Friday, October 31, 2008

Facebook: The New Psychosis

A few months ago I opened an account on Facebook because it's the thing to do nowadays, and unlike Bebo or MySpace, it doesn't assault the casual observer with an obnoxious array of unbearable sound and graphics. On Facebook, everyone is the same. It all looks friendly.

Through Facebook, I have reconnected with a few old colleagues, classmates, and long-lost relatives. I have even picked up a couple of new friends. Because this is an election year, quite a few of these folks have taken to using their Facebook pages to thrust their views on politics and current events onto the rest of the world. You may, if you wish, identify your politics (usually with one word like "liberal" or "conservative") in your personal info. Generally, this isn't such a bad thing, because Facebook is the place to let people know exactly who you are. Many people define themselves according to their political beliefs.

Some of them link to specific candidates' serious Facebook pages, or join goofy little groups that are all about hating Palin, Obama, or whoever. I have chosen to keep myself apart from any of that, because as one Facebook profile I encountered said, "Politics and social networking don't mix". Since I am not involved in any sort of political activity, I have opted to remain neutral.

Some people, however, have gone beyond taking sides. They feel the need to identify with their candidate so strongly, that they have appropriated his name. Perhaps you have heard about the "Hussein" fad. Many people on the Left are so offended by the Right's alleged obsession with Barack Obama's middle name, that they have changed their Facebook name to "(First name) Hussein (Last name)". Like some guy named John McCain becomes John Hussein McCain just to make a statement.

It's witty, it's clever, and it's completely ridiculous. I have a hard time taking someone seriously when they screw around with Facebook naming conventions this way. Fortunately none of my Facebook friends (some of whom are Obama supporters) have gone with the pack on this one.

So of course, when I look up some folks with whom I've been out of touch for a while, lo and behold I find a Hussein. He's Greek. The man is also pushing age forty. His first and last name are of Greek origin, yet he drops a Hussein bomb smack in the middle. It looks odd. And stupid. I was going to send him a friend request, but now I am conflicted. How can I take this guy seriously when he has such a silly, cartoonish name? I may wait until after the election to contact him. If he drops the Hussein, I'll pick him up. But good grief...I don't want some loony on my friends list.

And Now, A Word From The Bucket-American Community

I just had to get this screen capture before someone notices and corrects it. "Pail rails", indeed.

Who's Up For Some Extortion Tonight?

It's not everyday that you can walk up to people's houses and get handed free sweets. Well, not until Obama gets elected and mandates it, anyway. But for now, this is the one day of the year when this is possible. Halloween! Possibly the only holiday when the entire neighborhood comes out in full force to share in the spirit of the season...because there's candy for everyone!

And what would a holiday be without some nice festive music?

A good time will be had by all.

Monday, October 13, 2008

It Is To Laugh: Predictable PG

So I sit down at my computer Saturday evening and take a look at the local news. Like someone who sits through an entire slasher movie in spite of their personal revulsion at the gore and violence contained therein, I took a peek at the Pittsburgh Psychosis-Gazette's "A Fine Point" blog. This is where the paper's editorialists try to stay relevant by playing at being amateur bloggers. The leading contributor to the blog is Tom Waseleski, Editorial Page Editor, and apparently a bigger Arschloch than Reg Henry and Dan Simpson, if you can believe it. (To give you an idea of Editor Tom's mindset, take a look at this rant about Sarah Palin and tell me whether PG Now shouldn't qualify as an internet hate site.)

Back to Saturday: Tom posted a teaser about the paper's upcoming endorsement of one of the two major presidential candidates. I just about fell out of my chair when I saw this bit:

You loyal readers of the PG's Sunday Early Edition have seen it already -- the newspaper's presidential endorsement for 2008. Those of you who read us online will see it posted on our web site after midnight tonight. All other customers, well, you'll have to wait for your Sunday paper.
Those three sentences qualify PG Now as an internet humor site. The PG's "loyal readers" = bunch of dorks. Anyone who has loyally -- or disloyally, in the case of people like me -- been following the PG for the last several months knew who the editors were going to endorse. It wasn't going to be someone with the word "REPUBLICAN" on their voter registration card. It didn't matter if the Democrat candidate was Hillary, Obama, Jesus, or Satan. The left-wing Psychosis-Gazette has been totally in the bag for the Democrats for years.

The subsequent endorsement, naturally, turns out to be a big yawner. It is nicely crafted, starting off with two paragraphs that evoke images of purple mountains' majesty and amber waves of grain:

American exceptionalism -- the idea that this nation by virtue of its history, political beliefs and the blessings of divine providence has a favored place in the world community -- is easy to believe in this year of a presidential election that is in every way exceptional.

Titanic forces have been at work. It is as if history has been a glacier inching its way to the sea, coming together at last for a dramatic climax that most Americans could not have imagined when the journey began.

Wow. I feel like one of the yokels at Sam Drucker's General Store, hearing the patriotic music playing whenever Oliver Wendell Douglas would make a speech about the founding fathers. It's all downhill from here:
Think what an unprecedented cast of characters our democratic process has brought forth to shape history. On the Democratic side, the fates summoned the first African-American candidate of a major party, Barack Obama, who is running with the capable Joe Biden, a more traditional choice.
Obama is special because he's different. Biden brings gravitas, just like Dick Cheney in 2000.
On the Republican ticket, the team comprises a war hero, John McCain, in the past disliked by his own party and once on the brink of defeat during his primary campaign, and the first woman to be on the conservative party's ticket for vice president, Sarah Palin.
It's not so much that John McCain is the Republican candidate, but that he is the candidate who just happens to be registered as a Republican. Sarah Palin, on the other hand, is ideologically more in line with what we expect of our chosen representatives. The McCain nomination was such a fluke, it's like Bob Dole all over again.
Think also of the dramatic context in which these figures now vie for our vote -- not only the continuing wars on several fronts since the terror attacks of 9/11, not only the sad legacy of disunion and disarray left by the chronically unpopular President George W. Bush, but also the worst economic meltdown since 1929 fresh upon the American people.
Jimmy Crimminy! You'd think that we had a civil war brewing in the streets of America! And it's all Bush's fault. At the Psychosis-Gazette, everything is Bush's fault.
In three weeks, Americans will be called upon to make an exceptional judgment worthy of the times. The forces of history appear to invite boldness and the Post-Gazette believes they should be heeded by voting for the only authentic, fresh agent of change in this race, Barack Obama.
Whoa! No one saw that one coming! I was sure these guys were going to give a green light to Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate. But Obama? Wow! What more can you say but HOPE and CHANGE?
The greatest argument for change is also suggested by history. For the two-party system to work for the good of the republic, the parties need to be held accountable. They need to be sent to the wilderness from time to time to rethink and regroup. Ronald Reagan's success was built upon Barry Goldwater's debacle. The rise of Bill Clinton would not have been possible but for the lessons learned from the defeats of Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis. For every phoenix there must first be a fire and that time has come for the Republican Party, whose arteries are clogged with ideology accumulated at the long feast of power.
I can't really dispute anything in this paragraph. The Republicans do need to clean house, but it would be better if they could do so while still in power.
Despite the recent nastiness of his campaign. Sen. McCain is essentially a good man, but he is yesterday's man. His campaign takes its core text from the "Wizard of Oz": Don't mind the man behind the curtain. That man is George Bush, the failed magician who cannot be spoken of lest the American people be reminded of what he has wrought and what party he belongs to.
It doesn't take long for the editorialists to resume doing what they excel at: Bush-bashing. And doing so at McCain's expense. John McCain and George W. Bush have been rivals for years. McCain has always seemed ill at ease around Bush. There are still plenty of hard feelings between the two from the 2000 primary campaign. McCain's nomination came in spite of, not because of, George Bush. But he is a Republican and, says the PG, must be inextricably linked with the Bush administration.
To make their trick work, Mr. McCain and his running mate, Gov. Palin, trade heavily on being mavericks -- too heavily to be believed.
Yeah, I'll admit that the whole "maverick" thing has been overplayed. At least Sarah's mavericosity was directed at RINOs.
It is true that Mr. McCain has a capricious streak that has made him a thorn in the side of his own party on various issues. Yet while he has not joined the know-nothing brigade in climate change denial, he has picked a running mate who is a diva in the drill, baby, drill chorus of fossil-fuel adulation. Mr. Obama, while he has recognized the need for more drilling, has put more emphasis on new sources of alternative energy, the only real hope for the future.
It's not whether you recognize the need for new sources of energy, but how much you emphasize it. That's change. That's hope.
On Iraq, Mr. McCain did needle the Bush administration to put in more troops and he makes much of the fact that he backed the surge. That the surge was a success to the point that it reduced bloodshed does not vindicate the wrong decision in the first place to invade a country that was not behind the 9/11 attacks and did not have weapons of mass destruction; Iraq has been a huge diversion from Afghanistan.
Even when McCain's right, he's wrong!
All of this Mr. McCain, despite his vaunted experience, got wrong at the start when Barack Obama recognized the folly. That fundamental error is still costing the nation $10 billion a month, funds desperately needed at home, yet Mr. McCain sees the surge as more reason to stay than to plan now to leave and put the war in the hands of the only people who can ultimately win it: the Iraqis. That is what Mr. Obama wants to do in stages and what Mr. McCain only hopes for over the rainbow.
Yeah, the guy with access to all of the intelligence got it wrong while Obama, who was basically a nobody back in 2001, should have been listened to! Makes perfect sense.
On health care, Mr. McCain's insurance plan is straight from the George Bush playbook, with its heavy reliance on private competition to give Americans coverage. His $5,000 tax credit for families is a pittance that won't solve America's national shame, the millions in the ranks of the uninsured. Mr. Obama's health-care plan will address that directly -- and, no, it won't be socialism. Americans will still have their choices.
Call it socialism or don't -- it will still be government control over American lives. We have choices when it comes to our children's education, but just try opting out of the system. No private school, no homeschooling -- just drop out completely. See how soon it takes for government to respect that choice. It'll be the same for government health care.
On the economic meltdown, Mr. McCain famously said "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" shortly before it collapsed. Although he has admitted that economics is not his strong suit, he foolishly suspended his campaign briefly to interject himself into a situation that he did not understand and where he was not wanted.
Shame on a United States Senator for getting involved in a public issue! What, does he think he might have to vote on it sometime? Perish the thought.

As for the "fundamentals of our economy are strong", I agree with that insofar as it refers to a free-market based economy. The more government gets involved in money matters, the more it screws things up. When the government raised the minimum wage last year, did you notice groceries and gasoline getting more expensive? Or did you notice your employer making staff cuts and laying people off in order to be able to pay the new wage? I sure did.
Mr. Obama doesn't have all the answers either, but he does acknowledge what former champion of deregulation John McCain can't: While there's blame to go around both parties, the economic crisis is the final verdict on the failure of the Bush administration.
And it's all McCain's fault. Look, I'm sure McCain would love to criticize, even badmouth, George Bush, but politics restrains him from doing that, because publicly they are supposed to be on the same side. All politics is stupid.
In this and much else, Mr. McCain is not the steady hand he purports to be, and nothing proves it more than his reckless selection of Sarah Palin, whose lack of knowledge to take over as president has becoming increasingly obvious and embarrassing. If Mr. McCain had chosen one of the many accomplished women in the Republican Party, his candidacy would have the stamp of seriousness. Instead, it bears the superficial imprint of pandering populism.
I do not dispute that McCain has exposed himself as a pandering populist in the campaign. He alters his rhetoric from week to week, trying first to appease the undecideds, then trying to rein in the disaffected right wingers in his own party. Either group would have more respect for him if he could just make up his mind and be consistent.

I wouldn't call the Palin selection "reckless". I like her. She pisses off all the right people. (Or is it all the left people?) I would rather see her running for president than McCain. But the choice came at least four years too early. Oh well -- at least she made Tina Fey the star of SNL again. No one else could have done that!
But this election is not just about the shortcomings of Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin and the failed legacy of a philosophy that they seek to perpetuate under the hastily erected banner of maverick.
At first glance, I thought that said "erected boner of maverick". Now, whenever I see John McCain, I'm going to think "horsecock".
It is about the strengths of Barack Obama, whose rise to prominence is not a fluke or national infatuation but the consequence of his remarkable skills -- a keen intellect, noble intentions and the wit and grace to express them in ways that have inspired millions across the country. He has a rare gift exactly suited to the fearful times -- he knows the language of reassurance and hope.
Like hell it's not a fluke or a national infatuation. People started supporting Obama because of what he represents: He's a break from the past, from politics as usual; he doesn't look like the guys on US currency; his name and family background are different than what we are used to; and he knows how to talk about HOPE and CHANGE. Most importantly, he's a Democrat running at the end of a two-term Republican presidency. A lot of people just want something different. No need to puff him up. Tired of chicken every night? Let's try the beef this time. For most people, that's what it's all about: Not diversity, but variety.
If his were just empty words, this would be just another cheap political gift. But what he says is carefully considered. In the debates and on the hustings, Mr. Obama has been the voice of moderation, combining common sense and compassion on issue after issue. When the subject turns to foreign policy, supposedly Mr. McCain's strong suit, Mr. Obama gives no indication that he will have to learn on the job.
This is a fancy way of saying, "Obama is better at sucking up to the easy marks than McCain".
That the argument about issues has been essentially won by Sen. Obama is plain from the scurrilous attacks now being launched against his character -- increasingly by Ms. Palin -- alleging guilt by association, unpatriotic behavior and worse.
The PG calls that a victory on issues? That exposing Obama's personal history is a sign of defeat for McCain? This should have been talked about months ago. One of McCain's biggest problems is that he is too nice to people who hate him and want him to die. They don't deserve it. Hit 'em fast, and hit 'em hard.
This closing blizzard of slime is another attempt to spread the wizard's curtain further: Don't look at how the economy has impoverished you while a Republican has been in the White House, look at Mr. Obama's passing acquaintance with an old radical who did bad deeds almost 40 years ago, because that is more important.
"Closing blizzard of slime"? Good grief. No wonder so many McCain-Palin supporters resent the media. Like I said above, why be nice to people who hate you and want you to die?

If Obama's earlier associations aren't enough, how about his current bunch of buddies: Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid, Mayor Daley...a true rogues' gallery if I ever saw one.
Yes, they apparently do think the American people are that stupid.
Are you talking about McCain-Palin or about yourselves? Because I really can't stand being talked down to by the editorial geniuses at the Psychosis-Gazette. Every piece that comes out in the PG insults my intelligence.
On Nov. 4, we believe Americans will heed the better angels of their nature and recognize that the election of the eloquent Barack Obama -- whose story is a quintessentially American one of impossible odds overcome -- will best answer the pressing call of history.
"Better angels" equals voting for Obama? First they call us stupid; now they call us evil. What conclusion can I make after wading through this stream of bull?

Simple: I'm voting for John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Three Are Down To Two

Bit of bad news this morning:

WPXI announced yesterday that morning and noon anchor Newlin Archinal's last day at the station will be today.
This sucks! I love the WPXI Morning News. It's the only newscast -- local or national -- that I watch on even a semi-regular basis in the Internet Age. I can get the weather, the traffic, and even a bit of general goings-on as I'm headed out the door to catch my bus. Not only is the information well-presented, but the visuals are fabulous. And when I say "visuals", I mean what I like to think of as The Triumvirate of Beauty: Newlin Archinal, Krista Villarreal, and Trisha Pittman. Those ladies are awesome. They look good, they sound good, and they have good personalities. They carry out their on-air duties without coming off as stiff and serious, or frivolous and silly.

More importantly, considering that television is a visual medium, they are all gorgeous. I love being able to sit down with my breakfast and have those three lovely ladies smiling and talking to me. It makes me wonder how the male member of the morning news team, Bob Bruce, handles it. If I had his job, I would need to take saltpeter before going to work. Lucky bastard.

Alas, The Triumvirate of Beauty is breaking up. This is the worst thing of this kind to happen since Shannen Doherty left Charmed. Fortunately, that show was saved by the addition of Rose McGowan to the cast. WPXI needs someone to do for the Morning News what Rose McGowan did for Charmed. But who could possibly take Newlin's place??