Archive

February 22nd, 2017

The Republican war on deficits is a farce

    Mother Jones's Kevin Drum spotted a great quote from Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, who is concerned about Republican hypocrisy: "I hope we're not going to a place where all of the sudden, because we're in office, we don't think the deficit matters anymore."

    I want to reassure Corker, Drum, and everyone else (and there are a lot of them) who think Republicans care about federal budget deficits only when Democrats are in office. Nope. The truth is that most Republicans never care about federal budget deficits. They do talk about them strategically, so they sound hypocritical. But if you watch what they support, the truth is that most congressional Republicans and their allies flat-out reject the entire notion of budgeting.

    Budget deficits are, of course, the difference between revenues and spending. Call that, I don't know, the technical definition.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

The evidence for vaccine safety is abundant. That will be $100,000, please.

    At what point does a body of evidence become massive enough to count as proof? When has a question been answered enough times that it can be put to rest?

    When it comes to the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, it sometimes seems as though public health advocates must constantly roll the burden of proof toward a mountaintop that never comes into view.

    The latest salvo against vaccinations came courtesy of Robert Kennedy Jr. and Robert De Niro. At a joint appearance this week, Kennedy offered $100,000 to anyone who could turn up a study showing that it is safe to administer vaccines to children and pregnant women, with a specific call out to concerns about mercury. De Niro was there to lend his endorsement and a patina of Oscar-winning gravitas.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

The Bright Side of the Bottom

    There’s a bright side to everything. It’s true that Donald Trump could turn out to be the worst U.S. president ever. But think how happy that’s going to make James Buchanan fans.

    Buchanan’s been on the bottom for 150 years, but his days may be numbered. Sure he sent the country careening into civil war. But he never tweeted about it.

    “We’ve heard that from some visitors,” said Patrick Clarke, director of Buchanan’s home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

    You can’t help thinking about this stuff on Presidents Day weekend. When the guy we’ve got now has scheduled the first big political rally of his 2020 campaign.

    He told you he’d make history! Trump is running for re-election before he can find the bathroom switch in the White House. It’s definitely something to tell the grandchildren. Don’t forget to print out the stories. You can use them as decorations on the wall of that old basement bomb shelter where you’ve secretly been starting to store canned goods and bottled water.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

February 21st

Stop calling Trump an isolationist. What he believes is far more dangerous.

    Under President Trump, American foreign policy is returning, many commentators say, to the isolationism that preceded World War II. This line of interpretation (and often attack) emerged during the election: While Hillary Clinton warned that her opponent would "tear up our alliances," an array of experts supplied such fears with a historical pedigree. As Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass put it, Trump stood for a "new isolationism," a revival of the 1930s dream of "turning away from global engagement."

    The problem is, Trump isn't an isolationist. He is a militarist, something far worse. And calling Trump an isolationist isn't an effective critique.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Republicans' gerrymandering could help Democrats

    The tea party wave of 2010 cost the Democrats the House, and then Republicans gerrymandered congressional districts to remain in power. But drawing districts with the intention of helping your party is an act of statistical modeling, and all models have assumptions, biases and flaws. A midterm election with an unpopular Republican president will reveal some of the flaws in the Republican Party's gerrymandering. The redrawn lines may even benefit Democrats.

    The House gerrymander that Democrats complain about is mostly a phenomenon in five states -- Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. President Barack Obama carried all five states in 2008, yet after the 2010 Census, Republicans in those states drew district maps that were very favorable to their party. Those five states have a combined 73 seats in the House -- currently 52 Republicans and 21 Democrats. Those 73 seats are all held by the party favored to hold those districts, according to the Cook Partisan Voting Index.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

I sentenced criminals to hundreds more years than I wanted to. I had no choice.

    In the fall of 2007, Steven Fabre appeared in my courtroom. He was a 29-year-old New York native there to plead guilty to a single count of possession with intent to distribute crack. Fabre was a typical, fungible street dealer who found business by approaching cars or pedestrians. He used the proceeds from his sales to feed his own addiction; he'd been using drugs since he was 14. Fabre had a number of convictions for very minor offenses, plus one for selling a small quantity of a controlled substance, for which he received five years of probation when he was 18. He never graduated from high school and had worked only for a short time, stocking his parents' small grocery store.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Trump's pre-emptive strike at the press

    Donald Trump's first solo White House news conference as president Thursday, launched with little advance notice, was a bold and aggressive strategy to co-opt one of the news media's prime information vehicles.

    He filibustered for more than an hour of the traditional meeting of president and the Washington press corps, reiterating his charge that they deliberately distort and misrepresent what he does and says, dismissing much of their output as "fake news."

    With his young administration already in turmoil after a major clash with the judicial branch over immigration and the firing of his fledgling national security adviser, he had the effrontery to boast that it was "running like a fine-turned machine."

    He railed that he had "inherited a mess" from his predecessor despite the facts that he was handed an economy salvaged from the Great Recession with an unemployment rate cut in half. He even had the gall to say, "I don't think there's ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we've done." Many critics might agree, but not in the sense he claimed.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Trump's reality TV presidency needs to get real

    Why is President Donald Trump still trying to turn the media into the bad guys of his reality TV show, er, I mean presidency?

    If media bashing is the last refuge of scoundrels, as I often say, Trump had better save some for a rainy day. He's having plenty of those already.

    Sure, media bashing is easy. At his Thursday news conference marking the end of his first four weeks in office, Trump reminded the reporters that media approval ratings are lower than those of Congress. That's cruel.

    But we're used to it. Just about everybody hates the media, according to polls, but everybody has at least one favorite medium, whether it's in print, online or over the air. That's how we stay in business.

    Politicians, by contrast, can beat bad press as long as they have the voters with them. For Trump that's still debatable, and he can't seem to forget it.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Leaks: As American as apple pie and presidents

    Last week, when confronted with media revelations about his staff's contacts with the Russian government, President Donald Trump blamed the messenger. He denounced "low-life leakers," directed the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation and vowed revenge: "They will be caught!"

    The leaks, he declared, were "Very un- American!"

    Actually, leaking is as American as Fourth of July fireworks. And just as old and venerable.

    America's grand tradition of revealing secret information about national security matters began in the winter of 1777, when the country's first whistleblowers exposed a U.S. Navy commander for torturing British prisoners of war. The sailors who disclosed these human rights violations weren't vilified by their commander in chief. Instead, they received the full support of Congress.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Could reporters be hunted down if Trump goes after leakers?

    For those who care about press rights in America, President Donald Trump's words last week were stunning and disturbing.

    The news media is not merely "scum," as he has said many times before, but now "the enemy of the American People."

    This tweeted pronouncement, with its authoritarian echoes, came soon after Trump's vow to stamp out the unauthorized flow of intelligence-community information to journalists. "I've actually called the Justice Department to look into the leaks," he said. "Those are criminal leaks."

    Add up these two elements and you get a troubling question: Will the Trump administration's crackdown on leaks include journalists as well as their sources?

    Some knowledgeable lawyers and academics say it's unlikely.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!