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...

Read More

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...

Read More

Political Realignment?

Over the last couple of months, I have been doing a lot of thinking about President Trump and our country’s bitter partisan divides.

As longtime Civil Horizon readers know, I have mixed feelings about our new president – in whom, from a policy perspective, I see strong positives and equally strong negatives; my conflicted feelings mirror those of the voices of the establishment right – particularly, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page and National Review. I would describe these views as not NeverTrump, but a distinct mixture of hopes and fears.

At the same time, the voices of the establishment left – particularly the “news” pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post – and mainstream (meaning: of the left) broadcast outlets like CNN and MSNBC, can only be descri...

Read More

Against Multiculturalism

Take a moment to think again about one of the most important sentences ever written:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, the Founders set out a proudly universalist vision of natural rights. If all men are created equal, then preferences for one tribe, sect or class over another, whether in law or custom, are wrong.

This statement was a (literally) revolutionary rejection of the caste systems – and tribe-based identities – of other nations of the world. It spoke of universal natural rights...

Read More

Abortion and The Role of Government

I really don’t think you care what I think about abortion and, for the most part, I’m ok with that. Most likely, either you think it is a morally neutral medical procedure and every woman’s natural right, or you think it’s murder, straight up. It is, ah, unlikely that a blog post is going to convince you to change positions.

Even so, I might be able to convince you to rethink the role of government as regards abortion and other matters of widespread and profound disagreement.


I recently had a conversation with someone who is terribly afraid that the new Administration will defund Planned Parenthood. I told her that I think that the government should defund Planned Parenthood – for the exact same reason, ironically, that I wouldn’t support an outright abortion ban; I also told...

Read More

Technology, Privacy and Freedom

Not long ago, the Beloved and I took a three-day trip to visit our older son and daughter-in-law in New Orleans. We flew from LaGuardia.

As we have long been accustomed to doing when leaving for short trips, we drove to the airport rather than use a taxi or car service. Big mistake: we had forgotten that the enormous old parking garage near the main terminal has been temporarily torn down as part of rebuilding the airport.

We were directed to park in a remote area that I had never seen before. As we awaited the bus that would take us through the construction mess and back to the terminal, I noticed a sign announcing that cash would not be accepted for payment on retrieving our car.

I wondered out loud to the Beloved if it was illegal for the Port Authority to refuse to accept cash: it say...

Read More

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 hurt something 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 n...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

Losing the Thread?

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal featured a brilliant letter to the editor ( In it, the writer posited that conservatives will not win elections with arguments about economic efficiency – we must inspire prospective supporters with the moral rightness of our ideas. I will not rehash the writer’s points – he did a better job of making them than I can, but I will try to do as he suggests in a broader context than the current electoral politics.

One of the animating impulses behind Civil Horizon is my view that our country is in real danger of losing the thread that holds us together. Increasingly we are divided into groups on the basis of race, class and entitlement status; we too often ignore the focus on in...

Read More

To See America

Day Zero – 4/10/16

This is the first in a series of daily posts that I intend to write over the next six or seven weeks about the attempt I am about to make at riding my bicycle from Los Angeles, CA to Old Lyme, CT.

I sent three bikes – my two beautiful new steel Mariposas, pictured below at home just after their arrival a month ago, and my much older carbon fiber Parlee – on ahead to Los Angeles with Dan, who will be driving the sag wagon for the first month of the journey; he is the son of a former colleague/old friend of mine. I am planning to mostly use the Mariposas, saving the lighter but less comfortable Parlee for big climbs. I figure I’ll use the second Mariposa for spare parts if I run into equipment trouble.


The Beloved Spouse and I spent the last few days visiting friends in s...

Read More