Saturday, March 16, 2019
Let me submit, as my parting word, a warning to the skeptic: the democratic process is in peril of self-negation. The public's mood swings are driven by failures of government, not hope for change. Each failure bleeds legitimacy from the system, erodes faith in the machinery of democracy, and paves the way for the opposite extreme.
. . . A rebellious public, sectarian in temper and utopian in expectations, collides everywhere with institutions that rule by default and blunder, it seems, by habit. Industrial hierarchies fer no longer able to govern successfully in a world swept to the horizon by a tsunami of information. An egalitarian public is unwilling to assume responsibility under any terms. The muddled half-steps and compromises necessary to democracy may become untenable under the pressure applied by these irreconcilable forces.
. . . I wrote this book, in part, to invite the discussion. I did so in the manner of a man who notices a fire blazing in a corner of a locked room: I don't want to start a panic, only some sane talk among the occupants about how best to put the thing out.
-Martin Gurri, The Revolt of the Public
By expanding war objectives to include abolition of slavery, the proclamation upped the stakes and guaranteed an uncompromising, winner-take-all struggle. "The Union party in the South is virtually destroyed," Halleck warned Grant. "There can be no peace but that which is forced by the sword." More than ever the war became a clash between two incompatible ways of life, an effort to remake the nation as well as save it. . . .
It was an amazing development: the lowly figure who had clerked in a Galena leather goods store now bore the weight of the republic on his shoulders. With voluntary enlistments dwindling and public discontent rising, the politically savvy Grant understood the urgent need for a smashing victory. "There is nothing left to be done but to go forward to a decisive victory," he later wrote. This was in my mind from the moment I took command in person at Young's Point." . . .
By nature and background, Abraham Lincoln was an eminently sober figure, having published as an adolescent his maiden newspaper article on the evils of alcohol. Whatever his worries about Grant's drinking, he could not afford to sacrifice this uniquely successful general. He showed wisdom and fortitude in facing down naysayers who brayed for Grant's dismissal, perhaps sensing their malice. "I think Grant has hardly a friend left, except myself," he said. Nevertheless, "what I want . . . is generals who will fight battles and win victories. Grant has done this, and I propose to stand by him." . . .
While both Grant and Sherman proved overly optimistic about the potential contrition of southern citizens, the North experienced a vicious backlash against emancipation during New York City draft riots in mid-July. In March, Congress had enacted legislation that allowed men to escape the draft by hiring substitutes or paying $300 bounties to the government. Those eligible for the draft in New York's poor Irish Democratic neighborhoods vented their class anger against Republicans rich enough to evade the war and racial prejudice against free blacks who threatened them with economic competition. The ugliest aspect of the riots, which took more than one hundred lives over four days, involved the outright murder of blacks on New York streets and the horrendous burning of the Colored Orphan Asylum. Lincoln refused to rescind the draft and brought troops fresh from victory at Gettysburg to restore order. . . .
Grant's clear sense of purpose enabled him to enlist the energies of a giant army to a common task. "For good sense, strong judgment and nerve, he cannot be surpassed," Wilson wrote. "He is a tower of strength."
-Ron Chernow, Grant
Friday, March 15, 2019
"Lines prompting reading, dreaming minds not to see every thing by itself and separate, but to see the seams often unseen in the dark expanses across space and time. . . . A power not to wield, but to hold. To practice holding.”
-Ellie Rogers, via David Kanigan's wondrous blog
Thursday, March 14, 2019
“one key reason why the presidents of large corporations do not, as some radical critics believe, control the United States is that they do not even succeed in controlling their own corporations; that all too often, when imputed organizational skill and power are deployed and the desired effect follows, all that we have witnessed is the same kind of sequence as that to be observed when a clergyman is fortunate enough to pray for rain just before the unpredicted end of a drought.”
-Alasdair MacIntyre, as quoted in this John Kay essay on Ethical Finance
"The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom."
"Until you work as hard as those you admire, don't explain away their success as luck."
"Learning to play a game where the odds are in your favor is critical for maintaining motivation and feeling successful."
"Competence is highly dependent on context."
"Pain is an effective teacher."
"The mere act of tracking a behavior can spark the urge to change it."
"Sometimes success is less about making good habits easy and more about making bad habits hard."
"Most days, we'd rather be wrong with the crowd than be right by ourselves."
"It is the anticipation of a reward—not the fulfillment of it—that gets us to take action."
"The secret to getting results that last is to never stop making improvements."
"Success is not a goal to reach or a finish line to cross. It is a system to improve, an endless process to refine."
"Small habits don't add up. They compound."
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
"The delusional state of the ruling elite infects the general populace, and magical thinking abounds, as do vague claims to future greatness based on the mythologies of previous eras that had earned prosperity with sacrifice and thrift."
Even with the dead bodies heaped up around him, Grant retained his equanimity and unwavering faith in victory. When General Buell suddenly materialized on the scene and glimpsed the crush of terrified stragglers at the landing, he asked Grant about his plans for retreat. The thought having never entered his mind, Grant replied coolly, "I haven't despaired of whipping them yet!" He had the gift of believing in his men and simply refused to concede that things looked so gloomy. At around 5 p. m., right after a scout reported to Grant, the man's head was blown off, spattering him with blood. Grant didn't flinch, staring fixedly ahead. "Not beaten by a damn sight," he mumbled, going about his business. One journalist said Grant glanced at the sinking sun and observed evenly, "They can't break our lines tonight. Tomorrow we shall attack with fresh troops, and of course will drive them." Here was Grant's matchless strength: he did not crumble in adversity, which only hardened his determination, and knew that setbacks often contained the seeds of their own reversals. The most dangerous situation brought out his indomitable will. He now kept up his spirits despite a ghastly toll of seven thousand Union soldiers killed or wounded and to three thousand captured that day. . . .
Wrapped in his greatcoat, Grant returned to the haven of the nearby oak tree with its spreading canopy of branches. Sherman found him standing there, steaming with rain, hat pulled low over his face, collar upturned, holding a lantern and chewing a cigar. "Well, Grant, we've had the devil's own day, haven't we?" Sherman remarked. "Yes", replied Grant with a drag on his cigar. "Lick 'em tomorrow though." . . .
Everyone was stunned by the scale of carnage at Shiloh, which posted a new benchmark for mass slaughter. Deeming it the war's bloodiest battle, Grant commented "that the Fort Donelson fight was, as compared to this, as the morning dew to a heavy rain." Men who survived it could never scrub its harrowing imagery from their memories. Americans found it hard to comprehend the dimensions of the losses, which were beyond historical precedent. Of more than on hundred thousand soldiers who pitched into the fray, twenty-four thousand had been killed or wounded—a casualty count dwarfing that of the battle of Waterloo. Shiloh's casualties eclipsed the total of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War combined. . . .
Before Shiloh, Grant had nursed hopes for a titanic battle that would triumphantly crush the rebellion. Now, stunned by the combative spirit of his foes, he knew there would be many more bloodbaths in a long, grinding war of attrition. This began his conversion to a theory of total warfare in which all of southern society would have to be defeated. . . .
For Grant, Shiloh represented a personal victory. He had rescued his army from his own errors, showing a gumption and an audacity that altered the battle's course. He had shown coolness under fire and a willingness to take monumental gambles. The battle also instilled lasting confidence in the Army of the Tennessee, shattering anew the fighting mystique of the rebel soldiers. The South, Grant noted, had demonstrated dash and pluck at the outset of the battle, but his own men had exhibited the true staying power.
-Ron Chernow, Grant
……………………………………………....well, you should:
Of course, nothing has changed in reality. We are still caught in the coils of history. We are simply unaware of it. We behave like sociopolitical stroke victims. An organism in that condition will tend to make bizarre decisions.
-as excerpted from his recent post, Has Modern Government Failed
Tuesday, March 12, 2019
Habits deliver numerous benefits, but the downside is that they can lock us into our previous patterns of thinking and acting—even when the world is shifting around us. Everything is impermanent. Life is constantly changing, so you need to periodically check in to see if your old habits and beliefs are still serving you.
A lack of self-awareness is poison. Reflection and review are the antidote.
-James Clear, Atomic Habits
Monday, March 11, 2019
The Constitution’s separation of powers is premised in part on each branch being “jealous” of its own powers. What the Founders failed to plan for was a Congress eager to ditch its load onto the Executive.
-follow the link here
On April 27, 1822, Ulysses S. Grant was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio, tucked away in the rural southwestern corner of the state near Cincinnati. The tiny, boxy house, constructed of wood and painted white, stood a short stroll from the Ohio River with Kentucky clearly visible on the far shore. Under its slanting roof the residence was humble, consisting of a single open room with a fireplace. Point Pleasant was little more than a nondescript cluster of makeshift cabins overlooking bustling river traffic.
Delivered by a stern-faced, bearded abolitionist, Dr. John Rogers, the plump baby weighed in at ten and three-quarters pounds, with reddish-brown hair and blue-grey eyes. For many weeks, his father, Jesse Root Grant, and mother, Hannah Simpson Grant, conferred with relatives to find a suitable name for the hefty infant. The choices bandied about suggest a literate clan with high expectations for the child. Hannah opted for Albert to honor Thomas Jefferson's treasury secretary, Albert Gallatin, while her father opted for Hiram as a "handsome" biblical name. Hannah's stepmother evinced "enthusiastic admiration for the ancient commander, Ulysses," recalled Jesse Grant, and urged "that the babe should be named Ulysses." Some accounts claim the matter was finally settled by plucking names from a hat. Whatever the case, the family agreed on Hiram Ulysses Grant, which translated into the unfortunate initials H.U.G. The boy would show a decided preference for Ulysses and gradually discarded Hiram, especially when other boys "teased him about his initials." But this didn't halt the taunts since Grant was known as "Ulyss" or "Lyss", soon bastardized by malicious schoolmates into "Useless Grant." The name Ulysses S. Grant was the product of a later bureaucratic error that stuck.
-Ron Chernow, Grant
The dark side of tracking a particular behavior is that we become driven by the number rather than the purpose behind it. If your success is measured by quarterly earnings, you will optimize sales, revenue, and accounting for quarterly earnings. If your success is measured by a lower number on the scale, you will optimize for a lower number on the scale, even if that means embracing crash diets, juice cleanses, and fat-loss pills. The human mind wants to "win" whatever game is being played.
This pitfall is evident in many areas of life. We focus on working long hours instead of getting meaningful work done. We care more about getting ten thousand steps that we do about being healthy. We teach for standardized tests instead of emphasizing learning, curiosity, and critical thinking. In short, we optimize for what we measure. When we choose the wrong measurement, we get the wrong behavior.
This is sometimes referred to as Goodhart's Law. Named after the economist Charles Goodhart, the principle states, "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure." Measurement is only useful when it guides you and adds context to a larger picture, not when it consumes you. Each number is simply one piece of feedback in the overall system.
In our data-driven world, we tend to overvalue numbers and undervalue anything ephemeral, soft, and difficult to quantify. We mistakenly think the factors we can measure are the only factors that exist. But just because you can measure something doesn't mean its the most important thing. And just because you can't measure something doesn't mean it's not important at all.
-James Clear, Atomic Habits
Sunday, March 10, 2019
In the parable of the Talents, the Master's condemnation of the servant who neglected to use his gift is clear and unmistakable, and having discovered one of the rules of the game of life, we risk failure by ignoring it. The talent not used. like the limb not exercised, slumbers and finally atrophies. We must be "doers of the Word, and not hearers only". Since thinking follows tracks laid down in one's own inner conversations, not only can we see where we are going on the playing field of life by observing our inner conversations, but also, we can determine where we will go by controlling and directing our inner talking.
3. Get places on time every time. Rain, sleet or snow. Or Northern Line down. It isn’t about punctuality, it’s about self-discipline. With those two rare-mentioned hyphenated dirty words a world can (and has in the past) be conquered.
-Nicholas Bate, as culled from this secret list
"Human history, with its forms of governments, its revolutions, its wars, and in fact the rise and fall of nations, could be written in terms of the rise and fall of ideas implanted in the minds of men."
I can't be perfect, but I can avoid a second lapse. As soon as one streak ends, I get started on the new one.
The first mistake is never the one that ruins you. It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows. Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit.
This is the distinguishing feature between winners and losers. Anyone can have a bad performance, a bad workout, or a bad day at work. But when successful people fail, they rebound quickly. The breaking of a habit doesn't matter if the reclaiming of it is fast.
-James Clear, Atomic Habits