Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Our current news river churns a steady torrent of controversy

Published: Sunday, May 4 2014 12:05 a.m. MDT

Rancher Cliven Bundy speaks at a protest camp near Bunkerville, Nev. Friday, April 18, 2014.

John Locher, Associated Press

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The 21st century news cycle is better called a news river — a steady torrent of issues and controversies. We review some of the flotsam in the froth:

An NBA franchise owner and a Nevada rancher have both made racist comments and generated nationwide publicity. Are we losing ground in the battle against racism and coarseness in public discourse?

Pignanelli: "Freedom of speech is primarily the right for stupid people to say dumb things" — Rickard Falkvinge

L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling and rancher Cliven Bundy have a fundamental right to espouse their hateful, ignorant opinions. But the rest of the country has an equal privilege to express objections to their ridiculous statements. Opposition is best articulated in the marketplace — by protest marches, threatening boycotts, etc. (My friends roll their eyes when I piously proclaim various embargos of establishments lacking political correctness.) The good news arising from the Sterling/Bundy mess is Americans overwhelmingly reject the hint of racism.

The real problem is inconsistency (aka hypocrisy) in communications between Americans. Insults to people of color are correctly banned, but African-American entertainers sprinkle the airwaves with the "N" word and lyrics that disparage women. Poverty advocates scream discrimination unless government programs are expanded, yet Rep. Paul Ryan (and other conservatives) are attacked when making legitimate inquiries as to the effectiveness of entitlements. Civility in discourse is more than just being nice — it is honesty in conversation. There is much room for improvement.

Webb: Donald Sterling is simply a poor excuse for a human. Cliven Bundy has been out in the desert for too long under too much sun. However, as evidenced by the overwhelming revulsion to these sad outbreaks of bigotry, the country is doing better today with race relations than at any time in its history. The only politically correct group left to poke fun at is old, white Mormon Republicans like me. And I’m too dumb to take offense, so go for it.

In rightly condemning racism, we ought not to condone victim-think. Poverty, poor education, crime and joblessness aren’t necessarily caused by racism. Today, racism isn’t the biggest problem facing minority groups. I like this recent quote by Larry Elder, a conservative African-American author and radio talk-show host:

“Black unemployment went up last month from 12 percent to 12.4 percent. We have sky-high teen unemployment, especially among blacks. … Fifty years of welfare state policies have de-stabilized families and created fatherless homes — all of which exacerbate problems of crime, school dropout rates, under-education and government dependency. … Can black and white victicrats take a day off from being ‘offended’? Dolts — whether Bundy or Sterling — … say stupid things. The real issues — under-education, lack of jobs and irresponsible breeding and parenting — have nothing to do with Sterling's jealousy ….”

The talk of Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman running again for president continues. What are the chances?

Pignanelli: National Republicans have a conservative governor in Huntsman, who expanded the economy of his state while cutting taxes, and would capture large sections of the minority, female and youth vote. (The 2012 Obama campaign trembled at the prospect of his candidacy.) Rumblings about Huntsman continue to percolate because his success in a presidential general election is guaranteed. But, unlike Democrats who love to nominate outsiders (i.e. Carter, Clinton, Obama ) the GOP insists on fealty to the establishment, and will exclude Huntsman. If Jeb Bush refuses to run, there will be greater pressure on Romney to try again. But having one of Utah's favorite sons on the ballot remains a distant dream.

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