things i wrote in 2000

November 17, 2000

After several months of searching, in October I made an offer on a townhouse in downtown Campbell which was accepted by the seller (a rare event during the housing boom of 2000). The sale closed today, and after a some remodeling is completed, I will move in early December.

My criteria for a house included being centrally located to freeways and being in Campbell, and this one met both criteria. It is eighteen years old, has about 1,400 square feet, and is one of nine units in the complex.

The upstairs has two master suites, both with a full bath, and the downstairs has a half-bath, family room, kitchen with breakfast bar and dining "L", laundry area, a fireplace, and garage. There are nine closets - plenty of room for all my stuff! The house is fully carpeted, except for the kitchen and bathrooms, which have tile floors. All of the appliances are brand new, including the trash compactor - something I've never had before. The back patio is about 150 square feet, and fully enclosed and private. The library is a five minute walk from the house, as is downtown Campbell.

I am happy to recommend my realtor and mortgage broker: Don Gaskin, of Century 21 SCVA in Campbell, was my realtor; and Kate Frias and Ed Kolb of Willow Street Morgage were my loan brokers.

November 14, 2000

This may come as a shock, but there is no federal right for citizens to vote for president. Nowhere in the Constitution nor United States Code does a right exist for citizens to cast a ballot for president. Only the state legislatures are given the power by the federal government to elect the president, through the process of selecting electors. All states have chosen to delegate at least part of this selection process to the citizenry, but there is no federal law requiring them to do so, nor prohibiting them from rescinding that grant of power. Yet another reason why the Electoral College needs to be eliminated.

No reasonable person, at least none outside of Florida, would call it an "error in vote tabulation" or a "rejection of legal votes" when the voting machine performs exactly in the manner designed, and fails to count those ballots that are not marked in the manner which the voting instruments explicitly and prominently specify.

In the aftermath of the catastrophe that was the 2000 presidential election, a Florida woman was shown on the news crying, "I was raped! My vote was stolen from me, and I was raped!" Her comments were representative of many other Floridians. Their anguish is understandable: Many of these voters are Jewish, and the media was telling them that they may have accidentally voted for Pat Buchanan, a man who has publicly stated his admiration of Hitler. The root of the problem was a ballot that some said was confusing. Of course, some people find traffic lights confusing. In fact, this ballot did not seem to cause any confusion until after the election. Republicans and democrats both signed off on the design before the election. The ballot was even published in the newspaper, so that people would understand its format. No one alerted election workers to any confusion about the ballot during the election. Indeed, nothing about the ballot was novel - it is a design that has been successfully used for one-hundred years. Yes, it is unfortunate that some people were not able to properly use the ballot and vote as they intended. Ballots, including this one, are designed for the lowest common denominator, so that even the village idiot can vote. But when the village idiot can't figure out how to use the ballot, he shouldn't blame other people.

October 29, 2000

When Anthony Dwain Lee, a black man, was shot by LAPD officer Tarriel Hopper, also a black man, there was an outcry that the shooting was racially motivated. I don't buy this for one minute. Hopper shot and killed Lee, in accordance with standard police procedure, because Lee was intentionally pointing a gun at Hopper, a uniformed police officer. It later turned out that the gun was a toy, but Hopper had no way to know that. Race had nothing to do with this shooting. When a person points a gun at a police officer, the police officer is trained to defend himself by shooting the person wielding the gun. This only makes sense. If the gun later turns out to be fake, but the officer had no way to know that, it is not the police who should be blamed - it is the person stupid enough to point a gun at a police officer who should be blamed. If we accept that this shooting was racially motivated, then any time a black person is shot, it must be a racial incident. This is not logical. A racial incident is not caused by the mere fact that one of the people involved is not white. A racial incident is caused when the intent behind the incident is racial. Hopper did not shoot Lee because of Lee's race. Hopper shot Lee because Lee was pointing a gun at Hopper. I would expect any police officer to do the same. People need to take responsibility for doing stupid things.

August 25, 2000

Notwithstanding my belief that less government is better, when the private sector wholly fails to act in the best interests of the public (its customers), I do believe an argument can be made for government interference. Such is the case with the airline industry. Regulated until the late 1990's, the airli0ne industry has had incredible difficulty becoming deregulated. And for that reason, I think the government should step back in and assist the industry in deregulation, rather than let it "fly" willy-nilly. Anyone who flew on United Airlines in August of 2000 understands what I'm talking about. I have flown United dozens of times, and never had a problem. But in August when I went to Ohio to visit relatives, I nearly had to turn back and go home. The flight from San Jose to Chicago O'Hare was fine. But upon arrival in Chicago, my next flight, from O'Hare to Dayton Ohio, was cancelled due to mechanical problems. Their mechanics were refusing to fix the planes. The only remaining United flight to Dayton that day was nine hours later. I was booked on that flight, and proceeded to wait in the terminal. Two hours before my new flight was to depart, it too was cancelled for mechanical problems. I was booked on an American Airlines "express" (small plane) flight to Dayton, which was delayed an hour due to mechanical problems. My luggage didn't make it to Dayton until the next day. Were there apologies? No. No explanations, no food vouchers, no complimentary upgrades. Nothing. Just a shrug of the shoulders - as if this was the normal course of events in modern aviation.

Customers should expect more, and they should demand more. I called United from Chicago, expressing my extreme frustration and displeasure with being treated this way after paying quite a bit of money for my airline ticket. The customer service representative sympathized, but of course is mostly powerless to truly help me (i.e. give me a refund). This is not acceptable. Because of our reliance on air travel, and the lack of any meaningful competition in the industry, airlines can get away with abusing air travelers. They have for years, and in my view, until the government steps in and demands change on behalf of the public, such treatment will continue.

July 30, 2000

One of the defining points of my adolescence was when I was 15 years old, flying on an airplane from Ohio to California, seated next to a businessman in his 50's. I was minding my own business, reading a magazine, when mid-flight he turned to me and asked, "What do you do?" I thought that was a silly question. "I'm in high school" I answered. He responded, "Yes, but what do you do?" It then dawned on me that just because I was a high school kid didn't mean that I didn't do important things. I told him about my interests and hobbies, and what I wanted to do in the future, and he seemed genuinely interested in talking with me. His interest in what I "did" showed me tremendous respect.

May 16, 2000

The recording industry is up in arms. People are able to exchange digital music (MP3s) on the internet, for free. Walkman-type listening devices, with prices falling daily, will soon replace portable tape players and CD players as the listening device of choice. People will no longer buy CD’s in droves, and that scares the recording industry, because it jeopardizes the artificially high profits that the industry receives on the sale of CD’s. The recording industry has threatened legal action against distributors of MP3s. Whether they will be completely successful in court remains to be seen. But rest assured: MP3s are here to stay, and even with Napster shut down, the recording industry will never again be the same.

The only answer to this problem is for the recording industry to find a new business model. CD’s will not disappear over night, just as cassette tapes did not disappear when CD’s were introduced. But unless the recording industry develops a business model which includes an effective way to harness the trade of MP3s and use it to their advantage, they are going to be up a creek without a paddle.

The recording industry is not alone. In just a few years, you will access the internet by wireless interface, and your telephone will plug into your computer. Your voice will be carried by same technology that allows you to see this text (internet protocol). Once that happens, the phone companies, as we know them today, are out of business. Phone companies, like the recording industry, is in desperate need of a business model which allows them to profit from the internet. And since right now, very few companies are profiting from the internet, that business model will have to be a new one.

One of America’s oldest brick-n-mortar establishments is also in danger. Car dealerships are fighting like mad to get states to pass laws which would restrict our ability to purchase cars on the internet from anyone other than a brick-n-mortar car dealership. The technology and business interest is present for on-line car dealerships to sell customized cars directly to you over the internet, cutting the price by as much as 20% by eliminating dealer profits and costs. It won't be long before new business models are developed to accommodate these new economies.

April 30, 2000

The United States repeatedly assumes an obligation to interfere with the governance and disputes of less powerful sovereign nations, claiming various self-serving justifications. The U.S. government lies to its own citizens by using propaganda to rally Americans into supporting these "conflicts". If the roles were reversed, I suspect we would not be long tolerating Japanese troops on our street corners, Iraq controlling our economy, and China boycotting our products because our Constitution violates human rights due to its foundations in slavery of an entire race of people.

When the South refused to integrate, and the National Guard was sent to force integration, Russia didn't send aircraft carriers to drop bombs on our country to protest our use of force against our citizens... nor would we have tolerated such actions, which we have repeatedly done in other countries. What if bombs were dropped on America every time a different political party came into control of our government, as we did to Vietnam and Korea?

Not every economy is the same as ours. Before condemning businesses for setting up shop in foreign countries and paying their employees wages which are less than that to which we are accustomed, inquire about the economy and standard of living of the foreign country, to determine if the company's presence presents an opportunity or detriment for the employees. We should not assume that a foreign government is incapable of establishing the same regulation and control of minimum wage and working conditions that our own government has bestowed upon us.

The U.S. likes to tell other countries that they are violating the human rights of their citizens. Russia was a popular target in the '70's and '80's. The '90's saw our focus change to China and some of the Middle-Eastern countries. Aside from the problem I have with one country telling another sovereign nation how they should govern themselves and organize their society, what I find particularly disturbing is the U.S.'s own human rights record. Let's examine:
Native Americans. When our country was discovered, the explorers infected the native inhabitants with deadly diseases, and then swindled them out of their land and possessions. Those who didn't peacefully leave their land to make way for the Europeans were forced out under threat of slavery or death, and countless numbers were exterminated. Those who survived live on lands designated for them by the government. The government continues to take away these lands, which were never suitable for self-sustainment in the first place. As a population, Native Americans are among the most impoverished minority in our country.
The institution of slavery. Quite possibly the worst human rights violation ever, slavery was practiced from the day settlers stepped foot on our soil, and we continue to feel the effects today. Slavery is enshrined in our Constitution, and was legally practiced for several hundred years on our soil. We are now in the midst of the after-effects, more than 150 years after slavery was finally prohibited. The race which was enslaved faces some of the most severe discrimination seen in the world, and there is no end in sight.

Certainly there are other examples of human rights violations in America. These are but two examples which disturb me the most. Until we clean up our own act, we should not be telling other countries how to behave.

Another example of our messed up foreign policy was the Vietnam War. I think Vietnam vets are owed our complete support, and I think the government and society has really treated these people poorly. It wasn't their choice to go to war. However, I think the war itself was wrong, and the politicians who got us into that war were not very bright. Let's admit one thing to ourselves: We lost the war. The Vietnamese won. 58,000 Americans died, for absolutely no good reason.

The Oval Office tapes of President Johnson tell us that he knew we would loose the war, but he sent our troops in anyhow. And to get America to go along with his plan, he lied about an American ship being bombed in the Gulf of Tonkin. Another lie: South Vietnam was never a democracy. It was a totalitarian state led by a puppet leader who we installed after we helped assassinate the former leader. We were supposedly fighting the spread of communism, a political system which we thought was evil, but no one ever told us why.

In the 1940's, during World War II, a Vietnamese leader named Ho Chi Minh sided with America and the Allies to defeat the Japanese and Germans. After the war, he came to Washington in the hopes of convincing the President and Congress to back his people's struggle to be free. He was certain that the Americans, whose own country was founded through a revolution against a foreign king, would back his efforts to create a free and democratic Vietnam. He was not a "Communist" then. His hero was George Washington. The Vietnamese Constitution he proposed was based on the U.S. Constitution, which he thought to be a profound document. The Congress and the President turned him away.

Ho and the Vietnamese were forced to look for help elsewhere. And the rest is history. Over two million Vietnamese died in the war. John McCain, who lost the bid for the 2000 Presidential election, killed some of them. In fact, when his plane was shot down, he was on his way to bomb innocent children in Hanoi. What a hero.

April 25, 2000

If you ever wanted an example of a stupid idea with good intentions, 'zero tolerance' is that example. Despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Education reports that crime on school campuses is down by as much as 30% in the past decade, school administrators are instituting zero tolerance as a way of showing panicked parents that the schools were taking action against what they falsely perceived as out-of-control violence.

The result? Kids who take plastic knives to school to spread peanut butter on bread are expelled for bringing a weapon to school. Asthmatics are suspended for taking their prescribed medication. And these students must disclose this punishment on college and employment applications.

Of course, these laws are completely ineffective at preventing violence: Students who carry guns to school, such as the shooters in Littleton, Colorado, could care less about zero tolerance policies.

Students should not be suspended for having aspirin in their backpack. If that is what the war on drugs has come to, then it's not just the zero tolerance laws which are stupid, it's the politicians, parents, teachers and school administrators.

April 22, 2000

For months in early 2000, the headlines carried the latest updates about Elian Gonzalez. Millions of dollars were spent trying to figure out what to do with the kid. Well, I'm fed up with it. I don't care about Elian Gonzalez, and I think he should have been shipped back to Cuba the day he was released from the hospital. If I were Janet Reno, I would have sent the S.W.A.T. team into into that house the day after he got there, get kid, put he and his daddy on the first boat to Cuba, and frankly, anyone who wants to protest that can go with them as far as I'm concerned.

Our Immigration Policy is Absurd

With one exception, the United States policy on immigration is that if a non-citizen comes to this country illegally, they will be deported without due process of the law, and without any regard to what may be in their best interests.

The one exception is Cuba. Because of our country's illogical hatred for Fidel Castro, we encourage Cubans to risk their lives to try to make it across the water to America, just to make Fidel mad. Their reward, if they successfully complete their journey, is the right to stay here. Elian Gonzalez does not meet this exception because he was rescued at sea, and therefore under US immigration policy should have been returned to Cuba immediately.

Of course, there are countries other than Cuba which have communist dictators, such as Vietnam and China, but illegal immigrants from those countries are sent back without any due process. The difference between our treatment of Cubans and illegal immigrants from other countries reflects our racist and hypocritical immigration policy.

We have based our entire foreign policy in this hemisphere on one thing -- eliminating Castro. We tried to assassinate him. We sent "troops" to invade at the Bay of Pigs. We prevented medicine and food from being shipped to Cuba. We almost blew up the world over Cuba and Castro. And we've stayed that way for forty years. Last year, we fined an American citizen $10,000 because he went down to Cuba to tune pianos! It's illegal in this "free" country to travel there. We've been driven crazy because we can't get rid of Fidel Castro.

American propaganda tries our best to make Cuba look bad, but it is difficult to do so. Cuba simply is not a bad place to live: The schools are excellent, and their literacy rate is 100%, something few other countries can claim. Health care is free, and their infant mortality rate is lower than that of America.

The U.S. immigration policy should be no different for Cubans than for Haitians, Chinese, Mexicans or Europeans. Anything short of consistency is racist and hypocritical.

One of the reasons our immigration policy towards Cuba is so screwed up is the Cuban community in Miami. They left Cuba in the 1960's to escape Castro and come to a better place. They have a lot of money (that's how they could afford to get out of Cuba), and they have bought a lot of political influence. But now they're breaking our laws, waiving their Cuban flags, and criticizing the US government for trying to implement our immigration policy. Folks, if you don't like it here, no one is forcing you to stay. Maybe Canada or Mexico will put up with this nonsense. Or heck, go back to Cuba. But if you're going to stay here, you're going to follow our laws, or work within the system to change the laws.

Why Elian Isn't Special

Americans find it difficult to enforce our immigration policy against a cute little white boy. They want to rescue him from evil Cuba, and call him their own. They treat him like a celebrity while the Attorney General, the President, Congressmen, federal court judges, talking heads and presidential candidates publicly pondered for months if the boy should be returned to his father in Cuba.

But the press doesn't give us the full story. Maybe with the full story we could have made up our minds much sooner as to what the fate would be for this cute little white boy. Let's examine some of those missing facts:

Elian's father was awarded legal custody of the child, who was conceived after the father and Elian's mother divorced. Elian's mother didn't like the custody decision, so she kidnapped Elian, and died doing so. She abused him, and place his life in unconscionable danger of death by putting him and eleven other people on a boat that could only hold six. The mother's boyfriend was the owner of the boat, and charged people hundreds of dollars to ride on that death trap.

Elian's "family" in Florida has milked the press and the government for months to demand due process. First of all, illegal immigrants do not have due process rights. But we gave them to Elian anyhow, because he's cute, and lest we forget, white. Elian's family said that they would rely on the judiciary to vindicate what they thought was Elian's right to stay in America. But that judge said Elian had to be sent back. While Elian's family grasped for another straw, they refused to follow standard U.S. immigration policy. The straw they finally selected was to argue that sending Elian back wasn't in his best interests, and that a family court should decide Elian's fate.

The "best interest of the child" test is one which is used in custody battles between two persons with legal custody, such as when parents of a child divorce. In Elian's case, of course, only one person has legal custody: His father. Therefore, the "best interests" test is not applicable. Additionally, Elian is nothing more than a routine immigration case - something family courts have no power to hear. But "the best interest of the child" is a phrase that sounds so good when it's said on national television, and something the public can quickly rally behind and demand for our friend, Elian. Fortunately America is growing weary of Elian, and the PR campaign isn't working.

Even if the "best interests" test was the proper legal standard, it's doubtful that Elian's relatives in Miami would satisfy the test. First, they are hardly what most of us would consider "relatives." He lived with a "great-uncle" and a "second cousin." In our country, no "relative" replaces the parent. A brother, cousin or "great-uncle" who holds a child against the will of the parent is committing a major crime.

Second, their criminal history alone is grounds for denying custody. Elian's uncles each have two DUI's. Two of Elian's cousins, who are frequently at the Miami home where Elian is hold up, have multiple felony arrests, including assault on a tourist, robbery, burglary, carrying a concealed weapon, failure to pay child support, grand theft, and petty larceny. That's in Elian's best interest?

And his "surrogate mother," Mariselysis, has emotional problems that repeatedly cause her to be hospitalized. She also displays a complete lack of concern for Elian's emotional well being by allowing him to be subjected to the media, and watch his own fate unfold on television.

While the debate about Elian's future raged on, hundreds of black and Asian immigrants were returned to their equally if not more oppressive communist countries to face certain persecution. Hypocrisy breeds racism, and racism breeds hypocrisy.

The Gun Wasn't Big Enough

I completely support Janet Reno's much delayed decision to use force to rescue Elian. Some people said that Janet used too much force - I say she didn't use enough. If I had a six year old child, and he was being held against my will for five months, I can guarantee you that I would be coming at his kidnappers with a lot more firepower than a puny gun and a woman carrying a blanket. And I sure wouldn't be negotiating. You do not make a "deal" with the kidnappers of your child. When someone illegally holds a child who is not theirs, there is no "deal."

Maybe these Cubans didn't understand the rules we play by here in the States: In America, when a parent asks for his child to be returned, no matter how nice the kidnappers were to the child, the child must be returned to the parents. The child's desires about custody are absolutely irrelevant - 6 year old children do not call the shots in America - parents do (if this is confusing to you, consider your 6 year old's desire to put a knife in the electrical outlet, and whether the child's desires should be entertained).

April 4, 2000

I do not understand the arguments in favor of a constitutional amendment prohibiting flag burning. Our country was founded on the principle that people could express their disillusionment with the country without fear of the persecution which those who founded the country faced in the United Kingdom. Much blood has been shed to defend that right. The Supreme Court has held time and time again that symbolic speech, including flag burning, is without a doubt included in free speech. After all, what better way to symbolize one's disillusionment with one's country than to burn the country's flag? The ultimate irony of the proposed amendment is that one would be free to burn the American flag in a foreign country, but would lack that freedom here in the one country that is supposedly built on the principles of freedoms and free speech.

The argument often used in support of a flag burning amendment is that our veterans didn't fight in wars so that we could burn the flag (implying that the flag is intrinsically tied to veterans, and they would be deeply offended by the burning of the flag). No question about it, our veterans have sacrificed much to defend our country. It also may be true that many veterans would be offended at the sight of someone burning the flag. However, those facts are insufficient justification for amending the Constitution to water down the Bill of Rights.

The reason why the First Amendment is so important is not because it protects speech that is inoffensive. To the contrary, its importance lies in the fact that it protects offensive speech because speech that is inoffensive does not need protecting. I would think that the proposed Nazi speech in Skokie was much more offensive to the Jewish residents there then any type of flag burning speech would be to veterans. Should there be a constitutional amendment to outlaw Nazi speech? What about generally anti-American speech? Where do you draw the line? If the line is drawn at the place where speech is offensive to a politically popular group like veterans, then what you end up with is no freedom of speech at all. Our veterans did not fight only for our country. They fought for the ideals behind our country, which include the right to speak politically unpopular thoughts in politically unpopular ways.

March 30, 2000

Remember the story of the boy who cried wolf? He wanted attention, so while he was guarding sheep he cried "wolf!" to get the adults to come running. Then one time, a real wolf came, and he cried, and no one rushed to help. There have been two instances of "crying wolf" locally in early 2000 which really ticked me off. In the first case, a gay Morgan Hill man claimed he was the victim of a hate crime in order to cover up an affair he had with another man, so that his boyfriend wouldn't find out. Now, when someone really is the victim of a hate crime, people will be hesitant to believe the victim.

Not long after that event, the evening news carried a story about two elderly Mexicans who traveled on a Greyhound bus from Mexico to spend their 34th anniversary in San Francisco. They had dreamed about it for years, and their 5 children scrimped and saved $3,000 for the journey. As soon as they got here, their suitcase, with all the money, was stolen. And there was the couple on TV, crying about how their children had sacrificed so much, and how they were looking forward to spending their honeymoon in The City. The police department set up a fund to help the couple. Marriotts donated the Presidential Suite of their nice Oakland hotel to the couple, and lots of community organizations were pitching in to make sure the couple's anniversary trip was a success, and that they would home happy. Two days later, the police announced the entire story was a hoax. Now, the next time this happens, and it's NOT a hoax, people won't give money or support because they will say "last time I did this, it was a hoax, I'm not going to get burnt again." Idiots.

March 28, 2000

Jury Nullification: I've never sat on a jury, and as an attorney I probably never will. I don't doubt that the job of a juror is very difficult, and it is easy to second-guess the decisions jurors have made. Not wanting to be left out, there are a few decisions I would like to second guess: 1. O.J. was found not guilty not because he didn't kill Ron and Nicole (the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that he did), but because the prosecution and what they had to work with was an incompetent match for the Dream Team. I would have voted "guilty." 2. What is it with white police officers shooting and beating unarmed people, and the juries who find them not guilty? Amadou Diallo was shot at 41 times by four New York City's finest for doing nothing other than holding his wallet. What more did the jury need to find the police officers guilty? A life sentence seems appropriate to me.

The Emasculation of the Judiciary: About once a month, some court hands down a decision and radio talk show hosts get upset at the court for issuing the decision, which they view as the wrong decision. They blame the judge for the decision, which they say defies common sense. But more often than not, the judge has no control over the outcome, because our state legislature has passed so many laws which bind the hands of the judge. Case in point: Thomas and Denise Rossi had been married in California for 25 years. They shared everything, even their toothbrush. That is, until Denise won $1.3 million dollars in the California Lottery, and didn't tell her husband. Instead, she filed for divorce, and kept all of the money. When Thomas accidentally found out about the winnings, he sued her, claiming she withheld community property. In In re Marriage of Rossi (1999), the judge ruled that Denise violated the fiduciary duty which married couples have, and awarded Thomas 100% of the earnings. The irony is that had Denise disclosed the lottery winnings, she would have been able to keep 50%. But because she acted with malice, oppression and fraud, she lost it all. Some people, mainly feminists, were up in arms! "This judge abused his discretion," they claimed. Wrong - the judge had no choice. The legislature, in Cal. Family Code §1101(h) mandated the judge to award all of the lottery earnings to Thomas. Those who opposed his ruling should complain about the legislature, not the judiciary. And, by the way, feminists, that law was passed to protect wives from fraudulent actions by husbands. You can't have it both ways.

The Death Penalty: I support the concept of the death penalty. There are some crimes are so bad, the criminals who commit them have severed their ties with society, and revoked their right to remain in our society. However, the present administration of the death penalty is so perverse, it should be abolished: A black man who kills a white woman is twelve times more likely to end up on death row than a white man who kills a black woman. We call that justice? Intolerable.

Money Buys Justice: If you don't recognize that money buys justice, you should take your blinders off. The evidence in the murders of Ron Goldman, Nicole Simpson and JonBenet Ramsey overwhelmingly points to O.J. Simpson and Patsy Ramsey as the perpetrators of the respective killings. Yet those suspects have been able to drive a Mack truck through the legal system, because they have the money to do so. There can hardly be a doubt that a poor black man from south-central would have been forced by his P.D. to plea guilty to either crime, regardless of the exculpatory evidence. Is there a solution to this? No, there isn't. Our system is far from perfect, but it's the best thing going.

March 20, 2000

The bankruptcy code should be repealed. If you don't have the money to spend, don't spend it. If you spend money you don't have, you shouldn't be able to rob your creditors simply by virtue of your stupidity.

March 15, 2000

HTML, the language in which web pages are authored, is a cross-platform publishing medium. A web page should look and function the same regardless of the browser or platform which you use. Web page authors who include "Best viewed by [browser name]" on their web page do not understand HTML or the concept of cross-platform publishing.

I fundamentally believe in the right of the people to own guns, even though I do not personally own a gun nor support the NRA. The right to bear arms is a right we are guaranteed in the Constitution, and a right we should enjoy under the basic doctrine of freedom and individual liberty. When someone abuses this right and infringes upon the freedoms of others by use of a gun, the perpetrator should be consistently, swiftly and harshly punished, and much more so than is presently done. However, I am now questioning my belief in the Second Amendment and the ability of our society to handle its freedoms properly.

Just a few weeks before I wrote this, on February 29, 2000, a 6-year old boy brought a semi-automatic gun to his Flint, Michigan elementary school and killed 6-year old Kayla Rolland. The gun belonged to his uncle, with whom he lived. His father was in jail. He lives in an impoverished area, and goes to a school where the majority of the students' families are well below the poverty line. But that is beside the point, and by way of background only, not in any way as a justification for the shooting.

The statistics I feel are relevant are that in 1999, 16,000 people were killed by people using guns in the US and 15,500 of these were killed by someone they knew (husband, boyfriend, neighbor) or by someone at work. Approximately 500 were killed by a stranger who broke into their home and 300 of those were killed by their own gun. By way of contrast, Great Britain, a nation of 60 million people, in 1999 experienced a grand total of 12 murders by people using guns. Handguns are totally banned in Great Britain, as in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Canada, and most of New York City. In New York City, the number of murders by firearm there has dropped from 2,200 a year to 600.

I have a difficult time maintaining my faith in the ability of society to function with the right to have firearms under a libertarian system based on freedoms and rights. This difficulty comes as a result of the tremendous amount of violence that is occurring in America by people wielding guns. I don't have the solution any more than the politicians do, but each act of violence like the Kayla Rolland murder and the Columbine massacre pushes me towards further towards the side of stricter regulation.

I have no doubt that the people who wrote the Constitution believed the Second Amendment was vital to the security of the nation. After all, it was second only to freedom of speech and religion. No doubt most of the citizens, almost all of whom were gun owners, did as well. But reliance on the Second Amendment is wearing thin with me, especially in light of what I view as an increasing abuse of that right. Rights are not absolute, and when society abuses a right in the way that the Second Amendment is currently being abused, it is time to reexamine and reevaluate that right.

Times were different 225 years ago: There was no army or police force to protect the people, so guns were the only defense the people had against domestic and foreign intruders. The guns themselves were unrecognizable compared to modern firearm technology. And the people who used and owned them treated them much differently than we do - resulting in none of the gun violence that we are presently experiencing. Additionally, I'm not convinced that handguns provide much benefit to us, while the harm is increasingly obvious.

It's easy to criticize the status quo, and hard to come up with workable solutions. The only way to reverse or amend the Second Amendment is by constitutional amendment, and that would be nearly impossible given this country's divide on the issue. Therefore, we need to find other solutions, including education and regulation. The Second Amendment does not prohibit states from regulating guns, and they should.

If I were put in the position of power to come up with a solution, I do not know what that solution would be. But I would probably start by requiring public education, licensing and training, akin to what is required to drive a car. A more extreme measure is to ban handguns, as in most other countries, but I am sure that the effects of prohibition would be worse than the existing problem.

Prohibitions don't work in America - they never have, and I doubt they ever will. But we have to do something to stem the bloodshed, and by doing nothing, we look like a bunch of idiots.

March 6, 2000

Making people wind through queuing lines, such as when you go to an amusement park and are in line for a ride, makes no sense when no one else is in the line. Organizers should use ropes which can be moved to re-shape the queue so that people do not have to wind their way through permanent barriers to reach their destination.

The purpose of a tip in a restaurant is to show appreciation for and reward quality service. In the United Kingdom and in Hong Kong, restaurants automatically add a 10-12% "suggested optional service charge" (tip) to the check. While this saves me having to calculate the tip, it's nearly impossible not leave an amount other than what they have specified, for example if the service was particularly horrible (as it often is in the U.K.). I find that this system discourages the staff from being courteous, because they will get the same amount of money regardless of how they treat the customers. Unlike in America, there is no true economic incentive for the staff to treat the customers well (and usually, they don't).

I do not understand companies who allow their cashiers to be unable to change a $20 bill. I have gone to a restaurant or store and handed the cashier a $20, and they tell me they can't change a $20. The cashier should be equipped with enough change to handle the day's customers, and if they are not, someone (probably the manager) has failed to perform their job. Along these same lines, one of my pet peeves is businesses who will not accept a charge card as payment for an amount under a certain limit. This violates the merchant's contract with their bank, and is very inconvenient for people like me who, for the sake of convenience (and frequent flier miles), charge everything.

February 28, 2000

Having now had my Civic for one year, I can still say I'm not disappointed in the car. I wish the passenger seat was more comfortable, but since I am almost always in the driver's seat, I don't notice the discomfort much. I have had two warranty repairs in the first year of ownership:

Roof Squeak: At 6500 miles, I heard an intermittent creaking noise from the top of the windshield on driver's side, particularly during cold weather. Dealer installed rubber block and felt wool to eliminate the noise, apparently per Service Bulletin 99-060B, covered by warranty.

Vent Intake and Blower Motor: On the low to medium power settings, the cabin air blower started making a thumping noise at 6500 miles. Dealer said it was leaves, and that they fixed the problem by removing the leaves (dealer said that the vent intake screen is inadequate to block leaves). The problem persisted. On second inspection, dealer found no leaves to cause the noise, so they replaced the blower motor.

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