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Weekend Reading

Two really good essays, first from Lee Sandlin is Losing the War, a remarkable essay, perhaps the best available in English, about WWII. I copied the text and made a pdf, and read it off of an e-reader (it’s about 70 pages in MS Word). The second essay is about soil conservation and its role in human civilization (hint: more important than anything else). It was written by former asst. chief of the Soil Conservation Service Dr. WC Lowdermilk, titled “Conquest of the Land through 7000 years” and it chronicles the role soil conservation has played in the history of the rise and fall of empires. It’s eye-opening.


Weekend Reading

John Adams “Thoughts on Government” April 1776:

As good government, is an empire of laws, how shall your laws be made? In a large society, inhabiting an extensive country, it is impossible that the whole should assemble, to make laws: The first necessary step then, is, to depute power from the many, to a few of the most wise and good. But by what rules shall you chuse your Representatives? Agree upon the number and qualifications of persons, who shall have the benefit of choosing, or annex this priviledge to the inhabitants of a certain extent of ground.

The principal difficulty lies, and the greatest care should be employed in constituting this Representative Assembly. It should be in miniature, an exact portrait of the people at large. It should think, feel, reason, and act like them. That it may be the interest of this Assembly to do strict justice at all times, it should be an equal representation, or in other words equal interest among the people should have equal interest in it. Great care should be taken to effect this, and to prevent unfair, partial, and corrupt elections. Such regulations, however, may be better made in times of greater tranquility than the present, and they will spring up of themselves naturally, when all the powers of government come to be in the hands of the people’s friends. At present it will be safest to proceed in all established modes to which the people have been familiarised by habit.

A representation of the people in one assembly being obtained, a question arises whether all the powers of government, legislative, executive, and judicial, shall be left in this body? I think a people cannot be long free, nor ever happy, whose government is in one Assembly. My reasons for this opinion are as follow.

1. A single Assembly is liable to all the vices, follies and frailties of an individual. Subject to fits of humour, starts of passion, flights of enthusiasm, partialities of prejudice, and consequently productive of hasty results and absurd judgments: And all these errors ought to be corrected and defects supplied by some controuling power.

2. A single Assembly is apt to be avaricious, and in time will not scruple to exempt itself from burthens which it will lay, without compunction, on its constituents.

3. A single Assembly is apt to grow ambitious, and after a time will not hesitate to vote itself perpetual. This was one fault of the long parliament, but more remarkably of Holland, whose Assembly first voted themselves from annual to septennial, then for life, and after a course of years, that all vacancies happening by death, or otherwise, should be filled by themselves, without any application to constituents at all.

4. A Representative Assembly, altho’ extremely well qualified, and absolutely necessary as a branch of the legislature, is unfit to exercise the executive power, for want of two essential properties, secrecy and dispatch.

5. A Representative Assembly is still less qualified for the judicial power; because it is too numerous, too slow, and too little skilled in the laws.

6. Because a single Assembly, possessed of all the powers of government, would make arbitrary laws for their own interest, execute all laws arbitrarily for their own interest, and adjudge all controversies in their own favour.

Benjamin Franklin on the Constitution, delivered on the last day of the Constitutional Convention:

In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another’s throats. Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die. If every one of us in returning to our Constituents were to report the objections he has had to it, and endeavor to gain partizans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and thereby lose all the salutary effects & great advantages resulting naturally in our favor among foreign Nations as well as among ourselves, from our real or apparent unanimity. Much of the strength & efficiency of any Government in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends, on opinion, on the general opinion of the goodness of the Government, as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its Governors.

Business Books

This is a list of business books that will, according to this Kaufman guy, effectively replace the MBA (which he believes in worthless). I’m posting it here so I have it somewhere. I thought some of you might find this edifying as well.

Here’s a selected portion of Kaufman’s 99 best business books by category.


Accounting Made Easy by Mike Piper

Essentials of Accounting by Robert N. Anthony and Leslie K. Breitner

The McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course in Finance by Robert A. Cooke

How to Read a Financial Report by John Tracy


How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff

Principles of Statistics by M.G. Bulmer


Purpose: The Starting Point of Great Companies by Nikos Mourkogiannis

Competitive Strategy by Michael Porter

Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chain Kim and Renee Mauborgne

Green to Gold by David Esty and Andrew Winston

Seeing What’s Next by Clayton M. Christensen, Erik A. Roth, and Scott D. Anthony


First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

12: The Elements of Great Managing by Rodd Wagner and James K. Harter

Growing Great Employees by Erika Andersen

Hiring Smart by Pierre Mornell

The Essential Drucker by Peter Drucker


All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin

Permission Marketing by Seth Godin

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries & Jack Trout

Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got by Jay Abraham


The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun

Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Peter Drucker


Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson

The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

The Knack by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim

Bankable Business Plan by Edward Rogoff


Tribes by Seth Godin

Total Leadership by Stewart Friedman

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith

The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan by Jayme A. Check et al

The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig

From the Notebook

A picture of Russel Kirk

A picture of Russel Kirk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

– Veteran Preference bills. One passed in Minnesota, allowing companies to create their own veteran hiring programs, giving preference to returning vets for jobs. I don’t believe in artificial preferences, ever. But, I would, if I were a hiring manager, prefer to hire vets anyway, due to their experiences and work ethic. I’ve worked with veterans and they’re great. But, as always, there are individual differences that need to be noted. Also, bills like this don’t solve the problem. Something is keeping hiring managers and HR types from hiring vets; vets face double the unemployment rate as the rest of the population. And that needs to be addressed, and I doubt the solution can come from government; it will have to come from business schools.

– Having a great difficulty writing. For about a decade I could reliably punch out a thousand words a day. The well has dried up. I’m trying to find a way to salvage a hobby I really care about and that has been the focus of my life for so long, but it’s getting tough. Once you get on the wrong side of the age/accomplishment curve, unless there’s real money at stake, your hobbies are going to die. There are a few short stories I’m going to finish, there’s also a novel I’d like to finish. And maybe a series or two of blogposts. But even those meager projects seem impossibly optimistic.

– Like everyone else, I struggle with my weight. I’ve been trying a new way to control my calorie intake. On average, a person needs 2000 calories a day. More, you gain; less, you lose. For an active male, 90 calories an hour is our balance point. So, I’ve been trying to eat 90 calories an hour, for every hour I’m awake. I have a four-hour breakfast, a four-hour lunch, and a four-hour dinner (all around 400 calories total). I allow some snacks to get to about 20 hours. And I stop there. So, I keep my calorie intake above the starvation-point (where your metabolism gets out of whack) and below the static-weight mark. It’s been just two weeks, but I’ve seen good progress. In order to stay full, I avoid dense calorie foods (like candy) and stick to more filling foods (fruits and vegetables and grains) so I don’t feel hungry. Now I’m waiting to see where I plateau, and from there I might adjust the calorie intake again (maybe down to 80 calories an hour). This seems easier than trying to track everything you eat all day in a diary; you only need to remember how many hours you’ve eaten or have left. The only simpler method is to try what Aaron Gleeman did, prepare a giant batch of food (in his case, rice) and eat from that batch all day.

– Watched the documentary “An Inconvenient Tax” (on Hulu) about our country’s income tax system. Conclusion? our tax code is really awful. But what is worse is when you add in state and local taxes, along with regulations. Once you have complicated taxes and regulations at every level, everywhere, you prevent growth. And this is where we are at now. We have a regulatory structure that is unnavigable, a tax structure that is incomprehensible, and an education system that is unreformable. This is a perfect storm for economic disaster. Other countries can reform and evolve (and many have, in fact) and send capital away from us, and impoverish us. And that’s bad.

– Saw “The Avengers” over the weekend. In 3D. And was really impressed. Other than some basic stupid (flying aircraft carriers) and bad physics (how many G’s can Stark take in that suit? 50?), the movie was very enjoyable. And it always pains me to give a movie a good review. In general, the fear of bedbugs keeps me from attending movies at theatres (seriously, research that, scary stuff), this movie is worth the risk.

Books read:

Douglas Hyde, Dedication and Leadership; Hyde was a former communist who ran a communist newspaper. In this slim volume, he explains the tactics communists use to achieve their goals using the resources they have at hand. Hyde wants these tactics to be adopted by Christians (the ethical tactics, that is). As a manual for leadership, this book is pretty good.

Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind; This was one of the greatest books I have ever read. It’s a survey of conservative thought since Edmund Burke, but it is also an intellectual and historical apologia for conservatism and a call to action for all conservative-minded individuals to devote themselves to defending and preserving ‘The Permanent Things’. This book will be near me for the rest of my life.

-Chris Kyle, American Sniper; Kyle was a SEAL sniper who operated in Iraq for a majority of the conflict, including the Battle of Fallujah. In his career, he recorded more sniper kills than any other American ever has. But the book is more than just a diary of a successful soldier. Through clear and concise prose, Kyle presents the realities of our war in the Middle East. It’s a brutal affair, no quarter is given by either side. There’s an intensity to this book absent from other war memoirs I have read. I’ll leave it at that. It’s a definite “to read” if you have interest in the subject area.

From the Notebook

Cover of "Certain Prey"

Cover of Certain Prey

It was a bit of a rough year for me, I can only hope things improve. I can tell you, in the coming year, my goal is to continue to post about once a week. I don’t want the blog to die, but I also want it to take a back seat to everything else I’d like to do with my time. I am working on another novel, I figure I’m about a year away from publishing it. My writing goals no longer revolve around the blog. And I consider that a good thing.

And now on to the notes…

 – The Twins have had a very uninteresting offseason. Every move I’ve seen so far has been sideways. There haven’t been any upgrades, but I can’t point out any major downgrades either. The Twins should be significantly better than last year if only because Mauer and Morneau should be back in the lineup more regularly. And even if they aren’t, everyone else should be healthier. Regression to the mean should provide its own big upgrade for the Twins. But I still don’t see them significantly above the .500 mark this year, or even next year (2013).

– I finished Professor Bart Ehrman‘s New Testament course from The Great Courses (“The History of the Bible; The Making of the New Testament Canon”). This is a short lecture series on the New Testament, from an historical perspective. Ehrman didn’t make any theological claims. Much of the course was spent examining the texts of the New Testament as literature. It was really spectacular, and the conclusions are a challenge to those who see the Bible not as the documents of the early Christian Church, but as the irrefutable Word of God. Even if the original books of the New Testament were the irrefutable Word, those have been lost and major discrepancies exist in the surviving ancient texts.

– Watched through the Khan Academy Banking Playlist. Sal started the lecture series by creating a simple bank and ended the series with a full explanation and commentary on the fractional reserve banking system. Very edifying. With the current banking crisis still causing problems, this is a great primer for those of us who didn’t grow up wishing to be accountants.

– Read Certain Prey by John Sandford. I figured I should read the book after I gave the USA Network movie of the same name a thumbs up. This book was your typical John Sandford, fast-moving, compelling. It’s amazing, no matter how many of his novels I read, I want to read more. The guy is good.

– Read “I, Steve”, a collection of Steve Jobs quotes regarding business, design and management, edited by George Beahm. Interesting stuff. Jobs was very much a genius, and the tidbits of his thinking should help clarify the way other business leaders think. Quick read.

-Read “Getting it Right” by Bill Buckley Jr. It is a novelization about the early conservative revival, in response to FDR’s New Deal, in the late 50’s and early 60’s. The reader follows a young couple, him a John Birch Society adherent, her an Ayn Rand cultist, through the various trouble spots of the time. As it turns out, the right spot is the mean between the two extremes. Who would’ve guessed? A good novel, and a necessary one to understand how the modern American conservative movement matured.

– Saw the “Sherlock Holmes” sequel starring Robert Downey Jr. I liked it. The pacing seemed a little slow, there were some ridiculous, uh, ‘intuitions’ by Holmes that really took you out of the moment. The plot was dumb and preachy. But I still enjoyed it.

The Abolition of Man

“Conservative Ideology”

“…the conservative abhors all forms of ideology. An abstract rigorous set of political dogmata: that is ideology, a “political religion,” promising the Terrestrial Paradise to the faithful; and ordinarily that paradise is to be taken by storm. Such a prioi designs for perfecting human nature and society are anathema to the conservative, who knows them for the tools and the weapons of coffeehouse fanatics.”

–Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind; Foreward to the Seventh Revised Edition

Ignorant Enthusiasm Cannot Remake the World

The Value of a Liberal Education:

The most important question of our era, as of every age, is not the political question; it is the personal and intellectual puzzle. Free minds are those elevated above the sordidness of everyday life. Everyday life will be sordid under any New Order, men being creatures of passion. Let the state of the nation be what it may, the man of liberal mind need not despair; he has his mem­ories, his books, his ideals. These elements are worth more than Utopia. But there is a worldly, utilitarian value in liberal learning, too. So long as we are bent upon Utopia, we must have minds that can conceive Utopia, that know Utopia has to be built of stone, not of air. A liberally educated man has a great store of general knowledge and common sense; ignorant enthusiasm cannot remake the world.

— Russell Kirk (“A Conscript on Education” South Atlantic Quarterly, vol. 44 (1945), 82-99)

Conservative Canon Update

I know, it’s like I haven’t done anything with this for two years.

Anyway, there is a great documentary (in three parts) on the rise of Thatcherism in the UK. It is excellent and should be viewed by all conservatives. (There are several lessons the Tories learned that we have yet to learn, and missteps they made that we are in risk of making.)

Tory! Tory! Tory! is available online for free, either on YouTube or on the BBC website.

From the Notebook

– Read Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” over my winter break. I had been avoiding Dickens for a long time because I’ve always found nineteenth-century British authors to be difficult reads. But Dickens is a masterful and entertaining author. I loved it. So, I’m now looking to add some of his more substantial works to the reading pile.

-Read David McCullough’s companion book to his biography of John Adams, “1776”. The book is, unsurprisingly, excellent. 1776 follows George Washington and his army as they struggle through the first year of the Revolution, from Boston to New York to New Jersey. There is nothing negative to say about this book.

-Got bored and read Clive Cussler’s “The Lost City” at the gym this month. It’s one of his Kurt Austin Adventures. The book pits a NUMA special agent against an evil family of arms dealers. It was stupid even by Cussler standards.

-Finally finished Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt on my new Sony Reader. The book itself was a good primer on several economic issues, including the “sophistry” of Keynesian Economics. The book is in my Conservative Canon and for good reason. Even though the examples are dated, in the era of Obama the lessons themselves are fresh. Also, I’m now a big fan of the Sony Reader and the very idea of digital ink reading devices.

-I accidently deleted a comment caught in my spam filter that wasn’t spam, sorry. It was something to do with my baseball Hall of Fame ballot. I normally don’t look too closely when emptying the spam filter but just as everything was disappearing from the screen I noticed one comment was actually “real” and not spam. Shucks.

-The Twins acquired Clay Condrey earlier this month. Nothing shocking here. A veteran player with subpar numbers who has a good sinkerball and throws a lot of groundballs with few strikeouts or walks. This might as well be a Twins fetish. I don’t think he’ll be a factor positive or negative, even if he makes the club.