Friday, September 29, 2006

Heard it all before...part two

I cut & pasted the comments from the last post to this one because it’s an interesting discussion and I’m too tired to whip up some other thought – this habit is like a Martha Stewart Living spree gone bad.

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Civility: is it a lost cause in America? Even Newt Gingrich reflects on the disappearance of this key element in the production of good works, public policy and otherwise. (Why Newt Is So Much Fun to Watch, Time Magazine, April 16, 2006)

"If Republicans just talk to other Republicans, there's a tendency to get so ugly about the other side that we go overboard. Same with Democrats," Gingrich said at Franklin Pierce College. "You get campaigns that are just noise. But if you have to stand next to each other onstage, you tend to be more civil. There's a better chance of having a real dialogue."

comment & response

C.R.

I read the letter on the Safe Schools site. Do you have a link to the actual legislation that will be considered?

I.E.

The legislation considered in the previous General Assembly may not be the same legislation considered in the next General Assembly. For reference, General Assembly link is at the bottom of the post.

John

Thanks for the link love and the critique.

Yes, I know full well this is about the LBG-TG-TS agenda. As Seinfeld said, not that there's anything wrong with that.

And, to cite myself, would I have been as gay friendly if I hadn't been bullied?

PS. I wasn't "slightly" geeky. I was EXTREMELY geeky. :)

I.E.

Thank you, and I disagree with the implicit gay agenda buried in last year's bullying legislation, it cheapens the issue, but I do like Seinfeld & geeks..

Anon

Anti -bullying legislation is just another effort to disintermediate (with the State) individual moral responsibilities. People who behave badly should be policed by their peers, families, and voluntary associations (e.g., a church they respect), not by the guys with the guns. Police have enough to do, I would think. Does the left prefer we hire more police, in order to staff the Manners detail?

Of course, let's not forget the importance of a little random cruel hazing on achievement later in life. This latter, capricious comment is offered only half in-jest.

Manville

I.E.

Glad to have readers from Jersey. Go Red Knights.

Bullies beget bullies who beget bullies and on we go. It’s not something we should tolerate, I certainly don’t tolerate bullying from my family and friends.

It’s difficult to argue the need for “manners” police, but we do police schools for drugs and “violent” behavior. So when does a manners problem cross the line into violence? And if we selectively chose our associations based on the group’s acceptance for our behaviors, then the concepts of manners and violence are perfectly changeable from group to group -- relativist mush at its finest.

It’s curious to think that “a little random cruel hazing” is the stuff that dreams are made of, really, a good number of experts might disagree, pointing to all sorts of pathology (here, here, here).

The Real Sporer

Would there be less ennui and more enthusiasm for, at least, the Republican Party, if we stood for more as a party? I think so.

Its time we start drawing the real world distinctions between Republican governance and Democrat governance, because one of the two is going to win and the parties haven't been this far apart since the Civil War. The tragedy is our cyber/reality show TV culture is so utterly dependent on immediate and trivial gratification that they turn away from even the responsibilities of self government.

I.E.

Sounds good. But to do so requires a civil discourse among the ranks. Can and will that happen in a culture that seems ambivalent, at best, about the role of society to impose standards of civility in schools? I don’t know. But I like to think anything is possible. We do seem to be able to reelect a guy like Jim Leach to Congress every two years.

For the record: I was that little girl in second grade who stood between fat & slow Arnold and the bullies when the teacher left the classroom for those five long minutes, and I believe Arnold was unaware of his sexual orientation at that time.


HF 367 Establishing state and school antiharassment or antibullying policies. HF 367 - companion to SF 406 - both similar to HF 382 and SF 2365.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Heard it all before...

Two very different bloggers have taken on the discussion of a recent controversial statement signed by legislative leaders to encourage the movement of anti-bullying legislation in the next General Assembly.

John Deeth talks to the heart about his experience being bullied as a kid and makes almost no argument for or against the actual legislation. I assume he believes his experience -- a rather universal one for most slightly geeky middle school kids -- is enough to convince a reader about the correctness of the proposed legislation.

Krusty vents a little frustration at having to parse an issue that in Krusty’s mind shouldn’t be an issue. I know. The post reads more like an internal memo venting on the frustration at having a particular tactical game plan bent.

I think both these guys are missing some of the arguments.

I certainly understand J. Deeth’s visceral reaction to anything titled anti-bullying legislation, but look harder and you'll find another agenda. The less discussed agenda is to put gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, pansexual, monosexual rights into code and designate sexual orientation a protected class.

This anti-bullying legislation isn’t about the kid with developmental disabilities. And it’s not about the smart girl with no fear of being right. And it’s certainly not about the morbidly obese kid. (We have other fancy social engineering agenda items in the wings for that kid, somewhat along the lines of POW camp food monitoring at school & home.) No, this is a clever hijacking of an emotional policy issue that is couched in female friendly sound bites that cover up the long-term legal agenda.

On the same note, Krusty’s pissed off tirade slicing the minutia associated with the Republicans position on the anti-bullying legislation is lost on me. It never works to say things like: This proposed legislation is good but it is also bad for this and this and this reason therefore, even though I believe in the idea, we’re not going to do anything about it. The real question: if Republicans really believe bullying is a problem, then why didn’t they encourage their networks of activists to come up with another bill coupled with an aggressive lobbying effort?

Perhaps it just wasn’t an important enough issue, and that might be difficult to explain to worried mothers wandering into voting booths.

It’s almost the end; everyone’s playing their cards the way they want to play them. Republicans are betting on turning out their base like 2004, ignoring the fact that Republicans are losing voters like hair. The latest Rasmussen’s Party ID tracking poll from August 2006 shows Democrats with 37% and Republicans 32% nationwide, down from 38% and 37% November of 2004. While the Democrats end game is all about manipulating a few votes in the center with too clever soft sell agenda items that appeal to women and independents, note the Culver/Judge women’s agenda ... now,click over to State29 for your Chet Culver YouTube™ fix.

The Democrats happily marched into the center and set up camp while the GOP figured they could beat the b, err, roust the slumbering Republican monolith and move it to the polls. When you’re even, I’ll take the Republican bet, but with voters leaving both parties in numbers to big to ignore (I couldn't help it), I’ll hedge with the Democrats idea of camping in the center and might think that a Republican pitching a tent near the Democrats' camp doesn't want to cede that space in the middle.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

My November 7th Wish List

It’s a little over six weeks until we bury this election and I have a list of things I’m wishing on. Some of these things are selfish suggestions, they’ll help with the blogging, other suggestions are random ideas that I think will improve the universal peace of mind. And, since this is my blog, my peace of mind matters.

1) I want everything, well almost everything, on You Tube™. I mean everything, from the debates, to the ads and even the homemade videos of the candidate's public events -- notice I said public. You Tube™ video can add so much to the debate when you consider that at least 90% of communication is nonverbal.

2) I want Iowa bloggers to expand our range of topics and start writing about the races down the ticket. There are only so many words you can tap out about Chet & Jim before we’re running blogger rehash.

3) I want that Steve Deace guy to experience the consequences of his cheeseburger habit, not completely mind you, just a wake up call to a healthier lifestyle.

4) I want that lifestyle change that Steve’s adopting to kick-start his immediate suspension from WHO with plenty of time-off for treatment.

5) I want Chet Culver to have every opportunity to speak extemporaneously to as many voters as possible – I told you it’s a wish list.

6) I want Jim Nussle to lose the Wink Martindale vocal quality when using prepared scripts – I know it’s important to enunciate and speak crisply when making an important point but the lilt throws me off, all I can think about are those damn Orbitz commercials and Cancun.

7) I want guys like Todd Dorman to ramp up the snark during these last few weeks…please.

8) I want the Gannett Company to implement an immediate cost-cutting initiative at the Des Moines Register that spurs the innovative merger of editorials and news. Oh yeah, check that one off. (BTW - thanks Larry)

9) I want all Type A Democrats and Type A Republicans to find their inner stoner for at least two hours every day – so whether you’re using chemicals or your own mantra, we’ll be assured that for at least a few hours a day the go for the throat types are in Om land.

10) I want God to shut down the testosterone supply twenty days prior to the election or, if that’s not possible, I would like a little more of that inner stoner peace for those last few days. I suppose that means I need a mantra, how does 'endure the guys named Lars', sound?

It's all possible...sigh.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Iowa Democrats Looking for Cover

Peggy Noonan, writing in a recent WSJ Online op-ed, drops a few clear thoughts into this year's midterm election muddle.

...my sense of things: They say the election is all about Iraq. It's not. It's about George W. Bush. He dominates the discussion, or rather obsesses the discussers. ...
Noonan captures the essential ambiguity Americans have about GWB, but suggests this ambiguity, when worked over in rabid style by Pelosi & the other obsessives, loses its shape and becomes a dissembled pile of Bush policy with no Democrat alternatives. It’s never a good idea to arrive at November with a campaign built on hammering a soon to be lame duck sans a solid governing agenda.

That said, you can still see Republicans suffering in the polls, which likely has very little to do with the Bush atmospherics and everything to do with the political winds at the state & local level. Republicans are struggling in places with unpopular GOP governors & state leadership, but where leadership is shared equally the Democrats' make-a-wish atmospherics don’t exist.

In Iowa, we have shared leadership; for the last eight years the state has been controlled by a Democrat administration and for at least six of those years a solid Republican majority in the legislature. That generates a mixed political backdrop.

There are motivated voters looking at the past eight years of our insta-policy governor desperate for a slower policy, spend & dole pace, while some voters are frustrated by the few issues that seem to be stuck in the legislature – a tobacco tax increase & smoke free restaurants. There is something for every voter to dislike about Iowa politics.

With a neutral political environment, it’ll be interesting to see if the Democrats keep working their ‘GOP legislature as straw man’ approach. It could end up being similar to what Noonan describes as Pelosi & company's big oops.

…The Democrats' mistake--ironically, in a year all about Mr. Bush--is obsessing on Mr. Bush. They've been sucker-punched by their own animosity.

"The Democrats now are incapable of answering a question on policy without mentioning Bush six times," says pollster Kellyanne Conway. " 'What is your vision on Iraq?' 'Bush lied us into war.' 'Health care? 'Bush hasn't a clue.' They're so obsessed with Bush it impedes them from crafting and communicating a vision all their own." They heighten Bush by hating him.

One of the oldest clichés in politics is, "You can't beat something with nothing." It's a cliché because it's true. You have to have belief, and a program. You have to look away from the big foe and focus instead on the world and philosophy and programs you imagine.

Mr. Bush's White House loves what the Democrats are doing. They want the focus on him. That's why he's out there talking, saying Look at me.

Because familiarity doesn't only breed contempt, it can breed content. Because if you're going to turn away from him, you'd better be turning toward a plan, and the Democrats don't appear to have one.

Which leaves them unlikely to win leadership. And unworthy of it, too.

So go for it Iowa Dems, run against the GOP leaders in the Iowa legislature, I don’t think they mind a bit.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Political Dirt, Iowa Style

The Political Madman is on a roll.

There's 49 days left until the November 7 election. Forty-nine days of negative ads, push polling, partisan bickering and bad satire. At the end of those 49 days, we'll elect the candidate Iowans hate less based on the smear campaigns of their opponents, 527 groups and the parties.

Then, on November 8th, we'll wonder why no one voted.

True words, but sadly the act of practicing politics at this most fierce & banal level serves the purposes of those who employ the tactics. They win. They make the laws & spend the money.

Aggressive campaigning is not new; it's an integral part of American politics as far back as the Founding Fathers. Americans expect to see the very sharpest edge of bad taste when it comes to campaign politics. It's always been that way: Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt(s), Nixon, Kennedy(s), Reagan and on, each generation and all political parties reinvent the art of political contrast to gain Election Day advantage.

Some experts think that might not be all bad.

Reason Online, February 2005

High Praise for Low Blows

David Mark on negative campaigning and the accidental benefits of campaign finance reform

"It's a lot like porn," author David Mark says of negative campaigning—and he means that in a good way. As a political journalist and former editor-in-chief of Campaigns & Elections magazine, Mark has watched vicious attack ads take down many an aspiring politico. But instead of bemoaning the low blows struck in the name of electoral politics—from Swift Boat slanders to friend-of-terrorist-smears—Mark is convinced negativity is a distinctly positive feature of U.S. elections.

Like pornographers, Mark argues, negative campaigners have seized emerging technology to reach their audience, bypassing gatekeepers to reach voters directly. The result, he claims, is a more rich, if less genteel, conversation. In Going Dirty (Rowman Littlefield), coming out next month, Mark lays out and defends the modern history of negative campaigning, from1928 attacks on presidential nominee and "rum-soaked Romanist" Al Smith to less-than-subtle images of Osama Bin Laden in 2004. Assistant Editor Kerry Howley spoke with Mark in Washington D.C. in February.

Yeah, that one should get a lot out link clicks.

In my mind, it's more curious that the Democrats made such a press issue out of a minor political spat. If they're in a race to the wire and they need to kill off a Republican, they're going to use whatever means they have to make that happen, including negative campaign mailers and phone calls. Then it'll be that old ghost of Democrat Hypocrisy riding in on late October winds and without a single Republican sheet in sight.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Nussle & Culver: The battle of the polls begins

It’s a battle of the public polls -- Zogby, KCCI, Victory Enterprise and most recently the Des Moines Register have put out the numbers. The public consumption polling fight is on, and as everyone expects this is turning out to be a bloody knuckles fight.

Nussle’s people sent out a press release on Friday pumping a new poll by Victory Enterprises, a GOP political shop based out of Davenport.

…In a survey released late yesterday by Victory Enterprises, Jim Nussle leads Chet Culver 41% - 38% in the race for Iowa Governor.

Campaign Manager Nick Ryan said, “Polls will be up and down from now until Election Day, proving this is going to be a tight race through November 7th. Jim Nussle isn’t taking any vote for granted as he continues to travel the state, taking his positive vision to Energize….blah, blah, yada, blah, you get the idea …

… The survey was conducted September 5-6 of 506 likely Iowa voters who have a history of participating in Iowa Gubernatorial elections. The survey has a 4.4% margin of error.

Sunday’s Des Moines Register made a front page story out of a tie.

…A new Des Moines Register poll shows Democrat Chet Culver and Republican Jim Nussle are tied, 44 percent to 44 percent, among likely voters at this stage of the statewide contest.

Ready to break the unusual tie are the 10 percent of Iowans who say they definitely will vote in the Nov. 7 election but are undecided on a candidate at this point.

Another 2 percent of those polled say they that prefer someone else to become Iowa's chief executive, or that they're not going to cast a ballot on this race.

The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Great! We now have four different polls, conducted within a two-week period and each producing slightly different results. It’s time for some meta-analysis. Well not really meta-analysis, that’s a little tough to do without the extended data sets, SPSS program and a post-doctoral yen for numbers. But we do have a hedge formula developed by a regular guy with a blog.

Blogging Caesar is an average, ordinary math geek with a habit. BC developed a unique formula to evaluate a race using the combined weighted average of a group of polls plus a set of anecdotally identified weighted variables that include incumbent job approval, partisan tendencies and a random looking error rate. He then mixes and springs his election projections for each race. BC was blogging in 2004 and proved to be an accurate poll-watching pundit, according to some other well-regarded pundits.

The Iowa formula for the 2006 governor's race using the averages out of the four polls and BC’s identified values for incumbent favorability and partisan tendencies reads:

[(-.1) * .9] + [(8) * .05] + [(-.7)* .05] + .001 = .275

The numbers translate to Chet Culver winning by a little less than one third of one percent of the vote. That's not much wiggle room for Chet Culver, and according to the model, the big advantage Chet has in this race is Vilsack’s favorability rating.

I doubt Republicans are going to let Vilsack get out of Terrace Hill without a few more bites to the ankles & kicks to the shins. We’ll probably see the Republicans make an effort to spin Tom Vilsack’s legacy of debt throughout the month of October.

It’s early; we still have the debates, candidate press events and possibly hundreds of negative ads to zone out. But if this race doesn’t break for either candidate, it’s going to hinge on turnout, and if a turnout advantage fails, then we can all look forward to Chet’s SOS team counting ballots on the Friday after the election.

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A Hawk State Note:

If you are going to sit behind a couple of impressionable kids -- well, they're probably past that stage -- it would be really great if you could attempt to use a few more verbs, nouns, adverbs & adjectives that didn’t start with the letter F and end with a K ... or if that's not possible, at least make sure you're wearing a 'Clones tee.

Just a thought.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Culver & Nussle: lingering indigestion but is the crazy permanent?

Nussle has a little indigestion hanging around from last week. KCCI commissioned a poll on the political winds in Central Iowa and picked up evidence of that indigestion. Reported by KCCI News:

…Data show that 48 percent of those polled would vote for Culver and 43 percent would vote for GOP candidate Jim Nussle. Only 9 percent were undecided. …

…The telephone survey was conducted Sept. 11 and 12, and included 600 likely statewide voters who regularly vote in elections. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points. …

Between the Zogby numbers from last week and this week’s KCCI poll, it’s shaping up to be a brawling, bitter end – and when you’re in that kind of environment, there are only fatal mistakes.

The campaigns are going to have to tighten up their messages and think a little smarter. The Culver camp probably learned to “pre-test” their big ideas with a few Democratic big shots and the Nussle campaign, no doubt, will circular file all candidate surveys and rework their spin control.

I’m saying “probably learned” because some how Chet Culver seems like the kind of guy who might run an office that needs to touch the proverbial stove more than once. Yesterday camp Culver jumped all over a cigarette tax increase, pledging to raise the tobacco taxes by a buck a pack. Reported by Radio Iowa:

Democratic candidate Chet Culver promises to raise the state tax on cigarettes by $1 a pack if he's elected governor.

Culver says if a pack of cigarettes is more expensive, fewer teenagers will take up the habit and some adult smokers will stop. "I want to help save lives in Iowa by increasing the tobacco tax," Culver says. ...

But Chet, what about your base? Sure, you need those country club soccer moms who don't buy smokes to be all about softer side issues and their kids, but you just sold out every working man & woman that can’t quit. It’s difficult to believe that the Culver campaign can’t appreciate how much damage they’re doing to families often perceived to be voting Democrat as a given fact of life.

It's well documented that tobacco taxes are extraordinarily regressive; the habit can financially crush a low-income smoker. A few will find the costs prohibitive and quit, but the rest will keep using and fattening up the state’s coffers to pay for state employee salary increases and Chet’s special projects.

Passing the burden of raising revenue to the families least able to afford it is bad public policy. The anti-tobacco lobby has successfully argued the economics of price elasticity in youth tobacco use, but it has cleverly neglected to address the fact that with every 10% increase in price, only 10% of smokers will try to quit and of those, two percent or less will succeed (link). These are not particularly good odds for curbing the existing smoking problem but they are great odds if it’s all about a tax increase for more state spending.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Zogby Numbers: crazy meltdown or indigestion.

It’s always fun to step all over the polling “message” campaigns want to spin out. To wit: the new WSJ Online Zogby poll is up for the end of August first week of September, and Jim Nussle ought to be pleased. His message on Chet Culver's Crazy IPERS plan could be a major reason for the flip.

In the latest Zogby Interactive Poll, Nussle is up by 2.4%: 45.6% to 43.2%, it’s within the margin of error but it’s trending Nussle’s direction.

Granted, this poll was in the field August 29 to September 5, just prior to the Nussle campaign indigestion on abortion. (I’m still thinking, and it’s nice to know Romney experienced an epiphany on thin slicing the morality of life; it places him squarely in the good company of Dr. William Hurlbut & others.)

The Zogby numbers do capture the IPERS oops suffered by the Cookie Jar Culver campaign. The lead switch from the mid August poll numbers to the early September numbers are very likely attributable to Chet Culver’s economic development proposal to use 3% of IPERS funds on homegrown venture capital. State 29 -- as always -- works his public service magic and bludgeons Chet’s IPERS proposal into worthless stock-option pulp.

The crazier thing is Chet’s feckless campaign staff meltdown on the issue. Rule number one for high profile campaigns with high profile campaign disasters: do not send the twinkie out to work the message. Hey, been there, know better. (I’m now I’m on my next mistake. And curiously, I think it might have everything to do with an excessive need to type.)

Back to Chet. We’ve seen the Culver IPERS message devolve from “erroneous” to “what plan?” in a matter of a few days.

From the QC Times September 9:

Taylor West, a spokeswoman for Culver, said the campaign erroneously sent out a news release last month that called for using up to 3 percent of the fund to invest in high-tech startups. That news release included a plan to establish a separate board to oversee those investments. She said the news release was corrected to say they would ask the existing IPERS board to look at investing up to 1 percent in Iowa companies.

Reported on Radio Iowa September 12:

Nussle, meanwhile, is accusing Culver of "abandoning" the economic plans Culver has laid out for the state. Nussle points to the Culver campaign website as evidence. "He has no economic plan on his website demonstrating what his plans are for Iowa and Iowa's economy with eight weeks to go (until the election)," Nussle says. "I don't know what's riskier -- the original Culver plan which used IPERS or running for governor without a plan at all...If in fact he's changing his plan he has a lot of explaining to do -- not only why he's changing his plan but what is his plan."

Taylor West, a spokeswoman for Culver, says they're merely revamping the campaign website. "This is absurb and an attempt by the Nussle campaign to cover up their own lack of a plan," West says.

The heavy spin out of the Culver campaign suggests that they might be worried the Zogby numbers represent more than a polling blip. It'll take time, we'll need to see if the polling numbers from Nussle’s abortion indigestion pulls Culver back into the game. One thing is certain, it’s going to be a campaign season where voters will wake up wondering what Judge Judy moment they'll witness on that particular day.


Monday, September 11, 2006


I had not been to New York since the World Trade Center attack of September 11, 2001 so the sight of Lower Manhattan from the Atlantic Highlands ferry was confusing. I was looking at Manhattan and thinking it was a recently urbanized Staten Island or Brooklyn or maybe even New Jersey. It didn’t look like the New York I had in my head, but after a look to my left at the Statue of Liberty, I realized I was looking straight on at Lower Manhattan.

We left the ferry at Pier 11, found the subway and made our way to Ground Zero. The first thing I noticed when exiting the subway station at the World Trade Center was the floor tile. It was the original tile and I couldn’t help but think about what was captured in and between the tiles.

We emerged from the station to a streetscape of midsized buildings, a big hole in the ground and glaring sunlight. The sunlight was the most jarring feature; when the Word Trade Centers consumed the space, the sunlight filtered down in specks.

I’m not sure if there is much of a point in writing about two hours of a family vacation. I just couldn’t think of any other way to remember today.


Friday, September 08, 2006

Frist busts the pork for a little love


After the last anonymous hold was lifted on S 2950, Frist moved fast to get the pork tracker legislation through the Senate. It sailed out late Thursday night, 100 to 0.

Good for Frist, although bloggers at Human Events get the idea that this was about more than just the pork.

Tonight's passage of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (S. 2950) is being hailed by bloggers on the left and right, giving Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist a huge boost among a constituency that will play an important role in the 2008 presidential election. …

That’s right; it’s about sending a bit-o-love out to the blogoshere:

Shortly after the bill won unanimous approval, Frist broke the news on his VOLPAC blog:

Tonight I’m proud to report that the Senate unanimously passed S. 2590, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006.

The passage of this legislation is a triumph for transparency in government, for fiscal discipline, and for the bipartisan citizen journalism of the blogosphere. ….

Somehow, I’m not comprehending it – I’m just checking out the window, counting the loads of laundry and working on a grocery list.

Frist will be in Iowa, again, in a couple weeks and we'll see that warm bloggers' embrace close up. I might take a pass on that one.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Culver & Nussle: perspective, issues and underwear

I’m still thinking of ways to explain how the abortion debate never addresses what it means to have an occupied uterus. I’m sure with that line alone I’ve lost at least a quarter of the normal (using the term loosely) readers. I know, when we use correct anatomical terms it takes away all the mystery.

I thought I’d break up my writers block with a first. The AP released a story with a good example of the different political philosophies eking out of the campaigns. This is in today’s Mason City Globe-Gazette:

Gubernatorial rivals offer prescription plans

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle called Thursday for the creation of a hotline and Web site to give seniors information about the availability and cost of prescription medicines.

Nussle argued at a news conference that broadly spreading information about prescription drug costs would add new competition to the marketplace, driving down prices.

"This new Web site will drive down the price of prescription drugs the way competing gas stations at an intersection cause a drop in the prices at the pump," said Nussle. "The creation of a hotline and Web site will mean significant cost savings, helping seniors save up to $10 million annually on prescription drugs."

Nussle headed to a senior citizens center in suburban Des Moines to announce his plan.

Taylor West, a spokeswoman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver, said Culver has offered a more sweeping program as part of his proposal to expand health coverage in the state.

Culver has proposed expanding a program that pays for health coverage for children of the working poor to cover their parents. He also would offer incentives to businesses to offer health coverage for their workers.

Do you see the differences between Nussle & Culver? Okay, I did give a couple of hints.

Nussle is clearly on the side of applying market strategies to create price competition among sellers to lower costs and create saving in the state’s Medicaid budget, while also helping all Iowans with the price of prescription drugs.

Culver, on the other hand, recommends we expand state programs, which means spending significantly more tax dollars on insurance products for a larger pool of eligible Iowans.

It’s a stark comparison. Chet Culver will raise taxes to build larger government programs to provide services to a select group of Iowans and Jim Nussle will use economic strategies to lower the cost of private sector services to benefit all Iowans and to generate savings in the state’s budget.

I’m sure Democrats will point out that Jim Nussle was in charge of the budget. …blah, blah, blah…and Chet Culver will only raise taxes on….blah, blah, blah. You can’t argue with that kind of spin. But I can point out that the candidates offer up ideas with a certain perspective – which it seems the Democrats are gleefully using for abortion, oops choice, wallpaper to confuse a handful of Republicans and freak out independent women– and voters pay attention just long enough to get the gist. That’s not a bad approach if you need a litmus test.

If you’re a partisan, you probably rolled your eyes in a big duh. That’s reasonable. However, if every voter maintained an unnatural level of interest in political issues and public policy most hacks wouldn’t have a job. There would be no need to remind voters about perspective, issues and underwear preferences.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Iowa Democrats send a SCUD Nussle's way

All this talk about abortion is flashback 80s sorority Big Ten style. Drama! Who needs it?

Actually, I do have a few thoughts, but I need to think about how to say it. I’ll give you a hint: It’s not about babies and it’s not about women, it’s about where everybody powwows when they talk “unplanned pregnancy” – the uterus. I’ll explain that later, sort of, if, well, yeah, but later. This is almost like talking to my adolescents about body issues, actually that’s easier.

What I am surprised about is the Democrat’s co-opting the GOP abortion issue histrionics and using it to blow smoke long enough to hide the latest Rasmussen polling numbers. At least I haven’t seen much of a discussion on the numbers.

Rasmussen is reporting that Culver and Nussle are in a statistical dead heat. And the really good news for Nussle, the poll was in the field a day before team Nussle amped up their Chet “cookie jar” Culver ads spelling out Chet’s Big Idea to risk Iowa’s retirement fund on home grown talent and their Big Ideas.

...It's touch-and-go for the major-party candidates in Iowa's race for the Governor's mansion. In the latest Rasmussen Reports election poll, Democrat Chet Culver, Iowa Secretary of State, edges out Republican Congressman Jim Nussle by just two points, 42% to 40% (crosstabs avaliable for purchase, but not from me).

Culver led by three points in July and has been narrowly in front most of the year. Still, this race is clearly in the Toss-Up category, with both candidates well short of the 50% level of support.

The two candidates have agreed to a series of three debates, though Nussle has been publicly pressuring his opponent to accept as many as eight debates. Nussle reportedly aired his "first attack ad of the campaign" on August 29, a day after we conducted the current survey.

Both candidates attract support from most fellow party members. The two are evenly matched among unaffiliated voters, but Culver wins 56% of moderates. …

I can’t help but think the Dems and their dear & good friend Mike Glover at the AP saw this Rasmussen mood killer and decided to smack up a creative preemptive strike – send a direct shot into GOP territory by parsing candidate survey language to splinter team Nussle’s base. Very clever. Too clever.

In fact, it’ll back fire on the Democrats by making the slightly confused Nussle foot soldiers step back and do a double take on the Democrats motives for making an issue out of Nussle’s pro-life stand. Then, when they’ve sufficiently figured it out, and let’s hope it takes them less than an hour, the Nussle soldiers will jump back in to campaign mode with both feet, two hands and their party issued cell phones.

The one tiny problem is how this non-story story may influence the way moderates, nay swing voters, nay people who really shouldn’t be voting but vote anyway, view Nussle. Is team Nussle’s sudden need to reissue the pro-life credentials going to hurt with the moderate no-party voters? In this respect, the Dems made a nice play, but I expect team Nussle to be investigating clever ways to scud the Dems base. Patty Judge’s Ag record on environmental issues anyone?

We are only in early September; I just might have to quit my day job working with scissors to stay home and blog.

(Yes, I've already seen Krusty . And no, I wrote this before reading today's post. Honest.)


Monday, September 04, 2006

Iowa Policy Project: twisting & turning the numbers for their version of the greater good

It’s Labor Day in an election year, which always means the American Worker gets wrapped up in campaign politics. This year, very probably more than other years, it’s a pink elephant playing out in the standard fare; illegal immigration, health care, education, super sized government, CIETC, in fact, it’s difficult to find an issue where labor isn’t a major part of the discussion.

I guess we might be able to say: It’s the worker stupid.

More than any political year in recent memory, issues related to the quality, opportunity and growth of our labor market is shaping an election. A recent example of election year policy-ticking is from the lefties over at the Iowa Policy Project and their new study on the state of working Iowans. They’ve picked up quite a bit of press with their No Picnic report, this is the AP story published in the WCF Courier.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Iowans are working harder but seeing little financial gain for their effort, according to nonprofit think tank.

A study by the Iowa Policy Project found that increased worker productivity contributed significantly to soaring corporate profits in the last 15 years, but the companies have not shared the windfall with workers.

"For Iowa's working families, this Labor Day offers little reason to celebrate," the group said. "Measured against its regional and national peers, Iowa wages remain low. Measured across time, those wages have stagnated for most, and fallen in recent years even as worker productivity has increased." …

The study shops the usual sad story about the state of working Iowans. The data, as expected, is creatively parsed. They mix and match categories of data, lump outliers into data sets to provide for dramatic averages, and, in the most unique plea to the average Iowan, go on to run a slice & dice on median incomes with emphasis on the income woes of Iowa's highest wage earners as compared to the rest of wealthy America.

I’d love to be able to cut & paste the study to discuss the logic; however, the IPP only allows access to a PDF file and that's not a particularly friendly format for quick comparisons. I’ll just summarize my points with notes on where to find the confusing data in the IPP report.

First. Why in the world are the researchers combining the rates of change in US based corporate profits, personal savings rates, GDP and US median salaries? They readily admit in this paper that they made up an index to make the data fit their needs: “This allows an illustration of trends from a common date from very dissimilar measures and values”. Translation: our comparison of this odd bunch of unrelated data is presented for mood and affect and our conclusions have no basis in fact. (Page 2, Figure 1 notes, No Picnic)

Second. To provide evidence of Iowa’s pathetic average income they lump all sorts of categories of employment into one data measure without qualifying that each subset is measuring the same particular variables of full time equivalent employment. The service sector category is a low wage outlier, and if you remove this outlier, Iowa's average income suddenly improves by over eight grand. It certainly makes a reader wonder what the service sector data is measuring. I’m not suggesting we ignore Iowans employed in service sector jobs; however, this wage subset must measure the same things the other subsets measure to reassure readers that the data is accurate and believable. (Page 4, Table 1, No Picnic)

Third. It is peculiar, at best, to focus on Iowa's low median wages in the top income bracket without qualifying what population we are probably measuring – health care providers and their incomes from Iowa’s pathetically low Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement. If we swap reimbursement rates with Louisiana or New York and rerun the numbers, I doubt you would see a significant median income disparity in this wage group. And only a power much greater than our own can explain why health care providers stay in Iowa. (Page 5, Figure 6, No Picnic)

Iowa does struggle with a less than dynamic job market, which makes it easy to buy the gloom & doom often shoveled at us by the Iowa Policy Project and others. But I am always & completely annoyed when calculated policy research gets too much news coverage (here, here and here).

I don’t disagree with some of their suggestions. Perhaps looking at Iowa’s minimum wage rate is reasonable, once we get an accurate analysis of real data. The issue of health care coverage must be addressed through some rational process that negotiates the complexities of our public/private health care system. And I’m all in when talking about increasing the earned income tax credits for low-income workers.

What I disagree with is the use of incomplete and unrelated data packaged in official looking, easily consumed publications that spin out factoid-like news bites to score some minor political point. I hate that crap.

Related: Peter Fisher is a tool


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