politics

Step Right Up: Why Exactly Did I Vote for Bernie?

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the seductive nature of the 2016 American presidential campaign season. I like the drama, the mudslinging, the tabloid-style coverage, the gaffes, the slip-ups, and the never-ending political commentary from pundits. It’s oddly entertaining, no?

Although, let’s be honest: None of the empty party rhetoric and nastiness can prepare us or the candidates for the realities of elected office. We learned this lesson during Obama’s eight-year struggle to address serious issues while faced with a do-nothing Congress. Read more about Step Right Up: Why Exactly Did I Vote for Bernie? »

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

Step Right Up: Optimistic for America

On the 7th of June, 2016, in Oakland, California, I was among 1,057 “aliens” who became American citizens. We took the oath. We were welcomed and congratulated. We were told not only that we could vote, but that we should vote and that we could run for office.

In 2016, the United States is going to “naturalize” 700,000 new citizens. At nearly 70 years old, I’ve achieved this belatedly in life and more than a century after the big immigration wave that brought millions of my compatriots to these shores. Read more about Step Right Up: Optimistic for America »

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth 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. Read more about Step Right Up: Shaking Up Facebook »

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

Step Right Up: How to Feign Political Competence in Your 20s

In the Internet age, saying “I don’t know” about a political issue is considered socially unacceptable. After all, if we have all this information at our fingertips, the least we can do is a quick Google search. Like, really. It’s the least we can do. And the least is what most people do.

It’s hard to take a long look in the mirror and see blatant indecision staring back at you. So to avoid this self-reflection, there are ways to fake political knowledge. You know you don’t know anything about politics, but nobody else has to know that. Read more about Step Right Up: How to Feign Political Competence in Your 20s »

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

Starring Role: Berkeley Astronomer Turns Department Politics Into Holiday Plays

Eugene Chiang became a professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley in 2001 with the intention of contemplating the stars. But when he took on the role of writer, producer, director, prop/costume designer, and actor for the department’s annual holiday play, he became one himself, at least within the department. Read more about Starring Role: Berkeley Astronomer Turns Department Politics Into Holiday Plays »

In the Water Works: Bringing Clean Water to Kenya’s Largest Slum

Nairobi is a tough town, and there’s no place in Nairobi that’s tougher than Kibera, Africa’s largest slum. Maybe a half-million people live there, maybe a million. No one’s really counting. But virtually everyone is desperately poor, with per capita earnings averaging about a dollar a day. Rape, assault, and murder are simple facts of daily life. The streets are paved with rotting garbage, sewage flows in the gutters, disease is rampant, and city services are largely nonexistent. Read more about In the Water Works: Bringing Clean Water to Kenya's Largest Slum »

From the Summer 2016 Welcome to There issue of California.

Guilt Trip: How to Justify a Bargain Vacation in Beleaguered Greece

From the start, the whole trip seemed haphazard and conceptually incoherent. What was the rationale, our friends asked, for spending a week in the Czech Republic followed by 10 days in Greece and four in Paris?

The simple, reasonable answer: Horse-trading. It was our 20th anniversary and my husband, Dan, and I had learned that collaborative skill of long-term couples through trial and therapy. Dan would pick a place and I would pick a place, and we would start and end in Paris, the home of close friends and a hub for cheap non-stop flights. Read more about Guilt Trip: How to Justify a Bargain Vacation in Beleaguered Greece »

From the Summer 2016 Welcome to There issue of California.

Why We Get a More Conservative Congress If It’s Raining on Election Day

The weather has typically been the go-to form of small talk—what you bring up when you want to avoid the weighty subject of say, politics. But no more!

Politicos have long known that the weather, and rain in particular, affects voter turnout. But a new study takes it even further, suggesting that the weather on election day actually influences what the winners do after they take office.

It may sound bizarre, but here’s the logic: Read more about Why We Get a More Conservative Congress If It's Raining on Election Day »

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. Read more about Angels, Protesters and Patriots: What a Long-Ago Skirmish Says About Love of Country »

From the Spring 2016 War Stories issue of California.

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. Read more about Elusive Target: Can New Push to Background-Check More Gun Buyers Make a Difference? »

Performance Trumps Policy: Is The Donald’s Media Presence Enough for Nomination?

Since Donald Trump announced that he was running for president this past June, he’s spread through news headlines like the Resident Evil t-Virus. Judging by the number of readers he’s attracting and supporters he’s gaining, we now appear to be a nation of Trump zombies with an insatiable hunger for his next sapid statement or offhand comment. Read more about Performance Trumps Policy: Is The Donald's Media Presence Enough for Nomination? »

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