John McCain, captain of industry

With the news that John McCain helped invent the BlackBerry, I present to you a DSF exclusive, a comprehensive list of other inventions that can be credited to the Republican presidential candidate.

  • the velocipede (those old-timey bicycles with the really big wheel in front)
  • Mr. Pibb
  • self-adhesive stamps
  • Magic: the Gathering
  • the aglet
  • the flying car (prototype only)
  • novelty underpants reading HOME OF THE WHOPPER
  • I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!®
  • Fizzy Lifting Drink (originally known as “Bubbly Floating Beverage” before being sold to Willy Wonka)
  • Carrot Top’s career
  • the piano key necktie–he invented it! What have you done, Barack? NOTHING! YOU’VE DONE NOTHING!

Yeah, yeah, I know, the remark has since been blown off by McCain’s camp as a “boneheaded joke” made by a “staffer” (though that staffer in question is his economic adviser), probably in reference to the “Al Gore invented the internet” kerfluffle.  Topical humor, I like that, are they going to make cracks about where Bill Clinton likes to keep his cigars too? It got me thinking about two things in regard to the McCain campaign, though.  Number one is that McCain seems rather inept at preventing his staff from saying incredibly stupid, misinformed things on his behalf, such as the supposed weak attempt at humor noted here, the claim that the phrase “it’s like putting lipstick on a pig” was created by Barack Obama specifically to insult Sarah Palin, even though McCain himself was quoted as using it, and accusing Obama of wanting schools to teach kindergartners about blowjobs.  McCain appears to be approving various messages without bothering to make sure they’re both accurate and not likely to leave him with egg on his face.  It reminds me of the scene in Blazing Saddles where the cross-eyed mayor signs a bunch of documents without looking at them.  The joke is that this is a clear indicator that the mayor is an inept figurehead, with the nefarious Hedley Lamarr as the actual brains behind the operation.  It’s not so funny when you realize that this might be how the potential next President of the United States prefers to do his business, letting others do the work and make the decisions while he merely signs off on it.

It also got me thinking of this “McCain doesn’t know how to use a computer” bullshit.  There seem to be three opposing viewpoints in this situation: one, he’s lying for whatever reason.  The best indicator of this is the fact that a recent issue of Psychology Today mentioned what McCain has on his iPod.  Simply enough, if you can use an iPod, you at least have some rudimentary knowledge on how both a computer and internet service works.  You can’t just press it against a radio and hope that the music comes into it through osmosis.  If you don’t think he’s lying, then maybe, like Jonah Goldberg, you believe it’s not that McCain doesn’t know how to use a computer, it’s that he can’t, because he was a POW.  With all due respect to McCain’s injuries, there are many people with handicaps far more severe than his who are quite capable of using a computer, this is why such devices as voice recognition software exist.  Also, again, if he has the fine motor skills required to use the super-sensitive touchpad of an iPod, he should be able to use a keyboard, at least for limited periods of time.

If you don’t believe that, then maybe you believe McCain’s lack of knowledge about computers, the internet, e-mail and all that it entails is just part of his maverick charm.  He got along fine without internet for fifty years, by golly, he doesn’t need it now! I suppose that’s true, after all I could have happily gone to my grave without ever knowing the existence of 2 Girls 1 Cup, but as we come to the end of 2008, basic computer knowledge, the ability to communicate electronically, is all but a necessity.  Learning how to use a computer is now part of a mandatory curriculum along with reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic in virtually all public schools in the United States.  As of 2005 over 75% of Americans owned a home computer, undoubtedly that has since increased.  So who is McCain trying to appeal to, the remaining 15% or so of the population who think that using the internet will bring the Devil into their homes? People who still prefer to use antennas with a bent coat hanger between them to get reception on their televisions, because they don’t “need” cable? Are they those “real Americans” we keep hearing about, stubborn and set in their ways, who don’t like to be told what they should be doing, like learning how to send a fucking e-mail? Why is this suddenly an admirable quality?

Full disclosure: I used to be one of those types of people when it came to cell phones.  They just seemed to me to be an expensive indulgence mostly used by people to make themselves look important.  I finally broke down and bought one in 2005 and since then I couldn’t possibly do without it.  I no longer understand what took me so long.  What was the point of my relying on pay phones on the street if I was stuck somewhere, phones that had a 25% chance of working and a 95% chance of being covered in some sort of foul substance? Why did I put myself through the stress of running late for something without being able to let anybody know where I was? Yeah, I know, generations of people did fine without a cell phone, but that’s not the point.  It’s a perfectly reasonable device, and the world is starting to accommodate itself to the expectation that virtually everyone owns one at this point.  This is why it’s getting harder and harder to find a phonebooth.  It’s why landline companies are now fighting each other for your business, they are losing profits as more and more people give up the extra expense of a house phone.  The accommodation for mass computer usage started a long time ago, and will only continue as businesses move towards more paper-free communication.  Whether it’s due to genuine ignorance or obstinance, John McCain’s lack of computer skills isn’t charming or refreshingly old-fashioned.  It’s unfortunate, because it shows an inability to change, a refusal to acknowledge the direction the world is taking.

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