Sunday, February 26, 2006

New Kids on the Block

A few very inside and very edgy bloggers are spinning Iowa politics from a decidedly Republican perspective. They all seem to know an awful lot, which is good, but they also seem manicured, too neat, which I suppose is okay.

The new guys:

Who’s Makin’ Bacon? – Funny and perhaps camp Nussle connected. Bacon had the Nussle /Vander Plaats announcement in blog text a few days before the mainstream press. (I know we missed it and we should have picked it up and memed it out across the universe…we’ll get it right...eventually.)

The Smoke Filled Room – A self-described insider with a dead on analysis of the Nussle/Vander Plaats meeting of the minds. This is the blog to read if you want to know the back-story to a Yepsen column.

Politics in Iowa – A group blog that seems to have at least one insider on the editorial team. The guys like cellared single malt scotches, cigars and testing Republican friendly spin. My guess: buddies from college, over thirty but under forty and swimming in their own form of ennui.

Krusty Konservative – I haven’t figured this one out, probably just another guy with a habit.

They’re good and completely worth reading, but it takes some of the innocence out of Iowa blogging, particularly Iowa political blogging. Most of us that write Iowa-centric political blogs are not really insiders. Some of us, I put myself in this category, may have met some of the major characters, but we don’t know them, probably never will. In my world, political blogging is simply an anecdote for my own unique form of inertia.

Moreover, the arrival of this new batch of insiders to the Iowa blogosphere will certainly raise the profile of Iowa political blogs. We’re not going to continue as armchair editorialists. The professionals have arrived, and for better or worse, it’ll create a blogging rubber room of political talk that will shape some of Iowa’s mainstream news.

It’s good, and it gives some of us the option to bow out of the political and focus more on the softer side stuff – furniture, food and our navels. Okay, I’ll probably never give up politics entirely, but I might find my inner Rachel Ray and blog on food & more food with only an occasional political thought mixed in. You just never know.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Testing one, two. Now what you gonna do?

First, GWB is hovering around 40-something in approval ratings, of course, those numbers don’t factor in the Dubai Ports World acquisition of management contracts to six American ports and the attendant political fallout. Now, the Conservative Republicans in South Dakota take a full on frontal attack of Roe v. Wade.

What else can happen?

A major influence peddling scandal can break wide open. Oh yeah, Abramoff. Disquiet rumblings among the GOP rank & file. Okay, check that one.

I have to say, it must be almost miserable to be a Republican in charge of message in this sort of fix.

It’s always tough to survive the mid-term election in the second term of your party’s president, but it gets ever more complicated with the piling on of policy decisions that directly challenge the status quo. Take the Dubai Port World situation. The idea that allowing a UAE owned company to purchase another company holding contracts to manage ports in six major US cities -- four on the Eastern Seaboard with one only forty minutes, without a jam on I-95, to downtown D.C. -- is a little alarming. Pile on the pro-life freelancers out in South Dakota. What do you think they’re thinking? “Hey, let’s scare the wits out of every Republican running in districts that require at least a few pro-choice moderate females to vote their economic interests in order to pull it red.”

This type of news isn’t just a chainsaw to the knees; no this is more like a chipper shredder moment (think Fargo).

It’s hitting close to home. A report on the South Dakota legislative action by WHO television included the obligatory survey of Iowa gubernatorial candidates.

Yesterday Senate lawmakers in South Dakota approved a ban on almost all abortions with a vote of 23 to 12. The plan would prohibit abortions unless a mother's life is in danger. The House approved the ban but because of some changes in the Senate it now goes back to the House for a vote, where it is expected to pass. The governor is against abortion, but so far has not said whether he'll sign the bill.

This plan would directly oppose the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. So could it happen in Iowa?

… So could the law change when a new person has the veto power? We asked all of the candidates for governor. Representative Ed Fallon, Sal Mohamed, Chet Culver, Mark Yackle, and Mike Blouin all said they would veto the kind of bill that was passed in South Dakota. Congressman Jim Nussle did not return our calls.

I guess Iowa Republicans can be thankful for one thing – nobody has Vander Plaats on the record over this one.

How do we maneuver around this swampy mess of policy? On the UAE management of American ports, easy, just say no … at least until an eight-month study is in the can. GWB is wrong to think this one is a done deal. On the missionary zeal of the South Dakota legislature, hmm, that is a little tougher. First, good move on not returning the phone call, there is no need to have any sort of comment on record that hasn’t been consultant scrubbed. Second, just might need to spend a little more time wooing those moderate, pro-choice Republican women. And like all girls, moderate Republican women elected officials like to be wooed with the artful application of a little chivalry, and what could be more chivalrous than to kill off a weak right-winga in primary pursuit.

Straight up, Gronstal’s got his people locked down – take a hint.

Oh, and pray that the Iowa liberals find a set of the keys.

Friday, February 24, 2006

What's happening under that painted blue sky?

My S.O. noticed something interesting in the DMR (it happens on occasion). It’s the paper’s habit of publishing make’em look bad news; not that my S.O. minds the DMR’s news placement cheap shots at the legislature, to paraphrase: “they’re all 'challenged' in that place”. I don’t try to disagree, who needs an argument with a show-me-the-numbers sort of person.

Over the past couple days, the DMR has published at least three stories that should have been left on a hard drive. The news guys put together entirely too long “news” stories on the following:

The controversial and significant move to name the channel catfish as the state fish.

Icon status sought for channel catfish

A Senate panel passes a resolution on another symbol for Iowa.

Iowa has a state bird, flower, tree and rock. Next in line could be a state fish.

A Senate committee got hooked on the idea Wednesday, passing a resolution declaring the channel catfish the official fish of Iowa.

"Iowa is one of five states that don't have a state fish. It's time to do it," said Sen. David Miller, a Fairfield Republican and a member of the Senate State Government Committee.

The channel catfish could be a metaphor for Iowans, said 82-year-old George Marzeck of West Burlington, a self-taught naturalist and lifelong fisherman.

"The channel catfish prefers clean, clear water, but it's tough enough to put up with a lot of crap," said Marzeck, who has spent the last 38 years campaigning to have the Legislature designate the channel catfish as the state fish. … (Link)

The Iowa Senate’s efforts to micro-manage athletic eligibility education policy. This suggests we have one too many of those high school coaches practicing politics.

Proposal lets students fail 4 classes, compete

The Senate panel's bill would stymie efforts by the Board of Education to tighten athletic eligibility rules.

Iowa's high school athletes could fail as many as four courses each semester and remain eligible to compete in sports, under a proposed bill unanimously approved Wednesday by a state Senate subcommittee.

The proposed bill would stymie efforts by Iowa's State Board of Education to tighten high school athletic eligibility rule. …

… Sen. Dave Mulde r, a Sioux Center Republican and a subcommittee member, called the proposed rule unfair.

"I could have a student who gets all D-minus and gets to compete, and I can have another student with three A's and three B's and one F, and that kid is ineligible," Mulder, a former high school coach, said of the proposed rule. "Local school districts can do a better job of deciding this issue."

Mulder said he is hopeful the proposed bill makes it out of committee by next week's funnel deadline. …

… Sen. Frank Wood, an Eldridge Democrat and subcommittee member, said benching student athletes for failing a class counters a push for high school students to take rigorous courses. "If students think they'll get an F, they won't take the advanced class. They'll take the easy way out so they can participate in extracurricular activities."

Many high school principals, athletic directors and coaches objected to the Board of Education's proposal for stricter standards. … (Link)

Iowa license plates: blue or pink? Just so long as they don’t look anything like Nebraska’s we’re all okay. But really, do we need to spend legislative time and DMR column inch going on about changes to our license plates?

State: License plate change would cost $19.4 million

Replacing Iowa's blue and white license plates would carry a high price tag.

State transportation officials estimated Thursday it would cost $19.4 million to reissue plates. They did not provide a breakdown of the expenses.

A bill being considered by state lawmakers would require the Iowa Department of Transportation to issue new license plates "of a distinctively different design and color" every five years, beginning in January 2007. … (Link)

News out of the legislature that didn’t make the DMR over the past few days.

Financial education for applicants for and participants in the Family Investment Program. HF 2509

Issuance of identity theft passports by the Attorney General. HF 2506

Holding period for purposes of certain capital assets under the individual income tax. SF 2093

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Music for the GOP

Bacon is on to something -- Vander Plaats pink slipped his staff and is signing up to sing on the Nussle tour. A splashy announcement is scheduled for Wednesday at the Capitol. Yawn.

This was inevitable. Republicans want to win back Terrace Hill soooo badly that any & all GOP family problems will be solved prior to implosion. This is backroom deal making at its finest (apply a little Puccini/The Who/Green Day for background):

Bob -- “I’ll trade my burning, albeit nutty, ambition to be Governor of Iowa if you make me your lieutenant governor and hand over the power structure of the Republican Party to me once you’re elected.”

Jim – “Okay, now sign.”

Guys in the Statehouse chorus – “Thank you God, the money’s not wasted, more for us to burn in our fight to save our Statehouse jobs.”

It's all good theater.

Correction -- It's not at the Capitol.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Is it aromatherapy if a bill stinks?

Last week at the Iowa Statehouse, the leftover flower children turned alternative health care specialists showed up to adjust the psychic energy in the place. Umm, it didn’t work. But they really had another thing on their astral plain. As reported in the Fairfield Ledger last week.
…A bill being considered in the Iowa Legislature could have far-reaching implications for homeopaths, ayurvedic practitioners and other alternative health care providers in Fairfield and across the state.
The Consumer Health Freedom Act would exempt people who practice various forms of alternative medicine from needing to be licensed by the state. At the same time, it would require those providers to give patients a written notice disclosing their unlicensed status and detailing the practitioner's training and the nature of the services to be provided.

Under current Iowa law, some alternative health care providers run the risk of prosecution for practicing medicine without a license. However, physicians, chiropractors and other licensed providers are allowed to practice alternative forms of medicine as long as they do not infringe on the area of another licensed group.

Supporters of the bill say it would expand the range of health care options available to consumers. Opponents say it would jeopardize consumer safety by allowing anyone to practice alternative medicine regardless of their level of training.

"There are numerous alternative medicine approaches that Iowans and Americans have been using for years," said state Sen. Jack Hatch, the Des Moines Democrat who introduced the bill in the Senate. …

… Unlicensed practitioners would have to disclose the fact that they do not have a state license, both directly to their patients and in any advertising. Patients also would receive a written statement including the provider's credentials, the nature of the treatment to be provided, and a reminder that they are free to seek care from a licensed provider as well.

The Iowa Health Freedom Coalition is channeling positive vibes to help Iowa State Senator, and ubiquitous liberal, Jack Hatch pass SF 2095. Not a bad deal if you’re looking at ten or twenty more years in one of Iowa’s many growth industries – ag processing, telemarketing, early childhood education or senior care services. If they pass this thing, it’ll open up all sorts of post secondary opportunities. You’ll be able to spend a couple of months learning all about delivering babies and set up shop. You think I’m kidding.

The brilliance of blogging; a blogger posting in support of SF2095 and lay midwives.

... Remember that M.O.M. meeting I went to back in December? Well, at that meeting, Senator Jack Hatch mentioned wanting to sponsor legislation to "legalize" alternative health care in Iowa. Apparently, he did it! The bill has been co-sponsored by Hatch (self-described "liberal democrat") and Senator Nancy Boettger (republican).

Tuesday, Larry Hanus of the Iowa Health Freedom Coalition and a couple of others were on Jan Mickelson's show on WHO Radio promoting SF 2095, the "Iowa Health Freedom Act". I didn't actually hear the program at the time, but I'm in the process of downloading the Podcast right now. You can download the podcast on the WHO Radio website; scroll down to Tuesday.

I've only skimmed the legislation so far, but it looks to me like this might provide a legitimate "in" for Direct Entry Midwives!

What makes all this interesting (my God, you’ve gotten this far, I have to assume you have no life or have some sort of compulsive reading disorder) anyway, is the yearly roll out of legislation to cap medical malpractice rates (SF 2218 ).

You might wonder how medical malpractice and alternative health care therapies are related; it’s called the hospital emergency room. It is inevitable that when alternative therapies go bad, empirically based forms of health care are sought out. Ask anyone working in a major Iowa metro ER if they have ever seen a patient arriving for medical care post treatment in a nontraditional health care setting (like a room at the Holiday-Motel 6-Inn) and you’ll get a good smirk.

So what? It’s their fault for risking their lives with less than quality health care. However, this “less than” health care puts traditional licensed providers at personal and professional risk. The hippy-chick lay midwife just doing her thing doesn’t have the kind of pockets that trial lawyers are interested in, but those doctors cleaning up the bad outcomes do have deep pockets in the form of very expensive medical malpractice insurance. Of course, a bill with med-mal caps is D.O.A. in the current Iowa Senate as it’s anathema to Iowa trial lawyers and their pals in the Democratic Party.

I don’t have a real problem with people “practicing” alternative forms of health care. What I do have a problem with is making it legal; and, consequently, creating infinitely more professional risk for the optimistic chumps -- I use this term with much affection -- still practicing empirically based forms of health care in Iowa.

When guys like Democratic Senator Jack Hatch push for “health freedom” but don’t support medical malpractice caps, they’re really saying, “I don’t care about the overall quality of Iowa’s health care system, just need a few fast & cheap political points”.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Culver & Judge; locking up the women’s vote.

Patty Judge’s anticipated exit from the Democratic gubernatorial primary is scheduled for public consumption at about 8:20 am tomorrow morning. There are probably a hundred reasons Patty’s getting out, the biggest one might have something to do with money. She couldn’t pull it down -- big surprise, a pig farmer’s wife from tiny Albia without real political money.

Anyway, this is where it starts to get interesting. As reported by Radio Iowa.

… A news conference is scheduled at the statehouse early Wednesday morning at 8:20 and it appears Iowa Ag Secretary Patty Judge will be endorsing Secretary of State Chet Culver's bid to become Iowa's next governor, ending her own campaign for the job.

Culver's campaign will only say Culver is getting a "major endorsement" but Culver will be holding five news conferences around the state and the last one is scheduled at the White Buffalo Restaurant in Albia, which is Judge's hometown. …
Hmm, end of Patty's big dreams or a team Culver/Judge birth announcement, your call.

As we all know from campaign finance reports, Chet & Daddy can raise the money to win a gubernatorial primary and keep it coming well into the general election. Of course, the majority of Chet’s money is from out of state, but what’s the big deal, it is the political version of economic development. And Patty has that pit bull thing down when it comes to collaring Mike Blouin with his incredibly weak record on women’s issues.

It’s not hard to see how Blouin is the big loser in this game. He keeps picking up these insider endorsements from union types, state leaders, legislators and well-connected bloggers. But is it going to make a difference to all those Democratic women primary voters looking at a Supreme Court tipped with five Conservative Roman Catholic jurists? If Democratic women voters have a choice between a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church on record as being anti-choice or a gubernatorial team with solid pro-choice credentials my money is on the pro-choice team.

Admittedly, it's the future photo-ops of Chet & Patty that I'm looking forward to posting that inspires this endorsement.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Good policy mixed up in a junk bill

The Democrats in the Iowa legislature, in their extreme attempt to look tough on illegal immigration, worked the microphones during a Thursday press conference in support of a bill that takes on illegal immigration, evil corporations, nefarious executives and, oh yeah, human trafficking. SF 2109 is the Democrats broad-brush approach to fixing illegal immigration, or, more correctly, fixing their illegal immigration political problem. As reported by Radio Iowa.

Democrats in the legislature propose big fines and the option of jail time for businesses and executives who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. House Democrat Leader Pat Murphy of Dubuque says corporations that import cheap labor, illegally, drive down all wages. "We think it's time that we get tough on big corporations that bring illegal immigrants to this state," Murphy says. Senate Co-Leader Mike Gronstal, a Democrat from Council Bluffs, says Democrats want to create a new "Employer Accountability Bureau" in the Attorney General's office to investigate companies suspected of hiring undocumented workers.

Gronstal says the federal government is doing "little or nothing" to deal with the problem, so Democrats in the legislature want to target the "big corporations" that are "defining" immigration policy by shipping in illegals who work for lower wages than American citizens. "Nobody can criticize a family for seeking a better life for their children," Gronstal says. "This is a criticism of corporations that use immigration as a way to drive down wages in our state."

Gronstal refused to say the legislation targets specific businesses or even specific industries in the state. "I'm not about picking on individual companies," Gronstal says. "The vast majority of players in this state are good businesspeople (who) do a good job." The package Democrats propose also would outlaw "human trafficking" in Iowa. Senate Co-President Jack Kibbie, a Democrat from Emmetsburg, says it involves not just adults who're seeking jobs but kids who're being sexually exploited. Kibbie says the state must "get ahold of" the situation and stop it.

This reads like a script from an Iowa AFL-CIO candidate round up, with the veiled shots at the big guys running big business and the soft sell pandering to illegal immigrants “seeking a better life for their children”. Unfortunately, it really is a muddle of bill. It lumps together issues related to immigration, often a federal policy conundrum, with the creation of state statutes to prosecute human trafficking crimes. In fact, the combination of the two issues is cause for concern among interest groups working to pass one of the other human trafficking bills. From the Quad City Times.

The Democrats’ plan also includes a ban on human trafficking, making it a felony to transport people into the state for the purpose of exploiting them.

Martin (Catholic Latino affairs guy) said human trafficking is a completely separate issue from the hiring of illegal immigrants, so he believes it is unwise to include the two in the same discussion.

Both sides practice election year politics; Senate Republicans with the grandstanding on the death penalty and now the House and Senate Democrats with a sloppy, try-to-look-tough bill on illegal immigration. This is something I’d shrug off, but I just had to check out the websites campaigning against human trafficking and modern slavery -- creepy.

iAbolish put together a state-by-state breakdown of trafficking and human slavery arrests and prosecutions. A few examples.

In February 2000 Michael Charles Smith, a 50-year old high school math teacher, was arrested on charges stemming from the accusation that he smuggled a number of undocumented Mexican boys into the United States in order to have sex with them. Further evidence claimed that Smith was part of a ring of pedophiles. Its members traveled to Acapulco to have sex with the city's street kids; they also trafficked in child pornography and smuggled Mexican teens across the border. Smith kept three such boys in his house, one for over a decade. Smith claimed the whole thing was a misunderstanding, pleaded guilty to a few lesser charges and was sentenced to just over two years in prison.

The Cadena family, from Veracruz, Mexico, smuggled at least 22 young women from Mexico to the United States and then forced them into prostitution. The women — some of them as young as 14 — were lured by promises of good-paying jobs. Instead, they found themselves as sex slaves in trailer park brothels in Florida and South Carolina. They were kept in deplorable conditions and regularly beaten. If a woman got pregnant, she was forced to have an abortion. The brothels' clients paid $20 for sex. For each transaction, $3 was subtracted from the $2000 to $3000 'smuggling fee' that these women ostensibly owed their captors. After a series of raids and arrests, family ringleader Rogerio Cadena pleaded guilty to a number of charges. He faces up to 15 years in prison.

Five people were arrested and tried on charges that they smuggled two Chinese women into the US. Using fake visas and a sham marriage, the smugglers allegedly conspired to make the women sex slaves for Little Rock businessman David Jewell Jones. Unfortunately, one of the women, worried that she would be deported if Jones was acquitted, embellished her testimony on the stand and the trial ended with a hung jury. The accused, however, have been re-indicted on marriage fraud charges.

Oh, it happens in Iowa too.

The point is, Democrats should know better than to attach an election year gimmick to a small, but important (at least to a few people), issue that if it passes will provide prosecutors with tools to go after human traffickers in state courts. None of this plea-bargaining practiced evil down to two years junk, thank you.

I guess they still have to negotiate the politics on this issue. Is Gronstal going to be callous and push for a 'bad executives' amendment on a viable human trafficking bill (SF2027)? If that happens, will the Senate GOP leaders just shelve the bill for another year? Perhaps this is avoidable if some clean version of a human trafficking bill moves out of the House and to the Senate before there’s more Gronstal grandstanding on the issue.

Friday, February 10, 2006

A journalist with a blogger's snark

In a break from all the excitement in Torino -- okay, I can only watch so many downhill runs before I am totally annoyed that I never made my S.O. take up skiing and that I live a place where it's ridiculous that the major sporting goods store even stock skis, although last time I checked they did have a slew of good boots & skis on clearance -- I thought I would honor the State tradition of searching the Iowa blogistan for newbies.

And what do I find?

Todd Dorman is posting to a blog on the Mason City Globe Gazette blog page.

Dude, like you don't have enough work to do churning this stuff out for a living. There are only two posts so far, truck fees and teen drivers' cell phone restrictions, but if we’re lucky Dorman might blow a plug, chew & swallow a few stupid pills and take up fisking politician-speak as a new art form. We can only hope.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

How do we shake it off?

The news can be strange. In the aftermath of the Roger Bentley murder trial, there are a few details spinning out of the mess.

In Johnson County, there’s an effort to acquire the trailer where the murder took place, burn it and turn it into a nature preserve.

The owner of the deserted trailer in southwest Johnson County where authorities found the body of 10-year-old Jetseta Gage said she wants it torn down to establish a nature preserve.

Ann Enck, who lived in the trailer for about three months before moving to Florida two years ago, said she gave Johnson County officials permission to remove or raze her trailer at 4703 Orval Yoder Turnpike S.W.

"I'm going to go up there in about three or four weeks ... because there's still a lot of family stuff we want to pull from there ... especially the family memories, the photographs and that kind of stuff," Enck said Tuesday from her home in Waldo, Fla. "I'm donating it (the property) to a trust that's going to turn it into a nature habitat, retreat type of thing."

The mobile home, which has been abandoned since Enck moved, is where investigators discovered Jetseta's body stuffed in a bathroom cabinet on March 25, 2005. It's also where authorities found Roger Bentley, who faces two life prison sentences after a jury last week found him guilty of Jetseta's kidnapping and death. (Link to Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Yeah, gives new meaning to the Kelo inspired discussion of eminent domain. Although, I suppose it’s better than the rapid condo construction on all those Florida mobile home sites with some connection to the kidnapping, rape and murder of a child.

And back at the legislature, Jetsetta Gage’s murder has emboldened a group of GOP Senators to sponsor a death penalty bill. They’re working extra hours to try to move recalcitrant Democrats to agree to take up the bill in the Senate Judiciary committee. It’s not working, but the death penalty supporters keep trying. Recently, the Gage family joined the lead Senate sponsor in a series of press events.

A relative of the 10-year-old Cedar Rapids girl who was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered last spring has joined a campaign to get the death penalty reinstated in Iowa. Jenny Slight, Jetsetta Gage's great aunt, says justice was not really served with last week's conviction of Roger Bentley, the man accused of killing Jetsetta, because Bentley won't be put to death. She says she's had a lot of people come and tell her what they'd like to do, and she says she tells them to write to the legislature. …

… Slight spoke this (Wednesday) morning at a news conference in Newton, an event arranged by State Senator Larry McKibben, a Republican from Marshalltown who is pushing to reinstate capitol punishment in Iowa for those who kidnap, rape and kill kids. McKibben says Democrats in the Iowa Senate are blocking a debate on his death penalty bill. McKibben is planning similar events around the state and he'll be joined -- as he was in Newton -- by Republican candidates for the state senate who support the death penalty. (Link to Radio Iowa)

The nature retreat and the death penalty are hyperbolic fallout from a horrible act committed by someone without a conscience. My thought on the park the penalty, better to target resources and policy on the front end, so kids don’t grow up to be the next Roger or James Bentley.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The pros & cons

My significant other thinks the Republicans have completely lame arguments against raising the tobacco tax. I’m not so sure, well actually I’m rather indifferent to the whole thing, but just for fun let’s cut & paste the arguments.

Using the Register's tobacco tax pro & con op-eds, I’ll attempt to deconstruct the rhetorical legos slapped together by two esteemed Iowa types; Joe Murphy, a senior student government guy from UNI writing for a tobacco tax increase and Jamie Van Fossen, a fiscal ninja and House Ways & Means chair writing against raising the tobacco tax.

Pro: Purchasing cigarettes is price-elastic, so increasing the price of cigarettes is the best deterrent against smoking. As the price increases, the demand and consumption of cigarettes will decrease. It's estimated that if the tobacco tax is increased by $1, youth smoking would be reduced by 19.3 percent.

Con: Put the health questions aside. One reason I object to proposed increases is my belief they will never raise the kind of revenue many project. In state after state, cigarette and tobacco tax increases have failed to do that. The consequence of a miscalculation could be staggering.

What I’m thinkin’:

Joe Murphy has bought the Chaloupka line on elasticity, which is really an opportunity cost; you supplant one activity for another based on the subjective measure of costs. But has Joe really thought this through, I mean, the reason most college women start to smoke is to keep the weight off, and without ephedrine on the market and with all that greasy college food, well. But what college boy really needs to sit next to girls with BMI’s under 25?

Rep Van Fossen just doesn’t like taxes. If he could have gotten away with writing a string of sentences that start and end with some version of ‘I just don’t like taxes’ I think that’s what we’d be reading. However, the process requires him to blah, blah his way through this op-ed. On his declining revenue point – so, until you vaguely recall that the crazed Steelers fan is still sitting in Terrace Hill just waiting to sign any spending bill that has national democrat constituency penciled in the corner.

They go on, read ‘em if you want, but the essential arguments are what you’d expect; we must raise the tobacco tax to save lives or what the @#$% are we thinking relying on an unstable revenue stream to fund new programs.

I think the Iowa legislature will raise the tobacco taxes...when there is a Republican living in Terrace Hill willing to use a tobacco tax increase to buy down other taxes legitimately.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The End -- and train wreck free

State 29 Is Over

We're done. No more State 29 blog. This is the last post.

The Ed (me) got a job offer in Missouri starting in March and I'm taking it. I'm moving to the land of the Blunt dynasty and cheap cigarettes. No, I'm not starting the State 24 blog.

The cranky guy is swamped with work and school. He's happy to give it up. He didn't want to take over and bring somebody else on board.

We had another contributor who quit last week due to a disagreement about a post.

To all your freelancers who slipped us stories over the past year or so, thanks a lot for your generosity. Some of you didn't want to start blogs for obvious reasons and we respected that.

The archive will stay up. Email will no longer be looked at.

It's been a fun way to vent, but it's time to move on.

State, a big wet kiss to ya, we'll miss you...even if you got some of our stories all wrong.

And my guess, some of us will very likely follow you down that road out of Iowa, hopefully before we manage to get into some horrible train wreck involving icicles, blue hair and hemis.

How's this for a little serendipity, I had Good People, I Won't Back Down, Runnin' Down a Dream and Crooked Teeth on the rotation when I checked in on you this afternoon.

Happy landing.

Friday, February 03, 2006

"In God we trust; everyone else we audit," he said with a smile.

Do you know this guy? Probably not. But he’s about the only thing we’ve got standing between our bank accounts and the GovVilsackVac 2008.

This is Dave Vaudt, the Iowa State Auditor and perfectly pressed laminated speech in hand talking head crusading to save Iowa taxpayers from drowning in a pool of state budget IOUs. The great thing about Dave is he’s dogged about telling this same story over, and over, and over – sellin’ it one lonely Iowan at a time if that is what it takes.

Dave’s most recent rehash of the same story, as reported by Radio Iowa:

State Auditor Dave Vaught says the state spending plan Democrat Governor Tom Vilsack is asking lawmakers to approve will put the state in a deeper financial hole. Vaught, who is a Republican, says his own calculations show Vilsack proposes spending 230-million more dollars than the state will collect in taxes. "I would not continue to do this type of practice if these were my own finances," Vaught says. "Well, these are the taxpayers dollars and we need to make sure we're handling them in the same manner we'd handle our own personal finances."

Vaught warns the spending spree cannot continue. "I've always told people when you're digging a hole and you get to the point where you cannot see out anymore, it's time to stop digging," Vaught says.

Vaught also says Vilsack's budget outline does not include enough money to cover the state's obligations to pay Medicaid claims, nor does it include enough to cover the negotiated salary increases for state workers. "Does that mean we're going to have furloughs or lay-offs in the future?" Vaught asks. Vaught says he's optimistic legislators will develop a "more responsible" plan for the state budget year which begins July 1st.

You’ve got to admire a guy willing to stand up and read the same old speech. Even though Dave Knows that the gimmes across the parking lot – soon to be a taxpayer financed luxury parking garage complete with coffee bar and car wash (just kidding…sort of) – will wait a day for the story to die and then go right back to working the appropriations chairs to nail that extra 100 thousand in taxpayer coin for that one special project.

If we’re lucky, this story doesn’t die and voting taxpayers start to understand how much money we’re all on the hook for in future years. We can only hope that Dave keeps talking and more people keep tuning in to this budget mess.

The only suggestion, Dave you might want to hire some PR types to help get your message and the correct spelling of your name out to the MSM.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Counting a few of my favorite things

I haven't posted a list in a few months, and I had to figure out a way to work in the fact that I ran over a skunk on my way home from a job, my job. Yes a job, y'all probably figured that out since my posting habits have changed just a little.

The other day, someone I know mentioned that it is a good idea to think about the things in your life and count your blessings -- the favorites and the not so favorites.

The favorites

1) Kids that all of a sudden start to look like someone in the family; a sigh of relief that you left the hospital with the right 20 inch Winston Churchill. (Oh please, every newborn looks like some version of Winston Churchill.)

2) The good people in the world that I meet every day, and particularly the ones that I don't know well enough to know if they are good, but they're good just the same, elbows and all.

3) The now affordable all in one counter top ice cream makers. If you can't purchase coconut and sweet corn ice cream, well, by God, we can make it.

The not so favorites

1) Running over odiferous road kill that conveniently lodged its crushed and shredded tissue in the engine block of my car. Three car washes and it's still really bad. (Just think, in another few years we'll be able to link to digital scratch and sniff.)

2) Having to trudge after someone that has spent a very passionate life working for all sorts of good and grand things, yet somehow misses the truly good things expressed in the small, mindful gestures of the everyday. It makes for a soul worn Friday.

3) Laundry that never ends, seriously, it never ends. Something is always in the wash or the dryer or in a basket ready to be folded or put away and...Which I think brings me back to why I actually started this thing; stuff is always churning.

(Politics tomorrow, promise.)

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