Some Comments on Joni Ernst

A month or so ago, the Fort Dodge Messenger published a letter to the editor that I had sent to them which supported Bruce Braley for Senate.  In the letter, I gave reasons for why I feel that Braley would be better for women than Joni Ernst.  A week or so later, a woman sent in a letter to the editor countering my letter.  This is my reply to her letter.

I had said that the right wing of the Republican Party had cynically been putting up successful women as candidates while at the same time working toward a society were men have the right to dominate.  To support my argument, I gave the odds of being a male in the Iowa Senate and House for the Democrats and the Republicans.  For the House, for Democrats the odds are about 1.5 to 1, while for the Republicans the odds are about 8 to 1.  The writer did not comment on that part of my letter.

I said that we need to have women represented in our governing bodies to represent our different life experiences.  She agreed and used the argument to support Ernst.  I am afraid that if Ernst is elected, she will turn back the clock on reproductive rights, will not support policies to financially protect women, will get rid of the ACA – which has given many more women good health insurance.

I went on to give some policies the Democrats had put through to help women – improvements to social security, equal pay for equal work, access to credit (brought to us by a Democratic House and Senate and President Ford – a Republican).  I also mentioned that most Democrats support reproductive rights and that Obama and his first Congress brought us free birth control.  Also, that the Democrats deal with the realities that women face. The writer did not address those comments, except the reality comment.

To end my letter, I wrote that the Democrats tend to base policy on the science of those who study society while the Republicans nominally base policy on fuzzy phrases like “unborn children”, “innocent life”, “big government”, and “tax and spend”.  The writer ignored “unborn children” and “innocent life” but had something to say about “big government” and “tax and spend”.

With regard to the realities that women face, she used the theme to criticize the Democrats.  First, she wrote women want jobs for themselves and others – and the Democrats are responsible for the slow recovery – this after the Republicans blocked the advice of economists who said we needed more spending to get the economy back on its feet.

Second, she wrote women want fiscal responsibility – not acknowledging that the Obama administration has been reducing the deficit consistently for several years now.  She wrote that tax and spend Democrats are responsible for the large increase in the national debt – not acknowledging that the debt comes from years of Democratic Houses refusing to cut services and Republican presidents refusing to raise taxes.

Also, we have the reality that fiscal responsibility for the federal government is different from fiscal responsibility for a household.  When a recession hits, government income goes down since fewer people are working and paying income tax and corporations are paying less income tax with lower profits.  At the same time, demand for government services, like unemployment payments and food stamps, goes up, so the government spends more and the deficit gets larger.  If the government had cut the deficit to zero in 2008, we would be in another Great Depression. It is a Republican big lie to say that the federal government operates like a business or household.

Third, she wrote women want to feel safe – she felt that terrorists are coming in from Mexico with our “porous” border.  We have had one successful terrorist event since 2001 and the terrorists were not illegals.  And the event was quite small.  Obama seems to be doing a good job protecting us from terrorist attacks.  And I have read that Obama has deported more illegals than any president before him.

She ended her letter by calling regulations, the NSA spying, and the harassment of tea party groups by the IRS (she probably does not remember Nixon) big government and by calling on voters to vote for Ernst.  I have already written a short blog on the need for regulations.  I, unlike many Democrats, am not up in arms against NSA spying because I do not think the spying is any more than the spying that businesses do on us through our internet connected world.  I speak with a little experience on this subject since I am a statistician somewhat following data mining.  As to the IRS scandal, I do not think we have the full story.  As I last knew, organizations that support political parties do not get tax exempt status. At least it is true for churches.  Maybe there was a Supreme Court ruling I missed.

Anyway, I feel Ernst would be a mistake and I support Braley.

Scared Fecesless

This is being brought out in the elections, but the wealthy people who are pouring money into Republican campaigns are scared fecesless about the future, at least that is my interpretation.  Why?

I read in our local newspaper at some point that Chuck Grassley said that the claim that climate change is real is just an attempt to change the American lifestyle and is not based on the realities of science – if I am paraphrasing him right.  I sent him an email asking him how Pacific islanders were supposed to style their lives.

Change is always hard.  People have money, lives, knowledge invested in the status quo.

Our society runs on energy – transportation moves the goods we buy as well as getting us to and from work and out and about buying things – we have come to depend on our houses and places of work having heating and cooling as the seasons change – our many appliances make life easier for us – we need electricity for lights, servers, computers, printers, copiers – our manufacturers need energy to produce goods – our farmers to plant and harvest.

 Whether all of this convenience and comfort is good for us is another question.  I will say nothing to that question here.

 A number of years ago, when I attended the Iowa Association for Energy Efficiency yearly convention – IAEE is mainly a trade organization – to which I belong – one of the speakers – who was from one of the military branches – gave a demonstration of a computer program that modelled ways of getting us through the future to an energy solution where fossil fuels had run out and were replaced by renewables – if I am remembering right.  The model indicated that all energy resources would be required to get us to that future point at our current standard of living.

I think that is why people with money are so scared.  They fear we will destroy our economy – that there are not solutions to our energy needs which maintain our lifestyle and which do no include the use of fossil fuels.

Models, whether they be climate models or economic models – and I am quite sure physical science is a heck of a lot more rigorous than economic science at this point in knowledge – are subject to the assumptions about and mathematical understanding of the processes being modelled.

There are many women and men who have been concerned about our energy future and our use of energy over many years now.

The Union of Concerned Scientists – which is an advocacy group that started at MIT – and to which I also belong – has done modelling of the use of renewables to supply our energy needs and has found – I believe it was for electrical demand but it may have been for total energy demand – that renewables will do the trick.

My experience with ideas and computer programming tells me that as an idea or program develops, newer and easier ways of approach become manifest.  I think we will find the same will be true with energy.  And the oiling of the ingenuity machine that government policies provide will help us get through this problem.  And, yes, there will be failures as well as successes.

Back in 1973, I was a senior in college – I was a physics major and was doing my senior thesis research on solar energy – I built two solar collectors and measured the amount of heat they absorbed over a few days.  I was inspired to do this topic after reading about alternative energy in the 1964 Proceedings of the United Nations Conference on New Sources of Energy: Solar Energy, Wind Power, and Geothermal Energy, Rome, 21-31 August 1961.  Many of the methods given in the proceedings are being developed now.  If you can find a copy, it’s worth reading.

Anyway, I fear climate change more than disruption from energy resource change, so I have voted Democratic.

Another Argument for Abortion Rights

Here is an argument for abortion.

In the 20th century, medical science advanced to the point that populations began to expand at a fast rate, since the death rate was reduced across ages and societies.  As a result, we have put unprecedented pressure on the resources of our planet.  I expect we will eventually destroy ourselves if we continue on the path of population growth.

The natural way of controlling human population growth was through disease.  With most diseases under control, we need to use a method that is artificial, which is birth control and abortion.  We have seen in the West that women control fertility when given access to work outside the home as well as contraceptive methods and legal, safe abortions.  The nice thing is that there is no need to force anyone to limit their fertility.  Individual women can have as many kids as they want.


I am an atheist.  I have been since age 14.  At 14, I felt science was explaining most of what had been explained by religion.  I am 63 now and still feel that way, although my personal view has changed somewhat.  I have experienced little yet that cannot be explained by conscious people (or animals) doing conscious things.

I have an interest in the arcane arts (astrology, numerology, palmistry, fortune telling) and feel there eventually will be a scientific understanding of these arts.  At the same time, I am mainly interested in what is rather than what is believed about what is.  I bring this up because I am going to say something about predictions of the future.

I am certain that there are people who can see the future.

Here is my political spiel:  Two predictions interest me with regard to climate change; the biblical prediction that the world will end by fire and the Edgar Cayce prediction that the map of the USA would shrink, with the coasts far inland from where the coasts are now.  Both predictions are consistent with the causes and consequences of climate change.

The majority of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activity are the result of combustion – fire.  As a result of the heating due to the greenhouse gases, the sea level will rise.  I have read predictions of a rise over centuries of as high as 45 feet.

From a show I saw on President Reagan, Reagan thought that the fire prediction was about the atomic bomb.  As president, he rejected the movement away from fossil fuel energy that Carter had started.  Thus, we are far behind where we should be with regard to energy and the world is really at great risk.

I am afraid Cayce’s coasts mean the Republicans will win control of our legislative and executive branches with the help of the energy industry and other industries that depend on the energy industry.  I am afraid the Republicans will do nothing about climate change.

One reads that predictions are not set in stone, that the future can change.  (And to change course based on a prediction can have the opposite consequence of that desired.  Witness Reagan.)  I do not know.  I hope futures can change.

Back to me: I am a scientist, with degrees in physics and statistics, and understand the physics behind the greenhouse effect.

Rules and Regulations

There are so many of us now.  Years ago, a man I was involved with complained about all the rules and regulations we have that we did not have in the past.  I thought for a moment and responded that there are more of us now.

If just a few of us do some things, for example driving a car or defecating, we are unlikely to create much harm.  But, the same action done by millions or billions of people can have catastrophic effects.  This is the reason for regulations.  Small acts by many produce large problems.  There are many more of us than in the past.

Real People

I think that the men in our legislatures do not see women as real people.  How else could they be so cavalier about laws governing and affecting our bodies?

Pregnancy is a huge disruption to a woman’s body and life.  The maternal death rate from live births in 2013 in the US was about 28 deaths out of 100,000 births.  So the approximately four million live births in the US in 2013 caused about 1,120 maternal deaths.  In perspective, there were 119 military deaths in Afghanistan in 2013.  Yet, at the federal level, and more so at the level of the states, predominately male legislators have made it harder and harder for a woman to end a pregnancy.

Obamacare or Branstad care?

When in Minnesota last summer, I was surprised to find out that my Minnesota cousins had no change in their health insurance costs or coverage last year.  Here in Iowa, my deductible and out of pocket expenses doubled, if I remember right.  In Minnesota, the state accepted the federal option for setting up the insurance exchange while here in Iowa, Branstad set up the exchange.  Is this a coincidence?