Archive

September 3rd, 2016

A planet orbiting our nearest star used to be science fiction. Now it's science.

    My 2013 science fiction novel, "Proxima," is about a habitable planet of the star Proxima Centauri, a "red dwarf," small and dim, that is the nearest star of all to our sun. I called my planet Per Ardua (after the motto of the Royal Air Force, "Per Ardua Ad Astra," "through struggle to the stars"). Last week, a team led by Guillem Anglada-Escudé of Queen Mary University of London announced the discovery of a planet, called Proxima b, in this very location.

    Proxima is part of the Alpha Centauri stellar system, around four light years away. Its two principal stars, known as A and B, are like the sun, but Proxima is so dim it's invisible to the naked eye and was not discovered until 1915, by astronomers working in Johannesburg.

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!

September 2nd

States of Cruelty

    Something terrible has happened to pregnant women in Texas: their mortality rate has doubled in recent years, and is now comparable to rates in places like Russia or Ukraine. Although researchers into this disaster are careful to say that it can’t be attributed to any one cause, the death surge does coincide with the state’s defunding of Planned Parenthood, which led to the closing of many clinics. And all of this should be seen against the general background of Texas policy, which is extremely hostile toward anything that helps low-income residents.

    There’s an important civics lesson here. While many people are focused on national politics, with reason — one sociopath in the White House can ruin your whole day — many crucial decisions are taken at the state and local levels. If the people we elect to these offices are irresponsible, cruel, or both, they can do a lot of damage.

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!

11 ways to think about the Anthony Weiner-Huma Abedin split

    A meditation on Anthony Weiner, upon the third iteration of a sexting scandal involving the former Democratic New York congressman and mayoral candidate.

    1. It's a compulsion, isn't it? It must be. You know the old saying: Sext a strange woman once, then shame on you. Sext another woman later, then shame on you again. Sext yet another woman - once with your toddler-age son in the frame, in images obtained by the New York Post - then check in with your therapist and admit that this really isn't funny anymore.

    2. Actually, this is the story of a man with two compulsions. One is the compulsion to sext, which the Center for Internet Addiction cites as the most common online addiction, with the proliferation of "pocket porn" tied to the rise in mobile devices. The other is the compulsion to run for office. The first would be significantly easier to keep secret without the existence of the second. One assumes they might be related: Both combine an intense neediness for attention with an intense narcissism.

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!

Your privacy doesn't matter at the US border

    Wall Street Journal reporter Maria Abi-Habib made waves in journalistic circles last month after she posted on Facebook that Department of Homeland Security officials tried to seize her phones as she entered the U.S. at Los Angeles International Airport. What was striking about her post was that Homeland Security's demand (which it eventually gave up) was probably lawful and certainly constitutional. Under established U.S. Supreme Court precedent, there is an exception to the Fourth Amendment privacy right when you are at the border entering or leaving the country.

    Last week, a federal appeals court restated the near-absolute nature of that constitutional exception in the case of a teenager who got lost near the Canadian border on his way to summer camp and was directed by Homeland Security officials to enter a line of cars returning from Canada, even though he hadn't crossed the border. A dog sniffed marijuana in a backpack in the kid's trunk, and he was arrested. The court held that the search was permissible under the border exception -- even though the dopey teen never actually left the country.

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!

Will 2016 election come down to the electoral map?

    Any American political strategist or reporter -- I've been one for more than four decades -- loves the map: That's the electoral map that decides the presidential election every four years.

    Each of the 50 states is awarded electors based on its members of Congress, essentially by population; Washington, D.C., for example, gets three votes. In almost all states it's a winner-take-all system; there are 538 votes nationally, it takes 270 to win.

    For about two thirds of the states, including the biggest, California and Texas, the outcome is a near-certainty. Thus the battle is over no more than 15 states with fewer than 200 electoral votes.

    That's what makes it fun, or serious, if you're a campaign manager trying to figure out who will take Florida's 29 votes or Ohio's 18, North Carolina's 15 or even Iowa's 6.

    Usually, the drama is exaggerated. The map follows the votes. Thus it only matters in a close contest, say within a two-point margin.

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 the world could lose in America's presidential election

    The presidential election could be crucial to the future of democracy, and not just in the United States. The global impact of a Donald Trump presidency would be disastrous. But even a Hillary Clinton win won't help reverse the worldwide retrenchment in democracy and human rights unless she brings a change in policy from the current administration.

    If all of that strikes you as a bit too breathless, consider what's happened over the past decade.

    The leading authoritarian powers of the world - China, Russia and Iran - have tightened the screws at home while becoming far more aggressive beyond their boundaries. They have proven that the internet, contrary to earlier expectation, can be turned into a weapon of control. They have proven, again contrary to earlier assumptions, that a country can enter the global economy while squelching free speech, worship and assembly at home. They have formed a loose dictators' alliance, working together to undermine and discredit the principles of liberal economics and individual rights.

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 if our climate-change timelines are overly conservative?

    July was the hottest month in recorded history, by a lot, and August isn't looking any better. So how do we interpret that? What does it mean?

    I'm no scientist. In my 30 years as a businessperson, though, I've learned that the best decisions require looking at all of the available data and trends. You seldom have the complete analysis that a scientist would require - events unfold quickly.

    Instead, businesspeople often must make decisions on the basis of imperfect information. A responsible chief executive knows two things: that a decision not to act is a decision, and that no competent leader risks the health of the entire enterprise by failing to take necessary steps, even ones that are painful.

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 Bigotry

    According to recent polls, the image of Donald Trump as a bigot has begun to crystallize, and for good reason: Because it’s true!

    A Quinnipiac poll released last week found that 59 percent of likely voters, and 29 percent of likely Republican voters in particular, think that the way Trump talks appeals to bigotry. Republicans were the only anomaly. A majority or plurality of every other demographic measured — Democrats, independents, men, women, white people with and without college degrees, every age group, whites and nonwhites alike — agreed that Trump’s words appeal to bigotry.

    But there is one demographic that must be particularly concerning to Trump: college-educated whites.

    I know that Trump has boasted that he loves the poorly educated, but there appears to be little love lost between him and those white people with degrees. In fact, as the blog FiveThirtyEight predicted in July, “Trump may become the first Republican in 60 years to lose white college graduates.”

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? Clinton? Who's least bad?

    Today's presidential race unfortunately reminds me of the bitter 1991 gubernatorial runoff in Louisiana, a state long associated with colorful politics.

    That was the runoff that pitted former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, then a Republican state legislator, against three-term governor Edwin Edwards, a Democrat who had been acquitted in two racketeering trials.

    The most memorable bumper sticker from the race was "Vote For the Crook. It's Important."

    That's what reminds me of the current race between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump calls Clinton "crooked Hillary." Clinton accuses Trump of "taking hate groups mainstream."

    An appropriate bumper sticker for Clinton would be, "Vote for the alleged crook. It's really important."

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!

Three ways to fix college tuition pricing

    In a Washington Post opinion column last week, Danielle Allen was right to say that the tuition number the federal government requires colleges to publish is useless. On most campuses, few students pay that sticker price because of discounts in the form of "scholarships."

    But Allen's solutions to this problem would largely fail to bring transparency to the tuition bill that confuses most students and parents. While her ideas might work at elite universities that enroll mostly upper middle-class and wealthy students like the two institutions where Allen has served as a trustee (Amherst College and Princeton University), they wouldn't provide much help to most students and parents struggling to make sense about which colleges provide the best value.

    Here are three ways we can fix tuition pricing for the majority of parents and students:

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!