Opinion L.A.
Observations and provocations from The Times' Opinion Staff
With friends like these, who needed enemies in 2014?

In soccer it's called an "own goal," when a player inadvertently kicks the ball into his own net.

In politics, it's called being Jonathan Gruber.

Gruber, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, did more than any other supporter of the 2010 healthcare law to increase its chances of being repealed. But he's hardly the only one whose words or deeds wound up hurting his own allies.

Here's a short list of the people whose actions in 2014 raised the question, "With friends like these, who needs enemies?"

Jonathan Gruber

As a consultant to the White House and congressional Democrats, Gruber developed the models that projected the positive economic effects of various provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In particular, Gruber's work helped defend the individual mandate to buy insurance and the "Cadillac tax" on high-value health plans.

Then Gruber gave a series of speeches explaining the law, in which he called voters stupid, said the Cadillac tax...

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10 tips for a better life from The Times' Op-Ed pages

What to do about rude people? Anti-vaxxers? Ignorant voters? Here’s some of the most popular advice The Times’ op-ed pages dispensed in 2014.

Voting is not, as Lena Dunham says, “kind of a gateway drug to ‘getting involved.’ ”

“This is a widely held view and, as far as I can tell, there is absolutely no truth to it,” columnist Jonah Goldberg wrote in November. “But even if voting boosted civic participation, the very idea puts the cart before the horse. It is like saying you should buy a car because that way you might learn to drive or take the test and then study for it. Voting should come at the end of civic engagement, not the beginning. …

“ ‘Vote first, ask questions later’ is not a mantra of good citizenship. It's a marketing strategy designed to reward politicians for voters' ignorance.”

No food trend is more powerful, and potentially dangerous, than one that targets health and diet.

That’s what David Sax argued in a May op-ed, in which he wrote: “There are few cities that can...

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Breaking news in 1881: L.A. Daily Times endorses Christmas

The very first issue of the Los Angeles Times — then the Los Angeles Daily Times — came off the presses three weeks before Christmas, 1881. It was a different world then. And a much different Los Angeles.

Nationally, Chester Arthur was president — the third U.S. president that year. Rutherford B. Hayes had turned over the office to James Garfield in March; Garfield was shot on July 2 by Charles Guiteau, who was upset that Garfield had turned him down for a job. Garfield survived until an aneurysm — which developed in part from one of the bullets lodged in his abdomen — killed him on Sept. 19. So Arthur, elevated from his vice presidency, had just three months on the job by the time Christmas rolled around. (Guiteau’s trial in Washington continued over the holidays; he was hanged the next June.)

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FOR THE RECORD

An earlier version of this post listed Nevada as a territory in 1881; it had already been admitted to the union by then. And intercontinental was mistakenly used to...

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Three ideas for L.A.'s holiday trash problem

Los Angeles, where garbage is trashed.

Where bodies turn up at waste processing facilities.

Where fear of bodies inside garbage dumpsters prompts the dumping of their contents all over downtown streets.   

Where on the coast, it's on the land and in the sea

This is a place where trash-talking is taken literally; Kobe Bryant recently said fellow Lakers were "soft like Charmin."

Now the Times' David Zahniser reports about one of the less charming aspects of the holiday season: "The holidays are a time for giving, and in Los Angeles, many have the good fortune to provide generously for others. But once everybody receives their new stuff, a lot of the old stuff gets pitched onto the street. In the final days of the year, many of L.A.'s streets and sidewalks are littered with discarded furniture, mattresses, oversized televisions and other household objects."

More than 33,000 tons of trash were removed from city streets in 2013-14.

Lest you be tempted to take solace in the fact that this...

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Is there anything more depressing than a holiday e-card?

Remember when holiday e-cards were all the rage? In today’s installment of “op-eds from Christmas past,” we revisit Meghan Daum’s 2009 column, “The real message of e-cards.”

OK, people, what is it with the electronic greeting cards this holiday? Why are you sending me jpegs of the Himalayas accompanied by phrases I recognize from yoga class ("Peace to you and all living things . . .")? Why am I being asked to download elaborate animation videos featuring singing snowmen or a Nativity scene with a manger that looks alarmingly like a tiki cabana? Why have my otherwise intelligent and dignified friends Photoshopped their faces onto the bodies of dancing Santas? Why, if I don't open these cards right away, do I have to endure auto-generated reminders that I am a thoughtless and terrible person who does not care about my friend enough to sit through 60 seconds of flash animation sugarplum fairies?

Is it that you're all environmentalists? Have you gone green and therefore paperless? Do you...

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Sony's DIY options for releasing 'The Interview' online

As Rahm Emanuel famously said as President-elect Barack Obama prepared to take office, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."

The hacking attack on Sony Pictures qualifies as a serious crisis for the company. The opportunity it creates, though, is the chance to break the distribution "windows" that have prevented Hollywood from making the most of its advertising dollars.

On Tuesday, Sony announced that it would release the movie that purportedly drew the hackers' ire, "The Interview," on Christmas Day after all. The hackers who'd claimed responsibility for the Sony attack, the self-proclaimed Guardians of Peace, had threatened unspecified but presumably non-peaceful actions against any theater that showed the movie, leading the five biggest theater chains to cancel plans to carry it. Sony responded by saying it had dropped its plans to release the movie, drawing a public rebuke from...

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