News Miner 7
Notes on Covid, fentanyl, adoption and fertility donor records, 'green' bills, landscaping, and more.
Welcome to the latest “News Miner.” Thank you to Krys, a reader who says Pickaxe “is a shining example of the new and emerging media that we need to be supporting!” If you agree, I hope you’ll consider upgrading your free subscription to a paid one. I’m certain no reader will agree with all of my takes, but hopefully you’ll consistently find them interesting!
Covid On the Rise
Covid cases are slowly going up in Colorado. Remember that reported cases are not all the cases out there, but we can get some indication of trends by looking at reported cases, amount of testing, and test positivity. (Basically, the higher the positivity, the more undetected cases there are.) Here are a couple of recent state-created graphs.
On May 12, the “Colorado COVID-19 Modeling Group” out of Anschutz published a report on Covid. Here is the summary:
The COVID-19 pandemic is on a relatively slow upward trend in Colorado as indicated by percent positivity, wastewater concentration, and hospital count.
Colorado lags 1-2 weeks behind New York and Pennsylvania in the timing of the arrival of BA.2.12.1. These states have already experienced growth of numbers of cases and hospitalizations for more than a month. In such other regions, hospitalizations began to increase approximately 5.5 weeks after the introduction of BA.2.12.1 into the population and have continued to increase during weeks 6-9. Colorado is starting week 8 and is experiencing a rising epidemic curve.
The Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1has likely become predominant and is likely driving the rise with its increased transmissibility over BA.2.
Projections indicate that the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 could reach 500 or higher by mid-June.
Considerable uncertainty about the epidemiology of BA.2.12.1 remains. The model results are sensitive to uncertain parameter assumptions.
Again looking at state data, we can see how Omicron quickly took over in December, to be quickly replaced mostly by the BA.2 variant. Now the BA.2.12.1 variant is on the rise.
Back to the Anschutz modeling, that group has estimated the total Covid caseload over time.
The group also models possible hospital scenarios.
Colorado may see its total caseload perhaps quadruple next month.
I have written extensively about fentanyl policy in Colorado. See my previous two articles, “Why Colorado Should Not Refelonize Fentanyl Possession” and “Fentanyl and the Republican Attack on the Right to a Jury Trial.” I also discuss the matter in my “News Miner 6.” So, now that the legislative session is over, what happened?
The Colorado Sun reports on Bill 1326 as revised:
Any compound of one or more grams, that contains any amount of fentanyl, is now a “Level 4 drug felony punishable by up to 180 days in jail and up to two years of probation.” Of course, prosecutors can offer plea deals.
“Those convicted of the Level 4 drug felony can have their convictions dropped to misdemeanors if they go through treatment. And they can have their criminal record sealed a few years after completing their sentence or completing probation.”
Defendants “would have an opportunity to argue before a jury that they did not know they were in possession of fentanyl. If the jury sides with the defendant, the defendant’s charge would be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.”
“The bill also would try to crack down on fentanyl dealers by raising the penalties for possessing the drug with an intent to distribute it.”
In brief, this bill creates harsher criminal penalties for possession than previously existed, and it (unjustly) puts the onus on the defendant to prove that they did not know the substance they possessed contained fentanyl. But the bill could have been even worse. It could have felonized possession of any amount of fentanyl and contained no provisions for whether the defendant knew a substance contained the drug.
John Suthers, the mayor of Colorado Springs and a former federal and state prosecutor, is among those who think the bill is not sufficiently harsh. He whined,
In placing upon prosecutors the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew the substance they possessed was fentanyl, the legislature, in almost every instance, is protecting the defendant from felony prosecution.
Suthers intentionally blurs the line between possession and distribution. So we have allegedly law-and-order Republicans explicitly arguing that government should be able to punish people for the crime of distribution that government has not proved they committed, and that they may not have committed.
And we have Republicans arguing that even unknowing possession of something should be a felony. For example, if a disgruntled former romantic partner, or a dirty cop, drops a gram of any substance than contains any amount of fentanyl in your pocket, and you don’t even know it, prosecutors still can nail you with a felony (or with a misdemeanor, if you can prove you didn’t know you possessed it). Of course, prosecutors will say they will use their discretion in such cases. But that is simply to subvert justice to the arbitrary whims of prosecutors.
Costs of Revealed Adoption and Egg/Sperm Donor Records
Recently Complete Colorado ran my article, “Revealed adoption, fertility donor records comes at a cost.” Here is part of what I argue:
The indirect consequences of revealing parental and donor records to people who are adopted or conceived via donation are that fewer people will put up their children for adoption and donate eggs or sperm. . . .
If a person projects that, years down the road, they may get a knock on the door of someone put up for adoption or someone conceived through a donated egg or sperm sample, the person may think twice about going the route of adoption or donation. . . .
People donate eggs or sperm either out of the goodness of their hearts or in order to get paid. What happens when you in effect tell these potential donors, “Some day in the future the children conceived via your donation might come knocking on your door”? Obviously some people will be put off by that.
Read the entire piece.
Chase Woodruff reports:
Winning final passage . . . was House Bill 22-1355, a “producer responsibility” bill that would require manufacturers of many kinds of products to pay into a fund based on their product packaging, which would be used to expand recycling infrastructure across the state. . . .
House Bill 22-1362 would establish a statewide floor for building energy codes, requiring local governments to adopt codes that meet minimum standards for energy efficiency, rooftop solar, electric vehicle charging and more.
Regarding recycling, obviously this will add costs to consumer goods. Look, if recycling were worth the costs in terms of the manufactured goods, then recyclers would pay people to turn over their recyclable materials. Clearly that is not the case for most materials. If there’s a good case that the costs of recycling are lower than the “external” costs of just dumping that junk in a landfill, I have not seen it. If there’s a good case that forcing businesses to fund a bureaucratic recycling program is the best way to cover those costs, even if they exist, I have not seen it.
One environmentalist refers to “unnecessary single-use packaging.” But who in the hell is he to dictate what is necessary and what isn’t? Analysis that ignores the benefits to consumers of convenient packaging obviously will reach tainted conclusions.
Thoughts on Colorado Landscaping
Usually here I use “pickaxe” metaphorically; the idea is that I take a pickaxe to the news and commentary of the day in an effort to mine the important stuff. Recently, though, I took a literal pickaxe to the yard, and my hamstring didn’t forgive me for over a week.
Given I’ve owned my house for over a decade now (since the Mortgage Meltdown, when prices were substantially lower!), I figured I’d mention a couple tips for landscaping in Colorado.
First tip: Don’t use small rocks. Sure, they look good for a year or three. But eventually enough matter accumulates in the spaces around the rocks to support weeds. Those are practically impossible to pull up by the roots, which intertwine tightly with the rocks. So then your options are to burn out the weeds, which is a hassle, or to use weed spray, which is environmentally damaging. Now that I have bees in my yard, I very strongly dislike people using chemicals to control weeds and pests.
Second tip: Don’t use mulch. It just blows away. Here is a photo of the grass near a playground in my neighborhood, covered with mulch that blew there.
So what should you do instead? I’m not keen on Kentucky Bluegrass, given the expense of watering and the the fact that we live in a semi-arid region with frequent droughts. We have a number of flowers going, including sunflowers, that grow great with minimal water and that the rabbits don’t eat. I’m trying a combination of buffalo grass, fescue, and clover in part of my front yard; I’ll see how that goes.
I am a fan of bricks (and large rocks). Home Depot sells two-by-two foot concrete bricks (pavers) that weigh about a hundred pounds each. They’re very stable and relatively easy to move (for a strong person). If you space them you can grow grass or whatever between them, and they help lock in water.
A huge advantage to a more-natural approach is that wildlife loves my yard. For example, we often get finches that eat the sunflower seeds. We have some milkweed going that the butterflies love. In addition to hosting little critters including bees and butterflies, my yard has attracted falcons, squirrels, bunnies, fox, and various birds. I’d rather have a life-friendly zone than a carefully manicured, labor and water intensive lawn.
Crime: “Colorado led the nation in bank robberies last year.”
Legislature: The Colorado Sun has a nice summary of many of this year’s bills.
Peters: Kyle Clark reports (May 10): “Indicted Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters (R), who is running for Secretary of State to oversee Colorado's elections, has been barred by a judge from running Mesa County's 2022 elections.”
Conspiracy Mongers: What a surprise: Yet another Republican candidate, Shelli Shaw, is crazy.
Bonds: The legislature passed Bill 1067 providing for 48-hour municipal bond hearings. Offhand that sounds great.
More Crime: “The man accused of killing three people including his aunt and a young boy in northeast Denver has at least three prior felony convictions for things like robbery and theft,” 9News reports.
Voting: “Colorado judge declines to toss defamation suit filed by Dominion boss against Trump, Giuliani and conservative media.”