Life And Career Advice

Jonah Goldberg has some life advice in his weekly newsletter.  We concur but would like to use it to discuss your career.  Jonah said:

So, as I prepare to enjoy a vacation weekend away from politics, here’s some advice: Don’t invest that much of your soul in politics. In fact, don’t invest your whole soul in anything.

Folks that invest their whole soul in something make for interesting entertainment but the reason is that their lives are a mess.  You make choices to give some of your soul to, among other things, your spouse, children, vocation, and avocations.  These percentages usually vary widely over your life.

Let’s use an accounting example with a sports comparison.  Going to work for one of the Big Four accounting firms is like being a Division I athlete.  It is not exactly the same but in both cases you give much and, if that is what you want, you get much.  Even within these areas there is wide variation.  You could be Dan Gable.  He would be an example of somebody who gave much more of his soul than the program asked and they ask for lots.

Part of this discussion must be about the nature of your soul.  Is size of the soul pie fixed or can it be expanded?  The plays we have seen in the last couple of weeks are The Grinch and Christmas Carol and we agree with those shows that as the former says explicitly your heart can grow three sizes.

Because your soul is large it is important to give parts of it to lots of folks and places. Work, even part-time work, family, school, handball (and all sorts of avocations) , all can be better as you become more involved in them and keep you from being obsessed with one thing. When the interviewer asks what your passion is you should have several of them.  Don’t give all of your soul to politics, work, family, or even handball but do give your soul to several of them.


Norwegian Wood

Earlier this week we were traveling with the Lady de Gloves and we heard Norwegian Wood by the Beatles.  It ends:

And when I awoke I was alone
This bird had flown
So I lit a fire
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?

We have been listening to the Beatles station on Sirius XM and we concluded that John has an issue with women.

Sidebar: Yes we know it is the anniversary of John’s death. He and the Beatles are great despite this.  His relationship with women struck a cord with folks but it was a little weird.  Folks are at least a little weird.  End Sidebar.

We concluded that the fire burnt the house down as an act of revenge.  The Lady disagreed.  Today on Sirius Chis Carter said it was about burning the house but we didn’t catch the cite.  Fortunately, Al Gore’s invention brought us this:

The meaning of this song is explained. It is credited to Lennon/McCartney although it seems Lennon wrote most lyrics.

“I came in and he had this first stanza, which was brilliant: ‘I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.’ That was all he had, no title, no nothing. I said, ‘Oh yes, well, ha, we’re there.’ And it wrote itself. Once you’ve got the great idea, they do tend to write themselves, providing you know how to write songs. So I picked it up at the second verse, it’s a story. It’s him trying to pull a bird, it was about an affair. John told Playboy that he hadn’t the faintest idea where the title came from but I do. Peter Asher had his room done out in wood, a lot of people were decorating their places in wood. Norwegian wood. It was pine really, cheap pine. But it’s not as good a title, Cheap Pine, baby…
So she makes him sleep in the bath and then finally in the last verse I had this idea to set the Norwegian wood on fire as revenge, so we did it very tongue in cheek. She led him on, then said, ‘You’d better sleep in the bath’. In our world the guy had to have some sort of revenge. It could have meant I lit a fire to keep myself warm, and wasn’t the decor of her house wonderful? But it didn’t, it meant I burned the fucking place down as an act of revenge, and then we left it there and went into the instrumental.”
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles [Emphasis added]

Yup, John and the Beatles had an interesting relationship with women.  And we got both the lyrics and their meaning right for once.  It is time for a happy dance!

Yea Democrats, Boo Press

Al Franken is resigning under pressure from Democrats. The AP says:

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken’s departure from the Senate solves one problem for Democrats, demonstrating their will to push out one of their own when sexual harassment allegations pile up.

Good for the Democrats!  Neither party has covered itself in glory over policing its own but it has been a particular problem for the Democrats since Harry Truman left.  On the other hand, the press wants him to leave as the lion of the Senate.

Sidebar: Yes this is our less subtle dig at the Democrats as Ted Kennedy is often given that mantle.  Teddy is the one who left Mary Jo Kopechne to die, invented Borking, and had problems with females.  He is evidence of the difficulty that Democrats have in policing their own. End Sidebar.

He is a 66 year-old celebrity back bencher who is the poster boy for ballot integrity.  Yet one AP report we couldn’t find online called him a rising star.  Perhaps it was a subtle dig at the Democrats age problem.  Another AP report said:

Franken, 66, had gained respect as a serious lawmaker in recent years and had even been mentioned in talk about the 2020 presidential race.

We had not mentioned Al so don’t blame us.  We expect Cory or Kamala.  Perhaps there is hope for the Democrats but until the press comes around it seems unlikely.

Premiership Roars

We don’t know which the best team in Europe for 2017-18 is yet but we do know where the best league is: England.  There is a weighting issue but we think the decision can be made now.

Sidebar: The weighting issue is how you weight the group stage versus the knockout stage of the Champion’s League (CL).  An imprecise analogy is the NCAA basketball playoffs.  If your bracket has every game but the last one right you will probably lose because most of the games weight the final game heavily (see here).  The CL competition is different from the NCAA because the group stage involves four teams playing six games home and home versus common competition.  Still if you weight the championship highly enough then the story isn’t over.

We think the story is over because of all the data.  Seven countries qualified multiple teams with England (and Wales if you want to be precise) leading with five and Spain second with four.  There are eight groups of four with the top two in each group qualifying for the next stage.  Since none of the countries with two or three qualifiers sent all of them to the next stage we can limit our discussion to England and Spain. England had four group winners and one second.  Spain had one group winner, two seconds, and one third (not qualifying for the next round).  Advantage England.  What happened in groups with English and Spanish teams?  Three groups had Spanish and English teams.  It all three cases the English team finished ahead of the Spanish team including the Spanish elimination.

Was the English group domination happened because the strongest English teams met the weakest Spanish teams?  Liverpool (currently fourth in England) beat Sevilla currently fifth in Spain).  Chelsea (third in England) beat Athletico Madrid (third in Spain).  Tottenham (sixth in England) beat Real Madrid (fourth in Spain but the defending CL champion).  In short, the England-Spain competitions seemed reasonably fair if not favoring Spain.

We think it is more likely that a Spanish team will lift the CL trophy but the best league should be heavily weighted on the large number of observations in the group stage.  Spanish teams would have to dominate the knockout stages for us to reconsider the 2017-18 league ranking.

Understanding Jonah

We almost skipped Jonah Goldberg’s Newsletter because the title was “Don’t Choose The Lesser Of Two Evils.”  A simpler title would be don’t vote.  Voting is almost always a matter of voting for the lesser evil.  In Wisconsin we have had the opportunity (twice!) to vote for Ron Johnson against Russ Feingold and have the special joy of Ron winning both times.  That and Reagan in ’84 sums up the votes of almost 50 years that were not the lesser of two evils.  We suspect that our total of three is higher than average.  For example, if you are a conservative and live in NY and weren’t old enough to vote for James Buckley in 1970, there haven’t been many opportunities since then.

Sidebar: The Donald didn’t make our list.  We have said before that he was a dominant choice over Herself meaning that he was at least as good everywhere as her.  The problem is that they both have hideous character problems and are both anti-trade.  A dominant choice can still be the lesser evil.  End Sidebar.

Jonah’s newsletter confirmed our opinion and helped us to understand our differences.  Here is his argument against the obvious:

Tully Borland, a philosophy professor (!), writes, “Never voting for a lesser evil means never voting.” This is morally poisonous sophistry and casuistry.

Tully is overstating the case but just barely.  Jonah is, well, wrong.  It is not morally poisonous.  It is not sophistry (subtly deceptive).  It is not casuistry (specious [having deceptive allure] argument).  It is exactly the relevant argument.  We don’t know why Jonah thinks de Tocqueville would call something that is true a clear but false idea.  We are willing to accept that Doug Jones might be a better choice than Roy Moore but Jonah needs to tell us why.

Later he tells us we never recovered from declining moral consensus of the 60s and Bill Clinton.   He is exactly right when he says:

That moral consensus, for good and ill, started to break down in the 1960s. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton shattered it among liberal elites, who scrambled to find reasons to celebrate the president’s European sophistication as evidenced by his willingness to diddle the interns.

Yup, although there was consensus it was harder to get caught so we have only heard about all sorts of behavior, like JFK’s, that would have outraged the moral consensus then but wasn’t available on a timely basis.  Jonah concludes:

What we need — again — are universal standards of moral conduct.

We couldn’t agree more.  It isn’t gonna happen because it is difficult and there needs to be exceptions.  In regards to sexual harassment we think zero tolerance, any accusation is disqualifying, is a terrible idea.  Although it might be possible to create a grading rubric for sexual harassment it is quite a challenge.  Somebody at Powerline tried to start one, mostly in jest if we remember.

Folks in Alabama need to decide how to vote in the Senate race.  We don’t do this full-time so we don’t have an opinion on who is the lesser evil.  We will find out what Alabama thinks.  The Senate has passed the GOP tax bill but Congress critters need to agree on the conference bill that can be passed by both houses.  Here we are strongly in favor of the tax bill because it is a great deal less evil than the existing code.  Binary choices are often hard.  It is why, in general, we like governors for President.  Philosophy informs but rarely answers practical problems.

Sexual Harassment

We saw a comment in the WSJ that we need to address.  We have avoiding the topic because it is too complex.  The function goes something like this: Our Anger (OA) = f(number of offenses, type of offenses, dates of offenses, credibility of complaints, power relationships, R or D, private sector or public sector, etc).  We find it too confusing to get involved because we don’t know any of the values of the parameters.  Sometimes we don’t even know the sign.

But when the WSJ said this:

The status quo ante on serious sexual harassment—which is to say, a lot of men got away with it—is over. The new status quo is that it will not be tolerated.

Based on the evidence to date it might be true in the private sector where there have been many firings but it doesn’t seem to be true in the public sector.  Of course, we can argue about the modifier serious but it seems that Al, Tom, and Roy were all involved in serious stuff to us although it would depend on how you judge OA.  Two of them are still office holders and the other is still a candidate.  Unless all three are dismissed shortly we would conclude that the status quo ante has not changed.

Reviving Basket Cases

Mugabe is out in Zimbabwe.  It is not the worst economic and political basket case in the world but there is a great opportunity for its citizens and the world to improve.  Zimbabwe actually moved up in the last year or two as Heritage moved them up to a score of 44 (of 100) that lifts them into the repressive category.  Freedom House kindly puts them into the Partially Free category with a score of 32 of 100.  We have seen this description of the problems of newly found freedom for Zimbabwe in several places.  Here it comes from Neo-neocon:

“In the past we could never criticize the president,” said Felex Share, a political reporter, in the hours before Mugabe’s resignation. “Right now, we can touch anything.”

How will Zimbabwe deal with its opportunity?  What will the world do?  A better question is: What can the world do?  Answer: It can’t do much compared to Zimbabwe because only they can change the culture of corruption and so on that is causing the problem.

It is hard to change as the quote says and Douglas North described more generally.  Cambodia is in the news and we use it as an example.  It was hell on earth during the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 70s.  It is better now but it still only scores 59.5 from Heritage which is still just in the mostly unfree category while Freedom House scores them at 31 and categorizes them as unfree.  Much of Eastern Europe did much better after the fall of Communism but they were not in the Cambodia/Zimbabwe category before freedom returned and they had a capitalistic past to return to.  They also had freedom next door (or reunification for East and West Germany) and that helped too.

We hope that Zimbabwe propers.  We know that some critical elements like rule of law and the basic elements of capitalism are necessary for improvement but the citizens of Zimbabwe need to choose the path themselves because that is the only way to get them to follow it.  We hope you choose capitalism and hope the world makes it easy to do so.

We hope there will be opportunities to remediate additional basket cases like (but not limited to) Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea in the near future.  Perhaps we can learn something in Zimbabwe that will help us and them.