Opinion L.A.
Observations and provocations from The Times' Opinion Staff
Charter-school group drags L.A. Unified campaign into the muck

The Los Angeles Unified school board has enough divisions over educational philosophy to fill a thousand school-board campaigns. The last thing we need is the introduction of phony racial divisions and shameful accusations that strongly and wrongly imply a candidate is racist.

Yet that’s practically the first thing we got in the form of a plug-ugly mailer against incumbent Bennett Kayser, courtesy of the California Charter Schools Assn. and its political arm. “Kayser voted to close high-performing schools serving Latino students,” it says. “Kayser opposed the lawsuits filed by Latino students to improve their schools.”

What the mailer, sent to Latino households, chiefly accomplishes is to take anything that Kayser did regarding students and twist it into an attack on Latino students. In an extremely broad sense, that’s true; in a district where 73% of the students are Latino, pretty much any policy is going to have a big impact on that ethnic group. But the flier makes it sound as...

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If no one goes to jail, are corporations held accountable for their crimes?

The government’s approach to policing corporations doesn't make much sense. Individual managers or employees acting alone or in collusion commit crimes in the name of the corporation -- bribery, say, or a little book-cooking to cover up some financial problem. An investigation ensues and after the government and corporate lawyers are done, no one admits guilt, no one goes to jail and the corporation promises to enact policies to keep it from doing again that which it isn’t admitting to having done in the first place.

Oh, and there’s a fine to be paid, often quite massive, that is meant to punish.

But none of it really seems to make a difference.

At the New York Review of Books, Jed S. Rakoff, a federal judge in Manhattan, dives into the squirrelly prosecutorial logic in his review of “Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations,” by University of Virginia law professor Brandon L. Garrett, which examines the use of “deferred prosecutions” in dealing with corporate...

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Given the NFL's amoral track record, why would we want the league to move to L.A.?

Surprise, surprise. Look who decided to show up to the party.

On Friday, for the first time in the nearly two weeks since the New England Patriots' “Deflategate” scandal broke, embattled NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell finally stepped off his crumbling parapet to address the media -- assuring gathered members of the press, “I’m not going to do anything to compromise the integrity of the league.”

A little too late for that, Mr. Commissioner.

To begin with, there’s Deflategate, which, if you somehow haven’t heard, alleges the Patriots used footballs that were deflated below the legal limit during their AFC championship game victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

“[I]f we have any information that rules were violated, I have to pursue that and I have to pursue that aggressively,” Goodell said at his presser. “So this is my job. … We will do it vigorously, and it is important for it to be thorough and fair.”

Figuring out why some footballs in a football game were slightly underinflated would...

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Judges should steer clear of the Boy Scouts

The California Supreme Court, accepting a recommendation from its advisory committee on judicial ethics, has closed what was known as the Boy Scout loophole in a rule prohibiting judges from belonging to organizations that engage in invidious discrimination. Although the Scouts no longer discriminate against gay youths, it continues to bar gays from serving as adult leaders.

“Invidious” discrimination comprises discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity or sexual orientation. But until this month, judges could hold office in the Boy Scouts under an exception for  “nonprofit youth organizations.”

The only remaining exception is for membership in religious organizations, which by definition discriminate on the basis of religion but also arguably engage in other sorts of discrimination. Women may not be priests in the Roman Catholic Church, for example. The religious exemption makes sense,  though it’s anomalous that a judge couldn’t be a Boy...

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How banking works for people of no account

For about 10  years now, two married friends of mine, both low-paid small-town schoolteachers, have been sending a monthly check for $50 to one of their former students. They tell me he’s the poorest person they’ve ever met. Given the hardscrabble place where they’ve lived most of their lives, that comes down to pretty poor.

And in his case terribly damaged. The victim of an abusive childhood, mental illness and a social safety net with more than one hole, he has several disabling health conditions, a prison record and the ravaged face of a man twice his age. But once a month he has 50 extra dollars to spend as he likes -- or so my friends thought.

Shortly before Christmas they learned that their $50 gift was actually a $43 gift, the reason being that the bank charges their beneficiary $7 to cash his check. My friends were incredulous, but a call to the bank confirmed that they had not been misinformed. The bank was taking a 14% cut. 

It so happens my friends have a savings account in...

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Castro's new demands may be more Cuban politics than diplomacy

Cuban President Raul Castro appeared to toss a wrench into normalization talks with his surprise announcement Wednesday that the U.S. government must first give up the military base at Guantanamo Bay, rescind the congressionally mandated trade embargo and compensate Cuba for damages.

Good luck with that.

It’s unclear how firmly Castro will hold to those demands, which he made during a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in Costa Rica. The U.S. State Department had no immediate response, but the best way to look at Castro’s proclamation is through a domestic lens. The Castro regime is walking a line between wanting better economic ties with the U.S. while ceding as little as possible at home.

“There is this huge expectation of change and this expectation has been set off by the president's announcement,” John Caulfield, who led the U.S. Interests Section in Havana until last year, told the Associated Press. The Cuban leaders feel “the constant need to tell...

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