Len Zwelling

Suicide Is One Thing. Killing Me Is Another

On November 18, 1978, The Reverend Jim Jones led the mass suicide of 918 of his followers in Guyana. It is generally thought that the people from the People’s Temple died by drinking cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. It was really Flavor Aid and had all sorts of drugs in it including cyanide, but the incident became the origin of the phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid.”

“No”: The Magic Word

Kurt Streeter’s opinion piece in The New York Times on July 29 describes the power asserted by gymnast Simone Biles when she said “no.” Ms. Biles had had enough of the pressure to perform, the abuse by team doctors and the abusive coaching by the Karolyis. We don’t know precisely why Ms. Biles decided at this moment that she had reached her tipping point. But she had.

The Confusion Of American Jews

I remember it like it was yesterday, but it was the fall of 1966.

I was a new freshman at Duke University. I had taken my first trip below the Mason-Dixon line to get there and was adjusting to the food (hush puppies and Brunswick stew), clothes (alpaca sweaters and tassel loafers), and language (drawls and y’alls). I was also adjusting to being one of the only Jews on campus.

I Knew I Hated Technology For A Reason

This article by Alyssa Lukpat in The New York Times on July 19 tells a mighty sad story. Apparently people are getting lost and even dying while hiking on mountains in Europe and the United States because they arm themselves for the hike with just a smartphone. They use Google maps and other apps as guides to ascend what turn out to be dangerous hills because the trail indicated on the phone is the most direct, but not the safest and the screen on the phone is so small as to give insufficient detail for safe ascent and descent.

The Future Of Texas

Mimi Swartz is the executive editor of Texas Monthly and is based in Houston. Richard Parker is an author writing about the Southwest. They both had opinion pieces in The New York Times on July 15 about the great state of Texas and how the political agenda of the Texas GOP has veered the state off course.

Flighty Texas Democrats

If you can’t win a political argument, I guess you can run away. That’s what the Democrats in the Texas State Legislature decided to do to avoid the passage of the voter suppression legislation pushed by Republican legislators and Governor Abbott. Abbott is furious that the Dems left and broke the needed quorum in the state legislature. My guess is that he will deploy the Department of Public Safety to arrest and jail the Democrats when they return home and then call another special session of the legislature until he gets what he wants.


In The New York Times on Sunday, July 4, Alexander Burns writes about the immutability of the current split in the American electorate. No matter what President Biden accomplishes, about 53% of the voters will approve and 47% will not. Despite the awful loss by President Trump in 2020 (by 7 million votes), he still won 25 states. Between that, the deep divide between whites and everyone else being exploited by the GOP, the suppression of voting by Republican state legislatures, and even the financial misdeeds alleged of the Trump Organization, Mr. Trump is still popular and has a strangle hold on the Republican Party. It is frankly amazing.