Friday, July 31, 2020

When Robert E. Lee Helped to Foster Reconciliation and Prevent a Guerrilla War

April 1865: The Month That Saved America (P.S.): Winik, Jay ...

A fascinating book with material not commonly noted in modern journalism's references to Lee.

Tightly-Coupled: Our Over-Connected World

Writing in Commentary, James B. Meigs looks at the vulnerability of our "tightly-coupled" world. An excerpt:

“Tightly coupled systems have little slack,” writes Yale sociologist Charles Perrow, who developed the concept. He notes that organizations have many incentives to tighten the links in their operations. Businesses save money when they squeeze out redundant suppliers and adopt “just-in-time” supply chains. Case in point: Almost all the meat in U.S. supermarkets today comes through a handful of large suppliers. That consolidation has brought down prices. But when the coronavirus started circulating in the nation’s small number of meat-processing plants, the resulting crisis threatened our food supply. Our tightly coupled distribution system gave farmers no backup option for getting their meat to market.

I'm More of a "Magnificent Seven" Person

Something to Ponder and Perhaps to Dispute

it takes grace to remain kind in cruel situations board decor

[Photo by Maddi Bazzocco at Unsplash]

50 Possibilities for an Easier Life

Nicholas Bate, an Englishman, has hit a home run.

Nitwittery Update

Daily Beast: The "woke" go after "Hamilton."

Unusual Films I Recommend - A Series

First Paragraph

England in the spring of 1944 was weighed down by the masses of guns and equipment which the British and Americans had brought together for an early return to the continent. Wags said that but for the barrage balloons, which could be seen straining at their cables throughout the country, the island would sink beneath the waves. The Western world had gathered its might for an unprecedented amphibious attack against Hitler's Festung Europa.

- From Pogue's War: Diaries of a WWII Combat Historian by Forrest C. Pogue

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Portland is Losing Its Soul

Just to Perk Us Up During the Pandemic

Who Scrubs the Scrubbers?

Fast Company reports on the platforms that quickly moved to "scrub" sites that have medical "misinformation."

Orwell would have loved the term "scrub."

The so-called "scrubbing" is more troubling than the sites. 

First Paragraph

Identity politics is all around us. Whether you know it or not, we are all bathing in it. Some Americans have embraced it gladly, while others have simply become inured to it and no longer bat an eyelid. Many others, however, have begun to notice, and to them something does not seem right.

- The Plot to Change America: How Identity Politics is Dividing the Land of the Free by Mike Gonzalez

"The Storm Before the Constitution"

Miscellaneous and Fast

Unusual Films I Recommend - A Series

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Jeff Bezos Statement

The initial start-up capital for came primarily from my parents, who invested a large fraction of their life savings in something they didn’t understand. They weren’t making a bet on Amazon or the concept of a bookstore on the internet. They were making a bet on their son. I told them that I thought there was a 70% chance they would lose their investment, and they did it anyway. It took more than 50 meetings for me to raise $1 million from investors, and over the course of all those meetings, the most common question was, “What’s the internet?”

Read all of the statement by Jeff Bezos to the House Judiciary Committee. 

It is very interesting.

Letter from a CEO


PM Quiz

Great British Politics has a quiz: Which prime minister are you?

Our Times

Loneliness: An Issue That Deserves Far More Attention

A January 2020 news release from Cigna on loneliness in America.

Consider how the pandemic may have affected the loneliness problem.


Ardennes 1944: The Battle of the Bulge: Beevor, Antony ...

I started reading a portion of this book online in connection with some research and found it to be fascinating.

School Time

Bill Gates on sending young children back to school.

An Art Story

A Note about Lists

Patrick Rhone has the ground rules.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Unusual Films I Recommend - A Series

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Book Review Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind eBook: Harari ...

Mark Leib reviews the book in Commentary.

Cancel Culture List

Glenn Loury pointed to this list via Twitter.

I don't think I know of a single blogger (regardless of ideological leanings) who would not be in jeopardy of being "canceled" in today's climate.

Douglas Murray on Wokeness: The New Western Morality

Freedom for Hong Kong

2017: Bari Weiss recommended a Nobel Prize for Hong Kong's first prisoners of conscience.

Sad But Often True

In my experience, when organizations make personnel decisions at the highest levels, they often prefer the Lord Halifax-types over the Winston Churchills and the George McClellan-types over the U.S. Grants.

Insight from Novels

“The Don considered a use of threats the most foolish kind of exposure; the unleashing of anger without forethought as the most dangerous indulgence. No one had ever heard the Don utter a naked threat, no one had ever seen him in an uncontrollable rage. It was unthinkable.”

- Mario Puzo, The Godfather

Monday, July 27, 2020

Well Said

Instapundit: When Justice Harlan sent a gift.

The Future of Comic Strips

First Paragraph

When I was twelve I thought that when the New Orleans Times-Picayune ran a headline about the "struggle for control of the West Bank" it meant the other side of the Mississippi River. I thought that my shiny gold velour pants actually looked good. I kept a giant sack of Nabisco Chocolate Chip cookies under my bed so that they might be available in an emergency - a flood, say, or a hurricane - that made it harder to get to the grocery store. From the safe distance of forty-three, "twelve" looks less an age than a disease, and, for the most part, I've been able to forget all about it - not the events and the people, but the feelings that gave them meaning. But there are exceptions. A few people, and a few experiences, simply refuse to be trivialized by time. There are teachers with a rare ability to enter a child's mind; it's as if their ability to get there at all gives them the right to stay forever. I'd once had such a teacher. His name was Billy Fitzgerald, but everybody just called him Coach Fitz,

- From Coach: Lessons on the Game of Life: Lessons on Baseball and Life by Michael Lewis

Miscellaneous and Fast

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Some Things Never Change

"In London, ideology has never mattered that much. It could be said that this is only because ideas have never mattered much at all, but it would not be quite true. The truth, and the saving grace, is that nobody thinks them glamorous. You can't be a star for what you say, only for the way you say it. Far from being driven apart by differing opinions, Hitchens and Conquest were drawn together by their common love of language. The long consequence of their encounters in those years can be enjoyed in the opening pages of Hitchens's little book Orwell's Victory (2002) where its author is to be found conceding that Conquest might have had a point about the Bolsheviks all along. But those who never doubted that he did can't expect credit for having been right. What we can expect is to be dismissed for having been on the Right. To be a liberal democrat was considered reactionary then, and to have been so then is to be considered a reactionary now. People who have abandoned erroneous opinions would be giving up too much if they ceased to regard people who never held them as naive. As Revel pointed out, the Left demands a monopoly of rectification."

- Clive James in "Bitter Seeds: Solzhenitsyn" in Cultural Cohesion: The Essential Essays

Unusual Films I Recommend - A Series

Possibly the Best Soundtrack Ever


fountain pen on spiral book

Write a poor draft and then write a better one.

Repeat as many times as necessary.

Keep at it despite any negative messages. Take a stick to your doubts. 

It's a craft, not a caste. Strive to improve your skills every day.

[Photo Aaron Burden by at Unsplash]

The Future Begins


I can assure Matthew Lang that he is not the only person who could not finish "Dune."

Find Something Beautiful Today

black bird

[Photo by Steve Harvey at Unsplash]

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Be Sure to Catch the Observation at the End

Sort of Amazing

SCOTUS Blog: The U.S. Supreme Court and the Nevada COVID-19 restrictions.

Policing on the Brink

Click here for a conversation with former New York City and Los Angeles Police Commissioner William J. Bratton.


  • Mobile art work
  • Home entertainment system
  • Home protection system
  • Companion
  • Guardian

Ethics and Values

The most challenging problems of social policy in the modern world are never merely technical. In order properly to decide how to govern ourselves, we must take up questions of social ethics and human values. What manner of people are we Americans? What vision would we affirm, and what example would we set, before the rest of the world? What kind of society would we bequeath to our children? How shall we live? Inevitably, queries such as these lurk just beneath the surface of the great policy debates of the day. So, those who would enter into public argument about what ails our common life need make no apology for speaking in such terms.

- Glenn Loury

Weekend Leadership Reading

white and brown concrete building

Wally Bock has some excellent articles on the new workplace that has emerged during the pandemic and which might go beyond it.

[Photo by Britanni Burns at Unsplash]

Friday, July 24, 2020

Unusual Films I Recommend - A Series

What's on Your Wrist?

I returned the Fossil smartwatch due to problems getting Outlook emails from my iPhone - it was also smaller than expected -  and am now back to my large and trusty Seiko. 

While on the subject, here's an article on wrist watches that billionaires wear

I notice that Steve Jobs had a Seiko.


Bagpipe Break

The Glenn Show - Better Than TV

2006 C-Span interviews Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds

The 2006 C-Span interview in which Glenn Reynolds talks about his career and Instapundit.

Instapundit continues to be a major influence in the blogging world.

Ad Art

Art Contrarian looks at the automobile advertisement art of Art Fitzpatrick. [Pictured above is the 1952 Buick.]

20 Questions for Individuals and Organizations

  1. Are any types of negative behavior being rewarded and perhaps even honored?
  2. Is it common for agreement to be rushed when it should be delayed?
  3. How much does top leadership know about how the organization really operates at the lower levels?
  4. Do the primary goals still make sense?
  5. Can the strategic plan be easily described in a paragraph or two?
  6. How many top-notch performers have left in the past year?
  7. What was done to keep them?
  8. Are there any ongoing turf wars between departments?
  9. Have any solutions created new problems that are as bad or worse than the original problems?
  10. Is trust fostered on a daily basis?
  11. What is the biggest problem which most people know of but no one talks about?
  12. What action could be taken within a week that would produce the greatest amount of good in the shortest amount of time?
  13. Which three things do you hope remain the same over the next 12 months?
  14. Which three things do you hope change over the next 12 months?
  15. Is time an ally or an adversary?
  16. Is top leadership rowing in the same direction?
  17. What are the most dangerous assumptions?
  18. Are there any crucial subjects that key people pretend to know but which no one really knows?
  19. Are some windows of opportunity about to close?
  20. Is there sufficient transparency?

Unusual Films I Recommend - A Series

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Music Break

First Paragraph

He sat on a wooden bench under the yellow leaves in the deserted park, contemplating the dusty swans with both his hands resting on the silver handle of his cane, and thinking about death. On his first visit to Geneva the lake had been calm and clear, and there were tame gulls that would eat out of one's hand, and women for hire who seemed like six-in-the-afternoon phantoms with organdy ruffles and silk parasols. Now the only possible woman he could see was a flower vendor on the deserted pier. It was difficult for him to believe that time could cause so much ruin not only in his life but in the world.

- From "Bon Voyage, Mr. President," a short story by Gabriel García Márquez in Strange Pilgrims.

What's in a Name?

Cultural Offering updates us on the name change with the football team in Washington, D.C., a.k.a. "The Team Formerly Known as Redskins."

I thought "Washington Lobbyists" would be the best name but now support "Washington Scandals."

Committee Categories

There are committees to join and committees to avoid. 

The second category is much larger than the first.

Press Coverage of Covid-19

Anyone surprised by this rhetoric from Tedros (as he is known) hadn’t been paying attention. Stigma, especially, was the bête noire of the leader of the WHO, which for weeks in late 2019 and early 2020 was all but asleep at the wheel as the virus spread around the globe. More than once since the beginning of the outbreak in Wuhan, Tedros had taken it upon himself to admonish the masses not to disparage the Chinese. “It’s so painful to see the level of stigma we are observing,” he declared in early March. “Stigma, to be honest, is more dangerous than the virus itself.” Two months later, a quarter of a million people would be dead, though not of stigma.

Read the rest of Brian Patrick Eha's essay in City Journal.


The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right ...

Wally Bock on the value of re-reading great business books.

Unusual Films I Recommend - A Series

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Mass

The mass crushes beneath it everything that is different, that is excellent, individual, qualified, and select. Anybody who is not like everybody, who does not think like everybody, runs the risk of being eliminated. And it is clear that this "everybody" is not "everybody." "Everybody" was normally the complex unity of the mass and the divergent, specialized elite groups. Nowadays, "everybody" is the mass alone.

― José Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses

Some Poetry for Perspective

gray and white pathway between green plants on vast valley

"Desiderata" by Max Ehrmann is never out-dated.

The part about avoiding people who "vexations to the spirit" is especially helpful these days.

[Photo by Lilli Popper at Unsplash]


One person saw an old man reading a beaten-up copy of War and Peace, a teenage couple arguing about whether the chocolate or vanilla ice cream was better at some place called The Vault, a woman who was covering her mouth as she spoke on her smartphone, and a young guy in an army uniform who looked as if he'd just finished boot camp.

All of them were near the ticket window but no one was in line because the ticket window was closed.

His friend just saw that the ticket window was closed.

Unusual Films I Recommend - A Series

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Lack of Law and Order in the NYC Subways

The system has seen a near-total absence of law enforcement. In June 2019, police officers wrote 7,075 summonses for infractions in the transit system, from walking between cars to taking up more than one seat. This June, the figure was 296—a 95.8 percent decline. Last June, police gave out 5,828 fare-evasion summonses. This June, the figure was 41, a 99.3 percent decline. Last June, police arrested, rather than summonsed, 218 people for fare evasion—an action they take only when a fare-evasion suspect won’t cooperate or is arrested in conjunction with other charges, such as weapons possession. This June, the grand total of fare-evasion arrests was . . . one. Across all transit infractions, enforcement in June was down anywhere from 83.6 percent to 99.5 percent, depending on the offense, a pace that has accelerated as the months pass.

Read the rest of Nicole Gelinas's article in City Journal.

Hemingway Visits New York

Lillian Ross in The New Yorker in 1950 writes a portrait of Hemingway on the move.

"Danger, Will Robinson!"

FutureLawyer poses a question about health care and a robot.

When I recently went in for an operation, I was amused by the multitude of consent forms. My signature was generously given and you can imagine what would have happened to the surgery schedule if I'd announced that I wanted to study each form.

And I wasn't dealing with robots.

The Pandemic and Business Dress

person wearing black suit jacket

In a world of Zoom meetings and distance working, I wonder what long-term effects those will have on how we dress for business. 

When the virus has subsided and we return to work, will the new schedules produce a version of "business casual" clothing styles? 

Will people continue to buy a pre-pandemic wardrobe that they may only be using one or two, as opposed to four or five, days a week?

Will the wearing of ties become a relic of the pre-pandemic days? 

I hope not.

[Photo by Alvin Mahmudov at Unsplash]

Unusual Films I Recommend - A Series

Prose and Poetry

woman in black sweater writing on book

You want the "prose" of a decision or project to be substantive and logical but don't forget the "poetry" that will make it memorable by enlisting the reader's heart. 

Search for the moments that can rise above a simple syllogism.

[Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado at Unsplash]

Mr. Nice Guy

"It's your decision," he said, and smiled to show how friendly he could be. Most of the time he was Mr. Nice Guy. He opened doors for you, stood back to let you into the lift, laughed at your jokes, agreed with your conclusions, and asked your advice. But when all the pleasantries were over he made sure you did exactly what he wanted.

- From Berlin Game by Len Deighton

Monday, July 20, 2020

The Greater Journey

Glenn Loury Interview

Professor and author Glenn Loury in an interview about race, inequality, and America.

The Risk of Teaching

Althouse provides some takes on the NYT article about the teacher who, because of fear of the COVID virus, does not want to go back to the classroom. 

There are many jobs that could make similar arguments: police officers, firefighters, nurses, doctors, grocery store workers, postal workers, highway crews, plumbers, etc.

You take appropriate precautions and do the work. As a management consultant, I meet with some clients via Zoom and with others in person. The in-person meetings involve sanitized conference rooms and distancing. I feel safer than in a drugstore.

Is there an absence of risk? No, but there never is. Mega-risk is when there is a pandemic and your society has collapsed because no one is at work.

Office Re-Modeling

My office re-modeling project proceeds. I expect it to go through these stages:

  1. Review of material.
  2. Massive culling of documents.
  3. New carpeting.
  4. Painting.
  5. New furniture.
Material needed:
  • Trash bags.
  • File folders.
  • Flame-thrower.
  • Paint.
  • Carpet.
  • Furniture.

Cultural Offering Knows Music

man playing electronic keyboard

Kurt Harden at Cultural Offering has an Essential Mixes list of Meta-Modern Music.

He knows a huge number of groups I've never encountered.

[Photo by Quaid Lagan at Unsplash]

The New World

brown sailboat in beach under white sky

The pandemic has not only brought death and economic harm, it has also surfaced the vulnerability of institutions and organizations. A few examples:
  • Many of the offices that were once filled with workers will need less space in the post-pandemic world. People have found that working from home several days a week has definite attractions and employers have seen productivity rise. The old workplace won't be the same. I predict that many high-rise office buildings will become combinations of business and residential sites. Eventually many people may work a few floors down from where they work. We will also see more work/home blur. [That's not necessarily good.]
  • Certainly universities are not going to return to normal. Most of them are bloated and over-priced. Their heavy political slant has alienated a large portion of the country. They have far too many administrators. Distance learning will increase and linger, community colleges will be seen as a bargain, and getting certificates in specific disciplines - instead of spending a lot of time and money on a bachelor's degree - will become common. Many degrees will disappear.
  • Elementary and high schools. The magnifying glass that is moving to the universities will eventually shift to the lower grades. The stories will not be pretty.
  • Newspapers - no surprise here - are also in trouble. People want basic facts from reporters and not from columnists disguised as reporters. Despite repeated warnings, journalism as we once knew it stepped off a high cliff a few years ago and is nearing the bottom. Watch for the popularity of news summaries and independent journalism. Radio should also thrive as newspapers shrink.
A driving force behind much of the above is the realization that the "experts" are often less than expert and that various institutions that have coasted beneath the surface for years need to be carefully and periodically reviewed. 

[Wake up, boards of regents!]

Predictions are easy to make and all of them, including the above, should be batted about and challenged, but that's fine.

We are in a new world in which skepticism and open debate will be very healthy.

Let's revisit this in two years and see what's happened.

[Revised: 9:54 AM 7/20/20]

[Photo by Austin Neill at Unsplash]

Execupundit Newsletter Being Pondered

I am seriously considering creating a subscription-based newsletter focusing solely on leadership and management issues. 

Under the current plans, the Execupundit blog will remain as before but the newsletter will have a tighter focus.

I'll keep you posted.

Scribble, scribble.

Find Your Style

fountain pen on black lined paper

[Photo by Aaron Burden at Unsplash]

Saturday, July 18, 2020

The Importance of George Washington

Music Break

Conversation about Workplaces

"The ability to work effectively with others and resolve problems in the workplace are two very important skills."

"Do organizations emphasize those when recruiting?"

"Rarely. They usually ask for other skills and hope the soft ones come in their wake. The soft ones might be mentioned, but in my experience they are seldom emphasized."

"Does that work?"

"No. That's why you see so many difficult people in the workplace."

Weekend Leadership Reading

grayscale photo of man in sweater vest sitting on bench

Wally Bock has the assignments.

[Photo by Eugene Lagunov at Unsplash]

Fewer, Slower, and Mindful

Fewer: Unless carefully watched, our homes go Victorian and fill up with a host of possessions we don't really need. We work around them when we should get rid of them.

Slower: Unless we are attentive, we slip into a rush-rush mode when there is little reason for speed and much to be gained if we simply slow down.

Mindful: And, at any moment, it is likely that we are overlooking a person or a task in need of our focused attention. Take five minutes to put those on a list and you will be very fortunate if there is only one entry.

Friday, July 17, 2020

The Importance of Property Rights

In sum, premodern Russia knew outright property neither in agricultural land nor in urban real estate: both assets were held conditionally. The landed aristocracy and the burghers - classes which in the West acquired in the late Middle Ages titles to their properties and all the rights that went with them - were in Russia servants of the state. As such, they had no guarantees of civil rights and no economic security. Their fortunes and social status were determined by their place in the government hierarchy and dependent on the crown's favor. Anyone who denies that medieval and early modern Russia differed fundamentally from Western Europe has to deal with these realities.

- From Property and Freedom by Richard Pipes

Find Your Style

classic steering wheel

[Photo by Eric Marty at Unsplash]

Unusual Films I Recommend - A Series

Andrew Sullivan Says Farewell But Brings Back "The Dish"

Andrew Sullivan writes his farewell piece at New York magazine. It is well-written and graceful.

It is also disturbing.

As he notes, if the cadre who wanted him gone could not tolerate his mildly conservative opinions, it is impossible to imagine that they'd tolerate a real conservative.

A few years ago, I received a note from a reader of this blog saying that I spent too much time discussing the problems on campuses. In retrospect, I think I didn't spend enough time.

As Andrew puts it, "We're all on campus now."

How Old is Your Dog in Human Years?

Political Calculations shows how to run the numbers.

The Wall Planner

Nicholas Bate adds to his 25 Tools of Excellence series.

The basics are not necessarily simple but they are basic for a reason.

Race and Equality

City Journal has a excellent conversation on race and equality with Glenn Yu and Glenn C. Loury. 

I believe this deserves wide readership since it is far superior to the standard news analysis.

Unusual Films I Recommend - A Series

Thursday, July 16, 2020

More Interesting Than It Sounds

I spent a chunk of time today reading about bureaucracy.

And it has been strangely addictive.

Music Break

Why I Avoid Parties

A memorable scene from "The Muse."

Recipe for Unhappiness

You have one single life on this earth, and you're going to be indoctrinated into an all-consuming, quasi-religious belief that the *only* thing that determines your happiness and prosperity is the random lottery of the arbitrary color grouping you've been assigned at birth?
5:19 AM · Jul 16, 2020Twitter Web App