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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "How to Get a Job at Google, Part 2": Why You Wouldn't Want a Job at Google, Part 2

Yes, I know you're only 20 years old, but what do you want out of life? A job that's a way station, or are you already hungry for more?

In a prior New York Times op-ed entitled "How to Get a Job at Google" (, Thomas Friedman sought to provide advice for youngsters considering college and careers. After describing a meeting with Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president responsible for hiring at Google, Friedman concluded:

"Google attracts so much talent it can afford to look beyond traditional metrics, like G.P.A. For most young people, though, going to college and doing well is still the best way to master the tools needed for many careers. But Bock is saying something important to them, too: Beware. Your degree is not a proxy for your ability to do any job. The world only cares about — and pays off on — what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it). And in an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, it also cares about a lot of soft skills — leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn. This will be true no matter where you go to work."

In response to Friedman's opinion piece (see:, I agreed with Mr. Bock that "people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world . . . are exceptional human beings." I also observed that my years in college and law school were a waste of time, which did not teach me anything of value.

Today, in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "How to Get a Job at Google, Part 2" (, Friedman tells us that he went back to Mr. Bock in search of more advice for job hunters. Friedman concludes this opinion piece by asking him "What’s your best advice for job interviews?" Mr. Bock's response:

“What you want to do is say: ‘Here’s the attribute I’m going to demonstrate; here’s the story demonstrating it; here’s how that story demonstrated that attribute.’ ” And here is how it can create value. “Most people in an interview don’t make explicit their thought process behind how or why they did something and, even if they are able to come up with a compelling story, they are unable to explain their thought process.”

However, if you're in fact a hotshot, i.e. the best of the best of the best, are you truly interested in online searches, data storage and advertising? Sure, the salary and perks are fabulous, and maybe Google is a great way station, but there's so much more you can do with your talent.

Yes, I know: I'm a fine one to talk. I wasted years with a financial institution, until discovering the courage to leave and take my chances. I urge you to reread the final stanza of Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken":

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Perhaps I was not ready to go it on my own until after I turned 50. Fortunately, however, roads can diverge in a wood more than once in a lifetime.

Maureen Dowd, "Still Getting Wolf Whistles at 50": In Love With a Mustang? I Prefer Dogs!

Sometimes you get lucky. In 1981, when reversing my 1970 Mercury Cougar (a Mustang knock-off) out of a driveway, I hit the brakes, and my foot went down to the floor without resistance. A tree prevented me from rolling into a gully, but I knew it was time to say goodbye, notwithstanding its 351 Cleveland V-8 Engine and sequential tail lights and all the personal history that went with the car.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Still Getting Wolf Whistles at 50" (, Maureen Dowd tells of her ’65 Mustang convertible:

"IT’S weird to be jealous of your car.

But I am.

Men look at my car with such naked lust, their eyes devouring the curves and chrome, that I often feel as though I’m intruding on an intimate moment. Women like it, too. They sometimes grin and give it a thumbs up as it growls by, and one girlfriend fondly refers to it as 'the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Goddess car.'"

Naked lust for a car? Not me. I prefer dogs.

But as I swiftly approach my 60th and my eyebrows turn white, wouldn't it be nice, just once more, to feel the foolish power and freedom afforded by youth?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Gail Collins, "And the Race Is Off": Revisiting "The Wizard of Oz"

Dorothy Gale: How do you talk if you don't have a brain?

Scarecrow: Well, some people without brains do an awful lot of talking don't they?

- "Wizard of Oz" (1939)

Just how daft is Gail Collins?

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "And the Race Is Off" (, Gail Collins wonders how much "fun" (her word) it would have been if Kathleen Sebelius has decided to run for senator in Kansas. The rationale underlying her opinion is that incumbent Senator Pat Roberts's "voting address is actually a house on a country club golf course that belongs to two longtime supporters" and that Roberts has joked that he has "full access to the recliner."

This is almost as funny as how Hillary Clinton established residency in order to run for the Senate from New York (see:

But most remarkable is Collins's declaration (my emphasis in red):

"But about Kathleen Sebelius. Running a hopeless race for the Senate would be better than, say, spending the next year working on a memoir entitled 'It Wasn’t Really My Fault.' And we have to keep stressing that, despite its awful start, the Affordable Care Act is working out fine."

Excuse me but who the hell is this "we"?

Obamacare is "working out fine"? Oh really? Have a look at Michael Gerson's recent Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Obamacare has spawned a misguided debate" ( Gerson writes:

"[N]ever mind that the actual goal was not 7 million exchange sign-ups; it was health insurance enrollments, which are likely to be significantly fewer. And never mind that the number of the previously uninsured seems a remarkably small portion of these sign-ups — well under half. (Health wonk Bob Laszewski estimates that only about 27 percent of Americans eligible for Obamacare subsidies have enrolled in the system.) And never mind that, even including the Medicaid expansion, the most optimistic estimates of reductions in the number of the uninsured are much less than what the Congressional Budget Office projected before the rollout began. And never mind that all these decreases in the uninsured seem small in comparison to the amount of money spent, displacement caused and political capital expended.

And never mind that the proportion of younger and healthier enrollees to those with preexisting conditions is still being determined and that many analysts expect double-digit insurance premium increases in many state exchanges (particularly those with limited insurance competition). And never mind that health-care cost inflation has suddenly spiked to a 10-year high."

You want some "fun"? Have a gander at the following video featuring Dr. Barbara Bellar:

But the real "fun" has yet to come. As observed by Jonathan Tobin in a Commentary opinion piece entitled "Obama’s Boasts Won’t End OCare Debate" (

"But the assumption that the government’s successful efforts to pressure or persuade several million people to sign up for ObamaCare means that it is 'working' is completely unwarranted. It’s not just that the figures put forward by the administration are unreliable for a number of reasons. Even if we assumed that there really were eight million ObamaCare policyholders, the real test of this law’s viability and its ability to endure has yet to come. Not until we see just how many of those signed up are young and healthy enough to help pay for the vast number of sick and elderly covered by it will we know if it can pay for itself. And it won’t be until next year when the employer mandate and many other more painful provisions of the law are finally implemented that it will be clear whether the entire scheme can survive and how much damage it will inflict on the economy.

. . . .

Moreover, it won’t be until next year when the politically motivated delays of the implementation of many of the law’s mandates and provisions are put in place that we will know just how serious that damage will be. Nor will we know until then just how massive the cost increases for insurance will be though even the president acknowledged they will go up. With most of the young and healthy uninsured not signing up, rates will skyrocket as companies are forced to pass on the costs of covering those with pre-existing conditions. The president’s claims that the rate of increases are going down won’t convince many who will be paying more in the coming years that the president’s boasts are justified."

Although I favor universal health care, the writing is on the wall: You can't keep your health care plan, you can't keep your doctor, and Obamacare is going to send US national debt spiraling.

And perhaps sometime in 2015, a bewildered Gail Collins will finally acknowledge, as did Dorothy Gale in "The Wizard of Oz" (my emphasis in red):

"I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."

Thursday, April 17, 2014

David Brooks, "When the Circus Descends": Should Common Courtesy Be Part of the Common Core?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "When the Circus Descends" (, David Brooks discusses opposition from both the right and the left to Common Core education standards. Brooks writes:

"On the right, the market-share-obsessed talk-radio crowd claims that the Common Core standards represent a federal takeover of the schools. This is clearly false. This was a state-led effort, and localities preserve their control over what exactly is taught and how it is taught. Glenn Beck claims that Common Core represents 'leftist indoctrination' of the young. On Fox, Elisabeth Hasselbeck cited a curriculum item that supposedly taught students that Abraham Lincoln’s religion was 'liberal.' But, as the education analyst Michael J. Petrilli quickly demonstrated, this was some locally generated curriculum that was one of hundreds on a lesson-sharing website and it was promulgated a year before the Common Core standards even existed.

As it’s being attacked by the talk-radio right, the Common Core is being attacked by the interest group left. The general critique from progressives, and increasingly from teachers’ unions, is that the standards are too difficult, that implementation is shambolic and teachers are being forced into some top-down straitjacket that they detest.

It is true that the new standards are more rigorous than the old, and that in some cases students have to perform certain math skills a year earlier than they formerly had to learn them. But that is a feature, not a bug. The point is to get students competitive with their international peers."

Right? Left? Kind of meaningless to me, today.

I am the product of the University of Chicago's required "Common Core" studies, and I recently cleaned the dust off a copy of Thucydides's "The Peloponnesian War," which has accompanied me throughout the years and served as a poignant reminder of my college days. Will I ever return to it? That's the plan, but I also want to teach myself to play the piano sometime before I die. We'll see which, if either, comes first.

Common Core? How about teaching common courtesy? It might be of more value to young people and society in the years to come.

Concern over American students losing ground to international peers? In a December 2013 Telegraph article entitled "OECD education report: Korea’s school system a pressure cooker for children" (, Andrew Salmon wrote from Seoul:

"It has been praised by President Barack Obama and delivered top-five results for South Korea in global literacy and numeracy tests, but among Koreans themselves, the education system is so controversial that hundreds of thousands become educational emigrants.

The regimented by-the-book teaching system leaves nothing to chance.

. . . .

But intense focus on exam scores creates an irony: knowledge is often eschewed in favor of test preparation.

. . . .

Scholastic pressures are so great that suicide is the number-one killer of South Koreans under 40 (compared to traffic accidents in other developed nations), while educational cost burdens are so colossal, they are cited as a factor in the declining national birth rate."

Emulate the South Korean education system? Thanks, but no thanks, even it means a mid-level managerial position at Samsung, LG, Hyundai or Daewoo. I still vote for common courtesy . . . and lower suicide rates.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Maureen Dowd, "Game of Drones": Will Charlotte Leave Maverick for Another Woman?

"Top Gun 2"? Is that where we have arrived? Maybe the film should begin with rumors concerning Maverick's latent homosexuality after the failure of his marriage to Charlotte (call sign "Charlie"), who leaves him for another woman.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Game of Drones" (, Maureen Dowd broaches the possibility of a "Top Gun" sequel, then segues into talk about Google, Amazon, Facebook and drones. Dowd concludes:

"Even before one falls from the sky and kills somebody or crashes into a building, the tech drones will mean, as [Jim] Gleick says, 'we’re living in a dystopian novel, with a continuous eye in the sky on everything that happens down below.'

He muses: 'Are Google’s drones going to be watching while Amazon’s drones deliver my packages? How will we distinguish the drones with cameras from the drones with cameras and guns? How long before the N.R.A. insists on the rights of drones to bear arms? The Constitution says people have a right to bear arms. And the Supreme Court says that corporations are people. Do the math.'

Forget 'Top Gun 2.' This sounds more like 'Risky Business.'"

Sorry, but I'm not living a novel or a movie for that matter. Drones? What sticks in my mind is a line from the 2006 remake of "Casino Royale":

Thomas Friedman, "Not the Same Old, Same Old": When Things Went "Poof,"or Explaining Away Kerry's "Flotz"

What's a "flotz"? We'll get to that in a moment.

Yesterday, I mentioned that my son is getting married (see: My future daughter-in-law? A lovely young woman, whose mother is her father's second wife. "His second wife?" you ask. "What happened to the first wife? Did her father divorce her?" No, he didn't divorce her. In fact, more than 30 thirty years ago, Palestinian terrorists crossed the border into Israel, entered his home while he was away, and murdered his first wife and several of their children. (My future daughter-in-law has a charming sister from the first marriage, who survived because the rifle of one of the terrorists jammed.) Palestinian "terrorists"? Yes, terrorists. Of the murdering kind that Israel was expected to release in order to keep Kerry's hopes for a Nobel Peace Prize alive.

Today, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Not the Same Old, Same Old" (, Thomas Friedman not surprisingly takes its upon himself to explain away US Secretary of State John Kerry's delusional effort to bring about a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. Friedman writes:

"Israel, from its side, has become a more religious society — on Friday nights in Jerusalem now you barely see a car moving on the streets in Jewish neighborhoods, which only used to be the case on Yom Kippur — and the settlers are clearly more brazen. Many West Bank settlers are respectful of the state, but there is now a growing core who are armed zealots, who will fight the I.D.F. if it tries to remove them. You did not go to summer camp with these Jews. You did not meet them at your local Reform synagogue. This is a hard core."

Of course, this is pure nonsense. When Israel unilaterally evacuated Gaza in 2005, there was violent opposition from the settlers. There was also opposition when Israel evacuated the settlement of Yamit in 1982 in order to achieve peace with Egypt. "Hard core" opposition in 2014? No, the settlers in both instances didn't go to summer camp with Tom, and they also were not members of reform synagogues. In addition, they probably also would not have voted for Obama in 2008, given his 20-year association with an anti-Semitic spiritual mentor. But "hard core"? Please spare the theatrics!

Friedman goes on to write:

"And it is not an accident that Israel’s housing minister, Uri Ariel, who comes from a pro-settler party to the right of the Likud, approved a tender for 700 homes in Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood, across the Green Line — just as Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace talks were coming to a head."

Some 700 new homes in Gilo caused the collapse of Kerry's folly? Oh really? As Jonathan Tobin recently wrote in a Commentary opinion piece entitled "Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame" (

"Kerry knows very well that the negotiations were doomed once the Palestinians refused to sign on to the framework for future talks he suggested even though it centered them on the 1967 lines that they demand as the basis for borders. Why? Because Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas wouldn’t say the two little words —'Jewish state'—that would make it clear he intended to end the conflict. Since the talks began last year after Abbas insisted on the release of terrorist murderers in order to get them back to the table, the Palestinians haven’t budged an inch on a single issue.

Thus, to blame the collapse on the decision to build apartments in Gilo—a 40-year-old Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem that would not change hands even in the event a peace treaty were ever signed and where Israel has never promised to stop building—is, to put it mildly, a mendacious effort to shift blame away from the side that seized the first pretext to flee talks onto the one that has made concessions in order to get the Palestinians to sit at the table."

Friedman concludes:

"Kerry, in my view, is doing the Lord’s work. But the weight of time and all the changes it has wrought on the ground may just be too heavy for such an act of friendship. If he folds his tent, though, Israelis and Palestinians will deeply regret it, and soon."

Of course, this is pure idiocy. Palestinian Authority President Abbas declared to Jackson Diehl in 2009 (

"'I will wait for Hamas to accept international commitments. I will wait for Israel to freeze settlements,' he said. 'Until then, in the West Bank we have a good reality . . . the people are living a normal life.'"

In fact, nothing has changed for Abbas over the past five years, and this logic, premised upon survival, still guides Abbas, now in the tenth year of his four-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority. Or stated otherwise, Abbas is not ready for peace.

Should Israel release additional Palestinian prisoners, i.e. murderers, to ensure that Abbas remains at the negotiating table, notwithstanding the fact that he is unwilling to sign off on a peace agreement? No way. Even if you went to summer camp with Friedman, you wouldn't want such killers roaming freely around your neighborhood.

Which brings us to the meaning of "flotz," as it pertains to things going "poof" for poor John Kerry. "Flotz" is Hebrew for fart, and I am confident that you now know more Hebrew and more about the Middle East than Tom Friedman.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Frank Bruni, "The Oldest Hatred, Forever Young": Have a Look at Your Own Newspaper!

In response to the shootings in Kansas at a Jewish community center and a Jewish retirement home over the weekend, Frank Bruni writes in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Oldest Hatred, Forever Young" (

"Our country has come so far from the anti-Semitism of decades ago that we tend to overlook the anti-Semitism that endures. We’ve moved on to fresher discussions, newer fears.

Following 9/11, there was enormous concern that all Muslims would be stereotyped and scapegoated, and this heightened sensitivity lingers. It partly explains what just happened at Brandeis University. The school had invited Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a celebrated advocate for Muslim women, to receive an honorary degree. But when some professors and students complained, citing statements of hers that seemed broadly derisive of Islam, the invitation was withdrawn. Clearly, university officials didn’t want their campus seen as a cradle or theater of Islamophobia.

But other college campuses in recent years have been theaters of anti-Israel discussions that occasionally veer toward, or bleed into, condemnations of Jews. And while we don’t have the anti-Semitism in our politics that some European countries do, there’s still bigotry under the surface. There are still caricatures that won’t die."

I am deeply appreciative of Bruni's honesty, but shouldn't he also be looking at The New York Times?

Read what Jonathan Tobin of Commentary has just written in an opinion piece entitled "Why Smear Israel and Whitewash Iran?" (

"But those determined to push the dubious theory that the election of Hassan Rouhani in Iran’s faux presidential election last year indicates a shift to moderation are undaunted. The New York Times has been a notable advocate for this position on both its editorial and news pages, but it surpassed itself today with the publication of a remarkable piece by two scholars alleging that not only is the Islamist regime changing but that Iran and Israel are like two ships passing in the night as the Jewish state becomes an extremist theocracy. That its thesis is an absurd libel of Israel and a whitewash of Iran is so obvious it is barely worth the effort to refute it. In short, Israel is a pluralist democracy where the rule of law prevails despite the ongoing war being waged against its existence by most of the Arab and Muslim world. Iran is a theocratic tyranny where free expression and freedom of religion are forbidden and women, gays, and minorities are brutally oppressed. Iran is also the world’s leading state sponsor of terror and its foreign policy is aimed at propping up one of the world’s worst tyrants in Syria’s Bashar Assad as well as Hezbollah and other terrorists seeking to destabilize the Middle East.

So while the argument that the Times featured today is so risible as to merit satire rather than a lengthy response, it is worth asking why the newspaper gives space to such laughable arguments."

Worth asking? Absolutely! And I have an answer. Compare Israel with a country that stones to death women for alleged adultery, hangs homosexuals and executes poets for enmity to God? Insane, but the publication of such garbage on the eve of Passover is in keeping with this newspaper's persistent need to smear the Jewish state and an unremitting tolerance of anti-Semitic declarations from two of its op-ed writers (see, for example:, and

Anti-Semitism in America? Bruni need look no further than his own newspaper.

The response to the tragedy in Kansas of President Obama, whose spiritual leader for 20 years was the anti-Semitic pastor, Jeremiah Wright:

"While we do not know all of the details surrounding today’s shooting, the initial reports are heartbreaking. I want to offer my condolences to all the families trying to make sense of this difficult situation and pledge the full support from the federal government as we heal and cope during this trying time."

Mr. President, we never know all of the details, but the shooting plainly involved anti-Semitism, and your less than forthright response is inadequate.