• Will cutting taxes really benefit Iowa’s economy?

    Now the New Year has arrived, I’m preparing for the Iowa Legislature to convene.  And surveying the preliminary media coverage, it looks like the usual battle over taxes vs. spending.  The rub this year is an $800 million budget surplus.

    Many of our state’s Republican legislators are set to give that money back to the taxpayers in the form of tax cuts, even though the surplus is largely the result of major cutbacks in state services. 

  • The Time Capsule: Moonshining’s not just for prohibition

    One of the more colorful characters in the neighborhood where we winter is an 89-year-old moonshiner.  We’ll call him Orvie.  His mother, he tells me, was fascinated by airplanes and named him for Orville Wright.   

  • What's Going On: I like Blue Zones; I hate Blue Zone laws

    I like Blue Zones.

    Throughout this column, I’m going to periodically mention that because I’m worried this article might be incorrectly perceived as an indictment of the health and wellness program Red Oak has fortunately been chosen to participate.

    From what I’ve read and written about the program, it sounds like it should be beneficial to not only the community, but my family and myself as well.

    I like Blue Zones.

  • Apocalypse, fiscal cliff: Why not celebrate?

    In the last few weeks, we have not once, but twice avoided certain doom.

    And yet, I saw no one celebrating their very existence.

    I’m speaking of course of the Dec. 21, 2012, Mayan apocalypse that didn’t happen and the “fiscal cliff” that, if not avoided entirely with a last minute compromise in congress, at least was postponed. By column inches, these two stories were among the most prevalent during the month of December.

    So why didn’t we celebrate?

  • The Time Capsule: Firefighters’ horses proved heroic

    Years ago, I did a series of magazine articles on some of Iowa’s worst fires.  The list began with a mental hospital in Davenport where nearly fifty women, some quite young, died an awful death.  Many, their hair and nightgowns burning, pleaded with firemen—just inches away—to save them. 

    They could not be rescued because steel grates had been locked over windows and on that frigid and icy night, no one was able to find the keys.         

  • What's Going On: Women shouldn’t be penalized when men can’t control emotions

    In Iowa, you can’t be fired because you are Jewish, gay, Hispanic, blind, old, male or female.

    But you can be fired if you’re cute.

    That’s the message the Iowa Supreme Court recently sent when it upheld a lower court’s ruling that a Fort Dodge dentist was within his rights for firing his dental assistant because she was, well, too cute.

    Actually, the phrase used by one justice was James Knight’s “irresistible attraction” to a 10-year employee named Melissa Nelson as ample reason for the sudden termination.

  • Miner Queries: Look at whole picture to solve violence problem

    Since the Newtown, Conn. school shooting, I’ve observed you cannot say the phrase “gun control” without someone launching a hissy fit about Second Amendment Rights and regulations leading to all guns being banned.

    Calm down, people.

    First, let’s admit we have a problem with violence in this country, and gun violence is part of that. When guns are everywhere (and they are), they become part of the problem.  As researchers at Harvard found, more guns equal more homicide.   

  • The Time Capsule: The tale of the featherless red hen

    A few weeks ago, preparing for a trip south, I received a bon voyage haircut at the exclusive shop of Villisca’s premier barber. Gary asked if I was taking the chickens. He worked in a hatchery as a boy, an experience that left him with a deeper understanding of chickens than that of most. He’d read with interest this column from a year ago, one which depicted a couple of experiences that had to do with my wife’s snowbird companions—me and three laying hens.  

  • What's Going On: Understanding and offering resolutions for the New Year

    I don’t get New Year’s resolutions.

    What is it about the start of a new calendar year that motivates people to make major changes/improvements?

    Is it a cold weather thing forcing to stay indoors and reflect on our thoughts and actions? Is it a residual side affect stemming from guilt associated with Christmas behavior, such as a thoughtless gift or a snide remark to an in-law? Or maybe it’s all the booze typically consumed around this holiday.

  • The Time Capsule: The origins of the hearty Pease Porridge

    Pease Porridge Hot/Pease Porridge Cold/Pease Porridge in the Pot/Nine Days Old.