Saturday, December 27, 1997

Week of 12/27/1997

The 1997 Brutally Honest Awards
- by David Matthews 2

With 1997 coming to a close, I figured I’d join the crowd and get in my own year-end awards. I was trying to come up with some cute little award logo to go with each, but I figured that the time wasted could better be spent on retooling the Brutally Honest site for 1998.

The Chicken Little Award for an Over-hyped Issue in 97- The UN Greenhouse "Solution." A "global" solution to a "global" threat where the solution is neither global nor is the threat a certainty. We’ve heard the exact same doom and gloom about acid rain and the "ice age." What happened to them? Big duds! The end result of this proposed solution? Government regulations and laws, and more and more money coming out of YOUR pocket! If these so-called TWO THOUSAND SCIENTISTS and their supporters think this is a problem, fine, let them pay for it out of THEIR OWN pockets, not ours!

The LIFETIME Chicken Little Award for an Over-hyped Issue - The problem with "X" on the Internet. "X" could be anything from sex to predators to businesses to encryption. No matter what, the media and the government have it in for the Internet, and if government can’t control it, the media will try to destroy it.

The Temporary Sanity Award for 97 - The US Supreme Court. For being the most technically-challenged branch of the federal government, the nine justices somehow got it right when they struck down the Communications Decency Act as being blatantly unconstitutional. Now if only they can remember that freedom should be the default in ALL situations, not the exception. Special kudos to Justice John Paul Stevens, whose quote on the decision is worthy of Thomas Jefferson.

The "Where did it go" Award for 97 - The GOP tax break. Somehow, the rhetoric in the GOP-controlled Congress changed from giving a "tax cut" to getting a "tax credit." The two are not interchangeable! You can see a tax cut in your paycheck with more of YOUR money coming back to you. You can only see a tax credit when the time comes to fill out your income tax forms!

The Don Juan Quixote Award for Government in 97 - The US Department of Justice Vs. Microsoft. While dragons such as the campaign finance issue roamed through Washington, Janet Reno’s Quixote knights were charging at windmills like Microsoft. Maybe next time around Bill Gates can just hand Reno a generous campaign contribution and get the whole matter settled before it reaches court. Hell, make it enough of a settlement, and Janet Reno probably won’t even know where to find Microsoft, never mind Gates! Worked for Charlie Tree.

The Don Juan Quixote Award for Public in 97 - The Baptist’s Boycott of Disney. Yeah, it’s really putting the hurt on the mouse, isn’t it? The folks at Disney are just ACHING for that moralist money, aren’t they? First they wanted this unilateral boycott of all things Disney. Then, they asked their members to just deny Disney $100 of what they would normally spend. Here’s a hint folks - it’s not working! Every time they listen to Rush Limbaugh or Paul Harvey, watch "Home Improvement" or "Live with Regis and Kathy Lee" or ESPN, or pay for any cable service that carries the Disney Channel as part of their basic package, they’re paying for the "evil institution" that they claim to be anti-family!

The Ronald Reagan "Evil Empire" Award for 97 - The Anti-Smoking Crusade. Let’s see if I get this straight… smoking, a legal adult substance, is akin to everything evil in the world, but the government doesn’t want to ban it. Worse yet, tobacco companies are accused of marketing to kids, even though it’s been against the law to sell cigarettes to anyone under 18 for years. Nobody wants to enforce the law, but Uncle Sam and his fifty spoiled brats want the tobacco companies to pay big bucks and tax them heavily to boot. And the biggest crusader against tobacco, Al Gore, has a family tobacco farm? I’d ask what is wrong with this picture, except that we all KNOW what’s wrong with it - it’s politics!

The Bad Penny Award for 97 - Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Like a bad horror movie villain, Hussein keeps popping up to remind us he’s still alive and is still a pain in the ass. I think the only reason why he keeps causing trouble is just to keep the prophecies of Nostradamus alive.

The Worst Waste of Airtime for Television Award for 97 - The re-re-re-rebroadcast of the funeral of Diana. Yeah, maybe the astronauts onboard Mir didn’t see all of Elton John performing his retooled song "Candle In The Wind." Let’s rebroadcast the funeral a zillion times until the cassette turns to mush and the tape snaps. A truly tragic event turned into the biggest media hype of the year. That day was a good day to see the funeral once, then spend the rest of the day doing anything except watching television.

The Worst Waste of Court Time Award for 97 - The Marv Albert trial. Listen Marv, the next time you get into a trial situation where every nuance of your private life will be paraded in front of the public like a vaudeville freak show, do us all a favor and plea out BEFORE it hits the courtroom!

The Worst Decision in Television Award for 97 - Cancellation of "The Site." MSNBC had a good thing going with The Site. A show about computers and the Internet for a new cable station with an online presence. Gone without even a whisper. Now what do they have? A poor man’s Larry King on his worst day! If Microsoft is as powerful as Janet Reno keeps claiming it is, they should have pulled their strings on this decision, because it MSSUCKS!

The "Bullseye? What Bullseye on my back?" Award for 97 - Terry Nichols. Yeah, Terry. We know you didn’t mean to build a bomb that Tim McVeigh would use to blow up the federal building. Nah, you were just TALKING about it. I guess you’re finding out the hard way that when the Clinton Administration wants its pound of flesh, it wants the WHOLE pound, plus the gallon blood that goes with it. Word of advice to any would-be copycats - use the ballot box like the rest of the masses! It does more damage to Washington, and it has fewer repercussions!

The Oliver Stone Award for 97 - The GOP and "Arlington-gate." Did you hear? The president has been selling plots in Arlington for campaign contributions! Oh, wait a minute.. the GOP doesn’t really have any proof that it happened.. BUT IT COULD HAVE! Listen guys, you had better stick with the facts in hand when it comes to investigating the Clinton Administration for illicit campaign contributions instead of spinning tall tales. This fishing expedition only netted one man whose only crime is he lied about his service record to get buried in Arlington. Hardly an offense worthy of impeaching the president. In fact, getting caught lying is nothing new for the folks in Washington. Who amongst the self-professed gods of Mount Legislation haven’t lied to their constituents?

The Elephant Man Award for 97 - The Internal Revenue Service. I’m not an animal, I’m a legitimate federal agency! Look, they’re a monster, but Congress made them into one.. and guess who elected Congress? If the IRS wants to change its act, it needs to be held to the same burden of proof that any other federal agency is bound to (at least in theory). And remember, no matter what "cure-all" measure we support, it will never get rid of the IRS completely.

The "Practicing what he preaches" Award for 97 - Neal Boortz. The WSB radio talk show host and proud Libertarian who has spend much of his time talking about bad government now spends his off-air time on the Fulton County Library Commission. His "talkmaster" attitude may be radio hype, but Fulton County may be in for a treat when they learn his Libertarian attitudes aren’t hype.

The "Great.. well, its not really great.. how about above average?.. no, that isn’t it.. Average? No, it’s not average.. below average?.. no, worse that that.. Mediocre… no, not even that… Ah, screw it.. WE ARE THE BORG" Society Award for 97 - The Clinton Administration. Let’s face it, we went from a slick politician with aims to shake up politics with a facade of JFK, to a political junkie who is so obsessed with carving some kind of "legacy" for himself that he grab at ANY topic, ANY issue, and bastardize it in some socialistic pattern that would make even Karl Marx cringe in disgust! The first action of the next administration in 2001 should be to apologize to America for Clinton’s second term. We deserve at least that much!

Monday, December 22, 1997

Week of 12/22/1997

A Christmastime chat with Saint Nick
You think YOU’VE got problems?
- by David Matthews 2

I usually feel depressed around Christmastime. Oh, sure, I get wrapped up in the preparations for the holiday season. I enjoy trimming the tree and setting up the displays, and the good will that is still there amidst all the shopping chaos. But the utter realization that I would spend Christmas relatively alone in a season of love and giving strikes like an icicle through my heart every Christmas eve and Christmas day.

So here I was at my favorite nightspot, spending the money most guys would spend on their girlfriends or wives. I had just bellied up to the bar when the bartender warned me about this old guy at the other end.

"Stay away from that guy," she said as she handed me my usual rum-and-Coke. "He’s been in a sour mood all night."

I thanked her and gave her the usual tip. I really didn’t think too much about the old guy. I guess I never really paid too much attention to him. But I overheard other folks who did, and he was rather blunt with them.

About an hour into my drink, I saw the old man walk towards me.

"Mind if I join you, David?" he said in a deep voice.

I really didn’t know what to say. This was the same guy who told three folks what to do with themselves in no uncertain terms. Not to mention this guy, whom I never saw before, just called me by name.

"Sure," I said. "How do you know my name?"

"I know everyone," he said as he sat down.

It was just then I noticed who he was. His white hair, the beard, the round belly that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.

"Wait a minute!" I exclaimed. "Aren’t you…?"

He closed his eyes in annoyance. "YES! Yes, I’m him. Ho-ho-ho and all that garbage."

"What are you doing here, Sa-"

"Don’t say it!" he exclaimed. "It’s bad enough as is having people recognize me by sight!"

It was only then that I took a good look at him. This not-so-jolly elf had his hair slicked back and into a ponytail. He wore a red designer business suit, and his white beard was shaved close into a goatee like mine. His scalp was speckled with telltale signs of recent hair plugs, and there was a hint of a facelift on his rosy red cheeks, which I could only guess were red from booze, not the cold.

"Ok. Would you mind if I called you Nick?"

He waived his hand sloppily. "Yeah, sure. Haven’t been called that in a few years anyways."

"So why see me, Nick? I thought you wanted to be alone."

"Well.. I wanted to," he said. "But then I saw you come in. You know, you’ve got it made, David. You’re working, you’ve got talent that you’re able to express, you’ve got a family that loves you. And you’ve been on my good list for a long time. That’s not saying much these days, but you’ve done pretty well."

I snorted. "Yeah, that’s why I’m here in a bar when everyone else is out there having fun."

"Hey, you think you’ve got problems?" he said with fire in his eyes. "Try my job!"

I chuckled. "Yeah, having elves make toys, and you have all year to plan on delivering them!"

Then it was his turn to chuckle. "Ho-ho. Nice try ace. You think it’s a cakewalk to do my job nowadays? Let me tell you, it’s been nothing but aggravation these past few years!"

"Try me," I said.

He took a drink of his beer. "OK, let’s start with that naughty and nice list. I’ve had to amend that list so much that even Bill Clinton can be listed as nice. Do you know how much mail I get by irate kids who find out they’re on the naughty list? I’ve had to fend off fifty lawsuits this year alone! And that’s not even getting into the adults!"

"Ok," I said, "so they’re a little upset."

"Upset?" His eyes widened. "Ho-ho! Try livid! They think every kid should be in the nice column, especially theirs. Even when they’re horrible monsters and shoot people, they expect to be on that nice list. It’s worse now then when I had to substitute stockings full of coal with stockings full of reindeer droppings!"

I laughed. "When did you start doing that?"

"When I found out families were being put on the naughty list just so they can stock up on coal for the fireplace! Of course, you never noticed because you haven’t been on my naughty list recently. Now don’t make me loose track.

"Even when the kids make it to the nice list, they don’t understand the mechanics behind what we do. You know the number of kids who got upset last year because I didn’t get them a Tickle-me-Elmo doll? Or a Nintendo 64? You know, we don’t make those kind of things anymore. We tried, but we just couldn’t compete with the Asian markets. So we gotta order them from the factories just like the stores do. It’s not our fault the factories can’t keep up with the demand, even when I send some of the elves to help.

"Then there’s the elves. A few years ago they unionized. When UPS went on strike this year, so did they. You ever try to build ten thousand toys per week with just yourself and the missus? Make matters worse, some lawyer filed suit that my hiring elves violates the civil rights of non-elves. And I’ve got some talk show airhead claiming that the workshop is really a sweatshop."

"Ok," I said, "some folks are taking it too far.."

"Oh, that’s just the tip of the iceberg! I’ve got the FCC claiming I’m using a magic snowball without a broadcasting license, and the FBI want me to provide THEM with magic snowballs so they can peer into peoples’ homes at any time! The IRS is saying I have to count milk and cookies as taxable income. The post office is threatening to stop delivering my mail because of the amount of mail I get every year. I have to file a flight plan with the FAA every year that is so tight that I can’t deviate one degree without getting hit by a 747. And just today I found out that Janet Reno has filed suit that my operation violates antitrust laws!"

"Wait a minute!" I said. "Don’t you still live in the North Pole? I thought the US Government can’t touch you up there."

"Moved to Alaska a few years back," he said with a sigh. "The missus complained that she was sick of seeing nothing but snow, snow, and the occasional explorer on a dare. Besides, satellite reception is louse up there. Can only get a handful of Canadian stations and CNN. I got a great deal back in the Bush Administration for a shut down top secret military base. They even threw in a cable package. But let me tell you, if I knew what it would cost in taxes and social security withholdings, I’d tell them what to do with that base!"

"Oh," I said. "So how does the missus like things now?"

"Don’t know," he said sadly. "She left me after talking to some radio shrink. I understand that she’s going to be on the talk shows, hyping some tell-all book she wrote before leaving me."

"Sorry," I offered. "Didn’t know."

He waived his hand. "Ach! You know, I used to enjoy my job. It was a labor of love. The elves made the toys, and I used to have fun delivering them to every child around the world in various outfits and under different names. It was like.. like being a humanitarian James Bond! Now I feel like fat Ted Bundy."

"Well I wouldn’t go that far," I said.

"Oh no? I’ve got to elude burglar alarms and guard dogs. Some folks have chimneys that haven’t been cleaned since they bought the house, and THAT is a pain and a half to climb down, let me tell you! I’ve got police who think that I’m just a pervert impersonating myself, and preachers who are condemning me for supposedly taking away Christmas from them.. How lame is that? Instead of milk and cookies, the kids are leaving me threatening letters signed by lawyers about ‘breach of contract’ if I don’t get them what they ask for."

"So why come here?" I asked.

He finished his beer before replying. "Had the animal rights protesters show up outside the workshop, claiming that I abuse the reindeer to make them fly. Whenever those nutcases arrive I try to get as far away as possible. Besides, I had to speak with my lawyer anyways. He suggested that it might be time for me to retire. He lined up a sweet deal for me. Just subcontract the shop to the toy companies, the list to some PI firms, and run the whole operation from two web servers in the Cayman islands."

I gave a sour look. Santa wanting to pack it in? Have the brutally honest antics of this society finally ruined Christmas for everybody?


He gave a big grin. "And I say SCREW EM! Why give them the satisfaction? They’re stupid, shallow, self-centered people anyways. I plan on giving out a lot of reindeer droppings this year!"

I breathed a sigh of relief. "That’s the spirit, Nick!" I said as I slapped him on the arm.

From his waistcoat, he pulled out an antique watch. "Well, I guess it’s time to head back to the shop in Alaska. Still have to make sure those protesters haven’t tried to steal Rudolph like they tried to last year. Maybe I’ll even stop by Redmond on the way and see if I can get Bill Gates to give me some pointers on how to handle this antitrust suit as well!"

He got up and extended his hand. I shook it.

"You’re a good man, David," he said with a grin. "You’ve got more going for you than you know. Don’t dwell on your own problems too much. Who knows? I might even leave a special present for you this year."

My eyes widened. "Really? You mean you’ll get me my date with a Playboy Playmate?"

Then I head him exclaim as he walked out the door: "Ho-ho! Don’t press your luck, ace."

Monday, December 15, 1997

Week of 12/15/1997

Target: Professional Sports
Sprewell’s attack just tip of iceberg
- by David Matthews 2

Riddle me this, online readers - what would happen to you if you threatened and physically attacked your boss? How long do you think it would take before you’d end up in jail? How long before you got the pink slip? And what do you think your chances of working would be if your potential employers knew that you attacked your former boss?

Odds are, you and I would be in jail faster than you can say "CALL JOHNNY COCHRAN!" You’d get bailed just in time to get your pink slip from work. And if your antics make the media, guaranteed any potential employer would consider you like they would toxic waste.

Unless, that is, you’re Latrell Sprewell, formerly of the Golden State Warriors. His attack on the team’s coach may have earned him a pink slip from the Warriors, but the NBA is only considering a one-year suspension. But even that is not acceptable to Sprewell, who let loose Johnny "I can get anyone off" Cochran on the NBA on the claim that his punishment was racially motivated.

I’m not a huge sports fan, that much is certain. Sure, I’ve been to the occasional Braves game in the old Fulton County Stadium, and once you’ve been spoiled by box seating, you don’t want to settle for anything less even in a new post-Olympic stadium. And every year, my parents and I head to the Georgia Dome to see the Atlanta Falcons take on the New Orleans Saints. And sure, I’ll watch the Super Bowl and maybe the World Series, depending on which teams make it. But when it comes to sports, I’ve been long jaded to its lure, which probably explains why it bothers me to no extent to see sports figures who make millions of dollars act like spoiled rotten brats and nobody takes them to task for it.

Let’s be brutally honest here - besides politics, the only other place where you can be a spoiled brat and get away with it is professional sports. Worse yet, you can raise holy hell, get paid millions of dollars for it, and still get people asking for more!

Charles Barkley throws a guy through the window of a nightclub. Dennis Rodman kicks a photographer in the balls. Mike Tyson bits a chunk off Evander Hollyfield’s ear. Tonya Harding orders a hit on Nancy Kerrigan. Kerrigan later gets a silver medal in the Olympics and gets caught badmouthing her appearance in Disneyworld. Before that you have John McEnroe’s temper tantrums, Pete Rose’s gambling, and sports unions that go on strike in the middle of the season. The list goes on and on.

Part of the problem is that today’s athletes are treated as royalty. And this trickles down to even local sporting events. The story of athletes getting a free ride through school is more than just myth. How many college athletes have spent years before going professional, without getting a single degree for those years in college? Sport scouts are now staking out junior high schools looking for the next generation of name-brand athletes, acting like non-sexual perverts offering candy to children.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the overall problem we have with professional sports.

I get an uneasy feeling whenever I hear the announcer say with pride "This is YOUR sports team!" Yeah, I’ll bet the folks in Cleveland really appreciated that when THEIR football franchise, the Cleveland Browns, packed up and headed to Baltimore. The truth is these teams aren’t "ours." The only city who can legitimately claim to "own" a team is Green Bay. Any other team can pack up and move out of town on a whim.

But there is one thing that is "ours," and that’s the tax bill to pay for these stadiums. What? You mean you didn’t know that? Well you should have. When the baseball players went on strike a couple of years ago, it was revealed that by a little-known agreement, the city of Atlanta would have to eat the taxes on Fulton County Stadium if the Braves management couldn’t pay the bills. Didn’t know about that, did you? You’re not alone! Forbes Magazine recently did a story on the number of new stadiums built at taxpayer expense and how, while owners will be shelling out big bucks to the players, they won’t be able to pay for the big bills. Guess who will?

Professional sports have never been our games to begin with. This tragic fact goes back to the days of the Black Socks scandal. The only difference between the glory days and today’s in-your-face attitude is that we don’t candy-coat the sports figures. Instead, the media puts it out for the public to devour like buzzards on carrion. You don’t believe me? I’ve got two words for you - Marv Albert! This guy allowed every dark secret of his life to be exposed to the public in an embarrassing courtroom trial, and now wonders why he’s unemployed.

It hurts me even more to know that there are kids who look up to these sports figures as something they can achieve in. The nobility of professionals like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, however, take a back seat to advertising dollars. For every Nancy Kerrigan, there’s a Bonnie Blair, who won five gold medals and couldn’t get even a headband endorsement. Companies like Nike and Adidas pay big bucks to reach out to kids, either through commercials or sports camps, where the next generation of athletes are schooled and have their abilities honed like soldiers. And for an overwhelming majority of would-be Tigers and Mikes, the reality is they won’t get beyond the neighborhood field.

Sports is a lucrative business, but it is also a zero-sum, winner-take-all business, where today’s superstar is tomorrow’s has-been. Heisman trophy winner Doug Flutie went from being a college hero to an anonymous professional football player. William "Fridge" Perry went from being a member of the championship Chicago Bears to playing in the European football league. Jordan briefly went from being an NBA legend to being a minor league ballplayer who earned more for attendance than on the field.

We need to remember that these players are not gods. They’re mortal men and women just like the rest of us, and they need to be treated as such. How they perform on the field should not be more important than how they carry themselves outside of the limelight. If Latrell Spreewell was just Latrell Smith, he’d be treated just like any other punk who can’t control their temper.

We also need to stop thinking of sports teams as "ours." If owners want expensive stadiums, let them pay for it themselves, instead of sticking the bills to taxpayers.

The pimping and pandering to athletes and team management simply because they can win games needs to stop.

Monday, December 8, 1997

Week of 12/08/1997

Pavlov’s Surprise
All buttons being pushed in tragedy
- by David Matthews 2

Here’s the facts as we know them: On Monday (12/1), shots rang out in the foyer of a high school in Kentucky. Eight students in a prayer circle were hit. Three of the students died, five were wounded. A member of the prayer circle talked the gunman out of killing more students before he was apprehended. A fourteen year-old boy is currently being held and has confessed to the killings.

Now the town, and indeed, the whole country, is playing a game of "Pavlov’s Surprise" in order to determine for themselves why this happened.

Rumors first abound that the 14 year-old was a self-professed atheist, who often mocked the group. DING! All of a sudden, the religious crusaders start screaming "See? We’re being persecuted for our rights! All those atheists who can’t remove GOD from the schools are out to kill us!"

But then it is revealed that the boy regularly attended church. So much for the atheist theory.

Then one investigator says that boy admitted to have gotten the idea to kill from a movie called "The Basketball Diaries." In it, the protagonist has a fantasy about going into his private catholic school and start killing all the people who he felt were putting him down. DING! Instantly, all the social crusaders start screaming "SEE? Hollywood is promoting violence to our children! Hollywood is to blame for this carnage!"

This R-rated movie was released in 1995, and now available on cable and video. So if this the case, why isn’t anyone asking the parents how they could let their son watch an R-rated movie? Wouldn’t the parents take more of the blame than Hollywood ever could?

Now one officer is speculating that more than one student was supposed to be involved.


I’m waiting for the conspiracy freaks to lead an inquiry of all the boy’s friends and associates to see who could have planed a conspiracy. No doubt they will be checking with the religious crusaders to see what religion they professed to be in, and with the social crusaders to see if they saw any other movies like "JFK," or "Natural Born Killers." I wouldn’t be surprised if someone started talking like Kevin Coster’s character about "it would be a turkey shoot" and "they walked the course, they knew where and how it was going to go down."

All the while, of course, the media will be eager to catch every minute on video to be mainlined to the scores of armchair jurors in the ever-changing court of public opinion.

Let’s get brutally honest here. This was a tragedy. No mistake about it. Three young people are dead before their adult lives started, and there is no amount of speculation or blame assessment that will bring those people back. Repercussions of those events seemed to have a chilling effect across the country, as other schools soon reported students bringing guns into class as well. These students weren’t being inspired by Hollywood, but rather by the network news.

But what is going on now is almost just a severe a tragedy as the initial killing. We have members of the media second-guessing law enforcement.. again! Eager to get any edge on their competition, they try to get any hint, any snippet of fact or rumor, and then bouncing them off any special interest group hungry for the limelight. And these special interest groups do come running, much like Pavlov’s dogs when they heard a bell.

Much to the credit of the community, the residents have not demanded vengeance or a pound of blood. Shock and outrage have turned to forgiveness, which should make any person proud.

Something happened that caused the boy to snap. What was it? One plausible, realistic theory went unchecked. Rumors abounded that the boy was harassed, but since there wasn’t any Pavlov-like reaction to that news, it didn’t garner too much attention. In fact, the students questioned were all too quick to dismiss such allegations, saying that any amount of teasing was in good fun.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way. Nobody wants to think of themselves as the villain, especially after such a tragic event. Nobody wants to think that words can hurt, even when spoken with good intentions. I should know. I’ve been there at both ends of the spectrum. I know that words can sometimes hurt worse than any stick or stone, because they don’t leave any physical marks.

And just because someone can be "good natured" doesn’t mean that there’s nothing wrong with them. I’ve found that being comical is the perfect defense mechanism to hide feelings of loneliness or hurt. And no matter how many times people have asked if anything was wrong, I’d still wouldn’t tell them what it was.

Still, the only person who can really say what has made the boy snap is the boy himself. All anyone else can do until then is speculate, point fingers, and assess blame. Now is certainly not the time to play "Pavlov’s Surprise."

Monday, December 1, 1997

Week of 12/01/1997

The Scaremongers
- by David Matthews 2

The Baltimore sage H. L. Mencken once said that "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." Of course, he said those words amidst the age of Prohibition, when religious crusaders and temperance advocates were declaring alcohol to be akin to the apocalypse.

Recently, though, those words seem to ring true, because there seems to be a new "crisis" every other week. Halloween may have come and gone, but these hobgoblins just never seem to leave. All of them generated by the same groups of scaremongers - the religious wrong, social crusaders, environmentalists, political-correction crusaders, and the Clinton Administration. Their goal is simple - get people SO terrified of this "crisis" that they’ll submit to any regulation or legislation proposed.

Let’s look at some of them, shall we?

The Internet - First, the scaremongers tried to tell us that sexually explicit sites were everywhere, luring kids the minute they turn on their computers. This, of course, was a lie perpetuated by an incredibly flawed report that was almost designed for censorship legislation. It got passed, but thankfully the courts saw it for the fraud it was. But that still doesn’t stop the censorship freaks from playing their head games.

Then the subject turned to encryption. The Clinton Administration, unable to regulate content, now wanted to control how messages get transmitted online. Their hobgoblin? That drug kingpins and terrorists can communicate without them knowing. Horrors! So the Clinton Administration wants to be able to read EVERYONE’S messages at any time, without a warrant. Not only that, they wanted to be able to get into everyone’s computers as well, again without a warrant or even notification, to make sure there aren’t any anti-government messages or drug transactions. Fortunately, more rational people saw it for the fraud it was and shot it down in Congress. There’s a bill pending called the SAFE Act that would kill further encryption hobgoblins, but the scaremongers at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are fighting it tooth and nail.

El Nino - HEAD FOR COVER! You mean, you haven’t heard? There’s this big body of warm water called El Nino that will upset the delicate balance of nature! It’ll flood the cities, dry up lakes, cause snowstorms in the south, get drivers to turn without using a turn signal, make your kids watch CNN, and, and… it’ll do some other crazy stuff! Oh, it’s the end of the world!

There’s just one little thing… El Nino is a cyclical weather event. In other words, it’s happened before! We just didn’t have the tools to measure it as accurately until now. So of course we’re going to be startled by the information coming in. That’s natural. But to turn El Nino into an ongoing horror show over this information is paranoid overkill at best.

What does it mean? It means simply making sure your homeowners insurance is paid up, that’s what it means! While you’re at it, make sure your house is properly insulated and waterproofed.

Global Warming - Before El Nino, the masters of scare tactics had another environmental disaster called "Global Warming." The theory behind it, of course, is that all of man’s progress is now coming back in the form of higher temperatures. Higher temperatures mean the icecaps melting in the poles. Melting icecaps mean world-wide flooding. The result? Waterworld, without Kevin Costner.

So now the environmentalists supposedly have "the solution" as presented to the United Nations. A solution that supposedly was endorsed by over TWO THOUSAND SCIENTISTS! And if you question that solution, environmentalists are quick to say that you’re questioning those TWO THOUSAND SCIENTISTS who endorsed this solution.

Of course, the solution is not global, unless your definition of world-wide is only limited to the most industrial countries in the world. Those are the only countries that would bear the burden and responsibility of this solution.

And as for those two thousand scientists, how many of them actually READ the proposed solution? How many of them actually think such a solution would work? How many of those two thousand scientists simply signed off on a document for political purposes?

What’s worse is that there seems to be no concrete, absolute, unquestionable explanation as to how man ruins the environment. One study suggests that volcanoes cause more environmental damage in a short period of time than man ever could during the whole Industrial Revolution. Another study suggested that the polar holes in the ozone layer were a natural occurrence, not caused by anything man created.

Anyone remember acid rain? You know, all the pollution in the northeastern part of the country making the clouds so poisonous that it would rain acid? Remember the hype from that twenty years ago? What happened to it?

There is no doubt that man has done much to poison life for mankind, that much is certain. We have poisoned drinking waters, contaminated lands, and created materials that are not biodegradable and cannot be recycled into the ecosystem. That much is true, and in some cases we are working to change that. But to presume that the industrial man has become the harbinger of doom for the whole world is a bit hard to swallow.

Crime - Have you ever wondered how crime figures seem to drop around election time? Then, by some mysterious reason, they rise just in time to request funding for a new jail or to get new legislation passed?

It’s easy to see how when you realize that reports and studies can be manipulated so that they can provide whatever conclusion you want.

Let’s say for instance that crime reports indicate that the amount of violent crime was down 17% from last year. The local politician running for reelection can proclaim then that his "get tough" policies are working. However, his opponent can say that while crime was down 17% this year, it had increased 125% in the past ten years while the incumbent was in office. The incumbent can then claim that the increase was caused by factors that he had no control over, such as population growth or unemployment. The challenger can then contend that the incumbent has no control over the 17% drop in crime either. Or better yet, the challenger can use those same figures to say that while violent crime was down 17%, non-violent crimes such as burglary and larceny went up 10%.

By far, the fear of crime is the oldest of resources for the masters of scare tactics. And it’s true we do need some semblance of government to keep crime to a minimum. Even most libertarians agree to that, including myself. But to what end? The scaremongers will always push the line as close to tyranny as possible to get what they want.

Social Welfare - So you say times are tough, huh? Want to start a family, live out that American dream, but once you started down that path you realized that you couldn’t afford all the little extras that come with the deal. Having to choose between getting a new bedroom suite and saving for junior’s college fund, it’s just horrible! And you know you could take your kids to Disney World if they didn’t have to be vaccinated or need braces.

Well according to the scaremongers, it’s not your fault. It’s just the collective society not contributing its fair share to make life easier for you. You need government agencies to make things right so you can afford to take your kids to Disney World while someone else pays for your kids’ vaccinations and braces. Of course, it means a slight increase in taxes, but don’t worry because only "the rich" will have to pay them. By the way, politicians define "the rich" as anyone not currently on some form of social welfare.

You know, at one time my father worked five different jobs. This wasn’t because he was a serious workaholic, but rather because he needed the money to pay off the bills to my sister’s numerous eye surgeries. And while he now regrets not being able to spend enough time with my sister and I when we were growing up, he also knew it would have been worse for him if he simply let Theresa to grow up permanently blinded by glaucoma. He didn’t rely on government to pay the bills, he got it done himself.

But then again, that kind of thinking is supposed to be crass and self-centered.

Religion - You haven’t heard the news? We’re supposedly in a god-less society now! You can’t pray anywhere without the "humanist police" coming down on you! The world is spiritually bankrupt and needs an immediate infusion of the "right" kind of religion to save it!

Of all the groups that make up the scaremongers, religious crusaders are the original masters and inventors of scare tactics. Long before liberals ever heard of the word "civilized society", religious crusaders mastered the art of coercing the public to do their bidding. When lightning struck close to the prehistoric cave, the pre-civilized priest would jump up and say that the gods were angry because someone in the tribe wasn’t moral enough, or they didn’t make the right kind of sacrifice. Today’s religious crusaders aren’t any different in approach. Instead of lightning striking close to the cave, it’s reports of criminal activities and the natural overprotective paranoia of parents towards their children.

Ironically, in an overabundance of religious talk and religious zeal, the cry comes from the moralists that we don’t have enough religion. That’s like telling the passengers of the Titanic they don’t have enough sea water! The only reality is that their power base is being questioned, and they don’t like it one bit!

The media, of course, play willing accomplices to the scaremongers. They live for hype, and are quick to point out any deficiency in the human condition as long as it brings in the ratings. The minute any new "crisis" rears its ugly head, the politicians are always quick with some legislation or a new "crusade" to combat it. Their timing is sometimes suspect, and other times it’s a blatant PR move.

But the biggest perpetrators of this sad Barnum charade is the general public. We, after all, fall for this stuff time and time again. It really amazes me how we’re able to let the clown acts run the circus when they pull the same stunts every time. How many times do we have to see the "new crisis" plaguing society on TV and in the newspapers before we realize that it’s just a prelude to a legislative con?

Then again, maybe the public IS getting the message. Maybe that’s why we’ve become apathetic. Maybe that’s why more than half of the registered voters stayed home this past presidential election. Maybe the general public has gotten the message and have decided not to play their game.

One can only hope it is so.

Monday, November 24, 1997

Week of 11/24/1997

Target: Iraq
Iraq takes advantage of US weaknesses
- by David Matthews 2

This past week, we once again rattled sabers and exchanged words of war with Baghdad. The struggle began with Saddam Hussein barring US weapons inspectors from taking part with the joint United Nations inspection of all chemical and weapons installations. Inspecting those installations was one of the conditions of the Gulf War cease-fire, and the rest of the inspectors naturally believed that if the US contingent was being barred, then the others wouldn’t continue. When Iraq expelled all US inspectors from the country, the others inspectors followed.

The United States reacted harshly, and President Clinton sent warships to the Persian Gulf. The reaction of the UN, however, seemed to be one of frustration. Rightly so, since here was the leader of Iraq making trouble in a no-win situation.

By the end of the week, though, it was over. A deal negotiated by the Russians averted possible economic or military action and allowed the full UN inspection team to return to Iraq to continue with their mission of discovering and destroying weapons of mass destruction.

Let’s be brutally honest here. Saddam Hussein was looking for trouble, and he knew it. What did he have to lose? Nothing! Get into an armed conflict and some of his citizens die? So what? He doesn’t care about them. That’s so fewer people he has to worry about overthrowing him. Lose some of his weapons? So what? How many of his weapons were lost in the Gulf War?

On the other hand, he had everything to gain by this action. For starters, he challenged the resolve of the UN, and it faltered. The major nations such as China and Russia didn’t have to guts to support even economic actions. He embarrassed the United States by agreeing to a deal negotiated by Russia instead of kowtowing to the demands of the Clinton Administration. And in a best-case scenario, he could have removed some of the economic hindrances imposed from the Gulf War or neutralized the effectiveness of the UN weapons inspectors.

One would think that Hussein NEEDS to cause trouble with the rest of the world, because that’s the only way to get his people scared of someone besides him. The old Arabic saying that the enemy of my enemy is my friend is truly put to the test in Iraq.

What’s worse is that Hussein knows America’s weaknesses and takes advantage of them whenever possible! It’s not like we keep it a secret. We have a paranoid obsession with protecting women and children, and it’s something Hussein has played on even during the onset of the Gulf War. Consider the number of anti-American protests that feature women or children. Our obsession is our Achilles heel, and one that any tyrant, foreign or domestic, play on regularly.

The major problem the world has in dealing with a tyrant is that the tyrant can care less about his people as he does with his own self-preservation. The normal rules of diplomacy don’t apply here. The whole premise of economic sanctions is to create such a drain on the economy that the people of that country will demand change. It’s hard to create change, though, when you have a public that is scared into compliance. Just look at Cuba and how long we’ve had economic sanctions against that country. Hasn’t really worked, has it?

The sooner the more "socialized" nations realize that little fact, the closer we can get to understanding why leaders like Saddam Hussein are they way they are. Why should he change? No matter what we do, if he still lives and his people aren’t trying to throw him out of office, there’s no loss as far as he’s concerned.

Monday, November 17, 1997

Week of 11/17/1997

The Marriage Deluxe Plan
"Covenant" Marriages will cheapen marriage
- by David Matthews 2

Gather around, boys and girls, because what I have to offer to you will solve all your problems concerning your marriage!

You say you love your spouse, but do you REALLY love your spouse? If you do, then don’t delay - upgrade your marriage to the brand new Covenant Marriage Plan!

Yes, you too can be sure that your blessed union will be eternal and everlasting! With our new Covenant Marriage Plan, you won’t have to worry about your spouse deciding to just get a quickie no-fault divorce while you’re busy in the shower. Instead, you can rest assure that if your spouse decides to get a divorce, you’ll both have to go through hell and back before you’re single again.

So don’t delay! Upgrade your marriage today and show your significant other that you really, REALLY, love them! As a bonus, the first one thousand couples who upgrade their marriage will get a lifetime supply of Miracle Snake Oil, one thousand wooden nickels, and prime development swampland, and we’ll even throw in a bridge or two!

Ok folks, let’s get brutally honest here. Does anyone outside of the delusional religious crusaders think that divorce can be made harder to get simply by creating a "higher level" of marriage? Huh?

The funny part is all this is happening because the social and religious crusaders fear that divorce cheapens marriage! What a crock! Divorce doesn’t cheapen marriage, MARRIAGE cheapens marriage!

I can hear the arguments now from the insurance companies. "Oh, so you want to have your wife covered under your insurance policy? Well it’ll cost you more, because you only got married. You must not really love your wife, or else you would have gotten a covenant marriage."

How about the lending institutions? "We’re not going to be able to give you a home loan, because you two only got married. That mean you could get a divorce at any time, and that’s too unstable a risk for us. Now, if you got a covenant marriage, we’d know your relationship was rock solid, and we’d be all too happy to grand you your loan."

Of course, you know the jewelry companies will be going overboard on the notion. "What better way to say to your loved one that you plan on getting married FOR REAL with this new covenant marriage band? Perfect for when you’re serious about spending the rest of your life with your spouse."

Essentially, the notion of an extra-special level of marriage will cheapen marriage far more than divorce ever could! I can easily see churches refusing to grant marriages unless they were covenant marriages. I can see the social stigmatization of "regular" marriages on the grounds that the couples "just don’t love each other enough." I can see the same states that refuse to recognize homosexual marriages to no longer recognize "regular" marriages. In short, the whole concept of marriage will be blackened, and cheapened, in the moralist crusade to "save the institution of marriage."

Look, like the moralists, I see the institution of marriage to be a special union of two people. It’s existed for centuries in various cultures around the world, and even the notion that such a union can be dissolved through annulment or divorce has not diluted the importance of marriage itself.

So why are the moralists so intent of destroying marriage by creating another level of it? Simple. They no longer have control over marriage. Once upon a time they had it, just ask King Henry VIII. That guy couldn’t divorce his wives, so he had them executed. But that kind of power got lost when it became easier to get a divorce. It didn’t cheapen the institution of marriage as much as it took power away from the moralists who relied on it. So the moralists have been trying to retake that power by making divorce harder to get, and they haven’t really succeeded in that endeavor.

I’ve been lucky in that I’ve grown up in a family that does not believe in divorce. My parents have been married for thirty-one years now, through good times and bad. All of my relatives have equally held their marriages to be something special and not something to be dissolved on a whim. I also know that it’s hard for some people who have gone through divorce. But the moralists forget that while marriages can be made at the drop of a hat, it’s not that easy to get a divorce. Couples just don’t wake up one morning and say "I’m bored.. let’s get a divorce."

And for the champions of "family values" I have two words for you - Newt Gingrich! Remember him? The leader of the "Republican Revolution" first married his schoolteacher, then while she was in the hospital recovering from surgery, he gave her a notepad and dictated to her the terms of their divorce. This is the guy the moralists continue to defend simply because he’ll vote for their interests, even if he hasn’t always lived up to them.

Look, the solution to the "problem" of divorce does not come from government creating a new level of marriage or making divorce harder to get. It comes from the hearts of individuals deciding that marriage is something that should not be entered into lightly nor treated frivolously. When that happens, then, and only then, divorce will no longer be a "problem."

Monday, November 10, 1997

Week of 11/10/1997

Religion and Politics…
A toxic combination if there ever was one
- by David Matthews 2

If you’ve never heard of Dr. Demento, he’s a zany DJ who does parody and humorous songs for a nationwide audience. He gave comic entertainers like Weird Al Yankovic and Barnes & Barnes and Spike Jones plenty of air time. On his "Dementia Royale" cassette (Rhino Records, available at certain music stores) there is a track called "Religion and Politics" by Scott Beach. It’s not a song but rather a fast-talking story about the guy’s experience in a bar and a "debate" with a patron who kept saying they were all full of sh** but he wouldn’t say why. (Please note that while we all know he meant "shit" he never explicitly said it.. after all, this was being broadcast nationwide and you know how the FCC just hates people exercising their right to free speech.) It’s a rather lengthy diatribe, which Beach does in one breath, and to try and reproduce it even in text would do it a disservice.

Anyways, that song often comes to mind when the religious "wrong" pop up their smug little noses. I know you’re probably wondering why I constantly refer to them as the religious "wrong." Simply put, I consider these groups so conceited and self-righteous in their actions that I don’t even give them the benefit of referring to them by their position in the outdated one-dimensional political spectrum. These people consider themselves to be THE definitive standard of right and wrong for the world and feel that the world should be following THEIR dictates above those of anyone else.

Case in point - the proposed so-called "religious freedom" amendment to the Constitution. No, I’m not talking about the First Amendment. This is a NEW amendment that would supposedly strengthen the freedom of religion from what the Christian Coalition refers to as the "systematic persecution of Christians in America."


Yes, according to sponsors of this Amendment, who say that Christians are being "persecuted" for their religious beliefs because they can’t express them in certain public places such as schools.

Let’s be brutally honest here folks, if this is the length, breadth, width, depth, and extent of the complaints of the Christian Coalition, then they TRULY deserve to be referred to as the "religious wrong." Listening to religious crusaders whine because of their perceived limitations reminds me of spoiled brats who throw temper tantrums because they didn’t get the right amount of sprinkles on their triple-scoop banana sundae supreme. These people lack CLUE ONE as to what religious persecution REALLY is!

The joke about this issue is that Christians have had a long tradition of being the persecutors, not the persecuted. Who were the inquisitors in the Spanish Inquisition? Who led the witch trials in Europe and the colonies? Who led thousands of men and even children to their deaths in crusades trying to "save Jerusalem from the heathen?" Who supported slavery in the US, and then supported institutionalized discrimination in the South after slavery was abolished? Huh? Did you say "Christians?" You’re learning!

But as former chairman Ralph Reed and his ilk would whine and pout "But.. but.. that was then and this is now! You can’t judge us for what happened in the past!" OK, let’s look at more recent times:

  • In Louisiana one family challenged the public school’s policy of saying prayers at the start of the school day. The family was Lutheran, the majority of the community was Baptist. This family was subjected to harassment, social ostracization, and anonymous death threats. Who would the Christian Coalition say were the persecuted party? The Baptist community who wanted to impose their beliefs to everyone through the school system whether they were of the same religion or not? Or the Lutheran family who didn’t want to be exposed to that pressure and got harassed when trying to bring change?
  • Fast forward to Alabama. This past year a lone judge who demanded everyone in his court to participate in Christian prayer and had a copy of the Ten Commandments looming over the bench was taken to federal court. The federal judges told him to stop the mandated prayers in the court and to take down the Commandments. He complied with the first part, but refused to take down the Commandments. Worse yet, the governor not only objected but also threatened to call out the state police and the National Guard to prevent federal agents from carrying out that decision. The Christian Coalition also managed to get Congress to support the governor’s decision, claiming the judge was being "persecuted." The same judge who had an unapologetic bias against all non-Christians and would force THEM to participate in HIS prayers while refusing to allow them to follow suit because, in the judge’s own words, "they don’t follow God!"
  • How about one county in South Carolina where the local school board wanted to have a copy of the ten commandments in every classroom? When asked if such a measure would offend Buddhists or Muslims, one member of the school board said "screw the Buddhists, and kill the Muslims, and you can put that in the minutes!" The following meeting he apologized for his statements causing such a stir and clarified that he doesn’t believe Buddhism or Islam are really religions, but rather cults. He may be free to vent his opinions, and he’s welcome to them, but if his definition of a cult is any religion that doesn’t follow his particular religion, then he apparently is not qualified to serve in any government body where you take an oath to protect the Constitution of the United States! Now if South Carolina wants to secede from the Union all over again and form their own little theocratic country, I’m sure he’ll be in hog heaven, and they’ll be welcome to it!

That is not to say, however, that there aren’t REAL acts of persecution against Christians. However, you have to go outside of America to see such instances. Countries where there are no guarantees of religious freedom and certainly no separation of church and state. You would think that these would serve as a lesson to the religious wrong, but that little fact just can’t get thought the lead-lined stained colored glasses they constantly wear to protect their fragile mentalities from reality.

The real problem with this amendment is it would give the freedom of religion the one thing no constitutional right has - absolute freedom! In a larger context, absolute freedom might be a lofty goal, but to single out only one of our constitutional guarantees and say that freedom is absolute without question nullifies all other constitutional rights. Freedom of speech would be the first right to fall thanks to this proposed amendment. Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech go together like gasoline and matches. Religion has traditionally been AGAINST free speech, so you know if the religious wrong get their way you will see that freedom go up in smoke! But it wouldn’t be alone. Soon other freedoms will fall by the wayside - all in the name of absolute freedom of religion!

So what would be the message for those who come to America if this proposed amendment is passed? "Welcome to America, where you’re free to pray to whatever God you choose, but only as long as you remember that this is a CHRISTIAN country, with laws enacted by CHRISTIANS, and honor only CHRISTIAN holidays. Your children are welcome to attend our schools, but only as long as you remember that its curriculum will follow that of the dominant religion - which is CHRISTIANITY! Oh, and if you do have to pray it had better follow our prayer schedules, or else you’ll disrupt our activities and end up in prison! God bless y’all!"

Look, there’s a reason why the founding fathers set up something called the separation of church and state. And the Christian Coalition and like-minded religious groups are living examples why it is.

When the First Amendment says Congress shall not "establish" a religion, it goes more than just a title basis. The establishment of religion goes deep in society, and is more than just a cosmetic title but also reflected in how government acts in accordance to the people it governs. American currency did not say "In God We Trust" until after the 1950’s, when religious crusaders used patriotism and fear of communism as an excuse to push their theocratic beliefs down everyone’s throats. The Pledge of Allegiance did not have the words "Under God" until then either, for just the same reasons. The fact that Congress still convenes each session with a prayer is further proof as to how religious crusaders have already established their religion in society.

I know this seems strange, to have a man who was raised Catholic and studied theology with Benedictine monks to bash religious crusaders, but you have to realize I am not bashing anyone’s religion, simply how they use that religion. I believe that religion is much like a shield, designed to reflect your personal beliefs and to protect you from things you would otherwise consider to be harmful. Instead, many crusaders use their religion as a sword to strike down that which they disagree with, which is certainly not the way of those who claim to be Christians.

Religion by legislation is nothing more than theocratic laziness at best, and tyrannical bullying at worst. Instead of swaying people by the power of their arguments, the religious crusaders use the power of government to compel others to follow their convictions. And neither religion nor government can find it within themselves to admit they are ever wrong. After all, it took the Catholic Church centuries to say that PERHAPS they were wrong in threatening Galileo and Copernicus with excommunication for even suggesting the Earth rotated around the sun.

Separation of church and state is a must in order to have true religious freedom. The ink wasn’t even dry on the Bill of Rights when many states violated religious freedom by passing laws that either banned or expelled Quakers, whose only crime was having religious beliefs different from the dominant religion of the area. (Ironically, its the Quakers that eventually created our correctional system.) The mentality of the religious wrong hasn’t changed since then, because they still believe themselves to be absolutely and unquestionably right.

Religion by legislation is an arrogant and bloody legacy for ALL Christians from the days of the Roman Empire, and will continue to haunt and stain them until the day comes when they realize that religion that works best does not come from government force, but rather freely from the hearts of individuals.

It’s easy to see how religious leaders are drawn to politics. After all, both involve wielding power over groups of people. That kind of power is subtly seductive to the wielder. Many a leader, both religious and political, have fallen prey to it’s lure. Lord Acton said it best when he said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We need the mechanisms in place to ensure that neither group get absolute power.

Monday, November 3, 1997

Week of 11/03/1997

Congressional Quagmire
No outrage over campaign finance, just expectations met
- by David Matthews 2

This past week, the chairman of the Senate judiciary hearings investigating campaign finance abuses announced that the proceedings have lost steam, and probably will not continue past the end of the year.

This has many conservatives in a tizzy. After all, this was their chance to finally nail the Clinton Administration with something illegal.

Conservatives like Rush Limbaugh are upset and are trying to point the finger of blame on the public. After all, the whole purpose of the hearings was to bring about public outrage. Show the whole world that Bill Clinton and Al Gore were so desperate for campaign funds that they prostituted themselves to whomever would give them money. That way the public would vote against whomever the Democrats pick to succeed Clinton, namely Al Gore. Nothing new here. In fact, I mentioned this in previous articles.

But something else happened that the pundits and talking heads didn’t expect… apathy. The public just doesn’t care about the hearings!

So Limbaugh and his ilk are scratching their swelled heads and blithering on like idiots saying perhaps the public isn’t really informed enough. They can’t really blame the media for not reporting the events because the media has taken great pains to point out how much money is being spent and by whom and for what. The media live for this stuff, so they certainly aren’t going to whitewash it.

Then the swelled heads suggest that perhaps the public just isn’t mad enough. All the more reason, they would argue, to keep the hearings going! After all, there are scores of Asian contributors still in hiding, refusing to provide testimony to the committee. If they can just find those people and bring them to Washington and have them in front of the cameras then the public will get the full story.

Look folks, here’s the brutally honest reason why the general public doesn’t care about the hearings - because it only serves to reinforce current assumptions about politicians!

Let’s face it, we’ve always assumed politicians to be simply political prostitutes selling their votes for whomever would contribute to their reelection funds. And the incumbents are getting more money for this upcoming election than ever before. It’s gotta come from somewhere.

And with each public piece of evidence against the Clinton Administration that is revealed, the Democrats play their game of Mutual Assured Destruction and pull out some footage from the Reagan Administration or the Bush Administration showing something similar that happened then. Each move carefully countered like a corrupt duet of "Anything you can do I can do better."

If anything, the hearings only served to reveal the true nature of politicians, exposing their additions to money and power. The best characterization of politicians comes from Richard Jordan’s character in the movie "The Hunt for Red October" when he says "I’m a politician, which means I’m a liar and a thief, and when I’m not out there kissing babies, I’m taking away their lollipops."

So what is the public to do? Given the nature of the zero-sum mentality that the politicians reinforce on the public, there is little for the public to do. Any choice they make either for a democrat or a republican will not change the political environment one iota more. The only "acceptable" choice left is the one the clear majority of voters made in 1996 - to stay home and not vote.

Ironic, isn’t it? The voter apathy the politicians count on come election time is the same apathy that the swelled heads and politicians are now cursing at! And the really fun part is they have nobody to blame but themselves!

Monday, October 27, 1997

Week of 10/27/1997

Target: Microsoft
Anti-trust? Or Anti-Success?
- by David Matthews 2

Some would say Microsoft had it coming.

This week, the Department Of Justice filed suit in federal court that the software giant has violated a 1995 consent decree concerning licensing practices. Specifically, Janet Reno is balking at how Microsoft is requiring PC manufacturers to carry it’s Internet Explorer browser as part of the Windows 95 operating system.

The timing of this action, however, comes within weeks after the debut of Internet Explorer 4.0. Microsoft’s newest browser is not just a stand-alone browser, but integrates itself within the operating system more than any of its earlier versions. The bookmarks, for instance, can be found on the "Start" button instead of having to go to the browser first. Searching the "My Computer" icon can now be done as a web page instead of the classic plain window. Even the desktop can be used to display web pages, stock reports, weather, or even display GIF or JPEG images, in what Microsoft calls an "Active Desktop." All of which the competition (Netscape) can’t provide.

No wonder why the competition is screaming "foul!"

But is it really violating anti-trust laws?

Let’s be brutally honest here. Microsoft’s Windows is the king of PC operating systems. Period. Sure, there’s still IBM’s OS/2 Warp, but how many people are willing to swear their computer by it? Or worse yet, how many programmers would be willing to swear their software by it? No, if you want PC software, it’s either designed for Windows 3.x, Windows 95, or Windows NT.

Naturally Microsoft is playing hardball with the browsers. Bill Gates and Microsoft got caught napping when it came to the Internet, which played off heavily for companies like Netscape and Sun Microsystems. While Microsoft was trying to create its own online service, Netscape created an Internet browser at the start of the Internet fervor. While Microsoft was trying to come up with its own browser, Sun created a programming language called Java that, according to its own PR, was a universal language for the Internet. "Write once, read anywhere." Sound familiar?

Interesting, then, to hear that when Microsoft plays catch-up, the competition screams "MONOPOLY!" Why isn’t the Department of Justice going after Sun for exercising its exclusive control over Java? Or when Netscape was the standard, why wasn’t Janet Reno’s troops going after them? Perhaps the answer lies not in who is engaging in a "monopoly" than who has the fatter wallet.

Microsoft is a success story that puts all others to shame. Who would have guessed that in the span of two decades that the world of computers would turn a college dropout named Bill Gates into a multi-billionaire that would put even old money in second place? And apparently with success like that comes jealousy. Why else would there be the liberal desire for what they call "income redistribution"?

But perhaps there are other reasons behind this suit. After all, Microsoft has told the Clinton Administration to drop dead at least twice. The first time came when Microsoft took part in the lawsuit against the Communications Decency Act. The second came just this month, when Microsoft officially sided against the President’s anti-encryption policy. If the IRS has a questionably partisan sense of timing when it comes to auditing Paula Jones, it doesn’t take too much of an imagination to speculate that the DOJ is suing Microsoft for purely political reasons either.

That’s not to say there may not be clear and credible evidence of anti-trust violations. If the claims by Compaq and others are true, and Microsoft has engaged in essentially corporate bullying tactics, let the facts come out in a court of law, not the court of public opinion.

But enough speculation. Janet Reno says that Microsoft should tell their users they can use any browser they want? NO KIDDING! Maybe Reno should look at who is STILL ruling in the browser department. It isn’t Microsoft! Janet Reno wants Microsoft to tell people how to remove IE if they want to? Guess what? It only takes a couple of mouse clicks to the "Add/Remove Programs" icon to do that!

Perhaps they use nothing but OS/2 Warp at the DOJ? Or worse yet, maybe Apple II and the occasional Tandy TRS-80?

If Janet Reno wants a quick solution, I have one for her. Perhaps Microsoft should add a new program called the "Sheep" feature, where clicking it brings the following message:

"Dear Microsoft Users,

"The United States Department Of Justice is requiring us to inform you of some things you may not be aware of. They believe that you are nothing but sheep, following whatever program we provide for you. We, of course, believe you are more intelligent that that, but they keep taking us to court on that basis. So we have no choice but to send this message to any sheep-like users out there.

"You may not be aware of several programs that come with Windows that you can include or delete at your leisure. We are letting you know now that you can. That is your choice, and we won’t be hurt in the least if you do.

"However, according to the US Department Of Justice, you are unable to do that. Therefore, in all fairness to them and our competition, we will give you the chance right now.

"Click on the button below, and all things Microsoft will go away. Everything we have included that has the name ‘Microsoft’ on it will be removed from your system, save of course, for your core operating system. That way you will be free to install any and all programs you want from our competition without any guilt."

There! A lawyer-like solution to a mess that was created by lawyers!

Monday, October 20, 1997

Week of 10/20/1997

What is Personal Responsibility?
It’s been blown way out of proportion
- by David Matthews 2

I recently heard an annoying radio commercial for an auto repair shop in Atlanta. The announcer was talking like he was the engine of a car, bemoaning the owner to take him for a tune-up and paint-job. Every time he ends his rants by saying "C’mon, show some RESPONSIBILITY in your life!"

I always know when something has been so blown out of proportion when Madison Avenue starts using it for advertising. And why not? After all, by the time the advertisers get hold of it, the very meaning has already been fatally bludgeoned by scriptwriters and spin doctors for their own purposes.

Take, for instance, the concept of "family values." A nice vague term used by conservatives and religious crusaders to campaign for or against anything they want. School prayer, censorship, states rights, cutting the federal government, trying to establish one religious belief over all others, fathers rights, mothers rights, abortion, sex education, adoption, foster care… you name it, they’ll wrap it up and call it "family values." And once those two words got used ad infinitum and ad nausium by the politicians, spin doctors, and crusaders, it became the tool for Madison Avenue to sell everything from detergent to law firms.

Well now the vague term is "personal responsibility." Tobacco companies, for instance, are now told they are to be responsible for the health of their customers, and will have to shell out billions of dollars to federal and state agencies. President Clinton has bastardized "personal responsibility" to mean whatever he wants it to mean, and while he wasn’t the only one to do it, nobody has done it more publicly than he has.

So what really is personal responsibility?

Well, let’s start by saying what personal responsibility is NOT, and that’s blame assessment. Personal responsibility is not about pointing fingers and saying "YOU need to do act this way" or "YOU should have done this." Too many lawyers, politicians, and well meaning but misguided social crusaders have turned personal responsibility into blame assessment, and that’s not what it’s all about.

The best way to describe what personal responsibility is rests with four simple words: "It’s up to me."

If I want a job, it’s up to me to get one. The folks in the Strive program in New York know that. That’s the secret of their success in getting people off welfare and working. If my niece or my young cousins are visiting and I don’t want them to have access to inappropriate materials, it’s up to me to make sure the safeguards are there and to know how to use them. The locks are there on the satellite dish and on my Internet browsers, and I know how to use them.

That’s what personal responsibility is really all about.

Ironically, there are folks who think that this definition is self-centered. They would much rather be contented with finger-pointing and blame assessing. After all, why be responsible for your actions when you can blame someone or something else? Why be responsible for your smoking-related health problems when you can blame it on the "evil tobacco industry"? Never mind the fact that there have been countless warnings about health problems for the past thirty years. Why be responsible for your drinking when you can blame it on the "evil alcohol industry" for advertising their services? You probably didn’t even pay too much attention to the ads, and it likely doesn’t influence your choice to get drunk, but that doesn’t matter, does it?

Saying "it’s up to me" to do something gives us a sense of empowerment, a feeling that we CAN change things. And that’s rather scary for some folks! Think about what would happen if the people en masse said "if I want money, it’s up to me to get a job." Think about the government bureaucracy that would be affected knowing that the unemployment rate would be next to zero. We have people crossing the US borders from Mexico in droves looking for work, and yet we have US citizens who go though job after job simply because they’re carrying an attitude about working. And these are the people who then turn around and blame their lack of work on everything except themselves.

Listen, it’s not always easy to say "it’s up to me" to so something. I should know. But once you realize that it really is just up to you, no excuse in the world will stop you from doing it.

Monday, October 13, 1997

Week of 10/13/1997

New World Order?
We’re supposed to be afraid of.. the world?
- by David Matthews 2

Had an unusual message come through the libertarian newsgroups a couple of weeks ago. It came from someone who objected to the platform statement of the Libertarian Party. Nothing new there, the newsgroups have been taking hits from "trolls" for a while now. It’s a regular occurrence for someone to come in, say that the Libertarian Party is a waste, or that libertarians are idealistic dreamers who have no concept of the real world, and then leave. Sometimes they even stick around just long enough to banter with those who counter their arguments, but only those who respond with knee-jerk reactions or insults.

One of these "troll" messages had an unusual twist to it - the implied threat of some "new world order" coming in and taking over the country. The "new world order" fear is nothing new, but I guess it brought out something that needs to be addressed.

Ten years ago I was asked by the local television station on my thoughts about the anniversary of the United Nations. I told the reporter that I thought it was a good start, but it needed improvement. She asked how, but at the time I didn’t have the answer. Now I do, and it’s the same reason why I’m not afraid of some "new world order" invading us any time soon.

The reason why the United Nations has been somewhat of a failure is that it has been unable to properly govern the nations of the world!

Oh sure, the UN can whip out a humanitarian effort every now and then. But how about some of the more serious cases such as Somalia or Bosnia? Even with their own military forces, the UN has been stymied to actually DO something in cases where military action was needed! Instead they call on good ol’ Uncle Sam to help bail them out.

And we’re supposed to be afraid that these guys will invade US?

Let’s be brutally honest here, we’ve got too many countries that are so ethnocentric that they can’t even consider working with their neighbors never mind trying to be part of some "new world order" so they can take over America. We have countries like France and Canada who are petrified that the French language will be replaced with English that they are suing companies that use only English on the Internet. These countries are actually afraid of US! We have as much chance of these guys invading us as we do seeing Newt Gingrich do the two-step with Barney Frank!

What I am worried about, however, is the influx of AMERICANS who want to subvert everything this country stands for. Forget the mythical black UN helicopters, let’s worry about the politicians who decide that constitutional rights are a myth. Let’s worry about whether or not we will actually balance the federal budget instead of making hay about invaders from other countries who can’t even afford to keep their OWN country in order!

And for those of you who think a "one world government" would be a good thing, you have to remember that having there’s more involved than just getting a bunch of dignitaries together and claiming you’re some international governing body. It takes leadership, it takes determination, and it take commitment to get the job done even if it means stepping on some toes! The next time you’re on an ARMED military escort carrying food and supplies through a war zone, and the local would-be rebel troops tell you that you can’t cross their line, your first order shouldn’t be "call the secretary-general" but rather to "LOCK AND LOAD!" You’re not stepping on toes when the local pissant on a power-binge decides to make life that much harder for you. They’ve already stepped on your toes! Those guns aren’t there for decoration! They’re there so those soldiers can do what they’re trained to do, and that is kick ass and let someone else bury the remains!

In short, it would be nice to think there could be a united world government. However, for now I would throw such sentiments in with other utopian dreams. It’s something nice to think about, but unrealistic to actually implement.

Monday, October 6, 1997

Week of 10/06/1997

Of Binges and Prohibition Boneheads
What those who failed to learn now comes back to haunt them
- by David Matthews 2

Beer, wine, mixed drinks, wine coolers, malt liquor. The nature of alcohol is as intoxicating as the substance. It’s the only place where you can actually ask for "sex on the beach" and not get arrested for indecent exposure. Where commenting on a "fuzzy nipple" won’t result in the waitress slapping you. Where you can "climb the mountains" and go for the "gusto" and actually have a debate between "less filling" and "taste great." And where three frogs, two lizards, and one dog named Spuds have been turned into media icons.

But like anything else in the world, alcohol can lead to excess. Casual drinking can turn into binge drinking. And binge drinking can lead to death.

This past month, two separate universities have had to handle cases where a student literally drank himself to death. Of course, these events have made the national headlines, especially in light of the recent death of Princess Diana and how her driver was five times over the legal limit of intoxication. So the media, in its hypersensitive and hyperactive state, has focused its bloodshot and myopic eyes towards binge drinking and the college students who do that. We’re heard from doctors, administrators, casual alcohol drinkers, and of course today’s Prohibition crusaders who want the world to go dry.

We’ve got the who, the when, the where, and the how.. there’s just one thing missing: WHY people binge drink!

Okay boys and girls, pay close attention now because what I have to say is not only brutally honest, but is important. Like many of today’s Prohibition crusaders, I’ve thought about why college folks drink to get drunk. I couldn’t come up with an answer. I’ve waited tables at the campus pub, I’ve served drinks behind the bar, and I’ve taken alcohol awareness courses from Bartenders Against Drunk Driving. But when it came to why my academic brethren were getting blitzed just for the sake of getting blitzed, I was clueless.

Then I realized something: I was trying to come up with a rational explanation to something that wasn’t at all rational!

Understand that there are two facets of thinking - primal and intellectual. The primal deals with everything that goes on right here and now. What we see, hear, taste, feel, and otherwise sense in the real world right this moment. The intellectual deals with everything that isn’t connected to the here and now. That’s the side that deals with image, dreams, fantasy, ideas, goals, theology, philosophy. These two sides are supposed to work together in a form of balance or equilibrium. Operative words being "supposed to work together." Because the intellectual side of us deals in absolutes and ideal situations, however, it has this tendency to want to take over everything. It can be quite power-hungry.

Sometimes, and in some people, this overbearing facet of our mind will preclude us from enjoying the moment. After all, enjoying the moment or having fun resides in the realm of the primal, and that often conflicts with our intellectual ideas and goals. And since we presume that the intellectual side is superior, it will often ruin any attempt to enjoy the moment.

So we have one of two solutions: either we allow our intellectual mind to ruin our lives for us, or we find a way to suppress it. And that brings us to alcohol.

Alcohol is a depressant, despite the fact that some folks are more rowdy when drunk, because it suppresses certain sections of the brain. Balance, coordination, and dexterity, are all affected, but the number one reason why alcohol appeals to people is because it suppresses the intellectual mind! It puts that overbearing, power-hungry, tyrant of anything concerned with fun to sleep!

And that is why Prohibition crusaders will never learn from their failed lessons, because they don’t realize that the problem is not alcohol, but rather with our fanatic reliance on the notion that every situation is an intellectual one. They deal in unrealistic ideals, which is fine for them because the intellectual mind cannot handle reality! Reality rests solely in the realm of the primal, something these people consider to be inherently evil.

Look, I realize that drinking just to get drunk is stupid. But until we recognize the reason WHY we get drunk, we will never find any sound and effective solutions to the problem. Instead, those same Prohibition crusaders will push for more unrealistic restrictions on an otherwise legal substance for adults, and will never get even remotely close to solving the problem.

Prohibition does not work! It didn’t work in the 1920’s, and it will not work today!