Thursday, March 31, 2022
It is to be expected that, as a management consultant, I read a lot of leadership and management books.
In recent weeks, however, I've also explored French defense policy in the Thirties, the administrative chores of Roman emperors, arguments for reviving the draft, the downsides of stakeholder capitalism, Spanish workplace terms, and "The Great Re-Set."
This eclectic approach is not unusual. All of the information, for various reasons, has been helpful.
[Photo by Belinda Fewings at Unsplash]
"True pluralism isn't about celebrating the differences between us as people. It's about the diversity of identities within each of us - rich mosaics that go beyond the color of our skin or the number of our X chromosomes. Pluralism means rising above the narrow demands of woke culture to discover that there's more to each of us than our immutable characteristics."
- Vivek Ramaswamy
Wednesday, March 30, 2022
Amid all of the prose in life, it is important to remember the poetry. By that, of course, I don't just mean poems. I mean the above and beyond moments, words or actions that rise above the essentials.
Although optional, you often find that later, even decades later, they are all that anyone recalls.
[Photo by Clark Young at Unsplash]
"Why Pontius Pilate? Couldn't you choose a different subject?" cries the demon Woland to the Master in Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita. And well may the Master wish he had chosen something else. His novel about the fifth governor of Judaea, the man who crucified Christ, has been rejected by his editor and savaged by the editorial board. So he has burned it in the stove, and now finds himself in Dr. Stravinsky's hospital for the insane.
- From Pontius Pilate by Ann Wroe
Tuesday, March 29, 2022
I understand there have been changes for the better, but once upon a time law schools and business schools fostered an atmosphere in which their students (a.k.a. customers) were intellectually bullied and laden with massive amounts of work.
[See the movie version of The Paper Chase to get a sense of the law school version. Peter Robinson gives the business school equivalent in his book Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA.]
What explains the passivity of the students, who tend to be highly accomplished and bright people?
Is it raw ambition?
Some bizarre herd mentality?
I have heard that medical schools did not - and do not - foster that atmosphere. If correct, that is very encouraging.
In 1961 [Bertrand] Russell had also asserted that "on a purely statistical basis, Macmillan [British prime minister] and Kennedy are about fifty times as wicked as Hitler." Paul Johnson correctly observed of him that "when his sense of justice was outraged and his emotions aroused, his respect for accuracy collapsed."
- Paul Hollander, From Benito Mussolini to Hugo Chavez: Intellectuals and a Century of Political Hero Worship
Monday, March 28, 2022
It's not the same if three people work from home and three work in the office. Why? Because even if they have the same job title, people are not interchangeable machine parts. Some of the employees may have greater experience and insight. The others may learn from them.
You may think they are "getting the job done" if you take a limited view of the job and if "getting it done" only involves narrow measurements. But if it also includes learning from the team and supporting the team via casual tips and observations, then they might not be getting the full job done.
Jobs are more than behavior for rent. There are intangible aspects to teams. The mere presence of one team member may make a huge difference in how well the others perform, either for good or for bad.
[Photo by Eyre June Bustamante at Unsplash]
Wearing a black silk cravat, knotted bohemian-style around his neck and flowing voluminously over his ample chest, the lecturer confidently, almost brazenly, strode to the front of the Washington School auditorium in Madison, Wisconsin, to deliver his speech on the history of art. He spent a few minutes knowledgeably discussing the Paleolithic cave paintings of Altamira, the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Doric temple, the Mournings of Giotto. Then, abruptly, he launched into a violent attack on the school's system of teaching art, which, he felt, stifled creativity and self-expression by insisting that the students limit themselves to copying rather than inventing.
- From Citizen Welles by Frank Brady
Sunday, March 27, 2022
Saturday, March 26, 2022
Indeed, the German academy, taken as a whole, far from acting as a barrier for Hitlerism, assisted its progress to power. A key element in the Nazi triumph was the generation of schoolteachers who matured in the last decade of the nineteenth century, were infected by the Völkisch anti-Semitism, and had become senior teachers by the 1920s. The textbooks they used reflected the same influences. The university academics similarly contributed to the rise of Nazi influence by preaching national salvation through panaceas and 'spiritual revivals', instead of sceptical empiricism. Above all, Hitler achieved his greatest success among university students. They were his vanguard. At each stage in the growth of the Nazis, student support preceded general electoral support. The Nazis worked in the first place through the student fraternities, which in 1919 adopted the 'Eisenach Resolution', excluding Jews on racial as well as religious grounds.
- From A History of The Jews by Paul Johnson
Friday, March 25, 2022
Glenn H. Reynolds on the rising resistance to the discriminatory practices of woke universities.
Shorn of his stars, Solzhenitsyn officially had no rank. In the unwritten law of the day, he was not only no longer a captain, but an enemy of the people - a "dirty counter" (counterrevolutionary). As the operative NKVD saying indicated - "We make no mistakes!" - arrest was virtually synonymous with condemnation. In these circumstances, the slightest show of sympathy for the condemned might easily have delivered the sympathizer to a similar fate. This danger was made more real by the presence at the colonel's side of the brigade's Communist Party overseer, one of whose principal functions was to report ideological deviations or weaknesses among other officers. This is what made Solzhenitsyn call Travkin's handshake "one of the most outstanding acts of courage I saw during the war."
- From Solzhenitsyn by David Burg and George Feifer
Thursday, March 24, 2022
The amount of time spent in preparation won't matter if the plan doesn't work.
The same goes for the number of deadlines that were met and how creative the planners were and whether a number of top teams were involved.
The plan has to work.
And a key part of devising a plan that will work is knowing just what can cause it not to work.
This is not a mystery. Consider the disasters you've studied and you'll usually find they have one thing in common: a major flaw which was known but was ignored or downplayed.
That can easily happen when people fall in love with a plan.
Good planners need the eyes of an adversary.
Wednesday, March 23, 2022
WARNING: You are about to watch a proceeding which is soaked in partisanship. The nominee has been carefully coached to evade certain questions and the questioners are equally prepared to exploit or ignore any strengths or weaknesses, be they real or imaginary.
It wasn't always like this.
Tuesday, March 22, 2022
The world I had lived in dissolved and disappeared. Every day another piece vanished quietly, without ado. Every day one looked around and something else had gone and left no trace. I have never since had such a strange experience. It was as if the ground on which one stood was continually trickling away from under one's feet, or rather as if the air one breathed was steadily, inexorably being sucked away.
- From Defying Hitler: A Memoir by Sebastian Haffner
Monday, March 21, 2022
Aaron Sibarium on "The Takeover of America's Legal System." An excerpt:
At a Heterodox Academy panel discussion in December 2020, Harvard Law School Professor Randall Kennedy said that, until recently, he’d thought that fears of law schools becoming illiberal—shutting down unpopular views or voices—had been overblown. “I’ve changed my mind,” said Kennedy, who, in 2013, published a book called “For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law.” “I think that there really is a big problem.”
I find it rather strange when people who favor centralized power, loose interpretations of the law, limiting freedom of expression, and group rights over individual rights tell us that those who favor decentralized power, strict interpretation of the law, the freedom of expression, and individual rights are dangerous.
Sunday, March 20, 2022
Saturday, March 19, 2022
I don't believe it is a coincidence that the smartest people I know spend little or no time watching television. They certainly don't rely on it to understand serious news stories.
Television was bad before. It's gotten worse.
The Cold War has been followed by the class war. A transatlantic class war has broken out simultaneously in many Western countries between elites based in the corporate, financial, government, media, and educational sectors and disproportionately native working class populists. The old spectrum of left and right has given way to a new dichotomy in politics among insiders and outsiders.
- From The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Metropolitan Elite by Michael Lind
Friday, March 18, 2022
Commentary magazine 1997: Norman Podhoretz on his war with Allen Ginsberg. An excerpt:I was right about the counterculture, but I was wrong in thinking that my Utopian fantasies of perfection through radical reform had any better chance of success than any other brand of utopianism, or that they could compete, especially among the young, with the seductively tantalizing promise of freedom from the responsibilities and constraints of a normal adult life. Back in 1958, as I was leaving his apartment, Ginsberg had shouted, “We’ll get you through your children,” and so it was turning out.
Pick just three things that possess the potential to change your life (and the lives of others) in a very positive way.
Don't ponder the question too long because they're not hidden. You probably already know them. Make sure that you word the description in a manner that will allow you to measure progress every day.
Write them on an index card and carry it around.
Do the three things every day.
Every day. No exceptions. [If an emergency intervenes, get back on track as soon as possible. Abandonment is not an option.]
Monitor your progress every month. If one goal is achieved at any time, put in a new one but stick with a maximum of three.
See where you are in six months.
Let's talk about this in a year. Put that on your calendar. I'll put it on mine.
Thursday, March 17, 2022
Wednesday, March 16, 2022
FOMO: Fear of Missing Out
Most of the news resembles a soap opera. You can skip several episodes or even more and then can pick it up later and find that Ted is still in the hospital, Maria is still worried about Tony, and Sally has finally found happiness and a big promotion. Or has she?
What do Twitter, Facebook, and smartphones peddle? A brief cure to FOMO but it's only brief because five minutes later you'll need another dose. Booster shots ad infinitum.
The only cure is indifference. Take my word for it. You don't need to keep up on most of the stories out there. You don't need to have a personal foreign policy. With a few exceptions, the greatest people in your life (or in the world, for that matter) are not celebrities.
In other words, you're not missing out on much. Missing the minor is gaining the important. Study a foreign language. Read the great books. Volunteer with some worthy cause.
Escape FOMO. Life awaits.
[Photo by Elly Brian at Unsplash]
Multiplication Instead of Addition. If the components of a plan happen to be "times" one another instead of "plus" and one of the components is zero, then zero will be the result.
The Meaning of Plus. If you are adding the components, recognize that the process of adding may change the elements themselves. The sum may be more than a collection of ones.
Changing Value. The value of a component on one day or week will not be frozen. It will increase or decline over time.
Tuesday, March 15, 2022
- Judge Learned Hand
The thick coffee, in two small gilt-edged cups and with that bitter bite of near-burnt Arabic chicory, has gone cold. We are sitting more or less in silence, each of us thinking, staring idly at a muted television nearby. It is the early fall of 2008, and the headlines, even on the station we are watching - Al Manar, the TV channel of Hizb'allah here in Lebanon - are about the global financial crisis. Fouad and I have a settled peace about us at the moment, the slow calm of an early afternoon, each of us getting ready to return to our respective lives. He will, when he leaves, go back to his work as a chief of information technology for Hizb'allah, the guerrilla and terror group that is, as one Israeli general has said, "the greatest in the world" at what it does.
- From The Age of The Unthinkable: Why The New World Disorder Surprises Us and What We Can Do About It by Joshua Cooper Ramo
[Photo by Nathan Lemon at Unsplash]
Monday, March 14, 2022
FutureLawyer has some sage observations on expert witnesses.
Many years ago, I was an expert witness in a federal case. It was a fine and even somewhat amusing experience but ever since then, I have declined such invitations.
A big reason is that I loathe the term "expert."
There are very few "experts" in the world. I am routinely reminded of the massive number of things I don't know.
The New Yorker: David Remnick discusses Putin, Russia, and the West with historian Stephen Kotkin.
Sunday, March 13, 2022
Saturday, March 12, 2022
It's funny how things work out. It has been less than a decade since I stared down that long corridor at Cornell, wondering why I'd moved halfway around the planet to come study some obscure subject in a place that all of a sudden looked like a prison. Yet in that brief time, the world has changed several times over, and my world with it. Surprised by the meteoric rise of the Internet, stung by a series of financial crises from Asia to Latin America, and stunned by ethnic violence and terrorism from Africa to New York, the world has learned the hard way that it is connected in a manner few people had anticipated and no one understood.
- From Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age by Duncan C. Watts
From the Quinnipiac Poll:
As the world witnesses what is happening to Ukraine, Americans were asked what they would do if they were in the same position as Ukrainians are now: stay and fight or leave the country? A majority (55 percent) say they would stay and fight, while 38 percent say they would leave the country. Republicans say 68 – 25 percent and independents say 57 – 36 percent they would stay and fight, while Democrats say 52 – 40 percent they would leave the country.
Friday, March 11, 2022
"Ultimately it was our senior leadership, leveraging the inclusion and transparency of the team of teams model, who began to insert a constant reminder that if we did not align behind one mission, the individual capabilities of our elite teams would prove insufficient. We could all be great and still lose."
- Chris Fussell in One Mission: How Leaders Build a Team of Teams
The success of every culture, observed Lord Moulton, a respected British judge and cabinet minister in the early twentieth century, hinges not on big points of morality - there will always be issues like abortion or school prayer over which people differ - but on smaller values, like being considerate of others and pulling your weight. These values, he observed, are neither legally enforceable nor purely private, but constitute the connective tissue of people interacting in a healthy society. He called this "the world of manners":
Between "can do" and "may do" ought to exist the whole realm which recognizes the sway of duty, fairness, sympathy, taste and all the other things that make life beautiful and society possible.
- From The Lost Art of Drawing the Line: How Fairness Went Too Far by Philip K. Howard
Thursday, March 10, 2022
In the fifth century storm upon storm out of the dark North swept away in a great deluge of barbarism all the civilisation of the western half of the Roman Empire. From the Atlantic to Constantinople, and from the Rhine and Danube to the deserts of Africa, all that was learned and cultivated, all that was artistic and beautiful, was overwhelmed in an avalanche of ruin in which not only the triumphs of architecture, literature, and art, produced by many centuries of a high civilisation, but also those who could create such things afresh, were involved in one general destruction.
- From The Medici by Colonel G. F. Young
Wednesday, March 09, 2022
Ideas are everywhere, but knowledge is rare. Even a so-called "knowledgeable person" usually has solid knowledge only within some special area, representing a tiny fraction of the whole spectrum of human concerns. Humorist Will Rogers said, "Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects."
- From Knowledge and Decisions by Thomas Sowell
Tuesday, March 08, 2022
On 18 March 1952 the Neue Zeitung published an article by the author and editor Kurt Kusenberg entitled NOTHING CAN BE TAKEN FOR GRANTED: PRAISE FOR A TIME OF MISERY. Only seven years on, the author yearned for the weeks of confusion that had followed the end of the Second World War in Germany. Even though nothing had worked at the time - not the postal service, the railways, public transport - in spite of the homelessness, the hunger and the occasional corpse that still lay buried under the rubble, in retrospect those weeks struck him as having been a good time. "Like children," he wrote, people after the war had begun "to mend the torn net of human relationships." His choice of words is unusual and perhaps a little disconcerting . . . "Like children"?
- From Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945-1955 by Harald Jähner
Monday, March 07, 2022
In City Journal, former CIA analyst Martin Gurri weighs in on Ukraine. An excerpt:
Smartphone images from battle-scarred Ukraine flooded the web and almost immediately crystallized into a David and Goliath theme. The Ukrainians came across as unexpectedly heroic. The Russians appeared clueless and brutal. Videos of burning tanks and civilians huddled in subway stations had a gritty retro look, like something out of a World War II movie—a setting that called for unambiguous heroes and villains.
Sunday, March 06, 2022
Saturday, March 05, 2022
Friday, March 04, 2022
Thursday, March 03, 2022
The fifteen men included ten university graduates, nine of them qualified lawyers, eight of whom had a doctorate. The minutes suggest that they discussed these matters in a purposeful, business-like, and informed manner in comfortable surroundings and in a positively idyllic setting. While expressing a variety of different views on matters of detail, not a single one of them raised concerns about the project as a whole, namely the murder of 11 million Jews.
From Wannsee: The Road to The Final Solution by Peter Longerich
Wednesday, March 02, 2022
There was a time when the Constitution was not yet a historical document. There was a time before it had been subjected to the interpretation and reinterpretation of the Supreme Court over the course of hundreds of cases. There was a time when it looked doubtful that the people of the thirteen independent states would agree to a plan for a new federal government that had been produced in secrecy and without legal authorization.
- From The Accessible Federalist: A Modern English Translation of 16 Key Federalist Papers by S. Adam Seagrave
Tuesday, March 01, 2022
America's Founding Fathers were never quite sure that democracy would work, especially during their revolution. The British, for their part, were absolutely convinced that it wouldn't: their very Englishness had instilled in them a heightened sense of the rightness and superiority of their monarchical ways, and had provoked a fear and hatred of such outlandish notions as "democracy" and "republics."
- From The Patriots: Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the Making of America by Winston Groom