Category 1. American Culture

Astride The Herd

Some mammals occasionally commit mass, unintentional suicide by forming herds that charge right off cliffs. Native Americans used to take advantage of the, ah, counterproductive instincts that drive this behavior by directing stampedes of bison into gorges where their meat and skins could be harvested at leisure. A relatively few hunters could – and did – kill vast numbers of animals in this manner.

It’s horrifyingly easy to understand what the bison were probably thinking as they rushed to their deaths. They were surrounded by their equivalent of family and friends and following the lead of other bison just as eager as they were to move in the direction chosen by leaders somewhere off ahead...

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A Derivative Post

The reactions to Trump Agonistes were interesting. First off, the post was read more than twice as many times than is usual with my posts; the only CH posts that have gotten more reads than it have been the few that were linked to by major websites – and they got twenty or thirty times as many. The number of times TA was read is mildly interesting (and to me, surprising); more interesting were the comments it elicited.

More than half of the comments that were made online were from the left and negative, generally harshly criticizing what the commenters saw as my having played down the seriousness of the riot. These, I left up.

I deleted several anonymous comments (from the left) of the ad hominem ‘you’re an idiot’ or ‘you’re deeply unethical’ variety...

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The Hypocrisy of the Left

The left revels in its self-image of being the more generous, tolerant and sophisticated side of the political spectrum. In political terms, progressives cast themselves first and foremost as defenders of the downtrodden. They take it as a given that if only the knuckle-draggers on the right would get out of the way, their policy prescriptions would quickly light the way to the just, inevitable and above-all correct future. Let’s take a closer look at their pretenses of moral superiority.

1. Generosity

It’s well-established that conservatives, devoutly believing as most do in the personal responsibilities that come with freedom, give more of their own money to charity than progressives do; even so, progressives tell themselves that they are really more generous than their allegedl...

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Even as America’s mainstream politics have been drifting leftward for decades, with gradual increases in the state’s regulatory reach and an ever-growing list of entitlements for all and sundry, an influential and radicalized new left has emerged. The ‘squad’, their millions of followers and even the newly elected Representative for the congressional district in which I have lived for decades are proudly and vocally anti-capitalist. My Congressman-elect recently recently opined forthrightly that “capitalism is slavery by another name”.

I have always thought of capitalism as the economic system that’s defined by the freedom to make personal choices about what to buy or sell, goods or labor, as contrasted with socialist or feudal systems, which limit choices and level outcome...

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We Can Handle The Truth

“You can’t handle the truth!”

– the character played by Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men.

For at least as long as that movie has been out – since the early nineties – our supposed cultural betters have been telling us the same. Their view is that for our own good we should be shielded from rough language and even, in a more recent development, information or argumentation that they find … inconvenient.

I was already long out of college when I first heard the phrase ‘politically incorrect’ as an admonishment about words that might be taken as offensive by some...

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A Class Divide, Worsened

A few days ago I visited the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden with two grandchildren and three other members of my family. The Train Show is one of my favorite New York traditions – an enormous annual exhibit of kid-sized famous New York buildings made from woodland materials, with almost-equally-delightful model trains running continuously around and about the miniature buildings, all housed in the spectacularly lush environment of the Enid Haupt Conservatory – itself one of New York’s most wonderful buildings –  at the NYBG.  

In our past visits to the Train Show there have always been long lines to get into the exhibit, consisting mostly of excited or cranky children and their parents, and once we got in we were surrounded by the same kids happily ogling the...

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Some Illustrative Speculation

What would happen if, by presenting rock-solid evidence that electoral fraud was committed on a massive scale, Trump were to prevail in his efforts to overturn Biden’s apparent victory? Setting aside, for a moment, both the likelihood and the longer-term implications of such a change in outcomes, I believe that the immediate effect would be twofold: a sharply lower stock market and massive riots in the streets. Let’s think for a bit about what these potential ramifications of a change in expected outcomes tell us about the Democrats’ positions.

As you may have noticed, the stock market has been on a tear in recent days. The Wall Street Journal attributes this sudden optimism about future corporate profits to both the prospect of a vaccine for Covid-19 and Biden’s widely-announced, ...

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Irrespective of the extent to which Trump’s signature policies – the wall, lower taxes, less regulation and extreme wariness regarding Iran and China – are overturned, he has fundamentally changed – and, to an extent, embodied the change in – America’s political landscape.

When I was young, the heart of the Republican Party was the WASP Establishment; the Democratic Party represented blue collar workers, classic liberals (a.k.a., ‘limousine liberals’ – who were also often WASPs) and freedom-loving hippies...

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Blurred Lines

A few years ago, while the Beloved Spouse and I were visiting friends in southwestern Texas, our host observed that the most fundamental distinction represented by the border is that on one side there are property rights and the rule of law, on the other, not. Other than that, he said, it’s the same land and people.

I found my friend’s comment memorable for its simplicity and for the clarity with which it illuminated two characteristics of American law and culture that are among the most essential building blocks of our society’s successes.

What attracted – and still attracts – millions to our shores? The chance to abandon the stations of their births and build new lives and identities based on their own efforts...

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A Society Out of Balance

Last night, just as the Beloved Spouse and I were settling into sleep, one of our daughters called seeking reinforcements. Her husband was traveling for work and one of their two children was vomiting aggressively and had come down with the kind of red-hot fever that only little ones can bear – and they miserably. We jumped out of bed, got back into our clothes and headed to their apartment. By this morning all was well again, but the long night had reminded me just how hard parenting can be.

And, apart from being exhausting, child-rearing is so punishingly expensive that it’s a wonder that anybody – especially those who are middle class – decides to do it. Let’s consider the context in which these decisions are made:

According to data from the US Department of Agriculture, fo...

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