Op-Ed

The naughty and nice of 2015

Pope Francis kissed a baby at a refugee camp, in Bangui, Central African Republic on Sunday.
Pope Francis kissed a baby at a refugee camp, in Bangui, Central African Republic on Sunday. L’Osservatore Romano

So many lumps of coal, so little time. We’ve seen a lot of mischief and bad behavior this year, from mean-spirited campaign pledges to deceptive diesel engines to stubbornly profligate water use. (And that’s not even counting the truly evil deeds of 2015, starting with the Charlie Hebdo killings and running through the massacre in San Bernardino.) But like Santa’s tally, our Naughty ledger has a Nice counterpart, and this year the names included those of an unflappable police chief and, yes, a couple of politicians.

Naughty

Volkswagen, which brazenly duped regulators and buyers alike with software that turned off smog controls on its supposedly environmentally friendly diesel-powered cars.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who blasted through the metaphorical wall between church and state by refusing marriage licenses to gay couples because she believes homosexuality to be a sin.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who called for a ban on immigration into the U.S. by Muslims, in effect saying the government should presume every Muslim outside its borders is a terrorist. An additional lump for his rival Ben Carson, for saying American voters shouldn’t elect a Muslim president.

The Wet Prince of Bel Air – the still-anonymous water waster found by the Center for Investigative Reporting to be sloshing his, her, their or its way through enough water to serve 90 average single-family homes – in the midst of a historic drought.

Martin Shkreli, the former chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, for buying the rights to an anti-parasitic drug crucial to some patients with malaria or HIV, then raising the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill.

Melissa Click, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri, who tried to chase a student journalist away from a gathering of protesters by shouting, “Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here.”

Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist and big-game hunter who killed Cecil, a beloved and well-known lion, outside a protected habitat in Zimbabwe.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, for taking a big step backward by reasserting direct authority over county departments and disempowering the county’s chief executive officer.

Lawyers for the city of San Juan Capistrano, whose defense against a taxpayer lawsuit led an appellate court to strike down the city’s tiered water rate stricture – thereby jeopardizing all water agencies’ most effective means of encouraging conservation.

Mayor James T. Butts Jr. and the members of the Inglewood City Council, who approved a giant football stadium without a vote of the people, unsuccessfully sued a local gadfly for using snippets of council meeting footage in YouTube videos, and shifted council meetings from the evening to the early afternoon when it would be harder for the public to attend.

The Southwestern Voter Registration Project, for trying to increase turnout in an L.A. school board election by staging a lottery for voters with $25,000 in cash prizes.

President BarackObama, who, on the centennial of the Armenian genocide, refused again to call it for what it was.

The still-unknown person who flew a drone too close to a wildfire near Big Bear last June, forcing firefighters to shut down the air drops and helping spread the destructive Lake Fire.

Former NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, for trying to become the hero of someone else’s story

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, for sucking some of the air out of pro football.

All the restaurateurs who gleefully resumed selling foie gras after a judge overturned California’s restriction on its sale, promoting a product obtained by force-feeding ducks and geese through tubes stuck down their gullets until their livers swell to 10 times their normal size.

Nice

The U.S. Congress, for passing the USA Freedom Act and ending the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of millions of Americans’ telephone records.

Pope Francis, for reminding Americans of the importance of welcoming displaced people – in vivid contrast to the xenophobic message delivered by a number of Republican presidential candidates.

The Supreme Court, for finding a restriction on election campaign-spending that it could uphold: Florida’s ban on judicial candidates personally soliciting campaign funds.

The Los Angeles City Council, for requiring that handguns be fitted with trigger locks or secured in boxes or lockers when not in use, and barring ownership of ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 10 cartridges.

Prosecutors in the U.S. and Switzerland, for addressing what had been obvious to the international soccer community for years: corruption within FIFA, the international organization governing world soccer.

The Supreme Court, for affirming that the right to marriage belongs to all, a large step toward equality for the nation’s gay population.

The Nebraska legislature, for voting to end capital punishment in the state.

The Los Angeles Planning Commission, for taking a harder, smarter line on billboard regulation and refusing to grant amnesty for illegal signs, despite pressure from lobbyists and little support from the city council.

The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Agency, for committing to make 35 percent of the units built on agency land affordable, and to work with cities to plan more walkable, denser and economical communities around transit stations.

San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan, for exceptional leadership in the most trying circumstances imaginable.

#blacklivesmatter, for being a catalyst in the protest movement that brought national attention to the killings of unarmed black men by law enforcement officers.

Congressional leaders, for getting through the year – and raising the debt limit – with nary a threat of a government shutdown. Admittedly, we’ve lowered the bar.

Donald Trump, for making the presidential primary race more entertaining this year than ever before in our lifetimes, if scary. Here’s hoping he singlehandedly drives voter turnout to record levels by raising passions to a fever pitch – among his opponents as well as his supporters.

The California legislature, for rejecting bills that responded to the spurious claims that Proposition 47 legalized the theft of handguns, the possession of date rape drugs or, indeed, any crime.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, for following through on plans to divert people with mental health problems from the criminal justice system.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, for recognizing that homelessness is fed by holes in county programs like foster care, probation, jails, mental health and healthcare, and for beginning to spend its money and tailor its services to solve those problems comprehensively.

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