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Texas, Stalinism, and The Informer Society

  From the afterdeck of a cruise ship now entering Nassau harbor, it's hard to summon up the anger so appropriate to these times, and so essential to this blog. A temporary condition, I’m sure. So rather than writing something new, I’m relying instead on a reprise of this post from last September, which foreshadowed several of the key issues we'll all face in the next decade. For ‘Stalin,’ just substitute ‘Putin,' and for ‘Texas,’ substitute ‘every red state,’ and you’ll get the idea. 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 informi
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Justice Alito Channels his Inner Putin

This is the year the bad guys showed their true colors. It’s the year when the differences between Vladimir Putin and, say, Samuel Alito proved to be only a matter of degree. Both seek cruelty for its own sake. Both impose the will of the privileged few on the horrified many. Both take toxic Christianity and white supremacy to levels not seen in centuries. And neither Putin nor Alito can be stopped. Not by anyone, not by any apparent means. Alito is, of course, just one of the five Putin wannabes on our Supreme Court, but he might be the most Putinous of the bunch — the one with the most contempt for democracy and those who practice it. The leaked draft he wrote for the reversal of Roe v. Wade is shocking, not for its content — which has long been expected — but for its smug tone, its abominable take on history, and its sneering disdain for any American who’s not male, white, straight, and Christian. And, oh yes, Republican. I’ve long wondered about those “mainstream” Repub

What’s the Worst that Can Happen?

It’s not a pleasant thought, but I believe it’s time for those of us in the reality-based community to think about what happens if Republicans manage to win both houses of Congress this November. I am not conceding that this a done deal, but at this time it feels worse than fifty-fifty, which is distressing. Between the new voter suppression laws and the old tendency of Democrats to not bother voting in midterms, the outlook is not promising. But while there is little doubt that a GOP takeover would be a disaster for both the country and the world, the question becomes how big a disaster. And I, for one, am thinking we’ve seen worse. So let’s game this out a bit. Let’s assume the worst, that they take control of the legislative branch. What would the next two years look like? The most important thing to remember is that the executive branch — the vast apparatus of the federal government, including military, law enforcement, and justice — will stay in the hands of the grownups.

Mallory McMorrow Throws a Brick Through the Window

Late last summer, we attended a Democratic fund-raiser. A few dozen of us schmoozing, eating cold cuts and potato salad in a backyard around the corner. We live in the Detroit suburbs, where Trump zombies and Bernie-bros live side-by-side, but might not realize it. So it was refreshing to discover a get-together where the attendees were openly in favor of continuing the American Experiment. We got a little pep talk from our U.S. Congressman, Andy Levin, who then yielded the stage (actually, the porch) to the star of the show — the person for whom the funds were being raised — our own Michigan state senator, Mallory McMorrow. My wife and I already knew enough about her to have voted her into office in 2018, but that’s a low bar — a “D” next to her name was all we required. But we recognized her right away — her red hair is hard to miss — even behind her Covid mask, one of the few being worn that day. We watched her work the room (okay, the yard), and her self-assurance was strik

Putin Lite: Republicans Ramp Up the Cruelty

If there is but one lone favor Vladimir Putin is doing for the world, it’s that he’s setting an excellent bad example. He is now the poster boy for the very worst humankind has to offer. No matter who or where you are, Putin presents you with a bright moral line, separating two crystal clear worldviews. Democracy or Autocracy. There are no shades of gray here. You can no longer look at Putin and not know which side of the line you’re on. Which is why it says a lot that so many Republicans can’t seem to decide. While they might secretly cheer the wanton slaughter of entire cities, they also understand that endorsing so much carnage and death might be politically awkward, even for them. The same conundrum is forcing them to defend democracy, which they’ve otherwise abandoned as not compatible with their ambitions, let alone those of their donors. And since the whole idea of democracy is now inextricably linked to Ukraine and the atrocities being endured there, Republicans are r

A Round of Applause for the Amazon Labor Union

While the unionization of Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse hasn’t exactly gone unnoticed, it has struggled for attention in the hyperactive news cycles of recent days and weeks. So please, let’s have a warm round of applause for the workers of warehouse JFK8. They forced a real union election, sponsored by the National Labor Relations Board, fiercely resisted by Amazon. They started as a small cadre of workers with a lot of gripes, no budget, no organizing experience, and the constant threat of retaliation from a highly vindicative and litigious employer. And they flat-out kicked ass. They convinced fifty-five percent of their co-workers — a landslide, apparently — that they needed to speak with one collective voice, if they ever want Amazon to hear them. They created a new union, the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), completely from scratch. Organized labor in this country has, as we know, been pummelled into submission. Forty years of right-wing hostility, aided and abetted by the Re

Why Do So Many Russians See the Glass as Half Full?

Russia-watching has been a cottage industry for at least a century, but as you can imagine, recent events have kicked it into high gear. As a long-time amateur in this lively field, I’ve been spending a lot of time tracking down Russian journalism, reduced as it is to a sad oxymoron. Respected, world-class journalists have had little choice but to leave Russia if they wish to continue writing about it. Far removed from their troubled subject matter, they’ve joined the waves of Russians now fleeing their country. This is not a new development in Russian history. Previous waves of driven-out emigres have settled in the West by the many millions, ever since the days of the Tsar. They’ve brought with them a dazzling array of talent — intellectual, scientific, artistic, athletic — and made major contributions to western culture. Russia’s losses have always been our gain. My best sources these days are, in fact, the American children of Russian emigres. Many are bilingual journalists —