"The Taming of the Shrew"
Thursday, June 30, 2022
It is not difficult nowadays to find people who are afraid to express their opinions at work or in public lest they suffer career-killing retaliation.
There are the "approved opinions" and there are risky ones. The latter are not extreme. They would not have been risky a few years ago but there has been a radical shift.
Lowered voices are required because candor carries a price.
We must push back against silencing. Fear must not become normal.
It's time to study Eastern Europe in its communist years:
"Normalization meant accepting the way things were without any argument about how they should be, and it was the suction of this vacuum that troubled [Vaclav] Havel the most." - Timothy Snyder
[Photo by Kristina Flour at Unsplash]
Q. Can you tell me how a battle works?A. Well, in my opinion a battle never works; it never works according to plan....The plan is only a common base for changes. It’s very important that everybody should know the plan, so you can change easily. But the modern battle is very fluid, and you have to make your decisions very fast - and mostly not according to plan.
Q. But at least everybody knows where you’re coming from?
A. And where you’re going to, more or less.
- Gen. Dan Laner, Israeli Defense Forces commander, Golan Heights, 1973
[Source: War by Gwynne Dyer, New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1985, p.134]
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
The videos of President Biden wandering around like a lost soul at various conferences have become common.
Each time I see those, my reaction does not fall into the camp of those who question whether the President is mentally up to the job. [He may or may not be.] I also differ with those who immediately cite his age as an inherent disqualifier. Konrad Adenauer seemed to handle the German chancellorship quite well at an advanced age.
No, as a former staff officer, my reaction is to be angry at his staff. A top-notch staff would never permit the top executive to be placed in a situation where he looks confused or alone.
Biden's chief of staff is responsible for those lapses. They are inexcusable.
As a nation, we have been drifting away from a focus on what people do to one where the emphasis is on what they think.
A key part of this is that although you may behave within the required boundaries, if you think outside of those boundaries, then you have entered a danger zone.
If you want to see how this works out when taken to an extreme, note the difference between authoritarian dictatorships and their more extreme totalitarian relatives.
With the latter, it is not enough to obey. You must believe. Your thoughts are not your own.
Tuesday, June 28, 2022
They want to wake us in the morning, have their artificial intelligence software guide us through the day, and never quite leave our sides. They aspire to become the repository for precious and private items, our calendar and contacts, our photos and documents. They intend for us to unthinkingly turn to them for information and entertainment, while they build unabridged catalogs of our intentions and aversions. Google Glass and the Apple Watch prefigure the day when these companies implant their artificial intelligence within our bodies.
- From World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech by Franklin Foer
[Photo by ev at Unsplash]
A spectre is haunting eastern Europe: the spectre of what in the West is called 'dissent'. This spectre has not appeared out of thin air. It is a natural and inevitable consequence of the present historical phase of the system it is haunting. It was born at a time when this system, for a thousand reasons, can no longer base itself on the unadulterated, brutal, and arbitrary application of power, eliminating all expressions of nonconformity. What is more, the system has become so ossified politically that there is practically no way for such nonconformity to be implemented within its official structures.
- From The Power of the Powerless by Vaclav Havel
Visiting the offices of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute a few years ago, I spotted a photograph on the wall showing a remarkable scene in progress. The black-and-white picture, dated November 14, 1962, is a wide-angle view - a very wide view, because of what the camera has to frame. What you see is the interior of a full-scale basketball arena, the lens managing to cover nearly the whole space. We are a ways up in the stands, well above the court, where the basketball hoops have been set aside and rows of chairs are lined up to face a platform and a podium. All of the seats on the floor and well up into the bleachers are occupied - more than ten thousand people, I would guess. At the podium stands a white-haired man alone. The image is sharp enough that you can identify the closer faces in the corwd, all of them staring at the old man down below. The members of the audience appear young, bright, alert, and joyous: girls in sweaters and skirts, guys in sports coats and button-down shirts. We are at the University of Detroit sixty years ago watching Robert Frost read his poems.
- From The Dumbest Generation Grows Up: From Stupified Youth to Dangerous Adults by Mark Bauerlein
Monday, June 27, 2022
Polluted social media. Addictive smartphones. Vicious Twitter. Cancel culture. Alienation. Loneliness. Lockdowns. Declining institutions. Passivity. 24-hour news cycle. Big Tech. Mediocre leadership. Fading moral courage. Squishy ethics. "When in Rome" rationalizations. Gross politicization of even the most nonpolitical. Cults. Broken families. Rushes to judgment. Quotas. Porous borders. Viruses. Emboldened enemies.
The list continues.
We swim in dangerous waters.
Horatio did so, his voice growing clearer and more confident; and Stephen's attention wandered. Remotely he heard the boy tell the nature of a secant, a cosecant, a tangent and cotangent, a sine and its fellow; and when next he took notice they were talking with real animation about such astronomy as Horatio and his grandfather's curate, Mr. Walker, had managed to accomplish with a home-made refracting instrument just powerful enough for the moons of Jupiter, the delightful moons of Jupiter, on a clear and moonless night. Stephen let his eyelids droop.
- A midshipman interview in Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O'Brian
Sunday, June 26, 2022
Saturday, June 25, 2022
If I were to pick two professions which would be greatly improved by bringing them to the standards of say, 1960 or even 1970, I'd choose teaching and journalism.
The nation would also benefit if they rose to that level.
Would you add any others to the list?
Friday, June 24, 2022
Like inquisitive scientists, the best corporate leaders we've researched remain students of their work, relentlessly asking questions - why, why, why? - and have an incurable compulsion to vacuum the brains of people they meet.
- Jim Collins, Good to Great
Thursday, June 23, 2022
There is no shortage of paradox and contention in the world around us. Trouble is, most people shield themselves from reality in one way or another. Staying in touch with what is really going on is the best way to force oneself to grow. The signs in the Las Vegas casinos have it right: "You must be present to win." The reason for being on the shop floor isn't to interfere, but to get grounded. Recall [Honda executive Takeo] Fujisawa's managerial philosophy. He didn't deny himself a desk for show. He did it because he believed that by staying in touch with his organization he could more readily spot its deficiencies and his own.
- Richard Tanner Pascale, Managing on the Edge
Wednesday, June 22, 2022
Britain's Establishment is stripped naked and, with no warning, shoved onto a stage. The audience gasps: someone familiar stands before them, but now, under the unforgiving glare of the spotlights, the character is finally exposed for who it really is. Yet, as suddenly as the figure appears, it is covered up again and taken back to where it belongs: offstage.
- From The Establishment: And How They Get Away With It by Owen Jones
Cultural Offering provides Michael Crichton's description of a common affliction.
A more plausible way in which a country can be ruined is to be seen in the history of Argentina. A rich country, with an economically well-heeled citizenry, lost it all for a simple reason: rulers who became or remained popular by giving their subjects more than the country could afford.
- Robert Conquest
Tuesday, June 21, 2022
Rick Georges, The FutureLawyer, will be speaking tomorrow at the Florida Bar Convention. His topic will be on how to practice law from anywhere.
It should be a hit since one of his branch offices is pictured above.
As they say in the theater world, "Break a leg."
Monday, June 20, 2022
If the liability of the tobacco companies was tied to producing a product which, if used properly, is addictive and dangerous, will a similar argument be used against the smartphone manufacturers?
[Photo by Kilian Seiler at Unsplash]
They are called BASF, Bayer, Agfa, Opel, IG Farben, Siemens, Allianz, Telefunken. By these names we shall know them. In fact, we know them very well. They are here beside us, among us. They are our cars, our washing machines, our household appliances, our clock radios, our homeowner's insurance, our watch batteries. They are here, there, and everywhere, in all sorts of guises. Our daily life is theirs. They care for us, clothe us, light our way, carry us over the world's highways, rock us to sleep. And the twenty-four gentlemen present at the palace of the President of the Reichstag that February 20 are none other than their proxies, the clergy of major industry; they are the high priests of Ptah. And there they stand, affectless, like twenty-four calculating machines at the gates of Hell.
- From The Order of the Day by Eric Vuillard
Sunday, June 19, 2022
Saturday, June 18, 2022
"The [Metropolitan Museum of Art] show promises that a 'close study of his art' will reveal [Winslow] Homer's 'persistent concerns with race and the environment.' It also claims that The Gulf Stream 'addresses the racial politics of the time and the imperialist ambitions of the United States.'"
- From "The Obtuse Bard" by James Panero, The New Criterion, June 2022]
Homer was an avid sportsman, hunter, and fisherman. His work reflected the realities of life lived by the current, the wind, and the tide. His simple reply to "those inquisitve schoolma'ms" looking for more might be the same now as it was then: "I regret very much that I have painted a picture that requires any description."
- James Panero in the above article.
Institute for Family Studies: Life Without Father.
Want to meet a bunch of kids who grew up without a father in the home?
Go to the local juvenile detention facility.
Want to get even more depressed?
Find out how many of those juveniles are fathers.
[HT: Joel Engel]
- I, Claudius by Robert Graves
- Claudius the God by Robert Graves
- A Pillar of Iron by Taylor Caldwell
- Pompeii by Robert Harris
- The Cicero Trilogy by Robert Harris
- Julian by Gore Vidal
- Eagle in the Snow by Wallace Breem
- Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar
- The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough
- Pontius Pilate by Paul L. Maier
Read the rest of Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Justice Clarence Thomas.
Friday, June 17, 2022
In effect, the people of America did not bring their democracy with them, nor did they find it here. They made it from the interaction of many ideas and interests as defined by many groups. The clash of these ideas generated pressures upon both individuals and groups to make decisions that, in turn, simply created new demands for new groups. In that momentum one finds the origin, meaning and purpose of America.
- Joseph O'Grady, How the Irish Became Americans
I once sat in on a large meeting where a leader railed against the lack of support from the top executives. Rather than asking the obvious - "What can I do to resolve the matters in my span of control?" - the attitude appeared to be that nothing could be done locally. [I could think of around five things.]
The only perceived solution, however, would have to come from those uncaring rascals at the top.
That attitude is the real problem. I see it more and more nowadays.
Never assume that the cavalry is coming.
Thursday, June 16, 2022
National Association of Scholars: Peter Wood on repelling the DEI assault on higher education.
On my left, the biggest concentration of brute power the world has ever seen - a tremendous armament, a huge bureaucracy, an enormous police machine, a vast propaganda apparatus. On my right, one man at a typewriter holding a top page and five carbons.
- From Tyrants and Typewriters: Communiqués from the Struggle for Truth by Robert Conquest
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
[Eisenhower's] beliefs were carved into epigrams:
He that conquereth his own soul is greater than he who takes a city.
Forget yourself and personal fortunes.
Belligerence is the hallmark of insecurity.
Never lose your temper except intentionally.
- James David Barber
Neglect maintenance and the jungle grows back. Trails disappear, buildings collapse, and practices decline.
It would be great if neglect produced improvement but it doesn't.
The jungle is back in many of our institutions because too many of us assumed that the standards were firmly set and widely respected.
[Photo by Taylor Daugherty at Unsplash]
Tuesday, June 14, 2022
"'You can do better than that,' he said. 'I want an ironclad case.'
"This kind of thing went on for a while," said the executive, "and then I began to realize something: I was becoming the problem. This fellow had a lawyer. He was a member of the union. He had complained to his congressman that he wasn't being given fair consideration for promotion! And the agency just didn't want to get into a tangle. It was easier for them to adopt the attitude that I wasn't compiling a convincing case, that I was a lousy manager."
- From "Firing a Federal Employee: The Impossible Dream" by Leonard Reed, in Inside the System by Charles Peters and Nicholas Lemann (1979)
The positions were filled from an applicant pool whose members largely believed in X, having graduated from schools and attended professional conferences in which X is regarded as a professional good if not a virtue, even though, for most people, X is still far from a settled subject.
The applicant names were obtained from a supposedly neutral recruitment agency which was, in reality, devoted to X. The agency intentionally sought candidates who were favorable to X.
The recruitment agency in turn was funded by a non-profit organization that promotes X.
And yet outside observers (and the employers) believed that their new employees were neutral on the subject of X and would be objective in evaluating other opinions.
True story. We live in interesting times.
Monday, June 13, 2022
Certainly assertions about entire societies and groups of people should come with some evidence attached? Well, not now. At its best, the shift from evidence to "me" allowed a stalemate: You have your views and reality. I have mine. At its worst, it left any exchange of ideas vulnerable to being taken over by bad-faith actors who simply insisted that things are as they say they are. And that is precisely what happened.
- Douglas Murray, The War On the West
Our postmodern society, a world of fabulous frauds, owes its crazed condition to a historically unique circumstance: the existence within it of a huge, autocephalous class of intellectuals. This oddity derives from two further anomalies. First is the production, in unprecedented numbers - both absolutely and relatively - of people who possess university degrees, regard themselves as intellectually sophisticated, and either work in higher education or take their lead from those who do. Second is a willingness to allow academics to build for themselves positions of near-institutional impregnability. Although not generally remarked upon, these twined peculiarities of the Western thought-world - its growth to vast disproportion and the heavy entrenchment of its academic core - comprise the taproot of our deepening delirium.
- Stephen H. Bach, "The Plague of 'Mind-Working'" in The New Criterion, May 2022
Sunday, June 12, 2022
Saturday, June 11, 2022
Friday, June 10, 2022
Thursday, June 09, 2022
I ran across this while thinking of some of Robert Conquest's maxims. They are still powerful.
The video is dated but the facts remain: Robert Conquest was an extraordinary person. His books on Soviet history and the 20th century are ones to keep and revisit.
Greg Lukianoff and Nicco Perrino give a strong and unapologetic defense of free speech.
Wednesday, June 08, 2022
Read all of the Christine Rosen article in Commentary magazine.
If you think that many civil rights programs have gone off-track or are even going in the opposite direction and that corrective action is urgently needed, you are not alone.
Check out the Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR).
There is no charge for membership, FAIR offers a wide range of helpful resources, and it is rapidly growing.
[I'm coordinating the Arizona chapter. We're in the process of preparing briefings and workshops as well as organizational reviews.]
While coaching people on their presentation skills, I've noticed a growing practice which can harm both presentations and careers.
"Upspeaking" (raising the voice at the end of the sentence) is on the increase among men and women. The unfortunate result of that practice is the person sounds uncertain and even weak.
It arises in the speech habits of the young more than in those of the middle-aged or old. I am wondering if there is any connection to the signs of youthful passivity which have grown in our society.
Whatever the reason, it's a practice/habit/quirk that should be squelched. You can make a lot of mistakes during presentations and still emerge on top. Repeated upspeaking, however, can be especially damaging.
What new imperial territorial configuration contains the resources to fully secure Great Power status for a revived Russia? The RUBK - pronounced "rubik," as in the puzzle Rubik's Cube - is one configuration. The RUBK consists of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. With its demographics and natural resources, the RUBK has the geo-strategic resources to secure global Great Power status.
- Colonel Austin Bay in Cocktails from Hell: Five Complex Wars Shaping the 21st Century
Tuesday, June 07, 2022
People began to talk of "equality," but they did not seem to care about equal rights. They talked of "anti-racism," but they sounded deeply racist. They spoke of "justice," but they seemed to mean "revenge."
- Douglas Murray, The War on the West
The law professors transmit it to the law students who then become lawyers who transmit it to the HR and Diversity staffs and they bring it into organizations where no one has the wit or guts to ask tough questions and the CEO nods at whatever is proposed.
Gotta stay hip, you know.
Sounds like a Tom Wolfe novel, but it isn't.