Friday, February 29

It's 3 AM and Hillary and Barack Must Be Lonely

Matchbox Twenty should probably accuse the Clinton camp of lifting their song "3 AM" to create the latest salvo against Barack Obama. And Obama's camp responds (apparently also at 3 am.)

As a bonus, Ned Lamont shows why he lost to Joe Lieberman

Senate Republicans Quash Home Foreclosure Bill

From CNN

US Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked efforts to give bankruptcy courts more power to stave off home foreclosures, a move the chamber's Democratic leader called "a big mistake."

"The people on Wall Street are high-fiving. They just won again," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said after the vote.

"The big banks just won again. The mortgage bankers won again. Oh, there are a few losers out there, like millions of consumers -- millions of people who are going into foreclosure or are about to go into foreclosure. They lost."

The banking industry and President Bush opposed the bill, which would have allowed bankruptcy judges to reduce a filer's mortgage debt to the home's current market value.

Bush's GOP allies filibustered the measure Thursday afternoon, invoking Senate rules to require 60 votes to cut off debate and bring it to the floor; Democrats came 12 votes short of that mark.

Early Voting Heavy in Texas and Ohio

Voters in Ohio and Texas apparently understand the importance of their vote in determining next Tuesday's primaries in Texas and Ohio. With early voting closing in Texas today, as of Wednesday, 584,994 Texans in the state's 15 most populous counties had voted Democratic. In Ohio, early voting in six of the largest counties is being compared to the turnout in the 2004 general election.

Also, a judge struck down a county's challenge to Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's Jan. 2, 2008 directive requiring backup paper ballots by boards of elections using touch-screen (direct recording electronic-DRE) voting machines in the March 4 presidential primary election.

The case was brought by Union County commissioners who sought to challenge the secretary's authority to issue the directive, arguing that it unlawfully mandated two types of voting systems.
Calling the secretary's directive one that "merely directs how Union County's existing voting equipment will be used," the judge found that the county commissioners lacked standing to attack the secretary's directive and that the failure of the county board of elections to be a party deprived the court of the ability to proceed on the merits.

Meanwhile in the polls, Barack Obama holds a slight lead on Hillary Clinton in Texas and has almost pulled even in Ohio before contests that could decide their Democratic presidential battle, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Houston Chronicle poll released on Friday.

The contests on Tuesday are crucial for Clinton, a New York senator and former first lady fighting to halt Obama's streak of 11 consecutive victories in their battle for the Democratic nomination for the November 4 presidential election.

Obama, an Illinois senator, has a 6-point edge on Clinton in Texas, 48 percent to 42 percent. He trails Clinton 44 percent to 42 percent in Ohio -- well within the poll's margin of error of 3.8 percentage point

Tolerance or Acceptance?

I often have discussions with friends about the important difference between tolerance and acceptance when it comes to relationships between people. Even though I am a proud Progressive, I can accept that there are people who disagree and even, dare I say, don't accept much less tolerate Progressive values.

Within the framework of democracy, tolerance is fundamentally built in with the Constitution's decree of "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness"--but then there is the rule of law which says polygamy, adults having sexual relations with children, cannibalism, cold-blooded murder are not tolerated.

Wikipedia defines Toleration and Tolerance as "terms used within debates in areas of social, cultural and religious context, to describe attitudes and practices that prohibit discrimination against those whose practices or group memberships may be disapproved of by those in the majority." And this is a good step. It implies that with or without the rule of law, we should be able to be non-discriminatory toward others even if their views, religion, race, sexuality, differ from the majority .

However, while tolerance takes us further down the road, acceptance is the end game. If accept other people, it implies not only tolerate them, but actually make room for them in our own lives.
Wikipedia defines acceptance, in spirituality, mindfulness, and human psychology, as "the experience of a situation without an intention to change that situation."

In other words, I accept that choices other people make or are thrust upon them by biology are okay and am not threatened by them. Eventually, acceptance is subconscious, I do it without thinking about it, like stopping at a red light.

Clearly there is a lot of gray in this conversation. Where does tolerance stop and acceptance begin? Are there things that are universally intolerable (racism, sexism) or unacceptable (genocide, war)?

Thursday, February 28

Live Free or Not!: US Incarceration Rate Reaches All-Time High

Pew Center on the States reports that more than one in 100 adults in the United States are in jail or prison. This is costing state governments more than $49 billion a year on corrections, up from $11 billion 20 years before. In addition, the Federal government spends more than $5 billion.

With more than 2.3 million people behind bars at the start of 2008, the United States leads the world in both the number and the percentage of residents incarcerated, leaving even far more populous China a distant second.

The ballooning prison population is largely the result of tougher state and federal sentencing imposed since the mid-1980s. Minorities have been hit particularly hard: One in nine black men age 20 to 34 is behind bars.

Men are still roughly 13 times more likely to be incarcerated, but the female population is expanding at a far brisker pace. For black women in their mid- to late-30s, the incarceration rate also has hit the one-in-100 mark.

In addition, one in every 53 adults in their 20s is behind bars, including 1 in 30 men; the rate for those over 55 is one in 837.

While studies generally find that imprisoning more offenders reduces crime, the effect is influenced by changes in the unemployment rate, wages, the ratio of police officers to residents, and the share of young people in the population.

In addition, when it comes to preventing repeat offenses by nonviolent criminals -- who make up about half of the incarcerated population -- alternative punishments such as community supervision and mandatory drug counseling that are far less expensive may prove just as or more effective than jail time.

Green Built Housing Can Be Affordable

After listening to Brian Munson, a urban planner with Vanderwalle Assoc. in Madison, Wisconsin, describe the 300+ acre mixed-use project called Grandview Commons that incorporates different levels of affordable workforce housing (beginning at 60-70 % of median income) and includes green build features in many cases, I wondered if it was possible to develop low income (for persons at or below 80% of the area median income level).
I learned about a small project in Madison which was developed in 2004. Green Built Home certified a Madison [Wisconsin] Area Community Land Trust duplex that exceeds the program’s sustainable building and energy standards. The Madison Area Community Land Trust provides opportunities for affordable home ownership by acquiring land and selling the house, but not the land beneath it, to low and moderate income residents of Dane County earning 80% or less of the median county income. Long-term affordability is assured by a housing resale formula that limits appreciation but still allows homeowners a return on their investment.

The two-unit building was designed by Glueck Architects of Madison and built by Gilbert Construction Corporation of McFarland. The 2-bedroom unit is listed at $99,600 and the 3-bedroom unit has already sold for $111,600. For comparison, the average sale price for homes in Dane County in January was $229,209.

To receive Green Built certification a home must earn at least 50 points from the Green Built
Home Checklist, one of the most comprehensive green building rating tools in the country. This
home scored 66 points, far exceeding these standards.

Green Built Home certification ensures that the duplex is healthier, safer, more comfortable and more durable than a typical new home. The home meets criteria for erosion control, energy efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, indoor air quality, landscape conservation and materials efficiency and complies with Wisconsin Energy Star Home standards as well.

Thanks in part to a grant from Madison Gas and Electric, the duplex also offers homeowners
reduced energy and maintenance costs on an ongoing basis, helping to ensure that the home is
affordable to operate and maintain, not just purchase.

“Green building practices and materials save homeowners money in the long term and do not have to increase up-front costs,” says Nathan Engstrom, Green Built Home Program Director. “This project demonstrates that green building and affordability can go hand in hand.”

FISA As a Wedge Issue

In order to attack Democrats in weak Congressional districts, it appears that Republican operatives are using the House's refusal to vote on the FISA bill as a wedge issue based accusing these Dems as being weak on protecting Americans from terrorists.

Truthout Reports:
An aggressive campaign by the White House and its allies to win approval of
a new electronic spying bill is escalating partisan tensions on Capitol Hill.
The contentious debate over the measure could spill over into this fall's
election campaign.

The latest tactic employed by administration
supporters involves a $2 million television advertising campaign featuring
sinister images of Osama bin Laden that started running this week in the home
districts of about 15 Democratic members of Congress who are potentially
vulnerable this fall. The ads, funded by a newly formed conservative advocacy
group called, charge that House Democrats have allowed
"surveillance against terrorists" to be "crippled" because they failed to
approve a version of the spying bill supported by the Bush administration.

The group, run by Clifford May, a former
communications director of the Republican National Committee, has not disclosed
the names of its donors. May told NEWSWEEK that he launched the campaign for the
express purpose of ratcheting up pressure on House Democrats. (The ads call on
voters to contact specific Democratic members and demand that they vote "to keep
us all safe.") "I think it's important for Democrats to hear from their
constituents on this issue," May said. "This is a national security

Democrats complain that the administration is
trying to politicize the electronic surveillance issue and use it for partisan
advantage this fall. "If you look at these ads, they are not too different from
the ads they ran against Max Cleland in 2002," said Meredith Salsbery, press
secretary to Minnesota Democratic Rep. Tim Walz, whose district has been
targeted in the advertising campaign. (Those notorious ads impugned the
patriotism and national security credentials of the Democratic senator from
Georgia, a Vietnam veteran and triple amputee who wound up losing his
re-election bid.) "To a lot of our constituents, these ads look like
fear-mongering and scare tactics designed to persuade the public that the
Democrats are soft on national security." More

The POTUS Calling the Kettle ...?

President Bush and Convicted Lobbyist Jack Abramoff
Mission Accomplished
The President expressing himself nonverbally

Nothing degrading to "the status of the office" of the presidency in these photos.

In a wide-ranging news conference at the White House where he touched on several major issues of the presidential campaign, Bush appeared especially animated when asked about meeting the leaders of Cuba and Iran without preconditions, an idea that has been an element of Barack Obama's foreign policy agenda.

"Sitting down at the table, having your picture taken with a tyrant such as Raul Castro, for example, lends the status of the office and the status of our country to him," Bush said. "He gains a lot from it by saying, 'Look at me, I'm now recognized by the president of the United States.' "

The Capitol Steps "A Leader Called Barack"

If you like a good parody, check out this one by the Capitol Steps entitled "A Leader Called Barack."

Give Voting a Hand (Count)

Sean Flaherty from Iowans for Voting Integrity writes:

We are close to victory in the fight for paper ballot systems in Iowa, but we need your help on an equally important component of secure elections: random hand audits. Time is short, but there is still active discussion of audits this year.

Please call Secretary of State Michael Mauro and urge him to support legislation to require hand-count audits of the 2008 election Contact info: 515-281-0145 (Phone) 515-281-7142 (Fax) (E-mail) First Floor, Lucas Building 321 E. 12th St. Des Moines, IA 50319 .


Voter-marked paper ballots are the foundation of a reliable voting system. But paper ballots offer security only if we use them to check the software that reads the ballots and tallies our votes. And the computer voting systems we use in elections have grave vulnerabilities. Don't take our word for it, though. Here is a sample of what software experts say about security and the need for audits:

University of Iowa professor Douglas Jones, one of the world's experts on voting technology, stated in an affidavit in Pennsylvania court this year that hand counted audits are the only defense against weaknessess found by recent security reviews: "..the only effective defenses against the weaknesses discovered by the California TTBR [top-to-bottom review] and the Ohio EVEREST studies is the defense mandated by Pennsylvania law 25 P.S. 3013.7, a recount of a random sample of the ballots cast in an election."1 The Ohio and California reviews included all of the voting systems used in Iowa, including paper ballot/optical scan systems.

The Brennan Center's Task Force on Voting System Security wrote in 2006: "The value of paper ballots without the Automatic Routine Audits is highly questionable, " (p. 83).

Secretary Mauro supports post-election audits; it's a matter of getting it done this year. Please be sure to thank him for his support of paper ballot systems, but let him know that an election with no check on the software counting our votes is not an option in 2008.

Thank you for all you do.

Senate Bill Public Smoking Ban Bill More Comprehensive

The Iowa Senate, by a vote of 29-21, narrowly passed a bill which would include the banning of smoking in casinos and Veteran Social Halls in addition to other public places. The bill will be returned to the House where either the Senate version will be accepted or a joint conference committee will hammer out an agreement. The bill would then have to be signed into law by Gov. Chet Culver.

Both Sens. Joe Bolkcom and Bob Dvorsky both strongly support comprehensive antismoking legislation.

"Tobacco-related illnesses are the leading cause of death and misery in Iowa," Bolkcom said. "As public-health measures go, after raising the tobacco tax, this is the next big thing we can do."

Currently, both the House and Senate's bans both exempt retail tobacco stores. The bills define such businesses as retail stores utilized primarily for the sale of tobacco products and accessories and in which the sale of other products are incidental to the sale of tobacco products.

Wednesday, February 27

Statistics That Speak Volumes

Yes Magazine has this really great feature called "The Page That Counts" and has interesting statistics like these:

Percentage of major media stories about the 2008 presidential elections that focused on political, financial, and tactical aspects of the campaign: 63 %

Percentage that focused on the personal backgrounds of candidates: 17 %

Percentage that focused on the ideas and policy proposals of candidates: 15 %

Percentage that focused on records and past public performance of candidates: 1 %

Source:“The Invisible Primary—Invisible No Longer,” Project for Excellence in Journalism, Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, October 29, 2007.

Number of jobs created by spending $1 billion on defense: 8,555

Number of jobs created by spending $1 billion on health care: 10,779

Number of jobs created by spending $1 billion on education: 17,687

Number of jobs created by spending $1 billion on mass transit: 19,795
Source:“The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities,” Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier, Dept of Economics and Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, October 2007.

FactCheck on Democratic Debate

FactCheck questions Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's claims:

The Clinton-Obama showdown debate in Cleveland produced several false, twisted or dubious claims, most of which we’ve heard and debunked before.

* Both Obama and Clinton claimed their health care plans would cut costs more than the other’s, and that experts back them up on that. But experts we talked to said the plans are too similar to predict which would save more, and two experts said neither plan can save nearly as much as the candidates claim.

* Both Obama and Clinton twisted the other’s words about support for the North American Free Trade Agreement, again. In fact, the candidates have practically identical positions. They both said during the debate that they would threaten to withdraw from NAFTA unless Mexico and Canada agree to new and tougher terms.

* Clinton said Obama once "basically threatened to bomb Pakistan," a distortion of his statement that he'd unilaterally "take out" al Qaeda leadership there if Pakistan wouldn't act. And that's just what the U.S. did earlier this month, according to news reports quoting official sources.

* Obama twisted the words of Republican John McCain, saying he has suggested "war" might "go on for another 100 years." McCain expressly said otherwise. He said a 100-year presence would be acceptable in the absence of violence against U.S. troops, and later said "the war will be over soon."

House Passes Bill aimed to Move US From Oil to Alternatives

The House approved $18 billion in new taxes over 10 years on the largest oil companies Wednesday as Democrats cited record oil prices and rising gasoline costs in a time of economic troubles.

The money collected would provide tax breaks for wind, solar and other alternative energy sources and for energy conservation. The legislation, approved 236-182, would cost the five largest oil companies an average of $1.8 billion a year over that period (or approximately 7.8% of net income), according an analysis by the Ways and Means Committee. Those companies earned $123 billion last year.

Senate Democratic leaders said they would put the bill on a fast track and try to avoid a Republican filibuster.

The White House said the bill unfairly takes aim at the oil industry. President Bush is expected to veto the legislation if it passes Congress.

Will There Ever Be a New Farm Bill?

According to American Farmland Trust, even if a deal can be reached quickly to get the kinks out of the Farm Bill, finalizing details before the March 15th deadline would be difficult, and another temporary extension through April is possible.

Funding is at the centerpiece of the 10-week farm bill stalemate, with no agreement on how to include a permanent disaster program or how much to increase nutrition spending. Both the House and Senate are now looking at a 10-year farm bill package, using budget techniques to create offsets in later years to pay for conservation, nutrition and fruit and vegetable programs over the life of the bill. An estimated $1 billion in savings could be generated with the inclusion of the Average Crop Revenue (ACR) program, providing more funding under tight budget constraints. However, House packages don’t include this reform-minded safety net program.

House Ag Leader Collin Peterson is optimistic and Senate Ag Leader Tom Harkin is not.

I Know I Can, I Know I Can

Hillary Clinton in Zanesville, Ohio today on her optimism about winning the Democratic nomination: "What keeps me going is that I know I would be the best president. I know that I could handle the problems we have here at home and around the world. I have no doubt about that," she said.

In other news, Clinton picked up 1/2 a delegate from The Democrats Abroad, a group sanctioned by the national party, which has confounded delegate counters, graphic artists and political journalists since it awarded Clinton 1.5 delegates from its global primary last week. Clinton picked up a half superdelegate on Wednesday, increasing her overall total to 1,277.

Reid Sees Red on Housing Foreclosure Bill

With his state leading the nation for the percentage of houses in foreclosure, is it any wonder that Senate majority leader Harry Reid is talking tough about trying to win passage of a bill to curb rising home foreclosures by changing bankruptcy law.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Wednesday he planned to ignore a threatened White House veto and attempt to pass the bill stating, "I have no expectation of reaching any agreement with the White House," said Reid a day after the administration warned the bill would need changes to get President George W. Bush's signature.

"I have tried for seven years" to reach agreements with Bush on a variety of issues, but have repeatedly failed, said Reid. "So we are going to do what we think is best for the country," Reid said. "If we get 67 votes (in the 100-member Senate to override a possible Bush veto), that's great."

The Senate must first overcome a probable Republican-induced hurdle that would take 60 votes to clear. "I think we are going to get more than 60 votes," said Reid, whose fellow Democrats control the Senate, 51-49.

Sen. Dorgan Endorses and Rep. Lewis Switches to Obama Camp

Longtime 5th District Georgia Congressman and Civil Rights leader John Lewis is switching his support from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama.

Blog buzz had been swirling that Lewis might switch his endorsement from Clinton to Obama. Lewis is a superdelegate who will cast his ballot at the Democratic National Convention.

Lewis said he was switching to Obama because his district strongly supported Obama in Super Tuesday's Georgia primary and he believes Americans are looking for a great change.

Also, Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota endorsed Obama on Wednesday, citing his record on trade.

"Senator Obama has never felt ... that NAFTA was good for America," Dorgan said in a campaign conference call with reporters.

Hillary Clinton has been endorsed by 13 of her Senate colleagues, Obama 10.

Tell Bush To End Torture

President Bush needs to be strongly urged to sign the Intelligence Authorization Bill (H.R. 2082). Section 327 of this bill provides critical language that would set a single, humane interrogation standard for all detainees in the custody of the U.S. intelligence community.

The U.S. military abides by the Army Field Manual which specifically rules out the use of torture. Congress has passed a bill that would take torture off the table completely by applying these interrogation rules to the CIA which is now reportedly operating a program in which cruel interrogation techniques have been authorized and used.

President Bush claims to not favor torture, yet he is threatening to veto a bill that would put an end to inhumane practices like the use of waterboarding, hypothermia and stress positions.

The danger here is clear: The failure to articulate a single standard of humane treatment will perpetuate a policy of official cruelty, undermine the rule of law, and jeopardize the safety of U.S. citizens and military personnel.

Send a message now telling President Bush that a veto is unacceptable!

What is Icky About ILC

According to the Iowa Democratic Party website,

The Iowa Leadership Council (ILC) was opened last year [2005] with a $1,000 loan from Republican House Speaker Christopher Rants, who has also solicited contributions to it. The Council has received contributions from Republican legislators as well as $40,000 from predatory lenders, $60,000 from tobacco companies, and $50,000 from a casino owner. The Council was created to avoid accountability under Iowa’s campaign finance law.

“A $60,000 donation from tobacco companies killed the cigarette tax,” said House Democratic Leader Pat Murphy. “Fifty-thousand dollars from casino interests squashed TouchPlay machines and $55,000 from car title lenders nixed interest rate limits on loans. It’s not hard to see the pattern. If you have the money, you can get what you want from Speaker Rants and Republicans.”

This group which also has had contributions from Mid-American Energy and RJ Reynolds, is targeting Democrats in several Iowa House Districts including Elesha Gayman, Eric Palmer, McKinley Bailey, Bob Kressig, and Art Staed.

More from Century of The Common Iowan

Here's an ad from the ILC

As American as Ed Fallon and Apple Pie

Ed...(And his super partner Lynn) know how to make a pie.

Help us reach our goal and donate now:

Also, please plan on attending Ed's birthday celebration this Saturday, March 1st. If you’ve got the time and energy, you’re welcome to spend the whole day with me.
Here’s the schedule. If you want to join us for any of these events, please RSVP at

7:00-8:30 am—Breakfast at the Drake Diner. I’m having pancakes, the tall stack, with a side order of The Des Moines Register. Critiquing the morning’s top stories with friends is a great way to wake up. Come join me.

9:00-11:00 am—Frisbee golf at Grandview Park. Many politicians do pricey golf outings with lobbyists. I prefer “poor man’s golf” with friends. Discs are $10 at Boulevard Sports. Can a 50-year old beat his personal best of 2-under par? Come join me and find out.

12:00-1:00 pm—Natural Living Expo at the new Animal Learning Center at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

2:00-5:00 pm—Let’s bike. I’m shooting for a 20-30-mile ride. Start and finish at the main campaign house, 2715 Cottage Grove.

7:00-10:00 pm—Party at the Thoreau Center, 3500 Kingman Blvd. There will be a band from 8-10 pm and we’ll serve food and drink. No gifts please, just come, have fun, and let me thank you for your support.

He Said, She Said: Hillary and Barack in Ohio

Overall Impression

The NBC debate in Ohio between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama last night turned over little in terms of new ideas, but managed to suck the life out of the those that had been covered. Seriously, is it me, or does anyone else want to scream "enough" when it comes to the "mandate" differences between Clinton and Obama's health care plans? We all know that it will come down to what Congress will agree to and then it will be up to whichever one is elected to sign it into law.

I am sure I wasn't the only one to wish things like global warming initiatives and how they plan to deal with the economic crisis would have been discussed.

Also, am I the only one who is less interested in the hearing "shoutouts" to cities in the state? The formula seems to be "I was talking to a [fill in the blank] in Parma, Dayton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Youngstown and [he/she] told me [place issue here]."

Who Won

Overall, I think it was Hillary's night. She was much more specific and explanatory about her views. The format of the debate was more her speed. She started off sluggish by complaining about being asked the tough questions first and that Obama, basically, is being coddled. However, after that, she was all business.

Obama, while not ceding points to Clinton, was not disarming in his counterpoints, which has been his strong suit. Like Clinton, he was prickly about what he deemed to be unfair play by the Clinton camp.

Who Lost

NBC's Brian Williams and Tim Russert who seemed to delight in the picayune statements from the campaign trail and kept trying to push buttons to get reactions. They also did little to keep the debate on track.

Lines of the Night


On distancing himself from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan "I don't see a difference between denouncing and rejecting," he said, adding that he would both reject and denounce Farrakhan if it would satisfy Clinton, a remark that drew laughter and applause.

On the Iraq War: "The fact was, this was a big strategic blunder. It was not a matter of 'Well, here is the initial decision, but since then we've voted the same way.' Once we had driven the bus into the ditch, there were only so many ways we could get out. The question is: Who's making the decision initially to drive the bus into the ditch?"


On Going First in the debates: “Well, could I just point out that, in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time,’’ Clinton complained last night in Cleveland. “And I don't mind. You know, I'll be happy to field them, but I do find it curious. And if anybody saw "Saturday Night Live," you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow.’’

On Universal Healthcare: "It's just that I know that parents who get sick have terrible consequences for their children. So you can insure the children, and then you've got the bread-winner who can't afford health insurance or doesn't have it for him or herself. And in fact, it would be as though Franklin Roosevelt said let's make Social Security voluntary -- that's -- you know, that's -- let's let everybody get in it if they can afford it -- or if President Johnson said let's make Medicare voluntary. "

Tuesday, February 26

Home Foreclosure Rates Continue Astronomical Climb

According to RealtyTrac, 45,327 homes in the US that were foreclosed and auctioned off in January. 278 of those homes are here in Iowa.

Nationally the foreclosure rate in January jumped 57% (as compared to January of 2007)with Nevada, California, Florida, arizona, and Colorado leading the pack. Iowa is #34.

This upward trend is 8% higher than December of 2007.

if you missed the report in the Des Moines Register about rural homeowners in danger of foreclosure, check this out.

March 4th: 2 for Obama, 2 for Clinton?

If the primaries were held today, it looks like Texas and Vermont would be in Barack Obama's column and Rhode Island and Ohio would belong to Hillary Clinton. at least if the polls that Real Clear Politics is tracking.

What may be more interesting are the trends in Texas and Ohio where Obama's numbers continue to climb while Clinton's hold steady or decline.

The latest Rasmussen Reports poll shows Clinton earning 48% of the Ohio Democratic Presidential Primary vote. That’s unchanged from a week ago. Barack Obama’s support has grown to 43%. That’s up from 40% last week and 38% the week before.

Overall, Clinton’s lead is now just five percentage points in Ohio, down from an eight-point advantage last week and fourteen points two weeks ago.

In Texas, last week, Clinton led Obama by three percentage points. The week before, she had a sixteen-point advantage.

Although Clinton has held on to a very small lead in Texas polling, Rasmussen Markets shows that Obama is favored to win (current prices: Obama 71.8% Clinton 29.7%).

Regardless of who wins next Tuesday, the polls seem to indicate there will be no knock out punches, but more like death by a thousand cuts.

65th Iowa Serviceman Killed in Iraq

Spc. Chad Groepper, 21, of Kingsley, died Sunday morning in Diyala Province as a result of wounds suffered from small arms fire, family members said. Groepper was assigned to 2nd Battalion 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division of Fort Lewis, Wash.

Groepper was the 65th person with Iowa ties to die in Iraq or Afghanistan and is one of 3,972 members of the U.S. military who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war since March 2003.

Groepper had graduated from Kingsley-Pierson High School in December 2004 and enlisted in the Army 12 days later, said his mother, Darcy Groepper. She and her husband, Dave, were notified of their son’s death by Army soldiers on Sunday, she said.

He wasn't scared of anything," Dave Groepper told The Associated Press. "That's why he was infantry." The father called Chad Groepper an "action figure" who always wanted to be in the front line.

Groepper's sister Denae, 26, of Granger, Iowa, remembers her kid brother as "a natural daredevil."

"A dirt bike, a four-wheeler, it didn't matter," she said. "Chad loved them all. He said they helped him to relax," Denae said with a laugh.

He had been serving in Iraq for nearly one year with an Army infantry unit and was scheduled to return to the United States as early as May.

Groepper enlisted in the Army after graduating in 2004 from Kingsley-Pierson High School. He leaves behind his wife,Stephanie and 4-month-old daughter, Clarissa.

Groepper's unit had been scheduled return to the United States as early as May. "We'd just been counting the days until he came home," his mother said.

His funeral will be at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday 2/27 at Kingsley-Pierson High School.

Spoken Like Someone With a 19% Approval Rating

In what many in the Blue column might call highly wishful thinking (or more strongly, delusions of grandeur), President Bush told Republican governors meeting in Washington Monday "I’m confident we’ll hold the White House in 2008. And I don’t want the next Republican president to be lonely, and that is why we got to take the House, retake the Senate, and make sure our states are governed by Republican governors.”

“Our ideas are those embraced by the American people,” Bush said to attendees of the Republican Governors Association in Washington, “the two big issues facing us: who best to protect America, and who best to keep taxes low. I’m looking forward to this campaign. I’m excited about taking our message to the American people. With your help and hard work, there’s no doubt in my mind — no doubt — that we’ll win,” he said.

He also said that, despite opinion polls showing a majority of Americans oppose the Iraq war, the public understands that the war is essential to national security. “We will elect someone in the White House who will keep up the fight to make sure Iraq is secure and free,” said Bush.

Five Years Too many

From Peace Action

In the past 5 years:
More than 1 million Iraqis and nearly 4,000 U.S. service people killed,
2 million Iraqis living as refugees in other countries,
Another 2.5 million displaced within Iraq
More than 1 trillion dollars has been spent

We must be as active, creative, visible and vocal as possible in order to keep Iraq and our demands prominent in the national discourse throughout the electoral season and beyond. The actions on the 19th are the first step in making this the LAST anniversary of this terrible occupation.

Now is the time!

March 19, 2008: the 5th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the beginning of the 6th year of war and occupation, the 6th year of senseless death and massive destruction.

Where the Legal Soars: What John Ashcroft Has Been Up To

Also via Yahoo News

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft has agreed to appear at a federal hearing looking into no-bid contracts he and others received to monitor out-of-court corporate settlements.

A House Judiciary Committee subcommittee announced the agreement with Ashcroft in Washington, D.C., on Monday, the day before the committee was to consider authorizing its chairman to issue him a subpoena.

The committee hearing was hastily postponed after Ashcroft said he would voluntarily testify.

The former attorney general is considered a key witness in the inquiry into lucrative federal monitoring contracts awarded by federal prosecutors to hand-picked monitors to oversee deferred prosecutions.

The House hearing was prompted, in part, by complaints from two New Jersey congressmen after Christopher Christie, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, awarded a contract said to be worth $27 million or more to Ashcroft to monitor a medical device maker that had entered a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors.

Quid pro quo, no?

Dodd To Endorse Obama

From Yahoo News

Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut plans to endorse former presidential rival Barack Obama.

Dodd will endorse his colleague, a senator from Illinois, in Cleveland on Tuesday, according to a Democratic official close to Dodd who requested anonymity because no formal announcement had been made.

Dodd's support, coupled with his liberal credentials, could provide a boost for Obama as major contests near in big states such as Ohio and Texas on March 4. Obama has won some key Democratic endorsements in recent weeks, including Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, a close friend of Dodd.

Obama and rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton had been vying for Dodd's support since he exited the presidential race after a poor showing in the Iowa caucus last month. Dodd, who won his Senate seat in 1980 and chaired the Democratic National Committee from 1995-1996, has long-standing ties to the Clintons.

Interest Peaking on Credit Card Bill

New York Representative Carolyn Maloney recently introduced H.R. 5244, the “Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008”. Maloney calls the bill "comprehensive credit card reform legislation" that does away with "abuses that unfairly hurt consumers". Provisions of the bill include:

* The prohibition of "arbitrary interest rate increases"
* a notice of any interest rate increase at least 45 days in advance
* the right to pay off one's existing balance at the current interest rate if the rate increased
* a requirement that cardholders who pay on time will not be "unfairly penalized"
* prohibitions on "due date gimmicks" and "misleading terms"
* allowing cardholders to set their own limits on their credit
* application of credits and allocation of payments "promptly and fairly"
* a prohibition of imposing "excessive fees" on cardholders
* a prohibition on issuing subprime credit cards to people who can't afford them"

There are 45 co-sponsors and none of them are from Iowa.

Smoke That Cigarette (Not)

The Press-Citizen weighs in favoring the proposed smoking ban.

I think the smoking ban will be an economic boon for restaurants and bars that have entertainment, because I think folks who stay home on account of smoke will likely give them another try. Also, since the local control issue was defeated by the Iowa Supreme Court, it is the only way to level the playing field. However, I question exemptions for casinos, Veteran Service Clubs, and "some farms". For a smoking ban to be fair, it should be across the board and protect the health of all workers.

Alternatively, the state could create a separate license for "smoking" clubs that would provide a living wage and health coverage for all its workers.

For those who oppose this kind of law because of their perception that government is solely around to provide national defense, guess what? Healthy, productive workers are the best defense.

Smoke That Cigarette: Ray Benson and Asleep At the Wheel

Monday, February 25

Doonesbury Creator Trudeau Lecture at Coe Rescheduled to March 25th

Doonesbury aficionados will be chagrined to learn that Garry Trudeau's engagement at Coe College has been postponed until March 25th.

Contemporary Issues Forum: Featuring Garry Trudeau, editorial cartoonist of Doonesbury, originally scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 26 has been postponed until Tuesday, Mar. 25, 7:30 p.m., Sinclair Auditorium. Tickets for Coe students, faculty and staff are available for $5. Reserved seats are $10 for the general public, $5 for students age 18 and younger and seniors age 55 and over. Tickets already purchased will be honored on March 25.

His telling of the rehabilitation issues for returning Vets has been one of the more enlightening outcomes of the Iraq War. More at this blog.

The Changing State of Religion

As a member of a .3% (and holding) "faith-group", I found Pew Research's US Religious Landscape Survey(See this NYT article) latest report to be interesting. It appears that people are not static in their religious preferences, more than one-in-four U.S. adults (28%) have changed their religious affiliation from that in which they were raised.If change of affiliation within religious traditions (e.g., from one type of Protestantism to another)is included, roughly 44% of Americans now profess a religious affiliation that is different from the religion in which they were raised.

Groups that have experienced a net loss from changes in affiliation include Baptists (net loss of 3.7 percentage points) and Methodists (2.1 percentage points). However, the group that has experienced the greatest net loss by far is the Catholic Church. Overall, 31.4% of U.S. adults say that they were raised Catholic. Today, however, only 23.9% of adults identify with the Catholic Church, a net loss of 7.5 percentage points.

Are we becoming a less religious nation? Currently, according to the Pew study, there are 16% of us who are Atheist, Agnostic, and "Nothing in Particular." This is actually the 4th largest group of all. In the 1980s, the General Social Survey by the National Opinion Research Center indicated that from 5 percent to 8 percent of the population described itself as unaffiliated with a particular religion.

At the rate things are going, the non-religious will be a more powerful political force than mainline religions. Wouldn't it be interesting to see how politicians deal with that when they talk about their nonspiritual beliefs?

Same-Sex or Segregated Schools?

In following an evolving national trend, a rural Greene County in Georgia is trying same-sex schools. Nearly 400 public schools of 90,000 across the country offer some single-sex classes or programs. While a few hundred other public school districts around the nation - including Georgia's Clarke and Barrow counties - have tried same-gender classes on a much smaller scale, the plan would likely make Greene County the only school district in the country to separate girls from boys in every class from kindergarten through high school.

In a move born of desperation over years of poor test scores (Girls graduate 73 percent of the time, while boys just 61 percent), soaring dropout rates and high numbers of teenage pregnancies, Superintendent Shawn McCollough told parents in an impassioned speech last week. "At the rate we're moving, we're never going to catch up. If we're going to take some steps, let's take some big steps."

In this county of about 14,400 people the vast majority of longtime residents, and most of the 2,000 students in the county's schools, are working class blacks.

Federal regulations regarding same-gender classes, approved by the U.S. Department of Education in 2006, say that schools may offer same-sex classes as an "alternative." If Greene County makes the classes mandatory, district officials are simply inviting a lawsuit, he said.

In outcomes based education, does the end will justify the means?

And the Presidential Oscars Go To...

I Watched the Oscars last night and enjoyed Jon Stewart's zippy one liners at the expense of John McCain-- "Oscar is 80 this year, which makes him now automatically the front-runner for the Republican (presidential) nomination" and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama-- "Normally when you see a black man or a woman president, an asteroid is about to hit the Statue of Liberty."

I thought about if Oscars were given out to the candidates in the 2008 presidential race, how would it go.

Nominees for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Michelle Obama in "The First Time", Cindy McCain for "Stand By Your Flag", Elizabeth Kucinich for "Towering Inferno" and Elizabeth Edwards in "Phone Call to Ann Coulter"

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Elizabeth Edwards in "Phone Call to Ann Coulter"

Nominees for Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Bill Clinton "Foot Loose", Chris Dodd "In Dodd We Trust", John Edwards "Millworker's Son", Mike Gravel for "No Country for Old Men"

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Mike Gravel for "No Country for Old Men"

Nominee for Best Actress in a Leading Role: Hillary Clinton in "Ready from Day One"

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Hillary Clinton in "Ready from Day One"

Best Actor in a Leading Role Nominees: Barack Obama in "Yes, We Can, Hope", John McCain in "No Country for Old Men", Mike Huckabee in "I Heart Huckabee"

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Barack Obama in "Yes, We Can, Hope"

Other winners:
Best Animated Short Subject: Dennis Kucinich in "I See Aliens"
Best Animated Feature: Ron Paul in "Give Me Libertarians or Give Me Depth"
Best Screenwriter: Tie, Caesar Chavez for "Si, Se Puede" and Deval Patrick for "Just Words"
Best Documentary: Mitt Romney in "I Got To Be Me--Whoever That Is"

Life Time Achievement Awards: John McCain and Mike Gravel

In Memorium: Fred Thompson, Tommy Thompson, John Cox, Jim Gilmore, Sam Brownback, Mark Warner, Russ Feingold, Mark Klein, Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, Tom Tancredo, Duncan Hunter, Rudolph Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Dennis Kucinich, John Edwards, Alan Keyes.

Best Picture and Best Director will be awarded on November 7, 2008.

Iowa Senate to Take Up Smoking Ban

In what will be a great improvement to those of us who refuse to go to places where smoking clogs our lungs, and a boon for those restaurants and bars that have been hesitant to voluntarily impose one, the Iowa Senate will take up the public smoking ban. I wrote to Senator Joe Bolkcom about the exemptions to the ban to get his take on its chances--and the possibility that the senate would push for a tougher bill.

Gark: I find it curious that casinos, VFW's and some farms are exempt from the smoking ban. I know that Illinois has a smoking ban on its casinos (which I understand has led to the construction of outdoor smoking lounges).

Wouldn't it be easier to pass a universal workplace smoking ban? I imagine the restaurant and bar lobby is not happy and is likely to be less happy if casinos are exempt.

Senator Bolkcom: "I wish we could stop the exemptions. This will be hard. If casinos and VFW's get the exemption and we can pass a statewide ban, the anti-tobacco advocates will be able to focus their attention there next."

"This legislative process is an interesting one. You try to get as much as you can and make the best deal possible."

"I can't believe that we are even talking about a statewide ban. If we get this done it will be one of the most important actions this session."

"We have work to do in the Senate this week to get this done."

Gark: Thanks for doing what you can. I understand that it is difficult to do this, but more interesting is why just these exemptions? Particularly for the gaming industry, an industry that will likely continue to grow and employ many low-income wage earners, it would seem like a question of workplace safety and social justice to stand up for this group of workers.

Senator Bolkcom: "The casino exemption is a big problem. They have the votes to get the exemption at least for now. The logic makes no sense."

Friday, February 22

John Edwards Still Holding Out on Clinton and Obama

Hillary Clinton said Friday she has had more conversations with John Edwards since their first post-race meeting two weeks ago, a sign the New York senator continues to heavily court the backing of her former rival.

Pressed if she had spoken with Edwards since meeting with him in person earlier this month, Clinton indicated she had, on more than one occasion. "We have had conversations, yes," she said.

Edwards has yet to back a candidate. Barack Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe has also made recent trips to North Carolina, and met with Edwards backers there.

FactCheck Blogcast

Debate Highlights

This has been a busy week and I would be remiss to close it out without a mention of the debate last night. I didn't watch it.

I decided instead to flip channels after the debate to see what the various pundits had to say. On Fox, nothing, Bill O'Reilly was dismissing the NYT article on John McCain's lobbyist troubles. Over on MSNBC, I saw Keith Olbermann sign off and tolerated ten minutes of an awkward Chris Matthews trying to be fair to a woman pundit wedged between two guys from Newsweek. Their concensus was that Obama and Clinton won. Finally, I went over to CSPAN who was covering the foreign minister from Britain who was confessing that the CIA had renditioned a couple of suspected Al Qaida operatives (one of whom has been released) on their terrain.

I did hear something about Obama Xeroxing something or other and Clinton appearing pacifying.

Here are the real bits...

The rest are at You Tube.

Biden, Kerry, Hagel Helicopter Downed in Afghanistan

By snow...Made you look.

Fortunately no one was injured.

CNN story

A helicopter carrying three U.S. senators was forced to make an emergency landing in Afghanistan Thursday, military and congressional sources tell CNN.

The military helicopter carrying Democratic Sens. Joseph Biden of Delaware and John Kerry of Massachusetts, and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska had to land in the mountains because of a snowstorm, said Elizabeth Alexander, a spokeswoman for Biden.

No one was hurt in the incident, said Kerry spokesman David Wade. The senators proceeded to their destination in a ground convoy after the helicopter landed in a field, he said.

"After several hours, the senators were evacuated by American troops and returned overland to Bagram Air base, and left for their next scheduled stop in Ankara, Turkey," Wade added.

Culver Calls for Green Government

From the Sioux City Journal

Gov. Chet Culver Thursday issued an executive order which requires and promotes energy-saving practices in state government buildings.

"I believe state government can and must be a model for greening Iowa's homes, schools and businesses," Culver said.

Culver will tap Office of Energy Independence Director Roya Stanley to oversee the Green Government Steering Committee, which will organize the eco-friendly initiatives.The new committee will offer modifications for existing state offices to make them more green, while ensuring all future state government structures meet efficiency standards, Culver said.

Members of the committee also will audit state buildings and offices for energy efficiency to establish baselines. Green thinking will be applied to many aspects of state government, from cleaning supplies to lighting systems, Culver said. State employees also will be encouraged to reduce their fuel consumption by promoting carpooling and the use of biofuels, Culver said.

"We need to get in the habit of applying best practices to our daily routines," Culver said.

How about promoting mass transit and bikes too?

What's the Legislature Doing About Foreclosures?

Iowa's foreclosure lawsuits echo a third quarter report from the Mortgage Bankers Association that shows Iowa has the 14th highest foreclosure rate in the nation. Iowa ranks seventh nationally in percentage of subprime loans in foreclosure.

While smoking bans and pop bottle bills are important, the number of lawsuits that seek to foreclose on homeowners is climbing across Iowa. Records show the lawsuits nearly doubling last year, to almost 10,000. In Iowa, foreclosure lawsuits usually begin the process of seizing homes and end with sheriff's sales if no other resolutions are found.

Surely there must be a legal remedy that can be applied to keep homeowners in their homes?

Two Planning to Run for Sandra Greiner's House Seat

From the Kalona News

The race for the 89 district atate representative position is heating up.
Two candidates have announced that they are running to replace Sandra Greiner, when she retires at the end of this term, after serving as a representative for sixteen years.

Larry Marek, a democrat and a farmer, from the Riverside area, and Jarad Klein, a republican and a fifth generation farmer, from the Keota area, are the two candidates who have announced so far. This is a first time run for both candidates.

So You Think your Boss Is Bad?

Being that is is Casual Friday somewhere, and clearly you aren't doing your worrk if you're reading this, take a minute to endulge in this bit of frivolity.

The good folks at Working in America have a My Bad Boss Quiz. that you are sure to enjoy.

Ed Helms Explains How Voting Works

Former The Daily Show regular Ed Helms explains voting...

from Funny or Die

What Do You Want-- an ESTJ, an ENFP, or an ESTP?

Back in my counseling days, I enjoyed using the Myers-Briggs Type Indictor (MBTI) to help them consider careers or job environments that would fit their personalities and to understand how other people work. An article on the Slate website caught my eye as the author was applying the MBTI types to the top three candidates in the race for the presidency.

The MBTI is a widely used tool in the counseling and consulting professions. It was devised in 1943 and has been championed by Dr. David Keirsey who has his own similar tool called the Keirsey Temperament Sorter II. Esentially each of us are one of sixteen basic types of people based on our temperament (aka: personality).

Spoiler alert: If you take the Keirsey Temperament Sorter II now, you might want to come back to see how the presidential candidates compare to your type.

Also, a BIG disclaimer, the MBTI is not considered, psychometrically, a highly valid, reliable instrument to use as the predictive validity is low. However, it is very helpful/useful as a tool for self-knowledge and organizational development.

According to Emily Yoffe, the author of the article I mentioned, Hillary Clinton is an ESTJ (Extrovert, Sensing, Thinking, Judging type).

Hillary Clinton is a Guardian,... what Keirsey calls "the Supervisor." Supervisors are, Keirsey says, steadfast, cautious, methodical. They are the reliable, detail-oriented people without whom organizations and society fall apart—which is something ESTJs won't hesitate to point out. "[T]heir first instinct is to take charge and tell others what to do," says Keirsey. They are "devoted public servants, seeing their role in government … in almost sacred terms of self-sacrifice and service to others." This service is an obligation, not given "freely and joyously." As columnist Richard Cohen observed about Hillary, "Whether she meant to or not, she has presented herself as a model of caution, of experience hard-earned and not enjoyed. …"

Barack Obama, on the other hand is an ENFP (Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving type).

Barack Obama—no one will be surprised to learn—is an Idealist... what Keirsey calls "the Champion." ENFPs, says Keirsey, are "filled with conviction that they can easily motivate those around them." Champions work to "kindle, to rouse, to encourage, even to inspire those close to them with their enthusiasm." Idealists "usually have a tongue of silver" and are "gifted in seeing the possibilities" of institutions and people. Here's Obama on leadership: "[W]e need leaders to inspire us. Some are thinking about our constraints, and others are thinking about limitless possibility."

John McCain is an ESTP (Extrovert, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving type).

John McCain is an Artisan... what Keirsey calls the Promoter. The ESTP is, according to Keirsey, "practical, optimistic, cynical, and focused on the here and now." If the ESTP portrait gives you a feeling of déjà vu, it's because George W. Bush is an ESTP, too. They are a common presidential type: Both Roosevelts, JFK, and LBJ were ESTPs. "Artisans need to be potent, to be felt as a strong presence and they want to affect the course of events," writes Keirsey. They hunger to "have a piece of the action," "to make something happen" whether "on the battlefield" or "in the political arena." So many politicians are Artisans because "politics allows not only for maneuvering, excitement, and risk—but for powerful social impact."

Want to check out the track history of presidents based on type? Check here.

For another take, see what Personality Zone has to say.

Thursday, February 21

And Then There Were Two

The Iowa City Council has narrowed the field from five candidates to two. After Larry Delo declined to continue in the interview process, Assistant City Manager Mike Matthes of Des Moines and Union Station CFO and former Jackson County, MO administrator Art Chaudry were asked to be back on March 1st for a final round of interviews.

In speaking with both of these candidates, there are strengths to each as their profiles show:

Art Chaudry
As a Chief Financial Officer for a county of a million people, Art has had many years of experience in administrating the functions of a large urban county and corporations. In his current position, he has the additional experience of working for a economic development project that Iowa City would likely love to develop (at a smaller scale) to add tourist dollars to our local economy. Additionally with his corporate experience, he may appeal to potential companies considering Iowa City to do business with.

He is a good people person and seemed to genuinely enjoy connecting to residents as they asked important questions. Seemed to have the kind of personality that could withstand the withering challenge of a disagreeing public without being disagreeable.

Minuses: Perceived by some as "overbearing". Where is the challenge in running a small city? He's been there, done that. Long in the tooth, he is in his sixties. Are his ideas for city governance and fiscal policy in keeping with a younger, vibrant community? His understanding of housing issues was not at all apparent.

Michael Matthes
While lacking the many years of experience that Chaudry has, Matthe's strength is clearly in understanding affordable housing and generally having a better sense of Iowa governance. He had a good sense of understanding about Iowa City as a community and how his experiences might fit. As a 30-something, his ideas for city management may be a good fit for sustainably growing the community.

He is also a good public relations person, he was the only candidate that actually said he'd look forward to hearing what residents thought were important issues. He has a professional demeanor that belies his experience.

Minuses: Relatively inexperienced and was perceived by some as "cocky"? Untested in running a city, can he handle the barrage of inquiries? His knowledge of economic development appears to be academic. Is he in it for the long haul? How will he work with department managers who are significantly more seasoned?

Good luck to our City Council in making their deliberations. In either candidate are excellent opportunities and challenges. As I've said before, they will have substantial shoes to fill.

We Are the American People and We Disaprove of This President

Is it any wonder that Geoorge Bush is in Africa? The American Research Group's latest poll shows that George W. Bush's job approval rating has plummeted to below 20%. a record 77% disapprove of his handling of the job, particularly the economy.

Feb 2008 19% Approve; 77% Disapprove; 4% Undecided
Jan 2008 34% Approve; 59% Disapprove; 7% Undecided

According to the ARG,
A total of 78% of Americans say the national economy is getting worse and 47% say the national economy is in a recession. A total of 42% of Americans, however, say they believe the national economy will be better a year from now, which is the highest level for this question in the past year. This optimism does not spread to improvements in household financial situations as 17% of Americans say they expect their household financial situations to be better a year from now, which is the lowest for this question in the past year.

McCain Has Some Explaining to Do About Campaign Financing

Even as John McCain defends his lobbying record, he is caught up in an even more embarassing situation.

From Yahoo News

The government's top campaign finance regulator says John McCain can't drop out of the primary election's public financing system until he answers questions about a loan he obtained to kickstart his once faltering presidential campaign.

The government's top campaign finance regulator says John McCain can't drop out of the primary election's public financing system until he answers questions about a loan he obtained to kickstart his once faltering presidential campaign.

Federal Election Commission Chairman David Mason, in a letter to McCain this week, said the all-but-certain Republican nominee needs to assure the commission that he did not use the promise of public money to help secure a $4 million line of credit he obtained in November.

Obama Wins Democratic Hearts and Minds Abroad

In a vote count that took slighly less than the New Mexico caucuses to tabulate, Barack Obama won the Democrats Abroad global primary in results announced Thursday.

According to the AP, the Illinois senator won the primary in which Democrats living in other countries voted by Internet, mail and in person, according to results released by the Democrats Abroad, an organization sanctioned by the national party.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has not won a nominating contest since Super Tuesday, more than two weeks ago.

More than 20,000 U.S. citizens living abroad voted in the primary, which ran from Feb. 5 to Feb. 12. Obama won about 65 percent of the vote, according to the results released Thursday.

Voters living in 164 countries cast votes online, while expatriates voted in person in more than 30 countries, at hotels in Australia and Costa Rica, at a pub in Ireland and at a Starbucks in Thailand. The results took about a week to tabulate as local committees around the globe gathered ballots.

New Jon Stewart Franchise to Open

Not exactly "popular", but definitely progressive, funny guy Demitri Martin, a frequent contributor to The Daily Show will be spun off to do a variety show produced by Jon Stewart's Busboy Productions. Not sure about Demetri, well check him out in this clip.

How Green Is Your Cubicle?

Reuters reports that workers are unlikely to bring their green attitude to work with them, even though energy conservation is likely to have a large influence on reducing greenhouse gases particularly carbon dioxide for the future.

According to Reuters,
A poll by Harris Interactive found that 93 percent of employed respondents conserve energy by turning off lights, computers or the television when leaving home for the day but only 50 percent do the same when leaving work.

The top reasons cited to "turn-off" at home were to save money - 85 percent - and to help the environment - 53 percent.

But while the same reasons apply at work, the percentages were significantly lower with only 36 percent turning off to conserve money and 30 percent to conserve energy -- even though 87 percent of employees say it is at least "somewhat important" that their employer offer green-friendly programs at work.

Iowa Offers Welfare to Microsoft

Known for our glorious Vistas and PC attitudes, Iowa has now opened our wallets a little wider to have Microsoft build a data center here.

According to the Gazette

The measure, approved 45-2, would build on incentives created last year that lured Google to build a $600 million center in Council Bluffs. House File 2233 now goes to Gov. Chet Culver for his expected signature.

Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, said the computer giant could invest $600 million in a facility in Iowa if the state is chosen as its project location.

To attract Google to Iowa, the Legislature approved a package that exempted electricity and capital investments from the state's sales tax. The measure approved Thursday broadens the language to make sure Microsoft would qualify. The measure doesn't mention Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft by name. It requires an investment of at least $200 million and a decision by Dec. 31.

In addition to legislative action, other state and local incentives probably would be offered to Microsoft.

Sen. Dick Dearden, D-Des Moines, one of two senators to oppose the measure, said Iowa had no business "offering welfare" to a company that made $14 billion last year — which is more than twice the state's general fund budget.

"There's no reason why we have to keep giving corporate welfare," he said.

Dotzler countered that the state will far recoup more benefits from a Microsoft project if Iowa is chosen as the project site.

No You Can't and No You Didn't

Nice and effective parody of Barack Obama "Yes, We Can" found over at TruthDig

On the other hand, here's one for Hillary Clinton and it's not a Parody--yikes!!

British Admit to Aiding CIA Rendition

While widely denied during Tony Blair's term as Prime Minister, apparently rendition of CIA terror suspects was aided by the British.

CNN reports that British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said British territory was used to transport two suspects in the CIA's rendition program.

David Miliband said two suspects in the CIA rendition program were transported
via British soil.

Miliband told the House of Commons that two flights,
each carrying a U.S. detainee, refueled in 2002 in Diego Garcia, a British
territory in the Indian Ocean.

The British government previously had
said it played no part in the program. The foreign secretary said Thursday's
revelations were the result of "new information" the United States gave to
Britain last Friday.

"I'm very sorry indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to have
to report to the House the need to correct these and other statements on the
subject," Miliband said.

War Art for Peace Sake

John Paul Hornbeck is a peace advocate friend of mine here in Iowa City who needs a hand to attend an exhibition of his own art:

John Paul Hornbeck has created a sculpture called "Shattered Soldier" that depicts the mental and physical cost of war to soldiers. John Paul is a veteran himself, and is a dedicated activist, doing peer counseling for returning vets and organizing the Iowa City chapter of Iraq Vets against the War. "Shattered Soldier" has been selected to be in an exhibit opening in Rhode Island called "Experiencing the War in Iraq." The
aim of the exhibition is to give a human face to the complex conflict in Iraq, to bring together diverse expressions of individual experience and to reconnect those who have unconsciously cocooned themselves from the grim reality of the war. Please read the Artist's Statement below.

Here's the exhibited piece & info about the exhibition:

Now he needs some money to cover the expenses to deliver his work, and once that is covered, it would be really great if he had enough to cover travel expenses so that he can attend the opening.

Donations can be sent to:

John Paul Hornbeck
321 Hawkeye Ct

Iowa City, IA 52246

Artist’s Statement
-John-Paul Hornbeck

Shattered Soldier is a silent memorial created to mourn the loss of several of my comrades who have taken their lives; and others who never returned from this war. It speaks to the issues that vets face when they return to society, as a reminder of those parts of themselves that got left behind, while others bring back too much with them. Many veterans are like ghosts of their wars, dealing with survivors’ guilt & their own inner demons for years, and returning to a society that barely understands what they’ve been through. Despite the patriotism and parades; their reception isn’t usually accompanied with support to make a full transition from the battlefield to the home front.

My father returned from Vietnam nearly 35 years ago, and he's finally getting his leg amputated at the VA hospital in May, after fighting the typical uphill fight that vets go through to get their benefits. His was only 40% disability because it wasn't "service connected" (although it was a botched surgery by the Army, I'd sure as hell say it's "service connected" based on whose hand was holding the scalpel and performing the surgery.) I think they planned it that way by not amputating his leg, so they wouldn't have to increase his disability benefits. Growing up, I went to the VA with my father, sat around waiting for sometimes half a day. I witnessed other veterans in the waiting rooms, looking miserable. It was a day my father always dreaded, going to the VA, he'd drag me along to keep him company and cheer him up. Seeing those older vets look like tired ghosts, languishing in the system after serving their country, it made me seriously upset. Where were their honors now, after being treated as expendable after they've proven their usefulness? They simply faded away into their past, other than cheap trinkets and blanket honors, there was nothing really respectable about how they were treated by their primary care givers: the Government. The VA hospitals were like purgatory.

This sculpture represents how war becomes the soldier, for those – like my father and I, from two different eras, Vietnam and today – who’ve suffered from PTSD. Although the Vietnam-era veterans pioneered the diagnosis and treatment, naming their condition from the jungles that followed them home: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. My sculpture speaks of the many names; especially for PTSD, that have been passed down from previous wars, until we find ourselves in another situation, the condition is renamed and treated like a whole new problem. Many veterans’ issues have never been given the proper attention that they should, and still remain current problems that returning veterans face. I work in homeless veteran outreach, and I've found cases of returning Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan vets out on the streets. Despite the denial of the mainstream media saying these are just exaggerate numbers, one is still too damn many!!! Just in the passed couple years, 2 homeless Vietnam vets have frozen to death under bridges in my home city, Iowa City; while I worked on a documentary about their plight on the streets:
"The Other Side of Patriotism."

There was something very psychological during the production of this piece, as I ground the metal, the hot sparks hissed as they licked cold sweat, it was very calming, even when slivers of hot metal shot like shrapnel, it stuck to hair, not flesh. The sculpture itself was created to be a memorial for those who died by what most do not consider an honorable way for soldiers to die – suicide. For the people who I know and have known about who took this path, it always raises the question, should I have done more to intervene, had I known someone was having trouble coping from war. It is breaking the taboo of discussing suicide in addressing the mental health issues associated with them, that veterans face. Through awareness and dealing with these issues regarding their treatment we can really show them honor and support for what they went through.

During that unpacking process, I’ve had to fight back pain in order to be able to break my silence. I chose to build the sculpture using elements of war, since I found them appropriate for representing a soldier’s life. I stuck primarily with metal media since it was preferable to look “tough as nails”, as most soldiers try to be; yet it conveys the fragility of the mind.

Where the sculpture gets its name is from the shattered drum cymbal that form the fractured skull & pieces of shrapnel that represents TBI (traumatic brain injury). TBI, along with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) are frequently invisible wounds that have gone overlooked, if not misdiagnosed, and where treatment has lagged behind.

Wednesday, February 20

Teachers, A Penny For Your Thoughts

According to Iowa Radio

Governor Chet Culver says he's open to the idea of letting schools use local sales tax revenue to pay for teacher salaries.

"If we can work on this in a bipartisan way and get some consensus I'm confident we can use this as a vehicle to address a lot of different needs and that might be one of them," Culver says.
Voters in each of Iowa's 99 counties have established a one-cent local option sales tax over a decade to be used for school infrastructure.

Culver says he's willing to look at all options. "You know my goal, if you will, is to make sure we're giving equal educational opportunities to young people regardless of where they live," Culver says. "That fact is we do have some concerns."

A question: If sales taxes go to teacher salaries, does the public have a right to evaluate teacher performance?

Another question: Who wants to get in the middle when making the decision about allowing a salary increase or improving the school facilities?

Another question: Do teacher salaries also include coaching positions?

A Final question: Can we use a local sales tax to pay all workers a liveable wage?

A Corn Carb Pipe Runs Through it

Two companies are exploring a possible ethanol pipeline through Iowa to the east coast. Two companies are exploring the possibility of building a pipeline to carry ethanol from northwest Iowa to the East Coast. Of course with recent legislation in the Iowa House to remove the labeling of ethanol from gas pumps, the pipeline would likely have to be wrapped in brown paper.

Magellan Midstream Partners of Oklahoma and Pennsylvania-based Buckeye Partners have announced a joint assessment of the project, which would cost more than $43 billion.

Ethanol is not shipped via gasoline pipelines because of concerns the alcohol would corrode the pipes and absorb water.

The plan faces several hurdles, including a government loan guarantee to make it financially feasible.

The proposal tentatively calls for three sites in Iowa, near Mason City, Fort Dodge and in O'Brien County, with other sites in Indiana and Ohio.

The pipeline could carry more than 10 million gallons of ethanol a day.

Smoking Ban Wafts Through the House

By a vote of 56 to 44, the Iowa passed a smoking ban that pertains to all public places except casinos, VFW halls and some farms. "Second hand smoke kills 440 non-smokers in Iowa every year and another 4,000 Iowans die each year from smoking-related illnesses," said State Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids.

Apparently the goal now is to just kill off non-smoking Veterans, hogs, and gamblers with this bill.

Obama Wins Handily in Wisconsin and Hawaii

Any hopes of Hillary Clinton's campaign to score an upset victory yesterday were smashed by the voters of Wisconsin who seem to be ready for a change and said "yes we can" in giving 58% of their support to Obama and 41% to Clinton. Over a 1.1 million voters braved the snow and ice to cast their ballots. While Hillary Clinton has shifted her focus on "Solutions" over "Conversations," the hardworking voters of Wisconsin chose "Hope."

According to the Washington Post, "Obama was attracting more support from women, less-educated and lower-income voters, and white working-class voters than he generally has in other states. By breaking into Clinton's coalition, he was able to overcome a Wisconsin electorate that was heavily female and that included no more independent voters than it did four years ago."

Meanwhile in the much warmer Aloha state, Obama's favorite son status held up to score a strong caucus victory, despite the endorsement of Sen. Daniel Inouye and a visit from former first daughter Chelsea Clinton. Obama was selected by 76% of caucus goers to 24% for Clinton.

Obama made his victory speech in a packed stadium in Houston and all but ignored Hillary Clinton and focusing his remarks on Republican John McCain of whom he said was an “American hero” but said he offered more of the same after seven years of President George W. Bush. “He represents the policies of yesterday and we want to be the party of tomorrow,” he said.

The lead up to the March 4th primaries will be brutal as the kit gloves of the Clinton campaign are off looking for a way to prove Hillary Clinton is deserving of the Democratic nomination ahead of the Democratic National Convention.

Tuesday, February 19

Alarmed Forces

A survey of US Military Officers indicates that fighting another major war is a no-go.
According to CNN,
  • 88 percent believe the demands of the Iraq war have "stretched the U.S.
    military dangerously thin."
  • On the other hand, 56 percent of the officers disagree that the war has "broken" the military.
  • Eighty percent of officers believe it is unreasonable to expect the U.S. military to wage another major war successfully at present.

Other results of the survey:

  • Officers call for more Special Operations Forces, improvements in intelligence, and better space and cyberwarfare capabilities for the military's fight in the war on terror.
  • To improve recruitment efforts, nearly 80 percent back "expanding options for legal, foreign permanent residents of the United States to serve in exchange for U.S. citizenship."
  • When asked if they agree or disagree with the statement "torture is never acceptable," 53 percent agreed and 44 percent disagreed.
  • Officers have relatively low confidence in civilian institutions -- giving the presidency a 5.5 rating and Congress 2.7. The Defense Department received 5.6, the CIA 4.7, Department of Veterans Affairs 4.5, and State Department 4.1.
  • "Sixty-six percent of the officers say they believe U.S. elected leaders are either somewhat or very uninformed about the military," the survey said.
  • The survey found nearly nine in 10 officers "agree that, all other things being equal, the military will respect a president of the United States who has served in the military more than one who has not."

Will Iowa Ban Go Up in Smoke?

Tonight the members of the Iowa House are expected to debate a possible smoking ban in most indoor public places. The bill had been moving quickly until last week when it suddenly met a snag when debate was postponed.

House Leader Kevin McCarthysaid backers of the proposed smoking ban had not filed a proposed amendment in time to allow for debate.

"We do have house rules," said McCarthy. "When we have a controversial bill, it is the duty of the floor manager to make sure their amendments get filed in a timely manner."

At odds for a total smoking ban is an exemption for casinos from the smoking ban. Legislators say that exemption could give casinos an unfair advantage over bars that still would have to eliminate smoking. Smokers might end up going to bars inside the casino if they can't light up at the neighborhood tap, they say.

Additionally, restaurant owners have joined together to fight the ban. Smoking policies in their private establishments should be theirs to decide, they say.

Given the experience in Iowa City when a smoking ban was put in place and later rejected by the Iowa Supreme Court because of jurisdictional rights. it would make sense for the state to not exempt casinos, restaurants or bars. That way, everyone is on an even field and no one can say that they are being treated unfairly.


Ceding (to) Raul: Fidel Formally Steps Down

We won't have Fidel Castro to kick around anymore...Though his brother Raul has been running the country since his illness in 2006, Fidel Castro made it official, he will no longer be the president/commander-in-chief of Cuba.

CNN reports

Fidel Castro announced his resignation as president of Cuba and commander-in-chief of Cuba's military on Tuesday, according to a letter published in the state-run newspaper, Granma.

The resignation ends nearly a half-century of iron-fisted rule that inspired revolutionaries but frustrated 10 U.S. presidents.

Castro revealed his plans without advance notice by publishing a letter in the middle of the night in state-run newspaper Granma.

"I will not aspire to, nor will I accept the position of president of the council of state and commander-in-chief," Castro wrote. "I wish only to fight as a soldier of ideas. ... Perhaps my voice will be heard."

The news is likely to send shock waves across the island and among the tens of thousands of Cubans who have sought refugee in the United States and other countries.

If Words Matter...

As I stared out on my "Stop Global Warming" lawn sign which has been mostly covered up by snow this winter, I realized, "Stop Global Climate Change" would have been better, and more accurate, wording. So it is with this in mind, I offer the inspirational words of our two Democratic frontrunners...

Hillary Clinton:
When asked by WISC-TV about the last message she wanted to send Wisconsin voters, Clinton responded, "I have a long relationship with Wisconsin going back to growing up in Chicago, and coming here for vacations and Scout trips and church retreats. I really believe I can be a good president, and have a great working relationship with people like Sen. Russ Feingold, and really bring our country back."

Barack Obama:

"I'm not running to fulfill some long-held ambition. I'm not running because it was somehow owed to me," he added. "I chose to run in this election because of what Dr. King called 'the fierce urgency of now.'

"My faith in the American people has been vindicated," he said, referring to his 1-year-old campaign.

"Everywhere I go, people are standing up. People want something different. . . . Our planet is in peril. People are working harder for less. It's harder to save. It's harder to retire."

The Democrat said he learned this lesson from laid-off steelworkers: "Change in America does not happen from the top down. It happens from the bottom up."