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Why Saturday’s Slovakian election is a canary
in the coal mine for 2024

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San Francisco Chronicle

September 29


In a time when democracy around the world is under fire — both literally, with artillery, and politically, with disinformation — we’re too wrapped up in our own dysfunction to see threats that seem far away.

One of those threats in 2023 comes from the place where my grandfather was born more than a century ago. 

When your friend turns out to be a Trump voter, again

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San Francisco Chronicle

November 13


Just after the election, I had one of those “uncomfortable conversations” with a good friend.

There was an unforgettable moment when I realized that she had voted for President Trump ... again. She was just one of more than 4 million other Californians who thought he deserved a second term.

While I knew she was a lifelong Republican, a substantial part of me believed she could not possibly vote for a president whose worst qualities had only grown more monstrous in the past four years. That’s what you get for living in the Bay Area bubble, a bad case of naivete.

Modern communication: How we ignore one other

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San Francisco Chronicle

December 14


These are tough times if you value civility and civil discourse. I don’t have to tell you why; a check on your news feed and reading a few presidential impeachment tweets should convince you.

We’ve had to absorb two troubling and contradictory trends that the new social media technology brought us last decade. We are overwhelmed with connectedness. But we can also be ignored in a thousand more ways than we could in the 1990s.

Be kind to your poll worker — a creature near extinction

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San Francisco Chronicle

June 4


You might only see their faces today in a flash when they hand you a ballot. Or you might not see them at all, because you are one of the 11.5 million Californians who received a mail-in ballot and have already done your duty as a citizen.

But people who work at the polls for 15 hours, often making less than the state hourly minimum wage, should get a big smile and pat on the back from you today. Is there anything more American than being the person who enables other Americans to exercise their right to vote?

First amendment means something else to millennials

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San Francisco Chronicle

June 21


Over the last few years a chilling fact has become clear to me as a teacher of American Politics.

Our high school students, who are taught to be tolerant of their fellow students regardless of skin color or class, do not understand a basic tenet of the First Amendment: Mean people get to speak.

By teaching our children tolerance when they are in school, we might also teach them not to be tolerant of hateful people. But there’s the rub: tolerance of speech applies to everyone, not the ones who we decide deserve it.

Can we train police to not have ‘implicit’ racial bias?

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San Francisco Chronicle

October 11


“Enough of this seeking every opportunity to demean law enforcement broadly by making the accusation of implicit bias every time tragedy occurs.”

With that line, Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence connected a fairly arcane scientific subject with the police shooting of unarmed black men and women. He was answering Hillary Clinton’s claim in the first presidential debate that she would set aside money “to help us deal with implicit bias by retraining a lot of our police officers.”

Union vote could help

Bay Area adjunct professors get living wage

San Francisco Chronicle

December 10


The American dream is built on this axiom: If you go to school, then you will make more money and be more successful than the guy who didn’t go to school. High school and elementary teachers with years of training already know this is a myth. But when someone graduates with a Ph.D. (known ominously as a “terminal degree” because you can’t go any further even if you wanted to), there’s an assumption that the person will make a comfortable living at a nice university.

Race isn't black and white in the Ferguson story

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San Francisco Chronicle

September 14


If you asked Bay Area residents to show you St. Louis on a map, most would probably pause somewhere around Michigan and look puzzled. Yet it's the 19th largest city in the country, with 2.8 million people in the metropolitan area.

As a native St. Louisan, I have made peace with the fact that most of my neighbors consider my hometown a flyover zone. That is, a vast area of dusty plains and cornfields they know virtually nothing about except that it's an inconvenient stop on their way to the other coast.

Natural beauty defines New Zealand’s South Island

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San Jose

Mercury News

September 22


I peer down a glistening corridor of blue ice, while our guide works furiously below me. Chips of the glacier I stand on begin to fly into my eyes, and I look away as our new friend hammers away to make a crude step ladder for our trekking group.

Because I had some mountaineering experience, I initially sneered at the huge size of his ice ax, thinking that the tour company made him carry it just to impress tourists. But now I realize that he needs some real weight on his ax to carve steps into the Franz Josef Glacier on the west coast of New Zealand, one of the remaining beautiful ice floes that had carved deep fjords into this astounding landscape.

Sperry Chalet: $285 a night, no flush toilet

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San Francisco Chronicle

September 27


It was one of those hiker moments - 10 miles from any car, jagged peaks filling the horizon, snow fields the size of a small European nation - and I couldn't help but think it.

No marmots in my backpack tonight.

I'd finally reached the foot of the Sperry Glacier in Glacier National Park, Mont., and, had this been a normal backpacking trip into backcountry wilderness, I would have been scouting out a site for camp and mulling the few dozen things I must do to feed myself without attracting grizzly bears - and, of course, marmots.

Beware the 'courtesy gap' in Beijing

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San Francisco Chronicle

December 7


Beijing is not a place for demophobes - those with a fear of crowds. In this city of 15 million people, the streets are packed, night and day. In the summer the oppressive heat, humidity and smog, along with the equally oppressive crowds, is a traveler's nightmare.

The essential question for Beijing - and for the hearty pilgrims watching its lightning-fast transformation from Third- to First-World technology and architecture - is this: Do all of the great city's cultural treasures make up for all of the inconveniences? Perhaps so. But some may find the "courtesy gap" a little harder to swallow.

Published articles in the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News
Articles published as a columnist for the Daily Calfornian (2008-2009)
Daily Cal

October 12, 2016

Open Forum

July 27, 2008

Book Review

March 02, 2008

Book Review

January 06, 2008

First Person Column

December 16, 2007

Photo Box

July 01, 2007

Book Review

May 05, 2004

Book Review

July 27, 2003

Book Review

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SF Chronicle articles 2001-2008
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