Category Archives: History

Rule Five Tenth Annual Commencement Speech Friday

It’s that time of year again when high school and college graduates all over the country are trying on caps and gowns and making post-graduation plans. Today, for the tenth year, (holy crap, I’ve been doing this for ten years?) I will present here my own carefully prepared commencement speech to those grads – presented here because there’s damn little chance of my being asked to deliver it in person to a group of impressionable yutes.

So, here it is. Enjoy.

“Graduates of the Class of 2023, let me be the first to extend to you my congratulations on this, your day of entry into reality.

For the last four years, you have been working towards this goal, towards this day. That’s a good thing. One of the most important skills you will ever need, one of the most important ways to achieve success in the world into which you are about to enter, is the ability to formulate goals, plan how to achieve those goals, and see things through until you reach those goals. Today you’ve shown you can do that. Congratulations and good job.

Now, before you go out to enjoy the rest of this day, before you go out to celebrate this goal you have achieved, let me tell you a few harsh truths about the world you’re entering. I’m not going to give you any trigger warnings; if you can’t handle what I’m about to say, there’s damn little future for you out there in the real world, so cowboy up. Moments ago I congratulated you on your day of entry into reality, so to get you started off right, here is a hefty dose of reality for you.

Despite what you may have been told during all your years of education, nobody owes you anything, and you aren’t special. Any perceived ‘need’ you may have does not entitle you to anything – most especially, not to one red cent of the product of anyone else’s effort. If any of your professors have told you that, then they are economic illiterates, moral frauds, or outright charlatans.

Our wonderful Constitution, which has stood for well over two hundred years as the founding document of our Republic, guarantees you the opportunity to your pursuit of happiness. It does not require anyone to provide you with the means to your happiness at their expense. You and you alone are responsible for your own life. You have no moral claim on anyone else’s productivity. Accept that fact and you are already one step ahead of most of your peers.

You are entitled to what you have earned through your own efforts, and not:

One.

Damn.

Thing.

More.

If you are accepting a degree today in LGBT Studies, or Women’s Studies, or any of the other assorted bullshit Underwater Dog Polishing degrees our universities crank out today, then you have my sympathies. You are the victim of a fraud perpetrated by our university system, a vicious and cynical fraud that has resulted in you spending a lot of money for no gain. But more importantly, you are the victim of your own poor judgement. You decided to pursue a useless degree, and now you’re stuck. Here is another harsh reality: You are responsible for your own situation. It’s not anybody else’s fault. Nobody else is responsible. You are.

Your university experience had one goal – producing a young adult with marketable skills, someone who can provide value to an employer and to the economy. In this your university has failed, and in choosing this degree, so did you. You have relegated yourself to uselessness in the workplace, and when a few years from now you are working as a barista or checkout clerk and crying over your six figures of student debt, remember what I said a few moments ago: You and you alone are responsible for your own life. You made a decision; now you get to deal with the consequences of that decision. Pull yourself up, look around at the other opportunities around you, and figure a way out of this mess your youthful indiscretion has landed you in.

But you still have one thing going for you. You have shown that you can set yourself a goal and achieve it. Do so now.

So, where do you go from here?

Because nobody owes you anything, including a living, one of the tasks ahead of you now is finding gainful employment. If you’re going to find employment, it will only be because you can demonstrate to the employer that you can provide value to him or her in excess of your costs of employment. Employment is an economic transaction. In any free market transaction, both parties have to realize a perceived gain in value or the transaction won’t happen. If a prospective employer doesn’t think you’re able to provide value to his/her business in excess of your cost of employment, which includes not only your salary but all the extra taxes, fees and other various government extortion that you never see in your pay stub – then they won’t hire you. So be able to present yourself as someone who can provide value, in whatever field you have been studying these last few years.

Once you have gained that employment, once you are in the workplace, remember these three rules for success:

  • Show up a little earlier than the other guy,
  • Work a little harder than the other guy,
  • Never pass up a chance to learn something new.

Words that should never pass your lips include such things as “that’s not my job,” and “I don’t have time for that.” Your reputation in the workplace should be, to put it bluntly, the one who can get shit done. Results matter. Be the one that the boss can count on. Be the one who brings things in on time. Be the one who finishes the job. Be the one that produces value and you will never have to worry about where your next meal is coming from.

Bear in mind also that you are entering the workforce as a tablua rasa as far as potential employers are concerned. You’re not going to leave these halls and be CEO of General Motors. You will be working in an entry level job, probably not making a lot of money, probably doing work your longer-term co-workers don’t want to do. Suck it up. There are no lousy jobs, only lousy people. Any work that produces value is worth doing. How do you know if your work is producing value? The answer to that is trivially easy: If someone is willing to pay you to do the work, then you are producing value. Bear in mind also that the job belongs to the employer, not to you, and if you don’t meet the employer’s expectations, someone else will.

How do you meet those expectations? Better yet, how do you exceed them? When you are doing that job, keep these things in mind:

Be known for your integrity. Don’t say anything you don’t believe and don’t make promises you can’t deliver on. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who means what you say and who delivers on your promises.

Be known for your reliability. Show up on time, every day, for every event. Show up on time for meetings. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who will always be there when you’re needed.

Be known for your responsibility. If you take on a task, finish it. If you commit to a timeline, meet it. If you accept responsibility for something, own it. It’s yours. Don’t expect anyone else to take care of it for you. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who, when put in charge, takes charge.

Be known for your dependability. Plan your tasks to bring them in on schedule. If that means long hours, work them. If that means working a Saturday, work it. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who can get the job done.

Success isn’t a mysterious thing. It’s not that elusive and it’s not even all that hard. I did it, and you can too, but it does involve one four-letter word:

Work.

Thomas Edison once said “people often fail to recognize opportunity when it knocks, because it usually shows up in overalls and looks like work.” At these commencement events it’s common to be told to follow your dreams, and that’s nice, flowery stuff, but in most cases nobody is going to pay you to follow your dreams. They will pay you to produce value, and that means work. Follow your dreams on your own time.

Finally, I will leave you all with some unsolicited advice:

All through your life, people will promise you things. Most of them won’t deliver. Many of those people will be people seeking political office, and many more of them will be people pushing some sort of supposed business opportunity. Some years ago the science fiction writer Robert Heinlein observed a fundamental law of the universe, which law is represented by the acronym TANSTAAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Remember that; if someone offers you something for nothing, they are lying. If someone is offering you something at someone else’s expense, they are offering to commit theft on your behalf. The only moral answer to such offers is outright refusal.

There are only three types of economic transactions and only one of those – a free, unfettered, voluntary exchange of value – is morally acceptable. If a transaction is done by force, that is theft. If a transaction is done by deceit, that is fraud. Have no interaction with anyone who advocates either.

Accept responsibility for your own successes. Accept responsibility for your own failures. Learn from both. Rely on yourself. Rely on your own skills, your own abilities. Many other people will let you down, but you can always rely on yourself.

In her epic novel Atlas Shrugged, author Ayn Rand presents the protagonist, John Galt, describing his decision to solve society’s troubles by an epic act of creative destruction. He describes the ultimate moment of his decision process with two sentences, two sentences which I have found more inspiring than any long-winded ethical or political monologue ever delivered since the times of Plato and Aristotle. These words are the very essence of the self-directed man of achievement:

‘I saw what had to be done. I went out to do it.’

Those are good words to live by. Now, today, you graduates see what has to be done.

Go out and do it.

Thank you and good luck.”

If anyone was offended by anything contained in this hypothetical speech, too damn bad.

Rule Five American Rome Friday

I’ve done a fair amount of reading about ancient Rome, from the founding through the fall of the Western Empire, and have always found it a fascinating study; there are a lot of parallels with our time here in the United States.  That study led me to write my Nova Roma series, and with those in mind, I was interested to learn of the discovery of an unknown ancient civilization in the Amazon basis that may have been on a par with Rome.

Using airborne laser-scanning technology (Lidar), Rostain and his colleagues discovered a long-lost network of cities extending across 300sq km in the Ecuadorean Amazon, complete with plazas, ceremonial sites, drainage canals and roads that were built 2,500 years ago and had remained hidden for thousands of years. They also identified more than 6,000 rectangular earthen platforms believed to be homes and communal buildings in 15 urban centres surrounded by terraced agricultural fields.

“It was really a lost valley of cities,” said Rostain, the director of investigation at the National Centre for Scientific Research in France. “It’s incredible.” 

According to Rostain, the most striking aspect of this urban cluster, which is located in eastern Ecuador’s Upano Valley, is its astonishing road network. The cities’ streets were engineered to be perfectly straight, connecting at right angles with one another and linking the different cities like a prehistoric highway. The largest were 10m wide, with one extending 25km. “Given the hilly terrain, this road network was even more advanced than modern ones,” Rostain said.

This forgotten network of cities is not only believed to be more than 1,000 years older than any other known complex Amazonian site, but its staggering size and level of sophistication suggests a highly structured society that appears to be even larger than the well-known Maya cities in Mexico and Central America. 

The Mayans, of course, are well-documented, and in fact, figure heavily into the storylines of the Nova Roma books.

This is an interesting find, and it raises some questions.  Who were these people?  What remains of them?  Did they conduct trade in the region?  Did they conduct human sacrifice on the horrific scale of the Aztecs, or were they more reasonable (by comparison) like the Maya?  They evidently built roads, which would make it seem as though there was trade going on between groups – did they also trade with their neighbors?

Not to mention, shall I fold them into the next Nova Roma novel that I’m working on right now?

It turns out the roads may not have been for trade, though:

One of the most intriguing questions Rostain and his colleagues have been trying to understand is what led this society to engineer perfectly straight roads through the region’s mountainous topography. “Why would you build these straight roads five metres deep when you can easily walk through the hills?” Rostain asked. “I think they built them to imprint their identity, their relationship with the Earth in the earth. They are symbolic roads, like other roads in the Andes [notably the Inca’s famed Qhapaq Ñan, which is still considered by many Inca descendants as a living road today].”

History is amazing.  We keep finding new things, and I confess, I hadn’t been aware of the Inca building roads that were symbolic rather than practical; I’m obviously more familiar with the Roman model.

Another civilization that was, at least, on par with the Maya, in the Amazon basin of what is now Ecuador, would lend a whole new chapter to pre-Columbian America, and since so little is known about these people, we can only imagine what they may have been like. They may have villains, they may have been angels, but at this point, given the nature of where they lived, it’s doubtful we’ll know for sure.

That’s the best reason to fold these people into the Nova Roma saga.  I’ve often described the breathtaking abandon with which science-fiction and alternative history writers just make stuff up, and this new find gives me something new to work with!

Rule Five 1980-2024 Friday

In what ways might the 2024 Presidential election resemble Ronald Reagan’s 1980 landslide defeat of the hapless Jimmy Carter?  The Messenger’s Douglas Schoen has some thoughts.  And, as usual, so do I.

In many ways, the upcoming presidential election may mirror the 1980 election, when Jimmy Carter suffered a landslide defeat at the hands of Ronald Reagan.

What should alarm Democrats is that Carter, like President Biden now, was extremely unpopular, while Reagan, like Donald Trump, was considered almost unelectable. Similarly, inflation was a thorn in Carter’s side, much as it has dogged Biden since the first year of his term. Not for nothing, 2022’s inflationary surge hit the highest levels since … Jimmy Carter was in office.

On foreign policy, we were facing a number of challenges then, as we are now. In 1980, the U.S. was still dealing with the Iranian hostage crisis, not entirely dissimilar from the hostage crisis in Gaza and our issues in the Middle East.

There are some key differences in the GOP candidates.  While both are known political quantities – Reagan from eight years as Governor of California, Trump from his first term as President – they also have some key differences.  Reagan was rightly known and is rightly remembered for his sunny optimism; Trump is rightly known for his prickly temper, his capability of holding a grudge like a terrier with a death grip on a rat, and he never, ever forgets or fails to pay back a slight.

In the 1980 election, incumbent Jimmy Carter had proven unable to either get the hostages out or overcome the perception of overarching weakness on foreign policy. And indeed, it is that same perceived weakness on foreign policy that could ultimately make the difference in 2024 for Joe Biden.

Biden’s approval ratings began to decline after the precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan, a move that Biden and most Democrats thought would be popular, but in fact became enormously unpopular as scenes of the Taliban’s romp through the country as the Afghani military, which the U.S. had supposedly built into a true force, melted away, causing Biden’s numbers to sink, a trend which continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and thereafter.

In that same vein, it is becoming nearly impossible to argue that the world has been safer, or less chaotic, under Biden than under Trump.

That’s the key.  In both domestic and foreign affairs, the administration of the ever-more-befuddled Joe Biden has been an utter failure, and that may well be what decides the 2024 election.  In both domestic and foreign affairs, the affable but easily-railroaded James Earl Carter was also an utter failure; his fate was sealed from the moment that Reagan laid into him with the “There you go again” remark in debate.

But the country is far more partisan, and far more deeply divided than it was in 1980.  I should know – I was there – and I worked in the summer and fall of 1980 as a (very low-level) campaign volunteer for the Reagan apparatus in eastern Iowa.  Crossover voters were common in 1980; the Old Man, who always described himself as a Truman Democrat, voted for Reagan in 1980 and again in 1984.  Why?  Because in 1980, things weren’t going well, and in 1984, because they were.

Things today are bad.  But the wild card, of course, will be the national Democrats.  Will they let Joe Biden run again?  It’s tempting to say “No way.”  He just can’t.  Granted they won 2020 on a “basement campaign,” but there is no COVID panic to provide cover for Joe Biden now, and he has deteriorated rather dramatically since 2020.

If Joe Biden is their candidate, they’re fucked.  If not… We’ll have to see.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

I can’t believe this is already the last Hump Day post of 2023!  Watch, though, for Friday’s Rule Five post, as we will be announcing some changes and some fun new stuff for the sight.  Rest assured our Blue Monday, Hump Day, Rule Five Friday and Saturday Gingermageddon displays of toothsome totty will continue, as well as me bringing you my take on the events of the day.

And so…

Continue reading Animal’s Hump Day News

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

No extra notes this morning. A red-eye to Denver and then an early flight to Des Moines beckons, and I’ve other work to get to before heading to the airport.  So stand ready!  Here comes the Wednesday usual.

Now then…

Continue reading Animal’s Hump Day News

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

I’ve written before about the possibility of small, modular nuclear reactors and their possible use in providing clean, reliable electricity to remote communities – like, say, much of Alaska.  Here’s another interesting piece on that topic.

SMRs are advanced nuclear reactors that have a power capacity of up to 300 MW(e) per unit, equivalent to around one-third the generating capacity of a traditional nuclear reactor. SMRs are much smaller than traditional reactors and are modular, making it simpler for them to be assembled in factories and transported to site. Because of their smaller size, it is possible to install an SMR on sites that are not suitable for bigger reactors.

If these live up to expectations, they could be game-changers for small rural communities.  But that’s a pretty big ‘if’ – and don’t underestimate the odds of the government regulating them out of existence.

Now then…

Continue reading Animal’s Hump Day News

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Best line in a story this past week:

Children can go to California to have their bodies irrevocably altered by surgery and be pumped full of drugs that could cause health issues in the immediate and distant future that could ruin their lives. Crime is rampant and the streets are full of homeless encampments, needles, and human waste. The term “Golden State” could soon refer to the fact that everyone there has contracted hepatitis. BUT the kids will be safe because they can’t get a bag of Skittles.

Read Lincoln Brown’s take on this stupidity here.  ‘Nuff said.

And so…

On To the Links!

How about no bail-outs for anything or anyone, ever?

We can hope.

There is no danger of default.

RIP, Tina Turner.

Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus.

RIP, Ray Stevenson.  I’ll always remember him as Titus Pullo in HBO’s amazing series Rome.

Can California be turned red again?  Color me skeptical, but still…

The Supreme Court makes a 9-0 ruling (Sackett v. EPA) and Democrats immediately start lying about it.  Hey, you jackasses, look up the difference between “concurring” and “dissent.”

No shit, Sherlock.

This will be interesting to watch.  Full disclosure:  I’m on Team DeSantis, but if Trump gets the nomination, I’ll vote for him.  The alternative is unthinkable.

And Trump might not have as tight of a lock on things as he thinks.

Debate is not allowed at debates.

Arguing with someone on Twitter is like competing in the Special Olympics.  Even if you win, you’re still a retard.

My blogger pal Robert Stacy McCain has a neat piece on the Golden Age of Hollywood.

I remember when sitzpinkler was an insult.  Hell, I live out in the woods.  I pee outside more than in the house.  Kind of hard for a dude to sit for that.

Natural Gas Forecast – not good news.

State Farm gives up on California.

Our illiterate college students.

My friend Brandon Morse has an excellent piece on Memorial Day.  Yes, that’s me in the comments.

This is what happens when you de-criminalize theft.

More signs of the Biden family’s breathtaking corruption.

Equal treatment under the law a dead letter in the US, Exhibit #211,293.

This Week’s Idiots:

The Atlantic’s Charlie Warzel is an idiot.

The Nation’s Jennifer C. Berkshire is an idiot.

Vox’s Ian Millhiser is an idiot.

The LA Times editorial staff are all idiots.

MSNBC’s Hayes Brown (Repeat Offender Alert) is an idiot.

Hanoi Jane is still an idiot.

The people who run Lululemon (whatever that is) are all idiots.

The Nation’s Jeet Heer (Repeat Offender Alert) is an idiot.

Robert Reich (Repeat Offender Alert) remains a sawed-off runt, and an idiot.

The Nation’s D.D. Guttenplan & John Nichols (Repeat Offender Alert) are both idiots.  Biden doesn’t need to remake his candidacy – he needs to resign, for the good of the republic.

If this little idiot tried this in Alaska, he’d likely become shot.

This Week’s Cultural Edification:

Back in the day – and still today, in fact – one of the most powerful male singers was the Welsh master Tom Jones.  He projected his voice like few today can, and he also combined style and class with talent.

One of his best-known tunes is actually a cover of Paul Anka’s 1970 tune She’s a Lady, but Jones, in 1971, recorded what would be far and away the most popular take on this song.  Here, then, is that tune.  Oh, and as a bonus, take a look at Tom Jones on the Ed Sullivan show in 1968, with his signature song It’s Not Unusual.  Enjoy!


Animal’s Daily Hand It To Them News

Before we get into today’s gruesome story, check out my latest over at Glibertarians!

Now then:  Take a look at this, just as an illustration of how brutal most of human history has been.  Excerpt:

In a new paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, a team of scientists analyzed a collection of at least 12 severed hands found in an ancient Egyptian palace. The macabre trove (which would surely peak the interest of Wednesday Adams) may be the first physical evidence of a gruesome, militaristic ceremony.

Archaeologists originally unearthed the grisly find back in 2011. The hands were strewn in three pits in front of the throne room of a palace dated to around 1600 BC at Tell el-Dab’a in northeastern Egypt. This would have been during the century-long 15th Dynasty, when invading Hyksos from the Levant ruled the northern part of the country from their capital Avaris. Tell el-Dab’a is where Avaris once stood.

Here’s the interesting bit:

Hieroglyphs discovered in various locations dated to the second half of ancient Egypt’s roughly 3,000-year history hint that soldiers would sometimes present the severed right hands of defeated foes to the Pharaoh to garner the “gold of honor,” a prestigious reward that came in the form of a collar of golden beads. But it was hard to know whether these depictions portrayed an accurate or mythologized account of the past.

The new analysis of the severed hands leaves little doubt that the “gold of honor” ceremony actually occurred.

Homina homina.

There’s a distinct tendency for folks to glamorize the past.  But the simple fact is, as this discovery shows very plainly, the past was pretty damn gory and brutal.  Romantic depictions aside, things like this – cutting off the hands (and other appendages) of defeated enemies wasn’t all that uncommon.  And when it was done to appease a ruler, such as the Egyptian pharaohs – who were sort of “god-kings” – well, all I can say is, fuck that whole notion, sideways!

Most of human history is replete with this kind of crap.  We’ve been extremely fortunate over the last few decades; I’d like to think we’ll remain so fortunate.  But recent events have me wondering.  Make no mistake, True Believers; this is what we are in danger of slipping back to.

Rule Five The More Things Change Friday

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  The Mises Institute recently released Rome’s Runaway Inflation: Currency Devaluation in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries.  Excerpts, with my comments, follow.

By the beginning of the fourth century, the Roman Empire had become a completely different economic reality from what it had been at the beginning of the first century. The denariusargenteus, the empire’s monetary unit during the first two centuries, had virtually disappeared since the middle of the third century, having been replaced by the argenteusantoninianus and the argenteusaurelianianus, numerals of greater theoretical value, but of less and less real value.

The public excesses in the civil and military budgets, the incessant bribes and gifts, the repeated tax increases, the growth of the state bureaucracy, and the continuous requisitions of goods and precious metals had exhausted the Roman economy to incredible levels. To cap this disastrous reality, inflation had risen from 0.7 percent per year in the first and second centuries to 35.0 percent per year in the late third and early fourth centuries, impoverishing all social strata of the empire by leaps and bounds.

Holy crap!  Does any of that seem familiar to you?  There’s an old truism that states that ‘history may not always repeat, but it frequently rhymes.’  This is one of those cases.  Almost every one of those issues in fourth-century Rome are also issues of twenty-first century America:  Excessive government spending, corruption, the runaway growth of the Deep State, and inflation.  And, as happened in Rome, none of these things are going away.

In 301, Diocletian sought to put an end to this out-of-control situation by promulgating the Edictum de pretiis rerum venalium (Edict Concerning the Prices of Goods for Sale), which prohibited, on pain of death, the raising of prices above a certain level for almost thirteen hundred essential products and services. In the preamble to the edict, economic agents were blamed for inflation, labeled as speculators and thieves, and compared to the barbarians who threatened the empire.

Most producers and intermediaries, therefore, opted to stop trading the goods they produced, to sell them on the black market, or even to use barter for commercial transactions. This weakening of supply drove real prices even higher, in an upward spiral that further deteriorated the complex Roman economic system. Just four years later, in 305, Diocletian himself, overwhelmed by his political and economic failures, abdicated in Nicomedia and retired to his palace in what is today Split, Croatia.

The Nixon Administration flirted with price and wage controls in the Seventies.  A number of people on the political Left are advocating for the idea today.  And, in some ways, wage controls are already here; what is a state-mandated minimum wage if not a wage control?  As Diocletian did in 301, so the United States does today, moving increasingly towards central control.

During the fourth and fifth centuries, the Roman economy finally deteriorated completely, taking with it society and, consequently, the ambitions of the politicians of the time. The Roman Empire was now a failed and outdated project. The persistent excess of public spending between the first and third centuries forced Roman rulers to devalue the currency continuously. This chronic devaluation, together with the decline in population and economic activity throughout the third century, triggered price inflation throughout the empire, a phenomenon that the Romans did not know how to handle.

Roman rulers attempted to use harmful price controls in order to mitigate the decline in the effective purchasing power of the middle and lower classes. For instance, the Edictum de pretiis rerum venalium of 301 ended up withdrawing what little supply of products remained on the white market, making them more expensive on the black market. It is truly shocking to note how many politicians and populist parties of all ideological stripes continue to propose these same “remedies” even today.

The response to attempted market control is always the rise of black markets.  The Soviet Union was notorious for goods and services being sold Nalevo, or “on the left,” in the thriving black markets that sprang up almost on the inception of the Soviet system.  America has a thriving black market in recreational drugs.  Market demands will always be met by supplies.

And that, True Believers, is the rub; currency, like any other commodity, is subject to the rules of supply and demand.  When the currency supply is increased, the value decreases.  When the currency is degraded, the (relative) price of every other commodity increases.  Black markets will spring up, and barter will increasingly replace currency.  That was the case in the Roman Empire, and it’s the case now.

The article concludes:

Taken together, the aggregate effects of public overspending and inflation on the Roman economy in between the first and third centuries ultimately led to an unprecedented structural weakening of the economic capacity of fourth- and fifth-century society, reflected in the incompetence of its rulers and elites to hold the empire together in the face of external threats, which, to quote Ludwig von Mises himself, “were not more formidable than the armies which the legions had easily defeated in earlier times. But the Empire had changed. Its economic and social structure was already medieval.”

Look at the headlines in any major economic news source today, and the parallels are inescapable.