Editorial: Who’s been naughty and nice in 2014

Naughty and nice
Clockwise from left to right: Pope Francis, Jonathan Gruber, Dianne Feinstein, Apple.
(Associated Press)

It’s not only Santa who makes lists and checks them twice. Editorial writers do too. Here’s who’s getting coal and who’s getting candy from us in 2014.

Nice: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), for doggedly insisting on the release of the 499-page executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s abominable detention and interrogation policies. This stunning document demonstrated in stomach-turning detail how the U.S. lost its moral bearings after 9/11, and made a strong case that the use of torture in interrogating suspected terrorists was not only immoral but ineffective.

Naughty: Greenpeace activists who entered a restricted area in Peru’s Nazca Desert and placed a sign declaring the organization’s support for renewable energy near a vast, ancient etching of a hummingbird. The Greenpeace sign left marks on the delicate desert ground that could remain for decades, experts said. It’s hard to see how irreparably damaging one of a nation’s most treasured artifacts wins friends or influences people.

Nice: Pope Francis, for reminding scientists and believers alike that Roman Catholics — as well as many other Christians — accept the theory of evolution and scientific explanations of the origin of the universe. Here’s what the pope said: “The Big Bang, that is placed today at the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine intervention but exacts it. The evolution in nature is not opposed to the notion of creation, because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.”


Naughty: The developers of a proposed West Hollywood residential project who said they would offer much-needed affordable units along with market-rate apartments, but wanted residents of the lower-rate units to use a separate entrance — “poor doors,” in effect — and be banned from the swimming pool.

Nice: West Hollywood housing officials who nixed the idea of separate entrances and criticized the plan to make the pool off-limits to anyone. The developers relented and said they would open all entrances and offer all amenities to all residents if the project is ultimately approved.

Naughty: Time Warner Cable and the Los Angeles Dodgers, for putting Dodger telecasts on a network so expensive that almost all other pay-TV services refused to carry it.

Nice: Adman-turned-author James Patterson, whose suspense novels are among the hottest-selling books around, for giving away $1 million this year to independent booksellers to help them keep competing against online retailers like Amazon. “I’m just stepping up, trying to make some noise, and get others to step up,” he told The Times recently. Patterson is also a proponent of public libraries and programs encouraging kids to read. “What kind of culture would we have without books?” he asked. Hear, hear.


Naughty: MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber, a healthcare economist and former consultant to the White House and congressional Democrats, who may have done more to hurt the 2010 Affordable Care Act than congressional Republicans have managed to do. A series of recently unearthed comments by Gruber about the authors’ intentions and the “stupidity” of voters added ammunition to a lawsuit challenging the legality of premium subsidies in more than half the country, while also buttressing GOP arguments that Democrats deliberately misled the public about the law’s contents. Gruber apologized for his “arrogant” and “thoughtless” comments at a congressional hearing in December, but the damage had already been done.

Naughty: Blue Shield, Anthem Blue Cross and the physicians purportedly in their networks, for not giving customers who signed up for health insurance through the Covered California exchange an accurate picture of which doctors would be available to treat them.

Naughty: Uber, for threatening to have researchers dig up dirt on journalists critical of the company. Apparently oblivious to the irony of his remarks, a senior executive spoke (wistfully, perhaps) of targeting Sarah Lacy of PandoDaily, who had accused the company of sexism and misogyny in its marketing. Just after the comments were made public, a Buzzfeed reporter wrote that Uber’s top executive in New York had used the company’s software to track the reporter en route to an interview. The company may innovate rapidly, but it doesn’t seem to learn very quickly.

Nice: The Los Angeles Unified School District and five other large districts, which announced that in preparing school lunches, they will use only chicken that has not been treated with antibiotics. The routine overuse of antibiotics in livestock has contributed to the rise of resistant bacteria.

Naughty: Rolling Stone, for publishing a sensational story about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia that, by the magazine’s own admission, was inadequately reported. The spectacular implosion of the story has been harmful not only to Rolling Stone’s credibility but also to the legitimate campaign to raise awareness about sexual assault on college campuses.

Nice: Apple, for finally giving the iPhone the big screen it richly deserves.

Naughty: North Korea for, well, you name it. But among other things, for its apparent role in the enormously expensive, enormously disruptive hack on Sony Pictures’ computers. If North Korea was in fact responsible, as the FBI alleges, its actions — in retaliation for a movie that ridiculed Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un — were petulant, bizarre and deeply irresponsible.

Nice: Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers, for creating a road map to address the growing unfunded liabilities in the state teacher retirement fund, CalSTRS. Those liabilities will persist for some time, and Brown has promised more details when he releases his proposed budget, but the state at last is on the right path.


Naughty: The millions of registered voters in California who didn’t bother to cast ballots in this year’s elections. They helped set a state record in November for the lowest turnout in a regularly scheduled general election. Here’s hoping it will never be broken.

Naughty: Australia, for banning travelers from Ebola-infected countries before it took steps to contribute to the international medical effort to help those countries — and even then, declining to send medical personnel, who were desperately needed.

Nice: Australians, who showed their better nature after a frightening hostage standoff in Sydney. Muslims in the Land Down Under feared a backlash when a hostage-taker forced some of his captives to hold up a flag bearing a jihadist slogan. Some Aussies instead started the Twitter @illridewithyou hashtag, through which non-Muslims offered to escort Muslims wearing religious attire as they traveled on mass transit.

Naughty: The U.S. Senate, for blocking a vote on the USA Freedom Act, which would have ended the National Security Agency’s bulk collection and storage of millions of Americans’ telephone records. The bill, the result of negotiations between the White House and civil liberties groups, would have ended the most egregious violation of privacy revealed by Edward Snowden.

Nice: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, for making chain restaurants disclose their calorie counts on menus. Everyone has a right to choose, and the information will make that possible for diners throughout the country.

Naughty: The Supreme Court, for upholding a New York town’s practice of opening public meetings with prayers that were overwhelmingly offered by Christian clergy members and often invoked Jesus’ name. As Justice Elena Kagan pointed out in dissent: “When the citizens of this country approach their government, they do so only as Americans, not as members of one faith or another. And that means that even in a partly legislative body, they should not confront government-sponsored worship that divides them along religious lines.”

Nice: For the seventh year in a row, an anonymous couple have traveled around Detroit handing out $100 bills to strangers ($15,000 this year alone). Mrs. Claus, as she identified herself, told the Detroit Free Press: “Every human soul needs to feel a connection to another human soul, and there’s no sadder time than Christmas if you feel like you can’t give your kids a present. Or you can’t do the things you want to be able to do for your family. To put money in somebody’s hands and have them say my kids are now going to have a Christmas? That has a compounding effect that is like the pebble in water.”


Merry Christmas.

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