Robin Abcarian
Commentary, news and analysis
As immigration roils GOP, it's worth asking: What would Reagan do?

Watching the Republican implosion over President Obama’s request for money to deal with Central American minors at our southern border in particular, and the party’s inability to craft a rational approach to immigration in general, two words spring to mind: How unReaganesque.

What would our 40th president think of the disarray in which his beloved Republican Party finds itself? What, to quote many Republicans, would Reagan do?

Of course, we don’t know what he would do. But we know what he did.

In 1986, President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (a.k.a. Simpson-Mazzoli), which allowed some 3 million immigrants who were in the country illegally to come out of the shadows and become full-fledged members of society.

“I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and who have lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally,” Reagan said in 1984 during a debate with his Democratic challenger, Walter Mondale.

Was the law a success...

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GOP message: Impeach the president! But don't tell anyone we said so!

At the moment, chatter on the right sounds an awful lot like this:

President Obama should be impeached.

If the president acts by executive order to legalize the status of anyone in this country illegally, he should be impeached.

Since the president unilaterally decided to delay implementation of the Obamacare employer mandate, he deserves to be impeached.


Try as they might, Republicans cannot escape the fact that conservative politicians and pundits have been calling for the impeachment of President Obama for years. The idea of impeachment is preposterous, of course, and no one really thinks it’s going to happen.

But Democrats did not hallucinate the idea that Republicans are making threats. They have simply turned it to their advantage, which has outraged their political foes.

Sarah Palin has been out stirring up impeachment talk. She ratcheted up the...

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Sunset Boulevard flood raises serious questions about city leadership

It may be too much to hope for, but now that Sunset Boulevard in Westwood is a giant sinkhole and UCLA is underwater, could the fragile, aging infrastructure of Los Angeles finally get the upgrade it needs?

Sunset Boulevard, after all, is no ordinary street. You could argue that it is the street. Yes, we have other, famous thoroughfares -- Pacific Coast Highway, Hollywood Boulevard, Laurel Canyon, Mulholland Drive, to name a few -- but no street embodies the meaning of Los Angeles quite like Sunset, which begins in the heart of downtown and stretches 22 miles to the sea.

Beyond its geography, Sunset has a pull on our collective imagination that no other street in L.A. can match.

In fiction and in real life, Sunset Boulevard is where Hollywood dreams come true or make wrong turns, then fester and die. They die face down in swimming pools, like William Holden’s character in “Sunset Boulevard.” They die of drug overdoses, like John Belushi in a swanky Chateau Marmont bungalow. They die...

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Republican calls to impeach President Obama? Great news for Democrats

Political enemies of President Obama have pretty much been calling for his impeachment since shortly after he took the oath of office in 2009.

But this month, the volume of impeachment chatter rose a few notches, goosed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who was so incensed by the influx of Central American children at the Texas border that she compared the border to a battered wife and declared “no mas.”



July 29, 12:46 p.m.: An earlier version of this post stated that Wisconsin Rep. James Sensenbrenner raised the specter of impeaching President Obama over the botched gun running program known as Fast and Furious. In 2011, Sensenbrenner raised the idea that Obama administration officials could be impeached.


I suspect that Palin, who has willfully drifted to the fringes of the American political conversation, had a double goal in mind. The first was to kick up some attention by posing as the only conservative courageous enough to call Obama on his...

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Finally, a story about underage drinking with a happy ending

Imagine attending culinary school and never being allowed to taste the food you cook. Or music school, and never be allowed to hear the music you make.

That, basically, is what it’s been like for undergraduates at California’s public colleges and universities who choose to major in winemaking and beer brewing. If they are under 21, they can't sample the very substance to which they have devoted their academic lives.

It's ironic, given that any college kid can get falling-down drunk any weekend without much threat of legal repercussion.

But in classrooms, drinking is illegal, even when the student is trying to produce the perfect Zinfandel, or at least understand what goes into making wine taste good or bad.

“I suppose one or two students over the years may have tasted wine illegally,” said UC Davis enology professor Andrew Waterhouse.  “But when we are teaching classes we have to follow the law, that’s the way it is.”

The law will change in January. It is long overdue, but California...

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Was Richard Alarcon rightly convicted for lying about where he lives?

Home, as it turns out, is where the Chihuahuas are.

Jurors this week said they were persuaded to convict former Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon and his wife, Flora Montes de Oca Alarcon, of lying about where they lived in the San Fernando Valley after hearing evidence about wildly disparate utility bills at the family’s two homes.

Over a two-year period, power and water use at the Panorama City home the Alarcons claimed to live in were nil. But it was much higher — at least a hundredfold — at the Sun Valley house they said was not their real domicile. So either the Alarcons were model conservationists. Or, as the jury concluded, they were liars.

I had a feeling they were going down when I read that a city investigator, who had both homes under surveillance, noted that the couple’s Chihuahuas were present at the larger, nicer Sun Valley home.

Also when neighbors told my colleague David Zahniser back in 2010 when Alarcon was first under investigation that the Panorama City...

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Anti-abortion fanatics invade a church service. Where's the outrage?

On Sunday morning, the Rev. Deanna Vandiver was leading a service at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans, a graceful, Gothic-style brick building in the city's Freret neighborhood. The sanctuary, with 70 or 80 people, was nearly full, and included a group of teenagers who had just finished a week-long training in social justice.

The room was silent, as the congregation prayed for a young mother of two who had just lost her battle with cancer, for a social justice lawyer who had recently died, and for peace in Gaza.

That’s when the shouting started.

At first, Vandiver told me Wednesday, she had no idea what was going on, as “we were in the deeply sacred collective space” of silent, communal prayer. She thought the noise might be coming from, oh, maybe a visiting Quaker, someone who didn’t understand the congregation’s tradition of silence during meditation.

Then she heard what they were shouting: “Abomination!” “You are going to hell!”

Anti-abortion protesters had...

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Ever heard of 'pine nut syndrome'? Neither had I, until I got it

To the bartender at Father’s Office in Culver City, who graciously replaced my California chardonnay with an Italian white on Monday night because the chardonnay tasted rancid: I apologize.

Weirdly, the replacement white was funky, too. I was too embarrassed to complain again. But when my Father’s Office burger arrived, topped with the restaurant’s signature onion-bacon compote, arugula and melted mix of gruyere and Maytag blue, I was befuddled.

This was just not possible.

A Father’s Office burger is the standard by which all other gourmet hamburgers are judged. This burger is so good that The Times Test Kitchen once spent days developing a replica recipe, because chef Sang Yoon refused to divulge it. And yet, I could barely choke down half.

As it turned out, Father’s Office, it wasn’t you. It was me.

Tuesday morning, after drinking a cup of coffee that tasted even worse than the “bad” chardonnay from the night before, I became alarmed. So I did what anyone with a medical problem and a...

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Questions of bias swirl after NBC removes, reinstates a Gaza reporter

It's not clear why NBC’s talented foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin, who witnessed the killing of four Palestinian cousins in Gaza on Wednesday, was removed from his post later that day, then reinstated tonight.

NBC, which did not respond to a request for comment, has not specifically addressed the question, and Mohyeldin, whose Twitter feed had been silent for two days, offered no explanation other than to announce tonight that he's happy to be back in Gaza.

It is unclear whether the network was responding to accusations that had circulated on the Internet that Mohyledin was yanked out of Gaza because some thought his coverage was too sympathetic toward Palestinians. 

Glenn Greenwald, who shared a 2013 Pulitzer prize for his NSA spy scandal coverage, is among those who whipped up suspicion about NBC. Thursday, on the Intercept website, Greenwald wrote:

"Over the last two weeks, Mohyeldin’s reporting has been far more balanced and even-handed  than the standard pro-Israel coverage...

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Break California into 6 states? How uncool

As a native Californian who was born in Oakland, raised in the San Fernando Valley, schooled in Berkeley and now living in Venice, I’d like to say one thing to Timothy Draper, the Silicon Valley kajillionaire pushing the idiotic breakup of the Golden State:

Please go away.

Recently, Draper announced he is on track to gather enough signatures to get his mind-blowingly stupid measure on the November 2016 ballot. To that end, he has spent — well, wasted — $4.9 million of his own money, a sum that could certainly have been put to better use if he really cared about the welfare of Californians.

Draper has proposed dividing California into six states: Jefferson (Redding, Eureka), North California (Sacramento, Marin County), Silicon Valley (San Jose, San Francisco), Central California (Fresno, Stockton, Bakersfield), West California (Los Angeles, Santa Barbara) and South California (Riverside, Anaheim, San Diego).


“California needs a reboot,” Draper writes on his website,

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An overdue response to the frenzy of state restrictions on abortion

In the last few years, state legislators around the country have been busy with an onslaught of antiabortion legislation aimed at making it impossible for women to exercise what is still (despite the opposition’s best efforts) a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

And while it’s unclear exactly why there has been such a frenzy of activity — conservative victories in 2010? Reignition of the culture wars sparked by the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate? — we do know that more than four times as many bills aimed at limiting abortion access (93) were passed between 2011 and 2013 than had been passed in the previous decade (22).

The new abortion-hostile laws generally fall into four categories — the targeted regulation of abortion providers (so called TRAP laws), limits on who may provide pills that induce abortion very early in pregnancy (medication abortion), bans on the ability of private insurers to include abortion services in coverage and bans on abortion after 20...

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Return of conspiracy nuts: Obama's secret immigration reform 'plan'

In the quest for simple answers to complex problems, one irrational explanation for the humanitarian crisis at our southern border demands an unqualified refutation.

That would be the conspiracy theory being peddled by conservatives that President Obama purposefully engineered the influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America to pressure Congress into enacting immigration reform.

The idea is absurd bordering on Palinesque.

The theory’s most prominent adherent is Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who expounded last month on Fox News:

“We either have an incredibly inept administration, or they’re in on this somehow or another. I hate to be conspiratorial, but how do you move that many people from Central America across Mexico, then into the United States without there being a fairly coordinated effort?”

Perry has not elaborated on what the president’s “fairly coordinated effort” would involve, but his pandering to immigration hardliners is to be expected.

As my colleague Cathleen Decker...

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