Essay, Headline »

Bitcoin Is an Energy-Wasting Ponzi Scheme

By | October 20, 2017

Digital currencies, in their current form, should be prohibited by law. And not because they are a Ponzi scheme (which they are), and not because they can help facilitate criminal activity (which they do), but because they incur colossal social waste.
This waste is energy. The media organization Diginomics estimates that the energy consumption to fuel bitcoin is equivalent to the consumption of just under …

Headline, What It Means to Be American »

When Black Texans Gathered Under “Thursday Night Lights”

By | October 19, 2017

I had only been in and out of Houston since leaving our Sunnyside neighborhood on the city’s southeast side, in 1968, to begin eight years of Air Force service. Whenever I returned, I made only casual note of neighborhood and city changes, such as the sad state of the mom-and-pop “candy store” where we used to hang out after school, now boarded up, or a …

Essay, Headline »

The Invention and Evolution of the Concentration Camp

By | October 18, 2017

Before the first prisoner entered the Soviet Gulag, before “Arbeit macht frei” appeared on the gates of Auschwitz, before the 20th century had even begun, concentration camps found their first home in the cities and towns of Cuba.
The earliest modern experiment in detaining groups of civilians without trial was launched by two generals: one who refused to bring camps into the world, and one …

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What Losing a War Does to a Nation’s Psyche

By | October 17, 2017

In the spring of 1976, while visiting the Tokyo Zoo, I was confronted with the unforgettable sight of an aging former Japanese soldier, wearing a ragged army uniform and cap, and bowing before all who entered.
One of his legs had been amputated. A begging bowl before him, he bowed as low as he could to Japanese families coming to see the newly arrived pandas. …

Headline, What It Means to Be American »

A Short History of the Idea of ‘Main Street’ in America

By | October 16, 2017

In the United States, Main Street has always been two things—a place and an idea. As both, Main Street has embodied the contradictions of the country itself.
It is the self-consciousness of the idea of Main Street—from its origins in a Nathaniel Hawthorne sketch of New England, to Walt Disney’s construction of a Main Street USA, to the establishment of ersatz Main Streets in …

Headline, The Takeaway »

California’s Housing Crisis Is a Nasty Intersection of the State’s Worst Problems

By | October 13, 2017

California’s sky-high housing prices haven’t just made it hard to find and afford a place to live. They’ve put pressures on the economy, the environment, transportation, and health that threaten the California dream itself, said panelists at a Zócalo/AARP event at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Los Angeles.
The event—entitled “Are Housing Prices Destroying the California Dream?”—brought together a scholar, a politician, …

Headline, The Takeaway »

Can Colleges Teach America What Consensual Sex Looks Like?

By | October 12, 2017

American college campuses, after considerable struggle, are succeeding in drawing a clearer line between consensual and non-consensual sex. But it’s far from clear when the rest of society will follow suit and adopt a similar standard.
That was the message of a Zócalo lecture entitled, “Are College Campuses Rewriting the Rules of Sex in America?” by journalist Vanessa Grigoriadis, contributing editor at The New York Times …

Headline, The Takeaway »

It’s Hard to Be an American Traitor, Even If You Try

By | October 11, 2017

Why is it so hard to commit treason in the United States?
The short answer—offered at the debut of a Zócalo/KCRW event series, “Critical Thinking with Warren Olney”—amounted to this: America was founded by traitors.
“The American Revolution was a massive act of treason against the British government,” said UC Davis legal scholar Carlton F.W. Larson, who is working on a book about treason. And even before the …

Essay, Headline »

What Leaf Peeping in New England Taught Me About the Meaning of Autumn

By | October 10, 2017

The migration north happens every fall. Just as the V-formations of Canada geese head south, flocks, groves, and busloads of “leaf peepers” head to northern New England from all over the globe. They come to watch the Green Mountains of Vermont and the White Mountains of New Hampshire “blush,” and soon discover that they are chasing a moving target.
Our wild palette of reds, purples, …

Headline, What It Means to Be American »

Every October, on Martha’s Vineyard, We Celebrate Cranberry Day

By | October 9, 2017

Many know the place I live, an island off the southern coast of Massachusetts, as Martha’s Vineyard, a vacation spot for celebrities including Presidents Clinton and Obama. But those of us in the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe know it as Noepe, our home for at least 13,000 years. Though the whole island used to be our traditional homelands, today, our homelands form the westernmost part of …

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