The Golden State’s Unpopular Pro-Slavery Governor

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

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 …

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How Americans Can Keep a Closer Eye on Spy Agencies

Democracy's Checks and Balances Are Catching up With the Shadowy World of Intelligence-Gathering

Since its beginnings, the United States has deployed secret services to advance the nation’s interests. Today, 17 major organizations make up America’s so-called Intelligence Community. From 1787 until 1975, the …

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

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 …

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 …

Why Americans Are Afraid to Talk to Reporters

They Fear Backlash From Their Neighbors, and Are Wary the Media Will Exploit Them

It’s been a landmark year for ordinary citizens in the news. Without the hurricane survivors, student protestors, mass shooting victims, and sexual abuse survivors who agreed to speak to reporters, …