Friday, March 31, 2006

Writer's Block

I knew it would happen. I would wake up one day and not have any ideas on what to write, or think -- eke -- scary. But so what? In the words of some inspired existentialists: let the water hold you down, and I've decided to take a bath and let my toes soak for a day or two, in the meantime…

…I have a list (my anecdote to writer's block) of things I hate about politics, some picayune things and others that are common knowledge.

1) Money. It isn’t going away, it’ll always drive it; the only thing we can hope for is that the Jon Corzines of the world will multiply and grow strong so that at least we’ll know our elected officials will answer to just one special interest.

2) Campaigns. Obviously related to number one, money makes campaigns go ‘round. But how many pre-packaged, mass marketed, resume perfect people can we stomach? Then again, once our candidates are elected, the shrink-wrap comes off and all sorts of bad habits tumble on out providing colorful examples of personal train wrecks.

3) Idiots. Although rare, some of the political types that move up the ranks are not exactly working any edges. Policy making demands that a politician have at least one sharp edge in one subject matter or all you have is a well-paid seat warmer... and we have very warm seats in some places.

4) Slick. It’s an occupational hazard. They can’t help it; a politician in office for longer than a month will quickly figure out they gotta’ keep their cards if they want to go anywhere. However, it becomes a problem when politician speak devolves into a chronic habit of asking questions they already know the answer to in an attempt to get the clueless to blab on and on.

5) Nasty. Another occupational hazard. We all know what this looks like on the campaign trail, but it also shows up in legislative work through acts of commission and omission.

That’s it. My short list on what I hate about politics. Nothings going to change, I just have to decide if I want to keep paying attention to it all or go find some new toys to play with.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Streaming Radio

This is a little hype for a good radio station. If you haven't checked out The Planet, K.C.'s former 97.3 now a great stream, try it. It's good -- Talking Heads to Indigo Girls to Coldplay to Luce to underplayed Green Day to Sheryl Crow to old R.E.M with those heavy guitars to Amos Lee to Tom Petty (they like Petty) and it goes.

Please check 'em out; I want it to stay around.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Political Mileage Awards

It’s a day for political opportunity. In separate events, Governor Vilsack and Candidate Blouin went off with cloying talk on issues that need apolitical compassion.

Vilsack, when asked to comment on the death of his former chief of staff, used his trademark style of weaving this unrelated tragedy into a political message directed at giving the cigarette tax a media boost. Vilsack tied his friend’s suicide brought on by the abuse of prescription drugs to increasing the tobacco tax. The string of logic on this one: tobacco products are a “gateway” drug. Vilsack quotes from Radio Iowa.

"Steve Gleason was a good man, but he had his challenges and his addictions which he had difficulties coping with," Vilsack said. "The legislature has before it a tobacco tax increase which many look at in the context of the politics of the day and some look at in terms of revenues that can do good. For me, it's about trying to save lives."

Vilsack said research shows raising the tax will make cigarettes so expensive many kids won't start smoking, and smoking, he contends, is a precursor to other drugs and addictions. "If that's true, and I believe it is, lives could be saved with this action (of raising the cigarette tax)," Vilsack said. "It seems to me that that's the most compelling reason why we ought to be talking about this, especially in light of all that's happened recently."

I don’t think Vilsack’s habit of using other people’s personal tragedies to sell a political message is calculated, perhaps it’s a residual method of constructing an argument from his training and work as a trial lawyer. Whatever it is that allows our governor to commingle personal tragedy with political spin, it’s at times unseemly.

Mike Blouin’s campaign came up with the groovy idea of encouraging charity on the single day that President Bush is in town for a Nussle fundraiser. So how about the other 364 days? Reported in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

…Blouin said his campaign and its supporters will be serving soup in Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Des Moines to those who can't afford tickets to the April 11 Bush/Nussle fundraiser. He said proceeds from the dinners will be donated to soup kitchens and food pantries.

Blouin said attendees at his soup dinner will be asked to pay $5 or $10 a head, or whatever they can afford…

I have to believe Blouin’s efforts are less about Jim Nussle and more about connecting with Ed Fallon’s supporters. Particularly with the impression Blouin’s given some of the social service agency advocates.

From a no longer published December post (this is my post on the PSF post), the former Pirate Skull Face dished a little inside on Blouin’s curious meeting with a group of human needs advocates. As I recall, the post was less than flattering to Mr. Blouin, something about patience and comfort level. If only we could track down a transcript from that meeting.

We should probably cut our politicians a little slack -- from pandering to the poor, using tragedy for political mileage, going on an absurd 'tour' over a weekend during session, caring more about bullhead cousins than bullies -- they all make mistakes, much like the rest of us…although, outside of taking stupid pills on a regular basis and being 34% evil (probably more on a bad day), I’m perfect.

It’s my blog, personal myopia rules.


A Tax Increase; or how to encourage more Iowans to leave the workforce

Some tax increases are just fine, according to Democrats in the Iowa Senate. Reported in the QC Times

DES MOINES — Democrats gave new details Thursday about how they would pay for elimination of the tax on pensions and Social Security. The plan would cut taxes for all low- and moderate-income Iowans, while raising taxes for the wealthy.

“Let me put it this way. Pension and Social Security taxes will be gone and everybody that makes under $100,000 a year will see a significant tax break,” said Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs.

Democrats would pay for their plan by eliminating a tax break that allows Iowans to deduct their federal income taxes from their state income taxes. This would save the state more than $430 million, which Democrats would use to reduce or eliminate taxes on retirement income and reduce tax rates on the lower and middle end of the salary scale.

Gronstal said the proposals would be “revenue neutral,” meaning the tax cuts would be offset by raising taxes in other areas. Further details were not available.

Republican leaders oppose the idea. They would rather pay for tax cuts by reducing the rate of new spending, which Democrats say would lead to cuts for K-12 schools.

Rep. Jamie Van Fossen, R-Davenport, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said Democrats are trying to kill the idea of a retirement-tax cut by weighing it down with provisions that Republicans find unpalatable.

“They are proposing this because they know it is a poison pill,” he said.

The House passed a bill in January that would phase out the tax on pensions and Social Security and eliminate the income tax for low- and middle-income Iowans 65 and older.

“Poison pill” politics aside, this is bad public policy. The Senate Democrats are offering up the pension and social security tax cut to seniors in exchange for the removal of federal deductibility on state income taxes for families with incomes over one hundred grand. They might get a little class warfare mileage out of it, but it’s obvious that nobody in that caucus seriously considered the interaction of tax rates and labor economics.

Tax and labor interaction is described in this National Bureau of Economic Research, Digest Report, December 2004: Effects of Taxes on Labor Income.

"Higher tax rates on labor income and consumption expenditures lead to less work time in the legal market sector, more time working in the household sector, a larger underground economy, and smaller shares of national output and employment in industries that rely heavily on low-wage, low-skill labor inputs."

The Democrats want to tax Iowa families with incomes over $100,000; Iowa families will look at the options, figure out they’re spending most of the second income on taxes, childcare & other work related expenditures, and will opt out of the six-figure-two-income world.

Every politician, MSM outlet and important Iowan with a microphone waves the red flag about Iowa’s labor supply crisis. So why do the Iowa Senate Democrats want to create tax policy that will encourage a certain group of individuals to exit the paid labor force?


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Inoculation 2006

Sometimes I notice things that happen. Like this week, the Senate Democrats passed through funnel two bills they’ve been resisting, a bill to restrict eminent domain and a bill to track prescription drugs. Not sure what to make of it, I guess the political change reflects new polling data suggesting their target voters wanted the use of eminent domain restricted and want to see doctor-shopping & pill-popping druggies locked up a little faster.

The versions that came out of the Senate committees are amended versions of the House bills; they’ve been worked over to make them slightly more acceptable to Democratic Senators. To make these bills go Gronstal may have given a pep talk in caucus that sounded something like this…

“We’re swallowing a couple pills to get what we want – the Senate majority. We vote to move these bills and we neutralize their political usefulness. Nobody will have to worry about the card with the picture of a frazzled hippie drug seeker on the front and a ‘Senator Stewart wants to make it easy for this guy to get his next fix’ on the back. Or the card with a grandma standing in front of her home watching well dressed developers in hard hats tear it down with a ‘Senator Beall believes economic development happens when we tear down grandma’s house’. Nope. We’re going to let these issues slide for the greater good.”

I wonder if the GOP types (I make it sound like Republicans' have a certain kind of blood -- and no it’s not cold) have poll tested some of their no-go positions on issues like car title loans, anti-bullying mandate and tobacco taxes. Realistically, neither side wants to vote for a tax increase knowing that tobacco using voters will figure out they’d been sucker punched just about the time we start absentee & satellite voting this fall. The car title loans, not sure it’ll amount to much of an issue for the Democrats, but I can think of at least one mailer -- A bedraggled woman and three kids with the tag line ‘They just lost their Iowa home, a 1989 Pontiac Grand Am, to a multi-millionaire in Georgia’. As for the anti-bullying mandate, the GOP can probably dust that off with a local control argument, but if that local control talk rings hollow. Perhaps we’ll see a direct mail piece with a picture of my ten year old and a tag line ‘Rep De Boef doesn’t mind that Sam spends his days at school working on reading, writing, arithmetic and hiding out from bullies.’

I assume that before the end of session every conceivable problem issue on either side will be poll tested, focus grouped and inoculated with strategic votes on legislative bills & amendments in the attempt to end run election year politics.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Go on, take it

I haven't posted a blogthings test in quite a long time and evil seems to be a common theme in recent posts & comments, sooo...

You Are 34% Evil

A bit of evil lurks in your heart, but you hide it well.
In some ways, you are the most dangerous kind of evil.

How Evil Are You?

No comment.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Fallon on corporate welfare

Posting a press release; I have to keep up with all the other bloggers publishing the random press releases fed to their in-boxes. Besides, he's going after Vilsack's corporate welfare program.

FALLON TO HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE THURSDAY TO SHOW DISCREPANCIES BETWEEN VALUES FUND TALK AND ACTUAL RESULTS

State Representative and gubernatorial candidate Ed Fallon (D-Des Moines) will hold a press conference Thursday afternoon on the west steps of the Capitol.

At the conference, he will pop 24 helium balloons, representing 23,700 jobs, the difference between the number of jobs the Iowa Department of Economic Development and former Director Mike Blouin claim to have created with the Iowa Values Fund, and the actual job creation data presented in their last report. Fallon received the actual job creation data through an open records request made to IDED in late February.

“It’s important for Iowans to know the difference between the truth and what they’ve been led to believe,” Fallon said. “If the Department of Economic Development had actually created the 25,000 jobs that were pledged, that would be one thing, but there’s no data to suggest that’s really happening. Research done by my staff and interns show that less than 1,300 jobs have actually been created.”

At the conference, Fallon will also present his own plan for economic development.

DETAILS FOR TOMORROW’S EVENT:

Fallon for Governor Press Conference
Thursday, March 22
2:00 PM
State Capitol, West Steps
Des Moines

It should be good sport watching Fallon take on the goofy habit of promoting government handouts to big business.

It’s one thing if we carve up our tax code for some industry advantage – a modicum of efficiency in that stuff. It is entirely different when we collect tax revenue from almost everybody, particularly those chain-smoking TouchPlay fans, to fund government administration and a few corporate bottom lines. I’ve never understood the point of the Iowa Values Fund: dole out big chunks ‘o’ money to billion-dollar companies that use the cash to buy naming rights to publicly financed buildings and use the leftovers for the decorative granite & copper in the new division HQ in Iowa’s only exurb.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Iowa has a reputation?

A Jim Nussle road tour story as reported in the Mason City Globe Gazette...

U.S. Rep. Jim Nussle said Monday he favors removal of TouchPlay machines because they pose a threat to Iowa’s reputation.

And that reputation is…

Fried Milkyway production and consumption capitol of the world?

A tipped hog to people ratio?

The most telephone customer service career opportunities in the Midwest?

The single most influential state committed to the care & feeding of the Gulf of Mexico dead zone?

Oh, my mistake…

During a campaign stop at the Mason City Library, Nussle, Republican candidate for governor, said, “We have a reputation of being a safe, clean, healthy place to raise kids.

Thank you, I knew I lived here for some reason.

Gubernatorial campaigns always shape the language voters use to evaluate the campaigns, the candidates and our future; and Iowans being the enthusiastic church types easily convinced to care about a “reputation” makes the use of reputation a good choice to frame differences between Nussle and the eventual Democratic nominee.

Nussle will take every opportunity to tie that lodestone of our supposed Vilsack induced reputation slide to the Democrats. Why not? This TouchPlay mess has really focused, like a laser beam (not really I just wanted to say that) attention on Vilsack’s all consuming need for jacking the revenue to promote his nonstop need for government spending. TouchPlay was just a creative and innovative method for pulling down money from suckers to maximize the revenue the state spends.

Nussle’s right on TouchPlay, it’s not good policy to end up with more slot & slottery machines than we have people. I just hope that in a no TouchPlay Iowa we’ll never be able to reach the perfect people to gambling machine ratio in our other money-eating venues.


Sunday, March 19, 2006

TouchPlay Redux

The TouchPlay debate has moved past round one in the politics of creative destruction. It’s not over, and I am not talking about the lawsuits.

We still have the September 1st bill that the House passed on Tuesday to be discussed in the Senate this coming week, and there’s growing support to roll back the lottery’s charter agency status. Just a thought: it’s never a good idea to give wide latitude to government agencies charged with producing revenue. What’s their incentive: make money with whatever works or cut waste to improve efficiency? However, it is clever of Vilsack to use a creative policy tool sold on the concept of “less red tape” to move a major producer of revenue out from under serious bipartisan political oversight.

Outside of the continuing battle of the bills, the c-stores are threatening to halt other business arrangements with the Iowa Lottery. While the TouchPlay coalition is soft selling the “it’s not fair” talk (Time Out: since when has the world been fair?) and offering up a two year schedule for the removal of TouchPlay machines that, of course, is “fair” to their clients.

The one issue that is down played in the debate is the revenue question. How are we going to replace the 40+ million in TouchPlay money? This is particularly true in an environment where very few people are able to spit out a “no, that’s not a wise choice” when it comes to spending…or much of anything else. Every budget plan floating around the Statehouse increases spending, and political types around the Statehouse are looking for an REC report that’ll save their budget behinds.

This is a long way of saying: it’s about the money. Okay, we have a bipartisan bill to rip ‘em out on Vilsack’s desk, and a budget that doesn’t really balance, and a governor who isn’t going to ratchet back spending, and a GOP that will not cave to a tax increase. Messy.

The TouchPlay people are aware of these facts, and they’ll work it with their “the world isn’t fair” pabulum while coaxing a keep it all under the dome & revenue friendly compromise that might be attached to a holiday bill. Although it’s not perfect, this type of solution provides everything any politician might need: an anti-gambling roll call vote; reduced pressure to find new revenue sources through tax increases; the continued flow of political money; and, the ability to spend, spend, spend to keep the lobby & local voters happy, happy, happy.

I know, cynical, but the world does offer a reprieve every now and again -- I-Pod on the speakers singing the Who's Baba O'Riley with my boys.


Friday, March 17, 2006

letters

A recent email to Iowa Ennui...

Howdy,

Hey -- this is Nate Niceswanger with Zzz Records in Des Moines checking in. I wanted to thank you for calling out Jack Hatch in one of your recent posts. Both my landlord and I were bewildered by the letter when it appeared in the Register; I have no idea why he would stick his neck out when he seems to have so much opposition on the eminent domain issue.

Anyway, I just wanted to say "thanks" for mentioning this. I think it slipped by a bunch of people when his letter ran in the Register.

Later,

Nate
Zzz Records
Des Moines, Iowa, USA

Jack Hatch and the rest of the Senate Democrats are opposed to HF 2351, a bill that would stop private investors’ use eminent domain to acquire other people’s property for the purposes of economic development. Hatch publicly stated his case for ignoring his constituents on eminent domain in a letter to the DMR published March 4th. You can read it if you want, but why bother, all you need to know is that Democratic Senator Jack Hatch is a property developer specializing in “urban renewal”.

It is fair to say that Hatch’s opposition to the bill limiting the use of eminent domain is related to the fact that he makes a living screwing over this group of ‘little people’. He can worry all he wants about poor people and TouchPlay, health care, energy assistance, but when it comes to affecting his livelihood and lifestyle, he’s going to find a way to rationalize his behavior – so typical.

I disagree with Nate on one thing; I don’t think the Hatch letter slipped by anybody. These letters are in today’s DMR

What defines 'public good?'

I rarely disagree with Jack Hatch, but people are afraid of the abuse of eminent domain for good reason ("Eminent Domain Not Abused in D.M.," March 4 letter).

Those empowered to make eminent-domain decisions almost never come from the neighborhoods they condemn. There are no objective definitions of "greater good," "common good" or "community betterment" with which to make equitable decisions about whose property may be taken, but it is nearly certain it won't be those in posh neighborhoods who have to worry.

A person's home should be his castle whether he lives in a mansion west of downtown or an east-side neighborhood. There are simply too many connections between local politics and local developers to be lax on this issue. One should not have to worry about developers grabbing a councilman or congressman by the wallet and convincing him that storming another man's castle is for the greater good.

- Jeff Clothier, Colfax.

Jack Hatch writes that "Iowa's economic future depends on maintaining a proper balance between private investment and public good."

Sounds lofty enough, but I don't understand what that is supposed to mean when we are discussing eminent domain.

Our future depends on protecting private property, and if eminent domain is defined as increasing property tax values for public good then we are in trouble.

- Buzz Schwartz, Des Moines.

I suppose for guys like Hatch living in Vertigo is a challenge…particularly in a culture comfortable with omission.


Monday, March 13, 2006

oldwhatshername

I’m happy to admit that I am wrong. Tonight, the Iowa Senate actually voted, 40 to 10, to ban the lottery TouchPlay machines.

What’s her name, the Senator that pushed hard to ban TouchPlay machines?

That’s right, Senator Mary Lundby of Marion. She drafted the amendment and she didn’t flinch when Senate tradition almost got in the way.

And isn’t Senator Lundby a member of the Senate Republican leadership?

Why yes, Senator Lundby was elected to the Senate leadership just about three weeks ago, much to the chagrin of some mysterious konservative(s).

On to the House...where the guys are going to try to not let it look like the gaming industry sliced a couple shots on the back nine of some links style course with great seascapes; although, the House mindset has always been in the right place on this issue, windburns or no windburns.

On that note: why doesn't Iowa have a golf trail?

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

UPDATE: House passed the Senate TouchPlay ban, but must have felt sorry for the clerks milling about the Rotunda and gave the retailers until September 1st to pull 'em.


Sunday, March 12, 2006

TouchPlay Payout

Nobody knows what to expect as the TouchPlay debate moves out to the floors. Legislators went home over the weekend, and a good number attended county conventions where the Party faithful showed up with opinions.

The anti-TouchPlay movement was obvious at the GOP conventions, Nussle/VanderPlaats team asked county conventions to approve a rip-‘em-out plank with the goal of landing it on the state GOP platform. It's understood that a good number of counties already had anti-gambling and/or anti-TouchPlay planks in their proposed county platforms, so the organized effort to move the anti-gambling TouchPlay plank must be the start of a campaign play. (I have a hunch where the N-VP team might be going, but I’ll save it for my own head.)

Everyone’s back to the Statehouse on Monday to shake out this debate after a weekend of high-pressure phone calls and a little soul searching. It’s not an easy vote, or at least it shouldn’t be an easy vote. The curious thing is that the guys at top of the Iowa political food chain are allowing this issue to free float; neither Democrat leaders nor Republican leaders are pushing their caucuses to vote a certain way on TouchPlay. However, the procedural maneuvers provide a few clues.

The House announced last week that TouchPlay would run the floor on Tuesday, and, by all reports, it seems as if a majority intend to vote for a hard ban on TouchPlay. After the House announced their plans, the Senate decided to bum rush the House, passed their bill banning TouchPlay out of committee on Thursday, and scheduled floor debate for Monday. Everyone is assuming that we'll see a pile of amendments to the Senate bill. Most of these amendments will be from the TouchPlay lobbyists attempting to mold the hard ban into something acceptable to TouchPlay deep pockets.

From what I’ve read, the Senate Democrats are squishy on the ban, they like the revenue, and, my guess, Gronstal has to prove he can pull a corporate friendly bill through the Senate. This is a good test for potential Majority Leader Gronstal; the “business interest” lobby needs proof that he’ll move some of their less popular issues as Senate Majority Leader. He pulls this one off and the money might start flowing a little faster in Gronstal’s direction.

The Republicans at first seemed squishy, some still are, but a good number found Jesus, or rather, they found their supporters that have found Jesus really don’t like TouchPlay. This is a bit glib; I am sure there are a number of legislators on both sides that are against gambling as a reflection of their faith, but Republians see their living faith friends at church and political events.

The TouchPlay coalition types know where legislators stand on the issue and with the Senate moving first they’ll have a better chance of pulling down a “strike all” amendment to the Senate bill. A TouchPlay friendly strike all amendment, if introduced and passed, replaces the Senate bill language that bans all TouchPlay machines with something more acceptable to the Ballys & Bills of the world. If a strike all amendment fails in the Senate and the ban-‘em version of the bill sells across the Rotunda, then a hard ban on TouchPlay becomes possible; however, I don’t know if I’d take that bet.

Even with all of the anti-TouchPlay talk, it’s tough to see how they can put it back in some box and send it C.O.D to Vegas. A week ago, I believed the legislature would solve this issue in the usual fashion -- TouchPlay would have a rough ride until it coughed up more money for the state and curbed its flashy style. This year’s different, and there’s no telling what the TouchPlay political payout is going to look like.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Mnemonics and the 1980s

I did not want to have to blog on this particular story, but nobody else took the bait. Okay, it probably has something to do with the ease at which sarcasm comes to mind when you think of this phrase…“The 80’s are Alive”.

The intended meaning has to do with 80-something Iowa House votes (meaning at least 29 House Democrats said ‘yes’) for a couple of bills the Senate Democrat’s don’t like; restricted use of eminent domain for economic development and tax relief for seniors through the phase out of pension and SS taxes. However, it’s the phrase’s implied notion that any cultural relic from the 1980s can be resurrected; although, I will always welcome a Talking Heads tour.

Whenever I think of the 1980s – and no, I wasn’t five or even a tweener with idol worship of the original Madonna Ciccone; although, I do profess a fondness for the Madonna – they come to mind with a cringe for the big hair, micro-minis, and pink lipstick; although, I’ll cop to one of those sins, a little pink lipstick with ripped jeans and my Dad’s oldest moth eaten sweater held together with safety pins (yeah, punk wannabe). So, sure it’s flip, “The 80’s are Alive”, but oh, it brings back some cringe worthy memories.

GOP spin people are you positive this mnemonic connection was a good idea?

Oh, I forgot, the spin emanates from a bunch of guys workin’ middle age; the memories – co-eds that say ‘yes’, fortitude of all types and a future. We all deal with the middle one way or another – some of us choose the snarky-ass blog approach.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Side Notes on Kelo

Side Notes & Detours shreds a Kelo friendly opinion piece in the Press Citizen, and then offers up this analysis of Iowa's legislative Kelo-ing combined with a curious segue into GWB and his domestic spying habits. I'd write more, but I am tired and Side Notes has plenty to say.

Maybe it's the education talking, but prevention and the rule of law seem to me too important to simply let issues skate on "but we did it before" and "c'mon, nobody's taken advantage of it yet." Our government is not basically corrupt. It's not out specifically to "get" poor Joe Schmoo who's got a nice bit of ocean-view (okay, cornfield-view in this case) property. But if a leader did become corrupt, or it did set out to get the little guy, what then? Have we got sufficient checks and balances in place to ensure that can't happen? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that's the concept which spawned the whole idea of things like the separation of powers and the Bill of Rights. We'd seen what a government free of those checks and balances was capable of doing, and wanted no part of it.

The Kelo decision goes too far for most people's taste, because it incorporates private use into the concept of public purpose, effectively allowing the government to take one person's property and give it to another person. Yes, there are some checks and balances. And perhaps, for some, it's not an issue the way it was applied in New London and would not be a problem as applied in Iowa. But the opportunity for corruption is there, and I think it's smarter to plug the holes before they go too far. Similarly, we can argue the semantics of the AUF and the FISA until we're blue in the face, as there are points on either side as to whether they technically allow the FSA program to skate. But Bush is arguing something far more fundamental: that the legislation is moot because Article II gives him the power for domestic surveillance inherently. I have a real problem with this, even if it's been done before, and even if it's arguable the FSA itself wasn't applied in a way that's fundamentally repugnant. Given the broad spectrum of items that could be considered "incident to war," I cannot fathom anyone not wanting reforms to ensure there are adequate checks on executive power to ensure our rights are respected regardless of who is in power.

Ask the questions, pose the hypotheticals, plug the gaps before they become a problem or political scandal. In what universe is this not a good thing?



Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Just Chet

A link to the new "Chet" blog is making the rounds. It’s mean, but so funny; and mean is usually funny if there is a shade of truth to the observations. We all have our challenges and the new Chet blog takes full advantage of the collective wisdom when thinking about a few of Chet’s, umm, challenges.

In all fairness, I believe Chet Culver can put together a few coherent sentences. This is a portion of Chet Culver’s February 2005 testimony to the U.S. House Committee on House Administration discussing the Iowa implementation of HAVA.
Today, I was asked to report to your Committee on three aspects of Iowa’s HAVA implementation:
  • our experience with HAVA implementation;
  • HAVA’s impact on the recent election;
  • and our plans for 2005-2006 that will result in Iowa’s full implementation of the HAVA election reforms.

Iowa’s Experience with HAVA Implementation

First, our experience with HAVA implementation in Iowa. 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.

Through HAVA, Iowa is making good election administration the very best it can be.

Since we first began HAVA implementation in Iowa, we have made it a priority to reach out in an extensive and inclusive fashion. Underpinning our state plan is more than two years worth of assessment and input gained from 19 public meetings held in communities throughout the state. … (link)

Although, if Chet does manage to get the keys to Terrace Hill we all better hope he springs for a couple of high priced speech writers, or it's going a be a long four years.


Monday, March 06, 2006

The TouchPlay Recipe

As the legislature peels off the layers, the TouchPlay problem just keeps getting uglier. Krusty Konservative is doing a great job keeping people updated on the TouchPlay bottom line -- money for the rich and well connected at the expense of families on the margin.

I figure I'll plate up my version for y'all.

The TouchPlay gambit must start with the most important ingredient - the imperious Dr. Ed.

(Ed Stanek actually opens an email to legislators with this sentence: From a newspaper article yesterday, it appears as though few legislators are aware of the TouchPlay financial flow charts that were sent by the Lottery two weeks ago to legislative staff in answer to a question that arose at the prior meeting of the Oversight Committees…)

Toss in the TouchPlay coalition – all the lobbyists and their deep pocket friends – working to keep the games up and the money flowing.

"We want the Iowa Legislature to have the information it needs to make an informed decision about the future of TouchPlay," Mike Triplett, a coalition member, said in a written statement. "It's important to provide Iowans with a clear understanding of this private/public partnership and the benefits that TouchPlay brings to Iowa." (DMR link & I seriously hope I'm not the only one that thinks this quote is absurdly funny.)

Mix with the Speaker’s artful press event exclaiming his incredulousness at the gross profits of TouchPlay followed by a curious digression into the importance of oversight for all types of gamming.

''When you break the numbers out based on how much, given the number of Iowans, is being spent, that number to me is staggering,'' said Rants, R-Sioux City. ''That's a very high number, considering its such a short time we've had them.'' …

… ''Maybe those are the kinds of decisions that really should be made by policy makers instead of being made by boards and commissions and people like that,'' Rants said. (CR Gazette link)

Then stir for this classic political dish: politicians expressing public empathy for the discontented while workin’ the back rooms arm-twisting the money players for a larger percentage of gross revenues.

Despite the current political rhetoric, I seriously doubt TouchPlay lottery is going away. It’ll look different; the blinking, flashing and ringing will cease, the locations may change, special rooms will be constructed to hide the obvious, and, perhaps, each county will be allowed to vote on whether or not to have these machines. This is just a guesstimate at what a compromise might look like.

To get to this sort of compromise, the TouchPlay money guys are going to have to fold some rounds and let the state take a bigger bite of the profits. It’s only fair, since the state does have to pick up the Medicaid hospital bed that the diabetic TouchPlay junky takes up because she stopped taking her meds because she couldn’t afford them and now her foot ulcer is infected with some flesh eating microbe that a local trial lawyer had planted in the air-conditioning unit and ...well, y’all know the rest of this story. It just keeps spinning.


Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Mike & Andy Show

I’ve been holding off comment on Blouin’s curious decision to ask Dr. Andy McGuire to join him on the ticket. Why do I think it’s curious?

It again confirms the obvious about Mike Blouin – he’s not a Democrat and certainly not a Republican -- although Republican-lite does fit him nicely -- no, Blouin & his team are Corp-o-crats.

An adaptation of corporate -- not that there is anything wrong with pushing policies that are business friendly or promoting economic development above all else, but it’s short sighted. The political theory that voters are more interested in vague notions of economic development above politics or other policy is about the most naive assumption any campaign can make.

While Blouin marches off some middle of the road corporate friendly deep end, all the other wannabes are busy making choices that shore up their base; the ultra cons in the GOP feel loved for the first time with the Vander Plaats pick and Patty Judge is at the very least a female veteran in the Democratic Party. Both the Vander Plaats and Judge picks are designed to firm up a good chunk of the base, and after Ed Fallon’s Democratic convention showing in Polk, Johnson & Story (we’re all waiting for Political Madman’s post), he can put just about anybody on his ticket and the base will wink.

Can someone explain to me what base Andy McGuire firms up.

The union of insurance company medical reviewers. You know the people you argue with over the phone to get your last ER visit covered. I suppose, since Andy is part of the corporate culture that denies health care to the insured, this group is all for the Blouin/McGuire team.

The Roman Catholic pro-choice women. How many of these women actually exist in Iowa? Go to either coast, you’ll find ‘em, but outside of a small percentage in the metros they don’t live here. They all left after their abortions. Moreover, no one has yet asked the indelicate question about whether she’s preformed abortions as a practicing physician.

The working moms with large numbers of kids. No way, she makes the rest of us look bad or at least feel bad that we married guys that encouraged time out of the workforce to care for our infants and small children. Something about brain development in the first six years of life and parents being the best choice as primary care givers. I can’t wait for the late campaign news reports all about Andy’s nanny issues.

In the end, the Andy McGuire pick is pointless. Sure, she might be a great speaker and all extrovert energy, but you can’t overcome a resume that’s not designed for politics. Nobody wins a primary on the metro cocktail party circuit.

The only way the Blouin/McGuire team is going to limp out of the primary is if our current Terrace Hill royalty jumps in and twists arms all the way down to the polls. Good luck.


Saturday, March 04, 2006

Jack Hatch: "I'm for the little guy, except when my money's involved"

There’s an interesting letter to the editor on eminent domain in today’s DMR. Okay, the only interesting thing is who wrote it. Senator Jack Hatch, the for-the-little-guy-unless-it-hurts-my- business-interests liberal from Des Moines, spits out the paper facts on the use of eminent domain for economic development.

In a Feb. 22 letter to the Register, attorney Scott Bullock from Arlington, Va., lists several Iowa cities he claims have abused eminent-domain authority.

Bullock visited Iowa to address Iowa legislators. I hope he learned eminent domain was not used in any of the projects cited.

One of the projects mentioned is located in my senatorial district. Nate Niceswanger continues to operate ZZZ Records in Des Moines' East Village. He relocated there, with financial assistance from the city, when the Masonic Temple building in the Western Gateway was undergoing renovation.

Facelifts in these areas are part of successful efforts to revitalize the city's newest residential and retail district, leading to jobs and quality-of-life improvements enjoyed by Iowans. Niceswanger is an important part of this revitalization, and his presence there is vital to the continued attraction of the East Village. Politics may have entered into the initial conflict between the city and the owner of the building, but an abuse of eminent domain never did.

Other examples, not listed in Bullock's letter, have required use of eminent domain as a last resort. When that results in improved access to the airport and downtown, or in more than 1,000 new jobs, the public benefit is evident.

Iowa's economic future depends on maintaining a proper balance between private investment and public good. Rely on facts, not fear or fiction, in finding that balance.

State Sen. Jack Hatch, Des Moines. (link)

Classic Hatch: it’s only politics and not the application of eminent domain at issue in most of these economic development land disputes.

Of course, what Jack fails to mention is that “the politics” have everything to do with the rhetorical threats of applying eminent domain unless the city/developer/big money types get what they want, which is the land at a cut-rate price. Slick by half.

This is where my gut check libertarian sensibilities kick in; The House & Senate GOP types running the bills to curtail the use of eminent domain for economic development are bucking some of their big money players. The Chamber Alliance, the Professional Developers of Iowa and other economic development fat cats just hate the idea that they might lose the ability to bully landowners with a threat of eminent domain.

The economic development guys keep workin’ the back rooms in the vain hope that the GOP supported bills will go away. It’s not going to work because at the core of every single Republican is a latent libertarian bent. Republicans bury it on some of the social issues, perhaps a mistake to be paid for later, but when an issue so clearly attacks the central right to own property, well, the GOP guys get their backs up and stick on the issue.

It’s always good when truth prevails in the application of the political process. We could use more of it.



Friday, March 03, 2006

Unintended Consequences

I knew that at some point linking to the tater-tot burrito style blogging of the DMR editorial team would provide some form of entertainment. Although, I never imagined a snort-inducing laugh. Kevin, thank you.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Iowa Bloga'nistas

Is it just me or is there a sudden pissing match going on across Iowa that requires any person with even the slightest inclination to obsess politics to pick up and start blogging?

What's with this and this and this?

A clue to Mr. Bacon: it's a good idea if the writers produce a little more than a few blog posts before being blog rolled, that is unless by virtue of a pay check you're sure they're going to be around for a while.

The guys behind State 29 are inspiringly avant-garde on all counts -- first in, first out.


Equilibrium

Short update on my bad yesterday: I just put up some walls and sent out my "don't go there" attitude. I am always nice about it, but thirty minutes of frosty polite tends to work. A great trick I picked up tending bar and it works on everyone except the sociopaths and the mentally incompetent, which I suppose I should count my self lucky as those two categories define at least a third of the American workforce.

It's all good.

Oh, and I tossed all the 'to-read' folder spam, no need to push it.


VIlsack; workin' the majors

Vilsack in D.C. -- smarmy, and the MSM liberal editorial types love him. Joe Klein, the writer who made his career as the anonymous author of Primary Colors, spooned out this Vilsack vignette in Time magazine a week ago:

… I heard a story that I'll never forget. It was told by Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, who was addressing a small audience in Washington. A military helicopter pilot from Iowa, serving in Iraq, was killed when he noticed a ground-to-air missile headed his way and, in a split-second reaction, swerved his chopper so that he and his co-pilot would take the hit and his 18 passengers would be spared. Vilsack placed a condolence call to the widow, who stopped him in midsentence. "I think about it this way," the woman said. "Those 18 men needed my husband more in that split second than I'll need him for the rest of my life."

Vilsack, who is probably running for President—and should be—used the story to illustrate the sacrifice and sense of community that is at the heart of a successful democracy. … (link)

It’s well documented that Vilsack gives good stump. As noted by Senator Gronstal from a Radio Iowa interview.

… Senate Democrat Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs agrees. "I don't know what Kerry's criteria is, I don't know what he's looking for, but Tom Vilsack can deliver a great, compassionate speech and kind of take your heart out of your chest and show your beating heart to you and make you feel that same compassion he has and the same vision for making Iowa a better place," Gronstal told Radio Iowa. … (link)

After years of Vilsack reshaping Iowan’s real life stories to spin political metaphor I’m ready to ship him anywhere… as long as his 527 fans pay the bills.

Vilsack’s use of Iowans as political props is one of the more exhausting features of his gubernatorial run. From the Smith family to the tragic deaths of Shelby Dues and Evelyn Miller, he has this awful habit of taking a tragedy and placing himself in the story and then rhetorically framing it for some political end.

With Shelby Dues and Evelyn Miller, it's all about communing on the issue of child abuse. With the Smith family, it’s about the tug between patriotism and a difficult war. In the first instance he shares his personal bio as an abused child who survives to become a sensitive leader (girls like this stuff – after we swallow our stupid pills and suspend the bull*&%$ radar) and in the second instance he talks about the war in Iraq disappointing Iowa patriots. Vilsack consistently frames policy with his personal voice, a Bill Clinton -- minus the Viagra moments.

I suppose it’s not bad to have Vilsack jetting around. In small amounts, he is a very attractive politician; it’s the long haul where the paint fads and the wheels start to come off. Vilsack knows that he needs to be seen as an economic moderate and social liberal-lite, two terms in Iowa is plenty to get out with that kind of resume – he can fly off into the national political landscape spinning his community theme while the next great white hope (sorry Sal, doesn’t look good) sweeps up the debris.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

DD moment

This is my blog, so on those occasional days when things just seem freaking-nuts, I figure I can vent…okay, whine. Perhaps instead of Rachel Ray I’ve found my inner Debbie Downer, except I get too pissed off to plate it out like Debbie, so I’m less down and more what the…

To explain.

In one of those goofy office power struggles I spent thirty minutes attempting to convince someone that they didn’t need to have 50 identical cut & paste emails printed off and sorted. I lost. So fine, passive aggressive me prints out every ridiculous email – penis enlargement & Nigerian banking opportunity and all – for a to-read folder.

And for the most poignant moment of the day, someone asked me a question about a topic I know in detail and I found myself brain fishing for a simple response. The only thing that prompted any recall was the name of an economist that I had corresponded with on the topic a few years ago, but I couldn’t put together a thoughtful sentence outside of a “I know that guy, good guy”. Ouch.

My brain is filled with sorting & filing instructions. Send help, preferably cheap and consumable.

Okay, I’m fine.



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