Chopped Salad

Dinner Salad

Dinner Salad

Summer’s abundant produce has us conjuring new recipes based on what’s available. We made a quick meal from leftover tomato-basil sauce, penne pasta made with lentils and the following salad.

Cut zucchini and cucumber into quarter inch cubes and place in a large bowl. Slice 4-5 peeled, small carrots and add with 2/3 cup cooked sweet corn. Halve and add about a dozen cherry tomatoes. Add two dozen Kalamata olives. For dressing, use a favorite, which in our household is a mixture of balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Add fresh herbs as desired. Mix gently with a large spoon and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Middle of the Gardening Year

Lake Macbride

Lake Macbride

July 25 has been the traditional day to plant second crops in the garden. Turnips, radishes, green beans, broccoli and more stand at the ready. If I can break away from paid work for a while they’ll go in Tuesday or Wednesday.

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

I planted lettuce in pots, but it germinated poorly—likely due to too hot temperatures. The broccoli seedlings are ready to be planted, but there is a fatalistic cloud hanging over them as some critter got under the fence and ate up the cruciferous vegetable in the spring. My tolerance policy may enable it to return and bring its friends once the tender crops are in the ground again.

Reflections of Clouds

Reflections of Clouds

A neighbor has been out of town for a couple of weeks and offered their garden produce while gone. Their squash, tomatoes and cucumbers filled a gap in our garden, and I made notes for next season. Two zucchini plants is more than enough for a family, plant cucumbers earlier, grow a couple of early yielding tomato plants to supplement the later big crop.

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace

Mostly though this time of year is about wild flowers. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has some prairie restoration projects going and each patch is redolent with the scent of summer.

It’s time to stop and take it in before midsummer turns to fall and winter.

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DSCOVR Our Blue Marble

Image of Earth 7-6-15 from DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory)

Image of Earth 7-6-15 from DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory)

This week NASA released new photographs from the DSCOVR satellite launched Feb.11 from Cape Canaveral. DSCOVR, or Deep Space Climate Observatory, is a NOAA Earth observation and space weather satellite. DSCOVR arrived at the L1 Lagrangian point, roughly 1 million miles from Earth, on June 5 and part of its mission is to photograph Earth and transmit images every two hours.

DSCOVR is the result of work initiated in 1998 by then vice president Al Gore. We take for granted the images of the fully illuminated Earth, but for most of the last 35 years, it has been the same set of images taken Dec. 7, 1972 by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft.

Senator Ted Cruz, chair of the U.S. Senate subcommittee on space, science and competitiveness which funds NASA, has said NASA should spend less time studying the planet and more time finding ways to go out into space. Cruz views much of Earth study as “political distractions that are extraneous to NASA’s mandate.”

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden begs to differ.

“Our core mission from the very beginning has been to investigate, explore space and the Earth environment, and to help us make this place a better place,” Bolden said. “It is absolutely critical that we understand Earth’s environment because this is the only place that we have to live. Science helps exploration; exploration helps science.”

Whatever one thinks about the politics of NASA, the new images coming from DSCOVR remind us Earth is our only home, and there is no Planet B.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

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5 Reasons Jim Webb’s Stock is Up

Photo Credit: jimwebb.com

Photo Credit: jameswebb.com

Many Democratic caucus goers are dismissive of former U.S. Senator Jim Webb’s chances in the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses. The recent Quinnipiac University poll shows 84 percent of registered Iowa voters haven’t heard of him, while the same numbers for his competitors are Clinton 9%; Sanders 39%; O’Malley 82%; Chafee 87%.

One argues that as he meets voters, he also might win them over, but Webb’s strategies and tactics are held close to the vest and there is a lot of work for him to do before Labor Day to catch up with Clinton and Sanders. What we see is the happy face of Iowa organizer Joe Stanley showing up at multiple events per day since Friday’s IDP fundraiser, regularly posting about them on social media, and zinging other candidates with social media barbs like this:

“Webb also proved himself a serious person,” said John Deeth of Webb’s performance at the cattle call o’candidates the Hall of Fame Celebration had become. Webb had his chance to make a first impression. While this author is a natural Iowa constituent of Jim Webb, Webb’s hesitancy to act on climate, support the UN approved agreement that blocks Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon, and service in the Reagan administration are all problematic for different reasons. I’m not making anything of it, I’m just sayin’ he’s not playing caucus the expected Iowa way. At the same time, I believe Webb’s stock is on the rise after the Hall of Fame celebration and here’s why. 1. The IDP should blow up the coordinated campaign, as I have written previously. Whether that’s possible, I’m not sure, but Webb’s true maverick stance indicates if anyone can do it, he has a chance. 2. He turned down an opportunity to speak at cattle call #2, the Aug. 4 Iowa Democratic Wing Ding, which is currently sold out.

Coupled with the idea that he has to win some of the four early states, Webb will be pressed for time. One more appearance at a multi-candidate event in front of party regulars would have diminishing returns. Especially since the first cattle call is on C-SPAN, available for viewing as people decide for whom to caucus.

3. If Deeth’s characterization is accurate, Webb must have a plan to turn out his voters caucus night. Not much public evidence of a plan today, but there must be one if he’s serious and I think he is.

There is a flight from partisan politics and a focus on getting things done in the community. This is reflected in the fact that the largest registered voter block is No Party (705,658), followed by Republicans (609,020) and Democrats (584,737), according to June numbers from the Iowa Secretary of State. As 2008 unforgettably demonstrated, a key tactic to winning the caucus is turning out your voters and making sure as many as possible are people who don’t usually caucus. With same day registration, any eligible voter can turn up and participate.

It’s going to take more than Joe Stanley’s happy face to develop and execute a Webb ground game. Given the fact he’s still in the race after lengthy deliberations, he may be better served keeping the strategy and tactics of this to his small circle of trusted advisers who have been with him for many years. In political campaigns, there is little reason to do what the other folks do, and that Webb sets his own direction has been his hallmark.

4. Webb is an experienced, disciplined tactician. When George Allen stumbled, Webb seized the opportunity and won election to the U.S. Senate from Virginia. The same Quinnipiac poll that showed Webb unknown to most Iowans, showed Democrats very beatable by some of the Republican field. It is way too early for polls to mean much, but the media picture and polling is not always what matters 6+ months from the caucus.

That Webb has proven able to seize opportunity in a developing ground situation, and make the most of it, provides his campaign something Clinton’s massive campaign staff and Sanders’ tent revival congregation seem much less likely to be able to do: pivot on a dime. In my experience in campaigns, this skill matters a lot, and can be a deciding factor as it was in the Virginia senate race.

5. Finally, Webb’s veteran status matters. So many years after the fall of Saigon, I believe Webb and people like him did their best in a bad situation.

At the same time, they pursued the war, fought its battles and are culpable. Maybe if we had read more stories about company grade officers like Jim Webb instead of William Calley public opinion about Vietnam would be different.

The public view of veterans has changed. Regardless what one thinks of our endless wars, the politicians who promote them, and the soldiers who fight, get wounded and die in them, battlefield valor is something rare and recognizable. No question Jim Webb has it and lives a life of principle.

The more people learn about him, they will see this characteristic, and maybe get off their duff on caucus night and stand for him. There is more hope of that today than there was a week ago.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

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Iran and the Iowa Senators

USSenateBoth Iowa Senators, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, said they would use the 60-day evaluation period congress mandated for their approval of the agreement between Iran and the P5+1 states (United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany) to reign in the Iranian nuclear program and prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Their full statements on announcement of the agreement are below.

Many of their colleagues have already spoken against approval of the agreement, so a modicum of discretion to study the agreement is both needed and represents Iowa as well as can be expected from our two current senators.

President Obama campaigned on the idea of talking to Iran, something his predecessor was unwilling to do. He not only initiated discussions, he was a driving force behind rallying our allies to enter into negotiations to bring Iran into compliance with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty to which they are a party. The United Nations approved the deal on Monday.

Here are some facts:

1. This is not, as Senator Ernst said, “the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.” Germany and the members of the United Nations Security Council reached this agreement.

2. Israel, while a U.S. ally, is a scofflaw in the community of nations by virtue of its nuclear weapons program. They are not party to the NPT, nor have they officially acknowledged their nuclear weapons program. Israel is the preeminent leader in covert nuclear weapons programs.

3. If the Congress seeks to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, killing the Iran deal is the wrong way to do it. “If the Congress kills this deal, there will be no restraints—none whatsoever—no inspections, it’s over, and the sanctions will disappear,” said Secretary of State John Kerry to Steve Inskeep on Monday. “Because our colleagues who we negotiated with will say, ‘Well, look, the United States Congress killed this, we didn’t—but now everybody’s free to do what they want.'”

4. The agreement is not about trusting Iran. “You can’t trust Iran,” said Kerry, “and nothing in this deal is based on trust. We trust that we have the ability to enforce this deal; we trust that the deal, if implemented, will do the job. And if it’s not implemented, we trust that we have every option available to us that we need.”

5. The deal does not empower Iran, enabling them to have greater influence in the Middle East. Kerry told Inskeep,

Iran without a nuclear weapon is a very different Iran than one with one, and this is why many of us are so amazed at the reaction of some people.

Israel, for instance, is much safer without an Iranian nuclear weapon. And we believe that what we have done in this deal—and even before this deal, in the last two years—is roll back Iran’s nuclear program. Before we became engaged with Iran, they had a two-month breakout time. Now they’ll be going to a year breakout time. Is Israel safer with a year, or aren’t you? I mean, this is pretty straightforward.

So, the fact is, we’ll have inspectors in the country; we’ll have restraints on what [Iran] can do, in terms of levels of enrichment, restraints on the size of their stockpile, restraint on their research and development. Clearly people are safer with those restraints in place—and forever, for lifetime, they have to live up to the access under the additional protocol of the IEA, they have to have huge restraints on the uranium production and other things.

So I believe over time we will show people in the Congress and elsewhere in the country that Israel, the Gulf states, the countries in the region are much safer with this deal than without it.

Now it the time to weigh in on the Iran deal with Senator Grassley here, and Senator Ernst here.

Senator Chuck Grassley statement on the Iran deal:

“I’ve always been skeptical about an agreement with Iran that fails to fully dismantle its nuclear program. This is a country that sponsors terrorism and has a history of hiding its nuclear program from outside inspectors. I’m concerned that Iran’s relief from international sanctions could offer a lot more carrot than stick. That would open the spigot to support Iran’s terror activities and nuclear capabilities, threatening our national security and the security of our allies in the region.

“It’s important that under the legislation Congress passed, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, Congress will have 60 days to review the agreement before the President could waive any congressionally imposed sanctions on Iran. Under the act, Congress will review every line of the agreement before approving or disapproving the deal. We need to understand all of the components of the agreement. Does the deal allow for anytime, anywhere inspections, including military sites? When and how will sanctions be lifted, and what process exists for re-imposing sanctions, should Iran violate the deal? Will sanctions on conventional arms and ballistic missile technology be lifted as a result of the agreement? Will this deal prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability and improve the security of the United States and our allies? These are just a few of the questions that come to mind.”

Senator Joni Ernst statement on the Iran deal:

“The 60 days will allow Congress and the American people to thoroughly scrutinize every aspect of the agreement with Iran. While I am still reviewing the details, I have very serious concerns that this agreement concedes too much to Iran and will ultimately strengthen the pathway for Iran to achieve a nuclear weapon. The bottom line, Iran must never be allowed to develop a single nuclear weapon – not now or at any point in the future.

“Iran is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism and has aligned themselves with groups that are hostile to the United States and our allies. Therefore, we cannot afford premature sanction relief which has helped to curb Iranian support of terrorist activity. We cannot trust that Iran won’t use additional resources as an opportunity to fund terrorism and other proxy groups which pose a direct threat to our allies and national security interests in the region.

“Iran’s quarter century effort to obtain a nuclear weapon and long-standing support for terrorism will not subside overnight. We also cannot trust that Iran is complying with limitations on their nuclear program without stronger inspections. It is paramount that we are able to verify and enforce every aspect of Iranian compliance in order to confront and contain their nuclear ambitions.

“Iran is one of the greatest threats to peace and stability of our time, and we have a duty to stand behind our friends and closest ally in the region – Israel. The stakes are too high for the United States to risk any mistakes in an agreement with Iran. I look forward to carefully reviewing this deal in Congress to make sure we preserve our own national security and the pursuit of stability in the world.”

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

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Concentrated Press Feeding Operation

Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame Celebration Press Pass

Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame Celebration Press Pass

The corporate media deserves criticism.

Occasionally they redeem themselves, as in Margie Mason’s coverage of slavery on Indonesian fishing boats for Associated Press, but mostly its people produce hack work and appear to do what they must to get through the day and draw a paycheck. Political writers can be the worst of the lot.

I secured a press pass for the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame celebration July 17 and sat among them for a few hours.

It is important to exclude some Iowa reporters from a blanket condemnation. At the event I saw Dean Borg of Iowa Public Television, James Q. Lynch of Source Media, and O. Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa, all of whom had had long days, and whose work is important and anything but journalistic sausage. I also think highly of Ed Tibbetts of the Quad City Times, Kathie O’Bradovich of Gannett, Art Cullen of the Storm Lake Times and Bret Hayworth of the Sioux City Journal. There are other good journalists missing from this inoculation, and I have no criticism of bloggers like me who work for beer money or no compensation at all. What went on behind the press pen in Cedar Rapids confirmed my worst fears.

Behind the Confinement Fence

Behind the Confinement Fence

The press area at the Cedar Rapids Convention Complex was very much part of Iowa, including the fencing which surrounded the confinement. It was the kind one buys at the farm and fleet store or Theisen’s to fence in livestock. One entered through a private door to the platform where more than a dozen video cameras were configured on tripods. In front was a long table with chairs placed as closely as possible together. My movements were restricted the way pigs and chickens are in concentrated animal feeding operations. By arriving early, I got a center seat and an electrical outlet to recharge my mobile phone. I was happy just to be there.

The first faux drama had to do with Hillary Clinton. A reporter from a large news organization asked in a tone of moral outrage if I’d heard the Clinton campaign wouldn’t allow the participants in the pre-event rally on First Avenue talk to the press. My moral outrage having been burned up during the early George W. Bush years, I have been paying attention to the media’s favorite story, how “Hillary hates the press.” I simply said, “no I hadn’t,” not about to encourage her.

The person next to me was having trouble connecting to the Internet. I looked at her laptop screen and she appeared to be connected. Unsatisfied, she ended up calling her IT department and taking her computer outside the confinement. I hope she’s alright. Another journalist quickly filled her slot.

Before the event, in a bit of local color I glanced two seats over and noticed John Deeth was using a Windows machine. The author of Linux Monday responded:

I don’t think he had any choice, as he previously explained how Microsoft killed Linux on netbooks.

“I didn’t expect to see you in the press section,” said a prominent Hillary Clinton supporter involved with a local quilting project.

Throughout the build up to the main program people stopped by and chatted, having noticed me in the cage. A woman took a long video while walking the length of the press confinement, the way one photographs a group of zoo monkeys.

A state legislator offered to pass us food through the bars as press was excluded from the dinner. Now one knows that press descriptions of the “rubber chicken dinner” have more to do with their feeling of sour grapes about being excluded. From the look of things, these folks with their fancy bottled water and expensive clothing could afford their own dinner. Of course, I ate before arriving so as not to be distracted while observing the event. That is too practical for this crowd.

What was worse, other than the articles written during and after the event, was the constant chatter about set shots and internal company politics. Some were focused on anything but the proceedings on stage, to the point where I was surprised the press corps stood up for the pledge of allegiance. Some were paying attention, but I came away believing many stories had been set long before party chair Dr. Andy McGuire opened the proceedings.

I’d do it again given the opportunity. The best preparation is to go in having a plan and then work the plan despite the distractions. Importantly, pay attention to the actual event, something apparently not possible for many in the national press corps.

 ~Written for Blog for Iowa

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Trip to West Branch

Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn

WEST BRANCH—Driving back roads learned during the 2012 drought I arrived for my 9:30 meeting. It was, and still is a summer day as good as it gets. Wildflowers were everywhere and in bloom.

I can’t name them, there are too many for that, just take in their beauty in the marginal places along the sectioned farm land.

On the way home I stopped at the road side stand and bought sweet corn. Leveraging the local grower makes the most sense as our lot bordering the state park and a 25-acre wood is laden with corn-eaters.

Dinner will be ears of corn, garden green beans and a slice of cheddar cheese. This is summer in Iowa.

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