A spring too soon

Today marks the official first day of spring.  Here in Iowa that usually means a promise of warming temperatures and a slowly greening landscape.  Not this year!  After a year with no winter, we are now seeming to catapult straight into summer with nary a crisp spring day in sight.

We are in the midst of a second week with temperatures in the seventies and even some eighties.  Last week we had an eerie post-apocalyptic feeling as we sweated it out with the trees still dormant and the ground still brown.  In just one short week, the trees are now budding, the lawns are growing, and I’m freaking the heck out!

I walked the dog after school today and no fewer than three of my neighbors were mowing their yards.  It is WAY too early for me to be feeling bad for not getting my yard mowed sooner!

Several weeks ago, Ms. DailyDisgust trimmed some branches from a few of our redbuds and brought them inside to force them to bloom.  I joked at the time that it would be funny if the trees in the yard flowered at the same time as the ones she was forcing.  Not so funny when that turned out to be the case.

Our garden is suddenly well behind schedule.  A survey today found that our asparagus patch is already weeded over, and our perennials are struggling to grow through the remnants of last year’s plants.  We’re supposed to have March to clean it out!


The dirty deritus of winter

Today I am again focusing on the petty disgust and disappointment I encounter in my daily life.

Despite the near total lack of winter we experienced this year, we still are left with various piles of brown dirt/sand/ice/debris scattered around.  I was soothed during this encounter with the winter sludge by the presence (in the background of the picture) of the two-room cottage in which Herbert Hoover was born, and the faithful companionship of Surya.

Where’s my snow?

I’m not a huge winter sports enthusiast, but I am a big fan of having four seasons.  (Bit of local trivia: Cedar Rapids is the City of Five Seasons, what is the fifth?  The smell!)  To quote John Steinbeck:  “I’ve lived in good climate, and it bores the hell out of me. I like weather rather than climate.”  We seem to be working on a year without winter.  Fortunately the potential ramifications are much less drastic than 1816’s year without summer.

West Branch makes me proud

When reading the current issue of the West Branch Times, I was pleased to see the number of responses to Gregory Norfleet’s recent column that somehow intertwined local football, homosexuality, and Rick Santorum.  (See this earlier post on DailyDisgust.)

Below are excerpts from the published letters to the editor.

Letter: Climate of mental and physical abuse worsens from the West Branch Times, Feb. 2, 2012

You clearly need to educate yourself before you are confronted with a situation in which someone close to you or another family member needs to tell you he or she is gay.

The newspaper should be an educational resource for the community. We do not want anyone in our community to suffer a moment of Eric’s torment. It is unacceptable to contribute, as you have, to a climate for someone to mentally or physically abuse someone who is gay.

Letter: Poorly written piece was homophobic, too from the West Branch Times, Feb. 2, 2012

Besides the confusing and absurd connection between how a football coach’s remarks to an unruly student relates to the other, I feel this piece was not only poorly written, but completely homophobic and disrespectful to those members of our community, our friends and members of our families who identify themselves as homosexual.

I would like to convey my deep gratitude for the right to express our own opinions in this great country of ours. I ask that this right not be confused with our personal and sometimes professional responsibility to our fellow citizens, community, friends, neighbors, children, subscribers and advertising businesses; to be clear, concise, respectful and straightforward. The Op-Ed, Soapbox piece was nothing short of unprofessional, embarrassing, and an insult to homosexual members of our community and to our community’s reputation that has been a longstanding tradition of respect and excellence we should work together to maintain with great pride.

Letter: Editor misses coach’s message of respect from the West Branch Times, Feb. 2, 2012 (posted in full)

The editor of the West Branch Times of course is entitled to his opinions about human nature and human behavior, and we frequently are treated to them in his column, as we were in the Jan. 26 issue.
However, it was unfortunate to see him attempt to illustrate his point by citing the commendable, and totally unrelated, actions of a coach in correcting a student. The editor apparently does not see where his message and that of the coach diverge: The coach was directing a student to respect others.

Our district is firmly against discrimination of any kind against a student or employee based on gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity or sexual preference. Our policies, and state law, reflect this, and it is good to hear of examples where those representing our schools convey that important message of good character.

Mike Owen, President, West Branch Board of Education

Kevin Hatfield, Superintendent, West Branch Community School District

Letter: Column alienates and isolates homosexuals from the West Branch Times, Feb. 2, 2012 (This one was mine)

I ask you: What harm does it do you if two people choose to love each other?

I can tell you what harm it does when you write these opinions about “choices” in your columns in this newspaper. It helps to create an atmosphere wherein a whole class of people are made to feel alienated, isolated, marginalized, and offended within our community.


Another letter to the West Branch Times

While I have been annoyed and or upset about Gregory Norfleet’s columns in the West Branch Times in the past, his column this week made me apoplectic.  Just ask Ms. DailyDisgust!  Below is his column, printed in all its convoluted and ultimately hateful glory.  Below that is the letter that I just submitted in response.

Soapbox Philosophy: A desire within, and a choice from the West Branch Times, Jan. 12, 2012

During the football season, at one of the home games, a couple people along the sidelines told me that they heard one of the high school boys — let us call him “Bill” here — shouting inappropriate comments at the opposing team.
Of all the people on that sideline who had a job to do that night, no one had more on their plate than Head Coach Butch Pedersen.

But anyone who knows Butch knows he has a deep desire to see boys and girls grow up to be responsible, mature and confident men and women. That desire trumps any football game.

Butch whipped around and called the boy out: “Bill! Show some class!”

Everyone in that immediate section fell silent. Butch locked his gaze on Bill long enough to make sure he got the message, then went back to the game.

It was one of those moments I will probably never forget: Four words with the right timing, right message and right tone. Depending on the situation, Butch knows how to deliver a kind word, or a metaphorical kick in the pants.

That memory came to mind when I saw one of the prominent Democratic leaders in this area, after the Iowa caucuses, post on Facebook an interview by journalist Chris Wallace of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

The subject of this part of the interview was “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Wallace asked Santorum to comment on this quote: “The Army is not a sociological laboratory. Experimenting with Army policy, especially in a time of war, would pose a danger to efficiency, discipline and morale and would result in ultimate defeat.”

After Santorum “roughly” agreed with the point of view, Wallace revealed that it was a quote from Col. Eugene Householder, who in 1941 was arguing against racial integration in the military. Wallace was suggesting that homosexuals, like blacks, are born that way. I don’t understand how he sees these two as the same.

Butch is a great teacher and football coach, but he was not born that way. Scientists and doctors can put him through a barrage of tests and tell you his height, weight, eye color, skin color, etc., but they can’t show you anything, inside or out, that makes him a great teacher and coach.

Until he speaks or acts.

It is not Butch’s desires — not alone, that is — but the training he received, his experiences, his actions and his words that have made him what he is today.

So Santorum’s response was, essentially, that. You can’t change the color of your skin, so it is wrong to discriminate against that. But when your decisions and behavior play a significant part in your circumstances, then it is not so much a trait as it is a lifestyle, which is a collection of choices and behaviors.

The “born that way” argument suggests not only that your desires define you, but that you cannot do anything about them. However, self-preservation is a deep desire, yet there are plenty of parents who have risked their lives when a child ran into the street, or soldiers who jumped on a live grenade for their units. Desires can be overcome completely, or guided in different directions.

Santorum implied that homosexuality is one option people can choose for guiding an inward desire, but not the only one.

In Butch’s case, he became a football coach. But what would he be doing if football had never been invented, or if football was not socially acceptable?

Anyway, I did not support Santorum in the Republican caucus, but I’m taking a second look at him now.

Mr. Norfleet,

In the past I have found your editorials to be distasteful on occasion, particularly when they come to social issues.  Your piece this week is downright offensive and destructive.  You wrap your minimization of homosexuality in praise for Coach Pederson—a real stretch if you ask me.

I ask you: what harm does it do you if two people choose to love each other?

I can tell you what harm it does when you write these opinions about “choices” in your columns in this newspaper.  It helps to create an atmosphere wherein a whole class of people are made to feel alienated, isolated, marginalized, and offended within our community.  That is certainly not the type of community that I wish myself or my family to be a part of.

As for the issue of “desire” being a defining part of a person, I’d like to tell you about my wife.  I love her.  My desire for her love and her partnership in raising our daughter is one of the most important pieces of who I am as a man and as a human being.  Yes, there are other “options” I could choose, as your article suggests, but who are you or Rick Santorum to try to prioritize those for me?

I would hope that you would consider the power that you hold via your position as editor of the local paper of record before you write more articles that are an affront to the decency of the people of this community.


West Branch

Another blast from the real world past of the DailyDisgust

Greg Norfleet says some out there conservative things on the op-ed page of the West Branch Times as is his right as the editor.  When he crosses the line from being out there to being flat out wrong, I see it as my patriotic duty to correct him.  Mr. Norfleet doesn’t like the idea of men marrying men or women marrying women.  While I personally find such opinions to be bigoted, he is certainly entitled to his own belief.  But when he uses shaky logic in citing the Constitution to back up that belief, well, he crosses that line.

Soapbox Philosophy: Obama uses neglect to undermine from the West Branch Times, Mar. 2, 2011

Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution requires that the executive branch “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Should Obama argue that DOMA conflicts with the last part of his oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” I would argue that he is not taking the appropriate steps to repeal a law in which he disagrees. By ordering the DOJ to stop doing its job on Section 3 of DOMA — which defines marriage for federal purposes as the union of one man and one woman — he is undermining the separation of powers and federal checks and balances.

This is a naked abuse of federal power and our president’s impatience with a law in which he disagrees but cannot find legislative support for repeal nor judicial support to overturn.

For those who hailed Obama’s decision last week, stop and consider the long-term consequences of other presidents following this example. Imagine President Mike Huckabee or President Sarah Palin ordering federal departments to stop enforcing the recent health care overhaul provisions.

My response:

Letter: Defense of DOMA not the same as enforcement from the West Branch Times, Mar. 2, 2011

I wish to dispute the allegation made by the editor of this paper that the President is derelict in his duty and in violation of his oath of office in directing the Attorney General to suspend defense of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The editor seems to confuse the defense of statutes (commonplace but not constitutionally required) with the enforcement of them (clearly required in Article 2, Section 3).

To be certain, federal employees who are legally married to their same sex partners continue to be denied benefits afforded to their heterosexual married colleagues as required by DOMA.

In fact, to quote from the Attorney General’s letter which is available at http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/February/11-ag-223.html: “Notwithstanding this determination, the President has informed me that Section 3 will continue to be enforced by the Executive Branch. To that end, the President has instructed Executive agencies to continue to comply with Section 3 of DOMA, consistent with the Executive’s obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, unless and until Congress repeals Section 3 or the judicial branch renders a definitive verdict against the law’s constitutionality.”

Given this distinction, the straw-man of a President Palin or President Huckabee “ordering federal departments to stop enforcing the recent health care overhaul provisions” that the editor created in his editorial clearly holds no water. The editor acknowledged in his editorial his general support for DOMA, and I would like to definitively declare my support for the equal rights of all people in marriage and all other governmentally recognized areas. However, to quote Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” And the fact is, this president continues to enforce DOMA.


DailyDisgust [Real name redacted]

West Branch


Blast from the Real-Life Past of the DailyDisgust

Greg Norfleet, editor of the West Branch Times, has some, well, ridiculous opinion pieces that he publishes under the heading “Soapbox Philosophy”.   When they stray from the vicinity of ridiculous and wander into the neighborhood of  offensive, I see it as my duty to respectfully submit a letter to the editor.

The most recent example came when the prophesied end of days this past May did not come to pass.  Mr. Norfleet shared some tidbits he’d gleaned from such sources as Twitter, YouTube, and Christian radio.  Silly, but within the realm of the appropriate.  What got me was the following:

” My guess is that, deep down, we all believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God. Granted, we treat it differently in our day-to-day lives — some follow it as best they can, others argue against some of the finer points, and some try to suppress their fear by ignoring it.”

I reread the article several times and realized that “we” he was referring to was not specified.  Uhh…check?!?!

Soapbox Philosophy: Uplifting rapture, anyone? from the West Branch Times, May 25, 2011

My response as published in the next week’s paper:

In light of (Gregory Norfleet’s) most recent column, might I ask if you are speaking from a soapbox or a pulpit?

You stated in your column that you believe that “… deep down, we all believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God.”

Who exactly is the “we” of which you speak? All Americans? Iowans? People of West Branch? Christians? Your family?

Please be certain not to include me in any future sweeping religious statements that you make. While I welcome and respect our differing political opinions, and enjoy seeing them played out on the editorial page of this paper, I submit that this is not the appropriate place to hold forth on religious matters.


DailyDisgust [real name redacted], West Branch

Letter: Editorial page not place for religious opinions from the West Branch Times, Jun. 1, 2011