Monday, December 25, 2000

Week of 12/25/2000

The 2000 Brutally Honest Awards
- by David Matthews 2

Yes, it is time, once again, to award the best of the best… and of course also award the worst of the worst. And since this is an election year, there’s plenty of stuff to go around.

Remember, there is no set criteria for awards. I am the only judge, and if you’ve seen the previous awards I’ve given out, you know I’ll go after EVERYONE, including myself.

So let’s start off the awards on a strong note…

The Most Pathetic Political Candidate in Recent American History: Vice-President Al "Robobore" Gore - This one should be a no-brainer. Gore was the heir apparent to the Clinton Regime. His party bent over backwards to get him the nomination, even at the expense of former senator Bill Bradley. They did everything in their power to give him the election.. and he ends up being the biggest baby over it all!

First Gore told lie after lie. Exaggeration after exaggeration. After a while, people were just speculating what half-truths he would come up with next. Then after he gets the nomination, and after he taps an orthodox Jew to be his running mate, he STILL could not get an edge up against the GOP. Even with rigged polling, it would be a close call.

Then on election eve, after the media fumbles the call in Florida twice (don’t worry, they’ll be getting their own award on this), Gore decides to give it up and give George W. Bush congrats.. then takes it back after his people tell him they can still give him Florida. And when Bush protests.. what does Gore say? "Now don’t get snippy.."

Snippy? Who’s going back on his word, huh?

Then there was Gore’s constant whining about wanting to "count all the votes" in Florida while his operatives were doing their best to suppress every absentee ballot, and there constant allegations of recounted ballots being rigged. And when he wasn’t whining about the ballots in Florida, Gore was whining to the morning talk shows about not having "anything to fall back on" if he loses. This from a guy who has shares in Occidental Petroleum, and who, no doubt, could get his father’s old job as chairman in a heartbeat!

And finally, to top it off, there was that unusually chipper concession speech, where he came off in a tone so condescending, you would think he was teaching civics to six-year olds! And then afterwards, he was partying in a nightclub like he was declared the winner. I mean, come on! He was high on something.. and I don’t mean life!

Now here’s the sad part in this whole situation… outside of this commentator, NOBODY will ever admit that Al Gore was the most pathetic political candidate that ever ran for president! The media certainly will not admit to it. Even the Republicans won’t have the balls to admit it!

The Most Pathetic Drama Line For The 2000 Election: Dan Rather’s "Faulty Data… Suspect Data" - Hey, if you’re going to be wrong, at least have the balls to ADMIT you’re wrong! Don’t start some BS line about "faulty" and "suspect" data as if your network was being sabotaged. You guys sabotaged it yourselves when you made asinine predictions about who would win in Florida before all of the polls in that state had closed! Have the courage to admit that you blew it!

The "I Deserve No Respect" Award For 2000: The State of Florida - Between Elian Gonzales and Florida’s Election Fiasco, the Sunshine State has been acting more like the Spoiled, Senile and Stupid State. Do you think we can find yet one more scandal that makes that state look bad before the year is up?

The Political Martyr Award For 2000: Florida’s Secretary Of State Katherine Harris - This was a woman who was basically abandoned by her party to be fed to the political wolves. The spin doctors and the journalistic jackals ripped her to pieces in the press, criticizing even her appearance. They called her every name imaginable, and accused her of being a political opportunist. And all she was guilty of was trying to do her job as spelled out by Florida law!

Hey guys, if Harris was guilty of being a political opportunist, why was it that the GOP did not lift a finger to back her up, huh? Even if Bush was a wimp, surely the party loyalists would’ve stood up to the jackals! Not even Governor Jeb Bush spoke out to defend Harris! That’s sad. That really is sad.

The Brutally Honest Award For Political Courage in 2000: New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson - Here’s a guy who has the courage to stand up against conventional political wisdom and urge not only the end of the failed War on Drugs, but also for legalization! And he’s even explained his ideas in the January issue of Playboy, no less! Libertarian Party, are you guys taking notes?

The Brutally Honest Gutless Award For 2000: Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez - She could’ve stood up to the moralists in the Democratic Party and had her fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion as intended. She could’ve reminded that party of the diversity that they represent, and the freedom of speech and expression that they claim to cherish. She could’ve done all of that… but she valued her status more. Plus she was afraid of "fragmenting" the party during their national convention.. and LORD KNOWS she doesn’t want that to happen!

By the way.. all Playboy supporters.. I hope you were taking notes on this. The Democrats don’t want you! If you want changes made, you’d better start supporting candidates and political parties that don’t have an agenda of demonizing and persecuting you!

The Bill Clinton Award For Hypocrisy in 2000: New York Mayor Rudolph "Il Duce" Giuliani - Oh yes.. a BIG law and order mayor, huh? So that explains why there were women stripped and assaulted en masse in Central Park this summer, huh? Oh, and how about those family values of yours? Sex is bad, unless it’s surrounding your illicit affair, right, Mayor Giuliani?

By the way.. did you know adultery is illegal in New York? That makes you an admitted criminal as well! Better turn yourself in, mayor. Lord knows how much you hate having criminals roam the streets of your city!

The Biggest Judicial Disappointment In 2000: The US Supreme Court - No, I’m not talking about the Bush vs. Gore case. I’m talking about the members of the Supreme Court who decided that the First Amendment can be rendered null and void at the whim of local governments when it came to strip clubs. The justices erroneously believed that laws that censored how a dancer appeared were somehow "content-neutral" by their standards.

What sort of drugs were these old farts taking to come up with such a demented rationality?

The No-Brainer Judicial Decision In 2000: US Vs. Playboy - At least the justices got it right when they struck down the dreaded Section 505 of the Telecommunications Deregulation Act. This was the so-called "signal bleed" law that censored Playboy TV from airing in many cable systems until after 10pm local time unless the providers fully scrambled both video and audio. It was a no-brainer because there were plenty of judicial decisions dating back to the early 1980’s that told the government that they cannot censor cable television like they could regular analog television.

The Biggest "Big Lie" of 2000: The "Booming" Economy - Once upon a time the economy was doing great.. and it was happening despite the fact that Bill Clinton and his cronies were screwing people right and left. (And in Clinton’s case, that is not just a figurative term.) The Internet had generated tons of new business opportunities, and plenty of people took advantage of them. And in many instances, they reaped big profits.

But then came the inevitable cycle down. Taxes were going too high, interest rates were climbing, people were starting to spend beyond their means. Businesses started laying off people, but we were told the economy would handle it all. Oh yes, that was the "Big Lie" spread by Clinton and his cronies. The world is doing great.. and all supposedly thanks to government.

And government maintained that lie through exaggerated claims of low inflation - while independent groups listed inflation as high as five percentage points higher than the government figures. They provided claims of housing starts and unemployment that were adjusted more times than Oprah Winfrey’s wardrobe. All of which to continue the illusion that Bill Clinton was the so-called "savior" of the economy.

And now that George W. Bush will be moving into the White House in January, journalists are only NOW speculating about a pending recession. Nice try guys, but you’re still too little, too late for warnings. This commentator - who is NOT an economist nor a financial expert - saw the changes downward starting to happen two years ago! Where were you guys? Oh.. I forgot! You guys were nose-deep up the Clinton Regime’s collective rectum.

The Over-Hyped Non-Story of 2000: "Who Wants To Marry A Multi-Millionaire?" - The people at Fox were laughing all the way to the bank on this one. Let’s see.. find some sap who looks good for the cameras, get a bunch of women who are looking to cash in big with offers of an expensive ring, a trip to the Bahamas, and television exposure, and tell them all they have to do is have a quickie Vegas wedding with the option of an equally quickie Vegas annulment… and PRESTO! Instant ratings!

And boy, oh boy, did Darva Conger - the winner of this gold-digging beauty contest - cash in big on this. First by playing the media with her crocodile tears saying she "didn’t know what she was thinking", and then entertaining more job offers than Michael Jordan. She milked it for all it was worth, culminating with her own Playboy pictorial which really wasn’t all that it was being hyped about. Sorry Darva, but your fifteen minutes of fame were up an hour and a half ago.

The Evil Kenevil Award For Real Adventure Promotions in 2000: Mark Burnett - From the successful "Survivor" show to the Eco-Challenge to wanting to put a man or woman on the failed Mir space station, this guy has a thing for extreme challenges. I shudder to think what he’ll come up with next. Maybe he’ll have a challenge where the winner will be riding ON the Mir when it comes crashing down in February?

The Real Survivor Award For 2000: Playboy X-Treme Team - From racing all across the country, to competing with only a month’s notice in one of the hardest races on the face of the planet, this team of Playmates managed to show they are more than just pretty faces.. but pretty faces that can kick butt!

By the way, you’ll be able to see for yourself how hard conditions were for X-treme Team members Danelle Folta, Kalin Olson, and Jenny Lavoie when the Eco-Challenge 2000 airs on USA Networks in the first week of April. If you thought the "Survivor" show was challenging, just wait!

The Americana Award For 2000: The World Wrestling Federation - If Vince McMahon wanted legitimacy, he got it. Between having The Rock speak at the Republican National Convention to having their own bunch of rabid moralists trying to shut them down, the WWF managed to get in the spotlight on more than one occasion, and for once not because of tragedy or steroid scandals.

The "I Tried, I REALLY Tried" Award For 2000: (Tie) Pat Buchanan, Ralph Nader, Harry Browne, John Haglin, and Howard Phillips - The also-rans in this presidential election really tried to get the vote. They really did. Unfortunately between biased political groups like the "Non-Partisan" Commission On Presidential Debates and an often biased media that treated them like dirt, their efforts were little more than railing against the wind.

Next time, two words: antitrust lawsuits. Look into it.

Speaking of which…

The Biggest Bill Clinton Tool Award For 2000: Federal Judge Thomas Pinfield Jackson - For a man who claimed to have been unbiased, Jackson was quick to give the US Justice Department every demand possible against Microsoft, including his order to break up the company. Past decisions should’ve given some indication to the Redmond legal team that Jackson would do everything possible to screw the company over. Hey, guys, next time don’t plan your strategy for the appeals court… maybe that will keep your stock from being cut in half.

The Biggest Software Letdown In 2000: Windows ME - They promised revolutionary changes, and instead gave us a glorified bug-fix of an earlier bug-fix. Maybe they were just depressed over the breakup order from Judge Jackson to make all of those changes they promised. I will say this.. when they didn’t have to spend money on lobbying groups and attorneys, they were much more creative then they are today.

And finally….

The Most Improved Talk Liberty Show For 2000: Brutally Honest - LIVE - The show went from barely being on the air to being on the air more times than naught, and even branching into an ad-lib show called "The Liberty Free-For-All". Add to that new opening music, taped interviews, and a wider range of issues, and you really do have a show that is almost ready for radio… almost. There’s that pesky little thing about getting more people to listen to the show.

Monday, December 18, 2000

Week of 12/18/2000

Target: Moralism
Part 5 - The Expert Game
- by David Matthews 2

"The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it." - H.L. Mencken

During the highly publicized sexual harassment lawsuit by Paula Jones against President Bill Clinton, Clinton sympathizer and head cheerleader James Carville likened the suit to dragging a twenty dollar bill across a trailer park and seeing who would take it. The comment was understandably criticized as being crude and insensitive, especially after liberals spent all that time trying to make the issue of sexual harassment a serious social problem. Carville’s comment was a cheap shot, and completely unrealistic. Just ask anyone who worked with daytime talk shows.. it takes more than just a twenty-dollar bill to bring out the trailer park residents. It often takes airfare, hotel rooms, and television exposure.

The point is that many people have a price they’re willing to pay that they would otherwise not want to just to get exposure. For some people, it’s getting into a cat fight on the Jerry Springer show. For other people it’s doing a string of lame-ass sitcoms until they find the right motion picture.

And for some people, it’s putting your name on a study or a law that would otherwise make them look like fools… all to get some exposure.

Once upon a time, the moralists who lorded over the people didn’t need any justification for their actions. It was the mere fact that they were who they were that gave them justification. You hear that today with several Christians who proudly proclaim "THE BIBLE says it, I believe it, case closed!" There is no other justification needed for them. That’s it. Leaders back then were considered accountable to nobody except to themselves and to God, so they had essentially unlimited power.

Unfortunately for the self-righteous among us, today’s movers and shakers no longer have that absolute power to play around with. They need justification for their actions, and this time something more substantial than that parental retort of "because I told you so".

Ideology is often not enough. A nation that is founded on ideals of freedom and liberty require something a little more substantial to break away from those ideals. You can’t promote censorship to a land founded on the notion of free speech, unless you give people a reason to set aside that idea.

That’s where the "experts" come in. Doctors, researchers, scientists, criminologists, all out there with one purpose - to try to give credibility even to the most ludicrous of laws and ordinances.

Case in point: the Montgomery County Council in Maryland recently approved a local resolution to ban all smoking in outdoor areas maintained by local government. This is not just a ban on smoking in buildings.. this is a ban on ALL outdoor areas. Parks, sidewalks, streets, schools, public parking lots.. anyplace "maintained by local government" would be designated non-smoking areas.

This whopper of an anti-smoking ordinance was spearheaded by a doctor by the name of Al Muller, who claimed that the ordinance would protect people with health problems. It should also be noted that Dr. Muller is also the mayor of Friendship Heights, the town that the ordinance will take effect in.

Now let’s get brutally honest here… where’s the health problem? We’re talking about open spaces here! How about some facts here to back up your claim, doc? Perhaps the good doctor could cite some actual cases where someone with asthma or allergies suffered breathing difficulties because someone was smoking a cigarette a hundred feet away in a park.

What is really annoying about the passage of this ordinance was not that it wasn’t based on any reasonable facts, but that county commissioners simply passed it to respect the "wishes" of the town leaders. In fact, several county commissioners said that it WAS a bad ordinance, but they passed it anyways because they didn’t want people to question the "spirit" of their laws.

Insane, isn’t it? But that’s good old-fashioned moralism for you! Even the most pathetic of rationalizations get instant gratification simply because it supports a law or ordinance!

Here’s another example: The Tampa City Council, in their effort to shut down strip clubs, banned lap dancing and required that dancers stay at least six feet from any patron. An expectation as unrealistic as the rationality behind the ban. The so-called "expert" was the local health inspector, who claimed that the ban would eliminate the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Uh, excuse me Doctor Quack, but could you set aside your framed diploma from Cracker Jack Medical University for a second and explain how sexually transmitted diseases could be spread if one person is clothed and there is no genital-to-genital contact?

Of course, nobody questions the "experts" as long as they’re for the government. That’s the biggest problem when confronting moralists. So-called expert opinion is simply accepted and taken as gospel as long as it supports whatever legislation moralists want enacted.

And for the expert, there is a reward for their endorsement of a risky piece of legislation. That reward is credibility. No matter how eccentric the reason, and no matter how flawed the legislation, the "expert" opinion is rarely questioned, and used quite often for other such legislation. Moralists have used studies as old as thirty years past to enforce new legislation today. They use it because they know that nobody will question it.

That has to change. If we are to confront moralism and restore individual freedom and individual responsibility, we have to attack the credibility of the moralists.. and that means attacking the experts themselves. Especially if it involves some of the more asinine laws like those in Montgomery County. If rights are going to be made null and void, if people are going to risk fines and a possible loss of freedom, there had damn well be some pretty solid reasons behind them. If not, that action should be shut down immediately, and the people behind them should be held liable for any damages or loss of property or freedom incurred.

Look, not everyone who works lame sitcoms become the next Tom Hanks or the next Jim Carey. Not everyone who appears on the Jerry Springer Show deserve to have their 15 minutes of fame. There is a level of risk involved with those things. There needs to be risk in government as well. Risk for the moralists, and also those who support the moralists in their efforts to destroy freedom for the sake of their own egos.

Monday, December 11, 2000

Week of 12/11/2000

Bringing Out The Holiday Scrooge
- by David Matthews 2

I have an admission to make.

I’m not incredibly festive when it comes to Christmas.

Oh, I’ll still put up a Christmas tree, help out with the lights, buy presents, send out cards.. even make homemade cards to send to some folks, and I will still listen to holiday music. But in terms of being in the "Christmas spirit", well, I guess I gave up that ghost a few years ago.

I’m not excited about waking up Christmas morning like I used to. I used to be up at 6am, eager to open up presents. Nowadays, I need encouragement to get up at 10. Presents are an afterthought for me. For me, the day is just something that I’m eager to have over with quickly.

I’m becoming… dare I say it? … a holiday Scrooge.

Now there’s someone who has become the epitome of holiday backlash!

I’ve sometimes wondered who Charles Dickens had in mind when he created Ebeneezer Scrooge in the classic tale "A Christmas Carol." After all, here was a complex character. A man whose spent a good portion of his life filled with loss and pain, yet people wondered why he was so cold-hearted and uncaring around the holidays. Hey guys, I’m not a social expert, but perhaps Scrooge was bitter because in past holidays he had lost his mother, his sister, the love of his life, and his only best friend in the whole world. You think maybe THAT would have something to do with the attitude?

Scrooge was reflective of the new society of the time.. in this case the Industrial Society. He believed that he was way too busy dealing with the day’s work to have time to celebrate Christmas like he used to. There was no room left for traditional nonsense like Christmas. Business was all that mattered. And he felt that government should handle the needs of the poor and the homeless. "Are there no workhouses, no prisons?" he asks. Attitudes that were the hallmark of the Industrial Society.

Of course, by the end of the story, Scrooge is a changed man. He sees the value of individual charity and goodwill, not just at Christmastime, but all the days of the year. He no longer relies on government to solve the world’s problems, and instead gives his time and money to help the most needy around him. A sound and comforting lesson, well-suited for the Victorian age.

Unfortunately for the rest of us in the real world, we don’t have the aid of the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future to remind us of the things in our lives that we should treasure. All too often, what we have are simply more reminders of the hassles that seem to infest this festive season like leaches.

First there’s the fact that Christmas stuff seems to start appearing earlier and earlier in the year. Stores are now putting up Christmas stuff at the same time as Halloween. Hey what happened to Thanksgiving, huh? Santa hauling his motor-assisted sleigh with ornamental reindeer past Macy’s store in New York City is supposed to mark the start of the holiday season. Nowadays the merchants see ol’ Saint Nick and they exclaim "What took you so long? Get with the times, man! We’ve had the holiday sales going on since Labor Day!"

The backlash to this has already begun in some places. Stores in Montreal have been vandalized for putting up Christmas displays too soon. It seems that a certain group of pissed-off Canadians are demanding that stores hold off on the holiday spirit until after Thanksgiving, smashing and defacing those display windows that try to get the jump on the competition. This has, of course, angered the merchants, and rightly so. But the actions of these maple-leaf Scrooges are reflective of the overall dislike of the business world’s decision to lengthen the holiday spirit longer than Joe and Jane Six-Pack would see things.

Then there is the fact that every year now there seems to be an item that becomes THE "gimme" item for parents and kids alike. The item that people would wait in long lines for, and be willing to shed blood and tears for. This trend started with Cabbage Patch dolls, and has extended to more and more expensive goodies. The "gimme" item for the year 2000 is the Sony PlayStation 2, which was in demand long before the stores even had the product. As a matter of fact, the people at Sony were purposefully exaggerating the demand when they announced that there indeed would be a shortage of available game systems long before Thanksgiving. Indeed, there hadn’t even been too many games available for this system, but that didn’t matter for people obsessed with getting THE latest, greatest gadget.

Related to that obsession is the holiday traffic. If you don’t buy your presents through the Internet, or buy them well in advance, you’ll be listening to talk radio just to hear how the parking situation is at the local malls. If you think traffic where you live is normally chaotic, multiply that intensity by ten and envision every driver around you on LSD, and you’re all trying to find a parking spot.

Then there are the people who are obsessed with making sure everyone around them enjoy the season. For most people this takes the form of holiday parties. I hate to break it to some people, but there really aren’t too many holiday parties that I would even WANT to be in, and the ones that I have been to sucked for me. No matter how people say they would "want" to see me at a party, believe me, they REALLY DO NOT want me to be there. First of all, I quite often have to attend these things alone, which means I’ll be spending a lot of time counting ceiling tiles, ornaments on the tree, and the number of times people ask me if I’m having a good time and aren’t I glad to be there. Sorry folks, but the only Christmas party that I would be glad to attend would be at the Playboy Mansion, and that’s pretty much a long shot for a guy like me.

I think for me, the magic of the holidays left when my Christmas wish list became a "trinket" list. When I was younger, my Christmas list would be pretty simple. Everything I could want could be bought at a store.. and quite often just one store. Over the years, though, my "wish" list has become a true wish list… stuff that you could never buy in a store. It’s pretty hard to find a store that sells personal or financial success. Yes, you can buy all of the material implements, but actual success itself? That, my friends, is truly a wishful object. Quite often I have to think and think again about stuff that family members could buy me.. wondering what they could get that would be nice to have, and still expect to see wrapped up under the tree. Obviously a Harley Davidson motorcycle would not be one of them. Imagine my surprise when I actually put down socks and underwear on my more practical list.. especially after spending so many years begging and pleading with people not to send me any!

But while I’ve seemingly lost much of my holiday spirit, there are some people who are even worse Scrooges than I could ever be.

I know a lot of people are pissed off when groups like the ACLU object to having local towns put up a manger scene in front of the town hall, but some people have taken this separation of church-and-state to the point of banning ALL references to the holiday spirit, right down to banning references to non-theological figures like Santa Claus! Santa has been dragged into the battle between bible-thumpers and the rest of the cognizant human beings in a way that would make even old Ebeneezer jealous.

Look, folks, lets get brutally honest here.. good old Saint Nick is a commercial figure, not a religious one. The Catholic Church has even dropped him as one of the patron saints. Including Santa turns Christmas into something more than just a religious holiday. I know every bible-thumper will proclaim in the loudest of voices that "JEEZUS IS THE REEEZON FOR THE SEEZON!" but wouldn’t it be better if everyone could enjoy the benefits of the holiday season without being sermonized?

Speaking of religious zealots, the conflicts in the Middle East hasn’t exactly brought out the best of any of the religious groups there. Between ever-expanding Israelites, pissed-off Palestinians, and Christian crusaders eager to hasten the apocalypse just so they can have Jesus come down to validate their theology, Israel has become this no-holds barred Wrestlemania with guns and explosives. I think if Jesus did come down right this moment, he’d line up every one of these groups and give them all a hearty stooge slap right across the kisser and ask what the hell they were thinking.

Maybe the problem is that somewhere amidst all of this consumerism and religious zealotry, the real purpose of the Christmas season is missing. We’ve been so obsessed with the "trinkets" that the spirit of goodwill itself has been lost. So obsessed with the religious undertones of the sprit that the message of peace has been abandoned.

It’s easy, then, to see why this season has brought out the Scrooge in many of us.

Now more than ever, we really need to remember that real spirit of Christmas is not just about presents or religion. It’s about the goodwill in all of us. That is the message that needs to be told, whether it be by a priest, a ghost, or a jolly old elf from the North Pole. The rest is just so much window dressing.

Monday, December 4, 2000

Week of 12/04/2000

- by David Matthews 2

Oh yes.. the Internet! Where progress moves at the speed of light! Where the latest, greatest, most advanced ideas are always in beta testing, and by the time your product hits the store, it’s already outdated.

Remember all of that hype? Oh, you’ll still hear it… mostly from the evangelists.

But where has all of that progress gone?

Anyone see the "Millenium Edition" of Microsoft Windows? Whatever happened to all of the new and wonderful changes that were promised? Microsoft said that Windows 2000 was supposed to be the all-in-one personal and network system, combining everything from both Windows and Windows NT. Instead, Windows 2000 became simply the latest version of Windows NT, while the home version became this "Windows ME". So much for the all-in-one idea. Windows 2000 was nothing more than a glorified bug-fix of the previous version of Windows NT.

Speaking of which, whatever also happened to all of the changes to the GUI that were supposed to have happened? You know.. the kind of graphical changes that separated Windows 3.11 from Windows 95? The only changes I see with Windows ME has been the change in name.

Perhaps that explains the lackluster reception Microsoft got when they unveiled ME. When Windows 95 came out, the boys in Redmond couldn’t keep up with the orders. Jay Leno of the Tonight Show hosted the ceremony, and "Start Me Up" from the Rolling Stones was on everyone’s minds. Even Windows 98 had people waiting in line at the stores. But Windows ME? Well, there was Bill Nye, the Science Guy, no commercials, and no throngs of geeks waiting in line.

In fact, Windows ME became nothing more that a glorified bug-fix of Windows 98, which in turn was nothing more than a glorified bug-fix of Windows 95. Oh, sure, they added one or two new goodies, but most of the features in Windows ME can be downloaded for free at Microsoft’s website.

Okay so Microsoft let us down. But the world doesn’t revolve around Redmond, does it? Certainly Silicon Valley is chock full of ideas, right? After all, this is the world of Cyberspace! The place that turned Moore’s Law into a speed bump! Change is the only constant here!

If only that were true.

Apple’s world, for instance, is stumbling over their great creation.. the "Cube". A powerful system, to be honest, with a very stylish case. But the Cube isn’t selling to the Mac loyalists. They’re sticking with the iMac and the iBook, with their striking plastic colors and their button-less mice. Not to mention the Cube has very little room to expand.. but then again, neither does the iMac.

People WANT faster connections to the Internet, but they’re not getting them. DSL and cable modems are not as widely available as people are led to believe; and the complaints over delays and poor customer service will make many people want to keep their 56K connection.

The Dot-Com businesses, once thought of as the unstoppable force, were hit hard.,,… just about any business ending in ".com" have been losing money faster than Congress come budget time. Even the most powerful online force - sex - couldn’t help go through with their plans to go on the stock market. That idea was shelved faster than the thought of Nicholas Cage playing Superman.

Local communities once saw the dot-com business as the wave of the future. Now there’s a backlash against such businesses opening up. In some cases, they’re being zoned out like they were strip clubs.

And now even some of those high-paced, high-priced cyberspace talent are considering talking about.. UNIONS! The bane of the old Industrial Revolution has finally reached the new economy!

Let’s get brutally honest here.. The tech world and cyberspace have finally encountered entropy. The universal force of decay and stagnation. It’s in a slump.. perhaps for the first time ever.

Part of the reasons behind this slump involve some very real hindrances in the real world. The very hindrances that people thought just could not affect it.

The biggest one is the government of the United States of America. Microsoft may be an 800-pound gorilla, but Uncle Sam is a far heavier monkey that has firmly grafted itself on all of our backs. From trying to dictate what sort of content is "appropriate" to trying to eavesdrop on every e-mail and every chatroom conversation, the US Government has been doing everything in their power to become George Orwell’s infamous all-seeing, all-knowing "Big Brother."

The US Government has been doing everything in its power to open all cyberspace doors and windows for its agents to peer into. Everything from wanting computer makers to install special chips that would allow the government to remotely hack into anyone’s computer, to declaring encryption technology to being akin to chemical and nuclear weapons. They’ve wanted to have any excuse, any rationality, to be able to hack into anyone’s computer at any time without a warrant. Is it any wonder, then, why businesses are hesitant to report on being hacked to the same government that feels it should be able to do the same with impunity?

And their policies on privacy have been more hypocritical than a meeting of Baptist ministers at Madame Kitty’s legal brothel in Nevada. Tracking where people come and go online is "bad" right? So that explains why several sites operated by the US government still do that! And then these people think they can dictate what privacy standards should be?

Then there are the legal hassles the government is giving to companies like Microsoft and Intel. Our federal government wants to break up Microsoft for being just too darn successful, and acting like.. well, like the government wants to be. Mind you, this action is being applauded - and even encouraged, if not supported - by some of Redmond’s most vocal critics. People who would much rather have government do their bidding than take a risk and try to come up with a product that could successfully compete against Microsoft.

Let’s put it this way, when Microsoft was at its most creative, they did not have any lobbying group in Washington. Now - thanks to the Clinton Regime - they have a lobbying group, and their creativity is lacking. It’s pretty hard to be creative and come up with a product that will be successful when you’re in constant fear that your success will mean lawsuits.

And speaking of lawsuits, it’s not just Uncle Sam that is stepping in to derail the Cyberspace Express. The motion picture and recording companies are also unleashing their lawyers at some of the most popular peer-to-peer programs out there. Napster and Scour are right now being reamed by every lawyer that couldn’t get their butts down to Florida to steal the vote for Al Gore. They’re eager to mount Napster’s logo right next to the Digital Audio Tape system they successfully killed in the 1980’s.

Maybe there is a valid point to be made by the lawyers about copyright concerns. This commentator has certainly talked about those cyberspace pirates who pillage the hard work and effort of others just for a quick profit. Those kind of parasites do exist, they are not the make-believe creations of copyright attorneys. However, it must be said that this legal gang-bang by the trial lawyers has played a role in stifling innovation and creativity.

Real-world technical problems have also plagued the tech world. Our quest for bandwidth is faster than the ability for the telephone companies to run new lines for it. DSL is also limited by the fact that you’re essentially dealing with three companies: the company that’s billing you, the company that’s providing the actual connection, and your phone company. And this is a three-way dance that essentially nobody wants to have happen but you. Cable modems aren’t any easier, although you’re only having to deal with two entities, not three. The hassles, though, are still the same.

The only other alternative is a satellite modem, but until recently it was next to impossible. 400K-baud is wonderful, but it was a download-only connection. You still needed to connect to an ISP in order to upload anything, and that was still at 56K. Hughes Communication, the company that owns DirecTV, did announce that two-way connections are forthcoming, but one will have to be patient... not to mention pray for clear skies every time they want to go online.

But there is yet another factor involved.. one that people just did not expect. And that is that the corporate mentality has taken over.

The magic behind the tech world and of cyberspace was that it was cutting edge. It was started by people who didn’t want to live that old 9-5 corporate world. Yahoo, for instance, used to be run by some guys in a basement. These people would work long hours, but it would be THEIR hours.

As those companies grew, they became the very things that they did not want to be - a corporation. Or they got bought out by one. Netscape and ICQ got bought out by America Online. Little mom-and-pop Internet Service Providers were being bought out and absorbed by larger providers.

Then there’s the talent glut. Once upon a time, as recent as five years ago, those young upstart creators and designers could write their own ticket, and many of them did. Stock options, perks, everything possible for them to work hard and reap the profits for that work. We now have a horde of new twenty-something millionaires. Granted, many of them are just millionaires on paper, but those that were more than that were able to cash in and live life the way they’ve always wanted to at a much younger age than expected.

But not every talented designer or programmer were able to cash in. Many more are still working long hours but are not making the kind of money they dreamt of having. The gold had certainly been mined out of this rush, and now the only people making money yet again are the corporations. That’s why some people are daring to mention the word "union".

My father once said, and I still believe this to be very true, that any company that gets a union DESERVES it. Unions exist because of bad management, and to have the tech world suddenly inherit a union would be a devastating blow to the new economy. Unions are not the solution to bad management.. they only confirm that such bad management exists. The real solution is competition.

The tech market is saturated in more ways than one. Silicon Valley has become the home to so many budding creators and developers that the infrastructure has become wealth-heavy. Like boats heavily weighted down with gold, the land around Silicon Valley has become so inflated that the people who don’t work in those jobs.. the men and women who work in restaurants, who deliver the mail, even those who man the police and fire departments, now have to move away from the area and commute an hour or two just to work their jobs. Other communities with a growing tech workforce face similar problems with their infrastructure. That’s why there is a growing backlash against the tech world. They are the victims of their own success.

But in truth, the tech world is simply feeling the heat of the rest of the economy. It’s in a slump because the rest of the economy has been on a downturn for the past year or so. Politicians don’t want to talk about it, and certainly the media hasn’t said the dreaded R-word (recession) until just recently, but it’s been there, lurking. This commentator has certainly warned people of its coming, but much like the grasshopper, they too fiddled straight through the summer.

Well, the summer of success is over, it’s time to prepare for winter. And cyberspace - so dependant on the tech world for its very existence - should prepare accordingly.

Monday, November 27, 2000

Week of 11/27/2000

Target: Sex In Society - Part 4
Sex and Kids

- by David Matthews 2

Not too long ago, both the Atlanta-Journal Constitution and USA Today ran articles that showed today’s kids in a light that would make any parent cringe.

USA Today talked about a report due this December that showed how teenagers engaged in oral sex more commonly than generations past, and how the numbers of sexually-transmitted diseases involving the mouth and throat are on the increase. The report showed that most teenagers considered oral sex to be not as serious as actual intercourse, and in some cases the kids who engage in oral sex consider it to be more of a social advancement.

They even pulled out the old line used by such people like President Bill Clinton and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to say that oral sex wasn’t really sex. I’m sure that all of those parents who were quick to exonerate Big Bubba Spin for fooling around with Monica Lewinsky were slapping their foreheads when they heard that same line being used by their children.

The AJC article was even more chilling for parents. Instances where children as young as ten years old were engaging in prostitution, and teenagers who were getting fake identification just to dance in strip clubs. The article talked about how the men who pimp these young streetwalkers would only be charged with misdemeanors and not serve any actual jail time, and how experts feared kids lives were being harmed irrevocably because of their expose to sex at so young an age.

Now if I were some bible-thumping moralist, I would probably be railing on about how our society is heading straight to the deepest lowest bowls of Hell. I would point out that these articles are merely examples of how we’ve allowed the "evil" of sex to enter our precious society and into the minds of our children. I would rail on about how these instances are the direct result of our allowing everything from Playboy magazines to professional wrestling to even exist. I would be wanting to gather an ugly mob of upset parents, complete with torches, and burn down every nightclub, every strip club, every newsstand.

And if I were some bible-thumping moralist who was outraged by these articles, I would be storming down the halls of government and asking.. no, DEMANDING.. that our elected officials do my bidding and pass new laws that outlaw anything sexual in nature. I would want the Internet shut down, and cable television censored so the only channels people would see would be the local church broadcasts. I would treat those articles to be nothing less than a declaration of an all-out, DefCon 1, global thermonuclear societal war.

That is.. if I were some dysfunctional bible-thumping moralist with delusions of grandeur. Of course I would use these articles as justification of some crusade to punish society for their evils! What member of the dysfunctional elite wouldn’t do that? In fact, I have no doubt that was the purpose at least one of those two articles.. to get the moralists enraged and mobilized.

Fortunately for us, this commentator tends to see things a bit differently. Yes, these articles are examples, but not from our lust, but rather from our inability to handle that part of our lives.

Like any other human action and interaction, there is some element of responsibility connected to sex. And that responsibility doesn’t just involve our active participation in sex, but also with our passive participation.. from our desire to simply stick our heads in the sand and ignore sex.

Let’s get brutally honest here… sex is a part of our lives. The genie was let loose long before the Sexual Revolution, but only now are we beginning to realize that the effects extend beyond just adult actions. They extend into how our children see things as well.

The problems shown in the two newspaper articles are not the result of sex in our society, but rather from our inability to deal with it.

Some parents don’t want to realize that their kids are getting curious about sex at some point in their lives. They still think their kids are precious innocent creatures, even when their kids are the most precocious little devils. It is that ignorance that serves to harm both themselves and their children.

Are there practical solutions to the problems those two newspapers pointed out? You bet there are! But not from trying to suppress sex once again. The Victorian Age was an age of ignorance and fear. An age that made people so paranoid that they were putting covers on top of piano legs for fear that someone might be aroused by them! Resurrecting that paranoid time, as many moralists have been desperate in doing, is not only wrong, but would lead to even more problems down the road.

We need to embrace that part of our lives, to accept the fact that we ARE sexual beings, whether or not we decide to become sexually active. We need to accept the fact that sex is a part of our lives. Only then can we then decide how to deal with it.

First of all there should be no doubt that people who actively prey on children for adult gratification are the worst of the worst. Pedophilia is wrong. Period. There should be laws that prosecute and convict such people. I think even liberals would have to agree with that.

Teenagers, however, are a little more different. The words "raging hormones" may seem a bit overused, but that is precisely what is going on for these would-be adults. They are beginning to look and feel like adults, and because of that, they often try to get people to treat and even think of them as adults. Unlike children who are often tricked and forced into sex, teenagers sometimes need very little coaxing. All they sometimes need is a little makeup, and some not-so-youthful clothes.

The problem of teenagers who get fake identification just to work in strip clubs can be easily solved with the help of the people who work at those clubs. Does anyone really think that strip club owners want to get caught with some sixteen year-old girl dancing there? Of course not! The same applies to the other dancers, bouncers, and bartenders. For many of them, this is their bread and butter, not just some way to get quick mall money. If they like working at that club, they would want to make sure that the club doesn’t get shut down just because some young girl wanted to buy the latest Backstreet Boys CD.

Local communities could very easily set up an amnesty program whereby club owners and the people who work there would not be punished if they find out that someone who works there is underage so long as they notify either law enforcement or social services. Such a program would help allay the adversarial relationship that currently exists between local government and adult entertainment.

Unfortunately, it would be extremely unlikely that such an idea would ever be implemented. Doing so would mean that local governments would have to accept and work with such places, and they absolutely, positively DO NOT want to do that! That would fly in the face of everything the moralists want to do. They don’t want to work with strip clubs.. they want to shut them down! And they don’t care how they do that!

Do you think, for instance, that Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell would want to work with the very strip clubs he’s been so desperate to shut down all these years? OF COURSE NOT! Then he wouldn’t be able to go to the churches and tell all of those ministers and all of those bible-thumping moralists that he’s been doing everything in his power to shut those clubs down! So what if it means a few more underage girls manage to strut their stuff on stage? People like Mayor Campbell don’t care! All they care about is appeasing the bible-thumpers, and making themselves look good for the next election.

Since it’s become painfully obvious that those in government don’t care about the issue, those people who operate and work in strip clubs will have to care… lest they find those self-serving moralists at their front door.

As for those teenagers and oral sex… Once again, parents are finding out the hard way that the things that they excuse do come back to haunt them. I don’t care if people consider it to be foreplay, after-play, appetizer, dessert, main course, a light snack, or finger food... oral sex may not get a girl pregnant, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t get a sexually transmitted disease either.

Never mind what Bill Clinton or Newt Gingrich tell people. When they said that oral sex is not sex, they said it in order to keep their jobs. Oral sex IS sex. It involves sexual gratification with another person, therefore it does qualify as sex.

Those little nuggets of information need to be incorporated into the rest of our teaching our young and not-quite adult population about the birds and the bees. Oral sex is still just as risky as any other traditional (and not-so traditional) forms of sexual intercourse, only without pregnancy. Those risks can be cut down by the use of protection. Make use of it.

You know, all of these problems we have with sex are the result of our own dysfunction over the issue. American culture is obsessed with sex only because we’ve been lied to and told by moralists and religious figures that it is wrong. Those bible-thumpers and moralists are the true source of our dysfunction.. and until we shake their influence off of society, we will never be free of those problems.

The young generation takes their lead from their predecessors and from the generations before them. Our dysfunction become their dysfunction. Our hypocrisy becomes their hypocrisy. If we want the next generation to learn from the lessons of our mistakes concerning sex, then we have to get rid of our social and sexual hang-ups first.

Let’s stop sticking our head in the sand.. or in this case in the laps of our partners.. and deal with ourselves AS sexual creatures. That is the only way we can move on from there to being RESPONSIBLE sexual creatures, and showing the next generation by example how to behave.

Monday, November 20, 2000

Week of 11/20/2000

Hail To The Thieves
- by David Matthews 2

For the past few years, I’ve been warning people… both online and in the real word… that it really wouldn’t matter if either the Republican candidate or the Democratic one would win the election, America would be screwed. And especially this year -- where we have two bland, nepotistic candidates whose only difference would be akin to trying to differentiate between red and black ants -- I have warned people that this country is screwed no matter if it’s George Bush or Al Gore who wins the election.

Not only have they delighted me in proving me right, but they’ve done it in such a grand fashion.

Not to mention they’ve done it very quickly. One would’ve expected people to feel that they’ve been screwed over after either one of these two were already sworn into office. The same kind of screwed-over feeling America felt in 1990 when President George H. Bush reneged on his "no new taxes" pledge, and again in 1993 by President Bill Clinton following his pledge to only "tax the rich."

Matter of fact, Clinton has done plenty of "screwing-over" with the American public.. they just won’t know how badly until after ol’ Narcissus Rex has left the Oval Office. But I digress.

Indeed, the election hasn’t even been over yet, and people are feeling screwed-over by parties loyal to Al Gore and George W. Bush. The vast pizza-eating, beer-drinking populace did their jobs.. they went to the ballot box, they picked a candidate, and then they went home and waited to hear who won.

And they waited…

And they waited…

And they waited…

Come the morning after, there still wasn’t a winner.

Days have turned into almost two weeks, and STILL there hasn’t been a winner.

Instead, we’ve heard talking heads rail on recklessly about whether a "chad" was "dimpled", "pregnant", or "hanging." We’ve seen people whining and moaning about "confusing ballots" and recounts and hand recounts. We’re seeing the two parties raise vast sums of money and waging a continual PR campaign as if the elections never happened. We’ve seen lawyers and judges getting involved over election law and ballots and subverting government officials from doing their jobs. And we’re hearing those two pampered, spoiled, nepotistic career politicians talk endlessly about what is "fair" and what is "the will of the people."

Well, I hate to break it to Bush and Gore, but right now the will of the American people rests with four little words that someone should have told these two chowderheads a long time ago:


Let’s get brutally honest here… it doesn’t matter how this election fiasco in Florida ends, people are going to feel screwed over by the whole process. They’re going to feel that one candidate had stolen the election from the other.

This whole process has been made even worse when the candidates brought in the lawyers. And lawyers are pouring into the state of Florida by the limousines! Or should that be by the ambulance? The Democrats sent out a flare, and the American Trial Lawyers Association (the biggest political contributors that party has) heeded the call. Al Gore has even brought in anti-Microsoft lawyer David Boles and Alan Dershowitz, the man who got Klaus Von Bulow off of death row. I’m half expecting the rest of the OJ Simpson defense team to start showing up, with Johnnie Cochraine proclaiming "if the chad’s been pushed, then it don’t go to Bush!"

Some people in the media say that the lawyers are actually just making sure the process is followed according to the letter and the intent of the law. Uh-huh.. yeah, sure. Mind you, these are the same people who swear up and down a stack of bibles that Bill Clinton never had sex with "that woman", that Al Gore really did invent the Internet, and that somehow George and Jeb Bush became governors through their own achievements and not because of their father.

Can you say "credibility gap" boys and girls? Sure, I knew you could.

And let’s think about this for a second.. has anyone in Florida challenged the reliability of the objective, impartial, counting machines that counted the ballots there the first two times? I have yet to hear anyone do that. You keep on hearing the talking heads rant on and on about wanting a "fair and accurate count".. but nobody’s questioned the machines that are designed to do just that! Instead, we are hearing about Democrats wanting fallible, subjective, partisan human beings counting ballots, and Republicans claiming that the count is being manipulated because of those same fallible, subjective, partisan human beings.

Bear in mind that it really doesn’t matter to me WHO wins the Florida election, and consequentially the electoral college. Both of the dominant parties are equally undeserving in my opinion, and some of the reasons why are coming out here and now in Florida.

This is some bitter news for people to swallow, but it is the responsibility of the VOTERS to make sure their votes count. First by getting to the voting booths, then by making sure they follow the instructions in voting and making sure they picked the candidate they’ve selected. That’s it! If the voter can’t figure those things out, then their vote is discounted. It’s not up for some election committee to "guess" how you "wanted" to vote, and anyone who seriously thinks that should be their job needs to have their head examined… preferably with a blender.

Let’s face it.. George Bush and Al Gore have both stolen this election from the American people. Election day was supposed to be the one day that Joe and Jane Six-pack get to have their say. Not lawyers, not special interest groups, and certainly not the political hired guns talking about whether or not the people were "confused" by ballots. Joe and Jane Six-pack have had their day stolen from them first by Al Gore, and then by George Bush, in this endless string of lawsuits and allegations of ballot manipulation.

Unfortunately, there is very little we the people can do to stop this theft from continuing. It is a product of our own foolishness. We were the ones who bought into the myth that it was either Bush or Gore. We were sold on the Big Lie, and now we have to pay the price for choosing either of those two whiners.

And get used to it people, because no matter which bunch of thieves win the White House, we will have to put up with these kinds of antics for the next four years!

The screwing has only just begun!

Monday, November 13, 2000

Week of 11/13/2000

Getting the Government You Deserve in 2000
- by David Matthews 2

Boy, oh boy, what a way to wrap up the election season, huh?

Here we are, about one week removed from all of the garbage that we have to put up with every two to four years, and we STILL don’t know who’s going to replace King Bill the First come January!

Al Gore claims to have won the election. George W. Bush claims to have won the election. Gore claims that Bush stole the electoral college. Bush claims that Gore is a sore loser. We have people throwing screaming fits in front of cameras about recounts and re-votes and mythical third-party spoilers.

It’s insane. It’s really insane.

But perhaps it’s to be expected. After all, we’re talking about two spoiled, pampered, career politicians who have gotten where they were through the success of their respective fathers. Politicians who firmly believed that government can solve all problems, and constantly talk about their respective pet pork programs as the solutions to all of society’s ills. They act like a bunch of children promising cake and candy to the neighborhood kids. Why should it be any different when the vote isn’t decisively their way?

So for those international watchers out there.. or those Americans who are wondering just where the STOP button is on this crazy ride, let’s get a few things squared away.

First of all, despite the fact that voter attendance was high in many areas across America, only 60% of registered voters actually got off their duffs and made it to the voting booths. That’s far better than the 49% who voted in 1996, but still pretty pathetic. As this commentator predicted, the non-vote STILL was a factor in this election.

Second, despite all of the talk about Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan, Harry Browne, and other third-party candidates as spoilers, they did NOT serve as such. The most any of those three garnered was three percent of the popular vote. They served as true votes of conscience, true votes of protest, true votes of principle, but they did NOT serve as the spoiler vote.

If Gore and Bush supporters were really and truly serious about getting the vote out, they shouldn’t be mad at the five percent of people who voted their conscience and their principles. They should be mad at the forty percent of registered voters who stayed at home and didn’t exercise their constitutional duty.

As such, the forty percent who didn’t vote have no basis to complain. Period. They can complain all they like, and the Constitution guarantees them that right, but unless they can say "I Voted", they’re no better than the mealy-mouthed double-speaking politicians we all despise.

And indeed, that forty percent could have changed the face of politics. This presidential election was so close in many states that even a handful of those non-voters could have tipped the scales one way or the other.

That brings us to the close election.

Right now, all eyes are on Florida. Florida has 25 electoral votes, and whomever gets those 25 wins the election. The difference between the two was close.. really close. The media thought it first went to Gore, then it went to Bush, then it was too close to call. So by state law, a recount was required. And when that was done, the difference was even closer, but Bush still had edged out over Gore.

But Gore didn’t like that. So now some counties are recounting votes yet again.. by hand!

But still that’s not good enough for the Gore supporters. They’re claiming voter fraud in Florida. 19,000 ballots had to be thrown out because voters double-punched their ballots. Excuse me, folks, but what was it about the instructions did you NOT understand? Did you or did you NOT read the part about if you make a mistake you can request another ballot? It doesn’t take an act of Congress. I saw someone get a new ballot right in front of me because he did his wrong. It happens.

So 19,000 ballots were tossed out. Too bad. 36,000 ballots were tossed out in 1996 and nobody complained. Hundreds of voters in Georgia wanted to vote this year but couldn’t because the State Secretary disqualified their registration forms with very little media attention and absolutely no notice to the individuals who thought they were registered to vote. Do you hear any calls for Congressional action here? No.

Meanwhile, you have spoiled Democrats crying foul all over the state of Florida. They claim that the butterfly-style ballots were too "confusing." That ballot layout was approved of by both the Democrats and the Republicans. They were printed in newspapers all over the county so people wouldn’t be surprised by the layout when they get to the polls. Hey, if schoolchildren in the area could understand the ballots, why couldn’t adults?

And how about all of those whining, moaning, crying protesters demanding a "re-vote"? Please! Cry me a freakin’ river! These people are the epitome of the word PATHETIC!

You want a re-vote? How about all of the other counties and states that came close. You think they should have a re-vote too? After all, they may have picked the wrong candidate as well. Let’s give them a chance to re-vote. Gotta be fair, right? And while we’re at it, I’m sure that there were some other folks who were a bit confused by their ballots as well. How about giving them a chance to re-vote?

Tell you what.. while we’re at it, why not just invalidate the WHOLE election and have everyone vote again? How about that? Will that make you happy? Or will you only be happy if Al Gore wins?

You know, come to think of it.. I’m not too sure that I crossed off the right numbers in last night’s bingo game. All of those numbers so tightly together.. it was very confusing for me. I think I should have a replay! After all, we gotta be fair, right?

Come on people! Voting is not like playing "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" There is no Regis Philben asking you if that was your final answer. This is a one-shot deal here. Bring your reading glasses. Read the instructions. Re-read them if you still don’t get it. If you’re not sure about your selection, don’t pull that final lever, don’t "X" that check mark, and for God’s sake, don’t push in that stupid slot twice!

Let’s get brutally honest here… As the heir apparent to the Bill Clinton regime, this election has been Al Gore’s to lose. The political deck was already stacked in his favor. Thanks to the party bosses, the not-so-unbiased members of the media, and the two-party monopoly, people were led to believe that the only alternative to Gore was a bumbling Texas governor who looked like he was still trying to find his own dorm room. If Al Gore could not earn enough votes even to win his own state of Tennessee, then should he fail to win the election, he has nobody to blame but himself. Period. Case closed.

And how about the biggest whiner for the Gore camp, Bill Daley? Does the name Richard Daley of the Chicago political machine ring any bells? How about this quote: "Vote early, vote often"? If anyone should know about voter fraud, it would be the son of the man who reportedly once got the dead to vote for John Kennedy.

Media talking heads are marveling how the election results are generating more interest than the whole campaign itself. That is no surprise, really. For too many years, voters have felt that their votes really didn’t matter. They felt ignored. They felt disconnected from the system. They felt that special interests owned the election and dictated who won or who lost. Now they’re finding out that a handful of individual votes could spell the difference between who won and who lost. Of course they’re going to be interested! This would be the first time in years that they will actually feel that they were involved in the process!

People are complaining that it’s not fair that one person could win the popular vote, and another would be elected president. Well, sorry Charlie, but that’s how this system was set up. Our founding fathers did NOT create a democracy, they created a democracy in a REPUBLIC. Check with Benjamin Franklin when asked what the founding fathers had created. He said, quote, "A republic, if you can keep it."

Our founding fathers knew that the emotions of the people are fleeting and temporary, easily swayed by whatever huckster could peddle their wares. Government is neither fleeting nor temporary. That’s why special interest groups try to generate false hysteria to get laws passed. And that’s why there are provisions in the Constitution to curtail such laws from wrongfully infringing on the rights of the individual.

This government was set up with a system of checks and balances. A House of Representatives elected by the people. A Senate that was originally comprised of those appointed by the state governors. A Supreme Court filled by those picked by the President, but approved of by the Senate. And a President who was elected, not by the people, but by those elected representatives of the people.

Oh, you didn’t know you don’t directly elect the President? Well, you’re finding that out the hard way, aren’t you? Time to wake up and dust off those high school civics books, boys and girls.

The electoral college serves as yet another check-and-balance measure. Call it a waiting period for the highest office in the land. I’m sure all you anti-gun advocates and all you anti-abortion supporters can appreciate the notion of a waiting period, right? This is probably the only waiting period measure that I actually support.

People who fear the abolition of the electoral college say that it would open the door to third parties and coalition governments. Hey, go back to your history books and read up on how Abraham Lincoln got elected. You think that electoral college was a cakewalk back in 1860?

You want the system fixed? You think it should be more reflective of the popular vote? Okay, how about getting rid of the "winner-take-all" system of electoral delegates? Each state gets 10 delegates. If George Bush gets half the vote in that state, he gets half the delegates. If Al Gore gets 40% of the vote, he gets 4 delegates. If third parties get less than 10%, they don’t get a delegate. Simple, easy, and proportionate. Plus, there wouldn’t be any of this garbage of campaigning heavily in certain states and ignoring others.

While we’re at it, I should get a word in about how the media was playing this whole election night debacle. I have a real problem with how the media likes to predict winners based on projections and exit polling. They got caught with their pants down in Florida, not just once, but twice.. and this practice only served in building up people’s expectations and then letting them down. Heck, Al Gore was ready to concede the election simply because the media declared Bush the winner even before most of the votes were in.

Dan Rather of CBS was perhaps the biggest drama queen in this. When CBS had to pull Florida out of the Gore column, he kept on declaring it to be because of "faulty data", even going so far as to call it "suspect data." Yeah Dan, like Tom Cruise and his Mission Impossible team came in an sabotaged your computers. Rather had it right the first time when it was called "faulty data". The fault was on their over-reliance on exit polls and their so-called "need" to be the first to declare a winner from state to state.

Short of banning exit pollsters from hanging around election areas like they do for campaigning, the only real way for journalists to stop relying on this kind of reckless reporting of the news would be if everyone who participated in them lied to the pollsters. After all, lying to pollsters is not a crime.. at least not yet. Personally I think that would be hilarious! It would be so comical to see these air-fluffed personalities try to explain how their predictions would be so utterly wrong. Too bad it would only work once.

However, like it or not, we are getting exactly the kind of government we deserve. If you were one of the forty percent who stayed at home, then you’re going to have to deal with the fact that you blew your chance to shape the election. Next time be at the polls!

If you were one of those folks who felt that they had to compromise and surrender their vote on the misguided belief that either Bush or Gore were somehow "the lesser evil", you’re going to have to live with the fact that your principles don’t mean squat anymore, especially if you sacrificed them for a candidate who didn’t win. And maybe that explains why people are so touchy about this election.

But, if you’re like me, and you voted your conscience, and voted according to whomever you wanted to see in office, then you have nothing to be ashamed about. You did your job and anyone who has a problem with that really should seek therapy before they start showing up in bell towers with large caliber firearms. You can do what I am doing, which is sitting back, watching this two-ring political circus continue on with their respective clown acts, marvel at it all.. and laugh as the two sides continue to self-destruct.

Monday, November 6, 2000

Week of 11/06/2000

The Dirtiest Player in the Game
- by David Matthews 2

In the world of professional wrestling, one man is known as "The Dirtiest Player in the Game." That man is the legendary "Nature Boy" Ric Flair.

Flair was the shining example of the glamour of professional wrestling. The robes, the gold, the limousines, the women, the perfectly coifed platinum-white hair, the expensive clothes. Everything about him exuded success. But Flair the wrestler was also arrogant, cocky, sneaky, the master of mind games, and willing to use every underhanded trick imaginable to get the win.

Until recently, it was hard to try to find the political equivalent to the "Nature Boy." Politicians don’t like to be seen as arrogant, put-offish, or cocky. They want to be seen as the "babyfaces", the good guys who have to fight hard and play by the rules in order to win.

I suppose the closest you could’ve come to having a "dirty player" in politics would be the late Richard Nixon. Nixon’s political career had always held an element of duplicity. End Vietnam, yet bomb Cambodia. Support the Constitution, yet try to circumvent it. Support free markets, yet order a one-year freeze in the marketplace that would take years to resolve.

But Nixon knew how to accept defeat. When he knew that the Congress was ready to impeach him for his abuses of power, he resigned. He chose the honorable way out, and eventually history forgave him.

Until now, nobody could come close to being a "dirty player" in politics as Nixon was.

"Nature Boy" Ric Flair, meet President Bill Clinton.

Like Flair, Clinton exudes all of the glamour of politics. The big-money fundraisers, the trips on Air Force One, the high-profile travel junkets. Clinton has even let his perfectly coifed hair turn white, just like the "Nature Boy." Now some might say that Clinton likes to be a "common man," but that really doesn’t seem to cut it for him. He is only about as much a "common man" as King Henry V was when he would disguise himself to visit his troops before a battle.

But with Clinton there is also that dark side of politics that seems to follow him about like a shadow. The deceitfulness, the lies, the underhanded tricks, the mind games that are played so subtly that you don’t even know you’ve been played for a fool until after it has happened.

Accuse Clinton of some wrongdoing, and you could face an audit by the Internal Revenue Service. Just about every Clinton accuser and critic has at one point or another been audited by the IRS. Nobody would ever say why they are being audited, but they would quickly dismiss any idea that the White House had anything to do with it. Documents would mysteriously disappear. Dark secrets about people’s lives would be dug up and revealed.

Of course, Clinton would never admit to such dirty tricks. Like any other politician, Clinton wants to be seen as a "babyface", a self-professed savior and champion of the "common man." But try as he might, those dirty tricks would follow him about like a puppy.

Case in point, the presidential campaign of his heir apparent, Al Gore.

Try as he might, Al Gore cannot shake off the stigma that is Bill Clinton off his campaign. He kept on claiming he was "his own man," but quite often he would point to those years of serving as the prince to King Bill the first, waiting patiently for what he would consider to be "his turn" to take over the castle at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

So as Election Day came closer, Gore was perplexed. He was not considered to be the overall winner, despite reinventing himself over and over again. Worse yet, he was considered to be running neck-and-neck with a man who seemed to be bumbling his way through the campaign - Texas Governor George W. Bush.

And so it came to be that Al Gore got some "help" from his mentor, King Bill.

Most people would know that Clinton would briefly "stump" for Gore, campaigning for him and claiming that a Gore regime would be considered the closest thing Clinton could have to a third term. Not really original when you think about it. In fact, that’s how Bush’s father became president in 1988, as the successor to President Ronald Reagan’s two terms in office.

So Big Bubba Spin would make his pitch, do his brief "stumping" for Gore, and then go back to the White House so he can once again try to rebuild what he calls his "legacy." Al "My Own Man" Gore became Al "Clinton II" Gore, and that seemed to appease the pundits.

But then something strange happened…

Not too long after Clinton "returned" to his kingly duties, a skeleton popped out of George W’s closet.

This skeleton was a guilty plea for Driving Under Intoxication in Maine. Now today that would be considered a felony, but this was in 1976, when such an offense was treated no better than speeding. Bush was given a ticket, he went to traffic court, pled guilty, paid the fine, lost his drivers license for a month, and that was that. No big deal back then. In fact, Bush would later say that the incident was one of the reasons why he gave up drinking.

Now let’s get brutally honest here.. in terms of bombshells, this scandal was nothing more than a fizzled firecracker. A DUI in 1976 wasn’t as consequential an offense as, say, raping a woman.. like a certain former attorney general for Arkansas was alleged to have done in the 1980’s. Bush didn’t try to fight the charge. He didn’t try to use his father’s influence to get the matter swept away. He didn’t even plead nolo to the charge, which he was more than entitled to do back then. No, he didn’t do those things. He pled guilty and accepted the punishment of the court.

And when confronted by this skeleton, Bush admitted to it! He didn’t try to lie about it. He didn’t try to deny it ever happened. He just didn’t come forward with it. That was his only crime.

Yeah, like Da Big W would come waltzing into the campaign race like Clint Eastwood in "Heartbreak Ridge" and tell everyone "My name is Texas Governor George W. Bush, and I’ve snorted more coke and drank more beer and executed more pond-scum-sucking criminals than all you numbnuts put together!" Yeah, that goes along just fine and dandy with Joe and Jane Six-Pack.

And so the question has to be raised.. is this dirty politics or just really bad timing for the Republicans?

Well if you ask the Republicans, they’ll tell you there is no doubt that it’s dirty politics. The suspect who leaked the information to the press was a Gore delegate to the Democratic Convention this past August. And Gore, of course, has everything to gain by staining Bush just days before the election.

Gore’s people, of course, deny ever being involved in the whole sordid mess. The suspect, Tom Connolly, claimed he acted alone, and that the Gore camp didn’t know anything about it.

Mind you, it’s very easy to simply blame Gore and his people for this. Gore, after all, is known to have "stretched" the truth here and there. What’s one more "exaggeration", huh?

Well, nothing.. except the real suspect may have been forgotten in all of this.

I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but doesn’t it seem too coincidental that George W’s DUI skeleton should suddenly pop up not too long after President Clinton started campaigning for Al Gore?

This is, after all, a standard Clinton tactic. Find old dirt on your competitor and exploit it just days before a crucial vote. Just ask Congressman Dan "The President is a scumbag" Burton. You think he wanted folks to know he once upon a time sired an illegitimate bambino? Or how about former Congressman Bob Livingston? As the man who would’ve replaced Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House, Livingston instead announced his resignation just prior to the House vote to impeach Clinton when it was going to be revealed that HE had also cheated on his wife in the past. It worked to keep Clinton in office, then. Why not use it to put his successor in office?

If it’s motive you’re looking for, then what better motive would there be but to sustain Clinton’s so-called track record? Two terms as president, followed by a term by his successor. Some would consider that to be a successful regime. As an added bonus, he would be able to deprive George Bush senior his bit of payback for the 1992 election.

If Clinton is the true mastermind behind the DUI leak, and this commentator would not be surprised if that is so, then certainly he would be considered without a doubt the dirtiest player in the game! A man willing to do anything and everything within his means to succeed, no matter whose lives are destroyed in the process. Tom Connolly would simply be yet another name lost in the Clinton machine along with dozens of victims, accomplices, associates, and fall-guys who pay for price those who refuse to be held accountable to anyone.

Sadly, if Clinton really is the mastermind behind it, he would never be implicated, because there would be no proof. The principal players would make sure that they would take the fall for whomever was the mastermind behind it. All that would be left would be idle speculation, and in an election season, even that would be quickly forgotten. Maybe that has become the nature of politics, but that does not excuse the ones who utilize such tactics, no matter which political affiliation they are with.

All the more reason to be thankful that Clinton’s reign as a self-styled king would be over come January. It is only a pity that the front-running choices for his successor are no better.

Monday, October 30, 2000

Week of 10/30/2000

End Game For The "Wasted Vote" Argument
- by David Matthews 2

"The fanatic is not really a stickler to principle. He embraces a cause not primarily because of its justness or holiness but because of his desperate need for something to hold onto." - Eric Hoffer

There seems to come a time in every election season where calm discord gives way to fanaticism. Where once there was room for all views and all perspectives, it becomes time when zero-sum arguments and "black-or-right" mentalities take over. Accusations fly fast and furious. People start thinking "If you’re not with us, then you’re against us!" A siege mentality essentially takes over what was once a calm and open forum.

One of the signs of that zero-sum mentality in politics comes when politicians and their supporters start tearing at all independent voices and all independent and third-party candidates.

Their arguments are often stale and overused. "Why vote for a candidate who cannot win?", they ask. "Why throw your vote away?" "A vote for your candidate is a vote for my opponent." "A vote for your candidate is a wasted vote."

This year, the most eloquent supporter of this zero-sum drivel is John N. Doggett, a talking head, management consultant and lawyer, who feels quite passionately that any vote that is not for George W. Bush is a vote for Al Gore for president. He feels that although Bush is far from perfect, he’s not as "bad" as Gore, and therefore we should vote for the "lesser of two evils."

Nothing really original.. but then again, what do you expect from your run-of-the-mill conservatives? The words "creative conservatives" is about as much an oxymoron (with emphasis on the "moron" part) as "compassionate conservatism."

Some people, though, were creative in their arguments. One person in the chat room recently told Libertarians and other third-party supporters that now was not "the right time" to vote for their candidates. That it was more important to vote for George W. Bush to prevent Al Gore from getting elected.

Over on the liberal side, things are just as heated. Singer Melissa Etheridge, Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, and civil rights leader Jesse Jackson have all unleashed their zero-sum arguments on behalf of Al Gore. Their fear being that Green Party candidate Ralph Nader would somehow "steal votes" away from Gore.

Al Gore’s running mate, Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, even went so far as to proclaim that Nader supporters were "throwing away" their vote and are helping elect "somebody who is diametrically opposed to what they are for."

This is a rather dangerous statement for any political candidate to make personally. Even Gore refuses to directly subscribe to such a notion, remembering that when former Senator Bob Dole used it against President Bill Clinton in 1996, he lost badly on election day.

I don’t know about you, but I am sick to death of hearing about all of these zero-sum arguments. All of these whiney, divisive, manipulative, guilt-ridden arguments from the dominant political parties. I’m sick of hearing them.. and I know I’m not alone in this.

And so I am here to do what should have been done years ago. I am here to end each and every single one of those "wasted vote" arguments once and for all. I intend to slaughter, skin, gut, de-bone, fillet, and cook on a grill every single "wasted vote" sacred cow argument the conservatives and liberals use today.

Let’s start with the notion that now is not "the right time" to support third parties. Well to quote former president Ronald Reagan, "If not now, when?" When WOULD be the right time to support third parties?

It supposedly wasn’t "the right time" back in 1996, because we supposedly HAD to vote President Clinton out of office.. even though that didn’t happen, even with the sluggish third-party vote. It supposedly wasn’t "the right time" back in 1992, because we supposedly HAD to re-elect President George H. Bush. It supposedly wasn’t "the right time" back in 1988, because we HAD to keep the Reagan era alive by electing the elder Bush. It supposedly wasn’t "the right time" in 1984, because we HAD to keep Reagan in office so he can "finish his job." It supposedly wasn’t "the right time" in 1980 because we HAD to "save the nation" and vote President Jimmy Carter out of office. It supposedly wasn’t "the right time" in 1976 because we supposedly HAD to keep President Gerald Ford in office so the nation can "heal" from the stains of Watergate. And it supposedly wasn’t "the right time" in 1972, when the Libertarian Party first got started, because we supposedly HAD to keep President Richard Nixon in office.

So let me ask you zero-sum supporters… if it wasn’t "the right time" in 1972, and it wasn’t "the right time" in 1976, and it wasn’t "the right time " in 1980, and 1984, and 1988, and 1992, and 1996.. and supposedly is not "the right time" in 2000 to support third party candidates.. WHEN WILL IT BE "THE RIGHT TIME"? 2004? 2008? 2012?

The answer from them, of course, is never. It NEVER would be "the right time" to support third party candidates, or even to MENTION ideas that differ from their party lines. To quote a certain sports entertainer, the two dominant political parties would simply force the active voters of America to "know your role and shut your mouth!"

Then there is the ever-popular argument by people like Doggett who say that we need to "compromise" and vote for the "lesser of two evils." Compromise, huh? Isn’t that how we GOT our problems in the first place? When the two parties asked the voters to compromise instead of it being the other way around?

The truth of the matter is that the Democrats and the Republicans don’t want to compromise. They want people to give up their beliefs and compromise their ideologies to support that larger body that is not willing to give up anything in return.

And why SHOULD they give up anything? They have their core supporters, the people who will be there no matter WHAT the party does. So why should they give up anything?

In that regard, those third parties do serve a very important function.. they represent the disgruntled voices of change. People who want more than just lip service from the status quo.. they want REAL change. Those third parties serve as the venue for those voters who feel they’re being ignored by the Democrats and the Republicans.

Remember balancing the budget? Getting rid of the deficit? Those issues weren’t even on the radar of the GOP and the Democrats until Ross Perot ran for president in 1992 and got 20% of the vote! Then, suddenly, both sides were on the deficit-cutting bandwagon. Perot didn’t win, but his platform was quickly absorbed by both parties.

And that also takes care of another tired zero-sum argument by the two-party monopoly.. that it was useless to support a candidate who "cannot win." If Perot’s campaign was "useless", why did both parties go out of their way to co-opt his platform?

This is not a horse race. This is about choosing the candidate you feel best represents you. That’s what the whole election process was designed for in the first place!

Many third party candidates like Ralph Nader and Libertarian Party’s Harry Browne know that they won’t win this year. But they can serve as the symbol for all of those disenfranchised voters who have been screwed over by the two-party monopoly, and get that two-party monopoly to take a more serious look at their ideas.

There are basically three groups of people for whom the elections ARE all about winning and losing: The career politicians themselves, the special interest groups, and the political consultants. Three groups of people who have a vested interest in winning, because it means power and money for them.

The rest of us? Well, your average Joe and Jane Six-pack could care less whether a jackass or a bloated elephant wins. The letters R and D have become so interchangeable in recent years that they’ve lost all meaning to the general public. All they care about is what the government will do for them and to them.

Doggett likes to talk about history, saying that the two-party monopoly has always been the mainstay in American government.. well, somebody better explain to him how Abraham Lincoln got elected president in 1860, because at the time, there were not two, not three, but FOUR main political parties. There were the Democrats, the Southern Democrats, the New Whigs, and that fledgling party called the Republicans. Now if the two-party monopoly then was really as strong as people like John Doggett would like to think it was, Abraham Lincoln would NEVER have been elected president. It would have been between the Democrats and the New Whigs.

So much for history.

Lastly, let’s put to rest the crux of the "wasted vote" argument.. the notion that if you vote for a third party candidate that you’re somehow "stealing" votes from the other candidates.

That is perhaps the utter piousness of our two-party monopoly.. that somehow each party candidate OWNS a particular block of votes automatically, and that third parties somehow deprive them of "their" votes. For instance, that Republicans "own" the conservative voters, or that the Democrats "own" the environmentalist voters.

Well let’s get brutally honest here.. those votes are not theirs to begin with! Never have been, never will be. They don’t own votes outright simply because they have the "blessings" of the two-party monopoly. This is not some kind of federal entitlement program for career politicians. Like any other candidate, George Bush and Al Gore have to EARN each and every vote they get. And if they fail to get enough votes to win, they have nobody to blame but themselves.

If Al Gore loses in the general election, it would not be because Ralph Nader "stole" votes from him. They were never HIS votes to begin with!

If George W. Bush loses in the general election, it would not be because Pat Buchanan or Harry Browne "stole" votes from him. Those votes were never HIS to begin with!

Bush and Gore are not entitled to any vote outside of their own, and if one or the other cannot earn enough votes to win the day, that person has nobody to blame but himself!

But can you truly "waste" your vote? Yes, you can. You can waste your vote by either not voting at all, or by surrendering your vote to those "wasted vote" advocates like John Doggett.

Remember that voting is about choosing the candidate that YOU feel would best represent you and your beliefs. You. Not some special interest group with an agenda to push. Not some political consultant looking for even larger consulting fees and a cushy chair on the Sunday roundtable shows. Not some career politician looking to line his or her retirement account on your tax dollars. It’s about picking the candidate who best represents YOU.

Always remember that, and always remember what John Quincy Adams - the sixth president of the United States - once said: "Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost."