Register needs better reporting of COVID-19 Stats.

Here is the text of a Letter To The Editor that I just sent to The Des Moines Register:

On Friday, December 4th, you started your daily COVID-19 report with, “The state added another 70 deaths to the tally of people who died with COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, the largest one-day increase since the pandemic arrived in the state.”   Later in the article, you clarified that of the 70 deaths “reported”, 61 actually died in November, eight died in October, and one died on August 26th.  Your introductory sentence was at best poorly written, and at worst intentionally misleading.  It does appear clear that we have recently been seeing significant increases in the spread of the virus and deaths from the virus, but you lose credibility when you make such misleading statements.

Here is a link to the article:

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2020/12/03/covid-19-iowa-70-deaths-record-increase-another-2926-coronavirus-cases-reported/3807381001/

Supreme Court correct to protect religion

Contrary to the letter from Donnabelle Richtsmeier, our Supreme Court was correct to overturn New York’s restriction on the size of religious gatherings.  (See copy of letter below.)

The 1st Amendment to the Constitution reads in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”     The 14th Amendment reads in part, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States…”  So, states cannot violate our federal constitutional rights.

No exception is made to allow our governments to violate our constitutional rights because of a pandemic. If that were true, what limit would there be on our government’s response to a pandemic?

The statement in the preamble of the Constitution, “promote the general welfare“ does not grant any specific power to our government.  If we gave our government the power to do anything that would promote the general welfare, there would be no limit on our government.  Our Constitution establishes a government with limited, enumerated powers. Restricting the exercise of religion is strictly prohibited.

Donnabelle Richtsmeier’s letter to the Des Moines Register:

I was astonished to learn that the Supreme Court ruled against the lower courts and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 restrictions that included limits on religious gatherings in places of worship. The justices certainly did not take into account current scientific evidence and advice from public health authorities that such measures could help stop the spread of the virus.

The Supreme Court is no longer a bipartisan group of judges whose job it is to interpret the Constitution in a fair and just way. It is a group bent on promoting their own philosophies and politics. In their ruling, they forgot the phrase in the preamble to the Constitution that states “promote the general welfare.” Certainly, efforts to protect citizens from COVID-19 is promoting the general welfare of the citizens of not only New York but the entire United States.

The framers of the Constitution wanted to guarantee religious freedom giving citizens the right to worship in ways suited to them, free from harassment or harm. The Supreme Court really took this out of context. Limiting the size of religious gatherings during this severe pandemic is in no way an attack on the freedom of religion. It is a way to protect the health of citizens and to save lives. The justices must put aside their individual prejudices and become a bipartisan group working together to uphold the Constitution in order to “form a more perfect union.” If they can’t do this, maybe it is time for some changes.

— Donnabelle Richtsmeier, Des Moines

Capitalism versus Socialism

Kurt Johnson

Here is a YouTube video that is anti-capitalism, and my comments and then a reply to my comments, then my comment again.

My original comment: Under free market capitalism no one is forced to buy anything from anyone, and no one is forced to work for anyone else. People buy things because they value the things they’re buying more than the money they willingly pay for the product. People work for employers because it’s a better job than their other alternatives. Of course in a free-market capitalist system anyone is able to save their own money and start their own business and become a capitalist. Nobody is stealing anything from anyone. There is so much wrong with this video.REPLY

Reply to my comment from the YouTube channel producer: COVID has shown that work under capitalism is not voluntary for most workers. Millions of workers do NOT want to risk their lives for minimum wage at jobs that do not offer PPE, paid sick leave and sufficient healthcare, yet they have been forced to make the choice between risking their lives at Taco Bell and Hobby Lobby vs. becoming homeless (in most states ~50% of renters are facing eviction) and/or starving (BEFORE COVID 1 in 7 americans relied on food banks, now there are lines of cars at food banks miles long and food supply networks are failing). TELLING workers that we can just go work for someone else isn’t going to save you from the end of capitalism. We intuitively know that we are being coerced and it’s only a matter of time, and extension of failures of the capitalist system, before workers finally become fully conscious of the nature of our oppression and the power of striking and work stoppages. Capitalism WILL fail, the only question is, can we as workers end it before it completely destroys our planet’s environment?

My reply to YouTube channel producer: All work is voluntary… – at least in the U.S. unless you are in prison or are being illegally forced. If you have no other means of support we do have a safety net which a person can subsist on. Nobody forces people to make choices between work and homelessness? Homelessness must be terrible, but it is a way to live. Most people do not choose homelessness. They choose to work. There is nothing wrong with getting food from food banks. I support several personally in addition to the taxes I pay. I believe that people have a natural right to use their bodies as they choose and also have a right to keep the private property that they justly earn. There is a proper place for government and taxes in a civil society, and we should provide a minimum safety net for those who are unable to provide for themselves. Ideally, the safety net is provided through private charity, but if by government, that government should be as local as possible. But the safety net that we provide is a gift, not a right. People have not natural rights that require the action or property of others. Our governments should not grant people what are called “positive rights” that burden others. People have natural “negative rights” that place no burden on others. Some of those negative rights are written in the Bill Of Rights in our U.S. Constitution. Our U.S. government was created to secure our pre-existing natural rights for ourselves and our posterity.

Trump is wrong on his nationalist, anti-international trade policy

Below is the link to an excellent article by Eric Boehm from Reason magazine’s August/September issue.  It gives specific evidence that shows how international trade makes us safer in a world-wide pandemic rather than the opposite.  There is a knee-jerk reaction when we have shortages to assume that we would be better off if we did not depend on other countries for our various needed products.  This essay shows that the facts indicate otherwise.

link to Reason essay by Eric Boehm:  https://reason.com/2020/07/11/trumps-trade-war-made-the-pandemic-worse-and-nationalism-will-slow-the-recovery/

Des Moines Police should minimize marijuana enforcement.

Hopefully, the Des Moines City Council and the Des Moines Police Department will follow the recommendation of the marijuana enforcement task force that was formed earlier this year as part of an anti-racial profiling ordinance.”  (See link to Register reports below.)

Included among the list of recommendations are passing ordinances that make enforcement of the possession of marijuana for personal use the lowest enforcement priority for the police, and if allowed by state law, to legalize or decriminalize marijuana for personal use.

It appears clear that our marijuana prohibition laws are enforced unfairly against black folks,  In every case, a conviction dramatically damages a person’s future prospects for work, housing, education, and more.  All because of our prohibition laws criminalize peaceful activities that do not infringe on the rights of any other person.

Our Iowa state legislators need to get a clue from other states and at least decriminalize the peaceful use of marijuana.  It will not only reduce systemic racism, but it is the morally right thing to do.

Link to Register reports:
https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2020/11/06/des-moines-marijuana-enforcement-task-force-finalizes-report/5867244002/

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2020/11/09/des-moines-effort-decriminalize-marijuana-hamstrung-iowa-law-des-moines-police-department/6191753002/

Don’t take QAnon seriously!

Michael Judge wrote in an essay in Today’s Register (10/20/20), asking Iowa politicians to “…publicly denounce” QAnon and its related conspiracy theories.  (See link below.)  Asking politicians to publicly denounce the conspiracy theories surrounding QAnon is like asking them to call out the phony entertainment “news” in The National Inquirer magazine or The Onion.  It’s better just to ignore the bizarre QAnon lies and let them die.  Those who believe such obvious fiction will only be reinforced in their belief if people in power take them seriously enough to make public statements opposing the conspiracy theories.  It would be better to laugh at their gullibility. I’m guessing that the creators of QAnon are doing just that.

Link to Register essay:  https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2020/10/20/qanon-conspiracy-needs-called-out-iowa-politicians/3664412001/

How to raise a snowflake.

Recently, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported that a ninth-grade teacher in the Iowa City school district was teaching her students about the enormous challenges faced by freed slaves in 1865.  She assigned her students to put themselves in the place of a freed slave and write four sentences about difficulties they would have faced, given that they were illiterate and had only known slavery.  A student of color in the online class was “uncomfortable” with the assignment and her mother didn’t want to let, “one soul make you uncomfortable for who you are.”. The district put the teacher on administrative leave because of her actions.  The mother is demanding that the teacher apologize.  A spokesperson said the district “does not support and will not tolerate this type of instruction.”  The teacher’s intentions were good – and that matters!  The student, parent, and school district could have taken the opposite position: That going through an uncomfortable situation can make us mentally stronger and more resilient.  Which approach has the better result?

Link to Press-Citizen article: https://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/education/2020/09/18/iowa-city-schools-teacher-leave-slavery-assignment-racism-race-education/5818146002/

Good news for Iowans – COVID-19 on the decline.

Here’s some good news for Iowans:  Although more than 75,000 Iowans have tested positive for COVID-19, that represents less than 3 out of every 100 people – and two-thirds of those have recovered.  Although more than 1,200 Iowans have died from COVID-19, the highest peak was in May and the current trend is sharply down from the lower second peak in early September.  We have kept COVID-19 hospitalizations, intensive care bed use and ventilator use well below our capacity, and healthcare system availability continues to get even better..  The number of Iowans being tested for COVID-19 continues to increase and the percentage of people testing positive continues to decrease.  So, Iowans, keep up the social distancing and the wearing face masks when appropriate so that these positive trends continue until a vaccine becomes available.

 

Source: https://coronavirus.iowa.gov/#CurrentStatus

Grassley and Ernst are being prudent with taxpayer money.

In his recent essay, Danny Homan wrote that Iowa’s governments will have to start laying off workers, and, “Unless Congress delivers $1 trillion in aid to states, cities, towns and schools, our nation’s veterans will be among those unemployed.”  What he did not mention is that, according to our Governor’s office, Iowa has already been awarded over $4 billion in federal pandemic funding and has only spent about $2.8 billion, leaving $1.2 billion still available. (See link below.)  Homan wrote that, “Iowa has a projected revenue decline of $150 million for the year that ended in June and $360 million this year.”  Since we have much more than that still available, it seems quite premature to ask for  more funding at this time. Senators Grassley and Ernst have resisted the Democrat’s call for an additional $1 trillion spending for the states because they are being prudent with taxpayer money, while keeping our promises to support our veterans.
Link to Homan essay in The Des Moines Register:

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2020/08/26/already-strained-resources-veterans-threaten-get-slimmer/5636068002/

Link to Governor’s Office federal pandemic spending summary: https://recovery-finance.iowa.gov/#!/year/default

Don’t create government subsidized carbon credit program for farmers.

Contrary to the recent letter to the editor in The Des Moines Register from Rod Pierce, our government should not create or subsidize a carbon credit market in order to create an additional source of income for farmers.  It reminds me of the ethanol debacle.  Fifteen years ago our government created a market for corn-based ethanol by forcing fuel suppliers to add ethanol to gasoline under the misleadingly named Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  Farmers and ethanol producers fight tooth and nail to prevent our government from phasing out the RFS.   A carbon credit scheme could very well be another government program that will be costly to maintain and difficult to ever end.  Farmers become dependent on subsidies just like everyone else.  We don’t know what new technologies will emerge – just like no one predicted the shale oil boom in North Dakota.  Our government needs to stay out of the energy and agricultural markets.  Farmers will be on a surer footing when they don’t depend on government subsidies.