Private Civility/Public Incivility

One of the many ways in which I am fortunate is that I am often surrounded by people who disagree with the political ideas that I cherish most. When many of your closest relatives, friends and colleagues are on the other side on important issues, you learn to see people who disagree with you as merely misguided rather than, as is too often the case where such differences arise among strangers, as ignorant, stupid or flat-out evil.

I know that some of the people who are dearest to me feel just as strongly as I do about political issues, but have managed to arrive at the opposite conclusions to mine...

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Two Stories

After a charitable bicycle ride yesterday I found myself speaking with a man I had met once or twice before – a contemporary, the friend of a friend. Searching for common ground, we chatted amiably about our families and memorable rides each of us had taken. When I mentioned having ridden across the country two years ago, he related one of his favorite memories.

At the time when he and his brother were just out of college, they had a deeply antagonistic relationship with their father. Even so, the three of them dutifully went to a family gathering in Ohio; as the get-together ended, the brothers decided to bicycle back to New York – a grand adventure...

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Anathematization as a Strategy

Rather than engage in civil debate, Democrats increasingly make ad hominem arguments against those with whom they disagree. They have become the party of personal destruction.

Every Republican president is portrayed in popular culture and most media outlets as not just wrong on the issues – that much is assumed – but evil. Each one is literally Hitler, until he is out of office. Then they are ignored until they die or criticize another Republican, at which time their images are magically accorded some semblance of dignity. Also, most Republican presidents are stupid; that’s a given, too.

Republican Supreme Court nominees? They must be stopped – or, at a minimum, deprived of their dignity...

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A Confirmation Takeaway

The Kavanaugh confirmation battle was the first of a new era in which it’s all too likely that we’ll come to know far more than we need or want to know about nominees. Henceforth, social media records will be dredged up to recall and amplify every ancient transgression, real or allegeable. Nothing will be forgotten – or forgiven – by the opponents of whoever is being considered.

Who didn’t make bad decisions as a teenager? Who didn’t learn important lessons from those mistakes? They are the very stuff of the transitions to our adult selves.

Who would submit him or herself be confirmed in such a rancorous, overly-target-rich environment...

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A Squalid Affair

In 1675, a Swedish ancestor of mine named Catharina Bure, the wife of a prominent man who was feuding with Uppsala’s mayor, was convicted of witchcraft along with several of her friends; they were all sentenced to be burned at the stake. The court accepted the testimony of a woman who historians believe had been bribed by the mayor and some children who claimed that the alleged witches had transported them to Hell so that they – the witches – could be watched having sex with the devil.

Catharina was ultimately saved by a last-minute pardon from the king – thankfully for my family and me, since she and her husband had their children thereafter – but her friends had already been burned to death...

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Senatorial Insanity

I had an experience this weekend that may shed an oblique light on how we should think about the recent allegations against Judge Kavanaugh.

I was in a three-and-a-half hour bicycle race, on a team with five friends. Roughly half way into the event, three of my teammates employed a tactic that infuriated me. I was so angry that I didn’t stick around to talk with them after the race for fear that I would tell them what I really thought of how they had ridden. One can get pretty wound-up about a three-and-a-half hour effort.

When I later received a group-email from one of the miscreants celebrating the event, though, I felt I had to set out my perspective.

They all responded to my email, of course. They had seen the same sequence of events very differently than I had.

Don’t get me wrong, h...

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Falling Standards/Failing Students

The rot in our schools is far worse than we want to admit. To get a sense of how bad it is, a quick read of this post https://www.intellectualtakeout.org/article/how-colleges-are-ripping-generation-ill-prepared-students will give you an overview. The author’s (unimpeachable) data is drawn from the recently-released 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/), which should be a source of grief to one and all. Quoting the linked post: “Only 37 percent of 12th-graders tested proficient or better in reading, and only 25 percent did so in math. Among black students, only 17 percent tested proficient or better in reading, and just 7 percent reached at least a proficient level in math.”

Amazingly, most of these manifestly unprepared high school gra...

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Media Hypocrisy

La Rochefoucauld famously quipped that “Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue”. True enough, but I still find that particular trait grating. Most people do.

I want to barf when I read the press’s endless encomia to Senator McCain, not because I hated the Senator – I most certainly did not – but because I’m old enough to remember when, during the presidential campaign of 2008, the very same media – indeed, in many cases the same people –  painted him as a Crypto-Nazi. At that time, I was contributing to McCain’s (sadly, inept) campaign and paying very close attention to how he was being portrayed.

Now they praise McCain for two reasons – that he hated Trump and that he’s dead, in that order...

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A Great Country

Governor Cuomo has spent recent days walking back a comment he made in a speech last week that America “…was never that great.”

In trying to show his opposition to all things Trump, Cuomo had gone too far, insulting those who take pride in our country’s accomplishments. It’s impossible to imagine such a sentiment having crossed the lips of previous generations of progressive politicians like, to pick a not-so-random example, Mario Cuomo. The son lacks the father’s deftness – and his judgement.

Besides being politically foolish, the younger Cuomo’s comment was wrong by any conceivable objective measure...

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Nighty Night, Little Knights

By now you have doubtless read about the letter signed by numerous former high-ranking members of the intelligence community decrying President Trump’s revocation of MSNBC commentator John Brennan’s security clearances, or seen the hilariously funny clip (https://youtu.be/udblJfjYttI) of former CIA analyst Phil Mudd, now employed by CNN, exploding in anger at the very suggestion that he and others like him might also lose theirs.

Apparently, security clearances are viewed by many former government officials as rights belonging to them. They think they get to know about things that we mere peasants do not because, … because those are their rights as (former) knights of the realm...

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