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Learning from our history of finding scapegoats

Learning from our history of finding scapegoats

Gazette Column
Sadness, fear and confusion. Those are the three emotions woven throughout conversations I had in the wake of a 2008 immigration raid in Postville. For nearly the same reasons, these emotions also surrounded the Muslim residents taking part in a community demonstration last weekend. The alignment is understandable, if regrettable. [caption id="attachment_913" align="aligncenter" width="640"] People of many faiths gathered on May's Island on Saturday, Dec. 19, in a show of support for Muslims and other immigrants, who have recently been targeted in political rhetoric. The solidarity demonstration was organized by the Inter-Religious Council of Linn County. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)[/caption] Some Postville Hispanics were spared the felonious identity theft convictions faced by 389 male workers — a prosecution strategy that the U.S. Supreme Court later found lacking. Instead of being bustled…
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2015 ‘gifts’ that should be returned

2015 ‘gifts’ that should be returned

Gazette Column
If someone will please direct me to the back of the line, I have a few “gifts” from 2015 I’d like to return. 1. The dress. We’ll never get back all the time we spent trying to figure out how to accessorize an outfit that some saw as white and gold and others saw as blue and black. 2. Bird flu. The epidemic cost the state more than $1 billion and the nation more than $3 billion. Keep your fingers crossed that it doesn’t get re-gifted in 2016. 3. DVD set of “The Apprentice.” It looked good from a distance; the GOP primary offered a different perspective. 4. Hasty closure of two state-run mental health institutes. We shouldn’t forget that there was a bipartisan compromise rejected by Gov. Terry Branstad…
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Hoping for less BVP under the holiday tree

Hoping for less BVP under the holiday tree

Gazette Column
From a political standpoint Bob Vander Plaats and I are near polar opposites, but that isn’t why I hope he drops off the radar of the national press. Another caucus season, more national positioning of Vander Plaats, head of the Family Leader, as some ill-conceived GOP kingmaker in Iowa. How soon they forget. Vander Plaats has been three times rejected by Iowa gubernatorial election voters — twice during GOP primaries. His largest claim to fame is taking millions in out-of-state money to campaign for the ouster of the Iowa Supreme Court justices who found a state ban on same-sex marriage violated equal protection clauses. The bus tours and demonstrations were so far removed from reality that many religious conservatives celebrated not the removal of the justices, but a wrong assumption…
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DNR: How do we reduce booze issues?

DNR: How do we reduce booze issues?

Gazette Column
As Johnson County residents hoping to visit the Lake Macbride beach area learned this past July, it takes only a few to ruin things for everyone. After two large fights resulted in arrests for public intoxication and assault, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources chose to close the beach area early — 6 p.m. instead of 10:30 p.m. — effectively preventing many working families from enjoying the water during one of the hottest stretches of the summer. Park Ranger Gwen Prentice pointed to several incidents of rowdy activity at the time that she suspected were fueled by alcohol consumption. Although no news-making fights happened at Palo beach in Linn County, it also was closed early to curtail problems involving alcohol. Across the state — despite awareness campaigns and a beverage…
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An opportunity this weekend to stand with your neighbors

An opportunity this weekend to stand with your neighbors

Gazette Blog
Area residents should meet at noon on May's Island Four teenage boys — Moussa, Abbas, Yousef and Ali Habhab — arrived in Cedar Rapids in the 1880s. They were the first of many Muslims to settle in the community, many following Christians known from their homeland into Iowa. Like so many immigrants, they found pride and promise in their new home and wanted to fold their own traditions into the existing culture. On a cold February in 1934, the community opened its first official house of worship — a small mosque, which would also serve as a community center. It is now the oldest standing building originally built as a mosque in our nation. The community grew. They fell in love, married and worked hard. They bore children, choosing to…
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Trump, UKIP and other body blows to compromise

Trump, UKIP and other body blows to compromise

Gazette Column
Maybe instead of merely reacting to GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump “crazy talk,” it’s time to start understanding its appeal. Almost a year ago, I wrote about the correlations I’ve seen between the views of people who no longer fit neatly into either of the two dominant political parties and members of the United Kingdom Independence Party, commonly known as UKIP. An excerpt from the previous column: “Those who identify as UKIP feel they’ve been left behind economically and are adrift politically. They are incredibly anxious about the direction of their nation. Sound familiar? “While this British ideology that began in 1993 — the first to win a nationwide election in nearly 100 years — has been painted as a predominantly conservative movement, the survey shows its members hold liberal…
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More GOP cronyism staining UI

More GOP cronyism staining UI

Gazette Column
Some of us have friends. Some of us have friends who use their professional positions to funnel us money. Guess which kind former Republican Party of Iowa chairman Matt Strawn has. A records request to the University of Iowa by the Associated Press found $321,900 in no-bid contracts awarded to Strawn’s consulting company. Strawn, in turn, subcontracted firms led by others with GOP ties to perform at least part of the work. The contracts were managed by UI Vice President for External Relations Peter Matthes, a former Iowa Senate Republican Caucus staff director who served alongside Strawn. Strawn’s company was, for instance, hired in the spring of 2013 to conduct online and grass roots advocacy. That contract totaled $24,900 — just a hundred dollars below a threshold triggering quotes from…
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Violence product of words, laws

Violence product of words, laws

Gazette Column
Let’s hope 2016 is the year we agree no one has a special right to enforce ideology through terror. Thus far, we’ve not done so well on that front. Too many times we’ve witnessed perpetrators of deadly rampages written off as suffering from mental deficiencies or as otherwise “brainwashed” by this or that ideology. Those who enter restaurants, movie theaters, health clinics, concerts, churches or other public spaces with intent to harm others in the hope of advancing or in retaliation for a specific ideology are terrorists. Not “lone wolves.” Not mere shooters or gunmen. Not activists. Not disenfranchised. Not “let down” by the system. Domestic or foreign, individuals hoping to spread their “good news” or prevent another’s by brute force deserve to be met with the full force of…
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Big ROI in living a grateful life

Big ROI in living a grateful life

Gazette Column
Did the Thanksgiving holiday help you to physically feel better? If not, you may have been doing it wrong. Researchers have found that people who practice gratitude or thankfulness report a variety of very tangible benefits, including: • Stronger immune systems. • Lower blood pressure. • Fewer aches and pains. • Better sleep. • Increased interest in exercise and healthy eating. • Acting with more generosity and compassion. • Greater resiliency, including recovery from traumatic events. • Feeling less lonely and isolated. • Greater economic stability. • Reduced anxiety and depression. • More joy, optimism and happiness. These findings are courtesy of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, which partnered with the University of California, Davis to launch a $5.6 million, three-year study project: Expanding…
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Plans for potential pipeline problems should be public

Plans for potential pipeline problems should be public

Gazette Column
Last week, Todd Stamm, vice president of the company that would operate the proposed Bakken oil pipeline, told Iowa Utilities Board members that threat assessments were created in relation to spill scenarios. According to a Des Moines Register report, those assessments include information about the scope and breadth of potential leaks. “It is just not information that I would suggest is information that you would want to be public as far as the physical location of where that location might be,” Stamm said in answer to why such information should be kept confidential. The proposed pipeline, under review by the Iowa Utilities Board for approval and eminent domain use, would carry about 450,000 barrels of crude oil each day from North Dakota to a distribution center in Illinois. The route…
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