Steel(ers) Wheels Revisited

Nearly two years ago, I wrote about Matthew Zimmerman, a young Old Order Mennonite, who was embroiled in a fracas with Mitchell County up in northern Iowa when he was pulled over by the sheriff for driving his family tractor on a county road.

He wasn’t drinking or speeding.

It was the wheels.  Mitchell County passed an ordinance prohibiting steel wheels on hard-surface roads.  Only rubber wheels are allowed.  But for young Matthew and his family, their religious beliefs dictate that they use steel wheels.

Today, the case came to ahead as the Iowa Supreme Court ruled on the matter.  The Court ruled in favor of the Mennonites, overruling a district court ruling.

With today’s ruling and the Supreme Court sending the case back to district court, the question is still the same as it was when I posed it in March 2010:  should the laws and ordinances passed by the county or the state be applied to groups who are bound by their religious beliefs, just as they are to non-Mennonites and Amish?  Or do the Mennonites have a legit case to stand on, favoring the laws of their religion over that of Mitchell County?

From the look of it, the Court ruled that the Mennonites did have a legitimate case against Mitchell County.


“Stuck in the Middle With You”


The Iowa Poll on Sunday indicates that the same-sex marriage debate isn't 50-50. It's 30-30-30. That might be a good thing.

My pal Reid Forgrave of the Des Moines Register filed a story on the latest Iowa Poll in Sunday’s Des Moines Register.  The new Iowa Poll showed that the same-sex marriage debate wasn’t entirely pro or against same-sex marriages and rights.

Add “indifferent” to the list.

The same-sex issue was split in three ways:  those who are in favor (32%), not in favor (37%), and have no interest (30%).

To quote Dean Martin, “ain’t that a kick in the head”!

What does this mean?

Live and let live.

This does not suggest that the 30% who are indifferent are in favor of same-sex marriage, nor does it mean they are against it.  The middle are comprised of those who are in favor and who are against it, but they are not going to pitch a bitch and go crazy about it.  With that said, the middle’s perspective is whatever happens, they can live with it.

It’s no secret that our society has dismissed people who profess to be moderates, or in the middle.  You know, the middle is probably smarter than you think.

My initial assessment/interpretation to this poll?  The more both sides keep up with the rhetoric and the gabbing about it, the less likely the middle is going to care about it. Those who are in the middle who look at this way:  the state Supreme Court made their ruling and regardless of if we agree or disagree with it, life moves on and we’ll adapt to the ruling.  That doesn’t mean we don’t care about it.  We care, but we’re not going apeshit about something that has become a part of our society.

Many Americans, Democrat or Republican, black and white, still look in disgust when they see an interracial couple walking down the street.  The GLBT community will have to deal with that everyday as well.

Either you accept it or you don’t.

In other words, not everyone is interested in something that you obsess about so much.

The Shakedown: Post-election edition


The Road to the Statehouse ended on Tuesday.

Election Night has come and have past.  Winners and losers.  Blowouts or tough ones.  In the end, after things calm down in a few days, we will start to sort out what to expect for the next two years.

If you asked me, this is nothing new with national voters.  In the world of “what have you done for me lately (today)” culture, voters expect results today, not in 8 months or a year.  If anything, we the voters are too damn impatient and it continues to be accurate. This is a cycle we go through every two years.

Now, let’s see if my predictions were right, what I missed horribly on, and a few other notes to boot.  At least I’m not afraid to say if I was wrong about anything.  Readers deserve and appreciate bloggers and individuals admitting that.

Got it right on…: Congressional races and the governor’s race.  See, I told you Leonard Boswell is a guy never to count out.  The other four House races went chalk and were never in contention.  Though Ben Lange hasn’t conceded, the 1st District will have Bruce Braley as the winner once the absentees are counted next Tuesday.

Chuck Grassley did defeat Roxanne Conlin for the Senate, but it was how much she lost by that was startling.  I didn’t expect her to get beaten by a 2-1 margin.  I said on Tuesday “it puzzles me on why Conlin didn’t do more in this campaign to make a dent.” From the outside looking in, it appears that whatever her campaign was doing, it wasn’t enough.  There has to be an answer, beyond her opponent, to explain losing by such a large margin.

It leads me to believe that Iowa is still not ready to send a woman or a minority to Congress.  Conlin may have been the best chance to do that.  And that is sad.

Terrace Hill is about have some former tenants return.

For the first time in over 50 years, an incumbent governor was unseated, and for the first time since Samuel Kirkwood, a former governor returns to Terrace Hill.  I said yesterday, and I’ll say it again (thanks to Jordan Lampe for retweeting this line on Twitter) :  what was effective during 1983 to 1995 is not going to be effective in 2011.  You just can’t undo the floor that you are standing on.

Wrong, wrong, wrong…: on the judicial retention of three Iowa Supreme Court justices.  Wow, wow, wow.  Now, before anyone starts over-reacting, here’s a few things to clear out:  with the Constitutional convention ballot defeated, there will be no changes or altering of the Varnum ruling.  No matter what happens at the Statehouse.  Legislators are not judges.  They create bills and passes laws.  It’s the judges’ job to interpret if the law is in accordance to what’s already on the books.  The GLBT community will be alright.  They have more than a strong support group like One Iowa to swat away any threat towards Varnum.

The GLBT, if anything, should thank Chief Justice Ternus, Justices Baker and Streit to “taking one” on the chin for doing their jobs.  It’s a bad loss, but the silver lining is that District Court Judge Robert Hanson, the judge who ruled in favor of Varnum, was retained.  It makes me wonder why BVP didn’t go after him?

Big Winner: not Branstad, not the Tea Party (I’ll have more on them later today), and not the incumbents (more on them today as well).

Don Quixote himself…Bob Vander Plaats.  One way or another, he was going to do whatever to upstage everyone to get attention.  He was going to win, whether it was the governor’s job or mounting the campaign to toss Ternus, Baker, and Streit out.  You know what the means?  Two more years of seeing him around.  Who knows, he might run against Tom Harkin for the Senate in ’12, because no one was going to elect him governor ever.

Big loser: Tea Party.  What?  Hear me out.  The Tea Party wave may have encompassed the entire country, but as I told Michael Libbie and he tweeted it last night, it was the incumbents, for the most part, that dictated Iowa’s election day.  Yeah there were a couple of upsets, but the Tea Party faction didn’t make any inroads in-state whatsoever.

Shocking: how in the hell does Michael Mauro get bumped off in the Secretary of State race against Matt Schultz?  Nearly all of the county recorders across the state endorsed him, he’s very respected on both sides of the political fence, and he loses?  This is what elections are a funny thing.  You never take it for granted.

That will do it for now.  Later today, I write about how the Tea Party got upstaged by an old ally, Incumbents.  After all, Iowa is an Incumbent-friendly state, no matter what political party you are.

Unless you serve in the Iowa House or Senate.

Order and Disorder in the Court

Polk County Courthouse, Des Moines, IA

The job of a judge is to determine if a law was broken, interpret what is said in the code of law, and to uphold order and adjudicate whether a crime was committed or not.

For the most part, judges have to be impartial.  Sadly, sometimes a few of them make the choice to use their political beliefs and sully the reputation of judges who actually do a great and difficult job.

It’s with this in mind, I feel that Bob Vander Plaats‘ (BVP) pursuit of ousting three Iowa Supreme Court justices over Varnum v. Brien is not a viable option.  Why?  Because his crusade is based on an overzealous reaction to the Varnum ruling.  BVP asserts that these “activist” judges were flexing their political ideologies in siding with Varnum in the dispute over allowing gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered individuals to marry.

Is Bob Vander Plaats the Don Quixote of the judicial system?

The justices in question (Martha Ternus, David Baker, and Michael Streit) did not exude arrogance by ruling in favor of Varnum.  Nor did they instituted their ideologies, be political or personal, into the ruling.  Their job is to interpret the ruling to the best of what the law has in place.

This was a legal decision.  Not an emotional decision or a decision to make a political statement.

Of course that brings us to the Cityview “Civic Skinny” article about Judge Mark Bennett.  Bennett, a federal judge for the Northern District of Iowa for the Sioux City courthouse, reportedly has been getting “lippy” and “flippant” with prosecutors and defense attorneys up there.  The problem is that he doesn’t have to face a retention election for he is a federal judge.

Vincent Gambini thinks that Judge Bennett needs to check himself, if the allegations of his behavior is true. The “yutes” would not be pleased.

Maybe VanderPlaats should probably spend his efforts making sure that loose cannons like Bennett doesn’t sully or put judges under a bad light.

Not by mounting a campaign to vote them out.

My suggestion is to jettison the retention voting for judges.  Judges are not elected to preside on the bench.  They are recommended by a committee and nominated to serve by a governor or the President.   Secondly, establish an independent judicial review board for judges.  This board should be charged with reviewing possible misconduct on the bench, as in the alleged case of Judge Bennett.

Perry Mason would agree that judges, for the most part, are impartial. Click to watch and listen to one of the best openings in TV history.

Also, conduct reviews of any major decision if there is a hint of political influence.  Yes, judges do have their political leanings and opinions.  With that said, when they walk into a courthouse, those beliefs are to be left outside.

If there is already a judicial review panel board in place here in Iowa, then utilize them more.

One side of my brain thinks that Vander Plaats is doing whatever he can to stay in front of this election cycle by mounting a Don Quixote-like crusade over one major ruling so significant, it made states like California do a double take.  Another side of my brain also feels that if BVP and Varnum didn’t become a major topic in this state, no one would have any interest to this retention election.  Admit it, you wouldn’t even know about it, unless you were an election geek.

Historically, all but four judges since the retention election component was instituted in 1962 have been retained without any big hangups.