Just leave arrests for law officers

My closest friend spent his working life in law enforcement. He handled everything from minor traffic violations to homicides, with assorted robberies, break-ins, vandalism and domestic assaults in between.

Sadly, Denny has been gone for three years. Among his family’s treasured possessions are his sheriff’s badges, the shoulder patches from his uniforms and the large, thick keys to the cells in the now-demolished jail he ran.

In a way, I am relieved Denny was not here last week when the news broke that the FBI had broken up what they said was a plot by vigilantes to “arrest” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and either put her on “trial” for treason or kill her.

The president’s taxes and so much more . . .

The events and issues of the past couple of weeks have been swirling around in my head like Toto, Dorothy and the debris picked up in that famous Kansas cyclone.

Here are some thoughts from that vortex:

* * *

HOW DO YOU COMPARE? People were buzzing Sunday night over news reports dealing with federal income taxes, how much some people pay (or don’t pay) and how people are using special provisions in tax laws to reduce their obligations to zero or close to zero.

‘Principles’ shouldn’t be a matter of convenience

One of my co-workers at the Des Moines Register was Gene Raffensperger, an excellent reporter with a delicious sense of humor.

When Raff was working on a dull story, he often would announce to colleagues, “We’re going to need another tanker of Murine. I’ve got an eye-burner here.”

Raff is no longer with us. But if he were, he would be telling us we need another tanker right now, this one filled with Maalox – because there will be lots of upset stomachs in the coming weeks.

Americans already are dealing with tremendous amounts of stress, thanks to the worst epidemic in a century, the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, and the most contentious presidential election in our lifetimes.

This mega-level stress has increased since Friday night, when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a trailblazer for women’s equality, died at age 87.

Replacing a Supreme Court justice never is a picnic. But it’s obvious filling Ginsburg’s seat will be an epic knock-down, drag-out battle.

Two names guarantee that: Mitch McConnell and Merrick Garland.

We should not just accept deaths like these

Twenty years ago, when the death of 2-year-old Shelby Duis outraged Iowans, I was confident the Spirit Lake tragedy would soon bring change to our state.

I probably was naive.

In 2016, when Natalie Finn, 16, was found near death in a middle-class neighborhood in West Des Moines, I was confident that tragedy would bring change to our state.

I probably was naive. Again.

In 2017, when Sabrina Ray, 16, was found dead in her home in Perry, I was convinced the time for change was imminent.

I probably was naive. Once again.

So little has come from the deaths of these three children to prevent similar tragedies in the future. That is a tragedy itself, because state officials appear more focused on the optics, rather than the reality, of dealing with these entirely avoidable deaths.

Iowa should look at another Vision Iowa

There was a milestone of note recently, and it is a shame there was not a big public celebration.

Twenty years ago, Gov. Tom Vilsack and the Iowa Legislature had the foresight to create a program that has brought important changes to communities large and small across Iowa.

The program was called Vision Iowa – and it certainly provided that.

We benefit from these doses of inspiration

I’m sure we all have been inspired at one time or another by a gifted speaker.

Maybe it was a pastor or teacher. Maybe it was a leader who is a skilled orator. Or it might have been someone else who connected with us and delivered a memorable message.

In the past few weeks, a couple of speakers have done that for me.

Everyone has tasks we don’t like

Not that you asked, but the list of things I dislike goes well beyond liver and onions, “Rocky Mountain Oysters,” drivers who tailgate, and people who chew with their mouths open.

Until this year, the list did not include people who refuse to wear masks.

But with coronavirus moving through hospitals, care centers, bars and restaurants, sports teams, large gatherings and schools, the anti-maskers now have a spot on my list.

It’s time to streamline top-heavy universities

Even before coronavirus hit American colleges and universities, even before their budgets imploded because of the pandemic, questions were being asked nationally about how these institutions spend their money.

Some high-profile decisions by University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld have put the focus on this issue in our state. The issue further crystalized last week when a list of administrative staff at Iowa State University landed in my mailbox.

At its essence, this issue is the growth of the number of administrators, compared with the number of academic staff.

Threats won’t end people’s virus anxieties

Give an extra tug on your seatbelt. The next couple of months will be rough ones.

The new school year starts in a few weeks. Not surprisingly, with the coronavirus still sickening and killing people in Iowa, what normally is a time of much excitement has become a time of great anxiety.

Our president has said expects students to be back in the classroom for in-person learning in every school in America. If schools do not comply, he has threatened to withhold their federal education aid.

Many could be honored who aren’t traitors

The sun was drooping close to the tree line as the day wound down in southern Pennsylvania eight years ago.

A retired U.S. Army officer, now a historian, led a group of business people from across the nation – I was one of them – onto the hallowed ground there in Gettysburg. The national cemetery was our final stop on an afternoon-long, on-the-scene lecture about the great Civil War battle and the leadership lessons it teaches.

We had walked the fields and high ground where Union and Confederate forces squared off 149 years earlier. There were places with names like Pickett’s Charge, Little Round Top and the Peach Orchard.

As the day drew to a close, we gathered where President Abraham Lincoln stood four months after the battle to dedicate the cemetery. A total of 3,512 Union soldiers rest there.


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