Categories
Politics

Why Should Progressives Consider Eddie Mauro For U.S. Senate?

Eddie Mauro

When Eddie Mauro is campaigning around Iowa he considers the communities in which he finds himself.

“Every time I drive into a community I look at places where I say we help insure that,” Mauro said. “We help insure that restaurant; we help insure that daycare…”

As president and chief executive of UIG, a Des Moines-based insurance company he founded, Mauro and his team of 70 people provide property and casualty insurance to businesses in all 99 Iowa counties. He’s also one of five candidates for U.S. Senate in the June 2 Democratic primary election.

On Thursday, Jan. 16, Blog for Iowa interviewed Mauro at a coffee shop in Coralville. When I arrived he was standing at a table with his hands on his hips. He appeared to be stretching after sitting in his vehicle for a while. He had another stop in Waterloo after our interview so it would be a long day of campaigning. This post reflects a transcription of his responses to my questions.

In addition to running a successful insurance company, Mauro spent a lifetime in community organizing and activism. Mauro is a founding member of AMOS (A Midwest Organizing Strategy) which “seek(s) to channel individual action into a responsible and powerfully organized force for the common good,” according to the AMOS website. He also worked as a coach in a number of small Iowa towns.

BFIA: What does being a community organizer mean to you?

MAURO: I started doing service work back to (when) I was 14 years old. Catholic Worker in Des Moines was forming then. I started getting involved with the homeless at an early age and have been involved with the homeless community ever since. As a teacher we used to take kids out in the mornings. We would crawl under bridges, and abandoned buildings, or wooded areas, and we would serve the homeless. We had a Saturday program as well with the produce in the impoverished neighborhoods of Des Moines. I’m still doing homeless work.

BFIA: In terms of community service, what are you most proud of?

MAURO: Proud of?

BFIA: What do you look at and say, “boy this was really good.”

MAURO: I’m not proud of any of it. I feel good that God’s given me the wherewithal to step up and help. I do a project in Tanzania called Water Systems of Tanzania. I go over there usually a couple of times a year. It’s a phenomenal project. We created a non profit called the Purify Project. We have some water quality issues here in this country for sure. People are dying every day in Africa. So it’s a good project.

BFIA: Why are you running for U.S. Senate?

MAURO: There are a lot of reasons for running. Primarily that Iowans deserve a leader today to address the problems facing this country with the urgency and the courage that’s demanded in this moment in history. We don’t get that out of Joni Ernst. We have a United States Senate that is broken and under performing.

BFIA: How do you deal with Joni Ernst’s popularity? She was popular in 2014, she continues to be popular.

MAURO: First of all her popularity has been sliding as people are starting to sense that a lot of that was a ruse. She’s been doing a good job of talking, misleading, and conning, and tricking people. It’s starting to become evident that she hasn’t done anything meaningful for Iowans. In fact, she hasn’t even been a senator for Iowans, (but) a senator for special interests and big industry, for her buddies the Koch brothers who created her, who she’s fiercely loyal to. The people in the state deserve better than that. I don’t think she’s overly popular here. I think there’s a lot of holes in that popularity. We are going to talk about she’s voted to take health care away from Iowans five times.

BFIA: I’m seeing people who don’t care about that and are willing to set her voting record aside and say, “she’s our girl.” There’s a plain acceptance of her votes on issues.

MAURO: Those issues are real, Paul. To go out to people and say, ‘Yep, you really like her. Well why do you like her?’ Are you aware of what she’s done for the healthcare? Are you aware of what she’s done to women’s rights? Are you aware what she’s done to turn her back on vulnerable women who are domestic violence survivors? Are you aware of what she’s doing to our public schools, the future for our kids and our teachers? Are you aware of what she’s done for rural Iowa, of the lack of courage that she’s displayed when it comes to the renewable fuel standard, and how she’s cow-tied to the president?

It’s not enough to say all the bad things she did, you have to very well stand for something. So I’m out preaching what I think are strong progressive bona fides while I talk about what we can be doing in rural Iowa. What we can be doing on Main Streets and town squares that I do business with now for over twenty years. What we can do with rural farmers to really give them a strong P&L and balance sheet, something they are yearning for. While at the same time tackling climate change. So we’re going to go out and communicate that we deserve better and we can do better than what we’ve gotten out of Joni Ernst who has not been a senator for this state.

We go out and sell that message wide and far, we’re convinced our strategy shows us that we win this race by five to seven points.

~ First published on Blog for Iowa

Categories
Writing

More Letters Home

Camp Letter

Our daughter and I drove to my home town on Sunday to visit my sister. The conversation ranged across many topics and toward the end of the visit she asked if I wanted to take the second of two shoe boxes containing letters I wrote home.

Of course I did.

I wrote a lot of letters home and to friends before email became a widely adapted replacement.

The earliest letter I found was written while attending YMCA camp as a grader. There was at least one more camp letter, followed by a couple while I was in high school, more in college, and in every stage of life afterward. There were some recent holiday cards and letters.

We logged on to the internet from a home computer for the first time on April 21, 1996. As soon as Mom got an America On-Line account we began communicating via email. She had already been using email in her work at the Corps of Engineers, just as I had been using email when I worked at for the oil company from 1989 to 1991. Over the years I saved as many personal emails as I could and there are a few between me and her from the late 1990s. The last email I sent her was dated March 7, 2014. It was about putting a photo on her Facebook account.

While it seems unlikely the others to whom I sent letters will return a similar archive, I have their letters and what is turning into a substantial trove of documents, partly written by me and partly by Mom and my friends about what my life was about. Combined with my hand-written journals beginning in 1974, and 14 years of this blog, I should be well prepared to relearn who I was and what I became.

The question becomes how shall I organize everything? There are no good answers as new documents are discovered and processed.

Artifacts like the camp letter pictured above lead me down a path of memory I had forgotten. It’s about canoeing on the Mississippi River, about campfires, and summer free swims, and having fun away from home and telling my parents all about it in a letter. Now that they are both gone the memories are welcome.

Letter writing, then email, journal writing, blogging, and now texting has become a part of who I am. I believe I’ve become the better for it.

Categories
Social Commentary Writing

Media’s Theft From The Commons

Iowa City Press Citizen Jan. 23, 2019

“Right-wing media have been laying the groundwork for Trump’s acquittal for half a century,” Nicole Hemmer wrote in the New York Times. “These tactics (i.e. minimize Trump’s transgressions and paint a picture of non-stop Democratic scandals) are not inventions of the Trump era. They are part of a decades-long strategy by the right to secure political power — a strategy originating in conservative media.”

For a student of history the story is not only about conservative mass media beginning in the mid-20th Century. It goes further back.

It’s been a few decades since I finished graduate school yet I remember we studied nineteenth century newspapers from the Old West in Kansas, Oklahoma, and the like. They were mainly gossip sheets in which people could and did say just about anything. Whatever was needed to engage locals and sell advertising, whether it was true or not. It is a part of human nature to want to hear gossip and the outrageous things that may or may not be going on in a community.

What’s different now is corporations have exploited this aspect of human nature to generate revenue. They’ve been successful at doing so. In a way, right wing media is yet another corporate theft from the commons.

One can’t make the argument that media has ever been without bias. Journalists, editors, and even historians have their implicit point of view which may or may not serve the truth or other human needs. I’m thinking here of the work of Howard Zinn, David Hackett Fischer, Clifford Geertz and others.

Joan Didion described it as well as anyone, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” What we hadn’t planned for was the malicious intent of people who would come to dominate news and information sources, and the role that would play in the stories we tell ourselves.

The first sign of trouble should have been when our favorite news personalities began to earn millions of dollars annually for what should have been a public service. That Sean Hannity earns $40 million per year is all one needs to know about FOX News. Even Walter Cronkite earned close to a million.

My media behavior toward this impeachment effort is similar to during the Nixon and Clinton proceedings. I tune it out. One exception though. While I’m still in bed, before I turn the light on, I pick up my phone and read Heather Cox Richardson’s daily letter. It’s about all that I can take. Is she biased? Of course. But my tolerance for the biases of Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard where she was educated is a bit higher. Plus she feeds my confirmation bias.

Categories
Home Life

Winter Flight

Winter snowfall Jan. 24, 2020

While I’m typing our daughter is driving to the airport where she will board an aircraft for a rare visit home. The flight is on-time despite Iowa’s winter weather.

Except to attend Mother’s funeral, she hasn’t been home since April 2016. We are looking forward to seeing her as phone calls, text messages and email are not enough.

I cleared the driveway to allow ingress and egress. If she wasn’t coming I may have left the snowfall for another day. Once she’s home, I’m not sure if anyone will leave the house for a while.

We are thankful for the Federal Aviation Administration and the work of the pilots and crew of the airline and airports. Thankful for safety on this winter flight.

Categories
Environment Nuclear Abolition

Nuclear Power Transition

Google Maps Image of Duane Arnold Energy Center

In 2018 NextEra Energy Resources announced plans to retire the Duane Arnold Energy Center (DAEC) — a 615-MW nuclear power plant located in Palo, Iowa — before the end of 2020.

NextEra’s main customer at DAEC, Alliant Energy, will buy out its contract in September for $110 million, sourcing electricity instead from NextEra’s wind generation fleet. The move is expected to save Alliant Energy customers $300 million over 21 years.

There are no plans to replace Duane Arnold with new nuclear generating capacity.

Two essential problems with nuclear power plants are they cost too much, and a lack answers to the question of what to do with spent nuclear fuel. These problems are political. In our current political climate that makes them unsolvable, practically speaking, even though potential solutions exist for both.

Certain environmental groups favor nuclear power to replace coal as an emissions reduction tactic. On its face this is belied by the urgency of the climate crisis.

“Nuclear, especially next-generation nuclear, has tremendous potential to be part of the solution to climate change,” climatologist James Hansen said on Dec. 3, 2015. “The dangers of fossil fuels are staring us in the face. So for us to say we won’t use all the tools (such as nuclear energy) to solve the problem is crazy.”

The challenge for nuclear energy is the timeline for market penetration in the industrial age. It will take too long.

Cesare Marchetti of the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis did research which suggests the historical trend on implementation of new technologies such as wood, coal, oil and gas takes 40-50 years to go from one percent to 10 percent of market share. Nuclear energy occupies about 12 percent of current global market share. It will take almost a century for an energy source to occupy half the market. The world doesn’t have 50 years, and likely longer, to wait for nuclear energy sources to gain acceptance and growth the way coal, oil and gas have.

Even if political issues surrounding nuclear waste disposal could be resolved, the financial cost of building out a fleet of new nuclear power plants would likely follow the course of the Georgia Power Vogtle Plant expansion, which, when they broke ground, was the first nuclear power plant contemplated in 30 years. Despite proclamations of “making American nuclear cool again,” by then Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the Georgia Public Service Commission questions whether the plant will be economically viable if going on line is delayed much longer. New nuclear energy remains too expensive, especially when compared to renewables and natural gas.

Renewable energy (wind, solar, hydroelectric) is further along than nuclear in its evolution as an energy source. At 31 percent of global market share, we remain decades away from achieving 50 percent market penetration, according to Marchetti’s analysis. At the rate we are going, elimination of coal, oil and natural gas from the energy production mix for electricity won’t occur in my lifetime, and likely not the lives of the millennial cohort. By then all of this electricity talk may be rendered moot by the climate crisis.

There are no big-picture answers to the trouble of an over-heating planet in a 500-word blog post. What remains clear is our problems are driven more by politics than by technology and reason.

It is critical we root out influence and corruption in government. To do that it will take voters who care about our future and are willing to make the hard choices necessary to address the climate crisis.

In any case, from my vantage point, it seems unlikely nuclear power plants will be part of our energy future.

Categories
Writing

Journey Home

14 Years of Blogging

Today I simplified the appearance of this blog and renamed it Journey Home. Isn’t that where we are always going?

The archives are printed and on the shelf — 14 years worth. I look forward to many more years of posting here although I hesitate to be specific because at a certain age, one never knows.

Thanks for reading.

Categories
Politics

Winter Has Arrived

Winter 2020

It was one degree below zero when I woke at 4:30 a.m.

It has now been 24 hours of freezing temperatures and perhaps the beginning of an extended streak. If this pans out I can prune fruit trees assured of their dormancy.

That’s what winter is about here in Big Grove Township.

The Iowa precinct caucuses are coming up on Feb. 3. I’m not ready to chair my precinct yet but will be in the coming two weeks. It’s surprising how much my view of the caucuses has changed since I became politically active again.

Our family walked into the 2004 caucuses together but weren’t sure John Kerry was the right choice. Our daughter brought along a copy of the local newspaper with a candidate comparison in it. In the end we all stood in Kerry’s corner.

After Kerry lost the general election I decided to do my part to regain the presidency for Democrats in the 2008 general election. I met Barack Obama in the rope line at the 2006 Harkin Steak Fry and wasn’t impressed. I ended up devoting many hours to supporting John Edwards, beginning with an October 2006 event at the public library. On caucus night Obama had the most people in the room. Hillary Clinton and Edwards had the same number so the caucus chair flipped a coin to determine who would get another delegate. Team Hillary won the game of chance.

Edwards placed second in the statewide delegate count and his staff dispersed to three other early states: New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Edwards ended up with one elected delegate when the decision reached the second district convention. It was clear then he would not win the nomination. When Obama formally won the nomination at the Democratic National Convention I supported him.

In 2012 Obama was the presumed nominee and I ended up leading the caucus for two precincts in nearby Graham and Cedar townships instead of my own. I remember we watched a closed circuit television address from the president. There was dissent in supporting Obama but in the long run nothing came of it.

In 2016 I again worked hard, this time for Hillary Clinton. She easily won our precinct caucus with enough people in our group to send 14 of them to make Martin O’Malley viable and deprive Bernie Sanders of a second delegate to the county convention. It was a close race and Hillary prevailed in Iowa just barely getting more than 50 percent of the delegates at the state convention.

This year is different with a slate of many great candidates. I support Elizabeth Warren for president but haven’t been campaigning for her like I did for my candidates in 2008 and 2016. It’s not that I don’t care because I do. It’s that whoever wins Iowa, the nomination will be decided in other states, maybe as soon as March 3 Super Tuesday.

Whoever is the nominee, Democrats will mostly be united to defeat the expected Republican candidate. The trouble is Democrats (or Republicans for that matter) aren’t the deciders. In Iowa, Democrats make up 30 percent of the electorate according to January 2020 numbers from the Secretary of State. Republicans comprise 32 percent. It’s been clear all along that factors besides political party affiliation will decide the outcome of the 2020 general election.

For now, the Iowa caucuses are first in the nation. I’ll note that Vermont and Minnesota have already started early voting so it’s not a clean first. We still have a lot of media attention, and people are deciding for whom they will caucus. My hope is someone else will step up to the Democratic central committee to fill the two slots at caucus so I don’t have to. My political work this year will begin in earnest once we have a nominee this summer.

In the meanwhile, I have a garden to attend as soon as spring arrives. There are also fruit trees that need pruning.

Categories
Writing

Energy Matters

Snow-covered Driveway

Friday I ran errands before the winter storm hit. Errands means filling the automobile fuel tank with gasoline, buying a lottery ticket, and driving south on Highway One to the grocery store in the county seat to purchase organic celery, frozen lima beans and sundry other items not available locally.

The storm hit between noon and 1 p.m. depositing a fluffy, four-inch covering of snow on everything.

It wasn’t a blizzard as one could easily see into the distance through the small, falling snowflakes. The wind wasn’t blizzard-bad. It gave me a chance to try out the electric snow blower I bought at the home, farm and auto supply store on Dec. 12., a concession to aging.

Our rural electric cooperative buys electricity from CIPCO (Central Iowa Power Cooperative). Their electricity generation fuel mix is coal, nuclear, hydro, landfill gas, wind, solar, natural gas, and oil energy resources, according to their website. They haven’t updated the breakdown by fuel source since 2016 which showed 38.3 percent coal, 33.7 percent nuclear, 27.0 percent wind, solar, hydro and landfill gas, and 0.5 percent natural gas. I could say we have a nuclear powered snow blower… or not depending on how I feel on any given day. Yesterday I was thankful I didn’t have to shovel as the work went quickly.

We need energy to fuel a modern lifestyle and there is not a lot of control outside our personal habits. We use electric appliances and there is no reason to change back to natural gas, the most recent alternative. Our home heating is a forced air, natural gas central furnace supplemented by an electric blanket in one bedroom and a space heater in my writing room. We have no fireplace and burning wood isn’t a sustainable option. We use an on-demand, natural gas water heater which has served us well. I learned about on-demand water heaters while visiting a friend in Vienna, Austria in 1974.

We got rid of incandescent light bulbs long ago and do our best to turn off lights when not using a space. I occasionally forget the light is on in my writing room and leave it on overnight. We consolidate trips to major cities in our vehicles, combining work days with shopping and other errands. We spent an average of $3.65 per day for electricity and natural gas in 2019 and $2.55 per day on gasoline to operate my car. When we upgrade my 1997 Subaru there will be an opportunity to change to electric or get a more fuel efficient vehicle. Same for the other car in the house, a 2002 Subaru. As we age I can see owning only one automobile.

I still use gasoline to power yard equipment including our mowers and trimmer. I tried a Black and Decker electric trimmer but it wouldn’t hold a charge long enough to finish the whole yard, even with two batteries. When it broke after years of service I got a Stihl trimmer with my discount at the home, farm and auto supply store. I didn’t use a gallon of gasoline for the trimmer in 2019. I don’t like mowing the lawn unless it is to collect grass clippings to use as mulch. In 2019 I filled up my 5-gallon gas can twice: once at the beginning of the season and once in July. It’s still half-full. I expect to purchase a gasoline-powered rototiller for the garden. Like with the snow blower it is a concession to aging.

A snow day is a chance to bunker in and get caught up on desk work. I wish I could report I had. Instead I read, watched snow fall, and wondered about our collective future in an environment where the weather event was unremarkable, but its late arrival this winter is an unmistakable sign about our warming climate. I need to get to work today, as do we all.

Categories
Work Life Writing

Frozen Iowa

Seed Organizer

Reducing speed, I turned on the flashers to descend the ice-packed road leading to the Coralville Lake. One car was already in the ditch.

Frozen rain covered everything Wednesday morning. The city where I was bound cancelled bus service for “safety reasons.” I’m from here and knew how to make it safely into work on time.

I spent part of my shift at the home, farm and auto supply store loading pallets of granulated salt on flatbed trucks and trailers for contractors that extract a living from the frozen landscape. These guys, and they were all men, don’t work for big companies or government. As one secured his load with well-used straps he asked me how many pallets we had left. I told him and expected him back if he needed more.

The margin is thin on salt sales. Even so, with customer traffic light because of the weather, the store would take any sales we could get.

Some special projects fell into my lap. Tonight I’m scheduled to interview one of Iowa’s U.S. Senate candidates for Blog for Iowa, and next week I do a phone interview with Thom Hartmann whose last two books I reviewed. I had no intention of spending my time this way but the opportunities presented and I took them. In addition, our daughter is making a rare trip home the last weekend of the month.

The new year is bringing too much stuff to do. Part of me welcomes it, and part struggles to keep up. It is great to feel alive and engaged in this frozen Iowa.

Categories
Writing

Bloggery

Walking on the Lake Macbride Trail Jan. 14, 2020.

I ordered a printed version of this blog through the end of last year. It’s the first step in changing the appearance.

The WordPress theme I use is free and serviceable. Maybe I’ve gotten used to it. I like the posts on the left and links on the right with a link to the about and reading list pages in the header. Clean and simple so readers can focus on the text. I want to change the photograph of the apple blossoms though.

Because of reduced personal cash flow I had gotten behind in making a paper archive. With a reasonable retirement income and a small amount from Mother’s estate I could get caught up. When the archive volumes arrive there will be about ten inches of blog books comprised of a few thousand pages on my shelf next to my hand-written journals.

I began blogging in 2007 after our daughter graduated from college. I didn’t understand it when I began but this writing would eventually take the place of journaling. Personal information is scrubbed off and each post was better proofed and edited than my hand-written diaries. It is a modern day instance of an English diary like those of Samuel Pepys who we studied in high school English class.

Blogging is among the most important things I do each day. My readership has grown, although for a long time I didn’t think I would find an audience. Everywhere I go in public I encounter people who are readers, indicating a reality of sorts. It is a gratifying feeling.

For the last ten years blogging has been a way to work through aspects of my life. Some things, like yesterday’s review of Thom Hartmann’s book, are specific and set in time. What is better has been the major topics about which I wrote in multiple posts, including the role of low-wage workers, challenges of a local food system, and trying to understand our national and local politics. Blogging is a formal way of writing that can yield a personal conclusion about life in society.

When we moved near the lake in 1993 I set up my desk about 20 feet from where my writing table is now. The desk is still there, although it is piled with stuff: old printers, boxes of documents and books, loose items — potential jetsam from a life weighed down by old artifacts. As my autobiographical work proceeds, the process includes going through every box and bag to re-purpose, recycle or discard everything I can bear to part with… after relevant stories have been extracted. I expect it to take a couple of years.

Other writers don’t keep a blog with so many posts as can be found here. To each their own. Blogging is a way to write that became primary. A place of my own where readers can stop by when something attracts their eye. It is a form of self-expression over which the author has uniform and almost complete control. Trying to make it worthwhile for readers creates an incentive to write better. Writing better has been my endgame.

I note from the clock on my computer it’s time to head upstairs, fix breakfast and get ready for a shift at the home, farm and auto supply store. During winter I want and need to get out of the house and into society. At the same time I’m tempted to call off work and persist in this bloggery through the day into nightfall. I won’t do that. I’m too much the product of an education in the 1950s and 1960s where I have a responsibility to social commitments. Still, I linger on a few more minutes in the glow of my desk lamp camped out on what remains of the Iowa prairie.

I have a sense today will be a good day. I can’t wait to find out.