Monday, February 28, 2022
But even our mightiest institutions can take on water and list. Our institutions can also be easily scuttled from within, perhaps under the mistaken impression that they ride too high in the water, or simply that the ocean would be better off with a new addition to the sea floor.
- James Panero, "Unmaking the Met" - an essay in The Critical Temper, edited by Roger Kimball
Read the rest of the 2019 article on federal funding for civics education.
There is bi-partisan legislation to bolster civics education funding.
It’s coming to a head very soon.
Sunday, February 27, 2022
Saturday, February 26, 2022
You may have read that a reason for the intense customer loyalty to IKEA is that assembling the furniture from the IKEA parts makes the customers part of the building process. The parts were purchased at IKEA, of course, but, in a way, the chair, table, bookcase or whatever has become a product of the assembler/customer.
I wonder if a similar psychology plays a role in the popularity of Oreos. Do you simply eat the cookie or do you follow a ritual of disassembly or dipping that transforms the cookie into your product?
[Photo by Suveer Bhat at Unsplash]
Friday, February 25, 2022
He's certainly not a Mussolini nor is he a Hitler. He's more like Stalin but that comparison is also thin.
Not a Franco or a Castro. Not a Salazar or a Mao.
Vladimir Putin is uniquely dangerous. He is a mechanical man produced by the Soviet machine.
I don't think he'll stop at Ukraine. He's in search of empire restoration.
- The tight deadlines suddenly disappear once you're completed your portion of the project.
- The level of formal scrutiny surrounding the selection of a lower-level employee can quickly vanish when a high-ranking position is being filled.
- The deference to professional experience that is routinely given in operational matters evaporates when Human Resources subjects are considered.
Thursday, February 24, 2022
When all is said and done, this is the house that Vladimir Putin has built. Today's Russia is not the Russia of Leonid Brezhnev, Mikhayl Gorbachev, Boris Yel'tsin, or even Dmitriy Medvedev. It is the Russia of Vladimir Putin, built in his own image, subject to his will and whim, to his penchant for "manual control." When the new prime minister of a Central Asian state paid his first visit to Moscow, he met with Putin, and after the cameras left the room, Putin is said to have loosened his tie, leaned forward, and in a menacing snarl told the startled leader, "Listen here (slushay syuda), I decide everything. Don't forget it." If he is willing to say this to the leader of a sovereign country, what does he say, and do, to his own Russian rivals? This is a man who thinks in zero-sum terms - your loss is his gain. Period.
- From Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? by Karen Dawisha
What we never hear about are the many more cases of those individuals who avoid cancellation because they've thoroughly internalized the approved words and practices that keep them out of the revoutionary dock. Show up at your diversity and inclusion seminar, ask no questions, say yes to the radicals, and signal your anti-racist outrage whenever the news cycle demands. Such protective measures become part of our new national consciousness, and the acquiesence of the disspirited managerial class has contributed to our notional sense of calm. What looks like comity is functionally subjugation.
- Abe Greenwald in "Yes, There Is a Counter-Revolution" (Commentary magazine, February 2022)
Wednesday, February 23, 2022
At Arizona State University:
Tuesday, February 22, 2022
One of the great mysteries is how every elite institution, from universities to corporations to media to even Sesame Street, all spontaneously coalesced on the same narrow set of values all of a sudden.
- Antonio Garcia Martinez, in a reference to Sesame Street's celebration of "Latinx culture"
Imprimis: Michael Rectenwald on the The Great Re-Set. An excerpt:
In terms of the social order, the Great Reset promises inclusion in a shared destiny. But the subordination of so-called “netizens” implies economic and political disenfranchisement, a hyper-vigilance over self and others, and social isolation—or what Hannah Arendt called “organized loneliness”—on a global scale. This organized loneliness is already manifest in lockdowns, masking, social distancing, and the social exclusion of the unvaccinated. The title of the Ad Council’s March 2020 public service announcement—“Alone Together”—perfectly captures this sense of organized loneliness.
Monday, February 21, 2022
The crisis of authority hollowing out existing institutions didn't arise because these institutions prostituted themselves to power or money. That was an explanation after the fact - one that happened to be believed by much of the public and many experts. The fact that needed to be explained, however, was failure: the painfully visible gap between the institutions' claims of competence and their actual performance. The gap, I maintain, was a function of the limits of human knowledge. It had always been there. What changed was the public's awareness of it.
- Martin Gurri, The Revolt of the Public and The Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium
Sunday, February 20, 2022
Saturday, February 19, 2022
Friday, February 18, 2022
Experience has taught me . . . that no man should be pitied because, every day in his life, he faces a hard, stubborn problem, but rather that it is the man who has no problem to solve, no hardships to face, who is to be pitied.
- Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education
The average human lifespan is absurdly, terrifyingly, insultingly short. Here's one way of putting things in perspective: the first modern humans appeared on the plains of Africa at least 200,000 years ago, and scientists estimate that life, in some form, will persist for another 1.5 billion years or more, until the intensifying heat of the sun condemns the last organism to death. But you? Assuming you live to be eighty, you'll have had about four thousand weeks.
- From Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman
Thursday, February 17, 2022
Heather Mac Donald on what's been happening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Everyday citizens are increasingly confused about what's happened in society and how it happened so quickly. They hear complaints abut cultural appropriation and laments about the lack of representation of certain identity groups in the arts. They hear demands to "decolonize" everything from academic curricula to hairstyles to mathematics. They hear that only white people can be racist and that they always are, by default. Politicians, actors, and artists pride themselves on being intersectional. Companies flaunt their respect for diversity, while firing employees who disagree with progressive politics. Organizations and activist groups of all kinds announce that they are inclusive, but only of people who agree with them. American engineers have been fired from corporations like Google for saying that gender differences exist, and British comedians have been sacked by the BBC for repeating jokes that could be seen as racist by Americans.
- From Social (In)Justice: Why So Many Popular Answers to Important Questions of Race, Gender, and Identity Are Wrong - and How to Know What's Right by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay
Wednesday, February 16, 2022
Tuesday, February 15, 2022
Monday, February 14, 2022
Anyone who reads around the travel books of the Thirties must, in the end, conclude that Robert Byron's The Road to Oxiana is the masterpiece. Byron was a gentleman, a scholar and an aesthetic, who drowned in 1941 when his ship to West Africa was torpedoed. In his short life he travelled as far as China and Tibet, and most of the countries nearer home. In 1928 he published The Station, an account of a visit to the monasteries of Mount Athos, and followed it up with two pioneering volumes on Byzantine civilisation, which, at that time, received scant consideration from academic circles. He had some lively prejudices. Among the targets of his abuse were the Catholic (as opposed to the Orthodox) Church; the art of Classical Greece; the paintings of Rembrandt; Shakespeare - and when his Intourist guide protested that the plays could never have been written by a grocer from Stratford-upon-Avon, he murmured, 'They are exactly the sort of plays I would expect a grocer to write.' In 1932, attracted by the photo of a Seljuk tomb-tower on the Turkoman steppe, he set out on a quest for the origins of Islamic architecture. And, if it is fair to place his earlier books as the work of a dazzlingly gifted young amateur, it is equally fair to rank The Road to Oxiana as a work of genius.
- From "A Lament for Afghanistan" in What Am I Doing Here by Bruce Chatwin
Sunday, February 13, 2022
Saturday, February 12, 2022
Many of the would-be Tocquevilles who searched for the essence of the United States in the mid-1970s - and later - were almost as pessimistic as the headline writer who wrote, "THINGS WILL GET WORSE BEFORE THEY GET WORSE." Americans, they said, had become disoriented, fractious, alienated and divided into ever more self-conscious groups that identified themselves narrowly by region, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, and race.
- James Patterson, Grand Expectations
Friday, February 11, 2022
Andrew Sullivan on truckers, Rogan, Peterson, and the revolt of masculinity.
So we have scales that allow us to divide up people into people who multitask all the time and people who rarely do, and the differences are remarkable. People who multitask all the time can't filter out irrelevancy. They can't manage a working memory. They're chronically distracted. They initiate much larger parts of their brains that are irrelevant to the task at hand . . . they're pretty much mental wrecks.
- Clifford Nass, Stanford communications professor, quoted in Deep Work by Cal Newport
Thursday, February 10, 2022
After decades of improving race relations, the United States is regressing into a pre-modern tribal society. Crime soars. Inflation roars. Meritocracy is libeled, so we're governed more by ideology and tribe. The soaring prices of the stuff of life - fuel, food, housing, health care, transportation - are strangling the middle class.
Read the rest of the column by Victor Davis Hanson in The Epoch Times.
If the choice seems to be between centralized power and simply depending upon the individual, then several layers in-between have been overlooked, including the neighborhood and the community.
- Inspired by The Fractured Republic: Renewing America's Social Contract in the Age of Individualism by Yuval Levin
[Photo by Avi Waxman at Unsplash]
Wednesday, February 09, 2022
Tuesday, February 08, 2022
Workplaces have gotten way too bureaucratic and nervous. As a result, they have become heavy-handed; often exacerbating problems which could have been resolved with brief, simple, and direct action.
The following phrases should be revived:
- "Let's not make a federal case out of this."
- "Knock it off."
- "Don't do it again."
I am on a two-watch program.
I wear a smartwatch during business, but then - after formally closing down for the day - I put the smartwatch on the charger and switch to a ten dollar Casio wristwatch.
The switch means no more email and no more electronic interruptions.
It is a symbolic way of declaring the division between formal work and everything else.
Monday, February 07, 2022
An enormous gap has opened up between global elites and others. The global executive is part of an international community. He or she may spend much of the time traveling the world, yet always staying in the same kind of hotel, eating the same sort of food, and dealing with the same sort of people. The vast majority of people, however, even in developed countries, find themselves bound to a locality which has in the meantime been robbed of many of the public spaces and shared activities that once generated community.
- Jonathan Sacks, The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations
February 7, 1812: Charles Dickens was born.
A few years ago, I would have said that Bleak House contains the most insight for modern times via the case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce.
Now, however, I think we're back to A Tale of Two Cities.
Reincarnations of Madame Defarge can be found in many a news story and on social media.
[Photo by Taha at Unsplash]
It is reasonable to expect mega-changes in the following areas over the next five to seven years:
- Schools. Home-schooling is going to expand enormously. Certificates will replace degrees in many college subjects. University costs will be a major issue. Taxpayers don't want to pay for ideological seminaries. Community colleges will have more viability than many universities. Virtual universities with super-star professors are already in the pipeline.
- Journalism. Watch for boutique and "cafeteria" journalism as well as mergers of news without the newspapers.
- Workplaces. Expect hybrids of hybrids that provide a mixture of in-office remote and in-office collegial. For the most part people will want to return to the office, but not the office they once knew.
- Religion. Men have been leaving churches for a long time. Watch for more male-friendly churches.
- Law. There is already talk of making law an undergraduate degree. Watch for that plus a post-graduate apprenticeship program.
- Military. A politically-correct military is an oxymoron. People don't want to regress to the bad old days but they want reassurance that the military has the right focus: winning wars.
- Community. Social media has isolated and alienated people. There is a longing for real neighborhoods, personal contact, and a sense of belonging. Savvy local politicians and businesses will tap into that.
Sunday, February 06, 2022
Saturday, February 05, 2022
Friday, February 04, 2022
The coup began at seven on Sunday morning. It was a grey and windless dawn and the grey Atlantic rollers broke in long even lines along the beach. The palms above the tidemark shivered in a current of cooler air that blew in off the breakers. Out at sea - beyond the surf - there were several black fishing canoes. Buzzards were circling above the market, swooping down now and then to snatch up scraps of offal. The butchers were working, even on a Sunday.
- From "A Coup: A Story" in What Am I Doing Here by Bruce Chatwin
Thursday, February 03, 2022
Compare the average letter to the editor of a newspaper with the usual Tweet and you can see the effects of time, space, and process. The letter writer often constructs an argument in an effort to persuade. The submission in turn goes through the newspaper's screeners.
Now shift to Twitter where discussion is unscreened and the tone is not measured. Indeed, Tweets often are red in tooth and claw, particularly in the comments sections.
Speculation and name-calling are standard and the predators don't even attempt to make an argument. Far from being a marketplace of ideas, Twitter is an assembly hall for the disagreeable.
As the old cruise ship joke goes, the food is terrible but they give you a lot of it.
The dock is looking better by the day.
[Photo by Edgar Moran at Unsplash]
Wednesday, February 02, 2022
The announcement has been made. The Washington, D.C. football team (formerly known as the Redskins) will be known as the Commanders.
I'd love to have a video of the meetings that produced that gem. At a time when Washington, D.C. is viewed as power-hungry and out of touch with the American people, "Commanders" sets the wrong tone. It is the sort of name only comic-book lovers will embrace.
They should have been bold. Imagine these:
- The Washington Bureaucrats
- The Washington Weasels
When he was nine years old, my godson developed a brief but freakishly intense obsession with Elvis Presley. He took to singing "Jailhouse Rock" at the top of his voice, with all the low crooning and pelvis-jiggling of the King himself. He didn't know this style had become a joke, so he offered it with all the heart-catching sincerity of a preteen who believes he is being cool. In the brief pauses before he started singing it all over again, he demanded to know everything ("Everything! Everything!") about Elvis, and so I jabbered out the rough outline of that inspiring, sad, stupid story.
- From Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention - and How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari
Tuesday, February 01, 2022
I went to office hours—in person—the other day for one of my new classes, a required course about classic literature and I got into an interesting debate with a professor. Upon sharing an idea that directly refuted his interpretation of a line from Genesis, which I had never read before, he said, “That’s a great point. Why didn’t you share that in class?” “I didn’t want to be argumentative,” I told him. “Be argumentative,” he said emphatically.
"What am I doing here? I am flat on my back in a National Health Service hospital hoping, praying, that the rigors and fevers which have racked me for three months will turn out to be malaria - although, after many blood tests, they have not found a single parasite. I have been on quinine tablets for thirteen hours - and my temperature does seem to be sliding down. I feel my ears. They are cold. I feel the tip of my nose. It is cold. I feel my forehead. It is cool. I feel inside my groin. Not too bad. The excitement is enough to send my temperature soaring."
From "Assunta: A Story" in What Am I Doing Here by Bruce Chatwin