Monday, January 27, 1997

Week of 01/27/1997

On Bashing Libertarianism..
It’s open season on libertarians - so what else is new?
- by David Matthews 2

MSNBC, the television and online network created by NBC and Microsoft, has a nightly show dedicated to computers, technology, and the Internet called "The Site." You would expect that such a show would be open-minded on many issues involving the new technology and the changes going on in society.

So when The Site announced that it was participating in an online debate about libertarianism, I was hoping to finally find someplace where the concepts of libertarianism would be at least welcomed. Boy was I in for a surprise! Oh, it got welcomed, much like the women cadets of VMI got welcomed - with a critical eye layered in bias and ready to pounce on the slightest hint of imperfection.

The Site gave preference to those who were critical of libertarianism by placing their articles on the forefront for users to access. They did make mention of those who supported libertarianism - but you had to dig for those references past a ton of criticism under the guise of journalistic impartiality. Whatever reservations that I had about the bias of the media were quickly removed by watching this online version of the Spanish Inquisition take place.

Of course, there were plenty of libertarians who came to the defense of this ever-growing philosophy. I myself even made my displeasure known of the situation. And yet the volume of criticism continued unabated.

Then came word that MSNBC will be conducting an interview with Charles Murray about his new book about libertarianism. Now the news would be considered optimistic, except that the author’s last book was "The Bell Curve" - a publication which was to racists what a book burning is to religious activists. It would be naïve of me to assume that the position of MSNBC would be anything but a modern-day witch-hunt, with them as Roy Cohn.

So why is it that libertarianism has become the new punching bag for members of the media? Perhaps part of that reason came from the 1996 presidential campaign when Harry Browne, candidate for the Libertarian Party, decided to get the attention of the media by focusing radio commercials in Washington DC. It resulted in more press-time, but now it also meant that it was something for the more liberal and conservative members to target. And the liberal members of the media are reviling in being able to finally take pot-shots at another movement, especially after the grilling they have been getting from conservatives. It’s the case of the big bully picking on the little bully who then picks on his little brother.

Let me be the first to say that libertarianism is not for everyone, even though the philosophy is designed for everyone. It’s strange to see that a philosophy that adopts the good points of both liberalism and conservatism is yet ruthlessly despised by both. Yet it also adopts points that both factions despise, namely personal responsibility and tolerance. Liberals seem to define personal responsibility as being able to blame everyone excepts other liberals. And conservatives seem to have about as much tolerance for opposing viewpoints as Archie Bunker did for his son-in-law.

And perhaps we should consider that for too many years liberals and conservatives have been able to enjoy the pleasure of a black-and-white, one-or-the-other mentality. Yes or no. That’s it, take it or leave it. Centrists or moderates were forced to chose between liberals and conservatives, or else stay on the sidelines and do nothing. Now along comes a new option - libertarianism - and it threatens to disturb that twisted balance we call the political spectrum. Looking it at that perspective, it’s no wonder why these groups hate libertarianism. Libertarianism is to traditional politics what CNN was to the nightly news.

Yet at the same time something good can come from this media inquisition. Namely it will have the same effect as banning books did - it’ll get more people to look at it. But it won’t happen as long as the media continue their criticisms unanswered. Libertarians and those leaning towards libertarianism need to call the bluff of these critics and reply with as much vigor as possible. Go to The Site and post your response. Watch MSNBC and e-mail them when they bash libertarians. When a newspaper’s editorial staff talk about libertarians as being a radical faction of either liberals or conservatives, send them a letter to the editor to set the record straight.

Let me also entertain this thought - a more libertarian society is a goal, not necessarily the means to it’s own end. Liberals didn’t get to change society overnight, and the conservatives are finding out they can’t either. So what makes people think that if libertarians get into Congress that all of a sudden government would collapse? Libertarianism operates on the belief of less government, but also on the belief that people will have to turn to themselves first to resolve problems. And let’s face it, as long as people think more like libertarians, the only "Big Brother" they’ll have to worry about will be their family members and not some tyrannical government straight from George Orwell’s book "1984."

And for all those critics out there who DO read this article, let me say that libertarianism is no more naïve a philosophy than some of the stuff liberals and conservatives churn out from their own rose-colored "Mister Smith goes to Washington" glasses. It’s no more fantastic a principle than the liberal theory of "It takes a whole village to raise a child," and no more outlandish than the conservative theory that everyone should be held to the same moral standards that by no coincidence happens to reflect their standards.

Let hunting season commence…

Monday, January 20, 1997

Week of 01/20/1997

Dear President Clinton..
An open letter
- by David Matthews 2

Dear President Clinton,

By the time this article is available to the public you will be taking the oath of office for a second time. Who would have thought it possible that you would be re-elected two years ago, especially after the scathing defeat of your democratic brethren to the republicans?

Anyways, we all know this second ceremony is merely a formality for you - you already have the job and we already know what to expect from you for the next four years. We both know this is just another chance for you to smile and look presidential while watching every Republican who ever desired for your job squirm. But while you’re going to be taking the oath of office for the second time, let’s take a minute to go over it. After all it is an important oath to take.

"I," - state your name here - "do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Simple, right? But there is that one little bit that you seem to have a problem with: "will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

You remember the Constitution, right? It’s the document that enables you to BE the President of the United States. There’s a lot of important things in the Constitution besides the part that covers your job. We call them Amendments. Maybe if we called them Commandments your conservative associates would pay more respect to them. Let’s go over a few, shall we?

The FIRST Amendment says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Now, which part does your administration not seem to understand? Bear in mind that you have supported and enacted measures that will restrict the freedom of speech through the Communications Decency Act. You KNEW such measures were in violation of the Constitution, yet you allowed it to be passed, you signed it into law, and you continue to defend it to this day. Is this what you define as preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution?

The SECOND Amendment says "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Aside from arguments about defines a Militia, one would assume that defending a free State would also fall upon those who uphold the law - namely the police. Yet you enacted a law that would have hundreds of police officers give up their Arms because they have been convicted of domestic abuse - essentially punishing a person TWICE for the same crime.

The FOURTH Amendment says "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Now I realize you politicians hate this particular amendment with venom, but that DOES include electronic information, such as encryption. So why is it that your administration is so aggressively pushing for the keys to all electronic encryption? Essentially that is like asking all homeowners to give the police they house keys and saying "Oh, WE’LL never use it unless we suspect something BAD is going to happen. You can trust us!" This Amendment wasn’t written because of trust in the government. On the contrary, it was written because of the ABUSE of it’s prior government. So what part of this Amendment do you not understand?

Then there’s the TENTH Amendment, which states "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." This past November the people of California and Arizona passed laws giving the doctors the LEGAL RIGHT to prescribe marijuana for medicinal purposes only. And yet your administration is not only dead set against this, but are willing to prosecute doctors who are following what has been made LEGAL BY THE PEOPLE. Now, which part of this Amendment do you not understand?

It’s painfully apparent, Mister President, that you either are ignorant of the meaning that oath, or else you are shamefully negligent in fulfilling it.

It is also a shame, sir, that you have to be reminded about the Constitution, especially given all the lawyers you have in your administration - not to mention your wife’s vocation, and those currently defending you from possible civil and criminal prosecutions. Then again, perhaps it is because of all those lawyers that you seem to have no idea about the Constitution and what it means.

So on the third Monday of January at the start of the new presidential term, when you step up to the podium, raise your hand in the air, and speak the oath of office, by all means think about those words for a minute, and the document that it represents. After all, it’s the one that allows you to be the man you are today.

Monday, January 13, 1997

Week of 01/13/1997

Disney Pet Peeves
- by David Matthews 2

Before Christmas I was the only person in my family who never ever went to Disney World. My parents went a few years ago. My sister went twice. In all those times I was the one who ended up staying at home to watch the house. So my parents decided to change that this time and take me to Disney World the day after our Christmas visit to my sister in Key West. "Merry Christmas," I was told.

Now, in all honesty I’d have to say I had an overall blast at Disney World. I came back home happy and relaxed and ready to hit the work that awaited me. The people at the Swan and Dolphin hotels were first rate. Fair warning for people - if you’re going, don’t scrimp on the money! Bring your credit card and don’t be afraid to use it!

Having said that, however, I found there were a few things that took away from some of that enjoyment that should be standard for any Disney theme park. These are in no order of importance, and of course not everything on it is the fault of Disney.

Water - I wondered why the sale of bottled water was one of the most valuable commodities in the whole Disney park until I took a sip of water from the drinking fountain. The water tasted like sulfur! No wonder why Disney was able to get away with selling bottled water at $2 a pop! And it wasn’t just in the parks, but also in the hotel too. It would be somewhat of an embarrassment for Disney to have to spend all the money putting up a first-class establishment only to have piped in water that tastes horrible.

The Lines - With the exception of being at the Swan and Dolphin, EVERYTHING had a line to it. You wait in line to get to the park. You wait in line to get IN the park. You wait in line at all the restaurants. You wait in line to get inside all the exhibits and rides. You even have to wait in line to get OUT of the park. About the only place that didn’t have a line was the bathroom - and that’s because everyone spent all their time waiting in other lines!

"Turbulent Experience" - Excuse me Disney folks, but do you think you could find yet ANOTHER theme "ride" that straps us down in flight chairs and shakes us up like soda cans while giving us another theatrical presentation designed to make us sicker than a roller coaster? Huh? How about another ride that gives out instructions that sound identical to the ones airline hostesses give when you’re about to go on a flight? Do you think that’s possible? I’m sorry, but the better Disney rides didn’t involve being herded into small cars, banged about on all sides by the seats and the people next to me, and left wanting to chuck the $20 lunch I ate.

People and Strollers - Now THIS was one part I didn’t care for. I realize that both Disneyland and Disney World are internationally known and are an attraction to people of all ages. But I also know I couldn’t move two steps without a family of ten or twenty cutting in front of me with strollers! I am, by in large, a patient man, but to have every parent with stroller who think they have the right of way cut in front of me taxed even MY limits! Excuse me Mr. and Mrs. Bradford, I realize that eight is no longer enough for you, but somewhere in your major family reunion tour you could remember that having a stroller (or two, or three, or four..) is NOT an excuse for getting in people’s way?

Lastly I would like to say three things to the folks at Walt Disney World. First, Happy 25th Anniversary. Second, EXPAND, don’t just add more features and rides. Give the people some breathing room so they can really enjoy the experience of being there instead of having to see everything though herded lines! And third - thank you for the time I did spend there.

Monday, January 6, 1997

Week of 01/06/1997

Of Terrorism and Threats of Terror…
- by David Matthews 2

For nearly an hour I sat in my car just outside the Incredible Universe store in Duluth, Georgia. I was waiting in my car because somebody phoned in a bomb threat, and the police had evacuated the store for the safety of all involved. I was waiting in line at checkout when people were being told to get out of the store. Needless to say I didn’t make my purchases. After an hour the police were chasing away EVERYONE who didn’t work at the store, whether or not they had purchases waiting inside the store, so I left. Incredible Universe would not get a sale for me, even though they were at one point only minutes away from doing so.

As I drove the hour-long trip back to my house in Gainesville, I thought about how utterly STUPID the bomb threat was. The threat wouldn’t hurt the store any more than it has earlier this week. The Tandy Corporation, the owners of the Incredible Universe chain, had already decided to either sell off or shut down ALL of it’s IU stores - the Duluth store was already going out of business. If anyone with half a brain wanted to hurt someone for this corporate decision, they would have gone after Tandy through their "bread-and-butter" chain, namely Radio Shack. (Note: I don’t advocate anyone doing just that. I am rather fond of Radio Shack myself, and I wouldn’t want to repeat this same situation in every mall I go to.)

Whoever the fool was, no doubt he or she was simply acting out of frustration. Perhaps an employee who, like the hundreds others, were led to believe that the business would grow. The Duluth store wasn’t even open for a year and already it was going to be shut down. Imagine the surprise of people who spend the time going through it’s orientation, being told of it’s benefits and opportunities, only to be told that no matter how hard they worked, and how profitable the store was, they were all going to be out of work.

In many ways, I can also see how this frustration spells out in another act of terror going on elsewhere in the world.

In Lima, Peru, 74 people are being held hostage in the Japanese Embassy by a rebel organization calling itself the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, known locally as the MRTA. Chief in their demands has been the release of some 300 members of the MRTA being held in Peruvian jails, a demand that apparently will go in vain since President Alberto Fujimori has rejected such an idea at least as long as the hostage situation remains.

It may seem a stretch of the imagination to link the bomb threat in Duluth with the hostage situation in Lima, but consider the overall frustration that feeds both situations. MRTA rebels strike out of frustration in changes they cannot begin to control. They strike out of futility, often causing more harm than good. Even this situation, even though it brings the eyes of the world upon them, does little to cast them in favorable light, nor will it hasten the political and social changes they so desperately want to have.

Ironically, in another part of the world, another form of frustration could very well lead to positive changes. In Belgrade, Yugoslavia, hundreds of people have made a daily protest against the continued refusal of Serbian leader Slobadan Milosevic to recognize defeat in their recent election. The protesters have marched peacefully for seven weeks now, never getting violent, only repeating their demands that Milosevic accept defeat and step down from office. No hostages have been taken, no bombs detonated or threatened, and the only violence coming from the seven week vigil was when supporters of Milosevic’s Socialist Party attacked the crowds. And the growing pressure not only from inside but outside the country has already cost Milosevic the support of one of his key political allies- Nebojsa Covic, mayor of Belgrade who resigned from his job to support the protesters.

The point being made is that frustration, when vented into non-violent activities, can yield positive changes. Not through hostage-taking, and certainly not through empty bomb threats to stores that are already doomed to closing. This lesson is not new, it has been proven time and time again by people such as Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luthor King Jr.- who used non-violence to bring about positive changes.

Still, those who do not learn the lessons of history are forever doomed to repeat them. The people in Belgrade have learned this lesson. Hopefully the rebels in Peru will as well, otherwise they will be doomed to share the fate of the brethren they want released from jail.