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.