Monday, October 31, 2005

Confessions of a Yepsen apologist

Why do the folks over at State 29 & (btw Drew?) keep taking shots at the old guy who is paid for spinning politics? Let's face it, wouldn't we all like to get paid to listen to cheap ‘Important Iowan’ gossip, eat fattening dinners at great restaurants and watch to see which one of these Important Iowans picks their teeth or nose or whatever? Maybe not, but that's the guys job.

In all fairness to David Yepsen, and his solid style, he has a tough gig as one of the deans of Iowa political reporting...well, sort of tough. Yepsen's job is all about shaping the rhetorical hash that Important Iowans keep pushing at him. That's it. He has to listen to hours of spin, sift through heavily padded press releases and figure out how to make some reasonable and marginally entertaining sense out of in-bred Iowa politics. Yuck.

And in the cloistered and over stimulated world of Iowa political blogs (let's face it, we're not normal people), Yepsen can sound stale. But that has everything to do with the fact that his columns are not produced for our consumption. He writes for the average politically inclined Iowan. Look around, now you get it.

So cut the guy a little slack.

Yeah, we might get a burn out faster with more nasty, but that's what political blogs are all about, I suppose. We don't have to deal with politicos and their egg shell egos (except on those days when we may take a stupid pill and think it's a good idea to get in the way); Yepsen does, and to keep the information humming he needs to be mindful of squashing any of those precious toes.

Blouin, "making life better for women and children..."

Mike Blouin attempts to finesse his pro-life stance in a pro-choice party, as reported in the October 28, 2005 DMR

"I start from the premise that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land," Blouin said mentioning the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned state laws against abortion. "I want to concentrate on making life better for women and children so that that the demand and need and cause of abortion gradually disappears."

He said he believes changes to the Supreme Court will not result in overturning the controversial decision and Blouin would not say what he would do if the state Legislature presented him with new restrictions.

"To enter into speculation ... accomplishes nothing," he said.

I’ll just complete that last thought on Mr. Blouin’s behalf …

for my gubernatorial campaign.
This is not an issue a politician can evade, you are either pro-life or pro-choice and you stick to your beliefs with a real commitment to act on policy that advances those beliefs.

The politics are clearly drawn.

The NARAL pro-choice statement (edited for length)…

To develop and sustain a constituency that uses the political process to guarantee every woman the right to make personal decisions regarding the full range of reproductive choices, including preventing unintended pregnancy, bearing healthy children, and choosing legal abortion. ...

The National Right to Life pro-life statement (edited for length) …

…The ultimate goal of the National Right to Life Committee is to restore legal protection to innocent human life. The primary interest of the National Right to Life Committee and its members has been the abortion controversy; however, it is also concerned with related matters of medical ethics which relate to the right to life issues of euthanasia and infanticide. The Committee does not have a position on issues such as contraception, sex education, capital punishment, and national defense. …
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops statement acknowledging the thirtieth anniversary of Roe V. Wade (edited for length)…

... Each year, for thirty years, pro-life Americans have shown that their commitment will not waver, their efforts will not cease. Our firm conviction as Catholics that "life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception" (Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, no. 51) has been a part of the Church's constant witness since the Apostolic age and has inspired millions to defend human life at every stage. Against the backdrop of a society in which many institutions of influence endorse legal abortion, the pro-life movement has grown year by year, in numbers and in vitality. …

… In the United States abortion is legal throughout pregnancy. Yet abortion is a violation of human rights incomparable in magnitude and an atrocity for the whole human family. While Roe v. Wade appeared to create a right with some limitations, Doe v. Bolton, which was decided the same day, erased those limitations by creating a "health" exception so broad that it effectively allows abortion for any reason at any time.2 The lack of any limits to legal abortion was never more clear than in the case of Stenberg v. Carhart in 2000, when the Supreme Court ruled that even the horrific partial-birth abortion procedure could not be restricted. Most Americans are surprised and shocked to learn about the lack of any meaningful legal limitations for abortion. Most know things have gone too far.3 Together with those from many other faith communities, we work to bring about a society that recognizes abortion for what it truly is. …

Roe v. Wade cannot stand as the law of this great nation, a nation founded on the self-evident truth that all people are created with an inalienable right to life. We are committed, no matter how long it may take, no matter the sacrifices required, to bringing about a reversal of this tragic Supreme Court decision. We will speak out on behalf of the sanctity of each and every human life wherever it is threatened, from conception to natural death, and we urge all people of good will to do likewise. For, as Pope John Paul II reminds us, "it is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop" (The Gospel of Life, no. 101). Roe v. Wade must be reversed.
It is difficult to see how Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Blouin is going to avoid a serious discussion on the politics of life. This is particularly true as he is a Deacon in the Catholic Church, which suggests that he values and respects the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Blouin makes breezy comments on wanting to make life better for women and children with the direct implication that a discussion of his pro-life values is not related to this particular goal. However, many see this flip dismissal on the issue of his pro-life stance as a comment as to how much he really values women and children.

The Democrats have an estimated 340,500 registered women voters that the party hopes to inspire to action in the 2006 election. Therefore, any candidate interested in this vote had better understand that if it matters to women, you had better want to talk about it. And so far, on his pro-life stance, Blouin is not interested in having that conversation.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

We are number eight

In early June, Vilsack and Blouin made a big deal out of the fact that Iowa grew faster than any other state in 2004. A number of Iowa economic experts questioned the 8.1% gross state product estimate, but the Vilsack & Blouin team stuck to the fed numbers and spun it into the Iowa Department of Economic Development success story.

That is until yesterday, when the feds released new numbers that indicated Iowa’s gross state product grew by 5.5%, making it the eighth fastest-growing state. As reported by the Quad City Times…

Revised figures: Iowa is not the fastest-growing economy in U.S.

By Dan Gearino

DES MOINES — Remember all that talk in June about how Iowa had the fastest growing economy in the nation last year? Well, there’s been a recount.

Revised figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce show the state actually had the eighth-fastest growing economy. An analyst from the department says most of the change is because the previous figures overestimated the growth of farm income.

Iowa’s gross state product grew 5.5 percent in 2004, according to the revised numbers, while the previous report showed 8.1 percent growth. Gross state product is the dollar value of the goods and services the state produces.

In June, Gov. Tom Vilsack took time out of a trip to Washington, D.C., to tout the strong economy in a conference call with reporters. He made several references to the top ranking in later speeches.

There was no such fanfare for the new report.

“The governor continues to work on continuing to create jobs across the state. It’s just a job you never stop doing,” said Vilsack spokesman Matt Paul. …

It seems that the new methodology the feds used overestimated the strength in Iowa’s farm economy and when they adjusted their calculations, it lowered Iowa’s estimated rate of growth for 2004. A gross state product rate of 5.5% puts Iowa in the top ten, still a great place to be and hopefully a pattern that will continue into future years. (I need a job, so we need to keep growing or the Talking Heads’ musical existentialism will be playing nonstop in my head.)

‘We are number eight’ just doesn’t have the same team spirit ring as ‘we are number one’, so it’s understandable the Vilsack & Blouin team are comfortable not bringing this particular data back into the spotlight; let it die quietly on a Friday with minimal press office comment.

At one point, the Grow Iowa Values Fund looked to be the winning argument for Republican Lite Mike Blouin to pick up the Democratic primary and go on to win the Governor’s race. Unfortunately, the political usefulness of the Grow Iowa Values Fund is not working in Blouin’s favor; what with Ed Fallon’s anti-Grow Iowa Values Fund gubernatorial campaign, the Iowa blogosphere’s all around dislike of the program, and, I’m guessing, polling data that suggests corporate welfare is not popular among primary voters. Given this information, it is hard to see how the Grow Iowa Values Fund will ever be a positive marquee campaign issue, but you never know.

Related: Tusk and Talon posted a good set of comments on corporate welfare and opportunity costs. Iowa Geek is making anti-corporate welfare a major theme in his state senate campaign.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Lamberti v. Boswell; it might be interesting

Midwest Mesopotamia (MM from now on, thank you) confirms, through the US House of Representatives Clerks website, Cityview CS's observation that Congressman Leonard Boswell is still not well. No official word from Boswell, just a bunch of missed votes.

We'll have indirect confirmation on Boswell's health with the next round of FEC reports. It's widely known that the Lamberti campaign is pulling in some big fundraising numbers, both in Iowa and out in DC. That should make the Democrats a little nervous about propping a weak candidate in next year’s election.

How will that play out? It's a big guess. I am sure the Democrats are working over time to get Boswell to retire back to the farm or Florida, whatever, but they're meeting some resistance. And, given the fact that Boswell was working the parade routes this summer, it’s doubtful he's even considering packing up and leaving his Longworth office…at least not yet.

The one glaring concern for Boswell is the lack of updates on his campaign website; they're still back in 04. While Lamberti is ramping up with a sharp looking congressional campaign website. Of course, Lamberti’s is the happy-friendly, ‘get to know me’ sort of informational website, but it looks good. Well, except for that first head shot, his head comes out of the frame and looks to be floating, and floating heads are generally not a good thing.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

I am woman & can occasionally squeak, that is, if the other women with delicate egos are okay with that…

In the way that only women can do it, the Iowa Women’s Foundation held their Annual Grant Awards Luncheon, or self-congratulatory pity party, in Iowa City. As reported by the Press Citizen, the keynote speaker, Marie Wilson, founder & president of The White House Project went on and on about the barriers women face in the world of politics. It’s painful reading…

More women need to be elected to public office and recognized as capable leaders if they want equal treatment in America, a women's rights leader said Wednesday.

…and inspires a big, yeah sure, whatever.

And on those 'what is she wearing', 'did she really say that', 'oh, that hair' exclamations too often voiced by other XX chromosome types not putting themselves out…

Part of the reason for the low activity of women in politics is that they have to battle stereotypes, she said. When a woman takes on a field of men in an election, her hair, outfits and shoes draw more scrutiny than her stance on issues, Wilson said.
The irony of the day, three letters to the Sioux City Journal editor with inspiring and well-constructed thoughts on the most recent Sioux City foreign policy intrigue…

I wish I could get my vacation paid for by the city taxpayers. If Mayor Karen Van De Steeg was on a business trip, she should have dressed as a businesswoman instead of blue jeans when presenting the key to Mayor Teruhito Nakamura of Yamanashi City, Japan.

That shows poor representation for the city. -- Sue Holmes

One of the first things I saw in The Journal's edition of Oct 22 is a photo of our mayor presenting a key of Sioux City to Mayor Nakamura of Yamanashi City, Japan.

To my dismay she is wearing jeans, which to me is totally inappropriate and unprofessional for such an occasion.

Whatever happened to business attire? -- Kathryn Harrison

Nice picture of Mayor Karen Van De Steeg in Saturday's Journal. Too bad she couldn't wear something nicer than blue jeans when presenting the key to the city. -- Sandra Nation

Nobody says it better than Gwen & the boys.

"Just A Girl"

Take this pink ribbon off my eyes
I'm exposed
And it's no big surprise
Don't you think I know
Exactly where I stand
This world is forcing me
To hold your hand
'Cause I'm just a girl, little 'ol me
Don't let me out of your sight
I'm just a girl, all pretty and petite
So don't let me have any rights

Oh...I've had it up to here!
The moment that I step outside
So many reasons
For me to run and hide
I can't do the little things I hold so dear
'Cause it's all those little things
That I fear

'Cause I'm just a girl I'd rather not be
'Cause they won't let me drive
Late at night I'm just a girl,
Guess I'm some kind of freak
'Cause they all sit and stare
With their eyes

I'm just a girl,
Take a good look at me
Just your typical prototype

Oh...I've had it up to here! I making myself clear?
I'm just a girl
I'm just a girl in the world...
That's all that you'll let me be!
I'm just a girl, living in captivity
Your rule of thumb
Makes me worry some

I'm just a girl, what's my destiny?
What I've succumbed to Is making me numb
I'm just a girl, my apologies
What I've become is so burdensome
I'm just a girl, lucky me
Twiddle-dum there's no comparison

Oh...I've had it up to!
Oh...I've had it up to!!
Oh...I've had it up to here!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Iowa Republicans, Governor Tom Vilsack & Big Oil

An oil refinery in Iowa? It sounds crazy until you think about how dependent our economy, particularly agriculture, is on fuel. The Dubuque Telegraph (registration required) in today’s paper unintentionally makes a convincing case for the curious oil refinery construction talk coming from the House Republicans.

Diesel costs hit economy
Trucking firms add surcharges, which are passed on to consumers

Every time his drivers fill up, Steve Hurst sees his profits fall.

As the price of diesel fuel soars, filling big rigs is like siphoning income straight out of the pockets of trucking companies like Hurst Logistics.

"It really hurts the bottom line; the profits are just getting lower and lower for us," said Hurst, president of the Dubuque-based freight hauler.

His company is paying as much as $5,000 more a month to keep its 12-rig fleet fueled, even as diesel prices eased to about $3.30 a gallon Tuesday.

The hurt gets worse at points west in Iowa, where prices are approaching $4 a gallon, and supplies at some terminals have all but dried up.

Unable to absorb the price spikes, truckers are forced to pass along surcharges to their customers. The national average for the surcharges were running at 32 percent as of Tuesday, Hurst said, and moving up.

"We've got to bill it back or we'd go out of business," he said.

Truckers pass the increased costs onto suppliers, and suppliers pass them on to stores, which ultimately is paid for by shoppers.

The skyrocketing diesel prices come at an especially difficult time for farmers. Gary Lahr, president of the Dubuque County Farm Bureau, said it's harvest time and farmers have no other choice but to pay the high fuel costs.

"You're kind of stuck with whatever the price is that day," he said. "What are you going to do? You've got to have the energy to get the crops out."

While other industries can hike their prices or add a surcharge for their services, Lahr said farmers don't have that opportunity.

"We get stuck with the same price for grain no matter what our fuel costs are," he said.

The effects of hurricanes Katrina and Rita continue to ripple through much of the economy, experts say, most pointedly in the Gulf's refining capacity. While gasoline prices have dropped precipitously from previously unheard of highs, thanks in large part to some of the lowest demand levels in years, diesel fuel costs have continued to rise at a clip that has energy experts baffled.

"I'm amazed," said A.L. Goldberg, supervisor of the energy section of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. "It is simply a case of supply and demand, and the diesel infrastructure has been affected more by the hurricanes."

Many of the major terminals in parts of Iowa are dealing with diesel fuel shortages, forcing petroleum marketers to drive longer distances to bring in the fuel.

Jeff Streinz, owner of Dubuque Discount Gas, said his station, like so many others, are on allocation, meaning he can only order so much diesel fuel per day.

"There has been enough supply. It's not like anyone is being turned away," Streinz said. "It's a little tougher on the supply source but it's not like we're not going to have it."

There is a little relief on the way.

The EPA on Tuesday issued a waiver clearing the sale of high sulfur dyed diesel for on-road use in Iowa and Nebraska. Retailers will be able to sell the diesel, typically permitted only for ag equipment and other off-road vehicles, through Nov. 13.

"The IRS and Iowa Department of Revenue have agreed to waiver the usual penalties for using dyed diesel on road ... as long as all federal and state taxes are collected and remitted," states a letter to retailers from the Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Stores of Iowa.

Goldberg said the high sulfur fuel should have no impact on Iowa's overall air quality in the short time its on-road use is permitted.

Streinz, who worked for years in the wholesale gas trade, said he believes more fuel in the market will "change the supply and demand structure," ultimately sending prices down.

"I see this bringing diesel under $3 a gallon in the next two weeks," he said.

But Goldberg argues prices won't ease much until Gulf refineries and pipelines are up and running at full speed.

It may actually make sense to provide state financial incentives, alternately known as corporate welfare, to entice Big Oil into Iowa. This is the underlying logic; if we can produce fuel, particularly diesel, it will lower shipping costs and, in turn, the price to our Iowa suppliers, thus lowering the price at the pump, which is particularly important to maintain taxable profit margins in the agricultural segment of our economy.

The cleverness is in the politics. Tom Vilsack, in his 'will live to regret' WSJ column, made these comments about oil & gas subsidies.

Cut Oil and Gas Subsidies. The energy bill provides an assortment of government subsidies (e.g., $750 million over a 5-year period -- with the option to double the amount -- for research into deep-water oil and gas drilling likely to be conducted by the Texas Energy Center in Tom DeLay's hometown of Sugar Land) to an oil industry that is currently banking record profits at a rate of $7 billion a month. More than $23 billion over five years could be saved by simply asking these industries to pay their own way. (Cuts That Heal by Tom Vilsack, WSJ, October 13, 2005)

So how will Governor Tom Vilsack respond to the GOP legislative proposal to subsidize, very possibly from the $144 million tobacco bond-refinancing windfall, an oil refinery that will ultimately enhance the profitability of Iowa’s major economic engine? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Mike Blouin Tour

Blouin’s the it candidate, at least for today. In a statewide tour to announce the obvious: I’m Mike Blouin, I’m Tom Vilsack’s anointed choice for the Democratic nomination, and yeah I’m Republican Lite, but if you love Iowa you’ll vote for me.

Charlotte Eby’s Blouin round up from the Quad City Times

Democrat Mike Blouin formally kicked off his campaign for governor today, saying he’d like to build on the successes of current Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat who will bow out when his second term ends in 2007. …

“If you like Iowa, I would hope you would vote for Mike Blouin,” he said. “And I have no problem with those who like Tom Vilsack voting for Mike Blouin.”

... “Iowans want a governor who understands their values and will protect and defend the state in critical areas like natural resources, social services and the lives of all of our children,” he said. …

“Our kids need the right to hit the starting gate at the same time. They need the right to an absolute high-quality education that gives them the chance at the Iowa dream,” Blouin said.

My pro-life (anti-choice) views hard to swallow?

Blouin, a pro-life Catholic, differs from a large share of his party on the issue of abortion rights. He urged voters to look at the whole picture when weighing his beliefs on the issue.

“My position is not intended to polarize. It’s intended to help us understand that life is a long time, and that we’ve got to care about people at all phases of life,” he said.

When asked whether he would sign into law new abortion restrictions, Blouin said he is “not inclined to promote changes that are just going to be court tests.”

I want to concentrate on doing the things that will make life better, that will reduce the need for abortion, that will create opportunities across this state for people of all backgrounds,” he said.

What? You don’t love our corporate welfare economics? But they’re for all of us, together, as a team.

“If Iowa is going to thrive in this new economy, we must have a governor who knows how to get things done by bringing people together, offering a vision, and diligently going about our work in a way that offers meaningful hope,” Blouin said.

He said he’ll look to build on the economic strengths of the state “while leaving no county or town or Iowan behind.”


However, if you listen to old Ed, you get a completely different story. As reported in the Sioux City Journal

Des Moines Democrat Fallon contended, "big money is the big problem." In his Scary Money Tour in 30 towns over six days preceding Halloween, Fallon said he will discuss the "pretty scary stuff going on in politics right now, relating to the influence of money in campaigns. Campaigns have become incredibly expensive and are more and more financed through corporations and their PACs (political action committees), their lobbyists and the CEOs."

Many of the campaign contributions go to key legislative leaders, who help target policies, Fallon said, and can provide "political payback" for the contributions. That goes for leaders of both Republican and Democratic parties, he said --"I'm an equal opportunity critic."

Fallon threw barbs at Wells Fargo, Wells Dairy, Select Farms and MidAmerican Energy for making relatively small campaign contributions in the tens of thousands of dollars that paid off handsomely -- the companies received millions of state dollars in economic development awards or favorable tax cuts. For example, Wells Dairy owners recently gave $13,000 to each of the parties, he said, indicating, "they know how to play the game, how to put money into campaigns."

According to Ed, the Vilsack/Blouin economic pork keeps walking out the door to the connected.

The last time I checked, a majority of the Iowa “team” hasn’t bothered to plunk down any cash for a statehouse lobbyist or make a big dollar political donation, but the “team” still pays those ever expanding sales, income and property taxes.

A letter

After watching one well preserved Republican and the obligatory Democratic trial lawyer go at it on Sunday’s Iowa Press, this is the sort of thing I might write to an Iowa strategy type...

October 25, 2005

Dear Important Iowan,

Interesting discussion, well not really, but anyway, it seems you guys are ramping up for 06. How is it shaping up? Do you have good candidates on the long lines? What’s the strategy?

For the D’s it’s easy; beat the hell out of the GW Bush White House, raise money on that theme and the lobby’s assumption it’s going left, and recruit middle of the road candidates that can win over Republican Lite votes in town & on the farm (as you may not get Republican Lite on the top of the ticket). In addition, find messages that move the voters that swing, not that type, they already vote for you guys, but the other type that swing – people who have to hold their nose to vote.

For the Republicans it’s not so easy. You guys will have to work against your own inclinations to go right, way too right, and a certain languidness that an ossified (it’s the perfect word) majority cultivates among its ranks. This is a particular problem in the Senate. The House churns too much to be excessively languid, although the House side may want to cull some of their more subtle habits.

It seems the Republican Senate is making a concerted effort to go after the hard right type of candidate. They certainly have a base, but if the messages don’t transcend the base it won't matter. The key for all of this heavy-handed Christian Coalition recruiting is to balance it with themes that bring in swing voters.

And, for either side to even begin to talk to swing voters, you guys need to make good on a few rules.

Rule #1: If you don’t have the money in the bank by October 1st, then you’re done.

How much money? That depends on the district, but I’m thinking if a Senate candidate doesn’t have at least 20 grand in the bank by the 1st of October, what’s the point?
Rule #2: You have to run hard against the bad guys. Of course, that necessitates making up some bad guys.

If you’re a Democrat, run against the usual money-ed up GOP slickster buying the race, and the ‘we’re big & we’re bad’ crowd comes to mind.

If you’re a Republican, a little tougher, you have to run against the urban goons who’ll run the show if the Democrats take the Senate. An urban goon? You know, guys like the ethically challenged Jack Hatch. Jack wants to preserve the state’s right to steal property from middle income families in the name of economic development while making sure Iowa can’t track scheduled drug seekers and their doctors (see this Cityview CS).

Rule #3: Have a handful of messages, three, that are clearly articulated throughout the campaign.

All a candidate in a rural district has to have is a pulse to run against Democrat Tom Vilsack’s Grow Iowa Values Fund, and any of the other Vilsack variations of urban pork (see Yepsen). Almost everyone, except the beneficiaries, hate the corporate welfare programs, and for good reason. The state gives a multibillion-dollar banking institution $10 million. And what do they do with a portion of that taxpayer coin? They turn right back around and give it to local governments & NGOs in the form of grants to help build a concert arena, sponsor hip little festivals in Des Moines and any other warm fuzzy where their logo can be prominently displayed.

October is the month for spooky things; nothing’s spookier than murdering, sex-offender Roger P. Bentley's mug shot, and a voice off camera screaming incumbent soft on crime rhetoric with the voting record “evidence” noted in small type near the candidate disclaimer.

We all love education (even if it turns out to be an almost waste of personal time). So, given this fact, it requires a couple innovative policy proposals, which will be expensive, but incumbents are always worth it.

I’m sure there are other issues that will manage to make the campaign radar. Health care costs, access and quality -- everyone wants the good stuff real cheap, and that’ll become evident when the senior lobby starts to rumble about the new prescription drug benefit and the co-pay. Energy costs -- go renewable; yeah rah, we love fall, vote for ethanol. Taxes -- everyone is just going to have to wait out the “we’re big & we’re bad” guys, then clean up the mess before November.

Not too many rules, and some version of these might provide a nice return on investment. Moreover, considering that the political tough talk is all over the map, rules are always helpful.

And so, as light blinded and twisted as these thoughts might be, just wanted to send along some ideas, ya know, for the pile.



Note: Today is the six-month anniversary of this project. I am thinking, like canned ravioli and drugs, this project has to have a shelf life.

Monday, October 24, 2005

In memory of Rosa Parks

This gentle giant, whose quietness belied her toughness, became the catalyst for a movement that broke the back of legalized segregation in the United States, gave rise to the astounding leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and inspired fighters for freedom and justice throughout the world. ( Detroit Free Press)

It is that simple. When something is wrong, all anyone has to do is respond to it with a quiet, albeit tenacious, commitment to that good voice. The effort might not be as mythic as Rosa Parks and her bus ride, but if you don’t take every opportunity to live your life with a touchstone to what is right, you can end up in a very unreal and horribly muddled world.

I may not agree with every person harboring an internet posting habit, but I do respect all attempts at finding and holding onto a clear voice.

Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others.
Rosa Parks

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Tusk & Talon on the Des Moines Register's King induced indigestion

The guys over at Tusk & Talon hit the right note with their analysis of Jane Norman’s DMR story on the fundraising huzzas and woes of Iowa's congressional candidates.

The best part, although only tangentially related to the Norman piece, is their last paragraph on the love ya/hate ya fest the DMR and Iowa's Red Corner Congressman, Steve King, have got going on.

I suspect this is a good reason for why the Register has such a weird love-hate relationship with Steve. They endorse him because it just doesn't make any difference in the actual election. ... Mindful of the fact that they are constantly badgered as the "red star" by those of us on the right, they try to build themselves a little cover to the charges of being a monolithic left-wing shill by actually endorsing Steve King.
I'm not so sure the DMR cares about what the folks that read the paper think. It's all about making the product smooth and consumable for a diverse audience (always strange when the word diverse is used in reference to conservatives). However, when a news operation consistently, year in and year out, reports & places news with an eye towards specific political outcomes and their own priggish sense of correctness, it's bound to trip them up on at least a few occasions.

Give it up, an extra huzza to Steve for providing some of our news reporters an opportunity to enjoy a little wood pulp indigestion.

On the Register's King problem -- DMR editorial writers live a wedgie

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Miers Circus

How could G.W. Bush get it so right with Chief Justice John Roberts and so absolutely wrong with Ms. Harriet Miers?

John Fund, in today's WSJ Opinion Journal, goes digging in Texas and finds a little tire flap mud on Harriet Miers's tenure as the head of the Texas Lottery. If, more like when, this story is told during Miers's confirmation hearings, there is going to be egg everywhere.

If Democrats seek to subpoena Mr. Littwin, they will put Republicans in a fix. GOP senators can use their committee majority to block any subpoena but would come under withering fire over accusations they were aiding a coverup of Ms. Miers's days at the Lottery Commission. If Republicans go along with a subpoena, the hearings become a circus.
A circus, indeed, but the Miers nomination has been a circus from the start.

On topic: Iowa New Hampshire, the White House Way

Boo Wilma

Wilma sucks. And she is the perfect little denouement to my inspiring fall -- multiple reject letters and now our trip to Cancun, which we've been planning for over a year, is washed out. If I had any heart, I’d be writing about the terrible suffering we’ll find on the Yucatan come Monday or Tuesday. I’ll wait.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

2000 feet is just a start

Sex offenders that want to live in any-town-Iowa are soon out of luck, as towns, cities and urban sprawl governments move to block sex offenders from their geography. By extending the 2000-foot law to all government owned spots where kids regularly congregate, Iowa cities & towns insure that the creeps with a thing for the “not barely legal” set will have to move out to the farm, or trailer on the back lot of the farm, if they want to stick around.

It’s politics with a twist. The legislature is going to stand on their 2000-foot law and the cities are moving to pile on to the limit with mixed motives. On the one hand, city leaders want to look tough on crime; on the other hand, they argue the law doesn’t work so if they pass their own version it’ll force the legislature to revisit the policy.

From the legislature’s perspective, however, the best resolution to the 2000-foot law is no resolution, as most pols see the political motives in the activists soft-selling it for campaign fodder. And the fodder is already accumulating.

Thursday’s DMR published this equivocating piece on Iowa’s sex offender laws. Opening and ending the story with quotes from an interview with Maureen Kanka, the mother of Megan of “Megan’s Law”.

… in an interview with The Des Moines Register that she's conflicted about laws such as Iowa's, which bars child molesters from living within 2,000 feet of schools or child-care centers.

"I don't think it's necessarily fair to push sex offenders out of one area where they're then forced to congregate together in another," said Kanka, whose daughter's killer lived with two other convicted sex offenders. "This kind of law is not going to stop someone from hurting a child if they want to hurt a child.

"At the same time, I do know that sex offenders should not be around children. At all. Ever. These laws don't say that. Please tell me when they do."…

… Maureen Kanka said she can only focus on awareness now. She hopes new laws like Iowa's help hold the public's attention. She said she'd consider that alone to be a win for Megan.

"We pass laws and develop and grow from tragedies," Kanka said. "It was the death of a child, my child . . . that started a lot of this around the country. These laws must be crafted carefully, with thought and purpose, or they will let other children down. And it's the children who are counting on us."

The Kanka quotes from the article are slightly out of context, the first three paragraphs appeared at the front of the story and the last two appeared at the end. Perhaps an attempt by the writers to frame their point of view through the eyes of a victim’s mother turned advocate; but the message is clear, at least from Kanka, we may not know what to do, but the careful attempt at something is better than nothing.

The real point of the DMR piece is to focus on the imperfections of the 2000-foot law,

that's the thing about making laws, lawmakers say. They hardly ever turn out perfect.

Laws tend to be more reactive than proactive. They benefit some while sometimes hurting others. And they can have unintended consequences that can be difficult to undo….

Iowa's law restricting where certain sex offenders can live has drawn the most attention lately. But it isn't the first time legislation — introduced with all the best intentions — has resulted in what one criminal justice expert describes as "laws that create more problems than safeguards."…

… When an issue comes up that draws such little debate, as did Iowa's 2,000-foot restriction for sex offenders whose victims were minors, politicians can sit comfortably in the public's "popular spotlight," said Donald Bersoff, a law professor at Villanova University and contributing editor of the journal Law and Human Behavior.

"When you have a tragic event, or a trend that causes widespread public panic or concern, there is a big rush to hurry in and solve the problem," said Bersoff, whose recent article, "Some Contrarian Concerns About Law, Psychology and Public Policy," explores the unintended consequences of lawmaking. "But what we're often left with are laws that create more problems than safeguards. And it's a very long process to undo really bad laws."

Hmm, the DMR thinks the law stipulating a 2000-foot safety zone around schools and daycares is a bad law. The DMR writers must not be too concerned about their children walking home from school, and past a house occupied by a perv wanking off at the sight of their child and all the other little robust beings marching on by.

Although the selective use of quotes makes it difficult to infer, it seems that Ms. Kanka supports Iowa’s 2000-foot law as one mechanism to raise awareness about child sexual abuse. So, stamp it “good law”, tweak it if necessary, and move on to do more. (See this section of the Iowa Code at the bottom of the post)

And we can and should do more; get rid of the pedophile chat rooms, direct resources to hunt down and prosecute the online & offline purveyors of the “not barely legal” sleaze; and increase criminal penalties for people engaging in or viewing sexual acts involving children.

If there is one thing where the hackneyed phrase “zero tolerance” should apply, it’s in the use of children for any sort of sexual gratification.


692A.2A Residency restrictions - child care facilities and schools.

1. For purposes of this section, "person" means a person who has committed a criminal offense against a minor, or an aggravated offense, sexually violent offense, or other relevant offense that involved a minor.
2. A person shall not reside within two thousand feet of the real property comprising a public or nonpublic elementary or secondary school or a child care facility.
3. A person who resides within two thousand feet of the real property comprising a public or nonpublic elementary or secondary school, or a child care facility, commits an aggravated misdemeanor.
4. A person residing within two thousand feet of the real property comprising a public or nonpublic elementary or secondary school or a child care facility does not commit a violation of this section if any of the following apply:
a. The person is required to serve a sentence at a jail, prison, juvenile facility, or other correctional institution or facility.
b. The person is subject to an order of commitment under chapter 229A .
c. The person has established a residence prior to July 1, 2002, or a school or child care facility is newly located on or after July 1, 2002.
d. The person is a minor or a ward under a guardianship.


UPDATE: Iowa Libertarian quips large on this topic, and in response I posted this comment. I think it explains my point of view quite nicely, thank you.


I disagree. I think this is something for "zero tolerance". If only to keep that drop your pants behavior in check.

However, I do agree a couple of tweaks are in order; perhaps allowing young sex offenders to function under the ward provision until they are 21, with a review of their potential to reoffend after they are no longer under parental /institutional supervision. Sort of a juvi sex offender clause.

I think, for most people, that's really the only objection to the current implementation of the 2000-foot restrictions.

I guess I have a different perspective having been exposed, literally, to sex offender(s) on my way to school as a kid. (No physical harm, just a little too much information about a neighbor.)

I'm just saying...

Iowa Voice comments on the new SP episode with a link to video clip. Kyle, Stan, Cartman, Kenny...what's not to love?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Wilma, the 21st named storm of the season, is moving along and will wash out the beaches in the Yucatan and Cuba tomorrow and Friday. Then make a slick right turn and plow head long into the Sanibel-Captiva, Fort Myers, Estero, Bonita, Naples, Marco Island stretch of money-ed up Florida shoreline.

Last year's Hurricane Charley cut Captiva in half and took out most of Sanibel-Captiva's trees over fifteen feet. As of last spring, the white FEMA trailers set up for the families from Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte, were still occupied, and on Pine Island blue tarps were everywhere six months post Charley.

Coastal Southwest Florida is not back from last year, and with Wilma cranking it, we're about to go into round two. A good place for updates - the Fort Myers News Press

The only good thing is that Southwest Florida is blessed with functioning government; from Governor Jeb Bush on down to the regional and local pols they have demonstrated competence in handling hurricanes. And why is it that Southwest Florida government(s) function? A significant percentage of the Southwest coast of Florida is inhabited by former Midwesterners -- (Psst, important people, that’s where they’re all hiding out.) -- and you know Midwesterners are all about their good government.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

"Elections shouldn't be about yesterday, they should be about tomorrow"

And about rainbows, butterflies, cute puppies, and little, drooly babies that are made extra safe from creepy, bathroom-lurking pedophiles through a death penalty to pervs law passed by hard working Iowa legislators (And we can follow the lead of New York & Nebraska, close down the chat rooms.)

O.Kay Henderson (what a great name) from Radio Iowa goes in search of candidate comments on the Grow Iowa Values Fund. She finds things…

The 2006 governor's race in Iowa may be shaping up as a referendum on the premiere piece of out-going Democrat Governor Tom Vilsack's economic development plan. …

Bob Vander Plaats says the Values Fund has "inserted" state government into the venture capital business. Vander Plaats says government should create a "level playing field" for all businesses …

Jim Nussle, suggests the Iowa Values Fund has merely been a publicity stunt for Governor Vilsack and his economic development director, Michael Blouin, …"I believe that our current economic plan is defined by whether or not a person, a political leader, gets credit," Nussle says. "If they can get credit by showing up at the groundbreaking or the ribbon-cutting or they can get their picture in the paper saying 'Look at all the jobs that I just created for you as a politician' that's called economic development." ….

Ed Fallon is the most vocal in opposing the program. He calls the high-dollar government grants for businesses "corporate welfare" that's "throwing money down a rat hole."

Patty Judge, another Democratic candidate for governor, says the Values Fund isn't popular in rural Iowa. … She says "trickle down" economics doesn't work and Iowans are telling her they'd like policymakers to take another look at the Values Fund.

Chet Culver, another Democratic gubernatorial candidate, does not mention the Values Fund during his campaign appearances.

[Mike] Blouin, Vilsack's ex-economic development director, defends the Values Fund, …

Henderson’s report goes on with Vilsack talking about how great the Iowa Values Fund is and how candidates had better be careful about beating up on his economic development baby.

... it's greatest cheerleader is Vilsack himself. Vilsack claims the Values Fund has helped create or retain 20-thousand jobs in Iowa. … and he suspects lawmakers might over-ride any governor who sought to end the Values Fund. Vilsack also suggests it's bad strategy for a candidate to bad mouth the program rather than tout their own ideas.
However, the line of the day, more than likely the week, from Governor Vilsack has to be this one.
"Elections shouldn't be about yesterday, they should be about tomorrow," Vilsack says.
So says the man that just sent out an opinion piece with this little nugget on the use of tax dollars for economic development.
End Corporate Welfare. Cutting corporate subsidies could provide another rich vein of savings. While $60 billion of such subsidies are in the budget, a few relatively easy targets stand out, such as the $2 billion provided to large corporate beneficiaries of the Department of Commerce's overseas trade promotion programs. They should pay for this service if they want it. (Cuts That Heal by Tom Vilsack, WSJ, October 13, 2005)
And how exactly does that $10 million Iowa Values Fund corporate subsidy to Wells Fargo apply to Iowa’s tomorrow?

Oh, I know, we need some major corporation to be able to put down big chunks of change to sponsor our Des Moines based cultural events, and what better way to channel some of that $10 million back to the taxpayers but with nice, happy, family-friendly venues and events that have a Wells Fargo corporate logo all over everything.

Iowa or South Carolina in the middle of January?

Got an e-mail from a South Carolina blogger, Schot Line, asking about Mark Warner's -- Governor of Virginia, longtime Virginia political operative and Presidential Wannabe -- prospects in Iowa. That is hard to say, although, after visiting Iowa in June he hasn't been back in a politicking way -- but he is visiting South Carolina.

We can note the lack of Warner to Iowa visits in a couple of ways. One, Warner knows Vilsack is running, so why bother with Iowa. Two, Warner has a good gut instinct that the Iowa caucus in '08, at least on the Democratic side, is going to be a sideshow, and the real campaign will start down in South Carolina where they have more than one ethnically diverse person per 100 white people. Take your pick.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Vilsack borrowing from the Lakoff playbook?

As noted in blogs and news stories over this past weekend, Governor Vilsack published his editorial, Cuts That Heal, in the October 13, 2005 edition of the WSJ. It is currently available on his Heartland PAC website. The editorial reads, in part:

… the president and his party have turned the largest budget surpluses in our history into the largest deficits. … Despite the "deficits don't matter" psychology of today's GOP, this debt undermines our fragile economic strength …

With the cost of the Iraq war exploding, along with the unanticipated costs of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it's critical that we change course before it's too late. Here are ways to do that through spending cuts …

· Declare war on pork. …

· End Corporate Welfare. …

· Cut Oil and Gas Subsidies. …

· Trim Government Waste. …

All these savings are on the spending side of the budget, and even if you quibble … there's fat aplenty to go before considering cuts in the social safety net, scientific research or infrastructure investments. …

On the revenue side of the budget, we continue to believe the Bush tax cuts targeted to the wealthiest are economically nonsensical and fiscally and morally ruinous. If it were up to us, we'd cancel all the cuts other than those benefiting low-to-moderate-income citizens, restoring the top tax rates to those of the Clinton era …

All progressives and true conservatives should be able to agree on such an agenda. … we need to pull together and begin meeting our collective obligations -- now.

How do you begin commenting on this political jujitsu?

In this redacted form, it’s easy to see code words that are intended to indicate political moderation and a conservative approach to budget matters. What’s nuts is that Vilsack and the Iowa Democrats consistently ignore this sort of rhetoric in governing Iowa.

For example:

On pork -- Vilsack and the Senate Democrats came out last session with budget spending targets roughly $143 million over the House budget proposal. Expect more of the same in 2006. (From Iowa General Assembly documents)

On corporate welfare -- $10 million to the multi-billion dollar Wells Fargo Corporation out of Vilsack’s Grow Iowa Values Fund, which he went to the mat to make the IVF a permanently funded program to the tune of $50 million a year for the next ten years. (From Iowa General Assembly documents)

On oil and gas subsidies – Ethanol! And we’re going to spend session 06 talking about how much money we can throw at it.

And, on government waste -- Vilsack gladly signed collective bargaining agreements that pushed state employee salaries ever higher, so that, on average, a state employee makes roughly 40% more than the average Iowan employed in the private sector. (From Limited Government published by Public Interest Institute)

Vilsack practices absolutely none of what he is preaching. It is such an absurdly hypocritical bunch of sentences strung together for the single purpose of advancing the George Lakoff theory on political framing through language. It is not worth any substantive comment, but what does come to mind is Vilsack & friends' clever use of a Sun Tzu principle.

Appear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend; march swiftly to places where you are not expected. (From an on-line translation of Sun Tzu’s Art of War)

At least we know that Vilsack knows good political strategy.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Yo Fishboy!

I mentioned Fishboy in a post about the Hemi, oh, about a month ago. I just want to use my own world space to, once again, encourage you & yours to listen to Fishboy. They have three full songs from the Little D album posted to the music section of their website @

It's not for people that need serious, somber & sophisticated music (I take full responsibility for the trite alliteration). But it is fun, in a sort of psyched out school kid They Might Be Giants sort of way. I am a particularly big fan of the tune "Cheer Up Great Pumpkin!" The refrain goes, I think,

Great pumpkin dry your eyes, I will make you apple pies. And when you're done, the world will still spin round, and though I've never met ya I could never let you down.
My oldest hates it, he's too rad (tweenier angst), but I pull the biggest smiles out of my two younger kids, i.e. anyone under ten & over thirty will smile along with the music.

Besides, it's that time of year for pumpkin songs.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Iowa & New Hampshire, the White House Way

There is a curious AP story on the White House efforts to direct Iowa and New Hampshire GOP activists to pressure Presidential Wannabes to vote the White House Way on the Miers’ nomination. From the AP wire via Waterloo Courier,

The White House is seeking the help of Republican activists in Iowa and New Hampshire to pressure GOP senators with presidential hopes to support Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers.

The effort, coming as the White House seeks to reassure conservatives skeptical about Miers' qualifications, is largely aimed at turning up the heat on Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, White House aides acknowledged on Thursday. …

…. The White House effort to try to pressure Brownback and others through prominent Republicans in New Hampshire was first reported on Thursday by the New Hampshire Union-Leader. White House aides confirmed the account and said a similar effort was being made in Iowa.

… while Brownback does not feel he knows enough about Miers yet to decide how he will vote, he does not have a problem with the request made of him in the letter and thinks every judicial nominee should get an up or down vote.

I suppose this is a stay-tuned sort of story with more memo, letters and background to come, but I can’t help wondering about a White House that actually believes Iowa’s elite political culture holds sway with the base.

This is one more example of how the early primaries have become extensions of inside the beltway politicking. Allowing the ossified political cultures in Iowa and New Hampshire to carry the water for the White House is a classic example of artificial presidential grassroots work.

In presidential grassroots politicking of the past, candidates would show up and Iowans would show up, it was organic, stuff happened. Now it seems orchestrated, the leaders of GOP leaning activist groups are often putting out D.C. approved policy statements, with the implicit message that if you don’t follow our line we don’t intend to deliver the votes. And those votes come from the loyal, single issue, follow the leader (screw it) -- sheep, which are the preferred marks for these activists to cultivate.

It’s hard to predict how this White House end run on the DC Conservatives is going to work. One scenario, a successful badgering of ultra conservative PWs achieves the desired result, a swiftly confirmed Miers. An alternate scenario, the DC Conservatives -- guys like Paul Weyrich, Grover Norquist, even Bill Kristol (although, as a nice Jewish guy from New York, it’s hard to see how much sway he could pull with a state that held a major event on Yom Kippur) -- shore up their Iowa connections by promising lots of political perks to the Iowa & New Hampshire activists holding the line on Miers.

This sort of politicking could actually end up creating one big mess, leading to a fractured Iowa GOP political base. And that cannot be a good thing going into a hard-hitting governor’s race.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Tilapia tonight?

The World Food Prize -- the best use of seats & microphones in Iowa's House of Representatives, ever.

The academic awarded this year's World Food Prize is the genius behind Southeast Asia aqua farming. You can thank Dr. Modadugu Vijay Gupta for giving unemployed women life saving business opportunities (Iowa, take a hint) and putting Tilapia on all of our plates.

If, in celebration, you rush to the Hy-Vee for your Tilapia fix, please, oh please, don't forget the curry before you bring it home to attempt something. In this instance, curry is more than a symbolic gesture.

Aside: I honestly thought -- for about five minutes -- about the realistic application of aqua farming in Iowa, and then, on the back of my palate, I had the strangest sensation of a nitrate induced algae bloom. Go figure?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Tax relief in '06

It looks like the guys from Muscatine are flexing a little muscle on the tax issue. An update from Iowans for Tax Relief as reported on Radio Iowa.

Muscatine-based "Iowans for Tax Relief" spent over two-and-a-half million dollars in its last budgeting year, about half of that coming from member contributions. …
… Iowans for Tax Relief has 15 full-time employees. …. the organization has "reserve" funds that generated enough income to cover half of the group's two-point-six million-dollar budget. The group's political action committee, Taxpayers United, raised just over three-hundred thousand dollars in 2003 and 2004 to make campaign contributions to legislative candidates. That was a record for the group, too. …
… As of this past Saturday, Iowans for Tax Relief had just over 51-thousand members, and … no other state or national taxpayer rights organization comes close to the size of Iowans for Tax Relief on a per capita basis. In the last three years, Iowans for Tax Relief has signed up over six-thousand new members.

Translation: we have money; we have staff; we have big chunks of PAC money to give you…or not; we have willing tools ready to write and call you on our issues; oh and, we’re the biggest deal around. Yeah, sure, hear this sort of talk a lot…‘round midnight from the guy on the last bar stool.

However, it does make for some interesting politics. If you couple the Iowans for Tax Relief comments with last week’s forum, where the GOP gubernatorial candidates put out their pro-taxpayer agenda…

Jim “blah, blah, blah” Nussle

I unveiled the first five points of my tax reform agenda, which include supporting the People’s Right to Vote Amendment, eliminating the state tax on social security and pensions, ending the property tax shift among classes of property, and establishing a Blue Ribbon Commission …I hope these BRC guys will buy us time so we can get these tax guys & the to-the-trough big business types on the same page…to help overhaul our tax system. (Almost all of it from Jim’s Journal, October 11, 2005)

Bob “flat tax it, baby” Vander Plaats

If we simplify this income tax system in much of the same way of a flat tax:…Yeah, this is great, people are watching, they’re gettin' it… if you make a hundred bucks, you pay five; if you make a thousand, you pay fifty; if you make a hundred thousand, you pay five thousand. But we’d get rid of many of the exemptions and deductions that have only complicated that income tax system. When you flatten it out, we will be able to generate more revenue. (Almost all of it from Iowa Press, transcript Show 3303)
…you get the idea that these events and comments are about framing out a central issue in the Republicans' 2006 game plan.

The Republicans intend to make taxes a user-friendly wedge issue for 06. And this “we're big & we're bad” political trash talking from the guys in Muscatine is all about bringing momentum to the tax issue, and, subsequently, gaming the Democrats into talking about taxes while helping the GOP with a platform to show off their stylin’ tax policies.

You never know. A good chunk of Iowans could wake up one day next year, think about all the good government that Vilsack has been force-feeding us for 7 years, 9 months, and have an epiphany...

"OMG, everyone I know that makes more money than I do, works for the government. If I stay in Iowa and they stay employed by the state of Iowa, I'll be paying taxes through the nose to support their jobs."
Hey, it could happen.

Back to the standard fare, I'll post ennui filled laments on another day.

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