#59 We da People (2002)

All Rights Reserved © 2002 Thomas W. Day

I had the interesting pleasure of seeing Minnesota's rapping, wrassling, acting, and  Governor, Jesse Ventura, live and in person and doing his morning radio show this past Friday morning.  I'm not a big believer in the charisma thing and I wouldn't have given a lot of credibility to anyone who tried to tell me that Jesse had a piece of that action, but he does.  In fact, he's down- right nearly- likeable in person.  Who'da thunk?

But that's not the point of this Rant.  Before Governor Ventura started his radio show, Jesse took some questions from his audience of Musictech College and Minnesota Academy of Recording Arts students.  One of the more strident questioners was a young woman who was upset that she couldn't afford to pay her private college tuition and her apartment rent on the income she made from her two part-time jobs.  She was convinced that Jesse owed her an explanation of why "the government" didn't provide her with low income housing assistance.  Jesse tried to make the best of the question by explaining how she would appreciate her education that much more because she'd earned it.  He explained how he'd tried to redirect higher education funding to direct student loans and grants, but was shot down by the Minnesota legislature who left the education system in charge of that money.  He did his usual bit on how citizens shouldn't expect the government to make every personal decision as painless as possible.  It was obvious that she wasn't happy with his answers.

I've seen that reaction a lot, when people want "the government" to pay for something they want to do; or something they did that turned out to have unexpected personal costs.  This afternoon, while I was cutting next winter's firewood and thinking about my own work/education history, it struck me why that expectation is especially irritating to, what's becoming, a minority of citizens. 

Because the government (especially the federal government) is so out of control and so deep into our personal lives, too many Americans are beginning to think of that institution as a free-standing entity.  It's not.  Even in places where the government is a vicious monster that exists solely for the purpose of mangling the lives of its citizens, that government only exists at the will of the public.  It might take an incredible act of will to end government's existence, but that government still stands because its citizens allow it to stand.  In our case, we Americans are the government without any great effort on our part.  We may be too lazy to exercise our responsibilities in that capacity, but the enemy we've met is still us. 

When someone insists on getting something from "the government," they're really insisting on getting it from each of us.  Individually.  Me, in particular. 

When Enron's execs ask their boy, Gee Wiz Bush, to hand them a few billion dollars worth of federally protected oil fields, they're asking for that handout from you and me.  Especially me.  I have a particular resentment for any money taken from me to give to the rich.  At the other end of the spectrum, the pico-economic level, when a single mother expects the government to subsidize her decision to become a parent, she's asking for that help from you and me.  Just like the rich folks. 

We approaching the tip of the pendulum where the people insisting on being helped outnumber the people being asked to provide that help.  We've passed the point where the people providing assistance out-vote the people getting assistance.  Today, the majority of folks in ballot booths are performing the act of voting themselves rich.

I had a strange and personal experience with this mindset, about twenty-five years ago.  A high school friend, who I hadn't heard from in nearly a decade, had spent his first out-of-Dodge years playing professional baseball.  He'd done a couple of years playing college ball, a couple of years in the minors, three years in "the Big Show," and a couple more years in the minor leagues before deciding he'd thrown enough baseballs for a lifetime.  Then, he picked a nice ivy league college and spent the next few years getting a Masters in Psychology.  Once he finished with college, he discovered he'd spent his baseball wad and a bunch more.  He was in debt and was beginning an career that might not pay much more than the interest on that debt until he was established; or discovered he wasn't a good listener and chose another occupation.  So, he did what any logical modern American would do; he wrote to every person he'd ever known and asked us to help pay off his debts and finance his new practice.  Since he was trying to get rid of his debt, he wasn't asking for loans, he was asking for no-strings-attached handouts.

At the time, I was supporting a wife and two kids on $2.88 an hour.  My empathy for a guy who had a college degree and had earned the American League's minimum wage was very limited.  I found that everyone I knew, who this guy had contacted, was at least as offended by the ex-pitcher's pitch.  Nobody found the time to mail him the spare change they'd stored in their couch pillows.

This past Friday, I found myself regurgitating the same old resentment for being told that I had an obligation to pay for someone else's personal choices.  In 2002, Americans are so lame that we expect to be subsidized for private school expenses?   What's next?  Even with my ability to wildly exaggerate every idiotic situation, I can't think of anything more extravagant (or wimpy) than that.

About 100 years ago, my grandparents bagged their belongings on a cargo ship, signed in at Ellis Island, transferred their stuff to a Santa Fe train, and were dumped in eastern Kansas where they were given the freedom to build a subsistence farm and a community; or starve.  Today, immigrants sue for welfare benefits, regardless of their legal status and kids believe they have an inalienable right to the comforts of middle-class while indulging themselves in whatever strange pursuit that might attract their momentary interest or fantasy.  Wow!  You've come a long way, babies. 

The next time some fantasy-player, nouveau-conservative babbles about how Reagan overwhelmed the evil-empire of Communism by burying the country in military-industrial debt, I promise to lose my lunch.  We didn't beat our socialist enemies, we became them.  Thanks for nothing, Ronnie.

April 2002


#58 Rats and Ships

All Rights Reserved © 2002 Thomas W. Day

It's been a while since I've Ranted.  It's been an eventful year for all of us, me included.  Eleven days before the media decided that "the world changed" for many Americans, I changed my own world, for good or bad.  On August 31, I quit the best paying, most secure, least challenging job I've ever had. 

After thirty-five years of continuous employment, I became unemployed at the end of August.  On purpose.  Go figure. 

Less than a half-month later, a bit of the country was in flames and all of it was, officially, in a recession.  I'm not sure if it's better or worse to be unemployed during a recession.  But, so far, it certainly feels better to be unemployed and happy than it did to be employed and miserable.  And that is something it took me 40 years to learn.  I may be a Rat, but I clearly don't know how to work a maze and there's a lesson in here, somewhere, but I'm not bright enough to uncover it.

In times of political crisis it's usually a good idea to be as politically correct as possible.  Keep your head down.  Stay in the middle of the pack.  Don't make waves.  All of these are valuable clichés that my father did his best to instill in me; and he failed.  I don't know why.  I'm probably not smart enough to listen to good advice.

So here goes.  I'm about to stick my foot into a trash can, once again.

Something that really grates on my frayed nerves is the phrase the media keeps repeating, "everything changed on September 11."  Or "the world changed" on that date.  Every time I hear or read those phrases, I want to puke.  Or go find a news writer and beat the snot out of him/her. They're a bunch of spoiled and gutless wimps, so they'd be easy to beat up, which is an appealing aspect of the second option.  I'm old and need defenseless targets.

Nothing about the world "changed" on September 11th, 2001, except that the nightmare that most of the world has lived for the last forty years finally came to us; Americans.  Nothing about September 11th topped the kind of terror the 20th Century stuck to Vietnamese, Koreans, Argentineans, South Africans, or many of the residents of eastern Europe, Africa, South America, Asia, and Indonesia.  It's been a pretty awful several hundred years for a lot of the world. 

In our country, the media has never been lazier than it is today.  Mostly, because our "fee press" is owned by major corporations who have no interest in freedom, democracy, progress, justice, or anything else that might lessen their stranglehold on the world economy. 

If it weren't for the internet, there wouldn't be any useful information at all.  That's the way of democracy, though.  Something usually comes along to keep us from destroying ourselves.  When one voice of truth gets bought out, another takes its place.

For me, damn little changed on September 11th.  It's just more of the same, nasty stuff.   Any idiot who lived through the 1970s and 80s ought to have some grasp on how the 3rd (and most of the 1st) world thinks of us.  We're the country who set up strawman dictatorships all over the world, governments who tortured and enslaved their own populations to make the world safe for our corporations to exploit everyone's natural resources.  We knocked down democratically elected governments and assisted in the assassination of the leaders of those governments, when they weren't friendly to corporate interests.  Even when those corporations were multi-nationals who were behaving damned unfriendly to our own working population.

In the late 1950s, we picked a backwards Third World nation as a safe place to "make a stand" against communism and practiced every sort of terrorism known to history on that country's population.  In the 1960s, we dropped napalm and phosphorus bombs on rice paddies and straw hut villages, for Christ's sake!  We used untested chemicals to indiscriminately defoliate that country to make it easier to find and kill the population.  On the basis of that war, alone, we're the Twentieth Century's most careless polluter and the damage we did to our own citizens is still being discounted and suppressed.

And we had a President who planned to collect and imprison Americans for disagreeing with his "right" to carry on this national terrorism.  As usual, this didn't even shake up most of the freedom loving citizens of the U.S.  That President was re-elected so he could finish his damage to the Constitution and that Third World country.  Fortunately, for freedom and democracy, bits of history's best written Constitution brought Nixon down.  That and his own arrogance and stupidity.

So,  I'm supposed to have had my innocence damaged by September 11th?  I haven't felt innocent since 1968, when Chicago's finest went gonzo on American kids who mistook the Constitution's guarantee of free speech as some sort of protection on the streets of Chicago.  I need a spell checker to type "innocence," that concept is so foreign to my world view.

The folks who are in charge of setting the world right make me nervous, too.  If it doesn't bother you that our conservative, religious nutballs are supposed to make the world safe from their conservative religious whackos, I'll be jittery for you. It's one out-of-control system against another.  A true holy war, in every sense of the historical term. 

This may be "America, the land of the free," but there have been people working to change that for more than 200 years.  That crowd is back in charge.  I've lived through Eisenhower and Nixon and their mouthpiece, Joe McCarthy.  I suffered with Nixon and Spiro, Ronny and George the First.  I hope to survive our current corporate stooge, George II.  But I don't have to like it. 

So far, I don't have to be quiet about it.

January 2002


#57 Enron Blues (2002)

All Rights Reserved © 2002 Thomas W. Day

In the same mournful vein that the media has used to describe the "death of innocence" on September 11th, we're now learning that many Americans may be losing confidence in the stock market because of the fall of Enron.  I'm sure that my readers were just as surprised to learn that some executives may be incompetent, greedy, unethical, and seedier than G.W. Bush.  It's new news to me, for sure.

One of the Rat Rants I really regret not writing was the inspiration I had, at the beginning of the Bush II Administration.  GW's crew began government "reorganization" by laying off 56 SEC investigators and accountants.  I thought, "here we go again."  Reagan started his eight years of carpet bagging by sandbagging the FDIC field force, laying the groundwork for the eighteen trillion dollar S&L rip-off.  George I stumbled around looking for a bright, shiny object to distract us from Neil Bush's involvement in Silverado S&L and he found Iraq and Desert Storm.  The Clinton years gave us a little break from government intrigue.  Now, we're back to business as usual.

I will always wonder at the logic of a country that hates a President who does a good job for the nation, while boinking an intern or two, and loves a President who is impotent, but puts the shaft to us all.  Darwin was wrong, "survival of the species" is not a primal drive.  Personally, I don't care where the President stuffs his cigars, as long as I don’t get stuck with a share of a multi-trillion dollar debt.  I guess I'm morally-challenged, but I'd rather he screw one or two Americans rather than doing it to us collectively.

Seriously, though, how can anyone be surprised at the lack of ethics in executives?  How could anyone expect anything else?  The executive offices of the Misfortune 500 is nothing more sophisticated than a collection of wolf packs, with an occasional shark when there's enough water to support truly amoral behavior.

Enron is the tip of the ice planet.  The SEC doesn't have a small percentage of the resources or motivation necessary to investigate large corporations.  Investment brokers and market analysists have their fingers in the pie so deeply that they take breaks to keep breathing.  If you believe that a Board of Directors offers some protection from executives cleaning out the company piggybank, it's a wonder you haven't pulled all your teeth, put them under a pillow, and called that a "retirement plan."  Directors are just other companies' executives, spreading the wealth among the wealthy.  There is too much to gain and too little to lose for executives in modern corporations, so don't expect enlightenment or revolution from that well fed 1%.

Money and stock investments are acts of extreme faith.  Each time we accept scraps of paper for our weeks of drudgery, we're cooperating in a fantasy of faith.  When we ship those scraps of paper to a New York Stock Exchange broker to swap our money for shares in a company, we've stepped into the realm of the Twilight Zone.   But as long as we all believe in the same fantasy, the system, mostly, works.  The aspect of those fantasies that presses reality to the breaking point is the hope that the ruling class will act in our, and its own, best interest.  When we start to notice that the ruling class is inbred, short-sighted, greedy, and stupid, an economic depression happens almost the moment a critical mass faces reality.

Modern management and economics is working hard to bring us to terms with the real world.  Management, as usual, isn't doing this intentionally, but it's happening as a byproduct of the usual mismanagement incompetence.  Modern management has the tools and the incentives to completely upset the economic apple cart.  They don't have the good sense to realize that they're sitting in the cart with the rest of us apples.

The nearly universal practice of giving execs buckets of short-term stock options (or stock, outright) for practically any minor success is one of the things that is going to tear the economic playhouse down.  This practice isn't even a well intentioned concept gone wrong.  It is a stupid, lazy, ineffective way to motivate execs to do their jobs half-competently.  Extravagant salaries and more perks than royalty ever dreamed of aren't enough to motivate back-stabbing, ineffective corporate zombies.  Fear of prison and poverty would do better.

Enron demonstrated what a little Mafia-style, money-laundering accounting could do to a stock value; and to executive off-shore bank accounts.  Companies that don't actually produce a product have limited opportunities for gang-banging the stock holders.  Companies that do produce products have a wide collection of modern quality management tools to abuse plus the usual suspects in accounting manipulation.  Modern executives' basic compensation packages are the equivalent of a bank stuffed with unmarked bills in an unlocked safe.  Modern execs make Bonnie and Clyde look like petty shoplifters.

The very tools that moved Japan into the position of product quality leadership, in the 1970s, are providing executives with the ability to scam stockholders and skate around the SEC.  The same tools revived American manufacturing in the 1990s.  The design principles in TQM (Total Quality Management) gave us the ability to design products to precise criteria.  With moderately competent engineers and a reasonably alert quality assurance system, a company can plan, design, produce, and predict products' to exacting specifications; including MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure) specs. 


n many industries (medical devices, computers, transportation, and energy, for examples), one or two breakthrough products can light a fire under a stock price.  The failure of those same products, at a time further into the product lifetime, will douse that fire and put out the sparks of future successes.  The short-term planning aspect of executive stock option incentives practically begs for abuses of this sort.  With only the very unlikely threat of a whistle-blower tossing a monkey wrench into the money machine, executives are encouraged to take advantage of the short term at the expense of the long term. 

It's not particularly difficult to build an amazing product that doesn't work as advertised, is unreliable, and costs more to build than the selling price.  Fooling the media, regulatory agencies, and the general public is so easy that I suspect P.T. Barnum didn't account for population increases, because 21st Century suckers are born a lot more often than every minute.  Reliability is, mostly, a reputation statistic.  A CEO who is willing to sacrifice a company's reputation for millions of dollars in options can afford to squander a company's good will.  After all, he won't be around to worry about rebuilding the reputation. 

Accounting is pretty much a shell game.  Enron has shown us just a few of the dozens of ways that accountants can hide negative cash flow.  Stick around.  We're going to learn that a lot more companies possess this kind of management creativity.

January 2002


#57 Lighting Dark Days (2001)

All Rights Reserved © 2001 Thomas W. Day

I suspect that most of my readers would like to think that I'd have the good sense and taste to stay away from writing a Rat Rant about the awful September 11 catastrophe in New York and what it has done to democracy and common sense. I wish it were true. Good sense and taste may be qualities that I was born without.

The nation suffered a senseless loss of innocent life and that's being disrespected by a loud outpouring of nationalism disguised as, and mistaken for, patriotism. Politicians and citizens are proving themselves to be completely unaware of the positive things this nation stands for, in their desire to return to the days of believing that we're immune to the dangers of this world. All the while, fools and cowards are pretending to be patriotic in wishing for that pathetic fantasy.

"The world has changed," they rant. "The rules are different." And so on.

Citizens are offering up their basic rights, the things that make the United States the unusual place that it is, in exchange for an illusion of cocoon-like safety. Politicians are offering an unlimited collection of new laws that will take away precious freedom, replacing individual rights and responsibility with a more powerful, less responsible government. There appears to be a wholesale rush to outlaw the very things the terrorists dislike the most about the United States. In Minnesota, we have a state senator who is pushing an amendment requiring the Cold War's pledge to the flag in schools. She claims that the practice of idolatry and fearful submission to ritual will teach children how to be an American.

I, obviously, have my doubts. I grew up in the age when chanting the pledge was common and required in K-12 public schools and some universities. I remember, in the heart of the Cold War, how few of us paid attention to the words we were forced to speak. I remember the joy that some teachers demonstrated when they found some reason to punish those of us who improperly idolized the flag. I, mostly, remember that this practice had nothing to do with the things we should have been learning about our nation's history and the foundations of our freedoms. I remember that the most "patriotic" educators didn't seem to know much about American history, the concepts contained in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, or the "founding fathers" they so often referred to but could not name. In my formal education, those important factors were so abandoned that I had to learn them on my own, outside of school and through fortunate accidents.

The words and concepts that we all need to repeat and understand are considerably more complex and valuable than the obedience chant contained in The Pledge. In my heart I believe that our somewhat flawed Constitution of the United States and our nearly perfect Bill of Rights are the words we all need to learn and understand. Through more than two hundred years of being right and, sometimes, very wrong, this country has been guided by the moral concepts expressed in those few words. Without the Bill of Rights, we would have degenerated into a stagnant monarchy or a degenerate theocratic dictatorship at any one of the mildly difficult times during the last 200 years. Without the Constitution, our government would have been indistinguishable from those of the rest of the world. We may yet give up that identity.

At the heart of all this fear is the fact that we Americans (Canada included--Mexico probably not) are practically universally hated by the rest of the world. Even by our "friends." There are good and stupid reasons for that hatred. An acquaintance, a slightly-redneck, ex-Desert Storm trooper, voiced his defense for riding a noisy, gas-guzzling, 180 mph crotch-rocketing motorcycle on the public streets. He wrote that the war in Iraq was about defending our American "right to be excessive" and that he was damned well going to freely exercise that "right."

The Right to be Excessive is a big part of our national character. Our dinky 5% of the world's population is chewing up something like 85% of the world's natural resources. Our main gripe about the Koto global warming accord was that we're arrogant enough to argue that we ought to be able to exchange our right to continue polluting the world's air in exchange for paying a few third world countries to remain non-industrialized. In that way, we could "trade" our current level of pollution for their current level of clean air; and keep doing what we've been doing without restriction.

We attempted to "manage" Mid-Eastern radicalism and Muslim isolationism by pitting Iraq against Iran and supplying weapons to both sides to fuel that diversion. When Saddam and Iraq got bored with Iran's primitive capabilities and decided to do a little freelancing against Kuwait, we squashed that ambition without a thought for how our presence would be perceived in an area that has never been particularly pro-American. September 11 is a reflection of that Mid-Eastern perception.

In our better moments, we believe that spreading the word about our form of socialized-capitalism will improve the world. We want to encourage the backward folk of the world to liberalize their economic and social systems to provide rights and opportunity for all men and women (women's rights are a particular sticking point with Mid-Easterners and most fundamentalists). In our more common moments, we want to maintain free markets for our products and access to everyone's natural resources for our comfort and entertainment. Neither of these motivations makes us a lot of friends in foreign government and religion.

The drive for and necessity of American access to foreign oil is at the heart of our presence in North Africa and southern Asia. We're not promoting democracy and human rights nearly as much as we're keeping our pipes in their oil fields. Kuwait was a totalitarian theocratic monarchy and we "defended" their right to remain as oppressive as they liked, as long as we got their oil output.

Our recent economic lesson has appeared to escaped much notice. The airlines stopped using burning petroleum to ferry the rich, frivolous, and timid across the country, after September 11, and the price of fuel for the rest of us dropped from $1.80 a gallon to $1.15; and continued falling until all the war activity drove it back up to $1.50 at the time of this Rant. Why this doesn't bother the average American, I can't imagine. So let me say it another way and maybe you'll get it: The small number of citizens who can afford to fly on gas guzzling airlines are subsidized by the rest of us, to the tune of increasing fuel costs by more than 50%. The media, the government, and executives are whining about how their fear of flying is stagnating the nation's economy, because they've enjoyed this luxury at the expense of the rest of us and it really bothers them that toy has been ruined. But what we ought to notice is how much the use of that toy has cost all of us. And we ought to do something about it.

That something is to take advantage of a war-time economy and put some resources into changing the way we effect the rest of the world. The technology to change from oil-based engine systems to hydrogen-based systems is practically in our hands. A variety of manufacturers and airlines have experimented with hydrogen-powered jet engines and they work. They, also, don't make effective flying bombs, since hydrogen does not have the explosive and incendiary capability of jet fuel. Hydrogen engines don't contribute to global warming, air pollution, or excessive use of non-renewable resources. With the kind of effort we put into fooling around in Cold War space, we could eliminate our need for foreign oil in a decade.

If we want to truly honor the loss and sacrifice of September 11, 2001, we will end our dependence on foreign oil, especially Mideastern oil, and we will change the way humans generate energy and use resources. The Islamic radicals think this is a holy war. We could make it one by playing this game on a different board. We could do something truly holy and act to preserve this world, our country, and to create a new energy economy that doesn't rely on propping up corrupt and vicious oil dictatorships, monarchies, theocracies, and international corporations.

Subversion, via the Rat hole.

We could do it. We could put ourselves in a position where we don't need the oil producing cartel. They sure as hell need us, because their system hasn't created anything more complex than castles in the sand in the last thousand years. If we really want to create a democratic and representative world, the first step will be to only do business with those who are democratic and representative.

That's a good rule in business, too: only do business with folks you like and who like you. What we middle class, United States citizens need to do is to direct our government to put us in a position where we don't have to do business with people who hate us. Even more, we should be picking the folks with whom we're taking to bed.

There are more than two ways to react to a threat. We can march mindlessly off to war, or we can shut the enemy out of the world economic game. Without us providing their food and materials, most of the oil producing countries are incapable of making their own light bulbs (I would include most of Texas and all of Alaska in that group.). One of those options would be a death blow to the enemy's economic base. The spillover from a traditional war will just make more enemies and put us further in oil debt.

Quote for the week: "If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong." Abraham Lincoln

October, 2001


#56 Voting Lies (2001)

All Rights Reserved © 2001 Thomas W. Day

The 2000 election was full of little lessons.  I hope you, my fellow Rats, learned a couple of them.  If not, that's what I'm here for, your personal cultural and political education service.

From the political commentators to high school teachers, I keep hearing people chant how the results in this election prove that "every vote counts."  Maybe I'm math-inhibited, but it seems to me that this election proved the opposite is true.   First, somewhere between 1 and 1,500 votes in Florida will offset almost a million votes nationally.  The electoral college was put in place to make sure that individual votes wouldn't count for much.  That slimy bullet-stopper, Alex Hamilton, insisted on the electoral college as a barrier between the ruling class and the rest of us.  This election demonstrated that "principle" very clearly.  A handful of rich, retired people will decide for the rest of us who gets to bumble his way through four years of the Presidency.  And they'll do that the good old fashioned way, by choosing a group of political hacks to vote for the minority of citizens who voted in the general election.  King George would have been happy with this system.

If anything will teach kids that voting is a waste of time and thought, this election will  be remembered for decades.  If anything will keep the rest of us occupied doing something productive instead of wasting time at the voting booths, again, it's this election.  That's not the right lesson to take from a stolen election, but it's one that is likely to override all other lessons. 

Second, in Y2k the election system has shown itself to be amazingly corrupt and incompetent.  Mostly incompetent.  In Florida, the "hand count" is mostly a process of finding ways to toss out ballots.  Especially mail-in ballots.  The only kind of mail-in voter who would jump through all of the hoops that are required to submit a valid ballot, is the kind of person who is either a fanatic or someone who doesn't have anything else to do for a three or four days, while away from home.  We're talking rich retired people, vacationing at any of the places those people vacation or volunteers in the armed forces. In other words, either the idle rich or the unemployable.  Not the crowd the rest of us want making national decisions.  The recount was stifled by a tiny group of radical right winger terrorists who scared the volunteer recounters into quitting before the job was half-done.  So much for a federally monitored fair election.

If the voter made it to the polls, she was faced with a document that was laid out to impress those guys who hide pictures inside of a collection of colored dots.  Using punch cards, which, in Y2k, don't exist anywhere else in the world except on ballots because of their known mechanical and accuracy problems, and stone tablets, each state tried to confuse as many people as possible so yet another election would be decided by random chance.  Voters fought their way through a gauntlet of public service drones to be faced with pages of unimportant local government decisions and an array of obsolete document styles.

And if our hapless citizen went to the polls with a conscience and more than twelve braincells firing, she had to contend with the media professionals and "educators" chanting "don't throw your vote away."  Which means, "don't think before you vote, just vote."  There are as many as a dozen sets of candidates running for the President's office in each election.  While the Demolicans don't represent anyone but the people best represented, regardless of politics, the rich and powerful, the other candidates are us.  And, no, they're not the enemy.  If you can find a meaningful difference between Bush and Gore, you have a lively imagination.  But you can definitely see a real difference between Buchanan, Nader, whoever the Libertarians ran this year, and the rest of the non-Republicrats who tilted at this political windmill yet one more time. 

Americans' sick fascination with sports must have bled into politics.  The root of this argument comes from gambling, Vegas politics, and most gambling is sports gambling.  Anytime you bet on the loser, you lose.  Any vote not cast for the winner is a wasted bet . . . vote.   Here's how those people vote: they read the odds, the polls, and vote the way the polls (bookies) tell them the other people who are equally civically-disabled are going to vote.  Don't you wish these people were around in 1776?  We'd still be wearing powered wigs and worrying about the queen's health.

Actually, that same crowd was the majority in 1776, in 1812, in 1941, and they're still here, today.  There will never be a shortage of foolish and conservative cowards in the world.  They reproduce faster than rabbits and just as thoughtfully.

Of course, this simplified republic of the rich is good for . . . the rich.  The NY Times reported that fewer than 600 people contributed $90,000,000 of Bush's initial $100,000,000 campaign treasure chest.  More recently, it was reported that the top 100 political contributors have contributed $1,000,000,000 in the last ten years.  Think that tiny group of "super patriots" is expecting something in return?  If you decide the lesson in this rant is that voting is hopeless and democracy is a lost cause, you're missing the point.  The point is the system is a mess and it will stay that way as long as the majority voters stay uninformed, apathetic, and impotent.  If we want to hang on to our democracy, the only way to do that is to offset the power of money with the power of the majority will.  The place to start is at the polls, every election, every time we're given the opportunity to voice our will and opinions. 

August 2001