Sunday, July 25, 2010

Facebook’s 500 Millionth User

I wonder, Mr. or Ms. 500,000,000th, just why you joined, and is the Facebook you envisioned, the one you now have? In the NY Times today, they were speculating on Facebook, and on whether it should be regulated, as a public utility? They were comparing Facebook to other utilities which, like Facebook, people love to hate. Turns out almost everyone hates Facebook, their cable company, their power company, their water company, but they keep on subscribing. Well, duh, I was thinking. If you would like water flowing from your tap, subscribing to the water company seems a wise course. Ditto, telephone, lights and sewer systems. And, of course, everyone hates their cable company, but if you want TV these days, you subscribe to a cable or satellite provider, and if you want Internet service, you subscribe to an ISP.

But, hold on, tell me again how Facebook is like any of those “public utilities”? What is it I can’t do if I’m not on Facebook? Contact my friends and let them know how I’m doing? Well, let’s see, there’s the telephone, US Mail system, and of course, assuming you have an ISP, there’s e-mail. I continue not to see in what way Facebook allows some contact form not already available to me via these “social networking” systems. You mean, I can’t “become a fan” of my NPR radio station without Facebook? True, but I can send them an annual check in the mail instead. Oh, you must mean that I can’t pick out which leader I most identify with . . . like Adolph Hitler, the choice of a close, young relative . . . charming.

And I can’t whine about my tough life, and why I’m not more privileged than I already am. Aw shucks.

No, Facebook eludes me. It’s where people go to whine. I had become a member of Facebook, and I was acquiring a large roster of “friends”. Then I began to discover that most of the people on my list weren’t really “friends”, but acquaintances perhaps. And if I had never communicated with them before Facebook, why would I need to now?

And then, the owners of Facebook, trying to make a megabuck or two, keep making these decisions to share your information with other commercial entities, with or without your permission. And that’s supposed to be ok? Well, I think I will be able to live out my life without Facebook. So, guys, whoever you are making grand public decisions, try to understand--Facebook is not a public utility. It may need to get slapped down periodically for doing stupid things with personal information, but your local water company it ain’t.

I hope that 500 millionth person is happy with his or her Facebook persona and is able to tolerate all the whiny people found there. Good luck to all of you and peace be with you. May you find on Facebook whatever is lacking currently in your own personal life.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


So we seem to have two significant exercises going on in stabilizing the global terrorist network: one in Kabul, and one in Pakistan. While Hillary is offering to bribe the Pakistani government to adhere to international standards of behavior, the donor nations are meeting in Kabul to decide how best to bribe the Karzai government to behave. Now, it may well be the case that bribery is what works best in Islamic nations, and could prove cheaper than waging war. But the jury is out on that issue. We have, after all, been bribing Pakistan for 60 odd years with only minimal results. They have tried three wars and countless exercises in terrorism against their neighboring Indian state, despite our bribes.

And in Kabul, we don’t seem to have a much better track record. Mr. Karzai seems intent on removing donor oversight (shades of the financial sector under W). Not much chance of that happening I would think. Still, you never know. Everyone is getting really tired of shedding blood as well as treasure. Maybe if we can get by with just the treasure part, we will all be happier.

And on another front, the GOP seems to have adopted “Just say no” as a strategy for the upcoming campaign. Perhaps they should have consulted with Bristol Palin on the relative effectiveness of “just say no.” They are trying, among other things, to coerce Elena Kagan into promising to recuse herself should the subject of health care reform ever come before the Supremes, I guess the way Justice Scalia recused himself in the Bush v. Gore case, when he decided to appoint W President. Perhaps she should simply promise to be as objective and independent in her decision-making as Justices Scalia and Thomas. I’m sure Senator McConnell would be happy with such a pledge.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Pope as Misogynist

The latest papal missive really perplexes me. The Church, as I best understand it, has now declared officially their view that ordaining women as priests is as bad, perhaps worse, than priests raping little boys. Huh? I mean, are you guys really aliens from Planet X, in disguise all these many centuries?

I really had thought that the Holy Roman Catholic Church could not possibly sink any lower than it has. Clearly, they know no bottom to their dismal performance as amoral actors in this play we call spirituality. Someone needs to advise the pope that, when you’re in a hole and want out, the first advice is to stop digging. But maybe, because the pope is an infallible Nazi, nobody wants to cross him. He might do something drastic like excommunicate them . . . hahahahahahaha. Wow, what a threat huh? “If you don’t do my bidding, I will officially kick you out of my cesspool.” That’ll keep thinking folks in line.

Still, there is this thing about the faithful. I guess if the Ayatollahs of the world can keep youngsters blowing themselves up in crowded marketplaces, the pope will likely keep most of his flock of sheep in his encampment.

And on another front, the Intelligentsia of the Republican party have declared their belief (faith??) in the theory that tax cuts result in higher Federal revenues, and therefore need not be offset by other cuts. I think that refers to the so-called Laffer curve, which St. Reagan pursued in an attempt to produce the highest budget deficits in the Nation’s history. Reagan’s problem was that he hadn’t yet considered Shrub, so far the historic leader in stupid tax policies. But there’s time to see even more disastrous tax policies. Think of what Sarah Barbie could do with real money . . .

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Racism in America

Interesting article this morning in our local news pamphlet, the Charlotte Observer. The article concerned the ongoing controversy in South Carolina over public display, or rather display on public grounds of the Confederate flag, or other remnants of the old confederacy. What’s most fascinating to me is the thought that the citizens of South Carolina apparently haven’t had anything of which to be proud since their heydays of the 19th century. Apparently, Lincoln robbed South Carolinians of their main source of pride—the ability to hold and use slaves on their farms.
One might imagine that 145 years later, the citizens of the great state of South Carolina would have more to rally around than that last vestige of their slave-holding past, and now the most prominent symbol of racism in the land. I mean, even Germany has shed fairly completely its ties to its dreadful Nazi past. Germans now pride themselves on being productive and innovative members of a democratic nation and a leading member of the European Union.
One wonders what South Carolina might have looked like now, had Lincoln not intervened—a minor banana republic, still holding and using slaves on its tobacco farms??
How sad.
And on another front, Sarah Palin, darling of the white supremacist tea party republicans, and apparent advocate of state secessions, is being touted as a leading candidate to oppose President Obama in the 2012 election, unless she is upended by the Newtster. Mr. Gingrich, who seems not to understand the difference between US presidents and Nazi leaders, is readying himself to run for the GOP candidacy. They would make a fine combination of delusional white supremacists. Run on GOP, run on.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

55 Years of Marriage

As we entered Canada to begin our celebration of 55 years together, we both felt elated, and slightly bemused. How after all, did we reach this advanced stage? We have remained happily married for nearly 75 percent of our lives. Somehow, this aging thing remains a weird phenomenon. Not only is 75 years old a strange thing—how does one reach 75, except a day at a time, but that means 27,375 days at a time. And 55 years of marriage . . . wow! We both said “I Do” 20,075 days ago.

Well, we’re here, and the nice man at the border let us in without incident. Why do we drive all the way to Canada to celebrate this important day? Because Niagara-on-the-Lake remains in our view one of the prettiest towns in the world, and we have seen many towns, pretty or not.

We also came to sit across from one another at The Peller Estate Winery and toast one another—“To Us” is our standard toast. The winery, in addition to producing fine wines, specializes in a “Chef’s Choice” meal, in which we indulged. Basically, the chef decides the content of our seven course meal, and which wines will be paired with each course. The menu is below.

We sat for over three hours being pampered, wined and dined amidst a beautiful setting and enjoying a wonderfully cool, clear atmosphere. After, we were invited to meet the chef and his staff of wonder-makers.
As the sun set, the evening cooled and the winery became an enchanted place, with wonderful light and breezes.

We toasted each other before and after our dining experience, and chatted in between mouthfuls. Because we like one another, we chat a lot. We have discovered that dining is more than simply ingesting food. Dining is primarily a social enterprise, in which we share our thoughts with each other. Such experiences may go a long way to defining how we arrived at 55 years of a solid marriage.

So, “To Us”

Beyond the three hour dining experience, of course, Niagara-on-the-Lake offers much for couples in love. They offer a Shaw theatre festival each year, with plays at three theatres by GB Shaw or Shaw contemporaries. We attended “One Touch of Venus”, and “Harvey”. Both plays feature intelligent dialogue and not much action, both of which we applaud.

The region also hosts many fine Canadian wineries, which we visit, and taste-test, and, yes, buy.

Because our anniversary falls one day after Canada Day, we also get to see how Canadians pay their respect to their nation. Artists, artisans and craftsmen visit the town and offer their wares for sale. Beauty amidst such natural beauty provides a fine venue for sheer pleasure, and placed a veneer on our total experience.

So, onto the next 55.

The Journey continues.

Republican Extremism

Michael Gerson, Daddy Bush speechwriter, and SC Rep. Bob Inglis, recently cast aside by the Republican body faithful for being too reasonable, are both decrying the takeover of their party by extremists. The problem: they have no actual strategy for reversing the Murdoch-inspired coup d’etat. Further, they seem not to understand that what corrupted their party was not just a natural drift to the right over time, but a conscious strategy by Rupert Murdoch to change the face of Republicanism, and perhaps of America.

It is not accidental that the party is now led by people who were created by Murdoch. Beck, Limbaugh, Palin, and the very large wrecking crew they have assembled, seem little more than actors to me, cast in the role of super-patriots, while playing the polar opposite role of Democracy-destroyers. America is essentially a country of people who worship themselves. Individualism reigns supreme in this country, but it is a worship of “Me first, Me-only.” in which Murdoch plays to their worst “me-ism” instincts almost perfectly. Everything on his network, and every “leader” he creates plays to the notion that the American Government is all about eliminating their personal freedoms. This fictional tale of woe  approaches the character of a religion, or a cult if you prefer, with Murdoch as the Wizard behind closed doors, manipulating their hopes and fears.

Gerson, Inglis and others of their ilk (potentially responsible republicans) need to understand the game that is being played, because, unless they understand the content of the strategy that is being employed to destroy their party by building a replacement, and potentially dangerous party in its place, they stand no hope of recovery. Indeed, it may already be too late. I see the party intellectuals standing on the sidelines, “tut-tutting”, a form of fiddling while their Rome burns fiercely. What is not at all clear, is what percentage of the American voting population has already been converted to this Murdoch extremism.

Stay tuned. The November election will provide some solid evidence.