Everybody is talented because everybody who is human has something to express. ― Brenda Ueland
I have been a writer for a long time, it just took me a while to realize it. In high school I was considered by my teachers to be a bad writer because I never cared much about the rules of spelling or grammar. I should have told them that in the future something called Microsoft Word would take care of that for me. Good writing, as it turns out, is less about following rules then about being able to conjure up a compelling paragraph out of thin air.
As an assistant to politicians I learned the art of writing dry memos. As an advocate I learned how to write opinion articles that could be persuasive in 750 words. When I wrote my first book (about California ballot politics) I learned how to write something that took months. When I wrote a book about Bolivia with a group of young people, I learned the joy of teaching writing to others.
I wrote a novel once. It was a terrible book but a great experience. I wrote it on a series of trips over several years to a small town in the Bolivian mountains. These journeys always began with a half-day’s ride in a rickety bus through barren plains then a green cloud forest. On arrival I planted myself alone in the same rickety room in the same a rickety old hotel on the main plaza, and for a week at a time I lived in the novel and ignored the clock. Later I put the creativity that I learned from that experience into a different and much better book, a family memoir of our time in Bolivia, My Other Country.
Today I write regular columns for two publications, the 199-year-old daily Lockport Union-Sun and Journal (in the town where I now live) and the New York Review of Books Daily. Here is an assorted collection of my writings, some recent and some not, some serious and some not, which I hope you will enjoy.
New York Review of Books
Statistics tell us that in the U.S. we have retreated into enclaves of the like-minded, liberals with liberals, conservatives with conservatives.
I do not have that problem.
New York Review of Books
On the night of Evo Morales’s 2006 inauguration as president of Bolivia, the streets of La Paz were electric. A man who had once fed on discarded orange peels as a boy was now his nation’s leader.
New York Times
My op-ed in the New York Times about the battle over putting facial recognition cameras in schools in Lockport New York.
New York Review of Books
The great debate over voting by mail has begun. Here in Lockport, NY this past June we had a test run of what an all-vote-by-mail election looks like.
The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a giant bite out of global carbon emissions. Let's not lose the chance to take aim at the Great American Commute.
Lockport Union-Sun and Journal
In June the NYCLU filed a lawsuit over the Lockport school district’s facial recognition surveillance system. I am one of the parent plaintiffs in this case.
A family memoir of nineteen years spent living in Bolivia (NFB Press 2020) Read more and order.
The Story of Bolivia's brave battles against globalization (University of California Press 2009)
A practical guide for advocates on how to change the world (Rutgers University Press 2002)
The Blog of a Gringo returning home to the US after 19 years in Bolivia. Read it here.
The complete set of my local articles on the Lockport School District's first-in-the-nation experiment in high tech privacy invasion in public schools, in the Lockport Union-Sun and Journal.
A look at how communities all across the U.S. are surrounded by ‘socialism,’ the new political bogeyman. Nationally syndicated column from the Lockport Union-Sun and Journal.
A series of portraits and stories about being black in the heart of Trump’s America, in the Lockport Union-Sun and Journal.
How we became so separate, and how we might come back together, in the Lockport Union-Sun and Journal.
As workers at GM plants across the U.S. went on strike in 2019, a look at the wider meaning, from a city where GM once meant everything, in the Lockport Union-Sun and Journal.
The full collection of my reporting from and about Bolivia’s historic rebellion against the Bechtel Corporation, at the Democracy Center. Read it here.
My trip from home to work this morning began as it usually does, leaving the front door of my house hand-in-hand with my 5-year-old daughter for the walk through the countryside to her school. If I walked it alone I could do it in just over 5 minutes. With my daughter it takes almost 20. There is a lot to see. Read more.
The streets of Cochabamba have turned into a battle zone. Throughout the city people have armed themselves with everything from small pistols to long barreled rifles. From behind walls the unsuspecting are attacked with small hand-held bombs. No one is safe from attack. It is Carnival week in Bolivia and the entire city of Cochabamba has turned into an all-out, non-stop, no-holds-barred, water war. Read more.
Hey San Francisco and Portland, hey Boston and New York. Brag if you will of your new bicycle lanes and bike lending programs. But let’s see you shut down all car traffic in a city of 600,000 for a day. Read more.
One of the most interesting and under-reported stories during my time in Bolivia. The U.S. goes behind the back of a truly decent man, Bolivia’s 2005-2006 interim President, to seize missiles from its military arsenal, and leaves him holding the bag and subject to criminal prosecution. Read it here.