Category 6. Various Issues

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...

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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...

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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...

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The Killer Apps

Sometimes our inventions change us.

Last night, the Beloved Spouse told me about a talk she had heard in which a neuroscientist said that she believes that gathering news and following social media on the internet, and even reading books on electronic devices, all have meaningfully different effects on our brains than reading old-fashioned newspapers and books. As we process information in new ways, our brains develop new muscles, if you will, and don’t develop other muscles.

This all sounded right to me: it is perfectly consistent with ideas about neuroplasticity that I had heard before – including the colorful example of a study of London cab drivers’ brains that showed that in the laborious and challenging act of memorizing the street map of London for their licenses, they had changed...

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About Medicare

I recently had the great pleasure of spending a couple of hours with an old friend who is one of our nation’s foremost mandarins. It was no kind of official meeting, of course – I have no expertise or standing that is particularly relevant to his professional world – so most of our time was spent catching up on personal news. Even so, the policy matters that we touched on – not within his official purview, but about which he is infinitely better informed than most – were weighty, and provided much food for thought.

In the context of a brief reference to America’s budgetary problems – with trillion dollar deficits now routine and inevitable changes in our demographics making it certain that without drastic and painful changes to entitlement programs our fiscal challenges will only grow wo...

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