Monday, June 29, 2009

Post No. 124b: Re-Posting of Post No. 83: The Impure Need Not Apply

Over the past several weeks, a number of elected officials have admitted to extra-marital affairs. Yesterday, we re-posted one of our articles which expressed some thoughts on the subject. We subsequently located another which we are posting again for your consideration.

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Our goal here at the Institute is to assist college students in ultimately formulating solutions. We do not care what the solution is, as long as it is reasoned, and advances the long-term goals of our collective society, and not just the interests of certain groups.

Someone once suggested that elected officials, and those seeking appointment to public service positions, be required to generate, for public dissemination, a detailed historical resume, and provide all tax returns and documentation BEFORE filing to run for elected office, or accepting a nomination or an appointment.

Obviously, an extension of this thought process would suggest that all details of their lives and finances, as politicians or government officials, be similarly disclosed on a periodic basis.

Here's another thought. Our nation has obviously reached the point where our elected officials are expected to be without flaws, and to be pristine and pure in those areas which we consider to be “of importance,” such as the avoidance of tapping shoes under public restroom stalls.

It doesn't matter on which side of the aisle they intend to travel. This should be applied uniformly without regard to political party or ideology.

Why not consider having all applicants for public office execute an affidavit to the effect that they have never broken the law (with the types of offenses enumerated), and have done nothing, of which they are aware, which might be regarded as "inappropriate" for a public official.

To address the concerns of the due process extremists, we could have a bi-partisan commission generate a list of indiscretions, based on years of experience with past scofflaws, including utilizing the services of illegal aliens and the improper utilization of cigars and other contrivances.

In conjunction with the execution of the affidavit, we could also require the applicant to put up as collateral, all of his or her assets, to be forfeited, and the social service placement of any minors within their custody, if it is later determined that there has been some failing in their conduct.

That's one approach which we could employ to weed out all of these pretenders, don't you think? We, as a nation, appear to have no interest in people with flaws or who have failed, so let's deal with that on the front end.

And it also appears, as reflected in the recent comments about Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, and Tom Daschle recently, that admitting that you were wrong, and accepting responsibility for your conduct is viewed as a “little too late,” and of little consequence.

(Hmmm. Perhaps the former governor of Illinois is way ahead of us on that one.)

Why not be proactive and do the Barney Fife by “nipping this in the bud” by disqualifying folks BEFORE they run for office or seek an appointment.

It would make admissions of fault and acceptance of responsibility purely gratuitous.

Doesn’t this seem like the proper and efficient thing to do?

Forget talent! Forget experience! Forget other qualifications!

What we really need to lead us back, to the mountaintop of international moral and economic prominence, is to only have the pristine and the pure lead us there. Hallelujah!

Why waste our time with the impure? Simply toss them aside, and use not their services.

Step forward, all of you who are without sin, to lead us!

The impure need not apply.

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Post No. 124a: Re-Posting of Post No. 89: The High Price of Stubbing Your Toe

Over the past several weeks, several elected officials have admitted to extra-marital affairs. We previously expressed some thoughts on the subject in an earlier post, and we are posting it again for your consideration.

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Owning up to one’s mistakes seems to be one of mortal man’s most difficult acts.

In January 1998, for example, Bill Clinton famously said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky,” though months later, after surviving the ordeal of impeachment, he admitted that his relationship with the young woman had been “wrong” and “not appropriate.”

A cloud of presidential hanky-panky has hung over him ever since, likely diminishing his legacy, though it’s possible that his efforts around the world will offer some degree of redemption.

Lately, a new parade of politicians, celebrities, business people and athletes has come forward to face the white-hot glare of public scrutiny.

The former governor of Illinois, for example, a man seemingly caught red-handed in blatantly illegal activities, stonewalled and attempted to make the case for his innocence on America’s talk shows, at the same time the impeachment machine moved forward unimpeded.

Earlier this month, we saw Michael Phelps admit, without hesitation, that he made a mistake. Despite this, lucrative sponsorship deals that resulted from his eight Olympic gold medals were immediately withdrawn, and law enforcement conducted an investigation to determine whether criminal charges should be filed.

Not long ago, another athlete, Alex Rodriguez, arguably the best baseball player of all time, admitted to using performance-enhancement drugs, sullying his past accomplishments and calling into question whether any records he may break in the future will be legitimate achievements.

In Washington, a respected former Senator, Tom Daschle, up for a key cabinet post in the new administration, ran into a buzz saw when it was revealed that he hadn’t paid taxes on benefits he had received in the position he had held prior to his nomination.

Daschle’s mea culpa was “too little, too late,” according to his critics, though the same comments were not levied against Timothy Geithner, now Secretary of the Treasury and head of the IRS, when his nomination was questioned over his back taxes owed.

Later, Geithner, in a pro-active sleight of hand, said that mistakes would be made in the Administration’s effort to stimulate the economy.

Watching all these large and small melodramas unfold – believe us, Michael Phelps’ mistake was a small one in the big picture – it occurred to us that immediate benefits ought to accrue to those who admit fault and accept responsibility.

We admire our new president’s forthright response to the Daschle incident.

“I screwed up,” he said.

And take note. He said, “I,” not “we” or “my people in charge of vetting cabinet nominees.” Like the small placard that sat on Harry Truman’s desk, the one that read “The buck stops here,” he took ownership of the problem.

Unfortunately, public reaction to admissions of culpability suggests that we, as a society, may be at risk of making it more and more difficult for people, as the expression goes, to fess up.

We have become a society that, in many ways, salivates for red meat from the mouths of talk show pundits and late night comedians.

As children, our parents and teachers encouraged us to tell the truth, even if it meant punishment.

As we matured, we appreciated that doing the right thing, while not always rewarded at the time, would ultimately prove to be in our long-term interests.

Somehow, society must create an environment in which citizens, particularly our elected officials, are permitted, even encouraged, to stand up and admit mistakes, with society viewing such admissions, not as signs of weakness but instead, as individual strength.

At some point, we have to change the culture of denial. Revisiting the potential legal liability associated with acknowledging mistakes might be a start.

We applaud the Obama administration for initiating the climate change, however under-appreciated the effort may seem.

While the costs to our pride and social standing in the short term may appear to be high, the failure to pay that price up front may have a far greater cost over the long haul.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is just plain Common Sense.

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Monday, June 22, 2009

Post No. 124: Hanging Out with the "Left" Crowd

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

The purpose of our blog is to assist college students (and others) in appreciating the roles of Common Sense and Personal Responsibility in evaluating their choices and making decisions. One of the ways in which we pursue these goals is through stimulating thought, and suggesting that there are more than 2 or 3 ways to view any issue. We have always suggested that there are at least 27.

In our preceding Post No. 123, Hanging Out with the “Right" Crowd, we examined various groups of friends or acquaintances with whom teenagers might seek to associate, and the potential influences that those contacts might have on one’s future and view of the world.

The designation of “right” was not intended to suggest a moral choice, or a political or philosophical one. We’re not here to preach. As we said at the end of our piece, we’re more interested in engaging people about how they think, not dictate what to think.

The most rewarding aspect of operating this blog over the past 15 months has been the expansion of our way of looking at the world through the contributions of others. We’ve since modified our sense of the number of ways to view issues; we now believe that there are at least 54 ways.

Perhaps it is only fitting that our most recent expansion of our world view was due to someone steeped in the fantasy and science-fiction world. One of our regular readers operates Buzzy Media Publishing, which produces high-quality science fiction and fantasy audio and MP3 format books. (To make their works even more interesting, they are read aloud by recognizable professional actors from such popular genre shows as Stargate SG-1, Babylon 5, and Buffy and the Vampire Slayer.) She is also a blogger.

She suggested that we add 5 additional types of friends or acquaintances to include in every teenager’s circle of friends:

11. A person of unshakable faith. One of our Senior Fellows tells the story of meeting one of his first undergraduate roommates, who was a Bible Thumper to the max, and his Southern Baptist minister Father. (Desiring to experience all ranges of people he simply accepted whoever the Housing Office placed in his room. His next roommate was a hippie, who was the anti-establishment son of a very wealthy family. He thought something was odd when the hippie started installing a huge clasp and padlock on an upper cabinet, and inserted a giant black plastic bag containing some organic material with a pungent smell.)

12. An atheist. And you thought that only Bible Thumpers were constantly proselytizing.

13. An agnostic. You’ll learn rudimentary diplomacy from this contact.

14. Someone very young. Check out the genius of a 12 or 13 year old college student. It’s a wonder to behold, and you’ll appreciate the concept of the inexplicable. The experience will also potentially make you a better parent.

15. Someone very old. With age potentially comes the 4 Ps: Perspective, Proportionality, Patience, and Philosophy.

We considered asking our readers to provide additional ideas, based on their experiences. In the mean time, we came up with a few more.

16. Someone with a handicap of some sort. The Logistician used to teach in a setting where there were many students with severe developmental disabilities. He watched them day in and day out give their absolute best, on a consistent basis. Interestingly, very few of them thought about what others thought about them. It was a non-issue. Dealing with people without an agenda is a refreshing experience.

17. Someone who is not physically (in terms of beauty or attractiveness) gifted, but who has it all. You’ll learn to appreciate the importance of attitude and how to treat others.

18. A racist / bigot, or some other intolerant. You’ll better appreciate the thought process, and why maintaining their view of the world serves a pragmatic, functional purpose in their lives.

19. A parent. While you’re getting slammed and having your naked body painted during Spring Break in Acapulco, they’ll be home working to provide for the kids. Check out the difference in priorities.

20. A married student. While you’re getting slammed and having your naked body painted during Spring Break in Cancun, they’ll be home wishing they were with you. Check out the difference …, well, perhaps some things are better left unsaid.

We imagine that the only thing left is for us to do come out with another post, Hanging Out with the “Moderate” Crowd.

Actually, we’d appreciate any additions to our list that you may have. Let’s hear from you.

In fact, we just got this one in as we were about to publish our post.

21. An excellent student. It is important to have a good role model up close and personal.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Post No. 123: Hanging Out with the “Right” Crowd

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Viewing the resume of a “successful” person, one might conclude they planned their life path with meticulous care. However, for most of us, the majority of our “choices” are influenced by others.

We all might consider taking less credit for our purported successes, and more blame for our failures. Most good which happens to us is situational and serendipitous in nature.

The Logistician used to tell the story of an argument he had. He felt that everyone knew that brushing one’s teeth promoted good dental health.

A friend countered that many were not aware of its importance. Over the years, he learned to be careful about making assumptions, and consequently judgments, about what people know (and their motivations).

He often noted that those fortunate enough to have someone share knowledge, open a door, or inspire us, have a tendency to think others are similarly blessed.

Last month, we spent time with a 15 yr old, whose Mom attended 2 top institutions. She has gone to great lengths to ensure he attends the most prestigious private school in the area. We’re not quite sure whether he fully appreciates her sacrifices.

Yet, he must have some sense of the value of that education. He encouraged an older Step-Brother to also attend the institution from which he recently graduated. The Step-Brother said his younger schoolmate’s encouragement was a turning point in his life.

In the same environment where we met the 15 yr old, we spent time with a 19 yr old and a 54 yr old. One of us pulled out some dental floss to dislodge a stubborn piece of food. The 19 yr old and 54 yr old simultaneously asked, “What’s that, and what is it used for?” We might have expected them to question the propriety of flossing in public, but not its function. It reminded us of the teeth brushing story.

Apart from positive influences others can have on your life, there are negative ones. Some are obvious. Others, as our current US President can attest, are not. Just think Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers.

Malcolm Gladwell’s latest work, Outliers, explores how one’s environment determines the probability of success. While Gladwell focuses on geographical and physical environments, our experience last week reminded us of the inter-personal factors.

We’ve come up with a list of things for students to consider. They should ensure their close circle of friends includes at least one person who is from, is, or has, the following:

1. A distant land. Make sure that one of your roommates is a Brazilian. Their light-hearted, non-materialistic approach to life will serve as a stark contrast to western values.

2. A station wagon. There will be times you’ll need to transport 22 inebriated bodies. One designated driver can more efficiently convey the group.

3. A wealthy family. You’ll probably get to see both the good and the bad associated with wealth.

4. A poor family. You’ll definitely get to see both the good and the bad associated with poverty.

5. A drug or alcohol problem. You’ll learn to appreciate the value of public embarrassment, and how using substances to an extreme, and without an appreciation of their effect, can be problematic. (Make sure this friend is not driving the station wagon.)

6. Been arrested for something which has been life altering (prior to you doing something foolish). There’s nothing quite like spending time in jail. It provides a whole new perspective on intimacy.

7. A beautiful woman. As the Laughingman once noted during a discussion about how to dramatically increase blog traffic, “Post pictures of Jessica Alba - Naked.” You’ll also learn to appreciate lots of other things about our national obsession with physical beauty.

8. A serious jock bound for the pros. There’s nothing quite like watching the Lakers a row or two behind Nicholson. You’ll also learn the dangers associated with everyone wanting to be with or around you, and treating you like a God, and as soon as they find out you’re not, how quickly they disappear.

9. An engineer or better yet, a physicist. Boring perhaps, but you’ll gain an understanding of most things physical in the universe. And truth be told, most things are about the physical.

10. An artist. They’ll open up a whole new world not taught in the classroom.

Two other points. If you plan to run for President of these “United” States, be sure not to associate with anyone whose future conduct may potentially come back to haunt you.

Finally, hang out with folks who encourage you how to think, not what to think.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Post No. 122e: You've Got to Find What You Love

Yesterday, we posted P.J. O’Rourke’s commencement advice provided in May of 2008, which O’Rourke suggested was unlikely to be heard elsewhere.

The following is what we understand to be the text of the commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and Founder of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005, to Stanford University students, according to the Stanford Report, June 14, 2005. It is a bit more in the traditional mold of such speeches. From the research that we conducted, it appears to be substantially accurate.

All of us, including our college student audience, should give this advice some consideration. It might change your life.

“I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation.

“Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots. I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit.

“So why did I drop out? It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife.

“Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course."

“My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

“And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life.

“So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple.

“I loved it.

“And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example: Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this.

“I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

“None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography.

“If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.

“If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do.

“Of course, it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.
Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.

“So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss. I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parent’s garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4,000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30.

“And then I got fired.

“How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out.

“What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

“I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me.

“I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley.

“But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

“I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

“During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the world’s first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world.

“In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

“I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it.

“Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did.

“You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

“If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right."

“It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

“Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

“About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months.

“My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months.

“It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

“I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery.

“I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

“This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades.

“Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept. No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it.

“And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life.

“It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.

“Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking.

“Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

“They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

“When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch.

“This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along. It was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

“Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age.

“On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish."

“It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

“Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

“Thank you all very much.”

Monday, June 15, 2009

Post No. 122d: Re-Visiting P.J. O'Rourke's Commencement Advice

Somehow, our Nation managed to survive despite President Obama delivering the Commencement Address at the University of Notre Dame. During last year's commencement season, we posted this purported address by one of America's best writers. Enjoy.

Fairness, Idealism and Other Atrocities: Commencement Advice You're Unlikely to Hear Elsewhere.

By P.J. O'Rourke
May 4, 2008

Well, here you are at your college graduation. And I know what you're thinking: "Gimme the sheepskin and get me outta here!" But not so fast. First you have to listen to a commencement speech.

Don't moan. I'm not going to "pass the wisdom of one generation down to the next." I'm a member of the 1960s generation. We didn't have any wisdom.

We were the moron generation. We were the generation that believed we could stop the Vietnam War by growing our hair long and dressing like circus clowns. We believed drugs would change everything -- which they did, for John Belushi. We believed in free love. Yes, the love was free, but we paid a high price for the sex.

My generation spoiled everything for you. It has always been the special prerogative of young people to look and act weird and shock grown-ups. But my generation exhausted the Earth's resources of the weird. Weird clothes -- we wore them. Weird beards -- we grew them. Weird words and phrases -- we said them. So, when it came your turn to be original and look and act weird, all you had left was to tattoo your faces and pierce your tongues. Ouch. That must have hurt. I apologize.

So now, it's my job to give you advice. But I'm thinking: You're finishing 16 years of education, and you've heard all the conventional good advice you can stand. So, let me offer some relief:

1. Go out and make a bunch of money!

Here we are living in the world's most prosperous country, surrounded by all the comforts, conveniences and security that money can provide. Yet no American political, intellectual or cultural leader ever says to young people, "Go out and make a bunch of money." Instead, they tell you that money can't buy happiness. Maybe, but money can rent it.

There's nothing the matter with honest moneymaking. Wealth is not a pizza, where if I have too many slices you have to eat the Domino's box. In a free society, with the rule of law and property rights, no one loses when someone else gets rich.

2. Don't be an idealist!

Don't chain yourself to a redwood tree. Instead, be a corporate lawyer and make $500,000 a year. No matter how much you cheat the IRS, you'll still end up paying $100,000 in property, sales and excise taxes. That's $100,000 to schools, sewers, roads, firefighters and police. You'll be doing good for society. Does chaining yourself to a redwood tree do society $100,000 worth of good?

Idealists are also bullies. The idealist says, "I care more about the redwood trees than you do. I care so much I can't eat. I can't sleep. It broke up my marriage. And because I care more than you do, I'm a better person. And because I'm the better person, I have the right to boss you around."

Get a pair of bolt cutters and liberate that tree.

Who does more for the redwoods and society anyway -- the guy chained to a tree or the guy who founds the "Green Travel Redwood Tree-Hug Tour Company" and makes a million by turning redwoods into a tourist destination, a valuable resource that people will pay just to go look at?

So make your contribution by getting rich. Don't be an idealist.

3. Get politically uninvolved!

All politics stink. Even democracy stinks. Imagine if our clothes were selected by the majority of shoppers, which would be teenage girls. I'd be standing here with my bellybutton exposed. Imagine deciding the dinner menu by family secret ballot. I've got three kids and three dogs in my family. We'd be eating Froot Loops and rotten meat.

But let me make a distinction between politics and politicians. Some people are under the misapprehension that all politicians stink. Impeach George W. Bush, and everything will be fine. Nab Ted Kennedy on a DUI, and the nation's problems will be solved.

But the problem isn't politicians -- it's politics. Politics won't allow for the truth. And we can't blame the politicians for that. Imagine what even a little truth would sound like on today's campaign trail:

"No, I can't fix public education. The problem isn't the teachers unions or a lack of funding for salaries, vouchers or more computer equipment. The problem is your kids!"

4. Forget about fairness!

We all get confused about the contradictory messages that life and politics send.

Life sends the message, "I'd better not be poor. I'd better get rich. I'd better make more money than other people." Meanwhile, politics sends us the message, "Some people make more money than others. Some are rich while others are poor. We'd better close that 'income disparity gap.' It's not fair!"

Well, I am here to advocate for unfairness. I've got a 10-year-old at home. She's always saying, "That's not fair." When she says this, I say, "Honey, you're cute. That's not fair. Your family is pretty well off. That's not fair. You were born in America. That's not fair. Darling, you had better pray to God that things don't start getting fair for you." What we need is more income, even if it means a bigger income disparity gap.

5. Be a religious extremist!

So, avoid politics if you can. But if you absolutely cannot resist, read the Bible for political advice -- even if you're a Buddhist, atheist or whatever. Don't get me wrong, I am not one of those people who believes that God is involved in politics. On the contrary. Observe politics in this country. Observe politics around the world. Observe politics through history. Does it look like God's involved?

The Bible is very clear about one thing: Using politics to create fairness is a sin. Observe the Tenth Commandment. The first nine commandments concern theological principles and social law: Thou shalt not make graven images, steal, kill, et cetera. Fair enough. But then there's the tenth: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's."
Here are God's basic rules about how we should live, a brief list of sacred obligations and solemn moral precepts. And, right at the end of it we read, "Don't envy your buddy because he has an ox or a donkey." Why did that make the top 10? Why would God, with just 10 things to tell Moses, include jealousy about livestock?

Well, think about how important this commandment is to a community, to a nation, to a democracy. If you want a mule, if you want a pot roast, if you want a cleaning lady, don't whine about what the people across the street have. Get rich and get your own.

Now, one last thing:

6. Don't listen to your elders!

After all, if the old person standing up here actually knew anything worth telling, he'd be charging you for it.

P.J. O'Rourke, a correspondent for the Weekly Standard and the Atlantic, is the author, most recently, of "On The Wealth of Nations." A longer version of this article appears in Change magazine, which reports on trends and issues in higher education.

Post No. 122c: Thinking About Innovation and Business Models

We're always interested in different ways of viewing subjects.

To the right of our blog, in the light green column below our Shelfari bookshelf, appears what is referred to in the blogosphere as our “blogroll.” It is a list of blogs which we find to be of interest, and links to them are provided. One of the nifty aspects of New Media technology is that it provides the ability to exponentially expand one’s realm of contact. Folks can “stumble” on your content without you actually directing them toward it.

One of the more interesting blogs which we follow is that of J.P. Rangaswami. His blog, Confused of Calcutta, is about information. Rangaswami was born in Calcutta, and lived there for half of his life before immigrating to the United Kingdom in 1980.

Originally an economist and financial journalist, he now considers himself to be an “accidental technologist.” He deals in the ether where finance meets technology.

He recently generated a post about long-term business cycles and author Hugh MacLeod's upcoming book. It so piqued our interest, and made us think about issues currently being battered around about the global economy, that we thought that you might also find it to be of interest.

Check it out. Some of his references to other thinkers on the subject might prompt you, as it did us, to do some further reading about economic theory and business.

Nothing is ever quite is simple as it may first appear.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Post No. 122b: 45 Lessons Learned about Life

As we have mentioned on numerous occasions, our target audience is college students. Earlier today, we ran across this list of life's lessons on another blog. The list was originally generated by a writer, previously with the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

She has succinctly outlined many of the points we struggle to make in 750 words or less. Our hat goes off to her.

This is well worth the read. While it appears that there is a question as to the correct age of the writer, the wisdom expressed in these pearls is still valuable, no matter what the age of the writer. Quite frankly, we suspect that few 100 year old humans figure this stuff out by the time of their exit from this place.

To enjoy, simply click here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Post No. 122a: Re-Posting of Post No. 90: Making Use of the Current Financial Mess

We frequently re-visit earlier posts to determine their continuing applicability. In February of this year, we generated a piece entitled "Making Use of the Current Financial Mess."

Since we continue to be in an economic "______ession" of some type, we thought that we would re-visit our earlier thoughts, and see if any of your thoughts have changed in the interim.

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Mark Twain observed that if a cat sits on a hot stove, she will never do it again. Unfortunately, she'll probably never sit on a cold stove either.

Everyone has their favorite villain for the current economic collapse. The Logistician sent me a list of 10 ways in which he felt consumers were responsible.

I told him that I did not buy into his premise, but in thinking about it further, I realized that if we only point the finger at the fat cats, we will have learned little. We all bear some responsibility.

We are behaving much like Mr. Twain’s cat. Despite our efforts to revive our financial system, we have little to show for it… yet. We definitely can’t sit at the starting line waiting for the next guy to say, “Go.”

We simply need to use some Common Sense, on which the left and right should be able to agree.

According to the Scientific Method, bad ideas and experiments that don’t work are as valuable as those that do, provided we learn from the experience, and use that knowledge productively.

So, with 2/3rds of our economic well-being based on our own behavior, we would like to suggest a few topics for discussion, the results of which may assist us in finding our way out of this financial wilderness.

1. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

You don’t need a Ph.D. in economics to realize that markets don’t always go up. The observation that a few people are making great sacks of money, and violating the rules of Common Sense, does not relieve us of the obligation of doing our own home work.

If you can’t make the numbers work within your current income, don’t bet on massive increases in the value of your investment to bail you out.

You have a better chance in Vegas than in a financial commodity you do not understand. (And the truth be told, few of us really understand them.)

2. Don’t bet your home on things you don’t need.

Contrary to the Logistician’s mantra, there is nothing wrong with wanting a better, more luxurious life, but not at twenty percent interest. Here there are demons…like bankruptcy…and acid rain falling on your childrens' heads.

Save the money 1st; then buy the Lexus. It’s only Common Sense.

3. Ignore herd instinct.

When everybody agrees on the direction of a market, guess what…?

4. Be careful when building and buying things which are more than you need.

Advertising not withstanding, buying an Escalade won’t make you an NBA star. There is a reason why the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord are the 2 best selling cars in the country.

5. Particularly avoid using credit or going into debt to build or buy things which are more than you need.

We went into debt, both individually and collectively, based on the assumption that the party would never stop.

Pick up any book on history…it always does. And, you don’t want to be the guy playing musical chairs when….

6. Remember that gluttony and greed are 2 of the 7 deadly sins.

Really want to make a 20% return on your income? Pay off your credit cards.

7. Carefully weigh the impact of retirement on an individual and societal level.

The Logistician and I differ on this point. The Logistician feels we got lazy and retired too early. My take is that we took the money and ignored our inherent desire for a more worthwhile job… and after 30 years we couldn’t wait to get out.

With our most experienced workers, although still productive, leaving the workforce early, all of this experience went to waste… and it is experience we can ill afford to waste.

8. Avoid being seduced by the short-term Sirens.

There was a time when we bought things to last. Next time you are in the park, look at the number of people taking pictures with manual focus SLR cameras.

This desire to last drove a subsequent demand for quality… producing a pride of workmanship that represents the essence of “Quality of Life.”

9. Don’t leave the education of your kids to the entertainment industry.

Not wanting to engage them, we abdicated our responsibility to the likes of Nintendo, Disney, and MTV, as long as they didn’t interfere with our pursuit of the “good life.”

If you don’t want children, don’t have them. You can not experience the sense of wonder children project, as they learn about the world via remote control.

You have to be there… and evolution suggests that this is one of the few primal pleasures we have inherited undiminished.

10. Lend a helping hand.

If you know someone in need of a job, through no fault of his own, ask around. Do what you can to help him get re-employed.

Want to raise the “quality of your life,” watch the face of a man or woman you have helped put back to work. Government can’t do that.

You see, we do most of the spending. No income, no spending. No jobs, no income.

Is there anything on this list which defies Common Sense?

After all, we should be smarter than Mr. Twain’s cat.

© 2009, by the Laughingman for the Institute for Applied Common Sense

"There Are More Than 2 Or 3 Ways To View Any Issue; There Are At Least 27"™

"Experience Isn't Expensive; It's Priceless"™

"Common Sense Should be a Way of Life"™