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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Look At My Scandal! PLEEEEEEASE!

The Des Moines Register reported that the Director Of Administrative Services paid ex-state workers cash to keep quiet about their settlements after being fired.  Governor Terry Branstad fired the director.  That was the right move as Iowans deserve open and transparent government.

But that's not good enough for Democrats.  Their candidate is ten points behind and they need to declare this development "a scandal" and keep it in the news cycle.  Some of my Democratic Facebook friends begged the national media to cover it.

Unfortunately for my Democratic friends, their colleagues at the national level continue to drain coverage away from the non-scandal in Iowa and toward real scandal.  It's been revealed that the IRS may have colluded with Democratic legislators in harassing conservative groups.  The former head of the tax-exempt division of the IRS states her wish in an email to get a job with a political group that supports President Obama.

Now THAT'S a scandal, and you can't blame Iowans for yawning at the hiring/firing policies of their administration.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Serious Mental Health Proposal

When tragedies such as the shooting at the Navy Yard occur, the subsequent political debate takes two tracks:  gun control proposals and mental health proposals.

While the media focuses on gun control proposals, there are serious mental health reform proposals being formulated as well.

One such proposal comes from Representative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania.  A particular aspect of it caught my eye:

Preserve sufficient hospital beds for persons with serious mental illness who need hospital access. Believe it or not, this is controversial. The mental-health industry wants the public to believe everyone with mental illness can function in the community. This is letting wishful thinking trump science. Most can, many cannot. Beds are needed for those who cannot.

I personally know this is controversial.  As a legislator, I served on a mental health reform committee.  As part of our study, we toured Iowa's cavernous--and mostly empty--mental health facilities.

Why empty?  Because policy makers made a deliberate choice to attempt to treat mental health patients on an outpatient basis.  We believe this is compassionate.  When we debated this approach on the floor of the Senate, one legislator literally described mental health homes using images straight out of "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest."

Note that the proposal says many cannot function in the community.  These groups of people comprise a significant number of the "homeless" population.    People become homeless when their families literally give up on attempting to take care of them.  In some instances, these families buy a bus ticket for a mentally ill family member and send them to a nearby city.

The homeless man or woman then attempts to stay at shelters or Christian housing organizations but is soon denied a bed because they are a danger to others.

Just as it should not be assumed that a mental ill person should be confined to a bed, it should also not be assumed that every mentally ill person can function in society.   This proposal offers some real, pragmatic solutions to real problems.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Why "Breaking Bad" Needs "Duck Dynasty"

I am a Duck Dynasty fan.  I am happy to proclaim my love for the show to family and friends.  It's interesting how many of my friends are so dismissive of the show.  It's not cool to like Duck Dynasty.

It is cool to like "Breaking Bad."  My friends on social media are always talking about that show.

Interestingly, "Duck Dynasty" nearly doubles the ratings of "Breaking Bad."  You'd never know that by reading social media.  It's just not cool to love that goofy family that hunts and prays together.

I like both shows, which is why I was drawn to this column that makes the case that one show NEEDS the other:

Breaking Bad helps provide a template for what we can ascribe to culturally (morally complex, thoughtful, quality-focused works of art), but Duck Dynasty shows us where we actually are as a collective culture by showcasing the values that make popular shows connect with mainstream audiences. Without both “high culture” that challenges our worldview and “low culture” that reflects it, you lose context for both.

I don't watch reality shows that exploit people's dysfunction.   But I like the good-natured humor of "Dynasty" along with the complex exploration of the human condition exhibited in escapist shows like "Breaking Bad."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Weather Apocalypse Postponed

A new report indicates that global temperatures have increased at a quarter of the rate predicted by a international panel on climate change and that computer models have wrongly predicted the impact of greenhouse gases.

It's not that global warming is fiction.  It's just that the public is smart enough to know that predictions of catastrophe are meant to spur drastic action not reflect reality.

I've seen Bjorn Lomberg speak (at a--gasp!--conservative conference) and he continues to be the voice of reason on this topic:

Global warming is real. It is partly man-made. It will make some things worse and some things better. Overall, the long-run impact will be negative. But some of the most prominent examples of extreme weather are misleading, and some weather events are becoming less extreme.

Of course, this type of reasonable discussion won't result in a massive limitation of private property rights, as some of the far-left groups who attach themselves to environmental causes wish.

But public skepticism is justified.  Over the course of a lifetime, studies will be presented as gospel and later debunked.  After all, a recommendation to drink eight glasses of water a day is now "nonsense."

Titanic Jokes In An Ad? Too Soon!

It's been 101 years since the Titanic sank, but a humorous ad by Red Bull that resolves around the ill-fated ship has drawn 79 complaints--a majority of which are probably from girls still crying over the end of the movie.

Here it is.

Political Poop Identified!

Because of its status as the first-in-the-nation-caucus-state, Iowa is home to some of the brightest political minds and best political writers in the country.

Todd Dorman of the Cedar Rapids Gazette is one of those writers.  When Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch made his campaign announcement in a poop-filled field...Dorman was on it (the story, not the poop).  Dorman called on an expert to identify the source of the scat.

I have relatives in Florida who smile and shake their heads (with the utmost affection) at what comprises the nightly news here in Iowa.  In their state, the nightly news opens with ten minutes of murder.   One year, my relatives visited for the holidays and marveled that the five 'o' clock news opened with Christmas light displays.

But of all the Iowa-sounding political news that's ever been reported, this is the Iowanist.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Did Jordan Linn Graham Get Married Then Push Her Husband Off A Cliff?

Possibly.  Wife Tara is an attorney and sees a LOT of weird things.

It's important to note that this is what the PROSECUTION is saying.  But, boy, it is a weird set of facts.

A newlywed couple has a fight...then decides to go hiking near a cliff?

The bride had reservations after eight days?  The groom married her after a two-year courtship even though friends say she didn't love him?  He hoped that marriage would change her feelings about him?

This stuff only happens on Days Of Our Lives, right?

Naked Miley Cyrus Makes Me Sad

The new Miley Cyrus video features the former Disney star totally nude and licking a sledgehammer (no, I am not going to link it).  Pardon me while I go on a old fogey rant.

It seems that, in the entertainment world, when a female child star wants to transition into the realm of adult entertainment, they declare their adulthood by performing in some sexually explicit way.  I hate the message that this sends young girls--that they've reached adult status when they become a sex toy for men.

I hate interviews where woman proclaim that they are "empowered" by being sexually promiscuous.  You know who is really being empowered?  Men who want to have sex with a lot of women without any commitment.  Who loses?  The women who had given themselves to a man hoping to find love and commitment.

There isn't such a thing as "no strings attached" sex despite what Hollywood sells.  Tara and I sometimes joke with each other, "I like you better than everybody else."  But there's a subtext to that joke:  everyone deserves to be special to someone else.  Love doesn't mean participating in a human buffet.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness Is Here...But Where's Sherlock?

I did not get the chance to see Star Trek Into Darkness in theaters, so I am excited about the movie's release on Video On Demand On Tuesday (September 10).

My anticipation is heightened not only by the good reviews but the presence of Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain.

Speaking of Cumberbatch, I've been awaiting the return of the show that introduced him to me, Sherlock, for quite a while now.   The show is produced by the BBC...and unlike American television, it's apparently okay to give us NO IDEA when the show is coming back.  Season 3 will be the final season of the show.

Drunk, Bitter Wasps Threaten Humanity

For some reason, I am not frightened of wasps.  Maybe it's the numerous summers I spent at swimming pools growing up in St. Louis and I just became accustomed to having them around.

But that's not the case for most people.  Many of the folks in my life have the same, instantaneous reaction to the sight of a wasp: arms.

And now this:  the British Red Cross says retired, bitter wasps are getting drunk and angry.

Once the queen wasp has all the nectar she needs from the worker wasps, she has no more duties for them.   Retired worker wasps don't have senior centers where they can get a good meal and perhaps play some bingo, so they become bored and bitter while drinking fermented fruit.

Bored, bitter, and drunk is not a good combination for wasps.  They now sting more aggressively.

The answer?  Wasp casinos.

The Terror Of The Sad Clown

My three-year-old granddaughter has entered Head Start preschool.  On her first day, she told her mom that she had been behaving all who behave are apparently assigned a green color.  Kids who misbehave are given a red color.

This story took me back to my own Kindergarten days and the Terror Of The Sad Clown.  In my classroom, an elaborately-drawn clown was featured in the upper right corner of the front chalkboard.  Under the morose clown face was a line.

And under that line, the names of misbehaving children were written by the teacher.

You had to earn sad clown status.  A warning would be given...then a second.

But if a child continue to misbehave, the teacher would slowly pull back her chair form her desk..rise...head to the chalkboard...pick up the chalk...and slow--ever so slowly--head to the sad clown.

A terrified hush would fall over the classroom.  Someone was going to get sad clown status.  And they'd be banned from partaking in a recess.

If clowns ever wonder why they are unpopular, they can trace it to kindergarten and a time when clowns were associated with a lack-of-fun, not laughs and tiny cars.

The IDOT's Scoreboard Of Death

I appreciate the electronic signs that the Iowa Department Of Transportation puts up on the highways of Iowa.  They warn me of upcoming traffic delays, bad weather, and, at their best, alert me to a person who had disappeared so I can keep an eye out for them.

But there is one way that the DOT is utilizing the signs of which I do not approve.

I commute 50 miles to work each day, passing the same signs.  These signs remind me to "buckle up."  I do.  These signs then tell me how many people have died on Iowa roads this year.

And it's a running tally.   I'll notice on one day that a certain number of people have died.  Then the next day, I'll notice more people have died.   On my morning commute, it's as if the signs are saying, "Good morning, Jeff.  BTW, two more people died horribly since you were here yesterday."

I get the reason.  But it's too morbid.  It's a running scoreboard of death.  There's got to be a better way to urge people to be careful.

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