Weekend open thread: Huckabee passes on 2012

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee announced on his Fox show last night that he will not be a candidate for president in 2012. I doubt many people were surprised, because Huckabee had done little to lay the groundwork for a campaign. Shortly after Huckabee visited Iowa on a book tour earlier this year, his 2008 state campaign manager Eric Woolson signed on with former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Several other influential Huckabee backers from the last go-around are committed to other candidates as well, including State Senator Kent Sorenson and Wes Enos (now backing Representative Michele Bachmann) and former leaders of the Iowa Family Policy Center (supporting Judge Roy Moore).

It’s anyone’s guess who will benefit most from Huckabee’s absence. Every poll of Iowa Republican caucus-goers I’ve seen this year has put Huckabee in the lead. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney typically places second in those surveys, but he has signaled that he won’t campaign hard in Iowa this year. Judging from how other potential Republican presidential candidates reacted to yesterday’s news, Huckabee’s endorsement will be highly prized.

This story caught my eye: former Governor Chet Culver is co-chairing the National Popular Vote campaign, which seeks to ensure that the winner of the presidential election is the candidate who receives the most popular votes. Since a U.S. constitutional amendment to abolish the electoral college would never be ratified by enough states, the National Popular Vote campaign is seeking to prevent a repeat of the 2000 presidential election.

I was surprised to see Culver on board. When an Iowa Senate committee approved legislation in 2009 to assign Iowa’s electors to the winner of the nationwide popular vote (if enough other states approved the same reform), Culver spoke out against the bill. He warned, “If we require our Electoral College votes to be cast to the winner of the national popular vote, we lose our status as a battleground state.” Then Secretary of State Michael Mauro also opposed the bill, saying, “Under this proposal, it is hard to foresee Iowa maintaining its dominant role and expect candidates to spend their final hours campaigning in our state when they will be focused on capturing the popular vote in much larger states.” Todd Dorman views the national popular vote campaign as an “end-around” the normal constitutional amendment process, but I support the getting rid of the electoral college by the only practical means available. The president should be the person who receives the most votes.

May is Bike to Work Month, and the Iowa Bicycle Coalition has lots of resources to support recreational or commuter bicyclists. The Urban Country Bicycle blog posted about a study that showed the average worker in this country works 500 hours a year (about two hours per working day) just to pay for their cars.

This is an open thread. What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers?

UPDATE: Not surprisingly, Huckabee’s Fox News contract played a big part in his decision not to run for president.

Governor Terry Branstad used his weekly press conference on May 16 to urge Republicans candidates to compete in Iowa:

“This is probably going to be the most wide-open, competitive race we’ve ever had for the Iowa caucuses,” Branstad said. “This is a state where a candidate – with hard work and retail politics, going to all 99 counties and meeting with people and answering the questions – this is a state where you can effectively launch a campaign. And it’s not too late.” […]

Branstad publicly took issue with [former New Hampshire GOP Chair Fergus] Cullen’s editorial, which said, “Iowa Republicans have marginalized themselves to the point where competing in Iowa has become optional.”

“Mr. Cullen couldn’t be further from the facts,” Branstad said. “The truth is that Iowa is a full-spectrum state. I think the primary election that I won last year proves that. I would also point out that the front-runner, Mike Huckabee, made a decision over the weekend, which is momentous. He is not running this time, which means he got the largest block of votes in the Iowa caucuses four years ago and those are up for grabs.”

Cullen’s editorial is here; I posted excerpts here.

Branstad’s close associate Doug Gross, who co-chaired Mitt Romney’s 2008 campaign in Iowa, has long warned that the caucuses are not hospitable to moderate candidates. In November 2008, he said, “[W]e’ve gone so far to the social right in terms of particularly caucus attendees that unless you can meet certain litmus tests, if you will, you have a very difficult time competing in Iowa.” But Gross had a very different message today:

I think this is a different year because largely with Huckabee getting out, you’ll have multiple social conservatives in the race. As a result of that, they’ll divide up a lot of the Caucus vote and there’ll be an opportunity for a mainstream Republican to come in and do surprisingly well here. If I were Mitt Romney and I wanted to be the nominee for president, I’d play in Iowa this time because if you win in Iowa this time you have a chance to win the nomination.”

Talk radio conservative Steve Deace shared his perspective as an enthusiastic Huck supporter in 2008 who has grown disillusioned more recently: “Ideologically, the Huckabee of today sounds a lot more like the Rod Roberts of 2010 than the [Bob] Vander Plaats of 2010.”

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Weekend open thread: Nightmare in Japan

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? The footage coming out of Japan the last couple of days has been horrifying. At least 10,000 people are now estimated to have died in the 9.0 earthquake near Sendai and subsequent tsunami. Hundreds of aftershocks, some of them quite powerful, threaten to destroy structures the first earthquake weakened. Power outages will occur because several of Japan’s nuclear reactors have been shut down. Radiation is leaking from the 40-year-old Fukushima nuclear plant, where one of the buildings exploded on Saturday and a meltdown seems to have occurred.  Authorities are distributing iodine to protect people nearby against some adverse health effects from radiation exposure. The nightmare scenario is northerly winds blowing a radioactive cloud toward Tokyo. Although Japanese nuclear plants have more containment features than Soviet reactors like the one destroyed in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, people are comparing the two catastrophic events. Chris Meyers and Kim Kyung-hoon reported for Reuters,

However, experts said Japan should not expect a repeat of Chernobyl. They said pictures of mist above the plant suggested only small amounts of radiation had been expelled as part of measures to ensure its stability, far from the radioactive clouds Chernobyl spewed out 25 years ago.

Japan’s nuclear safety agency said it was rating the incident a 4 on the 1 to 7 International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES), less serious than 1979’s Three Mile Island, which was rated a 5, and Chernobyl at 7. […]

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters the nuclear reaction facility was surrounded by a steel storage machine, which was itself surrounded by a concrete building.

“This concrete building collapsed. We learnt that the storage machine inside did not explode,” he said.

Saturday morning I was disgusted by MSNBC’s coverage of the nuclear plant explosion. The only “expert” they interviewed to discuss the meltdown risk was from the Nuclear Energy Institute. He spent almost all his air time talking about how the radiation leak was very short-term, affecting a small area, and anyway we’re all exposed to radiation every day just by virtue of living on planet earth. I’m sure General Electric (major shareholder in NBC communications) wouldn’t want viewers to get too worried about nuclear power. GE built the Fukushima facility.

This disaster reveals one of the major hidden costs of nuclear power:

The liability costs associated with cleaning up after the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant will ultimately be borne by the Japanese government instead of the private insurance market, according to experts from the insurance industry.

Those liability costs, if they prove substantial, will place an added burden on the government as it copes with tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars in other expenses linked to the massive rebuilding effort that lies ahead.

This is an open thread.

UPDATE: Added YouTube clips from Ronald Reagan’s 1980 Labor Day address after the jump. Speaking about Polish workers, Reagan said, “Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost.” Reagan served six terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild in the 1940s and 1950s (when he was a Democrat). As Republican governor of California and president of the U.S., however, he did a lot of damage to the organized labor movement.

SECOND UPDATE: What a total disgrace. The Obama administration has forced State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley to resign because he said last week that the Defense Department’s treatment of accused Wikileaker Private Bradley Manning is “is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” President Obama was asked about Crowley’s comments at Friday’s press conference and (disgracefully) defended the way Manning is being treated in custody.

THIRD UPDATE: Physicist Michio Kaku: “At present, it seems that Unit 1 has only suffered partial melting. The situation at Unit 1 is stable, but the situation with Unit 3 continues to worsen hour by hour. The danger is that a further secondary earthquake or pipe break could cause the sea water to flush out of the core, uncovering the uranium and initiating a full-scale meltdown. “

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Weekend open thread: Funnel week edition

It was an action-packed week at the state capitol, with Iowa House and Senate committees deciding which non-budget bills merit further consideration and which would be dead for the 2011 session. The full news roundup from the state legislature is coming later this weekend.

Governor Terry Branstad rolled out more than 200 appointments this week. I covered some of them here and here. Look over the governor’s long list and post a comment if I left out any appointees who seem particularly noteworthy.

Here’s an unsurprising story: Senator Tom Harkin is “greatly disappointed” in the White House approach to negotiations over fiscal year 2011 spending:

Harkin said that he objected to the White House’s emphasis on non-security discretionary spending, which is about 12% of the overall budget but has drawn the overwhelming attention of both parties in their efforts to trim the deficit. Neither Democratic or Republican leaders are proposing raising taxes to help bridge the gap. According to Harkin, discretionary spending cuts disproportionately hurt working families by targeting safety net programs and education.

“The White House is wrong on that,” Harkin said. “I want to see proposals like what Bill Clinton did in 1995. He said we’re not going to cut education, we’re not going to cut women, infant, and children programs, we’re just not going to cut those specific things. I want to see the President out there using his bully pulpit…talking about what those specific cuts are out there and then to advocate, saying ‘Look everything is on the table.’” […]

“If we’re going to do this let’s do it fair — one-third mandatory, one-third discretionary, one-third revenue,” he said.

I’m “shocked, shocked” that the Obama administration conceded the heart of the budget cut dispute to the GOP before the serious deal-making began.

This is an open thread. What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers?

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Weekend open thread: Mubarak resigns edition

Putting up the weekend open thread early in case Bleeding Heartland readers want to talk about the momentous news out of Egypt. After Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak didn’t step down as anticipated yesterday, I thought he was heading for a Ceausescu endgame. However, today Mubarak handed power over to the military, ending 30 years in control of Egypt. On paper, Mubarak is one of the richest men in the world, but it’s not clear how much of that wealth is accessible to him; Switzerland has already frozen his accounts.

President Barack Obama sent Mubarak a fairly clear signal yesterday that it was time to go. I posted the full text of Obama’s speech today after the jump. I expect that for now Egypt will remain one of the top U.S. foreign aid recipients.

This is an open thread–all topics welcome.

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Weekend open thread: Reagan's 100th birthday edition

Sunday, February 6 would have been Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday, and the occasion will be marked by a graveside ceremony in California and a tribute video to be aired during the Superbowl. I try not to speak ill of the dead, but I honestly struggle to think of anything Reagan did that benefited the country, besides signing the arms control treaty with the USSR. Not only was he nowhere near one of the great presidents, his main legacy was massive income inequality. He cut programs aimed at helping the poor and demonized welfare recipients successfully, paving the way for the welfare reforms of the 1990s. I disliked Reagan’s politics so much that Barack Obama’s rhetorical similarity to the Gipper was a big reason I never could warm up to Obama’s “inspiring” speeches.

The Reagan-worship in today’s Republican Party is comical. If Reagan were a candidate today, he’d be assailed as a “RINO” for his tax-raising, big-spending policies. Yes, Reagan raised many taxes as governor and as president, not that many Republicans would admit that today. At Think Progress, Alex Seitz-Wald published “10 Things Conservatives Don’t Want You To Know About Ronald Reagan,” and one of them was news to me, even though I remember the 1980s well: “Reagan signed into law a bill that made any immigrant who had entered the country before 1982 eligible for amnesty. […] The bill helped 3 million people and millions more family members gain American residency.”

This is an open thread. What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers?

UPDATE: I like Robert Borosage’s post on “The Reagan Ruins.”

SECOND UPDATE: Daily Kos user Clarknt67 on Reagan’s years-long non-response to the AIDS epidemic.

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Weekend open thread: 2011 RAGBRAI route edition

The Des Moines Register announced the overnight stops for the 39th Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) this evening. It starts in Glenwood (Mills County, south of Council Bluffs) on July 24 with overnights in Atlantic (Cass County), Carroll (Carroll County), Boone (Boone County), Altoona (Polk County), Grinnell (Poweshiek County) and Coralville (Johnson County) before ending in Davenport (Scott County) on July 30.

Go to ragbrai.com for more information about the ride or to register. Lots of RAGBRAI trivia can be found here. For instance,

• Longest RAGBRAI route: 550 miles from Hawarden to Clinton in 1985 Shortest route: 370 miles from Onawa to Lansing in 1977

• Average length of RAGBRAI route: 472 miles

• Longest single day: 114 miles from Webster to Waverly in 1980

• Shortest single day: 25 miles from Elkader to Guttenberg, also in 1980 […]

• Most climb: 26,374 feet of incline going up hills between Missouri Valley and Keokuk in 1981

• Least climb: 10,675 feet of incline going up hills between Onawa and Lansing in 1977

• Most climb in a single day: 5,942 feet of incline between Des Moines and Williamsburg in 1973. That’s almost 10 trips up the state’s tallest skyscraper, the 630-foot tower at 801 Grand.

• Least climb in a single day: 760 feet of incline from Onawa to Ida Grove in 1977

This is an open thread. What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers?

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