Wednesday, September 30, 2020
While he was not quite a man of the people, he was a man for the people - and he took pains to go beyond an editorialist's sentimentality in his attitude toward them, whoever they are. He set out to know them. While the legends of journalism were being ushered into the hideaways of the Capitol to have their importance proved to the on background, Fairlie was earnestly chatting about the issues of the day with interns and receptionists and bartenders (the ones foolish enough to let him open a tab). He hated the idea that he belonged to an elite. His attraction to the demos was virtually erotic. The capital never obscured the country, for him.
- Leon Wieseltier on Henry Fairlie
Tuesday, September 29, 2020
At last word, there will be a presidential debate tonight between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. [Click here for C-Span coverage.]
Some bloggers, in the spirit of fun, will be drunk-blogging the brawl and injecting humor fueled by alcohol.
My approach is far less entertaining. I am offering a link to the transcripts of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.
In those days, political candidates had serious exchanges and the key issue - slavery - was as serious as it could get. Consider the fact that their large audience could follow the complexity of the related arguments. Compare that with today's audiences. Hmm.
You may be inspired to start drinking.
By the way, I loathe the format of modern presidential debates. The questioners are seldom top-drawer, the moderators are usually biased (remember Candy Crowley?), and the person who wins the debate is not necessarily the best person for the office. It is far from unusual to read the news coverage on the morning after the debate and wonder if you and the reporters watched the same event.
My guess is that many reporters finished writing their debate assessments several days ago.
[Book recommendation: "Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Issues in the Lincoln - Douglas Debates" by Harry V. Jaffa. It is extraordinary.]
[Photo by Bob Fisher at Unsplash]
Monday, September 28, 2020
The Mind Circle on how America's shopping malls looked in 1989.
Question: If your assignment was to redesign shopping malls so people in today's internet-connected world would want to go to them, what would you do?
[Updated to correct "assignment."]
Sunday, September 27, 2020
Saturday, September 26, 2020
When someone has run a bath, and closed the door, one hears nothing from within, except occasionally the sound of a slight movement, like the dip of an oar in a lake at night. All is silence. All is peace. But from a shower there comes only noise, splashing and slapping and jumping about, and occasionally a voice breaking into, not the gentle lilt of the true bather who sings softly, but raucous and jolly snatches of songs from the locker room.
It is no wonder that Americans have a reputation for being always on the go, never able to take things quietly for very long, if they start the day by standing upright for five minutes under a jet of water, which they deliberately aim at themselves.
- From "The Importance of Bathtubs" in Bite the Hand That Feeds You: Essays and Provocations by Henry Fairlie
[Photo by Nik Owens at Unsplash]
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]