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.

Monday, September 20, 1999

Week of 09/20/1999

"It’s Not Your Fault"
The Real Message To Generation Y

- by David Matthews 2

There is an old saying that goes something like this.. If you give someone a fish, they will have dinner tonight. But if you teach them to fish, they will be able to eat for a lifetime.

That saying comes to mind when I think about the message we as a society is giving to the next generation.

Moralists love to talk to us about messages and images and illusions. They love to say how one person’s actions reflect the entire society. And while I disagree with their rationality, certainly how our government and society acts sends an overall message to the next generation.

Growing up in the 70’s and early 80’s, the message that was presented to my generation - Generation X - was contradictory. The baby boomers gave one message in the 70’s, which was peace, love, and happiness. Then the same generation that thought nothing of free love and free drugs woke up in the 80’s and realized that they were suddenly parents. And that’s when the hypocrisy came in.. they realized that their kids could learn from their examples!

Just look at who we put in the White House - Bill Clinton has got to be the biggest example of hypocrisy in America, and yet he still gets on that public soapbox and preaches like a chaste minister and his generation still buys it.

Just like the message to the Baby Boomers in the 60’s was not to trust anyone over 30, the message to Generation X was simple - don’t trust the boomers! That’s why many people of my generation distrust government today according to a recent study conducted by Project Vote Smart.

So one has to wonder just what the message being sent to the next generation is. With government engaged in more flagrant abuses of power on all levels, being more and more litigious while flaunting sovereign immunity for their own actions, clearly the message is not one that should be expressed - namely that of freedom and opportunity. Even the message that the boomers WANT to express, namely responsibility, is sadly lacking by their actions.

So let’s get brutally honest here and envision what kind of message the next generation - Generation Y - is getting:

To The Young Adults Of Generation Y,

As you probably know, there have been a rash of incidents involving members of your generation. We are understandably concerned for your safety and well-being, which is why we have collectively decided to let you know something very important:

It’s not your fault.

Whatever it is, we know that it isn’t your fault. We just can’t hold you responsible for what you’ve done, what you are doing, or what you will do in the near future.

We know that you are the children of society, much as we were at your age. As such, we know that you are influenced by too many factors for you to know what you are doing. There is too much stimuli in your life. Too many evil influences that are too strong for you to resist. We know this because we were just like you at that age. So we know that you cannot be responsible for your actions. You just can’t, so don’t feel guilty about it.

But we still have to hold someone responsible for the evils of the world. After all, it is not your fault for what you do. Since you are the children of our society, we have no choice but to hold society responsible for your actions.

Whom else can we blame? It’s not your fault you are the way you are. And since we were like you once, we also cannot be at fault. Besides, we have far too many responsibilities of our own just being adults.

So in the days, weeks, and months to come, you will see us point fingers at evil corporations and faceless industries. We will blame them for the troubles of the world, and specifically how they are responsible for the actions you have made, are making, and will make. After all, we believe they are responsible for your actions.

We will harass, cajole, taunt, challenge, rebuke, condemn, these amoral industries. We will sue them endlessly using product liability laws. And when possible, we will force them by regulation and legislation to accept responsibility for your actions.

Yes, there will be suffering, but it is we who will make society suffer for your actions. After all, it is society that must cater to your whims and to you needs, just as they were to our whims and to our needs.

But we want you to know that we are only doing this because we love you. We have only your best interests at heart, and we know that in time you will grow up to become parents yourselves, and when you do, you will raise your children just as we raised you. Only then will you understand why we have done what we have done.

With love and hope for the future,

The Clinton Administration
The Democratic Party
The Republican Party
Members of the United States Congress
The Media
Your teachers and school administrators
Your religious leaders
The American trial lawyers

and last but not least, your parents.

Monday, September 13, 1999

Week of 09/13/1999

The Monkey Test
Evolutionary Chimps Or Creationist Chumps?

- by David Matthews 2

"No one ever heard of the truth being enforced by law. Whenever the secular arm is called in to sustain an idea, whether new or old, it is always a bad idea, and not infrequently it is downright idiotic." - H.L. Menchen

Back in the 1920’s America heard an unusual court case being concluded live on a new medium of communication called radio.

The fact that the conclusion of the court case was being broadcast wasn’t as important as the case itself. The case was the infamous "Scopes Monkey Trial" - the confrontation between creationism versus evolution that led a schoolteacher by the name of John T. Scopes to be charged with violating Tennessee law simply for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Now before Charles Darwin published his theory on evolution in the 1800’s, there was only one commonly accepted theory of the universe being created, and that’s the one established in the Old Testament in the Bible.. namely that God created the Universe and everything in it in six days. Of course, many people didn’t even call it a theory. To them, it was as plain as day. They took it literally as gospel, and damn to hell anyone who even remotely thought differently.

But over the centuries, science began to question that imperial notion, one piece at a time. They first questioned the notion that the Earth was the center of the universe and that everything revolved around it. A device called the telescope proved that notion to be false. Then the notion that the universe was only six or seven thousand years old, in accordance to "recognized" Biblical scholars, was soon dispelled by a scientific process called carbon dating. It was only a matter of time before someone like Charles Darwin would come up with the idea that creatures evolved over a large period of time over countless generations.

Of course Darwin was first to clarify his theory of the evolution of plants and animals by asserting that he still believed that God created man exclusively, and that his theory of evolution applied only to "lesser creations." But by then the proverbial genie had been let out of the bottle, and soon his theory was combined with others to form a theory of the creation of the universe that did not match the literal translation of the Book of Genesis.

How that dragged scientists into conflict with religious leaders has nothing to do with the progress of science as it did with human arrogance and religious doctrine.

To ensure that nobody questioned their authority, the Catholic Church had canonized the Holy Bible, declaring it to be absolute and unquestionable. To the Christian world, the Bible is the absolute word of God. If it said in the Bible that the Earth was created in six days, then by God no scientist was going to question that!

That arrogance soon bled itself into politics, as politicians eager to appease the church began to draft and enforce laws that reflected the dominant religious beliefs. That led states like Tennessee to ban the teaching of the theory of evolution on the simple basis that it challenged the established theology. And that led to what would be considered one of the most memorable legal battles in the 20th Century - the State of Tennessee Versus John T. Scopes.

Now folks I don’t want to bore you with the details about the Scopes Monkey Trial. If you’ve ever read the book "Inherit The Wind" you’d know how it went. Scopes lost his court battle, but the decision was eventually overturned on appeal.

Since then, the battle over who’s version of the creation of the universe is correct has been a highly contested one, with the evolution theorists gaining ground after creationist theory was declared a religious belief and thus barred from public schools as a part of the separation of church and state.

The religious moralists have tried just about every tactic possible to force schools to abandon the theory of evolution. Perhaps the most ludicrous of tactics was to convince people that the absence of religion was itself a religion. I kid you not! The theocrats called it "secular humanism" and have been trying to convince people that either their creationist theory be included in all classrooms, or you can’t teach the creation of the universe at all! A nice zero-sum attitude reminiscent of spoiled little children. "If we can’t play by MY rules, then NOBODY can play!"

The latest twist of this battle of egos and theories was played out in the state of Kansas, as members of that state’s board of education decided to remove the theory of evolution as part of the mandatory core curriculum. This would supposedly let local schools bring back creationism, if they so desire.

Supporters of evolution, of course, went bananas! "How could they do this?" they screamed. "What were they thinking?"

Well we know what the members of the Kansas Board of Education were thinking! They were thinking that they could score some serious points with the religious wrong if they would just find some way to sneak in creationism. After all, it’s not hard for the religious wrong to get their supporters in less-than-noteworthy levels of government, such as the state’s Board of Education.

But what has not been helping has been the attitudes of those supporters of evolution. They’ve treated creationist supporters like societal throwbacks. One editorial cartoonist went so far as to draw the evolution of man, from monkey to man, then painting members of the Kansas School Board as going back to the caveman stage. That kind of insulting attitude has only fueled the fire over this issue and forced many conservatives to go on the defensive.

Now folks, I understand the desire to see the self-righteous be fed back their own arrogance after the centuries of dishing it out. That falls under the old adage of you reap what you sow. But let’s get brutally honest here.. this issue will not be settled if both sides mock each other.

My personal position on the situation of evolution is simple: The theory of evolution does not contradict the story of the creation of the universe as spelled out in the Bible as long as one does not take the Bible literally.

Science and religion should be working together instead of against each other.

Science provides the "how" in the universe. How do things work? What makes them tick? That’s the job of a scientist. They tell you how it works.

And no, science is not a perfect process. It’s guesswork in many instances, working with the material at hand and their own empirical knowledge. As advances are made in technology, and as new evidence is uncovered, the theories are subject to change. A scientist cannot say with 100% certainty that "X" would be true in every instance and in every time. That kind of certainty is not possible for someone who has to possess a certain degree of skepticism in their field.

Scientists can tell you how the universe works --- to the best of their ability --- but what they cannot do is tell you why it works. That’s the role of religion.

Religion operates under different rules than science. Religion operates on blind faith. There is no room for error in religious doctrine; you either believe or you don’t. That’s why religious believers are the hardest to change. It’s pretty much a zero-sum argument for many a believer, and it is that level of certainty that has led many a believer down the path of arrogance.

Now folks, this whole issue of creation versus evolution could have been settled a long time ago if not for the arrogance on both sides. Even Pope John Paul II has said that there is room for both theories here, and even suggesting a few years ago that the church MIGHT have been wrong about persecuting Copernicus and Galileo. Granted, they’re just four hundred years too little too late, but at least they said it.

And let’s face it - BOTH the theory of evolution and creationism are just that, theories. Man wasn’t there when the Earth was formed, either by stellar clouds of gas or by the waive of a hand by the almighty. Nobody held a stopwatch on God and said "yup, that’s six days!" And what is six days to a deity? Or one day for that matter? 24 hours measured by a creature he hadn’t even created yet? The only difference between the two sides is that one side believes blindly, while the other seeks proof.

It’s sort of like two sides watching a magician saw a woman in half. The believers will marvel at the seemingly mystical quality of being able to separate a woman in a magical box and then reassemble her without any problems. The skeptics would simply wonder if the woman was really cut in half, and would search the lower end of the box for some prosthetic feet and a false bottom. It doesn’t take away from the fact that the illusion was performed, and even the skeptic would probably tell you it was a good illusion even if they knew how it was done.

The best way to deal with this thorny issue in public schools is the way I was taught when I was in school. The teacher simply explained that there are two theories, one of which is evolution, the other is creationism. Evolution was taught, creationism mentioned, and if we wanted to know more about creationism we’d have to go to church. No judgments passed on which subject was better, simply that there were two theories, and left it up to us to determine privately which ones we thought best applied. Granted, not every teacher would have the intellectual or philosophical security to entrust students that way, but at least the option was open for the students to accept or reject either theory.

You may not accept the theory that we all came from the same common ancestor that also brought forth simians, but certainly this endless debate between evolution versus creationism is making monkeys out of a lot of us. Both sides need to put aside their intellectual egos and their self-righteous attitudes before we can bring this issue to the end it so rightly deserves.

Monday, September 6, 1999

Week of 09/06/1999

Wild Wild Web?
We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!

- by David Matthews 2

You know one of the things about the Internet that is both fascinating and scary for the public is this image of it being like the old West was when it was first being settled.

Oh yes, wide open spaces. Virgin territory not yet exploited. Places where people can parcel a piece of land all their own. Communities that were small and usually friendly. Places where hard work was often rewarded, and people lived good lives.

Then again, people also look at the Internet as the new "Wild Wild West," a place where crooks, criminals, prostitutes, and violence erupts at any time. A place unregulated by government, and some would even so go far as to say a place of anarchy.

And once again we are hearing the cries for curbing the more chaotic aspects of the Internet. They don’t just want "the law".. they want "THEIR LAW." More than just a sheriff, they want a whole posse of sheriffs coming in to cyberspace to patrol the servers and make the world "safe" for their egos.

And in doing so, they’ll destroy the real magic of the Internet.

Now let’s get brutally honest here.. the real magic of the Internet is NOT just because it is a new medium of communication and expression, but rather because the Internet has had relatively little regulation from government.

The same could not be said about other forms of communication. Television and radio were regulated almost from day one by the government, which claimed the airwaves were theirs to control. The Federal Communications Commission still maintains a tight leash over who can broadcast over those mediums and what could be said on them. If you don’t believe me, try doing your own little radio station without the blessings of the FCC.

Not so with the Internet. As a matter of fact, you can do your own broadcast over the Internet, and say what you want to say without fear of the FCC. Listeners of the Talk Liberty Network know that all too well.

And because of relatively few regulations, a lot of businesses have been able to thrive online., eBay, Real Networks, and Yahoo have all been successful because legislators and government regulators did not come in like stormtroopers demanding control of cyberspace like they took control of the airwaves.

The magic of the Internet has been because it has been allowed to grow and expand, much like the Old West.

Think about it for a second. The real Old West was not filled with robbers, gunfighters, and prostitutes. The Old West was not the real-live version of movies like "The Quick and the Dead" - where criminals ran rampant through the streets, gunfights took place on schedule, and people were reduced to parasites being financially bled to death by some sadistic tycoon who looked a lot like Gene Hackman.

The Old West was filled with plenty of people who were looking for a new life because the "older" East was pretty much stale. Repressed by government laws, limited in both space and opportunity, people saw the Old West as their means to build their lives anew. They certainly did not want that repressive government to follow them about, even though it eventually did. So people took it upon themselves to defend themselves. Nobody waited for the US Calvary to come riding in, trumpets blaring "CHARGE!"

Of course, that wasn’t to say that there was complete lawlessness. There were sheriffs and US marshals, as well as local judges to dispense justice. But they didn’t arrest people because they forgot to paint their houses, or because something was said that some hypersensitive loser took offense to. Most of the time if you didn’t like what was in that town, you were on your own. If you didn’t like the saloon, you didn’t go to the saloon. If you didn’t like the brothel, you didn’t go to the brothel.

Come to think of it.. the Old West seemed like a pretty libertarian place when you look at it.

What changed all that? You guessed it.. moralists! Unhappy with the fact that not everyone subscribed to their sense of morality, moralists demanded that government get more involved in that which offended them. They essentially brought with them the same statist attitudes from the East.. the very things that people went west to get away from.

And now the new frontier.. the Internet.. is being burdened by those same spoilsports. The very people who took the magic out of the Old West want to do the same thing to the Internet.

Look, folks, we got along pretty well online with very little government intervention. Yes, in some cases some intervention is needed, but not the level which moralists would want. And we clearly don’t need new laws to address these problems. The existing laws have been more than adequate for law enforcement. Let’s not destroy the magic of the Internet simply to appease the ranting of the paranoid and dysfunctional.

Or as one memorable western line goes.. we don’t need no stinkin’ badges!