term positive of this election, as nasty as it's been for as long as it has been, is that it may be the tipping point on negative ads. The 2008 caucuses are less than 15 months away, and we're probably only 9-10 months away from full-blown statewide campaigns starting up again. Voters aren't going to have the opportunity to forget all this crap before it starts again. Maybe this is the cycle where enough momentum builds to start the revolution. Or maybe not. But I can hope, right?

Turns out, the tipping point on negative ads may have come earlier than I thought. When I think back on Jim Nussle's TV ads, all I remember is a sea of negativity. He had a nice positive ad talking into the camera that aired on the last weekend, but it was too little too late. Culver mixed some nice positive ads in with the crap: the "big lug" ad may have been smarmy and overplayed, but it was memorable. The ad with Culver and Judge in their rain gear talking about wasteful spending in Congress was genius. When the negative ads in this race were all running together, Culver's campaign found a way to stand out. Now he gets to be governor. And Patty Judge gets to be one heartbeat away from being governor. The latter point scares the crap out of me.

I think the next few months will be as interesting as any I've experienced during my time in Iowa politics. For the first time in my lifetime, Democrats are in near-total control at the state level. They've got a unique opportunity to make huge strides on a lot of issues, starting with raising the minimum wage, ending predatory lending and raising the cigarette tax. What they do after those three things, though, will determine how long they're in office. As I mentioned before, this is the first time in my lifetime they've had this opportunity. If they screw it up, it'll be the last time.


An election roundup, part 1: Congress

I intended to write yesterday, but the day after Election Day turned out to be a little busier than I expected. Actually, that may be a good thing, it's given me a day to think about my reaction to Tuesday's events. Some quick thoughts:

Congressional races: No surprises in the first, fourth and fifth. Well, actually, one surprise. I was expecting Roy Nielsen to do better in the fifth, maybe even becoming the first independent candidate in recent memory to beat a major party candidate. My mistake.

In the third, I'm mildly encouraged by the events of the last few days. I've been hard on Boswell for running nasty negative ads that any progressive should be embarrassed by. He won by a relatively wide margin. Whether the ads were necessary or not is something we'll never know. But I do feel like one step in the right direction has been taken.

Two years ago, I stood on the floor at the Iowa Democratic Party's election night party when we found out that America faced four more years of W. About the same time, Leonard Boswell took the stage to give his victory speech. He used it to announce that he was running again. That was the point when I stopped voting straight-ticket. I had knocked doors for more than half a dozen candidates, Boswell was the only one who had won, and instead of telling us what he hoped to accomplish in his next two years, he told us he was launching his next campaign.

Fast forward to Tuesday night. Leonard Boswell has just won handily, partly by raising more money than any congressional candidate in history, and he's coming to the podium. I cringe, expecting to be infuriated again. Instead, he says we need to change the way campaigns are run. I couldn't agree more, and I'll be watching to see if he takes a step to make it happen. I'm still skeptical, but it's significantly better than what I expected.

Moving on to the second. At the very least, I'm pleasantly surprised. I wrote Dave Loebsack off in March, and in September when the first polls showed he was close, I accused his campaign of push polling. It turns out I was wrong on both counts.

Make no mistake, Loebsack's victory is one of the biggest upsets of our lifetime, but it's also the biggest turnaround I've ever seen. Just eight months ago, Loebsack's campaign wasn't even organized enough to get him on the ballot in the primary. Today he's a Congressman-elect who defeated an incumbent who started serving almost a decade before I was born. Impressive, to say the least.