Saturday, April 13, 2019
“No man who worships education has got the best out of education... Without a gentle contempt for education no man's education is complete.”
Friday, April 12, 2019
.................it's what you do with what you make that counts. Check out Don "American Pie" McLean's story. A few important nuggets:
“That’s the problem with being a star or a person with a few bucks. You end up being mollycoddled and you don’t know shit. I’ve known stars who literally were made so dependent on a few people, they didn’t know what to do without them.”
A guy named James Benenson Jr., who was a very wealthy man and was once my business agent, told me, ‘Don’t ever invest in anything that you don’t like and understand.’ If you enjoy it and understand it and analytically it is a good investment, that’s a great thing. Then your money’s doing something that is pleasant for you. It’s not just a number.
I have two stocks: Google and Amazon , and that’s all. And I plan to hold those because they are the government, as far as I can see.
Thursday, April 11, 2019
"From very early on in Amazon’s life, we knew we wanted to create a culture of builders – people who are curious, explorers. They like to invent. Even when they’re experts, they are “fresh” with a beginner’s mind. They see the way we do things as just the way we do things . A builder’s mentality helps us approach big, hard-to-solve opportunities with a humble conviction that success can come through iteration: invent, launch, reinvent, relaunch, start over, rinse, repeat, again and again. They know the path to success is anything but straight."
-Jeff Bezos, from this annual shareholder letter
As a company grows, needs to scale, including the size of your failed experiments. If the size of your failures isn’t growing, you’re not going to be inventing at a size that can actually move the needle. Amazon will be experimenting at the right scale for a company of our size if we occasionally have multibillion-dollar failures.
-Jeff Bezos, from here again, as they say, read the whole thing"
"There is virtually always an apocalypse du jour going on somewhere in the world. And on the rare occasions when there is not, journalism will simply invent one, and present it 24/7 as the incipient end of the world."
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
"Logic, like whiskey, loses its beneficial effect when taken in too large quantities."
Tuesday, April 9, 2019
Irony, paradox, contradiction, consternation -- these define the times in which we live. . . .
Historians are never going to rate Trump as a great or even mediocre president. Even so, they may one day come to appreciate the Trump era as the moment when things long hidden became plain to see, when hitherto widely accepted falsehoods, fabrications, and obsolete assumptions about American democracy finally became untenable. For that, if for nothing else, we may yet have reason to thank our 45th president for services rendered.
-As extracted from this Zero Hedge post
Monday, April 8, 2019
Despite conspicuous blunders in his first term, notably cronyism and the misbegotten Santo Domingo treaty, Grant chalked up significant triumphs in suppressing the Klan, reducing debt, trying to clean up Indian trading posts, experimenting with civil service reform, and settling the Alabama claims peacefully. He has appointed a prodigious number of blacks, Jews, Native Americans, and women and delivered on his promise to give the country peace and prosperity.
Like many adversaries in Grant's past, Greeley supporters resuscitated old drinking rumors, which haunted the president even after the reality had largely vanished. The abolitionist Anna Dickenson claimed Grant had "a greater fondness for the smoke of a cigar and the aroma of a wine glass" than for running the country. So many New York newspapers harped on Grant's putative drinking that George Templeton Strong erupted in indignation: "If it be true that a beastly drunkard, without a sense of decency, can successfully conduct great campaigns, can win great battles, and can raise himself from insignificance to be a lieutenant-general and President, what is the use of all this fuss about sobriety?" . . .
The morning papers yielded astounding news: Grant had overwhelmingly won the electoral vote, and had garnered the largest popular majority of the century.
-Ron Chernow, Grant
Once upon a time, nearly two and a half centuries ago, there was a secret network that tried to change the world. Founded in Germany just two months before thirteen of Britain's American colonies declared their independence, the organization came to be known as the Illuminatenorden - the Order of the Illuminati. Its goals were lofty. Indeed, its founder had originally called it the Bund der Perfektibilisten (the League of the Perfectibles). As one member of the Order recalled its founder saying, it was intended to be:
an association that, through the most subtle and secure
methods, will have as its goal the victory of virtue and
wisdom over stupidity and malice; an association that will
make the most important discoveries in all fields of science
that will teach its members to become both noble and great,
that will assure them of the certain prize of their own
complete perfection in this world, that will protect them
from persecution, the fates and oppression, and that will
bind the hands of despotism in all its forms.
The Order's ultimate objective was to 'enlighten the understanding by the sun of reason, which will dispel the clouds of superstition and of prejudice'. 'My goal is to give reason the upper hand,' declared the Order's founder. Its methods were, in one respect, educational. 'The sole intention of the league', according to its General Statues (1781), was 'education, not by declamatory means, but by favouring and rewarding virtue'. Yet the Illuminati were to operate as a strictly secret fraternity. Members adopted codenames, often of ancient Greek or Roman provenance; the founder himself was 'Brother Spartacus'. There were to be three ranks or grades of membership - Novice, Minerval and Illuminated Minerval - but the lower ranks were to be given only the vaguest insights into the Order's goals and methods. Elaborate initiation rites were devised - among them an oath of secrecy, violation of which would be punished with the most gruesome death. Each isolated cell of initiates reported to a superior, whose real identity they did not know.
At first, the Illuminati were tiny in number. There were only a handful of founding members, most of them students. Two years after its creation, the Order's total membership was just twenty-five. As late as December 1779, it was still only sixty. Within just a few years, however, membership had surged to more than 1,300.
-Niall Ferguson, The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power from the Freemasons to Facebook
Sunday, April 7, 2019
The ideals behind Grant's presidency were often enlightened, even if the backroom tactics sometimes seemed ignoble. He had to thrust himself into the middle of byzantine political maneuvering, becoming the true son of his father and accepting the spoils system for the sake of party unity. Grant has suffered from a double standard in the eyes of historians. When Lincoln employed patronage for political ends, which he did extensively, they have praised him as a master politician; when Grant catered to the same spoilsmen, they have denigrated him as a corrupt opportunist.
Part of Grant's need to placate party bosses was that he presided over government in the heyday of senatorial power. Senators were still elected by state legislatures controlled by party machines and business interests. The new political machines, many concentrated in northern cities, made politics a lucrative business for their acolytes. Meanwhile, safely entrenched in their posts, senators ruled Washington like feudal barons, jealously guarding their turf from presidential interference. Not having to face voters for reelection, they stood a formidable barriers to any progressive legislation.
-Ron Chernow, Grant
The unceasing pressure for federal jobs that confronted Grant at every step mirrored a far larger phenomenon: the vast transformation of American government wrought by the war. Federal power had expanded immeasurably, testing the president's ability to manage the change. The National Bank Acts, the Homestead Act, the Morrill Act setting up land-grant universities—such wartime measures dramatically broadened Washington's authority. Boasting fifty-three thousand employees, the federal government ranked as the nation's foremost employer. Before the war, it had touched citizens' lives mostly through the postal system. Now it taxed citizens directly, conscripted them into the army, oversaw a national currency, and managed a giant nation debt. As James M. McPherson has pointed out, eleven of the first twelve amendments to the Constitution constrained governmental power: starting with the Thirteenth Amendment, six of the next seven enlarged it. The war also centralized power, welding states closer together and forging a new sense of nationhood. As Grant told a relative, "Since the late civil war the feeling of nationality had become stronger than it had ever been before." When the first transcontinental railroad, aided by land grants and government bonds, was completed two months after Grant took office, it heralded a new geographic unity in American life.
-Ron Chernow, Grant
Fueled by war contracts, the northern economy had burgeoned into a might, productive engine that exploded with entrepreneurial energy, eclipsing the small-scale, largely agricultural antebellum economy and catapulting the country into the front ranks of world powers. As the flush of wartime idealism faded, the Grant presidency ushered in the Gilded Age, marked by a mad scramble for money and producing colossal new fortunes. During the postwar boom, industrial trusts began to dominate one industry after another, creating growing inequalities of wealth and spawning a corresponding backlash from labor unions and the general public. New technologies, especially the railroad and telegraph, made the economy continental in scope, bringing forth modern industries and flooding the country with a cornucopia of consumer products.
The rise of big business required government assistance, providing fresh opportunities for graft to abound. With the federal government bound up in new moneymaking activities, there arose a gigantic grab for filthy lucre that affected statehouses as well and saturated the political system with corruption. Businesses bargained for tax breaks, government contracts, land grants, and other favors, undermining democratic institutions that found it hard to withstand this assault. The mounting wealth also meant the dominant Republican Party was torn between its idealistic, abolitionist past and its business-oriented future.
-Ron Chernow, Grant
In dealing with these changes, Grant inevitably bore a sizable load on his shoulders. He knew the postwar economic boom was uneven, the South having surrendered half its wealth, while four million freed slaves struggled to find their niche in American society. He had to deal with the paradox that while demands on the American presidency had grown exponentially, the Congress-dominated system of the Johnson years had drastically weakened the executive branch. In the nineteenth century, Congress was infinitely more powerful that in the twentieth and senators ruled as headstrong barons whose power often rivaled that of presidents. Grant had a special conundrum to figure out. The Radical Republicans who formed his power base were the very people who had asserted congressional power during Andrew Johnson's impeachment. The deep-seated habit of promoting congressional prerogatives against the president would be fiendishly difficult to subdue, many senators having grown accustomed to exercising unchecked power.
-Ron Chernow, Grant