Julie L. Kessler
lawyer traveler writer


Privacy rights v. Free speech

Aug. 17, 2015

My article “If it’s on the Web, it’s true, right?” appears in today’s edition of The L.A. Daily Journal. The article discusses how your basic right to privacy stacks up against the competing interest of free speech.


The article also examines the right-to-be-forgotten rules as interpreted and applied by the European Court of Justice in the May 2014 Gonzalez case, as well as the recent decision by France’s Commission Nationale de l’informatique et des Libertes (CNIL) to order Google to apply those rules internationally. Google declined.


Legitimate arguments are present on both sides: Is it Internet censorship or the legitimate protection of one’s right to privacy?


There is now pending a case before the Federal Trade Commission against Google filed by the adovcacy group Consumer Watchdog, alleging that Google’s conduct is an “unfair and deceptive practice” under the FTC Act.


Is the price we pay for our critically important right of free speech that we have zero control over our Internet presence even when that information is misleading, incorrect or just plain wrong?

Cruising Alaska

Aug. 16, 2015

My article "Cruising Alaska" on Silversea's Silver Shadow appears on the front page of today’s edition of The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Sunday Travel section. Read it here:


The most hated man in America

Aug. 5, 2015

My article “What’s next for Cecil the lion’s killer” appeared in today’s edition of The L.A. Daily Journal. This article discusses Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer’s cowardly act of luring Zimbabwe’s national treasure, Cecil, out of the Hwange Reserve Park, shooting him with a bow and arrow, then spending the next 40 hours pursuing him. When finally caught, Palmer skinned Cecil, and then beheaded him. Killing simply for the sake of killing. Just because he could.

Because of the international outrage against this senseless act, Palmer’s River Bluff Dental practice in tony Bloomington, Minnesota has closed and he has gone underground. The article further discusses potential legal action against Palmer under The Lacey Act, as amended, a federal law which provides for both civil and criminal penalties, and also Zimbabwe’s extradition request that he stand trial there. (This was not Palmer’s first brush with federal authorities for illegal conduct. In 2009, Palmer was convicted for lying about a bear kill in Wisconsin, fined $3,000 and put on a year’s probation.)

Palmer should be extradited to Zimbabwe to face the consequences of his illegal and despicable conduct.

Mass shootings, America’s new normal

Jul. 29, 2015

My article "Mass shootings, America’s new normal" appears in today’s edition of The L.A. Daily Journal. In this article, I compare the fear of being caught up in an intense typhoon in the Sea of Japan with the fear of being caught up in the seemingly never-ending crossfire of routine mass shootings and what living with this fear means to our collective conscience.


Also discussed of course is the National Rifle Association’s de facto slogan of “Guns don’t kill, people do,” which makes as much sense as the Flat Earth myth that flourished between 1870 and 1920 that likely resulted from Washington Irving’s 1828 biography of Christopher Columbus. (Even though it is highly doubtful that Columbus’s sailing pals were fearful of falling off the earth’s edge during their work day in service to Ferdinand and Isabella.)


NEWSFLASH: The earth is not flat, but round. And a person without a gun simply cannot shoot to death, injure or maim an innocent person.

The case of unmistaken identity

Jun. 24, 2015

My article “Rachel Dolezal and unmistaken identity” appears in today’s edition of The L.A. Daily Journal. The article discussed the recent uproar over Ms. Dolezal assertions of ethnic blackness in light of recent revelations about her personal history. The article also discusses issues of self-identity, social construct and the collective narrative in light of the many issues this case brings to the surface.


Full article off copyright and now available:


Calling all Lithuanian readers…

Jun. 9, 2015

My book Fifty-Fifty: the Clarity of Hindsight is now available in Lithuania!

Knygos pagal autorių: Julie L. Kessler / Knygos.lt – knygos …

https://www.knygos.lt/lt/knygos/autorius/julie-l-kessler/ – Translate this page

Julie L. Kessler knygos internetu! Nuolaidos ir Akcijos kasdien! Jūsų knygynas internete – Knygos.lt.

Southern Exposure

Jun. 7, 2015

My article on Macon, GA and Charleston, S.C. appeared on the front page of today’s edition of The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Sunday Travel Section. Read it here: 


Humanitarian crises at sea

May 26, 2015

My article “Humanitarian crises at sea” will appear in the May 28, 2015 edition of The L.A. Daily Journal and The S.F. Daily Journal.  The article discusses the continuing crisis taking place off the coasts of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, where about 7,000 maritime migrant refugees from Burma and Bangladesh have been languishing at sea without food or water, after their overcrowded vessels were denied the right to make landfall and pushed further out to sea by the nations where they sought refuge.


The Burmese refugees are Rohingyas, a small Muslim minority of about one million people in Buddhist-majority Burma, with a population of approximately 53 million. The Bangladeshi refugees are economic migrants fleeing abject poverty.


The nations of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia were initially pushing these boats further out to sea to near certain death. After intense international pressure, Malaysia finally agreed to send out its navy to engage in search-and-rescue missions. Indonesia said it would offer temporary shelter to those refugees already on its shores, but would not send rescuers out to sea. Thailand said it would not take in additional survivors.


To say that time is of the essence for swift action would be an understatement of epic proportions.


Full article off copyright and now available:


Another casualty in the war on free speech

May 20, 2015

My article “Another casualty in the war on free speech” appeared in today’s edition of The L.A. Daily Journal and The S.F. Daily Journal. The article discussed the recent hacking murder by machete of Bangladeshi banker and secular writer, Ananda Bijoy Das.


Das wrote mainly on science and evolution of the Soviet Union and also wrote for Mukto-Mona, the website started by Ajivit Roy, an American citizen, PhD-trained software engineer and writer, who was murdered by machete hacking in February while in Dhaka visiting his elderly mother and attending the 2015 Ekushey Book Festival.


In March, another Bangladeshi secular writer, Washiku Rahman, a Roy admirer who protested Roy’s murder, was then himself murdered by machete hacking 50 feet from his home in Dhaka.


Just as the Charlie Hebdo journalists’ murders are evidence of the current epidemic, so are these. The clear message: Write something we don’t like or don’t agree with, and you will die a painful, horrible and public death.


Full article off copyright and now available:


The necessarily exorbitant cost of free speech

May 11, 2015

My article “The necessarily exorbitant cost of free speech” appears in today’s edition of The L.A. Daily Journal and The S.F. Daily Journal. The article examines the connections between free speech mandates of the recent events in Garland, TX with Pamela Geller’s group, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, the massacre at Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January, and the PEN America Awards Gala in NYC last week where Charlie Hebdo won the Freedom of Expression Courage Award despite protests and boycotts of certain author members, including Joyce Carol Oates.


Full article off copyright and now available:


Fifty-Fifty is now available in Japan!

May 6, 2015

My book Fifty-Fifty: The Clarity of Hindsight  is now available in Japan!

Minna sama, arigato gozaimasu!

What follows is from Fifty-Fifty’s Japan Amazon page. This is quite a welcome surprise as I will be in Japan in July reporting for one of the newspapers for which I regularly write.


・著者紹介文 (例はこちら)
・著者写真 (例はこちら)
Fifty-Fifty : The Clarity of Hindsight (English Edition)
¥ 823

The continuing blunder

May 1, 2015

My article on the “lifetime achievement award” bestowed by the Yellowstone Area Bar Association in Montana to Ex-Judge G. Todd Baugh, will appear in this coming Monday’s edition of The L.A. Daily Journal and The S.F. Daily Journal.

If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Baugh was the Montana Judge that sentenced a 47 year-old teacher, a convicted rapist, to 31 days in prison for the multiple rapes of his 14-year-old student. The teenager committed suicide before the case ended.

Public outcries in light of Baugh’s outrageous comments and inappropriate judicial actions that were contrary to established sentencing guidelines ended his career and forced his retirement. And not a minute too soon.

This lifetime achievement award presented to Baugh by the local bar association is a complete disgrace. It serves only to further erode public confidence in the judiciary and creates the wholesale appearance of impropriety.


Full article off copyright and now available:


A Taste of Tuscany Awaits…

Apr. 27, 2015

My feature article “A taste of Tuscany awaits, beyond L.A.” appeared yesterday with my photos on the front page of The Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s, Sunday Travel Section. Several locales in Temecula and its wine-growing region were reviewed, including the lovely Ponte Vineyard Inn and it’s fabulous restaurants, Bouquet and The Restaurant at Ponte, Lake Skinner, Hot-Air Ballooning with California Dreamin, and Pechanga Casino & Resort.

During these days of drought in sunny California, remember: Conserve water, drink wine.

Miscarriage and Misogyny

Apr. 22, 2015

My article “Locked up for suffering a miscarriage” appears in today’s edition of The L.A. Daily Journal and The S.F. Daily Journal. This article discusses “Las 17” and delves into the current practice in El Salvador, where women who are betrayed by their own bodies and hence suffer miscarriages or stillbirths, are then often charged by Salvadoran prosecutors with aggravated homicide and sentenced to up to 50 years in prison.

This is done under the auspices of El Salvador’s draconian abortion law, which is total. The complete abortion ban is has no exceptions. Not for rape, incest, non-viable fetus or impending death of the mother. Hence the charge is that these women who suffered miscarriages or still births caused the deaths or their fetuses or infants, even when there is zero evidence of attempted illegal abortion or mother’s intent to harm the unborn or newborn.


Full article off copyright and now available:


The 2015 L.A. Times Festival of Books

Apr. 21, 2015

The 2015 L.A. Times Festival of Books at USC on April 18 and 19 was a great success. Over 150,000 people over the weekend came to meet authors, hear speakers, listen to music, get travel ideas and buy books.


To add some humor and levity to the event, American character actor, Gavin Macleod (The Love Boat’s venerable Captain) spoke Sunday afternoon about his new book This is Your Captain Speaking: My Fantastic Voyage Through Hollywood, Faith and Life.

Fifty Fifty - LA Times Festival of Books 2015

Apr. 20, 2015

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books 2015. IdeateTV host Jennifer Crane interviews Julie L. Kessler author of Fifty-Fifty: The Clarity of Hindsight. Jennifer finds out what the book is about, as well as about some of the personal experiences that provided highlights for Julie's book.




Apr. 15, 2015

Nomophobia: The irrational fear of not having one’s cell phone. From which, consequently, no one ever died. In fact, cell phone absence never even caused an extreme illness. Food for thought.

The 2015 L.A. Times Festival of Books at USC

Apr. 9, 2015

Julie appeared at The 2015 L.A. Times Festival of Books at USC!



From whine to wine

Mar. 18, 2015

Below you’ll find the link to my article on Temecula’s wine region, which appeared in the March 15, 2015 edition of The LA Times, Sunday Travel Section.


The Fatality of Morality

Mar. 14, 2015

Much has been discussed over the last several days about the sentencing last Friday of Marguerite Vuong, and her husband Michael Vuong, both 67, in the fatal hit-and-run in Pacific Palisades, California of 23-year-old David Pregerson, an aspiring filmmaker who was the son of Federal District Court Judge Dean Pregerson and grandson of 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Harry Pregerson.


Superior Court Judge Kathryn Solorzano sentenced Marguerite to three years in prison and Michael to one year and probation. By most accounts, a very fair sentence, given the gravity of the crime.


The facts of the case were fairly straightforward. David was walking home intoxicated following a Christmas party around 3 a.m. Marguerite, on her way to her job at the Palisades postal annex, fatally hit David, left him in the street, and then reported to work as usual. She continued her silence for several months while the ongoing investigation was reported in the local newspaper which was distributed at the sorting station where she worked.


And it gets worse. When the police finally tracked Marguerite’s car to her west side home, and she was brought to the station for questioning, a hidden recording reflected that she told her husband to take the blame, to “just lie, don’t admit anything.” Ultimately, Marguerite pleaded no contest to hit-and-run, and Michael pleaded no contest to being an accessory after-the-fact.


The defense portrayed the Vuongs as an honest, law-abiding couple who made one mistake, albeit a really enormous one.


It is impossible to grasp the magnitude of the moral anorexia that would cause one to hit another human being with one’s car, and then, with complete disregard for that life, immediately flee the scene. Even if one suffered a momentary lapse of civilized moral judgment, say, due to emergent shock or trauma, to then stay silent for three months and work daily in the post office in the same part of town where the crime occurred, and then tell one’s spouse to lie and take the blame when the police came calling, is so morally bereft that it simply defies any notion of human decency.


That said, the defense continuously noted that the Vuongs’ fled Vietnam right before the fall of Saigon, immigrated to America, and raised three children of their own, all of whom became productive citizens. At first blush, that information seems totally irrelevant to the crime. As if surviving wartime Vietnam somehow excuses the criminal behavior which ensued three decades later. No amount of suffering, no matter how egregious or long-sustained, can ever excuse the Vuongs’ continuing morality lapse, even one year after the Vietnam war ended, much less thirty years later. What the Vuongs’ background does, though, other than to reflect the fact that this terrible incident was a first offense, is to perhaps, ever so marginally, partially explain it, so as to possibly permit a modicum of healing. More on that in a minute.


As a parent, my heart completely shatters for the Pregerson family. They displayed an inordinate amount of compassion when seeking the person(s) responsible for their devastating heartbreak, and were far more patient than most mortals would have been in the same circumstances. The Pregersons suffered the very worst possible parental nightmare from which there is no rest. Not for a moment. Not ever.


As the only-American born child of two immigrant parents (though from a different corner of the globe with different wars and different sufferings), my heart also aches for the Vuongs’ children, who must now live with a truly horrible, and to a great extent, inexplicable legacy that will mark them forever.


The vast majority of us lucky enough to have been born in the United States are raised with a general level of trust in our institutions and the basic ideals of a democratic and representative government. We are taught to believe that to participate meaningfully in our society, we must engage and must vote, and that our votes count and matter. And despite some well-known and well-publicized lapses of our police forces across the nation over the years (1965 Selma, 1967 Detroit riots, 1992 L.A. riots, 2014 Ferguson, etc.), while we can certainly question the conduct of our men and women in uniform, we are nevertheless taught as children to respect them.


These principles, however, are not, and should not, be solely in the purview of, or unique to, those born on American soil. Naturalized Americans, who by virtue of war, asylum, lottery, refugee status (as in my father’s case), or blind luck (as in my mother’s case), who are fortunate enough to acquire U.S. citizenship, owe America and its citizens a firm and continuing commitment to those basic ideals. One should not reap the benefits of American citizenship — including many years working as a civil servant in the postal service, as Marguerite did — and live here for decades with the same level of distrust, fear of authorities, and sense of institutionalized corruption as if still living on the banks of the Mekong of the early 70’s.


To be sure, the moral lapse displayed by the Vuongs’ hit-and-run is not unique to naturalized citizens who originally hail from corrupt, communist, or non-democratic countries. Last year in Los Angeles alone, 27 people were killed by hit-and-run drivers, and 144 people were severely wounded. While I can’t be certain of the citizenship status of those drivers, logic would dictate that the majority of them were native-born citizens.


I’ve spent a substantial amount of time in Asia, including Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Indonesia. Until one has spent a significant amount of time in the region, it is nearly impossible to grasp fully how the vast differences in government and daily life affect almost every aspect of one’s existence: the extent and pervasiveness of corruption, the permeation of greed born of poverty and suffering, the necessity of paying bribes, the constant need to try to be invisible to avoid the often unfair ire of authorities. From bribes to get one’s child into a “public” school, or or to acquire working papers or other necessary documents, to the lengthy disappearances of those wanted for questioning by the authorities, or even more blatant and overt institutional corruption — it’s everywhere, and it’s frustrating, debilitating, frightening, and often life-threatening. How much the Vuongs’ personal history played into their willingness to fatally hit a young man, then stay silent, and then attempt a cover up, only they can know.


Again, none of that begins to excuse the Vuongs’ conduct in the aftermath of the hit-and-run. It does not and never will.


However, I posit that it is still very important to attempt to understand the Vuongs’ cultural context, born of their personal history, in order to make some sense of the utterly inexplicable. Although understanding a cultural need to be silent, invisible, and even to lie and cover up will never act as a salve, result in a plausible excuse, or take away any of the ensuing pain and the great suffering of those tragically affected, it might allow the victims some small bit of healing. For this reason alone, that exercise is worthwhile.