Sunday, January 30, 2011

All Hawkeyes Released from Hospital

Sick Hawks: I don't know that we can call this "breaking news" since some of the "new" information is a day old....but...the University of Iowa now says all 13 sickened football players are out of the hospital. You will also notice a much more sorrowful coach Kirk Ferentz in the statement that just came out:

IOWA CITY, Iowa — All 13 of the University of Iowa football players who had been hospitalized with symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a muscular syndrome, have been released from University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

"Getting all 13 student-athletes healthy and out of the hospital has been priority number one all along, so I'm very happy that they all are now back home and resuming their lives," said Kirk Ferentz, the UI’s head football coach.

"These young men and their families have been through a difficult and trying time. They are under my supervision and watch, and I am truly sorry for what they've experienced. They trained extremely hard and ended up in the hospital, and there is no indication they did anything wrong. So I'm pleased they are progressing well and I look forward to seeing all of them being back to normal."

The University's athletics department earlier had confirmed the release of five student-athletes Friday. Six more were discharged on Saturday, and the final two were sent home on Sunday.

"Now that these students are out of the hospital and on the road to recovery, we can devote our full attention to determining what happened, and making sure it does not happen again," said Ferentz. "There has been a lot of speculation by those who don't have the facts and it is unfair and inappropriate for anyone to make wild guesses about what happened."

"We obviously are extremely pleased all of our student-athletes have been released from the hospital and can begin the return to their academic, athletic, and personal lives," said Gary Barta, the UI’s director of athletics.

"We now can focus exclusively on discovering the root cause of this situation, and I'm anxious to work with President Mason's group to this end. We will review every aspect of the workouts and talk with everyone involved. The staff and coaches who work with these young men are highly respected professionals who are dedicated and care deeply about our student-athletes. I hope those who follow our program will respect this process moving forward and refrain from any further unproductive rush to judgment."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Branstad on Supreme Court Vacancies

Face Time: Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is expected to take the better part of the next 30 days to come up with his 3 choices out of the 9 finalists to fill the vacancies on the Iowa Supreme Court. Branstad has 30 days to make the selections after the judicial nominating commission chose the finalists Thursday out of the 60 people who interviewed this past week for the job. Branstad's staff said he will begin interviewing finalists next week at the earliest but definitely the week after.

Border Beef: What do you make of this lawsuit with Taco Bell? An Alabama firm is suing the chain, claiming the beef it sells really isn't beef. We had a Taco Bell across from my high school growing up. We couldn't go off campus for lunch until senior year, so going across the street to Taco Bell was kind of a big deal. Then, of course, we had those late-night food runs, too. We didn't have nearly as many late-night choices as they do now. Did I mention we had to walk 10 miles through the snow to school every day, too?:)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Santorum Hires Two Iowans

Rick's Picks: Looks like former Republican Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is getting more serious about 2012. He just hired two Iowans now that we are about a year away from the caucuses.

Here's the release:

Santorum Announces Nick Ryan and Jill Latham as Iowa Advisors to America’s Foundation PAC

Washington, DC – Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) announced today that his political action committee, America’s Foundation, has brought on Nick Ryan and Jill Latham of the Des Moines, IA-based Concordia Group LLC to serve as advisors.

“I am extremely pleased to have Nick and Jill on board to assist with my PAC’s efforts in Iowa and across the country. They have a proven track record of building grassroots support for candidates and conservative causes. As I continue to consider a run in 2012, they will play a critical role in helping determine if we are able to build the necessary support to embark on a possible run,” said Senator Santorum.

Nicholas T. Ryan, founder and President of Concordia Group LLC, has extensive experience in Iowa. He served as a top political advisor for Congressman Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) from 1999-2006, and ran three successful congressional campaigns in Eastern Iowa. Nick is also the founder of the American Future Fund which was established as a multi-state issue advocacy group designed to effectively communicate conservative and free market ideals.

“I have respected Senator Santorum for years and am excited to have the opportunity to work for him. He has a deep understanding of the issues that matter to conservatives across the nation," said Nick Ryan. "Senator Santorum is a full-spectrum conservative who has a demonstrated ability to motivate conservatives and Republicans. I am honored to help him continue the work he has started in Iowa by helping so many conservatives get elected this past November."

Jill Latham serves as Principal at Concordia Group LLC. Prior to joining the Concordia Group, Jill served as Iowa Political Director for Governor Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Jill has vast experience in government and politics, having worked on Capitol Hill and around the country, including President Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004. She also served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin from 2005 – 2006.

“As someone who played an active role in the 2008 Republican presidential primary, I have seen firsthand what appeals to Iowa Republican caucus goers – conservative values, honesty and a commitment to standing up for what you believe in – all attributes that Senator Santorum has. I look forward to working with Senator Santorum over the weeks in months ahead,” said Jill Latham.

Senator Santorum has been to Iowa nine times in the last 15 months.

Bristol Palin Appearance Canceled: DeMint Coming to Iowa

Banning Bristol: One of my "back home" universities apparently just decided to abstain from Bristol Palin's abstinence appearance. Washington University had planned to bring in Sarah Palin's daughter to talk about the topic. But once it got out that thousands of dollars in student fees would pay for the visit, people complained and Bristol has been bounced. Here's the story.

DeMint DeComing: Do we count tea party fav South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint among the possible 2012'ers? He seemed to earlier downplay any chance he would run for prez. But he is coming to Iowa on behalf of western Iowa Congressman Steve King. What should we make of that? Here are the details:

Des Moines, Iowa – Congressman Steve King will bring nationally-recognized leaders to Iowa for his first Conservative Principles Conference on Saturday, March 26, 2011. The day-long conference will include panel discussions and speakers including 2012 Republican presidential prospects. The event will conclude with an evening banquet featuring King and keynote speaker Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

“I am looking forward to engaging with Iowa activists for a day of visionary and principled dialogue centered on our American destiny,” King remarked. “We will be joined by some of the best thinkers in America to begin the process of shaping the agenda of our nation. We hope to provide a forum for all the presidential candidates and to help them identify priorities.”

Iowa’s first in the nation caucuses are bringing presidential candidates to the state and raising the level of public discourse. “Iowans take seriously their privilege and responsibility to evaluate the presidential candidates and their proposals,” King commented. “By hosting the candidates, and other leading thinkers, at our Conservative Principles Conference, we are given an early opportunity to test them on the issues. Iowans are astutely informed on public policy issues because of our duty as the first-in-the-nation caucus.”

Conservative Principles Conference will be held at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown. Doors will open at 8:00 am with the program set to begin at 9:00 am. An evening reception begins at 5:00 pm with the banquet starting at 6:00 pm. Tickets for King’s Conservative Principles Conference are $50 per person and available by calling 888-722-4704 or by visiting

“I invite all Iowans to participate in this event and to engage in our effort to refurbish the pillars of American Exceptionalism,” King concluded.

Conservative Principles PAC is King’s leadership political action committee. Founded in 2008, Conservative Principles has supported conservative candidates for Congress across the country as well as candidates for Iowa Senate and House seats.

After serving six years in the Iowa Senate, King was elected to Congress in 2002 to represent Iowa’s 5th Congressional District. King is a nationally recognized constitutional conservative who routinely leads efforts to decrease the size and scope of government while protecting individual liberty and the sanctity of life. His language to repeal ObamaCare was passed by the US House on January 19, 2011, and he continues to work to implement common-sense solutions for the issues facing Americans.

DeMint was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. In early 2007, DeMint also fought for commonsense immigration reform by leading the effort to defeat the amnesty bill and calling on government to first secure our borders, enforce the laws already passed, and streamline the legal immigration system. DeMint was recently ranked as the Senate’s most conservative member by National Journal and as the No. 1 senator voting for responsible tax and spending policies by the National Taxpayers Union. DeMint has made it clear he is not a presidential candidate and will keynote the event as a conservative leader.

For more information on the Conservative Principles Conference, contact Conservative Principles PAC Director Tim Moran at 712-310-2386 or Ann Trimble-Ray at 712-273-5745. The contact number for tickets only is 888-722-4704.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Commission Chooses 9 Justice Candidates

Pick 'Em--And then there were 9. What started as 60 interviews this week before the Iowa Judicial Nominating Commission has now shrunk to 9. Tonight, the commission announced its 9 finalists. The interviews just ended today before lunchtime. Now, it's up to Governor Terry Branstad to choose the 3 he wants to fill the court. Drum roll, please... Here's the news release:

Commission Names Nominees for Iowa Supreme Court

Des Moines, Iowa, January 27, 2011—After completing public interviews of all 60 applicants, the State Judicial Nominating Commission has selected a slate of nine nominees to fill the vacancies on the Iowa Supreme Court that occurred when the terms of Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, Justice Michael Streit and Justice David Baker ended on December 31, 2010. The nominees are:

Robert James Blink, West Des Moines, Age 60
District Judge (appointed 1995)—Fifth Judicial District
J.D., 1975, Drake University

Arthur E. Gamble, Clive, Age 58
District Judge (appointed 1983), Chief Judge (appointed 1995)—Fifth Judicial District
J.D., 1978, University of Iowa

John C. Gray, Sioux City, Age 56
Attorney—Heidman Law Firm
J.D., 1981, University of Iowa

Steven Verne Lawyer, New Virginia, Age 45
Attorney—Law Firm of Steven V. Lawyer & Associates, PLC
J.D., 1991, Drake University

Edward M. Mansfield, Des Moines, Age 53
Iowa Court of Appeals Judge (appointed 2009)
J.D., 1982, Yale

Michael R. Mullins, Washington, Age 58
District Judge (appointed 2002)—Eighth Judicial District
J.D., 1982, Drake University

Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Grinnell, Age 37
Professor of Law, University of Iowa
J.D., 1997, University of Michigan

Thomas Dana Waterman, Pleasant Valley, Age 51
Attorney—Lane & Waterman L.L.P.
J.D., 1984, University of Iowa

Bruce B. Zager, Waterloo, Age 58
District Judge (appointed 1999)—First Judicial District
J.D., 1980, Drake University

Governor Branstad has thirty days in which to make the appointments to the court from this slate of nominees. A summary resume, completed questionnaire and writing samples for each candidate are posted on the Judicial Branch website at:

Branstad's budget

Da Budget: Listening this week to Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, I thought of those word-a-day calendars. You know, the ones you get to teach you fancy, 25 cent words you can use to impress people at parties? The governor was saying how he would describe the budget. He kept using the word, austere. gives us our definition:

severe in manner or appearance; uncompromising; strict; forbidding: an austere teacher.
rigorously self-disciplined and severely moral; ascetic; abstinent: the austere quality of life in the convent.
grave; sober; solemn; serious: an austere manner.
without excess, luxury, or ease; simple; limited; severe: an austere life.
severely simple; without ornament: austere writing.
lacking softness; hard: an austere bed of straw.
rough to the taste; sour or harsh in flavor.

Today, we learned what the gov means by austere. He is cutting more than $300 million. He is also shifting more than $700 million of state spending into the general fund budget. This is the one-time money (federal stimulus dollars, borrowed money from other reserve funds, etc.). He says instead of keeping it separate like previous Governor Chet Culver did, Branstad includes it into the actual budget. Branstad feels it gives a more accurate portrayal of the state's finances. Branstad did make cuts, like he said he would. Undoubtedly this will be where the debate begins on which programs get cut and whether the cuts are too much. For one thing, he wants to give no funding increases for public schools the next two years. And he would basically cut in half the amount of money who gives to what is now the universal pre-school for 4-year-olds (Branstad only wants to give vouchers to needy families, although he hasn't released what "needy" is).

And the gov also wants to raise taxes. He wants to increase taxes on casinos from 24% to 36% (for most of the casinos). That helps raise the money to make up for the revenue the state could lose from his call to cut corporate income tax cuts in half. What do Republican anti-taxers think of this? Are you against ALL tax increases? Or is this o.k. because it raises them on casinos and cuts for other companies? You don't hear Republicans talk about raising taxes much these days. In fact, no one else really comes to mind as I write this. How will Branstad's idea go over?

Governor Branstad's Budget Address

In case you want to read along with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad as he gives his budget address...

Text of Gov. Branstad’s budget and program presentation to the Iowa General Assembly

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Terry E. Branstad today presented his budget and program to the Iowa General Assembly. Following are the remarks as prepared for delivery:

Madam Lt. Governor, Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Leaders, justices, judges, legislators, elected officials, distinguished guests, family, friends and fellow Iowans.

I am humbled to stand before you once again as your Governor in this, the people’s House. It is here that our forefathers set the direction of our state: educating our kids, building our roads, protecting our citizens, caring for the unfortunate. And they did so, while being careful with the tax dollars and balancing our state’s budget.

In this storied chamber, I cut my political teeth as a young state representative – learning both to advocate my position and respect my adversary.

--To disagree without being disagreeable.
--To listen, because that is the only way to learn.

Because, at the end of the day, we are all Iowans working hard to make our special state an even better place. Let us never forget why we are here: to do the people’s business as their servants with respect and dignity and good will.

Today, I stand before you to present the state’s budget for the next two years.

But, at the risk of sounding a bit like the grandfather I am now, I think we need to start with a stern talking to.

When I began the preparation of this budget, I was handed a list of dozens of programs – 89 to be exact – that had been funded with money we no longer had. Everything from paying for teachers to state troopers had been funded with one-time money – nearly 900 million dollars’ worth.

Now, you wouldn’t run your family budget that way. If you did so, you would soon be visiting the bankruptcy court.

And we should never run the people of Iowa’s budget that way, either. And with this budget, it will come to an end, now.

I understand that this budget method of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul didn’t just happen overnight. I understand that it has been building over at least a ten years. But that doesn’t make it right; and that doesn’t mean we can ignore it for another decade.

You see, if we don’t fix it, the very integrity of our government is threatened.

When we over-promise and under-deliver, time after time, we erode, like a corrosive acid, the ties that bind our society. And, our ability to do those things we desire – whether it be educating our kids, caring for the sick, protecting the vulnerable, or improving our ability to create jobs – will be lost in a sea of red ink.

It is our responsibility, as servant-leaders, to pass a budget as honest, frugal and balanced as the people it serves.

And, the time to do it is now.

The rebounding agricultural economy gives us a unique opportunity to bind up Iowa’s budget wounds quickly. We must not squander that opportunity.

It will not be easy. It will require difficult and painful choices. But the pain we endure by fixing our budget today, will lead to great opportunities for Iowa in the future.

It will require change. No longer can every organized constituency get what it wants. There is a greater good we are seeking.

We must restore predictability and stability to our state budget, ensure our decisions are sustainable for the long term, and set the stage for a period of unprecedented economic expansion.

It is the taxpayers, not the interest groups, we must protect.

So, the budget I present to you today cleans up the budget mess that has been made. It cleans out the cobwebs in the closets of government. It sets Iowa on a new course with smaller, predictable, sustainable government. That is nimble enough to respond to needs and small enough to stay out of the way of our job creators.

And we do it by:

First, $770 million of general-fund spending that was funded by one-time revenue is moved back into the general fund, where it belongs, once and for all.

This is an honest budget that matches ongoing spending with ongoing revenue. And it funds our commitments to schools, health care for the poor and elderly, and troopers with funds that won’t evaporate in a year.

Second, this budget provides nearly $160 million in direct property tax relief to Iowans. It fully funds the state’s share of our school funding commitments – erasing the need for local school districts to make up the difference in property taxes.

Iowa property taxpayers have paid a high price for the state’s past practices and it is time to make them whole.

Third, this program and budget make it clear that Iowa is ready for job creation. We all know that small businesses are the engines of our growth. Yet, our small businesses pay an income tax rate that is highest in the nation at 12%.

And our small business pay commercial property taxes that are as high as those in mid-town Manhattan.

This budget will make us competitive for new jobs.

The small business income tax rate will be cut in half and made a flat 6%. Commercial property taxes will be reduced by 40% over the next 5 years. New investment will be immediately taxed at 60% of its valuation. And existing commercial property will be rolled back by 8% a year over 5 years.

My plan includes funding for these tax cuts through the use of new revenue coming to the state due to economic growth, the additional revenue generated by the extension of the Bush tax cuts, and by a restoration of the gaming tax to the level at which it was originally agreed to years ago.

I will be bringing forth legislation to transform our current Department of Economic Development into a public/private partnership.

This will be a partnership that unshackles our economic development efforts from an alphabet soup of bureaucratic programs and brings the best practices from both sectors to recharge our job creation mission.

And I intend to give that new partnership new tools to market and sell our state to job creators.

I have asked each of our Department and Agency heads to do a top to bottom review of all administrative rules and regulations to determine how we can best fulfill our responsibilities while eliminating impediments to job growth.

While tax policy can take us a significant way forward in our effort to compete for new jobs, much of that work can be undone by a bureaucracy that fails to understand the critical relationship between burdensome regulation and job creation.

The rules and regulations identified through this process will be the first subjected to our proposed rolling sunset and I will further order all future proposed rules and regulations to contain a jobs impact statement so we can identify those that cost jobs before they impact our Iowa employers.

We have wrung our hands over these issues long enough. Now is the time to make Iowa’s main streets truly open for business with the jobs we so desperately need. It is only by these actions that we can be assured of the growth we need to fund our future state budgets.

Many new Governors across this nation are aggressively moving to reduce tax and regulatory burdens to spur new job growth and I want to position Iowa as the leader.

Our unemployed deserve nothing less than our best efforts to bring new jobs to this state. No one will work harder to bring new jobs to Iowa than me, Lt. Governor Reynolds, Director Durham, and our entire economic development team.

Fourth, we must reduce the size and scope of government. State agencies and local governments must break down the silos that divide them.

Services must be shared so Iowans’ needs are met. Costs must be reduced – we can no longer afford to pay 46% more for public services; the collective bargaining law must be changed to recognize the rights of the taxpayers. And we, the leaders of our governments, must do a better job of managing our scarce resources.

Over the past two months, Lt. Governor Reynolds and I have been actively working with our management team, reviewing the current budget in excruciating detail.

In fact, the Lt. Governor and I have taken the time to personally review every line item in the state budget so we can look Iowans squarely in the eye when we tell them we simply have too much government and the status quo is no longer a viable option.

With this budget, we have a choice. Do we take the bold and difficult steps, make the painful decisions, and honestly align our spending and revenue? Or, do we kick the problem down the road yet again?

Fellow Iowans, I didn’t come here to avoid tough decisions.

No more games. No more gimmicks. No more bail-outs.

Fifth, we must budget for the long term. This budget doesn’t solve all our problems overnight. No budget can. But it puts us on a path of sound budgeting principles. And we must stay on that path by resisting the temptation to push our obligations to the next generation.

I plan to insist on budget discipline.

The results of our past budget practices have been across the board cuts and a mountain of broken promises. The days of unsustainable commitments are over.

It will come as no surprise to any of you that I am submitting a biennial budget that includes my recommendations for both Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013. Also included with this budget is a five year financial projection that shows how the decisions we make this year will impact the bottom line over the next five years.

Iowa desperately needs these financial planning tools and I will insist the Legislature join me in this commitment to provide Iowans with an honest, open, and transparent approach to spending the public’s money.

We will make our government as good, as dependable, as well-managed as the people it serves.

How do we accomplish our goals? We cut unnecessary spending.

Programs that have passed their time are eliminated and others are modified to make sure those in need are those who receive government help.

Every area of state government will be asked to share in this sacrifice. I have appointed a collection of talented leaders in our state departments and agencies and have charged them with remaking government at all levels to find more efficient and less costly methods to deliver our state services.

While school systems across this country are reeling from massive budget cuts, this budget for the next two years holds school spending authority at the current level. No increase. No decrease – but with an assurance that we can deliver on this promise and allow our creative school leaders more flexibility and opportunity to make things work.

And let’s not forget, even while holding spending authority at current levels, last year the state underfunded its commitment by $156 million. Local school districts were left holding the bag with little choice but to levy additional property taxes to make up the difference. This budget funds that commitment with state dollars and provides direct property tax relief to Iowa taxpayers.

But education isn’t all about dollars and cents. It is about our children and our willingness to take the steps necessary to reform our schools and make them among the best in the world.

To that end, I will convene an education summit this summer—bringing together the nation’s most dynamic educational reform leaders.

These national leaders will work with our new education policy team and strive to reach a consensus on what changes are needed to give our children the nation’s highest quality schools.

Should we reach that critical consensus, and I have no reason to believe we won’t, I will convene a Special Session of the Iowa Legislature in the fall of this year to approve our bold reform agenda and make good on our new covenant promise to provide our children with a globally competitive education.

In addition, I cannot leave the education discussion without renewing my commitment to ensure that every Iowa child has access to quality preschool.

This budget proposes a $43 million annual investment in providing preschool assistance to those families in greatest need.

Research shows preschool investments have the most long-lasting impact on children who come from homes with financial need. As such, our program will be targeted to those families and will give parents flexibility to choose the preschool environment that best meets their needs.

But we cannot do this alone, all across this state parents, private donors and caring organizations have for years partnered with preschool providers to ensure access. I am happy to have the state of Iowa join them—as a partner, not as the sole provider.

My fellow Iowans, none of what I have brought forward today will be easy.
But all of it is necessary.

We must put an end to the budgeting practices that failed our people and brought unprecedented instability to the delivery of critical state services.

We must adopt long term budgeting practices that provide decision makers with an early warning system to coming budget cliffs in time to make adjustments that prevent service disruptions.

We must cut real spending out of state government and challenge our Department leaders to remake state government in a manner that provides services more efficiently and at less cost.

We must provide financial stability to our schools while we engage in an historic effort to reform our schools and restore our preeminence in educational performance.

We must fund more of our property tax credits and obligations and provide Iowa taxpayers with nearly $160 million in much needed relief.

We must reduce small business income and property taxes, and eliminate rules and regulations that cost us jobs.

If we have the courage to do these things and do them now, then I am confident Iowa will be the leader in America’s economic recovery.

The more than 100,000 unemployed Iowans deserve nothing less than our best efforts and we have an obligation to take the bold and decisive actions necessary to dramatically improve Iowa’s ability to compete for new jobs.

When God made his covenant with Abraham and his people so many ages ago, it was a covenant that required immediate and significant sacrifice in return for a promise of incredible abundance. However, that abundance was to be years and even decades in the making.

Our new covenant between this state and its people does indeed require significant immediate shared sacrifice.

But, as with Abraham and his people, the people of Iowa can expect our efforts will lead to tremendous abundance which we, our children, grandchildren, and future generations of Iowans will enjoy.

I stand before you today older and wiser than when I first set foot in these chambers. But I am no less passionate about our future.

If we make the right choices, the days before us will be ones of abundant growth and new jobs:

· Enough abundance to bring back our sons and daughters and those who wish to join us.

· Enough abundance to meet the needs of our kids, and our elderly, and the sick and the vulnerable.

· Enough abundance to make the future the golden years in Iowa history.

We stand at the crossroads of that history. Which path will we take?

I know that this institution is fueled by compromise; but we cannot compromise on the future of Iowa.

Our state will be driven by the right policy choices and I will fight with all my political might to make sure that we make the right choices.

We are the fortunate few who have been chosen by the people to do what is right. Let us be motivated by the better angels of our nature for the good of all Iowans.

Together, we will accomplish great things.

Thank you and God Bless you and God Bless the people of Iowa.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bipartisan Seating at State of the Union

Left, Right, Left, Right: We wanted to know if the Iowa delegation would follow the wishes of those who wanted to avoid the party stands up clapping wildly while the other sits on its hands as the president gives the state of the union. Here's what we heard back from the offices that responded to our inquiries:

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley sat with Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden
3rd District Democratic Congressman sat with Texas Republican Congressman Mike Conaway
4th District Republican Congressman sat with Minnesota Democratic Congressman Collin Peterson
5th District Republican Congressman said he just wanted to get a seat.

State of the Union

The Speech: This is my first state of the union address as a dad. I'm watching as my now six-month-old Hayden sits next to me. I watch these speeches as a reporter. But, of course, now I undoubtedly watch in a different way, as well. Here are a few thoughts:

Will Washington really get serious about cutting the deficit? It's something like $14 trillion. That's $14,000,000,000,000. That's a ridiculous number. For all of you responsible for raising that number, do you feel any regret at all? I remember talking with candidate Obama before the election. He didn't seem to have the deficit reduction anywhere on his to do list. Of course, I remember when I worked in Columbia, Missouri, and I followed around former Governor John Ashcroft as he traveled Iowa. He talked about eliminating the deficit. He lost the election. And clearly, those who won have failed to accomplish his goal.

The president talked about our teachers. Why don't teachers get more respect in our society? Seriously, we are absolutely hosed without good teachers. Should we pay them more? Should we have them teach our kids year-round? What do we do with the bad teachers? How do we get them to improve? Or how to we get rid of them if they don't improve?

All this talk the president is saying about working together...will this really happen? Sure, Dems almost have no choice but to talk that way after the election. But will they really work with Republicans? Do Republicans really want to work with Dems? Do they want to work with the president?

What will come of the speech? Progress? More gridlock? Let's all hope that no matter where you are politically, the economy gets better and people keep suffering. There's too much of that right now.

One more thing...did you see Des Moines area Democratic Congressman Leonard Boswell whispering to the Prez? Think he told him he was running for re-election?:)

Branstad Pushes Higher Ethanol Blend

Higher Blend: Iowa Governor Terry Branstad wants to push state subsidies from the E-10 blend in the state to E-15. Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency ruled that vehicles made after 2001 could handle the higher ethanol blend. Branstad said during the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit in Des Moines that it is time to push E-15 in Iowa. Branstad said, “I'm going to be talking to all the presidential candidates about how important renewable fuels is to the future of this country and our competitiveness and how important it is to the state of Iowa."

Statehouse Sitdown: Branstad met at the Iowa Statehouse with former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who also spoke at the summit. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum also spoke. But Branstad’s staff said the governor did not meet with Santorum. Branstad met last week with another possible 2012 Republican candidate: Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. You think Branstad will be a popular guy for the next year with these (possible) candidates?

State of the Union Presidential Preview

Prez Preview: The White House just released some excerpts from President Obama's State of the Union Address tonight, you know if you just can't wait until he says it live:

Excerpts from President Obama’s State of the Union Address

As Prepared for Delivery-

With their votes, the American people determined
that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws
will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward
together, or not at all – for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and
bigger than politics.

At stake right now is not who wins the next
election – after all, we just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and
industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It’s whether the hard
work and industry of our people is rewarded. It’s whether we sustain the
leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but a light to the
world. We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of
us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits
are up. The economy is growing again.

But we have never measured
progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the success of our
people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer. By
the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a
thriving enterprise. By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to
our children. That’s the project the American people want us to work on.

Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with
the launch of a satellite called Sputnik¸ we had no idea how we’d beat them to
the moon. The science wasn’t there yet. NASA didn’t even exist.

after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the
Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and
millions of new jobs.

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bachmann's Brother; Presidential Drinking Game

Famous Family: No, this isn't that Kevin Bacon game, "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" ,where you try to show everyone is somehow related to the actor. But our station, WHO-TV, may have a family connection to the 2012 presidential race. Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota Republican congresswoman, is the sister of Gary Amble. He used to be our main weather man and was very popular. He moved south down I-35 to Kansas City.

In case you are wondering, the congresswoman is NOT related to our main anchor. John spells his last name with just one "n", Bachman. But we think no less of him for it:)

Presidential Drinking Game: Not sure what to make of this, but for the drinkers among you...especially those who get bored by traditional speeches...I'll throw this out. The San Francisco Chronicle offers a drinking game to get you through the state of the union. Here's the short of it...if the prez talks bipartisanship and House Speaker John Boehner cries, then you might get hammered. I'm not endorsing the idea. I don't need to drink during these things. But to each, her own.

Marriott To Get Rid of Hotel Porn

There's No Business Like Porn Business: Ben Smith of the Politico has a story about another sign that Mitt Romney is running for president again in 2012. He reports Romney used to serve on Marriott's board and the owners are big Romney backers. They have now decided you won't be able to rent porn during your stay at the company's new hotels. That's not the shocker for me. It's this: Smith reports Marriott says it makes $175 per room a year on porn. $175 per room?! I can't find on the Marriott website how many rooms the company has, but the site does say it has 3,500 properties. Safe to say...the company has a lot of rooms. And apparently Debbie did a lot in more places than just Dallas.

Da Bears: I grew up in Illinois but in the shadow of the Arch in St. Louis. So I always followed the St. Louis teams instead of Chicago. In case you care. Haven't said that...I don't understand the Bears play-calling on what would be their final offensive play of the day in the NFC Championship game against the Packers. The bears have a third-string quarterback in the game. They have fewer than 2 minutes to play. And it's fourth down. They had just one timeout left but how don't you call it there? Don't you think the offense could use the time to figure out the play? Sure, that's the last timeout. But if you don't get the first down, it won't matter. They didn't call it. They threw an interception. I don't get it. But it was a great game. Bears fans, just remember your Cubs brethren...wait til next year.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

State of the Union

State Preview: Today, President Obama offered a preview of his state of the union address he gives on Tuesday. The prez plans to talk about overhauling the tax code, strongly defend his health care reform and talk about economic progress while acknowledging much more needs to be done, according to published reports, including the New York Times. I'm curious how this next topic will go over... He is supposed to discuss deficit reduction, but he is also supposed to talk about the need to spend more in some areas. Will Americans go for that at a time polls show they want Washington to spend less? Or will they be tolerant of it if he spends more in select areas (education and infrastructure), while cutting spending in others?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Brandstad on MLK Day

It's Monday: A couple of little tidbits from Iowa Governor Terry Branstad Monday. The program for the celebration of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King at the State Historical Building in Des Moines showed the governor would be delivering an "address". But...the gov read a proclamation, talked to the media, shook some hands, talked to some people and then left. What happened to the address? No one complained to me about it. But I asked Branstad's office what happened. The gov's office said it was their understanding the gov would come in and do the proclamation, meet some people and go because he had 11am meetings at the statehouse (the MLK event started at 10:45am). The office said Branstad hadn't planned on giving an address. His staff blamed some type of "first day confusion".

The gov also brought a few laughs to the room, including some of his own, when he read the proclamation. He offered an accidental flashback...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Judicial Impeachment

Insiders: Three Iowa freshmen house Republicans are trying to lead the efforts to impeach the 4 remaining Iowa Supreme Court justices. But have those efforts officially failed? On Channel 13's Insiders, both our analysts doubted impeachment will go anywhere this session. But they disagree on whether Chief Justice Mark Cady should have talked about the controversial court ruling that legalized same-sex marriages in Iowa.

Here's the segment in the show in case you missed it:

Here's the whole show.

Upmeyer Becomes Iowa's First Female House Majority Leader

A First: In the past week, Iowans have seen lawmakers go back to work, one governor leave, a former governor return and a chief justice defend one of the courts most controversial rulings in recent memory. Not lost in all that is a bit of history. Garner Republican Linda Upmeyer became the first woman in state history to rise to the position of house majority leader. Iowa became a state in 1846. So it has taken quite a bit of time. Dr. Dianne Bystrom, the director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women in Politics at Iowa State University, paid close attention to the "first" for the state. She told me women make up just 24.5% percent of the country's state lawmakers but even fewer hold leadership positions: 17%.

Of course, Iowa remains just 1 of 4 states in the U.S. to never elect a woman governor. Although, new Governor Terry Branstad seemed to give a nod to someone he may want to change that, his Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds.

Here's my conversation with Dr. Bystrom about Upmeyer's accomplishment and what's ahead:

Bystrom also leads the "Ready to Run Campaign" for women looking to get into elected office. It happens every other year. The next class begins June 10th. Here's a link to get more information.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Arizona memorial

The Speech: Did you watch President Obama's remarks at the memorial last night for the victims in the Arizona shootings? What did you think? Did it remind you of some of the speeches he gave as a candidate? Is it the best one he has given since he took office? Have these types of speeches been missing since he became president or has there just not been an opportunity like this before? I'm not sure the word, "opportunity", is the best word here, but I think you get my point.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

What Now?--Jared Loughner is in custody. He may have shot as many as 20 people in that Arizona rampage, according to authorities. What should the government do about it? More gun control restrictions? More funding for mental illnesses? Change talk radio? We've heard it all so far. But was there really anything anyone could have done to stop this?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Arizona Congresswoman Shot

Mass Shooting: Shock can hardly describe many Americans' feelings, I would presume, as I write this. Reports say a young man deliberately opened fire on a crowd of people at a Safeway grocery store in Arizona. The victims include Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley's office relayed Giffords' brother, Alex, was a placekicker for the Iowa State Cyclones. Here's his statement:

“While we still don’t have all the details, Carolyn and I are praying for Gabby. Our thoughts go out to her husband Mark, her family, her staff and all who know and love her. And I add my deepest condolences to the families of the other victims of this morning's tragic, senseless shooting.

I also should note that Gabby's brother, Alex Giffords, was a placekicker for the Iowa State football team. She gave me a print of Beardshear Hall at Iowa State that I have in my office, which she got from her brother."

Friday, January 07, 2011

Health Care Debate

Health Care: Is there anyone who honestly doesn't think our country's health care system can't improve? I doubt it. But what does IMPROVE really mean? In Washington, House Republicans have chosen to make repealing "Obamacare", as they call it, their first real order of business. What do you make of this decision? The economy stinks. Again, I doubt few would question that. Should Republicans really take this up first? Should they target some other legislation, tax policy, whatever to get the economy going again? Some Republicans argue the recently passed health care reform hurts the economy. So it only makes sense to repeal. Those Republicans will have to figure out how to address a new report from the Congressional Budget Office, the non-partisan number crunchers in Washington, that shows repealing health care reform will ADD $230 billion to the federal deficit by 2021. Republicans have cast doubt on the numbers. But what if they are wrong? What if they repeal health care and more people lose insurance coverage AND the deficit gets even worse? Perhaps, this won't matter. Even the most die hard Republican optimists doubt they can really get the votes to repeal since Democrats still hold a majority in the senate and, of course, there's a Democratic president.

It's all fascinating to watch. But through all of this, wouldn't it be nice if the sides could work together to actually improve our system? Costs keep going up far faster than the rate of inflation. The Des Moines Register broke down some numbers this morning from Wellmark Insurance. The numbers show Wellmark raised average annual increases every year since 2006 from the lowest increase of 4.3% in 2007 to 18% last year (the company has asked for another 11% increase in the coming year). The Register's article shows two actuaries report the requested increase for next year is excessive but neither doubts the validity of some kind of increase. With so many people seeing cuts in their hours, pay, 401k match, how can Iowans expect to recover from the recession with health care costs rising the way they are? What will end this? Will Washington figure out something to bring down the costs? Remember, then-candidate Barack Obama told us at a campaign rally in Iowa City in 2007 his health care ideas would save families $2500 a year. Will people hold him to that? We aren't seeing our health care costs go down anywhere near that yet. Now, of course, the real guts of the health care reform, providing Congress doesn't repeal it, haven't even started yet. But wouldn't it be nice if all this "repeal and replace" talk in Washington would actually lead to "improve (service) and reduce" (costs)? That's the best medicine we could all use right now.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Homeless Guy Columbus, Ohio

The Homeless: How about what's happened to that man with the golden voice? You know, the homeless guy featured in a Columbus, Ohio newspaper video? His life has changed in a YouTube minute. Ted Williams' YouTube interview had nearly 12 million hits at last check. 12 million! "The Today Show" talked with him today. Sounds like the guy was pretty messed up for a while...drugs, alcohol and crime. But his pipes look like they are about to help get his life back together. Let's hope he can handle everything that comes along with it. Here's the story:

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Robert Gibbs Leaves White House

Familiar Faces: Robert Gibbs is leaving the White House as President Barack Obama's Press Secretary. It's a grueling job he has held the past two years, a job made even more grueling than years past because of the non-stop, 24-7 news cycle (thanks in large part to cable news and the internet). He also has a wife and a young son, who I can't imagine he saw as much as he would want. Gibbs was a familiar face at the side of candidate Obama as the former Illinois senator toured Iowa during the presidential campaign. Now, according to reports, two other faces familiar to Iowans have a good chance of replacing Gibbs. Bill Burton and Josh Earnest have served as Gibbs' deputies.

Burton has worked on several Iowa presidential campaigns, including John Kerry, Dick Gephardt and Obama. He previously worked for Iowa Senator Tom Harkin. Earnest worked on former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack's short presidential run before he switched over to Obama's campaign (Vilsack, you will remember switched to Hillary Clinton. Then, of course, when she lost, he went to work for Obama as the secretary of agriculture).

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

F-word and N-word, Navy Captain Owen Honors

Word vs. Word: Are you following that scandal with Navy Captain Owen Honors? He reportedly stars in his own video where he makes derogatory comments about homosexuals and shows shower scenes of two men and two women to make his point. CNN has the lowdown on it. It sounds like the ol' captain is going down with the ship. CNN reports the Navy has relieved him of his duties. (By the way, anyone else see the irony of the military man named "Honors" who just got disciplined?)

Here's my question: Is the f-word he used on the tape numerous times (you know, the anti-gay word) on the same level as the n-word? And have people's views on the words changed over the past decade?