Trying on T-shirts

Trying on t-shirts

It’s been hard to figure if I should campaign for a Democrat for president before the February caucuses or whether I should remain neutral until the last minute to help our Big Grove precinct caucus go more smoothly.

Based on previous caucuses when there was a presidential preference, the precinct will not be close in 2020. Obama was a clear win in 2008, and in 2016 we had enough extra Hillary Clinton supporters to send a delegation over to Martin O’Malley’s group to make them viable and deprive Bernie Sanders of an extra delegate. At the convention, the O’Malley delegate came over to Clinton after the candidate dropped out of the race.

2008 got a bit ugly. I was the John Edwards precinct captain and was asked to be caucus secretary as I was in 2004. Throughout the difficult body counts and recounts people got impatient and things got a little heated and personal. It is a case for the temporary chair not to identify for a candidate until the last possible moment.

There is the issue of the work. In 2016 Team Clinton door-knocked and phone-called before the caucus like there was no tomorrow, hitting every part of our area, in cities and rural areas equally. I no longer do much of this work outside my own precinct but want to help. If I wait to declare, I’ll help a campaign in other ways.

In the run-up to the 2020 caucus most of the 20 or so candidates don’t have the management structure to canvass the way we did for Hillary. If we pick someone to support without adequate campaign infrastructure we’ll be on our own. That was the case in 2008 when hardly anyone caucused for Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd or Joe Biden. Between them there were about eight people in a caucus of 268 Democratic voters.

Local politics aside, I have been trying on t-shirts… it seems pretty clear Elizabeth Warren will be my pick if I do declare before the night of the caucus. Here’s my run-down of the field. Nota Bene: I will work hard and unconditionally to elect the eventual Democratic nominee regardless of who it is.

Based on Iowa polling, and according to, there are currently only five possible candidates who could win first place in the delegate count: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. If they had a breakthrough, which is possible this early in the cycle, Corey Booker, Julián Castro, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke or Tom Steyer might be contenders for viability. My hunch is the first five could be viable and the top delegate getter will be one of them.

Narrowing it down, here’s where I land on the five most likely to be viable candidates in February 2020:

One knows there is trouble when Joe Biden’s campaign is weighing whether to scale back his public schedule so he won’t make so many gaffes. He is past his prime and every minute he stays in the race, he blocks others from advancing. I look around my precinct and don’t know who, except the 3-4 people who caucused for him in 2008, might do so now. One of the 2008 group died.

I like Pete Buttigieg but don’t feel he has the right kind of experience to be president. I heard him speak twice in person and each time I marveled at his oratory, but felt empty when he finished. He is clearly an up and comer in Democratic politics and his generational message is important. Sorry Pete, not this time unless you win the nomination.

Kamala Harris is the only one I haven’t heard speak in person. When she came to Iowa her campaign exhibited tremendous energy, of the kind one expects from a presidential campaign. She hasn’t been to Iowa that much. Friends of mine are ardent supporters and that matters in the caucuses. I have a few things to investigate, particularly her idea of privatizing Medicare, but specific policies don’t matter as much as the whole package. She gets positive marks for having won the U.S. Senate in the most populous state in the nation. I have no doubt she could scale her campaign to win the primary.

I haven’t liked Sanders since I met him in 2014. He’s more liberal than most and his policy positions haven’t changed much since he entered politics. I like some of his policy positions. We just didn’t click when we shook hands as he stumped for Bruce Braley. I also don’t see enough support as people who caucused for him in 2016 are finding their way to other campaigns this cycle.

That leaves Elizabeth Warren. I’ve been following her since she was elected from Massachusetts to the U.S. Senate. If she had run for president in 2016 I would have supported her. While concerned about a 70 year-old white woman president, her performance in Tipton allayed my concerns. She has a lot of policy statements and that matters little or not at all. I’ve watched her in the Senate and she supports legislation with which I mostly agree. Is the United States ready to elect its first female president? I have my doubts, but may be willing to throw in with Warren and try it again.

I’m trying on t-shirts, but the only one I bought has Warren’s name on it. If I declare, I’ll do it shortly after Labor Day. What I’ve found this cycle is there aren’t as many choices for president as it appears.

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Starting Again

Canning Plum Tomatoes

Out of the ashes of lives past we are reborn.

With last Thursday’s death of Mother, as well as that of our friend Lillian Davis, life continues. As we linger around funeral arrangements and schedules, phone calls and meet ups, emails and social media posts, something positive is on the horizon if we can only see it.

Like the single concertina note that begins the David Merrick musical Carnival! it’s familiar and quickly to be accompanied by other instruments. We are uncertain where it will go, but only for a few moments, and then we’ll get swept up in, “Direct from Vienna…”

Warehouse work occupied my last shift at the home, farm and auto supply store on Wednesday. We prepare for the holiday retail season and new merchandise arrives daily. There were trucks to unload, inbound shipments to process, and on line orders to fill. Our store is doing reasonably well compared to our daily goals, although a large-scale competitor is building a new store nearby. Fleet Farm expects to extract $2 million per week in revenue from the area. Our sales and those of others may take a hit. At the end of the year I’ll assess whether to continue there in 2020.

The orchard didn’t need me yesterday because of thunderstorms in the forecast. I used the time to work on funeral arrangements, then we went to the visitation for Lillian. Her children, who were in 4-H with our daughter, are grown and handled themselves well in a tough situation. Lillian would have been proud of them.

Summer plans have been scrambled. To get away from the death reminders I canned the ripe plum tomatoes yesterday. There will be more. I see a physician today and hope to develop next steps to control my glucose levels without medication. Jacque and I have plans to start cleaning the house and downsizing, a process that will go on for a few months. There is more to life than these existential errands.

We do what we can, hoping for the best, and try to make positive contributions in a fractured and turbulent society.

Or as the character Yoda said in the Star Wars movies, “No. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.” We can do better.

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Lorraine Anne Deaton

Lorraine Deaton at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Mother died at 2:45 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 15. I wrote this obituary with input from my sister this morning for the newspaper. The funeral service will be held Monday, Sept. 9, at 9:30 a.m. although details are still being finalized. I’ll update this post when we know them. She lived a long, hard life. I will be fine because of her.

Lorraine Anne (Jabus) Deaton, 90, died Thursday, Aug. 15, at Genesis Medical Center in Davenport.

Born at home on July 28, 1929 near LaSalle, Ill., Lorraine moved with her family to Davenport where her mother joined several sisters at a coat-making plant supporting the World War II effort. She graduated from Davenport High School, and then worked briefly for the telephone company where she established relationships with people who would become life-long friends.

Family relationships remained an important part of her life. Family included her husband, brothers and sisters, in-laws, three children, and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins, many of whom lived in the Quad-Cities Area.

She married Jack H. Deaton from Glamorgan, Va. in 1951 at Holy Family Catholic Church, eventually settling in Northwest Davenport where they established a home. She was active in the church where she participated in community organizations and worked in the school lunch program. She was particularly proud of her volunteer work with the Girl Scouts where she mentored many young girls.

After her husband died in an industrial accident on Feb. 1, 1969, she found work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She made a career at the Corps, retiring in 1990 as Equal Employment Opportunity Officer for the Rock Island District. While there she was named Woman of the Year.

In retirement Lorraine remained active in the community. Among other volunteer positions, in recent years she worked at the public library where she helped staff the used book store.

Lorraine Deaton was preceded in death by her husband; her parents, Mae (Nadolski) Jabus and William Dziabas; sisters Winifred Plantan (Hank) and Katherine Nash (Vince); and brothers Richard Robbins (Dorothy) and William Jabus (Marilyn).

Survivors include son Paul Deaton (Jacqueline) of Solon, daughter Patricia Deaton and son Jack Deaton Jr., both of Davenport, and a granddaughter Elizabeth Deaton of Orlando, Fla.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to a local Girl Scout troop or Girl Scouts of America at

Services are pending at Halligan McCabe DeVries Funeral Home in Davenport.

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Tomatoes on Everything!

Slicers, plum, paste, cherry and grape tomatoes.

The 2019 tomato harvest has begun.

We have fresh tomatoes with every meal, for snacks, and with everything.

We aren’t sick of them yet and work to preserve some of them is imminent. There’s a lot going on in the kitchen garden this August.

Sweet corn is in. Our local farm has had a spotty year, yet we’ve been able to freeze enough two-cup bags to make it until next year. Last night for dinner we had corn on the cob with sliced tomatoes — a classic summer combination.

First up in tomato preservation is to make a dozen pints of diced. This, combined with a backlog from previous years is enough to run the kitchen. I’ll also make as much tomato sauce as I can. Last year I froze it and that worked well. The freezer is filling up already so I may have to can some of it this year. Last year I froze small tomatoes whole and used them during the year to make sauce. I may try canning them whole to supplement the diced.

Yesterday I picked about two bushels of the first apples. A lot more wait on the trees. Our early apple is sweet and makes a great base for apple cider vinegar. I make a couple of gallons each year and the jars to do so are empty and just need cleaning. Our cupboard remains full of apple butter and apple sauce, so maybe a few jars of each is all I’ll make this year. They are good for out of hand eating as well. I’ll need to find a home for some of them or leave them to wildlife.

I froze enough kale for the year early in the season. What I harvest the rest of the year will be to give away or eat fresh. There is enough vegetable broth for the year, frozen jars of pesto, frozen okra, frozen celery, grated and frozen zucchini,  and the hot peppers are beginning to come in. It’s been a good year so far.

The garden didn’t produce green beans. The plants look healthy and there have been flowers. Almost no beans have been produced.

The variety of red beans planted needs to climb and I thought they were bush beans. There are bean pods forming, so there will be some harvest. Next year they need a fence to climb on, if I plant them again. I planted beans mostly to fix nitrogen in the soil.

It seems like there can never be enough beets. I started some in trays and those fared much better than the ones sown in the ground. Will do more of that next year. For now I have one jar of pickled beets to last the year.

The tomato and apple harvest signal the garden’s impending end. There’s a lot of work to be done, but we enjoy the taste of fresh tomatoes as much as anything we grow.

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Addicted to Politics – Three August Things

Tomatoes on Everything

I often forget myself when talking about politics. My mind enters a narcotized, dreamy, transcendent world where rhetoric and action translate into distraction searching for a reality. In such conversations I articulate long-carried ideas and get them out with others. I listen and learn as much as a person with a driving social style can.

It is rarely a good thing. It is seldom a bad thing. It is part of living in society.

Couple things about August 2019 politics.

Iowa Starting Line

Iowa Starting Line has been able to hire a comparatively large number of people to cover the Iowa caucuses. This, combined with a unique editorial viewpoint, enabled them to provide coverage of events the Des Moines Register and others can’t or won’t. Recent stories include a piece by Elizabeth Meyer that compares Burlington visits of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris; a piece by Paige Godden discussing how the Iowa State Fair enabled voters to narrow the presidential candidate field; and coverage of presidential candidate appearances at the Meskwaki settlement in Tama by Nikoel Hytrek. If these three stories were all ISL posted, it would be great. They posted a total of eight articles on Saturday and Sunday. Hats off to Pat Rynard for what he built at Iowa Starting Line, including fund raising to hire staff and a uniquely Iowa editorial viewpoint.

The Biden Narrative

There is a narrative about Joe Biden that focuses on his front-runner status in the polls. Erin Murphy ran a story in this vein in Monday’s Cedar Rapids Gazette, writing, “Biden, the former vice president, has been the leader in most polling on the expansive field of Democratic presidential candidates, both in Iowa and nationally.” While this is journeyman reporting, it misses the point about Biden.

The key question is whether Biden’s showing in polls will translate into wins in the early states. The Biden Iowa campaign was not viable in the 2008 caucuses and little about his campaign seems different today. Compared to others, he got a late start in Iowa and hasn’t established a ground game to compete with Sanders, Warren, Delaney or others.

Just yesterday the Asian and Latino Coalition of Iowa endorsed Kamala Harris for president. They are a group Biden should have won over. On Friday, Sue and Bob Dvorsky announced their support for Kamala Harris. Dvorskys were key Barack Obama supporters and Sue was chair of the Iowa Democratic Party during Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012. What happened there? Biden gets the respect due to being Barack Obama’s vice president but I can’t figure out how he gains supporters over his performance in 2008, or 1988 for that matter. This aspect of his campaign isn’t readily apparent in the news.

The continuous repetition of the narrative of Biden as poll leader may be true, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. It poisons the well. The longer the narrative continues unchallenged, in the media or from other candidates, the more detrimental it becomes to the Democratic party. Biden is blocking space other, more talented candidates could occupy.

An Electorate Re-made

Who are “real people” in the political discussion? Since my first retirement ten years ago I spent a lot of time with them in society, mostly at lowly-paid temporary or part-time jobs. They don’t show up at political party events or usually talk about politics in public. Most don’t like Trump… or the Democrats either. Will they vote in 2020? Many I know didn’t vote in 2016 and won’t vote in 2020. This is a key problem that few seem to be working as Democrats spend time in the boutique-style shopping for “my candidate” in the run up to the caucuses.

The Secretary of State voter registrations are public knowledge. No preference voters outnumber either party’s registrations and have for a few election cycles. People try to make something of these numbers and I shake my head when someone mentions Democratic registrations in a discussion without mentioning the majority of voters in Iowa don’t identify as Democratic. The Secretary of State’s information may be accurate, but it is useless in aggregate when building a campaign. Political parties are not what binds most voters.

The problems Iowans face are common ones. Key among them is the American idea of building a sustainable structure in which to live our lives, including adequate food, shelter and clothing. It also includes modern add-ons of health care, transportation, insurance, education, banking and consumer debt. Real things assault this structure. I mean government policies like the president’s trade policy, climate change, changing demographics, and the hegemony of rich people and corporations. A person doesn’t have to be a Democrat to hate the Walton family which makes more money in a minute than the average Walmart employee makes in a year. Determining the commonality of such an electorate is ever-changing hard work.

My sense is few campaigns are working on this in the long run up to the Iowa caucuses because in those contests being a Democratic voter for the night is all that matters. There is plenty of common ground to be found when the view takes in all of the electorate.

There is no treatment or cure for the political addict.

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Trail Walk

Lake Macbride State Park – Aug. 9, 2019

A main feature of the vacant lot we bought in 1993 was its proximity to Lake Macbride State Park.

When we need exercise, or just want to get away from the house, it’s a short walk to the trail that runs five miles from our nearby city to the main park entrance. In August the park is filled with wildflowers, insects and other flora and fauna of living in Iowa. There is as much to observe as there is to escape in quotidian life.

A trail walk can reset our lives each time we venture out.

Two weekends into my seventh season at an apple orchard I continue to enjoy the work and its customer engagement.

A family drove over from Chicago, one stopped on their way back to Rochester, Minn., and regulars return with the micro-seasons within a procession of a hundred apple varieties. Every chance we have to converse is a window into lives where with at least one common interest. It is the beginning of something positive.

A trail walk can get us centered and ready for such engagement.

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Lifestyle Changes

Breakfast – Aug. 9, 2019

I took five sessions with a nutritionist and wellness professional, once individually and four times as part of a group. I email her questions and she quickly emails answers back.

Based mostly on blood test results, the clinic diagnosed me with Type II diabetes in May and like many, I immediately went into denial.

Listening to the professional — a person with lots of letters following her name on the business card she handed me — I’ve been able to lose 10 percent of body weight, exercise more, and feel better. Monday is a reality check as I have blood drawn for another test and a meeting with my care-giving team the following week.

Whether my diabetes can be controlled through lifestyle changes is an open question, the answer to which is I hope to avoid diabetes’s advancement and physiological deterioration. By finding it early, the diagnosis may be beaten back. Included in this sentiment is a bit of lingering denial that I have it, but I am less worried about that than other things.

When my then septuagenarian grandmother was diagnosed with diabetes I was in the U.S. Army, stationed in Mainz, Germany. One day without warning I received a large box from her with all of the instant pudding and gelatin desserts from her cupboard. She accumulated a trove of these small boxes during her food stamps shopping trips and felt she could no longer eat it and I could. Cookery was not my specialty then. I made and ate some of it, favoring the pudding. I don’t remember how much. I am about ten years younger than she was when she had her diagnosis.

The physician’s assistant made a short list of things I should do. I followed them as best I was able: a diabetes screening from an ophthalmologist, the nutrition classes, more exercise, and regular checkups. I avoided taking regular self-administered blood tests and medication, except for a daily low-dose aspirin. Based on the nutritionist’s recommendation, I started taking vitamin B-12, which seems to have improved my sleep. As a mostly ovo-lacto vegetarian I probably get enough B-12, but the supplement is inexpensive and the downside of taking it minimal. The nutritionist taught us about the USP label for dietary supplements and what it means.

The focus of counseling has been to count carbs and establish a carbohydrate budget for each meal, snacks, and for each day. Enjoy food more, including things culturally favored, but stay within the budget. That means one ear of sweet corn, two ounces of pasta, smaller portions of rice and noodles for meals. Nearly complete avoidance of simple sugars is recommended. When one of the group asked about something else — BMI, protein, weight loss or whatever — she steadfastly returned to the need to control glucose when diagnosed with diabetes. She acknowledged there were other weight and nutrition aspects to life, but we were there to learn about how to eat with our diagnosis. I’m trying to own “my diagnosis” but am not there yet.

I’m modifying my behavior although I could relapse at any moment. It hasn’t been easy. It may continue to be not-easy. As a gardener I have access to fresh vegetables that can fill my plate as in the photo of Friday morning’s breakfast. When I returned to work at the orchard, I told my supervisor I had to refrain from eating almost everything we make with the exception of apples. What will I do when winter comes? Near yesterday’s anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, I’m thinking if it’s a nuclear winter I may not have to worry about it. However, using that as an excuse for denial of my diabetes diagnosis is pretty lame.

I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last impactful lifestyle change I have to make as I age. Big picture? I’m okay with that. It’s better than the alternative.

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