Quick hits on issues of the day

Herb Strentz on Afghanistan, what it means to be free, and a counter-intuitive place to look for hope and optimism.

One way to cope with overwhelming issues and events of the day is to hide someplace, until the storms blow over.

But of course, they won’t blow over. And even if we think they will, it’s better to try to understand what is happening and what we might do about it.

To that end, here is some brief food for thought on issues of the day.

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State pays $70,000 to settle Black Lives Matter protesters' lawsuit

The state of Iowa has agreed to pay $70,000 and improve First Amendment training for state troopers in order to settle a lawsuit filed last year by five protesters who were banned from the Iowa Capitol Complex.

Jalesha Johnson, Louise Bequeaith, Brad Penna, Brandi Ramus, and Haley Jo Dikkers were among seventeen people whom state troopers had banned from the capitol grounds following a July 1, 2020 Black Lives Matter protest that led to numerous arrests. They filed suit last October against Iowa Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Bayens and several Iowa State Patrol officials, saying the bans violated their rights under the First, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

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Donald Trump, GOP officials mock the martyrs

Herb Strentz: White residents of Tulsa 100 years ago could not bear the success of Black citizens any more than Republican legislators today can bear the notion of communities of color helping to vote them out of office.

With all the dreams about achieving “herd immunity” to counter the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s worrying to consider how our nation may have already achieved a kind of “immunity” from the promise of our constitution.

Columnist Paul Krugman suggested as much in a recent column called “The banality of democratic collapse.” He was referring to democracy, not the Democratic Party.

He warned, “America’s democratic experiment may well be nearing its end. That’s not hyperbole; it’s obvious to anyone following the political scene.”

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Waterloo's "ban the box" ordinance survives in part—for now

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled on June 18 that part of the city of Waterloo’s “ban the box” ordinance can remain in effect despite a 2017 law prohibiting local governments from regulating “terms or conditions of employment.”

The city adopted the ordinance in November 2019 to address economic racial disparities. Because African Americans are more likely to have a criminal record, they are adversely affected by job applications that require a person to note whether they have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime.

Under Waterloo’s ordinance, employers may not inquire about past convictions, arrests, or pending criminal charges “during the application process,” but may do so after extending “a conditional offer of employment.” The court found that was allowed, because it regulates only “the time when an employer can inquire into a prospective employee’s criminal history,” which is not “a term or condition of employment.”

However, the Iowa Supreme Court held that state law preempts other portions of Waterloo’s ordinance, which prohibit employers from making an “adverse hiring decision” based on an applicant’s criminal history.

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Five things that are not "fairness"

Governor Kim Reynolds thrilled conservatives when she announced on Fox News last week that she wants to sign a bill banning transgender youth from competing on sports teams not matching their gender assigned at birth.

Defending the discriminatory policy during a news conference on May 5, Reynolds claimed five times that concerns about “fairness” are driving her commitment to address the issue.

This mean-spirited play to the GOP base has several dimensions. None of them are grounded in fairness.

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Law blocking health care for trans Iowans facing new court challenge

Two years ago this week, on the day before the Iowa legislature completed its work for 2019, Republicans added two new discriminatory provisions to the state’s health and human services budget. Both code sections quickly spawned litigation. Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit against language designed to exclude the organization from sex education grants is now pending before the Iowa Supreme Court, after a District Court found the prohibition violated the state constitution’s equal protection guarantee.

A case challenging language that authorized discrimination against transgender Iowans on Medicaid never got that far. But on April 22, the ACLU of Iowa and the national ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project filed a new lawsuit in Polk County District Court.

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