Law + Policy

Opium Dreamland: Reporter Sam Quinones on Heroin, Pills and his Punk-Rock Roots

Punk rock, which was big during the years writer Sam Quinones spent at UC Berkeley, turned out to be more than just the background noise of an undergraduate life.

For Quinones, who double-majored in economics and American history, it provided an opportunity. He produced several punk shows while he was a student living at the now-shuttered Barrington Hall co-op, bringing in well-known bands such as The Dead Kennedys and Black Flag. “They were probably the biggest shows ever at Barrington Hall,” he said.

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Division Street Debacle: Nothing Else Works—Why Not Legalize Homeless Encampment?

For superstitious reasons, 13th Street in San Francisco is called Duboce, and Duboce eventually becomes Division Street, running beneath a freeway that splits right to Oakland and left toward the Golden Gate Bridge. It was here, where the sidewalks had little foot traffic and there was some shelter from the rains, that a settlement of homeless people grew up in the past year. It was much like a smaller version of the favelas of Rio do Janeiro or the colonias of Tijuana, yet big enough to upset the San Franciscans driving by.

Capturing the College Vote: Law Students’ Bill to Register for Classes and Voting

What to do about typically anemic voter turnout among young people? Two UC Berkeley law students are behind a proposal that would automatically register students to vote when they enroll for classes in any public college or university in California.

Berkeley Law third-year Cindy Dinh and first-year Paul Monge drafted the bill with its sponsor, Assemblymember David Chiu, D-San Francisco. He accepted their idea as part of “There Ought to Be a Law” a program, which allows people to submit plans to change or create laws.

California’s Water System Leaks Like a Sieve—How To Save Millions of Gallons

The drought may not have caused California’s water crisis, but it’s certainly brought it to the attention of a public largely uninterested in it until government fiat made shorter showers and dead lawns de rigueur. State water demand has outstripped supply for decades. Water rights claims for the massive State Water Project and federal Central Valley Project outpace average annual supplies by at least five fold.

Reality Check or Unicorn Hunt: Economists Clash Over Sanders’s Plans

A veritable wonk storm is erupting over the share-the-wealth plans of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, with the country’s leading Democratic economists joining the hail of public letters, op-eds and blog posts debating whether his numbers add up or are merely magical thinking.

‘This Is Not a Stunt:’ Behind the Campaign to Force Politicians to Wear Sponsor Labels

NASCAR drivers, golfers and tennis players won’t be the only ones wearing patches touting their sponsors if a San Diego millionaire has his way. Republican entrepreneur John Cox is bankrolling a proposed initiative for the November ballot that would require members of the California Assembly and State Senate to wear stickers or badges emblazoned with the names of their top 10 donors.

The Poll Slayer: New Book Argues that Surveys are Simplistic But Humans are Complicated

It’s virtually impossible these days to imagine an America without those vaunted interpreters of the national mood: polls. They help determine the fate of political contenders, shape social policies, and interpret the mood of the nation. The aggregator realclearpolitics.com lists no fewer than 22 public polls in the past week focused on the Democratic presidential primary alone.

But are polls as useful as we think?

Reconsidering Socialism: Younger Voters No Longer See the Label as Toxic

Technically, the jury is still out on whether Bernie Sanders’s identification as a socialist will hurt the Vermont senator in the Democratic presidential primaries. Slate’s Jordan Weissmann says it was the best thing Sanders ever did, because it conveys the notion that he will implement “fundamental changes in politics” at a time where people desperately want them.

All’s Well That Tends Wells? New State Law To Control Sucking Up of Water

The drought gets a lot of undeserved blame for California’s water crisis. Naturally, four dry years have exacerbated the problem, but the real culprit is the state’s Gold Rush–era water law, which has allowed landowners to sink wells that suck ever deeper and drier— unfettered by any accountability to their neighbors, their region, or the state. Historically low groundwater levels have resulted, spawning all kinds of Wild West drama. The Central Valley is sinking! A thousand Tulare County wells go dry!

Back in Bleak: Nearly Half of U.S. Jobs Are Likely to Vanish in 20 Years. Then What?

Ever get that feeling that you’re slowly sinking into a financial morass, a fiscal tar pit from which you’ll never emerge, no matter how or what you try? That the odds are so grim that your children and their children will end up in even worse shape than you? That the middle class is indeed moribund if not dead, that the rich are getting richer and the poor (including you) are getting poorer, and that the trend will only accelerate until you’re eking by on the dole—if there were a dole, that is. This isn’t the United Kingdom, after all.

Oh Snap! Founding Fathers Didn’t Envision Snapchatting State of Union

Not unlike virtually everyone under the age of 25, the White House has a blog. And its most recent post reads like a hokey commercial: “Our Official Story will take you behind the scenes of the White House’s State of the Union preparations, with footage and angles you won’t find anywhere else.”

Where you will find the “Official Story” is on Snapchat, the third most popular social media app (after Facebook and Twitter), which famously allows users to send photos and videos that only last a short time before disappearing.

Elusive Target: Can New Push to Background-Check More Gun Buyers Make a Difference?

In the short but statistic-fueled period after every recent U.S. mass shooting, the gun control debate is roused from its intermittent slumber. Whether the victims are in grade-school classrooms in Sandy Hook, on a college campus in Oregon, at a predominantly African-American church in South Carolina, or attending a holiday party in San Bernadino, the results have become predictable. Gun control advocates plead for tighter restrictions that might curb violence.

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