Archive

January 16th, 2016

Why Ukraine no longer needs gas from Russia

    Not so long ago, Russia could bend Ukraine to its will by threatening to cut off natural gas supplies. Now, Russia is offering discounts, but Ukraine is not interested because it's getting plenty of gas in Europe. This change reflects developments in the European gas market that don't augur well for one of Russia's biggest sources of export revenue.

    The decline in Ukraine's imports of Russian gas is partly the result of economic stagnation under former President Viktor Yanukovych, a huge drop in output after the 2014 "Revolution of Dignity" and Russia's annexation of Crimea. Ukraine's gross domestic product has shrunk around 19 percent since 2013, and its industrial sector needs less fuel.

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!

Two dangers: one watched closely; the other (guns)? Not so much

    They are so profuse as to encircle the globe, so lethal that even mutual enemies agree they must be monitored and limited.

    If you are thinking the “they” refers to firearms, you aren’t thinking the way some policymakers are.

    No, we speak of a threat that draws undivided attention: the matter of orbiting interstellar hardware – loose nuts, bolts and more. It’s called space debris.

    On space debris you get bipartisan and international cooperation.

    On firearms? To To many disgraceful lawmakers, guns are commerce alone, and hence should be left alone. However, the two matters are quite analogous.

    Not to discount the danger of space debris. One loose sprocket speeding in orbit can destroy or impair anything in its path. But the only person we know space debris has killed is that poor headless soul in the movie “Gravity.”

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!

What do we want Hillary Clinton to do about her husband?

    Bill Clinton's sexual misadventures have never quite vanished as a national story. But in recent weeks, Republican presidential contender Donald Trump has called renewed attention to them, and Juanita Broaddrick, who in 1999 said Bill Clinton had raped her in 1978, has renewed those allegations.

    Both because the case is past the statute of limitations in Arkansas and because Hillary Clinton is running for president now on a platform that includes greater support for rape victims, the headlines have become more about Hillary Clinton than about her husband, the man who actually has been accused of misconduct.

    But though the circumstances are different, the question remains the same: What is it we want Hillary Clinton to do about her husband? Because however unfair or incoherent that desire is, Americans seem to want her to do something.

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 rides a big wave of disgust

    For Democrats who might be rooting for Donald Trump, thinking he would be easy to beat in November, I have some advice: Be careful what you wish for.

    In his campaign, or rampage, Trump has done more than take a sledgehammer to the Republican Party. He almost seems to be reinventing politics in a way that makes both major parties seem hidebound, sluggish and concerned mostly with self-perpetuation -- which, in fact, they are.

    When he announced his candidacy, no one outside of Trump's household dreamed he would be dominating the Republican field with three weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses. Given the way he has set the agenda for the campaign, it's tempting to call him a master strategist -- except I don't believe he has a strategy. Or needs one.

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 State of the Union is long and someone had better tackle that rancor

    In delivering his final State of the Union, President Obama did something I would generally advise against: He informed the audience that the speech was going to be shorter than usual.

    "I'm going to keep it short" is - like "this man needs no introduction" and "I'm not racist, but" - generally proven immediately false by what follows. That was the case Tuesday, when Obama offered an inspiring cocktail of Larger-Scale Parting Thoughts and shade thrown in the direction of various Republican presidential candidates (cough, Ted Cruz, uncough; cough, Donald Trump, uncough.)

    Behind him, Paul Ryan remained remarkably impassive throughout, as though he had been told that the camera would only pick him up if he moved.

    Every year I complain about the sheer volume of Inspiring Examples. This year was not so bad as last year (what could be so bad?) although it ended with a confusing crescendo of Voices, Voices who could be Seen and had been in the writings of Dr. King and were going, apparently, to save this great nation.

    - - -

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 state of Barack Obama's union is booming

    When President Barack Obama was elected in November 2008, the U.S. economy was shrinking at a rate unmatched since World War II. In the seven years between then and his final State of the Union address Tuesday night, global investors have enjoyed stellar results from the rapidly expanding Obama economy.

    Market prosperity has been built on a solid economic foundation. The unemployment rate has declined the most in any five-year period since 1989, from its 10-percent peak in October 2009 to 5 percent last December. The budget deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product has plummeted 7.7 percentage points from a high of 10.1 percent in 2010, the biggest favorable reversal in at least 50 years.

    That's helped propel the value of U.S. companies to half the world's publicly-traded equity for the first time since 2001. The 10 companies with the highest market capitalization are American -- the first time that's happened since Ronald Reagan was president.

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 Age of Protest

    If you go to The Guardian’s website these days you can find a section that is just labeled “Protest.” So now, with your morning coffee, you can get your news, weather, sports — and protests. I found stories there headlined, “Five Fresh Ideas for the Street Art Agitator in 2016,” “Muslim Woman Ejected From Donald Trump Rally After Silent Protest” and, appropriately, “We Are Living in an Age of Protest.”

    We sure are. This week alone Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany faced huge protests after her justice minister declared that Arab immigrants — let in under Merkel’s liberal refugee policy — were largely responsible for the mass sexual assaults on women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve and used social networks to coordinate their attacks. President Barack Obama actually cried — that was his unique protest — while trying to channel his outrage, and many other people’s, into fixing our nation’s crazy gun laws.

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!

Some questions before Iowa and New Hampshire vote

    We're only three weeks from the Iowa caucuses and four from the New Hampshire primary, but even at this late date there are more plausible scenarios on the Republican side than can fit into one column. Voters in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Concord and Manchester are now being bombarded with advertising, candidate visits and phone calls.

    Here's what to watch over the next month, concentrating on the known unknowns -- the crucial points we can see from here, but can't tell which way they will turn.

 

    - Now through Jan. 31

    Watch the polls for Iowa and New Hampshire. But look at the polling averages (such as HuffPollster and Real Clear Politics); with lots of surveys out there, we're going to hear plenty of noise.

    The polls in Iowa have been stable for the last few weeks. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz holds a slim lead over billionaire Donald Trump. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is well back in third place. The rest of the field is under 10 percent and showing no signs of moving up.

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!

Obama's campaign poetry and presidential prose

    "You campaign in poetry, you govern in prose," the late Mario Cuomo was fond of saying.

    Rarely has that contrast been as vivid as with President Barack Obama as he prepares to deliver his final State of the Union address Tuesday night. In recent years there have been few soaring moments of Obama rhetoric, but lots of government prose.

    It makes a striking contrast from the politician who burst onto the national scene as an orator, starting with a memorable keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention.

    "The pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states -- red states for Republicans, blue states for Democrats," proclaimed the young legislator from Illinois, then a candidate for the Senate. "We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states."

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!

Protesting nude in Portland should be protected

    The First Amendment protects your right to burn the flag in protest. What about getting naked to draw attention to your cause? An Oregon man is intent on finding out -- and so far, the courts have ruled against him. His case deserves attention because of the light it sheds on a core question of free speech.

    According to the Portland Oregonian, as linked to by the appellate litigation blog How Appealing blog, Matthew Mglej took off all his clothes one day in May 2014, played the violin as God made him, then sat down amid posters he'd made and waited for the Portland police to arrest him. They did, for violating a city ordinance that prohibits self-exposure in public. But, perhaps hoping to make Mglej go away, prosecutors later dropped the case.

    Mglej wasn't prepared to give up, though, and he has sued the city for arresting him in violation of what he says were his First Amendment rights. He told the court he was inspired by the case of a man who was cleared for violating the same ordinance in 2012 when he took off all his clothes at an airport checkpoint to demonstrate his frustration with Transportation Security Administration procedures.

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!