Cedar Valley Chronicles

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“Even before the advent of the Internet, Cawelti’s columns went 'viral' in the Cedar Valley… the role of a columnist is to be thought provoking, to take tacks that shed a different light on an issue or possibly cause a reader to reevaluate a position. At the very least, it should bring clarity to a particular perspective, whether you buy into the commentator’s worldview or not.

Scott's work does just that.  Enjoy this collection of his writing.”

-Saul Shapiro, Former Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier Editor
Read Shapiro's entire introduction.

  • Tale of Three Billionaires

    • Posted on Oct 16, 2016
    Sunday, October 16th Courier column--showing how being really rich reveals your real character.  

    Much of what we think and do depends on how much money we have.   

     Imagine you control billions.  

     A whole new world opens up, and stays open.  Everyone around you is on your staff, and you only hire the best.  You don’t really need friends, since everyone’s your friend when you have unlimited resources.  In fact, you can never be sure who really likes you, since all that money attracts toadies and opportunists by the hundred.   

    Having thousands of millions becomes a major reveal for one’s truest self.  Are you generous and connected to mankind’s ongoing needs?   Or are you a piker, only concerning about amassing more millions?  

     Consider three billionaires and how they handle their money mountains: Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, and Donald Trump.   

    Gates made his massive fortune, now estimated at 81.8 billion, as CEO of Microsoft. We’re now digital thanks partly to Gates and his software. Truth be told, he probably used a few monopolistic business practices that remain questionable.  

     But his philanthropic role model is not questionable.  When Gates resigned as Chair of Microsoft in 2000, he and his wife formed the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation in the world.  It funds dozens of humanitarian causes from disease control to K-12 education.  

    Gates became a “venture philanthropist,” funding fledgling humanitarian causes to
    help them grow.  Along with Warren Buffet and Mark Zuckerberg, Gates has signed a pledge to donate half of his billions to charitable causes. 

     Without question, philanthropist Bill Gates and his multiple million-dollar contributions has made the world a better place.  

    Steven Spielberg’s worth has been estimated at around 3.7 billion, most of it made from directing/writing/producing memorable films, from Jaws to Amistad to Empire of the Sun to Schindler’s List to Saving Private Ryan to Lincoln.  All made by a billionaire director/writer/producer whose first love remains films and filmmaking.

     Spielberg’s model:  Keep working, keep learning, keep contributing, keep making a positive difference in the culture, billions or no billions.   All profits from Schindler’s List went to promote understanding of the Holocaust, and he generously funds dozens of charities worldwide.   

    Last and least, there’s Donald Trump. Born into wealth, he created the Trump brand, which helped turned his inheritance into billions.  Until we see his tax returns we can’t know how many billions, nor can we know about his charitable contributions, though he certainly brags about his generosity.  

     However, we do know that he has not made a personal contribution to his own charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, since 2008, and his other contributions amount to “crumbs from his well-filled plate,” as one article puts it. 

    In fact, he’s the “least charitable billionaire in the world,” and Google that phrase for evidence.  Trump really doesn’t have a philanthropic bone is his body, and does no work that contributes to the betterment of anyone except Donald Trump. 

    Billionaires have no real obligation to contribute to anything. What they do with their money shows who they are.  

    Gates and Spielberg: generous and positive givers.   Trump:  miserly taker.    
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  • Lunch with a Leader: Leon Mosley

    • Posted on Sep 27, 2016
    This appeared in the Waterloo Courier on Thursday, Sept. 22.  Leon was a great interviewee, and a great man--and a bit scary because he's so honest.  

    Cross Crocodile Dundee, Dirty Harry, Charles Bronson, and you have Leon Mosley.   A vigilante.  

    Yet he’s still a family man, a church-going God-fearing community activist, and an all-around concerned citizen who served on the Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors for 16 years.  A Republican, no less.  

    He also served on a variety of volunteer boards all over the country, and was a leading advocate for closing down Waterloo crack houses that were destroying whole neighborhoods.  Call him a responsible vigilante.  

    “I’d go to those houses with my big RCA video camera and get evidence video for the police.  I was gathering documentary reports to help them make arrests.”  

    He became a consultant for several Iowa cities, and well known for his effective drug-fighting activism.  He never took the law into his own hands, never became a one-man army. 
    But don’t threaten him.  “Messing with me is like tickling a bobcat.”  He towered over me, and at 70, looks like he could take down most anyone.  When he gets mad, watch out.   

    “If you see Leon in a fight with a bear, go help the bear”—has been a joke that  tells with delight.   

    “I have a terrible temper,” he told me over lunch. “I get so mad at these bad kids that I have to watch myself.”  He’s been threatened, shot at, and insulted as an “oreo” and “Uncle Tom” because he works well with both whites and Blacks.  
    Afraid?  “Never,” he said.  “I know when I’m right, and I do it.  

    When you tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said.  You just keep telling the truth.”   

     He certainly has the respect and friendship of both Waterloo Police Chief Trelka
    and Mayor Hart.  “I love both these guys—and want them to succeed.”  His main weapon has been his phone number.  He openly gives it to everyone, and says if they’re afraid to call the police to report lawbreakers, call him—and he’ll report them.  

    That takes plain guts, and the police consider him a valuable crime-fighting partner.   

     Our lunch happened during the Trelka controversy, and I went to Mayor Hart’s news conference that same afternoon, as did Mosely.   It was clear to Mosely that community support (including his own) had affected the Mayor, and Mosely was pleased. 

     “He did the right thing, which only makes sense.  Problems of respect for the police started long before Trelka took over, and Trelka’s been doing his best to fix it.”  

    For Mosley, community crime problems begin at home.  Too many parents have given up raising their children, and that infuriates him.  “Kids are raising each other on the streets.  No parents or teachers they respect.  They end up in jail or prison.” 

    Just the week before, he visited the Cattle Congress, and a group of junior high schoolers—mostly girls, were at the grounds violently fighting among themselves. 

    The next night, they shut down the entire Cattle Congress grounds due to kids fighting among themselves, menacing visitors. “They’re not really gangs—just young teen girls—all Black—fighting each other,” Mosely observed.  

     “The police were there in two minutes, breaking them up, but I don’t think they did much.  Probably should have arrested them.”   

    To Mosley, these kids needed a “good whoopin’” meaning just what he got as a kid when he made trouble. “My father whacked me good with a paddle, and I knew I deserved it.  That’s how I learned respect.” 

    “When they made corporal punishment illegal, that’s when problems started,” he insists, “But I know we can’t do that now. We have to find other solutions.” 

    Unfortunately, those solutions elude him.  “I really don’t know how to make families more responsible. I can only report what I see and try to help.”  

    I asked what keeps him going, given all the threats and criticism.  

    “I learned a motto from my father,” he said.  “If you don’t know what’s worth dying for, you haven’t lived.”   Making the community “safe for the good kids” is worth dying for, he says, and he means it. 

    “Really, it’s the 80/20 rule.  Eighty percent of our kids are fine, but we spend all our time dealing with problem kids.” 

    So what would cause real change. “I thought when kids get killed
    on the street by other kids we’d wake up.  That happened, but still nothing changed.”  

    He’s sure that two hundred young witnesses watched a murder on Airline Highway and not one came forward.  “We have to change that, and I’m doing what I can.” 

    If more responsible citizens would routinely report crime and criminal activities, everything would in fact change for the better.   

    Leon Mosley has shown the way.  



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