Northam, Neeson & the need to dig up old memories

978a3fcf-7d21-44d8-a4fe-5e309c53ee8d_1140x641In the dystopian classic 1984 Winston Smith is a discontented employee at the Ministry of Truth. He serves the vaguely defined “Party” by tinkering with history to suit its whims, which could mean erasing the past or altering the present. Author George Orwell is said to have been inspired by Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union and virtually every unpopular administration has been compared to the tale’s eponymous ‘Big Brother.’ The endless effort to uncover and erase different forms of bias in the United States is characterized by a similar fervor but has taken the opposite approach; the current effort does not minimize history, preferring instead to scrounge through what can be decades of it in search of a punishable offense. Kevin Hart discovered how appealing this kind of justice can be when he was tabbed to host the Oscars in December 2018. Within days to Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences issued an ultimatum: apologize for jokes and tweets made from 2009-2011 since judged “homophobic.” He refused. Continue reading


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February 14, 2019 · 1:06 am

Temptation to trade may prove too great for “Magic”

lebron-lakers-media-dayEven the best-laid plans go awry for reasons beyond simple poor planning or unrealistic expectations; fate is a fickle partner and seems to delight in dishing out a peculiar brand of justice. Having convinced LeBron James to sign on the dotted line the Lakers launched a campaign fans believed would end with a trip to the playoffs. It didn’t take long for fate to rock that boat. Those same fans got a hint of how easily the purple-and-gold could be rattled when they struggled after Brandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo were suspended for a scuffle during the team’s home opener. After missing the playoffs five times over the last five years in a town where championship-or-bust had been the standard, it would have come as no surprise if anxiety over a 2-5 record led to calls for change. It was different when Earvin Johnson, known as “Magic” for his work on the court, scolded his coach in a meeting and explained that he would not fire Luke Walton without a “drastic” change in circumstances. Whew. Continue reading

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February 6, 2019 · 1:22 am

Trump troop announcement could spur needed action

american-troops-iraq1A collective gasp must have rattled through the foreign policy community when President Trump broadcast his intent to remove US troops from Syria, reportedly at the behest of our Saudi Arabian allies. It meant the same President who swung towards intervention in Afghanistan months ago was suddenly shifting gears, and Lindsey Graham was fit to be tied. Before walking back his statement to fall in line with the administration, South Carolina’s hawkish senator called the move a “stain on the honor of the United States.” This flash of theatrics indicates a fear that may only reside in Graham’s mind — a letter sent by his colleagues didn’t contain any similar flourish — but when combined with Trump’s reported intent to bring 7,000 soldiers home from Afghanistan it highlights Congress’ role in drawing a map to this impasse. The actions of allies and adversaries in the region and their need for reassurance spring as much from its abdication of war-making authority as any president’s capriciousness. How? It’s a long story and it started in 2001. Continue reading

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January 18, 2019 · 2:46 am

Thousand Oaks shooting produces familiar responses

borderline1-900x555Given that humans are creatures habit our response to the shootings in Pittsburgh and Thousand Oaks followed a somewhat predictable pattern. We can learn, as indicated by the relative absence of “thoughts and prayers” after a gunman killed 12 at a bar in Thousand Oaks, but old beliefs find new outlets. After virtually abandoning an increasingly trite phrase that had become a magnet for critics, gun control opponents were seeking safer shores. Senator-elect Marsha Blackburn offered Fox News host Sandra Smith a kind of frustrated indifference when questioned about prevention, saying “What can we do?” before referring to the Parkland school shooting and repeating her plaintive query. Blackburn later answered her own question, after presumably gathering her thoughts, by expressing a desire to “protect the Second Amendment,” then suggested that “mental health issues need to be addressed.” In her interview the former Times Mirror sales manager hit every note a candidate elected after receiving $1.25 million in assistance from the National Rifle Association would be expected to. Continue reading

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November 27, 2018 · 12:53 am

Misdiagnosis mars understanding of attempted bombings

Violent Clashes Erupt at 'Unite the Right' Rally in CharlottesvillePundits were still discussing President Trump’s decision to brand himself a ‘nationalist’ at a rally in Texas when news broke that crude bombs had been delivered to several prominent figures. The list of intended victims reads like a whos-who of talk radio villains: Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, George Soros, Maxine Waters and CNN. There was evidence of clever plotting and sloppy misdirection, but the tone was unmistakable. In the perpetrator’s eyes violence is a legitimate means to achieve political goals. After a few commenters and one Democrat lawmaker linked the president with Hitler for his willingness to continue embracing the ‘nationalist’ brand Jeff Zucker blamed the attempted bombings on the celebrity president. The CNN chief offered “continued attacks on the media” as evidence then pointed to the White House, stating “they have shown no comprehension” that “words matter.” The response from Meghan McCain was unsurprising and unfortunate. Continue reading

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October 29, 2018 · 12:57 am

Rehab addicts leading Lakers to renewed glory?

rob-pelinka-magic-johnson-speak-on-lebron-james-signingThe air around Staples Center was buzzing after a newly-minted management team took its first steps towards a promised rebuild in February when Earvin Johnson convinced a fellow executive to adopt two of his reserves in exchange for a pair of players with expiring contracts. It was no secret that Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka would not be content to tinker with the roster and hope for a return to the playoffs; Jeanie Buss had something more in mind when she booted her brother during a palace revolt. They sought the star players fate seemed ready to deliver, forwards LeBron James and Paul George. Given the team’s failed attempts to recruit LaMarcus Aldridge or secure a meeting with Kevin Durant I was admittedly skeptical of “Magic” Johnson’s ability to lure top-flight talent. There was also reason to believe it wouldn’t be worth disrupting an improving young team to make a run at the playoffs with a patchwork squad familiar to fans who endured Mike D’Antoni’s short run as coach. Imagine my surprise at what happened next. Continue reading

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October 24, 2018 · 11:31 pm

Ford v. Kavanaugh & a contrived quest for truth

christine-blasey-ford-sworn_1538064681535_12726195_ver1-0_1280_720The road ahead has a familiar look to any commuter traveling on the crowded freeways of Southern California that mostly ends at the point of each one’s nose. Every one of them is aware of the other drivers trying to make their way to work or school, but just can’t imagine what it’s like sit behind another wheel on a different highway headed in the opposite direction. After witnessing two weeks of chatter about the Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s right to confront his accuser and the importance of believing women like Doctor Christine Ford when they bring forward similar charges it’s become ever more clear that a similar dissonance haunted these hearings from the day Ford’s allegation went public. It is true that differences over the nominee’s views on Roe v. Wade and executive authority divided the 21 senators who would decide his fate, yet the dispute over access to documents and Democrats frustration with some of Kavanaugh’s answers didn’t spin off into personal condemnation. At their worst the opposition spent time auditioning for 2020’s presidential primaries. Continue reading

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October 1, 2018 · 11:57 pm