Friday, December 23, 2005

To miracles in Grace, large & small; may we all find one to hold

Christmas Bells





"I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!


And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!


Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!


Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!


It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!


And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"


Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!"


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

To everyone that may read this blog in a regular way or stumble upon it in an accidental search (round scissors?), may this season and the new year bring you and yours unexpected blessings. To that end, we're unexpectedly blessed with time off and tickets to Tampa -- so I'm off this clock 'til January.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Longer school year? Nah, too much work.

The public school apologists are gearing up to tamp down the legislative effort to extend the school year. As reported by Radio Iowa.

The Director of the Department of Education is urging Iowa lawmakers to think twice before proceeding with any plan to lengthen the school year. Both Governor Vilsack and Senate Republicans have proposed more class time for Iowa kids -- but education director Judy Jeffrey says that may not produce the results they're looking for.

Jeffrey says, "Our research has indicated that for some students it may help. For instance, our struggling students, our at-risk students, but it doesn't seem to apply across the board to all students. So, whether or not you really want to make that kind of financial investment for all students is a very legitimate question." Jeffrey says demanding more classroom time could cut into teacher development and she says that would really hurt students. She says, "Because what we've found is, it really is the quality of the teacher and the way we use the time, not the amount that really makes a difference in raising student achievement." Jeffrey says schools may get more bang for their buck by putting resources into after school tutoring programs for kids that do need extra help.

Is anyone else confused by this twisted bit ‘o logic?

It’s a crafty play on words to lump ‘quality teachers’ and ‘use of classroom time’ together to argue against extending the school year. To believe that increasing the length of classroom instruction would not improve student achievement is odd, to say the least; however, if you use a handful of studies, perhaps missing the recent paper out of the SMU econ department, a policy leader/political hack could reasonably utter this nonsense. But please, is Jeffrey (and her experts in the Iowa department of education) so beholden to the unions that she can ignore reams of data suggesting that other countries are kicking our academic achievement butts in part because of longer school years?

Rigid school systems remind me of the basketball coach/counselor guy that every public school is issued when the building goes up. You know the one; has the ten requisite catch phrases in use since 1979 and good for all occasions, from the b-ball court to the career development class to the graduation glad hand. A great guy for football Sundays, but probably not offering up much in the way of thoughtful comment…although any coherent string of profanity about a certain U of I basketball coach (did I say Steve Alford?) might qualify as “thoughtful” this year…intended to inspire great things.

Judy Jeffrey is our state educational system’s version of a coach-counselor, and she’s certainly working her ten catch phrases; ‘our research indicates…’, ‘it’s the quality of…’, ‘we know best…’. These phrases are all designed to move the status quo along and cover up any of the potential challenges to the public education monolith, and it’ll work, so long as the education lobby keeps their sheeple agitated and willing.

The real question; how long can a statewide school system survive with this coach-counselor mindset? The unfortunate answer; indefinitely.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

State 29, Drew & Conspiracy Theorist on the supply-side rainbow

Okay, I know it’s a few days past the State 29/Drew sparing rounds on econ theory and b-ball tickets, but I want to weigh in on the supply-side blogging. If only to make nice by suggesting that everyone is a little right and a little wrong.

A few days ago, State 29 flipped off a quick post using the term ‘supply-side’ to talk about the increase in U of I student b-ball ticket sales. State notes that when the U of I cut student ticket prices ticket sales went way up. In fact, the price cut produced such a significant increase in sales that this year’s cheap seat ticket sales eclipsed the total dollar value of student ticket sales in the previous year.

Drew, being that liberal sprite of a guy, takes a rhetorical two by four and beats State’s comments into bytes with a confusing post on supply-side theory, taxes and elasticity. Another guy, blogging on Iowa from LA, put together a fine post sifting Drew’s arguments and points out that taxation is not the primary variable in supply-side, rather, it is work effort in response to taxation that defines a supply-side curve.

So fine, everyone’s a little off. The term ‘supply-side’ in State’s example is used as jargon to describe one school of thought on marginalism -- the idea that economic decisions are subjective and marginal in nature. It seems Drew’s primary argument is that the term ‘supply-side’ is a tax concept and not applicable to b-ball ticket sales. Drew then gets a little fuzzy when discussing the elastic nature of taxation without mentioning productivity in response to taxation. But we have LA guy for that clarification.

Given the mish mash, I suggest we give State the benefit of the doubt on his loose interpretation of the term ‘supply-side’, we send Drew back to his econ prof for a little supply-side theory tutelage and that we encourage LA guy, Conspiracy Theorist, to keep posting his Iowa observations.

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PS – If you’re doing that Christmas stuff late, check out the KC Planet live stream, they went from the Traveling Wilburys, to Beck, to Counting Crows to the Cure to Jack Johnson and back to some great old Tom Petty. (I think someone has a thing for Petty at the station.)


TRICARE, health insurance for our citizen-soldiers -- good idea

Congressman Tom Latham’s efforts to secure funding to extend health care benefits to part-time soldiers ranks way up there on the good political deeds of the year list. As reported by Radio Iowa.

Congressman Tom Latham says the deal's nearly sealed and America's part-time soldiers will soon get health care benefits. Soldiers in the Guard and Reserve do not receive federally-paid health care unless they're called to active duty, …

… Latham says it really made a huge difference when he and a bipartisan group of 85 members of the House wrote a letter, saying they believed the federal government should provide health care coverage to members of the Guard and Reserve. Latham began pushing to get health care benefits for part-time soldiers in February. …

… Latham says he had to be "somewhat of a pain in the posterior" of key lawmakers to get approval of the provision. Latham says a lack of health insurance is most acute among Guard and Reserve units in the Midwest, where 40 percent of the part-time soldiers are uninsured. He has argued it's a matter of national security, because many soldiers who're called to active duty need to resolve health issued before they can start their full-time duty.

Graham was able to secure the language in the Senate version of defense budget, but Latham has had a much tougher road in the House. Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, consistently killed the issue by talking price tag. (Duncan Hunter represents the San Deigo area, home to many full-time and retired military personnel with an interest in TRICARE retirement benefits, which went way up under this agreement.) But it looks like Congressman Latham won, at least in the House.

…expanded availability of TRICARE military healthcare to military reservists.

For the first time ever, all reservists who agree to continue service in the Selected Reserves will have an opportunity, depending on their status, to buy into a government subsidized TRICARE Standard health care program for themselves and their families.

This was such a small part of the bill that I had to go all the way Guam's Pacific Islands Magazine for this news; the MSM focused on the ANWR and budget cuts. Sure it’s small, but if the policy is quickly implemented it can be one of those little changes that can help uninsured families with coverage and, perhaps, reduce Iowa’s budget lines for Hawkeye and Medicaid.

The TRICARE Dear Colleague letter (link) includes signatures from Iowa Representatives Latham, Boswell, Leach and King; Nussle opted not to sign this letter suggesting he’s weighing in on this issue behind the scenes. And yeah, Boswell did vote on this roll call.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Sheeple


The 'we’re big & we’re bad' guys are at it again. Iowans for Tax Relief released a letter they sent to potential GOP presidential candidates threatening action if a candidate supports a tax increase on oil and gas windfall profits. What is the consequence for presidential types that don’t tow the Iowans for Tax Relief (ITR) line? The 'we're big & we're bad' guys will educate and organize their supporters.

Quotes from the ITR letter, as reported by the AP in the Mason City Globe-Gazette.

… "As you consider a candidacy for president in 2008, we ask that you carefully consider these issues when constructing your economic and energy policies," said the letter, signed by leaders of the Muscatine-based Iowans for Tax Relief. "This is a fundamental issue for Republican candidates: free markets should be allowed to determine prices based on supply and demand." …

"We will continue to keep Iowa taxpayers informed of your positions on important issues that impact them, including windfall profits tax," the letter warned. …

… "There has also been talk of increased taxation on domestic oil companies," the letter warns. "This would weaken our position in the global market, which ultimately dictates our energy health." …

… "Instead, decision-makers ought to focus on building and maintaining a diverse range of energy supply to help insulate us from short-term spikes in energy stock and prices," the letter said. …

This sort of political intimidation has been around the Iowa Statehouse for years. These guys are always fielding conservative GOP candidates to run against the moderates that don’t play the ITR game. Now it seems they’re taking the game to the next level, harassing national candidates with the threat of herding their ITR sheeple to caucus action.

I can’t imagine the campaigns of guys like Mitt Romney, George Pataki or Chuck Hagel giving more than a passing smirk to this political sideshow. The national campaigns know that Iowa GOP activists are sophisticated when it comes to presidential politics and don’t necessarily follow interest group pablum in selecting their candidate.

However, it does makes you wonder if the ITR guys are spending political capital in exchange for a little hard cash from the oil & gas lobby.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Gronstal: A little AC-DC on the gays & lesbians in love thing

Lambda Legal’s challenge to Iowa’s Constitution has produced some political tap dancing from Majority Leader Wannabe Mike Gronstal.

‘‘I still believe that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.’’

‘‘The current law is supported by most Iowans. In fact, an overwhelming majority of legislators — both Republicans and Democrats — have already voted for the state law that bans gay marriages in Iowa. I am confident that the courts will uphold the current law.’’ (DMR link)

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“I’m pretty confident that the court is going to uphold the state law,” Gronstal said. (QC Times link)

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Senate Democratic leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs said he remains "confident that the courts will uphold the current law."

"No further legislative action is necessary at this time," Gronstal said. (DMR link)

This sounds like a politician…that didn’t attend the Gavin Newsom fete in November. Mike must have missed Newsom’s pep talk to Iowa Democrats on the importance of campaigning on lefty issues, such as extending the rights and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples. Mike’s also been ignoring the peace, love and understanding gay & lesbian mush that Rekha Basu pumps out when she's not too busy playing token at Bill Knapp style holiday payola parties.

While the Democratic politicos dance around the push to go left on gay marriage and other issues, people outside of Iowa know exactly what’s happening here. From PlanetOut.com:

Lambda's 16-page petition for declaratory judgment, filed Monday in Des Moines on state constitutional grounds, makes the standard case for marriage rights and introduces six couples, three female and three male. The couples represent committed life partners of varying ages and professions who recently tried and failed to obtain marriage licenses at the county registrar.

Under Iowa law, "only marriage between a male and a female is valid." However, the state has not passed a law specifically banning recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages, and an anti-marriage constitutional amendment died in the state Senate last spring. Iowa requires two successive votes in two legislative sessions before an amendment can be sent to voters, meaning that an initiative begun next year could not reach voters before 2008.

Although the state does not ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, it does include sexual orientation in its hate crime statute, and it does not have any laws against gay adoptive or foster parents.

In addition, the Iowa Supreme Court in June implicitly backed a judge who granted a request of two local women to dissolve their Vermont civil union. The justices rejected an attempt by conservative lawmakers to challenge the decision, ruling that they lacked standing to do so.

Mike Gronstal’s got a problem. Gronstal’s public talk is all about keeping the issue bottled up with comments implying that the Lambda case is no big deal.

It’s no big deal that Lambda Legal, a national homosexual rights group with deep pockets, sought out six Iowa same-sex couples to join together in filing a lawsuit to push equal protection for same-sex couples under the Iowa Constitution. It’s no big deal that the international gay & lesbian news outlets are writing detailed stories about Iowa’s same-sex legal issues. It’s no big deal that a major elected official and supporter of same-sex marriage, Gavin Newsom, shows up in Iowa to raise significant Polk County Democratic money selling same-sex marriage and other urban liberal ideas. It’s just no big deal…unless you want to be the Majority Leader of the Iowa Senate.

Let's sit back and watch Gronstal’s white heterosexual male shuffle on this one.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Brits think it's worth something.

This from Side Notes, the test czar, via InfinitePink.

It's almost right. In fact, it's close enough I didn't want to post it; who needs to know. One more thing, don't you think that anyone with a blog, regardless of their actual handwriting, would have the last observation attached to their "analysis"?


Handwriting analysis information at Wikipedia.

Handwriting Analysis

The results of your analysis say:
What does your handwriting say about YOU?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Tobacco Taxes: the new look of predatory taxation?

The push is on – again – to move a tobacco tax increase in the legislature. The QC Times ran this editorial on Saturday.

Iowa can do better than ‘cheap cigs’

What do Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, Florida, Louisiana and Iowa have in common? …

… Cheap cigarettes? That would be it.

These are the bottom 10 when it comes to taxing cigarettes. We can understand the reluctance of Kentucky and the Carolinas, tops in the nation in tobacco production.

But Iowa?

Gov. Tom Vilsack has renewed his now annual pledge to hike cigarette taxes and we’re with him again. He’s proposed an 80-cent per pack tax, still short of the $1 per pack we’ve endorsed and already is law for 17 states plus the District of Columbia. Illinois is almost there at 98 cents per pack.

Why tax cigarettes? They cost non-smokers money. Iowa, like all states, subsidizes medical care for those suffering from smoking-related illnesses. No individual smoker could begin to personally cover treatment costs that a lifetime of smoking can incur.

We would hope this tax raises less and less money each year. …

I don’t smoke, no one in my family smokes, and as for subsidizing smoker health care, I am sure we subsidize other habits – think excessive cheeseburger & fries consumption for one. I have given up my bleeding heart, so the “oh, those poor unhealthy smokers, we must save them from themselves by increasing the tobacco tax” crap does not inspire. And it may not be all together true.

Anti-smoking advocate Frank Chaloupka implies that tobacco taxes are “progressive” as they encourage different behavior (link, pg 35). Confused? What he really means is that the tax becomes such a burden that some smokers quit to avoid taxation. That’s not tax progressivity, that’s an example of opportunity costs.

What these tobacco tax fans always fail to mention is that tobacco taxes are, and always will be, regressive. They universally hit low-income smokers harder than any other segment of the population. Professor Dahlia Remler reaffirms this regressivity problem in her recent academic publication, PROGRESS, SETBACKS, AND FUTURE NEEDS: Poor Smokers, Poor Quitters, and Cigarette Tax Regressivity. She states:

Progressivity (equity across income groups) is sensitive to the way in which tax burden is assessed. Analysis of horizontal equity (fairness within a given income group) shows that cigarette taxes heavily burden poor smokers who do not quit, no matter how tax burden is assessed. (link)

In another section of Chaloupka’s presentation, he compares price increases to smoking cessation rates; for every 10% increase in tobacco tax only 1% or 2% of smokers will quit (link, pg 11). That’s a small number of successful quitters. Whether we like it or not, we produce an inequitable tax when legislatures pass tobacco taxes without considering how to offset the cost for the large number of low-income smokers that don’t quit.

I find it ironic that in one instance (outside of Al Sharpton) liberals are extraordinarily concerned with predatory lending, and yet have no problem with predatory taxation in the form of aggressive tobacco tax increases. This is particularly true given that Iowa doesn’t need new tax revenue…just the will to stop spending.


Friday, December 09, 2005

Odds & Ends

Midwest Mesopotamia checks in on Leonard Boswell and his well-publicized return to his job as Congressman for Iowa's 3rd District.

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Donnie Fowler (The Huffington Post) takes on the National Democrats and their current wisdom on the nominating calendar. His take is good for Iowa & New Hampshire, but comments to his post are screaming the opposite. It might be the Democrats live through a muddle in 2008 and rethink it all again in 2011.

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Patriot Skull Face blogs on his real world experience talking homelessness with some of the gubernatorial candidates. My favorite: the comments about Mike Blouin, I get the feeling Mike really doesn't like liberals.

(HT - Chris at Political Forecast...and yes, I am going to rework my links soon.)

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Hey, guys, Bob & Side Notes, does everyone know people are reading. No, really, reading and aggregating.

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For the season, BNL on SBC Blue Room with a live webcast of Elf's Lament (scroll for live performances and click on Barenaked Ladies).

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Enjoy the snow...although Side Notes might disagree with me on that one.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Car Title Loan Abuse: shouldn't we be asking Joe about this deal?



Okay, the recent press hash on car title loan abuse has inspired State 29 & Drew to take some shots at the GOP guys. I’m not apologizing for the GOP rhetoric; really, it does bring a certain Dr. Seuss character to mind when you hear this sort of comment.

“Nobody has to take out these loans,” he [Christopher Rants] said. “As long as people are being fully informed, I think you ought to let people make a judgment as to what they can and cannot do.”(link)
Unfortunately, as with any issue in the legislature, there is a little more to this than just what we’re seeing.

First thing to note is the major backer of putting limits on car title loans is Senator Joe Bolkcom, a lefty Democrat from Iowa City. He’s pushed this issue for a few years, and it somehow goes nowhere.

Hmm, could it be that Sen Bolkcom, as co-chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, played the primary role in stopping property tax reform (HF 847) from moving to the Senate floor? And could it be that the GOP guys in the House are a little miffed that Bolkcom did not bring a version of their property tax reform bill out of the Senate Ways & Means Committee?

Looking at the issue of car title loan abuse, in light of the disagreement between Bolkcom and the House GOP Leadership over property tax reform, might give someone pause to consider that the issue of car title loan abuse is tied to property tax reform. Joe pushes a property tax reform bill out of the Senate Ways & Means, the GOP guys let a car title loan abuse bill get to the House floor, where it will pass.

However, the issue of property tax reform is incredibly complicated, a consequence of the sophisticated associations working the issue. The business interests are thinking about property tax limits, while county and local government groups are interested in maintaining their local ability to raise & spend property taxes. Joe happens to be a former Johnson County Supervisor and a big fan of local government spending (link, pg. 10-14). The GOP House guys, big surprise, are all about lower taxes and economic development (link).

It is nice to think that what’s reported in the press covers the entire context of a legislative issue, but that’s usually not the case. Often there is more to an issue than just the topic at hand; this is particularly true when a small issue is stuck on one side or the other. It’s just the way politics sometimes works.

The unfortunate thing is that the activist pushing for car title loan reform should have figured out that Joe might have other priorities, like blocking property tax reform. Moreover, it's always a good idea to have more than one good friend in the legislature.



Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Health Insurance is Always a Headache

Fixing the cost of health insurance is on the agenda for the 2006 session. Although the policy ideas sketched out by Vilsack and House GOP members have similar goals…

As reported by QC Times.

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack said Tuesday that he will seek an 80-cent-per-pack boost in the cigarette tax when the Legislature convenes next month.

He said some of the proceeds from the tax hike would be used to start a program that would help small businesses cover catastrophic health care costs. …

As reported by the WCF Courier

Republicans in the Iowa House say they'll move forward next year with legislation intended to help small businesses owners and Iowans who want to purchase their own health insurance with the cost of premiums. …

… Among the ideas they're pushing:

-- Allowing businesses and organizations to form health care insurance purchasing pools to bring down the cost of insuring employees and members. Iowa law currently prohibits these types of pools in many cases.

-- Forming a fund to help pay for catastrophic health care costs, which would help bring down the cost of insurance for others who are insured.

-- Providing tax credits to small businesses for providing health insurance to their employees, as well as those who are self-employed or unemployed and purchasing their own health care.

…the politics are oh so different.

Vilsack came out of the box three weeks ago with his cigarette tax hike to fund a Wellmark subsidy in the form of a reinsurance pool. The GOP guys jumped into the game Monday with their multi strategy approach, which is still a work in progress.

It’s certain, from Vilsack’s keen interest in reinsurance and House Human Services Committee Chair Linda Uppmeyer’s comments from the WCF Courier story, that the health insurance lobby has been working the last few years to set in motion the political will to create a catastrophic reinsurance system (really, these things very rarely appear out of nowhere). Iowa health insurers, as well as hospitals and specialty providers, would love to see a reinsurance pool, while Iowa taxpayers are probably unaware that their tax dollars might be put to use protecting the health insurance industries bottom line.

Is this the Iowa Legislature’s health care version of corporate welfare?

The bigger surprise is the GOP’s interest in purchasing pools, also called cooperatives or alliances. I know State 29 took a shot at the purchasing pool idea as an effete solution to health insurance premium costs. I disagree. A quick Google search springs a number of papers (here, here) on the efficacy of health insurance purchasing pools or alliances. These health insurance co-ops/alliances have problems, most often associated with the ability to attract enough members to be a viable economic agent in the eyes of a state’s health care insurance providers. But when a health insurance purchasing co-op/alliance does have a critical mass of members, it can lower premium costs, provide a variety of health insurance products and efficiently manage the administration of health care benefits for small employers.

However, I’m not sure how seriously we should consider the GOP proposal on purchasing pools. As I stated in a previous post, the health insurance industry has fought and effectively killed these purchasing pool bills for years, and the GOP guys have been in charge of the legislature for years. Nevertheless, in an interesting move, the GOP hinted that their multi-strategy approach would include some type of reinsurance approach, purchasing pools and a review of the outcomes of the insurance premium sales tax break from a few years ago.

Someone deeply cynical might see some of these moves – Vilsack’s insistence on a tobacco tax increase and the GOP’s interest in purchasing pools combined with a “review” of the industry tax break – as attempts at gaming the issue for the 2006 campaign.

We know that the GOP House leadership will not raise tobacco taxes. We know that Vilsack will not alienate his deep pocket friend at Wellmark. So, look for compromise; no tobacco tax increase and not much in the way of purchasing pools – but we will use existing windfall revenue to build some form of a catastrophic reinsurance system that will make all the players almost happy.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Look what I can do with scissors

WHO reports…

The key to making life better in Iowa is to be more creative -- that's what Governor Tom Vilsack says. The governor's willing to put up millions of tax dollars to help you think of new ideas. …

… "You have got to have innovation and creativity surround you" Governor Vilsack says. He says budget cuts statewide have reduced the extracurriculars like music. That silences creativity. He wants to offer Iowa's leftover money to consolidate small schools so they'd be able to restore programs in music, arts, languages, whatever that infuses imagination. …

… The governor wants everyone to be creative, not just students, not just educators. If everyone does that he says, we'll all create better schools and better jobs across the state.

This is just sad.

To think that budget leftovers are going to produce cultural miracles through the inspired action of box-top cutting PTO moms -- particularly as Vilsack's form of creative & innovative is structured, sanctioned and shrink-wrapped -- is typical Vilsack PW. It’s all about Vilsack testing a political sound bite for a national audience; Iowans are a much safer crowd than the readers of the Wall Street Journal.

It’s also ridiculous.

Iowa, with its patchwork rows of corn & beans, is a place that likes order and predictability, and creative & innovative are not words necessarily associated with square shoulder Iowa. Instead, Iowa is the land of consistent people. We prefer a charred steak and a smooshy potato approach to all that life can toss around; it’s the find your place and keep it.

It's admirable, if a little odd, to be concerned about creativity, but I am not sure you can quickly infuse a staid culture, built on putting order to the land, with an open arms attitude to the creative -- particularly if it is produced cookie cutter style, compliments of those creative & innovative minds huddled under that blue-sky dome.



Boo

It's Tuesday, and in honor of the no longer Random Mentality, I have a test...Side Notes posted one yesterday.




You Are a Little Scary

You've got a nice edge to you. Use it.
How Scary Are You?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Odds & Ends

Midwest Mesopotamia spins a good post on the GOP primary in IA-01, the seat currently held by Jim Nussle. Midwest links up to a blogger in Moline commenting on some of Mike Whalen’s publicly released internal polling data. The post is worth a look, particularly for the nice dig on the location of Whalen’s corporate HQ.

He points out that the better issue for Dix and Kennedy to focus on is the fact that in 1998 Whalen moved his corporate headquarters out of Iowa into downtown Moline. The Heart of America website tries to confuse visitors, but TPP has it sussed (second item down).
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Drew points everybody to this new anti-Nussle blog. I actually cringed at the rather spiteful post on Nussle’s family life: Taking Lobbyists to Bed. Yeah, great title. This blog doesn’t smell right. It’s a little too nasty with some well-sourced opposition research. How does this small town Iowa blogger know that Karen Nussle once worked for a major lobby group? We’ll have to wait and see on this one.

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Side Notes and Detours resurrects some old, but good, links.

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Faithful U.S. Postal customer and cocaine dealer, Michael Washington, gives new meaning to the term biggest loser.

Prosecutors said he admitted that in October 2001 he and his wife tried to obtain a package of crack sent from a source in California through the U.S. mail.
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So much for Friday.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Good Batch...no it's not a typo

Somehow, it seems more appropriate to talk holiday cookies instead of politics. I'm not sure why? Maybe the snow. Maybe it's the yawn inducing news.

I'll get back to politics & policy when the lobby wraps up their pre-session PR blitz and the pols that matter (who really wants to talk about Larry McKibben?) start to stake out their election-year session fun & games.

From the December 1994 issue of Gourmet magazine, via Epicurious.com, comes my very favorite holiday cookie. I gave up the multiple cookie-making thing years ago and I just work on making gobs of these biscotti.

They're not too sweet and work well with hot chocolate or coffee, in fact, you almost need something to dip them in to avoid chipping a tooth -- okay that probably means I'm not cutting the slices thin enough or I’m cooking the slices too long. Anyway, they're easy to make and slightly different from the standard holiday cookie.

Double Chocolate Walnut Biscotti

Unlike most commercially available chocolate biscotti, these have a deep chocolaty flavor.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 cup walnuts, chopped

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. and butter and flour a large baking sheet.

(Resist the temptation to add liquid to help blend the dough, but if you like a sweeter cookie add 1/4 cup additional sugar and one more tablespoons of butter.)

In a bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until combined well. Stir in flour mixture to form a stiff dough. Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips.

(At this stage you have to ignore what the "logs" actually remind you of or you'll never get through baking these formed chunks of dough.)

On prepared baking sheet with floured hands form dough into two slightly flattened logs, each 12 inches long and 2 inches wide, and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. Bake logs 35 minutes, or until slightly firm to the touch. Cool biscotti on baking sheet 5 minutes.

(The cooling part is really important, if you cut the slices too soon they crumble, so give the logs a good five minute rest before hacking them up with a sharp knife.)

On a cutting board cut biscotti diagonally into 3/4-inch slices. Arrange biscotti, cut sides down, on baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 10 minutes. Cool biscotti on a rack. Biscotti keep in airtight containers 1 week and frozen, 1 month.

(And this 30 thing is stretching it a little with a single batch, think more like 20.)

Makes about 30 biscotti

Good luck with your batch!


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