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.