Archive

January 21st, 2017

Tom Price and the future of Obamacare

    The other day, I was at a white coat ceremony, a ritual in which medical students don their white coats to mark the transition from the classroom to the patient's bedside. Seasoned physicians reflected on their experiences with patients and families who guided them along their own professional journey from student to doctor. There was no discussion of money, of insurance, of Obamacare. The day was all about the honor and duty of caring for people as they suffer or as they get well, of healing them.

    The ceremony culminates with the solemn reading of the Hippocratic Oath: "I will be loyal to the profession of medicine and just and generous to its members. … I will lead my life and practice my art in uprightness and honor, … holding myself far aloof from wrong, from corruption, from the tempting of others to vice. … I will exercise my art solely for the cure of my patients. … And now, if I be true to this, my oath, may good repute ever be mine; the opposite, if I shall prove myself forsworn."

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!

This Year, #OscarsSoBlack?

    On the bright side, at least Jenna Bush Hager didn’t say “Hidden Fences in the Moonlight,” mashing together all three of the critically acclaimed movies about African-Americans that are in theaters right now.

    I’m referring to that cringe-worthy moment at the Golden Globes when Hager, a correspondent for NBC’s “Today” show, mistakenly referred to “Hidden Figures” as “Hidden Fences,” something that the actor Michael Keaton also did later that same night. “Fences” is its own production, and it, “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight” are all in the hunt for Oscar nominations, to be announced next Tuesday.

    They tell unrelated stories in unrelated styles. And they’re not equally accomplished, not to my eye. “Moonlight” has a daring, a poetry and a jolting intimacy that lift it well above the other two.

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!

Media, don't play Trump's game of divide and conquer

    Nineteen years ago Tuesday, the Drudge Report introduced the world to Monica Lewinsky and changed journalism forever. Now, at a time when sensationalism and salacious headlines are again dominating the news, the media industry is confronting one of the toughest challenges it has faced at any time since: how to cover President Donald Trump.

    Clearly emboldened by the media malpractice that defined much of 2016, Trump has been testing journalists on a near-daily basis since winning the election. He has attempted to manipulate press coverage through early-morning Twitter rampages, trumped up job-creation announcements and, most recently, the farcical news conference he convened last week, the ostensible purpose of which was to discuss how he'll avoid conflicts of interest in his business dealings. (Spoiler: He won't.) Taking questions from reporters for the first time since July, Trump marked the occasion by berating news organizations for running stories he didn't like about his campaign's purported coordination with Russia.

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!

Just when you thought the Trump ethics disaster couldn't get worse, it did

    For two weeks now, the majority leadership in the new Congress and the incoming Trump administration have been conducting a war on ethics. This has ranged from the effort to cripple the Office of Congressional Ethics to the Senate's rush to confirm President-elect Donald Trump's nominees before their financial conflicts disclosures were complete to Trump's own inadequate plan to address his ethical problems.

    The latest front involves the Office of Government Ethics and its director, Walter Shaub Jr., who has had the temerity to speak up against Trump's plan to deal with his conflicts of interest as "meaningless."

    Both of us, former ethics counsels for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, respectively, have worked with Shaub, a career public servant who, in our experience, provided nonpartisan and wise advice. Now, Shaub is being pilloried - and may be at risk of losing his job - for doing just that, and asserting correctly that Trump's approach "doesn't meet the standards . . . that every president in the last four decades has met."

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 can't prescribe a vital drug

    Mr. B undid his arm bandages and revealed two large, gaping wounds where he injected his heroin. He lay back in his hospital bed, looked up at the ceiling and said with a quivering voice, "I can't inject into my veins anymore because they are all shot. I know I have a problem, Doctor. I've been trying to quit, but it's so hard."

    Mr. B (I'm identifying him only by his initial to protect his privacy) had been using heroin for 20 years after originally being prescribed a common opioid, oxycodone, to treat his pain. He, like many others who had fallen victim to the opioid epidemic, was trying to quit, but methadone hadn't worked for him. "It made me feel ill," he said.

    I knew of a medication that would treat his addiction and possibly save his life. It has been around for years, is simple to use and is safer than other options. Sadly, I can't prescribe it. We need to fix this.

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 Russian 'kompromat' destroys political opponents, no facts required

    The 2016 presidential election and Donald Trump have given Russia a wonderful opportunity to showcase one of its best national products: a particularly effective type of media manipulation called "kompromat."

    Short for "compromising material" in Russian, kompromat is the intersection of news and blackmail. It's the ability to sully the reputations of political opponents or pressure allies through hints, images, videos, promises of disclosures, perhaps even some high-quality faked documentation. Sex or pornography often figures prominently. The beauty of kompromat is that it has only to create a sense of doubt, not prove its case conclusively. This sounds a bit like "fake news," but in a classic kompromat operation, real Russian state media organizations work in tandem with the Kremlin to find appealing and effective ways to discredit the target. Often, that means in the most visceral and personal ways possible.

    Now kompromat may have come to the United States.

January 20th

Betsy DeVos wants 'school choice.' Chile tried that already.

    A confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for education secretary, begins in the Senate on Tuesday. DeVos is known as an advocate for "school choice," which means she has pushed for charter schools and voucher programs that use public funds to finance privately run schools.

    Her support for school choice is controversial, not least because the efficacy of charter schools and vouchers is hotly debated. Supporters of school choice argue a couple of things: first, that it gives students who live in underperforming school districts a chance to go to "good" schools; and second, that by fostering competition between public and private schools, it pushes both toward excellence and efficiency. Critics insist that such programs drain funds from public schools.

    Only a limited amount of U.S. data speaks to this debate. But a large-scale, countrywide experiment in school vouchers has taken place - in Chile. And Chile offers an instructive and cautionary tale about how school vouchers affect education.

 

How Chile's school voucher system works:

Yes, Obama’s Presidency Will Endure

    When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, he understood, without quite saying it, that there had been no highly successful Democratic president in decades.

    Bill Clinton made the country a better place, but his biggest legislative plans failed and he was beset by scandal. John F. Kennedy, though popular in retrospect, had his agenda stalled in Congress when he was killed. Harry Truman left office deeply unpopular. Jimmy Carter lost re-election.

    And Lyndon Johnson, despite grand domestic achievements, was driven from office. The chant “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” doesn’t exactly suggest progressive heroism.

    This history of liberal disappointment was the subtext of a revealing early comment from Obama: “Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not.” The history also led Obama to reject the advice of his first Treasury secretary that their legacy should be preventing another depression. “That’s not enough,” Obama replied.

Trump may have just destroyed the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare

    When even the most committed Republicans came around to support Donald Trump in 2016, they made a kind of bet. It wouldn't matter much that Trump had no apparent fealty to conservative ideology or that he was a complete ignoramus about policy, because he'd be leaving all that boring stuff to them. The Republican Congress would pass its agenda, he'd sign whatever they put in front of him, and they'd all live happily ever after.

    But now it's not looking so simple. In fact, Trump just dealt a huge blow to their top priority: repealing the Affordable Care Act. Accomplishing repeal without causing the GOP a political calamity is an extremely delicate enterprise, and the last thing they want is to have him popping off at the mouth and promising things they can't deliver. Which is what he just did, as The Washington Post reported Sunday:

    "President-elect Donald Trump said in a weekend interview that he is nearing completion of a plan to replace President Obama's signature health-care law with the goal of 'insurance for everybody,' while also vowing to force drug companies to negotiate directly with the government on prices in Medicare and Medicaid . . .

Trump could cause 'the death of think tanks as we know them'

    For decades, Washington think tanks have been holding pens for senior government officials waiting for their next appointments and avenues of influence for sponsors of their research. Donald Trump's incoming administration is bent on breaking that model.

    Trump's appointments have so far have been heavy on businessexecutives and former military leaders. Transition sources tell me the next series of nominations - deputy-level officials at top agencies - will also largely come from business rather than the think tank or policy communities. For example, neither the American Enterprise Institute's John Bolton nor the Council on Foreign Relations' Richard Haass is likely to be chosen for deputy secretary of state, while hedge fund manager David McCormick is on the shortlist. Philip Bilden, a private equity investment firm executive with no government experience, is expected to be named secretary of the Navy.