- Associated Press - Monday, July 4, 2016

Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. June 30, 2016

Don’t forget ‘91 Gulf War vets.

The Cedar Valley has done a commendable job in honoring its veterans - with perhaps one possible exception.

But first, let’s give credit where credit is due.

We have regular Honor Flights to Washington, D.C., of veterans from World War II through the Vietnam War.

Veterans organization in Waverly have joined forces to create a combined veterans post scheduled to be completed later this year.

The Grout Museum has had a year-long exhibit “365 Days and Counting: Iowans in the Vietnam War,” commemorating the 50th anniversary of that conflict.

Cedar Falls, home to the largest AMVETS post in the state by membership, is finishing improvements to an expansion of Veterans Park along Waterloo Road.

Like Cedar Falls with Veterans Park, Waterloo’s Veterans Memorial Hall regularly sells commemorative bricks to finance the upkeep of that hall and surrounding Soldiers and Sailors Park. The hall celebrated its 100th birthday last year. Veterans in Waterloo also have started a fund drive to replace street flags and brackets on downtown light poles for display during patriotic holidays.

After some fits and starts, a new relocated Waterloo Becker-Chapman American Legion Post 138 opened in Waterloo last year.

Traditional veterans holidays are faithfully observed as well as special programs commemorating anniversaries of major conflicts.

Yet, one anniversary recently passed quietly, at least locally.

This year marked the 25th anniversary of the Persian Gulf War, also known as Operation Desert Storm, when a U.S.-led coalition of nations drove the forces of Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.

The Cedar Valley committed some of its finest to that conflict. The Waterloo Marine Reserve Delta Battery artillery unit, part of the 1st Battalion, 14th Marines, was called to active duty.

All 135 Marines returned without a scratch after four months in the Middle East. Pretty good considering D Battery was the first U.S. field outfit to enter Kuwait during the Allied invasion of the small, oil-rich country. During the 100-hour ground war, they stood toe-to-toe with some of Iraq’s most trained combat troops.

After D Battery landed in Saudi Arabia, veterans said there were plenty of tense moments, from being shelled and taking small arms fire to a British jet accidentally dropping a bomb in the middle of their makeshift compound.

“It was nonstop action. We were either moving or shooting,” Kurt Schreiber, a Cedar Falls police officer who served in the unit, said after returning. “They (military officials) expected it would take seven weeks to be in range of Kuwait City. We did it in 24 hours.”

Waterloo’s D Battery Marines performed so well they were allowed to bring back a captured Chinese-made Iraqi howitzer, still displayed outside of the reserve center on Burton Avenue.

Many local law officers also served in an Iowa Air National Guard military police unit guarding Iraqi prisoners.

Mark Saucer, a career U.S Army Special Forces soldier, a 1981 graduate of East High School and the son of late Courier Managing Editor George Saucer, participated in clandestine military operations behind Iraqi lines in advance of the ground assault. The Green Beret was in a picture with U.S. Ambassador Edward Gnehm Jr. raising the flag over the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait City on Feb. 28, 1991.

The 1991 Gulf War may have been eclipsed by later, post 9-11 conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it should not be ignored. Many Gulf War veterans live and work in our community. Many still deal with the same physical and emotional challenges as veterans of other conflicts.

The Iraqi howitzer Delta Battery captured sits near the AMVETS Post in Evandale. It was moved there after the Marine Reserve unit was deactivated following a 2005 deployment to Iraq. One Delta Battery Gulf War veteran has proposed cleaning up that piece and organizing a reunion around it.

We support that. Like veterans of our other conflicts, before and since, Gulf War vets deserve recognition and our thanks.

___

Quad-City Times . June 30, 2016

Iowa Supreme Court fails voters.

The Iowa Supreme Court issued the mother of all cop-outs Thursday. And, in so doing, reinforced Gov. Terry Branstad’s draconian voter disenfranchisement of more than 50,000 Iowans.

In a 4-3 decision, rendered along partisan lines, Chief Justice Mark Cady strains to avoid upsetting the apple cart, a problem created by the vagueness of “infamy” as the state Constitution’s standard for disenfranchisement.

Yes, words change, Cady admits. Victorian psuedo-scientific voting bans on “idiots” and the “insane,” appearing in the original state Constitution, are long gone, he notes. And, yes, Iowa’s excessively harsh approach to voting rights disproportionately affects black communities thanks to flaws in the application of justice, Cady concedes.

But, he concludes, the courts - the body designed to interpret words written by long-dead men - shouldn’t get involved in a provision that cedes access to the most important democratic right to the whims of a governor. It’s the very court that, just two years ago, redefined the outdated term, “infamy,” to exclude misdemeanor convictions that included jail time. And it’s the very court that, in its landmark 2009 ruling legalizing gay marriage, recognized the Constitution’s living, breathing status.

Astonishing.

A little background on the case is in order. In 2008, Kelli Jo Griffin, 42, of Montrose, was convicted of cocaine delivery. She served her time, which, in the vast majority of states, would be enough for her to at least petition for a restoration of her rights. Griffin didn’t try to steal an election. She wasn’t convicted of corruption. It’s impossible to see the government’s interest in denying her access to the voting booth. But Iowa isn’t just any state. Politics, not fair or consistent application of statue, reign here. Griffin, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, sued Branstad and former Secretary of State Matt Schultz.

For example, former Gov. Tom Vilsack issued a sweeping executive order restoring voting rights to 115,000 felons after time and parole were served. It was a step toward bringing Iowa in line with all but two other states, which, for years acknowledged the social cost and injustice of isolating convicts. Branstad, in 2011, scuttled Vilsack’s attempt at partial normalization. He cracked down. He took sole ownership of voting rights for thousands. And, in the years since, just 119 Iowans have seen their voting rights restored.

In most states, the Legislature holds power over defining what crimes warrant a loss of voting rights. Not so in Iowa, where the Parole Board holds sway in returning the right to own guns. But the right to vote, the very basis of a representative democracy, rests solely with the governor. And, again, it all comes down to an imprecise, outdated and subjective word that, this time, a majority of the Supreme Court refused to define.

The three dissenting judges came to similar conclusions. The “infamy” test is “anachronistic,” said Justice Brent Appel, a Vilsack appointee.

Another Vilsack appointee, Justice Daryl Hecht, correctly criticized the court’s majority, all Branstad appointees, for refusing to do the job and bring clarity to the confusion over “infamy.”

“Although the legislature expressed its understanding in 1994 that all felony crimes are infamous for purposes of identifying eligible voters (sic),” he wrote, “the task of interpreting the Iowa Constitution falls to this court - not the Legislature.”

It’s the courts - not legislatures or executives - that are intended to cut through political discord and offer clarity. It’s the courts that are supposed to grapple with obsolete language and modern concepts. It’s the courts that are designed to protect rank-and-file citizens from governmental assault.

And, on Thursday, Iowa Supreme Court failed on all counts.

___

Sioux City Journal. June 26, 2016

City should seek to expand, not contract recycling.

Because it’s so right and so good for so many reasons, recycling by residents is something the city of Sioux City should do everything within its power to support.

Instead, the city is studying, as it did in 2013, possible degradation of recycling service by ending curbside collection of glass recyclables. Van’s Sanitation and Recycling of Le Mars wants to eliminate glass from the recyclables it processes for the city.

We opposed this idea three years ago and we oppose it again today.

In our view, participation in recycling is too low among city residents already (42 percent of households take part). Removal of a recycling option from the city’s program, we fear, will be counterproductive to efforts aimed at increasing voluntary participation.

For the long-term life of the local landfill and the long-term good of the environment, the city should be discussing ways to expand, not contract options for curbside collection of recyclables.

One alternative option under consideration is to create dropoff locations for glass. We have serious doubts about how many residents would take the time to find and travel to a glass dropoff site when it would be easier to throw glass in the garbage. Convenience is a valuable incentive to recycle and curbside collection is the ultimate convenience.

If concern exists about broken glass contaminating and devaluing other recyclables, perhaps the city should consider providing residents with separate containers - one for glass, one for everything else.

Might continuing to allow curbside collection of glass recyclables cost the city more money? Maybe. But all city services need not produce a profit. Recycling is about the long, not short term.

We urge the city to work hard at identifying a plan through which residents can continue to enjoy curbside collection of glass recyclables as they have for the last 10 years.

___

Des Moines Register. June 29, 2016

Republican remedy for health law disappoints.

In the six years since the Affordable Care Act became law, Republicans in the U.S. House have voted dozens of times to repeal or dismantle it. Not once have they voted on legislation to replace it. Last week party leaders finally unveiled a 37-page blueprint of their alternative reforms.

Written by a task force appointed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, the proposal is the fifth installment in a six-part “better way” agenda being rolled out by Republicans. It certainly does chart a new direction on health care for the country: Going backwards. The goal seems to be returning to a time when universal access to comprehensive health insurance didn’t exist.

Of course the party’s first order of business is scrapping Obamacare. “This law cannot be fixed,” the proposal declares. “We need a clean start in order to pursue the patient-centered reforms the American people deserve.”

What are these long-awaited reforms? The same tired ideas Republicans have bandied about for years, including health savings accounts, medical malpractice reform, wellness programs, allowing people to purchase insurance across state lines and other warmed-over ideas that do not actually insure Americans.

Then there is the absence of the basic details one would expect to find in any serious reform plan. No cost estimate. No suggestions for where the money would come from to pay costs. It’s anyone’s guess as to how many people would be insured and how many would lose their current coverage. Apparently we are simply supposed to have faith that all the missing information will materialize at a later date. Perhaps in six more years. Perhaps never.

What one knows for sure after reading the proposal: Scores of Americans would lose insurance. Repealing Obamacare means saying goodbye to the Medicaid expansion and insurance exchanges that have covered millions of previously uninsured Americans. Gone would be requiring insurers participating in exchanges to sell coverage to everyone, regardless of preexisting conditions.

Instead, Republicans are offering tax credits of an unspecified amount to help people buy coverage in the private sector. The unlucky Americans with a history of health problems who can’t buy coverage can look forward to the resurrection of “high-risk pools.” Remember those? Dump all the sickest people into their own special groups and charge them prohibitively high premiums. Iowa’s pool was perhaps best known for offering unaffordable monthly premiums and for refusing to insure people with HIV.

Those were the days.

The proposal reads like a list of hollow talking points lifted from campaign speeches. Insurers would be prohibited from canceling coverage if a customer gets sick, but there are no details about how this would be enforced. Using federal money for abortion services would be banned, even though it’s already banned. Health providers might refuse to write or fill birth control prescriptions with their proposed “freedom to exercise their conscience.”

And one can’t overlook the mind-boggling paragraphs about increasing the age at which Americans are eligible for Medicare. That’s a surefire way to force older people to delay retirement or go without health insurance. For Medicaid, Republicans are offering a “per-capita allotment” funding model with a goal of “restoring federalism by empowering states with new freedoms and flexibilities.”

The Kaiser Family Foundation quickly responded to this nugget, noting a cap on per-person spending could leave states and health providers paying more when the cost of care increases. “With changes in federal law, states could also restrict eligibility for high-cost enrollees and shift costs to beneficiaries through premiums or cost sharing,” according to Kaiser.

Translation: The very people too poor to pay for health care would be told to pay for health care.

The 37-page proposal can’t be taken seriously. And it comes from members of party that for decades did nothing to reduce the number of uninsured Americans. They talked about tort reform and tax credits while people died due to lack of medical care and faced bankruptcy from medical bills.

When Democrats finally delivered a comprehensive health law that insures Americans and generates revenue to pay for itself, Republicans fixated on killing it. They refuse to work to improve it. And the country can expect more of the same unless both parties come together..

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide