Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Unapologetic

Applause goes out to the Mason City Globe Gazette for their editorial on the need to help folks suffering in the aftermath of Katrina. We’ve been posting the links to blogs written by people living in Katrina affected communities. Some of the bloggers are up and writing, while other bloggers haven't written post Katrina. It's expected, but worrisome and about all we can do, outside of sending prayers, is donate -- money, blood & our time.

We’ve left comments on the blogs that are linked, mostly to let the writers know people outside of the region are concerned and want to help. In the case of Unapologetic, we emailed and he wrote back. This is the email string...

Our prayers are with you and I wanted to let you know I have linked your blog for folks in Iowa to keep tabs on real people in N.O.

I.E.

hi... that's fine with me, and thank you for letting me know. I think you're doing us a great service, though I can't articulate why - it's just good to know people are hearing some of the personal stories and not just the news...

allen
Allen is our neighbor, we need to help. Red Cross & Others

(Okay, it just takes one, just one, natural disaster and we’re back to being softies. It sucks.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Repay the Senior Living Trust Fund

A fiscally responsible move; let’s repay the Senior Living Trust Fund.
From Radio Iowa

A new report shows that in spite of concerns about the cost of healthcare for the poor, Iowa's Medicaid program ended its fiscal year with a small surplus. House Speaker Christopher Rants says it looks like it'll be five-million dollars. Rants says "that money really ought to go to the Senior Living Trust Fund," noting the state borrowed from that fund to balance its books when money was tight not so long ago. "To me it's appropriate that that money goes back." In January of this year, lawmakers had to put 70-Million dollars into Medicaid to keep the health coverage program for low-income Iowans from going into the red. The Republican State Representative from Sioux City says it's time to repay the fund, which has been repeatedly raided to pay for shortfalls in Medicaid. …

Oh, darn it, that Governor of ours has another idea …

But Governor Vilsack says repaying that fund will have to wait. Instead, he says, the surplus must go to fund the Indigent Defense Fund, a legal-expenses program for the poor that was created but under-funded...and lawmakers directed that any extra money should go into that.
However, it wasn’t too long ago -- oh, two months -- that the Governor really wanted to make sure we take care of our seniors by refilling the trust fund. Back in June, when he cared about the Senior Living Trust Fund, he item vetoed the funding out of a prescription drug clearinghouse program. And he said this…

June 10, 2005

The Honorable Chester Culver

Secretary of State

State Capitol Building

L O C A L

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I hereby transmit House File 821, an Act relating to the establishment of a prescription drug assistance program by the commissioner of insurance, and providing for a contingent appropriation.

Assisting all Iowans with access to lower cost prescription drugs continues to be one of my top priorities. Prescription drug assistance programs similar to the one established in House File 821 have been valuable tools in other states, and this program is estimated to save Iowans between $6 and $10 million. Furthermore, House File 821 will compliment the initiatives of the new IowaCare Act (House File 841). I have directed the Insurance Commissioner to work with the Department of Human Services during the implementation process to ensure an efficient and effective use of resources in providing prescription drug assistance to Iowans.

House File 821 is approved on this date with the following exception, which I hereby disapprove. I am unable to approve the item designated as Section 2, subsection 2 in its entirety. I remain concerned that this section unnecessarily diverts resources away from the Senior Living Trust, which provides seniors vital health care and living option services. This section also implies the program is targeted towards older Iowans when its benefits should serve all Iowans who need assistance accessing prescription drugs to protect their health security. If necessary, any future appropriation should come from the state general fund. I cannot and will not support an unnecessary diversion of resources from the Senior Living Trust.

For the above reasons, I respectfully disapprove of the designated item in accordance with Article III, Section 16, of the Constitution of the State of Iowa. All other items in House File 821 are hereby approved as of this date.

Sincerely,

Thomas J. Vilsack

Governor

Whatever.

editorial note: After watching Katrina footage I don't want to make fun of tears. Wallace & the sheep can be found at Wallace and Gromit.com

Vilsack on gas

Gas is expensive. The governor is worried about it. So, he’s busy sending letters to the DOJ to encourage the administration to look into price gouging. Hmm.

From the Mason City Globe Gazette

DES MOINES — Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack asked federal leaders Monday to investigate high gasoline prices and to resist cutting assistance for low-income Iowans facing a jump in heating bills this winter.

Vilsack made his pleas as record oil prices continued driving up the cost of gasoline and heating fuels such as natural gas and propane. Hurricane Katrina’s impact on gulf coast refineries and drilling rigs threatened to push prices even higher.

The governor sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asking the Justice Department to investigate whether illegal price gouging is inflating fuel prices in Iowa and elsewhere. …

… "I know a number of Iowans have expressed deep concern in questioning the cost of gasoline and whether or not this is a function of the market or whether there is some manipulation taking place in the market," Vilsack said.

"We need reassurance. And we believe the Justice Department can provide that reassurance," Vilsack said.

Al Goldberg, who supervises the energy section of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said it’s too early to tell whether Hurricane Katrina will have a lasting impact in fuel prices. Much depends on damage assessments in the storm’s wake.

If critical refineries were spared from the brunt of the storm, Goldberg said any price jump would be short- lived.

And, well, in the world of the well-coordinated Vilsack administration, the Governor’s head of transportation, Mark Wandro, is over in Sioux City talking about increasing the gasoline tax. Hello!

From the Sioux City Journal

DOT wants, but won't ask for, gas tax hike

The Iowa Department of Transportation has started laying the ground work for a future increase in the state fuel tax. …

… "We're not asking politicians for that right now," Wandro said during a visit to Sioux City Monday. "I don't want to put them in that position. Look at energy prices right now. We're not going to go in and propose additional funding. We're going to make a case that we need it, but recognize the timing couldn't be worse." …

… Last year, state taxes flowing into the road-building fund rose less than a half percent. The state's gas tax currently stands at 20.5 cents per gallon and hasn't been changed since the late 1980s.

To have the same buying power today, it would require a tax increase of 8 cents a gallon, Wandro said. That would generate an additional $150 million annually. ...

This odd bit of uncoordinated press coverage is completely emblematic of what is wrong with government and governing. Vilsack didn’t send that letter for any other purpose than to get a little attention -- Look at me, look at me; I am Iowa’s Governor and an important, serious Presidential Wannabe. All the while, Wandro is simply grinding away at his job trying to think up ways to increase revenue to keep the Associated General Contractors of Iowa happy.

The really sad thing about all this – we need to take the potential for a hike in Iowa’s gasoline tax much more seriously, than we take the Governor’s fleeting effort at getting some press out of hurricane Katrina to fuel his national ambitions.

Bill Vorhes, " it'll cost ya' "

Okay, how many hours & political capital did Floyd County Pooh-Bahs expend in order to get VeraSun to hold out for the lease to expire? In Iowa's version of economic development -- cash for the merchandise, cash for the ethanol -- it's almost certain that the amount of taxpayer money pledged to the project went up when leaseholder Bill Vorhes balked at the agreement because the VeraSun owners aren't locals.

VeraSun to wait out lease to build ethanol plant

CHARLES CITY, Iowa (AP) -- Officials with a South Dakota company say they will wait out a farmer's lease on county-owned land and move forward with plans to build a new ethanol plant in Floyd County.

"Whether this happens this fall or next spring, Charles City is a great place to do business and a place Vera Sun wants to do business," said Don Endres, chief executive of VeraSun. (link to state news page and click on VeraSun story)


A sad day on beautiful shores

The sun shines on biloxi

The air is filled with vapors from the sea

The boy will dig a pool beside the ocean

He sees creatures from his dreams underwater

And the sun will set from off towards new orleans

Everyone has seen the pictures and the videos from Katrina. It's devastating. To compare, this hurricane was like a 100-mile wide tornado filled with water and taking out everything in its immediate path. And for the families caught in Katrina's path, nobody from the town over is coming to help with clean up. The help that is coming is from out of state, particularly states that Katrina missed. That means us.

We don't intend to use this web page to promote a particular cause or politician or whatever, but in this case, We're gladly shillin' for the Red Cross. They need financial support so they can go about their work helping families and communities in the aftermath of Katrina. There are other reputable charities -- meaning they spend a large portion of their revenue on direct services instead of salaries & paper clips -- noted in today's DMR. Please consider donating to one or more of these relief efforts.

Just a follow up to the blog links listed in earlier posts. Big Jim will have an incredible story; it's already playing out in the comment string. Jim and his family ended up in the attic of their home to escape Katrina’s flooding storm surge, they are safe and staying with friends and family. Pitch & Green is updating his blog today with information for families with missing relatives and general comments on the state of NOLA, and when you read it, you can hear the heartbreak. The NOLA Blog Pros have been writing all along and their posts get sadder and sadder with each update. Unapologetic is also posting his thoughts on Katrina. And we have a new blog from Max in Slidell, no posts on Katrina as of yet, but one to watch.

It seems a little voyeuristic to check out these blogs from people so far away and so immediately affected by such a tragic hurricane. However, it is part of the purpose of blogging. To make the world much smaller so that it becomes difficult not to care about our neighbors a thousand miles away.

(I know, sappy. We'll get back to the cynical ways of this blog world in later posts.)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Nothin' like a hurricane to get a pol worried about an election

The fallout from Katrina is already in the works. From Iowa Voice a link and some comments on the President's move to tap the oil reserves.

No final decision, that will come later today when team Bush factors in all the devastation, including the potential devastation to GOP majorities if we slide into a rough and tumble recession prior to November of 06.

Although economic growth in the third quarter should be gangbusters, economists said the slowdown will become apparent late this year or early next.

There is going to be a "marked deceleration of the rate of growth of consumption," in the fourth quarter, said Mikey Levy, chief economist at Bank of America.

"We're facing the prospect of a slowdown early next year. It could be exacerbated by big oil prices," agreed Lyle Gramley, a former Fed governor and now a senior economic adviser at Stanford Washington Research Group. (Excerpt from the linked MarketWatch story)

Mississippi links

Update: Katrina is a little East of N.O.L.A. and is bearing down on the Mississippi coastline. A few blogs/sites from Mississippi

Big Jim -- A family guy with all sorts of photos and Katrina video.

Betsy Rice -- a gal from Mississippi.

Magnolia Report -- A conservative news forum.


Sunday, August 28, 2005

N.O. blog links


Iowa will not have any real news for the next three days...at least. We may comment on some things, but the real story is down south.

Yes, we're also weather geeks. Big surprise. For a weather geek fix, check out wunderground.com and the blogs.

So, given Katrina is the story/tragedy of the week, month, possibly even the year and she is about to make landfall in Louisiana, I have collected a handful of blogs from New Orleans. Some are professionally produced others are just average, every day... folks that got up one morning and said; "I'm going to start an obsessive new hobby that will alienate everyone I know". Just kidding. Anyway, this is the list in no particular order.

Pitch & Green -- Seems to be some normal person with a habit.
Sanctums Porch -- A slacker's blog; don't look for regular posts, but the guy's from New Orleans.
Unapologetic – This one is put out by some artsy 30 year old with interesting taste in music and parents with a condo in Destin.
The Blog Pros -- I think these guys get paid for this stuff, in other words, this reads like the news we already have to eat.

And a link for Tipitina. Put on our Zachary Richard and send out the prayers.

Hey-yah, Katrina - bec mon chu.

Friday, August 26, 2005

True story

A sad but true story over on SML. Related: Spot on

Spot on #2

Newt's a little nutty when it comes to some of the ideas he's beaming out, but the guys at Tusk & Talon have it right -- ideas matter. In that way, Newt usually cuts through all the crap and, at his best, is a completely elegant thinker. Everyone in Washington knows he's an amazing intellect; some just don't want to admit it.

Spot on

The folks over at Side Notes & Detours put up a great post on an issue everyone thinks about in one way or another...

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Gronstal is out...of the race


Gronstal takes a powder on the governor's race. That's news. Really, no really, it's news.

From the Cedar Rapids Gazetteonline...

... A high-ranking Iowa Democrat has decided not seek the governorship at this time.

Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs said today he has decided to stay in the Legislature, where prospects have improved for Democrats to break a 25-25 tie and regain control of the Senate chambers. ... (link)

The guy is at the top of the heap in the Senate and -- according to the Dem partisan echo chamber -- they're going to take the Senate and the House in the next election. Then, with Gronstal in as Majority Leader, the (fill in the blank, I'll start: Twinkie) _______ tax becomes very real.



With Riverboat Casinos ...


In Jesusland (think Ben Folds), the gaming issue is in the news again as the anti-gambling forces take some shots at the state funded study that was conducted over the last year and published in June. The QC Times reports…

…Gambling opponents are questioning whether an $87,000 state study focused on the social effects of gambling in Iowa was worth the money.

The Iowa Legislature had ordered the study at the request of anti-gambling groups. Those groups wanted a report detailing the effect of gambling Iowa families and communities before state regulators decided how many new casinos could open in the state.

But Rep. Danny Carroll, R-Grinnell, a gambling opponent, found the final product lacking.

“I guess it probably fulfilled the requirements ... but whether it was worth $87,000, I don’t know,” Carroll said.

The state contracted with the University of Northern Iowa to conduct the study.

Professor Deepak Chhabra of UNI’s School of Health, Physical Education and Leisure Services, led the study’s research team. The team conducted phone interviews with more than 1,700 Iowans who live within 50 miles of a casino about their views on gambling.

But former state economist Harvey Siegelman, who reviewed the UNI study, was critical of its methodology and said it contained too much unrelated information.

“It was pretty sloppy work. It just was not very good research,” said Siegelman, who called the study a “data dump” in a written report submitted to lawmakers.

Chhabra defended the study, saying it provided the information lawmakers requested.

“My study presented both sides — positive as well as negative,” he said.

Lana Ross, a lobbyist with the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church, had wanted the study to better measure a link between gambling and social problems such as bankruptcy, divorce, suicide and alcohol and drug addiction.

“I think it falls short of what I had hoped for and other anti-gambling folk” had hoped for, she said. … (link)

If you really want to read the study, you can find it at the Iowa General Assembly web page (link -- click "committee page", click "additional information" for documents -- they load s-l-o-w). There are a number of documents on the list the most relevant being the final report, peer review comments and rebuttal. Yah, geeky as it seems, we did read…err…skim the study and comments.

Dr. Sieglman is kind 'a tough on Deepak and his team. It’s not an economists study, by any measure, but it still provides some baseline information on what’s going on in the minds of Iowans when they think about gambling. The study is a perceptual study, in other words it asks for respondents’ opinions as opposed to looking at existing hard data for trends and patterns.

Sieglman correctly prefers to use “ex-post” data in measuring the effects of gambling on Iowans and their communities. However, from comments made in the limitations section of the UNI study, the authors suggest that hard data, in the form of historical and panel, was not available. And they stress the lack of cooperation from important sources in economic development, social services and law enforcement in limiting the usefulness of the study. “Everyone seemed reluctant to express either a personal opinion or a view that would be interpreted as representing their agency” pg 24.

Even with the limitations, the authors, using what seem to be reliable survey instruments, demonstrated statistically significant differences in the benefit/cost perceptions between gamblers and non-gamblers and those looking at gambling as a sickness versus not a sickness. Duh. Those particular findings very possibly represent global attitudinal variables such as religious versus non-religious, conservatives versus liberal, etc.

The one causal finding that is interesting, and perhaps important to explore more thoroughly, is the finding of a significant relationship between gambling costs and income. The UNI team found that there is a significant relationship to the views on the cost of gambling and income levels and widowed status. Those single old ladies on SS with “friends” that gamble are very worried about the costs of a gambling habit. This little bit of data, given the large number of over 40 female gamblers, gives any reasonable social service policy type a light bulb moment -- ah, targeting programs to our older female gamblers might payoff in meeting a perceptual need and contribute to a decline in the levels of problem gambling.

In the end, the 87,000 spent on the study is an investment. And, perhaps, the next chunk of money spent on the “gaming issue” will take the advice of both Seiglman and Deepka’s team and look at improving the data sets we use to analyze the issue.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

This old chestnut of a state needs to change

Question: What do the following three news stories have in common?

(Editors note: we know, there are four news stories. It is -- and we are -- a work in progress.)

Up in Floyd County one farmer held up the development of a $100 million ethanol plant because, according to farmer and anti South Dakota ethanol plant activist, Bill Vorhes, the plant owners haven’t picked their butts in Floyd County all their lives. From the Mason City Globe Gazette...

... The request, by VeraSun Energy LLC, was defeated over concerns about potential liability if Marble Rock farmer Bill Vorhes, who leases the county-owned land, should sue the county. Vorhes has refused to sign an agreement with VeraSun, saying the county should hold out for a locally-owned ethanol company instead.

“It’s not about money,” Vorhes said later. “It’s about the community. VeraSun’s not letting the community have anything other than 50 jobs and tax money 20 years down the road (referring to a state tax exemption for which the company is eligible). I just don’t feel for this time that it’s the right plant for the right place.” ...

In Waterloo yesterday, G.W. Jim Nussle, blah, blahed his way through the usual political lunch and missed an opportunity to throw down on the education funding debate. From the WCF Courier

With several educators and former educators in the crowd, it was no surprise that schooling was a major topic Monday.

Nussle said only 48 percent of government money spent on education makes it into classrooms.

"One thing that all of us know is that we have been throwing money at education for quite some time without much success because in part the money is not getting where it needs to go," Nussle said. ...

Just say it: WE SHOULD BE SPENDING AT LEAST 50% OF OUR K-12 APPROPRIATIONS ON CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION, NO EXCUSES. What is so hard about that statement? But, well, politics….

… "We have about the same population of school children in Iowa as the city of Philadelphia, and they have one superintendent. I'm not suggesting that we should go to one superintendent, but I am suggesting there are other models, other situations out there that we can learn from," Nussle said. …

Back in Des Moines, all sorts of nerves are fraying with a couple of potential issues tossed around for the upcoming Iowa legislative session.

People are still talking about National Vilsack's comments on increasing the number of days in an Iowa school year. We’ve said it before, on its face, it’s a good idea – it’s just the politics. From the QC Times

… The governor said earlier this month that he wants to lengthen the school year beyond the current requirement of 180 days, though he didn’t say how much.

Some young people made their views known a few days later, booing Vilsack during the Iowa State Fair parade. The idea is also unpopular with businesses that depend on tourism.

But the opposition hasn’t stopped lawmakers from taking a close look.

“Is it a concept that at least warrants exploration? Yes,” said Senate Republican Leader Stewart Iverson of Clarion, a former member of the Dows School Board. …

However

… there are more than just educational considerations, which is why Sen. John Putney, R-Gladbrook, vows to fight any proposal that would diminish summer vacation. He’s executive director of the Blue Ribbon Foundation, a non-profit group that supports the Iowa State Fair.

He unsuccessfully pushed for a bill this year that would have required schools to start after Aug. 22, which he argued would help the economy by extending summer jobs and encouraging tourism.

“I think it’s a shame when we’re trying to promote tourism and economic development in Iowa, then we turn around and take away the month of August,” Putney said. ...

And you have Rants practicing politics. From the AP via Gazetteonline

Key lawmakers are crafting legislation that would make the state Agriculture Secretary an appointed position, ending its status as an independent elected official, House Speaker Chris Rants said Tuesday.

Rants said the timing is right because the office is coming open next year as Agriculture Secretary Patty Judge runs for the Democratic nomination for governor. The Ag secretary has been elected position in Iowa since 1923.

"There's no incumbent, you're not taking it away from somebody," Rants told The Associated Press. "There are no current officeholders of other positions who are talking about running for it, so you're not jabbing anybody in that way."

The idea drew immediate opposition from Judge, and more importantly from Gov. Tom Vilsack. …
It’s smart strategy, you have current Ag Secretary Patty Judge running in the Democratic primary for Governor, so think up a cheap (meaning inexpensive) way to focus attention on her record prior to the primary. If the Iowa House pushes this idea, they’ll tie Judge up in Des Moines making her hang around the Statehouse to fend off a presumed attack on her office. And really, the boyz don’t want to let Patty get out of June alive – they know that’s trouble.

Nevertheless, the best part is the Vilsack speak.

… "I think there is and has been coordination," Vilsack said. "I'm kind of surprised the speaker has resurrected this old chestnut."…

“this old chestnut”. What? How old are you?

Answer: We live in Iowa, change is evil.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

King's road show round-up

Congressman Steve King (IA 5) -- the red side of Iowa -- put together a travelin' show on the social and political problems associated with illegal immigration. It was a big dog & pony event designed to rouse some grassroots support for immigration reform.

However, the immigration issue cuts deep into both parties' core constituencies. The Democrats consider illegal immigrants to be a potential voting bloc, once they figure out how to make 'em legal. And the GOP wingtips love the labor costs associated with skirting immigration law. It's tricky politics on both sides.

In the short term, it's interesting to follow the press coverage and the headlines say it all ... and then some.

Des Moines Register -- King: Fence off Mexican border

What the DMR desperately wants to say ... King: an idiot white guy that somehow got elected to Congress and we're going to make damn sure he doesn't oust our favorite idiot white guy, Tom Harkin, in the 2008 Senate race.

Council Bluffs The Daily Nonpariel -- Lawmakers shine light on immigration reform

What the Nonpareil guys are thinking ... Hey, these are big shots, I think, and if we play nice they might stamp our ticket out of CB.

The Quad City Times -- Iowa congressman encourages public to push presidential candidates on illegal immigration

The QC Times means to say ... We know you have no @#$% idea who Steve King is and we know you don't care, but it's the only damn story our DM bureau sent us today.

The Sioux City Journal -- King argues need to secure country's borders

And the folks in SC really want to say... Please, Congressman King & friends, come visit our newsroom so we can politely go over today's transcripts for further comment.

Monday, August 22, 2005

George Pataki is a nice guy - ouch

New Yorkers care about what we think, at least when it comes to their Governor/ PW George Pataki. Former state representative and gubernatorial candidate Steve Grubbs' Victory Enterprises put out a poll on the GOP class of Presidential Wannabes. From the Albany Times Union....

Nice guy running almost last


First published: Monday, August 22, 2005

When Gov. George Pataki heads to Iowa next month before his trip to China, he can take comfort knowing that while most Iowa residents wouldn't vote for him if their state's presidential caucuses were held now, they think he's a nice guy.

A poll by Victory Enterprises found only 2 percent of the 400 people questioned would vote for Pataki. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice got 30.3 percent, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had 16 percent, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was at 15.3 percent, and Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts drew 0.5 percent.

It’s an odd list of PWs, in part, because the survey went after the average caucus goers for his or her opinion. Dr. Rice? A smart woman, but she doesn’t have a PAC…yet.

At this point in the game, the GOP types with presidential aspirations are mostly interested in spreading some cash and visiting with the presumed opinion leaders in the state party. A more interesting survey is one that goes after the guarded opinions of the state and local pols, the GOP lobby types and big gun GOP fundraisers. You would probably have to run it as a focus group, and all those types in a room, without booze and protein, might make for a scary experience -- for the survey researchers -- but we’d get some good dirt. That’s work. So, to keep it simple, we just need to check out the money flow -- who’s giving and who’s receiving.

As for our own PW, checkout Namedpipe for some helpful background on Vilsack's PAC donors. There are a few names on the list with big-time connections to urban development. Should we look for those individuals to play a roll in how Governor Vilsack handles the legislative fallout from the Kelo decision?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

LUCE

LUCE -- enough to stomp out some of that cynicism...Nah…just a good band with a funky upbeat REM sort a' song in buy a Dog. All your life, all your life I got your back -- a perfect line, if such a thing exists. To listen to buy a Dog, click over to kfog and scroll down to the link.


Friday, August 19, 2005

Blouin Wind: or why this candidate -- who supports corporate welfare for companies that hire illegal immigrant labor -- will never be governor

The Mike Blouin out your @#$ fund -- or you can call it the Iowa Values Fund -- yesterday announced the next round of corporate support payments and one just seemed really nuts. From today’s DMR

• A $77 million expansion of Farmland Industries in Denison that will double the pork plant's production and add 218 jobs that pay an average hourly wage of $13.97 . The plant produces cooked hams, hot dogs and smoked sausages.

In late December of 2003 the Omaha World-Herald published a series of articles entitled Help Wanted: the unspoken demand for illegal immigrants. The articles addressed multiple issues related to illegal immigration in Nebraska and the surrounding region. The paper condensed the articles into a cheat sheet summary that includes some of the following points.

…  A burden, a benefit: Whether you win or lose from low-skill, immigrant laborers depends on your status within the U.S. economy. Employers and the affluent win. Poor, low-skill workers can lose. The rest are in a murky middle. We win as immigrants hold down consumer prices and help our economy grow. We lose as they and their families burden schools and public assistance programs. …

and

…  Worst job in America: Nightly while Nebraska sleeps, work crews sanitize meatpacking plants caked with the blood and guts of butchered cattle. Although meatpacking is widely known as the nation's most injury-prone industry, The World-Herald discovered that packinghouse cleaners are equally at risk. But minimal OSHA oversight let workplace hazards persist while fear of deportation muted the undocumented workers' complaints.

Uncle Sam's wink: For four years, the federal government has had evidence that up to 100 major U.S. employers were flouting wage-reporting laws in ways often linked to the widespread use of illegal immigrant labor. Yet nothing has been done to impose up to $65 million in potential fines against the employers. It's an example of how Uncle Sam winks at ordinary illegal immigrants once they cross the U.S. border and join the working class.

What the hell are we doing?

Let’s take money out of the pockets of hard working taxpayers, some of whom may indirectly already subsidize Farmland Foods’ labor pool through their employment in hospitals and social service non-profits, and give it to a company known to skirt the illegal immigration question & labor laws .

Do we have to state the obvious that doling out taxpayer money to companies that shift their costs to other taxpayers and other employers is just @#$% nuts?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Drugs & Jack in Orange City

From Radio Iowa....

An Orange City teacher and coach has pleaded guilty to stealing prescription drugs. Barry Miedema, who led the Unity Christian boys basketball team to the Class 2A state championship last season, was caught in a house in Sioux Center in March, looking for pain medications. This week, he pleaded guilty to one count of burglary -- a felony. He also pleaded guilty to fourth degree theft and unlawful possession of prescription drugs. Miedema will spend 30 days in jail and he will be placed on probation after he's released. Miedema has been suspended from his coaching and teaching duties at Unity Christian for the upcoming school year. Back in 2003, Miedema was also caught breaking into another home in Orange City


Just imagine … if we did have the perscription drug database up and running this guy probably would not have been coaching the Unity Christian team on to victory in last year's B-ball tournament. I can think of a few 2A schools that might have appreciated our "system" getting Barry a little help before he turned to criminal behavior to feed a drug habit.

But remember, State Senator Jack Hatch cares about Barry's right to privacy when it comes to seeking prescription painkillers from multiple doctors and pharmacies.


Here I come to save the day...




Been out & busy for a few days so missed commenting on Newt's trip’n through Iowa tour over the weekend. The fair, the pols, the fundraisers – did it all. And in checking out the Register, it seems from late last week to today they spent a lot of column inch talking about this guy. Hmm…got it, a quirky oddball talking his own language is interesting.

That brings to mind another great oddball – Andy Kaufman.

Could it be that we can find some cosmic connection between Andy and Newt? Think about it. Andy and Newt have a lot in common; they’re both nerds to the N to the third degree wack-jobs with a passionate attachment to an alternate reality and use Might Mouse as a literal/metaphorical symbol. Why else would Newt spend time spinning Iowans in a somewhat quixotic bid to be a PW unless it’s to save the day?

Keep workin’ it. Ideas do matter and as nutty as they may sound on a first, second or even 100th time out; they elevate the quality of political debate. So instead of worrying about the Tony Clifton like habits of our candidates we actually focus on ideas. Not to say having three wives and fending off rumors about a slew of other dalliances isn’t a problem -- it is -- but he’s probably here to talk ideas and not audition for the PW family man poster shot.




Thursday, August 11, 2005

Senator Jack Hatch, a friend to every scheduled drug seeker

Wednesday's QC Times story on the drug-tracking issue just begs comment, even a few days late...

This is the thing, the Pharmacy Board pulled down a chunky Federal grant to track some scheduled drugs that some people like to snort or shoot or some other method of ingestion. The fav, of course, is OxyContin, stuff's not cut with anything, so drug types get the one, two, twenty first prescription from any number of docs and then often alter the scripts to increase the number of pills. This doctor shopping is a complete headache to most folks in health care -- they want this to stop. And this database will make it much easier for pharmacists and doctors to check on the usual suspects - twenty/thirty somethings with chronic back pain and a list of the exact drugs, in order of preference, they need to 'feel better'.

Of course, the best defense would be if all docs were good, honest practitioners and could give a big @#$% you to these drug seeking creeps without thinking about the trial bar. Not happening. So the Pharmacy Board wants the legislators blessing to collect information in an effort to track down these losers.

And who is on the front line of defending the drug pushers' rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of their form of happiness?
Senator Jack Hatch. He's the guy that wants to take a law abiding citizens land for economic development through the Kelo decision but is frightened of "big brother" when it comes to tracking the criminal use of scheduled drugs, like the ones favored by guys like Limbaugh and other get happy types. (Geez, what's wrong with living in a chronic state of malaise?)
The board wants Iowa to join about 20 other states that are tracking controlled substances in an effort to crack down on the abuse of prescription drugs such as painkillers.

But some lawmakers compared the government-run system with "big brother," saying it could put patients' sensitive medical information in the wrong hands.

Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, said a record of the prescriptions Iowans take should not be in the hands of state government.

"Many citizens and legislators are rightfully concerned about protecting the confidentiality of their medical information and about the security of the proposed database itself," he said.

And these groups representing Iowa doctors - It's just two Polk County Medical Society and Iowa Osteopathic Medical Society (Des Moines University trained docs). The Iowa Medical Society, the Iowa Pharmacy Association, Iowa Hospital Association - none of these guys have a significant problem with this proposed database. And if you look close you can see that, perhaps, this issue is being pushed by a handful of local Des Moines docs with prominent roles on both the Polk County Medical Society and the DO Society. You just have to wonder what these docs are thinking.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Iowa life


Short takes...

From a Tuesday
story on the economic development efforts going on at the Iowa State Fair...


IDED spokeswoman Tina Hoffman said the $1.7 million Iowa Life Changing ad campaign has brought a positive reaction since it was
unveiled in July 2003.

"What it says is, 'We've got a life here.' There a lots of people who spend their lives in cars driving to and from work hours on end, and that's not what life is about in Iowa," Hoffman said.
Sure, that sells Iowa -- come on in, so few people live here that you can get to your job as a telemarketer in minutes and the lack of traffic really helps when you need to get to your other job to rip off that cheerleader fund.

I just never think of commute times as on the top of the list for quality of life.

On that rainforest in the middle of (fill in the blank) Iowa, the city of Corralville and the rainforest group are making progress on a
long term agreement...


Under the draft agreement, the project would have to maintain the facility as an indoor rain forest, aquarium and educational facility for 21 years,and must always maintain a museum quality tourist attraction in subsequent years, or ownership would revert to the city.
Let me see...if I live in Corallville I already "own" the roads, the schools, municipal buildings, the library, parks....do I really want to "own" a 100 million dollar boondoggle. Don't think so. You can just imagine property values deflating before your eyes as buyers start to cost in the future property taxes needed to sustain this adventure.

And yet another boondoggle -- with a seemingly unending need for state money -- for the unsuspecting property taxpayers to fund. I'm thinking this thing lands on the Jasper County taxpayers' doorsteps by 2009.

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A road that will take racing fans from Interstate 80 to the Iowa Speedway in Newton will be built with the help of a state grant.
The Iowa Transportation Commission has approved a grant of $6.8 million to help grade and pave about 20,000 feet of road. ...


Monday, August 08, 2005

Must. Love. Pork.


Jane Norman, did a little political dissection on the new highway bill sailing down to the President’s desk. It’s big, 286.4 billion out the treasury door to build, pave, employ, implode, bits and pieces of infrastructure all across America over the next five years. Of course, through the more creative budget processes, some states are gettin' a little more pavement.

Most of Norman’s column focuses on something called the “Earmarks” or, more correctly, the noncompetitive pork that will dole out to Congressional districts with powerful or clever Congressional members. The powerful Congressional types work the system for themselves and their friends.

And being a friend in Washington has everything to do with back scratching, ‘ego’stroking, log rolling, and vote delivery, whatever it takes to get important people to buy into the deal. It works out great (that is if you can mentally block out future pictures of your tax bill post boomer cohort retirement) that Iowans get to consume some of that fed-style pork. And we get to that pork-laden table through the simple fact that we have Senate and House members with seniority. Jane talks about what that seniority can produce:

Admittedly, Iowa came out smelling pretty. That usually happens because our guys are well versed in how to work the system. Thanks to Boswell, the state's two senators, Rep. Jim Nussle and other members of the delegation, Iowa wound up with 149 earmarks with a value of $415 million, according to calculations by the group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

That ranked Iowa No. 22 in the nation in terms of total dollar amounts of earmarks, and 16th in per capita earmarks.

And

Are highway earmarks bad? Everyone will find some merit in his or her own project. To be fair, members of the Iowa delegation likely would get ripped by constituents and local business groups if they didn't wade in and duke it out with other members of Congress for Iowa's share of the pork. Nussle would risk his bid for governor if he refused to seek money for the I-74 bridge.

Does it make it right and is it good government in the long run? You can ponder that one the next time you wait for the flagman to wave you on through.

I know fiscal conservative types really hate pork, but let’s revisit this visceral dislike. First we need to get over the ridiculous idea that if we pressure politicians to stop the pork, they’ll stop. Wrong. Nobody likes pork barrel politics, but everyone loves the idea of the Feds footing the bill for 30 miles of highway 20. Politicians know this fact, so what looks like pork in Boise is really an economic engine in Iowa. See.

Second, Iowan’s should pull down as much pork as is remotely possible. Don’t think so. You forget how much state money we put into educating kids who grow up, move away and contribute their incomes to some other state’s tax base. So essentially, through pork, we’re recouping our earlier investment spent on former Iowans. (The Tax Foundation has a good summary document on state's dollar return on federal taxes.)

Third, both sides have their share of to-the-trough interest groups. The democratic partisans can talk all they want about how certain members of Congress are moving too much pork…for Alaska. (Check out Chairman Don Young's opening comments on the highway bill and Senate membership on the highway bill Conference Committee and then think about it... if Nussle didn't extend a little love to those Alaska projects do you think we would have the money for the I-74 bridge project?) And we’ll just ask these guys the same question when it comes time for Senator Harkin to belly up to the health and human services budget table for his helping of pork. At least the highway bill Earmarks are for infrastructure as opposed to non-profit salaries and paper clips.

The idea of political pork speaks to the working title of this blog; things go around and come back around – just need to make sure you don’t miss the cycle.


And who decides...

The Iowa City Press Citizen is, once again, on that felon voting kick. The argument is the same, no twist or nuance to bring new perspective. The editorialists just repeat and repeat it's almost mantra like...

Monday, August 8, 2005

Gov. Vilsack in the right on voting

Muscatine County officials and others who are arguing against Gov. Tom Vilsack's recent executive order restoring voting rights to felons seem to be missing the point. …

… Those people are legally paid up once they finish their sentence. The governor has the high ground here.

Vilsack did the right thing. That's the point. …

… the legislature should focus on a constructive debate about the future in its next session.

Vilsack did the right thing. That's the point. …

… the voting rights issue has political overtones. It shouldn't.

Felons do their time and have their voting rights restored. It's that simple.…

… This is not a complicated issue.

Vilsack did the right thing. That's the point.

I get it; Vilsack did the right thing. Yet can’t help but notice the irony…

… But why do we have to investigate whether someone is reformed? And who decides who is reformed? …

That does seem to be the question – who decides. Is a blanket policy of restoring felon enfranchisement upon being “legally paid up” the morally correct thing to do? And what does it mean to be “legally paid up”?

It really isn’t that simple and Judge Madden is fully aware of that fact.



Lists for the tipped blog; upside & downside

Okay, way too much of a love fest going on over at State 29 and we're a little worried. Could it be that State 29 has tipped? You guys know this stuff; the funky economic theory on changes in equilibrium first put out by Schelling and later lite'nd by Malcolm Gladwell for The Tipping Point. It could be that enough people are reading State 29 to make State's point of view part of the information currency filtering through to Iowa's mainstream press. Very cool.

This requires a list or two...

Upside

1) Humor and Iowa politics start to converge; personality transplants become popular at the Statehouse.

2) We now troll for letters to the editor for a little inspired smirking.

3) Policy ideas and Iowa-centric current events get at least one more voice on the dog pile.

4) Breaking stories: the Iowa apple crisis, increased smokes sales at the Iowa/Minnesota line and anything remotely Iowa blog related.

5) The creative use of adult sanctioned foul language.

Downside

1) The PR flacks have figured out that Iowans produce blogs that end up in google lists.

2) Flacks don't take bloggers out on their big, fat expense accounts...yet.

3) Spinmeisters know how to use email, and are passionate about their opinion, hmm.

4) Dorky ass fights with the mainstream media - hello, you media types have circulation, pay checks and institutional support, get over it.

5) Cable companies that insist their lines are not suffering capacity problems.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Mandelbrot trivia

Interesting stuff that seems completely useless, until you see it…

Mandelbrot set.
The set of complex c-values for which the orbit of 0 does not escape under iteration of x2 + c. Equivalently, the Mandelbrot set is the set of c-values for which the filled Julia set of x2 + c is a connected set. more...

And people even sing (mp3) about it.

I wonder if every high school math & physics teacher in the state of Iowa nods with appreciation at the sight of Mandelbrot fractals?


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Come here fishy fishy

Tom Vilsack announced yesterday, as a retiring don't-need-nothin'-from-the-grassroots governor turned P.W., that the 180 day school year must be longer to accommodate an increase in classroom learning time. What a set up. It is classic Vilsack. Put out a really politically difficult issue to turn from idea into policy and back away from the heavy lifting with these sorts of comments…

(Cedar Rapids Gazette Online, Vilsack calls for longer school year, August 3, 2005)

...Vilsack said that the change couldn't be accomplished by the 2006 school year because of teacher contracts and other considerations, but he said change should be implemented as soon as possible...

(The Des Moines Register, Vilsack proposal puts summers in jeopardy, August 4, 2005)

…Improving high schools was a key topic during last month's gathering of the nation's governors in Des Moines. The National Governors Association has cited the need for the nation's schools to be more competitive globally, noting the United States ranks 17th among developed nations in the percentage of youth graduating from high school.

Vilsack did not specify Wednesday how much the school year should be lengthened, or how much it would cost. He said policymakers may discuss other options, such as a longer school day. Either way, it won't happen in the 2005-06 school year.

"I don't have all the answers," Vilsack said. "The point of this was to put it on the table, to say this is an issue that requires discussion and it's an issue whose time has come."…

Rich, in one paragraph hammer away at the realistic need for a longer school year while in the next paragraph punt it down the road with the lame excuse that contracts and other considerations will make it impossible to change for '06. Read -- a policy for the “National Vilsack” floated out with a wink so that the Iowa public school apologists don’t start to worry about it really happening.

And there are plenty of apologists who certainly plan to vote for candidates on the Iowa ballot.

(Des Moines Register, ibid)

…Despite the call for improving high schools, a report released Wednesday by a 15-member review team of educators concluded that Iowa should maintain local control for high school standards, curriculum and graduation requirements.

The report came after state education officials received input from 1,400 Iowa superintendents, high school principals and school board presidents from around the state this spring.

"While most educators generally do recognize the need to improve high schools, many communities, students or parents do not fully understand that need," Jeffrey said.

A complete set up – let’s boldly announce an aggressive education policy, bait a couple of Republicans for their response and then figure out how to educate the Iowa State Education Association & friends to use this bold -- but obviously unpopular at the grassroots -- policy to screw over any candidate courageous/stupid (sometimes one in the same) enough to take the Vilsack bait.

No need to say it but … we’re going to have to put up with another seventeen %^&# months of Vilsack pulling this crap. It is so old.

UPDATE -- Radio Iowa provides a link to Vilsack's speech to school administrators.



Talk of Iowa

The most interesting off hand comment of the morning was the exchange between Rob Davis and his guest, Kathleen Richardson, connecting blogging to conservative AM radio. Hmm. I wonder why that comment came to mind. And yet, I don't necessarily need to wonder why bloggers with libertarian or conservative ideas tend to write. You just need to have one issue focused letter submitted to the DMR three weeks prior to an election and then published the day after an election to understand why these blogs exist.

The text pasted in below is a compelation of research put together by the conservative Media Research Center:

Most Recent Data: Five Times More Journalists
Are Liberal Than Conservative

OVERVIEW

In May 2004, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press surveyed 547 journalists and media executives, including 247 at national-level media outlets. The poll was similar to one conducted by the same group (then known as the Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press) in 1995. The actual polling was done by the Princeton Survey Research Associates and the report was released May 23, 2004.

KEY FINDINGS


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Headbangers Rule

Late last week, our steam pressed Republican state auditor, David Vaudt dusted off his these-guys-spend-way-too-much speech from the year before, which he should laminate as it comes out of the drawer every year about this time.

In an interview with Radio Iowa he puts it right out…

…Republican Dave Vaudt says his review of the 2006 budget approved in May shows the legislature and governor once again spent more money than the state is expected to collect in taxes… forcing them to borrow 346 million dollars from special savings accounts. He says this is the sixth year in a row they've relied on shifting money from other funds, and the eighth year the legislature's spent more than the expected revenue source…

Ya know, in the real world when people consistently over spend they go bankrupt. But this is government, our government, and Vilsack, with the acquiescence of the legislature, has raided funds and overspent for his entire tenure. Every year, for the last eight, Vilsack puts out a budget with significant increases for his pet policy projects & the gimmes. The GOP legislature then counters with a much smaller budget knowing full well they’ll compromise on a budget that spends too much.

Vaudt’s been pointing these facts out since he was first elected in 2002 and seems to really enjoy banging his head against a wall. From the July 29th Radio Iowa interview…

…Vaudt's been saying the same thing, and noting the same spending pattern, for several years now. Is he discouraged? "No, I'm really not," he insists. "In fact, I'm encouraged." I've always known in government nothing happens fast. The key thing is to see progress." Vaudt says he does see some change and finds that encouraging. The auditor says the legislature and governor borrowed less money from special savings accounts than the year before. In 2005 lawmakers diverted 420-Million dollars from rainy day accounts.

I guess, if you count as progress reducing your fund raiding habits by 74 million even though you can chalk up the decline in fund raiding to a sizable increase in tax revenue, why not. The world really does love headbangers. Yes?


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Everything to anyone who votes


Jim Nussle interrupted his rock-star touring habit -- on the bus, off the bus, wave to the fans, run the play list, back on the bus, and down the road -- just long enough to chat up Des Moines journalists covering state political news. And it sounds like somebody in that camp is reading the coffee grounds from one of the 77 cups of coffee they have consumed on the road.

In a sit down with Dan Gearino, of Quad City Times/Lee Newspapers, Nussle roles out this stuff...

U.S. Rep. Jim Nussle, who is seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination, said Monday that Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack's economic development agenda is "all based on photo ops," with few benefits for everyday business owners.

Nussle said in an interview with the Quad-City Times Des Moines Bureau staff that the current system of giving cash incentives to selected business has more political benefits for the Vilsack administration than economic benefits for the state.

"It's all based on politics. It's all very arrogantly determined by just a few people in Des Moines picking winners and losers," he said.

Nussle said he would rather see the state reduce taxes for all businesses.

and

Nussle said one of the best ways to help all businesses in Iowa would be to lower property taxes. Decades-old limits on residential property taxes have put a disproportionate share of the burden on businesses, which business advocacy groups see as a drag on the economy.

Nussle's solution is to reduce overall state spending and then use the savings to lower property taxes. That ties into another of his proposals: a top-to-bottom review of state government, looking for areas that can be made more efficient.

The congressman said his approach puts the state government in position to lead by example, which he thinks will make cities, counties and schools decide to follow suit with their own internal reviews. That is different from Vilsack who has pushed for legal inducements and penalties to make local governments more efficient.

"Government reform to our current administration is: ‘We'll reform the government and you go first. You go first, counties, cities, school districts — you do the consolidation, you find the efficiencies, while we continue to be fat and sassy in Des Moines.' To me, that's not the way you lead," Nussle said.


Then with Radio Iowa folks Nussle is all over the felon enfranchisement issue...

Jim Nussle, a Republican candidate for governor, says he'd sign a bill into law requiring felons to repay their debts to society before they may regain the right to vote. Current Governor Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, signed an executive order July 4th that restores voting right to felons who've completed their sentences and their parole. But that order does not require the felons to have paid their court fines or restitution to victims. Nussle says Vilsack made the move to look good nationally, since Iowa is one of only five states that had denied voting rights to felons who've done their time. "What I hear from Iowans is that they are very frustrated with what seems to be an increasingly political motivation on the part of the governor," Nussle says. "It's all politics, all the time."

OMG, Policy from Jim Nussle.

Keep talking, you can do it. No need to check in with twenty different PACs on everything that comes out of your mouth.




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