144 posts
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
Protesters gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington.
Protesters gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin)

At first, the Supreme Court’s ruling Monday might not seem like a big deal. 

The court ruled that it was perfectly okay for the state of Ohio to purge its voter rolls of people who fail to vote during several elections and also fail to respond to a notice asking whether they have moved residences. The court noted that, after all, there is a federal law that requires states to make a “reasonable effort” to remove the names of voters who die or change residences.

You may feel, as I do, that it is wrong to purge people from the voter rolls for not voting. After all, don’t people have the right to skip a few elections because they dislike the candidates or don’t know the issues -- and still show up in the future at an election they consider important?

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
  • The Swamp
The U.S. Supreme Court Building.
The U.S. Supreme Court Building. (Karen Bleier / AFP/Getty Images)

As a strategy, the Trump administration may have stumbled across a not-so-bad idea.

The administration said in a court filing Friday that it does not intend to defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for so-called Dreamers in a lawsuit filed by Texas and other states. The administration — which ordered the program phased out — repeated its position that it doesn’t believe President Obama had the authority to create the program in 2012, and urged the judge to rule that Obama overstepped his authority and exceeded the limits of immigration law.

  • Opinion
  • Rich Dudes

What do you get when you take a wildfire-prone cauldron of violence, political antipathy, racial, class and gender hostility and add flamethrowers to the mix?

You get Elon Musk’s marketing gimmick/financing plan to save Los Angeles.

Musk, you see, wants to build a series of tunnels underneath Los Angeles in an effort to alleviate the city’s admittedly horrendous traffic woes. To raise funds and awareness for this plan, Musk has decided to make and sell futuristic-looking flamethrowers.

My hot new toy, ready for summer bbq’s 🔥 #theboringcompany #notaflamethrower

A post shared by Kevin (@kev_burn) on

  • Opinion
  • The Golden State
Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the annual Sacramento Host Breakfast on May 24 in Sacramento.
Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the annual Sacramento Host Breakfast on May 24 in Sacramento. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Another year, another big surplus in California — and another set of disappointed lawmakers and lobbyists whose new spending programs were rejected by Gov. Jerry Brown.

This is Brown’s final year of his fourth and last term as governor, and he has presided over a remarkable transformation of the state’s finances. Inheriting a $27-billion deficit in 2011, he’s leaving his successor with a projected surplus of several billion dollars and three (count ’em, three) reserves with billions more, including a new fund dedicated to safety net programs.

But Brown hasn’t stopped the state from spending larger and larger sums every year. To the contrary, spending from the state’s general fund has grown more than 50% during his eight years in office. Throw in the dollars from Washington and state special funds and the growth is even higher — more than 65%.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions has talked of reviewing policies on obtaining information from journalists.
Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions has talked of reviewing policies on obtaining information from journalists. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

It’s no secret that President Trump has contempt for what he likes to call the “fake” news media, including the capital-F “Failing New York Times.” Journalists also remember that Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions mused last year about revisiting a policy instituted by former Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. placing limits on acquisition of information from journalists.

"We respect the important role that the press plays, and we'll give them respect,” Sessions said, “but it is not unlimited.”

So it’s natural to suspect a seismic shift in policy behind the seizure of phone and email records of a New York Times reporter, Ali Watkins, in connection with the investigation of former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James A. Wolfe.  Wolfe is accused of lying to the FBI about contacts with reporters when he was questioned during a leaks investigation.

President Trump takes questions from reporters before departing the White House for the G-7 summit.
President Trump takes questions from reporters before departing the White House for the G-7 summit. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)

Could the end of the federal marijuana prohibition really be in sight?

On Friday, President Trump said he was likely to support a new bill in Congress that would let states decide whether marijuana should be legal or not. 

“We’re looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting that, yes,” Trump said to reporters just before he boarded a helicopter to travel to the G-7 summit in Canada. 

  • Opinion
A view of Cathedral Rocks in Yosemite National Park.
A view of Cathedral Rocks in Yosemite National Park. (Los Angeles Times)

If you’ve been to a national park in the past few years, you probably have a good sense of how crowded they can get. As we move into the summer travel season, expect it to get even worse as the parks’ popularity continues to rise while staffing slides and the deferred maintenance list expands.

High Country News lays out the problem here, but in a nutshell, the parks are getting overwhelmed — as are the staffs. Not to mention the backlog in maintenance projects, which reached $11.6 billion at the end of the last fiscal year, up slightly from two years ago.

Editor's note: This article was originally published July 21, 2017. We are resurfacing it from the archives because it includes the phone number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and links to reporting resources for journalists.

Martha Stewart and Donald Trump in 2005.
Martha Stewart and Donald Trump in 2005. (Associated Press)

First President Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, the controversial former Arizona sheriff. Then right wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza and the late boxer Jack Johnson (the latter’s cause was championed by actor Sylvester Stallone). Next he talked about clemency for Martha Stewart, an old friend, and a sentence reduction for corrupt former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. At Kim Kardashian’s request, he pardoned Alice Johnson, a 63-year-old woman in prison for life for a non-violent drug conviction. Now, on Friday, the president said he was considering pardoning the late boxer Muhammad Ali, who was convicted of draft evasion in 1967 during the Vietnam War.

Trump is in love with his pardon power, and, on one level, who can blame him? When he was first elected, he seemed surprised to learn that the power of the presidency was severely limited. To build a wall with Mexico, it turned out you needed billions of dollars from Congress. To ban people from the country, you had to convince the courts that doing so was constitutional. For some things, you even needed to beg for help from the likes of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

So needless to say, the pardon power is very appealing. The Constitution gives the president virtually unchecked authority to offer amnesties, commutations and full or conditional pardons for federal crimes, saying only that the president “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States.” No one gets to second guess it. The Senate doesn’t have to approve; the courts don’t weigh in.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
A doctor checks an X-ray image of a patient with lung cancer.
A doctor checks an X-ray image of a patient with lung cancer. (Getty Images)

In its latest effort to undermine the Affordable Care Act — and in the process, raise premiums for many Americans — the Trump administration is urging a federal judge in Texas to throw out the law’s protections for people with preexisting conditions.

In other words, the administration wants insurers to be able to deny coverage to the people most in need of it, or to charge them considerably higher premiums than they’re allowed to charge today.

This is jaw-dropping. Even Republicans who’ve complained about Obamacare have been loath to undo the protections for people with preexisting conditions who are not covered by large employers’ health plans. That’s because the public supports them, and unequivocally so.