Archive

February 18th, 2016

We didn't see Trump coming. We could have.

    It's rare for an election to raise a metaphysical question - and even rarer for Donald Trump to do so. But that is exactly what he has done by repeatedly confounding expectations of his electoral demise: He has rattled our conception of how knowable the future is.

    Pundit predictions are notoriously poor, but last fall, there was near-unanimity among political analysts that Trump would fail, and fast. Nate Silver, the statistical wunderkind who made his reputation by accurately calling elections using poll-driven models,said that Trump's base of support was "about the same share of people who think the Apollo moon landings were faked."

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!

Speechwriter's theory on why so many politicians sound like robots

    Activists dressed as robots have made their way from New Hampshire to South Carolina, where I live, for the purpose of lampooning Marco Rubio. He performed poorly during the first part of the Feb. 6 Republican presidential debate, when he tried to answer criticism of his inexperience by enunciating the same talking point four times, sounding more like a malfunctioning machine with each repetition. Now he can only hope the jokes will get old quickly - the robot costumes, the verbatim repetition of anything said about him, the "Marcobot" nickname.

    Coverage of Rubio's howler has, to my mind, been vastly overdone (the episode did not reflect poorly on his judgment, his character or even his abilities), but it touches on a suspicion most of us have entertained about our politicians: that they use words mindlessly. Probably all of us who follow politics sometimes feel that the whole business is nothing but drivel and fakery - that politicians are emitting vacuous jargon, their key phrases repeated again and again with apparently no concern for accuracy or feasibility or coherence.

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 17th

School choice lotteries fail to make a difference

    This is the kind of news that school- choice advocates and skeptics alike need to pay attention to: The Economist magazine reports that a team of academic economists found that students who won a lottery in Louisiana to receive vouchers to go to the public or private school of their choice did worse than students who didn't win the lottery.

    This outcome flies in the face of the predictions of many economists, who often tout school choice as a way to improve the U.S. educational system while also increasing equality of opportunity. Economists typically assume that people are rational and well-informed, and will make decisions that benefit them. If giving students and their parents more school choice hurts the students academically, then something is seriously wrong with the theory.

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!

School policy has gotten smarter

    A decade ago, U.S. education policies were a mess. It was the classic problem of good intentions gone awry.

    At the core of the good idea was the common-sense insight that if we want better and more equitable results from our education system, we should set clear expectations for student learning, measure whether our kids are meeting them and hold schools accountable for their outcomes, mainly gauged in terms of academic achievement.

    And sure enough, under the No Child Left Behind law, every state in the land mustered academic standards in (at least) reading and math, annual tests in grades three through eight and some sort of accountability system for their public schools.

    Unfortunately, those standards were mostly vague, shoddy or misguided; the tests were simplistic and their "proficiency" bar set too low; and the accountability systems encouraged all manner of dubious practices, such as focusing teacher effort on a small subset of students at risk of failing the exams rather than advancing every child's learning.

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!

Our failing response to a mental-health crisis

    America's public mental-health system is in a dangerous state of disrepair.

    President Obama sees this, as do candidates for president from both parties. Bernie Sanders wants "radical changes." Donald Trump complains that "too many politicians have ignored this problem for too long." Hillary Clinton sees a connection between the lack of funding for preventive interventions and our overstuffed prisons, noting that "over half of prison and jail inmates suffer from a mental-health problem." Jeb Bush says this is an area in which there's "a clear role" for government spending "so that people don't fall through the cracks" toward tragic outcomes.

    I couldn't agree more. Having spent six years exploring one young man's fall through the cracks of Washington state's public mental-health system, and the terrible events connected to this fall, I strongly believe we need to devote far greater resources and attention to this challenge. In failing to do so, we contribute to a wide array of social harm: homelessness, suicide, the heroin epidemic, poverty and, occasionally, horrific violence.

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!

Kim tries to rattle Japan

    North Korea aimed to rattle Japan's government with its announcement on Friday that it will dissolve its investigative committee on the abduction of Japanese nationals.

    By forcing the collapse of negotiations about the abducted Japanese - an issue to which the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gives top priority - North Korea meant to unsettle Japan, which has been working with the United States and South Korea to strengthen their encirclement of the North.

    When the administration of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un started negotiations about the abduction issue with Japan in 2014, it was a time of simultaneously deteriorating relations between Japan and South Korea and improving relations between China and South Korea.

    Kim seemed strongly displeased that China, which he believed should be a guardian of North Korea, had rapidly deepened friendly ties with South Korea, which North Korea regards as an enemy.

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!

Doctoring is a dying art

    For almost 40 years, I practiced general internal medicine and geriatrics in my own office. I had tens of thousands of face-to-face interactions with a group of folks who, with time, grew to trust me. I respected them as well; many I came to love - a term that I hesitate to use in this hypersensitive age. Given how geographically dispersed families are today, for many of my older patients I functioned as a surrogate son.

    There is no doubt that the kind of medicine I was fortunate to practice is disappearing. Most doctors are employed by large group practices, hospitals or insurance companies. Many want to have personal connections with their patients but have too little time. Young primary-care doctors are relegated to assembly-line clinics; their patients pass through as widgets, not as individuals with complex inner lives, wrought family structures, varied spiritual and cultural beliefs - not to mention their individual capacities to understand and deal with their medical symptoms, diagnoses and multiple medications, as well as their own hopes and fears.

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!

Are You a Toxic Waste Disposal Site?

    Even if you’re not in Flint, Michigan, there are toxic chemicals in your home. For that matter, in you.

    Scientists have identified more than 200 industrial chemicals — from pesticides, flame retardants, jet fuel — as well as neurotoxins like lead in the blood or breast milk of Americans, indeed, in people all over our planet.

    These have been linked to cancer, genital deformities, lower sperm count, obesity and diminished IQ. Medical organizations from the President’s Cancer Panel to the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics have demanded tougher regulations or warned people to avoid them, and the cancer panel has warned that “to a disturbing extent, babies are born ‘pre-polluted.'”

    They have all been drowned out by chemical industry lobbyists.

    So we have a remarkable state of affairs:

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 do my co-workers keep confusing me with other people? I'm Asian.

    "Hey," a co-worker said. "Did you ask IT for help?"

    "Yes," I said. "How did you know?"

    The IT guy had gone over to another co-worker's desk to coach her on commands in Excel - a request I had put in. Why had the IT guy confused me with Chunzi? For the same reason Chunzi's checks ended up on my desk, my mail ended up in her hands and an editor asked me about my trips to New York, which I never took but Chunzi did. It's because we're both young Asian women.

    We look nothing alike, of course. And it's not something that happens only to us. Recently two white male journalists mistook my friend Ruth, a fellow Asian American journalist, for me, even though I no longer live in the same city. Another time a publicist enthusiastically called Ruth by my name while she was wearing a name tag supplied by the publicist. And a few years ago, a waitress dropped off my check and credit card - except they belonged to another person with an Asian-sounding name.

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!

Who had the worst week in Washington? Marco Rubio

    Let's dispel with this fiction once and for all that Marco Rubio is a shoo-in to be the establishment choice in the Republican presidential race. Marco Rubio is not a shoo-in to be the establishment choice in the Republican presidential race.

    Politics can change in an instant. And that's what happened last Saturday night when Rubio repeatedly, um, repeated a stock line from his stump speech during a debate in New Hampshire. "Let's dispel once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing. He knows exactly what he's doing. Barack Obama is undertaking a systematic effort to change this country," Rubio said. And said. And said.

    Chris Christie called him out: "There it is, the memorized 25-second speech," Christie joked.

    A rattled Rubio was still feeling the robotic rap on the campaign trail Monday. At an event in Nashua, he repeated a line about "how hard it's become to install our values in our kids instead of the values they try to ram down our throats" in about 10 seconds' time.

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!