Native American Genocide and American Exceptionalism

Native American Genocide and American Exceptionalism

In 1846, California had a Native American population of about 150,000. Just 27 years later, that figure had plummeted to just 30,000. I didn’t learn that as a schoolkid in southern California in the 1960s; I picked up that and lots of other facts I was never taught from a recent book called “An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe,” by UCLA history professor Benjamin Madley. And that got me thinking about “American exceptionalism.” American exceptionalism, explains historian Ian Tyrrell, “refers to the special character of the United States as a uniquely free nation based on democratic ideals and personal liberty.” California’s 19th century Native American…
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Dear White People: We Have to Fix the Trump Problem

Dear White People: We Have to Fix the Trump Problem

If you’ve noticed the photo that accompanies my blog posts, you’ve probably figured out that I’m white. I don’t normally bring that up, but this message is particularly for my fellow white people. We need to face the fact that we caused the Trump problem, and we have to take responsibility for fixing it. We elected Trump, who, according to the exit polls, lost nonwhite voters by over 3-to-1 while carrying whites by a comfortable 20 point margin. Whites – not all of us, but a healthy majority of us – inflicted upon America the torrent of hate, narrow-mindedness, pathological lying and disregard for facts and science that has marked…
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Dreams from My Father: Nazis in America

Dreams from My Father: Nazis in America

My dad fought in World War II, but didn’t talk about it much. As a doctor with the army in the Pacific, I’m sure he saw lots of things he didn’t want to remember. But he did tell me one thing that’s stuck with me vividly: “I was p***ed off they sent me to the Pacific. I wanted to go to Europe and kill Nazis.” That’s no surprise. Though not observant, my dad’s family was Jewish. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to be thousands of miles away, seeing what the Nazis were doing to Jews in Europe, and be unable to do anything about it.…
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The Nonsense of “Free Market” Health Care

The Nonsense of “Free Market” Health Care

Conservatives now pushing to replace the Affordable Care Act with some version of the concoction commonly derided as “Trumpcare” regularly talk about how we can have better, more affordable health care by getting government out of the way. The “free market,” they tell us, will make everything better if simply left alone to do so. What utter horse-puckey. The essence of free market theory is that consumers vote with their dollars, forcing companies to compete by offering better products or services for less money. That works fine in some circumstances, but health care is not and can never be one of them. If you doubt me, let’s look at one…
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Defend Freedom of the Press

Defend Freedom of the Press

Before entering the nonprofit world, I used to be a reporter.  And I want to tell you a little story about freedom of the press. About 17 or 18 years ago, I wrote a series of stories for the San Francisco Bay Guardian about pending cuts to city health services – cuts city officials claimed would streamline and improve these services, while the health providers in their employ insisted they would harm their most vulnerable patients. In the course of my reporting, I attended several Health Commission meetings, and after one meeting I approached Monique Zmuda, an official in the city Controller’s office whom I’d interviewed a couple weeks prior.…
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March for Science, but Ask Questions

March for Science, but Ask Questions

Like hundreds of thousands across the U.S. and around the world, I marched for science on Saturday. And like most who attended these events, I marched because the Trump administration both denigrates critical research on issues like climate change and has called for massive cuts in research funding. Those cuts could cripple research into climate change, weather forecasting, opioid addiction, the Zika epidemic and more. We must support science against these attacks, but we must do so with our eyes open. At the San Francisco march I attended and in reports from the main march in Washington, D.C. and others around the globe, I heard a few things that made…
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We Will Save America: An Ecosystem Starts to Heal

We Will Save America: An Ecosystem Starts to Heal

Perspective.  We all struggle for it, and for most of us that struggle’s only gotten worse since last November’s election. One way to get some perspective is to turn off the TV, put away the smartphone and detach from the cascade of madness that is the news. Sometimes nature will tell you things you won’t get from Twitter or Facebook or cable news. On Sunday, I went for a hike in the Indian Valley Open Space Preserve outside of Novato.  After years of punishing drought, this winter’s rains have brought about an astonishing transformation.  Instead of the brown, dry desolation California has experienced, the creeks burbled, the waterfalls splashed enthusiastically,…
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#NoBanNoWallNoRaids: Why I Stand with Immigrants and Refugees

#NoBanNoWallNoRaids: Why I Stand with Immigrants and Refugees

I guess I’m lucky. I won’t personally be hurt if the recent ICE raids on undocumented immigrants continue, or if the courts validate the president’s attempt to ban refugees from certain Muslim countries. I’m a citizen. I’m white. I don’t “look foreign” and am unlikely to be mistaken for an immigrant or refugee. But I cannot, must not, be silent as people who look different from me are rounded up. I have undocumented friends, and many more friends and coworkers who have undocumented family members.  I will not just leave them to fend for themselves. I can’t believe I even need to say this, but they are all good, caring,…
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Congress Attacks Low-Income Workers

Congress Attacks Low-Income Workers

In 2011, Greenlining released a reported called “The Economic Crisis Facing Seniors of Color,” which highlighted the disproportionate degree to which people of color lack access to pensions, 401(k)s and other retirement plans. It’s not that they don’t want to save for retirement: Asian Americans, Latinos and African Americans are simply less likely to work for a company that sponsors a retirement plan. Among other things, our report called for passage of legislation that had been introduced by Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) to create portable, totally voluntary, state-backed retirement savings plans for workers who don’t have access to such a program at work. The bill didn’t create major…
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De-Fanging Our Heroes

De-Fanging Our Heroes

In an era when open expressions of bigotry, hate and contempt for the less fortunate are on the rise, I find myself wondering how we got here. Lots of factors contribute, but we might want to pay more attention to our national tendency to take our heroes and de-fang and de-claw them – turning them into warm and fuzzy but largely empty shells, cutting the heart out of what they tried to teach us. Many have addressed what some call the “Santa Clausification” of Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we just celebrated. Annual MLK commemorations contain lots of “I have a dream” but shockingly little about King’s fierce and…
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