• Is California a Great Ideas Incubator, or an Insular Bubble?

    To Be a Leader on National Issues, We Must Leave Our Smug, Protective Cocoon

    By Joe Mathews

    California, do you want to be an incubator for great ideas—or a bubble that shuts out the world
        That’s the question Californians need to ask, as we simultaneously confront three big challenges: building a more sustainable economy …

  • Is Our Culture of Empathy Perpetuating Inequality?

    Feeling Others’ Pain Lets Us Ignore the Power Structures That Really Divide Us

    By Carolyn Pedwell

    We desperately need more empathy. At least, that’s what we are told—in political rhetoric, in bestselling popular science books, in international development discourse, in feminist and anti-racist activism. Among current political antagonisms, especially the ...

New at Zócalo


Emmanuel Macron’s Centrist Victory May Only Add Fuel to the Populist Fire

France’s Middle-of-the-Road Strategy Risks Alienating the Left, Enraging the Right, and Inspiring Almost No One

By Léonie de Jonge

Last year, the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President sparked fears of a worldwide populist revolt. But when Geert Wilders’s right-wing populist Freedom Party finished second in the Dutch general elections in March 2017, and Marine Le Pen was defeated in the run-off of the French presidential elections two months later, some political commentators were quick to suggest that we have passed “peak populism.”
    In particular, the notable victory of Emmanuel Macron in France led many to conclude that the populist tide had turned. Exceeding all expectations, the young centrist not only claimed the French presidency, but also ...

Connecting California

L.A.'s Revelatory Light Rail for Nerds

The Gold Line Has Become a Brain Train, Linking Educational Institutions From Pasadena to East L.A.

By Joe Mathews

My train line is smarter than your train line.
    I’m a regular rider of “The Brain Train,” officially known as the Gold Line on the L.A. Metro system’s. The Gold Line is light rail running from the eastern San Gabriel Valley into downtown L.A. and then back out again to East L.A. Along the way, it connects enough smart institutions—from innovative community colleges, to a leading cancer center, to the world’s greatest scientific university—to explode stereotypes about public transportation and Southern California itself.
    Yes, other parts of California may claim brainier trains: The Caltrain commuter rail runs the Silicon Valley from San Francisco to Stanford to San Jose; San Diego is in the process of extending its trolley to UCSD; and Sonoma and Marin Counties are about to inaugurate the SMART train ...

Connecting California/Joe Mathews

  • The Next Great California Bridge Should Span the High Desert

    Infrastructure Linking Palmdale and Victorville Could Boost L.A.—and All of North America

    What’s the fastest way to change California?
        Assuming you don’t have the power to set off a major earthquake, your best bet would be to connect the two small desert cities of Palmdale and Victorville.
        These two working-class places ...

  • California, Let's Celebrate July 4 by Declaring Independence

    With the U.S. Mired in Midlife Crisis, It's Time to Put the Golden State First

    Dear America,
        I suppose I should wish you happy birthday. But I’m just not feeling it.
        You and I, the United States and California, used to be pretty darn close—“indivisible” was your word and “inseparable” was ...

  • Why San Diego and The Donald Are on a Collision Course

    United by Patriotic Spirit, Divided by Trump, the Border City Could Become a Battleground

    If you wish to inspect the front lines of the conflict between Donald Trump and California, head for San Diego.
        Yes, it’s true that the Golden State’s fight against the president has so far taken place in the courts and in cyberspace. And, sure, challenging The Donald’s legitimacy ...

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