Monday, July 29, 2013

Week of 07/29/2013

Weiner’s Wiener of a Problem
– by David Matthews 2

Former Congressman Anthony Weiner has a problem.

Actually he has several, and only one of them is being discussed.

Weiner was hounded out of Congress because he flashed his wiener (and a few other things) in Twitter posts.  Apparently you can be an unrepentant dick in Congress, but you just can’t show it.  That’s what you get when it put the legislative branch in the hands of career narcissists; nothing but misplaced priorities.

But Weiner thought he could repent and get back into public service by running for New York City Mayor.  Hey, why not, right?  If I was in his shoes I wouldn’t want the last image people have of me being what was dangling between my legs.  Besides, if former Governor Mark Sanford can be caught “hiking the Appalachian trail” by way of a Brazilian mistress and still end up getting elected to Congress by the same band of self-righteous hypocrites, then Weiner should be able to strive for some kind of public office.

Unfortunately, that brings us to Weiner’s problems… and, yes, they are many.

Let’s start with the fact that he got caught yet again flashing his wiener in places that should be flashed, and this news comes not long after he makes his name on the ballot.  This is not old stuff either… this comes after he promised he supposedly “learned his lesson”.

Weiner’s Wiener Mistake #1: If you say that you’ve learned your lesson and would never do something again, and then you don’t do the things that prove that, then you’re a lying hypocritical sack of donkey dung.  It doesn’t matter if it’s flashing your dangly parts or raising taxes; you’ve failed to keep your word.

As soon as you say “it’ll never happen again”, you’re on notice, because that’s what people will be looking for from that point on!  They’re waiting for you to go back on your word.

Weiner’s Wiener Mistake #2: You should have expected this, Weiner!

Remember, this campaign for mayor wasn’t endorsed by the Democratic Party.  Weiner had to campaign himself to get his name on the ballot.  Do you really think that’s something a party-supported candidate would have to worry about?  Party-supported candidates don’t have to deal with signatures.  The party takes care of that for them.

I’m sure somewhere in the New York Democratic Party there’s a career politician who thinks that it’s his or her turn at the big city desk, that paid their dues and waited their turn, and now suddenly they’re discovering that Anthony Weiner has put his wiener into the race.  Now if you were that career politician, or the party-player behind that career politician, and you found that out, do you really think you would simply step back and wait another turn?  Or would you want to give Mister Weiner a little reminder that he’s not welcome in the Big Rotted Apple?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

This is the basic truth about scandals: if they break before the party’s primary, then odds are the person behind it is in the same party!

And that brings us to the rather glaring mistake Weiner made with this.

Weiner’s Wiener Mistake #3: You’re not mayor, Weiner!

I understand that, given the long history of that city’s mayors, dangling your junk on Twitter is rather tame compared to, say, Thug Rudy Giuliani’s antics.  The self-appointed “Saint of 9/11” dragged his marital infidelities all across the newspapers and even was kicked out of the Mayor’s Mansion because he decided to spend his time with his mistress than with his wife and kids.

I know that given the choice between a mayor that sexts his junk and a mayor that has a fetish about turning The Big Rotted Apple into New Singapore, that people would much rather have a mayor that sexts his junk.  But let’s get brutally honest here, Weiner… you’re not the mayor yet!

You still have to go through a primary, and then through the general election.  You still have to win over the voters of New York City to become mayor before you can start taking them for granted like a mayor.

Seriously, Mister Weiner, it’s one thing to be confident… it’s another to be out-and-out presumptive that you have the election in the bag.

And that brings us to a basic Internet truth, Mister Weiner…

Weiner’s Wiener Mistake #4: Nobody wants to see your wiener, Weiner!

It’s nothing personal, but no matter if it’s one of those chat-roulette services or Craig’s List or private accounts on Twitter, so many “Dicks” have been using their “Wieners” in lieu of their personality that it’s downright unappealing.  The female form is beautiful; the male form, not so much.  It’s an old and basic truth.  As the owner and operator of Radio Dead Air loves to point out on his Internet show, there’s nothing sexy at the Wal-Mart, and nobody wants to see your wiener, Weiner.

Look, I wish you luck in your bid for the Mayor’s Office, Mister Weiner.  If you can somehow convince the voters that you’re still the best thing they can ask for, then they deserve the mayor they vote for.  And it’s great that your wife is loyal enough to stand by you, but you really shouldn’t expect the rest of the city to be either as forgiving or accommodating.  Unlike your wife, they don’t have to be stuck with you “’til death do you part.”

Monday, July 22, 2013

Week of 07/22/2013

Given, Not Taken
– by David Matthews 2

“Don’t let them take our rights away!”

“They’re taking our rights away!  We need to stop them from taking our rights away!”

How many times have you heard that?

We’ve been hearing it over and over and over again from conservatives and neo-conservatives, from Fox News media personalities, and from newspaper editorials and columnists, and certainly from the letters-to-the-editor, some of which I have to wonder if they’re just regurgitating talking point memos.

But if you were to sit some of these folks down and strap them to a chair and compelled them to actually list the “rights” that they claim are being “taken away”, you’d discover a few things.

First, you’d discover that they really don’t like being strapped to a chair.

Second, you’d discover that they don’t like having to explain themselves.

Third, you’d discover that they don’t like you for having to demand they explain themselves.  That and the whole “strapped to a chair” thing.

Fourth, you’d discover that they really have no idea what sort of “rights” are really being put in danger, or who “took” those rights away, or whether it has already happened or if it was just something they heard.  There is a reason why websites like exist, you know.

But then I remembered the word that they love to use in each case… “take”.

It’s all about the government “taking” rights away, isn’t it?  The “government” is always seen by the conservatives and neo-conservatives as some evil entity with some perverse fetish of taking away rights.  Well… only as long as they’re not the ones in charge of that same “government”, but we’ll get back to that in a minute.

The cons and neo-cons love to talk about how “once upon a time” we had all of these rights and freedoms and liberties, and now, all of a sudden, they’re all “gone”; and if they’re “gone” then the government “must have taken them”.  It’s like living with roommates and automatically blaming the fatter of the roommates for eating all of the food simply because it’s not there.

But take a closer look at some of these rights and freedoms that were simply “taken away from us” and you’ll find that they weren’t really taken.

They were given away.  And in many instances by the very factions that are now complaining about them disappearing!

Let’s get brutally honest here… if we truly live in a system where the government operates “under the consent of the governed”, then the government cannot truly “take” our rights and freedoms away as much as we, as “the governed”, are giving them away.

We gave away our freedom of speech when it came to radio and television back in the 1930’s because we believed it was more important for the federal government to “protect us” from “dangerous content”.  Granted, back in 1933 that content was fascist and communist propaganda, but it wasn’t long before we allowed that to be expanded to other content that we would deem to be “dangerous”.  We gave our rights in that regard away to the government because we stupidly believed that it was more important to be “safe” from so-called “dangerous content” and “dangerous ideas”.

By the way, which political faction convinced us that we needed to give those rights and freedoms away?  Which faction told us that the threats of fascism and communism and “naughty words” and “naughty parts” were threats to society that superseded our rights and freedoms?  Why, it was the conservatives!

In fact you go back in history and you’ll find that the conservatives were the same folks that were responsible for convincing us to give a lot of our rights and freedoms away.

How about being safe and secure in our homes and our belongings?  Remember the “War on Drugs”?  Yeah, we were convinced that the threat of drug cartels was more important than our Fourth Amendment protections.  So we gave the police the power to take our property from us, thinking it would only be used on those big drug kingpins instead of small businesses that try to pay for things with cash.  Oh, and all of those limitations on financial transactions that the banks love to tout?  Yeah, that’s from the same “War on Drugs”, because banks can’t tell if a $25,000 money transfer is being made by ordinary people or drug kingpins.

And I don’t even need to go back to the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts nor even the fear-mongering days of McCarthyism, do I?  Not when there’s the PATRIOT Act to consider!

Funny, isn’t it, how the very conservatives and neo-conservatives that today scream bloody murder over rights and freedoms that were supposedly “taken away” are the same ones that stood behind Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2001 when he said, and I quote directly: “To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberties, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists — for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve.”

The ugly truth is this: the conservatives and neo-conservatives were the ones that gave our rights away to the government, and gave them away on a silver platter with a red-white-and-blue bow.  They stood there with Ashcroft as the PATRIOT Act was cobbled together and pushed through – sight unseen – under the supposed “fear” of terrorism.  They stood there and gave away our privacy to the NSA and the CIA and the rest of the myriad of intelligence organizations under the claim that “we are at war”.  And now that they’re not the ones in the power, now that they’re not the ones calling all of the shots, now they’re supposedly “afraid” because the rights and freedoms are no longer under their control.  And now they’re claiming those rights and freedoms were not “given away”, they were “taken from us”.

Yeah, it’s easy to blame the fatter roommate for supposedly eating all the food… until you go over all the meals that were consumed and who ate what, and you realize that you were the one with the 2am “munchies” and the mid-meal snacks and the “fourth-meal” cravings while your larger friend has been away on vacation.

Then again, I can understand why they want to use the word “take” instead of “give”.  After all, they don’t want people to remember who it was that “gave” those rights and freedoms away so readily.  They still need us to “give” them something even more precious… such as our support.  It’s certainly not something that they should “take” from us so readily.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Week of 07/15/2013

The End of Shame?
– by David Matthews 2

The folks at the McClathy Newspapers asked a rather interesting question in their editorials:

Whatever happened to shame in politicians?

Once upon a time a politician’s career could be ended by the mere rumor of impropriety.  While cheating on one’s spouse certainly went on behind the scenes, you didn’t vent those affairs in the front page of the local newspaper.  A politician’s virtue was supposed to be as sacred as a schoolgirl’s virginity, and it could never be restored once it has been spoiled.

Former Four-Term Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards reportedly said in 1983 that the only way he’d lose would be if he was caught with either a dead girl or a live boy.  Granted, he would eventually be taken down for racketeering, but the standard still applies.

And apparently the standard is becoming literal.

David Lightman, the author of the McClatchy article, cited several political comebacks, including former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford getting elected to Congress after getting hounded out for being caught with a Argentinean mistress, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich running for President in 2012 even after his serial affairs-turned-wives pattern becoming known, and District of Columbia Mayor Marion Berry getting re-elected even after undercover video showed him doing drugs.  He notes how Senator David Vitter of Louisiana is still in office and how former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer is now running for Mayor of New York City even after both were involved with prostitutes. 

Granted, not everyone tainted by their own failings get a second chance, but it is becoming clear that scandal in and of itself is not the career-ending death-knell that it used to be.  The fear of being “tainted” is no longer a deterrent.

The author seems to think that all of this started with then-President Bill Clinton and his impeachment for lying about getting oral sex from an intern.  If he could “get away” with it, than anyone can for anything, right?

And yet, Clinton didn’t get out of the whole affair without consequence.  He was fined, he lost his law license forever, and he does have the notoriety of being only the second President of the United States to have been impeached by the House.  So you can’t really say that he “got away with it”, because that implies he wasn’t punished, and he was.  Just ask any senior executive at a “Too Big To Fail” bank how that works.

It is precisely that comparison between government and “Too Big To Fail” that goes to the heart of the real problem.

Let’s get brutally honest here… the reason why “shame” no longer works in and of itself is because there is no real sense of accountability when it comes to those in government.

Elected officials have gamed the political system for far too long.  They are already immune from criminal activities due to the outdated notion of “Sovereign Immunity”.  They are allowed to manipulate the voting districts through gerrymandering.  They suppress the vote through Voter ID laws.  They prevent any real competition through qualification rules that they made up themselves.  They are allowed to “police themselves”.  Because of all this and their friends on K-Street and C-Street and the oodles of money they can bring in at any given time thanks to the “Citizens United” decision, they don’t fear voter outrage anymore.

“Shame” only works if people fear the consequences.  If they’re afraid they will be voted out of office because of their actions, they will fear people knowing them.  But if they believe they will never be voted out, if they believe they will never face any kind of accountability, no matter what they either do or have done, then they really have nothing to be ashamed about.

For proof, all one has to do is look back at two U.S. Senators… one current and one deceased.  Both Senators John McCain and the late Ted Kennedy were tainted by scandals that should have ended their careers a long time ago.  And yet both not only kept their jobs and continued to get re-elected time and time again, but they also believed they were entitled to run for the highest office in the country.  And they did so long before Bill Clinton was elected, never mind think he could get a knob-job from an intern while in office.

We cannot expect politicians to simply “be” virtuous.  They need to fear reprisals.  They need to fear for their careers if their activities are made public.  That is what traditionally stopped their predecessors.  But as long as they are allowed to game the system for both themselves and their brethren, as long as they believe they are untouchable and unaccountable by anyone, then they really have nothing to be ashamed about. 

And if we are not willing to vote their sorry asses out of office even knowing the truth about them, then not only do they have no reason at all to fear us, but we really have nobody to blame for this situation but ourselves.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Week of 07/08/2013

Egypt: What Were You Thinking?
– by David Matthews 2

A little word of advice to those that crave or currently hold political power: If you came to power through public unrest over the previous powers-that-be because of… oh, I don’t know, maybe the economy… it would be a good idea to resolve the source of that unrest before you start carrying out your personal wish list.

Seriously, I’ve been looking at what has been going on in Egypt and I have to ask what the hell were the Muslim Brotherhood thinking?  Or were they at all?

First, you just got rid of the previous power because they abused that power frequently and because the economy sucks.  (Just a note: the economy sucks everywhere for anyone who is not part of the “One Percent Club”, except maybe those in Germany, so don’t think it’s unique for your area.)  You’re supposed to bring about change, not the status quo under a different name.  (Just as another note: this is Barack Obama’s problem as well, so, again, don’t think this is unique for your area.)

Second, you got in because of a coalition effort, not because the whole nation suddenly decided to support the Muslim Brotherhood.  The Brotherhood couldn’t even get twenty-five percent of the popular vote on the first round of elections!  The message there is simple: if you can’t get an overwhelming massive majority on the first shot, then you can’t claim to have a “mandate”, either from the masses or from God.  But, again, that message was apparently lost.

Think about it: Mohammed Morsi wasn’t even the Brotherhood’s preferred choice!  He was their hastily-selected backup after their “official” guy was disqualified from running.  That’s like losing Tiger Woods and having Carl the Groundskeeper substitute for him at the Masters golf tournament!

And what does he do when he gets in?  He loads his office up with Brotherhood cronies, he gives himself absolute power, and he persecutes his critics using the same rules that Hosni Mubarak used!  I’m surprised that the masses gave him this long of a time before they hit the streets again.

Come on guys, this is Political Overthrow 101 here… when you remove the power, you don’t replace it with something just as bad if not worse!

Let’s get brutally honest here… the Muslim Brotherhood and Mohammed Morsi did this to themselves.  They had the opportunity to do what was right, and initially with the support of the masses, and they squandered that opportunity just to satisfy their self-righteous ego in the name of religion.

In many ways, they mirrored America’s own GOP.  The GOP rallied in 2010 and 2012 on the call for change and improving the economy, and then when they got in, they screwed over the masses that voted them in and started going down their own personal to-do list in the name of religion.  I’m sometimes surprised why we aren’t in the streets in protest here, except we already tried that with the “Occupy” movement and it got killed by both the Obama Fail Machine and the Fox News-dictated GOP.  Believe me when I say that I worry what will happen next if both of these dominant political parties don’t get their act together at some point soon.  Losing at the ballot box will be the least of their worries at that point.

Keep in mind as well that this supposed “essential ally” of the United States was yet another country written off by the Fox News script.  The god-almighty GOP/Fox News Script dictated that Mubarak was a “friend”, that the protesters and their sponsors in the Arab Spring were “evil”, and that the Egyptians had no “right” to complain about their lot in life.  The GOP/Fox News Script then declared Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to be the new power, and now that same god-almighty Script is fretting about the change… because Egypt is supposed to be our “essential ally”.

Did it ever occur to anyone besides myself that maybe it’s the god-dammed GOP/Fox News Script that is the real problem here?

Of course, the Egyptians still have a pretty big task ahead of them.  They have to purge the stench of Morsi’s failures, set up a new government, set down new rules, make sure that the next batch of leaders don’t make Morsi’s mistakes, and try to fix the very thing that has now toppled two leaders… namely the economy.  Considering how the economy sucks for everyone that are not part of the “One Percent Club”, that last part is going to be a very daunting task indeed.

And let’s not forget the Muslim Brotherhood!  Now that they lost the power that they pompously believe was handed to them on a silver platter by God, they’ve decided to use their fallback method of violence.  Yeah, because nothing says “cooperation” like good old-fashioned fear and terror.  Just ask Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi how well that worked.  Oh, wait, he’s dead.  Well ask Iraq’s Saddam Hussein… oh, wait, he’s dead too.  Well maybe his two sons will… oh, yeah, that’s right.  Well, hey, there’s always Syria, right?

The only really good thing that we can say about what is going on with Egypt right now is that the masses actually give a care about what is going on there!  They’re not sitting on their duffs waiting for the next season of “American Idol” to start up.  They actually care about what is going on and honestly demand change.  This is a resource that should not be taken for granted.  It should not be dismissed because some dictatorial “Script” calls for it, and certainly not because some self-righteous people can’t tell the difference between public outrage and divine proclamation.  It needs to be tempered and channeled to a goal of a better government.  If not, then I guarantee those masses will be back out in the streets again, looking to replace the next leader that fails to learn the lessons of the immediate past.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Week of 07/01/2013

Steps Forward And Back
– by David Matthews 2

The events of the past few weeks have taken society both forward and back.

First, we have the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court once again wrapping up their session with some controversial decisions concerning same-sex marriages.

The ill-named Federal Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA) was gutted by the Justices in a 5-4 decision.  The law came about because of rumors in 1996 of California allowing same-sex marriages, and the fear was that once California allowed it, the other states would be forced to recognize same-sex marriages.  Turned out the “fear” was a little premature – by about ten years and from the other side of the continent – but it was certainly more than enough to force a law through Congress and the White House at breakneck speed.

The majority of justices cleaved a fine hair with this decision.  One would have expected them to use the Fourteenth Amendment to cut down the whole law as being a violation of the equal protection clause.  Instead, they used the Fifth Amendment concerning due process and just compensation, and targeted federal benefits only.  Granted, there are over a thousand benefits according to the Government Accountability Office that are involved, but that still is just for the federal level.  The individual states can still decide which “legal union” they want to recognize, which in this commentator’s mind smacks of the old Civil Rights days of whether states would recognize marriages involving mixed races or mixed religions, or even marriages determined by age.

Then there was the decision surrounding California’s “Proposition 8”, which the voters approved in 2008, which outlawed same-sex marriages just months after their state’s Supreme Court declared them constitutional.  The state giveth and the people (once again led on by fear, this time by the Mormons) takeith away.

Here the decision is a little more convoluted.

First, the justices punted.  There is no other way to put it.  They didn’t decide on the arguments of the case, but on the standing of the appeal.  They essentially kicked that can down the road so that another bunch of justices will have to take up at a later time.  And you can be certain that the religious extremists will remind people of that at every opportunity!

This is where it gets confusing.  First a federal court strikes down Prop 8.  Then the appeals court reverses it, but only after the state refused to file the appeal.  It seems the governor’s office decided the original decision wasn’t worth the effort, so they refused to appeal the verdict.  So then the sponsors of Prop 8 decided to file the appeal on behalf of the state, which they weren’t authorized to do but did anyway.

And that, it turns out, is what the Justices balked on.  Usually when the Justices do that, it’s the person trying to fix the problem that ends up being screwed, because the Justices claim that the plaintiff had no standing.  However, in this case, the plaintiff actually won, because they had the standing; it was the party claiming to represent the State that screwed up.

While we’re at it, maybe the California Bar should look into that case, because the council there basically carried out some serious misrepresentation that got them spanked by the highest court in the country.  Don’t forget that we’re dealing with people that seem to have a real hard time being told “no”.

Basically what this means is that for the states that allow it, same-sex marriages are legal, and those marriages are entitled to the same federal benefits as those in opposite-sex marriages.  It’s a win-win for supporters of same-sex marriages, although it’s really not the win that they deserved.

The bible-thumping “Family Values” Fox News faction, of course, are beside themselves on this.  How could the same justices that gutted fifty-year old civil rights laws for them turn around and betray them like this?  How could the same justices that gave them what they wanted deny them these victories?

Like the sideshow charlatans they truly are, the pompous con and neo-con pontiffs are putting on quite the hysterical show about these two decisions, pretending the channel America’s Founding Fathers as if they were mediums on the Psychic Friends Network.  The world, in their self-righteous minds, is coming to an end because men and women are being “allowed” to marry in same-sex unions in open defiance to “their” perceived dominion.

In other words, it must be one of those special days of the week that ends in “y”.

Obviously they would not agree with me on this, but for the rest of the thinking populace this is a step forward in terms of freedom.  Granted those are still baby steps, but steps forward nonetheless.

And yet with this step forward in tolerance and freedom, we have also taken a much larger step back when it comes to a woman by the name of Paula Deen.

Now unlike some others that have spoken up about her plight, I won’t try to pretend to not know who Paula Deen is.  I do watch the Food Network and also the Cooking Channel, not to mention Fox’s own MasterChef where she has made a celebrity appearance or two, so I know she’s a cook that specializes in high-cholesterol cooking… at least until she revealed to have Type-2 Diabetes.  She’s not one of my personal favorite cooking personalities, partially because of that matronly Southern demeanor.

And, from what I understand, it is that older “Southern demeanor” that she is being excessively persecuted for.

From what I understand, this is the length, width, depth, and extent of Ms. Deen’s “crime”: once upon a time she used the “Dreaded N-Word” in common discussions.  Nothing written, nothing on video, nothing said in a public appearance that could be documented and presented as concrete evidence.  Simply common discussions.

And not even recent conversations!  This is all supposedly “way back when”… as in “way back when such a word was used frequently by many people especially in places like the South”.

For this reason – and for this reason alone – she has lost her show on the Food Network.  Her products or her sponsorship have been pulled from K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Target, Smithfield Foods, Home Depot, Caesar’s Entertainment, QVC, J.C. Penny, Sears, and Walgreens.  Her upcoming book through Amazon, previously #1 on the request list, has been pulled by her now-former publisher.

All of it because of something she said in the distant past!  Not recently, like in the case of Alec Baldwin on Twitter.  Not through a subordinate, as was the case with Don Imus on his radio show.  It was something she said in the distant past, in conversation, at a time when it was considered acceptable for people to use those words.

Let’s get brutally honest here… Paula Deen is being persecuted for something she said in the past, and doing so using today’s standards instead of those of the time!  And that is wrong!

Imagine insurance companies denying you coverage because once upon a time you used to smoke.  Imagine banks refusing to give you a car loan because you admitted thirty or forty years ago to having a lead foot.  Or an employer firing you today because you admit you used to do “wild things” when you went on Spring Break decades ago.

That is what is happening to Paula Deen, folks.  She is being punished by Corporate America for something she admitted saying in the distant past.

And who among us has not said something offensive in our past?  A racist saying?  A sexist comment?  A question about one’s intelligence or weight or sexual orientation?

Turn on Cartoon Network on the weekends at 11:30 pm and you’ll see the same dreaded “N-Word” being uttered by celebrities like Samuel L. Jackson.  Any calls for Samuel L. Jackson to suddenly be deprived of his livelihood for something that he said just a few years ago and is regularly repeated on Cartoon Network?  Any demands for Mister Jackson to denounce and apologize for using that word in a recorded medium?  I don’t think so.

This isn’t even political correctness anymore.  This is political bullying, not to mention out-and-out hypocrisy, especially in light of this past week’s court decisions!

How can you expect people to show tolerance and understanding for one group when another is being mercilessly punished for something that was said in the past?  You don’t win any supporters when you do that.

This is not a matter of “apples and oranges” here.  Progress is about moving forward, not backward.  You don’t punish people for actions done in the distant past, especially when those actions were previously considered accepted.  If you can’t do that yourself, then you have no right to demand that for others.