"Bring in wild and wooly outsiders. E-x-p-a-n-d the box." Tom Peters
This, from David Brooks in yesterday's New York Times, is, to my mind, brilliant beyond measure—especially the 1st of the two paragraphs I reproduce here:
"Yet it might be useful to consider one more filter. Consider it the World Order filter. The fact that we live our lives among order and not chaos is the great achievement of civilization. This order should not be taken for granted.
"This order is tenuously maintained by brave soldiers but also by talkative leaders and diplomats. Every second of every day, leaders and diplomats are engaged in a never-ending conversation. ... The quality of the conversation is damaged by exposure, just as our relationships with our neighbors would be damaged if every private assessment were brought to the light of day. We've seen what happens when such conversations deteriorate (look at the U.S. Congress), and it's ugly. The Wikileaks dump will probably damage the global conversation . ..."
Friday a week ago, I had the honor of giving the Olin lecture on alumni weekend at Cornell. It'd been a long time since I'd been back, and I was taken aback by the beauty, mostly unmarred by new construction, of the Ithaca NY campus.
But in a way that was the least of it. The powers that be (president David Skorton) arranged for me a lengthy tour of the engineering school by the Dean of Engineering and the Dean of Civil Engineering. (I am a Cornell civil engineering grad.) Not only was I taken aback by the extraordinary work going on, which was mostly beyond my comprehension, but by the discipline and tradition of engineering of which I am the smallest part. The experience bordered on the mystical; though I went on to get business degrees and make my name, such as it is, around management, I realized some odd genetic-like tug to my engineering roots—it in fact felt very good, a coming home of sorts.
But it also got me thinking about the Gulf oil spill. (It's hard to go more than a few minutes without that disaster intruding on one's thoughts.) There is more than enough blame to go around from BP and hapless Tony Hayward to Deepwater Horizon to Halliburton to the pathetic dis-incentivized federal regulators.
And I want to pile on.
In my recent book, The Little BIG Things, one item, #56, in the section on leadership was titled "Sacred Trust," and it began like this:
"As I see it, anyone who takes on any leadership job, minor or major, assumes no less than a ... Sacred Trust. I know that's extreme language. But I stand by it. This sacred trust is all about what organizations are all about: the professional (and, to some extent, personal) development of people. Sure, the boss's job is to 'get the job done,' and done effectively. But 'boss-hood' primarily entails an abiding responsibility for the people under your charge. ..."
Leadership is a sacred trust. As is the practice of law. And medicine. And any of the other recognized professions.
Certified engineers, like certified docs and lawyers, mostly take oaths to live up to the responsibilities of their disciplines. Rights and responsibilities: These pros have the right to declaim with some degree of certitude about their discipline, and/but the responsibility to ensure that the boundaries of said certitude are not violated.
Well, in my newfound/renewed ardor for engineering, I also find myself beset with newfound anger-outrage at numerous engineers employed by BP, et al. (Many an "al." it would appear.)
Outrage not at "BP engineers," but outrage at Arthur N. Smith [fictitious name], certified and licensed engineer. And doubtless dozens and dozens, probably hundreds, of his cohorts.
BP seems to have gotten it wrong on a dozen dozen dozen engineering dimensions. In the name of cost control or whatever. I don't give a shit about the cost control issues, real as I know they are. I give a hundred shits about the fact that Arthur Engineer and Ralph Engineer and Mary Engineer, cross-pressures notwithstanding (that's life), abrogated their professional responsibilities as ... individuals. Arthur and Ralph and Mary are probably good parents—but professionally they screwed their fellow citizens to a fare-thee-well.
And I'm pisssed off.
Very pissed off.
Arthur and Ralph and Mary have bills to pay. And the economy is tough. And their bosses, responding to their bosses, doubtless did put merciless pressure on them.
Hence my empathy is high.
But in the end I am appalled. They have cost us lives and economic and environmental damage of epic proportion. Because they lacked the will and integrity to blow their professional whistles and stand up for the discipline to which they have sworn allegiance.
They are (individually) a disgrace to the great tradition of engineering of which I am the smallest part. So I'm taking this personally.
This disaster, regardless of certain companies' headquarters addresses, occurred in the United States. Among nations, we try to live to a higher standard of individual accountability than most. We are (properly, for the most part) known as an individualistic nation—it has been our strength among strengths. Back to: rights and responsibilities. Our individualism gives moral and other supports (effectively, "rights") to our peerless entrepreneurial behavior, for example. But along with those peerless rights of individualism come an equally profound set of responsibilities. If you are encouraging me to "do my thing," you are also making it clear that the practice thereof is, unequivocally, a form of "sacred responsibility."
Well, my beloved engineers-of-the-Gulf, it was not only HTH, Hapless Tony Hayward, who let us down. It was you engineers as well one at a time, name by name. In fact my fury at you is stronger than my fury at Hayward. After all, he was merely a corporate shill—you are professionals, the latest in a magnificent tradition that you have now sullied.
NB: Am I exceedingly harsh in my judgment here? Perhaps. But, upon substantial reflection, I think not.
We are speechless at the ability of China to use/exploit its bottomless labor pool. Well, guess what. Just like the U.S.A., the UK, Japan and the rest of the developed world, as Chinese workers prosper, they want what all who have come before them want. This quote from a worker in an FT (0601) article, "Chinese Workers Swap Angst for Anger":
"We're different from our parents' generation. Their wishes were simple—earn some money and return to their hometown. We want to stay in the cities and enjoy our lives here. But we demand respect."
Chapter & verse & punctuation marks, that's what our (USA) workers said in, perhaps, the 1930s, eh?
What follows is not meant to be inclusive. It is meant to be what it is, reflections from a 40 mile round trip from Tinmouth to Manchester Center and back. Thoughts on Federal/Local policy flowing, as it were, from the BP fiasco:
D-Day2010 for Energy Independence/Conservation: A Few Ideas*
(*Must have several implementable ASAP. Must induce shared pain-contribution by ALL.)
(ABOVE: Rare Clematis. BELOW: Serious work gloves.)
Rupert Murdoch is taking dead aim at the New York Times with his new Saturday Wall Street Journal magazine, WSJ. Yesterday's inaugural issue had a feature on Carly Fiorina's run for the Republican nomination to oppose Senator Barbara Boxer. The article was reasonably positive, and homed in as usual on Fiorina's tenure at HP.
I am a lifelong Democrat, and if I were still a California voter, I would probably not vote for Ms. Fiorina. Nonetheless I am a staunch defender of her HP record. (I called her "CEO of the Year" at one point in this space.) After reading the WSJ piece, I sent her an email offering a public statement from me on her HP tour of duty.
"HP, circa 2010, is the 600-lb gorilla astride the computer industry. Why? The Compaq acquisition. PERIOD. Carly Fiorina, without a lot of help at times, fought the Hewlett and Packard families in a bitter, protracted battle to do the deal. And won. In doing so she both saved and transformed one of America's greatest companies. And if that's not enough, she also took one of earth's least consumer-oriented companies and converted it into a consumer dynamo, almost single-handedly (again). The greatest criticism of Fiorina was that Dell, then the #1 PC manufacturer, outstripped HP in profitability. Or at least Dell did until, after Fiorina left, they were forced to 'restate' (erase) a huge share of those profits. Ms. Fiorina doubtless made missteps, but anyone who disses or discounts or dismisses the profound positive impact of her tenure at HP is blind or an idiot or both."—Tom Peters, co-author of In Search of Excellence (Peters lived in Silicon Valley for 30+ years, but did not consult to or work with or even meet Fiorina until after she had left HP.)
Scariest start of an article award 2010, from yesterday's New York Times:
"China vaulted past competitors in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States last year to become the world's largest maker of wind turbines, and is poised to expand even further this year. China has also leapfrogged the West in the last two years to emerge as the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels. And the country is pushing equally hard to build nuclear reactors and the most efficient types of coal power plants. These efforts to dominate renewable energy technologies raise the prospect that the West may someday trade its dependence on oil from the Mideast for a reliance on solar panels, wind turbines and other gear manufactured in China."
There's a Fortune article on a Goldman guy who quit. ("The Man Who Walked Away from Goldman Sachs," William Cohan, 0208.10.) The Goldman guy was worried about Goldman doing a header like Lehman. The Fortune guy wrote: ""If Goldman's stock went to zero as Lehman Brothers' had ... then Winkelried's decades of hard work would be vaporized in the blip of a Bloomberg screen."
What a horror. Namely, the fact that the Fortune guy could produce that sentence, presumably with no sense of irony.
Suppose my net worth was 100.000% wiped out this morning. I would be unhappy. Very unhappy.
But if my net worth went to zero, the value of my last several decades of work would be precisely the same, for good or for ill, as it had been before the net worth tanked.
That is, my net worth and the usefulness (if any) of my work are not related except indirectly.
I think finance is absolutely a centerpiece of our economic well-being. Hence I trust that Mr. Winkelried has done work of value to my country and the world in his decades at Goldman Sachs. I assume, in fact, that there should be a multiplier—that is, the economic usefulness of Mr. Winkelried's work is a multiple of his compensation; he's hopefully been a "net contributor" to our collective well-being.
So it's sad that the Fortune guy would only imagine valuing Mr. Winkelried in terms of his net worth—and thence assigning no societal economic value to Mr. Winkelried's decades of 20-hour days.
I know nothing about Mr. Winkelried. But I think the Fortune guy has a whopper of a problem.
(This Post is from the Auckland airport, as I await a flight to Nelson.)
In today's Washington Post, David Ignacious concludes his article titled "Two attacks highlight counterterrorism's bureaucratic bog" with these lines:
The late CIA Director William Casey insisted that employees read the management classic In Search of Excellence to encourage every officer to take personal responsibility for solving problems, rather than kicking them on to the next guy in line. CIA Director Leon Panetta should use these searing events to foster a culture of initiative and accountability at a CIA that wants to do the job—but that needs leadership and reform.
Needless to say, Tom is extremely flattered to be mentioned.
The votes are in, and on the third day of the year I'm ready to award the "Quote of the Year Award 2010," yes, with 362 days to go. (360 at the time of this Post.)
It has long been my contention that, while there is surely such a thing as "towering competence," I nonetheless believe that the overwhelming majority of the Wall Street Geniuses are worth their weight in a lot less than gold—horse manure occurs as I gaze out my office window to my Tinmouth VT barnyard.
An excellent article by an excellent author marked the cover of the first 2010 issue of the New York Times Magazine; namely "What's a Banker Really Worth," by Steven Brill. It is an excellent (and dense, lengthy) read, and by no means a hatchet job.
While the article is astonishingly balanced, the defendants keep failing to take the Fifth Amendment. One banker who spoke to Brill said, defending the need to continue sky-high compensation, and, additionally, not defer it:
"A lot of our folks have second and third homes and alimony payments and other obligations that require substantial current cash."
No, with a nod to Dave Barry, I'm not making this up.
The sentence not only takes the 2010 quote of the year award, but it also goes into the dictionary as Definition #1 of "They just don't get it."
Any further explanation or editorialization would be gratuitous.
Repeat: "A lot of our folks have second and third homes and alimony payments and other obligations that require substantial current cash."
Vermont's Attorney General just issued a mindblowing report: Over a three year period, charitable organizations that used professional fundraisers ended up getting only 32% to the take! Some $8.4 million was raised—and the pro fundraisers took home $5.7 million, or 68%. Just $2.7 million was left for the charitable work itself.
Little is more important to America's long-term future than its true #1 "service industry"—research universities. There are rankings and rankings and rankings, and some are confusing as hell. Among the top 50, various polls give us, roughly, between 50% and 70%. (Add in the Europeans and Canada and the number is consistently at or above 90%.) In one poll, raw # of scientific papers, American universities took the top 24 slots. Given budget woes affecting the likes of the University of California, all of whose campuses are usually in the top 100, the situation is always precarious.
Writing in the 23 November issue of Fortune, Geoff Colvin let slip a phrase that made me physically ill. Namely, "in the waning days of this recession ..."
How dare you!
Yes, it does look like Goldman's bonuses, and those of many or most of their I-bank pals, will rebound—perhaps to more than 100% of the pre-catastrophe levels. And, given their vaccination queue-jumping, we can expect that the Goldmanites will not have to miss Turkey Day because of the distraction of fever or swine flu aches and pains.
But there are "a few," perhaps unaware of the recession's "waning days," who, along with their families, are not approaching the holiday season with unmitigated self-satisfaction at the gains made since Turkey Day 2008.
Unemployment stats are awful.
And they will surely get worse.
The "jobs recovery" will doubtless take five years—or more.
Underemployment is widespread literally beyond measure.
There are hours cutbacks, in many or most cases severe.
And pay grade reductions.
And employment temporarily saved by accepting slots three or four steps down the ladder.
Expectations have been truncated.
Pensions have been severed, sometimes months from planned retirement.
House payments are in arrears.
Foreclosures still loom by the million.
Home equity, the mainstay of the American nest-egg, has evaporated, and will not fully rebound even in the next eight or ten years.
I agree that it appears that the crisis of potential total-system meltdown that loomed at the edge of Thanksgiving Week 2008 seems to have been evaded. And I, while clipping a clothespin to the end of my nose, was among those who saw the massive financial sector bailouts as an absolute necessity. In fact, overall, and despite the horrifying deficit run up, I believe that the policy makers deserve a solid "B" grade for efforts during the last 13 months.
Nonetheless, millions upon millions upon more millions of my fellow Americans will approach Thanksgiving and Christmas not only traumatized, but with little light at the end of the tunnel.
I wish them well.
And I offer them my humble prayers.
They surely do not need or deserve a self-appointed grandee at Fortune gleefully pontificating about the return of business as usual following our little rough patch.
How dare you, Mr. Colvin!
The Ernst & Young ITEM Club report, published on 20th July, continues the gloomy economic tone. They forecast that the coming recovery is going to be slow, and painful. It seems we all have several more years of "porridge" ahead of us. What has been playing on my mind is what the legacy of this period will be? I am wondering whether any of the traumas we are going through will result in lasting changes in behaviour?
Consumers are tightening their belts in lots of ways: shopping more scrupulously, cooking more at home, taking up knitting, growing their own vegetables, being more careful of their energy usage, vacationing closer to home ... etc., etc. ... you fill in the gaps. All good eco-friendly stuff, some would say. Speaking personally, I have put off replacing my car for another year, and I'm planning a low-cost holiday in Barcelona this year by renting a small apartment and flying with a budget airline (NOT Ryanair)!
Employers, too, seem to be approaching this recession a bit differently. Many appear to have more of an eye to the impact their actions will have on employee morale than they have in previous recessions. We are seeing innovative ways to reduce employee costs without laying off as many workers as they might have in previous recessions, for example, by offering career breaks on reduced pay, or asking staff to work reduced hours to preserve jobs.
Many of these recession-driven strategies could be seen as positive ways to live our ongoing work and home lives. But, as anyone trying to lose weight or give up smoking will tell you, it's not the initial effort that matters, but whether you can make adaptations to your lifestyle so that you sustain a change for good—what engineers call "permanent set."
Is it too much to hope that some of the better new habits we are forming as consumers and employers will survive the recession? Which recession-driven habits do you hope will stay with us for good, and which will you be glad to leave behind?
I remember growing up with Walter Cronkite. My family used to sit and listen attentively to what Mr Cronkite had to say. He was considered the voice of authority in our home. Of all the news reporters that have come and gone over the years, Walter Cronkite's voice is the one I can still hear in my head. I think about Cronkite's brand, and I realize that it was consistent throughout the years. He was known to be honest, straightforward, factual, fair, and credible. I recall him covering President Kennedy's death, Martin Luther King's death, the space shuttle mission, and many other events. You knew that when Cronkite delivered the news, you would get the truth in an unbiased way.
Walter Cronkite's brand was consistent through the years; that's why he became known as "the most trusted man" in America. Cronkite's brand created a loyal following of viewers who will always remember him and his grace under pressure.
And that's the way it is.
How's Your Day Going?
CitiGroup to raise base pay of key execs by 50%.
I do not wish Barclays PLC president Robert Diamond harm. Nor do I wish BlackRock chairman Laurence Fink harm. Short of that, I surely do not wish them well.
I would love to be in a room with the duo, so I could have the pleasure of not shaking their hands. I would not spit on them—but I would be tempted. Sorely tempted.
Diamond and Fink graced page B1 of Saturday's Wall Street Journal. The story was of BlackRock's purchase of Barclays' money management operation. It was reported that the top 400 Barclays execs would divvy up $630 million—and Diamond would receive about $36.5 million.
What bugged me was not the $$$-signs per se.
What made me gag were the big, gaping grins on the two guys' faces. I think that is appalling-insensitive-stupefying-outrageous-disgusting-sickening in June 2009.
Would I love to find a check in the mail for $36.5 million? Damn right. Might it light up my face? Sure, but hopefully in the privacy of my entry hall at home. Not some big silly ass public grin—as thousands more are in the process of receiving pink slips in the same mail delivery.
One suspects that the pathetic saps actually think they deserved the bucks for "hard work" and personal brilliance. And maybe they even think the 20,000 a day who lose their jobs in the U.S. alone deserve their fates for not having kept their collective noses close enough to the grind stone.
But (not the first time I've used this phrase of late) ... have they no shame? If the photo was a must, couldn't they have shown a little sobriety of demeanor? I'm not asking for grim—just the tiniest inkling that they comprehend that not quite everyone experienced a $36.5 million payday on 12 June 2009.
I do not wish them harm.
I do not wish them well.
I guess I can never be a Supreme Court justice.
I am befuddled by the Sotomayor brouhaha over the view of the world from the eyes of a female Latina.
Of course it's different.
For one [big] thing, women, Latina and others, are more compassionate than men—and behave accordingly.
And: Praise the Lord!
The system of laws under which we [Americans, Brits, etc.] live was built by white guys, for white guys, and is, by and large, administered by white guys to this day.
I have made out like a bandit since birth courtesy racism; that is, by being a white guy, better yet Anglo-Saxon white guy, in a world designed for and controlled by white guys—that is, a world designed especially for me me me me!!
Do Gingrich and others [read: other white guys] really feel that they are free of bias?
Nobody could be that blind or un-self aware.
(Gingrich is an historian for God's sake.)
I have biases piled on top of biases piled on top of biases—only a small share of which I am even aware, but which directly and indirectly affect everything I do.
(I always start my speeches with the same disclaimer: "Many who do what I do pretend that they are totally rational beings. Well, I'm not. Not even close. I carry a big bag of biases which color every word I utter—for example, I lived in Silicon Valley for 35 years; hence, everything I say inadvertently passes through an absurdly influential 'Silicon Valley-California' filter. Etc.")
Every human being—including our nine Justices—carry to work ships full of biases which get expressed in a zillion ways.
This post is only peripherally about Judge Sotomayor.
It is, in the main, about the biases we all bring to work every day—and our awareness thereof; or lack thereof.
The implications are staggering!
(I.e., they determine every decision we make!)
(By the way, just to set the record straight, if I haven't in the last 15 years: I do definitely think the world would be a better place if women constituted the majority—significant majority?—of Prime Ministers and Presidents and Judges. Among other things, I suspect there would be less war, less violence in general, less environmental degradation and, "OMG," more com-pass-ion.)
Imaginary headline, June 2011:
"Sotomayor Brings Compassion to the Supremes"
Horrid thought, eh?
Alas, Detroit deserves virtually all the darts and arrows thrown its way. Nonetheless, I would point out that GM's May 2008-May2009 sales fell "only" 29%, while Toyota's (They-Who-Can-Do-No-Wrong) "dipped" 41%. (Honda was down 42%—only Chrysler-dear-Chrysler-uhm-Fiat was worse, at minus 47%.) (And if you want to know just how bad things are, the numbers above were generally considered good news!!??)
Strong Language Follows!
The New York Times (May 19) reports "Passengers' Advocates See Progress." Several topics are discussed, and the most contentious by far "is whether Congress will impose a time limit on keeping passengers on planes stuck on the tarmac." Four Canadian airlines have recently set a 90 minute limit in almost all cases. Needless to say, American carriers are fighting this tooth and nail.
Forget, please, for a moment, any diatribes about government nosing into private sector business—save 'em for another topic.
As to the strong language warning: As a veeeeeeery veeeeeery frequent flyer, I hereby declare that I don't give two shits about the airlines' problems in this regard. They bloody well asked for the regulation by their repeated disregard for customer concerns—read overflowing, clogged toilets for one.
To the airlines I say: Stuff it!!!
I am loath to admit that I watch Grey's Anatomy. It's fundamentally a soap opera. But the tragic Buffalo air disaster makes it an apt subject. The Buffalo fiasco is significantly tied to exhausted pilots (and several other wretched and avoidable things). One of the many Commandments violated was the co-pilot's sleeping in the ready lounge. Prep for a flight requires more than a catnap!
"Rested pilots" are a safety requisite.
After days of Buffalo Bombardment in the media (as a very very frequent flier, I welcome the attention), I watched, without horrid consequences in this fictional case, exhausted surgeons sacking out in their ready rooms prior to complex surgeries. Fictional as Grey's is, the problem is very very real—with brutal consequences.
But the real problem is that un-necessarily killing people in hospitals, by the hundreds of thousands in the U.S. alone, gets virtually no media attention, while the cause of one crash becomes a cause célèbre that usually results in FAA revisions to Biblical Flying Rules, and often engineering changes in fleets of planes worldwide.
(In fact the entire hospital system mostly hides mistakes as a "cultural" trait—unlike Airline World, where reporting bad news is commonplace and requisite and "cultural," and causes no blame unless something unconscionable occurs. Hence, airlines and the industry have encyclopedic knowledge of "what went wrongs," and hospitals don't, except, as usual, the Veterans Administration, tops in virtually all things when it comes to error reporting and removal and patient safety.)
I want to fly with perky pilots.
And I want surgery provided via perky docs.
(In fact, to some significant extent, "perky" beats raw talent.)
First there was the picture of Bernie Madoff that looked a lot like Tom Peters and now there's a guy named Tom Petters (2 T's!) who is garnering the fraud headlines by trying to hustle non-existent DVD players. We here at tompeters.com just wanted to make sure there was no confusion between Petters and Peters. Our Tom is winging his way to Shanghai, where he'll be speaking over the weekend.
Several big companies are doing things for people who are laid off. In the current issue of BusinessWeek I read my Solid Gold favorite so far: Walgreens has 343 Take Care in-store clinics. If you are an existing patient and can show proof of unemployment and no insurance, Walgreens Take Care services are on the house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays! (I believe that these visits usually cost around 50 bucks.) (Incidentally, I am a great fan of these clinics. In general.)
Sitting in the lounge of a sea ferry crossing the Gulf of Finland from Tallinn to Helsinki. Big screen TV, Sky News. Watching a sickening, endless parade of missile-laden military vehicles in North Korea. Thousands of "volunteers" creating a sea of red in the background by "spontaneously" waving red pom-poms.
Why, Dear God, why?
What did the folks in Motown do to make the Big Guy sooooooo mad? Two of the "Big" Three come within an inch of bankruptcy before President Bush, with a little help from us taxpayers, became Detroit's one-man Salvation Army. Then, yesterday, the Detroit Lions became the first NFL team in his-to-ry to go 0-15 courtesy a loss that was waaaaaaaay beyond embarrassing.
Don't trust your eyes! No, I am not Bernard Madoff by night!
I'm no apologist for George W. Bush, let alone his sidekick, Mr. Cheney, but I think Secretary of State Rice had a damn good point when she recently said, "If you were in a position of authority on September 11, then every day since has been September 12."
Janet Napolitano, assuming confirmation, will have her hands full as our third chief of homeland security. That was made even more clear with the publication yesterday of the report of the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism. In short, the report virtually promised a major WMD attack on the U.S. homeland within the next five years, by 2013—and said that deaths in the hundreds of thousands could well be the tally.
If history is a teacher, DHS will work like hell to prevent the catastrophe—and beef up the capabilities of first responders. I'd hardly shortchange those two tasks, particularly the first, but I think that no-bullshit training and organizing of you and me and our neighbors in Civil Defense, not unlike World War II practices, should share top billing. If a WMD, nuclear or biological, kills hundreds of thousands, the entire nation will go nuts. (Rightly so.) So how do the man or woman on the street and our community prepare for it and deal with it? My father, too old for the draft in WWII, was a Civil Defense air warden leader within a well-organized schema—one of my favorite souvenirs from him was an elaborate guide showing the shapes of German bombers that might make it to our shores. (A few German subs did make shore not so far away.) He was a local big cheese in a highly developed and well-trained civilian network—needless to say, the British version of this was more elaborate by orders of magnitude, as the odds were high (very high!) of an invasion of their homeland.
Well, if the shit is going to hit the fan, and a sane person would conclude that the odds of a shit-covered fan are not all that low, you and I should be exceptionally well trained and exceptionally well organized to be part of the solution, a big part, rather than part of the problem. (Did you watch any of the short-lived TV series Jericho—not a pretty sight, and not necessarily all that far out.) My entire "training" since 9/11 has amounted to half listening to airport announcements telling me to look out for suspicious things. That is a pathetic request for my involvement. And I'll bet things don't change much—or at all.
My bottom line, and others have said this, is that I, and I suspect you, stand ready for my country to ask much of me in defending our homeland—if only President-elect Obama or DHS Secretary-designate Napolitano bother to ask.
So what are you and I going to do about it? (Anybody have Governor Napolitano's private cellphone #?)
As a southern boy, born 66 years ago the day after tomorrow in a very segregated Annapolis MD, I never imagined I'd see the day. As a Naval Officer in the Pentagon during the King riots, I never thought I'd see the day. Old America always has a new trick up her glorious sleeve ...
(Of course, now the work begins.)
Here are some things I don't believe:
***People of great character are needed on Wall Street. Nice idea, and I'm all for it—more or less. Fact is, humans are greedy—you know, the survival thing explained by Darwin and his successors. Moreover, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations tells us in no uncertain terms that self-interest is the engine of the economy. Fact is, in ordinary times, self-interest is imperative, and more or less the more the merrier—i.e., greed. That's how innovations are commercialized—and why there are bubbles. Hence, this ends up being an argument for appropriate regulation and strong government intervention in general, rather than hoping that God-like individuals will save us, or at least our 401(k)s. (None of this is to suggest that I'm not in favor of beating the bloody tar out of some of these pricks, like the Lehman guy.)
***The world is flat. Sure, flatter than it was. But national sovereignty is alive and well—e.g., Russia invades Georgia. Central banks and finance ministers should work in concert, as they are and as they have been since at least Bretton Woods. Given the new flat-ish-ness, coordinated responses have to be made much more quickly, and dramatically, than before. But anyone who thinks that economic globalization will round off the forces of national sovereignty is flat out nuts in my opinion.
***We need a plan. Yes we do, but the market crisis will abate when the price of assets falls far enough that stocks are obviously significantly undervalued and worth buying. Mssrs. McCain and Obama are being criticized for failing to provide oceanic solutions in their get-together last night. Well, there aren't any panaceas, except to do more of what we're doing ever faster and ever more intensively—e.g., the Brits more or less nationalizing banks yesterday.
***Cut costs to the bone in individual enterprises. Yup, that's the self-interested answer—which I just touted. Problem is that cutting costs accelerates and deepens the recession when Susan and I delay a home construction project as we just did—in our case, it puts the hurt on the local contractor. (We've already extended a couple of projects purely to avoid such an outcome.) When the cycle of delayed or cancelled purchases accelerates, then, God help us. Or, rather, God help us, period—it's happening. The only major exception I can think of is companies with cash hordes who choose to make investments that will greatly disadvantage their competitors when the worst is past.
***Oh my God, even GE has problems. Worrisome indeed, and psychologically important, but for heaven’s sake, as we conjure up remedies, remember that all of our economies consist primarily of small companies with local markets ($$$$, employees, and in our case "American spirit"). Policy must be aimed at least as much or more at the world of the "millionaire next door" (or the biz with $200,000 revenue) as the big dudes.
***Governments never get anything right. True, governments over-regulate, then under-regulate, with blunderbusses, not scalpels. But there are times when "more government" is the solution, not the problem. This is clearly and unequivocally one of those times, like it or not—even congenital free traders like Paulson get it. (Greenspan seems to be the only one who doesn't get it—a little too much Ayn Rand as a lad.)
***Globalization is still inevitable. True, but with a timetable very different than imagined a couple of years ago. The reverberations from this crisis will probably be with us a decade from now.
***The worst is behind us. Nobody but nobody has a clue, but "the worst is yet to come" is the odds-on favorite. (We are really trying to find viable prices for stuff that in the "mark to market" sense are valueless—to the tune of trillions of bucks.)
There is no particular point to these musings. It's just my mind at work since I am totally unable to focus on my normal affairs given the economic situation and the election. I warned you not to "mark time"—but I am. I also warned you not to let depression get the best of you—well, it's sure got me by the ^%*. (I'm not talking personal economic woes—though "life is good" would be a stretch. I'm talking about significantly debilitating disorientation.)
Maybe I'm the last to catch on, but usaelectionpolls.com is a marvelous site with an astounding array of polling info—more than anybody sane could want, but, then, I'm not sane when it comes to either elections or statistics.
(FYI, there is no partisan commentary—but there are very useful explanations of poll strengths and weaknesses and methodology.)
A good friend of mine, Steve Millard, a true modern telecoms-data movement pioneer, among many other things, keeps me on his intriguing mailing list. Last night (1230.07) I got what follows. As a kid who, in the early 50s, was subjected to "get under the desk" drills in the face of Soviet nucs, perhaps this has special resonance.
But I think the issue is broader than that—fact is, what follows kept me up most of last night (Sunday 1230). In a hyper-rank-conscious society (the Soviets), one incredibly thoughtful Red Army Colonel may have saved the world courtesy one and only one thing—common sense.
My message, though, is not just a tribute to applied common sense. As the new year approaches, I'd urge you to use this story as a reminder of how precious and precarious life is. Last year I touted a wonderful book, The Manager's Book of Decencies: How Small Gestures Build Great Companies, by Adecco exec Steve Harrison. I suggest using this Big Story of impending Nuclear Holocaust to remember small gestures. That is, take the time, with family and friends and colleagues and, indeed, strangers on the street, to smile or say thanks or somehow or other go the extra inch to introduce humanity into your moment-by-moment routines. Do this especially when you are harried and "don't have a second to waste." Between this amazing story about you and me and Colonel Stanislav Petrov and planetary nuclear incineration, and Dickens' Christmas Carol (I re-read it every Christmas), we should be humbled—and moved to give serious thought to the ways in which we transit the world on any given day, at any given moment.
"September 26th, 1983: The Day the World Almost Died," by Tony Rennell
Stanislav Petrov, a lieutenant-colonel in the military intelligence section of the Soviet Union's secret service, reluctantly eased himself into the commander's seat in the underground early warning bunker south of Moscow.
It should have been his night off but another officer had gone sick and he had been summoned at the last minute.
Before him were screens showing photographs of underground missile silos in the Midwest prairies of America, relayed from spy satellites in the sky.
He and his men watched and listened on headphones for any sign of movement—anything unusual that might suggest the U.S. was launching a nuclear attack.
This was the height of the Cold War between the USSR and the U.S. Both sides packed a formidable punch—hundreds of rockets and thousands of nuclear warheads capable of reducing the other to rubble.
It was a game of nerves, of bluff and counterbluff. Who would fire first? Would the other have the chance to retaliate?
The flying time of an inter-continental ballistic missile, from the U.S. to the USSR, and vice-versa, was around 12 minutes. If the Cold War were ever to go "hot," seconds could make the difference between life and death.
Everything would hinge on snap decisions. For now, though, as far as Petrov was concerned, more hinged on just getting through another boring night in which nothing ever happened.
Except then, suddenly, it did. A warning light flashed up, screaming red letters on a white background—"LAUNCH. LAUNCH." Deafening sirens wailed. The computer was telling him that the U.S. had just gone to war.
The blood drained from his face. He broke out in a cold sweat. But he kept his nerve. The computer had detected missiles being fired but the hazy screens were showing nothing untoward at all, no telltale flash of a missile roaring out of its silo into the sky. Could this be a computer glitch rather than Armageddon?
Instead of calling an alert that within minutes would have had Soviet missiles launched in a retaliatory strike, Petrov decided to wait.
The warning light flashed again—a second missile was, apparently, in the air. And then a third. Now the computer had stepped up the warning: "Missile attack imminent!"
But this did not make sense. The computer had supposedly detected three, no, now it was four, and then five rockets, but the numbers were still peculiarly small. It was a basic tenet of Cold War strategy that, if one side ever did make a preemptive strike, it would do so with a mass launch, an overwhelming force, not this dribble.
Petrov stuck to his common-sense reasoning. This had to be a mistake.
What if it wasn't? What if the holocaust the world had feared ever since the first nuclear bombs dropped on Japan in 1945, was actually happening before his very eyes—and he was doing nothing about it?
He would soon know. For the next ten minutes, Petrov sweated, counting down the missile time to Moscow. But there was no bright flash, no explosion 150 times greater than Hiroshima.
Instead, the sirens stopped blaring and the warning lights went off.
The alert on September 26th, 1983, had been a false one. Later, it was discovered that what the satellite's sensors had picked up and interpreted as missiles in flight was nothing more than high-altitude clouds.
Petrov's cool head had saved the world.
He got little thanks. He was relieved of his duties, sidelined, then quietly pensioned off. His experience that night was an extreme embarrassment to the Soviet Union.
Petrov may have prevented all out nuclear war, but at the cost of exposing the inadequacies of Moscow's much vaunted early warning shield.
Instead of feeling relieved, his masters in the Kremlin were more afraid than ever. They sank into a state of paranoia, fearful that in Washington, Ronald Reagan was planning a first-strike that would wipe them off the face of the earth.
The year was 1983 and—as a history documentary in a primetime slot on Channel 4 [UK] next weekend vividly shows—the next six weeks would be the most dangerous the world has ever experienced. ...
[Read the remainder of the article at dailymail.co.uk.]
Saturday. 8PM. The History Channel. The True Story of Charlie Wilson. (A couple of reviewers say the same thing: Charlie Wilson's unvarnished story is so good-amazing-bizarre that you don't need Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts to spice it up; this is the killer version.)
The Atlantic this month (12.07) is loaded with my favorite sort of analyses; namely, those that reveal counter-intuitive truths (or decent speculations, at any rate). Consider:
*SLUMS ARE GOOD. Today's burgeoning slums are the product of people pouring into the cities from the countryside—in pursuit of jobs. (In 2008, cities' population will surpass countryside population.) While eyesores and cause of appropriate concern, said cities are in fact the source of jobs, and overall poverty reduction is significantly attributable to the migration—burgeoning slums notwithstanding. The assertion is that no nation has grown wealthy since the start of the Industrial Revolution until the country-city migration was in full flower. ("Bright Lights, Big Cities," Matthew Quirk)
*HOME OWNERSHIP IS BAD. There are indeed enormous benefits to home ownership. But the big drawback, especially in times of economic revolution, is that home ownership measurably slows migration from where the jobs were to where the jobs are. ("Housebound," Clive Crook)
*WE HAVE TOO MANY DOCTORS. The supply of doctors to an area is significantly determined by the wealth and insurance coverage of the population. Hence there are more docs per capita in well-off areas—where, in fact, medical problems are less intense per capita. This also leads in particular to an excess of specialists—lots of docs prescribe lots of tests and make lots of referrals. As to the "bottom line," healthcare, per several sound measures, is no better in places with lotsa per capita docs than in places that are doc-deprived. It gets more interesting: The more specialists, the worse the outcomes. (More or less.) Specialists trip over one another, give conflicting advice, and are notoriously bad at cross-communication. More on specialists: The glamour and pay accorded to specialists comes at the price of less and less well-paid primary care docs—it is the vanishing primary care docs who are primarily responsible for good healthcare outcomes. Dr Elliott Fisher, Center for Evaluative Clinical Sciences at Dartmouth Medical School: "If we sent 30 percent of the doctors in this country to Africa, we might raise the level of health on both continents." ("Overdose," Shannon Brownlee)
*Less AID, more aid. "Scents & Sensibility," by Sarah Chayes, is the saga of helping Afghans successfully build a soap and body-oil business. It's also the umpteenth repeat of the story of how such "on the ground," practical, human-scale efforts are slowed or halted by the ham-handedness of USAID. [Web-only slideshow]
*THE LATE-BIRD STARTS THE CREATIVE ENTERPRISE. From "How You Sleep Is Who You Are" [not available online]: "Early risers prefer to gather knowledge from concrete information. They reach conclusions through logic and analysis. Night-owls are more imaginative and open to unconventional ideas, preferring the unknown and favoring intuitive leaps on their way to reaching conclusions." Morning people are more self-controlled, more formal, respect authority, and obsess on making a good impression. The late bunch are more independent and have less respect for authority. (Research source cited by the Atlantic: "Morning and Evening Types: Exploring Their Personality Styles," by Juan Francisco Diaz-Morales.) (TP note: Sounds like we need a night-owl CEO matched by an early-bird CFO.)
One of my favorite business books from the last few years was Chris Anderson's The Long Tail. It showed how, in a marketplace characterized by small customer-interest niches and unfettered by the constraints of limited retail space, products can succeed without being "hits." One example: Wal*Mart carries only the top 750 CDs, but consumers can find millions of other titles through online music sellers.
Over the past few days there was news that Britney Spears' new CD was #1 on Billboard's charts. That, itself, is a scary piece of news. But here's what caught my attention: Billboard later changed their list, putting the new album by The Eagles on top.
Why is that scary? The Eagles record is only available at Wal*Mart, and Billboard had to change their rules to include sales in limited retail distribution. Britney had sold about 300,000 copies, but The Eagles had sold 711,000 copies at Wal*Mart/Sam's Club in six days.
Personally, I can't wait to hear the new Eagles CD. And, I'm not one of those anti-Wal*Mart types, by any means. But it does catch my attention when American buying behavior can be so concentrated in one place. I'll admit it. I want to be part of the fragmented, interesting marketplace The Long Tail, describes.
I will stack my practical credentials as "avowed capitalist pig" up to anybody's; say, Steve Forbes. Among other things, how could one have lived in Palo Alto-Silicon Valley for three decades without "turning rabid capitalist," even if one had not been before? Likewise, today, capitalism unleashed in India and China is, I am quite certain, good for the world's prospects for some modicum of peace—and is enhancing the welfare of additional millions by the month.
On the other hand, anyone who does not believe in "market imperfections" is a loony. For instance, I believe that globalization, whatever that is, is a good thing—in fact, a very good thing. On the other hand, its impact is as messy-uneven as one would imagine, given the enormity of what's afoot. And indeed we (the Chinese and Indians at home, big time, and the rest of us, as well) must squarely address said imperfections—or pay an enormous price.
Which brings me to my point—though I'm not entirely sure what I'm trying to say. If there is anything I believe in more fervently that capitalism, it is its social twin, free speech. Hence I am inalterably opposed to muzzling ... of any sort.
But I also think that even if one is a free speech and capitalism nutter, as I am, that one can vote for the occasional dose of good taste—"manners," my Mom might have called it. Which leads me by the backdoor to the purpose of this Post. Though I wish not to muzzle, I must admit to being a little bit revolted by Saturday's Financial Times magazine, which I read in the Frankfurt airport. The issue was devoted to a single topic. The cover read: "How to spend it." (A regular feature!) I am no enemy of luxury goods—as you know from recent previous Posts, Susan gave me a Kubota 4-wheeler for my birthday. But when "one" (me) reads of the world's strife in the news section, much, if not most, of it at least an indirect product of real or perceived inequities and disaffections of some sort, "one" (me) sometimes—e.g., yesterday—wishes we, the hyper-privileged, weren't so apt to shove, de facto, our joys and toys down others' throats. It's also why I'm no fan of the new Portfolio magazine, despite excellent reporting.
I don't know how I want this Post to end. Not with a recommendation, to be sure. Just as it is, as a personal "footnote" of sorts, declaring that this certified capitalist pig feels "troubled" at times by our tendency to "flaunt it" in a way that seems distasteful ... to me. (I acknowledge, too, that it's "just" human nature—I recently read somewhere, maybe Forbes or Fortune, about the billion-dollar (!) house that India's richest dude is building outside Mumbai. Ah, well ...)
The Financial Times (09.18) had an article on Hank Paulson; in the newspaper the accompanying picture is Paulson with France's economy minister, Christine Lagarde. I had the oddest sensation. I realized how content I was to have Secretary Paulson running our economic policy. I rarely (never?) get that sensation when reading the declarations of a public figure. To the extent that anyone can keep a steady hand on the economic tiller, I think Paulson is the pick of the litter. (I felt the same way about Robert Rubin—maybe it's a Goldman Sachs thing—partially, it is indeed that.) I hardly endorse every action that comes from Wall Street, but Paulson's long track record is such, in a very tough environment that requires the utmost ballet skills, that he will deal with issues with conservatism and flair—and guide us as best as anyone can. Yup, I just felt mostly okay amidst the current volatility—courtesy Hank Paulson.
The U.S. of A. created 500,000 new jobs in Q4 of 2006, according to Barron's (09.10). Not bad at all. One imagines a raft of firms starting or expanding to give us those jobs. Well, sorta—but mostly "no."
To get to a net of 500,000 we actually created 7,700,000 new jobs—and lost 7,200,000. Now that's a whole different kettle of fish! America's longterm economic strength is hidden here, or not so hidden—we are an insanely dynamic economy, growing and shrinking with near reckless abandon, but the net is a job creation record that is peerless in, and the envy of, the developed world.
Economist and former MIT biz school dean Lester Thurow has been wrong about a bunch of things per my assessment. Nonetheless, he is smart and undoubtedly worth reading. And in yesterday's New York Times Week in Review section he offered a fascinating hypothesis in "A Chinese Century? Maybe It's the Next One." Thurow argues clearly, without resort to economist double-speak, that Chinese productivity figures are probably wildly overstated. The point is not to dismiss China's amazing progress, but to suggest that we not base micro- or macro-economic policy or security policy, especially in the short term, on the idea that China will eat our (American, European, Japanese) lunch economically, and thence geopolitically, in the next couple of decades. Thurow does not offer the "China will make mistakes" scenario, but instead says that even if China does not make mistakes, it'll probably be 100 years, or even more, before they "catch up" with the likes of us Americans.
Dismissing China's progress would be a disaster. Wildly overstating China's "inevitable march to Global Hegemony" would also be a disaster. Thurow may be wrong, but his argument is worth absorbing in some detail.
I have no idea what Rupert Murdoch will do with the Journal. But I do know hilarity when I hear it. On the road to Boston (on the way to São Paulo) this morning, at about 5 a.m., I listened to some interviews with editors and writers at the Journal following the announcement of the decision to sell to Mr M. One editor, fit to be tied and clearly expecting the immediate end of the world as he's known it, summarized his chagrin and disgust: "It's all about money."
I just about ran off the road as I choked with laughter. It's not that I doubt that Murdoch will make ideological changes, nor do I expect to agree with some of those changes. No, my response, the life-endangering laughter, is tied, no more and no less, to the name of the beleaguered editor's paper per se. This is the WALL STREET journal. And, last I heard, Wall Street is precisely and by design "all about money." (Albeit aiming to produce economic well-being.)
The WSJ is ... and has been ... and doubtless always will be ... by definition ... all about money.
(My thanks to that discombobulated editor—anything that can produce a laugh at 5 a.m. is worth a salute.)
A $10,000 investment in "Mr Trump's empire" in 1994 when it went public would result in a valuation of $636 today. (Source: NY Times/Business Day 0706.2007)
Who would have bet that 2 of the top 3 capitalist growth stories from the first 7 years of the millennium (or ever, for that matter) would have come from an Islamic autocracy and a Communist-to-the-core nation? I refer, of course, to Dubai and China. (India, the third story.)
Apparently there's more to YouTube than exploding soda and lip-synching. We've discovered a couple of guys who enjoyed Re-imagine! so much, they decided to share their opinions with the world. Here's a recommendation from Rick Hicks and here's one from Allister Fugill. We'd love to see more of these. So grab your video camera and tell us what you think. What's your favorite book by Tom? Favorite slide? Punchline? If you don't have a camera on hand, feel free to just let us know in the comments.
Just another ho-hum day in the Global Economy, circa 2007.
(Speaking of the global economy, above is a charming picture of my view from the Heathrow Terminal 4 Hilton, where I'm hanging out for 10 hours between my Boston to London flight and my London to Johannesburg flight. A little different from Vermont in full Spring bloom at this time yesterday. So, why do I do this?)
As you can see by the headline (above) on Ankara's English language newspaper for 0508.2007, the Turks are not exactly thrilled with the French election results. Sarkozy bluntly declared on the campaign trail that there was no way in hell his government would support Turkey's membership in the EU.
(For what it's worth, and the answer is "not much," I think it would be an epic strategic mistake to shut out this moderate Islamic country. Of course there are a jillion ramifications—but my vote is a crystal clear "Yes" for membership.)
Queen Elizabeth has ruled with grace for over a half century. Her meeting with Virginia Tech people today is just one more example of that. Of course some handler suggested it—but she agreed and, I have no doubt, expressed sympathy as few could.
God save the queen.
I have spent a lot of time in Muslim nations and enjoyed it and felt of value and felt very welcomed and made friends and hopefully been a statesman of sorts and a useful representative of the United States of America—as well as perhaps providing some suggestions about the effective management of human resources and enterprises in a way that contributes to global prosperity and stability. In the last year I've been to: Saudi Arabia, Oman, Dubai, Bahrain, Turkey, Malaysia. Next week my schedule includes return trips to Turkey and Dubai, the former experiencing political turmoil over the maintenance of Atatürk's state.
I look forward to my visits.
And yet on the way home from Italy yesterday, I read results of a poll revealing that 91% of Egyptians, our longtime "allies," feel that attacking American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is justified. Obviously this pisses me off at Egyptians. But it also pisses me off at me. This is not a political Blog. I bend waaaaaaay over backwards to keep my deeply held political views to myself. But stuff such as the 91% figure demand comment.
In short, in response to very legitimate issues, we have nonetheless exacerbated the most Godawful mess imaginable in the Middle East. And in the process screwed up almost beyond recognition, hopefully not beyond repair, America's reputation in the world as a beacon of hope and decency. (To want to shoot American soldiers is, at least metaphorically, to want to shoot at me. I am an American, and regardless of how I cast my vote, I am responsible for my government—that's the way it is in Democracies. Why do they want to shoot me? Because they're hopeless? Because I'm hopeless? Both?)
The situation is ridiculously complex, the enmities thousands of years old, and ready solutions there are not.
I intend to go to Turkey and Dubai. I will try to be of service. (Jaw jaw beats war war, per Churchill.) And I must declare that, in the process, I will be almost as pissed off at "Washington's" "blunders"—manifest incompetence—as at the 91% of Egyptians who are maddened by us.
So/but: Do I indirectly support the 91% of Egyptians who want to kill our troops by going to Turkey and Dubai? You may say, "Of course not." I think I agree—but, frankly, I'm not sure.
What do you think?
Should I go?
(No simplistic, sloganistic answers please.)
(A State Department report released yesterday concludes that our "liberation" of Iraq has increased global terrorism—not ameliorated it. This is "news"?)
(And Happy Birthday!)
The world is a mess and getting messier.
Chaos reigns—and will get more chaotic.
America has no friends.
And on it goes. (I've been a drummer of some of this litany of woes ...)
But let's pause, for a day, anyway.
Let's wish Europe, that is the unprecedentedly peaceful and enormously prosperous European Union, a Happy Happy 50th Birthday!
Today—March 21—is the Big Anniversary. Six nations signed the very limited (mostly about steel and coal) Treaty of Rome on 21 March 1957, little more than a decade after WWII ended. Now the EU has 27 member nations and 500 million people within its confines. There's never been an alliance like it in history.
But it's so "old economy" ... right? Don't be so hasty.
E.g.: "Absurdly" high wage Germany has the highest positive trade balance (and growing) in the world—surpassing China's. The Nordic countries, so burdened by social welfare costs, are thriving and then some. And, yes, France has higher output per hour than ... the U.S.A. (Ours is higher per year—since we work a lot more hours.) London, some say (Manhattanites are in a not-so-mild panic), may surpass New York, New York, as a financial hub.
(My more intimate report on EU prosperity, or something, was made graphic at the currency exchange counter in the Lisbon airport—where I got back 139 Euros for my two-hundred dollars.)
So the EU peace & prosperity Report Card at age 50 is quite healthy.
But that's not actually the point of this Post.
My point is to speak about a broader and equally inseparable union that gives new historical meaning to the word "mighty"—namely the EU-US Dynamic Duo.
Many of "them" are irritated (or worse) at many of "us."
And vice versa.
But the point is, like it or lump it ... bachelorhood (isolationism) is behind us, and we're now an old married couple. Our politics may differ (not about the most important stuff of course—Big D Democracy, variety of flavors notwithstanding). But our economic destinies are those of Siamese twins, or close to it. Daniel Hamilton, Director of Johns Hopkins' Center for Transatlantic Studies, told Newsweek that our de facto cross-oceanic union "is by a wide margin the deepest and broadest between any two continents in history." (That's a mouthful, especially from a professor!)
Sixty percent of U.S. foreign investment, Newsweek also reports, goes to Europe—and even our investment in the smaller European nations such as Belgium and Ireland is more than our investment in China or India. In turn, or return, fully two-thirds of European foreign investment is in the U.S.A. In one of those "cute factoids," Newsweek informs us that Europe's investment in Georgia, Indiana, and Texas is greater than U.S. investment in China and Japan combined.
So spits and spats aside, "we" are in it, and in it deep, together; and our destinies for years to come are unimaginably intertwined. And, as to the rise of China and India and the turmoil in the Middle East, well, it may well create chaos—but the EU-US colossus dwarfs any other combination and will for a long time to come.
(And add in, as I think one should, our deep partnership with Japan ... and think US-EU-Japan ... and the idea and dimensions of "colossus" stagger the imagination, a billion-and-a-quarter Chinese notwithstanding.)
We have a lot to do. But "they," and especially "we two," have come a long, long peaceful and prosperous way, baby. Yes, it does stagger the imagination—especially if you were born in Baltimore in November 1942 on the day, I believe, General Eisenhower landed, along with his raw farmboys, in North Africa while Europe lay in tatters for the second time in 25 years.
(I got to Lisbon in the late afternoon, and I was determined to get my own pic of the EU flag for this Post; I did, but thanks to lousy light, it isn't very good—but it's mine, and thence gen-u-ine, relative to this Blog.)
What we're talking about on the front page.
Before blogging became all the rage, Tom was posting book reviews and Observations (essentially early blog posts) to this site. You can find the archives below.
What we're talking about
on the front page.