Monday, March 29, 2010

Week of 03/29/2010

The Ugly Truth On The Cry For Third Parties
– by David Matthews 2

At the climax of the movie “A Few Good Men”, Jack Nicholson’s character began his evangelical explanation of how the ends justifying his means by proclaiming that the lawyers handling the court-martial case cannot handle “The Truth”. “The Truth”, of course, being that anything that he did, anything that he ordered, was done for the sake of protecting the United States from the “threat” of Cuba.

I am often reminded of that mantra of “You can’t handle the truth” when it comes to the continual call from certain conservative and neo-conservative activists who whine and cry for a “third party option”. As a long-time supporter of third party options, I don’t know if I should be relieved, excited, outraged, or just pissed-off to no extent to hear these people whine over and over again about how they “want” a third political party.

I would like to think that they really know not of what they are talking about, but I’ve been playing this game far too long to actually take them seriously about anything they talk about… except perhaps for the time of day, and even that would be with deep reservation.

You “want” a third-party option, you say? Really?

It’s funny you should proclaim that… because third parties have BEEN around for quite some time, and some of them have been around even longer than many of the people who are whining about “wanting” one.

Take the Libertarian Party. That party has been around since 1971. The Green Party has been around since 1984. Some of those new so-called “political independents” weren’t even out of diapers in 1984.

And it’s not like there weren’t challengers to the two-party duopoly before.

In 1992, a Texas billionaire sunk millions of his own money to run for the White House as an independent, riding a wave of voter dissatisfaction and political outrage that was not felt in generations, only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Still, the turnout of that election was enough to create another third-party group called the Reform Party.

So I guess the real question isn’t why there isn’t a “third-party option”, but rather it is to ask why aren’t you LOOKING at the ones that are already there?

I suppose a possible answer would be that these tea party complainers are still relatively new to the idea of being abandoned by the Democrats and the GOP. I remember when I found myself parting ways with the GOP that I didn’t even know there were other political parties out there.

Or perhaps a more realistic answer is that they really don’t WANT a third-party option.

This is the point where I straighten up and do my best Colonel Jessep impersonation as I proclaim in a loud and clear voice… “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”

Because let’s get brutally honest here… the bulk of the people who complain and whine about wanting a “third-party option” have no real DESIRE for a third political party. They really want one of the already-established dominant political parties (preferably the GOP) to kowtow to THEIR whims and to THEIR demands.

To that end, their complaints and threats are really no different than the threats made by stadium owners who vow to take their sporting teams and move to another city if they can’t get the new taxpayer-funded stadium they want. It worked for Major League Baseball owners, continually threatening to take their teams and move to Tampa… until the Florida Marlins were created in that city.

You see, when you abandon either of the two dominant political parties in America and you sign yourself up with an actual third-party option like the Libertarian Party or the Green Party or the Reform Party or any one of the dozens of other “third-party” groups out there, you also have to take heat for doing so. Abandoning the two dominant parties means they no longer have to CARE about what you want out of a political party. They don’t have to CARE about your causes. They don’t have to CARE about your concerns. They don’t have to CARE about what you think the party should concentrate on. In other words, they don’t have to CARE about you at all… just like they don’t CARE about the rest of America. They’ll miss out on your money, of course, but thanks to a recent Supreme Court decision about campaign finances, they can make it up quickly.

In other words, you’ll actually miss THEM more than they will EVER miss you should you really go the third-party route.

That’s why most of the so-called “Tea Party” people cannot be taken seriously when they start crying for a third-party option. Much like the spoiled brat who threw an Exorcist-style temper tantrum when his mom canceled his World of Warcraft account, their threats are all theatrics. Worse yet for them, the leaders and overpaid political advisors in those two dominant political parties KNOW that it is all for show. That’s why they’re not panicking when they hear about these “Tea Party” rallies. This whole thing is more scripted than professional wrestling!

Don’t get me wrong, I would LOVE to see a sudden spike in Libertarian Party membership because of this. I would LOVE to see another Reform Party upset like the kind that turned Jesse Ventura into the Governor of Minnesota. But I have been in the third-party desert long enough to know that as the November elections get closer and closer, those same people who are screaming for a third-party option will soon be singing a much different tune. They will instead be talking about the need to “come together” and to not “waste your vote”.

So if you REALLY want a third-party option, by all means come on over! There are plenty for you to choose from. But you better be certain that this is what you REALLY want, because the people who need your support far more than do the two dominant parties certainly don’t like being taken for granted. And I’m sure you would understand that… if your complaints are to be taken seriously.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Week of 03/22/2010

The Slow Death of America
– by David Matthews 2

It was a glorious empire… stretching across much of the continent… providing marvels in architectural design, warfare, commerce, language, and government organization that would last for centuries.

I am talking, of course, about the Roman Empire.

There are many theories as to why this once-great empire fell, but most of them agree that Rome had simply become too big, too burdensome, and that it imploded as a governing body because it could no longer sustain its largesse. Every new conquest, every new war, every new battle had to be sustained by every new tax it assessed. Every new territory it conquered needed more people to govern it and more troops to keep it, which meant more money it needed to pay for it all. All of this did not come for free.

Governments can either collapse or they can be conquered and assimilated. It doesn’t matter how many armies it raises, how many wars it wins, or how many times it fights off invasion, if it sticks around long enough then it will eventually succumb to its greatest enemy: itself.

And thus we stand here in the United States… over two-hundred years old… threatening to go the way of the Romans. Our infrastructure is collapsing upon itself. Problems that need to be fixed are not because they are mired in political games. Jobs are being lost, businesses are collapsing, the economy teeters at the brink of total collapse, and that time that politicians said would NEVER happen… namely when Social Security would start calling in their IOUs from Congress… has finally started to happen.

On a local level, streets and bridges are falling apart. The money isn’t there to fix them. Schools are closing. Local government workers are being furloughed. Essential services like police, fire, and rescue services will eventually follow.

Meanwhile politicians at all levels of government are claiming that everything is fine and under control. Sure times are tough, and they’re only going to get worse later on, but it’s okay… they got it covered.

No doubt their Roman counterparts said the same thing centuries ago.

But while it is popular to blame government for being too big, too bulky, too burdensome, too bureaucratic, too corrupt, and too self-serving, it is another thing entirely to actually DO something about it. It doesn’t matter which of the two dominant political parties or which of the dominant political sides we elect, it’s still nothing but empty political rhetoric. Much like human flatulence, it’s all stench and very little substance.

The people at the libertarian-based Reason Foundation have been running an ongoing series about how they would save a city like Cleveland, home of libertarian celebrity Drew Carey, and their continual message is that cities like Cleveland are imploding because of too many regulations, too many bureaucracies, too many taxes… in other words, too much government. They compare Cleveland’s 22 various zoning categories to Houston’s simplified “land use map” and declare Houston to be better. They point to privatizing certain non-essential government services, as were done in Chicago and Indianapolis, and declare these to be good. They point to charter schools in Oakland and declare that to be better than the taxpayer-funded education system.

Unfortunately, “simple” does not necessarily mean “better”. Every time we talk about cutting the scope and scale of government, it has always come back to bite us in the ass. And, equally unfortunate, as the maliciously mercenary habits of big corporations demonstrated in recent years, privatized institutions are no better than the taxpayer-funded ones. We let the big banks and the Wall Street masters of the universe run wild and we SAW what the end result was!

We’ve spent billions on tax money that we don’t have to try to supposedly “fix” the implosion. Money for tax breaks, money for government projects and government programs, money for infrastructure, but the implosion is still ongoing. The threat is still there, despite all the rhetoric falsely claiming that we’ve been “pulled back from the brink”.

We are still going the way of Rome, and this commentator really doesn’t know if there is a way we can hold it off. If there IS a way, though, it will have to be more than just blindly throwing money about and making boastful claims of a recovery that hasn’t yet happened.

Let’s get brutally honest here… we don’t just need LESS government. We need the RIGHT KIND of governing. We need BETTER governing as well as SMALLER governing.

Cities like Cleveland did not become bureaucratic behemoths overnight, and they certainly didn’t come about in a vacuum. The city got twenty-two separate zoning designations because someone wanted an exemption from the current designations, and then someone else wanted their own exemption, and so on and so forth. Every regulation, every regulatory body, every law and ordinance and department requiring taxpayer money can be traced to SOME kind of need or SOME kind of outrage that the system did not cover. And simply CUTTING those regulations and designations and taxes will not address the problem. That perceived “need” will once again reassert itself; and often it will do so at the most inopportune time.

Big sporting arenas and convention centers DO NOT translate into jobs! Cleveland found out the hard way that bringing those in did not mean that the people that would show up there would patronize the jobs in the communities, especially when the sporting arenas and convention centers would line up their own shops and restaurants.

Short of completely revamping the tax system, and having to work with the government already in place, it needs to be crystal clear that tax breaks or bailouts for businesses MUST be used to bring in jobs. Some communities are already revoking earlier breaks when businesses break their word. This needs to be the rule everywhere, not the rare exception here and there.

Yes, communities need to look at privatization where possible. But again, it needs to be done SMARTLY. Also serious thought needs to be placed on decriminalizing some of these non-violent consenting moralist-created crimes. Hemp, which is the NON-DRUG version of the cannabis plant, was once potentially considered to be a billion-dollar industry before it was outlawed to benefit the paper mills. Can you imagine the taxable income if that was legalized again?

Leadership at the top… namely those in Washington… is a start, but any recovery needs to come from the BOTTOM up. It needs to come from JOBS! Not jobs in other countries. Not corporate handouts which then translate into executive bonuses and excuses to outsource even more jobs to other countries. You have to focus on MAIN STREET, not WALL STREET! Cities need to work on bringing PEOPLE in, not corporate-sponsored skyboxes.

For those of you who have had your heads firmly up the colon of big government, here’s how it works: when people are employed and they are secure in knowing that their jobs will be there for them, THEN they will look at buying things like cars and homes. THEN they’ll start looking at getting that new HDTV and that new living room set. THEN they’ll start at looking at getting that new computer system that they’ve so longed to have. THAT improves the economy and encourages even more growth. THAT generates the tax revenue that you so desperately covet.

What happens when the jobs are not there? Then people make do with what they have. They WILL NOT buy that new HDTV. They WILL NOT look at new homes. They WILL NOT look at replacing their living room set or getting that computer system. They will, instead, be forced to spend every penny they have making do with what they have and getting only the essentials. In other words, you LOSE the tax revenue that you so desperately NEED to pay even for VITAL services.

And by the way, this applies not just to the ONE-IN-TEN that are currently on unemployment assistance, or even the ONE-IN-FIVE that are either not covered by assistance or else are under-employed, but also to the vast MAJORITY of the people who are currently working who are now fearful that they will also lose their jobs. They too will cut back. They too will forego spending the money on new cars or new homes or new furniture or new anything. And again, you will LOSE the tax revenue that you so desperately NEED to pay for even those VITAL services.

And it doesn’t end. If things are not changed, it only gets worse, because then when even MORE people spend less and have less money to spend, that makes the economy even worse. That forces businesses to retreat even further and make more cuts and more sacrifices and more layoffs, and that only feeds the cycle again and again.

Just giving money to corporations doesn’t fix the problem. We saw that with the big bailout of 2008. Big Business gave themselves bonuses with the money and then carried on like nothing happened.

You can have all the press conferences you want to. You can hand out all of the bailout money and tax breaks you want to for big corporations and fulfill their every fiscally-erotic fantasy of big arenas and convention centers. But as long as you forget that the bottom line rests with MAIN STREET and not WALL STREET, your talk will be nothing more than flatulence.

The Roman Empire fell because Rome believed it was all about itself. If their modern-day counterparts here in America wish to prevent history from repeating itself, then they need to remember that the quest for a “more perfect union” does NOT limit itself to the rich and the powerful.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Week of 03/15/2010

The Myth of Success
– by David Matthews 2

Once upon a time, a recently widowed man moved into a new town in one of the more affluent communities. He came in with a new BMW, with designer suits, and a wide variety of work experiences.

It wasn’t long before people started to ask him how he managed to become so successful, and he really didn’t have an answer for them. He said that he had no idea how he became wealthy and could afford to buy his BMW or a nice house or the nice designer suits. All he knew was that he did a daily routine, no matter what kind of job he ended up doing and somehow he became wealthy.

So people asked him what his daily routine consisted of. He said that he woke up, did his morning constitutional, went for a morning walk, then he would take a golf club out to the back yard and do some practice swings. He didn’t have a golf ball, so he would just do practice swings and pretend that he was hitting a golf ball. Then he’d go back in, have some coffee and some buttered toast, and then take a shower, get changed, and start the rest of his day.

Next thing you know, people are talking about the new “Practice Swing Method” of success. Dozens of highly successful businessmen vouch for the claim that the “Putting Swing Method” really works and it helped make them even richer. People are starting their day doing the same thing. Sales for single golf clubs go through the roof. Attendance at the local putting range skyrockets. The widower is then asked to speak at motivational conventions and to write a book about how he “putted” his way to success. He markets the whole “Practice Swing Method” through a late-night infomercial and makes a fortune.

A local reporter, hearing about this new “sensation”, starts doing a little research into the claims that doing practice swings with a golf club does somehow make a person more successful. He talked with the people who paid $79.95 for the “Simple Success” golf club and motivational book and asked if doing practice swings every day made them any richer. It didn’t, but they still firmly believed they just haven’t been practicing enough times. After all, the widower himself didn’t get rich overnight either.

So the reporter did a little digging into the “sudden success” of the widower and found out that it actually had nothing at all to do with what he did. In fact, his performance at all of those various jobs he worked at was mediocre at best. The real secret of his financial gain came from his late wife, who was siphoning off money from the bank she worked at and putting the money into treasury bonds. When the bonds matured, the funds were put into their joint bank account. The bank eventually failed, got bought out, and nobody could account for the missing money until then.

And how about the businessmen who claimed that they made more money doing the “Practice Swing Method”? Well, they actually made that money during business deals made at the putting range of the local golf course. Old-fashioned “Good Ol’ Boy” networking.

In other words, the widower’s “Practice Swing Method” for financial success was nothing more than a placebo. It didn’t make anyone richer, other than the widower himself of course, and that was only after he turned it into his “get rich quick” scheme. All that it really did was to waste time.

Success is humanity’s first and probably only real alchemy, the merging of magic and science. And “magic” can be defined as merely that which cannot be scientifically explained. There have been a lot of things in history that could not be readily explained by science that we called “magic”. There are things today that cannot be readily explained by science that fall under the category of “magic”. Ever hear of photosynthesis?

Well, success IS alchemy, because despite all of the so-called “experts” that are out there, with all of the books and with all of the plans, and all of the seminars that are out there, there is no set scientific formula that someone can use to become successful. But that doesn’t stop the myriad of ways that people TRY to come up with one.

Now before we go any further, let’s go over what the alchemy of success is…

Success is a mixture of two elements. First is the “science”; the practical aspect. You come up with a product, a program, a company, a skill to market. You do all of the legwork, all of the development, all of the marketing, and people like or even love your product/program/company/skill.

Does that mean that the product is automatically a success? No. Because it’s still missing something. It’s still missing the “magic”.

Now by “magic”, I don’t mean magic wands, potions, spells, or cheap parlor tricks. I’m talking about things that cannot be scientifically explained or duplicated. “Magic” is a combination of factors. Luck plays a heavy role in this. So does timing.

Take, for instance, the big software giant known as Microsoft. Microsoft started out way back when with one program, MS-DOS, which competed with a whole bunch of other DOS programs. Then they developed the Windows operating system. Was it a success then? No, it wasn’t. But they took advantage of Apple’s rigid restrictions with third-party providers and they struck deals with businesses and they became the standard for developers and for business in general. They BECAME the software leviathan that it is today because of the deals they struck, and because of TIMING. There was a need and they were in the right place at the right time to take care of that need. You cannot DUPLICATE that kind of situation, and some have tried! That’s why it’s called “magic”.

There are other operating systems out there today that are either cheaper or better than Microsoft’s Windows system, and yet, try all they want to, they cannot overcome Microsoft in terms of its success. Why? Because Microsoft managed to take advantage of a situation that was unique at that time and cannot be duplicated. In other words, they took advantage of some of the “magic” at the time.

Now what really annoys me to no extent are three groups who that latched themselves onto the alchemy of success and are making it even harder for the rest of us.

The first groups of people are the PARASITES. Those are the people who firmly believe that hard work and effort mean absolutely NOTHING when it comes to success. They actually believe that NOBODY succeeds, that the people who are rich and successful just came across it like one would a fallen penny, and that it MUST be shared by EVERYONE.

You see these groups every so often. They believe that any kind of success must be instantly taxed into oblivion, and the more money people make, the more taxes they should be forced to pay. They whine about how “the rich” (which doesn’t somehow include themselves) need to pay “their fair share” (but they fail to define what “fair” is). They’re annoying, especially when they worm their way into positions of power and authority.

The second groups of people are the extreme opposites… and I REALLY get pissed off at them. They are the NAGS. They steadfastly REFUSE to accept that there is such a thing as “magic” when it comes to success. They want to finger-point at people and accuse them of just not working HARD ENOUGH. They’re just not putting ENOUGH of an effort into doing what they do.

I’m sorry folks, I know I’m going to set off a few red flags when I say this, but when I hear these nags spout off their horsecrap, I seriously have to fight the urge to do grievous bodily harm on them. There ARE people out there today that work hard, that put in sixteen or even eighteen hours a day doing what they do, that sacrifice time, money, sanity, sleep, even their own health, working fingers-to-bone and YET they are nowhere near successful. They are the people that are insulted every single time one of these NAGS open their mouths and spew their ignorance and say “you just need to work harder and sacrifice more”.

And they would be in the minority if not for the fact that they latch on to the third groups of people out there that annoy me to no end… and those are the CHARLATANS.

These are the people that sell you the so-called “foolproof” ways that you can be successful. And I’m not just talking about the pyramid schemers, or the multi-level marketers. I’m talking about the people with a product to sell all their own to supposedly help you be “successful”.

You have the televangelist with a certain-colored “prayer cloth” that if you hold while you pray, you will magically have money come your way. Apparently these people forget that Christianity tells the masses to give up all of their earthly goods now for spiritual wealth in the hereafter. It certainly makes the televangelist richer.

You have the “books” that show you how to engage in real estate deals and other so-called “loopholes” in the system. No word as to whether or not those really work, but if they did, wouldn’t you think there would be more people wealthy today? Plus don’t forget that when you’re dealing with real estate, you’re dealing with a whole legion of big companies full of people who have been licensed and trained to deal with the subject. They have connections and money on their side. What do you have? You have a book showing you the same fishing spots that they troll in on a regular basis. It’s like entering a minivan in the Daytona 500 and expecting to even FINISH, much less win.

You have all of those folks, and then you have the “experts”. The sports coach that honestly thinks that winning in football equates into winning in business. Of course the only success story to prove that is his own success story, which is making money going to other companies as a motivational speaker. You have “THE SECRET” people, who tell you that you will be successful if only you WISH for the success. And then you have the gimmick people, who believe that being successful is merely a matter of LIVING successfully, or even SLEEPING your way to success. They try to convince you that it’s so EASY to be successful in doing what you do… you just have to “follow your dreams”.

Well let’s get brutally honest here… IT DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY!

As of this coming April 1st it will be fourteen years since I started “following my dreams”. You’re reading it right now. Or you’re hearing it on ShockNet Radio. Or you’re seeing it in my comic book series. Guess how much money I have made doing all of these things over the past fourteen years? Zero.

It’s not that I’m not good what I do. There are plenty of people who have told me that I am talented, that I am gifted, that I have skills that should be worth a fortune, and yet all of that and twenty dimes will get me a cup of coffee… as long as it’s not at Starbucks.

So you tell me, oh great and powerful “experts”, why aren’t I rolling in the dough? Why are my columns getting ignored? Why do I have to pester people to listen to my radio show? Why can’t I get anyone to read my comics? I can dream all the dreams I want to; I can hope, wish, pray for success; I can write down my dreams in a letter to send to myself; I can even try to LIVE the life that I WANT to live if I were successful, and yet I am still nowhere near getting to that point.

It’s getting to be fourteen years now, and I still have to find work elsewhere just so I can pay the bills and keep a roof over my head and food in the refrigerator. Isn’t it somewhat awkward that the experts who come up with all of these unique tricks for success don’t really have a timeframe for ANY of it to pan out?

In truth, their gimmicks are really no more effective than the hypothetical “Practice Swing Method”. It’s a placebo, designed to make you feel good without actually doing anything other than wasting your time and possibly your money.

There is NO sure-bet way to be successful. Success is a combination of factors, and many of them can’t be duplicated. It is a matter of timing, a matter of connections, a matter of certain circumstances working for you, and sometimes it is a matter of other people helping you. And the reverse is also true when it comes to failure.

Not everyone can win, and that is something that the nags don’t want to outright admit to, but they DO know it to be true. Your success means that others have to fail. And the reason why the nags refuse to admit to knowing that is because they are the ones that don’t want to be the ones to LOSE.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Week of 03/08/2010

A Leap of Stupidity over Healthcare
– by David Matthews 2

One of the continual claims made by conservative and neo-conservative talk show hosts is that they present logical and rational and reasonable claims. Of course their assertion has about as much weight as a certain media outlet claiming to be “fair and balanced”.

Logical and rational and reasonable arguments require a clearly-understood path. Point A must lead to Point B and then to Point C and then to Point D and so on and so forth. If you’re going from A to B to Q to X to M, then you lose credibility. You essentially create a logical chasm that a thinking person cannot follow.

So why is it that I cannot hear a sound counter-argument from a conservative or neo-conservative about healthcare that doesn’t involve a logical chasm?

Recently I was listening to the Neal Boortz program. Once upon a time he was a decent talk show host. Once upon a time he was an intellectual rarity… a reasonable person. Every so often there’s a bit of his old self in his shows. But in listening to him explain his opposition to President Barack Obama’s healthcare program, I was disappointed that he suddenly went off the deep end.

First there were facts. Boortz was very careful to point out how the president’s plan played fast and loose with Congressional Budget Office figures, essentially manipulating the numbers to fit the budgeted costs. Cuts in Medicare here, hidden tax increases there, all signs that the program would cost far more than being projected.

Okay, fine. How do you fix that? Let’s go back over those numbers and see where the costs are coming from and what needs to be done to REALLY make them work.

Unfortunately, Boortz didn’t go down that track in his commentary on healthcare reform. Instead he went from Point A and Point B to Point Q and said that this was just an ongoing plot to destroy the private sector entirely.

Wait… hold up, Mister Boortz. How do you go from point out flaws in the financing of reform to a tinfoil conspiracy theory to destroy the private sector completely?

Well he couldn’t answer that because it was time to go to a station break, and then to air snippets of his previous shows so he could make way for the next scheduled host to come in. For a person that claims to hate the hit-and-run tactics of his call-in critics, he certainly has no qualms doing it on his own show.

Okay, let’s get a few things out of the way…

First, I am not here to defend or explain President Obama’s healthcare program. He has a team of overpaid “experts” that are supposed to be doing that for him, and if they can’t do that then he needs to replace them with someone like yours truly.

Second, I DO know that the healthcare system, as it is right now, is maliciously flawed and that it needs to be fixed. There needs to be SERIOUS changes to the way that the healthcare business is being handled, and they need to make these changes as soon as possible, before the bulk of the Baby Boomer generation enter the extreme geriatric age when they WILL need that healthcare more and more.

And yes, I said the magic word… BUSINESS! I know that any kind of changes will directly affect the BUSINESS of healthcare. And it IS a business. It is a huge juggernaut of a business, and it is poised to hit the jackpot with an ever-aging population. That level of avarice is simply mind-blowing, and it probably explains the hysterical overtones when the discussion comes up of wanting to temper that jackpot.

So you tell me: how DOES trying to change that dysfunction, trying to temper that avarice, instantly translate into a tinfoil conspiracy to destroy the whole private industry itself? That’s like arguing that the hiring of a new police officer instantly translates into a death-spiral towards totalitarianism. You wouldn’t tolerate that kind of rationality from the liberals, so WHY are you essentially advocating the political opposite when it comes to healthcare reform?

Let’s get brutally honest here… we NEED to fix this maliciously flawed system called healthcare. People are quite literally DYING because it is not working the way that it needs to. People are having to choose between healthcare and food, or healthcare and a roof over their heads. And sitting there like a bunch of pompous French nobles prior to Bastille Day and pooh-poohing those that HAVE to make that hard choice does not serve your cause well.

You DO remember what happened to those French nobles, don’t you? Their arrogance went to their heads and then the huddled masses showed up and introduced them to a little invention called a guillotine. Oh, wait a minute, the conservative and neo-conservative talk show hosts KNOW all about history, don’t they?

You see, this kind of logical chasm from finding flaws into the tinfoil conspiracy to DESTROY the private sector shows an arrogant and pompous unwillingness to try to FIX the flaws. That you might as well see the problems continue as they are now, unchanged, and sending still MORE Americans into destitution, misery, and to an early grave.

I mean, you might as well save the tinfoil, guys, because the next progression is to start talking about those “New World Order” black UN helicopters and changing our currency over to the Euro and microchip implants with the numbers 6-6-6 on them and…well, you get the picture, don’t you? And if not, then you better hope that your insurance will cover straightjackets and padded rooms.

I understand that the conservative and neo-conservative talk show hosts have to occasionally stir the pudding to keep the myrmidons angry and fearful so they will continue to listen to their shows and patronize the sponsors that pay for their broadcasts. I wish that I had that kind of problem myself. But to willfully engage in the intellectual sabotage of an issue that affects MILLIONS of Americans, and to use intellectual leaps that even the late Evel Kinevel would dare not try to cross if he was still alive, does not reflect any kind of rational intelligence that you CLAIM to possess.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Week of 03/01/2010

When Stupidity IS a Choice
– by David Matthews 2

Is it possible to be stupid by choice? I think so.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people who lack intelligence, either through biology or accident or through ignorance. I don’t want to knock those who would fit the definition of “stupid” that have no choice.

But I also think there are plenty of people that have the intellectual capacity that should know better but still somehow don’t.

For instance, how many of you multitask while driving? How many of you talk on your cellphone, text away on your blackberry, drink coffee, eat quick meals, put on makeup, even read the newspaper or fill out paperwork while driving at high speeds? You know you’re really not “supposed” to do it, but you do it anyway. You justify that you need to make every minute count; that you can mentally “handle” doing these things while driving, and that traffic usually behaves itself. Yes it “usually” does. But what happens when it doesn’t? Yeah, you know what happens when it doesn’t. You don’t have the reaction time you need because your brain is otherwise distracted.

And while you may not publicly admit it, when that moment happens you will tell yourself that you WERE stupid.

We see stupidity on a regular basis, especially in the media.

Stupidity is used to deliver a laugh track on TV shows. How many TV shows feature father figures who can’t change a lightbulb without setting the house on fire? Or secretaries who are entrusted with vital company secrets and yet can’t tell you who they just talked to five minutes ago about those secrets? Or the kid in the classroom who majors in zoning out?

Stupidity is used to sell products. How many otherwise-intellectual women will turn into sex-craved monsters over a man’s use of a deodorant? Or a brand of body soap? How many people will actually think that there’s no difference between store-bought pizza made in the oven and pizza delivered from a franchise service?

Hollywood LOVES stupid people! They make stupid people into “Reality” TV stars, especially on cable! How many people laughed when they heard the whole “Chicken of the Sea” bit between prefabricated pop star Jessica Simpson and her then-husband Nick Lachey? Or watch Hugh Hefner’s then-girlfriends bumble around as they narrate their experiences? Sure we’ll slap our heads in frustration over it, but then we’ll come back for more to see what they will do to top that.

One well-known celebrity whose initial claim to fame WAS just for being “seen” reportedly said that her appearance of stupidity was a carefully-orchestrated marketing ploy. If that’s true, then it’s one of the best acting performances outside of stage or screen.

The same probably cannot be said, though, of the young woman who appeared on a certain late-night infomercial for a “not-for-kiddies” media group who said that it was her GRAND goal in life to appear in that media group’s videos. Granted, she was probably somewhat intoxicated, but you have to wonder what’s she doing with her life now that she’s supposedly “fulfilled” that goal and is relived on late-night cable TV on a continual basis.

And of course stupidity thrives on the Internet.

Social networking groups encourage a whole slew of little petty games from “poking” to sending virtual gifts to little virtual experiences featuring farms or mobsters. They want you to join all sorts of groups and pages on the lamest of subjects, including one that actually CONDEMNS the more annoying groups and pages.

Of course there’s Twitter… where you’re encouraged to post your moment-to-moment occurrences in little snippets, or else follow those whose lives are reduced to moment-to-moment occurrences. This is especially true when it comes to celebrities, models, and MOST especially to wanna-be celebrities and wanna-be models.

And then there are the “memes”. How many times must people re-make a certain scene from the movie “Downfall” into a bad parody? Or the surprised-looking gopher? Or the piano-playing cat? Or super-imposing Gerard Butler’s bearded face from “300” onto certain scenes? Or recreating the zombie dance scene from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”? Or pulling cheap stunts and pranks at the expense of other people? When will it all end?

We know the answer to that question, don’t we? They’ll stop when WE stop forwarding them on to our friends and family members and co-workers.

Of course politics and talk radio thrive on stupidity. Special interest groups will send out talking point memos that politicians will then parrot without fear of being called out on it. Talk show personalities value their followers, and then at the same time castigate their opponents as being “intellectual elitists”.

Some people speculate that the prolificacy of media sources, from newspapers to cable TV to the Internet to email, are making people stupid. That the number of choices and options out there are so overwhelming, and the level of instant information is so pervasive that it is literally dumbing us down.

But I disagree with that idea. I don’t think that THESE THINGS are making people stupid. I think that we’re doing this all by ourselves.

Let’s get brutally honest here… WE CHOOSE to be stupid!

We take pride in our ignorance, especially when it comes to technology. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people quickly proclaim that they’re “techno-challenged” or “technically illiterate” when they ask for help.

And they’re seemingly PROUD of it! That’s probably the most infuriating part of hearing that personal disclaimer. Not only that, but they EXPECT things to be simple and easy for them, and they get really annoyed when it isn’t.

YES, there are plenty of bits of data out there for you to digest. News and sports and weather and politics and entertainment for you to break down and parse through.

But not all of it is true! There are plenty of falsehoods being spread about as well, and most of them are spread online via emails from your friends and co-workers and relatives. How many of you would bother to check them out? Not many. Worse yet, how many of you would correct you friends or co-workers or relatives on the stuff that they send? Even fewer. The rest will either trash the annoying messages or else mindlessly forward them on.

To those of us with the intellectual capacity to be otherwise, WE CHOOSE to be stupid. We choose to do so because it’s easier to carry on with others. We blend right in with others. It also saves time. We don’t have to do any of the hard work when we choose to dumb ourselves down. Why should WE have to learn how a process works when we can pester other people about it?

And in doing so, we become our own worst enemies.

We decry the status quo in politics. We don’t like either the Democrats or the GOP; and yet when third party options come up, we complain about “stealing votes” and not wanting to “waste votes”, which is exactly what the politicians WANT you to do. In other words, we CHOOSE to be stupid when it comes to politics, we CHOOSE to buy into the rhetoric by those who want to maintain the status quo by any means possible, and we CHOOSE to support the very status quo that we CLAIM to despise. Now THAT’S stupidity at its finest!

We KNOW it is wrong to drink-and-drive, and yet we CHOOSE to put ourselves in positions where we HAVE to drive after having a few drinks. We CHOOSE to get drunk because it gives us an easy-out on doing the right things in life. We CHOOSE to impair ourselves because it’s easier to do that than to deal with the complicated things in life.

The old saying is that “Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise”. Well, stupidity may make for good entertainment, but it also contributes to the problems we face in life. The next time you hear about education and the dumbing down of our younger generation, ask yourselves how YOU managed to get by in life and where that got you today. You’ll either be embarrassed or shocked by your own answer.