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What It Means to Be American

The Golden State's Unpopular Pro-Slavery Governor

The First American Executive of California Was a Pioneering Man of the West—and the South

By R. Gregory Nokes

Peter Hardeman Burnett had probably the most impressive list of achievements of any leader in the early American West. He served on the supreme court of the Oregon Territory and became the first governor of California.
    So why has he been forgotten?
    Because sometimes history gets things right. Burnett’s stellar resume could not offset his blatant racism and inept leadership, which have denied him a prominent place in the region’s history.
    Burnett is best remembered, if he is remembered at all, for his governorship of California, in 1849. He resigned in 1851, with little to show for his time in office, other than failed attempts to win enactment of an exclusion law against African Americans. He made questionable decisions that undermined his leadership, including changing the 1850 Thanksgiving observance ...


How Moving to England Cured My 'American Verbal Inferiority Complex'

The Beauty of Rule-Based American English Is That It's More Democratic Than the Brits' Version

By Lynne Murphy

I had lived in England for three years when Eats, Shoots and Leaves struck in 2003. English writer Lynne Truss’ “zero tolerance approach to pronunciation” became a British publishing phenomenon—helped along by its fun title and its naming and shaming of proofreading sins. By that time, I’d begun learning the many ways in which U.K. punctuation norms differ from my native American, and I was working to become a punctuation “bilingual” so that I could more appropriately correct the work of my British students.
    So I was bemused when the book went on to become a publishing phenomenon in the United States—with no changes from the British edition. Not only did it refer to full stops and inverted ...

Connecting California Joe Mathews

  • Could California's Coldest Place Blaze a Path to Better Development?

    Up in the Sierra, the Town of Truckee Is Embracing Dense Urban Growth

    One of California’s hottest development projects can be found in one of its coldest towns.
        In an era of bitter neighbor-bites-neighbor fights against big developments, perhaps it’s fitting that an antidote should emerge from ...

  • L.A. Is Drowning in Its Own Water Pretensions

    Civic Leaders' Fantastical Claims of Water Self-Sufficiency May Endanger Southern California's Real Water Supplies

    This time, “Chinatown” is fooling itself.
        Los Angeles has a long history of water deceptions, a point made famously by Roman Polanski’s 1974 neo-noir film. But the massive self-sabotage of the city’s latest scheme is a real doozy. L.A.—from elected ...

  • Video Highlights

    Several years before a certain Queens real estate tycoon became president, Yascha Mounk had a sense that the United States and other liberal democracies had arrived at “a moment of acute political instability.” ...