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.