Monday, November 25, 1996

Week of 11/25/1996

On … GULP! … Turning 30!
- by David Matthews 2

Remember what I said in my column about EVERYONE getting thoroughly bashed? Well now it’s MY turn…

This past Thursday (11/21) I hit the big 3-0.

Yes, thirty. I’ve left the realm of the twenty-somethings that comprises the bulk of my Generation X brethren into SERIOUS adulthood. Gone are the years where I have to "make a name for myself." Now it’s "produce or DIE!" Gone are the years of "living for the moment." Now I have to "invest for the future."

But let’s look at that for a moment.. I have yet to "make a name for myself." Instead, because of the shifting job market, and the transition from the Industrial Society to the Information Age, I and everyone else my age have jumped straight into the "produce or DIE!" mode. And with the financial problems I and my parents have had, I haven’t been able to "invest for the future." Everything I’ve "produced" has gone into paying the bills "of the moment."

And of course, turning 30 is also supposed to mean I have to think about "settling down" and starting a family. That is part of the "produce or DIE" and "investing for the future" mentality. But given my fiscal instability, an unclear job future, and a social life that would make the monks at Saint Anselm proud, starting a family right now would be as improbable as Bill Clinton not waffling on a controversial issue.

Then again, there are some advantages to turning thirty. It means no longer being referred to as a "boy" or "young pup." It means I am supposed to be taken more seriously than before. It means I’m supposed to be "more responsible." (That helps, especially with car insurance.) And of course it also means I won’t have to be asked for ID as often when I order or purchase alcohol (unless they have a policy that would card even Strom Thurmond).

And perhaps being a thirty-something member of Generation X will also have a positive impact, allowing those my age to be more readily accepted into society as did the Baby Boomers. Perhaps we can even dispose of the "slacker" stigma that has been so wrongly placed on us. (I personally find if hilarious that the same media that wants to recycle the 60’s and the 70’s would dare call other people "slackers.") Perhaps the term "slacker" can be retired like "hippies" were for the Baby Boomers and we can finally be accepted for what we really are - simply the next generation trying to make order out of the mess they were given.

Of course, wait a couple more years and the media will catch on to the transition and make something big out of nothing.. again. "The Slackers turn 30.. what does this mean for you? Next on Dateline NBC!" I shudder at the thought of some future Madison Avenue ad campaign using recycled Nirvana songs and "retro-grunge."

Monday, November 18, 1996

Week of 11/18/1996

Internet .Con-Games
- by David Matthews 2

Psst.. can you keep a secret?

Good, because I’d like to tell you the secret to making MONEY!

Yes, dollars, denier, francs, yen, money, money, money, money! So much money that you’ll slap yourself silly wondering why you’ve been slaving over that job of yours!

How would you like to wake up at your OWN pace, never having to work a real job again? Think of all the things you could do that you couldn’t before! And all you have to do is sit back and let those check roll in. Life should be that easy, and I’ll show you how!

Just call me at 1-900-555-MONEY and I’ll tell you my secrets to making money. Yes, you heard me.. call me at 1-555-GET-RICH!

Oh, so you’ve tried the program already? And you still aren’t rich?

Well maybe you haven’t tried hard enough. Why don’t you take part in my advanced personal seminar on getting rich using the same techniques I used to get rich? I’ll tell you some NEW ways to make money while not doing anything. Yes, in my advanced seminar you’ll be an even BETTER person, and get rich at the same time!

So don’t delay! Reserve your seat and materials now through my secure Internet server! Have your credit card handy and click on over to http:/ww.bigmoney.con NOW!

Better yet, why settle for just GETTING rich when you can teach others to do the same thing and get even RICHER in the meanwhile! Take part in my exclusive "Dynamic Power Pyramid Management System!" In the DPPMS you can set up Power Pyramids of your own. You won’t have to sell anything at all - just teach others people to sell using the secrets I have for successful business.

For a LOW, LOW $150 "Executive Quick Start Program" I’ll train you in starting up your own Power Pyramid. Once you get the hang of it, then you can train others, and they will train even more people, and so on. And the best news is that once you get started, YOU’LL get paid for every new recruit under you, and for every sale made!

I know what you’re thinking: you think this is some sort of "multilevel marketing" scheme, right? WRONG! We’ve already done all the marketing - that’s how we’ve been able to provide you with the successful secrets to easy living and quick cash!

PLUS we’ve got an EXCLUSIVE "get-rich-or-die" money back guarantee! If after paying our fee, taking our seminars, and work your ass off like never before, you don’t have money coming out of your ears after 50 years, you’ll get your money back!

So don’t delay! E-mail me at scammaster@bigmoney.con for all the juicy details on how to make money, money, MONEY!

Any of that sound familiar? These are the compilation of some of the messages and E-mails I’ve got over the Internet. Such messages have sprouted all over the newsgroups, infesting them like viruses. Usually they have subject headers like "It’s no joke! I’ll make you rich!"

Now, we all would like to have more money. Who wouldn’t? But there’s always something wrong about so-called "secrets to success" that people try to peddle to others.

For starters, if these programs are such "secrets" why is it being cross-posted to every newsgroup possible and e-mailed to every Internet user they can get their hands on? If this information is handed out freely, then it’s not really a "secret" is it?

More importantly, if it’s such a secret why tell us? Out of the "goodness of your heart?" R-I-G-H-T!!! Usually there is no "get rich quick" program without you paying money, or making a phone call that costs you money. That’s how these people MAKE their money in the first place - by getting you to give it to them!

And let’s talk about these programs that "aren’t" multilevel marketing programs. Multi-Level Marketing programs, or MLM, used to be called "Pyramid Schemes" because of it’s organization. I’ve seen them work - and the only people who really make any money on them are the folks who START such programs.

Here’s how one such program works: You start off as a salesman, selling widgets or whatever product they have to offer to the people you know. Then you’re supposed to turn around and recruit people to work under you, selling the same stuff you’re selling but you get a portion of their profit as commission, just as the people who recruit YOU get a portion of your profit as commission. Then those people are supposed to recruit other people, and so on and so forth. The more people who get recruited under you supposedly translates into more and more money.

Sounds nice… in theory. But there is an intrinsic problem - there may be an ample market for one salesman, but what happens when you then recruit five other people to work under you? And those people recruit five people under them? Do your math. There’s now thirty-one people, including yourself, selling the same product! That’s fine if those thirty others sell in other towns or cities, but in most cases that cuts into YOUR market. Think about it like fast-food chains. One or two may be great, but stick one on every street corner and you kill whatever market you had.

Then there’s the assurances you make more money in recruiting those five people, who then recruit their five people. If you put all your effort into recruiting more people, who will be selling the product? I mean, that IS what’s supposed to be the purpose of this little enterprise, selling the product or recruiting people?

Once you get into it you begin to realize that this isn’t exactly a prolific business we’re talking about.

So why are the schemes so prolific? Think about the message I was trying to sell you at the top of the article: making money! That’s the message they sell, and there are PLENTY of people who buy into the notion they can make money on it.

Now those messages are being hawked on the Internet. It shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, the Internet is a new medium of communication that’s cheaper than the informercials, and you can view them at ANY time, not just at three in the morning when that cable channel programmer can squeeze you in between the "hair in a can" guy and the "make money selling foreclosures" guy.

And now the US government wants to crack down on this kind of action. No big surprise, after all, since there’s only room for ONE den of thieves, and that’s reserved for the people we keep electing into office. But there are some that want to go a bit further and use these groups as an excuse to regulate the Internet. My warning to them is simple: there’s laws already in effect against pyramid schemes, and there are already agencies designed to warn people about suspected fraud. There is NO NEED to add to those laws and effectively punish every Internet user for the minute faction that abuse it.

For the rest of us, we can dismiss these online schemes even faster than we could change the channel on our TV sets - with just a click of the "delete" button. Maybe once enough people do that many of these "get rich quick" schemes will disappear.

Monday, November 11, 1996

Week of 11/11/1996

The 1996 Election: Of Dullards and Bores
- by David Matthews 2

Well the 1996 Elections are over.

Thank God!

It was, to say the least, an election season that any political cynic would love. The two dominant and domineering parties were championed by candidates that were less than appealing. Democrats encouraged voters to re-elect Bill Clinton to oppose the Republicans. Republicans encouraged voters to elect Bob Dole because he isn’t like Bill Clinton. Two parties pushing career politicians, and trying to push voters AWAY from the other party.

The best that can be said of this election year was that it was a year of dullards and bores. While the Dole campaign was hampered from the start with a clear lack of vision, Clinton’s camp offered little in comparison, save for the promised "bridge to the 21st century." Clinton passed himself off not as a "New Democrat" but rather as "Republican Light," essentially signing on to everything the GOP stood for. Even David Brinkley, a veteran journalist, commended after the election that Clinton lacked any original thoughts and considered him to be a "bore."

And they wondered why this was the lowest voter turnout since 1924!

Worse yet was the result the turnout had on those who, in this writer’s opinion, would have done a better job as President - namely the third party candidates.

Libertarian candidate Harry Browne, who was on the ballot in all fifty states plus the District of Columbia, came in fifth nationally, behind Green candidate and famed consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who was only on the ballot in half the states in the country. This small fact was like fresh blood to detractors of libertarianism, who quickly went on the newsgroups to bash the Libertarian Party. Never mind, of course, that Nader is a nationally-known celebrity, while Browne - a relative unknown - had to work HARD for every vote he got, and ended up getting short-changed.

The Reform Party did not fare as well either, though many can attribute it to Ross Perot. People could not trust Perot this time around, and thus support for his party was in the single digits - just enough to be branded the spoilers of a possible Dole victory.

Then there are the pundits, who interpreted this election to whatever suited them. Democrats couldn’t declare they had a mandate (because they didn’t get 50% of the vote) but came close to it by saying the voters wanted politics-as-usual. Republicans who didn’t want Dole as much as they didn’t want four more years of Bill Clinton, practically conceded the election a week before by advertising they wanted to keep their newly-claimed majority in Congress to offset Clinton’s re-election.

Now the politicians say they want to enact "campaign finance reform." This coming from the allegations of foreign contributions in the Democratic Party, and certain inaccuracies in how they reported donations. Yet the Republicans are not saints when it comes to contributions. In fact, early in the Dole campaign, the GOP nominee was under fire for some of his campaign contributions. And the GOP isn’t exactly blameless when it comes to foreign influences, taking in money from special interest groups in Great Britain and elsewhere. Politicians LOVE to enact such reforms, but only as long as it doesn’t affect THEIR pocketbooks.

But the real losers of this election year are the American public - especially the 51% of the populace who stayed home and didn’t vote. They played right into the hands of the two dominant parties, because instead of voting third party, they robbed those third parties any semblance of credibility, and made it appear to the pundits and the politicians that they instead WANT politics-as-usual.

If there is a lesson to be learned in this election, it’s that the best thing you can do to help career politicians, and political parties so inundated with them, is to not vote. Bill Clinton didn’t win because of a majority of voters. Clinton won because a majority of registered voters DIDN’T vote. And if they did there would have been no doubt that neither Clinton nor Dole would’ve been happy with the results. That is something third party candidates need to remember four years from now.

Monday, November 4, 1996

Week of 11/04/1996

Political Trick or… Trick?
For adults, the Halloween season doesn’t end after October 31st.
- by David Matthews 2

Well Halloween may be over, the bags of candy may already be empty, and the costumes may have been put away for another year, but the Halloween season hasn’t ended.. yet…

The bad news for adults is that there are still a bunch of people who want to play Trick or Treat up until November 5th. No, they won’t knock at your door. They don’t have to. They’ll visit you through your TV set, through your radio, from your daily newspaper, and even through your mail. As a matter of fact, they’ve been doing this for a while now…

They’re politicians.

No doubt you’ve heard the tales of ghosts and goblins - like Whitewater, the FBI File-gate, unregulated businesses, unemployment, climbing deficits. And of course the scary stories about how life would be if they don’t get elected. How America’s "morals" will somehow deteriorate if THEY aren’t in charge of things, how the poor and elderly will be hurt, and how crime will rise and the economy will suffer.

And they still wear fancy costumes: Bill Clinton pretending to be a conservative. Bob Dole pretends to be a moderate with a vision. Ross Perot pretends to be a sane and rational alternative. Career politicians pretend to be reformers. Special interest groups pretend to be invisible. And we all know they’re nothing but clever costumes designed to "trick" us.

The "treat" they want is simple - they want your vote. Or barring that they want your non-vote.

Political watchers predict that nation-wide more than half of the registered voters will not vote this Tuesday. Why? Well according to one study it’s because those who don’t vote are disgusted at both Democrats AND Republicans. Incredible, then, to hear both Bill Clinton and Bob Dole talking about reaching out to those people in one hand, and in the other hand tell horror stories about third parties such as reformers or libertarians "stealing" votes from them.

Trick or Treat indeed!

But as an active voter, I still urge those of you who haven’t made up their mind to do so. If you don’t like Bill Clinton or Bob Dole by all means, DON’T STAY HOME! Get your butts out there and VOTE! There ARE other candidates running besides Dole and Clinton!

Don’t listen to the horror stories about "wasting votes," because that’s all they are - stories. And bad stories at that! There is only ONE way to "waste" your vote- and that is NOT voting! Despite the rhetoric of Dole and Clinton, the truth of the matter is both parties DON’T want you to vote if it’s not for them. That’s the reason why they’ve been doing everything in their power to keep third party options in the dark as much as possible. They know it, I know it, and now YOU know it. DON’T prove them right!

Vote for the candidate you feel you would like in office. And be honest with yourself about it. If you would rather see Libertarians in office, vote for them! If you would rather see Reformers or Greens in office, vote for them! If you’re happy with Democrats or Republicans, by all means vote for them! Don’t let the scare tactics of Democrats and Republicans talk you into compromising your principles. Voting is NOT about who wins or choosing between "the lesser of two evils" - if it were we’d still be debating between Federalists and Anti-Federalists like our forefathers did 200 years ago!

Don’t let the political "goblins" scare you away from your one real responsibility as an American. Maybe THEN we could have the Halloween season end after October 31st and not after Election Night.