Bleak Thoughts

I went on a bicycle ride with a close friend this morning. Our route took us along beautiful – and quiet – country roads. The sky was blue, the air was warm, the leaves were just starting to turn and the conversation was, well, really depressing. Most CH posts reflect my generally up-beat disposition; this one will not.

I kicked off the big picture part of our conversation with the observation that while my most recent post had ended on an optimistic note – that ‘one of democracy’s greatest strengths … is that it fosters orderly course corrections as voters come to new understandings about what does and doesn’t work’, and a quote from Winston Churchill about America always eventually finding its way, subsequent reflections have dampened my optimism.

I was thinking about...

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The Best of Times…

A few weeks ago, the Beloved Spouse and I were guests at a dinner with five friends at a lovely, ocean-side club. Given the liveliness of the chatter at nearby tables, much of the mealtime conversation was necessarily with whoever was sitting to each person’s right or left. The gathering’s hostess, a retired executive who had been a pioneer in her field and is still on the boards of major corporations and philanthropies, was on my right.

During dinner, she offered me the casual and, she thought, uncontroversial observation that today’s world is in a terrible state...

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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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An American Dragon

Kanye West got it right: President Trump has dragon energy. He also has dragon breath, which he uses constantly, sometimes to the chagrin of natural allies like yours truly. And a dragon’s wiliness. 

My first instinct, on reading Trump’s “command” that American businesses that do business in China look for other places to produce their products, was to think “this time he’s finally lost it – no president has the authority to boss around private businesses like that.” I thought his words were a mere tantrum that made him look foolish and, ultimately, weak – that last ways that a president should allow himself to look. 

I was wrong. Apparently, under the International Emergency Powers Act (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/50/chapter-35) if a president declares...

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On the River

I’m looking out over the narrower end of Lords Cove, low-lying, grass-covered Goose Island and the Connecticut River beyond. On the river’s farther shore I can see a few houses and the entrance to a tucked-away marina. It’s late in the day with a nice breeze rising off the water. I feel proprietary about this scene – and the river’s lower reaches generally.

Where a river meets a sea, both change. Rivers are fresh and often muddy, flowing ever onward; seas are grander, salty and tidal. The waters I see are all of these things, with different elements predominating by turn – and distinctly moody besides.

The river can be – and frequently is – the picture of serenity*, but when the wind is up and the tide is running, the waves and current can make headway in a kayak – my usu...

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The Drones Club*

When I was young, I looked like a truly hopeless student. In my third grade report card my teacher tried to soften the blows of her other comments by adding “at least he is average in math”. (Could a teacher even write such comments today, and not get fired? I doubt it.) That report card was just one in a long line of dismal assessments of my capabilities, all of them lovingly saved by my mother and returned to me as a set many years later. Boys’ minds are less orderly, and mature more slowly, than girls’ – and mine was right in line with the other boys’, or possibly worse than most.

I didn’t really catch on until the second half of eleventh grade...

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Small Businesses

Every new business is somebody’s dream. Somebody’s hope for a better life. Somebody’s worry.

A would-be entrepreneur starts with a question: how can I serve people better than they are now being served – with higher quality, lower prices, greater convenience, something they want?

And its doppelganger: what if I am wrong? How much will I lose – in terms of time, money, heartache and effort – if I’m wrong about what others will want or I can produce?

For most of those who take the risk, everything depends on getting the answers to those questions right – his (or her) livelihood, his family’s well-being, their standing – and likely presence – within their community, their prospects. Everything. After failure: the abyss.

Every time I see a small business fail...

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Trump, China and India

We have come to expect – and, truth be told, hope for – false modesty and at least the appearance of self-restraint from our political leaders; President Trump turns these expectations on their heads. He has all the self-restraint of a junkyard dog. Feed him and he will love you; step onto what he sees as his territory and he will try to feed on you. In Freudian terms, he’s all id.

Those who have accused Trump of having committed crimes or of being something reprehensible – a racist, most commonly – he taunts. He doesn’t buy those theories, thinks the people who have propagated them are the worst and tells the world exactly that, often in vividly colorful and grammatically creative language. Our elites – and many ordinary people – see him as uncouth or worse.

He also exaggerat...

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Political Prognostications

I think the 2020 matchup will be between Senator Harris and President Trump.

The only reason that Biden has been leading in the polls is that a plurality of Democrats thinks he’s the most electable of their possible candidates, and most Americans, Republicans as well as Democrats, have the vague sense that he’s a decent guy. He didn’t show well in the first debate and I expect that his weaknesses – looking old and tired, a pronounced inability to think on his feet and his (related) propensity for verbal gaffes will continue to erase his aura of electability in future debates...

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The Less Frightening Alternative

In response to yesterday’s post, a CH reader who despises President Trump to a degree that I find remarkable emailed me a link to a Youtube video of Lawrence O’Donnell, Ron Klain and some guy from Mother Jones on MSNBC, telling us how terrible it is that Trump’s running up the national debt (https://youtu.be/Y_9GEEq8S_k). After watching the clip, I responded that I actually found the video kinda funny, in a painful sort of way – like listening to three drunks lecture the world about sobriety. I told him I would write a post about the experience – and, more substantively, about why I think Trump is the less frightening choice on deficit spending.

So here goes:

As soon as I saw Lawrence O’Donnell I knew what to expect: three Trump-haters, weeping and wailing and gnashing their ...

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