Archive

April 2nd, 2016

The media did not create the Trump phenomenon

    One of the more absurd things being said about the Donald Trump phenomenon is that the media created it. For the record, we didn't.

    First of all, there is no "we." The news media operate in what should be every conservative ideologue's dream environment: an unfettered free market. Outlets compete every day -- actually, in the Internet age, every hour -- to provide consumers with information they need and want. Every editor and news director strives to beat the competition, and the fact is that audiences have decided they need and want to know about Trump.

    No one understands this better than Trump himself. To understate by miles, he knows how to draw attention to himself -- the late-night Twitter rants, the fire-breathing rallies, the gold-plated jet, the ridiculous hair. After decades in the public eye, he had more than 90 percent name recognition when he began his campaign. So it was no surprise that hordes of media flocked to Trump Tower last June 16 and watched him descend the shiny escalator for his kickoff announcement. Who doesn't love a good sideshow?

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!

April 1st

When you can't find the fine print (or read it)

    When was the last time you actually read the terms of service before clicking "I agree" on a website? Unless your answer is "never," I don't believe you -- and I don't think it's your fault, either. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit has a subtler view than mine. On March 25, it held that you're not bound by a contract if it wasn't made clear that you were supposed to read it. But if it is made clear, the contract binds you, whether you read it or not.

    The facts of the case were pretty outrageous, as these things go. Gary Sgouros signed up online to get his credit score with TransUnion Corp. When he went to a car dealership armed with his good credit score, they laughed him off. His actual score was 100 points lower than TransUnion had claimed.

    Sgouros sued, claiming to represent a class of similarly misled clients. TransUnion said that he couldn't sue because he'd agreed to submit any disagreement to binding arbitration as part of the terms of service on its site.

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 clean-energy deadline is sooner than we think

    Everyone knows that at some point, if we want to contain climate change, we'll have to stop building polluting power plants. New research suggests that moment may come much sooner than we realize.

    In some areas, the world is making progress toward reducing harmful emissions. Earlier this year, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy reported that the use of coal-fired plants for electricity generation in the U.S. fell to the lowest level in 60 years. Some of the biggest U.S. coal mining outfits have filed for bankruptcy. Electricity from coal looks set to become increasingly rare in China as well. That's good news for anyone hoping that humanity might still manage to reduce carbon emissions enough to avoid warming the Earth's climate past the two degrees Celsius that scientists see as dangerous.

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!

Searching for a better way to measure inequality

    Inequality is, without a doubt, the hot topic in econ circles these days. Economics conference seminars on the subject are standing-room-only. Columns and blog posts about inequality are widely read and discussed, and Thomas Piketty's book was a bestseller.

    But the question of how best to measure the phenomenon continues to be a contentious topic of debate. The most common measure, cited in countless articles, is pretax income inequality, or differences in the amount that people earn before government taxes and transfers. QuickTake Income Inequality

    That's obviously a problem. Because the government is the main system for redistributing income from the rich to the poor, programs such as food stamps, Medicaid or the earned income tax credit don't change the distribution of pretax income very much -- nor do income taxes on the rich. Higher taxes on top earners may actually increase pretax income inequality, because they force companies to raise the salaries of well-paid workers even as they reduce the amount those workers take home.

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's revolt against the foreign-policy establishment

    As a presidential candidate in 2007, Sen. Barack Obama relished the opportunity to rail against the U.S. foreign policy establishment, which he blamed for leading the country into a quagmire in Iraq. "The conventional thinking in Washington has a way of buying into stories that make political sense even if they don't make practical sense," he declared, adding: "I'm not running for president to conform to Washington's conventional thinking -- I'm running to challenge 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!

Obama gives Democrats reason for optimism

    President Barack Obama's surging approval rating is becoming a major plot line of the 2016 election.

    Obama has reached 53 percent approval from Gallup, a three-year high, and he's been at or above 50 percent in that survey for four weeks.

    HuffPollster's aggregate of all current polls gives Obama an average approval rating of 49.2 percent, compared with 47.3 percent disapproval. He bottomed out in the first week of December at 44.1 percent, according to that estimate, so he's gained five percentage points over an almost four-month sustained rally.

    That should help Hillary Clinton's chances in November. Current presidential approval, along with some measure of economic performance, both have strong effects on general election voting. They aren't perfect predictors, but they seem to make a difference.

    In the Gallup survey, Obama is now doing a little bit better than Ronald Reagan was in late March 1988. He's well behind Dwight Eisenhower and Bill Clinton during their final years in the White House, and far ahead of George W. Bush.

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!

Kasich, not Cruz, is the one to stop Trump

    Step right up, folks, to the Ted Cruz-John Kasich game. The aim is to push out the candidate who could win in November in favor of the one who can't.

    Everything else has failed to stop Donald Trump, but the Republicans' strategy of putting their few remaining eggs in Sen. Cruz's basket and insulting Governor Kasich back to the Ohio statehouse is delusional -- as is their assertion that a vote for Kasich is a vote for Trump.

    Let's take a look: It's hard to believe that any politician could be doing worse than Hillary Clinton, who had a net unfavorable rating of minus 13 in a March Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, but Cruz, at minus 18, manages it. Kasich has a net positive 19. Every poll shows Cruz losing to Clinton. As for the nomination, the proposition that Cruz alone could stop Trump is wrong to anyone who reads exit polls, studies current ones or looks at the map.

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!

College Admissions Shocker!

    Cementing its standing as the most selective institution of higher education in the country, Stanford University announced this week that it had once again received a record-setting number of applications and that its acceptance rate — which had dropped to a previously uncharted low of 5 percent last year — plummeted all the way to its inevitable conclusion of 0 percent.

    With no one admitted to the class of 2020, Stanford is assured that no other school can match its desirability in the near future.

    “We had exceptional applicants, yes, but not a single student we couldn’t live without,” said a Stanford administrator who requested anonymity. “In the stack of applications that I reviewed, I didn’t see any gold medalists from the last Olympics — Summer or Winter Games — and while there was a 17-year-old who’d performed surgery, it wasn’t open-heart or a transplant or anything like that. She’ll thrive at Yale.”

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 tack to the center? It's just talk

    One bit of conventional 2016 campaign wisdom is that Bernie Sanders has pushed Hillary Clinton far to the left. It seems so obvious that even the socialists are celebrating.

    Like a lot of conventional wisdom, it's partly true. Clinton's words on taxes, trade, minimum wages, immigration and Wall Street do sound a lot like those of the socialist Sanders. But look past the stump speeches and something more significant becomes clear: Clinton's rhetoric may have changed, but her policy positions haven't. That means her anticipated pivot toward the center for the general election is also likely to be more oratorical than substantive.

    So far, Clinton has pulled off a neat trick. She has gone toe-to-toe with Sanders by calling for higher taxes on the rich, more generous health-care subsidies and criminal-justice reforms. She positions herself to his left on gun control, equal pay for women and immigration.

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 beautiful day in Mr. Cruz's (gated) Neighborhood

    The other day a bearded man planted himself in a treetop along a busy Seattle street, forcing police to shut down traffic for hours in both directions, afraid of what he'd do.

    I scanned the headlines later to see what Sen. Ted Cruz recommended we do to protect us from bearded men in the future. Nothing.

    Don't disappoint, Senator. If we don't keep watch on bearded men, one of them might hurt us one day.

    Beard or no, let's just say that if anything happens through Election Day that involves a Muslim militant, Cruz and his rival for the angry white vote, Donald Trump, will not disappoint in insulting human intelligence.

    Their "can you top this" contest will continue: a trail of rhetorical horrors.

    This time it was Cruz saying that we should patrol predominantly Muslim neighborhoods.

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!