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Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | APRIL 04, 2013 5:00 AM

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Logic? Biology?

It is perhaps a sad commentary on our culture that difficult ethical questions of serious import are debated with so little sensitivity to important distinctions. I entirely applaud Fr. Valentine’s insistence upon respecting logic and biology in the abortion debate (DI Letters, Apr. 3).

Less can be said in favor of his actual performance. What, exactly, does a beating heart have to do with the issue? Rats and frogs have beating hearts, but killing them isn’t murder, though it might be wrong. 

Would possession of a unique human genome do the trick? How so? If someone cloned you, would that clone not have the same rights as you? If scientists were to synthesize a unique human genome and implant it in a human stem cell, would killing that cell be murder? On the other hand, suppose it turned out that dolphins are as smart and emotionally sophisticated as people. Why wouldn’t killing a dolphin be murder?

What Valentine fails to see is that the morally relevant facts are ones that qualify a being as a person. It is personhood — not possession of human genes — that gives one special rights. Is a human zygote a person? Is a human fetus with a beating heart a person? Those are the questions Valentine needs to answer. He has not.

Professor Evan Fales
Iowa City resident

A tip for the Ledge

I read the Ledge Wednesday. I usually don’t because Andrew R. Juhl’s sense of “humor” is nauseating, but I ran out of things to read while I finished lunch. Normally, the Ledge’s content is terrible because it’s unfunny and/or poorly written. This time the content was terrible on its own merits. The topic was “Correctly Calculating Your Server’s Tip.”

One of the best ways to judge someone’s character is in how they treat the person serving them. Note my use of the word “person” instead of “server.” When you remember that your server is a person — a person working for less than minimum wage who relies on tips to pay to live under a roof and feed themselves and maybe their families — it’s not hard to see that if you do not tip them, you are an asshole (even if the person serving you was also an asshole).

Wait staff tend to get all the blame but none of the credit. People offer their compliments to the chef, but deduct tips from the person serving them regardless of whether whatever they felt was wrong with the service or the food was their fault.

This column suggests even more awful reasons to tip less, and throws in a sexist reason to tip more: “If they have a great rack: +25 percent.” But at least it does a good job of showing that people who don’t tip well also treat their waitresses like the piece of meat she took too long to bring them.

If you want a real (funny) guide to tipping, I suggest Googling the Oatmeal’s “Tipping & Tooting,” watching the Vlogbrother’s “How to Tip Properly,” or listening to Live’s song “Waitress.” At the very least, remember to always tip at least $2 per person, even if your server’s an asshole.

Morgan Miller
UI student

Block grants vs. TIF

Block grants, as opposed to TIF, are a form of grant in aid that the federal government uses to provide state and local governments a specified amount of funding to assist them in addressing broad purposes, such as community development, social services, public health, or law enforcement. Block-grant advocates view the grants as a means to increase government efficiency and program effectiveness by redistributing power accountability through decentralization and partial devolution of decision-making authority.

Block grants, as opposed to tax-incremental financing, is not a modified Ponzi Scheme that has no federal input. TIF is the 21st version of 1950s urban redevelopment using local real-estate taxes as the multiplier. 

The city of Iowa City receives various Block Grants, some of which is used for neighborhood improvements such as UniverCity Housing and other community improvements like the “promised,” but never delivered, trees for the Towncrest area.

Block grants took the place of what was formerly revenue sharing. There are several categories of block grants. One I have selected to explicate is the Social Service Block Grant as a rescue for SEATS.

The Social Services Block Grant is permanently authorized by Title XX, Subtitle A, of the Social Security Act as a “capped” entitlement to states. This means that states are entitled to their share of funds, as determined by formula, out of an amount of money that is capped at a funding ceiling.

Block-grant funds are given to states to achieve a wide range of social policy goals, which include promoting self-sufficiency, preventing child abuse, and supporting community based care for the elderly and disabled.

Federal law establishes the five broad goals for the Social Service Block Grant. Social services funded by states must be linked to one or more of these goals. The five goals are:
Achieving or maintaining economic self-support to prevent, reduce, or eliminate dependency; achieving or maintaining self-sufficiency, including reduction or prevention of dependency; preventing or remedying neglect, abuse, or exploitation of children and adults unable to protect their own interests, or preserving, rehabilitating or reuniting families; preventing or reducing inappropriate institutional care by providing for community-based care, home-based care, or other forms of less intensive care; and securing referral or admission for institutional care when other forms of care are not appropriate, or providing services to individuals in institutions.

Community block grants as to definition is easier to understand than tax-incremental financing, because the U.S. government backs the former and the latter is a new creation of States that only seems to benefit contractors.

Mary Gravitt
Iowa City resident


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