Archive

February 24th, 2016

A Supreme Court fight for the ages

    The approaching battle over the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia is likely to be one for the ages, considering the huge political stakes as well as the depth of bitter partisanship in which it will unfold.

    Up for grabs will be the ideological balance of the court now left divided 4-4 between conservatives and liberals after the departure of Scalia, who embodied right-wing thinking at its most acerbic.

    Among the most contentious political clashes between the political camps on the Supreme Court was the 5-4 decision in the Citizens United decision, which threw open the door to virtually unlimited campaign contributions by wealthy individual and corporate donors. Based on the conceit that spending money is a legitimate form of free speech, the ruling arguably has put elections in the hands of the rich, at the expense of lower and middle-class Americans.

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!

Sanders and Koch could work together

    Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders evokes the Koch brothers as the enemies of everything he stands for. Charles Koch, chairman and chief executive of Koch Industries, has responded, spelling out where he agrees and disagrees with Sanders. The two clearly need to have a face-to-face conversation because I'm not sure they understand each other well.

    Koch agrees with Sanders that the U.S. is a two-tiered society in which a privileged few reap a disproportionate share of the benefits. But Koch says he and Sanders part ways when it comes to a solution:

    "I disagree with his desire to expand the federal government's control over people's lives. This is what built so many barriers to opportunity in the first place."

    Rush Limbaugh likes to say that "under capitalism, the rich get powerful, and under socialism, the powerful get rich." I was born and raised in the Soviet Union, so I know where he's coming from. I'm not sure, however, that Limbaugh, Koch and Sanders are talking about the same kind of socialism.

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!

My Friend, the Former Muslim Extremist

    Whenever a Muslim carries out a terror attack in the West, the question arises: Why do they hate us?

    Provocative answers come from my friend Rafiullah Kakar, who has lived a more astonishing life than almost anyone I know. Rafi is a young Pakistani who used to hate the United States and support the Taliban. His brother joined the Taliban for a time, but now I worry that the Taliban might try to kill Rafi — ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

    One of 13 children, Rafi is a Pashtun who grew up in a mud home close to the Afghan border, in an area notorious for tribal feuds and violent clashes. His parents are illiterate farmers, and it looked as if Rafi’s education would end in the fifth grade, when he was sent to a madrasa. His mom wanted him to become a hafiz, someone who has memorized the entire Quran.

    “One reason people send kids to madrasa is that a hafiz can get to paradise and take 10 other people along,” Rafi notes, explaining a local belief about getting to heaven. “My mother wanted me to be a hafiz, so I could be her ticket to paradise.”

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 23rd

Imagine a Republican Party under Trump

    As this week's slugfest between Donald Trump and the Pope confirms, the 2016 election is unlike others we have known. Trump may eventually lose to another candidate. Or he could end up with the most delegates and the Republican nomination for president.

    Which raises a basic question: What is the Republican Party if Trump is its nominee?

    The answer is not immediately obvious. Parties are amorphous and hard to define, but they are much more than the shadow cast by a presidential nominee. The Republican Party has traditions and factions, dispositions and interests, and it embodies and conveys an identifiable set of values. The gun lobby and conservative Christians are generally components of the party. Unions and environmentalists are generally not. And pretty much everyone gets that.

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!

Cruz and Rubio, Separated at Mirth

    Ted Cruz described Marco Rubio last week as “Donald Trump with a smile,” saying that both are quick to call their critics liars, though Rubio does it amiably.

    Cruz is right about Rubio’s affect, wrong about which candidate it distinguishes him from. He and Rubio are the pair twinned in so many respects beyond the curve of their lips.

    That makes these two U.S. senators — both in their first terms, both Cuban-American, both lawyers, just five months apart in age — a uniquely fascinating study in how much the style of a person’s politics drives perceptions of who he is and in how thoroughly optics eclipse substance.

    Rubio, 44, is routinely branded “mainstream” and occasionally labeled “moderate.” There’s a belief among Republican leaders, along with evidence in polls, that he has an appeal to less conservative voters that Cruz doesn’t.

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 people believe conspiracy theories about Scalia's death

    Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died just days ago, but already conspiracy theories about his death abound. Radio talk-show host Alex Jones suggested that a pillow found near Scalia's head might indicate that he'd been suffocated. Some retired detectives said the lack of an autopsy was evidence of a cover-up. The website TruNews wondered whether the CIA used heart-attack-inducing drugs to kill the justice. Even Donald Trump joined the fray, calling the death "pretty unusual."

    For those who don't believe that the justice was murdered -- Scalia, at 79, had passed average life expectancy -- it can be disconcerting to watch a large swath of the public fall prey to hysteria and paranoia. After all, we live in a democracy. If a substantial portion of Americans operate in a conspiracy-fueled delirium, how can we make sound decisions, choose thoughtful leaders and support rational policies?

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!

We never really learned the lesson of 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

    "A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up," Atticus Finch, the lawyer in "To Kill a Mockingbird," tells the jury in his closing arguments. Finch has just convincingly argued to acquit a black man, Tom Robinson, who was falsely accused of raping a white woman in a small Alabama town. Atticus Finch demonstrates for the jury that Tom could not have committed the crime. But the jury of 12 white men vote to convict Robinson, anyway.

    Harper Lee, the author of "To Kill a Mockingbird," passed away at 89 today, leaving behind a massive legacy. Her book sold more than 40 million copies since it was published in 1960, and Americans rank it among the most influential books they've read. But after more than 50 years and millions of classroom lessons, some of its central lessons still, at least at times, go unheard.

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 Shows His Inner Rabbit

    I am sorry to note that Donald Trump no longer seems to be at war with the pope.

    “No, I like him,” Trump said during a town hall on CNN. He added that he had “a lot of respect for the pope. I think he’s got a lot of personality.”

    There are several troubling matters here. One is that there is nothing more dangerous than having Donald Trump express a sudden fondness for you.

    “I like China.”

    “I love Mexican people.”

    “I love the Muslims.”

    Trump, you’ll remember, got ticked off because Francis said that anybody who obsesses about building walls to keep people out “is not Christian.” Trump retorted that anybody who doubted the moral stupendousness of wall-builders was “disgraceful.”

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!

This year, even leftists could vote for Trump

    I recently had an email exchange with a reader who was sharply critical of a mainstream presidential candidate. I asked her about her political affiliation. "I consider myself an independent, though I lean left," wrote Kari Copland, 69, an artist who lives in Montana. I expected an endorsement of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but Copland surprised me. "I might vote for Donald Trump if he makes the cut," and if Republicans continue "to attempt to force their choice on the electorate."

    Leaning left but willing to vote for Trump? As it turns out, such people aren't so rare. In New Hampshire, the Sanders and Trump campaigns even came up with talking points to sway them. That illustrates a trend I've observed as an outsider to American politics: In this election, the U.S. political taxonomy is a mess, and the parties no longer easily fit any recognizable international political paradigm.

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 revival of liberal justice

    Nothing separated the odd couple of the Supreme Court -- the late Justice Antonin Scalia and his best buddy, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- more than their visions of the Constitution they both loved. Scalia saw the Constitution as a "dead" document, limited to the meaning of the original words at the moment the ink was dry, a moment when white, propertied men ruled. Ginsburg's Constitution, by contrast, is the expansive charter of an evolving society. She celebrates "the extension (through amendment, judicial interpretation, and practice) of constitutional rights and protections to once ignored or excluded people: to humans who were once held in bondage, to men without property, to the original inhabitants of the land that became the United States, and to 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!