CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
January 31, 2013 |
The political prisoner looked ashen and bony - weary from the months of being held in his native Vietnam - as he was pulled into the tight embrace of his family. Nguyen Quoc Quan, a math professor turned democracy activist, had been detained almost as soon as he arrived in Ho Chi Minh City more than nine months ago, accused of attempting to overthrow the communist government. The government locked the 60-year-old from Garden Grove in a 9-foot-by-9-foot cell, his only company the minder assigned to watch his every move.
January 24, 2013 |
AMMAN, Jordan - The king of Tafayla had just been elected to the parliament. He strode through the neighborhood in the Jordanian capital Thursday, dressed in a black tracksuit and wearing a 5 o'clock shadow, his hair matted down. A henchman fired a handgun into the air in celebration as supporters shambled down an alley on their victory parade. There was, however, one group of men who heard the commotion from their dim clubhouse but opted to stay inside, stewing over black coffee and smoking Rothmans and Kents.
January 21, 2013 |
Monday, millions of Americans will honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. by volunteering for community service. They will collect cans of food for the poor, ladle soup for the hungry and help the homeless. They will talk about their rewarding experiences, and the people they help will express their gratitude. Tomorrow, everybody will return to their normal routines. The MLK Day of Service represents an increasingly popular form of volunteerism - setting aside a day or so to help the needy.
January 13, 2013 |
Hey, reader. If you bristle ever so slightly at the presumed familiarity of that salutation, you're almost surely over 40, and you likely grew up well north of the Mason-Dixon line. If you say "hey" back, the demographic possibilities are a lot broader. Everyone from anywhere who was born after 1980 seems to have adopted this onetime Southern regionalism, as have over-40s who work in a business that uses "trending" as a verb and requires them to stay forever young. I get "hey" emails and in-the-hallway greetings from students who've never been as far south as Philadelphia, who hail from India and Austria, from the Northeast and the Midwest and Canada.
December 20, 2012 |
Last month, I sentenced Jared Lee Loughner to seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in federal prison for his shooting rampage in Tucson. That tragedy left six people dead, more than twice that number injured and a community shaken to its core. Loughner deserved his punishment. But during the sentencing, I also questioned the social utility of high-capacity magazines like the one that fed his Glock. And I lamented the expiration of the federal assault weapons ban in 2004, which prohibited the manufacture and importation of certain particularly deadly guns, as well as magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
December 7, 2012 |
Democracy as conventionally understood relies on decision by simple majority. Whichever side has more votes wins. Supermajority requirements stand this principle on its head. Whenever the side with the greater number of votes fails to reach the designated threshold, the side with the least votes prevails. The inevitable outcome is minority veto power. Though minorities cannot govern, supermajority requirements enable them to prevent majorities from governing as well. That is the primary structural source of our political gridlock at the federal and state levels.
November 18, 2012
In the last two years, Myanmar - also known as Burma - has made significant progress along the road to democratization. The military, long a brutal and repressive ruling force, handed over power to an elected government last year (although former generals hold most senior ministerial posts, and one was elected president). There are fewer restrictions on journalists. Opposition political parties were allowed to participate in the elections, and some of their members were elected to parliament, including, most notably, the human rights icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest before her release in 2010.
November 15, 2012 |
YANGON, Myanmar - Ko Paul had been warned that the old Yamaha piano in the upstairs sitting room of the dilapidated lakeside mansion was in bad shape. Tropical climates aren't great for pianos. Heat warps their sound boxes, humidity swells their pin blocks, reducing string tension, and termites savor an easy meal. But this one was worse than the piano tuner expected that day in 2009. "Pretty much everything had to be changed, the pins, the dampers, all the hammers," he said in a coffee shop in Yangon.
November 8, 2012 |
NEW DELHI - President Obama will visit Myanmar this month, the White House said Thursday, as his administration seeks to bolster democracy and strengthen ties with nations in the region. The visit will be part of a three-country tour Nov. 17-20 that will include stops in Bangkok, Thailand, and Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where the president will attend an Asian summit, the White House statement said. In Myanmar, Obama will meet with President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Though a visit to Myanmar carries political risks, most notably by staking presidential prestige on a government still dominated by generals with a brutal past, it dovetails with the administration's support for Myanmar's nascent democracy.
November 1, 2012 |
Just in time for Election Day comes "Democracy at Work," an amusing farce that takes a wry bite out of the campaign process, partisan politics, talk radio, the Internet and, yes, dentistry. Writer-director Wasko Khouri shows a distinct flair for the kind of silly-dark comedy that's able to skewer a topic without entirely laying it to waste. For the filmmaker, hope - albeit fueled by beloved American opportunism - springs eternal. Set around one chaotic day in a fictional, local election, the movie juggles three separate, sporadically intersecting stories: a dime-turning campaign manager (Michael Scovotti)