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There’s more to being a leader than talking

Through history, some political leaders have been outstanding orators. Boy, could they talk. They knew how to mobilize and move people with their words.

Think of Franklin Roosevelt and, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Or Ronald Reagan and, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

The ability to crystallize their thoughts in memorable speeches can galvanize public opinion and bring people around to the leader’s views.

But the best leaders have something else, and it gets too little attention and respect, especially in these divisive times. That is the leader’s listening skills.

This lack of attention to listening is unfortunate, because leadership is more than simply making decisions. Leadership is far more complicated than just doing what the leader’s most ardent supporters want.

Republican-led 'bottle bill' overhaul would allow retailers to refuse container returns

Iowa grocery stores and other retailers would be allowed to opt out of taking back bottle and can returns and repaying deposits in 2023 under the latest version of a bill making its way through the Iowa Senate.

Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, and Republicans on the Senate Ways and Means Committee passed the rewrite of Senate File 2122 on Thursday, with all Democrats on the panel voting no.

The amended bill replaces a version passed earlier this week by a Senate subcommittee, which would have allowed grocery stores and other retailers to opt out of taking containers back if a redemption center was located within 20 miles of the store.

Lessons from a misguided pots-n-pans salesman

Many years ago, I sat at the kitchen table of a pots-n-pans salesman from Pleasant Valley. We didn’t talk about cookware. He was laying out with lots of precision why the United States government had no legal basis for prosecuting him for willfully refusing to file federal income tax returns.

It was a lengthy conversation that day in the late 1970s. I will spare you many of the details. It is enough for you to know two things about his salesmanship:

First, it was his assertion that the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the one creating the income tax in 1913, was unconstitutional — in part, because the amendment was never properly ratified because Ohio was not properly admitted to the Union until 1953.

Second, neither the U.S. district judge, nor the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, bought his analysis — and he ended up spending a year in federal prison.

Last week, I found myself recalling the Iowa guy who was a cross between a kindly uncle and something of a crackpot. The trigger for my memories was news about two appearances in Sioux City by a lawyer from Florida with some, uhh, unconventional views of her own.

An expensive lesson for DM school taxpayers

Des Moines Superintendent Thomas Ahart has been a lightning rod during the past three years over the way Iowa’s public schools have responded to the Covid pandemic.

Ahart announced last week that he is leaving, effective June 30. But the Des Moines school board ensured that Ahart will continue to carry that lightning rod for a little longer.

His contract runs for another year, until June 30, 2023. So, you might think he is forgoing his $306,193 salary, his $7,200 annual allowance for a car and cell phone, and his $84,019 taxpayer-provided retirement annuity.

But you would be wrong, wrong and wrong.

Parents’ rights? Not this time, GOP says

Iowa Capital Dispatch
February 28, 2022

When I was in high school, I agreed to teach a Sunday school class for 3-year-olds at my church with another high-school classmate.

The class was only 45 minutes long, and mostly consisted of coloring, simple crafts and reading Bible stories to the children. No big deal – except there were at least 10 kids in the class and my “team mate” only showed up about half the time.

I managed, even though one little boy always cried when his mother dropped him off, so I usually spent the first 15 minutes of class trying to get everyone settled and busy with a sobbing boy on my hip.

I didn’t have to feed the kids, take them outside, change diapers (I think they were all potty-trained back then) or dispense medications. I don’t recall that any of the kids had disabilities or special needs. Still, it was exhausting. I didn’t volunteer again.

The experience came to mind recently, as lawmakers were debating legislation to allow child care facilities to care for more 2- or 3-year-olds per staff member.

Senate File 2268, which passed the Senate last week, would allow one day care employee to watch up to seven 2-year-olds, or up to 10 3-year-olds. Under current law, child care centers must have one worker for every six 2-year-olds or eight 3-year-olds.

Iowa is addicted to cornography

The Oxford dictionary defines a ‘renewable’ source of energy as one not depleted when used. Wikipedia says that it is energy that is collected from resources that are naturally replenished on a human timescale.

If you’ve been listening or watching Iowa news the past month or so, you’ve probably heard that ethanol made from corn grain is the renewablist source of energy available thanks to the Iowa farmer who returns like clockwork from Florida each spring to his or her photosynthesis mine where he or she helps untold billions of corn plants convert sunshine into starch and thence the two-carbon-, six-hydrogen-, one-oxygen clear, flammable liquid that has 3/5ths of the energy of the 1/10th of the gasoline that it displaces in our fuel tanks.

Growing corn requires a lot of fossil fuel energy. The vast majority (probably 80 percent or more) of this energy links to nitrogen fertilizer, which is made using natural gas. I heard someone say once that at its essence, corn production is converting natural gas to starch, and I think that is a clean way of stating it.

I get a lot of comments that the fossil fuel energy required to produce corn and corn ethanol exceeds the energy content of the ethanol itself. Based on everything I know about the subject, I do not believe that to be true. There are about 75,000 BTU in a gallon of ethanol; it takes about 35,000 BTU to grow the corn and produce the ethanol; you can get about 500 gallons of ethanol from an acre of corn; and thus the net energy gain is about 20 million BTU per acre.

But it’s just beyond argument that this 20 million BTU comes at a high environmental cost: soil erosion, nutrient pollution, degraded streams, lakes and drinking water, habitat loss, and to top it off, we indemnify corn production with publicly supported crop insurance and a whole host of other economic trusses that keep the herniated system from blowing out. The patient keeps limping along, in obvious pain but nonetheless determined to maintain its stranglehold on the public and on 11,000 square miles of Iowa land, 20 percent of our state’s area.

Here’s another place we need more transparency

There has been a lot of talk lately about why Iowa’s K-12 school districts need to be more transparent, and more accessible and more accountable, to parents and the rest of the tax-paying people of Iowa.

That is the justification offered for a bulging backpack full of bills introduced in the Legislature this year.

But lawmakers should not stop with their push for improved transparency in schools.

Malice in Wonderland

A trio of events occurred this week that produced a visceral reaction in my viscera, which I now know must be in the middle of my brain because each event made my brain feel like a bulging aneurysm was about to burst forth with such magnitude that the blood would spray out each ear like an astronaut losing his pressurized helmet in some gory sci-fi movie taking place on the planet Ucornus.

Yes, I’ve been told to be less evocative.

Since my reaction after each event was WHAT THE HELL, I thought it best to wait a few days to write something, giving the pressurized aneurysm time to dissipate. Alas, I’m still wondering WHAT THE HELL, so here goes. I’m not putting these in the order of occurrence, I’m just letting that aneurytic pressure drain out through my fingertips organically.

Lawmakers’ mixed message is puzzling Iowans

I’m confused, and I have a hunch I am not the only one. Are government mandates a bad thing — or are they good?

My confusion comes because I hear what leaders in the Iowa Legislature and Gov. Kim Reynolds have said for months. It certainly seems as if, to a person, they agree mandates are bad.

The governor often talks about how she believes Iowans will “do the right thing” when it comes to Covid vaccines and wearing masks. She talks about the importance of defending people’s rights and liberties. She is confident Iowans will act appropriately.

Iowa school debate needs a lesson in civics

A seat at the table.

Iowa Majority Leader Jack Whitver provided that succinct explanation last week of what his fellow Republicans are looking to provide to Iowa parents as the state’s K-12 school districts wrestle with a host of controversies.

His colleague, Senate President Jake Chapman, set the tone a few weeks ago for addressing these controversies in this year’s session of the Iowa Legislature. Chapman accused some teachers of having a “sinister agenda” toward their students and vowed to push for a law that would make it a felony for teachers and school librarians to provide students with books that Chapman and some parents believe are obscene.

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