Archive

March 13th, 2016

Torching the Truth

    America’s military adventures — and, just as often, its misadventures — have inspired thousands upon thousands of books. But the military isn’t just in the business of inspiring books: Sometimes it bans them, too.

    The Pentagon recently announced that it was refusing to carry a new book by journalist (and veteran) Joseph Hickman in the stores on U.S. military bases. It’s called The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers.

    Burn pits, NPR reports, are “acres-wide mounds of waste near bases” containing “everything from batteries to vehicle scraps to amputated body parts.” These refuse piles, once set aflame with jet fuel, can burn for 24 hours a day. They expose our troops and other personnel to deadly toxic fumes.

    Banning books is bad enough. But there’s a bigger issue here: Why does the Pentagon expose our soldiers to deadly poisons and then pretend it hasn’t happened?

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!

Clinton failed a test in Florida debate

    Hillary Clinton's performance in the debate in Florida on Wednesday was, as usual, a professional effort. She's good at this, and she hit her marks repeatedly.

    But she also reminded me of one worry I have about her as president.

    Clinton had a good day in Michigan and Mississippi on Tuesday. That's right: A good day. She received more votes than Bernie Sanders and collected more delegates. She not only did well in Mississippi, as was expected. She did better than the demographics of the state's voters would have suggested. And while Sanders won in Michigan, it was close, and she actually lost by a little less than would be predicted from looking at Michigan's electorate.

    The bad news was she did worse than the pundits expected because the polls were off in Michigan, meaning that almost all anyone talked about on TV was what a great night Sanders had.

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!

America today is two different countries. They don't get along.

    Each week, In Theory takes on a big idea in the news and explores it from a range of perspectives. This week, we're talking about polarization in politics:

    It is presidential primary season, and just as in 2008, the Democratic and Republican candidates sound as though they are talking to two different countries. Only this time, the divide between those two countries has grown much larger - today it is fueled by increased racial and cultural friction.

    Republican candidates are talking to a country that is increasingly angry and fearful - angry at a president they view as a dangerous radical who seeks to weaken America, and fearful of threats posed by jihadists from the Middle East and illegal immigrants from Mexico. Their target country is overwhelmingly white, mostly male and relatively old. Its population is concentrated disproportionately in small-town and rural America and is shrinking in size with every election cycle. The candidate who has clearly captured the mood of this country in 2016 is Donald Trump, which is why he is now the favorite to win the Republican presidential nomination.

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!

Why Hillary Clinton is unlikely to be indicted

    For those of you salivating -- or trembling -- at the thought of Hillary Clinton being clapped in handcuffs as she prepares to deliver her acceptance speech this summer: deep, cleansing breath. Based on the available facts and the relevant precedents, criminal prosecution of Clinton for mishandling classified information in her emails is extraordinarily unlikely.

    My exasperation with Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state is long-standing and unabated. Lucky for her, political idiocy is not criminal.

    "There are plenty of unattractive facts but not a lot of clear evidence of criminality, and we tend to forget the distinction," American University law professor Stephen Vladeck, an expert on prosecutions involving classified information, told me. "This is really just a political firestorm, not a criminal case."

    Could a clever law student fit the fact pattern into a criminal violation? Sure. Would a responsible federal prosecutor pursue it? Hardly -- absent new evidence, based on my conversations with experts in such prosecutions.

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!

Why has Bernie Sanders stumbled on race? We all do

    Did Sen. Bernie Sanders really say that white people "don't know what it's like to be poor?" Well, yes, he said it, but he didn't mean it, which only shows how quickly serious presidential debates can turn pretty goofy.

    In context, the Vermont Democrat's "ghetto gaffe," as some headline writes quickly branded it, came during Sunday's Democratic presidential debate in Flint, Mich.

    Responding to a question from CNN's Don Lemon about what "racial blind spots" the candidates had, Sanders said, "When you're white, you don't know what it's like to be living in a ghetto. You don't know what it's like to be poor. You don't know what it's like to be hassled when you walk down the street or you get dragged out of a car."

    With that, Sanders accidentally landed in the ever-shifting sands of political correctness. That's an etiquette that Republican frontrunner Donald Trump loves to flout but it still means something to liberals, among whom the comment touched off a blizzard of ridicule in social media.

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!

Understanding The 'Moral Molecule' Of Our Pets

    "People must have renounced, it seems to me, all natural intelligence to dare to advance that animals are but animated machines. ... Such people can never have observed with attention the character of animals, not to have distinguished among them the different voices of need, of suffering, of joy, of pain, of love, of anger, and of all their affections. It would be very strange that they should express so well what they could not feel."

    -- Voltaire

    In the popular imagination, there are dog people and cat people, although one rarely encounters them in real life. Me, I'm leery of anybody who dislikes dogs, although it's necessary to make allowances for people with bad childhood experiences. Cat-haters are almost invariably men. Probably cats are spooked around them.

    But do domestic animals love us back? Most pet owners find it an absurd question. What could be more obvious than a dog's joy at welcoming us home after an absence? Than a cat's curling up and purring in our laps?

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!

Understanding the 'war on men' in the workplace

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 5.1 million professional drivers of assorted motor vehicles (that's leaving out boats, trains and trolleys) in the U.S. Eighty-nine percent of them are men.

    If and when driving is automated, most of those jobs will probably disappear. And it's not as if wiping out male-dominated occupations is anything new. Manufacturing, in which men currently hold 73 percent of the jobs, employed 13.7 million men in June 1979 and 9 million in February. That's 4.7 million jobs gone over a period during which the male population grew by almost 50 million.Women's manufacturing employment has actually seen a somewhat steeper decline, from 5.8 million to 3.4 million, in part because of the near wipeout of apparel manufacturing in the U.S. And there are other female-dominated industries that have suffered -- travel agencies went from employing 136,200 women in October 2000 to 64,800 in January. But on the whole, changes in the workplace since the 1970s have hit men much harder than women.

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 America: A Shining Outhouse on a Hill

    When Donald Trump announced he was running for president, I mocked him. “Of the United States?” I asked. (I got a C- in Mockery when I was in college, unfortunately.)

    When he jumped into the lead almost immediately, I laughed. “The higher the climb, the harder the fall,” I said. (I did better in Pithy Quotations.)

    When the early campaigning found him doing well in such disparate states as Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, I fell into denial. “He’ll never, ever be the Republican nominee,” I said. “Republicans are too sensible.”

    Then Super Tuesday happened and Trump basically wiped the floor with his opponents, who finally paused their fights with each other to join in a pathetic mass spitball attack on Trump. They were joined by the ghostly reappearance of Mitt Romney, who as usual was a day late and a dollar short.

    So I give up. I’m now convinced that Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee for the presidency. Yes, of the United 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!

Trump's donations aside, these are tough times for veterans groups

    Donald Trump claimed it took only an hour to raise $6 million for veterans. "We set up the website. I called some friends," he said. And, just like that, 20 veterans' groups were told to expect "a lot of money."

    Indeed, if all you'd read about veterans groups in the past few weeks was coverage of Trump's fundraiser, or Wounded Warrior Project's reportedly big spending, you might think the nonprofit sector serving veterans was flush with cash and maybe even undeserving of your support.

    But those stories obscure two trends that are working against veterans groups: The needs of the veterans population are increasing at the same time that the base of support for veterans services is shrinking. And it's because of those trends that veterans nonprofits are evolving in ways that open them up to criticism.

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!

Toxic Teflon

    Teflon, you might have heard, may cause cancer.

    The culprit was a toxic, now retired compound called PFOA. Also known as C8, the chemical became the subject of a major lawsuit accusing DuPont — the manufacturer of the popular nonstick coating — of sickening thousands of Americans.

    Yet Teflon is still on the market, The Intercept reports, with a secret new active ingredient.

    To find out what it was, scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency sampled river water downstream from a North Carolina chemical plant that previously manufactured the lethal ingredient C8.

    That’s right: The pollution of waterways with factory waste is such a given that the river was the EPA’s go-to location to find industrial chemicals.

    Yikes.

    In 2016, don’t we have a better way of disposing of toxic waste? Don’t we have the sense to say that manufacturing plants shouldn’t be allowed to dump industrial waste into rivers?

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!