Saturday, April 30, 2011

Obama vs. Trump

2012 Preview?: The annual White House Correspondents' Dinner is always good for a few laughs. Sometimes the jokes are priceless. Sometimes, it's the video. We got a little bit of both as President Barack Obama stood behind the microphone with Donald Trump out in the crowd. Of course, timing was everything in this. And I don't just mean the president's timing with his jokes. We had the whole birther debate this week seemingly debunked (for good?) as the president released the long-form version of his birth certificate showing once again he was born in Hawaii. Trump said he was "proud" that he was the one to force the president to release it.

Here's the video of the dinner with the prez behind the mic. Watch the Donald's reactions and tell me if you think he was having fun. I didn't see many smiles.

Dancing Kid at Urbandale Park

All the Moves: One of our photographers shot this awesome video of a kid showing off his moves at Walker Johnson Park in Urbandale. Here's the problem: we need to know more about him!

Do you know who he is?

Strawn on Huckabee, Huckabee Denies Decision Not to Run

Stuck on Huck: 2008 Iowa Caucus winner Mike Huckabee's fans started their "Stuck on Huck" movement. But Huck has been a no show in Iowa. He apparently has been a no-talk, too. Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn is a guest this weekend on C-Span's "Newsmakers" series. Stawn said he hasn't talked to Huckabee at all this year. And some of Huck's top Iowa strategists from 08 have moved to other candidates this year. Strawn believes Huckabee can't wait too much longer to get into the race, if he's even planning on getting in the race. Strawn also admits this presidential campaign has started more slowly than the past. But he doesn't believe because there is no front-runner, if means Republicans are less than enthused with their choices so far.

Here's the full interview.

Update: Huckabee is denying reports that he's already bailed on another presidential run. However, the article points out strong skepticism from Fox News that Huckabee will run.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tornadoes, Charlie Sheen Meets Cardinals

Silent Sequel: It's day 2 of my near-silent voice. It really stinks not being able to talk. This had better change soon! I'm just captivated, in a horribly sad way, of this tornado coverage from the south. I used to live in Alabama for about 1 1/2 years when I worked at a tv station in Montgomery. So I'm fairly familiar with some of the areas that were devastated by the tornadoes. To think more than 200 people have died in the region is mind-boggling. I remember covering a path of tornadoes in November, 1998, when I worked in Columbia, Missouri. We loaded up with our satellite truck and headed west following a big storm (it seemed like a big story, but pales in comparison to what hit the southeast). We started in Columbia. Then we re-traced the tornadoes' paths going backwards from Columbia to Kansas to Oklahoma City. It was about three days of some of the worst damage I have ever seen. I vividly remember standing in a destroyed neighborhood in Oklahoma City and looking out. There were nothing but piles of splintered homes and trees and shattered lives. It was overpowering. And sad.

Our sister station in Huntsville is streaming live coverage of Wednesday's damage, rescue efforts and recovery. You can watch it here.

More Disaster Coverage: Charlie Sheen is his own disaster. Forgive me if sharing this post between all the destruction and Sheen seems a bit insensitive. I don't intend it to be. Some of the St. Louis Cardinals got to meet Sheen during their current road trip to Houston. Apparently, Sheen took his road show there. Who cares.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

NBC The Voice, Ron Paul Iowa, Tony LaRussa Daughter

All Quiet: NBC has high hopes for its new show, "The Voice". I have high hopes my voice will return. Tough to be on tv with no voice. So I'm sitting in silence today on the couch at home. Not fun.

The Revolution Returns: Texas Liber-publican Congressman Ron Paul used Des Moines as his backdrop to announce he had filed the papers with the Federal Elections Commission to form a presidential exploratory committee. And it was a quick stop. I timed it at 15 minutes for his event at the Holiday Inn across the street from the Des Moines International Airport. And much of that time included speeches from Paul's 3 Iowans who will head his Iowa efforts. Paul said he had no opening statements, took 3 questions from reporters, 2 from supporters and then said he had to leave. I'll be curious how this campaign will function in Iowa. There's no question his supporters are some of the most passionate you will see. Having said that, it was a major challenge trying to cover Paul's appearances in Iowa 4 years ago for one basic reason: the campaign would fail to let the media know about the events. When we are covering a dozen possible candidates, there just isn't time to call around all over the place trying to find out where he might be. Yeah, that may sound a little whiny. But it's reality. So here's hoping that if Paul wants to get covered this time around, his campaign does a better job of giving advance notice of his events.

Tony's Daughter: Tony LaRussa, the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, is hardly a guy you would describe as "all smiles". I wonder sometimes if his face will physically crack if he even attempts to crack a smile. But his daughter is all smiles these days. She just got named to be one of the new cheerleaders for the Oakland Raiders, well, providing the NFL actually has a season this fall.

Barack Obama Birth Certificate

Surprise, Surprise: O.K., birthers, now what are you thinking? I'm not sure who can claim they saw this coming, but this morning, President Barack Obama released the long-form version of his birth certificate. Until now, he had only released a shorter-form, certificate of live birth. The birthers, who kept claiming the president was born in Kenya or Indonesia or Mars or wherever else they were claiming, kept bringing this topic up and alleging the president was trying to cover something up. Donald Trump had recently become one of the most vocal skeptics of the president's birthplace. Although, now that this form has gone public, Trump is now taking credit for getting this out in the open. How does that sit with you? Did the Donald do some serious damage to his credibility with his previous doubts about the president's birthplace?

Why did the president wait so long to do this? NBC reported today he had to ask Hawaii for a waiver to get this long-form released, since the short-form is the legal certificate that is used for legal purposes. It still seems like he could have done this sooner, though, doesn't it? If he thought the whole issue was ridiculous, then that's one matter. By why not then stick to your guns and say this isn't an issue? Why finally give in now? The president said this was becoming too much of a distraction. Ask the millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans if they wanted us to be discussing this whole topic for one more second. I suspect you would hear a deafening, "NO!"

Here's what I have never understood with this whole debate: if there really would have been serious question about where Barack Hussein Obama was born, why didn't federal investigators figure it out sooner? When Obama ran for president, Republican George W Bush
controlled the White House. Wouldn't his people have looked into this, you know, especially since a person HAS TO BE BORN in the United States to serve as President of the United States? Seems to me that would have happened already. Sorry, birthers, time for the next conspiracy theory.

Birthers, turn away, but this is the long-form birth certificate released today by the White House.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Iowans for Tax Relief

More to the Story: Yesterday, word got out that Ed Failor, Junior, had resigned from his position as President of the Iowans for Tax Relief. I'm hearing from 3 Republican sources today that Failor's departure wasn't exactly voluntary. Founder David Stanley is cleaning house. Eric Branstad, the governor's son, is also gone, too. He served as the development director. So is Katie Koberg, who lobbied for the group. She served as vice-president and the go-between with the media. Radio Iowa's O. Kay Henderson has a great background piece on ITR.

ITR had been especially critical of Governor Terry Branstad, particularly his plans to raise casino taxes. Here's a link to the group's radio ad complaining about the governor's plan. Failor was also critical of the governor when I had him on WHO radio last month.

The last few months must have been especially difficult for the governor's son as ITR kept ripping on his dad, don't you think?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Barbour Not Running for President, Ron Paul Announcement, Ed Failor Junior Quitting Job

Who's In, Who's Out?--This has been quite a day of announcements of comings and goings.

Here we go:

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour won't run for president. I can't say this one surprises me after talking to him when he came to Des Moines in March. Sure, he met with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, a must-stop for potential Republican presidential candidates. And he's been traveling to other early-voting states like South Carolina and Nevada. But it's this statement in Branstad's office back then that had me wondering ever since. Barbour said, "I’m 63 years old and this is a 10-year commitment if you run and get elected, you’re committing yourself for re-election and so you’ve got to be prepared for a 10-year commitment and that’s the majority of the rest of my productive life.” (Thanks to the New York Times' Jeff Zeleny for the quote in his article on the visit). The quote struck me as odd for a person who would really decide to run for president. Barbour hadn't really assembled much of an Iowa team either. Matt Gronewald worked for Barbour's Political Action Committee the past 2 weeks, but he was the only Iowan on board. Must be quite a suprise for him, since, according to the Politico's Jonathan Martin, Barbour had already planned an announcement tour, which included a trip to Iowa. Things that make you go hmmm....

Ron Paul Revolution: Paul's fanatics used to yell, "Ron Paul. Revolution!", when he ran 4 years ago. Now it sounds like the revolution returns. Paul is coming to Des Moines Tuesday afternoon to "make an important announcement". Sounds like it's time for the presidential exploratory committee. This would also mean Paul's son, Rand, the freshman U.S. Senator from Kentucky, won't run. The junior Paul told me last month during his visit to Iowa he wouldn't run if his dad did.

Ed Failor, Junior
: For Iowans who follow politics, it's Failor's announcement that may have surprised the most people. Failor headed the Iowans for Tax Relief for 16 years, following in the footsteps of his dad, Ed, Senior. Let the speculation begin as to which presidential campaign Failor will now serve.

Fort Dodge Bridge Collapses

Bridge Down: Two construction workers were injured when a bridge collapsed in Fort Dodge. The injuries don't sound serious. But it must have been terrifying for the workers who were on the deck of the bridge when it collapsed, according to the fire chief. Workers were knocking down the bridge on Highway 169, a bit of irony, perhaps, when it crumbled, sending the workers to the ground. The two men are from Minnesota and were sent to the hospital for treatment. Here's what the bridge looks like now, thanks to video from WHO-HD Videographer Roger Riley:

Ad Targets Younger Iowans, Grimes Man Killed, Des Moines Soldier Injured

Iowan's Sacrifice: Late Sunday night, the Iowa National Guard confirmed another Iowan has lost his life in the fight against terror in Afghanistan. Staff Sergeant James Justice, of Grimes, died when insurgents attacked his unit. Justice leaves behind a wife and a 3-year-old daughter. Another Iowan, Specialist Zachary Durham of Des Moines was also injured. We don't know much about his family yet. Here's the briefing from the guard on what happened.

On TV: The College Republican National Committee is out with a new ad targeting President Barack Obama, specifically the country's nearly $15 trillion debt. It features one former Iowan, Meghan Swella. Swella is a former student at Central College in Pella, who later became Dave Funk's spokesperson during his failed bid to win the party's nomination in the 3rd Congressional District. Here's the ad:

It seems like using the word, "winning", can be something your critics can use against you. This ad does it against the president and do we even need to bring up how Charlie Sheen's tirades have damaged "winning" for the foreseeable future?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Grimes Man Killed Serving in Afghanistan

Breaking News: The Department of Defense has confirmed a Grimes man died after getting attacked by insurgents in Afghanistan. The Iowa National Guard hasn't released details yet but plans to during a briefing tonight at 9pm. We will have coverage on Channel 13 tonight at 10.
Here are a few details from the DOD:

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Staff Sgt. James, A. Justice, 32, of Grimes, Iowa died April 23 at Kapisa province, Afghanistan of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire. He was assigned to 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment, Le Mars, Iowa.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Christie Vilsack for Congress

Breaking News: Former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack and her husband, Tom, are making the move to Ames. The word comes from Matt Paul, a spokesman for the Vilsack family. Vilsack is a native of Mt. Pleasant in the 2nd District, where she and her husband used to own a home. The Vilsacks currently rent a condo in Des Moines in the 3rd District. But fellow Democrats complicate her options of running in either of those districts. The new district boundaries, signed into law by Governor Terry Branstad today, meant current 2nd District Congressman Dave Loebsack's residence no longer fell in the new 2nd District. But Loebsack has already announced he would move to a new residence so he could run for re-election. Congressman Leonard Boswell already represents the 3rd District. So instead of causing party complications, Vilsack is moving into the 4th District. Paul will not confirm Vilsack is about to announce her intentions to run in the 4th District. But running in the 4th would put her up against Republican Congressman Steve King. King represents the 5th District. But redistricting eliminates that district and puts King's residence in the new 4th District.

This will be Vilsack's first run for elected office. She considered running for U.S. Senate against longtime Republican incumbent Chuck Grassley in 2010. But she gave way to former Democratic candidate for governor, Roxanne Conlin, who later failed to make the contest close.

Here's the story I did earlier in the day where Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said Vilsack would be a "fish out of water" if she moved to the 4th District. The story also shows Vilsack's husband, Tom's, reaction when we tried to get him to talk about his wife's plans.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Stolen Guns

Where's My Gun?: Janie gotta gun or so Aerosmith tell us. But Iowans in two counties seem to have lost theirs. We just received this news release from Ringgold County. Looks like someone has been busy stealin:

Date/Time: 04-17-11 Crime/Incident: Burglary and Theft Investigative Dept. /Officer: Chief Deputy Rob Haley Ringgold County Sheriff’s Office. Sgt. Dan McNeil with Union County Sheriff’s Office.

What Happened: The Ringgold County Sheriff’s Office and the Union County Sheriff’s Office has had approx. 50 guns stolen from rural residences in their counties. Ringgold County has had approx. 20 guns stolen in the last 5 days and Union County has had approx. 30 guns stolen in the last 3 weeks. We believe most of thefts are occurring during the day time hours. Person or persons involved are believed to be taking firearms only. We are asking that if anyone has seen anything suspicious or different vehicles in their area to contact the Ringgold County and Union County Sheriff’s Offices.

The Ringgold County Sheriff’s Office can be contacted at 641-464-3921 and the Union County Sheriff’s Office can be contacted at 1-800-252-3520.

Federal Deficit, Redbirds' Collision on Baseball Field

Twice the Pain: There are two very painful things to watch this is the mounting federal deficit and the other is the video of the two Triple A baseball players from the Memphis Redbirds (the top affiliate of my St. Louis Cardinals) crashing into each other during the Iowa Cubs home opener in Des Moines Saturday night. The debt could hit $15 trillion sometime soon. So what will it take to get rid of it? I don't mean what will it take so that we don't increase the debt as fast. I mean what will it take to actually pay it off. Seems like it would take dramatic changes. Is it really feasible to cut spending by that much? $15 trillion worth? Or will we have to give up something...benefits? services? What about some of our "Bush tax cuts"? Should only the rich pay more? Should the middle class and the rich? Should everyone, regardless of income? We'll find out what Iowans think tonight for the news at 10. Let me know what you think. Now, here's that video our photographer Brandon McCauley shot last night at the I-Cubs. It's the only video that I know of that shows the two Redbirds' players crashing into each other. Both guys suffered concussions, which is no surprise once you see the video.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Federal Government Shutdown

Shutdown Showdown: It's Friday morning and there is still no agreement on the federal budget. Remember, we're not talking about NEXT year's budget; we are talking about THIS year's budget. This current year began October 1st of last year. I would hope Congress is embarrassed that is has reached this point. And, depending on how much money they end up cutting from the budget, this shutdown could actually COST the country money. How about that one for a real kick in the teeth? But here's the biggest one in my mind...Iowa national guard know the ones who have left their families behind to that they could go overseas to fight for their country...well, they wouldn't get paid during the shutdown. They could get killed protecting America's interests. But they wouldn't get their paychecks on time. Seriously? You talk about anti-American. But this is almost worse...Congress, the reason we are in this mess to begin with...Congress would still get paid because that provision is apparently guaranteed through some law. If that's the case, then Congress should change that law today. Yeah, it probably doesn't work like that. But how is it even possible the president and Congress keep drawing a paycheck and the families of Iowans fighting for us wouldn't get a penny? Raise your hand if you think that's fair.

Bail Bonds: Speaking of things that are unfair...why is Barry Bonds not in prison? Perhaps, he's on his way there. The guy is an obvious cheater. Is there anyone at all who doesn't think he lied about taking steroids? Everything about his body and performance changed all of a sudden during his baseball playing days. His head was like a basketball ball. Why didn't he take the stand in his trial to proclaim his innocence? Perhaps, he didn't want to have to lie again.

Uncle Ron: Maybe I'm just feeling a little angry this morning. My Uncle Ron, Ron Harszy, my mom's only sibling, just unexpectedly died. (here's a little more about him) He and my aunt were in the living room when he said he was going to go take a shower. He collapsed outside the bathroom and died. My uncle was a character in every sense of the word. He taught junior high school for three decades. I can't imagine how many lives he affected over those years. But his story-telling was probably his best asset. Sure, we knew he used to "embellish" the facts a little. We could always tell when Aunt Pris gave us "that look" when he did it. But we would always listen...waiting for every next word.

Uncle Ron shared our family's passion for the St. Louis Cardinals. But he was known in southern Illinois for his collectibles. He has the most amazing assortment of beer merchandise...signs, cans, name it, he has it. He could outfit all of Des Moines' Court Avenue bars and restaurants and then some. But I think my favorite memories of Uncle Ron were when we would be out somewhere and a little kid would be close by. Uncle Ron was a big guy and over the years, his red beard turned snow white. So it wasn't hard to convince kids he could be Santa Claus. And as a former teacher, he knew how to talk to the kids that was both nice, but also firm. He would always tell them to be good or Santa wouldn't come to their house that year. The kids would just stare at him wide-eyed with their mouths hanging open. They had just talked to Santa! And they knew they had to behave. I'll miss Uncle Ron. And I know Santa will always be watching.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Pawlenty Staffer Gets Gun Pointed at Him

What is News?: One of former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty's first hires in Iowa isn't making the kind of headlines his boss would like to see. Ben Foster is a young guy, 24 years old. According to the police report (read it here in the Des Moines Register), he had a night of drinking and driving (he admitted to driving according to the report and then changed his story). The police report said Foster tried to get into an Ankeny family's house, terrifying the family's 15-year-old daughter. Foster may have been the lucky one here, since the father grabbed his gun and pointed it at Foster after listening to the daughter's screams. Here's WHO HD's story talking to the family about what happened:

Let's be honest, is there any doubt drinking and driving is stupid and dangerous? My dad's best friend died because of a drunk driver. So, no, I don't think there is any doubt. Foster gets his day in court, of course. Although, he has already been suspended without pay for 2 weeks from Pawlenty's presidential efforts.

The story with Foster's incident also gets juicier as he said he was trying to find Representative Erik Helland's home (Helland lives in Johnston. Police picked up Foster in Ankeny. Missed the house by 10 miles. Oops. The Register story said Foster lives with Helland). Helland, of course, had his own headlining-making problem with a drunk driving arrest.

I included Foster's arrest in the story I did for the 6pm news last night on WHO HD. My story was primarily about one man's efforts to make sure Iowans stay "Stuck with Huck" and don't give up on Mike Huckabee running for president. Here's my story:

Perhaps, a long-winded way to my point...but here it is: when a temporary Iowan gets arrested in an embarrassing and potentially dangerous incident while he is working for a guy who wants to be president, how much of a news story is it? And should it affect Iowans' opinion of the candidate, Tim Pawlenty? I would argue it is a news story. Sure, some of this is the nature of it with the Pawlenty connection. And you have someone who police say got hammered and then went looking for the house of a lawmaker, who already had an alcohol incident. But I think, all of that aside, a report that says a drunken man trying to get into a family's home, because he is so drunk he doesn't know whose house it is, terrorizing the family and then the dad points a gun at him? Yes, I think that's news. I will say I don't see how this incident should hurt Pawlenty's image with Iowans. Perhaps, if Pawlenty ignored what happened, then it would be different But he suspended Foster for two weeks without pay. Pawlenty's actions may have actually scored him a few points with some people in an incident that, otherwise, provides very little positive aspects.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Culver's New Job

Culver Career: We hadn't heard much about what former Iowa Governor Chet Culver would be doing for his next job. Culver had said he wanted to work in renewable energy. His name was also listed as a remote possibility to lead the Democratic National Committee. Neither one of those apparently materialized and Culver has now started his own consulting business. It's called "Chet Culver Group". So what is the Chet Culver Group? Here's a bit from the website:
With his deep experience in fields such as renewable energy and infrastructure, Culver formed The Chet Culver Group to work with individuals and public and private sector entities to provide strategic consulting, cut through red tape and promote cutting-edge ideas that will move the country forward.
Speaking Of...: Culver's running mate made it as one of the three finalists for the executive director position for the (I think we are required to insert the word, "embattled", "troubled" or "scandal-ridden") Iowa Association of School Boards. But she didn't get the job. Judge, like Culver, has started her own consulting business. It's called PJJ solutions. What is this one about? From the website:

Remember that, PJJ solutions knows that it is possible to acheive real, positive change through careful planning and implementation. Our pledge to our clients is respect and hard work until, together, we accomplish a positive outcome.

Both sites are new. Both might need a little more editing (much like my blog usually does:). Here's a line from Culver's site:
While balancing three budgets, he increased the minimum wage, brought teacher salaries and expanded health care for uninsured Iowa children.
I assume it is trying to say something about that he "brought teacher salaries to the national average" or something close to that. And you may have noticed the line above I used from Judge's site doesn't spell "achieve" correctly. But you will also find something apparently missing from the left column on her wbiste. It lists the links you can use to navigate your way through the site. One is called "blank page". When you click it, yes, you get to a blank page.