Category: America

Randomly Searching for Terrorists

In the wake of the London Tube bombings, New York City has adopted a new policy to screen subway riders. Teams of police officers set up tables near turnstiles. Signs nearby announce that backpacks and handbags are subject to inspection. If riders don’t want to be searched, they’re free to leave the station without their...

Apologizing for Murder

The Philip Morris Company, whose core business is manufacturing and marketing tobacco products, has started running television advertisements for the company’s Web site, ads that spotlight PhilMo’s commitment to helping people quit smoking. The spots assure consumers that a visit to www.phillipmorrisusa.com will yeild stark scientific evidence that smoking causes all the diseases that for decades cigarette...

America’s Greatest Export

While traveling abroad in Southeast Asia, we shirked from inquiring eyes when George Bush’s coronation was broadcast live on CNN. We weren’t ashamed to be an American — on the contrary, we’re proud to be a citizen of this glorious country — but at that inglorious moment in history we were mortified to have come...

Thankful

STARTING SUNDAY, 11/29: “Report from the Street” On Thanksgiving Day most of us will eat too much. Many will watch football games. Some will retrieve playing cards from the closet, or a worn mah jong table. If we’re lucky we’ll be among friends and family, basking in the comforting warmth of people who know us well...

The Privilege, the Honor, the Responsibility

We have a very smart friend, an American, who never votes. He excuses his laziness with an intricate, self-negating argument that equates voting with an endorsement of a broken and fraudulent process. Like many citizens of this great country, my friend hasn’t traveled very much, and never to a place we would call a “third-world” nation,...

A Subtle Hazard of Reading the Wall Street Journal

As a counterbalance to the reflexively liberal Los Angeles Times, which we read every morning, we also read the reflexively conservative Wall Street Journal on weekdays. The paper is extraordinarily well-written, and its non-news feature articles are better than those in most magazines. The problem with reading the WSJ every morning, though, is that you soon discover the way the...

Three Strikes

Editorial Note: Our position on the death penalty has evolved in the decade since the original publication of this essay. California presently has a law on the books known as “Three Strikes” — as in, “and your out.” Recidivist criminals who have been convicted of two felonies are supposed to be scared of the penalty...

The Pernicious Funnel

The United States of America is presently running a larger deficit than any other time in its history. Measured in constant dollars, which adjusts for inflation, our country is deeper in debt than ever. Dozens of states, including California, the republic of the west coast, are running near-catastrophic deficits that inspire economic commentators to use...

Fifty Years After Brown v. Board of Education

In 1954, after years of prevaricating and equivocating, the United States Supreme Court finally decided that the “separate but equal” test established in Plessy v. Ferguson was discriminatory and unconstitutional. For the next fifty years, people of color have been slowly integrated into our still-racist society. Today, blacks are no longer required to go to...

Including Dogs in Everyday Life

I’m presently going over the manuscript for my next book, an account of traveling through Europe with my wonderful mutt, Ella. (It will be out around this time next year.) Just as I’m reviewing a section of the book about Ella lunching with me at one of Paris’s finest restaurants, I’m confronted (yet again) by...