A 2017 summary in four quotes

A 2017 summary in four quotes

Gazette Column
If anything, 2017 was a quotable year. Here are four that sum up a year’s worth of news in the Hawkeye State. SEXUAL HARASSMENT “Several of the staff members interviewed indicated they possess a fear of retaliation, which is why they did not feel comfortable reporting any instances of harassment.” — Senate GOP internal report on sexual harassment at the Statehouse. Although several quotes surrounding the Iowa Senate Republican Caucus sexual harassment scandal that put taxpayers on the hook for $1.75 million could be used — many of them absurdities uttered by Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix as he has repeatedly attempted to whitewash bad behavior — this statement from the GOP’s internal investigation is most troubling. To date, no one has been held accountable and Statehouse employees, which include teenage…
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Hopeful past presidents speak out

Hopeful past presidents speak out

Gazette Column
President George W. Bush set down his paintbrushes this week to issue a very public assessment of U.S. politics. Let’s hope everyone was listening. “Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them,” Bush said at the George W. Bush Institute in New York City on Thursday. I doubt I would have believed anyone who told me back in 2003 that I’d one day praise Bush for his eloquence at the podium, but here we are. The sins of a few garbled idioms or made-up words pale in comparison to what Bush calls out as “casual cruelty” and “outright fabrication.”…
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Bad teen behavior is a mirror reflecting

Bad teen behavior is a mirror reflecting

Gazette Column
Can you believe it? This and similar sentiments arrive by inbox and social media feed each time teens are caught behaving badly. And, for the record, yes, I totally believe it. The most recent national dust-up arrived courtesy of four male students at Westside High School in Anderson, S.C. The young men were participating in a football game against a neighboring school, Daniel High School. The game was part of the “Touchdown Against Cancer” series intended to fundraise on behalf of and bring more awareness to breast cancer. Ten students had each painted a letter on their chests. When they stood together, the letters spelled out, “Bump Cancer.” Four of the students — two seniors and two sophomores — rearranged themselves to spell the word “rape,” had their photo taken…
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Lessons from the dinner line

Lessons from the dinner line

Gazette Column
Sometimes we make things more difficult than they need to be. I was standing in line at a restaurant this week. In front of me was a man in an automated wheelchair, a urine collection bag at his side. Behind me was a woman in her mid-30s, her young son in tow. The boy was curious about the man, and especially interested in the urine bag. He first asked about it in a normal speaking voice and, after being shushed, engaged in whispered shouts much to the astonishment and — dare I type it? — delight of bystanders. More than once a “we’ll talk about it later” was uttered. As I stood and listened to the exchange, I watched the man in the wheelchair. His eyebrows raised, and then his…
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American culture, not Congress, is changing

American culture, not Congress, is changing

Gazette Column
New cultural research shows bumpy paths forward for both dominant political parties and better explains why economics wasn’t the sole booster of Donald Trump’s rise to the White House. It also proves most Americans are right: Washington, D.C., and state legislatures are out of step with their constituents, just not for the reasons many think. The 2016 American Values Atlas, an annual survey conducted by Public Religion Research Institute, was released last week with some very interesting findings on America’s shifting culture. A few key points: • The share of Americans who identify as white and Christian no longer constitutes a national majority. • White Christians now make up only 43 percent of the U.S. population, a steep decline from four decades ago when the demographic was at 80 percent. •…
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Polk Democrats’ expletive-worthy choice

Polk Democrats’ expletive-worthy choice

Gazette Column
Democrats will take the stage Sept. 30 when Polk County revives the state’s long-standing steak fry tradition, but one female candidate has been asked to keep quiet. Thanks to former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, a fall steak fry fundraiser has become synonymous with Democratic Party politics and is an opportunity for rising stars to expand their burgeoning celebrity status. Polk County Democrats, in reviving an event dormant for three years, are taking a page out of Harkin’s book by inviting three not-yet-household-names but promising congressional Democrats to come, be grilled and chew the fat. [caption id="attachment_1311" align="alignleft" width="300"] Marinated Flank Steak using peach juice or nectar and soy sauce on the grill. Shot in North Libery on Friday, July 14, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)[/caption] Attendees, as well as a C-SPAN…
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At Wing Ding, Democrats still are grappling

At Wing Ding, Democrats still are grappling

Gazette Column
CLEAR LAKE — Each year the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding lives up to its unusual and playful name by being slightly unorthodox. Last year, for instance, attendees twittered nervously as organizers literally mowed down defaced photographs of Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley that had been mounted in AstroTurf. While that bit of political humor missed the mark, other attempts, usually in the form of skits, have been more successful. This year’s offering was a much subdued two-man scripted exchange. (“Just got diagnosed with T.I.A.D. That sounds serious. What is it? Trump-Induced Anxiety Disorder.”) There were some moan-worthy puns, and one-liners tame enough to share with the grandkids. And, as it turns out, organizers didn’t need to push the envelope on this evening billed as an introduction to the party’s “Rising…
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Bucking against serenity

Bucking against serenity

Gazette Column
My Mom displayed a copy of the Serenity Prayer prominently in our home. A Reader’s Digest Condensed Book turned religious knickknack, the volume had been glued open, sprayed gold and hodged-podged with fancy text of the prayer and related graphics. The book was partnered with a gold stand, and I remember the duo gracing several surfaces — a dresser top, a bookcase and the console television. I’m not sure how my Mom came to own it or what, if any, sentimental value she attached it. The latter is probably a good thing. Although the book is now tucked away somewhere in my house, I’d be hard-pressed to find it. Still, the prayer — “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things…
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Rod Blum’s town hall vetting stinks

Rod Blum’s town hall vetting stinks

Gazette Column
If you happen to have a spare cup of courage lying around, please pass it to U.S. Rep. Rod Blum. Blum has agreed to four in-person meetings at public places in Iowa’s 1st District during the May recess. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he and his staff are busy redefining “public” by instituting unnecessary roadblocks for those who want to hear from and speak directly to one of the four men who represent Iowa in the U.S. House. Those who hope to attend are required to let the Congressman’s office know ahead of time. The registration process through Eventbrite requires submission of the applicant’s full name, email address and physical address. Upon arrival, Blum’s newly activated personal Stasi will be posted at the door to demand…
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Can’t blame Donald Trump for ‘Repeal 19th’

Can’t blame Donald Trump for ‘Repeal 19th’

Gazette Column
Given the trajectory of this campaign cycle it’s easy to imagine Donald Trump pushing to disenfranchise half of America. But the #RepealThe19th hashtag predates his campaign. News stories surfaced this week linking Twitter hashtag #RepealThe19th to Trump supporters. According to those reports, Trump supporters hatched the plan after viewing projections by FiveThirtyEight pollster Nate Silver of what the election would look like if only one gender voted. The United States of Women vs. The United States of Menhttps://t.co/F455bP3D8I pic.twitter.com/qjr6zLh640 — 538 politics (@538politics) October 12, 2016 In a male-only world, Silver predicts Trump would receive 350 electoral votes and move into the White House. A companion map, showing only female voters, had Hillary Clinton earning 458, and Trump with just 80. After the maps were published, some Trump supporters posted…
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