Monday, March 31, 2008

Week of 03/31/2008

Prostitution’s Dirty Little Secret
– by David Matthews 2

Here we go again!

Yet another sex scandal has come out. This time someone high and mighty and presumably incorruptible has been taken down because of it.

Although, we really shouldn’t be surprised by it all. Just like “the quiet ones” are always the ones to go on sudden killing sprees, so too are the “presumably incorruptible” the first ones caught up in some kind of corruption.

And you can’t get any more clichéd than this… Eliot Spitzer, the self-appointed “Sherriff of Wall Street”, the former Attorney General who got himself elected as the Governor of New York, had to publicly admit that he retained the services of a prostitute. The man who made his career by shutting down escort services and prosecuting prostitutes had to admit that he was also an active client of their services. The firestorm of this public confession was enough to drive him out of office.

The self-righteous were once again beside themselves over this bombshell.

“WHY” they asked themselves out loud. WHY did he risk his job, his career, his future, his family, his very life over some prostitute?

The media, of course, went on a feeding frenzy looking for the so-called “other woman”, and they happened to have found her. It was a young woman who considered herself an aspiring singer. She had a hot-looking body, she wasn’t old or fat or looked like she was strung out on anything except life. In other words, she didn’t appear to fit the stereotype of a prostitute that you see on TV shows like “COPS”.

Of course the media forgets that she wasn’t the ONLY woman who worked for that escort service, nor was she the ONLY person from that service who met with Spitzer. She was just the only one that the federal investigators could identify.

So this young woman, who initially went under the name “Kristen”, became the new face of the world’s oldest profession. Everyone wanted to meet with her. Everyone wanted to interview her. Men’s magazines wanted to photograph her, and Joe Francis thought he even had marketable footage of her from her younger days… until her lawyer announced that she was only 17 when all of it was taken. (That’s yet another potential charge looming over the “Girls Gone Wild” king.)

This caused the media to also look at prostitution, and they predictably went into it with the prejudiced stance of it being inherently wrong. They give a loathing, judgmental look down at what they decry as “the sex industry” and “the sex trade”. They equate it to slavery… and some of them even go so far as to CALL it nothing less than slavery.

ABC’s Dianne Sawyer used her airtime to interview self-professed prostitutes, including one who considered what she did as a form of empowerment, and Sawyer simply REFUSED to accept the woman’s explanation of why she did what she did. That couldn’t be right in her bigoted mind! The woman MUST have been sexually abused as a child, or hooked on drugs, or was being pressured into it by a pimp pretending to be her boyfriend. SHE MUST HAVE! Those are the only “acceptable” explanations why someone would willingly turn to prostitution.

But such delusions from people like Sawyer only serve to cover up a much greater truth regarding the world’s oldest profession, and WHY it is such.

Every time the media turns its biased eyes towards anything involving sex, it is always done with an equally biased message. Unless it is done in an “acceptable relationship” and done for the sole purpose of making babies, then it is considered wrong, freaky, strange, perverse, dangerous, and even if it isn’t illegal, they would consider it as such. Whether or not it is done between consenting adults in private is irrelevant. Whether or not it improves a relationship or at least the self-worth and well-being of a person is irrelevant. The subject itself is considered scandalous enough to get attention, and therefore must also be judged and convicted by the most restrictive of minds as wrong. That is the only way that they can justify airing such material without saying that it was for the sake of ratings and the almighty advertising dollar.

In other words, THEY don’t want to admit that they are doing what they are doing for the sake of money… because it would make them no different than the prostitutes that they condemn.

Let’s get brutally honest here… WE ARE ALL PROSTITUTES in one form or another. That’s the dirty little secret about prostitution that nobody wants to accept.

When someone engages in prostitution, they aren’t just offering one body part for money. Even if it’s for a quickie around the corner, the person offering it has to provide a fantasy, an illusion, a sense of desire. It’s not just offering the body part and that’s it. They have to provide the illusion that they WANT to do this instead of saying “I just need the money”.

Think for a minute about all of those professional athletes that sell their services to the highest dollar. They haggle over the price of their talent while professing their love of the game. They’re even willing to shut down the whole sports industry just to get what they want. They get traded and moved around to different teams, different cities, even different countries, and every time they do so, they smile and give it their best so they can get their paycheck. They prostitute their services and call it a “pastime”.

Think for a minute about the writers in Hollywood who recently went on strike for no other reason than to get more money for their services. They pretty much shut down most of their own ego-driven industry for the sake of money. And then, when they came back, they pretended to do so for “the love” of the viewers!

Politicians are the biggest prostitutes in the world. They claim to champion “the common man”, and yet they will meet with millionaires and billionaires, and will themselves become millionaires and billionaires in the process, and then sell out “the common man” behind closed doors. They will sell their support and their ethics to the special interest group that helps them stay in power. And then they will go back to “the common man” and smile and shake hands and kiss babies and claim that they are still on THEIR side.

And it’s not just the rich and powerful and the talented who prostitute themselves. It’s not just those on Wall Street or K Street or Pennsylvania Avenue or Madison Avenue. It’s also Main Street. It’s also YOUR street.

How many times have you worked at a job that you didn’t really want to work at, but you had to for the money? Work in a factory? Work at McDonald’s? Work for a temporary employment agency? Do you show up at that job with a scowl on your face and obvious disgust about ever working there? Probably not. Even if you hate what you do, you probably still show up there with a smile on your face and an eagerness to get right into the job. How many Starbucks baristas are really aspiring models? How many waiters and waitresses are aspiring actors and actresses? If you’re not working at the job that you’ve always WANTED to work in, and you’re showing up there with smiles and giving nothing but your best into it, even though everything inside you says that this is not you, then what YOU are doing is NO DIFFERENT than what prostitutes do.

YOU are a prostitute!

Go ahead and get disgusted at the realization. Get upset about it. Decry it if you so desire, but that does not make it any less true. If you are working at a job that you really don’t want to work in, but need to because of the money, then you ARE a prostitute! You are selling your services for money and you are giving people the fantasy that you like what you are doing!

Think for a minute about all of the marriages that were done for convenience. The number of times that women settle down with a man in marriage, not because she’s in love with that person but simply because “he’s a good man”. She may not be madly in love him, but she convinces herself that her financial and security needs are more important than her personal desires. And she’ll never let him know that, of course. Even if he suspects it to be true, she’ll still pretend to love him.

How does that differ from prostitution? It doesn’t! That’s all part of the dirty little secret!

Back in the “olden days”, marriages weren’t made for love. They were made because of financial or political reasons. They were arranged by the family members years in advance and done irrelevant to the wants and desires of those involved. But they would STILL show up in the church and give the illusion that they were getting married because they “loved” each other. They would lie about it. The family members would lie about it. Even the minister charged with the task of wedding them would outright LIE about it. They would still produce children on the illusion that that it was done out of “love” instead of for politics or for financial gain. It would be the worst-kept secret in the universe, but it wouldn’t matter, because the ILLUSION... the FANTASY… of that union was more important than the REALITY of it. It was a PROSTITUTION of marriage.

And THIS is the real reason why prostitution was outlawed. Not because of “health” reason or for the sake of “reducing crime” or on the pretense of “slavery”, but because it exposed the illusion for what it was.

Indeed, courtesans and concubines were once considered respected positions in powerful circles, although so-called “polite society” could not recognize them as such. They were given comfortable quarters, beautiful clothes, good meals, and were paid quite well for their services, both in and out of the bed chamber. But they also understood their place in the relationship. They knew that their continued service depended on their performance. This was a job… a financial arrangement.

In fact you can blame organized religion for making such positions outright illegal and lumping their services in with the worst of the worst in society. They had to, of course, because the very existence of such affairs exposed the marriage of politically powerful families as a fraud and a hoax.

Thus we return to the infamous “Spitzer question” of why he did what he did. And the answer here is crystal clear. He did it for the same reasons why Bill Clinton strayed in his marriage when he was President. He did it because he could. He did it because he needed something that he couldn’t get from his legally-married spouse… the one that he dragged up on stage with him so she could be humbled in front of the world.

Yes, there are women who are forced into prostitution. There are prostitutes who are addicts and have abusive boyfriends or pimps or managers or whatever you want to call them. But you don’t see them in places like the rural areas of Nevada, where prostitution in brothels is legal and heavily regulated and taxed. Why is that, you wonder? The answer to that is simple: as long as the action is considered illegal, then it opens itself to the worst of the worst.

The savory stereotypical characters surrounding prostitution were the same ones that were surrounding alcohol in the 1920’s when Prohibition made it illegal. And it was made illegal then by the very institutions that continue to keep prostitution illegal today. It was made illegal by the political, religious, and social prostitutes. The ones that needed to maintain an illusion… a hoax… over reality. And until we accept the reality of our own actions and the real definition of what prostitution is, then “the world’s oldest profession” will continue to remain not just society’s dirty little secret, but that of humanity itself.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Week of 03/24/2008

Dealing With Our Economic Climate Shift
– by David Matthews 2

“Global Warming!”

You’ve heard about it right? You can’t help but to hear about it. It’s all over the news. It’s all over the political discussion. It’s all over talk radio. Any time the weather gets freaky, it’s all because of “Global Warming”.

Of course they don’t really call it “Global Warming” anymore, do they? No, because people don’t know if we’re going to endure “Global Warming” or “Global Cooling”. So they’re instead punting and calling it “Global Climate Change”.

The basic theory is that our environment is out of whack, and it’s really forcing the planet to shift things around to compensate. Liberals are quick to blame it all on every stage of human advancement since the Industrial Revolution and condemn mankind for “killing the planet”. In truth, however, we’re not killing the planet… the planet is killing US! Or it’s at least making it that much harder for us to survive.

But we LIKE talking about “Global Climate Change” because at least it explains what is happening in terms of killer storms and flooding conditions, without necessarily having to assess blame for it all. That’s why conservatives like talking about “Global Climate Change” when they originally haggled over “Global Warming” or “Global Cooling” and started calling environmentalists who use such phrases “quacks” and “frauds”. Change the terminology and suddenly you defuse the argument of the terms.

You’ll notice the same thing when the discussion involves our economy. When are we in a depression? How about if or when we are in a recession? How about stagflation?

Well just about everyone has their own definition of those words. Nobody can tell you with any certainty when we really ARE “officially” in a depression or recession as these things are happening. They can only use such terms after-the-fact. We don’t know when we are actually IN a recession or depression, but we know when we WERE in one.

Part of the reason, of course, is all politics. NO government official would ever want to admit that we’re in some economic bad times as they are happening, and if they did, they would want to make sure that people knew that it wasn’t “their” fault that they’re in it.

George W. Bush and his people in the White House certainly REFUSE to admit that we are in any kind of economic trouble. He continually drones on about how “great” the economy is, even as jobs are lost and millions of Americans are losing their homes in foreclosures. He’ll say that we’re in a period of “slowdown” or “rough patches” or “troubled waters” or “economic uncertainty”, but he’ll never say the “R-word” or the “D-word”. It’s not going to happen. Not while he’s in office.

Recessions are bad. Depressions are worse. And when you’re an ego-centered president who thinks that he’s in office because GOD put him there instead of the voters, you don’t want to hear the words “recession” or “depression” or “stagflation” being used at any time during your tenure.

Meanwhile, of course, you have plenty of investors, financial experts, and ordinary people who are arguing whether we’re in a recession, depression, stagflation, if we’re at the cusp of these things, or if we’re experiencing the very worst of it all and that it can only get better from here.

Well there is no doubt that we’re in a period of economic troubles. Mortgage foreclosures are climbing, the housing bubble has imploded, the value of the U.S. dollar in international markets has sunk so low that it’s not even being accepted in places like the Taj Mahal, the price of gasoline is more expensive now than it ever way and is expected to get even worse in the coming months (sorry neo-cons, but your “adjusted for inflation” excuse no longer applies), everything is getting more and more expensive, and the banks – because of the mortgage crisis – are cracking down even harder on the very customers that they rely on for their continued survival.

It’s debatable whether we’re in a recession, a depression, a period of stagflation, or if we’re anywhere close to these things or we’ve already passed the worst of them. But there is no doubt that the economic climate, much like the weather, has shifted for the worse.

So let’s talk about this “Economic Climate Shift” and how we got here.

First, you need to understand that nothing works in a vacuum when it comes to the economy. The price of gasoline going up or down has a chain reaction when it comes to the economy. When it costs more to fill up the tank for the trucks that bring the food to the grocery story, that cost is passed on to US as the consumers of that food. When it costs US more money to buy food, then we either don’t buy too much of it, or we have to cut back on other things that we normally would buy to compensate. So, for instance, that means no more dining out on Saturdays. That hurts the local restaurant business, which means they aren’t making as much food as before, which means they’re not BUYING as much food as before, which means the grocery store won’t buy as much food from the farmer, which further hurts the drivers who transport the food, so they have to raise their overhead to make ends meet or else go out of business. See how that works?

There is a balance that is naturally generated in our economy. It exists between those who buy things and those who sell things. It exists between borrowers and lenders. It exists between employees and employers.

Now any time you mess with that balance, the system compensates for it in other places. And our government LOVES to mess with that balance! They live for doing it! They have whole agencies dedicated to doing nothing but MESS with that balance.

They do it for one reason, of course. They do it for greed. Partly for their greed, but also partly for our own. We look at people like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates and Ted Turner and Paris Hilton and we see how “the rich” live on MTV’s show “Cribs” and we tell ourselves “That ain’t right” and then we tell government to go out and make them SUFFER for being so damned wealthy! And because our government is full of millionaires and billionaires as well, you know that THEY don’t want to suffer because they’re wealthy, and neither do they want their friends like Buffett and Gates and Turner and Hilton to suffer. So they have to write the rules in such a way that would allow themselves and their friends to keep their money while making SOMEONE suffer.

So they mess with the balance. And they screw the economy up.

And our government messed with that economic balance on SO MANY levels that it’s not funny!

First, let’s talk energy resources. Our government has been on a catastrophically destructive energy policy for decades now, even back in the days of “Tricky Dick” Nixon. We have been dependant on foreign governments to provide our oil for decades; and it’s now to a point when they provide more than HALF of our needed resources. We have to make nice with the leaders of those governments in order to keep the oil flowing, which means that we sometimes have to support evil, tyrannical, dictators that oppose everything that we believe in. So when their governments are threatened, we are forced to help them. When something bad happens in those countries that either potentially or actually interferes with keeping the oil flowing, that causes speculators in the stock market to panic, which drives the price of oil up. We also encouraged the auto makers to come up with gas-guzzling vehicles, which further increased the demand, and thus encouraged even more dependency on that foreign oil.

So when there is trouble in the world, speculators panic. The price of oil goes up, and eventually so does the price of gasoline. People start caring about gas mileage again so they stop buying gas guzzlers. The US auto makers lose money because people aren’t buying their guzzlers so they lay off employees and shut down factories. People don’t have jobs, so they can’t spend money like there is no tomorrow, so it affects other businesses. The whole economy shifts because of our government can’t properly manage our energy resources.

Now let’s talk about mortgages. Lending institutions would never have given predatory subprime mortgages if there weren’t some encouragements from certain groups first… including, and especially, our government.

First, lenders had to get the okay from banking regulators to adjust rates to whatever they wish. They would never be allowed to lend money if their interest rates were stuck with same rate that the Federal Reserve Board gives, especially when it as low at one point as 1.25%! And it’s not like this was the first time that the lenders were given the green light for something like this. Ever wonder why your credit card lending rate is higher than anything the banks lend themselves?

Then they needed to encourage people to accept those loans. That’s where the realtors come in. They were financially encouraged by the lenders to convince their clients that it would be better to accept an adjustable rate mortgage now because the rates are so low. They don’t mention that the rate would eventually escalate to a much higher number to make up the difference.

At first this seemed to be a good thing, because it meant that more people were buying homes and refinancing their mortgages, which led to the great housing bubble. This was the secret behind the so-called “Boom times” for our economy for the first few years of the Bush White House. It’s not that WE, the consumers, had more money; we just leveraged more of it. We were being encouraged by our government to spend more at all costs.

Banks also sold the responsibility of those loans off to other lenders, knowing full well that the other part of the deal in those adjustable rates had not kicked in yet, and the group left holding the loan would have to worry about defaults when those higher rates kicked in. And just about EVERY business got into mortgage lending too. Insurance companies, tax preparation services, car dealerships… Again, all of this was perfectly fine and dandy and accepted by the banking regulators… our government. The same government that was encouraging us to spend and borrow and spend like there’s no tomorrow… for the sake of the nation, don’t you know.

The other thing that banks needed was to make sure that when we as consumers signed our lives away on those loans that we would be STUCK with them. This was the BIG reason why such predatory lending practices wouldn’t really work for the banks, because they knew that borrowers who got driven into bankruptcy would have their debts absolved, which means that lenders would get NOTHING. So while we were being encouraged by our government to spend and spend away and sign away our futures, they turned around and changed the bankruptcy rules on us. Now when we go into bankruptcy, we can’t have our debts absolved like we used to.

So now the other shoe has dropped. The adjustable rates kick in and millions of homeowners are forced into foreclosure. That in turn has a catastrophic effect on communities, because whole neighborhoods are turned into ghost towns as one by one they are driven out by foreclosures. That forces property values in the remaining houses to go down, and it takes away a huge source of taxable revenue for local governments.

Again the whole economy shifts because our government, which was supposed to be watching out for US, encouraged and allowed the banks to make loans they shouldn’t have. And all of it supposedly to stimulate an economy that was suffering from the previous shift.

Do you understand now how our government can do things that really have a detrimental effect on our economy?

Of course NOW that we’re in the thick of the problem, we’re turning to the same government to help us out. Well the government is VERY eager to bail out the LENDERS, but… surprise, surprise… they’re extremely hesitant to bail out the rest of us.

Sure, the Bush White House and the Congress signed off on a so-called “stimulus package” that will give out money to the taxpayers, but they are actually expecting that we SPEND every penny of it on businesses instead of holding on to it or paying down any kind of debts that we have incurred. Other then that, though, they’re really not going to do anything more to help the masses out.

And why should they? After all, they’re the ones that helped to CREATE the shift that we’re experiencing today!

Let’s get brutally honest here… if we’re going to get through these economic bad times, then we need to understand that our government does more to ENCOURAGE economic climate shift than it does in trying to “correct” it. They’re the ones with the bad policies and the shoddy regulatory supervision. They’re the ones that allow banks to charge us with interest rates that are ten or even twenty times what they charge each other. And they allowed the banks to subvert the interests of realtors so they would be working for the lenders instead of the borrowers. And all for what? A higher profit percentage… not to mention bragging rights.

If our government was TRULY interested in restoring that balance in our economy, they would adopt policies that encourage self-sustenance, encourage savings over spending, and encourage a reasonable awareness of the risks being taken instead of covering them up and then bailing out the perpetrators afterwards. They would help out both lenders AND borrowers, and they would prevent the buying and selling of our debts like they were stock shares.

Unlike the environment, our economy is something that is intrinsically man-made, and also maintainable. But it has to come from those who acknowledge that there IS a balance and work to keep that balance intact. As long as they favor one side of the equation, though, and they treat debt and risk like musical chairs, then they will continue to cause an imbalance in the system, and we will continue to be subject to extreme shifts in our economy.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Week of 03/17/2008

The Checks and Balances Hostage Crisis
– by David Matthews 2

There is an old legal saying about the man who serves as his own attorney has a fool for a client.

But how about the man who serves as his own judge, jury, and enforcer? Who’s really the fool then?

Those are the questions that America’s founding fathers wondered about when they pondered over whether or not to part from the British Empire. They debated heavily over whether or not the abuses of power being committed on them and on their brethren and what they could do to change it. Eventually they realized that they had no recourse BUT to challenge the system, declare independence from an abusive regime, and fight for what they believe in.

That is why, after America won its independence and it came time to forge those “new bonds” between the masses and government, it did so based on some very revolutionary ideas.

The first is that government should operate only upon the consent of the governed. That flew in the face of the “divine right of kings” philosophy that most of the civilized world at the time relied upon.

The second idea was that no man was above the law; that the Rule of Law applied to everyone, regardless of who or what they are in society. That is the basis for the statement that “all men are created equal”. It was not something that they were ready to put into general practice, in regards to the law, it was something they adhered to in principle.

Now those two ideas were not original. They were, in fact, present to some extent in the Magna Carta, which limited the power of the British monarchy to some extent. But the British nobles that rammed the document down King John’s throat in 1215 never took those two ideas to the next logical step. They didn’t establish that “all men are created equal”, nor did they set up any kind of safeguards to prevent abuses of power from happening. They didn’t want to change the British Empire; they just wanted to limit the abuses of the monarchy. They wanted to maintain the status quo, as unequal as it was at the time.

America’s founding fathers, however, had enough of the abuses of Great Britain. They weren’t risking their lives and the lives of their families simply for the status quo. They NEEDED change. So when America’s founding fathers started actually setting up the government, they made sure that the abuses of power that they observed with King George III and Parliament would not happen here. They had a basic framework from James Madison’s anonymously-published Federalist Papers, so all they needed to do was to codify and ratify it.

That is the reason why America has three branches of government, and a bicameral legislature with divided responsibilities. That’s the reason why US Senators were originally appointed by the state governors (before that changed through the Seventeenth Amendment) and why the members of the US House of Representatives were elected by the people and that their numbers were based on population. It’s also why WE as voters don’t elect the President of the United States, but rather we elect representatives to the Electoral College, who then elect the President. It’s also why the first ten Amendments to the US Constitution are called the Bill of Rights and are designed to LIMIT the scope of government.

ALL of it… every single one of the complicated and confusing processes that we call our system of government… was set up to PREVENT a repeat of the abuses of King George III and Parliament. It is all designed to serve as a system of checks and balances, to keep one party or one politician from having absolute control over the government.

Unfortunately it only works when there are people willing to USE it.

So what happens when you have an over-aggressive political faction that eagerly uses fear and intimidation to get what they want? In theory, the system of checks and balances should keep such aggressive factions from abusing their power.

It should… but it doesn’t.

Take, for instance, the authority of the President of the United States versus the authority of the Congress. Under the Constitution, the Congress is charged with writing legislation and sending it to the president. The President then can either sign these bills into law or he can veto them, but that’s pretty much all that the chief executive can do.

So the Congress drafts some legislation that expressly prohibits the use of torture in interrogation. The bill then goes to the President’s desk. He knows that if he signs it, the law would take away his ability to use torture those captured in his number one pet project, which is the “War on Evil Islamic Bad Guys Who Don’t Like Us”. Unfortunately, if he vetoes the bill, there’s a chance that the Congress will override his veto and he’ll still lose his so-called “needed tools”. Plus it would be something of a public relations problem, since the veto would put him in league with the worst of the despots and tyrants in the world.

So what does President George W. Bush do? He signs the bill into law, and then he adds his own little codicil in the form of a “signing statement”, which says that the law doesn’t apply to his office because we’re in a “state of war”.

In other words, he RE-WRITES THE LAW to suit his own agenda!

Now I happen to have a copy of the US Constitution at my desk, and I HAVE gone over it a few times and no place in that document does it say that the Executive Branch of the United States government can add or change any bill he signs into law! Nor is there any mention of a “signing statement”. Sure it’s a tradition, and so is the addition of “so help me God” as part of the Oath of Office, and the Thanksgiving pardon of a turkey, but that doesn’t mean that any of it is a part of the Constitution.

And so this president has done just that… on more than one occasion. By all accounts, the checks and balances should have kicked in. The judicial system SHOULD have stepped in and stopped this from happening. And if that branch is getting ignored, then it is the responsibility of the legislature, as part of those same checks and balances, to weigh in possible impeachment proceedings.

So why hasn’t it happened?

Well because two other things happened. First, this same president has been busy appointing judges. Some of them were so-called “recess appointments”, which means that when Congress was out, the White House was able to bypass the whole confirmation process and simply appoint the judges they want. It’s a short-term measure, limited to that Congressional session, but it puts the judges in place, and it gave the White House political leverage to keep them in place. The White House also was able to seat TWO Supreme Court justices, including Chief Justice, following the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and the sudden death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

That covers the judicial branch of government.

Then you have the legislature itself… Congress. For six years, the Republicans dominated the Congress. Even when the Senate was being controlled by the Democrats, it was only though the slimmest of margins, and even then there were enough conservative Democrats that made sure that the Senate would do whatever it is that the White House wants. The end result is having a Congress that effectively became nothing more than a rubber stamp for George W. Bush. Whatever he wanted, they gave him. Even when the Democrats took over both houses of Congress in 2007, their tenure so far has been one of compromise, surrender, and retreat.

Even before she took over, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised that she would NOT hold impeachment hearing against anyone in the White House. “Impeachment is off the table,” she said in a “60 Minutes” interview. Never mind that her liberal base, the very ones that helped put her party BACK in power, were SCREAMING for impeachment hearings.

But long before this even became an issue, there has been a general arrogance amongst the Executive and Legislative branches over their positions. Members of Congress would bully their pet bills into passage on the assurance that what they want complies with the Constitution, even though it would later turn out to be a blatant lie. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft bullied Congress into complying with giving the White House sweeping power without any kind of oversight, promising that HE, as a former member of Congress himself, would give that oversight himself and personally tell the Congress that it hasn’t been abused at all. A year later he would go back and declare that, as he promised, there were NO abuses of that power. But after he left, though, the REAL story comes out, and there WERE abuses of that power.

In other words, the legislative branch of government has either been compliant, been bullied into compliance, or else they outright REFUSE to do their jobs.

And thus the OTHER part of the whole concept of “Checks and Balances” is effectively neutered, leaving the White House free and clear to do whatever it is they want to do, unchallenged.

Now the supporters of the Bush White House (and their numbers are dwindling) say that such suspensions of checks and balances are necessary because we are “in a state of war”. They cite the times that Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War and when Franklin Roosevelt ordered the detention of thousands of Japanese-Americans in World War II.

But what these supporters fail to comprehend is that the abuses of power by Lincoln and Roosevelt, done in a time of war, were never intended to be long-term. NEITHER of them ever believed that their wars would go on indefinitely. That is not the case with our current White House residents! Bush has said on more than one occasion that this “War on Evil Islamic Bad Guys who Don’t Like Us” would be a LONG-TERM conflict, one that would essentially go on until the end of time!

In other words, these supporters of the White House are really advocating for the removal of the Constitutional system of Checks and Balances FOREVER!

Let’s get brutally honest here… our very system of government is being held HOSTAGE by a very polarized political faction that has no qualms whatsoever doing everything that America’s founding fathers would fear in the name of fighting this “War on Evil Islamic Bad Guys who Don’t Like Us”. They have used fear and intimidation to dismantle the very system that was designed to protect our government from becoming despotic, and they have done so in OUR name and on the pretense of being in OUR best interests.

And again, I’m not saying that this is really anything new. The tendency HAS been there for quite some time now. Those in government LOATHE to be held to the same standards that they hold their constituents to. They don’t like to be judged. They don’t WANT to be judged!

For the longest time, governments large and small have insulated themselves from the true scorn of their constituents. They create ethics committees that they themselves staff with lackeys. They write ethics rules for themselves that carry almost no measure of punishment for even the most grievous of transgressions against the constituents, and they only face expulsion when they dare to cross their peers. Those in government are protected from the law by the outdated notion of “sovereign immunity”, which means that they can commit premeditated murder on primetime TV and get away with it by simply claiming that they’re doing it on behalf of the government.

Think of the utter hypocrisy about this! They can write laws that turn us ALL into criminals for the simplest of infractions, but they themselves are insulated from any kind of accountability even for the worst of transgressions.

And this sets a bad example for others in government. Police departments have developed a siege mentality, one that allows even the worst of police officers to be protected by the best. Innocent people are hurt or killed by the corruption and incompetence of certain officers, but they still get protection from even the best on the force. Loyalty is valued more than ethics. Those in charge of policing the policemen are spat upon and insulted. The much-overhyped motto of “to protect and serve” is, at times, only a self-serving one.

You look at the failings of government-controlled education and you see good teachers stymied and bad ones protected. We’d like to blame the teachers unions for this, but, in truth, they’re only emulating the examples set down by those in government. They too have adopted a siege mentality that pits them against the rest of the world.

It doesn’t take much, then, to convince those in government that a system designed to protect us from despotism should be bypassed, sabotaged, and disabled in the name of expediency. They already allow themselves to do whatever they like, so what is one more transgression to them? It certainly means fewer hassles to deal with on their end.

Our Constitutional safeguard of checks and balances do not kick in on their own. They only have any value to them when we GIVE them value, and when those we put into office GIVE them value.

The blatant and abrasive political abuses of Joe McCarthy of the 1950’s went on unchallenged for years. He was allowed to insult, defame, and slander the reputations of people for the sake of his own ego. People shrugged their shoulders and simply said “it’ll stop”, but it never did. It finally took people who were willing to stand up and say “THIS IS WRONG” before the system finally kicked in to shut McCarthy down. The system only works when people STEP UP and say “ENOUGH”.

House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid WILL NEVER keep any President honest if they do not first take back control of the Checks and Balances that their predecessors eagerly surrendered to the White House. And if WE as voters continue to put these kinds of career politicians in office, then we DESERVE to live in nothing less than despotism.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Week of 03/10/2008

Primary Do-Over Is A Just Compromise
– by David Matthews 2

I have a really simple question for Senator Hillary Rodham-Clinton:

What is her major malfunction concerning rules?

You see, a few months back there was a major rush for certain states to bump up their primaries and caucuses so they would be “the first”, or at least the earliest in the pack. The various state legislators got tired of feeling left out with having their primaries so late in the year, and they knew from experience that the field of potential candidates would thin itself out in a matter of weeks, not months.

They also knew that every presidential wannabe that would show up would be dishing out political favors to the states they visit like they were candy. That’s the REAL reason why they were in a rush to bump up their primaries and caucuses.

Unfortunately there are some drawbacks to having every state rushing to be the “first”, and the biggest is that the traditional leaders – namely New Hampshire and Iowa – are FORCED to bump up theirs. I’m talking forced as in BY LAW!

Party leaders were essentially looking at the prospect of seeing campaigns running at the same time as voters were worrying about the Holiday Season!

So to prevent that from happening, both the Democrat and Republican leaders stepped in and laid down the law. Certain states – namely New Hampshire, Vermont, Nevada, and South Carolina - can still have their primaries and caucuses in January, but the rest could not move theirs up earlier than February 5th, 2008. If they did, they would lose their delegates.

The state legislators for Michigan and Florida chose to defy the party leaders and continue to have their primaries in January. Democrat National Committee Chairman Howard Dean stripped those states of their delegates to the national convention. (The Republicans, meanwhile, only stripped those states of half of their delegates.) About half of the Democrats who were running dropped their names from the ballots, partly to show solidarity with the national party’s rules, and also to save some needed campaign money so they wouldn’t be wasting their time in what would essentially be an empty political beauty contest.

Guess who didn’t pull his or her name off the ballots? That’s right, Senator Clinton. She still campaigned in those states, and, not surprisingly, she won big in both Michigan and Florida when they had their renegade primaries.

And even before Florida had their renegade primary, Clinton was actually DEMANDING that the rules be reversed and the delegates “be seated” at the national convention. Never mind the rules! SCREW the rules! The voters voted and votes should count!

Sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it? Say… November and December of 2000? Same state too! Endless screaming and shouting about screwing the rules and haggling over what constituted a valid vote. Do the Democrats REALLY think that we had forgotten about those days? Apparently so, because Clinton is carrying on as though we’re still in the 2000 Fiasco and she has taken over the role of Vice-President Al “I’m Not Dull” Gore.

Screw the rules, Senator? Those are the same rules that allowed you to represent a state that you barely even lived in prior to the election! Those are the same rules that created this whole team of “super-delegates” that you claim to have your back pocket that keep your hopes for a return to the White House intact.

YOU KNEW what those states were planning to do, Senator. YOU KNEW what the consequences would be if they did it. If you truly valued those delegates, Senator, then you should have been at the front end of the whole situation, urging the legislators in Florida and Michigan to reconsider their respective decisions and move their primaries back a week.

But you didn’t do that, did you, Senator? No, you were the one going in front of the cameras and telling voters in those states to go ahead and vote for you anyway and that YOU will make sure their delegates will be seated in the national convention at all costs.

Screw the rules, indeed! Doesn’t it sound even a TAD hypocritical to be running for leadership of the free world, where you expect people to obey the laws… THE RULES… that are passed by Congress and signed into law by the President - whoever that person will actually be - after telling voters to IGNORE the rules of your political party? If by some twist of fate you do become president, wouldn’t you expect people of this nation to follow your word? Why should they, then, if you’re telling the voters in Florida and Michigan to ignore the rules of the party chairman? What kind of example are you setting, Senator?

By all rights, this matter should have been done and over with. Florida and Michigan broke the rules, they lost their delegates in the national convention, and that should be it.

But Chairman Dean has decided to allow a workaround for those states. The governors of Florida and Michigan have agreed in principle to allow a second primary to give those voters a new chance for their delegates to be seated. Florida is finalizing plans to offer a special “mail-in” primary for Democrats. If it all works out the way they want it to, Florida and Michigan should have all new delegates to represent them in the national convention.

There are, however, a few problems… and the biggest of these goes by the name of Senator Hillary Rodham-Clinton.

The senator from New York by way of Washington D.C. still feels that the original primary results should stand and those delegates should just be seated. After all, why go through the whole process again, wasting time, effort, and money, when she would just be winning the whole thing anyway? Presuming, of course, that she WOULD win the whole thing again.

Bear in mind that aside from herself and Mike Gravel, none of the other candidates really put any effort into campaigning into those states. They were told it would be a wasted effort. But now the field has narrowed down to herself, Barack Obama, and Gravel (who is getting a really unprofessional shunning in the media), and with Obama leading in delegates (as of this column’s date), there really is no guarantee that Madame Clinton would really be the “sure fire” winner the second time around.

And that thought terrifies her, because with the Florida candidates that she would have from the original renegade primary, she would cut Obama’s delegate lead almost in half. But with the poison campaign that she has waged of late, she can’t guarantee the same result.

But let’s get brutally honest here… offering Florida and Michigan a do-over is about as good and just and acceptable of a compromise as the Democrats are going to get to resolve this matter!

The Democrats already are suffering a HUGE credibility problem thanks to the sheer ineptitude and cowardice being exhibited by their members in Congress. And they have absolutely NO AUTHORITY WHATSOEVER to lecture the Republicans about following the rule of law if the Senator of New York by way of Washington D.C. is actively engaging in and encouraging insurrection against her own political party.

Senator Clinton is clearly endangering her own political party for the sake of her own selfish ambition. She has, through her actions, engaged in Chicago-style rules of politicking, which is to win at all costs. Rather appropriate, of course, since she IS originally from Illinois. Every advantage on her part is automatically justified, and any action by her opponents must be condemned in a scathing wail that would make a banshee shiver. Now that may be fine for her if she was running as an independent. But she’s running as a member of a political party that has been around just a few decades shorter than this country has, and running, no less, to be their CHAMPION. If she can’t show respect for the rules of that party, then she truly does not have the proper credentials to be its champion, never mind President of the United States.

It’s bad enough that we currently have one constitutional renegade in office in the form of George W. Bush. America certainly does not need another renegade that can’t even wait to get elected before showing disrespect.

As for the Democrats themselves, Chairman Dean needs to put the Senator in her place, and he also needs to put the state political leaders in their place. He needs to prove that the party is not just some hodgepodge of liberal factions and career politicians looking to keep their pensions. If he can’t do that this time around, when the chances are great that their party may actually win in November, then I mince no words when I say that the Democrats will be DEAD as a party.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Week of 03/03/2008

Of Cults, Real and Defamed
– by David Matthews 2

In the various worlds that make up organized religion, the word “cult” has a very simple definition. It is used to describe any religion that is not their own. A cult is not considered a “true religion” in any manner of being, because they firmly believe that THEIRS is the ONLY “true” religion.

Oh, sure, Roman Catholics will grudgingly admit in public of “other religions”, but in their hearts and in their declarations of faith, they only recognize ONE church, ONE belief, and ONE path to salvation. Everyone else is following a cult as far as they are concerned. The Southern Baptist will tell you something similar, only with THEMSELVES as having the only “true” faith, and the Catholics as being the “cult followers”. The Baptists, of course, have the courage to actually ADMIT to it and say it out loud… at least amongst like-minded people.

A cult is a social organization of like-minded people, often (but not always) led by a charismatic figure. This figure is sometimes seen as some kind of messiah. It is a closed group, one where individuality is subverted for the collectivist whole. And while privacy is often forbidden for the members, secrecy is abundant, especially surrounding the inner circle of this charismatic leader.

Yes, there ARE actual religious beliefs that fit the definition of a cult. Quite often we will hear about them after something horrific happened. The Heaven’s Gate group was one such cult, and most of us didn’t even know it until their members committed suicide in 1997. You probably remember the Branch Davidians and their standoff with federal forces in 1993 ending in the fiery death of 76 men, women, and children in Waco. You may also remember the late Jim Jones and his little massacre in 1978. Anytime you hear someone talk about “drinking the Kool-Aid”, that’s where it came from. Let’s not forget Charlie Manson’s little organization in the 1970’s. That “family” is also considered a cult.

It is for these reasons that the word “cult” is given a negative connotation. When you hear the word “cult” you instantly believe that the people in it are either being scammed or they’re on the path to their own deaths.

A cult is considered destructive because it subverts all forms of individuality, turning the members into literal extensions of the leader and of his or her inner circle. Once in a cult, YOU, as an individual, are no longer relevant. You are indoctrinated into the belief that YOU are merely the extended limb of the group or of the leader. You are trained to give up everything that you have known in the past, every connection you had previously to family and friends, and everything that you had previously believed; and to embrace the group as your new family, your new friends, and your new existence. And if you ever consider leaving or even questioning that group, it is treated as a life-threatening decision. YOU are not there to think. YOU are there to do whatever it is you are told to do, without question and without hesitation.

And here’s the important part: the word “cult” doesn’t just apply to religious groups. Cult-like behaviors are abundant in society.

Our armed forces are a cult! They HAVE to be that way in order to do their jobs. They worship a messianic leader named “Uncle Sam”. They destroy all vestiges of individuality and incorporate to each member a new purpose and a new mission. Privacy is considered irrelevant, but secrecy is certainly abundant.

But we don’t consider the armed forces to be cults, mostly because they have an overall constructive purpose. They defend the country against outside threats. They have helped those who were brought in that lacked purpose or discipline and changed their lives for the better. This is why we don’t want to consider them to be cults, because cults have a NEGATIVE connotation to them.

There is one more element to the U.S. Armed Forces that separates them from your more traditional cult groups, though, and that is they DO allow you to leave… eventually.

Fan groups are considered, to some extent, cults. Whether they are fans of Britney Spears or of the “Star Trek” series or even of one-season TV shows like “Firefly”, some of the tenants of cultism are there.

Users of the Macintosh computer system have taken on many of the cult-like tendencies in the support of the Apple corporation. They worship Apple founder Steve Jobs. They praise all things that come from Apple, be it the iPod or the iPhone or the iMac. And they are indoctrinated to have a passionate HATRED of all things Microsoft. They certainly are a SMALL group when compared to the vast number of people who use regular computers.

But of late there has been a different use of the word “cult”, and it is one that this commentator finds disturbing, not to mention quite possibly libelous.

I’m talking about using the word “cult” as a verbal weapon to blatantly dismiss a movement or an idea outright.

Case in point: critics of the FairTax Plan that has been circulated in Congress for several years now and is the subject of several best-selling books and political rallies have decided to declare the whole idea a “cult”. Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is the one that you can blame for this little stunt, having made the original declaration in his regular newspaper column in December of 2007. To substantiate this fraudulent claim, Bookman and others have declared that the FairTax Bill was actually some Scientologist idea from the 1990’s. And of course Scientology has been declared a “cult” by several groups, not to mention countries like Germany, therefore anything coming from Scientology is a “cult”.

But in order for them to pass this libelous fraud off, they had to first change the name of the organization. The FairTax Plan is being spearheaded by the Americans for Fair Taxation, but the critics have declared the plan to come from a group called the Citizens for an Alternative Tax System, whose leader was an affirmed Scientologist.

So let’s see… “Americans for Fair Taxation” and the “Citizens for an Alternative Tax System”. Yeah, I can see how they got those two groups mixed up, couldn’t you? That’s like calling a Dell computer an iMac simply because of its colorful cover.

Seriously, I couldn’t spin crap that bad… and I’m a published writer!

So… why the lie?

Simple: because they can’t debate the idea without LOSING!

This has been the standard tactic from critics of the FairTax Plan. They can’t condemn it without first having to LIE about what it is or what it can do. First they tried LYING about what it is and declared that it would ADD taxes on top of what people are paying right now instead of what it would really do, which is to REPLACE the current system entirely. Then they had to LIE about the tax percentage. Instead of 23%, they declared it would have to be 30%. Then they declared that the “rich people” would get away with paying LESS in taxes when in fact they would have to pay ALL of the taxes along with everyone else, and they wouldn’t have any exemptions or deductions to fall back on.

LIES on top of LIES on top of still more LIES and followed up by even more LIES. The only thing seemingly HONEST coming from the critics is that they really HATE the FairTax Plan and will do ANYTHING to keep it from being discussed, never mind implemented.

So rather than debate the matter, people like Jay Bookman have declared the FairTax Plan to be a CULT, and therefore not able to be debated against. It saves them the continual embarrassment of being on the LOSING side of the argument. They don’t have to fabricate any more lies or distort the information at that point, all they have to do is say “it’s a cult” and walk away.

The same goes for supporters for Democratic presidential wannabe Barak Obama. Once upon a time, Hillary Clinton was supposed to be the easy-win nominee, and then suddenly you had all of these passionate supporters of Obama coming out, doing videos, getting energized over the election… and unlike the pop-star treatment of Howard Dean in 2004, this didn’t fizzle out after the primaries got started! Obamamania continued and thrived and he’s actually won some SERIOUS primaries and caucuses! Now all of a sudden he’s considered a serious contender!

And that’s not supposed to happen, according to the Clintonites and conservatives and the neo-cons.

So in order to justify this phenomenon, the Clinton supporters and the conservatives and neo-conservatives have dismissed the whole thing as simply being A CULT!

That’s right folks, if you voted for Barak Obama, then you supposedly joined A CULT! Your mind isn’t your own! You’re now a mind-numbed liberal zombie. Well I suppose that’s better than a mind-numbed conservative zombie, right?

It’s easy to claim that Obama has no substance when you accuse his supporters of being brain-dead cultists. You don’t have to do anything to back it up either. You just have to make the declaration and that’s it. The stigma alone is enough to shut up any discussion of the matter.

Let’s get brutally honest here… the word “cult” is rapidly becoming just as much of a destructive, stigmatizing word as “racism”. Sure it quickly dismisses the issue, but it is intellectually lazy, disrespectful, and potentially libelous.

Let’s not forget the signs of cultism, folks. You’re talking about a close-knit group that pretty much shuts itself off from the rest of society. It has very little or no expectations of privacy, yet it is also surrounded by secrets, especially by those in the “inner circle”.

You can get away with calling a fan group a cult because they are seen as a close-knit group shut out from the rest of society. You can even get away with the lack of privacy because they seem to know everything about the subject of their fandom.

But a political movement to reform the tax laws in this country and a presidential candidacy are certainly NOT cults! Both of these things FAIL to match any of the signs of a cult. Reforming tax laws and running for president are certainly not EXCLUSIVE groups. They’re not trying to ISOLATE themselves from society. Quite the contrary, they’re trying to be as INCLUSIVE as possible! As for privacy, replacing the current INTRUSIVE tax code with one that simply taxes consumption is CERTAINLY as private as you can get. And anyone who has actually READ the FairTax books by Neal Boortz and Congressman John Linder or visited the FairTax website will tell you that there are NO surprises or secrets with this idea.

Ironically, the people who have been tossing about the word “cult” of late are also part of a cult-like group. It is an exclusive group, quite often proven to be isolated from the rest of the world, or at least from any semblance of reality. It’s not so much of an organization or a religion as it is a groupthink; one that has kept Democrats and Republicans in office, and has kept liberals and conservatives in key positions of power. It is the “cult” of the status quo. It is the groupthink that says that what is going on right now MUST stay in place at all costs, and that any kind of change must be meaningless and superficial only.

With that kind of mentality firmly in place, you can see why the people in that groupthink would want to project their problem onto others, especially when put into a position where they simply cannot win.