Evacuation of Cedar Rapids Under Way


Extreme One-Day Precipitation Events in the Contiguous 48 States. Bars = years; line = 9-year trend. Image Credit: U.S. EPA

The headline from this morning’s Des Moines Register was that residents of 5,000 Cedar Rapids homes were asked to evacuate in advance of the flood crest predicted to arrive Tuesday morning. The height of the crest has been revised downward to 23 feet, however, damage is expected to be severe.

Cedar Rapids fire officials plan to ask for the names of next of kin of residents who refuse to leave the flood zone.

City officials say government has been preparing for a major flood since the record-breaking 2008 event.

There is bravura in the execution of the local preparations indicating the city knows how to mobilize to prevent anticipated damage — better than it did in 2008. It is always good to see people coming together in times of natural disaster to help each other.

At the same time, almost everyone in government, in news media and in other accounts of the disaster fail to consider the root causes of the heavy precipitation events driving record flooding. The world continues to annually dump more than 38 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere like it was an open sewer. That’s 2.4 million pounds per second.

News media and politicians may be enamored of the story of human resistance to the forces of nature, but failure to address the root cause of increased levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere through proper governance should be unacceptable.

Government plays a significant role in mitigating the effects of climate change. Perhaps it’s time we changed the current crop of politicians who fill elected office seats from those who are cheer leaders for reaction to natural disasters to those who will take action to prevent them.

Without action, the chart above from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will continue to map a direction that puts people and assets in jeopardy.

We should know better and do something about global warming and climate change as a society.

Godspeed Cedar Rapids. May your elected officials who don’t already do so perceive tomorrow’s flooding as a wake-up call to action.

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Crashing into September

Openings to the Dual Septic Tanks

Openings to the Dual Septic Tanks

Things are falling apart so Tuesday I begin four days paid vacation from the home, farm and auto supply store. I plan to catch up around the house and run a few errands in and near the county seat — and try to regain a sense of being in control.

Not counting one paid sick day, I will have made it 64 of 100 in my plan to work 100 straight days.

It is time to deal with existential realities in the life of a sixty-something.

There is a lot of crap going on.

As I posted Friday, autumn began with a flood, one wholly predictable, but still catching many by surprise. Politicians talked about doing something after the 2008 flood to mitigate future flood damage. Not much talk turned into action. One doesn’t need to be Jeane Dixon to predict there will be more, similar flooding caused by heavy precipitation events during the next ten years.

The presidential election is sucking up space to the extent even I’m tuning it out. Tomorrow is the first televised debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. If it is streaming I’ll tune in for as long as I can take it (still haven’t solved the problem of owning an analog television set).

Trump is a ridiculous candidate supported by many of my neighbors and co-workers. The Republican Party of Iowa appears to be running a superior ground game when compared to the Iowa Democratic Party. However, this presidential election is changing the rules, tactics and values of ground games. If both parties have mastered similar Get Out The Vote practices, the next winner will breakout with something new. Trump is trying to do that. The outcome is uncertain even if Clinton continues to lead in the polls. Trump would make a disastrous president if elected.

Perhaps a few days of retreat will help me get centered and facilitate positive action going forward. At least that’s the hope. Right now it feels like crashing into September with a long skid into insanity if I don’t do something about it. I intend to take corrective action.

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Protect Environment; Stop Nuclear Weapons

Paul Deaton

Paul Deaton

(Editor’s Note: When this guest column ran in the Cedar Rapids Gazette on Wednesday, Sept. 21, its abstract nature became real as heavy precipitation events pummeled Butler County and other parts of northeastern Iowa, disrupting lives there and downstream. Living in an environment where rain damages crops instead of nurturing them; where rivers jump their banks, close schools and displace people; and where Cedar Rapids must protect the city from record amounts of floodwater multiple times in eight years, something’s wrong. We must take action that includes electing a government that will address the causes of global warming and nuclear proliferation, not just deal with the actuality we have created).

Protect environment; stop nuclear weapons
By Paul Deaton

Guest column for the Cedar Rapids Gazette Sept. 21, 2016.
Reprinted with permission of the author

If we accept the premise articulated by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, that we are stronger together, there is a lot in society requiring our collective attention.

There are no lone wolves in human society, although a number of people want to get away from the pack. Can we blame them? Being stronger together is a fundamental characteristic of Homo sapiens. It’s what we do as a species.

What should we be working on?

It is hard to avoid the primacy of following the golden rule. We should be applying the golden rule, better than we have been, to everything we already do. This is basic.

Two other issues call for our attention, the threat of nuclear weapons, and mitigating the effects of climate change.

Today, on very short notice, nuclear powers can unleash a holocaust ending life as we know it. Nuclear war is not talked about much in the 21st Century; however the threat is as real today as it was when President Truman authorized the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings. The United States should take the lead in eliminating nuclear weapons. We need a transformational change in our nuclear policy that recognizes these weapons are the gravest threat to our security and must be banned and abolished.

We are wrecking our environment and should stop. Just 90 companies are to blame for most climate change, taking carbon out of the ground and putting it in the atmosphere, geographer Richard Heede said. If that’s the case, the move to eliminate fossil fuel use can’t come quick enough. These companies should be targeted for regulation by governments. Companies say they are not to blame for the demand from billions of consumers that drives fossil fuel use. Technologies exist to eliminate fossil fuels, and we should adopt them with haste. One purpose of government is to act as a voice for people who have no voice. Regulating business to protect our lives in the environment would serve that purpose.

After the 2016 election these issues will remain. The first can gain wide support easily. It is time the other two gain parity.

~ Paul Deaton retired from CRST Logistics in 2009.

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Autumn Begins with a Flood

Flooded Wetland

Flooded Wetland

There was a lot to make one cranky as summer ended yesterday, including the weather.

Extremely heavy rains are flooding parts of Iowa and the impact will soon be felt downstream.

The Cedar River is expected to crest at 24.1 feet next week in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the highest level after the record 31.12 foot crest on June 13, 2008.

“We have four days to get ready, and now is the time to start,” Mayor Ron Corbett said Thursday.

We’ve had a lot more time than that to get ready.

During Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training, conducted in Cedar Rapids in May 2015, Mayor Corbett made a presentation about the 2008 Cedar River flooding, how it impacted Cedar Rapids, and what actions were taken and being considered to mitigate damage from potential future floods. The next week will determine whether the plans and discussions were enough to prevent serious damage.

Senator Joni Ernst has been pushing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite completion of the Cedar Rapids Flood Control Project, recently in the Water Resources Development Act.

“This legislation includes my work to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the completion of the Cedar Rapids flood control project,” Ernst wrote in a Sept. 15 press release. “The provision emphasizes to the Army Corps of Engineers that Congress wants this project to remain a priority. I will continue working to ensure the Army Corps of Engineers understands the great need for this long-standing project to be completed in a timely and efficient manner.”

These efforts seem well intentioned, but too little, too late.

The connection between this flood and global warming is clear. When the atmosphere is warmer, its capacity to store water vapor increases. When it does rain, it can do so in heavy precipitation events in which a large amount of rain falls in a brief amount of time. The frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation events has increased since World War II and that appears to be what happened in northeastern Iowa over the last few days.

Here’s an excerpt from a WHO-TV news article about flash flooding in Butler County. It tells the story:

BUTLER COUNTY, Iowa — Storms in northern and northeastern Iowa overnight caused some damage as they spawned tornadoes and dropped heavy rain – up to 10 inches – in some areas.

“We expect the crest this evening what we’re being told around 7 p.m. probably water levels similar to 2008 or more so,” said Jason Johnson, Butler County Sheriff.

Flooding from the Shell Rock River has cancelled classes in the North Butler School District for Thursday and many students gathered at the high school to help fill sandbags. Highway 14 on the way to Charles City is impassable because of water over the road.

Butler County Sheriff  Johnson says there isn’t a widespread evacuation in Greene but some residents are moving to higher ground.

In Floyd County, 7.55” of rain was reported and Charles City saw 6.35”. The Little Cedar River is at moderate flood stage at Nashua and near Ionia. The rainfall total reported for Ionia is 6.24″.

Work will remedy the crankiness of summer’s end. One didn’t expect it to be sand bagging levies, homes and businesses to prevent damage from what is projected to be the second worst flood in Cedar Rapids history. It will get us through the weekend.

The newest flood begs the question of what’s next to mitigate the damage from future flooding? Government involvement in a solution is necessary but it must be implemented faster than it has been. We also have to connect the dots between our personal actions, global warming and climate change more than we have.

For now, we’ll just have to deal with the existential reality of the flood, something I recall doing since the 1960s. It’s a way of sustaining our lives in a turbulent world, but we can do better.

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Letter to the Solon Economist

Big Grove Township Trustee Ballot

Big Grove Township Trustee Ballot

If you have been thinking of running for elected office, a slot is open on the ballot in Big Grove Township.

Mark Haight is the lone candidate seeking re-election as township trustee for two open seats. Mark has unique skills suitable for being a trustee, so I hope you’ll flip the ballot and vote for him.

I announced my decision not to seek re-election six months ago. To date no one has been recruited to fill my seat and that creates an opportunity.

Is it too late? Not at all.

On the first day of early voting in 2012 I noticed there was only one candidate for two seats. I decided in the voting booth to write myself in and campaign to become a township trustee.

I issued a press release, made a post on my blog, and made one speech at a political event on Cottage Reserve where State Senator Bob Dvorsky allowed me to speak to Big Grove residents. I sent a note to friends and neighbors and won the election with 71 votes.

The Big Grove Township Trustees are responsible to provide fire protection and first responder service for the township, manage the Oakland and Fackler’s Grove cemeteries, and to resolve lot line disputes. Our main activity is preparing and approving a budget each year.

If you’ve been thinking about running for public office, here’s your opportunity to campaign and win. The non-partisan board of township trustees is a great place to get started in politics.

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First Folio: Important, but no Beowulf

First Folio Table of Contents

First Folio Table of Contents

The Folger Shakespeare Library of Washington, D.C. sent copies of the First Folio of William Shakespeare’s plays on a 50-state exhibition in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the bard’s death in 1616.

The First Folio is the only reliable record we have of 18 of Shakespeare’s plays.

The exhibit is at the University of Iowa Libraries until Sept. 25.

I first heard of the First Folio in Father Harasyn’s freshman high school English class in 1966 when we read and memorized parts of The Merchant of Venice. I can still hear the voices of friends who went to work in quarries, at construction sites, and driving trucks reciting Portia’s quality of mercy speech from memory. It was the deepest dive into a single Shakespearean play I’ve had. May mercy fall like gentle raindrops from heaven on the graves of my departed childhood friends.

I’m not hopeful of getting to the county seat to view the exhibit. Let’s face it, First Folio is not that rare and is one of the most cited texts on earth. It’s commonplace. I viewed a copy at the Library of Congress where it was displayed near their copy of a Gutenberg Bible, a much rarer document.

First Folio is no Beowulf

First Folio is no Beowulf

Of roughly 500-750 copies believed to have been printed in 1623, about 234 are known to have survived. The printing process was “revise as we go,” which yielded many variants. When we think of a literary tradition that includes Homer, Sophocles, Euripides, Aeschylus, Aristophanes, the Gutenberg Bible and the Beowulf poet, 234 extant copies is a lot. The First Folio is no Beowulf in terms of rarity of manuscript copies.

My English major nags at me to see the exhibit. Yesterday I asked an orchard co-worker if she had seen the First Folio. The dialogue which took place between customers, much modified, went like this:

Me: Have you seen the First Folio?
She: No, not yet. My professor said it’s not that special. Why would he say that?
Me: Cancel his tenure, fire him, and get him to work digging ditches.
She: (Silence).
Me: Too extreme?
She: Yes. An apology would suffice.

I took an undergraduate Shakespeare course from the late Sven Magnus Armens at the University of Iowa. Born in 1921 to Swedish immigrants in Cambridge, Mass., Armens was a Tufts and Harvard graduate who served in the Coast Guard during World War II. His papers are located in the University Library Special Collections Department and of more interest to me than the traveling First Folio exhibit. I haven’t seen them either.

Known for walking his Great Danes around Iowa City, Armens was a chain smoker and smoked during our class. His hands were stained with tobacco and his classroom notes yellowed with age. By the time I took his course, he’d been at Iowa 20 years. We knew class was over when he crumpled his empty cigarette pack and threw it in the corner waste basket. A Shakespeare class seemed obligatory for an English major. Armens filled a slot and seemed delayed from life outside the classroom as he took us through several plays. His physical presence was as important as the texts we studied.

If we view the world through the window of Shakespeare’s plays, as Erving Goffman has suggested in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, the First Folio is important. Perhaps because of the way western society came up, Shakespeare has been ingrained in our lives like few other literary works. If some are dismissive of First Folio, one concedes there are other, Shakespeare-less, world literary traditions.

It is hard to escape the grip Shakespeare has on our lives 400  years after his death. Whether to view the First Folio exhibit, or not to view, has become surrogate for the struggle to transcend our roots and see the world in a different way. That is so Shakespearean and perhaps why I’m torn. The act of viewing would be a concession to Shakespeare preeminence, something for which I’m not ready.

The book will be opened to Hamlet’s speech, “To be, or not to be,” so maybe I should just get over it and go.

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Iowa Returning to its Roots

GOP Outpost in North Liberty, Iowa

GOP Outpost in North Liberty, Iowa

Tucked away in a North Liberty strip mall in Iowa’s most Democratic county is a Republican campaign office.

The yard signs along Highway 965 are noticeable only for their comparatively large number (five), and one including an image of the GOP elephant and the letters “G.O.P.”

The county had 18,335 registered Republicans on Sept. 1 and regardless of their chances in 2016, Republicans hope to build on their numbers and influence here.

Former Apprentice finalist and Donald Trump Iowa campaign chair Tana Goertz was slated to appear with State Representative Bobby Kaufmann, who represents six precincts in Johnson County, at yesterday’s grand opening. Current office hours are 1 until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, a token presence in a Democratic county.

Iowa is not a Democratic state. It is Republican, such appellation including many voters who register “no party.” If the Republican Party of Iowa was caught off guard by the 2006 insurgency against their terrible governance, they reacted and have their act together more now than at any time since our family moved back to Iowa in 1993.

Expect Iowa to award its six electoral votes to Donald Trump this cycle, contrary to the claims of prominent Iowa Democrats. It’s not just me saying this. Yesterday’s Monmouth University poll showed Trump leading Clinton by eight points with a 4.9 percent margin of error.

“Among Iowa voters likely to participate in November’s presidential election, 45 percent currently support Trump and 37 percent back Clinton.  Another 8 percent intend to vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson, 2 percent say they will support Green Party candidate Jill Stein, 2 percent say they will vote for another candidate, and 6 percent are undecided,” according to the Monmouth University website.

A single poll in September is meaningful only as a wake-up call to starstruck Democrats. As readers may know, the author is with Hillary and nothing has changed since I declared for her before the February Iowa caucus. She could indeed win Iowa’s electoral votes. If she does it will only have been if the Iowa Democratic Party changed its process for voter registration and turnout. There is nothing to indicate any substantial changes and 2016 is not expected to be a wave election for Democrats in Iowa. If anything, there is a solid chance the wake from relative Republican unity will sweep the Iowa Senate into a Republican majority. Democrats are working hard to prevent that from happening.

In 2016 people still talk about the Kennedy administration as if it were bathed in the glow of Camelot. What is forgotten is Richard Nixon won Iowa’s electoral votes. 2016 is more like 1960 in that despite Iowa’s participation in the nominating process, Hillary Clinton will win 270 electoral votes, just none of them in Iowa.

Why do I say that?

Unlike in Democratic states, Republican culture has gone mainstream in Iowa. Democrats have invested too much in chattering social media and too little in mainstream presences like university activities, farming, community groups, churches, and the like. By focusing on the outrageous behavior of Governor Terry Branstad, Bruce Rastetter and other prominent Republicans, Democrats left everyday Iowans behind.

Low wage workers are everywhere in Iowa in significant numbers. Based on my conversations with them, if they vote at all, they are just as likely to vote for Donald Trump as Hillary Clinton, whose name the corporate media associates with all things bad.

The kernel of hope that arises from 2016 Iowa Republican hegemony is that after Nixon’s defeat, Iowans elected Harold Hughes governor. Hughes was a liberal’s liberal who was later elected U.S. Senator. Let’s hope Clinton holds her own nationally, and that 2018 can be a comeback year for Iowa Democrats.

There are still Iowa Democrats who haven’t given up on 2016. I hope they are right and I am wrong.

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