An Adventure on the River

Last winter some friends and I decided that we would spend five days this summer kayaking on the Connecticut River. Two days would be near the river’s source, where the border between New Hampshire and Vermont meets Canada, one would be through Springfield, Massachusetts, and the final two days would take us from just south of Hartford, Connecticut to my home near the river’s mouth. These sections would give us looks at three very different kinds of New England riverscape.

The first leg of the journey took place two days ago; because I had to attend a board meeting in New York, I missed both a long, rainy drive to just south of the Canadian border on Tuesday afternoon and the first day’s paddle on Wednesday.

I flew up to meet my friends late Wednesday afternoon, landing on an unpaved strip...

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Relative Worth

We measure our wants on a relative basis.

On an absolute basis, in material terms today’s poor are far, far better off than the kings of yore. Indoor plumbing. Clean water. Vaccinations. Heat and air conditioning. Fruit and vegetables out-of-season; proteins from around the world. Communications devices and travel possibilities that could only have been crazy fantasies to medieval aristocrats; innumerable facts on virtually any topic available instantly through the Internet. Dramatically longer lifespans. America’s poor – or most of them, anyway – have access to all these things.

The rich have them too, of course, but better. Not more calories, better ones. More comfortable cars. Snappier electronic devices. Vastly bigger homes. Longer, securer and more predictable lives...

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Social Justice?

When somebody starts talking to you about social justice, run.

The phrase has little to do with the traditional meaning of justice. (“Justice was done” said the marshal after a jury trial, as the horse thief swung in the breeze).

Instead, the phrase social justice generally signifies that the speaker perceives him or her –self as having an elevated, aggrieved and group-oriented sense of how society works. Not only do Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) want to change the world, theirs, they insist, is the path of Moral Rectitude.

The sanctimony, it burns – but why does it burn? For the most part, we want to ignore such sanctimony and smile on SJWs – just idealistic kids, we say to ourselves, trying to make the world a better place...

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I learned a long time ago that I was not necessarily the smartest guy around.

There are few purer tests of a certain kind of intelligence than chess, and no matter how hard I tried, my slightly older brother almost always won our contests. When it came to the kind of raw computational power needed for the game, he had me beat.

Nor, as I would learn, would I ever be the strongest, the best looking, the richest or the most accomplished of men. And even if I had had the capability to become one of those things, I would only have held the distinction for an instant.

My brother’s ability to beat me at chess said nothing about which of us would have a better life...

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Illusory Conclusions?

A friend sent me this link to a talk recently given by a global warming doubter named Tony Heller. I found the video both credible and utterly fascinating, and strongly suggest that you give it a look.

Heller makes a highly persuasive case that the official agencies of the US Government – particularly NASA and NOAA – are presenting climate data that they have altered in a manner designed to increase alarm about global warming...

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I had dinner with friends the other night.

Perhaps 100 of us were invited to an elegant party, the stated purpose of which was to “Celebrate Life … Before Hillary or Trump”.  The host – who plainly shares my sense of gloom about the leading candidates – used the election as a pretext for pulling together what he hoped would be a festive, mid-summer gathering of friends.

For all our pleasure at enjoying a fine meal and each others’ company, though, much of the conversation, at least at my table, actually did end up consisting of downbeat observations about the major party candidates. Nobody had a good word – or even a noncommittally neutral word – to say about either one. A sense of despair about the political process hung over us...

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To All the Losers

The morning ride that Jack and I founded twenty-seven years ago is still going strong. Every dry weekday morning during the light/warm months a small group assembles in front of my home at 5:30 AM. The group rides together for an hour or so, returning in time for everybody to get to their more serious responsibilities.

Five or six riders will show up on any given day, out of ten or twelve who might. Irrespective of who is or isn’t there, the group departs at 5:30 sharp. Regular participants miss for many reasons – a late night, a breakfast meeting, personal or business travel – whatever. Whoever does show can count on having some friendly and competitive company...

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Babies, Cultures and Politics

Last weekend, the Beloved Spouse and I took care of our four month old grandson for about twenty hours. He is a beautiful, generally happy baby, but he is quite capable of letting everybody know when something isn’t right. It turns out that twenty hours is a pretty good while.

In the decades since we had babies of our own, I had forgotten just how needy and vulnerable they are. Caring for one is very nearly a ’round-the-clock activity.

Helping to take care of the young prince (well, to us) for even that brief period brought some thoughts to mind. The first was that it’s amazing that our ancestors in the hunter-gatherer days survived infancy. Their parents had to have been unbelievably tough and no less loving than parents are today. Indeed, arguably they had to be more so.

The second is ...

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A Possible Explanation

I generally write about things that I understand, or at least think I do. There are some things, though, that I have wondered about for ages without having come up with an answer that truly satisfies.

Many, perhaps most, of the posts on this site lament the obvious dangers of the leftward drift in our governance and, more fundamentally, our cultural moves away from a perspective grounded in individual rights toward one based on group-based grievances and claims. I have long pondered the underlying causes of the undeniable political and cultural shifts away from this country’s founding principles – but I have never really been able to explain why these changes are taking place.

Our government is taxing – and controlling behavior – in ways that would have been astounding to the colonists...

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I have been mulling over a comment that Bernie Sanders made while being interviewed a few days ago. He said that the one word that would characterize a Sanders Administration if he were elected would be “Compassion”.

The left’s idea of compassion is pretty simple: let’s take more money from Peter and give it to Paul. In their view, the right’s domestic policy prescriptions boil down to: let’s take less money from Peter and give less to Paul. The left views itself as the sole and stalwart defender of Paul – the compassionate team. This makes it easy for them to see those who disagree with their policies as mean-hearteded or evil.

But there are, ah, a few things missing from this simple ethical dichotomy...

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