Tuesday, January 31, 2017

On the Train

David Kanigan, boxed in with some vegan hoodlums, tells a memorable story.

Whatever Works

Overhauling the Civil Service

Philip K. Howard of Common Good on the President's right to say, "You're fired." An excerpt:

A historical halo hovers over the civil service because it replaced the spoils system, in which public jobs were rewarded to political hacks. As originally designed in the Pendleton Act of 1883, civil service was a system of neutral hiring. Reform leader George William Curtis believed that “if the front door were properly tended, the back door would take care of itself.” Originally civil service did not diminish the president’s power to manage or fire federal employees (other than barring demands for campaign contributions), because that was considered unconstitutional.

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All of the world's cultures - Asian, African, Middle Eastern, European/Western Hemisphere - have fostered wisdom writing. For more than a half-century I have studied and taught the literature that emerged from monotheism and its later secularizations. Where Shall Wisdom Be Found? rises out of a personal need, reflecting a quest for sagacity that might solace and clarify the traumas of aging, of recovery from grave illness, and of grief for the loss of beloved friends.

- From Where Shall Wisdom Be Found? by Harold Bloom

Even Better The Second Time

Image result for a good year amazon

Quote of the Day

Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you'd have preferred to talk.

- Doug Larson 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Welcome to the New Global War

The trailer for the documentary: "Zero Days."

And you thought zombies were scary.

Funny But Brutal

Lewis Carroll: "The Walrus and The Carpenter."

Supreme Court Nominee?

Predicting Supreme Court nominees can be a real parlor game.

Althouse looks at Judge Neil Gorsuch.

Art Break: Zilber

Denis Zilber Art Blog

The freelance illustrator's blog is fun and impressive.

One Tip at a Time

Become a Better Boss One Tip at a Time Cover

Wally Bock's e-book is out and, as readers of his blog will expect, it's filled with practical advice.

Check it out.


It's a big day at Anderson Layman's Blog.

Many happy returns!

Myst is Back


And FutureLawyer has the details.

I'm waiting for Pong.

Trump's Refugee Policy and Its Critics

This brings us to a broader point: The United States in general, and the Obama administration in particular, never had an open-borders policy for all refugees from everywhere, so overwrought rhetoric about Trump ripping down Lady Liberty’s promise means comparing him to an ideal state that never existed. In fact, the Obama administration completely stopped processing refugees from Iraq for six months in 2011 over concerns about terrorist infiltration, a step nearly identical to Trump’s current order, but one that was met with silence and indifference by most of Trump’s current critics.

Read all of Dan McLaughlin's essay here.

Which Person Will It Be?

Assign Ed or Maria to complete a particular project in May and you will be assigning a different person than if you had made that decision in January.

For example, Ed may be rested and calm in January but impatient and over-eager in May. Maria may be distracted and uncertain in January but focused and confident in May.

We may not notice the changes in them. This is not surprising. It is unlikely that we will have noticed our own changes. 

A decision or assignment is not something "out there."  It can be highly personal and people are not unchanging commodities. No one steps twice into the same river because both the river and the person have changed..

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Outdoors it was very very still, and from our bedroom we could hear the crickets and see the fireflies. I opined to my sister Trish, age twelve, that when the wind dies and silence ensues, fireflies acquire a voice, and it is then that they chirp out their joys for the benefit of the nightly company, visible and invisible.

- From Life at Great Elm in Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography by William F. Buckley Jr.

Quote of the Day

To become a philosopher, start by walking very slowly.

 - Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Saturday, January 28, 2017

You May Get Flowers Later

Valentine's Day is coming and A Simple, Village Undertaker has just the thing for a man with a death wish.

The Anniversary of Challenger

January 28, 1986.

Those of us who recall where we were when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded will also remember the brief comments to the nation by President Reagan.

Barbara Hale, RIP

Barbara Hale, a.k.a. "Della Street" of the Perry Mason series, has passed at the age of 94.

Alert the FutureLawyer.

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He began to die when he was twenty-one, but tuberculosis is slow and sly and subtle. The disease took fifteen years to hollow out his lungs so completely they could no longer keep him alive. In all that time, he was allowed a single season of something like happiness.

- From Doc: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell

Miscellaneous and Fast

Cultural Offering: Two views on the Trump change.
Anderson Layman's Blog has a lesson from Arnold Palmer.
Nicholas Bate points to a jarring page. [Who's your double?]
Eclecticity Light is building a little free library.
Wally Bock: The paradox of leadership control.
Salena Zito: Donald Trump and small town America.
FutureLawyer reveals his inspiration.
Andrew Munro at Burning Pine has some great stuff.

Quote of the Day

What the [mainstream media] still fails to appreciate is the degree to which they’ve spent the last 40 years — at least — presenting news as unbiased and objective when it was in fact coated with, saturated in, and bent by all manner of confirmation biases, self-serving narratives, assumptions, and ideological priorities that leaned left.

- Jonah Goldberg

Friday, January 27, 2017

Sherlock's Older Brother

One reason why so many of us are hooked on the series.

Friday Reprise

The Cure: "Friday I'm in Love."
BBC Proms: (Bach) "Sleepers Wake."
The Rolling Stones: "Gimme Shelter."
Five for Fighting: "100 Years."
ZZ Top: "Sharp Dressed Man."
Michael Chapdelaine: (Couperin) "Mysterious Barricades."

First Paragraph

China's economic resurgence in the post-Mao era has not been without its casualties. Gone are the Chairman's portraits, the mass parades of flag-waving workers and the hoe-toting brigades on their collectivized farms. Apartment blocks, tightly mustered and regimentally aligned, perform the new choreography; flyovers vault the rice paddies, cable cars abseil the most sacred of mountains, hydrofoils ruffle the lakes beloved of poets. Familiar features in the historical landscape have either disappeared or been reconfigured as visitor attractions. Iconised for a market as much domestic as foreign, they make inviting targets for another demolitionist fraternity, that of international academe. When history itself is being so spectacularly rewritten, nothing is sacred. The Great Wall, the Grand Canal, the Long March, even the Giant Panda? Myths, declare the revisionist scholars, facile conflations, figments of foreign ignorance now appropriated to gratify Chinese chauvinism.

- From China by John Keay

Art Break: Stults

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Larry Stults.

The Example of Victims

Much is made of leadership by example. As you know, the concept urges leaders to exemplify the conduct and values they wish to see in their followers.

I recently thought of another form of example: the example of victims. This is not a variation of the dark line:"Shoot one to encourage the others." Instead, these victims were not engaged in any sort of undesirable conduct. They were wholly innocent but their loyalty to --- and trust in - an organization was not reciprocated.

I recall seeing this in play out in a large organization when the new chief executive officer decided to make some serious cuts. Very good people were arbitrarily let go.

That did not go unnoticed by people in lower-ranking positions who knew the reputations of many of the victims. The message for many of them was simple: Hang around here and instead of retirement you may get the ax. 

Injuries have ripple effects.

Quote of the Day

Who looks outside, dreams; Who looks inside, awakens.

- Carl Jung

Thursday, January 26, 2017

May Your Day Be As Good As This

A reminder of the greatness of Chaplin.

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He was a provincial boy, a painter like his father. Everyone recognized that Raphael Sanzio had extraordinary artistic talent: talent, as his fellow painter Vasari later said, more like a god than a man. At sixteen and with his father's encouragement, he moved from his sophisticated but small hometown of Urbino to work with the Umbrian master Pietro Perugino, and then to Florence, the city of the Medici.

 From The Cave and the Light: Plato versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization by Arthur Herman

Good Questions

  • Is it an action or a reaction? 
  • Does it achieve progress or merely restore the status-quo? 
  • Which terms are unclear?
  • Is it something we can shout from the rooftops without embarrassment? 
  • Does it require extensive explanation before people see its merits or are there obvious benefits?
  • Are there any legal or ethical problems?
  • Have we given serious consideration to the critics? 
  • If it doesn't work what will probably be the reason?
  • Did we explore more than three options? 
  • Are we trying to meet an unrealistic deadline? 
  • Who bears the greatest burden?
  • How will we know if we succeeded?
  • What do we want to see?
  • What do we hope does not happen?
  • If our plans succeed, will we be proud of what we achieved?
  • Which new problems or challenges will we face shortly after we succeed?
  • What will be the long-term consequences?

Quote of the Day

It has been well-said that Davos is where billionaires tell millionaires what the middle class feels.

- George Will

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Crank It Up

1973: Little Richard gets things moving with "Lucille."

Mary Tyler Moore, RIP

Althouse has a classic scene.

Modern Life: The Mercedes AA Luxury Sedan

This is, without a doubt, the Mercedes you've longed for.

[HT: Rick Miller]

Marilyn Monroe Break

"The Asphalt Jungle" was directed by John Huston. It is one of those noir films crawling with stars, such as Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, and Sam Jaffe. Marilyn Monroe was not a mega-star at that point but she was on her way.

Vora's Sketch Note

The multi-talented Tanmay Vora provides a sketch note of ten characteristics of companies that succeed.

Film Break

The trailers for:

To Be Perfectly Clear

"As soon as that is done or replicated in full modification, we'll be able to execute an ancillary core replacement (not a brevet version) which will tell us whether partial process has been achieved or is only partial."

The minute you hear anything that resembles the above, it is time to stop the meeting and call for a translator.

Of course, if that statement was made by the translator, it is time for prayer.

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In the fashionable sixth district of Vienna, the history of the Holocaust is in the pavement. In front of the buildings where Jews once lived and worked, ensconced in sidewalks that Jews once had to scrub with their bare hands, are small square memorials in brass bearing names, dates of deportation, and places of death.

- From Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder

Quote of the Day

Everything that can be invented, has been invented.

- Charles H. Duell, 1899

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Management in the American Civil War

Edwin B. Coddington's The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command can be read as history but it can also be devoured as an intriguing view of how the leadership of both sides related to the North's ultimate victory.

I didn't plan on reading the book until a few others on my stack have been finished but once into the first few pages, it was hard to stop. Now I have to finish it.

Call it a management consultant's guide to the war. Coddington, who died shortly before the book was published in 1979, delves into the indirect effects of policies. He details misguided recruitment policies; the Confederate cavalry's way of acquiring horses; and how the Union Army began to stress sanitation and proper diet. There are plenty of personality conflicts  - J.E.B Stuart could not stand one of the other Confederate commanders - and communication glitches. You'll read reports that could have been written in any large organization just a few hours ago. You'll also feel the anguish of soldiers who had to follow the commands of fools.

A number of items that you have already read about the war may be challenged.

A fascinating book. Thought-provoking. Check it out.

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The month of April, 1863, marked in the pages of history the midway point of the Civil War in the United States, but to the people of the North and the South living at that time it had a different meaning. It signified for them the opening of another season when the thunder of battle would once more roll across the land and the casualty lists stretch out endlessly. They could not know how much longer the war would last, but by 1863 they felt it had been with them forever and might go on forever.

- From The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command by Edwin B. Coddington

Quote of the Day

Never hire an A student unless it is to take exams.

- Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Monday, January 23, 2017

Edward G. Robinson Break


Found at KA-CHING!:

Pulp Break

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It Does Not Pay

It does not pay to:

  • Be too clever.
  • View life solely in a rear-view mirror.
  • Keep score on who did what for whom.
  • Speak without a filter.
  • Assume that your interpretation is the only reasonable one.
  • Mention a minor fault.
  • Worry about matters that are beyond your control.
  • Store grievances.
  • Operate on unexamined assumptions.
  • Think that time moves slowly.
  • Rely on magical solutions.
  • Compose speeches while others are talking.
  • Ignore your homework.
  • Level frequent criticism at others and at yourself.
  • Believe that good intentions excuse poor results.

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There are things that upset us. That's not quite what we're talking about here, though. I'm thinking rather about those images or words or ideas that drop like trapdoors beneath us, throwing us out of our safe, sane world into a place much more dark and less welcoming. Our hearts skip a ratatat drumbeat in our chests, and we fight for breath. Blood retreats from our faces and our fingers, leaving us pale and gasping and shocked.

- From Trigger Warning: Short Fiction and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

Quote of the Day

I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.

- Film critic Pauline Kael, 1972

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Unwisdom of Crowds

When asked to summarize the record of his administration, Coolidge replied, “Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business.” The point wasn’t that he was lazy, the point was that it takes work to stop government from doing stupid things. “It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones,” he once remarked.

Read the rest of Jonah Goldberg by clicking here.

Nate's Take

Anderson Layman's Blog has a tantalizing portion of Nate Silver's analysis of why most journalists were wrong about the outcome of this election.

I see no sign that they are learning from the experience.

Dog Tested

David Kanigan has the Subaru commercial.

Very subtle and effective advertising.

The Pentatonic Scale

Reprise: Bobby McFerrin gives a classic demonstration.

You will smile.

The Wonderful World of Federal Regulations

The final rule requires that covered entities post notices of nondiscrimination and taglines that alert individuals with limited English proficiency to the availability of language assistance services. To reduce burden and costs, OCR has translated a sample notice and taglines for use by covered entities into 64 languages. For translated materials, visit www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/forindividuals/section-1557/translated-resources/index.html. 

 The final rule requires each covered entity to post taglines in at least the top 15 non-English languages spoken in the State in which the entity is located or does business. Those requirements are modified for small sized significant communications such as postcards; for these, the final rule requires entities to post a nondiscrimination statement and taglines in at least the top two non-English languages spoken by individuals with limited English proficiency in the State.

- From Summary: Final Rule Implementing Section 1557 of The Affordable Care Act.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Donovan: "Hurdy Gurdy Man."
Naturally 7: Beatboxing.
The trailer for "I Am Not a Hipster."
The finale to "Yankee Doodle Dandy."
Anderson Layman's Blog has another group to support.

The Recipe Book is Always Incomplete

When it comes to dealing with people, there are basic ingredients but you and the circumstances determine the recipe. What will work for one "chef" won't for another and, of course, customer tastes will vary.

This is where experience pays off. It will guide your formulations and, if you are fortunate, will eventually create a valuable form of intuition. That something may feel right (or wrong) at a particular point won't be because of happenstance but instead will be the product of informative experiences.

In human relations, a recipe book only works up to a point. Making decisions is one of the ways we acquire judgment. That process often involves making mistakes.

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Shortly before midnight on March 12, 1928, carpenter Ace Hopewell piloted his motorcycle up the twisting San Francisquito Canyon Road north of Saugas, about fifty miles north of Los Angeles. Through the scrub on his left, he had a moment's view of the St. Francis Dam, a looming 700-foot-wide concrete monolith, then he was into a curve and all he had was the roadway in his headlamp. He came out of the curve into a straightaway where he ordinarily would have opened the throttle, but he felt a sudden shaking - perhaps something going wrong with his engine - and instead he slowed. He was living in a construction camp next to Los Angeles Water Bureau Power Plant #1, just a few minutes' ride ahead, and there was no hurry. It was a typically cool but clear mountain night in Southern California - maybe it was a good time for a smoke.

From Water to the Angels: William Mulholland, His Monumental Aqueduct, and the Rise of Los Angeles by Lee Standiford

Quote of the Day

It is rare indeed for a nation to have at its summit a group so curiously gifted as Washington and Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Adams. And what was particularly providential was the way in which their strengths and weaknesses compensated each other, so that the group as a whole was infinitely more formidable than the sum of its parts. They were the Enlightenment made flesh.

- Paul Johnson

Friday, January 20, 2017

Takes from the Day

Art Break

They knew how to dress in those days.

Art Contrarian looks at portraits of Charles X of France.

Stalin's Own

In National Review, Jay Nordlinger notes a "damn good question" about nostalgia for Stalin.

Books That Have Timers

Scott Adams notes some of his books that had timers (by design) and thus were written before many people would be ready for their message.

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On the last day of the course that I teach at Harvard Business School, I typically start by telling my students what I observed among my own business school classmates after we graduated. Just like every other school, our reunions every five years provided a series of fascinating snapshots. The school is superb at luring back its alumni for these events, which are key fundraisers; the red carpet gets rolled out with an array of high-profile speakers and events. My own fifth-year reunion was no exception and we had a big turnout. Looking around, everyone seemed so polished and prosperous - we couldn't help but feel that we really were part of something special.

- From How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen

Some Essential Copland

The New York Philharmonic: "Fanfare for the Common Man."

All Best Wishes

All best wishes for President Donald Trump. May his presidency be a successful one.

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

When I hear artists or authors making fun of businessmen I think of a regiment in which the band makes fun of the cooks.

- Anonymous

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Diana Rigg Break

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When the fair gold morning of April stirred Mary Hawley awake, she turned over to her husband and saw him, little fingers pulling a frog mouth at her.

- From The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck

Himmler's Cigarette

"We had the moral right, we had the duty to our people, to destroy this people which wanted to destroy us. But we have not the right to enrich ourselves with so much as a fur, a watch, a mark, or a cigarette, or anything else."  

- Heinrich Himmler in his 1943 speech at Poznan to his senior SS officers

Chilling and bizarre. Himmler could excuse, praise, and, of course, order massive numbers of cold-blooded murders but taking a cigarette from the victims was, in his eyes, unacceptable because it was enough to start a pattern of corruption. 

He was not worried about harming the victims. He was worried about corrupting the murderers.

Rest assured that the event, as with most formal business meetings, had an agenda. When he finished speaking, refreshments were served.

Quote of the Day

Occasionally, a good idea comes to you first, if you're lucky. Usually, it only comes after a lot of bad ideas.  

- Alex Blumberg

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

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"In conclusion, it is the view of Union Station Consulate that the trade in counterfeit Earth chess sets has not been impacted by enforcement activities, and perversely, the crackdown has forced the principal actors to master molecular tagging, thus accelerating their technical competency and leading to increasingly sophisticated forgeries of other high value exports, especially playing cards and kitchen gadgets."

- From Date Night on Union Station by E. M. Foner

Look Dignified for the Camera

True West magazine has yet another take on why people didn't smile in those old photographs.

Eclecticity Light

Where does he find this stuff?

Welcome Aboard!

Welcome aboard! 

You were hired because of your success either in school or at another organization. With regard to the latter, the place may have been entirely different from our own but we'll assume (pretend?) that the skills you acquired are transferable until you show them to be otherwise.

We were impressed that you did not badmouth your past employers  In turn, we put a rather happy face on our own environment. During your orientation, which will be all-too-brief, you'll meet some of the key players. We'll do our best to keep the local eccentrics from crossing your path for at least a couple of days.

Just kidding. They too have valuable things to teach you. Many of them are among the brightest people in this organization. [That is in no way a sarcastic comment.] Every organization needs a dash of eccentricity and we're proud of it. We don't use a cookie-cutter to select people.

You will, however, find a shared commitment to certain values; the stuff that makes all of us trustworthy. If you ever find us straying from those, give a very loud shout. 

We mean that.

Perhaps the best thing we can advise you to do is to observe. Listen carefully for meaning and not just general statements. Ask plenty of questions early on because that's when people expect them. [if you're really smart, you'll keep on asking and learning.] 

Don't believe everything you hear, whether it is good or bad. Make up your own mind. Look for mentors but remember that even the best mentor has biases and gaps. Start connecting dots. We hope you never stop doing that.

You are here for a reason. 

Let's be worthy of one another.

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

Make your peace with the fact that saying 'no' often requires trading popularity for respect.

 - Greg McKeown

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Music Break

The Beatles: "Twist and Shout."

"Best Book" Lists

Wally Bock gives his pick of the "Best Book" lists. 

A very interesting collection.


In my life, I have heard the following sentences from people in the course of a conversation:
  • "I was in a concentration camp."
  • "I was with the Marines at Chosin Reservoir."
  • "A boy in our village was arrested by the Gestapo."
Words, of course, can be powerful. But when it comes to conveying the real essence of an experience, they can also be grossly inadequate.

The Downside of the Good

Disasters and setbacks get a lot of attention and study but it also pays to explore the downside of the good. 

For example, a large organization that has high turn-over will immediately set off alarm bells but what about a large organization with almost no turn-over? It is possible that the place has a termination phobia and is keeping employees who should have been terminated.

Another example: an organization that has high selection standards. Are the standards truly related to job performance or is an applicant with a flashy degree automatically regarded as better qualified than one with extensive and relevant experience?

Vigorously examine the "good" and often you'll find that its rationale is fragile.

And be prepared to hear "We've always done it that way."

Pick Three

Out of the 100 top things that you may worry about this year, pick the five most important.

Focus as much as possible on those and give special attention to your top three.

Do you really think that you'll miss a lot if you do this?

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

I'm thirty years old but I read at the thirty-four-year-old level.

 - Dana Carvey

Monday, January 16, 2017

Film Break

The trailers for:

I Am Honored

My belated but sincere thanks to Cultural Offering and Eclecticity Light for the very kind mentions on their extraordinary blogs.

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The past few decades have witnessed a historic integration of the United States into the world economy - even more so than in the first half of the twentieth century. This integration, an important element of the worldwide process of globalization, was marked by a rapid increase in the quantity of goods traded with other countries and in the number of  people who immigrated to the United States. Between 1970 and 2015, the value of exports and imports as a fraction of gross domestic product (GDP) almost tripled from 11 percent to about 30 percent. The foreign-born share in our workforce tripled as well, from 5 percent to over 16 percent.

- From We Wanted Workers: Unraveling the Immigration Narrative by George J. Borjas

Photography from the Civil Rights Movement

Google has a collection of photographs.

Sad Commentary

Once upon a time, the civil rights movement's leadership included Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, and Bayard Rustin.

Today, we've got Al Sharpton.

Art Break: Vernet

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Emile Jean-Horace Vernet.


If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 60 years ago, a liberal 30 years ago and a racist today.

 - Thomas Sowell


Saturday, January 14, 2017

A Curmudgeonly Bookstore Owner

No, not all bookstore owners create a cozy or wimpish environment.

The Cramped has the story.

I so want to visit that bookstore.

Table books for kindling or peacocking!

Who Could Have Guessed?

Althouse: California's bullet train will cost much more than expected.

Wet Foot, Dry Foot

Image result for back to blood tom wolfe amazon

A good novel to reread, especially in light of the Obama administration's recent change on the "wet foot, dry foot" policy.