Thursday, June 30, 2005

Diamond rings and Mexico on our dimes.

From Who TV web site...

Non-Profit Director Charged With Theft

Spirit Lake, June 28th, 2005- The executive director of a non-profit group is charged with misspending more than $400 thousand dollars from the group. That group provides child-care services in the Spirit Lake and Okoboji school districts.

40-year-old Margaret Waltz is charged with ongoing criminal conduct and first-degree theft. An investigation by the state auditor found more than $246 thousand dollars was improperly paid to Waltz and her personal credit cards. It also found Waltz spent $146 thousand dollars on things like vacations to Mexico and the Virgin Islands, a truck, and even a diamond ring.

There really isn't too much to say. Oh, except, one thing. Don't you think if she is guilty she should pay back the money (i.e. provide complete restitution to the state and families) before she is given back her right to vote for political candidates who have direct influence over Iowa’s Department of Human Services (the agency that granted her all of the tax dollars she stole)?


It's weak, Molly

I don't usually, say NEVER, read Molly Ivins.

Be real - in a world that is fair she would be regulated to the bottom of the blogosphere, as her content and rhetoric is designed to appeal to two types of people, either; a) already mentally stamped with a you can tell me whatever you want as long as at the end I can still say "I hate that @#$%" in reference to the President, or; b) tend to prefer puzzles that are numbered & alphabetized for easy use. Either way, her audience is a bit limited.

So why blog on a recent Ivins column, Rove's same strategy: Dissent is unpatriotic, posted in the Quad City Times? For her summary:

It is one thing for a political knife-fighter like Karl Rove to impugn the patriotism of people who disagree with him: We have seen this same crappy tactic before, just as we have seen administration officials use 9-11 for political purposes again and again. But how many times are the media going to let them get away with it?

And

Batten down the hatches: This is the beginning of an administration push to jack up public support for the war in Iraq by attacking anyone with enough sense to raise questions about how it's going.

And what other paper wrote some sort of cranky ass, whiny opinion with a similar song & verse? You know, or at least you want to know

One sniff and you can find the Democratic strategy: let's make us, and by default the liberal leaning pressies, victims of the terrible injustice of the Bush rhetoric. Yes, everyone loves to be on the side of a victim (just ask those earnest Iowa Republicans). And we all know that politicians, activists, opinion writers and editorial page teams are such sympathetic souls.

Yeah, sure.

But everyone wants to be a victim; it's a rarified status. So, Ivins and company are working it; providing the clarion call to all media to rise up against the Rove machine and speak some form of deconstructed truth about our war on terror.

And, I guess, our job in the blogoshpere is to point out our deconstructed -- but completely correct and rational -- cynical objections to the whine.

Oh, and nobody has yet to really explain Dick Durbin.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


FORT ATKINSON — The Rev. Raphael Ludwig, 74, of Fort Atkinson, died Saturday, June 25, at St. Marys Hospital, Rochester, Minn.


Est autem fides credere quod nondum vides; cuius fidei merces est videre quod credis - Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe. (St. Augustine)




Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Blouin and his blah, blah boosterism

I hate boosterism, it’s so cheesy. And I don’t understand how some of these rah-rah types, most notably represented in the likes of Mike Blouin, miss the fact that everyone -- outside of the ten people involved with planning the poster shot moment -- gets how manufactured the enthusiastic boosterism really is.

Yeah-rah! Let’s pile the kids into the van and road trip to Perry to check out the Hotel Pattee lobby. And to prop this sort of illusion you have Blouin spouting crap like this in today's Council Bluffs' Daily Nonpareil:

"With travel trends moving towards shorter, more spontaneous and more meaningful vacations, traveling in Iowa over the July Fourth weekend, or anytime, just makes sense," said Blouin. "With all of the new attractions, community events and unique getaways available, travelers from inside and outside the state will find a great vacation at a great value."

What’s worse is Blouin’s running-for-Governor-idea of increasing taxes to pay for our tourism hot spots.

Blouin said that while tourism brings in considerable revenue, Iowa still has one of the lowest budgets to promote tourism per capita of any state. And although tourism is gaining attention in the Legislature, Blouin feels that it isn't getting far enough.

"The problem is that tourism is not high enough on the priority list; we need to create a new source of revenue," he said. "We need creative funding solutions so that tourism is not competing with other general budget issues. So it's not education or tourism."

One option that Blouin discussed is having a rental car tax that would fund only tourism.

He said that tourism plays an important role in the development of a new Iowa identity.

And what sort of peyote button do they hand out in the department of Economic Development? Iowa is not Florida, it’s not Colorado, #$%^, it’s not even Rhode Island. People come to Iowa to ask: What is that smell? And how did I get here? And then have a nice visit with people who are distant relatives to Doris.

But Blouin goes on…

"Some people visit Iowa and think, 'This would be a great place to expand our business,' or retire," he added.

The operative words being “some people”…

Thanks to Doris

From today's Waterloo Courier...

Volunteer brings message of God, sweet treats to the elderly

By EMILY CHRISTENSEN, Courier Staff Writer

SHELL ROCK --- Doris Haan has always had a passion for the elderly.

For 30 years, she has made her living cleaning homes and apartments for the elderly in Waverly.

And for about 25 years, she has spent much of her extra time at the Allison Care Center, leading residents in devotions and hymnal sing-alongs.

"People are missing a lot when they don't get involved with the elderly," says Haan, 72. "They have a lot to add to your life."

Haan began her volunteer activity at the facility in 1981, just a few months after her mother was taken to the home. Her strong voice caught the attention of those in charge and they asked her to take over the devotion responsibilities.

It was the opportunity she had been praying for.

"I prayed for a long time that the Lord use me how he wants to use me, and these doors opened and I am so thankful for that," Haan says. "I truly feel I am serving the Lord in what I do. I feel it is a very important thing."

Her love of people and the Lord eventually sent Haan to the Shell Rock Care Center and the Clarksville Community Nursing Home where she leads hymnal sing-alongs. She now leads weekly sing-alongs at the three homes as well as Bible studies. She also travels to Waverly every other week to lead a Bible study at Bartels Lutheran Home.

But it isn't just her voice and passion that has residents asking when Haan will visit next. It's her doughnuts. After each visit, Haan offers homemade doughnuts to each of the participants, a sweet treat they have come to grow and love almost as much as Haan herself.

"I make them from those biscuits in tubes. They aren't too hard to make, but I am known as the doughnut lady to many of them," she says.

Marilyn Moser, activity coordinator at the Allison Care Center, says good volunteers like Haan are hard to come by.

"Anymore it is difficult to find someone who will come one day a month and do a program. A lot of women work now, so it is a godsend to have someone who can come and do a program weekly," Moser says.

Moser has only been with the care center for five years, but has learned that Haan is a gem of a volunteer. Very few stick around as long as Haan has, and even fewer go beyond the traditional roles and take it upon themselves to provide treats for the residents they interact with.

"She considers it an honor to come here and to me that is fantastic," Moser says. "She considers it a privilege to come here and that is really something. It's not something she feels like she has to do, but it is something she wants to do."

While Haan's passion is the elderly, she also leads a Bible study in her home twice a month for the younger generation. Many of them started visiting when they were still in high school, but have since graduated. They still come when they can, Haan says.

"She is just a neat lady," says Phyllis Sill, Haan's niece. "Just to be around her lifts your spirits. She is totally content with her life and strong faith in God and it shows in her life. She realizes many of the elderly were brought up going to church and she brings some of that to them. She enriches people's lives with Bible study and by just listening to them."

No snarky comment, just wanted to make you read a news clip most of you would never, ever read. Who wants to read about somebody’s grandma and her doughnuts?

Okay, just one, when considering life -- perhaps living as cool and as hip an existence as anyone in Iowa can -- you may want to think about Doris and the fact that when the bi-coastal-chattering-class types talk about Iowa and flyover people, they're talking about Doris. People don’t usually think about Iowa, and when the do think about Iowa, they like to think about it in a monolithic stereotype – and our Doris-es fit the preconceived mold perfectly.

And, frankly, that perception is not all bad, it makes us seem much nicer than we really are and stories like this provide cover for all the creepy Iowans and their bad behavior. So go out into the rough and tumble knowing that old Doris has got your back.


Monday, June 27, 2005

76%

From the Gazette Online AP wire story...

Jun 27, 2:08 PM EDT

Court: Some Ten Commandments Displays OK


Ten Commandments displays are supported by a majority of Americans, according to an AP-Ipsos poll. The poll taken in late February found that 76 percent support it and 23 percent oppose it.

Go on, ACLU guys, take your shot, make the Supreme Court's split decision an issue. Make every ACLU supported candidate (click county and zip to match names with the money) denounce the display of the Ten Commandments in government buildings as some sort of twisted effort on the part of the white Christian party to force some horrible form of religiosity on the governing and the governed.

Then again, as is good politics, you can sink back into the comfort zone inspired by the heavy use of utilitarian ethics. Whatever works?


Friday, June 24, 2005

What'ever

A really cranky editorial from the Des Moines Register: And while we're all at it; should I complain about the Des Moines Register editorial board's habit of embargoing letters to the editor for political purposes, or should I stomp my feet about the papers general interest in using news placement to promote a particular political agenda?

Oh -- you guys (of course meant in a gender neutral off hand sort of way) -- go home, eat some rice pudding and take a nap.

Why debate? Attack the critic

By Register Editorial Board

June 24, 2005

We have just one question for people who disagree with our editorials.

Why do you hate America?

Pretty good comeback, eh?

We're trying to modernize our operation. The editorial page's fuddy-duddy old techniques of persuasion - marshaling the facts, trying to make a logical argument - are way behind the times. The new mode of persuasion is ad hominem attack to squelch even the tiniest dissent.

We take our cue from the Bush administration, which has elevated to an art form the technique of deflecting criticism by attacking the critic.

The other day, for instance, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said descriptions of the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo sounded like what you might expect from a totalitarian government.

The White House immediately accused Durbin of doing "a real disservice to our men and women in uniform."

Of course, Durbin did no such thing. His remarks included a poor choice of metaphors (for which he apologized), but his criticism was not of the troops, it was of the administration. By accusing Durbin of disrespecting the troops, the administration neatly avoided answering the criticism of itself.

See how it works?

Republican congressional leaders pulled the same stunt on House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi after she described the invasion of Iraq as a "grotesque mistake." She was accused of failing to support the troops and lending comfort to the insurgents. She did no such thing, but by saying that Pelosi did something she didn't do, and then feigning outrage over it, GOP leaders neatly ducked the underlying question: Was invasion a mistake?

A majority of Americans have concluded it was a mistake, according to the polls. That being the case, how much longer can the administration and its supporters avoid accountability for their conduct of the war by pretending any question somehow undermines the troops?

The answer: as long as the public lets them get away with it.


Is Iowa dopin' for growth?

AP story from the Gazette Online...

Report: Iowa economy growing faster than average

By:

Associated Press - Associated Press

DES MOINES, IA - Gov. Tom Vilsack on Thursday touted a new economic report that showed Iowa's economy grew faster than the rest of the nation last year.

Vilsack said the report by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (PDF) shows that his economic development policies are beginning to pay off.

The report, released Thursday, showed Iowa's gross state product grew by 8.1 percent in 2004, compared to 4.2 percent nationally.

''We have been making steady progress,'' Vilsack said in a conference call with reporters.

He said the same report also shows that the median income in the state has grown past $30,000, but remains below the national average of about $33,000. Vilsack said if progress continues, he expects the state to reach the national average within a year.

Vilsack said state officials were still analyzing the report to determine which segments of the economy are posting the fastest growth.

''Our ag sector and the biotech economy are showing very significant growth,'' Vilsack said.

He said an initial review of the report also showed that the financial services industry contributed to an improved economy. While Iowa lost manufacturing jobs, the loss wasn't as great as in other areas of the country, Vilsack said.

The story goes on with some blah, blah, blah boosterism from Vilsack and Blouin. Nobody wants to slam the numbers; 8.1% positive change in gross state product from 03 to 04 is nothing short of amazing -- which begs the question: what happened?

Vilouin (Sounds like a good name for some nice luggage) is/are making the case that it is all about state level economic development policies. I am sure the Vilouin policies have had something to do with it; common sense will tell you that when you payout huge amounts of dollars to get corporations to call you home, you're going to see growth. Ultimately, on that score, we have to wait for the claw-backs to expire to see if that industry expansion is permanent. And that permanency will require reforming our property tax system, hog-tying, as any good parent will do with an unruly five year old, state government spending, and continually improving the tax policies we pull out of the ways & means toolbox.

The interesting little caveat in the BEA news is the fact that this report is based on a "prototype methodology", and this new methodology is not discussed in any detail in the news release. In fact, a footnote on page one of the PDF file indicates that "further details...forthcoming July 2005 Survey of Current Business article on gross state product" will better address the questions on methodology. I am not suggesting that we didn’t grow, I am sure we did, but it could be that the magnitude of growth is slightly over estimated in this new methodology, and it seems some economists might agree.

Now I sound like a crusty Iowan, sorry.

So, until we figure out the accuracy of the estimates sometime this Fall or until New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer digs a little deeper into our financial services industry, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

$6,637

From this today's Des Moines Register, Page 4B...


Easter Seals closes 3 sites

About 55 mentally and physically disabled people will lose their jobs when the work 'enclaves' shut down.

By Jennifer Jacobs, Register Staff Writer, June 23, 2005

When Mary Sarah Flynn goes out to eat with her family, the first thing she says when she sees the waitress is: "I have a job. I have a job."

That job disappears at the end of the month.

Flynn, who is mentally retarded, has done simple assembly and sorting jobs for 10 years through a special work program organized by the nonprofit Easter Seals Iowa.

Blaming automation and other trends, Easter Seals is shutting down its three work sites, called enclaves. The program recently lost its biggest contract, the one that brought in enough money to pay for all three enclaves, partly because machines can do what was once done by hand.

About 55 Iowans with mental and physical disabilities will be idled. Easter Seals hopes to place some into supervised "internships" at local businesses. Others may go to a day program, Camp Sunnyside, with a heated pool, field trips, arts and crafts.

Donna Elbrecht, president of Easter Seals Iowa, said the enclaves were not meeting the organization's goal of independence for people with disabilities. The new focus is for workers to be among people without disabilities, and to get paid directly by the business for jobs such as customer service, kitchen help, printing and groundskeeping...


But spending $6, 637 to lobby legislators during this past session is one of the organization's goals? This Easter Seals reception extravaganza came in as the eighth most expensive legislative lobbying reception of the session. What do you wanna bet that Donna's total compensation and benefits are well into six-figure land AND that Flynn Wright advertising group sucks at least $50,000 out this non-profit for the ad agency's "dontated services".


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Oh what we can do when people put us in the legislature

From Stateline.org...Other laws that go into effect on July 1 include the following:


A very good egg

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa State Representative Jeff Elgin has decided he won't seek a fourth term in office.

I so totally get it. I think Rep Elgin would probably enjoy having a conversation where he wasn't constantly worried about pissing off people who are so totally disconnected from the real world that they tend to exhibit behavior that is completely self-centered and predatory -- and I am just talking about the lobbyists.

In all fairness, there are good eggs and bad eggs both inside and outside the legislature; it’s just hard to accept that we're losing such a good egg.

Nussle to the Social Security Democraticgogs...

I am certainly stating the obvious when I say that this rolling Social Security debate is considered the "third rail" of American politics. But a little history on why that is may put this all into context.

Ya'll can read, so I won't summarize the entire history link; short version -- the Democrats have consistently been able to use the issue, nay demagogue on the issue, since Goldwater, and in the 1980s former House Speaker, Tip O'Neil (thanks in part to his astute pressie - Chris Mathews), turned the politicking of Social Security into an art form.

The Congressional Democrats discovered that people, particularly old people, don't like to be frightened with changing benefts. And since a good chunk of them are retired and bored they spend way too much time paying attention to politics, hence the over abundance of senior citizen activists (politicians lov'em when the stuff their envelops but God forbid they should have an opinion). Moreover, the AARP and other left-leaning groups have developed a very clever propaganda machine that keeps the willing informed and agitated.

(Aside) The only reason we have a Medicare drug benefit is that the AARP cut a deal and came on board with the Administration in supporting the program. Unfortunately, given the future benefits/cost structure now being rolled out the issue could come back to bite everyone, including the left-leaning policy leadership, like the AARP guys, in the rear - there isn't enough somethin'-for-nothin' in the new drug benefit for most senior-activists.

So, with the Bush numbers in decline and a third rail on the table, it makes perfect sense that the geniuses out in Washington are pulling out the Tip O'Neil play book and attempting to bludgeon any and all GOP political campaigns with the Social Security rhetoric. The current example is the Washington based, Americans United to Protect Social Security , a Democratic Party supported group, which is starting a "grassroots" effort to get Congressman Nussle "on record" concerning the Bush Administration Social Security plan.

Nussle will finesse the issue and get out of it with what we should be saying:

According to the Social Security Trust Fund 2005 report, Social Security is in trouble and we need to look at any and all options to help fix it. But what makes an honest dialogue on Social Security nearly impossible is the long history of political gamesmanship the Democratic Party has been playing with this issue. They need to stop the political games, and take care of their grandkids futures.
Okay, or something like that...

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Wha-da-know?

The Iowa General Assembly Government Oversight Committee just spent about an hour of yesterday's meeting time talking about the child support issue. Good. And if the 'crats have some ideas for constructing a bigger stick, go for it.

(AP) A government oversight committee has been told that nearly 40% of court-ordered child support payments aren't being paid.

Child support payments in Iowa are made through local clerks of court or a centralized collection agency run by the Department of Human Services. Jeanne Nesbit runs the child support collection program at DHS and she told a Government Oversight Committee that just over 62% of all child support payments are being made, which she says is better than most states.

More than $302 million in child support was collected in Iowa last year. That's up from about $175 million in 1997.

The Legislature has worked in recent years to toughen child support collections and Nesbit says her agency plans to submit more enforcement legislation next year.

Using those big sticks might just turn out to be an effective way to make things happen.

Study Ties State Laws, Unwed Child Births

By REBECCA COOK
SEATTLE (AP) - Tough child support laws may dissuade men from becoming unwed fathers, as states with the most stringent laws and strict enforcement have up to 20 percent fewer out-of-wedlock births, a new study shows.

Researchers at the University of Washington and Columbia University said Friday that child support laws' power to reduce single parenthood is an unintended consequence of a policy designed to help children and cut public welfare costs.

``Often the unintended effects are bad, so it's refreshing to see that,'' said lead study author Robert Plotnick, a University of Washington professor of public affairs. ``Women living in states that do a better job of enforcing child support are less likely to become an unwed mother.''

The percentage of unmarried births in the United States has increased from 10 percent in the 1960s to about a third of all births today. Because children of single parents run a higher risk of poverty, academic failure and other problems, lawmakers are always seeking policies that will discourage unwed births - usually focusing on the mothers.

Researchers said their study recognizes the father's responsibility.

``Decisions about sexual intercourse and marriage involve two people,'' said study co-author Irwin Garfinkel, a Columbia University professor and one of the nation's top experts on child support.

The study, which has not yet been published, looked at a nationwide sample of 5,195 women of childbearing age using data from 1980-1993.

It didn't show whether tougher child support laws prevented pregnancies or encouraged marriage. Plotnick said the data limited the researchers to observing a strong correlation between tough child support enforcement and fewer out-of-wedlock births. Whether that's caused by fewer unmarried people getting pregnant or more couples marrying when the woman is expecting, he could not say. But he said the findings warrant further study.

``It's been very hard to find conventional programs that reduce unwed childbearing that work,'' Plotnick said Friday. ``If you found a program cutting nonmarried births by 20 percent, you'd be happy.''

Researchers noted wide disparities in child support policies. For example, in 2002 - the most recent year for which data were available - only one state, New Jersey, collected at least 80 percent of owed child support.

According to Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty, 31 states collected 41 percent to 60 percent of child support orders. The District of Columbia collected less than 20 percent of all child support owed.


Vote for the felons

This Felon voting thing is getting weirder by the day. Now we have the Governor and the GOP legislative leadership digging into academic research to prop their particular arguments.

It seems there are a number of profs in the Big Ten sociology departments that spend a lot of time thinking about future-felons, felons, ex-felons and their efforts to engage in society. And a few of these guys have generated some data that is of real interest to politicians -- felon voting habits.

Vilsack, in his initial announcement of the offend-the-victims-voting-rights Executive Order, noted, without reference, to some "research":

“The right to vote is the foundation of our government and serves as a symbol of opportunity for our citizens,” Governor Vilsack said. “Research shows that ex-offenders who vote are less-likely to re-offend and the restoration of voting rights is an important aspect of reintegrating offenders in society so that they become law-abiding and productive citizens.”

Okay.

While the GOP guys found some pay dirt about political preferences of franchised felons in an interestingly titled paper published in the American Sociological Review.

Rants' office circulated a 2003 study by sociologists from the University of Minnesota and Northwestern University arguing that Democrats would benefit most from permitting felons to vote.

In the study, published in the American Sociological Review, Christopher Uggen of Minnesota and Jeff Manza of Northwestern contended that seven in 10 votes cast by disqualified voters would have gone to Democratic candidates in a series of U.S. Senate elections between 1972 and 2000.

Hum.

I suspect the Uggen & Manza paper is the same study that went without attribution in the Governor's comments - The title's a little messy for someone making a policy on a purely good government argument.

Ironically, the most interesting outcome of all of this is a residual digression into causality in the land of academic blogging. This interesting side track on causality might be worth pointing out to some of our erstwhile political operatives, as it may behoove them to understand the concept before they plop a study into a Presidential Wannabe's speech.


Monday, June 20, 2005

felons and politics do mix

On Friday, Governor Vilsack announced that by Executive Order he intended to reinstate the voting rights of convicted felons. The press coverage was certainly what you would expect. From Saturday's Des Moines Register, front page, below the fold...

Thousands of convicted felons who have completed their sentences will have their right to vote restored by Gov. Tom Vilsack under an executive order he plans to sign on Independence Day.

"Iowans who are living, working and paying taxes in Iowa are denied the right to vote because of their prior conviction," Vilsack, a Democrat, said Friday in announcing his plan to essentially provide automatic restoration of citizenship rights.

"The disenfranchisement of these offenders has a disproportionate impact on minorities in our communities. . . . This directive will provide the most important opportunity to those who need it most - the right to vote," he said.

And

The governor's plan calls for a blanket restoration of rights for those who are already done with their sentences, followed by routine granting of rights for others as their sentences are discharged.

And

Some Republican leaders were sharply critical of the Democratic governor's unilateral move. "This is exactly the kind of mixed signal that waters down Iowa's tough-on-crime reputation," said House Speaker Christopher Rants of Sioux City.

Sen. Chuck Larson of Cedar Rapids charged that Vilsack was "making criminals' rights far more important than victims' rights."

Larson said offenders owe tens of millions of dollars to the Iowa victims of their crimes, and yet Vilsack is dropping the requirement for full restitution as a condition for restoring voting rights.

Oh yeah, and

The Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault issued a statement that it supports restoration of voting rights in general. However, "we believe the payment of restitution, fines and other financial obligations resulting from any conviction for a sexual assault should take place before voting rights are restored."

But, for now

Starting in July, the Iowa Department of Corrections will submit a list of eligible offenders each month for the governor to act on "without undue delay."

I think the real story might just be which wannabe's parade the Governor showered with a little P&V. Senator Gronstal was very busy at the end of last week making gubernatorial press noise, with a couple of stories in the papers across the state and his appearance on Friday evening's Iowa Press.

Unfortunately for Gronstal, the big political news of the weekend was Vilsack's social-justice -for-rapists-murders-and-drug-addicts Executive Order, which gives felons back their voting rights prior to complete victim restitution (not to be a complete suck-up but State 29 does have some good stuff on this). But of course Vilsack is going to drag this thing out, as the official signing of the Executive Order will take place in two weeks on the fourth of July. How symbolic -- and perfect timing to milk some national lefty press right before the National Governors Association meeting arrives in Des Moines mid-July.

Back to Iowa's future: it does sort of strike you that this sitting Governor has no intention of being left out of our up and coming gubernatorial campaign, and if he can affect the outcome, particularly the democratic primary, by all means he'll play his Bill Clinton to the max.


Semi-public world

Blogs are I's instead of we's, and are more or less about spreading random ideas and making memes to spur forms of organized chaos.
This is just a throw away phrase I sent to someone earlier this year who was tweaking a static web page. The 'we' tweaked the web page and it is better, but of course if the head of the 'we' actually wrote the text it might be even better...

The point of this is to acknowledge ubber blogger, State 29 and his/her (not to imply gender confusion, just don't want to make assumptions) surprising and generous note and link to this blog. I'm not quite sure how State 29 found me, but I'll take it.

As noted, I do believe that blogs are about challenging static notions and creating new, good memes that create tension and potential destruction of bad, corrupt, crap-filled systems or institutions. Of course, good -- given the morass instigated in part by the Postmodernists (another reason to hate the French) -- takes on different meanings for different people. Hence, nutty people can think it is okay for a non-profit working almost exclusively with volunteers to give a completely unexceptional executive director access to a brand new car and a 30,000 dollar pay increase, which pushes the salary and benefits into six figure land.

So, I have every intention of stomping on any toes that look like they need a good stomping. And, as blogging is a semi-public form of vanity, I really don't care if you disagree.


Friday, June 17, 2005

two moms can be scary


DES MOINES, IA -
The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday refused to tamper with a lower court decision granting two women a dissolution of their civil union.
In a unanimous ruling, the court said a conservative group that had sued to overturn the ruling had no standing in the case.
In the case, Kimberly Jean Brown had filed for divorce from Jennifer Sue Perez. Their divorce petition said the two were married in March 2002 in Bolton, Vt., and asked for a divorce.
Judge Jeffrey Neary granted the divorce, later altering the ruling to reflect that it was a termination of the couple's civil union.
The legal arm of the Des Moines-based Iowa Family Policy Center and a handful of state legislators had challenged the decision, saying Neary had overstepped his authority. By dissolving the civil union, they said, Neary was recognizing gay marriage.
The Supreme Court said the group was not harmed by Neary's decision.
''We fail to see how the district court's action in dissolving a civil union of another couple harmed in any specific way these plaintiffs' marriages and for this reason, they have shown no legally recognized interest or personal stake in the underlying action,'' the high court said. ... continued

This is posted in this morning's Gazette On-line. I think I understand why the issue of homosexual legal unions/marriage is such a problematic issue for certain groups -- at it's core it's about sex, while traditional heterosexual marriage is often less about sex and more about the economics of family.

That is probably a little cynical, but groups toss so much money at defending traditional marriage while so many other human needs that are often well served by faith based involvement go unmet.

For example, in an earlier news report, researchers made the interesting discovery that obesity rates are highest for women in families with more than four people, low levels of education and limited support systems. These women eat because they're stressed out! An interesting and inspired faith based program might be to link families together to help with nutrition and exercise education as well as provide more social support to these weakly tied families.

Hey it's a thought. Unfortunately, as long as resources are husband to fight off the threat of unions with two moms there isn't the energy or capital to take on the other work that needs to be done.



Thursday, June 16, 2005

BLINK

Just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell's recent book, Blink; this is a follow-up, of sorts, to his wildly successful The Tipping Point. I always think Malcolm is worth reading as he has this habit of creatively linking all sorts of marginally related research themes. It's quirky. And for someone who has spent too many years in academic research mode, I find his conceptual strings of logic interesting on one hand and yet maddening because on occasion he makes BIG leaps.


In Blink he strings together a number of different socio-psychological research themes into an interesting thematic on how we understand and then react to information, individuals and environments in instant ways. Gladwell takes research from both the academic and marketing worlds and demonstrates that people do something called "thin-slicing". And we are either very good at it -- can make the best use out of the most important pieces of information and get to a powerful solution -- or not so good -- think of the worst possible outcomes; innocent people that are dead at the hands of happy finger cops and an intractable war in the Middle East. In the process we learn about marriage communication (avoid contempt); the fact that our faces display over 3000 facial expressions that have some meaning; the importance of white space; the music industries' market sampling strategy (Kenna is good) ; war games and more.

In my opinion the most interesting and brilliant section of the book is Chapter 4. With the intentionally ironic title, Paul Van Riper's Big Victory; Creating Structure for Spontaneity, the chapter delves into the very recent history of military strategy and war games. I'll leave it to future readers to find the irony.

To be honest, I'm not one to finish every book I pick up; the writing and ideas have to be compelling and not obviously redundant. So, as I dig into summer reading I'll post when I find something good, and when it's really bad, I'll post with the page the author lost me.


It's a stable workforce we want, yes?

At a meeting of the Western Governor’s Association, Joel Kotkin, an expert on social movements and cities, wafted through the mental fog that contends cities/states should be courting, with taxpayer dollars, the 20somethings…

Breckenridge - The economic health of the West depends on maintaining a mature, well-trained middle-class workforce and not on luring the "hip, cool 25-year-olds" or catering to the mind centers of the universities, the Western Governors' Association was told Sunday.

Kicking off the annual conference of governors from 18 states and three U.S.-flagged Pacific islands, social-trend spotter Joel Kotkin of California noted that cities have focused on attracting the rich or taking care of the poor at the expense of nurturing the middle class, a group that is critical for economic vitality and stability.

"Those hip, cool 25-year-olds are the most mobile part of the population," said Kotkin, author of "The City: A Global History" and an authority on global, economic, political and social trends. "What you really need to do is ... figure out how to attract and maintain a middle class." …

Finally, a voice of reason that suggests; hey if we make our communities functional for families we end up with a stable workforce. What a concept.

Kotkin is making the rounds on the lecture circuit debating Richard Florida -- the father of the pro hip-youth mantra -- and having some success. His work is paying off as policy types are starting to view the issue of growth in more nuanced terms. Thank God. Really, there is nothing more exhausting than the policy types hanging on every whim of one cohort (granted there’s probably more than policy dialogue at work when we talk about fifty year old men, whims and 20somethings).

The real winner for developing a pro-growth policy: make Iowa good for the parents of 10somethings, so that when they send their kids off to college they don’t, in a panic, yell “Run, anywhere but here! We’ll join you as soon as we can!”

Besides, it’s always smart politics when more than one, educated and well versed point of view ends up in the mix.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Nussle Land

From a Monday, June 13th AP wire story...

Rep. Jim Nussle appears to be looking past a contested Republican primary and making a case for a general election campaign in a memo which touts his ability to attract independents and Democrats.

The memo to ''interested parties'' is being distributed this week and a copy was obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

''Congressman Nussle has earned votes from Democrats and independents -- winning races in three different congressional districts where there are more Democrats than Republicans,'' the memo reads. ''In 2004, Congressman Nussle ran nine points ahead of President Bush, winning nine counties that were won by John Kerry making it the eighth time Nussle has won a district that has consistently voted for a Democrat for president.''

The memo, prepared Nussle's campaign staff, focuses on their view of his ability to beat whoever the Democrats nominate, virtually brushing off a GOP challenge from Sioux City businessman Bob Vander Plaats.

Earth to the geniuses running the Nussle juggernaut: it doesn't particularly inspire potential Nussle voters when they are referred to in political elite’s memos using widget-style rhetoric. Yes, he wins big in a Catholic-swing district. Yes, he can raise money. And, yes, he gives good stump...speeches. But, clue -- this isn’t going to be easy, nor particularly pretty.


Monday, June 13, 2005

Hee-haw for the Deaniacs

From Radio Iowa comes this report on Chairman Dean's visit to Cedar Rapids and the Deaniac response.

The new chairman of the Democratic National Committee has come under fire for his sharp statements about Republican foes, but Howard Dean's rhetoric was welcomed by the nearly 500 Iowa Democrats who heard him speak Saturday in Cedar Rapids. One woman used an expletive when a reporter asked her about Dean's detractors. Bob Krajnovich of Clinton offered this assessment. "He expresses exactly what I think," Krajnovich said. "I didn't see anything wrong with what he said because I've said it myself." Gus Keefer, also of Clinton, agrees with Dean's statement that no Republican has ever made an "honest living." "I think he's wonderful, I really do. I believe what he's saying," he said. "My wife says that he's taken the message from me. I've been saying that for years." Dee Brandt of Oelwein backed Dean in the Caucuses, and isn't surprised by the controversy. "He was under fire when he ran, but he comes out of it," she said. "He tells it the way it is and he sticks with it." Audrey Linville of Davenport backed Dean in the Caucuses, too. "I'll back him 'til heck freezes over," Linville said, laughing. During his speech Saturday night, Dean made no apologies for his anti-Republican rhetoric. "We need to be blunt and clear about the things that we're going to fight for," Dean said. "We are going to fight. We are. People have criticized me for being blunt and saying what I think. I do that on purpose. I am tired of lying down in front of this Republican machine. We're not going to do it anymore."

They hate Republicans; they really, really hate Republicans. And, as Boswell commented elsewhere in the press (DMR), we really need that (Dean) "passion".

Okay, so the encouragement of blind rage against an entire group of people identifying with a political party makes complete sense, particularly when you can't win without at least a few of the @#% voting for your guy. The only thing I can think of when reading these idiot comments is a sick dog chewing off a leg.

Imploding party politics
, anyone?



Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Lecture...

The constant whine out of the Board of Regents and the state universities concerning their perception of inadequate funding doesn't necessarily rally Iowan's to their cause. Chairman Gartner can go on, and on, about the dire condition of the quality of the universities and the essential need for more money, or else. But the primary issue they fail to address is just what does that state investment return to the average, non-university town, Iowa taxpayer?

The previous post is a copy of the 2004 Measuring Up data for the state of Iowa. It gives the routine 'F' for affordability; if you look at the report’s national map 36 states got an 'F'. It isn't hard to figure out that this is a policy group with an agenda. From the Iowa perspective, the more interesting, and problematic grade, is the 'C' for benefits. This little bit of number crunching finds that the economic value to the state of the percentage of residents with a four year degree or some college is less than it was ten years ago. How frightening is that? It is impossible to parse the exact meaning of the percentages without more information, but just a general gut-check suggests “that’s not good”.

And so, as the Regents rally around their cause for more money, it might be a wise strategy to come clean on their rate of return to the state. If nothing else, you have to assume that some politicos might actually appreciate an appropriations strategy built on somewhat more honest information.

BENEFITS

2004
Grade
Improvement
Over Decade
Over the past decade, Iowa has made no notable progress in the benefits to the state that come from having a more highly educated population. This year Iowa receives a C in benefits.

BENEFITS IOWA Top States 2004
A Decade
Ago
2004
EDUCATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT (37.5%)
Population aged 25 to 65 with bachelor's degree or higher 22% 28% 36%
ECONOMIC BENEFITS (31.25%)
Increase in total personal income as a result of the percentage of the population holding a bachelor's degree 7% 6% 12%
Increase in total personal income as a result of the percentage of the population with some college (including an associate's degree), but not a bachelor's degree 2% 1% 3%
CIVIC BENEFITS (31.25%)
Residents voting in national elections 61% 58% 60%
Of those who itemize on federal income taxes, the percentage declaring charitable gifts 89% 87% 92%
Increase in volunteering rate as a result of college education n/a 19% 22%
ADULT SKILL LEVELS (0%)*
Adults demonstrating high-level literacy skills:
quantitative 26% 30% 33%
prose 23% 28% 33%
document 21% 25% 28%
Note: Indicators in italics are new for 2004.
*Adult Skill Levels for 2004 are estimated and are not used to calculate grades

GRADED INFORMATION
CHANGE IN GRADED MEASURES
OTHER KEY FACTS
The benefits category measures the economic and societal benefits that the state receives as the result of having well educated residents.

The grades...

Measuring Up: The National Report Card on Higher Education -- Iowa, 2004

STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES

Iowa has performed well in preparing students for and enrolling them in higher education over the past decade. However, the state has lost ground in providing students and families with an affordable higher education. This may undercut its efforts to send clear messages to students about the importance of taking rigorous courses and being prepared academically during high school.

2004 REPORT CARD
Preparation
Participation
Affordability
Completion
Benefits
Learning

IMPROVEMENT OVER PAST DECADE

Preparation Participation Affordability Completion Benefits Learning

STRENGTHS

Preparation Participation Completion Benefits

WEAKNESSES

Preparation Participation Affordability

POLICY QUESTIONS

Link to Measuring Up page

Saturday, June 11, 2005

As if...

Just a little sick! Alfredo Parrish makes a specific request to the Judge in the Pierce case to have the victim's medical records opened. This sort of tactic serves no purpose other than to harass and intimidate the victim -- and only witness to the attacks.

Is it time for another review of Iowa's Rape Shield law?


Friday, June 10, 2005

baseball...

"One of the beautiful things about baseball is that every once in a while you come into a situation where you want to, and where you have to, reach down and prove something." - Nolan Ryan

For kids, playing little league baseball (or softball) is a rite of passage. It helps form and in some ways cements how we think about the world: the essentialness of fair umpires; the embarrassment of parent-fans off the deep end; the tricks for counting pitches; powering through a swing; calling the catch on a pop fly; and, the best and biggest thing, the importance of team work.

If it is done right, coaches' emphasize good team work, and in doing so help the players understand how to acknowledge and value each member of their team. And because most little league teams, particularly in small towns, are made up of a wide range of kids they really do learn how to look at each member of their team for strengths and not weaknesses. While the kids and coaches work very hard to help the everyone improve on their weaknesses.

What could be more inspiring than to realize the basics of the major management principle of continuous quality improvement is being practically applied through the good coaching of a little league team? -- W. Edward Deming should be smiling.

Iowa, like many parts of the country is a great place for baseball, with plenty of minor league games, high school season enders and the inspiring rookie little league games. The play is different, but the sentiments and importance of team work are still the same.


Tuesday, June 07, 2005

What the wannabes will say...

From Radio Iowa report earlier today:

Virginia's governor has been in Iowa this week and Democrat Mark Warner predicts he'll return as he contemplates a run for the presidency. .... Warner says he was able to win in Virginia where other Democrats haven't because he did not ignore rural voters. Warner says it's a lesson Democrats need to heed for the next presidential election. .... "Folks don't listen to your views on education in a lot of rural America is they feel you're so foreign from them, if they feel you're going to start every debate with a litmus test on abortion and guns, if they feel like you're going to take away their ability to hunt or fish or you somehow you (would) diminish what are key parts of life in rural America," he says. ... ###

However, some of Governor Warner's activist Democrat brethren may not see it quite the same way. From the editors of The Stranger, a Seattle newspaper, or some such thing...

It's time to state something that we've felt for a long time but have been too polite to say out loud: Liberals, progressives, and Democrats do not live in a country that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico. We live on a chain of islands. We are citizens of the Urban Archipelago, the United Cities of America. We live on islands of sanity, liberalism, and compassion--New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, St. Louis, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and on and on. And we live on islands in red states too--a fact obscured by that state-by-state map. Denver and Boulder are our islands in Colorado; Austin is our island in Texas; Las Vegas is our island in Nevada; Miami and Fort Lauderdale are our islands in Florida. Citizens of the Urban Archipelago reject heartland "values" like xenophobia, sexism, racism, and homophobia, as well as the more intolerant strains of Christianity that have taken root in this country. And we are the real Americans. They--rural, red-state voters, the denizens of the exurbs--are not real Americans. They are rubes, fools, and hate-mongers. ...

To read more from this liberal Democrat, vitriol filled, newspaper published, screed click: I'm a thumb up my #$% loud mouth Democrat journalist and I really @#$% hate people that live in rural communities.

You never know what's lurking out there...











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Monday, June 06, 2005

Want it, need it, got-a-have it...

From the Gazette web....Vilsack signs early childhood initiative

By:
Associated Press - Associated Press

DES MOINES, IA - Gov. Tom Vilsack on Monday signed into a law a $22 million initiative aimed at improving access to early childhood education, less than he had sought from the Legislature but enough to draw his praise as a solid start.

''Literally, today, thousands of Iowa children are having a good day and they don't even know it,'' said Vilsack. ''They are going to have the opportunity to access preschool. They are going to be able to access child care.''

and

He said he likely would ask the next Legislature for more money.

''This is a very important step,'' said Vilsack. ''It is by no means the end of the journey.''

and

Vilsack said his goal is to put in place a system which offers quality preschool programs to 90 percent of the state's children.

but most importantly

''These young folks don't have a PAC. they don't have a political organization,'' he said.

Mrs. Vilsack echoed that argument.

''Studies have proven that giving kids a strong start in their early years ensures they are better learners later in life,'' she said.


Yeah, Whatever.

Perfect Storm in Iowa

Governor's race shaping up as the perfect storm of politics

By:
Mike Glover - Associated Press

DES MOINES, IA - Next year's governor's race is shaping up as the perfect storm of politics, a wide-open gubernatorial battle conducted against the backdrop of an emerging presidential campaign that's equally open



Sigh, as I recall in the movie & Sebastian Junger book, from which the perfect storm metaphor is pulled, most of the people caught on the ocean in that horrific Nor'easter died, while their families could do nothing but listen to the weather and pray. And from the literary images and movie recreations it looked like a particularly gruesome sort of death -- tossed around by mean old waves and wind, finally to be capsized by a 100 foot swell.

Oh, that sounds fun

If you want to expand upon the use of 'perfect storm' as a metaphor in politics there are some vantage points to consider. It's probably great fun being in the midst of the storm when most of the time you're flying over the rough water or in some political version of a weather lab. But how about those political long-liners out there riding it out; first, the boredom of no fish, hot days and close quarters and then the intermittent and, from the use of a perfect storm metaphor, rough and tumble few weeks before an election. By the time it ends the political long-liners are close to death and subsequently forgotten, as they aren't part of the weather lab or flyover crew -- they're just the deck-hand grunts.

Who the hell wants to put up with that -- at least the fishermen pulled down good wages for their trouble.

Side note: one of the true life characters from the book/movie, Linda Greenlaw, went back to her roots -- moved home to Maine and took up with her family, setting and pulling lobster traps.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Pierce case twist.

From the Online Gazette: What any big-time Iowa jock can buy...

Pierce attorneys want to bar the use of word 'victim'

By: Associated Press - Associated Press

ADEL, IA - Attorneys for former University of Iowa basketball star Pierre Pierce asked a judge Friday to force prosecutors to avoid using the word "victim" in reference to the woman Pierce is accused of assaulting in January.

A motion filed with the Dallas County District Court said describing the woman as a victim before and during trial would unfairly prejudice the jury and violate Pierce's presumption of innocence.

Instead, defense attorney Alfredo Parrish suggested the woman be described as the accuser or complaining witness, or referred to at trial by her real name, according to the motion.

Pierce, 21, is charged with two counts of burglary, criminal mischief and assault with intent to commit sexual abuse stemming from a Jan. 27 incident at the West Des Moines home of his former girlfriend.


See the tables turning, not long from now Alfredo will be calling Pierce the victim. Trial lawyers, ya gota love'em, especially if you're a democrat.

From the Washington Post, July 2004:
Lawyers, especially trial lawyers, are the engine of the Kerry fundraising operation. Lawyers and law firms have given more money to Kerry, $12 million, than any other sector. One out of four of Kerry's big-dollar fundraisers is a lawyer, and one out of 10 is an attorney for plaintiffs in personal injury, medical malpractice or other lawsuits seeking damages.
And old Alfredo is in deep...

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Nussle's in, and DeLay doesn't matter

Nussle's in, and the fight begins -- the announcement parade went all over yesterday and today while the democrats plunked down some change to put an attack ad on the air. These little sound bites are attempting to tie Nussle to Tom DeLay, the Texas pest exterminator cum US House Majority Leader, in a clumsy attempt to pin some DeLay-type ethical crude on the Nussle gubernatorial juggernaut (later on that topic). I say, in good cheer, keep workin' it Gordon and the Iowa Ds, 'cause it has no legs.

Any marginal political mind can tell you the only reason that the Newt-smears worked in the 1990s had to do with political voters (and the elite media's) fear of the unknown. In 1994, when the GOP took back the House and Newt arrived as Speaker, not one person had a clue as to how government might change under GOP control of the House. Well, ten plus year later ain't nothin' much changed; all the creaky government and quasi-government systems unnerved by the potential collapse of their funding streams or policy homes really ended up with nothing to worry about. DeLay is a GOP Rostenkowski -- not such a great dude, but in the land of moral relativism, really no harm.


And so, to try and sully someone's political resume with connections to a politician that voters have already discounted as basically corrupt, but essentially harmless, is a waste of time and money—but keep up the buy, our radio outlets need the economic boost.

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