Takin’ Care of Business

Months ago in a Facebook comment thread populated by those sorts who glorify trade unionism, I conjured the following scenario: in an office setting, employees show up to work one day and find that some sort of Rapture has whisked away the world’s managers. Focusing on one single company, what are the repercussions? The responses were unanimous: nothing would change, the workers would continue to do their jobs. This illustrates a prejudice common to the left and foundational to Marxism, the notion that managers don’t really do anything.

One of my chief criticisms of public education is that it neglects to teach the workings of the business world in general. This was evident even before the ’60s counterculture took over the education establishment. I’ve long felt that comprehensive instruction on how various industries function should start at least as early as the beginning of junior high school (which my Protestant self unintentionally coincided with bar mitzvah age).

My initial concern was that too many adolescents grow up with insufficient knowledge of the business world to make rational career choices. Career development should not start with a trip to the guidance counselor’s office in 12th grade, or (like me) with a vague notion that computers are the future so a degree in computer programming should be pursued. (Demonstrating that “career” and “careen” have the same root word, I never worked in programming, and wound up in monitoring an ATM network.) There’s another vital ingredient to finding vocational direction that the classroom setting cannot facilitate: learning and discovering one’s individual talents. That rests on personal relationships.

Aside from benefits to career development, better education about the world of commerce also breaks down misconceptions about managers, other professions, and various types of businesses.

It Was Funnier In a Movie

Wondrous to behold, in these degraded days, an equally-degraded national media blob, nakedly and unashamedly going all-out as the Democrat Party’s publicity department. Yes, we always knew – or it became clear to us over the last decade or so – that the major news publications, to include the broadcast version as well as the most notable internet sites – skewed progressive. They got down on their knees and worshipped the Kennedys back then, and just carried on, quaffing deeper and deeper of the intoxicating brew that proximity to power appears to provide. They haven’t yet got off their knees and realized in the cold light of day what their job ought to be, which is our loss. Ah, well – we do have the conservative side of the internet, social media, and the ability of everyone with an up-to-date cellphone to record video of anything interesting happening right in front of them. (Like Hillary Clinton being rushed away from a 9-11 memorial event and flung into the back of a van like a sack of potatoes.) And it would seem that the national media machine is losing consumers and viewers in substantial numbers, so we have that to cheer us up, at least a little.

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Grand Canyon

On our way home from California at the beginning of the month, we stopped over at Flagstaff and made a side trip to see the Grand Canyon. A view from the South Rim – and that isn’t even a look at the bottom of the Canyon. One of my life ambitions now is to be able to spend about a week at El Tovar, and to see the Canyon at sunset, and at night.
(There are more pictures here at my author blog, and a fuller account of our excursion to the Canyon.)

Abuse of Authority, continued

Two years ago, I wrote about the trend toward the abuse of authority by people in various positions.  The examples I mentioned were:  Teachers and professors, using their jobs to conduct political indoctrination, and even marking down the grades of those with differing views. Corporate executives, using company resources to promote their personal political views. And intelligence officers, using their positions to influence US election outcomes.

The case of the intelligence people is worthy of particular attention at the moment.  The Hunter Biden trial and the introduction of the Laptop into evidence should remove any remaining doubt about the genuineness of the contents of that laptop.  Remember that 51 former intelligence officials signed a letter stating that the laptop story bore the earmarks of a classic Russian disinformation operation…even though they surely knew, or could have easily discovered, that the laptop contents were no such thing. The FBI also participated in this disinformation-about-disinformation story.  Social media platforms were persuaded (and persuaded without too much difficulty, I would bet) to suppress discussion of the story and even to suppress person-to-person messages that referenced the laptop…the contents of which were quite relevant to the question of whether or not to vote for Biden.

It is also time to remember a statement made by Senator Charles Schumer in response to then-President Trump’s criticism of the intelligence agencies.  He said that Trump was being “really dumb” by taking on these agencies, and continued “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”

This statement would basically imply that the ultimate sovereign in the United States is the set of senior people in the “intelligence community”, and that the elected government remains in power–or not–at the pleasure of those agencies, similar to the way the militaries in some countries are the ultimate approvers or removers of civilian governments.  And Schumer did not make his statements in a way that implied–“This is awful, and we have to do something about it”….he seemed to be totally comfortable with that situation, and I would bet that a majority of other Democratic senators and congressmen feel the same way.

I also see some disturbing things in a recent interview with four-star admiral William McRaven, specifically: every time you undermine one of our institutions, you undermine America.  “Undermine” in his usage seems to mean criticizing the actions of any of these institutions.  I don’t think that position is consistent with the whole American idea.  It’s true that ignorant and overly-broad attacks are destructive–but it’s also true that institutions that are defined to be beyond criticism tend to get worse and worse.  Does admiral McRaven believe that all court decisions are correct? Even if we constrain it to “court decisions which were upheld after appeal” it seems like a pretty remarkable statement.  When was this level of judicial perfection established?…at some time, presumably, after the Dred Scott decision.

And McRaven’s statement, although focused on the judicial system and specifically the recent Trump conviction, was broader; it applied to “institutions” in general.  Are the Department of Education and the CDC to be viewed as sacred entities beyond criticism? How about those intelligence agencies and the FBI? Indeed, how about the US Navy and its problems with warship construction and ship handling?

Admiral McRaven’s statements may not be precisely abuse of authority in the way that my previous three examples are, but they’re still pretty disturbing when made by an admiral who held such an important command over American forces.

I’m reminded of something that occurred in the UK in 1940, at a time when Churchill was not yet Prime Minister but was First Lord of the Admiralty. He received a letter from a father disappointed that his son had been turned down for a commission, despite his qualifications and his record. Churchill suspected class prejudice and wrote to the Second Sea Lord, saying that “Unless some better reasons are given to me, I shall have to ask my Naval Secretary to interview the boy on my behalf.”

The Second Sea Lord, unhappy with the meddling from above, responded to the effect that it was inappropriate to question the decisions of “a board duly constituted.” To which Churchill replied:

I do not at all mind “going behind the opinion of a board duly constituted” or even changing the board or its chairman if I think injustice has been done. How long is it since this board was re-modeled?… Who are the naval representatives on the board of selection? Naval officers should be well-represented. Action accordingly. Let me have a list of the whole board with the full record of each member and his date of appointment.

On Rustication

Forty-five years ago today, I was “rusticated”—which is to say departed the University for a metropolitan area eight hours’ drive to the southwest, at that time less than one-fifth the population of Chicagoland and only one-eighth its density, which would certainly seem like being sent to the countryside to anyone who grew up within a forty-mile radius of the Loop. Recent events have conspired to cast my mind back to that event and reflect on its meaning.

Warning: autobiographical details ahead; and while acknowledging a certain Conradian truth quoted just below the jump, I must insist that those details are the least important. If there is anything worth pondering here, it is the lessons for our time, and the finding of a way to avoid utter catastrophe, which must include avoiding idealizing our past. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I went to the University of Chicago, and I put away childish things.

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