The Irrelevance of Beauty

On June 30, 1864, Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land Grant, the first time the federal government had set aside land for public use and protection. At the time, the Civil War was reaching a critical phase, as Ulysses S. Grant had just launched the nine-month Siege of Petersburg, which would eventually lead to Lee’s surrender […]

Return to Trump Country, Part 3

Bob Hollick and Larry Maggi are Democrats, one a local officeholder, the other, a current county commissioner, is the biggest vote getter in Washington County, Pennsylvania. Both enthusiastically voted for Donald Trump in November, and they’re frustrated the constant sniping and bickering that has become its aftermath. The election is over, they say. It’s time […]

Return to Trump Country, Part 2

It was raining heavily the morning I drove into Johnstown, Pennsylvania, which gave me pause as I drove down the steep gorge where, 128 years ago, 20 million tons of water breached the South Fork dam, gathered force as it surged 14 miles down Little Conemaugh Creek, and hit the city at 40 miles per […]

A Return to Trump Country, Part 1

Washington County, Pennsylvania, lies just south of Pittsburgh, close by the West Virginia line. It was the center of the Whiskey Rebellion against Alexander Hamilton’s tax on liquor to pay off the Revolutionary War debt, and it sits above the massive Marcellus Shale, the largest source of natural gas in the United States. Although it’s […]

Was she there?

As the son of a man who died by suicide, the father of a daughter working to destigmatize mental illness, and an old newspaperman devoted to the First Amendment, the sorrowful story of Conrad Roy, III, and Michelle Carter has haunted me. At first it may seem a tabloid tale of marginal characters, but we’re all […]

It’s golf, not a colonoscopy

“Why are you in such a hurry,” the long-suffering golf pro asked? “Because I want to get it over with,” I replied. I play golf like I do many other things: compulsively, desperately, and not very well. I am, I believe, on the threshold of mediocrity, and I’m determined to get better even though I’m […]

Churchill, Plato and Climate Change

“Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Winston Churchill “Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy.” The ideal republic is ruled by a wise philosopher king characterized by a love of true knowledge. Plato Here, in this divergence of […]

And now there are two

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby Yesterday the United States joined the only other countries that have not signed the Paris climate accord: Syria and Nicaragua. Three cheers for Nicaragua. They opted out because the agreement wasn’t tough enough on big […]

Old White Men Clapping

When Harvard president Drew Faust recently told the 50th reunion class of 1967 that “this fall’s freshman class will be the first majority minority class in the college’s history,” the audience applauded. The incoming freshmen will look very different from those who arrived in the fall of 1963, when black students – both African American […]

Summer Travel Plans

I should take a trip, I thought to myself, as I perused some interesting destinations in the news. Iran is once again issuing American tourist visas, which it had halted in response to the Trump administration’s travel ban. The upside is that Iran is a popular destination for intrepid travelers, and Americans are popular there. The downside […]