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What’s Going to Happen to American Democracy?

by Dusty Sklar Discussed in this essay: How Democracies Die, by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. Penguin/Random House, 2018, 320 pages.   THESE DAYS, all sane Americans are wringing their hands over the threats to our democracy posed by the Trump presidency and the Republican power monopoly in Washington. Two thoughtful Harvard professors of government have now […]

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Daniel Ellsberg on Nuclear War

by Dusty Sklar Discussed in this essay: The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, by Daniel Ellsberg. Bloomsbury, 2017, 424 pages.   WE ARE ALL NERVOUS about the current possibility of nuclear warfare, but Daniel Ellsberg has decided to do what he can to prevent it from happening. His recent book, The Doomsday Machine, reveals […]

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Spy vs. Spy: Anti-Nazi Undercover Work in L.A.

by Dusty Sklar Discussed in this essay: Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots against Hollywood and America, by Steven J. Ross. Bloomsbury Books, 2017, 432 pages.   ADOLF HITLER’S determination to wipe out the planet’s Jews was aimed at America as well, according to Steven J. Ross, professor of history at the University of […]

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Six Million Ku Klux Klansmen

by Dusty Sklar Discussed in this essay: The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition, by Linda Gordon. Liveright, 2017, 288 pages.   THE KU KLUX KLAN, America’s best-known racist society, has had three major phases of life since its founding right after the Civil War in 1866. […]

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Visiting Trump’s America

by Dusty Sklar Discussed in this essay: Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, by Arlie Russell Hochschild. The New Press, 2016, 384 pages.   THESE days, people all over the world are desperately seeking to understand the appeal that Donald Trump has for millions of Americans. To help us in […]

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Powerless Puerto Rico

by Dusty Sklar HURRICANE MARIA has destroyed Puerto Rico’s electricity, along with just about everything else, but Puerto Rico itself has been powerless for decades. The U.S. invaded the 3,435-square-mile Caribbean island in 1898 and established a unique relationship. Puerto Rico is a territory and a commonwealth of the U.S. Its 3.4 million people have […]

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Fighting Back against Big Oil

by Dusty Sklar It’s common knowledge that big oil is at least in part responsible for the disasters caused by climate change, so it’s fair that they should shoulder some of the burden of the costs it causes. Now, two coastal cities in California, San Francisco and Oakland, have filed lawsuits against ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Conoco […]

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Lying About War

by Dusty Sklar   DEMOCRATIC AND REPUBLICAN presidents alike have this in common: They lie to us about war. Even Barack Obama, upright as he seems, lied to us about U.S. intervention in Libya’s 2011 civil war. When Obama addressed the nation on March 28, 2011, he told us that  the task assigned our forces  was “to protect the […]

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James M. Buchanan and the Radical Right

by Dusty Sklar Discussed in this essay: Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, by Nancy MacLean. Viking, 2017, 366 pages. JANE MAYER’S book, Dark Money, taught us that billionaires like the Koch brothers are able to influence how we think and vote. Now a worthy successor, Democracy in […]

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From Job Loss to Guaranteed Basic Income

AUTOMATION AND THE POST-SCARCITY ECONOMY by Dusty Sklar From the Summer 2017 issue of Jewish Currents   THE IDEA of providing a universal basic income (UBI) to all families has begun to take root in the U.S. among both conservatives and liberals. For the former, it’s a way actually to shrink the welfare state by folding […]

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The Jewish Passage to India

by Dusty Sklar   OF ALL the Jewish communities in the world, the Jews of India are the least known.  They constitute one of the country’s tiniest minorities. The first mention of Jews in India in Jewish texts is in the Book of Esther, which describes the decrees of the Persian monarch relating to the dispersal of Jews throughout the 127 […]

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Holocaust Refugees in “Vulgar” America

by Dusty Sklar THEY CAME from Germany and Austria and Poland and Czechoslovakia, some reluctantly, some eagerly. It was a big deal for all of them. Most were Jewish, comfortably middle-class and well-educated. They didn’t know what to expect from life in America. How could they? They only knew that it was time to get out […]

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The Cold War, the CIA, and the Literati

by Dusty Sklar RIGHT AFTER World War II ended, another war started. It was a cultural Cold War against communism,  a mostly covert operation that paradoxically used our most eloquent exemplars of intellectual freedom, some wittingly, others unwittingly, as instruments of our government, and it was secretly paid for by the Central Intelligence Agency. Using […]

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Antisemitism in Populist History

by Dusty Sklar THE ANTISEMITISM that has been surging to the surface since Donald Trump became President is in keeping with a tradition of rightwing populist rhetoric that has embraced antisemitism since the late 19th century. Back then, a number of important populist leaders thought Jews to be at the  heart of the problems faced […]

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Is Racism Actually in Decline?

by Dusty Sklar DESPITE THE RISE in white supremacist activity and the increased visibility of police violence against people of color, my impression is that non-whites are being accepted more and more by “mainstream” America as part of the fabric of our culture and economy. There are a number of signs pointing to that conclusion. […]

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The Alt-Right’s Antisemitism

by Dusty Sklar “Providence has ordained that I should be the greatest liberator of humanity. I am freeing man from the restraints of an intelligence that has taken charge, from the dirty and degrading self-mortification of a false vision called conscience and morality, and from the demands of a freedom and independence which only a […]

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The Descendants of Nazis

by Dusty Sklar WE LEARNED through war-crimes trials at the end of World War II that most officials in Nazi organizations had no sense of shame or remorse about their barbarous deeds. They either denied their crimes altogether, or rationalized whatever moral qualms they may have felt. That was not the case with some of […]

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Volunteers in Israel’s War of Independence

by Dusty Sklar THEY WERE CALLED Makhalniks, Makhal being an acronym for Mitnadvei Khutz Le’Aretz, or volunteers from outside the Land — the Land being Israel, the volunteers being mainly U.S. and British World War II veterans. They totaled close to 4,000 men and women, and represented fifty-eight different countries. The year was 1948, when […]

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The Long History of Chinese Jews

by Dusty Sklar ONE OFTEN HEARS the Chinese, especially those who live in the huge international Chinese diaspora, being referred to as the “Jews of the Orient” and labelled with stereotypes similar to those that have been used to insult Jews. According to Christopher Hale, a media producer in Singapore, a book of that title […]

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David Ben-Gurion and the Arabs

by Dusty Sklar DAVID BEN-GURION — born David Gruen 130 years ago on October 16 — was the George Washington of Israel. The man who became Israel’s first prime minister and is widely seen as the “father” of the modern state seemed to have held contradictory views about Arab-Jewish relations — but he was hardly […]

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Profiting from Poverty

Discussed in this essay: The Poverty Industry: The Exploitation of America’s Most Vulnerable Citizens, by Daniel L. Hatcher. NYU Press, 2016, 288 pages. UNLIKE SOME INDUSTRIES in America, the poverty industry is thriving. It’s not a pretty story. The human service agencies of state and local governments, in collusion with private companies, are siphoning off […]

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Why We Can’t Afford the Rich

by Dusty Sklar Discussed in this essay: Why We Can’t Afford the Rich, by Andrew Sayer. Policy Press at the University of Bristol (reissued by Policy Press, c/o University of Chicago Press), paperback edition, 2016, 448 pages. WHO ARE THE RICH, and why can’t we afford them? It’s a long story, according to Andrew Sayer, […]

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Holocaustic Tones

THE EXPLOITATION OF MUSIC IN NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMPS by Dusty Sklar MUSIC, SUFFERING AND DEATH are not usually linked in our contemplation. It is not widely remembered, for instance, that Nazi concentration camps often resounded with gorgeous sounds, counterpoint to the ghastly sounds of unimaginable grief… Theresienstadt is the exception. By now, we’re well aware of the […]

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The Jewish Jefferson

by Dusty Sklar Discussed in this essay: Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet, by Jeffrey Rosen. Yale University Press, 2016, 266 pages. YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS, as part of its “Jewish Lives” series, has just published Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of his Supreme Court confirmation. It’s not a full-blown biography, but […]

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The Nazi Ink Blots

by Dusty Sklar Discussed in this essay: Anatomy of Malice: The Enigma of the Nazi War Criminals, by Joel E. Dimsdale. Yale University Press, 2016, 256 pages. AFTER WORLD WAR II, the Allies held an international war crimes trial in Nuremberg. In Anatomy of Malice: The Enigma of the Nazi War Criminals, psychiatry professor emeritus […]

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The Ghetto, from Venice to Vilna to Harlem

by Dusty Sklar Discussed in this essay: Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the History of an Idea, by Mitchell Duneier. 2016, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 304 pages. AS MITCHELL DUNEIER, a sociology professor at Princeton,  points out in the preface to his inspired book, Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the History of an […]

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The Complicated Alliance with Saudi Arabia

by Dusty Sklar AT THE END of World War II, Franklin Roosevelt forged an alliance with Saudi Arabia that guaranteed that the U.S. would help the Saudis feel more secure in a highly unstable part of the world. Saudi Arabia is a Sunni-dominated state, and its chief rival is Iran, a Shiite country. Through the […]

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Kicked Out

by Dusty Sklar Discussed in this essay: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond. Crown, 2016, 432 pages. AMERICA HAS BEEN transformed into a country of shrinking opportunity for all except the smallest proportion of fortunate ones. Despite the 14 million jobs and radical lowering of the unemployment rate in the […]

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Churchill and the Jews

by Dusty Sklar LONDON’S ILLUSTRATED SUNDAY HERALD of February 8, 1920 bore an article entitled “Zionism versus Bolshevism: A Struggle for the Soul of the Jewish People.” Its author was the Right Honorable Winston S. Churchill, who began: “Some people like Jews and some do not; but no thoughtful man can doubt the fact that […]

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Big Money versus Democracy

by Dusty Sklar Reviewed in this essay: Nation on the Take: How Big Money Corrupts Our Democracy and What We Can Do About It, by Wendell Potter and Nick Penniman. 2016, Bloomsbury Press, 288 pages. MANY AMERICANS are finally beginning to realize that the game is rigged against them and that the government is often […]

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Mahatma Gandhi on Zionism and the Holocaust

by Dusty Sklar IT WAS my daughter-in-law, Nikki Pusin, who brought it to my attention, just as her father, Max Pusin, had brought it to hers years before — that the world-revered Gandhi had a puzzling relationship to the Holocaust. In 1947, interviewed by Louis Fischer, author of The Life of Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhi said: […]

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Sex for Seniors and Juniors

by Dusty Sklar Discussed in this essay: Scary Old Sex, by Arlene Heyman. Bloomsbury Press, 2016, 240 pages. IN HER DEBUT collection of short stories, Scary Old Sex, Arlene Heyman, a 74-year-old writer, has created characters, old and young, who are not the teeniest bit scared of sex. A Manhattan psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Heyman writes […]

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American Eugenics and German Nazism

by Dusty Sklar THE AMERICAN EUGENICS movement aimed at improving the human race through ethnic cleansing well before the Nazis did. The pseudo-science became popular here in the late 19th century. The emancipation of black slaves, their increased mobility, and widespread immigration of Jews, southern and eastern Europeans, Hispanics, and Asians prompted a good many […]

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Doing Business with Hitler

Koch Was Not Alone in Aiding the Nazi War Machine by Dusty Sklar JANE MAYER’S RECENTLY PUBLISHED Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, is causing a stir. She reports that Fred C. Koch, the father of billionaire rightwing political activists Charles G. and David H. Koch, […]

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Gertrude Stein’s Romance with Fascism

by Dusty Sklar MODERNIST INNOVATOR, TASTEMAKER and (by her own admission) artistic genius Gertrude Stein was beloved by many. She had a warm, charming persona that almost never failed to delight people. She delighted historian Bernard Fay (1893-1978), a fellow American intellectual with whom she had several things in common. Both were gay (Hemingway referred […]

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Einstein and Freud on “Why War?”

by Dusty Sklar ALBERT EINSTEIN had two sons with his first wife, Mileva Maric. The youngest, Eduard, studied medicine at Zurich University and planned to become a psychiatrist. Sigmund Freud’s picture graced his bedroom wall. Eduard often wrote discourses to his father on the helpfulness of Freud’s theories in unraveling aspects of music and film. […]

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Einstein for President

Albert Einstein and the Zionist Movement by Dusty Sklar ALBERT EINSTEIN’S relationship to Judaism, Jews, Zionism, and Israel was complicated. His parents were secular Jews, but they weren’t thrilled to see their son influenced by Catholic dogma at Munich’s Catholic elementary school, where he was the only Jewish child. They commissioned a distant relative to […]

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Henry George, Wealth Inequality, and Democracy

An Interview with Edward T. O’Donnell, author of Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality by Dusty Sklar The tax upon land values is, therefore, the most just and equal of all taxes. It falls only upon those who receive from society a peculiar and valuable benefit, and upon them in proportion to the benefit […]

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The Urge for Fame: Does It Fade?

by Dusty Sklar “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done     and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;     nothing was gained under the sun.” —Ecclesiastes MY GOOD FRIEND, Ruth Lilian, still elegant, witty and beautiful at 86, cannot give up her desire to be famous. She […]

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Henry George and Zionism

by Dusty Sklar THE AMERICAN SOCIAL PHILOSOPHER HENRY GEORGE published his second book, Progress and Poverty, in 1879, and became one of the most celebrated figures in the Western world. Not surprisingly, his ideas excited the early Zionists, who were just then beginning to come together to search for solutions to the Jewish Question. George […]

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