Category Archives: Totty

Who doesn’t love pretty girls?

Rule Five Eighth 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 eighth year, 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 2021, 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, to plan how to achieve those goals, and to 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.

In spite of 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 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 Exasperated Americans Friday

National treasure Dr. Victor Davis Hansen is of the opinion that lots of Americans are fed up.  He may be right.  Excerpt:

The American people know that on every occasion their president speaks, he will slur his words at best. At worst, he will have little idea where he is, where he has been, or what he is supposed to be saying or doing. When he is momentarily cognizant, he is at his meanest, or he simply makes things up.

Our new normal of a mentally incapacitated president is not entirely new in American history—Woodrow Wilson was an invalid during the last months of his presidency. But Wilson’s condition was well hidden. Quite novel is the idea that the American people know the man in the White House is cognitively disabled and simply expect him to confirm that bleak diagnosis each time he opens his mouth.

If Donald Trump exaggerated, Biden flat out lies daily. His most recent untruth was his assertion that the MAGA movement represents “the most extreme political organization that’s existed in American history.” Biden cannot really believe that roughly half the country is now more dangerous than Antifa, Black Lives Matter, the Weathermen, the American Nazi Party, the American Communist Party, and the Ku Klux Klan. And this comes from the mythically moderate “good old Joe from Scranton”?

This is true, of course – as is the observation that the legacy media is, for the most part, providing close air support for the Biden(‘s handlers) Administration.  But it’s becoming increasingly obvious that something is badly wrong, and nobody is too enthused about who is waiting in the wings:

Even if the Republicans were to win a 60-vote majority in the Senate, they would hesitate to impeach Biden simply because Harris is a more frightening prospect. And some Marquess of Queensberry centrist RINOs would not wish to codify the Democrats’ new standard of impeaching an opposition president the minute he loses the House of Representatives in his first midterm.

That is a problem; the GOP all too often seems to want to play nice when their opposite numbers on the Left are very willing to go scorched-earth.  Increasingly, the perceived end result behind either party’s being in charge is muddled; as I’m fond of resigned to pointing out, when it comes to fiscal policy, both parties are determined to Thelma-and-Louise the nation over a fiscal cliff, but the GOP are willing to do it a tad more slowly.

But the main thing Dr. Hansen points out is that people are tired (he claims) over being repeatedly fed a diet of increasingly-obvious lies:

Americans have a rough idea that the tragic death of George Floyd was not proof of an epidemic of lethal police shootings of black males. Yet that single death set off the entire woke conflagration of 2020 and, with the hysterias of the lockdowns, has nearly wrecked the country.

Yet in 2021, out of more than 10 million arrests in the United States, police shot about six unarmed black men. The same year, 346 police officers were shot, 63 fatally—to left-wing indifference. Moreover, roughly 8,000 blacks were murdered mostly by other blacks—to callous media and political silence. Thousands of lost black lives mattered little—except the fewer than 1 in 1,000 of that total who were tragically and lethally shot while unarmed by police.

Finally, Americans were angry at the rioting inside the Capitol on January 6, 2021. But they cannot forgive the needless lies surrounding that illegal act in an effort to fabricate an insurrection out of a spontaneous buffoonish riot.

But here’s where I’m a little less hopeful than Dr. Hansen, despite my great admiration for the man; he concludes:

But behind the popular furor is a sense of impotence in the face of the untruth they are assaulted with day after day. In other words, bullied Americans are angry that people who control the nation’s institutions deliberately mislead them and do so because they hate them.

Let us hope that they channel this historic exasperation in November in a manner we have never seen before in the modern era.

And well we might.  But what about the election after that?  And the one after that?

Advocates of truly limited government and free markets are few and far between even in the GOP.  And all of those are running against the siren song of Free Shit.  It’s hard to run against Santa Claus, especially in a society where for every person that can name their Congressman there are five that have bookmarked the last internet article in which Kim Kardashian’s bloated ass has appeared (seriously, the woman’s fundament is like the afterdeck of the Andrea Doria.)

That, as much as incompetence and dissembling from pols, is the danger we face.

Rule Five Gas Prices Friday

I stumbled across this from The Heritage Foundation the other day, explaining how high gasoline prices appear to be the result of intentional acts on the part of the Imperial City.  Honestly, if you wanted to drive gas prices through the roof, what would you do differently?  Excerpt:

Throughout his presidential campaign, Biden promised to wage war on the U.S. energy industry. “I want you to look at my eyes,” he said. “I guarantee you. I guarantee you. We’re going to end fossil fuel.” That’s pretty unequivocal. And his policies reflect that.

On his first day in the Oval Office, Biden pulled the plug on the Keystone XL pipeline and put a “temporary moratorium” on oil and gas activities in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve. A week later, he “paused” new oil and gas activities on federal lands and waters and set in motion an army of regulators to begin the process of restricting financing for, access to and use of conventional energy.

Also in January 2021, Biden formally recommitted the United States to the Paris Climate Accords, the global carbon-reduction agreement that, if taken seriously, would cripple the U.S. oil industry and the entire economy—and do so without the consent of Americans’ representatives in the Senate. His nominee to be vice chair of the Federal Reserve famously argued that the central bank should restrict access to capital for energy companies—“a dying industry,” she called them—to punish them for their sins against the climate.

See what I mean?  From literally the very beginning, every action the Biden(‘s handlers) administration has increased energy costs.

But wait!  There’s more!

None of these choices was forced on the president. In every case, he intentionally sought policies and personnel who he knew would cut domestic production of and access to fossil fuels—even as the world’s emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic drove global demand for energy ever higher throughout 2021.

Nor could Biden have any doubt that his regulatory war on fossil fuels would, indeed, drive up the price of fossil fuels. In California, where successive progressive governors and legislatures have restricted drilling, mandated renewable fuels, capped carbon emissions, blocked new projects and hiked taxes, gas today costs not $4 per gallon, but $6. Gov. Gavin Newsom is developing a plan to ban the sale of internal combustion engines from the state altogether—even lawn mowers—no matter the inconvenience or expense.

These are the same kinds of laws that Biden and his team want to impose on the whole country—and with them, $6 gas prices.

Let’s be clear about one thing:  Laying this at President Biden’s feet is probably a tad unfair.  It’s become very clear in recent weeks that he has very little capacity to understand, much less direct, these actions.  He is little more than a mouthpiece for unelected persons behind the scenes who are, yes, very likely deliberately driving this agenda.  They reckon, after all, that it won’t affect them; they demonstrate here the same blindness that affects many in leftist movements, who always seem to have to learn the hard way that, when the glorious People’s Revolution comes, they won’t be the apparatchiks with the clipboards, but more likely the ones tied to posts looking at rifles from the wrong side.

Here’s the onion:

Politicians aren’t engineers or scientists. They can’t make renewable energy better and cheaper. But they can make oil and gas more expensive—ideally, so expensive that the “sustainable” energy sources they like seem comparably affordable.

The Biden energy agenda isn’t a conspiracy. It is an uncomplicated array of policies all aimed at one obvious goal—a goal that Biden himself, his party and the Left openly support. Anyone confused about why the president isn’t acting to lower gasoline prices in the near term and boost America’s energy production and infrastructure in the long term already have their answer.

The only problem Joe Biden sees with $4.23 gas is that it’s too low.

And that’s the crime behind the whole thing:  These people would be much happier with $6.00 gas.

There’s an apocryphal story about the Duke of Wellington, in which he rails against passenger railways, claiming they would “promote unrest by allowing the lower classes to move too freely about.”  What an asshole!  And that’s the same kind of attitude that’s driving this crap in the Imperial City today.

Rule Five Golden Years Friday

Some folks writing in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience claim to have found a body chemistry reason for feeling of contentment later in life.  I’m a little skeptical, but have a read.  Excerpt:

Helping behaviors and life satisfaction generally increase after middle-age. Identifying the neural substrates of prosocial behaviors in older adults may offer additional insights into these changes over the lifespan. The present study examines the endogenous release of the neuromodulator oxytocin (OT) in participants aged 18–99 and its relationship to prosocial behaviors. OT has been shown to influence trust, altruism, charity, and generosity, yet the effect of age on OT release has not been well-established. Blood samples before and after a video stimulus were obtained from 103 participants in order to examine the impact of OT on prosocial behaviors. We found that OT release following a social prime increased with age (r = 0.49, p = 0.001) and that OT moderated the relationship between age and donations to charity. We tested for robustness by examining three additional prosocial behaviors, money and goods donated to charity during the past year and social-sector volunteering. OT moderated the impact of age on all three prosocial behaviors (ps < 0.05). The analysis also showed that participants’ change in OT was positively associated with satisfaction with life (p = 0.04), empathic concern (p = 0.015), dispositional gratitude (p = 0.019), and religious commitment (p = 0.001). Our findings indicate that the neural chemistry that helps sustain social relationships and live a fulfilled life appear to strengthen with age.

Here’s the summary:

Our analysis has identified a likely neurochemical impetus for prosocial behavior that remains intact with age. The data showed that older participants experienced the largest change in OT in response to an emotional stimulus compared to other age groups. The correlation between neurochemical changes and four measures of prosocial actions suggest that OT impacts prosocial behaviors more strongly in aging adults for small increases in OT. As in previous research, our data show that individuals who dispositionally have high empathic concern have a larger increase in OT after a video prime with social content (Barraza and Zak, 2013; Zak and Barraza, 2013). This dispositional effect partially dampens the age effect on OT from the prime revealing a trait-state interaction that influences the acute donation decision. The “high oxytocin responder” effect has been found for other stimuli and behaviors (Rameson et al., 2012; Procyshyn et al., 2020) and has been previously reported for the video used here (Barraza and Zak, 2009). Nevertheless, the positive age gradient for age on donations was maintained for both low and high ΔOT responders. Note that while there was no average change in OT for the video as in a previous study using the same stimulus (Barraza and Zak, 2009), in most published research using social stimuli to induce OT release, including studies with very large sample sizes, only about 50% of participants will show an increase (Barraza and Zak, 2013; Terris et al., 2018).

Yeah, that’s kind of thick.  And yeah, there’s some tentative language there, but that’s how science is actually supposed to work – it’s tentative, subject to new data.

I can’t talk for people in general, of course.  But I suspect that, even if there’s something to this, that there are much larger and more important factors.  Like me, plenty of folks I know, including my siblings, take a lot of joy in their families.  One of the greater things about growing older is seeing your kids launch, start their own lives, start their own families.  And grand-parenting is just fantastic.  Being a grandparent, after all, is the revenge we get for having been parents.

Us folks who are contemplating those golden years can look back on a lot.  Folks who have led a productive, thoughtful, well-considered life can look back on decades of personal and professional achievement, and that certainly leads to satisfaction.

What I’d like to see studied is this:  Compare these factors named here for measuring life satisfaction, but break out the study groups to analyze them in terms of professional and personal success.  Compare, say, a guy who started as a carpenter and ended up running a successful contracting company, to a guy who languished on odd jobs and welfare through his life.  Compare a woman who started as a switchboard operator and ended up as a regional vice-president of the company (my sister did precisely this) to a woman who gamed the welfare system by downloading six kids she couldn’t afford.

I expect you’ll find some correlations there, too.  Granted this doesn’t necessarily show causation – people who are focused, who work, who learn, who strive, are likely to be more successful and more pleased with their lives at any age, while the purposeless… are purposeless.

Still – that’s a study I’d read with some interest.