Reading Los Angeles: Join The Times' new book club
Opinion L.A.
Observations and provocations from The Times' Opinion Staff
Homeland Security stalemate ends; is it a watershed or a template?

It took the House GOP leadership a couple of weeks, but it finally conceded defeat Tuesday and allowed a "clean"  funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security to come up for a vote. With all 182 Democrats in the Capitol and 75 of the 242 Republicans lining up in favor, the measure passed easily and was sent to President Obama to sign.

The question now is whether the Republican majority has learned not to pick fights they don't have the votes to win, or whether they'll overplay their hand again the next time a must-pass bill comes up. Given what we've seen the past lour years, the latter seems more likely.

The Homeland Security measure isn't exactly "clean" because it contains numerous policy changes negotiated by Republican and Democratic appropriators, such as one stepping up the department's ability to detain people caught crossing the border illegally. What it doesn't have are the House-passed riders that would have reversed Obama's temporary deferrals of some deportations.


Read more
Closing University of North Carolina centers reeks of partisanship

There's something rotten in North Carolina.

The board of governors for the University of North Carolina, over the objections of the university chancellor, last week voted to close down three university-based centers focusing on poverty, the environment and voter engagement. North Carolina, you may recall, was one of the Republican-led states that adopted voting restrictions before last fall's midterm elections.

The affected centers are the Center on Work, Poverty and Opportunity at UNC-Chapel Hill, East Carolina University's Center for Biodiversity, and North Carolina Central University's Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change.

The Republican-dominated board of governors framed the decision as part of a broader and ongoing review of the university system, and that the three centers weren't targeted because of their areas of focus. But as critics of the decision point out, the work and poverty center --led by Gene Nichol, a vocal critic of the state's Republican leadership...

Read more
'Free-range' parents' nightmare: When teaching independence is called child neglect

A heads up to parents: Allowing your children to walk home from the park alone can trigger an investigation by Child Protective Services, a finding of neglect and an open file on your family for at least five years.

That’s what happened to one family in Maryland. In December Danielle and Alexander Meitiv allowed their 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter to make the one-mile walk home from the park alone – as part of a larger effort to instill independence and self-reliance in their children. The kids were halfway home when they were picked up by the police, after someone called to report the unsupervised kids.

Montgomery County Child Protective Services spent two months investigating the family and found the parents “responsible for unsubstantiated child neglect.” That has to be the most bizarre not-innocent, but not-quite-guilty non-resolution possible.

CPS didn’t dismiss the report of neglect, nor did the investigation prove neglect. Instead, the finding of unsubstantiated...

Read more
New study: Anti-vaccination views dominate on open platforms online

It turns out that measles isn't spread just by tourists at Disneyland. It's also incubated and disseminated through YouTube.

That's the short version of a new study published in Vaccine, which is one of those peer-reviewed journals that scientists wish the public trusted more than they trust Hollywood celebrities. And while the findings may be obvious, what to do about them is not.

The authors -- Dr. Anand Venkatraman at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, Dr Nilay Kumar at Cambridge Health Alliance and Dr Neetika Garg at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center -- scoured YouTube, Google, Wikipedia and PubMed to see if there was any correlation between the ability to upload content and the prevalence of items linking vaccinations and autism. They found, not surprisingly, that there was.

"Support for a link between vaccines and autism is most prominent on YouTube, followed by Google search results" -- in other words, the two sites that give lay people the greatest freedom to post...

Read more
L.A. school board expanding role beyond education into 'social justice'

First it was providing free legal help to undocumented students. Then it was a resolution chiding a Central Valley fruit grower for alleged unfair labor practices. The Los Angeles Unified school board is on a new “social justice” tack these days of getting involved in matters that don’t fall within the purview of educating students well. And the public can expect to see a lot more of it.

At least this is one issue that isn’t defined by the old reform-versus-union alliances. Tamar Galatzan was the only board member to vote against the legal help, and she abstained on the farm issue, while her usual reform ally Monica Garcia voted for both. George McKenna raised questions about the legal help, pointing out that there are all kinds of students with all kinds of legal needs, so why was the district helping only those with a certain type of issue? He eventually went along with it, though.

The Times editorial board came out against the legal plan, which allows district lawyers to offer, on a...

Read more
After this tantrum, House Republicans need a timeout

I’m trying to understand the logic here.

Conservative congressional Republicans who have refused to work on comprehensive immigration reform are upset because President Obama invoked prosecutorial discretion and prioritized which immigrants here illegally should be targeted for removal. Obama also set up a system under which parents of American citizens or legal permanent residents, and an expanded pool of people brought here as children, would be able to live without immediate fear of deportation, and in some cases get permission to work (now on hold pending a legal challenge).

Immigration and border security are overseen by divisions of the Department of Homeland Security, notably Customs and Border Protection and Citizenship and Immigration Services, as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Instead of addressing the root problem -- inadequate immigration laws -- the House conservatives decided that they would not fund Homeland Security unless they were also allowed to gut...

Read more