Was Leland Stanford a ‘Magnanimous’ Philanthropist or a ‘Thief, Liar, and Bigot?’

The Railroad Baron and Governor of California Was Starkly Contradictory and Infamously Disruptive

Born in his father’s East Coast backwoods bar, dying in a magnificent West Coast mansion built from his self-made fortune. Condemned as the complete robber-baron, consecrated as a singular titan of American enterprise. Exalted as the magnanimous founder of a world-class university, damned as a thief, liar, and bigot.

With all of the stark contradictions in his character, Leland Stanford—a man best known as a railroad magnate, California governor, and putative philanthropist—embodies American typecasts that have bedeviled us for centuries. Today’s infamously disruptive, get-rich-quick, world-altering, ill-mannered, entrepreneurial culture traces …

The Beautiful Female Accomplice Whose Prosecution Fascinated Los Angeles | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The Beautiful Female Accomplice Whose Prosecution Fascinated Los Angeles

In 1933, Burmah White, aka the ‘Blonde Rattlesnake,’ Was Punished Harshly as a Warning to Worldly Girls

What is the root of our cultural fascination with women—often wives or girlfriends—who accompany men as they commit a violent or notorious crime? In recent years, the husband-and-wife San Bernardino …

Americans Mostly Kill the Ones We Know

For All the Media Obsession With Mass Shootings, Homicides in the U.S. Are Most Often About Familiarity and Contempt

Turn on your television in the coming months, and you will see and hear just how much Americans fear strangers and guns.

Yet when it comes to violent crime, especially …

The Morality of Murder

The ‘Charlie Hebdo’ Attackers, Like So Many People Who Use Violence, Probably Thought They Were Acting Righteously

The Charlie Hebdo massacre was utterly despicable. To nearly everyone, including nearly all Muslims, what the perpetrators did was a terrible moral transgression. From everything I’ve read about the events, …

I Covered San Francisco’s Bloody November of ’78

After the Murder of My Colleague and the Mayor's Assassination, I Kept Writing

I awoke before dawn on November 19, 1978, nearly 900 miles away from the city desk of the San Francisco Examiner, where I worked. As I stepped from the shower, …