Daily Archives: February 19, 2008

Today’s Column — Staying Positive

Last Tuesday, I used this space to chronicle some of the stuff that’s making me uneasy. So in the interest of equal time, and to please the people who say I’m too negative, here are some things making our frozen life bearable.

Recent headlines tell us it’s dangerous to be a good Samaritan, especially on slick highways. Yet, thankfully, the do-gooders persist. They’re picking up buried motorists, helping dig out elderly neighbors and doing countless other good deeds big and small.

I was on my way to work Monday morning when a kind gentleman rolled down his window to inform me I had a flat tire. Ah, Monday. Mercifully, I was just a few blocks from a tire joint, which, in turn, is just five blocks from work.

What an invigorating walk. I’ll get feeling back in my ears any minute now. But thanks to that attentive guy.

Did you see stories about Kosovo declaring its independence over the weekend? It was a stirring moment that Americans had a big hand in creating. It’s also oddly comforting to be back at odds with Russia. If they can wheel out Sylvester Stallone to do another “Rambo,” maybe we also can set up a “Rocky” rematch with Ivan Drago, or maybe his grandson.

It’s handy to get school closings beamed to my BlackBerry at 5:15 a.m., although it will never replace huddling around a staticky radio in dawn’s early light waiting to hear those magic words, “no school.” My fancy phone also is an invaluable time-waster as I wait in a long line to buy bread, milk and beer at Hy-Vee every other day.

On the bright side, the more snow we get, the longer I can delay cleaning the dog dookie out of my backyard.

And there’s nothing like walking into a warm, dim and crowded bar in the winter. My wife and I ducked into the Irish Democrat Friday night after a movie and it was the perfect place to be.

Old constants are comforting, like the gambling lobby getting its way at the Statehouse. This smoking ban bill with the casino loophole will be the biggest financial boon to the industry since, well, every other time the Legislature has voted on casino-related bills in the past 20 years. Jackpot.

The Pentagon’s plan to shoot down an ailing spy satellite gets a thumbsup from the 10-year-old Atari 2600 player still trapped in my body. And it was heartening to see my 6-year-old daughter come home with a foil box jammed with little Valentine’s Day cards, just like the old days. One difference: I noticed Dora the Explorer’s Valentines are bilingual. No word on whether U.S. Rep. Steve King will try to make her Dora the Deported for violating official English.

It’s good news that the Cedar Rapids Public Library won’t be cut to the bone and that the Linn County Board of Supervisors will have to make a tough call on salaries themselves. It’s also nice Karl Rove’s Iowa City speech was postponed so that we can hear a few more weeks of vitriol from folks who think he ruined American politics with vitriol.
I’m glad my alma mater, Drake U, won the Missouri Valley Conference.

I’m glad my snowblower still works.

And I’m glad the tire joint takes plastic.


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Learning about Cuba, having some food

As I chew my leftover spaghetti lunch, I’m pondering Cuba. For one thing, it’s warm there. For another thing, Fidel Castro resigned as el presidente today.

Now, I’m no foreign policy expert. So I have some unanswered questions.

Why will otherwise reasonable American politicians continue to be led around by the nose by a bunch of angry exiles living in the past in Miami? I understand that getting thoughtful on Cuba means risking Florida, Florida, Florida come election time, but is that it? Am I missing something else?

Is our fruitless embargo one of the most embarrassing failures in the history of American foreign policy, or is it just me? Do we have anything to show for it?

We bent over backwards to help make China into the world’s super Wal-Mart, despite its abysmal human rights record, on the hope that  economic dynamism would someday lead to more political freedom. We’re trading and engaging with Vietnam. We made up with Libya. We even talk with North Korea, the most tyrannical regime on earth.  The track record shows that where powerful American ideals and culture are introduced, even in small ways, they tend to catch on.

But with Cuba, we throw up an embargo and deny generations of Cubans a chance to find out what freedom and democracy taste like. Instead, we’re the bully trying to starve them out. Can someone explain why anyone thought that would work?

And exactly how long do I have to wait to get my hands on good Cuban cigars? I’d like to go get them myself, as soon as possible.

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