Sunday, May 31, 2009

James Howard Kunstler: The Tragedy of Suburbia

I have posted a couple of times the past week promoting new urbanism and smart growth and thought I'd share this speech from James Howard Kunstler given at the TED conference a few years ago.

As I wrote on Saturday, now is the time to reconsider how are cities and towns develop...
While we are facing an economic downturn, now is the time where cities can promote infill development, new urbanism principles, and more bike/pedistrian-friendly in their development patterns.
... and build places worth caring about.

The United States is a Center-Left Nation

The Campaign for America's Future released a report saying the United States is no longer a center-right nation, but has shifted to a center-left nation.

The media still calls America a “center-right” nation, but “center-left” is closer to the truth.

On issues ranging from health care to energy, the public is more progressive than people think. Demographic groups from youth to Hispanics are voting farther left and in larger numbers than ever before. The new report the Campaign for America’s Future is publishing with Media Matters for America—"America: A Center-Left Nation"—documents the trends and challenges the mainstream media to recognize reality.

David Sirota takes a look at what this policy-wise...

The question is no longer whether America is progressive - the question is how that progressive bent can be transformed into policy, and why it isn't being legislated into law already? Why, for instance, with the majority of the public telling pollsters for years that we support single-payer health care, is that concept nonetheless "off the table" in Washington? Why, with most Americans supporting serious trade reform, is our government still considering a push for NAFTA-style trade policies? The list of similar questions is endless.

One obvious answer is the power of money: The interests that support the status quo have lots of cash, and they use the legalized bribery system known as campaign finance to preserve that status quo. Another obvious answer is that corporate conservatives in both parties have dominated Washington for the better part of three decades.

If you look at the political ideologies of the Millennial generation, those 18-30, you see a strong possibility of a progressive majority for years to come.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

American Academy of Pediatrics Prescirbe Smart Growth

Seabrook 08'0914 - 135Image by studio-d via Flickr

Interesting announcement from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

From Smart Growth Around America...

Yesterday, the American Academy of Pediatrics adopted a ground-breaking policy statement on the link between how we build communities and the health of the children in those communities. The American Academy of Pediatrics policy:

  • reviews the many links between community design and overall child health, and the strong statistical validation of those links;
  • encourages pediatricians to work with parents to promote more walkable, livable communities,
  • calls on cities, states, and the US government to plan for and invest in communities that best advance the health, safety, and well being of American families.

This is really remarkable: the nation’s leading group of pediatricians saying, based on the evidence, that the way we’re building isn’t good for kids.

While we are facing an economic downturn, now is the time where cities can promote infill development, new urbanism principles, and more bike/pedistrian-friendly in their development patterns.
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Friday, May 29, 2009

Des Moines Register's Famer's Market Blog

The Des Moines Register has a blog online covering farmer's market in the Des Moines area.

Tom Perry interviews people who set up the stands and writes about the markets best finds. Last week, Perry wrote about the not-so green gardens...

Fresh, mushrooms, cultivated in Iowa, can be found at the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market. Raised by Jim and Brein Osborn of Vinton, the mushrooms fall in to the exotic category. The oyster and shitaki look great every week.

The Osborns call their mushroom-growing venture: “Anything But Green Gardens.” Find their table this week on 4th Street, south of Court Avenue.

and about some of the more sweeter goods found at the Des Moines farmer's market...

We’re not talking any ice cream here. But Mike’s Old Fashioned Homemade Ice Cream, made with milk and cream from Iowa’s Cloverleaf Dairy. It is easy to find Mike’s spot at the market — he’s the one with the small 1929 John Deere Hit-and-Miss engine driving blades in two wooden buckets on the east end of Court Avenue, north side. This is a great place to see the basics of ice cream making.

Mike Pettit of Norwalk launched the ice cream venture in July 2005. In just a few seasons at the market, he and his ice cream have become a popular fixture.

This morning I tasted the vanilla. I know this is a bit of a cliche, but this ice cream really did remind me of the ice cream that I remember from back in the 1960s. Rich and creamy, but not overly so, and just the right touch of sweetness. The ice cream can be purchased with homemade strawberry or chocolate syrup.

If you plan to visit the Des Moines farmer's market, make sure to check out this blog.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Howard Dean: Gay Marriage Will be Non-Issue in 2010 Elections

At an event tonight in Des Moines, Howard Dean predicted gay marriage will be a non-issue by the 2010 elections.

From Radio Iowa...

Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean says the "tide is turning" on gay marriage, partly because of the attitudes of younger Americans. Dean, a 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, was in Iowa tonight to speak at a fundraiser for "One Iowa" -- a group that has lobbied for gay marriage.

"This new generation is not nearly as divisive or confrontational as my generation and they also all know somebody who is gay because somebody has publicly said so to them and once you know somebody who is gay or lesbian, you can't say the things that you used to say about them," Dean says. "I remember growing up, we used to say things about gay people; we didn't know anybody who was gay -- we didn't think we knew anybody who was gay. Once somebody says, 'I'm gay and I wish you wouldn't do that,' you don't talk like that anymore because they're a human being."

Which Republicans will run for Governor in 2010?

It's getting to be the time where Republicans who are serious about running for governor come out of the woodwork and those that have been rumored drop out.

These people have said they aren't going to run...

These people have indicted they will likely run for Governor...
Other Republicans being rumored are...
  • US Rep. Steve King
  • Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley
  • State Rep. Rod Roberts
  • Former State Senator Jeff Lamberti
  • Bettendorf businessman Mike Whalen

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Howard Dean in Des Moines Thursday

deanImage by clockwerks via Flickr

Howard Dean will be in Des Moines Thursday doing 2 events.

The first event is a discussion on a public option for health care hosted by ICAN and DFA.
Join us for a special guest, Governor Howard Dean, who is offering up a prescription for change in health care reform this year. What is a “public option?” Why is it so important? What can we all do collectively to help win REAL changes in health care reform in 2009 that bring quality, affordable, health care for everyone in America ?

Date:Thursday, May 28, 2009
Time:5:15pm - 7:00pm
Location:1st Unitarian Church of Des Moines
Street:1800 Bell Ave
City/Town:Des Moines, IA
The second event is hosted by One Iowa and focuses on Iowa's Supreme Court decision on gay marriage.
Join us in honoring Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and House Speaker Pat Murphy.

Host $2500

Sponsor $1000

Supporter $500

Friend $250

Individual Ticket $100

Student Ticket $35

RSVP here:

Please contact Jeremy at 515.288.4019 x207 or for questions.

Date:Thursday, May 28, 2009
Time:7:00pm - 8:30pmLocation:Home of Carolyn Jenison
Street:1330 9th Street
City/Town:Des Moines, IA
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2010 Iowa Senate Races

The past few days both John Deeth and Bleeding Heartland took a look at the 2010 Iowa Senate Races after the Iowa Republican blog discussed the topic last week.

Democrats currently hold a 32-18 advantaged in the Iowa Senate, so Republicans would need to win 7 seats to draw even. The Iowa Republican concluded Republicans would pick up 3 of those races and would have a chance of gaining control of the Iowa Senate in 2012.

At Bleeding Heartland they take a look at the 7 races the Iowa Republican identified as the top targets for Republicans.

John Deeth starts with the 3 seat gain by Republicans and takes a closer look 2012 and specifically at the redistricting that will take place between 2010 and 2012.

That would put them at the short end of 29-21 in January 2011, and 2012 is a total crapshoot because the whole deck is shuffled by redistricting (I seem to be mixing my gambling metaphors). No one knows how the district lines will be drawn and how many seats will be up.

I followed this pretty closely in 2001-02, and redistricting years prompt more musical chairs than typical cycles. People realize their district looks bad, or that a run for another office looks good, or someone gets squeezed out in a backroom deal.

Some districts come up empty, with no incumbent living in the lines. Some come up with two or even three senators (as happened in current district 45, which explains Sandy Greiner's reluctant 2002 return to the House after a two-year visit to the Senate).
Basically, Republicans will likely gain a few seats in the Iowa Senate because there are more Democrats up for reelection. However, they won't win enough to take control. Then come 2012, it all depends on redistricting.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cul-de-sacs: The Greatest Threat to Our Planet

This video was the winner of this years Congress of New Urbanism video contest.

Teaching is not as popular as it used to be

A couple weeks ago the Des Moines Register ran a story about the decline in enrollment in education at Iowa's colleges and universities.

The pattern threatens to fuel teacher shortages in some subjects and toughen competition for top talent, officials say. Iowa is a longtime exporter of educators.

"People view teaching as something that is not really as rewarding as it used to be," said Judy Jeffrey, the state's top education official. "It's very troubling."

At the heart of Iowa's trend is an unprecedented dropoff in new elementary schoolteachers.

Candidates for teaching endorsements in elementary education have dropped by nearly a third since the 2003-04 school year, a new Iowa Department of Education report shows.
I see the cause of this is twofold.  One reason is the increased pressure to increase test scores due to No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which was passed in 2001. The efforts by educators to increase test scores isn't always matched by parents in the community.  Many schools have cut the amount of time teaching art, music, science, and social studies in order to focus strictly on teaching reading and math because those are the subjects being tested. This creates a stressful and negative work environment where creativity is looked down upon because it might hurt test scores.

Second, teacher salaries remain low nationwide.  A teacher with their masters degree makes far less than other profession who have master's degree such as engineers, accountants, and lawyers.

Until teachers are seen as valued professionals in the community, fewer people will decide to go into the profession.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Votes for Sale

I wasn't going to post anything this weekend, but I was out doing yard work, listening to podcasts, and I listened to an episode of NOW about clean elections in Arizona called Votes for Sale.  

Here's a clip...

Friday, May 22, 2009


I am not planning on posting any updates over the holiday weekend.

I am planning on doing a ton of yard work, some painting around the house, and to finish my report cards at school.

Hopefully, I can get it all done, so I can go on a bike ride and finish the book I am reading.

So stop back Tuesday for new content and enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Party Like Tom Latham!

Iowa Independent posted earlier this week about fundraising totals from Iowa's Congressional delegation. Part of their post discussed exclusive parties hosted by members of Congress. This is a common practice from Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA 04).

As the saying goes, once elected, a member of Congress must raise $10,000 a week to get re-elected. It sounds like hard work, but it doesn’t always have to be.

The nonprofit Sunlight Foundation, which was founded with the goal of increasing transparency in the United States Congress, has tracked down invitations to many of the exclusive get togethers that help fill a member of Congress’ campaign coffers and posted them on for the public to see. It’s surely not an exhaustive list, since the group relies on tipsters sending in their invites. But it does offer a glimpse of the D.C. lives of the Hawkeye State’s congressional team.

The most prolific party host in Iowa’s delegation, according to the Sunlight Foundation, is Fourth District Republican Rep. Tom Latham. He has started hosting his own “Supper Club” every month at different D.C. hotspots. The parties are limited to 10 attendees and feature a different special guest each month, which so far include congressmen from Kentucky, Georgia and California. To attend this months’ event, scheduled for Wednesday night at the ritzy Oceanaire Seafood Room in downtown D.C., will cost $2,500 per PAC and $1,500 for individuals. Latham will also host a golf outing to raise money for North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr and Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss on July 17.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chickens are the New Cool Addition to your Backyard

Over the weekend, I read this article in the Washington Post about chickens being the cool addition to your backyard.

In cities across the United States, raising backyard poultry has suddenly become as chic as growing your own vegetables. It's all part of the back-to-the-land movement whose proponents want to save on grocery bills, take control of their food supply and reduce the carbon footprint of industrial agriculture.

The urban homesteading movement got a huge symbolic boost this spring when the first family installed a 1,100-square-foot vegetable garden at the White House. Poultry is the natural next step in the sustainable back yard; chickens produce eggs, devour kitchen scraps and add manure to the compost pile.

"Chickens are America's cool new pet," said Dave Belanger, publisher of the magazine Backyard Poultry. When he launched it three years ago, "we were thinking 15 to 20 thousand" subscriptions, he said. The print run for the bimonthly is now 100,000.

Belanger's magazine is published in Wisconsin, where five years ago chicken activists in Madison succeeded in getting the city council to reverse a ban on chicken coops. Madison's ordinance is typical of other cities'. You can raise chickens for eggs, not meat; they must be enclosed in a coop or run; and it's strictly a hen party: Roosters who crow day and night are prohibited


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

6 Myths of Creativity

I believe the key to economic recovery is though creativity.  By investing in creativity we can build upon what makes our communities unique and what talents people have to create business, improve local communities, and put people back to work.

I saw this post at CoolTown Studios that outlines 6 myths of creativity...

The 6 Myths Of Creativity from a work perspective, via Fast Company magazine…

1. Creativity Comes From Creative Types - This is probably the biggest myth of all, and very evident in crowdsourcing. It’s often one simple idea that transforms, and that can come from any one person at any time. The key is to be ready to accommodate that epiphany when it comes, thus is the genius of social content sites like YouTube. Creativity comes from beingaccommodated.

2. Money Is a Creativity Motivator - If you pay someone enough they’ll get creative? Studies show creativity in the workplace isn’t motivated by pay and bonuses, but when it’s supported, valued, and recognized as being fundamental to what the company does. This directly applies to how much more motivated locals will be to support their neighborhood if they see the benefits directly and more immediately.

3. Time Pressure Fuels Creativity - Many feel they can’t get creative until it nears a deadline. Studies not only show the opposite, but that creativity goes down the next couple of days after the deadline as well. Good ideas come spontaneously when you think about them long enough, not when they’re intensely focused on with little tolerance for distraction, explaining why crowdsourcing is more effective than focus groups.

4. Fear Forces Breakthroughs - The story goes that creative geniuses harbor anger, fear and anxiety as the source for their greatest inspirations, and why they die so young. It’s probably more a result of not being able to cope with the fact that their greatest work is behind them. A study of 12,000 journal entries show people’s creative breakthroughs tend to happen when they’re happy the day before, which goes back to what makes people happy in myth #2. Now, if they can just deal with the temporary fame!

5. Competition Beats Collaboration - They say competition breeds innovation, but not if it exceeds the enjoyment and enthusiasm of sharing and building upon one another’s ideas. Individuals in our crowdsourced placemaking communites are incentivized by points, but the motivation is even greater if the rewards are based on earning points as a team or community.

6. A Streamlined Organization Is a Creative Organization - The point comes from the idea that fewer creative people is more effective than a larger mix. However, as myth #1 shows, that’s not the case in the long run. For a small company with few employees, it doesn’t mean you’re at a disadvantage, it means you should seriously think about crowdsourcing through your customers/followers and tap into the Long Tail of creativity.

Millennials Favor Big Government

From Matthew Yglesias...

The left-wing tilt of the under-30 cohort is sometimes glossed as primarily driven by cultural issues. Millenials are, for example, much more favorable to gay rights claims. But as Ruy Teixeira points out it extends considerably beyond that to economic questions as well:


I assume this kind of thing will be pretty heavily shaped by assessments of what actually takes place in the Obama years.

This graph shows data for a different question.  Marc Ambinder points out that it's not a 78%-22% split, but instead it's a 60%-27%.  Still a wide margin of millennials in favor of big government solutions.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Principles for Health Care Reform

George Lakoff, author of Don't Think of an Elephant, writes some basic principles to use when discussing the need for health care reform.

What they need are some guiding principles for effectively saying what they believe and what is true.

Principle 1. Health care is part of our economic system.

President Obama correctly sees the economy as an integrated system that includes more than just banking. The economy is a system that includes health care, education, jobs, energy, and the environment, as well as an effective, well-monitored banking system and stock market. Real health care is essential for our economy.

Principle 2. Health care is a moral issue.

America was founded on the most central of moral principles: empathy, on caring about and for each other. We are responsible for ourselves and for one another. That is why we have principles like freedom and fairness, for everyone not just the few who are powerful.

To care about our fellow Americans is to care about their health.

Principle 3. Health care is central to the moral mission of the American government.

The American government has twin moral missions: protection and empowerment of the individual - equally for everyone.

Protection includes not just the military and police, but also consumer protection, worker protection, environmental protection, safety nets, investor protection, and health care.

Empowerment is what enables Americans to make a living and have a good life if they work at it. It includes systems of public road and buildings, education, communication, energy, banking -- and health.

No one can make a dime in America or achieve their goals in life without protection and empowerment by America's government.

Principle 4. The President's plan is the American Plan: it fits our principles and serves our people. It represents patriotism at its finest.

The American Plan allows you the freedom to keep your current health plan or choose the American Plan. It is fair in that it allows everyone to afford excellent care. And it allows us to demonstrate in the most visceral way that Americans care about and for their fellow citizens.

Principle 5. The American Plan is a doctor-patient plan.

You and your doctor determine your treatment.

There is no HMO bureaucracy standing between you and the care you get.

Principle 6. The American Plan relieves oppressive HMO government.

Right now HMO's govern your life. Unaccountable HMO bureaucrats decide what treatments you can be "authorized" for and they function to say No to care whenever they can justify it. They make you wait too long, and limit your choice of doctors, clinics, and hospitals. HMO's are oppressive forms of government.

The American Plan diminishes bureaucrats' control over your life. Your American government could act only as a bursar, paying your bills and making sure there is no fraud. Your treatment is up to you and your doctor.

Principle 7. The American Plan provides care instead of denying it.

Why do HMO's have a high administrative cost - 15 to 20 percent or more? They spend money to justify denying you the care you need and all too often delaying care so much that you are harmed by the delay.

The American Plan is there to provide you care, not deny or delay it. Its administrative costs would be low, about 3 percent.

Principle 8. The American Plan costs less and does more.

HMO's are big spenders, not on your health, but on administrative costs, commercials to tout their plans, and profits to investors. As much as 20 to 30% of what you pay does not go to your care. In The American Plan, 97% of what you pay goes for your care. It's a better deal for you and for our country.

Principle 9. The American Plan helps primary care doctors.

HMO's put the squeeze on primary care doctors and have created assembly line medicine. HMO's require doctors to take too many patients per hour, more than they can effectively treat. And they pay doctors as little as possible per patient, so that the HMO's make greater profits, while your doctor loses out -- and you may lose your doctor.

As a result, many thousands of primary care doctors have left their profession. The American Plan will bring back the primary care doctors, paying them what they are worth, and letting them practice medicine instead working on an assembly line.

Principle 10. The American Plan will make prescription drugs cheaper.

Why? Because they can be purchased in greater volume and at a discount.

No longer will Americans have to go to Canada to buy their meds, or order them from other countries. No longer will the cost of medicine threaten to bankrupt older Americans on a fixed income.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

FBI Infiltrated U of Iowa Anti-War Group

The Des Moines Register reported an FBI informant and undercover police officer infiltrated a peace organization at the University of Iowa prior to the RNC convention in August 2008. It is reported that that surveillence began as early as the fall of 2007.

Confidential FBI documents obtained by The Des Moines Register show an FBI informant was planted among a group described as an "anarchist collective" that met regularly last year in Iowa City. One of the group's goals was to organize street blockades to disrupt the Republican convention, held Sept. 1-4, 2008, where U.S. Sen. John McCain was nominated for president.

The undercover Minnesota deputy who traveled to Iowa City was from the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department, which infiltrated a group known as the "RNC Welcoming Committee" that was coordinating convention protest activities in St. Paul.

The undercover officer accompanied two activists from the Twin Cities who attended the University of Iowa in April 2008 for a Midwest campus anti-war conference.

The Iowa City Police Department was not aware that an FBI informant was monitoring local anti-war activists last year, Police Chief Samuel Hargadine said. But he confirmed to the Register that he was notified by Ramsey County authorities last year that they were sending an undercover officer to Iowa City.
Read the entire story for me details

It is pretty amazing national security resources would go to monitor a peace group in Iowa. As one of the people in Iowa said, "There are not a lot of bomb throwers in Iowa City."

The Bush Mob Keeps Pulling Obama Back In

The Godfather Part IIIImage via Wikipedia

Frank Rich's column in the New York Times this morning is a must read.

To paraphrase Al Pacino in "Godfather III," just when we thought we were out, the Bush mob keeps pulling us back in. And will keep doing so. No matter how hard President Obama tries to turn the page on the previous administration, he can’t. Until there is true transparency and true accountability, revelations of that unresolved eight-year nightmare will keep raining down drip by drip, disrupting the new administration’s high ambitions. ...

There are many dots yet to be connected, and not just on torture. This Sunday, GQ magazine is posting on its Web site an article adding new details to the ample dossier on how Donald Rumsfeld’s corrupt and incompetent Defense Department cost American lives and compromised national security. ...

[Robert] Draper reports that Rumsfeld’s monomaniacal determination to protect his Pentagon turf led him to hobble and antagonize America’s most willing allies in Iraq, Britain and Australia, and even to undermine his own soldiers. But Draper’s biggest find is a collection of daily cover sheets that Rumsfeld approved for the Secretary of Defense Worldwide Intelligence Update, a highly classified digest prepared for a tiny audience, including the president, and often delivered by hand to the White House by the defense secretary himself. These cover sheets greeted Bush each day with triumphal color photos of the war headlined by biblical quotations. GQ is posting 11 of them, and they are seriously creepy. ...

I’m not a fan of Washington’s blue-ribbon commissions, where political compromises can trump the truth. But the 9/11 investigation did illuminate how, a month after Bush received an intelligence brief titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.," 3,000 Americans were slaughtered on his and Cheney’s watch. If the Obama administration really wants to move on from the dark Bush era, it will need a new commission, backed up by serious law enforcement, to shed light on where every body is buried.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Arabic Translator Discharged from the Army because He's Gay

Dan Choi, an Arabic translator, was discharged from the Army because he is gay.

Choi, 28, who majored in Arabic language at West Point, announced he is gay during an appearance March 19 on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show." Soon after, the army made plans to fire him, saying he had "negatively affected good order and discipline in the New York Army National Guard."

Choi said he was disappointed and angry, and it took him only 30 minutes after receiving the letter to decide: "I'm fighting this."
The Daily Show explains...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Special Interests Spend over $235,000 to Wine and Dine Legislators

The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board released a report yesterday showing special interest spent over $235,000 on events to wine and dine State Legislators during the 2009 legislative session.

From Iowa Independent...

Despite a poor economy, groups spent nearly $41,000 more in 2009 than they did in 2008. In fact, this year has seen the most spending on legislative receptions since 2005, according the the IECDB.

“These reports show that the political economy in Iowa remains robust,” said Charlie Smithson, the IECDB’s executive director.

Reports were filed for 90 receptions held during the session. Reports disclose the amount spent on food, beverage and entertainment regardless of the number of people who attend. Because every legislator is invited to attend, the parties are not subject to the state’s gift law, which prohibits gifts to government officials of more than $3.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to special interest money seeping into the pockets of state lawmakers. Iowa should expand the gift law to include events like these, as well as enacting a campaign contribution limits similar to the $2,500 limit at the federal level. These would be easy to steps to clean up fundraising and provide greater transparency in the legislative process.

Marshalltown Schools Do Not Have to Make Up Days Missed due to H1N1 Flu

Marshalltown Community School District does not need to make up the 3 days of school missed because of the H1N1 flu.

From KCCI...
Thursday IDE Director Judy Jeffrey said the school would be allowed to skip three makeup days. Iowa schools are required by state law to hold classes for 180 days.“Given the circumstances of this unanticipated public health emergency, that we are late into this school year, that your schools already have several weather-related ‘make-up’ days scheduled, and that adding more days to already-extended school calendars will be a hardship for staff who have continuing education obligations, I am exercising my authority under the amended proclamation to suspend your obligation to add the three days that your schools were closed to the end of your school year calendars," said Jeffrey, in a statement released on Thursday.
Marshalltown has 46 out of Iowa's 50 confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus. However, they are no longer testing in the county because a shortage of testing supplies and the virus is already established.
“The numbers don’t tell the story at this point,” said Tina Coleman, director of home care and public health for Marshall County. “What we need to help educate the public now is that they’re not going to see those numbers increase. Because the state is limiting the amount of testing we can do, and the only way we can get a confirmed case is to do the testing.”

The county only sent six H1N1 tests into the University Hygienic Laboratory in Iowa City on Monday. That’s out of about 30 patients who visited the emergency clinic with symptoms consistent with the virus.

Instead of confirming cases through tests, however, health officials here and statewide are doing more surveillance of patients who call flu hotlines or come to emergency clinics. They are also following up with residents who’ve shown symptoms consistent with the virus and trying to prevent the disease from spreading among people they’ve come in contact with.
There are now 66 cases of H1N1 in Iowa and 53 of them are in Marshall County.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Newspapers are Dying Because They are Inefficient

I was listening to Iowa Public Radio as I was out getting lunch yesterday. The show on was Talk @12 and Steffen Schmidt and Arne Arneson were on talking about politics.

They were discussing the decline of newspapers. Steffen Schmidt told a statistic that something like 80% of 18-29 year olds don't think newspapers will be around in 10 years. Arne Arneson then told a story of her father, a social studies teacher, giving current events quizes each week and making his students read the newspaper and follow the news. Arneson then said it was a shame people don't value information anymore.

To me this was a glaring example of the generation gap. Newspapers aren't dying because people no longer value information. Newspapers are dying because they are an inefficient way to distribute information.

The other weekend, I wondered how busy the opening day of the Des Moines farmer's market was. So on that Saturday afternoon, I went to the Des Moines Register's website and found pictures and a small writeup about the farmer's market (The Register's online version provides great local information and should be a model of how newspapers can tranistion into the digital age). The next day I went to dinner at my grandparents and skimmed through the dead tree version of the Register to see the same pictures I saw the day before and pretty much the same story.

Why should I wait until the morning to read day old information in the newspaper when I can get online, do a search, and read it now?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Republicans Lose Generation Thanks to Bush

Nate Silver at takes a fascinating look at voting patterns by age groups. Silver took a survey done by Gallup that calculated a partisan advantage by ages. He then looked at who was president when that person turned at 18.

Silver concludes that George W. Bush may have lost Republicans an entire Generation.

It's become common knowledge that the younger generation is highly predisposed toward Democrats. (Actually, that's not quite right -- they're more predisposed against Republicans than they are toward Democrats -- but the net effects on their voting behavior are probably about the same.) What's more remarkable, though, is how sharp the increase in the partisan ID gap becomes at about age 25. People aged 26-34 are pretty Democratic, put people aged 18-25 are really Democratic.

The former group came of age in the Clinton Era. Clinton, in the public's mind, is usually regarded as an average-to-slightly-above-average President, and the voters who came of age during his Presidency are associated with an average-to-slightly-above degree of Democratic affiliation.

The 18-25 year olds, however, came of age in the George W. Bush Era. And Bush, at least the vast majority of us think, was not a good President. In fact, most of us would say, he was a really awful President. And the people who turned 18 during his tenure are associated with extremely low levels of Republican identification.

The reason this is a real worry for the Republicans is because you can still see the echo of past Presidencies on the partisan ID trends today. Popular presidents are associated with above-average levels of party support among the generation that came of age during their time in office, whereas unpopular Presidents are associated with below-average ones.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Rice Questioned About a 4th Grader

Condoleeza Rice visited an elementary school Washington DC last week, where she was asked a tough question about torture by a 4th grade student.

Then Misha Lerner, a student from Bethesda, asked: What did Rice think about the things President Obama's administration was saying about the methods the Bush administration had used to get information from detainees?

Rice took the question in stride. saying that she was reluctant to criticize Obama, then getting to the heart of the matter.

"Let me just say that President Bush was very clear that he wanted to do everything he could to protect the country. After September 11, we wanted to protect the country," she said. "But he was also very clear that we would do nothing, nothing, that was against the law or against our obligations internationally. So the president was only willing to authorize policies that were legal in order to protect the country."

She added: "I hope you understand that it was a very difficult time. We were all so terrified of another attack on the country. September 11 was the worst day of my life in government, watching 3,000 Americans die. . . . Even under those most difficult circumstances, the president was not prepared to do something illegal, and I hope people understand that we were trying to protect the country."
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The New GOP, Same as the Old GOP

Here's a new web ad from the DNC...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Iowa Ranks number 6 in the Bicycle Friendly State Rankings

Sarah from Colorado SpringsImage by richardmasoner via Flickr

From the Iowa Bicycle Coalition...
Iowa has risen to number six in the bicycle friendly state rankings by the League of American Bicyclists. The second annual ranking of Bicycle Friendly States scores the 50 states on a 75-item questionnaire that evaluates a state’s commitment to bicycling and covers six key areas: legislation, policies and programs, infrastructure, education and encouragement, evaluation and planning, and enforcement.

In addition to being the six on the Bicycle Friendly State list, Iowa also has it's first Bicycle Friendly Community. Cedar Falls was awarded a Bicycle Friendly Community Bronze Level Award. The Iowa Bicycle Coalition and the Active Transportation Alliance has completed work in Cedar Falls to create 53 miles of bike routes and bike lanes in addition an existing world-class trail system.

League President Andy Clarke highlighted that "several states dramatically improved their ranking by updating their traffic codes, increasing the level of funding for bicycle improvements, implementing education programs aimed at cyclists and motorists, getting organized and hosting their first statewide bicycling conferences and events."

“We've always known Iowa is a great place to ride a bicycle,” explains Mark Wyatt, Executive Director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, a state-wide bicycle advocacy organization. Iowa received a high mark in the education category. Wyatt says “efforts like the Iowa Bicycle Summit, Safe Routes to School Program, and Share the Road campaigns that brought Iowa up higher in the rankings”

Iowa was also ranked high in enforcement, which considered bicycle law training police officers receive at academy and recent advances or red light cameras. “We still have issues with how bicycle crashes are enforced,” Wyatt states citing a recent Des Moines bike crash where the driver was not cited by determined to be at fault.

Iowa's legislation ranking is lower compared to other states. “We need some clarity in the Iowa Code for bicycles.” Iowa gives bicycles the same rights and duties as drivers of vehicles according to the Iowa Code. “15 states have laws that require a safe passing distance of bicycles.” according to Wyatt, “Wisconsin has had a safe passing law since 1973.” The Iowa Legislature considered a bike safety bill this year and discussions are underway for the Iowa House to take up the issue during the next session.

The Bicycle Friendly State program is revolutionizing the way states evaluate their quality of life, sustainability and transportation networks, while allowing them to benchmark their progress and work toward improving their bicycle-friendliness. The rankings are used to create momentum amongst states and communities to continue to become more bicycle friendly.

“State policies and programs have a dramatic impact on the bicycle-friendliness of communities and we are thrilled to see a marked improvement since the League first ranked states last fall,” stated Clarke. “This year we are also recognizing several states for their impressive initiatives to improve conditions for bicyclists, and the timing could not be better for doing that: for energy, environment, and health benefits as well as traffic improvements.”
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Loebsack’s 21st Century Green High Performing Public Schools legislation Passes

I heard Rep. Dave Loebsack speak in March and talked about trying to get a bill passed that would provide money for school modernization and green schools. He argued the bill would create jobs, create better learning environments for students, and save money in the long run. 

Last week, the bill finally passed.
Congressman Loebsack’s 21st Century Green High Performing Public Schools Act Will Provide $6.4 Billion in Funds to Repair and Modernize Schools

Green High Performing Public Schools Act Will Create and Save Jobs While Creating Long Term Cost Savings for our Schools

WASHINGTON DC – Today, the House Education and Labor Committee approved Congressman Dave Loebsack’s legislation to provide districts across the country with $6.4 billion for next year for school modernization and repair, increasing academic performance, cutting costs for our schools, and creating good paying jobs. Congressman Loebsack’s 21st Century Green High Performing Public Schools legislation provides $6.4 billion to improve and repair our schools, making them more energy efficient and cost effective. This legislation will help make America’s public school facilities more safe, healthy, energy-efficient and technologically advanced, while creating thousands of new jobs in construction and green industries. Modernizing school facilities have also proven to increase academic performance and will give our children hands-on learning in new and emerging energy industries.

“By modernizing our schools to make them more energy efficient we increase academic performance, student health, teacher retention, and cost savings for our schools. This legislation also comes at a critical time for our construction industries, which are losing jobs at an alarming rate,” said Congressman Loebsack. “Greening our schools creates and saves good paying jobs while improving student performance. I have been an advocate for Green Schools since I have been a Member of Congress, and I am pleased that my green provisions were included in this bill, giving us the tools we need to provide our children with a world class education in a safe, environmentally friendly learning environment.”

Because all students deserve to learn in safe, healthy, and up-to-date school facilities, Congressman Loebsack has been a champion of Green Schools since he was elected to Congress. Congressman Loebsack worked last Congress to pass this legislation with a bipartisan approval of 250-164. In re-introducing this legislation, the Congressman hopes the bill will once again be approved by the House and that it will also be approved by the Senate so that it can be signed into law.

“The quality of our classrooms has an immense impact on the quality of education our children receive,” noted Congressman Loebsack. “According to the Government Accountability Office, 79% of Iowa schools need to repair or upgrade their buildings and facilities. Our students deserve more from us. I will continue to work on behalf of Iowa’s children and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this legislation signed into law so that we can provide improved learning environments for our students, create new jobs, spur local investment, and create long term cost savings for schools.”

We Must Put on the Pressure for Big Change to Happen

In his latest post, Mike Lux, author of The Progressive Revolution, argues that...

the stars are aligned for another Big Change Moment: an era like the 1860s, early 1900s, 1930s, and 1960s where a lot of big transformational changes happen in a very short period of time.
Lux, however, says something is missing from this Big Change Moment.
But every day there's another reminder that we are not there yet, that -- as in all other Big Change Moments in our country's history -- big change will not come without a big fight. As Frederick Douglass said in perhaps the greatest single quote in American history:
If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will... men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must certainly pay for all they get.
Our struggle today is against special interests who have blanketed Wasington DC and every state capital with campaign donations...
And we struggle today against the power of massively wealthy special interests -- big oil, big insurance and pharmaceutical companies, big banks -- to make big change. The struggles aren't always as dramatic as they were in past times, but the nature of those fights is very much the same. We don't have the same level of physical violence, but the economic and political violence is just as real as in those historical struggles.

You want specifics? I'll give you specifics:
  • The defeat of banking legislation that would have let 1.7 million homeowners restructure their mortgages
  • The warnings of Arlen Specter and Ben Nelson and Olympia Snowe- and, of course, the health insurance lobby- against including a public health plan option in health care reform
  • The complaints- by some Democrats!- against being able to pass health care reform measures with 51 votes in the Senate
  • The trouble Obama's energy/climate change legislation is already running into in both the House and the Senate
  • Complaints against Obama's plan to help students get better deals on college loans at the expense of lenders
  • Complaints from some Democrats about Obama's plan to tax overseas investment and outsourcing of American jobs
The powers that be, who have bestowed millions of dollars in campaign contributions to their friends in the House and Senate, are fighting big change with everything they have.
This post reminds of what David Sirota wrote following the innauguration in an article about putting pressure on Obama and Congressional Democrats to get progressive legislation passed.
As former House Republican leader Tom DeLay said, he and his colleagues deliberately started "every policy initiative from as far to the political right" as possible, so as to shift "the center farther to the right." The formula emulated Franklin D. Roosevelt's fabled admonishment to allies: "I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it." [...]

Of course, that triumph was the country's loss, as Republican policies thrust the political center off a conservative precipice and America into an economic freefall. And as we plummet, we are desperately groping for a lifeline.

If we are lucky and we end up snagging one that saves us - a huge if - it will be one that is strong enough to snap the center back from the conservative brink. This super-durable bungee cord must have the force of law, meaning it will be woven by Democratic legislators now exerting as much pressure on President Obama's left as congressional Republicans focused on President Bush's right.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Porn Star Considering Run for Senate in Louisiana Against David Vitter

It isn't unusual for a incumbent Senator's action while in office to bring about challenges come election time. 

However, in Sen. David Vitter's circumstance, it is a little unusual. See a couple years ago Vitter's name came up in the DC Madam prostitution investigation.
Vitter, a conservative member of the GOP, was linked to the DC Madam when his name and number were found in her phone records. The woman later allegedly committed suicide and it's rumored that the scandal may have led to CIA Director Porter Goss's resignation.

Vitter also allegedly visited a New Orleans brothel several times beginning in the mid-1990s, paying $300 per hour for services at the bordello after he met the madam at a fishing rodeo that included prostitutes and other politicians, according to Jeanette Maier, the "Canal Street Madam" whose operation was shut down by a federal investigators in 2001.
That has prompted adult film star Stormy Daniels to consider running against Vitter in his 2010 reelection campaign. Daniels, who has not decided which party to run as, is holding listening tours around the state and appeared on CNN this past week.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Think Big

From an education blog I visit called Dangerously Irrelevant...

The time has come. We cannot wait anymore. For years, we have hidden behind our own small thoughts or let ourselves be held back by other small thinking people who don’t believe in us. Worse still, we have been rejected as marginal, unrealistic, dreamers, idealists, maybe even delusional. Family, friends, colleagues, and others (not to mention our own selves) have tried to negate us, eliminate us, and silence us. We will not stand for it anymore. We say – bring it on. Our personal revolution from small thinking to big thinking is now. We will make public our aim to think big about our goals, our intentions, and, yes, our dreams.

There’s more. We will collaborate, cooperate, and join forces with other big thinkers to bring about the larger revolution our society needs if it is to survive.

You want to think big. I want to think big. Together, we will think even bigger. [The Think Big Manifesto, p. 34]

This has many connections to politics. Now is not the time for small changes our nations problem. We must think big to come up with solutions. We must consider single-payer health care, we must consider cap and trade or a carbon tax, we must consider connecting our nation's biggest cities with a high speed rail network, we must expand broadband access to rural areas, we must reform education. Think big.

Energy + Urgency = Passion

Heat, a form of energy, is partly potential en...Image via Wikipedia

This isn't a political post, but it's Saturday and not many people visit my blog on Saturday's anyways.

So here's a poem that calls you to get active in something you care about.

Energy + Urgency = Passion

Some people are loud in their passion,
Some are passionately meek
Their eyes tell the story
The fire in their belly is what I seek

I teach people to use these tools
that allow their voice to reach ears all around
and enhance the engagement and connections
and here is what I've found.

Give me the one that believes so much
in what it is they have set out to do or be
In those their voice will be embraced
As far as ears can hear and eyes can see

Give me those that believe there are others
who want to accomplish a thing or two
to change things for better around and about
they'll find a community that sticks like glue

Are you one of these world changers?
There's always room for one more
One who believes in others first
their ideas will always soar

Do you have the energy?
Is Urgency one of your senses?
These together create a passionate pace
Find that - and you'll hurdle all fences.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Eat Local

CSA 8 (187/366)Image by 427 via Flickr

Over at Bleeding Heartland, DesMoinesDem wrote about 7 ways to eat more local food.

I thought I'd post it here since many farmer's markets around the state are kicking off this month. Make sure to check out your local farmer's market tomorrow.
1. Commit to eating fresh fruits and vegetables in season. You don't have to do this all at once. I made gradual changes over several years. The first step is to read country of origin labels on produce before buying. Another step may be to stop buying fresh food that comes from a different continent.

For me, eating seasonally started out as a conscious effort not to buy certain foods at certain times of the year. But as I adapted to the mindset, I developed new appreciation for fresh foods as they became available. The first fresh berries or melons or asparagus or broccoli taste so much better when you haven't eaten them for a while. I'm not much of a salad eater for most of the year, but in June and July I love the mixed greens that show up at farmer's markets.

2. Make an effort to cook from your refrigerator, not from your cookbooks. A friend who used to be an organic farmer changed my attitude when she gave me this advice a decade ago. Once you stop treating recipes like operating manuals, it's easier to substitute local foods for ingredients that would send you running to the supermarket.

For instance, many casseroles work well with different kinds of cheese, so try that local farmhouse variety instead of what's in the cookbook. Most Asian stir-fries or Indian curries can be adapted to whatever seasonal vegetables you have on hand. If the recipe calls for green beans, peas and cauliflower, chances are you can use carrots, zucchini or broccoli.

3. Shop at a farmer's market regularly. If you live in a mild climate, you may have these available year-round. In Iowa they only last from May through October. On the plus side, Iowa has more farmer's markets per capita than any other state, and that doesn't count the numerous roadside stands where you can buy produce.

4. Produce your own food. Grow some fruits and vegetables if you have a sunny spot in your yard, or access to a community garden plot. Our yard is too shady to do this, but many of my friends grow a lot of food in surprisingly small gardens.

Some people (even in cities) keep chickens for a fresh egg supply. Here's some good advice if you want to try that.

5. When food you love is in season, freeze or can large quantities so that you can enjoy it year-round. Alternatively, try to buy frozen fruits and vegetables that are packaged locally (or at least not halfway around the world).

6. Join a farmer's buying club or CSA (community-supported agriculture) farm. Depending on the business model, you may receive a box of produce, eggs, meat or dairy every week, or you may get regular e-mail reminders about times to order and pick up food. Either way, you will be in regular contact with a farmer, and it will be easier to establish a habit of buying local.

Some people are intimidated by CSAs because they receive some food they've never eaten before and would never buy in a store. Here's where your cookbooks come in handy. You won't find a vegetable in your CSA box that isn't covered somewhere in Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, Diana Shaw's Essential Vegetarian Cookbook, or the New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.

7. Join a food cooperative if there is one in your area, or shop at an independent grocer who makes an effort to supply local food.

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Culver holding rail event in DSM on Saturday

From Iowa Global Warming...

DES MOINES – Governor Chet Culver will mark National Train Day this Saturday by bringing the Governor’s Train Day Special from Valley Junction in West Des Moines into downtown Des Moines, where he will hold a public event with local leaders and transportation officials promoting the benefits of passenger rail to the state, and read a proclamation declaring National Train Day in Iowa.
“Restoring passenger rail service to some of Iowa’s largest cities has been one of my key priorities as governor,” said Governor Culver.  “I look forward to leading this special train into Des Moines on Saturday, and highlighting the economic benefits of passenger rail to our state.  I invite Iowans to come to downtown Des Moines Saturday and celebrate National Train Day in Iowa.”
National Train Day is designed to highlight the need for expanded passenger rail service across the country.  Iowa currently is served by two passenger trains – the California Zephyr and Southwest Chief – both of which serve southern Iowa.  Efforts have been taken in recent years to bring passenger rail service back to other portions of the state, with current proposals to bring service to Dubuque, the Quad Cities and Iowa City and longer term plans to bring service to other communities such as Des Moines and West Des Moines.
To help spur efforts, Governor Culver’s signature legislative accomplishment – the I-JOBS Initiative -- includes $10 million for multi-modal transportation projects in Iowa, including $3 million for expanded passenger rail service in the state.  In addition, the Iowa Department of Transportation will be competing for federal passenger rail funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  All of these steps position Iowa to work with Illinois and Amtrak to bring new passenger rail lines to the state that connect more Iowa communities with Chicago.
The Governor’s Train Day Special is being provided thanks to the generous efforts of the Iowa Interstate Railroad, Ltd., and logistical support has been provided by the Greater Des Moines Partnership.  The Governor’s event will coincide with the Downtown Farmers Market, a popular summer event that features locally made goods and products.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
WHAT:               Governor Culver will celebrate National Train Day by leading the Governor’s Train Day Special for a special ceremony in Downtown Des Moines
WHERE:            Outside Des Moines Historic Depot
                           4th Street South of Court Avenue
                           Des Moines, IA
WHEN:                10:00am

Enhanced Interrogation Techniques?

Andrew Sullivan poses an interesting about torture...

One way to look at how the Bush administration redefined torture out of existence, so that it could, er, torture human beings, is to compare their criteria for "enhanced interrogation" with those for rape. Raping someone need not leave any long-term physical scars; it certainly doesn't permanently impair any bodily organ; it has no uniquely graphic dimensions - the comic book pulling-fingernail scenarios the know-nothings in the Bush administration viewed as torture; and although it's cruel, it's hardly unusual. It happens all the time in regular prisons, although usually by other inmates as opposed to guards. It barely differs from the sexual abuse, forced nudity and psychological warfare inflicted on prisoners by Bush-Cheney in explicit terms.

Recall that smearing fake sexual blood on the faces of victims was regarded as brilliant interrogation by the Bushies in Gitmo - and its psychological effects were supposed to be heightened by Muslim sexual sensibilities. And male rape would be particularly effective in destroying male Muslim self-worth and psychological integrity. Rape almost perfectly fits, in other words, every criterion the Bush administration used to define "enhanced interrogation."

So ask yourself: if Abu Zubaydah had been raped 83 times, would we be talking about no legal consequences for his rapist - or the people who monitored and authorized the rape?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

MoveOn Runs Health Care Ad Targetting Grassley

MoveOn is running this ad in Iowa, Montana, and Washington DC to target Sen. Grassley, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Max Baucus, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

High Speed Rails as Key Infrastructure Investment

Richard Florida takes a look at the plans for investment in high speed rail...

New periods of geographic expansion require new systems of infrastructure. Ever since the days of the canals, the early railroad, and streetcar suburbs, we've seen how infrastructure and transportation systems work to spur new patterns economic and regional development. The streetcar expanded the boundaries of the late 19th and early 20th century city, while the railroad moved goods and people between them. The automobile enabled workers to move to the suburbs and undertake far greater commutes, expanding the geographic landscape still further.

Mega-regions, if they are to function as integrated economic units, require better, more effective, and faster ways move goods, people, and ideas. High-speed rail accomplishes that, and it also provides a framework for future in-fill development along its corridors. Just as development filled-in along the early street-car lines and the post-war highways, high-speed rail will encourage denser, more compact, and concentrated development with growth filling in along its routes over time. Spain's new high-speed rail link between Barcelona and Madrid not only massively reduced commuting times between these two great Spanish cities, according to a recent New York Timesreport, it has also helped revitalize several declining locations along the line.

It's time to start thinking of our transit and infrastructure projects less in political terms and more as a set of strategic investments that are fundamental to the speed and scope of our economic recovery and to the new, more expansive economic geography required for long-run growth and prosperity.

It is important for Iowa's future econonomic growth that the state does everything it can to connect by passenger rail to Chicago.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Stubborn Norm Coleman Raises Money for Progressive Candidates

From the Progressive Change Campaign...

I wanted to send you a quick update on how things are going with our campaign to pressure Norm Coleman to concede. So far the progress has been amazing:

"So far, has raised $15,000..." -- New York Times, April 19

"Norm Coleman Raises $28,000 for Progressives" -- Huffington Post, April 22

"About $40,000 has been raised..." -- Texas blog Burnt Orange Report, April 29

"Coleman Raises $60,000 for Progressives" -- DailyKos, May 1

And today, we're up to $70,000! This weekend, I ran into a major reporter and told him how much Norm Coleman's stubbornness was raising to help progressives defeat Republicans. He said, "Wow!! That's a lot!"

Can you help our campaign earn more "wows!" by reaching $100,000? Please join our Dollar a Day campaign today by clicking here.

Fairfield Mayor Named one of the Greenest Mayors in the US

Ed Malloy, the mayor Fairfield, was named the 4th Greenest mayor in the US by Grist Magazine.

4. Ed Malloy, Fairfield, Iowa.
Pop.: 9,650
In November, the city fathers in this liberal southeastern Iowa outpost unanimously adopted a Green Strategic Plan. Their vote was more than ceremonial: they also secured a state-funded grant to hire a sustainability coordinator, inventory their greenhouse gases, and create educational materials for residents. The new plan envisions everything from conserving energy to supporting local farms. Malloy, who’s been mayor since 2001 and heads up a local oil company, says the environment-economy connection is clear. He hopes Fairfield’s ideas will catch on: “We want to create a model community, a virtual template that other small towns can adopt to create the same results.”

Fair, Balanced, and Accurate

Fox News has a new ad that adds accurate to their "fair and balanced" slogan.

I also find it interesting that when they say tough questions they have 2 clips from pro-life and pro-choice rallies like that is the toughest question we face right now.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Who has the Best Lobbyists in the State?

Want to know who has the best lobbyists in the state? According to the Des Moines Business Record, all you have to do is look at who got exemptions in House File 712, the bill provides consumer fraud protections.

After a 19-year struggle by Attorney General Tom Miller, after all of the other 49 states took care of this issue, Iowa's citizens are being granted the right to sue anyone who defrauds them. With some exceptions:

Insurance companies. Attorneys. Financial institutions. Doctors. Veterinarians. Architects. Banks. Retailers that advertise a product with advertising prepared by a supplier. Print publications and broadcast outlets, in connection with the ads they run. Telephone companies. Cable TV providers. Public utilities. Funeral directors. Real estate agents. Charity volunteers. Physical therapists. Optometrists. Anyone whose conduct is permitted by government. And more.

With exemptions like these, who needs the phone number of a lawyer?

Kurt Swaim (D-Bloomfield) managed the bill in the House and says the bill still provides significant protection to consumers depsite all of the exemptions.
Swaim said he wished the bill didn't have so many exemptions. But he said it still would allow consumers to act in the areas that draw the most complaints, such as car repair, home remodeling, debt collection and mortgage brokering.

Check out Bleeding Heartland for more on this story.

Culver Signs Bill to help Bring Passenger Rail to Iowa

Governor Culver signed a bill into law that would make it easier for passenger rail expansion to occur in the state. The bill would make it easier for the state to into regional agreements that would help passenger rail expand throughout the midwest.

The Governor signed the legislation at a former railroad station in Davenport, a community seeking to attract passenger rail service that would connect with Chicago.

“Passenger rail service is a key component to our state’s economic development efforts,” said Governor Culver. “By making it easier to connect between our state and key cities throughout the Midwest and the nation, we can attract new companies and bring new jobs to Iowa. This legislation, along with our other efforts this legislative session, puts us in the position to bring new lines to Iowa, and I look forward to continuing our work to bring passenger rail to Iowa.”

Senate File 151 includes several provisions related to freight and passenger rail service. The bill eliminates the Iowa Railway Finance Authority and transfers the responsibilities for the administration of the Rail Revolving Loan and Grant Fund and Passenger Rail Service Revolving Fund to the Department of Transportation. In addition, the bill removes the maximum threshold that applies to grants in the Rail Revolving Loan and Grant Program, and expands the Director of Transportation’s authorization to enter into agreements related to passenger rail service.
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Who Will be Culver's Next Chief of Staff?

Last week, Chet Culver named his chief of staff, Charles Krogmeier, to head of the Department of Human Services.

O. Kay Henderson from Radio Iowa has some information on who might replace Krogmeier as Culver's Chief of Staff...

The person who may be in line for that post is John Kirincich. He was hired earlier this year and started a couple of weeks ago as Culver's "chief operating officer." Kirincich has recent experience in D.C., having served as chief of staff forRepresentative Jim Marshall (D-Georgia). As best I can tell from congressional salary records, Kirincich was in that job from 2004 to the end of 2008.

In addition, Kirincich served as executive director of the Georgia Democratic Party from January of 1999 to March of 2002. He worked on the (unsuccessful) 1996 campaign of Kathy Karpan, a Democratic candidate for one of Wyoming's U.S. senate seats and the (unsuccessful) 1998 gubernatorial campaign of David Poythress in Georgia.

I don't know Kirincich, but I do know that Rep. Jim Marshall is probably the most conservative Democrat in the US House.  

A couple weeks ago, I went to a friend's house for dinner.  I don't remember what the topic of conversation was, but my friend jokingly said, "let's take the middle road and piss everyone off."
Hopefully, Culver isn't planning on taking the middle road.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Romney and Palin: Ken Attacks Barbie for Being Plastic

I wish I could claim the line, "Ken attacks Barbie for being plastic," but that comes Daily Kos. 

Here's video of Romney's comment on Palin's looks...

Iowa's Same Sex Marriage Law Will Not be Recognized by the Iowa National Guard

The Iowa National Guard can still involuntarily discharge gay and lesbian members under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy despite the decision by the Iowa Supreme Court to grant equal rights regardless of sexual orientation.

From the Des Moines Register...
The federal law, approved by Congress in 1993, takes precedence over the Iowa Supreme Court ruling in April that legalized same-sex marriage, according to legal experts. The ruling struck down Iowa's Defense of Marriage Act, which had limited marriage to a man and a woman.

The Iowa National Guard is prevented from implementing the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling for its personnel because it is a federally recognized military organization, said Lt. Col. Gregory Hapgood Jr., the Iowa National Guard's public affairs officer.

"We are a microcosm of society," Hapgood said. "We have gay people in the Iowa National Guard. But under that policy, that is not the test. It is about conduct, not about whether you are gay."

The federal law is often described as "don't ask, don't tell" because it permits gays and lesbians to serve in the military if they are not open about their sexual orientation.