Monday, December 2, 2013

Week of 12/02/2013

The 2013 Brutally Honest Awards
– by David Matthews 2

Can you believe another year is ending?  Me neither.

As has been tradition, we end the year by recognizing the best of the best and the worst of the worst and even some things that would otherwise best be left forgotten.

Now, let’s get brutally honest here… this list is not all-inclusive.  It won’t have everything good or bad (or best left forgotten) for the year.  You may not even agree with who gets the awards or why, but I hope you will appreciate the spirit that they are done in and understand the mindset of this not-so-humble commentator that has been at this since 1996.

So let’s kick it off with…

The “Failure Accomplished” Award for 2013: President Barack Obama – Apparently the Curse of the Second Term continues.  Mister President, did you really think that the insurance companies would behave the way you expected them to when it came to healthcare reform?  Seriously… did you not anticipate that they would screw over their own customers in advance of your marketplace?  Did you not think, even for a moment, that they would take your promise of “You can keep your provider” and do everything in their power to make you into a liar?

Oh, and did you also really think that your Healthcare Exchange website would be ready in time to force every American to comply to your pet program?  Hey, even Microsoft can’t get a decent launch without a boatload of bug fixes! 

You know, if you wanted a website to run perfectly, then maybe you should have kept it in-house and let the NSA design it.

The “Len Needs A Cookie” Award for Tantrums in 2013: The GOP – Seriously, it’s gotten to the point that I’m now embarrassed to say that I used to be a card-carrying member of the GOP!  From eternal crusades to repeal Obama’s healthcare reform law, to their eternal whining like children about how they’re not being “allowed” to have their bills passed the way they want them passed, to their orchestrated partial shutdown of the federal government, the GOP has shown they have outlived their usefulness in this country and need to go.

The “Born To Be Mild” Award for 2013: The Senate Democrats – So the GOP-controlled House can enact secret rule changes to facilitate a government shutdown and nobody calls that tyranny, but a modest change of an over-abused policy in the Democrat-controlled Senate for ONE part of their business is considered a “nuclear option”?

The Biggest Government Criminal in 2013: Attorney General Eric Holder – This man is guilty of helping facilitate the biggest case of fraud in the history of civilization by helping the banks avoid any kind of criminal liability for their criminal actions.  We would be in a robust recovery today if Holder was even a third of the credible prosecutor needed for that position.  You don’t believe me?  Look at what they did in Iceland, and they were the testing grounds for the global recession!  They did what we’re doing now and the situation got worse.  They started jailing the bankers, and their economy turned around!

Why can’t we get that here?  Because Holder is helping out his former clients!

The “Halfway Progress” Award for 2013: The Boy Scouts of America – So the Boy Scouts now accept gay scouts.  Well that’s a serious first step forward.  Sure it pisses off the bible-thumpers, but, hey, they’re easy to annoy.  Just show them a globe.

One down, one to go.  But, hey, I can see them eventually accepting atheists.

Speaking of…

The Steps Forward And Steps Back Award for 2013: The U.S. Supreme Court – So the justices say gay marriages are OK, but only for the states that recognize them… the ill-named “Defense of Marriage Act” is not, even though they won’t go so far as to invoke the 14th Amendment… oh, and supposedly “racism is over with” so the GOP states are free to discriminate again.

You have to wonder sometimes what the hell they are thinking… or if they are thinking.

The “Just Saved A Boatload Of Cash Without Switching To Geicco” Award for 2013: Not Getting Into Syria – Thank you Russia for stepping in and saving us the hassles of being the “global policemen” when it comes to Syria!  You managed to save us from having to follow the Fox News Script and go into yet another war, and for that our federal debt says “Thank you!”

The “Goddamn You Straight To Hell” Award for 2013: The Boston Marathon Bombers! – Nothing more needs to be said about this.

The “You Can Join The Boston Marathon Bombers In Hell” Award for 2013: The Media and Our 9/11 Fear-Mongering – Again, nothing more needs to be said.

The “What The Hell Did You Expect” Award for 2013: The NSA Omni-Spying “Scandal” – Did you honestly think that the NSA, given carte blanche to do whatever they want to thanks to 9/11, would actually behave themselves with the power they were given?!?  And do you really think that our government would actually do anything that would truly curtail that power?  And they call me clueless for being a libertarian!!!

The “Need Bitchslap Now” Award for 2013: The Fox News Script – So Edward Snowden is supposedly a “traitor”, yet he did America a favor by leaking the information about the NSA’s abusive practices.  Syria a “useless war” and yet “we have to be the world’s policemen”.  “Big Brother” is evil, but yet Boston is bombed and people wonder why doesn’t the government know about these “evil-doers” before they strike.

Seriously, the Fox News Script is not only hypocritical, it and the people behind it need to be slapped senseless.

The “Seriously, WTF” Award For 2013: Miley Cyrus – I think I’m just tired of hearing about her and the things she’s been doing to get attention.  The crazier she’s been getting, the more unattractive and unappealing she’s become.  And if you think I’m kidding, then take a look at Miley with her “short bob” hair and then look at a picture of Justin Bieber.  The two are identical!

And then, the insulting part come when someone stands up and says “Oh it’s just marketing!”  Marketing?!?  When Britney Spears went off on the Crazy Train and ended up being hospitalized, was that “marketing”?  When Linday Lohan faced prison, was that “marketing?”

The “Please Go Away Now” Award for 2013: Anthony Weiner – Okay Mister Weiner.  You failed to get the nomination for Mayor of New York City.  Can you please return to obscurity?  Oh, and repeat after me… Nobody wants to see your weener, Weiner!

The “This Needs To Fail Now” Award for 2013: Xbox One – Microsoft Strongman Steve Ballmer is supposed to retire at some point in the next year, and it needs to be sooner rather than later.  First Windows 8 is a bust, and then there was the news of DRM standards for the Xbox One that would require you to have it always connected to the Internet, not to mention prohibit sharing games that you paid for with your money.  And if that’s not bad enough, there’s the revelation that Xbox will suspend your account if you curse.

No, I have no plans on getting an Xbox One… ever.

The 2013 Word That Needs To Die Forever: “Twerking” – Just call it for what it is… it’s dry-humping!  The young women that engage in “twerking” are really just dry-humping without a partner.  And you know what?  If we started calling it for what it really is way back when, you wouldn’t see too many people engaging in it.

The Biggest Display of Vanity in 2013: Making “Selfie” into a word – Yes, thanks to something started by a certain Playboy Playmate, the word “selfie” has become an official word.  I don’t fault the playmate… (she did, after all, help make “Frisky Friday” into a weekly thing)… but it bothers me a little bit to know that we now have a new official word to define an act of sheer vanity.

The “This Is Not Your Daddy’s Superhero” Award for 2013: “Man of Steel” – I’ll just let the review by the Nostalgia Critic and Angry Joe explain the whole thing.  I liked the movie.  It wasn’t “epic”, but it also wasn’t as bad as “Superman IV”.  I may have to re-start my “Hero Corner” posts over at TGWTG to explain further.

And finally…

The “I Don’t Want To Go” Award for 2013: ShockNet Radio – Eight years of sticking it to organized religion, organized politics, Big Brother, Big Corporate, Little Brother, and everyone else in between… and all while playing great classic rock from the past sixty years! 

And, sadly, that all came to an end this past November 29th.

I was an active part of ShockNet Radio for many of those years, contributing commercials, special-interest spots, commentary, and was the host of both “Brutally Honest on ShockNet Radio” and the resurrected “Brutally Honest – LIVE” shows.  I had the honor of co-hosting the second incarnation of “American Heathen®” with RJ Evans and even served as Roastmaster for RJ’s on-air birthday roast.  I was there when “Sports Talk On The Juice” and “Kick Start” and “High Instability” and the other shows came and went.  I was there at the beginning of “The Rock and Roll Diner” and “Hard Luck Chuck’s Juke Joint” and I was there at their respective ends.  There wasn’t a weekend that I wasn’t working on something for the radio station.

So needless to say, the news that ShockNet Radio was going to be shut down hit me like a ton of bricks.  This was “City of Heroes” all over again!

Still, I didn’t just give up.  I trudged on through to the very last show.  I didn’t decide to take a break.  I didn’t just stop doing shows or cut back on my broadcasts.  I stayed on through week after week…when the hardware worked for me, that is.  It wasn’t easy, but I did it.  And, yes, I have the trophies to prove it!

So that’s it… for both the ShockNet Radio Era and for 2013.

See you guys in 2014.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Week of 11/25/2013

Consider It Nuked
– by David Matthews 2

So the U.S. Senate finally did it.

After years upon years of talking about it, of threatening to do it, of using it as a political wedge, of playing it like a trump card, they finally did it. 

They finally invoked the so-called “nuclear option”.

A decision so drastic in its nature that it would cause everlasting repercussions and devastate the world as we know it.  A decision that neither the Democrats nor the GOP would ever want to make.

So you’re probably wondering what this so-called “nuclear option” is, right?

It’s a change in Senate rules that eliminates the minority party from engaging in a filibuster for the confirmation process of all Presidential appointments short of the Supreme Court justices.  Instead of needing 60 votes to cut-off debate and move to a vote, the standard 51 votes will now apply.

Excuse me while I channel the late Charlton Heston here…

You maniacs! 

You blew it up! 

Oh… *Yawn*… darn you! 

Darn you all to the DMV!

Seriously… this is the “big thing”?  This is the “drastic move” that had both the Dems and GOP shaking and quaking in their boots all these years?

Are you fracking kidding here?

I’ve had bigger and more productive movements on the toilet!

Let’s recap here for a moment… the Senate, which is burdened by rampant GOP obstructionism, if not all-out insurrection, and hampered by the gross incompetence and ineptitude of the Democrats in charge, has decided to change the rules for only one small portion of their duties under the U.S. Constitution so that the GOP can no longer block the confirmation process for most White House appointees.  This rule change only applies to non-Justice appointees.  It does not apply to the general approval process of bills.  It does not apply to the approval process of the budget (you know, the stuff that the GOP-controlled House of Representatives is supposed to start).  It does not apply to the ratification of treaties, such as the one that should be forthcoming with Iran.  It does not apply to the confirmation process of any forthcoming Supreme Court appointments.

And yet the “Beltway” crowd is treating this as though it was some drastic measure that would have catastrophic consequences for the whole body politic.

Please, will you guys in Washington just get your heads out of your anuses for once?!?

The GOP, as a matter of principle, has engaged in a systematic pattern of obstruct, delay, and deny when it comes to the Senate, and this goes all the way back to when they lost majority power in 2007.  They have used every rule, every procedure, every trick in the book to neuter the Dems in the Senate; something that the incompetent idiots in the party of the braying jackass couldn’t bring themselves to do when they were in that situation previously.  They brokered deals for certain bills to pass only when politically expedient and beneficial to them, but otherwise they proudly boasted of their ability to bring the Senate to a standstill.

Do you honestly expect the Dems to simply take that?  To haggle and negotiate with the GOP when they hold the process hostage simply as a matter of political principle?  It’s bad enough the party is a failure as it is, but do you, the American people, really expect that majority party for that legislative body to simply surrender and cave to the minority party?

Then there’s the GOP over in the House, which engaged in a secret rule change just last month to guarantee that the partial government shutdown would go on as per their leadership.  Why is it that House Resolution 368 could be secretly enacted, which overruled even the majority vote of their own party and effectively turned the House into an oligarchy, but somehow the Senate’s move for a simple majority vote for one procedure is considered a “catastrophic nuclear option”?

Let’s get brutally honest here… the GOP has nobody to blame for the Senate’s so-called “nuclear option” but themselves.  They played the obstructionist card far too many times, abusing the very spirit of why that safeguard was there in the first place, and now steps are being made to take it away from them.

Not only that, but their abuse of the filibuster has contributed to the continually negative public perception of the GOP as a party.  Think of all of the filibusters that were done that would later be passed with a 99-1 or 99-0 vote.  Why filibuster something that you would eventually vote for anyway?  Just like any schoolyard bully, the answer is simple: because they can! 

Does that sound like a group that you would want in charge of the legislature?

And yet, while some have speculated that the filibuster would be eventually going the way of Prohibition because of this change, I have my doubts about that.  At best this is a temporary remedy for a problem that the GOP brought upon itself; but those same people that complain about the filibuster today will no doubt be screaming for its restoration when they become the minority party tomorrow.

Don’t get me wrong; the Senate needs to be fixed, and fixing the filibuster is key, but throwing the whole thing out simply because it was grossly abused by one party does not fix the underlying problem in Washington.  The filibuster was originally an option of last resort, a tactic that required enormous determination and a willingness to stand and talk for a really long time.  Rampant political corruption has turned that option of last resort into a mere procedure of laziness and convenience.  To fix this, we need only remove the laziness of the procedure and restore it to being the real “nuclear option” that was made legendary from the movie “Mister Smith Goes to Washington”.

And don’t forget that this is not the only procedural trick up the GOP’s sleeve!  There is a reason why the Senate is legendary for being the place where ideas go to die.  There are other ways to hold up progress in the Senate.  The GOP will no doubt start to go through those various other ways just so they can continue to impede, delay, and deny the Dems and President Obama.  This is what they do, and this is really all that they have left to prove that they are still relevant in America.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Week of 11/18/2013

Braves Move Proves These Really Are Not “Our” Teams
– by David Matthews 2

So did you hear the news?  The Atlanta Braves are moving!

Well, they’re not leaving Georgia, but they are leaving the home that they’ve known for decades.

The contract between the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Braves expires in 2017, and while the city and the team have worked together through both the old Fulton County Stadium and Turner Field (a.k.a. “The Ted”, a.k.a. the former Olympic Stadium), obviously someone wasn’t happy with that set-up.

So this past week the Braves announced out-of-the-blue that they were leaving Atlanta proper when the contract expires and moving to neighboring Cobb County.  They get a nice brand-new multi-million dollar stadium for their troubles, and they don’t have to worry about traffic hassles or having to deal with the City of Atlanta.

And Turner Field?  Well Mayor Kasim Reed is saying “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out of town”, because he’s already planning on tearing down “The Ted” and letting the developers turn that space into their playground.  And there is a part of me that can understand his attitude about this.

Hey, the city just finished ironing out the details for a brand-new billion-dollar football stadium with retractable dome for the Atlanta Falcons, including prolonged negotiations with two churches to give up their property.  And now here come the Braves and their “What have you done for us lately” and their “Wah!  Where’s our new stadium?” attitude.  Yeah, I’d want to give them an attitude back as well.

In fact, if I was in the mayor’s place, I’d probably go one step further and pull the city out from the Braves.  You want to give up on Atlanta?  Well then you can’t call yourselves the Atlanta Braves anymore!  Go call yourselves the Cobb Braves!  Or the Cumberland Braves, or the Marietta Braves.  Or maybe that’s just being too vindictive.

The funny part is that, as of this column, nothing has really been formalized yet.  People are treating this as though it’s a done deal and yet there haven’t been any signatures affixed to paper.

This still has to go through the citizens of Cobb County, and they were caught by surprise as everyone else!  And then they realized that they would have to foot the bill for the majority of the deal!  This from the county that prides itself as being ultra-conservative and having a passionate hatred of taxes.  Do you really think they will be excited about these so-called “fiscally conservative” politicians of theirs forcing them to cough up a few hundred million for the “privilege” of hosting the Braves?

Then there’s the traffic!  I’ve lived in Cobb County.  I used to commute on a daily basis to that part of the Cumberland Mall area where the Braves have already secured the property for their little fetish. 

How do you think people will get to this proposed new stadium?  Drive?  Good luck!  I await hearing about the added carnage at Windy Hill and Cobb Parkway, which is already known as the deadliest intersection in Georgia!  And Cobb Cloverleaf is about as bad as its counterpart on the other side of the 285 Perimeter.

As long as the Braves are in Atlanta, their fans have the convenience of using MARTA instead of having to deal with the I75/I85 hassles.  They don’t have to worry about parking.  They can park at a MARTA station, take the train, and then transfer to a special bus that takes them right to The Ted.  But in Cobb County?  Forget it!  The Cobb County conservatives hate MARTA with the same passion and fury as they hate taxes and Barack Obama.

So, again, how do you think all of those Braves fans are going to get to the new stadium fetish?  Teleportation?  Fairy dust?  Walking?  Hey, AMC may be filming “The Walking Dead” here in Georgia, but that doesn’t mean it’s the preferred mode of travel for the non-zombie residents!

Obviously the details have to be worked out, and of course everything is still subject to change, but as it stands right now, it doesn’t look like either the Braves or the Cobb County politicians put too much thought into the outhouse pit that they just put themselves and the Cobb County residents nose-deep in.

And all of this reinforces something that I’ve been pointing out for a while now.

Let’s get brutally honest here… the decision of the Braves to leave Atlanta for Cobb County points out the inescapable fact that these sports teams are not nor were they ever “ours” to begin with.  Despite the PR, despite the commercials trying to rally our support, despite the stadium announcer proclaiming during each and every game that these are “our” teams, they’re not.  They belong to owners and corporations whose interests are less with the community and more with their own bottom lines.  Just ask the taxpayers of Cleveland if you don’t believe me.

I think it’s damned self-centered for sports owners to threaten to leave a city if the taxpayers are not willing to satisfy their perverse fetish for new stadiums, especially given the prolonged global recession.  We have cities declaring bankruptcy or on the verge of doing it.  They’re still struggling to be able to afford paying teachers and firefighters and police officers. 

If the fans have to make do with driving the same cars and living in the same homes when times are tough, then millionaire and billionaire owners of those teams should learn to also make do with the stadiums they had already convinced the cities to build for them with taxpayer money.

And if they can’t… then maybe they don’t deserve the support that we blindly and foolishly give them.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Week of 11/11/2013

Our Petulant Children
– by David Matthews 2

Once upon a time there was a family named State.  It was a really big and extended family, with plenty of in-laws, children, step-children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even adopted children.  Some might even say that the State family had way too many “adopted children”, but that’s a different discussion for a different time.

Of course, with so many children and step-children and grandchildren and adopted children about, it’s not hard to imagine that the “adults” would have their favorites.  Some children were clearly favored above others.  Some were spoiled endlessly while others suffered through endless neglect and abuse.

It wasn’t right, and it certainly wasn’t fair, but it was simply the way things were in the State family.  They knew that they couldn’t satisfy everyone in that family, so they didn’t even try.  They simply picked on their favorites and worked on those they thought were “trouble”.

One day the matriarch of the family decided to “fix” some of the more “spoiled” of the children.  She saw them as being too tyrannical, constantly bullying the other children when they should be helping their brothers and sisters (and step-brothers and step-sisters and cousins and nieces and nephews and so on and so forth).  After all, this is supposed to be one big “family”, right?

She turned to the children seen as the “bankers” of the family, since they were the ones that oversaw the distribution of allowances and the management of the family budget, and told them they needed to do a better job with the distribution.  Not all of the children were getting their allowances, and some of them were losing their allowances due to some very creative “fees”.  The matriarch saw this and said this needed to end.

“You need to do better,” she told the “banker” children.  “You need to share.”

But the “banker” kids would have none of it.  They’ve enjoyed the money they’ve collected through their various schemes and they certainly didn’t want to “share”.

“You can’t tell us what to do!” they screamed.

“Yes I can” retorted the matriarch.

“We won’t change!” they screamed back.  “You can’t make us!”

So they stormed to their rooms and threw their tantrums until the patriarch of the family showed up, and after some quiet discussion, the matriarch was assured that the “bankers” would behave.  He even said they would give some of the money back from some of their schemes.

Of course nobody talked about how the “banker” children came up with new schemes to pilfer the allowances from the other children.  And the money they “gave back”?  They really didn’t.  They just gave some of that money to their “parents” as a “penalty”.

And despite the complaints continuing from the other children, the matriarch didn’t want to bring the matter back up again, partially because everything seemed to work “so well”.

But the matriarch wasn’t done trying to “fix” the children.  She then turned to the children that they dubbed the “supervisors”; the ones that oversaw the chores being done.  Apparently there was work that needed to be done around the house and around the neighborhood.  Both “parents” were quick to volunteer their children to do various things in the community.  The “supervisors” would determine what work needed to be done, who did the work, and then work with the “bankers” so they’d be paid accordingly through their allowances.

Unfortunately there were complaints about the work being done.  Sometimes it wasn’t being done.  Sometimes it was being done badly.  Sometimes it was being done by kids from other families.  Sometimes the work was being done but the children weren’t getting paid as much through their allowance as they should.  The matriarch said this needed to change and told the “supervisors” to include the other family members.

“No!” screamed the “supervisors”.  “We can’t work with some of these people!  They demand too much!  They’re shiftless and lazy!”

But again the matriarch insisted.

“No!” screamed the children.  “You can’t make us do this!”

“Yes I can,” said the matriarch.

And so they too stormed to their rooms and threw their temper tantrums.  And, again, the patriarch of the family stepped in and later assured the matriarch that their “children” would do better, but then he added that maybe the matriarch should just ease up a bit, as if it was somehow her fault that the children were not measuring up.

Then the matriarch turned to the children grouped together as “healers”… the children that took it upon themselves to administer the band-aids and the aspirin and took care of the other children when they were sick or injured.  This is, after all, a really big family, and you can’t expect the parents to do that, right?

And here, apparently the matriarch again asked for too much, insisting that those that are sick or injured be treated without hassles or haggling over how much those children should pay for those bandages and aspirin!  You’d think they would be expected to get those things for free, wouldn’t you?

And once again, the “healers” protested.

“You can’t tell us what to do!” they screamed.

“I just did,” the matriarch said.  “And you will do what I tell you to do!”

“You can’t make us!” they screamed.

And once again, they stomped their feet and went to their rooms and threw their temper tantrums. But this time they weren’t alone.  The “bankers” and the “supervisors” also complained loudly about this.  And even the patriarch of the family joined in, saying what the matriarch was demanding was simply “too much”.

But the matriarch was adamant that the “healers” would do what they were told to do.  After all, the others did so well, right?  Sure they threw their tantrums, but she was then assured they would all “fall in line”.  Why should this time be any different?

Much to her surprise, though, when the next children got hurt, there was nothing for them.  The cost of the bandages was too much for them to bear.  Plus, it wasn’t like they could afford to spend money on a bandage.  They had no allowance money because there were no chores for them to do.

The matriarch was shocked to discover this.  The patriarch then blamed her for the failure of the children to do as she had asked.  The children then jumped in, claiming the matriarch was a failure because she should have done more to see these “changes” put in place.

But, really, why should this be a surprise to anyone?  If you understand human nature, then you’d know this kind of destructive action is to be expected.

Obviously this “family” is fictional, but their actions are certainly based on real examples.

Let’s get brutally honest here… people (not to mention institutions and businesses) in positions of power and wealth are very much like petulant children.  They will not do what they are told they “have” to do if they don’t want to do it.  They will fight it tooth-and-nail whenever possible, even if it makes them look bad.  Even if others despise them for doing it.

So then why should anyone be surprised to hear about insurance companies making life hard for people when it comes to healthcare reform?  Or when banks are told they can’t screw over their customers like they used to do?

It’s a matter of ego.  People that have spent any amount of time in positions of power, wealth, and influence feel entitled to those things.  They feel these things are theirs to control and use as they see fit, and they don’t like being told that they have to give them up.

And it doesn’t help matters much when half of those “parents” in our real-life “State family” seem to be supporting those “petulant children” and may even be quietly encouraging resistance, no matter the damage done because of it.  Just look at the recent government shutdown if you don’t believe me.

People with a mind for reform need to remember that it’s not just a matter of the “greater good”.  It’s also about other people, especially those in charge or those that have any kind of leverage in that system.  They need to be convinced that whatever you need changed would be in their best interests as well, because otherwise you will have nothing but petulant children on your hands that even the best parents in the world would not be able to handle.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Week of 11/04/2013

Local Elections Matter!
– by David Matthews 2

“Remember, Remember The Fifth of November…”

The Fifth of November may be best known as Guy Fawkes Day, but for this year here in America, it is also the first Tuesday of November, which makes it Election Day.

Now I know some people are thinking to themselves “But it’s 2013!  There’s nobody running for Congress or the White House this year!”  Well that’s true.  With the possible exception of a special election to fill some sudden vacancy, Washington really has nothing to fear this year.  And President Obama certainly wouldn’t have to worry anyway because he can’t run for a third term thanks to the U.S. Constitution.

But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be paying attention to who is up for election or re-election this coming Tuesday!

Quite the contrary; you probably should pay even more attention your state and local ballots.

Here’s something to think about: this past year, my local government decided that the taxpayers should buy a golf course.  And a vacated historical hotel building.  And another vacant building in that same area just to tear down and turn into green space!  And all the while, budgets are being slashed to the bone and homeowners are being told they will have to cough up some extra money in property taxes.  The county itself is going through a severe turnover crisis as several of their employees, all experienced managers, have resigned en masse.  The county sheriff here had to resort to some old-fashioned political campaigning to get the money he wanted for his department, including a few letters-to-the-editor.  Can you imagine that?

Meanwhile, a nearby county is trying to get rid of strip clubs, despite an overwhelming number of taxpayers saying that they shouldn’t even try and to just leave the clubs alone.  The legal bill for that county’s self-appointed crusade is expected to be in the millions as they try to prevail in the court system.  And the people waging this self-appointed self-righteous “crusade” are certainly not the ones that are footing the bill for it, so they really have nothing to lose.

This is all local, folks.  Not even state-level stuff!  The taxpayers have to fund all of this through local taxes.  Local car taxes.  Local property taxes.  Local special-option sales taxes.  And that’s not counting all of the taxes that you have to pay for local schools!  That’s a separate governing body and a separate pile of bills for everyone to pay!  (And, yes, that’s even if you don’t have kids.)

All of these things are handled or otherwise overseen by local politicians that are either sworn-in or appointed through local elections.  People that you, as a local resident, put in office either through your vote or your non-vote.

And let’s get brutally honest here… these people get in power because most of their constituents really don’t pay attention to these kinds of elections!  They know that many of you don’t care about elections if it doesn’t involve a member of Congress or the President.  Why bother if there are only a couple of races that really don’t interest you, right?

That’s the power of the non-vote, folks.  Your apathy, your indifference to local elections actually fuels the arrogance of the local politicians.  You don’t care enough to vote in the local elections; therefore you won’t care what the local politicians do with your tax money.

So I have to ask you… do you like how your local government is being handled?  Did you really want to pay for a golf course?  Or to buy a vacated building in the historic district?  Or another vacated building to just tear down and grow grass on?  Did you really want your taxes to go up?  Did you want to go through several episodes of looking for experienced managers to find someone capable of working with the people that were voted in?

No?  Then why did you vote for these people?  If not actively, then certainly through your non-vote.

It’s funny how the same people that complain endlessly about “government” being bloated and wasteful seem to be very quiet when that “government” is local.  All of that talk about “throwing the bums out” gets hypocritically muted when the “bums” are in your own community, and may even be your own neighbors.

How do you expect the career politicians and their special interest masters on the state and federal levels to take you seriously if you don’t give a care about the political crap that goes on right in your own back yard?  They see your indifference to the local games.  A lot of them come from those local offices.  They know how easy it is to get away with everything if you, the electors, just don’t care.

And, by the way, I’m not the only one thinking this.  Time and time again I open the newspaper or I turn on the TV or radio and I hear all of those so-called “political experts” say the same thing.  They talk about how you, the great unwashed, just don’t care for these elections.  They speculate as to how low the turnout will be and how badly the incumbent local politician will win over any possible challenger.  Only they don’t say it with disgust like I do.  They say it with pride and confidence.  They say it with the tone of the status quo reminding the great unwashed just how pathetic and hypocritical they really are.

This is why I urge you, if you care one whit about holding politicians accountable, to start with the politician next door!  Don’t let them and their friends get an automatic “buy” into local government.  Take the time to get informed about who is running for the local governing bodies.  Shock the political “experts” and actually show up at the polling place on Election Day this year and cast your votes according to the candidates you think would do a better job.  You’ll certainly shock the system if you do that, and the people in power, even on a local level, will have no choice but to pay attention.

There is a dirty little secret about Guy Fawkes and Guy Fawkes Day.  Guy Fawkes wasn’t a hero.  There was nothing brave or heroic in what he did.  He was a fall guy for the conspiracy that tried to blow up Parliament and kill the King of England, but was stopped before it could happen.  He was a failure.  He was a poor sap that was taken captive and made an example of by the reigning government.  In fact, it was King James I - the intended target of the “Gunpowder Plot” - who ordered a celebration be made as a public reminder that the status quo was still in charge. 

And yet, Fawkes still did the one thing that most people here have yet to do when faced with a system of power they object to.  Fawkes at least tried to do something.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Week of 10/28/2013

The GOP And The “Staged Tantrums”
– by David Matthews 2

There’s an old Warner Brothers cartoon featuring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd that sticks out in my mind when it comes to the supposed “Affordable Care Act”.

In the cartoon, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck were in an argument over what kind of “hunting season” it really was.  At stake was Elmer Fudd and the barrel of his double-barrel shotgun being pointed at which of the two were “in season”. Daffy, of course, had posted big signs saying that it was “Rabbit Season”, and Bugs, in his typical smart-aleck fashion, had only his words and a carrot to retort that it was really “Duck Season”.

So the two of them go into a long point-counterpoint argument, with Daffy saying that it’s “Rabbit Season” and Bugs saying that it’s “Duck Season”, and the argument gets pretty fast and animated, and then Bugs says that it’s “Rabbit Season”, causing Daffy to insist that it’s really “Duck Season”, and the more he argues, the more he demands that it’s “Duck Season” and that Elmer should pull the trigger right now.


Off goes Daffy’s face in a puff of gunpowder and feathers.

He gathers himself together, and he and Bugs are back to arguing about what season it is, and once again Bugs is able to switch things up to get Daffy to insist it is “Duck Season”.


Every attempt to convince Elmer that it is “Rabbit Season” is countered not only by the quick thinking of Bugs, but also by the eagerness of Daffy to argue counter-point no matter what.

And that got me thinking… what if, despite all of their protests to the contrary, the GOP and the conservatives and neo-conservatives are really pushing for the Affordable Care Act and helped to make it what it is today?

Okay, bear with me here as I explain it.

First, let’s get this out of the way.  What I’m about to tell you is pure speculation on my part.  It’s no different than the pure speculation that comes out of the mouths of the trained parrots on Fox News or talk radio when they claim to “know” what President Obama thinks or does or governs.  It’s no different than the speculation crafted by Glenn Beck or the folks at World Net Daily or what any number of conservative and neo-conservative groups have been doing all this time.  I have no evidence other than what I’ve observed over the years as a political cynic, so this is all hypothetical on my part.

Having said that, let’s think about what people wanted out of healthcare reform and what we ended up with.

People wanted a single-payer system to end the myriad of bills that get generated from one simple hospital or doctor’s visit.  They wanted an end to the bureaucracy that came from the dictatorial demands from insurance companies over what they will “decide” to pay and whether they will “allow” a procedure to be performed and which doctor they will “graciously” cover in their network.  They wanted healthcare coverage that they could consistently afford.  They wanted an end to putting profits ahead of real human beings.

Now you tell me, how did we get from all of that… to what we have now?  How did we go from the “Rabbit Season” of what we wanted to the “Duck Season” of what we got?

How about some sleight-of-hand trickery and political misdirection?

First, understand that anything that Obama proposes will be instantly objected to by the GOP and conservative and neo-conservative groups.  He could proclaim that it is daylight and the GOP will instinctively counter that it’s really pitch dark.  This is the level of extreme obstructionism that has existed since Obama won the 2008 election, never mind took office.  You know that whatever it is that Obama wants, the GOP will automatically be violently against it.

So the subject of healthcare reform comes up.  You know that the GOP will immediately say that it is socialistic, that it is communistic, that it will wreck the economy, it’ll cause post-nasal drip and that not-so-fresh feeling some women talk about in those commercials.

But here’s the trick: in order to get past the GOP obstructionism, the supporters of healthcare reform have to push back just as hard, if not harder.  They remembered what happened in the 1990’s when then-First Lady Hillary Clinton wanted to reform the system, and they had to make sure that whatever they planned needed to be pushed through just as hard as the GOP pushed to obstruct it.

So we have “Rabbit Season” versus “Duck Season”, and the rhetoric gets hot and heavy, as is expected.

But… what if you didn’t want to really fix the system in the first place?  Sure, a good segment of the populace wanted reform.  The system needed to be repaired.  But that doesn’t automatically translate into this being what Obama or his White House team really wanted. 

Keep in mind that this is the same group that facilitated the big banks getting away with their criminal activities.  The same group that keeps the PATRIOT Act and the NSA spying programs in place.  The same group that keeps the perpetual war machine moving.  There is nothing “liberal” or “progressive” in these things, despite the out-and-out lies by the GOP and the Fox News contingent.  Obama and his crew have spent more time sustaining the status quo than to change it.  Is it really beyond the realm of possibility that Obama’s people were more interested in helping the big insurance companies keep their power than in helping the American people?

So you have the reform supporters saying “Duck Season”, the GOP and their kooky “Tea Party” scam artists screaming “Rabbit Season”.  And somewhere in the bowls of Congress, the healthcare “reform” program gets changed into a huge insurance program, without the supporters even realizing something was wrong.  No universal coverage, no single-payer system, the states could opt-out of helping, and an “individual mandate” that forces people to buy insurance whether they can afford to or not. 

“Duck Season” just became “Rabbit Season”.

And the masses were none the wiser!  Objectors still screamed that it was “socialistic” or “communistic” (when, in fact, it’s corporatistic or fascistic), and the supporters screamed back that it was still needed, that we still “needed” these changes.

“Duck Season!”  “Rabbit Season!”  “Duck Season!”  “Rabbit Season!”  “Rabbit Season!”  “Duck Season!”  “Rabbit Season!”  “Duck Season! Duck Season!  Duck Season!  I’m telling you once and for all that it is Duck Season!  Now shoot!  Shoot!


Of course, hypothetically speaking, this would have to be worked out with the GOP… just like the Wall Street bailouts were worked out.  They can’t exactly go through this with the GOP leaders suddenly saying “Hey, wait a minute, this isn’t the same program your own people are talking about!”  They have to pretend like nothing changed in order for this switch to work.  They have to keep the rhetoric going.  They have to keep saying “Duck Season” to Obama’s “Rabbit Season”, and to do so louder and louder to keep the masses confused.

You’re probably asking yourself what the GOP would have to gain by working with the supposed “enemy” on this little game.  Well, it got them control of the House of Representatives.  It gave them filibuster power in the Senate.  It gave them – and is still giving them – a singular issue to not only campaign on, but, most importantly, an issue by which K-Street and their own masses can contribute oodles of money towards.

Forty-two attempts to either de-fund or outright repeal the ACA, knowing full well that any measure that passes the House would never get past the Senate, never mind get signed by Obama or survive a veto-override.  It is a clear waste of time, but it keeps the masses pissed off and it keeps the campaign money flowing.

There are many ways that the GOP could have fixed the ACA.  They could have neutered the IRS.  They could have redefined what a “tax” is so that it couldn’t be used in the way that it is used with the ACA.  If the members of the GOP really wanted to, they could have found a way to dismantle the part of the ACA they really hated, and to do so silently, without attracting attention, and even with the support of the Dems.

But they haven’t done that, have they?  No, they’ve opted instead for big grandiose productions and overblown temper tantrums, screaming like petulant children not getting their ice cream.  It makes someone like me wonder… are they doth protesting too much?

Think about this: the ACA’s Individual Mandate was saved in the Supreme Court by Chief Justice John Roberts.  This was someone appointed by the GOP and Obama’s predecessor.  Do you really think that Roberts could have been convinced just by Obama and the liberal contingent to weasel in the Mandate as being a “tax”?  The GOP had far more to lose over the loss of the Individual Mandate than Obama had to gain by it surviving judicial muster.

Like I said previously, this is still all speculation on my part, but let’s get brutally honest here… this certainly explains some of the antics by the GOP, especially of late.  It explains Senator Ted Cruz and his marathon speaking session, not to mention the Congressional-imposed government shutdown that lasted sixteen days.  It also explains why the GOP is hell-bent on doing this all over again, despite the perceived negative consequences that have come from this.

It’s all an act.  It’s all staged.

It all seems to be a way for both the GOP and Obama to give the insurance companies everything they wanted, and to do so without the liberals screaming in protest.  It gives the GOP a political windmill to tilt, it gives K-Street a crusade to generate money from, it gives Fox News and talk radio something to scream about, and it screws up the economy and puts the screws to the masses, which the GOP can then use to blame Obama for causing.  It became the “key cause” for the 2010 and 2012 elections, and is already the “key cause” for the upcoming 2014 election season. 

That’s some pretty good grifting if you think about it.  But, then again, you’re not supposed to be.

Bear in mind one thing out of all of this… despite the rhetoric and bluster, neither Obama, nor the Dems, nor the GOP have anything to lose out of this whole mess.  They’re all exempt from the ACA.  And it’s not like they couldn’t afford to spring for their own insurance coverage anyway. 

Throughout all of the screams for “Rabbit Season” or “Duck Season”, none of them are the ones that are facing down the rhetorical barrel of Elmer Fudd’s shotgun when the trigger is pulled.  We are.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Week of 10/21/2013

Stop Lying! “Both Parties” Are Not To Blame For Mess!
– by David Matthews 2

Imagine finding out that someone you know was violently attacked.  Savagely beaten, humiliated, or maybe even worse.  Now imagine the police apprehending this attacker, someone with a record of violent incidents, and this person is not only proud of doing what he did, but that the victim deserved to be attacked.  And now picture members of the media, reporters and commentators alike, actually siding with the attacker and saying that the victim was equally at fault.

Wouldn’t you want to go on a warpath with those people?  Wouldn’t you want to punch their lights out for saying that?

That is how I feel right now when it comes to the GOP and their latest political tantrum.

Before we get going with this, I’ll point out that I used to be an actual card-carrying, dues-paying member of the GOP.  I carried their political water through my college years, thinking that they stood for things that I support.  I have no love for the Democrats.  They have proven to be failures time and time again.  The only things that keep the Dems going right now are money, old political power, and the fact that the GOP is their own worst enemy, and sometimes America’s worst enemy as recently demonstrated.

The GOP recently held the federal budget hostage.  They forced a shutdown of the federal government, compelling thousands of soldiers and federal employees to work without pay for about three weeks.  Services were either shut down or put on hold.  Museums, parks, and memorials were closed.  This shutdown could have gone on indefinitely if not for the fact that they also were up against an artificial deadline of their own creation known as the “Debt Ceiling”.

Why?  Because they wanted to de-fund the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare”.  The GOP leaders in the House of Representatives have tried forty-two times to either de-fund or outright repeal it, and all of them have failed to get beyond the House.  So they stole a page from the Mexican Drug Cartel and they kidnapped the federal budget.

And they lost.  They counted on Obama and the Dems to cave and that did not happen.  They lost.

But that isn’t what really bothers me.

What really bothers me is what The Script has been churning out even before the shutdown was resolved.

Even while the government was shut down and the “debt ceiling” deadline was looming and financial “experts” were all up in arms about a possible fiscal apocalypse and Senator Ted Cruz was throwing a temper tantrum about a veterans memorial being closed because of the shutdown he helped to bring about… media commentators began regurgitating the same scripted message.  They all said that the shutdown was horrible, shame on the GOP for doing it…

… But that “both parties” were to blame.

Excuse me?

Are you people in the media on drugs?  What dementedly fractured fairy tale book have you been reading in lieu of reality to come to that conclusion?

Here’s a little reminder: the GOP, the so-called “Republicans”, acting more like anarchists than supporters of any kind of legitimate republic, picked this fight.  They chose to issue an ultimatum.  They were the ones that demanded President Obama and the Senate give up the Affordable Care Act, a law that was already passed, signed, enacted, and vetted by the Supreme Court.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the GOP leadership also enacted a secret rule change in the House on September 30th that would prevent anyone except the House Majority Leader from bringing a continuing resolution from the Senate up for a vote that would have otherwise averted the shutdown.  It’s called House Resolution 368.  Look it up.

The GOP openly picked this fight.  They were the instigators and the perpetrators of this shutdown!

So how the hell do these so-called “professionals” in the media get off saying that “both parties” were to blame?

Are they suggesting that Obama and the Dems were somehow at fault because they did not give in to the GOP’s kidnapping demands?  Isn’t that like blaming the assault victim for not simply giving in?  Or like blaming a rape victim for not spreading her legs wider?  (Yes, I went there.  Or did you think that the GOP is the only group “allowed” to make that kind of comparison?)

You tell me, so-called “professionals” in the media: why is it when the GOP act like the un-budging jackasses that they are, they’re “praised” for sticking to their beliefs, but when the Dems stand firm, you hypocrites tar them as being “unwilling to negotiate” and try to blame them for the destructive actions of their counterparts?  Why are the Dems expected to cave each and every time and then be castigated when they do?  Go ahead, “experts”; I dare you to explain that one to the world!

Unfortunately for us, there is a very simple and painful reason why the media is churning out a fraudulent script that tries to pin the blame on both the GOP and the Dems for the disaster instigated by the GOP… and it is all about fanatically maintaining that damned status quo.

Let’s get brutally honest here… the only reason why “The Script” is trying to share the blame between both political parties, even though only one of them was clearly to blame for it, is because to do otherwise would forever doom the GOP as a party and destroy the two-party dominance.

If the GOP is allowed to take the full blame for their actions, if they were held to account for their acts of sabotage and insurrection, and if the media showed just how destructive the GOP has really become, then the masses would stop voting for them.  The party itself would die.  Literally die, like their predecessors in the Whig Party did back in the 1850’s.

Then that would leave the Dems as the only “major party” left.  But that wouldn’t be for long either.  The Democrats only exist today because of the GOP’s abusive tendencies.  The GOP goes away, the Dems soon follow.  And then where would all of those K-Street power-brokers and special interest groups be?  Their precious status quo would be gone.  Awwww…. “poor widdle” power brokers!

This is the game that has been played on us all this time.  The fanatical extremist cultish adherence to the myth, to the fiction, to the delusional fairy tale, that says that both dominant political parties are equally wrong and equally evil and equally at fault at everything wrong that goes on.  That one dominant party cannot be or do worse than the other dominant party… lest they tip the balance of power that has existed over the decades.

But ultimately there is one group that is truly to blame for this mess… and that is all of us.  We are the ones that buy into the fairy tale instead of reality.  We are the ones that refuse to listen to our own protests and continue to vote to sustain the Dems and the GOP in Washington… simply because The Script tells us to.

I can understand why the GOP refuses to accept reality. I can understand why members of the media continue to sustain lies to support the status quo.  But the only way the lies and the fiction will stop is when we stop buying into it.  A pox on the GOP, shame for the supposed “professionals” in the media, but a double of each should be reserved for us all if we allow them to keep doing these things in our name.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Week of 10/14/2013

Can Atheists Best Theists?
– by David Matthews 2

When it comes to trying to validate religious beliefs, some people use the most asinine presumptions in their arguments.

One of the biggest is the pompous and self-serving presumptions that morals and values and everything that is good and decent and pure can only come from religion.  Of course when they say “religion”, what they really mean is their specific religious belief; but they don’t want to come off as being “too egotistical” when trying to castigate the “heathens”.  They had might as well claim that the air that we all breathe and the gravity that keeps us on the ground all come from “belief” as well.

Yes, it is really about validating their own egos and their arrogant presumption that they are superior to others.  And in doing so, they actually disprove their own claims.

The ego-driven presumption goes like this: all morality, ethics, values, everything that we consider to be “good”, these things can only come from religious belief.  Since atheists and agnostics and freethinkers do not believe like supposedly “devout” people, then they have no “guide” to what is right and wrong, and therefore cannot help but do evil things.

The presumption operates on the delusional fantasy that supposedly “truly devout” people cannot do the wrong things or break the rules of either society or “laws” of that particular belief.  This fiction then advances the equally delusional argument that if there is crime and perceived lawlessness that “society has turned away from God”.

Let’s start with a little quote from the BBC series “Doctor Who”…

“Good men don’t need rules.”

Simplistic but essentially true.  People that already know what is right and wrong will automatically try to do the former and avoid the latter without the need for a law or a rule to say otherwise.  They won’t do it because a law tells them, but because they believe it themselves in their hearts and minds.

So if goodness and ethics and morality truly come exclusively from religion, then why do we need rules in the first place?  All we would need is “faith”, right?  “Devout” people would automatically not do wrong… if the presumption was true.

That explains why the prisons are just overflowing with atheists and agnostics, right?  Oh, wait, they’re not.  In fact, the vast majority of prisoners consider themselves to be quite religious according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  Atheists and agnostics make up only a tiny portion of inmates in the correctional facilities.

Well… maybe the rest are just Satanists and other “demon worshipers”, huh?

Uh… nope.  Christians dominate the inmate crowd in America.

Well, let’s look at the champions of faith; the religious leaders that serve as the shining examples of how goodness and morality flows from their belief in that higher power.

Inquisitions, witch trials, anti-abortion terrorism, rampant instances of physical abuse and systematic concealment of molestations… Yeah, not exactly religion at its best.  But if the presumption is to be believed, then none of these things should have happened!

Let’s face it, if you’re part of an institution that did nothing about the Holocaust while it happened around them, that persecuted men for looking into a telescope, that tortured and killed women and small animals out of fear and then did nothing to atone for it, that forced young victims of horrific crimes into silence and shuffled around the perpetrators, then you’re not living up to the claim that your faith somehow brings goodness and decency and morality into the world.

There’s another flaw in the idea that only through religion can one have goodness, and that is in measuring the goodness itself.  Do you do good deeds because of some sense of obligation?  Or do you do it because you believe it is right?

It’s hard to tell, isn’t it?  There’s really no way to tell if a person is doing good because of obligation or because they believe it to be right in their own minds.  We can’t read their minds.  We can only presume their intentions through our own biases.

So is it possible that a theist, despite their fidelity and proud proclamations of their moral superiority, could be denied that supposed spiritual reward, while the hereafter is filled with good-natured but humble atheists and agnostics?

This will blow the minds of some people, but, yes, hypothetically it is possible.

Let’s get brutally honest here… if you’re going to claim that religion is the basis of goodness and decency and morality, then you better make sure that your spiritual house – both personal and institutional – first lives up to the claim.

As a theist myself, I am somewhat embarrassed by the arrogance by those of faith over those that are not blind followers of that faith.  You’re not exactly helping your cause when your pride leads you to make claims that you know you can’t live up to.  Much like the recent Apple iPhone ads, sometimes the best form of advertising is humble demonstration.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Week of 10/07/2013

How Long Can You Live Without Pay?
– by David Matthews 2

So the GOP has once again screwed over the federal government, forcing a “partial shutdown”, throwing tens of thousands of federal employees either out of work or in a financial “null zone”, where they work without getting paid.

Of course the extent of this “partial shutdown” goes far beyond what I just described.  We’re talking parks and museums being shut down, certain agencies not doing their jobs, aid programs being suspended… and, of course, members of Congress still getting their cushy six-figure salaries while they sit on their platitudes.

But I want to take this time to look at the ones that are hurt the most by this shutdown: those federal employees that still have to show up at work, day-in-and-day-out through this whole mess, and yet not get paid.

The script, which has been regurgitated repeatedly, says that we shouldn’t worry about these furloughed employees, because at least they’re still working.  Besides, they’ll get paid for their work when Congress gets their act together, right?  Eventually.

I find this cavalier attitude very annoying, because of all the people affected by the partisan temper tantrum, these are the ones that have the heaviest burden to bear.  They have to come in and work essentially for free; they have no alternative short of quitting their jobs.  And before you cons and neo-cons start flatulating away about how they should do just that, I challenge you to drop your jobs and go find other work in this miserable economy!  You’ll find millions of Forsaken Americans standing in line for jobs that are not there.  (You know; all those people that you slanderously claim “stopped looking”.)

Think about all of the things that go into that “daily grind”.  You get up, get dressed, drive to work or take public transportation, you get your morning coffee, you work, you have lunch, you go back to work, and then you go home.  Simple, right?

Now think about all of the things that involve money.  Getting to and from work isn’t for free.  You have to pay for the gas in your car, not to mention any possible tolls or parking costs.  You have to pay if you want to take public transportation.  Unless the workplace provides it, you’ll have to pay for your morning coffee, not to mention your lunch.

Most folks could carry on for maybe a week or two without money.  But the last time the GOP had an ego-driven temper tantrum that shut down the government, the federal employees had to work without pay for twenty-eight days.  Do you think you could last that long?

You tell me… how can you pay for gas for your car if you don’t have money coming in?  And if you can’t pay for gas, then how can you be expected to show up at work?  Do you think the narcissistic members of the GOP would pony up for gas for those federal employees so they can continue to work without pay?  Do you think the Koch Brothers will do that?  Or the folks at Fox News?

How about food?  Sure you can go without lunch for a while, but how about the other daily meals?  How will you get groceries if you don’t have money coming in?  “Food Pantry”, you say?  Oh, sorry, many of those places have been depleted thanks to the Great Recession.  You know, the economic disaster caused by those “good friends” of the GOP.  Do you honestly expect those federal employees that have to work without pay to simply show up at the local grocery store and get food without paying for it?

And I know what some of you are thinking right now… and I have to ask you what makes you think that every single federal employee in that situation has a credit card to rely on?  And even if they did, what makes you think they could afford to rely on it for any length of time?  The Great Recession has put a hurt on a lot of us these past five years.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the GOP has also engaged in a little game called “sequestration”, which has hurt certain departments.  How many of those employees had to take a pay cut already, or been denied pay raises just so the GOP can satisfy their political egos?  How many of them have already had their personal finances stretched to the limit?

Now… we’re still talking short-term here.  What happens when the shutdown goes beyond the 28-days of the previous shutdown?  Now we’re talking about the lack of money affecting mortgages, rent, loan payments, insurance bills, utility costs, and those aforementioned credit card payments.  We’ve seen how criminally reckless the banks can be when it comes to people missing even one mortgage payment.  How many federal employees have to lose their homes to satisfy the GOP?

And bear in mind these people have to still go to work with all of that on their heads!  The stress of not having bills paid, of having their utilities cut off, of having to go without food or water, of possibly losing their homes, and wonder just how they will be able to get to and from work, all of that weighing on them as they are expected to continue to do their jobs essentially for free!  Oh, they’ll get paid… eventually… when the politicians get their act together… but not right now.

Let’s get brutally honest here… it’s sadistically and damnably sociopathic to demand that tens of thousands of people work for nothing just because some criminally narcissistic politicians like John Boehner and Ted Cruz want to hold the government hostage for their narrow-minded agenda!

And if you’re on the side of these narcissists, then I challenge you to live like these “exempt” employees!  I challenge you to go to and from work without pay for the duration of this shutdown!  No money for gas, no money for food or groceries, no money for bills.  How long do you think you’d hold out, huh?  I seriously doubt many of you would even last a week, never mind twenty-eight days!

The only people that can afford to get by without pay in the federal government are those at the very top.  The very sadists that we elected!  And while some of them have “graciously” decided to forego their pay during the duration of this shutdown, they have the option of doing that, not to mention they have the option to turn this whole matter off by doing their jobs instead of playing petty narcissistic games.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Week of 09/30/2013

The New “Heroic” Traits
– by David Matthews 2

Remember the song “Holding Out For A Hero” by Bonnie Tyler?  She probably gave the best description of what people look for in a traditional hero.  Someone who is good, strong, and maybe even larger-than-life.  The kinds of traits we think that the people we look up to should have.

Unfortunately quite often it’s an “idealized” vision.  The “streetwise Hercules”?  A “white knight on a fiery steed?”  A “Superman”? Someone who is watching out for you all the time from some mysterious place?  I don’t know about the first three, but the last one is often considered to be a stalker.

The problem comes when movie and television producers and creators decide to make these “larger-than-life” figures more “life” than “larger-than”.  If they’re human, then they’re flawed, and some are a lot more flawed than others. 

As a longtime fan of comic books and as a comic book creator, I’ve begun to notice a few “heroic” traits in recent years that really should be addressed.  Keep in mind that a lot of these “traits” are showing up in characters that we’ve known for a long time.  These are the “re-imagined” or “revisited” versions of heroes and heroines that we now see on television, movies, and comics.  This is the attempt to make these heroes and heroines more “life” instead of “larger-than”.

The D-Bag/A-hole Hero – DC’s Green Lantern used to be a heroic figure.  Whether it was “Earth-2’s” Alan Scott, or Hal Jordan, or John Stewart (not to be confused by “that comedian” with a similar name), they were decent guys whom you would see deserving the power and responsibility of being a space enforcer.  But then someone decided to bring in the brain-damaged Guy Gardner, and after that everything pretty much went to hell. 

Okay, fine, Guy Gardner is a jerk, but then someone decided to make him the rule rather than the exception.  So now we have Hal Jordan acting more like “Maverick” from “Top Gun”, cocky, arrogant, and believing himself to be right no matter what.  The Guardians strip him of his ring and he treats it like a great injustice and begs to be given a new one.  Even the “Green Lantern” motion picture shows Hal as being someone best described by his friends as an “A-hole”.

Speaking of, the Guardians themselves, the supposedly oldest and wisest beings in the universe, became a bunch of Munchkin-sized A-holes themselves.  So much so that they had to be overthrown from their place of prominence by the very Corps they created. 

How about the world of Marvel Comics?  Well there’s Cyclops from the X-Men.  Cyclops used to be the “apple-polisher” for the X-Men.  He was the poster child of Charles Xavier’s dream.  But of late he’s really taken the D-bag and A-hole tendencies to the next level.  How much, you ask?  How about he turns evil, murders Charles Xavier, and then has the audacity to tell Magento, his long-time arch-enemy, that he’s better at being a villain because he’s “winning”.  Yeah, you tell him, Charlie Sheen!  I look forward to the day you get your head handed to you and Magneto simply tells you “Welcome to my world.”

The Moody-Brooder – Okay, if we’re talking Batman, I can understand.  He’s a moody rich kid with issues.  “Lots of issues.”  But the idea that a hero needs to be cold and brooding as part of their standard operating procedure is really disturbing, even when it’s their personal life.  Seriously, how do you have a personal life if it’s spent being silent and skulking?  As someone who suffers from that kind of problem in the real world I can tell you that you really don’t have a “personal life” when you’re that way.

The new incarnation of Superman in the “Man of Steel” movie is a moody-brooder.  Captain America in Marvel’s “The Avengers” is a bitter moody-brooder punching exercise bags one right after another.

How bad is this trend?  Well they had Wonder Woman brooding at one point!  The embodiment of truth and beauty spending her time brooding and alone.  And not just in the comics!  In the un-aired pilot TV series by David E. Kelley, Wonder Woman actually set up a secret identity just so she could spend her time being a moody-brooder!

You know what made Spider-Man so popular?  He seems to be having fun!  He’s giving wise-cracks and calling people names, even when he takes things seriously.  (By the way, this is also what drives the popularity of Deadpool, although he’s certainly not a hero, even if he associates himself with them.)  No matter how miserable his life was at the time, no matter how bad the people of New York treated him, no matter how many insults J. Jonah Jameson dished out, Spider-Man was always seen as cheerful and happy.  Maybe it’s a crutch, but it is a crutch that works.

The Neurotic - “Project Alice” in the “Resident Evil” movies collects coins in the post-apocalyptic T-virus zombie world.  Elektra in her own self-titled movie suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, so much so that you wonder how she’s able to leave her home.  Bruce Wayne in the Tim Burton “Batman” movie cannot sleep in bed like a normal person.  He has to sleep upside-down like a bat, which, I understand, can be life-threaening.  Seriously, this takes “flawed” to the next level!

The “Clueless” Super-Intelligent - I don’t know how many times I’ve watched the “Iron Man” movies and see Tony Stark, one of the supposedly smartest men in the world, fail to actually explain what he is up to.  It’s the pompous “I’m so smart I’ve re-written the Periodic Table before breakfast” mindset, which in “Iron Man 2” is really not an exaggeration.

It is one thing to be super-smart, but it’s another to be too smart for your own mouth.  Seriously, how much of “Iron Man 2” could have been shaved off if Tony simply opened his damned mouth and told either the love of his life or his best friend what was really going on with him?  So much damned drama could’ve been avoided!

The Hate-Hero – I’ve considered this the standard hero template for all of the heroes seen in the CW Network, previously known as The WB.  I consider this the “Hate-Hero” rather than the “Anti-Hero” because an anti-hero is someone that ends up being a hero that doesn’t really want to be.  Han Solo in “Star Wars”, for instance, is really an anti-hero.  A “Hate-Hero” on the other hand is someone that seems to have a perverse hatred for the “hero” title and doesn’t want to ever be associated with a hero even though that is precisely who they are and how they operate.

The best example of the Hate-Hero idea is the ten-season TV series known as “Smallville” that appeared first on The WB and then on the CW. 

The initial idea of “Smallville” was that it was supposed to be about Clark Kent before he became Superman and growing up just outside the little Kansas town that the series is named after.  The premise was a good one in the beginning, because they wanted to show the character as he’s growing up and not in the idealized way originally portrayed in the “Superboy” comic series by “Superman” creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in the 1950’s.  Their “Superboy” was, simply put, “Superman as a boy”, with all of the heroic traits and experience and powers already there.  “Smallville” wanted a different take, so the producers expressly prohibited their “Clark” from doing anything remotely connected to either “Superman” or “Superboy”.  Part of the reason for that was an ongoing lawsuit by the heirs of Siegel and Shuster over the legal rights to “Superboy” and anything associated with it.

This idea was fine for the first four seasons, while Clark Kent was going through high school and just starting to figure out that he’s “not from around here”.  But then after the fourth season, at a point when Clark would show up at the Fortress of Solitude for the first time like in the 1978 movie, and it was expected that he would start to become Superman, the producers decided to turn Clark into a super-powered slacker that positively hated the very idea of being a hero.  He didn’t want to wear a costume.  He even hated capes!  And they continued with that for six seasons.  A superhero with an absolute hatred of everything about being a superhero and a refusal to accept that he is one!  Even one of the seasoned superheroes in a two-part episode made a very blatant note of Clark’s refusal to accept his role.

And it’s not just limited to “Smallville”.  During the same time that “Smallville” was starting, there was a series called “The Birds of Prey” that was set in Tim Burton’s Batman world but where the heroes were expressly forbidden to wear their costumes!  There was the pilot for “Aquaman” where Aquaman didn’t really call himself that.  There’s the current series “Arrow” with Oliver Queen who goes around as “The Hood” and despises the suggestion of calling himself “Green Arrow”.  And there’s a planned series called “Amazon” which is supposed to be like “Smallville” but with Diana as a non-Wonder Woman version of Wonder Woman.

Seriously, this hate-hero concept is probably the worst of the “new heroic traits”, partially because it seems to be the easiest to impose by TV executives that want to scrimp on wardrobe and special effects costs.

Let’s get brutally honest here… the reason why traditional heroes are so memorable is because they are larger-than-life!  Or, at least, larger than our own lives.  When you try to “humanize” them by making them flawed, by making them neurotic, by making them despise their very identity, you tear at one of the core reasons why they are who they are.

Think for a minute about some of the classic heroes.  Did anyone ask if Perseus had a fear of snakes when he fought Medusa?  Did anyone recall the time when Hercules hated his name and feared showing off his super-strength?  Did the Biblical hero Samson hate his hair and wanted to hide it all the time?

Obviously they weren’t.  And that’s part of the reason why we still remember them today.  We don’t remember the flaws.  We only remember who they are and what they did.

Heroes are not just powers and costumes and a catchy code-name.  It’s who they are and what they do.  Heroes are seen as iconic because they don’t appear to be hindered by the flaws and human failings that the rest of us suffer from.  And in doing so, they encourage us to transcend our own flaws and failings and hold ourselves up to a higher standard.  They reflect our ideals of who we all could become.  While giving them flaws may make for good drama, and as a writer I can certainly appreciate that, writers and producers have to remember that what makes these people heroes goes beyond the failings that limit the rest of us.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Week of 09/23/2013

No, Syria Was NOT Ours To Solve
– by David Matthews 2

Well it appears that we just dodged a bullet concerning the mess with Syria.

Instead of dropping bombs and firing missiles, we’re sending diplomats and firing off terms to negotiate how Russia will handle Syria’s weapons of mass destruction.  The guys that helped make the mess and encouraged the mess are supposedly going to oversee cleaning up the mess.

That’s good.  That’s called responsibility.  You’d think that the cons and neo-cons would be all for that, right?

So we should be breathing a sigh of relief right now.  We’re not having to get involved in yet another Middle East conflict.  We’re not having to put planes in the air and firing off missiles and hearing the daily body count from the air-fluffed ego-driven media.

Have you noticed that the price of gasoline has dropped since we backed away from the brink?  Big Oil doesn’t have the excuse to pilfer the average American like they’ve been doing with every Middle East crisis.  Some sheik stubs his toe and the price at the pump goes up a few pennies per gallon.  Some warlord threatens to unleash hell and gas prices soar.  But now that we’re not bombing, the prices are going down.

That’s good, right?

Hey, we defied the script!  That is not easy to do!  This is the same script that drove us into Iraq.  That told us that we had to get involved with Libya.  That tells us that we need to confront North Korea whenever their egomaniacal leadership feels a little neglected.  That always looks for new battles for us to fight around the world and tells us that “only we” can fight these battles.  “Only we” can save the world.  “Only we” can “police” it.

We actually said “No” to that script!  We told the FoxNews “experts” and the bloodlust chickenhawks to go pound sand.  Good for us!  That’s long overdue!

Well now we have to hear the whining from those behind the script.  The people that were denied their self-promised “blood and treasure”.

They tell us that Syria should have been “ours” to solve.  That we “should have” been the ones to step in and held their strongman to account for his criminal acts.  After all, it was President Barack Obama that drew that supposed “red line” and promised action if Syria’s thug Bashar Assad used chemical weapons on his own people.  “The world” supposedly turned to the United States for action, not Russia.  And what did we do?  We handed it off to Russia, the very country that supplied Assad with his weapons and then blocked any action from the United Nations.

It was “ours to win” say the defenders of the script.  How dare Obama deprive them of their “win”!

No, they’re wrong.  Dead wrong. 

Let’s get brutally honest here… Syria was never “ours to win”.  And it was never “ours to win” for many reasons.

First of all, what the hell were we supposed to “win” anyway?  At least with Iraq, the script argued that there was oil.  Granted, any promise of oil was thrown down the toilet later on, but at least there was supposedly something for America to gain with Iraq.

What are we supposed to gain in Syria?  Huh?  Is there some sort of hidden cache of money?  Maybe the body of Jimmy Hoffa?  Amelia Earhart’s plane?  Joseph Smith’s Golden Plates?

Remember all of those “weapons of mass destruction” that the people behind the script swore on a stack of bibles were in Iraq ten years ago?  How many did we actually find?  Try one.  And it was one that we didn’t even know Saddam Hussein had!

So what is it that we would have “won”?

Ego.  That is all that we would have “won”.

This was all so a gang of preening former soldiers can bring in a paycheck as “military advisors” to Fox News; second-guessing the actual generals and armchair-quarterbacking foreign policy from the comforts of their cushy special interest offices.  It’s so chickenhawk politicians can beat their chests and preach like dimestore ministers about “American Exceptionalism” and “Manifest Destiny”, all the while complaining that Obama wasn’t “doing enough”.

The argument could have been made that Syria was “our” conflict to join in… back when it was a simple act of revolt against Assad’s rule.  Back when the chief organizers and encouragers of that revolt were pushing for a more democratic system of government… you know, the kind of system that we here in America pretend to share with that whole “American Exceptionalism” delusion.

Unfortunately for us, at that time, the people behind the same script were telling us that the revolt was a “bad thing”.  It seems these supposed “experts” can’t tell the difference between the Arab Spring – the people behind the push for more-secular democratic governing in the Middle East – and the Muslim Brotherhood, who want Islamic-dominated theocracies.  So when the Arab Spring people were pushing the Middle East towards more-secular democracies, the people behind the script were saying “No!  These are Muslim Brotherhood people!  We hate these people!  We can’t let them win!”

So we sat on our hands when the revolt was one we could have made a difference in.  And now that it’s become a mess, the script changes and now we are “supposed” to get involved.

Isn’t it funny how the people behind the script were telling us not to get involved when it could have really mattered, then turned around and told us we “needed” to get involved when it became a huge fuster-cluck.  It’s almost as if they really want America to fail, doesn’t it?  After all, it would be on Obama’s head if it did, right?  You know, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient being dragged into yet another military conflict.

But, thankfully, we don’t have to worry about that now, because we’ve passed the burden off to the Russians. 

Let’s have the Chippendale-wannabe Vlad Putin put his and his country’s reputations on the line in the global arena for once.  If he fails, then at least the people behind the script will be ready, willing, and eager to say “We told you so”.  And then the next time trouble raises its ugly head, Putin won’t be so eager to complain about America’s self-appointed role as the world’s policeman.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Week of 09/16/2013

Microsoft’s Ending Era of Ballmer Blunders
– by David Matthews 2

So Microsoft strongman Steve Ballmer is heading out the door… eventually.

It hasn’t happened by the time of this article, and it probably won’t happen for a few more months, but he will be gone at some point in 2014.

Steve Ballmer took over the reins of the software giant from founder Bill Gates in 2006, even though he held the “title” of “Chief Executive Officer” as far back as 2000.  And since then, Microsoft has… well it’s floundered.

Oh, sure, the entity known as “Microsoft” is making money, but it’s really not the tech powerhouse that it was in the preceding decade.  They’ve expanded beyond just doing software and some PC-related devices.  Now they’re doing whole tablet computers and cellphones.  And yet people would rather buy an iPad or an iPhone or play with PlayStation than get anything with a Microsoft name attached to it.

Now, granted, the anti-Microsoft and the Cult of the Apple extremists (and they are legion) will have all sorts of things to say about the company that “The Better Bill” built, and none of them good.  That is to be expected.  But I’m not in that crowd.  I don’t buy the script that says “Microsoft stole everything from everyone and they’re nothing more than technological parasites”.  If that is your personal malfunction with the company, then so be it.

On the other hand, I’m not an MS Purist either.  I’m not one of those people that worship all things Microsoft.  I wouldn’t be writing this kind of article if that were the case.  Microsoft is a company, nothing more.  It is not a church, it is not the end-all-be-all deity behind the Internet, and it is far from being infallible.  They provide a decent operating system, an Office suite that sets the bar for everyone else, and every so often they come up with a pretty good game like Halo.

If anything, Ballmer’s run of Microsoft has been more treading water than trying to advance any kind of a vision of how Microsoft sees itself helping society.  And that exposes pretty much the fundamental difference between Ballmer and Gates.  With Gates you had some kind of vision, like the kind seen in his book “The Road Ahead”.  With Ballmer you just have… well, whatever Microsoft has at the time.

Ballmer thinks that his letdown was with Windows Vista, but… let’s get brutally honest here… that was just the tip of the iceberg concerning the Ballmer Blunders.  His failings are numerous.

But let’s start with that one.

Windows Vista: Where to begin with this?  The concept was good, but the “successor to XP” was clearly not ready for prime time when it was released.  Yes, that’s par for Windows, but you would think that these guys would have learned by now.

Then there are the multiple versions of Vista, including a version that was Vista in name only.  Why the hell would people want a Vista-lite system that is “Vista” in name only?  Granted, not all computers can handle the new toys, but that’s been par for years now.  It means you wait until you can get the faster computer that can handle the new operating system.  Why was that so hard to comprehend, Steve?

Then, instead of trying to get into the good graces and make it into a workable operating system that people would embrace, Ballmer and Microsoft simply write the whole operating system off and told people “Just wait until Windows 7!”

No!  Wrong!  You don’t convince people they need to embrace the new operating system and then throw it under the bus!

That brings us right to the next Ballmer Blunder, which made throwing Vista under the bus even more of an insult…

Throwing Windows XP Under The Bus: So not long after Vista came out, Ballmer decided it was time for PC users to stop using all of those previous operating systems and embrace the new shiny.  He wanted to kill Windows XP right then and there.  People had to switch and switch right then and there.

Of course the PC community revolted and they petitioned Ballmer to relent, so Ballmer gave the XP crowd six more years.  But they shouldn’t even have had to petition!  This was just a stupid idea from the get-go.  You don’t convince people to upgrade by forcing them to!

Speaking of the premature death of XP…

Recession? What Recession? Here’s a little tip for the folks in the tech world… when you are in a global recession; when your job, your bank account, and your home are all in danger, you are not going to be looking to buy new computers with all-new operating systems simply because the CEO of Microsoft says so.

Businesses that are afraid they won’t be around any longer will not spend money on new computers.  Department heads that are afraid they will be out of a job soon will not request money to get new computers.  Parents that may or may not have a roof over their heads will not spend money to get new computers.  Schools that discover their budgets are about to be slashed to the bone because houses are falling into foreclosure like dominos will not spend money to get new computers.  You are simply going to make do with what you have until you can afford to do otherwise.

If all of these things do not factor into your heads, then you fail basic economics.

Throwing Windows 7 Under The Bus: So we went from XP to Vista.  Vista was buggy, so Ballmer throws it under the bus and launches Windows 7.  Then, before anyone can get used to Windows 7, Ballmer launches Windows 8, which is so different from all of the previous operating systems that it makes the changes in Windows 7 from Vista trivial.

So if you want people to abandon XP, why shove a completely different operating system down our gullets, Steve?  Windows 7 was workable.  You get more people to play with it, you get more companies to develop software for it, and you get people to like it and they’ll stop playing with XP.

Then there is…

Throwing The Desktop Under The Bus: What is it with Steve and throwing things under the bus?  Every previous incarnation of Windows operated with a desktop and a “Start” button.  You turn on the computer and you’re greeted to a desktop with a nice wallpaper image and widgets and your favorite icons and a “Start” button to access the rest of the programs. 

Now, with Windows 8, you start inside the “Start” menu itself.  The “desktop” exists only as a novelty item.  Well isn’t that just mighty generous of Microsoft to do that for us “old timers”, huh?  All of those people that spent thirteen years or so designing wallpapers and desktop icons and desktop themes can still have their little nostalgia moments while the rest of the computer is made to work like an oversized cellphone!  I can’t even dignify it by comparing it to a “smartphone” because it would give the pretense of there being something “smart” about the decision!

Surface… and Surface? There are actually two computer systems named “Surface” that Microsoft came up with, but only one of them is actually good.

The first “Surface” system was a super-smart literal active desktop.  And I don’t mean “desktop” like in Windows XP.  I mean “desktop” as in an actual surface that you put stuff on top.  You put your digital camera on it, and it downloads the pictures from the camera so you can display them and stretch them and move them about.  You put your cellphone on it and you can share documents or contact lists or even make phone calls all without having to pick the phone back up.

This isn’t science fiction.  This is real!

And yet the only place where you see it right now are TV shows like “Hawaii Five-O”.

Then there is the other “Surface”.  The table laptop system with the stupid commercials.

That brings me to…

The Dancing Dumb@sses! Pop quiz: you’re promoting your first-ever actual hardware product and you’re wanting to out-do your competition that has been doing this since the 1980’s.  How do you showcase all of the new features in your new combination laptop and tablet computer?

If you’re Steve Ballmer, you hire a bunch of dancing dumb@sses to prance around to a techno-beat to show off the least-attractive feature… the “clickable” keyboard.

Seriously, Steve, were you even awake when the ad guys asked to go ahead with this?

Xbox and Blu-Ray: Okay, I know you guys bet on the wrong video format.  You bet the farm on the HD DVD format instead of Blu-Ray for your Xbox 360 game system, and you blew it.  But why didn’t you admit failure and come up with a Blu-Ray accessory?  Instead, you try to tell people that they would much rather download movies instead of playing them on a disc loaded with more than just movies.

Then there is…

Kinect: There is a basic rule that entertainment executives of all mediums apparently do not comprehend, and that is that some gimmicks are not universal.  Kinect is one of those gimmicks.  It’s a nice motion-and-voice-detection system, but that doesn’t mean you can translate every single game into one.  Some times you need a good old-fashioned joystick, not standing around pretending to have one.

DRM: This is a rip-off from birth. I understand that Ballmer hates open-source, but this obsession with Digital Rights Management really puts the screws to all Microsoft users.

For Office users, DRM means you don’t really “own” your copy of Microsoft Office like you did with earlier versions.  You are now leasing it with a year-to-year license.  It’s not even on your computer anymore.  It’s on the “cloud”, which means you have to be online to use it.  Sucks to be you if your Internet provider is bad.

It gets worse for the new Xbox One.  For a while you needed to be online all the time in order to use the system, but apparently Microsoft relented, or so they say.  It’s still a few months away from actual release, so we won’t know until then whether Microsoft will make the same mistakes as Diablo III and SimCity.  They’re certainly not winning any support with the gaming crowd.

All of these things are Ballmer Blunders, folks.  They are all part of the eventual transformation from a company that provided things to better the human condition to one that is simply fixated on making their profit margins.  From a company led by a man with a vision to one that is led by a man looking to make money and worrying about the future when it happens.

One can only hope that after Ballmer leaves, that Microsoft would be put in charge of someone with a vision again.  Someone that will see technology and not just wonder how they can monetize it to the extreme.  Maybe that’s asking too much in today’s pervasive and persistent parasitic philosophy of plunder, but if Microsoft wants to continue to survive, never mind regain its status as a tech titan, then it certainly needs someone that can dream instead of just someone that can count money.