Saturday, February 28, 2009

DFA Training in Des Moines

I am at the DMACC Urban Campus in Des Moines attending the DFA training. I plan on posting some updates throughout the day and you can follow more at my Twitter page.

Sen. Harkin just stopped in and spoke about the importance of grassroots campaigns, everything Congress and President Obama has accomplished the past month, and the need to invest in people. I got some video and will post it later if it turns out.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Follow the Iowa House Online

From my inbox...

Just a reminder to media outlets – you can follow House Debate in a few different places:

Twitter -

House Democrats Blog –

Live House Audio -

Campaign Contribution Limits Passes Out of Committee

The State Government Committee in the Iowa Senate passed a bill out of committee that would limit the campaign contributions in the state.

From Iowa Independent...

Senate File 181 was amended before passage to flip donation limits on individuals and political committees. Individuals would be prohibited from contributing more than to $4,000 to a candidate for statewide office, $1,000 to an Iowa House candidate and $2,000 to an Iowa Senate candidate during an election campaign cycle or the time period between elections.

Political committees and parties would be limited to a $2,000 contribution to a statewide candidate, $500 to an Iowa House candidate and $1,000 to an Iowa Senate candidate.

Iowa is one of 13 states that impose almost no restrictions on the amount of money politicians can accept from individuals and political action committees.

This is a step in the right direction when it comes to campaign finance reform. With the news of fraud and pay for play in Illinois, it is time that Iowa has some contribution limits.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Clean Coal Clean

The Reality Campaign has a new ad out directed by the Coen Brothers...

Bill Would Make it Easier for Law Enforcement to Track Meth Labs

A bill in the State Senate would require electronic tracking of cold medicine that contains pseudoephedrine. The bill would make it easier for law enforcement to track multiple purchases of pseudoephedrine.

From the Des Moines Register...

Shoppers already have to go to a pharmacy counter and fill out a written logbook to buy nonprescription cold medicine with the key ingredient for the illegal drug methamphetamine.

An electronic system with real-time tracking would cost about $750,000 over two years, said Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center. The state is seeking a $750,000 federal grant, and if that falls through, the law would not take effect, he said.

"If someone's buying pills in Marshalltown, Ames, Newton, there's no way for law enforcement to know that under the current system with the handwritten log," Sodders said.

The bill, Senate File 104, was approved Monday by a committee in the Iowa Senate. One dissenting vote was cast by Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, who argued that it's not worth it to spend so much tax money on a system that invades personal medical privacy and could be easily evaded with fake IDs.
I talked to Sen. Sodders over the weekend and he said after the law requiring shoppers to fill out a written logbook, the number of meth labs. However, the number of meth labs have risen over the past year or so because dealers have figured out how to get around that law.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Iowa Senate Moves to Make Iowa Irrelevant and Get Rid of Electoral College

The Senate State Government Committee voted out a bill that would get rid of the electoral college and give Iowa's electoral college votes to the winner of the national popular vote.

From Iowa Independent...

The effort is part of a national movement to break from the Electoral College system. Support for such a move has been building nationally since 2000, when Republican George W. Bush became president despite losing the popular vote to Democrat Al Gore.

The change wouldn’t take effect, however, until it passes in enough states to equal 270 electoral votes, the number needed to be elected president. At least two states — New Jersey and Maryland — have already entered the compact.

The bill has the support of Democratic leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, who has said he believes there is broad support for the measure.

I think this idea is horrible. I have to agree 100% with this quote from Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley
“If this bill were enacted, presidential candidates would have very limited motivation to come to Iowa to campaign for votes because Iowa is only about 1/100 of the country’s population,” Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley said in a statement. “They would instead stick to campaigning in other states where the population is more dense and Iowans would be ignored and our issues would be swept aside. This is just another example of how our founding fathers were once again right on target in their desires to protect smaller states.”
Without the electoral college we will have a campaigns waged on the airport runaways as candidates fly from big city to big city. This bill would eventually make Iowa irrelevant during presidential elections.

Dean on Hardball Talking about Obama's Health Care Plan

Howard Dean was on Hardball yesterday talking about Obama's health care plan...

It Was All Worth It

After watching Barack Obama's speech last night I realized that it truly was worth it. It was worth the all the miles I drove to hear all the candidates speak, all the time I volunteered, all the phone calls I made, and all the doors I knocked days before the Iowa caucuses in below zero weather.

Inauguration day was about the show, the monuments, the weight of the presidency, and the historical moment in our nation.

Election day was about the people, the volunteers, and the excitement.

The night of the Iowa Caucuses was about the beginning of a movement.

Last night, though, it all came together. Barack Obama called all Americans to the table to act. He spoke, not as a member of a political party, but as our President. President Obama was no longer making promises on a campaign trail, but instead laying a vision for our country, a path back to prosperity.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Troops Out of Iraq in 18 Months

Marc Ambinder writes that the AP is reporting that President Obama is going to announce he is going to be bringing troops out of Iraq in 18 months.

President Obama plans to announce later this week that he will order all U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by August 2010, roughly three months later than the timetable he proposed during the campaign, but, come to think of it, not all that different. A residual force of between 30,000 to 50,000 would remain in the country indefinitely.

FDR: “I Welcome Their Hatred”

A speech by FDR during his 1936 reelection campaign...

For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.

I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.

U.S. Bound by Law to Prosecutre Torture Violations

Glenn Greenwald wrote last week that the U.S. is bound by law to prosecute torture violations...

The U.S. really has bound itself to a treaty called the Convention Against Torture, signed by Ronald Reagan in 1988 and ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1994. When there are credible allegations that government officials have participated or been complicit in torture, that Convention really does compel all signatories -- in language as clear as can be devised -- to "submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution" (Art. 7(1)). And the treaty explicitly bars the standard excuses that America's political class is currently offering for refusing to investigate and prosecute: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture" and "an order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture" (Art. 2 (2-3)). By definition, then, the far less compelling excuses cited by Conason (a criminal probe would undermine bipartisanship and distract us from more important matters) are plainly barred as grounds for evading the Convention's obligations.
Greenwald responds to people who say prosecuting torture violations is too politically charged...
And yet those who advocate that we refrain from criminal investigations rarely even mention our obligations under the Convention. There isn't even a pretense of an effort to reconcile what they're advocating with the treaty obligations to which Ronald Reagan bound the U.S. in 1988. Do we now just explicitly consider ourselves immune from the treaties we signed? Does our political class now officially (rather than through its actions) consider treaties to be mere suggestions that we can violate at will without even pretending to have any justifications for doing so? Most of the time, our binding treaty obligations under the Convention -- as valid and binding as every other treaty -- don't even make it into the discussion about criminal investigations of Bush officials, let alone impose any limits on what we believe we can do.

Washington DC Top Twitterers

Last week I wrote about my Twitter page and since then I have gained 11 followers.

Yesterday, Politico made a list of Washington DC's top Twitterers. Iowa's Chuck Grassley made the list at #7.

Whereas McCaskill’s (Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)) tweets are personal in a spunky sort of way, Grassley’s are personal in an Iowan way: friendly but dry.

This 75-year-old sometime farmhand Republican has developed quite a following (2,000-plus) with his plain-spoken, Midwest Twittering style: “On way bk to frigid waterloo. Will my car start at airport.” “I didn’t stay up to see Ball drop. I will watch Hawkeyw ftball. Otherwise read. Not a very exciting new year celebration but tradition forme.” “6 inches snow in New hartford last night. I missed it bc of senate session. Lucky we finished corn harvest last wkend.”

Salon’s Mike Madden, a regular reader and big fan of Grassley’s tweets, says the senator “sounds just like the elderly pig farmer he is.”
Grassley doesn't seem to be the type of Senator that would be on the social media bandwagon and not as the #2 ranked Senator on Politico's list.

Come join the fun at Twitter and see what all the talk is about.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sick and Tired of Iowa Being a Low Wage State

I try not to rant too much on this blog. I will leave that to Krusty. But after the prevailing wage bill failed to pass in the Iowa House I have to get something off my chest.

I am sick and tired of Iowa being a low wage state. There is no reason that we have to be a low wage state except that some Iowans think things shouldn't change, that things should always remain the way they used to be. They think that because they grew up watching Leave it to Beaver in small town Iowa then it should just stay like that. I wouldn't be surprised if these people want to change Iowa's name to East Dakota.

Iowa has one of the oldest population and more and more of Iowa's young adults are leaving the state. Iowa must make a commitment to raise wages in this state. The prevailing wage bill was just one way to demonstrate that Iowans are serious about paying a decent wage for a hard days work.

I wrote last week about the need to attract and retain young people in the state. We spend around 60% of the state budget on education and our return on investment is horrendous. The cream of the crop flee the state as soon as they graduate for 1 main reason: they can make more money elsewhere.

Here Come the Boomers!

Watch out, here come the Baby Boomers!

More and more Baby Boomers are getting online, participating in social networking, and blogging.

A new report from Forrester Research revealed some surprising information: apparently Baby Boomers aren't exactly the technology Luddites that people think they are. In fact, more than 60 percent of those in this generational group actively consume socially created content like blogs, videos, podcasts, and forums. What's more, the percentage of those participating is on the rise.

In 2007, the percentage of Boomers consuming social media was 46% for younger Boomers (ages 43 to 52) and 39% for older Boomers (ages 53 to 63). By 2008, those number increased to 67% and 62%, respectively.

The number of Boomers responding to content posted online, as opposed to just passively consuming it, is also going up. For example, the proportion of older Boomers responding to content doubled from 15% in 2007 to 34% in 2008.

Which Side Are You On?

David Sirota posted 2 videos from Friday's cable news shows that shows the disconnect in what Sirota calls market populists and grassroots populists.

On one side, you have what Thomas Frank has called "Market Populism" - the portrayal of Wall Street's agenda as an impassioned mass-based populist movement. Check out this clip from CNBC, where the network's correspondent, Rick Santelli, is literally on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange surrounded by multimillionaire traders railing on the Obama administration for trying to help struggling homeowners, and berating people who are getting foreclosed on as "losers." Santelli is praised as a supposed "revolutionary" and the mob of financial elites around him is whooping and hollering, pretending to be a populist mob of regular Joes:

Now watch Virg Bernero, the mayor of Lansing, Michigan, presenting the antithesis of Market Populism - let's call it Grassroots Populism. Bernero demands to know how anyone can be calling for wage/benefit cuts for workers at a time the government is taking workers' tax money and handing it to the very speculators that Santelli is whooping it up with:

After watching these two clips, the question is the same question that's always been at the heart of economic politics: Which side are you on? And the answer, if you look at the hard data, is that most Americans are Grassroots Populists: those who think Wall Street and the government are colluding to rip off taxpayers, and who think the crumbs of aid for so-called "losers" that Santelli is ragging on is way too small - not way too much.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Romney Sells 2 of His Mansions

From Political Wire...

Mitt Romney is selling mansions he owns with his wife in Utah and Massachusetts, according to the Boston Globe.

However, he will keep his other two homes; one in California and, of course, another in New Hampshire.
Looks like Romney learned that having a lot of homes can be a liability on the campaign trail. Though, Romney owned three fewer than McCain did, so maybe he is over reacting.

When There is Nothing Left to Burn, You Have to Set Yourself on Fire

Over winter break, I got really into Pandora and now have 3 awesome channels to listen to depending on my mood.

One song that occasionally plays is called Your Ex-Lover is Dead by the Stars from their album Set Yourself on Fire. The song begins with a man saying, "when there is nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire."

That quote seems to fit with what the Republicans are doing with the stimulus plan. They have nothing left to burn after losing race after race in the 2006 and 2008 elections. Now they are setting themselves on fire by opposing the stimulus bill and even refusing to take any of the money to help the people in their states.

The thing is the economy tanked on the Republicans watch. My advice to Republicans is " you've made your bed, now you got to lie in it."

Reinvent the Local Newspaper

It isn't news that the newspaper business is in trouble. Most major newspapers have laid off workers and trimmed the size of their papers, as they have tried to deal with the down economy and the internet cutting into their business.

Seth Godin, marketing guru, wrote on his blog how he would go about starting a local newspaper...

Why not start a local newspaper?

Here's how I would do it. Assume you've got six people in your office. Each person is responsible to do two things each day:

  • Interview a local business, a local student or a local political activist. You can do it by phone, it can be very short and it might take you ten minutes.
  • Get 20 households to 'subscribe' by giving you their email address and asking for a free subscription. You can use direct contact or flyers or speeches to get your list.

Twice a week, send out the 'newspaper' by email. After one week, it will have more than 500 subscribers and contain more than 20 interesting short articles or quotes about people in the neighborhood. Within a month, (if it's any good) every single person in town who matters will be reading it and forwarding it along to others.

It will cost you nothing. It will become your gift to the community. And it will be a long lasting asset that belongs to you, not to the competition. (And yes, you can do this if you're a plumber or a chiropractor. And yes, you can do this if 'local' isn't geographic for you, but vertical).

Own your Zip code. The next frontier is local, and this is a great way to start.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Only 1 Week Until the DFA Training Academy in Des Moines

Next weekend I will be attending the DFA Training Academy in Des Moines. I have attended prior DFA trainings and have loved every minute of them. You learn a great deal about campaigns, how to get your message out, and you meet a bunch of great people.

Dear DFIA Friends: Momentum and Excitment is building!!! Only 1 Week Left until the DFA Training Academy team rolls into Des Moines!!!

If you haven't signed up yet WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

Tuitition is only $60 for the weekend (if you pre-register; $75 at the door).

Worried about transportation to and from Des Moines? People are coming from all over the state. Maybe we can help you arrange a car pool.

Can't afford the cost? Let us know, because there may be a scholarship available.

Need overnight accomodations and can't afford the Holiday Inn's special rate? There may be a place you can stay overnight with one of your DFIA friends here in Des Moines.

If you have even the slightest interest in attending (but are afraid to commit), give us a ring so we can convince you why this will be one of the best political experiences you will ever have.

Absolutely can't attend, but committed to the cause? Will you support another committed activist and sponsor them for $60?

Online at:

Event Date: Feb 28, 2009
Event Time: 9:00 AM CST
Venue Name: DMACC Urban/Des Moines Campus
Address: 1100 7th Street
City: Des Moines
State: IA
Zip Code: 50314

Friday, February 20, 2009

Taking on the System

Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos, is interviewed on Ring of Fire about one of my favorite book, Taking on the System.

Here's part 2 of the interview.

Obama The Tax Cutter

Obama signed one of the largest tax cuts in history Tuesday when he signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Marc Ambinder says this could come in handy in 2012...

It's hard imagine we won't hear about this four years from now. And if that's not boxing a future Republican candidate in ahead of time, I don't know what is.

Think about how many potential Republican arguments are going to be pre-empted by that nice little fact?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wake Up! The Future is Right Around the Corner

Some amazing information to ponder...

Keeping Up With the Joneses

This ad shows a shift back to the basics and away from the greed that has dominated our economy recently...

21st Century Education in Iowa

On Sunday, the Des Moines Register ran an article about an amazing program at East Marshall High School. With the help from Mechdyne Corp. in Marshalltown, East Marshall acquired an obsolete virtual reality system.

The school, though, had no money to hire a teacher to teach how to use the machine. So Rex Kozak, the principal, decided to hand over the manual and let some students explore how to use it.

Education and business leaders believe it's the kind of technology that could transform Iowa schools.

Businesses are donating the machines for schools next year and have asked state economic development leaders to provide $200,000 to support the pilot. "It could be disruptive technology for education," said Rockwell Collins' Jack Harris. "It could mean not just evolutionary change, but revolutionary change."

The reason, say Harris and others: The students' desire to tap virtual reality's 3-D capabilities drives them to learn about challenging STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The East Marshall students' projects have ranged from a virtual working engine to a blood cell flowing through a human body.

"We call that discovery learning - this idea that students are uncovering the learning themselves with some guidance, as opposed to us throwing it at them and they spit it back at us," said Scott McLeod, an associate professor of education leadership at Iowa State University.
This is an example of why local control of educational decisions works. Mechdyne learned of the availability of the virtual reality system, contacted a local school, and helped them get the machine. East Marshall High School wasn't confined by outside forces and was able to see a future educational use for the virtual reality system. Now students at this small, rural district have an amazing educational opportunity that most college students don't have.

Last week, Iowa official adopted a statewide core curriculum. I hope the Iowa Core Curriculum provides the flexibility for a school district to test out programs like these.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sebelius to be Named Head of the Department Health and Human Services

According to the New York Times, President Obama is going to name Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to be the head of the Department of Health and Human Services.

President Obama has settled on Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, a key ally with a record of working across party lines, as his top choice for secretary of health and human services, advisers said Wednesday.

Should she be nominated, Ms. Sebelius would bring eight years of experience as her state's insurance commissioner as well as six years as a governor running a state Medicaid program. But with Mr. Obama about to begin a drive to expand health coverage -- an issue on which the parties have deep ideological divisions -- her strongest asset in the White House view may be her record of navigating partisan politics as a Democrat in one of the country's most Republican states.

I think Sebelius would do a great job. Though, I am disapointed that if Sebelius is named then Democrats would have lost a chance at winning a Senate seat in Kansas. Sebelius was a leading candidate to run for Senate in 2010 to replace the retiring Sam Brownback. Polls show that she had a great shot at winning the seat. If Sebelius is named to the cabinent that would mean 3 leading Senate candidates in 2010 have decided to become part of Obama's cabinent (Tom Vilsack and Arizona's Janet Napolitano are the others).

Iowa Global Warming Campaign Event on Monday

Iowa Global Warming Campaign is planning a fun event on Monday.

We're busy putting together an awesome event this coming Monday, February 23rd, as part of our monthly volunteer push and would love to invite you to attend. Starting at 6:00pm in our offices, there will be a discussion centered on ICCAC recommendations, passenger rail and mobilizing neighborhood climate leaders, then a letter writing party and a screening of the film "Fighting Goliath," about the Texas coal industry. We'll have food and movie snacks-its an easy, fun way to get involved and tell your representatives what you think!

Ah, I Want One!

From Radio Iowa...

Mari Culver said her two young children are responsible for Buck joining the family. "The kids and I were shopping out and stopped at that pet food and acquatic center out on 22nd Street in West Des Moines and we came home with an Animal Rescue League puppy," the first lady said.

The governor said their children, John and Claire, are excited have a puppy. "Our cat, also from the Animal Rescue League, what, 15 years ago -- Fran is adjusting, let's just say," the governor told the crowd.

The young pup doesn't have a pedigree, but Mari Culver guesses the dog is a mix of many breeds. "He's got a little bit of everything we think. We're not quite sure -- yellow lab, shepherd, setter, maybe some collie," she said. "He likes to roll in the snow, so I think some huskie."

Stimuls Plan has $9.3 billion for Rail

Yesterday, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The stimulus plan includes $9.3 billion for rail in the nation.

Last week at Bleeding Heartland, there was a great post that tells how this money might be spent in the midwest to expand passenger rail service.

I think it is worth noting that not only is there substantial support for high speed passenger rail in Congress (the original amount was $3 billion in the House and $2.25 billion in the Senate - apparently somebody in the conference committee likes us), but there is broad support among the public. Out here in the Midwest, we have been working to gain support and funding for a high speed passenger rail network, with its hub in Chicago. This system would provide high speed service to St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Madison, the Twin Cities and Omaha. For a little context, the trip from Omaha to Detroit is approximately a quarter of the width of the continental 48 states. [...]

What is even more impressive to me is how rail can really be a model for how to actually engage diverse players in building a sustainable economy. Here in Iowa, we are building a coalition of labor, business and youth organizations (in addition to the traditional environmental groups) to work together on getting high speed passenger rail approved this year. And we're not just talking liberal groups either. For example Jan Michaelson, a local conservative talk show host, had nothing but good things to say about rail when Andrew Snow from Iowa Global Warming joined his show this week. Talk about finally moving past partisanship - rail is one of the clearest vehicles to make this a reality (no apologies for the pun).

There are plenty of issues that can build a diverse base of support, but the thing is, high speed rail visibly makes lots of people's lives easier. Upgrading building efficiency largely goes unnoticed except for electricity bills; people don't see the wind energy powering their homes. But talk about saving yourself the hassle of driving several hours, not having to drive through traffic, and oh, did I mention that rail is about 3 times as efficient as driving and 6 times as efficient as flying. Oh, and hundreds to thousands of jobs will be created through construction and operation.

Iowa needs to work to make Des Moines a hub. Des Moines could connect Chicago and Omaha and Minneapolis and Kansas City (and eventually to Oklahoma City and Dallas). That would mean moving the Amtrack line out of southern Iowa. This would hurt the area, but there is a far great population in Iowa City/Cedar Rapids and Des Moines/Ames. Think about all the college students that could take the train home to Chicago or to the big city for a weekend trip or to visit other universities with exchange programs.

Follow Common Iowan on Twitter!

Yesterday, I wrote about the only way to get comfortable with social media is to just dive in.

As of Wednesday morning, I have 97 followers on my Twitter page. I post quick links on my Twitter page that I don't have time to blog about, but want to share, and I use it to bounce ideas for future posts.

Take the plunge and be my next follower. I hope to have over 100 followers by the end of the day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dive In to Social Media

Yesterday, a coworker of mine told me that over the weekend he took the plunge. He joined Facebook, started a blog, and joined a ning about using technology in the classroom.

When I got home I read this post at Creative Class called Social Media in the Workplace. The post discusses a presentation made by Lois Kelley, a social media researcher at Beeline Labs.

In a presentation she gave to the Conference Board last year, Kelly described many of these Fortune 1000 social media strategies as focused on connecting with customers. But some are oriented toward engaging employees and changing the workplaces.

Here are some reasons employee-focused social media strategies in today’s workplaces might succeed or fail (inspired by her article “10 Ways to Make Social Media Matter to Skeptical CEOs“).

1. Innovation and productivity today often comes from listening to both employees and customers. Social media is about conversations. Attempting to use social media to control a message from the top, rather than listening to those who work with the corporation’s products and services every day is not what it is for. Moreover, if employees don’t believe that their opinion is valued, they won’t participate so it will fail.

2. Employees or customers want to hear a CEO’s point of view (or that of a senior manager) - not just data about the latest product, new acquisition, etc. They want to know what he or she thinks about economic challenges; new developments in the industry; or even the local sports team. And, they want to be able to enter into a dialog on these issues.

3. Success of a social media strategy should be measured by involvement, engagement - the numbers actively participating in a dialog (not just how many clicks a message receives). In fact, involving employees in a good internal social media community sounds like a great retention strategy.

4. Corporate social media strategies often involve a leap of faith - or courage, as Kelly calls it - when the c-suite gives up full control of the message. As she ends the essay:

One last point that resonated at that skeptical CEO meeting, I played the new Paul McCartney
song, ”Fine Line,” whose lyrics are “there’s a fine line between recklessness and courage.” Not
… letting go of some control is reckless because it puts a barrier up between you and your customers [or employees], I reminded the execs. Change that makes a big difference, however, requires just a small bit of courage.

From my experience, the only way to learn about using social media is to dive in and start. I signed up for Twitter, but it took a couple months of lurking around before I really got into it. I am just now starting to get what Twitter has to offer.

So consider this a challenge. Go out and dive in to social media. It could be Facebook, Twitter, starting a blog, or even just commenting on your favorite blogs. It doesn't matter what you do, but you won't begin to see the possibilities of social media unless you start. If you are reading this, you've already taken the first step.

The Great Iowa Migration

This article is a must read for all Iowans.

“Iowa’s young people are going to leave. We just have to embrace it as part of what Iowa is. We export our young people around the world.” Fortunately that’s not the Board of Regents’ official strategy! But it is commonly held, and something I hear more often than I’d like. Think of it like an old-fashioned geometry proof:

Postulate 1: Our young people want to leave the state.
Therefore: You can’t keep them down on the farm (or in Iowa).

That is the attitude of many people. And whether it is said explicitly, or left unspoken, it has unfortunately been our working strategy during the last 50 years. Where does that get us? The Board of Regents report was clear: Without a change to our strategy, Iowa’s working age population will shrink.[...]

Why is this a problem? Young educated minds are a basic “raw ingredient” of the New Economy.

We simply must have the power of the ideas and energy of our educated next generation to reverse the trends shown in the Census Bureau graph, and get our state into the New Economy. Saying that we, as a state, are going to use our limited capital to educate them, then ship them out-of-state as they graduate is akin to – let me pick some online adjectives for impact – replacing our state logo with one of those barfing face emoticons. Purposefully paying to train, then not retaining, our young people is a profoundly idiotic, losing strategy. It’s the modern equivalent of planting crops with no regard for replenishing the soil’s nutrients, or caring about the topsoil’s stability. (The Midwest tried that strategy too, with the same outcome. See more on the economic impact of the Dust Bowl). Where does it get us?

Iowa is growing less educated at the 4th fast pace in the nation!
Iowa's Brain Drain is at a catastrophic level and if nothing changes to attract and retain the young people we invest so much in, the state's economic future will be non-existent. Education is something like 60% of the state budget and when the cream of the crop graduates they leave the state. We are not getting a very good return on investment.

The first change I would like to see is more student loan forgiveness programs. Make it so if a young person decides to stay in Iowa that they can be making payments on a house and not on paying back student loans.

The second change I would like to see is more attractions around the state. Those could range for more cultural districts to more outdoors activities. Iowa doesn't have any oceans or mountains, but we do have our share of lakes and rivers and those lakes and rivers are incredibly polluted. Clean up our waterways and attract more young people to our great state.

Naomi Klein to Speak in Iowa City on Wednesday

Wish I could make this...

Naomi Klein to lecture in Iowa City on 2/18

Location: IMU Main Lounge
Time: 7:30 pm
Date: 02/18/2009

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist and author of the New York Times and international bestseller, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Published worldwide in September 2007, The Shock Doctrine is being translated into 20 languages to date. The six minute companion film, created by Alfonso Cuaron, director of Children of Men, was an Official Selection of the 2007 Venice Biennale and Toronto International Film Festivals and was a viral phenomenon, downloaded over a million times.

Her first book No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies was also an international bestseller, translated into over 28 languages with more than a million copies in print. A collection of her work, Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate was published in 2002. Klein writes a regular column for The Nation and The Guardian that is syndicated internationally by The New York Times Syndicate.

In 2004, her reporting from Iraq for Harper's Magazine won the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. Also in 2004, she co-produced The Take with director Avi Lewis, a feature documentary about Argentina's occupied factories. The film was an Official Selection of the Venice Biennale and won the Best Documentary Jury Prize at the American Film Institute's Film Festival in Los Angeles. She is a former Miliband Fellow at the London School of Economics and holds an honorary Doctor of Civil Laws from the University of King's College, Nova Scotia.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Rooting for Failure

Rush Limbaugh is not a big fan of Barack Obama. That part is not surprising.

However, this quote from Rush is...

I want everything he’s doing to fail ... I want the stimulus package to fail ... I do not want this to succeed.
I was not a big fan of George W. Bush, but it wasn't always that way. I began not to like Bush after numerous failures during his presidency. There was the Iraq War, Mission Accomplished, Katrina, tax cuts for the wealthy, torture, domestic spying, just to name a few. I didn't root for him to fail even though that is all he seemed to do as president.

What Rush and the Right is doing is completely different. They are rooting for Obama's failure because it would lead to their personal gain. Rush would get better ratings and more money. Republicans would have a better chance at getting elected. It would also lead to the demise of our great country.

I am sorry, but putting one's own well being before country is what I call unpatriotic.

Crack Down on H-1B Visa Fraud, 11 Arrested

Last week, 11 people were arrested in a crackdown on H-1B visa fraud. One of those leading the investigation was US Attorney Matt Whitaker, from the Southern District of Iowa.

From Computer World...

Federal agents on Thursday said they arrested 11 people in six states in a crackdown on H-1B visa fraud and unsealed documents that detail how the visa process was used to undercut the salaries of U.S. workers.

Federal authorities allege that in some cases, H-1B workers were paid the prevailing wages of low-cost regions and not necessarily the higher salaries paid in the locations where they worked. By doing this, the companies were "displacing qualified American workers and violating prevailing wage laws," said federal authorities in a statement announcing the indictments.

Employers are required to pay H-1B workers prevailing wages, but those wage rates can vary significantly -- by tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the region. How many U.S. workers may have been displaced was not detailed by federal authorities.

The arrests were carried out by federal, state and local agents working in Iowa, California, Massachusetts, Texas, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and New Jersey. The government's action "is the result of an extensive, ongoing investigation into suspected H-1B visa fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy," said Matthew Whitaker, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, in a statement.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

SNL Spoofs Republicans in Congress


Now You Are Complaining About Spending?

From Paul Krugman...

In both the House and the Senate, the vast majority of Republicans rallied behind the idea that the appropriate response to the abject failure of the Bush administration’s tax cuts is more Bush-style tax cuts.

And the rhetorical response of conservatives to the stimulus plan — which will, it’s worth bearing in mind, cost substantially less than either the Bush administration’s $2 trillion in tax cuts or the $1 trillion and counting spent in Iraq — has bordered on the deranged.
If Republicans had made this much fuss over the $2 trillion Bush tax cuts or the $1 trillion spent in Iraq then they actually might have won an election in 2006 and in 2008. But they didn't and they lost a lot of seats in those elections.

It seems quite hypocritical for Republicans to now be complaining about spending.

Andrew Sullivan writes more about this...
From the outset, the Republicans in Washington pored over the bill to find trivial issues to make hay with. They found some small funding for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases prevention; they jumped up and down about renovating the national mall; they went nuts over a proposal - wait for it - to make some government buildings more energy-efficient; they acted as if green research and federal funds for new school building were the equivalent of funding terrorism. And this after eight years in which they managed to turn a surplus into a trillion-dollar deficit and added a cool $32 trillion to the debt the next generation will have to pay for. Every now and again their chutzpah and narcissism take one’s breath away. But it’s all they seem to know.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bland Centrism Waters Down the Stimulus

E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post wrote on Thursday about how bland centrism watered down the stimulus package...

The Obama administration keeps having to learn that bland centrism is not pragmatic, that it's not helpful in resolving a big crisis and that it certainly doesn't buy you any love.[...]

This is the cost of bland centrism: The plan seemed to be defined more by what it didn't want to be than by what it actually was, inspired more by a concern with how things look than what actually works. [...]

The Senate's compromise bill was the essence of preferring the illusion of moderation over substance. By stripping out of the House bill significant amounts of fiscal help to the states, school construction money and other forms of spending, those so-called moderate senators who provided the key votes made the proposal far less stimulative. [...]

There is nothing wrong with a sensible centrism that tries to balance competing goods. But Washington has become too concerned with appearances and with calculating the distance from some arbitrary midpoint in any given debate. The sensible center should be defined by what works, even if that means discovering that the true middle ground isn't where we thought it was.
Follow the link for more specifics on the stimulus bill.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Iowa Adopts a Statewide Core Curriculum

Iowa now officially has a statewide core curriculum. Iowa was the last state to move away from local control of standards and adopt a statewide core curriculum.

The state Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the final pieces of the statewide core curriculum for Iowa's 362 public K-12 school districts and accredited non-public schools.

With its action, state education officials have completed a set of essential concepts and skills in literacy, math, science, social studies and 21st century learning skills that all Iowa students are expected to know by the time they graduate from high school. The learning skills include civic literacy, financial literacy, technology literacy, health literacy and employability skills.

The statewide core curriculum must be fully implemented in high schools by the 2012-13 school year, and in kindergarten though eighth grade by the 2014-15 school year.
I have mixed feelings about this. Teachers need to know what is expected of them and a core curriculum provides the framework teachers need. However, I have heard the core curriculum expands what is taught and schools will have a hard time fitting everything in and still cover everything in an in depth manner.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gregg Withdraws Nomination for Commerce Secretery


CNN is reporting that Judd Gregg just withdrew his nomination for Commerce Secretary. That's huge news - and hugely good news. As reported here at OpenLeft, Gregg wants to slash Social Security and is an ardent free-market fundamentalist and would have had control over a large portion of the government's economic enforcement apparatus. He was under the shadow of the Abramoff investigation, and he was demanding near-unilateral control over the Census, which will be crucial for the 2010 redistricting battle.
The media will probably ask why Obama can't seem to nominate someone who can be confirmed, but in the long run this is good for Progressives.

The theory of Unitary Executive and Yoo

John Yoo, the lawyer who wrote the 2003 memo authorizing torture by the United States. is speaking today at the University of Iowa to faculty of the College of Law. However, torture is just the tip of the ice berg. Yoo believes in a radical legal theory on presidential power called

Yoo was working as the deputy assisatant general in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in 2001. After the 9/11 attacks, Yoo published a memo that said the president's power is unlimited on matters related to terrorism and national security.

From How Would a Patriot Act by Glenn Greenwald (page 40)...

The bulk of the memo was devoted to an analysis of the president's powers to direct the movement of the armed forces as part of foreign wars. But Yoo contended that the president's powers were not confined only to the battlefields or wars; he emphatically argued that the president has the power to make any decisions with regard to all matters relating to defense of the country and that neither Congress, nor the courts, nor any longstanding laws can restrict or limit those decisions in any way.
Out of this theory of Unitary executive, came the disregard of the FISA law and domestic wiretapping, ignoring the Geneva Conventions and torture, and holding prisoners in legal limbo without a trial.

This should concern every American, regardless of political leanings. Now that there is a Democrat in the oval office, Yoo's radical theory is precedent.

Obama's Promise to Early Childhood Education

In the news, there's been more talk about merit pay and reauthorizing No Child Left Behind. However, the key to Obama's education plans is his promise to early childhood education.

As a 2nd grade teacher, each year I have students reading at a Kindergarten level. That means they are essentially 2 years behind grade level after 2 years of school. That doesn't mean their previous teachers aren't quality teachers. It means those students have not had the opportunities other students have had before entering school (such as quality pre-school and growing up in a literacy filled environment) and likely have obstacles that must be overcome (such as learning a 2nd language, living in poverty).

When you build a house, you start with the foundation. Obama wants to ensure that all children have the foundation needed to be successful in school. One of the failings of No Child Left Behind is that some students are already incredibly behind when the enter school.

From Lead from the Start...

10. Obama supports increasing funding for the Head Start program for preschool children. Obama has called on states to replicate the Illinois model of Preschool for All.

Campaign website,, "Resource Flyers" Aug 26, 2007

9. We can start by investing $10 billion to guarantee access to quality, affordable, early childhood education for every child in America. Every dollar that we spend on these programs puts our children on a path to success, while saving us as much as $10 in reduced health care costs, crime, and welfare later on.
Source: Speech in Flint, MI, in Change We Can Believe In, p.249 Jun 15, 2008

Put billions of dollars into early childhood education
8. Latinos have such a high dropout rate. What you see consistently are children at a very early age are starting school already behind. That’s why I’ve said that I’m going to put billions of dollars into early childhood education that makes sure that our African-American youth, Latino youth, poor youth of every race, are getting the kind of help that they need so that they know their numbers, their colors, their letters. Every dollar that we spend in early childhood education, we get $10 back in reduced dropout rates, improved reading scores. That’s the kind of commitment we have to make early on.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Las Vegas Jan 15, 2008

7. Teachers don’t go in to education to get rich. They don’t go in to education because they don’t believe in their children. They want their children to succeed, but we’ve got to give them the tools. Invest in early childhood education. Invest in our teachers and our children will succeed.
Source: Take Back America 2007 Conference Jun 19, 2007

6. If you’re a progressive, you’ve got to be worried about how the federal government is spending its revenue, because we don’t have enough money to spend on things like early childhood education that are so important.
Source: 2008 Politico pre-Potomac Primary interview Feb 11, 2008

5. Children’s First Agenda: zero to five early education

High-Quality Zero to Five Early Education: Obama will launch a Children’s First Agenda that provides care, learning and support to families with children from birth up to five years old.
Source: Campaign booklet, “Blueprint for Change”, p. 20-23 Feb 2, 2008

4. We’ve got to have early childhood education.
Source: 2007 NAACP Presidential Primary Forum Jul 12, 2007

3. We’ll invest in early childhood education programs so that our kids don’t begin the race of life behind the starting line and offer a $4,000 tax credit to make college affordable for anyone who wants to go. Because as the NAACP knows better than anyone, the fight for social justice and economic justice begins in the classroom.
Source: McCain-Obama speeches at 99th NAACP Convention Jul 12, 2008

2. Michelle and I are here only because we were given a chance at an education. I will not settle for an America where some kids don’t have that chance. I’ll invest in early childhood education.
Source: Speech at 2008 Democratic National Convention Aug 27, 2008
1. This clip really seems to show where his heart is on the issue of voluntary Pre-K. Hopefully, he won't forget.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

U of Iowa Explains Yoo's Speech

The Dean of the University of Iowa College of Law sent an email out today explaining John Yoo's speech at the University on Thursday.

Dear Members of the College of Law community: Every year, the University of Iowa College of Law faculty speakers committee assembles a robust schedule of speakers to make presentations to our faculty. These presentations are for the purposes of peer-review of a scholar¹s ongoing research and are presented in faculty-only workshops that are informal and unstructured. This academic year we will be hosting 21 such presentations with presenters from such institutions as Harvard, Pennsylvania, Northwestern, and York University of Canada discussing a broad range of topics.

Our presenters also include University of Iowa law faculty members, practicing attorneys, a United States District Court Judge and a general counsel for the Department of Health and Human Services.

The complete list can be found at

As the schedule shows, the college invites a mix of College of Law faculty and faculty from across the country to encourage a rich and lively debate. We seek a broad range of ideological viewpoints in presenters, with the understanding that some of them might be controversial.

Such is the case with Professor John Yoo. While many people disagree with the legal views he advanced as an advisor to President George W. Bush, the College of Law is nevertheless pleased to host such a distinguished presenter. The College of Law respects the right to voice disagreement and expects that some protestors might visit while Professor Yoo is present. The College and University will take appropriate steps to ensure that the rights of all will be respected.

Professor Yoo, who teaches at the University of California Berkeley, was first scheduled to be a part of our speakers series in 2006, but his appearance had to be cancelled. He was again invited in fall of 2007 to participate in this series this week. The paper he will be presenting is entitled Globalization and Structure. As with other presenters in this series from outside the University of Iowa College of Law, Professor Yoo will be reimbursed for his travel expenses and will receive an honorarium of $250 from funds set aside for this series by the Iowa Law School Foundation. No public or tuition money will be used.

Carolyn Jones
University of Iowa College of Law

Carin Crain
Associate Dean for Student Affairs
University of Iowa College of Law

Invest in Passenger Rail

Kevin Brubaker, Deputy Director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, and Iowa’s Department of Transportation Director Tami Nicholson briefed Iowa legislators last month about the benefits of investing in passenger rail...

An initial investment of $3 million in passenger rail service could leverage $12 million in federal aid for Iowa and create a valuable link between Chicago, the Quad Cities and other Midwest cities.
There are so many possibilities for Iowa when it comes to rail from expanding passenger rail to Iowa City and Dubuque to connect those cities to Chicago, to light rail in the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids corridor and in the Des Moines and Ames area.

It seems with minimal investment in rail, great improvements can be made. Compare this to the approximately $500 million dollars that would be needed to make Highway 20 4 lane across the state.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

King Considering Run for Governor

Steve King will be appearing on Iowa Press this week. The show was taped yesterday and King was asked by David Yepsen if he will be running for Governor.

Yepsen: "Is it safe to say you're thinking about it or keeping your options open? How should we couch that?"

King: "Well, I think we can say that it would be foolish to foreclose options and I think it'd be constructive for me, at this point, to say that our most important job right now is to bring together and reunify the Republican Party in this state and I think with the leadership in the Iowa House and Senate along with the new chairman in the party, we have the tools to do that and I want to continue to support that before we start competing against each other."

King knows he represents a safe district, so he won't run unless he truly thinks he has a shot. If he does I would think Christpher Rants would jumping at the chance to run for Congress.

Bipartisanship and Millennials

Eric Greenberg, the author of Generation We, took a look at Obama's attempt of bipartisanship on the Stimulus Bill...

Obama is not going to be a pushover for the Republicans, as his blunt "I won" in response to some of the Republicans' more extreme demands in last week's meeting about the stimulus package demonstrated. But those who want Obama to declare open warfare against the right are missing the point. Obama's conciliatory moves--from selecting Rick Warren, the evangelical pastor of California's Saddleback Church, to deliver the invocation at the inauguration to bending over backward to entertain conservative complaints about details of the stimulus bill--don't indicate weakness or uncertainty on his part. Instead, they reflect his consistent desire to position himself as the first political voice representing post-partisan America.

Like so much of what Obama has done, this strategy has its roots in generational change. In all of his political choices, Obama has his eyes on 95 million young Americans currently aged 9 to 30--the Millennials. The largest generation in history (more numerous even than the Baby Boomers), they played a major role in Obama's election, favoring him by fully two-thirds (66 percent), as compared with the 54 percent majority carried by John Kerry four years earlier. Out of 23 million Millennial votes cast, this produced a seven million vote plurality for Obama--virtually the same as Obama's overall margin of victory.

And as we discovered when we researched the values and attitudes of the Millennials for our book Generation We, for today's youth, the culture wars are over. The Millennials are more accepting of gender equality, gay rights, racial blending, immigration, and divergent political views than any other generation. This is true even of Millennials who consider themselves evangelical Christians (twenty percent of the young people we surveyed--or about 19 million nationwide). [...]

Our guess is that today's young people overwhelmingly like seeing their president extending a hand of cooperation to politicians across the aisle. And if the conservatives respond by biting it off, they will only further discredit themselves in the eyes of tomorrow's biggest and most powerful political bloc--and further solidify the Millennials' attachment to the Obama coalition.

The Future of Education

Here's a great article about the future of education in the 21st century that mentions two of my favorite authors: Ken Robinson and Malcolm Gladwell.

The article begins with one simple premise...

Schools are built for, and in the image of, the industrial revolution
Schools are not only built for an industrial revolution past but also in its image - my first ever teaching placement in the most deprived area of Scotland was marked by every period of learning being 53 minutes long, something more like a chicken processing plant's shifts than a stimulating learning environment, with students batched by age and subject to standardised tests for quality before shipping to the real world. Conformity has thus always had a higher value than diversity. Disciplines on offer are subject to a hierarchy (maths and native language, followed by the sciences with music and the arts chasing the coattails).
The article goes to say that schools need to foster creativity and develop entrepreneurial skills in students for them to succeed in the future.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Obama's Press Conference on the Stimulus Plan

I got home after the Obama press conference started and decided to eat instead of watch it.

So here are David Sirota's thoughts on it went...

Best Moment(s): When Obama repeatedly reminded the braindead Washington press corps and the lobotomized Republican Party that it was the GOP that created the national debt with its irresponsible tax cuts and wars, and that therefore, their fake outrage at the stimulus's deficit spending is absurd.

Worst Moment: When Obama repeated right-wing - and silly - talking points that "some in my party [are] too resistant to reform" and think "only money makes a difference." This is the old conservative meme that all progressives want to do is throw money at problems. Except, last I checked, one of the people who's been most "resistant to reform" and who has effectively insisted that "only money makes a difference" is President Obama when it comes to the $8 trillion no-strings-attached Wall Street bailout - a bailout that hasn't included any financial regulatory reform whatsoever.

Movement Moment: When Sam Stein of the Huffington Post - a progressive media outlet - was given the opportunity to ask a question.

Most Predictable Moment: When CNN's John King later called the Huffington Post "not a mainstream news organization" as a subtle dig at his new media competitors.

Silliest Moment: When Obama was asked about A-Rod - as if the president's opinion on that matter means anything.

Most Shocking Omission: While the D.C. media continued fetishizing "bipartisanship" with its incessant questions about process, unbelievably (and thankfully) nobody wasted time asking about the First Family's choice of canine.

Biggest Missed Question: Not surprisingly, nobody asked Obama any questions about the composition of his economic team, and why the American people should feel confident in him when he's hired many of the same people who had a hand in creating the economic crisis.

Unanswered Questions: Obama didn't give a conclusive answer about whether he had learned anything about the legislative process from the stimulus negotiations. Seems like the lesson is clear: You don't start a proposal by making concessions in the first draft - in this case, Obama began by proposing a stimulus chock full of Republican-style tax cuts, and now has been negotiating from a position of weakness. But it also seems that Obama isn't sure what he's learned from this - and that could bode poorly for even more divisive issues (health care reform, EFCA, etc.) than the stimulus in the future.

Blogging and Social Media Experts

This isn't political in nature, but seems interesting for those interested in blogging and social media...

February 10th is Ask and Expert day over at Successful Blog An "Expert" will be available Every Hour for 12 Hours, and everyone is invited. Stop by for a while listen in,meet some new friends, and GET SMARTER!

Here are the Details:

When: Tuesday, February 10th

Where: Successful-Blog

What: New Post and Speaker Every Hour
11:00 a.m. - 10 p.m. CT (GMT -6hrs)

When and Who:

11:00 - Liz Strauss on How to Build a Personal Development Network
12:00 - Mark Carter on Saving The World With Social Media
1:00 - Lucretia Pruitt on Twittering the Way that Works Best for You
2:00 - Andy Sernovitz on Amazing Word of Mouth for Your Blog
3:00 - Mary-Lynn Foster on Podcast and Blog Interviewing Tips
4:00 - Easton Ellsworth on Visionary Blogging Improvements
5:00 - John Haydon on Social Media and Trust Online
6:00 - VickyHennegan on Writing for the Web
7:00 - Becky McCray on Successful Entrepreneurship
8:00 - Shannon Paul on Internet People and What They Do
9:00 - Angela Maiers on Literacy and Learning in the 21st Century
10:00 -Terry Starbucker on Pitching Social Media to Clients — 5 Key Questions for Potential Clients

Poll Shows Americans Approve of Obama, Disaprove of Republicans on Stimulus Plan

Gallup released a poll that shows 61% of Americans approve of how President Obama is handling the Stimulus Plan. 48% approve of how Democrats in Congress are handling the Stimulus Plan, while just 31% approve of how Republicans in Congress handling the Stimulus Plan.

The data in particular show the sharp divide between the public's views of how Obama has handled efforts to pass a stimulus bill and its views of how the Republicans have handled this -- a divide that quantitatively produces a 36-point approval gap.

Some of this difference may be attributable to pre-existing views of the entities involved in the stimulus plan wrangling. President Obama's overall job approval rating (64% as of Sunday, Feb. 8) is very close to his approval rating on the stimulus, while Gallup's last measure of favorable ratings for the Republicans in Congress (in December 2008) was 25%.

John Yoo Speaking at U of Iowa on Thursday

John Yoo, the lawyer who wrote the 2003 memo authorizing torture by the United States, is speaking at the University of Iowa on Thursday.

The speech will be held at the Boyd Law Building at 11:30 on Thursday and is private gathering with Yoo and UI Law faculty. There has been no disclosure by the University on the how much Yoo is being paid to speak.

The memo written by Yoo narrowly defined torture to only include pain inflicted that could cause serious injury or death. That means waterboarding, long-term stress positions, denial of sleep, slipping needles underneath fingernails, electric shocks, and more don't count as torture.

Yoo even claimed it is legal to crush a child's testicles if the President thinks he needs to do that.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Why not Howard Dean?

Eleanor Clift asked in Newsweek yesterday why not named Howard Dean director of Health and Human Services now that Tom Daschle has resigned.

Clift says that Daschle was supposed to be a slam dunk...

Obama doesn't have a Plan B. Daschle was a shoo-in for the job, and there is no deep bench of runners-up vetted and ready to serve. Still, Obama may surprise us. In order to regain political momentum and convey the impression that while losing Daschle is a blow, it's not a body blow, he might want to have Daschle's successor ready to announce before the crocuses come up. One prominent Democrat has made no secret of the fact that he would love the job and that's Howard Dean. He's a doctor; his wife is a doctor; and he's not beholden to anyone as far as we know. In fact, Dean was running against the entrenched special interests in Washington back when the presidency was still just a gleam in Obama's eye.

Granted, Dean wouldn't have Daschle's finesse with the old bulls on Capitol Hill. He angered the Democrats in Congress when he ran for president in '04 on a platform that took on the party establishment for their support of the Iraq War and their timidity in opposing President Bush. He couldn't trade on personal relationships, but he's dogged, he knows the subject, and he's due some payback for pioneering the 50-state strategy that came into fruition with Obama.

Get Out of the Way

Rachel Maddow discusses the compromises in the Senate on the Stimulus Bill on her show on Friday...

Centrists Cut 600,000 Jobs From Stimulus and Decide to Bankrupt States While They are at It

Yesterday, I wrote about the compromise made on the Stimulus bill by Centrists in the US Senate that helped win the vote from 3 Republicans needed for the bill to pass.

John Nichols summed up the cuts that were made...

The bottom line is that, under the Senate plan:

* States will get less aid.

* Schools will get less help.

* Job creation programs will be less well funded.

* Preparations to combat potential public health disasters -- which could put the final nail in the economy's coffin -- will not be made.

In every sense, the Senate plan moves in the wrong direction.

At a time when smart economists are saying that a bigger, bolder stimulus plan is needed, Senate Democrats and a few moderate Republicans have agreed to a smaller, weaker initiative.

Paul Krugman wrote this morning that the cuts made as part of the compromise will be cutting approximately 600,000 jobs.

Now the centrists have shaved off $86 billion in spending — much of it among the most effective and most needed parts of the plan. In particular, aid to state governments, which are in desperate straits, is both fast — because it prevents spending cuts rather than having to start up new projects — and effective, because it would in fact be spent; plus state and local governments are cutting back on essentials, so the social value of this spending would be high. But in the name of mighty centrism, $40 billion of that aid has been cut out.

My first cut says that the changes to the Senate bill will ensure that we have at least 600,000 fewer Americans employed over the next two years.

The cuts made by the Senate include $40 billion in State Fiscal Stabilization, $16 billion for School Construction, $7.5 billion of State Incentive Grants, and $5.8 billion for Health Prevention Activity.

The most troubling cut is the $40 billion in state fiscal stabilization. Iowa is looking at a very tight budget and we are hardly in the worst shape out there compared to other states.

This report by the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities was written BEFORE the cuts were made by the Senate and says the money is the Stimulus will help, but is not enough. Now that a chunk of that money has been cut.

The state fiscal situation is dire. Revenues are declining, and demand and need for services such as Medicaid is rising, as people lose income and jobs. State deficits are projected to equal $350 billion over the next 30 months. Because nearly all states are required to balance their budgets, states have begun to cut expenditures and raise taxes — both of which create a drag on the economy and threaten to counteract part of the intended federal economic stimulus.

The Senate economic recovery package recognizes this fact and includes substantial assistance for states. The amount of funding that would go to states to help them maintain current activities is approximately $160 billion to $165 billion — or roughly 45 percent of projected state deficits. Most of this money is in the form of increased Medicaid funding plus most of a “Fiscal Stabilization Fund.” This funding would likely be sufficient to deter many states from making the most severe spending cuts and to moderate state tax and fee increases. But states would still have very large gaps to close on their own.

On Meet the Press this morning, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), the chair of the House Financial Services Committee, said that these cuts will essentially lay off police officers and firefighters because States will have to cut their State budgets.

Give Sen. Grassley a call at 202-224-3744 and tell him to support more money for States and for schools in the Stimulus bill.

Here's Barney Frank talking on Meet the Press...

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Jon Stewart Roasts Steve King over Guatanamo Comments

Stimulus Compromise Likely to Garner Just 3 Republican Votes

A group of centrist Senators led by Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) has cut billions from the Economic Stimulus package and now there seems to be enough votes for the bill to pass.

Political Wire is saying the deal reached last night has secured just 3 three republican votes.

The deal reached last night on President Obama's economic stimulus package includes just three Republicans who will vote for it next Tuesday -- Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), nominated this week to join Obama's Cabinet, has recused himself from the vote.
The 3 Republicans supporting this bill are all from the Northeast and is another example that the current Republican is a regional party.

The group of centrists was made up of 18 to 20 Senators. With just 3 Republicans supporting this bill it makes me think the deal had as much to do with getting Democrats to vote for the bill than it did to win support from Republicans.

The vote on the stimulus bill won't be until next week, so there is still time to call Sen. Grassley at 202-224-3744 and encourage him to vote for it.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Sterzenbach Named Executive Director of the Iowa Democratic Party

Norm Sterzenbach was named executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party today and will be in charge of running the day to day operations of the state party.

Sterzenbach is an Iowa native and has a history of working with Governor Culver.

From Iowa Politics...

A native of Cedar Rapids, Sterzenbach is a veteran political operative. In the past 6 election cycles, he has worked across the country on campaigns at all levels, including State Representative, U.S. Congress, Senate, Lt Governor, Governor and President. In 2006 he served as Deputy Campaign Manager for Governor Chet Culver's successful gubernatorial campaign. Most recently, Norm has worked for the Iowa Democratic Party as the Political & Caucus Director since 2007. Sterzenbach was key in directing the Iowa Democratic Party’s successful 2008 first in the nation precinct caucuses.

Iowa Utilities Board Decision Threatens Marshalltown Coal Plant

A decision yesterday by the Iowa Utilities Board threatens the future of the coal-fired power plant in Marshalltown. Alliant Energy was asking for a 12.5% return on investment, but the Iowa Utilities Board agreed to a 10% return.

From the Marshalltown Times Republican...

"Whether it could be a deal breaker, I don't know," said Ken Anderson, president of the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce.

Tom Aller, president of Interstate Power and Light, a division of Alliant Energy, released a statement saying the issue will have to be carefully considered.

"The conditions placed by the IUB on the proposed hybrid power plant present a number of challenges in today's financial climate, and we are disappointed that this decision seemingly does not take that reality into account," he said. "We will continue to work with our partners to determine how today's decision will impact our respective companies' long-term generation plans."

Anderson said the situation was far from a done deal and there was still time for Alliant Energy to decide not to build the plant in Marshalltown.

"There's always the possibility this thing will stop," he said.

This decision puts Iowa one step closer to moving away from coal-fired power plants and investing in solar, wind, and geothermal power.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Harkin Backs Dean for Director of Health and Human Services Post

The Huffington Post is reporting that Sen. Tom Harkin is backing Howard Dean for director of Health and Human Services after rumors that Harkin might be a candidate for the position.

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, who endorsed Dean's presidential campaign in 2004 and is rumored to be in the HHS running himself, applauded the idea of the former DNC header taking over the cabinet post vacated by Tom Daschle.

"I think that would be a very good move," Harkin told the Huffington Post. "He brings all the background and experience. He's very strong on prevention and wellness, which I'm very strong on. I think he'd make an outstanding secretary of HHS."

Harkin Being Considered for Director of Health and Human Services

Marc Ambinder is reporting that Tom Harkin is being considered for the director of Health and Human Services.

This would be a great fit for Harkin. He has been an advocate for people with disabilities and has fought for stem cell research and healthier schools throughout his career.

If Harkin were nominated and confirmed then Gov. Culver would appoint his replacement.

Corporate Welfare Continues Despite Tight Budget

I was reading through some of my past posts and reread that IBM will be receiving $22 million of taxpayer money in their deal to open a new facility in Dubuque.

At a time when Governor is calling for a 6.5% cut in government programs and Democratic Legislators have suggested even deeper cuts, the State of Iowa is continuing to hand out taxpayer money. It seems that in a year where the budget is extremely tight that we wouldn't be handing out millions to companies like IBM.

The Register reported last month that tax breaks are bleeding state revenues dry.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year on tax incentives and grants for Iowa’s businesses or residents, some of which are depriving the state of revenue, tax reform advocates say.

And legislative leaders - who acknowledge they are facing the greatest financial squeeze since the 1980s farm crisis - say it's time to evaluate and possibly chop some of the incentives.
Unfortunately, the money given to IBM is just another example of the state giving our taxpayer money to just a handful of large companies instead of using it to make Iowa a better state for everyone to live in.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Yepsen to Leave the Register

David Yepsen is leaving the Des Moines Register to become the director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.

Last year the Washington Post cited me as one of Yepsen's detractors, but I always respected his opinions even though I didn't always agree with them.

From Marc Ambinder...

Every presidential year since 1975, one political reporter -- just one -- catapults himself to the top of the profession. David Yepsen, 58, spent twenty years as the chief political reporter for the Des Moines Register, 33 years as the host of Iowa's top television chat show, and the past six years as its chief political columnist. For a period of three months -- November, December and January -- Yepsen was the first reporter called by presidential candidates; his interviews were granted immediately; his pronouncements were read as if he were an oracle capable of shapring the future. The era ends. Yepsen is leaving the Register to become the director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.

Yepsen's influence never really waned. His recapitulation of presidential candidate debates often drove the national coverage. Yepsen had several hobbyhorses. He hated when candidates made empty promises; he wanted candidates to know as much about a particular subject as he did, and did not take lightly to candidates to who tried to bluff their way through interviews. He was a moderate-to-conservative Midwesterner, fiercely protective of the state's seniors and an advocate for economic growth that never seemed to come. As a reporter, he mentored a generation of young scribblers, including the New York Times' Jeff Zeleny. I had the privilege of interviewing Yepsen and stealing from his insights. In his new perch, perhaps he'll find a new way to share his reporting and insights.

Who is Yepsen's heir? My money is on O. Kay Henderson of Iowa Public Radio.
John Deeth has a great look at Yepsen's departure.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Howard Dean for head of the Department of Health and Human Services

After Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination as head of the Department of Health and Human Services today, could Howard Dean possibly be nominated?

Republicans now hold 3 cabinet positions after Judd Gregg has been named Commerce Secretary (Defense, Transportation, and Commerce), so why not give 1 position to the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

Dean is qualified for the job. He is a doctor and as Governor of Vermont he signed a bill making Vermont one of the first states with a universal health care system.

Blog for Iowa wrote about an article at Huffington Post that discusses more of Dean's qualifications.