Archive

April 25th, 2016

The 2 race cards that still haunt us

    History repeats itself these days, first as tragedy then as a made-for-TV movie.

    It may be only coincidental but this is a good time to revisit two racially charged dramas: The O.J. Simpson double-homicide case and the confirmation hearings for now-Justice Clarence Thomas' nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Watching HBO's two-hour docudrama "Confirmation," a retelling of the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, after watching FX's 10-part "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story" series, reminds me of an unexpected element that these two seemingly unrelated events shared in common: The race card.

    In Simpson's case, as one of his high-priced lawyers lamented after the verdict, that card was played "from the bottom of the deck." But in my experience that's how the race card is usually played, whether out of desire or desperation, and no race has a monopoly on 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!

That ‘Natural’ Label Doesn’t Mean Much

    Scenario: You’re at the store, trying to make healthy yet frugal choices. You see several products labeled “organic” and others labeled “natural.”

    You’re trying to buy good food and household products for less, and those organic items seem to cost a bit more. Maybe natural is just as good, right? What’s the difference?

    It comes down to standards.

    Federal organic standards ban the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and most synthetic ingredients in any certified organic product. So that organic label means something.

    Natural, on the other hand, generally means nothing. It’s usually a feel-good label slapped on packaging to attract consumers who value their health and the environment to a product that may not be good for either.

    Yet a few years ago, a report made headlines with the finding that consumers prefer natural to organic products. Clearly there’s some confusion.

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!

Proposed bridge to Crimea is an old plan with a new twist

    The Russian annexation of Crimea is to be consummated with a 12-mile (19-kilometer) bridge connecting Russia's Krasnodar region with the Crimean city of Kerch. The first support of the bridge was completed earlier this month, beginning the final phase of a project that explains a lot about how President Vladimir Putin's Russia functions -- and how Russia has functioned for ages, achieving surprising results with chaotic, ill-thought-out efforts.

    The Nazis were the first to try to bridge the Kerch Strait in 1943 as they created an infrastructure for their invasion of the Soviet Union. Hitler's personal architect and trusted minister, Albert Speer, commissioned and approved the plans, and construction started just in time for the Soviet troops to push the Nazis back. The Germans bombed what they had built so the Russians couldn't use it. The Soviets completed a bridge in 1944, but it was a temporary one, using wooden supports, and ice floes crushed it in 1945.

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!

Parties, not voters, should choose nominees

    Supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are complaining about how restrictive the rules are for Tuesday's New York's primary. It is a closed election -- only registered Democrats can vote for Democratic candidates -- and the deadline for registered voters to switch affiliations was way back in October.

    Is that an example of voter suppression, as some New Yorkers suing the state would have it?

    No, it isn't. As with caucuses instead of primaries, or the Democrats' superdelegates, or the Republican system of delegate selection, the same concept applies: Nominations are a party's internal choice, and it should be entitled to make that choice as it sees fit -- as long as it is open to participation by new members.

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!

Out of Africa, Part II

    I am visiting Ndiamaguene village in the far northwest of Senegal. If I were giving you directions I’d tell you that it’s the last stop after the last stop — it’s the village after the highway ends, after the paved road ends, after the gravel road ends and after the desert track ends. Turn left at the last baobab tree.

    It’s worth the trek, though, if you’re looking for the headwaters of the immigration flood now flowing from Africa to Europe via Libya. It starts here.

    It begins with a trickle of migrants from a thousand little villages and towns across West Africa like Ndiamaguene, a five-hour drive from the capital, Dakar. I visited with a team working on the documentary “Years of Living Dangerously,” about the connection between climate change and human migration, which will appear this fall on the National Geographic Channel. The day we came, April 14, it was 113 degrees — far above the historical average for the day, a crazy level of extreme weather.

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 in Saudi Arabia, Exporter of Oil and Bigotry

    A college senior boarded a flight and excitedly called his family to recount a U.N. event he had attended, but, unfortunately, he was speaking Arabic. Southwest Airlines kicked him off the plane, in the sixth case reported in the United States this year in which a Muslim was ejected from a flight.

    Such Islamophobia also finds expression in the political system, with Donald Trump calling for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country (“Welcome to the USA! Now, what’s your religion?”) and Ted Cruz suggesting special patrols of Muslim neighborhoods (in New York City, by the nearly 1,000 police officers who are Muslim?). Some 50 percent of Americans support a ban and special patrols.

    Such attitudes contradict our values and make us look like a bastion of intolerance. But for those of us who denounce these prejudices, it’s also important to acknowledge that there truly are dangerous strains of intolerance and extremism within the Islamic world — and for many of these, Saudi Arabia is the source.

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!

New York douses the Bern

    As we all expected, Hillary Clinton's victory over Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the New York primary was resounding. What was not expected, to me at least, was how the exit polls reveal how the Empire State became a firewall against "the Bern."

    Sanders's call for a political revolution to create jobs, make the economy work for everyone, not just the one percent, and end the corrupting influence of money on politics should have found fertile ground in New York state. The thousands who rallied with the Vermont senator in Washington Square Park, Prospect Park and Hunter's Point South Park seemed to be evidence that "the Bern" was spreading in Hillary's home state.

    And then folks voted.

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!

National fetish is double-barrel menace

    The current Texas Monthly is a special issue – a .38 Special, if you will. It's about guns.

    Page after page, see and hear about Texans and their rods. A cover shot and photo gallery show people and their beloved rifles, carbines and sidearms. See former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson pose with his Colt .45 like one might a trophy walleye. If one could peer down that barrel, you'd bet one could see into the man's soul.

    Artist Matthew Diffee depicts what he saw and heard at a San Antonio gun show. One quote: "We sell freedom implements and other bunker supplies."

    Ah, freedom. In a bunker.

    I understand how a few readers might see it differently, but one must ask how this form of fetishism took root.

    After all, a firearm is an appliance that shoots a projectile. I have a toaster. It shoots toast.

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!

Getting to the Point

    Food writer Michael Pollan once jammed the essence of his work into seven words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” His brevity inspired me as the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit editorial service that distributes opinion pieces and editorial cartoons.

    Most writers struggle to make their big ideas fit in today’s petite newspaper op-ed sections. Digital spaces are similarly constrained by shrinking attention spans.

    So keeping things short is essential. Given that reality — and with apologies to Pollan — here’s what I think it takes to dish up enticing opinion pieces: Cultivate opinions. From authentic voices. With some shelf life.

    I mean cultivation in every sense of the word. Op-ed editors win writers over by tilling partnerships, planting the seeds of friendship, and making the text they touch sing.

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!

Candidates, please stop whining

    Now that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have scored their comfortable victories in the New York primary, can everybody please stop bellyaching? Neither party's presidential selection system is perfect, as several candidates have been loudly proclaiming, but each has more virtues than shortcomings.

    Trump and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have complained that the rules are rigged against them. The billionaire is unhappy because his nomination isn't inevitable even though he's gotten far more votes than any Republican rival. The Vermont senator is cranky about superdelegates -- more than 700 party and elected officials who will go to the Democrats' Philadelphia convention in July without having been chosen in primaries or caucuses. They're free to back any candidate, and most of them favor the former secretary of State -- a fact that Sanders sees as evidence that the establishment has stacked the deck against him.

    Both charges are specious. For starters, nobody's rules have changed since the candidates entered the fray.

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!