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.