# Obituary

Last call: Remembering Tim Kraft

From left: State Representative Dick Myers, Chip Carter, and Tim Kraft in December 2003. Photo by Dave Leshtz, published with permission.

Dave Leshtz is the editor of The Prairie Progressive.

The first sentence of Tim Kraft’s obituary in the Albuquerque newspapers last month labeled him as the manager of Jimmy Carter’s 1976 Iowa caucus campaign and, later, “a top aide to President Carter.”

Not a bad legacy for a kid from Noblesville, Indiana. It gives a hint of the extraordinary, suggesting that the deceased man was smart, talented, and deserving of recognition for helping to elevate a nationally unknown politician and farmer from the South to the presidency.

For those of us who have worked the caucuses or on campaigns, we know just how remarkable of a feat that was—and why, almost 50 years later, it’s worth the lede in his obituary. We also know just how far out of the norm it is for the person who orchestrated that win to be so humble and down to earth.

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Pigs, poker, and prisons: remembering Carlos Jayne

Marty Ryan first published this reflection on the life and legacy of his good friend Carlos Jayne (1935-2022) on his blog.

As he lived, he died—fighting authority!

Legendary NFL Coach Bill Parcells said, “A friend’s someone that knows all about you and likes you anyway.” Carlos and I liked each other, even though he was a big Green Bay Packers fan, and the Pack was my least favorite football team. Therefore, we never talked football. We had coffee and chatted for about two hours monthly. As his health slipped from him, the frequency of our visits diminished.

I first met Carlos when I was a novice lobbyist for the Iowa Civil Liberties Union (now the ACLU of Iowa) and a bill reinstating the death penalty was introduced. A fellow lobbyist pointed at Carlos and told me, “You need to talk to that guy.” I introduced myself to him and he said: “It’s about damned time the ICLU had a lobbyist up here,” and he turned, walked away, and continued to do what he did—talk to anyone who would listen.

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Rest in peace, John Landon

State Representative John Landon passed away on July 29, his family announced. He was serving his fifth term representing Iowa House district 37, covering part of Ankeny. In tributes posted publicly, many Republican colleagues commented on Landon’s kindness and work ethic, including Governor Kim Reynolds, Secretary of State Paul Pate, House Speaker Pat Grassley, and Garrett Gobble, who now represents the other Ankeny House district.

Landon had chaired the House Administration and Regulation Appropriations Subcommittee since 2015, and also served this year on the Commerce and Transportation committees. Although he missed much of the 2021 legislative session while being treated for the illness that claimed his life, he was able to floor manage the bill setting the fiscal year 2022 budget for a number of state agencies and the offices of the governor, secretary of state, and state auditor.

Democratic State Representative Bruce Hunter, who served on the budget panel Landon led, told Bleeding Heartland on July 30 that Landon was “the nicest guy in the House” and someone who reached across the aisle when bills or amendments were being considered.

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Rest in peace, Mary Maloney

Democrats all over Iowa were saddened by the news that Polk County Treasurer Mary Maloney died unexpectedly on January 29. Many who offered their condolences on social media described Maloney as a true public servant. Her work since 1989 to modernize the treasurer’s office and keep it running smoothly was highly regarded. She was often the highest vote-getter in Iowa’s largest county when she was on the ballot, even outperforming other Polk County officials who ran for re-election unopposed.

Many personal friends and colleagues remarked on how kind and caring Maloney was. I’ve enclosed some remembrances below. Although I didn’t know Maloney well, her kindness came through in all of my interactions with her over the years.

The Bleeding Heartland community sends healing thoughts to all of Mary Maloney’s loved ones, especially her husband and four children.

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A friendship built around ideas, not fishing

Randy Evans remembers former U.S. Representative Berkley Bedell, who “never stopped trying to make a difference in our world.” -promoted by Laura Belin

Berkley Bedell and I were both retired when our friendship really blossomed.

He made a fortune in fishing tackle. I never had the patience to fish.

Instead, we bonded over ideas — ideas about politics and issues facing the world and the United States and ways we thought today’s thorny problems should be addressed by our leaders.

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Rest in peace, Berkley Bedell

Thousands of Iowans are mourning Berkley Bedell, who passed away of a stroke this weekend at the age of 98.

Bedell was best known as a member of Congress representing northwest Iowa from 1975 through 1986, when he retired while battling what was later diagnosed as Lyme disease. He served on the Spirit Lake school board early in his career but was unsuccessful in his first U.S. House campaign in 1972. Like his friend and colleague Tom Harkin, Bedell ran against the Republican incumbent again in 1974 and won the seat, aided by the post-Watergate Democratic landslide.

Tim Hynds reported for the Sioux City Journal, “At age 15 in 1937, using money earned from a newspaper delivery route, Bedell founded Berkley & Co., a Spirit Lake business that manufactured fishing tackle.” The company became a major employer in the area. President Lyndon Johnson recognized Bedell as Small Businessman of the Year in 1964.

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My time with Lieutenant Governor Jo Ann Zimmerman

Janis Bowden clerked for Jo Ann Zimmerman in the Iowa House. Zimmerman went on to become Iowa’s first woman lieutenant governor and a member of the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame. She passed away in October. -promoted by Laura Belin

I met Jo Ann Zimmerman in Dallas Center, Iowa. She was campaigning for the Iowa House as a Democrat.

Initially I was impressed by her obvious intelligence and demeanor. It did not take long to jump on board to help her campaign. Dallas Center was known as a hub of Republicans in the early 1980s, as opposed to the very active Democrats living in most of Dallas County.

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Hear Chief Justice Mark Cady's passionate appeal to combat implicit bias

Devastating news: Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady passed away on November 15, having suffered a heart attack.

Best known for writing the court’s unanimous opinion in the Varnum v Brien marriage equality case, Cady was a staunch supporter of civil rights. Since becoming chief justice in 2011, he was often the swing vote on Iowa’s high court and concurred in many 4-3 opinions.

Appointed by Governor Terry Branstad in 1998, Cady sometimes aligned with the high court’s conservatives–for instance, on upholding Iowa’s felon disenfranchisement system. Sometimes he joined his more liberal colleagues–for instance, on juvenile sentencing. Cady also authored last year’s opinion that found Iowa’s constitution protects a woman’s right to an abortion. Seventeen months later, three of the five justices who joined that landmark ruling are gone. (Justice Bruce Zager retired, and Justice Daryl Hecht died.)

Bleeding Heartland intends to publish several reflections on Cady’s legacy in the coming weeks. For now, I want to share the chief justice’s remarks at the recent Iowa Summit on Justice and Disparities.

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Remembering my dear friend, Jerry Tormey

Many central Iowa Democrats are grieving for Jerry Tormey, a tireless activist who passed away on July 23. Tamyra Harrison now works for The Salvation Army but got to know Jerry well as executive director of the Polk County Democrats, a job she held from 2004 to 2017. -promoted by Laura Belin

There are a lot of different people we meet on the journey through our lives. Some people bring joy to a room just by being present. Some people are so kind of heart they bring out the very best in those around them. Some people radiate joy. Some people always think of others, putting their needs, or that of a greater cause, above themselves. Some people give more of their time to make the world a little better than seems possible, yet always makes time for doing a little more when asked. Some people perform little, seemingly insignificant, acts of kindness every single day without even trying, just by calling to say hi, checking on someone who had bad news, being an ear when needed, remembering a birthday and so much more.

It is rare to find all of this in one individual, but that was Jerry Tormey. We were so blessed to have had our lives touched by him in so many ways, and his influence and legacy will live on.

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Farewell, Vern Johnson

Ed Fallon remembers an Iowa farmer who fought “to the end” to stop his land from being taken for a pipeline. -promoted by Laura Belin

Sadly, those of us fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) lost one of our strongest allies this week. LaVerne Johnson died suddenly and unexpectedly on Sunday, April 7. My heart goes out to his wife, family, and closest friends — though he will be missed by more people than he would have imagined.

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Kurt Friese walked the talk and sucked the marrow out of life

Mike Carberry remembers his friend and fellow Johnson County supervisor Kurt Friese, who was also an occasional guest author at Bleeding Heartland. -promoted by desmoinesdem

“Never separate the life you live from the words you speak.” –Paul Wellstone

A friend posted this on Twitter last Thursday evening and I reposted it. Friday afternoon our world was rocked by the news of the death of Kurt Friese. I immediately thought that quote was perfect for my first post about my dear friend, colleague, and comrade in arms.

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Iowans remember Donna Red Wing

Iowa progressives have been mourning the loss of a longtime advocate for justice and LGBTQ equality this week. Since Donna Red Wing passed away on April 16, Iowans who knew her well have shared their reflections and stories. With permission, I’ve posted some of those comments below.

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Jonathan Narcisse, Remembered

State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad’s tribute to his friend Jonathan Narcisse. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Jonathan Narcisse, advocate, media presence, and publisher of several newspapers, including “The Bystander,” Iowa’s most enduring publication geared towards an African American audience, died last Saturday, February 17. He was 54–young, but not unusual for a black man in America.

He was also my former campaign manager, business associate, peer, and friend. So I write this with sadness in my heart for the loss Iowa experiences as a result of his death, and with joy in my soul that he is no longer in pain.

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Rest in peace, Scott Galindez

“Private insurance has failed me all of my life,” wrote Scott Galindez in his final commentary, a passionate call for single-payer health care. Two days later, the longtime progressive activist and journalist passed away, having ceased dialysis treatments for complications from diabetes. His insurance carrier, Aetna, had refused to cover kidney transplant surgery at a local hospital.

Galindez had lived in Des Moines since 2015, when he moved here to cover the Iowa caucuses. Though he and I occasionally interacted on Facebook, I didn’t know him personally and had no idea he was gravely ill. He landed on my radar through his writing for Reader Supported News, where he worked as political director. He wrote on his bio page for that website,

Over the years I have worked with many Heroes in the fight for Peace and Justice. Phillip Berrigan and Mitch Snyder taught me that it wasn’t about what I could do alone, but what we could do together. Phil was more patient than Mitch, he knew that victory was a long way off, and that each changed mind put us one step closer to a peaceful, just world. That is one of the reasons I am at Reader Supported News, because I can reach more people than I could by organizing a protest. I am committed to fighting for a world without war, poverty and injustice.

Many of my acquaintances knew Galindez well through Bernie Sanders supporter circles and Our Revolution–Iowa, for which he was an early and active organizer. Despite chronic health problems, he continued to write and advocate and cover events, like this health care rally last winter.

I admired his commitment and encourage Bleeding Heartland readers to join me in donating to Reader Supported News in his memory. Friends can attend a visitation for Galindez on October 9, starting at 1:00 pm at Dunn’s Funeral Home, 2121 Grand Avenue in Des Moines. A memorial service will follow at Glendale Cemetery, 4909 University Ave.

Excerpts from Galindez’s final post and obituary are after the jump, but please click through to read both pieces in full.

UPDATE: Added below more details about the planned memorial service and call to action. Many activists will be there, along with at least two Democratic candidates: gubernatorial contender Cathy Glasson and Pete D’Alessandro, who’s running in the third Congressional district. LATER UPDATE: Jon Neiderbach, another candidate for governor and supporter of single-payer health care, will attend the memorial.

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Throwback Thursday: When Greg Forristall fought against putting commerce ahead of education

Republican State Representative Greg Forristall passed away yesterday at the age of 67. First elected to the Iowa House in 2006, he was most recently vice chair of the Education Committee and also served on the Human Resources, Labor, and Ways and Means committees. He had been battling cancer for some time and was too ill to participate in the last few weeks of this year’s legislative session.

In a written statement, Republican Party of Iowa chair Jeff Kaufmann described Forristall as a “friend to conservatives across our state” and a “happy warrior” in the Ronald Reagan tradition. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer said Forristall “was a dedicated public servant to the people he represented and an advocate for the arts and education, two issues that he was incredibly passionate for.”

I never met Forristall, but one episode stands out for me as I think about his legislative career. The first two years after Republicans regained their Iowa House majority, Forristall chaired the Education Committee. House leaders reassigned him to lead the Labor Committee in 2013, a position he retained through the 2016 legislative session.

Why did then House Speaker Kraig Paulsen and Majority Leader Upmeyer take the Education Committee away from Forristall, knowing how much he cared about that issue? I never saw any public confirmation, but the Iowa political rumor mill pointed to Forristall’s stance on one controversial bill.

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Friends and former colleagues remember Rich Olive

Former State Senator Rich Olive died of cancer yesterday at the age of 66. He represented Wright and Hamilton counties, along with some rural areas in Story and Webster counties, from 2007 through 2010. During that time, he chaired the Iowa Senate Government Oversight Committee.

Many Iowans who knew Olive through his work in the legislature agreed to share some of their memories with Bleeding Heartland readers.

Photo of Rich Olive at the capitol taken by Senate Democratic staff; used with permission.

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Rest in peace, David Hurd

Broken Kettle Grasslands near Sioux City, Iowa–photo by Matt Hauge, used with permission

David Hurd passed away in Des Moines this weekend at the age of 86. Police have ruled out foul play in his deadly fall from his condominium building but have not announced whether he took his own life or fell accidentally. He had been suffering from Lewy body disease, a progressive condition.

Hurd was a legendary figure in local business circles, a past CEO of Principal Financial and member of the Iowa Business Hall of Fame since 1994. He left a bigger mark on the capital city than most people of comparable wealth have done. The Des Moines Register’s Lissandra Villa wrote about some of his philanthropic contributions here.

Many progressive organizations benefited from Hurd’s generosity, but it would be particularly hard to overstate how much he did for Iowa’s environmental community. Morgan Gstalter reported for the Register on Hurd’s gift that allowed the Nature Conservancy to acquire the first portion of the Broken Kettle Grasslands in the Loess Hills area: “Now at 3,217 acres, Broken Kettle is Iowa’s largest remaining native prairie and is home to bison and rattlesnakes.” The photo at the top of this post shows a tiny part of the stunning landscape. That gift alone would have secured Hurd’s legacy in the environmental world, but he was just getting started.

I became acquainted with Hurd during several years when we served together on the Iowa Environmental Council board. He was a co-founder of the organization. A few qualities stick out in my mind. First, he was attentive but generally quiet during meetings–the opposite of some business types who tend to dominate group conversations. Possibly reading my mind, Principal’s current CEO Dan Houston told the Register that Hurd was “one of the smartest guys you’d ever meet” but also “a very humble man, very capable, diverse, global, international and kind. He listened so, so very well.” Yes. Hurd was frequently the smartest guy in the room, but he never made a big deal about being the smartest guy in the room.

Hurd didn’t throw his weight around. He never pulled rank on any other board member, despite having given more money to the council than anyone else. I never heard of him trying to interfere with staff work, which large benefactors of many organizations have been known to do. When new ideas or programs were floated, he wanted to know about real-world impact: how would doing this thing potentially make Iowa’s water cleaner, or reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Even more unusual for a prominent person in the business community, Hurd did not restrict his giving to environmental organizations I consider “politically correct,” such as the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation or the Nature Conservancy. He supported non-profits that opposed powerful corporate interests in our state. I’m thinking not only of the Iowa Environmental Council, which pushed for water quality rules that Big Ag groups fought all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court. He was a consistent donor to 1000 Friends of Iowa (on whose board I also serve), and our sustainable land use agenda is not popular with developers.

During his retirement, Hurd helped create the local Scrabble club. When people who had played against him would talk about how competitive he was at the game, I was always amused. In other contexts, he came across as laid back and didn’t give off a competitive vibe at all–which also struck me as atypical for a major corporation’s onetime CEO.

At the CNN Democratic candidates’ town hall a few days before the Iowa caucuses, I spotted David and his wife Trudy in the audience and went over to say a quick hello. I wish I had known that was my chance to say goodbye.

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Rest in peace, Jack Drake

State Representative Jack Drake passed away this weekend at the age of 81. He had been the longest-serving Iowa House Republican, representing parts of southwest Iowa since his first election in 1992. His current district (House district 21) covers all of Union and Adams Counties and parts of Cass and Pottawattamie Counties. Since the Republicans regained the Iowa House majority in the 2010 elections, Drake had chaired the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. Iowa House Speaker-Select Linda Upmeyer said in a statement today, “Iowa lost a dedicated public servant with the passing of Rep. Jack Drake. […] During his time in the Iowa House, Jack was a leader and trusted resource on agricultural issues which are so important to the State of Iowa. As the most senior member of the House Republican Caucus, his expertise and guidance will be sorely missed.”

I have never met Drake, but by all accounts he was a wonderful person to work with. The word “kind” came up again and again today in my conversations with people who interacted with him, either as fellow lawmakers or as advocates.

Former State Representative Frank Wood, who was the ranking Democrat on Drake’s appropriations subcommittee in 2013 and 2014, told me he was “shocked” by the news and said Drake would be “sorely missed.” Wood “thought very highly of him when I worked with him. He always kept me in the know of what was going on and what his limitations were” in terms of the budget targets. Democrats often requested additional funding for various programs, and according to Wood, Drake “understood and flat-out told me, if I had more money, I would definitely put it in those areas.” During the 2014 legislative session, when environmental advocates and a bipartisan group of lawmakers fought for extra funds for the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program, Drake was generally supportive. (The legislature approved record funding for REAP that year, but Governor Terry Branstad vetoed part of the money.) Wood also described Drake as “a gentle giant” and “a very non-partisan individual.” He toted the Republican line, but was “very pleasant to work with. I don’t think he had a mean bone in his body.”

State Representative Scott Ourth, the ranking Democrat on the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee during this year’s legislative session, told me, “What a sad day it is. Jack and I struck up a fast friendship right from the get go. He was very fair, an honest guy to work with, willing to compromise where his leadership would allow him to.” He “never stood in the way” of Ourth advocating for REAP funding or other Democratic priorities. Echoing Wood’s sentiments, Ourth described Drake as “a loving, kind, and generous man” and an elected official out of “the old school” with “no partisan divisiveness.” He was willing to work “with anyone and everyone” at the statehouse. Ourth summed up that he had “nothing but good things to say about that man” and would “miss him terribly.”  

Ourth also mentioned that since June, he has been working long hours in Drake’s district for a subcontractor on a large MidAmerican Energy wind farm project. (64 wind turbines are going up between Corning and Lennox in Adams County.) During these months, Ourth has talked with many of Drake’s constituents, who invariably said “what a great guy they thought he was” and how well he represented their district.

State Representative Chuck Isenhart, who also served on Drake’s subcommittee and is the ranking Democrat on the House Environmental Protection Committee, told me today, “Jack Drake was a kind and soft-spoken man.” He added that Drake “offered crucial, public bipartisan leadership to the establishment of Iowa’s local farms and food initiative in 2010, and has been a reliable supporter of the program ever since.”

With Drake’s passing, the most senior members of the Iowa House Republican caucus are Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Dave Heaton and Transportation, Infrastructure and Capitals Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Dan Huseman, both of whom were first elected in 1994.

Rest in peace, Gene Maddox

Former Iowa legislator Gene Maddox passed away on June 2 at the age of 76. He left a lasting mark on the city of Clive, where he served as mayor from 1977 to 1992. At the beginning of that period, Clive felt like more of a small town, complete with some gravel roads, than a thriving suburb of Des Moines. Now Clive has the third-highest per capita income among Iowa municipalities. The part of the city west of I-35, which was annexed during Maddox’s tenure, is the wealthiest precinct in Iowa.

Maddox was first elected in 1996 and re-elected in 2000 in an Iowa Senate district covering some suburban and rural areas west of Des Moines. Redistricting prompted him to run for an Iowa House seat in 2002. He represented Clive, Windsor Heights, and parts in West Des Moines in the lower chamber for two terms before retiring in 2006. Maddox was one of the last pro-choice Republicans to serve in the Iowa legislature. Not coincidentally, he was also one of the few Republicans for whom I have voted. Whenever I contacted him about an issue (as a constituent only–his legislative career predated my blogging), he was responsive and respectful, even when explaining why he had voted differently from how I would have hoped.  

I didn’t know Maddox well, but everyone I know who did has spoken highly of his character. He was a Republican but not a highly partisan one; he could work with Democratic colleagues. A friend who attended the memorial service yesterday said Maddox’s former legislative clerk told wonderful stories about her old boss. Apparently he interviewed her twice at length before finally asking her over the phone whether she was a Republican.  

Excerpts from Maddox’s obituary are after the jump. If you knew him through his political work or his volunteer service for non-profits including the Polk County March of Dimes, Polk County Cancer Society, and American Diabetes Association, feel free to share any memories or anecdotes in this thread.

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Rest in peace, Paulee Lipsman

People who choose a career in politics tend to fall into one of two groups: the “hacks” who work on campaigns, and the “wonks” who immerse themselves in public policy. Paulee Lipsman, who passed away on Thursday in Des Moines, was a rare person who excelled in both fields. She worked on many election campaigns and was a dedicated volunteer for the Iowa Democratic Party at all levels, from the Scott County Democrats all the way up to representing Iowa on the Democratic National Committee. Arguably, she had more influence on the state during more than 20 years of work on the Iowa House Democratic research staff (the later years as director). Staff rarely if ever receive public recognition for any legislation that comes out of the Iowa House or Senate, yet lawmakers could not do the job without them.

I didn’t know Paulee well, but when I talked with her, I was always impressed by her deep knowledge of state government and policy. She enjoyed spinning scenarios as much as the next political junkie, but her passion didn’t end with getting Democrats elected. She was driven to improve public policy, and her views were grounded in facts.

Over the past few days, Iowa Democrats have posted many tributes to Paulee on social media. I enclose some of those words below, along with excerpts from her obituary. Several staffers, lawmakers, or lobbyists expressed gratitude for how Paulee helped them learn the ropes when they were newbies at the State Capitol. She was a role model for women working at the statehouse and a strong supporter of Democratic women running for state office.

Phil Specht’s words in one thread rang especially true: “One of the things I loved about her was even though both of you knew she was smarter and knew more (about practically anything) she would never talk down to anyone.” Presidential candidates sought out Paulee Lipsman’s support–both John Kerry and Joe Biden bragged about her endorsement in press releases. But she wasn’t the type to drop names or pull rank on anyone.

Until I read the Des Moines Register’s piece on Paulee’s passing, I did not know that she had been raped or that she filed an influential lawsuit related to that case during the 1980s. Roxanne Conlin was one of Paulee’s closest friends and represented her in that lawsuit. I’ve enclosed some of her comments about the case below. Paulee retired from the Iowa House Democratic research staff in 2010 to work on Conlin’s campaign for U.S. Senate.

UPDATE: During a stop in Des Moines on September 17, Vice President Joe Biden said, “Paulee Lipsman was a remarkable, remarkable woman. She was not only a friend of mine, but she was a tireless advocate for fairness and equality. I know that she will be greatly missed.”

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Weekend open thread: Passages

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? I have been thinking about several great Americans who died this week, including Neil Armstrong, the first human being to walk on the moon in July 1969. Here’s a contemporary news account of that day. NASA posted an Armstrong photo gallery here.

Like everyone who ever watched Sesame Street, I was sad to hear that Jerry Nelson, who voiced Count von Count and other Muppet characters, died on Thursday.

A giant of the Iowa journalism world passed away suddenly on August 23. Barbara Mack was a longtime professor at Iowa State University’s Greenlee Journalism school, planning to retire after this semester. She previously worked as a reporter and as general counsel for the Des Moines Register. Mack’s former students and colleagues are posting memories and tributes here. I posted a few of them after the jump.

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Rest in peace, Sally Ride

Sad news today: Sally Ride, who became the first American woman to go into space in 1983, has died of pancreatic cancer. Her official biography on her own website and on the NASA site describe her early training, two flights on the space shuttle, and later career. Since the 1980s, she worked as a physics professor, presidential science adviser, children’s author, and owner of a business promoting science education and projects. The New York Times posted a longer obituary.

A member of the National Women’s Hall of Fame, Ride inspired many women to pursue careers in science. Iowa native Peggy Whitson, who has logged more days in space and more hours in spacewalks than any other woman, was the keynote speaker at the 2008 Sally Ride Science Festival, established in 2006 to encourage middle school girls to study science, technology, engineering, or math.

Although I never dreamed of becoming an astronaut, I was excited to see a woman join a space shuttle crew, just like every girl I knew. Any memories about Sally Ride’s impact are welcome in this thread. UPDATE: A lot of people on Twitter have commented that due to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Ride’s partner of 27 years will not get the same benefits as other astronauts’ widows.

Rest in peace, Geraldine Ferraro

Geraldine Ferraro died today at age 75, after battling multiple myeloma for 13 years, far longer than she was expected to survive when diagnosed. She became the first woman named to a major-party national ticket in the U.S. when Walter Mondale chose her as his running mate in 1984. Ferraro acknowledged that she would not have been Mondale’s choice for vice president had she been a man. The Democratic nominee was trailing President Ronald Reagan badly in the polls and needed something to shake up the campaign. Ferraro was supposed to turn the emerging “gender gap” in American politics to the Democrats’ favor.

I remember discounting the rumors that a woman might be nominated for vice president. The Reagan years had rapidly developed my cynicism. It was a big deal just to have a woman on the “short list,” so I figured that talking Ferraro was going to be the Mondale camp’s gesture toward women, and we’d have to wait another cycle or two to see a woman on a ticket. But after watching Ferraro’s speech at the national convention, this liberal teenage girl was so excited and inspired that I briefly forgot what I knew about Mondale having no chance to be elected.

Journalists covering the campaign picked Ferraro apart; you can read the gory details in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times obituaries. She wasn’t very experienced in terms of media relations, and she was a strong woman, so she was an easy target. One manufactured controversy after another dominated stories about her campaign, and I remember lots of speculation about her Italian-American husband’s possible mob ties. Meanwhile, media provided scant coverage when Reagan’s Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan was indicted in September 1984, six weeks before the presidential election. You’d think the first-ever indictment of a sitting cabinet secretary would be a bigger news story than some of the garbage being thrown at Ferraro, but you would be wrong. (Donovan was later acquitted.)

Bleeding Heartland readers too young to remember the 1984 campaign may know of Ferraro mainly because in March 2008, she asserted that Barack Obama’s race gave him an advantage in the presidential primaries against Hillary Clinton: “Sexism is a bigger problem [than racism in the United States] […] It’s OK to be sexist in some people’s minds. It’s not OK to be racist.” The ensuing furor prompted Ferraro to resign from Clinton’s presidential campaign fundraising committee, though she stood by her remarks. At the time, I felt many Obama supporters blew Ferraro’s comments way out of proportion. Her perspective was shaped by decades of personal experience with sexism, like law school professors who felt she had taken “a man’s rightful place.”

Representative Bruce Braley said in a statement today, “Geraldine Ferraro was a great leader and a remarkable woman. She not only made history, she inspired generations of women to do the same. She will be greatly missed, but her influence will live on.”  I will update this post with further Iowa reaction to Ferraro’s passing.

Share your own memories of Ferraro and her political career in this thread.

UPDATE: Senator Chuck Grassley posted to Twitter, “Geraldine Ferraro was an xtraordinary M of Cong. A person easy get along w. True abt my working w her”

Ferraro’s father died when she was eight years old. Here’s a reflection she wrote on how losing a parent so young affected her life.

LATE UPDATE: Joan Walsh’s reflection on Ferraro’s life and career is worth reading.

Rest in peace, Ted Kennedy

Highly recommended: the National Journal’s compilation of several dozen tributes to Ted Kennedy, as his current and former staffers and other elected officials remember him.

Ted Kennedy has died of brain cancer:

But while the White House eluded his grasp, the longtime Massachusetts senator was considered one of the most effective legislators of the past few decades. Kennedy, who became known as the “lion of the Senate,” played major roles in passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, and was an outspoken liberal standard-bearer during a conservative-dominated era from the 1980s to the early 2000s. […]

Said Kennedy’s biographer, Adam Clymer: “He was probably best known for the ability to work with Republicans. The Republican Party raised hundreds of millions of dollars with direct appeal to protect the country from Ted Kennedy, but there was never a piece of legislation that he ever got passed without a major Republican ally.”

There’s much more detail about his life in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times obituaries. Norman Ornstein observed, “When you survey the impact of the Kennedys on American life and politics and policy, he will end up by far being the most significant.” Some may focus on his personal flaws, but he had a lot of demons to escape from, having had four of his older siblings die violently before his 40th birthday.

I appreciated Kennedy’s commitment to improving legal protections for so many disadvantaged people. I never met him, but I’ll always remember seeing him speak at a rally for John Kerry shortly before the 2004 caucuses. The Hoover High School gymnasium was packed, and Kennedy got the crowd going with humor and passion.

It’s sad that cancer prevented Kennedy from being more involved in the Senate health care deliberations this year. He would have been a voice for many of the reforms we need.

Even if Congress approves a health care bill, it will fall short of the universal coverage Kennedy advocated for most of his career. On the other hand, Kennedy famously regretted not reaching a health care compromise with President Richard Nixon in the early 70s. (Nixon was prepared to require employers to provide health insurance, while Kennedy wanted a single-payer type system.) While that compromise wouldn’t have helped everyone, we would have a lot fewer than 47 million uninsured Americans today if it had passed.

Massachusetts law requires a special election in the event of a U.S. Senate seat vacancy. Last month Kennedy asked Governor Deval Patrick and state legislators to amend the law to allow the governor to appoint a temporary replacement (who would not be able to compete in the special election) so that Massachusetts will not be lacking a vote when important legislation comes before the Senate this fall.

Share your thoughts and memories about Ted Kennedy in this thread.

UPDATE: I’m with Senator Tom Harkin: “We must now rededicate our efforts toward passing legislation to provide robust, quality health insurance coverage for all Americans.”

SECOND UPDATE: More reaction after the jump, including a video of Vice President Joe Biden.

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Rest in peace, Paul Newman

The great actor and philanthropist Paul Newman died yesterday at the age of 83. You can read about his life and work here.

The Newman’s Own Foundation issued this statement:

Newman’s Own Foundation Celebrates the Life and Legacy of Paul Newman

(January 26, 1925 – September 26, 2008)

Last update: 9:14 a.m. EDT Sept. 27, 2008

WESTPORT, Conn., Sept 27, 2008 PRNewswire via COMTEX — Remembering the life and legacy of Paul Newman, Newman’s Own Foundation has issued a statement. The statement, from Vice-Chairman Robert Forrester, follows:

“Paul Newman’s craft was acting. His passion was racing. His love was his family and friends. And his heart and soul were dedicated to helping make the world a better place for all.

“Paul had an abiding belief in the role that luck plays in one’s life, and its randomness. He was quick to acknowledge the good fortune he had in his own life, beginning with being born in America, and was acutely aware of how unlucky so many others were. True to his character, he quietly devoted himself to helping offset this imbalance.

“An exceptional example is the legacy of Newman’s Own. What started as something of a joke in the basement of his home, turned into a highly-respected, multi-million dollar a year food company. And true to form, he shared this good fortune by donating all the profits and royalties he earned to thousands of charities around the world, a total which now exceeds $250 million.

“While his philanthropic interests and donations were wide-ranging, he was especially committed to the thousands of children with life-threatening conditions served by the Hole in the Wall Camps, which he helped start over 20 years ago. He saw the Camps as places where kids could escape the fear, pain and isolation of their conditions, kick back, and raise a little hell. Today, there are 11 Camps around the world, with additional programs in Africa and Vietnam. Through the Camps, well over 135,000 children have had the chance to experience what childhood was meant to be.

“In Paul’s words: “I wanted to acknowledge luck; the chance and benevolence of it in my life, and the brutality of it in the lives of others, who might not be allowed the good fortune of a lifetime to correct it.”

“Paul took advantage of what life offered him, and while personally reluctant to acknowledge that he was doing anything special, he forever changed the lives of many with his generosity, humor, and humanness. His legacy lives on in the charities he supported and the Hole in the Wall Camps, for which he cared so much.

“We will miss our friend Paul Newman, but are lucky ourselves to have known such a remarkable person.”

Many celebrities support charitable causes, but by creating Newman’s Own and building it into a successful business, Paul Newman was able to generate far more money for charity than he could have given out of his own pocket.

Newman was not among the most politically-active Hollywood stars, but he did make Richard Nixon’s enemies list, which made him proud:

“Nixon didn’t like my campaigning for Democratic presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy. But then again, he didn’t much care for debate, dissent, or the Constitution either.

“I was proud to stand with Democrats against an imperial president back then.  And I am proud now to stand with a new generation of Democrats against a president who poses what I believe to be the biggest internal threat  to American democracy in my lifetime.

Newman did not take sides in this year’s Democratic primary, donating generously to several presidential candidates and maxing out to both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

After the jump I’ve created a poll where you can vote for your favorite Paul Newman movie. Share your thoughts and memories in the comments.

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Rest in peace, Marvin Pomerantz

Des Moines business leader Marvin Pomerantz passed away yesterday. You can read the Des Moines Register’s obituary here.

My family is acquainted with the Pomerantz family, and while I never shared Marvin’s politics (he was an influential supporter of the Iowa Republican Party), I had tremendous respect for his accomplishments. He was raised in poverty in an immigrant family and became one of the most successful self-made businessmen in this state’s history.

But he never pretended he did it all without any help. He gave credit to public education and gave a lot back in time and money to the University of Iowa and higher education in Iowa generally. Pomerantz liked getting his way and ruffled some feathers (including when he chaired the Board of Regents). In fact, I used to joke that a place I’d never want to be is between Marvin Pomerantz and something he wants. I didn’t agree with him on the particulars of education reform.

But unlike some conservatives, he did not try to demonize public education or starve it of funds. Reasonable minds can differ about the local-option sales tax to fund school infrastructure, but there weren’t too many prominent conservatives who supported it as Marvin did.

This was a key passage of the obituary:

Pomerantz continued to push for educational reforms, serving on a variety of state and local boards, becoming a point man and lightning rod for efforts to tie teachers’ pay to performance.

During an interview in 2005, he said his passion for education stemmed from the fact that it moved his family from immigrant status to being successful business owners.

“My dad and my mom always emphasized that I would go to college no matter what, and it made a tremendous difference in my life,” he said.

“I was a marginal kid. I went to the University of Iowa, and I got an education that gave me the tools to work with to create a wonderful life,” he said. “I was a good student at Iowa, but I was a poor student before I got to Iowa.”

Marvin is a perfect example of why we need to keep high-quality public education accessible to people of all backgrounds. When he entered the University of Iowa, he was a mediocre student from a poor family. No one could have imagined that he would become wealthy enough to donate millions of dollars to the university and raise millions more. But his instructors gave him many of the tools he needed to succeed in business.

May he rest in peace.

UPDATE: T.M Lindsey posted a good piece on Pomerantz at Iowa Independent.

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He probably extended the life of someone you love

Dr. Michael DeBakey, who developed bypass surgery and many other procedures for heart patients, died of natural causes at age 99.

Chances are you care about someone who benefited from the surgical techniques he pioneered and the instruments he invented.

Click the link to read about his achievements and the tens of thousands of patients he operated on, including world leaders and people who could not afford to pay for surgery.

I used to follow Russian politics closely, and Dr. DeBakey became a celebrity in Russia after he was a consultant to President Boris Yeltsin’s bypass operation in 1996.

The other famous passing of the weekend was former White House spokesman Tony Snow, who died of cancer at age 53.

Open thread on George Carlin

The comedian George Carlin has died of a heart condition at the age of 71.

You can find links to a couple of clips and many remembrances in the comments to this diary:


My brother and I saw Carlin live at the Civic Center in Des Moines during the 1980s.

One line I remember from his show was something like, “I’m leading Richard Pryor in heart attacks 2-1, but he’s leading me in burning yourself up 1-0.”

Use this as an open thread to share your thoughts and memories.

UPDATE: A bunch of video clips of classic Carlin routines are in the comment thread under this diary:


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