How one human cell generated centuries of unnecessary tragedy and misery

A picture of a crowd…once I abstracted it for color, all variations of skin tone lose their meaning

I’ve never considered myself a cynical person, but I do sometimes scoff when I hear people speak of evolution as the triumphant story of the human species rising to the top over all other forms of life on earth. We’re the only species that we thought highly enough of to give ourselves the moniker sapiens. No other species gets to be wise — just we humans. Florida, in fact — and it is not alone in this dubious distinction — legally defines an animal as “any living dumb creature.”…

Why the law can’t time travel

Will America’s past end up in the Supreme Court?

Over the past month or so, the United States, and indeed the world, has witnessed some of the most intense and widespread protests aimed at calling attention to and trying to abolish racial injustice once and for all. Nearly all of these protests were incited by events in the present — the killing of George Floyd in police custody, for example — but at the same time, nearly all of these protests have intentionally linked themselves to events in the past. …

Think like a lawyer, not like a protester

Federal Courthouse in Minneapolis

At this point, everyone in the entire country, and most likely everyone in the entire world (and even in orbit around it) knows what happened in Minneapolis. On the evening of May 25, George Floyd, an unarmed black man, died while in police custody after his pleas and protests that he couldn’t breathe were ignored by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. The entire, gut-wrenching scene was captured on video by bystanders, who were also pleading for help and pleading with Mr. Chauvin to remove his knee from George Floyd’s neck.

For most…

The Book of Revelation got it wrong

When the first stentorian blast of the apocalyptic trumpet that marks the beginning of the End of Days is heard round the world, as hail, fire, and blood rain down on earth (apparently fire can rain down because, you know, apocalypse), the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will already be on their way to deliver some Very Bad News to the Very Wretched People of Earth. This Very Bad News, the genuine opposite of Good News (which is what the word Gospel actually means), is that the moment has arrived in which everyone…

Episode 1: What to expect when you’re expecting the military

The last lecture I gave at UC Berkeley before campus was shut down due to the COVID-19 health crisis was rather eerily a lecture on global crises, the last third of which focused on global pandemics. Little did I know less than two weeks later I would be living that lecture. I’ve since moved my university lectures online but thought this would also be a good time to move things toward a new audience. This is the first installment of what I hope to make an ongoing series.

From a…

How a liberal bastion mistook egregious insensitivity for clever irony

Chez Panisse in Berkeley: for many, the birthplace of California cuisine

Berkeley isn’t like other towns. Don’t get me wrong — I love Berkeley. But there’s no denying the fact that it’s a rather idiosyncratic and quirky place. In Berkeley, you wouldn’t at all be surprised to read a story about local residents beating a drug dealer to death — nonviolently, of course — not because he was selling meth in their neighborhood, but because the meth he was selling wasn’t organic.

You might also be forgiven for thinking that Berkeley’s “ghetto” problem has something to do with the current housing…

It’s true—dczook2020 is now a thing

I never thought I’d write these words, but as of today, November 3, I am running for the office of president of the United States. This is not something I came upon lightly, nor something I did due to boredom, spite, or an enchanted fit of megalomania. No, I decided to run for president because I am deeply worried about the misguided direction this country has taken and the bitter partisan rancor that has settled in since the 2016 elections. …

Besides it’s not for sale

Just another summer day in eastern Greenland

My timing could not have been better, or worse, depending on on one’s perspective. I had just sat down for a breakfast chat with a government minister in Greenland when suddenly his cell phone started to ring. He glanced at his phone to see who was calling, then gave me the official “I need to take this” glance, and excused himself to take what I assumed was an important call. A few minutes later he returned, looking properly flummoxed. “I’ve just been informed that your president wants to buy my country,” he said in consternation…

And not the other way around

Hong Kong has had a long history of protests since July 1997: here protesters gather during the Umbrella Revolution in 2014, against Beijing’s interference in Hong Kong’s electoral process

When Hong Kong’s Security Bureau submitted a formal proposal to the city’s legislature in February 2019 requesting changes to Hong Kong’s existing extradition laws, no one in the Security Bureau or in the legislature probably thought anything was amiss. The request, after all, came as a response to a specific situation involving a murder suspect in Taiwan who had fled to Hong Kong — since Hong Kong had no extant extradition arrangements with either Taiwan or mainland China, the courts were unable to submit extradition requests to Hong Kong to have the murder suspect…

And just wait until you see its immigration policy

For several years now, many a left-leaning politician, most notably Bernie Sanders, has touted Denmark as a potential model for the future of America. On the surface, the argument seems quite straightforward: Denmark’s politics tend toward the socialist left, Denmark is remarkably free from corruption and crime, and Denmark has often been ranked as the happiest country in the world — none of those could possibly be a coincidence, so it stands to reason that socialism, or at least socialist-inspired policy, makes Denmark safe, prosperous, and happy.

Like many things in…


Academic, film maker, and musician whose day job is teaching peace, politics, and human rights at the University of California, Berkeley.

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