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270 posts
  • Trump
  • Opinion
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

In evaluating President Trump’s dramatic meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, it’s important to remember that less than a year ago many Americans were concerned that the president’s bellicose rhetoric — including threats to rain “fire and fury” on the North if it continued to menace the United States — might lead to war.

Trump’s decision to respond to an overture from Kim — initially conveyed through South Korea — de-escalated the rhetoric dramatically. It also may have begun a process that will succeed in reining in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions where past efforts failed.

For that reason, the summit in Singapore can be justified, despite the chaos and confusion that preceded it. But Trump was characteristically exaggerating when he boasted at a news conference that his meeting with Kim proved that “real change is indeed possible.” For all the spectacle, the meeting was at best a down payment on that change.

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • We're All Doomed
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

In reporting on Monday’s summit in Singapore, the Washington Post noted that President Trump did not approach Kim Jong Un as a pariah, but showered him with respect. “Trump turned a blind eye to differences of principle and history – refusing to directly confront the reality that Kim oversees a vast police state, starves his citizens and assassinates his rivals – in the interest of completing a transaction.”

That is, of course, correct. Kim, despite his goofy smile and funny haircut, is a monstrous figure at the helm of one of the world’s most repressive nations, where thousands of citizens have been murdered, tortured, imprisoned or raped, and where roughly 18 million people don’t get enough food, according to the United Nations. Kim is widely believed to have ordered the execution of his own uncle and half-brother.

But let’s not fool ourselves: This is hardly the first time an American president has agreed to turn a blind eye to such massive violations of human rights in the pursuit of some other perceived goal.

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  • Opinion
  • The Swamp
If President Trump sticks with the demand for his border wall, don't expect Congress to help the "Dreamers."
If President Trump sticks with the demand for his border wall, don't expect Congress to help the "Dreamers." (Los Angeles Times)

The House today hits a deadline of sorts set by members intent on forcing Congress to take action on immigration reform aimed at protecting the so-called Dreamers — people who have lived in the United States illegally after having been brought to the country as children. But even if the members can force the issue to a vote, the path after that is murky at best. In the end, this seems to be more about relative Republican centrists trying to make it look like they’re doing something because they’re facing reelection in districts where immigration is a strong issue.

This all began, of course, with President Trump, who ordered the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program phased out, and then told members of Congress it was up to them to fix it by converting DACA from a program into a law. (Trump and immigration hardliners argued that Obama had exceeded U.S. law and executive authority in granting the protections; that’s still the subject of legal challenges from both sides).

  • 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.

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  • 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.

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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.