Sunday, July 31, 2005

Honey, hide the guns

Well, I told my S.O. (significant other, no giving away sexual preferences in this thing) we sort of ended up in the newspaper, a political column written by Charlotte Eby and posted in The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.

My partner was just happy it wasn't the police log.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Enough said

An editorial from today’s Iowa City Press-Citizen takes a swipe at Speaker Rants concerning his comments about action the Iowa House may or may not take on felon enfranchisement. It’s the standard rhetoric – the we know better…

If someone commits a crime, he or she should do the time. But once that time is served, that individual is paid up.

The Press-Citizen believes that felons deserve their constitutional right to vote restored immediately after walking out the prison door, once again forgetting about the importance of restitution. A completed sentence does not equate to an individual being paid up for the crimes committed.

This is an issue that gets ugly on both sides. But at least the Republicans are up front about the politics, while Democrats paste on the good government rhetoric to cover up their glee at the possibility of rounding up a few more votes.

It is dishonest that the Democrats keep hiding behind this shell of moral correctness when talking about felons as voters. Everybody knows it’s about the votes. And if Gronstal and crew are smart, as stated before, they’ll all play nice enough so they can horse trade on this issue and get some good stuff, like tighter regulations on predatory loans.*

Really, do the Democrats want to go into 06 knowing that they’ll be clubbed around the head and shoulders with the fact that they’re not tough on crime? And, in fact, coddle criminals by returning voting rights before these folks have made at least a good faith effort to pay back what they owe?

It is not smart politics. There is no way Iowa Democrats are going to be able to find all of their potential felon voters, and get them to the polls in time to counteract the swing voters who’re going to think they’re nuts for letting these bums off the hook.

*

SF 217 Maximum finance charge allowed for consumer loan secured by m.v. title. SF 217 - similar to SF 409 (sales tax on farm equipment).
SF 277 Home loan protection Act, restrictions on high-cost loans. SF 277.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Pesky voters, who happen to be felons

That pesky felon voting issue is not going away quietly.

Yesterday, in an interview with the AP -- and everyone else but the DMR (they're too busy sending their working mom/parent by cell phone, editorial writer, Andie Dominick, on a week long bike ride) -- House Speaker Christopher Rants (sorry, but a really unfortunate political name; the guy gets a little off message suddenly the name is a statement) spiked Executive Order #42 into the legislative session, while in the same interview spilling this noise...

"We better be on our best behavior to show Iowans what we're about," said Rants. "We can't afford to look like we're promoting gridlock, because that's not what Iowans want."

Yeah, sure.

My guess is "best behavior" looks a lot less like the golden rule and is all about the means to achieve some partisan ends.

I expect to see, locked up with the felon enfranchisement issue, property tax reform, regulation of the car loan industry, income tax changes and any other issue floating around in Ways & Means being among the tickets to punch for a quick exit. And it all comes down to whether or not Rants & Company can get Democratic Senators, specifically Joe Bolkcom & Mike Gronstal, to cut some deals, so they can all go home with some good public policy to force feed Iowa voters.


Big sharp teeth

I now enter the ranks of Iowans that can report a cougar (mountain lion) sighting.

Yes, at approximately 10:20 p.m. Thursday evening, after coming over a rural highway bridge spanning one of the major rivers in Iowa, I noticed something going into the ditch. At first, I thought it was a deer, same color and all, so I slowed to look at the other side of the road for more deer. None, and when I looked back, the animal
stretched its body out to about six plus feet as it moved down and into the ditch. I slowed to look over and didn't see a deer, but the rear end of something entirely different disappearing into the woods.

Okay, I am completely unnerved. This location is only about eight miles from our house, and, what, with these critters traveling upwards of 100 hundred miles in a night, this big furry animal with fangs and really sharp teeth could be slinking around our house, stalking cats, dogs and children.

I know there are scarier things in the world, the entire executive board of HILL PAC comes to mind, but for immediate fear nothing like spotting a cougar to get ya' a little spooked.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Cory is sooo cute

The July 27th post for Wonkette dishes on the Hill's "50 Most Beautiful People on Capitol Hill" for 2005 and normally we consider this irrelevant stuff, which it is, except that on that list, somewhere in the middle, is Marion/Cedar Rapids' own Cory Crowley. Cory's the youngster (in Iowa you're still a youngster ‘till your wrinkles are an inch deep) that ran against Rep Swati Dandekar (D-Marion) in the last election, and made it a race. She actually had to campaign and spend money to fend him off.

Now Cory's out in DC livin' that glamorous work-your-ass-off-in-expensive- clothes sort of life. Enjoy!

Zero, and we're waiting

From a Nussle Campaign mass email:

BY THE NUMBERS:
Jim Nussle Making His Way Across Iowa

32 Days on the Road
37 Rolls of Film Used
51 Days Since the Campaign Began
77 Cups of Coffee Consumed
106 Cities Visited
1,826 Volunteers Signed Up
8,077 Miles Logged
15,000+ Iowans Met
321 Days Until Victory

And, guys, where's the zero for substance? Come on, it can't take you guys that long to vet at least one policy position with the important PACs before releasing it to your fan base. On second thought, we've had seven @#$% years of activist state government, taking a break from mass produced state policy making might not be so bad.

A want it got it link

Eric Appleman, of Democracy in Action, has put together a web page that is a must have link for any sort of political commentary wannabe type of blog:

Leadership PACs
- updated July 24, 2005 -
One way a potential presidential candidate can build support in the years leading up to an election is to form a leadership PAC. Leadership PACs can generate goodwill by making contributions to candidate and party committees. A presidential prospect (or other political leader) can fund travel, build a network of supporters, and demonstrate fundraising prowess. Note that there are federal and state leadership PACs.

Leadership PACs often have creative or patriotic names that help convey message or philosophy.
"The Name Game"
Below are names of leadership PACs of some of the individuals mentioned as major 2008 presidential prospects.
Match the PAC and the individual. (Note: one of the names is made up).

1. The Commonwealth PAC
2. Forward Together
3. 21st Century Freedom PAC
4. Heartland PAC
5. Sandhills PAC
6. Keeping America's Promise PAC
7. Solutions America PAC
8. Progressive Patriots Fund
9. Volunteer PAC
10. One America Committee
11. Restore America PAC
12.
All America PAC
13. Good Government for America Committee
14. WesPAC-Securing America's Future
15.
HILL PAC
16. Unite Our States PAC
17. Healthy America PAC
18. Moving America Forward
19. Wave the Flag PAC
20. America's Foundation
a. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN)
b. Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN)
c. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)
d. Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA)
e. Name of PAC made up
f. Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA)
g. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
h. Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-NY)
i. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI)
j. Gov. George Pataki (R-NY)
k. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS)
l. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY)
m. Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA)
n. Gen. Wesley Clark (D-AR)
o. Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR)
p. Sen. John Edwards (D-NC)
q. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)
r. Sen. George Allen (R-VA)
s. Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM)
t. Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE)

Answers: 1d. The Commonwealth PAC (Romney - July 2004). 2f. Forward Together (Warner - July 2005; Warner also has a state PAC, One Virginia PAC). 3j. 21st Century Freedom PAC (Pataki - April 8, 1998). 4m. Heartland PAC (Vilsack - April 13, 2005). 5g. Sandhills PAC (Hagel - May 28, 1999). 6c. Keeping America's Promise PAC (Kerry - Feb. 11, 2005). 7h. Solutions America PAC (Giuliani - March 20, 1998). 8i. Progressive Patriots Fund (Feingold - Jan. 28, 2005). 9b. Volunteer PAC (Frist - Nov. 24, 1998). 10p. One America Committee (Edwards). 11k. Restore America PAC (Brownback - April 1, 1999). 12a. All America PAC (Bayh). 13r. Good Government for America Committee (Allen - April 19, 1996). 14n. WesPAC-Securing America's Future (Clark - April 2, 2004). 15l. HILL PAC (Clinton - Jan. 5, 2001). 16t. Unite Our States PAC (Biden - June 28, 2005). 17o. Healthy America Political Action Committee (Huckabee - July 11, 2005). 18s. Moving America Forward (Richardson - mid-2002). 19e. Wave the Flag PAC (Name of PAC made up). 20q. America's Foundation (Santorum - Sept. 1, 1995, initially known as FIGHT PAC).

Notes:
-Gov. Pataki's PAC initially filed in 1998 as Freedom PAC and then as Economic Freedom PAC before settling on 21st Century Freedom PAC.
-The Commonwealth PAC includes a federal PAC, based in Michigan, and four state PACs, in Iowa, South Carolina, Arizona and Michigan. Trent Wisecup, executive director of The Commonwealth PAC, took issue with the "leadership PAC" label. He said The Commonwealth PAC was formed by friends and supporters of Gov. Romney to help support Republicans. It has been very active in Iowa (Oct. 19, 2004; Jan. 19, 2005).
-Sen. Bayh changed the name of his PAC in Feb. 2005; it was formerly known as Americans for Responsible Leadership.
-Fmr Sen. Edwards' PAC is the successor to New American Optimists, formed Aug. 28, 2001.
-Gov. Richardson's Moving America Forward is now inactive; it was formed in 2002 and stopped operations in early 2005; it spent about $2.5 million.
-Gov. Vilsack's Heartland PAC and Gov. Huckabee's Healthy America PAC are Section 527 organizations.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Clarity 2.0

Well, it looks like Mitt really, really likes his new friends in Iowa. Romney interrupted his vacation at Lake Winnipesaukee to return to Boston long enough to veto the emergency contraception bill and earnestly hair split the abortion issue with the media.

Ya know, maybe he is the guy; you can read anything you want into his politics and be confident that he'll stick a finger in the wind to figure out where to go -- a popular opinion presidency.

Property snatching goes on the list for '06

Can government entities, in the name of some guy’s version of progress, simply snatch property from one owner and give it to a second owner for the sole purpose of "economic development"? Well, apparently, yes they can thanks to the Supreme Court Kelo v New London decision. So now every Iowa property owner, and their grandmothers -- particularly grandmothers holding the deed to 1500 hundred odd feet of shoreline on Okoboji -- are just leaking fluid.

This nervousness has not been lost on Iowa politicians. They are stomping around on the issue, settin’ it up for 06. And with that the fun begins as the first inkling of a good Statehouse political fight starts to show.

The GOP legislature (meaning the House, remember the Senate is tied) wants to revisit Iowa's use of eminent domain for purposes outside of building roads and schools. Good. I always say a small prayer when these guys get knocked in the head, or something, and suddenly find some of their libertarian sensibilities. Ya know... life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness... it works.

However, Vilsack, despite the direct invitation from Justice Stevens in the Court's decision, wants to leave it up to Congress (that's right Gov, just keep holding your ankles for the inside the beltway crowd). While another East Coast transplant and nut job, Senator Jack Hatch, wants to keep the ability for developers to use the principle of eminent domain, or property snatching, for certain economic development.

The only thing anyone needs to know about Hatch is his creepy attachment to spending other people’s money on everything, including private contractors in the business of economic development or, in the Hatch world, urban renewal. Oh, and he has great hair.

Not all the Democrats are hip to this constitutionally blessed scam. The Fallon for Governor Team – via State 29 blog turned news source – put out a press release objecting to the use of eminent domain for economic development. I love disagreement among the ranks; it makes an issue bleed-out messy and right into an election.

It's as if we are starting to see a pattern of convergence on political issues that scream for good policy. What with Fallon being on the side of GOP leadership on this one and Vander Plaats taking a left turn on corporate responsibility in the hiring of illegal immigrants. OMG, it seems some of these pols have souls that respond to common sense and not the almighty PAC check. Give us more, please.


Monday, July 25, 2005

Posted: si usted corta su pie vaya a la clínica libre

From Radio Iowa

GOP candidate wants crackdown on illegal alien hiring

by O.Kay Henderson

Bob Vander Plaats, a Republican candidate for governor, says it's time for a state crack-down on businesses that hire illegal immigrants."We need to hold corporations responsible with stiff fines as well as making it public that these are the corporations that are (bringing) illegal immigrants into the state of Iowa," Vander Plaats says. Vander Plaats says illegal immigration is an issue that voters bring up at nearly every stop he makes."The thing about illegal immigration is that first word: illegal," Vander Plaats says. "Corporations...need to be held accountable." Vander Plaats says he's stressing personal responsibility on other issues, and he'll stress the idea that corporations should act responsibly, too. Vander Plaats, a businessman from Sioux City, is running against Congressman Jim Nussle of Manchester for the Republican party's 2006 nomination for governor.

Brave. Very brave Mr. Vander Plaats. The scope and size of Iowa corporations relying on illegal immigrant labor is daunting, particularly in our livestock processing operations. But keep it up. I am certainly tired of hearing stories from friends in health care talking about illegal immigrant laborers sent to their doors as charity care for work related injuries.

California Congressman Elton Gallegly spit out a short -- but dead on -- opinion piece on the illegal immigration problem and the subsequent pressures placed on our health care system.



Clarity

Way too long of a sojourn out to a lake (Clarity 10.3, Algae 1.5, PH 7.1) in the middle of New Hampshire. The state is made entirely of rock (Granite, you know that, right?) with the inspiring -- and yet absurd given these hardy souls are fused to their local governments -- state motto Live Free or Die, which appears on EVERY New Hampshire license plate. On one occasion the state motto took on a passionate relevance when buzzing RR 11 at a frenetic clip trying to make the lobster pound by 6; pot-to-dock-to-plate-by-7:00 pm lobster can do that to a person.

On the political side, Manchester's New Hampshire Union Leader is similar to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, and not at all Registeresque. And let’s face it; editorial wisdom is evident when a newspaper in a small state with lots of old people acts like a newspaper in a small state with lots of old people.

The Union Leader did offer some section one coverage of the National Governors Association conference, and one AP story even included a too big head shot of our own Governor Vilsack. I assume the paper assumes that they expect to see a lot of him in New Hampshire (he’ll certainly want to keep up with Evan Bayh’s New Hampshire schedule) -- so the UL probably wanted to clue the political citizenry in on what the guy looks like. And it wasn't one of the better pics; they used an angled shot that showed off a little too much wattle and jowl. So sorry Gov.

The really interesting reading was the Boston Globe's coverage of Mitt Romney's purported dissembling on the abortion issue.

Clarity sought on Romney's abortion stance

Groups perceive muddled message

Advocates on both sides of the abortion debate say they are confused over Governor Mitt Romney's position on abortion and are seeking to understand the meaning of recent comments he has made, in light of the positions he outlined during the 2002 gubernatorial campaign.

and

When he ran for US Senate in liberal-leaning Massachusetts in 1994, Romney said abortion should be ''safe and legal." As a candidate for governor in 2002, he said he would keep the state's abortion rights laws intact and has since said that he kept that promise. But this year, as he began preparing a potential run for president, Romney said he is ''in a different place" than he was when he first ran for office in 1994 and has stressed that he is ''personally prolife."

Romney was asked repeatedly by the Globe last week to elaborate on his abortion stance, and he refused. ''I think I've said it a few hundred times through my campaign the same thing I'll say today, which is that I personally do not favor abortion. But as governor of Massachusetts, I will keep the laws as they exist," Romney said Wednesday.

Link to this Boston Globe Story


We now know he's a pro-life candidate, but in order to win in Massachusetts he needed to walk away from the pro-life position when he ran for the Senate in 1994 and for Governor in 2002. This pro-something flip-flopping is now coming back in an interesting way.

The pro-life types in Iowa are possibly suspect of Romney's rhetoric on the issue, while the Massachusetts “choice” types are attempting to pin him down on his willingness to sign the emergency contraception bill. The “choice” lobby is working it out so that Lieut. Gov. Healey, a “choice” Republican, signs the bill while Romney is on vacation -- at a lake in New Hampshire -- forcing Governor Romney to either let it slide with a Healey signature, or make it back to veto the bill for his new friends in Iowa.

This bit of Boston Theater has everything to do with Mitt Romney's future, but it's also a sucker punch to the Massachusetts GOP, as Massachusetts voters tend to like their Republicans fiscally conservative and socially oblivious. In going back and forth on the abortion question, Romney has created a very difficult situation for any GOP candidate trying to follow him into the Governor’s Office. How do you trust a Massachusetts Republican on this one?

And in some small way this flip flopping for votes speaks volumes about Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate. Didn’t Mehlman and company spend countless millions of dollars framing John Kerry as a flip-flopper?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Economic Development in Newton


Newton stops track spending for now

NEWTON, Iowa Newton has put the brakes on 16 (m) million dollars in new roads and financing for the Iowa Speedway for now.

That's until the group building the 70 (m) million dollar track proves it has the money to complete the project. link


This whole thing is a big durst. This government financed money pit is just that, and nothing more.

The slicksters promising delivery on this project are known in racing circles to be selling a load of bullshit to the good citizens of Newton and Jasper County. The guys in Knoxville, who have the best sprint car track in the entire world and know the racing business, are just rolling their eyes at this crap and taking bets on how long till the Newton track boosters figure out they have been @#$% over.

And the Knoxville guys know about racing. They pull in MILLIONS in tourism dollars every year (economic development in Mike Blouin's world) and the state has never shelled out a dime for the Knoxville track. And even without big dollars from the state the Knoxville track is the sprint care racing center of the universe. How did that happen?

Okay, Newton and Jasper County are tossing money at this slickster track, but the real kicker is the 12 million dollar tax give-a-way that the state approved on this one.

You can thank Chaz Allen (the guy in the middle of the pic). He's the Mayor of Newton and a lobbyist with the telecom industry. He's not a bad guy, just worked the system and is buddy buddy enough with Clarence Hoffman – the Iowa Democrats’ Zell on economic development issues. So in that good old boy back slapping fashion, Clarence went to bat for him to pull down this deal. Sweet.

My hope for the future: every town with some two bit slicksters selling some ridiculous tourist trap hires some over priced lobby type and comes crawling to the trough next legislative session.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

DHS case files and politics

The big news today from our Tom Vilsack (as reported by the AP)...

DES MOINES, IA - Gov. Tom Vilsack said he will personally examine files involving a 5-year-old Floyd County girl whose body was pulled from the Cedar River last week to review how the Department of Human Services handled the case.

''We will be conducting a review,'' Vilsack said Tuesday. ''I made a request yesterday for the file.''

Authorities have confirmed they are investigating the death of Evelyn Miller as a homicide, though no arrests have been made.

A DHS spokesman has said the agency had contact with the girl's family but would not comment on what they told the state. The agency's director, Kevin Concannon, ordered an internal review to determine if agency procedures were followed.

Vilsack said he, too, wants to know how DHS officials handled the case.

''As I look at this file, I'm obviously going to be taking a look at what was said, what was reported and how we responded to that, and also what steps and information family members may have had, what involvement they may have had in asking for assistance or direction and what action was taken by them as well,'' the governor said.

Since the death of 2-year-old Shelby Duis of Spirit Lake in 2000, Vilsack has frequently intervened to review cases in which a child has died after the state has gotten involved.

The governor announced his action in the Miller case at a news conference marking the implementation of an overhaul of the state's Medicaid program offering health care for the poor and elderly. ....

To read more of this story go to Gazetteonline.


Wait, haven't we experienced this before? Oh, that's right, back in 2000 when another little Iowa girl was murdered and there was some question about the state's involvement, or lack of involvement, more accurately. And recall Vilsack jumped right on the Shelby Duis case and subsequently used that opportunity to give a personal confessional about his own experience as an abused child. We were all moved.

I don't begrudge the Governor any of his passion when it comes to the prevention of child abuse. In many ways it is admirable that the guy cares enough about it to personally review the case files. It's just there is something slightly off about the need for Vilsack three days before the national press and 30 Governors arrive in Iowa to make loud public comments about it.

For a pol it is a clever strategy to intertwine a very sympathetic part of your personal story with a compelling and tragic news story over the murder of a possibly abused and neglected five year old small town Iowa girl. In a political sense it is Duis Two; in the context of reviewing Evelyn Miller’s DHS file, and publicly commenting on it, Vilsack gets to emote about his own experience as an abused child.

And who is here to listen? Just about everyone that matters in Presidential Wannabe land -- the national press corps, a slew of Governors, big time party political operatives, lobbyists and consultants.

My thoughts on this one -- please Governor Vilsack, don't do it, it's creepy.

Just one of the hundreds

Yesterday State 29 and other folks spun some noise on the Rock In Prevention story from Sunday’s DMR. Hint -- this is just one of thousands of these sorts of little gimmes that our legislators pimp for every year.

I think it is part of the job. Ya know, find some marginal little program that is either located in your district or you have some family or friend attachment to, and work it. It helps the ego; most pols don’t have much influence on the big picture so to steam roll something for someone is akin to snorting one of those scheduled opioids. This is often a second definition under the term ‘political junky’.

This sort of crap happens everywhere somebody as something they can ‘give’ to people. Okay, it’s our @#$% money, but hey, semantics.

The real joke is that a lot of these gimmes are ginned by a small group of people that have spent time, money and God knows what else to get politicians to fork over big chunks of change for their clients. You got it – it is all about the lobbyists.

Not much to say about this group of people, they tend to be clubby and once in the business people stay for life. Why not, if they’re good they make big bucks ala Doug Gross. And even if they’re not, too many of these folks enjoy twisting arms and screwing people over – it makes them feel powerful, or something. (I think psychologists have a particular name for this condition – Antisocial Personality Disorder)

Rock In Prevention is just one little program and there are hundreds more where that came from. If bloggers really want to do something productive we could spend more time outing lobbyists and calculating the amount of money they cost Iowa taxpayers.

And forget pinning a D or an R to this crap, it happens on both sides in fairly equal measure; although, except when running for higher office, Rs are a little better when considering shelling out real money for the gimmes. They do seem to have some small voice reminding them that it is other people’s money.

update - it seems the link to 'outing lobbyists' works when it wants to - this one should work: link and url -- http://www.legis.state.ia.us/Lobbyist.html


Monday, July 11, 2005

Webby winners

A couple of fun links to 2005 Webby winners announced on June 9 2005.

Best for personal web site design went to Robert Morgan, an 18 year old kid out of West Texas. My favorites are the pics of his Dad playing with fire. It proves the general theory that the production of testosterone causes men, and under supervised boys, to have a peculiar attachment to the excessive use of matches and lighter fluid. Given this fact, we should seriously consider heavy tax increases on lighter fluid or outlaw the stuff altogether.

What?

And

So weird, but so fun - Joel and the guys from Rathergood.com placed first in the humor and weird categories. Go, it is self explanatory.


Friday, July 08, 2005

Terrorists are not equivocal creatures. So what's our problem?

What a couple of bad days.

A recent post from Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish -- he’s gay, iconoclastic and a little conservative; just the sort of thing we’re supposed to get over -- includes a link to a first hand account of the London bombings.

I have also posted P.M. Blair’s comments from yesterday followed by an extraordinarily unfortunate opinion piece published in Iowa’s Burlington Hawk Eye (circulation 18,718 daily and 20,373 Sunday)


Text of British Prime Minister Blair's remarks


Associated Press


Text of Prime Minister Tony Blair's statement delivered Thursday afternoon at his Downing Street office:

This has been a most terrible and tragic atrocity that has cost many innocent lives. I have just attended a meeting of the government's Emergency Committee, received a full report from the ministers and the officials responsible. There will be announcements made in respect of the various services, in particular we hope the Underground, insofar as is possible, and rail and bus services are up and running as swiftly as possible.

I would like again to express my profound condolences to the families of the victims, and to those who are casualties of this terrorist act. I would also like to thank the emergency services that have been magnificent today in every respect. There will of course now be the most intense police and security service action to make sure that we bring those responsible to justice. I would also pay tribute to the stoicism and resilience of the people of London, who have responded in a way typical of them.

In addition I welcome the statement that has been put out by the Muslim Council of Great Britain. We know that these people act in the name of Islam, but we also know that the vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims, here and abroad, are decent and law-abiding people who abhor this act of terrorism every bit as much as we do.

It is through terrorism that the people that have committed this terrible act express their values, and it is right at this moment that we demonstrate ours. I think we all know what they are trying to do -- they are trying to use the slaughter of innocent people to cower us, to frighten us out of doing the things that we want to do, of trying to stop us going about our business as normal, as we are entitled to do, and they should not, and they must not, succeed.

When they try to intimidate us, we will not be intimidated. When they seek to change our country or our way of life by these methods, we will not be changed. When they try to divide our people or weaken our resolve, we will not be divided and our resolve will hold firm. We will show, by our spirit and dignity, and by our quiet but true strength that there is in the British people, that our values will long outlast theirs. The purpose of terrorism is just that, it is to terrorize people, and we will not be terrorized.

I would like once again to express my sympathy and my sorrow to those families who will be grieving, so unexpectedly and tragically, tonight. This is a very sad day for the British people, but we will hold true to the British way of life.

Thank you.

----

Text of Blair's statement Thursday morning in Gleneagles, Scotland:

We condemn utterly these barbaric attacks. We send our profound condolences to the victims and their families.

All of our countries have suffered from the impact of terrorism. Those responsible have no respect for human life. We are united in our resolve to confront and defeat this terrorism that is not an attack on one nation but on all nations and on civilized people everywhere.

We will not allow violence to change our societies or our values, nor will we allow it to stop the work of this summit. We will continue our deliberations in the interests of a better world.

Here at this summit, the world's leaders are striving to combat world poverty and save and improve human life. The perpetrators of today's attacks are intent on destroying human life.

The terrorists will not succeed. Today's bombings will not weaken in any way our resolve to uphold the most deeply held principles of our societies and to defeat those who would impose their fanaticism and extremism on all of us.

We shall prevail and they shall not.

-----------------------------

This piece ran June 30, 2005 in the Burlington Hawk Eye.

Time to 'get over it'

So the war will go on indefinitely because it must.

That was the simplistic logic of President Bush in the speech he gave this week to make Americans feel good about his war in Iraq.

And it is his war. He conceived it. He lied to make it happen. He implied that God directed him to wage it. And when the lies that were told to justify the war were exposed, he simply changed his rationale.

Most Americans bought willingly into Bush's war, phony reasons and all. But with the body count rising amid obvious chaos, those who did are having doubts about the conduct and the purpose of a war now in its third year.

With his polls sinking, the president who regularly insists that he ignores polls decided he needed to give the nation and the soldiers bleeding in Iraq a pep talk.

It was the same Churchillian knockoff speech he has given before. Chin up. Stay the course. Onward Christian soldiers. Up with democracy. When the rebels see our determination to win, they will also see the light and quit.

Nobody believes it but the president keeps saying it because his alternative is to admit a mistake and accept defeat, and he won't have that. He may let a new president take the loss four years from now but he won't.

As always, he chose a friendly captive audience – this time it was soldiers at Fort Bragg, N.C. – to make him seem likable, appropriately concerned, and even sympathetic, though he has no children at risk in this war .

In its cynical fashion, the venue gave the White House control over appearances. The troops could be counted on to obey the order to remain silent and not applaud during the speech. Except when the president praised them and spoke of the victory he desperately wants them to deliver to him. Someday. Somehow.

The president deliberately punctuated his sentences with the nominative plural pronoun, the all–inclusive "we."

"We fight today because Iraq now carries the hope of freedom in a vital region of the world....

"And we fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens....

"So we'll fight them there, we'll fight them across the world, and we will stay in the fight until the fight is won."

Hoorah!

It is in the interests of a leader to make his subjects believe they are in a war together, the idea of one for all and all for one. Plays, books and movies are so good at projecting that absolute loyalty in a way that can make the hair on the bluest neck stand up in momentary pride.

But this is not that kind of war.

Even the soldiers and Marines, volunteers all, who are fighting this urban guerilla war are wondering if it is worth so many lives and limbs and damaged psyches.

When the war gave Saddam loyalists and Islamic terrorists the opportunity to kill Americans and bleed the treasury in Iraq, Bush simply changed his rationale to meet the new reality his mistake had handed the terrorists.

Though it has grown old and does not engender hope, Bush repeats the mantra that Iraq is where Americans must keep fighting to keep the terrorists from reaching U.S. shores again.

At critical moments of public doubt in their presidencies, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon said the very same thing about their war in Vietnam, substituting communists for terrorists, of course.

When Johnson gave his first pep talk, 400 GIs had been killed. When Nixon gave his, 31,000 had been killed. The final death count topped 58,000 Americans. And 2 million Vietnamese.

Dead Americans in Iraq are nearing 1,800. And if Donald Rumsfeld is right that the war could go on for 12 years, thousands more Americans are doomed — with no more assurance of victory than there was in Vietnam.

TV's talking heads will debate whether the speech bought Bush time, for what is not at all clear. Or if it turned the people who have lost faith in the war back to liking it.

Hoping to invigorate the lie that Iraq was involved in 9/11, Bush made five references to the catastrophe, implying again that 9/11 justifies the war and vindicates the president's judgment. It does neither.

This president has hidden behind 9/11 long enough. Iraq is not about 9/11 and never was. It is about a foolish leader who ignored good advice and went to war because he thought he was smarter that the bad guys and invincible to boot. There's a scene in this week's episode of the great new FX network series "Rescue Me," in which the 9/11–traumatized New York firefighter Tommy Gavin asks a cop to fix yet another parking ticket.

When he cites 9/11 as the perpetual excuse for justifying his irresponsible behavior, the cop's pity is, in a metaphor for the nation, exhausted.

I’m almost sorry to have taken you on that wild ride, from a sensible Blair to a radical lefty, but the juxtaposition of the two brings home an important point that our opinion writer did hint at in the last line. We are all exhausted. Although, I suggest sources contributing to our national exhaustion are multiple and not exclusively the province of terrorists.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Explain this to me

Yesterday, my 11 year old asked me about his odds of being abducted and murdered by a disturbed and evil person. I tried to explain that most of the cases of child abduction and murder happen because the abducted child’s parents allowed people they didn’t really know to hang out in their homes. I reassured him that we avoid that sort of situation.

Then this morning the reports coming out of the Idaho criminal investigation suggest that Duncan, a class III sex offender wanted on an outstanding warrant for additional sex offense charges in another state, selected the the Groene family at random.

How do you begin to explain that to an 11 year old?

I know our Statehouse pols worked very hard to toughen sentences and improve the state’s sex offender registry but it’s not enough. In the Groene case, a class III sex offender roamed from state to state unfettered because law enforcement and the courts can't get information and we don't permanently monitor these creeps in all 50 states.

Fix it. Please.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Blouin is in

News coverage on the birth of a wannabe...

Des Moines Register, July 6, 2005

Blouin quits one job to run for another

Iowa economic development Director Michael Blouin announced today he was resigning his post to run for the Democratic nomination for governor next year.

But it was clear the 59-year-old former congressman and state legislator planned to make his three years as Gov. Tom Vilsack's chief economic adviser the centerpiece of his campaign.

"I'm extremely proud to have played a role in Iowa's rebirth," Blouin told reporters in Des Moines. …

And we can all just gag on that line for months.

Mike Blouin is making his grand entrance into the Democratic Governor's Pageant. He's giving up his current gig as the dictator of the DED to focus on his campaign, and, given the late start, that means sucking huge amounts of money out of the willing -- and the willing can best be described as those folks on the receiving end of the Blouin 'Iowa Taxpayer Values Fund’ account. (It must comfort the boyz to know this corporate payola fund they said 'yes' to may help bankroll a Democratic wannabe).

Blouin’s got a fabulous gubernatorial resume, but substance does not always substitute for style. And that's a problem.

Actually he has a very serious problem, in fact it is usually terminal for a politician -- he seems to be people blind. People blindness, similar to color blindness, is a condition where you don't see certain people. The people most often invisible to people blind politicians are those without any immediate transactional value to their campaigns; they don't have money or power or anything else.

This condition may prove to be fatal in a Democratic primary churning its way to a convention. Political conventions are filled with grassroots volunteers who are nobodies outside of their political work, but in those county party organizations they're big shots. This is a problem for a seemingly people blind guy like Blouin, for all he knows he may have already pissed off the ten Democratic convention goers who are going to make or break his shot at the nomination.

Oh well. It makes for a good show.


Sunday, July 03, 2005

On other bloggers

After waking up way too early this morning, I spent a good part of it checking out blogs, which I think you are supposed to do if you produce one. I have no idea. And, after reading a bunch, I am now much more self conscious - ubber-blogger aside, other writers are offering colorful, acerbic commentary or really intimidating substance in huge quantities. Ouch.

I have also figured out people probably want to know a little more about the person actually writing this stuff. I'm sure readers/skimmers want to make sure you're not some tool (in context, please). Not. I am just currently suffering a significant bout of cynicism.

It's sort of a long story, but the basics: I spent a lot of time doing the heavy lifting for a policy project for nothin', literally, and got @#$% over a couple of times in a relatively short period, say one month, by two different groups of people. And by @#$ over I mean, people using your work to pull down money for their interests and then telling you, basically, to @#$% off. This happens twice in the same month after spending four-plus years on the project.

I'm obviously bitter. And I like it.

So I am turning that bitterness outward, with the specific objective of getting rid of it through the absurd habit of writing into my dorky blog. I am not sure how long it will take. I was cynical once before and it took about four years to get over it. Not to suggest that I am going to subject people to four years of this habit. But who knows?


Friday, July 01, 2005

Daddy's money

The perfect announcement for July 1 – Chet I-need-more-than-a-proof-reader Culver's war chest numbers. And the only press report I could find on the announcement was in the Des Moines Register. Odd?

At $652,000 it's hefty. Impressive. But what's really clever is Chet's money source. He's held 30 fundraisers and at least half have been held out of state. Presumably, in Washington D.C. where dear old Dad and wife #2 can help pull in the big dogs on a few old chits. Everyone remembers Chet’s dad. The Senator? Senator John Culver, Harvard educated lawyer out of Cedar Rapids? If you don’t remember him that would indicate you have a healthy relationship with politics.

The Senator has been out of office since 1981 and in the Washington D.C. lobbyist cesspool since then. He’s not really a guy that gets back to Iowa on a regular basis, but, as a government relations specialist for ArentFox law firm, he’s plenty aware of Iowa’s political landscape. Hence the kid: Chet’s got a great pedigree for the Governor’s office.

Chet's bumbled along for years as Iowa's Secretary of State and Dad’s a former Member of The Club, an insider with the inside the beltway crowd. Certainly makes it easy to pack a score of D.C. fundraisers for your kid's got'a-wear-shades future. Chet and Daddy have also managed to put together a bunch of Iowa based old guard Democratic money types to fleece the newbies who may want to venture the Iowa political scene.

And with $652,000 in the bank it’s a killer strategy – guys like Blouin, Fitzgerald, and even Gronstal (despite setting up the new campaign account number) might think twice about jumping in and sticking out a long campaign knowing that one wannabe has an open spigot to the Washington D.C. money crowd.

Of course if some of these guys drop out we’ll still have a primary. Fallon is just nuts, and will go down for a cause. And Patty knows her voters; as of the 2004 general there are 340,241 Democratic female voters and enough of these gals may opt for making history.


But for now, Chet’s got a little edge on this one – money in the bank is hard to beat.


U say Tyler I say Tytler

A letter to the editor in the Quad City Times:

Fiscal responsibility supports democracy

By Jim Roegiers, Davenport

In 1787, Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh, noticed a continuing pattern in the advance and decline of the world's democracies. He stated then that a democracy would continue to exist until such time that the voters discover that they can literally vote themselves gifts from the public treasury. From the moment that revelation is made, the majority proceeds to vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury. The final result is that every democracy finally collapses due to loose fiscal policy. That collapse is always followed by a dictatorship.

Isn't it time Republicans and Democrats alike to examine the current trend to take from the public treasury to satisfy every whim of their constituents?

Fiscal restraint and sound fiscal policy are sorely needed if we, as Americans, wish to continue to enjoy a free, democratic society. Wake up America, our 200 years expired decades ago.


A powerful set of ideas from the Scotsman. Or is it? This is in need of a good Google.

Sure enough someone has done the work and discovered a little history on this quote, often attributed to Alexander Tytler.

The fact that the quote is not attributable to Alexander Tyler/Tytler, but a combination of a number of different quotes from a wide range of people, most unknown, does not make the statement any less powerful. There is logic to the quote that appeals to those of us with an ornery Scottish sensibility (In my case, its genetic) and inspires most everyone to think about the ideas in the context of our current world.


In Iowa, what could possibly fit this element of decline more than our obsessive interest in doling out tax dollars to corporations?


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