Saturday, January 12, 2019
Irreconcilable differences between old and new can be found in something as seemingly trivial as naming conventions. The industrial age insisted on portentous-sounding names of great seriousness and formality, to validate the organizations which spoke with the voice of authority: "Bank of America," "National Broadcasting Corporation," "New York Times." Each of these three names stood for a professional hierarchy which claimed a monopoly of specialized knowledge. They symbolized a starched-collar kind of mastery, and they meant to impress. Even the lowest-ranking person in these organizations, the names implied, had risen far above the masses.
The digital age loves self-mocking names, which are a way to puncture the formal stiffness of the established order: "Yahoo!," "Google," "Twitter," "Reddit," "Flickr," "Photobucket," "Bitcoin." Without having asked the people in question, I feel reasonable sure that the founders of Google never contemplated naming their company "National Search Engine Corporation" and Mark Zuckerberg never felt tempted by "Social Connections Center of America." It wasn't the style.
-Martin Gurri, The Revolt of the Public
The incumbent structure is hierarchy, and it represents established and accredited authority—government first and foremost, but also corporations, universities, the whole roster of institutions from the industrial age. Hierarchy has ruled the world since the human race attained meaningful numbers. The industrial mind just made it bigger, steeper, and more efficient. From the era of Rameses to that of Hosni Mubarak, it has exhibited predictable patterns of behavior: top-down, centralizing, painfully deliberate in action, process-obsessed, mesmerized by grand strategies and five-year plans, respectful of rank and order, but contemptuous of the outsider, the amateur.
Against this citadel of the status quo, the Fifth Wave has raised the network; that is, the public in revolt, those despised amateurs now connected to one another by means of digital devices. Nothing within the bounds of human nature could be less like a hierarchy. Where the latter is slow and plodding, networked action is lightning quick but unsteady in purpose. Where hierarchy has evolved a hard exoskeleton to keep every part in place, the network is loose and pliable—it can swell into millions or dissipate in an instant.
Digital networks are egalitarian to the brink of dysfunction. Most would rather fail in an enterprise than acknowledge rank or leaders of any sort. . . . Networks succeed when held together by a single powerful point of reference—an issue, person, or event—which acts as a center of gravity and organizing principle for action.
Typically, this has meant being against. If hierarchy worships the established order, the network nurtures a streak of nihilism.
-Martin Gurri, The Revolt of the Public
Those deliberations unfolded against a backdrop of America's long and often unsuccessful effort to maintain equilibrium between the demand for money and its supply, an effort that extended back to the controversy unleashed by Hamilton's First Bank of the United States, designed to give the economy sufficient liquidity, maintain currency stability, and ensure economic efficiency. Jefferson and his Republican allies attacked the bank as a dangerous concentration of financial power, and its charter lapsed in 1811. But the War of 1812 revealed the need for a central banking authority. State banks in the Northeast, where the war was unpopular, hoarded the country's meager reserves of specie (gold and silver), forcing banks in the other regions to rely on printed money. The result was a menacing wave of inflation and considerable economic dislocation. Thus the Second Bank of the United States was established in 1816—and immediately slipped into corruption as its officials speculated in the bank's stock and fostered venal practices by its branch members. When new bank leaders sought to clean up the mess by foreclosing on overdue mortgages and redeeming overextended notes from state banks, they triggered the Panic of 1819. Banks failed, prices collapsed, unemployment soared.
President Andrew Jackson, a sound-money man who hated all concentrations of power, killed the national bank with a series of bold and highly controversial political maneuvers in the 1830s. But the state banks he fostered couldn't always maintain the needed balance between money demand and money supply, and that proved disastrous when the Panic or 1837 ravaged the U. S. economy for nearly seven years. An anguished call rose up for rescinding Jackson's last executive action, his Specie Circular, designed to curb a dangerous inflationary wave sweeping the country in conjunction with wild land speculations in the West. Jackson's answer was to require purchases of government property to be transacted in gold or silver.
But when the threat of inflation suddenly gave way to the threat of falling prices, or deflation, Jackson's protege and chosen successor, New York's Martin Van Buren, couldn't see that the Specie Circular was precisely the wrong medicine when the country desperately needed liquidity. In the name of a sound currency, he clung to Jackson's old policy even as it deepened the Panic and destroyed his presidency in the 1840 elections.
-Robert W. Merry, from his book, President McKinley: Architect of the American Century
The context for this passage is framing the silver-versus-gold debate in the lead-up to the 1896 Republican National Convention's nomination of William McKinley for president.
"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving."
-a loose translation of Albert Einstein's “Beim Menschen ist es wie beim Velo. Nur wenn er faehrt, kann er bequem die Balance halten.”
"And what of others? The way they are, is the way they are. And the way the world is, is the way it is. It will change when it is good and ready and not one day sooner. Once you accept than, you can set yourself free to concentrate and empower yourself."
Charlie and I view the marketable common stocks that Berkshire owns as interests in businesses, not as ticker symbols to be bought or sold based on their “chart” patterns, the “target” prices of analysts or the opinions of media pundits. Instead, we simply believe that if the businesses of the investees are successful (as we believe most will be) our investments will be successful as well. Sometimes the payoffs to us will be modest; occasionally the cash register will ring loudly. And sometimes I will make expensive mistakes. Overall – and over time – we should get decent results. In America, equity investors have the wind at their back.
-Warren Buffett, from page 10 of this Berkshire Hathaway annual report
Friday, January 11, 2019
Thursday, January 10, 2019
..............that I ever would have thought of classifying Catch-22 as a novel for leaders. But, since Michael proposed it, I fetched an old copy off the shelves and started thumbing through it. I think he has a point. On about every other page there is a passage like this:
Without realizing how it came about, the combat men in the squadron discovered themselves dominated by the administrators appointed to serve them. They were bullied, insulted, harassed and shoved about all day long by one after the other. When the voiced their objection, Captain Black replied that people who were loyal would not mind signing all the loyalty oaths they had to. To anyone who questioned the effectiveness of the loyalty oaths, he replied that people who really did owe allegiance to their country would be proud to pledge it as often as he forced them to. And to anyone who questioned the morality, he replied that "The Star Spangled Banner" was the greatest piece of music ever composed. The more loyalty oaths a person signed, the more loyal he was; to Captain Black it was as simple as that, and he had Corporal Kolodny sign hundreds with his name each day so that he could always prove he was more loyal than anyone else.
True listening, total concentration on the other, is always a manifestation of love. An essential part of true listening is the discipline of bracketing, the temporary giving up or setting aside of one's own prejudices, frames of reference and desires so as to experience as far as possible the speaker's world from the inside, stepping inside his or her shoes. . . . Since true listening is love in action, nowhere is more appropriate than in marriage.
-M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled
As everyone from ancient times till today knows, clerks and accountants think in a non-human fashion. They think like filing cabinets. This is not their fault. If they don't think that way their drawers will get all mixed up and they won't be able to provide the services their government, company or organisation requires. The most important impact of script (writing) on human history is precisely this: it has gradually changed the way humans think and view the world. Free association and holistic thought has given way to compartmentalisation and bureaucracy.
-Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Wednesday, January 9, 2019
You have to understand that there are no guarantees in life, there is no absolute security, and there is usually no simple path to financial success. It is going to take some effort. For the mind to chase after security is ludicrous: It will never get it, and the irritation of constantly seeking security destroys what stability there is.
It is simpler, therefore, to agree that one doesn't need security. One doesn't even need a system that favors one. All that is ever needed is what one already has, which is creativity and energy. You don't have to become immortal to be safe. All you have to do is to acknowledge that what you are right now is enough to keep you safe and more that enough to keep you in abundance for the rest of your days, in spite of circumstances. You just need you, comfortable inside yourself.
-Stuart Wilde, The Trick To Money Is Having Some
Finally, a goal-oriented mind-set can create a "yo-yo" effect. Many runners work hard for months, but as soon as they cross the finish line, they stop training. The race is no longer there to motivate them. When all of your hard work is focused on a particular goal, what is left to push you forward after you achieve it? This is why many people find themselves reverting to old habits after accomplishing a goal.
The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue to play the game. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It's not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.
-James Clear, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
I do not see how science and religion could be unified, or even synthesized, under any common scheme of explanation or analysis; but I do not understand why the two enterprises should experience any conflict. Science tries to document the factual character of the natural world, and to develop theories that coordinate and explain these facts. Religion, on the other hand, operates in the equally important, but utterly different, realm of human purposes, meanings, and values—subjects that the factual domain of science might illuminate, but can never resolve.
-Stephen J. Gould, from his 1999 book, Rocks Of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life
At the bookstore..................................................................
She was so deeply imbedded in my consciousness that for the first year of school I seem to have believed that each of my teachers was my mother in disguise. As soon as the last bell had sounded, I would rush off for home, wondering as I ran if I could possible make it to our apartment before she had succeeded in transforming herself. Invariably she was already in the kitchen by the time I arrived, and setting out my milk and cookies. Instead of causing me to give up my delusions, however, the feat merely intensified my respect for her powers. And then it was always a relief not to have caught her between incarnations anyway - even if I never stopped trying; I knew that my father and sister were innocent of my mother's real nature, and the burden of that betrayal that I imagined would fall to me if I ever came upon her unawares was more than I wanted to bear at the age of five. I think I even feared that I might have to be done away with were I to catch sight of her flying in from school through the bedroom window, or making herself emerge, limb by limb, out of an invisible state and into her apron.
-Philip Roth, being the opening paragraph from Portnoy's Complaint
1. Bertrand Russell's essay, An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish. He begins like this:
Man is a rational animal-so at least I have been told. Throughout a long life, I have looked diligently for evidence in favor of this statement, but so far I have not had the good fortune to come across it, though I have searched in many countries spread over three continents. On the contrary, I have seen the world plunging continually further into madness. I have seen great nations, formerly leaders of civilization, led astray by preachers of bombastic nonsense. I have seen cruelty, persecution, and superstition increasing by leaps and bounds, until we have almost reached the point where praise of rationality is held to mark a man as an old fogey regrettably surviving from a bygone age. All this is depressing, but gloom is a useless emotion. In order to escape from it, I have been driven to study the past with more attention than I had formerly given to it, and have found, as Erasmus found, that folly is perennial and yet the human race has survived. The follies of our own times are easier to bear when they are seen against the background of past follies. In what follows I shall mix the sillinesses of our day with those of former centuries. Perhaps the result may help in seeing our own times in perspective, and as not much worse than other ages that our ancestors lived through without ultimate disaster.
2. Christopher Hitchens' essay, On Becoming American. Contains some interesting imagined responses to a Pat Buchanan question, but the money line may be:
What does it take for an immigrant to change from "you" to "we"?
3. Charles Krauthammer's 1993 commencement address, "Beware the Study of Turtles."
My friends, don't get lost in the study of turtles. Endless, vertiginous self-examination leads not only to a sterile moral life, but to a stilted, constricted intellectual life. Yes, examine. But do it with dispatch and modesty and then get on with it: Act and do and go and seek. Save the psychic impact report, the memoirs, and the motives for later. There will be time enough.
4. Homelessness in Seattle: a growth industry?
If we want to break through the failed status quo on homelessness in places like Seattle—and in Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, too—we must first map the ideological battlefield, identify the flaws in our current policies, and rethink our assumptions.
Tuesday, January 8, 2019
7. Put from you the belief that "I have been wronged", and with it will go the feeling. Reject your sense of injury, and the injury itself disappears.
-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book Four
In acceptance, we are now free to be in the present. Once we have accepted our own true nature and the ways of the universe as they are reflected in our world, there is no longer regret about the past, nor is there fear of the future. Fear of the future no longer exists when the past has been healed. This is because in the usual ego-oriented state of consciousness, the ego tends to project the past upon the future, and a past that is viewed negatively becomes fearful when projected upon the imaginary future. Our letting go of the lower energies of guilt, fear, anger, and pride has alleviated the weight of the past and cleared the clouds of the future. We face today with optimism and are grateful to be alive. We see that yesterday is gone, tomorrow has not yet come, and we have only today.
-David Hawkins, Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender
Not what he wishes and prays for does a man get, but what he justly earns. His wishes and prayers are only gratified and answered when they harmonize with his thoughts and actions.
-James Allen, from As A Man Thinketh
Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. . . . Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare. Do that which is assigned to you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much.
All men plume themselves on the improvement of society, and no man improves.
Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other. It undergoes continual changes; it is barbarous, it is civilized, it is Christianized, it is rich, it is scientific; but this change is not amelioration. For everything that is given something is taken. Society acquires new arts and loses old instincts.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, as culled from his Essay On Self-Reliance
Monday, January 7, 2019
Sunday, January 6, 2019
...............................................also known as leadership:
But with the nation's economic travail continuing throughout McKinley's second term, the governor faced major civil disruptions in the form of labor strikes and threats of mob rule. In April 1894 the United Mine Workers called on coal miners to walk off their jobs in what one Ohio publication called "one of the greatest strikes, in point of numbers, in the history of any country." Some 200,000 miners went on strike in Ohio alone, along with many others in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, and elsewhere. Civic tensions rand high, and the action devastated the regional economy as the strikes shut down railroads and factories fueled by coal. Normal commerce ceased. At the request of local sheriffs, McKinley sent out militia troops—some 3,000 in all—to restore and maintain order during the job action. Later in the year he deployed troops to protect train service during a railroad strike. When labor representatives suggested the governor's actions could harm him politically, he replied, "I do not care if my political career is not twenty-four hours long, these outrages must stop if takes every soldier in Ohio."
As soon as the strikes were settled and order was restored, he turned his attention to getting funds and provisions distributed to areas where miners were suffering serious financial deprivation due to the strike. The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote, "Praise for the prompt action of Governor McKinley is on every tongue among the distressed. . . . Every detail of the relief work is under the general supervision of the governor." Reflecting both his natural inclinations and his political acumen, McKinley combined toughness in the face of disruption with compassion for those caught up in the struggle.
-Robert W. Merry, President McKinley: Architect of the American Century
By summer the storm had passed, and McKinley plunged into his next political adventures: a second gubernatorial term and preparations for an 1896 presidential run. But now the political landscape was entirely changed by economic hard times that hit with a fearsome force. It began in the farm sector, where a real estate boom had drawn in thousands of Eastern investors beguiled by low interest rates and prospects for quick wealth. A $200 investment in Western land had been know to return $2,000 in a few months, historian John D. Hicks reports, adding, "Small wonder that money descended like a flood upon those who made it a business to place loans in the West!" Then came the drought of 1887, and the bubble burst. Farmers couldn't produce sufficient crops to pay the mortgage; money dried up; banks and their borrowers went under. In drought stricken Kansas, half the state's Western farmers pulled up stakes and fled.
The Western farm bust soon undermined the industrial sector, particularly the railroad industry, and panic swept the country. Railroads had been expanding on borrowed money and now couldn't cover the debt service as farm shipments dried up. As railroads declined, so did the rest of industrial America and the big-city Eastern banks. One result was falling stock prices, which precipitated a run on gold supplies as holders of securities cashed out of the market in exchange for gold. By spring the Treasury's gold reserves had dropped below $100 million, considered a minimum confidence level. By year's end, about the time of McKinley's reelection, some 500 banks had failed, more than five times the annual average of the previous five years, and a record 15,242 U. S. companies went bankrupt. Unemployment soared.
-Robert W. Merry, President McKinley: Architect of the American Century
Life is difficult
This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult—once we truly understand and accept it—then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.
-M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth
In the parable of the talents, the three servants are called to render an account of how they used the gifts entrusted to them. The first two used their talents boldly and resourcefully. The third, who prudently wraps his money and buries it, typifies the Christian who deposits his faith in an hermetic container and seals the lid shut. He or she limps through life on childhood memories of Sunday school and resolutely refuses the challenge of growth and spiritual maturity. Unwilling to take risks, this person loses the talent entrusted to him or her. 'The master wanted his servants to take risks. He wanted them to gamble with his money.'
-Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel
Our power as miracle-workers in the workplace is to pray that we be used — that our hands, our feet, our minds, and our behavior be of service to a greater good. That we be empty vessels through which God will produce His extraordinary wonders. We're simply here to serve a higher plan for the enlightenment of the world, and therein lie out happiness and success.
-Marianne Williamson, The Law Of Divine Compensation