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Opinion L.A. Observations and provocations from The Times' Opinion Staff
Memorial Day 1919: 'What shall be for memory?'

As a history buff, I like browsing through old newspapers (not to mention archives) seeking links to the present, which led me to dust off the Times' editorial from Memorial Day 1919 - the first commemoration following the end of World War One.

It's a pretty long editorial for what was, for the Americans anyway, a short war, and is less about war than about memorialization itself. In the go-go pro-business climate of the era, the Times noted that it was rationale to get double use out of a memorial. Say, a bridge dedicated to the dead, thus getting some public good out of the spent tax dollars.



An earlier version of this post misstated the year of the editorial as 1918. It was 1919.


But it also argued - in purplish prose - that the future would be watching, so they ought to ensure they do it right.

It's unclear whether the two memorials mentioned below ever came into being, but in 1918 the Los Angeles renamed a park at Sixth and Hill streets Pershing...

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Operation Jade Helm: Crank up the conspiracies

Some of the good folks in nine Southern states have their camo knickers in a twist over the U.S. military's Operation Jade Helm.

It’s a special-operations training exercise in new warfare tactics, but the conspiracy-minded, from Chuck Norris to the governor of Texas, have their doubts; instead of war games to prepare for a new kind of war, they imagine a takeover of red states ordered by a blue commander in chief.

They have it wrong, all of them. Jade Helm is not a a smokescreen for a martial-law military takeover. Oh, no. It is a smoke screen for altering the American Way of Life.

Here’s the real covert agenda:


Objective: promoting national energy saving by replacing energy-wasting foreign-made incandescent bulbs with American-made compact fluorescent bulbs.

Target area: select Texas panhandle towns

Tactic: Residents of towns in target counties are invited to you-must-be-present-to-win lottery drawings in each town. Prize, a decommissioned Humvee. Refreshments...

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A look at the nation's leftward shift on social issues

With the nation’s political discourse seemingly as polarized as ever here in the early going of the 2016 presidential campaign, a new Gallup poll finds that people who self-describe their attitudes on social issues as liberal or conservative have reached parity at 31% each. It’s the first time self-described social conservatives haven’t outnumbered social liberals since Gallup began asking the question in 1999.

What that means as a practical matter is a bit unclear. Gallup says that as part of a years-long trend, more Democrats now self-identify as liberal on social issues, and fewer Republicans consider themselves to be social conservatives. The total percentage of Americans on the left and right on social issues remained stable over time at about 60%, which means the moderate middle stayed the same size.

Some of it could reflect a softening of rhetoric more than a change in beliefs. It wasn’t that long ago that the right hurled “liberal” as an insult, much as the left now says “social...

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How the city controller race led to revelations about DWP nonprofits

If you ever wonder whether elections really matter, here is an example of why they do. Last month, City Controller Ron Galperin released an audit detailing how employees of two nonprofit trusts associated with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power were living large on ratepayer money.

There were no criminal misdeeds, but Galperin’s audit found that trust employees are paid $220,000. They spent more than $660,000 with their publicly financed credit cards for steak dinners and trips to Las Vegas, Hawaii and New Orleans. One employee racked up thousands of dollars in gas purchases on top of a $500 monthly car allowance.

Galperin's report, along with one produced by City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, made clear that there wasn’t enough oversight, financial controls or accountability over how ratepayer dollars were being spent.

But reform won’t happen without the cooperation of Brian D’Arcy, the business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local...

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Americans aren't optimistic -- but they aren't all that pessimistic, either

In my Wednesday column, I wrote about the perennial, recurring discovery that Americans aren’t as confident in the country’s future as they once were.

It’s a theme that pops up in almost every presidential campaign, at least when the economy’s not doing well: Candidates from the party out of power announce that the American Dream is in trouble, and suggest that the man in the White House is at fault.

But it’s nothing new. “Between 1989 and 2014, no poll ever found a majority that believed the next generation would be better off,” I wrote.

That sounded pretty sweeping -- and a sharp-eyed editor from the Tampa Bay Tribune, Jim Verhulst, emailed to question it.

He noted that the Gallup Poll published a graph last year suggesting that Americans were actually pretty optimistic from 1997 until 2010. In 2010, for example, Gallup’s chart showed that when people were asked if “today’s youth will have a better life than their parents,” 62% said they thought a better life was likely; only 38% said...

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The Boy Scouts of America's baby steps on accepting gay Scout leaders

Robert M. Gates, the former U.S. Defense secretary and current Boy Scouts of America president, earlier today urged the youth organization to, essentially, grow up and allow gays to serve in leadership roles.

Gates stopped short of pushing the issue to a vote during the national conference in Atlanta, but he said the organization faced an irrepressible tide, and it ought to change its policy before a court orders it to do so. (The speech is viewable here.)

He also cited growing resistance to the ban among local councils of Scout troops, and state laws barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

"We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be," Gates said. "The status quo in our movement's membership standards cannot be sustained. We can expect more councils to openly challenge the current policy."

The changing legal landscape, including the looming Supreme Court decision on whether gays have the right to marry, puts the Boy Scouts in "an unsustainable...

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