Sunday, March 22, 2020

Welcome to FromDC2Iowa: Contents & Guide

Over 1,000 blog posts on a variety of topics since 2006.
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Latest Half-Dozen Posts (Full Text)

COVID-19: Home Test Kits & Other Thoughts

Find Your Household Thermometer
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, March 22, 2020, p. D2

Like to get a COVID-19 test? South Korea tests 15,000 a day. That’s more than the U.S. tested in three months.

Your test is weeks or months away. You can’t fly to South Korea. What to do?

A symptom of COVID19 is fever. A quick test for large groups is individuals’ temperature. Look around your residence. You may have a thermometer. If not, buy one. Use it. If it registers under 98.6 F (37 C) that’s some evidence you’re not, yet, showing symptoms. Of course, you may be infected, but in your incubation period, or asymptomatic. But you’ll know more than you know now. You’re welcome.

Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City

A version of this Letter was sent to both The Gazette and Press-Citizen on Monday, March 16. The Gazette version, above, was published earlier online as "A common household item to help track COVID-19," The Gazette, March 20, 2020.

An earlier version was published by the Press-Citizen: Nicholas Johnson, "Your At-Home Test Kit," March 18, 2020, p. A7. It could not be found online. It read:
"Like to get a COVID19 test? South Korea tests 15,000 a day. That’s more than the U.S. tested in three months. To move the focus from President Trump's 'numbers' we're told to wash our hands. Like this is our fault. What we've not been reminded (as of this writing) is the little test kit most of us already have: a thermometer, a device used to quickly examine large groups. Find yours. Clean it well. Use it:. If it registers under 98.6 F (37 C) the odds are extraordinarily good you are not, yet, showing symptoms of the disease. You're welcome." Nicholas Johnson, Iowa City.
[Photo credit: Centers for Disease and Prevention via Wikimedia.]


Why a letter? The shorter, letter-to-the-editor, form (rather than a column) was used in hopes it might speed the publication and distribution of this information. Although there was always mention by public officials and media of "fever" as one of the COVID-19 symptoms (along with coughing and difficulty breathing), and a couple mentions of thermometers this past week, at the time the Letter was drafted (March 15 and 16) I was unaware of any public mention of thermometers in the context of the discussion regarding the seemingly insurmountable shortage of test kits.

Why more "discussion"? Because there is so much more the public needs to know about testing than could be put in the Letter, hopefully this additional "discussion" can provide some of that.

What COVID-19 test kits can and cannot do. Had the Administration begun building up the necessary supplies, including test kits, when we first learned of the Chinese experience in December, or in January, when it was alerted to the serious risk and the first infected patients emerged, it could have begun the successful Korean approach at that time. That opportunity is now lost. We still need the kits for those at highest risk (over age 85 with other medical conditions), those experiencing all the symptoms -- those that doctors want, but are unable, to have tested. But tests have their limits. The CDC's first test kits apparently had serious faults. There are still false positives and negatives. And the biggest drawback is that, unless you are tested every day, the test results only report your condition on the day and time you were tested.

What thermometers can and cannot do. Of course, thermometers also only report your temperature as of the day and time you use them. But, unlike COVID-19 test kits, you can use your thermometer multiple times a day for no additional cost and without depriving anyone of a thermometer.

Fevers result from your body healing itself. (That's one reason not to take fever-reducing pain medicine, if you can tolerate the pain, because these meds reduce the benefits of fever.) Fevers may be caused by many medical conditions including inflammations, bacterial infections and viruses.

What is said to be a "normal" temperature (98.6 F, 37.0 C) may still be considered "normal" if within a range of 97-99 F (36.1-37.2 C). Temperatures are considered serious once they reach 103 F (39.4 C) or above.

If you are running a temperature of any amount, and especially if below the serious level, it does not mean that you do have COVID-19 -- especially if you have none of the other symptoms. Similarly, if you have no "fever" or other symptoms it does not mean that you do not have the virus. During the disease's incubation period you will have no symptoms. You can be infected but have none of the symptoms (be "asymptomatic"). You can be infected but have such mild symptoms that you easily recover. But by taking your temperature twice a day (and making a permanent record of it; it's usually lowest in the morning) you can at least track one of the principal symptoms of the virus.

Conclusion. Thermometers are not a magic cure for COVID-19. They are not the equivalent of a COVID-19 Test Kit. But they are widely available, within the financial ability of almost everyone, and used daily can give you trend lines regarding this one symptom of our current pandemic.

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Tags: COVID-19, COVID-19 symptoms, fever, temperature, test kits, thermometer, virus

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Case for Iowa's Caucuses

Case for Iowa's Caucuses

Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, March 1, 2020, p. D3

Every four years Iowa takes a beating from the 49 states that aren’t reporting first-in-the-nation presidential primary results.

Arguments include “Iowa’s too small, white and rural” -- and many Iowans can’t or don’t participate.

Could caucuses be improved? Of course. Nevada offers one option: four days of early “caucus” voting; ranked voting of up to five choices; and Saturday afternoon (instead of a weekday evening) for the in-person caucus gathering. [Photo: portion of Iowa City Precinct 3 caucus, Field House, Feb. 3, 2020; photo credit: Nicholas Johnson.]

The bi-coastal Democratic Party elite who confuse Iowa with Idaho and Ohio literally fly over the state going to New York or LA. They are the same folks who were willing to hand Republicans the 80 percent of America’s 3100 counties Trump won in 2016 – mostly counties they’d never visit.

Iowa is far more representative of America than they will ever know.

In 1974, after 12 tempestuous years in Washington, I planned to drive thousands of miles to revisit America. Then, invited to run in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District primary, I realized those 3rd District counties were a microcosm of America. Moreover, they would take much less gas to drive around and visit than covering the entire country.

I closed my eyes and poked my finger at a map of the district. It landed on a small farming town of 100 residents that became my campaign home. A young farm family rented me an empty house on their property. A neighbor gave me some straw bales for insulation around its base. And the one church’s congregation welcomed me to its Sunday services. My checking account was with the town’s one bank. Businesses for miles around offered local banks’ blank counter checks. No ID was required. I’d just sign the blank check, take my purchase, and my new home’s bank would recognize my signature.

At that time these 3rd District counties had African-American, Latino and Native American populations. Farm families, sure, but also young professionals, small colleges and a state university, daily and weekly newspapers, entrepreneurs, industry (John Deere Tractor Factory), and union members (Waterloo’s UAW Local 838). Iowa was a state that invited, rather than rejected, immigrants, a state where students from around the world, in excellent K-12 schools, spoke over 100 languages.

The ability to go to any farm, business, home, or union hall and visit with anyone, the stories I heard, the friends I made, gave me an understanding of America no Washington job, book or TV show could offer. Those were some of the most rewarding months of my life.

Today, Iowa also has its share of counties with rural poverty; shuttered main streets, high schools and hospitals; opioid addiction and suicides. Iowans who, ignored by elite Democrats, look to Trump as their only salvation.

And those are just some of the reasons Iowa is the perfect state to be first-in-the-nation.

Here are some more.

Iowa’s size is an advantage. It’s possible for candidates to visit its 99 counties, to get a sense of an entire state while meeting, one-on-one, with a meaningful proportion of its diverse citizens.

Iowa can be to politics what spring training locations are to baseball. The number of Iowa’s national delegates are so insignificant that little’s at risk. Iowa lets candidates scrimmage, hone their talking points, interact with “real people,” better understand their opponents, experience hiring and managing staff while raising money. Iowa helps improve candidates’ national name recognition with free media coverage that’s also informative for the nation’s onlookers.

Keeping Iowa’s first-in-the-nation role is good for the candidates, for both political parties, all Americans, and our democracy. A wise Democratic National Committee should know that.
Nicholas Johnson of Iowa City, is the author of Columns of Democracy. Comments:

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Tags: Democratic National Committee, Iowa caucuses, politics, precinct caucus, presidential primary, ranked voting,

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Impeachment: What the House Should Have Said

Trump's Conviction Should Have Been A Slam Dunk

President Trump's defenders excuse his urging Ukraine (plus earlier Russia, and later China) to interfere in our elections. They are left with the argument that he may have done it, it wasn't a nice thing to do, but it's not an "impeachable offense." 

The House Democrats' characterization of their first article of impeachment isn't much better: "Abuse of Power." Saying the president "violated his oath of office," or "the Constitution," provides little more specificity than "abuse of power" (even when supported with evidence of Trump's pressure on Ukraine).

What's an "impeachable offense"? There can be, and has been, debate as to whether individual examples of presidential bad behavior should constitute a basis for impeachment. But there are two as to which there is little or no question.

Many conservatives argue that we should be bound by what the Constitution's drafters intended. Most lawyers would at least agree "original intent," or "legislative history," are at a minimum relevant evidence to consider in defining and applying terms.

What the House Democrats should have emphasized for a confused public (and Republican Senate), is why Trump's impeachment, and Senate conviction, should be a slam dunk. It is because, unlike other behavior that has, or has not, been found to be impeachable during the 62 impeachment hearings in the House since 1789, what Trump has been doing is something the drafters had experienced, caused them great legitimate concern, and they specifically tried to prevent: namely, foreign interference in our politics, government, and especially elections, whether sought from within or imposed from abroad. [Photo credit: Constitutional Convention; original painting by Junius Brutus Stearns, painter; photo is public domain,]

This assertion is supported by numerous references in the history of the time, The Federalist Papers, and notes from the Constitutional Convention. But one need go no further than the Constitution's provisions. "Treason" ("the crime of betraying one's country") is specifically mentioned as a ground for impeachment. Presidents must be born in the U.S. They are forbidden to accept any "emoluments" (gifts or titles) from other countries.

[A second specific but more general concern, tangentially related to to the drafters' efforts to avoid foreign influence, was their insisting on preventing future presidents from assuming the powers of a king. Their earlier Declaration of Independence made that clear: "The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States" -- following which they offer a long list of the Declaration's equivalent of "articles of impeachment" of the King. And then: "A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people."

These concerns continued through the Constitutional Convention, ultimately taking the form of the "checks and balances" on the executive provided by the judiciary, House and Senate; the four-year limit on a president's terms of office, denying presidents the power "to declare war" exercised by kings -- and the ultimate power of the House to impeach, and the Senate to remove, a president.]

I set forth below an excerpt from the House's "Trial Memorandum" for the Senate that deals with these issues (plus the link to the entire document). This discussion of of foreign influence is well done, and documented with footnotes. Unfortunately, it is buried in the "Memorandum" where few will find and read it, and has never been elevated and emphasized for the public, House members and Senators as the most powerful argument for convicting the President.

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January 18, 2020, pp. 9-12

Fresh from their experience under British rule by a king, the Framers were concerned that corruption posed a grave threat to their new republic. As George Mason warned the other delegates to the Constitutional Convention, “if we do not provide against corruption, our government will soon be at an end.”43 The Framers stressed that a President who “act[s] from some corrupt motive or other” or “willfully abus[es] his trust” must be impeached,44 because the President “will have great opportunitys of abusing his power.”45

43 2 The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, at 392 (Max Farrand ed.,1911) (Farrand).
44 Background and History of Impeachment: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on the Constitution of the H. Comm. on the Judiciary, 105th Cong. 49 (1998) (quoting James Iredell).
45 2 Farrand at 67.

The Framers recognized that a President who abuses his power to manipulate the democratic process cannot properly be held accountable by means of the very elections that he has rigged to his advantage.46 The Framers specifically feared a President who abused his office by sparing “no efforts or means whatever to get himself re-elected.”47 Mason asked: “Shall the man who has practised corruption & by that means procured his appointment in the first instance, be suffered to escape punishment, by repeating his guilt?”48

46 See id. at 65.
47 Id. at 64.
48 Id. at 65.

Thus, the Framers resolved to hold the President “impeachable whilst in office” as “an essential security for the good behaviour of the Executive.”49 By empowering Congress to immediately remove a President when his misconduct warrants it, the Framers established the people’s elected representatives as the ultimate check on a President whose corruption threatened our democracy and the Nation’s core interests.50

49 Id. at 64.
50 See The Federalist No. 65 (Alexander Hamilton).

The Framers particularly feared that foreign influence could undermine our new system of self-government.51 In his farewell address to the Nation, President George Washington warned Americans “to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”52 Alexander Hamilton cautioned that the “most deadly adversaries of republican government” may come “chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.”53 James Madison worried that a future President could “betray his trust to foreign powers,” which “might be fatal to the Republic.”54 And, of particular relevance now, in their personal correspondence about “foreign Interference,” Thomas Jefferson and John Adams discussed their apprehension that “as often as Elections happen, the danger of foreign Influence recurs.”55

51 See, e.g., 2 Farrand at 65-66; George Washington, Farewell Address (Sept. 19, 1796), George Washington Papers, Series 2, Letterbooks 1754-1799: Letterbook 24, April 3, 1793–March 3, 1797, Library of Congress (Washington Farewell Address); Adams-Jefferson Letter, 222B.
52 Washington Farewell Address.
53 The Federalist No. 68 (Alexander Hamilton).
54 2 Farrand at 66.
55 Adams-Jefferson Letter,

Guided by these concerns, the Framers included within the Constitution various mechanisms to ensure the President’s accountability and protect against foreign influence— including a requirement that Presidents be natural-born citizens of the United States,56 prohibitions on the President’s receipt of gifts, emoluments, or titles from foreign states,57 prohibitions on profiting from the Presidency,58 and, of course, the requirement that the President face reelection after a four-year Term.59 But the Framers provided for impeachment as a final check on a President who sought foreign interference to serve his personal interests, particularly to secure his own reelection.

56 U.S. Const., Art. II, § 1, cl. 5.
57 U.S. Const., Art. I, § 9, cl. 8.
58 U.S. Const., Art. II, § 1, cl. 7.
59 U.S. Const., Art. II, § 1, cl. 1.

In drafting the Impeachment Clause, the Framers adopted a standard flexible enough to reach the full range of potential Presidential misconduct: “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”60 The decision to denote “Treason” and “Bribery” as impeachable conduct reflects the Founding-era concerns over foreign influence and corruption. But the Framers also recognized that “many great and dangerous offenses” could warrant impeachment and immediate removal of a President from office.61 These “other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” provided for by the Constitution need not be indictable criminal offenses. Rather, as Hamilton explained, impeachable offenses involve an “abuse or violation of some public trust” and are of “a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”62 The Framers thus understood that “high crimes and misdemeanors” would encompass acts committed by public officials that inflict severe harm on the constitutional order.63

60 U.S. Const., Art. II, § 4; see 2 Farrand at 550.
61 2 Farrand at 550.
62 The Federalist No. 65 (Alexander Hamilton) (capitalization altered).
63 These issues are discussed at length in the report by the House Committee on the Judiciary. See H. Rep. No. 116-346, at 28-75.
64 Statement of Facts ¶ 160.
65 Id. ¶ 161.

Tags: #Constitution, #Constitutional Convention, #elections, #Federalist Papers, #House, #impeachable offense, #impeachment, #original intent, #legislative history, #President Donald Trump, #Senate, #Trump, #Ukraine

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Soleimani More Dangerous Dead Than Alive

Soleimani More Dangerous in Death

Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, January 12, 2020, p. D2

In the movie “Wag the Dog,” two weeks before a presidential election, the sitting president is accused of sexual misconduct with a young girl. Desperate for a way to suppress the story the president’s political consultant, Conrad Brean (Robert DeNiro), seeks the help of Hollywood producer Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman). “What do you think would hold it off?” he asks. The producer responds, “Nothing. Nothing. You’d have to have a war.” [Photo credit: still from film, used by Hollywood Reporter.]

How can a president get popular support for war? Hermann Göring understood it best: “It is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship … All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” [German General Hermann Göring, Nuremberg Trial, 1946; photo credit](fn 1)

As prior presidents predicted, our enemy, General Qassem Soleimani, has already become a far greater threat to America in death than he ever was in life. That threat will only increase over the months and years to come. [Photo credit: General Qasem Soleimani; Ali Khamenei,,] (fn 2)

Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City


1. Snopes confirms the accuracy of this quote, .

2. "George W. Bush did not target him [General Soleimani] during the height of the Iraq War, when Iranian-supplied roadside bombs and Iran-backed militias were killing hundreds of American troops. By 2011, that toll had reached more than 600 and Barack Obama was the president; he too declined to hit the general. But at some point Trump, who came into office vowing to pull the United States out from Middle Eastern wars, decided to cross a line two war-president predecessors feared breaching. ...

Elissa Slotkin, a Democratic representative and former CIA analyst focused on Shia militias, said in a statement that she’d seen friends and colleagues killed or hurt by Iranian weapons under Soleimani’s guidance when she served in Iraq. She said she was involved in discussions during both the Bush and Obama administrations about how to respond to his violence. Neither opted for assassination.

'What always kept both Democratic and Republican presidents from targeting Soleimani himself was the simple question: Was the strike worth the likely retaliation, and the potential to pull us into protracted conflict?' she said. 'The two administrations I worked for both determined that the ultimate ends didn’t justify the means. The Trump Administration has made a different calculation.'" Kathy Gilsinan, "It Wasn’t the Law That Stopped Other Presidents From Killing Soleimani; The Iranian general helped get hundreds of Americans killed — through two administrations. Both declined to kill him," The Atlantic, January 4, 2020, .

[Photo credit:,-Demand-Revenge, January 3, 2020]

Would this picture be more understandable if we reversed roles? First off, realize that Soleimani was not just a military general, he was a national hero and the second most powerful political figure in Iran. Then consider this scenario. During World War II Dwight D. Eisenhower was a five-star general in the Army and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe. Following the war he served as Army Chief of Staff (1945–1948), as president of Columbia University (1948–1953) and as the first Supreme Commander of NATO (1951–1952). He was twice elected president of the United States in landslides, 1952 and 1956. Understand that I am not saying that the two men are moral equivalents. But imagine that another country's president, or head of state, had arranged for the successful assassination of Eisenhower in 1952. What would have been Americans' reaction? What would have been your reaction?

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Tags: assassination, Hermann Göring, Iran, Iraq, Nuremberg, President Donald Trump, Qassem Soleimani, Soleimani, Wag the Dog