Friday, December 31, 2010

The director (that devil) made them do it

The latest argument to get document tampering charges thrown out against Malcolm Price Laboratory School parents and grandparents is that state law didn't even allow it to charge tuition. But an earlier contention by the eight people accused of trying to dodge higher tuition remains the most troubling aspect of this case. They're simply saying they falsified their addresses because David Smith, former director of the University of Northern Iowa-run school, told them to do it. Rather than take any responsibility, they are demonizing someone else, as though they had no choice. They are likely telling the truth (especially since he was doing the same thing), but that doesn't make it a virtuous defense.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Branstad the Butcher

Gov.-elect Terry Branstad has made it clear he doesn't like all the extravagant programs Gov. Chet Culver has sunk state money into during his term in office. There's preschool offered free to anybody who wants it, without regard to their financial need. There's the taxpayer expense of bonding to pay for the I-JOBS flood recovery and infrastructure initiative. It'd be better to reduce those high corporate income taxes if you want to attract jobs to Iowa.
But don't go so far as to offer tax credits to bring jobs related to the movie industry to Iowa. After all, that was at the center of a scandal during the Culver administration.
Then there's Culver's questionable decision to quickly approve state employee contracts without allowing the incoming administration any input. Branstad's really mad about that.
So, the new governor is promising to take a meat cleaver to the current budget as soon as he is sworn into office. Waaay too much fat on the bone in an economically troubled time.
Hopefully, any changes Branstad can push through won't have a negative effect on Iowa's economy. After all, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranks it the eighth-fastest-growing in the nation. And a 24/7 Wall St. study ranked Iowa the third-best-run state.
Watch for future appearances of Branstad the Butcher in this blog space. I'm sure he'll be back.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

They threw those bums out!

Iowa's voters were angry and lashing out Nov. 2. They saw a problem --- "activist" judges --- and they did what any angry citizen would do, voted their elected officials out of office. Only, Iowa's judges are not elected. That makes it one of the better systems for putting judges on the bench in the country. That is also what made this a bad situation in which to vote "no" on the three Iowa Supreme Court justices' retention. Now Gov.-elect Terry Branstad will pick three replacements from a slate of nine nominees forwarded to him by a 15-member commission. In other words, he has no control over the group of people from which he will choose. Branstad may find three people among those nominees whom he believes meet his criteria for the Supreme Court. However, Chief Justice Marsha Ternus was appointed by Branstad during a prior term and is now leaving the position because of the court's unanimous vote striking down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, making gay marriage legal in Iowa. Opponents of this decision would do better to pursue an amendment to the state's Constitution. That, of course, will take more time and much more political will. Can opponents muster enough voter anger for a long enough time to make that happen? If not, they can always keep campaigning to vote offending judges out.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Justice-hating freedom fighters?

Bob Vander Plaats is using a little spin to sell the idea behind his organization Iowa For Freedom. He is campaigning against the three Iowa Supreme Court justices who are up for retention because they were part of the unanimous 2009 decision that legalized gay marriage in the state. His outrage  against the justices is fueled by a belief that the courts overstepped their bounds with the ruling. Vander Plaats wants to punish the justices for their role in redefining marriage, which he deems as "judicial activism." Still, he says the campaign is about freedom, not marriage. The opportunity to vote out the justices may essentially be a "check and balance" on the courts, as Vander Plaats suggests. But he seems to ignore the larger system of checks and balances between the legislative, judicial and administrative branches of Iowa's government. An independent judiciary --- free to make interpretations of the state's laws and constitution --- is a vital part of that. He'd like the courts to restrain themselves from all that freedom and just base their rulings on laws the Legislature approves and governor signs. That rubber-stamp approach eliminates their role as a check and balance on the other branches of government. The group really only advocates greater freedom for one person: the governor. They'd like to reform Iowa's system for appointing justices by eliminating the commission that is central to the process. Instead, Iowa For Freedom says the governor alone should make the choice.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

With liberty and justice for ... Anna Mae?

Let's make one point clear from the beginning: Anna Mae Weems is an important civil rights figure in the Cedar Valley. At the height of the struggle black people went through to end discrimination and gain equality throughout our society, she was out there fighting the good fight. In the decades since, she has continued to be a voice and a presence on civil rights issues. Perhaps she should have been appointed to the Waterloo Human Rights Commission earlier this month. That doesn't excuse how her daughter Frieda Weems responded --- presumably with Anna Mae's blessing, since she got in on the act, too. Frieda's two-week harangue before the Waterloo City Council included cries of conspiracy and illegal voting as well as calls for resignations of elected and appointed officials. See stories from The Courier's coverage here and here. If she was arguing for the rights of a downtrodden group in the community, such outrage could be warranted. But to win a position for herself? Let others (not your daughter) make the case in more somber tones and leave it at that. Such self-serving indignation does little for her well-deserved legacy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It's good to be king ... of the crazy wingnuts

Congressman Steve King's refusal to discuss the possibility of a debate with Matt Campbell, the Democratic challenger for the Iowa 5th District seat, has led to the latest in a long series of his provocative attention-grabbing comments. On Aug. 30, Campbell crashed one of King's town hall meetings and confronted him for not responding to requests to set up a debate. King's response was that Campbell has "not earned" the right to debate him. Read the story and see the Sioux City Journal's video here: That tops a string of statements spanning his political career which have garnered a disproportionate amount of attention for their breadth of arrogance, naivete and partisianship. Some examples, you say? There was his 2004 response to Iraqi prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib:; his 2006 contention that Washington D.C. is more dangerous than the Iraqi warzone:; and finally his more recent statements that President Obama is a Marxist: and that he has a "default mechanism" favoring blacks over whites: Cumulatively, these show King to be a crazy wingnut. And we think he has earned that lifetime achievement award! Here's a 2006 story where King offers some insight into his own provocativeness: Campbell may not get his debate with King and we'll have to wait until Nov. 2 to see who has "earned" the votes of most 5th District residents.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Vilsack shows his lack of leadership

Former Iowa governor and United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack showed an incredible lack of leadership when he fired Shirley Sherrod from her position as director of rural development in Georgia. He has tried to paint his reactionary spur-of-the-moment decision after seeing an out-of-context video clip as an act of leadership (see Did he even take the time to find out that right-wing provocateur Andrew Breitbart was among those who had posted this clip? Reading Sherrod's own words or watching the video (which can be found at shows she's the one demonstrating leadership. And she has earned her stripes by struggling with difficult issues before coming to a conclusion. Vilsack, on the other hand, has shown a propensity for snap decisions without a moments thought. To read more about this, go to and

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Shameless Self Promotion

The latest posting to Cedar Valley Cartoons can also be seen at one other location on the internet: That's on the Iowa News Headlines website. Check it out and let someone know where to find it.
Actually, I'm not sure how many people will discover it on the site. If everyone had that link, everyone could see it. But you probably can't figure out how to find it by going to the website's home page at (especially if you don't know it's there). I couldn't find any link that brings you from the home page directly to it. Hopefully if future Cedar Valley Cartoons are posted on the site, they will be easier to find.
If you've got a Twitter account (or want to set one up), there's another way to follow Cedar Valley Cartoons. Follow Twitter @DrewToons to find out when new cartoons are posted at Cedar Valley Cartoons and Winds World ( I also tweet links to the work of other cartoonists available on the internet. Sign up today! It's fun stuff!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fear & Loathing in the Tea Party

It's funny how easy it is to turn around the slogan the North Iowa Tea Party put on their Mason City billboard (see picture and story at It's even funnier how tone-deaf this particular group of Tea Partiers was -- so much so that they had to be rebuked by their brethren from other parts of the state. One of them called "these kinds of signs" that equate Obama, Hitler and Lenin "borderline hate crimes." It's hilarious, then, that when the North Iowa Tea Party spokesman finally talked to the media, he said that the comparison was valid, but the billboard was just "misunderstood" (see story at It's worth listening to what he has to say, though, about why they made the comparison. He's denouncing the whole sweep of government assistance going back to the New Deal and social security. And he rightly points out that the latest wave government involvement started under George W. Bush (whom he is also critical of). The question still remains (and, as far as I'm concerned, it hasn't been answered in a satisfactory way): What would you have done instead? A path of reform, though certainly imperfect, is preferable to total economic collapse. One other point is valid: Strengthening this country's social safety net is not equivalent to embracing Nazism or Communism. It's not even a step towards those philosophies. See the whole series of Globe-Gazette stories at and see an editorial on the topic from The Courier at

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Union Supporter (she might start a civil war)

Republican lieutenant governor candidate Kim Reynolds supports the one-man, one-woman definition of marriage. She also wants to give Iowans the opportunity to vote on how marriage is defined after the state's Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to ban gay marriage. But she would never consider the possibility of legalizing civil unions for homosexual couples, says the Branstad campaign. Except that she would. Last week in Carroll Reynolds said, "We could take a look at civil unions. There are other options maybe that I would be in favor of looking at." (See story at Branstad's campaign "clarified" that by contradicting her and then pretending that she was actually talking about extending domestic partnership benefits to employees at private companies. (See story at All of the pretending is necessary because Branstad is trying to court Christian conservatives who still want to cast a vote for Bob Vander Plaats even though he lost the primary. And why? Because he has proven gay marriage is his top concern: He'd sign an executive order his first day in office overturning the court's decision. (See story at As for Branstad, well, he whines that the governor doesn't have the authority to do that. But he'll push for that constitutional amendment.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Where's the bear?

Bears don't just disappear, people! After news stories tracking a young male black bear over the last month in The Courier, there have been no reports of the very non-Iowan animal for more than a week. The bear was heading in a southerly direction through Northeast Iowa. After being photographed near Jesup, he's apparently gone underground. But we have our suspicions of where the furry fellow could be found if people were just looking. Did you notice how Steve Schmitt single-handedly slowed down the process of hiking Waterloo parking fees ( Probably not really single-handedly. Or, hmmm, bear disappears and two men are shot in Waterloo ( Not likely a coincidence. Then the Red Cross offers free pie for a pint of blood ( Well, where else would a bear go with that option out there? And with a bear roaming as the campaign season heats up, what's the chance that he won't end up at a few political rallies. I'm betting the Branstad camp has already picked up that bear. He needs 'em, trying to reach out to moderates while convincing the right wingers not to sit out the election ( To follow the bear's progress before he started campaigning for the former governor, check out these stories:;;;; ttp://; tp://

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Try to understand, he's a magic man

Former Governor Terry Branstad will apparently aim to cut and restructure corporate taxes if he's elected in November with the goal of a massive boost in jobs and personal income (Here's one of the numerous stories where his goals are mentioned: It's true that both Republicans and Democrats across the country and nationally have embraced the idea of targeted tax cuts or tax credits when the economy is faltering (which doesn't mean it accomplishes their hoped-for aims). Thirty years after Ronald Reagan was first elected, though, there's still no evidence that the trickle-down theories of "Reaganomics" have any merit (here's a recent critique of the idea: Nonetheless, the approach was embraced by those in the GOP including Branstad, who was first elected in 1983. Don't get me wrong. Branstad appears to have very legitimate criticisms of his opponent, Gov. Chet Culver. He and other Republicans have been questioning Culver's fiscal management, including a penchant for making very large across-the-board cuts mid-year rather than passing smaller budgets. He also slams the huge "I-JOBS" bonding program that makes state money available to create jobs (with the bonds to be paid back using gaming revenues). But this belief that corporate America --- the titans of industry largely responsible for our current fiscal disaster --- will lift us out of the economic doldrums if we just let them keep more of their "hard-earned" money is just foolish. Or magic.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Supersized salary slam-dunk

Universities have put a lot of emphasis on the money-making potential of athletic programs, and for good reason --- they can be profitable. But to make that money, universities have to spend money. That reality was brought home in the Cedar Valley March 24 when a raise was announced for University of Northern Iowa men's basketball Coach Ben Jacobson as his team left for St. Louis. The Panthers had just defeated No. 1-seeded University of Kansas in the NCAA tournament and were preparing to play against Michigan State in the "Sweet 16," where they were handed a heartbreaking defeat. Jacobson's salary was bumped from $289,000 to $450,000 per year, his contract extended for the next decade with $25,000 annual raises. The increase is all funded by private donations. In the meantime, UNI's professors recently received pay cuts due to reduced state funding in an economic downturn. It didn't take long for university faculty to highlight this and note its corresponding effect on morale. For more about the situation, follow these links:

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Big Dummy

It's disingenuous for Gov. Chet Culver to say Democrats stood firm on civil rights by not allowing debate on gay marriage and then assert a belief that marriage should only be between one man and one woman. Culver has avoided a lot of distasteful things, though: speaking against any faction (pro-gay marriage or anti-gay marriage), challenging the court's gay marriage decision, adding discriminatory amendments to the constitution that he claims to personally believe in, and pursuing a more nuanced policy that would protect the civil rights of homosexuals (including acknowledgement of monogamous gay relationships) without giving short-shrift to his (and many other people's) belief about marriage. That last one, if done the right way, would deprive Republicans of an important wedge issue. Those who opposed equal rights for homosexuals after the marriage issue had been stripped away would be shown as driven by hate and prejudice. To read the story containing Culver's comments in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier follow this link:

Friday, March 26, 2010

Crushing religious freedom

The case of a 13-year-old Old Order Mennonite boy's violation of Mitchell County's Ordinance No. 41 will be facing a constitutional challenge. The ordinance outlaws the use of steel wheels on county roads, like the ones on the tractor driven by the boy. But the Groffdale Conference of Old Order Mennonites --- also known as Wenger Mennonites --- are following a prohibition against rubber tires in their church law. Thus, the ordinance appears to interfere with their freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The response from county supervisors has been less than gracious. To read more about this controversy, follow these links from the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier:

Friday, March 19, 2010

Texting, driving and the law

After approving a texting-while-driving ban for everyone, the Iowa House of Representatives last week passed a revised measure that applied the prohibition only to teen-agers. A House-Senate conference committee has since proposed a compromise that would ban all cell phone use for new drivers and prohibit texting-while-driving for most others. Follow these links to read more about this:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gaming the system

Don Hoth may head a gaming association, but handing out a percentage of the Isle Casino's profits has nothing to do with gambling. The Black Hawk County Gaming Association has been buying the good will of needy organizations in the region by dispersing 5.75 percent of its profits quarterly since opening. A portion of these profits are typically earmarked for organizations outside of Black Hawk County. But Hoth proposed the board suspend those grants and only make them to Black Hawk County while the association gears up for a November referendum that residents must approve for it to continue operating the casino. Sounds a lot more like vote buying than gambling. Read more at the following link from the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier:

Arrested development

Three Waterloo Community Schools employees were arrested within 1-1/2 months. They included East High School coach and administrative assistant Ed Madlock, East coach Antonio Mays and West High School teacher Larry Twigg. Mays was also coordinator of the Iowa Jobs for America's Graduates at East, a position the school contracted with the organization to provide. Both coaches were arrested for marijuana possession. Twigg was charged for five counts of lascivious acts a minor, a 17-year-old male student. To learn more, click on the links below from the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.

Kerry's rocky road to re-election

After a drunken driving arrest and being identified as dodging Price Laboratory School tuition payments, freshman Rep. Kerry Burt could find a lack of support for running in the Democratic primary. Sen. Bill Dotzler warned that he could be a distraction for other Cedar Valley Democrats seeking re-election. Burt responded to Dotzler's concerns, but has generally been scarce and quiet since the scandals began pelting him. He wouldn't want to start an avalanche. Dotzler's comments and Burt's response can be found in the Jan. 13 Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.

Hitler vs. Satan

The deadlock between cable provider Mediacom and Sinclair Broadcasting Group was looking pretty ugly. The fee Sinclair was demanding to allow Mediacom to carry its 22 TV stations across the U.S. was more than the cable company was willing to pay. Those stations include Cedar Rapids-based CBS affiliate KGAN and Fox affiliate KFXA plus Des Moines Fox affiliate KDSM. The disagreement festered and threatened to keep fans from seeing the Iowa Hawkeyes play in the Orange Bowl until the two sides reached a temporary agreement. Pile that on top of the less-than-positive feelings viewers have for these two companies and you come up with a Hitler vs. Satan situation. To read more, follow this link to the Cedar Rapids Gazette:

Running in Terry's shadow

Ever since Terry Branstad mentioned the possibility of running for governor again, it seemed inevitable that he would get into the race and most of the other Republicans would subsequently drop out. Even in his exploratory phase, the focus seemed to be solely on Chet Culver, not his Republican competitors. After all, he was the only one with any experience as governor --- and has much more than Culver. News that he would consider running caused a lot of excitement and got more attention than any of the candidates who had already been campaigning for a while. To read more about the GOP field of candidates, follow this link to the Sioux City Journal:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sandbagging his way to victory

Cedar Falls Mayor Jon Crews' made a strong reelection bid in November 2009, except for in North Cedar. That area of the city suffered heavy damage in the floods of 2008. Some attributed that to a poor handling of the flood situation and a lack of compassion for those residents. At the same time, a mammoth effort was mounted to protect downtown --- across the river from North Cedar. That success was trumpeted by city officials on national TV as North Cedar was submerged. Here's the link to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier story:

Sholom is nobody's fool

The defense in Sholom Rubashkin's 91-count financial fraud trial was at its most disingenuous when the former top executive at Agriprocessors in Postville took the stand and pleaded that he was doing his best to follow the law. He portrayed himself as a clueless bumpkin. Read the story at the link below from the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Much more coverage of the Agriprocessors raid, Rubashkin's arrest, this trial and what's happened since can also be found at The Courier's Web site.

Suck out the fat

Gov. Chet Culver's October 2009 announcement of 10 percent across-the-board cuts in state budgets was the second year this had happened, and was much higher than the 1.5 percent cut in 2008. In the caption where this is called an "emergency" clinic, I'm playing off Republican rumblings that Culver and the Democrats could have avoided such a massive cut by passing and signing a more responsible budget earlier in the year. In other words, this didn't have to be the crisis it turned out to be. Read more in the Cedar Rapids Gazette story at the link below.

Tax money for nothin'

The Iowa film tax credit program had been bringing movie production to the state due to its generous terms. That generosity also made it ripe for abuse. In this cartoon, I'm focusing on the way some out-of-state film makers abused the program in purchasing vehicles. Read an editorial about the scandal from the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier at the link below. Many other articles about this unfolding and ongoing scandal can be found at The Courier's Web site.