Who’s Running This City Anyway??

Who’s Running This City Anyway??

Two stories over the past two weeks have called into question over “who really runs the city.”

An anonymous source leaked to the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier of a heated email exchange between Mayor Quentin Hart and councilman Tim Lind over the process of hiring a part-time communications director. By all accounts, Hart followed the rules, and had authority, to hire a part-time position…without seeking the city council’s approval.

While that was going on, the city of Muscatine has themselves a soap opera brewing. Their city council has filed impeachment charges against their mayor, Diane Broderson. Broderson filed suit against the city council for attempting to strip her powers as mayor over a similar situation: the appointment of board and commission members.

Yes, Hart and Broderson are facing elements of racial and gender factors (Hart is black, Broderson is female), but the crux of this is usually a long-running issue: who has more power…the mayor, the city council, or the city manager/administrator.

When I moved to Davenport in 2015, it’s city administrator Craig Malin resigned as former mayor Bill Gluba was canvassing votes for Malin’s ouster over the planned move of Rhythm City Casino to a location near the intersection of Interstate 80 and 74. The fiasco cost Gluba dearly, as he lost to Frank Klipsch in the mayoral election that fall.

This is not a surprise. Nor should it be.

Local governments, much like Congress, can turn citizens into power hungry egomaniacs hell-bent on forcing their own personal “Manifest Destiny” once they get elected.

I don’t much know about Muscatine (only what I have read), but I do know Waterloo. It’s my hometown.

qhart
Mayor Quentin Hart of Waterloo, Iowa. (Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier)

From what I can gauge with Waterloo (and I could be wrong), there is a city councilman, Steve Schmitt, that has ran for mayor several times and have lost each time. Hart was a city councilman until he ran and was elected mayor. The problem is that Schmitt has a reputation of questioning the mayor’s office and the competency of Hart and his predecessor, Tim Hurley, That has only intensified with Hart now in the mayor’s office.

Last summer, Schmitt engineered a council vote to reject footing the bill for Hart to attend a mayor’s conference in Washington, D.C.. Hart had to pay for the trip out of his own pockets, along with a little help from a Kickstarter campaign from several of his supporters.

This isn’t the only time Schmitt has placed himself as a “wannabe” mayor. He acts like a mayor, talks like a mayor, tries to do business as a mayor….but he isn’t the mayor. The mayor has authority, and that authority is being undermined. The email flap between Hart and councilman Tim Lind has exacerbated matters.

dbroderson
Mayor Diane Broderson of Muscatine, Iowa (Quad City Times)

In the Broderson matter, the Muscatine city council has worked feverishly to strip all of Broderson’s authority as mayor, citing “habitual neglect” of her “fiduciary duties.” This stems from last August when the city council began the process to change the appointment authority for boards and commissions to a nominating committee, and the ability to appoint and remove the fire and police chiefs to the city administrator, subject to the approval of the city council.

A nominating committee comprised of two council members, the mayor, and the city administrator or appointed staff member was created to review applications for boards and commissions and bring recommendations to the city council for approval. Previously, the mayor held appointment and removal powers, subject to the approval of the council.

A letter was sent to Muscatine citing that the changes could be in violation of the Iowa Code. According to the Code, a city with a population of 8,000 or more should appoint three civil service commissioners to handle the appointments if there is a paid fire and/or police department.

Upon learning of the city council’s attempt to strip her powers as mayor, Broderson filed a suit against the city council to block them from moving forward with their plans.

And all we care about is what is going on in Washington, and there is trouble in our own backyards. 

As Strother Martin said in “Cool Hand Luke” “What we got here is failure to communicate.” Since when do city councils, school boards, or any other elected forms of council decided that they know how to run a city better than a mayor, city administrator, or a city manager?

Quentin Hart and Diane Broderson has to be thinking to themselves what Bill Parcells famously said about coaching and running a football team:

If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.

These are power play moves in politics. When voters keep re-electing people, the less likely those incumbents are willing to upset the status quo. When someone new arrives and attempts to change the culture, there will always be pushback.

But these pushbacks that are being waged at Hart and Broderson looks like a Sunday School picnic where everyone wants to hand out a slice of pound cake, but they’re unwilling to slice an equal amount of cake to share.

But, what do I know? No one is going to read this blog. I talk about topics no one cares about…unless if it’s about protest marches and building walls.

Unpopular Opinions

Unpopular Opinions
img_2483
“Duuuude, I have an unpopular opinion. Is it cool to say it here?”

It is a scary proposition when you offer an unpopular opinion (or UPO on this blog going forward). For one, you worry about the instant reaction of people (who don’t read the “why”), and two you worry about how your interaction with people will go moving forward.

There are far too many folks carrying grudges, past and present, that will ultimately kill them. Karma has a way of doing that.

There are those who, agree or disagree with you, who are willing to let you offer your opinion and your rationale, without getting pissy about it. For me, I will give an opinion and I drop it after that. I said what I needed to say and I move on.

It’s called civil discourse. Sadly, way too many people doesn’t think that being civil does anything. I disagree with that. It depends on the individual and how they respond to it.

If you interact with an overly emotional person, they will talk with their hearts. With an irrational person, they will be all over place. A person who will think about it without haste and offer a salient observation, might offer some points that you may not think of.

As a way to get back into my writing mode (and start rebuilding content), I will offer some unpopular opinions and a reason for them.

Remember, you don’t have to read them, if you don’t like them. There are plenty of other blogs and written materials you can read. Or, you can write your own blog.

UPO #1: Pseduo-celebrities like Mr. Sulu (George Takei), Matt Walsh, D.L. Hughley, Henry Rollins , Shaun King, and other who feel the need to offer an opinion on everything. Chill with the Facebook posts, fellas. It’s alright to take a “topic” off once in awhile…or maybe a few more.

UPO #2: I’ve never watched Jon Stewart, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Maher, Keith Olbermann (post-ESPN) or Stephen Colbert. It doesn’t make me a conservative nor a liberal. I was never interested in them, just as much as I was not interested in “Friends”, reality television shows, and various people and things.

An observation came to mind: are there viewers like me that are tired of hearing middle-aged white men (on both sides of the ideological aisles) bloviating to no end about how the world should look like in their own eyes?

UPO #3: Award shows for entertainers. It has become social media troll fodder for people who aspire to be Siskel and Ebert, but they tweet more like Waldorf and Stadler.

UPO #4: Barack Obama isn’t the greatest President we ever had, and I’m not a fan of the incessant lovefest.  Each president is just a guy who was elected to keep us from being one step closer to going nuts as a nation. History will determine Obama’s tenure in about a decade. To add, the presidents, in my view, are just humans. Not perfect, not completely flawed. I only vote for the person who I view can do the best job, not who’s more “presidential” based on looks and presence.

Best Presidents: Washington (he was the first, so he had to set a precedent), Lincoln (for the Civil War, freedom of slaves), Franklin D. Roosevelt (WWII, WPA, and Great Depression), and John F. Kennedy (NASA, and introducing a new generation to public service).

UPO #5: This isn’t “Trump’s America” Cut that shit out. This is AMERICA. We’ve been through wars, tragedies, bad decisions, and everything else since our existence.

We will get through this. If you doubt that, then you doubt yourself.

I feel better now. Okay, on to other stuff that isn’t political, divisive, and tiresome.

Wait…I sort of lied. I need to get this off of my topic pile.

Colin Cowherd, who is notorious for “hot sports takes”, from time to time will offer something about his profession that can be considered as “ugly truth”. He laid out something that most Americans are too lazy to figure out, especially when it comes to political and sports shows: it’s not about information. It’s about being “interesting”. Saying something outrageous turns more heads than a sabermetrics geek talking baseball numbers and a policy wonk explaining nuances of a bill. Viewers only care to see what you will say next, and if it’s more outlandish than the next.

The idea of substantive and nuanced discussion with subject matter experts certainly exists, but doesn’t work as well as selling certainty and hot takes to a droll mainstream audience clamoring for more buffoonery.

Clemson being a fraud (or any team getting that label) is what the audience wants to hear. People tweet it, post it on message boards, and talk about it in their social circles and on talk radio. It reverberates. Agree or disagree, it’s something to talk about, and regardless if he’s wrong, you’re going to keep coming back if you like this particular flavor of hot take.

The idea of him (Cowherd) and others saying something like “Clemson has had an up and down and year and I think they’re going to have problems against Ohio State or Alabama. I don’t know, we’ll see……should be a good game”, does not payoff in the sports media world. – Ben Koo, Awful Announcing, Jan 10, 2017

As Koo pointed out, sports isn’t the only place where this tactic takes place.

Politics is loaded with this. Koo finished with this line in his column, “Until people opt to tune out personalities and shows that make noise for the sake of making noise, this is what you get.”

Several years ago, I wrote suggesting that people “tune out” Iowa congressional representative Steve King. A good number of Democrats thought my suggestion was dumb. “WE HAVE TO MAKE PEOPLE NOTICE ABOUT  HIM!!”

How’s that going, Democrats, RAYGUN, and everyone else?  He’s still in Congress, so your efforts to “bring light” about his antics backfired.

It’s Psychology 101: the less attention you give to an attention-seeker, the less relevant that person becomes, because people will stop listening.

If the story of Senator Joe McCarthy doesn’t ring a bell….Google it up. Read what happens when attorney Joseph Welch calls McCarthy out over the Communism “blacklist” hearings. No one paid attention to McCarthy after that.

That’s how you handle an attention-seeker. Not printing t-shirts with catchy slogans, jumping on social media and retweeting statements.

But telling that to a Democrat or a Republican is like talking to a…ahem…wall. They’re too obsessed to let go from a mental aspect.

But, what do I know? No one’s going to read this blog post anyway. I write about topics that no one is “interested” in.

Pretty much the case with any blogs.

 

Being A Voter Doesn’t Give You The Civic Duty to Be A Jerk

Being A Voter Doesn’t Give You The Civic Duty to Be A Jerk

Being “a self-important clown” isn’t something that most people will like to hear, but as someone who spends time observing and evolving, your views do shift.

As in the case of the election last week. One of the common themes about voting is that if you don’t vote, then you should not have a voice or an avenue to talk about the issues.

This is a clown. A "self-important clown" is someone who think and act like they're better than anyone else. When it comes to voters, we tend to act like elite jerks, all in the name of "civic duty."
This is a clown. A “self-important clown” is someone who think and act like they’re better than anyone else. When it comes to voters, we tend to act like elite jerks, all in the name of “civic duty.”

I used to be one of those people, as this post in 2010 can attest to.

Therefore, I am a “self-important clown”, and I deserved it.

Here is my “mea culpa”.

Over the past 10 months, my view has changed with regards to how we treat and dismiss people who are do not follow politics and do not vote, and when they speak out about issues that are important, voters dismiss them for not doing their “civic duty.”

This took shape over the past week when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (Kaep for short) announced that he did not vote because he had deep reservations about both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, alluding to the “systemic oppression” that continues to be prevalent in the United States with respects to African-Americans.

Kaepernick has been critical of both candidates for months. “You have Hillary [Clinton], who has called black teens or black kids super predators,” he said in August. “You have Donald Trump, who is openly racist.”

“I’ve been very disconnected from the systematic oppression as a whole,” he told reporters. “So, for me, it’s another face that’s going to be the face of that system of oppression.

“And to me, it didn’t really matter who went in there (to be elected), the system still remains intact that oppresses people of color,” he added.

-Michael Sebastian, Esquire Magazine, November 10, 2016

Colin Kaepernick. (Jake Roth, USA Today)
Colin Kaepernick. (Jake Roth, USA Today)

The reaction, no surprise, was one of furor…by voters.

Stephen A. Smith, ESPN’s resident loud-mouthed “hot take” troll, spent nearly 13 minutes calling Kaepernick a ‘hypocrite”, because he did not vote. Ironically, Kaepernick is on the forefront of speaking about the escalating and long-running issue of race and police brutality.

That is when it struck me. Here is a dude who felt compelled to take a knee to protest and elicit conversation about the current treatment of African-Americans in this country, and the people who supported him are admonish him for not voting.

Several days later, Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Mike Evans sat down during the national anthem to protest the election of Trump.  When asked if he voted, Evans said no, citing that he is not a political person. On the following day, he apologized for sitting down and offered to find another way to address the situation.

Evans received the same vitriol that Kaepernick received.

Evans and Kaepernick are individuals who are not political or follow politics by any means. And yet, they were chastised for not voting by people who did vote.

“If you don’t vote, don’t complain.” 

That is the stupidest line ever uttered.

Voters, including me, are the ultimate hypocrites.

I’ve written this in the past about my perspective on politics and viewpoints: I don’t tell people how or who to vote for. Anyone who does that, isn’t a very confident person and uses bullying to get their way.

I will amend this with the following: if someone is not interested in politics, they should not have to vote for the sake of voting.

That is what nearly 47% of the nation did….not vote. They’re fed up with the state of affairs in this country. That was their protest vote, if that’s how you want to spin it.

Mike Evans of Tampa Bay. Evans didn't get the attention that Kaepernick received, but it didn't go unnoticed with some, like ESPN's Bomani Jones. (Athletes Speakers)
Mike Evans of Tampa Bay. Evans didn’t get the attention that Kaepernick received, but it didn’t go unnoticed with some, like ESPN’s Bomani Jones. (Athletes Speakers)

Clinton and Trump had way too much baggage and their actions speak for themselves.

 

But, of course, what do I know? No one wants to read what I’m writing. And I’m not a Democrat or a Republican. Both groups are grandstanding jackasses.

What Kaep said drove home the point: it didn’t matter who was elected, it was going to be business as usual, and neither Clinton or Trump was going to seriously address racial relations.

Bomani Jones of ESPN talked about the Evans story on Monday afternoon and debunked the so-called narrative about the importance of voting as it relates to someone having an opinion.

The monologue begins around the 11:20 mark.

Voting gives people the false sense that they are making a difference, when they are really not, as Jones pointed out (and rightfully so). Putting on a “I Voted!” sticker, to show people how “patriotic” we are and our obligation to perform a civic duty, and then flaunting in the face of others reeks of elitism and hubris.

When did having a “vote” gives you the authority to tell people who didn’t vote that they shouldn’t complain or say anything that they see as an issue?  

It is not a civic duty. It is a choice.

If it is such a civic duty, then why do we vote, if we have no interest to vote for two candidates that America was unhappy about?

So we can get a sticker and feel individually empowered without any guilt? Does voting empower us to act like raving lunatics and lose our shit over an election?

If that is the case, then all of us are fear mongers.

What does that prove?

If you had a choice, who would you not see vote? A conspiracy theorist, a racist, a misogynist, someone who leans toward a third party candidates, or someone who is not well-informed about the issues and yet have an opinion?

Many of you would prefer that all of them don’t vote.

Bomani Jones of ESPN. An underrated rational voice of reason. (ESPN)
Bomani Jones of ESPN. An underrated rational voice of reason. (ESPN)

But…they do vote. If you try to keep them from voting, you are in fact suppressing them from voting. Jones’ argument is that voters go out of their way to dismiss the view of those who are not political, by using the “did you vote?” rationale as an excuse.

There is a lot of places around in America that are trying to suppress voters these days. You will talk about that, but we ignore our level of suppression towards those who may vote for someone who you oppose, or doesn’t vote at all.

Just because we vote, it does not and should not make us feel entitled and privileged to tell those who chose not to vote that their opinion and their causes do not matter.

We, the voters, are suppressing people’s voices, all in the name of a “civic duty” that we are “obligated” to do.

That’s being a hypocrite.

We live in America, where we are free to make choices. Third world citizens would do anything to live here and be free to live however they choose.

To tell them that they have to vote for the sake of voting, is hollow.

If people do not see any reason to be politically active or take part in something they are not crazy about, then they are free to do what they want.

They pay taxes too.

I will no longer dismiss anyone who are interested and concern about the issues that are important to them, without holding a pithy obligation to perform a civic duty over their heads.

Oh, and voters, stop being assholes (including me).

But what do I know…no one is going to read this anyway.

 

An Identity Crisis

An Identity Crisis
mr-ed-the-horse-with-alan-young
Horses don’t vote, but they do watch television, like Mr. Ed.

I didn’t watch a second of the election night coverage. I watched a Mid-American Conference football game, listened to a hockey game and the Lakers on my SiriusXM radio app.

I was in no mood to read the instant whining from losers and the obnoxious gloating from winners. Neither of them serves any purpose.

Social media are inundated with people who spent all week ranting and finding new complaints to rant about. No wonder why people “detox” from social media, namely those who are still butthurt and upset over the results.

Here is my suggestion: create and write a blog. No one wants to spend their time on Facebook reading a 1,000+ word blog. No one cares, except for those who are interested in reading your thoughts.

Or hit up Medium and Huffington Post, where pretty much anyone can write for them (I would advice Medium. I hear that Huff Post has a reputation of not paying their bloggers).

With that in mind, since I do have a blog, and 1300 words to hammer out…

…there are several observations that stood out to me during the last two  election cycles (2014 and 2016): disgruntled voters, lack of quality candidates, and an identity crisis.

Let me preface: I’m not a political analyst or some campaign insider, nor am I a Democrat, Republican, or a  Communist.

  • When faced with deciding between two unpopular candidates, nearly half (roughly 47%) of the eligible electorate said “screw this” or “no thanks” and did three things…
  1. …either they voted for a third-party presidential candidate…
  2. …they did not mark a presidential candidate on their ballot. They voted for everyone else, but they were not going to be pressured to vote for two of the unpopular candidates in American history to date…
  3. …or they didn’t vote at all.

There is no such thing as the lesser of two evils. In the eyes of many voters, both of them were unfit to run the United States.

Rebuffed for President for a 2nd time, Hillary Clinton will have to figure out her next chapter.
Rebuffed for President for a 2nd time, Hillary Clinton will have to figure out her next chapter.

This is the candidate’s fault for not doing enough to prove to those voters that they best represent those voters’ views. It was clear that a sizable number of the electorate did not feel that both Clinton and Trump represented their views.

You want more voters to support your candidate?  Tell your candidate to do better next time. Check that, demand it. Tell your candidate not to be a disconnected jerk to potential voters. Voters are not stupid. They can see through bullcrap. After all, they are the ones who voted for that person.

It is an indictment on both Democrats and Republicans: they only cater to certain groups and shut out those that they really need. Mind you, some Democrats, notably Sanders supporters, bail on the Dems and supported Jill Stein. Some Republicans bailed out and supported Gary Johnson.

Time and time again, voters’ displeasure of the dog-and-pony show in Washington have built up to a boiling point. Continued gridlock, “politic-speak”, posturing, and egos have been the norm. It also doesn’t help that there is more distrust of the political infrastructure as it relates to how much money and power is permeated within both political parties.

Straight cash, homie. 

  • 2014 should have been a wake-up call, but 2016 provided a harsh reality:  the talent pool of elected officials are weak, crappy, and awful. There’s no way to sugarcoat it.

Iowa State Senator Rob Hogg was the leading Democratic candidate to go up against Chuck Grassley in the U.S. Senate race. Then, out of nowhere, the powers that be at the DNC endorsed former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge to run for the Senate seat. Maybe it was Judge’s name brand over a lesser known Hogg.

Hogg never had a chance as Judge defeated him in the primary, and was the Democratic candidate against Grassley.

Everyone knew she had no chance.  The cows in the pasture knew she had no chance.

Judge got clobbered in the general election.

Hogg would have been a new face and possibly brought a new line of thinking and opportunity. The DNC didn’t see it that way, for whatever odd reason.

Here in Iowa, the Congressional delegation was re-elected. Very typical of Iowa voters: we keep sending incumbents back. That’s what we do.

  • Which leads into this observation: today’s Democratic Party and Republican Parties are at a crossroads.

They have an identity crisis.

The old-school establishment of both parties got “trumped” by a loose cannon with a brand who was not going to play their game. He played his own game…and won. The biggest losers were the Republicans and the Democrats.

"They laugh alike, they walk alike, and sometimes they even talk alike..." The Republicans and Democrats are both identical in that they have some rebuilding to do in their organization and with those who support them.
“They laugh alike, they walk alike, and sometimes they even talk alike…” The Republicans and Democrats are both identical in that they have some rebuilding to do in their organizations and with those who support them, after getting cold-cocked by Donald Trump.

Voters have no faith in government to operate and do things in the best interest of the public. Secondly, the attack against the media is fair, but let this famous story about Leslie Stahl and the Reagan White House teach you that no matter how much the media tries to tell a story, campaigns and viewers will see another story.

Mass chaos was bound to happen…but this wasn’t the  candidate or the perfect storm everyone expected.

Or was it??

It’s time for both political parties to seriously look at themselves in the mirror and figure out how to change with the times and the evolving world, because whatever they are doing, it’s not working, and last week it showed.

The Dems went through that in ’68, and the GOP did the same after Watergate. It takes something pretty big to make organizations, people, and entities to refocus and shift priorities to keep up.

Both Dems and GOP had internal fighting and strife among their ranks. GOP members distancing themselves from Trump on one end, and Bernie Sanders supporters who steadfastly refused to trust and support Clinton and her campaign.

As Strother Martin said in “Cool Hand Luke”

No, enhancing social media, pushing more absentee voting, or getting on MTV to do town halls isn’t going to entice voters to come back to the fold. And no, running out celebrities to tell people to vote isn’t going to work either…unless you’re gullible enough to listen to people who live in mansions in California and have little interaction with you unless you’re paying money to see them perform.

Who are the Democrats? Who are the Republicans? What do they stand for?

Do they represent everyone or only a few? Is it an open door policy or just the “establishment” reign supreme? Everyone knows that about the GOP, but as we learned publicly with the Sanders supporters, shutting out populist ideas in favor of the perceived “establishment” makes Democrats mirror Republicans to a “T.”

Will they continue to align themselves with the business world? Will they finally get around to addressing the African-American community and the continuous issues involving race and human treatment, or will they talk about the black community to the white audiences that they are trying to court? That’s pretty much with Clinton and Trump were doing according to ESPN’s Bomani Jones.

The silly notion of whites shaming each other for anything is more amusing than anything I’ve ever seen.

Being out of touch isn’t good for both of them. Not willing to “change up” their game will make voters consider walking away from both in the future.

A quick fix isn’t going to work. Similar to 1968 and Watergate, it’s going to take several years for Dems and GOP to figure out who they really are and what direction they are going from this point forward. Disgruntled voters will seek other candidates and organizations that mirror their views. Sooner or later, that idealistic third-party will evolve and become an option.

“The Longest Week” at 35: The First Major Story I Remembered As A Kid

“The Longest Week” at 35: The First Major Story I Remembered As A Kid
Waterloo Courier headline July 13, 1981
Waterloo Courier headline July 13, 1981.

Every five years, or a quinquennial, I pull out the old newspaper clippings like clockwork.

The gravitational pull of an unsettling anniversary continues to bring new angles and perspectives that percolate.

Age and time can do that to a person.

Over the past week, a popular question was asked on social media:“What was the first major news story you were aware of as a kid?”

Many responded: the JFK assassination, the September 11th attacks (15 years coming up), Challenger (30 years ago this past January), among many. Some also had local stories that were the first big news story that they remembered.

For me, it was, and always will be July 12, 1981.

Thirty-five years ago this evening, Waterloo, Iowa police officers Michael Hoing and Wayne Rice were gunned down during a noise dispute at a home.  A manhunt followed as the suspect, James Michael “T-Bone” Taylor, was on the loose and was eventually captured.

Taylor was and will always be the first major news story I remember vividly because that week was surreal and scary.

Page A3 of the Waterloo Courier, July 13, 1981, on the story of two Waterloo police officers slain.

To write a personal account of the story reinforces the impact that the case has in my life and the history of my hometown.

Several things have happened in the past five years since I wrote “The Longest Week” on July 12, 2011.

In March 2014, Taylor and former Iowa State Patrol Sergeant Marvin Messerschmidt died within a week of each other. Messerschmidt was the officer who chased down Taylor in a bean field outside of LaPorte City. Taylor stumbled to the ground, Messerschmidt apprehended him, ending the largest manhunt in Iowa history.

On the morning after Taylor’s death, I received a phone message from Adam Amdor. Amdor formerly worked at KWWL-TV (he currently works in public relations). Everyone’s friend Paul Yeager suggested to Adam to reach out to me.

Adam wanted to link my story to KWWL’s website story on Taylor’s death.  I was caught off guard by his request. After thinking it over (quickly), it was a story that needed to be told, for educational and historical purposes. I am a strong proponent of using history as a form of education. I called Adam and left a voice mail, giving my permission to link my post.

I prepared myself for an onslaught of reaction, comments, or something trollish.

It didn’t happen.

What did happen was that people read the post to get an understand the events of that hot humid week in July 1981 in the eyes of a five-year old kid. To this day, it is the most read blog post on this site.

The Taylor story stands out as a moment that remains a permanent fixture in the Cedar Valley.

———————————–

“Hi, are you the one who wrote about T-Bone Taylor?”

The Facebook message blinked across my screen two weeks after Taylor’s death.

“Yes, I am the person who wrote it.”

Her request was simple. She was attempting to write a book about the slayings and the eventual forgiveness of Taylor and the families affected.

I consented to help, but I acknowledged to her that I did not know all of the details of what was said and done, outside of what I remembered and the recollections of my father. Remember, I was five years old. Five year old kids see everything and asks a lot questions that adults do not feel comfortable answering, especially at that time.

We traded information on what we gathered. I felt that she has some salient material to go with, especially the time period from the trial until Taylor’s death. That angle was one of great interest to me.

After a month or so, due to personal issues, she abandoned the project. I never heard from her after that. It was unfortunate, but as the cliché goes “life gets in the way” and it does.

—————————–

Once in a while, I’ll glance at the post, and the late Randy Brubaker comes to mind. Brubaker was the Des Moines Register’s news desk editor. Randy passed away from heart failure in May 2014. Bru grew up in Waterloo, and he knew all about the Taylor case.

“Bru” sent me an email days after the original post in ’11. Bru said that it would be a good idea to pitch the story to the Register’s editorial board because it was one of the biggest stories in Iowa over the last 50 years.

I sent an email to Randy Evans, who was on the editorial board until his retirement about a year ago. That idea didn’t go anywhere, but it was worth pitching a story.

IMG_1879

When I wrote the original story, the one thing I never did was to pull out the old clippings, take a picture of them, and post them. I decided to do it for this post. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier has several more archives of “the longest week” (front page headlines, the manhunt, and the timeline).

I don’t know why this story continues to be a major part of my life.

Maybe I do know why. I lived through that week. My grandparents and father had an indirect connection to it. I remember the weather, the sense of fear, the surrealism of the events.

The best answer for it?

It was the first major news story I remembered as a kid, and it’s the one I can never forget.

“We Were Going to Get Here Anyway”

“We Were Going to Get Here Anyway”
We have a hard time accepting and practicing this term.
We have a hard time accepting and practicing this term.

By definition, the word “patience” is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.

For most of my generation, patience means little. In my 30’s, I learned that not everything will happen when you demand it, and on your time.

The recent events over the past week has proven again on why “patience” can be irritating and beneficial.

Let’s start with the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision last Friday striking down the ruling that same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. I laugh when I see people react like fools on both sides of the issue: pastors setting themselves on fire, people changing their Facebook profile to show their picture in the colors of the rainbow, which is the universal symbol for the LGBT community.

I’m not surprised.  That’s why we’re humans. We behave in ways that I shake my head in disbelief.

Whatever happen to people like me who saw the news and said “I may agree (or disagree) with it, but I can live with it.”

I said this in 2013 in reference to NBA player Jason Collins: we will come to a point where no one cares about an individual’s sexual preference. The same can be applied to different forms of marriages.

I learn how to adapt, accept it, and go about my day. It’s time for it to happen.

We would going to get to this point anyway, whether we liked it or not.

But let the social media mob run roughshod on just about anything, and you want to quit Facebook to get away from the silliness.

When asked for my opinion of the ruling, I calmly said “That’s nice.”

“What do you mean, ‘That’s nice?!?’ Are you happy about it? What IS YOUR OPINION OF IT?!?!?!”

“I’m cool with it. If you expect me to jump up and down about it, you’re talking to the wrong guy.”

“You mean, you’re not surprised about this? How can you be so calm and passive about this?  This is a big deal!!”

“Why in the hell should I be? We were going to get here (with this news) anyway.”

That person wasn’t sure if I was a fire-breathing religious conservative or a bleeding-heart liberal.

It doesn’t matter if I like or reject the ruling. What is important is that I follow the rules, adhere to them, and live my life.

Sadly, for many people I know on Facebook, Twitter, or in real life, that’s not a good enough response from me. They wanted more of my “reaction” to the SCOTUS ruling.

Nice try. That’s my response and I’m sticking to it: calm, sensible, and practical.

I’ve long since stopped making a fuss about many topics, including same-sex issues. I had mentally “accepted” years ago that same-sex marriages should be legal. After all, interfaith marriages and interracial marriages happen everyday. And there are people, liberal or conservative, who are not fans of either of those types of marriages as well.

We were going to get here anyway.

Moderates, like me, witness historical events and we’re going to roll with it. For better or for worse. Democrats and Republicans lose their proverbial shit about anything that moves on Twitter.

If you let a political party dictate how you feel, I can’t help you there.

We’ve been down this societal road before: smoking, civil rights for minorities, and other events.

Nothing is going to be perfect. Never have…never will, so let’s stop with the Pollyanna narrative as it relates to Friday’s ruling. Same sex couples will divorce, bicker, and go through domestic violence  just like heterosexual couples.

Not all marriages are perfect. They take work and patience.

Which brings up the Dixie (Confederate) flag. Now, let me address the shootings in Charleston first. I think it is lazy of us to treat the shooting deaths of nine individuals in a historical African-American church as a secondary item, so we can spend most of our time debating about a flag. The very same flag that was a symbol that we ignored for so long, it’s pretty embarrassing and hypocritical.  The shootings and the flag are two vastly separate issues in my opinion. Let’s treat them as such with common sense.

It doesn’t erase the fact that a deranged person who had very dark and sinister racial attitudes walked into a church and opened fire.

Now, how many of us knew why the LGBT pride flag is a rainbow flag? You learn something new every day.
Now, how many of us knew why the LGBT pride flag is a rainbow flag? You learn something new every day.

Those who quickly brought up the flag moments after the shooting, clearly had an agenda to propagate: get rid of the flag, because it cause the shooter to kill innocent victims.

The flag didn’t cause that individual to kill people. He had his mind set on harming people because he chose to do so.

My take is this: the flag should not be used in a public setting (government buildings, post offices, et cetera). Yes, people are going to display it on their own personal terms. Much like those who will display the Nazi flag, any offensive materials (racist, sexist, juvenile, to name a few), and yes the LGBT flag, along with an Iowa Hawkeyes or ISU Cyclones flag.

We can’t completely eliminate its use. You can thank the 1st Amendment for that.

That’s the way it is. If you want to fly the LGBT flag, you have a right to do that. So does someone who wants to fly a Dixie flag…on their own property.

If anything, negative symbols should remind us of our history and the impact it has caused. This country has a history of great and very ugly moments. To wipe clean of the ugly, is to deny the fact that it happened.

We can’t change the past…but do we really learn from it?

The answer is no, because we hate to learn from history. History doesn’t “wow” us. It’s boring.

History is relevant to how we face moments like now: with clarity or with irrationality.  If we don’t learn from history, we’re screwed.

The Civil Rights bill got a lot people talking and taking sides 51 years ago this summer. What happened? People accepted it and moved on, whether they agreed with it or not.
The Civil Rights bill got a lot people talking and taking sides 51 years ago this summer. What happened? People accepted it and moved on, whether they agreed with it or not.

How did America react when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964? There were some knuckleheads for sure on both sides, but overall, the majority of Americans knew that it was going to happen. When it did, we accepted it the best way we knew how and we moved on.

The same here with Friday’s ruling: we’ll accept it, like or hate it, but we move on.

The hashtag “love wins” has been used by everyone who is in favor of the ruling. But, I have to ask philosophically, why are we still so hateful towards (immigrants, homeless, handicapped, atheists, etc.) others? It’s pathetic.  “Love wins” when it’s for one group, and not all humans. Something is wrong with that. Doesn’t “love” incorporate everyone, including those you disagree with?

Hypocrisy…all of us are guilty of this.

Did #lovewins move the needle? Or do we still need to really work on that?
Did love really did “win”? We still have to work on that before we finally say that “love wins.”

Love only won the battle. It hasn’t won the war.

For every person who wag their scornful finger at the South for continuing to fly the Dixie flag, are they the same people who blindly ignore the various forms of de facto discrimination like housing, employment and institutional racism in the North?

How many minorities live in Beaverdale?

Why are residents who live downtown against having low-income residents living in their buildings? Are they afraid that these “poor people” are going to “trash” these high-end luxury condos? Low-income or restricted-income residents are not always the ones who trash homes and places, driving the property value down.

When we brag about how progressive we are in Des Moines, why does it feel that we continue to ignore and not include certain groups and neighborhoods?

Just when you think you know what SCOTUS will rule on...yeah, keep guessing.
Just when you think you know what SCOTUS will rule on…yeah, keep guessing.

Everyone’s happy that same-sex marriages are legal, and yet we can’t seem to get our shit together. People are ecstatic about same-sex marriages but we give the evil eye to interracial and interfaith marriages.

It has been an interesting week, but I’m not celebrating or booing about the news. I knew that, eventually, it would happen. It was only a matter of time and circumstances.

It was being patient. It can be irritating and yet beneficial.

We were going to get here anyway.

Closing the Book on “Mad Men”

Closing the Book on “Mad Men”
Sterling Headshot
“Remember, when God closes a door, he opens a dress.” God bless you, Roger Sterling. (PopSugar)

Tonight, it ends.

The story of a guy named Don Draper and the life surrounding an advertising agency in New York’s 1960’s. But, this story doesn’t begin with a script written by Matthew Weiner. It actually began, innocently enough, with a group performing in Des Moines one night. Critically acclaimed group “RJD2” performed at Vaudeville Mews. Popular for the tune “1976” and “Ghostwriter”, little did anyone, or even the group, would know that that another tune “A Beautiful Mine” would be selected by Weiner to be the opening theme to “Mad Men.”

Yes, Des Moines, you had a small part of television history, besides being the home of January Jones (Betty Draper Francis).

We tend to easily toss the banter of “greatest show ever” at anything we just watched (“The Sopranos” and “MAS*H” for examples), but there is something about television series that pulls us in like a black hole. But, there is validity to what The Sopranos and Mad Men mean to today’s television. It was unique, it had interesting characters that resembled the people we’re around these days.  I dare you to tell me you didn’t run across an Uncle Junior, Paulie Walnuts, or a Roger Sterling in your daily lives? Or wait, we wished we would run across people like that…

Remember when Peggy Olson in Season 1?  My how time have changed for Peggy. (Frank Ockenfels / AMC)
Remember when Peggy Olson in Season 1? My how time have changed for Peggy. (Frank Ockenfels / AMC)

Anyway, I have always been fascinated in how we watch television: how we view it, how we expect it to end and the reaction to it when it ends in the way that we did not anticipated it.

Do Colonel Henry Blake and Rosalind Shays come to mind?

As I wrote back in 2010 about the ending of The Sopranos, the idea that we want a perfect ending to a show is only wishful thinking. Shows should challenge our thinking and attitudes on what we think our perceptions are and to get us to view it a different way.

Larry Gelbart nailed it when how he described on MAS*H killing off Henry Blake. The viewers were upset that the writers would create such a killjoy in adding in Blake’s death, but the writers’ had another angle for viewers to understand: MASH wasn’t just a sitcom…it was a sitcom/drama about the reality of war.

So, as AMC closes the book on “Mad Men” this evening, don’t be surprised if the ending you expect isn’t the one you want.

Mind you, Weiner did work on The Sopranos. Anything can happen…just don’t expect it to live up to your own unrealistic expectations.