A selection of published pieces that remain topical, important, fun, or some combination:
July 31, 2016 — The courts belatedly cry foul over voter ID laws being adopted by Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country and mitigate some of the risk of Democratic votes being suppressed in key swing states in November. In The Guardian.
April 22, 2016 — Why the Utah Republican Party’s experiment with online voting in its primary was a disaster and a warning to others tempted by the lure of convenience over ballot security. In The Guardian.
April 20, 2016 — Why voter ID laws risk becoming the hanging chad of the 2016 presidential election. An op-ed in the Los Angeles Times.
April 15, 2016 — The battle over voting rights in Arizona, triggered by a lawsuit backed by the Clinton campaign. In The Guardian.
February 23, 2016 — Why the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia may be good news for voting rights this election season, after years of setbacks. In The Guardian.
January 27, 2016 — The fascinating, alarmingly perilous sport of freediving, whose participants seek the ultimate high by plunging to the depths and having their lungs wrung out like wet laundry. My review of Adam Skolnick’s One Breath: Freediving, Death, and the Quest to Shatter Human Limits. In the Los Angeles Review of Books.
January 5, 2016 — My profile of Edward Blum, a one-man wrecking crew who has figured out how to bypass Congress and appeal directly to the Supreme Court to demolish voter protections and affirmative action on behalf of his conservative funders. Revealingly, even he wonders if he’s gone too far. In The Guardian.
December 10, 2015 — How the latest spate of mass shootings, including the Isis-inspired massacre in San Bernardino, California, is forcing criminal profilers and behavioral psychologists to reassess their thinking about “mission-oriented mass violence”. In The Guardian.
November 29, 2015 — One side-effect of America’s epidemic of gun violence is that its police agencies know better than anyone how to respond to mass-casualty shootings — knowledge put to use in last November’s shocking attacks in Paris and in Mali. In The Guardian.
November 19, 2015 — The sinister brilliance of Coca-Cola and Pepsi, which founded an entire industry on sugar water, and why it’s so hard to do anything to stop them wrecking our public health. A review of Marion Nestle’s Soda Wars. In the Los Angeles Review of Books.
October 11, 2015 — The lively campaign, more than sixty years after the end of World War Two, to exonerate the so-called “Port Chicago 50”, munitions workers who survived a horrifying explosion in northern California only to be convicted of mutiny when they refused to return to work under similarly dangerous conditions. In The Guardian.
September 23, 2015 — The controversial legacy of the world’s newest saint, Father Junipero Serra, whose California missions in the late 18th century were once described as “picturesque charnel-houses”. In The Guardian.
August 22, 2015 — The topsy-turvy power politics that allows California’s most powerful water broker to grow almonds in one of the driest corners of the state and enjoy brimming irrigation canals when his immediate neighbors are gagging for water in the fourth year of drought. In The Guardian.
June 25, 2015 — What Islamist extremists and white supremacists who carry out mass shootings have in common and why they represent an entirely new threat, for which labels like “terrorism” are largely unhelpful. In The Guardian.
May 19, 2015 — In which I sketch out my love affair with Albania, Europe’s accidental country. A review of Fred C. Abrahams’ compelling recent history, Modern Albania. In the Los Angeles Review of Books.
August 2, 2014 — My portrait of Colorado’s nascent marijuana industry, where sharp-eyed business entrepreneurs jostle with potheads who can’t quite believe it’s all now legal. In The Observer.
March 29, 2014 — The “conscious uncoupling” of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin and how it fits into the long Californian tradition of New Age self-realization. In The Observer.
February 11, 2014 — What the Amanda Knox murder trials reveal about Italian justice, the domain of “elegant partisan nontruth”. In the Los Angeles Review of Books.
November 7, 2013 — Separating fact and fiction in the gruesome, fascinating, and much-mythologized murder of Matthew Shepard. My review of Stephen Jimenez’s The Book of Matt. In the Los Angeles Review of Books.
October 6, 2013 — The nightmare of long-term solitary confinement, and why American prisons can’t seem to kick the habit despite horror stories, hunger strikes, and unequivocal international condemnation. In the Los Angeles Review of Books.
May 13, 2013 — On re-reading The Great Gatsby, and the differing natures of British versus American privilege. At Zocalo Public Square.
November 17, 2012 — Why America doesn’t seem that interested in celebrating its victory in the Cold War. My review of Jon Wiener’s engaging travelogue, How We Forgot the Cold War: A Historical Journey Across America. In the Los Angeles Review of Books.
September 12, 2012 — The outrageous case of Don Siegelman, the former Alabama governor stitched up and thrown in prison by his political enemies, who is still awaiting a pardon from President Obama. In The Guardian.
February 2, 2012 — Why online voting is a really, really bad idea, for the Oscars or any other kind of election. In The Guardian.
December 8, 2011 — The extraordinary battle over Richard Nixon’s legacy at the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California. In Pacific Standard.
April 16, 2009 — Why everything we think we know about the Columbine school shootings turns out to be wrong. In The Guardian.
July 1, 2003 — The greatest meal ever, or just the most tantalising? Why dinner at The French Laundry was like Wagner’s Liebestod on a plate. In The Independent.