Archive

April 12th, 2016

I got an early tip about a priest's sexual abuse. And I sat on it.

    I always knew that watching "Spotlight" was going to be difficult for me, so I kept putting it off. Finally, with my wife out of town last week, I sprawled on the family-room floor with my two big dogs and steeled myself to view the Oscar-winning film about the investigation of sexual abuse in Boston's Catholic Church. I was glad Patricia was away. I didn't want her to see my tears.

    As the next two hours crawled by, I was consumed by three emotions: admiration for the Boston Globe's investigative team, pride in the journalism profession I have labored in for more than four decades - and guilt.

    One day in the 1970s, I fielded a phone call in the newsroom of the Providence Journal. The caller was a local woman with a story that seemed inconceivable: Her 10-year-old son had been repeatedly molested by a Roman Catholic priest.

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!

Five myths about trade

    Expanded trade with China over the past 15 years has cost the United States at least 2 million jobs. Cracking down on trade with China, by taxing the cheap consumer goods it ships to our store shelves, could cost millions of additional jobs. That both of these things can be true is the conundrum of trade, the breakout issue of the 2016 presidential election. Democrats have long debated globalization and its consequences in their primary campaigns, particularly in the Rust Belt, a tradition Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are continuing. But Republicans, led by Donald Trump, are suddenly bashing trade, too. On both sides, the issue has become a leading scapegoat for lost jobs and stagnating working-class wages, and rejiggering "bad" deals has become a common promise to restore middle-class prosperity. Many of the campaign promises, though, rest on myths. Here are the most egregious of them.

 

    1. America is "losing" in bad trade deals, particularly with China.

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!

Donald Trump has never had any idea what he was talking about. We only just noticed.

    Usually it is fine not to have any idea what you are talking about.

    But for a presidential candidate it can be a little awkward.

    Asked by Bob Woodward what made Abraham Lincoln succeed, Donald Trump offered the following response:

    "Well," Trump said, "I think Lincoln succeeded for numerous reasons. He was a man who was of great intelligence, which most presidents would be. But he was a man of great intelligence, but he was also a man that did something that was a very vital thing to do at that time. Ten years before or 20 years before, what he was doing would never have even been thought possible. So he did something that was a very important thing to do, and especially at that time." And then he started to ramble about Richard Nixon.

    As Katherine Miller asked on Twitter, "Does Donald Trump know what Lincoln did as president?"

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!

Doctors paved the road to hell with pain pills

    Now that deaths from opioid overdose exceed those from car crashes, the medical community has come to recognize an error of historic proportions. In 2014, U.S. doctors wrote 245 million prescriptions for Vicodin, OxyContin, and other painkillers in the highly addictive family of opium derivatives known as opioids. That practice spares many patients from pain following accidents or surgery, but the cost is more than 20,000 deaths a year.

    In the past, drug addiction was viewed more as criminal behavior than as a medical condition, said Nora Volkow, who heads the National Institute on Drug Abuse. "But what we are facing now is the responsibility of the health care system," she said. "We created this epidemic and we have to be responsible to overturn it."

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines for doctors last month, and President Barack Obama has promised better access to addiction treatment. Those measures could help, but to get to the root of the problem, doctors need to learn more about the science of addiction.

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-Sanders turns testy

    The Democratic nominee for president will be running against a political novice who is widely despised, or a senator so unpopular that only two of his colleagues support him, or a governor far too moderate for his party's hard-line base, or someone else chosen at a bitterly contested convention. For Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, what could possibly go wrong?

    Plenty. Begin with the fact that the Clinton-Sanders race has devolved into gratuitous and self-destructive nastiness.

    The rhetorical hissing and spitting escalated Wednesday when Sanders charged that Clinton -- a former senator, secretary of state and first lady -- is not "qualified" to be president. It was a ridiculous thing to say. One thing it's impossible to claim about Clinton is that she lacks an adequate resume.

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!

Bright lights, big savings

    Remember the hue and cry about how the federal government was going to force consumers to switch from the incandescent lightbulbs we've used since the days of Thomas Edison to those curlicue compact fluorescent ones?

    Now, just a few years later, there has been almost no political sniping as the Energy Department has proposed a lighting standard that would move the United States to a record achievement in energy efficiency.

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 Mason-Dixon Line of Progress

    Inside the ancient town hall of Siena, Italy, the walls hold a series of magnificent 14th-century frescoes showing the effects of good government and bad. One side depicts a prosperous city-state, where justice and tolerance prevail in the Tuscan countryside. The other is ruled by a horned, fanged figure, the streets deserted and scary.

    We saw our own version of this allegory with the two Americas this week — one going backward, the other stepping into tomorrow. We saw a retreat to bigotry in states dooming themselves to decline. And in other states, we saw a way for people to get around a do-nothing Congress controlled by Know-Nothing throwbacks.

    First, the good. On Monday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a bill that will eventually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, lifting the earnings of 2.3 million New Yorkers, and he authorized one of the strongest paid parental leave laws in the nation. On the same day, Gov. Jerry Brown of California put his signature to a $15 minimum wage plan in the most populous state. And San Francisco became the first place in the country to require businesses to provide paid leave for new parents.

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 11th

New reasons to question health of Europe's banks

    European banks have lost their mojo. A toxic combination of negative interest rates, comatose economies and a regulatory backdrop that might euphemistically be described as challenging is wreaking havoc with bank business models. Their collective market value has dropped by a quarter so far this year.

    The smoke signals emanating from the European Central Bank in recent weeks suggest regulators aren't blind to this. Daniele Nouy, who chairs the ECB's bank supervisory board, said earlier this week that the central bank "is aware that the low-interest-rate environment is putting pressure on the profitability of European banks." Regulators may respond by going easier when drafting new rules.

    Bank-failure rules to prescribe how banks design their balance sheets to absorb potential losses may be eased, according to a European Commission discussion paper prepared last month. Meanwhile, a global panel of regulators will hold a meeting in London this month to let banks give additional feedback on proposed rules about how much capital they must set aside to back their trading activities.

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 better model for regulating prostitution

    In recent days, two major European countries, France and Germany, have moved to amend their prostitution laws to make it riskier to pay for sex. The French and German approaches, however, are fundamentally different.

    France decided this week, after almost three years of deliberations, to switch to the so-called Swedish or Nordic model, which exists in Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Northern Ireland: Sex work is legal, but paying for it isn't. Johns will be fined 1,500 euros ($1,700) for the first offense and 3,700 euros for the second.

    It doesn't just sound absurd to the uninitiated. French prostitutes marched against the law, carrying typically irreverent signs such as "Whores Are Angry: Don't Touch Our Clients." In real life, of course, France's 30,000 to 40,000 prostitutes still won't be paid in flowers and champagne. They will simply have fewer clients, and those they still get won't care too much whether the sex worker is involved in a legal business or some exploitative underground scheme.

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 tax avoidance is a lousy business strategy

    Earlier this week, the Obama administration put in place new rules - ones with pretty sharp teeth - to block tax inversions, where companies move their "tax residence" to a low-tax country.

    I know, what does that mean and where do you sign up? It means that a U.S. company merges with a foreign company and declares itself, for tax purposes, a U.S. subsidiary of the new foreign parent. The new rules out of the Treasury Department don't outlaw this process, but by blocking some of the most lucrative tax-avoidance tactics that motivate inverters - "earnings stripping" (the parent loads up the subsidiary with debt, who then deducts interest payments from its tax bill), "hopscotch loans" (tax free access to foreign profits), and more - they seriously dampen major incentives.

    So much so, in fact, that the pharmaceutical firm Pfizer decided not to go ahead with their planned merger with the "Irish" firm Allergan, a firm that, according to Bloomberg, "is run from New Jersey but has a legal domicile in Dublin."

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!