Monday, December 20, 1999

Week of 12/20/1999

The 1999 Brutally Honest Awards
- by David Matthews 2

Once again, it’s time for us to take a brutally honest look at the best of the best and the worst of the worst of the year. We’ve been through one hell of a lot in 1999, starting with a failed trial to unseat the Clinton Regime, the lawsuits filed against Intel, Microsoft, Visa, Master Card, the gun manufacturers, and the tobacco companies, and some pretty pathetic individuals who decided to go on killing sprees. And to top it off, we have a whole new batch of clowns trying to be the successor to the most dictatorial President in recent US history. It’s been hard for the world to swallow, but it’s been great material for commentators like yours truly.

And so, without further ado…

The Joseph Stalin Quote for 1999: Governor George W. Bush - "There ought to be limits to freedom." And this guy wants to be president?

The Freedom Quote For 1999: Russian President Boris Yeltsin - "I want to tell (President Bill) Clinton ... not to forget what kind of a world he lives in. It has never been and never will be the case that he will dictate to the whole world how to live." (December 9th, 1999)

The "Hello, I’m a birth survivor" Award: Media Coverage of The Columbine Massacre - Yes, it was a horrific situation. Yes, the two people responsible had the guts, or perhaps the cowardice, to kill themselves instead of being arrested and having to sit through a trial. But the way the media milked the situation to the point where kids all around America were paranoid about their lives gave a whole new meaning to the word hysteria. It really does make it seem like today’s kids should introduce themselves as "Hi, I’m Johnny, I’m a birth survivor."

The "I’m a martyr, you’re a martyr, he’s a martyr, she’s a martyr, wouldn’t you like to be a martyr too" Award: The Columbine Copycats - That includes all of the bomb-threat callers; the punk kid in Heritage High School who shot up his school a month after Columbine; the so-called "experts" who blamed everything under the sun for the Columbine massacre; the school "experts" who used the massacre as an excuse to start banning crucifixes, Star of David medallions, and Wiccan symbols; and all the people who used this horrific crime to gain some media attention. And now we can include some 18-year old jerk in Florida who e-mailed a girl who attends Columbine who threatened that he would "finish the job."

Come on people! There are better ways to get your name in the papers!

The "I’m not really a nice guy, I only play one when I’m campaigning" Award: New York Mayor Rudolph "Il Duce" Giuliani - Between his efforts to create his skyscraper command center, removing tacky sex signs with tacky stores, and abusing his authority when it comes to art, Giuliani is living proof that crap should never be displayed, only elected.

The "I have a scheme" Award: Ralph David Abernathy III - The former Georgia state senator is being tried yet again (as of this article) for possible fiscal mismanagement, but only because the first trial resulted in a hung jury. Of course, having his friends from the King family sitting right in front of the jury, and having that "accidental" meeting with the two lone black jurors had absolutely NOTHING to do with those two jurors causing a hung jury. And the investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations on possible jury tampering charges is just an over-exaggeration, right?

Yeah, and that was just oregano he tried to smuggle in his underwear.

(Note: Just days after this article was first published, Abernathy was convicted on multiple counts of fraud.)

The Biggest Political Prick-tease Award: Hillary Rodham "I’m Listening" Clinton - Oh, she’s gonna run.. yeah, she’s just thinking about it… she’s just mulling over the options.. she’s just "listening" to the voters right now.. she intends to run.. she just can’t commit to anything right now.

Of course while she’s teasing the voters, she’s also racking in the soft money dollars.. and doing so at taxpayer expense!

The Foot Sandwich Award: Vice-President Al Gore - No matter how many times Robobore tries to distance himself from Big Bubba Spin, he always ends up sticking his foot into his mouth.

You invented the Internet, Al? Nice try, but way back when the ARPANET - the original Internet - was first developed, NOBODY ever thought it would be used for commercial applications. It was strictly a military venture back then, a way for the military to communicate in the event of a nuclear war. And besides, you didn’t even get INTO office until ten years AFTER the ARPANET was created!

You saved the people of the Love Canal, Al? From what? Boredom after being evacuated by President Carter two months previously? How about the fact that the chemicals that were used to pollute the Love Canal came from a company owned by your father’s mentor - Armand Hammer? Or the fact that your father was once the chairman of the board of that very same conglomerate that owned the company that polluted the Love Canal? Not exactly something you want the public to know, is it?

The Purple Heart Award For Political Courage: Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura - "The Body" was always outspoken, but when his interview in Playboy magazine came out, he didn’t try to weasel out of his statements like a typical politician would. Instead, he stood proudly and firmly by his interview. That takes guts! Far more guts than the next award recipients…

The Bleeding Heart Award For Political Whining: The Religious Wrong - Do you hear that? That’s the sound of the world’s smallest violin playing "Cry me a river, you whining theocrats!" You can’t take honest, straightforward criticism from people like Jesse Ventura? You take offense when someone else’s interpretation of the Bible doesn’t match yours to the letter? You don’t like it when the world isn’t EXACTLY like you want it to be? Tough! You’ll just have to deal with it like the rest of us!

You know, it’s one thing to be against something because of your religious beliefs. Like certain religions have a prohibition against eating pork. But the religious crusaders would take that one step further. Their arrogance is such that if their religious beliefs prohibit eating pork, then they’re not happy until all pork products are outlawed! Of course, they’ll say it’s for "the children" and, besides, they’re just exercising what they believe is their constitutional right to force their beliefs on the rest of the world. And if they don’t get their way? They just whine and pout that they’re the victims of "hate speech" and bigotry.

It is not their beliefs, but rather their actions based on those beliefs, that have rightly earned them every bit of scorn.

The Most Undeserved Title In 1999: Bill Clinton as "Healer-In-Chief" - The media, wanting to suck up to President Clinton following all of the hysteria surrounding the Columbine massacre, dubbed him the "Healer-In-Chief" when it was announced he would be visiting Littleton, Colorado. Of course, as luck would have it, a teenager in Conyers, Georgia, would decide to use that day to shoot up his school. Once that happened, any mention of the words "Healer-In-Chief" quickly vanished from the news services.

The Most Deserved Title In 1999: (tie) Bill Clinton as "Quack-In-Chief", and "Bill Clinton - Narcissus Rex" - Bill Clinton, the highest elected con man in American history, earned two titles in 1999 which best fit his actions as President.

The first came as a response to the media dubbing him the "Healer-In-Chief." Please! Bill Clinton is no more of a "healer" than I am a GQ model! If you’re going to use a medical-sounding term to describe him, you had might as well be honest about it and call him a Quack, because that is what he is!

The second title actually came from a special report on the Liberty News Hour, where the subject was about the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Watergate scandal. I made the comparison between Presidents Nixon and Clinton, noting that Nixon resigned out of a sense of honor rather than having the nation face an impeachment hearing, while Clinton pressed forward and shoved as many rigged polls down the public’s collective gullet until the impeachment hearings were over and he was acquitted. When Nixon resigned, the lesson learned was that even the President of the United States was not above the law. Following Clinton’s impeachment hearing, we are left with a president who considers himself to be above the law and acts with complete impunity. A President who behaves more like a narcissistic king than an elected leader. And thus, the Latin term for a narcisstic king - Narcissus Rex - was Clinton’s more appropriate title.

The "I Want My Mommy Party" Award: Senator Bob Smith - Poor Bob Smith! The senator from New Hampshire wanted to be the Republican Party’s nominee for president, but the party’s movers and shakers wanted Governor Bush. So Senator Smith threw a temper tantrum on the floor of the US Senate and resigned from the GOP in a huff.

At first he wanted to be with the US Taxpayer’s Party, but then when they didn’t make all of the changes to his liking, he left that party and said he would run as an independent. Months later, he comes crying back to the GOP. So much for "principles"!

Best Liberty-Oriented Mainstream Show for 1999: George Carlin - You Are All Diseased - George Carlin’s latest comedy special on HBO really poked at some of the sacred cows of society, including religion, children, and government. It’s what he’s been doing for decades, and he’s pretty good at it.

The Luddite Award for 1999: The US Versus Microsoft Trial - This looked like it could have come straight from a cheesy soap opera. You have a team of prosecutors with an axe to grind, a major software corporation that wants to defend themselves by some sense of "ethics", and a judge that is about as unbiased and fair as a referee for professional wrestling. Can you smell the predictability? I could, and it smelled like pure, Grade-A prime big government sewage! The so-called "finding of fact" by Judge Thomas Pinfield "Bill Gates Can Kiss My Ass" Jackson was so slanted it could have been written by the Clinton Regime long before the opening statements. About the only thing Judge Jackson did right was appoint a judge as a settlement mediator that had more brains than him.

And finally….

The Crash-And-Crash Again Award: Brutally Honest - LIVE! - Great show. Started out as a half-hour of commentary with two or three songs in between. Then it went to a full hour, with a lot more commentary and a few more songs… then problems erupted in a big way!

Sure, part of them involved an upgrade to the G2 server, and part of them involved my struggles with the phone lines. However, I have YET to do a whole show where I’m not being hit with "server disconnected" messages or having a general protection fault crash the encoder.

Well, hopefully 2000 will bring a more powerful connection so I can have those error message go down to zero! In the meantime, the show just keeps on going… crash after crash.

Monday, December 13, 1999

Week of 12/13/1999

Clinton’s Trojan Cyber-Horse
"Digital Divide" Program Part Of Plan To Regulate Internet
- by David Matthews 2

According to Greek mythology, Helen of Troy was a beautiful woman who was so alluring that she was the cause of a brutal war between Greece and Troy. Betrothed to King Menelaus of Sparta, she was enchanted by a golden apple to Prince Paris of Troy. To avenge the honor of King Menelaus and bring Helen back to Sparta, one thousand Greek ships sailed to Troy in a bloody battle that was told in Homer’s classic The Iliad.

The battle for Troy was finally secured when a force of Greek warriors hid themselves inside a huge wooden horse that was supposed to be a peace offering to Troy. Although many who were in the wooden horse died, they provided enough of a disruption to allow the remaining Greek forces to gain entry and destroy the city utterly. Helen was returned to her husband, but in doing so they had displeased the gods, and thus their return to Sparta was long and tormented.

In many ways, a similar war is being waged over another object of beauty and desire. The object in question is the new medium of communication and information - the Internet. Desired by all because of its relative newness; beautiful in its ability to provide a plethora of information at any time.

Like Helen, the Internet was once betrothed to a ruler.. namely the power mongers in government. But unlike King Menelaus, the US Government was a negligent spouse. As far back as 1989, the US Government started divesting their control over the Internet to private companies. And like a siren’s song, the lure of the Internet soon spread around the world.

But then the Internet was swept away by a rogue prince called Freedom and placed within its protective walls. And once the negligent king realized his beauty was gone, he launched his own brutal war, not necessarily to regain the Internet, but to regain his lost sense of honor.

Direct attacks against the online community have been costly. Issues like censorship, encryption, and personal privacy have been and continue to be waged on all fronts by the scorned king called Government.

But now that scorned king has laid out a modern-day version of a Trojan Horse, one that would be all too easy for the freedom-loving public to take.

President Clinton, whose actions resemble less like an elected leader and more like scorned King Menelaus, announced that next spring he would be campaigning on an issue that exists only in politics - the so-called "digital divide". The "digital divide" is the belief that there is a disproportionate group of Americans who have access to the Internet. It has been the excuse used by the Clinton Regime to levy a tax (referred to as the "Gore Tax") on the phone companies to fund wiring of schools and libraries.

Clinton feels that access to the Internet is a "right" for all Americans, and even goes so far as to claim that it would be the next key civil rights issue. To back this rather exaggerated claim up, Clinton’s people cite a report by the Commerce Department that claimed whites are "more likely" to have access to the Internet from home than any other racial group, even though that same report indicated minority ownership of computers had in fact increased dramatically more than whites.

Now let’s think about this for a minute. People who have access to the Internet have access to more information, and thus are more informed and aware of the world they live in. Therefore, Clinton and his ilk feel having access to the Internet is a "right" - and thus want to give everyone that access. Clinton feels something is a "right" simply because it helps us out.

Well if that’s the case, why not use that idea for some of the other niceties in life? Having your own car makes you a better person because you have more mobility. Why doesn’t Bill Clinton make sure having a car is a "right" and make sure everyone have a car? Oh, wait a minute.. that’s right… Vice President Al Gore considers cars to be evil. Well, having your own house makes you a better person because you have stability and property. Why doesn’t Bill Clinton make sure everyone has their own house? Or your own phone, for that matter? After all, if you have your own phone, you’re a better person because you’re more in touch with the outside world than someone who doesn’t have their own phone and has to go to public pay phones.

While we’re at it, it’s a fact that when you feel good about yourself, you’re a much better person not only to yourself, but to everyone else around you. So why doesn’t Bill Clinton ensure everyone has a "right" to plastic surgery, hair transplants, liposuction, breast augmentation, personal trainers, hair stylists, clothing consultants, and anything else that would ensure us to be as good looking as we need to feel?

An exaggeration? Of course, and the same holds true to Bill Clinton’s tale about people "needing" the Internet. Sure having access to information that you normally wouldn’t get from the media makes one a more informed individual. Sure, getting information from the Thomas database is faster than digging through the Library of Congress book by book. But that does not make it a "right" any more than you having a "right" to your own phone or to have plastic surgery.

But let’s get brutally honest here.. there’s another far more insidious reason why Clinton wants to put the Internet into every home and every school and every library.. and that is so he can take control of the Internet!

Let’s think about this for a second. One of the prevailing arguments against government regulating content on the Internet is that the Internet is not "pervasive and intrusive" - two elements that were used by the US Supreme Court to allow government regulation of tradition broadcast mediums like television and radio. However, if the government started providing every home with computers and with Internet access, then the Internet itself would be "pervasive", and thus within the scope of government to regulate.

Also let’s think about the pattern of responsibility concerning the Internet. This commentator was the first to ask the questions that set up the pattern of responsibility concerning who should be responsible for Internet content; among those being who purchased the computer, and who decided to go on the Internet. If the answers to those questions go from "the parent" to "the government", then the government would be the ones to bear the responsibility for how that access is used.. and thus give themselves the justification for regulating Internet access like they do radio and television.

The Trojan Horse was welcomed willingly by one who claimed to be against the Greeks. The devious and manipulative man by the name of Sinon convinced the people of Troy that it was for their own good to bring the wooden horse in, claiming it would make them invincible. So too, does this devious and manipulative man by the name of Bill Clinton try to tell us this cyberspace version of the Trojan Horse would be for our own good.

When the invading armies both inside and outside of the city overran the people of Troy, they did so brutally and without mercy. Should Clinton’s cyberspace version of the Trojan Horse be allowed to continue, the very same fate will befall our online freedoms.

And sadly, this time there would be no gods to torment the king for his actions.

Monday, December 6, 1999

Week of 12/06/1999

PC On The Not-So Cheap
- by David Matthews 2

Not too long ago, one of the things about personal computers that served as a hindrance to people buying them was the price. An average computer used to cost about $3000. "Average", of course, being a subjective term when it comes to computers, but let’s just say "average" constituted a system that was relatively recent.

$3000 is a lot of money for what some joked was a machine that was obsolete before it could even make it out of the box. Back then you could buy a halfway decent car for the price of four computers.

Eventually the price of computer components went down with more suppliers, thereby reducing the price of an "average" computer system. That, along with mail-order computer companies like Dell and Gateway, helped bring the price of the computer down from $3000 to $2000 to $1500 to $1000. Now a "basic" Internet-ready computer can cost you about $600.

But what if you could buy one even cheaper that that? Say… $200 or less?

Sure, you heard about the "free PC" offers. When those first broke, ten thousand people eagerly put their names down for one. But those "free" offers came with a price.. namely you had to give up your privacy to marketers, you had to be online for a certain period of time per month, and you lost about a quarter of your 14" screen space for ads which you couldn’t remove. Sure, it’s "free".. but is the price worth it? Not too many people thought so when they saw what it cost them.

But now to entice the families of wannabe computer users high on this notion that you "HAVE" to have a computer, computer retailers are making an offer that is proving to be hard to pass up.. a $400 rebate. You’ve probably seen them. Matter of fact, you can’t open up a shopping insert that doesn’t have that rebate offer included. It seems EVERY computer being offered has that $400 rebate on them, making the overall prices appear to be that much cheaper.

Or are they?

Reading the fine print on these rebate offers spells a completely different story.

First of all, each of the rebates offered at $400 are by online service providers such as Prodigy, CompuServe, and MSN. They don’t offer these rebates for nothing. In exchange for them paying $400 of your computer bill, you agree to sign on with them for three years at their regular membership rate of $21.95. This is non-negotiable, and you cannot cancel your membership once you purchase the computer until those three years have expired.

Now do the math… Three years, or thirty-six months, of membership at $21.95 per month comes to $790.20! You’re almost paying TWICE the price of the rebate to the online services! Not exactly a great deal when you think about it, especially if you are comfortable with your service provider and you aren't looking to get a second one.

And that’s the problem.. not too many people ARE thinking about it!

A few weeks ago I was computer shopping with my mother. She was going through the options in the store’s "build your own PC" system when the salesman made the mistake of talking about that $400 rebate.

"I don’t want the rebate," my mother said.

The salesman was incredulous. "Why?" he asked.

"Because it would actually cost her $800" I replied.

The salesman.. a young puppy who looked like he knew more about how to win at Quake II than reading the fine print of an offer.. scratched his head for a moment, trying to figure out how that could be so. So I explained it to him.

"OH!" he exclaimed as he finally got it. "That doesn’t sound like a good deal."

Gee.. you think?

Now let’s get brutally honest here.. how many people WOULD do the math and figure it out? And how many others would simply look at the money amount and figure it would be something like a coupon?

Of course, my problem is not that there are people who would be foolish enough to buy a computer with that rebate. PT Barnum and I both agree that there’s a sucker born every minute. But what my problem would be is what happens after people take up that rebate and discover they’re getting a raw deal. How many of them would chalk it up to one of life’s little lessons? How many of them would turn to Big Babysitter government and demand new legislation and regulation?

Look, I didn’t pull those rebate numbers out of thin air. The real cost of these rebates aren’t some classified secret kept locked away in the Pentagon. They’re in plain sight, written in plain English, right underneath the computer offers. You just have to look for the fine print, the same as you would with a sweepstakes offer or a bank loan. It’s tricky, but it’s neither illegal nor unethical.

Everyone loves to get something for nothing.. or at least as close to nothing as they can get.. but unless you don’t have a computer, and unless you don’t already have an online service, this $400 rebate is probably something you would best want to steer clear of.

Monday, November 29, 1999

Week of 11/29/1999

Target: Moralism - Part 3
Lying Is Par When Moralism Is Involved
- by David Matthews 2

At 8am, police officers, federal agents, and several vans surrounded the Gold Club of Atlanta. The news first hit traffic reporters and morning radio shows before the traditional news services started reporting what was going on. But by nightfall, the local news stations were quickly making up for lost time with plenty of allegations and speculations of what federal authorities MIGHT have been doing in the adult strip club.

Months later, the allegations became indictments, and the owner, several managers, and two former Atlanta police officers were charged with a variety of crimes, including credit card fraud and racketeering. They even inferred that professional athletes were given preferential treatment and even dancers who were paid for their time and "free sex".

But the media in this land of rampant hypocrisy was not satisfied with those allegations. They wanted more. So they got hold of a copy of the search warrant, where all the allegations were made by federal agents to authorize a search, and that’s where they hit gold. Claims by "informants" of rampant sex and drug use in the private rooms of the club. Claims that could not be substantiated for a criminal indictment, but were more than enough to conveniently leak to the media in order to demonize this nightclub and give any possible juror enough prejudicial information to side with the government. Also more than enough to cause Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell to use his "emergency powers" to suspend the club’s liquor license.

Rather damned convenient for the federal government and the City of Atlanta to be so open with those warrants. Apparently the notion of a person being considered "innocent until proven guilty" doesn’t apply here. Then again, these are the same two government bodies that did such a phenomenal job of protecting Richard Jewell’s rights when he was wrongly suspected of being the Olympic park bomber in 1996.

Fortunately, those with working brains questioned the City of Atlanta’s allegations and demanded proof that criminal activity was still going on at the club. The city couldn’t prove it, so a county judge said Mayor Bill Campbell exceeded his authority and let the club resume serving alcohol until a formal hearing of the Licensing Review Board.

A typical reaction from an elected official who put the "jerk" in "knee-jerk"? Just another day in the office of a political thug? Perhaps.

Meanwhile, in a neighboring state, the City Council of Tampa, Florida, is considering a ban on "lap dances" - where a nude dancer can have full contact with a clothed customer. The city already banned the sale of alcohol in these clubs, and with a six-foot "no contact" ban being considered, it could very well force the closing of the few remaining clubs.

Supporters of the ban say that lap dances "promote prostitution" and the transmission of diseases.

Transmission of diseases? If one party is fully clothed, and there is no genital-to-genital contact, HOW IN THE WORLD is that possible?

One has to wonder what kind of demented, wacko physician would be willing to stake his career simply to support that kind of allegation. No doubt someone who still believes that all the world’s ailments can be solved with leaches.

Of course, it should be noted that the person making the allegation that strippers somehow transmit diseases by mere physical contact is a LAWYER, not a doctor. Probably the same kind of lawyer that steps on a crack and complains he suddenly developed whiplash.

I hope you’re noticing the trend.. unsubstantiated allegations to support some kind of moralistic action. In both cases, the credible facts are somewhat lacking.

Now let’s get brutally honest here.. when it comes to moralism, ANYTHING is fair game. Real facts, if one can find them, are nice, but a moralist is never above using rumors, distortions, superstitions, absurd speculations, false allegations, and outright LIES to get what they want.

One has to remember that moralism itself is based on a lie. After all, a moralist wants everyone else to believe that THEIR vision of the world is the absolute, unquestionable, vision of how things must be. Image and illusion is everything to a moralist, so the seeds of denial are already a part of their lives. What’s one more lie to them?

When Congress passed the Communications Decency Act as part of the Telecommunications Deregulation Act of 1996, it was mostly based on a research study by Martin Rimm, who was then an undergraduate of the Carnegie Melon University. Rimm’s study suggested that over eighty percent of the Internet contained sexually-explicit material, even though the study’s own notes stated that their search was confined to the most sexually explicit areas of the Internet.

Rimm’s study was not only questioned and criticized by many more credible net-savvy researchers, but even the university and Rimm’s own advisors quickly distanced themselves from the report. But by then it was too late.. the damage was already done. Time magazine had their cover story, moralists had their PR ammunition, and Congress had their excuse to step in and violate the US Constitution yet again.

Remember all those allegations that you can catch AIDS from drinking fountains and toilet seats? Guess who started those nasty rumors? You guessed it! Moralists who wanted to use the issue to isolate those with AIDS from the periphery of their world. They preyed upon the fears and ignorance of other parents to railroad their views into becoming law.

The name of the game for moralists is to frighten, intimidate, and browbeat others into doing their bidding. Like obsessed stalkers, moralists prey on your fears. They eat away at your defenses, doing everything in their power to make you feel weak and afraid, to make you dependant on others to tell you how to live your life.

Moralists also use deceptions and lies to demonize that which they abhor. That’s where the media comes in. The members of the media live for headlines and things that get the attention of the general public. That’s why they prey on issues involving sex, violence, and scandal. They prey on our most imbedded forms of dysfunction.

In the play "The Flies" by Jean-Paul Sartre, the Greek god Zeus tells King Ægistheus of a deep, dark secret: "The bane of gods and kings. The bitterness of knowing that men are free…. But your subjects do not know it, and you do."

And that is also the terrible truth about moralists as well. They too know that men and women are free, but most do not know it. It is their need to make others dependant on them that motivates the moralist to act. And for that, they will utilize every trick possible.

For a moralist, the truth is their worst enemy. It was the truth of how the Internet works that defeated the Communications Decency Act. It was the truth that helped stem the wave of discrimination against those with AIDS. And it has been the truth that is slowly helping break the dysfunctional views we have about sex.

But the truth does not come quickly, which is why moralists are always quick with their attack. Those that pretend to be like gods must act quickly, because once the truth comes out, they have no control over it.

Or as Zeus said it best in "The Flies": "Once freedom lights its beacon in a man’s heart, the gods are powerless against him. It is a matter between man and man, and for them only, to let him go his gait, or to throttle him."

Monday, November 15, 1999

Week of 11/15/1999

ATM Thieves
When Private Property Becomes Public Facilities

- by David Matthews 2

The gang surrounded the ATM machine, eager to get at its contents. They prepared their tools and checked their watches. A lookout with his ear to a small radio smiled and flashed a high sign to the others.

"It’s clear.. the machine is ours!" he says.

Are we talking about a gang of punks with crowbars?

No, we’re talking about voters with ATM cards from other banks.

Recently the voters in Santa Monica, California, voted to ban surcharges for automatic teller machines. Other communities, including Los Angeles and San Diego, are considering similar bans. States like Connecticut and Iowa also have acted to ban surcharges using existing state regulations.

Gut impulses would say this would be a great idea. After all, the banks use every means possible to bilk the consumers. Some banks even charge customers for simply visiting a LIVE human teller instead of using ATMs and online banking. That perverse sense of schadenfreude within us says it would be perfectly okay for us to hurt those big, wealthy financial institutions for all the times they make us suffer.

But let’s use our brains instead of our guts for a moment.

ATM fees are only assessed on people who are not customers of that bank but still want to use the ATM for their banking services. Most ATMs are connected to networks like HONOR, which allow more customers to use that ATM. That fee, then, pays for the transaction between the ATM’s bank and the bank of the cardholder.

So here’s a question that nobody seems to ask.. if you don’t like paying that surcharge, why bother using that ATM? Why not find one that you know is from your own bank?

A few years ago, I was at a mall in Tallahassee, Florida, and I wanted to get some money. I saw an ATM machine and said to myself "Okay, it’s on the HONOR network, I can use it." So I got $20 out of the ATM, and was told that a $1.50 surcharge would be assessed. I decided then to only stick to ATMs that are from my bank. It wasn’t easy, but at the time every cent in that account mattered.

So why can’t other people do the same thing?

Convenience, that’s why. The people who use ATMs without a care in the world whose it is want their cake and eat it too. Their dysfunctional mind says that the world is there for their benefit, and to hell with the banks!

Let’s get brutally honest here.. the ATM machines aren’t there for the public, they’re there for the bank customers. Just like the pay phones aren’t really the public’s phones. The phone companies charge a quarter, or whatever the cost is, for your call. The ATMs are no different than those pay phones.

What is happening with cities like Santa Monica and Los Angeles, then, is to force the banks to turn the ATMs into public facilities. The banks would have to foot all of the costs of running an ATM without any of the benefits. That’s not good for any reasonable business to operate, never mind a financial institution.

Fortunately, the banks in California are showing the people the folly of their actions. The Bank of America and Wells Fargo have already announced that they will no longer accept ATM cards from other banks. Hopefully other banks will do the same.

You know, convenience doesn’t come for free. There’s always a cost involved, no matter if it is driving an extra mile or two, or paying an extra dollar or two. If your bank doesn’t offer an ATM in the area, you may want to ask them about it, or even change banks to one that has such a convenience for its customers. If enough people do that, then the bank is willing to put an ATM there. That’s something that doesn’t require government action, and something that’s completely within the power of the individual consumer.

Monday, November 8, 1999

Week of 11/08/1999

The World’s Largest Monopoly
- by David Matthews 2

Quick, tell me who has the largest, most powerful monopoly in the world!

The answer may surprise you.

Coca-Cola? Nope.

Visa and Master Card? I said "monopoly." Besides they aren’t it.

Your local phone service? You’re getting warmer.

Your cable company? Close…

Microsoft? Despite the recent claims in the media, this is just a goldfish being compared to a whale.

So what is the largest, most powerful monopoly in the world?

The United States government.

Now I know that raised some eyebrows, but think about it.

If you look up the word "monopoly" in the American Heritage Dictionary, you’ll find it listed as "exclusive ownership or control, as of a given commodity or business activity; a company or group having such control; a commodity or service thus controlled." And while some businesses can wield such control, no group can do this with more power, and with more devastating effect, than government.

Now let’s suppose you run a local pizza shop, selling a large pepperoni pizza for $8, while your competition - let’s call them Sticky Pizza - sells theirs for $12. You don’t spend as much on advertising, and you don’t run too many special deals, but you still rake in more customers than your competition. So the owner of Sticky Pizza goes to you and says your prices are too low for him to compete fairly. You tell him too bad, you’re making a modest profit, and you aren’t going to risk that now by raising prices just to suit Sticky Pizza.

So that pizza owner goes to the government and says that you’re engaging in price-fixing to drive out any kind of competition. Now the government is looking into how you do business, and demanding you give in to Sticky Pizza’s demands. Other government agencies may also get called in to see how you’re able to make a profit selling pizzas that cheaply. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) may want to look at who you’re hiring, and how much they’re getting paid. The local health inspectors may decide to scrutinize your business for possible health code violations. They may even have been encouraged by a "concerned citizen" who possibly has some connection to Sticky Pizza. Since we’re talking a local business, the local government may even draft some new business ordinance setting pizza prices no lower than $10 for "the sake of competition." So between the lawyers to get the government off your back and the mandated higher prices, you go out of business. So much for "competition."

Now that’s local government. What about the United States Government? Same kind of game, but multiplied on a much larger scale.

Let’s start with the myth that Uncle Sam is all for competition. Let’s get brutally honest here.. the US Government is about as interested in business competition as I am in watching infomercials.

If the federal government is all for competition, then perhaps they can explain why they are eager to kowtow to the wishes of cable companies over satellite providers?

In many communities, the cable companies enjoy tremendous power over the public. They determine which channels will be available, and have the power to bundle each channel into certain "packages" for the public to purchase. For instance, take the three most popular channels like USA Network, MTV, and VH1, and call it the "special value package." Do the same with the premium movie channels, the cable news and business channels; each in their own separate "package" for people to pay extra for. Then combine that with the "basic" package of local networks and public access, and the cable companies can make more money off the public without having to add more channels. I’ve seen it happen, so I know it isn’t fictional.

The government’s solution? Regulate the prices. They passed laws which hindered what kind of cable packages could be offered.. but all it really did was allow the cable companies to continue their monopolistic practices. And when those laws were too stringent? The cable companies got government to bypass those laws under the Telecommunications Deregulation Act of 1996.

But satellite companies provided some real competition to both local networks and to cable companies, because they were able to provide channels the local cable companies didn’t want to provide, and provide national network feeds, which cut out local broadcasters. So the cable companies went to Congress to pass even more laws which hindered the satellite companies from competing. They also got many local zoning boards to enact regulations which hindered people from getting those bulky monster reception dishes. Even when satellite companies came out with smaller dishes for their digital satellite systems, they were still hindered by the laws written at the behest of cable companies.

So now more laws are being presented to Congress.. which are - as of this article’s date - being rewritten in committee to appease the cable companies. Which leads me to wonder.. if the federal government is so interested in competition in the business world, why is it that they were so eager to hinder satellite companies in the first place? After all, if the federal government didn’t hinder the satellite companies in the 1980’s, then they wouldn’t have needed to regulate cable prices in the early 1990’s.. and they wouldn’t have had to de-regulate them in 1996.

How about the government’s own "monopoly" - the US Postal Service? Oh sure, the USPS doesn’t consider itself to be part of the federal government.. they much rather call themselves a "semi-independent" operation. After all, they graciously allow private carriers like United Parcel Service and Federal Express to do commercial deliveries. But deliver the regular mail? Fat chance of seeing that happen! And now the post office claims they can’t compete against the Internet and e-mail. They may actually have to cut back on services and raise postage prices yet again. Of course, if the federal government was REALLY interested in competition, they would let the postal service be a real private operation, and then let it sink or swim with UPS and Federal Express offering the same local mail services. Then we’d see how the post office would compete against e-mail.

How about the gas we pay at the pump? The United States is more dependant now on imported oil than it was during the gas crunch of the 1970’s. You’ll notice now that gas prices are slowly creeping up universally no matter which pump you go to. Price fixing by the oil companies? Not according to the federal government. No, according to Uncle Sam, this is just normal "competition."

You know, that’s the doublespeak of government.. break up AT&T because they claim its too big, but say nothing about the cable companies. Go after Microsoft because of their operating system, but say nothing about the 100% control by Apple over both the hardware and software of their systems. Claim to be all for "competition" while silently protecting other businesses.

In many ways, the federal government under President Bill Clinton’s tenure acts much like a real monopoly. They decide selectively which laws to enforce, and which judicial decisions to obey. If Congress can’t pass a law that meets Clinton’s approval, he’ll write an executive order that has the same force of law.

And the federal government can be quite devastating to businesses. In 1971, President Richard Nixon ordered mandatory price freezes which were intended to last one year, but the effects spread to three years, and resulted in an economic recession.

Even the political system operates under strict monopolist rules. Democrats and Republicans have written those rules so that their parties are ensured continued control in government. Just ask any member of the Reform Party or the Libertarian Party how hard it is to even get included on the ballot. Under current election laws, Abraham Lincoln would not have been allowed on the ballot, since the Republican Party then was a "fledgling third party" under the Democrats and the Whigs. You would think that a government so interested in healthy competition wouldn’t mind practicing what they preach, right?

So why not get out of the country? That’s what many people would say.. the competition to our form of government is what’s offered in other countries. We don’t like it, we can leave to a government that suits us. Right? There’s just one little problem… the US Government’s reach is not limited to its own borders. There is not a place on the Earth that the US Government does not want to reach out and affect in some way.

Remember Manuel Noriega? The leader of Panama, indicted on drug charges in Miami, was literally deposed by the United States government under the orders of President George Bush. Yes, Noriega was suppressing that country’s election, and he did detain his eventual successor for a while, but instead of letting the people rebel against Noriega, a foreign power stepped in.

The US has been meddling in many a foreign matter for quite some time. And there are many who feel that the US should continue to serve as the world’s policeman, and to do so even more aggressively than before. However, if that is the case, than it would make the US even more of a monopolist power than ever before - and do to the world what Hitler’s Third Reich and Stalin’s Communist Party could never accomplish even at their peak. Certainly not something AT&T could accomplish.. or Microsoft for that matter.

If the US government wants to claim they support competition in the business world, fine. Let them do it from a position of neutrality. And certainly they should make sure their own house is clean before preaching to others about the housekeeping. To do otherwise would only serve as an insult to the American public it represents.

Monday, November 1, 1999

Week of 11/01/1999

Scrambled Hysteria
Model’s Eggs Plus Medical Hypocrisy Equals Media Breakfast
- by David Matthews 2

Ron Harris loves beauty.

That much is apparent.

As a photographer, Harris has photographed hundreds of beautiful people. As a producer and director, he created everything from the visually pleasing 20 Minute Workout series in the 1980’s to the Star Shapes and Naturals series for Playboy TV, which featured nothing but beautiful women. He is also the author of the yet-to-be released book "Naked Power", which explains the power beauty plays in society. In each instance, Harris feels he should share his vision of beauty with others.

And now Ron Harris want to share his vision of beauty in a different way.. He has created a web site that is auctioning off something very personal of some of his models. Something very unique, in fact. Their eggs.

As Harris says himself: "Beauty is its own reward. This is the first society to truly comprehend how important beautiful genes are to our evolution. Just watch television and you will see that we are only interested in looking at beautiful people. From the network anchors, to supermodels that appear in most advertisements, our society is obsessed with youth and beauty. As our society grows older, we inevitably look to youth and beauty. The billion dollar cosmetic industry, including cosmetic surgery is proof of our obsession with beauty."

In other words, beauty is more than just being skin-deep, according to Harris, but something that’s in the genes. And why should a couple risk the genetic gamble when they can have the willing egg of one who is already a model? All you have to do is post the highest bid, which starts at $15,000.00!

Of course, this is outraging many people, including the self-professed Gods of Mount Morality in Washington DC. How DARE Ron Harris auction off the eggs of models like he does his Arabian horses? How DARE Ron Harris let the marketplace dictate the price of the eggs of beautiful women? How DARE the Internet community ALLOW this to happen?

Surprisingly, the loudest of critics are the people who work in the reproductive clinics, who claim that Harris’ auction is somehow unethical. Hmm…. This from clinics that offer on the average $3000 for a human egg? That sounds awfully a lot like a McDonald’s worker complaining about the prices of a trendy California restaurant. And these clinics don’t work for free, right? How much more are the doctors charging for their gracious services? They certainly don’t operate solely out of the "goodness" of their hearts. Methinks these so-called "ethical professionals" protest too much.

Other critics go even further, speculating that this kind of auctioning of human eggs and sperm would bring us that much closer to Hitler’s dream of genetic manipulation to make the superior race.

Now let’s get brutally honest here… That’s OLD news, folks! Genetic manipulation has been going on for centuries the old fashioned way, carried out by the elite in our society! The fact that both Prince Charles and the late Lady Diana of Wales both had romances on the side while they were married is proof that their marriage was more about producing "perfect" heirs than creating a family based on love. This kind of stuff happens even in our mom-and-pop Americana communities. We all have our local examples of the "Ken and Barbie" couple. Why else do you think that the star quarterback ends up with the head cheerleader? They want to create those perfect little Stepford Pod children, just like everyone else!

What Ron Harris is doing with his auction is simply exposing that vanity and putting it up for our own reflection. Let’s face it, the couple who would be willing to spend up to $150,000 for a model’s egg has to be very vain, not to mention very foolish with their money.

Of course, the media doesn’t see it like that. They much rather point towards the money side of the situation, saying that the models are simply in this for the big bucks. But if there are people who are foolish to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for your reproductive material, who wouldn’t want to get the most out of that?

The process isn’t easy either. Once the deal is made, the model has to undergo months of hormone injections before the egg can be retrieved. This is a long and laborious process, and quite possibly the model would not be able to make money modeling during that period of time. Would you be willing to do that with your job and only get paid a relative pittance?

And yet, even after all of this, there is no guarantee that the product of this unusual combination of a model’s egg and the sperm of a foolish rich man would be a beautiful person. There is SO much that is dictated by the randomness of fate and the various genetic combinations that quite possibly the child will grow up in twenty years to be a Plain Jane and not the next Kate Moss. What then? The parents certainly cannot sue the model, or Ron Harris, simply because the promised child isn’t beautiful.

If anything, the whole debacle concerning Ron’s Angels and his egg-auction is more phony public hysteria than a serious legitimate concern. Infertile couples who are foolish enough to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars simply for the egg of a beautiful model should be left to their foolishness, and let the rest of America concern itself with more serious issues that affect our lives.

Monday, October 25, 1999

Week of 10/25/1999

Bet On It!
Gambling Is Life
- by David Matthews 2

A devout Christian started hearing voices from above. The message was always the same: "This is God. I have chosen you to help me." The man first thought it was his imagination. But then God shows the burning bush, makes it rain inside the guy’s living room, and rattles the room with thunder and lightning.

The man goes to the local church, the priest listens carefully to what the man was being told. The priest talks to the other ministers and they all agree that it has to be God who is talking. They tell him he’d better do whatever it is God tells him to do.

God tells the man to quit his job and sell all of his belongings. So the guy quits his job, sells his house and car, and everything he owns. God then tells the guy to take all of the money and buy a plane ticket to Las Vegas. So the guy takes his money and flies out to Vegas. When he gets to Vegas, God tells the guy "Go to Caesar’s!" So the guy goes to Caesar’s. "Go to the fourth roulette table!" The guy goes to the fourth roulette table. "Put all of your money on Red 36!" So the guy puts all the money into chips and puts them all on Red 36. The roulette dealer spins the wheel and drops the ball. The ball bounces around and around as the wheel slowly spins down…

The ball lands on Black 42.

"DAMN!" God exclaims.

No doubt a certain Alabama governor feels the same way.

Governor Don Siegelman had been in office less than one year, after having thrown out incumbent deadweight Fob James on the promise that he would help bring a state lottery to Alabama so it can help pay for education. Governor James had opposed any kind of state lottery because his masters in the Christian Coalition told him so. Fob James’ head was so high up the collective rectums of the bible-thumpers that ministers had to go see a proctologist in order for the governor to have his dental checkup. So after the voters tossed out Governor James and his bible-thumping masters, it was believed that a state lottery would be certain.

But the religious wrong would not go down without a fight, and they decided to use the lottery referendum to make Governor Siegleman pay for crossing them. The religious wrong came out in droves to push voters away from a state lottery. And in the end, they managed to convince 55% of the voting populace to say no to a state-run lottery.

Now, full of themselves, and still having the taste of fresh political blood in their rabid mouths, the dysfunctional elite are poising themselves to spread their anti-lottery moralism to the state of South Carolina, where their own lottery referendum will be decided by the voters in November of 2000.

Their rationality against the lottery, however, is where the real problem lies. Anti-gambling moralists content that gambling hurts poor people and the elderly. The moralists LOVE to talk about the people who gamble away their life savings, or even their meager paychecks, just so they could buy lottery tickets. Of course, they don’t talk about the 74-year old retiree who buys a lottery ticket on a fluke and wins big, or the simple families, whose father or mother buys a lottery ticket every so often, and then wins the big money. No, you don’t hear those tales much… and certainly not for the moralists. They much rather point towards the people who spend recklessly and foolishly in hopes of winning the big money. It’s not THEIR fault, contends the moralists, it’s the lottery that’s to blame for their lot in life!

Then there’s the hypocrisy of Alabama’s vote against the state lottery. The moralists contend that a state lottery would supposedly introduce legalized gambling to the state. Apparently they forgot that Alabama already has legalized dog racing, as well as bingo. Oh, but that isn’t the same as a lottery, right folks? Yeah, right.

The lottery system is as old as the nation. The Continental Army that beat back the British redcoats was funded by a lottery. The Statue of Liberty, the gift of freedom from France (long before their streak of socialism) was paid for by a series of lotteries. In fact, gambling was perfectly legal until the 1820’s.. when they were outlawed by none other than the bible-thumping moralists!

There is perhaps no greater sign of hypocrisy amongst the bible-thumpers here in the American south than to drive past a church with a sign that says "GAMBLING IS EVIL! SAY NO TO LOTTERY!" while over their front door they have a banner that reads "BINGO 7PM." Oh, so a lottery is evil because it is gambling, but bingo, which is also a form of gambling, is okay because it’s for the church, right? That’s the logic the dysfunctional elite is trying to use. Gambling is evil.. unless it’s for their purposes.

Let’s get brutally honest here.. gambling is a part of life, whether you know it or not! Gambling simply means putting your trust in factors outside of your control, and if that is somehow evil, then we are all evil to the core!

How many of you participate in the stock market? That, too, is gambling. Oh sure, Wall Street executives can swear up and down a stack of bibles that it’s not gambling, but let’s be blunt - it IS gambling. You’re spending money on a business in the hopes that the value of your stock will go up. You can’t control how that stock fares, and if that business loses value, you’re out money. How different is that from putting money on the dog track, or buying a scratch-off ticket?

The only difference is that betting on the stock market makes more people money. How many people have made millions on companies like or Red Hat or Yahoo? Even the movie "Forrest Gump" talked about making a lot of money by putting stock in "some fruit company" called Apple. The latest "play-to-win" game pieces include stock in Martha Stewart and the World Wrestling Federation. They made fast trades on their first day. Even solid companies in the market are successful because the people who invest in them do so for the long run instead of the buy-low, sell-high, cash-in-now crowd. Ambrose Bierce said it best when he said "The gambling known as business looks with austere disfavor upon the business known as gambling."

Of course, that’s not the only activity people gamble on. How many of us commute to work in congested rush hour traffic? That too is a form of gambling, but the stakes now are more than just money - the stakes are life and death. You don’t know when a driver who is still waking up forgets to put on his brakes until the last second, or if he decides to do a lane-change at the last moment. I don’t know how many times I’ve come across people who are in the left lane suddenly dart across three lanes of traffic in order to get to the exit on the right hand side of the road. You could be driving alongside someone when - POW - they blow a tire. Or suddenly a truck ahead of you drops a ladder on the road. Atlanta is legendary for it’s numerous "ladder in the road" alerts. You don’t know when these things will happen, and if they do happen, only the fates will determine whether or not you will be involved in them. And take it from me, no matter how good your driving skills are, there is a chance you can get involved in an accident.

How about sex? Eddie Murphy did a great comedy routine a few years ago comparing the singles scene to a craps table. Dating is a form of gambling, because you don’t know if the person you’re seeing is mister or miss perfect fit, or someone who will rob you blind and break your heart. Even sexual intercourse is a gamble. Sure, you can time it right and have all sorts of protection, but if the rubber breaks, the diaphragm slips, or the pill not work fast enough, you could end up contributing to the population growth. And nowadays, pregnancy is the LEAST of your problems! Some married couples are finding out the hard way that their spouse may not be completely honest about their sexual history, and are contracting sexually-transmitted diseases like AIDS, herpes, syphilis, or gonorrhea. So sex is also very much a gamble, but with a different kind of reward.

And, believe it or not, religion is also a gamble! The philosopher Blaise Pascal considered religion to be a sure bet, even if God didn’t exist. When you choose one particular religion over another, you are gambling that your religious belief is the correct one. Who is to say that should the much hyped day of reckoning come, your religious belief will be the one that passes God’s test? The Baptists certainly feel they have the inside win.. so much so that they want to convert Jews and Hindus, whom they feel are on the losing side. Who is to say that they will be right?

According to the Book of Revelation, only one-hundred forty-four thousand people would survive the Apocalypse. The Christian Coalition alone boasts a membership of two million. Even if the Baptists were the "chosen people", what would Pat Robertson tell the remaining 1.85 million members who don’t make the promised cut? Sorry? Thanks for playing? He certainly wouldn’t be able to say "Better luck next time."

Of course, there’s the other reason why religious people oppose gambling.. one that people really don’t talk about, because it’s purely financial. Ministers oppose gambling because it takes money away from the causes THEY support - namely themselves. Let’s get really brutally honest about this - that’s why churches love bingo but hate the lottery, because with church-sponsored raffles and bingo games, the money goes to the church! Bet it on the dog track, and the money goes to someone else. Bet it in the lottery, and the money goes to the state. Either way, it doesn’t go into their hands, which is why they oppose it.

Then again, the good thing about the Alabama ministers leading the drive against that state having its own lottery system is that it keeps Alabama money going to Georgia, where that state’s lottery is still going strong. So on behalf of all the Georgia residents, I say thanks to all those bible-thumping moralists in Alabama for ensuring that your decent, God-fearing Christian people will continue to come across state lines and spend their money in our businesses and for our state’s lottery system. It’s a sure bet that your continued dysfunction will bring in more money to Georgia’s businesses, while keeping Alabama away from the "stain" of gambling.

Monday, October 18, 1999

Week of 10/18/1999

The Measure Of A Man
- by David Matthews 2

A rather old and risqué joke goes something like this.. a little boy and a little girl were arguing about who was better. Everything the boy could do, the girl was able to do just as well if not better.

Finally, out of desperation, the little boy drops his pants and says "Well, I have one of these, and I KNOW you don’t!"

Then the little girl smiled, raised her dress and said "No, but I have one of these, and my mommy says that when I’m old enough, having one of these means I can have as many of THOSE as I want!"

Crude and risqué, but it gets to the heart of the topic at hand.

I have one simple request for America.. Can we end this so-called gender war soon? Like… right now?

I’m getting sick and tired of hearing about factions like "angry white males" and "soccer moms" in the media. The so-called "Republican Revolution" was supposedly created by the "angry white males" who were leading the backlash against feminism. Then the Clinton re-election was supposedly credited by this group of voters called "soccer moms" who supposedly came screaming to the voting booths in their sport utility vehicles, complete with Stepford Pod children in tow before whisking them away to soccer practice.

Please! Give me a break! The only people who actually buy the notion of groups like the "angry white males" and "soccer moms" are pollsters, and they’re the ones who created this fluff-oriented garbage in the first place!

However, when it does come to the sexes, it seems like many men are left gazing like deer in the headlights of progress. The best they can do is either get out of the way or get run over.

Of course the media doesn’t help matters much. The tabloid talk show circuit is filled with guys who are two-timing louts who don’t pay child support or alimony, who stalk their ex-lovers, or just plain refuse get jobs and sit on their fat ass watching other tabloid talk shows. The sitcoms want to show dad as either a bumbling buffoon or a workaholic who is too busy to know what his children are doing until it blows up in their face. A man either has to be a larger-than-life hero to be noticed in the media, or else he’s a pathetic character either looking for pity or canned laughter.

And our elected officials? Well, our highest elected official is a narcissistic and hypocritical con man who needs public opinion polls to know when and how to tell the truth. Then on the Republican side is retired congressman Newt Gingrich, leader of the "Republican Revolution", former speaker of the House - the man who preached about family values and the sanctity of marriage - who is now in what looks like a messy second divorce, and is rumored to have been carrying on with a Washington aide for quite some time. The alternatives right now running for office are authoritarians like Pat Buchanan and Gary Bauer, or plain-as-yogurt personalities like Governor George Bush and Vice President Al Gore. Men are represented in government either by hypocrites and thugs, or else bores.

Now some people are starting to blame the wave of shooting sprees on men acting out on society. Several writers I’ve come across have gone so far as to say that men are being "feminized" by both women and society in general. While the argument could be made that the men .. and even boys in many instances.. could’ve felt emasculated by their peers and by society prior to their violent shooting sprees, I would find that theory too difficult to swallow, and too easy a scapegoat. We’ve all been harassed and picked on in our lives, some more than others. Everyone has had their share of failures. Not everyone can be the next Mark Andressen, or the next Steve Jobs, or even the next Bill Gates. The best business advisors will tell you that eighty percent of all businesses fail. The fact that some males take this as feeling emasculated should not be used as an excuse for violent behavior.

So what has been happening with us guys?

Well, let’s get brutally honest here.. we guys have been busy working. Too busy, sometimes, to notice the changes that have been happening. Times change, often at an incredible pace for most men to keep up with.

Women have been able to change more readily than men because they’ve been pushing for those options that the male populace never considered. Before World War II, the very notion of women working was unheard of aside from professions like nursing and teaching. Today, women have options. They can work, or they can get married, stay home, and raise children. The birth control pill in the 1950’s gave women more power to determine whether or not they’ll have children while exploring their sexuality. The more liberalized trends in the late 50’s and into the 60’s and 70’s allowed women to explore more about themselves.

Men, on the other hand, worked. There was no movement to "explore our sexuality." Our egos told us we didn’t need to explore it.. either we knew what we needed to know or it didn’t matter. There was no real push for "fathers rights" because that conflicted with our own traditional notion that fathers worked and mothers stayed at home to raise their children.

What would you say if a woman told you that she was going to quit her lucrative job so she could stay at home and raise the children, and let her husband do all the work that pays the bills? You’d probably say "Good for you!" and commend her on her willingness to stay at home and raise the children.

Now what if a man said that he was going to quit his lucrative job, stay at home, raise the kids, and let his wife do all the work that pays the bills? How many of you would be willing to say "Good for you" to that guy? Or would you be quick to chide him about his choice of being a lazy SOB while his wife did all the work? You probably wouldn’t even think about him raising the kids, because you’d think that was just an excuse.

And yet, it was that double standard that explains the problems between women and men. Women have been making progress by making more and more options available. For the most part, men have remained the same, and that is creating some confusion amongst the male populace.

What is the measure of a man? Is man simply an economic life-support system? A wallet with legs? A replaceable cog in the ever-demanding workforce? Or is he something more than that?

Unfortunately, too many social institutions tell us no. Social programs like welfare tell us that struggling mothers are somehow better without husbands. The workplace tells us we’re replaceable through various layoffs and corporate mergers. To add insult to injury, the workplace does so even after demanding the employees dedicate more and more time to work. The religious institutions simply tell us to grin and bear it, and the so-called "family" experts chide men for not dedicating every single, solitary moment of their time, effort, and money into the family.

Let’s start with the notion that men should be allowed to BE men, just like women have been demanding to do everything they want to and yet still be treated like women. Women don’t like to be treated as walking wombs (to put it mildly), so they should stop treating men like walking wallets. Objectification of either gender is wrong.

Let’s also entertain the notion that man is not a finished work of art just because he is out of school and has a job with a steady income. Not every hard worker is destined to climb that ladder of success in their current field. Sometimes people just don’t know what they really can do, or what they really want out of life until later in the years. For women it’s not that difficult, especially when they have a spouse that is understanding and supportive enough to allow women to find out what it is they really want. Guys should be at least given the same amount of understanding.

Finally, let’s realize that men - for the most part - need some very simple things.. to be accepted, respected, and appreciated amongst their peers, their family, and their spouse, for the things they do. Basic needs that have been forgotten in this fast-paced, me-more-now world. Take those things away, and what you have left is a shell of a human being; one that doesn’t care about anyone or anything; and angry enough to lash out at a world they feel has ignored them.

In the end, men simply want to be the best they can be. THAT is the real measure of a man.

Monday, October 11, 1999

Week of 10/11/1999

Sticking It In The Eye Of The Beholder
- by David Matthews 2

"Artists can color the sky red because they know it's blue. Those of us who aren't artists must color things the way they really are or people might think we're stupid." - Jules Feiffer

A few years ago, I was criticized by one of my online visitors, who amongst all of the perceived faults he posed, one of them was the fact that my head shot photo was set behind a painting that was in my parents’ living room, which he deemed to be a cheap Hong Kong acrylic painting. To be honest, I never really knew where my parents got their paintings from. All I know is that they got them from someplace and it suited their tastes just fine. I needed a head shot photo for the local newspaper to run with my column, and it didn’t really matter where the photo was taken, because in a black-and-white newspaper the background would be meaningless. But apparently that does not translate the same in the high-color world of the Internet.

Now, if anyone has ever been in my parents’ living room, they’d know that the painting in question is a rather nice scene of a coastline in midday, complete with a lighthouse. Some might call it cheap, but my father calls it art.

And that’s the problem with art.. it’s subjective. Much like beauty, art’s appeal - or disgust - rests only in the eye of the beholder.

Lately, however, a lot of talk has been about what in the art world disgusts people.

Most of the talk, naturally, has been by the number one enemy to freedom - those dysfunctional moralists who try to find even the most obscure museum display and use it as their excuse to throw every artist and artisan into the gulag.

Of course, it doesn’t take much to offend a moralist. Performance artist Karen Finley taking off her clothes and covering herself in chocolate sauce would set off a good percentage of the bible-thumping crowd. Throw in a couple of the infamous photos done by the late Robert Mapplethorpe, and you’ll get most members of the Christian Coalition in a rabid, frothing fury.

Personally, someone covering themselves in chocolate sauce or having a photo taken with a bullwhip up someone’s butt only tells me two things: one, that we have some very creative people in the world; and two, some folks would do anything for a buck.

But is it art? For me, no. I would much rather have a "Kingdom Come" lithograph done by Alex Ross, or perhaps one of the cosmic Chromagraphs done by Michael David Ward. To me, a beautiful nude form is much better to the eye than a beautiful nude form made to look like a butterscotch sundae. Give me a photo of a beautiful nude form done by Pompeo Posar than one taken by Robert Mapplethorpe any day. To me, that’s art.

However, some people do consider smearing chocolate over a naked body to be art, because they pay good money to commission it and display it where they can. And I have no problem with that, because I know that art is subjective.

But what if the government funds it?

That’s where the real problems begin, because what one taxpayer considers art, a moralist who also pay taxes would consider to be an obscene waste of money.

The latest battle between art and government deals with the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the man who is perhaps the most anti-freedom mayor of New York City, Rudolph "Mussolini" Giuliani.

The Brooklyn Museum recently opened an exhibit called "Sensation" - which was sponsored by a private patron to the museum - and featured several unusual pieces of art, including a painting of the Virgin Mary decorated with elephant waste and adorned by certain parts of the female anatomy. That piece, amongst all others, was singled out by every conservative and religious moralist in America as blasphemous.

But Giuliani decided that proclaiming a piece of art to be blasphemous was not enough. He wanted to make the museum pay for offending his senses. So he used his authority as mayor to cut off all public funding, and is even threatening to evict the museum from their city-owned building unless they cancel the exhibit.

Now let’s get brutally honest here… this is a clear case of abuse of power if there ever was one by an elected official. The kind of blatant political extortion that defines the word censorship. Not even the members of the US Congress and the Clinton Regime have abused their power so blatantly as Giuliani. Outside of the political office, Giuliani’s antics would rightly brand him as an extortionist, and reward him with prison terms.

However, the issue of government funding for the arts is something that really needs to be addressed.

Because art is very subjective, government sponsorship of the arts is something that deserves a rare zero-sum category, either accepted in full or not at all. As a libertarian, I would rather not see any government funding for art, simply because of the kind of problems such as being faced in New York. The alternative is what moralists would want, namely to fund only the art that they would approve of; that would reflect their own personal tastes - no matter how dysfunctional they are. To essentially turn groups like the National Endowment for the Arts into the artist version of the Hayes code.

I realize that there are plenty of starving artists out there in the world. I meet them at comic book shows and science fiction conventions. People of amazing talent, who look at their more successful counterparts and either are jealous or baffled how these people could make it rich in their trade. But they aren’t alone in their frustrations. As a writer, I would love to be able to quit my bill-paying day job and spend all my efforts developing my writing skills until I can be recognized in the private market. Or do to the same as an online broadcaster.

But the truth is that such welfare from the government does little to encourage real success in that field. If the goal is to make money from your work, then government welfare solves that situation quickly, without any need to appeal to the more lucrative private sector. Why should one strive to succeed in the private sector when the government is willing to pay your way? Our problems with the current welfare system is the best example of why even this kind of funding doesn’t work to bring forth true success.

As for government’s current sponsorship, it’s one thing to have someone like "Il Duce" Giuliani decide to stop future funding altogether. He wouldn’t even need to use the excuse of the Brooklyn Museum to justify his actions then. Although the art world would throw a fit, it would be far more respectful as an elected official than his current actions, which show the world just how much of a fascist he really is.

Monday, October 4, 1999

Week of 10/04/1999

The Most Dangerous Time Of The Year
Freedom Is Threatened When Budget Deadline Breaks

- by David Matthews 2

"If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy." - Thomas Jefferson

They say that Christmas comes but once a year.. That is, unless you’re a member of Congress.

For our elected officials sitting on Capitol Hill like Gods of Mount Legislation, Christmas comes several times of the year.

Every year, the Congress and the White House have a very ugly task of figuring out the government’s budget before the next fiscal year begins on October 1st. They preach and preen about fiscal responsibility and damn everyone else’s special programs while singing the virtues of their own pork.

But what they don’t tell you is what happens up there on Mount Legislation as that October deadline edges closer and closer.

It’s easy to have happen. In order to keep the federal government going, Congress and the White House must pass thirteen separate spending bills. Each of these bills cover a certain separate division of the government because the federal government is SO huge, and SO bloated, and that they couldn’t even TRY to get it all in one bill. The committee debates alone would take up a year!

Now folks, we would all like to believe that our elected officials wouldn’t break that October 1st deadline, but let’s get brutally honest here.. they LOVE that deadline! Not only do they love that deadline, but they love it when it’s time to BREAK that deadline!

The reason why is simple - because that is the perfect time for Congress to wheel and deal! It’s Christmas time for them!

Suppose you’re one of those self-serving Gods of Mount Legislation. Now, because of some political posturing and some very creative manipulation of the legislative docket, the budget isn’t approved. Your support is needed to pass one of those appropriations bills so that part of the government can get their necessary funding. Common sense would say if you don’t have a problem with that bill, you should simply support it.

However, let’s suppose you’re a member of the House of Representatives.. you have to think about re-election, even on an off-year! You want to look like you’re doing SOMETHING for your district, right? So why not fund a bridge? Or create a new highway? Or fund the start of a new federal office building? They need your vote to pass this appropriations bill, right? So all they have to do is write in that little spending amendment in, and they have your vote!

One down.. at least three hundred to go before taking it to the Senate!

Of course, the best Christmas goodie for members of Congress is that emergency one-size-fits-all omnibus spending bill! Congress and the White House love that bill because the can hide all sorts of goodies in there and the people don’t know about it. Whatever pork barrel spending program you want funded, you can sneak it into the omnibus bill, and guaranteed it will be passed and signed.

Now folks, if there is ANY reason why government is so big and so bloated, this is one of them. Budget deadlines mean more pork than a sausage factory!

Of course, the politicians don’t worry too much about the deadline. After all, it’s not THEIR money at stake! Matter of fact, while Congress and the Clinton White House were claiming they don’t have time to pass all of the appropriations bills by the deadline, they still had plenty of time to vote on and sign into law pay raises for themselves, or at least to whom ever would be working after the next term.

And for the rest of the federal workers, whose pay is dependant on those appropriations bills? Well Congress and the White House are ever quick to approve of stopgap spending bills which tap into the magical, mythical budget surplus to keep the money flowing. But even that can’t last for long.

The alternative? You remember that one.. shutting down the federal government. It was tried in 1995 when the newly-controlled GOP Congress defied the will of President Clinton and let the federal government go bust. It didn’t create the anarchy politicians told us would happen, and if anything it galvanized the anti-government sentiment in many people.

This way of operating is also one of the biggest threats to freedom in America. Remember what was said earlier.. any law someone wants passed can easily be done by slipping it into that omnibus spending bill. No special hearings, no prolonged debates to decide whether or not the bill is constitutional. No special rallies need in support or opposition of the bill. It doesn’t even matter if it’s an unpopular idea, because if it’s something the politicians want, they’ll stick it in and it’ll become law because it’s attached to a bill that IS needed, namely the federal budget.

Proof comes from last year’s failed deadline.. and last year’s omnibus bill, which included an anti-American law that censors Internet content. The bill was loudly opposed as is, but like the deceptive vermin they are, the Gods of Mount Legislation quickly and quietly inserted the bill into the omnibus spending bill, where they knew it would be passed and signed into law. That law is currently being challenged in the courts, but it would not have even been made into law if it wasn’t put into the omnibus spending bill.

This kind of abuse of power is not new, because it has been allowed to quietly continue ever since America was formed. However, its abuse is more profound when done under conditions like the budget impasse.

As legislators, our elected officials are sorely negligent when they let the federal budget deadlines pass without doing their sworn duty. But as long as they are allowed to stick in whatever amendment they want, irregardless of the topic of the bill, and as long as they get paid irregardless of their performance, this kind of abuse will continue. And that is why the budget deadline is the most dangerous time of the year for freedom in America.

Monday, September 27, 1999

Week of 09/27/1999

Mister Pot, Meet Mister Kettle
Clinton’s Smoking Suit Reeks Of Hypocrisy

- by David Matthews 2

"Arrogance in persons of merit affronts us more than arrogance in those without merit: merit itself is an affront." - Friedrich Nietzsche

When President Clinton gave his State of the Union speech in January, he warned that the tobacco companies would soon be facing a new wave of lawsuits against them.

This past week, his agents made good on that warning, filing a multi-billion dollar civil lawsuit against the companies that produce 98% of all cigarettes in the United States. This suit comes on top of the estimated $246 billion that the tobacco companies will be shelling out to the states in separate settlements.

"For the past 45 years the companies that manufacture and sell tobacco have waged an intentional, coordinated campaign of fraud and deceit," said Attorney General Janet Reno, whose office is currently being investigated for possibly running an intentional, coordinated campaign of deceit concerning Waco, illegal campaign contributions, and possible security breaches in our nuclear laboratories.

President Clinton himself gave his own jab at the tobacco companies, saying that they "should answer to the taxpayers for their actions."

I have to wonder, though, when the President will answer to the taxpayers for his actions?

Let’s get brutally honest here.. this lawsuit absolutely reeks of government hypocrisy. It reeks so strongly it can almost be classified as toxic waste, if not for the fact that you would have to get that classification past yet another Clinton-run agency.

Bill Clinton dares to presume to lecture America about coordinated efforts of fraud and deceit? Oh hypocrisy, thy name is politics!

For years, forces loyal to Bill Clinton have waged their own deceptive efforts, defrauding the American people of money and the truth. From the issue of adultery (with Gennifer Flowers) to Waco to Whitewater to the Travel Office to sexual harassment (with Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey) to adultery again (with Monica Lewinsky) to campaign contributions, Clinton’s people have systematically presented false claims and allegations to the American people. Not one single one of them have yet to be held accountable to the taxpayers. Yes, Bill Clinton was impeached, but not removed from office. He still keeps his job and his pension.

And no, the White House was not without stain even before Clinton moved in. Richard Nixon’s tenure thirty years ago is perhaps the most remembered since it led to the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew, and later on the swearing in of Gerald Ford as the first president who was not elected by the electoral college. The Ronald Reagan Administration had hundreds of people brought up on various ethical and criminal charges, including Attorney General Ed Meese, who was investigated five times himself before resigning from office. But at least when Reagan said "I don’t remember" we could believe him, even before it was revealed he suffers from Alzheimer’s. Not so with the current White House resident, who needs to look at polls and focus groups to determine whether or not to even tell the truth!

But even aside the "ye without sin" hypocrisy, there are the other aspects of hypocrisy involved with tobacco and government. For starters there’s the fact that tobacco farms have for so long been subsidized by the federal government, and yet now that same government is suing the very companies that purchase and use that crop.

Or how about Vice President Al "I’m not Clinton" Gore? Oh yeah, he was all teary-eyed about having his sister die from cancer, yet a scant ten years ago was talking with pride about his mythical time on the family farm.. which also happened to grow tobacco!

Then there is the ultimate symbol of Clinton’s hypocrisy concerning tobacco.. those instances where he’s caught in public with a cigar in his mouth! His people swear up and down that he never smokes the cigars.. then again, these are the same people who said Clinton never lied to the taxpayers about the goings on with a certain intern.

Even members of the Justice Department have voiced their concerns in the past about the legality of such a lawsuit. In April of 1997, Reno reportedly told Senator Edward Kennedy that "the federal government does not have an independent cause of action" in regards to a federal lawsuit. Another member of the Department of Justice told the Bergen County Record that the federal government doesn’t have the authority to sue.

So why the sudden turn around?

The truth is, this whole issue is about money.. and lots of it! Billions of dollars that Bill Clinton would love to use for his own pet projects.

And, in fact, the federal government almost cost the states their share of those billions. When a settlement was first brokered collectively between the states and the tobacco companies, they had to go through both Congress and President Clinton. Congress tacked on so many restrictions and regulations on the bill that would have spelled certain doom to even the most solid of corporations. Then Clinton announced that they - the federal government - would have control over the money, to be dished out to the states as they - the federal government - would deem fit. That was the straw that broke Joe Camel’s back. The tobacco companies pulled out of the deal, and the lawsuit was back on.

So the states had to work with the tobacco companies individually instead of collectively. It took longer, but it also shut out the money-grubbing, tax-and-spending Gods of Mount Morality, as well as the master of big government himself - Bill Clinton. And you KNOW Bill Clinton doesn’t like to have money taken away from him. Much like the Sheriff of Nottingham, Clinton steals from the poor and keeps to himself.

But this suit also spells out a larger hypocrisy within the forces loyal to President Clinton.. and that’s the love-hate relationship the Clinton government has with business. Bill Clinton LOVES to preach about a healthy economy, and yet his government has been the most diligent in filing lawsuit after lawsuit against the very businesses that produce that healthy economy. From Microsoft to American Airlines to Visa and Master Card, the Department of Justice has made it clear that the forces of Bill Clinton are no friends to businesses. A point that was recently made clear by Bruce Josten of the United States Chamber of Commerce when he said to the New York Times that "No business can feel secure in the United States when the enormous power of the Justice Department can be unleashed against them for the purpose of raising revenue and scoring political points. This is nothing more than taxation through litigation."

And basically spells out the extent to which the Clinton government has degraded into.. no longer an Administration to be respected, even grudgingly, but rather a regime of the worst kind.. one that operates with complete impunity, knowing that they cannot be held responsible for their actions. Or perhaps best described by none other than Thomas Jefferson: "A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people."

One can only hope there will be a nation left when Bill Clinton leaves office in 2001.