Archive

November 1st, 2016

Caught in campus censors' crosshairs

    The right to speak freely may be enshrined in some of our nation's great universities, but the culture of listening needs repair. That is the lesson I learned a year ago, when I sent an email urging Yale University students to think critically about an official set of guidelines on costumes to avoid at Halloween.

    I had hoped to generate a reflective conversation among students: What happens when one person's offense is another person's pride? Should a costume-wearer's intent or context matter? Can we always tell the difference between a mocking costume and one that satirizes ignorance? In what circumstances should we allow - or punish - youthful transgression?

    "I don't wish to trivialize genuine concerns about cultural and personal representation," I wrote, in part. "I know that many decent people have proposed guidelines on Halloween costumes from a spirit of avoiding hurt and offense. I laud those goals, in theory, as most of us do. But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college 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!

A Final Plea to Trump’s America

    At least one of my siblings, and some of my friends from high school, will be among the 50 million or so Americans waking up on Nov. 9 after giving their vote to a man who thinks very little of them, and even less of the country he wants to lead.

    Allow me one last attempt to help you avoid a hangover that will stay with you the rest of your life.

    If you ignored every blast of hatred from Donald Trump, every attempt to defraud people or stiff those who worked for him, every bellow from the bully, consider his low view of humanity in general. “For the most part you can’t respect people,” he has said, “because most people aren’t worthy of respect.”

    This is the credo of a loveless man in a friendless world. He also says he has no heroes — not a Lincoln or Mandela, a Jackie Robinson or a Capt. Chesley Sullenberger.

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 Halloween email led to a campus firestorm and a lesson about self-censorship

    The right to speak freely may be enshrined in some of our nation's great universities, but the culture of listening needs repair. That is the lesson I learned a year ago, when I sent an email urging Yale University students to think critically about an official set of guidelines on costumes to avoid at Halloween.

    I had hoped to generate a reflective conversation among students: What happens when one person's offense is another person's pride? Should a costume-wearer's intent or context matter? Can we always tell the difference between a mocking costume and one that satirizes ignorance? In what circumstances should we allow - or punish - youthful transgression?

    "I don't wish to trivialize genuine concerns about cultural and personal representation," I wrote, in part. "I know that many decent people have proposed guidelines on Halloween costumes from a spirit of avoiding hurt and offense. I laud those goals, in theory, as most of us do. But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college 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!

October 31st

Keeping the internet free might get very expensive

    Modern economics has little room for parasites. In the vast majority of models, there are only buyers and sellers -- there's no one who just comes up and steals your money. In the real world, of course, there are parasites galore -- thieves, con artists, fraudsters, extortionists and more. In the long term, the amount of parasitism in any system should depend on the cost of policing -- if it's easy for thieves to steal, there will be more theft.

    On the internet, parasites are rampant. Email spam, identity theft and cyberespionage are some of best-known examples. And, of course, there was the Oct. 21 denial-of-service attack that made many prominent websites inaccessible. Every year, billions of dollars are spent on cleaning the system of these bloodsuckers. That spending might add to gross domestic product, but in economic terms it's social waste -- in an ideal world, we wouldn't have to use resources stopping parasites.

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!

Hillary Clinton is blazing a momentous trail

    Not enough has been made of two obvious facts: Hillary Clinton, if she wins, would be the first woman elected to the White House. And it will have been the votes of women who put her there.

    Think, for a moment, about what a remarkable milestone that would be. Consider what it would say about the long and difficult struggle to make the Constitution's guarantees of freedom and equality encompass all Americans. The first 43 presidents were all members of a privileged minority group -- white males. The 44th is a black man, and the 45th may well be a white woman. That is a very big deal.

    The historic nature of Clinton's candidacy has been all but lost amid the clamorous sound and fury of the Donald Trump eruption. The campaign has seen many unforgettable moments, but one that I believe will prove truly indelible came during the third and final debate, when Clinton was speaking and Trump interrupted her by snarling, "Such a nasty woman."

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 disorders the GOP House

    It is a message Democrats will be sending in suburban precincts all over the United States during the 2016 campaign's final days: Defeating Donald Trump isn't enough. Fully rejecting Trumpism also means routing Republican House and Senate candidates who showed any ambivalence in pushing back against a nominee so many upscale voters regard with horror.

    Rudra Kapila, a Democratic organizer, explained the mission to a group of volunteers who filled a cheerful suburban home here just outside of Washington on Tuesday night to work a party phone bank. "The idea," she said, "is to get folks to vote Democrat down the ballot."

     It's an objective that really matters in Virginia's 10th Congressional District, where Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock faces Democrat LuAnn Bennett in one of the most closely contested House races in the country. If Democrats are to have any chance of gaining the 30 seats they need to take over the House -- a long shot still -- they have to win in places like this, where Hillary Clinton is expected to enjoy large margins.

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 death penalty's persistence

    You'd think Proposition 62, a referendum to abolish California's death penalty and replace it with life without parole, including for the 749 current occupants of death row, would win easily on Nov. 8.

    Democrats dominate this state; their 2016 national platform advocated an end to capital punishment. Former president Jimmy Carter, left-populist icon Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the state's major labor unions and 38 newspaper editorial boards are urging a "yes" vote.

    California's death row costs millions to maintain but the state has only executed 13 people since restoring capital punishment in 1978, mainly due to lengthy appeals processes, including recent successful challenges to its lethal-injection protocol.

    "Replace the Costly, Failed Death Penalty," read the yellow-and-black "Yes on 62" sign I saw planted in a well-kept Brentwood yard.

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!

How the Kremlin responds to hacks: Deny, deny, deny

    The U.S. presidential election has made "Russian hackers" a powerful brand. There is, however, another that surpasses it: Ukrainian hackers. And the story of their most recent hack contains valuable lessons for U.S. politicians, particularly Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.

    A Ukrainian hacker collective calling itself CyberHunta -- a mocking reference to Russian propaganda outlets' moniker for the Kiev government, the junta -- claimed on Oct. 23 to have broken into an electronic mailbox that belongs to Vladislav Surkov, President Vladimir Putin's adviser for dealing with former Soviet breakaway regions. The purported hacked emails supposedly contain sensitive information, including, for example, a lengthy plan of "urgent measures for the destabilization of the situation in Ukraine."

    Unlike Clinton's allies after their emails were published, the Kremlin immediately denied the authenticity of the leaked communications. Putin's press secretary, Dmitri Peskov, told reporters that Surkov didn't use email, so those who claim to have broken into has mailbox "must have had to sweat quite a lot" to forge messages.

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's allies promise a tougher line on Iran

    The next president has an opportunity in the Middle East to reassure wavering allies, to tell them: "We're back and we're going to lead again."

    That sounds like something you might hear this month in an alternate reality, from the Rubio-Cheney campaign. After all, President Barack Obama would argue that he is already leading in the Middle East.

    But that is a quote from Michael Morell, a former deputy and acting director of the CIA and an adviser to Hillary Clinton's campaign. He said this on Tuesday at the Center for American Progress, a think tank founded by the Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta, and headed today by the policy director of the 2008 Clinton campaign, Neera Tanden.

    Morell, who is likely to be tapped for a senior post in a Clinton administration, outlined a more robust role for the U.S. to counter Iran in the Middle East. For example, Morell said the U.S. should consider a new set of sanctions against Iran to punish its "malign behavior in the region." The Obama administration, on the other hand, has opposed efforts from Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran after the nuclear deal that lifted many of them.

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!

Wells Fargo is Rotting from the Top Down

    Just when you thought that, surely, big banker greed had bottomed out with 2008’s Wall Street crash and bailout, along comes Wells Fargo, burrowing even deeper into the ethical slime to reach a previously unimaginable level of corporate depravity.

    It’s one thing for these finance giants to cook the books or defraud investors, but top executives of Wells Fargo have been profiteering for years by literally forcing their employees to rob the bank’s customers.

    Rather than a culture of service, executives have pushed a high-pressure sales culture since 2009, demanding frontline employees meet extreme quotas of selling a myriad of unnecessary bank products to common depositors who just wanted a simple checking account.

    Employees were expected to load each customer with at least eight accounts, and employees were monitored constantly on meeting their quota — fail and you’d be fired.

    That’s why the bosses’ sales culture turned employees into a syndicate of bank robbers. The thievery was systemic, and it wasn’t subtle.

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!