Archive

October 30th, 2015

Why Ukrainians backed a 'Star Wars' emperor

    Less than two years after Ukraine's "revolution of dignity," local elections on Sunday handed power in the south and east to former supporters of the ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych,. The vote also created sizable ultranationalist factions in a number of local legislatures, including in the capital. The election proved voters' growing mistrust of the political class, which was only partially reshaped by the revolution, and revealed a disappointed nation that still is divided along an east-west line.

    The vote was an important milestone for Ukraine. President Petro Poroshenko has vowed to decentralize the country by giving cities and communities more political and budgetary powers. Ukraine is scrapping its system of regional governors appointed from Kiev and giving authority to local legislatures, an attempt to shift from a Soviet-style supercentralized state to a European nation managed from the bottom up. It's a good idea. But unless oligarchs and corrupt local bosses are kept out, the country risks getting a version of medieval feudal disunity instead of European self-government. The elections made that risk palpable.

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!

Sentenced to Be Crucified

    Any day now, our Saudi Arabian allies may behead and crucify a young man named Ali al-Nimr.

    His appeals following his court sentence for this grisly execution have been exhausted, so guards may lead al-Nimr to a public square and hack off his head with a sword as onlookers jeer. Then, following Saudi protocol for crucifixion, they would hang his body on a cross as a warning to others.

    Al-Nimr’s offense? He was arrested at age 17 for participating in anti-government protests. The government has said he attacked police officers and rioted, but the only known evidence is a confession apparently extracted under torture that left him a bloody mess.

    “When I visited my son for the first time I didn’t recognize him,” his mother, Nusra al-Ahmed, told The Guardian. “I didn’t know whether this really was my son Ali or not.”

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!

Two areas where work of Congress is incomplete

    What year is this?

    Pardon my confusion, but a glimmer of intelligent life in Washington has me questioning whether it's 2015. The source of this bewilderment is that the U.S. Congress has managed to accomplish a few things:

    -- A budget deal was reached, and a damaging government shutdown was averted. The deal entails a modest increase in spending of $80 billion over two years.

    -- Washington seems to have resolved its debt ceiling issues through the spring of 2017.

    -- A "voluntary" government default has been avoided.

    -- The House voted to reopen the Export-Import Bank, 313 to 118; the Senate will likely approve it as well.

    -- Spending caps on Medicare increases were negotiated and approved.

    -- Partisan gridlock has been broken -- at least for now.

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!

No, Journalists Don't Have Dramatic License

    Here's a controversial opinion: fiction doesn't belong in newspapers unless clearly labeled as such. Anonymous sources are tricky enough, but journalists simply have no business contriving dramatized scenes with dialogue and characters -- describing their innermost thoughts and feelings with no attribution whatsoever. To do so is inherently deceptive.

    Which brings us to the curious Case of the Redhead and the Vice President -- specifically New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd and Joe Biden. Now, for partly subjective reasons, I've always responded favorably to Biden. In accent and demeanor, he resembles my late father -- not a flawless but a big-hearted, fundamentally decent man with a disarming smile and a touch of what the Irish call "blarney" about him.

    Or maybe more than a touch, given the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of the term: "talk that is not true but that is nice and somewhat funny and that may be used to trick you."

    And maybe not so nice, sometimes. You be the judge.

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!

Trying a Fossil Fiend

    Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders wants the Justice Department to investigate and potentially prosecute ExxonMobil for corporate fraud.

    The Vermont senator is alarmed by reports that the energy giant spread doubt about climate change despite knowing since 1977 that global warming was both underway and fueled by its own operations. Bankrolling a disinformation campaign helped stymie climate action and “may have caused public harm,” Sanders said in a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

    A tobacco-style case against the whole oil and gas industry on racketeering charges may sound unlikely, but prospects are growing. And all heavily compensated executives who run fossil-fuel companies should heed the federal trial of a de-throned coal king in Charleston, West Virginia.

    Prosecutors accuse Don Blankenship of conspiring to violate health and safety laws and to cover up that wrongdoing. The former Massey Energy CEO was also indicted for lying to shareholders and financial regulators about his company’s safety practices after an explosion killed 29 men at its Upper Big Branch coal mine in 2010.

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!

Iraq war remains politically fateful, 12 years on

    A dozen years after the invasion of Iraq, it continues to cast a shadow over the 2016 presidential campaigns in both major parties. Republican and Democratic candidates alike who took opposing positions on it in 2003 can anticipate partisan demands that they hash over again the controversial adventure whose ramifications remain at the core of American foreign policy.

    In the GOP, establishment candidate Jeb Bush, whose brother as president launched the war based on the mistaken contention that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, has a quandary. Is it wise to use his family members and name to rescue a campaign stalled in the polls?

    Earlier this week, amid announced staff cutbacks, his campaign recruited the two former President Bushes for a two-day strategy and fund-raising meeting in Houston to assess how to snap out of the doldrums. The hope is that George W. Bush's war of choice in Iraq will somehow recede in memory.

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!

Instead of Pardoning a Turkey, Obama Should Free This Man

    As Thanksgiving approaches, I’ve got a suggestion for President Barack Obama.

    Instead of following the White House tradition and “pardoning“ a turkey destined for a holiday dinner table, Obama should extend that courtesy to some of the thousands of human beings caged up in America’s federal prisons.

    Leonard Peltier should be one of them.

    Peltier was a Native American activist on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the 1970s. On June 26, 1975, two FBI agents went to Pine Ridge to look for a young man named Jimmy Eagle, who was wanted for robbery. Soon after they spotted his car, a shootout ensued.

    Both agents and one of the occupants of the car were killed. A later shootout at the gunman’s home ended in two more deaths.

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!

Don’t Let Them Blind You with Their Science

    When I first began researching agriculture, I had no idea how organic farming worked. I saw it as a somewhat backward yet non-toxic and desirable way to grow food.

    Organic farmers didn’t use fertilizer, I figured, so maybe the plants would be smaller. And they didn’t use pesticides, so I’d have to settle for some damage to my food — and I’d pay more for the privilege.

    As for the people who thought organic agriculture produced better, healthier food than conventional farming, I figured they were nuts. That sounded like magical thinking to me. Did organic farmers grow food using fairies and rainbows?

    The notion that organic farming is at odds with modern science is an attitude I’ve heard repeated many times, even by organic activists. “We just need to go back and grow food how we used to,” they’ll say.

    Today, I fundamentally disagree. Organic agriculture is best achieved using cutting-edge science and technology.

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 big-name endorsements sway voters

    Hillary Clinton picked up another high- profile endorsement Tuesday, this time from liberal Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown. She can add him to the October list, which includes Sens. Thomas Carper of Delaware and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, and Govs. John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Jack Markell of Delaware.

    Clinton has proved to be strong with liberals, as Vox's Dylan Matthews explains, yet has also pulled in backers across ideological, geographical and ethnic lines.

    Endorsements might affect voters in a direct and an indirect way, as Seth Masket of The Washington Post's Wonkblog explained. First, voters can consciously seek the views of opinion leaders. Second, the visible endorsements (such as from governors and senators) indicate broader party support, and that, in turn, provides important resources to favored candidates. As Masket notes, there's evidence that both of these theories are correct, depending on circumstances.

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 police turning camera shy?

    Some police say the stress of always being seen in a negative light in the post-Ferguson era is taking its toll. I am tempted as the father of a young African-American male to say, join the club.

    Since I have great respect for police and for my son, my advice to both is basically the same: Try to be less suspicious.

    Speaking to the International Association of Chiefs of Police meeting in Chicago, FBI Director James Comey doubled down Monday on his controversial remarks last week about a "Ferguson effect" or a "YouTube effect."

    Those labels describe the possibility that a rise in violent crime in some cities over the past year may be the result of less aggressive policing in the wake of high-profile and sometimes video-recorded killings of black men by police.

    "Ferguson effect" refers to the national eruption of controversy that followed the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., followed by the deaths of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and others at the hands of officers.

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!