California magazine

Q&A: Daniel Ziblatt on Trump and How Democracies Die

Daniel Ziblatt has spent a career studying why democracies develop and how they die. Along with his co-author and fellow UC Berkeley alumnus, Steven Levitsky, he has done so from a perch at Harvard, and his focus has always been different places and times: Ziblatt is an expert on democracy in modern Europe, including the age of Hitler and Mussolini, and Levitsky specializes in Latin America.

A Feel for Art: Haptic Encounter at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

On a tour of the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s exhibit Jewish Folktales Retold: The Artist as Maggid, running through January 28, participants passed around a silicone squash representing Michael Arcega’s sculpture The Enchanted Island. The piece is inspired by a story about a shipwrecked rabbi going into a mansion and finding two objects on a table: a cornucopia and a ram’s horn to summon people to prayer. What does he choose? He’s hungry, so it’s the food.

The Tipping Point: Can American Institutions Be Saved?

Depending on how you spin it, the recent government shutdown was either an example of the Republicans cynically rolling the Democrats, or the Democrats electing to strategically fold their tents and fight for the Dreamers another day. Either way, nobody was playing chess; it was more like 52 pickup. So even though President Donald Trump contributed little to the process, other than reneging on an early compromise agreement, he somehow came out looking a trifle less inept than everyone else.

The Toilet Papers

President Trump, as usual, dominated the news this week, first with his “Fake News Awards.” As Ed Wasserman, dean of the Berkeley J-School pointed out in a panel discussion last year, “fake news” as Trump uses it is simply “a catch-all, a pejorative, for news that you don’t like or you disagree with or that you mistrust” as opposed to, well, demonstrably fake news, like the story,

Is Free Speech Smart?

There appears to be a consensus among UC Berkeley law professors that despite his offensive views, alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulous had a legal right to speak on campus last September.

Maker’s Mark: The KALX Origin Story

The radio station we now call KALX began life as an oddity in the basement of Ehrman Hall, a dormitory on Dwight Way. It had at its disposal a collection of records, mostly classical, a couple mics, a cheap recorder, and a Corina cigar box containing the most basic of mixing boards. The year was 1962.

This was not a sanctioned operation. It was not a political statement. It was barely even art. Radio KAL was, in fact, the work of geeks; driven, visionary, persistent, highly resourceful geeks.

Westering: Seamus Heaney’s Berkeley Year

The poem was originally titled Easy Rider. Westering, as it is now known, is probably the first poem Nobel Laureate in Literature Seamus Heaney wrote in Berkeley, after arriving here from Belfast in 1970 for a stint as a visiting professor in English. The poem’s original title evokes the 1969 film of the same namestarring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson. In it, the trio motorcycle east from L.A. through the nineteen-sixties America of new styles, hair lengths, music, political activity, and sexual behavior.

A Deep Dive Into California’s Recurring Drought Problem

Feel it yet? That dire sense of déjà vu? It probably depends on your livelihood or interests. If you’re a Bay Area boulevardier or the type once described in singles ads as a lover of long walks on the beach, you’re no doubt delighted by the unceasing blue skies and unseasonably pleasant temperatures. But it’s another matter if you’re a farmer, salmon fisherman, water agency manager, skier or whitewater kayaker. Your income—or at least, your sense of well-being— is directly determined by what falls from the sky.

Editor’s Note: The Power of UC Berkeley

When you check out the table of contents for this iteration of CALIFORNIA you might be surprised by the many entries listed in the feature well. Generally speaking, the well is where we offer up several long-form stories off the theme of the magazine. The number of stories and bylines this time around doesn’t mean we’ve exceeded our usual page count, or eliminated all the other departments. It just means we are offering one very long story and some very short ones.

From the Winter 2017 Power issue of California.

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