Archive

April 2nd, 2016

Can the Supreme Court demand compromise? It just did

    It's happening: The Supreme Court is getting desperate. With a 4-4 tie looming over whether religious organizations have to file a form with the government requesting an exemption from the mandatory contraceptive care provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the justices took an extreme step. They issued an order that basically told the federal government and the religious entities to reach a compromise -- and described what the compromise would look like.

    Federal district court judges will sometimes tell the parties that they'd better compromise, or else they might not like the results that will follow. The Supreme Court essentially never does, both because it lacks leverage and because it gets involved in cases with the intention to make new law, not to resolve particular disputes.

    But we're in new territory here. The Supreme Court is trying to figure out how to do its job with eight justices -- a situation that might persist not just through this Supreme Court term, but through the next one as well.

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!

A tax on Yale's endowment? Good luck

    "It is, Sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet there are those who love it!" These words, spoken by Daniel Webster, are among the most famous ever uttered before the Supreme Court. And they may be spoken again if Connecticut passes proposed legislation that would tax Yale University's $25.6 billion endowment.

    Yale isn't especially small, nor is it vulnerable as Dartmouth was in 1818 when Webster spoke of his alma mater. But the Connecticut bill almost certainly violates the holding in the 1819 case of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, which established that the Constitution bars states from changing a university's charter.

    Begin with the Connecticut bill, which points to the difficult question of whether it's fair for some universities to be so much richer than others. I benefited in my education from the tremendous resources of well-off institutions like Harvard and Yale, and I'm writing this in my office at Harvard Law School. I'm hardly objective.

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!

When the Necessary Is Impossible

    Being back in Iraq after two years’ absence has helped me to put my finger on the central question bedeviling U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East today: What do you do when the necessary is impossible, but the impossible is impossible to ignore — and your key allies are also impossible?

    Crushing the Islamic State, or ISIS, is necessary for stabilizing Iraq and Syria, but it is impossible as long as Shiites and Sunnis there refuse to truly share power, and yet ignoring the ISIS cancer and its ability to metastasize is impossible as well. See: Belgium.

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 Susan Sarandon said about Trump was out of this world

    MSNBC's Chris Hayes interviewed actress Susan Sarandon on Monday and right now I. Can't. Even.

    The surrogate for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, told Hayes, "I don't know. I'm going to see what happens" when he asked whether she would vote for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Not committing to voting for Clinton wasn't terribly shocking. Sarandon had spent a considerable amount of time knocking the former secretary of state's record. But what she said about Trump was out of this world.

    HAYES: Right, but isn't the question always in an election about choices, right. I mean, I think a lot of people think to themselves well if it's Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and I think Bernie Sanders probably would think this…

    SARANDON: I think Bernie probably would encourage people because he doesn't have any ego. I think a lot of people are sorry, I can't bring myself to do that.

    HAYES: How about you personally?

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 rage of Trump fans isn't new; I've dealt with it for years

    During the past six months, I've watched media outlets work themselves into a tizzy over the violence and hatred orchestrated by Donald Trump supporters. Commentators act like this is a relatively new phenomenon. But I know firsthand how any challenge to the nation's established racial order makes some white folks lose their minds and their decorum.

    For more than a decade, I wrote a column in the Chicago Tribune that often focused on race. Before Trump gave his supporters license to give in to their lesser selves and convey their hatred in mixed company, they did so in my email box. They are part of a disaffected angry knot of Americans who feel as though they've been bruised by diversity.

    My experience isn't unique. Any writer who has dared train a lens on race, women's issues, social justice issues, immigration, abortion, sexuality, you name it, has faced some of the most vile backlash around.

    Once, my neighbor, a dear friend who happens to be a white Republican woman, said to me, "I don't know how you read the comments at the end of your column."

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 media did not create the Trump phenomenon

    One of the more absurd things being said about the Donald Trump phenomenon is that the media created it. For the record, we didn't.

    First of all, there is no "we." The news media operate in what should be every conservative ideologue's dream environment: an unfettered free market. Outlets compete every day -- actually, in the Internet age, every hour -- to provide consumers with information they need and want. Every editor and news director strives to beat the competition, and the fact is that audiences have decided they need and want to know about Trump.

    No one understands this better than Trump himself. To understate by miles, he knows how to draw attention to himself -- the late-night Twitter rants, the fire-breathing rallies, the gold-plated jet, the ridiculous hair. After decades in the public eye, he had more than 90 percent name recognition when he began his campaign. So it was no surprise that hordes of media flocked to Trump Tower last June 16 and watched him descend the shiny escalator for his kickoff announcement. Who doesn't love a good sideshow?

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!

April 1st

When you can't find the fine print (or read it)

    When was the last time you actually read the terms of service before clicking "I agree" on a website? Unless your answer is "never," I don't believe you -- and I don't think it's your fault, either. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit has a subtler view than mine. On March 25, it held that you're not bound by a contract if it wasn't made clear that you were supposed to read it. But if it is made clear, the contract binds you, whether you read it or not.

    The facts of the case were pretty outrageous, as these things go. Gary Sgouros signed up online to get his credit score with TransUnion Corp. When he went to a car dealership armed with his good credit score, they laughed him off. His actual score was 100 points lower than TransUnion had claimed.

    Sgouros sued, claiming to represent a class of similarly misled clients. TransUnion said that he couldn't sue because he'd agreed to submit any disagreement to binding arbitration as part of the terms of service on its site.

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 clean-energy deadline is sooner than we think

    Everyone knows that at some point, if we want to contain climate change, we'll have to stop building polluting power plants. New research suggests that moment may come much sooner than we realize.

    In some areas, the world is making progress toward reducing harmful emissions. Earlier this year, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy reported that the use of coal-fired plants for electricity generation in the U.S. fell to the lowest level in 60 years. Some of the biggest U.S. coal mining outfits have filed for bankruptcy. Electricity from coal looks set to become increasingly rare in China as well. That's good news for anyone hoping that humanity might still manage to reduce carbon emissions enough to avoid warming the Earth's climate past the two degrees Celsius that scientists see as dangerous.

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!

Searching for a better way to measure inequality

    Inequality is, without a doubt, the hot topic in econ circles these days. Economics conference seminars on the subject are standing-room-only. Columns and blog posts about inequality are widely read and discussed, and Thomas Piketty's book was a bestseller.

    But the question of how best to measure the phenomenon continues to be a contentious topic of debate. The most common measure, cited in countless articles, is pretax income inequality, or differences in the amount that people earn before government taxes and transfers. QuickTake Income Inequality

    That's obviously a problem. Because the government is the main system for redistributing income from the rich to the poor, programs such as food stamps, Medicaid or the earned income tax credit don't change the distribution of pretax income very much -- nor do income taxes on the rich. Higher taxes on top earners may actually increase pretax income inequality, because they force companies to raise the salaries of well-paid workers even as they reduce the amount those workers take home.

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 revolt against the foreign-policy establishment

    As a presidential candidate in 2007, Sen. Barack Obama relished the opportunity to rail against the U.S. foreign policy establishment, which he blamed for leading the country into a quagmire in Iraq. "The conventional thinking in Washington has a way of buying into stories that make political sense even if they don't make practical sense," he declared, adding: "I'm not running for president to conform to Washington's conventional thinking -- I'm running to challenge 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!