Three Good Books

Three popular recent books that I have read during the last year tell stories that are strikingly similar. Two – Educated by Tara Westover and Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance – are memoirs, while the third – The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – is a novel. In each one, the central protagonist manages to overcome a childhood of deep, rural poverty and a terribly troubled, proudly antisocial family to become a highly accomplished adult. 

All three are very compelling stories; they give us windows into pathologies – mental health problems, drug addictions and PTSD in the three of them respectively, and extreme intra-family violence in all three – that combine with poverty in ways that conspire mightily against happy outcomes...

Read More

Patriotic Americans

This past Saturday night I went out to dinner in Washington, DC, with one of my sisters. Our Uber driver on the way over was a retired cop, a lovely African-American woman who proudly told us about her two sons in college and her husband who might retire from American Airlines soon, but in her view shouldn’t. She doesn’t think sitting at home would make him happy.

She had to drop us several blocks from our destination because we had chosen a restaurant without being aware that it was just then being passed by a massive LGBTQ Pride parade.

A large, boisterous crowd was on hand for the parade, and at one point as we walked toward the restaurant we were doused with a spray from above that I momentarily feared wasn’t water, but was...

Read More

A Recommendation

I generally try to be at least a little bit original in these posts – after all, why else would you read them? – but in this case I’m going to make an exception.

For quite some time I have been wondering why it is that so many young Americans seem to be drifting off into what is, to me, self-evidently wrongheaded Socialist utopianism. The worst ideas of the late 19th and early 20th centuries – ideas that are antithetical to the cultural and institutional constructs that provided the basis for our country’s unprecedented successes, and that have been directly responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people – are finding favor among our young.

Is our educational system to blame? Clearly yes, in my mind, but I have been at a loss to pinpoint the deeper currents must also be ...

Read More

Responsibility to Others

Late this morning the wind was moderately strong and the river moody – perfect conditions for a much-needed workout. When under the protection of a windward shore the water was deceptively calm; just around the bend, whitecaps made for difficult, exciting progress. My little boat jumped and dove, split the waves and sometimes left my arms and chest soaked and briefly chilled.

I wear a life preserver, which has often been helpful for warmth, but thankfully never yet for flotation.

I have been kayaking once or twice a week lately – trying to prepare myself for what might be a grueling adventure with friends on the Maine coastline a month from now. That water will be much colder and maybe quite choppy.

This morning’s scene was stunningly beautiful...

Read More

Election Interference

A close friend with whom I have recently been having distinctly adversarial conversations and email exchanges on political topics wrote to me a couple of days ago, effectively daring me to deny that Russia’s interference in our most recent presidential contest had taken place (and, it was implicit, thereby cast a pall over the election’s legitimacy), and asking whether I think our government is doing enough to prevent such acts in the future (the implication being that the Trump Administration, being too friendly with Russia, is not). A longer version of my off-the-cuff email response is presented below:      

Of course the Russians interfered with our election – as they have been doing since the revolution. They are not our friends...

Read More

A Right to Privacy?

In writing these posts, I generally try to present myself as being both surer of my opinions and more eloquent than I actually am. I figure that expressing my thoughts boldly and as elegantly as I can makes them more worthy of your time than they would be if I simply tossed off random ideas. I will only keep half of that implicit bargain in this post, though, because while I’ll try to write it clearly, I’ll be more open about my own uncertainty as to what the right policy or personal responses should be to the dilemmas I’ll describe.

This https://www.the-american-interest.com/2019/05/06/the-new-face-of-tyranny/ article by historian Paul Rahe raises, and gives historical context to, a set of issues that I have been thinking about for some time: how the intersection of modern technology...

Read More

The Religion of Fools

It has long been said that anti-Semitism is the Socialism of fools; perhaps so, but my variant is that Socialism is the religion of fools.

Seriously, how dumb do you have to be to believe that the solution to our problems is to have the government run (and, in that ideology’s purest version, own) pretty much everything? Dumb enough to believe in the “new man” who will triumph over his “base” instincts that favor self-preservation and personal enhancement. Dumb enough to believe that people will work just as hard in a system that purports to distribute goods equally, but actually distributes them based on political power...

Read More

MacDonald’s Insight

In an oped that appeared in The Wall Street Journal a few days ago, Heather MacDonald made a simple point that I have been thinking about ever since:


“By perpetuating a false narrative about its own racism, Yale, like the vast majority of colleges and universities today, encourages its minority students to think of themselves as victims. That mentality is contrary to fact and will hinder those who adopt it from fully seizing the boundless opportunities …

I don’t doubt that academics think that they’re promoting their idea of justice by teaching the idea, now taken as Unchallenged Truth in academia and popular culture, that “implicit bias” against minorities is deeply – and often unconsciously – embedded in our society. (Well, “implicit bias” against non-Asian-American minorities...

Read More

American Anomie?

To an extent that I have only come to appreciate with the passage of years, I was born in the shadow of World War II. As a boy in the 1960s, that war seemed like ancient history to me; my father had fought in it, but refused to speak about his wartime experiences, so all I had for perspective about that actually recent history were patriotic war movies of the sort that haven’t been made since that time. In those movies, our guys wore the white hats and they always triumphed, albeit generally at a poignantly felt cost. 

To my father and others of his generation, no doubt war memories, many of them horrid, were all too fresh – the thirteen years between the war’s end and my birth must have seemed like the blink of an eye to them – shorter than the time between 9/11, which I remember wi...

Read More

A Curious Absence of Curiosity

Why aren’t my Democrat friends and relatives even slightly curious about the origins and purpose of the Trump/Russia collusion hoax? Now that it should be clear to all that there never was any genuine evidence of traitorous wrongdoing by the Trump campaign, shouldn’t we all wonder whether prominent members of the Obama Administration cooked the whole thing up to cover their tracks? 

Admittedly, it’s still possible that there’s an innocent explanation for Comey’s FBI having tried to entrap George Papadopoulos and misled the FISA courts with the (actually Russian-sourced and Clinton bought-and-paid-for “Steele Dossier”) in order to get authorization to spy on the Trump campaign. 

Maybe they thought Trump was really, really icky...

Read More