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60 posts
  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Border Wars
Part of the recently closed camp for migrants, mostly Central Americans, at a sports park adjacent to the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana.
Part of the recently closed camp for migrants, mostly Central Americans, at a sports park adjacent to the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana. (Scott Martelle / Los Angeles Times)

It is only in an administration as dysfunctional and truth-averse as this one that people from other countries exercising their statutorily defined right to seek asylum in the U.S. can be viewed as taking advantage of a “loophole” in immigration laws.

On Monday, the government released statistics showing that the number of people seeking asylum at the border with Mexico has skyrocketed from 55,584 in 2017 to 92,959 in 2018, most of them unaccompanied minors or families with minor children. But asylum seekers still make up only a thin slice of the total number apprehended at the border — 18%, up from 13%.

And two-thirds of asylum-seekers are denied, a percentage that has risen dramatically under Trump policies narrowing the conditions that meet the asylum standard. The vast majority of asylum-seekers are fleeing violence and poverty in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador — conditions that have been influenced by U.S. policies, particularly those of the Reagan and first Bush administrations. Whether those were good or bad policies is a topic for another discussion, but the U.S. decision to support anti-leftist actors during insurrections and civil wars added to the violence and destabilization of the region. Those actions helped lay the foundation for other problems too, from corrupt governments to powerful street gangs, some of which came together here in Los Angeles.

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
Leslie McCrae Dowless sits in his kitchen in Bladenboro, N.C.
Leslie McCrae Dowless sits in his kitchen in Bladenboro, N.C. (Justin Kase Conder/ Washington Post)

President Trump’s voter fraud commission was launched in 2017 on the false premise that massive voter fraud by non-citizens prevented Trump from winning the popular vote in 2016.

Since there is no evidence that this type of fraud was or is going on in any significant way, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was doomed from the start. And in January, after a short and ignoble life characterized by ineptitude and infighting, it disbanded without having uncovered any fraud other than its own existence.

Maybe the commission, led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, might have survived if it hadn’t been looking for fraud in all the wrong places. Instead of California and other Democratic states, they might have found what they were looking for right at home in Trump country.

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New light rail and subway lines completed in less than a decade! Fewer clogged freeways! And free transit “forever and ever.”

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • We're All Doomed
Despite warming temperatures from greenhouse gas emissions, Trump wants more coal-fired power plants like this one in West Virginia.
Despite warming temperatures from greenhouse gas emissions, Trump wants more coal-fired power plants like this one in West Virginia. (Los Angeles Times)

The Trump administration’s new rules to make it easier for coal-fired power plants to come on line is at once dangerous, and silly. Dangerous because coal is choking the planet; silly because the market is already quickly moving beyond coal — by far the most expensive and most polluting of our energy sources.

So why does Trump stick with coal, even though power companies are abandoning it for cheaper and cleaner alternatives? Ignorance is one possible answer — he may not understand what is happening in the energy markets.

But politics is the more likely explanation. Trump campaigned on bringing back coal, and while even coal miners know that’s not going to happen, this rollback of sensible regulations (likely to get a court challenge) allows Trump to brag that he did what he said he would do.

  • Opinion
Chairman and founder T.K. Pillan of Veggie Grill, a vegan food chain that's expanding in the L.A. area.
Chairman and founder T.K. Pillan of Veggie Grill, a vegan food chain that's expanding in the L.A. area. (Los Angeles Times)

Global interest in plant-based cuisine has exploded in recent years.

Although only about 6% of Americans identify as fully vegan (no meat, eggs, dairy or fish), many people see the benefit of limiting their consumption of animal products for health, environmental and moral reasons.

The market has responded to this consumer demand. Plant-based food restaurants aren’t difficult to find in large cities (there are two in my small neighborhood alone), and many meat-serving restaurants offer some sort of vegan fare.

Even McDonald’s, home of beef burgers and processed chicken, added a vegan burger — “El Veggo” — to its menu in Finland.

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Since the Civil War, Americans have struggled to define what seems to be obvious: What is a lynching? It conjures visions of a mob pulling a man from a jail cell, hauling him to a tree and throwing a rope over a branch. But debates have centered on how how many people must take part in such an extrajudicial killing for it to qualify as a lynching (the NAACP suggested in 1921 at least five).

And must the motive be racial? Was the hanging of a suspected white horse thief in the Wild West by ranch hands the same as a white Southern mob, amid taunts, jeers and spit, turning a black man accused of insulting a white woman into “strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees,” as Billie Holliday once sang?

Sen. Lindsey Graham and President Trump at the White House on Nov. 14.
Sen. Lindsey Graham and President Trump at the White House on Nov. 14. (Mark Wilson / AFP/Getty Images)

One of the most curious recent developments in national politics is the reincarnation of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) as an ally of President Trump, a man Graham once called a “xenophobic, race-baiting religious bigot.” 

But even the new pro-Trump Graham is dramatically distancing himself from the president on whether Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is culpable in the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In a statement on Nov. 20, Trump embraced a lazy agnosticism about the crown prince’s involvement, saying that “it could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”

  • Opinion
A recent report found that Texas turned to a compounding pharmacy with regulatory problems for its lethal injection drugs.
A recent report found that Texas turned to a compounding pharmacy with regulatory problems for its lethal injection drugs. (Texas Department of Corrections / AFP)

A number of death penalty states have in recent years adopted secrecy laws shielding the identities of suppliers of the drugs they buy for lethal injections. Secrecy advocates argue that the drugmakers must remain in the shadows to keep opponents of the death penalty from protesting them.

In other words, if the states can’t conduct the people’s business in secret, the people might rise in opposition to the business the state is conducting. So much for open governments and public accountability.

Two recent reports highlight the dangers of such secrecy policies. Buzzfeed News published a piece last week saying that the state of Texas, by far the nation’s leading killer of the condemned, obtained execution drugs from Greenpark Compounding Pharmacy in Houston, which Buzzfeed said has been cited by state regulators for 48 violations over the last eight years.

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  • Opinion
  • 2020
(Molly Riley / Associated Press)

Earlier this week, Joe Biden told an audience at the University of Montana that he was “the most qualified person in the country to be president.” He wasn’t officially announcing his run — he’d decide over the holidays, he said — but one doesn’t generally say such things unless they’re running.

Plus, Biden’s never played coy about his desire to hold the office. He first ran for president in 1988. (Dropped out because of plagiarism scandals.) He ran again in 2008. (Received less than 1% of the vote in the Iowa Caucus.)

In October, Biden received some buzz as early polling showed him leading the Democratic field in 2020. These two-years-out polls don’t mean much; similar ones showed Presidents Clinton and Obama losing re-election. Two years is plenty of time for Biden, a self-declared “gaffe machine,” to give the race away.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
  • The Swamp
  • Rich Dudes
Artist Robin Bell projected messages of protest onto Trump International Hotel, where the president is his own landlord, last year.
Artist Robin Bell projected messages of protest onto Trump International Hotel, where the president is his own landlord, last year. (Liz Gorman / Robin Bell)

Get ready for a tweet storm from you-know-who.

The attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia, who are suing President Trump over allegations that he is violating the emolument clause of the Constitution, banning payments from foreign governments, has subpoenaed a range of records from the president’s businesses, some of his competitors, and federal agencies that have dealt with the Trump Organization.

This could get interesting.