The Socialist Plot to Destroy American Freedom

Let’s start with this: the progressive income tax is “socialist,” pure and simple. It allows the government to take more— far more, barring sleazy or outright illegal accounting practices—from the wealthy than it does the lower classes. That’s the baseline truth, the distilled fact about the matter. One can argue from there about its benefits or folly, but not about the equation itself:

Progressive Income Tax = Socialism.

Ben Carson said as much in a 2015 Republican presidential debate, and it was one of the few things he uttered throughout the campaign that actually made sense. (Although his full statement on the matter did devolve into a simplistic argument against progressive taxation):

“It’s all about America. You know, the people who say, ‘The guy who paid a billion dollars because he had 10, he’s still got $9 billion left? That’s not fair...

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Getting Its Sea Legs: On Restaking the Maple Tree

Coming to the tail-end of its first winter in my front yard rather than in the pot where it had spent its infancy at the nursery, the red maple “October Glory” was tightly bound to its single stake. No wiggle room, unmoved and unbreakable by the wind.

Secure.

Its skinny stalk of a trunk suggests an egret’s leg, compared to the elephant leg of the stately catalpa tree it replaced on the day the catalpa met its end in December. It is not unworthy of note that the catalpa, despite its trunk’s several feet of circumference, was also subject to felling by the wind on that day it yielded its place to the maple, its trunk having hollowed with age, its sprawling root system no longer the fierce, proud bulwark against the incursions of winter storms.

The catalpa in its dotage, porous and wobbly with age, its replacement young maple wobbly with not enough of it.

But three months on and with spring winds ahead,...

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The Allure of Autocracy: Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America”

“France has been defeated, and despite the propaganda and confusion of recent months, it is now obvious that England is losing the war. (Audience cheers loudly.) I have been forced to the conclusion that we cannot win this war for England regardless of how much assistance we send. That is why the America First Committee has been formed.”

That’s from a speech in Manhattan by American aviation hero Charles Lindbergh in 1940, arguing passionately against American intervention in World War II. Lindbergh’s staunch isolationism was hardly an aberration in American life at the time. Much of the country was torn about how to respond to Hitler’s German war machine that was devouring much of Europe, the massive oceans on either side of our continent making gauzy dreams of remaining above the fray more inviting than almost any other country could afford to be.

In his 2004 novel “The Plot Against America,”

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Life, Aging, Death, Self: Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal”

The problem isn’t so much that in the end, we die. It’s in all the time leading up to the end. Not death, but severe decline is what puts fear in our hearts. A long debilitating illness or just aging that cuts us off progressively (regressively, come to think of it) from all that we love.

We all peak physically at some 30 years of age, but robustness and increased life satisfaction can persist for decades longer as we go about building our lives and come to accept our aging and its limitations with equanimity and often, good doses of humor.

But the decline does march on, as inexorable as fall following summer.

At a certain point, we stop running, then hiking, then walking without assistance, then walking altogether.

We stop driving long distances, then at night, then at all.

No more foreign travel, then it’s no to flying anywhere, then no more leaving our town, our house, and finally our room (except t...

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Brilliant Songs #6: Chuck Brodsky’s “We Are Each Other’s Angels”

I came across this song just a few weeks ago, courtesy of Facebook friend Eric Gray, who had just organized a house concert by Chuck Brodsky in San Francisco. Eric is a music guy, as well as a baseball guy (powerful combo…), so I of course investigated Mr. Brodsky, went on You Tube, and here we are, with Brilliant Song #6 in this occasional series.

Ironically, I was moved to write about it when checking in, as a kind of pop culture imperative, with the Super Bowl halftime show the other day.

When a band I had never heard of, Maroon 5, and its lead singer started prancing around the stage, with the singer ripping his shirt off to reveal his gym physique and every-square-millimeter-of-skin-tattoos as the young ‘uns who were herded onto the field for the occasion jumped up and down around him on cue in the usual highly staged, ridiculous-looking scene, vapid, showy and just all around fake as can be, I thou...

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