Money grab by States in anti-trust suit against Google.

As reported in The Des Moines Register, Iowa has joined 37 other states in an anti-trust suit against Google for discriminating against other search engines. (See link below.)

The purpose of anti-trust action against any company should be the protection of consumers, not the protection of competing businesses.  If consumers are not harmed, which is the case here, then anti-trust action should not be taken.  I have a strong feeling that the State governments joined this lawsuit in order to share in the billions of dollars of penalties or settlement – a money grab from a deep pocket.

Why should Google be forced to list links to other search engines in the results of their Google searches?  Why shouldn’t Google be allowed to pay smart phone makers to make Google the default search engine – which helps to reduce the cost of cell phones?  Where is the harm to consumers?  In fact, Googles actions arguably help consumers.

Link to Register report: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2020/12/17/google-antitrust-lawsuit-iowa-joins-case-with-38-states-over-internet-search-and-advertising/3939064001/

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/

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

Transportation efficiency means more that just cost per passenger mile.

In a letter to the editor in The Des Moines Register, Lauren Lasswell asked, “Why do we support a transportation system that’s incredibly inefficient?”  (See link below to Lasswell’s letter published 8/14/20.)  She advocated for more public mass transit.  She wrote, “…the gas and money saved… would be astounding.”  She does not account for the fact that the vast majority of roads are paid for by fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, much of which would go away if people moved away from passenger cars to mass transit.  Also not mentioned is that our freely made individual decisions make it clear that most people prefer the convenience and time saved by using their own passenger car to go quickly and directly from any place to another.

Two steps to help end systemic racism.

I agree with William Cotton’s essay in The Des Moines Register that we must make changes to eliminate systemic racism.  (See link below to his essay in the Register.)  Here are two specific actions we should take:  1. Eliminate stops by police of vehicles with equipment violations such as broken lights.  If appropriate, tickets can be issued by mail against the owner of the vehicle based on videos or photos.  This will help eliminate pre-textual stops.  2. Repeal or stop enforcement of laws against the possession of marijuana.  It has been clearly established that marijuana possession laws are enforced unequally between black and white people.  We have made great progress over time in reducing government-supported racism in our country, but we must continue to eliminate it everywhere we find it.

Science recommends, individuals or politics decide.

The editorial team at The Des Moines Register, (as well as many liberals), seem to think that anyone who does not follow the recommendations of our government’s scientists is a “science denier.”    That’s not true.  People can believe the science but disagree about how to respond politically.  Science can give us a pretty good idea of what will happen when we take certain actions, but science does not tell us what risks are acceptable or what trade-offs we are willing to make to achieve any specific level of safety.  Those are either individual or political decisions.  We could stop COVID-19 completely if everyone was required to stay in their home for the next 30 days.   But even then, some would die in their homes. There is no perfect answer.  It is a proper role of government to use its force to stop or slow the spread of a communicable disease.   But as we can clearly see there are wide differences of opinion regarding what trade-offs we are willing to make and what level of safety should be our goal.  To the extent that those who are not willing to take a risk can protect themselves, others should be free to take risks.