Free Speech besieged, but not by the White House

thisdfjasdlfkjasIn this political environment that prominently features a president who prizes conflict with a so-called crooked media it would be easy to conclude the First Amendment is under siege after outlets like “fake news” CNN and the “failing” New York Times were excluded from an informal briefing at the White House. On its face the notion sounds crazy, at least it did before the Times responded by issuing a nearly Trumpian communique that described their exclusion as “an unmistakable insult to democratic ideals.” Before anyone in New York or Washington lights their hair on fire in protest, it’s important to understand that off-camera briefings are not new phenomenon — previous administrations have also used them. It is also worthy of note that the “gaggle” admitted to Sean Spicer’s office was not stacked with presumed allies like Fox News and Breitbart, but also included major networks, and presumed adversaries, like ABC, NBC, and CBS. Continue reading

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March 8, 2017 · 1:06 am

ESPN surrendered to wild Twitterstorm

454343602When the Supreme Court was confronted with the Jacobellis v. Ohio case in the mid-1950’s they were asked to determine if a French film titled The Lovers was obscene. Potter Stewart’s standard wasn’t exactly clear; in a concurring opinion the associate justice referred to his own sense when he wrote that pornography was hard to define, but that “I know it when I see it.” The decades since have brought plenty of change with them. Public concern over obscenity is not what it was in 1964, or the late 1980’s when Tipper Gore and Jesse Helms were pressing the recording industry to put warning labels on rap records. There are other demons to chase now. Continue reading

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February 27, 2017 · 6:04 am

Beware of Trump the celebrity President

Nate Beeler / Columbus DispatchIf there was any lingering doubt in the Trump White House that its refugee restrictions rollout was mismanaged just ask Chris Christie. The New Jersey governor described that weekend’s efforts as “terrible” and faulted the president’s staff for failing to forecast potential problems. Optics still matter to somebody like Christie because, despite his closeness to Team Trump, the onetime presidential candidate is still a conventional politician. Donald Trump is not. The former reality TV star was able to casually blame Delta Air Lines for the “big problems” at airports, describe tears shed by Senate Democrat leader Charles Schumer as “fake,” and throw a variation of his trademark slogan into the ‘Delta’ tweet because of he’s not like anything Washington DC has seen before. Continue reading

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February 20, 2017 · 12:52 am

In a ragged Race to repeal Obamacare

donald-trump-paul-ryan-after-your-obamacareWhen House Republicans passed a budget resolution in the fall of 2013 they tried to do what the Supreme Court did not a year earlier: block the Affordable Care Act before its unwelcome provisions, like the individual mandate, could be rolled out. That attempt to defund President Obama’s health care overhaul stalled when Senate Democrats called the GOP’s bluff; their insurrection fell apart after 16 days, but it left behind plenty of ugly images and odd anecdotes that have come rushing back now that the drive to dismantle “Obamacare” is ramping up again. Continue reading

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January 27, 2017 · 2:08 am

Lakers wandering the woods while seeking a Door

lakers-debuts-brandon-ingram-luke-waltonThis new season looked promising when the Lakers were standing at 10-10 after 20 games. Admittedly the definition is a bit different in Tinseltown after a 17-65 meltdown, but the excitement was nonetheless genuine before December arrived. The injury bug that seemingly left with Byron Scott in May returned after Thanksgiving, took down D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young, then the bus crashed. As a rookie head coach Luke Walton is not used to this kind of thing. His time patrolling the sidelines, whiteboard in hand, was spent overseeing a 24 game winning streak…not back-to-back losses where 19-point leads were surrendered. There remains little reason to doubt Walton’s state of mind, even after he was thrown out of a game in Sacramento for barking at officials when they missed an obvious call. He’s let it be known that the Lakers’ record and their place in the standings is not a particular concern; his first season is the beginning of a long-term rebuilding project and Walton knows there are no shortcuts to playoff redemption. I’m not so confident about the lady with season tickets and a seat in Section 117. Continue reading

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January 17, 2017 · 6:06 am

Those bad Neighbors on the West Bank

image705251Beyond the rumble of explosions continuing to rattle Iraq and what’s left of Syria in the ongoing battle between terrorists, rebel factions, and their government-allied rivals another crusade is playing out in the holy land. At the heart of this renewed war of words is a long-simmering, personal feud between the US president and Israel’s prime minister; it flared up in July when Republican leaders invited Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress about a “very bad” UN-brokered deal with Iran intended to limit its nuclear program. The intervening 18 months have brought a few mismatched highlights with them: the Jewish state was confronted by weeks of near-daily attacks by knife-wielding Palestinian assailants, a pledge from the White House to deliver $38 billion in military aid over 10 years — with strings attached — and a surprise development in the last weeks of President Obama’s term. Continue reading

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January 9, 2017 · 4:16 am

Memories of a gleaming Winter’s Moon

league-of-legends-image-league-of-legends-36235146-1500-900I knew the rap on office Christmas parties when I discovered the invitation to one on my desk. They’re the kind of place people go when they’ve got nowhere else to go, an event better suited to the cast of a Mike Judge movie than an aspiring writer. But since I was a rookie typesetter who was new in town and had nowhere else to be on that Saturday I bought a ticket. The print shop I was working for rented out a ballroom at a hotel whose name remains elusive. If the pay was a hint at what money could be made producing business cards and letterhead it was all they could afford. Continue reading

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December 24, 2016 · 1:37 am