Sunday, May 21, 2017

Rob Burgess - Awards list



Here's a list of the awards I've been honored to receive for my writing. Click the links below to read more about each:

Winner - First Place - Best General Commentary - Division 5 - 2013 Hoosier State Press Association Foundation Better Newspaper Contest
Winner - Second Place - Best General Commentary - Division 5 - 2014 Hoosier State Press Association Foundation Better Newspaper Contest

Winner - Staff - First Place - Best Multimedia Package - Division 2 - 2015 Indiana Associated Press Media Editors Journalism Contest #

Winner - Staff - First Place - Best Special Section - Division 5 - 2015 Hoosier State Press Association Foundation Better Newspaper Contest #

Winner - Staff - Second Place - Best Ongoing News Coverage - Division 5 - 2016 Hoosier State Press Association Foundation Better Newspaper Contest

Winner - Staff - Third Place - Best Spot News Coverage - Division 2 - 2017 Indiana Associated Press Media Editors Journalism Contest

# = These were won by the Nov. 17, 2014, special section, "One Year Later," to which I contributed audio, wrote one of the main stories and compiled three sidebars. 




I've also been honored to be a part of several Kokomo Tribune staff awards:

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Rob Burgess - Kokomo Tribune - City Editor/Editorial Board Member/Opinion Page Editor

I was hired as Night Editor of the Kokomo Tribune on March 31, 2012.

I am proud to announce I joined the Kokomo Tribune Editorial Board on June 27, 2014.

You can read Editorials in the Opinion section of the paper.
I became City Editor on July 29, 2016; and Opinion Page Editor on Feb. 2, 2017.
Also, check out my Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Rob Burgess - Kokomo Tribune - Article List

April 2012 - Present

[Last updated: May 21, 2017.]

[Note: Clear your browser's cookies between articles.]


After the dust settled on Saturday at the Queen City Regional at Xavier University in Cincinnati, only three high school robotics teams could call themselves champions.
And two of them were from Kokomo.

2012-04-23 – “Teen death sparks outpouring of grief” [Pages: A1, jump to A5] (with photo by Rob Burgess)
As 8 p.m. grew closer on Sunday, the throng of mourners posted along the 4600 block of Brookhaven Drive continued to grow. The roadway filled with many red, tear-streaked faces, most of them belonging to young mourners.

2012-05-18 – “USPS to begin closing plants” [Pages: A1, jump to A6]
Along with Gary, Bloomington, Terre Haute and Columbus, Kokomo is one of five Indiana processing centers set for consolidation by February 2013.

2012-05-20 – “Minor wreck causes major roll” (with photo by Rob Burgess) [Page: A2]
What started as a relatively slight two-vehicle collision left a white-and-turquoise Geo Tracker sitting on its driver’s side a block away just after 6 p.m. Saturday.

2012-05-31 – “WMS student nearly makes National Spelling Bee semifinals” [Pages: A1 (mug), A3 (story)]
Even though he read the dictionary twice, Western Middle School sixth-grader Pranav Haran still came up just short of advancement in the 85th Scripps National Spelling Bee on Wednesday.

2012-06-08 – “House fire leaves two injured” (with photo by Tim Bath) [Pages: A1, jump to A8]
A fully involved house fire Thursday night sent two residents to the hospital.

As a little girl, Sarah Stoldt remembers her favorite game was playing house with her niece. She loved pretending it was her own home — a place where she could be a mother and raise her children. But with the help of Kokomo Habitat for Humanity, make-believe became reality when Stoldt moved into her brand-new home on Kingston Road in July.

INDIANAPOLIS — Republican Mitt Romney and Democrat Barack Obama spent Thursday attempting to fire up their respective supporters following Wednesday’s televised debate performances in Denver. Meanwhile, former two-term New Mexico governor and current Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson took his case to the Hoosier State.

INDIANAPOLIS — Former President Bill Clinton paid a visit to the Hoosier state Friday to speak to a crowd of 3,000 at the “Hoosier Common Sense Rally” at North Central High School in Indianapolis.

The month of December is rife with entertainments directed squarely on the holiday season. So, we asked our readers to tell us via Twitter and Facebook what their favorite sights and sounds of the season were.
Just days after the first major winter storm to hit central Indiana since 2010 dropped between 5 and 9 inches of snow on the Kokomo area, another chilly blast once again blanketed the region. 

2013-02-03 – “Readers remember ’78 blizzard” (with three submitted photos) [Page: A3]
On Jan. 27, we posted the following status update on our Facebook page: “The blizzard of 1978 was 35 years ago today. Who remembers that?” Now, a week later, that one post has since received 1,140 likes, 262 comments and 52 shares. It’s clear that many of our readers did, in fact, recall the once-in-a-generation weather event quite well.

A female was found dead of a gunshot wound at around 9:30 p.m. Thursday on James Drive, according to the scanner. 

2013-02-20 – “Medics continue to inspire” [Page: A1, jump to A5]
INDIANAPOLIS — Early Saturday morning, a two-car collision caused the first known on-the-job deaths of emergency services workers in Indianapolis’ history.

BLOOMINGTON — Four titans of comedy along with more than 40 other comedians are set to descend upon Bloomington in June for the inaugural Limestone Comedy Festival, which is being described by organizers as “Indiana’s first and only comedy festival.”

The driver of a tan, four-door Buick that ran into the back of a semi-trailer Thursday evening on U.S. 31 has been identified as 40-year old Natalie Douglas of Kokomo. 

2013-11-23 – “How the Kokomo Tribune reported the assassination” [Page: A7, promo on A1]
A few months back, a reader brought us a stack of yellowing editions of the Kokomo Tribune. 

2014-01-23 – “Stuck in the middle; Long-term Howard County LGBT couples discuss their experiences” [Page: A1, jump to A3]
They aren’t married, and legally can’t be according to Indiana’s Defense of Marriage Act, which went into effect in 2004. Compounded on top of that is HJR3, the proposed constitutional amendment which would come before voters in November if approved by the Indiana General Assembly.

After I put out the call on our Twitter and Facebook pages for LGBT residents of Howard County in long-term relationships who would marry their partners were it legal, I received back this letter in response.

It may only be his first time in the director’s chair, but Kokomo native Ben Cotner won big Saturday in Park City, Utah at the Sundance Film Festival. Cotner shared the U.S. Documentary Directing prize with co-director Ryan White for their film, “The Case Against 8.”

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — Attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies once argued the Bush v. Gore case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, but they say fighting California’s law prohibiting same-sex marriage is the most significant thing they’ve done.

In his first public comments after an amended version of HJR3 passed the Indiana House of Representatives Tuesday, Gov. Mike Pence expressed dismay at the loss of the amendment’s second sentence.

To get to this point, HJR3 has taken a long, contentious and, oftentimes, circuitous route. 

2014-03-26 – “Limestone Comedy Festival returns” [Page: A11, promo on A1]
BLOOMINGTON — For the second year, the Limestone Comedy Festival is ready to take over downtown Bloomington this spring.

Partially re-published: 2014-04-27 – “Week in Review” [Page: D1]
If you drive past the intersection of East Morgan and North Ohio streets these days you’ll see some trees, a parking lot and a Dollar General store. What you won’t see is the Kokomo Skating Arena, a landmark which stood on this corner for decades until a tornado caved the roof in April 20, 2004. Those who knew it well said they won’t soon forget it.

When Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert died April 4, 2013 at age 70 after a years-long battle with cancer, he left behind a vibrant legacy. The Urbana, Ill. native inspired countless other critics and boasted a fan base of millions of fellow movie lovers around the world. Now, a year after his passing, a vital strand of that heritage, Ebertfest: Roger Ebert’s Film Festival, kicks of its 16th year tonight at the historic, 1,500-seat Virginia Theatre in Champaign, Ill.

After a successful run on the festival circuit over the past few months, the big day is finally here for the documentary “The Case Against 8.” The award-winning film is set to have its primetime premiere at 9 p.m. Monday on HBO East. The movie was co-directed by Ryan White and Kokomo native Ben Cotner.

On Saturday, the second-ever enrollment period for the historic Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as “Obamacare,” began. This time around, those with no health insurance will have until Feb. 15, 2015, to decide whether to seek coverage through the federally administered marketplace. In a series of phone interviews this week, local navigators, counselors and hospital workers said consumers have every reason to educate themselves before making a decision.

For those without health insurance who have not utilized the Affordable Care Act Marketplace, there will be a price to pay come April 15, 2015.

The Glendennings, along with the rest of Kokomo, had just escaped serious injury or death in the third most numerous tornado outbreak ever recorded in Indiana. Damaging storms had also ravaged Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. The National Weather Service later determined two category F2 tornadoes had cut through the south end of Kokomo that day, causing “considerable damage” and hitting estimated top speeds of 120 miles per hour.

In 2014, my son was born. This fact is the most amazing thing to ever happen to me. It has also been the most all-encompassing. I never realized how much time I had to relax, play guitar, watch movies and listen to music until I had almost none.

Critic year-end lists can be a bit cumbersome, filled with artists you've never heard of and albums you've never listened to. In an effort to expedite that process and provide something useful as we close out 2014, I've selected five albums I'm sure will provide at least something you, the readers might be interested in. Then again, you might not. These five albums, however, at least deserve a shot, and made the past year sound so much better.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has suspended all hazard mitigation grant awards to the state of Indiana due to unresolved compliance issues with Kokomo's baseball stadium project, according to a press release issued late Thursday by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

2015-04-06 – “Limestone Comedy Festival - Volume III” [Page: A3, promo on A1]

BLOOMINGTON - For the third year in a row, The Limestone Comedy Festival will bring a cadre of top-flight comedic talent to Bloomington. And that’s what keeps Jared Thompson, festival co-director and proprietor of The Comedy Attic, up at night: Meeting the exceptionally high expectations set by the past two years.

2015-05-23 – “Greentown robbery suspect in custody” [Page: A1, jump to A8]
A suspect in Sunday’s robbery of Huck’s Convenience Store has been arrested, said Howard County Sheriff Steve Rogers Friday afternoon.
John Gregg sat down with the Tribune Friday to discuss likely hot-button issues for Hoosiers heading to the polls next year.

2015-12-12 – “Best New Podcasts of 2015” [Page: A5]

I drive two hours round trip to and from work every day. That’s 10 hours a week — at least — in the car. This can be draining, but it does have the charm of allowing me time to listen to podcasts. There are tens of thousands of podcasts out there, so I’m definitely leaving some out. But, here are my picks for the Best New Podcasts of 2015.

2016-03-21 – “Remembering Deputy Carl Koontz” [Page: A1, jump to A6] %
After Howard County Sheriff's Department Deputy Carl Koontz, 26, was killed in the line of duty Sunday, we asked our readers on Facebook and Twitter to share remembrances of this fallen officer. The response was amazing.

Pancakes, politics and, of course, former President Bill Clinton brought dozens of Hoosiers out to United Auto Workers 685 early Saturday morning to promote his wife as she races for the democratic nomination.

Kokomo paychecks have lost the most buying power of any other metro area in the country according to a report from the Pew Research Center released Tuesday.

Thousands of Duke Energy customers in the Kokomo area were still without power a day after tornadoes once again ripped through the area.

As Fred Rogers once said: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'" In that spirit, we wanted to recognize the helpers in our community. So, we asked our readers: “Is there someone you'd like to recognize who went above and beyond during Wednesday’s tornadoes?”

In what was equal parts Democratic political rally and remembrance of the historic gains of organized labor, around 200 people gathered Sunday afternoon outside the United Auto Workers Local 685 Union Hall at 929 East Hoffer St.

When Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Christina Hale took the time for an exclusive interview before Sunday's Labor Day rally at United Auto Workers Local 685 Union Hall at 929 East Hoffer St., she said knew what it was like on the other side of the questions.

If there is such a thing as political dynasty in Indiana, the Bayhs are certainly it. For four generations, this family has been in the spotlight.

INDIANAPOLIS - Parents and children who are fans of the British animated television series “The Octonauts” should prepare to active the Creature Report. The first-ever interactive theater show version to tour the U.S. is visiting more than 60 cities including Indianapolis, where it set to begin at 5 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Murat Theatre at the Old National Centre, 502 N. New Jersey St.

For the second year in a row, I’ve compiled my list of the best new podcasts. (On a side note, you should also listen to the podcasts I’ve appeared on this year including, "The Workers’ Voice," "Sounding Off" and, of course, "The Rob Burgess Show," but that’s another story.) Anyway, here’s my picks for 2016.

In a closed caucus meeting Saturday morning, Marty Stout was elected as the new Howard County Republican Party chairman by a group of precinct and vice-precinct committeemen at the county's Republican Party headquarters in downtown Kokomo. 

Question Time

“If you could have dinner with any three people living or otherwise who would it be and why?”

“Memorial Day is meant to commemorate the sacrifices of those who perished while serving in the armed forces. Do you have a specific veteran in mind who you’ll be remembering?”

“Imagine you are chosen to give a commencement speech to this year’s graduating class of your alma mater. What advice would you give the students?” 

2013-06-17 – “Question Time – Summer rewind” [Page: A2]
“If you could relive one summer from your past over again, which one would it be and why?”

“What books are you planning on reading this summer?” 

2013-07-01 – “Question Time – Dream vacation” [Page: A3]
“If you could take a vacation anywhere in the world this summer where would you go and why?”

"What is your favorite summer movie?"
“If it were up to you, what book would you require every high school student in the state to read before graduating?”

“Did you attend summer camp as a child? If so, which one and what’s your favorite memory? If not, why not and do you wish you had?”

“In your opinion, what exact date do you think students should return to school from summer break and why? Or, do you support a year-round schedule, and, if so, why?”

“Are you playing? If you are, how hopeful are you of beating the 1 in 175 million odds? If you aren't playing, is there a certain amount the jackpot would have to surpass to get you to participate?”

“In your opinion, what television show has the best series ending and why?” 

2013-09-01 – “Question Time - Hands-free driving coming soon” [Page: A4]
“How do you feel about the idea of living in a world with driver-less cars?”

“Where were you on that day? What do you remember?” 

2013-09-16 – “Question Time - What to do about Syria” [Page: A3]
“What do you think Congress should do about Syria?”

“Is autumn the best season? Why or why not?”

“What is the best Halloween costume you've ever worn?” 

2013-10-14 – “Question Time - Christmas is coming” [Page: A3]
“Do you think Washington, D.C.’s NFL team should change its name? If not, why? If yes, suggestion for a new name?”

“What was your favorite World Series and why?”

“At what age, if any, should be the minimum for children to join and use social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, etc. Why?”

“What is the best Thanksgiving dish and why?”

“Do you think retailers should wait until the last holiday is finished before starting on the next one or are you OK with the overlap?” 

2013-12-09 – “Question Time - Best and worst Christmas gifts” [Page: A2]
“What was the best Christmas gift you’ve ever received and why? And what was the worst Christmas gift you’ve ever received and why?” 

2013-12-16 – “Question Time - Worst Christmas songs ever” [Page: A4]
“If you could erase one Christmas song from existence which one would it be and why?”

“If someone says ‘Happy Holidays’ to you (instead of 'Merry Christmas,' 'Happy New Year,' etc.), how does it make you feel and why?”

“When it snows, where do you and your family and friends go to enjoy the weather (sledding, snow forts, etc.)?” 

2014-01-13 – “Question Time - Comparing storms” [Page: A2]
“How, specifically, does this winter storm compare to others you’ve experienced?”

“When school is closed for inclement weather, should students have to cut into their summer break to make up the days or should those days just be written off?”

“Super Bowl: Seahawks or Broncos? Who do you have winning, and why?”

"What is your favorite Super Bowl commercial ever and why?"

“What was your favorite Super Bowl commercial this year?”

“Anything special planned for St. Valentine’s Day?”

“What song (or songs) would you most like played at your funeral and why?”

“Who do you think will win? Who do you think should win?” 

2014-03-10 – “Question Time - Daylight Saving Time begins again” [Page: A2]
“What’s your opinion of DST?”

“In which time zone (Eastern, Central, other) should Indiana be and why?”

“Who do you having going to the Final Four and why? Who do you have going all the way and why?”

“If you had a time machine, but could only visit yourself in the future or the past, which would you choose and why?” 

2014-04-07 – “Question Time - Most memorable spring break” [Page: A2]
“Thinking back, what was your most memorable spring break and why?”

“If you could erase from existence one piece of technology from our modern life, what would you pick and why?”

“Imagine you’re having a baby (or babies) today. What would you name it (or them) and why? (You can give answers for a girl, a boy or both; and any combination for twins, triplets, etc.)”

“Answer the following questions honestly: 1. When you are on the road and see another driver staring at their phone, what’s your first thought? 2. Have you yourself ever used your phone while driving? Do expect you will do so in the future?”

"Was the punishment Adam Silver, NBA commissioner, levied against Donald Sterling, Los Angeles Clippers owner, fair? Why or why not?" 

2014-05-12 – “Question Time - Best thrift shop finds” [Page: A3]
“What is the best used item you’ve ever purchased? Why?”

“If you could make one day of the year a paid holiday which isn’t one now, which one would you pick and why? And how do you think we should celebrate this new holiday?”

2014-05-26 – “Question Time - Summer reading 2014” [Page: A2]
“What books on your summer reading list are you looking forward to this year?”

2014-06-09 – “Question Time - Best senior pranks ever” [Page: A3]
“When you were graduating high school, did your class pull a senior prank? If so, what was it and how well did it work? If not, did you hear of any other older or younger students pulling a final stunt?”

2014-06-16 – “Question Time - New languages” [Page: A3]

“If you had the power to instantly, completely learn only one language you don’t already know, which one would you pick, and why?”

“What is one type of pet you’ve always wanted to have, but have never been able to? Why?”

“Have you ever been a hitchhiker or picked up a hitchhiker before? Why or why not? If so, would you do it again? Why or why not?”

2014-07-07 - "Question Time - Time for a new national anthem?" [Page: A3]

“If you had to pick a replacement for ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ as our national anthem, what song would you pick and why?"

“Could you ever be married to someone of a different religious faith? Why or why not? If you are in fact in such a situation now, how do you make it work? What are the advantages? Disadvantages?”

“At this point, what, if anything, should we do about Iraq? Why?”

“Do you think police officers should have to wear cameras on their uniforms? Why or why not?”

“If it were up to you, would you institute a minimum age for children to be able to handle firearms? Why or why not? If yes, what age would it be and why?”

“What are you looking forward to the most about fall? Why?”

“On Tuesday, Apple quietly retired iPod Classic, and introduced the Apple Watch, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. How excited are you about any or all of these and why? Will you be purchasing any of these new products? Why or why not?”

“What do you think professional football will look like in 25 years? Why?”

2014-09-29 – “Question Time - Do you support corporal punishment” [Page: A3, promo on A1]
“Do you support corporal punishment? Did your parents use it? Do you use it with your own children? Why or why not? When does it cross the line into child abuse?”

2014-10-06 – “Question Time - Halloween costumes” [Page: A2]
“What is your Halloween costume for this year going to be?”

“If cheap, reliable passenger rail service was available between all major cities in the country would you use it? Why or why not? Should government spend more money to make this a reality? Why or why not?”

"What age, if any, should be the minimum to try someone in court as an adult? Why?"

“In your opinion, what is the worst Halloween candy? Why?”

“In your opinion, what is the best Halloween candy? Why?”

“If your son or daughter wanted to marry someone of a different political persuasion than you, how would you react? Why?”

“At what time do you think they should open for the sales? Why?”

“When you're stuck inside due to winter weather, how do you and your family spend your time together?”

2014-12-01 – “Question Time - Elf on the Shelf season begins” [Page: A3]
“Does your family have an Elf on the Shelf tradition? If so: How long have you been doing it? What kind of mischief has the elf caused? How do the members of your family feel about it? If not: Why not?"

“In your opinion should professional athletes ever make political statements on the job? Why or why not?”

“When you were a kid, did you leave anything out for Santa and/or his reindeer on Christmas Eve? Do your children do the same? If so, what did you leave and did Santa respond? If not, why not?”

“Do you make New Year's resolutions? Why or why not? If you do, do you usually stick to them? How do you feel about your chances this year?”

“What were the highlights of 2014? What are you looking forward to about 2015?”

“What do you think of this plan? If you're against it, do you have an alternate plan?”

“What do you think of our new stance on Cuba? Would you visit Cuba now if you had the opportunity?”

In last week’s edition of Question Time, we discussed the recently proposed dissolution of the United States’ decades-old embargo of Cuba. After it was published, I received the following letter from a local reader with a fair amount of experience with the topic.

“Who do you think will win the Super Bowl this year? Why? Side question: Do you think the Patriots should be disqualified and instead have the Colts play due to the deflated footballs scandal? Why or why not?”

“What was your reaction to this news?”

“What was the best Valentine's Day gift you ever received? Why?”

“Are you giving up anything for Lent this year? Taking something on instead? Why or why not?”

"Of all the eligible candidates, who would you pick to run for Indiana governor in 2016? Why?"

“Say you're given $1,000 today, with only one string attached: You can't buy anything with it, you can only invest it. What do you invest in? Why?”

“Would you ever strap a wearable computer, like the Apple Watch, to your body? Why or why not?”

“Last month, Republican Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order which bars job seekers from being forced to disclose prior criminal convictions on their initial applications. Do you think this is a good idea? Why or why not?”

2015-03-29 – “Question Time - Children going Greek?” [Page: A5]

"Say you have a son or daughter who is a college freshman and they call you to say they're thinking of joining a fraternity or sorority. What do you say in response? Why?"

“What's on the menu at your house for Easter dinner?”

“Have you or any of your friends or family members been involved in a multi-level marketing company? What is your opinion of them?”

"If you were in charge, how would you go about collecting income tax? The same as now, or something else? Or none at all? Why?"

"Should police officers be elected like judges? Why or why not?"

“Both the European Union and Argentina have instituted a so-called “Right to be forgotten” policy. This allows people to ask search engines like Google to remove search results which link to embarrassing, true information such as news stories about past crimes. Do you think this policy is a good idea? Why or why not?"

"Who do you think will win the Indianapolis 500? Why?"

“If it were possible, would you transfer your consciousness to a computer? Why or why not?”

2015-06-14 – “Question Time - Discrimination against prospective adoptive parents?” [Page:C4]

On Thursday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a controversial piece of legislation which will have major implications for those wishing to adopt in that state. “The ACLU is already looking at options to challenge laws, signed Gov. Snyder Thursday, that will allow faith-based adoption agencies in Michigan to refuse to serve prospective parents, like same-sex or unmarried couples, if doing so would violate the agencies' religious beliefs,” reported Kathleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press on Thursday. “The decision came after the bill was placed on the Senate's agenda at the last minute — and with no notice Wednesday — passed and quickly concurred in by the House of Representatives.” So, we wanted to know: “What do you think of this legislation? Why?”

The legal age for purchasing of tobacco products is currently 18 in all 50 states. But, late last week, Hawaii changed all that.

2015-07-04 – “Question Time - Favorite Independence Day memories” [Page: A3]

"What is your favorite July 4 memory?"

“Do you think there should be a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood and institute publicly-funded elections? Why or why not?”

"What is the worst advice you've ever been given? Who gave it to you? Why was it the worst?"

“Do you think this is a good idea, or should all 16 candidates be allowed on stage? Why?"

"Do you support this? Why? If not, what punishment, if any, should he face?"

“Should there be a statute of limitations for rape prosecutions? If so, what should it be and why? If not, why? Do you think prosecutors should be able to indict someone's DNA in hopes of making a connection later in order to get around the statute of limitations? Why or why not?”

“What do you think of these laws? Do you support this type of enforcement? Why or why not?”

“Do you think this should be a crime? Why or why not?”

2015-08-31 – “Question Time - Armed police drones?” [Page: A6]
“Do you think this is a good idea? Why or why not?”

“What do you think of this idea? Why?”

2015-10-05 – “Question Time - Yelp, but for humans” [Page: A3]

“What do you think of this service and why?”

“After a mass shooting, do you think news organizations should refrain from reporting the suspect's name? Why or why not?”

“Should the U.S. convert to the metric system? Why or why not?”

“Do you think there is any part of the military's budget that could be trimmed? If so, what would it be and why? If not, why not?”

"What is your least favorite Thanksgiving dish and why?"

2015-11-30 – “Question Time - What do you want for Christmas?” [Page: A6]

“What do you want for Christmas and why?”

“What did your parents tell you about Santa? What do/did/will/would you tell your children about Santa? What would you hope your children tell their children about Santa? Explain the reasoning behind each.” 

2015-12-25 – “Question Time - Hoosiers buying booze on Christmas?” [Page: A2]
“What do you think of this change?”

"What are you looking forward to the most about 2016?"

"What do you think of this technology?"

“Should Indiana join these five states in allowing lottery winners to remain anonymous? Why or why not?”

“Do you support this proposal? Why or why not?”

"Super Bowl: Carolina Panthers or Denver Broncos? Who do you have winning, and why?"

“Should women also be required to register for the draft? Why or why not?”

"Should Supreme Court justices have term limits instead of being appointed for life? Why or why not?"

“Do you think Apple should comply? Why or why not?”

"Should children under 6 years old be banned from R-rated movies, even if they're accompanied by an adult? Why or why not?"
A hologram of rapper Tupac Amaru Shakur performed two songs, “Hail Mary” and “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted,” with Snoop Dogg during Dr. Dre’s set on April 15 at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif. In case you forgot, Shakur was shot four times on Sept. 7, 1996, in Las Vegas, dying six days later.

The wife of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney told ABC’s Diane Sawyer on April 16 that their dog “loved” riding on the roof of their vehicle.

When you’re a child, every birthday is a special occasion. Nearly every age brings new rights and privileges. After you turn 21, though, the chances for significant birthday milestones certainly goes downhill.

On May 1, Facebook announced it had finally come for your organs.
Well, not exactly, but it does want to know if you’d be willing to donate them post mortem.

On May 4, I felt like one of my childhood friends died. When I heard that Adam Nathaniel “MCA” Yauch,  bassist and MC of the legendary New York City-based band the Beastie Boys, had passed away after a  three-year battle against cancer of the salivary gland at the age of 47, a piece of my innocence left with him.

In high school, I ate fast food pretty much every day. These days, my wife, Ash, and I eat organic, natural foods. But I’ve also been known to demolish a full-sized bag of chips in one sitting. So, on March 8, when Taco Bell officially unleashed the Doritos Tacos Locos on the world, I knew I eventually had to try it.

In a May 31 email to the Huffington Post, David Daigle, spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, officially denied the existence of zombies.

I really wanted to wait longer than this to write this column. When my piece “Hologram Tupac Cometh,” dropped on April 25, I thought I could stand to wait at least 90 days to file a follow-up. But just like Al Pacino (who I’m sure will be a hologram himself in due time) said in “The Godfather Part III,” “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

2012-06-27 – “House of Burgess: The limits of freedom” [Page: A7]
I’m a big, fat hypocrite. I was reminded of this fact after hearing about a series of varied social controls put into place by local municipalities over the course of the last few weeks.

I was standing on the sidewalk by my apartment when I knew July 4 was just around the corner. I ascertained this because out of the corner of my eye I saw the brown sedan slow to a crawl beside me. I felt the handful of bang snaps thrown from it hit my pant legs as the car sped away.

Something controversial happened recently in the world of comedy that’s worth examining. For my purposes, the content of the discussion is less interesting than the way it was propagated.

2012-07-25 – “House of Burgess: Open letter to a murderer” [Page: A7]
When you were apprehended July 20 outside the Aurora, Colo.. movie theater after shooting 71 people 10 minutes into the first showing of “The Dark Knight Returns,” you told authorities that you were “The Joker.”

2012-08-01 – “House of Burgess: Let’s get unconventional” [Page: A7]
I have an election year request, nay, plea for the two major political parties this time around. For the sake everything that’s sacred about this country, I beg you: skip the conventions.

On July 31, Snoop Dogg called a press conference to announce he had officially changed his name to Snoop Lion, eschewing rap for reggae.

A sadly necessary piece of legislation was signed Aug. 6, when President Barack Obama made the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 the law. Among other provisions, it added new restrictions for protesting military funerals

Here lately, if rain were caused by violations of journalistic ethics, the sky would be crying.

2012-08-29 – “House of Burgess: The machine rages against itself” [Page: A7]
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis., 1st District), presumptive 2012 Republican vice-presidential candidate, is apparently “a bit of a metalhead, with a taste for [bands like] Led Zeppelin [and] Metallica,” according to The Nation’s John Nichols. A New York Times piece listed Rage Against the Machine “among [Ryan’s] favorite bands.”

I was determined to ignore both the Republican and Democratic national conventions this election cycle. By and large, they are nothing more than loud, high-powered infomercials. But Aug. 30, actor, director and former mayor of Carmel-By-The-Sea, Calif., Clint Eastwood, forced my hand. 

2012-09-12 – “House of Burgess: Guide to social media 2012” [Page: A7]
Social media basically rules communication for most Americans in 2012. It is the only thing that is real to some people. Being ignorant any longer is not advisable.

Jamie Kuntz, 18, freshman linebacker at the North Dakota State College of Sciences, was dismissed from his team earlier this month after stealing a kiss on the sidelines from his 65-year-old boyfriend. Coach Chuck Parsons said the fact that Kuntz lied about the embrace, initially saying it was his grandfather, was the cause for the termination.

Cecilia Giménez has had quite a year. The 81-year-old is an amateur painter and resident of Borja, a town in the province of Zaragoza, community of Aragon, north-eastern Spain. According to Giménez, she approached the priest at the town’s Sanctuary of Mercy church with a request. One of the church’s frescos, a 19th century mural called “Ecce Homo” (“Behold the Man”) by Elías García Martínez, had fallen into disrepair due to moisture damage. The octogenarian said she asked for and received permission to restore the painting, which depicted Jesus adorned with a crown of thorns.

Tonight, virtually the only substantive portion of our never-ending presidential election cycle kicks off at Magness Arena at the University of Denver in Colorado. The event, hosted by the Commission on Presidential Debates, will be the first of three televised match-ups between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney. What won’t be featured are the candidates of any other party.

2012-10-10 – “House of Burgess: Insignificant office, significant debate” [Page: A9]
After watching last week’s presidential debate, even the most hardcore political junkies can be excused for thinking: “Is this what it has come to?”

Turns out, sometimes things live up to their hype. On Aug. 4, I began hearing reports that comedian Tig Notaro had laid down an amazing set the night before at the Los Angeles nightclub Largo at the Coronet.

Thirteen days from today, voters across the country will head to the polls to select our next president — kind of.

There are just six days left until Election Day. Most voters will either vote for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama for president. The problem with these choices is that there is no indication which version of these candidates you’re being asked to vote for.

I remember Nov. 4, 2008, quite clearly.

Eight days ago, Americans went to the polls and re-elected President Barack Obama. But for those who didn’t help Obama win a second term, this news caused some fairly bizarre reactions. In fact, some conservatives were ready to take immediate, drastic action.

Tomorrow is one my favorite holidays, Thanksgiving. The day after tomorrow used to be one of my favorite holidays, Black Friday.

Every mayor, governor, senator and representative in the country, regardless of political affiliation, should be forced eat a food stamp diet for a week, or longer.

By last Wednesday afternoon, the majority of the adults with whom I interacted had procured at least one Powerball lottery ticket. The $587.5 million jackpot was the highest ever for the Powerball, and I certainly had my $2 ticket.

Sleigh bells are ringing. Snow is glistening. Can you feel it? The War on Christmas is here.

Friday saw a pair of horrific attacks perpetrated by young men on elementary school students living in villages, but with two distinctly different outcomes.

The run up to the holidays is always a mad dash, and this year was certainly no exception. However, the news generally slows to a trickle during this special time between Christmas and New Year’s Day, hence the preponderance of rehashed “best of” lists like this one.

We are now officially two days into 2013, and the world has not, as of this writing, ended.

Effective Dec. 21, 2012, workers in the state of Iowa can be legally fired by their employer for being too attractive.

In the days and weeks after the Dec. 14 tragedy in Newtown, Conn., where 28 human beings were slaughtered by firearms, we as a nation held a serious, adult debate about the future of guns in America. Of course, I’m kidding. Actually, the country lost its collective mind.

Lore has it that the Monday of the last full week in January is Blue Monday: the most depressing day of the year.

My list of personal heroes now has a new entry: singer/songwriter Jonathan Coulton. I have always enjoyed his skewed take on geeky folk rock, but his latest move just put him over the top.

On Jan. 24, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the Pentagon was lifting its ban on women in combat roles. While momentous, this about-face in policy will not take place immediately. 

2013-02-13 – “House of Burgess - The artwork of George W. Bush” [Page: A4]
Last Wednesday, when I started pondering what I’d write about in this week’s column, I never would have dreamed I would be seriously pondering the artistic output of President George W. Bush. That all changed Thursday when The Smoking Gun reported a hacker called “Guccifer” had infiltrated several email accounts connected to the Bush family.

Last August, I wrote a column called “Journalism’s new crime lab” in which I outlined the misdeeds of several less-than-truthful writers including Mike Daisey and Jonah Lehrer. In that piece I wondered why modern journalists would risk plagiarizing when things like Google exist. For Daisey and Lehrer, the answer seems to be: Because even when caught red-handed, the embarrassment itself can become fodder for future projects.

On Dec. 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted, officially outlawing slavery. It was the first of three so-called Reconstruction Amendments following the Civil War. Of the then 36 states, 27 ratified the amendment in 1865.

I can tell you this with a straight face and as an objective journalist: if you were to list the hands-down funniest comedians working today, the four announced headliners of the inaugural Limestone Comedy Festival would absolutely be in the conversation.

On March 3, George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC’s “This Week,” conducted one of the most staggering interviews I’ve ever seen. The subject was former basketball player Dennis Rodman and the occasion was his recent visit to North Korea with Vice Media to host basketball exhibitions and to meet with Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.

Like several of my readers, I had additional questions after I filed last week’s column, “Mr. Rodman goes to Pyongyang.”

In my Feb. 15 column, “The artwork of George W. Bush,” I wrote about the artistic endeavors of our 43rd president. Several of his paintings were revealed to The Smoking Gun by the hacker “Gussifer.” My capsule review of the paintings: striking.

My Face­book news feed turned bright red last week. That’s because the Human Rights Campaign’s crimson “equal sign” spread like a grass fire as the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two landmark same-sex marriage cases March 26 and 27.

I knew this was coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier. On Thursday, one of my favorite writers, Roger Ebert, died at age 70.

Earlier this month, a stupid and dangerous piece of legislation was introduced to and subsequently expelled from the North Carolina General Assembly. The bill was presented April 1 by primary sponsors Reps. Carl Ford, R-China Grove, and Harry Warren, R-Salisbury. If passed, the bill would have allowed lawmakers in the Tar Heel State to establish a state religion.

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?” Those are the words Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did not hear Friday night when he was taken into custody.

Recently, two politicians I never thought would be heard from again have resurfaced. Both have taken advantage of the inability of incumbents to seek re-election in their respective districts. And they both provide interesting case studies in life after political death.

I joined Facebook Sept. 22, 2004. That was just seven months after Mark Zuckerberg and his cohorts created the site. Needless to say, it looked and felt much different back then.

When I was a child, I often wondered what technological advancements would shape our collective futures. (The personal jet pack and the flying car seemed like obvious choices.) But when I was tearing at the perforated edges of the continuous feed paper being loudly spat out of my family’s primitive dot matrix printer, I could have never guessed I was actually staring into a much noisier version of a crystal ball.

Having lost the most recent election to Barack Obama, certain foes of the president looking for another chance at regime change have decided 2016 is too far away.

In February, I read a short news story that barely caught my attention. A relatively minor figure in the history of East Coast rap, Timothy “Tim Dog” Blair, had reportedly died at the age of 46 of a seizure connected to his diabetes.

When we eschew our own values in pursuit of scoundrels, we degrade ourselves. This fact was brought into stunning relief due to the response to a developing scandal in Canada’s largest city. It all began last month when a report was released regarding the head of Toronto’s government.

BLOOMINGTON — As I sat in the Buskirk-Chumley Theater on Thursday waiting for the opening show of the inaugural Limestone Comedy Festival, I reflected on my various connections to Bloomington. I was born less than a mile away in Bloomington Hospital. A few blocks in the opposite direction was the site of my higher education, Indiana University. And the last time I was in that particular building, my wife, Ash, and I were married on that very stage. I feel a certain ownership of this place. I sensed that same sort of possession in many of the audience members and 40-plus performers who took part in Indiana’s first and only comedy festival.

In the ever-darkening days at the end of each year — when Christmas songs begin to fill the air — a simple thought never fails to amuse me. It’s the idea of the musicians behind those noises, and the conditions under which the songs were produced. Christmas music isn’t generally recorded at Christmas. It just can’t be. It wouldn’t work. It has to be ready ahead of time. That has to mean while the band or artist in question is plugging away at, say, “Jingle Bell Rock” inside the recording studio, just outside their front door temperatures could easily be reaching triple digits. I was reminded of this personal joke a few days ago when I read about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s signing of the so-called “Merry Christmas” bill into law.

On Jan. 10, 1999, television changed forever. I was a sophomore in high school. It was a Sunday night. I probably should have been asleep. Instead, I was in my room watching HBO.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued four of the most consequential rulings in years as a final capper to its current term.

I can tell you the exact date I knew I was being spied upon. It was six weeks after 9/11: Oct. 26, 2001. That was the day President George W. Bush signed the Patriot Act. Ever since then, I just have sort of been working under the assumption that every electronic move I make has been classified and potentially experienced by someone else.

On July 8, anti-death penalty nonprofit group Reprieve released a shocking video on The Guardian’s website. At the start of the clip, a warning explains “some viewers may find these images distressing.” The title card fades as a new one appears. “There are currently 120 detainees on hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay,” it reads. “Forty-four of them are being force-fed against their will. Yasiin Bey, better known as Mos Def, volunteered to undergo the procedure used on the detainees. This is what happened.”

2013-07-24 – “House of Burgess - 'We made several mistakes'” [Page: A4]
As it says on page A2 of every issue of the paper you hold in your hands, “The Kokomo Tribune strives for 100 percent accuracy, but when we make a mistake, our policy is to correct it promptly.” We in the journalism game are only human.

2013-07-31 – “House of Burgess - Nobody wants to see that” [Page: A4]
I never thought basic political reportage could be deemed not safe for work. But lately, when I walk to my vehicle at night, I’m halfway on the lookout for public servants in raincoats ready to jump out at me from every alley. 

2013-08-08 – “House of Burgess - A People's History of Mitch Daniels” [Page: A4] +
On July 17, The Associated Press revealed via a Freedom of Information Act request a series of emails in which then-governor and current Purdue University President Mitch Daniels explicitly targeted Howard Zinn’s classic book “A People’s History of the United States” for deletion. 
On July 26, Ariel Castro pleaded guilty to 937 of the 977 charges against him in connection with the kidnappings of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight in Cleveland. On Aug. 1, he was subsequently sentenced to life in prison, plus 1,000 years.

2013-08-21 – “House of Burgess - 'Seaver Fever' strikes Kokomo” [Page: A5]
As it turned out, I only had the opportunity to ask Kirk Cameron one question Saturday, but I think I made it count. 

2013-08-28 – “House of Burgess - A good woman without a gun” [Page: A5]
Whatever Antoinette Tuff is being paid by DeKalb County School District, it’s nowhere near enough. On Aug. 20, the Lithonia, Ga. bookkeeper single-handedly prevented what easily could have ended as a ghastly school shooting.

President Barack Obama’s decision to ask for congressional approval to strike Syria last week raised a fair amount of throat-clearing from those who pointed to his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. 

2013-09-11 – “House of Burgess - Matthew Cordle 'killed a man'” [Page: A4]
A wildly popular video confession, released last week on YouTube by nonprofit Because I Said I Would, had garnered more than 1.6 million views by Tuesday morning. The video clip’s description informs the viewer it was recorded Aug. 27 and released Sept. 3. “I killed a man,” says a distorted male voice over a black screen as the video begins. Low theatrical music begins to swell as a pixelated head shot appears on screen.

I felt a surge of righteous indignation July 17 when I first read the February 2010 emails sent by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels regarding Howard Zinn’s classic book “A People’s History of the United States.”

2013-09-25 – “House of Burgess - Obama turns hawks to doves” {Page: A4]
Over time, I have come to realize I am mostly a pacifist. It takes a lot to convince me any given war is worth fighting. As our country seems to constantly be pounding away somewhere, holding this worldview can get lonesome. So, imagine my surprise recently when a flood of conservative Republicans suddenly joined me.

Last year, the National Low Income Housing Association produced a fascinating and disturbing map. Perhaps you’ve seen it. The representation showed the number of hours per week it would take a minimum-wage worker to afford a two-bedroom apartment in each state.

At 5 a.m. Alaska Daylight Time Friday, the National Weather Service in Alaska released a forecast with a hidden message. On the surface it appeared to be your standard, technical weather chatter. But, if readers followed the first letter of each line of text down the left-hand side, they would discover hidden in mundane meteorological talk a cryptic plea: “P_L_E_A_S_E_P_A_Y_U_S”.

Columbus Day was Monday. Did you celebrate? I sure didn’t. You can’t believe how much I didn’t celebrate the life and work of one Cristoforo Colombo. 

2013-10-23 – “House of Burgess – A Republican civil war’s a-comin’” [Page: A4]
It might seem counter-intuitive, but if traditional conservatives want to reclaim the Republican Party, they had better start thinking progressively. Radical action is required.

One day a few years ago, I was in the newsroom at the Ukiah Daily Journal in Ukiah, Calif., when I found out Daylight Saving Time would soon be upon us. I loudly complained about this fact.

Let this week’s column serve as an update round-up of five villains I didn’t feel like writing another column about individually.

Besides being insensitive, it’s incorrect: It was Flavor Aid, not Kool-Aid. Someone as greedy and sadistic as Jones would never serve his flock anything name brand.

The Umbrella Man. The Badge Man. The Black Dog Man. The Babushka Lady. The Three Tramps. The Magic Bullet. The Wink. The investigation into the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas — which turns 50 on Friday — carries with it its own specialized nomenclature, as research possibilities remain ever-increasing.

Thirty-five years ago today, fellow supervisor, Dan White, shot and killed Mayor George Moscone and then Supervisor Harvey Milk in San Francisco City Hall. 

2013-12-05 – “House of Burgess - (Bloody) Black (and Blue) Friday” [Page: A4]
Any further lingering doubts about whether the free market has a conscience should have been answered by the state of Black Friday in 2013. Gigantic companies have invented an increasingly punishing capitalistic gauntlet pitting family traditions against pure greed.

In a Dec. 1 “60 Minutes” piece on CBS — charitably labeled an “infomercial” by Slate’s Konstantin Kakeas Dec. 2 — CEO Jeff Bezos gave Charlie Rose an exclusive look at what’s next for the company, which had $61 billion in revenue in 2012. “These are ‘octocopters,’” said Bezos near the end of the segment, as he showed a saucer-eyed Rose a table of “autonomous” black, toddler-sized contraptions. “These are effectively drones, but there’s no reason that they can’t be used as delivery vehicles.”

With the Big Day only a week away and this coming Saturday the first day of winter, the time felt right for a follow-up to my June 19 column, “War on Christmas ... summer edition.” The original piece was a response to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s June 13 signing of House Bill 308, the so-called “Merry Christmas” bill. “[The law protects] Christmas and other holiday celebrations in Texas public schools from legal challenges,” according to The Associated Press. (If you don’t see why this is problematic, see the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.) So, what exactly has changed in the last six months? A lot, as it turns out. For starters, it’s being enforced just as I feared it would be. The bill’s co-author, state Rep. Pat Fallo, R-Frisco, earlier this month charged the Gene and Ruby Nichols Elementary School in his hometown with violating the law.

Since I did the same thing last December, I feel justified in calling this, my final column of 2013, the second annual Best of the Year awards. (If you ask me, there is no such thing as a “first annual” anything.) If you read something I wrote this year, including this: thank you. Earlier this month, I officially became an award-winning journalist when I won first place for Best General Commentary in the 2013 Hoosier State Press Association Foundation Better Newspaper Contest. I couldn’t be prouder, but I also know I couldn’t have done it without my readers. Consider this my Christmas present to you.

When I write my columns, I try my best to be as timely as possible. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to write about the recent “Duck Dynasty” controversy, and the whole thing is already over. The kerfuffle began Dec. 18 when A&E announced patriarch Phil Robertson’s suspension in response to an upcoming article in the January issue of GQ by Drew Magary. “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there: Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” read one choice Robertson quote. 

2014-01-08 – “House of Burgess – I like your style, Pope” [Page: A4]
It was New Year’s Eve in the Carmelite community in Lucena, Spain, when the phone rang. And rang. Finally, it clicked over to voicemail. “What are the nuns doing that they can’t answer?” said the jovial male voice on the other end. “I am Pope Francis, I wish to greet you in this end of the year, I will see if I can call you later. May God bless you!”

I am not a Satanist, I don’t worship the Devil and I’m about as disturbed as most Oklahomans probably are by the prospect of a creepy Baphomet statue being erected on public land. I see the Satanists’ point, though.

Someone — or perhaps several someones — had hacked into the Target system and extracted enough personal information to recreate my debit card. They then took this phony plastic to several different ATMs.

I was ambivalent about Twitter from the beginning, to say the least. Lately, though, I’ve grown to like Twitter. Allow me to lay down the ground rules for how I think people should use it.

Philip Seymour Hoffman — one of the finest character actors ever — was found dead in his New York City apartment. He was only 46 years old.

You couldn’t pay me enough to be a LGBT person in Russia right now. Things weren’t great before, but they got a whole lot worse when a series of anti-gay laws passed last year.

I struggle with this every time I hear about a new project Woody Allen or Roman Polanski have released. I am filled with mixed emotions. And then, there’s the question of the price of the ticket in some small way funding the person who created it.

There has to be a more fitting word for what’s about to happen in the telecom­mun­ications industry, but “oligopoly” is the only one I can come up with. 

2014-03-05 – “House of Burgess - Like déjà vu all over again” [Page: A5]
If those who oppose treating LGBT Americans as fellow human beings don’t want continued correlations to be drawn between these two civil rights struggles, then they are the ones who need to stop working to create indistinguishable circumstances.

How smart should some­one be before we, as a society, may legally execute them? What metric should be used to determine their intelligence? Those and other uniformly disquieting questions were argued March 3 before the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Hall v. Florida.

Like last year, I’m giving you an early look at the headliners for the Limestone Comedy Festival before General Admission ($75) and Friday/Saturday Only ($50) badges go on sale April 1.

For Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps, who died late March 19 at the ripe old age of 84, “Only the Good Die Young” was more than just a catchy Billy Joel song. The mere fact of his extended longevity seemed like a spirited defense of this very cliché.

On Saturday, Vice President Joe Biden — filling in for traveling President Barack Obama — delivered the The White House’s Weekly Address. The remarks were revealingly titled, “Raise The Minimum Wage – It’s The Right Thing To Do For Hardworking Americans.”

Re-published: Week of 2014-04-16, Miami County Weekly [Page: A6, jump to A10]
In an electoral system awash in every assortment of corruption and moneyed influence, most of the U.S. Supreme Court justices surveyed the landscape and decided the only answer was: more money. The court announced its decision in the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission case April 2.

On April 5, “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy,” opened at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University. The display, which runs through June 3, boasts “portraits of more than two dozen world leaders” painted by Bush, according to the official literature.

In my career as a journalist I have served my time reporting on city council, county supervisor and state regulatory meetings, to name just a few. Whatever else they might have been, they weren’t holy places. In the many, many hours I spent there I never felt the presence of anything that might be described as transcendent or spiritual. Perhaps this is part of why I have so much trouble understanding those who seek desperately to assign governmental powers to their religious beliefs. Why do they keep trying it?

Until Thursday, I had never before crossed state lines to watch movies. But the chance to attend even one of the five days of the 16th annual Ebertfest: Roger Ebert’s Film Festival was enough to propel my wife, Ash, and me two hours west to Champaign, Ill.

America has a drug problem. Specifically, a lethal injection drug problem.

If recent events are any indication, the idea of equal access to Internet services regardless of usage — aka “net neutrality” — may soon be but a memory.

2014-05-21 – “House of Burgess - Beware, folks, 'Life is offensive'” [Page: A4] +
Author’s note: This column contains several ideas, thoughts and opinions that might run contrary to your personal beliefs. There. You’ve been warned.

On Saturday, a broken man named Richard Martinez delivered a statement to the press on behalf of his family. The day before, his son, Christopher Michael-Martinez, 20, was shot in Isla Vista, California, by Elliot Rodger, 22.

After last year’s inaugural Limestone Comedy Festival in Bloomington, it was hard to imagine the sequel meeting the high standard of the first. It was clear from the first show Thursday at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, this year’s celebration surpassed it in many ways.

These two stories aren’t examples of apostates to the cause in the slightest. I would classify them as True Believers, with impressive resumes to back them up. No, scarily enough, these are what pass for heretics in today’s gun world. That is, at least, according to the ones who actually call the tune: gun makers and those who feel their Chipotle Burrito Bowl just doesn’t taste the same without an AK-47 by their side.

2014-06-18 – “House of Burgess - Texas GOP needs therapy” [Page: A4]

I find it highly unlikely Perry doesn’t know his own state party’s position on reparative therapy — the practice of which has been roundly discredited by the medical community. Perry and his ilk are delusional. If anyone needs psychological help, it’s them.

Monday “The Case Against 8,” a documentary co-directed by Kokomo native Ben Cotner, premiered on HBO. Two days prior, I was lucky enough to be invited by Sarah Cotner, Ben’s sister, to attend a special screening of the film at Indiana University Kokomo’s Kresge Auditorium.

While the justices weighed their options inside the Supreme Court Building earlier this year, they enjoyed their own buffer zone. Their self-styled “bubble” extends 252 feet, all the way across the oval plaza across from the entrance. Thus, the justices have set two different standards: one for themselves and one for everyone else.

Imagine you’ve just been arrested, and you have your smartphone with you. Think about all the personal information contained on that device. Now, are you comfortable with the arresting officer poking around your cellphone without just cause while you remain handcuffed? I wouldn’t be, and, thankfully, neither would any of the sitting justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 25, the high court voted 9-0 in favor of personal privacy in the case of Riley v. California.

Whilst hacking through the dense underbrush of emotional court battles, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. This has proven especially true in the wake of the June 30 Supreme Court decision in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. At issue were the religious objections of the Oklahoma City-based craft store chain’s founder David Green and his family to Affordable Care Act-mandated employee coverage of emergency contraception (including Plan B and ella) and intrauterine devices (including ParaGard, Mirena and Skyla.) They believe them to be tantamount to abortion.

I am 31 years old. For 20 of those years — nearly two-thirds — the surname of the head of state has been either Bush or Clinton. During those remaining 11 years, five of those included H.W. Bush as vice president to President Ronald Reagan, and another four saw Hillary as secretary of state. In fact, only the 537 days in which John Kerry succeeded Clinton at the state department have featured an executive branch bereft of a Bush or Clinton in my lifetime.

On July 22, the Supreme Court gave the go-ahead for the killing of Arizona death row inmate James R. Wood III, who had filed suit requesting a delay until the state revealed the details of the drugs that would be used to end his life. “The officials said they meant to use two chemicals, midazolam and hydromorphone, but they refused to identify the manufacturers or suppliers of the chemicals or to describe the qualifications of the personnel who were to administer them,” reported Adam Liptak of The New York Times on July 22. The following day, Wood’s worst fears of cruel and unusual execution were realized.

It was just before 8:30 p.m. July 22, and visitors were enjoying Seattle’s iconic Space Needle when it happened. “Space Needle security called police … after several guests reported seeing a small drone buzz the top of the Needle, and possibly crash into an observation Deck window,” wrote Jonah Spangenthal-Lee in a Seattle Police Department press release July 24. “Witnesses then saw the drone ... glide to a hotel two blocks east of the Needle, where it landed inside a fifth floor room.”

I was re-watching the 2006 movie “Little Miss Sunshine” Monday when I heard my phone buzz. After the credits had rolled, I looked at the screen and found myself shocked. It was a news alert that Robin Williams had died that morning at the age of 63 of an apparent suicide. (Creepily, I found out later the movie’s suicidal character, Frank, played by Steve Carell, was nearly played by Williams.)

Of all the outrageous and disturbing story lines emanating from Ferguson, Missouri, since unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown was shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, the targeting of journalists during the ensuing protests ranks among the most troubling.

All this is important because the treatment of those who wish to bear witness or make their voices heard is often a reliable indicator for conditions on the ground.

Foley shouldn’t be remembered as a pawn in the Islamic State’s game. Foley dedicated his life to exposing the plight of ordinary human beings in the Middle East. He felt called to conflict reportage, leaving a career as an instructor with Teach For America in his 30s. He was an incredibly brave man who believed passionately in the importance of his work.

So, what do these ambitious online empires do when faced with such strong opposition from local and national officials? The answer seems to involve moving operations across the Pacific Ocean to less-regulated jurisdictions.

On Thursday, more than 4 million Scottish voters age 16 and older will be asked to answer yes or no to a question hundreds of years in the making: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

2014-09-24 – “House of Burgess - Scottish say, let's say together” [Page: A4]
Here are five reasons I think Scots, and everyone, really, should take pride in what just occurred.

By day, Tony Diaz is an author and professor who serves as director of intercultural initiatives at Lone Star College in Houston. But two years ago, he donned another title: smuggler. During Spring Break 2012, he and his compatriots crossed two state lines to distribute $20,000 worth of contraband to the youth of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. But what they transported wasn’t drugs. (Although, you’d never know it from the way local officials there treated it.) Rather, Diaz became a self-described el librotraficante. Literally translated, he was a “book smuggler.”

As you read these words, take a moment to consider your surroundings. Are you indoors? If so, try to name all the outside systems to which you are now connected. Sewer hookups, tap water, outside electricity, DSL Internet, cable television, landline telephone, natural gas — it can all add up quickly once you start considering it. Now, have you ever entertained the notion of leaving all that behind and becoming completely self-sufficient?

The city of Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy July 13, 2013. The fallout caused municipal services to shore up budgets by any means necessary. For around 20,000 unlucky households since then, that meant loss of water service. Requests for an emergency stoppage to these shutoffs were filed. Late last month, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes issued his disappointing decision.

Scott’s anti-fan demand had the unintended effect of making him look bad for seemingly throwing a tantrum over something so inconsequential.

What took place Oct. 9 in the studios of Vermont PBS in Colchester, Vermont, should be a model of political debates everywhere. Democratic Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin was not only joined on stage by Republican challenger Scott Milne and Libertarian Dan Feliciano, but also Liberty Union Party’s Pete Diamondstone and independents Cris Ericson, Emily Peyton and Bernard Peters.

We shouldn’t stand for being lied to in the name of our own protection.

When public figures such as Reid and organizations like the Census Bureau and the Army step up and make amends, they are at least admitting their descriptive words have power. While people can call themselves whatever they want, we should address others however they feel most comfortable at the time. Intent and context count for a lot. Just watch it.

As I write these words, it is 9:26 a.m. Tuesday. I am finishing this column now for publication in Wednesday morning’s paper. The grand jury empaneled Aug. 20 to decide whether to charge Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting of unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown is concluding its supposedly secret deliberations now. (Or else, it’s already done. Who knows?)

It didn’t have to go down like this. There were so many opportunities for officials to stop what happened Monday night in Ferguson, Missouri.

As American shoppers waded their way through the serious injuries and deaths which have become a sad hallmark of Black Friday, those looking for a bargain overseas this year began receiving their first major taste of the holiday.

I’ve always been amused by instances when the Klan shows its softer side.

If police can get away with stopping someone’s vehicle based on a faulty understanding of the law, the people in the vehicle should be able to claim the same if they’ve broken a rule of which they weren’t aware.

On Dec. 17, when Sony Pictures Entertainment canceled the Christmas release of the Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy “The Interview,” which centered around the assassination of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, I was appalled. At least Sony had actually been hacked Nov. 24 by the “Guardians of Peace” and later threatened if it opened the movie. What was really stupefying was watching other, unrelated studios give in before anyone even threatened them. The same day, New Regency Productions scrapped the upcoming “Pyongyang,” a graphic novel adaptation starring Steve Carell.

Welcome to this, the third annual Best of the Year Awards. If you read something I wrote this year, including this: thank you.

I don’t believe I’ve ever written or read more about a movie before viewing a single frame than I have “The Interview.”

On Jan. 7, a pair of heavily armed murderers blasted their way into the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly newspaper. Thus began three days of madness in France, which suffered the deadliest terrorist attack in 50-plus years.

I was proud to have the opportunity to show my support for free expression over barbarism. Journalists in Iran who did the same were punished.

Anyone who puts their work out into the world faces criticism. It’s expected. It’s part of the job. It’s not something that can be totally escaped, nor should it be. Developing some methods of coping with both positive and negative responses to your hard work is essential. But what The Guardian columnist and GQ magazine writer Lindy West faced, no one should be asked to endure.

Everyone, it seems, wants to have a public opinion. I won’t take anything you have to say seriously until you’ve both read the book and seen the movie.

Wheeler’s proposed plan would be a major victory for the public. If this change benefited these companies, do you really think they’d care how closely Obama and Wheeler worked together on this one? Don’t be fooled: To paraphrase the philosopher/poet Eminem, if they thought they could get away with it, these corporations would put air in a bag and charge people to breathe.

There is an astounding footnote tucked on page 13 of the Oct. 16, 2012 decision in the case of Ames v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance, et al. It was issued by the District Court for the Southern District of Iowa Central Division. “Ames has not presented sufficient evidence that lactation is a medical condition related to pregnancy,” it reads. “Indeed, as the Nationwide defendants point out, ‘lactation can be induced by stimulating the body to produce milk even though the person has not experienced a recent birth or pregnancy.’ … Furthermore, it is a scientific fact that even men have milk ducts and the hormones responsible for milk production. … Accordingly, lactation is not a physiological condition experienced exclusively by women who have recently given birth.”

When I say the name Rick Ross, who comes to mind? If you’re conjuring a newly trim, tattooed rapper from south Florida, then you don’t know the half of it. The true story is way more interesting.

Leonard Nimoy was always one of the chillest cats on the face of the Earth to me. Tell me you didn’t fashion a pair of Spock ears at some point.

On March 4, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division issued a scathing report on Missouri’s Ferguson Police Department — the long-awaited results of the investigation that began Sept. 4, 2014. Allow me to save you about 100 pages of reading: It’s all your worst fears about institutional racism, debtors’ prisons and constitutional violations laid bare. (The First, Fourth and 14th amendments being particularly abused.) Another scandal is introduced or reinforced nearly every page.

March 7, 1965, 25-year-old Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee chairman John Lewis helped guide hundreds of marchers out of Selma, Alabama, in the direction of Montgomery. The civil rights activists were mobilized in support of the Martin Luther King Jr.-led Selma Voting Rights Campaign. They were quickly met by a line of Alabama State Troopers at the behest of Democratic Gov. George Wallace and Dallas County Sheriff Jim Clark.

2015-03-25 – “House of Burgess - Lewinsky pays 'Price of Shame'” [Page: A4]

The ’90s was the best decade that’s happened during my lifetime. The Cold War was over. The economy thrived. Our military was mostly idle. As a barometer of the actual, relatively minor amount of threat we were under, I always cite our national obsession with tawdry news stories like the Monica Lewinsky affair. But it’s easy to forget, there are human beings in those circuses.

I totally understand the anger directed toward my home state by the rest of the country. The only thing these people respect will be a swift kick to the pocketbooks. I get it. But, if you do decide to spend money with Hoosier businesses, think about doing it loudly with companies who have declared their willingness to serve all customers. And, RFRA-supporting business owners, the onus is on you. Declare yourself. Your silence is deafening right now.

I totally disagree with the entire worldview expressed by the owners of Memories Pizza, but give them this much credit: at least they were honest about it. How many other business owners in the state feel exactly the same way, but don’t say anything?

What worries me most about this is not that officers don’t know the law, but they now have no incentive to do so. If you’re an officer, saying you didn’t know the law will get you out of more scrapes than learning it.

2015-04-22 – “House of Burgess - Another day at Ebert's festival” [Page: A4]
I arrived Friday at the 17th annual Ebertfest during the closing moments of the first panel discussion of the day, “Filmmaking in the Digital Age.” The session was being held in the Pine Lounge of the Illini Union on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This was the third day of the week-long celebration started by late Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert, who died at age 70 in 2013.

2015-04-29 – “House of Burgess - An open letter to Mitch Daniels” [Page: A4]

Last year, Dr. John Hartsough, of North Manchester, wrote me in response to my columns about this email scandal. I provided him links to the source material for the original Daniels emails on the subject. Earlier this month, Dr. Hartsough wrote me back.

Both then and now Baltimore burned because leaders refused to follow the example set by Kennedy and Brown. When you talk at people instead of to them, you make it clear you’re not interested in listening to them. A month before his death, King delivered a speech March 14, 1968, at Grosse Pointe High School in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, which perfectly described this dichotomy. “A riot is the language of the unheard,” he said. America, are you listening, or are you just talking?

Time is running out for Obama to make good on this promise. This is about much more than resolving campaign hypocrisy with governing realities. Calling genocide by its right name is imperative. Like Hitler in 1939, the next tyrant looking to throw their very own holocaust will note well how we speak of those which have come before it.

Princesses don’t get to exist in a vacuum. The title is but a cog in an antiquated monarchical political system. This hereditary form of government in most modern usages carries with it an air of quaint romanticism, its charms being the sole reason for its otherwise inexplicable continued existence. So far, no other countries have recognized Heaton’s claims. If he had planted his flag even 200 years ago, he would have fit right in there. New monarchies claiming ownership over a desolate land through flag planting would not have only been tolerated, but commonplace. Now, not so much.

2015-05-27 – “House of Burgess - Duggar's duplicity on display” [Page: A4]
As I wrote in my Feb. 19, 2014 column “Separating art from artist,” I struggle with reconciling Polanski and Allen’s artistic output with their private lives. But I was also never under the impression either was in the least concerned with how I lived my life when I wasn’t watching their films. The Duggars, to the contrary, are very interested.

2015-06-03 – “House of Burgess - The State v. John Dennis Hastert” [Page: A4]

The political world was shocked Thursday as federal charges were filed against the longest-serving GOP speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, former Illinois Rep. John Dennis Hastert, 73.

When I interviewed Jared Thompson, Comedy Attic proprietor and Limestone Comedy Festival co-director, a few months ago, he related to me the dilemma his team faced in rising to the heightened expectations set by the first two festivals. But his fears proved unfounded this past weekend as the third annual celebration descended upon downtown Bloomington.

In past 90 days I have parked on the streets of three cities: Champaign/Urbana, Illinois; Bloomington, Indiana; and, of course, Kokomo, Indiana. Two had meters. I received a ticket in one. The following is a case study of the downtown parking policies of each.

I’ve rarely been more excited for the debut of a podcast episode than I was for Monday’s edition of “WTF with Marc Maron” featuring special guest President Barack Obama.

2015-07-01 – “House of Burgess - Well-behaved rarely make history” [Page: A4]

First, South Carolina should remove the rebel flag from government property immediately. Second, all charges against Newsome and Tyson should be dropped. Third, the state should pin medals to their chests for doing what most leaders agree is the right thing.

When you see a specialty license plate, whom do you think is speaking? After hearing arguments March 23, the Supreme Court decided just such a question June 18.

I’m glad the court decided the way it did, but I would have appreciated a broader ruling that addressed the First Amendment issues. Unlike musicians who sing every other genre of music, the long list of rappers I could name who have their lyrics used by prosecutors for convictions and in extended, enhanced sentencing are too numerous to name.

Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito are flailing. Court demographics, procedure, hippies, the dignity of slaves — I just couldn’t guess what they’d throw against the wall next. By contrast, Kennedy just guaranteed his legacy with his moving prose.

It’s the dishonesty involved in every step of this attack I find so preposterous. The footage was produced on a lie, edited deceptively and used to push unrelated legislation.

Those looking to deceive count on most people not seeking out the source material, even when it’s freely available.

Seventeen candidates. Two debates. One night. Thursday saw the first Republican primary debate hosted by Fox News Channel and Facebook at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Fox had changed the admittance rules just days before. The 9 p.m. main event still featured the top 10 as determined by an average of five national polls two days prior. The 5 p.m. debate scrapped the requirement for at least 1 percent support.

Simple gestures carry more weight than we might realize at the time. Affirming someone else’s humanity doesn’t diminish your own. I’m not afraid to say it, and neither should you be: Black Lives Matter.
I read this book in high school and I wanted to revisit it one last time before I set about tackling Lee’s newest work. From what I’ve heard, some very troubling details have surfaced regarding both the fictional characters and real-life players in this story and I wanted one last look before my view of this modern classic was changed forever. More on that next week.

Oh, Harper Lee. You almost had the perfect literary career. You released one universally adored modern classic in 1960, dropped the mic and lived the next half a century a reclusive legend. Then, in 2011, your lawyer, Tonja Brooks Carter, “found” an earlier draft.

Over and over in the years leading up to Obergefell, I kept hearing the argument that same-sex marriage would threaten the institution of marriage. This line always baffled me, as I saw no effect on my — or any other straight couple’s — marriage based on the legality or illegality of same-sex marriage. Apparently, Davis, Gipson, Jensen and their ilk are willing to blow up the very idea of legal marriage if they can’t have their way. I never saw this one coming. But, what can I say? I love a twist ending!

As of this writing, the GOP is slated for a total of no less than 11 debates before the primary season has concluded. And the Democrats? Just six. Not only that, but the DNC has promised to ban any candidate from its official stages who dares participate in any non-sanctioned debate. To push back against these restrictive measures, O’Malley’s campaign has undertaken the aggressive tactic of supporting protests at the DNC’s Washington, D.C., headquarters, set to coincide with Wednesday’s Republican debate.

After squeezing 17 candidates into two debates Aug. 6, the Republican presidential field shrunk by one Sept. 11. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced at the Eagle Forum in St. Louis he would no longer be eyeing the White House in 2016 through his new glasses. And while the rules of the first debate allowed all announced GOP candidates a platform, CNN and Salem Media Group decided their Sept. 16 debate in the Air Force One Pavilion at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, would require at least a 1 percent poll showing, leaving out former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.

2015-09-30 – “House of Burgess - Prominent Catholics shun pope” [Page: A4]

Six of the nine justices of the Supreme Court are Catholic. So, you’d think with two-thirds of the high court belonging to the church, most of them turning up for Pope Francis’ first-ever U.S. visit last week would be the least they could do.

It makes complete sense for him to be in cahoots with Davis ideologically. Save their attempt to repair this tear in the pope’s heretofore unassailable image, I don’t see why Vatican officials would distance themselves from this given their own positions.

The three top-polling candidates for the GOP presidential nomination have no government experience whatsoever. Our two-party system is clearly in shambles. It’s time for third, fourth and fifth parties. What does either side gain by trying to hold this together? The tea party should become the Tea Party.

After two marathon Republican debates split into halves, the Democrats finally took the CNN/Facebook debate stage Oct. 13 at Wynn Las Vegas. With only five candidates, compared to the Republican horde, it felt downright sparse.

By looking at the chaotic, dystopian 1985 of the film, we have a clear view of our future if I ever seriously have to type the words President Trump.

Nearly every GOP candidate’s staff met at the Hilton Alexandria Old Town in Alexandria, Virginia, Sunday to draw up new debate demands — without inviting the Republican National Committee.

The First in the South Democratic Candidates Forum took place in front of a crowd of 3,000 at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and was hosted by the South Carolina Democratic Party and 12 other Southern state Democratic parties.

2015-11-18 – “House of Burgess - Paris and return of 'whataboutism'” [Page: A4]

People should just be glad whenever Americans are aware of world events at all. There’s never enough of that. It would be different if they just sought to inform. I’m always accepting new facts. It’s also significant all four waves of attackers share an ideology. But whataboutists believe it’s only possible to care about one thing at a time.

Sponsored by Fox Business News and The Wall Street Journal, the fourth set of Republican presidential debates took place Nov. 10 at the Milwaukee Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. On Nov. 13, 130 were killed and hundreds were injured in a series of attacks on Paris. On Nov. 14, the Democratic candidates met for the second debate, this time at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, which was sponsored by CBS News, KCCI and The Des Moines Register. The difference between the questions featured in each debate was stark as most of the candidates didn’t get a chance to weigh in on the crisis on the debate stage due to the timing of the attacks. This was just as well. At no point during the day on Nov. 13 did I think to myself, “I wonder what the presidential candidates think about all this?”

I have decided there is a way I will forgive whataboutists: If they are willing to fully commit to their arguments, I’ll let it slide. Let’s see them advocate for a social safety net for homeless veterans when it’s not just convenient to the point they are attempting to make.

Sometimes it takes the sudden absence of a gifted artist for us to identify their place in our imaginations. These are the ones who weren’t afraid of playing their roles, despite obstacles, for decades. Last week saw two such artists leave us. 

2015-12-16 – “House of Burgess - GOP preparing for convention rumble” [Page: A4]
Republicans can't afford to embrace a losing strategy. But, if the most popular outsider candidates are purged, they can very well run as a third-party, siphoning off votes. It's a pickle the GOP put themselves in, and it's one only they can get themselves out of.

While the final Republican and Democratic debates of 2015 played out last week, party leaders worked to usurp their respective top upstarts.

If you read something I wrote this year, including this: thank you.

After shooting Tamir, the officer describes him over the scanner as “maybe 20.” According to the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, Ohio “law does not prohibit the open carrying of firearms.” What was the perceived transgression?

I listen to Bowie and think it’s not an exaggeration to say he is one of the main reasons I’m thankful for recorded music.

If you search online for President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union speech, delivered Jan. 12, you could just watch it. But the footage I saw was a feed from the Public Broadcasting System, which showed what happened in the House Chamber before, during and after the speech. What occurred on stage was only part of the show.

Earlier this month, both parties held their first primary debates of 2016. Republicans still have one more debate Thursday at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines before Monday's first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucus, but for the Democrats, that's it.

Upsetting longtime front-runner Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won the Iowa Republican Caucuses on Monday. This, after Trump boycotted Thursday’s Fox News/Google debate because host Megyn Kelly (who had displeased him in the first debate) returned.

You, in the future, know Tuesday's New Hampshire presidential primary outcome. If polls hold, Donald Trump and independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders should do well. After poor Iowa showings Feb. 2, Republicans Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum dropped out, the latter endorsing Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Twenty-seven years ago, an 86-year-old theocratic leader offered piles of cash for the murder of a foreign citizen. The offense was a fictional story that presented a supposedly less-than-flattering depiction of the founder of a religion of which the author is no longer a member. And that bounty has only increased. If you care one bit about free expression, I shouldn’t have to tell you how worrying this is.

Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were set to run up their delegate leads on Super Tuesday, with Alabama, Alaska Republicans, American Samoa Democrats, Arkansas, Colorado Democrats, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia all holding primaries or caucuses.

Tonight, Univision and The Washington Post host the Miami Democratic debate.

Of all the political documents one could cite, it never ceases to amaze me just how mangled interpretations of the First Amendment can become. People twist and abuse these words for their own purposes so often you’d think, if you’d never read it before, the text is somehow ambiguous as to its purpose.

I love this story. I am so glad it exists. What begins as an accident becomes more authentic than most intentional acts.

This may well spell the end for Republican primary debate season.

It’s not that the president is wrong on these points; it’s just that he’s one of the last people who should be making them. During his first presidential campaign he, too, benefited from far more adoring media attention than his competitors. And, if he wants to lecture us, maybe his administration should stop enacting policies that make it harder to do our jobs.

If Cruz’s view of American history speaks your language, what more can I say? You have your candidate. Everyone else should be very, very afraid.

April 5, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won the Wisconsin primaries in the Republican and Democratic races, respectively. April 8, Cruz won the Colorado Republican Convention. April 9, Sanders and Cruz won Wyoming. Tuesday will see Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island take to the polls. May 3, we here in Indiana will get our turn. (Finally.)

After 57-year-old Prince Rogers Nelson was found dead Thursday at his Paisley Park studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota, time seemed to stop for a moment. The only correlation I could draw was the feeling that prevailed after Michael Jackson passed away in 2009. Whether we realize it or not, a handful of artists’ work is built into our collective cultural DNA.

Indiana has open primaries. You just have to be registered and bring a valid photo ID. When you arrive, you will be asked which party’s ballot you want. This is where it will get tricky.

After Donald Trump’s crushing victory May 3 in the Indiana primary, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich quickly bowed out. Trump is now the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party.

A recording of the phone interview with this “John Miller” character came to light last week after it was provided to the paper by an anonymous source. As it turns out, there never was a “John Miller.” (Or “John Barron,” as this mysterious man was previously referred to in other publications.) Both were Trump the whole time.

As the old adage goes, a well-placed comma can mean the difference between “Let’s eat, Grandma”, and, “Let’s eat Grandma.” The Texas Republican Party found this out the hard way earlier this month.

For a guy who fancies himself a strongman able to stand up to anyone, it’s telling that Trump tucked his tail between his legs when faced with the actual prospect of having to debate Sanders.

As Germany is finding out right now, speaking the truth can be dangerous, even a century after the fact.

Sunday morning saw the deadliest mass shooting in American history, as 50 people (including the gunman) were killed, and 53 more were wounded at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Collective mourning and an outpouring of grief throughout the world followed. But, an expected run on gun stores is what had the stock market humming when the exchanges opened Monday.

Last week it was announced the Democratic National Committee was victim of a long-running, widespread data breach by hackers apparently working within the Russian government.

Giving UK voters another whack at this one could be the smartest course of action, as their Google searches from the day after showed some, shall we say, knowledge gaps. “If you judge a country’s interests only by prevalent Google searches, it was after the polls closed when British voters started to think seriously about the implications of their choice,” reported NPR’s Alina Selyukh on Friday. “According to data from Google Trends, the searches for ‘what is the eu’ and ‘what is brexit’ started climbing across Britain late into the night.” If there is a next time, Brits: Google first, vote later.

If you want to argue the merits of abortion, let’s have that discussion. Just don’t pretend we’re talking about something else.

For nearly a century, a legal precept known as “fruit of a poisonous tree” has been established by the Supreme Court. This legal metaphor states that if evidence against a suspect is obtained illegally, then anything found is inadmissible in court. This philosophy represents the so-called “exclusionary rule” of the Fourth Amendment that bars “against unreasonable searches and seizures.” You can forget all that now, I guess.

Like a horror movie where the villain comes back for one last scare after the protagonist thinks he’s already been vanquished, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin made its way back before the Supreme Court this term, eight long years since the case began.

So, gay conservatives, if there are any of you left, please understand this: Neither Trump nor the Republican Party care a thing about you. Don’t listen to the words from the convention stage, pay attention to their actions off it.

If you want something to remain a secret, never write it down. But, if you want the whole world to know something, send it in an email in care of the Democratic National Committee.

Saturday marked the 51st anniversary of one of the most important pieces of legislation ever signed in this country: the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Sadly, as I wrote in my July 3, 2013 column, “SCOTUS giveth, then it taketh”, the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Shelby County v. Holder effectively ripped the vital organs out of the VRA.

Ever since I was hired for my first full-time job as a journalist at the Reporter-Times in Martinsville 10 years ago, editing the obituaries has been a constant feature of every newsroom job since. Five days a week for years, I have had thousands of opportunities to contemplate the stories of complete strangers. You could say it has made me think about death more than the average person probably does, but I would argue it has made me think more about life.

Barrett concluded there was only one action left to take: draft Nixon, a lawyer by trade, into service as a public defender in a Cole County, Missouri, assault case.

If you are, were and always will be against the passive resistence of Smith, Carlos, Ali and Kaepernick on grounds of disrespect towards the flag and the military men and women who died under it, I’ll give you points for consistency. (Though, I would point out one of the rights veterans fought for was the First Amendment, which protects even deeply unpopular speech.) But if you salute these historical figures, but not Kaepernick, I would just ask: Is it really that these are such different cases? Or is it just that the first two happened a long time ago and you’re just experiencing this one in real time?

I love libraries. For my entire life I have seen them as vital sanctuaries of knowledge and respite. But, if some libraries want to start involving the legal system when fines accrue, we may as well not have them at all.

Any disaster-based advertising, no matter how well-intentioned, has the very real possibility of ending any business associated with it.

We, as a country, should operate as if the president could die at any moment. It’s why the Secret Service protects the candidates and the president. It’s why a designated survivor from the president’s Cabinet is chosen to be sequestered at a secret location during the State of the Union address. Because of that same order of succession, it’s why we care so much who the vice president is. Since the ratification of the 25th Amendment in 1967, Reagan (once) and George W. Bush (twice) temporarily named vice presidents George H.W. Bush and Dick Cheney, respectively, as acting president while undergoing colon procedures.

In his March 13 Washington Post column, Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative columnist George Will described “Vichy Republicans” as “collaborationists coming to terms with the occupation of their party.”

Believe it or not, we’re in the home stretch, people. It seems this accursed election cycle might yet end. There are just 34 days left until Nov. 8, Election Day.

Only dictators imprison political enemies. The scary part is how many of our fellow citizens seem to be just fine with that idea.

Bill Clinton is not running. And Trump apparently didn’t have a problem with the Clintons when he invited them to his 2005 wedding. He asks us to believe Bill Clinton’s accusers. Let’s use the same logic for Trump’s accusers too, then. I don’t blame these women for staying silent this long given this reception.

The third and final debate took place Oct. 19 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and was moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace. (Fox News’ moderators have been the best of both the primary and general debates, despite framing questions in an ostensibly right-wing fashion.) Debates are supposed to be opportunities for candidates to speak to those outside their base, to those who could be convinced one way or another. Trump is only speaking to his core group of supporters.

I should have known the 2016 election would have something horrible in store at the last moment. What I couldn’t have guessed was the return of disgraced former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner to take center stage.

Election Day. Freedom. It has been 454 days since I began writing about this unholy presidential election. Today couldn’t have arrived soon enough.

I was certain Trump would not win the presidency. I didn’t even prepare myself for this possibility because it was too awful to contemplate. I woke up the day after Election Day feeling like a stranger in my own country. I resolve to be in touch with the reality that this country is much more hateful than I had previously thought and to be more vigilant than ever about calling it out.

When I woke up Nov. 8, I felt in my bones fewer Americans would vote for Republican Donald Trump for president than Democrat Hillary Clinton. On that technical point I was right, but in a practical sense it didn’t matter. My mistake was in thinking this then meant Clinton would be president.

Trump offered no evidence to back up his claim of election fraud, but if he truly thinks millions of votes were illegitimate he should welcome a complete audit of the entire country. Maybe this Stein fundraiser is a scam, but so what? Knock yourself out. If Trump is right he has nothing to worry about. In fact, he has a duty to do a recount if he wants to preserve the integrity of the very concept of elections in this country.

The modern Coca-Cola-style American standard Santa Claus image didn’t coalesce until about 100 years ago. Before that, there was the character of Father Christmas. Before that, there was the character of Sinterklaas and his black-faced helpers, Zwarte Pieten. Before that, there was Saint Nicholas. Before that, there was the Germanic god Odin.

You don’t have to do this.

I’m not as interested in what the results of these examinations show as I am in it being done right. If ballots are hand-counted in every municipality of all 50 states and Washington, D.C., and it shows Trump won by even larger margins, so be it. But, why then is he the one so against the idea of the proper recount we’re apparently never going to get?

Welcome to the fifth annual Best of the Year Awards. There’s no way around it: 2016 was a rough one. But, there were bright spots for me both personally and professionally.

Ryan and his party seem complacent to leave Trump’s Russia ties largely unexamined. For all his constant contradictions, one subject Trump has remained consistent on is a steady stream of flattery of Putin’s strength and intelligence, especially via Twitter.

Well, I did what I could. As I wrote in my Dec. 14 column, “An open letter to electors,” I begged the 538 members of the Electoral College to vote for anyone but Republican candidate Donald Trump.

When John Lewis, Democratic congressman for Georgia’s 5th District, calls out injustice, his words carry a bit more weight than most.

Before Friday’s inauguration of President Donald Trump, it didn’t matter to me one bit how many or how few people showed up in Washington, D.C

I’m not playing their game. I’m just going to keep doing my job, whether they like it or not. As much as the Trump administration hides behind the Constitution, they don’t seem to have ever read or understood it.

President Donald Trump’s administration habitually has obfuscated or made up historical events and figures. This is familiar behavior.

Covering first the candidacy, and now presidency, of Donald Trump means constantly being told easily disprovable lies, or “alternative facts.”

The question now is: Why does this administration seem insistent on finding terror where it does not exist?

Actor and director Bill Paxton was only 61 when he died unexpectedly Saturday. He suffered a stroke after heart surgery, according to a family statement released Sunday. He leaves behind a wife, Louise, and two children, Lydia and James.

I have no idea if Republican Arkansas State Rep. Kim Hendren has read a single book by historian Howard Zinn, but if he has his way, students in that state won't be allowed to.

A previously unseen piece of evidence in the Aug. 9, 2014 shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri Officer Darren Wilson has been released in the new documentary, “Stranger Fruit,” which premiered Saturday at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

A previously unseen piece of evidence in the Aug. 9, 2014 shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri Officer Darren Wilson has been released in the new documentary, “Stranger Fruit,” which premiered Saturday at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

One of the pioneers of modern music, Chuck Berry, was found dead at age 90 on Saturday at his Missouri home.

The officers on scene won’t face charges.

In fact, it may be Brexit itself that finally causes England to finally go it alone at the bottom of Great Britain.

At 8:45 p.m. Thursday, President Donald Trump, without congressional approval, completely reversed his Syria policy with a bang.

Even if you disagree with me on the death penalty itself, nothing about our imperfect system run by fallible humans suggests we should speed up the process by unreliable means.

Every president lies about some things sometimes. But President Donald Trump and his administration take habitual untruth-telling to new heights.

Arkansas managed to make April a historically grisly month in the state’s history.

Nov. 13, 2016, the first Sunday after the election of President Trump, parishioners of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Bean Blossom saw three large swaths of graffiti on the outer blue walls: a swastika, “HEIL TRUMP” and a gay slur. Organist George Nathaniel Stang, 26, Bloomington, was the first to arrive before 9:30 a.m. services. As it turned out, Stang himself was responsible.

Unlike Nixon, congressional Republicans keep enabling Trump.


* = Part of winning entry: First Place - Best General Commentary - Division 5 - 2013 Hoosier State Press Association Foundation Better Newspaper Contest
+ = Part of winning entry: Second Place - Best General Commentary - Division 5 - 2014 Hoosier State Press Association Foundation Better Newspaper Contest
# = Part of winning entry: Winner - Staff - First Place - Best Multimedia Package - Division 2 - 2014 Indiana Associated Press Media Editors' Awards AND: Part of winning entry: Winner - Staff - First Place - Best Special Section - Division 5 - 2015 Hoosier State Press Association Foundation Better Newspaper Contest
% = Part of winning entry: Winner - Staff - Second Place - Best Ongoing News Coverage - Division 5 - 2016 Hoosier State Press Association Foundation Better Newspaper Contest