Kitchen Garden

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.

Living in Society

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

Kitchen 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.

Living in Society

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.

Living in Society

New Direction for House District 73

Woman Writing Letter

I will vote for Lonny Pulkrabek as state representative for House District 73. You should too. My reasons are simple.

I worked on Pulkrabek’s first campaign for Johnson County Sheriff. I’ve gotten to know him over the years and he is a decent human being and a highly competent sheriff.

Pulkrabek had to deal with the failure of a bond referendum to build a new jail. He didn’t complain, he adjusted his plans and moved forward with other improvements. This demonstrated a type of flexibility we need in the state house.

As the incumbent frequently mentions, a majority of the votes in the House of Representatives are bi-partisan. Those aren’t the ones that worry me. What I’m concerned about is the direction the Republican Party of Iowa wants to take us regarding the coronavirus pandemic, re-opening the schools, a woman’s right to choose, water quality, funding the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and more.

While Lonny Pulkrabek and his opponent are both decent people, Republicans have had their chance. It’s time for a Democrat to represent this district and create a new direction for Iowa.

I encourage you to vote for Lonny Pulkrabek on or before Nov. 3.

~ Submitted to the editor of the Solon Economist on July 17, 2020

Home Life Writing



Parts of the quarantine are tolerable.

Children running among my garden plots with inexpensive butterfly nets. From the house I can see only butterflies and nets bobbing to and fro above garden greenery.

Sometimes they leave their toys in the garden. I walk them across the property line to the scrub woods where they make a camp during cooler weather.

Life at home is tolerable.

Once I get too far out of a limited social circle it’s less so. My furthest reach was to the farm where I worked mostly in isolation to prevent the five quarantined farmers from getting sick. Other than that, grocery shopping, fuel, and a couple of trips to the orchard are the extent of my travels since March. I don’t feel comfortable doing any of it but feel I have to get out of the house and experience the reality of the pandemic.

Rain was forecast all day Wednesday although the forecast was worse than the actuality. After morning showers it hardly rained, enough so patches of the ground remain wet the next morning. The furthest I went from the house was to the garden and the mailbox, both within 80 feet. I encountered no other human during these trips.

COVID-19 reached the staff and residents of the elderly care center this week. To my knowledge it’s the first any area people contracted the coronavirus. The care center has been on lock down since the pandemic began so this is a new development.Someone must have brought it in.

On the positive side, I’ve written an outline of recurring tasks to give my days structure. The biggest gap is determining what projects I should be working on. There are projects needing attention, for sure, and little will to take them up.

For now I’ll settle for the sound and constant bobbing of young children in our yard. And waiting for something, what exactly it is will be revealed. At least that’s the hope.

Living in Society Sustainability

Trinity 75 Years Later

Trinity Marker near Bingham, N.M.

Trinity was the code name for the first nuclear bomb detonation 75 years ago today.

The test explosion was conducted by the U.S. Army at 5:29 a.m. on July 16, 1945, as part of the Manhattan Project. It took place in the Jornada del Muerto desert about 35 miles southeast of Socorro, New Mexico, on what is now part of White Sands Missile Range.

The day after Trinity, U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson flew to Potsdam, Germany where President Harry Truman was meeting with Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee and Joseph Stalin to determine the fate of Germany which had surrendered unconditionally on May 8.

Truman wrote about this meeting with Stimson in his memoir:

We were not ready to make use of this weapon against the Japanese, although we did not know as yet what effect the new weapon might have, physically or psychologically, when used against the enemy. For that reason the military advised that we go ahead with the existing military plans for the invasion of the Japanese home islands.

A committee had been established to evaluate use of the atomic bomb once testing was successful. Before Trinity, on June 1, the committee of government officials and scientists made their recommendation, which Truman recounts in his memoir:

It was their recommendation that the bomb be used against the enemy as soon as it could be done. They recommended further that it should be used without specific warning and against a target that would clearly show its devastating strength.

Ultimately Truman made the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and on Aug. 6 the U.S. Air Force delivered it. Truman threatened to drop a second atomic bomb. On Aug. 9 the Air Force bombed Nagasaki. The Japanese surrendered Aug. 10.

A friend and fellow Veteran for Peace, the late Samuel Becker, was in Guam in August 1945 preparing for the invasion of Japan. I recently asked him about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He said the reaction in Guam was positive, they were in favor of it because it brought a quick end to what could have been a prolonged, bloody conclusion to World War II. In the years before he died, Sam didn’t believe it was a good idea. With time and reflection, the notion that the atomic bombings saved many lives turned out to be a myth. The Japanese were already in a position to surrender. At a Zoom call on Monday, author of the book The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb Gar Alperovitz said that to a person contemporary military leaders went on the record to say there was no need to use the atomic bombs on Japan. The war had already been won.

On July 1, 1968, states began to sign the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which entered into force on March 5, 1970. Every state on the planet has joined the treaty with the exception of India, Israel, Pakistan, and South Sudan. India, Israel and Pakistan have nuclear weapons. The treaty has three interrelated parts: non-proliferation, disarmament, and peaceful use of nuclear energy. Article VI states, “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” 75 years after Trinity we missed the “early date” by a country mile.

Progress is measured in a meeting of the parties every five years. This year’s scheduled NPT review conference was postponed until next year because of the coronavirus pandemic. In the Trump administration nuclear arms control is not even up for discussion, except to eliminate constraints on “American freedom.” The U.S. plans to spend $1 trillion on the nuclear complex in the coming years. That will drive Russia to do likewise. FOX News personality Chris Wallace recently wrote a popular book regurgitating false myths about the history of the atomic bomb. Alperovitz debunked some of Wallace’s claims on Monday.

Also on Monday Sueichi Kido spoke about his experience as a five-year-old during the bombing of Nagasaki. People like him are called hibakusha or survivors of the atomic explosions at Hiroshima or Nagasaki in 1945. Over the years he and other hibakusha told their story many times. The hibakusha are aging and will soon all be gone. Along with them will go living memory of the effects of a nuclear weapon.

Truth matters and one truth is the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unnecessary. Atomic bombs were never needed for defense. Their existence, as demonstrated at Trinity, would fuel the Cold War and the idea of mutually assured destruction should they be used. This is crazy talk. Nuclear weapons must be eliminated and the only way to do that, to pierce the wall of our federal government, is citizen action demanding it. On the 75th anniversary of Trinity it’s past time we took action.

Living in Society

Simple and Easy Change or Voter Suppression?

Iowa Capitol

As chair of the Iowa House State Government Committee, Representative Bobby Kaufmann was quick to get out into the newspapers in his district to explain the last minute dealings regarding voting process as the second session of the 88th Iowa General Assembly adjourned Sine Die on June 14.

“The legislation that passed simply requires a Secretary of State to run changes to election law by the Legislature,” Kaufmann wrote in the June 25 Solon Economist.

He went on to explain new restrictions for county auditors in processing absentee ballot requests: they must contact the voter if something is missing on the form. This is instead of the current process of filling in missing information when it is available.

“That is all the bill does. It ensures that a person who wants an absentee ballot is the person who actually receives it,” Kaufmann wrote. “This is no different than if you forget your password for online banking, your credit card, or a loan at the bank.”

Sounds pretty simple and easy doesn’t it? Not so fast!

Representative Mary Mascher, ranking member of the State Government Committee, believes the new law creates barriers to voting and explained it in this July 9 letter to the editor of the Solon Economist:

Barriers to voting have been opposed by House and Senate Democrats for many years. Voter Suppression bills have been proposed and passed over the last four years by Legislative Republicans. Those laws disproportionately impact our elderly, people with disabilities, minorities and the poor. The legislation that was added to the omnibus budget bill in the last hours of the 2020 session created another barrier for the groups listed above.

This is why.

Voters requesting an absentee ballot are required to included their driver’s license number or their unique pin number on the (ABR) absentee ballot request form. The pin number was issued from the Secretary of State’s Office to all voters who did not have a driver’s license or a DOT Identification ID. Those pins were mailed out months ago. Many voters did not keep those pin numbers in a safe place or threw away the letter thinking it was junk mail. So many voters do not have easy access to those numbers.

If a voter fails to include their pin or driver’s license number they will not be automatically mailed their ballot. The auditor has access to the unique pin number but they are not allowed to fill that number in and mail out the ballot!

This is what the County Auditors will be required to do.

First the auditor must try to contact the voter by phone. Many voters no longer include their phone number on their voter registration because they do not want to receive the hundreds of phone calls that candidates and parties have access to if they provide that number. Some voters do not share their cell number for privacy reasons. Some voters do not have phones or have limited minutes on those phones so it may be impossible for the auditors to contact them by phone.

Second the auditor must try to contact the voter by e-mail. Again not all voters have e-mail or include those e-mail addresses on their voter registration form. For low income voters that option is not even realistic. They may not have a computer, internet access or a phone that allows them to receive an e-mail. Many have track phones or phones with limited minutes and cannot receive e-mails through those phones.

Third the auditor must mail the voter a letter through the US Postal System letting them know they have left vital information off of their ABR and they must contact the auditor’s office in order to receive an ballot for the upcoming election. If they contact the auditor’s office they will be able to verify their voter information and the auditor can then send them a ballot. If the voter thinks the letter is more junk mail they may end up throwing it away and will never know why they did not receive their ballot. If the voter receives the letter and fails to contact the auditor’s office they will not receive a ballot.

I have listed some of the flaws in the system above but here is one more challenge for auditors. They must phone, e-mail or mail the letter to the voter within 24 hours of receiving the ABR. Most auditors do not have enough staff to do this within this restrictive time frame. The larger counties may receive literally thousands of ABRs in a day. If hundreds of those ABRs have no pin or driver’s license number it will be physically impossible for the auditor’s staff to complete the requirements above in 24 hours.

If the vital information is missing and the voter requests the absentee ballot close to the day of the election. It may be impossible for the voter to provide the needed information and get the ballot prior to the election.

These burdensome requirements, with nearly identical wording, were in the original 2017 voter ID law, but the state Supreme Court overturned the requirements as an undue burden on voters.

Election fraud in our Iowa Elections is extremely rare. Our county auditors take their jobs seriously and do everything they can to make sure our elections are safe, secure and fair. Due to the COVID virus more voters will choose the option of voting by mail. We know this occurred during the recent 2020 Primary Election where records were broken across the state. Making it more difficult to request an ABR at this time is voter suppression at its worst. This is why Democrats opposed this provision and fought to defeat it on the floor of the House.

For most voters providing a pin or a driver’s license number on their ABR will not be a problem but for the elderly, people with disabilities, our minority populations and low income Iowans this could result in them being denied the right to vote and that is just plain wrong!

State Rep. Mary Mascher

Buyer beware when Republicans propose changes in voting laws.

~ The Solon Economist is available by subscription only. The entire Kaufmann column can be found in this clipping. Mary Mascher’s letter is used with her permission. This post was written for Blog for Iowa.