Join The Times' book club. This month's selection: "Cadillac Desert"
Top of the Ticket Political commentary from David Horsey
Does anyone take the Mideast 'peace process' seriously?

Like many American secretaries of State before him, John Kerry has logged a lot of air miles flying to and from the Middle East to engage is something called "the peace process." Given all the effort, it is disheartening to see just how little true peace there is in that roiling corner of the world.

In 1978, President Carter spent 12 days at Camp David with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat hammering out a peace deal for which Begin and Sadat won the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2000, President Clinton hosted Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at Camp David and attempted to pull together a comprehensive peace deal between Israel and Palestine. That effort fell short, but left hope for the future.

Now, hope seems scant. Under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli position has grown far more rigid -- Clinton blames Netanyahu for killing the chance for peace that he believes was there after 2000. The Palestinians...

Read more
To some people's shock, same-sex marriage is here to stay

It's easy to be judgmental of people -- like most of the Republican presidential candidates and many folks in the Bible Belt -- who continue to oppose same-sex marriage. Now that the majority of states condone gay marriage and that it seems likely that the Supreme Court will soon make it the rule for the whole country, being against men marrying men and women marrying women seems practically medieval.

But we should not forget that it was only back in Barack Obama's first term as president that he was expressing a preference for civil unions over full marriage rights. Among Democrats and liberals, he was hardly an exception. It took a shift in consciousness for many of us to understand that the full rights and responsibilities of marriage were deeply valued by committed gay and lesbian couples and that expecting them to accept anything less was to misperceive the nature of their love and their rightful status as full citizens.

It is not surprising that some Americans -- especially conservative...

Read more
Robert Gates tells Boy Scouts to face reality about gay Scoutmasters

As Defense secretary and director of the CIA, Robert Gates learned many lessons about accepting political realities, even when he would rather have done something else. Now, as president of the Boy Scouts of America, Gates is trying to teach that lesson to supporters of his organization who do not want to allow homosexuals to take leadership roles with the Scouts.

In a speech at the Boy Scouts of America's annual meeting in Atlanta last week, Gates said the group's ban on gay Scoutmasters cannot last without endangering the future of the organization.

“I truly fear that any other alternative will be the end of us as a national movement,” Gates said.

Scouting leaders are coming to realize that courts are likely to force a change in the rules that discriminate against gay men. Even if judges do not act, shifting public opinion will drain Scouts of support and members in many communities. In more and more places, gay is OK.

Still, there are those freaked-out folks who erroneously equate homosexuality...

Read more
Palmyra: Islamic State seeks to obliterate vestiges of ancient civilizations

There seems to be no limit to the cruelty of the marauders who call themselves Islamic State (ISIS). Beheadings, crucifixions, mass slaughter, rape, enslavement; these fanatics are like an unleashed death cult conceived in the scariest Hollywood horror movie — except these monsters are real.

Human history overflows with examples of the brutality some men are willing to commit against their fellow humans. The most odious killers, though, are those driven by an ideology that demands not just the death of innocent people, but that insists that those people’s stories, their art, their culture, their beliefs must also be obliterated. The strange cabal of religious zealots, adventurers, idealistic fools and social misfits that fill the ranks of ISIS have been brought together by just such an ideology.

Their atrocities against human beings rank with the worst in history, but ISIS is taking it even further by trying to destroy history itself. Driven by a malignant form of Islam that demands destruction...

Read more
CEO salaries defy gravity and any sense of shame

How much money would it take to make you feel properly compensated for your work? I enjoy my job so much that, often, I feel like I’m getting away with something by getting paid for it. Still, I like being valued for what I do and I can imagine I would feel especially appreciated if someone wanted to give me $1 million a year. (If my publisher is reading this, I’d settle for half a million, by the way.)

Sounds pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it — a million bucks for just a year of work? Well, I can assure you, I get by on far, far less. I’m down there with all the rest of the solid middle class. I earn enough to finance a comfortable life but still have frequent days when I need to juggle accounts and cut back to keep the bills paid. If I had an annual million, though, I don’t think I’d have any worries, other than figuring out how to spend such an ocean of cash.

Some people, though, look at $1 million as chump change, a gratuity, an insult. Those people are corporate CEOs.

Five years ago,...

Read more
Don Draper is, in the end, just a baby boomer's dad

Matthew Weiner, the creator of "Mad Men," brought his melodrama of 1960s America to an end Sunday night, closing with an intriguing riddle involving Coca-Cola and the show's central character, Don Draper. Fans will be parsing those last couple of minutes for days, if not years, to come.

Over seven seasons, Weiner wove an addictive tale that, quite refreshingly, did not involve cops, gangsters or an endless trail of murders. Instead, he got us hooked on the very complicated personal and professional lives of men and women working in the advertising game on Madison Avenue, setting his story amid a very detailed and very real backdrop of one of the most tumultuous decades of this nation’s history.

For baby boomers, much of the fun of following the series came from picking out the guideposts that marked the progression of our childhoods. There were the news events, usually seeping into the narrative from a radio report or a news alert on a fuzzy black-and-white television screen — the Kennedy...

Read more