Saturday, April 29, 2006

This is just great

Check this out. It's an interview with Jesse Harris, Field Director for the Culver campaign. He very eloquently answers questions from the Iowa Progress blog.

Third District Democratic Convention Report

We had a great day at the Third District Democratic Convention in Johnston. Sorry I didn't get this written and posted sooner, but I've been enjoying a few beverages and talking on the phone for a while since we got home.

So here's a quick review of the day:

We departed here in the wee hours of the morning, picked up the grandparents in Albia, and headed to the convention in Johnston.

After a quick stop to pick up my brother's fiancee in Des Moines, we arrived in time for Rep. Boswell's pancake breakfast. We sat down and were joined by Dodie Boswell for a nice chat. The Congressman then came over and sat down for a few minutes. Let me just say, he's looking fit as a fiddle.

Sen. Russ Feingold was the special guest, and I went up and introduced myself. We didn't talk long, but he was very engaging. I told him and his staffer about this blog, and asked them to send me any info that they would like to send. I'll make sure to post about anything they send my way in the future.

Then it was into the auditorium for the convention. The delegates gathered and were called to order by Third District chairman, Joe Judge (my little brother).

I won't bore you with all of the details, but there were the usual spats here and there about parliamentary procedure and all that. All in all, however, we participated in a wonderful excercise of democracy. And I was basically happy with the results.

Rep. Boswell was the featured speaker. Joe had a minor goof when he didn't notice that Boswell was already up on stage. He got on his walkie-talkie and then on the microphone and asked if Leonard was ready. We could all see that Leonard was sitting right there, but Joe didn't see him. Joe said "Oh, you snuck up on me!" We all had a good laugh.
Rep. Boswell then delivered a moving talk about Iraq, and forcefully declared that "It is time for us to be involved in a planned drawdown." I was really proud to be a long-time supporter of our Congressman.

The next speaker was Gov. Tom Vilsack. Great speech. He has honed his speaking skills well and has near perfect timing. Well done.

The governor was followed by Attorney General Tom Miller. I like him, but I had to go to the bathroom. When I returned, he was still talking. Then he started talking about Mike Blouin and I got quite bored. Sorry, I'm just not down with that.

Fallon time...He gives a good speech. Money is bad and all that. Then he said his hero was Howard Hughes. Whoops! Harold Hughes. This is the second time I've heard him make that slip. I think Ed has watched The Aviator a few too many times. I liked that movie, too. Howard Hughes was actually a very interesting person. Kooky...different...odd. But I wouldn't say he's a hero of mine. Kinda like Ed Fallon.

Michael Mauro...Nice speech, discussed the philosophical difference between Democrats and Republicans in regard to voters and their rights. I think he's going to be a great Secretary of State.

Dusky Terry...I liked what he said about bringing young people into the Democratic Party. Strong support of ethanol and biodiesel.

Time for more business. Some minor parliamentary snafus, but we got through it. People were ready for a break for lunch.

But first...Sen. Russ Feingold! This guy really got the crowd energized. The highlight came when he was discussing his proposition of censure of President Bush. One mention of the great Senator who joined him in his call for censure, Tom Harkin, and the entire crowd erupted into a standing ovation. All in all, Feingold is an impressive speaker.

Then it was back to the school cafeteria for a tasty lunch. Well, it wasn't that tasty, but I ate it. Actually it wasn't too bad. A ravioli tomato soup and sandwich, and pie. I love blueberry pie, even if it's not particularly good blueberry pie.

After lunch, we re-convened and it was back to business. And walks Chet Culver! I swear, Chet gets better every time he gives a speech. He was highly energized and kept the crowd pumped up throughout. Lots of great applause and cheers from all around the room. We in the Monroe County delegation had to really work to be his loudest cheering section. Again, I felt very proud to be a supporter.

Chet was followed by Denise O'Brien. She gave a really good speech. Make sure to watch for her green school bus powered by biodiesel.

We did some more business throughout the afternoon. We began the process of electing representatives to the State Central Committee, and had one more candidate speech...

Mike Blouin...Nice speech. I'm obviously not a supporter, but he gave a good speech and I shook his hand afterwards as he walked by.

There was more to do with our representatives to the central committee. But before we were done, we heard from Mary Compos, who helps organize the Brown-Black Forum. The event will be held on Saturday, May 6, from 6:30-8 p.m. at North High School in Des Moines. There are no tickets, and everyone is welcome to attend. I think I'm going to try to get to Des Moines that evening.

That's it for now. I'll make another post tomorrow.

Update: I talked to Mom on the phone tonight and she said everything went very well in her travels and her message was well received at the district conventions in Peosta and Mt. Pleasant.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

What forum was Yepsen watching?

I watched the Democratic Gubernatorial Forum on Tuesday night, and I watched it again this morning (I love my TiVo). It seems that David Yepsen must have been half asleep when he watched it, because he's way off in his column today as he assesses the forum. Way off.

Here's my take on the debate:

Even if I wasn't involved with this campaign, I'd definitely say that Chet Culver was the clear winner of the debate, and Ed Fallon performed very well, too.

Chet's delivery was clear and he looked in charge. Oh, and if anybody needs to control their "temper and scowl," it's Mike Blouin.

The clear loser in the forum was Sal Mohammed, of course. I like the guy, but it's just too hard to decipher what he's saying. And when you figure out what he said, it still doesn't make sense.

One of the highlights of the event came after Blouin had said that there would "ultimately be a federal solution" to the health care crisis.

Chet said he disagreed with Blouin, and offered his ideas for solving the health care crisis here in Iowa. Blouin then accused Chet of being "confused." Chet then delivered a brilliant riposte, and in the end, Blouin was the one who needed to control his scowl.

Chet also hit one out of the park with his closing comments. He looked cheerful and got his message out almost flawlessly.

I think it's funny that Yepsen is working so hard at making this race seem more competitive than it really is. He has to write about something, I suppose. But every measure shows Chet Culver as the clear winner of this Democratic Primary. And his lead is growing all the time. Yepsen's right about one thing: Chet is getting better, and forums like the one on Tuesday really show it.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Extreme Gardening

We're going to have lots and lots of veggies this year, or at least that's the plan. We're all set to have the largest garden we've ever planted.

We've chosen what I think should be an excellent location, situated in a spot with some really nice black dirt. I't was once a barnyard and feedlot for my and my brother's 4-H steers when we were kids, so you know it's fertile ground.

So far, we've planted seeds for radishes, cabbage, lettuce, jalapeno peppers, green bell peppers, an assortment of other colorful bell peppers, eggplant, lima beans and green beans.

Tomorrow I'm planning to plant corn, potatoes, peas and more green beans.

I've got some seeds starting in pots by the window in the garage as well, just in case. And to absolutely ensure that I will have tomatoes, I also cheated a little bit and bought a few pre-started peppers and tomatoes, just in case our seeds don't sprout.

Oh, I also have some garlic sprouting in a pot that I'll soon plant somewhere in the garden as well.

If things go well and these things grow I should have a great plenty of veggies to share with my friends and family. And I may even sell some at the farmer's market this summer.

On similar note, we've almost totally struck out on the morels so far this year. It's just too dry out there, I think.

My friend Jamey and his brother Damon came out a few days ago and we went for a quick hunt, but the three of us found nothing. Steva found four tiny little gray ones, but that's it. We gave two of the little gray ones to Jamey and Damon, so they didn't have to go home without any mushrooms.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Judge for Yourself

During my time at the newspaper, I would sometimes write an opinion column.

It wasn't often, but if there was something I thought I needed to write about politics, or something else that interested me, I wrote it.

And my boss always let me print them. Another reason why I will always appreciate him as a boss.

I wrote columns about Social Security, the 2004 election, about John Edwards and John Kerry, and the caucuses and stuff like that.

And one time I wrote a column about Halo 2, which was a real hit with my friends. My columns were titled "Judge for Yourself," a title that I never liked. But I couldn't think of anything any better. Now that I think of it, I should have called it "Smoky Hollow." Duh.

Anyway, here's my final "Judge for Yourself" column that was published in last week's Albia Union-Republican:

Since I joined the work force, way back when I was a teenager, I have had some very fun and interesting jobs. None more interesting than this one.
Other than working on the farm as a kid, I've worked in lots of different places.
Years ago, right here in Albia, I was a Kum & Go clerk, and I also spent some time as a burger flipper at Hardee's. Those jobs are not nearly as easy as most people think.

I will always have a lot of respect for people working in jobs like that, and I must say, the average person would not believe some of the things you have to put up with while working at a gas station in the middle of the night. But, in retrospect, both of those jobs were quite fun.
I also worked for Menards for a while in Iowa City, where I did everything from driving a forklift to shuffling paperwork to counting money. That was a fun job, and the people I worked with were great.

Then I spent quite a while working for a comic book store that made most of its money selling Beanie Babies. Let me just say, anyone who works in a shopping mall during the Christmas season and endures that music for hours and hours on end deserves a special award or something.
Did I ever tell you about the time I sold a single Beanie Baby for over $1,000? The customer actually appeared to be an intelligent, well-to-do, normal human being. And he even acted like he got a real bargain. During the time I worked there, I learned a lot about people who have more money than they know what to do with. That was fun.

I started working here for the Albia Newspapers way back in the late 20th Century. I had never had a job like this before, but at last, it was an opportunity to use my one true talent: spelling.
Some people can sing, some people can dance. Not me. I am gifted with the ability to correctly spell words.

Now I'm not about to claim that there haven't been any words misspelled in this newspaper in the last six years. Far from it. Hey, I can spell, but I never said I could type worth a darn.
We've misspelled a whole lot of words, but...just think of how many thousands of words we've spelled correctly! On a percentage basis, I think we've spelled quite well!

But of course, there's a whole lot more to this job than spelling. Spelling is the easy part.
The hard part is deciding what is news and what is not.
What's important and what's not? What has impact? What is fair? Why should this be in the newspaper when something else is not? I've learned a lot about all of this stuff during my time here.

There are books and journalism professors and college courses that try to answer those questions, but they really never can. You just have to figure it out for yourself. I think I've gotten better at it. As I write this, it's Wednesday and it's 3 p.m. and I've only heard two complaints so far today.

So anyway, what is news and what is not? What is fair and balanced? People all over the nation debate these questions every day, now more than ever, I think.

I've always been very interested in the news media. From when I was a little kid, my parents always had a bunch of newspapers coming into the house every day. I'd always read them all.
But I never really understood how it all worked until I got the job here.
And there are things I learned that I did not expect.

I found out that I actually didn¹t know everything about my hometown and it¹s people. I grew up here, and lived most of my life here, but never really knew how things worked.
I have learned a little bit about stuff like that. Why some things never get done. What motivates people.

Who makes the big things and little things happen in our community.

How a few people can come together with an idea and get something done to help others, and then tell you they don't want anything about it in the newspaper because they don't want to take credit for doing it.
Or how some people can do something very small and get very upset if they don't get credit for it.
Or how it's the small things that mean so much to people. And what is meaningful to people is all that really matters.

And, sadly, I also know how many important stories I should have written, but didn't. There is not enough paper and ink in our warehouse to tell every story that should be told about the people of Monroe County.

But it's time to say farewell. I'm moving on, although I'm not really going away. I'm still going to be your Monroe County neighbor, but as far as jobs go, I'm going to be doing something else.
I sure hope my next job is at least half as fun and interesting as this one.

There's only one way to find out.

Out on a Limb

I'll miss being a newspaper guy. And I'll also miss having a really good boss who respected my opinions and allowed me full freedom to report the news the way I thought it should be reported.

We respected each other and agreed on most local issues. He was one of the best bosses I have ever had, and I will always appreciate the opportunities he gave me.

But we argued all the time. He is a rock-ribbed Republican and I am a liberal Democrat. Sometimes we yelled for hours about George Bush or Iraq or this or that.

My former boss, Dave Paxton, publisher of the Albia Newspapers, writes a column each week in the Albia Union-Republican. He wrote some very kind words about me in his "Out on a Limb" column last week that I will always cherish.

Here are his comments, excerpted from the paper last week:

WHEN DIEN JUDGE applied for the editor's job here six years ago, without any newspaper experience, without a journalism degree and with a cap firmly planted on his head, I didn't give hiring him a second thought.
And even though we are miles apart politically, socially and generationally, it's been a good, sometimes noisy, sometimes argumentative ride. I'm not sure either of us changed much in our political ways of thinking. I know I was forced to get better at presenting my conservative views.
Being challenged is good, particularly if you tend to surround yourself with people who basically agree with you. Present a view to people who will pat you on the back by simply breathing the same air is one thing. Present that same view to a sceptic, looking at life from an entirely different point of view, is something all together different.
As much as we differ in terms of liberal-conservative, Democrat-Republican, we fell into agreement on most local issues. Which backs up the idea that all politics is local. We had dozens of conversations across the hall about the real division in Iowa being urban-rural, not Democrat-Republican.
I think Dien was surprised at how important he became to the Monroe County community as its news editor. I'm hoping his interest in the community will continue, because he has everything it takes to become a local mover and shaker.
As a publisher and avid writer of editorials, the thing I most appreciated about our professional relationship was the balance he brought to more than a few topics. "Read my editorial and see what you think," I'd ask. He may have suggested a word change, or the addition of a single sentence and on occasion he would grimace and I knew I might want to rethink the whole opinion piece.
Sometimes I felt I was on a learning curve in hearing about state politics and his mother's run for governor. It was a rare opportunity for me to peer into Iowa's political machinery. It's why I can bid Dien farewell without a single regret. He has a once in a lifetime opportunity to help affect a statewide gubernatorial race.
I'm not completely sure what direction I'm going to take in filling his position. I doubt very much I'll be able to hire immediately anyone who has the feel for covering local government like Dien developed. I hope people on the city council, the board of supervisors, the hospital board and water board realize how skillfully, honestly and sensitively Dien covered their meetings.
After the election is over I'm hoping Dien and Steva remain as active participants in Monroe County. If they do, they'll make a positive difference. The kind of difference Dien made as editor of the Albia Newspaper.

Finishing a chapter, starting a new one

For anyone who hasn't yet heard, I have decided to seek a new job. I've written my last news stories for the Monroe County News and the Albia Union-Republican.

I started as a staff writer at the Albia Newspapers Inc. in 1999, and became News Editor after a short time. I had almost six and a half years of great fun in that job. I can't begin to explain all of the interesting, boring, weird, exciting, bizarre and downright fascinating stuff that a news reporter in a small town experiences.

Albia City Council meetings, Monroe County Board of Supervisors meetings, Monroe County Hospital Board meetings. Board after board, meeting after meeting.

And meeting people, and meeting politicians, and meeting deadlines. It is a fun and rewarding job, but it's time for me to move on.

In the meantime, I have an opportunity to devote a considerable amount of my time and efforts by volunteering for the Culver for Governor campaign. I am working to organize other volunteers in my local area, and I'll be making lots of phone calls. This campaign is going to be very exciting in the coming weeks, and I'll be doing what I can to make sure Chet is victorious in June.

So much to report, so little time

I sincerely apologize for my lack of posting lately. I have lots and lots to report, but I've had even more other stuff to do.

But now I'm back, and I'll be posting more often than ever. I know, I know. Bloggers say that all the time just before they disappear off the face of the Earth. But I mean it, and I'll explain why.

I'll be making a series of posts tonight that will explain some major changes in my world (for the better).