Worthwhile Reading

A thoughtful post about walls and freedom:

A city without walls was not a city. Anyone could march in and take over, give commands, and force the residents to obey. Without being able to defend yourself, you could not be counted among the free peoples. You were dependent on the good graces of someone else, be it a noble, a bishop, or hired soldiers. Walls meant the ability to defend your rights and liberties, to keep out unwanted people and protect what was good and valuable.

Sultan Knish writes about Cybersecurity and Russia:

“Why the hell are we standing down?”  That was the question that the White House’s cybersecurity coordinator was asked after Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, issued a stand down order on Russia.

Tolerance for ambiguity as a key factor in career success:

Too many recent graduates, however, approach their job descriptions the way they did a syllabus in college—as a recipe for winning in a career. They want concrete, well-defined tasks, as if they were preparing for an exam in college. “Excelling at any job is about doing the things you weren’t asked to do,” said Mary Egan, founder of Gathered Table, a Seattle-based start-up and former senior vice president for strategy and corporate development at Starbucks. “This generation is not as comfortable with figuring out what to do.”

Information and Gossip:

Now, it so happens that at no point in history, except during the postwar period, did people receive news without being conveyors of news. That nuclear family, where people — pop, mom, 2.2 kids, one dog — are watching TV, receiving information and not transmitting.

Is loneliness fueling the rise of political polarization?

Many individuals no longer have the communal and social connections they once had, such as religion, ethnic culture, and family. The only connection many have left is their political party, and that forms their identity. And because of the closeness this has to their identity, they become more tribal and defensive when that party is attacked.

The lifecycles of large corporations

15 thoughts on “Worthwhile Reading”

  1. “Cybersecurity and Russia”

    A new take on confusion, and he makes it all up. ;)

    “Why the hell are we standing down?”

    Well because it was bullshit, designed for several reasons. one was to excuse Hilary’s loss and the other was yet another brick in the wall against Russia. Keep in mind Russia and Germany playing nice is a disaster for America and must be prevented at all costs. Only the Trumpster does not know this.

    Its all nonsense and there is no proof at all that Russia hacked the 2016 election in any way. Mr Greenfield proceeds to make up another deep state and then posits a conflict that led to the results we have. That’s even more far fetched than the Russian hack. ;)

  2. Timothy Snyder does the same thing – if I understood his C-span talk on his new book on authoritarianism. My impression is that you can’t ever overestimate the depths of Russian subterfuge, but that when a country becomes the absence of rule, it is not a nation.

  3. Above mine – it isn’t holding my name like it used to. Anyway, the absence of borders essentially means an absence of government & order.

  4. In other words, loneliness is harmful to individuals, not because it’s merely unpleasant, but because it leads to a loss of self-identity, and consequently, a real view of the world.

    A factor here is the loss of what used to be called “the nuclear family.”

    If you do genealogy, you will be amazed at the size of some of those families.

    My grandfather was one of 12, my father was one of 10. All survived and grew to adulthood. They were farmers.

    Cities, until the 20th century were population sinks. They were only kept going by in migration.

    Now, millions are living alone or with transient relationships.

    Loneliness is epidemic in this society. I sometimes think politics is replacing families.

    Childlessness is especially harmful, aside from economics. I am getting pretty old and a lot of my friends are dying.

    However, I have five children. They will be here after I am gone.

    It was expensive. I am still paying off one student loan. The last one came along after I had to retire from practice and my income dropped quite a bit. Plus tuition went way up.

    Still, I would not want to be without any of them.

  5. Anon 12:11

    The question of whether Russia *influenced* the election is separate from the question of whether they *attempted* to influence the election. They were certainly up to something; if nothing else, this is indicated by their (rather lame) Facebook ad purchases. My own suspicion is that they were more interested in spreading discord, and trial-running possible approaches for the future, than actually trying to swing the election to any specific candidate.

    But what Greenfield is saying is that the professional cyberwarfare people in the government *believed* that the Russians had crossed the line in their activities…and that they believed a forceful US response was necessary…and that they were ordered to stand down by Susan Rice. Do you think he is making it up?

    See this link, which cites specific sources:


  6. Mike K re children: “It was expensive. I am still paying off one student loan”

    The greed and dysfunction of the higher-education industry has certainly had a negative influence on the fertility rate.

    An individual’s student loan balance represents kind of a negative dowry to a prospective spouse, and then there is a need to allocate considerable $$$ for each future child.

  7. “But what Greenfield is saying is that the professional cyberwarfare people in the government *believed* that the Russians had crossed the line in their activities…and that they believed a forceful US response was necessary…and that they were ordered to stand down by Susan Rice. Do you think he is making it up?”

    Yup. Just like the “professional cyberwarfare people” which is another far fetched idea. Keep in mind Susan knows its bullshit and does not want their little Russia sting to get out of hand, as it did.

    Lets get back to the entire NSA apparatus firmly believing that Russia hacked the election. Firm belief from these people means “we are lying to you”. Although they have stayed on point, there is no reason to believe they are not. There is no proof, none, nothing, de nada.

    The Russian web guys were up to what all web guys are up to. Fooling the masses into feeding them views and money. To ascribe essentially random and undirected attempts in this area as an an attack, is well into chicken little territory.

    I’m enjoying anonymous but that’s me. ;)

  8. MK
    Re: genealogy and children. I frankly don’t know how the women survived to the end of their child-bearing years, and of course many of them didn’t. My gen. family research shows the women (in 1700s & 1800s Baden) typically marrying at 18-20 years old, birthing their first child 9-12 months later, and turning out children at the rate of 1 every 18-20 months after that. Your grandfather and father’s survival rate is not terribly common, as you know, MK. Diseases, accidents, infections, all took their toll. Sometimes the death records show you 3, 4 kids and one or both parents dying within a few days or weeks of each other — diphtheria, or yellow fever, or any of the other usually then-fatal diseases would tear through a village or market town.

    And it was not just in Europe. In Baltimore (where my German gr grandfathers and families arrived in the 1840s-1850s), the Simon & Mary Magdalena Martin family (my gr gr gr-aunt) had 10 children. For 5 of those 10 offsrping, Simon & Magdalena have a single, 5-child gravestone in Baltimore City Cemetery. In a span of roughly 13 years, from 1840 to 1853, they had 5 children born and die. One reached the age of about 6, the rest died at around 2-3 years old. It’s heartbreaking just to visit the gravestone, I can’t imagine what sorrow that mother & father endured.

  9. Millennials and ambiguity…

    I am trying to remember the book I read a year or two ago that claimed the opposite, that this generation has learned to figure out rules as they go from video games, which commonly launch you into an unexplained environment with no clue what you are supposed to be doing.

    I suspect this generation is not that different from others, with some who are very uncomfortable with ambiguity and others who thrive on it. In fact, I think I will work up a post on the supposed generations, from Boomers on, don’t measure anything real. Society changes, and people of all ages adjust to that, or don’t handle it so well.

  10. Ah, it was much longer than a year or two. It was Steven Johnson’s “Everything Bad Is Good For You,” which came out in 2005. I think I read it a few years after that.

    I remembered it in a classic just-as-I-was-dropping-off-to-sleep moment. I have learned that I will not remember those in the morning, however much I reassure myself that “I’ve got it now,” and got up to write and publish it. And now, Goodnight Moon…

  11. “Many individuals no longer have the communal and social connections they once had, such as religion, ethnic culture, and family.”

    i believe that peer, ethnic, sexual and ideological identity (maybe merely assumed as a choice) are replacing family, religious and national identity. The former are inferior to the later as worthy individual asperations are associated with the later, not so much with the replacements.

    Secondly, such group identity is being increasingly identified as a badge of victimness and with a narrative of who the persecutors are. This leads to the extreme tribalism based on entitlement and victimness.

    The current tribalism in politics is both the cause and the effect of this ideology of group conflict based on group identity and world view that group identity, not individual characteristics and actions, define us.

    If one has little individual merit, accomplishments and capability to actually do something worth doing, group identity victimhood would seem the most likely and easiest alternative. But it won’t likely change the realities of life.

    This is a made-for-politics constituency for the Marxist and statists to mobilize using “intersectionality”. Problem is it is built on weak rank and file membership and BS and self-contradictory ideology. Not to say some major damage to all hasn’t been and is and will be done as a result of feeding this inherently self-destructive and unstable alliance of simple-minded social justice warriors, needy couch potatoes, political power seekers and crony capitalists.

    In the mean time, what will those of us who actually know stuff worth knowing and can do stuff worth doing be up to? I hope it is cutting off the feeding tubes that allow this movement to be sustained.

    Defanging public service unions- good one.

    School choice? It can happen fairly soon.

    Keep up the public confrontations with elected and appointed Republican officials? Not playing well with most sane folks.

    November? Forget the blue wave; they are blowing whatever chance they had.


  12. Death6….here is Sebastian Haffner, who grew up in Germany between the war, commenting on the period when (under the Stresemann chancellorship) the political and economic situation briefly stabilized:

    The last ten years were forgotten like a bad dream. The Day of Judgment was remote again, and there was no demand for saviors or revolutionaries…There was an ample measure of freedom, peace, and order, everywhere the most well-meaning liberal-mindedness, good wages, good food and a little political boredom. everyone was cordially invited to concentrate on their personal lives, to arrange their affairs according to their own taste and to find their own paths to happiness.

    But…and I think this is a particuarly important point…a return to private life was not to everyone’s taste:

    A generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions…Now that these deliveries suddently ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed. They had never learned how to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful and worth while, how to enjoy it and make it interesting. So they regarded the end of political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation. They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk.


    To be precise (the occasion demands precision, because in my opinion it provides the key to the contemporary period of history): it was not the entire generation of young Germans. Not every single individual reacted in this fashion. There were some who learned during this period, belatedly and a little clumsily, as it were, how to live. they began to enjoy their own lives, weaned themselves from the cheap intoxication of the sports of war and revolution, and started to develop their own personalities. It was at this time that, invisibly and unnoticed, the Germans divided into those who later became Nazis and those who would remain non-Nazis.

    In America today, I’m afraid, we have a considerable number of people like those Haffner was talking about.

  13. Re tolerance for ambiguity: Many years ago, an executive (it may have been the then-CEO of John Deere, but I’m not positive) wrote about decision-making and made the following point: You need to wander through the thicket of ambiguity, and then come out the other side.

    Very true, I believe. Some people never wrestle with the ambiguities, and simply make a decision which may well be a disaster. Others do enter the thicket of ambiguity, but never come out again. The % of people who can combine these stages is pretty small.

  14. Excelling at any job is about doing the things you weren’t asked to do,” said Mary Egan, founder of Gathered Table, a Seattle-based start-up and former senior vice president for strategy and corporate development at Starbucks.

    We’ve certainly seen how well that works at Starbucks, especially lately: do what you’re supposed to do, then get a bullhorn in your face, national notoriety, re-educated, and, perhaps, fired. I wouldn’t do what I supposed to do either.

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