A Challenge

From 1994-2003, the high points of my summers were annual bicycle rides from New York to Maine. Each year, we followed a carefully chosen, 426-mile route leading from my home in Pelham through New England’s countryside to a cottage on Georgetown Island. On arriving, we would rest and feast in a glorious riverside setting. In 1994, two of us made the trip; by 2003, seventeen.

The rides were ritual celebrations of friendship and vitality, and like many rituals, they came at the price of some pain: we went hard. Our yearly aim was to cover the distance faster than we had the year before. In 1998, the four of us who participated – Jay, Carl, Cary and I – managed an average rolling speed of 19.9 mph the whole damn way.

I was sure that in the following year, or perhaps the one after that, w...

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Do you remember the funeral scene in The Godfather when all the independent mobsters pay homage – and implicitly pledge allegiance – to Barzini? Vito Corleone is dead, and nearly everybody, including the supposedly loyal Tessio, thinks young Michael Corleone is too weak to lead, or even survive, the coming mob war.

That scene is now playing globally.

In Asia, just his week, the President of the Philippines traveled to Beijing to declare that “America has lost now. I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow.”  Not far to the north of the Philippines, North Korea – under the Kim regime, China’s rabid attack dog, kept on a leash for its master’s pleasure – has nukes and, now, missiles that can reach the US...

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Hillary III

While lots of people on the right are spending a fair amount of time dissecting Hillary’s lies and evasions regarding her home-brew server, and everybody on the left is busy pretending not to notice them, for the most part we are not asking the obvious questions about why she was so determined maintain a server of her own and later, once she was called out, to keep private the contents of the thousands of emails that she deleted. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because they were about her yoga routines or Chelsea’s wedding plans.

Notwithstanding the fact that she played dumb with the FBI – pretending that after many years of government ‘service’ she had had no idea that there was a law forbidding her from conducting official business over a non-secure server, or even what the C stood f...

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Two Movies

Last night, searching Netflix for something to watch, I happened across Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, with Steve Carell and Keira Knightly. I’m a Carell fan, so I chose it, only realizing once the film got rolling that it had remarkable similarities – and equally interesting differences – with another movie that I had seen recently, Melancholia with Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kiefer Sutherland.

Seeking is an American film, Melancholia European; the differences are telling.

Both are concerned with how people behave in the face of something that they know (well, there’s some drawn-out uncertainty in Melancholia) will destroy all life on Earth – a rogue planet in Melancholia, a gigantic meteorite in Seeking...

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Under a Steel-Gray Sky

Two days ago I slipped in some mud while carrying my kayak up a hill. I caught myself, but in doing so I seem to have torn a muscle deep in my right shoulder. Since then the right side of my torso has ached.

This morning, at the suggestion of my Beloved Spouse, I went outside to sit in the hot tub by our pool. I am not really a hot tub guy – I have probably used it a dozen times in as many years – but she thought the heat and bubble jets might help lessen my shoulder pain.

So I sat in the steaming water under a steel-gray sky; to my surprise, my thoughts turned to an old friend.


Doug and I went to boarding school together. We got to know each other through rowing; he was a big, athletic guy – a gentle giant. Though we were two years apart, we became fast friends.

For we were nur...

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Class Consciousness

There are sound reasons to fear the two principal candidates for the presidency. Both are of low character; each advocates policies that – to my mind – are terribly misguided.

Set all that aside. Let’s consider what’s really driving the passions of this election cycle: class.

(What, you think the voters care about character or policy this year?

Is there a Hillary supporter who thinks she is in the habit of telling the truth? A Trump supporter who doesn’t know that he has all the ethical sensitivity of a shark?

With the arguable exception of the proposed erection of a border fence and deportation of those who came in contravention of our laws, is there much evidence that real issues and contrasting policy ideas are at the heart of the campaign?


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Rethinking Credentialization

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton want to make college “free” (i.e., paid-for by taxpayers) for many, or even all, Americans. In other words, they want a college education to become an entitlement – along with medical care, food and, soon enough, housing; these people really like giving away other people’s money.

I have a different idea: for most people, we ought to make college (as we now know it, anyway: hugely expensive, four-year residential programs where many if not most students take courses that teach them few, if any, usable skills) obsolete. Before we get to my idea, though, I would like to (again – the first time was here, in 2013) quote Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit on the topic of government subsidies of higher education:

“The government decides to try to increase the middle ...

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The Fragile Society

Our society is increasingly fragile. Brittle, even.

What would happen if the North Koreans – or the Iranians, take your pick – took out our electrical grid with an EMP attack? Or if the Chinese or Russians took out the Internet – a possibility that they seem to be exploring: https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2016/09/someone_is_lear.html?

Or maybe there will be another great war beginning with a flareup in the South China Sea or the Baltics; those scenarios look all too possible.

(What, you don’t think modern nations would do such nasty things, even if they thought it suited their interests? Consider this: for the last sixty years or so, the Chinese – seemingly reasonable fellows who believe in the peaceful rise of their country – have kept half of Korea in abject slavery...

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A Little Escape

The sky was bright blue this morning, the air was warm and there was little wind so I decided to explore an estuary on the western, far side of the river. I had noticed its mouth from my kayak a week or so ago and wondered where it led, but at that time I had been too hurried to go take a look.

When I put in, the tide was at about three quarters, ebbing. I crossed Lord Cove, exited at the cut and crossed one of the wider reaches of the Connecticut River, not far north of the Baldwin bridge. The water was placid and no boats were heading north or south. On summer weekends, the traffic on this section of the river can make it feel like Route 95, and kayakers like deer, but today the river was quiet...

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Free Stuff or Freedom

Healthcare is blithely proclaimed to be a right; Hillary, following Bernie’s lead, declares that college should be free. We all deserve lots of stuff, you see, and somebody else should pay for it.


There is, famously, no such thing as a free lunch – or free healthcare, or free college. Other than the air we breathe, everything that we use or consume is, in large part, the product of human labor. Even natural resources are useless until people mine them or refine them, grow them, process them and bring them to market. In every moment of every day, we benefit from the labor of others.

And they won’t work for nothing: people need to be paid for their efforts – in cash, or its equivalent – so they, in turn, can purchase the fruits of others’ labors...

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