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Losing Roe Could Be a Nightmare — For Republicans

  Greetings from Canada, where I’m taking a mental health week, enjoying something of a media fast (which I recommend), and where I’m happily not writing. So this post is a repeat, and a somewhat timely one. First published October 2, 2020 — pre-election, pre-insurrection, pre-big lie — the subject was abortion. While I certainly never saw the new Texas laws coming — let alone the bounty-hunter angle — I’m pleased that the piece seems more relevant now than it was then. Please give it a read, or a re-read, and see if you agree.   Of all the atrocities a six-to-three Supreme Court could inflict on the world, the overturning of Roe v. Wade is, dare I say, among the least of them. Yes, reproductive rights are as important as ever. Yes, it’s obscene that any Western country should still be wasting time on what should be a long-settled issue. But the implications of a Roe-less future needn’t be as bleak as popular imagination would have it. And it could end up blowing b
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Texas, Stalinism, and The Informer Society

Rage over the new Texas abortion laws comes naturally to anyone with either a heart or a brain, let alone both. But beyond the unspeakably cruel restrictions on reproductive rights, beyond the wanton misogyny and toxic masculinity, beyond the predictable media firestorm that turns outrage into clickbait, there is a larger issue on the table. And it’s one we can only hope is not a trend: Texas Republicans are now openly embracing a culture of citizen-on-citizen informing. Anyone in Texas can now inform on anyone having, or even contemplating, an abortion. Informers have been a cornerstone of totalitarian rule throughout recorded history. Dire warnings about the political use of rumor, innuendo, and slander go back at least to Aristotle. But we need look back no further than the Soviet Union under Stalin to see it raised to an art form, an apotheosis of mass cruelty. By the mid-1930s, Stalin had consolidated all the power of the new Communist state, and vested that power in him

Meanwhile, Just Over the Northern Border

The jerk was making a stink over being forced to wear a mask. No, this was not Alabama or Texas, or even Michigan. It was St. Joseph Island, Ontario — a place I’ve come to most summers of my life. The summer of 2020 most emphatically broke that streak. I didn’t know until three weeks ago if I’d be allowed into Canada even this summer. The jerk was just ahead of us in a short line, waiting to get into one of the few restaurants on the island to survive the pandemic. The restaurant business isn’t brilliant there, even in the best of times. But we were used to having three or four decent choices on the island. The jerk was loudly lamenting that lack of choice. He appeared to be in his late thirties, with a wife, two kids, and a bad attitude he was happy to share. In answer to a question I didn’t ask, he assured me that the failure of restaurants on the island was a failure of the government and its anti-business policies. Which was why we were all forced to wait in line. I conside

A Gift For Lying That Can’t be Re-Gifted

It’s a shame we have to keep dwelling on Donald Trump, so long after trouncing him in the election. But his legacy continues to evolve, even in his supposed absence. It’s a legacy not just of lies, but of lying itself. The entire Republican party — everyone with a public profile — seems to have actively embraced lying as a viable political strategy. They all want to be Trump. Which doesn’t mean they can be. Trump has always been the perfect liar, and he takes con artistry to a new level. He’s a virtuoso, not just at telling outrageous whoppers, but at convincing his marks that those whoppers are gospel truth. He gets a lie in his head and through sheer force of will he makes it true.   Whether he believes it himself is still a mystery. Most people can’t sustain a lie for any length of time. Even if their moral qualms don’t kick in — and Trump’s never do — it’s hard to maintain a fiction once actual facts come into play, as they tend to do. But Trump lies as effortlessly as he b

Newt Gingrich, and How the Liberal Republican Became an Extinct Species

Once upon a time, there were Republicans in public office who were happy to call themselves liberals. No, really. The sixties and seventies were full of them. Before Jacob Javits was a convention center, he was a Republican senator from New York, who today would be considered well to the left of Barack Obama. Same with Edward Brooke — once a senator from Massachusetts — who was Republican, liberal, and Black. Yes, you read that right. Nelson Rockefeller, the multi-term governor of New York, was a fixture of my childhood. He actually made it to Vice President, though he was appointed, not elected, to the job in the wake of Nixon’s resignation. There were others you could google. Charles Percy of Illinois. Mark Hatfield of Oregon. Lowell Weicker of Connecticut. George Romney — governor of Michigan, one-time presidential aspirant —who would probably be called a socialist today, especially by his son Mitt. They were all Republicans. They were real liberals. They

Two Old (Vaccinated) White Guys Rock the Arena

The trip was planned for our anniversary, last year. We’d drive to Chicago to see James Taylor, of all people, on tour. I last saw him live circa 1970, but I’ve followed him, loosely, ever since. To sweeten the deal, the tour promoters threw in Jackson Browne, adding an infusion of laid-back, seventies LA onto James’s Stockbridge-to-Boston sensibility. It seemed like a good idea at the time. A chance to see two famous old white guys rock out after their naps. It’s not like we get to a lot of arena concerts —exactly zero in the last thirty years — so why not? The concert, scheduled for June 2020, was of course postponed indefinitely. Something about a virus. Cut to this summer, and suddenly the tour is back on. The event was moved to late July — last week — and we wouldn’t want to waste the tickets, right? The decision to go wasn’t without trepidation. I had just flown — for the first time in eighteen months — to Florida, epicenter of Covid lunacy. I’d worn a mask from airport

Let’s Cut Merrick Garland Some Slack

In any of the countless iterations of Law & Order , time is compressed into bite-sized chunks of plot that typically move the perp from arrest to trial to conviction, all in a single hour. While we understand, deep down, that real life doesn’t work that way, their portrayal of “the criminal justice system” plays directly into our societal need for instant gratification. We expect the wheels of justice to be far better lubricated than they actually are. So while we all would have loved to see Trump and everyone connected to his administration led from the White House in handcuffs, patience is called for. Merrick Garland has taken a lot of heat so far, mostly for not providing us with the gratification — and retribution — we crave, on the timetable we crave it. We need to cut him some slack. Yes, we’ve been puzzled by a few eyebrow-raising actions taken by his DOJ in recent weeks. It kept secret some parts of Bill Barr’s internal memo about the Mueller report. It continued de