Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

Category: Public Shaming

Before the iPad, there was the Etch-A-Sketch, and I was an ace

Besides fortifying his boss' flip-flop credentials, Mitt Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom took me and lots of baby boomers on a nostalgia trip Wednesday when he likened the Romney campaign to an Etch-A-Sketch. As my colleague Morgan Little describes in more detail, Fehrnstrom suggested Romney could tack to the center in a general election because the campaign was like the red-bordered screen with the two white knobs.  "You can kind of shake it up," he said, "and we start all over again."

As a child, I developed two un-marketable skills: writing backward (also known as mirror writing) and drawing better on the Etch-A-Sketch than I could with pen and paper, which was pretty good. Somewhere in the clutter in my apartment is an Etch-A-Sketch a relative presented me a few years ago to see if I still had it. I did a not-bad self-portrait and signed my name. (I'm not in the league of Sketchers who can reproduce artistic masterworks.)

Etch-A-Sketches still exist. (They even have their own website.) But a lot of kids, if offered the choice, would probably choose an iPad. The Etch-A-Sketch, after all, has exactly one app.

It's too bad. The Etch-A-Sketch tested and taught manual dexterity and forced the Sketcher to mine his own imagination for images.

I also liked what will now be called the Romney feature: Destroying your work and starting over is a good habit for a writer, if not a politician.


Romney's car problem

Regulation or rule of law, Gov. Romney?

Americans Elect -- bring democracy into the digital world

--Michael McGough

Photo: Matt Ortega's Etch-A-Sketch Romney site is one of the many responses to a Mitt Romney aide's comments comparing the candidate's transition into the general election to the children's toy. Credit: Matt Ortega / www.etchasketchromney.com

Voters aren't the only ones who need photo IDs

Eric Holder
Not surprisingly, the Obama Justice Department is opposing a Texas law requiring voters to show photo ID, claiming that it disproportionately disenfranchises  Latino voters. It's the latest example of a familiar trope: Democrats oppose voter ID, calling it unnecessary and discriminatory; Republicans support it, arguing that impersonation at the polls is a real, if hard to quantify, problem.  Not so coincidentally, racial minorities tend to favor Democratic candidates.

Neither of the warring narratives is totally satisfactory. It's plausible that members of economically disadvantaged minority groups are less likely to have, say, a driver's license. But I felt my eyebrows elevating at the Justice Department's estimate that between 175,000 and 304,000 registered Latino Texas voters lack driver's licenses or other state-issued IDs. Really? On the other hand, Republicans' fears of fraud at polling places seem forced. They have a point, though, when they say that it's anomalous that you need a photo ID to board a plane but not to vote.

It's crazy that 175,000 (or 304,000?) Texans of whatever background don't have  government-issued photo IDs and might have difficulty buying a plane or train ticket.  They need to get IDs, and the government should help -- regardless of what happens on Election Day. Like it or not, in 21st century America your face is your fortune.


L.A., brace for balloting

Listen to Villaraigosa, Mr. President

Romney's Southern strategy: Admit he's a stranger

-- Michael McGough

Photo: U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder has been an outspoken critic of the Texas law. Credit: Jacquelyn Martin / AP Photo

Romney's Southern strategy: Admit he's a stranger

Mitt Romney in Mississippi
Mitt Romney is catching grief for describing himself as an "unofficial Southerner" during a Mississippi campaign swing.  "I'm learning to say 'y'all'," he said. "I like grits. Strange things are happening to me." More proof of inauthenticity and phony outreach, his critics say.  

The new comments are  reminiscent  in their awkwardness of his infamous  "regular guy" gaffes, like his  statement that he once had worried about receiving a pink slip.

But I'd cut Romney some slack on this one.  To call yourself an unofficial Southerner is to admit that you're not a real one. He acknowledged that eating grits was a strange experience for him -- strange in the sense of foreign or unfamiliar, not strange in the sense of the banjo-playing boy in "Deliverance."

Even in the 21st century, Northerners visiting the South can feel like strangers in a strange land  (and vice versa). Regional differences still exist -- in politics, religion and culture. One example: Southerners -- including teenagers -- are startlingly more polite than Northerners. Watch any TV report about a natural disaster below the Mason-Dixon line -- the victims usually address the correspondent as "sir" or "ma'am."

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS: Presidential Election 2012

Romney's candor about his un-Southernness will strike some Southerners as endearing, perhaps prompting them to paraphrase Lyle Lovett: "That's right you're not from Mississippi, but Mississippi wants you anyway."

Or maybe not.


Will California's vote count?

GOP race: Bring back the brokered convention

Mitt Romney, the pandering chicken hawk on Iran  

--Michael McGough

Photo: Mitt Romney waves to the crowd at the Port of Pascagoula while campaigning in Mississippi on March 8. Credit: Amanda McCoy / Sun Herald/Associated Press 

The Supreme Court shouldn't make resume-padding a crime

Xavier AlvarezWednesday was a bad day for liars at the Supreme Court. Even liberal justices seemed unsympathetic to a Pomona man who was prosecuted under a law known as the Stolen Valor Act for boasting at a public meeting that he had received the Medal of Honor. (That wasn't his only whopper. He also claimed to have played professional hockey and to have been injured while rescuing a U.S. diplomat during the Iran hostage crisis.)

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the law. One judge drolly argued that if "false factual statements are unprotected, then the government can prosecute not only the man who tells tall tales of winning the Congressional Medal of Honor, but also the JDater who falsely claims he's Jewish or the dentist who assures you it won't hurt a bit. Phrases such as 'I'm working late tonight, hunny,' 'I got stuck in traffic'  and 'I didn't inhale' could all be made into crimes."

Members of the Supreme Court weren't about to salute that parade of horribles.  Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked the U.S. solicitor general if the government also could punish people who lied about attaining a high school diploma, but Roberts didn't seem to find the idea all that objectionable. Even more revealing of Roberts' attitude was a question he posed to the lawyer for Xavier Alvarez, the Medal of Honor wannabe: "What is the 1st Amendment value in a lie, pure lie?" 

The lawyer fumbled at first but later re-framed the issue in what I think is a persuasive way: "Our founders believed that Congress as a general principle doesn't get to tell us what we as individuals can and cannot say."  Obviously there are exceptions: If Alvarez had lied about his military record to obtain money, he would have been  guilty of the eminently prosecutable crime of fraud. But in itself a  pathetic claim to military glory -- a claim easily debunked by a visit to the Internet -- isn't the sort of statement a free society should criminalize.


Dealing with undocumented drivers

GOP's reckless saber-rattling on Iran

Which political force is more powerful: gas prices or optimism?

-- Michael McGough

Photo: Xavier Alvarez. Credit: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Valentine's Day in Portland: 'No, honey, I said M&Ms!'

Portland Valentine's Day lovers
Keep the government out of the back of my Subaru!

By now you've no doubt read or heard about the Portland couple arrested after an attempted bit of Valentine's Day, uh, romantic role-playing went awry.

Seems that 26-year-old Stephanie Pelzner was in the back seat of a Subaru Legacy driven by 31-year-old Nikolas Harbar and, well, Pelzner was tied up, and had duct tape over her mouth, and was, well, yes, naked. And someone at a New Seasons Market spotted her, and I guess that even in a Portland market parking lot this seemed a bit odd. 

Now, perhaps Harbar went to the market looking for roses and candy for his sweetheart, and they were sold out, so being a man, he said, "I know what sounds romantic," and Pelzner, being a woman, didn't want to hurt his feelings and say, "No, really, a card is fine," and ...

Anyway, in a kind of screwball comedy of errors that Hollywood once turned out by the dozens, concerned citizens called the Portland police and the police dispatched nine cars and the officers tracked the couple down to their residence and Harbar explained they were just having a little Valentine's Day fun and Pelzner said she was fine (I guess someone removed the duct tape) -- but the police booked them on charges of disorderly conduct in the second degree, which is apparently what the charge is for in essence annoying the police in Portland.

And to think, I got M&Ms for Valentine's Day.

Now, I've heard of the "broken windows" policy of policing, but this is my first experience with "peeping Tom" policing.

Like a modern-day Rip Van Winkle, did I fall asleep for a year and now it turns out that Rick Santorum is president?

Are there now little drones flying around the nation's skies equipped with cameras that sense body heat and alert police to those being naked and naughty in mid-priced Japanese imports?

Have lovers' lanes been outlawed?  After all, they are a kind of gateway drug; unlike Vegas, what happens there doesn't stay there. Just ask Bristol Palin.

Or perhaps this is the latest example of the class warfare sparked by the Democrats?  Would Harbar and Pelzer have been OK if they'd been in a BMW or Mercedes?

So many questions, so little duct tape -- and clothing. 

Really, though, I understand the concerns of the citizens who called police. I lived in a small town once. Your business is everyone's business. Plus, you can't be too careful these days.

And I applaud the police for taking it seriously, I do.

But why the charges?  Why the mug shots?  Once the truth became known, wasn't embarrassment punishment enough?  Do we really want to make "hanky panky in a moving vehicle" a criminal offense? Wasn't Prohibition bad enough?

I visited Portland recently.  Nice place.  Has dirt streets, with street signs and all, right in the middle of town.

What it doesn't have, I guess, is a police department with a sense of humor.

So my advice to Stephanie and Nikolas -- and all you other crazy lovebirds in Portland: Try M&Ms next year instead.


Valentine's Day: When love hurts

Valentine's Day: Symbiotic love connection

Pension spiking: Turning sick days into retirement pay

--Paul Whitefield

Photo: Nikolas Harbar, left, and Stephanie Pelzner. Credit: Portland Police Bureau

Trutanich: I am a liar

This post has been corrected. See note below.

Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich officially announced his candidacy for county district attorney  Thursday. That took a good deal of chutzpah because during his 2008 campaign, he signed a pledge to seek a second term as city attorney and to forgo running for any other office, including district attorney. If he violated his promise, Trutanich said four years ago, he would donate $100,000 to an after-school program and take out full-page newspaper ads declaring "I am a liar." As far as we can tell, The Times has yet to receive an ad request from his campaign -- and Trutanich hasn't addressed his seeming hypocrisy. Below, editorial writers Jon Healey and Dan Turner debate the issue. 

Healey: When running to succeed City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo, Trutanich argued that Delgadillo's outsized political ambitions made him a distracted and ineffective leader of the city's law office. His target wasn't just Delgadillo; it was also then-City Councilman Jack Weiss, the front-runner in the race for city attorney who was also viewed as a political climber. Trutanich hammered home this point in late 2008 by publicly swearing to serve two full terms if he were elected and reelected. He also challenged the other candidates to join him in signing a pledge to "not seek any other elected position including Mayor, U.S. Congress, Attorney General or Los Angeles County District Attorney while serving as Los Angeles City Attorney."

By his own standards, Trutanich is a liar. And considering his willingness to lie to voters, I don't expect him to keep his pledge to the local print media or to the L.A.'s Best After School Program either.

Turner: There are certain words and phrases that, when emitted from politicians' mouths, have ceased to have much meaning. When I hear them being uttered, I tend to substitute them in my head with those muted horns used on the old "Charlie Brown" specials whenever an adult was talking. (In Charles Schulz's world, the words of adults were so superfluous that they could be reduced to background noise.) So, for example, when Mitt Romney pledges not to "go negative" against his fellow candidates, what I hear him saying is "Wah wohh, wah woh, wah wa wa wa." Another good phrase worthy of a mental horn section: "If elected, I will not use this position as a springboard to higher office."

Well, of course you will. Politicians routinely lie about this for the same reason most job seekers lie about the same thing: If I'm applying for a lousy job at a banana stand because I need to beef up my resume so I can apply for a commissioned job selling used cars, I'm not going to admit that to my prospective employer -- and woe to the banana-stand owner who’s naive enough to believe me when I claim that it is my greatest ambition in life to spend my career selling chocolate-covered bananas. In 2003, a former Assemblyman named Antonio Villaraigosa claimed he was solely interested in serving on the City Council and wouldn't interrupt his term to run for mayor; two years later, I doubt he stopped to think twice about whether to jump into the mayor's race. When Jerry Brown was running for California attorney general, he told The Times' editorial board that he had no interest in higher office -- he was too old and tired to consider running for governor, he said. We all know how that ended.

Obviously, just because it's common doesn't make it right. And Trutanich's promises were so emphatic that he now finds himself in an unwinnable position: If he honors his promise he has to admit to being a liar, while if he fails to honor his promise he is implicitly a liar. But another problem with this kind of about-face is that neither Trutanich -- nor Brown, Villaraigosa or any other politician guilty of such a flip-flop -- was necessarily lying at the time they made the promise. Many of them might genuinely have thought they were telling the truth. But circumstances change; an office that seemed unattainable might suddenly open up because an unbeatable incumbent chooses not to run, for example. There's nothing wrong with adapting to changing circumstances. You just have to explain your reasons to voters, which is a case we have yet to see Trutanich make.

Healey: I'll concede that the job of city attorney is a political one, so it's not necessarily bad for voters if the person holding that office sets his or her eyes on higher office. After all, term limits force those who win the job to think prematurely about where they'll go next.

The problem with Trutanich is that the centerpiece of his sales pitch to voters was that he wouldn't do that. The office had been so neglected by Delgadillo, he argued, that its main client -- the City Council -- refused to rely on its advice. The lawyers there needed a committed manager who could turn them into the city's best law firm. So, three years into the job, Trutanich finds out that the office doesn't really need a full-time, hands-on manager?

I don't think that's what Dan means by "circumstances change." Trutanich didn't have a revelation about the city attorney not really needing to focus on, you know, his job. He had a revelation that Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley wasn't going to run for a fourth term after all. Trutanich also evidently learned that he liked being an elected official and figured he'd enjoy it more in a more powerful seat.

Humble, deferential people do not win a lot of elections. Ambitious ones do. Yet there's a difference between pols facing term limits who cast about for the next place to land and those whose eyes have been on a different prize all along. Now that Trutanich has made it clear that the city attorney's job was just a stepping stone, he's put himself into the latter category. And that makes me wonder whether he's really interested in being district attorney, or is that just a rung on the ladder too?

Turner: Your point about Trutanich making his pledge a centerpiece of his campaign is a good one. Now, it's up to voters to decide whether they can forgive him for that. Trutanich surely knows that he's got some explaining to do, but I'm not sure that we should fault him for not yet coming to the plate -- he just announced his candidacy today, after all. He's got plenty of time to lay out his rationale for changing his mind.

Personally, I'm not sure why it matters whether or not Trutanich considers the district attorney job to be just another rung on the career ladder (Next stop: state attorney general?) If he is a successful DA, he might deserve to be elected attorney general; if he isn't, he won't win. Don't we want successful politicians to bring that success to higher offices? When managers succeed in the private sector, they get promoted, which is good for the company, and the same principle can and should apply to government. But I take your main point: The real question is whether Trutanich can be trusted. If he's lying about his future ambitions in order to get elected, what else is he lying about? I just think that in politics, there are forgivable lies and unforgivable ones. "I did not sleep with that woman" seems a forgivable lie because it's one that powerful married men conducting affairs can be expected to tell, and it doesn’t really impact a politician's job performance. "I am not a crook" -- when you've been caught eavesdropping on political opponents and performing an array of other dirty tricks -- seems like an unforgivable one.

On this scale, I tend to put "I promise not to seek higher office" on the forgivable side. But I'll be more or less convinced about that depending on Trutanich's skill in justifying his actions.

[For the record, 6:09 p.m. Feb. 9: Good grief! The original version of this post misspelled Charles Schulz's name. Rats.]


Daum: Tiger Moms vs. 'Bébé' moms

McManus: Those mudslinging Republicans

Does the Miramonte case argue for cameras in the classroom?

Photo: L.A. City Atty. Carmen Trutanich. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

This time, the limelight for Komen is too hot a pink

Nancy BrinkerThe Susan G. Komen for the Cure folks are terrific at publicity. Most of the time, anyway. They have bathed the fight against breast cancer in a pink glow, bringing in loads of positive press for their runs for the cure and other fundraisers. What could possibly be said negative about an organization that backs cancer research and pays for breast screenings for women who otherwise couldn't afford them?

Now that the Komen pink has been bathed in the red-hot anger of Americans who support abortion rights for its shortsighted and short-lived decision to sever ties with Planned Parenthood over a politically motivated investigation of the latter, its longtime critics, little heard from before, are out in force. Of course there's the question about whether Komen will continue to provide grants to Planned Parenthood to fund medical examinations and referrals for mammograms. Leaders only said they were reversing the cockeyed policy that they will not be affiliated with any organization that is under government investigation for any reason; they never said they would continue to work with Planned Parenthood.

But now, it turns out, there are people who revile Komen for its very success, or at least the way the foundation reached it.

The Feminist Peace Network complains:

After several days of unrelenting fury (much of it from longtime loyal supporters) that has severely damaged their credibility as our boobs' best friend, Komen for the Cure has reconsidered its decision regarding funding Planned Parenthood (albeit with a statement that definitely leaves significant wiggle room). In the wake of what may well be the worst case of accidental re-branding ever by the organization that pinkified the world and took cause branding to epic proportions, we need to take a hard look at Komen's very unhealthy advocacy and re-examine what if any role they should play in supporting women's health. ...

Over the years, Komen has accepted massive support from corporations that make all manner of products that have been linked to cancer and hawked all manner of pink stuff with cancer-related ingredients. They have hammered about the need to be aware and get annual mammograms even while study after study has questioned this recommendation (and oh yeah, they have accepted contributions from the companies that make mammography equipment).

Komen has told us that being aware and early detection are the key, even though in many cases, this simply makes no difference in outcome.  They have hawked (and even trademarked) "for the cure" (a trademark they have spent millions of the dollars we have raced to raise defending), the shockingly expensive drugs that treat this awful disease, while taking large contributions from drug makers.

Recent studies have indeed cast doubt on how effective mammograms are -- though the network doesn't bother pointing out that Planned Parenthood is referring for these tests as well, and teaches women to do breast self-examination, which studies have also found to be less than effective. You'd think from reading this that Komen is way out there in medical space, providing kooky treatments to women because of its ties with corporations. Truth is, though this might change over time, regular mammograms are still the accepted standard of care by many women and their doctors.

Others have dredged up the nastiness last year, though it never came close to the attention paid to the Planned Parenthood moves, when Komen went after smaller cancer charities in trademark complaints over use of the phrase "for the cure," which was seen as distinctly uncharitable. Others complain that Komen is a purveyor of unnecessary kitschy pink junk.

Speaking of which, a gun maker put out a press release Friday announcing that it had "teamed" with Komen to produce a pink-trimmed handgun, with that ever-vague wording about a portion of the proceeds going to Komen. Turns out, Business Insider reports, that the company misrepresented it and there's no relationship.

This could be the week when Komen wished no one had ever heard of it.


The pink ribbon's ugly new image

Will PETA stop Kansas 'and your little dog too'?

Super Bowl: The right way to combat big-game pirates

--Karin Klein

Photo: Nancy Brinker, founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is seen speaking at the National Press Club in Washington in 2009. Credit: Haraz N. Ghanbari / AP Photo

Santorum made more than one kind of personal attack on Gingrich

SantorumDebate coaches advise against making personal -- ad hominem -- attacks. But there are two kinds of personal attacks, and Rick Santorum engaged in both of them in attacking Newt Gingrich at Thursday's debate slugfest. 

One kind of ad hominem attack focuses on the target's moral uprightness (or lack thereof) or his personality. Albeit obliquely, Santorum suggested that voters should pay attention to the complaint by Gingrich's ex-wife that he had once asked her for an open marriage.  Note especially the implication that it isn't enough that Gingrich got religion and asked God for forgiveness: 

 "I've answered this question repeatedly throughout the course of this campaign. I am a Christian too. And I thank God for forgiveness. But, you know, these -- these are issues of our lives and what we did in our lives. They are issues of character for people to consider. But the bottom line is those are -- those are things for everyone in this audience to look at. And they're going to look at me, look at what I've done in my private life and personal life, unfortunately." He obviously didn't mean "unfortunately." 

Less sensationally, but still in the realm of  the first sort of ad hominem attack, Santorum  accused Gingrich of grandiosity and hinted that the former speaker of the House was erratic if not actually unstable: "I don't want a nominee that I have to worry about [my]  going out and looking at the paper the next day and figuring out what is he -- worrying about what he's going to say next." Oh, that Newt! 

Sticklers for debate decorum would consider these attacks out of bounds. Maybe so. But Santorum also engaged in a different sort of ad hominem attack on Gingrich that was perfectly proper: a critique of his leadership skills: 

"Four years into his speakership, he was thrown out by the conservatives. It was a coup against him in three. I served with him. I was there. I knew what the problems were going on in the House of Representatives when Newt Gingrich was leading this -- leading there. It was an idea a minute, no discipline, no ability to be able to pull things together." 

The focus here is not on the issues, which are supposed to dominate debates.  Echoing Michael Dukakis, of all people, Santorum was emphasizing the importance of competence. It's ad hominem, but it's not a cheap shot. 


GOP debate: CNN? More like WWF

Will Romney feel the pressure tonight?

Gingrich: School prayer would have prevented Columbine

--  Michael McGough

Photo: Rick Santorum participates in a Republican presidential candidate debate at the North Charleston Coliseum in S.C. on Jan. 19. Credit: David Goldman / AP Photo

Juvenile offenders and lawmakers get another chance

Wally skalij California Youth Authority in Chino

We've said it before -- more than a dozen times. A child, even a bad one, should not be sent to prison for life without any chance at parole. It's a mark of societal fear and a lust for revenge. Some younger criminals may indeed be so incorrigible that they should never go free, but after he or she has been behind bars for a quarter of a century, a judge, and a parole board, should be able to consider release.

On Tuesday, the state Assembly is reconsidering SB 9, a bill to put California among the ranks of civilized societies by ending juvenile life without parole sentences. Finally, Assembly, put this matter to rest, pass the bill and send it to the governor.

Or, as we have said previously:

Jan. 16, 2008:

But of all the inequities of a dysfunctional penal system and harsh state laws, few can touch our predilection for discarding the lives of children who commit crimes before they're old enough to fully understand the consequences of their actions.

April 30, 2009:

Knowing they will live and die in prison, people who acted in the rashness of youth have no hope of returning to society, and therefore no reason to learn, or grow, or mature, or reform. But surely their example will dissuade other youth from crime? Nonsense. Kids who can't imagine next year can't imagine life in prison and can't be expected to make decisions based on something as obscure to them as parole.

Nov. 7, 2009:

Society can and should countenance a hopeless existence in prison for adult perpetrators. But not for juveniles. The U.S. is, for now, the only nation that has not banned life in prison without parole for juvenile offenders, and more than 2,000 are serving such terms behind bars.

Jan. 14, 2010:

The Times recognizes that some people who commit crimes before they have developed a resistance to peer pressure and an adult's brainpower, judgment and moral capacity may remain dangerous even after years of punishment and repentance. [State Sen. Leland] Yee's bill does not compel judges to grant parole when it's inappropriate. But it demonstrates California's faith that not every person whose life got off to a destructive start remains irredeemable. It offers a window of hope to imprisoned teenage offenders and gives them an incentive to learn, reform and aspire to a productive life.

May 18, 2010:

Thirty-seven states allow for such sentences, but [U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M.] Kennedy persuasively argued that a better indication of whether they are cruel or unusual — and thus a violation of the 8th Amendment — was the infrequency with which they are imposed. According to the court, only 129 prisoners are serving life without parole for non-homicide offenses committed as juveniles. (The number in California is two.) Kennedy also noted that "the United States is the only nation that imposes life without parole sentences on juvenile non-homicide offenders."

Aug. 19, 2010:

All this bill offers juveniles is the possibility of a future, a chance at a chance. An offender who has served 10 years could ask a judge to reexamine his case. Even if a judge does resentence the offender, he must serve 25 years total before he is eligible for a parole board hearing. And parole need not be granted.

Sept. 1, 2010:

By a 38-36 vote Monday night, the Assembly killed the Fair Sentencing for Youth Act authored by state Sen. Leland Yee (D- San Francisco), refusing to lead California out of the Dark Ages by banning sentences of life without the possibility of parole for juveniles. No other country sentences children to prison in this manner, and it is appalling, but not unexpected, that the Assembly could not muster enough political will to enact a law that in every way is beneficial to the public.

Dec. 8, 2010:

Not all juvenile criminals should receive parole, but if they turn themselves around as Kruzan did, they should be given the opportunity to put their cases before a court or parole board. That's why the Legislature should pass a bill that was reintroduced this week by state Sen. Leland Yee (D- San Francisco) after being rejected in August. The modest legislation would allow courts to review the cases of juveniles who were sentenced to life without parole after 10 years, possibly reducing their sentences to 25 years to life.

Aug. 11, 2011:

Assembly Democrats who have voted against earlier versions of this bill for fear of being labeled soft on crime should look at the facts. SB 9 would not automatically open prison doors for violent criminals. It would not eliminate life-without-parole sentences for any offender, adult or juvenile. It would merely give inmates serving life terms for crimes they committed before they turned 18 a limited opportunity to seek a 25-years-to-life sentence — and for the first time, a slim chance of parole before they die.

Nov. 9, 2011:

In fact, we in supposedly enlightened California come close to first place for cruel treatment of youth offenders. Year after year, California Democrats who live in fear of the county prosecutors' and victims' families' lobbies have voted down attempts to eliminate sentences of life in prison without parole for juveniles.

--Robert Greene

Photo: Juvenile offenders being moved at the California Youth Authority prison in Chino. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times.

A banner month for the Golden Globes [Wednesday's Coffeebreak Quiz answer]

Yesterday's Opinion L.A. Coffeebreak Quiz asked you to find street banners hung from public light poles on the public right-of-way along public streets in Los Angeles that advertise a commercial television program.

The answer: The Golden Globes, or rather, the TV broadcast of the Golden Globes on NBC on Sunday. Globe_1

A spokeswoman for L.A.'s Board of Public Works explained that the banners don't really promote a TV show ("LIVE SUNDAY JAN 15." And a very familiar-looking peacock. Please). No, see, they promote the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the sponsor of the Golden Globes, and, see, the association is a nonprofit, so it's OK.

By the way, although the banners appear courtesy of the public streets and lightpoles of Los Angeles, the Golden Globes are being presented in another city -- Beverly Hills -- which will reap whatever tax benefits are to be had from the event. NBC is located in another city -- Burbank. But at least the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is located in -- no, wait. Not Los Angeles. West Hollywood.

But people in Los Angeles get to watch.

The banners strike the Opinion L.A. team as the most blatant re-commercialization of the city's non-commercial street banner program since a TV network battle turned into Bannergate in 1999. That's when CBS complained that ABC had hung bright yellow banners advertising shows for that year's the fall season. City rules barred commercial companies from using the streets as part of their promotional programs, although nonprofits were OK. The flap moved the City Council to fine-tune its rules. See way-back-when stories from the Times, (and here), the Los Angeles Business Journal, and the LA Weekly.

But commercial advertising on street banners, if you can get away with it, is cheap (compared with billboards) and effective, so for-profit ventures are seeking and barreling through anything that looks like a loophole. City officials seem to be OK with it.

So if Los Angeles is going to turn its light poles into commercial billboards anyway, shouldn't City Hall just throw in the towel, allow advertising of any product or service and get some real money instead of the paltry $25 to $100 per-pole the city charges (plus $100 to $150 per banner to the maker)?

We editorialized on that question recently: No. But it may be time for a follow-up.


Shrek and the City

Leave L.A.'s lampposts alone

--Robert Greene

Photo: A banner on Lankershim in Studio City advertising the Golden Globes show Sunday night. Credit: Robert Greene / Los Angeles Times



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Santorum's faulty premise on healthcare reform |  March 26, 2012, 5:20 pm »


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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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