- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

June 23

Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel U.S. needing to limit help for Iraq:

President Barack Obama is dispatching 300 Special Operations troops to Iraq to assess the situation on the ground and advise on possible future “targeted and precise military action” to buck up the faltering Iraqi army and thwart the advances of the radical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

These troops are on top of the 275 troops already sent to protect U.S. embassy personnel and civilian contractors. In making the announcement, the president said repeatedly that “American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again.”

Those nearly 600 troops are effectively combat troops. And whether they fight or not depends on whether they are attacked, which almost inevitably they will be.

Administration officials made little secret that one of the missions of the special ops troops is to locate targets for U.S. airstrikes - not only in Iraq but against ISIS forces in Syria - a backdoor way of doing what the administration has so far refused to do: use air power to aid the moderate forces fighting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Generally unmentioned in the discussions of Iraq is the fact the United States has sizable forces and amounts of equipment next door in Kuwait and hundreds of restless Marines floating around offshore on U.S. Navy vessels.

Military advisory missions have a way of expanding - one only has to remember Vietnam, which started with only a few hundred advisers who were supposedly there not to engage in combat.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said sending advisers is a reasonable “triage” action and reiterated how important it is that the Iraqi government resolves the internal strife underpinning the insurrection.

But, in Iraq, there is one serious obstacle: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The reason we don’t have a residual follow-on force there now is that he refused to sign a status-of-forces agreement.

Stripped of the diplomatic niceties, the U.S. position is: Al-Maliki must go. Once he does, the way is open to a limited - and one hopes it is truly limited - expansion of the U.S. presence, perhaps to an air base from which the U.S. could launch airstrikes and special operations missions.

Obama may truly believe those 300 are the upper limit of our involvement. But the president is sensitive to criticism, even if it’s nonsensical. House Speaker John Boehner, who has yet to come up with a solution of his own, accuses the president of “taking a nap” on Iraq.

And, unbelievable as it may seem, the neocons, who were universally wrong on almost every point involving Iraq, have emerged from hiding to goad the president into going back into Iraq. Obama should ignore the jeering from the sidelines and keep in mind those words “targeted,” ”precise” and “limited.” If we can help under those conditions, we should. If we can’t, we should leave.

We’ve done it before.




June 24

The Post-Intelligencer, Paris, Tennessee, on Governor proposes mandatory cool-off:

Tennessee’s governor has come out in favor of granting increased protection to victims of domestic violence.

It’s only a small step, mind you. But that’s how changing the law’s protection usually comes, just a bit at a time.

Gov. Bill Haslam would require that those accused of domestic violence be held for at least 12 hours before being released. The idea is to allow the accuser time to make other arrangements for personal safety.

State law already provides for a 12-hour cooling-off period, but it also gives judges’ discretion to allow earlier release if they think it’s justified. The new proposal would remove that discretion and make the holding period mandatory.

Earlier this month, a Nashville judge ordered the release of a man only a few hours after he was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend. Police were called back when the man confronted the woman again as she gathered her belongings.

Those who want tougher rules must keep in mind that the accused has not been convicted of a crime. Any requirement of the law must consider that. You can’t throw away the cell door key based on an accusation.

But 12 hours is not much time for a violence victim, who may be battered and addled, to find shelter and make other emergency provisions for personal safety.

What the governor proposes seems sensible.




June 19

The Tennessean, Nashville, Tennessee, on tuition hikes:

With tuition increases ranging as high at 8.5 percent for post-secondary public education this fall, the question must be raised: Are Tennessee’s political leaders really as committed to improving educational attainment as they say they are?

Last fall, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission recommended the state allocate an additional $29.6 million for 2014-15, based on the funding formula the state itself set under the 2010 Complete College Tennessee Act. That would have left students enrolling in colleges, universities and technology centers facing only 2 to 4 percent increases in tuition - a level of increase that more families could reasonably manage.

Gov. Bill Haslam was prepared only to allocate an additional $9.3 million - to cover the UT system’s five campuses, the Board of Regents’ six universities, 13 community colleges and 27 technology centers. Then, early this year, the word came that state tax collections were again to post a shortfall. At last count, revenue projections were off by $260 million.

Suddenly, even the $9.3 million promise evaporated.

Thus, this week, UT trustees and Regents are determining just how much deeper families and individual students will have to dig into their savings or place more of their future into debt. The average increase will be 6 percent at universities. Regents universities are also having to raise activity fees. The state’s technology centers will see tuition increase as much as 8.5 percent.

We were told that by setting how much money each school gets according to its graduation rate rather its enrollment, Complete College Tennessee was going to move the state forward, ensuring more Tennesseans get to college and then see it through to a degree. And the plan might have worked - if state leaders actually stood behind it.

If education is really “job one” for Tennessee, shouldn’t it be buffered against drops in sales tax collections? It is not as if our state hasn’t seen these shortfalls on several occasions in the past decade.

Furthermore, will the governor and legislature see how this failed promise only perpetuates the problem? The additional tuition leaves less spending money for families, thus less sales tax collected in Tennessee for the coming year. The state government may have balanced its budget, but it did so on the backs of college-bound students.



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