Essay, Featured »

How Tea Became a Weapon in Darjeeling’s Ethnic Struggle

By | October 25, 2017

Darjeeling tea is a world-renowned product that reliably flows from India’s highlands, where it has been grown for more than a century. But since early this summer, none of it has reached global markets.
A newly revived independence movement has cut tea exports, stopped the region’s tourism, and shut down schools. The Gorkhaland movement asks for independence from the state of West Bengal. Activists have …

Headline, The Takeaway »

Before Going to War in North Korea, Try Understanding the Place First

By | October 25, 2017

With schoolyard taunts hurtling between Washington and Pyongyang, and fears of nuclear Armageddon escalating from Seoul to Tokyo to Los Angeles, the once-unthinkable idea of a military showdown between North Korea and the United States has become frighteningly plausible.
On an October evening when many Angelenos were pondering the opening game of the World Series rather than end-of-the-world scenarios, a Zócalo/UCLA panel discussion explored the question, …

Essay, Headline »

Today’s Mass Killings Shouldn’t Distort Our Assessment of Everyday Risk

By | October 24, 2017

In the midst of the Second Intifada, in summer 2001, I was living in the dorms at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Normally bustling streets were nearly empty. Signs in store windows offered discounts for the “brave tourists” who ventured inside despite the growing violence and tension. Being constantly on alert exhausted me, a short-term visitor insulated from many of the complexities of what was unfolding. …

Connecting California, Featured »

All California Is Wine Country–and the Wildfires Make It More So

By | October 23, 2017

A wildfire burns behind a winery in Santa Rosa, California on Oct. 14, 2017. Photo courtesy of AP/Jae C. Hong.The deaths and damage of this year’s Wine Country wildfires are a historic disaster. They are also the product of an epic California success.
That triumph is the growth of the wine industry, which has come to dominate our state’s land, culture, and image. Indeed, it’s now …

Headline, What It Means to Be American »

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Positive Symbol of American Power!

By | October 23, 2017

I can’t really remember when I first encountered Superman. It might have been through the 1950s television series The Adventures of Superman, or it might have been in a Superman comic book—not an American comic book, but a black and white reprint, by the Australian publisher K. G. Murray.
Growing up in Australia, I learned the basic stories of American history from the pages of …

Featured, Poetry »

I dream about you during the work week #poem

By | October 20, 2017

I dream about you during the work week with teddy bears in my mouth &
you with a sword impossible to own. The second sentence is love isn’t
loving anyone for less than your entire life if you want your life to last that
long. We come together for the sake of not knowing what else to do. The
words are the ones, along with the sounds, that define …

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 …

Essay, Headline »

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. …