Monday, August 28, 2000

Week of 08/28/2000

Clinton’s Foolish Legacy Quest
- by David Matthews 2

Bill Clinton has got to be in full panic mode by now.

He’s got less than six months left in his presidency before he is officially relegated to political obscurity, but it seems like everyone wants him to be forgotten the moment he walked off the podium at the Democratic Convention. His wife is running for the US Senate. Vice President Al "I Keep Reinventing Myself" Gore, Clinton’s heir apparent, has supposedly taken over the Democratic Party and is wielding the banner that Bubba had held for so very long. The man who was once the center of attention for his party for the past eight years is now feeling more in common with the White House pets.

What IS a narcissist like Clinton supposed to do with six months?

Well, Clinton feels he can spend that time working on his "legacy."

Bill Clinton feels he can reinvent his "legacy" by creating world peace. He thought he could solve the problems between the Palestinians and the Israelis by having them over to do some marathon peace summit. Sorry folks, but as any college student would tell you, cramming for success doesn’t always work. You can’t get two sides who have hated each other for so very long to suddenly and completely switch to peace just to appease your timetable, even IF you happen to be Bill Clinton.

Failing to solve the problems in the Middle East, Clinton is now focusing his attentions to the African nations. Apparently he feels he can solve age-old conflicts between warring tribal nations, feed the starving, and solve the AIDS crisis over there by throwing still more of our taxpayer money.

Of course you can’t forget Clinton the Environmentalist. This is the side of Bubba that comes out whenever he feels he needs to appease the liberals. He does this by using (or abusing, depending on your perspective) executive orders to seize land in the western parts of the United States for the government as "national monuments".

Excuse me? A plain, ordinary stretch of forest can be considered a "monument"? When I hear the word "monument", I get the impression that there’s something unique about that object. Mount Rushmore, or the Grand Canyon, or the Great Stone Face in New Hampshire come to mind. Even the geysers at Yellowstone and the Petrified forests in California can fall under that category. However, I challenge anyone in the Clinton Regime to explain to me how plain, ordinary woods can earn the distinction of "monument."

Oh, wait a minute! I forgot, we’re talking about the Clinton Regime! These are the people who reinvent the English language more times than Al Gore reinvents himself.

Then there’s Clinton the Economist. That’s the side of Clinton that comes out to reassure people that the economy is good, so he can take credit for it. If we are to trust the Regime.. and they are about as legitimate as a three dollar bill.. then the whole economic world could never have continued, much less prospered, without Bill Clinton.

Hate to burst your bubble, Bubba, but you have had about as much influence on the prosperous economy as I have in picking this year’s Playmate of the Year. Yes, government can have an effect on the economy, but that largely comes from their ability to raise or lower taxes, offer tax breaks to businesses, or to increase or decrease the amount of regulations and laws imposed on society. You haven’t cut taxes, offered tax breaks to businesses, or cut down on the laws and regulations imposed on businesses. Instead, you’ve sent the Department of Justice to scrutinize the business world and to sue companies like Microsoft for being too successful for your own good, and imposed more laws and regulations designed to hamper the business world. Your people at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration even suggested they had the authority to regulate the environments of those who work from their own homes!

If anything, the economic success of the past few years has occurred in spite of the efforts of the Clinton Regime, not because of them.

Matter of fact, quite a few people have been skeptical of the claims that the economy is still moving at warp speed. They know that the companies have been laying people off right and left like it was the late 80’s again. Sure, the new economy has been creating new jobs, but that’s only staving off the inevitable. You can’t tell us that with rising gas prices, increased interest rates, a slowdown in new homes and durable goods, and steady layoffs that the economy is STILL progressing.

But Clinton the Economist has also come out when it comes to the federal budget. Now we’re expected to believe that Clinton is responsible for balancing the budget.

Oh really, Bubba? If you were so good, why didn’t you balance the federal budget in the first half of your first term, when your fellow Democrats were in control of the House and Senate? Why did it happen when Congress was under the control of the Republicans? You know, the people whom you claim were the ones who created the deficit in the first place.

Here’s the cold, hard truth, folks: The federal budget was balanced because of all of the taxes paid through the investments made in the highly volatile stock market. Win or lose, the people who played the stock market had to pay taxes on that money. The more that was invested, the more that was paid to Uncle Sam in the form of taxes. It had nothing to do with Bill Clinton! All he did was stand out there with his hands out to collect the tax money and try to take the credit.

No doubt Clinton has borrowed a page from Adolph Hitler’s book and believes that if you tell a lie enough times that people will begin to believe it.

Those are the images Bill Clinton thinks we should remember him for. That is what he believes his legacy should be. As a peacemaker, as an environmentalist, as a solution to the world’s problems, and as the savior to both America’s economy and to the federal budget.

Now let’s get brutally honest here… those things are NOT what Clinton’s legacy will be, no matter how hard his people try to spin it.

Legacies are made, not manufactured. They are what people leave us with, not something that is made for us. And quite often that legacy is not something positive, but rather something negative.

Richard Nixon would’ve want us to remember him for his visits to China and the former Soviet Union, and for ending the war in Vietnam. His legacy, however, is that of scandal and shame. Of a man who was nearly impeached by Congress for gross abuse of power. That’s what people will remember Nixon for. That is his legacy.

Jimmy Carter would want us to remember his role as a peacemaker, for bringing together the leaders of Israel and Egypt to help settle their differences. However, his legacy is that of double-digit inflation and double-digit unemployment, and a world arena that viewed the United States as a "paper tiger," unable even to mount a successful rescue mission for their own people being held hostage in some third-world Islamic nation called Iran. That’s Jimmy Carter’s legacy.

Ronald Reagan would want to be remembered for his get-tough attitudes with union leaders and with world leaders. A man who cut taxes and federal regulations. However, his legacy is that of Iran-Contra deals, corrupt cabinet members, higher federal deficits, and Nancy Reagan’s "Just Say No" rhetoric.

George Bush would want to be remembered for the victory in the Gulf War, but his legacy is that of a leader fiddling with talk of a "New World Order" while the economy suffered. Maybe presidents don’t have much influence over the economy, but they do take the heat when it looks like they’ve developed a "let them eat cake" attitude towards their voters.

And so, what would Bill Clinton’s legacy be when he leaves office come January 20th?

Well Bill Clinton will leave us with a pretty hefty legacy.. none of it of the kind that he would want to be remembered for.

Bill Clinton would go down in history as the second president ever impeached by Congress, and the first to ever do so for lying under oath. In fact, his legacy will be marked by the other sides of Bill that he would rather we forget about.

There’s Clinton the Liar. The president who got in front of the world and declared he did not have sexual relations with "that woman" and that those allegations were false. But then months later, as the proof of his lying began to surface, he would get in front of those cameras and admit to having such a relationship. That was but one of several lies he would be caught in, including his admitting that he really did have an affair with Gennifer Flowers in the 80’s.

Then there’s Clinton the Scolded Puppy. He brings that one out whenever he is reminded of being Clinton the Liar. Whenever people are reminded that he lied, he makes a BIG production out of how "sorry" he is. He’ll take his family to church, promptly hold a bible in his hand like he was Jimmy Swaggart, and drag a group of ministers to the White House so he could proclaim his penitence. And it seems like every time this side of Clinton comes out, he brings more and more ministers out. I’m surprised he hasn’t hopped on Air Force One and flown to the Vatican for a private confession with the pope already.

And then there’s Clinton the Hypocritical Liberal. This is the side of Clinton where his actions are not what he preaches. Like wanting his cabinet to "reflect America" when it actually comprised of "Friends of Bill". Or supposedly supporting women’s rights when allegations come out that he had an affair with an intern and groped a longtime Democratic supporter who came to him looking for work. Despite his claims of protecting civil rights, groups like the American Civil Liberties Union consider the Clinton Regime to be the most UN-constitutional body of government in American history because of the number of tyrannical laws and regulations proposed or enacted.

Those are the things Bill Clinton will be remembered for. That’s his legacy, and all of the spin doctors in the universe could not dilute that.

Nor can it be improved now. Everything Bill Clinton has done recently and will do until January will be suspect. Every time he opens his mouth, his motives will be questioned. Every stoke of the pen, every appearance he makes, every bill he signs or vetoes will be questioned. Is he doing it as part of his job, or just to build on his so-called "legacy"?

It would be best if Clinton simply rode out those last six months at the White House. Sit back, watch the world around him. Do just the tasks that are required of him as President of the United States, and leave the politics to others. But I guess that would be against his better nature, wouldn’t it?

Perhaps it is simply the nature of a narcissist like Bill Clinton to want to rewrite his own history. Mark Twain said it himself that "We do not deal much in fact when we are contemplating ourselves." However, engaging in a Quixote-like quest for legacy is a lot like trying to chase your own tail. You will never catch it, and if you do, all you’ll do is make an ass out of yourself.

Monday, August 21, 2000

Week of 08/21/2000

The New Net Struggle: Pay-Per-Use or Free?
- by David Matthews 2

Back in July of 1998, I talked about supposedly a new trend in software, which I called Pay-Per-Use. That was where you would buy a product at lower-than-usual costs, but you could only use that product for a limited time, and then if you wanted to use it any longer, you would have to pay extra.

At that particular time, the pay-per-use product that people were talking about was called DIVX. It was a form of Digital Video Disc that you could only play on a special DIVX-DVD player. It limited you to a certain number of times you could play that disc. Say, for instance, ten times. If you wanted to play it after those ten times are up, you would have to pay extra for it. And the player often came complete with a phone jack and on-screen menu system so you could pay for that renewal with your credit card. Wonderful little tool, perfect for those impulsive buyers that seem to spend all of their time on the Home Shopping Channel.

Not surprisingly, people didn’t buy the whole DIVX idea. Why? Because it sucked! Nobody wanted to pay a subscription for something that they could otherwise get for full price and use indefinitely. Would you? I certainly wouldn’t!

So DIVX folded up and the company that sponsored it had to eat a lot of money to buy back those old DIVX players in exchange for normal DVD players. Three cheers for the anti-DIVX crowd!

But while DIVX died, the notion of pay-per-use did not go with it. Instead, it festered in the brains of executives and corporate attorneys. It clung to the backs of their skulls like squashed love bugs on the windshield of a car.

They saw how successful companies that use pay-per-use systems could be. After all, who would have figured that an online provider like America Online would someday not only buy out other software companies like ICQ and Netscape, but also buy out Time-Warner, one of the largest communications and publishing mediums in the world?

And of course, how could we not ignore the success of subscription-based sites dedicated to sex? Danni Ashe has gone from being an obscure but very voluptuous dancer and model to being the most downloaded woman on the Internet, whose website has dominated over sites dedicated to politics, housekeeping, and Oprah Winfrey. She’s now considered by the press to be the queen of the adult websites.. although the term the media often uses is less-than flattering. Of course, she would not be so successful if she didn’t charge people a regular subscription fee.

So now the suit-and-tie corporate executives have decided to try pay-per-use again.. this time with software products.

McAffee’s VirusScan was one of the first to go pay-per-use. They offered a really cheap virus protection system that you could use on your system. Then they offered you six months of free upgrades (which has now been reduced to three months). After that, you couldn’t upgrade your system, but you could still update the virus data for free. If you wanted to upgrade your system, you had to sign up with their "Virus Clinic" program, which charged a monthly fee.

Other software companies are also going subscription. Real Networks, which has had tremendous success with their free RealPlayer and their $30 RealPlayer Plus system, is now offering their latest "Plus" system to the public.. for $9.95 a month. The once-free Remarq newsgroup search engine has been bought up and now offers a monthly subscription fee just to use their service.

Even the Godzilla of software, Microsoft, is eager to get into the pay-per-use system with their Office products. Imagine, if you will, getting a regular reminder that your Microsoft Word subscription is just a few days away from expiring. Or wanting to check your sales database, but instead get a message that your Microsoft Access program has expired and your IT department hasn’t bothered to renew the company’s subscription.

Now let’s get brutally honest here.. will pay-per-use programs work? In most instances, probably not. Certainly in the case of Microsoft, this commentator feels that Bill Gates would be commercially castrating himself if he allows his Office products to go subscription. As long as there are alternatives out there that do not operate on a pay-per-use system, people will flock to them.

Once again, the suit-and-tie executives and the corporate attorneys have forgotten a fundamental fact about consumers.. they WANT free stuff! Joe and Jane Six-Pack are penny-pinchers who will cut as many corners as possible to make ends meet. They’re not like some of these silver-spoon-fed executives who have had everything handed to them.

And when it comes to the Internet, there is a huge segment of that crowd that believes that it is more than just a bastion of free speech, but also of free content.

I call them the "Freebies", because that is what they believe the Internet should be.. just one free medium where EVERYTHING is at their grasp at no cost. They not only oppose the pay-per-use system, they encourage other people to get as much stuff out there for free as possible.

You see many of these Freebies in the newsgroups, asking for whatever files they can get their hands on, especially from subscription sites. They don’t want to pay the subscription fee for those sites, they just want the files, free and clear. Copyrights and "Terms Of Service" agreement be damned for these people, and they’ll even let you know it! Not to your face, of course.. but through some bogus e-mail account.

You can see these Freebies at the password sites. They’re the ones who manage to get their hands on someone’s password on a subscription site and post them for anyone to have access to. The webmasters to these password sites claim that all they’re doing is just second-guessing their fellow content creators, but by posting that access for anyone to use, they in fact cause more harm than good.

These are the people who created free content engines like Napster and Gneutilla. These are the users who gave entertainers like Lars Ulrich of Metallica reason to take Napster to court. These are the people who really don’t have to face any kind of retribution for their actions. After all, they’d say they aren’t the ones who are posting the copyrighted material, they’re just using what’s out there. They believe - erroneously or not - that if it is out in the newsgroups, it is theirs for the taking.

Who make up these Freebies? Well, many of them are students.. young men and women who already enjoy a lot of things from other people. In addition to room and board, they often enjoy unlimited high-speed network access via their college or university. They are so used to having things given to them that the notion of having to pay for such access borderlines on blasphemy.

Some are loyal fans of a certain group or a certain website model, and whose only motivation to collect every conceivable file - free or subscription - is out of sheer greed. Quite often these people will post such material on their own fan sites.

And still other Freebies have a more mercenary motivation. These are the online pirates, people who take that material, copyright protected or not, burn them onto CD’s and sell them for their own gain. Some even have the audacity to auction such material off on eBay. As a content-maker myself, I find this particular subgroup of Freebies to be in the same league as online child predators. After all, it’s one thing to take a person’s hard work and talent, it is another to make a buck off of it.

But for whatever reason, these Freebies are the ones who serve as a constant thorn in the sides of not only the corporate suits and their slick attorneys, but to the webmasters and content providers in general. They make it difficult for even struggling webmasters to make a buck when they’re constantly having to keep an eye out for these people.

And yes, it is very tempting to consider siding with the Freebies.. We all want something for nothing.. or at least as close to nothing as we can get. And yes, it is frustrating to see something that was once free go subscription. I’ve been a big critic of such a trend, knowing that people are, by nature, drawn to free things. At the same time, though, I also know the frustrations of being a content provider out there in a realm where millionaires can be made overnight. We all want that piece of the megabuck pie, even though many of us would never even get the crumbs.

In between the subscription crowd and the Freebies lay the rest of the online community. Joe and Jane Six-Pack, relative newbies, often side with the Freebie crowd, while members of Congress - equally relative newbies - are more adherent to the corporate subscription evangelists.

And here’s the crux of this situation: Every time some service or product goes pay-per-use, it serves as yet another reason for the Freebies to dig even deeper and push further in their quest for even more content. The content providers really do need to tread a very fine line when it comes to taking users for granted, because while people can be loyal to a certain product, they don’t necessarily feel that the product is worth continually paying $9.95 a month for.

Look, the sad reality is that at some point, we ALL have to pay a price for going online. Some things are worth paying a continual price for, but others are not. Software is one of those things that does not fall into that pay-per-use category. If software companies are serious about making a buck off their products, this is not the way to go.

Monday, August 14, 2000

Week of 08/14/2000

Dem’s Bunnies, Dem’s Bunnies
- by David Matthews 2

"Just for the record, ‘hypocrisy’ means insincerity, overt piousness and/or doing the opposite of what one preaches. A hypocrite is one who practices hypocrisy. Now, since we have democracy, aristocracy and bureaucracy, I guess we can conclude that ‘hypocracy’ is when the government is run by hypocrites! Not an entirely new concept, come to think of it!"
- Lyle F. Padilla, a member of the Playboy Mailing List.

William Donohue has got to be proud of himself.

As leader of the Catholic League, the layperson lobbying front for the Roman Catholic Church, no doubt he has been troubled by recent events. The US judicial system has been slowly eating away at the domineering control religion has traditionally wielded in society. Too much press has been given to other religious groups like the Southern Baptists. As a matter of fact, the only time there’s any attention given to the Catholic Church is either when Pope John Paul II speaks, or when a priest is charged with molesting an altar boy.

Worse yet, Donohue’s moral enemy, Playboy Founder Hugh Hefner, was recently honored with a street named after him in Chicago - much to his group’s objections!

So what does a self-righteous moralist to do to get attention? Well, like any political opportunist, he manufactures an issue!

Donohue finds out that one of the many fundraising parties being held during the Democratic Party’s convention is being hosted at the Playboy Mansion. A fundraiser for Hispanic Unity, no less, an ethnic group that is predominantly Catholic. AND, as it were, the event is scheduled on the Feast of the Assumption - a holiday that only has any significance to Catholics.

Put all of that together and what do you get? A ready-made "holy war" that any self-righteous thug with delusions of grandeur would lap up faster than a frat boy at a keg party.

And that’s exactly what the Catholic League did. They went to the press and bemoaned that on their holy day (and when ISN’T it a holy day with it comes to the Catholic Church?), the Democratic Party would be hosting an orgy masquerading as a fundraiser, complete with those "evil" scantily-dressed Playboy Bunnies. And because they considered the whole affair to be not only obscene but also blasphemous, they DEMANDED that the Democratic Party either cancel or relocate that fundraiser IMMEDIATELY. They declared it to be a real-life "holy war" and asked that people of other religious faiths take part by contacting the Democratic Party and Vice-President Al "I Invented Fundraisers" Gore and expressing their self-righteous anger.

Not surprisingly, it worked. DNC chairman Joseph Andrew sent a letter to Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, the organizer of the fundraiser, and threatened to take action if she did not relocate the event. After briefly revoking her scheduled speech at the Convention, Sanchez relented and had the affair moved to Universal Studios.

Now folks, let’s get brutally honest here with a few facts. First of all, longtime fans of Brutally Honest know that I am a big supporter of Playboy, and especially of the Playboy Playmates, of whom a few of them I have the honor to call friends. I have never been to the mansion myself, but I do know quite a few people who have, and they can vouch that the house that Hef built is NOT a 24-7 sex party.

That isn’t to say Hef doesn’t have some wild parties. After all, it IS his home. Wouldn’t you want to have a party over at your house the way you want to if you could?

However, contrary to its own notoriety, the Playboy Mansion has been host to numerous fundraisers in the past. Everything from inner city school funding to AIDS research to legal aid. Anti-sex feminists contently chant the mantra that Playboy exploits women, but they constantly ignore the fact that the Mansion has served as the source for fundraising for countless women’s issues, including the right to choose. Hef has also used his home for several charity functions for families. The annual Easter egg hunt is held throughout the grounds of the Mansion, where the only "bunnies" seen are either wearing a rabbit’s costume, or really ARE rabbits.

Nor would this have been the first political fundraiser held at the Mansion. Just ask former California Governor Jerry Brown or Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley if their respective fundraisers were "wild sex orgies" as the moralists claim. I’m sure they would tell you their fundraisers were very formal and about as sexually exciting as watching water boil.

And according to the people connected with Playboy, Hef and crew bent over backwards to accommodate Hispanic Unity. When Congresswoman Sanchez was concerned about having Playmates present, Hef told the Playmates not to be there. Upon Sanchez’ wishes, Playboy nixed the idea of having conservatively-attired Playboy Bunnies present to greet the guests. As a matter of fact, if nobody ever said which Mansion was sponsoring the party, you would probably have gotten the impression that it was being run by a bank.

That’s an important thing to remember. If the Catholic League didn’t throw a screaming fit over this fundraiser, it probably would have been an uneventful occasion. It probably would have been buried amidst all of the other fundraisers being held in the Los Angeles area.

But no, the Catholic League didn’t want that. Like modern-day Torquemadas, the self-righteous servants of God wanted.. no.. DEMANDED that the hierarchy in the Democratic Party adhere to their puritanical stances; to show the world and the party bosses that they still carried some political weight. And by targeting Playboy, they got that, and a measure of revenge for Chicago’s "Hugh M. Hefner Way."

Once the Catholic League got involved, other people had to stick their noses into the matter. First and foremost being the DNC chairman, but let’s not kid ourselves either by saying the Gore campaign staff is blameless. Until last week, the party bosses didn’t care too much about the fundraiser. Their basic attitude was "Hey, we don’t sponsor it, it’s out of our hands." Then Al Gore tapped Senator Joe "Uber-Moralist" Lieberman for running mate, and suddenly, it WAS the party’s problem.

Now I want you to understand the level to which the Democrats were ready to descend to in order to force Sanchez to heed the will of the Catholic League. According to the Associated Press, Sanchez was told by the Democratic Party and by Vice President Al Gore’s campaign staff that if she did not relocate the event, she would lose her speaking spot at the convention, lose her access to the convention, be removed from her position as co-chair of the DNC, AND lose all political and financial support in her re-election campaign.

Mind you, the Democrats are supposedly the party of "inclusion." The party of "diversity." The party that supposedly values civil rights and personal freedoms.

Oh, wait a minute! I forgot, this is supposedly the "NEW" Democratic Party now. The party of family values and blame assessing.

"This stinks," said Hefner. "It smells like the bad old days. It’s like a return to the bad old days of the Moral Majority." Too true, Hef. This "New" Democratic Party sounds a lot like the OLD Republican Party of 1996, with Gore and Lieberman playing Bob Dole and Pat Buchanan.

Now for starters, the Catholic League should NEVER have been given any kind of credibility on this subject. The church forfeited any and all credibility when they decided it was easier to quietly shuffle pedophile priests around the world than it was to have them face the charges in court and be punished for their actions. There’s a passage in the New Testament about people with planks in their eyes passing judgement on those with splinters that perhaps they should have heeded. And no, JP2’s all-purpose "mea culpa" for the past sins of the Catholic Church does NOT balance things out.

Speaking of hypocrites, there’s Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island, who was oh-so-warm towards Playboy CEO Christie Hefner at her spring fundraiser for Lauren Beth Gash, who is running for Congress. Months later, as news of the fundraiser started to come out and the Catholic League started making noise, Kennedy suddenly claims that an association with Playboy (quote) "totally contradicts what our party stands for in terms of equal rights, civil rights for all people, and respecting the human dignity of every individual" (unquote).

Oh really, congressman? Like your family’s a shinning example of that morality, huh? One relative drives his date into the Chappaquiddick. Another gets charged with rape. Still one more gets in hot water with his child’s babysitter. And now another is facing a trial for a murder that happened in the 1970’s. The good ones in the family either get shot, ski into a tree, or do something stupid like try to fly a plane at night with a broken leg and very little night-training.

Hugh Hefner and Playboy, on the other hand, have been fighting the fight longer than any Democrat out there! As 1966 Playmate, former Playboy Bunny, and Brutally Honest fan Dianne Chandler so phrased it perfectly: "I think that the (Democrats) owe Hef a debt of gratitude… Who crusaded AND practiced what he preached back in the 60’s in the fight against racism? What was the first mainstream publication to address gay rights? Who fought for freedom of speech and put (money) where his mouth is? Who has always championed Pro-Choice and a woman’s right to her privacy between her and her doctor?"

Who indeed? You certainly didn’t see too many Democrats willing to go to jail or willing to lose their homes for those causes.

And that’s not to say that Playmates can’t raise money for charity either. Just ask Monique Noel, 1989 Playmate and yet another Brutally Honest fan, who recently managed to raise more money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in their marathon than any other participant.

But you know, I can’t forget Chairman Andrew’s response once Congresswoman Sanchez relented and had the fundraiser relocated. He said it was a "courageous choice."

Oh really? Courageous? After politically whipping her like a dog, you have the utter audacity to say her decision to relent was "courageous"? What sort of drug-induced dementia are you under?

It would have been courageous if Sanchez said NO to the Democratic Party and held the fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion despite their objections. It would have been courageous if she stood her ground and watched as the Democratic Party rendered her persona non grata. That’s courage!

Under Chairman Andrew’s demented definition of "courage", it would have been better if Rosa Parks gave up her seat in the 50’s, or if the African-Americans who fought for civil rights stayed home instead of risking arrests and assaults by the local police. Chairman Andrew’s definition of "courage" would have battered wives staying home so they can be beaten to death by their abusive spouses. That’s not courage, Chairman Andrew, that’s submitting to the will of a thug, which is what you are!

But what makes this really unbearable is the hypocrisy involved. Gore and the Democrats don’t like the association with Playboy, but they’ll easily accept their money. Tens of thousands of dollars have been contributed to the Democrats, and they’ll cash those checks very eagerly. Two words quickly come to mind: political whores! Just like the grand master of spin, Bill Clinton, the Democrats will take the money, just don’t expect them to respect you in the morning.

So now Hef and daughter Christie are feeling betrayed. They are, after all, lifelong Democrats. They are feeling exactly what millions of other Americans have been feeling for years.. that feeling of betrayal, that sense of political disconnection when they realize that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans care one whit about the American public. They only care about what they want, that is more power and more money.

Perhaps it is time for the Hefners to do the right thing and give up the DNC. If the Democrats don’t want the association, then they don’t deserve the money! The same holds true for other supporters of free speech and personal freedom. Neither of the dominant parties want you! They only want your money, and then they expect you to sit down and shut up and accept whatever laws they force on you.

Bear in mind that not too long ago Playboy had to fight the Democratic-controlled White House all the way to the US Supreme Court on a law that curtailed the viewing of Playboy TV to 8 million homes in America. That’s a "New" Democrat for you, Hef. Want to try your luck with a Republican?

The solution, of course, is easy once you get your mind away from the political duopoly: give your money to the parties that DO share your values. Give it to the Libertarians, or the Greens, or the Reformers if they support the same things you do. Those groups will appreciate that money far more than the Democrats or Republicans ever could.. and they’ll be more receptive to your suggestions as well.

Playboy and both Hef and daughter Christie have done far more for civil rights and free speech than most politicians could ever do. What happened with the Democrats is an insult to not only Democrats, but also to the millions of Playboy supporters and subscribers… all of whom are voters, and no doubt some of our votes will be influenced by this decision to place pious symbolism over diversity and civil rights.

Monday, August 7, 2000

Week of 08/07/2000

Holding Government Responsible
- by David Matthews 2

"...when we renounce the self and become part of a compact whole, we not only renounce personal advantage but are also rid of personal responsibility. There is no telling to what extremes of cruelty and ruthlessness a man will go when he is freed from the fears, hesitations, doubts and the vague stirrings of decency that go with individual judgement. When we lose our individual independence in the corporateness of a mass movement, we find a new freedom- freedom to hate, bully, lie, torture, murder and betray without shame and remorse. Herein undoubtedly lies part of the attractiveness of a mass movement." - Eric Hoffer

Once upon a time, a certain president coined the phrase "The buck stops here." He said it to show that all responsibility for federal activity eventually stops with him, the highest federal official.

If only that were the case.

In his book "Give Me Liberty: Freeing Ourselves In The Twenty-First Century", famed attorney Gerry Spence showed us just how often the "buck" is passed when it comes to corporate responsibility. He starts off with the case of a girl who dies because the brakes on her brand new car fail. The father then tries to find the person responsible for such a defect.

He first starts with the dealer who sold the vehicle to his daughter. The dealer says that he only sells the cars, he doesn’t make them. So he goes to the auto manufacturer, and nails down the person in charge of the division that makes that particular car, and he says he doesn’t make the brakes for that car, but he’ll point the father to the division that does. The father goes to the person in charge of the brake manufacturing, and he passes it off to engineering. The engineer who designs brakes says that the particular model was actually borrowed from some other brake design and that they pass all standard safety tests. So he get pointed to the division that does the testing. That person says all testing is in accordance with all government standards, but he won’t give any specifics, because that’s company policy.

So the father goes to the CEO of that corporation, and the CEO tells him that he’s just a hired tool of the board of directors. He goes to the board of directors and they comprise of business executives from banks and retired civil servants, all of which have never seen a brake in their lives, never mind how one works. So he goes back to the CEO, who once again denies any accountability for the bad brakes, but when asked if he ever heard of any problems, the man gets on the intercom, gets a complete file on the brakes delivered to him in minutes, and then says that those particular brakes weren’t even manufactured by them, but rather by some other company!

Layers upon layers of denied accountability. At no point is there someone who has to say "Yes, I did it. I screwed up. My bad."

In many ways, government is just like a huge corporation when it comes to accountability. Those in power are quick to pass the blame at every opportunity; although they are readily eager to accept all gratitude, even for stuff they had absolutely nothing to do with. (Case in point, of course, Al Gore’s repeated claims of creating the Internet, saving the people of Love Canal, and so on.)

Here’s a case in point based on one of my previous articles: Let’s say you run a newsstand that has, amongst all other mainstream publications, some magazine that is a little bit racy. Say, Playboy, or Gear. Some soccer mom moralist comes walking in with her six year-old Prozac child in tow, cross on her neck and ten foot stick up her ass. She looks for the latest issue of "Moralist Review", but can’t seem to find it anywhere on the shelves. She does, however, spot the Playboy magazines in the highest corner of the farthest shelf.

Irate, both in the fact that her favorite publication is not on your shelves, and that a publication she abhors is, she stomps over to the counter, heavily medicated child in tow, and DEMANDS that you remove Playboy from your shelves. You, of course, calmly and evenly explain to her that you have every right to sell Playboy, that your customer’s right to purchase Playboy is protected by the First Amendment. Besides, you point out that the publication is on the highest shelf, wrapped in plastic so nobody can read it without opening it up, and that you and your staff always make sure that only adults purchase magazines like Playboy.

Frustrated that she cannot sway your mind through her wrath, she storms out, dragging her child behind her, and swearing that there would be "hell to pay."

The next day, you notice some buzzcut steroid freak eyeing the racks who looks like he should be wearing a trooper’s uniform instead of casual wear. He immediately goes to the upper rack, pull out an issue of Playboy, and take it to the counter. He’s clearly in his upper thirties, so you don’t ask for an ID. He pays for the magazine and walks out.

Soon afterwards, you’re visited by that same buzzcut steroid freak, who now is wearing a police uniform, and - along with the local prosecutor and members of the media - arrest you, confiscate your magazines, and shut down your business. All of which is done under the charge of violating local obscenity laws and "providing pornography to a minor."

Your name is dragged through the mud as the most vile of criminals. Your children get harassed by their peers for having "porno-freaks" for parents. The local ministers use your name as an example for what’s wrong in the world.

The local prosecutor quietly drops the charge of providing porn to a minor since nobody in their right mind would mistake a 35-year old police officer for a 15-year old. He simply wanted the charge put in there so he could look good for the press. He then offers what he thinks is a "sweetheart deal" for you; plead guilty to the obscenity charge and you would get a "pittance" of a fine and no jail time. You would have to register yourself as a sex offender, of course, and have that stigma sit on your family’s name for as long as you live, BUT at least you wouldn’t spend any time in jail. You tell him what to do with that deal and you fight the charge in the courts.

Now let’s say that you do take it to trial, and the judge rules in your favor. The charge is dismissed, the case closed. The local prosecutor appeals the decision, and it goes all the way to the Supreme Court, which once again rules in your favor. Game over?

Well, no, not really. You see, the police still have all of your publications. Your store is most likely out of business because you couldn’t make any sales until the charges were dismissed, and even then the publicity surrounding your case has more or less poisoned any good name you have in society. And even if you’re able to reopen the store with new publications, what is to stop the police and the prosecutor from doing the exact same thing? Having you arrested, seizing your publications, shutting down your store, and having you go through the whole legal procedure again?

As a matter of fact, who can you go after for the damages the first trial caused? Your life was ruined by these people. Who do you go after for justice?

The police? Well, no, because all they can claim is that they were just "doing their job." Even Officer "buzzcut steroid freak" would say that he was only doing what he was told to do.

The prosecutor? Well, not really, because you see he’s "just doing his job" too. Someone filed a complaint, and he had to act on it. Besides, their office DID drop that bogus charge of providing porn to a minor, so they consider that a favor for you.

The self-righteous soccer mom with the stick up her ass? No, she’s beyond any measure of responsibility because the only thing she did was to file a complaint. She wasn’t the one that arrested you, or had your publications seized, or shut down your business.. although she would be the first to take credit for it at the next church meeting.

So let’s say you just go after the local government in general. Sue the prosecutor’s office and the police for violating your rights and seizing your property. At best, you’ll get some money and the seized magazines returned (minus maybe a few publications here and there). The money would go towards the legal fees, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to sell the now outdated publications back to the publishers at a loss.

Meanwhile, the police officers who arrested you still have their jobs and their pensions. The prosecutor who filed the charges against you still has his job and his pension, and he can even use the case to help his career as a "get tough on crime" kind of guy. And the soccer mom with the stick up her ass can stand proud - even without that stick - knowing that the system works for her!

Let’s get brutally honest here. Much like Gerry Spence’s fictional father and his futile efforts in getting justice from the corporation, our fictional newsstand owner would not get any justice from government, much for the very same reasons. Neither the corporations nor government want to have any kind of accountability for their actions.

And don’t think that the case I just gave you is pure fiction. In Texas, a comic book dealer is currently in court on a "providing porn to a minor" charge because he sold an adult-only comic book to an adult. The case itself was sparked because some soccer mom got upset at the price of a certain Pokemon card and vowed revenge. These charges, and the subsequent abuse of power, are for real!

Look, nobody ever said that fighting for freedom does not come without a price. Our founding fathers risked everything when they signed the Declaration of Independence, and quite a few of them lost their homes and their family members, and some of them even their lives. But when will there be accountability for the mistakes of government?

Sadly, right now there isn’t much accountability. Government risks nothing when they act. That’s why moralists love to use government as their instrument of wrath. The people involved in government cannot be held personally responsible for their actions because they are protected by the notion of "sovereign immunity". The judicial system believes that the only way those people individually can be responsible is when voters vote them out of office. That is.. if they were voted into office in the first place.

When you sue the government for their abuse of power, you don’t put someone out of a job if you win. They still keep their jobs and their pensions. And that money you get for damages doesn’t even come from their paychecks or their pensions. Instead, it comes from our tax dollars. The gall of our government to have us pay for their sins!

And this notion that those in government cannot be held responsible for their actions goes straight up to the highest office in the land, where the buck used to stop. Bill Clinton has recently dodged two major bullets in the Whitewater case, not to mention his impeachment trial. His regime has had to handle more scandals than the National Enquirer, and even with less than six months to go on his reign of terror, the fun hasn’t even begun to let up. And don’t think for a moment that he was the first president since Richard Nixon to put the White House is disrepute! Remember all of Ronald Reagan’s men involved in scandal? James Watt? Edwin Meese? Bernard Casey? How about Oliver North? Any of those names ring a bell?

And it is not just major political scandals that demean our elected officials. Every time one of our representatives vote for a law that they know violates the US Constitution, they violate an oath they took to protect and defend that document. People complain of the instances where Clinton lied under oath, but how about the untold scores of times our politicians knowing and willingly violate their very oaths of office?

You know, if our elected officials want to supposedly restore accountability and respect to government, they have to start with their own jobs and their own careers. Unfortunately, our politicians live under the hypocritical code of "Do as I say, not as I do". We have a better chance of seeing these blowhards become members of the Communist Party than we do of seeing them clean up their own political house.

If we want to start holding those in government accountable for their actions, we need to first start by putting risk back into the process. We need to eliminate the notion of sovereign immunity so we can hold these politicians to their promises and to their actions. If they are in the right, they have nothing to fear, but if they screw up.. if they abuse the power they hold, there must be some mechanism in place so that those who are victimized by government can not only recoup some monetary damages, but also make sure that those who caused the damage can never do so again.

America’s founding fathers didn’t wage a bloody revolution and risked everything they hold dear just for the heck of it. They did so because of the blatant abuse of power by the British Empire-- a fact that the elected officials of today would have us forget. Instead of it being something we would rather forget, we should instead hold it above them like the proverbial Sword of Damocles.

Or as the Baltimore sage H. L. Mencken put it so bluntly: "The only good bureaucrat is one with a pistol at his head. Put it in his hand and it's good-bye to the Bill of Rights."