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!