Wednesday, February 28

Caucus for Concern

Are the Iowa Caucuses "fixed"? This is worth a read if you are living in an urban, eastern Iowa county (from Iowa Progress).

Irony in the News: Anti-War protesters "Disturb the Peace"

Maybe it's just me, but how can anti-war protesters "disturb the peace"?

From the Boston Globe

"five protesters denounced the war in Iraq yesterday, as they accepted their punishment for blocking traffic in Sherborn in an act of civil disobedience.

In one of five statements read politely at Natick District Court, Lewis Randa, 59, of Sherborn called the war "illegal and immoral" as he addressed Judge Sarah Singer.

Sarah Fuhro, 65, of Natick, the mother of an Army Reserve soldier who recently returned from Iraq, pleaded "to stop the killing and maiming of our soldiers and the Iraqi people."

Louise Coleman, 62, of Sherborn, said, "I have to do whatever I can to stop this out-of-control, insane war."

After all defendants pleaded no contest to charges of disturbing the peace, Sherborn police Sergeant Michael McLaughlin, the town's police prosecutor, clapped Randa on the shoulder and wished him well.

"All these people are nice people," McLaughlin said after the court proceedings. "They're dedicated to their cause. We didn't arrest them because of their beliefs. We arrested them because of their activity, which created a dangerous situation."

Speaking of Peace...

Peace Education & Action Center of Eastern Iowa
Music, speakers, food, kids’ activities
2:00-4:30, Old Brick, first floor
26 E. Market St., Iowa City

Tuesday, February 27

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? And Other Statistics

CNN reports that out of 1000 households, 26.8 Iowa families are millionaires (But we are mere pikers compared to New Jersey, Maryland, New Hampshire, Connecticut and 21 other states). Of course, this means that 973.2 Iowa households are not, but CNN willingly helps you to figure out when you will become one.

Here is an interesting set of facts--they may change your mind about what you think about your neighbors...

Per Capita Income City Leaders in Iowa
1. Hamilton, Iowa $42,935
2. Clive, Iowa $40,053
3. Johnston, Iowa $36,407
4. Wahpeton, Iowa $36,258
5. Westwood, Iowa $33,677
6. Bernard, Iowa $32,671
7. University Heights, Iowa $32,484
8. Henderson, Iowa $32,175
9. Westside, Iowa $31,545
10. West Des Moines, Iowa $31,405

Per Capita Income Johnson County
30. Swisher, Iowa $24,596
43. Coralville, Iowa $23,283
65. Hills, Iowa $21,918
77. North Liberty, Iowa $21,339
119. Iowa City $20,269
122. Tiffin, Iowa $20,222
204. Lone Tree, Iowa $18,990
273. Oxford, Iowa $18,335
308. Solon, Iowa $18,029

The Poorest Counties in the Country (by Household Income)?
1 Kalawao County, Hawai'i $9,333
2 Buffalo County, South Dakota $12,692
3 Owsley County, Kentucky $15,805
4 Clay County, Kentucky $16,271
5 Starr County, Texas $16,504
6 Wilcox County, Alabama $16,646
7 Zavala County, Texas $16,844
8 McDowell County, West Virginia $16,931
9 Holmes County, Mississippi $17,235
10 Ziebach County, South Dakota $18,062

Got Balls?

University of Iowa students were among the 11 anti-war protesters who were arrested for staging a sit-in outside senior Senator Charles Grassley's office in Cedar Rapids. It appears the good Senator would not answer their phone calls, so they thought they would wait for him and speak personally to him about further funding of the war. Grassley, one of the inplacable Republicans still "staying the course," apparently believed that his staged public events were public enough for these raggamuffins. See the Daily Iowan for more.

The Des Moines Register and WHO TV report similar actions in the Iowa capital city where at least seven protesters were cited.

From Radio Iowa

Grassley was flying from Iowa back to Washington, D.C. at the time, after holding 17 town meetings across Iowa during the past week while Congress was on break.

Grassley says "There isn't a town meeting I had that we didn't have a non-emotional discussion of Iraq including people that were there from this group and for some reason or other, they saw it necessary to repeat the effort by coming to my office." The seven protesters were reportedly members of a group taking part in what's called the Occupation Project, which advocates non-violent demonstrations.

Grassley says they planned to remain in his office until he consented to vote against President Bush's request for supplemental funding for American troops in Iraq. He says "They were planning on just sitting in until I agreed to something." Grassley says.

From the CR Gazette 2/28

The 11 people who were arrested for protesting at the offices of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, were charged Tuesday with criminal trespass in Linn County District Court. Seven of those charged are Iowans. Here are the names of all who were charged: Andrew J. Alemao, 19, of Cedar Falls; Joshua E. Casteel, 27, of 1242 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids; Frank J. Cordaro, 56, of Des Moines; Megan R. Felt, 19, of 2401 Highway 6 E., Iowa City; Timothy L. Gauger, 36, of Eugene, Ore.; David A. Goodner, 26, of 4649 Running Deer Ct. NE, Iowa City; John P. Hornbeck, 25, of 321 Hawkeye Ct., Iowa City; Ryan D. Merz, 20, of Maple Plain, Minn.; Conor A. Murphy, 29, of Madison, Wis.; Rosemary M. Persaud, 47, of 522 Rundell St., Iowa City and Justin N. Riley, 19, of Crystal, Minn. According to the court complaint, the defendants refused to leave the federal Courthouse at 101 First St. SE after it was closed, after they were told to leave several times and after they were given a trespass warning.

Monday, February 26

Keep Track of Your Representatives

With a snap of the overall straps (an Iowa version of Colbert's "tip o' the hat"), I credit Dan who commented on Blog for Iowa , for bringing GovTrack to my attention. It does a pretty good job of summarizing what our Iowa Congressional Delegation is up to in Washington D.C.

U.S. House
Leonard Boswell
Bruce Braley
Tom Latham
Dave Loebsack
Steve King

U.S. Senate
Chuck Grassley
Tom Harkin

A Convenient Truth

Watching the Oscars last night and seeing the love being rained down on Al Gore proved to me once and for all (for this election cycle), he is not running for president. Al Gore has realized that he has more important work to do than to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that visits the run for the Presidency. He is a big fish in a global pond--and it seems he couldn't be happier!

Hopefully, the fish in the presidential pool will pay heed to the more important message that he is promoting, GLOBAL WARMING IS A MORAL ISSUE. It is the single most important issue of our time and it is one that we can become a stronger nation, if we choose to lead.

Iowa is in the position of leading the the next wave of the Green Revolution, with abundant natural resources, already the 3rd largest production of wind power in the nation. But we have a long way to go with respect to water quality and our continued move toward monocultural agriculture. Our future will depend on using all our resources wisely, that is what Al Gore is the spokesperson for and there is no one who can do it better.

Sunday, February 25

Rethinking Doublethink

Most men when they hit their 40’s do something stupid like cheat on their wives with women half their age or buy a motorcycle. They call it “middle-aged crazy”. They even made a movie about it some years ago. I’m in my mid-40’s and I am experiencing a different kind of middle-aged crazy. Mine has been politically motivated.

Since the fall of 2000, I have become really worked up over the state of our national government, state government, even local government. It is as if there is a desire to erase the progressive changes that took place in the 60’s and 70’s and replace them with an Orwellian view of the world.

George Orwell was the writer of the often required high school read 1984—or rather used to be required reading. In 1984 the world is a place where the greatest practice is called Doublethink. In essence, Doublethink is believing one thing while at the exact same time believing an exactly opposite thing and being able to not only forget one, but being able to forget it completely and totally as if it never existed on demand. A slogan like “War is Peace” is an example of Doublethink.

Well in 2000, as you may remember, we had a newly appointed president (by virtue of the Supreme Court not allowing the Florida state recount to occur). He had campaigned on a platform of compassionate conservatism, rolling back taxes to the middle class, wouldn’t use the military for peacekeeping missions for extended periods of time, “no child left behind,” and so forth.

In 2007 we have a president who believes only he can keep us safe as we wage a war on terror to defeat it and spread democracy which will lead to world peace—again “war is peace.” Our soldiers are being used as peacekeepers while they simultaneously complete a war.

Compassionate conservative that he is, he managed to raise the federal deficit to over 7.5 trillion dollars, while reducing funding to human service programs. Children may be doing all right in school if they are able to go and are ready to go. Since conservatives tend to be for less government, it follows that the largest sector of job growth has been government jobs.

He is also the President that said that creating jobs would require giving tax-cuts to everybody (of which the wealthiest 1% benefited the most and the poorest the least) instead of payroll tax-cuts that actually help businesses to grow.

As I tried to decipher the disconnects between what the president promised, I found myself becoming more and more upset about the direction of the country. So when people like Howard Dean said “take back America” that sounded pretty good to me—until I realized that it was a politician saying it to me.

As the Who said a long time ago “Meet the new Boss, same as the old Boss,” --government changes hands, but the power behind the throne is unchanging. The government of the US is actually guilty of anti-trust. We have two parties that essentially make it virtually impossible for other parties to exist. All any party has to do is claim the third, fourth, or fortieth party is a spoiler and use fear tactics to retain control.

This is why "we the people" need to push for publicly financed campaigns and "clean election" laws. In Iowa, we have a chance to open up the process to different ideas or at least a third way. Contact your state representatives and ask them to support HSB 105 and get it out of committee. It is important to the future of Iowans to have a real choice and to encourage more people to choose public service.

Friday, February 23

Help Iowans Get a VOICE

From former Iowa Representative/Gubernatorial candidate and current John Edward supporter/consultant Ed Fallon's I'm for Iowa to subscribe, go here

It's exciting to see legislation making its way through the Iowa House. But lawmakers need to hear from us. I put together this Q & A piece that might prove helpful.

Q: What is VOICE, and how does it work?
A: VOICE is a campaign finance system that lets candidates run for office without relying on special-interest money. VOICE is voluntary, and it gives candidates a choice on how to finance their campaigns. If a candidate wants to run a conventional campaign, (s)he can still raise money from PACs, lobbyists and big donors. But in states like Maine and Arizona, more people are choosing to run using the clean elections system, and a majority of them are winning.Under the proposed Iowa law, participating candidates limit their fundraising to $5 donations from residents of their districts. If they're a House candidate, they need to raise 100 $5 donations. For Senate candidates, the requirement is 200 $5 donations. A candidate for governor must raise 2,500 $5 donations, with 20% coming from each congressional district. The bill applies to all statewide and legislative offices.When the candidate raises the required number of $5 donations, the money is deposited in the state's clean elections fund. The candidate then receives from that fund:
-- for a House candidate, $15,000 for the primary and $30,000 for the general;
-- for a Senate candidate, $22,000 for the primary and $40,000 for the general; and
-- for candidates for governor, $750,000 for the primary, $3 million for the general.
If a VOICE candidate has an opponent who raises money from conventional sources and who exceeds the initial amount of money allotted to the VOICE candidate, the VOICE candidate receives an additional dollar for dollar match. This allows the VOICE candidate to remain competitive. And because VOICE candidates no longer incur fundraising expenses, the money they receive from the clean elections fund tends to go a lot further.

Q: Is there a VOICE bill before the Iowa Legislature?
A: Yes. It's called HSB 105. The bill is in the House State Government Committee, and there is a companion bill in the Senate. To read the bill, visit and type "HSB 105" in the upper right hand corner in the box marked "Quick Find: Bills and Iowa Code." This web page also allows you to find committee members and to obtain contact information for any representative or senator.

Q: How much will VOICE cost?
A: It depends on what elections the bill covers. If VOICE is available to just legislative candidates, the price tag will be around $3 million per election cycle. If it also covers all statewide elections, as in Arizona, it will cost around $10 million per election cycle.

Q: How will VOICE be financed?
A: This type of legislation is often referred to as "public financing," and to some people that implies raising taxes on the average person to pay for political campaigns. Under HSB 105, that's not the case. Most of the money would come from a sales tax on advertising – so corporations and others (like politicians!) who spend a lot on advertising would foot the bill. Additional revenue for the fund would come from the $5 qualifying contributions, an income tax check-off and other voluntary donations.

Q: How will VOICE improve the political process?
A: VOICE lets candidates focus on meeting voters as opposed to wining and dining lobbyists and big donors. By drastically reducing the role of money in politics, VOICE returns power to the people that government is supposed to represent. In Maine, State Senator Ed Youngblood, a retired bank executive, wanted to spend time with voters instead of raising money. "I wanted to be able to say 'I'm not accountable to anyone but you, the voter.'" He defeated a sixteen-year incumbent.
In fact, 83% of Maine legislators were elected using the clean elections system. In Arizona, nine of eleven statewide office holders were elected using that state's clean elections system, including two-term governor Janet Napolitano. Ultimately, if lawmakers no longer are beholden to big donors and special interests, they are more likely to focus on issues voters want to see addressed. For example, in recent years in both Maine and Arizona, significant health care initiatives were enacted, despite opposition from lobbyists in the medical, insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

Q: What effect would VOICE have on third-party candidates?
A: In Maine and Arizona, the clean elections law has had no noticeable impact on third party participation in elections. There are still some third-party candidates who run and qualify for clean elections funds, but with only a couple exceptions, the candidates who win are either Democrat or Republican.
Many prospective candidates don't run for office because they are intimidated by the huge amount of money they need to raise. Now that candidates in Maine and Arizona have a viable option to big-money campaigns, more people are willing to run, and this is healthy in a democracy. Yet the threshold for viability in a clean elections system (i.e., lots of small donations from residents of the district) is high enough to discourage truly fringe candidates, but not so onerous to discourage legitimate candidates of any political persuasion.

Loebsack Back from Iraq

Reported by the Gazette

Rep. U.S. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, returned from his two-day stay in Iraq last night with a sense that the American military and political mission to stabilize the war-torn country will fail.

Loebsack said he voted last week to support a non-binding resolution that disapproves of President Bush's decision to send more than 22,000 additional troops to Iraq because he believed the cause is futile and troops should be on their way home.``I was not convinced before (going to Iraq) that this (additional troops) would make a significant difference, if any difference,'' Loebsack said in a telephone interview.

``I think there is very little chance of this succeeding, judging from what I heard and saw.``It is pretty clear to me that the escalation -- what President Bush calls a surge -- it is pretty clear to me, and many people there, it is kind of a last shot at this thing.''

What would he say to President Bush if he could speak to him about his findings in Iraq? ``I would say as I have said before: `Mr. President, it is long past time. We need to disengage and do all we can to get the troops out of there by next year.''

Vilsack Out

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Democrat Tom Vilsack is abandoning his bid for the presidency after struggling against better-known, better-financed rivals, a senior campaign official told The Associated Press on Friday.

Vilsack left office in January and traveled through states holding early tests of strength. He had faced a tough challenge from rivals such as New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and John Edwards, who have had more success raising money and attracting attention -- even in Vilsack's home state of Iowa.

Vilsack was scheduled to make a formal announcement later in the day. The official spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting the Democrat's statement.

Thursday, February 22

Dave Loebsack and the Awkward Twins

Can You Feel the Love?

Iowa and Other States Are Running Out of Health Dollars

The AP reports some states are warning that hundreds of thousands of poor children could lose their health insurance if Congress doesn't act soon to come through with more money for the program.

The situation is most severe in Georgia, where officials plan to stop enrolling kids in the state's PeachCare program starting March 11 because of a $131 million shortage.

The problem is that many states have nearly used up their annual federal subsidy for child health care, and it is not even midway through the fiscal year -- a situation some are blaming on the formula by which the money is doled out by Washington. Congress has been unwilling so far to deliver more money.

The uncertainty is making it difficult for some states to draw up their new budgets, because they do not know how much they will ultimately get from Washington.
In the meantime, states are scrambling to protect youngsters.

In Iowa, which is looking at a $16 million shortfall by the end of the state's fiscal year in June, lawmakers are pushing for a $1 cigarette tax increase to pay for children's health care and related programs. Some states plan to shift some children to the Medicaid rolls, at least temporarily. Others say they will pour in additional state dollars.

At issue is the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, which was started by Congress in 1998 and is funded by a combination of federal and state funds. Participants also pay premiums.

SCHIP's current budget is $5.5 billion. But states say the amount falls $745 million short of what they need.The program has had funding problems in the past. But "you've never had this many states before. It's never been this much of a shortfall before," said Genevieve Kenney, a policy expert at the Washington-based Urban Institute. "And Congress isn't moving."

Georgia's senators, Republicans Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, have proposed shifting money from states with surplus SCHIP money, like Texas and Connecticut. But states with surpluses are not eager to give up the extra cash.Dennis Smith, director of the Center for Medicaid and State Operations, said President Bush favors redistributing any unspent money to those states with deficits. "

There's plenty of money. It's just in different places," Smith said.

SCHIP funding is based, in part, on the number of uninsured children in each state. So, those states that use the program most aggressively to reduce their number of uninsured children end up coming up short on federal funds.Another problem, say critics, is that the funding is based on outdated census data. That has been especially problematic in states like Georgia where the population has swelled in recent years, in part because of an influx of Hurricane Katrina refugees.

25 Tow the Party Line

Party Over Country: 25 Members of Congress Who Criticized Escalation but Voted for It Anyway

From Alternet and Think Progress
Wednesday 21 February 2007
Last week, Iraq war veteran and VoteVets founder Jon Soltz appealed for members of Congress to "put country above party" and vote against escalation in Iraq. Majorities in both the House and Senate answered Soltz's call. But at least 25 members of Congress caved to partisan pressure and voted in favor of escalation, despite having publicly criticized President Bush's strategy in the weeks prior to the vote. Here are four examples:
Rep. Virginia Brown-Waite (R-FL): "It's too little, too late, and should have been done a year ago. ... I just get a feeling our country is being used."
Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM): "I am not a supporter of a surge to do for the Iraqis what the Iraqis will not do for themselves."
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ): "I have little confidence that a surge in troop levels will change the situation in Iraq in any substantive fashion. It seems clear that the violence in Iraq is increasingly sectarian, and inserting more troops in this atmosphere is unlikely to improve the situation.
Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH): "I am skeptical that a surge of troops will bring an end to the escalation of violence and the insurgency in Iraq... I'm absolutely against the surge."

When it came time to vote, these four members - and 21 of their colleagues - couldn't muster the courage to buck their own party and vote against escalation. These members appear to understand the danger of sending tens of thousands of U.S. troops into Iraq's bloody civil war. They just don't care enough to do something about it.
The full list of the "Party-Over-Country" 25:
Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) Virginia Brown-Waite (R-FL) Vern Buchanan (R-FL) Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) Charles W. Dent (R-PA) Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) Mike Ferguson (R-NJ) Jeff Flake (R-AZ) Rodney P. Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) David Hobson (R-OH) Kenny Hulshof (R-MO) John McHugh (R-NY) Candice Miller (R-MI) Jerry Moran (R-KS) Deborah Pryce (R-OH) Mike Rogers (R-MI) Edward Royce (R-CA) Mark Souder (R-IN) Tom Tancredo (R-CO) Mac Thornberry (R-TX) Greg Walden (R-OR) Heather Wilson (R-NM)

Gordon Smith (R-OR) Sam Brownback (R-KS)

Speaking of Supporting Our Troops--At Home

A ‘breakdown in leadership’

A top army general blamed “a breakdown in leadership” for poor living conditions of wounded soldiers at the US Army’s renowned Walter Reed Medical Center.

But General Richard Cody, vice chief of staff of the army, said no one has been relieved of command or disciplined since the problems were exposed over the weekend by The Washington Post. “Clearly, we’ve had a breakdown in leadership and bureaucratic, medical and contractual processes dogged down a speedy solution to these problems,” Cody said at a Pentagon news conference.

The Post said convalescing soldiers in one army building were living in rooms with mold covered walls, holes in the ceiling and infestations of rodents and cockroaches. The series set off a furor with the White House expressing shock and lawmakers demanding action.

And there's this from the Washington Post

Most infuriating are reports of official efforts to deny disability benefits to discharged fighters. The Army tried to deny disability compensation to Cpl. Dell McLeod, who suffered a head injury that left him aimless and unable even to count change at the cafeteria. Army officials' argument: Because he had done poorly in high school, his current mental state might not have been caused by the steel door that smashed his skull in Iraq. If the Army determined that he was mentally fit to serve in the first place, it cannot now abscond from its responsibility for the consequences of his service overseas. Cpl. McLeod ended up getting a settlement from the command at Walter Reed -- despite base staffers' best efforts -- only after his wife got a congressional staffer involved.

PAC money and Publically Funded Elections

My friends in the "Democratic Wing of the Democratic party" will not like this, but it needs to be said. PAC money is part of the problem of politics. Basically, just like money from private "big" donors, it is dished out to folks who dance to your tune, whether it is labor unions or Boss Tweed, it still is about buying influence.

The only answer that makes sense is for elections to be publicly funded. Arizona and Maine are two states that have adopted this and it works!

John J. Higgins reports that "traditional campaign finance reform sounds like such a remedy, but dig a little deeper and you find that reform laws have done nothing to address the dilemma of big money in politics or to boost voter turnout. All they have done is make an already inefficient and confusing system more inefficient and more confusing. Catching the bad guys is important, but without real alternatives there is no real remedy... The public funding method has changed politics in both Arizona and Maine for the better, so much so that Arizona is seeing a staggering 67 percent increase in voter turnout since its inception. Furthermore, the percentage of highest spenders winning elections has gone from 79 percent before public funding to just 2 percent since, showing without a doubt that public funding takes the power of money out of campaigning and returns it to the strength of ideas. More minorities and women are running and winning using public funding, because it naturally gives voice to populations and communities that have been underrepresented in the past. It has freed up lawmakers from the money-chase and has allowed them the opportunity to become better community advocates. In Maine, lawmakers have rolled back industry tax credits, created the most progressive prescription drug program in the country and are moving toward universal healthcare for all citizens."

States such as Hawaii, Rhode Island, Washington, and Connecticut are considering public funding measures. If we really want to democratize the system, we need to try to level the playing field. The requirements of a publicly financed system are still stringent enough to limit the "crackpot" factor--because it requires a genuine support of the candidate for the grassroots.

Wednesday, February 21

Citizens for Public Power Won't Like This

Thanks to iPol, it appears that Tom Vilsack is working for the fine folks at Mid-American Energy "to advise the company on renewable energy and environmental issues according to the MAEC press release" for 40 hours a month while he simultaneously runs for President of these here United States. Since there was a highly contentious referendum item in Iowa City to push for public power, which Mid-American spared no expense to defeat, I'm guessing some folks who might have liked to support the "V" will have some difficulty doing so.

Monday, February 19

Presidents Day Precedents

" I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." With these words 42 men (There actually have only been 42 presidents: Grover Cleveland was elected for two nonconsecutive terms and is counted twice, as our 22nd and 24th president) have served as president, so it is fitting on this august day to reflect on the precedents that our former Presidents have set.

Who gets to be President?

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

Seven presidents born before there was a United States were technically English subjects, but were all born in the Continental US. Martin Van Buren, the eighth president in U.S., was the first president to be born in the United States of America.

All in the Family: Presidents related to earlier presidents

  • James Madison: half first cousin twice removed of George Washington
  • John Quincy Adams: son of John Adams
  • Zachary Taylor: second cousin of James Madison
  • Grover Cleveland: sixth cousin once removed of Ulysses Grant
  • Benjamin Harrison: grandson of William Henry Harrison
  • Theodore Roosevelt: third cousin twice removed of Martin Van Buren
  • Franklin Roosevelt: fourth cousin once removed of Ulysses Grant, fourth cousin three times removed of Zachary Taylor, fifth cousin of Theodore Roosevelt
  • Harry Truman: great-great-great nephew of John Tyler
  • Richard Nixon: seventh cousin twice removed of William Taft, eighth cousin once removed of Herbert Hoover
  • George Bush: fifth cousin four times removed of Franklin Pierce, seventh cousin three times removed of Theodore Roosevelt, seventh cousin four times removed of Abraham Lincoln, eleventh cousin once removed of Gerald Ford
  • George W. Bush: son of George Bush

By Popular Demand, You are a Loser

Four Presidents won the popular vote but lost the presidency: Andrew Jackson won the popular vote but lost the election to John Quincy Adams (1824); Samuel J. Tilden won the popular vote but lost the election to Rutherford B. Hayes (1876); Grover Cleveland won the popular vote but lost the election to Benjamin Harrison (1888); Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the election to George W. Bush (2000).

Speech, Speech!

Washington's inauguration speech was 183 words long and took 90 seconds to read. It was hard for him to read because of his false teeth. William Henry Harrison delivered the longest Inaugural address, at 8,445 words, on March 4, 1841—a bitterly cold, wet day. He died one month later of pneumonia, believed to have been brought on by prolonged exposure to the elements on his Inauguration Day.

What's in a Name?

With such nicknames such as Sir Veto, The Last of the Crooked Hats, the Wool Carder President, Wobbly Willie, and Duckpin, presidents have always inspired their sycophants and detractors to creative wordsmithing.

Presidents--in their own words

"Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." George Washington

"The happiness of society is the end of government." John Adams

"One man with courage is a majority." Thomas Jefferson

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." James Madison

"A little flattery will support a man through great fatigue." James Monroe

"May our country be always successful, but whether successful or otherwise, always right."
John Quincy Adams

"I know what I am fit for. I can command a body of men in a rough way; but I am not fit to be President." Andrew Jackson

"As to the Presidency, the two happiest days of my life were those of my entrance upon the office and my surrender of it." Martin Van Buren

"But I contend that the strongest of all governments is that which is most free." William Henry Harrison

"Popularity, I have always thought, may aptly be compared to a coquette—the more you woo her, the more apt is she to elude your embrace." John Tyler

"With me it is exceptionally true that the Presidency is no bed of roses." James K. Polk

"The idea that I should become President seems to me too visionary to require a serious answer. It has never entered my head, nor is it likely to enter the head of any other person." Zachary Taylor

"It is not strange . . . to mistake change for progress." Millard Fillmore

"We have nothing in our history or position to invite aggression; we have everything to beckon us to the cultivation of relations of peace and amity with all nations." Franklin Pierce

"The ballot box is the surest arbiter of disputes among freemen." James Buchanan

"Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose - and you allow him to make war at pleasure." Abraham Lincoln

"If the rabble were lopped off at one end and the aristocrat at the other, all would be well with the country." Andrew Johnson

"The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times." Ulysses S. Grant

"It is now true that this is God's Country, if equal rights—a fair start and an equal chance in the race of life are everywhere secured to all." Rutherford B. Hayes

"I have had many troubles in my life, but the worst of them never came." James A. Garfield

"If it were not for the reporters, I would tell you the truth." Chester A. Arthur

"It is the responsibility of the citizens to support their government. It is not the responsibility of the government to support its citizens." Grover Cleveland

"We Americans have no commission from God to police the world." Benjamin Harrison

"Unlike any other nation, here the people rule, and their will is the supreme law. It is sometimes sneeringly said by those who do not like free government, that here we count heads. True, heads are counted, but brains also . . ." William McKinley

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." Theodore Roosevelt

"The intoxication of power rapidly sobers off in the knowledge of its restrictions and under the prompt reminder of an ever-present and not always considerate press, as well as the kindly suggestions that not infrequently come from Congress." William H. Taft

"If you want to make enemies, try to change something." Woodrow Wilson

"My God, this is a hell of a job! I have no trouble with my enemies . . . but my damn friends, they're the ones that keep me walking the floor nights." Warren G. Harding

"I have never been hurt by anything I didn't say." Calvin Coolidge

"Peace is not made at the Council table or by treaties, but in the hearts of men." Herbert Hoover

"I sometimes think that the saving grace of America lies in the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans are possessed of two great qualities- a sense of humor and a sense of proportion." Franklin D. Roosevelt

"You can not stop the spread of an idea by passing a law against it." Harry S. Truman

"I can think of nothing more boring for the American people than to have to sit in their living rooms for a whole half hour looking at my face on their television screens." Dwight D. Eisenhower

"Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be president but they don't want them to become politicians in the process " John F. Kennedy

"If government is to serve any purpose it is to do for others what they are unable to do for themselves." Lyndon B. Johnson

"Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you. Those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself." Richard M. Nixon

"We . . . declared our independence 200 years ago, and we are not about to lose it now to paper shufflers and computers." Gerald Ford

"The best way to enhance freedom in other lands is to demonstrate here that our democratic system is worthy of emulation." James E. Carter

"I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself." Ronald W. Reagan

"Whose life would be on my hands as the commander-in-chief because I, unilaterally, went beyond the international law, went beyond the stated mission, and said we're going to show our macho? We're going into Baghdad. We're going to be an occupying power — America in an Arab land — with no allies at our side. It would have been disastrous. We don't gain the size of our victory by how many innocent kids running away — even though they're bad guys — that we can slaughter. ... We're American soldiers; we don't do business that way." George H.W. Bush

"If you live long enough, you'll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you'll be a better person. It's how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit." William J. Clinton

"We will bring the terrorists to justice; or we will bring justice to the terrorists. Either way, justice will be done." George W. Bush

Saturday, February 17

American Idle: Handicapping '08

Since Iowa will be floating in Caucus-ians in the coming months, I thought I would get in on handicapping the 2008 presidential race. I plan to update this about once a month, so stay tuned and follow your candidate's climb or decline.


Top Tier (Hot and has Money)
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Barack Obama

Middle Tier (Not as hot, but has Organization)
John Edwards

Lower Tier (Not hot, but has Name Recognition)
Bill Richardson
Wesley Clark

Shed No Tier(s) (Not hot, but has Loyal Base)
Dennis Kucinich
Mike Gravel
Al Sharpton
Al Gore

Tier(s) for Fears (Accidents hoping to happen)
Joe Biden
Chris Dodd
Lyndon Larouche

Tier-Less (Hasta la Vista)
Tom Vilsack


Top Tier

John McCain

Mitt Romney

Middle Tier

Rudolph Giuiliani

Lower Tier

Sam Brownback

Chuck Hagel

Shed No Tier(s)

Newt Gingrich

Ron Paul

Tommy Thompson

Mike Huckabee

Tier(s) for Fears

Hunter Duncan

Tom Tancredo

John Cox

Jim Gilmore

*Special mention to Sal Mohammed, who is running for the Democratic nomination for president even though he is not a natural-born US Citizen (something the Constitution requires of candidates). Sal the Iowa US senate race is in '08 too--you do qualify for that.

Friday, February 16

House Makes a Stand...Sort of

The Democratic-controlled House issued a symbolic rejection of President Bush's plan to deploy more troops to Iraq on Friday, opening an epic confrontation between Congress and commander in chief over an unpopular war that has taken the lives of more than 3,100 U.S. troops.

The vote on the nonbinding measure was 246-182 with 17 Republicans and 2 Democrats breaking ranks.

"The stakes in Iraq are too high to recycle proposals that have little prospect for success," said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, leader of Democrats who gained power last fall in elections framed by public opposition to the war.

Disapproving of the decision of the President announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.

The resolution resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), that--

(1) Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and

(2) Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.

Earlier Dave Loebsack said "Today, with my colleagues, I stand here in support of our brave men and women of the armed services as well as their families. We should honor their great commitment and sacrifices without hesitation.

The time has come to tell President Bush enough is enough! Last November, the American people spoke. They spoke loudly and clearly on a number of issues but none more passionately and forcefully than the war in Iraq. The American people, long before this debate this week, decided that the misadventure in Iraq must end.

Our troops have performed valiantly in Iraq. In a matter of just a few weeks, our troops removed from power a brutal dictator and began to provide the Iraqi people with the opportunity to construct a new political order. Our troops also have contributed mightily to the reconstruction and development of the Iraqi economy and infrastructure.

But over the course of this conflict, the mission of our troops has been transformed and now they find themselves in the middle of a civil war that involves not just two sides but almost innumerable factions in conflict with one another. What's worse is the continued presence of American troops in Iraq will likely only inflame the ongoing sectarian strife and create more, not fewer, enemies of America. The bottom line is that a continued presence of America troops will only exacerbate the multiple conflicts in Iraq.

While it was the Bush administration who initiated hostile actions in March of 2003, I believe it is now necessary for the Iraqi people to step up and assume responsibility for their future. We are at a point in this conflict where the only way forward includes a concerted and effective effort on the part of the Iraqi government to share both political power and the economic resources of their country.

What is also needed now more than ever is for this administration to reach out to our traditional allies and those in the region who have a significant stake in the future of Iraq. The Bush administration must do something it has been woefully reluctant to do. It must admit that it made a major strategic and foreign policy blunder when it invaded Iraq in the first place. I am willing to wager that such an admission would go some distance towards at least beginning to repair our relations with the rest of the world. And the improvement of our relations with our traditional allies beyond the British is a prerequisite to securing their help on Iraq.

In conclusion I call on my colleagues to support this
resolution today as a beginning of this chamber's efforts to protect the troops and bring our country's involvement in this war to an end."

Wednesday, February 14

SILO Passes--permanently?

Despite of several inches of snow falling in Johnson county and a 15.9% total voter turnout, the SILO tax passed in Johnson County by over a 2/3 margin. The sales tax will go into effect July 1.


8,329 67.36%
4,036 32.64%

With Johnson and Linn counties in the fold, it is likely that the tax will be made permanent by the Iowa state legislature in the near future.

Sunday, February 11

Keota legislator Greiner will not seek re-election

Note to the multi-talented Mark Nolte in Iowa's Fightin' 89th: Don't throw out your yard signs.

According to the AP, State Rep. Sandra Greiner, R-Keota, announced last week she will leave the Iowa House of Representatives after her current term expires and will not seek re-election in 2008.
‘‘After eight terms in the Iowa General Assembly, it is time for me to say goodbye and give other talented people the opportunity to serve,’’ Greiner said at the annual meeting of the Washington County Pork Producers.
Greiner was elected in 1992 when Republicans took control of the Iowa House for the first time in a decade. She authored landmark legislation to eradicate pseudorabies throughout Iowa. She also concentrated on water quality and soil conservation legislation while chairwoman of the House Environmental Protection Committee.
‘‘It has truly been an honor and privilege to serve the people of Iowa in the General Assembly,’’ she said. ‘‘However, the time has come to make way for new leaders, new ideas and new energy.’’
House Republican Leader Christopher Rants, R-Sioux City, said Greiner will be missed.
‘‘Rep. Greiner’s experience and leadership have been of great significance to all members of the Legislature,’’ said Rants. ‘‘She has been a tremendous asset to our caucus and the entire state of Iowa.’’

The future will not belong to those who sit on the sidelines

“The future will not belong to those who sit on the sidelines. The future will not belong to the cynics. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” - Paul Wellstone

I don't dream often, but when I do, my dreams are in living color. I dream about living in a world where the currency of change is not dollars and cents, it is thoughtful, well-articulated action. When I see the future, we are governed by people who are not cynics, but like you and I, are trying to do the best they can and demand that we all are involved in finding answers. When I look at children, I see what we can be if, like Paul Wellstone, we believe in the beauty of our dreams.

Today I choose to not read the news, but to talk about what we all can do to make the places we live better.

1) Appreciate what is already there, every place can be improved, but not by ignoring what people before us had vision to do for us.
2) Be involved. If you have kids, be invested in their lives, but be invested in the lives of all kids.
3) Be bold. Do not let your cynicism take your power away. We all can see what is apparent and be paralyzed, but if we choose one thing to change, we can defeat our own fears.
4) Be present. Often the world's events keep us from seeing what is directly in front of us. We can't always make big changes, but all of us can make small, significant change.
5) Be inspired. Read a book, go to a lecture, put on some music, talk to a stranger. Do something that allows you to grow as a person.
6) Be surprised. Change can come from people being shocked by conditions that they find around them, but they can be pleasantly surprised to know they can doing something to improve things.
7) Be frugal. Choose change carefully. The more you take on, the less likely you are to find success.
8) Be honest. Not everything worthwhile can be worthwhile to you. Support people who are doing things you value, but assert your right to choose when you get involved.
9) Be consistent. If you find yourself riding too many horses, you'll never reach a finish line. Stick with the things that bring you the most joy or the most pain.
10) Be yourself. Too many people are looking for someone to be like. The only one you can ever be is yourself, so get used to it--and you'll be surprised at the person you turn out to be.
11) Be your dreams. As Yoda said "Do or not do, there is no try."

What are your dreams? What do you believe? Are you in the game?

Friday, February 9

Lessons from the Pioneers: Tackling Global Warming at the Local Level

From New Rules

As of January 2007, 355 mayors in communities representing over 54 million Americans in 49 states have signed the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement (formalized in June 2005). Participating cities agree to reduce community-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2012 to at least 7 percent below 1990 levels. The number of communities involved promises a diversity of strategies and a steep learning curve as communities learn from one another what works, and what doesn’t work.

We surveyed the climate change activities in 10 cities to find out how well these “Kyoto cities” were doing in meeting their goals and what strategies and methodologies they were using. The overriding conclusion is that, despite their commitment and their elaboration of significant programs, reducing GHG emissions below 1990 levels will be a major challenge. Many cities will likely fail in their attempts unless complementary state and federal policies are put in place. Our findings include:

The methodologies and assumptions used to create GHG inventories differ among communities, making comparisons between cities problematic. Convenient access to the data was sometimes lacking. A standard GHG estimation methodology is not yet in place, but useable models exist. Convergence and standardization may come soon. Transparency of assumptions is critical.

In all cities, community-wide emissions have risen since 1990, sometimes dramatically. Based on progress to date, it is unlikely that more than one or two of our ten cities and quite possibly none, will reduce their GHG emissions 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Overall emissions increases ranged from 6.5 percent to 27 percent from 1990 baseline measurements. An exception was Portland, Oregon, which reports a tiny 0.7 percent increase above the 1990 baseline.

Almost all of the cities we surveyed were expecting to realize a significant portion of their GHG reductions as a result of actions taken by higher levels of government (e.g. a state-level renewable portfolio standard or an increase in federal fuel economy standards). Relying too heavily on strategies out of the city’s direct control could stunt creative local solutions and inhibit the city’s investments in energy-related projects that have ancillary economic and environmental benefits.

Cities are not investing significant amounts of their own money to reduce GHG emissions. This may be understandable, given tight budgets, but cities should remember that energy-related investments, unlike many public investments, repay themselves, often in relatively short time frames.

Thursday, February 8

Quotable Candidates - Sen. Mike Gravel

Mike Gravel, former two-term senator from Alaska at age 76 running for the Democratic nomination for President:

"I have one small favor to ask of all of you. Whenever anyone raises the question of my age in this campaign, please point out that Washington is in great need of adult supervision."

"Politics as Usual is not acceptable for the presidency. I feel I am entitled to raise this issue because when I served in the Senate, during the Vietnam War, I spoke truth to power. I officially released the Pentagon Papers, and as a result, Richard Nixon sued me all the way to the Supreme Court. I successfully filibustered to force an end to the military draft. I filibustered alone and with others to end the appropriations for the Vietnam War. Those are my credentials. I’ve been there and know how hard it is to oppose the majority of your peers. I ask that you hold other presidential candidates to the same standard. Political leaders who had the opportunity and the power to stop the Iraq war before it could get started and did nothing––allowed it to happen."

Read more

SILO Should be Farmed Out

In my part of Iowa there is an election on Feb. 13th to decide whether an additional 1% sales tax will be invoked.

The best way to decide which way to vote for any tax is to understand what it is and how it works. Go here to learn the nuts and bolts about SILO. Here's a map of where SILO and other supplemental taxes exist.

When you view the map, you will find that Johnson and Linn counties are the only two without the SILO and Johnson is the only one without any supplemental taxation. One might conclude, these two counties (and the voters, therefore) are swimming against the tide. I would conclude that these are two very wealthy counties who have historically been relatively fiscally-conservative.

Education is a very important to the future of Iowa, but when pragmatists see their choices as yes or no, they tend to take the path of least resistance (which in this case is yes). In case you haven't figured it out, I'm a populist and a progressive, not a pragmatist and based on my values, these are the reasons I will vote against the SILO:

1) The state formula for funding schools does not take into account the real cost of education (yes, school infrastructure is a real cost) and there should be an increase of per student allocations to the localities to address this disparity. This is a statehouse issue.

2) Sales tax is regressive--this means people who can't afford an additional 20% increase in their sales tax are at the mercy of those who can. Speaking of which, if you can afford to part with 1% of your disposable income, Community Foundations need your cash.

3) Accountability: it is clear how the funds can be spent on paper, but it is not clear how needs must be prioritized or, indeed if needs truly exists. Though there is a requirement for using SILO to provid a justification for a project, it is not rigorous, nor bound by anything more than the whims of the school board membership.

4) Education is inefficient because of the inherent castle-building that occurs within school districts. Ignoring obvious economies of scale, such as consolidating school district administration/boards, transportation, sports facilities, supply purchases, facilities planning, etc. are examples of ways school districts can use their resources better.

5) This particular SILO referendum is heinous because it is promotes greed in enacting it--we are getting something for nothing (shoppers from other counties drop millions in taxes in the two communities that are not shared back home) for 5 years we won't have to share our resources with the other school districts--using that kind of logic, don't approve the SILO and we won't either.

6) Property taxes can be rolled back by the SILO, but it helps more affluent homeowners, not low-income renters. Since taxes are paid invisably in the price of rent, landlords are likely to pocket their savings and not reduce rents.

Loebsack in the CPC

Well look who is in the Progressive Caucus fold.

Member List
Hon. Barbara Lee, Hon. Lynn Woolsey

House Members
Hon. Neil Abercrombie, Hon. Tammy Baldwin, Hon. Xavier Becerra, Hon. Madeleine Bordallo, Hon. Robert Brady, Hon. Corrine Brown, Hon. Sherrod Brown, Hon. Michael Capuano, Hon. Julia Carson, Hon. Donna Christensen, Hon. Yvette Clarke, Hon. William “Lacy” Clay, Hon. Emanuel Cleaver, Hon. Steve Cohen, Hon. John Conyers, Hon. Elijah Cummings, Hon. Danny Davis, Hon. Peter DeFazio, Hon. Rosa DeLauro, Hon. Keith Ellison, Hon. Sam Farr, Hon. Chaska Fattah, Hon. Bob Filner, Hon. Barney Frank, Hon. Raul Grijalva, Hon. Luis Gutierrez, Hon. John Hall, Hon. Phil Hare, Hon. Maurice Hinchey, Hon. Mazie Hirono, Hon. Jesse Jackson, Jr., Hon. Sheila Jackson-Lee, Hon. Hank Johnson, Hon. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Hon. Marcy Kaptur, Hon. Carolyn Kilpatrick, Hon. Dennis Kucinich, Hon. Tom Lantos, Hon. John Lewis, Hon. David Loebsack, Hon. Carolyn Maloney, Hon. Ed Markey, Hon. Jim McDermott, Hon. James McGovern, Hon. George Miller, Hon. Gwen Moore, Hon. Jerrold Nadler, Hon. Eleanor Holmes-Norton, Hon. John Olver, Hon. Ed Pastor, Hon. Donald Payne, Hon. Charles Rangel, Hon. Bobby Rush, Hon. Bernie Sanders, Hon. Jan Schakowsky, Hon. Jose Serrano, Hon. Louis Slaughter, Hon. Hilda Solis, Hon. Pete Stark, Hon. Bennie Thompson, Hon. John Tierney, Hon. Tom Udall, Hon. Nydia Velazquez, Hon. Maxine Waters, Hon. Diane Watson, Hon. Mel Watt, Hon. Henry Waxman, Hon. Peter Welch

Mistrial Could be End of Watada Case

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Double-jeopardy prohibition might thwart retrial.

Fort Lewis - The Army court-martial of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, which ended in a mistrial Wednesday, may have stranger turns ahead: Prohibitions against double jeopardy may keep prosecutors from having a second trial, his lawyer and another legal expert say.

The opposition of Watada and his defense team to the mistrial, declared by the military judge and eventually endorsed by prosecutors after their case fell apart, opens the door for a double-jeopardy defense, said John Junker, a University of Washington law professor.

Double jeopardy, which forbids a person from being tried twice for the same crime, does not apply only after a verdict is rendered, but can apply after a jury is empaneled and witnesses have been called.

"The notion is that you can't just stop in the middle and say, 'I don't like the way it's going' and start over," Junker said. "If the defendant objected, it does raise the possibility" of double jeopardy, Junker said. "That would happen in a civilian court, and I presume in a military court. That doctrine comes from the Constitution."

Watada's case has drawn national attention and galvanized the anti-war movement. He is the first U.S. military officer publicly to refuse deployment to Iraq by stating the war is illegal and that he feels duty-bound to refuse unlawful orders.

Watada's trial was in its last day, and he was preparing to take the stand when the military judge, Lt. Col. John Head, raised the issue that led to the mistrial. That issue was a stipulation that Watada had signed and would be given to the jury as part of its instructions.

Head set a tentative retrial date in mid-March, though that date could be moved back.

Prosecutors had not decided last night whether they will retry Watada. Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian attorney, intends to fight to block the prosecutors from trying the lieutenant a second time.

Watada's supporters -- among the lucky few who gained access to the small military courtroom -- were excited at the dramatic turn of events.

"I continue to remain very hopeful my son will be exonerated," said Carolyn Ho, Watada's mother.

Ann Wright, a retired Army colonel and former diplomat who quit her post disputing the invasion of Iraq, said "the Army's case is a mess, and it reflects the mess the (Bush) administration is in also in Iraq."

Army officials said they were not disappointed in the outcome as Head's decision demonstrated the fairness of the military justice system and that the judge was looking out for Watada's interests.

Reading a prepared statement, Fort Lewis spokesman Joe Piek said: "The military judge ensures fairness in the proceedings, especially to the accused. In this case, the judge was concerned that the stipulation amounted to a confession by Lt. Watada to an offense to which he intended to plead not guilty."

Seitz, however, opposed the mistrial, saying Head "abused his discretion."

At the same time, said Seitz, who has been trying military cases since the Vietnam War, he had never seen a turn like this.

Seitz said Watada, who was ready to take the stand but never did, "was not happy that he does not get to get this over with," but also knows that the developments could lead to the end of the case against him.

The dramatic turn of events hinged on a stipulation of fact that Watada signed in a plea agreement more than a week ago. Under the plea deal, prosecutors dropped two charges of conduct unbecoming an officer against Watada. He was being tried this week on two other charges of conduct unbecoming an officer and one count of missing movement when his Stryker Brigade deployed to Iraq in June.

Head questioned Watada while the jury was out of the courtroom, which Seitz objected to but allowed, and legal experts such as Junker said they would consider that questioning "very unusual" in a civilian trial.

Head concluded that he could not accept Watada's statement. Although Watada had admitted to failing to deploy with his unit, it was not the same as admitting guilt, which prosecutors considered it to be, Head said.

"What did you understand that (the stipulation-of-fact) to mean? What does that mean to you?" the judge asked Watada after sparring with Seitz over his intention to question the lieutenant.

Of his refusal to get on the plane, Watada said: "To me it means to (not) participate in a war that I believed to be illegal."

Head asked if Watada believed the statement to be "confessional" to the charge of missing movement.

"No, I did not," Watada said.

If the stipulation couldn't be accepted, then the two charges that were dropped would be renewed. The plea agreement would have to be rejected. So the judge called a mistrial.

"We did not want a mistrial," Seitz said outside the courtroom. He said he believes that the prohibition against double jeopardy ought to keep prosecutors from trying Watada a second time. If they do, he will take the case to an appeals court, he said.

Since the start, Seitz was frustrated at seeing his defense, which included calling expert witnesses to testify about the legality of the war and the parameters of Watada's free speech rights, constricted to keep from putting the war on trial. Head has said he wanted the focus on the legality of Watada's actions, not on the legality of the war.

Yet Seitz said after the court-martial ended in mistrial that Watada's intentions are a significant part of his defense.

"There is no way around talking about why he didn't get on that plane, and that is the government's continuing dilemma in this case," Seitz said.

Had he been tried and convicted, Watada faced a maximum of four years in prison and dismissal from the service.

But for now, he continues to be an active-duty soldier, reporting for work every day at Fort Lewis.

Wednesday, February 7

Edwards Image Problem--Campaign Wishes and Caviar Dreams

Two Americas, two images, one candidate. John Edward's lives the lifestyle of the rich and famous and talks about the increasing gap between the haves and the have nots. Edwards, who has made an anti-poverty message the theme of his 2008 presidential campaign, is taking heat for the lavish home he has constructed in Orange County, N.C.

In December, Edwards chose the modest backyard of a New Orleans woman who had lost her home to Hurricane Katrina as the image that best underscored his campaign theme.

Now voters are seeing another, sharply contrasting image of Edwards: his own home.

Sitting on 102 secluded acres _ surrounded by trees and defended by no-trespassing signs _ the 28,000-square-foot estate that Edwards and his family call home has presidential privacy.

A main home has five bedrooms and six-and-a-half baths. It's connected by a covered walkway to a bright red addition known as "The Barn," that includes its own living facilities along with a handball court, an indoor pool and an indoor basketball court with a stage at one end. Nearby, the family has cleared space for a soccer field.

With a current building value of $4.3 million, the unfinished Edwards estate is already about $1 million more expensive than any other house in the county, according to tax records. It sits on land worth about $1.1 million.

Edwards first purchased the land in 2004, during his failed run as vice president. He recently sold his mansion in Washington's tony Georgetown neighborhood for $5.2 million.

Many of the other 2008 contenders also own expensive homes. New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and husband Bill, the former president, own two homes: a Dutch Colonial house in Chappaqua, N.Y., that they purchased for $1.7 million in 1999, and a Washington home that went for $2.9 million in 2001. Sen. Barack Obama owns a stately $1.65 million home last year on Chicago's South Side.

On the GOP side, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the founder of venture capital and investment firm Bain Capital, owns three homes. Arizona Sen. John McCain also owns real estate worth millions of dollars.


As if it isn't hard enough to get people out to vote, Iowa Republicans want to shut the polls down at 7pm. On the other hand, the highest number of provisional votes (questionable votes) are cast between 7 and 9 pm in Johnson County.

Personally, I like Jennifer Brunner's, Ohio's new Secretary of State, idea to treat poll duty like jury duty and to draft enough workers to serve the need. Brunner believes the move would lower the average age of poll workers from 72 and ease the workload. Ohio has about 47,000 poll workers _ or just over four per precinct.

According to the Daily Iowan

When asked to sum up a Republican-sponsored proposal to close election polls in the state at 7 p.m. instead of 9 p.m., Johnson County's top election official could only revert to sarcasm.

"Well, I guess [the lawmakers] were addressing a serious problem in this county - too many Democratic votes," said Tom Slockett, the county auditor.

Slockett, a Democrat, said Democratic voters - who dominate elections in Iowa City and its surrounding areas - tend to vote later in the day.

"Then we have working couples, married people with children, who get home from work late and have to take care of the kids," Slockett continued in humor. "And then they have the nerve to trouble our poll workers from 7 to 9 at night."

But bill sponsor Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, said the legislation is driven not by sheer partisanship but the practical difficulty of finding poll workers, especially in rural areas. Often, he pointed out, precinct officials - many of whom are elderly - must commit to working 14 to 16 hours on election day. Despite this assertion, the AARP is on record as lobbying against the measure.

"The bottom line is, there's plenty of time to vote," between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Johnson said. "We're not disenfranchising anybody."

A Soldier's Duty? The Ehren Watada Story

He is in the process of being court-martialed. He gives credence to the line in the National Anthem "Land of the free and the home of the brave."

Tuesday, February 6

Politics and Why the War Will Continue

...until after November 4, 2008. This is the reason that the Senate will not pass binding or even non-binding legislation to protest (or, for golly sakes, end) the war. This is the reason that John, Dennis, Tom, Christopher, Joe, Mike, Hillary, and Obama are laying out withdrawal plans that seem more like an office pool than policy decision. This is the reason that we can expect more soldiers and innocent civilians to die.

The point is, our government can decide to stop the war today, but won't.

The outcome of the war is already in the can--we removed Saddam and have left the Middle East in turmoil--mission fr**kin' accomplished. We have solidified our economy by making work for thousands of military hardware companies to come up with new ideas how to fight wars with fewer soldiers-- Call up the Robo-militia. We have lined the pockets of mercenaries of all kinds. What we haven't done is to make the US any safer despite the "Homeland Security Rainbow of Risk" color scheme.

What hasn't been decided is who our next President will be, hence Iraq is a ping-pong ball which will be swatted around until we have a new (and, dare I say it, improved) President.

May the best Weasel win.

Monday, February 5

Defense Is More Than 20 Percent of Bush's 2008 Budget

Of the 2.9 trillion dollars in next year's budget that President Bush presented to the Congress Monday, more than one in five tax dollars will be spent on defense. That translates to some $623 billion.

To give you a comparison,

Military Spending for 2007

1) United States $420.7 billion 43% of the world's money spent on defense
Which is approximately the amount that all of the next leading countries spent together.

2) China * 62.5 6%
3) Russia * 61.9 6%
4) United Kingdom 51.1 5%
5) Japan 44.7 4%
6) France 41.6 4%
7) Germany 30.2 3%
8) India 22 2% 8
9) Saudi Arabia 21.3 2% 9
10) South Korea 20.7 2% 10
11) Italy 17.2 2% 11
12) Australia 13.2 1% 12
13) Brazil 13.1 1% 13
14) Canada 10.9 1% 14
15) Turkey 9.8 1% 15

Where's it all going?
For the first time since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars began, the Pentagon has listed them as a separate budget item, totaling nearly $148 billion. The rest of the Defense Department budget will go to such things as paying salaries, buying new equipment and weapons, building new ships and aircraft, and increasing the size of the army and the Marine Corps.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the money is needed to maintain the readiness and capability of the U.S. military and to recruit and retain enough people for the all-volunteer force. And while the Congress now controlled by the Democratic Party will likely make many changes in the defense budget, and possibly reduce it, Secretary Gates says in its proper context $623 billion is not too much.

Among the defense programs that will receive more money in the coming year, if the Congress approves, are military space programs, which will have a 25 percent increase, and military purchasing programs, which will increase by 20 percent. Part of that is related to equipment destroyed or worn out in Iraq or Afghanistan, and part is an effort to modernize the U.S. military.

Programs receiving less money include missile defense, military intelligence, the effort to combat roadside bombs and military aid to Iraq and Afghanistan. But those programs could get more money later in the year in an expected supplemental budget request that is designed to cover unanticipated costs of the wars.

As he released next year's budget Monday, President Bush informed the Congress he will soon submit his defense budget supplemental request for the current year, in the amount of $93 billion.

AP Poll Reports Bush Worse than Satan !

Okay, this is a little harsh, but George W. Bush is ranked the "#1 villain in US" according to AP poll.

Where They Stand on Getting Out of Iraq

From the Daily Kos via John Deeth's Blog, an all in one place list: how fast should we Get Out?

Hillary Clinton: Wants troops out before Bush leaves office in January 2009. 23 months.

Barack Obama: Issued plan for total withdrawal by March 31, 2008. 14 months.

John Edwards: Complete withdrawal of all combat troops from Iraq within 12-18 months. 18 months.

Bill Richardson: Total withdrawal by the end of 2007. 11 months.

Joe Biden: Withdraw most troops by the end of 2007, but 'maintain in or near Iraq a small residual force -- perhaps 20,000 troops' indefinitely. Kinda sorta 11 months, but not really.

Chris Dodd: No timetable that I could locate.

Wesley Clark. No timetable that I could locate.

Tom Vilsack: Immediate withdrawal. 'The war must end, and our troops must be brought home now, not eventually but immediately.' Immediate.

Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel: Immediate withdrawal. Immediate.

Vilsack, Gravel, and Kucinich, an unlikely trio to be sure, but currently my political "heroes"

Regional Planning is Progressive

Iowa is a state that, based on Home Rule, allows cities and counties limited power because the purse strings are regulated from Des Moines. What this does in essence is to pit large town against small town and the overall region suffers. A great example of this is education. Because of the way that schools are funded, smaller community schools on the outskirts of bigger cities, (e.g. Solon and Iowa City) have a lag in dealing with growth issues because structures are largely attached to property tax assessments, which are lower, and per capita student funding. What this does is to put smaller towns into the unenviable task of running bond issues more frequently than the larger towns or cities and having higher interest rates to cover costs.

If educational administration was handled at a regional level (and with adequate support financially from the state, in terms of per capita student funds/allowable growth rates) this situation could be handled more efficiently and with less wear and tear on all the communities. Just from the cost savings alone of having less administration, millions could be saved. It would also push districts to develop more streamlined plans for future growth and to share resources. For example, if a town has two high schools, have a shared sports complex for football, baseball, soccer, and track events.

The current system encourages duplication of resources that may not be fully utilized, and regionalization encourages cooperation.

Of course, this change calls for different thinking, which is difficult because school systems are economic development tools within communities. The perception that school A is better than school B leads to housing and business growth. If schools are "equalized"--even if only on paper, that is a scary notion to some. Add to that the emotional aspect of people feeling like they don't have "say" in their child's school and you a recipe for resistance.

Still, in these days when people question the role and value of government, the least government can do is offer a way to improve the quality of services, make better use of tax dollars and improve education overall.

Friday, February 2

The NIE Report: 12-18 Months is Not Enough

Even though it is hard to align my thinking with the "Intelligence community"--given the crackerjack job they did identifying, with "certainty", weapons of mass distruction in Iraq, the report is nonetheless not exactly backing the President's contentions...

Iraq is unraveling at an accelerating rate, and even if U.S. and Iraqi forces can slow the spreading violence, the country's fragile government is unlikely to deliver significant stability to its people over the next year, according to a much-anticipated assessment released today by America's intelligence agencies.

The grim report, titled "Prospects for Iraq's Stability: A Challenging Road Ahead," catalogs an array of forces pulling the country apart. The document concludes that to call the situation a civil war "does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict" because the causes of violence are so varied.

The assessment says there are scenarios that could lead to political progress and slow recovery, but also identifies "triggering events" that could push the foundering country into complete chaos, with neighboring nations choosing sides in what could become a regional conflagration.

In a blunt bottom-line assessment, the document says that "given the current winner-take-all attitude and sectarian animosities infecting the political scene, Iraqi leaders will be hard- pressed to achieve sustained political reconciliation in the time frame of this estimate."

In one section, the report — known as a National Intelligence Estimate — warns that the presence of U.S. troops remains "an essential stabilizing element in Iraq," and that if there were a rapid withdrawal, the Iraqi security forces "would be unlikely to survive."

At the same time, the document concludes that "even if violence is diminished," the prospects for "sustained political reconciliation" are dim for at least the next 12 to 18 months — well beyond the period in which the White House has said additional troops would be provided.

Molly Speaks from the Great? Beyond

“Keep fighting for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce.” --Molly Ivins

Punxsutawney Phil Confirms Global Warming

Bucking a trend, Punxsutawney Phil doesn't see shadow and confirms global warming

• According to German folklore, folks can now expect an early spring
• 15,000 people celebrated in Punxsutawney, a town of about 6,100 people
• Since 1886, Phil has seen his shadow 96 times, hasn't seen it 15 times
• Global warming "likely man-made" and expected to "continue for centuries"
• Greenhouse gases blamed for fewer cold days, hotter nights, floods
• Temperatures predicted to rise 2 F to 11.5 F by 2100

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pennsylvania (AP) -- A new pair of hands pulled Punxsutawney Phil from his stump this year, so it was only fitting that the groundhog offered a new prediction.

Phil did not see his shadow on Friday, which, according to German folklore, means folks can expect an early spring instead of six more weeks of winter. Punxsutawney Phil aslo made another startling prediction--global warming is really happening.

Punxsutawney Phil, who was interviewed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer, said "Look, I call 'em as I see 'em. The absence of seeing my shadow is not in itself a predictor of global warming, but the presence of palm trees, tropical birds, and Jimmy Buffett make it a slam dunk. Besides I was watching the news and saw the report by the French scientists."

Thursday, February 1

Is Dave Loebsack Really PAC Man?

From The Hill
Many Democratic freshmen raised tens of thousands of special-interest dollars toward their reelection even before they were sworn in for the 110th Congress.

The numbers show that although they said during their campaigns that they would reform the “culture of corruption” in Washington, many quickly immersed themselves in the town’s lobbyist-dominated fundraising network to fill up their coffers and retire their debt.

Rep. David Loebsack (D-Iowa), who surprised former Rep. Jim Leach (R), has already raised $71,000.

About $60,000 of that came from political committees such as the American Bankers Association PAC, which gave him $5,000 on Dec. 18, and the National Association of Realtors PAC, which also wrote him a $5,000 check the same day.

Loebsack accepted the money from these rival groups, which are well-known members of Washington’s lobbying culture, despite his calls to reform that culture only a few months ago.

“The most recent Republican ethics scandal involving Jack Abramoff only underscores the need to reform our political system to ensure that elected officials maintain the people’s trust in their government,” Loebsack wrote on his campaign website. “So long as Washington continues with politics as usual, few of the changes we as a nation need to move us forward are likely to occur.”

Gabby Adler, Loebsack’s spokeswoman, said that her boss would not let the influx of contributions affect his focus on constituents.

“Since winning in November Congressman Loebsack has received an outpouring of support from a wide range of supportive individuals and organizations in Iowa,” she said. “The congressman appreciates this support and is currently focusing his attention on serving the people of Iowa’s 2nd congressional district because their interests are his No. 1 priority.”

Setting aside contributions from fellow Democrats’ campaign accounts, Loebsack accepted less than $40,000 in PAC contributions between Oct. 1 and Election Day. His receipt of such funds has increased by about 50 percent since he won.

Impeachment, the War, and doing the right thing

Across the blogosphere there is a flurry of discussion about impeaching the President, ending the war in Iraq, and whether the political stomach to do such things exists.

Theories about where things are:

1) The Democrats don't have the stomach to do it because it sets the Republicans up for success in 2008.
2) The Republicans want to be vindicated for the war--If we had only stayed the course...
3) Politics doesn't move in real time. Wheels are in motion to address the concerns of the public, but patience is a virtue.
4) It's about power: whose got it and who wants it.
5) The President (has no clothes) but warns we have nothing to play for advantage, but fear itself.
6) Both parties say "If we are going to get anything done in a bipartisan way, we have to avoid distractions."
7) Both parties are chickensh**t and are jockeying for position.

My crystal ball view: We are likely to see mass prosecutions after 2008, but as long as there is a war, nobody's going to impeach anybody. The Democrats are building up political capital for 2008. The Republicans are retrenching and looking for their issues. The President is looking for a legacy and can't get it without Congressional support. Prediction: The war will end in Iraq before 2008, the middle east will be in more turmoil, the Dems will take the White House in '08. Domestic issues will take the front seat.

Good Golly (I'll) Miss Molly

Syndicated political columnist Molly Ivins died of breast cancer Wednesday evening at her home in Austin. She was 62 years old, and had much, much more to give this world. She remained cheerful despite Texas politics. She emphasized the more hilarious aspects of both state and national government, and consequently never had to write fiction. She said, "Good thing we've still got politics - finest form of free entertainment ever invented."

Gark Note: Molly Ivins was the first person who made me sit up and pay attention to politics (albeit, it was Texas politics--a much more cynical brand than practiced in Iowa)--she reviled the politics of fear that is practiced these days. I will personally miss her greatly. Below are some Molly Ivins quotes that I think give you a flavor of what she was made of.

"Love those Iowa results. Nothing better than a huge political scrum where the front-runner stumbles, the guy everyone wrote off for dead six weeks ago comes roaring back, an unknown emerges, an old war-horse drops out -- a wonderful scenario. Let's hear it for upset, confusion and the conventional wisdom with egg on its face. A banana cream pie right in the kisser for everyone who pretends they know how a political race will turn out. Happy days. Ain't democracy grand?" 1/22/2004

"I'm sorry to say (cancer) can kill you but it doesn't make you a better person," she told the San Antonio Express-News in September 2006, the same month cancer claimed her friend former Gov. Ann Richards.

"If you think his daddy had trouble with 'the vision thing,' wait'll you meet this one," Ivins on George W. Bush in "The Progressive," June 1999.

"If left to my own devices, I'd spend all my time pointing out that he's weaker than bus-station chili," on Bill Clinton, from the introduction to You Got to Dance With Them What Brung You

"Naturally, when it comes to voting, we in Texas are accustomed to discerning that fine hair's-breadth worth of difference that makes one hopeless dipstick slightly less awful than the other. But it does raise the question: Why bother?", in a 2002 column about a California political race.

"The poor man who is currently our president has reached such a point of befuddlement that he thinks stem cell research is the same as taking human lives, but that 40,000 dead Iraqi civilians are progress toward democracy," from a July 2006 column urging commentator Bill Moyers to run for president.

"Many people did not care for Pat Buchanan's speech; it probably sounded better in the original German," Ivins in September 1992, commenting on the one-time presidential hopeful's speech to the Republican National Convention.

"I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults," from a March 1992 column.

"I love Texas, but it is a nasty old rawhide mother in the way it bears down on the people who have the fewest defenses," Ivins wrote in September 2002.

"....our very own dreaded Legislature is almost upon us. Jan. 9 and they'll all be here, leaving many a village without its idiot," from a December 2000 column.

"Any nation that can survive what we have lately in the way of government, is on the high road to permanent glory."

"As they say around the Texas Legislature, if you can't drink their whiskey, screw their women, take their money, and vote against 'em anyway, you don't belong in office."

"In Texas, we do not hold high expectations for the governor's office; it's mostly been occupied by crooks, dorks and the comatose."

"Being slightly paranoid is like being slightly pregnant - it tends to get worse."

"It's hard to argue against cynics - they always sound smarter than optimists because they have so much evidence on their side."

"It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America."

"Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel - it's vulgar."

"I believe in practicing prudence at least once every two or three years."

"During a recent panel on the numerous failures of American journalism, I proposed that almost all stories about government should begin: 'Look out! They're about to smack you around again!'"

"The thing about democracy, beloveds, is that it is not neat, orderly, or quiet. It requires a certain relish for confusion."

"What is a teenager in San Francisco to rebel against, for pity's sake? Their parents are all so busy trying to be non-judgmental, it's no wonder they take to dyeing their hair green."

"Half of this administration in under average. The other half is under indictment."

"You only have two other options. You can cry. And you can throw up. And both of those are bad for you."

(On Texas) "We consistently rank near the bottom by every measure of social service, education, and quality of life (leading to one of our state mottoes, "Thank God for Mississippi")." Molly Ivins, in Who Let The Dogs In? (2004)