426 posts
  • Trump
  • Opinion
Martha Stewart and Donald Trump in 2005.
Martha Stewart and Donald Trump in 2005. (Associated Press)

First President Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, the controversial former Arizona sheriff. Then right wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza and the late boxer Jack Johnson (the latter’s cause was championed by actor Sylvester Stallone). Next he talked about clemency for Martha Stewart, an old friend, and a sentence reduction for corrupt former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. At Kim Kardashian’s request, he pardoned Alice Johnson, a 63-year-old woman in prison for life for a non-violent drug conviction. Now, on Friday, the president said he was considering pardoning the late boxer Muhammad Ali, who was convicted of draft evasion in 1967 during the Vietnam War.

Trump is in love with his pardon power, and, on one level, who can blame him? When he was first elected, he seemed surprised to learn that the power of the presidency was severely limited. To build a wall with Mexico, it turned out you needed billions of dollars from Congress. To ban people from the country, you had to convince the courts that doing so was constitutional. For some things, you even needed to beg for help from the likes of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

So needless to say, the pardon power is very appealing. The Constitution gives the president virtually unchecked authority to offer amnesties, commutations and full or conditional pardons for federal crimes, saying only that the president “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States.” No one gets to second guess it. The Senate doesn’t have to approve; the courts don’t weigh in.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
A doctor checks an X-ray image of a patient with lung cancer.
A doctor checks an X-ray image of a patient with lung cancer. (Getty Images)

In its latest effort to undermine the Affordable Care Act — and in the process, raise premiums for many Americans — the Trump administration is urging a federal judge in Texas to throw out the law’s protections for people with preexisting conditions.

In other words, the administration wants insurers to be able to deny coverage to the people most in need of it, or to charge them considerably higher premiums than they’re allowed to charge today.

This is jaw-dropping. Even Republicans who’ve complained about Obamacare have been loath to undo the protections for people with preexisting conditions who are not covered by large employers’ health plans. That’s because the public supports them, and unequivocally so.

  • Opinion
  • The Witch Hunt
  • Rule of Law
Former President Jimmy Carter campaigned on the idea of making the attorney general a nonpolitical office.
Former President Jimmy Carter campaigned on the idea of making the attorney general a nonpolitical office. (John Amis / Associated Press)

On Tuesday President Trump tweeted:

Never mind that Sessions had no choice but to recuse himself from the investigation of possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign because he played a major role in said campaign. His personal views about whether there was collusion were irrelevant.

Trump’s continued attacks on his attorney general for failing to be a team player remind me of a mostly forgotten campaign promise by Jimmy Carter when he ran for president in 1976.  

  • Opinion
  • We're All Doomed
Fox News host Sean Hannity.
Fox News host Sean Hannity. (Fox News /

Ralph Peters, who offered regular military analysis on Fox News for a decade, finally concluded what many of us had long ago realized — and, having done so, he quit the network in disgust in March. On Wednesday, he went on CNN to explain himself further: The network, he said, was doing a “great, grave disservice to our country” and had become a “destructive propaganda machine” for President Trump.

On Thursday, Alisyn Camerota, a former Fox News anchor, said that Peters’ experience mirrored her own. “I too was upset about the blurring of the lines between propaganda and journalism,” she said, according to the New York Times.

Both former Fox regulars are right, of course. Fox has become a loyal Trump mouthpiece, a purveyor of conspiracy theories, an attack dog for the president in his effort to undermine mainstream institutions.

  • Opinion
  • The Golden State
Isauro Aguirre was sentenced to death in the torture-murder of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez.
Isauro Aguirre was sentenced to death in the torture-murder of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez. (Family photo)

It’s hard to imagine a more horrific, or depraved, crime than the 2013 torture and murder of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, for which the child’s mother’s boyfriend was sentenced to death Thursday morning. Gabriel was beaten so badly his skull was fractured, ribs were broken and teeth were knocked out. He was burned, and his tormenter repeatedly fired a BB gun into his groin because, the prosecutor said at trial, the mother’s boyfriend thought the child was gay.

It's easy to understand the emotions that lead folks to say the death penalty might be too good for the convicted killer, Isauro Aguirre, 37 (the boy’s mother, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, who had diminished mental capacity, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life without parole). But as much as such crimes dim our souls, they are also tests of principle. Aguirre should not have been sentenced to death because, as the Times editorial board has often argued, no one should be sentenced to death.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • The Swamp
President Trump and Kim Kardashian West
President Trump and Kim Kardashian West (Evan Agostini/Associated Press)

Alice Marie Johnson would still be one of many convicted drug dealers rotting for life in federal prison if not for one very important distinction: She found an ally in a reality TV star who's friends with the reality TV star in the Oval Office.

That advocate would be Kim Kardashian West, whose husband, Kanye West, appears to be the most famous admirer of President Trump. Kardashian embraced Johnson’s cause last year after learning that Johnson was sentenced at age 41 to life in federal prison for her first offense. Admittedly, it was a doozy: a three-year role as a central figure in a drug ring that moved more than 2 tons of Colombian cocaine.

Last week Kardashian West met personally with Trump, supposedly to talk about prison reform (an important issue for Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner), but the meeting apparently focused on Johnson's individual case.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • The Swamp
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan in April as he announced his retirement from Congress.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan in April as he announced his retirement from Congress. (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)

Historians will likely look back at this era of political convulsion and shake some fingers at specific actors, particularly Republican members of Congress who repeatedly have failed to object to the lies and obfuscations —  not to mention conflicts of interest —  that have defined the Trump administration. It will be interesting to see how House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Rep. Trey Gowdy will fare.

Both politicians have recently called out President Trump’s unsupported allegation that the Obama administration planted a spy in his 2016 campaign. Gowdy, the departing chairman of the House Oversight Committee who has been a strong Trump supporter, last week said the FBI was right in using a confidential informant to explore allegations of Russian interference and that there was no “Spygate,” as the president has dubbed it (adding “-gate” to a scandal is an overused construct, but “Trumpgate” has a nice ring to it).

State Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) was recalled in Tuesday's election.
State Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) was recalled in Tuesday's election. (Rich Pedroncelli)

After two years in office, Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) was recalled Tuesday for his vote to increase the gas tax to repair the state’s woefully maintained streets and expand its inadequate transit systems.

Political opportunism won over responsible governance.

Republicans launched the recall campaign after Newman supported the gas tax increase in Senate Bill 1, which needed a two-thirds majority to pass. But Newman’s vote was pretext. Really, Republicans were trying to win back a seat that Newman narrowly won in 2016 and that was historically held by the GOP.

  • Opinion
  • Election 2018
Senator Diane Feinstein on the campaign trail.
Senator Diane Feinstein on the campaign trail. (Los Angeles Times)

The ballyhooed “blue wave” may not have been visible in California’s June primary, but the hoped-for Year of the Woman 2018 definitely showed up.

The gubernatorial race notwithstanding, it was not a bad day for women. Not only did Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein advance to the general election in November, she did so with a comfortable lead over all the male candidates. Guess voters aren’t as concerned with her age as her critics.

In down-ballot statewide races, women were the top vote-getters in three of the eight state constitutional seats: Eleni Kounalakis in the race for lieutenant governor, incumbent Betty Yee for controller and Fiona Ma for treasurer. If all three prevail, and it seems likely, then along with the two U.S. senators and the first female state Senate president pro tem, California will approach power parity at the statewide level. Not bad!

  • Opinion
Pope Francis, shown on a 2015 visit to Philadelphia, has reaffirmed the church's ban on women priests.
Pope Francis, shown on a 2015 visit to Philadelphia, has reaffirmed the church's ban on women priests. (Jewel Samad / Associated Press)

It’s an article of faith among some Catholic traditionalists — and not a few journalists — that Pope Francis is a “liberal,” who in his heart of hearts endorses the full agenda of the Catholic left, from acceptance of gay relationships to an openness to ordaining women as priests.

That has always been a facile proposition, but it will be especially hard to maintain after a recent statement from the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office.

In an article in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Cardinal-designate Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote: “Christ wanted to give this sacrament [of holy orders] to the twelve apostles, all men, who, in turn, transmitted it to other men.”