Monday, October 25, 2004

THE NEW LIBERTARIANISM. "We should rejoice every time we see someone who is voting on ideology, rather than merely supporting the candidate who puts the most money in their pocket." -- Megan McArdle, aka "Jane Galt," at Instapundit.

WHAT I SAW AT THE CORNER. From the wishful thinking department:
RE: DISAPPEARANCE & BLAME: Just thinking out loud, but: If what the Times says is right, isn’t that implicitly an indictment of UNSCOM and further proof that the President was right to remove the monstrous Saddam regime?
See also:
If the American electorate were comprised entirely of teenagers watching Channel One, President Bush would cruise to four more years: In a mock election featuring 1.4 million votes, Bush just crushed Kerry, 55 percent to 40 percent.
Ramesh Ponnuru excerpts 616 words from a Bush speech in four posts and then threatens: "I'll probably do a longer piece for tomorrow's NRO." Ponnuru also thinks it's great that tax cuts have led to Americans working longer and harder than the French. Yeah, I'm sure glad I don't get seven weeks of vacation a year, aren't you? Jonah Goldberg adds, "It is very, very, very hard to fire people even for cause in France." Fuck, can I move there? John J. Miller adds, " of the comments I tend to hear from Europeans is that Americans work really hard--the subtext often being that we work too hard don't know how to stop and enjoy life. This is clearly a cultural difference between the United States and Europe..." Might it actually be a cultural difference between Corner writers and people who have to work for a living?

Tim Graham deconstructs the mise en scene of the "Today" Show. Coming soon: Graham on the use of deep focus in Stolen Honor.

And who let her in:
I’m looking for witty sayings to use at the opening of a park in our neighborhood, at which I am running the bake sale. I have styled it a "Bipartisan Bake Sale" and my daughter Molly and I will be baking a hundredweight each of Teresa Kerry's pumpkin spice cookies and Laura Bush's oatmeal chocolate-chunk cookies. Other people are contributing "Swing State Brownies" and suchlike. The bleg is for sayings I can put on the signage. Ones I've already made include: "A nation BITTERLY divided still loves SWEET treats!" and "No UNSIGHTLY chads, just BEAUTIFUL baked goods!" and "Vote EARLY…and OFTEN!" (meaning for the cookies we're making). My husband suggests "NO OIL FOR COOKIES... only butter." Billionairess Biscuits? Conservative Crumpets? Winning entries will make the eve-of-election "Fever Swamp."
I nominate "NRO nutcakes."

SHORTER JIM LILEKS. My Democratic neighbors are all stupid. They don't know about what Bill Maher said, or my computer problems. And you know who else is stupid? The English. Screw them. Sure, I once said that we should abstain from lampooning supercilious Brits because Everything Has Changed, but that's off, because Everything Has Changed Again since I got my 12th cold of the year.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

BUT WHAT WAS UP WITH ALL THOSE VOTES FOR PAT BUCHANAN IN BALKH? Congratulations to Hamid Karzai on his recent election to the presidency of Afghanistan. It just goes to show that with some pluck, courage, and the backing of powerful friends, one can accomplish anything. And in nine days, we'll repeat the demonstration!

Saturday, October 23, 2004

A LITTLE PERSPECTIVE. I see that Mike Reiss' "Hard Drinkin' Lincoln" is available on web pay-per-view. Trust me, if you need a respite from political October madness, this is the shit. All the episodes are good, but I most highly recommend "The Un-Civil War," in which Lincoln dances around Robert E. Lee chanting "Looooo-ser!" and delivers a stunning rendition of "Dixie" which ends, "You're in graves/with no slaves/Atlanta Braves/really suck!" For proponents of balance, each episode ends with Lincoln being shot by John Wilkes Booth.

Friday, October 22, 2004

THE SEPARATION OF BALLPARK AND STATE. From (where else?) The Corner, the voice of Satan channelled in this case by Den Mother KJL:
Nick Schulz says: "The 'Stros are going to win tonight, on the back of Roger Clemens, who never led the BoSox to glory but did help the Yanks win the World Series. That means Clemens pitches game 3 of their matchup with the Red Sox (winning, natch), and wins game 7 for the Astros -- a Texas team beating a Mass. team right before the election -- and Red Sox nation heads into winter seething at what Clemens did to them -- first with the Yanks, now with the Astros. It's much much sweeter this way!"
Of course, this was written before Clemens tried to prove what an hombre he is by throwing a fastball to Albert Pujols (though, to be fair, maybe Clemens was trying to bean him, and slipped), thus blowing the series for the 'Stros.

Now, I know The Corner is a secure facility with psychiatric nurses on 24-hour guard to see that the contagion does not spread, but it still disgusts me that any American would sully the National Pastime with political bullshit. What kind of example does this set for our children? Can there be no public space where we can collectively give this shit a rest?

Let us lay down the partisan cudgels for a moment and become, not Democrats and Republicans, but fans of the Fuckin' Awesome Hippie Warrior Hell Yeah Stomp Your Hayseed Butts Let's Get Drunk and Riot Red Sox versus Tougher Than You Fucking Long-Hair Sissies Our Reliever is Crazy and Will Beat You with Two Broken Hands and Then Eat Your Heart Cardinals. (Or vice-versa!)

It's bad enough I got right-wing snobs trying to convince me not to laugh at Jon Stewart because nihilism isn't funny. Jesus Christ. Is everything politics for these people? How sad.

SHORTER CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: A vote for Kerry is a vote for a new Holocaust.

(A slightly longer Shorter Krauthammer might read, "I'm totally out of my fucking mind, but I keep beating back the psychiatric inquiries of my editors by accusing other people of being totally out of their fucking minds, and because I'm a shrink they get scared and back off." But I could use that for just about any of Krauthammer's recent columns.)

Thursday, October 21, 2004

SHORTER JIM LILEKS. When my wife got canned I howled like a stuck pig, but now I realize it is the destiny of mothers to stay home with their kid for the first six months of its life and whatever intervals of joblessness arise thereafter. This is God's plan; that's why He fires women. Why can't you hippies understand that? Now here's an anecdote about Nazis. You're just like them. Hey, look at this egg.

WHO'S YOUR DADDY? As a Mets fan, I always have a warm personal interest in the Yankees' defeat. The past few years have been rather enjoyable in that regard, but this year's added taste of humiliation ("Greatest Collapse in Baseball History" bawls the New York Post) makes a nice garnish.

Don't get me wrong. I respect the players, especially the most underrated catcher in the majors and the best Yankee shortstop of all time. And though George Steinbrenner is a major hate-object, old age (and perhaps the melancholy knowledge that soon the Devil will come to enforce his contract) has been keeping the bastard's previously insufferable profile mercifully low.

But the fans! Again, don't get me wrong. I know Yankee fans whose loyalty dates back to the Ralph Houk era, and they are noble and knowledgeable connoisseurs of the game and the team. But, especially in the post-season, mostly you get young and youngish chest-thumpers bellowing about destiny and 26 rings, then vomiting on Third Avenue.

Bomber fandom cuts across several demographic groups -- the bodega guys round my way are mostly Yankee fans, and so are many of the mousse-haired, suspender-and-pinstripes yuppie dipshits one sees at wood-panelled drinking establishments midtown, sipping $7 pints and hiding their bald spots under a Yankee cap. But they all have one ignoble thing in common; they can neither win nor lose with grace.

Earlier in this series, their cry was "Who's Your Daddy?" (I heard one local newsreader/hair model say it twice in one sports report.) It should be noted that this plays upon a rare self-deprecating remark made by Boston's Pedro Martinez after the Yankees beat him up earlier this year. Pedro in this instance showed a little class and even rueful honesty, and it is telling that the Yankee fans responded with a giant-foam-fingered froth of bad sportsmanship.

Sore losers are obnoxious, but a sore winner is worse, so I am glad that it falls to the Yankee fans to play the former rather than the latter role.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

OCTOBER CLASSICISM. Well, I just saw the Astros use a pitcher to pinch-hit, and the second consecutive walk-off homer of the series. And I only caught the last two (extra) innings. I don't have time to watch the Sox-Yankees game and that's just as well, because I don't think my heart could stand it.

Much else is malformed in modern American life, but post-season baseball is a blessing.

DON'T BE SELF-HATIN'. If you like to read political tea leaves, you can check these out: back in March the irrepressible Pejman was bragging that Jews were leaving the Democrats in droves, and "needless to say, the prospect that Bush may get one-third or more of the Jewish vote in the election must terrify John Kerry in particular."

A lot of that sort of thing has been popping up over the years: how traditional constituencies are being totally demolished, usually to the Republicans' advantage. I think it all has something to do with the internet. (Did you know that in the future there will be no stores?)

Nonetheless there are always those who feel that even the Wave of the Future needs a fluffer, and such like have made much of Kerry's failure to mention Israel in his Convention address, seeing in it a stark reversal not just of electioneering protocol, but also of the Democratic Party's historic commitment to our only (non-occupied-by-us) ally in the Middle East. Some of these folks even claim that Israel needs Bush to be reelected, that in fact "Israel is believed to be the only nation in the world wanting Bush to win." (If we will not be for Bush, who will be for us?)

Well, this watershed, like so many others, seems to have been overestimated at best ("Kerry... is gaining support among Jewish voters as growing numbers disapprove of President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq" -- Washington Post).

What happens to a dream deferred? In the past week Volokh's David Bernstein had not one but two posts wondering why Jews have forsaken Republicans in their hour of need. (His conclusion, taken from a colleague, is that "most Jews are and have actually rationally ignorant about politics and related social issues [sic].")

Well, it's been fun, but after the election, I suspect Republican race-based commentary will go back to its traditional tone and manner.

HEADLINE OF THE MONTH. FOX News has the goods on Kerry: "Kerry Shows Fondness for Quotations." Coming soon: "Kerry Reads Books, Uses Words of More than One Syllable Correctly."

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

TWO WEEKS NOTICE. Well, we're in the home stretch, boys and girls, and while the blogospheric pressure is predictably intense, for the most part it's pressing on old, long-dead nerves. At redstate they're fretting about the traditional Democratic push for black votes ("race-baiting"), cheering endorsements (in this case that of proven vote-getter Pat Buchanan), and sifting poll results obsessively. At Atrios they're fretting about October Surprises, cheering non-endorsements, and sifting boycott results obsessively.

Meanwhile Bush and Kerry are rampaging through the swing states and trying not to lose their voices or what I'm sure each perceives to be his lead.

Who knows what's in store, but this stage of the endgame seems familiar enough to me that I can hardly get riled by it. That may change, but I hope it doesn't. Operatives are operating feverishly, and God go with ours; somewhere out there voters are being recruited by the barrelful and warned to watch for dirty tricks. But I wouldn't be surprised or displeased if the campaign news remained as content-free as it is feverish (Candidate A ratchets up the rhetoric! Candidate B comes back swinging!) all the way up till election night, at which point all hell, I am sure, will break loose. Till then there is plenty else to do, and plenty of late post-season baseball to lull me to sleep.

Monday, October 18, 2004

INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MISERY. Having told us last week about his command of the Queen's English, James Lileks now tells us he could find Patience and Prudence and the whole damn NYPL under ten feet -- no! ten stories -- of arctic ice.

Next week he shall tell us how, armed only with a Swiss Army Knife and a jar of Marmite, he can craft a rationale for war with Iran.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

FUCK YEAH. Enjoyed Team America tonight. It's a little long on puppet blood for my taste -- though you can never have enough puppet vomit, and in this regard Team America does not disappoint. I also liked Kim Il Jong's "giant pandas," and the song about how missing your true love sucks almost as much as Jerry Bruckheimer's Pearl Harbor. Favorite line: "We're guarrrrds." "Guarrrrds." "Guarrrrrds."

Sorry, nothing here about how the film inaccurately portrays Michael Moore and Alec Baldwin, or how its very existence will weaken America, or how some guy has a movie that answers Team America point by point, using some of the same puppets, which I found quite striking. That would just be stupid.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

HOW TO TELL KERRY'S AHEAD, PART 2. Along with the usual fake letters, etc,.
we are seeing more clinical psychosis at National Review Online:
I just took my two-year-old on a drive down the Post Road in Connecticut to see the cows at Stew Leonard's. At a red light, we pulled alongside a mini-van festooned with Lefty bumper stickers. One right under the other appeared the following three: "Jesus was a LIBERAL"; "Commit Random Acts of KINDNESS": and "My Choice: ABORT BUSH". I know trial lawyers are supposed to figure they can reason with anyone, but I admit to being stumped here. Edward, however, soon squeeled: "Light green, Daddy GOOO!" He's got the right idea: Don't bother!
Yes, Andy McCarthy was driving in Connecticut and saw a bumper sticker that encouraged him to commit random acts of kindness, and it so harshed his mellow (or, more properly, harshed his harsh) that he needed to project inconceivably subtle linguistic gifts upon his toddler (assuming he is actually a toddler, and not mentally retarded) to extricate his blown mind from the situation.

I'm not saying they're cute, exactly, but they are sorta funny when their circuits are smoking.

THE POST-3/19 WORLD. Maybe we Democrats are evil. I see Kerry is suggesting that Bush's reelection will lead to a draft. Well, yes, I expect it will; Iraq is badly fucked, and to get it unfucked will require a large, continuing military commitment. As the neos have already got Iran and/or Syria lined up for invasion, that'll require more enlistments than even our shitty economy can deliver.

But I gotta say, Kerry's playing it cagey. The Republicans are understandably averse to even mentioning the issue, and in that context it makes political sense for Kerry to warn America of an impending Bush draft. But as far as I can find, Kerry hasn't explicitly ruled out a draft himself. His running mate has promised there'll be no draft on Kerry's behalf, but that's not the same thing; we won't being hearing much from Vice-President Edwards in any case, much less when the lottery balls start rolling.

Being a realist, I guardedly endorse this obfuscation. Bush has done enough damage, and is capable of so much worse, that his ouster is a priority. But Kerry's assertion that we've broken Iraq and are obliged to fix it strongly implies that our obligation will require steps that few of us want to face. I give the Democratic candidate sufficient credit to take him at his word -- but not at his non-word.

And even if he were to say the word, I wouldn't take it too seriously. For all the talk of the post-9/11 world, we are primarily living in the post-3/19 world -- the invasion of Iraq has actually supplanted the World Trade Center attacks as the engine of our foreign policy. We have squandered the decent opinion of mankind, and even fucked up our longstanding commitment to our own troops, in this crazy-ass war with a 9/11 non-combatant. The resulting ruin to ourselves and others is massive, and the reconstuction will require much. I hope Kerry wins, and I also hope to hell that he knows what he's doing.

Friday, October 15, 2004

RIMSHOT, PLEASE. Despite what the President suggested on Wednesday, the Bush Administration now says it can't bring Canadian flu vaccine into the U.S.

The official reason is FDA regulations, but I hear it's because Bush was afraid American consumers might find the Canadian vaccine too affordable.

UPDATE. The estimable Winning Argument suggests Bush's culpability in the vaccine shortfall. Nolo contendre. I report, you decide, heh indeed.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

HOW TO TELL KERRY'S AHEAD: You see this sort of thing (a Roger L. "The L is for Conservative" Simon joint):
Today's news that some Kerry operatives plan on launching a "preemptive strike," charging the other side with voter intimidation even when it doesn't exist, is scarcely amazing. [Where do they think they are? Afghanistan?-ed.>] But it is indicative of a larger mindset. Not surprisingly, now that I've gotten into the blogging game and a few people read this site, I've begun to meet more of the genus operativus politicus. They have their own cynical slang and refer to the two parties as "the dumb party" (repubs) and "the evil party" (dems). Amazingly, I have heard this shorthand from both sides...
The words "preemptive strike" here are connected to a broken link -- but seems to refer to this article with this image in support.

The jpg allegedly shows a page from the Dems' Colorado Election Day Manual, stating that "If no signs of intimidation techniques have emerged yet, launch a 'pre-emptive strike' (particularly well-suited to states in which these techniques have been tried in the past)." The Dems' methods include issuing press releases "reviewing Republican tactics used in the past in your area or state" and "quoting party/minority/civil rights leadership as denouncing tactics that discourage people from voting."

So the Democrats are trying to pre-empt voting fraud and campaign fraud, employing unobjectionable tactics toward preventing illegal activities of which Republicans, let's face it, have shown themselves capable in recent years.

Drudge headlines this "DNC Election Manual: Charge Voter Intimidation, Even If None Exists." Maybe Simon just read that far.

And from this bogus Drudge item Simon launches a true anecdotal howler. I swear to you folks, in all my years of hanging out with Democrats, I have never heard anyone refer to our common faction as the Evil Party, or speak of our close, personal relationship with the Dark Lord, even at the baby-killing parties and marriage-desanctifying events where we regularly meet to quaff a few goblets of Christian blood. In fact, mostly I have heard grumbling about how pliantly our leaders let the Republicans roll them over, year after wimp-ass year.

Only, just maybe, not this year.

Which is why, after a string of Democratic defeats and chants of "flip-flop" and general Mallard-Fillmoresque characterizations of Democrats as hapless losers, we are now portrayed as thugees silently slitting the throats of our enemies under cover of darkness.

Compliment accepted.

THE WELL OF LOUTISHNESS. The bullshit derby was settled early today. Lynne Cheney is outraged that John Kerry called her daughter a... a... a lesbian! And the fact that she is a lesbian, an out lesbian at that, is no excuse:
The candidates were asked if they believe homosexuality is a choice, and President Bush did not mention Mary Cheney. Then Kerry said, "If you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as."

Lynne Cheney issued her post-debate rebuke to a cheering crowd outside Pittsburgh. "The only thing I can conclude is he is not a good man. I'm speaking as a mom," she said. "What a cheap and tawdry political trick."
Sounds like she would find any mention of her daughter's lesbianism shameful, doesn't it? Wonder how she feels about bumping pussies. I imagine the thought balloon above Big Mama's head as she made this statement was crowded with grainy sapphic imagery (which part of Mama resisted while part of her tried to take notes for her next novel.)

Most revealing, of course, is that Mama Cheney, rather than Mary Cheney, made this statement. Don't you think the GOP immediately started leaning on Mary to step forward and denounce Kerry? (She may yet do so; Bush Sr.'s buddies at Langely have some powerful mind-altering drugs.) What a perfect Republican moment it would be: the most prominent political lesbian since Eleanor Roosevelt denouncing the more pro-gay candidate! Mouth-breathers around the countries, theretofore vaguely troubled by their own bigotry, would cry, "Shoot, even the fags don' lahk 'em!" and resolve to vote for the little squinty feller.

Yet so far not a peep from Mary. Do you suppose maybe she's less disturbed to be Kerry's positive example than to be her mother's object of shame and secretiveness?

Meanwhile Republican operatives are pitching their counter-intuitive how-dare-he. The Ole Perfesser even decrees Mama's characterization of Kerry as not-a-good-man to be "the emerging consensus." Consensus, he says! This no doubt comes from a highly scientific poll Perfesser Reynolds done took him 'round the cracker barrel down ta Jed's Notions & Dry Goods. "Hell no, Perfesser, we shore don' lahk thet Kerry fella none. He Frenchified! You goan raht that down in yer com-puter? Say, Perfesser, snap yer suspenders fo' us agin? (slapping knee) Hee hee! Looks jes' lahk Matlock when he does it!"

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

JUST A PEEK. I don't have time to stay for the whole thing, but from the abortion, health care, and social security questions, the candidates seem to be protecting their respective non-leads. Kerry's advantage is that he has plans -- plans that can only be vaguely stated here, and maybe anywhere, but the message is that he can hit the ground running. His disadvantage is the same as Bush's advantage: that, over the last twenty-odd years, Americans became suspicious of government plans, which are traditionally associated with Democrats. Bush's disadvantage is that he has plans.

Tactically, I think it's bright of Bush to attack Kerry on immigrant amnesty, given the porousness of our borders in the past four years, and it was bright of Kerry to open his response on an entirely different topic before crowding the immigration part of his answer into a plan-filled finish.

I don't like Kerry calling me "America" all the time. (It's bad enough he can see me through this telescreen!) I would like to hear him say no to a draft, which he skillfully refuses to do.

I wonder who told Bush that a good answer to the question about stop-loss was to say that he met soldiers who were pleased to be in Iraq.

Oh hell, I stayed longer than I meant to.

A LITTLE TINFOIL NEVER HURT ANYONE. The Poor Man has a good read on vote fraud, featuring tsuredzuregusa's suspicions regarding the FBI-empowered confiscation of Indymedia servers in England -- he suggests a connection to Indymedia's erstwhile tormentor Diebold, a company best know for its vote-conversion machines.

The connection is a bit of a stretch, admittedly. The Feds may have done this for just about any reason -- barring, of course, those suggested, in his usual obfuscating spirit, by the Ole Perfesser. (Also, I must inform TPM regarding its correlated item on registration fraud that the dodge in which street-corner operatives of Party A cheerfully accept, then discard, registration forms submitted by prospective members of Party B is about as old as the Maiden's Dropped Hanky. In other words, it may be evil but it is too well-known and widespread to qualify as cabalistic activity.)

On the other hand, it is always good to track the movements of our worst malefactors, especially when those movements, or their motivations, appear to run very close together over an extended period of time. Let us be attentive but not obsessive. There is a fine line between paranoia and enlightened mistrustfulness, and it has mostly to do with the presence or absence of color-coded charts.

DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. The FCC is fining Fox Broadcasting $7,000 per participating station -- over a million dollars in toto -- for some raunchy bachelor/bachelorette parties shown on its "Married by America" reality show.

According to the FCC's 29-page(!) report on the incident, the Commission judges indecency by two criteria: "[it] must describe or depict sexual or excretory organs or activities... Second, the broadcast must be patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium." Fox thought its pixelation policy protected it on the first count, but the FCC demurs: "Even with Fox’s editing, the episode includes scenes in which party-goers lick whipped cream from strippers’ bodies in a sexually suggestive manner. Another scene features a man on all fours in his underwear as two female strippers playfully spank him. Although the episode electronically obscures any nudity, the sexual nature of the scenes is inescapable..."

A fair cop. But in Fox's defense, the FCC never fully addresses the "community standards" part of the test. (Maybe the Republican-dominated Commission did this on purpose to enhance their old pal Rupert Murdoch's grounds for appeal.)

The FCC has a broad bailiwick here, having previously decided that the "community" is really an idealized single figure: "[our] criterion is that of an average broadcast listener and, with respect to Commission decisions, does not encompass any particular geographic area."

Even if we accept this standard, I must say that if the Commissioners think the "average broadcast listener" -- or viewer, in this case -- can be offended by some pixelated porn, I would suggest that they don't watch nearly as much TV as their office would seem to demand.

While "Married by America" sounds gamey, I don't see how it could be worse than the premiere episode I recently viewed of "Boston Legal," which, like all David E. Kelley shows, regards human sexuality from the perspective of a retarded, priapic teenager. The episode featured a man walking around with no pants or underwear, an affair between William Shatner and the trophy wife of a geriatric client, and James Spader announcing "You had sex," as loudly and alacritously as if he had just found an Easter egg, in a room full of smirking lawyers.

As Kelley's general success shows, the "average broadcast viewer" eats this stuff up. While no genitals were exposed nor copulative acts simulated, the viewer was allowed to know that something nasty was going on -- something dark and corrupt and impossible to reveal -- something known to a depressing number of our fellow citizens as sex.

I left "Boston Legal" feeling besmirched. Now, if you know the kind of life I've led, you might question my sincerity, but let me say that it is not the sexual nature of the material that repels me, but the leering attitude. Let CBS run "The Teabaggers" in prime time, and so long as the behaviors on display are forthrightly sexual, and not embellished with pop-eyed voyeurs, mocking trombone wah-wahs, or hackneyed depictions of passion taken directly from Herbal Essences Shampoo commercials, I would be happy to see the show pumped into day-care centers nationwide.

But that's not going to happen anytime soon, so when producers scrounge for new thrills to offer viewers, these will be of the dank, half-concealed sort that incites "censorship" controversies and grainy ass-shots on the small screen. Actual sexiness will be absent, but some sense of transgression will steam off the product and the smell will keep the couch potatoes firmly planted.

Contrary to what the preachers say, the TV folk are not engaged in a full-on assault on American Values; theirs is more a skulking, schoolboy approach, which is not only enabled but reenforced by the hapless playground monitors of the FCC, who seem to know they are here to keep the lid on but loosely, so that both they and the industrious offenders they prosecute will, when the fireworks are over, never find themselves removed from their comfortable positions.

Meanwhile the ordinary American, after an after-dinner bout of Internet Porn surfing and the equally thrilling effort of concealing it from the spouse, will join the family in front of the Boob Tube, and together they will switch dreamily between shows starring people they admire, and shows starring people they would like to fuck.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

SHORTER JAMES LILEKS. Let's play a game: I'll complain about immigrant workers in my local supermarket -- one of whom doesn't speak English well enough to suit me, two of whom speak English too well to suit me -- and you try and guess whether it's self-parody or just me being an asshole again.

Monday, October 11, 2004

DEJUNKING. Went to a book party for Ken Smith's Junk English 2, which, like its predecessor, distills some words and phrases that have become through misuse (or prevarication) meaningless (or worse) to their true essences. Examples:
Comfort Words. Nebulous nouns -- factor, function, status, system, and their kind -- when used to modify already abstract nouns that need no modification, are like hot fudge poured over fudge-flavored ice cream. [e.g.] business entity = business... cost factor = cost... crisis scenario = crisis... weather conditions = weather...

Customer relationship management... is what happens when companies try to sell their ability to anticipate customer needs and thus increase sales... The promoters of customer relationship management want you to think of CRM as a euphemism for its outcome -- personal service -- rather than for its hidden workings -- invasion of your privacy...

Product is turning up behind the names of products for no apparent reason. [e.g.] "It is actually quite impressive to see how the Penders family developed this amazing 'one size fits all' hair rinse product."
It is sad that this job needs to be done (and that it is so large as to require a second volume of corrections, at least), but it is nice to see that someone is trying to do it. Here at alicublog we treat inanities on a larger scale with less delicate instruments, but just as nanotechnology and gene therapy show promise as ways of attacking cancer, so the reform of our muddled discourse may be more efficiently achieved at the etomylogical level.

JONAH GOLDBERG DOES HISTORY the way he does everything else:
Frank Foer's got a round-up essay on the the history of conservatives in the NYT (man would I love to write something similar on the history of liberals some day). Anyway, it's not a bad recap, even if I'd quibble with parts. For instance, while Foer concedes, quietly, that plenty of liberals and leftists were also Isolationists he does it in a bloodless way. It's as if isolationism is central to his conception of conservative ideology while it's merely tangential to the history of liberalism. This is the conventional wisdom among liberals and the conventional wisdom is simply wrong. After all Charles Beard and John Dewey, to name probably the two most influential liberal thinkers of the 20th century, were just as isolationist -- if not more so -- on WWII than, say, Charles Lindbergh.
By this novel theory, FDR prosecuted World War II with no support from liberals, who were busy attending night rallies for Charles Beard and John Dewey. It's a miracle this country ever beat Hitler. Perhaps it was our coalition partners in Brazil that turned the tide.

Goldberg's schtick, of course, closely mirrors the one mentioned here last week, whereby the operative holds up an Andrea Dworkin effigy and yells, "Hey, liberals, here's your girlfriend!" The Goldberg variation is more offensive, of course, because it goes beyond the usual perversion of current events into a perversion of history. One might even call it Orwellian, had one not been informed that Orwell was really a neoconservative.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Kerry starts his close with: "Obviously the PResident and I have strong convictions." Wrong. Only the President has convictions. Kerry has none.
As an exercise, I tried to imagine myself writing something that meretricious for publication, but couldn't -- even my self-loathing has some limits.

Where do they get these people?

Saturday, October 09, 2004

HELLO NAZI. I had to miss the debate last night because I was booked to play bass at an ill-attended gig above a strip joint near the WTC site. Let's just say we weren't at the top of our game. The most interesting part of the evening was the performance before ours of a reconstituted version of Tuff Darts, the first New York punk band I ever saw (Fall 1977). It was strange to hear those old songs played so slowly and sloppily so many years later, and to see lead singer Tommy Frenzy -- back in the day a skinny, manic, shades-and-sneer type -- looking like James Lileks after a night in the drunk tank.

I did catch a few minutes of the hilariously misnamed Town Meeting (which conjures visions of Norman Rockwell's "Freedom of Speech" painting, redone to suit modern times, with the leather-jacketed citizen's image appearing in a dossier perused by government and network vetters), and read the transcript the next day. I hate to say it, but it hardly requires comment. The combatants' talking points were clear after the first debate, and while the issue of Kerry's detached WASP bonhomie vs. Bush's strutting aggressiveness makes mildly interesting style-section copy, I can't see much significance in it.

It is fashionable among conservatives to say that liberals don't really love Kerry, and I suspect that may be true, as he is clearly driving the center lane, politically speaking, in hopes of a game-winning basket; but can it be true that normal conservatives (excepting that small minority obsessed with abortion and homosexuals) love big-government Bush any better?

The electoral importance of these dog-and-pony shows seems as slight to me as it seems massive to the writers who obsess on it. The election will be decided by people who are not regular followers of political weblogs. While those who obsessively sift the tea-leaves wonder what effect their brew has had on the lumpenproles, citizens are comparing their real experiences and prospects to what the candidates describe. I am fast coming to the conclusion that this election will not be about which fella Joe Sixpack would prefer to pop a few cans with. It may be that my cynicism about American voters has been outstripped by my cynicism about the people who speculate on the needs and wants of Joe Sixpack.

My Saturday night was devoted to the Beastie Boys at MSG. You can imagine what a New York moment that was ("I got my BVDs from VIM"). The joint was sold out, every mention of the City drew full-throated roars, and the vommies leading out of the Garden rang with a loud chant of "Let's Go Yan-kees!" (I was rooting for the Twins tonight, of course, but take comfort in the fact that their defeat at the hands of a local team probably aggravates Lileks no end.)

The anti-Bush stuff from the Beasties also went down a treat; though the To the 5 Boroughs lyrics were too new and too muddled by the sound system to connect, the playing of a video in which Will Ferrell portrayed the President as a dumbass entertained the crowd, and when the band dedicated "Sabotage" to Bush the audience was loud and unmistakable in its Approval of This Message ("You're scheming on a thing that's a mirage").

But that's how we roll, yo. We've supported Democratic Presidential candidates for 20 straight quadrennials. You see the line-through-W more than the Chanel logo on our streets these days. Knoxville we ain't.

Though I love New York and I love America, I know -- any sane person knows -- that they aren't entirely the same thing. Neither are America and the offices of the National Review, or the Weekly Standard, or the Washington Post, or Dan Rather.

All around the dedicated Bush and Kerry centers, a lot of deciding is going on that is not only invisible but, I think, incomprehensible to media big and small.

And though I would never denigrate the value of hard work, I think the strenuous efforts of partisans (outside of the empowerment of voters and the monitoring of vote fraud, which, given the nature of the current Administration, is essential) will have only a small effect on the outcome in November. We all know what time it is.

Which actually makes me feel rather optimistic.

Friday, October 08, 2004

ROUND TWO: SPIN BEFORE THE WASH. NRO cites Tony Fabrizio on the upcoming debate:
I actually think that the bar of expectations have been lowered so much based on the last debate, the recent stories on Iraq (Bremer and WMD report), the jobs numbers this morning and a format that favors Kerry that the President can 'win' by not giving or ceding ground to Kerry and making a connection on domestic issues and showing he is 'in touch' with voters concerns.
I'm going to try that approach at my next employee evaluation: "Edroso, we just found out that your big project, which you represented to us last year as an unqualified success, was in fact a colossal blunder that cost the company millions and got a lot of innocent people fired." "Yes, and I'll do the same thing again if you just give me a chance. Plus I think we should switch the water coolers from Deer Park to Poland Spring." I'll make sure to drop my g's and affect a becoming swagger. A fat raise is assured!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

THE OLE PERFESSER ABROAD. I see Perfesser Reynolds has taken his quest to convince the credulous that he is not a conservative international.

Actually, that's just the jumping-off point for Reynolds' Guardian article. He explains to his foreign hosts that American Liberalism is typified by neo-Puritans such as Hillary Clinton and Andrea Dworkin, who presumably lunch together on the Upper West Side and plot matriarchy, while Reynolds and his fellow not-conservatives dream of (but do not actively support) "an America where happily married gay couples had closets full of assault weapons" -- a nifty sitcom premise, at least.

The Perfesser lavishly describes this fantasy world where folks such as myself wish to go Cotton Mather on the asses of less enlightened fellow-citizens, but does not mention the actual restrictive proclivities of the Religious Right, despite the fact that, while Dworkins stand among but not of us lefties as peripheral figures, the RR is, of its nature, an authoritarian outfit, dedicated to the Christianization of America by force of law. He probably left them out because they are part of the coalition he hopes will sweep W to victory in November, after which time he and they will have a good laugh over some moonshine about gay couples and assault weapons, with much miming of gunfire and jocular flailing of limp wrists.

I am not surprised by his act, which was old when Methuselah was a pup, but considering how often he has bitched about their paper, I am surprised that the Guardian published it. I should have thought they would at least insist that he dress for the portrait accompanying his column in overalls and a large, ragged straw hat, with several of his teeth blacked out.

I mean, I thought the left was all about crushing dissent. Heh.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

PRE-EMPTING AHNULD. The best I can say about this proposed repeal of the national-born-citizen requirement for Presidents is that history tells us such things backfire. The Republicans rammed through the Twenty-Second Amendment to prevent another FDR from bogarting the Oval Office, and it prevented them from running the still-popular Ike a third time. And lowering the voting age to 18 didn't do much electorally for the Democrats who were fond of the idea.

There's still time for the Democrats to groom a foreign-born alternative to Schwarzenegger. Maybe Antonio Banderas? He did play a gay guy, but Ahnuld played a guy who got pregnant. It will make for some entertaining debates: "It vas a tess-tube pregnoncy! Iss not the same as having zex wiz a man! In many ways it vas my hardess role! It takes balls to haff a baby!"

BUT WHY WOULD BANK ROBBERS DO SUCH A THING? A GOP HQ gets shot up in Knoxville, and The Ole Perfesser is on the spot with Crushing-Of-Dissent-Heh-Indeeds.

I'm sure sane readers do not attach the shooters' behavior to that of mainstream Democrats, and they may have more than one reason -- read the tag on the linked news item:
In an unexpected twist, a bank directly across the street from the headquarters was robbed as KPD officers were busy investigating at the scene of the shooting.
Maybe Deputy Dawg and the boys 'round the cracker barrel think it's a "twist," but I been doin' me some calculatin' and here's what I reckon:

If you're a Democratic activist and you shoot up a Bush HQ across from a bank, you hand a PR victory to the opposition;
If you're a politically unaffiliated bank robber and you shoot up a Bush HQ across from a bank, you create a most useful distraction among the apparently way overextended KPD.

To what shall we give more credence -- common sense, or visions of Mandy Grunwald and the boys shooting up storefronts?

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

ONE FROGGY EVENING. I had to miss the Great VP Debate, but I understand from the usual impartial sources that Cheney did well, which means, if the gods are giggly, that epidemic ticket-splitting will result in a Kerry-Cheney executive. The Dantean idea of those two chained together and gnawing on one another's brains for four years offers a little comic relief.

I attended instead a showing of The Frogs at Lincoln Center. It was not the pathetic mess I had been led to expect, mainly because someone got the idea to play it mostly at light-speed in the manner of Olsen and Johnson's "Hellzapoppin'," and it was fun watching Nathan Lane crack Roger Bart up. Of course, the mad rush to the gags rather trampled whatever deeper meaning the authors intended, but from what I could see that was a good thing. And cute as the idea was to substitute Shaw and Shakespeare for Euripedes and Sophocles, it appears Aristophanes had the right idea in stacking the deck against Euripedes, because tonight I was rooting for Shaw all the way and that can't be right.

Sondheim's music was wonderful but the whole thing was a little undercooked and overheated. I can see why the project stayed so long in the drawer.

I see also that the Sox won and the Yankees lost, so on balance it was a good evening.

SPEAKING OF THE RIGHT TO CARRY:Elton John in the papers:
Sir Elton -- given to sporting frumpish track suits these days, except for awardsfests -- apparently went crazy when he learned that Madonna was a nominee at the same event for her live concert efforts.

"Anyone who lip-syncs in public on stage when you pay ($134) to see them should be shot," the former Reg Dwight said while picking up his Q for songwriting.
I would prefer Ms. Spears be given community service, but I'm a big old bleeding-heart.

UPDATE. Yeah, I meant Ms. Madonna, or Esther, but what's the diff (except maybe Sir Elton would decline to fire on Ms. Spears, fearing a pneumatic blowout that could injure innocent bystanders).

Monday, October 04, 2004

LIPSTICK LIBERTARIANS. Professor Reynolds plays dumb, asks:
We're often told that Congressional efforts to repeal the D.C. gun ban are an affront to D.C. citizens' right to self-rule… But those efforts are in support of an explicit Constitutional right to keep and bear arms -- and since D.C. isn't a state, there's none of the usual argument about whether the Second Amendment should apply to its efforts or not.

So would a Congressional effort to overturn state bans on gay marriage in support of an unenumerated right to marry constitute a similar affront to local autonomy? I'm just, you know, asking. . .
This is the sort of lame sophistry you get from that particular sort of nerd who argues that, if you really believe in the Constitution, you will cede him the right to build a nuclear reactor in his mom's basement. One expects it of a student enjoying the now-traditional, youthful fling with libertarianism, but in a grown man it is just depressing.

(Of course, perhaps the Professor has outgrown it, but uses the language of lipstick libertarianism merely to plague pro-gay-marriage, anti-gun liberals on behalf of his current Party.)

The superficial similarity between the two cases -- gay marriage despite public will, gun emancipation despite public will -- does not withstand a form of logical analysis called common sense.

Briefly: two guys get a marriage license. This has the no power to affect their neighbors other than in fantasies. (Some feeble arguments attribute to gay marriage the power to destroy heterosexual marriage, but this magical thinking may be disregarded by sane people.)

Alternately, two guys get a cache of semiautomatic weapons. This has power well beyond the reach of fantasy. If this is only a "potential" threat, so is a jar full of smallpox.

Matrimony and weapons are categorically different. (No smart remarks, Mr. Bundy.) Society has a limited right -- one might say duty -- to regulate the presence of the latter in a community, to protect its citizens. (Hell, even lipstick libertarians and Tommy Hobbes acknowledge government's common-defense function.) It may be that the D.C. ban went over the line, but the remedy for that would be through the courts, followed by action from the appropriate legislative body (in D.C.'s case, the Council). The remedy is not a bunch of redneck Congressmen showin' the boys back home they's regular by afflicting D.C. with a utopian gun policy.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

THE ME GENERATION. "I have been trying to understand the real meaning of what happened in 1968. After all, I was a participant in those events, as much as John Kerry, perhaps more." -- Roger L. Simon [emphasis mine].

This is news. Did he blow up a Dow Chemical plant or something?

HERE I STAND, I CAN DO NO MORE. As a liberal, of course, I kill babies, hate freedom, and disdain all absolutes, but this I find totally unacceptable:
Saturday's Twins-Indians game at the Metrodome was suspended with the scored tied at 5-5 after 11 innings because the playing surface had to be prepared for a University of Minnesota football game. The unfinished game will be continued Sunday at 1:10 a.m. CT with the regularly scheduled game to follow 20 minutes after the conclusion.
Only rain and natural disasters should preclude the completion of a Major League Baseball game, not fucking college football. Representatives of the Twins are saying this means they need a new park. Bullshit, Twinkies. You are engaged in the national pastime. This is a sacred trust, not a corporate franchise. You should have set aside your asshole GM's lust for greener pastures for a moment and forthrightly told UMinn to fuck off to a practice field somewhere in the vast prairie spaces abutting your two-bit burg while you did what God intended -- play the game out till somebody wins. Let Minneapolis/St. Paul sue if it will. A nation, or at least Ken Burns, would rise to your defense.

Priorities, people!

UPDATE. This time I went too far. I don't know Mpls, but I'm sure it's a lovely city, worth far more than two bits. Pardon -- when I write about baseball I lose that cool, bloodless style that distinguishes my political writing.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

A WALK 'ROUND THE SOUTH SIDE. Around 11:20 I heard what sounded like a riot outside my apartment, so I padded down the stairs. From behind half the apartment doors in my building came howling and excited chatter. I got to my bodega and found the proprietor sitting well back from his usual station, watching a small TV tuned to a boxing match on HBO.

"Who's fighting?" I asked.

"Tito," said the proprietor, eyes glued.

On the tiny screen, a dark-haired young man was pounding on a pink-haired young man. Other citizens entered the bodega, exchanging money directly and carefully with the proprietor so as as not to divert his attention too much from the event.

"I hate that clown," said one young lady, referring to the pink-haired young man.

"Mm," said the proprietor. He is a small, pleasant- and small-featured fellow, his hair short, both his earlobes sporting small, bulbous growths, his skin the color of weak coffee.

The pink-haired young man was shown in close-up, a sealed cut visible high on one cheek of his dazed visage. Someone was squirting water at his mouth, which he barely acknowledged. "He's done," said a dreadlocked guy, passing the proprietor some bills for a six-pack of Malta Corona.

The pink-haired guy was nonetheless game enough to get up and exchange blows with the dark-haired young man, who soon got the better of him, knocking him down thrice before the referee raised the dark-haired young man's hand. No one in the bodega cheered, though I heard some roars in the street.

On my way home I was preceded by a teenager in a velour-drapery-inspired running suit of deepest purple. "Trinidad won, son," he drawled into his cell phone, swinging his legs as if he were accepting this victory for himself. "Nigga went down three time." "VZVVZZZ ZVVZV NIGGA ZBBZBZBZVVZ," replied the cell phone.

I had no idea the victorious Felix Trinidad is from Puerto Rico, the place of origin of most of my neighbors, but I inferred it quickly enough. His opponent, Ricardo Mayorga, is from Nicaragua, and showed a lot of heart. My compliments to him, and to Trinidad, and to all my neighbors, who paid (if they did pay -- pirate cable is rife here) fifty dollars to watch the fight on television.

I really don't understand why some folks pay extra money to live among white people.

SOCIAL ENGINEERING. As you may know, crime in New York City went down quite a lot in the 1990s. Conservatives attribute this to "Broken Windows" theorizing (arrest squeegee men, murders will plummet!) and the godlike demeanor of strongman Giuliani.

But back in 1994, the NYPD, which actually did the job, had an alternate theory:
Police Strategy No. 1, entitled "Getting Guns Off the Streets of New York," sets forth the Department's plan to eradicate gun violence by stepping up efforts to find and seize illegal firearms. These strategies remain in effect through the present… as implemented by the NYPD, "stop & frisk" serves the Department's No. 1 strategic goal -- "getting guns off the streets of New York." Notwithstanding its origins as a technique designed to ensure officer safety, "stop & frisk" plainly has been used as a method to detect and seize illegal handguns.
In 2001, Giuliani and then-Commissioner Kerik bragged that the City had confiscated almost 90,000 guns since 1994. Even right-wing factota like Heather McDonald agreed that "by getting thousands of guns off the streets… the NYPD has saved thousands of lives and allowed a semblance of normality to return to once terror-stricken neighborhoods." And to this day, our gun laws remain among the most restrictive in the nation.

Anyone who actually lives here – especially those of us who have lived here a very long time, and more than once been serenaded by the sound of gunfire – would see the sense in this. The mean streets are no place to play John Wayne. An armed society may be, as the bumper sticker says, a polite society -- in Happy Valley or Oshkosh. But not in Brooklyn.

This piece of common sense does not seem to have penetrated the skulls of Congressional Republicans, who last week rammed a bill through the House designed to increase the number of firearms floating around crime-wracked Washington, D.C.:
The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill yesterday repealing most of the District's gun laws, in a vote that handed an election-season victory to gun rights groups and was denounced by the city's leaders as a historic violation of home rule.

By a vote of 250 to 171, the House passed the D.C. Personal Protection Act, which would end the District's 1976 ban on handguns and semiautomatic weapons, roll back registration requirements for ammunition and decriminalize possession of unregistered weapons and possession of guns in homes or workplaces.
More semiautomatic weapons – despite the expressed wishes of the citizens! That’s the (forgive the expression) magic bullet that will curb D.C. crime, alright alright.

But, of course, no one is his right mind believes that the GOP Congressmen from Bumfuck give a rat’s ass about the security of the largely-black citizens of the District of Columbia. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mark Edward Souder (R., Bumfuck), decreed that this result was "demanded by the people of the United States" – which translates roughly as "demanded by the nutcase core of Rep. Souder’s Party."

This would of course include the NRA, whose paper on what they consider to be the deleterious effects of gun registration in New York actually ignores (though written in 2000) everything that happened after the NYPD got tough on guns in 1994 -- showing far less interest in the crime drop than in the case of some guy in Staten Island who lost his weapons cache.

These malign agents are aided and abetted by conservative hard-liners eager to flood cities – including New York – with firearms just to show solidarity with gun-nut voters. One such, National Review’s Jack Dunphy, a pseudonymic "officer in the Los Angeles Police Department" (Mark Fuhrman?), actually derided the New York Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association’s thorough (and thoroughly reasonable) endorsement of Senator Chuck Schumer’s tough gun-control stand, using the blind quotes of another alleged cop as his flimsy prop. Dunphy’s nameless mouthpiece derided PBA chief Pat Lynch as a wuss and a sellout – which would no doubt surprise New York’s real cops, who voted Lynch in, and who stand a far smaller chance of being killed in the line of duty since our gun count went down.

A similarly nutty piece was published (though under his real name) on OpinionJournal by John Fund (not a cop). "The debate over the district's draconian gun ban should provide valuable lessons for other cities that have foolishly tried to fight crime by disarming their citizens," says Fund. "Gun control is bad for public safety…" Unsurprisingly, he does not mention New York, leaving that to his published commenters -- "The cities in our nation, which have the most restrictive gun ownership and usage laws, also have the highest violent crime rates… You need only look at D.C., New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles to see it," says Ken Taylor of -- (wait for it) -- Heath Springs, SC.

Do any of you guys remember way back when the conservatives (and the mainstream media) were bitching about an alleged phenomenon called "Political Correctness" – whereby liberals were supposed to be foisting their untested, unsupportable social-engineering ideas on people via crackpot laws and codes?

Haven’t heard much about it lately, have you? The Right appears to have dropped it as a swear-word.

Maybe because they’ve decided it’s not such a bad idea.

Friday, October 01, 2004

READING THE TEE-HEE LEAVES. At OpinionJournal we hear that "a Baptist-bashing Crawford, Texas, newspaper endorses Kerry."

At the New York Post, movie reviewer Lou Limenick decries John Kerry's "foundering" campaign, and music writer Dan Aquilante criticizes Flogging Molly's "anti-Bush, anti-Christian, anti-American-football sentiments." (No word, thus far, from the theatre and TV critics.)

Rush Limbaugh says CBS lies.

Jim Lileks says, "#@!*%@!"

Gee, Kerry must have beat Bush worse than I thought.

UPDATE. This is driving them nuts at The Corner. The talkings points are:andI imagine the boo-yahs will be back presently, but it's sort of cute to see them rattled.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

SUMMATION. The postmorticians will carry the usual water for the usual suspects. Me, on the other hand, you can trust.

So let me say that each candidate made as good as case as could be expected for his policies. But the benefit of the event will probably go mostly to Kerry.

Kerry's great accomplishment was to counteract the cartoon image with which his opponents have tried to cover him. He did not appear the least indecisive; the President, in seeking to resurrect that talking point throughout the debate, seemed ignoble and mildly desperate. Kerry seemed to know what he was talking about, what he meant to do, and how he meant to do it. Even his traditional, rigid manner helped in this regard.

Bush's great accomplishment was to be the President of the United States. Which, as his father knows, only works if people think you're doing a good job.

To refer to the contest as a tie implies that both parties gained or lost a similar amount. I don't see it. Bush only showed what we already knew about him. Kerry, for his considerable failings, showed that what we had been told to believe about him was not self-evidently the truth.

Whether this amounts to anything depends on 1.) who saw it and 2.) who cares. Those factors are probably beyond the reach of conventional politics.

LET US GO ANOTHER WAY. The chess reporting wasn’t working for me – not without beer, anyway. Let’s try this in update fashion:

The point of conflict on international agreement is the same as has been portrayed outside here: Bush portrays his tough stand as more effective – as with the Korean talks, or lack thereof – and more noble, as when he challenges Kerry’s notion of a "global test" – Bush speaks of it as if it were some kinda candyass foofoo thing. That act doesn’t work so well with this Kerry guy, though, because he isn’t a candyass. Bush’s charges aren’t wilting him, and he made a great case about the decent opinion of the world (to paraphrase Washington) using the example of Kennedy and DeGaulle – which of course will be used in the blogosphere as proof of Kerry’s Frenchification. Might work there – doesn’t work here.

Bush shows surpising aplomb discussing the Korean discussions. First time he looks like a President all night.

Kerry is treating the Darfur question as a tactical issue, and this could be trouble because Bush is gonna go for outrage instead – which would expose his flank (i.e., he hasn’t done shit).

Do I win the pony? No, Bush is rattling off the financial contributions and diplomatic efforts for which he has been responsible. Cites also the African Union, even mentions the rainy season, which looks knowledgable.

Now they’re gonna talk character. Bush says, "Whoo! That’s a loaded question… Service to his country… great dad… 20 years in the Senate…" (Stop that!) Basically Bush works the flipflop angle. The idea is that Bush is strong, Kerry is weak.

Kerry begins nobly too – the compliments to Bush's wife, of course, point out that Bush said nothing about Mrs. Kerry. Kerry says certainty is only good if you’re right. That’s a key point and he should maybe repeat it three times, and during the next question too.

Bush says he won’t change his core values, or "wilt." Kerry says he’s never wilted and he’s never wavered. That will be fun for bloggers at some point, I imagine.

Getting to the end now… Kerry cites nuclear proliferation, and lauds his own work in that area, which is actually a salesman-politician trick and I don’t know it will go. He’s on the Russia case again, and that’s a fair cop – also a niche for him, if you will.

Bush hasn’t prepped as hard for this as Kerry, but he has an initiative and he’s trying to flog it. He refers to WMD instead of proliferation, which may not be such a hot idea. But the opportunity is not missed: Bush is more comfortable talking out his achievements, such as they are. Which is probably as it should be.

In close-out Kerry says he’ll do better, and Bush goes back to the Korean talks. Here is our Quemoy and Matsu.

The last question is about Putin, of all things. Bush is against Putin’s rollbacks of reform, and says he told Putin that. (Love to have been a fly on that wall.) Brings up Beslan, which is bringing up terror, and talks up his good relationship with Putin, which is of course a President’s prerogative. But the more he goes on about it, the weaker he seems – he’s actually acting out the role his people have assigned to Kerry – on-the-other-handing.

Kerry says he was in Russia at the USSR’s fall, and I’m sure Professor Reynolds will challenge this.

Kerry gets into the warm and thoughtful tone, then takes the first opportunity to return to the Korean exchange. This seems to throw Bush a little, because he scuttles back to Kerry the flip-flopper. That gives Kerry the chance to clarify his position on Iraq ("That’s not the issue").

Closeouts: Kerry is much better in conversation than in solo work (well, I’m better in scenes than monologues myself) but in this context his wooden, stentorian manner is not such a liability. "Freedom, not to fear" is a slogan that may or may not mean anything, depending on whether you believe him.

Bush is back on uncertainty and weakness vs. strength, and he begins with a list of things he’s going to do, more of them pretty formless. It’s a fireside chat, which, again, is what a President gets to do. Again, it depends on whether you believe him.

ALRIGHT, LET'S GET THIS OVER WITH. 9:00 pm. How odd this comes right after Survivor. Does the winner get a stick?

Coral Gables! Well, at least the accomodations will be nice. The rules sound complicated, and will probably be observed as they are at the Academy Awards -- oh, a buzzer? Hopefully it goes "Beee-Oooh" like the ones in old Warner Brothers cartoons.

K1: Well, that's a big claim. (Would you protect against 9/11 better? Yes I would.) I would have said, "We'll see."

I don't know how thanking Florida helps -- pre-empts Bush, I guess...

B1: ...Yeah, that was the idea.

He sounds like he's tired. "Take threats seriously before... they materialize... Saddam.. prison cell." Well, that's the pitch. "Free nations will help us achieve..."

Weird deflection of the Will Kerry Get Us All Killed question. I'm gonna win. I guess the cowboys will go for that. "Constantly stay on the offensive... spread liberty... show up at the polls... no doubt about it, it's tough... the enemy understands... they showed up in Afghanistan..." Taps podium.

K2: "Hunt down and kill the terrorists." Well, that's butch. "No connection to 9/11... WMD, not the removal of Saddam Hussein... massive error in judgment." That's his pitch. Now endorsements -- no one cares about that, I don't think. "President relied on Afghan warlords." Taps podium.

K3: Misjudgments? "Where do you want me to begin?... A timeline that's hard to follow because of delivery, the Big Stiff's signature failing. "Parents and say... I tried to do everything in my power..." Uses incident for emotion, failing in delivery. Opium in Afghanistan? He's pushing way too much in here.

B3: "Declared in 2002 that Hussein was a great threat... he said... not have the judgment to be President. I agree with him." The no-laughing rule holds. "I didn't need anybody to tell me to go to the UN..." Channeling Zell. "Disclose, disarm, or face consequences... Sixteen other resolutions and nothing took place... pre September 10th mentality... the world is safer without Saddam Hussein."

B4: Saddam/bin Laden? "We can do both... they have such hatred... essential we have strong alliances and we do..." Can't be a cowboy and a diplomat, George. bin Laden "is isolated... Sheik Mohammed is in prison... we're making progress." I get it now; the more problems we have, the better it's going.

"The Iraqs want to be free... Alawi... doesn't want U.S. Leadership to send mixed signals... when Iraq is free America will be more secure."

K4: "Iraq was not even close to the center of the war on terror before the President decided.... rushed to war... no plan to win the peace." This is his strong suit. "Body armor... kids in Ohio..." Emo Incident. Call it EO henceforth? "Kids in hospital..." We'll get tired of that. Kerry's dropping his g's now.

EXTENSION Ba: "He voted for the extension of force... don't see how you can lead... what message... troops... allies... Iraqis... steadfast and resolved." Ka: "Yes I will succeed... I don't believe this President can..." Maybe he should stop there and just glower.

K5: "Cops… firehouses… tunnels and bridges…" Hey, no fair! Foreign policy… "Cargo hold not x-rayed, does that make you feel safer… tax cut…" Hey, he’s hijacking and getting away from it. Maybe he does have the balls. "Nuclear and chemical plants… gave in to the chemical industry… former Soviet Union…."

B6: "How he’s gonna pay for all these promises." Oh, please. Then talks about all the things he’s somehow paying for. This is rank. "Stay on the offense…. Right 100% of the time…" Floundering. "Changed the culture of the FBI…" Bills of particulars are not going to work here. "Patriot Act is vital…" Wouldn’t lean on that.

EXTENSION: Kb: "100,000 hours of tapes unlistened… may be the enemy being right the next time." Hey, that’s good. "We didn’t need that tax cut." Bb: "I wake up every day… I work with Director Mueller… lotta really good people… hard work… you better have a president who chases these terrorists down." Awful.

B7: Home from Iraq? "Iraqi citizens trained to do the job…" Buncha numbers. Think they’re right? "I want to do… not for the sake of bringing them home…" OK. "See the Iraqis step up… ready to defend themselves… a nation that’s free, that’s when… artificial deadlines… opponent… six months… you can’t do that…" Why? You lie, why can’t he? "Ally on war on terror… secure Israel… Iran…"

K6: "Troops deserve better… ropeline coming out here… returnees… they said, ‘We need you.’" This trick might work. Bush’s father’s book, exit strategy: "Occupiers in a bitterly hostile land." Ouch. "Guarded the oil ministry… didn’t guard the borders… I know what it’s like… I’m gonna hold that summit."

EXTENSION Bc: "Help is on the way…. How… ‘wrong war, wrong time’… he voted against the… voted for it before he…"

Kc: "A mistake in how I talked about the war, the President made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?" Well, yeah. "Vietnam." The ears perk, not always with hope.

K7: Dying for a mistake? "They don’t have to provided we…." Elect me. Clever. More particular. Brings up Clarke, "FDR invading Mexico." He’s pretty good at this. "Summits… pull people together… he pushed them away… ‘no no, we’ll do this alone'… Halliburton."

B8: "Totally absurd… what’s he say to Tony Blair?" OK. "Poland?" Uh… "Call upon nations to serve? What’s the message gonna be… join us for the wrong war… I deal with them all the time.. they’re not gonna follow someone… politics… Japan… an Arab summit… Colin Powell helped set up that summit." Who?

K8: "Kofi Annan… never picked him up on that… when we went in we had three countries…"

B9: "You forgot Poland." Bush wins Milwaukee! "Called us the coerced and the bribed!" Name-calling? Tut.

B10: Miscalculation? "Because we achieved such a rapid victory… more of the Saddam loyalists were around." Huh? "I though they’d stay and fight but they didn’t and we’re fightin’ them now… I think you can be realistic and optimistic at the same time…. Mixed signals to our troops, our friends, and the Iraqi citizens…" Bill of particulars.

K9: "President has described one kind of mistake… even knowing that there was no imminent threat, he would have still done everything the same way… truth is what good policy is based on… but you can’t tell me… 8,300 and below that 4,000 and below that there isn’t anybody over the hundreds…" That is too good. Bush is gonna have to get angry.

K10: Lies? "I’ve never used the harshest words… but… SOTU… nuclear materials that didn’t exist… not the kind of coalition described… UN… rushed to war… he misled the American people… ‘planned carefully’… ‘last resort’… it is important… a fresh start… new credibility…" He’s building this like anyone will be listening after 20 minutes. I dunno.

B11: "’Osama uses the invasion’… Osama doesn’t get to decide… it wasn’t a mistake… when he said… when he said…" Kerry’s just writing on his pad. Maybe he thinks Bush makes the case against him badly. "Keeps changing his positions… that’s not how a Commander in Chief acts… the intelligence… same intelligence."

K11: "I wasn't misleading… threat… nor… when I said he had made a mistake… I’ve had one consistent position… a right way and a wrong way."

B12: "Only thing about my opponent’s position is that he’s been inconsistent… a free Iraq, a free Afghanistan."

B13: Worth the lives? "Every life is precious… A son or a daughter… Mitzi Johnson… Charlotte, NC…" Two can play at that game, Stiffy! "Caused her loved ones to be in harms way… teared up and laughed some… husband’s sacrifice was noble and worthy…" He’s better at it, too. "Saddam Hussein was a threat… spread freedom… Missy understood that… that’s what distinguishes us from the enemy…" He worked on this one. "Free Iraq… powerful…"

K12: "I know what it means to lose people in combat… question… reminds me of my own thinking when I came back… vital not to confuse the war, ever, with the warriors…. That’s one of the reasons why… I want to make sure the outcome honored their nobility…." That wasn’t bad either.

I need a break.

FOSTER BARTON UPDATE. Remember Foster Barton, the soldier who got beat up at a Toby Keith concert, which violence was then laid at the doorstep of John Kerry supporters? The Columbus cops have apparently picked up his alleged assailant -- a former soldier named Brent Cornwell:
When asked by the judge if he had anything to say, Cornwell said, "No, I just can't wait until [Delaware County Prosecutor Dave Yost] hears my side of the story."
I can't wait, either. I imagine he'll finger Joe Lockhart, or maybe Ted Rall, as the wheelman. Or it may be as I originally suspected -- a standard-issue fight in a parking lot which has been turned into a ridiculous smear on people who don't vote the right way. We'll see.

Infidel Cowboy says that, by questioning the particulars of this story, I "show obvious disdain for soldiers and anyone on the right." That's quite a leap, considering I never said a mean word about Foster. As for "anyone on the right," well, while I do come close sometimes, I don't see that either -- you know how we liberals are always flip-flopping and on-the-other-handing, so how could I rustle up enough moral clarity to disdain the entire right?

In fact, considering what gutless wimps we're supposed to be, it's amazing that he'd think a guy who attacked a U.S. soldier outside a Toby Keith concert -- a former soldier himself, yet --is one of us.

WHY THE DEBATE IS (SORT OF) IMPORTANT. A well-informed friend wrote to me today and suggested that we skip tonight's Presidential debate. We all know how we're going to vote already, he suggested; why not spare ourselves the aggravation?

While any course of action that might quiet the screaming voices in my head is worth considering, nonetheless I expect to watch (and liveblog -- or rather, given my dialup connection, lagblog) the debate. My main reason is simple. I want to see what this Kerry guy is about.

You'd think I'd know by now, but I'm a simple soul who just knows what he reads by the papers and sees on the TV, which is to say that I mainly know about Kerry what the Bush campaign wants me to know.

This is not to say that our media are all or even mainly Republican shills (though there are plenty of these, and all of them are much more egregious than whatever opposite numbers may exist on the left; today's New York Post, for example, was as on-message as polling-place handout -- even the style section had a huge article on Kerry's allegedly phony tan).

The media don't have to be shills -- they just have to be lazy and nervous. Repurposing a press-release is always easier than legwork, and after the document-kerning outrage, news orgs are even more risk-averse than usual, and that's saying something. And, with Karl Rove spoon- and force-feeding them stories, the media can take the easy way out more easily than ever.

So along with the boring pictures of candidates with their sleeves rolled up, each day we get a fairly predictable batch of stories. The Bush stories are usually stop-the-presses stuff about the movements of the President of the United States (look, he's going from Texas to Florida! Look, he's goin' again!). And any government event that can be spun, however shakily, as a net plus gets Bush's fingerprints stuck onto it (even a "flat consumer spending" story carries a talking point so carefully crafted -- "President Bush says his three major tax cuts have lifted the country out of recession, and are responsible for strong economic growth" -- one wonders whether the paper's editor didn't just pull it out of the appropriate drawer of a multi-chambered gift box from Ed Gillespie).

The Kerry stories, conversely, are about windsurfing, flipflops, botox and fake tans.

Our derelict Fourth Estate probably gets itself to sleep at night with the notion (eased into the bloodstream via a solution of single malt) that whatever factual slack their hackwork leaves will be taken up by concerned citizens. You know, like the Swift Boat Veterans.

The larger reality behind all this is the fact that the Republican Party has about twice as much money as the Democratic Party.

I really think I need to repeat that: the Republican Party has about twice as much money as the Democratic Party.

If you need more explanation than that, you haven't been paying attention. I don't mean attention to this column. I mean attention in life.

So tonight's event is Kerry's best chance to date to present and explain himself to hundreds, perhaps even thousands of citizens who have lost the remote and, through laziness or physical disability, cannot get up to switch to Vegas Hookers Gone Wild In Their New Queer-Eyed Home! It isn't much, but it's about as good as he's going to get this season.

I look forward with interest. Hell, maybe he'll convince me to vote for Nader.