Monday, October 28, 1996

Week of 10/28/1996

Of Perspectives..
- by David Matthews 2

This week there was some rather significant revelations coming out in the news. One was historic, the other political.

For starters, it was revealed by the leader of the Catholic Church that perhaps the theories of evolution were "more than just hypothesis." It may not seem like much, but in perspective it is significant. In the annals of history, this is akin to the admission that perhaps Copernicus wasn’t wrong about the Earth revolving around the sun.

It has always been said by those who have sought a middle ground between Creationism and Evolution that while Evolution has explained the "how" to Creationism’s "why." But those on the side of Creationism have remained defiant against any deviation to what they believe to be the truth. Perhaps now that the source of that defiance, the Catholic Church, has conceded that evolution is neither against the teachings of the Church nor perhaps a contradiction of Creationism, that middle ground can be established.

The debate about the origins of the universe has always been one that has divided theologians and scientists, preachers and teachers, faith and curiosity. The admission from the Catholic Church that perhaps both could coexist could go a long way in restoring the difference between science and the church.

The second revelation came from presidential wannabe Bob Dole. In the span of a week, the Dole campaign reached out for support to the one party it has repeatedly bashed - the Reform Party. The Dole campaign, saddled with what seems to be an unwinable situation, asked Ross Perot not only to step down from the campaign, but to then ENDORSE him. And when Perot said no, Dole intensified the attacks against a candidate most pundits consider to be inconsequential in this race, saying that "a vote for Perot is a vote for (Bill) Clinton."

This is, in the minds of many third party supporters, what the problem is all about - dirty tricks and self-centered interests by career politicians who will do ANYTHING to get elected or re-elected. We are, in this writer’s opinion, seeing the REAL Bob Dole now- the old man who is desperate to win, who will resort to mud-slinging and half-truths to get what he wants. The "Grumpy Old Man" of Washington DC is back .. with a vengeance!

But more than that, Bob Dole’s reaching out to Ross Perot for support shows just how CLUELESS he and the GOP are about not only Perot but for any and all third parties running in this campaign. Dole supporters have repeatedly bashed third parties such as the reformers and the libertarians all through this campaign by continuing a zero-sum lie that voting for anyone other than Dole is a vote for Clinton. How little they remember history! Four years ago, few people ever said that voting for anyone other than Clinton was a vote for George Bush. And even Abraham Lincoln- to whom Bob Dole says the GOP STILL represents - was the odd man out of a FOUR man race in 1860 between himself, Democratic rival Stephen Douglas, John Breckenridge (who also ran as a Democrat), and John Bell of the Constitutional Union Party (which was a short-lived party for many of the former Whig supporters). Would the rally cry back then have been "voting for anyone but Douglas would be a vote for Breckenridge?" Or "voting for anyone but Bell would be a vote for Douglas?"

The truth of the matter is that whoever you vote for is a vote for that person against ALL others. Period. Voting for one candidate takes votes away from ALL other candidates, not just one rival party. And to continuously perpetrate a LIE based on zero-sum paranoia shows not only how unrealistic that party is, but also how utterly deplorable that candidate is because he or she cannot find a solid, legitimate reason for people to vote FOR them. Is that what the Dole campaign want to show the voters?

Two perspectives. One of enlightenment, the other of ignorance. It is a pity that the former has gained more public attention than the latter.

Monday, October 21, 1996

Week of 10/21/1996

Is A Kiss Just A Kiss Anymore?
- by David Matthews 2

A few weeks ago we all heard about the 6 year old boy and the "infamous kiss." For those who don’t read newspapers or watch the evening news.. or who have been on extended missions orbiting the Earth.. here it is in a nutshell: A six-year old boy was asked by a girl of the same age to kiss her in recess. He did. A teacher caught him kissing her, and "punished him" for his actions. (Which amounted to barring him from a certain ice cream party with everyone else in the class.) The parents of that boy took their case to the media and just about everyone has been passing judgment on it and on what many perceive as sexual harassment gone awry.

There. In a nutshell.

Unfortunately the issue behind it isn’t as clear. Who really is at fault? The boy, who kissed the girl? The girl, who supposedly asked him to do so? (By the way, the parents of that girl have wisely stayed out of the limelight on this issue.) How about the teacher who witnessed it and reacted to what she perceived as "sexual harassment?" Or the principal who set standards with no regard to age?

Or perhaps it is the turn we have made in regards to sexual harassment, and the change many women have made from being victims to persecutors. Society has gone from legitimate cases of gross sexual harassment such as the case with now former Senator Bob Packwood to persecuting six year-old boys for something as simple as a kiss. Where have we gone wrong?

Part of it is that we have lost track of defining WHAT sexual harassment is about. It’s got very little to do with sex, and everything to do with POWER. The boss who coerces his secretary for sex to keep her job, or the legislator who gropes and mauls the people who work for him then threatens to ruin their lives if they ever told anyone about it. If it was left to that standard, we wouldn’t have a problem with it as we do today.

But unfortunately it wasn’t. And it wasn’t long before sexual harassment became a knee-jerk reactionary issue. This came with the legal illusion of "creating or fostering a hostile environment" which soon became the standard for sexual harassment lawsuits. Telling stories about sexual exploits or having certain pictures shown in the workplace, all clearly protected under the First Amendment, suddenly created this "hostile environment." And to ward off sexual harassment lawsuits, corporations bent over backwards to prevent ANYTHING that was the least bit sexual in nature. In fact many companies even barred the fraternization of coworkers outside of their job.

The same soon applied to schools and universities, when it was learned that in some cases kids were in fact sexually harassed. But again, here the knee-jerk reactionaries responded by clamping down on anything considered sexual in nature. And that is how a six-year old boy became a "sexual harasser" for simply giving a girl a kiss when she asked for one.

The key problem with sexual harassment is that all too often it is being defined by extreme activists who define ANY form of perceived interaction between genders as a crime, and knee-jerk reactionaries who are all-too eager to prevent lawsuits no matter how frivolous they are. It has gone so far as to consider what people THINK or simply LOOKING at someone can be considered a form of sexual harassment. You don’t believe me? Ask the some of these activists about "lookism."

I don’t deny that there is sexual harassment going on in America. But when the hunt for it goes so far as to create thought-crimes and places the innocent actions of young children along with the vilest of criminals, one has to ask who is REALLY the harasser and who is the harassed.

We need to remind ourselves of what is and isn’t sexual harassment before we try to impose such standards on others, never mind teaching our children about it. What someone looks at or thinks is NOT sexual harassment. Talking to members of the opposite sex is NOT sexual harassment. Flirting with members of the opposite sex, as long as it’s mutually consentual, is NOT sexual harassment. If it’s not mutually consentual and one side continues to flirt when asked not to, it IS sexual harassment. Groping a member of the opposite sex when it is not wanted IS sexual harassment. Asking a coworker out on a date is NOT sexual harassment. Repeatedly asking a coworker out on a date when he or she says no IS sexual harassment. Talking about sex or sexual situations is NOT sexual harassment. Talking about sex or sexual situations when one in the group has asked not to discuss such things IS sexual harassment. Giving a member of the opposite sex a compliment on their appearance is NOT sexual harassment. Giving lewd comments about their appearance IS sexual harassment. A six year old boy kissing a girl when asked to is NOT sexual harassment. A six year old boy kissing a girl when asked not to IS sexual harassment.

We need to remember that when establishing what is sexual harassment we don’t criminalize normal human interaction or discussion about anything remotely sexual in nature. That interaction is what keeps the genders working together, not apart. Remember- sexual harassment has less to do with SEX, and everything to do with POWER.

Monday, October 14, 1996

Week of 10/14/1996

New and Obsolete…
The speed of upgrades are going faster than consumers can buy them!
- by David Matthews 2

Way back in 1990, my parents decided to buy their first personal computer. This was at the time uncharted waters for all of us. My experience with computers was limited to pre-Windows IBM computers and the very first generation of Macintosh. I knew just enough to know how to turn on and off a computer, and how a mouse works. So we went to Sam’s Warehouse and purchased our first computer.

We had gotten an IBM-compatible KLH tower system, with dual disk drives (one 5-inch and one 3-inch), a mouse, 4MB of RAM, a 16-color VGA monitor, a 386 processor with 10mhz of processor speed that was boosted to 40mhz with a button called "turbo" (which obviously we didn’t turn off), 125MB of hard drive space, and a 2400 baud fax/data modem.

At the time it was considered "state of the art." That distinction lasted only two weeks.

A lot has changed since then. We had upgraded that computer and gave it to my sister and her husband, but not before buying another "state of the art" system with a 100mhz Pentium processor, a floppy drive, a 2X CD-ROM drive, 14,400 baud fax/data modem, 8MB of RAM, a 256-colot Super VGA monitor with stereo speakers, 1MB Video RAM, and 1GB (or 1000MB) of hard drive space. Months later I got my own computer that was almost "state of the art" except that now that meant also having a 4X CD-ROM drive, 1.2GB of hard drive space, 16MB of RAM, a combination 14,400 baud fax/data/voice modem and sound card, and a microphone. The "almost" was because the 14,400 baud modem was no longer "state of the art," and because many multimedia programs now needed even more Video RAM to be seen clearly. It’s now a year later and everything on my system is no longer "state of the art."

Have you noticed that system upgrades are coming out faster than the rate consumers can purchase them? It seems like the minute you purchase a computer component it is already outdated.

Take modems, for instance. My sister’s KLH system still has its old 2400 baud modem in it, which was outdated weeks after we first bought the computer by the 4800 baud modem. The came the 9600 modem, and then the 14,400 baud modem, and then the 28,800 baud modem. 33,600 baud modems didn’t even hit the stores when ISDN and T1 Internet modems were making their debut. And people are now talking about cable-modems and satellite dish modems to provide an even faster transfer of information.

Same with CD-ROM drives. My parents got a 2X (or double speed), which was state of the art for only a few months. Then came 4X, then 6X, then 8X. And now a year after I purchased my 4X CD-ROM drive the 10X drives are available.

A year ago the rage was the Windows 95 operating system. But it was barely even on the shelves when software publications were talking about plans for Windows 96 and Windows 97. Fortunately, Bill Gates hasn’t rushed to make Windows 95 obsolete… yet.

Then there’s the cost of continuously upgrading those systems. I purchased my system with a 1.2GB hard drive thinking it would be THE maximum I would need. I was wrong. I ended up buying an additional 2.1 GB hard drive six months later to help contain all the new programs I wanted to put in there. My computer came equipped with 1MB of Video RAM, but even now that isn’t enough. Certain multimedia programs require even MORE than 1MB of video memory. So now I’m looking at video accelerators, which means spending more money.

The latest "rush to upgrade" has involved Microsoft and Netscape and their respective Internet browsers. For a few years now Netscape was considered the "king" of the browsers. Over three-fourths of all web pages on the Internet were designed for the Netscape browser. And for a year Netscape was conducting "alpha" and "beta" tests of it’s new 2.0 browser. Microsoft, the underdog (imagine that!) in Internet browsers, had released it’s version 2.0 not only as part of it’s new Windows 95 system, but also sold it independently- with lackluster results (obviously, since they were already giving it away with Windows 95). Then suddenly, Microsoft releases it’s 3.0 version on the Internet.. not only that but they released it FREE! Netscape, after having only recently releasing it’s 2.0 version, then released it’s own 3.0 version. Now both companies are fighting over which is the better version, as well as who would come out with their NEXT generation of browsers in the fall, while they have barely begun to sell their respective 2.0 versions.

I have never been the one to complain about the drive for excellence in business. However, this "rush" to upgrade has always been one of the key problems with computers and the software industry, partly because the speed of these upgrades are going at a pace faster than retailers can sell the previous models.

If anything, the Internet has aggravated the rush to upgrade. The battle of the browsers between Netscape and Microsoft is only part of the problem. Many web designers have also been creating complex and elaborate sites on the assumption that EVERYONE would be using the fastest modems available and the most advanced browsers available, even if it’s only in it’s "beta-test" version.

But when you’re using a 14.4 modem it takes a long time to get that single page loaded when it’s cluttered with images and Java and plug-ins and frames. So now I’m also looking at faster modems just so I can access those sites.

With all this rush to make the computer world "state of the art," designers and software companies have forgotten one important element in business- the consumer! After all, these are the people who will be buying their products. And when a product, be it hardware or software, costs more than a couple of dollars, it can turn into a serious investment for them. Unlike big corporations, the average consumer cannot afford to buy "the latest" at the drop of a hat.

There used to be a trend called "keeping up with the Jones’," which referred to keeping up with the latest and most up-to-date products available. This applied to cars, houses, television sets, fashion… but obviously it does not continue into the age of the personal computer. In the end, computer companies need to remember that while it is ideal to always be looking for ways to improve a system, they don’t outpace the speed of their consumers.

Monday, October 7, 1996

Week of 10/07/1996

Failure of the 2-Party System
If Clinton gets re-elected, who’s really to blame?
- by David Matthews 2

If credence can be given to the vast array of political polls available, it looks like Bill Clinton will be re-elected to the office of President of the United States. (Actually I have little credence to polls, but that is another story.) Given the sagging results in those polls, republican supporters and pundits have been crying foul. "What about character?" they scream. "What about ethics?"

But if Bob Dole, the supposed champion of the Republican Party, is unable to win in November, would it really be because the voters don’t care about the character of the candidates?

On the onset, the political platform of the Dole/Kemp campaign seems to reflect what Americans want: less government, more freedom, lower taxes. But what does it mean when Bob Dole talks about "less government" and "more freedom?"

Lurking in the shadows of the first two principles are two words that are in apparent contradiction to less government and more freedom - "family values." Or at least family values as defined by people like those in the Christian Coalition and other religious and social organizations who have run roughshod through the GOP and dominated that party. The same group that has pushed for censorship through the Communications Decency Act. The same group that believes that a piece of cloth (in this case a flag) is more important than the principles it represents. The same group that believes that the principle of "separation of church and state" only means not having an "officially established" national religion. The same group that feels they have the right to tell you how to live your life.

Is that what Bob Dole calls "more freedom?"

Then there’s the charge that Bob Dole is "tough on crime." I myself feel this is nothing more than the political version of "my phallus is bigger than your phallus." One side says they are tougher on crime, the other side says they’re really tougher. One side wants more 100 more cops, the other side says they want 1000 more cops. One side says they want "three strikes and you’re out," while the other side says "That’s weak! I want only one strike and then execute them!" Bob Dole says "I want to use the National Guard to help catch drug lords," while Bill Clinton says "Oh yeah? Well I’m using my authority as president to go so far as to crack down on tobacco. Can you beat that?" Both sides making promises for more and more crackdowns, more cops, more prisons, and more laws to crack down on criminals. That means spending on more government officials and agencies, and if not on the federal level then mandated at the state level.

Is that what Bob Dole calls "less government?"

Clearly when Bob Dole talks about "less government" and "more freedom" he is not telling the truth. So when it comes to "character," Bob Dole isn’t a saint in that regard.

But perhaps the fault in Bob Dole’s campaign lies not entirely with his arguments but rather that he hasn’t provided a strong alternative to Bill Clinton.

Much like Dole, Clinton is a career politician. The only difference between the two is that while Clinton is an overt politician, Dole is a back-room politician. His is the art of negotiation, while Clinton’s skill is in trying to be all things to all people. So there would be little overall difference between a Clinton Administration and a Dole Administration. Either way, the voters would be stuck with a career politician, and the status quo.

So what would be the alternative? The only real alternative lies with third parties, the very group of people the two parties both ridicule and fear. And perhaps that is why both parties work hard to discredit competition, and keep them in the dark as often as possible.