Posts Tagged ‘Crocker National Bank’

The human national treasures we do not value enough

When Tim Russert died unexpectedly, I was moved to name others who I feel are living human national treasures whom we do not appreciate enough.

These are talented, diligent men and women who are successful enough that we have heard of them. But they stand above other prominent people for their character. They seek position and ratings and raises, but not at the cost of doing what’s right. Their highest priority is doing what’s right, not what gives them status or money or fame. They comply with the ideal set forth in the Frank Sinatra song My Way.

They are also like John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage heroes only without the one big, famous, dramatic conflict. But we have to know that these people on my list below have fought a million little, behind-the-scenes battles to maintain their integrity as they have lived their lives. They tell people what they need to know, not what they want to hear. They also remind us of Henry Clay’s statement, “I’d rather be right than be president.” That is, they have a vision of how they want to live their lives and they will not compromise it for any of the enticements that tempt others to live their lives so as to win the approval of others. People who do this are extremely rare.

Scott Adams, Dilbert cartoonist, lives a couple of towns away from me; we each were recruited to our first post-civilian-university jobs by Crocker National Bank in San Francisco; I left Crocker the year before he arrived; his cartoons are based on his experiences at Crocker and at PacBell where he subsequently worked, as well as on ideas from readers
Glenn Beck, radio and Fox news TV host, libertarian who is more than any of his competitors a teacher of facts and logic pertinent to the major policy issues of the day. As with Limbaugh, he is dismissed by the polite-company crowd because of his clowning around. When asked about that, he made some answer along the lines that he regretted the loss of the serious people but that he would rather that than to have Charlie Rose’s audience size. The best teachers and professors also use dramatization and clowning effectively. If Beck and Rose viewers were quizzed on the issues of the day, Beck’s viewers would outscore Rose’s by a large margin because of his persistent teaching. PBS was originally called “educational TV.” The Glenn Beck show is educational TV. PBS, on the other hand, has been running Rich Dad Poor Dad get-rich-quick infomercials.
John C. Bogle, author, founder and former CEO of Vanguard Mutual Fund Group
Dr. Michael Burry, erstwhile medical doctor who switched to stock market investing, tells people what they need to know, not what they want to hear, incentivizes himself to serve his investors first, limits their number and prohibits withdrawal for at least one year, very contrarian approach (I am the author of The Contrarian Edge for Football Offense), has no filter
Ward Connerly, effective opponent of affirmative action, former University of California regent, leader of several state ballot initiatives to ban affirmative action in CA, MI, and NE
Jamie Dimon, top banking executive at American Express, Commercial Credit, Citigroup, Bank One, and JPMorgan Chase—a guy who frequently did the right thing when most of his peers were doing the wrong thing (he graduated five years after me at Harvard Business School)
Steve Eisman, honest stock market analyst (all but a contradiction in terms other than Eisman), the hero of Michael Lewis’ book The Big Short, called the subprime crisis before it broke, has no filter
John Gagliardi, head football coach, St. Johns University; most all-divisions victories of any college football coach; unique approach to coaching
Bill James, author, baseball statistician, historian, Senior Advisor on Baseball Operations for the Boston Red Sox.
Steve Jobs, Apple cofounder and CEO, Apple Computer, Macintosh, Pixar, iPod, iPhone, iPad
Charles Krauthammer Psychiatrist, conservative newspaper columnist, Fox News contributor
Michael Lewis, author of Liar’s Poker, The New New Thing, Moneyball, Blindside, The Big Short, started at Salomon Brothers as a liberally-educated Princeton, London School of Economics kid who got paid hundreds of thousands for nothing and thought that was so stupid he quit
Rush Limbaugh, Conservative radio talk show host, pioneer of the genre, savior of AM radio, leading conservative in the U.S., appreciated fully by his fans, but not by non-listeners who underestimate him because of his mixing clowning and satire in with well-researched reporting and analysis
Joe Paterno, head football coach Penn State University; most Division I victories, bowl games, and undefeated seasons of any coach in football history; longest single-college tenure of any football coach in history; turned down numerous offers to “move up,” probably the biggest bargain of all coaches receiving just $500,000 a year in salary as a coach
Jane Bryant Quinn, fearless personal finance author and formerly at CBS TV news and Newsweek, now Bloomberg News personal finance columnist (in the interest of full disclosure, Jane is also my friend)
James (“Amazing Randi”) Randi, magician, escape artist and debunker of fakes, winner of a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award
Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), His Roadmap for America’s Future is the only legitimate proposal for fixing America’s runaway fiscal train, chairman of the House Budget Committee; America’s best chance to avoid federal government “bankruptcy” or hyperinflation
Thomas Sowell, economist, columnist, author, Hoover Institute Senior Fellow, has no filter
John Stossel, fearless Libertarian investigative reporter on ABC 20/20, switched to Fox News 9/10/09, goes out of his way to do provocative stories like one with the theme “greed really is good”
Walter E. Williams, relentlessly logical, powerful advocate of liberty and free-market economics. Economics professor at George Mason University, syndicated columnist, libertarian; takes great delight in using logic to prove all sorts of politically-incorrect conclusions, occasionally guest hosts for Rush Limbaugh having Limbaugh’s announcer introduce him as “black by popular demand”

I’m sure I will think of more later. I urge readers to suggest people to me. One reader suggested Milt Rosenberg a WGN Chicago radio talk show host. He may be deserving, but I know nothing about him so I cannot put him on my list.

Why Charlie Rose is not on the list

Another suggested Charlie Rose. I generally like his show, but my impression is that he is too afraid to displease guests for fear of getting a reputation that would discourage that guest or others from accepting his invitation to appear on his show. If I did such a show, I would not have liars on and if one slipped through, I would either call him on the spot or after investigating his false statement. That would cause the liars in question to refuse to ever appear again on my show and would cause other liars to refuse to come on to begin with.

Who are the liars? Elected or appointed officials, mass market corporate executives, corporations that rely on government contracts, political activists, etc. Who tells the truth as they see it? Generally, authors, tenured professors, retired people, true experts.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awards grants to fellows every year. They are commonly called the “genius awards.”

They say of the fellowships:

The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. There are three criteria for selection of Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.

I wish there were a similar award for the combination of accomplishment and moral focus exhibited by the sort of people I have named above—and that it were not restricted to obscure persons as the MacArthur grants seem to be. It is easier to be moral when you are obscure than when you are involved in large organizations or mass markets.

I have no money to give to the folks I named above. Most of them probably already have more money than I do. But I tip my hat to them.

U.S. military’s overemphasis on body building

The drunk under the lamp post

An old story tells of a drunk who was wandering around under a lamp post at night looking at the ground.

Passerby: What are you looking for?

Drunk: My wallet.

Passer by: Did you drop it here?

Drunk: No. I dropped way down there in the dark.

Passer by: So why are you looking for it here?

Drunk: The light’s better here.

The military seems to me to be doing the same thing with physical fitness. Never in the history of the U.S. have some, not all, U.S. military personnel made such a fetish of physical fitness—specifically, weight training and distance running.

Is this wise?

If you had an infinite number of hours in a day, yes. But there are only 24 hours. The percentage of the military’s day devoted to weight lifting and running is far too great.

Also a problem with some football coaches

We also see this in another of my areas of expertise: football coaching.

Many coaches put their players through a Bataan Death March sort of football program that their coaches measure by how many times the players puke during workouts.

These coaches make statements like

No one’s going to outwork us!

We’re going to be ready for the fourth quarter.

My warp speed no huddle offense

I am in favor of the idea of using superior stamina to defeat a stronger or faster opponent. I did it as a coach and advocate it in my clock (Chapter 16 Other Uses for Tempo) and contrarian (Chapter 19 Tempo) books and articles at this Web site. I recommended my alma mater Army use the warp speed for that purpose to compensate for the superior speed of their opponents.

But my way of doing that was not mindless infliction of pain on my players. Rather, I ran a very fast-paced practice with three-plays per minute scrimmages. I never ran any gassers or stadium steps or grass drills or any of that. But the whole practice was a sort of gasser because of the warp-speed pace. But the players did not notice because they were running football plays, not just stepping on their tongues.

Many an opposing coach expressed astonishment at our pace and could not believe we could keep it up the whole game. One told me his first-string defense was asking to be taken out of the game in the first quarter!

But, my use of the warp-speed is very precise and it’s in the very predictable confines of a football field and the rules of football. Real combat is nowhere near so predictable. More importantly, the basic principle of offense in football is strength against weakness. Arguably, the same is true of warfare. For us with our tremendous technology and firepower strengths to let our enemies fight us on the basis of stamina and/or muscle strength would be idiotic. I wonder if we could ever match the mental toughness of people who have spent their entire lives in Afghanistan, one of the most hard-scrabble places on earth.

I remind you of the Indiana Jones movie scene where he is confronted in a bazaar by a sword-swinging highly trained fighter, tires of the swordsmanship, and pulls out a pistol and shoots the guy dead. That’s strength against weakness. It’s also overemphasis by the sword fighter on show off fitness rather than relevant weapons training.

Immature

“Curls are for girls” is a saying among football coaches and trainers. It means that football players should not waste their time doing curls because the biceps muscles they strengthen are generally irrelevant to football games. The phrase accuses the player in question of devoting his weight-room time to impressing the girls, not defeating the next opponent.

Furthermore, girls are not interested in biceps. I saw a survey about it on TV. When men were asked what body part women were most interested in, they answered things like pecs, biceps, hair, penis.

What did the women say? Buns. I asked two women myself: One said buns and the other, eyes.

So curls aren’t even for girls. Rather, they are apparently for men to impress other men. Same is true of pecs, triceps, and abs.

The same guys are almost invariably also big on the use of tobacco and alcohol—neither of which is part of any serious athlete’s training regimen.

Which begs the question of why so many U.S. military personnel around the world are spending so much time on their pecs, triceps, and biceps.

MSNBC did an excellent documentary on a tiny U.S. Army outpost in Afghanistan in 2009. It’s called “Tip of the Spear.” The troops were physically fit in the way they needed to be—acclimated to the altitude, the stamina to hump up and down the mountains carrying their equipment. But as their time to return to the U.S. neared, they began lifting weights. Why? Correspondent Richard Engel explained it was to impress girls when they got back to the U.S.

Q.E.D. The U.S. military has, to an extent, morphed into a health club where you pump iron to impress girls and other guys and where you get paid to work out at the free health club on your base. It’s an improvement over getting drunk and probably helps recruiting, but the military needs to keep their eye on the ball—winning wars. Specific fitness like that exhibited in Tip of the Spear is necessary. But body building falls into the “Who do you guys think you’re kidding with all these muscles?” category. There is a sneering line in a movie about “taking a knife to a gunfight.” The military’s weight room emphasis is preparation

Easier than winning wars

The answer is apparently that enlarging muscles and going for reveille runs is apparently easier and more within our control than winning our current wars—like the drunk’s lamppost: easier, but irrelevant.

“But,” you ask, “isn’t physical fitness important for winning in combat?”

Pray tell, what actual war or battle was lost because one side was in better physical condition than the other?

Pray tell, what combat unit does physical fitness while on patrol?

Ever hump a ruck sack through the bush in Vietnam? Did your platoon leader or company commander ever get you up for calisthenics or a reveille run while you were out in the bush looking for the NVA?

Speaking as a football coach, players reach peak condition just before summer camp. Then, because less time can be devoted to weight training and running during the season, the physical fitness of the players deteriorates as they spend time practicing plays, doing technique drills, and scrimmages. But coaches know from experience that although fitness, strength, and stamina are important, they only have 20 hours a week (NCAA rules) and if they spend too much time on conditioning, the players will not know their assignments, their timing will be off, and so on.

This is more true in combat where the details of the fire fight are almost unknown in advance in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Generally, the fitness that matters in real combat in what it takes to walk long distances carrying a weapon, food, water, ammunition, and maybe sleeping equipment. As any soldier or Marine can tell you, there is not a chance in hell that any commander could ask the men to add exercise on top of that. So your combat fitness is going to be from that walking. If you are in a safe base, a modicum of weight training and aerobic exercise is advisable for everyone both military and civilian. But the notion that battles and wars are won by superior physical fitness is unsupported by empirical evidence. Generally, soldiers and Marines who are truly on the front, and their enemies, are lean and mean and strong because of their daily exertions when they are searching for their opponents or fighting them.

What should they be doing instead of so much weight lifting and running?

  • Studying after-action reports and lessons learned from other units in the same or similar theater of operations
  • Repairing or improving perimeter defenses
  • Cleaning and servicing weapons, radios, and other equipment
  • Gathering more ammunition and other battle consumables like fire extinguishers, first-aid
  • Talking to supporting artillery and air units to review and create new pre-planned fire concentrations and other speed-dial type procedures
  • Gathering intelligence from locals
  • Reviewing intelligence from higher headquarters

There’s more, but you get the idea. I have not been in a combat zone since 1970 so I am out of date. The point is there is a ton to do and it’s never done.

Many people in a combat zone do not have jobs where physical fitness is salient—like air crews, artillerymen, mechanics, fixed radio operators, drone “pilots,” medics, and so on. They need to practice and prepare for their actual combat roles, not the Mr. America contest.

National Geographic TV documentary

I saw a National Geographic special about Marines in Afghanistan on TV. They were stationed at a remote outpost. They were big on lifting weights there and buff as a result. But they went on a humvees patrol. During it, even though I have never been to Afghanistan, I thought they were in a dangerous situation and that it was getting worse as night approached. The National Geographic reporter was making similar comments as the night progressed. Sure enough, they got attacked by an IED and suffered casualties.

Their physical fitness seemed irrelevant to the action that was filmed. What it seemed like they should have done with much of that weight-lifting time was devote more time to learning how to spot IEDs, finding spots to camp for the night that the enemy would not likely anticipate in advance, making sure their humvees were in tip-top shape and not likely to break down, and so on.

Win wars, not body-building contests

The mission of the military is to win our wars. Results-oriented people like football coaches, firemen, entrepreneurs, trial lawyers, and so on learn to allocate time intelligently to achieve optimum preparedness for what they need to get done. Process-oriented people, like military and civilian bureaucrats, spend enormous amounts of time on whatever they like, as long as they can claim some relevance to the big picture.

I spent five years of my life with the process-oriented crowd in the Army and at Crocker National Bank. I spent the other 36 years of my adult life in results-oriented investing in rental properties, selling real estate on commission, arguing cases in court, book publishing and marketing, coaching soccer, baseball, football and volleyball teams, putting on seminars and coaching clinics, and so on. Watching the military spend so much time on weight lifting and running I see process-oriented guys spending too much time on a relatively unimportant activity for incorrect reasons like impressing girls (who are, in fact, not impressed by such things) or other men. See my article on process versus results orientation.

The military’s overemphasis on physical fitness is not much different from the drunk’s fondness for the light. It won’t work, but it’s easier and more comfortable than what will.

For the record, I lift weights every other day and do aerobic exercise like riding my Schwinn Airdyne stationary bicycle or walking several miles wearing a weight vest. I can lift more weight now at age 63 than ever before in my life. I am 5’11" and weigh 166—close to what I weighed the day I graduated from West Point. Strength training, aerobics, and limiting food intake are smart, prudent, and necessary for good health. But you need moderation in everything. And people who have a job to do, like national defense, need to take care of their job first and not let easy or irrelevant distractions like vanity body building or extreme body fat reduction take their eye off that ball.

Here is an excerpt from my review of the book The Unforgiving Minute about a West Point class of 2000 graduate who did a tour in Afghanistan in 2003. While there, he observed that they were very big on body building at rear area bases like Orgun and Kandahar.

Twisted mutation of the ‘Peter Principle’

The U.S. military practices a sort of twisted version of the already perverse Peter Principle: As soon as you start to get good at your job, you are removed from it and replaced by a rookie who is lousy at it. Actually, the Peter Principle would be an improvement in the U.S. military. At present, military officers not only get promoted to their level of incompetence, but beyond it as well. Every career officer who started in his early twenties is going to make lieutenant colonel no matter his or her level of competence.

And when you have commanded both platoons and companies and you are getting a general hang of command, they promote you to major and forbid you from commanding anything. You have to be a staff officer. Captains also get that job when there are not enough majors—a problem in today’s Army which sucks so much that too many captains get out.

Thus did Craig Mullaney become his battalion’s human resources guy. He bitches and moans about that in chapter 35.

At his battalion, being a staff officer meant having the time and opportunity to engage in serious body building. His Rhodes Scholar class would be so proud. Apparently, in Afghanistan, one of the ways you can tell the RAMF (Rear Area Mother Fuckers—Vietnam terminology) from the front-line guys is muscles. The RAMFs are the ones with the muscles. And the U.S. military is the organization saying or implying that they have muscles are to make them better in combat. The truth is combat soldiers have no time for that shit.

12/21/09 Army Times

The Army Times newspaper has two covers. The back cover of the 12/21/09 issue has a full-page color photo of a Marine Master Sergeant body builder. The headline is “Get Ripped.” The subheadline is “Military body builders show you how to train like a pro.” a subhead in the article is “Build a bigger, badder, bolder body.”

They make my points that:

• The military overemphasizes legitimate physical fitness
• Although greater strength and stamina is useful in many military mission situations, the actual focus of military physical fitness is not greater strength and stamina, it is vanity and looking strong.
• Although men mistakenly think big muscles will attract females and admit to that motive, they mainly seek muscles to impress other males, which they are less eager to admit.

The Army Times article, like most discussion about body building, fails to note the genetic requirements of looking like champion body builders. They imply, falsely, that every male will look like a champion body builder if he only works out hard enough and consumes the right supplements. Page 9 of that same issue has an almost full-page ad for body building supplements. I have coached football at three high schools with extensive eight rooms. My oldest son was an Ivy League tailback. My youngest son is a Pac-10 football manager. We have seen lots of guys work their asses off in the weight room. They do not have a uniform body builder appearance. They are all stronger than average non-athletes, but not as uniformly as their training would suggest. Some were born to be strong. Some were born to have big muscles when they do extensive weight training. If you were not born to be strong or have big muscles, weight training will have relatively little effect on your strength and muscular appearance.

‘Very pretty’

Instead of focusing on their low body fat percentage, our current physical-fitness freak generals need to focus on their low war-winning percentage since World War II. World War II commanders like Eisenhower (football player at Army), MacArthur, Nimitz, and Patton (finished fifth in the pentathlon at the 1912 Olympics—he may have been robbed in the pistol shooting event by having bullets that went through the same hole in the bullseye repeatedly counted as misses because they did not make a new hole) did not have low body fat. They were too busy winning the damned war.

Donald Sutherland’s character “Pinkley” said it well in the 1967 movie The Dirty Dozen.

Very pretty general. But can they fight?