Daring Pope seems reluctant to tackle abuse

20130313nw543_0Once Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio earned the mantle of Pope and took his place as successor to Benedict XVI he gained the reputation of a reformer and something of a maverick. The newly-minted pontiff chose to live in a Vatican residence known as Casa Santa Marta, where visiting clergy and lay people also stay, out of a desire to “stay the same and act as I did in Buenos Aires.” As the first Jesuit and Latin American to hold the office Francis eschewed the famed bulletproof Pope-mobile and urged colleagues in need of transportation to “choose a more humble one.” While serving his flock the Pope has crossed into politics by issuing a 180-page encyclical on climate change ahead of a trip to the US then urging wealthy nations to begin paying a related “social debt” to the poor. The former Archbishop may have surprised average church-watchers, but witnesses to his clash with Argentine President Cristina Kirchner over same-sex marriage and contraception know of Francis’ fondness for activism. Continue reading

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September 12, 2018 · 1:13 am

Scandal-driven news risks spurring ‘Crisis Fatigue’

o-white-house-press-corps-facebookSpend enough time listening to talk radio and you’ll build an immunity to the suggestions and statements callers offer on hot-button subjects like Russia and the media. It’s necessary because the alternative is abandoning a valuable platform for the sake of a few loopy ideas delivered with what’s become familiar sincerity. That’s a need one caller to the Rush Limbaugh program reminded me of when she told the host there should be a “Truth in Journalism” board established which is similar to one responsible for upholding the Federal Trade Commission’s truth-in-advertising standards. The prospective group’s purpose wasn’t exactly clear in the caller’s words, probably something vague yet popular like ‘balanced,’ ‘fair,’ or “just the facts” reporting that would quickly provide readers with everything they need to make informed decisions. It’s not going to happen. After spending a few years as a consumer of news with access to a blog where I can publish my opinions I’ve discovered how great a role consumers play in accessing ‘balanced’ news. Continue reading

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August 30, 2018 · 12:45 am

Twitter defies trending corporate practice on speech

https3a2f2fblueprint-api-production-s3-amazonaws-com2fuploads2fcard2fimage2f1035122fdsc03959When the ACLU memo leaked by former board member Wendy Kaminer surfaced, the description of how its “case selection guidelines” would change after last year’s violence in Charlottesville stood as notice that the primary threat to controversial speech does not come from government. President Trump can announce “fake news” awards and describe the press as enemies of the people but won’t take action because it would remove a reliable villain. The tease has its own value. If talk radio is to be trusted the people who cheered when he told a crowd in Kansas not to believe what they see already practice what Mr. Brexit preaches. People griping about Jack Dorsey’s refusal to dump Alex Jones from Twitter want action; the CEO acknowledged their presence when he referred to the “straightforward principles we enforce” regardless of political viewpoint. Tech journalist Kara Swisher wasn’t impressed. She condemned the social media giant for “doubling down on the same squishy point” after allowing the site to become a cesspool with “little intention of truly cleaning up.” Continue reading

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August 17, 2018 · 1:38 am

Quest for purity haunting Supreme Court’s independence

KAVANAUGH-BIZIn a third debate ahead of 2016’s presidential election the Democrat nominee touched on familiar talking points by endorsing justices who would defend women’s rights, uphold Roe v. Wade and reverse Citizen’s United. Such a demand for judicial fealty may bother purists among us, but the onetime senator could not be accused of inviting judicial activism simply by taking a popular opinion on two settled cases during a heated campaign. It’s good politics. Even her vague plea for a court that would “stand on the side of the people” left room for some fine-tuning. Faced with their third straight Supreme Court confirmation battle while a minority in the Senate Democrats are not so subtle now. California Senator Kamala Harris described Judge Brett Kavanaugh as a “fundamental threat to that promise of equality” and an “existential threat” to the health care of “hundreds of millions of Americans.” Kirsten Gillibrand claimed the nominee cannot be trusted to defend the rights of women and workers and posted a tweet encouraging followers to support stonewalling the nominee until after an election the New York senator portrayed as pivotal. Continue reading

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July 26, 2018 · 12:43 am

US flag remains politically neutral despite president

american-flag-1459201553ppeAmong the many sounds and scents of Independence Day — hot dogs grilling, fireworks exploding, the cat seeking refuge in a bedroom — there is Old Glory. A few houses on my block fly the flag on this day, two keep them up all year, and I have no reason to doubt that each family loves this country. When Conor Friedersdorf wrote ‘This flag is your flag’ he was not so magnanimous in choosing to open by referring to a president who “cast himself as…protector of the American flag.” That’s an easy case to make when President Trump traffics in the kind of ostentatious displays that seemingly equate patriotism with the size of a flag flying from one’s porch. By the time Eagles players were uninvited from the White House the source of player’s discontent and Colin Kaepernick’s role in provoking it didn’t matter; they were disrespecting Americans, veterans and the flag by demonstrating. Friedersdorf may have felt that Trump used the bully pulpit to carelessly stir up resentment about an issue even veterans are divided over, but reacted in a familiar way. Continue reading

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July 10, 2018 · 12:58 am

Travel ban 3.0 narrowly upheld and discredited

scotus-travel-banIf any group of professionals understand the power words have to shape opinion it’s advertisers, so Coca-Cola was once labeled the “Real Thing” and Coors later branded a “Banquet Beer.” The drinks didn’t have to be any better than a competitor’s for some potential customers to associate Pepsi with fakery or separate Budwiser from sophistication. The practice of politics is no stranger to branding, thus the kin of those victimized by immigrants are described as “Angel Families” and murder is repackaged as “gun violence.” The details are unique but the essence of such disguised framing remains the same: crimes committed by illegal immigrants demand special attention, as do killers who use guns. Opponents of the so-called travel ban were not so subtle when they described the recycled executive order as a “Muslim Ban.” There was a time when that label would meet truth-in-advertising standards, a time when President Trump boasted that Christian refugees would be spared from its provisions. That was seventeen months ago. Continue reading

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July 4, 2018 · 1:14 am

Singapore summit’s achievements met expectations

trump-kim-summit-singapore-17-rtr-jc-180611_hpmain_sl_mn_4x3_992As a candidate Donald Trump dismissed the Paris Climate accord, describing it in an interview with Reuters as a one-sided deal that is “bad for the United States.” Branded as everything from accord and agreement to treaty, it contained a pledge to cut US greenhouse gas emissions at least 26% by 2025. China’s representatives vowed its emissions would peak in 2030 and committed to little more, despite being responsible for twice the output American industry is. Even these relatively modest terms could not be upheld without a judge like the World Trade Organization to sanction scofflaws. It seemed President Obama believed some combination of charisma and a friendly relationship with Xi Jinping would convince China’s president to ignore advice from business leaders or Communist Party officials simply to avoid disappointing his American counterpart. Despite its flaws President Obama signed an executive order confirming US participation in the symbolic bargain. Continue reading

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June 22, 2018 · 1:49 am