Blog Archives

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

Peering into the future of an Automation Game

inbv-robots-robby-the-robotIf the library of science fiction tales about our first contact with artificial intelligence have a common thread it’s that they don’t end well for humans. The signature stories in man-versus-machine lore vary in tone and scale: they’ve included everything from small, relatively modest affairs like 2001 to splashy, high-tech trilogies that include Terminator and The Matrix. If we played any part in our fictional downfall it was that of unwitting participant, not knowing collaborator. In this world of machine-learning, Facebook algorithms and autonomous cars the challenge of adapting to artificial intelligence have been fairly pedestrian and easy to overlook. A world-renowned Chess champion was toppled by Deep Blue, a top-ranked Jeopardy! player has been soundly defeated, a little-known Go master is humbled, and a few cats have been taken for a ride by Roomba vacuums. Machines are still more novelty than challenger. Continue reading

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June 14, 2018 · 1:04 am

California GOP struggling to remain in ‘top two’ race

nr2wuriw2fbuxidjvy6vravt44If Travis Allen was running for governor in a red state like Arizona or Texas the Assemblyman would be on a glide path to the nomination. His opponent left Illinois for his current home in 2011 and is spending $4 for every one Allen does. When Allen joked that the days of “big money” dictating Republican endorsements are over after California’s GOP failed to choose between the insurgent and his ‘establishment’ rival he sounded a familiar dirge. It could be a sign of the times. When Democrats gathered in February differences between progressives and their pragmatic foes prevented the state party from choosing between Kevin de Leon or Dianne Feinstein. The GOP is facing a similar divide in a state where President Trump is favored by 31 percent of Californians and 80 percent of Republicans. In the early stages John Cox adapted by running a narrowly conservative campaign largely focused on last year’s gas tax hike and the infamous “sanctuary state.” Continue reading

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May 23, 2018 · 1:32 am

Report details different kind of NCAA money trouble

8245360_web1_zagawebOnce upon a time Rick Pitino was a respected coach with NBA experience and a pair of national championships on his resume, then he was fired in 2017 after being caught up in a recruiting scandal that cost Louisville millions of dollars. His connection to a scheme in which prostitutes and strippers were hired gained more notoriety, but Pitino’s involvement in a similar effort to bribe recruits and cover up payoffs attracted the FBI’s attention. If the former Kentucky coach was a lone wolf the story would have ended with him. The implication of coaches, assistant coaches and athletic directors from Arizona and Miami to Auburn and Oklahoma State paved the way for a 52-page document colloquially known as the ‘Rice Report.’ It summarizes the findings of a ‘Commission on College Basketball’ focused on the current state of the amateur game, characterized by panel chairwoman Condoleezza Rice as a “toxic mix of perverse incentives to cheat.” What’s an athletic association to do? Continue reading

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May 2, 2018 · 1:12 am

Front office facing Clippers’ future after lousy season

1458527925962-press-conference-doc-160320-mp4-378998-3-576x324Vultures have been circling the Los Angeles Clippers franchise in a way familiar to viewers of nature documentaries like Planet Earth, though the bait was never the same…much like the predators. Jim Rome and Bill Plaschke were pressing for a breakup when the red-and-blue was a playoff team, Chris Paul was their starting point guard and Jerry West was working his magic in Oakland. Their good fortune ran its course in 2018 when a string of 50-win seasons ended and a corresponding run of six consecutive playoff appearances went with it. Fate was not kind to the Clippers in a season marked by the recurring appearence of new starters in key positions; injuries forced Coach Doc Rivers to conjure 37 unique lineups with rookies and G League players often included. Despite it all the former Celtics coach said he’s “never been more proud of a team that didn’t make the playoffs.” He knows how hard this team worked to stay in the playoff chase after April 1st. But that was last season. Continue reading

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April 23, 2018 · 12:29 am