Friday, September 25, 2020
The most damaging thing you learned in school wasn't something you learned in any specific class. It was learning to get good grades.
When I was in college, a particularly earnest philosophy grad student once told me that he never cared what grade he got in a class, only what he learned in it. This stuck in my mind because it was the only time I ever heard anyone say such a thing.
Read the rest of Paul Graham's essay here.
On March 18, 2014, still bathed in the afterglow of the Winter Olympics that he had hosted in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russian president Vladimir Putin stepped up to a podium in the Kremlin to address the nation. Before an assembly of Russian officials and parliamentarians, Putin signed the documents officially reuniting the Russian Federation and the peninsular republic of Crimea, the home base of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. Crimea had seceded from Ukraine only two days earlier, on March 16. The Russian president gave what was intended to be a historic speech. The events were fresh, but his address was laden with references to several centuries of Russian history.
- From Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin by Fiona Hill and Clifford G. Gaddy
TaxProf Blog points to posts on the dangers facing law schools as enrollments drop.
I don't sense that the necessary nimbleness is present. Unlike many businesses, law schools operate in a rigid and slow-moving environment.
The needed urgency may rapidly expand as more and more schools fold.
[Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe at Unsplash]
Thursday, September 24, 2020
Quillette: Amy Alkon on how homeless policies turned her home into a prison.
Wally Bock has some excellent choices.
[Photo by Erol Ahmed at Unsplash]
Jonathan Turley on Michael Bloomberg's effort to pay off the fines of black and Hispanic felons in Florida so they can vote.
Hmm. American Indian, Asian American, and Anglo felons would not qualify.
I'd like to ponder the implications of that for a while. And has Bloomberg considered the unintended consequences if his efforts are successful in swaying the election. I'm sure he's had plenty of lawyers scrutinizing the wording and substance of his idea but the legal aspect is only one question.
There also is an ethical one.
National pride is to countries what self-respect is to individuals: a necessary condition for self-improvement. Too much national pride can produce bellicosity and imperialism, just as excessive self-respect can produce arrogance. But just as too little self-respect makes it difficult for a person to display moral courage, so insufficient national pride makes energetic and effective debate about national policy unlikely. Emotional involvement with one's country - feelings of intense shame or of glowing pride aroused by various parts of its history, and by various present-day national policies - is necessary if political deliberation is to be imaginative and productive. Such deliberation will probably not occur unless pride outweighs shame.
- Richard Rorty in Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America
[Photo by Thomas Kelley at Unsplash]
I write this farewell book about American early schooling not just as an educator concerned about the quality of our children's education, but as an American concerned about our survival as a high-achieving, fair, and literate society. Over my long life, I have always been a booster of the United States, ever grateful for the blessings of liberty secured to us by our Constitution. No nation is without failure or shame, but I believe ours to be the best nation on earth - and not just for its spacious skies and amber waves of grain, although these do add to the sense of greatness and possibility. Along with our Constitution, it has been the schoolmistresses and schoolmasters of our past - starting with Noah Webster - who have kept us thriving and unified.
- From How to Educate a Citizen: The Power of Shared Knowledge to Unify a Nation by E. D. Hirsch, Jr.
[Photo by Nicola Tolin at Unsplash]
Thomas Jipping at The Heritage Foundation looks at earlier nominations. An excerpt:The committee held a hearing on eight Supreme Court nominees who did not attend, including Earl Warren in 1953. Justices Stanley Reed (1938) and William O. Douglas (1939) attended their hearings, but said nothing and were asked no questions. While Reed’s hearing lasted almost an hour, Douglas’ was over in just five minutes.
The entire confirmation process is sometimes over before virtually anyone knows it has begun. The Senate confirmed James Byrnes in 1941 on the same day that President Franklin Roosevelt nominated him. Four years later, Roosevelt’s nomination of Harold Burton languished longer (for a single day).
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Remember the advice that you should wear the mask with its white side out if you want to avoid getting the virus and the blue (or green) side out if you want to avoid transmitting an illness?
Here's hoping this simplifies matters.
[Executive summary: show your colors.]
On the afternoon of 23 May 1945, more than two weeks after the German surrender, a group of about twenty suspects - German civilians and soldiers - who had been rounded up two days previously, were brought into the British forces' 31st Civilian Interrogation Camp near Lüneburg.
- From Heinrich Himmler by Peter Longerich
It is not enough to know the rules. It is also important to know the exceptions and where the rules originated.
And then, along with those areas, it can help to know the proclivities of those who enforce the rules and which modifications, however unintended, they may insert in that enforcement. Such changes made be the equivalent of amendments.
What is a good demonstration of knowledge? Being able to provide a brief, accurate, and understandable explanation to someone who has no background in the subject and who is eager to be elsewhere.
Tuesday, September 22, 2020
"Mme Yourcenar wrote a good deal of fiction, but her imperishable work is Memoirs of Hadrian, first published in French in 1951. The novel is in the form of a lengthy letter by the aged and ill Emperor Hadrian, who ruled from CE 117 to 138, to the 17-year-old but already thoughtful Marcus Aurelius."
- Joseph Epstein
The New York Times reports on the protests in residential neighborhoods.
An excerpt:A small free literature selection was set up on the grass and overseen by three people in ski masks. It was a popular offering, and people crowded around, craning to see the pamphlets.
Titles included “Why Break Windows”; “I Want To Kill Cops Until I’m Dead”; “Piece Now, Peace Later: An Anarchist Introduction to Firearms”; “In Defense of Smashing Cameras”; and “Three-Way Fight: Revolutionary Anti-Fascism and Armed Self Defense.”
Unlike the old Establishment, the Political Class depends directly or indirectly on the state for its special privileges, career structure and increasingly for its financial support. This visceral connection distinguishes it from all previous British governing elites, which were connected much more closely to civil society and were frequently hostile or indifferent to central government. Until recent times members of British ruling elites owed their status to the position they occupied outside Westminster. Today, in an important reversal, it is the position they occupy in Westminster that grants them their status in civil society.
- The Bible
- Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankel
- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
- Animal Farm by George Orwell
- Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
- John Adams by David McCullough
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
- War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
- The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
- The First Circle by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
- The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
- Bleak House by Charles Dickens
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers by Tom Wolfe
- Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
- Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
- The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
- The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay
Law professor (and Instapundit) Glenn Reynolds revives one of his old proposals: having a Supreme Court with 59 members.
That would be a grand illustration of solving one problem and creating some new ones that could well surpass the old problem in terms of severity.
Monday, September 21, 2020
A Layman's Blog points to a humorous potlikker debate between an editor and The Kingfish.
As even the most remote hermit knows, we're going to have an election in November.
It won't be a coup. It won't be a revolution. It will be an election and after that we'll have a president. [All of us will have a president, not just the side that won.]
But what is just as important is that we need to have a country. It does no good for either side if an election is so acrimonious that it severely divides our people and makes governance next to impossible.
I know individuals who will be voting for different candidates. These are fine and intelligent people who wish the best for this country and for future generations. They are not dunces or scoundrels.
To avoid needless acrimony, it might help to reach into the attic and dust off some tried and true guidelines. They are far from original but nonetheless they are valuable. Let us:
- Give one another the benefit of the doubt;
- Lower the heat in our arguments;
- Avoid burning bridges with friends, relatives, and associates; and
- Refrain from cheap shots.
As a wise old executive once said, "Whenever you're angry, don't do anything that feels good."
When passions are fevered, basic courtesy can be a tonic.
Eventually, all of us will feel much better as a result.
[Photo by Max Sulik at Unsplash]
Sunday, September 20, 2020
Saturday, September 19, 2020
I noticed that very intelligent and informed persons were at no advantage over cabdrivers in their predictions, but there was a crucial difference. Cabdrivers did not believe that they understood as much as learned people - really, they were not the experts and they knew it. Nobody knew anything, but elite thinkers thought that they knew more than the rest because they were elite thinkers, and if you're a member of the elite, you automatically know more than the nonelite.
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb in The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
David Post, a former RBG law clerk, remembers Ruth Bader Ginsburg. An excerpt:
Most of what I know about writing I learned from her. The rules are actually pretty simple: Every word matters. Don't make the simple complicated, make the complicated as simple as it can be (but not simpler!). You're not finished when you can't think of anything more to add to your document; you're finished when you can't think of anything more that you can remove from it. She enforced these principles with a combination of a ferocious—almost a terrifying—editorial pen, and enough judicious praise sprinkled about to let you know that she was appreciating your efforts, if not always your end-product. And one more rule: While you're at it, make it sing. At least a little; legal prose is not epic poetry or the stuff of operatic librettos, but a well-crafted paragraph can help carry the reader along, and is always a thing of real beauty.
With regard to filling the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, we see both political parties adopting positions they previously opposed.
That is what parties do. If their power positions were reversed, each would be embracing the exact strategy it now opposes. Senators Schumer and McConnell would exchange scripts.
Althouse weighs in here.
[Photo by Yu Kato at Unsplash]
Friday, September 18, 2020
Peterson describes Skidmore as a politically monolithic campus where the campus Republican club attracted only a handful of members and has since shut down. It’s the kind of place where students are shocked to meet anyone who holds right-of-center views. So if, in these times of protest, they want to go around looking for The Oppressor, the ideological opponent who represents everything that is wrong with the world, he can be a little hard to find. But then, as Peterson puts it, “There he is, screwing in lightbulbs.”
Read the rest of Robert Tracinski's column in The Bulwark.
To be done over any twelve-month period:
- Pick a country, any country, but preferably one with a sizable literature. Over the next twelve months, read about its history, geography, economy, government structure, etc. Also watch its films, view its art, and listen to its music. Try out the cuisine. Studying the country's language is optional.
- Pick a year from the past seven decades. Study the events that took place. Read that year's novels and non-fiction. Check out its fashions, art, architecture, and music. Watch the films. Compare the quality of the political and cultural figures with their peers of today.
- Any other similar projects?
Thursday, September 17, 2020
Landscape-tones: brown to bronze, steep skyline, low cloud, pearl ground with shadowed oyster and violet reflections. The lion-dust of desert: prophets' tombs turned to zinc and copper at sunset on the ancient lake. Its huge sand-faults like watermarks from the air; green and citron giving to gunmetal, to a single plum-dark sail, moist, palpitant: sticky-winged nymph. Taposiris is dead among its rumbling columns and seamarks, vanished the Harpoon Men . . . Mareotis under a sky of hot lilac.
- From Balthazar by Lawrence Durrell
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
I am in my office at home. There is serious stuff to do but the morning has been gobbled by correspondence and odds and ends. My wife is off at work. The dog connives in the other room. I ponder my list. One item is "flu shot." I suppose I can't delegate that one. It's a question of when. Some doctors say get it pronto and others say wait until October so it will be effective in March when the flu scythe seriously begins to swing.
The book manuscript is calling. Coaching projects need to be scheduled. Some clients still have in-person coaching with appropriate social distancing and enough hand cleanser to float a boat. Others are inveterate Zoomers. A few would probably put a mask over the screen if it were possible, Zoom is fine for social chats but it's a difficult venue for coaching especially when the client is seated at the far end of a conference room and staring up at a coach-filled screen.
Jabba the Consultant.
I've tossed the coin. The manuscript wins.
The ability Elizabeth showed in choosing men was uncommon, as uncommon as Mary's lack of it. Not only did the latter choose as favorites, confidantes, husbands, men who had contributed largely to her ruin; when a man was before her who could have saved her, she fell out with him.
- From Elizabeth The Great by Elizabeth Jenkins
- Nicholas Bate has advice for a transformation.
- Ed Driscoll on "Recording The Beatles."
- Marginal Revolution: How defunding the police is going in Minneapolis.
- NYT: Thomas Friedman on the Middle East peace deals.
- Variety: "Cuties" spikes Netflix cancellations.
- Scientific American magazine has endorsed Joe Biden.
- Poetry: Benjamin Boyce's "Scowl."
- Alan Dershowitz has filed a 300 million dollar lawsuit against CNN.
Why do the independent-minded need to be protected, though? Because they have all the new ideas. To be a successful scientist, for example, it's not enough just to be right. You have to be right when everyone else is wrong. Conventional-minded people can't do that. For similar reasons, all successful startup CEOs are not merely independent-minded, but aggressively so. So it's no coincidence that societies prosper only to the extent that they have customs for keeping the conventional-minded at bay.
Read all of Paul Graham's essay here.
[Photo by Nick Fewings at Unsplash]
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
The Columbia University Marching Band has announced its decision to disband.
Known for being unconventional - the Band's board is known as the Bored - it is probably playing an elaborate joke.
Life has become a series of stories from The Onion.
Working on the manuscript's fifth draft (or is it the sixth?).
While sipping coffee in another room, I realized that I had gotten ahead of myself in the first section. There is a perspective that needs to be mentioned. I was writing as if it were known and it is not.
And that perspective is a spotlight. Once it is switched on, a bunch of other ideas will be clearer.
I need to sip coffee more often.
[Photo by Qamarul Azman at Unsplash]
Jonathan Turley on a Stanford University journalism professor who does not believe in objectivity.
He doesn't want it to get in the way of social justice which, to borrow a line from Glenn Reynolds, is anything he wants it to be.
[Photo by Todd Cravens at Unsplash]
The front door opened, and I heard the stamp of the FBI agent's feet on the doormat. It had just begun to snow, and the air that rushed into the store was heavy and brimming with energy. The door shut behind the agent. She must have been just outside when she'd called because it had only been about five minutes since I'd agreed to meet with her.
- From Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson
Monday, September 14, 2020
- Oh no: I missed Burning Man.
- Rhoneisms: The joy of finding a new pizza place.
- David Kanigan: Bird Fish Crab.
- Political Calculations: Serving coffee by drone.
- During probe: Members of Mueller's team "wiped" their phones.
- Noted political analyst calls for widespread treason trials.
- Keith E. Whittington: U of Colorado gets free speech right.
- Jonathan Turley describes the American Civil Liberties Union's reaction to a young man being admitted to Transylvania University.
I have known people whose main basis for evaluating others includes some of the following:
- level of education;
- job title;
- where the person went to school;
- how physically fit they are;
- ethnic background;
- sexual orientation;
- home town;
- religious beliefs (or lack thereof);
- whether they served in the armed forces;
- political beliefs;
- whether they have children;
- whether they own a home;
- the type of car they drive;
- the magazines they read;
- the movies they like;
- how they dress;
People are much more complicated and far more interesting than the "mood ring" identity games and labeling that are so common today.
The person's character, wisdom, courage, and kindness make far more sense to me.
Throughout the spring morning of April 14, 1876, a huge crowd, largely African American, began to assemble in the vicinity of Seventh and K Streets in Washington, DC. It had been eleven Aprils since the end of the Civil War and eleven years to the day since the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. A parade involving nearly every African American organization in the city was about to step off at noon en route to the unveiling of an extraordinary monument to Lincoln. The city had witnessed many remarkable parades since the end of the war, but this one would be different.
- From Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight
Sunday, September 13, 2020
Saturday, September 12, 2020
"A skillful commander?" replied Pierre. "Why, one who foresees all contingencies . . . and foresees the adversary's intentions."
"But that's impossible," said Prince Andrew as if it were a matter settled long ago. Pierre looked at him with surprise.
"And yet they say that war is like a game of chess," he remarked.
"Yes," replied Prince Andrew, "but with this little difference, that in chess you may think over each move as long as you please and are not limited for time, and with this difference too, that a knight is always stronger than a pawn, and two pawns are always stronger than one, while in war a battalion is sometimes stronger than a division and sometimes weaker than a company. The relative strengths of bodies of troops can never be known to anyone."
- From War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
My barber told me this morning that he only gave two haircuts yesterday.
His shop has long been one of the most successful barber shops in town.
He makes house calls for those who are uncomfortable or unable to come to the shop. He has had a large clientele, many of whom are quite successful, so price doesn't seem to be a barrier.
Furthermore, his shop takes reasonable precautions to promote safety. Everyone is masked, chairs are cleaned, equipment is cleaned. The waiting area has social distancing. I feel safer there than in a grocery store.
And yet many customers are afraid to show up. Some may have special health concerns. That reluctance would be understandable but it's doubtful if that description applies to most of the no-shows.
I hope the shop is still around when they eventually emerge.
[Photo by Tim Mossholder at Unsplash]
The war had been the bloodiest yet, particularly for civilians. Laying aside some three million dead German soldiers, by 7 May 1945 at least 1.8 million German civilians had perished and 3.6 million homes had been destroyed (20 per cent of the total), leaving 7.5 million homeless; and the bloodshed was going to continue for a lot longer. As many as 16.5 million Germans were to be driven from their homes. Of these some two and a quarter million would die during the expulsions from the south and east.
- From After The Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation by Giles MacDonogh
Friday, September 11, 2020
"Some of these people want to get killed," said Dicky Cruyer as he jabbed the brake pedal to avoid hitting a newsboy. The kid grinned as he slid between the slowly moving cars, flourishing his newspapers with the controlled abandon of a fan dancer. SIX FACE FIRING SQUAD; the headlines were huge and shiny black. HURRICANE THREATENS VERACRUZ. A smudgy photo of street fighting in San Salvador covered the whole front of a tabloid."
- From Mexico Set by Len Deighton
I learned as a father that children often don't want anything other than your presence.
I've also noticed in business that the fact that you were present is often remembered more than what you said or did.
As a wise chief executive officer once observed, "You can pretend to care but you can't pretend to be there."
[Photo by Stephanie Harvey at Unsplash]
Thursday, September 10, 2020
Wednesday, September 09, 2020
A Large Regular has a revealing chart on deaths in Sweden. Sweden, for the most part, did not lock down.
It will be interesting to see the calculations on how many died in the United States because of the lockdown: suicides, drug deaths, deaths as the result of delayed medical treatment, etc.
All policies have costs and these questions are essential: How much is too much? How much is too little?
I know the theme, the sections, and the ending. Several drafts have been completed. There is some material to insert.
But now, with this new draft, the main job will be paragraph by paragraph. Everything must fit and flow.
When that's done, I will hear a heartbeat.