Friday, August 31

Politicians on Public Property

Friday night in Iowa City brought campaigns to the Ped Mall. Local fav band, Public Property was Reggaeing it up for the Rasta music-lovers. On the City Council front, Mike Wright, Matt Hayek, Terry Smith, and Mike Shaw representing Regenia Bailey's campaign were on the prowl. Hillaristas, Obamanators, Richadsonians, Edwardians, and Paulites were tabling for their respective candidates.

Bloggerian extraordinare, John Deeth, sporting his raspberry beret (the kind you find in a second-hand store) was sighted with his "new' family in tow.

An Observation: Our Bipolar Society

This week it was possible to see what our society's bipolar behaviors have led us to. On the one hand, Iowa has seen the first same sex marriage because a judge was wise enough to see the illegality (and hypocrisy) of denying the right to the pursuit of happiness as expressed in the Iowa and U.S. Constitutions.

Polk County Judge, Robert Hanson, ruled that the state law allowing marriage only between a man and a woman violates the constitutional rights of due process and equal protection. "Couples, such as plaintiffs, who are otherwise qualified to marry one another may not be denied licenses to marry or certificates of marriage or in any other way prevented from entering into a civil marriage ... by reason of the fact that both person comprising such a couple are of the same sex," he said.

This ruling will be appealed to the State Supreme Court and already the Iowa House Minority Leader, Christopher Rants, R-Sioux City, has said the ruling illustrates the need for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. "I can't believe this is happening in Iowa," Rants said. "I guarantee you there will be a vote on this issue come January."

On the other hand, Idaho Senator, Larry Craig, may likely lose his seat because of his alleged hypocrisy about his own sexuality (and, of course, breaking the law regarding solicitation of a sex act from an undercover male police officer and the moral issue of cheating on his wife). In this case, the call for his resignation is due not entirely by a sense of justice, but a sense of embarrassment by his party. It seems that you can't be the party of family-values unless you avoid such snafus, even if you have other closeted members among your ranks.

We are a nation dogged by our obsession with other people's sex lives. What two consenting adults do or don't do fuels the tabloids and percolates the talk around the water cooler at work. We are a voyeuristic nation to be sure.

Clearly there is are differing ideas about what marriage is (including faithfulness) and who should be allowed to participate in it. But given that above all other things, our Constitution provides for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, equal protection under the law, and due process, it is equally clear that civil marriage must be the right of all who chose it (with the same rights and responsibilities). Judge Hanson may have a tough row to hoe with some, but he truly put the law above conventional thinking.

The fear of a those, who don't believe marriage for all should be legal for religious or other reasons, is that somehow it will "taint" them to live among those who love differently but are owed the same rights as anyone else stems either intolerance or ignorance. Neither of these are above the law.

Just Married

A Des Moines pastor married two Iowa men on Friday, a day after a judge threw out the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

The Rev. Mark Stringer married Sean Fritz and Tim McQuillan, making the Ames men the first same-sex couple to be married after a Polk County judge's ruling that Iowa's gay marriage ban violated the state's constitution.

"This is it. We're married. I love you," Fritz told McQuillan after the ceremony, performed quickly on the front lawn of Stringer's house in Des Moines.

Thursday, August 30

Clinton to Donate Felon's Contribution Charity

Following up from yesterday's blog. From CNN

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton will return $23,000 in donations from a fundraiser who has an outstanding arrest warrant in California.

Norman Hsu, a well-connected Democratic fundraiser, has come under scrutiny in recent days after news reports called into question some of his fundraising and also revealed a criminal record.

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that six members of the family of a San Francisco mail carrier have donated a total of $45,000 to Clinton since 2005. The Journal also reported that those donations closely track donations made by Hsu. Then, the Los Angeles Times reported that Hsu is wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant because he failed to appear for sentencing in a criminal case in which he had pleaded no contest to a single felony count of grand theft in 1991.

I wonder what the lucky charity will be? Not so fast DNC...

Ban on Gay Marriage in Iowa Ruled Unconstitutional by Polk County Judge

From the Gazette

A Polk County judge on Thursday struck down Iowa's law banning gay marriage.

The ruling by Judge Robert Hanson concluded that the state's prohibition on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and he ordered Polk County Recorder Tim Brien to issue marriage licenses to several gay couples.

"It's a moral victory for equal rights," said Des Moines lawyer Dennis Johnson, who represented six gay couples who filed suit after they were denied marriage licenses.

Camilla Taylor, an attorney with Lambda Legal, a New York-based gay rights organization, said the ruling requires "full equality for all Iowans including gay and lesbian Iowans and their families."

"The Iowa Constitution has lived up to its promises of equality for everyone," she said.

The county is expected to appeal the ruling to the Iowa Supreme Court.

Johnson argued that Iowa has a long history of aggressively protecting civil rights in cases of race and gender. He said the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Legislature passed in 1998, contradicts previous court rulings regarding civil rights and should be struck down.

He said some of the case history in Iowa suggests that marriage is a fundamental right and as such, the state can't choose who people can or cannot marry.

Johnson said the Defense of Marriage law is "mean spirited" and was designed only to prohibit gays from marrying. He said it violates the state constitution's equal protection and due-process clauses.

Lambda Legal, which spearheaded a same-sex marriage drive across the country, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the gay and lesbian couples in Polk County District Court on Dec. 13, 2005.

Roger J. Kuhle, an assistant Polk County attorney, argued that the issue is not for a judge to decide.

Then There Were Five

As previously speculated on this Blog, there are now officially* five candidates in the At-Large City Council race, as of today. Brandon Ross has joined the field with Mike Wright, Matt Hayek, Terry Smith, and incumbent, Dee Vanderhoef.

What this means is there will be a primary and folks are going to spend money they may not have counted on spending for the October primary.

Ross, who has run twice before, is a dyed-in-the-wool progressive and it leads to speculation that his candidacy could play a spoiler role.

Tim Judd, who was also slated to run for an Al-Large seat has not filed his paperwork at this hour with the Iowa City Clerk's office.

* Ross' signature must be verified.

Takin' Care of Biden(ness)

Senator Joe Biden of Delaware will reading from and signing copies of his new book "Promises to Keep: On life and politics" at the following locations August 30th.

University of Iowa Bookstore
10 am 12pm
UI Iowa Memorial Union
Sponsored by University Democrats

Prairie Lights Bookstore
7pm - 9pm
15 S Dubuque St

Act Locally, Rally Regionally for Peace

United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ)is sponsoring a major anti-war national mobilization again this fall. Usually this event is held in Washington, DC, but it was decided at the UFPJ conference this June that more people might find REGIONAL rallies more accessible and affordable instead. Therefore 8 or 9 regions are holding their own event on the same day, OCTOBER 27th.

CHICAGO is our midwest regional site.

At this point in the planning, Union Park in downtown Chicago is where the rally begins at 2 pm, with a march through various streets in the city. Grant Park is the site for re-boarding buses.

Please visit the UFPJ website for details as they are announced.

If anyone is interested in getting buses together, please contact:
Mary Campbell
Women for Peace Iowa

How Many More? - Bush Wants Another $50 Billion

Bush to request $50 billion more for Iraq war: report Wed Aug 29, 12:37 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush is preparing to ask
Congress for as much as $50 billion in additional funding for the war in Iraq,
The Washington Post reported on Wednesday, citing a White House official.

The request signals increasing White House confidence that it can fend off
mounting congressional pressure to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq,
the Post reported.

The additional funds would come on top of about $460 billion in the fiscal
2008 defense budget and $147 billion in a pending supplemental bill
to fund
the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Post said.

The request is expected to be announced next month after the top U.S.
commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker
report to Congress on the state of the war, the newspaper said.

Asked about the Post report, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said no
decision had yet been made about funding requests.

"We have said previously that after Gen. Petraeus reports we will be
evaluating what adjustments may need to be made to our pending FY 08 (fiscal
2008) supplemental request," Stanzel said.

"I would decline to speculate on this, as Gen. Petraeus has not testified nor
has any decision been made at this stage about whether, when or what specific
changes would be made."

Latest Time Poll Shows Edwards Regaining Strength in Iowa

Time Iowa Poll:

Edwards: 29%
Clinton: 24%
Obama: 22%
Richardson: 11%
Biden: 5%
Kucinich: 2%
Dodd: 1%

When Field is limited to top four candidates:
Edwards: 32%
Clinton: 24%
Obama: 22%
Richardson: 13%

Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

Edwards On Track in Iowa

John Edwards is betting that a strong showing in the Iowa caucuses will catapult him into national contention, and so far his strategy in the state is on track. A new TIME poll of likely Iowa caucus goers, taken a week after Edwards' seven-day, 31-stop bus tour of the state, gives Edwards 29% of the vote, five points ahead of Hillary Clinton and seven ahead of Barack Obama. This latest TIME Poll of 519 likely Iowa Democratic caucus goers finds that, among the so-called "second-tier" candidates, Bill Richardson has 11%, with Joe Biden at 5%, Dennis Kucinich with 2%, and Chris Dodd at 1%. (The Poll was conducted August 22 ? 25, 2007. The margin of error is approximately +/- 5 percentage points.)

With the field limited to the top four candidates, Edwards's lead over Clinton widens, to 32% to 24%. Obama was at 22%, with Bill Richardson at 13%. Iowa polls can be unreliable, since only 5% to 10% of voters go to the caucuses; some other recent surveys have Edwards in a dead heat with Clinton and Obama. The race remains wide open, but Edwards's position remains strong.

For Edwards, the poll has some less welcome news as well. So far, at least, his attempts to portray himself as the real change agent in the race — the one who wants to slam the door on lobbyists and other "Washington insiders" — isn't paying off. Obama beats him by 35% to 25% on the question of who "will take on special interests in Washington." (Clinton trailed with 19%.) Iowa Democrats seem to like Edwards more for who he is than for what he says; they call him the "most likable" and the one who best understands their concerns, but his toss-out-the-insiders message hasn't stuck.

Iowa caucus goers see strengths and weaknesses in each candidate. Among the top four candidates:

* Likeability: Edwards (32%) and Obama (30%) lead as "most likeable." Clinton finishes last, at 12%, just below Bill Richardson (16%).

* Strongest Leadership: Clinton holds a commanding lead over Edwards and Obama, 36% - 23% - 20%. Richardson (9%) trails badly on leadership.

* Handling of Iraq: Clinton (27%) leads Obama (19%), Edwards (18%) and Richardson (16%).

* Protecting Against Terrorism: Clinton leads the field by a wide margin, picked by 27%, compared to Edwards, at 19%, Obama at 15%, and Richardson at 14%.

Wednesday, August 29

A Scandal Brewing?

From the LA Times

For the last 15 years, California authorities have been trying to figure out what happened to a businessman named Norman Hsu, who pleaded no contest to grand theft, agreed to serve up to three years in prison and then seemed to vanish.

"He is a fugitive," Ronald Smetana, who handled the case for the state attorney general, said in an interview. "Do you know where he is?"

Hsu, it seems, has been hiding in plain sight, at least for the last three years.

Since 2004, one Norman Hsu has been carving out a prominent place of honor among Democratic fundraisers. He has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions into party coffers, much of it earmarked for presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

In addition to making his own contributions, Hsu has honed the practice of assembling packets of checks from contributors who bear little resemblance to the usual Democratic deep pockets: A self-described apparel executive with a variety of business interests, Hsu has focused on delivering hefty contributions from citizens who live modest lives and are neophytes in the world of campaign giving.

On Tuesday, E. Lawrence Barcella Jr. -- a Washington lawyer who represents the Democratic fundraiser -- confirmed that Hsu was the same man who was involved in the California case. Barcella said his client did not remember pleading to a criminal charge and facing the prospect of jail time. Hsu remembers the episode as part of a settlement with creditors when he also went through bankruptcy, Barcella said.

The bulk of the campaign dollars raised by major parties comes from the same sources: business groups, labor unions and other well-heeled interests with a long-term need to win friends in the political arena. More

Dodd to IAFF: Rescue Me

From AP vis Forbes

Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd is counting on firefighters for a different kind of rescue - keeping his simmering presidential campaign from burning out.

The International Association of Firefighters' endorsement Wednesday might be Dodd's best - and maybe last - shot to overcome top-tier rivals who outshine him in celebrity, outpace him in polls and outperform him in fundraising.

The yellow-and-black-clad firefighters have done it before, resuscitating Democrat John Kerry's struggling campaign in late 2003 and helping him win the Iowa caucuses that propelled him to victory in the New Hampshire primary and eventually the nomination.

"The voters in Iowa and New Hampshire are still very much shopping," said Dodd, who is hoping that firefighters - the "most trusted of our public servants" - can push him to the front of the Democratic primary pack.

Dodd and the firefighters begin a three-day, three-state tour on Thursday, visiting Iowa, New Hampshire on Friday and Nevada on Saturday.

Craig Stripped

The NY Times Reports:

The political career of Senator Larry Craig of Idaho appeared to be collapsing today as fellow Republicans called for his resignation and party leaders ousted him from his committee leadership posts amid the fallout over his arrest and guilty plea in connection with an incident in an airport restroom.

A statement by the Senate Republican leadership said Mr. Craig “has agreed to comply” with a request to step down as the top Republican on the Veterans Affairs Committee, the Appropriations subcommittee on the Interior and the Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee on public lands and forests.

“This is not a decision we take lightly, but we believe this is in the best interest of the Senate until this situation is resolved by the Ethics Committee,” the statement said. It was issued by Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the party leader; Trent Lott of Mississippi, the whip; Jon Kyl of Arizona, the conference chairman, and other prominent Republicans.

Mr. Craig will still retain membership on the committees, but he will have no more power than a freshman senator, even though he is nearing the end of his third term and was himself in the party leadership not so long ago.

Watch Out for Freedom's Watch

No Time Like the Present

In Iowa, we have the great fortune to have the attention of all the major presidential campaigns and the national media. That is why every advocacy group under the sun tries to stake out their place so that the spotlight may shine on shine on their cause, if only for a day. Below are some causes that have not received their 15 minutes of fame. Help get the word out if you can.

US Campaign for Burma: Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has been held under house arrest by the military government that is responsible for displacing 1.5 million villagers from their homes and innumerable human rights violations.

The Sunlight Foundation: This non-partisan organization is trying to create a more transparent government and more accountability. Do yourself a favor and check out visualizing earmarks and see how your congressional legislators are doing.

One Vote '08: Eradicating global poverty and treatment of AIDS is the goal of the One organization. Check out their candidate tracker.

Tuesday, August 28

ADVISE and Consent

According to the Christian Science Monitor, from late 2004 until mid-2006, a little-known data-mining computer system developed by the US Department of Homeland Security to hunt terrorists, weapons of mass destruction, and biological weapons sifted through Americans' personal data with little regard for federal privacy laws.

Now the $42 million cutting-edge system, designed to process trillions of pieces of data, has been halted and could be canceled pending data-privacy reviews, according to a newly released report to Congress by the DHS's own internal watchdog.

Data mining to help fight the war on terror has become an accepted, even mandated, method to provide timely security information. The DHS operates at least a dozen such programs; intelligence agencies and the Department of Defense employ many others.

But ADVISE (Analy­sis, Dissemina­tion, Visu­ali­zation, Insight and Semantic Enhance­ment) was special. An electronic omnivore conceived in 2003, it was designed to ingest information from scores of databases, blogs, e-mail traffic, intelligence reports, and other sources, government documents and researchers say.

Sifting that enormous mass at lightning speed, ADVISE was to display data patterns visually as "semantic graphs" – a sort of illuminated information constellation – in which an analyst's eye could spot links between people, places, events, travel, calls, and organizations worldwide.

In searching for terrorists, data-mining programs are supposed to ensure that Americans' personal information is used only when necessary and lawful – and only for specific and proper uses. One problem is that even data that look anonymous aren't necessarily so. For instance, even when names and Social Security numbers are stripped from data files, programmers can still identify 87 percent of Americans through their date of birth, gender, and five-digit Zip Code, researchers say. So a system has to be carefully designed and use encryption and other computer techniques to comply with the law.

Last week the Pentagon shut down its TALON terrorism database program, which had been found to hold files on peace activists. In 2003, another military data-mining project – the Total Information Awareness project – was also ended following a congressional uproar over privacy fears.

Gunning for the Top Spot

Reuters reports that the United States has 90 guns for every 100 citizens, making it the most heavily armed society in the world, a report released on Tuesday said.

According to the Small Arms Survey 2007, U.S. citizens own 270 million of the world's 875 million known firearms (by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies).

About 4.5 million of the 8 million new guns manufactured worldwide each year are purchased in the United States, it said.

"There is roughly one firearm for every seven people worldwide. Without the United States, though, this drops to about one firearm per 10 people," it said.

India had the world's second-largest civilian gun arsenal, with an estimated 46 million firearms outside law enforcement and the military, though this represented just four guns per 100 people there. China, ranked third with 40 million privately held guns, had 3 firearms per 100 people.

Germany, France, Pakistan, Mexico, Brazil and Russia were next in the ranking of country's overall civilian gun arsenals.

On a per-capita basis, Yemen had the second most heavily armed citizenry behind the United States, with 61 guns per 100 people, followed by Finland with 56, Switzerland with 46, Iraq with 39 and Serbia with 38.

France, Canada, Sweden, Austria and Germany were next, each with about 30 guns per 100 people, while many poorer countries often associated with violence ranked much lower. Nigeria, for instance, had just one gun per 100 people.

"Firearms are very unevenly distributed around the world. The image we have of certain regions such as Africa or Latin America being awash with weapons -- these images are certainly misleading," Small Arms Survey director Keith Krause said.

Two years after Katrina and thousands are still w/o homes

Is This McNuts or What?

Tots say food tastes better if it’s inside McDonald’s packaging

CHICAGO (AP) — Anything made by McDonald’s tastes better, preschoolers said in a study that powerfully demonstrates how advertising can trick the taste buds of young children. Even carrots, milk and apple juice tasted better to the kids when they were wrapped in the familiar packaging of the Golden Arches.

The study had youngsters sample identical McDonald’s foods in name-brand and unmarked wrappers. The unmarked foods always lost the taste test. ‘‘You see a McDonald’s label and kids start salivating,’’ said Diane Levin, a childhood development specialist who campaigns against advertising to kids. She had no role in the research. Levin said it was ‘‘the first study I know of that has shown so simply and clearly what’s going on with (marketing to) young children.’’

Study author Dr. Tom Robinson said the kids’ perception of taste was ‘‘physically altered by the branding.’’ The Stanford University researcher said it was remarkable how children so young were already so influenced by advertising.

The study involved 63 low income children ages 3 to 5 from Head Start centers in San Mateo County, Calif. Robinson believes the results would be similar for children from wealthier families.

The research, appearing in August’s Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, was funded by Stanford and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The study will likely stir more debate over the movement to restrict ads to kids. It comes less than a month after 11 major food and drink companies, including McDonald’s, announced new curbs on marketing to children under 12.

McDonald’s says the only Happy Meals it will promote to young children will contain fruit and have fewer calories and less fat.

Sen. Craig, Minority Leader of Inappropriations Committee?

A Republican senator pleaded guilty earlier this month to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge stemming from his arrest at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, according to state criminal records.
Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho was arrested in June at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Roll Call newspaper reported Monday that Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho was apprehended June 11 by a plainclothes police officer investigating complaints of lewd behavior in an airport men's room.

Roll Call reports on the U.S. legislature.

Craig denied any inappropriate conduct in a prepared statement, and said he now regrets his guilty plea.

"At the time of this incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions. I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct," he said. "I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter. In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty. I was trying to handle this matter myself quickly and expeditiously."

Congress is currently in recess, and Craig's office said he was on vacation in Idaho with his family, with no public appearances scheduled.

Craig, 62, paid a $500 fine when he entered his guilty plea on August 8 in Hennepin County Municipal Court in Bloomington, Minnesota, according to state criminal records.

CNN confirmed that Craig was sentenced to 10 days in jail but that sentence was stayed.

Minnesota law defines disorderly conduct as brawling, disturbing a meeting or engaging in "offensive, obscene, abusive, boisterous or noisy conduct."

According to Roll Call, the arresting officer alleged that Craig lingered outside a rest room stall where the officer was sitting, then entered the stall next door and blocked the door with his luggage.

According to the arrest report cited by Roll Call, Craig tapped his right foot, which the officer said he recognized "as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct."

The report alleges Craig then touched the officer's foot with his foot and the senator "proceeded to swipe his hand under the stall divider several times," according to Roll Call.

At that point, the officer said he put his police identification down by the floor so Craig could see it and informed the senator that he was under arrest, before any sexual contact took place.

Idaho's senior senator is married with three grown children and nine grandchildren. A former rancher, Craig was first elected to the Senate in 1990, after serving a decade in the House. His seat is up for re-election in 2008.

Last fall, Craig's office publicly denied assertions by Internet blogger Mike Rogers that the senator is gay. Craig's office dismissed speculation about the senator's sexuality as "completely ridiculous."

In 1982, Craig denied rumors that he was under investigation as part of a federal probe into allegations that lawmakers on Capitol Hill had sexual relationships with congressional pages, saying the "false allegations" made him "mad as hell."

He was never implicated in that investigation, which eventually led to ethics charges against two other congressmen.

In recent years, Craig's voting record has earned him top ratings from social conservative groups such as the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council.

He has supported a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, telling his colleagues that it was "important for us to stand up now and protect traditional marriage, which is under attack by a few unelected judges and litigious activists."

In 1996, Craig also voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition to same-sex marriages and prevents states from being forced to recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples legally performed in other states.

Craig has also opposed expanding the federal hate crimes law to cover offenses motivated by anti-gay bias and, in 1996, voted against a bill that would have outlawed employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, which failed by a single vote in the Senate.

Craig has endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the 2008 presidential race. The senator was named in February, along with Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah, as Romney's liaison to build support among GOP senators.

Monday night, Romney's presidential campaign announced Craig was stepping down.

"He didn't want to be a distraction, and we accept his decision," the Romney campaign said in a statement. Access to a YouTube video in which Craig praised Romney was also blocked.

Monday, August 27

Railway trip from Cedar Rapids to Iowa City

The future of transportation may look like this.

Bye Bye Alberto

The Cars and Alberto gonzales? Both are a throw back...

Civil Unions: Going Medieval

From Yahoo News

Civil unions between male couples existed around 600 years ago in medieval Europe, a historian now says.

Historical evidence, including legal documents and gravesites, can be interpreted as supporting the prevalence of homosexual relationships hundreds of years ago, said Allan Tulchin of Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.

If accurate, the results indicate socially sanctioned same-sex unions are nothing new, nor were they taboo in the past.

“Western family structures have been much more varied than many people today seem to realize," Tulchin writes in the September issue of the Journal of Modern History. "And Western legal systems have in the past made provisions for a variety of household structures.”

For example, he found legal contracts from late medieval France that referred to the term "affrèrement," roughly translated as brotherment. Similar contracts existed elsewhere in Mediterranean Europe, Tulchin said.

In the contract, the "brothers" pledged to live together sharing "un pain, un vin, et une bourse," (that's French for one bread, one wine and one purse). The "one purse" referred to the idea that all of the couple's goods became joint property. Like marriage contracts, the "brotherments" had to be sworn before a notary and witnesses, Tulchin explained.

The same type of legal contract of the time also could provide the foundation for a variety of non-nuclear households, including arrangements in which two or more biological brothers inherited the family home from their parents and would continue to live together, Tulchin said.
But non-relatives also used the contracts. In cases that involved single, unrelated men, Tulchin argues, these contracts provide “considerable evidence that the affrèrés were using affrèrements to formalize same-sex loving relationships."

The ins-and-outs of the medieval relationships are tricky at best to figure out.

"I suspect that some of these relationships were sexual, while others may not have been," Tulchin said. "It is impossible to prove either way and probably also somewhat irrelevant to understanding their way of thinking. They loved each other, and the community accepted that.”

Iraq Summer Campaign Iowa Events

The Iowa ‘Iraq Summer’ Campaign -- which has been turning up the heat on Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Tom Latham all summer to start representing their constituents by voting for a safe and responsible end to the Iraq war -- will come to a crescendo with a flurry of grassroots activity across the state this weekend leading up to the campaign’s flagship ‘Take A Stand Day’ event on Tuesday, August 28th in Ames. Open to all Iowans, the town hall will focus on Iraq and will provide Grassley and Latham a golden opportunity to face their constituents and explain their continued support of the President’s costly and irresponsible policy of endless war in Iraq. Invitations to the TAS town hall in Ames, which is already expected to draw over 200 constituents, was flatly rejected by Senator Grassley’s office. Rep. Latham also rejected the invitation to attend but did meet with the Iraq Summer Campaign and a small group of constituents at his Ames office last week, where he remained firm in his opposition to setting a date certain for responsibly redeploying U.S. troops out of the crosshairs of the religious civil war in Iraq that has no end in sight.

Waterloo: Outside Grassley’s Office; Monday, Aug. 27: 4-6 pm: Federal Building, 531 Commercial St.
“Care Package for the Troops” Drive – bring items by to mail to our soldiers in Iraq

Ames: Monday, Aug. 27: 4-6 pm “Care Package for the Troops” Drive – bring items by The Ames Veterans Memorial on the corner of Grand and 5th Street to mail to our soldiers in Iraq

WHAT: Up to 100 ‘Iraq’ Summer Supporters Expected to Join “Take A Stand” Rally Outside Rep. Tom Latham’s Town Hall Meeting in Same Building

WHERE: Pocahontas County Courthouse, Supervisors Room
300 NW 7th St,Pocahontas, IA

WHEN: Tuesday, 28 Aug 2007, 4:00 PM

WHAT: Over 200 Grassley and Latham Constituents to Attend ‘Take A Stand’ Town Hall Meeting to Pressure Senator and Congressman to Break with Bush and Vote to Begin Responsible Redeployment of U.S. Troops Out of Harm’s Way in Iraq

WHEN: Tuesday, 28 Aug 2007, 6:00 PM

WHERE: Iowa State University, Memorial Union Pioneer Room 2229 Lincoln WayAmes, IA 50014

SPEAKERS: Moderator: Sue Dinsdale – Field Director of the Iraq Summer Campaign and Mother of Iraq War Veteran

ISU Alumni Jeffrey Weiss of the American Friends Service Committee.

Terri Jones - Mother of SPC Jason Cooper, age 23 who took his life 4 months after returning home from a year long deployment to Baghdad

Iraq War Veteran -- TBA

“Iraq Summer” is a nationwide, 10-week long campaign with nearly 100 organizers in 15 states and 40 congressional districts to turn up the heat on members of Congress who have opposed setting a timeline to bring a safe and responsible end to the war in Iraq. The effort will culminate with a national “Take a Stand” day on August 28th, when Members of Congress will have the opportunity to explain their stance on the war to their constituents in a town hall setting.

Edwards Now Leads Giuliani by Eight, Thompson by 14

Rasmussen Reports latest poll shows Democratic Senator John Edwards now holds solid leads over the two leading Republican Presidential hopefuls. The most recent Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows Edwards leading former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani 49% to 41%. Edwards dominates former Senator Fred Thompson 49% to 35%.

A month ago, Edwards held a virtually identical lead over Giuliani. In between, Giuliani had closed the gap to two points in early August. This continues a trend that began in April, with Edwards consistently polling in the mid-to-high 40% range against Giuliani while the New Yorker has polled in the mid-to-low 40’s.
Giuliani started the year with the edge over Edwards. He came out on top in five Rasmussen Reports national telephone polls between November, 2006 and March of this year. Since April, seven more polls have been conducted and Giuliani has not been ahead in any of them.

Edwards has led by double digits in four out of six previous match-ups with Thompson.
Edwards also leads former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Arizona Senator John McCain in Rasmussen Reports polls.

While he generally outperforms other Democrats in general election match-ups against Republicans, Edwards remains mired in third place in the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination. On the Republican side of the aisle, Giuliani and Thompson have been on top for several months.

AG Gonzales Resignation "Greatest Hits"

Side 1:

``I have lived the American dream. Even my worst days as attorney general have been better than my father's best days.'' - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

``Al Gonzales is a man of integrity, decency and principle. ...After months of unfair treatment that has created a harmful distraction at the Justice Department, Judge Gonzales decided to resign his position and I accept his decision. It's sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons.'' - President George W. Bush.

Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell: "I thank Alberto Gonzales for his public service and wish him well in his future endeavors," he said. "It is my hope that whomever President Bush selects as the next Attorney General, he or she is not subjected to the same poisonous partisanship that we’ve sadly grown accustomed to over the past eight months."

``The life of Alberto Gonzales has been defined by his devotion to family and deep commitment to public service. ... I appreciate his hard work in defense of our country and look forward to his future contributions.'' - House Republican Whip Roy Blunt.

``I wish him and his family all the best as they enter the next stage of their lives. The work of the Justice Department is indispensable to our global war on terrorism, and as we move forward, I trust that the next attorney general will continue an aggressive approach against those who aim to harm our nation.'' - House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Side 2:

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards: "Better late than never."

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson: "The resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is long overdue. The President must nominate an Attorney General who is a lawyer for the American people not a political arm of the White House."

Sen. Barack Obama: "I have long believed that Alberto Gonzales subverted justice to promote a political agenda, and so I am pleased that he has finally resigned today. The president needs to nominate an Attorney General who will be the people's lawyer, not the President's lawyer, and in an Obama Administration that person will first and foremost defend and promote the rights and liberties enshrined in our Constitution."

``He demonstrated that his loyalties lie with the president and his political agenda, not the American people or the evenhanded and impartial enforcement of our laws. ... My hope is that the president will select a new attorney general who will respect the rule of law and abandon partisanship, who will serve the American people and not the president's political ideology, and who will answer to the Constitution and not political operatives.'' - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton

``The rampant politicization of federal law enforcement that occurred under his tenure seriously eroded public confidence in our justice system. The president must now restore credibility to the office of the Attorney General.'' - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Rep. John Lewis D-GA:"It was time for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to go. His credibility was at an all time low. He had refused to cooperate with the U.S. Congress and members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees who were exercising their constitutional duty to seek the truth.

Rep. Rahm Emmanual D-IL: “Alberto Gonzales is the first Attorney General who thought the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth were three different things."

Sen. Chris Dodd: "Mr. Gonzales' Justice Department became a political wing of the Bush Administration and his resignation is long overdue. I will only vote to confirm a nominee for Attorney General who is truly independent and who will guarantee reforms that restore and uphold the Constitution."

Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid: "Alberto Gonzales was never the right man for this job. He lacked independence, he lacked judgment, and he lacked the spine to say no to Karl Rove," he said. "This resignation is not the end of the story. Congress must get to the bottom of this mess and follow the facts where they lead, into the White House."

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, D-MA: “The resignation of the Attorney General is long overdue. I opposed his confirmation because he came before the Senate as an enabler of the President’s misguided legal policies rather than as an independent legal voice. He had played a central role in authorizing the use of torture against detainees and other deprivations of civil liberties. Since his confirmation, he has presided over one disastrous policy after another, including the continued abuse of detainees, the approval of unlawful wiretapping by the NSA, the partisan enforcement of the voting Rights Act and the failure to enforce our other civil rights laws, the abusive use of National Security Letters and the inappropriate firing of U.S. Attorneys. He has exhibited a lack of candor with Congress and the American people and a disdain for the rule of law and our constitutional system. I strongly urge President Bush to nominate a new Attorney General who will respect our laws and restore the integrity of the office. The Attorney General should be the nation's chief law enforcement officer, not an agent of the Administration's political agenda."

Statement of Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA: “It is my hope that the Attorney General’s resignation will signal the beginning of a real change in the Department of Justice. This is an important step, and I hope the President moves rapidly to fill this position, since so many of the top-level people at the Department have in fact resigned. I spoke with the White House this morning, and suggested a couple of nominees who I believe would easily gain confirmation. With the right person in place, a very distressing chapter in the Justice Department’s history can be closed and the process of restoring its credibility as a strong and independent department can begin.”

``Attorney General Gonzales' ability to lead the Department of Justice had been undermined by his serious errors in judgment and conflicting statements. I am hopeful that the President will name a strong successor who will begin to restore confidence in the department.'' - Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

``I have said for a long time that I thought the president would be best served if the attorney general resigned so I think it's the right thing to do.'' - Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Republican presidential candidate.

``This is a great, great development. ...The next attorney general has to understand that his primary loyalty is to the Constitution and the rule of law and that sometimes he has to tell the president no.'' -Former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias of New Mexico, one of the fired U.S. prosecutors.

``It is a good thing for the Department of Justice and it's an opportunity for those career professionals to begin to focus on what is important, and that is the administration of justice.'' - Fired Arizona U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton.

``There comes a time when if you don't have the respect of the Congress and the American public and your own people in the department then it's time to step down.'' - Fired Nevada U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden.

``I don't think he would have ever had to resign until they were able to hang the U.S. attorneys' firings around his neck ... To me, it could all be written off to miscommunication and bad judgment and probably could have been forgiven until they made a conscious decision to be willing to throw some of the U.S. attorneys under the bus.'' - Fired Arkansas U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins.

North Liberty Sewage Everyone's Concern

From the Daily Iowan

An undisclosed amount of sewage bypassed the North Liberty treatment plant on the morning of Aug. 25 and entered the Iowa River, said Josh Sobaski, an environmental specialist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The news came from North Liberty wastewater-superintendent Dave Ramsey, who reported the discharge occurred at 9:17 a.m. Aug. 25, Sobaski said, adding that he had not received any indication that the spill had been stopped as of 5 p.m. Sunday.

North Liberty Mayor Tom Salm said he was also unaware of whether the discharge had been stopped as of 8:30 p.m. Sunday.

Alan Foster, a Natural Resources information specialist, attributed the spill to the heavy rain in the area, though Sobaski said that North Liberty is known "to have had challenges with bypass issues in the past."

"[Bypasses] are a necessary evil," Foster said.

Though bypassing sewage into the water supply is not a desirable option, it beats the alternative of having sewage backups in the basements of North Liberty homes, he said.

Foster said even the best sewage-treatment plants must allow bypasses when rainfall gets especially heavy, although they are expected to have a plan in place to minimize the ill effects of the release.

Sobaski said the sewage was somewhat diluted, though he did not say to what extent the discharge had been sanitized.

Salm said that the sewage was probably diluted more than halfway before it spilled into the river, although he couldn't give an exact percentage. The treatment facility has been operating at 120 percent capacity over the last several weeks, he said.

Ralph Wilmoth, the director of the Johnson County Public Health Department, said the presence of sewage in drinking water supply increases potential for "fecal oral route transmission diseases," including salmonella and E. coli.

Memories of Watergate?

Burglars broke into Senator Christopher J. Dodd’s office in Hartford, CT late Saturday, taking undisclosed items and leaving evidence at the scene, the police said.

Investigators declined to say what was stolen or what was left behind at the office, which is on Lewis Street.

Jamie Radice, a spokeswoman for Mr. Dodd, confirmed the break-in, but said she was not sure what was taken.

The police said they believe that the suspects jumped from the roof of a building next door onto the fire escape of the building that houses Mr. Dodd’s office and broke in through a second-story window. The burglary occurred between 10 and 11 p.m., they said.

Mr. Dodd is seeking the 2008 Democratic nomination for president.

AG No Longer AG: No "Gonzo" to Kick Around Any More

CNN has just announced:

Embattled U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced his resignation Monday in a brief statement at the Justice Department.

Alberto Gonzales was dogged by controversial issues including wiretapping programs and fired U.S. attorneys.

"Yesterday I met with President Bush and informed him of my decision to conclude my government services as Attorney General of the United States effective September 17."
He did not take questions from reporters.

Bush will likely nominate Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to the position, senior administration officials said.

Chertoff has headed Homeland Security since 2005. He served as a federal appellate court judge, a federal prosecutor and as special counsel for a Senate committee investigating President Clinton's involvement in the Whitewater land development.

Solicitor General Paul Clement will serve as acting attorney general, the White House press office said.

President Bush is expected to make a statement about Gonzales at 11:50 a.m. from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he has been vacationing, but will not announce a replacement, two senior administration officials said.

Celebrating the Great Society

For you history buffs, today would have been Lyndon Baines Johnson's 99th birthday today. While his presidency was a rollercoaster affair, due largely to his increasingly unpopular support of the Vietnam War (maybe it is a Texas politician thing...), however, he continues to be admired for the the Great Society and his efforts to continue the legacy of John F. Kennedy. He was responsible for designing his Great Society, comprising liberal legislation including civil rights laws, Medicare (health care for the elderly), Medicaid (health care for the poor), aid to education, and a major "War on Poverty".

Johnson eloquently said, "I am concerned about the whole man. I am concerned about what the people, using their government as an instrument and a tool, can do toward building the whole man, which will mean a better society and a better world."

He also said these prophetic words, "We live in a world that has narrowed into a neighborhood before it has broadened into a brotherhood."

Like all presidencies, his was a mixed bag. however, with the distance that time allows, his lasting legacy is still shaping the US politics today.

Great Turnout at Wright Kickoff

The campaign kickoff for Mike Wright started off with for Iowa Rep. Ed Fallon playing "Lady of Spain" on the accordian, but the highlight of the evening was the turnout by local politicos and interested others like Rod Sullivan, Karen Kubby, Mitch and Melanie Gross, Larry Baker, Jay Berry, Tom Carsner, Nick Johnson, and many, many others.

Fallon discussed I'M for Iowa, which is works
at the local level to further develop a broad movement committed to progressive reform in state and local politics and the need for developing sustainable communities and economies. Specifically, they:

(1) Work with Iowans across the state to develop the tools they need to address problems confronting them and their communities, particularly issues involving land, justice and poverty;

(2) Advocate for progressive legislative changes, particularly Voter-Owned Iowa Clean Elections (VOICE), CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) and universal health care;

(3) Continue to build the organizational base necessary to recruit and elect progressive candidates across the state, and mentor them on an ongoing basis once elected;

(4) Support local businesses and Iowa farmers and encourage personal examples of the many ways in which individuals can lead lives that are more sustainable and truly independent; and

(5) Build the infrastructure needed to create a grassroots, democratic force that can become An Independence Movement for Iowa, and work in coalition with groups committed to these goals and ideals.

Wright highlighted his support of affordable housing and historic preservation, a fully staffed northeast fire station, and increasing the number of patrol officers. When asked about the 21 ordinance, he said that he personally supports it. He also discussed using TIF in a more judicious way.

Saturday, August 25

Wright and Hayek at Farmer's Market

Want to know who's working for your vote in the Fall for Iowa City Council? Matt Hayek and Mike Wright have set up shop in front of the Farmer's Market which is a great place to meet voters of all stripes.

Wright also has a campaign kickoff tomorrow night at his home at 225 N. Lucas with former State Representative and Gubernatorial candidate, Ed Fallon from 6:30 to 8 pm. Go check him out, if you don't know where he stands on your issues or if you like good old accordion music.

No End in Sight: The Documentary

Check this out from TruthDig: Take a look back at the Iraq debacle with the trailer for the Sundance award-winning “No End in Sight,” by first-time filmmaker Charles Ferguson. According to Time, it’s “the most important movie you are likely to see this year.”

Friday, August 24

Just Say "No" to Nostalgia Says John Edwards

John Edwards is railing against "a vision for the future that is rooted in nostalgia." He, according to the Chicago Tribune is "casting the 2008 election as "a choice between looking back and looking forward" and warning that "those wedded to the policies of the '70s, '80s, or '90s are wedded to the past.""

"The trouble with nostalgia is that you tend to remember what you liked and forget what you didn't," Edwards said, according to a copy of the speech provided by his campaign. "It's not just that the answers of the past aren't up to the job today, it's that the system that produced them was corrupt -- and still is."

Later, he said that if politicians don't tackle the full scope of America's problems "we'll be left with the baby steps and incremental measures that are Washington's poor excuse for progress ... We cannot triangulate our way to real change; we cannot compromise our way to real change."

Another One Bites the Dust at Justice Department

From CNN

Top U.S. civil rights enforcer under fire steps down

Critics say his office hired GOP loyalists over lawyers with civil rights experience

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Justice Department's top civil rights enforcer resigned Thursday following more than a year of criticism that his office filled its ranks with conservative loyalists instead of experienced attorneys.

Assistant Attorney General Wan J. Kim was the first immigrant and first Korean-American to head the department's civil rights division -- a post he held for just over two years.

Kim is the latest senior Justice official to leave amid a scathing congressional investigation that has raised questions about the department's political independence from the White House.

The civil rights division's Kim had been rumored for months to be leaving the department, and is expected to join a private law firm. He worked at Justice for over 10 years, starting as a criminal trial attorney, and was one of the few Senate-confirmed senior officials left.

"For over a decade now, Wan Kim has served the Department of Justice and the American people with distinction and honor," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said in a statement Thursday. "Wan has worked his way up through the department, and I will miss his honest opinions and valuable contributions as an adviser to me."

The department's civil rights division enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination, including at work, at election polls and even at casinos. In May, Kim's office settled with MGM Mirage Inc., the world's second-largest casino company, for $55,000 over complaints that several of its hotels were not accessible to the handicapped.

Kim also pursued the illegal and exploitative trafficking of foreign women and children who were forced into slave labor in the U.S. -- often working as prostitutes. His office helped re-ignite a decades-old murder case gone cold, winning a guilty conviction in June against a reputed Ku Klux Klansman who abducted two black teenagers in a long-ignored crime from Mississippi's bloody past.

But Justice's civil rights division has drawn criticism. Last year, a Boston Globe analysis of Justice Department hiring data found that the office had become highly politicized with the hiring of lawyers who had little civil rights experience but strong GOP credentials.

Moreover, critics contend that the office has largely focused on voter fraud cases -- which civil rights groups charge are intended to hold down minority turnout.

In June, Kim testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about transfer of three minority female lawyers from the his office's voting rights section. The move had been directed by Bradley Schlozman, the former voting rights chief who also has resigned, effective last week.

During his testimony, Kim told senators that he had been concerned by the move and said remarks by Schlozman that appeared to question the women's patriotism "were intemperate and inopportune."

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said Kim's resignation was part of a mass exodus from the Justice Department that "must not hinder our efforts to demand accountability." More

August 26: Thank Your Foremothers

August 26th marks the anniversary of the passage of women's suffrage. Read this column by Ellen Goodman to see how far women's rights have come.

Iraq War: Spun Out of Control

From Robert Scheer at Truthdig:

The Real Iraq Progress Report

The parade of political tourists to Iraq in recent weeks, during which easily impressed pundits and members of Congress came to be dazzled by the wonders of the troop surge, probably ensures that this murderous adventure will continue well into the next presidency—even if the Democrats win.

For example, Kenneth Pollack, a top national security adviser in the Clinton administration whose 2002 book, “The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq,” convinced many Democratic politicians to support the war, now finds renewed optimism after the surge. In a July 30 New York Times Op-Ed article, “A War We Just Might Win,” which he coauthored after spending eight days in Iraq, Pollack gushed, “We traveled to the northern cities of Tal Afar and Mosul. This is an ethnically rich area, with large numbers of Sunni Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen. American troop levels in both cities now number only in the hundreds because the Iraqis have stepped up to the plate. Reliable police officers man the checkpoints in the cities, while Iraqi army troops cover the countryside.”

So much so that a town 40 miles northeast of Tal Afar was the scene, on Aug. 15, of the deadliest attack of the war—a quadruple bombing left more than 500 dead and 1500 wounded, and most of the buildings in ruin. What about those “reliable” police officers and Iraqi army troops whose presence in the area Pollack found so reassuring? If Pollack was asked about that on any of the talk shows that routinely feature him as an expert, I have not found the footage.

Other Democrats brought to Iraq for photo-op visits have similarly descended into total myopia. Take Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., who is suddenly more upbeat about the future U.S. role in the region: “If anything, I’m more willing to find a way forward,” he enthused. Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-Fla., proclaimed that the U.S. troop surge “has really made a difference and really has gotten al-Qaida on their heels.” Odd, then, that al-Qaida was blamed by the United States for that deadly attack near Tal Afar.

In the past week, two Iraqi governors have been assassinated in incidents attributed to intra-Shiite violence that is dramatically on the rise. But not even this bloodshed stops yet another Democratic lawmaker, Brian Baird, D-Wash., from proclaiming that he will no longer support measures to set a deadline for troop withdrawal, because “We are making real and tangible progress on the ground.”

Contrast the rosy optimism of those day tourists with the assessment of seven active-duty soldiers coming to the end of their 15-month tour of duty on the ground in Iraq. They had an Op-Ed piece in the Aug. 19 New York Times entitled “The War as We Saw It”:

“To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press reports portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day.”


From the Iowa Edge of the Blogosphere

Interesting recent postings from other Iowa Blogs:

"Why I Don't Trust Clinton On Iraq" from Century of the Common Iowan

Former Congressman Spanks Edwards, IDP Advisors
from Essential Estrogen

A Day Without Candidates from John Deeth Blog

Iraq from God, Politics, and Rock 'n' Roll

The Week's What-Not from Iowa Independent

Thursday, August 23


White House Front Group Launches $7 Million Ad Buy Targeting Republicans

From Americans United For Change

A White House front group, Freedom Watch led by Libby trial witness and former White House spokesman and Ari Fleischer, is launching a $7 million television ad campaign to target a select group of Republicans to stand with Bush on Iraq, instead of standing with America. All summer long across the country, everyday citizens have been turning up the heat on these Republicans – asking them to do the right thing and break with Bush to bring a responsible end to the Iraq war. These ads represent the latest, desperate attempt to keep Congressional Republicans in line with the President’s reckless and unpopular agenda in Iraq.

A close examination of the ad buy shows that Freedoms Watch is targeting congressional republicans with a direct message - stand with Bush’s failed Iraq war strategy. What follows is an analysis of the ad buy and reasons this group may be targeting these Members of Congress.




Total Money


Des Moines



Russ Feingold's Homage to Bob Dylan and the Presidency

This is one of the reasons I like Russ Feingold...his sense of humor and justice.

Wednesday, August 22

Blawkhawk Down: 14 Killed

Fourteen U.S. soldiers were killed when their helicopter crashed in northern Iraq on Wednesday, the U.S. military said, in one of the worst incidents of its kind in the four-year war.

Here is a chronology of the deadliest days for U.S. forces since the start of the conflict.

March 23, 2003 - On the third day of the war, 28 U.S. soldiers are killed, mostly in fierce fighting in southern Iraq.

-- November 2 - Chinook helicopter is shot down near Falluja. Sixteen U.S. troops killed and 21 others on board hurt.

-- November 15 - Two Black Hawk helicopters collide under fire in Mosul, killing 17 soldiers.

December 21, 2004 - Suicide bomber in Iraqi uniform walks into mess tent at Mosul and kills 21 people, 18 of them Americans, including 14 U.S. troops.

January 26, 2005 - U.S. Marine transport helicopter ferrying troops comes down in western desert, killing 31 aboard. Six more are killed in insurgent attacks.

-- August 3 - Fourteen Marines are killed in a roadside bomb blast on an amphibious assault vehicle near Haditha, northwest of Baghdad. A civilian interpreter is also killed.

-- December 1 - Ten U.S. Marines are killed near Falluja in an insurgent bombing. Another is killed in Ramadi.

January 5, 2006 - Eleven U.S. soldiers are killed in separate incidents, the worst of which is the deaths of five in Baghdad when a roadside bomb hits their patrol.

-- January 7 - Eighteen U.S. soldiers are killed, 12 of whom die when a Blackhawk helicopter comes down near the town of Tal Afar near Mosul, 390 km north of Baghdad.

-- August 27 - Twelve U.S. soldiers are killed in total, mostly in Baghdad.

-- October 17 - Eleven U.S. soldiers are killed in separate incidents around Iraq.

-- December 6 - Ten U.S. soldiers are killed in four incidents around Iraq, some killed by roadside bombs and others in combat.

January 20, 2007 - A U.S. military helicopter goes down northeast of Baghdad, killing 12 people aboard. More soldiers are killed in clashes and roadside bombs. Twenty-five are killed in total.

-- February 7 - All seven crew members and passengers aboard a U.S. Marine transport helicopter are killed when their aircraft crashes in Anbar province. Another four die in other incidents.

-- May 6 - Ten U.S. soldiers are killed in separate incidents around Iraq.

-- June 23 - Eleven U.S. soldiers killed in separate incidents.

-- Aug 22 - A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with four crew and 10 passengers crashes in northern Iraq. All aboard are killed. The military says first indications are that mechanical failure is to blame and there is no evidence of hostile fire.

Iowans Pledge to Caucus for Candidates that Support Sensible Priorities

DES MOINES – As of today, more than 8,000 Iowa Caucus goers have signed a pledge, sponsored by the Caucus for Priorities campaign, to caucus for a candidate who supports a significant shift in federal spending away from Pentagon waste toward social needs such as education, health care, job training, and energy independence.

With pledges from over 8,000 Caucus goers the Caucus for Priorities is in a unique position to exert great influence over the critical first-in-the-nation Caucus.

Veteran Iowa political operative John Norris, who ran Senator John Kerry’s Caucus campaign in 2004, says the voting bloc of 8,000 should be influential with the candidates.

“Iowa will be a make-or-break state for some of the candidates. The 8,000 votes the Priorities campaign will deliver could make the difference between a poor showing and a better than expected one,” Norris said.

Norris assisted with the development of the Caucus for Priorities 2007 Field Plan which set September 1st as the deadline for securing the 8,000 pledges. The campaign’s 13 staff blew that goal out of the water, reaching the goal far ahead of schedule. Field organizers across the state have been attending community events and presidential candidate events since January, talking to Iowans about the federal budget and Pentagon waste. Persuading Iowans to take the pledge has been challenging because it asks more of them than signing a petition. State Director Peggy Huppert is thrilled with the work organizers have done.

“We set the bar high because we want to get the attention of the presidential candidates. No issue campaign has ever accomplished this in Iowa. It is unprecedented,” Huppert said.

The Priorities campaign plans to send questionnaires about specific wasteful weapons systems and social needs to all the presidential campaigns, both Republican and Democrat. Once the questionnaires are completed, the Priorities campaign will announce to its pledgers which candidates are most committed to cutting waste from the Pentagon and investing it in what matters most to Iowans – health care, education, energy independence, and other social needs. The campaign plans to announce an endorsement by mid-November.

For more information on the campaign please visit:

Tuesday, August 21

Well-Read V. Read My Lips

Are liberals more well-read than conservatives? One study says so.

An AP-Ipsos poll found one in four adult Americans read no books last year. It also found that self-disclosed conservatives read less than liberals. 22 percent of liberals and moderates said they had not read a book within the past year, compared with 34 percent of conservatives.

Among those who had read at least one book, liberals typically read nine books in the year, with half reading more than that and half less. Conservatives typically read eight, moderates five.

By slightly wider margins, Democrats tended to read more books than Republicans and independents. There were no differences by political party in the percentage of those who said they had not read at least one book.

The poll involved telephone interviews with 1,003 adults and was conducted August 6 to 8. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

"The Karl Roves of the world have built a generation that just wants a couple slogans: 'No, don't raise my taxes, no new taxes,'" Pat Schroeder, president of the American Association of Publishers, said in a recent interview. "It's pretty hard to write a book saying, 'No new taxes, no new taxes, no new taxes' on every page."

Schroeder, who as a Colorado Democrat was once one of Congress' most liberal House members, was responding to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll that found people who consider themselves liberals are more prodigious book readers than conservatives.

She said liberals tend to be policy wonks who "can't say anything in less than paragraphs. We really want the whole picture, want to peel the onion." More

Cogs and Wheels of Government

A very good friend of mine has gone off to Washington, D.C. to begin work at the State Department. When we last talked, he was off to Africa after his orientation to begin his work in earnest. In point of fact, there is probably no single government agency that would be more important to work in than the State Department, given the direction that the current administration has taken.

It is interesting to learn from my friend that a number of people in the diplomatic corps have retired or quit in the last seven years. The difficulty, I imagine, in being a career diplomat is the constant ebb and flow of policy depending on the administration in the White House and the whims of Congress.

This takes me to the "cogs" of government. These are the people who do the day to day job of government. Your mail carrier, human services clerks, and economic analysts, are good examples of this. These are the people who do the heavy lifting to deliver the goods that the bureaucratic and political "wheels" promise.

While it is easy to fault the wheels, as we approach Labor Day in another week or so, it is important to reflect that there are good, decent people working on our behalves.

Leahy: White House In Contempt About Eavesdropping


Today in a press briefing, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) revealed that the White House had missed its 2:30 PM deadline to turn over documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding legal justifications for the National Security Agency's eavesdropping program. The Committee had already pushed back the original July 18 deadline twice after the White House requested more time.

Leahy said that the administration's stonewalling amounted to "contempt of the valid order of the Congress," and pointed out that these subpoenas were passed by broad bipartisan votes. In fact, the Senate Judiciary Committee in the conservative-led 109th Congress, chaired by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) also attempted to ask questions about the program's legal justifications. But Vice President Cheney personally barred him from issuing subpoenas:
In fact, we were about to issue subpoenas then and one of the senators came to our meeting and said that the vice president had met with the Republican senators and told them they were not allowed to issue subpoenas.

Not quite sure that's my understanding of the separation of powers, but it seemed to work at that time.

Leahy also said that while he didn't receive the requested documents, he did receive "a letter this morning from the Office of the Vice President identifying some documents that would be responsive to the committee's subpoena." In the letter, the administration claims the Office of the Vice President is not part of the Executive Office of the President.

Leahy responds, "Well, that's wrong.... [O]h, incidentally, at least this morning, as I left Vermont, I checked the White House Web site. And even their own Web site, this morning, at least, says that the Executive Office - that the vice president is part of the Executive Office of the President."

Cheney Responds.

Fallon Says "Wright On!" to Headlining Mike Wright's Campaign

If Sunday night is looking like just another night for you, why not come to hear peppy, multi-talented former Iowa legislator, 2006 Democratic candidate for governor, and Iowa State Fair Accordion champion Ed Fallon who will be in Iowa City Sunday August 26 to support the campaign kickoff of Mike Wright for an at-large seat on the Iowa City City Council.

Fallon will speak and demonstrate his accordion skills at 6:30 pm at 225 N. Lucas St., Iowa City (call 358-9344 for information). Suggested donation $25 and everyone is welcome.

Mike Wright is a neighborhood activist, vice-chair of the Iowa City Board of Adjustment, and a University of Iowa librarian. Mike also serves on the board of the Iowa Library Association and as the head of the Association's Intellectual Freedom Committee. Wright is running to promote strong neighborhoods, provide equitable fire and police coverage in Iowa City (including support a northeast-side firehouse), and to help the Council meet the challenges of the next four years.

Mike's partner, Michael Knock, is the food writer for the Press-Citizen, so you know there will be some good food too!

Monday, August 20

Spying on the People, By the People, For the People?

Walter Pincus of The Washington Post reports:

Contracts worth $1 billion would set record.

The Defense Intelligence Agency is preparing to pay private contractors up to $1 billion to conduct core intelligence tasks of analysis and collection over the next five years, an amount that would set a record in the outsourcing of such functions by the Pentagon's top spying agency.
The proposed contracts, outlined in a recent early notice of the DIA's plans, reflect a continuing expansion of the Defense Department's intelligence-related work and fit a well-established pattern of Bush administration transfers of government work to private contractors.

Since 2000, the value of federal contracts signed by all agencies each year has more than doubled to reach $412 billion, with the largest growth at the Defense Department, according to a congressional tally in June. Outsourcing particularly accelerated among intelligence agencies after the 2001 terrorist attacks caught many of them unprepared to meet new demands with their existing workforce.

The DIA did not specify exactly what it wants the contractors to do but said it is seeking teams to fulfill "operational and mission requirements" that include intelligence "Gathering and Collection, Analysis, Utilization, and Strategy and Support." It holds out the possibility that five or more contractors may be hired and promised more details on Aug. 27.

The DIA's action comes a few months after CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, acting under pressure from Congress, announced a program to cut the agency's hiring of outside contractors by at least 10 percent. The CIA's effort was partly provoked by managers' frustration that officials with security clearances were frequently resigning to earn higher pay with government contractors while performing the same work - a phenomenon that led lawmakers to complain that intelligence contract work was wasting money.

"Mind-blowing," was the reaction of Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, when she learned of the DIA proposal. In a telephone interview, she described it as "definitely something to be concerned about."

In its notice, published on a procurement Web site, the DIA said that "the total price of all work to be performed under the contract(s) will exceed $1 billion," adding that the tally "is only an estimate and there is no guarantee that any orders will be placed."

Iraqis Have Own Peace Plan

From Spiegel Online

One in ten Iraqis has left the country. Baghdad's elite are trying to make ends meet in neighboring Jordan and Syria. Washington wants the United Nations to address the refugee crisis. In the meantime, the country is losing its best minds -- the very people needed to rebuild Iraq.

The first stage on the road to safety is a $20 taxi ride. It takes the future refugee past nervous soldiers, through dangerous checkpoints and along streets with nicknames -- like "Grenade Alley" and "Sniper Boulevard" -- that bespeak the perils of travel in Iraq.

Mass Flight

Iraq, a country still shaken by daily violence, is currently the scene of what is likely the biggest refugee disaster since the displacement of Palestinians in the Arab-Israeli War in 1948. On the eve of the Iraq war, the United States, the United Nations and neighboring countries had expected refugees to number in the tens of thousands. Four years later, more than 2 million Iraqis have already left the country. Jordan has accepted close to 750,000, the Gulf states 200,000, Egypt 100,000 and Syria at least 1,400,000. Roughly one in 10 Iraqis has fled the country, and about the same number are now internal refugees.

They are not just the country's poor and desperate. Many are the elites of a nation that already lost many of its best and brightest during decades of tyranny and economic embargos. Ironically, those choosing to leave the country today are precisely the doctors, lawyers, judges, engineers and government bureaucrats the country will desperately need to rebuild itself.

The West -- especially the two leading coalition nations, the United States and Great Britain -- has opened itself up to severe criticism for its unwillingness to step up to the plate. Since the 2003 invasion, Britain has accepted a mere 115 and the United States only about 500 of a total of more than 14,000 seeking asylum in the West. The Bush administration has promised to process 7,000 applications for political asylum this year and has made a commitment to accept 3,000. Former senior US diplomat Richard Holbrooke calls the Bush administration's efforts "pathetic" and the American public's indifference "shameful."

Graphic: Iraqi Refugees

Graphic: Iraqi Refugees

Meanwhile, Washington has been more than generous in seeking to transfer its Iraq responsibilities to the UN. The organization, says Zalmay Khalilzad, the former US Ambassador to Iraq, should focus more of its attention in the future on the political process in Baghdad, security issues, the country's oil law -- and the refugee crisis. But this is a tall order, with the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) not even in a position to get the most vulnerable Iraqis -- the interpreters and reconstruction workers being hunted down by terrorists, who accuse them of collaborating with the occupiers -- out of the country. US authorities in Iraq do not accept asylum applications, and those Iraqis who do manage to make it abroad are better off not mentioning any ransom money they may have paid for kidnapped relatives, especially not in the United States. US immigration authorities define such payments as "material support" for terrorist organizations.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently contributed $5 million to a fellowship fund for Iraqi academics. The purpose of the fund, says a foundation spokeswoman, is to "protect Iraq's intellectual capital." The foundation currently receives about 40 applications a week, but the program's funds are only enough to pay for about 150 academics and will have been used up within a few months.

New Hampshire to Iowa, "Don't Take Us for Granite"

From the NH Union Leader

If Iowans request New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner's help in saving their caucuses from political obscurity, he should tell them to take a hike.

Thanks to a primary calendar devised with Iowan help in the proverbial smoke-filled rooms of the Democratic National Committee, the 2008 presidential nominating contests are absurdly front-loaded. The DNC stuck Nevada's caucus between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, and put the South Carolina primary one week later. That prompted a jockeying forward of other states.

Florida moved its primary up, triggering South Carolina Republicans to move theirs to Jan. 19, three days before the date the DNC set aside for New Hampshire's primary.

South Carolina's move will push our primary to no later than Jan. 12, a Saturday, which could push Iowa's caucuses to probably Tuesday, Jan. 3. Iowa law requires the caucuses to be held eight days before another nominating contest.

No doubt Iowa officials would rather New Hampshire's primary be on Saturday, Jan. 12 than Tuesay the 8th. But Secretary of State Gardner loves the traditional Tuesday election. He is not inclined to hold the primary on any other day. If he picks Tuesday, Jan. 8, that would bump Iowa's caucuses to New Year's Day, a Sunday, or into December.

If he has not already, Gardner soon will feel the pressure from Iowa officials who want New Hampshire's primary to happen no earlier than the 12th. That's ironic because when Iowa had the chance to save New Hampshire's primary, it threw us under the bus.

In March of 2006, the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee voted to insert a caucus between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Iowa's representative on the committee voted against New Hampshire and for the new early caucus. Only after it was clear that the new calendar would not be defeated did Iowa Democrats later vote with New Hampshire.

Now the very calendar that Iowa Democrats helped create threatens to push their caucus into December and possible political irrelevance. So the Iowans are learning the hard way about unintended consequences and the value of friendship. Gardner should let them learn their lesson.