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60 posts
  • Opinion
  • We're All Doomed
  • The Golden State
Americans understand global warming, yet we continue practices that increase carbon emissions.
Americans understand global warming, yet we continue practices that increase carbon emissions. (Ben Margot / Associated Press)

Americans seem to be stuck in one of those “do as we say, not as we do” conundrums when it comes to recognizing the connection between climate-altering carbon emissions and how we conduct our lives.

New findings published Tuesday estimate that U.S. carbon emissions increased 3.4% last year, driven primarily by a booming economy, which consumed more electricity, and people buying less-efficient vehicles and driving more miles, including shippers. Despite recent gains in adding renewable resources, coal and natural gas still account for 62% of domestic electricity production, which means increased demand causes increased emissions.

The findings track with preliminary estimates released last month and with reports at the international climate forum in Katowice, Poland, that humankind is failing to take sufficient steps to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Border Wars
People gather near the U.S.-Mexico border fence in the Las Playas Area on Sunday in Tijuana.
People gather near the U.S.-Mexico border fence in the Las Playas Area on Sunday in Tijuana. (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

“We will have so much winning if I get elected that you may get bored with the winning,” then-candidate Donald Trump declared at a campaign event in September 2015.

It was a line that Trump would repeat many times in one form or another, and since the election it has encapsulated the uniquely binary approach he’s taken to the presidency. He appears to view much of governing as a contest in which one side, and only one side, emerges victorious.

Which is odd, given that someone who claims to be a master deal maker would understand how important it is to avoid zero-sum situations. That’s where we appear to be today, with no end in sight to a partial government shutdown that’s beginning its third unhappy week. 

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • The Swamp
As 800,000 federal workers remain furloughed or work without pay, top Trump appointees to get raises.
As 800,000 federal workers remain furloughed or work without pay, top Trump appointees to get raises. (LM Otero / Associated Press)

How’s this for bad optics: As the partial government shutdown enters its third week and some 800,000 federal employees remain off the job (or are working without pay), top political appointees and Vice President Mike Pence are about to get huge raises.

According to the Washington Post, pay levels that had been frozen since 2013 will increase Saturday unless Congress votes yet again to freeze them. That’s not likely to happen.

The bumps could amount to $10,000 a year or more, depending on the position, with cabinet secretaries going from $199,700 a year to $210,700 a year. The increases are so high because they encompass several years’ worth of delayed raises that now will  go into effect all at once.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
As much as he has railed against migrants who have entered the U.S. illegally, President Trump's businesses seem to like hiring them.
As much as he has railed against migrants who have entered the U.S. illegally, President Trump's businesses seem to like hiring them. (Nati Harnik / Associated Press)

By now much of the nation recognizes President Trump as the embodiment of hypocrisy, but still, sometimes his blatant duplicity needs to be pointed out.

For instance, Trump railed as a candidate and as president about people living in the country without permission, calling them rapists and violent gang members.

Last year, in a White House meeting discussing so-called sanctuary cities and states with sheriffs and other local California officials, the president said:

Five months before I was born, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to orbit Earth. In 1969, as an 11-year-old, I watched the black-and-white images of American astronaut Neil Armstrong stepping onto the surface of the moon. That was a huge advancement in a remarkably short time.

Space exploration has continued to evolve with missions to Mars and Venus, placing space stations and telescopes in orbit, and dispatching probes to the far reaches of the solar system. There have been so many advances, in fact, that we sometimes take them for granted. We have lost our sense of awe. Which is too bad, because there have been a number of recent developments that deserve some appreciation.

For instance, China just became the first country to conquer the technical difficulties of landing a spacecraft on the far side of the moon — not the dark side, as Pink Floyd described it. The far side of the moon gets sunlight on a regular basis as it orbits the Earth while the Earth itself orbits the sun. So when the moon is full to our eyes, the far side is dark; when it’s a new moon — shadowed to our eyes — sunlight is striking the far side.

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Border Wars
President Trump claimed again Wednesday that Mexico is paying for his wall through the renegotiated NAFTA agreement. It isn't.
President Trump claimed again Wednesday that Mexico is paying for his wall through the renegotiated NAFTA agreement. It isn't. (Paul Ratje/AFP/Getty)

President Trump claimed yet again Wednesday morning that Mexico is paying for a wall along the shared border through his renegotiated NAFTA trade deal (which he re-branded as USMCA) with Canada and Mexico.

No, it’s not.

Oh, and about that “much of the Wall has already been fully renovated or built” claim? Um, no. The relatively small amount of wall-and-fence work done since Trump took office has been primarily repairing or renovating existing structures.

  • Trump
  • Opinion

It’s fitting that President Trump is finishing up 2018 with inaccurate statements launched at the nation via Twitter. And it’s also pathetic.

The government is partially shut down because the president insists, like an intemperate 4-year-old, that he must have his way and waste billions of dollars in tax money extending existing walls and fences along the U.S.-Mexico border, even though there is no evidence such a monstrosity would achieve what he thinks it will. He tweeted again Monday morning about the “open border,” which he described as an “ ‘Open Wound,’ where drugs, criminals (including human traffickers) and illegals would pour into our Country.”

In fact, the number of illegal border crossers has been steadily decreasing, and most drugs come across at ports of entry smuggled inside of motor vehicles, through tunnels beneath the existing walls and fences, and by boat. Not much impact from a wall there.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
"Make America Great Again" hats on the factory floor of Cali-Fame in Carson, Calif.
"Make America Great Again" hats on the factory floor of Cali-Fame in Carson, Calif. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

There’s a maxim in the law that goes “de minimis non curat lex.” A common translation from the Latin is “the law does not concern itself with trifles,” but a more colloquial equivalent is: “No big deal.”

 Lawyers and judges sometimes talk about “de minimis” violations of procedure or the Constitution.

Unlike some commentators, I think President Trump committed a de minimis violation of protocol when he autographed  “Make America Great Again” hats during his visits to U.S. service members  in Iraq and Germany this week.

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  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
  • Border Wars
Geo Group's Adelanto detention facility, one of the subjects of a lawsuit alleging migrants are unable to access legal help.
Geo Group's Adelanto detention facility, one of the subjects of a lawsuit alleging migrants are unable to access legal help. (Los Angeles Times)

Two court actions a continent apart are driving home — yet again — the point that the U.S. asylum system neither lives up to basic standards of human decency and due process nor, it seems, to the promises of the Constitution.

In New York on Thursday, a federal district court judge slammed the government for failing to even offer a bond hearing to a man it had detained for 34 months after he arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border and asked for asylum because of threats he’d received in his native Ivory Coast over his political affiliations.

Is that sufficient grounds for granting asylum? Good question, and we have both laws and a court system to guide the answer. Was it necessary for the government to detain Adou Kouadio, 43, while his application worked its way through the system?

  • Opinion
  • Guns and Ammo
  • We're All Doomed
People huddle near a makeshift memorial for victims of the mass shooting at Thousand Oaks' Borderline Bar and Grill.
People huddle near a makeshift memorial for victims of the mass shooting at Thousand Oaks' Borderline Bar and Grill. (Los Angeles Times)

Less than two months ago, Ian Long walked into the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks and began firing two semiautomatic handguns, killing 11 people in the bar and wounding an arriving sheriff’s deputy (who tragically was killed when struck by a round fired by another arriving officer) before turning one of his guns on himself.

Raging wildfires that led 75% of Thousand Oaks’ residents to evacuate less than two weeks later overwhelmed the tragedy in the public’s mind, which is a tragedy of another sort. Yes, the fires were awful. Statewide they killed more than 100 people, 86 in the Camp fire alone, while damaging or destroying nearly 20,000 buildings worth at least $9 billion (in the areas hit by the Camp, Woolsey and Hill fires). About 1.8 million acres burned in total, a record.

Wildfires have always been a part of nature in California. One could argue that gun violence is part of California’s nature too, though the latter is something we could do more to control. But first we have to pay closer attention to the problem.