Monday, January 25, 1999

Week of 01/25/1999

The Brutally Honest State Of The Union
Washington Still Does Not Get It
- by David Matthews 2

My fellow Net surfers, it is with a heavy heart that I present to you the state of affairs going on in America.

Normally this task is reserved for the President of the United States; an annual affair that eats up broadcast time and quenches the thirst of headline-starving members of the media. In fact, this task is so politically popular, it is now followed with rebuttals from the opposing political party.

Unfortunately, there exists in the District of Columbia a strange psychological affliction amongst our elected officials called compulsive lying. They used to suffer from simple pie-in-the-sky dreaming, but lately they’ve progressed much more blatantly into deceptions and lies. Simply put, we have elected officials who cannot tell the truth even to save their own necks!

Therefore, it falls upon me to cut through the political manure and to inform you, the readers, the brutally honest state of the union.

The state of the union is in flux. It has been for quite some time now, but you would never know it from our politicians.

Yes, we are enjoying economic growth in fields never heard of before. But the American workforce is also working harder and longer to make ends meet. Part of that reason is because we are having to pay more and more taxes than ever before. Where once the American taxpayer would pay on the average twenty percent of his or her pay for taxes, they now have to pay almost half their salary on national, state, and local taxes. The stay-at-home parent that was once considered to be the trademark of family living is now a luxury to be enjoyed only by those who can afford it, while the rest have to work in order to pay more and more taxes.

Every year, our elected officials, both Democratic and Republican alike, have promised relief that they call tax cuts. But in reality, all they ever actually provide are more and more tax credits, which they knowingly and deceptively call tax cuts. Real tax cuts mean more money in the average American’s paycheck, something no politician really wants to give. So instead they offer up promissory notes that can only be redeemed when the time comes to fill out your tax forms, and then only offer these pseudo-cuts to those select Americans that they deem to be "worthy" of tax relief.

Our elected officials tell us that the nation’s budget deficit is over. Not only is the budget balanced, but according to the Clinton Administration, we’re due to reap a $4 trillion surplus in the next fifteen years. This is more from the higher taxes we’re having to pay than from cuts in federal spending. So what do our elected officials plan to do with that excess money? They plan on spending every last cent of it on even more of their own pet projects. Why not return some of those taxes in the form of real tax cuts? Because - as the president put it so kindly - we’re not smart enough to handle our own money!

Yes, we are enjoying what some consider to be a "peace dividend." The Cold War is over, and the threat of global nuclear annihilation has been extinguished for now, but peace is far from at hand. We cannot seem to go more than one month without hearing from some trouble spot around the world, and like weary Chicago firemen on a typical Devil’s Night in October we are asked to respond to situations where we are often not wanted nor our response welcomed.

And if the massacres in the former Yugoslavia nation and the power-mad antics of one Iraqi leader are not enough, there are the bogeymen threats played out in the media. From asteroids to the Year 2000 bug to anthrax threats, every would-be and might-it-be-possible scenario is spoon-fed to us by a media starving for our attention. The sky is not falling, we are told, at least not today. Tomorrow is a different story.

We have infrastructure problems in our cities and our suburbs. As the people search for a piece of back yard that isn’t cluttered with the sight of other people trying to get their own back yards, city and county leaders are spending their time trying to appease the intellectually dysfunctional social and religious groups over sexual issues of their neighbors and whether or not someone else’s children are praying to their particular version of God. Growth is a double-edged sword for communities. They need it to continue to thrive, but they also know that too much of it can lead to people leaving for less populated areas. Contrary to the naïve views of certain leaders and the ultra-rich like Ted Turner, no growth is not a viable goal for these areas. I have personally seen this in progress, and the strangling effect it has on a community. No growth is stagnation. It is the death knell of a community.

And what do our elected officials offer? Still more government programs and still more regulations to look into the situation.

We look at the computer and telecommunication industry as the new growth medium in America, and yet we struggle to accept the responsibilities for bringing this new medium into our homes and into our schools. Instead, we look to those same elected officials to do our jobs as parents and teachers while we excuse ourselves on the grounds of ignorance and incompetence.

We are by far the freest nation in the world, and yet at no other time has our freedoms been put in peril than now. One by one, our freedoms are being legislated and regulated away by our elected officials under the guise of more security, fulfilling the warnings Benjamin Franklin made more than two centuries ago. With each perceived social crisis, government always seem to offer more programs to counter them. With each program and every new regulation, there is more and more micromanaging of our lives by people who have absolutely no business being in our lives in the first place.

Then there are the plethora of new government databases being created not just on the federal level, but also on the state level. Databases of information about you the individual. If you go to work, the federal government has a database about you. If you’re divorced, the federal government has a database about you. If you apply for a drivers license in states like Georgia, those states have databases on your fingerprints. Police now want to collect and store genetic information about citizens for their own purposes. The collection of information about you as a regular citizen is at a level that even George Orwell never would have imagined. And the hypocritical part about it is that the same government that is collecting this information is being critical of private companies doing the same thing.

With each of these situations, government can only offer more and more programs, further entrenching themselves into our lives. And these programs are not free. With each program being offered and with each new group of regulations proposed, we can look towards still more and more taxes that we will all have to pay for.

Further complicating matters is this new trend between state and federal governments to sue successful companies for the behaviors of its citizens. First came the lawsuits against the tobacco companies, which the states will be reaping billions in settlements. The Clinton Administration, whose blatant greed interfered with the first settlement, now plans on suing the tobacco companies themselves for even more money. Now cities are suing gun manufactures simply because the guns work they way they are supposed to, even though the people using them aren’t. This kind of reverse Robin Hood litigation continues to destroy any semblance of personal responsibility, and shows just how greedy government is against any successful private enterprise.

It is ironic that the administration that proclaimed that "the era of big government is over" has done just the opposite. It is further ironic that the opposition to the current administration is no different than them in both actions and words. The Republican Party can proclaim themselves that they are for individual freedoms until they are blue in the face, and yet when you put their actions up to the limelight, you’ll find that the GOP is just as mired in big government as the Clinton Administration.

One would think that the connection to higher taxes and more government intrusions would be plainly visible to most Americans, but it isn’t for two reasons. First, because these actions are happening quietly a bit at a time. Whittle away one freedom here, impose a new set of regulations there, and pay for them with a few hidden taxes here and there. The second reason is because most of these actions are happening while the American public is distracted with other issues. How many people knew about the new regulations called "Know Your Customer" that was enacted amidst the controversy of the President’s personal sexual encounters? If you didn’t, you aren’t alone. Most people won’t know about it until it is too late to do anything about it.

One of the key solutions to less taxes and less government intrusions into our lives has to be to stop asking government to solve every problem we face. Stop trying to get government to correct every social faux pas. No amount of tax money or government regulation can create a utopian society. That effort comes not from the apex of those who would presume to sit like gods of Greek mythology, but rather from the ordinary citizens who make the decision themselves. It happens when we let parents be parents, teachers be teachers, and businesses be businesses.

There is hope for Americans, but it will not come easily. It will require that they start taking responsibilities for their lives, and it will require that they kick the habit that is called government. Only then will the state of the union really be strong once again.

Monday, January 18, 1999

Week of 01/18/1999

The GOP Versus Larry Flynt
Hustler Publisher’s Motives Timely, Not Political
- by David Matthews 2

Have you heard the news? Yes, the mysterious "sex police" that has so plagued members of the Republican Party now has a face! And it’s a face the Republicans already love to hate - Larry Flynt!

The founder and publisher of the adult-oriented Hustler magazine has thrown himself into the media orgy called "L’affair Lewinsky" by exposing some of the dirty little secrets of those that would sit in judgment of President Clinton. The first in his sights was Congressman Bob Barr (sadly of my state of Georgia), who was the first member of Congress to request articles of impeachment BEFORE the mess we call Monica was even made public. Flynt promises even more "revelations" in the days and weeks to come. Of course, offering people up to $1,000,000.00 for such information opens up a LOT of closets.

So now that the public has a name they can point fingers and blame for the sexual revelations, the talking heads are now painting Flynt to be the unofficial sexual Torquemada of the Clinton Administration; naming names of every GOP politician with less than perfect marriages.

Already exposed before Barr were Congressmen Daniel Burton, Helen Chenoweth, Henry Hyde, and would-be House Speaker Bob Livingston. Burton, Chenoweth, and Hyde were all exposed by various "liberal" reporters allegedly on the goading of Camp Clinton. But then along came Flynt’s million-dollar want ad, followed by the reported admittance that Livingston "strayed" on occasion during his 30+ years of marriage. Livingston initially was confident about staying in office and looked forward to replacing retiring speaker Newt Gingrich, but quickly changed his mind and announced his plans to resign on the same day the House impeached President Clinton.

Flynt is being credited as the one behind Livingston’s downfall, but in all truthfulness, his people first didn’t know anything about Livingston’s marital infidelities. When asked by MSNBC that day, Flynt said he only WISHED his people had such information on the gentleman from Louisiana. It was only AFTER the media started giving Flynt credibility did he start claiming he was the one who was about to expose Livingston.

So now Larry Flynt is Bill Clinton’s new "friend" right? Bill Clinton’s new "buddy" being the publisher of a sexually-explicit magazine? Is that what we’re being led to believe now?

Let’s get brutally honest here. This is just too damn convenient for this writer to accept!

First of all, the connection is too suspicious for any thinking individual to accept. The Clinton Administration has led the most stringent anti-sex crusades in recent history, from the "Don’t ask, don’t tell" military policy to the Communications Decency Act and the Child Online Protection Act. Unlike the Reagan Administration’s Meese Commission on Pornography, the Clinton Administration has acted to suppress anything sexual in nature, not just coerce people like Meese did. So now we’re led to believe that Clinton is now "chummy" with one of those publishers his administration has worked so damn hard to suppress and imprison?

Clinton has for so long built up this image of being a "family values" kind of guy that it would be preposterous for him to even have a fleeting association with anything sexually explicit. He makes big presentations about him going to church, being seen with his family, and arranging for that "accidental" photo op showing him and Hillary in a private moment. Once he had to admit to an "inappropriate" relationship with Monica Lewinsky, he made a big show about having TWO Baptist ministers around him at public gatherings. Do you REALLY think that he would then want his case to be defended by Larry Flynt of all people?

If anything, the connection of Larry Flynt to Clinton would serve to BENEFIT the Republican Party.

Think about it! The Republicans have long since demonized Flynt. Connecting him to Clinton would validate their crusade to impeach the president. It also serves to chase away some Clinton defenders who happen to be self-righteously against sexually explicit materials. "What? You support Clinton? You support a man who has a known pornographer defend him? You sick bastard! You probably want to let all the rapists and child molesters loose too!"

Worse yet, Flynt’s actions may even serve to benefit the moralists and theocrats who seem to have the GOP in their back pocket. If Flynt can expose some of their more fervent supporters to be the hypocrites they are, they can have those stooges replaced. After all, who do you think arranged for Bob Livingston’s sudden retirement announcement? It certainly wasn’t the outgoing congressman from Louisiana!

So if Flynt isn’t doing this to support the President, WHY is he on a hunt for closet skeletons?

The answer to that is simple - payback! The moralists and theocrats have spent years making Larry Flynt into the symbol of their personal hatred. They have suppressed his businesses, they have had him arrested, they have had him under indictment, one of their people even tried to KILL him, he’s currently awaiting trial once again in Cincinnati for a trumped-up charge of selling adult materials to a minor in an adult-only store. Now, like the theocrats had their comeuppance in the late 80’s, the conservatives are being exposed for the hypocrites they are. Do you really think that someone like Flynt would just sit by in his wheelchair - thanks to some self-styled crusader with a rifle - and let the hypocrisy of Washington continue to consume only a handful of politicians?

And let’s look at what Flynt has uncovered so far, shall we? Aside from his bogus claims of getting Bob Livingston out of office, the only "hot" evidence is the court transcripts of Bob Barr taking the fifth at his divorce trial. When asked whether or not Barr was sleeping with his then-soon-to-be fourth wife he takes his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Apparently he did the same when asked whether or not he funded that yet-to-be wife’s abortion as well. I didn’t realize using your Fifth Amendment right against possible self-incrimination was a certain conviction. Hardly the "smoking gun" that Flynt had promised. I hope that when Larry brings out more "hot" evidence of hypocrisy, he’ll bring more to the discussion than someone exercising his Constitutional rights.

If anything, Flynt and the GOP essentially made each other what they are today. The moralists needed a physical bogeyman to vent their hatred towards. Flynt needed the publicity to set himself apart from the other adult-oriented publishers. It would be natural, then, for Flynt to feel compelled to deal himself into this mess.

I’m laughing my butt off with every twist that this "L’affair Lewinsky" media orgy has taken. There is a dysfunctional cast of characters that would make any soap opera writer jealous. But the important thing to remember is that not everyone is in this game for the same reasons.

As the case of Larry Flynt proves, this is not a zero-sum game being played where the characters are either on one side or the other. There are several factions playing their hands in this, and the key thing is not to figure out who’s on whose side, because they’re all on their own sides. Rather ask yourself why they’re doing what they’re doing. It’ll spare you some headaches.

Monday, January 11, 1999

Week of 01/11/1999

The "Other" Constitution?
There Are Real Rights, And Then…
- by David Matthews 2

"We hold these truths to be self-evident - that all men are created equal. That they are empowered with certain unalienable tasks. That among those rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." - Declaration of Independence

"You have right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney. You have the right to sing the blues. You have the right to cable TV. Very important. You have the right to paint the walls. No loud colors." - Officer Kerry Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg) in "Police Academy 2"

Listen closely, my children, and you shall hear the tale of two Constitutions.

Once upon a time, there existed a document called the Declaration of Independence. It was a unique document because it took on the abuse of power by a tyrannical government and established the principle that EVERY citizen, not just nobility, not just the clergy, be entitled to rights that cannot be taken away by government.

From that document came forth the Constitution of the United States, a document that established a government elected by the people, not appointed by the Divine Right of Kings. From that document, came the subsequent amendments which established the rights of citizens.

In the beginning, those rights weren’t really taken seriously. Many states thought that those Constitutional amendments didn’t really apply to them. States like Virginia were ratifying the Bill of Rights on one hand, then violating them on the other by passing laws such as the one that outlawed Quakers from practicing their religion in that state.

Then something strange happened - people actually paid attention to those Constitutional rights! When it says "Congress shall make no law," they started taking it seriously! Courts started overturning laws that violated those rights, which pissed off all those politicians who authored and voted for those nasty laws.

So these moralists decided if the courts will do that for the Constitution, all they have to do is make their demands a "right" and the courts will just HAVE to enforce it.

And thus was born the "other" Constitution. Well, it really isn’t a complete "Constitution," but just like the real thing, this pale imitation has its share of "rights" that, in some cases, sound even better than the real rights Americans are given.

For instance, the real Constitution has this pesky thing called "freedom of speech" in which you have the right to say anything you like except in cases of libel or slander or to intentionally cause a riot. Well, that’s good if it is speech you want to hear, but what about all that speech that you don’t want to hear? Fortunately for you, this "other" Constitution has its own "right" - the right not to be offended.

You don’t like what your neighbor is saying? Just call it "hate speech" or "obscene" and have it banned for violating your right not to be offended. After all, under this "other" Constitution, it’s not really "speech" at all, so you’re free to limit it, or even outlaw it if you’re so inclined.

You don’t like your job? Well, under this "other" Constitution, you have the right to an automatic raise, no matter if you don’t do your job or if you do it poorly. Not only that, but if you stick around long enough, you’ll have the "right" to a promotion, no matter if you really deserve one.

How about if you don’t have enough money? Well, under this "other" Constitution, you have the "right" to money just because of past problems. Not just in your life, either, but for what your ancestors got or didn’t get. You think your great-great-great-grandfather got a bad deal in his life? Then you’re "entitled" to some money!

How about what other people do that you don’t like? Well, that’s just what this "other" Constitution is all about! You don’t like smoking? Well then you have the "right" to outlaw smoking simply because you find the act offensive! Same for strip clubs. You don’t like them? You have the "right" to outlaw them. How about certain consentual sexual practices between adults? Yes, under this "other" Constitution, you have the "right" to outlaw those as well simply because the very thought of it offends you.

Come to think of it, there isn’t anything that isn’t a "right" under this "other" Constitution, which is probably why it is so appealing to moralists, liberals, theocrats, and conservatives!

Now let’s get brutally honest here. There’s is no "other" Constitution; simply the demands of power-hungry crusaders that they deceptively call "rights." America has only ONE Constitution, and that document, along with the amendments that are pursuant to it, are the law of the land. But unfortunately, it often seems like lawyers, crusaders, and even elected officials are operating under a different Constitution, one that allows them to change the rules whenever they damn well feel like.

Complicating this even further is this misbegotten notion that everything they want is a "right." Well I’ve got news for you - many of the things that these social busybodies call a "right" are simply nothing more than pure manure.

In America, you have the right to free speech, including saying or doing something that might offend some other people! You do NOT have a right to not be offended by that speech. The same right that gave Martin Luther King his voice also gave the Klu Klux Klan their voice. The same right that gave voice to Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh also gives it to Larry Flynt and Howard Stern, and all the voices in between. And guess what? It also gives YOU your voice!

In America, you have the right to job opportunities. That means you have the right to apply for a job based on merit and eligibility, and not on the basis of race, creed, gender, or in most cases age. You do NOT have a right to use your race, creed, gender, or age to get preferential treatment. Nor does simply being employed give you the right to higher pay or promotions. Opportunities are simply that, chances. Not guarantees.

You do NOT have a right to get what you feel your ancestors were cheated out of. Since America is such a social and cultural melting pot, I’m sure that if we dig back far enough, we can find a social gaffe for EVERY nationality that they can claim reparations for. Every immigrant group coming into America, whether it was voluntary or not, has had problems adjusting. Even the Native Americans had problems adjusting, and they lived here before the Europeans!

The basis of rights means something that is guaranteed to you. Most of the rights guaranteed in the first ten Amendments of the Constitution actually PROHIBIT the government from acting in matters such as speech, religion, and privacy. These are things that moralists and power-hungry members of government try to subvert because it interferes with their own twisted designs.

It’s sort of sad that special interest groups spend so much time trying to create artificial rights when they should be more concerned with the real rights that our elected officials are working so hard to dissolve. It is the REAL rights that give them the ability to gripe about all those artificial rights.

There’s truth in the old saying about something that seems too good to be true. Any time somebody wants to introduce a new "right" to you, think about that saying.

Monday, January 4, 1999

Week of 01/04/1999

Target: Kids and Computers
Four Little Words Can Settle This Issue
- by David Matthews 2

Later on this month, the US District Court in Philadelphia will once again take up the issue of computers, the Internet, and the First Amendment.

The Child Online Protection Act, otherwise known as COPA, was passed by Congress and the Clinton Administration as part of an omnibus spending bill. The author of COPA was the co-author of the original Communications Decency Act, the anti-American law that criminalized "indecent" speech online. The US Supreme Court has already struck down CDA as being blatantly unconstitutional. It is hoped that the court will do the same to this equally anti-American law.

But the issue that caused it will not go away. Moralists still shriek at the top of their lungs about how the Internet is a "danger" to children. Should COPA meet the same fate as the CDA, Congress is prepared to send more anti-American legislation in the form of domain name zoning. Zero-sum arguments on this issue are more reminiscent of the McCarthy Communist Witch Hunts of the early 1950’s than valid discussions leading to practical solutions.

Nobody questions that the issue of kids and computers is a serious one, but there are four little words that nobody seems to ask:

Where are the parents?

Every instance of children being lured online by pedophiles to run away gets headlines. Every paragraph talk about the dangers of kids being online. But there are four little words nobody utters:


We hear about kids accessing "indecent" sites online, and moralists are just chock full of their ready-made "experts" to say how "traumatic" the exposure to these sites are for kids, but nobody asks the four little words that should go with that:


Everybody wants to give kids their own computers, but nobody seems to ask the four little words that should go hand-in-hand with that task:


Where are they?

In any other instance, when kids get in trouble for doing something designed for adults, the first question asked is where are the parents when it happened. A 12-year old crashes a single-prop airplane, the first question asked is where are the parents. An 8-year old hot-wires the family car and crashes it, and everybody asks where are the parents. Two kids take the family guns and go on a sniper hunt at the local school, and everybody asks where are the parents. But computers? Well nobody seems to ask that question, and maybe they should!

Let’s be brutally honest here. Kids and computers are a serious responsibility. Despite the fact that the American introduction to the home computer use came in the form of arcade-style games (remember Pong?), computers - and especially the Internet - were never designed for kids! They were designed for adults.

The first commercial online service, CompuServe, was designed for business users. The first personal computers were designed for adult electronics enthusiasts. The Internet was initially designed for the military, industrial, and educational institutions. All of these things were designed for adult use, not for kids.

So WHY is it that parents feel they are exempt from their responsibility when it involves computers?

Is it because they feel inadequate when it comes to computers? You know, I’m constantly encountering people who say they’re "technically-challenged." It’s become the latest fad. "I don’t know squat about computers, therefore I don’t have to be responsible for them!"

What bunk!

Responsibility for the computer, and to teach your kids on how to use it properly, is not limited to how much knowledge you have on computers and the Internet! If you have kids, it’s your responsibility to show them how to use the computer responsibly. That’s the job of a parent! Just as it would be your responsibility if your child drank drain cleaner and bleach from under your kitchen sink, so too are you burdened with the making sure your child uses the computer properly.

I have little sympathy for parents who feign ignorance and irresponsibility when it comes to computers and the Internet. If you don’t know, fine. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you don’t. We were all newbies once. All of us, myself included, were once clueless as to how to use computers. But then comes the next step - learning. You have to figure out how that thing works.

You know, there are more and more tools available for parents so they can learn how to use that computer and to use it properly than ever before. There are books out there specifically titled for "idiots" and books out there for "dummies" as well, so there are no excuses for parents to claim that they can’t "understand" the material available. There are classes available as well. You local community college may offer classes on how to use the computer properly. Computer stores like CompUSA offer classes as well.

Worse comes to worse, ASK someone who knows! I’m not a computer expert, but I get plenty of people who ask me for help about the computer problems they have. I have no problem with friends and acquaintances asking me about how to download a program, or even to click on a hypertext. I would much rather have them know than to continue the perpetual excuse of being "technically-challenged."

The next argument that parents make is that their kids know more about computers than they do. Look, folks, I realize that kids are little more inquisitive than adults. They have time and the patience to look at things that you may not think of instantly. That does not mean you can shuck your responsibilities, that just means you have to work that much harder to make sure they know how to use that computer properly. Parents somehow think that having their eight-year old child serve as the technical "expert" of the family is a badge of honor. It’s not. It’s a sign of incompetence and irresponsibility on behalf of the parents.

Now I will say this - I know there are plenty of good parents out there who do everything in their power to make sure their kids are taught right from wrong. It’s not an easy challenge nowadays, but it is something that must be done.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of other parents as well who try the easy way out. They think that if they sit their kid in front of the TV set or the computer that somehow things will be better. They mistakenly believe that the Internet or the TV could serve as an artificial babysitter for them, relieving them of their responsibilities. You had might as well let them play in traffic for all the good that does!

These are the people who make this issue so hard to resolve, because they DON’T want to be responsible parents. They DON’T want to know how to use that computer. They DON’T want to know how to use online filters. They DON’T want to put the computer someplace where they can use it and properly monitor its use. They want other people to burden the responsibility that they consciously abdicate.

The issue is easy to solve when we remember that parental responsibility should be one of the first questions asked. All you have to do is trace the pattern of decisions. Who made the decision to purchase the computer? Who made the decision to place it in a certain area? Who made the decision to hook it up online? Who pays for the phone lines for that online access? Who makes the decision to go online? Who pays for the credit card that pays for that online access? If the answer on all those questions happens to be "the parents," then the burden of responsibility rests with them.

So the next time you open up the newspaper or turn on the TV set and hear about little Johnny Dimple or Suzy Purebred being "traumatized" for going to an adult-oriented site, ask yourself that one question nobody seems to want to ask - Where were the parents when this happened?