Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

Category: Los Angeles

Going native at L.A. City Hall [Update]

City Hall lawn
It's been 2 1/2 months since the police rousted hundreds of stalwart  Occupy L.A. protesters from their City Hall encampment, and for all those weeks, the  beat-up grounds surrounding the seat of L.A. government have  been cordoned off, ringed by concrete barriers topped with chain link, awaiting The Decision: Which way will  the City Hall lawn go -- native or not?

In mid-November, before the eviction but after the grass was long gone, Emily Green, former Times staff writer and former Times Dry Garden columnist, weighed in with an Op-Ed. She called for a "test garden" that would "give City Hall a chance to walk its talk" about water conservation.

If felling the non-native figs around City Hall is a non-starter for sentimental reasons, we should at least be irrigating the magnificent old trees with drip instead of lawn sprinklers -- a move that would reduce trimming needs by slowing the trees' growth.
Even strategic use of turf could be preserved, though it should be the hardiest variety irrigated in the smartest ways requiring the least frequent grooming. Rather than lawn on the northeast side of City Hall (which has been wet enough in past years to grow mushrooms) and sweeping down the berm on the other flank, there should be hardy and fragrant natives that can survive with little water and no mowing or blowing.

Green got a lot of what she hoped for.  This week the City Council voted 14 to 0 for a Goldilocks design -- not too much grass, not too little grass, but something it thought was just right: a 51% reduction of turf, and plants such as succulents, salvias and California holly added. 

The Times news story, however, included a surprising fact: It will cost more to maintain this predominately native (and presumably low-water) landscape, not less -- $50,000 a year more. Green, who attended public discussions about what the new garden should look like, said in an interview: "The city and Rec and Parks have done an admirable thing, though it's not clear why it will cost more to maintain. In any event, that's not a message home gardeners should heed. Native plants are cheaper than turf."

To see for yourself, Green suggests checking out the online documentation of a sustainable versus  traditional experiment in Santa Monica: Garden/Garden.  On the website you can see demonstration landscapes for two side-by-side houses, peruse the plant lists, the water use and the amount of time and effort each requires.

Guess what? Sustainable wins hands down.

By May, we're promised, the experiment begins at City Hall.


Daum: Tiger Moms vs. 'Bébé' moms

McManus: Those mudslinging Republicans

Will more money buy an Alzheimer's cure?

--Susan Brenneman

Photo: The north lawn at Los Angeles City Hall is seen after crews cleared the tents of Occupy L.A. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Verdict on a veteran judge, Joan Dempsey Klein -- 'smart, funny, fearless'

Justice Joan Dempsey Klein
Just about everyone knows at least something about the Supreme Court justices,  even though they may not be as famous to most Americans as those judges on TV.

But there are state benches and state judges as well as federal ones.

And one California judge, a pistol of a woman I know and admire, was recently honored for her work as she enters her 50th year on the bench.

Joan Dempsey Klein is the longtime presiding justice of the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Three. She was put on the municipal bench in Los Angeles by Gov. Pat Brown in 1963; his son named her to her current post in 1978. At an event at the California Club, she was acclaimed by the Los Angeles County Bar Assn.'s senior lawyers section, whose tongue-in-cheek emblem is a dinosaur -- the Apatosaurus, once known as the Brontosaurus, the thunder lizard.

"If I'd known I was going to get all this attention for getting older," Klein observed with characteristic wit, "I'd have done it sooner."

She was feted along with the late Y.C. Hong, a 1925 USC law school grad and the first Chinese American to be admitted to practice law in California by examination, and his son, attorney Nowland Hong. Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, summoning the aphorism that the apple never falls far from the tree, remarked, "Y.C. was a great tree; Nowland, you're a great apple."

Cooley, the retiring DA, sat at the same table as the woman he's endorsed to succeed him, his chief deputy, Jackie Lacey. County counsel Andrea Sheridan Ordin, former DA Robert Philibosian and L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich were also at the sometimes rollickingly funny California Club event; yep, you read that right: funny lawyers.

Klein was praised in person and on videos from her colleagues, among them Norman L. Epstein, presiding justice of the Second Appellate District, Division Four, of the state Court of Appeal. 

He recalled the era when United Airlines ran a 90-minute men-only "executive" flight from L.A. to San Francisco, staffed by comely flight attendants who served drinks and hors d'oeuvres and who gave every passenger a cigar as he deplaned.

"Joan called United Airlines to book a reservation" and was told it was men only. Her rejoinder: She'd be filing a complaint with (what was then) the Civil Aeronautics Board. The men-only "executive" flight ended forthwith.

Klein, who co-founded the national Assn. of Women Judges, had once been a swimming champ who had swum in exhibitions on tour with actor and Olympic swimmer Buster Crabbe. As one of her fellow justices, Arthur Gilbert, pointed out, she did synchronized swimming. "Joan, in synchronized swimming? No wonder she left the tour in Italy. I can't see Joan synchronizing with anybody!"

Klein swam upstream in her career too, even working briefly as a riveter, and going to college and law school in spite of a father who wasn't too keen on such an education for women. She became the first UCLA law school grad to be appointed to the bench.

Her colleagues called her a "dynamo," a woman who is "smart, funny and fearless" and someone who always asked herself, of the legal decisions she made, "Is the result fair and reasonable?"

Orange County Superior Court Judge Marjorie Laird Carter listed Klein as one of her heroines, along with Queen Elizabeth I and Sacajawea.

Attorney Patricia Phillips remembered Klein at a wintry conference in the upper Midwest; when someone suggested they all go for a bracing walk, Klein showed up ready to go -- in a yellow track suit and a fur coat.

And as another fan remarked, "She has always been and will always be her sister's keeper."

Once Klein rounds out that 50 years, she's planning on retiring. As she told the California Bar Journal, "I was appointed by Jerry Brown … and I feel obligated to give him my position. So I will retire in time for him to find my replacement … unless he decides to run again."


An affront Catholics agree on

L.A.'s quirky Smoking Deaths billboard

McManus: Who reviews the U.S. 'kill list'?

-- Patt Morrison

Photo: Justice Joan Dempsey Klein is seen administering oath of office to newly elected Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky in 1996. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Who's in charge of the LAPD? [The reply]

Chief Charlie BeckMy column on Monday looking at a proposed change in the way the Los Angeles Police Department handles cars it seizes from unlicensed drivers drew the predictable response: Scores of readers wrote to complain that this is just another misguided attempt to make life easier for illegal immigrants, while a smaller number wrote to praise the idea as a moderate way to handle an overbearing and unjust system that deprives those immigrants and others of their vehicles for relatively minor traffic violations.

First, I should note that my larger point was not the policy itself but rather the question of what it says about who makes policy for the LAPD. It's my view that these proposed changes represent a change in policy and that the Police Commission, not Chief Charlie Beck, should therefore make them. That said, the proposal that the chief has advanced is one I agree with, despite the objections of some readers.

Take "divewizard," who wrote: "Anyone driving without a license should be arrested and the car impounded." That's true, but it avoids the question. The real question is this: Should everyone who drives without a license lose their car for 30 days, or should there be different standards depending on the offense? If the unlicensed driver also is uninsured or has been in an accident or is charged with a serious offense (driving drunk, for instance), that driver would continue to lose the car for 30 days under the chief's proposal. But if the driver carried insurance (yes, it's possible to get insurance without a California license) and was merely pulled over for speeding, shouldn't that be treated differently? Under Beck's suggestion, such drivers would have their car impounded but could pick it up the following day if they arrived with a licensed driver.

Similarly, "mypapa" argues that Beck's job is to enforce the law, and that because it's illegal to drive without a license, Beck should make sure his officers enforce the law. Simple, indeed, but Beck's broader responsibility is to protect public safety. The effect of seizing cars for 30 days for even trivial offenses is that it encourages those without licenses to drive inexpensive cars and discourages them from registering them or obtaining insurance, because they will simply walk away if the car is seized and they can't afford to get it back. Los Angeles would be safer if more cars were registered, insured and well maintained. And since Beck's job is to look after that safety, I think he's right to pursue this policy. I still think the commission should have the last word, though, and I respectfully disagree with Beck on that issue.

Finally, to the reader who argued that I was incorrect that the council can't override the chief, it's the reader who's incorrect. The council has the power to take over any action by a commission and veto it if 10 council members support that veto -- that's one reason supporters of this policy prefer not to have the commission act. The chief, on the other hand, does not report to the council, and it has no power to review his changes in LAPD procedure.


L.A.'s wasteful sprinklers

GOP candidates' immigration fantasies

The energy industry's disturbing influence on politics

--Jim Newton

Photo: Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck. Credit: Los Angeles Times

You can have her Uggs when you pry them from her cold feet

Your Uggs or your cellphone?

If you are a teenage student at Pottstown Middle School near Philadelphia, the correct answer is, sadly, "neither."

That's because the school's principal on Monday instituted a policy banning the ubiquitous fur-lined boots. Why?  Because, says Principal Gail M. Cooper, students use them to hide cellphones  and other gadgets that aren't supposed to be brought to class.

Oh my. Get ready for the, well, the fur to fly.

As any parent of a teenager today knows, you don't mess with their cellphones. Nor do you question their fashion choices.

Do both and let's just say that -- in education speak -- the learning environment just froze over.

Now, it's not that the Pottstown principal doesn't have any other problems to deal with. In fact, she probably has far more than she can handle.

If you want to know what real-world classrooms are like today, read The Times' Sunday Opinion article, "An L.A. teacher reviews her review."  Here's an excerpt:

On a recent Wednesday, my second-period class was interrupted by a student who overdosed on alcohol and Ecstasy and nearly died. Earlier in the year, one of our students was shot in the face and hospitalized. Last year, a student was shot in the neck and paralyzed for life; one of my students was standing next to him when it happened. The year before that, one of my students was inside her house when her sister, sitting in a car outside, was shot and blinded in one eye in a gang drive-by. The baby she was holding was struck by a bullet and killed.

Honestly, why anyone wants to be a teacher today is beyond me.

That aside, though, the Uggs edict is silly. It strikes me as another salvo in a dress-code war that's been going on for generations.  

In my day, for example (and yes, this was a while ago), the girls in high school fought for the right to wear jeans instead of dresses.

Sure, the Pottstown rule is aimed at cellphones and the like, but the effect isn't much different. Only girls wear Uggs; isn't the rule as sexist as forbidding girls to wear jeans but not boys?

Besides, trying to separate today's teens from their cellphones is a lost cause. You might as well cut off their thumbs.

The Pottstown school already has a rule that students who bring cellphones to school must leave them in their lockers and keep them turned off until the school day ends.

That's sensible. So if a student violates it so blatantly that a teacher notices, then it's bye-bye phone.

But let's leave the Uggs alone.

After all, their popularity is sure to fade. Don't believe me? Well, when's the last time you saw someone wearing bell-bottoms?


How to grade a teacher

Pushing past mediocrity in the classroom

When art and politics collided in Los Angeles 

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo credit: Ugg / Handout

Ways to prevent LAPD from crashing their cruisers [Ted Rall cartoon]


Los Angeles Police Department cruisers are involved in an average of one crash per day, reports Times staff writer Joel Rubin.

Most of the crashes were minor, but some resulted in life-threatening injuries or totaled police cars, or were the result of the officer violating traffic laws, according to LAPD records. In at least two incidents, the driver of another car was killed.

And at a time when the Los Angeles Police Department is trying to stem the steady stream of lawsuits filed against officers that cost taxpayers millions of dollars each year, traffic accidents remain a significant and costly obstacle. They represent nearly one out of every four lawsuits filed against the department. The city has paid nearly $24 million in settlements or verdicts in about 400 LAPD traffic-related lawsuits over the last nine years and must contend with dozens more cases that remain unresolved, city records show. In all but a few of the closed cases, city officials opted to pay a negotiated settlement instead of taking their chances at a trial -- a strong indication that the officers were in the wrong.

As the LAPD and the Los Angeles Police Commission consider the best way to investigate these crashes and prevent others, cartoonist Ted Rall has also been hard at work drawing up ideas. His proposals are above. I'm especially fond of his idea for installing "giant airbags all over town" -- but some might argue that L.A.'s already done that.


For jobs, look to Sacramento

Condom rule: First step in porn master plan?

Foodies mourn California's ban on shark fin soup

--Alexandra Le Tellier

Cartoon: Ted Rall / For The Times

Redistricting: Watts new?

Maps-bWhat's the opposite of "I told you so"? Because whatever it is, I need to say it about the draft map proposals released Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission. Blogging on the recently concluded special election in Council District 15, I said there was just no way that Watts was ever going to be severed from the distant harbor.

But except for gaining or losing a few blocks at the far northern end, where Watts joins South Los Angeles and the central city, Council District 15 doesn't change. It can't, and it won't, because it has nowhere else to go. It's fenced in by the harbor on the south and the very strange shape of the city boundaries from there northward. Unless more territory is annexed to or detached from Los Angeles, this district will look pretty much the same in 50 years as it does today.

Never mind. The proposed map moves Watts out of the 15th and makes it part of a Council District 9, which traditionally takes in most of downtown but now would go only as far north as Olympic Boulevard.

Is that good or bad? It's different, and it could be good, although I'd be interested to know what Watts residents think. I suspect that many of them might like to finally be severed from San Pedro, the harbor community that always controls the election of the 15th District council member because it's where most of the money and most of the votes reside.

Every council member from that district, going back at least to World War II, has been a San Pedro resident. And it must be extraordinarily hard for the District 15 members not to promote the interests of their neighborhood and its very distinct demographic -- families with roots in fishing, shipping, loading, unloading and moving freight, largely white with a strong Italian, Croatian and Greek ethnic identity -- as opposed to Watts, with its distinct history and largely African American and Latino immigrant demographic, as well as environmental degradation, dense public housing problems and persistent gang crime.

Of course, not every community can have its own district. Communities must be joined with others that are like them -- or very unlike them. So would Watts now instead be pushed around by wealthy and gentrified downtown?

Perhaps not. The Bunker Hill and Flower Street office towers would be excluded, as would most of the 1920s bank buildings that are now condos and apartments. A lot of the conversation is going to focus on how the northern two-thirds of downtown would now be united as part of the same 14th District that includes Boyle Heights and far-away Eagle Rock. But the 9th District, in addition to Watts, would include downtown's Staples Center, L.A. Live and, assuming it gets built, Farmers Field football stadium.

So is this now the Anschutz Entertainment Group district, and will Watts now become the afterthought of AEG, instead of remaining the afterthought of the Port of Los Angeles? Could the AEG connection be better leveraged to help fund improvements in Watts?

Don't know the answer yet. Let's watch and listen.


Watts and Not-Watts

Planned remapping of  L.A. City Council districts draws fire

INTERACTIVE MAP: Current and proposed Los Angeles City Council districts

--Robert Greene

Book 'em -- Bill Bratton draws a big and big-name crowd

While the nation's leadership was gathered under the Capitol dome on Tuesday evening to hear President Obama's State of the Union speech, the civic leadership of Los Angeles was gathered at a bookstore to hear former Police Chief Bill Bratton.

Bratton is the coauthor, with Zachary Tumin of the Harvard Kennedy School, of the book "Collaborate or Perish!" a public policy guide chock-full of salient examples on how to get an entire organization to get on the same page to get things done, from an aluminum company to the LAPD.

The book alternates voice and examples from Tumin and from Bratton, and includes Bratton's accounts of a half-century of dysfunction in the LAPD, and how the cops and the community have come to an amicable teaming. He's especially forthright about the problems and resolution in the high-stakes 2007 MacArthur Park "May Day melee."

Not all of Bratton's examples came from the thin blue lines; he had praise for the Missoni fashion house's collaboration on a budget-priced line for Target. (His necktie was not Missoni but a fetching one nonetheless, with a pattern of moons and stars.)

I moderated the event with the authors at the Barnes & Noble store in the Grove, where the audience was standing room only -- or maybe saluting room only.

Just as cameras scanned the House chamber during the State of the Union speech and caught sight of Supreme Court justices and Cabinet members, anyone scanning this crowd would have seen:

Bratton's successor, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck; L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca; Andre Birotte, the U.S. attorney for Los Angeles; former Mayor James Hahn;  Police Commission President John Mack; LAPD advisor and former Police Commission President Gerald Chaleff; former police commissioner Ann Reiss Lane and her husband, Bert; police commissioner John Mack; assistant LAPD Chief Earl Paysinger and deputy chiefs Sandy Jo MacArthur and Michael Downing; and Carol Schatz, president and CEO of the Central City Assn. ("Collaborate or Perish!" uses the new policing model for skid row as one of Bratton's examples.)

In short, like the State of the Union speech -- in which one Cabinet member always stays home in case the unimaginable happens (this time it was Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack) -- I briefly wondered the parallel question: who in the LAPD senior staff wasn't at Barnes & Noble?

Outside the body politic were Bratton friends George Schlatter, the TV producer and director, and his wife, Jolene; film producer Arnold Kopelson; Barbara Davis, whose late husband, Marvin, had owned 20th Century Fox; Wendy Stark, daughter of legendary producer Ray Stark; and the ever-glamorous Angie Dickinson, who once wore a badge herself, in her TV roll on "Police Woman."

At a post-book-signing reception for Bratton and his wife, Rikki Klieman, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa put in an appearance, as did council member Tom LaBonge, who presented Tumin, a first-time L.A. visitor, with the LaBonge version of welcoming bread and salt -- a city proclamation and a loaf of pumpkin bread.

The host showed after all the other luminaries. He is the onetime president of the Police Commission and thus a Bratton collaborator himself, and the man who, with former baseball manager Joe Torre, just put in his bid for the Dodgers -– Rick Caruso.

The nosh served up for the fete: chicken skewers and mini-cheeseburgers. Not Dodger dogs. Not yet, anyway.


L.A.'s condom law hardly curtains for porn

The Supreme Court and the slaughterhouse

State of the Union: Mixing politics and policy

-- Patt Morrison

Photo: Former Police Chief Bill Bratton is seen in 2002. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Lawyers, labor, leaders rally for court funding

A campaign by attorneys and labor and business leaders to restore funding to state courts is beginning to get some attention, and it's about time. As The Times notes in an editorial Tuesday, courts stand apart because of their essential role in a society of law. Every part of California government has to take -- and has taken -- serious budget cuts, but the justice system must be first in line for restoration.

Instead, under Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal, courts are first in line for further "trigger" cuts if voters reject taxes and if other hoped-for revenue fails to materialize.

A committee known as the Open Courts Coalition, headed by Los Angeles attorney Paul R. Kiesel and Burlingame lawyer Niall McCarthy, is calling on the Legislature to keep the courthouse doors open in 58 Superior Courts around the state by keeping court funding intact and gradually restoring $350 million that has been cut in recent years. The group closed off a block of Grand Avenue between Disney Hall and the Stanley Mosk Courthouse on Jan. 18 for a rally to support the courts; speakers included former Gov. Gray Davis and former state Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno.

In a video prepared by the group and delivered to Sacramento lawmakers on Jan. 13, members of the legal, business and labor communities do their best to get the Legislature's attention. (See the video at the top of this post.)

"Courts strangely are much like fire and police," says Milo Brown, court employees business representative for AFSCME Council 36. "You never think about them, you're never concerned about them, until you need them."

"The work you do in the Legislature, what you bring to the governor to sign into law, is meaningless if there is no forum to enforce it," says California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.

Participation and cooperation of the Los Angeles Superior Court as well as statewide court leaders and representatives of court employees is significant, because they are sharply at odds on actual court expenditure and management issues. Here are some examples of participation by court supporters with a stake in keeping the courts functioning.

Cantil-Sakauye visited The Times' editorial board this month to discuss court funding and unhappiness expressed by many judges with centralized leadership -- the Judicial Council, which Cantil-Sakauye heads -- and with a costly case management computer system. Listen to her remarks here, here and here.

Stand Up for Justice


Gov. Brown's vision

Spare California's courts from cuts

Chief justice: 'We've become slower, thinner, smaller'

--Robert Greene

Photo: Court workers, attorneys, judges and business and labor leaders gather for a rally to restore court funding on Jan. 18 in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Lance Rubin / Open Courts Coalition.

Bronson Canyon murder, meet the Black Dahlia

Body Parts case
Sixty-five years before that severed head turned up in Bronson Canyon, and about eight miles south, the most famous dismembered corpse in L.A. history was found.

"Girl Victim of Sex Fiend Found Slain" was the L.A. Times headline, the first of scores of headlines.

The victim was a woman named Elizabeth Short, who survives in crime lore as the Black Dahlia.

A bunch of dogs on a walk found the severed head in Bronson Canyon; a woman walking to a nearby shoe repair shop found Elizabeth Short’s body.

That woman was named  Betty Bersinger -– "Mrs. John Bersinger" in the style that newspapers used then for married women -– and not until I was talking to my colleague Andrew Blankstein about his accounts of the Bronson Canyon body parts case did I remember:

As a Times intern, I once interviewed Betty Bersinger for one of those occasional check-in stories that city editors love to assign on the still-unsolved Black Dahlia case. [My colleague Larry Harnisch has made a serious study of the case.]

Betty Bersinger told me she hadn’t "thought of that for years," and I can’t blame her. Who would want to have that image taking up residence front and center in your cranium for the rest of your life -– the body cut in half and lying unclothed in an empty lot, with a thatch of winter grass sprouting between the halves, the body gashed and hacked.

The Bersingers had lived in the Leimert Park house for four or five years, and Betty Bersinger was pushing her young daughter in a stroller to the shoe repair shop in a shopping center, walking through a place where "kids rode their bikes," when she saw … something.

"At the time I wasn’t quite aware it was a real person -– maybe somebody playing a trick."

When she realized it was no trick, it was "so frightening," a corpse lying "separated, like you’d expect a mannequin to be." She thought the sight of it would frighten her daughter, so she hustled her along, and from the second house she came across, she made the call that started the enduring notoriety of the Dahlia case.

At the time, any reasonably good-looking single young woman within a 20-mile radius of the studios could be tagged with the descriptor ''starlet,'' which is how the FBI website still identifies her.

It became so infamous that even men who weren’t born at the time of the killing confessed to it; in the grotesque status hierarchy of the criminal world, the Dahlia murder was at the top of the homicidal heap.

One reader letter arrived from a man who had been in medical practice at the time of the 1947 murder, and who expressed his "astonishment" that the police had let one major suspect go. The doctor had treated the man and at the time had assured detectives that he was indeed the killer. He wrote to suggest that I try to get my hand on the patient’s hospital records from decades before.

Many unsolved murders –- and a few solved ones -– have cranked up their own cottage industry of experts and amateurs, but few as much as the Dahlia. 

As we learned again from the Bronson Canyon body-parts story, which conflated the location and the gruesomeness to make for a ''grisly Hollywood murder'' in worldwide news accounts, there's something about a dismembered human body -– even the word "dismembered" -– that carries equal weights of the horrific and the irresistible in the imagination.


PHOTOS: Body parts found below Hollywood sign

Mystery over body parts near Hollywood sign deepens

Body parts case: LAPD probes whether victim knew killer

-- Patt Morrison

Photo: A Los Angeles Police Department helicopter searches steep, brushy terrain below the Hollywood sign, where a man's head, two feet and two hands were found. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

L.A.'s condom law hardly curtains for porn

Condoms Porn
The L.A. City Council seems able to easily pass resolutions about matters like corporate personhood and the boycott over Arizona's immigration laws. This one was much closer to home: It voted to require condom use in porn films within the city limits.

The porn industry is the Hollywood shadow, prospering to the tune of billions of dollars, principally in the San Fernando Valley. Of late, cases of HIV have shut down some shoots -- one consideration that led to the council's vote.

The argument against the condom law was the usual -- that the business will pick up and go elsewhere. But run away to where? Temecula? Vallejo? State law already requires condom use by porn performers; L.A., as the place where many of the productions are based, is putting its own teeth in the state law.

And the moralizing posses in other cities may not be as welcoming of this particular new business.

As for other states to take the porn trade to -- Arizona? Oregon? Anything-goes Nevada? As my colleague Ron Lin pointed out in his story, New Hampshire is the only other state where such shoots are legal -- and if porn producers don't like how condoms look in their movies, they really won't like goosebumps.

The porn industry already regularly lobbies Sacramento, to the amusing discomfiture of some politicians,  so if its advocates are unhappy about a state health and safety requirement that's being backstopped by L.A., they can hit the hallways of the state Capitol again.

The porn makers say condoms can ruin the fantasy for porn watchers, and that entertainment is all about fantasy. But even the fantasy factories have been drawing some lines, like the one about smoking onscreen.

Our Ted Rall had his own fantasies -- journalistic ones -- about where this regulation might lead: to the Realistic Plot Act (as if) or even the Morning-After Visualization Act.

I still have to get my mind around the idea that if you have sex for money without cameras rolling, it's prostitution, and with the cameras rolling, it's art -- just as a woman stomping defenseless little animals to death with high-heeled shoes is animal cruelty unless you make a video and call it free expression. Thankfully, President Obama signed a law sponsored by Republicans and Democrats to prohibit making, selling and distributing "crush videos" -- and making it a prison offense to do it.

This may be the only case on record in which Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. has agreed publicly with the president, in his dissent from a court ruling that found that an earlier law about animal cruelty videos -- in that case a Virginia man selling dogfighting videos -- was too broad. Alito dissented, noting the "excruciating pain" of living creatures, something contrary to the values of society.

Adult sex videos are about consenting adults, not unconsenting animals, but no one should have to put himself or herself at risk of AIDS, and the law is there to back that up -- even if the lawmakers themselves sometimes need a kick-start to remember that.


Safe sex in the porn industry

Condoms in porn: Moving industry out of state could be difficult

Condom rule: First step in porn master plan?

--Patt Morrison

Photo: An editor works on a video at porn firm Vivid's headquarters in 2007. Credit: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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