June 13, 2012
Vladimir Putin isn't Josef Stalin; he isn't even Leonid Brezhnev. But the once, present and future Russian president's crackdown on dissent poses a challenge for the United States familiar to students of the Cold War: How to press for greater openness in Russia while engaging with it on important international issues? The answer now, as it was then, is not to allow the need for cooperation to stifle support for democracy. Putin, the former KGB functionary who was elected president for the third time in March - after temporarily retreating to the office of prime minister - was outraged last month when sometimes violent demonstrations overshadowed his inauguration.
June 7, 2012
There are reasons not to extract too many lessons from Gov. Scott Walker's convincing victory in the Wisconsin recall election Tuesday. For one thing, he faced a weak opponent in Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, and for another, he vastly outspent Barrett to win by 7 percentage points. Most important, voters seemed to understand that a recall wasn't the right remedy for Walker's actions. As California was forced to learn the hard way, the recall is a better device for removing a governor who has engaged in misconduct than for punishing one over policy disagreements.
May 20, 2012
As the United States finally begins to wind down its military presence in Afghanistan, is the Obama administration poised to replicate that intervention in Yemen? The administration insists it has no such plans, but it has been evident for months that it regards the Yemen-based group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as the most dangerous incubator of terrorist plots directed at America. And it is acting on that conviction. This week The Times reported that U.S. special operations troops, which were withdrawn from Yemen last year amid political turmoil in that country, have returned and are providing technical assistance to Yemeni forces.
May 15, 2012
Gov. Jerry Brown's May budget revision leaves blood all over the Capitol walls. The era when California governors could make their cuts with a scalpel ended before Brown took office, so he does his trimming with a chain saw. The results are cuts in Medi-Cal payments to hospitals and nursing homes, cuts to those who care for the disabled, cuts to state courts and cuts in hours and pay for state employees. So far schools have been largely spared from this grisly exercise, but that will probably change in November if voters fail to approve a tax-hike initiative.
May 9, 2012
Austin Beutner's early departure from the Los Angeles mayor's race in one sense does not change much: The businessman had yet to make an impression with voters, so they will not likely miss him. And yet Beutner's absence means the race now lacks a certain type of candidate - the City Hall critic with genuine civic experience - and creates the opportunity for the remaining candidates to begin defining themselves more clearly. So far, there's not much to work with in that regard.
May 8, 2012
Maybe it was another example of the irrepressible Joe Biden failing to repress an impolitic comment. Or perhaps the vice president's statement on a Sunday talk show that he is "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex marriage was part of an orchestrated attempt by the Obama administration to inch further toward an official endorsement of marriage equality. Either way, Biden's expansive remarks on "Meet the Press" are a reminder that his boss has been trying to have it both ways: supporting equal legal rights for gay couples while stopping short of embracing the "M-word.
April 28, 2012
A Times editorial on Wednesday called on Congress to shore up Social Security quickly, as its looming insolvency would only get more difficult to address as time dragged on. But Business columnist Michael Hiltzik, in a piece that ran the same day , wrote that Social Security benefits should be expanded. Hiltzik pointed out that the Social Security Trust Fund ran a large surplus last year. Noting the difference in outlook between the two articles, reader Bob Murtha of Santa Maria wrote: "Times editorial board members and Hiltzik need to get together to compare notes.