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Mike's Soapbox - Best 2000 Rants

3/18 - I just saw a commercial for Scooby Doo for President (I am not kidding - it was on The Cartoon Network). Based on the candidates, I just have to say - he's got my vote!

3/25 - Does anyone remember the good old days when we used to have new TV shows all the time? Now it seems that we only have new shows during sweeps months (November, February, and May). I am tired of seeing threepeats of shows. I just saw a Frasier on repeat the other night on network TV, and the same show was in syndication later that night!

In this week's Weird People I've Met, I will tell you about another of my favorite weird people. This was my second roommate named Andy, whom I will refer to as Andy2. I have many stories about Andy2, but this week's story is about his Playboy magazines. He used to subscribe to Playboy, but he would never let us look at them, because he was afraid that the oils in our skin might mess up the glossy print. He kept them in pristine condition on top of his desk, and we could see the covers, but never the forbidden fruit inside. Then, one day, Doug and I were drunk, and we decided to raid Andy2's stash of Playboys. We were flipping through them with our drunken oily hands, when all of a sudden a bunch of pubes fell out of the centerfold. Doug threw the magazine across the room, and we took some sticks and carefully scooped it up and put it on the desk. All I know is that we never had a desire to see any of Andy2's magazines again!

4/6 - Weird People I've Met - This week, it's Dick Drunk - my roommate who puked in our heater. He was at a party and got drunk and when he started to feel sick, he felt cold chills. So, he got up and stood over the heater, which made him puke - which he did, right into the heater. After that, we never ran the heater without opening the window. Once, someone closed the window, and the room smelled like puke within 5 minutes (this was six months after Dick supposedly cleaned it up); and then, it was about 24 hours before the smell returned to normal (or as close to normal as possible - I'll talk about the "Old Spice" story later)...

4/8 - Have you seen the network news recently? It's all Elian all the time! Send the kid home already. It makes me long for the days when all that was discussed on the news was OJ hacking people to death and the President's sex life. I hope celebrity does something stupid soon, so we can get back to some different sensationalistic story!

4/13 - Did anyone see the footage this morning of Elian? Was it just me, or he did resemble Castro with all that finger pointing and a very impassioned speech. Maybe he will be right at home in Cuba after all...

BTW, did anyone catch George W. Bush pronouncing Elian as "alien"? It then occurred to me that technically, Elian is an alien! We could have him star in his own TV show called "Elian the Alien". After that video this morning, we all can see that he is good at memorizing his lines, so maybe he can have his own TV show.

Also, speaking of Bush, I don't know who I am going to vote for. Al Gore is about as charismatic as my Physics 101 professor who only spoke to the chalkboard, and I am still bitter about the efforts of Tipper to ban so called "obscene" rock lyrics. However, George Bush comes off like a member of Animal House (and based on his answers to "Who's Who in Foreign Affairs", probably like the guy who had a 0.0 GPA). Bush always reminds me of the guy in the bar who says, "You know how you solve unemployment? Create more jobs!" and then has another beer; really - look at some of Bush's stands on issues and they are like, "Duh, but how do you really plan to do that?"

So, I don't know who I am voting for. Maybe I'll vote for that guy Charles R. Doty who was on The Daily Show last night. At least he is for kissing on a first date. And, he could probably use my vote.

4/16 - I am supporting the Star Trek Excelsior campaign.

I heard a rumor (but a pretty reliable one) that the next Star Trek series will be a prequel to the Original Series focusing on the creation of the Star Fleet and Federation. However, the evil villain who will be messing things up is a time traveler from the 29th century. Hmmm, sounds sucky to me. Now, I am not saying that the Excelsior is the best plot in the world either, but it has to be better than this time travel early days thing. The writers of Trek should take a good look at Farscape and see how good Star Trek could be...

7/19 - Who will George W. Bush and Al Gore choose as their running mates? The sad truth is, I really don't care. I am more wrapped up in who will win on Survivor than who either of these guys will pick as their running mates. And I am dreading the upcoming conventions. CBS must be happy - for once, there will be a show even more dreadfully boring than Big Brother (and speaking of which, can we select Bush and Gore to be nominated for banishment)?

Maybe we should change the November election to be more like Survivor. You know, we could take the candidates and make them perform challenges, such as "try to complete your 1040A Tax Form" or "who can name world leaders" (oops, sorry George, you already missed that one). Then, in the weeks leading up to November 2, viewers could vote a different candidate off of the campaign trail. Imagine the possibilities: who would get voted out first, Nader or Buchanan? Even the fringe candidates (you know, the ones you laugh at on the bottom of the ballot from parties like "The American Party for Freedom of Tibetan Dolphins") would stand an equal chance and would actually get to be seen by the public, rather than just be a random thought in voters heads as they ponder exactly how they got the number of signatures to be on the ballot.

We could also change the system to have the candidates use a system like TLC's Junkyard Wars. They split up with experts into teams to see who can build a functioning missile defense system using only junkyard parts.

Maybe we could have a system like the Iron Chef. Bush and Gore can compete to see which one can cook the best meal with government surplus cheese as the secret ingredient. Then, they could have real welfare families be the judges!

Yes, even the Russians seem to understand the problem with voting in this day and age. In their system, voters can choose "none of the above" when casting their decision. Imagine that here - "None of the above" would win every time.

As for the televised debates, just don't interrupt Survivor (but feel free to interrupt Big Brother). I wouldn't want that scripted show to interrupt reality TV - and yes, the debates are scripted, and no, they are not reality TV; if you want reality, have me debate both Bush and Gore, and I'll show you reality!

8/5 - Did anyone watch the convention? I sure didn't. I wanted to see who got kicked out of the house on Big Brother. But I did watch the recaps (on the Daily Show).

Is it just me, or does George W. come across like a drunken hick? He always, uh, slumbles, uh, sumbers, uh, stumbles, over his words. Then, uh, he mispronounces words, like "nucular" instead of "nuclear". And, uh, he, uh, seems forgetful sometimes. Where was I going with this...

But, in his defense, I would much rather listen to Bush then Gore. Gore the Bore. I hope he abandons Clinton's traditional three-hour State of the Union addresses. I am concerned that if he speaks for that long at one time, he might put the entire nation to sleep.

I just wish Perot was still in the race. You could always count on him to come up with something so off the wall, that the debates were always worth watching. He would spout indecipherable crap like, "Hey, you know this economy is like a fish - if you put a little peanut butter in the chicken feed, you can create jobs for Americans", which caused everyone to wonder - who would actually vote for this guy? Maybe we should start a campaign to get Perot to join the debates, even if he isn't running for President. At least it would be entertaining...

8/9 - I just saw an interview with Gore and Lieberman on Good Morning America. Gore did all the talking, while Lieberman sat there next to him and smiled. I figured out who these guys remind me of: Penn and Teller! Next time you see them together, think about it. Also, did anyone read Al Franken's book Why Not Me? Ironically, in the book he speculates who he would pick as VP, and it was Lieberman. I kept trying to figure out why I heard this guy's name before, and then it hit me. Maybe Al Franken was on to something...

8/10 - Weird People I've Met: Andy2

This is one of my all-time favorite weird people: Andy2. One peculiar thing about Andy2 was that he liked to argue, and he always believed that you were always trying to mess with his head. Yes, of course, we messed with his head, but it is hard to describe, so I'll just share one particular incident with you.

We were watching "Hunt for Red October" on video, and Andy2 turns to me and asks, "Dude, what kind of sub is that?" referring to the Red October. It's actually a Typhoon class submarine, and I believe that is mentioned in the film a coupe of times. However, I didn't feel like getting into a discussion with Andy2 (I wanted to watch the movie), so I told him I didn't know.

He tells me, "You must know; they teach you that stuff in ROTC." Just wanting him to shut up, I replied "It's a Typhoon class sub."

He sits there for a second, and then says, "Are you sure? I think it's a Kilo class."

Not wanting to argue or talk any further, I just agree with him. "Yep, I think maybe you might be right. But, it doesn't really matter. Watch the show."

He sits there again for another few seconds, and then says, "No, maybe you're right; it might be a Typhoon."

I gave him a stern look; I wanted to watch the movie, and I didn't care. "It doesn't really matter; watch the show." Who cares what kind of sub it is, it doesn't matter.

Andy then quietly says, "Dude, get your Soviet Military Power book and look it up." I had a book which listed all of the Soviet military hardware, including submarines (for all you young ones out there, "Soviet" is what we used to call Russians).

I replied that I didn't care, I wanted to watch the movie. He kept pressing, though, so I knew I wouldn't get a chance to finish the movie without getting him the damn book. So, I pause the movie, get my book, toss it at him, and continue watching the movie.

"Dude, you were right," he then says, "it is a Typhoon sub. Wow, look at this sub it's cool." He then started reading off all of the stats about the sub. Needless to say, I didn't enjoy watching the movie very much.

So, do you see what I am saying? You see how annoying he could be? He was like that all the time...

8/12 - I am disappointed that no one responded to my campaign to convince Adele to let me see Road Trip. So, I need to know - was it because the movie was bad? Was it because you do not like me? Was it because you didn't want to upset Adele? I had that campaign up for eight weeks, and in that time, none of the 325 visitors to the web page sent Adele a message to convince her I needed to see the movie. She says, "See - even the people who visit your web page know it sucks!" So, needless to say, I couldn't even say in my defense, "But, so-and-so said I needed to see it - they said it was the best movie ever!" Nope, nothing like that.

Oh, well. I did make her sit through Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, though.

I have a couple more rants about drivers. First, I was in a hurry the other day, and the woman in front of me was driving her four wheel drive Isuzu Rodeo (which had 4WD on it), and she came to a complete stop at every single speed bump in the parking lot. Here I am blowing over them in my Grand Prix at 5 to 10 mph, and she comes up to one, stops, slowly goes over it with the front axle, stops, and slowly goes over it with the back axle. Needless to say, I was going nuts as she is afraid to go over speedbumps with her four wheel drive, and it is taking me a half-hour to get through the parking lot. Hey, lady, I am just taking a guess here, but I would suppose that it would be safe if I said that you had never been off road, and probably, never even put your vehicle in four wheel drive. Maybe you should get a minivan - you might find it easier to drive and safer on the environment!

However, there was a problem with minivans, as well. I was behind a guy with one of these economy minivans, like the itty bitty Nissan and Mazda minivans, who was going so slow on the highway (like 45 mph in rush hour). The problem was, it was packed full of people, and the little three cylinder engine or whatever piece of crap motor it has couldn't pull all that weight. Dude, just because it has places to seat six people, that doesn't mean that the motor can carry six people. If you absolutely must, may I recommend a place other than the fast lane on the interstate during rush hour?

8/19 - Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

No, I wasn't chanting for four more years of Gore - I was celebrating the fact that we don't have to see this boring convention crap for FOUR MORE YEARS!

Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

By the way, due to the recent decision by a US court to decline to protect source code with the Constitutional right of free speech, I am offering you this bit of source code which may not be protected by free speech, so I hope I don't get sued (see!


The following source code is NOT protected by free speech!

20 GOTO 10

Download or link to this source at your own risk!

10/7 - I have a lot to cover, so let's get to it!

What is up with the people in the Middle East? Why is everyone fighting over this piece of land? Matt Biers-Ariel of NPR has some thoughts about it. I have to say I agree with him. They are all descended from the same place, and the area that they are fighting over is nothing to write home about. I mean, if it was a beautiful area like Seattle that would be one thing, but the area over which they are fighting is more like Laughlin, Nevada. Maybe they should all move over to Nevada. It's big and unpopulated, so there is plenty of room for everyone and no need to fight.

I watched Star Trek Voyager this week. What happened to Star Trek? The Borg have been reduced to wusses. Remember Star Trek the Next Generation when one Borg cube destroyed about half of Starfleet at Wolf 359? I do, because I am a big geek. Now, one small ship like Voyager is whooping butt all over the place on the Borg. The writing is terrible. They hit a quantum gate and shoot ten years closer to home. They get shot ten years closer by Kes. They rig a quantum slipstream drive and get another ten years closer. But, then a week later, the crewman they left behind three years ago manages to catch up with them, even though the crewman didn't chance upon the same sequence of events that Voyager did. And never mind that they are well past Borg space, they seem to be able to meet up with the Borg whenever they want (or whenever ratings dictate). I remember when the producers said that even though Voyager is in the Delta Quadrant (where the Borg live), they would not be meeting the Borg. How I wish they held true to their philosophy...

Is everyone watching the debates? I'm not. I was watching Dark Angel. I figured I would just catch the highlights on CNN. Unfortunately, there weren't any. They need to change the format of these. They should have something like on Jeopardy where they buzz in. If they give an incorrect answer, the other guy gets a chance to get the points. Then, the audience could decide if they liked the answer or not. Also, they would be limited to like five words apiece, like the Webby Awards. Imagine it:

Moderator: This next question is for 400 points. What will you do to improve education? It looks like Mr. Gore rang in first. Mr Gore, go ahead.

Gore: Thanks, Jim. I want to tell - (buzzzz)

Moderator: Oh, sorry Mr. Gore, you went over the five word limit. Audience, you can only consider the first five words, which are "Thanks Jim I want to". Audience, what do you think?

The audience boos.

Moderator: Sorry, Mr. Gore, the audience doesn't like that answer. Mr. Bush, you have a chance to steal.

Bush: Better edumacation promotes higher learnin'.

Moderator: Audience?

The audience boos again.

Moderator: It looks like neither one of you wins any points there. Sorry, this round is over. The score is zero to zero. It looks like neither of you will be making it to the next round. Tell them what they won!

Announcer: For being a contestant on the Presidential Debate, you each will take home a year's supply of Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco treat! Be sure to join us next time for another Presidential Debate between our two new contestants Bruce Vilanch and Charo!

10/31 - Some miscellaneous thoughts I picked up from different sources:

"People are just squeaking by while their employers are zillionaires! At least if the government rips you off then they use the money to build roads and schools and airports and jails and all, they build the whole damn infrastructure! ... Yes ... because government is the people! The [business] owners just take the money and build castles in Barbados."
- Kim Stanley Robinson from his novel Antarctica on how tax cuts may not necessarily be good for everyone

"I don't think they [either candidate] know whether a missile defense shield would really keep us safe from incoming North Korean Taepodong missiles, especially if terrorists in a rubber boat can cripple a United States Navy warship and inflict such devastating casualties."
- Christopher Buckley, "Know Problem: Still Undecided? Don't Worry, So Are the Candidates", TV Guide (Nov 4-10), on why both candidates might seem to misjudge the real threats to our nation's defense

Happy Halloween! A week from now, Gore or Bush will be your new President. How is that for some scary thoughts!

11/1 - You have heard me talk about "". Now, there is another example of how the Internet age will affect voting. It is a site for "Nader Traders". The premise is that you want to vote for Nader but you don't want to hurt Gore - you go here and agree to vote for Gore in a contested state, and some Gore supporter in a state that Gore has locked up will cast a vote for Nader. This way, Nader gets enough votes to qualify for Federal campaign funds and Gore gets enough votes to win the election. Note: I don't endorse this site, but I am putting it here to show all sides.

Why don't I think this is a good idea? Well, it's your vote, and you should cast it for who you want. If you sell it for some scam, you are no better than politicians who sell their votes to special interests. Let me put it to you with an example from my own past: I was in school, and there was a special program that only one person could attend. I wanted to go, and so did a friend of mine. The catch was that you had to be nominated by your peers (you couldn't nominate yourself). Well, my friend and I hatched a plan - I would nominate him, and he would nominate me. Then, our classmates would pick the winner. However, it didn't work that way - I nominated him, and he didn't nominate me. No one else was nominated, so he was picked by default. Needless to say, we were no longer friends after that. But, I learned a valuable lesson - I don't trust the "you do this and I'll do that" scheme.

Finally, one last thing to remember on the note of Nader is this: if you want to vote for Nader, cast your vote for Nader. Cast your vote for the candidate that you most want for President. The only wasted vote is the one not cast!

One other issue that has me irked is the fact that the Congress recessed for the election without passing the budget. You know, there is all sort of talk about the lack of values in today's society - and most of those come from politicians! What kind of values are they sending with today's message? Well, let me tell you the lessons I learned from our Congressional leaders. First, it's okay to go past the October 1 deadline - in fact, it's okay to miss it by over a month! Second, it's okay to put off your work when your own butt is on the line - even to ask to be kept in a job that you haven't completely finished! Third, it's okay to be consistently late - you aren't accountable to anyone! I mean seriously - how come I seem to be the only one hollering that these guys can't pass a budget every year. Why don't they get started now on next year's budget, so that they don't miss their deadline (that's what I tell my workers when they miss their first deadline - I'd fire them when they miss their second deadline, but fortunately - they get the message the first time). I guess they feel that they can do this and still get re-elected with no problem. If this keeps up, they'll pass the 2002 budget in 2003!

11/2 - Today's soapbox is on Social Security. This has become a hot topic this election year. I want to share with you my feelings on the matter.

First, we have known for some time, at least 10 years, that social security was going to become an issue. With people living longer, as well as the fact that more people will now be taking out than were putting in, social security was on its way to being bankrupt. Something had to be done, and all of the Presidential candidates in the 1990s all pledged to do something to overhaul social security. So far, though, nothing has really been done.

So, what to do. One candidate has suggested allowing people to determine how to best invest their social security contributions in the stock market. However, this needs a little more attention. First, social security was set up during the Depression (after the stock market crash) to provide some sort of income for elderly people, who at that time had no income on which to live. A lot people had their long-term retirement investments disappear when the stock market crashed and there was a run on banks. Social security was to provide a long-term income in case a severe crash crippled the economy again. By placing social security in the stock market is to subject it to the same risks as every other investment plan!

The second thing wrong with this plan is that it is based on letting people invest their money in the way that they think is best. However, if people invested their money in the ways that they thought best, there would be no debt and thus, no need for social security! But, not all people invest their money wisely or safely. I certainly don't want my "economic safety net" (because that's what social security is) to be directly tied to the success of ""!

Thirdly, my parents will be drawing their social security off of my contributions. This is the way it works. You don't put your money in now and let it add up. No, the retirees today are drawing their money from the contributions made in my income. When it comes time for me to draw income, it will be from the contributions made at that time by my kids and grandkids.

But, we must be fair and look at the other candidate's plan. Well, he has acknowledged it is a problem, but he hasn't figured out a good solution to it. He favors using some of the budget surplus to help it, but he hasn't given specifics as to how much will go to this versus how much will go to building a missile shield to how much will go to future social programs.

As for my solution - well, the only one I have heard that was about as good as these was a suggestion by a friend of mine for a fund raiser for one of our organizations:

We had a budget of $2,000, and we were shooting to double our money. We had several ideas, all of which would require significant money for the startup costs (like $1,200 to $1,500). It's like before you could do car washes, you gotta buy hoses and buckets and towels and soap or before you do a bake sale you gotta buy flour and eggs and milk. The potential downside is that you buy $1,500 worth of stuff, you bring in $500 and now your budget is $1,000.

My friend was on his way to go to Las Vegas and he said, "Give me the $2,000 and I'll double your money. It won't cost you a thing, as I am going to Vegas already, so you'll just have to give me the money and I'll invest it for you. Of course there is the chance I'll lose, but there is also the chance I'll win." We thought about it, and as we discussed strategy, someone said that the best strategy was to simply go to a blackjack table, plop the $2,000 down and in one hand we would either double our money or lose it all; either way, it would be over.

In the end, we decided to have a car wash, bake sale, and T-shirt sale. At the end, we shelled out $1,200 for hoses, ingredients, and t-shirts, and we brought in $1,200. At the end of our fund-raiser, we broke even. If you factor the time we spent into the equation, we probably lost money.

The moral of this story is: you have two options here - you can vote to risk the money and either win big or lose big or you can vote to choose to keep things the way they are and risk nothing changing.

11/3 - Today's soapbox is about education. We know that there are problems with education, but we don't know what is the best way to solve them.

One issue is the program of school vouchers, where parents can get vouchers from the government to send their kids to private school. However, I don't think this is the best solution. In fact, it avoids the problem. If a school isn't teaching its students well, then the school needs to be fixed. Sending kids to other schools won't fix the problem. There needs to be more money put into education, and if we allow a system of vouchers, the money won't be put into fixing the problem schools - it will only make the good schools better.

Another issue is the role of the Federal government in education. Some favor a strong program of standards that schools must meet. Others favor a standardized test that all students across the country would take. Still others favor a pay scale for teachers that directly correlates their pay to the performance of their students. I don't know if any of these will work, but I know that there are other major issues that need to be worked out at the school board level, and no amount of Federal government will change that. For example, in my high school, we had a $1.5 million sprinkler system for our practice football field; meanwhile, in my chemistry class, we were doing experiments with chemicals that were so old that my 12 molar sulfuric acid had a pH factor of about 6.7, making in only slightly more acidic than water. My school had its priorities, and unfortunately, athletics rated a lot higher than academics. Nebraska is a long way from DC, and there isn't much the Federal government will be able to do to change that mindset.

Another issue similarly related to this is that of affirmative action. I used to agree with the people who want to get rid of affirmative action. I would hear the argument of "wouldn't you rather be hired based on your performance rather than your race?" I would buy into that, and I would agree that if I was a minority, I would want someone to want to hire me because I was a good worker rather than the fact that I was a minority. However, once I was out in the real world and dealt with real people, I realize that there is flaw in this argument.

The problem with this argument is that you assume it is a perfect world. Ideally everyone would have a fair opportunity to compete for all jobs. However, many minorities are not considered for jobs, because they don't have the opportunity to receive the education that would qualify them for those jobs. I have worked with minorities who received educational opportunities from affirmative action that they otherwise would not have received. I found that some of the finest engineers I have worked with were minority engineers who would not have been successful without affirmative action. Yet, this isn't the biggest impact that has changed my mindset.

I had a young "at-risk" minority youth who worked for me. He told me he was afraid that he would end up in a gang like the rest of his peers. I told him that he was in control of his destiny, and that if he didn't want to end up in a gang, he wouldn't. He told me it wasn't that easy. I took him to meet other minority engineers and professionals to show him that there were opportunities open to him. I wanted him to see that there were mentors and role models to follow. This is why affirmative action is important. Yes, there is no reason why a certain minority can't be a certain profession, but if there are none currently in that job, it is a lot more difficult to aspire to that profession.

Which brings me back to what I think is the biggest single problem with education today. I think this is what we need to fix in America: Kids need to be told that their opportunities are not limited by who they are, but rather only by what they want to be. Or in other words, you are not limited by your gender, ethnicity, national origin, handicap, sexual preference, or eye color, but rather by how hard you are willing to work to achieve your goal. It should be the Department of Education, not the Army, that has the slogan "Be All That You Can Be"!

11/4 - Today's issue is about the Internet and the freedom of expression. This is the issue that is most important to me, for without the freedom that we enjoy on the Internet and the guarantees provided to us in the First Amendment, I would not be able to have this soapbox and you wouldn't be able to read this. Do not underestimate the power that you and I hold in our hands. Yes, this is a stupid little page with minimal graphics, yet I am free to put anything in here. Just think, in some countries, what I am about to put here is illegal:

Free Tibet! Overthrow Castro! Revolt against Saddam Hussein! Free Leonard Peltier! Vote your conscience! Prince Charles is a twit!

Yes, this is a powerful right we have, and we must do all we can to protect it. The technology of the Internet now allows us to communicate almost instantaneously with any part of the world. With this new form of communication comes challenges to the freedom of speech. After all - is this speech? I am not actually speaking any of these words. Yet, we must ensure that we do not lose any of our freedoms in this new media.

So, I will now put up two actual quotes from each candidate about the Internet, and I am putting up these quotes to show equal time to both candidates. Also, I want to show that neither side really understands the Internet.

"During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet."
-Al Gore, CNN’s Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, March 9, 1999, even though the Internet began in 1969 as ARPANet - before Gore began service with the U.S. Congress

"Ideally, it should be tax-free. But in the real world, we cannot ignore the fact that our democracy thrives in a federal system in which state and local governments derive one-third of their revenue from sales taxes."
-Al Gore in an interview with Business Week, December 20, 1999, in which he didn't really say whether he was for or against an Internet sales tax.

"But Columbine spoke to a larger issue and it’s really a matter of culture, it’s a culture that somewhere along the line we’ve begun to disrespect life. Where a child can walk in and have their heart turn dark as a result of being on the Internet and decide to take somebody else’s life."
-George W. Bush in the Presidential Debate at Wake Forest University on October 11, 2000, where he directly blames the Internet with corrupting youth and making them evil.

"There ought to be limits to freedom!"
-George W. Bush at a Press conference at the Texas State House, May 21, 1999, on the website and his frustrated attempts to shut it down.

11/5 - Have you noticed how neither candidate has commented on their feelings about the 3rd Amendment? What aren't they telling us? What don't they want us to know?

11/6 - Today's soapbox is on voter apathy. I had lunch with a guy who told me he doesn't vote, because he doesn't like the candidates, mostly because he doesn't like the two party system. He told me that by not voting, he is sending a message to Washington. I pointed out to him, however, that he is not sending a message, and I then showed him how to send the message.

It's like this: Let's supposed there are 12,000 eligible voters in an area. However, only 10,000 vote. 6,000 vote for Candidate A and 4,000 vote for Candidate B. The breakdown is 60% for A and 40% for B. This is what is reported in the media.

Now, if you want to send a message, do what they do in Nevada - write in "None of these candidates". What does this show? Well, let's look at the above scenario. Let's say that all 12,000 eligible voters cast ballots - 6,000 for A, 4,000 for B, and 2,000 for "None of these candidates". What will the media report? 50% for A, 33.3% for B, and 16.7% for "None of these candidates".

So, what does this show? It shows that you cared enough to take the time to state your opinion and make your message known that you don't like the system. If you don't vote, you don't count. If you go and vote for "None of the above", however, your vote counts against all other candidates.

It is interesting to note that over 5,000 people voted for "None of these candidates" in Nevada in 1996, which accounted for around 1.2% of the people. "None" received more votes than Nader or Browne. While it doesn't seem like that much, I find it fascinating that 5,000 people had the heart to get up and vote against all of the other candidates.

Now, don't get me wrong - I am not advocating that everyone go and vote for "None of the above". However, if you really feel that strongly, you should make the effort to vote for "none of the above" rather than not voting at all. Did you know that in 1996, less than 50% of all eligible voters in the US turned out to vote? Of 196.5 million people, only 96.5 million people actually came to make their voice known. Imagine if only a quarter of those people who didn't vote had voted for "None of these candidates" - they would have received 25 million votes. The breakdown would have been: Clinton 42.3%, Dole 35%, and "None" 22.5%. Now THAT would have been a message!

A lot of the people (mostly those in fringe groups or militias, but also Al Gore) have said they wish there was a "second American revolution". Fortunately for them, there will be a second American revolution - every election day. Every election day, the people get to decide their form of government. Your vote is your role in the second American revolution. Be a patriot and fulfill your role in the revolution - vote and make your voice heard!

11/7 - Today's soapbox is about the Electoral College. I have something to admit - just yesterday, I way all for abolishing the Electoral College. Then, I read an article that has changed my mind. I think that the Electoral College is a good thing - but I think it does need some overhauling.

Right now, the Electoral College picks the President. The popular vote in each state determines the make-up of the Electoral College, and in all states except Maine and Nebraska, whoever wins the popular vote in the state wins all of the electors from that state. So, here is the problem.

Conceivably, a candidate can win the Presidency without winning a majority of the states or the popular vote. How? Well, if a candidate wins 51% of the popular vote, he or she receives 100% of the electoral vote. So, looking at this, it is conceivable that a candidate could win 51% of 11 states' popular vote and secure enough electoral votes to become President. Here is the math:

CA, NY, TX, FL, PA, IL, OH, MI, NJ, NC, and VA have 270 electoral college votes, which is exactly enough electoral college votes needed to win. If we look at what it would take to win a popular vote (based on 1996 election numbers), 57 million voters of the 196.5 million eligible voters could decide the next President. This number is only 29% of the national total. Yet, less than half of all eligible voters actually voted in the 1996 election; thus, in 1996, a President could have been decided by 27 million voters living in those states, which is only 28% of all US voters. When you look at the actual number of voters who could have decided the outcome (27 million) versus the total number of eligible voters (196 million), you find that theoretically, 13.8% of the total eligible voters could have decided the President!

I was firmly against the Electoral College until I read an article at about the history of the Electoral College. I realized after reading this article that there are some good sides to the Electoral College. You may read it for yourself, but I found the most important thing is that it keeps the two party system in check and stabilizes the country.

The fact that we have endured whereas many other European democracies have problems is that we have a two party system. In our case, all coalition governments are decided before elections. In Europe, countries like Italy have to deal with multiple parties, such as the socialists and communists, in their government. In our country, any regional or special interest agenda must align itself with one of the two major parties or else they cannot survive.

It is noted that the electoral college presents minorities and special interests with a greater pull than they would normally have. After all, you only have to win 51% of the popular vote, so if a minority group or special interest has only 30% of a popular vote, they will not win; however, if they can align themselves with a group that can pull 21% of the vote, they can win that vote. As I said, it is minority groups and special interests that benefit from the electoral college. What is interesting to note is that the candidates usually go along with who gives them more money, so who is more likely to benefit from the electoral college - the NAACP or the NRA?

However, I still feel that the problem of the Electoral College is that if you win the majority of the popular vote in a state, you will automatically win all of the electoral votes of that state. I think that a way to reform the Electoral College is to follow the model that Nebraska has.

In Nebraska, whoever wins the popular vote in the state wins two electoral votes. Whoever wins the popular vote in a Congressional district wins that electoral vote. Think about it - the rural parts of upstate New York will never have a say in the Presidential race otherwise; the city can influence the popular vote for the entire state. Thus, a candidate that wants to appeal to New York voters needs only to address the needs of the citizens of Manhattan. All other citizens don't really count, because as long the citizens of the city make up over half of the voting population, they're the only ones that count in the Presidential race.

I used to think the electoral college was completely wrong and an archaic idea; now, I think it is a good idea that still needs some improvement. Once again, I am pleased to see that despite its shortcomings, our form of government is the best form of government on earth!

11/12 - I have a few thoughts for each of the candidates about this supposed election:

For Mr. Bush - You ran on the platform that you want to restore integrity to the White House. You should have lost in Palm Beach, because you have heard from the huge amount of people who voted for Gore, only to have their votes not count. Also, look at the stats for Buchanan and tell me that you don't think something was screwed up on the ballot. You said you would listen to the will of the people, and the fact that the popular vote was for Gore and the fact that an overwhelming number of people in Palm Beach are complaining that they were robbed of the opportunity to speak their voice in democracy shows me that the will of the people might be for Gore. You have an opportunity here to step aside, say you will practice what you preach, and admit you lost the election, and say that the ideals of democracy and the will of the people are more important than partisan politics. Then, you can return to being governor (you still have a job there) and garner even more support for a 2004 bid - especially since you can say that you put aside partisan politics, listened to the will of the people, and put aside your personal ambitions to save the nation.

For Mr. Gore - You should have been a shoe-in - a slam dunk - just like Bush was in 88. George Bush (senior) rode in on Reagan's coattails, and the Presidency was guaranteed. Why was it so hard for you? Because you had to deal with the spectre of "what the definition of 'is' is". Yes, it was the stupid crap like that which makes the American people pissed off. So, you lost the election. What did you do? Well, you demanded a recount. Then, you demanded a hand count. It's like the guy who challenges you to a 2 out 3 basketball game, only to lose twice, so he then says "best 3 out of 5" followed by "best 4 out of 7". You lost. The more you try all the political and legal maneuvering, the more you just make everyone upset, and you will lose the public support you now enjoy. What should you do? Step aside, admit that you lost the election, and then publicly challenge the President-elect to keep the prosperity going for the next four years. This is where you are in an ideal situation - any time the new President does something good, you could say that you would have done the same thing; then, whenever he screws something up, you can say that if you were President, you would have done it differently. No one will forget that with just a couple of votes, things would be different, and for the next four years, everyone will wonder what could have been. You can be the thorn in the President's side throughout his administration, and keep reminding people that you followed the law in this election and you will return prosperity in 2004. Nixon lost before he eventually became President, and so this isn't the end for you. If you play your cards right, you could be like Obi-wan in Star Wars (which I know you've seen - you have to be a geek, because you invented the Internet) - if they vote you down, you will only become more powerful than anyone can imagine.

Now, back to the rest of the soapbox. I mentioned the "" controversy and the "" controversy, and now, I have another controversial web site for this election. This web site calls for huge democracy demonstrations, just like we saw a few months ago in Serbia. I don't think this is the answer - I think the best thing to do is remain calm and be happy with whoever wins. I think we should just get a ruling from the Supreme Court, since that is eventually where this thing is going to end up. You know, neither Bush nor Gore has won, and I am already looking forward to 2004 when we can pick a new President. No one has taken office for the 2000-2004 administration yet, and I am already sick of both of them.