Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Senator Grassley

Senator Grassley seemed like an incredibly down to Earth guy. His dedication to keeping in touch with Iowa as a whole was remarkably impressive. From spending essentially his entire Tuesday on the phone with radio shows to answering live questions from Iowans every Thursday via the Internet, Senator Grassley is doing his best to maintain his relationship with the people he represents in Washington. On top of his 40 weeks per year spent in Washington, he makes it a point to visit all 99 Iowa counties at least once every single year and visit with the community members of them in some fashion; usually this gets done by Labor Day. Whether that be similar to his visit with us in a classroom setting or a town hall meeting, the Senator wants to make sure the people do not lose sight of who he is to them and what he can do for them. He answers almost every question emailed, tweeted, written in a letter, or from phone call that is directed to him personally so there is a sense of connection between he and his voters.

My initial impression of Senator Grassley was that he was simply an older man with an intense interest in politics that kept him going strong. I found out that he owns a farm and his family works it while he is away. He grew up on a farm as well, as is the case with many elderly Iowans. He said his parents weren't actively involved in politics, but that they always had an interest in them and had something to say about the current events. This introduced the Senator to politics at a young age and he has had an interest in them ever since. He took this desire to the University of Northern Iowa - the first in his family to go to college - and earned a BA in Social Science (now political science). Upon recollection of his time at the school, he remembered that the room we were in used to be all cubicles for professors and that it was not called Lang Hall but rather just "the auditorium".

Senator Grassley is member of the Republican party, and always has been, but he admits that in his earlier years he "wasn't an ideological republican." That change, he believes, "officially" occurred part way through his state legislative career.

Having been a senator since 1974, Grassley knows the routine of Washington, if one could call it even that. "Only Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are really routine," says the Senator. "Being a senator is more than a full time job," says Grassley as he explains his schedule loaded with meetings from start to finish: breakfast meeting, radio program, committee meetings, Senate itself in session before noon, 2 hours of public questions, receptions and meetings in the evening. He comments on how his days are usually pretty planned out unless there is a vote on the Senate floor or another "surprise" as he calls them. Speaking of Senate votes, he has only missed one in July of 1993, and that was due to he and the other Iowa senator personally accompanying then President Bill Clinton to Iowa to see the widespread flooding throughout the state.

Inevitably, some political questions were asked. I don't know much about politics in general, but I do know that taxation is a big deal, to everyone. "You aren't under taxed, we overspend." That, and his view of amending the constitution to balance the federal budget, got my attention enough to at least listen to him talk about politics, even if i wasn't going to understand what he was saying. The man is immensely passionate about what he believes and about keeping someone who truly understands what it is like to live in Iowa in the Senate. Otherwise, laws such as "Fugitive Dust" would be passed.

After his political spiel, he pulled out his iPhone - very technologically aware for his age - and read some of his Tweets to us. Yes, the Senator has a Twitter handle, and he runs it himself. He uses is craftily too, tweeting things that will stir the pot just enough to get an answer out of people that would otherwise dance around it.

At this time, Senator Grassley is unsure if he will run again at the end of his current term. He is 79 and has his family to think about. Once he can no longer run 3 miles 4 times per week, or he/his wife is no longer able to take care of themselves, he will call it quits.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


The documentary shown in class on Tuesday told the story of Corey Booker, a city councilman in Newark, New Jersey, and his campaign to become mayor. It told the back story of the campaign and portrayed what outsiders could not see during the process. I found it interesting to say the least. It was like "watching" a news story. What I mean by that is that it was as if someone took a newspaper article or feature story and turned it into an onscreen movie.

Although I don't really have much to say about the documentary itself, I do consider it to now be a form of journalism while I was skeptical going into the showing. As I said before, it's really just a live action feature story.

I enjoyed Corey's "choir boy" campaign, even though it had major downside with the voters rallying around the fact that he came from money and didn't know what it was like in the streets. It was better than all of the attacking adds from today's election where nothing is actually conveyed about what the candidate will do and it's just talking bad about what the other guy is trying to do. I liked his quote "make government officials live in the worst neighborhoods of the city and it will change faster." I would like to see this happen to find out if it would actually work.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Capitol Steps

Surprisingly funny. I think this was in large part due to the extremely unbiased nature of the humor. They picked on everyone, and it was incredibly clever. I'm admittedly a sucker a witty humor, but this was phenomenal. A rendition of the Little Mermaid's "Under the Sea" incorporating Osama Bin Laden's death might be some of the most creative writing I've ever seen or heard. Wipping your flords was astounding as well. To be able to rattle off that speech in that manner of verbiage was some of the funniest political banter, maybe ever.

The show overall was great and entertaining to someone even like me who does not care about politics....at all. But they conveyed their impressions and made fun of people in such a way that even I could understand the humor and what they were trying to convey.
The Iowa Supreme Court in Waterloo was perhaps one of the more interesting things I've seen, even if I don't realize it. The opportunity to see the IASC isn't exactly rare seeing as how their courtroom is based in Des Moines and is occasionally open to the public, but the fact that they are touring Iowa creates chances most people don't usually have to see them in action.

I've already covered that majority of the case in a previous blog, and the facts remain the same and were simply regurgitated to us as a class on Thursday. I knew this would be the case, so I focused more on the actions of the lawyers and the justices themselves during the process.

I don't know if it was nerves being in front of a larger audience, or being out of a court room setting, or if it was just because she was in front of the supreme court, but Karla Shea seemed shaky in her argument's delivery to say the least. She admitted herself, prior to Thursday, that she is always a little nervous in front of the Iowa Supreme Court so that might have had a little more to it than she let on.

Ray Walton, meanwhile, looked like he belonged there arguing his case to those judges. And those judges grilled him hard. He stood firm and stuck to his arguments and was clear and articulate with his words.

The judges themselves were surprisingly vocal during the arguments. I thought it would be them sitting quietly and letting the arguments be fed to them and then ask questions later, not interrupting the attorneys mid-stream and asking questions. I did think this was perhaps a little on the rude and irrational side due to the fact that they interrupting the lawyers may cause a question not to be answered or perhaps an important point not be made.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Tuesday October 9th

Ray Walton was gracious enough to visit the class on Tuesday in the midst of preparing his argument to present in 2 days to the Iowa Supreme Court. His case struck me as intriguing to say the least because, by the letter of the law he wins hands down, but common sense tells you that the farmer couple shouldn't have to pay a dime.

When Walton said that the lady A: grew up on a farm and B: weighed 300 pounds, I thought he had sunk his own ship right there. Anyone with a brain could figure out that, even if the farmer (whom weighs less than she does) did check the sturdiness of the hay covering the chute, she could still have fallen through. Also, being that she grew up on a farm, she could have had prior knowledge of the dangers of a hay barn and that there are gaping holes in the floor she would need to look out for. This, coupled with the argument of the Recreational Use Statute, simply screams game over, done deal, case closed no money owed. Again, common sense says that showing kids around the barn is, in fact, recreational.

But his argument of the farmer acting as a tour guide and thus forfeiting any rights he had to be non-liable should something happen. Also, Walton made the point that it wasn't technically "open" to the public and people couldn't come and go as they please. Additionally, the definition of what is seen as "recreational", while admittedly gets murky and vague towards the end, doesn't seem to cover a kindergarten field trip as recreational. Based off of these arguments, Mr. Walton and his client need to get paid.

The last, and perhaps most disappointing thing I gathered, from Ray Walton's visit, is that the farmers would be willing to pay the bill. The insurance company is the one forcing this to trial and making this lady wait and flounder for funding for her medical bills. To me, this is ridiculous. I understand the insurance company is all about money, but how many customers do they have that they are still making money from besides these farmers that they can't afford to pay for her medical bills?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Editor Clips

When it comes to politics, there is no sugar coating it, I know next to nothing. And I don't pretend to. So when the assignment was to watch the presidential debate and clip what was considered "news worthy", my thought was "Well isn't everything considered newsworthy? It's the presidential debate." Needless to say, I watched it and was lost for the most part. 

The main thing I would have done differently is either be more educated about the topic, which I would presumably be based off of what I was covering, or pick something to edit I actually care about. Had it been a sports related press conference or something about the newest Apple productions, I would have been more intrigued and more entertained by the subject and the ability to instantly clip what I was watching. 

The tool itself is astounding. The ability to clip and share near live T.V. will ultimately revolutionize online journalism. Bloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers and every type of social media should and will utilize this and gain traffic as well as readers from this tool. One of the coolest and easiest things I've used on the internet. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Evelyn Press Release

Casey Fredrickson, 33,has been convicted of murdering Evelyn Miller after a 7 year investigation.

Evelyn Miller, daughter of Noel Miller, was declared missing on July 1st, 2005 and her body was found 5 days later in the Cedar River. No information about the condition of the body was released to the public at the time of its finding.

Fredrickson has been convicted of possession of child pornography, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of drugs.

This is how the press release should have been written. No detail of Fredrickson's habits or any other non-essential details should have been included. Being as it is a news story, it should be reported objectively and with the audience's best interest in mind. That does not include necessity for details on what he likes to pleasure himself to or who he talked to in prison. This seemed more like a court report than a press release, the public didn't need to knowhalf of the details that were included and it is really shameful to the family involved.

Iowa Judges

On Tuesday, October 25th I got the opportunity to attend a press conference for those in favor of retention for the Iowa judges. A small crowd of mainly elderly folk and college students there for a class showed up to the event to hear Dan Moore speak Moore has been practicing law for 35 years and is the former president of the Iowa State BAR Association. Those in the crowd sported signs such as "Yes Judges" as Moore encouraged the audience to "turn your ballots over and vote yes."

Moore's main argument during his speech was that the judges "applied the constitution" in their decisions instead of going from personal beliefs. "Justice should not be for sale to the highest bidder," said Moore. He also stated that the campaign he is currently on is meant to appeal to those undecided voters or to those whom are leaning towards voting yes, but need, "a little push in the right direction." In his closing statement, Moore said he is still "proud to be an Iowa lawyer," and reminded people that, "you don't throw out a justice based off of one decision."

Iowa State Senator Bill Dotzler was present in the crowd and spoke to the group of attending college students after the conference. Lisa Hansen also let them observe how she approaches someone for an interview as well as view the interview process itself.