In the middle of the G-8 summit in Northern Ireland early this week, the host, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and his closest international partner, President Obama, were embarrassed by the latest revelations of secret spying sprung on them by elusive whistle-blower Edward Snowden.
Reported in Britain's Guardian newspaper, Snowden provided information about British and U.S. spying operations during past Group of 8 summits and the G-20 economic gathering in London in 2009. Turkey, South Africa and Russia were apparently targets of the snooping.
The news put another layer of ice on the already chilled relations between the U.S. and Russia. In a Reuters photograph taken Monday at a joint appearance by Obama and Russia's Vladimir Putin, the two presidents displayed all the discomfort of two parties in a bitter divorce forced to sit beside each other at their son’s wedding.
Back in the Kremlin, Russian politicians were lining up to take shots at the U.S. One of them, the...
The National Security Agency's program of scooping up raw data on nearly every phone call placed in the United States should freak us all out – not so much because of what the agency is doing, but because it has the technological capability to do it.
So far, there is no evidence that the government is zeroing in on any phone calls besides those linked to terrorism suspects. Personally, I’m glad our intelligence agencies have that wormhole into the dark redoubts of fanatics who want to kill Americans. As for the vast ocean of telephone calls made by the rest of us, I think we can be pretty certain that no one has the inclination or time to sift through the millions of conversations to find that clandestine call to your secret lover, let alone the last call to grandma or the pizza delivery guy.
Those who generally trust the government (that has to be a small minority in this great land of anti-government paranoia) will rest assured that the excesses will be few, that checks...
In principle, the National Security Agency’s vast data collection operation is troubling, but, in the age of Google and Facebook, it feels like having just one more Big Brother in a growing family of Big Brothers.
In response to the revelation that the NSA is scooping up metadata on every call placed on Verizon, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit against chief members of the Obama administration’s national security team.
The ACLU’s deputy legal director, Jameel Jaffer, said, "This dragnet program is surely one of the largest surveillance efforts ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens. It is the equivalent of requiring every American to file a daily report with the government of every location they visited, every person they talked to on the phone, the time of each call, and the length of every conversation.”
Defenders of the NSA program counter that argument by saying that very little of this raw data will...
At dinner a couple of days ago, my friend Janey Ireson said how disappointed she is that Barack Obama has been hemmed in by congressional Republicans and blocked from fulfilling the high expectations of those who supported his rise to the presidency. The next day at lunch, another friend, Colin Gray, expressed precisely the same sentiment.
One would expect to find such feelings of frustration among the half of Americans who cast ballots for Obama in 2008 and 2012, but Janey and Colin are not U.S. voters. They are members of a large group of people that could not vote for Obama, yet they had lofty hopes for what his election might bring. They are Europeans.
Janey and Colin are among several good friends I have visited in the English countryside this week. Pretty much uniformly, my British friends are wondering whether the American system of checks and balances has gone too far. How is it possible, they wonder, that the man who holds the most powerful position on the planet can be...
If you are wondering what the cartoon above is all about, I confess it is a tease. To see the entire image -- my take on the HBO series, "Game of Thrones" -- you'll need to go to the blog, Company Town or wait to see it in our Sunday newspaper.
Last week, I expanded my role at the L.A. Times by doing the first cartoon in what I hope will be a long string of weekly cartoons about Hollywood. In the months to come, I will be commenting on the business side of entertainment, caricaturing celebrities and stars and finding satire in all the glitz, glamour, greed and goofiness of the movie, TV and music industires.
The cartoons will appear online on Fridays in Company Town and in the Calendar section of the Sunday print newspaper. After years of illustrating the endless march of political folly, I am looking forward to lampooning the less-consequential but equally target-rich environment of Hollywood. Please join me as I shine a spotlight on the biggest show in this town.
First Lady Michelle Obama has shown us all how to deal with the nastiness that has infected American politics: do not indulge it.
At a fund-raiser in a private Washington residence on Tuesday night, a gay rights activist standing only a few steps away interrupted the first lady as she spoke. Michelle’s reaction was immediate. She did not try to talk over the heckler or engage the person in a debate or pass it off as a joke or wait until the rant subsided. Instead, she stepped away from the microphone, walked over to the shouting woman and said, “Listen to me or you can take the mike, but I’m leaving.” And then, to the rest of the crowd, “You all decide. You have one choice.”
The audience, of course, cheered and called for her to stay. Meanwhile, the heckler -- a self-described lesbian pushing for broadened federal protections for homosexuals in the workplace -- was escorted out of the building.
The gang rape of a 30-year-old American woman in India on Tuesday is the latest horrific reminder that women travel in a more dangerous world than men.
The woman was visiting a mountainous tourist area in northern India when she found herself stranded. She hitched a ride with three young men in a truck who drove her to a remote spot, took turns sexually assaulting her and then dumped her by a bridge in the wee hours of the morning. It’s easy to say she was foolish to hitchhike in a country where there have recently been several highly-publicized attacks on women, but that does not in the slightest justify the way the woman was treated.
The Indian justice system’s failure to crack down on rapists is appalling. In some cases, officials there have even pressured the victim to marry her attacker in the interest of social harmony. That kind of sick, misogynistic thinking, unfortunately, is not unique to India. Women take the blame and the burden for rape in many traditional...
Despite prognostications otherwise, it is not inevitable that the United States will cede its place as the world’s leading nation to China. But if the American political system remains as dysfunctional as it is today, China may rise above us by default.
While China invests in infrastructure, our federal government allows the nation’s highways, bridges and power grid to deteriorate. While China puts a premium on education and research, our national politicians refuse to provide the resources needed to educate a new, diverse generation of young Americans to a level necessary to compete with the world or to keep American laboratories and experimental enterprises functioning at full power.
China is burdened by a stifling one-party political system. Still, decisions get made, action is taken, stuff gets built, things get done.
The United States has a two-party system that is so gummed up by unscrupulous political warfare, unending campaigns and ideological idiocy that it may as...
My boyhood political hero was a guy named Dan Evans. The rare Republican candidate elected in the Democratic landslide of 1964, Evans served three terms as governor of Washington. Upon the death of Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson in 1983, Evans was appointed to the open Senate seat and then easily won a special election to complete Jackson’s term.
Nicknamed “Straight Arrow,” Evans was the kind of public servant Americans desperately need today. He was a principled pragmatist who believed the duty of a politician was not to make speeches about the evils of government but to make government work effectively for the people. He collaborated with centrists in both parties to pass landmark legislation that boosted the economy, improved education and protected the environment. Rather than kowtow to extremists, Gov. Evans famously drove John Birch Society activists out of his state’s Republican Party.
Hugely popular, Evans could have won another term in the...
First, members of Congress set a trap that would bite hard if they failed to break the political gridlock and come up with a grand bargain on the budget. Then, having failed, they let the trap spring shut. And now, they continue to blunder and bluster as the country remains locked in the vise grip of the so-called sequester.
It is not in the news much anymore, but the automatic across-the-board cuts – the spur to legislative action that resulted in no action – continue to kick in. In the aftermath of the monster tornado that struck Oklahoma last week, a detail that went largely unnoticed was that federal money for emergency relief had been slashed by $1 billion because of the sequester. The disasters won’t stop, but the money might run out.
Meanwhile, the budget for the National Institutes of Health has fallen by nearly $2 billion. That means hundreds of fewer grants for research into new ways to prevent or treat diseases.
The American employment picture may finally be brightening a bit, but for the tens of thousands of young people being handed diplomas in the next few weeks at colleges and universities across the land, more gloom is in the forecast.
A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute said unemployment and underemployment for recent college graduates remained high and the millennial generation will face lower earnings for 10 to 20 years.
A 2012 survey indicated that a whopping 52% of college grads under the age of 25 were working at jobs that did not require a college degree. All that studying and all those college loans have not gotten them very far very fast.
Nevertheless, young Americans remain optimistic. A study by Accenture, a consulting firm, found that 15% of new graduates expected to earn less than $25,000 at their first job and two-thirds assumed they would find work in their field of study. The experience of 2011 and 2012 grads proved to be different, however. A third of them...