Saturday, October 21, 2006

More Adventures In Republicanism: The Question

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I've stated several times in this column that the reason I became a Republican was to take advantage of the party's core principle, namely that everything is OK if you're a Republican.

I'll admit I've had a hard time wrapping my head around the concept that things like adultery are excusable for Republicans because some Democrats have done them, yet they're still not excusable for Democrats. But that's OK, I'm working on that. But as I've gotten deeper into the inner mysteries of the GOP, I've discovered a number of other wonderful things that are available to initiates.

Take, for example, the tactic of accusation by question. By using this, you can make any wild claim you want without a shred of evidence, then say "Hey, I'm not accusing anyone of anything, I'm just asking some questions here."

If you're unsure of what I'm talking about, here's an example. In a recent discussion on the Mark Foley scandal, North Carolina's own Rep. Patrick McHenry asked CNN's Wolf Blitzer, "What person, group or political entity had these nasty instant messages and possessed the e-mails in order to solicit this story? And in a partisan environment like we're in right now in Washington, four weeks out from a national election, that question must be asked."

Blitzer responded by asking him, "So what you're suggesting [is] that Democrats are behind the timing of the release of this information? Is that your accusation?" McHenry responded again with the question: "Well, look," he said, "all the fact points lead to one question: Did Rahm Emanuel or Nancy Pelosi have any involvement on the strategic or tactical level?"

Do you have any evidence, Blitzer asked, that this might be the case? In fact, Blitzer asked several times if there was any evidence, any evidence at all, that any Democrat sat on this story until right before election time for partisan purposes. (This is how you know, by the way, that Blitzer is one of those liberal media types. This manic obsession with "evidence" and "proof" when you're accusing someone of a heinous act is the hallmark of America-hating liberalism.)

Finally, Blitzer asked, "I'm just asking if you're just throwing out an accusation or if you have any hard evidence?"

"No," McHenry answered, then delivered the coup de grace: "It's a question, Wolf. The question remains, were they involved? And it's a question. It's not an accusation."

I have to tell you, I absolutely love this. In fact, I love it so much that I've started using this in my own life. For example, the other day, my wife asked me, "Honey, have you been drinking the milk straight from the container again?"

"Well, Pookie," I responded, "I think the question really needs to be asked: Did Clifford [our Golden Retriever] get into the refrigerator and rummage around looking for snacks? Was he actually the one who drank milk straight from the container?"

"What?" she said.

"You have to look at the fact points. The dog was in the same general area as I was. It's important to ask these questions to get at the truth."

"Let me get this straight," she said. "You're accusing the dog of opening the refrigerator, unscrewing the cap from a gallon of milk, tipping it up, drinking from it, and then putting it back on the refrigerator shelf? All without spilling a drop on the floor?"

"I'm not accusing anyone of anything," I replied. "But in this environment, the questions need to be asked."

"Uh-huh," she said. "And do you have any evidence at all that the dog is even capable of this?"

"Well, do you have any evidence he wasn't involved?"

"I'd think the fact that the dog lacks opposable thumbs is pretty good evidence. That and the fact that you still have the cap from the milk container in your hand."

I looked down at the incriminating circle of plastic.

"Well, we have to ask whether or not the dog nuzzled up to my hand and placed it there."

"Oh, for the love of..."

"That dog will do anything to discredit me!" I blurted. "He still blames me for the whole neutering thing!"

"Good lord, this is a new low, even for you. Why don't you just admit that you did it and stop trying to accuse the poor dumb dog?" Clifford, vaguely aware he was being discussed, raised his head from where he lay stretched out on the floor and thumped his tail once.

"I'm not accusing anyone. It's a question, not an accusation. And these are questions that... "

"Need to be asked, right, I got that part. Here's a question for you. When is this Republican nonsense going to stop?"

Nov. 8, probably.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Hey, Swierczynski, You Know This Guy?

City Newsstand Owner Refuses To Stop Selling Porn:
"(AP) PHILADELPHIA The city of Philadelphia is moving to close down a newsstand near the Liberty Bell whose owner allegedly insists on selling pornography.

He also posted a sign threatening to rape anyone who objects.

City officials say Mouhammed Shaukat was warned to stop displaying pornography at his stand at Sixth and Chestnut streets because of the hundreds of tourists who pass by.

Officials say Shaukat refused and then posted a sign using the f-word and threatening to rape those who complained.

Shaukat showed up at a City Council committee Wednesday and was grilled by lawmakers Frank DiCicco and Frank Rizzo Junior. Shaukat replied: “It’s just a writing.”

The committee approved a bill to close the newsstand. The measure now goes to the full Council."

Damn, I really need to see more of Philly.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Lower and Lower

Someone's trying to intimidate legal immigrants from voting-- at least if they're registered Democrats: A Republican congressional candidate said Thursday that he was not personally involved in sending a letter warning Hispanic immigrants they could go to jail or be deported if they vote next month, a mailing that prompted a state investigation.

'I did not do this. I did not approve of any letter,' Tan D. Nguyen, the GOP challenger to Democratic U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez told The Associated Press.

The investigation is focused on Nguyen's campaign, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to publicly discuss it. The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register also indicated the Nguyen's campaign was the target.

Nguyen said he believed an employee in his office might have used his voter data base to send out the letter without his knowledge.

Darn those overzealous employees!

He said that employee has been 'discharged.'


[Translation: Some good soldier fell on his sword.]

The letter, written in Spanish and mailed last week to an estimated 14,000 Democratic voters in central Orange County, tells recipients: 'You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time.'

In fact, immigrants who are naturalized U.S. citizens can legally vote.

It is illegal to threaten or intimidate voters, though, and the complaints about the letters that began surfacing this week prompted state and federal investigations.

Thanks to alert reader Brett Battles who sent this one in.

UPDATE: it seems that the earlier denial of any knowledge from Mr. Nuguyen is, er... inoperative:

GARDEN GROVE, California Orange County Republican leaders on Thursday called for the withdrawal of a Republican congressional candidate they believe sent a letter threatening Hispanic immigrant voters with arrest.

Tan D. Nguyen denied knowing anything about the letter in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press but said he fired a campaign staffer who may have been responsible for it.

County Republican Chairman Scott Baugh, however, said that after speaking with state investigators and the company that distributed the mailer, he believes Nguyen had direct knowledge of an "obnoxious and reprehensible" letter. He told the AP that the party's executive committee voted unanimously to urge Nguyen to drop out of the race against Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.

"I learned information that allows me to draw the conclusion that not only was Mr. Nguyen's campaign involved in this, but that Mr. Nguyen was personally involved in expediting the mailer," Baugh said in a telephone interview.



Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Borat Needs to Do a Segment On This

Kazakh Central Bank Issues Misspelled Money:

ALMATY (Reuters) - The Kazakhstan central bank has misspelled the word "bank" on its new notes, officials said on Wednesday.
The bank plans to put the misprinted notes -- worth 2,000 tenge ($15) and 5,000-tenge -- into circulation in November and then gradually withdraw them to correct the spelling.

The move has drawn the ire of the Central Asian state's politicians who urged the bank to abandon the notes altogether.

"The mistake ... is not just a spelling problem -- it has political undertones," a letter from members of parliament to President Nursultan Nazarbayev said.

"We urge you to tell the National Bank not to put out the notes with a mistake in the Kazakh language."

Language is a contentious issue in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhs were encouraged to speak Russian, which is written in Cyrillic script, during Soviet times but since independence in 1991, the country has seen the Kazakh language as a national symbol.

The Kazakh word for bank is the Cyrillic form of "bank." On the new note, the word was written with an alternate Kazakh form of the letter K, which has a slightly different pronunciation.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Challenge for The Geeks Among Us (You Know Who You Are)

Santorum defends Iraq War with LOTR analogy: "Embattled U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said America has avoided a second terrorist attack for five years because the “Eye of Mordor” has been drawn to Iraq instead.

Santorum used the analogy from one of his favorite books, J.R.R. Tolkien's 1950s fantasy classic “Lord of the Rings,” to put an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq into terms any school kid could easily understand.

“As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else,” Santorum said, describing the tool the evil Lord Sauron used in search of the magical ring that would consolidate his power over Middle-earth."

Okay. you geeks out there! Match current world figures with your favorite LOTR characters!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Viral Video Revolution

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Sixties artist Andy Warhol is chiefly famous for two things: paintings of soup cans and the prediction that "in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes."

In recent years, a trio of technological innovations have combined to make that prophecy come true in ways even Warhol's sublimely twisted mind could never have imagined.

The three innovations are: fast Internet connections capable of showing videos on demand; cheap "Web-cams" that attach to your computer and broadcast your image over the 'net; and cheap digital video cameras that you can connect to your computer, where you can store, edit and add effects to your wackiest home videos.

A number of Web sites have sprung up, such as YouTube.com and Google Video, where people can upload any (non-x-rated) video they like: favorite TV moments, concert videos, and yes, homemade movies.

Some of the latter have turned their creators and/or subjects into stars of the Internet, sometimes without their consent. The phenomenon has become known as "viral video" for the way the movies spread across the Web.

One of the first to achieve inadvertent fame was the young man known as the "Numa Numa Kid." The NN Kid, as we'll call him, is a fellow named Gary from New Jersey (where else?) who's apparently a big fan of a Romanian techno-disco band called O-Zone.

One night in the throes of either extreme boredom or a heavy dose of psychedelic mushrooms, Gary made a video of himself lip-syncing to an O-Zone song whose chorus sounds something like "Numa Numa Yay, Numa Numa Numa Yay," etc. Actually lip-syncing is too mild a word. Gary obviously really loves this song. He sings along, acts out the words, and pumps his arms in the air like he just don't care. It has to be seen to be believed, because Gary is, how shall I say this delicately, a little hefty.

Most of us, upon creating something like this, would have taken one look and dispatched the file to the Recycle Bin, vowing never, ever to speak of it again. Not Gary. He uploaded the video to a site called Newgrounds.com, where it's been viewed over 13 million times. Gary was featured in the New York Times, and appeared on "Good Morning America," "Tonight" and VH1's "Best Week Ever."

Eventually, Gary started thinking that maybe, just maybe, people were laughing at him rather than with him. He withdrew from the public eye for a while, at least as much as you can when your mug is all over the Internet.

Eventually, however, Gary learned to embrace his notoriety, and he's even created some updated versions of the Numa Numa dance.

Another reluctant 'net-star is the so-called "Star Wars Kid."

SW Kid, whose real name is Ghyslain Raza, is another chunky fellow. He was messing around with a video camera at his high school, whirling around and doing martial arts-type moves with a long-handled golf ball retriever, while making sounds like a lightsaber from Star Wars.

Unfortunately, he left the tape lying around where it was picked up by some prankster who found Ghyslain's earnestness and lack of grace amusing and thought it would be funny to share the tape with the world. He encoded it as a video file and uploaded it. Others added digital effects to make it look and sound as if he really was wielding a double-bladed lightsaber with more enthusiasm than skill.

This video, too, spread across the 'net in true viral video fashion. There was even an online petition at one point to put the SW Kid in the next installment of the Star Wars movies. Ghyslain, however, didn't share in the hilarity, and he and his family ended up suing the kids who'd picked up and circulated the video. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount this past April.

A duo that embraces silliness from the get-go is two boys from China who call themselves, appropriately enough, "Two Chinese Boys."

The TC Boys started off uploading videos of themselves lip-syncing to Backstreet Boys songs. Lately, they've branched out to tunes by other artists such as Black Eyed Peas, but they haven't lost their hilariously passionate delivery, nor have they lost the guy in the background of the videos who keeps tapping away at his computer, oblivious to the "concert" going on a few feet away.

It's not just guys doing viral video. The next step in its evolution has arrived in the person of one Brooke Brodack, a cute but manic 20-year-old from Massachusetts.

"Brookers," as she calls herself online, seems to be determined to become the queen of YouTube.

She has her own version of the Numa Numa Dance, as well as a raft of other homemade vids, including several in which she rambles to the camera like someone in the throes of a psychotic break or rolls around on the floor with a platoon of plastic army men.

Brookers' occasionally surreal videos caught the eye of MTV's Carson Daly, who offered her an 18-month "development" contract.

Can viral video survive going mainstream? In a world where a lip-syncing fat kid can become an overnight sensation, anything is possible.