Political Opinion Update

Saturday, 2003-03-29; 08:20:00

A response to said unnamed friend's comment on my original post about the sad state of voting in America.

[After finishing this whole post, I realize that it is a REALLY long one. But please bear with me. I hope that you'll read the whole thing seeing as I stayed up much later than I should have to finish it.]

So, yeah. I still haven't changed my mind about the consequences of you readers not voting in the next election. But perhaps I still need to expand a little on the position I'm taking, perhaps a bit specifically in response to the comments of that post (see "The Sad State of American Politics", 3/27/03).

Motivation was the primary thing lacking before I started to form opinions on current events and on politics. It's probably the thing that is lacking in most people who don't wish to vote, even though they are able to. But especially over the last year, I've come to the realization that, even though I am one voice in the middle of 280 million people, my opinion does matter. And my opinion is crucial to what goes on in this country.

You see, it's like this: I have certain morals to which I adhere. These morals define, partly in any case, who I am. When my representative, or my senator, or even my President does something that goes against my morals, I don't believe that I can keep quiet and feel good about myself.

It's like the current war in Iraq. I don't believe that we Americans have one iota of right to march in there and dictate what goes on in the country. The evidence that Saddam has nuclear weapons is shaky, at best, and he hardly has any possible motive for ever using them, up until we invaded Iraq in these past months. Think about it: if Saddam had nuclear/biological weapons, and he used them against us or to further his goals, he would unite the world against him. Currently, we and Britain are the only major countries who are supporting an invasion. Almost every country would probably not think twice in supporting an invasion if Saddam indeed did use nuclear weapons against somebody. It seems to me that our administration thinks that we're dealing with a bunch of idiots in power, and that we're going to be able to march right in there, boot Saddam out of office, and live happily ever after. NEWS FLASH: Saddam wants to stay in power. He's not going to let us march right in and take his power away from him. And using nuclear/biological weapons will do just that, because we'll have that much more force behind us. Right now, he has a small chance of dragging this war out before getting his butt summarily kicked. He wouldn't have that chance if the whole world was behind this invasion.

The evidence used against Saddam to support this invasion is, I'll say it again, shaky, at best. And this is the root of the reason why I don't believe that we should be going in there. Yes, Saddam is a nasty guy, I will admit that. And he's probably committed many horrible crimes against the citizens living in his country. But bombing and invading the country is going to inevitably kill many Iraqi civilians, arguably more than the number lost if we leave him alone and let his own country deal with him. Our primary goal for invading Iraq is to protect ourselves from Saddam, yet I can't think of one thing that an Iraqi has done to me, my family, or even my country.

That rather long and windy tangent is my opinion on the war in Iraq. And I wouldn't be able to feel good about myself if I didn't speak up about it and voice my opinion. Personally, I've been to two of the protests in San Francisco. I may not, and probably won't, influence any of the Bush administration's plans in Iraq. But that doesn't mean I'm going to sit down and take it. That's not what my morals dictate.

But how did I start to become aware of these things in the first place, and realize that I had to voice my opinion? Well, that's a harder question to answer, but I believe that the root of it lies in my passion for Macs.

I know, you're probably asking yourself, "Now what the hell do Macs have to do with the war in Iraq?" Well, because of this passion, I've always been very malevolent towards Microsoft. I can't stand the operating system, and I can't stand the company because of it's monopolistic tactics. I've always been one to try and convince people to buy Macs over PCs and defend Macs even though there are some very valid points on the other side of the fence. It really annoyed me that Microsoft was attempting to get away with things like crippling Java on Windows in order to further .NET, integrating Internet Explorer very tightly into Windows in order to wipe Netscape off the board, not particularly care about hundreds of security exploits in its products, and threatening to pull Windows from the market if certain antitrust sanctions were granted.

The Microsoft antitrust case was one of the only slightly political things that I followed closely. The main reason for this was that I often peruse Mac websites every day for the latest updates from Apple, and the newest software that's coming out on the market. Inevitably, news from the Microsoft antitrust case would wind up on these news sites and I would read about it, mainly because Apple is (was?) involved in parts of the case. I gradually formed an opinion on it through the last few years. When the first ruling in the case was given (where Judge Jackson? ordered Microsoft to be split up), I jumped for joy. I was pissed off when the Supreme Court sent it back to be re-evaluated because of Judge Jackson's conduct. And I became REALLY pissed off most recently when Judge Coleen Kollar-Kotelly (or however you spell that really funny name) said that the slap-on-the-wrist settlement was acceptable.

So where do politics fit into all this? Well, the missing puzzle piece comes from when the Bush administration came to power. They pulled in the reigns on the DOJ case and decided to pursue a lame settlement rather than pushing for more stringent consequences. You see, Microsoft has always gotten off with a slap on the wrist simply because its such a big monopoly.

What if the ramifications of this is that Apple goes out of business in 10 years, due to further monopolistic practices on the part of Microsoft? Splitting up the company won't do any good then, because my favorite fruit company will no longer be producing such great hardware and software, forcing me to switch to inferior platforms, at least in my opinion. What if Microsoft decides to do something to Windows to cripple QuickTime in order to wipe that product off the market (even though QuickTime is clearly superior to Windows Media)? What if Microsoft, with its monopoly power, successfully pulls off marketing Palladium to consumers, it's new hardware security initiative? Macs could face a big brick wall because Apple's position is to allow consumers the freedom to do what they want with their media rather than instate draconian limitations. And don't even dare to underestimate the power of Microsoft. It's a pretty damn big monopoly.

Those "what if"s gradually got me thinking in a wider perspective: if the Bush administration performed these actions in the antitrust case against Microsoft, is it possible that they are making other very bad decisions in other places? What if Bush gets re-elected to office in 2004? What would be the ramifications of that on Microsoft/Apple, and on other issues? What about things like the CBDTPA, which is a bill (that thankfully hasn't gotten through Congress yet) that restricts a consumer's rights to space and time-shifting when purchasing media like CDs and DVDs? And what about other promising technologies like energy-efficient vehicles to stop human-induced global warming? Could that be related at all to the oil companies, who make their money from all the gas-guzzling cars that are on the market? And could those oil companies have anything to do with us invading Iraq? Hmm.

So I've gradually come to realize that if I want to protect my rights to use an Apple computer that is infinitely more satisfying, I have to voice my thoughts on issues like the Microsoft antitrust suit and the CBDTPA. But doing that requires me to voice my opinion on other technologies, and things that get related to those technologies. Gradually, I realized that in order to protect any of the things that I enjoy, I have to form and voice my opinions on many other topics. And the main way to do that is to vote.

Yes, it is VERY easy to become disenchanted, pessimist, and even cynical when your opinion comes down to a vote for a single candidate. It's really easy when the candidate who did not get the most votes in the last election becomes President -- and there's no disputing that fact, whether you recount all the votes in Florida or not. And it's especially easy to become cynical when you have a government that is using false evidence to support a war.

Remember, however, that our voting system, while very unforgiving in the fact that you can only vote for one candidate and cannot choose a second or third choice, you still do have a larger pool of candidates to choose from. A little under 5% of the people who voted in the 2000 Election voted for Ralph Nader, a third-party candidate . In the California governor's election last November, the first election in which I was eligible to vote, I voted for Camejo, a third-party candidate . I believed that I could not, in good faith, support Davis, the Democratic candidate and one of the two major candidates, even though his views were more in alignment with mine than were Simon's, the Republican candidate. I believe that I cannot compromise my beliefs and my morals, and therefore Camejo was the obvious choice, even though it was not one of the more popular ones. And this is how we can eventually break out of the two-party system: as more and more people realize that you cannot compromise your beliefs in order to elect a leader who is the "lesser of two evils", more and more people will vote for third-party candidates, and soon there will be 5 popular political parties, not just two. Perhaps then we will end up choosing for the lesser of FIVE evils, and the cycle continues. It's slow, but this is how democracy works.

It all comes down to the fact that one has to realize, or at least to begin to realize, that forming an opinion is essential in order for democracy to work. Your opinion is valuable to the country. And the earlier you realize this and the earlier you begin to become informed, the more informed you can become in the future when you have the potential to be a leader. Democracy fueled on ignorance is a horrifying thing, while democracy fueled on educated and informed decisions is a beautiful thing.

But two posts like these in an out-of-the-way weblog cannot do the job of making you become informed. I can only offer you my opinion, because my reasoning has already been tainted by my opinion and my morals. I cannot realistically be expected to present unbiased and objective material here in this weblog or in normal conversation, because I cannot realistically talk about a war without a cause and not become disgusted. I cannot realistically talk about what the Bush administration is currently doing without becoming angry. I am only human.

So you have to form your own opinion. I can't provide you links to unbiased material, because every piece of writing has an author who has an opinion. I cannot present material in an unbiased and objective way, because changing even the tiniest word can change what a reader gleans from that material. I cannot cut through the fluff and the mud-slinging for you and lead you by the hand to a clearing which is the truth. But I can provide you links to different sources, in order to try to provide you with many different opinions in the hope that you will reach the same conclusion as I have. I can explain to you exactly why I feel a certain way about a certain issue, and I can try to make you understand that. I can give you tips on how to find a wide variety of opinions, by telling you to look past the TV and the newspapers here in the U.S. to international newspapers which you can access online, and radio programs which usually offer a wider range of opinions.

But ultimately, it is YOU that has to form your own opinion. I cannot open a can of truth for you and plop it down on a plate for you to digest. It is YOUR job to weed through the mud and the fluff in order to arrive at what YOU believe is the truth. I cannot do that for you.

And this is why I made that "threat" two posts ago. I will dedicate myself to guilt you into becoming informed, because I believe that that is how we will eventually begin to elect leaders in power that make the correct decisions.

Could you honestly live with yourself knowing that your government is invading a country without cause, killing around 300 Iraqi civilians and countless thousands of Iraqi soldiers, not to mention our own American soldiers, and you don't have a single thing to say to your goverment? Could you live with yourself if you had a son in the army who went to fight in this war and you didn't know why? Can you sit down and take the false evidence that your government feeds you with a smile? I know I couldn't, can't, and won't.

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