Monday, January 26, 1998

Week of 01/26/1998

Sex, Lies, and Clinton
Same old, same old
- by David Matthews 2

The news this past week surrounded sex. The 25th anniversary celebrating (or condemning, depending on your stance) Roe Vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, was shadowed by the ongoing scandal that is William Jefferson Clinton, president of the United States of America. Did he have an affair with an intern? Did he tell the intern to lie about the affair? Did he lie about not having an affair with Gennifer Flowers? Yadda-yadda-yadda.

All the major news items of the day were put on the back burner. The Pope in Cuba, Microsoft giving a partial settlement to Janet Reno, the Unabomber plea bargain… they all were pushed aside for the convoluted sex life of Bill Clinton. Even the air-fluffed news anchors left their "special assignment" spots in Havana to lead the media orgy in Washington.

And waiting in the wings of this neo-Watergate love-feast are special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, who has already filed more subpoenas this week over this new twist than a paternity lawyer for Madonna; and the Republican Party, who are licking their chops in the hopes of finally, FINALLY, nailing something on Clinton. If they could be any more rabid in anticipation, they’d be foaming at the mouth like mad dogs.

You know, I’ll be brutally honest here - this is not news to me! This is just more of the same for a career politician who feels he can do no wrong. We’ve KNOWN of Bill Clinton’s marital improprieties way back in 92. Between then and now, we’ve been subjected to allegations that then Governor Clinton had state troopers bring women to him, and the claim from Gennifer Flowers that she had a twelve-year affair with Clinton, and, of course, Paula Jones and her claim that Clinton sexually harassed her. Should we be surprised to hear that these weren’t the only allegations?

When it comes to politics and sex, we went from elderly presidential couples whom we can’t imagine having sex since the invention of fire, to a baby boom couple who squeaked into the White House on the back of allegations of marital improprieties. And there are plenty of precedents for White House affairs. Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy come to mind. Although this is the first time such affairs are made public while the president is not only still alive, but still in office!

On top of that, America seems to suffer from the intellectual version of bulimia. We consider ourselves to be piously above all our primal needs, and yet can’t explain why we regularly gorge out on them. And while this should not be seen to absolve President Clinton of any wrongdoing, this should explain why we have a constant problem with guys like him. We go from Stepford pod people who only seem to reproduce through mitosis, to geriatrics who can’t remember their last bowel movement never mind their last orgasm, to politicians who can’t keep their hands (and other appendages) off anything that moves.

If the allegations are true, should Clinton be impeached for having an affair? Or even, as veteran writer Jules Siegel suggests, for sodomy? Perhaps if adultery or oral sex is illegal in DC as it is in states like Georgia, but certainly not for the whims of the Gods of Mount Morality in trying to enforce some dysfunctional and convoluted sense of political ethics. The words "ethics" and "politics" are as opposite to each other as the sun is to the planet Pluto.

Should Clinton be impeached for lying? Who amongst the Gods of Mount Legislation haven’t lied to their constituents at any point in their careers? Do the words "we want to get government off your backs and out of your lives" mean anything to the Republicans? And "read my lips - no new taxes"?

If there is any reason why Clinton should be impeached, it shouldn’t be for something as trivial as an affair. There are plenty of other charges that hang over his head like the Sword of Damocles. Evidence tampering, possible illegal campaign contributions, using agencies like the IRS for personal vendettas, and other charges that are either being investigated by independent council or waiting to be investigated on.

To shadow the words of Steve Dasbach, former chairman of the Libertarian Party, there are more important things to concern ourselves with about the Clinton Administration. The administration’s efforts to censor the Internet, hinder medical research, regulate every aspect of business and human interaction, expand eavesdropping to Orwellian standards, and tax heavily otherwise legal activities to pay for socialized child care should be of a greater importance to the American people.

But the politicians won’t talk about those issues, because behind the faux patriotic banter, they support some or all of these socialistic measures. So instead, they’ll let the media have their journalistic orgasms over pretty faces like Monica Lewinsky and Gennifer Flowers, while they go about their business of appeasing their special interest masters and screwing the American people. These folks get off doing politically what they would bar their own constituents doing to each other for real in the privacy of their own homes.

And for those diehard members of the Democrat and Republican parties who are thinking about impeaching Clinton, I have one thought to offer that should chill both parties to the bone: President Al Gore, and Vice President Newt Gingrich! Does the name Gerald Ford ring a bell? Or perhaps make you trip on some stairs?

You know, what’s really the sad part about this is that Monica Lewinsky is being dragged through the mud before she can even say two words in front of a camera. Clinton supporters are quick to call her a slut long before they can fathom the idea that it takes two to have an affair. (Otherwise it’s called masturbation.) In all appearances, Monica Lewinsky is simply a pawn being moved by big political players hungry for a checkmate and oblivious to the reality that an otherwise ordinary woman is having her life destroyed in the process.

Think of it as the "Richard Jewel Syndrome" - destroying the lives of innocent people for purely PR purposes.

Thanks to high-priced Washington spin doctors, we can have someone like Bill Clinton shoot a man in cold blood in front of a nationwide audience, and be told it’s the fault of the man for standing in the path of the bullet. And the really pathetic part is that public opinion polls will be in before the body is even presumed dead.

If by some chance Clinton squeaks by this so-called "crisis" yet again, I have no doubt he will leave the White House exactly the way I predicted it last year - with a wave and a smile. And perhaps the minute the door closes on Air Force One, he would no doubt laugh his ass off at pulling over the biggest con job over America since the Warren Commission.

Or as a fellow libertarian once said, you get the government you deserve.

Monday, January 19, 1998

Week of 01/19/1998

Target: Bill Gates Bashing
- by David Matthews 2

Oh Billy-boy, the courts, the courts are calling!
From Janet Reno on down to old Netscape!
Nobody knows how much they truly hate you!
Oh Billy-boy, Oh Billy-boy, you’re envied so!

Ok, so I’m not going to make any money as a songwriter, but I think this best describes the level of hatred that is seemingly piled up on one Harvard dropout who is now the richest man in America.

Bill Gates makes more money per month than every pro athlete can per season. For a man without a college degree, he’s done exceptionally well in the twenty or so years since he founded Microsoft. He started the business begging for attention by Apple and IBM, and now IBM is slowly moving out of the personal computer business and last year Gates made a hefty contribution to Apple’s meager survival.

And yet, this guy is the butt of electronic jokes. From publications who slap on Borg equipment over his picture, to Macintosh users who threw screaming fits when they saw Gates on the big screen at Mac World, to software companies who are quietly urging the various Attorney Generals for Uncle Sam and his fifty spoiled brats to file anti-trust suits. Bill Gates seems to serve as the all-purpose target for anything wrong with the computer business.

So let’s be brutally honest here and ask ourselves WHAT is it that we seem to hate about Bill Gates.

Is it the product? Sure, Windows 95 isn’t the best program on the market. Sure, it has bugs. What program doesn’t? We’re talking about an operating system for computers made by different companies, using a wide range of processors, motherboards, SIMMs, floppy drives, CD-ROM drives, modems, sound cards, and various other add-ons, and trying to make them all work together. It’s not an easy task. If you ever wonder why Apple has pulled a Vatican act with Mac clones, this is one of the reasons.

Is it the hype for Windows 95 that earned Bill his critical bullseye? Windows 95 was by far the most anticipated program in the software business. Microsoft conducted a massive beta test, and then hyped it at every opportunity. At Comdex Atlanta, Windows 95 wasn’t even available for six more months, but it was what everyone was talking about. You couldn’t ignore Microsoft’s mammoth display area in the middle of the WindowsWorld floor. Interviews and speeches by Gates weren’t about the future of computers as they were to push Win 95. Forget the hype you hear for Intel’s Pentium II chip today. That’s mediocre compared to the hype for Win 95. Even Intel’s first Pentium chip didn’t garner as much attention.

Is it because of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer? Sure, it has plenty of advantages over Netscape’s Communicator. It doesn’t crash as much, and it’s imbedded more into the operating system than Netscape can be allowed to. But Netscape still has some advantages over IE4. Some, but not many. Netscape’s mail center still better in reading newsgroups over Microsoft’s Outlook Express. IE4’s Channel bar doesn’t impress me in the least. For all the visible "plugs" Microsoft incorporated in the channel guide, I still use my tried and true list of favorites to surf the Internet, even if they’re now located on the Start bar. And once again, programmers created some of IE4’s features under the assumption that most users would have the maximum amount of RAM in their system and be permanently connected online. Active desktop? A nice feature, if you have the RAM to spare. Otherwise it slows things down.

No, there are two major reasons why Bill Gates is fostering so much scorn by users.

The first reason is because Microsoft IS on the top of the software heap. Gates serves as the visible figurehead of a corporation that saw the shift in computer focus from hardware to software and profited heavily from it. Apple computers kept stringent control of its hardware and software much to its detriment. IBM got caught napping by Compaq and the other so-called "clone" companies who were able to reverse-engineer their own compatible system. Microsoft simply opened the door to those other companies to use the same operating system that IBM used. Microsoft used the same advantages then that are currently being enjoyed by companies like Netscape and Sun Microsystems for their programs.

The other reason is because he’s rich. No, not just rich, but filthy rich. Let’s be honest with ourselves here. This is a guy who never finished his studies in Harvard, and now makes enough money to buy and sell Harvard University ten times over without batting an eyelash! And because he’s rich and powerful, there exists that perverse schadenfreud need to see him fall, to remind ourselves that he is indeed a mortal like the rest of us.

Well, I can’t suggest anything for the latter reason. Schadenfreud is a part of the human psyche. If we aren’t focusing our scorn on successful businessmen, we’ll focus it on politicians, professional athletes, religious figures, and mass media.

I can however, suggest something for the former reason - Microsoft’s dominance on the software market.

It seems that the solution is simple: If companies like Compaq, Sun, Oracle, and Netscape really wish to see the reign of Microsoft end, then all they have to do is create their own operating system to compete against Windows. Forget the fact that IBM failed miserably with OS/2 Warp. Just mark that up as bad timing. People were waiting for Win 95. They really aren’t waiting with baited breath for Win 98 this time.

However, I seriously doubt these companies will have the guts to develop an OS to compete against Microsoft. That requires marketing, paying programmers, conducting alpha and beta tests, and setting up other computer companies to provide platform support for things such as disc drives and peripherals. That costs time and a lot of money. It costs no money to bitch about Microsoft. And for relatively fewer bucks, the companies can hire lawyers to sue Microsoft, and get lobbyists to petition government prosecutors to curtail the company in courts.

In today’s day and age of making the "evil industry" the new societal villain, bashing companies for being successful may be in vogue. But in this author’s opinion, it shows the laziness and sometimes out-and-out cowardice of companies who are afraid not to compete, but to compete and possibly lose some money in the process.

At least the former king of computers, IBM, had the balls to say "We tried."

Monday, January 12, 1998

Week of 01/12/1998

Political Lotto
A Budget Surplus Is A Treat To Political Junkies
- by David Matthews 2

1998 may be off to a start, but in all appearances, 1999 may bring a windfall for politicians.

If all indications are true, the 1999 budget may see the first budget surplus in thirty years. A boost to not only the Clinton Administration for having to swallow the bitter budget pill, but also to the GOP Congress, who have tried to carry one of Ronald Reagan’s last unfulfilled campaign promises to fruition since taking power in 1995.

Now comes the hard question: what to do with that extra money.

Let’s be brutally honest here - the gods of Mount Legislation will look at any budget surplus like we would at sudden lotto winnings. Just another check for them to squander on their favorite pork project. You don’t think that Bill Clinton isn’t setting his sights on spending that money on his little faux "legacy"-building programs? Or how about some senators and reps in your own home state, who are eyeing that money for education programs so they can appease the dwindling number of American voters come election time? Remember, this IS an election year.

But there are two serious holes in the budget that still haven’t been filled yet. Holes that will continue to grow unabated. The first is the national debt. Remember that one? Yes, the US is in the red by TRILLIONS of dollars. We may balance the budget and stop the leak next year, or the year after that, but we still have a huge debt that needs to be paid off someday. Right now, it’s being stayed off by short-term treasury bonds on the market. Operative word being "short-term." Guess what will happen when the time comes to pay those bonds off? Say good-bye to that budget surplus!

The second hole that severely needs fixing in the federal budget is the country’s only legal Ponzi scheme - Social Security. Great program, if you like MLM games. Make no mistake, Social Security looked quit profitable when it first started… on paper. But then Congress stuck their money-grubbing, Imelda Marcos-spending, pork-laden hooves into the money long before the fund was large enough to be distributed. And like any political pork project, it was exploited to the fullest extent - going from specifically a supplemental retirement fund to an all-purpose social handout. And on top of it all, it was also used as a slush fund for federal funding so Congress can make it look like the deficit wasn’t as bad as it really was.

Well guess what? The well went dry. The current recipients claim they paid for their money, but the hard truth is the government doesn’t HAVE that money! It’s gone! It was spent years ago by folks like Robert Bird, Strom Thurmond, Edward Kennedy, Jesse Helms, and Bob Dole for their various pork-barrel projects. Like any Ponzi scheme, the current recipients are getting their money from the bulk of today’s taxpayers. And it’s a bulk that is growing older and older by the year. As they get older, they’ll want what they mistakenly believe to be their money that they invested in over the years. Guess what their reaction will be in 2005, when the Social Security fund dries up to the point where it can’t even pay its own employees? You think the panic in the Savings and Loan crisis was bad? You haven’t seen anything yet!

Even a mediocre budget surplus, properly invested, would go far in staving off that deadline. It may even buy enough time for those clods to devise a replacement system that bypasses Uncle Sam and his fifty spoiled brats.

But Republicans are looking at another use for the budget surplus - to give a tax cut. This, I believe, is another good use for the budget surplus. They don’t use all our money, they should give that money back to the taxpayers where it belongs. But only as long as we are talking about a legitimate tax cut, and not the usual bait-and-switch tax credit. Here’s a hint Bubba Clinton - giving the American people more of THEIR money back allows them to afford things such as child care or health care without having to rely on you and the Gods of Mount Legislation to provide it for them. Of course, a good percentage of the politicians never HAD to worry about those things.

But Big Government Clinton and his congressional cronies aren’t talking about tax cuts. No, no. At best, they want to give their usual offer of tax credits. A worthless IOU that can only be cashed in when the time comes for you to fill out your income tax paperwork. And it isn’t even going to every American, even though every taxpaying American has had to pay for the mess our elected representatives got us into.

Either way, make no mistake, that budget surplus will be gone long before it even sticks around in the treasury to collect interest. We may not even hear about a budget surplus come next year, or the year after that. And if that’s the case, we won’t even hear what happened to that surplus, at least not from Washington. And if we don’t, at least you’ll know why now.

Monday, January 5, 1998

Week of 01/05/1998

Target: The Political Spectrum
- by David Matthews 2

With the 1998 political season well underway, I’d like to take a close look at the political spectrum as it exists today.

You know, once upon a time, there used to be clear and distinctive definitions of the traditional political spectrum. Liberals want social freedom and economic control, while conservatives want economic freedom and social control. In between those two sides being the huddled masses of moderates that encompasses most of the voting public. In practice, however, the huddled masses of moderates are usually treated as a tennis ball, being whacked about by the two political sides in an endless intellectual tennis game where the score is always love-love. (That’s zero-zero, for those who don’t understand the scoring.)

As the ulterior motive of politicians become more and more apparent, however, the definition of the two sides begin to blur. There is no mystery behind it. Much like the rules of women and relationships, rules concerning politics are subject to change the minute you begin to understand them.

Today, what defines conservatives and liberals are so blurred now that neither side can truly define which side they are on. Again, there is no mystery behind it. With the fall of the Soviet Union, and the downfall of communism as the political villain, the two easily acceptable substitutes lately are "evil industry" and "liberal." Therefore, those traditionally considered liberals must do something that will appease the masses as being not really as liberal as they are painted to be, while not alienating those liberals that are already on their side.

Case in point is Bill Clinton. Our current president is the one thing all Republicans fear the most - a career politician who is a better player of the political game than they are. Conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh are quick to call Clinton a liberal, and yet accuse Clinton of theft when he acts to conservative agendas such as a balanced budget or supporting new censorship legislation. They forget that the muddled conservative/liberal spectrum can work against them as well.

There are two ways politicians and their respective talking heads have muddied the political spectrum. The first is to diminish the moderate pool by using zero-sum arguments. Limbaugh can be considered the master of zero-sum arguments. Moderates in his mind are nothing more than fence-straddling, indecisive people who cannot chose between what he sees is only a for-or-against situation. The goal of a zero-sum argument is easy - consolidate supporters and quell dissention. Bob Dole’s presidential campaign after the 96 GOP convention was designed explicitly to quell any possible third party challenge. His favorite zero-sum statement was "A vote for anyone besides Bob Dole is a vote for Bill Clinton." In reality, however, Dole’s enemy was neither Clinton nor the third party candidates, but rather voter apathy.

The use of zero-sum arguments also has the advantage of giving grudging support to extremist beliefs. "What? You don’t support our program? What’s wrong with you? You’re a conservative, aren’t you? If you don’t support our program, then you must not be a conservative. You must be one of those stinking, tree-hugging, affirmative action, gay-loving liberals!" Some of the most anti-American pieces of legislation passed was done so not because the bulk of legislators favored it, but rather because they kowtowed to the zero-sum arguments of extremists.

The second way to muddy the political spectrum is to blur political definitions. Conservatism has been defined by their strongest supporters as "going back to what has worked before." Liberals use that definition to support social control programs such as affirmative action and political entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid because, in their minds, these programs have worked before. By that definition, they are conservative programs.

Conservatives also use that method by pushing for replacing the old tax system with a new flat tax or a national sales tax. These are untried methods, and clearly not conservative by modern definition. The line-item veto was another untried method that they pushed for, and were planning on giving to Bob Dole had he won in the 96 election. Clearly not conservative by modern definition, and the fact that Bill Clinton is now enjoying the privilege is certainly sticking in their craw.

But the real problem with the political spectrum is that it is one-dimensional, measuring standards that vary with the tide and voter sentiments.

A more realistic depiction of the political spectrum is a two-dimensional one, where social/economic control is mixed with the level of government desired. This balance not only gives a more realistic look at the voting public, but also cuts down on zero-sum arguments, and also shows the true path of politicians like Clinton who advocate for both social and economic control - namely the path towards tyranny.

But let’s be brutally honest here - the political establishment won’t tolerate a two-dimensional political spectrum in and of itself. They have gotten powerful, not to mention rich, off the current zero-sum mentalities and political doublespeak. Do you think that the members of the Clinton Administration would like to be shown on a chart that sinks them to the level of Stalin or Hitler? Or how about the Republicans who claim to be for "less government" being shown on the chart sinking slowly behind the Clinton Administration? That’s worse to them than having Clinton steal their agendas. They may actually have to reduce all government, not just the portion that they brand as "liberal".

Not to mention that a two-dimensional political spectrum would give more credence to a group that neither liberals nor conservatives want to recognize - libertarians. As being diametrically opposite to autocrats, libertarians practice what both liberals and conservatives only give lip service to. Why should either side recognize a group that would expose them as the charlatans they are?

As Voltaire said: "If you have two religions in your land, the two will cut each other's throats." The same holds true for politics.