Thomas Sowell offers a column he dubs ,“Random Thoughts”, where he offers up short paragraphs on wide-ranging topics. I suspect that unlike most people’s random thoughts, his really probe matters of great import and offer keen insights into current happenings. Here are a few gold nuggets from his latest musings:
“Anyone who wants to read one book that will help explain the international crises of our time should read “The Gathering Storm” by Winston Churchill. It is not about the Middle East or even about today. It is about the fatuous and irresponsible foreign policies of the 1930s that led to the most catastrophic war in human history. But you can recognize the same fecklessness today.”
“It is fascinating to see academics full of indignation over the “exploitation” of low-wage workers by multinational corporations in Third World countries, when it is common on their own academic campuses to have young men get paid nothing at all for risking their health, and sometimes their lives, playing football that brings in millions of dollars to the college and often gets coaches paid higher salaries than the president of the college or university.”
“Once, when I was teaching at an institution that bent over backward for foreign students, I was asked in class one day: “What is your policy toward foreign students?” My reply was: “To me, all students are the same. I treat them all the same and hold them all to the same standards.” The next semester there was an organized boycott of my classes by foreign students. When people get used to preferential treatment, equal treatment seems like discrimination.”
Moving on, I purchased a 20 page little pamphlet, “How To Analyze Information: A Step-by-Step Guide To Life’s Most Vital Skill”, by Herbert E. Meyer on Amazon.com this morning. His advice, although seeming like common sense, laid down the simple steps to take to find the hidden needles, in the fields upon fields of haystacks in our information-filled, high-tech world. The punditry and political classes in America should heed his advice What a pleasant surprise this short read turned out to be and I highlighted something in just about every paragraph. For only $1.99, well, I certainly got my money’s worth this time, so here’s his recipe (psst, he uses several food analogies):
“Until you know “where you are” you cannot make good use of the available information. That’s because you cannot know what specific information you’ll need next, or what the information you’ll be looking at when you get it will mean. So take the time to figure out “where you are” – literally or metaphorically — before moving on to the next step.” (Meyer, Herbert E. (2010-10-10). How to Analyze Information: A Step-by-Step Guide to Life’s Most Vital Skill (Kindle Locations 67-70). Storm King Press. Kindle Edition)
“The key to seeing information clearly is to make certain there isn’t a prism between you and whatever you are looking at. You may not know whether the population of San Francisco is 500,000 or one million – it’s about 740,000 – but you ought to know it’s a big city. You shouldn’t think your best friend is a saint if he’s a crook, and you don’t need to be an expert in world economics who can reel off India’s current economic growth rate – it’s about 9 percent – to know that the image of India as a hopelessly backward sub-continent is long since outdated. And if you’re dealing with political issues, never let yourself be blinded by ideology.” (Meyer, Herbert E. (2010-10-10). How to Analyze Information: A Step-by-Step Guide to Life’s Most Vital Skill (Kindle Locations 97-99). Storm King Press. Kindle Edition)
“My seventh-grade history teacher in New York, Mrs. Naomi Jacobs, never let a day go by without hammering into our heads a sentence that is so insightful it ought to be painted onto the walls of every classroom and office in the world: “The question is more important than the answer.” She was right; it is. If you don’t ask the right question, you cannot possibly get the right answer.” (Meyer, Herbert E. (2010-10-10). How to Analyze Information: A Step-by-Step Guide to Life’s Most Vital Skill (Kindle Locations 107-110). Storm King Press. Kindle Edition)
Not to quit there, he states, “By studying the information you’ve collected until you have determined the facts and seen the patterns it contains, you have turned raw material into a finished product. You have turned information into knowledge.” (Meyer, Herbert E. (2010-10-10). How to Analyze Information: A Step-by-Step Guide to Life’s Most Vital Skill (Kindle Locations 228-230). Storm King Press. Kindle Edition.). Mr. Meyer offers sage advice as to why our official intelligence full course meal often falls short:
“Judgment is the sum total of who we are – the combined product of our character, our personality, our instincts and our knowledge. Because judgment involves more than knowledge, it isn’t the same thing as education. You cannot learn judgment by taking a course, or by reading a book. This is why some of the most highly educated people in the world have terrible judgment, and why some people who dropped out of school at the age of sixteen have superb judgment.”
(Meyer, Herbert E. (2010-10-10). How to Analyze Information: A Step-by-Step Guide to Life’s Most Vital Skill (Kindle Locations 232-236). Storm King Press. Kindle Edition.)
He ends by talking about a fascinating dinnertime conversation with Dr. Jonas Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine, where they discussed Darwin. To find out the brilliant insights Dr. Salk offered after a few moments of thought, you’ll need to read the book, trust me, that insight alone is worth way more than $1.99 (once again, it’s available here).
A week late, but here’s a link to a Politico story, “Why Does America Send So Many Stupid, Unqualified Hacks Overseas?”, written by James Bruno, a career Foreign Service officer, about the embarrassing testimony from some new ambassador appointees that President Obama selected – political cronyism, *sigh*. Alas, Mr. Bruno, none of these latest less than stellar appointees will likely provide nearly as many gaffes as the current Secretary of State, the Vice President, or even this President.
These latest clowns join this three-ring circus late in the performance and much of the world has already learned to bypass America as much as possible. Even our allies openly diss us: “Merkel, Hollande to discuss European communication network avoiding US”. It must be noted that President Hollande just visited America and President Obama hailed France as our oldest ally (official posting of their respective remarks from the White House). So far, President Obama has presided over some the of the most damaging national security leaks, failures, and a complete muddling of foreign policy. Let’s see if President Obama accepts Hollande’s invitation to attend the 70 year D-Day anniversary commemoration, June 6, 2014, as befitting the President of the United States of America. His track record for showing due respect for WWII allies is dismal, so I wonder if he will make the effort to attend.
This post started with Winston Churchill and it will end there too, remember President Obama’s return of the Churchill bust and the ensuing Obama administration protestations that the bust hadn’t been returned to the British ambassador, whilst the British stated the bust was now residing in their ambassador’s residence? Maybe, President Obama will even take the time to read up on the Churchill’s WWII contributions (The Churchill Centre site) and when it comes to speeches, sorry, Mr. President, Winston Churchill far, far surpasses you (another great Churchill site, The Churchill Society here):
But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of pervert science. let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will say,
‘This was their Finest Hour’