Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Lode 3-29

My editor sent an email to the list of opinion writers early yesterday morning asking for additional articles. For some reason, he failed to print that which I sent him, causing me much chagrin. Still, I do not wish to rob my readers of my latest creation. He did print one of my columns, now, if only he would increase my word limit a little. 300 words is not enough for my verbose self--and I'm getting sick of trying to make this point to him. Enough complaining, here goes:

Since I am not only a fan of, but also a self-professed expert on women, I will graciously offer some advice to the ladies of MTU. With graduation quickly approaching, here are two things to do if you wish to be unhappy.

  1. Don't get married. Sure, bouncing around like the empowered women on Sex in the City sounds fun. In fact, if you can keep a trim figure, you can play Carrie Bradshaw until thirty-five, maybe even forty. After that, it's more akin to “Watching Sex and the City Reruns and the City”; not only is the alliteration horrific, but I imagine the prospect is likewise.

Men are attracted to fertility. A lot of guys do like the thrill that comes with bagging an older woman, but settling down with a seasoned veteran has few perks. The longer you wait to get married, the slimmer the chances of finding a guy who is even remotely marriageable.

  1. Don't have kids. This one is surprising simple. At the risk of ruining the dreams of young people everywhere, work is not the place to find happiness. Yes, men and women alike do find some sort of fulfillment in the forty plus hour work week. Yet the accomplishments that you will ultimately treasure will not be the code you wrote, the bridge you designed or even the patent you filed. There isn't a soul alive who wished she spent more time at the office, firing off memos, sitting through meetings and chatting it up at the ever-popular water-cooler.

Motherhood, on the other hand, offers a real chance to “make a difference”. The company you work for does not care about your hobbies and interests, even if your co-workers might. You are a name and a number, and as long as it is economically beneficial to pay you for your labor, you'll remain a cherished employee. On the other hand, your children will care about you and appreciate you, if not always, then certainly in the long run. Any cursory visit with an elderly individual will reaffirm this hypothesis. Those who are old often have a lot of time to themselves. When we do have the privilege of talking to them, we will not hear stories of all the great work they did while employed. Instead, we will hear whimsical anecdotes about loved ones, especially children and grandchildren. It is prudent to heed the implicit advice of those who have more experience than we.

If you keep these two kernels of wisdom firmly ensconced in your cranium, you should be well on your way to a fairly happy existence. However, since you've got that brand new degree, you'll probably want to use it. There is nothing wrong with this per se, but remember that fertility rates do eventually peak; the window of prospective motherhood slams shut at some point in time, never to open again.

Very few of the choices we make have repercussions that resonate throughout our entire lives. Rarer still is the choice that positively affects mankind in any significant and lasting way. Yet perpetuating the human species will leave an impression, by virtue of your progeny themselves, who will likewise influence the world. It is a bit peculiar to have kids merely to be remembered, but doing so does carry with it the distinct possibility of leaving the world a better place than one found it. All the power-point presentations in the world are unlikely to offer monumental impact to this planet of ours in the way that having children will. This world needs good parents more than it needs good bosses.

The choice is yours. May you choose well.

Update: I sent an email to my editor. This is his reply:

It was my discretion to decide not to print the article you wrote this
week. In nature, I found it based upon broad generalizations. We want our
opinions to more than debate a position, but also inform on one's side. I
found that this article did not back up it's assumptions that women will
be happy if they get married and have kids, but assumed instead that they
would get unfulfilling jobs. The article would've been better if you
focused on why motherhood allows women to truly make a difference, rather
than attack the "Sex in the City" freelance feminists. I thought it was an
outright attack on single women that lacked substance, being particularly
one-sided. Also, references to "bagging an older woman" or "settling down
with a seasoned veteran" was somewhat unprofessional. Do not try and
offend those you need to persuade the most. Rather, acknowledge their side
and inform them on your position. Please keep this in mind for next week.

I hope I'm not doing anything unseemly by printing his response. It's not as if anyone is reading this, anyways.

Personally, I think it should be up to me if I wish to be "offensive". My editor is clearly an emasculated little boy. The topic du jour was a delicate one, but it was also an important one.
I thought the piece was fairly tactful, considering my distaste for feminism. I merely noted that women have a chance to make a difference by becoming parents, and that chance far surpasses any possibilities of greatness in the "real world". Common sense, or so I thought. I wonder if he's in an "egalitarian relationship".

Oh well. Thus ends another mediocre issue of The Lode, or as my editor puts it: "Congratulations on yet another great week for the Lode! Keep up the good work!"

I prefer the comment from a reader on the opinion page: "and your solution is what exactly? way to write an article with no content or worth. why does the lode consistantly have articles that mention something from the news but do not present any solutions or ideas about the "problem"?"

The reason is that my editor won't print my columns which are offensive but also tend to offer solutions. We prefer an opinion page devoid of opinions.

This has me especially riled up. I was really looking forward to getting this published. Yet again, the readers lose. I'm not trying to be egotistical, merely stating facts. A quick run through of the opinion page will not only prove my point, but cure insomnia as well. Rather than publish an article on a topic which was surely important to at least the females in the Michigan Tech reading audience, we printed the usual drivel.

When a female Tech grad reaches 40, sans husband, sans kids, she's going to be most displeased. I'm not saying my article was so good that it could radically change society; it wasn't that good. But it would have the student body thinking about something that I feel is not only important, but often completely ignored.

Rant complete.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Meaning What We Say

Sean Penn is in the news and not because of his acting skills. It seems the star of Dead Man Walking, I Am Sam and The Thin Red Line has a cherished possession that the average movie-goer does not yet retain. Normally, the various singular acquisitions of the Hollywood crowd tend to be something we mortals can only dream of due to the exorbitant wealth needed to purchase them. Penn's case is different, as I see no reason we can't all own our very own plastic Ann Coulter doll. It seems Penn is doing less accessorizing and more cigarette-burning as he uses the doll, not to cuddle with, but to torture.

For those who may not know, Ann Coulter is an outspoken conservative columnist, lawyer, and television pundit who is also a best-selling author, and of whom Penn evidently disagrees with, most likely on an idealogical level. “She's a pure snake-oil salesman. She doesn't believe a word she says,” Penn says of Coulter. This seems to be a curious criticism. For although she often makes sarcastic points, I would bet that Miss Coulter usually means what she says. It would be extraordinarily odd—as well as out of character—if Coulter responded to Penn's comments with a careless shrug that, “He doesn't really mean it.” Penn means it, and although he believes Coulter is essentially pulling things out of the sky, he is most emphatically wrong. Unless you're James Frey, lucky enough to have your book picked up by Oprah—and aided by her adoring audience of automatons—you don't become a best-selling author of non-fiction by making up lies.

I must confess, I like Ann. What she lacks in tact she more than makes up for in devastating wit. There isn't a liberal who can match her on a consistent basis, much less a woman. I think that's what I like best about her. Arguably the most successful woman in political punditry is a conservative. Who would the left offer as their Ann? Maureen Dowd? Unlike the highly esteemed columnist from the New York Times, the fiery vixen darling of the right has room for more than two thoughts. If you haven't read a Dowd column, I'll save you the trouble: “Bushie is an idiot, liberal women are the best thing since sliced bread and the only reason men don't want to marry us is because we're too smart.”

Ann's one flaw is that she may not be, strictly speaking, helping matters. Her points are scathing, and usually quite funny, but she's simply too clear and forthright to change liberal minds. She does make progressives awful mad though, and that alone may be a contribution to the betterment of humanity, if only because it's so wonderfully amusing.

My respect and esteem for Miss Coulter is not the issue; Penn's inability to take her at her word is. The idea that the red/blue divide is vast, if not insurmountable, is over-exaggerated—if the alignment of governmental policies by the two parties is to serve as a telling point. However, Penn and Coulter are emblematic of two schools of thought that are widely different, dubbed conservatism and liberalism out of convenience, but typically manifested to various degrees and encapsulating multiple forms.

Yet we are never going to get anywhere if we can't take the other side at face value. I have no doubt that Penn means what he says. My only complaint is that he couldn't think his way through the most poorly written of Coulter columns.

The reality is conservatives, like liberals, often mean exactly what we say. The tendency to shrug aside as trivial remarks of those with whom they disagree makes most liberals embarrassingly shallow intellectuals.

Said and meant.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Lode 3-22

My column for this week at the new Lode Website.

I'm not sure if the comments work yet--over at the site I mean. Still, it's a fresh new look.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

State's Rights: A Prospective Rebirth

Each time I bring up the 10th Amendment I am given one of three responses:
1) Which one is that?
2) Dude, that died with the Civil War.
3) That's such a copout.

To which I reply:
1) It states that any powers that do not fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government as alliterated in the constitution are given to the states. You should either read up on history or kindly refrain from voting.
2) You're probably right, but that doesn't mean it should have. Drat slavery really screwing things up.
3) It is most certainly not. The tenth amendment is the most overlooked amendment of them all, despite its brilliance.

The Founders knew that even reasonably informed and intelligent men were going to disagree on things from time to time. They also knew that while it was abhorrent to allow the will of the many from trampling upon the rights of the few, it was equally abhorrent to allow the will of the minority from becoming the law of the land.

Thus, a state could legislate however it wished, within certain broad limits. In this manner, the majority in a state could decide what set of laws they wished to obey. If a group of citizens disliked a law, they would be free to find a state where the laws were less burdensome.

Of course, it was possible that no state offered the citizens the protections they believed they deserved. While unfortunate, this thing is bound to happen. It is almost infinitely more likely that a person may find a state with laws to his liking among fifty than to find that a large federal government agrees with him on even most principles.

The best way to prevent conflicts on social issues is to allow the people of the respective states to decide things for themselves. We need not look far to see the folly of ignoring the wisdom in the founders in regards to the tenth amendment. When the court ruled that abortion was a constitutional right in Roe v. Wade, half the country became incensed--and Republicans found themselves in power more often than not, funny that. With South Dakota recently making abortion illegal once again, it looks as though this issue will be revisited by the High Court. The decision is still a long ways in coming, but barring a death or retirement from a liberal justice, Roe will probably remain ensconced, if the court predictably honors president.

But there is another instance in which the issue of states rights would prove invaluable. Things in Iraq, though certainly not as bad as much of the media would have it believed, are not going terribly well. With three sects opting for power--or at least the ability to exist without persecution from the others--the ideal of tenth amendment becomes immediately practical. Only by placing Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds in sovereign states so as to govern themselves will Iraq become democratic and stable in any sense of either word.

It is tragic that the courts have trampled on this part of the Bill of Rights, and the negative effects of this have been demonstrated clearly. It is not too late to revert to strict contructionism, or even to a time when justices did not fall asleep before getting to amendment number ten. Yet in all likelihood, the federal government is not going to relinquish powers to the states barring a miracle.

While foolishly thrown out here, this principle would serve the Iraqis well were they to implement it. I don't wish to be too optimistic, but wouldn't it be humorous if the democracy of Iraq outlasted our own? To carry this absurdity further, it would be a masterful irony if the Iraqis had to liberate us from an oppressive dictator to return to us the fruits of democracy. Perhaps then we will get our state's rights back.

Magic Mountain

One mark of the prototypical pseudo-intellectual is the statement that something is "deep" or "profound" merely because the thing exists on a higher plain than the person making the statement. One sees this a lot among the college crowd--even with engineers--as a movie that is bizarre is almost always "deep".

American Beauty and Donnie Darko had their moments, but neither struck me as especially deep. I do not think I will ever understand what was so alluring about Garden State, and aside from the concept of "silent velcro" those are two hours of my life I would very much like back. The whole genre of "college thinking movies"--as my friend Tyler puts it--seems to be worshipped by people who do not know how to think very well at all.

Now that this is out of the way, I can attempt to review a book which was to a large extent over my head. Certainly I understood it, but I do not know how much I understood, because Magic Mountain was a very "deep" read. A very good novel will often make salient points which are not altogether connected with the theme, and yet manage not to divert from it. Thomas Mann does this time and time again, as the characters wax philosophically on many occasions, "taking stock" of various issues such as the nature of time, the importance of human reason, death, the idea of progress, and of course war.

Though at times a bit dense, the dialogue was by far the most entertaining and enlightening part of the book, as the plot was purposefully thin. It was a mark of his brilliance that Mann could write so much on so many topics within a novel that very little happens. Or perhaps, as a citizen in a time period where hustling and bustling is the order of the day, the plot was largely lost on me for being too subtle.

The "hero" of the novel is named Hans Castorp. He is at once a strong enough character that the reader is drawn to him and cares about him, and a weak enough character that the larger personalities and intelligences of his peers influence him, albeit slowly and again, subtly.

There is very little left of me to say, I think. The book concerns war, and though often as not the background, the reader cannot go too long without recalling what is surely pending. It would seem from the brevity, as well as the lack of profundity and deepness, that I have not "gotten" this book at all. The reality of course, is that the lessons were imparted upon me. However, the nature of the book prevents a reader from simply regurgitating the whole point of the book.

For though Mann is "a wiser man than I", he is wise enough to know he does not know it all--much like Socrates perhaps. His book leaves the reader with many questions, and the war hangs over a man's thoughts just as it hangs over our hero.

I doubt very much that war will ever be a forgotten relic of the barbaric past at any time. Yet, perhaps, a trip up the Magic Mountain will suffice to stave of the violent end, at least for a moment. Then again... hmmm... and my thoughts go shooting off again.

A puzzling and provocative read indeed, but well worth it, despite my incoherent ramblings that beg the contrary.

No Children, No Problem

I've been known to go on Buchanan-esque rants bemoaning what he calls "The Death of the West"--read the book. By all respects, Japan should be counted as Western insofar as its imminent demise is concerned.

Yet it would appear that the Japanese have found away to take care of the elderly who happen to lack children. Best of all, this solution doesn't involve euthanasia, as with the enlightened Europeans. The Japanese have way more style than that.

A Japanese-led research team said it had made a seeing, hearing and smelling robot that can carry human beings and is aimed at helping care for the country's growing number of elderly.

Government-backed research institute Riken said the 158-centimeter (five-foot) RI-MAN humanoid can already carry a doll weighing 12 kilograms (26 pounds) and could be capable of bearing 70 kilograms within five years.

And to think I have spent my time imploring people to have children. How silly of me. With robots to take care of us, there's really no need to give up the selfish lifestyle afforded to us by the almighty birth control and sacrifice by having children.

Of course, the article doesn't mention if the robots are capable of love. Then again, if we've evolved beyond the need for children, maybe love is no longer necessary either.

At least they're not killing the elderly.

Lode 3-15

Article for the week. With a job that consists of staring at a computer for 8 hours, I usually don't feel like doing more of the same when I come home. Thus, the lacking of the posting.

I finished Magic Mountain, though. I'll assemble some thoughts on that at some point, Troutsky.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Goodbye Dubai

Bowing to ferocious opposition in Congress, a Dubai-owned company signaled surrender Thursday in its quest to take over operations at U.S. ports.

"DP World will transfer fully the U.S. operations ... to a United States entity," the firm's top executive, H. Edward Bilkey, said in an announcement that capped weeks of controversy.

Yawn. I'm really sorry I can't get fired up over this one, but the controversy never seemed to deserve all the ferocity. Sure, handing the ports over to a Middle Eastern country wasn't brilliant, but this incident was much ado about nothing. Despite making Patriot Act provisions permanent--just in time for President Hillary--we've yet to secure the borders or take security seriously. Oh no, the Arabs are at the ports! At least we know where to find them; this in opposition to the innumerable terrorists who have snuck across the Mexican border.

Anyway, the port deal is history, which might actually be a good thing. Bush has yet to use his veto, but he's gone to the well of republican royalism once too many times. The 2006 election is still a long ways off--relatively speaking--and it's nigh impossible to make a prediction over which party will be less incompetent so as to gain ground in the house and senate. However, who wins seems to be less of an issue than it would have been even a week ago.

Bush could be in trouble. It is possible that this port incident could have stirred up misguided neo-cons to what true conservatives have been saying for years now. Bush is not a conservative, and electing candidates of either major political party will end in the demise of this republic. Maybe conservatives do not understand just how deeply they have been betrayed, but this could be a turning point.

The one advantage to the Dubai port deal was that it would save the country money. The Bush administration is in bed with corporations, and though the president professes a belief in Christ, his actions profess a belief in money. I need not note what the Saviour Bush and I supposedly share had to say about serving two masters.

The Dubai incident is also emblematic of the problems inherent in an addiction to free trade. I have stated by belief in protectionism before, and it's entirely possible that I could be wrong that protectionism will usher in another era of American prosperity. Protectionism has not been practiced by our country in so long, the glowing predictions by Buchanan and others could fall short of reality. Yet addiction to free trade is suicide. There are certain jobs that Americans should do. American companies could certainly screw up at the ports, but I'll take damned yankees over those who would salute any other flag. Yet it is more than a matter of patriotism. For if the the citizens of this fair land play the part of Benedict Arnold, we can ensure they pay severely.

It is said that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Thus, without securing the borders, putting a priority on port security is not going to strengthen the national security chain substantially. Since Bush is a free trading plutocrat, he's not going to do away with the cheap labor that allows the corporations to pad their profits. Bush is either so naive that he thinks wire-tapping alone is going to save us or he is complacent. Or he is downright evil, a prospect so striking I can scarcely utter it.

Portgate could be nothing more than evidence that the blogosphere over-reacts to everything, but I do think it is something far bigger. I close with two predictions:

Joseph Farah says that if the Democrats gain a minority, Bush will be impeached, rendering Bush, not a lame duck, but a "dead duck". A floundering Bush administration, coupled with he rule--however brief--of President Cheney would suit Hillary nicely.

Michael Savage believes that the ports will be given to Haliburton. See above.

I'll be watching.


I have a confession to make. I once supported the current War in Iraq.

Politically and intellectually, I grew up on talk radio. I was reading and listening to Rush Limbaugh freshman year of high school. Sure, our country had problems—so said the radio and the books—but Rush was right and conservatism provided the solution to the liberal mess created by that jerk Clinton. Life wasn't good, but everything would be fine once the republicans were in power.

Then one of the worst possible things happened. Bush won the 2000 presidential election and began to slowly expose the republican party as a sham. Sorry to break the news to all you ditto-heads, but I cannot hide the truth from my readers. The current republican party is conservative in name only.

Unfortunately, I had not yet reached this epiphany when it came time to go to war. I listened closely as right-wing pundits laid out the case over and over again. Although most of it made sense to me, in all honesty I had never really thought about war, which was something distant, and certainly in the past. The Red Badge of Courage was a compelling read, but I had no intention of playing the part of Henry Fleming, even if this war did not claim the title of “civil”.

The sheer lunacy of those in opposition to the Iraq War ensured that I would remain a good little republican, at least for the time being. Unfortunately, Mr. Limbaugh had instilled in me more than strict faith in conservatives; he had taught me to think for myself.

Thus, I came to where I am now. The war should not have been fought, for one can never perpetuate an evil so that a greater evil is avoided. One must actually do good. While well-intentioned, the war against Iraq was an immoral one, perpetrated by American aggressors and sanctioned by a “conservative” president and a Congress too cowardly to exercise their constitutional responsibility in declaring war.

The War in Iraq is going to be difficult to win, if not impossible. One big problem with supplanting democracy in is that by nature, it is something which is grown from within. Certainly it is possible that Iraqis could rise up to support the democratic regime, but as of yet they have not done so. Although we toppled Saddam, allowing the majority Shiites to gain power, they do not appear willing to bear the responsibility that comes with it. As Pat Buchanan notes, “Shiite conduct calls to mind the remark of the Austrian prime minister after Tsar Nicholas I intervened to save the Hapsburgs from revolution in 1848: "We shall astonish the world with our ingratitude."”

Loyal republicans point to the near eighty percent of Iraqis who voted as a sign that things are going well, but so long as the United States military is needed to hold the country together, things are not going well enough.

The far bigger problem in Iraq is its sectarianism. We can all agree that Saddam was a mean-spirited dictator, but for all his war crimes, he did manage to keep three groups of people together, despite their vehemence for each other. The Kurds were not pleased with Saddam's decision to gas them of course, but for the most part, Iraq was a stable country—if tyrannical—under the expunged despot.

As long as there is still a chance that the Iraqis can prove themselves capable of self-government, we owe it to the people to stay for as long as they ask. Two wrongs do not make a right; the fact that we botched things by going in does not make us right in bailing out.

I hope that I am wrong about Iraq, but if the republicans are found to be wrong, one wonders whether apologies will be forthcoming, or whether blame will be placed upon those of us who do not support the immoral war.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Patriot Act Here to Stay

We can look forward to further wire-tapping, thanks to the spineless cowards in Washington.

Capping months of partisan wrangling, the U.S. Senate gave final congressional approval on Thursday to renewing the USA Patriot Act, a centerpiece of President George W. Bush's war on terrorism.

A day after passing a related bill to better protect civil liberties in this war, the Senate approved the renewal measure on a 89-10 vote. It next goes to Bush to sign into law. The House of Representatives passed it in December.


With 16 provisions of the act set to expire next week, the bill would make 14 of them permanent and extend two others by four years.

The Patriot Act was rushed through in the chaos that emerged after 9/11. A single senator opposed the legislation--Russ Feingold D-WI. This time, nine people joined him.

Hey Democrats? What's the excuse this time? Partisan wrangling my eye! There isn't a party committed to civil liberties in Washington. Boy, I'm really feeling awful that I didn't vote for George W. Bush.

As the situation in Iraq gets worse, it seems highly unlikely that the U.S. will remain engaged in the not too distant future. The excuses from neo-con pundits have been slowly rolling in, leading me to believe that a full withdrawal could be forthcoming. I do wonder if we'll get our rights back at that point, but I'm not counting on it.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006