[Photo by TJHolowaychuk at Unsplash]
Saturday, March 06, 2021
An old silent pond.
Into the pond a frog jumps.
Splash! Silence again.
From the simplest lyric to the most complex novel and densest drama, literature is asking us to pay attention. Pay attention to the frog. Pay attention to the west wind. Pay attention to the boy on the raft, the lady in the tower, the old man on the train. In sum, pay attention to the world and all that dwells therein and thereby learn at last to pay attention to yourself and all that dwells within.
- Frederick Buechner
Friday, March 05, 2021
Read all of Noah Rothman's essay in Commentary magazine. An excerpt:
For example: The online retailer Amazon found it necessary to redesign its smartphone app logo—the company’s signature upward oriented arrow in the shape of a smile over a box with a jagged-cut piece of blue tape over the top—because an unknown number of hysterics on the Internet said it resembled Hitler.
On October 16, 1946, ten of the twelve top Nazis whom the International Military Tribunal had condemned to death by hanging were sent to the gallows, which had been hastily constructed in the Nuremberg prison gym where American security guards had played a basketball game only three days earlier.
- From The Nazi Hunters by Andrew Nagorski
Thursday, March 04, 2021
I use Zoom quite a bit for meetings. It is inferior to in-person meetings but it does the trick when a pandemic makes some people think that if you are within three blocks of them you can somehow transmit the virus.
[They may have bigger problems than a virus, but I digress.]
Which brings me to board meetings by screen. They're hugely inferior to in-person meetings. These are three drawbacks that I've noticed:
- People are less likely to speak up. It's difficult to read the mood of the group, there is a strange set of rules at play, and no one really knows them. As a result, people clam up. What once might have triggered an emotional but candid exchange is smothered in distance and technology.
- You don't have "neighbors." Deciding where to sit could be a strategic decision in the old days because you wanted to be close to allies or adversaries so side comments could be exchanged. True, you can still text people but that's not as expressive as a sigh or a page filled with doodles of daggers.
- Comments are shorter. I don't know if it goes back to vivid memories of answering machines that would cut you off after a few seconds, but people reduce their comments and their contributions. The quality and quantity of discussion is harmed.
In Commentary magazine, Noah Rothman examines the changes wrought by the pandemic and what they have done to the common cultural landscape.
Home schooling is up and many people who relocated to less expensive/less hectic areas probably won't be moving back.
[I was recently thinking about my elementary school teachers. They were a very nice but also a very tough bunch. I can't imagine any of them resisting a return to the classroom.]
Wednesday, March 03, 2021
The rules and procedures are usually there for a reason. If you don't know the reason or can only think of one, it would be wise to think some more.
For every bold rule-breaker who achieved success, there are thousands who bought unnecessary problems.
Tuesday, March 02, 2021
The program argues that “white supremacy culture shows up in the classroom when the focus is on getting the ‘right’ answer” or when students are required to show their work, while stipulating that the very “concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false”. The main goal of the program is “to dismantle racism in mathematics instruction” with the expressly political aim of engaging “the sociopolitical turn in all aspects of education, including mathematics.”
Read all of Sergiu Klainerman's essay at Bari Weiss's site.
Monday, March 01, 2021
So, how it is possible that this bizarre—if mostly user-friendly—theoretical approach has so rapidly come to dominate over more rigorous approaches, which allow us to understand the world and therefore change it for the better? To answer that, we need to turn to the two central falsehoods of Critical Social Justice.
See the essay by Helen Pluckrose and James A. Lindsay.
The Hill: Jonathan Turley on how we must resist turning due process into mob justice. An excerpt:
Due process, like free speech, is rarely valued until its loss becomes personal. Take Gov. (D-N.Y.). Cuomo advanced his political career by positioning himself at the front of every mob pursuing political rivals, as during Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. Before hearing the defense of now-Justice Kavanaugh, Cuomo described the allegations against him by Christine Blasey Ford as presumptively true. He not only effectively called Kavanaugh a rapist, without any due process, but demanded that Kavanaugh take a polygraph as a condition to be believed.
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Saturday, February 27, 2021
Something about this story doesn't seem right but it is a reminder to avoid multi-tasking.
It also is an excuse to post the best quote from the television series M.A.S.H.:"I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, and then I move on."
The manager of a fruit-and-vegetable shop places in his window, among the onions and carrots, the slogan: "Workers of the world, unite!" Why does he do it? What is he trying to communicate to the world? Is he genuinely enthusiastic about the idea of unity among the workers of the world? Is his enthusiasm so great that he feels an irrepressible impulse to acquaint the public with his ideals? Has he really given more than a moment's thought to how such a unification might occur and what it would mean?
I think it can safely be assumed that the overwhelming majority of shopkeepers never think about the slogans they put in their windows, nor do they use them to express their real opinions. That poster was delivered to our greengrocer from the enterprise headquarters along with the onions and carrots. He put them all into the window simply because it has been done that way for years, because everyone does it, and because that is the way it has to be. If he were to refuse, there could be trouble. He could be reproached for not having the proper decoration in his window; someone might even accuse him of disloyalty. He does it because these things must be done if one is to get along in life. It is one of the thousands of details that guarantee him a relatively tranquil life "in harmony with society," as they say.
Read the rest of Vaclav Havel's "The Power of the Powerless."
City Journal: Joel M. Zinberg on the advantages of the Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine.
You can know the mission statement and the budget and the policies and the organization chart and your job description and the goals and deadlines as well as the relevant legal boundaries and the entire cast of characters but there is a highly revealing question that should be answered and periodically asked again:
"How does this place work?"
I lived in a dorm for most of my college years. It had been built in the 1920s and had thick walls and radiator heating in the rooms and - although this was in Arizona - no cooling system whatsoever. It had sleeping porches in-between the separate two-person rooms. Bathrooms were communal. There was a payphone in the lobby but no phones in the rooms. Televisions were not allowed but radios and record players were permitted. There was a single phone on each wing and it was operated by an operator at the front desk. Each room had a buzzer system that would let you know if you were wanted in the lobby or had a phone call. You could lock your room but the doors to the dorm were never locked which was fine because some of the scholars would come in drunk at odd hours.
There was a ping-pong table in the basement near some candy and Pepsi machines. There was a washing machine room that was sort of scary.
The lobby had a fireplace and a television and the type of mission furniture you'd find in motels if you traveled throughout the West in the Thirties or Forties.
Once a week there was room inspection and you could trade in your old bed linen for clean sheets.
In other words, it was nothing special. It had, however, one of the highest return rates of any dormitory and an eclectic group of residents. Someone working on a doctorate might be rooming with a freshman or sophomore.
The rent was $130 per semester.
There may be a business model here. I'm waiting for a university that will cut the frills in both the courses and the campus facilities and chop most of the administrative staff.
My guess is that many students today would go for that spartan environment. It would certainly leave more money in their pockets.
Friday, February 26, 2021
I've had a lot of to-do lists over the years. They helped me achieve quite a bit of things, but not always the right things, and certainly not always in the most effective manner.
Looking back, there was one chore that I should have put on every list and saved time for every day.
That missing item was "Thinking."
I mean serious, not off-the-cuff, thinking where time is dedicated, assumptions are examined, unknown subjects are identified, plans are challenged, and conclusions are at least tentatively reached. This need not be done on a mountaintop, but it should be done.
And I can attest to one thing: it does not occur automatically. You have to approach it with care and attention.
Thursday, February 25, 2021
Hold that Tot – your main spud, MR. POTATO HEAD isn’t going anywhere! While it was announced today that the POTATO HEAD brand name & logo are dropping the ‘MR.’ I yam proud to confirm that MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD aren’t going anywhere and will remain MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD
- tweet from Hasbro
For centuries, Rome stood in the shadow of her Etruscan neighbors. The Etruscans in turn were outclassed by the political experiments underway to the east and south. The early classical Mediterranean belonged to the Greeks and Phoenicians. While Rome was still a village of letterless cattle rustlers, the Greeks were writing epic and lyric poetry, experimenting with democracy, and inventing drama, philosophy, and history as we know them. On nearer shores, the Punic peoples of Carthage built an ambitious empire, before the Romans knew how to rig a sail. Fifteen miles inland, along the soggy banks of the Tiber River, Rome was a backwater, a spectator to the creativity of the early classical world.
- From The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, & The End of an Empire by Kyle Harper
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
First Things: Ryan T. Anderson on Amazon's decision not to carry his book.
Consider the possible implications if this is frequently done to conservative authors. Most publishing houses lean to the left side of the political spectrum to begin with. Add to that the likelihood that a major sales venue won't carry a book and a conservative won't stand a chance of being published.
One does not have to be on the right to regard that as a dangerous limitation to debate and analysis.
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
Those who stand to gain the most from this generational transformation—either because they will snag the old guard’s jobs or simply because they share the new generation’s embrace of woke ideology—are already celebrating. Writing in Press Watch, where he is editor, former Washington Post reporter Dan Froomkin raved: “A new generation of leaders is coming! And they have a lot of urgent repair work ahead of them. That includes abandoning the failed, anachronistic notions of objectivity under which they have operated for so long, recognizing and rejecting establishment whiteness, and finding dramatically more effective ways to create an informed electorate.”
Read all of Christine Rosen's essay in Commentary.
Defector: American journalism has lost its mind.
The repressive attitudes sown at major universities have spread to newsrooms and workplaces across the nation.
The New York Post: Dr. Francis Collins, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, talks about Operation Warp Speed. An excerpt:“Those words were used sometimes to describe what needed to happen in order to get all parts of the government together in an unprecedented way to test up to six vaccines in rigorous trials, and to do this at-risk manufacturing so that if any of those trials happen to work, you would already have doses ready to go into arms,” Collins added, “That would not be the way things are traditionally done.”
City Journal: Judith Miller explores how the pandemic damaged Broadway's stage performances and whether theater will recover. An excerpt:Some of that fear is likely to linger even after patrons are vaccinated. Umanoff worries that it may take a few years for people to feel comfortable again indoors—but no one really knows. “There is no precedent for this. There is no business model.” If a silver lining exists for companies like Mark Morris, it’s the growth of the fan base, thanks to online programming. Some 4,400 people from the U.S. and abroad signed up in May 2020 for an event featuring dances on video. “So now we have nearly 10,000 names on our mailing list,” Umanoff said, “including over 2,000 new donors.” But the prospect of new subscribers can’t compensate for a lost year of live performances: some $1.8 million in revenue vanished in March 2020 when performances were suddenly canceled. Jobs, too, were lost. The company’s payroll of 226 in February 2020 shrank, at its lowest point, to just 59; it has slowly recovered and is now up to 122.
Monday, February 22, 2021
Althouse has the details.
The Swedish Chef, of course, was really skating the edges, The Count made people from Transylvania weep, and we always knew that Johnny Cash was a rebel.
The Giving Review has discussion with Georgetown political theory professor Joshua Mitchell about the religion of identity politics and the group it uses as a scapegoat.
[I am reading Mitchell's latest book, American Awakening. Very insightful.]
[Photo by Possessed Photography at Unsplash]
Pew Research Center on the use of "Latinx."
Few Hispanics use it but I suspect it is more popular in faculty lounges.
If Latino and Latina are viewed as exclusionary, then the Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese languages in general are going to pose serious challenges.
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Saturday, February 20, 2021
Political Calculations looks at Arizona's plunging Covid-19 caseloads and the vaccines.
I get my second shot on March 6. The process is one of the most efficient government operations I've ever seen. Bravo to the medical staff and all of the volunteers who are part of a team that gives vaccinations 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War offered a prospect of utter misery and desolation. Photographs and documentary films of the time show pitiful streams of helpless civilians trekking through a blasted landscape of broken cities and barren fields. Orphaned children wander forlornly past groups of worn out women picking over heaps of masonry. Shaven-headed deportees and concentration camp inmates in striped pyjamas stare listlessly at the camera, starving and diseased. Even the trams, propelled uncertainly along damaged tracks by intermittently available electric current, appear shell-shocked. Everyone and everything - with the notable exception of the well-fed Allied occupation forces - seems worn out, without resources, exhausted.
- From Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt
"Joshua Mitchell looks at what everyone else is looking at and sees what no one else sees. It's an extraordinary gift, and thanks to it this book amounts to a kind of key to the times we are living in. It reveals that the problems we face run even deeper than we might imagine, but also highlights some surprising reasons for hope."
"American Awakening is a tour de force, the sort of book that forever changes the way one looks at the subject. It is the most important book on American politics of the past several years. Joshua Mitchell argues persuasively that America's political crisis has a religious origin, and that the extremes of identity politics are an expression of a dislodged Protestantism. This is a bold and deeply convincing alternative to conventional thinking that combines a subtle grasp of theology with profound insights into American political process and deep knowledge of history. So skillful a writer is Mitchell that the reader has the sense of remembering something that was always known, while learning something that was never imagined."
"Every day I get phone calls from anxious Americans complaining about an ideology that wants to pull all of us into the past.
"I get calls from parents telling me about the damaging things being taught in schools: so-called antiracist programs that urge children to obsess on the color of their skin."
Bari Weiss writes about a case that should be unusual but isn't.
Friday, February 19, 2021
- Calvin Coolidge
"You can judge a leader by the size of problem he tackles - people nearly always pick a problem their own size, and ignore or leave to others the bigger or smaller ones. The chief executive should be thinking about the long-term change which will bring growth or decay to different parts of the enterprise, not fussing over day-to-day problems. Other people can cope with the waves, it's his job to watch the tide. And yet you find boards of directors spending hours discussing priorities in the allocation of parking space when they move into the new building, you find executives deliberately holding a meeting down to trivial points, because that is all they can cope with. The trouble is that if the top management is thinking at too low a level, there are no levels left for the rest of the staff to think at, and they spawn a generation of managerial pygmies."
- Antony Jay in Management and Machiavelli: An Inquiry into the Politics of Corporate Life [published in 1967]
City Journal: Kenny Xu on the difference between multiculturalism and diversity.
[It's as great as the difference between equality and equity or goals and quotas.]
Immigrants shape America and America shapes immigrants. That's one of our strengths. In a variety of ways and over time, all Americans become a little bit of all groups. We are diverse, but we also favor assimilation in order to maintain a common American culture that is tolerant while operating within certain key boundaries.
And that's important. We don't want to become another Bosnia or another Beirut.
Some favor what they call a salad bowl of unmixed ingredients.
I'll pass on that if only because of its dismal historical record.
Put me down for the melting pot.
Thursday, February 18, 2021
"What? You disagree? Well, you're an intelligent person, have you read this article? You have? What about these books? And you still reached a different conclusion. That's amazing. I confess that this is disconcerting. I've always thought of you as a bright and caring individual and now I learn that you have a very different view of things. There must be a gap in your education. Perhaps there's some odd influence in your life. You can't think of any? Well, you may not be the decent person I thought I knew. Instead, you sound like one of them. Why can't you be more like me?"
"But when people admonish me to Trust the Science, what I hear sounds less like science and more like faith. All too often, the people appealing to science aren't asking me to accept a certain scientific conclusion about how the world works. They're asking me to accept their preferred policy prescription for how to change it."
Read all of the Commentary magazine essay by James B. Meigs.
Bari Weiss on the Gina Carano protests and canceling. An excerpt:
It’s impossible to overstate the bystander effect of these public humiliations. Normal people are functioning like we live under a new kind of McCarthyism — and for good reason. Our McCarthyism is crowd-sourced, but not necessarily less vicious or ruinous.
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
The Lincoln Project continues to sink .
Here's a recent column by Jonathan Turley on its donors.
And here's an earlier Associated Press story on its harassment scandal.
George Conway has called for the Lincoln Project to shut down.
And Althouse has zapped one journalist's rationale for missing the story.
“That element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency, has not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotion of mankind; and perhaps our frames could hardly bear much of it. If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.”- George Eliot, Middlemarch
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Read the rest of Noah Rothman in Commentary.