Obama Wins Second Term

November 7, 2012

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Presidential race

Empire State Building turns blue. Obama wins.

Empire State Building turns blue. Obama wins. (Photo credit: Lisa Bettany {Mostly Lisa})

Barack Obama rolled to a fairly comfortable win on Tuesday night, winning in excess of 300 electoral votes.  Florida is still undecided, but leaning slightly to Obama.  If he wins that state, he’ll end up with 332 electoral votes.  Obama dominated the battleground states, with his win in Ohio punctuating the victory.

The base of the Democratic party, the states which Democratic candidates have won in each of the last six elections, now accounts for 242 electoral votes.  In essence, this means that the 2016 Democratic candidate starts with 242 electoral votes in his/her pocket and need to only capture 28 more from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Currently, the Republicans win amongst white males and get beaten by Democrats in most other demographic groups.  If the Republican platform remain the same, this could create a problem, as the racial/ethnic makeup of the country is changing, with Caucasians becoming a smaller percentage of the population every year.  The Republicans must make more of an effort to the issues that are important to women and racial and ethnic minorities.


The new Senate will consist of 54 Democrats (this includes Bernie Sanders), 45 Republicans, and one Independent.  Former Maine governor Angus “Burger” King won the Senate race.  While he has not disclosed which party he will caucus with, most insiders feel he will side with Democrats.  The Democratic party actually gave no support to the actual Democrat in the race, fearing a splintered vote would allow the Republican to win.  Two of the higher profile losses were Akin and Mourdock gaffe-ing their way to defeat in races where they had a good chance to win.

The Republicans will maintain their majority in the House, with numbers approaching their current strength of 240 members.

Speaker of the House John Boehner was quick to say “The American people also made clear there’s no mandate for raising tax rates.”  That’s true, speaker Boehner, but tax rates WILL increase at the end of the year unless congress and the president agree on a solution.  The Bush-era tax cuts and the FICA reduction will be expiring. 

While there have been rhetoric about bi-partisanship this morning, there will surely be a tense battle as we approach the fiscal cliff at the end of the year.  Buckle your seat belts.

Meanwhile, in Iowa

Iowa’s representation in the House dropped from five to four.  This meant that Republican incumbent Tom Latham and Democratic incumbent Leonard Boswell went head-to-head in a new district.  Latham won, and overall the voters elected two Democrats and two Republicans.  Iowa’s Senators – who were not up for re-election and long-term members Chuck Grassley (Republican) and Tom Harkin (Democrat).  The governor is Republican, the state legislature has one house controlled by each party, and Obama won the presidential vote.  Iowa is purple.

In 2009, Iowa’s Supreme Court struck down a ban on gay marriage, declaring it unconstitutional.  All seven members of the court joined the unanimous decision.

Iowa’s Supreme Court justices are appointed by the governor (from a pool nominated by commission).  They are on the ballot for retention after one year on the job, and then again every eight years.  In 2010, it happened that three of those justices were up for retention.  A well-funded effort to have them removed from office narrowly won.

The same group tried again this year, running ads against Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins.  This time around, voters chose to retain Wiggins.  I think 2010 was a serious wake-up call to a lot of voters, making them aware of the dangers of politicizing the judicial process.  If a political group could make judges fear for their jobs – and kicking 43% of the court out in one election could definitely instill such fear – then might the judges be fearful of making unpopular decisions, even if they were the legally correct decisions?  Let our judges be just, even when their decisions are not popular.

For the moment, the attempt to replace the justices and replace them with ones who might over the decision seems dead.

There’s a second way to negate the decision, and that would be to amend the state constitution.  However, that’s a pretty cumbersome process.  It involves passage of both houses of the legislature in two consecutive sessions.  A session is two years.  With the Democrats appearing to be in control of the state senate, the issue seems to be off the table until at least the 2015-2016 session.  This means that the very earliest it could reach the voters is 2017.  Barring a change in the makeup of the legislature (members leaving to to death, illness, scandal, etc) or a reversal by the supreme court, it seems that gay marriage will be legal in Iowa for a number of years.

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Who Will Win In Iowa?

December 22, 2011

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It’s just three more days until Christmas. Where has the time gone? It seems just yesterday was Thanksgiving and my family packed up and moved to our new job in Tennessee.

On the political side of things. not a lot has changed in the horserace the last month. Newt is still enjoying his time as the anti-Romney frontrunner status anti good old Mitt still goes from every side of every view and stays at the Same levels he has for months.

However we are just moments away from the actual results part of the race starting to come through with the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. Are you ready? I know I am. If I could have one wish granted I wish we could just fast forward to the nomination to be over and the real debate over the stark differences between what whoever the Republican nominee will be and what they will wish to do as President and what the current would like to attempt to do if reelected. The same old “my conservative credentials are better than yours” pissing contest is just getting tiresome, even for a political junkie like me.

So who will win the first two contests? My money if I were to wager would be on a Ron Paul win in Iowa with Newt in second and Mitt in third. Then in new Hampshire I see Romney taking the win with Newt in second and Huntsman making a surprise finish in third before going back into the one prevent support zone when the race goes back to states that the Republican voting base is not as sane.

Until next time I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy new year. Next time we will have some actual results to dissect and discuss!

Life in Iowa (and the midwest)

November 21, 2009

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A substantial portion of the readers from The Soap Boxers are from the midwest, but we also have other people spread out over quite a geographic area – not just in the United States and Canada, but spread out across Europe and Asia as well (with the occasional visitor from Australia or New Zealand spread it).  Today’s article is mostly geared toward the out of area readers.


When I say that I’m from Iowa, you might immediately jump to the conclusion that I grew up on a pig farm.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

It was a dairy farm.

While it’s true that a considerable portion of Iowa’s economy is tied to the agriculture industry, it is far from the only industry in the state.  My own “day job” is working in the information technology area of one of the most recognizable companies in the country.  Quite a few Fortune 500 companies have a presence in Iowa, and there are plenty of white collar jobs in the state.

Cost of Living

One of the best things about the midwest is a substantially lower cost of living than on the coasts.  I live in a city that is more expensive than most in the state, but it’s laughably less expensive than New York, San Francisco, Seattle, or even the larger metro areas within the midwest.  On the rare occasion that I watch a real estate show that watches people buy homes in other cities, I have to laugh.  People are paying multiples of what my house costs and getting a fraction of the space.

Caveat: salaries in cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Seattle can often by higher than those in the midwest.

Weather / Traffic

The midwest is blessed/cursed by the existence of seasons.  We don’t have the consistently frigid temperatures of Point Barrow or the baking heat of Death Valley, but it does get over 100 degrees in the summer and wind chills can dip to fifty degrees below zero in the winer (although that is fairly rare).  During the course of the year, we’ll get rain, snow, sleet, hail, freezing rain, fog, and even something fun called “wintry mix”.

One quirky thing that we do in Iowa answer the question of “How far is it to point X” in miles!  Why don’t we give the answer in minutes?  Well, because there’s a pretty standard conversion factor that everyone knows.  1 mile = 1 minute.  I work in one of the larger cities in the state, and a “major” traffic delay means 15-30 minutes.  A few years ago, I was delayed for nearly an hour!  For someone in NYC, this might not sound like much of a delay, but it’s historic around here 🙂


Considering that Iowa has the first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucuses, you may jump to the conclusion that Iowans are, by nature, very political people.  This really isn’t the case, though.  The registered voters in the state are split pretty evenly between Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated voters.  The Democrats have done well in recent elections, but any given election can turned based on how the substantial block of unaffiliated voters swing.

The big political news this year was the state supreme court legalizing gay marriage.  Iowa has never been known as an activist state, so this came as a surprise to many.  Opponents of gay marriage are proposing a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.  However, it’s difficult to even get such a measure on the ballot.  Such a measure must pass in the state house and senate in TWO consecutive state assemblies (an assembly lasts two years) before going in front of the voters.  With the Democrats in control of the state legislature, there is not chance of this occurring any time soon.  The next chance the Republicans would have to gain control would be in the 2011-2012 general assembly, meaning that it will be 2013, at the very earliest, before this measure could go in front of voters (since it must pass in TWO assemblies) – where it would face an uncertain fate.

What to Do – Sports

Iowa has no top-level professional sports teams.  However, we are within an easy day’s drive of Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, and Milwaukee (or a more aggressive day’s drive to quite a few other cities).  So sports fans in Iowa aren’t completely shut out.  A nice bonus to this is that you don’t feel compelled to lock in to one particular sports team.  The fan base within the state is fractured.  The Cubs have a plurality among baseball fans, but there’s also a strong contingent of Cardinals and White Sox fans.  The Vikings probably have the most football fans right now, but this tends to flip-flop between the Vikings, Bears, and Packers depending on who is doing the best on the field.

The biggest sporting events in the state, however, are the college sports.  Iowa is the only state that has a team in both the Big 12 (Iowa State) and Big 10 conferences.  This leads not only to debates about which team is better, but also which conference is better.  (Iowa State and the Big 12 are better, of course).

If you’re a fan of college wrestling, Iowa is a great state for you.  Wrestling legends Dan Gable and Cael Sanderson wrestled for Iowa State, with Iowa native Gable later switching sides and turning the Iowa wrestling program into a juggernaut.  During the season, quite a few wrestling matches are televised on the state’s PBS station.

There are also quite a few race tracks in the state, ranging from go-kart tracks in the smaller towns all the way up the the Iowa Speedway in Newton, which features NASCAR Nationwide and truck racing, as well as an IRL race.

There are five affiliated minor league baseball teams (headlined by the AAA Iowa Cubs) as well as an independent league team in the state.  There is also the Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville (a hop-skip-and-a-jump from my hometown).  It has been twenty years since the movie came out, but the field still attracts visitors.  Admission is free.  They do accept donations and will happily sell you merchandise.

What to Do – Non-Sports

OK, I realized that not everyone is a sports fan.  What is there for the non-sports fan to do?  Well, of course there is access to activities in the larger metro areas mentioned earlier, but what is there to do within Iowa itself?

Hebert Hoover Presidential Library – It might surprised you to know that Iowa is home to a presidential library.  The library and music of native Herbert Hoover can be found in West Branch.

Cable Cars – Cable cars aren’t just for San Francisco.  You can recreate the experience in Dubuque, riding up the side of a hill in a cable car.  I was there when I was a kid, and it was pretty cool.

Burial MoundsEffigy Mounds National Monument features more than 200 Native American burial mounds, including 31 that were formed into the shapes of animal.

The Bridges of Madison Country – Yep, Iowa is the home of the covered bridges of movie fame.

Rivers – Iowa is bordered by the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.  This provides great access for fisherman (and fisherwomen), and has also resulted in interesting topography for hikers.  Personally, I like the bluffs along the Mississippi.

The Basilica of State Francis Xavier – Don’t think there’s gothic architecture in Iowa?  Check out the Basilica and you won’t be disappointed.

RAGBRAI – Every year, thousands of people participate in this ride across this state.  It’s half exercise and half party.  Well, maybe that’s not the exact percentage 🙂  They change the route every year (but it’s always west to east)

I’ve just scratched the surface … swing by and visit Iowa some time.

Corruption in Iowa?

February 11, 2009

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Note that this post contains statements that are allegations. Allegation should not be construed as proof of wrongdoing. The Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier and AM 1630 KCJJ radio (Iowa City) were sources of information for this post.

One of the big local stories this week is about the state of Iowa shutting down a group home where twenty one mentally challenged individuals lived. These men appear to have been productive workers and valued members of the community, but many concerns have been raised about their living and financial arrangements.

The facility was deemed a fire hazard by state fire inspectors. The facility has relied solely on space heaters for heat after a boiler broken down in 2002. Some bedrooms were more than 100 feet from an exit, there were blocked exits, boarded up windows, and overloaded circuits, to name a few of the problems. If a fire had broken out, the consequences could have been dire.

The state is also looking into the financial arrangement between the men and their employer (a turkey processing company). It appears that the company had control over not only the paychecks, but also social security checks. The company deducted room, board, and health care. The state has subpoenaed records in order to determine if the men had given authorization for these payroll deductions – and if they had the mental capacity required to give authorization. The company paid the men less than minimum wage, but this is allowable under state law. State law allows employees with diminished mental capacity to be paid less than minimum wage. This is an effort to have companies employ people who might not otherwise be employable. Additionally, the state is requesting that the county file criminal charges of operating an unlicensed health care facility.

If that was the end of the story, it would be bad enough.

However, this morning, AM 1630 KCJJ reported that former Governor Robert Ray was informed of this situation in the 1970s and told the Department of Human Services not to investigate. KCJJ also reported that Ray was receiving campaign contribution from the Louis Rich turkey company at the time. Louis Rich contracted some of their work to the employer of these men.

KCJJ also said that the subsequent governor, Terry Branstad, was also notified of the situation – and that he also told DHS not to investigate. Branstad was also receiving contributions from Louis Rich.

I sincerely hope that KCJJ has its facts wrong regarding the former governors. If these allegations are true, these people may have endured unsafe living conditions and illegal financial arrangements for decades because of the inaction of the governors. Certainly, there will be much more written about this case in Iowa papers during the coming months.