Monday, June 27, 2011

Week of 06/27/2011

Are We Finally Ready For The Question?
– by David Matthews 2

Despite the pronouncement as seen in the Declaration of Independence that “All men are created equal”, it’s not always simple to match the words with the deeds.

The very idea of freedom is scary for some people. They can’t stand the idea that someone could have a different train of thought, a different standard, or a different means to an end. They have a hard time buying into the concept that “all men are created equal”, never mind TREATING them as such.

There’s a train of thought that says that if “X” did not exist when the Constitution of the United States was created, then it does not deserve any kind of protection under it. Radio and television were not around then, therefore the First Amendment “shouldn’t apply” to them. “Offensive material” didn’t exist, therefore they shouldn’t be protected.

The problem, though, isn’t the subject or the material. It’s the question of whether or not we’re ready to accept that freedom in question.

Every challenge involving freedom is a question being asked of society. “Are we READY for this?” And the challenge is to be able to say “YES” to that question.

And sometimes, sadly, we’re not ready for the question, never mind ready to say “yes”.

The question of slavery was something that America was not READY to answer until the 19th Century. Sure it was brought up before then. It was heavily discussed and debated, but we weren’t ready for the basic question of whether or not we were ready to END it until the time of the Civil War. So we punted it in the 18th Century; we made grandiose pronouncements about freedom being “for all”, but we still were not really READY to practice what was being preached.

Race relations, women voting, these were things that we were not READY to ask the question about, never mind answer “yes” to it, until the 20th Century. These were not easy questions to deal with, but we did deal with them, and we eventually said “yes” to them.

So now we have two members of Congress… a liberal and a conservative… that think that we’re ready to ask the next question when it comes to freedom…

Are we really ready to deal with the matter of marijuana?

Marijuana has been illegal since 1937, and the reasons why were dubious from the start. Hype and hysteria were generated by a businessman who wanted to use the law to replace hemp paper with his tree-pulp paper mills. And even though we had eliminated Prohibition four years earlier, we still were not ready to deal with the question of other substances, never mind say “yes” to them. So the law was put into effect, and we went along with it because we weren’t ready to answer the question.

But that was then, and this is now.

Today we’re facing a political and philosophical conflict over this very subject. Several states are seeking to allow marijuana for medicinal purposes only, and they find themselves at loggerheads with a federalist mindset that is still bellowing out “NO” at the top of its lungs. Despite all attempts to provide controls and regulation and taxation, despite the jobs that could be created in a troubled economy, the federalist mindset still says “NO” and still is committed to spend countless billions of tax dollars to fight anything connected to this substance. Despite pre-election promises to the contrary, the federal government is still going after those otherwise-legal distributors.

But under a bill introduced this past week by Congressmen Barney Frank and Ron Paul (file this under “politics makes strange bedfellows”), the burden for controlling (and thus outlawing) this substance would move from the federal government to the fifty states. Interstate distribution and cross-border smuggling would still be illegal and would still be prosecuted by the federal government, but not possession and in-state distribution in those states where it would be legalized. This would be similar to the ending of Prohibition in 1933, minus, of course, the repeal of a Constitutional Amendment.

The potential gains are numerous. State legalization and regulation would open the door to legalized and controlled distribution. Instead of “grow homes” and illegal farms operating in secret, legalized grow areas would be created and licensed and regulated stores would be set up, creating jobs and generating tax revenue. The need for an illegal market would disappear, which means drug dealers and street gangs would have to find some other substance to peddle. Again, we can look back at how ending Prohibition also ended much of organized crime’s lucrative illegal business.

Of course the states that do continue their prohibition will find the burden of enforcing it would be firmly on the state and local level. And one would be remiss to not consider that even the most regulated system could be abused and misused. Any system is subject to abuse.

But are we ready to deal with the question itself?

Let’s get brutally honest here… for the past forty years, ever since Richard Nixon coined the phrase “War on Drugs” and applied it to this subject, we haven’t been ready to deal with the question. We’ve defaulted to that automatic “NO” that bellows from the federal government. We bought into the authoritarian claims of it being a “gateway drug”, even while we mock its sincerity. We dismiss the potential benefits for medicinal purposes, telling those that are suffering from the sometimes debilitating effects of chemotherapy to simply endure in their misery and torment. We don’t weigh risks and benefits, and we instead punt the question, lumping the substance in with the worst of the worst.

Sadly, the same political faction that currently screams about “states rights” and complains about wasted tax money is also the faction that defaults to that federalized “NO”, so they have a really good reason to NOT deal with this matter and let the bill in Congress wither and die. And that in and of itself is a pity, because their discomfort would pretty much be the only thing keeping this question from being asked.

The question doesn’t go away simply because we’re not ready or willing to answer it. It doesn’t go away when we say “NO” to even asking it. The question keeps coming back and coming back. It’s only when we are willing to answer it and willing to say YES to it that the question finally goes away.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Week of 06/20/2011

The Runaway Opportunist
– by David Matthews 2

This past Father’s Day weekend was supposed to be a very special one for a certain magazine legend.

Hugh Hefner, the man who epitomized the “Playboy lifestyle”, was supposed to be married to his latest “Number One”, Playmate Crystal Harris. Ms. Harris was the latest of Hef’s “girlfriends”, following the departure of the highly-publicized “Hefmates” of Holly, Kendra, and Bridget from “The Girls Next Door”. Ms. Harris and twins Kristina and Karissa Shannon took over where the first trio left off, and even became Playmates (a distinction that none of the original trio ever had, hence the title of “Hefmates”).

And then there was one, with a nice engagement ring to boot…

And Hef supposedly thought that this would be THE ONE. As in THE LAST Mrs. Hugh Hefner. He’s been married twice before, and his last wife, Kimberly Conrad, was even Playmate of the Year, as well as the mother of his two sons, but he believed that this would be THE LAST TIME, that this would be the woman he would spend the rest of his remaining years with.

But now there is none… because the wedding is off, and Hef spent the weekend watching movies (one of them reportedly being “Runaway Bride”) while the media does a few somersaults figuring out what happened… and laughing their butts off in the process.

Yes there are those in the media that are enjoying Hef’s misfortune. After all, he’s potentially out a quarter-of-a-million dollars over this!

In addition to the lavish ceremony and reception at the Playboy Mansion, there were also the television expenses, because this WAS supposed to be televised. The magazine also spent time and money to put Crystal in the July issue and on the cover as “America’s Princess: Mrs. Crystal Hefner”. The magazine then had to do a quick last-minute slap of a “RUNAWAY BRIDE” sticker after the news came out. These are not cheap, and the publishing empire is not as strong as it used to be. Things were getting tight for the Mighty Bunny even before the Great Recession hit, and THIS does not help things.

I feel sorry for Hef. I really do. I’m sure at his age he’d like to think that he still has it. Sure, Viagra helps. But the only thing he has right now is his name, his money (how much there is left of it), and his reputation, and a lot of women that think that hooking up with him would give them fame and fortune.

I feel sad when I see Hef in those scenes on “The Girls Next Door”. I try to compare that same man with the one that used to host two variety shows on national television breaking down racial barriers, the man that stood up for women’s rights back when it wasn’t being used for misandry, and the man that fights for the First Amendment. This is the same Hef that fought to restore the HOLLYWOOD sign, that hosts the annual jazz festival in the Hollywood Bowl, and who fights to preserve and restore those original classic Hollywood films for future generations to enjoy. It’s hard to see him today compared to the Hef of days gone by that used to be the inspiration behind Ian Flemming’s character James Bond.

I also don’t believe anything that Ms. Harris claims that supposedly made her dump Hef. Rigid rules? A curfew? An allowance? The bevy of babes? B.S.! You knew going into the relationship what was going on, Ms. Harris! You were a Playmate; you knew the environment. Did you think that this was going to end just because there’s a ring on your finger? Did you bother to talk with Holly, Kendra, and Bridget, or, for that matter, ex-wife #2 Kimberly?

Right now I’m going to discount the rumors of a planned wedding-day dump for a $500K interview and the idea that Ms. Harris was still with her music-making ex-boyfriend. Not that they don’t seem plausible (both Holly and Kendra did find new beaus while still at the Mansion), but even without those rumors, the blame is still on her for the whole fiasco. You don’t put up a quarter-of-a-million dollars for an event, including publishing a whole month’s issue highlighting the event, and then scrap it at the last minute.

Let’s get brutally honest here… while there are many that consider Hefner to be a dirty old man using his money to sew what’s left of his wild oats, the truth of the matter is that this is a man who has lived out his dream, and now is trying hard to keep it from being taken away from him. And it doesn’t take much for that to happen. All it takes is an ambitious young woman with an eye for the money instead of the man. And given his history in that department, maybe, just maybe, that explains some of those “rigid rules”.

It’s easy for some people to think that an eighty-something man with money is taking advantage of a girl sixty years his younger. They cannot help but see nothing but lechery, and that’s rather sad on their part. But the truth is that the eighty-something man is more likely the one being taken advantage of by the younger girl, and that certainly was the case with Hefner. The only good thing that one could say about this letdown, as costly an embarrassment as it is, is that it happened BEFORE the marriage instead of after.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Week of 06/13/2011

Don’t Feed The Political Egos
– by David Matthews 2

“Don’t Feed The Animals.”

That’s a sign you’ve probably seen in a zoo, and there are various reasons why you’re asked to not do that.

Maybe the zoo officials are afraid that you’ll give the animals something that would poison them. Maybe it wouldn’t be intentional. Some animals have a delicate stomach. Maybe they’re afraid that you might give the animals something that would get tangled up in their insides, or maybe something that they’re allergic to.

Or maybe it’s a matter of conditioning. If the animals are used to having a human provide them with food by coming through a specific door, and then another human starts giving them food from over a railing, they MAY decide to demand food from the humans on the other side of the railing. That would not be a good thing if the animal in question is, say, a bear, and the human in question is a small child.

Apparently the same holds true when it comes to politicians.

Okay, so there are a few guys… and so far one woman… that think that they should be the GOP’s “chosen one” to take on President Fail… I mean, President Obama… for the 2012 Election. So they’re out on the campaign trail, doing speeches and showing up on FoxNews and doing debates, and trying DESPERATELY to get the one thing that they need right now… which is attention.

You see, all of these wannabes and never-can-be people have two SERIOUS obstacles that they have to overcome at some point in the next twelve months.

The first one is obvious. They have to actually appear to be CREDIBLE. Right now they’re just names, and some of them aren’t even GOOD names. Some don’t really know if they want to be GOP candidates, Tea Party candidates, Evangelical Dominionism candidates, or try to be all of the above. Some of them have HUGE impediments to their campaigns, like former Governor Mitt Romney’s Mormonism and his previous “Romneycare” program. Some can’t even get the support of their own advisors, such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

But they also have another huge and serious obstacle in their way; an obstacle that is sucking the life out of their infant campaigns like a fifty-ton leach. It’s an obstacle that is so huge it travels in a custom tour bus.

That obstacle is Sarah Palin’s ego.

Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, the small-town media personality (I’m trying really hard to not use the first four letters of “TWITTER”), is supposedly NOT running for president… or least, NOT RIGHT NOW. But she claims that she has a “fire in her belly” (or maybe it’s just indigestion), and she’s using that to go on tour to promote… herself… or maybe it’s the forthcoming documentary about her called “The Undefeated”…either way she’s out and about and the media is following her around like lovesick puppies, catching her every word and repeating every mistake she makes. They’ll count the number of pizza slices she eats and how often she gets American history wrong.

Meanwhile Tim Pawlenty is trying to get people to recognize his name. Newt is trying to find new senior advisors after they all bailed on him at the same time. Romney is trying to get people to forget about the last time he ran for the White House. Herman Cain doesn’t know which neo-conservative media personality he’s speaking with (he keeps confusing them with his friend Neal Boortz). Congresswoman Michelle Bachman is finding out the hard way that Skype is a bad substitute for physical appearances (not to mention she’s still getting schooled by high schoolers). Rick Santorum is complaining about Google users linking him to some foul-smelling substance (that’s only been a running joke for a decade now). And Ron Paul… well he’s used to being ignored on the campaign trail.

ALL of them can barely get a couple of words from the media, because the media is busy following Sarah Palin’s ego-gratification tease tour. They’re all following her around, waiting with baited breath for her to tell them what they really want to hear… that she would be actually running for the White House. And even when she’s complaining about all of that attention, the media still would rather follow HER around than to try to make sense out of any of the people who are ACTUALLY trying to run for the White House.

But methinks the media personality doth protest too much. If she didn’t want the media to chase her around, then she shouldn’t have picked up the TOUR bus that looks very much like the kind used by politicians on the campaign trail. She shouldn’t have had it decorated with Jiffy-Pop campaign slogans and pseudo-patriotic images if she didn’t want the attention she is getting. It would be one thing if she had an actual BOOK that she was promoting, or if she actually was touring around to promote that “documentary” about her, but, no, it’s just about HER and her EGO, and MAYBE, just maybe, she might say something about 2012.

And don’t think for a moment that the air-fluffed ego-driven media has an unwilling role in all of this. They’re following Palin around on purpose, because the less that can be said about the ACTUAL candidates, the better for President Fail… I mean, President Obama… in his re-election. It’s rather devious if you think about it, but it is also a real pity that Obama and his team of fail really are not using this opportunity to improve their own sorry standing. This whole political tactic of being “just not AS bad” is just not acceptable.

Let’s get brutally honest here… a decision needs to be made in the GOP, and that’s whether they should watch the media continue to feed Palin’s need for attention or to back up the GOP contenders that ACTUALLY are running for the White House. If Palin really, REALLY, wants to run for the White House, then she needs to make the announcement sooner rather than later, or else take the tour bus back to the garage, because she is neither helping the GOP nor the Tea Party crowd at this point.

While many of the active GOP contenders are not going to survive the first few primaries, the one thing they all need between now and New Hampshire is TIME. They need to be able to show why they are a sound alternative to the Obama Fail instead of continually saying that they are. They can’t do that if the media is continually fawning over the Wasilla Wonder and wondering if she’s there to play or if she’s just stringing people along like Donald Trump briefly did.

And perhaps I would suggest a new slogan be painted on Palin’s tour bus if she is planning on continuing this tease. It could be done in the same style as you’d find in a Yogi Bear cartoon… a simple cartoon sign with a simple statement on it… “DON’T FEED THE EGO.” Maybe then the media will get a clue and focus on the things that REALLY count.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Week of 06/06/2011

Obama Must Own This Albatross
– by David Matthews 2

News Flash: The economy sucks!

Okay, that’s not really a news flash for most people…unless you live and work in Pennsylvania Avenue.

For most people, the announcement that the economy sucks isn’t really news. For us, the news is this:

The economy STILL sucks!

There is no “double-dip recession”. This is the SAME recession from 2008! It never ended. It didn’t “go away”. All of the conditions that existed in 2008 are STILL in place today. Unemployment is STILL a problem. Foreclosures are STILL a problem. Bank failures are STILL a problem. The only difference is the level of DELUSION that has been spun by the White House and the media. They wanted to convince people that the “threat” has gone away so they wouldn’t have to deal with it.

But it didn’t. They lied to us and they lied to themselves. The economy didn’t “get better” and the problem didn’t just “go away”. The economy doesn’t just suck. It STILL sucks! The only difference is that most Americans are a lot POORER than 2008, and Wall Street has gotten a lot RICHER.

Maybe that explains why a handful of Wall Street’s “masters of the universe” are only now starting to face criminal charges for their actions. Maybe that explains why Goldman Sachs is only now facing scrutiny over their role in the Recession. Maybe. But that still doesn’t solve the problem.

Maybe that explains why, one by one, all of President Barack Obma’s “Economic Dream Team” have been slowly going away, leaving only Treasury Secretary Tim “Tax Dodge” Geithner. Maybe because they know what the rest of the Obama Fail doesn’t WANT to know…


But President Obama can’t stick his head in the sand about it anymore. He wants to keep his job for a few more years and no president since Franklin Roosevelt has ever been re-elected when unemployment is this high. That’s a historical fact.

The wannabes in the GOP are certainly hanging the economy over Obama’s neck like the albatross that it is. Or at least the more popular wannabes are… the others still can’t get past their John Burch tinfoil hats and are fumbling about trying to remember which state they’re in and spouting off fractured history tales that make even high school students look smart. (Here’s a little tip: if you’re a member of Congress and you’re getting schooled by a high-schooler, then it’s time for you to re-evaluate your situation.)

But in order for Obama to keep his job, he’s going to have to do something that he so far has not been willing to do…

He’s going to have to OWN the economic albatross.

Yes, this recession started under George W. Bush, and Obama has been very clear on that, even if the GOP refuses to accept it. And it was easy for him in those early years to claim that he was just continuing the fixes that Bush started. If the recession was a mild one, then the tread-water approach that Obama’s people have taken would have made sense. But it’s not, and the fact that Obama’s people are still TREATING this like a mild recession instead of being the malicious economic disaster that it has been since day one is truly unacceptable, if not intentional negligence.

Let’s get brutally honest here… it is long since overdue that Obama takes OWNERSHIP of this recession and deals with it as the MALICIOUS THREAT that it truly is. He can no longer sit back and say “This is George Bush’s recession; we just have to wait it out.” That excuse ENDED the minute he announced he was running for re-election. This is now BARACK OBAMA’S ECONOMY, and he needs to take OWNERSHIP of it and to ADDRESS the problem.

That means he needs to STOP pandering to Wall Street and STOP pandering to Goldman Sachs and STOP pandering to the “Too Big To Fail” banks. That means getting rid of the LAST of his “economic dream team” by showing Geithner the door. That means putting someone like Elizabeth Warren in charge of that new “Consumer Protection” department and have it REALLY work for the consumers instead of for Wall Street and “Too Big To Fail”. That means abandoning the “Create or Save” justification and work on actually CREATING NEW JOBS. That means STOP trying to negotiate with “Too Big To Fail” when it comes to their abuses with foreclosures and robo-signers and to start ARRESTING the executives! Stop talking “settlement” and start talking PRISON and you’ll see a pretty fast turnaround.

You want to increase tax revenue? Stop the malicious predatory attacks on consumers and work on creating JOBS. You want people SPENDING money again? They need to MAKE money first. That means JOBS. NOT unemployment checks. NOT tax cuts for Big Corporate. It means ACTUAL JOBS. Stop expecting the party that DROVE us into a recession to be able to fix things. They simply do not know how, and if they did, they certainly wouldn’t want to HELP YOU.

This is the chief reason why the Obama White House has been dubbed the Obama FAIL, because so far it has done nothing but FAIL to lead and FAIL to govern and instead has been cleaning up Bush Junior’s messes. But now Obama needs to wake up and start DOING what he was elected to do, and he needs to do so NOW before the voters show him the door next year.