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High court case hits union dues

California figured prominently, albeit indirectly, in the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent high-profile decisions on Obamacare, same-sex marriages and congressional redistricting. Justice Antonin Scalia even scornfully singled out California in his dissent on the marriage case. Scalia and his colleagues are not, however, done with California. As the court recessed this week, it accepted a landmark […]

July 05, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged , | 1 Reply

Supreme Court decisions dismantle our freedom

Many people are looking at the recent Supreme Court decisions about “Obamacare” and same-sex marriage in terms of whether they think these are good or bad policies. That is certainly a legitimate concern, for both those who favor those policies and those who oppose them. But there is a deeper and more long-lasting impact of […]

Independence wasn’t won only by whites

There are aspects of the American Revolution that are neither well known nor appreciated. To be sure, the signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave and great men, as ex-slave, abolitionist and fiery orator Frederick Douglass acknowledged in his July 5, 1852, speech in Rochester, N.Y. But Douglass, noting slavery’s continued existence 76 years […]

SpaceX knows the risks but will blast off again

By Timothy Lavin From the ground, it didn’t really look like an explosion. Standing at a press site about four miles from the launchpad, amid the rippling, crackling sound waves generated by the rocket’s chemical propulsion – a disturbance so great it sent fish leaping from the river in front of us – all systems seemed to […]

The worst agreement in US diplomatic history

The devil is not in the details. It’s in the entire conception of the Iran deal, animated by President Obama’s fantastical belief that he, uniquely, could achieve detente with a fanatical Islamist regime whose foundational purpose is to cleanse the Middle East of the poisonous corruption of American power and influence. In pursuit of his […]

A strategic mistake: Another arms race

Rhetoric about nuclear weapons is heating up between Washington and Moscow, but there is no need to reinstate the foolish and wasteful arms race that dominated the Cold War period. For one reason, the security challenges have changed. Having 1,500 or more deployed U.S. nuclear warheads on land- or sea-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, or strategic […]

Greece’s next step is overdue debt and IOUs

Greece’s dramatic decision to close its banks and impose capital controls has averted – at huge cost to the economy – a bank run and limited the flight of euros out of the country. A perilous week still remains ahead. Importantly, none of these desperate efforts will generate new cash for a government that is facing difficulties […]

Can tourism industry shield us from reality?

The twin shocks of the massacre in Tunisia and the financial meltdown in Greece have sent tourism shares sharply lower. The industry has grown increasingly resilient in recent years, however, and it probably will recover relatively quickly. That would be good news for shareholders, but it could also reflect a false sense of complacency. The […]

Drought shows need to untangle water rights

There is absolutely nothing in California government – or its politics – more complicated and contentious than water rights. Who has what rights to extract and use how much water from which California rivers and aquifers is an almost impenetrable thicket of state laws, regulatory decisions, judicial actions and, in some cases, royal decrees dating […]

IMF may be other casualty of Greek default

All sides are working hard to prevent Greece from defaulting on its debt obligations to the International Monetary Fund – and with good reason: Such an outcome would have dire consequences not only for Greece and Europe but also for the international monetary system. The IMF’s “preferred creditor status” underpins its ability to lend to countries […]

June 29, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged , | 1 Reply

Division over health care act raises questions on legitimacy of public debate

Yes, subsidies will remain available on federal health-care exchanges. So the Supreme Court ruled Thursday, in a 6-3 opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts. The justices might have come close to overturning the whole law in 2012, but pulled back because they feared the political fallout of destroying the Obama administration’s signature legislative initiative, […]

Pols move in right direction, but not far enough

Capitol politicians are patting themselves on the back for opening an escape hatch for millions of motorists whose licenses have been suspended for failure to pay past-due tickets. A budget “trailer bill” gives drivers whose licenses were suspended due to nonpayment in 2012 or earlier a window to settle up with discounts – 50 percent […]

I don’t perform gay marriages, but I celebrate the Supreme Court decision

By Brad Hirschfield Special To The Washington Post The Supreme Court made history on Friday, that much is clear. What may be less clear, especially for those who do not support same-sex marriage, is that the 5-to-4 majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, merits celebration even by those who don’t agree with the conclusion […]

Few profiles in leadership from GOP candidates

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on Monday said the Confederate flag near the state Capitol should be moved, reversing her earlier position and adding a high-profile voice to those calling for the flag’s removal. That ended the agony of several presidential candidates who had refused to previously speak up. While Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (whose […]

Attempts to lower Confederate flag take moral turn

WASHINGTON — After a massacre like the one at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, our immediate reaction is to do something. Something, for politicians, means legislation. And for Democratic politicians, this means gun control. It’s the all-purpose, go-to, knee-jerk solution. Within hours of the massacre, President Barack Obama was lamenting the absence of […]

Tough questions on Iraq; tough answers, too

It’s time for a reality check on Iraq and the broader fight against the Islamic State group. The issues were sharply laid out June 17 at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. Policy and Strategy in the Middle East when several Republican and Democratic members with military service backgrounds critically questioned Defense Secretary […]

Samsung has S. Korean investors in its pocket

Samsung is giving South Korea’s National Pension Service an offer it can’t refuse: Support the nation’s biggest conglomerate in its fight against a foreign hedge fund, or else. The Lee family that rules Samsung wants affiliate Cheil Industries to take over Samsung C&T at a price far lower than investors like New York-based Elliott Associates […]

Greece, Germany agree: Euro can’t work

Ahead of Monday’s European Union summit, the only thing you could rule out is a happy ending. Whatever happens at the leaders’ meeting – even if a deal of some sort emerges – the EU has suffered lasting and perhaps irreparable damage. The available choices run from bad to terrible. The costs to Greece and […]

State’s roadway conditions a civic embarrassment

There was a time when California was teaching the world how to build first-class highway systems. Our highway engineers were loaned to other nations eager to emulate California’s network of highways and freeways. Today, California’s state highways and local streets and roads are – or should be – a civic embarrassment, ranking at or near […]

Data breaches Obama’s fault — and ours

For a few weeks, I’ve been wondering whether I’d get a letter from the federal Office of Personnel Management telling me my data had been hacked. I passed the foreign service exam almost 15 years ago and went through an amazingly thorough background check. I can’t say I’m particularly worried if hackers did get my […]

State on sidelines in US Supreme Court’s ACA review

The Supreme Court will soon decide whether residents of states that refused to implement the Affordable Care Act are entitled to federal insurance subsidies. Whatever it decides, the court’s decree will not affect California because no state was more eager to embrace the iconic program. Previously, California had one of the nation’s highest proportions of […]

Left engaged in what could be called micro-totalitarianism

The political left has come up with a new buzzword: “micro-aggression.” Professors at the University of California, Berkeley have been officially warned against saying such things as “America is the land of opportunity.” Why? Because this is considered to be an act of “micro-aggression” against minorities and women. Supposedly it shows that you don’t take […]

New strategy for Iraq, Syria

WASHINGTON — It’s time for a new strategy in Iraq and Syria. It begins by admitting that the old borders are gone, that a unified Syria or Iraq will never be reconstituted, that the Sykes-Picot map is defunct. We may not want to enunciate that policy officially. After all, it does contradict the principle that […]

Nuclear-free Middle East worth imagining, even if it’s fantasy

What if Israel suddenly changed course and announced it was prepared to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and work toward establishment of a Middle East nuclear-free zone? I’m not saying this is in the works. Far from it. As negotiations between the United States and five other world powers, known as the P5+1, and Iran […]

June 18, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged , | 1 Reply

Who lost Iraq?

After the pro-Western government of China was forced to flee to the island of Taiwan in 1949, when the Communists took over mainland China, bitter recriminations in Washington led to the question: “Who lost China?” China was, of course, never ours to lose, though it might be legitimate to ask if a different American policy […]

To reform anti-poverty programs, results, data matter

The Wall Street Journal reports: “The U.S. and other wealthy nations have spent trillions of dollars over the past half-century trying to lift the world’s poorest people out of penury, with largely disappointing results. In 1966, shortly after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty, 14.7 percent of Americans were poor, under the official […]

Capitol a ripe lab for anthropologists

Anthropologists probe the evolution of primitive societies, which makes the Capitol a perfect laboratory. It’s an isolated island occupied by two tribes with distinct cultural attributes. Sometimes they cooperate to pursue common goals but often are rivals. You might think this description refers to Democrats and Republicans. But it’s really about the Assembly and the […]

US can’t import Scandinavia’s economic approach

Ah, Scandinavia, Nordic paradise. Nowhere else seems to so easily combine a very progressive welfare state with high levels of growth. It’s no surprise, then, that it is the darling of international indices of everything from happiness to prosperity. In vain do the more libertarian-minded rejoinder that Swedes have the same poverty rate in America […]

Brown’s ‘wall of debt’ remains a concern

Three years ago, Gov. Jerry Brown added “wall of debt” to the political lexicon. As he defined it, the wall was $33 billion in debt that the state had accumulated over the previous half-decade to cover state budget deficits and still had not repaid. The biggest chunk, $13.8 billion, was owed to schools and community […]

June 14, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged , | 1 Reply

The Racing Form, second edition

WASHINGTON — The Republican nominating race is a mess: a strong field, but with 10 declared candidates and a half-dozen more to come, we need a bouncer to keep order. I’ve given myself the job. Rope lines separate the four categories. Top tier 1. Jeb Bush. Solid, no sizzle. Sizzle may be in less demand […]

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