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Monday, Mar. 2, 2015
Letters Welcome
The Daily Reporter invites readers to submit "Letters to the Editor" with comments, criticisms, praise and/or questions about local and world issues of public interest. The editor reserves the right to edit or condense all letters. All letters are to be signed. Unsigned letters will not be considered for publication. Readers should also include their address and telephone number to verify the identity of the writer. Addresses and phone numbers are not printed.
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The Daily Reporter is looking for bloggers who wish to share regularly on their particular interests. If you have a unique area of interest or particular topic you would like to weigh in on weekly, email us at news@spencerdailyreporter.com.
Events to make the pre-spring days fly by (03/02/15)
It's been a long, cold winter, but spring is in sight. As the calendar turns to March, and daylight saving time approaches this coming Sunday, you can almost feel the winds shifting. From icy and desolate, to breezes carrying a hint of warmth. At least that's what I've been telling myself...
Legislative Update (03/02/15)
The fuel tax bill was at the top of the headlines and the center of attention at the Capitol this week. Overwhelmingly, the people of House District 2 supported SF 257 and I voted for the bill. When counties are bonding to pay for road and bridge repair, when the average motorist is paying $381 in repairs to their vehicle just from the damage from broken roads, and when our infrastructure was crumbling, it was clear: something must be done...
Analytically speaking (02/27/15)
The great Charles Barkley caused some fuss earlier this month, as Chuck is prone to do, when he denounced the idea of using analytics in the NBA saying, "I've always believed analytics was crap. I never mention the (Houston) Rockets as legitimate contenders 'cause they're not. And, listen, I wouldn't know (Rockets General Manager) Daryl Morey if he walked into this room right now."...
The Johnson Report (02/27/15)
It was the right vote at the right time. After a 70-minute debate Tuesday, the Iowa Senate voted 28-21 to raise the state fuel tax by 10 cents. The increases are from 19 cents to 29 cents per gallon for E10 ethanol blend; from 21 cents to 31 cents for unblended gasoline; and from 22.5 cents to 32.5 cents for all diesel. Some permit fees will be raised, pushing the estimated total of new Road Use Tax Fund (RUTF) revenues to more than $200 million annually...
Our desire to be No. 1 (02/27/15)
The people of Spencer, and the community as a whole, demonstrates an attitude of working to be the best at what we do. And there's nothing wrong with that. We want to be recognized as a community that's one of the safest, most family-friendly and livable places in the state of Iowa...
Raising Iowa's minimum wage diminishes career readiness (02/27/15)
There's talk right now in the Legislature to raise the minimum wage in Iowa from $7.25 per hour (which is also the federal rate) to $8 per hour by July of this year and to $8.25 per hour by July of next year. I don't necessarily like this, but stating "it'll raise the price of things" is an argument that, frankly, has been overused and is starting to sound cliche...
CommStock Report (02/26/15)
I asked ISU climatologist Elwynn Taylor why fewer weather watchers appear to follow the Southern Oscillation Index to track El Nino/La Nina than they used to. The 90-day SOI was at a solid El Nino -8, yet many weather services were still not committed to an El Nino. ...
Leave the stupid questions at home (02/25/15)
We live in a scary world. One where male lawmakers who make decisions regarding female health care have no conceivable knowledge about how the female body actually works. I am ever so thankful that the lawmaker in question is not in the Iowa Legislature. Rep. Vito Barbieri, a Republican in the Idaho State House, actually thought it would be possible to use small cameras, which are traditionally swallowed and used to do a colonoscopy remotely, to perform a gynecological exam...
Motion pictures in our minds (02/24/15)
I sat down on Sunday evening for a night of Oscar-watching. It's a tradition at my house, the same in a lot of other homes I imagine. I do love to see the silly sketches, over-caffeinated winners and those dresses. But, as I prepared to settle in for a night of pageantry and self-congratulations, I had a bit of a revelation...
Legislative Update (02/24/15)
Three years ago, I campaigned on opening up options in education. When HF 204 (a bill I sponsored) was passed off the House floor this week, Iowa took one step closer to opening more doors to education. There are currently two school districts in the state that operate online schools, (CAM in Anita and Clayton-Ridge) under a three-year pilot program set to expire on June 30th of this year. ...
Patchwork Quilt (02/23/15)
During the month of February, American's see the human heart as a symbol of love. February is also American Heart month, a time to show yourself love. It is also a time to find out about your risks for heart disease and stroke in addition to staying heart healthy for yourself and your loved ones...
'The fight of the century' ... 5 years ago (02/20/15)
I had planned on writing this week's column about the NBA trade deadline bonanza, and its ability to simultaneously break Twitter and my brain. Regular readers might remember I once referred to myself as something of a trade junkie. Football was supposed to bring me back down to earth after the NBA's offseason. Now that football is gone, I have no idea how to recover from Thursday...
Your chance to have a voice (02/20/15)
For quite some time, I've been trying to come up with a way to create greater community involvement with the Daily Reporter. In past years we've attempted on different occasions to seek out persons interested in serving on an editorial board with limited success. That idea has been scratched...
+10 for resilience (02/20/15)
I listen to a lot of TED talks, because I love listening to people talk about new ideas and creative ways of viewing the world. They say that you are who you are around, but in this technological age I'll add that you are who you follow. I want to follow creative people, because they make me more creative...
The Johnson Report (02/20/15)
Every year I hear from someone asking when Iowa will get serious about pension-tax reform. Every year I learn about another Iowan who has moved to South Dakota or other state where pensions are not taxed. The tax drain can be reversed, however. A bill is expected soon that would phase out the taxation of pension, annuity and Individual Retirement Account income over five years (tax years 2017 through 2021). ...
CommStock Report (02/19/15)
Mark Twain said that history may not repeat itself but it does rhyme. When Hitler began his conquest of Europe piece by piece, world leaders tried to make deals with him along the way. It was called "appeasement" and Hitler played them for fools. He promised that if given the Sudetenland that he would be satisfied. They agreed and then he took the rest of Czechoslovakia ... on and on it went. Every concession made to him just reaffirmed the weakness of the Anglo-French...
40 days of Lent (02/18/15)
We pigged out on Fat Tuesday, we fasted Ash Wednesday and we chose what we will do without for the next 40 days (I gave up my addiction to pop), which means the Lenten season is upon us The funny thing about Lent is how much we complain about it. "Oh man it's Friday, now I have to eat fish!" "Why do I have to give up ? It's not fair!" "This is torture! Why do we have to do this again?"...
Clover Corner (02/16/15)
Well it's the middle of February already and it sounds like at least six more weeks of winter. But on a positive note, spring is the next season so it can't be too far away. In this week's Clover Corner I am going to discuss what 4-H is all about. The mission for 4-H is to empower youth to reach their full potential through youth-adult partnerships and researched-based experiences. ...
Ready. Set. Presidential race. (02/16/15)
They're baaaa-ccccckkk. Like swallows returning to Capistrano, the presidential wannabes are booking flights to Des Moines and testing out the chilly waters of the Iowa political landscape. While it seems like they just left, in truth we're less than a year away from that Midwestern sieve that separates the "possibles" from the "pigs will fly first" brand of candidates...
Ask a Trooper (02/16/15)
-- The vehicle that has control of the intersection. -- The biggest vehicle. -- The vehicle on the right. -- No one has the right of way unless it is given to them. --- The photo for this week's question was taken from a crash in November involving this exact issue. This intersection was uncontrolled, and in the middle of nowhere. It begs the question, what are the chances of two vehicles meeting at this intersection, in the middle of nowhere, at the very same time?...
Legislative Update (02/16/15)
This week, I introduced HF 220, a bill that proposes to close a tax loophole for fines. The issue starts when the National Collegiate Athletic Association or its affiliate conferences issue a fine. Their rules require the university to pay the fine, not the individual who caused it...
You can't make this stuff up -- more importantly, why would you want to? (02/14/15)
From the bizarro world in which we sometimes find ourselves living I present the following actual stories that appeared on the AP newswire last week as a means to give you pause. When you think your life is giving you grief, just be glad you're not dealing with this mess...
The greatest story ever told (02/14/15)
It's probably no secret that I love books. And, between the nature of my job and my general personality, I read quite a bit. I'll read just about anything, but I love a good love story most of all. I've read Nicholas Sparks before, and he's okay. I'm not a huge fan of the "big face" religious-themed literature (the term 'big face' came from a friend at Baker Publishing and is in reference to the fact that nine out of 10 Christian-lit titles have a large image of the main character's face on the cover).. ...
February heat wave (02/14/15)
It's cold out. You probably already knew that. Luckily, we've hit that time of year where all the heat you could want is in a high school gym near you. (Literally and figuratively.) With America still dealing with the postpartum depression that comes with the end of football season every year and the NBA hitting its All-Star Break, there's no better time to focus your competitive energy on the local postseason...
The CommStock Report (02/12/15)
GM reported a very strong quarter with the exception of about a $400 million loss in Europe, most of which was associated with Russia. Their outlook was for more of the same coming from that business region. Is it worth the cost short term in Russia for some long-term commercial benefit? That has to be the only rationale for being there and doing business in Russia. ...
Randy's Review: 'McFarland USA' (02/26/15)
Hollywood does a great job of sniffing out sports films based on true stories that had they not actually taken place, they would be too unbelievable to script. Such is the case with "McFarland USA," an extremely enjoyable retelling of coach Jim White (Kevin Costner) and a group of "pickers" -- Latino high school kids working the fruit and vegetable fields of a small poor central California community -- who come from nowhere to become an elite cross country squad when the first state championships were introduced in 1987.. ...
Randy's Review: '50 Shades of Grey' (02/19/15)
Before we begin, just a couple of quick housecleaning issues. First, walking into "50 Shades of Grey" by myself -- my wife had no interest in going -- made me feel like the biggest pervert in America so I chose to catch it at a matinee, which still had multiple couples in attendance. Apparently some folks viewed it as a date movie...
Randy's Review: 'Kingsmen: The Secret Service' (02/19/15)
This new take on an elite, clandestine British Secret Service organization, "Kingsmen: The Secret Service," is based on a limited series comic by popular writer Mark Millar. But it's just a little too much as it pits the heroes again a villain determined to tackle the issue of climate change using a radical plan to reduce Earth's population...
Randy's Review: 'Jupiter Ascending' (02/13/15)
With the release of another trio of "Star Wars" films on the horizon, why not attempt to jump the gun with a science fiction fantasy flick aimed at taking advantage of the same audience? Because it's a bad idea. Even the hotness of Mila Kunis and the hunky popularity of Channing Tatum can't save "Jupiter Ascending" which tells the story of a poor Chicago maid, Jupiter (Kunis) who mysteriously finds herself the target of an interstellar family squabble. ...
Randy's Review: 'Project Almanac' (02/05/15)
Okay here's the thing about time travel movies, there are always unexpected consequences even with the best of intentions. Such is the case with "Project Almanac," MTV's latest big screen attempt to share the teenage condition as viewed through the lens of what used-to-be a video music channel...
Book Review: 'Finding Jake' (02/26/15)
In the same vein as "We Need To Talk About Kevin," Bryan Reardon's "Finding Jake" revolves around a school shooting. Simon Connolly is a stay-at-home dad who is called to a local church with the other parents at the school after a shooter came into the school and killed 13 students. ...
Book Review: 'Making Nice' (02/19/15)
Reading Matt Sumell's "Making Nice" is an interesting experience. On the one hand, Sumell's writing is really fresh, funny and likable. His stories are clearly told. You may not always like the situation the characters are in, but you can insert yourself into the scene fairly easily. I like this in a book...
Book Review: 'The Last Good Paradise' (02/12/15)
In some ways, Tatjana Soli's novel "The Last Good Paradise" reminded me of the movie "Couples Retreat," starring Vince Vaughn, Malin Ackerman and Jon Favreau. In "Couples Retreat," several couples attend a combined marital therapy retreat and vacation in paradise. In "The Last Good Paradise," Ann and Richard travel to the South Pacific to work on their marriage and escape the stresses of their life back home in Los Angeles...
Book Review: 'The Nightingale' (02/05/15)
I was pleasantly surprised by "The Nightingale," and by Kristin Hannah. I'd never read her before, but I had -- assumingly -- put her in the same category I put Elin Hilderbrand and Debbie Macomber, a category formerly recognized by authors like LaVyrle Spencer and Barbara Delinsky. My mother refers to them as "fluff reading."...
Book Review: 'Etta and Otto and Russell and James' (01/29/15)
Emma Hooper's debut novel, "Etta and Otto and Russell and James" opens with what I think is one of the best opening lines in contemporary literature: "'Otto,' The letter began, in blue ink, 'I've gone. I've never seen the water, so I've gone there. Don't worry, I've left you the truck. I can walk. I will try to remember to come back. Yours (always), Etta.'"...
Music Review: 'Just Kids' (02/26/15)
Mat Kearney fits in many categories of music. His latest album, "Just Kids," contains some spoken word poetry, and would belong in some smoke-filled underground coffee shop/bar with a dimly lit stage and a cajon. I get this feeling especialy from "Heartbreak Drummer" and "Just Kids."...
Music Review: 'Smoke + Mirrors' (02/19/15)
The great thing about Imagine Dragons is that they're a talented pop-rock band with a signature lead vocal tone. The not-so-great thing about them is that, at least in the case of their first album, they're better at creating singles than they are creating a cohesive album...
Music Review: 'Fifty Shades of Grey' (02/12/15)
Please don't judge the soundtrack by the film. Whether or not you plan to watch the film, and whether or not you think it will be a good film, the soundtrack is quite good. Full of drama and intrigue, the "Fifty Shades of Grey" soundtrack covers a lot of ground musically...
Music Review: 'I Will Follow' (02/05/15)
With the release of his 10th studio album, Jeremy Camp is no stranger to the Christian Music industry. He's one of those artists that I can hear coming over the airwaves and immediately recognize. In addition to his voice -- which is fairly unique -- his music tends to be stylistically consistent...
Music Review: 'Non-Fiction' (01/29/15)
I've never listened to an entire Ne-Yo album from start to finish, though I've always enjoy his songs when they come on the radio. After listening to "Non-Fiction," I probably could have strung together all the songs I liked of his on the radio and come up with a better collection...