Moo-man's Soapbox page

One of the beautiful things about the 'net is that everyone suddenly has an open forum to air their opinions. These online soapboxes may not be anything more than a chance for people to vent some steam, but there's the off chance that they'll make a difference in the person reading them. That's what I'm counting on. This is my space to share How I Think The World Should Be(tm).
Let me warn you right from the start that my opinions may offend your opinions. That's fine, in fact, it's a good thing. It makes people think. Anything that makes people think is a Good Thing. People don't think enough anymore. They grow up "pre-programmed" by family, peers, or the media. This ends up perpetuating the same problems over and over again. We need to break that cycle.
What follows is a (rather lengthy) summary of what makes me tick along with the things that tick me off. The topics are in no particular order. If you disagree with something, email me and we can discuss it. Please don't just send hatemail. I'll take you very seriously if you have a rational explanation for your viewpoint. I'll blow you off if you're just trying to flame me.
I will probably make much more sense once you know that there two basic principles I strictly adhere to: I believe that everything should be Fair, and I believe that everything should be Logical. These are the two metersticks which all my ideas and feelings are measured against. Things that are either unfair or illogical have no reason to be pursued. You can print this list out, and if I ever run for office, watch me... you can use this list to get a pretty good idea of how I'd vote on issues. With that understood, [Brian climbs onto his soapbox], let me get started...
The Environment: Folks, we only have one planet to play with. We blow it here and that's it. The Sierra Club motto states it pretty clearly: "One Earth, One Chance". Nature possesses the limited ability to heal itself (Have you seen the areas around Mt. Saint Helens or the Exxon Valdez incident lately? The results are encouraging!) but we can push the balance beyond the point that there is enough nature "left" to try to repair our damage. We really have to take a look at the big picture here.
We're hurting the environment in 3 ways: The first is obvious and the most destructive: clearcutting forests, strip-mining, dumping trash into sensitive areas. The second is a slower poison: depletion of the ozone, increasing toxic chemicals in the atmosphere, land, and water, and other pollution that, if unchecked, will greatly disrupt the food chain and the environment in the years to come. The last one is sadly overlooked so often: Us... The sheer number of people walking the earth. Our population growth is downright scary. We have to realize that we cannot continue at this rate.
The global population is around 5.8 billion and is increasing at a rate of 90 million annually. Those 90 million new people would like a nice house in the suburbs, a convenience store on the corner, a Wal-Mart close by, new cars to drive, pizza delivery to their door, etc. Where is all of this supposed to come from? In order to meet the needs of all these new people, more trees will get cut down, more roads will need to be paved, more cars built, more grocery stores built, more food produced to fill them, more parking lots covered in cement, etc, etc... See my point? Not only are we fighting the damage we ourselves are causing to our surroundings now, we're overwhelming the system with more children who will do the same twenty years from now!
It would be nice to assume that "someone else" will have fewer children to make up for this. But that someone else is expecting the same of you! It's up to you to take responsibility for your own actions. It is selfish to think "I want to have 6 children, the rest of the world can just deal with it!". That's not fair to the rest of us. As an alternative, consider adoption: these are children that have already been born (possibly in last year's 90 million!). They're already out there, they need a loving home, and by choosing them instead of having another baby, that's one less mouth (and car, and house, and need for a Wal-Mart, etc.) that you'd be putting on the earth. You've probably heard the saying: "We have not inherited the earth from our ancestors. We have only borrowed it from our children.."
Children: Since I'm on the subject, I'd like to complain about something else. Not children themselves, but rather how we preprogram them with out-dated gender roles. I was reading a Lillian Vernon catalog not long ago, and I was shocked to see how many pages they had of color-coded toys. All of the girls' toys were pink, and all of the boys' toys were blue. Why!?! Are we telling boys they're not supposed to play with pink toys, and girls aren't supposed to have blue ones? What's the point? As a kid, one of my favorite toys was a set of kitchenware: pots, pans, tea kettle, miniature Corningware casserole dishes, etc. Some people would think that was a "girl's" toy. I don't. I think it was a very thoughtful gift that ultimately led me to greatly enjoy cooking. I think it's a great gift for a little boy.
Another shock for me was to see that Play-doh has made a "wedding" set. It's a kit that lets you make little wedding cakes complete with bride and groom figures on top. Geez! We're convincing 6-year-olds that marriage is a necessity of life? Marriage is too complex of a commitment to be trivialized or taken lightly. I guess we don't want them thinking that it's okay to stay single. Or maybe it's a subtle dissuasion from a homosexual lifestyle. Which is a great lead in to...
Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual Rights: This is one of the controversies that saddens me the most. I'm still boggled how the public at large continues to treats gays and lesbians as second class citizens. It's clear the public has not spent much thought on the subject. If you were to ask them if, say, Hispanics deserved the right to get married and have family health insurance, they'd unanimously agree. But change it from a race to a gender-preference issue and suddenly they freak out. Disney is being threatened with a nationwide boycott from several religious groups because they extended the same insurance coverage to gay couples that straight couples have gotten all along. After looking like a sure deal, Williamson County, Texas rescinded an offer to Apple to build a major site there after one of the commissioners found out that Apple offered similar insurance coverage to its gay employees.
Homophobia scares me. It's not logical. We'll tolerate a person for the music they like, the political views they hold, the color of their skin, their taste in art, and the type of religion that they want to practice, but if they're attracted to a person of the same gender, we say there is something wrong with them. Even scarier is those who condemn gays for religious reasons. They'll quote scriptures that say what an "abomination" God thinks homosexuality is. Well, if that's so, let Him render judgement, not us. I think gays, lesbians, and bisexuals have enough to deal with without heaping more persecution on. I'm not gay. But I have lots of gay friends and it angers me to see "gay-bashing" of any kind. If anybody runs across that bumper-sticker that ways "Another Straight Person for Gay Rights", buy me a few. I want more people to have to think about this. Staring at my bumper in rush hour traffic may open a few minds.
Egalitarianism: Once we can get over the stigma of gender-preference, I hope we can knock off a few other schisms. Egalitarianism is the advocacy of equal rights for all human beings. It is the embodiment of absolute fairness in society. I believe, (surprise!), very strongly in egalitarianism. I look forward to the day when the world is colorblind, raceblind, genderblind, ageblind, and religionblind. We need to stop emphasizing our differences and instead work on cooperating. People should be judged only by their words and deeds. I saw a t-shirt I liked: "Not White. Not Black. Not Red. Not Yellow... Human". Or another one: "There is only one race, the Human Race" Most recently I saw a message to the effect of: "Light and Dark Colors should only be seperated when doing laundry"
In college I had a roommate who was black (or African-American if you insist on "political-correctness") He had been given a scholarship to attend college. So had I. My scholarship required me to maintain a 3.5 GPA average or I would lose it. His required him to maintain a 2.0 average and stay black. He didn't need the money for his scholarship. In fact he went out and bought a TV and a VCR with that money. Something about that didn't seem fair to me.
I have trouble understanding why there is so much arbitrary hatred in the world. Muslims hating Jews. Croats hating Serbs hating Muslims. Crips hating Bloods. Irish Catholics hating Protestants. China threatening war with Taiwan. Why? What reason do we have for hating each other?
Why Can't We All Just Get Along?
The 96 Olympic Games were a beautiful thing. 10,000 athletes from around the world put aside their differences to compete as equals. The closing ceremonies featured them all having fun dancing and playing on the stadium floor. People from rival nations partied together like friends. Why can't it be like that for the rest of us?
Guns/Crime: If you've read all of the above, you're probably going to guess my views here. Well, it's not quite that bad. I'll admit I don't really like guns. (I do, however, have a .22 rifle I use for target practice) But I believe in the right to bear a point. Think back in time for a moment. When the words "right to bear arms" were first written, a gun was a hand-made rifle that had to be muzzle-loaded. They didn't have assault rifles and automatic machine-guns back then. If someone burst into, say, a tavern, and began to "open fire" on people, he'd only be able to fire off one or two shots before everyone else had time to finish their drink, run upstairs, find their gun, run back downstairs and return fire. It's nothing like that today. If that kind of firepower had existed then, I'm sure they'd have worded things more carefully.
Since guns have a pretty clear role in life: to kill things or to intimidate someone who was thinking about killing things, I see no reason why we can't treat them with at least the same expectations we have for cars (something that was never even intended for any killing). Think about what one goes through with a car: The car must be inspected regularly to make sure it is in proper working order, lest something go wrong and someone gets hurt. The car is licensed so that it can be tracked in the event of a problem. And most importantly the driver must pass a test and be licensed in order to even use the car. And all of these things are subject to periodic renewal. But if similar precautions are suggested for handguns, groups like the NRA complain loudly.
If you are caught driving without a license, you get a ticket. If you're a repeat offender, they may revoke your license. If you're caught in a stolen car, it's impounded. All of these scenarios should work great for guns as well. Give the police the means to determine if someone should be allowed to use or carry a gun. Make 'em show they have a "shooter's license". So I'll concede that people certainly should have the right to "reasonable" weapons. But how can anyone justify assault rifles or armor-piercing bullets? That's not logical.
I have some strong views on our legal system as well. I've taken classes and can appreciate the thin line one may cross when trying to balance the desire to punish the guilty against the need to ensure the rights of the innocent. But if someone is a repeat offender, you are clearly not dealing with an innocent bystander. For this reason, I favor a legal system that may offer leniency to first time offenders, but deals very harshly on repeat offenses. I also believe in the death penalty. It's not absolutely mandatory to me, though, as I would be just as happy if it were easier to offer life imprisonment with no chance of parole. It just seems like it makes more sense that if you're going to punish them until they die anyway, how is that any different from doing it now versus later?
I think one of the reasons crime continues to plague us is that the punishment has lost its sting. The purpose of punishment is to make the criminal regret that they committed the crime. I don't think prison even comes close to this anymore. It never seems like they have to stay there long, hard labor appears to have gone away, and they threaten lawsuits if anyone attempts to take away their air-conditioning, Jell-O, or cable TV. Heck, *I* don't even have cable TV! I recently visited Alcatraz. Now *that's* a prison. Tiny cramped cells, bare metal bars, and all of it in view of a gorgeous city to remind them of what they're missing. That's what punishment should be about. If they've proven themselves as incapable of being good citizens, then make them regret it. I don't want them out after 3 years of free air-conditioning and cable TV and on the streets again looking for their next victim, all with the bill footed by us. It's not fair to the rest of us.
And speaking of lawsuits, what kind of society are we coming to today? Spill some coffee, get millions of dollars, complain about your BMW's paint job, get millions of dollars, and so on, ad nauseum. I hope this link hangs around, because here is a jawdropping story about a woman at a baseball game suing a 9-year-old little-league baseball pitcher for not warning her he was about to throw the ball. For that matter read some of the stories at that site, The Alliance to Revitalize California, chock full of useless lawsuits bogging our system down. C'mon folks. Grow up. Accept the fact that you have to take some personal risk for the actions in your life. Lawsuits are turning into a schemer's lottery --Wail "victim! victim!!" and WIN millions of dollars!!-- Let your judges and juries know that these lawsuits are preventing honest-to-goodness issues from making it into courts, they're causing the insurance industries to raise their rates for both individuals and businesses, and the only folks gaining from all this is the lawyers. (Sorry, not meant as a personal attack. Meant instead to show how much money is being spent just to redistribute other money that isn't deserved in the first place). It's just not fair...
Government: When I was younger I fell squarely in the libertarian camp. What did we need the government for, anyway? After becoming more interested in government antics and spending some more thought about it, I began to see that government is needed, particularly to do those things no one else wants to do. Like protecting the environment, for instance. It costs a lot of money for a business to filter all of its pollution and to recycle all of its scrap. Given the choice, they'd prefer to dump it and pocket the cost savings. So we need someone who will ensure that the things that need to get done are being done..
Does that mean I'm happy with the government we have? Not exactly. There are a lot of improvements I think that need to take place. I'll start with the election process. Right now, America is pretty firmly entrenched in a two-party system. Why? Why not three or four or more? Because the two that are in place are intent on making sure that they stay the only two. Nowhere in the Constitution or Declaration of Independence is the party system spelled out. But the current system makes it nearly impossible for an outside party to get *any* candidate elected, much less a presidential one. I think Italy has like 28 parties. Now that sounds like a fun election!
Also, the electoral system we use seems to have no logical explanation. Most people don't realize that they aren't actually voting for a candidate. Instead, they're voting for some anonymous "electoral college" person who has promised to cast *their* vote for that candidate. This all happens behind the curtain and no one gave it much thought until the Nixon election when one of the electorate changed his mind and decided to vote for Harry Byrd. *That* got some voters' attention. It's also why Ross Perot in 1992 got nearly 1 in 5 votes from the public, but because of the system got exactly zero electoral votes. Several presidents have been elected without winning the popular vote. Think about that! More people voted for one candidate, but the other became president. This is democracy!? For a good page that talks about how the electoral college has affected the presidential race, see Grolier Online.
I also think money and politicians don't mix. What is the difference between money from a lobbyist or "political action committee" and a bribe? Everyone is hollering for campaign finance reform. The politicians claim they need the money in order to get elected. Maybe that's true. So let's see if we can change the system so it doesn't cost so much for an election. The 1996 elections saw both parties spend over $900 million dollars on their campaigns. That's right, close to a billion dollars! That money didn't get spent to protect the environment, feed the hungry, or improve education. It got spent on television ads that ran for a few months. It got spent sending junk mail. It was a billion dollar media blitz. That money is gone now, all spent for the sole purpose of letting mostly the same guys (and gals) go back to the same office after the elections were over. Whoa. We need to rethink this...
Let's try and find a way to make this cheaper. How about free television airtime? The government just got the broadcast industry to agree to some quality children's programming every week. Why not the same for candidates on election years? If you give them all the same soapbox, maybe we'll vote for them based on their platforms, not on how much media glitz they buy. And I'm not talking 60 second soundbites. Candidates have shown that if that's all they're given to work with, it turns into fluffy empty quotables. No, let's get some debate going. Let's go beyond the useless mudslinging and namecalling that goes on when candidates only have a few minutes to make an impression. Man, I did not hear a constructive word out of Dole's mouth during the last several months of the '96 campaign. Every opportunity was spent to insult Clinton or convince the public that there's a hidden agenda afoot. I'm tired of it. Tell me what you'd do to *improve* the environment, *improve* wages, *improve* education, etc.
Just a few more comments about our government, then I'll move on. Right now our national debt (the amount our government is in the hole) is approaching 5380 trillion dollars. That's over $20,000 for every citizen in the US. That's not even the "balancing the budget" you always hear about. (That's the additional amount each year that the government is putting us in debt!) Pretend you are the government for a moment and that the national debt is your credit card bill (which amazingly hasn't been revoked yet). You are horribly in debt (So much so that I'm surprised other nations even take us seriously). Your salary is the taxes you collect. You have two choices: You can either try to cut down how much you buy with that credit card (cut spending on government programs), or you can try to make some more money to pay that bill with (raise everyone's taxes). Both choices suck, don't they? Now, how do we take anyone seriously (such as a presidential candidate) who claims that the solution is to drastically lower taxes? Will the credit card company complain when you tell them you're going to stop paying them as much money from now on? Duh!
We have to face the facts. The government is in way over its head. We went wild with the credit card, now it's time to pay the bills. Just like the environment, we cannot assume that someone down the road will fix the problem. We have to fix the problem. We have to bite the bullet and starting digging ourselves out of this multi-trillion dollar hole. And you know what, we might even have to raise taxes. I know that's not a pleasant thought, but that's the price we have to pay for allowing ourselves to go into such debt. The next time you listen to your elected officials, see what plans they have for this. A particularly pessimistic viewpoint is the following: The average Congressperson/Senator is in their 50's or 60's. They only need to worry about the next 20 or so years of their life. Unless they have kids, they have may little concern about what condition they leave the deficit in. They would rather spend extra money on health care coverage or other programs that will benefit them the most in upcoming years. Be wary of this scenario. Think long term, think 25, 50, or 100 years down the road. Let's be fair to the generations that come after us.
Which means we need to do our share now. I'm proud to pay taxes. Yes, you read that right. I didn't say I like to pay taxes, I said I'm proud to pay them. I'm doing my part to get our government back on our feet. Hopefully there will come a time down the road when the government is out of debt. Right now 1/6 of the debt is just the interest owed on the debt itself. Which means get rid of the debt, and suddenly the government has 17% more money to spend! So I'm doing my share. And I hope that, like me, you hate to see people cheat on their taxes. They're robbing from all of us by doing that. We may not have money for important programs because everyone isn't carrying their share of the load. We're all in this together, we can dig our way out if we all chip in. Being in debt really bites. I can personally relate.... There. That's it for government. We're in the home stretch...
Life and Death: Ouch. Personal issues that everyone has an opinion on. Well here are mine. I believe in the right to an abortion. Now read that carefully. I didn't say a word about "liking" abortions or "encouraging" them. I only am defending the right to have one. Personally I think abortions are a tragic event. But that doesn't interfere with my belief that they should be legal. It all comes down to a woman's right to choose what happens to her own body. And I think the consequences of chaining a women to a baby she doesn't want or can't support are far worse. I could give lots and lots of other arguments for my stance but this should be enough to make my point.
I also believe strongly in the right to die. I have always thought being entitled to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" meant you can give up those same rights should you choose. I am in charge of my own body. If I am ready to throw in the towel, I don't want some state policy keeping me alive and in pain thanks only to some machinery. I am a supporter of Dr. Kevorkian. He has gone to great personal risk to assist others that believe as I do. There may come a time in anyone's life when there is truly no point in prolonging it: The disease will not go away, the pain will not subside, the body cannot undo the damage. When that time comes, I'm ready to go. Don't make me hang around and suffer. I understand that the state has an interest in keeping me alive (Hey, they want me for my taxes!) but there has to come a point of mercy. Let's be fair to the people in that situation.
Summary: I told you it was a long page, but I'm done now. [Brian gets off his soapbox] It's actually been wonderfully fun to write this. The opinions you see above are mine and mine alone (in fact I have found few people who agree with all of them!) As I said above, you're welcome to comment on them, either for or against. I don't expect to change the world with this page, but I will be happy if I have only made someone rethink their views on something. And if you do think something differently than me, spend a moment to wonder why you think that way...
As James Allen said:
"You are today where your thoughts have brought you;
you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you."

This page has been viewed times since this counter was added on 11/8/96.

Click to return to main home page

Copyright © 1997 Brian Bloom. All Rights Reserved