Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Trial Lawyer Balloons

The trial lawyers know a last chance when they see one. With a trial lawyer turned lame-duck governor going into a final legislative session, the Iowa Bar Association is ramping up to push legislation that will increase the hourly “reimbursement” rate for indigent attorney services. They already get $50 an hour, but they need more to make sure they hold onto a profit margin. What other indigent social service program even has a profit margin in their reimbursement? From the DMR.

Lawyers defending poor want pay raise

The Iowa Bar Association wants a pay raise for lawyers who defend the poor.

The bar association is pushing for a $10 increase in the hourly base rate of $50 paid for all but the most serious crimes.

A bar association study found that Iowa lawyers spend an average of $45 an hour on overhead, including taxes, support staff and rent.

J.C. Salvo, association president, said the key is to ensure the accused receive the best representation.

Indigent defendants make up about 80 percent of those charged with crimes in Iowa. They are required to pay back the money spent for their defense, but in reality it’s Iowa taxpayers who pay the bill.

There’s a long list of “services” that go underfunded, and to think that legal representation for guys like Roger Bentley and Pierre Pierce should be a budget “priority” is @#$% nuts. If the Iowa Bar Association actually believes that indigent defense lawyers deserve a pay raise -- in light of the chronic low pay (reimbursement) rates for teachers, health care providers and social service workers -- they’re delusional.

Budgeteering is always about slicing up the money pie, and the governor & legislators do cut healthy slices for their friends, but this is one of those budget votes that will only happen if it’s buried in the details of some last minute deal. A legislator who knowingly votes in favor of a pay increase for lawyers representing our indigent celebrity scum is just asking for a tough October.

The political sideshow to look for is the Larson/Hogg skirmish on the issue.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The world according to King: good fences make good politics

Our nuttiest politician, at least on the right, is once again pushing for that fence on our Mexican border. Reported by Radio Iowa.

President Bush is pressing his plans to combat illegal immigration, but Congressman Steve King says those plans won't work without a fence along the country's southern border. …

… King says that can't be done without a fence. …

… King says he first raised the idea on August 22nd, and since then other members of Congress have drafted two separate bills to accomplish the same thing. …

And I suppose the fence of choice will be something like a taut-wire electrical system similar to the ones used at the Fort Madison and Oakdale prisons.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Job placement at $22,794.00 a pop

Mary Katherine Ham, writing in the Hugh Hewitt blog space, has given me ballast for today. She writes on a WPo story that uncovers the standard fare in liberal minded do-gooder activism that is actually a charade to hide the sponging of taxpayer OPM (other people’s money). I’d like to say it’s just a liberal problem; however, we have too many small-r republicans moving the same game. Does the Grassley supported Iowa Pork Forest come to mind?

The Washington Post has a good, investigative piece today on a contractor who fleeced the city of Washington, D.C. and its taxpayers out of millions of dollars for doing next to nothing. …

$3.1 million to place 136 youths in entry-level jobs. That's $22,794 to place each person. That's also just a few thousand less than an entry-level salary on the Hill. Using roughly a year's entry-level salary to place someone in an entry-level job doesn't seem like the wisest of investments to me.

But Victor Selman feels the city got its "money's worth." Yes, Mr. Selman, it's easy to say that when the money you're talking about isn't yours. …

… He was not beholden to any constituents, donors, or city officials-- he just buttered up the right folks, picked up a check, and got busy helping no one. And the District's government is so busy running a thousand similarly unhelpful programs that it can't even be bothered to do the one thing a government should do-- protect its citizens by being good stewards of their money.

As a conservative, I just believe there are better ways to help people than this. More and bigger government programs inevitably mean more money for leather chairs and custom artwork, not for the people who really need it. Sadly, those who profess to be most interested in helping people also seem to be the most willing to give government a free pass and a blank check when it shows no progress at all. ...

Nevertheless, her wry indignation at the fraud, waste and abject greed of these hucksters extolling the virtues of charity and goodwill is inspiring (particularly given my earlier post bleeding on about my bad hair day). It would be nice to believe that this sort of fraud only happens in dysfunctional DC, but that’s not the case. This sick greed disguised as charity happens right here in good old Iowa. And one place to start digging is into the public budgets of “nonprofits” working the Harkin and Grassley earmarks.

It should shame anyone to be involved in a charity/nonprofit that spends more than 60% of their budget on administrative costs. It seems odd that organizations of goodwill give “leaders” six figure salaries, spend thousands on donated advertising and sponsor high-end lobbying events, but charity to these folks is a business. Isn’t it?

Please, anyone, tell me I am wrong to be so profoundly offended by this sort of fraud, please, I dare you.


Trace Time

No politics or policy today, I'm just thinking out loud.

Maybe it's the grey days, or my seemingly futile attempt at finding a job, or it might be we're just back from visiting family in that mythic place of warmth and sun, whatever it is, I am struggling to avoid sinking into a deep bitterness.

I don't like bitter, it doesn't feel at all like me -- I'm just mean and have little tolerance for small problems or slightly nutty people. I mentioned that I started this blog as one "productive" attempt to get rid of my cynicism, but instead I just feel like I am losing more and more ground. To get rid of cynical/bitter the last time I had to change almost everything in my life, and I'm starting to think that's what will have to happen once again.

The hard thing is that the more resigned I become to making big changes, the more I find myself mourning loses that haven’t even occurred. I suppose that is how things change. You cry a little bit over what you’re losing, and then lift your head and heart and point yourself in a new direction.

Ironically, KUNI is just beginning a series on change. The first part, of the six part series, details a few of the stages one might experience with change and at the end of the report (needed to burn tape I guess) they play the David Bowie classic Changes. Anyway, I’ll keep listening and, hopefully, learning a few tricks.



Friday, November 25, 2005

Vilsack's small business insurance: You have cancer? The state will pay.

Our outgoing Governor is working the IPTV Iowa Press show this holiday weekend. The logic must be something like...young potential voters home for the holidays, captive and bored, hurling snide comments at the relative mentioning one too many facts about the Hawks/Clones, hmm, time for some new family topics for the weekend.

So, we get the guy whose almost out of Terrace Hill spewing policy with this week's emphasis on health care. Last legislative session, we "solved" the health care access crisis for the poor and underserved, and this year, according to Vilsack, we're going to "solve" the insurance crisis among small businesses and school districts. As reported by the AP from the Gazette Online.
Gov. Tom Vilsack said Tuesday he'll ask the Legislature to create a pool of up to $40 million to help small businesses and local schools pay the cost of health care for workers. ...
...Vilsack's plan would use money from a boost in the state's tax on cigarettes to create a reinsurance program to subsidize insurance coverage. The coverage could be used to cover catastrophic illnesses or could be targeted to diseases that are driving health costs. ...
... He would raise the tax on cigarettes by 80 cents per pack.
The new health fund would serve small businesses with 25 or fewer workers as well as schools. ...
... The governor, who spoke during a taping of Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" program airing next weekend, said his proposal is modeled after programs in Arizona and New York. ...
What's wrong with subsidizing small business and school district health insurance costs? Nothing, if you don't mind tax dollars subsidizing Iowa health insurance companies. Instead of allowing businesses and schools to pool together to gain leverage in contract negotiations with the insurance industry, Vilsack wants to give small businesses and school districts help by skimming the most expensive cases into a reinsurance pool, which, in effect, acts as a pass through subsidy to the industry. The Commonwealth Fund, a well respected health policy foundation, has a succinct definition of the concept of reinsurance, which is, presumably, the type of policy Governor Vilsack is interested in pursuing.

...[R]einsurance is an indirect way to reduce the price of premiums, thereby providing a more affordable option for uninsured workers. Reinsurance means that the state covers a portion of private insurers' claims; this "stop-loss" mechanism may cover catastrophic claims above a certain dollar amount, or it may cover claims within a designated corridor.
And this craziness isn't without cause, the health insurance industry has always made defeating small business and association purchasing pools one of their top priorities in the legislature. And the language they use to describe their objection to purchasing pools currently reads:

Support efforts to preserve state-based regulation of the health insurance market. Resist efforts to exempt AHPs (Association Health Plans) from state regulation or similar initiatives that seek to avoid broad risk sharing and impede state regulatory oversight of private health insurance.
It's hard to sort the bureaucratic language of the Wellmark policy statement (link is down), so, for additional edification, check out this
August 2004 Des Moines Business Record article on the business issues surrounding the push for large scale health insurance purchasing pools.

It isn't just the business crowd supporting these initiatives. The SEIU's Iowa for Health Care also supports the use of purchasing pools to bring down the cost of health care to small businesses.

Insurance premiums are frequently the highest for small business and the self-employed. State governments can utilize existing large purchasing pools to secure coverage for these employers and their employees.
Moreover, bipartisan coalitions have sponsored legislation to develop health insurance purchasing pools, but purchasing pool legislation seems to go nowhere.

Part of the problem, our Governor is not particularly interested in signing anything that might remotely offend his good friend John Forsyth; a deep pocket Democratic contributor, the current CEO of Wellmark and former President of the Iowa Board of Regents. (Just imagine, John Forsyth chatting up Vilsack about his concerns over the Uof I Hospital and Clinics recent Wellmark contract negotiations, while slipping in the soft sell on reinsurance as just another U of I Hospital and Clinics' subsidy that will help keep Wellmark's costs down and, in turn, all Iowa premiums. Meanwhile, all the Blues seem to be on a march out of the non-profit woods.)

It's good Vilsack wants to tackle the problem of escalating health insurance for small businesses and school districts, but Vilsack's proposal on this week's Iowa Press ought to be DOA, unless there's room to look at the bipartisan effort on health insurance purchasing pools.

ASIDE --

What is with Tom Vilsack and the Senior Living Trust Fund? First he raids the Fund and then he wants to repay the Fund.

"Repaying the Senior Living Trust and making sure that's viable ought to be a priority of all the legislators," the governor said.

Back in August, when it was clear the state had a surplus in the Medicaid Program, a program that routinely raids the Senior Living Trust Fund, Vilsack sent that cash to his lawyer pals defending indigent clients, think Roger Bentley and Pierre Pierce, instead of back to the Senior Living Trust Fund.

I'll say it again, Whatever.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I'm in; Tuesday Test Day

You can thank Random for Iowa bloggers' Tuesday Test day. It certainly helps when you're busy with things unrelated to blogging, but oddly related to pies.
You Are Pumpkin Pie

You're the perfect combo of uniqueness and quality
Those who like you are looking for something (someone!) special
What Kind of Pie Are You?

And I have a song for all of you pumpkin fans.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Boswell's on the R & R schedule

I don't get it. Boswell comes back to Iowa, does a couple parades, makes an "I'm all in" speech at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner and then he goes back to Washington to rest & recuperate. Seems he's not in the office and that means he's not voting. Jane Norman reports on the MIA Boswell in her Sunday Potomac Fever column.

When the House voted early Friday on a bill that would trim social spending by $50 billion, Democratic opponents fell two votes short of a tie vote that would have killed final passage.

Two members of the House didn't vote. One of them was Rep. Edolphus Towns, a New York Democrat.

The second was Rep. Leonard Boswell, the Des Moines Democrat who has been sidelined for two months after surgery for a noncancerous tumor in his abdomen.

... But there's no mistaking that Boswell, assuming he would have sided with most members of his party, is missed on close votes.He reportedly said earlier this month that he is feeling better and recovering nicely, so perhaps Democrats will have him back before too long.

In the meantime, Boswell's absence was helpful to House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle as he surged over the finish line with enough votes to come home for a happy Thanksgiving.

A month ago Midwest did a little digging and discovered that Boswell hasn't been back in action since the surgery. To quiet talk of being too ill to fill the seat, Boswell came home to show some public muscle. Everyone assumes, from the JJ dinner appearance, that Boswell's back in the game and ready to go back to work. Apparently, that's not the case.

Looking over the House Clerk roll call votes, post the November 5th JJ dinner, he's missed all 38 votes, including 3 appropriations bills and the Deficit Reduction Act roll call. I'm all for the Family and Medical Leave Act, but how long before medical leave starts to look like health related retirement?

I think this calls for a weekly Boswell watch post; we'll check out the roll call votes and other information to see if we can figure out where in the world is Rep Leonard Boswell (my apology to Carmen San Diego). Congress is off for two weeks for their Thanksgiving break, so I'll start checking things out after they're all supposed to be back at work.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Remote blogging; or how to make your C-Span fix seem less like an addiction.

Now this is good. Brian over at Iowa Voice is blogging the Murtha saga as it unfolds on C-Span.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Cash to the U-towns and a bad trip

An AP story in the Cedar Rapids Gazette Online reported that Vilsack wants to corral $50 million of the tobacco-refinancing windfall to shovel at the U’s to increase their “research” budgets. What does the Gov think they do with all the other money the state sends ‘em? Serve their communities? Teach undergraduate students?

The fuzzy idea behind this chunk ‘o’ money to university research is to start brand new programs that will…

"… essentially create teams of people who would go out to existing businesses, sit down with them and say here are some new technologies that might make you more efficient and effective," Vilsack said.
And
"My goal and my hope is that every worker in Iowa becomes more innovative and creative," Vilsack said.
Hmm, what will really encourage innovation and creativity – shrink the scope and size of government, and stop believing that any sort of top down approach always works. Geez, can’t Vilsack get at least one staffer to read a little Wildavsky or Sabatier!

Please, no more of the Vilsack hyperactive policy making, will someone just slip the guy a little Ritalin, PRN, for the next seven or eight months.

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

This is a "bonus" post, because I really need to vent about a stupid meeting. I’ve been roped into rebuilding an organization that, frankly, should not have to be rebuilt. Unfortunately, due to long standing dysfunction it seems to need rebuilding every two years.

The person that has decided to be in charge -- though she can’t hear and is at her most efficient when spooning out gossip or directions on her cell phone (I know, doesn’t make sense, does it?) -- calls a meeting at her house to go over plans that are really not plans, because she can’t organize her way out of a paper bag. Meanwhile, I haven’t lived in this place long enough to be considered functionally human, so I am relegated to silently listening to this person, and figuring out innocuous ways I can get things done in this muddling culture of inefficiency. It’s finally clear to me that this was a huge waste of time; we’ll crank out two dysfunctional meetings before I gently suggest that she take the north side and I’ll take the south side. What a mess.

But the real problem is that the entire time I was sitting through the “we can’t do that”, “I know so and so” and “have a cookie bar”, all I could think about is the worst sort of existential pronouncement – my life makes no sense. I’m in a foreign place that never seems to be any less foreign, and all I can think about is a year ago we gave up the chance to move somewhere warm, where I have family and people come from all over the world to live. In this mythic place, because I know it’s not perfect, if I want a beach, dim sum, tapas, a grouper sandwich, a hippy art fix or a day at Saks, I know exactly where to go, and all within a 45-minute drive.

The only thing that saved the evening was flipping the dial into Blind Melon on my way home.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Gavin Newsom shilling for the Iowa liberals

Gavin Newsom (swoon…not, the guy makes me think 'Jack Ryan') dropped into Iowa over the weekend and Monday in an effort to push the Iowa Senate left and talk politics. Everyone is talking about the visit, from all the op-ed writers to the blogging types. It’s that standard rule in Iowa, if you are new to the state and even slightly interesting, we’ll talk about you non-stop for days, see Mainstream and State29. We all need a life.

The best part is Newsom’s attempt at selling old style liberalism to Iowa Democrats. From an AP story.

… Stepping up their effort to regain control at the Statehouse, legislative Democrats were warned Sunday not to abandon the party's traditional base issues because "it's not enough to be just an opposition party."

"If you can't stand on your convictions, you've got a weak foundation," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. "I would argue we've got to get our foundation in order before we embark on a journey to recapture the imagination of a majority of people."

Newsom said Democrats too often shade their views and dive to the political middle, and that has cost the party badly.

As mayor, Newsom has attacked his city's homeless problem, but is best known for his since-thwarted effort to have the city certify civil unions between same-sex couples. His message at a fundraiser for Democrats working to recapture the Senate was that issues like civil unions are precisely the sort of thing Democrats should face head-on.

Is Gavin suggesting that the Democrats in the Iowa State Senate push for gay marriage rights? Does Gavin know he’s in Iowa? Oh yeah, that sort of Democratic agenda will sell in Bloomfield, Emmetsburg, Dubuque, fill in the blank, Iowa.

Outside of cash, there is no good reason to bring a lightening rod of a politician into Iowa. Unless you ascribe to the Jack Hatch rules of political engagement, go left as far as you can.

"I want a liberal message that we don't have to be afraid of our core issues," said Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, ... (link)
And that’s a problem, outside of the land stealing & the illegal use of opids supporting fan Jack Hatch, we didn’t see too many high profile elected Iowa Democrats cozying up to Newsom, you have to go to the Democratic websites selling to the base for that bit o’ love. Perhaps, they see this in your face sort of liberalism as not a particularly constructive method to build a winning coalition next November. It's the old put your nuts in the closet, in some cases literally, ‘til we win strategy.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Technology or the Tower

I actually feel sorry for the chain of command at Fort Madison prison. The national news, by way of CNN’s Anderson Cooper, picked up the story of our recently escaped murderers. Oops. (Link to transcripts)

COOPER: Well, joining me now by the telephone is Eugene Meyer, the director of Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, which is helping the Fort Madison Police Department track down these killers.

At this point, what do you know about how they escaped?

EUGENE MEYER, DIRECTOR OF IOWA DIVISION OF CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION: Well, we know that they scaled a wall and jumped through a roof and then to the ground, and at some point, found a bicycle, at least one of them found a bicycle and then came upon the running '95 Pontiac Bonneville that you just referenced in your report, and abandoned the bicycle and took the car.

COOPER: Now, one of the state senators has said that the stone wall was unguarded because of state budget cuts. Is that true, to your knowledge?

MEYER: Well, the focus of my job here is to locate and apprehend these two fugitives. I understand there's an independent review going on by the Department of Corrections that relates to the actual escape attempt.
The worst part of the report, Cooper focused on Senator Fraise’s comments attributing the escape to an underfunded corrections budget. As reported by Radio Iowa.

A state senator from Fort Madison said on today (Tuesday) that the two convicted murderers who escaped Monday evening from the state's maximum security prison used a rope to go over a wall and went undetected because a guard tower was unmanned due to budget cuts.
The GOP guys, via Rep Lance Horbach, were quick to correct this miss information. From the Speaker's website:

…"The assertion that staffing levels were inadequate is false and misleading. In reality, we should explore why the taut wire system failed to alert guards and security staff that these two convicts were attempting to escape.

"The Department of Corrections (DOC), under the direction of previous head Kip Kautzky, stated that this new technology would enable us to divert resources from the tower to Correction Officers on the ground.

"As such, Gov. Tom Vilsack (D), in his own budget submitted to the Legislature, made the recommendation in his budget, meaning the DOC would not need as many correctional officers in the towers.

"The fact is, the prisons received more than the governor - and the prisons themselves - even requested. …

… Funding levels from the past two fiscal years are as follows:

FY06 Budget, Department of Corrections - Institutions.

Appropriates $211,307,384 to the State's nine institutions. This represents an increase of approximately $5.6 million from FY05.

FY05 Budget - Section 160

Appropriates $204,819,509 to the Department of Corrections Institutions. This is a $4.7 million increase compared to FY04. This represents increased funding from FY04, and is the Governor's recommended level. These funding levels are more than the department requests.

Unfortunately, this important correction didn’t make it to Anderson Cooper’s desk. I guess the GOP guys will have to call Fox, that unfair & unbalanced news source.


Why are glass vials in convenience stores?

Iowa’s tough on meth stance is moving the meth problem in the right direction. With one law, one single law, the Legislature and the Governor changed the law enforcement dynamic in the fight against meth. As reported by the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

Iowa's tough law restricting access to a common cold medicine used in making methamphetamine reduced the number of clandestine labs seized in October to a monthly low of 10, the state's drug czar said Tuesday.

Marvin Van Haaften, Iowa's drug policy coordinator, said the law restricting pseudoephedrine sales caused much of the illegal drug-making to shift eastward but he is hopeful that trend will end in January when a statute modeled on Iowa's law takes effect in Illinois.

The only problem, meth is still available in the form of ice, a professionally manufactured version that comes across our borders by way of Mexican organized crime syndicates.

While the number of labs uncovered in Iowa -- 52 this fiscal year -- is down dramatically, the number of meth users seeking treatment is not, Van Haaften told an Iowa State Association of Counties meeting.

The good news is that the drop in lab seizures, which totaled 1,472 in Iowa in 2004, means law enforcement officers can shift their focus from labor-intensive lab cleanups to stopping the flow of drugs from Mexico and southwest U.S. states into Iowa, he said.

If getting the cold meds behind the counters worked, why not look at stopping some of the convenience store trinkets that are packaged in head shop friendly materials. Haven’t you ever wondered why convenience stores sell flowers in little glass vases and incense in glass tubes?

This year in the Iowa General Assembly, take a look at the stores and suppliers selling the meth/crack cocaine paraphernalia disguised as harmless gifts. I know the convenience store types will put up a fight, telling anyone who’ll listen that it’s inconveniencing the customer who needs that vial of incense or the sweet smelling flower. But really, if grandma’s that desperate for a flower and some patchouli, she can road trip to the big city.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Just because

These online tests qualify as entertainment to woefully under engaged blogging types. But, hey, this is MY blog so I can post up dorky test results if I want to, thank you very much.

You are a

Social Moderate
(43% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(70% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Capitalist










Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

Just part of the 8%

“The political opinion world is white male.”
Kathleen Hall Jameson from the Brian Montopoli CJR Daily Report.

My November 5th post on the lack of diversity at the Democrats Jefferson-Jackson dinner blogger table inspired some research on gender, politics and blogging. And I hate to inform you, but it's as bad as graduate school; the discussion of gender and blogging, particularly the act of political blogging, produces reams of posts, comments and even a Ph.D. Dissertation. What would doctoral candidates do without gender issues?

My post on the Democratic bloggers at the JJ dinner was a gut-check comment directed at Drew Miller's casual observation about all of the white male bloggers workin' the dinner. I thought it ironic, as I assume Drew did as well, that there were four white guys representing Iowa's party of diversity to the blogoshphere. The principles in the post, Drew Miller and Chris from political forecast, spent a day or two commenting, with, perhaps, a hint of apologist sentiments.

My thinking -- no need to apologize or even rationalize all the white guys, as it seems there are only a handful of women bloggers talking politics.

From the March 2004 Columbia Journalism Review Daily(CJR daily link is down), Brian Montopoli summarizes recent data on gender and the blogosphere.

... Click around the blogosphere and you'll see a lot of ideological diversity. Bloggers are posting from left, right and center, from perspectives that range from Libertarian to Marxist. And on the surface, that diversity extends to other arenas: Men and women, recent studies show, blog in roughly equal numbers. A notable exception: Women are responsible for as little as four percent of political blogs -- "sites devoted to politics, current events, foreign policy, and various ongoing wars" -- according to the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE). ...

... Of course, you probably didn't need Campaign Desk to tell you that. From Instapundit to Daily Kos to Atrios to Andrew Sullivan to Calpundit, men run the poli-blogs with the most buzz -- and the most traffic. There is only one female-run blog, the venerable Wonkette!, listed among the top twenty at The Truth Laid Bear, which ranks a number of blogs by their daily traffic.

By contrast, according to the NITLE study, twice as many women as men write personal diary-style blogs. If the numbers are to be believed, then, outspoken male bloggers all live on Mars, while the more introspective women are blogging away from Venus. ...

A year and a half later, not much has changed. Using the Truth Laid Bear ecosystem rankings from Sunday, of the top fifty blogs only four are published by women; Michelle Malkin, The Huffington Post, La Shawn Barber’s Corner, and Wonkette. From this small sample, I am excited to report that we have doubled our participation and now produce an estimated 8% of the poli-blogs. And, in this case, three of the top poli-blogs are written with a conservative or libertarian bent.

Montopoli looks a little deeper into the gender divide in poli-blogging and finds a diversity of opinions as to root causes: women tend to write blogs with variable content making it difficult to find an audience (Bob you’re right on this one); women may not be as obsessive about their blogging habit; and blogs are an outgrowth of the male dominated tech sector. All are reasonable assumptions, and probably explain some of the gender disparity in poli-blogging, but the interesting issue is whether this disparity will continue or if women poli-bloggers are just a little late to the show. I believe it’s a bit of both; we’ll continue to see an increase in women publishing poli-blogs, and yet the rate of growth will probably not create gender based poli-blog parity anytime soon.

Poli-blogs are here to stay. A Harris Interactive survey indicated that poli-blog readership exploded in 2004, and the election played a huge role; 44% of online US adults have read a poli-blog and over a quarter of these readers have surfed into poli-blogs at least once a month. And, according to a 2004 study on blogging by the Pew Interactive and American Life Project, that trend should continue. The Pew project surveyed Americans, in February and again in November, and found that the use of blogs increased by 58% in just nine months.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the use of poli-blogs to filter, tweak and shred the news will continue to grow, and with growth comes diversity. Blogging is a dynamic cultural invention, and as the technology improves and women find other women bloggers, more will jump into the game.

For the most part, we like our white males, but we really like ‘em when they figure out they need to make room at the table for the gals with laptops and serious habits.


Friday, November 11, 2005

In Honor



It is the VETERAN, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the VETERAN, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the VETERAN, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the VETERAN, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is the VETERAN, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the VETERAN, not the politician, Who has given us the right to vote.

(from a pass it forward email)


Thursday, November 10, 2005

A special note from Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver: Nigerians And You; how to make the most out of our new foreign exchange program

Admittedly, I am not a Chet Culver fan. It’s not that I attended some political chicken lunch and was snubed in a round of table glad-handing, no, it’s the daddy thing.

I’ve always disliked legacy politics. It’s tolerable if the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, but when the apple probably fell some distance and rolled before stopping, it makes it difficult not to wince at a legacy.

Chet’s not a bad guy, a solid education from Virginia Tech (Okay, your dad’s a US Senator you practically have a get in free card to most Ivy League schools, except if…) and a prior career in education and youth services. But is “Solid Guy”+ “Senator Dad”+ “State Office Holder with Mixed Results” = enough to be Iowa’s next governor?

And the ‘mixed results’ might trend a little lower with this scoop. Charlotte Eby writes in the Quad City Times about letters the Iowa Citizens’ Aide Ombudsman sent to Chet Culver back in March and April with concerns about private information on a Secretary of State web page. This SOS web page may include full names, birthdates and social security numbers. You know, the critical pieces of information needed to perpetrate identity theft.

… Culver’s office initially was notified by Angrick in a March 1 letter. Angrick followed up that letter with another April 28 threatening to issue a critical report or a subpoena after receiving no response from Culver’s office.

… By 2001, the information was available online. Beginning in May, the office began redacting, or blacking out information on documents that included Social Security numbers. ...

I don’t know what to make of this situation. My primary concern is with the Iowans whose identities may be in Nigerian databases. All I’ll say -- Chet, you better carb load your tech geeks and send ‘em spoofing foreign IP addresses.

My second concern is Culver’s response, or lack of response, to the Ombudsman’s letter. Chet’s office never contacted the Ombudsman. Instead, the SOS office began quietly removing sensitive data from the files in May.

I don’t get it. Why did Culver’s office ignore the two letters from the Iowa Citizens’ Aide Ombudsman ’s office; yet, after the second letter, begin the process of quietly editing the data files?

I understand the political costs of admitting to a mistake, but Culver has made this a much bigger deal than it is. Instead of responding with a quick press release in March, pulling the site down for a day to fix it, and then introducing an improved web page, Culver ignored it and, when it looked like the Ombudsman wasn’t going away, he tried to fix it on the sly.

My guess on this political bungling, Culver needed to keep his nose clean for his first round of gubernatorial fundraising. Culver’s campaign spent all last spring and summer in Washington DC raising money from daddy’s old friends, and bad press of any kind might have produced a few too many small dollar checks.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Is Red Oak a little too red for Gov. Vilsack?

A sad news story as reported by Radio Iowa.

The southwest Iowa town of Red Oak faces the loss of four-hundred jobs after a major employer announced plans to close its factory.

… The company plans to consolidate its production lines with other facilities over the next 15 months. Full production at the Red Oak plant will continue for at few more months, with reductions in the workforce slated to begin in the second quarter of 2006 and continue in stages until operations cease at the end of next year. …

… Angie Timblin is director of the Red Oak Chamber of Commerce. She says she'd heard rumors about Romech's closing and got the official news this morning. Timblin says "It will be detrimental to our community, to Red Oak and to surrounding areas. I feel very sorry for those who will be affected by that."

While the Romech plant is one of the area's largest employers, she feels confident people who are displaced will find other work. Timblin says the Chamber and the Red Oak Industrial Foundation are working hard to bring in new businesses which she says "hopefully, we can work to make the problem not so much of a problem." She says it's a resilient community that -will- survive this bout of bad news. …

Just a few questions. Where are Vilsack & Blouin on this economic development crisis? Did the IDED “sales force” in Des Moines work this company to keep these jobs in Iowa? How about money, didn’t the Vilsack administration throw any Values Fund Dollars Romech’s way?

The Vilsack administration, for all of their economic development talk, seemingly ignored this company announcement on the closure of their Iowa manufacturing plant. It seems, there was no state level effort to keep the plant open, nor any comments out of the governor's office or IDED on this plant closing. Nothing. But the Gov's office did release a happy little press update on an economic "Jump Start" seminar the Gov plans to hold in Mount Plesant:“Southeast Iowa Futures: A Call to Action”.

Puzzling. Although, if you look at that Bush/Kerry map, the Vilsack snub makes sense -- the blue part of Iowa is in Eastern and Southeastern Iowa, and, unfortunately for Red Oak, it's out West in red land. By focusing on Southeastern Iowa, Vilsack is going to try recapturing the Southeast Iowa magic of his first governor's race for his good friend Mike Blouin. And by focusing on economic development and featuring Mike Blouin's IDED portfolio, they'll get their point across: help Mike into Terrace Hill and will reward you with all the economic pork your heart desires.


Republicans, what are you guys going to do? The soon to be dislocated workers in Red Oak are your voters...or your future voters.

(I looked everywhere for an Iowa presidential election map, nothing. I'm just saying...you might think the Secretary of State's Office might, just might, have legitimate maps on line.)



“One time she did a “Cats” routine and she got a standing ovation.”, now Oprah's calling

Transgender Iowan is queen of the world ...








Hettle: UNI's 'Pink Locker Room'

I assume other Iowa bloggers writing on the Hettle/Deignan dispute are seeing a significant increase in hits, particularly from this technorati search tag (samuel-alito-undue-burden-on-us). From my stats, 80% are from out of state with a significant number working university town IP addresses.

This suggests a couple of things: one, university types have a healthy appetite for obscure blogs (self evident, at some level); two, the story particulars make for some friendly faculty meeting chit chat (okay, only if you’re one of the handful of departments without a certified paranoid narcissist); and third, if you strip away the Alito politics and the details, there is something essentially troubling about the use of academic freedom in tenure for the spurious purpose of derailing another academic’s career.

In surfing the comment section in the primary source for this story, Protein Wisdom, Ph.D. politics is a common theme.

Well, whether or not they took it seriously is really beside the point. Hettle wanted Deignan (Which is preferable, Deignan or Paul?) to lose standing with his professors, to “smack the upstart down a notch, teach him to respect those with power” so to speak. Paul is justified in, to me, obligated to start, firing back at Hettle, regardless of whether or not it affected the former’s career. (Link)

It is difficult to comprehend an academic community that seemingly tolerates such myopic, self-referenced behavior from one of its faculty. I assume UNI will comment at some point, preferably sooner, but UNI is not often in the spotlight with controversy so they might need some time. When UNI does comment, we can only hope they take this case seriously.

In a similar situation -- a blog comment string gone bad over the University of Iowa’s pink locker room -- UI was quick to address the controversy, and deftly showed off the appropriate level of concern and institutional angst when addressing the press. I’m not sure we’ll get that from UNI; as noted in Iowa Hawk’s comments to Protein Wisdom’s first post, UNI is a good enough sort of school and, perhaps, we should only expect a good enough response.

And my favorite comment in the Protein Wisdom string to the first Hettle/Deignan post provides a dose of clarity.

this contains all that one really needs to know about the tenured Dr. Hettle. (Link)


Monday, November 07, 2005

Iowa Libertarian on UNI prof breakin' out of state kneecaps

Oh, yes...you have to check out Royce over at Iowa Libertarian and his splendid research on a little homegrown intrigue perking at the University of Northern Iowa.

I would love to see the Regents' lobby defend this UNI professor cum political hatchet man to conservative leaning Ph.D. candidates everywhere. No really, a faculty member at UNI contacted the academic advisor of a PhD student in an unrelated field at Purdue University to complain about the graduate student's "professional ethics" because our state financed UNI prof took serious umbrage to PhD guy's conservative posts at Bitch Ph.D..

Chilling. And this example provides considerable support to my assumption that blogging politics can have real professional costs.

Royce is organizing a blog-in, of sorts, asking that if we find this particular behavior unacceptable, we let the folks up at UNI know. BTW -- a State 29 post with a letter to the editor written by our UNI prof.

Follow the links. Follow the chain of comments, counter comments and events. If you think it's right and proper, Email the History Professor, his Department Head and the President of UNI: Robert Koob. His office can be reached here: Office of the President, 20 Seerley Hall, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0705 - (319) 273-2566 (voice); (319) 273-6494.

I also suggest that we might want to drop a line to some of the conservative legislators sitting on Iowa's Education Appropriations Committee. These are the folks that cut the UNI checks; nothing brings heat like a little money on the table.

Senator Nancy Boettger, Co-Chair (R)
E-mail: nancy.boettger@legis.state.ia.us
Home Address: 926 Ironwood Rd, Harlan, IA, 51537
Home Telephone: 712-744-3290, Business Telephone: 712-744-3290

Senator Paul McKinley (R)
E-mail: paul.mckinley@legis.state.ia.us
Home Address: 21884 - 483rd Ln, Chariton, IA, 50049
Home Telephone: 641-774-5784

Senator Doug Shull (R)
Home Address: 901 Scott Felton Rd, Indianola, IA, 50125
Business Telephone: 515-961-4310 Ext.333

Rep. Royd Chambers, Chair (R)
E-mail: Royd.Chambers@legis.state.ia.us
Home Address: 1001 7th Street, Sheldon, IA, 51201
Home Telephone: 712-324-2694

Rep Mike May, Vice-Chair (R)
E-mail: mike@mayforiowa.com
17024 255th Avenue
Spirit Lake, IA 51360
Business Telephone: 712-330-1455

Rep. Willard Jenkins (R)
E-mail: Willard.Jenkins@legis.state.ia.us
Home Address: 1540 West Ridgeway, P.O. Box 932, Waterloo, IA, 50704
Home Telephone: 319-233-7383

Rep. Jeff Kaufmann (R)
E-mail: Jeff.Kaufmann@legis.state.ia.us

Rep. Jodi Tymeson (R)
E-mail: Jodi.Tymeson@legis.state.ia.us
Home Address: 1524 Highway 169, Winterset, IA, 50273
Home Telephone: 515-462-5081


Saturday, November 05, 2005

Iowa left-leaning political bloggers are all white men?

The Jefferson-Jackson Democratic fundraising event is getting underway, and I just checked in to see what the live bloggers are posting. I noticed this piquant observation from Drew.

With me are Chris Woods of the Political Forecast, two guys from South Dakota Progressive, and Chad from Clean Cut Kid, who is actually not all that clean cut. Surprised though you may be, it is in fact a group of all white men.

Are you suggesting, that of the 340,500 Iowa women registered as Democrats not one produces a blog that is worthy of an invitation to live blog the premier Democratic fundraising event of the year? What are the gals too busy volunteering for the table decorations and party favor committees?

(Just checked ya before posting, and I see you've added "blogging assistant" Sarah to the team. Good, it is better to have at least one gal in the mix.)




Cage Rage 2006

Cage fights are bloody messes, and the losers often end up permanently crippled. In the cage, you either win... or you lose. Period. (from the Secrets of Cage Fighting)
Lee Enterprise political reporter, Todd Dorman, takes aim with a smart first take analysis of the Democratic gubernatorial primary -- alternately known as political cage rage 2006 style -- on the eve of the Democrats big, cheap-seats-in-the-back Jefferson-Jackson fundraising dinner. (I guess it’s good they have cheap seats, Republicans don’t even bother working that demographic for their big fundraising dinners.)

Dorman juxtaposes the happy family comments with the reality of tough politics; given seven candidates in the race and the real potential that no candidate will pull 35% in the primary, it’s possible the Democrats will be selecting their candidate at convention. But everyone’s trying to put on a happy face.

Iowa Democrats insist they’re optimistic about their chances for holding on to the governor’s office in 2006 even as they face the uncertainty of a crowded and potentially rugged fight to win the party’s nomination. …

… Democrats such as State Sen. Amanda Ragan of Mason City argue a large group of candidates is a positive. For one thing, hardly a county party meeting, forum or chili supper goes by without attracting at least one gubernatorial hopeful. …

… “It builds enthusiasm,” said Ragan, who is up for re-election next year. “It gets people active. If you just had that one candidate there’d be less reason to get involved.” …

… Mark Smith, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor, argues that none of the candidates are generating front-runner caliber excitement yet.

“There isn’t a candidate at this point that seems real strong,” Smith said. “They’re all carrying some baggage, that’s the problem.”

That “baggage” already is fueling a spirited debate over what Smith calls “gut-level” issues for Democrats, including abortion rights, the death penalty and economic development. …

… Gordon Fischer, a former state Democratic Party chairman, said he hopes the primary race doesn’t distract Democratic activists from what’s really at stake.

“My hope is that people will vote with their heart and for a candidate who can win in November,” Fischer said. …

I ‘m not sure what the “vote with your heart for someone who can win in November” is supposed to mean. Or rather, I am not sure I like what it means; a more cynical translation, “let the Democratic insiders sort the candidates and will share with the grassroots what our hearts are telling us, wink, wink”.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Chet (SD) Culver is 'in' with a Big Idea


Surfer dude, circa 1984, Dewey Beach, Delaware.

Chet Culver announced his bid for the governor’s office this morning by offering up his version of a Big Idea. Under a Culver administration, Iowa taxpayers will spend $100 million to subsidize the renewable fuels industry. Inspired.

As reported in today's DMR...

Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver today proposed spending $100 million in state revenue to help make Iowa the nation's leader in ethanol-powered vehicles.

… "I believe that campaigns should be about ideas and vision and you deserve to know what I will do as your governor," said Culver, who announced his candidacy with his wife, Mary, and two children at his side.

Culver would use the money as an incentive to assist businesses expanding in the area of renewable fuel-related manufacturing. He would also appoint a director of renewable energy to oversee the program. …

And what has Chet been saying about Mike Blouin & Governor Vilsack’s precious Grow Iowa Values Fund?

We get an idea from Political Forecast's live blogging of Culver at a recent Drake meet & greet.

What are your thoughts on the Grow Iowa Values Fund?

He hopes that the program works to develop small businesses and keep them in Iowa with the creation of great jobs. So far its done ok, but we’re still in the early stages.

First of all, we want to hold these businesses accountable. If they don’t deliver, they need to pay the state back. If we give Wells Fargo millions of dollars to expand in West Des Moines, like we did, then as long as they come through with their commitment, then we should stick with it. Ten years and $500 is a big commitment and we need to look at it every year to make sure its working.

Second, we need to do more to make sure small businesses and entrepreneurs get a bigger piece of the pie. A lot of Iowa small businesses need a shot of capital to spread the economic opportunity across the state. He wants to see more focus on start-up opportunities as well.

Question:

What’s the difference between spending $500 million over ten years on a variety of corporate welfare projects and spending $100 million in whatever number of years on corporate welfare for renewable fuel projects?

Answer:

Nothing. But nothing is the operative word to describe a number of gubernatorial candidate’s Big Ideas; although, at least we know what we’re getting with Chet Culver.

From testimony to the Committee on House Administration, US House of Representatives on Iowa’s implementation of HAVA, February 9, 2005

Simply put, our experience has been an extremely positive one. It has brought Iowans together to bring about positive changes to the process that lies at the core of our democratic values – voting.

Chet's very up, very postive when it comes to voting.

Note: See Tusk and Talon on GIVF and opportunity costs.




Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The (baby) face of politics

It’s two days after Halloween and a day before Chet Culver, Dewey Beach Surfer Dude & Iowa gubernatorial candidate, formally jumps in the race. And what a coincidence, I found this interesting information on candidate selection; and depending on your personal impression of the candidate's “qualities”, this is either spooky or might inspire a little check writing.

From Physorg.com ...

Taking politicians purely at "face value" can frequently predict their success in elections, according to a study by Princeton researchers published in the June 10 issue of Science.

Participants asked to choose which political candidate in a race seemed more competent — based solely on the candidates' photos — accurately predicted the outcome of 71.6 percent of U.S. Senate races in 2000, 2002 and 2004.

… The findings suggest that fast, unreflective decisions can contribute to voting choices, which are widely assumed to be based primarily on rational and deliberate considerations, the researchers said. …

… The evaluations of the candidates were derived solely from facial appearance. Participants were shown black-and-white headshots of two candidates in 95 Senate races. If a participant recognized either candidate, the data were excluded.

Races involving highly familiar candidates such as Hillary Clinton and Richard Gephardt also were excluded. Across all studies, participants were 843 undergraduate and graduate students at Princeton. However, judgments from as few as 40 participants were sufficient to reliably predict the outcomes of the Senate races.

The study also asked participants to look at photos of candidates in 600 U.S.

In a review of the study, Dr. Leslie Zebrowitz, a psychologist at Brandeis University, and Joann M. Montepare, explain that the outcomes of the political races were likely due to differences in the opponents' "babyfacedness." … (link)

Okay, let’s check it out.

On the Democratic primary ballot.

Is Blouin a babyface? No, but looks like he's scoring some points...or is that the face of man with a chair on his foot?

Is Chet a babyface? Nope, but he's certainly got Hilary beat on using the eyes to emote his passionate connection to HAVA.

Patty a babyface? Close, but no...however, when I look at this picture I do start to think about the strange remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Oh Ed, a little babyface for sure. I'm grooving on the happy hands thing you're doing. Vote for [P]ed[ro], he offers you his protection.

This is the only picture I found with a Gregg Connell name attached to it. It's a lovely variety of day lily called Bodacious Bite, honest. Those deprave citizens working over our flora and fauna.

This picture is a google find for Sal Mohammad. I have no idea if it is Sal Mohammad of Sioux City, but it works. Sal you win most babyfaced gubernatorial wannabe.

On the Republican primary ballot.

Three-fifty! You only brought three-fifty? Just kidding, this is not a happy rotary event turned Jim Nussle campaign shake down. I just thought we should make sure that Jim's still working a babyface. Maybe, but he's aging out of it, and, given the rough and tumble of this election, he should be out of a babyface by next year.

Babies definitely do not come to mind when looking up at Mr. Vander Plaats. I think Tony Robins in clogs, sorry.

There you have it, the pictures do give us a few clues and we'll have to wait 'til June to see if the sweet-soul babyface candidates end up in the primary scrap heap.


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