Barack Obama

This Cal Grad Is Out to Change The Rules of Comedy

Comedian and Cal grad Zahra Noorbakhsh is a self-described “pork-eating, alcohol-drinking, premarital sex-having, bisexual feminist Iranian Shi’a Muslim.” That is, she doesn’t fit neatly into any one box.

Politically Homeless: Q&A With Columnist Max Boot

CALIFORNIA Magazine: In the prologue of your new book, The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right, you say you are now “perceiving ugly truths about America and about conservatism that other people had long seen but I turned a blind eye to.” What are some of those ugly truths?

From the Fall 2018 Culture Shift issue of California.

In Hoboken, Humility Proves Stronger Than Hate

Hoboken, New Jersey: birthplace of Frank Sinatra, modern zippers, the edible ice cream cup and, if some historians are to be believed, baseball (although the good people of Cooperstown, New York might beg to differ).

And on November 7, 2017, Hoboken’s voters scored another first, electing Ravinder “Ravi” Singh Bhalla ‘95—who proudly calls himself “everything Donald Trump hates”—as the city’s 39 th mayor and the first Sikh mayor in the city’s history.

An American In Paris: Foreign Service Officer Turned Librarian

Ask an American expatriate “Why did you leave the country?” and more often than not you’ll get an explanation that begins “There was this guy…” or “I met a woman…” Ask Jeffrey Hawkins, a former foreign service officer who has lived in some ten countries on four continents since graduating from Cal 30 years ago, and you’ll hear a different story. “In my case,” he says, “I met a language.” Although actually, in the very beginning, there was a woman too.

Q&A: Former FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel on Dark Money

When most people think of Watergate, they likely think of the hotel break-in, the Saturday Night Massacre, or the Nixon tapes. But few know that, at its heart, Watergate was a campaign finance scandal. The Watergate Hotel burglars were paid with campaign funds, and the subsequent investigation uncovered millions in illegal payments to the Nixon White House by corporations—some of which arrived in bags of cash.

Fracking Changed Everything. Now What?

Things were looking pretty sunny for alternative energy sources back in 2005. Though still resisted by conservative politicians and allied voters, human-caused climate change was accepted as fact by the vast majority of scientists, many business leaders, and even the Pentagon. Energy security was a major concern for the armed services, given that U.S. troops were fighting and dying in Iraq, home to the world’s fifth largest reserve of oil—the substance that America was “addicted to,” according to President (and former oil man) George W. Bush.

From the Winter 2017 Power issue of California.

All the Presidents’ Historians: How Legacies of Leaders Change

Donald Trump’s critics say he’s the worst president ever; his fans say he’s one of the best. That’s par for the course: Barack Obama and George W. Bush got mixed reviews, too, depending on who was doing the reviewing. So what do historians say?

The SF Bay-Delta Is Invaluable. What Will Happen to It Under Trump?

The Bay-Delta, comprised of San Francisco Bay and the shared delta of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers, is the largest estuary on the west coast of the continental United States. It sustains valuable salmon and Dungeness crab fisheries, supports hundreds of family farmers who work the rich peat soils of its reclaimed islands, serves as a recreational relief valve for millions of Bay Area urbanites and the main source of drinking water for around 25 million Californians.

Through the Lens of Hope: Obama’s Videographer Debriefs

Most of the people who follow the President of the United States wherever he goes are there to protect his life. But Hope Hall has a different job: to document it.

For the last six years, she’s been Barack Obama’s presidential videographer (think of her as the national fly on the wall). She doesn’t shoot videos for the official record; that’s the job of the White House Communications Agency, which documents every public event in which the President participates. Her assignment is to film the President in his more informal moments.

Editor’s Note

Every weekday, the dog and I head up a very steep hill for a compulsory early morning walk, an essential daily ritual for wearing out a highly energetic adolescent canine and fending off decrepitude in his older human companion.

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

Step Right Up: Shaking Up Facebook

Like every other voter preparing for the upcoming election, I often cruise Facebook to gauge the mood of my fellow citizens. Not that I’m a fan of the site. To me, Facebook has always seemed like an inversion of the old “banality of evil” trope: It is the evil of banality, a fount of never-ending Likes and emoticons and pictures of highly caloric restaurant meals and garish sunsets and Frisbee-catching dogs. It is an online Leave It to Beaver updated to the digital age, a place where we can all cozily catch up and be comfortable and make soft, murmuring sounds to each other.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Angels, Protesters and Patriots: What a Long-Ago Skirmish Says About Love of Country

Lately, I’ve been thinking about an incident that happened in 1965, seven years before I was born. It centered on an antiwar protest in Berkeley, one of the first of countless such protests to come. Though just a blip in the grand scheme of Vietnam era turmoil, it seems to point to something important about America and the nature of patriotism.

It starts with a guy named “Tiny.” Tiny was 6’7” and 300 pounds. And he really liked to fight.

From the Spring 2016 War Stories issue of California.

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