Wednesday, November 26

Make Something of Yourself

The day after Thanksgiving is a day where many people traditionally flock to the malls of America and buy stuff. Our need to consume has become a habit more than a means to a joyous ocassion. The US, despite its wealth isn't the happiest country on earth and so here are some alternatives to the craziness that the holidays can bring:

1) Make something. Instead of taking up your day on Friday fighting traffic, make something. You'd be surprised at the great gifts that can be made for little money--and it's a way to bring you and yours closer together. One of the most appreciated gifts I ever gave to my wife was a hand-made coupon book that she could use to have me provide services (and no X-rated services were involved)--like washing dishes, back rubs, cooking dinners and so on.

2) Choose charities to make contributions to in the name of others. With the number of non-profits that need help, this is a good time to make contributions or other donations (e.g., like donating cold weather gear to the homeless.

3) Do something for your neighbors or persons who are shut-in. With the number of people traveling during Thanksgiving down, it is a great time to visit the older neighbors around you or in care facilities. The holidays are very lonely times for some.

4) Regift. Most of us have stuff that we have never used that would be treasured by our friends and loved ones. Use Friday to sort through your under-appreciated stuff.

5) Enjoy your family and friends. Often we under time-value the relationships we have with those we love. If you put off shopping for a day or two, really, what difference will it make. However special moments with those you care the most about are always great investments. Play some games, make some cookies, go for a walk--have a conversation (maybe one about this video: The Story of Stuff).

6) If you want to shop--go to a craft fair or support local businesses--TRUST ME, THEY NEED YOU! If you can use public transportation, walk, bike, or carpool. Bring your own reuseable shopping bag--the planet will thank you.

If we ever hope to make the world we live in a better place, there is no better place to start than right at home. I hope that you and yours have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25

Give Thanks for a Changing of the Guard

Typically Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the many blessings that we have, despite whatever temporary conditions that may exist. With the stalled economy and a lame duck President and Congress, it makes sense to look forward to what the next year may bring.

1) New Leadership. After many years of leaders who have let us down or piddled away their potential, it is great to see what appears to be a leader that is different in personal philosophy and management style than his predecessors.

2) An economic plan that is coherent. The economic team that Obama is surrounding himself with will have many challenges, but, thanks to Henry Paulson, they have many examples of what doesn't work to avoid.

3) A foreign policy that begins to undo the Bush Doctrine. Regardless of who the Secretary of State is, they will be making trips to reestablish or strengthen relations with foreign leaders who have had good reason to doubt the United States' leadership on issues that will require global partnering to accomplish. The popularity of Obama in the world community is good, but the diplomatic corp will need strong leadership to translate that goodwill into accords that are likely to make the world a more peaceful place.

4) Jobs. For the economy to really right itself, it will mean that job creation in the United States is rewarded. With the promise of green jobs, improving the infrastructure for high speed rail, smart cars, mass transit, alternative energy production and connection to an improved electrical grid will likely produce many new jobs. However, if large manufacturers do not invest in R & D to drastically change the products they make, we all are going to be hurting a lot more. A country that makes nothing, is nothing.

5) Supporting the Troops. We can best support our troops by bringing them home and making sure they are treated well both by the government, but more so by us. Unpopular war or not, these men and women deserve our respect.

6) An end to the politics as usual. We are in a deleterious point in our history and without a government that is willing to push aside parochial interests to wrestle with the many 900 pound gorillas that we are facing, it is hard to imagine what the next scenario might look like. Hope is good, change is better.

7) A reprioritization. Beyond politics, we all need to look at our lives and decide what we truly value. If we are wise, we will look past our own self-interests to make our country more equitable. As we have seen recently, the things that we once thought were impossible to imagine can change. I'm hopeful that we can build on these lessons, and not see change as the exception to the rule.

One Iowa Events for Marriage Equality

Iowa is poised to take the national spotlight this December! As the Varnum v. Brien case for marriage equality goes before the Iowa Supreme Court, join us as we shine some light on this landmark effort for equality.

Don't miss out on the many special events we're coordinating around the state to highlight the case for marriage for gays and lesbians in Iowa.

For those planning to attend the Varnum v. Brien oral arguments in Des Moines on Dec. 9, please stay tuned for additional details. Seating in the courtroom will be extremely limited, so we're looking at how to best accomodate everyone.

"Our Story" Movie Premiere -- RSVP

Monday, December 8, 2008 - 6:30-8:00 PM
Fleur Cinema and Cafe, 4545 Fleur Dr., Des Moines

Join us for the public premiere of "Our Story", One Iowa's short film featuring Iowans speaking out in favor of marriage for gays and lesbians. Come celebrate with us and don't miss your chance to mingle with the stars! Light appetizers will be provided with a cash bar.
Remarks by Senator Matt McCoy and Des Moines Register Columnist Rekha Basu.

"Making the Case" Des Moines Reception -- RSVP

Tuesday, December 9, 2008 - 6:30-8:00 PM
Pappajohn Center, 1200 Grand Ave., Des Moines

Oral arguments in the landmark Varnum v. Brien case take place before the Iowa Supreme Court on the morning of December 9. Join us in the evening for a reception to discuss this historic event with remarks by Camilla Taylor, Lambda Legal's senior attorney on the case. If the district court ruling is upheld, it will provide gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry; full marriage equality in Iowa. Wine and hors d'oeuvres provided.

"Making the Case" Statewide Townhall Forums

Join One Iowa and Lambda Legal for a series of townhall forums across the state to celebrate and discuss the oral arguments before the Iowa Supreme Court in the landmark Varnum v. Brien case. RSVP not required for townhall forums.

Cedar Rapids Townhall Forum
Wednesday, Dec. 10 - 6:30-7:30 PM
CSPS/Legion Arts, 1103 3rd St SE

Davenport Townhall Forum
Thursday, Dec. 11 - 6:30-7:30 PM
Davenport Unitarian, 3707 Eastern Ave.

Council Bluffs Townhall Forum
Monday, Dec. 15, 2008 - 6:30-7:30 PM
St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 22 Dillman

Sioux City Townhall Forum
Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008 - 6:30-7:30 PM
Public Library, Glesson Room, 529 Pierce St.

For more information on any of these events, contact One Iowa at or 515-288-4019

Monday, November 24

Fox's Same-Sex Couple Break's Up

The Felix and Oscar of TV punditry, Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes, are calling it quits. After 12 years of cohabitating in the Fox News lineup, Alan Colmes is leaving the "Hannity and Colmes Report" but will be staying with Fox News Corp.

“Although it’s bittersweet to leave one of the longest marriages on cable news, I’m proud that both Sean and I remained unharmed after sitting side by side, night after night for so many years,” he said.

Sometimes these blog entries write themselves.

The New Civil War

Gays wishing to gain the same rights as us heterosexuals have been dealt some bad breaks recently around the country, Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts notwithstanding. Prop 8 in California is the most widely reported of the marriage defined as between one man and one woman (presumably of legal age) constitutional amendments. But beyond California, Arizona and Florida voters amended their state constitutions and joined the thirty odd states that have banned same sex marriages. Arkansas also made it illegal for gays to adopt.

Clearly the desire by gays and lesbians to have the same rights as the rest of us has hit a snag due to the sticking point about the "sanctity of marriage" being more important than civil rights. In the meantime, it seems shameful that two people in a committed relationship are not able to have the same protections of the law as those of us who are married do. And this is not a small thing, the difference between Civil Union protections and the privileges that accompany marriage are vastly different.

According to a report given to the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. General Accounting Office, here are a few of the 1,138 benefits the United States government provides to legally married couples:

Access to Military Stores
Assumption of Spouse’s Pension
Bereavement Leave
Insurance Breaks
Medical Decisions on Behalf of Partner
Sick Leave to Care for Partner
Social Security Survivor Benefits
Sick Leave to Care for Partner
Tax Breaks
Veteran’s Discounts
Visitation of Partner in Hospital or Prison

In Iowa, a current court case may help to bridge the differences is based upon equal protection under the law. The idea that people who chose to get married can by the state. This does not mean that a church has to marry a gay or lesbian couple, if it is against their doctrine, but it does mean that gays and lesbians will be afforded the same protections under the law that any married couple has.

This issue causes some to draw a line in the sand and define marriage in terms that ignore the desire for at least 10% of Americans to be afforded the same rights as the other 90% of the rest of us.

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Saturday, November 15

National Races: A County To County Comparison

Johnson and Linn Counties are the two largest counties in the 2nd Congressional District, so it can be said as they go, so goes the district. In the general election, 113,721 Linn County voters (a 77.74% turnout) and 73,231 Johnson County voters (79.41% turnout)made it to the polls. As the suburban parts of Johnson County continue to grow at a faster rate than Iowa City, it can be expected that the electorate will trend toward Linn County's numbers as that part of the county has seen a growth in more conservative voters.

Below are comparisons by electoral race between Johnson and Linn Counties:

Johnson County Presidential
Obama/Biden (D) - 51,027 (70%)
McCain/Palin (R) - 20,732 (28%)
Nader/Gonzalez (PFP)- 326 (0%)
Barr/Root (L) - 287 (0%)
Baldwin/Castle (Const)- 128 (0%)
McKinney/Clemente (G) - 120 (0%)
Moore/Alexander (Soc) - 10 (0%)
Harris/Kennedy (SW) - 9 (0%)
LaRiva/Moses (PSL) - 4 (0%)
Write In - 346 (0%)

Linn County Presidential
Obama/Biden Dem - 68037 (60%)
McCain/Palin Rep - 43626 (38%)
Baldwin/Castle CON - 190 (0%)
Mckinney/Clemente GRN -105 (0%)
Barr/Root Lib - 379 (0%)
La Riva/Moses PSL - 6 (0%)
Nader/Gonzalez PAF - 496 (0%)
Moore/Alexander SPU - 8 (0%)
Harris/Kennedy SWP - 7 (0%)
Write-in Votes - 515 (0%)

Johnson County Senatorial
US Senate
Tom Harkin (D)- 52,741 (75%)
Christopher Reed (R) - 17,537 (25%)
Write In - 135 (0%)

Linn County Senatorial
Tom Harkin Dem - 74373 (67%)
Christopher Reed - Rep 36662 (33%)
Write-in Votes - 141 (0%)

Johnson County Congressional
US Rep (2nd Dist)
Dave Loebsack (D) - 45,247 (65%)
Mariannette Miller-Meeks -(R) 20,680 (30%)
Wendy Barth (G) - 2,109 (3%)
Brian White (NP) - 1,476 (2%)
Write In - 74 (0%)

Linn County Congressional
Dave Loebsack Dem - 64212 (59%)
M. Miller-Meeks Rep - 41784 (38%)
Wendy Barth GRN - 2090 (2%)
Brian White NBP - 1311 (1%)
Write-in Votes - 95 (0%)

One outcome that was true in both of the counties, it was a bad year to be a Socialist.

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Yes Virginia, There Is An Economy

Dear Virginia,

There is an economy. It may not be something you see, but like Santa Claus, if you can just believe, it is there. How do we know there is an economy? There are things called predictors; things like consumer buying behavior, and housing starts. When these things are up, the economy is likely to be good. When things like unemployment and interests rates are up, the economy is likely to be bad.

When these predictors are showing the economy is going to be bad, people are afraid to spend money or make investments, this makes the economy worse which leads to dire predictions and screaming from TV market analysts (they are "experts"). Then banks get scared and stop making loans and start buying other banks. This is good for the banks, but bad for the economy. Because you see, Virginia, people can't buy things if they can't borrow money.

The economy is so important that elections are often decided by the belief that one candidate will do a better job to "fix" the economy than the other. The truth is, that the economy only gets better if people are spending money. Virginia, the economy is not based on actual worth of anything (and hasn't for a long time), but it is based on people thinking it is going to be okay and not being afraid to spend money, even if they have to borrow it to spend it.

Sometimes all it takes is something called a "stimulus package". This is when some of our taxes are given back to us so we can buy things like holiday gifts or food. However sometimes "stimulus packages" are not enough, particularly when people are paying for things that they borrowed for in in the past with the money they get back. You see Virginia, since most loans are based on high interest rates, many people take longer and longer to pay them back and when they don't have a job, it makes it even tougher.

If the economy were to be fixed properly, the government might force creditors to lower the interest rates they charge to lenders so that they can pay back their debts more quickly. That way, there would be more money flowing and the economy would likely be on its way back to health. But that Virginia, would take an act of courage by Congress. And in politics, dear Virginia, courage is hard to come by.

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Wednesday, November 12

Former Congressman Leach to Attend G20 for Obama

Former Iowa 2nd district Congressman Jim Leach and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright are scheduled to attend meetings at the G20 economic summit that President Bush is hosting in Washington, D.C. While President-elect Obama will not be in attendence, Leach and albright are expected to brief him and Vice-President-Elect Joe Biden on the conference at his request.

According to Bloomberg News and other sources, "Albright and Leach will be available for ``unofficial meetings'' with representatives of industrial and emerging countries who will be at the summit being hosted by President George W. Bush on Nov. 14 and 15."

Tuesday, November 11

Obama Machine Oiled, Fired Up, and Ready to Go?

Not a whole lot has been said about the machine behind Barack Obama and the unprecedented amount of cooperation and planning that has gone on behind the scenes to prepare our soon to be 44th President to take over the reins at the White House. Without the work of former Bill Clinton Chief of Staff, John Podesta to work with the Bush team to set the stage for the Obama administration, it is likely that Obama's movements of the last week would have been awkward to say the least.

Just consider the number of items that have been addressed within one week of the election and the style of how they have occurred:

1) Barack Obama named Rahm Emanual, his WH Chief of Staff.
2) Barack Obama's transition team has been vetting cabinet members, but has been careful about leaks.
3) A website has been set up for the transition period.
4) Barack and Michelle Obama have visited the White House and were welcomed by the Bushes.
5) President-Elect Obama has balanced respecting the sitting President's authority with his own agenda to offer a stimulus package to taxpayers, to reverse Executive Orders, and to address the War in Iraq.
6) Valerie Jarrett's name has been floated to replace Barack Obama in the Senate.

This shows an ability to use political capital and to let the American people know that he is ready to lead, but is willing to wait his turn. The question will be where does he lead us when he steps in?

Clearly with an economy in free fall, his attention will be spent on this albatross and will make other domestic policy decisions more difficult to invoke. However, when the economy turns around, it should allow Team Obama to push through comprehensive Health Care policy and other plans that will not be inexpensive to implement, though are designed to be paid for through other cuts. I doubt we can expect major policy decisions to be enacted in the first 100 days or even the first two years of his administration. Still any legislation that boosts industrial infrastructure to create jobs will be much easier to sell than another large "welfare" federal program.

Secondly, with the Iraqi's now equivocating about our presence in their country, there will have to be careful deliberations about how best to end the war there. It will take the cooperation of the world community to perhaps step in for the peace keeping efforts there and foreign aid from us to make it happen. The larger issue for Obama will be to defend his decision to "surge" in Afghanistan given that his base may be disappointed and angered by what they see as a "politics as usual" approach to a foreign conflict.

If the Democrats are smart, they will put aside the temptation to pass partisan bills and focus on the big picture. If the country is not moving in a good direction by 2010, there will be upheaval again in Congress and this time it will be the Democrats who are kicked to the curb. The Congress should take a page from the calm, reserve of their newly elected leader and move with purpose to enact infrastructure building legislation that will generate the new jobs that Americans need and deserve, should continue to support veterans and their families as an end to war is negotiated, and push back on Obama if his plans for Afghanistan do not have a clear mission.

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Wednesday, November 5

Yes We Did! President-Elect Obama Headed for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Senator Barack Obama did what twenty-one months ago seemed highly unlikely, he won the presidency of the United States by building a grassroots movement like no other. In soundly defeating Senator John McCain earlier this evening, President-elect Obama becomes the first person of color to be Commander-in-Chief in our storied history. Coupling this with the fact that until the Civil rights Act of 1965, African-Americans could not legally vote in all states, it is truly amazing how far we all have come as a society since the 1960's.

Recapping, when early polls closed on the east coast, voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania pointed the direction that the most of the swing states moved toward--Barack Obama's side of the table. With polls still open on the west coast, Obama had built a 207 to 145 lead in electoral votes. By 10:30 pm, most news reporting agencies were calling the race for Obama. At 1:30 am Central Time, CNN has it 338 EV's for Obama and 160 for John McCain. Only Indiana, North Carolina, Montana, and Missouri are in play.

In one of the most moving moments of his campaign, Senator John McCain said in his concession speech, "I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating [Barack Obama], but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.

Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that."

In his victory speech, Barack Obama said "If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."

He continued with praise for Senator McCain "just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he’s fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation’s promise in the months ahead."

He completed his remarks with "This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes We Can."

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Local Women in the House and Senate: State Races

House Representatives Mary Mascher, Vicki Lensing, and Dave Jacoby retained their seats while first timers State Senator Sharon Savage and House Representative Rebecca Spears (Who scored an upset of Jeff Kaufmann) earned their first terms, as did newcomers Nate Willems (replacing the retiring Ro Foege) and Larry Marek. This election showcased possible stars of tomorrow in a state that has never elected a female Governor or sent a woman to Congress.

State Senate (40th Dist)
Sharon Savage (D) 743 (59%)
James F. Hahn (R) 513 (41%)
Write In 1

State Rep (29th Dist)
Nate Willems (D) 4,753 (57%)
Emma Nemecek (R) 3,504 (42%)
Write In 16

State Rep (30th Dist)
Dave Jacoby (D) 15,751 (98%)
Write In 278

State Rep (77th Dist)
Mary Mascher (D) 11,229 (82%)
Chris L. Brewer (NP) 2,412 (18%)
Write In 88

State Rep (78th Dist)
Vicki Lensing (D) 15,621 (98%)
Write In 242

State Rep (79th Dist
Rebecca Spears (D) 683 (55%)
Jeff Kaufmann (R) 557 (45%)
Write In 1

State Rep (89th Dist)
Larry K Marek (D) 1,986 (59%)
Jarad Klein (R) 1,396 (41%)
Write In 3

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Men's Club Continues: No Change in Iowa Delegation

As widely expected, all the Iowa Congressional seats remain in the hands of incumbents as Democrats Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack, and Leonard Bowell, and Republicans Tom Latham, and Steve King handily won their district races. Also, Democrat Senator Tom Harkin dispensed unheralded Republican challenger Christopher Reed.

Iowa continues to be one of only two states that has never sent a qualified woman candidate of any party to Congress, as Marrianette Miller-Meeks, Wendy Barth, and Becky Greenwald were defeated.

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Johnson County Race Results

Tom Slockett was retained as County Auditor in the only truly contested county race. The County Auditor who ran against two former employees, Mona Shaw and Hanna Gugliuzza, during the primary and general election garnered 65% of the vote in what some believe may be his last term as auditor.

A write in campaign by Michael D. Thayer to displace Rod Sullivan, the current Chair of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors fell flat as Thayer received no more than a possible 1,392 write-in votes to Sullivan's almost 41,000. Pat Harney received the most votes of all the BOS candidates.

The races are summarized below and are unofficial until certified by the County Board of Supervisors.

Johnson County Board of Supervisors
Pat Harney (D) 45,212 (62%)
Terrence Neuzil (D) 44,033 (60%)
Rod Sullivan (D) 40,962 (56%)
Write In 1,392


Tom Slockett (D) 38,470 (65%)
Hanna Gugliuzza (NP) 20,653 (35%)
Write In 214

Lonny L. Pulkrabek (D) 50,658 98%
Write In 1,038 (2%)

Soil and Water
Nathan M. Moore 32,886 (45%)
Kelley Putman 33,875 (47%)
Alex Schmidt 30,915 (42%)
Write In 808

Ag Extension
Larry Culver 33,021 (45%)
Maynard Hebl 29,482 (40%)
Donna Ruth 30,365 (42%)
John Schneider 29,713 (41%)
Write In 719

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Johnson County Land Conservation Bond Squeaks Through

Thanks largely to 70% of early voters who voted "yes" for the Johnson County land conservation bond issue, the issue withstood 61% of Johnson County residents outside of Iowa City who voted against the $20 million bond over 20 years on election day. The issue passed by slightly under 61% of the vote.

The issue was a grassroots campaign managed by Janelle Rettig, her partner, Robin Butler, and a small, but committed group of environmental and recreation-minded volunteers. The issue was opposed by a small and anti-tax advocacy group who relied on, by some accounts, distorted figures about the cost to taxpayers to make its case.

With the issue needing 60% of the vote to pass, it would not be surprising to see the vote total challenged by the "Flip No" advocates. Stay tuned.

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Tuesday, November 4

Steady Voting Through Mid-Afternoon in Johnson County

With slightly more than 21% of the registered voters in Johnson County weighing in, the 2008 election is 3% behind 2004's turnout. However, it continues to trend ahead of the 2004 election in total voting with early voting statistics thrown in, as early voting was up 6% over 2004.

The outlying county voters continue to turnout in higher proportions than their Coralville and Iowa City neighbors. Excluding Iowa City and Coralville, 27% of the vote has turned out in North Liberty, Tiffin, Oxford, Solon, Hills, and the rest of the county with a total of 7,486 votes. Iowa City has a 18% turnout (9,625 votes) and Coralville's turnout is 20% (2,383).

With early voting and today's turnout, we can possibly expect a total turnout of over 80%, which would be the highest turnout in Iowa's history. "It is going to be a record," said Michael Mauro, the state's top election official. "Not only in Iowa but across the country people are making a statement. We are seeing these phenomenal numbers."

If you haven't voted, you can do so until 9 pm tonight. If you are not registered, you can do it (using a provisional ballot) at your polling place.

Post the Vote - Resources for Election Day

You Tube has a kind of neat site for videos related to voting.

More fun stuff from Ode magazine to keep you up to date and informed on all things electoral.

CORRECTION: Turnout Doubles Between 9 and 11 AM in Johnson County

Note: This story has been updated to reflect an important correction to the vote count which is cumulative, not "point in time". My apologies to readers and sincere thanks to John who caught this error. Back after 3 pm's update.

Voters are coming out in higher numbers after a slow start at the polls. According to the Johnson County Auditor's office, almost 13% of all registered voters (11,788) have voted at the polls with over 9 hours left to go. 18% of registered voters in smaller communities outside of Iowa City and Coralville have already voted, while Coralville is at slightly more than 12% turnout and Iowa City is hovering just at 10%.

Some precincts' turnout of note:
Johnson County
Cedar: 30%
Jefferson West: 26%
Jefferson East: 25%
Solon and Big Grove: 23%

In Coralville
Grant Woood AEA: 14%
Wickham: 13%
Coralville Recreation Ctr.: 13%

In Iowa City
Lemme: 15%
Regina: 14%
Horne: 13%

7% Turnout by 9 AM in Johnson County

Voters have turned out early in today's presidential election with 7.03% of the vote already in by 9 am at polling places across Johnson County. Based on the previous presidential election of 2004, the pace for this election is lower with roughly 400 votes tallied. However, when compared to the September school board elections where less than 3000 voters turned out all day, the 6486 votes already in dwarfs that number.

Voter turnout outside of Iowa City and Coralville has been considerably higher with almost 10% of the vote in from smaller communities like North Liberty, Tiffin, and Oxford, as well as rural Johnson County. Within Iowa City, the turnout has been relatively low with 5.4% of the vote tallied. In Coralville, 7.6% of the vote is in.

With almost 42,000 of Johnson County's 92,200 registered voters requesting absentee ballots or voting early, as compared to 34,000 in 2004, voting is this election is still on a pace to eclipse 2004's record turnout.

Turnout information is available at the Johnson County Auditor's website.

POTUS Fun Facts

Here are some fun, but entirely useless bits of presidential trivia:

If elected, not only will Barack Obama become the first African-American/biracial president, he will become the first president with four "a"s in his name, the 4th president with a consonant for a first initial in his first name and a vowel for the first initial of his last name, and the 2nd president elected from Illinois.

If John McCain is elected, he would become the 4th president named John, the second "Mc" to be elected (William McKinley would be the other), the first president from Arizona, and the first president born outside the United States (but to parents who were both American).

The youngest president? Theodore Roosevelt 42 years and 322 days old when sworn in (Barack Obama would be the fifth youngest elected president).
The oldest president? Ronald Reagan 69 years and 351 days when elected (although John McCain would surpass him, if elected).

Monday, November 3

Obama's Grandmother Passes Away

This is truly sad. From the Washington Post Trail Blog

-- A tragic turn of events for Sen. Barack Obama: his ailing grandmother died today.

Here's a statement from Obama and his sister Maya Soetoro-Ng:

"It is with great sadness that we announce that our grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has died peacefully after a battle with cancer. She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances. She was proud of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and left this world with the knowledge that her impact on all of us was meaningful and enduring. Our debt to her is beyond measure.

"Our family wants to thank all of those who sent flowers, cards, well-wishes, and prayers during this difficult time. It brought our grandmother and us great comfort. Our grandmother was a private woman, and we will respect her wish for a small private ceremony to be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, we ask that you make a donation to any worthy organization in search of a cure for cancer."

My sincere condolences to Senator Obama and his family.

This Election Has Been Torture...And Speaking Of

How does your Senator or Congressman rank on votes that are against torture?

The NRCAT Action Fund Congressional Vote Scorecards may be useful to you as you consider your vote. The Scorecards rate all incumbent Members of Congress on their torture-related votes.

See here. and here.

Video Predictions for the last day before Election Day

It may not be time to break out the hats and whoopers (whether Josie comes home or not), but it is okay to make some musical predictions...

1) What John McCain is telling his troops can be best said by Kuh Ledesma.

2) What Barack Obama's camp must be thinking it deserves at this point as presented by the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain.

3) What the third parties are hoping in their own way:

4) What the rest of us are looking forward to saying on November 5th as told by Boz Scaggs.

5) What the Republican Party will likely be doing on November 6th, right Average White Band?

6) What the Democratic Party is likely to say on January 20, 2009

No matter what happens tomorrow, many a teardrop must fall, 'cause it's all in the game.

Sunday, November 2

McCain Goes Positive/Palin Gets Punk'd

There has to be some laughter left as the campaigns wind down to election day. Fortunately, and both John McCain and Sarah Palin prove to be good sports.

John McCain went all "Mavericky" on Saturday Night Live last night with the talented Tina Fey reprising her Sarah Palin impersonation. In the meantime, the real Sarah Palin was caught in a phone prank from a couple of Canadian radio personalities called Le Justiciers Masques (The Masked Avengers)who impersonated to be French President Nikolas Sarkozy and his assistant.

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Condolences to Senator Dick Durbin and His Family

Illinois senior Senator Dick Durbin's 40 year-old daughter, Chris, died yestersday after years of battling congenital heart disease. Chris Durbin worked for 16 years for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington in the emerging markets division. She lived with her husband, Marty Johnson and son Alex in a suburb of Washington.

Senator Durbin has been a long time fighter for health care issues. Among his health care achievements, Durbin has worked successfully for increased federal funding to prevent childhood asthma, increase immunizations and expand medical research. He has successfully fought to increase the share of federal funding dedicated to combating AIDS worldwide. He has also been a leader in promoting organ and tissue donation. In the spring of 2004, Durbin put forth a plan to give small businesses affordable choices among private health insurance plans and expand access to coverage for their employees.

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Saturday, November 1

Spiritual Warriors Unite?

As a Unitarian Universalist, it is difficult to be critical of others for their beliefs as we are an inclusive religion that embraces many traditions. However, we are also a skeptical bunch. So when I heard about those who practice Spiritual Warfare, I have to admit I didn't know what to make of it, particularly as Sarah Palin belongs to an Assemblies of God church that is affiliated with these believers as some YouTube videos portrayed.

First of all, what is "Spiritual Warfare"? A NY Times article states "adherents believe that demonic forces can colonize specific geographic areas and individuals, and that “spiritual warriors” must “battle” them to assert God’s control, using prayer and evangelism." These believers are Pentecostals, but are a subset of the Apostolic movement. That is to say that not all Pentecostals are Spiritual Warriors.

The former minister in the video with Sarah Palin is seen declaring that Alaska is “one of the refuge states in the Last Days.” This from a prophecy popular in some networks that predicts people will flock to Alaska because of its open spaces and natural resources.

While I believe that people have a right to their own beliefs, it doesn't mean the rest of us can't find them hard to go along with. For me, this seems right up there with speaking in tongues, Dianetics, and other practices that seem to defy my logic anyway. However, I am somewhat comforted by this explanation offered by George Otis Jr., of the Sentinel Group which, according the the NY Times article "has helped spread the movement by producing video documentaries of spiritual warfare" who said, "we don’t respond with guns or violence. If we’ve got a problem with somebody, we’ll go pray.”

I figure if Mr. Otis and I are praying to the same God, it'll all work out. In fact, I kind of hope all religions would resort to prayer to fight their battles--it certainly would keep a lot of people from being killed.

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