Archive

January 30th, 2017

Trump won't voluntarily release his tax returns. But maybe he can be forced to.

    Hey, the new Office of the U.S. Trade Representative website is up! Let's take a look to see what it says about opening up trade opportunities for American firms and consumers:

    "[The] new America First trade policy will make it more desirable for companies to stay here, create jobs here, pay taxes here, and rebuild our economy. Our workers and the communities that support them will thrive again, as companies compete to set up manufacturing in the U.S., to hire our young people and give them hope and a real shot at prosperity again."

    So that sounds . . . interesting, but almost entirely unrelated to what trade representatives traditionally do. I guess President Donald Trump's trade office will be dedicated to reducing trade with the rest of the world.

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!

America might need to buy 25 billion avocados so Mexico could pay for the wall

    President Donald Trump's press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Thursday that the administration had an idea that would force Mexico to pay for the construction of a wall on the border between our two countries.

    The strategy? The White House could advocate for a 20 percent tax on Mexican goods being imported into the country. (Spicer later said that this was just a possibility.)

    That would certainly work to generate a great deal of money. Mexico is our third-largest trading partner, with trade totaling more than a half-trillion dollars in 2015. The only trick is that this wouldn't exactly be Mexico paying for the wall: It would be U.S. consumers paying additional costs for Mexican products to make up the total.

    And we're talking about a lot of Mexican products. Our fact-checkers estimate that constructing the wall would cost up to $25 billion, if it's of the concrete slab type that Trump has discussed in the past. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., put the total at $12 to $15 billion this week, though, so we'll go with that figure.

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 won't voluntarily release his tax returns. But maybe he can be forced to.

    As of Sunday, I was feeling vindicated by the fact that Kellyanne Conway had confirmed what I've been saying in every available forum for months: that despite his claim that he would release his tax returns as soon as he was done being audited by the IRS, the truth is that Donald Trump will never - never, ever, ever - release those returns, as every presidential nominee and every president has done for the past four decades.

    Appearing on ABC's " This Week ," Conway was asked for a response to a petition on the White House website calling for Trump to release his returns (which had 265,000 signers as of this morning). She replied: "The White House response is that he's not going to release his tax returns. We litigated this all through the election. People didn't care. They voted for him." So there you have 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!

January 29th

The Wrong Way to Take On Trump

    You know how Donald Trump wins? I don’t mean a second term or major legislative victories. I’m talking about the battle between incivility and dignity.

    He triumphs when opponents trade righteous anger for crude tantrums. When they lose sight of the line between protest and catcalls.

    When a writer for “Saturday Night Live” jokes publicly that Trump’s 10-year-old son has the mien and makings of a killer.

    “Barron will be this country’s first home-school shooter,” the writer, Katie Rich, tweeted.

    I cringe at repeating it. But there’s no other way to take proper note of its ugliness.

    That tweet ignited a firestorm — and rightly so — but it didn’t really surprise me. It was just a matter of time. This is the trajectory that we’re traveling. This, increasingly, is what passes for impassioned advocacy.

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!

Texas tries to revoke some gay-marriage rights

    The Texas Supreme Court has agreed to reconsider a case about whether married gay city employees must be given spousal benefits. That's a terrible sign. The briefs openly urge the court to resist the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark gay marriage decision by reading it narrowly to say that gay people have a fundamental right to marry but no right to equal benefits. It's a legally deceptive argument, which the current justices in Washington would summarily reject. But it's dangerous all the same, because it shows that Donald Trump's election is spurring outright resistance to federal law and precedent. And the Texas justices, who are elected, have no excuse for agreeing to reconsider the case.

    The case, Pidgeon v. Turner, arose from a lawsuit trying to block the benefits that the city of Houston affords to the same-sex spouses of city employees. The case had no legal chance of success once the U.S. Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015. That decision held both that marriage is a fundamental right and that the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution requires that it be extended equally to gay and straight couples.

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!

Smart Approaches, Not Strong-Arm Tactics, to Jobs

    I’ve actually been watching the early Trump presidency from London. (I would have gone to the moon, but I couldn’t get a ride.) Even from here I have vertigo.

    My head is swirling from “alternative facts,” trade deals canceled, pipelines initiated, Obamacare in the Twilight Zone and utterly bizarre rants about attendance on Inauguration Day and fake voters on Election Day. Whatever this cost Vladimir Putin, he’s already gotten his money’s worth — a chaos president. Pass the vodka.

    But moderate Republicans, independents and Democrats who opposed Donald Trump need to beware. He can make you so nuts — he can so vacuum your brains out — that you can’t think clearly about the most important questions today: What things are true even if Trump believes them, and therefore merit support? And where can Democrats offer smarter approaches on issues, like jobs, for instance — approaches that can connect to the guts of working-class voters as Trump did, but provide a smarter path forward.

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!

If fake news fools you, it can fool robots, too

    Uninformative as fake news may be, it's shedding light on an important limitation of the algorithms that have helped make the likes of Facebook and Google into multi-billion-dollar companies: They're no better than people at recognizing what is true or right.

    Remember Tay, the Microsoft bot that was supposed to converse breezily with regular folks on Twitter? People on Twitter are nuts, so within 16 hours it was spewing racist and anti-semitic obscenities and had to be yanked. More recently, Microsoft released an updated version called Zo, explicitly designed to avoid certain topics, on the smaller social network Kik. Zo's problem is that she doesn't make much sense.

    The lesson from these experiments: Algorithms, machine learning, artificial intelligence or whatever else you'd like to call such things are not good at general knowledge and understanding. They can avoid a blacklist of topics, or respond in some special way to a whitelist, but that's about it. They have no underlying model of the world that allows them to make nuanced distinctions between truth and falsehoods. Instead, they rely on pattern matching from a large corpus of consistently true information.

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!

I'm a nurse. And I'm terrified of what Republicans are planning to do to Medicaid.

    It's easy to feel neutral toward a program you have no experience with, but to me, Medicaid, the federal program that funds health care for nearly 70 million Americans in need, means a lot. Both of my children were delivered with Medi-Cal (California's jointly administered Medicaid program) benefits, and they relied on those same benefits growing up. As a young mother in nursing school, I'm not sure how else I would have paid for my own health care. And now, looking back on a career of providing health care as a nurse, I'm more worried than ever for the future of our country's health-care system.

    In my 25 years of nursing, I have cared for thousands of patients, many of whom relied on Medicaid. As a public health nurse, I know firsthand that seniors, children, veterans, and individuals with disabilities could not gain a foothold on a healthy life without it. And it matters to me that more Americans have greater health-care security.

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!

Help us, GOP, you're our only hope

    What we know so far is that the man is who he is. There is no larger, finer man inside him trying to get out. Everyone who is paying attention knows this. Flags flying at the Capitol, the U.S. Marine Band, gray eminences in black coats, and He Who Is Smarter Than Those With Intelligence delivers 16 minutes of hooey and horse hockey about corrupt politicians betraying the people, and American carnage, and patriotism healing our division, though the division is mainly about Himself and though love of country does not necessarily make people stupid.

    There might as well have been a 14-year-old boy at the lectern saying that he is in possession of the Golden Goblet that will drive the Gimlets from Fredonia and preserve the Sacred Marmite of Lord Numbskull and his Nimrods.

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!

Defining 'Forgotten Man' is key to Trump's success

    "The Forgotten Man" is unlikely to be forgotten in the Trump presidency. In his inaugural address, the new chief executive promised that "the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now." Trump was reprising a mention of "forgotten men and women" made back in November, in his victory speech.

    It's clear why Trump hopes to build a presidency on service to the "forgotten." The quality of the economic recovery after the financial crisis of 2008 was poor, and to this day many Americans feel they are not back where they were in 2007.

    It is all too obvious that the "too big to fail" doctrine favored Wall Street behemoths like Goldman Sachs, as has post-crash statute. Laws such as Dodd-Frank force all kinds of negative consequences upon smaller financial institutions -- call them forgotten banks -- as Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, noted at the confirmation hearing for Steven Mnuchin, the nominee for Treasury secretary and former Goldman executive.

    So who precisely is this Forgotten Man?

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!