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Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 21, 2014

Views from across Iowa

Aug 29, 2013

Sioux City Journal, Aug. 25

No Labels: A refreshing step in right direction

 

Amidst the noise, the posturing and the bitter partisanship, one hopeful sign has begun to emerge in Washington, D.C.

Pledging a new attitude about meeting our nation’s challenges, No Labels formed in 2010 with goals of mobilizing Americans, building trust across the political divide and encouraging bipartisan cooperation in our nation’s capital. To date, more than 80 members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats who call themselves The Problem Solvers, have joined the cause and meet regularly on Capitol Hill. No Labels hopes to expand its numbers to more than 100 (or nearly one-fifth the membership of Congress) by the end of this year.

Honorary co-chairs of No Labels are former Utah governor, ambassador to China and Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman and Democratic senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Last month, No Labels released Make Government Work, a package of proposed federal government reforms related to budgeting, duplication, consolidation, merging records, purchasing, and reducing costs, including travel and energy costs. In particular, we like this one: If Congress cannot pass a budget and all annual spending bills on time, members should not get paid.

No Labels also advocates reforms within Congress related to filibusters, work schedules, bipartisanship, floor procedures and votes on presidential appointments.

We understand these reforms alone will not cure all of America’s fiscal problems or erase all of the problems related to Washington’s political divisions, but it’s a start and it’s a refreshing step in the right direction.

“You’re playing small ball with legislation, fair point,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn. “... Is the world going to change tomorrow? Absolutely not. But maybe by re-establishing some personal relationships we’re setting the stage where there’s more of an opportunity for compromise.”

“At the end of the day, there are some philosophical differences that we have and that’s not going to change,” said U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa. “But we need to sit down and talk about what we do agree on ... and figure out how we can move the ball forward on these things.”

Have some members attached their name to No Labels simply for cosmetic reasons so they can claim during their next election campaign to be seeking solutions to problems? Without doubt. Do actions speak louder than words? Yes, they do. Has No Labels helped navigate one major, comprehensive piece of legislation through Congress? To this point, no.

Is it naive to believe it might, over time, make a difference? Perhaps.

Still, because we believe No Labels is on to something, we will be watching the movement with interest.

As a nation, we have nothing to lose by giving No Labels the benefit of the doubt. After all, what we have in Washington today isn’t working.

Saddled with an abysmal job approval rating and seemingly polarized to the point of paralysis, Congress needs someone to press the reset button.

Maybe No Labels can.

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Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Aug. 25

Vandalism no laughing matter

 

Americans enjoy a remarkable right to express opinions, a courtesy likewise extended to livestock producers and fur farmers and to advocates of the animal rights movement. On that, there should be universal agreement.

From time to time in Iowa’s history, though, folks on one side of the equation have demonstrated how far they are willing to go to make a point. The most recent example happened during the Iowa State Fair.

Someone hid in the Agriculture Building after closing time, then dumped red paint on the Butter Cow. A group calling itself Iowans for Animal Liberation later claimed responsibility.

This is a minor incident, and in fact likely would have gone unnoticed if the group hadn’t ratted itself out by releasing a statement and photo. Fair officials cleaned the mess up before any visitors got close.

Despite some pretty clever jokes afterward, the Butter Cow incident points toward a more serious issue. By their own admissions, committed extremists have demonstrated a disturbing and gleeful willingness to break the law through “direct actions” and to endanger human life.

A few examples:

In 2008, law enforcement officials in Minnesota investigated and eventually raided a group calling itself the Republican National Convention Welcoming Committee. According to federal court documents, the “organized criminal enterprise” was an assembly of anarchists from across the U.S. intent on creating havoc during the GOP’s event in St. Paul.

Using informants and surveillance, law enforcement officials determined the Welcoming Committee would rely on improvised incendiary devices, “ignitable” liquids, wrist rockets, bricks and spears. Participants also proposed stealing various uniforms and using puppets to hide weapons. Others would throw urine and feces at police officers.

Planners discussed “pulling a single officer from a line and beating them,” according to court documents.

On a training video released in 2007 by the Welcoming Committee, a person identified as Carrie Feldman throws a Molotov cocktail, according to court documents. Feldman and her boyfriend, Scott DeMuth, also allegedly in the video, attended planning sessions, according to an informant.

DeMuth was later implicated in vandalism at a University of Iowa laboratory that resulted in $500,000 in damage. As part of a plea deal, he admitted releasing ferrets in 2006 in Minnesota. Feldman refused to testify before a grand jury and spent about four months in jail for contempt.

Peter Young, in 2004 traveled to the University of Iowa with something called the Dangerous Media Tour, according to court documents. The event promised “a celebration of crossing lines and resistance to corporate rule,” providing lessons on picking locks and theft.

At the time, Young was wanted for allegedly releasing animals years earlier at fur farms in Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin. He ultimately spent two years in federal prison.

Young remains vocal online. In January 2012 he commented on Palmer Erickson’s death. Erickson, 83, operated a fur farm in Jewell but at the end battled esophageal cancer. Before his death, so-called liberators visited Erickson’s farm.

“He died having experienced first hand in some of his final days what compassionate raiders are willing to do to bring freedom to 1,500 of the animals he held captive,” Young wrote.

This month, Young posted information and a photo about the Butter Cow incident. It falls under the heading “Sabotage.”

All of this makes the Butter Cow incident a lot less humorous.

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The Des Moines Register, Aug. 24

Governor got his report, but Iowans need more

 

It seemed like a good idea at the time when Gov. Terry Branstad asked former Chief Justice Louis Lavorato to conduct an independent review of questions surrounding the firing of an Iowa Department of Public Safety special agent. After seeing the results, it turns out to have been a waste of everybody’s time, including Lavorato’s.

The firing of former Special Agent Larry Hedlund last month naturally raised suspicions. That’s because he was the agent who first spotted the state vehicle carrying Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds traveling at a “hard 90,” and he later filed a complaint about how the incident was handled.

So the governor asked the former chief justice to review the record and publicly clear the air.

Lavorato’s report released last week fell far short of accomplishing that.

In the lawyerly fashion expected from a former judge, Lavorato’s report lays out the legal standards necessary to prove retaliation in court. After reviewing a 500-page internal affairs report by the public safety department on Hedlund, emails and other state documents, Lavorato said he found no “direct evidence of retaliation related to (Hedlund’s) actions regarding the speeding incident.”

He did not rule out the possibility that circumstantial evidence of retaliation might exist, however, and he emphasized that his report “in no way passes judgment” on whether Hedlund’s termination was justified. That, he said, is for the courts to decide when Hedlund’s wrongful termination case is heard.

In fact, Lavorato’s five-page report contains only one firm conclusion: “I am convinced no one in the governor’s office directed or interfered with the Internal Affairs’ investigation or took part in the decision to terminate Mr. Hedlund’s employment.”

Actually, few seriously thought the governor would be so foolish. That’s doesn’t mean Hedlund was not pushed out the door by superiors who thought they would be doing the governor a favor. Such a thing will be hard to prove in court, but the people of Iowa deserve to see the evidence.

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Quad-City Times, Aug. 24

Iowa law supports self-defense

 

Jerome Mauderly didn’t have any political agenda early Aug. 19 when he found his shotgun and killed an armed Iowa prison escapee who already had shot a deputy.

Police conducting a manhunt had twice searched Mauderly’s Bedford, Iowa property. Rodney Long showed up later, toting a stolen handgun he’d already used once. Long broke in to Mauderly’s home about 10:15 p.m. Police haven’t revealed all that occurred in the house. But at 2:11 a.m., Carolyn Mauderly called police to report her husband had shot and killed the intruder.

Since then, authorities determined he clearly fired in self-defense. Some gun rights advocates, right up to commentator Glenn Beck, have used the shooting to promote more gun rights.

Iowa House Rep. Matt Windschitl used it to bolster his stand-your-ground Iowa bill that failed earlier this year.

“Our self-defense law is better than some states when it comes to the home or business,” Windschitl told The Des Moines Register. “It gets murkier, though, when you are in public. For example, if someone comes up to you while you’re stuck in traffic and pounds on your window with a gun, the law as it is now requires you to try to climb over the center console and get out of the car rather than defend yourself.”

Actually, the law doesn’t say anything about straddling a center console. It simply requires such victims to attempt an escape before opening fire in public.

Mauderly’s actions have nothing to do with concealed carry. He used a legally licensed shotgun in his own home. If anything, it affirms that Iowa law is perfectly suited to this type of armed defense.

This incident is a tragedy at every level. This obviously dangerous convict made his escape simply by scaling a 12-foot fence at the Clarinda Correctional Facility. He was unarmed until he broke into a home a found a legally registered, but unsecured handgun. That’s what he used to shoot and wound an armed Taylor County deputy and steal his squad car.

In July 2011, former U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell, then 77, wrestled with an armed man who broke into the congressman’s Lamoni home and threatened his daughter. During the struggle, Boswell’s grandson found and loaded the family’s shotgun and confronted the intruder. But he didn’t fire. The suspect and an accomplice fled, and later were arrested.

Both cases illustrate the self-defense options available under Iowa law to law-abiding gun owners facing armed assailants. Given the rarity of these confrontations, we’re glad Iowa lawmakers found no need to drastically alter Iowa self-defense laws.

Gun rights advocates can readily pitch scenarios to support more firepower. But armed Iowans facing similar threats proved that Iowa law is sufficient, whether or not a shot is fired.

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