Death Penalty Bill Moving in Iowa

Update on Senate File 14

 A subcommittee meeting on Iowa Senate File 14 will be held this week on Wednesday, February 15, at 1:00 pm in Room 315 of the Iowa Capitol.

Senate File 14, if enacted the bill would create a “capital murder offense by establishing the penalty of death for murder in the first-degree offenses involving kidnapping and sexual abuse offenses against the same victim who is a minor.”

The Senate Subcommittee consists of Sen. Julian Garrett (R-Indianola); Sen. Tony Bisignano (D-Des Moines); and Sen. Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig). Sen. Garrett is the subcommittee chair and floor manager.

How to help

You don’t have to attend the subcommittee meeting in person. You can join via Zoom.

Room 315 is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

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Meeting ID: 816 3460 8917

Passcode: 269320

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In any case, we ask that you send an email to the subcommittee members and your own senator, if different from the subcommittee, and present your views in opposition in no more than 100 words. Anything longer may be disregarded. When you do submit your email, please cc us at: Please be respectable and professional or you may damage our cause!

Also, contact your senator and representative and ask each if they oppose the death penalty.  Then, we ask you share that information with us. or

Contact information for your senator and representative should be located on their legislative website page.  For senators, locate the name of you senator and click on the senator’s name.  Information on the senator’s committees, legislation introduced, email address, physical address, cell phone and Senate phone will come up on the senator’s page.  For representatives, follow the same procedure as previously outlined for senators. Representatives.

 Helpful Hints

 You may ask your legislator(s) if he/she would vote to oppose any death penalty bill. If your legislator responds with “I don’t think there will be a death penalty bill debate this year,” or some similar reply, let them know that that is not the question you asked. Ask again: “Would you oppose any bill in the Iowa Legislature that reinstated the death penalty?”

You are the constituent; you are the legislator’s boss; the person to whom the legislator is elected to represent. You have every right to expect a definitive answer. Be respectful nice, but firm.

More information

Iowans Against the Death Penalty is a single-issue organization established in 1962. We were instrumental in the repeal of the state’s death penalty law in 1965, and IADP has worked vigilantly to resist efforts to reinstate it over the years.

Funds are necessary to run any organization. While IADP operates entirely with volunteers, it costs money to maintain a website, to print and mail materials, and to organize events.

IADP is dedicated to expanding its presence in Iowa.  If you are affiliated with a community college, university, youth group, high school, church, or any other group that would be interested in hosting a meaningful discussion, we would love to hear from you.  Please let us know and we will respond accordingly as soon as possible.

Your membership in IADP

Membership in Iowans Against the Death Penalty is $15 annually.  If you cannot recall the last time you paid yearly dues, your membership has most likely lapsed.  We encourage you to join us by submitting a check for $15, along with your name, address, zip code, and email address to:


PO Box 782

Des Moines, IA 50303

Or, by joining online at:

IADP is a section 501(c)(4) organization which uses some of its funds for lobbying.  Membership contributions to IADP are NOT tax deductible.

Iowans Against the Death Penalty FUND is an IADP sister organization which can accept tax deductible gifts and grants since it is a section 501(c)(3) organization with the Internal Revenue Service.  Making a tax-deductible gift to the IADP FUND does not mean you are an IADP member.



This is a poem written by Carl Sandburg in the 1920s.


C. Sandburg

I AM put high over all others in the city today.

I am the killer who kills for those who wish a killing today.

Here is a strong young man who killed.

There was a driving wind of city dust and horse dung blowing and he stood at an intersection of five sewers and there pumped the bullets of an automatic pistol into another man, a fellow citizen.

Therefore, the prosecuting attorneys, fellow citizens, and a jury of his peers, also fellow citizens, listened to the testimony of other fellow citizens, policemen, doctors, and after a verdict of guilty, the judge, a fellow citizen, said: I sentence you to be hanged by the neck till you are dead.

So there is a killer to be killed and I am the killer of the killer for today.

I don’t know why it beats in my head in the lines I read once in an old school reader: I’m to be queen of the May, mother, I’m to be queen of the May.

Anyhow it comes back in language just like that today.

I am the high honorable killer today.

There are five million people in the state, five million killers for whom I kill.

I am the killer who kills today for five million killers who wish a killing.


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A Brief Tale

Have you ever gone skinny dipping? If you were a boy living in Vail, Iowa, during the 1950s and 1960s there was just about no way to avoid the practice of diving into a farm pond sans clothing or swim trunks.

Before the tiny town of Vail, Iowa, had a swimming pool for the town’s residents, kids cooled off by running through the hose, as it was called, seeking out anyplace that had air conditioning, like Marvin’s Market or the Vail Café, playing in the Boyer River, or some of Vail’s idiot boys (myself included) went out to Tracy’s Pond. Tracy’s Pond was owned by Tracy North, an elderly gentleman who owned and rented out many homes in Vail, often forgetting to collect rent from his tenants. Many of those houses were on their last stage of livability.

Tracy’s Pond was located less than a mile from the west end of town. The kids’ way of getting there was to 1) trespass over the Walsh acreage; 2) meander through a piece of land owned by the government that held corn in several grain bins, and finally; 3) cut a path through a couple of fields of corn or pasture, depending upon what route a kid should take. Most of us knew how to get there through corn fields. Some walked along a fencerow until they saw the inlet of the pond.

The pond took up a little over two acres on farmland that has tillable soil on the east side that was often seeded in corn; pasture on the west and north sides with ravines on the west side; and a dam with a spillway on the south side. Along the dam on the south side, but beyond it by several feet was a small forest of cottonwoods, elms, and oaks. The north side? It usually had a few Hereford calves wading in the shallow waters of the inlet. Not one of us ever saw a heifer or steer urinate or defecate in the water, but we weren’t looking, either.

A huge raft sat docked on the southwest corner of the pond. I can’t believe it ever floated. The buoyant base consisted of cottonwood tree trunks. The platform was constructed using various sizes and types of board – no two alike. The raft had no type of propulsion or steering, it must have been built on the spot where it sat and had never moved. It was monstrous; the dimensions were close to twelve feet wide and twenty-five feet long. When I first saw it, I thought I would have to learn what a cubit was.

In the 1960s, the pond was stocked with bluegill and crappie. However, like any good fishing spot, it wasn’t long before the bullhead took over as the prominent aquatic life in the mudhole. Fish hooks left behind by throw lines didn’t seem to be an issue. I can’t recall any kid having been bit by a rusty fish hook, and they were scattered about on the raft, the ground, and most likely, in the water.

The spillway was approximately twenty feet or more from its top to the outlet below. Assuming the depth of the pond was a few feet short of the outlet, it could have been over fifteen feet deep in front of the spillway. But the depth of the water off the east end of the raft was closer to six feet deep. I know because I couldn’t touch the bottom while treading water, but I could hold my breath and dive to the bottom and pick up a chunk of mud. And that brings up the mud fight that would get out of hand on more than one instance.

I got mud in my eye after a few of us had a silly mud fight. I had mud in my eye all the way home. I had to tell my mom. What else was I going to do. Some kid must have told me that I would lose my eye if I didn’t have a doctor look at it. Events like this always had mom calling the local resident doctor. She wasn’t a doctor, but Kate Malloy, a registered nurse, handled more medical hysterics in the neighborhood (or at least, our house) than any medical doctor who may have resided in town before her. Kate came over to our house and removed any remaining mud and cleansed the eye, which hurt at the time, but became normal in no time at all.

A fisherman or two would occasionally drive onto the property from a dirt road south of the pond. When one of us saw a vehicle up on the ridge we would yell to warn anyone in the water to get out, grab clothes, and head into the woods. Hindsight tells me the angler always knew who we were, but none of us wanted to have him get close enough to readily identify any of us. We could always deny it.

Vail boys learned to swim at the Denison Swimming Pool, but we honed our skills at Tracy’s Pond. It was against a mother’s law to swim in that pond, so we had to skinny dip in order to keep our underwear from turning brown. Yes, you read that right. If a fisherman should tattle to one of our mothers that he saw us out there we could always lean on the fact that “it couldn’t have been me, check my underwear. If I was out there the briefs would be brown.”

Previously posted essays on the same subject matter:

Thank you, sir

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Chicago – The Sequel

My first time in Chicago was chronicled in a previous blog, Look Before You Leap. I’ve been to Chicago, and the metropolitan area several times since. And who hasn’t had a frustrating trip through O’Hare Airport at least once in their life. But airports are different matters.

My next visit to Chicago after my schooling fiasco was a business trip in the late 1980s. I was a union business agent and represented workers in a Wilson Foods plant in Clarinda. Pepperoni was made there. I went to see the union members there often, always bringing a large stick of pepperoni home with me.

I was sent to Chicago in late spring or early summer to help negotiate a chain contract. A chain contract is where all the various plants owned by one company negotiate one contract. Union representatives from Wilson Food plants in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and many other locations outside of the Midwest showed up in Chicago to negotiate. I was told to bring enough clothes and money for three or four days. After six days, I was out of clean clothes and money. This was before ATMs and not many people of average means carried credit cards (the hotel room at the Holiday Inn Merchandise Mart was not my responsibility). It took almost an hour at a bank across from the hotel to agree to allow me to write a check for cash. I needed some of the money for coins to wash clothing at a laundromat. The rest I needed for food.

Much of my Chicago memories include food. But not entirely. Walking down Michigan Avenue, a group of us union negotiators came upon striking workers at the Chicago Tribune. We spent time walking the strike line with them and talking with them. I don’t know if it’s true, but one striker told me that the Tribune owned the WGN television network. “What do you think WGN stands for?” He asked me. “World’s Greatest Newspaper.” That sidewalk was where I saw my first exhibition of a guy opening his coat with watches, necklaces, and just about anything else you could imagine. “Make an offer,” he said. I shook my head no. Remember; I was short on cash.

Another highlight was walking into the Billy Goat Tavern and having a cheeseburger. I was shown the bar stool that Mike Royko, one of my favorite columnists at the time, sat on every afternoon before they poured him into a taxi. I loved Slats Grobnik. They just don’t write like that anymore.

After two weeks, we were sent home. We didn’t obtain a contract at that time, but because we had so much idle time, several of us discovered some of the best places to eat in Chitown. I didn’t care for Gino’s; the pizza crust was too thick. Most good places seemed to be between Michigan Avenue and LaSalle. My favorite was a restaurant that is no longer there. The name of the small out-of-the-way place was something like Bertinelli’s (no, not Portilla & Bennilli’s). A small steak was a little over sixteen ounces – a pound. The atmosphere was thrilling. It was one of those places that had curtains over the booths. Outside, one evening, a private limo sat in a no parking slot, driver behind the wheel. It was still there when we left.

Another place I enjoyed and frequented more than once was Carson’s Ribs. When I was in Chicago again in the 2000s, again on business, I wanted to eat at Carson’s. Blindly, Stephanie followed me through the streets of Chicago as we walked right to it. No Google, no directions; just memory. I did have to ask for directions once and the guy said it’s right there. Had we turned our heads we would have seen it. In a MASH television show, Hawkeye Pierce mentioned his love of Adam’s Ribs in Chicago. I’ll bet it was a reference to Carson’s.

I’m not a Cubs fan, or a Bears fan, so I have little reason to travel to Chicago. But it’s still a great city. I lived thirty miles from New York City for four months in the early 1970s but have never been there. At the time, everyone told me that I should go into the city, but don’t go alone. When I asked if the person would go with me, the answer was always “no.”

Because I haven’t sat in an airplane since 1999, I doubt I’ll see many more cities in my lifetime. I can drive to a few, like the Twin Cities and Kansas City, which I like. However, my favorite times have been in New Orleans and San Francisco. Yes, food was a big part of those trips.

I love Chicago! But don’t take me there again.

* * *

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Look Before You Leap

I was told often that I wasn’t college material. That’s probably because I didn’t apply myself during my four years of high school. I had a friend, Jim, who died of leukemia within two years of graduating, who would do his English homework during history, and history homework during whatever class followed that, and so on and so forth. I feel I am too attentively deficit to accomplish such a self-inflicted assignment.

Also, I didn’t think I could afford it. Pell grants weren’t available until 1973, and I graduated from Kuemper High School in Carroll in 1968. Most other kids that went to higher education had families that could help financially. And then there was that buzz in my ear where I had heard more than once that “you aren’t smart enough to attend college.” I’m sure that was related to my grades. I didn’t do homework unless I could get it done in study hall and wasn’t too tired from roaming around that night before and needed a nap.

So,  my guidance counselor, Cletus Windschitl, grandfather of Matt Windschitl – majority leader in the Iowa House of Representatives, met with me once and gave me brochures about auto mechanic schools throughout the Midwest. Never mind that I am probably the only student ever to attend Kuemper Catholic High School who flunked “shop.” Unfortunately for me, neither my deli-style counseling session nor brochure indicated that the place I would stay while at school had a top floor that was open to the sky, or that my school and place of residence would be in a crime-ridden neighborhood. And, it was never mentioned to me that I was going to Chicago immediately after the Democratic Convention and riots of 1968.

My first visit to Chicago was when I was seventeen. I had enrolled in a school on the south side that taught auto mechanics. I took the Greyhound bus from Vail, Iowa, to Chicago and took a taxi from the bus station to the school. I had no idea where that school was located. I remember that it was south of the business district [Wacker Drive & the river], but I couldn’t name a street if I had to. I’m quite sure the school was in the South Loop if you’re familiar with the Chicago area.

The school was disappointing. The students lived in a hotel up the street about two blocks away. The top two floors of the hotel had burned out, but that didn’t stop the hotel from operating. [I can’t be sure, but everything I have researched points to the Douglas Hotel, where the top floor was on fire in 1961 – seven years before I was in Chicago.] I was assigned a room with another student on the top ‘livable’ floor. The neighborhood didn’t just appear to be dangerous; we were told not to wonder about. Within a few days of getting situated, I left the room, went down the elevator to get a Coke out of the machine on the ground floor and took the elevator back up to the 6th floor. When I got out of the elevator, I saw a fellow student lying on the floor of the hallway close to my room. He had just been mugged. I couldn’t figure out how it wasn’t me. It was matter of a couple minutes or less.

My roommate moved out and down the block to a different hotel. I didn’t have the financial resources to move. Fortunately, I decided I didn’t want to be an auto mechanic after all. My high school guidance counselor had suggested it when career assessment tests indicated that I like to “work with my hands.” A day after my roommate moved out, I headed out to the bus depot with my new toolbox full of Snap-On tools. I had paid for them. They’re guaranteed for life, but not if your stepfather breaks the lock on the toolbox and steals them while you’re in the Army.

Another thing that was strange about this school was that it was on the second floor of a building. I recall walking up many steps to get to the classrooms and shop area. Just another thing I didn’t notice on the brochure. I’m beginning to think there were no brochures. It must have been a matchbook cover.

Moral of the story: Check it out before you commit!


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I swear I’m not swearing

Recently, I sent a text message to a friend letting him know that I would “affirm” the commitment of another friend for the three of us to have coffee at a designated location. The recipient of the text replied to let me know that our mutual friend could either “affirm or swear” the commitment. It was then that I realized I must have inherited Norm Crosby disease from my mother. I knew I meant ‘confirm.’

Norm Crosby was the ‘King of Malaprops.’ A malaprop is “the mistaken use of a word in place of a similar sounding one, often with unintentionally amusing effect, as in, for example, “dance a flamingo” (instead of flamenco).” My mother loved Norm Crosby. I was befuddled by her admiration of him even though she spoke like him – unintentionally.

The texting banter got my brain wandering about why swearing is a sin. Swearing has two different meanings. One meaning is to “make a solemn statement,” while the other definition is to “use offensive language.” Isn’t that a paradox?

Is it any wonder I was confused as an elementary pupil at St. Ann’s Grade School? Even in first grade the nuns would have us children memorizing the catechism.

“Who made you?” “God made me.”

“Who is God.” “God is a supreme bean who made all things.”

Maybe first graders today can understand the description of a being, but back in my time I doubt most of those students in Sister Donald Marie’s first grade class could comprehend. We hadn’t got to “see Spot run,” yet.

We were taught that swearing is a sin. But is it a venial or mortal sin? Venial means “denoting a sin that is not regarded as depriving the soul of divine grace.” A mortal sin is “defined as a grave action that is committed in full knowledge of its gravity and with full consent of the sinners’ will.” The nuns didn’t communicate the specifics very well. For instance, is it a mortal sin to masturbate, but only a venial sin to have sex? There was no chart or wrist band for us to refer to various degrees of sinfulness. We were on our own.

I began first grade at five years old. My mother swore like a sailor. To me, those cuss words she used were better understood than the definitions of mortal and venial sins.

As we moved into the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades, we were encouraged to save our pennies for the “Propagation of the Faith.” I didn’t want to sound dumb and ask the nun what the hell propagation meant. And I’ll bet that most of the others had the same thought. I continued to call it the propaganda of the faith and no one corrected me.

The Roman Catholic Church uses big words throughout its liturgy, education, and missions. However, my religious background has taught me the difference between an encyclical[1] and an encyclopedia[2]; a cannon[3] and a canon[4]; and relocation[5] and reconciliation[6]. I’m not so sure my former classmates understand those distinctions, even today.

It was difficult being a Catholic. I may always be a Catholic, even though I do not participate in the sacraments. I can relate to what John Lennon once said about messaging: “People always got the image I was an anti-Christ or antireligion. I’m not. I’m a most religious fellow. I was brought up as a Christian, and I only now understand some of the things that Christ was saying in those parables. Because people got hooked on the teacher and missed the message.”

With my mom, I always got the message, no matter how garbled the sentence was with malapropisms and swearing. She never comprehended the irony of calling us boys “you dirty little no-good sons-of-bitches,” and she “could care less.”

I miss my mom!

[1] a papal letter sent to all bishops of the Roman Catholic Church.

[2] a book or set of books giving information on many subjects or on many aspects of one subject and typically arranged alphabetically.

[3] a large, heavy gun usually mounted on a carriage.

[4] a church law or decree.

[5] the action of moving to a new place and establishing one’s home or business there.

[6] the restoration of friendly relations.


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Talking turkey

If you’re feeding a huge crowd for Thanksgiving this year, you better get out and find your large turkey today, if you haven’t already.

Because of the bird flu, large birds are going to be scarce. You may have to settle for two 12-pound birds instead of your usual 24-pounder. Iowa is one of the top five turkey producers in the United States, and the avian flu hit us hard. This also means that a turkey is going to cost you more, but what doesn’t anymore.

One of the most creative ways to get a couple of toms for Thanksgiving would be to hang around a governor’s mansion when the tradition of pardoning a pair of birds is a general spectacle prior to Thanksgiving. Once the birds are pardoned – grab one. Hey, it’s free! Right? Freed, free: What’s the difference?

On my daily walk last week, I spotted a wild turkey running through the Tai Dam Village Festival parking lot. If I were faster, I might have caught it. However, to chase that bird I would have been trespassing. I respect the Tai Dam people and the land they acquired, which reminds them of the land they left behind in southeast Asia.

However, we don’t need a turkey. We haven’t eaten turkey in this house for close to twenty years. We don’t eat turkey for various individual reasons. My personal view is that I think turkey tastes like “sacks of wet cement.”

So, enjoy your green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes with gravy. We will have some of those Thanksgiving treats, but our latest tradition has been chicken marsala. I’m not sure what we’re going to have this year, but it won’t be turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving from Fawkes-Lee & Ryan!

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