Leave It All On The Field

Chia Fen Preserve, Aug. 3, 2020.

As Joe Biden and company build an organization to defeat Donald Trump part of its energy comes from active Democrats. That’s to be expected. At the same time, the coalition Biden built is broad and more diverse. It has to be to bring in the votes needed to assure victory. Democratic votes alone won’t win the Nov. 3 election.

Democrats are a distance from being able to claim victory over Trump and his enablers.

The deciding factor may well be that much energy to defeat Trump must come from people with little connection to Democrats. Their allegiance is to something else — not politics — and their activism is energized by how the administration negatively impacts them personally. There are also Republicans unwilling to shed Republican values yet who believe electing Trump was a mistake and he must be removed through the ballot box.

With such a coalition, if the president is re-elected we haven’t worked hard enough. A lot can and will happen before the election. The hurricane of information is just forming to wreck havoc on our political life. To win we have to set aside our personal causes and follow the lead of our candidates. We must give up part of our individualism to work toward a greater good. If Angela Davis is on board with Biden almost any liberal should be too.

What does that mean?

Don’t shed a bucket of liberal tears over the current disaster in governance. Is current policy bad? Yes, it is. Are Republicans corrupt? Yes, some of them are. Can it be fixed? I don’t know and the only path to finding out is to hunker down and elect Democratic candidates from Biden on down the ticket to soil commissioner and dog catcher. Liberal tears are a distraction from the fundamental fact that Democrats, and most Americans, are good people with a desire to improve our common life.

Stay focused. Pick a couple of things you can do to support Democratic candidates. Got a few dollars left over in your bank account after monthly bills are paid? Donate part of it to your favorite candidates. Don’t know who the candidates are? Get a sample ballot from your county auditor and study it. Got friends and relatives? Make sure each of them is registered to vote. Encourage them to vote.

Develop a way of dealing with the noise. There will be a lot of radio, television, internet, and print ads. A lot of friends and neighbors will want to talk about “politics” and repeat awful falsehoods. Listen, consider, and think before reacting. Correct people where you can, tolerate where you must. Engender a sense that we are all in this together because we are.

Deal with the coronavirus. We’re no good to anyone unless we are healthy. The first wave of the pandemic is upon us and there is no easy fix to it. Do all the things health professionals recommend: wear a mask in public, get tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms or have been with someone diagnosed with the disease, wash hands frequently, sanitize your hands immediately after shopping, and stay home when it’s possible to do so.

Don’t pay attention to the polls. The polls indicate Joe Biden stands a good chance of winning the Electoral College. Act like he is ten points behind and do something to further his electoral prospects. Do what you feel comfortable doing. Then pick something outside your comfort zone and try that too.

Above all else, be part of the solution to the disastrous problems caused by current Republican governance. The opportunity we have today is to elect Joe Biden president. Let’s go do it!

If we can make the change in elected officials then we can talk about the long, hard path to re-inventing America to be better than ever. As they say in sports, leave it all on the field.

~Written for Blog for Iowa

Home Life Social Commentary

Denial, The Coronavirus Is Your Friend

View from the kitchen window

When the U.S. Congress passed the CARES Act there was an unspoken assumption the coronavirus pandemic would be of short duration and gone by now.

Based on this, the Republican president and Republican Iowa governor pushed to “reopen the economy.” As they did we discovered Iowa and the nation were still on the upward slope of a curve of COVID-19 cases. As of Sunday, the Cedar Rapids Gazette reported the seven-day average number of COVID-19 cases in Linn County was the highest since the governor declared the emergency on March 9.

Epidemiologist Dr. Anthony Fauci made the situation clear in an interview with the publication MarketWatch. “We are still in a pretty big first wave (of the pandemic),” he said.

Cedar Rapids-based manufacturer Gary Ficken got a CARES Act small business loan to keep his athletic apparel business afloat, according to the Washington Post. He used the money to hire staff back early in the pandemic only to lay them off again when there was no demand for his products.“It ended up being a bridge to nowhere,” Ficken said.

As some of the benefits of the CARES Act expire, the Republican caucus in the U.S. Senate doesn’t know what they want to do. “Half the Republicans are going to vote no to any phase four package,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on Sunday. “That’s just a fact.” Senate Democrats don’t have to negotiate with Republicans who are a firm no on any new relief bill, so we may as well stick to our guns.

Already the White House floated the idea of a short term extension of some parts of the original CARES Act. In the meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the main Republican negotiator, is discussing changing the $600 per week federal subsidy of unemployment benefits in the CARES Act to a new formula of 70 percent of earnings. Again, half the Republicans won’t vote for whatever bill he writes. Late Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the Republican proposal as “pathetic,” saying “it isn’t serious.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called it “totally inadequate.”

It is hard to say with certainty what the federal government should do in the form of relief for the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. The U.S. House passed a stimulus bill in May with which the Senate has done nothing. What needs to happen, and fast, is to stop denying we are in a pandemic. Denial is the coronavirus’ best friend.

If you are already past denial, here’s an informative podcast of In the Bubble with Andy Slavitt. Special guest epidemiologist Larry Brilliant, who helped eradicate smallpox and is hard at work on coronavirus, grades our performance on a scientific, sociological, and political basis. He doesn’t mince words about political leadership or the CDC. “There is a special place in hell for some of the people who are lying about how dangerous this disease is,” Brilliant said in the podcast.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa


Vacances dans l’Iowa

July Morning in Iowa

After finishing a month at the editor’s desk of Blog for Iowa I’m taking some time off. Because of the coronavirus I won’t be going far, maybe from my desk to the garden… and a daily trip on the trail.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back when my cable to the internet is repaired by the cable company next week, and when I’ve had a bit of rest from daily writing.

Hope summer mornings find you well, safe and happy. Jusqu’à plus tard!


Is It Over Yet?

Trimmed Shallots Drying

When Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds declared an emergency for the coronavirus pandemic on March 9 I felt it would be of short duration and we’d quickly get back to our lives as they were. I was wrong.

Epidemiologist Dr. Anthony Fauci said yesterday, “We are still in a pretty big first wave.” In other words the pandemic will continue well into 2021 and maybe further.

We Americans have demonstrated incompetence and ignorance during the pandemic. Our reactions to health professional guidance created a social environment where it will be difficult to dig out. Returning to normal seems unlikely.

At its most elemental we need to wear a mask in public, wash our hands frequently, and do testing for COVID-19 with contact tracing. Apparently we are incapable of such collective action and almost 150,000 humans have died from COVID-19, many of them unnecessarily. We can be a pathetic people.

At the same time there are brilliant moments in the pandemic. First responders, health care professionals, and regular people have functioned at a high level to address the continuing crisis. Their actions are admirable.

The governor signed a new proclamation on Friday re-establishing specific criteria for operations in the economy even though we are experiencing a surge in positive test results. One of the criteria was a release for dental clinics to do non-emergency work. My clinic cancelled my routine appointment in early March.

I’m not thrilled about venturing to Cedar Rapids to go to the dentist. The seven-day average of COVID-19 cases in Linn County is at its highest yet.

I called the clinic and they were taking appointments. They had a new online portal for completing the forms needed prior to the appointment. I went online and did what I had to do. Some of the forms were related to COVID-19. The screening questions I encountered on the TestIowa site were there and to be expected. There was a liability waiver which I summarize: The office will do our best to prevent transmission of the coronavirus but you might get it. If you do you may get horribly sick and possibly die. It’s not our fault if that happens and you can’t blame us.

This has been my dentist since they moved to Cedar Rapids after my former dentist retired. They are doing their best in the coronavirus pandemic. They worked hard to prevent disease transmission before the pandemic as a regular part of their practice. I’m going in. I don’t believe I’m at risk or I wouldn’t.

All the same it begs the question of how we re-start our lives after quarantine. Dental care is not life or death in my case. I don’t have insurance to pay for it so I write a check. Like my dental office, I’m doing the best I can to deal with change caused by the pandemic.

We have to go on with our lives so I’m keeping the appointment.


First Slicer

First slicing tomato from the garden

Behold the first slicing tomato from the garden. We are pretty excited.

I cut back the number of tomato plants this year yet it looks like there will be a bountiful crop. I cut back because only so many canned tomatoes are required in a kitchen garden each year. Going into tomato season I have enough left from last year for another year.

Sure. There are other vegetables. Tomatoes make the garden.

Thursday the local food rescue organization Table to Table made their first pickup from our garden. Friends and neighbors can take only so much produce like kale, collards and cucumbers. I needed an outlet for garden extras so they would not become compost.

The mission of Table to Table is to “keep wholesome, edible food from going to waste by collecting it from donors and distributing to those in need through agencies that serve the hungry, homeless and at-risk populations.” They recently began working with local gardeners to collect produce in a program named Fresh Food Connect.

Table to Table garden recovery coordinator Zach Vig rescuing produce from my garden.

“The concept of Fresh Food Connect (FFC) is simple,” Zach Vig, Table to Table garden recovery coordinator wrote in an email. “Home gardeners oftentimes grow more food than their family can eat. FFC aims to reduce the amount of produce wasted in this way. By utilizing a user-friendly app, gardeners can let us know in real-time where the extra produce is, so we can send out volunteer couriers to rescue it. This food will then be distributed on our normal food rescue routes to those in the community who need it.”

This is a positive development for gardeners and an additional piece of the local food network. I look forward to my next donation.


No Time to Spare – 103 Days Until Nov. 3

Rural Polling Place

The Nov. 3 general election is 103 days out. Buckle your seat belt. It’s going to be a bumpy ride to the polls closing.

Twitter maven Caroline Orr said it about as well as anyone. Her advice seems solid.

I noticed the number of trolls on my social media posts increased this year. Every day I block some alleged Twitter newcomer with a computer generated name, zero tweets and few followers. I don’t know who creates these bots and encourages the trolls but a basic user lesson is don’t feed them. They are trying to distract us. THIS ELECTION IS NOT ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA ANYWAY. IT’S ABOUT VOTING!

Electing Donald Trump was a mistake. The challenge for reasonable people is answering the question what are we going to do about it? I understand the idea of resisting the Trump administration. It was a natural response to the hell hole of his inaugural address. Three and a half years into his first term it is now time for a counter attack. We must block his path to a second term.

The Trump administration is like riding a Tilt-A-Whirl whose anchoring has come loose. We love the ride for perverse reasons yet for all the crazy he and his enablers are dishing, we’re not the crazy ones. We’re not gullible enough to swallow it, especially after 2016.

During the election campaign, the Republican online goal is to disrupt people using internet applications to build bonds among real people in opposition to the president and his enablers. Chaos and confusion? Don’t get sucked into it by asserting a correction or condemnation to trolls. They want to distract you any way they can. Feeding the trolls with your attention serves their purpose, not ours. According to historian Michael Beschloss FDR said during the World War II national effort, “Lost ground can always be regained – lost time never!” 103 days from Nov. 3 we have no time to spare with trolls or other Republican sourced intended distractions.

The coalition that elects Joe Biden president will be on a spectrum that runs from Angela Davis to Bill Kristol. If we can get over the goal line don’t expect such a coalition to hold together. Republicans will go back to being their normal selves and Democrats can’t rest on our laurels. There will be difficult work to be done re-inventing American society to be better after the coronavirus pandemic and finding our place in the world again.

What we know now is more people acknowledge electing Trump has been a mistake. We are on the crest of a wave of enormous non-partisan energy to vote Donald Trump out of office. We can’t be distracted from our number one task to help build that wave until the general election. After the election results are certified by the Congress we can take some time off. Not much though. There will be plenty of work for everyone to do.


That Person Doesn’t Live Here

Campaign mailer sent to my home.

I gave the political mailer I received from Mariannette Miller-Meeks a B grade. While not very inspiring to a progressive blogger, it accomplished the basics.

She asked for a donation multiple times, explaining why she needed the money and how she would use it. She listed six key issues for her campaign, solicited my phone number and email address, and provided a check box list of ways to get involved, including the curious “get active in the blogs.” The mailer was paid for by the campaign.

Whoever forwarded my name to the doctor’s team hasn’t been reading my public writing since 1974. I know from experience how people get on mailing lists so that’s cool. Obviously Dr. Miller-Meeks doesn’t remember me from Adam and I’m okay with that as well.

“Your name was forwarded to me as a pro-Accountability, pro-Borders, pro-Life Republican who is fed up with Democrats’ obstruction tactics,” the mailer said. Well no. That person doesn’t live here. I’ve been a registered Democrat since we moved back to Iowa in 1993.

I’ve been covering Dr. Miller-Meeks for a while, mentioning her for the first time in 2010 with an unfortunate play on her first name:

There is no question that Loebsack’s opponent, Mariannette Miller-Meeks would be an enabler for the increasingly right wing Republican agenda. The talking points she uses in her speeches and appearances come directly from the playbook of the lobbying groups who support her. For example, her skepticism about the science of climate change is a talking point directly from the Iowa Farm Bureau. As her first name suggests, Mariannette Miller Meeks would be a puppet for the powerful interests, leaving middle class Iowans and those in poverty to fend for themselves in class warfare.

She hasn’t changed much, although she said in the mailer she’s depending on “the support of grassroots patriots” like me to take this seat back (after Dave Loebsack occupied it for 14 years). If anything, her positions have hardened during the Trump administration.

Over ten years I infrequently interacted with Dr. Miller-Meeks and heard her speak multiple times in different venues. In 2014 I wrote a post called Deconstructing the Puppet Show responding to a speech she gave at the Iowa State Fair. My propensity to make a pun using her first name regretfully persisted. Read the entire post here, but this is the main quote:

She is plugged into the mainstream of radical conservatism as much as any Republican candidate. In her soapbox speech, she covered their current talking points: Benghazi, Obamacare, Lois Lerner, the NSA and IRS, people getting tangled in the social safety net (that she would transform into a trampoline), drones targeting citizens, the Veterans Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, Keystone XL, and others, all in 15 minutes.

I’m not sure what attracts Republicans to Mariannette Miller-Meeks for a fourth campaign. In order to be successful, the winning candidate in this race has to have something in common with a majority of voters. Miller-Meeks can’t get beyond parroting Republican talking points and that will stop her short in the vote tally on Nov. 3.

This is where Rita Hart’s campaign has strength. She is genuine and original. Hart writes her own agenda and it includes representing every Iowan. The Republican Party of Iowa has lost its grip with the realities that face Iowans. The mailer I received didn’t cost much in the scope of the election. However, they will pay for this approach at the ballot box.

I won’t be completing the form in the doctor’s mailer. I’m voting for Rita Hart.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

Cooking Garden Writing

Garden Potato Time


When potatoes are in season we eat them, otherwise not so much.

This year I grew two varieties in four containers. I’ll get more with the fall share for which I bartered at the farm. When they run out we’re done with potatoes for the year.

We boil the first new potatoes and make hash browned with those nicked while digging them. We’ll bake some of the larger ones. We’ll make French fried potatoes, something we do only once a year. I grew leeks so there will be a batch of leek and potato soup. The small ones get halved and go into soup. Already I made the first batch of potato salad and there will be more before we are done. The key is to grow enough to make it through our recipe book at least once. There might be some potatoes left for Thanksgiving. There might not.

Potatoes are just another vegetable in a kitchen garden. It is important to grow a wide range of vegetables for the flavor, seasonality, and to use in traditional recipes. If anything, cooking is about tradition once basic dietary needs are met.

These spuds look pretty when fresh from the ground and washed up. It is a moment of brilliance in an otherwise regular day.


Dave and Terry Loebsack Inducted Into Hall of Fame

Iowa City Press Citizen, Nov. 8, 2006

On Saturday, July 18, Dave and Terry Loebsack were inducted into the Johnson County Democrats Hall of Fame.

The event is usually a dessert and cash bar event with socializing being the best part. This year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was held via Zoom. We yearn for the social element of the event yet made do.

U.S. Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield, and Second District congressional candidate Rita Hart gave brief speeches. They were both upbeat about their prospects for the Nov. 3 election even though their races are tight.

Many on the Zoom event were part of Loebsack’s first campaign for Congress in 2005 and 2006. Dave reviewed the names of attendees and remarked we are getting “long in the tooth,” highlighting the need for younger Democrats to get involved with party politics. The thing about older Democrats is we can spare a donation to attend events like the Hall of Fame and every Democrat will be needed going forward.

Dave recounted election night in 2006 at the Hotel Vitro in Iowa City, how he won the election day vote but we were waiting for the Johnson County absentee vote to be reported. He was confident he would win the absentee vote as we waited for his opponent to concede.

It is a long drive to the county seat so I went home after the polls closed. Like may, I wasn’t sure Dave would win. When it became clear Dave would win, toward midnight, I got dressed and drove in to join the celebration. It was a big win and Loebsack successfully defended the seat six more times.

Dave has been a journeyman congressman. He’s not flashy, he does the work of the district, his story hasn’t changed much since he went to Washington D.C., he remains the person I got to know in his 2006 campaign office. He is still working.

Last week’s news highlights some of his work: With Congresswomen Cindy Axne (IA-03) and Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) he introduced a cattle marketing reform bill. He co-sponsored the PPP Flexibility Act to fix problems with implementation of the CARES Act for small business owners. He co-authored a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to address the carbon neutrality of farm crops. He worked on the Water Resources Development Act of 2020. Loebsack is not in Washington just for the perquisite of the congressional gym, even if he often talks about who he sees there. He is doing the work we sent him to do.

From his speech, Dave and Terry are planning to actually retire. Dave is part of the Mount Vernon political crew that gave us David Osterberg, Ro Foege and Nate Willems. Over the years Dave has proposed legislation to prevent members of congress from becoming lobbyists after serving. It would be surprising and uncharacteristic for him to become a lobbyist now. He talked of going on road trips with Osterberg in retirement although what actually happens remains to be seen on the other side of the pandemic.

Congratulations Dave and Terry Loebsack for being inducted into the Johnson County Democrats Hall of Fame.

For more information about Congressman Dave Loebsack, visit his website at this link. Here is a link to a recording of the entire Zoom event.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa


Still Life with Weeds

Still life with yard weeds

Mother died eleven months ago and the time since then has been life-changing. It is partly because she is gone, partly because of the coronavirus pandemic and our resulting retirement, and partly because of a reckoning with my physical health.

A lot has happened and I don’t know where my life is heading.

Not only do changes center around us personally. American politics, the murder of George Floyd, the heat wave in Siberia, and a global human restlessness driven by complex factors set a backdrop in which anything we do beyond basic survival seems futile.

We must continue to take one step after the last one even if our destination is uncertain. We can’t give up.

Yesterday I found a zucchini under a large leaf. It was gigantic. I brought it to the kitchen and it maxed out the scale, somewhere about 2.5 kilograms. Normally such summer squash goes in the compost bin. This year I posted a photo of it on social media and it attracted a lot of attention, including suggestions on what to do with it. There was no shortage of ideas.

I grilled three slices for lunch, made soup using a suggestion from someone living in Italy, and shredded the rest to freeze for later. Sometimes one has to deal with the zucchini we are dealt.