A Universalist Vision

“I am human and I think that nothing of that which is human is alien to me. “

– Publius Terentius Afer, now known as Terence, a Roman poet and former slave

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Like most Americans, I have been following the violence employed as a political tactic around the country by the “antifa” left, and now by white nationalists in Charlottesville, with horror. These groups are mirror-images of each other, and not just in the tactics they employ. They are splinter-group reflections of a culture that has been discarding the universalist ideal (“All men are created equal”) in favor of narrower – and ugly – group interests.

I can’t begin to match the clarity of this (https://www.facebook.com/brendan.oneill.79/posts/1450097131747042?pnref=story) post on the sense of victimhood that drives...

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Out There/In Here

When I was in my early teens, I had the clear sense that to become a man I would need to know a lot about cars.

America loved its cars. Muscle cars, sports cars, the family wagon or sedan and pickup trucks – they all said something, and they said it proudly.

Knowing how to change a flat, check and replace the oil and put coolant into a radiator were the minimum skills – beside knowing how to drive – needed before one would be allowed on the road – even girls were supposed to know how to do those things. Lots of guys who were five or ten years older than I was knew how to get under the hoods of their cars and fix anything that needed fixing. Some modified their engines in ways that were fun but might not have been strictly legal.

A car – any car – was a major status symbol...

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A Contrarian Bet

In the beautiful valley by the lower reaches of the Connecticut River, the rich are a diminished tribe. Too many are passing away or moving to the sunbelt; their numbers are not being replenished by locally generated wealth or fresh influxes from New York or Boston. More people are leaving the area than are coming – and evidence suggests that this trend is much more pronounced at the top end of the income spectrum than elsewhere.

High-end real estate prices reflect these changes: immaculate, million-dollar-plus homes on stunning properties can now be bought for half their former values. Many cost less than what it would cost to replace the existing buildings, with the land thrown in for free – never a good sign.

Sure, somebody will eventually buy these homes, and one man’s loss is anothe...

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Why Do They Hate Us?

About five times as many Americans work in the private sector as work for government.

Estimates of how much more government employees earn than their equivalently-educated neighbors who have private sector jobs range from a low of 17% (source: the CBO: https://www.cbo.gov/publication/52637) to a high of 78% (source: Cato, referring to Federal jobs only, https://www.downsizinggovernment.org/federal-worker-pay), but it is indisputable that private sector jobs carry a vastly higher risk of termination for bad behavior or because market circumstances change.  Only in senior management – and for those who have the highest-level educational credentials – do private sector employees earn more than their public sector friends.

So for the vast majority of people, working for the government is...

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Thoughts About Faith…

There is a God. There is no God.

Unlike an assertion along the lines of ‘there is milk in the refrigerator’, neither of these statements is either verifiable or, on the flip side, falsifiable; how, therefore, can they be useful? Further, the closer we look, the clearer it becomes that what people mean by ‘God’ is all over the map.

Oh, sure, fundamentalists of every faith may think that they know exactly what God is, and how He thinks and acts; but isn’t that rather presumptuous? Such confidence assumes that the oral and written traditions of their particular faiths reflect God’s past actions and present intentions with perfect clarity, and that they may be interpreted by mankind with total confidence.

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Who – or what – is God? In the Judeo-Christian traditions there seems to ...

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Our Biases

Who cares about you? No, really. Who is sad about your sorrows and cheered when you are joyful?

Who do you care about?

For most of us, the answer to both questions is family and close friends.

These relationships set the inner boundaries of our worlds. Sure, there are others beyond family and close friends who are relevant – co-workers, neighbors, teachers, people whose services we regularly rely on, etc. – but they are important to us in narrower ways, and generally on an impermanent basis. It’s not that we don’t care about these people, just that they are outer-ring planets in our personal solar systems.

The number of people with whom we are genuinely close is limited by our own emotional reserves; if we cared equally about everybody, the sum of human travails would be too much t...

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What’s News?

President Trump and his allies are enjoying the media’s own goals http://thehill.com/homenews/media/340564-media-errors-fuel-trump-attacks, but the factual errors in these stories are a relatively unimportant symptom of the media’s bias problem.

Who cares, really, that only four intelligence agencies –  the CIA, FBI, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Agency – had contributed to the conclusion that the Russians had interfered in the 2016 election, instead of the 17 agencies originally referenced by The New York Times and The Associated Press? As I’ve previously written, I – and, I assume, most people – believe that those four agencies were right – the Russians probably did their best to sow confusion and distrust about our election process, and i...

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The Russia Thing

My first reaction to the recent Project Veritas undercover videos of Van Jones saying “The Russia thing is just a big nothingburger” and CNN supervising producer John Bonifield patiently explaining that while there is no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, his ultimate boss Jeff Zucker was pushing back against news about changes in policy in favor of more coverage of the “bullshit” Russia story to garner higher ratings, was to laugh.  I had long since concluded that despite the frantic hopes of the Democratic left and members of the press, insofar as they are distinguishable, such collusion hadn’t happened.

As I have thought about these videos and, more broadly, the never-ending quest of the left to delegitimize if not rid themselves of our preside...

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Memorial Day Thoughts

I spent much of yesterday reading With the Old Breed by E.B. Sledge – a singularly appropriate choice for Memorial Day – for an upcoming book club meeting. As you may know, the book is a memoir of Sledge’s service as a Marine in the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa; it was the basis for a recent, well-received PBS series produced by Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Gary Goetzman.

Sledge describes the living hell that is war with clarity and humility.

The island campaigns in which he fought went on for weeks on end in conditions too ugly to fully describe here; the front-line troops who participated figured that sooner or later their numbers would be up, and most were right about that...

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A Conversation with a Young Lady

Last night, prior to a board meeting, the trustees of Harlem Academy met with the school’s soon-to-be-graduating eighth grade class. The marvelous young lady with whom I spoke at some length will be heading off to a school in Massachusetts next year; she hopes to become a physician some day.

She asked me to explain why I work with this school, and why on a voluntary basis. Her attitude was one of genuine, polite curiosity.

I told her that the idea that everybody should have a chance to accomplish important things is one of the noblest characteristics of our country – it’s one of the values that bring us together. We are a nation of strivers, and fervent believers in merit.

Harlem Academy provides bright young people from underprivileged, inner-city backgrounds with a truly first class e...

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