Monday, July 31, 2006

Odds & Ends II; blogrolling

This is a light post and then off the clock for at least a day or two. I/we have things to do.

A few emails announcing new blogs or requests for 'be my friend' blog status, etc have bounced into my email. I'll just post up the basics and let y'all figure out which ones are worth reading...

A few weeks ago, the folks from Blog for Iowa sent an email suggesting that we link up. I'm still thinking on that one, a little forward for my tastes. Actually, I plan to sort my links into left & right spin with a soak file in the next few weeks. I'm just in the middle of other stuff right now.

Blog for Iowa is a liberal-e blog with the usual liberal-e thinking. Whatever. But they are nice enough to ask if I want to be their blogland friend.

I've already covered Joe, Ted & the Caucus -stem celled from another Iowa konservative blog - Cooler. These guys probably don't need any more attention.

I have neglected the two requests for blogroll status from presidential campaigns, until now.

Jeff -- dude, you are way too earnest for politics -- Fuller on Team Romney or T.R. or something. Enthusiastic is the hallmark of this Romney for President and "no, not just because I am a Mormon, too" blog.

Straight Talk Something is a new blog offering from the McCain group. I have no idea how this will shape up, a recent post is a smart guy take on an Atlantic Monthly article about shifting political attitudes out West -- upshot we all want cowboys in the White House. Dunno about that. It'll be interesting to watch this blog find a voice.

I have to post this short exchange from Kevin.

Kevin Schmidt here, I've got a new blog for the Iowa Caucuses and was wondering if you might add me to your blogroll and maybe give me an intro!

Last time around...

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

can't stay off the stuff, eh kev? ;)

ie

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

It's like crack! I've tried rehab, but I just can't seem to quit!

I'll probably end up in a gutter somewhere....

Kevin

Kevin, I hope you don't mind, I just had to post the email exchange. I'm glad you're back and you look to be in good form. I'm sure the wear & tear of being a blog-addict won't show for a few more years.

Last mention: I haven't really said anything about the revival of State 29. Enigmatic as always, there is nothing to say and too much to say about State, although I think the JC GOP bloggers hit it dead on when the described State as "insightfully vulgar". Live with it.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Mitt & The Big Dig

I’m assuming that Mitt Romney is arriving in Des Moines sometime this morning, flying in to flyover country with a marketable caucus chit in his pocket. Yesterday in Boston, Romney forced the resignation of the Republican in charge of the now notorious Big Dig. Excerpts from a story out of yesterday’s Boston Globe (registration required or just google Amorello)

Matthew J. Amorello agreed to step down as Massachusetts Turnpike Authority Chairman early this morning because his termination hearing in the governor's office scheduled for today was a "foregone conclusion." …

… The chairman, who had repeatedly rebuffed calls for his resignation since a motorist died in the partial collapse of a Big Dig tunnel, lost a bid Wednesday to block today’s hearing before a state Supreme Judicial Court justice.

Amorello, who will leave the Turnpike Authority Aug. 15, signed a six-month severance package which includes health coverage. He makes $223,000 a year and will continue to be paid through February 2007.

Governor Mitt Romney heralded Amorello’s department as a new era for the Turnpike Authority, which oversees the $14.6 billion Big Dig project.

"Patronage will be replaced by professionalism," Romney said. "Secrecy will be replaced by openness." …

… Romney signed a 1 ½ page agreement finalizing Amorello’s departure after a long night of negotiations. Amorello signed the document this morning.

"Clearly it will save the taxpayers and the ratepayers the cost of an extensive legal battle," Romney said. "And it also allows the citizens and toll payers to have confidence again the Turnpike Authority."

On July 10, 12 tons of concrete ceiling tiles cascaded into the Interstate 90 connector tunnel and killed Milena Del Valle, 38, of Jamaica Plain. The connector, which links Massachusetts Turnpike with the Ted Williams Tunnel, has been closed since the accident. Officials have shutdown additional sections of the tunnel system after inspectors found more potentially dangerous bolt fixtures.

Amorello, 48, a former Republican state senator, was appointed chairman of the Turnpike Authority by Governor Jane M. Swift in February 2002. … (link)
It’s certainly fortunate timing that the erstwhile “poster boy” for all that is wrong with the massive highway and tunnel construction project in and around Boston was successfully forced out of the job a day before Mitt arrives in Iowa for some serious caucus campaigning. What's more fortunate, and not lost on this blogger or others I am guessing, is the fact that Romney ousted one of his own – a Republican and former state legislator.

This election year, and probably well into the 08 season, candidates will need to face down the specter of cronyism through their rhetoric and action. We all know that the concept of loyalty can be taken too far (the Bush administration FEMA operation post Katrina), and the next batch of presidential wannabes must demonstrate that they ‘get’ that competence is more important than connections when it comes to public sector management.

Romney achieved this particular goal, albeit through tragedy, by beginning to dismantle the bureaucratic underpinnings of Massachusetts’ failing road construction system. Imagine in Iowa if a Republican governor attempted to remove a lobbyist-endorsed Republican hack from the head of our Department of Transportation.

I’m still a little cynical (big surprise) about the timing and the focus on one individual for multiple GOP administrations failure (Weld, Cellucci, Swift, Romney) in securing a safe and efficiently managed highway construction project. But for potential Iowa caucus goers, it’s encouraging to see that Romney understands how important it is for political appointees to get a job done correctly – people’s lives depend upon it.

MA resident & Brother-in-law Dave contributed to this post.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Bayh's Playbook, 2006

There are a few questions spinning around (I know, kitsch use of blog title) about Evan Bayh’s All America PAC expenditure relating to the 23 immersion trained campers being sent to Iowa. There was one question as to the legality of bankrolling and then transporting the Bayh Campers across state lines using PAC dollars, but it seems, according to the experts, it’s not a problem – assuming they’re All American citizens.

Legally it's not a problem. Then again, if you are an Iowa Republican looking at 23 recently drilled, happily employed political operatives on the ground in small Statehouse races, it might look like a problem. I'm sure Republicans are hoping for 23 flashy dressers, smacking gum with limited interest in the elderly.

Anyway, a little digging is required.

The first find: the Bayh financed campers/operatives are most likely schooled in the style and methods of Grassroots Solutions. A Minnesota based Democratic campaign consulting group that specializes in field staff development. From the Grassroots Solutions website.
A focused field operation - complementing an effective media campaign - can make the difference between winning and losing on Election Day.

Unfortunately, too many campaigns rely solely on "paid" field programs to engage voters. In addition to coordinating paid field activities, grassroots solutions works with campaigns to build an active volunteer base that provides the capacity for voter registration, identification, persuasion, base mobilization, constituency organizing, vote by mail, and GOTV.

grassroots solutions works with political clients (candidates, initiatives, parties, and independent organizations) to plan and implement strong, yet flexible grassroots field programs.

Field Consulting services include:

• Creating customized field plans.
• Hiring, training, and supervising a field director and field staff.
• Analyzing targeting data to translate the numbers into recommendations that save time and preserve limited resources.
• Building a volunteer base to support the field plan.
• Recommending the best approaches for voter identification, persuasion, GOTV, voter registration, constituency organizing, and community outreach.
• Integrating campaign field activities with the coordinated campaign. For example, we work with direct mail and other vendors to ensure a comprehensive and unified field program.
A Democratic consulting firm speaking to a niche that the Party desperately needs and completely missed during the last cycle -- how do we get out our vote on election-day?

The second find: Evan Bayh has picked off the best of Newt and reinvented it new Democrat style; from All America PAC’s focus on grassroots activity (ala GOPAC ) to lifting the “opportunity society” theme, Bayh’s presidential campaign spruced up a bunch of circa 1990 Newtisms for the 2008 show.

From Bayh's recent speech on the condition of the middle class:

For the future of our nation and the future of my Party, that must change. If this President will not speak for our Middle Class, I will. And if Democrats want to lead this nation, we must.

As Democrats and Americans, we must build an “Opportunity Society” to strengthen our Middle Class. We must confront the challenges Middle Class Americans face – health care costs, college affordability, retirement security and more – so that all can build lives of greater prosperity and promise. And we must reward hard work, thrift and ingenuity so that all who aspire to it can join the Middle Class.

This must be the work of our generation.

The current Wikipedia entry for Newt Gingrich:

Gingrich took the chair of the Republican political action committee GOPAC in 1986 and transformed it into an effective vehicle for electing conservative candidates to office. This was accomplished in significant part by establishing and promoting a consistent language and theme for use by Republicans at all electoral levels. This theme, in Gingrich's own words, was that of "a conservative opportunity society replacing the liberal welfare state", emphasizing "workfare over welfare" and promoting the idea that "we are the majority".

Nice. Republicans should be slightly flattered that a guy running for the Democratic nomination for President lifts the themes and style from one of the most important Republicans of modern (post-modern if you’re fussy) times. Although I’m not sure if that’s a comparison that Bayh would like the Netroots Progressives to figure out anytime soon.

The big question is whether the Iowa Statehouse guys are going to worry about the 23 warm bodies or figure, given that the GOPAC culture has been around for almost thirty years, they’re in the right spot for 2006. But I would never recommend complacency.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Will a Democratic Iowa Senate restart the TouchPlay program?

The Iowa lottery fires a final shot over the TouchPlay debate. From a Radio Iowa report:

Iowa Lottery sales more than doubled in the last 12 months according to a report released today (Wednesday), fueled in large part by those now-silent TouchPlay machines.

The Iowa Lottery recorded a 60 percent increase in sales of its products over the 12-month state fiscal year that began July 1st, 2005 and ended on June 30th of this year. TouchPlay machines were shut down on May 4th. But during their last 11 months of operation, those TouchPlay machines yielded $121.4 million in revenue for the state-run Lottery. ...

... A Lottery news release indicates the state's "take" from Lottery sales is nearly $81 million, an increase of about 58 percent over the previous year.
If TouchPlay was a political issue hinging strictly on the revenue, then TouchPlay would be all over Iowa found in libraries, community buildings, child development centers -- everywhere. But the issue was a little bigger than the revenue; the TouchPlay program crossed paths with our money fueled gambling interests, and the gambling interests wanted it gone.

Lobbyists for the gaming industry ran a great campaign; they inspired their friends in the legislature, worked the media and engaged the outraged moral majority to push for a complete ban on the program.

The public tide against TouchPlay made it difficult for legislators to side with the lottery, even though a number of Democrats and Republicans would have liked to see the program continue. It happened that the right combination of legislators and public opinion worked together to put an end to a major revenue producing lottery program. However, we're in an election year and if a different mix of people lead the legislature after November, TouchPlay may make a comeback -- particularly after seeing fy06 revenue numbers.

We need to ask the question: If Mike Gronstal and the Democrats had the outright majority in the Iowa Senate, then would the zoned out, chain smoking mammas still be playing the machines?

Mike Gronstal gives a few clues in his March 10, 2006 appearance on Iowa Press.

Glover: WELL, I'M CURIOUS, WHAT ARE YOU HEARING BACK HOME AND WHERE ARE YOU ON THIS ISSUE?

Gronstal: I'M HEARING BOTH FROM EMPLOYEES AT CASINOS AND FROM PEOPLE THAT OPERATE OTHER ESTABLISHMENTS, BARS AND GAS STATIONS THAT SEE THESE MACHINES. IN TERMS OF MY CONSTITUENCY, IT'S VERY MUCH CONFLICTED ON THIS ISSUE.

Borg: THERE'S AN OLD ADAGE: FOLLOW THE MONEY. AS YOU GET INTO SPECIAL INTERESTS THAT ARE INFLUENCING THIS DEBATE, WHERE IS THE MONEY COMING FROM, IN YOUR JUDGMENT, THAT'S GOING INTO TOUCH PLAY? IS IT COMING OUT OF THAT WHAT WOULD NORMALLY GO TO CASINOS? IS IT COMING OUT OF THE GROCERY AND MOVIE MONEY? WHERE'S IT COMING FROM?

Gronstal: YOU KNOW, WE HAVE -- WE HAVE GATHERED A LOT OF INFORMATION. WE'VE BEEN GIVEN A LOT OF DATA ON THIS SUBJECT. AND THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS EXPERTS DISAGREE. SOME EXPERTS SUGGEST THAT TOUCH PLAY MACHINES ARE LIKE A GATEWAY OPPORTUNITY FOR SOME PEOPLE TO START PLAYING TOUCH PLAY MACHINES AND THEN THEY MAY MIGRATE TO CASINOS.

Borg: WHO'S GETTING HURT? THAT'S REALLY WHAT I'M ASKING.

Gronstal: I DON'T THINK WE'VE YET SEEN NUMBERS THAT SHOW THAT THE CASINOS ARE GETTING HURT IN A SIGNIFICANT WAY AT THIS POINT IN TIME. I THINK THERE'S PROBABLY A LITTLE MORE HURT FOR THE SMALLER CASINOS IN THE SMALLER COMMUNITIES THAT ARE SMALLER OPERATIONS. BUT I DON'T KNOW THAT THERE'S A DRAMATIC IMPACT IN COUNCIL BLUFFS. I DON'T KNOW THAT THERE'S A DRAMATIC IMPACT IN DES MOINES IN TERMS OF PRAIRIE MEADOWS. I DON'T THINK WE HAVE REALLY SEEN DRAMATIC IMPACTS THERE, BUT MAYBE MORE SO IN COMMUNITIES LIKE OSCEOLA.

It's hard to say how Mike Gronstal would lead on a revenue issue like TouchPlay, but it certainly seems he is less concerned about the hurting Iowa gambling revenue and not at all worried about public outrage over TouchPlay.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Bayh uses creative team bankrolling, oops, building in Iowa

A sidebar on the DMR website this morning:

Sen. Evan Bayh, an Indiana Democrat taking steps toward running for president, said his political action committee will pay for 23 campaign staffers to help Democratic candidates in Iowa in this fall's elections.

Bayh's All America PAC has held training sessions for more than 100 campaign workers, with the idea that they would also be willing to work for Bayh, should he move forward with a presidential campaign next year.

"We thought this was in some ways better than just giving people a check," Bayh said. Bayh is among eight prospective presidential candidates, Democrats and Republicans, who have operatives on the ground in Iowa.

Iowa is expected to host the leadoff nominating caucuses in January 2008.

A good example of effective innovation: future presidential campaign comes to Iowa, notices a need for resources, expands the definition of resources to be provided by presidential campaigns to include local staff training and payroll support, makes announcement, spooks Republicans.

It might be that I am just unaware of a GOP presidential campaign working the same angle with the state Republicans, but more likely it's creative team building put together by Democrats & Bayh and new to the mix on both sides. Does it mean that Iowa Democrats were, and with this announcement were is the correct verb, a little behind in managing their Statehouse campaigns or does this give the Democrats an advantage going into the fall?

Newt, Mitt, Bill, Mike, Sam, John(s) and the other guys with multisyllabic names, where are you when your potential friends need you?



Monday, July 24, 2006

Odds & Ends I: a load of miss matched stuff – the blogs

I’ve sort of been ignoring the new blogs because I don’t want to mess with my template –I’ve had problems lately when I mess with stuff. But I can’t avoid blog maintenance forever.

Caucus Cooler

It’s one of those “insider” Republican blogs focused on the Republican presidential types jostling to be it by this time next year. In time for that little mentioned Straw-Poll™ event where the presidential teams corral their sheeple for a bus trip to some field in the middle of Iowa where everyone sort of wanders around visiting the…

Oh never mind, soon everyone will figure out how contrived the Iowa caucuses have become, besides, we’re now competing against Nevada. What do you think: pie & ice cream with the healthy farm girl & her grandpa or pomegranate martinis with a klatch of friends sportin' permanently fixed, err, teeth. Then again, Iowa may serve a purpose by allowing the DC Makers to see how well a presidential type can schmooze local business & party elites, the only kind of retail that matters once a candidate survives the first few rounds.

On that count, at least on the GOP side, we’ll give it up to Romney, Pataki & Huckabee for putting together Iowa teams, overpriced free agents and all, that’ll make it to the play-offs. We’ll just have to wait a little longer to figure out the wild cards. John McCain?

One more thing: to the political talent (probably a few of those overpriced free agent types) hovering around the cooler – you know you can put up a password-protected blog; y’all might enjoy having your very own playground.

The Real Sporer

I totally appreciate fearless, and it seems to work well for guys with a certain genetic predisposition for assertive self-interest (this is a good thing; trust me).

Polk County GOP Chair Ted Sporer’s blog may end up sounding a little like the rest of us -- a pastiche of ideology, politics and knife throwing that emerges from an overactive brain -- but he's signing his name. I think it’ll be fun to read, and I hope that Ted will write often about his first hand impressions of things like marauding radio announcers wrapped up in their own circus tent.

Joe says so

Joe says many things that are worth reading.



Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hog Lots & Hog Czars

I keep swatting off those rabid Chet “AP Calls It” Culver Fans, so I have a lazy blogger’s post because I cannot spend my entire free time thinking up stuff to slap up on a blog. Anyway, I’ve cut & pasted part of Todd Dorman’s recent post from his blog franchise, the Statehouse Snippets.

Iowa’s Legislature has offered us two very different views on private property rights in the past few days.

One was on Friday, when state lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to override Gov. Tom Vilsack’s veto of a bill curbing government’s power to seize private property for economic development. Legislators nearly trampled each other rushing to microphones to proclaim their allegiance to the little guy.

The other scene came Monday in a Department of Natural Resources conference room, where the state Environmental Protection Commission was meeting.

Several residents from the Clear Lake area who live near a proposed hog confinement project urged commission members to step in and stop the facility from being built. They argued the facility would have a negative impact on water and air quality.

Residents went to the EPC because their local elected officials have no authority over where confinements are built. But there’s also nothing the commission can do because the proposed confinement will house fewer than 2,500 hogs. Only larger facilities require state construction permit. …

Read it.

Dorman makes a series of well thought out points that expose an interesting contradiction in the current eminent domain debate. It’s easy to be ‘pro East Village vintage record shop’ when Archie Brook’s mug is looming, but start messing with hog confinements’ siting “matrix” and you’ll create a political stampede to the legislature’s door.

But something doesn’t smell right in this most recent, well-publicized hog lot dust up. It’s a common story; farmers and rural residents are often at odds over ag & land management issues; small town residents always gossip about the latest ag moves by the 1000-acre guys. In small, ag oriented towns the environmental debates – minus the Green Peace speak – are hot topics over morning coffee in the back of the gas station/fast food shop.

You could read this as Democratic campaign-maneuvering intended to cut into the GOP’s expected rural margins. By ginning the hog confinement debate the Vilsack Democrats are working to set up a wedge issue in rural areas. They intend to peel off enough votes to make up some of the Polk County votes they’ll lose to the CIETC mess.

It shouldn’t be lost on the political brains that the hog confinement at issue is near Clear Lake, and that part of the state, going east from Mason City, trends blue. Moreover, the state appropriated funds this year to support dredging Clear Lake, part of a major environmental overhaul of the lake and surrounding area.

Environmental issues making the political radar screen in rural Iowa? It could happen, although Jeff Vonk as “hog czar” might be enough to kill any political advantage for the Democrats.


Monday, July 17, 2006

A little smackbat to the Anonymous "AP Calls It" Culver Fan

This is for that damn yahoo that keeps bugging me on my Chet Culver election post with his/her facts about how the "AP calls elections".

Q: How and when AP will call the top races?

A: The Associated Press will factor together a variety of points of information before calling any race, and will call a race only when a victor is clear. In the field, thousands of AP stringers are collecting raw vote numbers at precincts across the country. Their information will be phoned into a battery of 450 vote entry clerks at one of APÕs 16 vote collection centers. Meanwhile, more than 1,500 specially trained interviewers, working for the National Election Pool (run by The AP, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox News Channel) will be conducting exit surveys of voters leaving the polls. Historical data about voting patterns and detailed political information from every state will also be used. All these strands of information will be used by AP analysts as they study the numbers. A "decision desk" in Washington will then determine when races can be called. The process is designed to ensure accuracy. In the 2000 presidential race, The AP was the only major news organization which did not prematurely declare George W. Bush the victor in Florida on election night.

"The AP uses a variety of tools to call races: counted votes, exit poll data and other projection models based on our deep understanding of the voting patterns, and the judgment of AP journalists who know the states," Kathleen Carroll, AP senior vice president and executive editor said Tuesday. "The AP has been counting votes since 1848 and we have bureaus with experienced journalists in every state — so we bring a lot of experience to each of those race calls." (AP link)

Happy? Do you think I "get it"?

Chet Culver waited weeks before he decided to certify Bush's win in Iowa, although the statistical probability of Kerry winning Iowa went out the window the day after the election.

Up on that now?

Oh, and just because I'm really annoyed at this guy (gender neutral use) for picking a stupid fight with me -- I hate it when people pick stupid fights with me -- I thought y'all might like to see the NRO blog's post on the topic.

Oh Gov Update

[Greg Pollowitz 07/12 07:20 AM]

The latest cry from the left is that Ken Blackwell, Ohio's current Secretary of State, should not be allowed to run the election in November as it's a conflict of interest. From the AP:

COLUMBUS — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, viewed as the Democratic Party's presidential front-runner, cautioned a crowd of 3,000 activists Monday to watch Ohio's fall election "like a hawk" — blasting long lines and voting machine shortages in 2004 and accusing the state's Republican chief elections officer of a conflict of interest.

Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell's campaign for governor accused Clinton, in turn, of an ignorance of Ohio law, which allows the elections leader to run for partisan office and places bipartisan county boards in charge of much that happens on election days.

Maybe Hillary would like to comment on Chet Culver, Iowa's current Commissioner of Elections and the Democratic candidate for Governor. Culver says his partisanship is a good thing:

"I am proud to be the Commissioner of Elections, the State Registrar of Voters," Culver says. "We've had a tradition in this state of having a partisan in that office to make sure that someone is held accountable and responsible."

For those that remember, Iowa was the last state to certify its election results in 2004, some weeks after the election. Prior to the election, Culver was criticized by Republicans for sending out a "voting guide" that included an application for an absentee ballot. Traditionally, the absentee vote has helped Democrats in Iowa. And on election day, Culver said this:

Another wild card is the 60,000 absentee ballots that were requested but have not yet been returned, he said.

As long as those absentee ballots were postmarked on or before November 1 and are received by noon Monday, November 8, they will be counted, he said.

Care to comment Hillary?

Likewise, care to comment Anonymous "AP Calls It" Culver Fan?

HT to an archived post from Scrivenings for the AP information.


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Mike Huckabee: making it cool to be a squishy conservative

We have squishy liberals, why can’t we have squishy conservatives? I am referring to Yepsen’s take on Mike Huckabee’s attempt to pull social justice themes into the Republican presidential race by pushing a little in your face politics on the religious conservative movement. (DMR link)

…some Republicans think this Baptist preacher turned politician is, well, too liberal because he goes beyond abortion and gay-marriage issues. He includes social- and economic-justice themes when he works audiences of key religious conservatives in Iowa.

In an interview last week, he said “nothing would be more disingenuous for me to say than, 'I have a faith, but I don’t let it affect my politics.’ That says to me your faith is a very insignificant, inconsequential part of your life. My faith has everything to do with my politics.

“My faith means I can’t ignore the poorest kid in the community. Sometimes maybe that confuses Republicans who are only concerned about how we preserve wealth, but I’ve also got to be concerned about preserving people at the bottom end of this country.

“Faith makes me think about the young mother who is getting battered.

You can’t ignore her. Faith makes me think about that elderly couple that’s deciding how they’re going to cut their medicine in half to make it last all month, or the young couple struggling with debt for things they can’t afford.”

Huckabee adds: “I earn the right to push for a strong pro-life agenda only by making sure I’m concerned about poverty, hunger and homelessness. If I don’t care about those issues, then my faith is incomplete.”

Those aren’t exactly the traditional themes GOP candidates use when they work religious conservatives, but Huckabee said “for me, as a true evangelical, it’s grossly inadequate to say faith is just about abortion and gay marriage.”

He gets passionate about it. “Do you care about a kid who is hungry? Do you care about a family that lives in a shack without running water and a sewer that runs out the back of their house? If I don’t care about that, I don’t have the right to care about abortion. I’ve not earned the right to talk about the structure of the family.”

Huckabee admits this concern for economic justice causes him trouble with some Republicans. “At times people in my party scratch their heads and say, 'Why are you dealing with inadequate housing?’ I say, 'How can you ignore that? Can you say as long as a kid didn’t get aborted, heck, we don’t care where he lives? Or as long as a kid didn’t get aborted, we don’t care if he gets an education? As long as we didn’t abort the child, we don’t care if he has access to health care?’”

“I want to push those in the Christian community who are involved in politics to realize their faith has to embrace a great deal more than one or two issues. It really has to cover a much broader spectrum. If it doesn’t, then I understand the resentment of the left” toward religious conservatives.

I think it’s a message that is overdue, but I’m afraid that it may be too easy to ignore. It’s hard for Christian Conservative political operatives to adjust a playbook that has worked for years.

The playbook? Appeal to a wide swath of religious conservatives on a few issues -- gay marriage, abortion, gambling -- that tend to have somewhat simple, absolutist solutions. Then suck loads of money out of wealthy religious conservatives that buy in to the basic agenda but ascribe to their own version of free market libertarian ideals to defend questionable business practices.

No one likes to be forced into a moment of self-reflection.

Despite the fact that issues of social justice have not been a part of the social conservative agenda, F.A. Hayek, the historical giant in conservative economic thought, struggled with the concept of social justice for years. Hayek interpreted the modern definition of social justice to be a theme used by political interests to subjugate individual behavior when the behavior didn’t meet the constructed and imposed goal of equalizing the social order. However, according to AEI’s Michael Novak, perhaps we should read Hayek using an alternate interpretation of social justice.

Social justice rightly understood is a specific habit of justice that is “social” in two senses. First, the skills it requires are those of inspiring, working with, and organizing others to accomplish together a work of justice. These are the elementary skills of civil society, through which free citizens exercise self–government by doing for themselves (that is, without turning to government) what needs to be done. Citizens who take part commonly explain their efforts as attempts to “give back” for all that they have received from the free society, or to meet the obligations of free citizens to think and act for themselves. The fact that this activity is carried out with others is one reason for designating it as a specific type of justice; it requires a broader range of social skills than do acts of individual justice.

The second characteristic of “social justice rightly understood” is that it aims at the good of the city, not at the good of one agent only. Citizens may band together, as in pioneer days, to put up a school or build a bridge. They may get together in the modern city to hold a bake sale for some charitable cause, to repair a playground, to clean up the environment, or for a million other purposes that their social imaginations might lead them to. Hence the second sense in which this habit of justice is “social”: its object, as well as its form, primarily involves the good of others.

Conservatives, if they’re thinking correctly, are naturally inclined to themes of social justice as defined by Novak. Friday’s override of the governor’s eminent domain veto is an excellent example of conservative social justice. The abuse of wealth and class by some Iowans to disenfranchise the property rights of other Iowans defines injustice, and the wellspring of public support for the override demonstrated the common sense that the use of eminent domain for economic development threatened our society.

“This goes beyond eminent domain. This goes beyond government procedure. This is about the people speaking in an overwhelming voice, and this is about us listening to those people,” said Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, a Wilton Republican, as he urged the House to override the veto. (DMR 7/15/06)

"No nation however powerful, any more than an individual, can be unjust with impunity. Sooner or later, public opinion, an instrument merely moral in the beginning, will find occasion physically to inflict its sentences on the unjust... The lesson is useful to the weak as well as the strong." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1804.

It’s inspiring that Huckabee is fearlessly sticking to his message on social justice. It’s almost as if he’s called to talk to the social conservative movement about their failure to address issues of poverty. As Huckabee sees it, to talk about marriage and babies without addressing the basic needs of the human experience represents a flawed agenda. It doesn't mean that social conservatives are going jump on the welfare state bandwagon; rather, it's a starting point to prompt conservatives to think about how a society might work to improve all aspects of the human condition.

I always appreciate those few souls that cannot ignore their convictions despite the potential costs. It’s that old fox versus hedgehog thing.


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Peggy Noonan's curious thoughts on Ken Lay and Broken Hearts

I've been thinking about posting the link and excerpts of Peggy Noonan's July 6th column for the past four days.

All deaths are sad, and some are shocking and sad. Ken Lay's this week was both, though I don't suppose it should have been a shock.

Putting aside all judgments and conclusions, all umbrage, outrage and indignation, and all debates on who was most responsible for the Enron scandal--putting all those weighty and legitimate concerns aside--isn't it obvious that Ken Lay died of a broken heart? We forget that people do, or at least I forget, but they do....

...Is this Shakespearian in the sense of being towering and tragic? I don't know. I think it's primal and human. And I think if we were more regularly conscious of the fact that death through sadness happens we'd be better to each other. I'm thinking here of a friend who reflected one day years ago, I cannot recall why, on how hard people are on each other, how we're all complicated little pirates and more sensitive, more breakable, than we know.

He said--I paraphrase--"It's a dangerous thing to deliberately try to hurt someone because it's not possible to calibrate exactly how much hurt you're doing. You can't know in advance the extent of the damage. A snub can leave a wound that lasts a lifetime, a bop on the head with a two-by-four will be laughed off. One must be careful. We'll always hurt others by accident or in a passion but we mustn't do it with deliberation."

We are human beings, and to each other we are not fully knowable. There's a lot of mystery in life. The life force can leave before we even know it's withdrawing.

I suppose we all want life to be kinder and gentler than it seems.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Should Chet Culver be watching his own election?

Monday Radio Iowa reported that Hilary Clinton went after Ohio’s Republican gubernatorial candidate and current Secretary of State.

… New York Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton suggested Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell -- a Republican candidate for governor in Ohio -- should not run the November election there. She said it's a "conflict of interest."

Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver -- the commissioner of elections here -- is the Iowa Democratic Party's candidate for governor and Culver rejects the idea he shouldn't oversee Iowa's 2006 election.

"I am proud to be the Commissioner of Elections, the State Registrar of Voters," Culver says. "We've had a tradition in this state of having a partisan in that office to make sure that someone is held accountable and responsible." …

… Culver was criticized in 2004 for waiting several days before declaring that President Bush had carried the state.

That’s right; the leading Democrat presidential wannabe has doubts about a Republican SOS turned gubernatorial candidate in a swing state, but conveniently ignores our Chet Culver. I suppose Hilary’s fine when post election vote counting is directed by a Democrat willing to politicize an election process. From the November 5, 2004 Des Moines Register.

Last state standing

Three days after the presidential election, Iowa is the only state not able to declare a winner.

The presidential campaign started in Iowa - and it's not over here yet.

After Tuesday's election, Iowa is the only white spot on a red and blue U.S. electoral map. That doesn't make the state a star.

"We're borderline on being an embarrassment," said Dave Roederer, Iowa chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign. "We've got every state in the union being able to call the election except us."

Unofficial results Thursday showed Bush defeated Kerry in Iowa by 14,045 votes. That tally will keep changing through Tuesday, as special precinct boards across the state continue to meet to count 15,264 provisional ballots and as many as 50,000 uncounted absentee ballots.

The margin is larger than Wisconsin's, where Kerry defeated Bush by 11,813 votes, according to unofficial results. However, Wisconsin has been declared a Kerry state.

But no one's officially calling Iowa for Bush, despite Republicans, Democrats and election officials agreeing Thursday that Iowa's uncounted ballots are unlikely to change who won the state.

"I don't think it is too close to call, but whose job is it to call?" asked Phyllis Peters, the spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office in Iowa. "There's no one here that is holding out any belief that what numbers do come in are going to change the result. All we care about is that the votes are counted." …

…Culver, Iowa's top election official, was seen election night at the Hotel Fort Des Moines huddling with fellow Democrats, including Norris and Iowa Democratic Party chairman Gordon Fischer, talking about the election. …

Outside of looking like an idiot, Chet Culver was obviously attempting to hold open an election in the vain attempt to change the outcome, which, given the Bush margin, was statistically nearly impossible to change by enough votes to put Kerry in the lead.

I consider this one of Chet’s finest Dance Off Pants Off moments; oblivious to how ridiculous he looked three days post election flailing around on the tube with only supreme confidence in the correctness of it all holding him up. We can only hope that if this guy makes it to Terrace Hill, he’ll listen to wiser voices and give up on his bad ideas.

A glimmer of that thinking might have shown through in Chet’s decision to get out of the way on the eminent domain veto override fight.


Monday, July 10, 2006

A question for Bruce Braley – Will our ten year olds need Social Security in 60 years?

Every election year when Democrats start to demagogue on the issue of Social Security and “Mediscare” I find myself fuming at the political process. It could be that I’m not keen on having to listen to the federally financed elderly insurance programs for dummies rhetoric. More likely, it’s the absolute audacity of Democrats gaming the issue to scare old people. It’s maddening, but what’s worse is this campaign strategy seems to work on a few voters every election.

The Democrat’s nominee for the 1st Congressional district Bruce Braley was given the honor of collecting an extensive amount of free publicity with his turn at the Democratic Response to the President. He used the opportunity to push the Democrats gloom & doom on the Republicans’ plan for Social Security, and he did so without offering a single new idea to head off the looming funding crisis in entitlement programs. But why bother with solutions, right?

An excerpt of Bruce’s twenty minutes of too much free press out of the Chicago Tribune's political blog, The Swamp

Good morning, this is Bruce Braley of Iowa.

Social Security is a promise to…blah, blah, blah… that has allowed millions of older Americans...yada, yada… Today, Social Security…blah, blah…attack. Yada, yada…Bush… Republican…privatize Social Security…blah, blah, blah...jeopardy.

Democrats…blah, blah…dangerous plan…set aside.

Yada, yada…Bush…future plans. Blah, blah…Social Security…2007.

Blah…November, voters …yada, yada… privatize Social Security… Republican. Blah, blah… protect Social Security…Democratic.

You get the idea. This was a third-rail attack piece designed to pull in free news coverage and set up Braley’s direct mail, push polling and canvassers targeting the “nearly 85,000 people over 65” in Iowa’s First Congressional District.

Older Iowans know that Social Security and Medicare are in trouble, at least they should know. But just in case, I have included the 2006 Social Security & Medicare Trustees note to the public. If you don’t have time to read the mind-numbing & jargon-happy text, I’ll summarize: the programs are going bust, the boomers are just starting to collect, and if it’s not fixed, the grandchildren of today’s older Americans will have no government guaranteed economic and health security in old age.

It’s simple; hate your grandkids and want to make sure they suffer when they get old, vote for Social Security crisis exploiting Democrats like Bruce Braley.

Status of the Social Security and Medicare Programs

A SUMMARY OF THE 2006 ANNUAL REPORTS

Each year the Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds report on the current status and projected condition of the funds over the next 75 years. This message summarizes the 2006 Annual Reports.

The fundamentals of the financial status of Social Security and Medicare remain problematic under the intermediate economic and demographic assumptions. Social Security's current annual surpluses of tax income over expenditures will soon begin to decline, and will be followed by deficits that begin to grow rapidly toward the end of the next decade as the baby-boom generation retires. Expenditures of Medicare's Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund that pays hospital benefits are projected to exceed taxes and other dedicated revenues in 2006, with annual cash flow deficits expected to continue and to grow rapidly after 2010 as baby boomers begin to retire. The projected growing deficits in both programs will exhaust HI trust fund reserves in 2018 and Social Security reserves in 2040, under current financing arrangements. In addition, the Medicare Supplementary Medical Insurance (SMI) Trust Fund that pays for physician services and the new prescription drug benefit will require substantial increases over time in both general revenue financing and beneficiary premium charges. As Social Security and HI reserves are drawn down and SMI general revenue financing requirements continue to grow, pressure on the Federal budget will intensify. We do not believe the currently projected long-run growth rates of Social Security or Medicare are sustainable under current financing arrangements.

Social Security

The annual cost of Social Security benefits represents 4.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2005 and is projected to rise to 6.2 percent of GDP in 2030, and then slightly to 6.3 percent of GDP in 2080. The projected 75-year actuarial deficit in the combined Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Funds is 2.02 percent of taxable payroll, up from 1.92 percent in last year's report. This increase is due primarily to advancing the projection period, the availability of recent data that led to revisions in key assumptions, and to changes in methods. Although the program passes our short-range test of financial adequacy, it continues to fail our long-range test of close actuarial balance by a wide margin. Projected OASDI tax income will begin to fall short of outlays in 2017, and will be sufficient to finance only 74 percent of scheduled annual benefits in 2040, when the combined OASDI trust fund is projected to be exhausted.

Social Security could be brought into actuarial balance over the next 75 years in various ways, including an immediate increase of 16 percent in payroll tax revenues or an immediate reduction in benefits of 13 percent (or some combination of the two). To the extent that changes are delayed or phased in gradually, greater adjustments in scheduled benefits and revenues would be required. Ensuring that the system is solvent on a sustainable basis over the next 75 years and beyond would also require larger changes.

Medicare

As we reported last year, Medicare's financial difficulties come sooner-and are much more severe-than those confronting Social Security. While both programs face demographic challenges, the impact is more severe for Medicare because health care costs increase at older ages. Moreover, underlying health care costs per enrollee are projected to rise faster than the wages per worker on which the payroll tax is paid and on which Social Security benefits are based. As a result, while Medicare's annual costs were 2.7 percent of GDP in 2005, or over 60 percent of Social Security's, they are now projected to surpass Social Security expenditures in a little more than 20 years and reach 11 percent of GDP in 2080.

The projected 75-year actuarial deficit in the HI Trust Fund is now 3.51 percent of taxable payroll, up from 3.09 percent in last year's report due primarily to greater costs in 2005 than expected, changes in managed care assumptions, advancing the projection period, and more recent data that suggests higher utilization of health services in the future. The fund again fails our test of short-range financial adequacy, as assets drop below the level of the next year's projected expenditures within 10 years-in 2012. The fund also continues to fail our long-range test of close actuarial balance by a wide margin. The projected date of HI Trust Fund exhaustion moves forward to 2018, from 2020 in last year's report, and projected HI tax income falls short of outlays in this and all future years. HI could be brought into actuarial balance over the next 75 years by an immediate 121 percent increase in program income, or an immediate 51 percent reduction in program outlays (or some combination of the two). As with Social Security, however, adjustments of far greater magnitude would be necessary to the extent changes are delayed or phased in gradually, or to make the program solvent on a sustainable basis over the next 75 years and beyond.

Part B of the SMI Trust Fund, which pays doctors' bills and other outpatient expenses, and the recent Part D, which pays for access to prescription drug coverage, are both projected to remain adequately financed into the indefinite future by operation of current law that automatically sets financing each year to meet next year's expected costs. Expected rapid cost increases, however, will result in rapidly growing general revenue financing needs-projected to rise from just under 1 percent of GDP today to almost 5.0 percent in 2080- as well as substantial increases over time in beneficiary premium charges.

The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 requires that the Medicare Report include a determination of whether the difference between total Medicare outlays and dedicated financing sources (such as premiums and payroll taxes) exceeds 45 percent of total outlays within the first seven years of the projection period (2006-2012 for the 2006 Report). The Act requires that an affirmative determination in two consecutive reports be treated as a funding warning for Medicare that would, in turn, require a Presidential proposal to respond to the warning and expedited Congressional consideration of such proposal. The 2006 Report projects that the difference will reach 45 percent in 2012, marking the first time a determination of "excess general revenue Medicare funding" has been made. A similar determination in next year's report would trigger the Medicare funding warning.

Conclusion

Though highly challenging, the financial difficulties facing Social Security and Medicare are not insurmountable. We must, however, take action to address them in a timely manner. The sooner these challenges are addressed, the more varied and less disruptive their solutions can be. With informed public discussion and creative thinking that relates the principles underlying these programs to the economic and demographic realities, and to the changing needs and preferences of working and retired households, Social Security and Medicare can continue to play a critical role in the lives of all Americans.



Thursday, July 06, 2006

Vilsack & Bayh touring Eastern Iowa


Certain Democrats are ginning up their presidential aspiration tours. One we know well, too well if we consider the cost of his landscaping habit, is on a homegrown political tour.

Vilsack & company's new metaphor has something to do with Iowa's "changing landscape". I'm not sure it's a good political move to associate landscaping and political success. We've all lived through some version of landscape hell; the over priced and very dead Japanese maple, ill suited to zone four, ripped out and replaced with a contorted filbert only to lose the filbert the next year and turn to the five dollar juniper, on clearance at the local discount home & garden mega store, because we know it works. For a different version of Iowa's “changing landscape” replace the plant names with Maytag, Iowa Speedway and Walmart.

According to Radio Iowa, Vilsack and his politically tuned in wife are out stumping the Iowa countryside to build presidential momentum.

Governor Tom Vilsack's visiting eastern Iowa today (Thursday) to tout his administration's economic development record as he starts making the case to Iowans that he's presidential material. Vilsack's wife, Christie, is also making the case for her husband during her stops around the state.

In a recent speech, Mrs. Vilsack talked about the same thing her husband's talking about today -- how the "landscape" of the state has changed during his eight years in office. "We have literally changed the landscape in Iowa," …

… The state's First Lady also cited the doubling of state grants to libraries as well as the direct grants to many libraries through the state's "Vision Iowa" and "Community Attractions" economic development programs. …

… Governor Vilsack was in Davenport this (Thursday) morning at 10. He'll be at A-D-M in Cedar Rapids over the noon hour and at three o'clock the governor will speak at the Burlington Public Library. …

It’s a friendly O.Kay puff piece, not much of a story unless you consider Evan Bayh’s Iowa schedule. From a campaign email sent out to Iowa bloggers encouraging us to come along on the Evan Bayh tour (as if we really matter – Iowa’s old and not a tech-hip sort of place).

Iowa Bloggers-

As you may have heard, Senator Bayh is making another trip to Iowa this week (July 6th-8th) and we would love for you attend. If you can attend any of the events, please email me back and we may be able to make special arrangement for you at the event to ask Bayh questions and/or get a picture with him. In particular, we are looking for people to go to the Bruce Braley event in Davenport on Friday.

Ryan A.

All America PAC

***MEDIA ADVISORY***

Senator Bayh will be making his fifth trip to Iowa in the last twelve months to help raise money for and support State Senator Roger Stewart, State Representative Polly Bukta, State Representative Nathan Reichert, State Senator Tom Courtney, 4th Congressional District candidate Selden Spencer, 1st Congressional District candidate Bruce Braley, 2nd Congressional District candidate Dave Loebsack, and State House candidates Jan Kvach, Tyler Olson, and Art Staed.

Schedule of Senator Evan Bayh:

July 6, 2006 THURSDAY

5:30 PM-06:45 PM

JOINT TRUMAN FUND EVENT HONORING IOWA STATE
HOUSE & SENATE (Des Moines)

7:15 PM-08:30 PM

EVENT HONORING SELDEN SPENCER
(4th CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT CANDIDATE) (Adel)

July 7, 2006 FRIDAY

5:15 PM-06:15 PM

EVENT HONORING STATE SENATOR ROGER STEWART & STATE REPRESENTATIVE POLLY BUKTA (Clinton)

7:15 PM-08:45 PM

EVENT HONORING BRUCE BRALEY (Davenport)

July 8, 2006 SATURDAY

9:30 AM-10:45 AM

EVENT HONORING STATE REPRESENTATIVE NATHAN REICHERT (Muscatine)

12:00 PM-01:15 PM

EVENT HONORING STATE SENATOR TOM COURTNEY (Burlington)

5:00 PM-06:30 PM

EVENT HONORING DAVE LOEBSACK (Iowa City)

7:15 PM-08:30PM

EVENT HONORING STATE HOUSE CANDIDATES JAN KVACH (35th DISTRICT), TYLER OLSON (38th DISTRICT), & ART STAED (87th DISTRICT) (Cedar Rapids)

The dueling schedules comes on the heel of the WaPo Fix’s Friday Line post from this last Friday.

Evan Bayh: We were intrigued to read in the Des Moines Register this week that Bayh is the only 2008 Democrat other than Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack who has political staff on the ground in the Hawkeye State. We've said all along that Bayh's methodological approach to the nominating process will eventually pay dividends. At some point, however, Bayh needs to show that he is more than just a process candidate (Midwesterner, former governor of a red state) and that he can energize Democratic base voters.

Process candidate? These guys have never spent any amount of time in Iowa (no smirking at the computer screen). We like it when the presidential wannabes make the rounds with an open and low-key style. Why do you think Vilsack decided he needed to head on over to eastern Iowa this week?


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Iowa: revenues are up and the money's spent.

Iowans pay record in state taxes during past 12 months

And

Iowa collects record $5.77 billion in state taxes

So we can spend it on

Program urges proactive path to better health: A new initiative enlists churches, schools and community centers.

How about a tax cut?

Nah, it's too much fun to think up redundant policy to grandstand on during an election year.


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