Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Read all of Jacob Laksin's review of Bruce Bawer's new book.
Ira Lee Sorkin, Madoff's attorney, acknowledged his client as a "deeply flawed individual" but said he is nonetheless human and asked the judge for a 12-year sentence. Sorkin cited Madoff's health and decision to step forward to disclose the fraud seven months ago as reasons that argued for a shorter sentence.
Twelve years? Sorkin must have practiced saying that in front of the mirror.
Monday, June 29, 2009
I know an outstanding executive who stresses the importance of "benevolence."
Remember the Phoenix Fire Department's mission statement:
Prevent Harm - Survive - Be Nice.
Here's the opinion . . .
and here are various takes:
In a word, no.
There are some jobs - such as ombudsman positions - that require a level of detachment from the organization that would be diluted or filtered by any desire to preserve promotion chances.
Can the same be said of certain responsibilities? Are there not assignments that are career-killers if they are to be done well?
Saturday, June 27, 2009
- France has been called before the European Court of Justice for a major transgression.
- Mary Jo Asmus on paying attention to your impact.
- Cultural Offering explains the why of Facebook.
- John Phillips analyzes the "man gene" and mental illness.
- Mark Steyn discusses Sanford, Jackson, and scandals. [HT: Real Clear Politics]
- Neatorama looks at five shocking celebrity deaths.
- Christopher Hitchens on the Acropolis Museum.
- Political Calculations on Roubini's reasoning.
- Verging on Pertinence has an on-going Kindle review.
- John McWhorter ponders the enigma Michael Jackson.
Every morning over coffee we would have our daily good-natured political debate. He was always very focused, and thus often set the direction and tone of the discussion. I began to notice, though, that later each day the news covering the agenda of the party he supported reported the same points, from the same perspectives, and sometimes even with the same language. He was on the party’s “theme of the day” fax/email list, used to keep everyone on the same page, and the party’s agenda on track.
Read the rest of Business Week on the rush to pass a cap and trade bill.
Is it too much to expect legislators to take enough time to read and debate bills that could have a major impact on the economy?
Friday, June 26, 2009
Although written from the perspective of a madman, it provides a healthy contrast to the Silicon Valley-type puff stories about India's boom.
When tickets for Jackson's 50-date comeback concert series went on sale in March, some 750,000 tickets sold out in five hours. The shows had been arranged by AEG Live Entertainment, an arm of former telecom billionaire Phil Anschultz's private empire, which also owns 02, the large London arena where the shows were scheduled to take place over several months.
“Why do men chase women?” asks Rose Castorini in Moonstruck. “Because they want to live forever.” The data suggest that we marry and have children for just that reason. When we cease to hope in eternal life, we no longer marry and no longer have children. That is the terrible lesson that the triumph of secularism has taught us. In industrial countries where atheism triumphed in the form of communism, fertility rates have fallen to levels barely half of replacement. The fertility of Eastern Europe in 2005 was only 1.25 children per woman, according to the United Nations Population Prospects. Japan stood at 1.3. In secular Western Europe it was 1.6. In industrial countries where most people profess some form of religious faith, however, fertility remains at replacement levels or above. America’s fertility in 2005 stood at 2.1, and Israel’s at 2.9.
"I have no intention of babbling about mistakes, or about problems of exhaustion and stress that could have led to my affair -- and no intention of standing here, like so many dolts before me, looking vacant and miserable, as though I'd just come through some kind of punishment camp that left me brainwashed."
- Captain Morin de La Haye of the French Foreign Legion, 1886
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Read the rest of Daniel J. Flynn's essay here.
The answer, of course, is it might. Or it might not.
Some argue that it always does. I recall one executive whose position is: "If a man will lie to his wife, he'll lie to me." I can understand the suspicion, but have known people who might well deceive a spouse but would never deceive an employer. They take their job much more seriously than they take their marriage.
President Kennedy was hardly an emblem of fidelity but there is no evidence that his affairs affected his performance as president. [One counter-argument is that the dalliances could have made him vulnerable to blackmail. That, of course, would depend upon his willingness to be blackmailed.]
There are times when the conduct of the affair raises serious questions about the person's judgment. What could have been a private matter between Governor Sanford and his wife has been exacerbated by the Governor's weird and amateurish behavior shortly before and during his ill-advised press conference. The fact that he is clearly under enormous stress may say good things about him as a person but it does not signal that he can function effectively at this time.
In the days of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, observers tried to determine whether the conduct was personal or professional. There are times when an affair is both. The question then becomes the extent of its impact. The ideal scenario is when the sad sorting out process can be left solely to the marital partners.
Read the rest of the Business Week article here.
- Robert Hall, Attaining Manufacturing Excellence
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
How bad can the legacy of the baby boomers really be? Let's see: We're the generation that spawned Microsoft, Intel, Apple, Google, ATMs and Gatorade. We defeated the evils of communism and delivered the world from the brink of global thermonuclear war. Now youngsters are telling pollsters that they think socialism may be better than capitalism after all. Do they expect us to apologize for winning the Cold War next?
College students gripe about the price of tuition, and it does cost way too much. But who do these 22-year-old scholars think has been footing the bill for their courses in transgender studies and Che Guevara? The echo boomers complain, rightly, that we have left them holding the federal government's $8 trillion national IOU. But try to cut government aid to colleges or raise tuitions and they act as if they have been forced to actually work for a living.
Read the rest of Stephen Moore, who may now be in the Witness Protection Program, here.
The "sophisticated" is the sugar that makes the program more interesting while providing a cover for those who know they need the basics but don't want to admit it. [We've all been there!]
Basic knowledge is not inherent knowledge. It can be forgotten or discounted as easily, if not more easily, than the complex if only because we assume it to be ingrained.
That's why it deserves a periodic review, with or without a cloak.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
An effective EEO office will have to investigate the Human Resources Department.
It's a simple fact. HR handles the selection process and also puts its prints on terminations and many personnel actions in-between. Those areas are prime generators of discrimination complaints. The CEO should have an independent voice that can provide objective investigations. Human Resources cannot credibly investigate itself.
Some may say, "Well, both EEO and HR work for the same employer so how can any of them be objective?" That's a good question but it assumes that economic ties are stronger than professionalism or commitment. I've worked as an internal EEO officer and frequently sided with charging parties in discrimination cases. It made no sense to rubber-stamp management decisions that were discriminatory. Doing so would destroy the credibility of the internal complaint process and open the organization to even worse problems.
If an organization cannot afford to have a separate internal EEO officer, then it should contract out that responsibility. Leaving the role to HR is a huge mistake.
It is also a common one.
From Jim Rogers:
The best advice I ever got was on an airplane. It was in my early days on Wall Street. I was flying to Chicago, and I sat next to an older guy. Anyway, I remember him as being an old guy, which means he may have been 40. He told me to read everything. If you get interested in a company and you read the annual report, he said, you will have done more than 98% of the people on Wall Street. And if you read the footnotes in the annual report you will have done more than 100% of the people on Wall Street.
Friedman wrote: "Third-party payment has required the bureaucratization of medical care. ... A medical transaction is not simply between a caregiver and a patient; it has to be approved as 'covered' by a bureaucrat. ... The patient has little ... incentive to be concerned about the cost since it's somebody else's money. The caregiver has become, in effect, an employee of the insurance company or, in the case of Medicare and Medicaid, of the government. ... An inescapable result is that the interest of the patient is often in direct conflict with the interest of the caregiver's ultimate employer."
Monday, June 22, 2009
A is always followed by B.
Later on in the workplace, we learn that A is sometimes followed by D or R and that going out of order - and thus creating a new sequence - can be beneficial.
Thus we don't wait until a draft is perfect before circulating it to others; we let a copy make the rounds early and benefit from the wisdom of colleagues. We don't expect to have all of the information before surfacing a proposal, but instead hold an informal brainstorming session with the recipient in order to ferret out possible concerns.
This doesn't mean that we've abandoned a linear approach. Our willingness to meander simply recognizes that there is a time to get off the trail and a time to return to it. Sometimes, the side trips are highly educational. They may even turn into shortcuts.
Inspiration still lacking? Try reading the book you have always avoided despite everyone telling you it will help. Yes, that’s the one: Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way.
When I see patients who have been injured in their private lives, by past abuse, say, or a recent trauma, such as divorce, often I suggest that they invest new energy in their careers. The workplace may not overlook anxiety or depression, but often it is more neutrally instructive than the sphere of intimacy. When it functions well, the office teaches all of us when to stand our ground and when to be strategic. We learn that decisions don’t always go our way. The workplace says, “Aw, get over yourself.” Since on the job we’re focused on performance, we are likely to do just that, to absorb advice and move on.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Read more about this new trend in kayaking.
- Roger Scruton, "Why Lampposts and Phone Booths Matter"
Friday, June 19, 2009
Marvelous film and very Seventies.
Read the rest of Sam Schulman's article here.
My wife is still in the hospital and is on the mend. I continue in the role of Chief Morale Officer but can get to a computer more frequently.
Our deep appreciation and thanks for all of the prayers and kind thoughts. They meant more than we can express.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Evan Carmichael's The Top 50 HR Blogs to Watch in 2009
I'm honored to be in the company of the other bloggers.
- Modern technology permits us to ask large numbers of people the deepest of questions.
- Road rage: Which cities have the most?
- Beyond wild: Backstage at Cirque du Soleil.
- Michael J. Totten is blogging on the Iranian protests.
- Memories of Ted Knight as Ted Baxter.
- Emmylou Harris: Born to Run.
- Arthur Herman on Gitmo and torture.
- 1944: The film trailer for "To Have and Have Not."
Read the rest of Nicholas Dawidoff's article on when brilliance hits a slump.
The commencement address by Stephen C. Ellis on how to be a happy (and successful) lawyer. An excerpt:
Trust yourself. You are a very bright person or you wouldn’t be here today. I think among the most important conclusions I came to as a young lawyer was that if I didn’t understand something, it was because the thing in fact didn’t make sense, not because I was stupid. Most of the times I’ve found myself in hot water it’s because I let a conversation continue past the point where I understood what was being said. And virtually every time I would say “stop, I’m not following this,” someone would come up to me after the meeting and say “Boy I’m glad you said that. I had no idea what we were talking about.”
Monday, June 15, 2009
And then after about 3 months of sizing me up (at 26, I confess looking back I was not 1/8th the man my grandfather was at 86) he began stealing water in insidious ways: taking an extra day on his turn, cutting in a day early on mine, siphoning off water at night, destroying my pressure settings, watering his vineyards on days that were on my allotment. Stealing no less! And in 1980!
It is not merely that artists, directors, musicians, and others connected with the arts are in flight from beauty. Wherever beauty lies in wait for us, there arises a desire to preempt its appeal, to smother it with scenes of destruction. Hence the many works of contemporary art that rely on shocks administered to our failing faith in human nature—such as the crucifix pickled in urine by Andres Serrano. Hence the scenes of cannibalism, dismemberment, and meaningless pain with which contemporary cinema abounds, with directors like Quentin Tarantino having little else in their emotional repertories. Hence the invasion of pop music by rap, whose words and rhythms speak of unremitting violence, and which rejects melody, harmony, and every other device that might make a bridge to the old world of song. And hence the music video, which has become an art form in itself and is often devoted to concentrating into the time span of a pop song some startling new account of moral chaos.
Read the rest of Sue Shellenbarger's column here.
Fragment to fragment clings; all things thus grow
Until we know and name them. By degrees
They melt and are no more the things we know
Globed from the atoms, falling slow or swift
I see the suns, I see the systems lift
Their forms; and even the systems and their suns
Shall go back slowly to the eternal drift.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
What produces this mistake?
- Assuming that you have to do everything yourself. A classic blunder. You miss the chance to reduce your workload while benefiting from the expertise of others. The quality of your work also declines.
- Assuming that you can do everything yourself. You can't. Stop pretending.
- Striving for martyrdom. Not a pleasant fate when the stakes are so small. And it can be very irritating.
- Caring more than is healthy. Caring too much can cause you to lose power to those who care less. It can also produce an ultra-sensitivity that may result in a distorted view of reality.
- Craving power. If you really want power, taking on more than you can handle is not the way to achieve it; indeed, you will diminish your influence.
- Getting trapped in a cycle. You take on too much, things became worse, and to fix things you take on even more. Very bad move.
- Not trusting others. Unless warning signs are flashing, assuming that others are trustworthy until there is evidence to the contrary is the best practice. Consider the message that your lack of trust can send and the negative reaction it sparks. What you expect is often what you get.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Teach yourself Java, HTML, Flash, PHP and SQL. Not a little, but mastery. [Clarification: I know you can't become a master programmer of all these in a year. I used the word mastery to distinguish it from 'familiarity' which is what you get from one of those Dummies type books. I would hope you could write code that solves problems, works and is reasonably clear, not that you can program well enough to work for Joel Spolsky. Sorry if I ruffled feathers.]
The bank of TV screens in front of the treadmills contained an array of programs, many of them presented by vulgarians. I began to look forward to the commercials and eventually turned my attention to a screen featuring the inside story of traffic meters.
All of which brings us to the subject of style. Is there one actor out there who even approaches the style of Cary Grant? Is there an actress who resembles Audrey Hepburn?
The latest hubbub about David Letterman's tacky comments about Sarah Palin and her daughter only serves as a reminder of how, in some quarters, low standards have become standard. It is unthinkable that Johnny Carson would have ever joked about a major politician's young daughter getting knocked up. Letterman's studio audience, of course, responded like trained seals.
A telling sign of a society's health is what it regards as entertainment. Ancient Rome had its grandeur but a society that cheered as people were ripped apart by wild animals was far from grand. We have not descended to that level - thank God - but are we moving upward or downward?
Thursday, June 11, 2009
The small command moved directly east and away from ile aux Noix out into the gently undulating hardwood forest of what is now southern Quebec. While it still comprised a few more than 150 men, the force had already lost much of the Indian ranger complement and two of its three regular officers. Amherst had required Rogers to pick his men from the entire army, not just the rangers. As was often the case over the course of his military career, Rogers was struggling to build coherent working order among a disparate group. Time and again he strove to mold frontier individualists into effective battle formations by communicating effectively with unlettered pioneer Scots-Irish, praying Indians, British regulars, and flat-footed coast provincials. He trained his men rigorously and taught them extraordinary practical skills. Above all, he treated them in a challengingly respectful and equal spirit, taught them to overcome dread, and created a collective mystique. In doing so, Rogers innovated and codified a particularly modern—and American—brand of warfare still taught to special forces today and used in critical situations the world over.
- Stuart Koehl: Recently published accounts of British heroism in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Rich Lowry: Why the Chinese laughed.
- Fine art: A new exhibit discovers sex in Mayfair.
- Bruce Bawer: The rightward shift in Europe.
- Cathy Young looks at the 60th anniversary of "1984."
- Ed Driscoll on the tasteless David Letterman and the "non-story."
Read the rest of the Business Week article here.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
- Preserve the family. While the world, nation, and tribe may let you down, the family should there for you and you should be there for the family. Don't take it for granted.
- Protect your resources. Save money and live within your means.
- Everybody pitches in. No one is exempt from finding a way to help.
- Education is essential. It cannot be taken away from you and it will help each generation get further down the path.
- Limit entertainment. This charming friend can quickly become an enemy. Don't permit it to consume too much of your time.
- Maintain traditions but strive to assimulate. Separation from the mainstream will ensure failure. Learn the language and the customs.
- Be wary of government. Too much assistance can create dependency and dependency can be lethal.
- Focus on your business. Don't dissipate your energies with grand schemes. Hone your skills.
- Look for bargains and opportunities. Small savings accumulate and opportunities are all around you.
- Build a network of allies. Maintain it. Some day you will need those contacts.
- Subdue your ego. Avoid money-draining displays of status.
- Don't think like a victim. To the greatest extent possible, take control of your life.
Read the rest about recession-busting.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
That's true. I tell that to my children and they flee.
But one day they'll know the allure of a voice that combines cigarette smoke, cold beer, and juke box. The first George Jones song I heard was "Big Harlan Taylor," which was written by Roger Miller. One memorable verse:
I wanted revenge and waylaid for Big Harlan
Then I got to wonderin' what good would it do
If a rubber-tired, new shiny car's her ambition
Then she can just have it and Big Harlan too.
The entire thing is like an Erskine Caldwell novel.
Read the rest of Louis Menand in The New Yorker.
Read the rest of the Vanity Fair article. Charming.
“It does not tyrannize, it gets in the way.” The all-pervasive micro-regulatory state “enervates,” but nicely, gradually, so after a while you don’t even notice. And in exchange for liberty it offers security: the “right” to health care; the “right” to housing; the “right” to a job—although who needs that once you’ve got all the others? The proposed European Constitution extends the laundry list: the constitutional right to clean water and environmental protection. Every right you could ever want, except the right to be free from undue intrusions by the state.
Many of Mr. Obama's supporters surely thought this young, dynamic generation of public leaders would elevate the hip, cutting edge of the U.S. economy -- nanotechnology, genomics, robotics, even health and medicine technology. Instead, we've gotten the Old Economy on dialysis. General Motors has been commanded to restart aging UAW factories to output product on behalf of the administration's hybrid-car obsession. Where's the New Economy in any of this?
Monday, June 08, 2009
You can't fix it all. Some problems would demand too much time. In some cases, the solution would create even worse problems. There are times when the problem, as bad as it is, is the solution to much larger problems.
As a wise manager once put it, "This is not an ordered world."
The inability to address all problems, however, is not understood by many employees. These critics may be frustrated and demoralized by management's willingness to let matters drift. They usually do not know the reasons for the inaction. Rather than trying to guess what rational beliefs could cause the behavior, they ascribe weakness, incompetence, corruption or favoritism as the reason.
If a group is behaving strangely, first assume competence and exhaust the rational and more benign reasons before concluding the conduct is governed by something negative.
Second, and possibly even more interesting, is a show I’m calling So You’re Too Fat To Dance? A mix of several genres, this one puts it all together for pure, guilty pleasure. Contestants join the show when still very adipose, pleasant people who really can’t dance very well at all. They try, but they for the most part fail to accomplish the complicated choreography outlined for them by the show’s panel of showbiz sadists. Over the 16 weeks, contestants are put through a grueling regime of diet and exercise in which they lose tons of weight very quickly, putting their health at risk while at the same time making themselves far more flexible, pliant and capable of graceful dives, sweeps and fancy footwork. By the end of the series, we have a few people who punished themselves enough to make the grade and dance off with the prize, and probably a lot more who fell by the wayside, panting. Part make-over, part weight loss, part exercise in pure humiliation, I think this show will have it all.
A great deal of procrastination by subordinates is caused by indecision on the part of their leaders. As a result, team members lack guidance, are given confused and confusing instructions, are set tasks without first checking whether they have the necessary skills to achieve them, or are left waiting for a key decision from the boss—then blamed for the subsequent late running of the project.
The White House acknowledges that this now famous statement -- both racist and dim-witted -- was turned up in the vetting process. So we can only assume that the president was aware of it, as well as Judge Sotomayor's career-long claim that ethnicity and gender are virtual determinisms in judging: We need diversity because, as she said in her Berkeley lecture, "inherent physiological or cultural differences . . . make a difference in our judging." The nine white male justices who decided the Brown school-desegregation case in 1954 might have felt otherwise, as would a president seeking to lead us toward a new, post-racial society.
- Jonah Goldberg
Saturday, June 06, 2009
In Friedan's day, women were clearly the second sex. Not so today. Yes, many women are struggling with the challenge of combining family and work. But men do not have it easy either. They are increasingly less educated than women. They are bearing the brunt of the recession. The New York Times recently reported that "a full 82 percent of the job losses have befallen men." Reuters referred to the surging male unemployment rate as a "blood bath." Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "FastStats" show that men are less likely than women to be insured--and more likely to drink, smoke, and be overweight. They also die six years earlier than women on average.
Why are there no conferences, petitions, workshops, congressional hearings, or presidential councils to help men close the education gap, the health care gap, the insurance gap, the job-loss gap, and the death gap? Because, unlike women, men do not have hundreds of men's studies departments, research institutes, policy centers, and lobby groups working tirelessly to promote their challenges as political causes.
Read the rest of Christina Hoff Sommers here.
This essay on the importance of courage is an example of why. An excerpt:
Fear is not your enemy. It is a compass pointing you to the areas where you need to grow. So when you encounter a new fear within yourself, celebrate it as an opportunity for growth, just as you would celebrate reaching a new personal best with strength training.
Read the rest of Clive James on the meaning of recognition.
Read the rest of Wired's interview with director Guillermo del Toro on the future of film.
We cannot function well as hermits and yet we need quiet time in which to collect our thoughts. The latter activity is often scorned as wool-gathering or goofing off. In an action-oriented environment, it can be an act of bravery to declare the need for additional thought.
Much is intangible. We shuffle tasks and search for poetry in our work. I suspect that it usually lurks in the balance between action and analysis and between engagement and disengagement.
- Ian Kershaw
Friday, June 05, 2009
In the bailout state, the federal government takes over failed private entities in order to maintain overall economic stability. Sometimes the companies already had ties to government, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) that the Treasury seized--sorry, "took into conservatorship"--last summer. Sometimes the bailout state's beneficiaries are businesses like AIG, Citigroup, Bank of America, and the other financial institutions wedded to government through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (or TARP). Other times, the beneficiaries are unions: the United Auto Workers (UAW) whose members' jobs at Chrysler and the "new GM" will survive thanks to government largesse.
The wards of the bailout state have more in common than government support. After all, the government has supported the railroad, agriculture, and steel industries for a long time. But not through direct bailouts. No, the salient feature of the bailout state is government ownership and control.
Read the rest of Matthew Continetti in The Weekly Standard.
- The email box overflows.
- Working files are not properly organized.
- And I fall behind on sending thank you notes and birthday cards.
I find it far easier to postpone these chores than to fail to return a phone call. Phone call messages, for some reason, are more pressing and I have a strict rule of returning all calls, if at all possible, within the work day.
The seemingly trivial tasks do not easily merge with other business. They demand special focus and, if unattended, spark feelings of guilt that are not minor.
Recently, I wrote about the importance of designating an Unpleasant Tasks Day once a month. Once a week, at least an hour or two should be devoted to Jungle Work.
And if it is not placed on the calendar, it won't get done.
Last year, U.S. box-office receipts totaled $9.63 billion, essentially unchanged from $9.66 billion in 2007. Movie attendance dropped by 4.8% but was mostly offset by a 4.4% rise in the average ticket price to $7.18. That's all the more impressive given the sharp drop in consumer spending amid a harsh economic backdrop and the fact that 2007 was a banner year for movie sales, analyst Tuna Amobi said in a recent research report for Standard & Poor's. (S&P, like BusinessWeek, is a unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies (MHP).)
Thursday, June 04, 2009
- Employment attorney John Phillips on the U.S. Supreme Court decision on maternity leave.
- Ed Driscoll and Jonah Goldberg on the new corporatism.
- Body of Art: Well, if you're going to have a tattoo.
- A review of Palm's new smart phone.
- Robert Samuelson on the President's ally.
- Cultural Offering with ZZ Top: Sharp Dressed Man.