Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Top 10 things about freedom we may have forgotten

The 4th of July is upon us again. More hotdogs, more fireworks and more long winded speeches on the greatness of our forefathers. Why were they great? Because they recognized that freedom is for everyone, or it should be. It seems that we are willing to sell our freedom down the river sometimes and I hope I'm wrong. These are the things I think we sometimes forget about freedom. I'm sure others have done it better, but I will add my 2 cents anyway.

10. You might start with freedom, but it requires effort to maintain. - Our own founding fathers realized this as most of them and their sons gave their very lives to give us a chance at freedom. They had to fight their government in order to secure the freedom they deserved. True freedom as a Governmental tool is so rare that our government has been called the great American experiment. How could you let the masses choose even the smallest decisions for themselves? It just doesn't make sense. Well in our case it has made sense and continues to do so. Our founding fathers have said that the price of freedom is vigilance. Not against outside threats, but against inside ones. Yes, your own government. They are the ones that deserve careful watching because they are the ones that primarily want to take away your freedoms...for your own good of course.

9. Freedom is the ability to choose ones actions, but it has never been the ability to choose ones consequences. - This is a simple phrase really and like so many simple phrases is so very true. People have somehow crossed the meaning of freedom to indicate they they have some right to be free of the consequences of their actions. Without getting too political just remember: Any one person that gets something for free gets it at the cost of someone else, and somehow the Government, like Santa Clause, gets the credit for the actions of someone else.

8. Freedom is the first thing that even well meaning people want to take away. - Smart people are all the same, they think that because they are 'smart' that they really have the answers for all you stupid people. You know who you are. If the people would just shut up and listen to all the pearls of wisdom that spill from the lips of the best and brightest, you would all be happier and praise those in charge for doing it. This silly government of checks and balances just gets in the way of the freedom that a benevolent intelligent dictator can give you by just taking away your decisions. After all, you MAY make the wrong decision and everyone knows that bad decisions are no good for anyone. Remember, NOBODY, no matter how smart, is worth paying your freedom for.

7. Security can not be won by giving up freedom. - This old saw still rings true today. Lets take the latest thing to threaten our security. 911. Lets look at what happened. Immediately the airports have taken to checking EVERYONE'S bags with very expensive technology and lost time for both the traveler and the security personnel. Has it made us safer? We have certainly given up some freedom for it. Do you feel safer? If so, for how long. There have been lots of reports of our security being thwarted by people a little smarter than terrorists. Understand terrorists are not particularly clever or intelligent. But at least they know this. That the damage caused by our own fear is far greater than the damage they will cause by a subsequent attack. That's why they are called terror-ists.

6. Freedom is often valued least by people that make bad decisions. - People that make bad decisions throughout their lives tend to wonder why life is so hard on them. Why is life so cruel? I only had one more drink and I didn't FEEL impaired. Driving into an accident was certainly not the intent! I shouldn't be punished for a simple mistake. It isn't MY fault it's the alcohol's fault. After all, if I didn't have the alcohol, I wouldn't have been in that problem in the first place. So we need to make that demon Alcohol illegal because then we can save so many people from being caught in it's snare. So instead of making penalties for the abuse of freedom we take away freedoms from people that don't abuse them. Hard won yet easily taken all for the want of good decision making.

5. Freedom never requires positive action on the part of another party. - Freedom never requires outside action to continue. If I claim that I need something from you to maintain my freedom alone that's just not true. The defense of our freedom comes at a great cost but is not required by law but only by volunteer. We tried a mandatory draft and it is really inconsistent with our charter as a nation. If we look at the nature of our constitution and our government it states very clearly that any right not expressly given to the government is remanded to the states and each state must in turn determine through their individual local governments and ultimately through their population what is and isn't a proper power for government to have. This is because the nature of our constitution guarantees FREEDOM. The more governmental rights given to the Federal Government, the more restrictive the individual rights of states and therefore each states citizens. Laws are always meant to err on the side of freedom. Look at the criminal laws. the reason the large part of them are in place is because the actions of one individual takes away the rights of another. Murder, Robbery, Assault, Discrimination. All of these actions take away the rights of the offended party. Even in prosecution of those laws we state that the accused are innocent until proven guilty. That is why the argument against statutes that guarantee freedom is usually 'All of our laws are moral in nature so don't tell me we don't legislate morality that's why I think we restrict _____'. Perhaps, but WHAT morality? The morality of freedom, nothing else. Everything else is given to the individual to control themselves according to the dictates of their own conscience, where it should be.

4. Freedom allows for equal parts success and failure. - The degree to which you can succeed can only be limited by the degree to which you can fail. It just makes sense. The only laws that we should see in controlling business is that no individual business can be allowed to become so big that they limit the freedom of smaller businesses to compete. It's through competition that we drive the engines of our success. But Mark, are you talking about taking away the freedoms of business? I suppose I am if that means making sure that they allow for fair competition. What is fair? I'm not sure. But when I see a Big Box company come in and run at a loss for many years at the expense of the tax payer in order to drive out business. That to me is unfair and should be illegal because it does not set business on an even playing field with other businesses. The only way it is illegal is if we as a citizenry decide that we don't wish to allow such businesses into our neighborhoods, and if they show up, we should not patronize them even if their prices are lower than their competitors because we ended up paying for those lower prices with our taxes. This is just one example. Business is a difficult thing to understand and it requires a lot of thought and understanding to make sure that everyone gets a fair chance to succeed or to fail. I will not pretend to have all the answers to this or any other of our country's problems. I will however say that we must always be careful of good choices that eventually eliminate all choice.

3. Freedom is less forgiving than servitude - Freedom is a full contact sport and it is not painless. Freedom means that we have the freedom to pursue our own ideas of happiness. There has never been a guarantee of happiness because that is defined differently per individual. In a government where our freedoms are severely limited, we are all allowed the same level of discomfort. This of course rewards the lazy and the fearful against the working and the bold. To accept the risk of freedom is to accept the essence of adulthood. The ability to make ones own decisions and stand by the consequences of the same. To try to protect everyone from failure will only ensure it's eventuality because the great among us will not be allowed to succeed.

2. Freedom can and sometimes must be exercised directly in the face of authority whose goal is to remove freedom from you. - The constitution was written in the face of a controlling authority that wished to deny the citizens of a particular area the same rights afforded to all within that empire. I speak of course of the British. Their own Magna Carta really did try to give general freedoms to all and to great effect became a great influence on our own declarations. We wanted to be able to govern ourselves without the meddling of a government that did not care for our regional wishes. Eventually we won the recognition of that inherent right at the great cost of 'blood and treasure'. After we won our freedom we struggled to try to perfect it's application. It took many arguments and even a Civil war that nearly tore the country apart. Our country tried early on to squelch opposition to the presidency in written or oral form. We then realized that the freedom of expression was integral to our growth as a society and if we could not stand that as a government, we likely could not stand that at all.

1. Any freedom lost is a loss for all - If you do not fight for the freedoms of all people, you will be destined to lose your own. When you see a freedom being denied to a person that does not share your politics or your point of view. You should not ever sit idle and watch them fall to the demise of the minority. You should rather stand up and count yourself in defense of that individual as you would expect them to stand up for you in the same circumstance. Our great nation is designed to thrive on the differences of all and beckons all to come to add to our strength. When we try as a majority to eliminate the fair and equal treatment of the government under the law to ALL individuals we are ultimately giving the government the right to eventually eliminate our own freedoms later. It is difficult to remember that in the face of some arguments and even more difficult to fight with the same zeal on the side of someone you do not agree with at all. But the ability to dissent and to fight for individual rights is essential to the continued health of our government.

So do I think that Government is too big? Hell Yes. Way too big. There are far too many things that our government has decided that they should do on our behalf that is 'for our own good' I do not agree to a parent state that treats us all as their petulant children. Our forefathers fought for our right to govern our selves. Their actions echo back to us every 4th of July and we need to honor the sacrifices they made. If those same founding fathers would see our current state of government, what would they think? Did the currency of freedom put in the bank of their collective progeny bear interest? or is that investment failing in a country that is deemed too big to fail? Only time will tell, but I hope that we can continue to honor the tradition of freedom given to us indefinitely.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Top 10 TV Gameshows.

I'm 10 years old. The alarm goes off. Another day at the conformity factory called school. But wait. I feel a tickle in my throat. Not enough to really be a bother, but still. 'MOM!' After a quick check of the old thermometer, mom determines that I must stay home from school. SWEET! an unscheduled day off! I get to watch all the glorious TV that I miss learning things about dangling participles and longish division. Yes I would watch anything and everything, except for those stupid mushy soap operas. Ick. Game shows on the other hand. TV nirvana. The human drama. The highs. The lows. The victorious. The defeated. It was all there in a 1/2 hour block. Watching commercials about geritol was a small price to pay.

10. The Price is Right. - Yes, the Grandaddy. This show has been on for roughly EVER. Bob Barker was fresh off of his stint as the singer of the Miss America Theme song as well as the quick witted host of Truth or Consequences and decided to make his mark on the world at this harvest gold and green setted marvel. If you have been living under a rock, TPIR was a show based on estimating a price of common or semi-common household items. 4 contestants start out bidding on an item and the person that comes the closest (without going over!) to the RETAIL price of that item would get to go up on stage and participate in another pricing game. At this point if you told the 4 contestants that the first one to shiv a fellow contestant in the back would get to go up on stage, there would be no time elapsed before someone was fitted for a chalk outline. Many and varied are the pricing games at the stage level where the prizes range in value from 2000 to 25000$. Once in a great while some uber prize would show itself, but not very often. From there the winning contestants of each 1/2 hour would spin the BIG wheel (twice the height of a man, from what I understand it's as impressive as it looks on TV) and the contestant that wins the spin off, will bid on the final showcase. The final showcase will range in value from the low teens to the upper 60's in value. This show was a staple of my child hood and when I stay home from work, I STILL watch it. Now the host is comedian Drew Carey. I like his addition to the show a lot, I think he was a great replacement and I hope he continues in the position for a long time.

9. Family Feud - 100 people were asked the following question: Name a fruit that goes bad quickly. This is a show that has lasted a lot longer than anybody would have thought. The show ended the career of Richard Dawson. It is rumored that Richard Dawson didn't have a dry day on that show (and no, Depends would not have helped). This game show featured families or groups of 5 people that would each in turn individually answer the questions posed by the the very lip friendly Dawson. The truth is Richard Dawson was probably the best host of the show and I believe that this show got him the spot on the Arnold Schwartzenegger movie THE RUNNING MAN. Nobody won a lot of money on that show, but it seemed like people enjoyed the group dynamic of the program and trying to guess what 100 people think.

8. JOKERS WILD - This was one that I loved in my youth. Probably due to my life long infatuation with gambling. What a great show. Trivia joins together with Slot machines in this unforgettable combination of fun. From 1972 to 1991 contestants would pull the slots and get combinations on the 3 reels. Depending on what would show up, they would ask for the subject for an amount of money that equaled the matching windows on the slot. of course JOKERS are wild and there were plenty of em! To this day I can hear in my minds ear...JOKER...JOKER...Worlds of science. This slot was very similar to Vegas slot machines in that they teased you with 2 Jokers and then gave you a crappy subject in the last window. it was awesome. The slot machine was simulated with 3 carousel style slide projectors that was randomly loaded with jokers and subjects in a pre determined distribution. The projectors spun and landed where they would so it was a fairly random, fairly ingenious method of playing the game. At the end of the show in the Bonus level, the winning player would spin against the DEVIL. Each spin you would take would have money amounts or the Devil. You kept going until you racked up 1000$ or the Devil wiped you out. If we didn't like the contestant on the show, me and my brother would yell out 'devil devil DEVIL!' in hopes that our long distance desires would somehow affect this pre-taped show. This show was the other show I would not miss in my infirmed state if I did, then I should have been taken to a doctor because I was really sick.

7. Jeopardy - This show had a lot of following in it's first incarnation and when it returned, it became a staple of the serious trivia buff. The people that got on this show were phd's and other Illuminati. They would answer questions in various categories and look smarter or dumber based on the correctness of their answers. This game was particularly mean to the stupid because if you missed your question, instead of adding to your score, the value of your question was taken away. Mean Mean Mean. Art Fleming started this show but Alex Trebek hosted the more current incarnation. I was never a big fan of this show. Primarily because I just wasn't smart enough to rank. But more because Alex Trebek always gave you the answers in such a condescending tone that it drove me nuts. We already know that Canadians think they are smarter than anyone else, why do we need Trebek to emphasize it. His Quebeqois pronunciation of all things French drove me nuts. He didn't bother pronouncing anything else correctly, just his French. I get the feeling that Trebek was kicked out of Canada for the same attitude. It was as if he knew the answer to all of the questions and was so disappointed that you didn't know such a simple answer. Don't even get me started on Mr. Big Trivia/No Life. This is what I tell myself about someone I don't know because I am so Jealous. Not of his trivial knowledge, but of his million plus dollars from appearing on MULTIPLE game shows. Stupid Ken Jennings...grrrr.

6. Wheel Of Fortune - This was the polar opposite of Jeopardy. This game needed only a modicum of intelligence in order to play and could be won by nearly anyone. People spun the 'wheel' and guessed letters in hangman like phrases until someone solved the puzzle. Hosted by Pat Sajak and Vanna White this show was on for a very long time, but I really loved it's early incarnation. Instead of getting the money you earned on the show you had to 'shop' with the money in their showroom floor of prizes. everything had a pricetag and it was very much like watching a kid at an arcade try to decide what prize to get with all of his game tickets. The consistent fixture in the prize pool was a porcelan dalmation that sat in the corner. I don't believe anyone ever bought the prize and after a few seasons they just gave the contestants money to save time and face with their lame shopping.

5. Card Sharks! - Personal favorite. Once again, my interest in gambling takes over as I watch 2 contestants with 2 decks of cards play Acey Deucy for cash and prizes. Actually it was less than Acey Deucy, maybe just Deucy. A card was given to you and you had to guess whether the next card would be higher or lower. If you could do it 5 times then you won the round and could go on to do the same thing in a bonus round. One of the more interesting aspects of this game was that it was questions they would ask. They all took the form of '100 people were surveyed and asked the following question: Have you ever cheated on your taxes?' The first contestant would then give their guess as to the answer and the second contestant would then guess weather the answer was higher or lower than the first contestants answer. Pretty interesting. I remember this game show mostly because the set was so cheap you could see the whole thing shaking like an earthquake every time someone was jumping up and down with a win.

4. Password/20,000$ Pyramid - I was never a huge fan of this game in my youth, but when I got older I became more interested in it. Both games are about the same. A Celebrity guest and a contestant team up and try to win bucks. They will take turns giving or receiving clues and try to guess the word or phrase of the clue giver. Lots and Lots and Lots of home versions of this game have been made and played. It usually ends in a phrase along the lines of 'awwwww I knew THAT, why didn't you say _____' . Dick Clark hosted the Pyramid. It was made a little more interesting by the funny word categories. The phrases for the categories always misled you into what the category was. 'I'd like 'What's that sonny? you'll have to speak up' Dick Clark: These are words that old folks know nothing about' Password didn't really have anything like that, but Password is making a comeback this year and you can play MILLION dollar password.

3. Hollywood Squares - 2 contestants play tic-tac-toe but in order to score your X or O, you had to decide whether or not the answer the celebrity is giving is correct or wrong. The questions would of course allow the celebrity to make a clever quip about the question before giving the actual answer. The Stars in the squares were usually either promoting something they were involved with, or they were just out of work and were cashing in on their star status. Paul Lynde was in the center square the longest I could remember. This game show was hosted by Peter Marshal who always reminded me of Batman.

2. Who wants to be a Millionaire? - Me Me ME! I do! Multiple choice? 3 life lines? How much easier are they gonna make this? Wait a minute, they are asking questions that they would reject on Jeopardy at the top end? They should have called the show 'Who wants to win 32000$' because that's where most people stopped. as you answer questions the values roughly double. This follows the OLD gameshow format of the 64000 dollar question. same idea. Every time you answer a question, the reward for answering the next question doubles. So what makes Millionaire different? It was the FIRST American gameshow to promise 1 MILLION dollars. This is the mental finish line for the average person for living for a lifetime without having to work. This show was originally Brittish and we took it, but that happens a LOT in entertainment. Regis Philbin originally hosted this show, he was funny and personable. it is now hosted by Merideth Rivera equally personable and fun to watch. Now of coure lots of gameshows promise lots o cash to get people to watch but Millionaire was the first.

1. Whammy - On the other end of the game show spectrum was WHAMMY or as it was really named, Press Your Luck. A game that had a magical board with random flashing lights that contestants would stop and the board would award the contestant prizes, cash or a dreaded WHAMMY. The chant to this game was of course 'no wammy, no wammy no wammy (SLAM)' and eventually someone would catch the wammy. When you would get the Whammy, a little devil shaped cartoon character would come and destroy your money in any of several interesting ways. they would blow it up, they would eat it, they would run it over in a whammy car. All very entertaining. But not to one individual. One guy figured out the random whammy board and realized that it wasn't so random after all. He had beaten the system. The makers of Press your Luck decided to let him keep the 100+ thousand dollars he had racked up because they decided that figuring out the flaw was not cheating. Had it been Vegas, they WOULD have considered it cheating and would have beat the crap out of him.

Yes, I know there were a lot of shows I didn't include. So many that once again, I could go into another top 10. And perhaps I will. I can ALWAYS use new material.

As always, thanks for reading and tell your friends!