Michael Stern

Michael Stern, a former newspaper reporter and English professor, practices law in Palo Alto, California, and is chair of the Prospect's board of directors.  

Recent Articles

Report from the Field: The Rust Belt’s Blues Turn It Red

In one Ohio Rust Belt town, energy flagged among Hillary Clinton volunteers in the weeks leading up to Election Day, offering a glimpse into the enthusiasm gap that did her in.

(Photo: AP/John Minchillo)
(Photo: AP/John Minchillo) Voters wait in line outside a polling place in Cincinnati on Election Day. M ansfield, a former industrial town midway between Cleveland and Columbus, is the archetypal Rust Belt city, the heart of Trump country, and the epicenter of what went wrong for Hillary Clinton on November 8. Founded in 1808, the town was rescued from marauding Indians during the War of 1812 by Johnny Appleseed, who ran barefoot through the woods for 22 miles to the nearest militia garrison for help. (Like Sherrod Brown, Ohio’s senior U.S. senator, I’m a proud graduate of Johnny Appleseed Junior High.) But there has been no rescue here from the forces of deindustrialization and immiseration that have swept through the Midwest since the 1970s. When I was growing up in Mansfield the 1950s, it was a bustling manufacturing center and rail hub. Making things was the basis of its prosperous economy. The ARMCO steel mill, founded in 1914, was running at full capacity. The Westinghouse plant...

Like Being “Buried Alive”: Charles Dickens on Solitary Confinement in America’s Prisons

In 1842 Dickens wrote a scathing critique of solitary confinement in America. Nearly two centuries later, little has changed. 

Pascal Parrot/Sipa USA/AP Images
Pascal Parrot/Sipa USA/AP Images General view of former American prison, Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP), a U.S. National Historic Landmark which is open to the public as a museum in Philadelphia.. M ore than 170 years before Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy denounced the “human toll” of solitary confinement practices in U.S. prisons in his concurring opinion in Davis v. Ayala this June (see “ Eight Principles for Reforming Solitary Confinement ” in the Fall 2015 issue of the Prospect ), Charles Dickens had reached the same conclusion. The system of “rigid, strict, solitary confinement” is cruel and wrong,” he wrote in American Notes , his 1842 report on his travels in America that year. When Dickens visited the United States, he was already a giant celebrity and media mogul, the most widely read writer in English on both sides of the Atlantic, the creator of a new form of publishing (cheap, serialized novels affordable by working people) and a new mass audience of newly...