Monday, August 31, 2009

Week of 08/31/2009

Fauxmance Versus Real Misery
– by David Matthews 2

They claim to be real. They claim that it IS real.

It’s about as real as a three-dollar bill.

I’m talking about so-called “romance reality shows”. All of those so-called “reality” programs where you have large numbers of either men or women (or in some cases both) competing for the “affections” of just one person. Rat maze shows with “the girl” or “the guy” as the ultimate prize.

I’ve talked about these shows at length previously. This isn’t the first time I’ve blog-hated on this genre of television programming.

But this time more than hearts were broken.

This time an innocent life was taken.

The innocent in question was Jasmine Fiore, a former bikini model, and ex-wife to VH1 reality TV contestant Ryan Jenkins. According to police reports, Jenkins strangled Fiore to death, presumably after a fight, then pulled out all her teeth and cut off her fingers to prevent identification, then stuffed her body in a trunk. The police had to identify her through her breast implants.

When the police started to hone in on Jenkins, he fled to Canada, where he killed himself in a motel while still on the run.

This came not long after Jenkins started appearing in the VH1 series “Megan Wants A Millionaire”, where dozens of single men with a net worth greater than $1million would compete for the “heart” of a materialistic and determined trophy-wife wannabe named Megan. It also happened after Jenkins was paid for a SECOND VH1 series called “I Love Money 3”, which has previous reality show contestants coming back to compete for more money.

After the death of Fiore and after the police named Jenkins as a “person of interest”, VH1 cancelled the “Megan” show and later killed “I Love Money 3”, ensuring that it would never air on television. They also pulled any mention of the “Megan” show from their website, On Demand cable service, and iTunes subscriptions.

But that didn’t free them from the inevitable questions that came once his history came out. A history of repeated violent behavior, including a charge of criminal battery against Fiore just prior to her death. If bloggers could pick up on that criminal past, why couldn’t the producers behind the two VH1 shows spot it when they ran background checks like they were supposed to?

Maybe because they were only looking for felonies? Or maybe they were looking for charges in America, not in his home country of Canada?

Or maybe… just maybe… they just weren’t looking.

It’s possible. Maybe they were in a rush, they just looked at the personal references and said this guy couldn’t hurt a fly. He did, after all, fool a lot of people.

Or maybe someone with some stroke in the show said “Unless you produce a dead body, this guy is on the show, period.” It’s all completely possible. He was, after all, charming and disarming. He was skilled at fooling a lot of people into thinking he was harmless.

Coming from this, one thing needs to be pointed out: Jasmine was NOT involved with VH1, and neither VH1 nor the company that produced the two shows in question had anything to do with her death. The fault in this tragedy falls squarely on Jenkins, an apparent short-fuse that finally consumed himself, but unfortunately not before taking the life of someone else.

It is also regrettable that it would TAKE a tragedy like this one to kill off a pseudo-reality show like “Megan Wants a Millionaire”, and only on the premise that a killer should not profit from their crimes. If anything, shows like this one have been doing the very same thing.

These dating shows are all based on illusions and gimmicks. They’ll say that “looks don’t matter” and that “age is just a number”, but you’ll notice that in these kinds of shows, when they bring IN the people that supposedly “prove” their claim, they are the earliest ones eliminated from competition.

In “Megan”, you had a kindly old man who would have been the kind of sugar-daddy that the girl in question would have sucked up to easily. No doubt he was there to prove that “age didn’t matter”… and yet he was one of the first people eliminated.

This goes all the way back to my personal blog-hate target, NBC’s “Average Joe”. In each of the three incarnations of that cruelest joke, the contestants were selected from the worst of the worst, on the premise that they would have a shot at winning the heart of the “beauty”. And what happened? The worst of the worst, the oddities, the ones that they used for all their commercial spots… they were ALL the first ones eliminated.

The ones that survive, of course, are the ones that “look good”, or at least better than the rest. And in the first two of those three incarnations, they had a chance… until the boy-toys arrived. The boy-toys that had all of the advantages and ended up with the beauty. In fact the only way the “average guy” won in the third and final incarnation of that sick joke was at the very end when he had help.

But that, of course, is just the extreme example. All of the others are glorified and dressed up, but they still follow the same pattern. The ugliest and oldest ones are eliminated, the pretty ones survive and win the girl or guy, and we’re led to believe that they will have a happily-ever-after.

And in most instances it’s all for show. You can count the number of times such pairings have translated into REAL marriages with one hand, and not even using all five fingers!

Sadly, though, this isn’t even new or original. Reality has plenty of instances where there have been marriages of convenience or that were held together even though they are nothing more than illusions at that point. If the shams were made public, they were often the talk of tabloids or made-for-TV movies which would highlight how WRONG they were.

But now, let’s get brutally honest here… thanks to television producers, this kind of intellectual and emotional fraud can be marketed, glamorized, and glorified for all the world to see. Now it’s no longer shunned… it’s celebrated and idealized.

Not only that, but it is REWARDED. Even if you don’t “win” in that initial fraud, if you’re a good enough “character”, you’re allowed to try for money and stardom in other pseudo-Reality TV shows, and you may even get lucky and be rewarded with a fauxmance all your own.

I would love to think that this tragedy, while only connected on a peripheral sense, would cause television executive to re-think their love for such programming. However I seriously doubt they would. Reality TV is nothing more than the fast food of programming. It’s relatively cheap to create, it gives a false feeling of satisfaction, and it allows its viewers to waste countless hours instead of thinking about the real problems in our world. And as long as someone doesn’t DIRECTLY die from reality TV, they’ll continue to serve up their fast-food regimen to the eager masses.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Week of 08/24/2009

The Decline of Hope
– by David Matthews 2

He was seen as the white knight that America desperately needed. He was appointed by those deemed important as being the chosen one; the one that would lead the people out of despair and into prosperity. His election was seen as a repudiation of the past eight years of fear and dread. His inauguration was seen more as a coronation or even as an ascendancy.

CHANGE was in the air! HOPE was in the making!

And yet a little more than six months into the tenure of President Barack Obama, there is a much different sentiment creeping across the nation.

It’s not a feeling of HOPE… but of remorse. Some may even say… regret.

There is no denying that there are plenty of people who have become disillusioned by the achievements of the Obama Administration in such a short period of time. Even if you discount the polls and the rhetoric from the conservatives and neo-conservatives, there is still a general feeling of malaise amongst the moderates and even from the liberals… the very people who should be dancing in the streets right now.

And yet how can that be, you wonder? How could we go from renewed optimism back to pessimism in less than a year?

It’s easier than you think.

Incompetent Leadership In Congress: Prior to 2006, the Democrats complained that they lacked any power in the Congress or White House. In 2007, after winning back control in both the House and Senate, they said they still couldn’t do anything because they lacked White House support and they didn’t have a filibuster-proof majority. In 2009 they have a President that was elected with wide popular support and they have a filibuster-proof majority, and they STILL refuse to take actions on their own without trying to work out deals with Republicans.

The Congressional leadership was incompetent in 2007, and that did not change in the 2008 Elections. They are just running out of excuses to do their jobs.

It’s STILL The Stupid Economy: George W. Bush had an excuse to louse up the economy. He was a dry-drunk reincarnation of Caesar Nero, who fiddled with mindless glee while America imploded. That’s what he did in 2005 when people complained about the price of gasoline, and again when the Gulf States flooded, and that’s what he did again in 2008 when people started losing their homes and losing their jobs. Then he turned to a Wall Street insider who force-fed America one plan, and then turned around and used the money and the unlimited authority to bail out his friends and left the rest of the nation to twist in the wind.

So what’s YOUR excuse, President Obama? Sure you tossed out a huge stimulus package… the third one in this recession (including the two that were grudgingly handed out by Bush)… and your hand-picked “gotta have” tax-dodging boy wonder supposedly knew what it would take to turn the economy around. So why did Vice-President Joe Biden say you guys UNDERESTIMATED the scope of the problem? Why are there people talking about needing YET ANOTHER stimulus package? Why is unemployment STILL at unacceptable levels?

The people feel let down… AGAIN! They voted for change and they see nothing but more of the same.

BAD Agenda: The Obama Administration has a schedule of things they want done, and they want it done in order. They want the economy fixed, they want to stop hearing about Iraq, and they want healthcare reform. Straight out of Bill Clinton’s old 1993 playbook by the numbers.

Unfortunately things are not as simple as running down a checklist. Obama and his people underestimated the scope of the economic meltdown, as well as the level of resistance that Wall Street has to changing their ways. And now they’re finding out that the insurance providers and the rest of the healthcare companies that have gotten fat and rich off the misery of the masses are even more resistant to change than Wall Street. You’re messing with their bread and butter, Mister President! Did you really think they would take that lying down just because YOU SAID SO?

Come on, President Obama, you’re supposed to be the smart one in the bunch!

The GOP Spoilers: Obviously the conservatives and neo-conservatives are really putting everything they have to being the great spoilers of this party. They clearly DO NOT WANT Obama to succeed in anything he puts his mind to. They will accuse him of destroying the country just by waking up in the morning. They may have proven to have no honor, no ethics, and no morals, but what they do have are a bunch of overpaid public platforms in the media and legions of mindless myrmidons that parrot what they say and call it gospel.

And rather than putting a stake through that party’s heart and getting rid of them once and for all, the Obama people and the inept non-leadership in the Congress are trying to NEGOTIATE with them! And then they actually get surprised when the Republicans turn around and flip them the bird and tell them what they can do with their “bipartisan cooperation”.

And here they have allowed the Republicans to take control over the healthcare mess by spinning one fictitious story after the next and sucking up to their friends in the healthcare industries, thinking that somehow the great unwashed would figure out “the truth” and then are shocked when the masses buy the fiction.

NO JUSTICE: We were promised accountability. Where is it? We hear about a “Pay Czar”, but Wall Street executives are still giving each other bonuses and raises while giving America the middle finger and the shaft. We give billions of taxpayer dollars to banks and they still screw over the very people paying for their bailouts. The people put in charge of watching over the bailouts can’t account for the money being spent or how it is being spent. The same failed corporations that first raced to the bailout trough are coming back for more and more and without ANY kind of consequences for it.

Even worse, we keep on hearing about more and more revelations about gross abuses of power from the former White House occupants, and yet NOBODY IS GOING TO JAIL! Attorney General Eric Holder TALKS about wanting to bring charges, and he keeps WARNING that he MIGHT try to get an indictment, but right now it’s still all talk and no results.

The policies of the old Bush Imperium are being vigorously supported by the Obama Administration. The contracts to the brutal mercenary organization are STILL being extended and paid. The inept people in Congress are supposedly taking their lead from the White House when it comes to holding the old White House people accountable for their actions, and the current White House residents are talking about “not dwelling on the past”.

In other words, there is no responsibility, there is no accountability, THERE IS NO JUSTICE!

Here’s a quick history lesson for the Obama Administration… remember Gerald Ford? He was the only President who was not elected by the Electoral College. He ended up getting the job after Vice-President Spiro Agnew resigned and then President Richard Nixon followed suit.

Do you remember what President Ford did that was so heinous he was hated by the masses? It can be summed up in three simple words: HE PARDONED NIXON!

One of the very first things Ford did after announcing that “the nightmare was over” was to issue a pardon to Nixon and all of his people who were not yet indicted or convicted. It may have been a condition for Nixon to step down and avoid being served with Articles of Impeachment, but it also took out Ford’s chances of being elected in 1976. That probably explains why Nixon was so jubilant when he took the last Marine One ride out of Washington in 1974… he was leaving Ford to incur the wrath of the voters.

And then there is…

The Cult of the Status Quo: The continual push to keep things as they are now is probably the biggest negative that the Obama Administration has. From appointing Clintonistas like Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff to the policies being sustained from the Bush Imperium days, the continuing ROT of complacency has been undermining the Obama Administration’s support like gangrene.

The Obama Administration’s acceptance of a “jobless recovery” is about as sane of an idea as going over Niagra Falls in a rowboat. You CANNOT HAVE any kind of meaningful economic recovery without JOBS! PERIOD! Likewise, the continual plan to just feed the banks and the “too big to fail” companies a steady stream of money will not fix the mess that we are currently in. It is just buying time before their own actions FORCE them to fail… and by then it will be infinitely more expensive to recover from. And it doesn’t matter who is in charge of the White House, or their reasons for doing what they do, they cannot claim to support the Rule of Law in any way shape or form if they refuse to hold people accountable for their actions!

Let’s get brutally honest here… ALL of these things are contributing to the decline not only in Obama’s approval with the masses, but also with the general outlook. Complacency has KILLED any sense of optimism that existed back in January and February. Obama’s people have backstabbed the liberals and independents, and validated the criticisms of the cons and neo-cons who have been the willing spoilers of this party.

President Obama could have had tremendous support for healthcare reform if he first made sure the economy was in FULL recovery. Not a “jobless recovery”, but a REAL RECOVERY, with JOBS! The public could possibly excuse the absence of justice if there was REAL change being implemented and not sorry excuses to keep things as they are now. And complacency could be excused if the perpetrators of our misery were all frog-marched to prison, or at the very least removed from any kind of authority or position of power.

But instead, NONE of these things are happening.

We’re not getting change. We’re getting SHORT-CHANGED. We were sold on hope and we ended up with hype. At this rate, Obama won’t have to worry about whether or not he’ll win re-election in 2012… because the longer he starts acting like Gerald Ford, the more likely he will be TREATED like Gerald Ford.

The sharp decline in the polls, even if they are not to be trusted, should be a wake-up call to President Obama and his people that they need to do more than just TALK about change and TALK about hope. This isn’t just a one-time thing that can be easily forgotten once the election is over. Hope needs to be sustained and re-enforced. And the only way they can do that is if they follow through with what they NEED to do, and they need to do it NOW, not wait until 2012 or even 2010.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Week of 08/17/2009

When Flakes Become Famous
– by David Matthews 2

In the climax of the 1988 film “Inherit the Wind” (based on the actual 1926 “Scopes Monkey Trial”) Kirk Douglas’ character was preparing to wrap up the trial of a schoolteacher accused of teaching evolution with a fiery closing argument. He had skillfully destroyed the defense attorney’s plans, and was prepared to go out for the kill with his closing statement, when suddenly the defense called HIM to the stand. And with just a few quick questions, his mechanizations were laid bare before the public. The same fickle minds that once followed his every word were now disgusted with what he had to say.

And so he prepared to recoup his losses. He was aware that the trial had generated so much publicity, including that new technology called radio, that the whole nation would be paying attention to what was going on. And so he spent his time preparing a masterful closing argument, one that would redeem himself in the eyes of the public and hopefully propel him to greater heights. Unfortunately, the defense had one more hand to play, and when they played it, it left the poor prosecutor with nothing but the bad image he was last seen displaying on the stand.

Whatever happened to those days when the only flakes that were accepted were the ones in our cereal bowl?

As soon as someone became a flake, they were quickly dismissed from our list of credible figures and discarded to the dustbins of history, when we could remember them from their pre-flake days.

Remember H. Ross Perot? He was poised to be a credible voice for political reform. He was at one point a serious contender for the White House back in 1992. He had a simple message, simple ideas, and he spoke to the public in a series of paid-for segments in prime time.

And then he flaked out. He dropped out of the race, and then he dropped back in. He talked about Cuban death squads wanting to kill him over his opposition to the North American Free Trade Act. Then he decided all by himself to become the Reform Party’s candidate in 1996 even though he didn’t campaign previously and nobody in the party considered him to be a serious contender.

Haven’t heard much from him after that, did you? Of course not, because once he developed the reputation as a flake, nobody wanted to call on him for anything.

Michael Jackson was a flake. Sure he did things for the African-American community, and especially for children, but being obscenely rich also made him into a flake. Dangling his kids over balconies, having them wear masks, him losing parts of his nose… have we suddenly forgotten these things? And if he didn’t die at a relatively young age from what appears to be bad medical advice, if he instead died of old age twenty or thirty years later, then he probably would have died in relative obscurity AS a flake. Instead, he’s beautified by the media… the same media that originally made their fortunes showing just how flaky he was.

Apparently we stopped relegating flakes to the dustbins of obscurity. Instead we put them on a higher pedestal and celebrate the weird things they do.

Britney Spears, for instance, had a gradual and much public breakdown to where she was doing impromptu skinny-dipping in the ocean, with the media watching her, to her shaving her head bald and attacking people with umbrellas. She goes away for a while, comes back under her father’s guardianship, and the media instantly celebrates her again.

Hugh Hefner’s former girlfriends, the blond trio formerly known as “The Girls Next Door”, have certainly thrived away from the Mansion. Holly Madison appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” and now is featuring in a Las Vegas show. Bridget Marquardt is off traveling for the Travel Channel. And Kendra Wilkinson is basking in her own spin-off series, along with her new husband and child-on-the-way. Each of them had their own eccentricities out there, but the masses still kept on coming back for more.

Oh, but wait, they’re cute AND blonde (albeit bleached in some cases) AND have shown what their mammas gave them… so I guess that’s okay, right? I mean, it’s not like they’re going to be running for public office, or have bestselling books and nationally-syndicated columns, right?

Well if they did, then they’d have reason to worry… because then they would find stiff competition.

We have inflammatory columnists like Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter, and talking heads like Michael “Need Prozac Now” Savage, Glenn “Blood Shoots From My Eyes” Beck, Lou “The Mexicans Are Coming! The Mexicans Are Coming!” Dobbs, Mark “You Don’t Know The Constitution Like I Know The Constitution” Levin, Rush “You Don’t Know Hitler Like I Know Hitler” Limbaugh, and the hosts of “Fox and Friends”. Let’s not forget Bill O’Reilly, with his loofahs and falafels and not remembering who was slaughtered at Malmedy and “Em-Effer I want more ice tea” flakes, and yet he still has a contract. They are all apparently trying to compete for who can be the flakiest of them all without needing the obligatory ride to the Funny Farm.

And then we have the ones that we actually ELECT!

Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann… who once called for the return of McCarthyist-style investigations of the media, and tried to passively link the return of bird flu to Barack Obama’s election… is now caught up in her bashing of the Clinton-era group known as Americorps, claiming it to be a step towards FORCED SERVITUDE.

First of all, Congresswoman, you’re about ten years too late for your concerns. And second, it’s a little hard to be credible on this when YOUR OWN SON just signed up for the service and is getting praised in the media for it! The same media that you then turned around and attacked for doing so.

Oh, but that’s okay, that’s just one of MANY little flaky eccentricities that she has exhibited recently.

We have House Speaker Nancy Pelosi… who somehow managed to be the number two person in the line of Presidential succession, not to mention leadership of the House of Representatives… and who presided over THE MOST apathetic and PATHETIC session of Congress in recent history. Her first national appearance on TV was a locked-in deer-in-headlights gaze that could scare small children if it was on any earlier in the evening. (Remember, kids, to just say no to Botox!) And yet she continually gets elected and re-elected. It makes you wonder if her constituents are high when they show up at the ballot box.

And then we have the definition of political flake… Sarah “Barracuda” Palin. Sarah used to be an actual governor for the State of Alaska until someone came up with the bright idea that she should be a candidate for Vice-President. That’s when the flaky goodness came out. She who read all of the newspapers but can’t name a single one… she who considered herself to be an expert in foreign affairs because Russia is just “right next door” to Alaska (if you don’t count crossing the Bearing Strait first)… she who was for the “Bridge to Nowhere” before she was “always” against it…she who didn’t know what the policy of American Exceptionalism was but was for it nonetheless… apparently she used to be such a great politician before the dreaded “liberal media” came out and ruined it all for her.

Sarah was apparently too good for political office after the 2008 election. In a feat to top all flaky maneuvers, Governor Sarah decided that she should step down from office. It seems those ungrateful voters that put her in there actually expected her to do her job AS governor after the election instead of going around helping out conservative and neo-conservative causes down in what they call “The Lower 48”.

How DARE they! How DARE those ungrateful voters EXPECT Governor Sarah to actually DO HER JOB when she has all of these other obligations to those conservative and neo-conservative people who actually IDOLIZE her and think she’s the greatest thing in the world since Ronald Reagan! How DARE they actually expect her to CARE about the well-being of the state when compared to such a monumental task of carrying on with the conservative cause in the Age of Obamamania!

(By the way, that sickening feeling you may be experiencing while reading that above paragraph is a little thing called SARCASM. Look it up. You’ll find it quite enlightening.)

So Governor Sarah announced - right before the Fourth of July - that she was leaving her job to carry out that “higher calling”. Oh, but she’s not quitting! No, no, because quitters never win, and she is a WINNER! Just ask her myrmidons in the “Lower 48”! They’ll tell you that she is a WINNER! She actually “BEAT the system!”

It sort of reminds me of the scene at the end of the 1970 movie “Catch-22” when the main character played by Alan Arkin runs away and a soldier asks if he’s deserting from the Army, and Alan Arkin’s character shouts back “No, I’m re-enlisting!”

And yet the media still comes back to her, don’t they? They watch her Twitter posts (for once there’s a service so aptly named for its users) and they actually give her op-ed pieces in newspapers. She’s still out there delivering flaky goodness for people to either idolize or groan about… like how Obama would create “death panels” in his healthcare reform program. And then she takes credit for supposedly “stopping the death panels”.

It makes you wonder where the ambulance is that would be transporting these people to the Earl Long Memorial Moonbat Preserve. Remember folks, as the late governor of the great state of Louisiana so aptly demonstrated from the mental hospital in the 1950’s, you don’t have to be sane to be a politician. In fact… it sort of helps if you aren’t.

But this rise to reward flaky behavior apparently still only pertains to the popular and influential. The old lady that turned her house into an unlicensed dog and cat shelter will still be despised. Nobody would ever consider her to be doing a community service as she lives with pet droppings and urine-stained furniture. That lonely guy who lives down the street who hasn’t gotten married and can’t get a date will still be systematically ignored as being “too weird”… unless he does something completely tragic and uncalled-for. That level-60 Guildmaster in World of Warcraft that owns all of the Star Trek episodes on DVD (including the fan-made ones) will still be living in his parents’ basement. His enrollment for higher-paying programming jobs, even for the company that OWNS World of Warcraft, will still go to the same recycle bin, and his “dream job” would still go to some script-kiddie in India.

Let’s get brutally honest here… this push to reward flaky behavior in the world of the haves is probably the greatest insult that could handed to the rest of us. Every flake that is given a spotlight is a direct slap in the face to every hard-working American who puts in years of effort and has gone on unrewarded and unappreciated.

It makes you wonder how some of these people even GOT to where they are today if not for either nepotism, financial incentives, or “favors”.

It’s one thing for a person in position of authority or media attention to exhibit one or two flaky behaviors. But when you have a pattern of flaky actions and it’s not followed up with a free wraparound jacket and a series of consultations and medications, then the rest of us need to start treating that person in the same way as we WOULD treat that old lady with 70 cats and stacks of urine-stained newspapers. They NEED to be ostracized and isolated from the public spotlight so they CAN get their act together.

If we are supposed to have any kind of respect for these people, never mind the positions of authority they inhabit, then it is up to them to validate it. And if they can’t, then it needs to be taken away from them. The rest of us have to work hard to maintain what little morsels of respect we currently have. It’s high time the ones that are ON the pedestals step up and prove why they are worth our attention.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Week of 08/10/2009

Politics by Thug
– by David Matthews 2

In May of 1856, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts was finishing up his business in the main Senate chamber when he was viciously and mercilessly assaulted by Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina. Brooks did not attack Sumner with words, as those in politics are wont to do, but with a metal-tipped cane. And he repeatedly attacked the senator, striking him in the head with his weapon until the cane broke.

I’m sure some of you would be wondering why nothing was done to stop this vicious criminal attack. Well, Brooks wasn’t there by himself. He had friends with him. Fellow Southern members of Congress, with at least one of them brandishing a pistol, kept onlookers from stopping this attack. The same kind of friends that would later make sure that he escaped any kind of accountability, and thus escaped justice.

Brooks claimed that he acted on behalf of a Senator from his own state, whom Sumner accused of carrying on with “a harlot” that he called “Slavery”. The man that Sumner criticized, Senator Andrew Butler, was related to Brooks, and thus he said he felt compelled to “protect the family honor”.

Normally protecting a family honor was handled by dueling. But Brooks declared that such a requirement only pertains to “gentlemen”, of which he pompously deemed Sumner was not. Thus he resorted to the old barbarian approach, using his cane as a troglodyte would use a club.

This would not be the first time that Brooks refused to take part in the “gentlemen’s option”. Before his death by the croup, he was challenged to a duel by Sumner’s New England colleague, which he first agreed to but then weaseled out, claiming that he would likely be murdered on the way to the dueling site in Canada.

It would be easy to call Brooks a gutless coward, but in truth he was nothing more than a thug. A barbaric, dishonorable thug pretending to be a civilized man. He acted only when surrounded by others and weaseled out of any kind of accountability for his actions whenever possible. “Honor” for him was only worth a damn when he had the upper hand.

Someone once said that politics is the art of saying “Nice Doggy” until you can find a rock. If politics involves thugs like Preston Brooks, then you should probably skip the rock and go straight to the gun.

That may sound extreme, but so were the sentiments of the time. Remember, it was just a scant few years before this country was torn apart by a bloody civil war. Vitriol was so high at the time that the Richmond Enquirer newspaper not only openly advocated further violence on Sumner, suggesting that he be assaulted in a like manner every day for the rest of his life, but that his supporters, and I quote: “have been suffered to run too long without collars. They must be lashed into submission.”

Sadly, those sentiments have been making a return.

Instead of the rhetorical bully pulpit, we now have the literal pulpit OF the bully, as conservative and neo-conservative minds have been orchestrating the masses into ugly, hate-filled mobs. Threats of violence and intimidation have appeared. Acts of insurrection have been generated and encouraged. The President of the United States is being accused of being an illegitimate leader of the country, spurned on by fraudulent and almost criminally fabricated documents that would make a drop-cloth look like the Mona Lisa in comparison. Screaming, angry mobs are disrupting town hall meetings, forcing others to rise to counter the mobs, forcing those mobs to threaten violence for DARING to being opposed.

The ghosts of Preston Brooks and his brutish cohorts have returned. All that is missing now are the metal-tipped canes.

It would be easy to say that this madness, this wanton bloodlust, is all the result of the 2008 Presidential Election season, which lasted far longer than any other election season in recent history. It would be easy to just blame it all on extremely sour grapes on behalf of the Republicans Party, upset because they lost control of both Congress and the White House in the span of just two years.

It could even be suggested that this renewed vitriol has been the result of the cultish mindset that was built up in America after the 9/11 attacks. Force-fed a steady diet of fear and hatred and demanding complete subservience and obedience for seven years has a detrimental effect on any society.

Unfortunately, this level of hate… and yes it really is HATE… has been around much longer.

In the early 1990’s, this commentator began to notice a bubbling groundswell of bile and revulsion. Intolerance for opposing viewpoints, intolerance for different opinions, a fervent religious hatred of anything that doesn’t mirror their views of how the world SHOULD be. It was this bubbling groundswell that began my focus on the cancer known as moralism and how it has perverted America.

Every so often that bubbling hate would boil over in places like Oklahoma City and the anti-abortion terrorist acts of the mid-to-late 90’s, and they would have to pull back from the brink. They would have to retreat under fear that what they were doing would escalate into something they could not control.

The events of 2001 changed the rules.

9/11 gave them a license to enact their agendas. They had a President and a Congress that was more receptive to their causes. They had an enemy to focus all their rage and hate and fury on. An enemy on the other side of the planet that couldn’t tell them apart from anyone else. They had a wedge that they could use to impose their will on society. Question their will and they would waive that bloody shirt around and accuse you of outright TREASON. They beautified the victims, deified the government, and glorified not only the soldiers, but also any and all tools used on their behalf.

And then, suddenly, it’s over with. Their friends were out of power. Their icons, their saviors, were no longer in control. Now they’re on the defensive. Now they have to fight to preserve what control they do have left. And they don’t like it! They have gotten fat and rich off bullying the world and now they have to fight to stay relevant.

Let’s get brutally honest here… we are dealing with the politics of THUGGERY and intimidation. We are dealing with people who are not too far off from the very terrorists that attacked America. In fact these same groups have SUPPORTED AND CONDONED acts of terrorism committed in this very country as long as it advances their agendas.

These are bullies, thugs, and terrorists. They are no better or different in tactics or thinking than organized criminals or violent drug lords. The only difference is that these are not strangers in another part of the world. These are our neighbors. These are our family members. These are people that we grew up with, have known all our lives, and people that we work with and interact with on a daily basis.

Worse yet, BECAUSE we know them, we are less prone to engage them in the same way as we would a stranger. That’s how they’ve managed to worm their way into positions of power over us in the first place.

And as much as this commentator would like to think otherwise, it can only get worse before it gets better.

Confronting a bully means getting hurt. They don’t back down just because you decide to stand up to them. And when violence is either implied or explicitly threatened, you either have to stand up to it and risk getting hurt, or else cower and retreat and let them win. And ending the politics of thuggery and intimidation REQUIRES that you stand up to them!

Thugs operate from a position of power. They only attack when they know the odds are in their favor. The lily-livered dishonorable thug that was Preston Brooks knew that he wouldn’t have stood a chance one-on-one against Charles Sumner. Sumner stood six-foot-four and could have easily force-fed that cane if he had a chance to defend himself. And Brooks was a failure in dueling! The reason why he walked with a cane was proof of his FAILURE. But to attack Sumner when he feels the safest, on the floor of the United States Senate, when Brooks was surrounded by friends carrying GUNS, and with Sumner constrained behind a heavy desk BOLTED to the floor, and you can see why Brooks was willing to be so barbaric.

But that’s how they work. One-on-one, they’re cowards. They’re quick to play the “poor victim” card at every opportunity when the odds aren’t in their favor. But as soon as they have numbers and/or leverage, they are as merciless as they are dishonorable.

They do this because they have no honor. They never had honor and they never will. To them, honor is nothing more than another way to justify their actions. They have no REAL sense of ethics or morals. To them, might makes right; the ends justify ANY AND ALL means; and what we call extreme or out of bounds, they refer to as standard operating procedure.

And make no mistake, THESE PEOPLE PLAY FOR KEEPS! They would not be willing to escalate it to violence if they didn’t. They’re willing to risk their ties to friends and family members, their careers, their reputations, even their very lives, to get what they want. They’re willing to risk it all in order to get their way.

The real question that you need to answer is… are you willing to do the same for what you believe in?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Week of 08/03/2009

Wanted: Justice
– by David Matthews 2

In the new DC Comics miniseries “Justice League: Cry for Justice”, the Justice League of America, the premiere superhero organization, is split in two when Green Lantern reminds the group of world’s finest heroes that the first part of the group’s name… JUSTICE… has been absent for far too long. Hal Jordan, the galaxy’s law enforcer, reminds the members that they have lost two of their best and longtime friends, the Martian Manhunter and Batman, and the people behind their deaths are still at large.

“What about JUSTICE?” he asked his teammates before going out and seeking it himself.

What about justice, indeed.

Bank executives mastermind conditions where people are driven to bankruptcy and foreclosure and drive the banks themselves into near-collapse. The government gives them billions in bailout money, paid for by the very taxpayers that they are fleecing, and they turn around and give themselves bonuses. Nobody gets arrested. Nobody goes to jail.

What about justice?

Abuses of power amongst those in local police departments have been on the increase. Innocent families are assaulted in their own homes by gun-toting police officers. Family pets have been killed simply because they were doing their jobs. Children have been rousted from their sleep, and in the case of a family in California, were forced to sit outside in public in handcuffs wearing nothing but their underwear. Yet nothing happens to the officers when they discover the error. The victims at fault are lucky to get a half-hearted apology from some public relations spokesman as they clean up the damages caused by the officers and cope with the loss of their family pets and the humiliation they endured at the hands of the officers.

What about justice?

At the same time we are told that we have to WORSHIP the police! We can’t question their actions. We can’t voice our discontent. A lawyer in Washington DC publicly voices his hatred of the police for their actions and he gets arrested for simply exercising his Constitutional right to speak his mind.

What about justice?

Government officials claim that we live in a system governed by the rule of law, and yet they flaunt that law with wanton abandon and hide behind outdated notions of “sovereign immunity” and “executive privilege”. They can start wars on fabricated evidence, destroy lives on a whim, condemn thousands to live as nomads, take away people’s homes and businesses, and get away with it all with a wink and a smile and an arrogant swagger. They can even re-write the very laws they are supposed to be governed under with but a waive of the pen! And yet when the discussion comes up about bringing these people to account for their actions, we are told that we should just “move forward” and not “dwell about the past”.

But what about justice, sir?


When you have gross abuses of power, where harm has been made and damages have been done, why does our government - a government supposedly by the people of the people and for the people - suddenly change their motto to “do as I say, not as I do” and expect the rest of us to mindlessly go along with it?

Do you not remember the riots of the 1960’s? The riots in Miami of 1980? The riots in Los Angeles in 1992? These things did not happen out of the blue! These things did not just materialize. People didn’t just suffer from a momentary loss of sanity.

In EVERY ONE of those instance, you had people being fed a continual diet of injustice and social inequality. Continually being stepped on. Continually being overlooked. Continually being abused and neglected. And then finally you have that one incident, that one action that puts it over the edge. In EVERY instance, you have neglectful, mismanaged, abusive, and corrupt government FAILING to do their jobs over and over again. And in EVERY instance the real question that needs to be asked is not HOW did it happen, or even WHY did it happen, but rather what took it so long TO happen.

But even worse is what happens when government is the problem.

Do you know how unions got started in the first place? Unions were created to fill a void caused by abuse and incompetence in management. In EVERY SINGLE INSTANCE where there is a union, you find gross mismanagement by those in business preceding it. As my father once told me, and I can attest to, in EVERY INSTANCE where you have a company that did not start out with a union that ended up with one EARNED it!

Likewise, organized crime became powerful because of inept, negligent, and incompetent people in government that FAILED to do their jobs! They came to be because of a void caused by government corruption and incompetence. People turn to organized crime because the system FAILS to do what it is supposed to do! Organized crime did not create Prohibition. They simply watched as those in government made that self-serving, self-righteous decision all on their own, and then waited with glee as the masses turned to THEM.

Street gangs, no matter where they are in the world, were created to fill a void caused by bad parenting and gross incompetence. They turned to the worst, and in turn they BECAME the worst, because parents and social organizations FAILED to do their jobs.

Even on a more personal level, in pretty much every instance of a murder-suicide that you hear about or read about in the news can be traced to a FAILURE somewhere in the system. A FAILURE in institutions, a FAILURE in agencies, a FAILURE in peers or family members to do what they are supposed to do! The perpetrators do not wake up one morning and just arbitrarily decide to play out their end-game scenario. They are COAXED into it. They are GOADED into it. They are prodded through demons and desires and desperation over a system that FAILED to help or support them. And even if they were the ones at fault, even if their own demons were the cause of the situation that led to this tragedy, it is a situation that DID NOT HAVE TO HAPPEN, and WOULD not happen if there was true justice.

Is any of this sinking in yet?

In every instance where you see acts of vigilantism, where people take the law into their own hands, where they cheer on and support criminal activates, that is a FAILURE of the system to do what it is supposed to do!

In every instance they are looking for JUSTICE and our system is found to be woefully deficient.

Let’s get brutally honest here… the balance that we have in society between order and chaos is dependant on three simple words: JUSTICE FOR ALL! Not justice only for the rich. Not justice only for the powerful. Not justice only for the banks and the big corporations. Not justice only when it is convenient. Not justice only when it is written into the budget. Not justice only when it is put on the 6 o’clock news.

And justice for all MUST INCLUDE those in government! From the President of the United States of America all the way down to the guy that cleans up the town park, they must ALL be held to account for their actions! You are only courting disaster if you do not adhere to this.

Indeed, the United States of America would never have existed if not for the gross abuses of power that were committed by the British Empire. If the monarchy and Parliament and the various governors were competent enough to do their jobs in the 18th Century, then there would be no Revolutionary War that would give birth to a nation. Likewise, the monarchy in France could have kept their heads - literally - if they were better stewards of government instead of treating the people like their personal playthings.

“Justice for all” is the whole embodiment of the rule of law. It REQUIRES… not suggests, not theorizes, but MANDATES… that people be held EQUALLY under the law, no matter who they are or what they do. From President to homeless pauper, they each must be held to the same standards and to the same system of accountability. ANYTHING LESS THAN THAT is not the rule of law. Once you start parsing out who should and should not be accountable for their actions, you shift the system to one that is governed by the rule of man, quite literally the rule of TYRANNY, and even the most benevolent of tyrannies are still tyrannies subject to abuses, failure, and chaos.

A competent government does not have its people asking “What about JUSTICE”. They would not have to ask, because the answer would be right in front of them. It would be in the news reports of the powerful being led away in handcuffs, of predatory institutions being required to make immediate restitution, and of systems working to right that which was wrong. It would come not from rhetoric, but from RESULTS.