Buzz | Noise | Stir | Tension

Thank you to those who visit regularly, comment, engage in friendly discussions, or write interesting posts. I look forward to those interactions. You provide insights into things new and different. You reinforce the feelings of community much needed by all of us.

I am part of the Facebook world. It helps keep our large extended family in touch. My friends list is not long by choice. Over the recent years, my family had our share of disagreements and squabbles which are normal for any family. We set some ground rules of behavior. Most of the time we share and behave ourselves.

I have a Twitter account. Weeks can go by between tweets or checking in to see what’s up. I follow several people in science and astronomy. Their tweets during special events are often the most up to date and accurate.

The Facebook and Twitter worlds have changed a lot lately. With the November election, I noticed trends of increased activity on both sites. It increased more with the Inauguration in January. Now the stir, buzz, and noise going on in those social media sites is remarkable. Nearly all of the turmoil is connected to politics. I’m surprised by the sheer volume and intensity. People are saying and sharing some amazing things. I go there less often and spend less time looking. I don’t need that tension and stress.


I am happy to say I have not seen the same trend in my WordPress community. It is likely happening somewhere. But, the people I know seem to be maintaining this venue as before. You still write about the things you find interesting and important to you. You still comment thoughtfully about what others have written. You still stop in, if only briefly, to leave a Like. Thank you.

This post is not meant to stir up discussion and argument about politics or personalities. If you feel the need, please refrain and go elsewhere. Instead, it is my way of saying how much I appreciate having exchanges about many other things that are also important in our lives.

That’s how I see it.

Peace … Jim

Election 2014 | Some Thoughts

French ballot box 2007 | wikimedia

Our team of volunteers was like thousands of others around the country. During the two weekends prior, and during the four days of GOTV November 1-4, we sent out canvassers to knock on doors. We reminded people of their early voting opportunities and of the need to return their absentee ballots if they had one. We sent canvassers at 9, 12, 3, and 6. Some returned to our staging location with absentee ballots which we gave to our county auditor that day or the next.

Ours is a heavily Democratic county. Our tally of votes during the general election would help our candidates running statewide for U.S. Senate and Congress. The countywide results after the election showed our Democratic candidates received twice as many votes as their Republican opponents. We did our job well. Statewide, the results were disappointing for the Democrats. Iowa is a rural and conservative state with three or four pockets of liberal and progressive voters like most of those in our county. Voter turnout in general was low.

My role as a volunteer was to train canvassers to do their job politely and effectively. They were greeted after their shifts and asked about their experiences, positive and negative. Most people were not home. Some could be seen inside and chose not to answer the door.

There was a small amount of positive feedback from voters who appreciated the information. However, negative feedback was most common. Top on the list was how sick and tired they were of the long and non-stop negative campaign. Television and radio ads attacking each candidate were wearing the patience very thin on the voters we contacted. They also had complaints about the number of phone calls they had received. They were very eager for it to stop.

What was conspicuously missing from nearly all of the positive or negative feedback was any discussion about current important issues faced by the country. They weren’t discussed in the political ads. Instead, those ads attacked and took much out of context. The voters were fed up and disgusted. They were opting out of participation in the democratic process.

This isn’t a new problem. But, it does seem particularly intense now. Voters see their communities and neighborhoods made up of people from different walks of life, different cultures, education, religions, races, sexual orientations, etc. They generally get along. When problems arise, the people work toward a solution. Some progress is made. It isn’t perfect. But, there is an attempt to look past differences to try to reach compromise and make life better for the residents now, and in the future. They don’t understand or accept that politicians in Washington D.C. and statehouses are so dysfunctional. The voters are angry.

Another very large part of the negative feedback we heard was about the enormous amounts of money spent on negative campaign ads. Voters feels their voice is not important any more. They don’t feel their vote carries much weight and so choose to tune out. They feel they cannot compete with the dollars spent by secret groups and individuals. So, why bother trying?

This is a very serious problem. Our founders envisioned a republic supported by we, the people. The people we heard from don’t feel they are as significant as the powerful dollars spent by special interests. It seems to them a losing proposition. I watched a video on TED this week by Lawrence Lessig in which he specifically addressed this financing issue in 2013. This problem can be fixed. It is a problem which is easier to solve than many others our country has faced and solved. But, it will require major changes by everyone. I invite you to watch and comment.

Election 2014 | Getting Out The Vote

Communities all across the U.S. have elections this coming Tuesday Nov. 4. My state of Iowa is electing a governor and a senator. We will also elect a member of congress from our district. There are races for many other state and local offices and some ballot questions to decide.

Both Melanie and I are volunteering with our Democratic party Saturday through Tuesday to Get Out The Vote – GOTV. We have also been helping before these final days. There are thousands upon thousands of citizens who are doing this all across the country. They come from both major political parties. I think this is the correct grass-roots way.

The overwhelming amounts of BIG donations coming from undisclosed donors is destroying our system where each common person feels their vote counts as much as the next. People feel their voice does not count any more. They are losing interest and are fed up and angry with government. I feel campaign financing reform should eliminate all donations like those. That is an issue for another post.

Control of the senate hinges on the outcomes of only a few states where there are competitive races. Iowa has one of those races. Our long time senator, Tom Harkin, is retiring. Many of us are supporting current congressman, Bruce Braley, to be his replacement. Today, I visited the FiveThirtyEight blog by Nate Silver to see what the current projections look like in those competitive races. Our Iowa race is within a point based on his polling.



For the final four days, volunteers will be visiting the homes of potential voters and calling them to see if they have voted. If we find they have actually voted based upon official records, that night we will strike their name from the list. We won’t ask them the next day.

Early voting is widely available in Iowa. Past history shows many take advantage of early voting in our county, which is a Democratic stronghold. We are looking for every possible vote for our candidates in order to have election results in our favor.

Taos | Town and Our Casita Home

Our View From Iowa

by Melanie and Jim

Adobe and blue sky are two features of the Taos, New Mexico area. We walked around the central part of town, stopping in small shops, speaking with the owners about their work. Each tiny side street has surprises.

street It seems the sky is just the right color every day.

store Shadows cast by the morning sun were just right.

Our ‘home’ for the week is this one bedroom casita about a mile from downtown. The owners lived in it while their larger home was being built. Now it serves as a rental. It is clean, quiet, and rests at the base of the mountains just to the east.

casita Living room and kitchen at left. Bedroom at right.

Near sunset recently, we drove a short distance to the bridge over the Gorge of the Rio Grande. We hiked two miles along the west rim as the sun…

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Oklahoma City | National Memorial

Our View From Iowa

by Jim and Melanie

Before destruction – Wikimedia

We recently visited Oklahoma where our son is a pilot in training with the Air Force. On one of the days, we drove to Oklahoma City to visit the National Memorial to the 168 victims of the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. The bombing took place on April 19, 1995. The glass-fronted building formerly stood nine stories tall, faced north and aligned with NW 5th Street. Just before 9:00 that morning, a rental truck was parked by the bomber directly in front. He set a fuse and departed for safety and his getaway car parked nearby. At 9:02 the blast tore a gaping hole in the front of the building, killing 168 adults and children. Through a series of fortuitous events, he was arrested within two hours along I-35 north of the city for having no license plates. Evidence led to his conviction…

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