Where a Republican and Paul LePage disagree: Deflategate and optional evidence

Mike: Cynthia, I disagree with Paul LePage: I don’t think the Patriots are unethical. Yet the rush by some to convict them is shocking. What is the burden of proof in the court of public opinion?

Cynthia: What’s shocking is that deflated balls constitute a breach of ethics in the first place. By that measure, millions are likely facing a moral dilemma.

As for the governor, he’s figured out how to use the press to shape public opinion, and he is somewhat of a hot air expert, but his prediction about the Patriots’ balls — before any evidence of wrongdoing is uncovered — has to be discounted to its present value.

Mike: If “deflate-gate” has reaffirmed anything, it is that evidence is optional. The need to feed the 24-hour news cycle means assumptions and statements can be made on pure conjecture. It is no different when the issue is more serious than deflated balls. Ferguson-gate, Duke Lacrosse-gate, and Henry Lewis Gates-gate all come to mind. How many people immediately declared someone’s guilt or innocence in each -gate?

Cynthia: Having an opinion about news is a person’s ticket to any good conversation. The issue really is what duty a constitutionally protected press has to report responsibly vetted stories. Cable news in particular “reports” stories, and then spends days “analyzing” whether they are true — like a hospital cafeteria hawking contaminated burgers to drum up patients.

Does the news market regulate itself well, Mike, or do we need common-sense regulation, like the “fairness doctrine” that would require at least the holders of broadcast licenses to standards of honesty, fairness and balance?

Mike: Get government more involved to help regulate the market of ideas? That is a worse poison than contaminated hamburger! And even if it was justifiable, should we have the content commissar scour the internet to hold all websites to the same standard as those broadcasters? Doing so would make it much easier to prosecute thoughtcrimes, after all.

Cynthia: Thinking about football players, ethics, and deflated balls should be a crime! And seriously, how can anyone condone a “non-profit” NFL, regulated by a complicated “constitution” and ruled by a concussion commissioner with a $44 million salary, but not support a content commissar charged with policing for-profit companies that use the public airwaves?

Conservative ideology about the role of government often seems to trump evidence. Fair rules are good for games and real life.

Mike: The NFL’s non-profit status doesn’t bother me, as long as the individual teams pay taxes like the businesses they are. And you’re right: rules are good for games and real life.  Conservative ideology doesn’t object to rules generally, but it does object to dumb ones like the Calvin Johnson rule or laws preventing farmers from growing crops to feed themselves without permission of the federal government. Dumb rules are the reason the NFL is called the “No Fun League” and why many people think so little of Washington.

Cynthia: It’s not just rules that make the NFL dumb, but you raise an interesting point about football, Washington and optional evidence. Take Benghazi, for example.

What’s the difference between Gov. LePage accusing the Patriots of being unethical without evidence and Republicans accusing the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton of being unethical without evidence?

Were you shocked that your party “rushed” to convict the president about an American killed and a matter of national security before the evidence was in, or was shaping public opinion in an election year fair game?

Mike: No more shocked than your party rushing to declare that the attacks occurred because of some YouTube video. The White House was pushing talking points in the weeks preceding the election since their campaign strategy was partially predicated on bin Laden’s demise. Keeping quiet and responsibly working with Congress to investigate the attack would’ve damaged their “optic.”

Everyone, whether politically or athletically engaged, should pull the reins and take a deep breath when bad or questionable things occur. Not everything is a conspiracy, not everything is a crime, and, with diligence, the truth will ultimately come to light. But of course, new polling shows your Democrats are much more likely to convict the Patriots on “Ball-ghazi” without evidence. Is it because the Flying Elvii love America too much?

Cynthia: Far be it from me to explain why Democrats don’t always back the right team.

Anyway, I agree that keeping your powder dry is a good idea if you are searching for the truth and justice. In politics, football and the media, though, winning is what counts and scandal is what sells.

Mike: We definitely need dry powder, since the end zone militia will be shooting on Sunday. We’re on to Seattle.