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Showing posts from October, 2023

Warning: Red States may be Hazardous to your Health

In late September, a Nebraska woman was sentenced to two years in prison for helping her daughter obtain abortion pills. The case was less about abortion than about some bizarre behavior regarding the burial of the fetal remains, but this is still appalling on any number of levels. Even so, that’s not what piqued my interest. Rather, I was drawn to one curious footnote to the story, and I’ve heard nothing about it since. Apparently, the judge in the case had ordered the woman to undergo a psychological evaluation prior to sentencing. Presumably, the results might have helped to mitigate her sentence. Which sounds reasonable, perhaps even routine. But that evaluation never happened. It was, strangely, “cancelled due to lack of funding.” Huh? A person whose future may have hinged on that evaluation was denied it because the state couldn’t afford it? How underfunded are we talking? How many other people moving through the Nebraska judicial system haven’t rece

What Poland's Election Tells Us about Us

  It’s hard to identify the most important story of the last few weeks. Between the Mideast crisis, the flipping of Trump’s inner circle, and the inanity of Jim Jordan and his GOP clown show, it’s hard for anything less than a major bombshell to get our attention. So what was arguably the most consequential event of the bunch slipped largely under the radar. That would be the parliamentary election in Poland, where a democracy on life support just might have been saved, and in the nick of time. The eccentric movements of history always take a while to understand, but I, for one, hope to look back on this particular moment as a clear marker in the pushback against fascism, a pushback that has been percolating for some time. I consider this event monumental in the same way that the repudiation of Trump in 2020 was monumental, its foul aftertaste notwithstanding. This is right up there with the Kansas abortion referendum of 2022, the spectacular midterm wins of tha

The Middle East Situation is All Question Marks

Even after a week, the obscene Hamas attacks on Israel have lacked for a coherent narrative.  I tried to construct one, and gave up in frustration. There are simply too many threads to follow, and each thread ends in a question mark. As I tend to follow the threads less travelled, here are some of the questions I’ve been asking, not that I expect any real answers: Were Russia and Iran just as Surprised as Israel? When news of these attacks first broke, it was widely assumed that both Iran and Russia were key figures, lurking in the background, pulling the strings. Iran had supplied Hamas with missiles. Russia had repeatedly hosted Hamas leaders in Moscow. All this was suggestive of multi-dimensional chess being played by the big boys in the region. But not so fast. More recent reports , citing U.S. intelligence sources, have revealed that they don’t think Iran knew anything about Hamas’ plans. Or at least they were taken aback by the news. Then Mark Galeotti — a go-to Russia

Why a Labor Shortage Just Might be a Good Thing

  How many times have you seen the makeshift sign taped to the glass door of a store or restaurant, each sign telling the same story: We are short staffed. We ask your patience. We’re doing our best. Then comes the real message: Please refrain from rude or violent behavior. Make lattes, not war. The very existence of such signs is testament to recent bad experience. In big cities and small towns alike, we’re finding that customer rudeness is inversely proportional to the staffing level of the establishment. The fewer the people who serve us, the more likely we are to become obstreperous with those who do. We’ll probably have to get used to this. Apparently, labor shortages are the new normal, an economic fact of life. In the U.S., there are now roughly ten million unfilled jobs, but only six million people looking to fill them. And while that may mean we spend more time in line at Dunkin’ Donuts, it also means a lot of people now have real leverage in the work

The Stink You Can’t Wash Off

  Traveling again this week, I was unable to give the blog the attention it requires. So please take another look at this piece from 2021, written right after the off-year election, when the man of the hour was Glenn Youngkin, who had just been elected governor of Virginia. While Youngkin is back in the news — as an unlikely but possible GOP nominee for the presidency — this piece is more about Trump and the chaos he continues to wreak, not least on the Republican fools who enable him. One current narrative about the Virginia gubernatorial election is that Terry McCauliffe lost because he spent too much time dwelling on Glenn Youngkin’s Trump-stink, and not enough time on angry mothers. Another narrative says Youngkin was wise to distance himself from Trump. I won’t say either narrative is wrong, but what’s remarkable is how, one way or another, Trump always makes it into the conversation, almost a year after leaving office. Much of that conversation happens on