Sunday, November 25, 2007

C minus 39 - the end of the long weekend

Hugh Hewitt is of the opinion that the Republican nomination is now a two horse race, specifically between Rudy and Mitt. It should be noted that Hugh has been a supporter of Mitt Romney since the word go in this campaign, but his arguments make interesting reading, not least because he poses them in terms of a debunking of the political pundits. His piece suggests that the spin machine which worked so well for politicians in the past is now a broken and outdated thing, and its influence on this election will be minimal. We shall see! The Money quote from Hugh:
Republican voters believe Hillary will be the nominee and that she will be extraordinarily tough to beat.
They also know it will require an enormous amount of money and energy to beat her.
The vast majority of them know this political context limits their choices to one of two candidates: Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney.
There isn't going to a stampede to Huckabee or a Fred Revival, period. If Romney can deliver three or four early wins and back it up with the cash he has amassed plus much of his own on February 5, he will be the nominee.
If he can't, Rudy will be the nominee.
So, track and see whether or not he is correct...

Fred Thompson has been making a bit of a splash today, first of all with the release of his plan for income taxes, which is pretty interesting. It offers a simple option, with very limited deductions (for example, no deduction for mortgage interest payments) and only two rates (10% up to $100,000 for couples filing jointly, and 25% above that). The personal deductions and those for children are such that a family of four would pay no tax at all on earnings up to $39,000. Feasible? Who knows, but it is a plan, and serves as a good point of discussion. As might be expected, some folk are already saying that the country cannot afford it (see the comments on this site). This is a legitimate area for discussion, but it should be remembered that Fred has given us something concrete to discuss, and that should be considered good.

Another issue with Fred Thompson has been the charge that he is lazy when campaigning. It would appear that this is not the case. I wonder who might spread such tales, and why? In addition to that, Fred was on Fox News Sunday today. Some said he did well, others thought he did poorly. I think he is playing the game a different way, and that carries both risks and rewards. For Fred, he has to make it to South Carolina, win there, and still have enough momentum (or cash - the two may be effectively equivalent) to do well in the Southern States on February 5. Watch this space...

The pace will pick up relentlessly between now and Christmas, so I will leave tomorrow for Europe, to see what they are saying about the race over there (if anything!). With luck, and a certain degree of electronic cooperation, I shall be able to post while over there.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

C Minus 40 - Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Hunt

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, and everyone is asking who exactly it is that gets up at ungodly hours the day after large dinners to go to the mall (or at least, everyone I know is asking that!), we are entering into the final stretch of the campaign here in Iowa. It remains wide open, at least as far as I can tell. An informal review of yard signs indicate approximately equal (albeit very sparse) support for Hillary, Obama, and Edwards, with one sign for Dodd spotted, and no other signs for candidates (that's right - there are no Republican signs out anyway, because this is Iowa City, a nuclear free zone, if you did not know!). If anyone is leading in terms of signs it is Obama, but the margin is very small! What is interesting is that there are a number of yards with "troops out now" signs and the like, but without any sign for a specific candidate. There are a LOT of undecided voters here in Iowa, and that should be borne in mind whenever you read a poll.

According to some, the focus for the Democrats is now going to be all Iowa, all the time, until January 3. I think that may overstate things, but it does seem as if the Iowa Caucuses will be far more important for the Dems than for the Republicans. Whichever of the big three Dems gets a win here will be given a big boost, whereas there seems to be much less likelihood of a bounce on the Republican side. If Romney wins, well he should, given all the money he has spent here. If he loses, he will be hurt for that same reason, but it is unlikely to be a deadly blow. McCain has not put much effort into the state, apparently because his stance on things like corn subsidies make it a very hard win for him (see this Washington Post article, which includes a quote from one of my colleagues - I do love to bask in reflected fame!). Huckabee needs a win or a second place in Iowa or he will wither on the vine, but he is a long shot at present anyway. Rudy is fighting here, but seems more invested in New Hampshire. And Fred is also here, but not much, and is more invested in South Carolina. So, much less fireworks likely on January 3 on the GOP side than on the Dems.

The uneasiness about Hillary in some quarters continues. The sense that she is trying to manage the press and avoid any embarrassing (or, perhaps more accurately, any worthwhile and pointed) questions is captured here. She has also put together an advert that, according to Howard Kurtz is meant to protect her, or as the "Divine Ms. Althouse" puts it: "How dare you questions her!" A more direct approach against Hillary is taken by Grover Norquist, who is promoting an anti-nepotism amendment to the constitution, specifically to neuter political dynasties.

Of interest in all this is an excellent report in the Telegraph (based in England). Two reporters crossed the USA from Portland Maine to San Diego, and then again from Seattle to Florida, doing a lot of listening on the way, and spending a lot of time in flyover country. Their findings are interesting. Of Hillary, they note:
While we found many people who hated Mrs Clinton, those who loved her were few and far between. Certainly, many said they would vote for her, but the reasons cited tended to be her status as the top Democrat, the fact that she was battle-tested against Republicans and - for some women - the fact that she would be the first female president.

Such support might register in the opinion polls, but could melt away should the former First Lady lose in Iowa. And the frequently expressed nightmare for Democrats is that she will win their party's nomination but lose to a Republican next November when most Americans decide they don't much like her.

"I'm always amazed how we can screw things up," said Steve Ayers, a coffee-shop owner in Hannibal. "Maybe the way we screw it up this time is by nominating Hillary - across the Midwest that would be the only way of unifying Republicans."

The interesting thing here is that this report is probably about as objective as you can get at this point in time. These folks do not have a horse in this race, yet they seem to be indicating that the story in the media is seriously incorrect. They also seem to be saying that this year, as perhaps never before, the field is wide open. That is a continuing theme, and will likely have a great deal more importance than any other factor at this time. Here in Iowa, a lot of folk will be going to the caucuses without their final decisions having been made.

And just to further confound conventional wisdom, there is now a report out that the Democrats, and not the GOP, are the party of the rich. What impact, if any, this will have is unknown...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Stem Cells off the Table

A couple of scientific papers, published today, have, I think, essentially removed the issue of embryonic stem cell research from the 2008 election. The breakthrough, which is well described in both the New York Times, and the Washington Post, was developed essentially simultaneously by two research groups, one in Japan, and the other in Wisconsin. In essence, the results are that it is possible to create pluripotent stem cells (which previously had been thought to be only available from embryos) from ordinary human skin cells, by introducing four genes into the adult stem cell. What is especially nice about this research finding is that this means it would be possible, perhaps, to take some of my skin cells and transform them in such a way as to grow me some new nerves, or even a whole new heart. That means I could, at least in theory, be given a completely new heart that is a perfect genetic match to me (since it grew from my own cells) and thus I would not need any anti-rejection medication. Of course, what was reported in these two scientific papers today is only the first step on a very long road toward growing our own replacement organs, but it is a great step, and it means we can go down that road without having to use embryos. As you may know, President Bush has vetoed a couple of bills that proposed funding embryonic stem cell research, and has also acted to ban federal funding of embryonic stem cell research apart from that done on a limited number of existing embryonic stem cell lines. In one sense, some may see today's news as vindicating his stance, and I think that is a reasonable way to view it. In all this is great news in that science has managed to find a morally acceptable way to investigate the potentially huge benefits of pluripotent stem cells.

There has been some political response to the news today. Not surprisingly, there was a very upbeat comment from the White House. To my mind, a critical quote from that is the following:
The President believes medical problems can be solved without compromising either the high aims of science or the sanctity of human life. We will continue to encourage scientists to expand the frontiers of stem cell research and continue to advance the understanding of human biology in an ethically responsible way.

We need to consider the ethical implications of scientific advances more than we typically do, and I hope that the stem cell issue will prove to be a good case study for this. Romney can claim a certain prescience on this issue because of his remarks on this topic in June of this year. Fred Thompson had a comment on this topic, and he noted, quite correctly, that adult and umbilical cord blood stem cells have far more successes to their name than do embryonic stem cells:
There is exciting news for patients today. In yet another breakthrough for adult cell research, scientists have made normal human skin cells take on the relevant properties of embryonic stem cells. That is in addition to 73 breakthroughs for adult and cord blood research to date. There are still no embryonic stem cell breakthroughs.

Anyway, regardless of who makes political hay on this topic, it is good news, and once again congratulations to those scientists who made the breakthrough happen.

C minus 44 and counting

Watched Bones and House tonight, and only four adverts during the two programs; one each from Thompson, Romney, Obama, and Clinton. Of interest, perhaps, is that only the Thompson advert addressed a specific issue with specific solutions - his dealt with immigration. Obama talked about helping middle class people, Romney focused on the family, and Clinton's ad was about how she helped someone get a bone marrow transplant for their son, and therefore we should trust her (not sure about the logic there, but that may be as much because I do not trust Clinton as because of anything else). I was a bit surprised, given that Huckabee is meant to be surging in Iowa, not to see an advert from him, but I understand that he is somewhat short of funds, so he may be waiting for some pivotal moment at which to let loose his words of wisdom!

In other daily dose news, Hillary took a swing at Obama today on his supposed experience from living overseas. So much for her not being negative... It is not impossible that this is in response to the latest poll numbers from Iowa, which show her losing her lead there. Some folks are suggesting that it might be best for her to finish third there, which does not sound so good to me, but who knows? Mickey Kaus paints a not-unreasonable scenario that would have Hillary pulling out of Iowa in about three weeks time if she is not moving back into the lead by then. He makes a good argument, so I guess we should keep watching that one.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lengthy Conversations on the War on Terror

An organization called Pajamas Media is conducting fairly lengthy (of the order of 5 to 10 minutes) interviews with Presidential candidates to explore the candidates' thoughts on the war on terror. They call these their War on Terror Conversations, and the first one, with Fred Thompson, is up and available. I listened and liked what I heard for two reasons. First, it does give a candidate an opportunity to speak in something beyond the standard 15 second soundbite, which can only improve the quality of political discourse in this campaign (at least, in my opinion!). Second, I thought that Fred did a commendably good job in his conversation. Take a listen yourself, and see what you think.

C minus 45 and counting - Chuck Norris enters the Fray!

I had heard about this one, but after seeing it myself I have to say it is a great advert. Mike Huckabee is clearly making the most of the endorsement he received from Chuck Norris, and good for him. A very enjoyable ad, and I hope we see more ads with such humor in them.
That said, not all went well for Mike Hukabee today. The National Review Online had a lead article on his candidacy, and labeled him as offering:
a mixture of populism and big-government liberalism

Clearly in their view anyway, he is not a good candidate. Hmmm!

In other news today, there has been a bit of a kerfuffle about some rather unpleasant push polling in New Hampshire. I do not think we have got to the bottom of this yet, but it sounds as if someone is doing some phone polling to attack Romney on the basis of his religious affiliation (he is, if you did not know it, a Mormon). A good article by Mark Hemingway digs into this further with some potentially surprising results! Oh what fun and games...

Talking of fun and games, Mitt Romney is attacking Rudy for his past actions on immigration. Specifically, Mitt claims that Rudy supported sanctuary cities, and it is true that you can find quotes from some years ago (pre 9/11) by Rudy to that effect. The extent to which these attacks on Rudy will stick remains to be seen. It seems to me to be an attempt to label Rudy with the "flip flop" label. Given that Mitt has had that label thrown at him a lot, I am not sure it is a wise strategy on his part to draw attention to anyone doing any flip-flopping.

Hillary cannot be pleased by a recent poll in Iowa, reported today by the Washington Post, which has Obama ahead of her, 30% to 26%. I remain unconvinced over the value of these various polls some 45 days out, but certainly the trend here (toward Obama and away from Hillary) cannot be pleasing to the junior Senator from New York.

Another poll in New Hampshire reported by CNN shows Romney gaining ground and both Guiliani and Thompson losing ground. Again, I am a bit skeptical about these polls, and I think the most important thing noted in this poll report was the final paragraph, to whit:
But the poll suggests the GOP race remains fluid with about two months left before the New Hampshire primary, the official date of which remains unsettled. Only 14 percent of those surveyed said they had definitely decided on a candidate, while 29 percent said they were leaning toward one — and 56 percent were still trying to decide.

In short, the race on both sides is still wide open!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

C minus 47 and counting - Democratic debate fall-out

Before the debate last Thursday, I made this comment:
Does tonight's debate matter? Normally they don't but I think this one matters a lot. If Hillary does not do well, then the "taste" of the last debate (which was a disaster for her) sticks around. If she is as bad as last time out, then the wheels come off totally. If she is somewhere in between (most likely outcome) then she will continue to lose her lead, but it will still be reversible. We shall see...
So, in light of that, what do I think happened? Well, the initial result seemed to be pretty good for Hillary. The crowd was with her, and she managed to avoid any pitfalls in her responses. Also, Wolf Blitzer was a total wimp and asked no hard questions at all, and when handed the chance on a plate to follow up to her replies, failed to do so.

But now it turns out that the deck in Vegas was stacked for Hillary. Given that, it is no wonder she did so well. So, what does this mean? First, the Vegas debate does nothing good for Hillary in terms of overcoming her previous debate performance. Her relatively reasonable performance is meaningless in light of all the help she had. But more importantly, this appears to continue the theme of Hillary - that she never answered a question she didn't plant. The debate was planted, her meetings in Iowa are full of planted questions, and the one time she gets asked a mildly difficult question that wasn't planted, she lost it. This sends the message, if people wish to hear it, that she is not ready for prime time. And the Iowa voters may well hear that message loud and clear. As of now (and there are still 47 days to go) I do not think Hillary will win in Iowa.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thompson at C minus 49

Since I am trying to choose between the five candidates it is only appropriate that I should spend some time considering them. I am starting with Fred (and by the way, I am sure I will be revisiting all the candidates more than once) because if the caucuses were tonight, he is the one for whom I would vote.

What do I like about him? The first thing is that he is putting out specific ideas or policies that he would pursue (or that he says he would pursue) if elected. As others have noted, he is putting out clear ideas on social security, immigration, and the size of the military.

Of the three things he has touched on in detail so far, two of them (social security and immigration) are topics that I think are extremely important. His ideas on social security seem, at the very least, like a good starting point. Clearly, in going from his proposal to a change in the current system would involve a lot of horse trading, and the final result would no doubt be different from what he has proposed, but I think I could live with his proposal, and more importantly, I think my children could too. Under the current system, I will likely get something from social security, but my children would not (it will be bankrupt long before they get to retire). Fred's proposals address this. Yes, they include the big left wing bogeyman of Personal Retirement Accounts but any feasible solution will likely have to do that. He includes some good charts that clearly show the fiscal benefits of his program compared with the current one, although some will no doubt argue with his assumption of a 23% cut in benefits in 2041 if no changes are made. In short, there is enough detail in his plan to make it debatable (by which I mean, you can actually discuss the plan on its merits!) and that serves us all.

His ideas on immigration are also very clear and thorough. I particularly like that he is suggesting a fairly simple approach initially (basically, enforce existing laws). The ideas he suggest seem fair. In fact, they are a great deal fairer than Mexico is in its immigration law! He also makes it clear that he is firmly against any amnesty program (well, it didn't exactly work as promised last time, did it?) and firmly behind requiring employers to verify the legality of their employees. He takes that one a step further and proposes denying employers of illegal aliens tax deductions for wages paid to those illegal aliens. Finally, he has some good ideas for improving and streamlining (which it desperately needs) the current legal immigration process. I am sure there will be some debate about the English as the official language proposal that he has, but it seems to me that proposal is a suitable topic for discussion. There are pros and cons to it, and we should, as a society, discuss them. It would be unfortunate indeed if such a discussion were hampered by overemotional and unfounded charges of xenophobia and bigotry.

I am less familiar with Fred's stance on the military, but again, I welcome the fact that he has made a clear stance. There is lots in his program that will generate some heated discussion. He calls for a strong missile defense program, and for what I understand to be some significant changes (increases) in force levels. He also stresses the need to stay strong in space (The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, anyone?) and the need for strong intelligence and cybersecurity abilities. In doing all this, he does not shy away from the issue of cost, attaching a target spending goal of 4.5% of GDP to meet his goals. That is a significant boost from current levels, but he feels it is needed, and spells out in detail why it is needed. Again, the final form of this program would not be exactly what he is suggesting, but as the old saying goes, if you don't know where you are going, you will end up somewhere else.

Fred also has position papers up on his site on Israel and on Traditional American Values. The values white paper is less detailed than others, but the Israel paper covers a lot of ground and is fairly specific. The value of these two papers, as with the others above, is that they create a space within which a well-reasoned discussion can take place.

In addition to the white papers, Fred has a number of shorter statements on a variety of issues (e.g. tax reform, healthcare, education). While these statements do not include the details of the white papers, they clearly are a first step in framing a discussion on these issues. I like that!

In fact, the willingness of Fred Thompson to be so specific and forthright in his views and ideas, and thereby to frame a whole number of discussions is a clear sign of leadership on Fred's part. He has made a point of being "different" in his approach to the campaign, and while some would no doubt term this merely a gimmick, I like it. Politics as usual has not been terribly successful, after all! I think the first sign I got of this unique aspect of Fred's approach was when he did his famous video rebuttal to Michael Moore on the issue of health care in Cuba - if you haven't seen it, make sure you do - it is a thirty eight second classic.

Anyway, I am currently very impressed with Fred, and as noted above I think if the caucus were tonight, he would get my vote. A week is of course a long time in politics, and we are seven weeks away, but nonetheless...

C minus 49 and counting

Tonight, of course, we have the next Democratic debate, set in Las Vegas. It remains to be seen whether any of the non-Hillary democrats are willing to gamble big time by going after her. Certainly, Wolf Blitzer will have to, otherwise, as noted by others, he will seem like a total wuss. Of course, if he is clever, which I suspect he is, then he will ask all candidates hard questions. This will not make any difference at all to those who cried foul when Tim Russert asked a perfectly reasonable question of Hillary last time out.

What will Wolf ask? I would think that the Chinese fundraising issue might be a good topic, or the money donated by people that Bill pardoned. Either one deserves an answer. Perhaps some other topic will come up, or maybe he will go back to the immigration issue. James Pinkerton thinks that Hillary is now mortally wounded on this - we shall see.

Does tonight's debate matter? Normally they don't but I think this one matters a lot. If Hillary does not do well, then the "taste" of the last debate (which was a disaster for her) sticks around. If she is as bad as last time out, then the wheels come off totally. If she is somewhere in between (most likely outcome) then she will continue to lose her lead, but it will still be reversible. We shall see...

Some interesting thoughts by Brian Pickrell on the race in Iowa. He indicates that most folk have not decided yet, and I think that is probably correct. I know I haven't and while anecdotes have limited value, it is worth noting that on my walk into and back home from work (about two miles through residential Iowa City) there are very few yard signs out yet. Put simply, the poll numbers in Iowa, for both parties, are very soft right now. I think that any of five people on each side could win here, and it will come down to the wire. With only seven or so weeks to go, this is getting rather exciting! Oh, and no political adverts during "House" this week, either - wonder why not?

Rather sad to find that there are those on the left wing who are attacking Obama for raising the issue of social security. Kind of suggests they would rather not talk specifics at all, lest some find their ideas repugnant...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sources of Information

A key question we should all ask when getting information from the Internet (or indeed, anywhere) is how reliable is the source of the information? I think that the information I get and use in making my judgments is pretty good, but think it would be of value to share with you the locations at which I get most of my information, so you can see and judge for yourselves.

In terms of local information, I get my news from one of our local papers, the Cedar Rapids Gazette. They are maintaining a site specifically for the caucuses, called Iowa Caucuses. That primarily covers the local news. I should add that I was one of about 30 people who took part in a couple of discussion sessions with editors and reporters from the Gazette last week on the topic of the caucuses. The session I went to was very interesting, with a wide diversity of interests and a very broad political representation in the room. I would say that maybe 5 of the fifteen folk had firmly made up their minds to back a particular candidate, while the rest of us, myself included, were firmly undecided!

Going further afield, I have a number of sites I visit fairly regularly. The first of these is the site maintained by Professor Glenn Reynolds - Next up on my daily visit list is Captain's Quarters, run by Ed Morrissey. In addition to providing excellent commentary, he also has the wonderful "Day by Day" cartoon by Chris Muir. I also regularly check a couple of blogs at the National Review Online. The first, the Campaign Spot, is run by Jim Geraghty, and includes all news related to the campaigns. The second is the Corner, which includes a veritable host of posters, including such notables as Mark Steyn and Jonah Goldberg. There are others that I visit, but these make up the ones I visit most every day. Hope this is of help.

C minus 56 and counting

Well, I had hoped to get to an Ann Romney speech yesterday, but did not make it, which was a shame. The sense that things might not be quite so inevitable for Hillary seems to be growing, or is at least providing good subjects for columns by the inestimable David Yepsen in the Des Moines Register. Of course, with eight weeks to go, this should not be surprising. Four years ago, Dean would have seemed inevitable to many, and we all know where that went...
In other news, Barack Obama was late for a speech at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, because his plane had landed in Des Moines instead of Cedar Rapids. I can understand that sort of error if you are coming from a long way away, but he was coming from Chicago, for heaven's sake! Someone in his campaign needs to get on top of this Iowa geography stuff if he is going to be successful here.
Other than that, a relatively quiet day in Iowa, so far...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Issue Musings

Clearly part of what should drive anyone's decision about their candidate of choice is the issues. However, what constitutes an issue is clearly at least somewhat a matter of personal choice. During the next 58 days I will from time to time muse on issues without too much specific attention to candidates' positions. So, what are my issues? The following list is a first attempt at a brain dump of what I think some of the major issues are:

International: the war on terror (or whatever your personal choice for the name might be) is clearly a major issue, with its current components in Afghanistan, Iraq, and possible future components who knows where. The need to express a consistent approach in this is paramount. This also includes dealing with all the fun stuff like North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, and of course, the whole West Bank, Gaza, Palestine mess. Oh yippee.
The Economy: Which, by the way, seems to be doing very well, although the current value of the dollar (which is resulting, at least in part, in high oil and gold prices) is a bit troubling. This is an interesting issue, since by and large there is not a lot a president can do about it, except for one area, to whit:
Taxes: I want a President who will make the Bush tax cuts permanent, get rid of the Alternative Minimum Tax, and ideally reform the whole damn tax code so that one single person of reasonable intelligence can understand all of it with less than one hour of study. That should not be impossible to achieve, and if achieved would do a great deal to stamp out corruption in congress. Which raises another issue:
Pork: I want a President who will veto bills that are sent to him (or her) laden with pork. If President Bush had done this consistently from the start of his administration we would for sure have less of a deficit than we do right now, and we might even have a Republican congress and senate - sigh. But I'm not done on economic issues, because there is always:
Social Security: and let's not forget Medicare, but for now we can focus on Social Security. And kudos, by the way, to Senator Obama for being willing to raise this issue. We have to address this and the sooner we do so, the better. I'm willing to consider any plan, as long as it is clear and honest. I would prefer not raising taxes, and my own preference would be (in the absence of some sort of personal account system) to delay the age at which people can start to take benefits, and also to choose a more suitable index for the annual inflationary adjustments. But, I need to see a plan.
Immigration: I think that this is going to be a really crucial issue in the election next year. I will likely be proved wrong, because a week is a long time in politics, never mind a year, but there does seem to be a genuine need for a change in the current way that we are dealing (or rather, not dealing) with illegal immigration. It is no surprise that states like Arizona are taking draconian measures, and I expect to see more such local actions. First step has to be enforcement. And that has to include holding employers responsible (as they are right now - every employee must produce an I-9) for the people they hire. Yes, there are problems with however this is done, so some sort of appeal process would be needed, but we have to start enforcing the law here. In the long term, it would be good to consider why it is that so many people from Mexico (which seems to provide the lion's share of illegal immigrants, although I could be mistaken) want to come to the US. What is Mexico doing wrong? Mexico is a country blessed with amazing natural resources - they should be as wealthy, on a per capita basis, as the US (or at the very least, as wealthy as Canada). Are there systemic issues that hold people in Mexico in a position of poverty? Don't know, but this may be one of those questions that never get asked because it is somehow not right to ask them... Anyway, immigration or more specifically illegal immigration, is a key issue.

I do have some other issues (and some of you might say I have a whole host of them, but that's your problem not mine!). Those would include health care, education, the environment, maintaining and improving the crumbling infrastructure of the nation, and one that will not be on most people's radar screens but is definitely on mine, namely the technological singularity! I will muse on these on another day!

C minus 58 and counting

In case you are wondering, that means 58 days until caucus night. Watched Fox tonight (Bones, then House) and saw five political ads - two different ones for Obama, one each for Edwards, Clinton and Romney. None were particularly memorable. The House episode was good though! Today was also election day. Probably the biggest thing on the ballot here was a petition on requiring that all bars exclude people under 21 years of age after 10 p.m. Looks like it will fail (although not by much - currently 52 to 48%) most likely due to high student turnout (duh!).
The good news is that in only one year (give or take) this round of Presidential electioneering will be done! Can we survive the next 366 days? Who can tell? We'll just have to live it and see...

Monday, November 5, 2007


Greetings, and welcome to 59 days and counting. 59 days to what, you ask? Well, as of today (November 5, 2007) 59 days to the Iowa Caucuses, assuming they actually get held on January 3, 2008, and not on Boxing Day, or some other date in early December.
What is the purpose of this blog? Well, this is simply my journey up to the caucuses. That needs a bit of context, so here goes.
I am an immigrant to the United States. I came here, from the United Kingdom, with my wife and some of my children, in 1984, originally intending to stay for one year while I did a post-doctorate at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. That one year turned into three years at Dartmouth, followed by a move to Iowa in 1987, where I have been ever since, working as a professor of civil engineering at the University of Iowa. My wife and I became citizens in 2001 (it is a long and not particularly easy process, but one that we are very glad we took) and the first day we had a chance to vote was 9/11/2001 - not a day we will forget any time soon.
I did attend the caucuses in 2004, but because I am registered as a republican, there was no choosing of candidates at that caucus. Of course, this time around is different! And, I want to both record and share my thoughts as I go through this process.
What will I record in this blog? Well, it will be primarily my thoughts on the various republican candidates as I make my selection of who to support on January 3. I will comment, I am sure, from time to time on the democratic selection process, but since I do not have a dog in that hunt, I will leave that side of the race to others!
I will include my thoughts on what I think the major issues are for the election (and why!) and will try to examine the candidates in terms of those major issues. I should state now that my choices are between only five of the republican candidates at this time: Guiliani, Huckabee, McCain, Romney, and Thompson. I know there are other candidates (Brownback, Cox, Hunter, and Paul) , and I know that other folks support those candidates very strongly but I cannot imagine myself supporting them.
So, that is the site - welcome. I hope that you enjoy making this journey with me. Comments etc. and links are most welcome. Oh, and if you are eligible to vote, please make sure that you have registered, then get informed and vote. Lots of people in the world do not have the privilege of voting - those of us who do should use it!