• Posted on Mar 05, 2017


      A few takeaways from the GOP Forum at VGM which I attended on Saturday, Feb. 25 in Waterloo.

    • Conservative social proprieties were evident throughout the two-hour meeting: decorum, orderliness, hierarchy and authority (one man controlled the discussion for all two hours), religiosity, (they began with a prayer), patriotism (they also began with the Pledge of Allegiance and placed an open American flag on their table) and tradition—no signage, no disorder of any kind were allowed.  The message was:  we’re in control. 
    • No criticism of (m) President Trump* was allowed. When a young women asked about how anyone could support him, the moderator cut her off. 
    • Walt Rogers insisted that “collective bargaining has not been damaged” in his response to a UNI faculty member who insisted that the University’s United Faculty union’s bargaining rights had been gutted. When the hooting and loud disagreeing started, the moderator immediately shut them down.  This is a long argument that I’ll continue elsewhere.  (See “Did Walter Rogers Lie?” above) 
    • Several bills which are on the table in the current legislator may or may not get anywhere: allowing mentally ill people to purchase guns, the bottle/can deposit bill, capital punishment and others which have been part of the fabric of Iowa life for decades.  The message here was:  contact your legislators and tell them what you think.  (Unfortunately, the GOP’s recent track record of actually listening to constituents is utterly dismal.)
    • Waterloo City Council member Pat Morrissey told the panel that “Home rule has been eviscerated” by the legislature with their recent actions on a state minimum wage, civil rights, and other new initiatives.  Morrissey asked them why they would overrule a city’s initiatives to make life better for citizens—and that home rule was a big step toward doing that.  The panel had no real answers—Rogers citing competition as though it were bad. (And here I thought Republicans were all for free market competition—which home rule does encourage.)
    • One interesting exchange occurred between Justin Scott, a local atheist and activist, and Walt Rogers.  Scott asked if GOP legislators are basing legislative decisions on scientific evidence and not faith—using abortion as an example of faith-based objections that might become law.    Rogers insisted that religions do run institutions for the general good—such as hospitals.  “What’s the difference between a religiously-run hospital and religiously-run school?” he asked Justin Scott.    Scott gave no clear answer—and I wish he had:  It’s ideology.  A hospital, no matter who runs it, is bound to abide by health care rules and laws.  Their religious ideology makes no difference to the care of patients.  In a religious school, in contrast, religious ideology pervades everything—from classes to lessons to prayers during school hours.  This should be unconstitutional if supported by taxpayer dollars. 
    • How is the GOP going to avoid misusing their power?  Do they have any checks and balances in place other than their own good will?   When one party has all the power, very bad things can happen.  That’s the question that needs to get asked, over and over. 
    • The contrast between Friday morning’s Parkersburg town hall with Senator Grassley and this “forum” could not be more stark:  this one was controlled, managed so as to keep questions within narrow parameters, and clearly meant to show that the GOP is the party of tradition, authority, and control.  The Grassley town hall was exciting, engaging, freewheeling, and open to all thoughts of anyone on anything, and ranged from eloquent to silly and all points in between.  
    • Parkersburg was democracy in action; the VGM forum was the Iowa Republican party in action. 

    * (m) before President Trump serves as a reminder that he was elected by a minority of the electorate.  

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    Posted in
    • Personalities
    • Hot Button Issues
    • Religiosity
    • Politics
    • Conservatives/Liberals
  • The Word for 2017

    • Posted on Feb 26, 2017

    Sun. 2-26-17

                  Every year for me has a guiding word. 2015 was “gratitude,” thanks partly to my colleague Len Froyen’s engaging book by that title.  It offered a needed reminder that we’re here and carry on thanks to the love, kindness, and generosity of dozens of people. Gratitude always applies.  

                  Last year was “balance,” since many of us seem to be (desperately?) seeking it, especially after the election. 

                This year a new word has emerged, and I offer it here for reflection and use. 

                But first, a story. 

                There once was a very rich man who grew ever more wealthy, as the rich are wont to do.  He knew how to buy low and sell high, how to persuade people to trust him, how to pay as little as possible, and how to avoid paying if he could get by with it.  He employed a whole firm of lawyers.

                This wealthy old mogul had a son who adored and worshipped him. The old man left his son millions, so the son stepped easily into his father’s footprints. Even more so.      

                The son loved amassing money and bragging about it.  He especially loved the admiration and seeming loyalty that accompanied vaults of money. 

                The young now-mogul realized that his unusual wealth meant that he could do no wrong. He admitted only admirers into his circle.

                He also possessed an unusual gift:  His presence and unspeakable riches put people into a trance. When he entered a room, they fell into a hypnotic state, and soon began chanting his slogans, praising him to the skies.  All of which made the young mogul ever more certain of his goodness and rightness.

                So it went, slogans to more trance, trance to more slogans.

                Predictably enough, as the young mogul grew older he sought political power, since wealth alone didn’t satisfy his endless need for adulation.  Before long he had mesmerized millions of people, making him certain of his importance to the universe.

                However, a strange thing happened.  A few members of his own circle noticed that he actually did very little but rally followers and rail at enemies.   They muttered that his leadership had become like a rocking horse: creaking loudly and moving, but not going anywhere.

                They began asking pointed questions, such as “where’s the evidence?”  And, “Why hasn’t anything really changed?”

                His advisors sneered, “He is not to be questioned,” but members of his own party questioned anyway.

                They even called the mogul “Sound and Fury,” because he signified nothing. 

                More followers awakened, and felt amazed and ashamed of having fallen so deeply under the mogul’s spell.  Once awakened, they realized he was merely a pitiful old man, slavishly following his father’s footsteps, seeking only wealth and adulation in ever-increasing waves.   

                Once awakened, former followers sought a real leader and dismissed the poor rich man.  To everyone’s surprise, he felt secretly relieved.  Maintaining adulation required real work, far more than merely amassing wealth. 

                So that’s my truthy story, illustrating the guide word for 2017:   






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“Even before the advent of the Internet, Cawelti’s columns went 'viral' in the Cedar Valley… the role of a columnist is to be thought provoking, to take tacks that shed a different light on an issue or possibly cause a reader to reevaluate a position. At the very least, it should bring clarity to a particular perspective, whether you buy into the commentator’s worldview or not.

Scott's work does just that.  Enjoy this collection of his writing.”

-Saul Shapiro, Former Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier Editor
Read Shapiro's entire introduction.


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