Tuesday, December 19, 2006

More smart money bails: Are the caucuses already over?

If you missed it, here's some coverage of the most recent withdrawal from the presidential race, Evan Bayh:

Dave Price
Iowa Progress
John Deeth
Kay Henderson
Political Fallout
State 29

The surprise of Bayh's withdrawal was enough to pull me away from vacation to write for a minute. If you haven't already done it, let me put some pieces together for you:

Mark Warner spent a fair amount of money considering the possibility that he might run for president, then decided not to.

Russ Feingold spent what might have been even more to consider running for president, including spending the cash to give staffers to dozens of candidates seeking office in November. Shortly after the election, he also announced his decision not to run.

Now, Evan Bayh, who spent as much or more money than Feingold and appeared to have hired even more staff, also pulls out.

I look at this a lot like a hand of high stakes poker. And any poker player worth his skin will tell you that you don't pull out of a hand when you've already got a ton of money on the table unless you know you can't win. Let's look at the table for a moment and see if we can see what they're seeing:

Tom Vilsack, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, Dennis Kucinich, Wesley Clark and John Kerry are all weighing runs, but most have either waited too long to get started or have limited credibility. They're all long shots at best.

Within the list of real candidates, then, the lowest ranked is probably Al Gore. He's got some significant ideas and some fired up supporters, but it's unlikely caucusgoers at large will want to give him a second chance.

Next, I'd rank Clinton. She's done very little work here in Iowa, and in fact she's done little to help candidates or make friends anywhere. Plus, before she even enters the race she'll generate unfavorable feelings from nearly half the voter base. She's overrated by pundits at this point and will probably be an early disappointment.

Barack Obama is probably standing in second right now. Two weeks ago I said this about him:

He's the "it" candidate right now, and a popular pick for sure. But when he's exposed in prime time to a nationwide audience, if he doesn't walk on water he'll be seen as a disappointment.
I continue to stand behind that.

Then we've got John Edwards. The only polling data I've seen in Iowa puts him way out in front. He's popular, he's got a bit of a rock-star aura and it's believed in many circles that if we had nominated him for President four years ago, he'd live in the White House right now. He's also already more or less locked up the support of people like Ed Fallon, who could potentially bring another large block of voters from the left edge of the undecided pool.

To sum up: While we're still a long way out and anything could happen, right now I see John Edwards as the clear frontrunner, and he's way out in front of second place. It's his race to lose, and it's close to being over.


Saturday, December 16, 2006


Greetings from Wisconsin, where the cheese is good and the internet is dialup.

As such, I probably won't be posting a whole lot (unless I get really bored) between now and my return to Des Moines on the 30th.

To tie up a loose end before I go, though:

Ted, I'll take on the task of debating you on platforms as long as you acknowledge one thing: I'm not a leader of my party or a firm believer in everything my party preaches. I'm a registered Dem, and more unites me with the Democrats than divides me, but I'm not in lock step. Therefore, there may be some cases where you believe a plank is stupid and I agree. So as long as you don't expect me to defend everything, sure, I'll play with you for a while. I'll drop you an email when I'm back in town and we can discuss rules/format.

Until the 30th,


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Passing of the creator of a legend:

For those of you who don't know, presumably because you aren't half the nerd I am, Martin Nodell, the creator of the Green Lantern, passed away this morning. He was 91.

I wouldn't consider myself a huge follower, but I've been a comic book fan for several years now, since well before I was even interested in politics. The Green Lantern is one of my favorite heroes. Right up there with The Spectre for my favorite hero of all time.

I have to leave for work in a little bit, but I've decided to make today a green day in honor of Nodell. So if you see someone out today in a lime green 3XW shirt, with his green sunglasses on and lime green socks, it's probably me.


UPDATE: I forgot, I owe a hat tip to the Freakonomics blog for the info. They've also got an interesting related take on how the creators of many of the great superheroes were Jewish.

Daily reads for Wednesday, December 13

Nothing too exciting in the holidays today, so let's get straight to the reads.

The Register has a better story today on the rebirth of Project Destiny. Yesterday, I said it was absurd to call the plan "property tax relief" when it was being paid for by raising another tax. Today we get the numbers:

Des Moines' property tax rate would drop by about $1.85 per $1,000 of taxable value, according to an estimate from Allen McKinley of the city's finance department. After various tax breaks are factored in, the owner of a $100,000 home would save about $84 a year.

The savings, however, would be offset by the $160 that same person would pay in higher sales taxes, according to Mike Lipsman of the Iowa Department of Revenue and Finance.

The vote also would not freeze property assessments, which have climbed steadily for most homeowners, or prevent cities from increasing their property tax rates.
I think that pretty much speaks for itself.

Jim Pope of Melcher has a letter in today's Register. He wants the state to continue to support his gas guzzling habits:

I own a pickup truck, and I'm not a farmer, but I do own a fifth-wheel camper, which has to be pulled by a pickup.

I purchased my pickup in 2003 when I retired and gas was around $1.60 a gallon. Our plans to travel have changed considerably since gas has bounced upward to between $2 and $3 per gallon. When you get around six miles per gallon, I believe we pickup owners are more than making up the difference in licensing fees.
SIX miles per gallon? Let me make this perfectly clear for you, Jim. When you bought a vehicle that only got six miles per gallon, you should've paid the same registration costs (or more) that I'm paying for my 25 mpg Ford Escort, then you should have to pay more for gas, and on top of that you should've been smacked upside the head for being dumb enough to needlessly drive a vehicle that gets 6 mpg and bitch about gas prices.

Ted Sporer has a post up today on the continued efforts to change and rebuild the Republican Party of Iowa. Ted and I are kindred spirits on a few issues, but this line, in his list of problems with the existing party, was so heinous it needed to be rebutted (bolding is mine, the italicizing is Ted's):

· Lack of defining principles denies both the voting and volunteer base a rallying point because Republicans respond far more to ideas and principles than the mere partisan loyalty and class based hatred that motivates our adversaries. We must always be more than just not the Democrats.
I think I've said enough in this space over time about how much I hate blind partisanship on both sides. But I've also sat down with the Republican platform long enough to find these 33 laughably bad planks. Anyone, and I mean ANYONE with the balls to accuse the Democrats of "class based hatred" really needs to turn around for a second and take a look at some of the things his party leadership supported. If you're really still searching for the reasons why your volunteer support and vote totals are down, Ted, maybe it's because there's significantly fewer people in Iowa who want to stand a behind a party that sanctioned things like this:

3.17 We call for the repeal of the ban on reasonable corporal punishment in Iowa schools, and for legal protection for teachers and principals who reasonably punish students for misbehavior. We believe that students’ civil liberties are not being infringed upon by punishing wrong behavior.
Finally, along with many other Iowans today, my heart goes out to the children and families of the hundreds of workers detained in Marshalltown yesterday. Say what you will about immigration policies and enforcement, but there are two facts in this case that cannot be argued:

1) Meat packing plants and similar industries across the US would never be able to continue to operate without foreign labor. The people who stand on the rooftops and scream "They're taking our jobs!" are all welcome to walk into the Swift plant in Marshalltown today and apply. I doubt one of them will.

2) Hundreds of families in Marshalltown face a massive upheaval today with an uncertain future. Many of the soon to be or already deported have children that are US citizens, many have other family to support as well, and now they're left without jobs and with an uncertain future.

I don't need to tell you that the debate over immigration reform is much bigger than that and more factors come into play. Common Iowan has a good post up this morning with a starting point for a discussion on the issue. But nonetheless, it's worth asking if yesterday's raid was necessary or avoidable.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tidbits from Radio Iowa:

Three interesting news stories on the Radio Iowa website this afternoon:

I guess this one isn't really news, but it's worth reading: U of I students will be forced to work more and take bigger loans to cover tuition increases. In a related but somehow unreported story, upon graduation those same students will likely leave the state for better paying jobs in bigger cities to help pay off their loans.

Despite the Iowa Department of Economic Development's rosy outlook on their own performance, Manpower Inc's studies show that Iowa's job market is about to take a downturn. The worst news is in Ottumwa, where almost 1 in 4 employers expect to downsize in the first quarter of 2007. Quick, we need more taxpayer financed corporate handouts!

About 6 weeks after I called for Michael Gartner's resignation, Senator Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) has done me one better eight better. He's calling for the resignation of the whole Board.


Project Debt Spinny Destiny back on the ballot

From the Register:

A plan that was yanked from November’s ballot asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax in Polk, Dallas and Warren counties will return in a special election July 10, advocates of the plan announced today.

The plan, known as Project Destiny, is backed by the Greater Des Moines Partnership and touted as a way to inject almost $75 million each year into 47 city and three county governments.
Here's the amazing part of this concept: Someone, somewhere, thinks that people are going to see it as a tax cut if they pay lower property taxes and cover the costs by raising the sales tax. It's a shell game at best.

This increase has a slight chance to passing if they do manage to get it on a special election ballot in July, at least more of a chance than it would have had if it had been on the ballot in November. But it's still a slight chance at best. Someone at the Greater Des Moines Partnership is determined to make this work. Now it's up to the voters to reject regressive taxation.


Tuesday, December 12 is...

Virgin of Guadalupe (Latin America)
Jamhuri Day (Kenya)
Constitution Day (Russia)
Neutrality Day (Turkmenistan)

Here in the blogosphere, of course, it's never Neutrality Day. Some things I refuse to remain neutral on today:

That happy-go-lucky group that everyone loves, the Iowa Board of Regents, has made another decision sure to thrill audiences statewide: a 5.2% tuition increase (7.2% if you have the unfortunate problem of not being an Iowan). There's nothing quite like making it harder for Iowans to go to college to repair a damaged reputation.

There's some talk (finally) about re-working the 2000 foot laws to make them...what's the word...less dangerous, but it'll never happen, because people like Mary Lundby (R-Head in the sand), continue to give quotes like this:

Senate Republican Leader Mary Lundby of Marion said Republicans would resist any changes that would ease the requirements of existing state and local residency laws. She said she would like to see the Legislature enhance even further electronic monitoring of offenders, for which funding was improved last year.

Lundby balked at complaints by the law enforcement groups that the laws are difficult to enforce. "When law enforcement want to get out of doing their job, they always tell us they don't have enough resources," she said.
Or, in other words, if law enforcement groups can't track 6,000 newly transient or homeless sex offenders, leaving the state of Iowa even less sure of their whereabouts than it was before, that's not a bad law, that's poor law enforcement. It takes some giant balls to say that. The line is simple at this point: the 2000 foot law has made the problem worse with sex offenders instead of better, so the thing to do to make our children safer is to rework the law. But if you rework the law, Mary Lundby will attack you for not thinking in the best interest of the children, and it'll cost you. I just love partisan bullshit.

State 29 seems to have a personal vendetta with Roxanne Conlin, but in fleshing out said vendetta he does raise one valid point:

Why isn't Roxanne Conlin out suing Rod Aycox and the Loanmax? Do you think Aycox overcharges the average (poor) customer between $10.50 and $57 for each car-title or payday loan they process? You can bet on that.
I'm not a lawyer, so I'm unsure if the state has the legal footing to sue Loanmax. Anyone want to help me out on that? Anyone else want to sue Loanmax?

Finally, one of the things I'm kicking around in my head today, via Freakonomics: Write your six-word memoir. I'm still working on mine. Feel free to leave yours in the comments if you choose to participate. Try not to make it as emo as the ones people left in the comments at Freakonomics.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Monday, December 11 is...

National Day (Burkina Faso)
Escalade (Geneva)

From Europeforvisitors.com:

Every year in early December, the Swiss city-canton of Geneva interrupts its pre-Christmas festivities for a different kind of celebration: l'Escalade, a festival that celebrates the city's victory over the Duke of Savoy's invading troops in 1602.
Some other things to read and ponder today:

Reaction to my "hot" list has been mixed. State 29 says my list is the only one he agrees with and calls it "intriguing." Common Iowan recommended reading it. Drew Miller called it "obnoxious." I'm still researching, but it's possible that being called obnoxious by Drew Miller may be the absolute ultimate case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Douglas Pierce of Greenfield had a letter in the Register over the weekend that was worthy of a full repost:

Is it just me, or do other people agree that we are paying the governor until January? Is he going to reimburse the state of Iowa for his time spent engaging in this folly he is calling a presidential run?

The old adage of the mice will play while the cat is away seems to be right on in regard to the fiasco of a search for a president of the University of Iowa.
I'll reiterate what I've said before. Iowans elected Tom Vilsack to serve eight years. Right now he's served seven years and 11 months. All I want at this point is to know that his job as governor, which he still has for about a month, is his top priority. I don't feel like it is.

With that said, in a shocking development, Tom Vilsack's presidential campaign is receiving the support of his running mate. Join us next week when he announces he's been endorsed by his wife and senior staff.

It appears legislation that would ban smoking in public places could have a negative effect on casinos. I'm in favor of eliminating the dangers of secondhand smoke, to a point, but as someone who's strongly anti-gambling, having casinos that rank as the smokiest places on earth is also appealing. Back when I did go to casinos, I used to have to come home, change clothes and take a shower immediately so I wouldn't want to puke from the smell of stale cigarette smoke. That's a pretty effective gambling deterrent.

Joe over at Roth and Co. has the best coverage I've seen of the Iowa Department of Economic Development's most recent report to laud the achievements of the Iowa Department of Economic Development. While I think Joe and I differ greatly on the answer to the problem, we've at least established agreement on the problem.

Finally, here's a headscratcher: A Register editorial on the need to build spaceships and promote interstellar travel to find alternatives to our doomed planet to preserve our DNA in perpetuity. I'm wondering if Bill Richardson made the phone call that got the ball rolling on this one.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Thursday, December 07, 2006

My not-so-hot list:

So now that Chris, Common Iowan and Drew Miller have done it, I'll add my significantly less optimistic hot list. Mine are ranked in order, and I'll try to add a bit of insight on why but I'll keep it brief. I'm also not including candidates who have withdrawn, because I don't see the point.


No one. In my mind, I have to be excited about having you as president to rank you as hot. There are several candidates I feel would be ok or don't know enough about.


I feel he's more flash than substance, but others who have spent more time with him tell me there's a good heart buried somewhere underneath that fake smile.

Clark: I feel like his real opportunity was four years ago, not now, but I feel that someone with military experience could be the one who engenders public trust from both sides on defense issues.

Biden: I played pool with him in August. He's got a ton of experience and he's loaded with ideas. He did vote for the war, which is a drawback, and he absolutely cannot under any circumstances stop talking long enough for someone else to finish a sentence, but there's a real substance in him that I haven't seen with anyone else I've met.

TEMPERATURE UNTESTED (these are in no particular order):


I've had at least six people tell me they're supporting Obama even though they can't tell me one thing he stands for. That's infuriating. He's the "it" candidate right now, and a popular pick for sure. But when he's exposed in prime time to a nationwide audience, if he doesn't walk on water he'll be seen as a disappointment.


Kerry and Gore:
I lump these two together because they fit the same criteria: well funded candidates who couldn't beat the least popular president of my lifetime. Whether the perceptions about them are true or not, they're set in stone now and no amount of bad jokes about Iraq or movies about global warming can change them.

Vilsack: I think he looks and acts presidential. I think I disagree with him on many/most issues and I think he's fiscally irresponsible. If Dennis Kucinich had looked and spoken like Tom Vilsack, he may have been taken seriously in his run for President. If Vilsack looked and sounded like Dennis Kucinich, he never would have been elected to the State Senate.

Richardson: Seems entirely unwilling to look the part. Broke out of a meeting with journalists and bloggers no less than 5 times in 10 minutes to converse with bystanders in Spanish. And if Vilsack is fiscally irresponsible, Richardson is fiscally criminal...we're talking about the guy who gave up state money to build a spaceport in New Mexico.

Clinton: In an election year where you couldn't throw a briefcase full of cash without hitting a presidential candidate raising money for another candidate, Clinton was conspicuously absent and unwilling to help out. Furthermore, due to some past transgressions, if she ran head-to-head against Satan, she'd only pull down about 55% of the vote. She'll have the money necessary to hire staff to run a campaign in Iowa if she chooses to do so, but she won't get the kind of big name endorsements others will, and she'll be seen as a major disappointment when she finishes third or worse.

Thursday, December 7 is...

President's Day (Ivory Coast)
Dia del Diablo (Guatemala)

Sorry, it's been a few days, I'm working a lot more than I'd planned lately, and you, noble reader, are the one who suffers. It's just the way things work.

A ton of belated reads for you today, though:

This story from yesterday's Register is worth a read purely for this quote:

"They were playing around with fireworks like a lot of the rest of us have done at one time or another," said Des Moines Police Detective Jack Kamerick. "They are all good kids. But if you're going to have a bottle rocket war it would be a lot better to do it outside. It would still be illegal but at least you wouldn't burn up a house."
House and Senate Democrats have picked their committee leaders. I remain cautiously optimistic: I think this year is a tremendous opportunity for a lot of good things to get done, but I'm hearing a lot of half-hearted "let's work slowly" talk. I don't think enough people realize what the voters will say in two years if we don't accomplish anything. And I don't think enough people remember that it may be 50 years before we get another opportunity like this one.

An open dislike for Michael Gartner is spreading into the community at large. We're closing in on two months since I called for him to resign. At the time, I was accused of "screaming fire in an empty movie theater." But today, the search for a new president at the U of I is completely halted, and he's still refusing to answer questions. Add "President of the Board of Regents" to the list of things I'm nominating Nick Johnson for.

Krusty has an interesting read up on the potential move to get the offices of the State Auditor and Secretary of State out of the Statehouse to make more room for other things. He seems to think it's a bad idea:

Do we really need to kick out an elected State Auditor and an elected Secretary of State to make room for staff? I think some staff people think a little bit to highly of themselves. The people of Iowa should be able to go to the State Kapitol and easily visit their state wide elected officials. Vaudt and Mauro should not be pushed out to make room for unelected staffers.
I think there's two points worth making here:

1) The Secretary of State's main office is already outside the capitol. He maintains an office in the statehouse, but he's rarely there. I've been in the office several times and I've never once actually seen him there.

2) It's not like these guys spend all day sitting on their front steps greeting constituents. If you walk through the Capitol, it's cool to be able to see the sign and point at the office for Secretary of State and Auditor, but it's unlikely at best that you'll be able to walk in and launch an impromptu meeting.

Citizen access is important, but I think the actual impact of having the Auditor and Secretary of State at the statehouse is overblown.

Bret Hayworth had an interesting conversation this week on the state and evolution of media. I think he makes an interesting point on the possible overpromotion of web content to a generation that's largely computer illiterate, but I think he misses a more important one: As much as the web has grown, it will only continue to grow as current generations get older and create a world where everyone uses it.

There's a new conservative blog out there: Cyclone Conservative. In their third post, they jumped right into the rumor mill and suggested, once again, that Ed Fallon is running for Congress. I refuted this months ago, and I attempted to refute it again this time, but they've pulled my comment. This is exactly what we need: More thin-skinned gossip mongers.

Finally, let's talk Hawk-I. Yesterday, the Register reported that the Hawk-I program misspent $6.7 million, $3.5 of which will have to be returned to the federal government. State 29 immediately jumped on this, calling it the reason state government can't be allowed to run health care. Chris Woods was quick to jump to the other extreme, blaming the marketplace and private contractors. Truth is, most of the blame should fall on one group:

State government: It's pretty apparent that the Department of Human Services hired private contractors to run Hawk-I and did a world-class job in failing to supervise them. There's no way around that. And when you're looking at a program as large as Hawk-I, that's unforgivable. When IWD was failing to supervise CIETC, the same thing was true. Heads rolled at IWD, and I'm confident heads will roll at DHS. Hopefully, the replacements at both posts will learn this lesson. But the question remains: how many times does this need to happen before we pass legislation keeping state organizations from outsourcing without responsibility?

This brings us to another problem, though:

Oversimplified politics: There's a simple reason the DHS outsources projects like this: they don't have the staff or capacity to do it themselves. And they can't compete with the private sector to hire and retain the kind of employees they would need to do it. But they also can't receive increased funding, because the right would label it as "wasteful government" and the people who voted for it would lose their seats.

So, because we've simplified the debate down to "less government, lower taxes" vs "big, expensive government," we're getting the government we paid for. Then we're paying for its mistakes.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

What're you doing tonight?

Come see me in action!

3XW Holiday Havoc
Saturday Dec 02, 2006, 7:30 PM

Waukee Middle School
905 Warrior Lane
Waukee, IA 50263

Doors open 7:15 pm, Bell time 7:30 pm

The show will include four first-round matchups in the tournament to crown a new 3XW Heavyweight Champion:

Gage Octane vs. Nate Bash

"Delicious" Devin Carter vs. Tyler Cook

Brian Ash vs. Ben Sailer

Tony Scarpone vs. "The Rebel" Jeremy Wyatt

Also on the card :

3XW Women's champion AnnThraxx will be there and has promised that she will be defending her title in an open challenge to anyone brave enough to face her !

8 Man Holiday Havoc elimination tag team match -

Team Northstar - Darin Corbin, Ryan Cruz, Casanova & Ryan Slade
Team Future - Dan Lawrence, Aaron Masterson, Ricky Kwong & Arya Daivari

"The Unbreakable" Zack Thompson will be taking on Des Moines, IA native Hunter Matthews, who is making his 3XW debut

Also in action : Shane Hollister, Krotch, Bryce Benjamin, Machine and Tristan Hayze.

3XW will also be having a Toys for Tots box available at the Front Table. Bring in a toy, and receive a discount on DVD and Tshirt purchases. For every toy that is brought in receive $1 off your DVD purchase. Max $3 off. For Tshirts receive $2 off per Tshirt.

Remember these toys are going to children who need our help.

Tickets - $15 Front Row, $10 General Admission in advance or $12 at the door, Kids 10 & Under $6, Kids 3 & under are free admission