Lots of links for a snowy day

Many Iowans will be leaving work or school early today, or perhaps not going in at all, as the season’s first big winter blast rolls in. Here’s plenty of reading to keep you busy if you are stuck at home.

Global news first: The United National Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen opened yesterday. To follow news from the proceedings, I’m reading the team of Mother Jones bloggers in Copenhagen. The Open Left blog will also post regular updates from Natasha Chart and Friends of the Earth staff who are on the ground. If you prefer a mainstream media perspective, check out The Climate Pool on Facebook, which is a collaboration among major news organizations.

Also on Monday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson signed off on two findings that will pave the way to regulate carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act. This action follows from a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA. More background and details can be found on the EPA’s site. Environment Iowa explains the significance of the EPA’s action here. An expert panel surveyed by Grist disagreed on whether the EPA’s “endangerment finding” would affect the Copenhagen talks.

The most important reason I oppose the current draft bills on climate change kicking around Congress is that they would revoke the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide. Chris Bowers explains why that would be disastrous here.

Uganda is considering a horrific law that would subject homosexuals to long prison terms or even the death penalty. One Iowa is collecting signatures on a petition to Senator Chuck Grassley, asking him to speak out against this law. Grassley’s never going to be a gay rights advocate, but he should agree that criminalizing homosexuality is wrong. Grassley is involved with “The Family,” which is connected to the proposed bill in Uganda.

On the economic front, President Obama is expected to announce plans to use about $200 billion allocated for the Wall Street bailout to fund a jobs bill Congress will consider soon.. The Hill previewed some of the measures that may end up in that bill.

Some economists who met with Governor Chet Culver yesterday think Iowa has already reached the bottom of this recession. I hope they are right, but either way, policy-makers should listen to their ideas for reforming Iowa’s budget process. I’ll write a separate post on this important development soon. Here is the short take:

The state could base its spending on a multi-year average, such as the previous three years, or five years or seven years, said Jon Muller, president of Muller Consulting Inc., a public policy and business development consulting firm based in Des Moines.

“The way it’s always worked, when times are really good, we increase spending and we cut taxes,” Muller said. “And when times are bad, there’s pressure to increase taxes and decrease spending. And that all happens when the demand for government is at its highest,” Muller said.

The multi-year idea would flip, he said.

“In good times you would be squirreling money at way a little at a time. And in bad times, you could continue to increase spending to service the growing demands of a recession.”

It would require state lawmakers to not touch the reserves, even in times of plenty. But it would also reduce the need to tap into reserves just to get by during rainy days, the advisers said.

Regarding budget cuts, the Newton Independent reports here on a “plan to reorganize the Iowa Department of Human Services operations under two deputy directors, six rather than nine divisions, five rather than eight service areas, more part-time offices and the elimination of 78 currently vacant positions” (hat tip to Iowa Independent). Click this link for more details about the proposed restructuring.

On the political front, John Deeth analyzes possible changes the Democratic National Committee is considering for the presidential nomination process. Jerome Armstrong had a good idea the DNC won’t implement: ban caucuses everywhere but Iowa. No other state derives the party-building benefits of caucuses, but just about every state that uses caucuses for presidential selection has lower voter participation than would occur in a primary.

I haven’t written much on health care reform lately, because recent developments are so depressing. Our best hope was using the budget reconciliation process to pass a strong bill in the Senate with 51 votes (or 50 plus Joe Biden). Now that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has taken reconciliation off the table, we’re left with a variety of bad compromises to get to 60 votes in the Senate. I am not convinced the final product will be any improvement over the status quo. It will certainly be worse for millions of Americans required to buy overpriced private health insurance. If there’s a quicker way to neutralize the Democrats’ advantage with young voters, I don’t know what it is.

Speaking of health care reform, Steve Benen wrote a good piece about Grassley’s latest grandstanding on the issue.

Speaking of things that are depressing, John Lennon was shot dead 29 years ago today.  Daily Kos user noweasels remembers him and that night. Although Paul’s always been my favorite Beatle, I love a lot of John’s work too. Here’s one of his all-time best:

Share any relevant thoughts or your own favorite Lennon songs in the comments.

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Why Iowa Needs to Be First

Iowa should not pick the next president. I don't think my opinion should matter more than those in other states. However, I do think Iowa and New Hampshire should go first because they are small states that are won on the ground with retail politics. If Iowa and New Hampshire weren't first, then Joe Biden and Chris Dodd would not be in the race and maybe even Bill Richardson and campaigns would be won with TV ads, large donor fundraisers, and even more mud throwing.

You don't need a ton of money to do well in Iowa, just look at Mike Huckabee's performace at the Ames Straw Poll. Huckabee had less than half a million dollars on hand at the end of the July. In some states, one TV ad costs more money than Huckabee has. Huckabee is still able to gain traction in the race because Iowa is first.

I see Iowa's job to narrow the field down. Let everyone and their brother/sister/mailman campaign in Iowa. We will attend the events at the coffee shops and in the city parks and ask the tough questions. Those that can't make it through this game of retail politics and meet the people face to face will drop out and those that can, will move on to the other states.

What needs to happen is to spread the nominating calendar out. Back in '68 things didn't get heated up until May and June. Now we will have this thing decided by early February. Whomever comes out on top will then get pummeled by the Republican Noise machine for 6 months before the convention. That is not good the democratic process or for the Democratic Party.

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New Richardson Ad Calls On Congress to "Stand Up"

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson’s campaign went on the air in Iowa with a new TV ad calling for an end to the war in Iraq and calling on Congress to “stand up” to President Bush.

As I type, the US Senate is currently voting on cloture for the Levin-Reed Amendment.  On this cloture petition, 18 Senators had signed their names.  Now a vote is taking place.  Bill Richardson  is right.

He’s calling for all US troops out of Iraq and he wants it done now.  It is a vigilant position and one that may even be politically dangerous for him to some degree, but it is the right one.  The American people want this war ended and Bill Richardson will do that.  He may not be the only candidate, but he’s the first to say it so bluntly and forcefully in an ad.

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Dodd to vote NO on new Iraq supplemental

Ed. Note: Cross-posted Political Forecast.


In a day of big news on the 2008 trail (new Dodd ad, memo about Clinton campaign pondering skipping Iowa, Edwards giving a big foreign policy speech, etc), here is something worth recognizing as a standout point: Sen. Christopher Dodd is going to vote against the new Iraq supplemental funding bill, the one without a timeline for withdrawal. The video of his reasoning is below:



And here is the full release from the campaign is below:


“This war has gone on longer than World War II and there is no end in sight. Yet we are less secure and more isolated than before. We have lost 3,400 patriotic Americans and shattered our standing in the world. We are spending $2 billion a week – $8 billion a month – and are now caught in the middle of a civil war. Still, this President wants more of the same and this bill would give him his wish.


I cannot and will not simply give this President another blank check.


Half-measures and equivocations are not going to change our course in Iraq. If we are serious about ending the war, Congress must stand up to this President’s failed policy now – with clarity and conviction.


As the debate on the war continues, I will continue to fight for a firm deadline that is tied to funding which will allow for a responsible redeployment of U.S. combat troops in Iraq – because that’s the only way to responsibly bring this war to a conclusion.


I hope my colleagues would do the same.”


This comes after a new ad was released this morning by his campaign, where he called out Senators Clinton and Obama — the presumed front-runners — for finally coming to his position and voting in favor of the Feingold-Reid-Dodd Amendment in the Senate. It was a big time move, and I think a good way to gain traction here in Iowa.


Both Clinton and Obama are strong in Iowa, behind the powerhouse that is John Edwards. Right behind those three is Bill Richardson, who has gained traction with his message calling on Congress to de-authorize the war in Iraq and his new ads. In the latest Iowa Poll, Dodd wasn’t gaining traction. With the ads and the strong movement against the war in Iraq and the calls for troop withdrawals by March of 2008, Dodd is putting himself firmly in the anti-Iraq war camp with Richardson and Edwards. While Obama has consistently been against the war, he can’t put himself in this camp because he’s not coming out strong for withdrawal, deauthorization, or any other kind of leadership position on the issue. Clinton is Clinton on Iraq (I’m glad she’s calling on the Pentagon to do more to prepare for withdrawal scenarios, but toeing the line just doesn’t mesh with me).


Sen. Dodd is a strong voice to end this war, particularly in the Senate. Sens. Clinton and Obama have started following his lead, but beyond Sen. Russ Feingold, he’s the only other one pushing strongly in the Senate for an end to this debacle. And he deserves credit for bring that debate into the Senate, as well as bringing it to the race by forcing Clinton and Obama to clearly take a stand. And now, as the closing part of the release shows, he’s making an issue of how Clinton and Obama are going to vote on the supplemental. And they should vote against it. Make this a Republican bill — make them own it. They’re the ones continuing this mess.


I’m staying neutral for a while, but if a candidate wants to keep convincing me they’re worthy of being the next President, then they need to start leading the charge to put an end to the Iraq war. It is that simple.

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