Monday, February 28, 2011
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Mr. Daniels is convinced that as president, he would know how to fix the country's debt and swelling entitlements. He's less sure he has the stomach for pursuing the job.
"A friend of mine said to me, 'Mitch, you have a fatal flaw as a candidate.' And I said, 'I have a lot of them. Which one did you have in mind?' And he said, 'You can live without it.'"
- Russell L. Ackoff
Friday, February 25, 2011
Boards and bosses are transitory. Projects end. Procedures and systems, however, can have a life of their own and, in most cases, they are long-lived. The seasoned bureaucrats know this. They have seen flashy reformers come and go. The bureaucracy's time-tested strategy involves delay, dodges, confusion, and persistence. They will be glad to let others grab the limelight so long as they retain control of the system.
Their point of strength is also their point of vulnerability. Don't knock your head against the wall of personalities. Save your breath when it comes to declaring grand programs. Quietly change the procedures and the benchmarks. Inject monitoring points that cannot be eluded. Design a new set of rewards and punishments.
Turn the system on itself. They are not counting on that.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
In the midst of intense litigation and trial, the challenge for lawyers is never to forget what an opposing counsel told me 25 years ago: "Once this is over, we will take off and go on to the next case, but we leave behind the litigants and witnesses. A lawyer should never forget this."
Want to sell your popular donuts at Whole Foods? That's a quantum leap, not an incremental step.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
- Fast and/or garbled voicemail messages that you have to replay five times to decipher what was said.
- Callers who assume that you recognize their voice.
- Secretaries who call and then ask you to hold until their boss comes on the line.
- Late in the evening or early in the morning calls on minor matters.
- Telephone solicitors who act as if they know you.
- The use of cell phones in restaurants.
- Call waiting.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
“Never go to Costco hungry. But if you do, a Leatherman tool works really well for cutting up the roast chicken you start eating in the parking lot. And you will be extremely grateful for that roll of paper towels you find in the trunk of your car, trust me on this. ”
In New York City, the No. 2 guy in the fire department retired on a pension worth $242,000 a year. In New York State, a single official holding two jobs and one pension took in $641,000. A lieutenant with the Port Authority police retired with an annual pension of $196,767, and 738 of the city's teachers, principals and such have pensions worth more than $100,000 a year. Their former employer, it goes almost without saying, is steamed. Their former employer is me.
Read the rest of Richard Cohen here.
Once the conclusions are formed, one more round of questions followed by any needed revisions and then action.
"Not at all, but the appearance of impropriety is present and we cannot have that."
"So you are going to trash their reputation based upon an appearance that you admit is not representative of reality."
"It may seem harsh, but we want to set a higher standard and that means they cannot even come close to a violation."
"And yet if we were to judge your own behavior, we can conclude that although you do not have evidence to prove that they are guilty, you have chosen to treat them as if they were guilty."
"It may appear that way."
Monday, February 21, 2011
Nearly one and a half centuries after the second president undertook to explain himself to the third, Herbert Hoover opened his heart to a most unlikely correspondent. "Yours has been a friendship which has reached deeper into my life than you know," he told Harry Truman in December 1962. I gave up a successful profession in 1914 to enter public service. I served through the First World War and after for a total of about 18 years. When the attack on Pearl Harbor came, I at once supported the President and offered to serve in any useful capacity. Because of my various experiences . . . I thought my services might again be useful, however there was no response. My activities in the Second World War were limited to frequent requests from Congressional committees. When you came to the White House, Hoover continued, "within a month you opened a door to me to the only profession I know, public service, and you undid some disgraceful action that had been taken in prior years."
The task of teaching and writing history is infinitely complex and infinitely seductive and rewarding. And it seems to me that one of the truths about history that needs to be portrayed—needs to be made clear to a student or to a reader—is that nothing ever had to happen the way it happened. History could have gone off in any number of different directions in any number of different ways at any point along the way, just as your own life can. You never know. One thing leads to another. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Actions have consequences. These all sound self-evident. But they’re not self-evident—particularly to a young person trying to understand life.
Nor was there ever anything like the past. Nobody lived in the past, if you stop to think about it. Jefferson, Adams, Washington—they didn’t walk around saying, ”Isn’t this fascinating, living in the past?“ They lived in the present just as we do. The difference was it was their present, not ours. And just as we don’t know how things are going to turn out for us, they didn’t either. It’s very easy to stand on the mountaintop as an historian or biographer and find fault with people for why they did this or didn’t do that, because we’re not involved in it, we’re not inside it, we’re not confronting what we don’t know—as everyone who preceded us always was.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
For a brief patch, 1983-87, Chicago voters went for idealistic incompetence, and elected a black mayor, Harold Washington, who died in office. It wasn’t, I think it fair to say, quite worth it. This was the period in Chicago known as the Council Wars, in which the 50 aldermen of the City Council, a group that makes Ali Baba’s 40 thieves look like l’Académie française, was divided down the line between black and white, with ugly racial feeling right out in the open. Like an unsuccessful movie, the Council Wars left no one to root for, with scoundrels on both sides of the divide. Black or white, when a Chicago alderman speaks on television, one mentally crayons in the eye-patch, the hooped earring, the parrot on his shoulder.
On an August night 15 years ago, I drove to Coney Island to play basketball. Arriving just after dinner, I set up camp at a court on the corner of Mermaid and 25th Street, nestled beside a large public housing project. I ran games late into the night with a small group, including a hulking gentleman named Tank who had a mouthful of gold teeth, and a younger chap, Nick, who was missing a finger on his right hand. Nick’s torso was dotted with small, round scars from old gun wounds.
Read the rest of Jonathan V. Last on the rise of street soccer.
I’m a physician. I take care of patients. Yes indeed, if I were to give a doctor’s note to someone without conducting a proper medical evaluation (however brief), I’d be guilty of improper behavior and ethics and could be brought before the medical licensing board.
However, there’s another name for this: FRAUD. The teachers will use these notes to justify their absences and collect their pay. Both the doctors and the teachers are perpetrating a fraud.
Read the rest at Instapundit.com.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
At the same time, of course, a danger lurks behind the smiles. What if the close relationship creates an unspoken understanding where pay increases and perks that should be resisted are embraced in the name of peace? Management and labor may sing "Kumbaya" while picking the taxpayer's (or shareholder's) pocket. A general rule: Whenever there is a coalition for comfort, you can reasonably expect that other concerns, such as excellence and fiscal responsibility, will be much lower priorities.
I had the same reaction when a close friend was enthusiastically recounting the good old days of nonpartisanship in our local politics. The example that he cited had turned out very well indeed. The overall interests of the state were, by most measurements, advanced. Both parties behaved well. Little imagination, however, was needed to see how those quiet agreements could drain the conflict and dissent that are necessary if issues are to be seriously examined. Lubrication is needed for the wheels of organizations to turn, but there are moments when sand provides the traction for serious progress.
- Unhappy Hipsters: "Ray studied the house from a safe distance...."
- Krauthammer on Bialystock & Bloom accounting.
- C.S. Lewis and the pursuit of happiness.
- John McWhorter is wondering about Black History Month.
- Guy Sorman on the negative income tax.
- Film: Will Roger Deakins finally win an Oscar?
- Recipe: Special Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Friday, February 18, 2011
- Partial release of information.
- Delayed responses to requests.
- Creative misinterpretations of clear instructions.
- Playing the victim.
- Passing the buck.
- Losing documents.
- No coordination.
- Overly cozy relationships with interest groups.
- Favoring turf over mission.
- Failing to surface fatal flaws.
- Overstating obstacles.
- Misconstruing legal opinions.
- Leaking information to opponents.
- Missing important meetings.
- Paralysis by analysis.
- Overloading the decision maker with trivia.
- Making highly selective interpretations of responsibilities.
- Spending wildly toward the end of the fiscal year.
- Placing regulatory compliance far above customer service.
MacLeod speaks from extensive personal experience as he discusses his struggles years ago the lessons he learned from them. He has paid a hefty “tuition” to obtain the real-world knowledge he gained and now shares, as he did in an earlier book, Ignore Everybody. In that book and in this one, he provides an abundance of his brilliant illustrations. Some are hilarious. Some have the impact of an ice pick stuck in the ear. All are precious gifts. They remind me that, long ago, Oscar Wilde offered this admonition: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” MacLeod presumably agrees but, I suspect, would cite another admonition from the Gnostic Gospels, part of the New Testament apocrypha: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
Thursday, February 17, 2011
You will like it. Guaranteed.
- The first paragraph of Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
In 1956, after a party at Elizabeth Taylor's house, Monty lost control of his car and slammed into a tree. Surgeons could reconstruct the handsome face but not the wounded psyche; he grew fatally dependent on drugs and alcohol. Bosworth argues convincingly that it was Clift, even more than Marlon Brando, who personified the postwar leading man: anxious, vulnerable, dislocated.
A memorable example of the greatness of Montgomery Clift can be seen here.
These are not dumb people nor are they lazy, but for some reason they frequently fail to check schedules, read minutes, monitor actions, and follow through on commitments. Have all of us fumbled in those areas? Sure, but we try not to make a habit of it and when we err, we apologize and blush a little.
This revelation, such as it is, is tied to another great truth: More contests are lost than won.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
In the future, it is possible that if you can't express a thought in a single character, it's not going to get heard. The letter "h" will be accepted as the universal symbol for the word "hi," for example, just as "k" has come to replace "Yes, I'd love to have dinner with you -- I've been missing you and looking forward to spending some time with you after several weeks of really hard work where we've had no time to be together." Other letters of the alphabet will be quickly assigned similar duties, and if you don't like the idea, I've got a letter for you that can't be printed in this magazine.
Stephen Schwartz was raised a communist in the San Francisco Bay Area and once worked for the Cubans. Then he became a Republican and converted to Islam in the Balkans. When he’s not busy with his duties as the director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, he writes books and articles for magazines like The Weekly Standard.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray; War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy; A Good Man in Africa by William Boyd; A River Town by Thomas Keneally; The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O'Conner; Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry; The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad; The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope; David Copperfield by Charles Dickens; The Warden by Anthony Trollope; Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres; Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo, and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
Please feel free to add to the list.
But the Muslim country most in the grip of Bollywood mania is Pakistan, India’s cultural twin in every respect but religion. As with the Beatles under communism, the more aggressively Pakistani authorities have tried to purge Bollywood from their soil, the more its popularity has grown. During the country’s four-decade-long ban on Indian movies, Pakistanis smuggled VHS tapes and installed satellite dishes. When the ban was finally lifted in 2008, the Bollywood scene in Pakistan exploded. Not only have Bollywood movies been playing to packed houses, but Indian movie stars—despite Islam’s taboo against idol worship—are treated like demi-gods. The latest fad among Pakistan’s urban nouveau riche are Bollywood theme weddings in which the bride and groom dress in outfits worn by a movie’s stars and hold their wedding reception in elaborate tents patterned around the movie set.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Freud and Lewis take turns throughout “Freud’s Last Session” becoming each other’s patients for psychoanalysis—a pursuit that sometimes leads to frustration, but always clarifies both their motives as they deliver their philosophical arguments. As the arguments of the play move more deeply into the men’s personal biographies, we start to see their commonalities. Indeed, the main satisfaction of the play is the irony of two extraordinary intellects arguing religious belief on rational grounds, at the same time trying to uncover each other’s hidden motives, getting at the “world beneath the world.”
At one point, Lewis remarks that it is madness to think the two could settle such questions in an afternoon. Freud replies that the greater madness would be not to think about such things at all.
Read all of Allison Elliott's review ."
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Even more horrifying, in Stockman’s telling, was his boss, who refused to kick the snuffling porkers away from the trough. President Reagan was a dope. He was given to saying silly things to his budget director. One of the silly things that Reagan liked to say—over and over again—was “Defense is not a budget issue. You spend what you need.”
Friday, February 11, 2011
Sometimes it's no fun being right. Last February I wrote that the concern about uncontrollable acceleration in Toyota (TM) cars was just so much humbug. As the findings on the government investigation into these allegations proved, I was proven correct. What I would prefer, however, is that the media would take the time to report a story accurately rather than just stir up a public frenzy in pursuit of ratings.
Read the rest of Ed Wallace in Business Week.
Some of us are loon magnets. Whether it is Grand Central Station, Times Square, or Wakiki Beach, at least one local crazy will feel compelled to tell me his theories about the latest space landings or his mistress in Baltimore. It's not that I look all that cordial. [New acquaintances have often told me of their surprise that I am actually friendly. As for size, I'm more linebacker than chess-player.] There must be a hidden signal that tells the bizarre, "This man wants to hear your story. Leave nothing out."
I'm tempted to make a pre-emptive strike. When any of these characters shuffles up, I can launch into my own strange tale before they utter a word. I'll keep babbling in various dialects until they back away. My repertoire has plenty of material. For example, there was this pit bull....
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Attendance usually has to be mandatory for such sessions since few people think it wise to tell the boss, "I think I need a class on ethics." There is also a reluctance to raise the subject due to fear of being labeled weak or self-righteous.
When the subject is broached, however, people eagerly discuss it. You can tell that they have questions or rules of thumb and are interested in getting other ideas. Many probably underestimate the good influence they have had on others over the years.
Some savvy in-house people will start the program. I'm the old trout brought in at the end to give additional perspective.
It will be fun.
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
FutureLawyer is on the case.
Read the rest here.
You are a leader who is skillful at creating and sustaining healthy workplace relationships. You don’t use fear or threats to get what you want. Despite your skill, you may unknowingly intimidate others in a more subtle way. In fact, you are probably more intimidating than you think you are; most leaders don’t see it in themselves.
Multiculturalism is a deeply misunderstood idea. That was one of the reasons for its political success. People were led to believe that "multiculturalism" meant multiracialism, or pluralism. It did not. Nevertheless, for years anybody who criticized multiculturalism was immediately decried as a "racist."
But the true character and effects of the policy could not be permanently hidden. State-sponsored multiculturalism treated European countries like hostelries. It judged that the state should not "impose" rules and values on newcomers. Rather, it should bend over backwards to accommodate the demands of immigrants. The resultant policy was that states treated and judged people by the criteria of whatever "community" they found themselves born into.
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
Among law enforcement officials around the world, the city of 120,000 has a nickname: Hackerville. It’s something of a misnomer; the town is indeed full of online crooks, but only a small percentage of them are actual hackers. Most specialize in ecommerce scams and malware attacks on businesses. According to authorities, these schemes have brought tens of millions of dollars into the area over the past decade, fueling the development of new apartment buildings, nightclubs, and shopping centers. Râmnicu Vâlcea is a town whose business is cybercrime, and business is booming.
Read the Wired article. Scary stuff.
The problem is that there are too many surfers in the world and too few good waves to ride. This may come as a surprise, given the extent of global coastlines, but most surf is unrideable or uninteresting, and good locations are small. The North Shore, for instance, is only 13 miles long. It contains several dozen renowned surfing spots—particularly the “inside breaks” of Pipeline, Sunset Beach, and Waimea Bay, one after the other, close to the shore—but their takeoff zones are typically just a few yards wide, and they are crowded with surfers vying for advantage. Bradshaw calls this the dark side of surfing. The crowding is compounded by the fact that, even on good days at good breaks, good waves are relatively infrequent, and when one finally arrives, even if it is large, it usually offers enough space for just one good run. What goes on as a consequence Bradshaw calls natural selection. Actually, he calls it Darwinism, and means the same thing. It’s not about survival so much as getting the rides. In the minds of people like Bradshaw, the two are related. If you leave a challenge unanswered, the punks will start stealing your waves. There are a lot of punks in surfing. Bradshaw said, “Yeah. I’m not afraid to go for it. I’m not afraid to be underwater for a long time. And I guarantee you I have stood on people.” By people he meant men. For some reason this never comes up with women.
5. He was an "amiable dunce."
Yeah, right, Clark Clifford. Ronald Reagan only performed successfully in six different careers: radio sportscaster, movie actor, trade union president, corporate spokesman, two-term governor and two-term president of the United States. Lucky for him he wasn't hampered by Jimmy Carter's intelligence!
Monday, February 07, 2011
While the details differ from one nation to the next, the common element is failure—not just of young people to find a place in society, but of society itself to harness the energy, intelligence, and enthusiasm of the next generation. Here's what makes it extra-worrisome: The world is aging. In many countries the young are being crushed by a gerontocracy of older workers who appear determined to cling to the better jobs as long as possible and then, when they do retire, demand impossibly rich private and public pensions that the younger generation will be forced to shoulder.
Read the rest of the Business Week article here.
Yet once a free people gives government the power to use force as the Framers were doing through the Constitution, a further problem arises. Men must administer that government, men with the same human nature as everyone else, often with its worst defects in abundance. What motives, after all, drive men to seek elective office? “1. ambition 2. personal interest. 3. public good. Unhappily the two first are proved by experience to be most prevalent.” Such men often have “interested views, contrary to the interest, and views, of their Constituents,” whom they easily hoodwink by masking their “base and selfish measures . . . by pretexts of public good and apparent expediency.” Since “power is of an encroaching nature,” Madison warned, “all men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.” You can argue that “honesty is the best policy” or that considerations of reputation and religion ought to make officials behave virtuously, but experience shows that they don’t—and they especially don’t in large groups like legislatures, where “passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason. Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.”
I'm living in a strange world where people for whom I have no regard draw finely calculated and ultimately meaningless distinctions about everything down to the scope of activities allowed for pedophiles to roam the earth, at the same time they ban children playing tag in the schoolyard. Such distinctions are meaningless because anyone who is prepared to commit a great offense is not concerned about the rules governing small ones.
[HT: Anderson Layman's Blog]
- The Badger and The Lion
- The Otter and The Snake
- The Butterfly and The Sloth
- The Owl and The Eagle
Sunday, February 06, 2011
Saturday, February 05, 2011
- Close, but not quite ready.
- I'm not sure if I agree with that.
- How does this differ from previous posts on the subject?
- Is that fair?
- That's too clever.
- I really like that section but it adds nothing to the piece.
- I find it interesting. Will anyone else?
- There's been too much written on that subject.
- Will anyone realize that was meant to be humorous?
- Be sure to give a "Hat Tip."
- Get rid of the "thats."
- And the "ands."
- Shorten the sentence.
- You're covering too many topics.
- Check that spelling.
- Don't rush it.
- Make it clearer.
- Sleep on that one.