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Socialism is Just Another Word for Government

  I’m treating myself to a week off — holiday season and all — and so, once again, I’m re-publishing an essay I posted over a year ago, before the November election. The subject is socialism, and as it happens, I just this week used similar themes in a much shorter letter to the New York Times, responding to an article on the same subject. I’ve just been informed that NYT is publishing the letter sometime this week. Meanwhile, the original is, I think, well worth another look.   Call it the S-word, the dirtiest word in American politics. To say that socialism is vastly misunderstood doesn’t begin to state the case. It’s a word that has been cynically manipulated by all manner of right-wing nuts for roughly a century, and it never seems to lose its power to get them worked up. Yet they’ve largely succeeded in villainizing and undermining what is, ironically, a deeply embedded aspect of our society. The usual definitions just confuse the discussion. They tend
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The Stink You Can’t Wash Off

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 cable news and social media, where he’s either the messiah or a serial killer, depending on the channel. But at the same time, a whole slew of conversations are taking place in congressional committees, courtrooms, grand juries, and prosecutors’ offices in more jurisdictions than I can count. Trump has spawned a mini-industry of criminal and civil litigation, sure to generate terabytes of evidence, testimony, depositions, and indictments from scads of his toadies and hangers-on. Trump-stink — that mias

Virginia Wakes Up and Smells the AstroTurf

Can we please stipulate that there is no idea quite so absurd as parents dictating the curriculum of public schools? Sure, parents can — and should — participate in the process. They can organize. They can advocate for change. They can get themselves elected to the school board. But when you consider all the whackos out there raising whacko children, the social contract surely demands that we leave public education in the hands of professional educators. This obvious idea — fundamental to an education system that was once the envy of the world — is currently under assault from the right. And it took a direct hit last week in Virginia. Republicans, as usual, invented a cause they could flog — “parental rights” — which they used as a dog whistle for the advancement of science denial and white supremacy. They managed to get a lot of voters riled up, first about vaccine mandates, then about the teaching of critical race theory. And they convinced too many gullible parents that they

Covid Isn’t Just About Dying Anymore

“No twenty-five-year-old thinks they’re going to end up on a ventilator. But tell them they’re going to have erectile dysfunction, their teeth will fall out, and they’ll never go to the gym again? They’ll get vaccinated and they’ll be double-masked.”                            —    Diana Berrent,  of Survivor Corps , a “Long Covid” support group   I’ve recently caught wind of certain semi-educated citizens who consider the prospect of dying of Covid to be some sort of patriotic act. They’ve refused the vaccine for ostensibly political reasons. They’ve been blasé about exposing themselves to the virus. Now they’ve caught it and decided they’ll ride it wherever it takes them, including to the grave. I don’t think they’ve thought this through. Because death, it turns out, could be the least of their problems. They could be looking at chronic disability — a dreary future of lifestyle disruption, family trauma, economic hardship, and long-term relationships with the medical communi

Is a Vaccinated Republican a Real Republican?

A few months ago, Jon Lovett of Pod Save America was spot on when he said that the real divide in this country falls between those who pay attention and those who don’t. With that in mind, I received some pushback from last week’s post, in which I proposed that “ continuing to identify as Republican means one is either stupid or complicit.” I heard from several readers who found that attitude a tad harsh, and who took issue with me for bringing my open contempt for the GOP down to the personal, rank-and-file level. Their point being that they know people — as do I — who have traditionally voted Republican, some of whom are friends. Evidently, many of these friends are disgusted with the sharp right turn their party has taken. They hate Trump. They deplore the insurrection. They were happy to get vaccinated. All of which I applaud. But I can’t help but ask where they’ve been, these vaccinated Republicans? This sharp right turn hasn’t been that sharp — it’s been bending that way f

I’d Rather Not Be So Partisan

Since moving to my modest suburb outside Detroit, my interest in local politics has been marginal. I personally don’t have much skin in the game — no school-age children, no business interests to advocate for, no history in the community. I’m generally content to pay my taxes and enjoy the benefits of living in a relatively well-run town. Even so, as a citizen I feel responsible for knowing something about the people who run things. So while I don’t follow the workings of the city council, I do pay attention when its members are running for office, which happens in off-year elections every two years.  So this is the year, and, as expected, the front yards are abloom with lawn signs. I get to vote for three of the six candidates. The unspoken rule is that the election process is kept strictly non-partisan, so these candidates do not publicly divulge their party affiliations. Which almost makes sense. After all, the upkeep of our roads, sewers, power lines and other infrastructur

Inflation and the Supply Chain are Joined at the Hip

Back in the early eighties, inflation was on everyone’s mind. Prices on everything had been going up since the Vietnam War, and the country was caught in a vicious spiral of people and businesses getting rocked by higher prices, expecting them to go even higher, and raising prices in anticipation of them going still higher. Rinse and repeat. The expectation of higher prices drove prices higher. It was an eye-opening experience. The candy bar that cost a dime when I was a kid was suddenly 75 cents. My first mortgage carried a 12-percent interest rate adjustable every year, which meant it could’ve escalated to 18 percent in six years, a terrifying prospect. Luckily, interest rates peaked before that could happen, and the so-called Great Inflation of the seventies and eighties finally subsided. But ever since that time, big business has been obsessively paranoid about anything that smacks of inflation. Inflation cuts into their precious purchasing power. It degrades the value of t