Our apologies to those readers who have been unable to view Altercation over the past couple of days.  Though the issue reached beyond this blog, it was in large part through the feedback from Altercation readers that we were able to diagnose and repair the problem.  Thanks for your help.

October 22, 2004 | 12:08 PM ET

Um, I don’t want to panic anyone but, Bush is winning again.  Get out there people, drive the old folks and the poor folks to the polls.  Threaten to cut off the kids if they don’t vote.  Come on.  How will we explain ourselves to the rest of the world if he somehow gets legitimately elected this time?  And what will be left of our country if these guys are given four more years, untethered to reality by the prospect of a second election, with domination of both houses, most legislatures and two, possibly three picks on the Supreme Court?  I know it’s almost beyond imagination, but it’s real.  Go to Pennsylvania.  Go to Michigan.  Go to Wisconsin.  (What the hell is up with Wisconsin?  Are they missing the glory days of Joe McCarthy?)  Go to Ohio.  Go to Florida.  Go to Colorado.  Go to New Hampshire.  Go to Minnesota.  Save our country.

Evil or just morons?  (And does it really matter anymore?)

We have a new Think Again column.  It’s part II of last week’s column on the funding of conservative ideas, drawn from the report of the National Council for Responsive Philanthropy.  That report is here.  (Part one of the article is here.)

Salon takes one last look at some of the characters behind tonight's Sinclair television special; a station owner who recruited his newsroom employees to help make-good on his own prostitution arrest, and a film maker who has a history of making wild, bogus accusations against Vietnam vets.

Why can't Mickey read?  Um, dude, it is on the home page, and much of the magazine is not, so what exactly is your point?  And it wasn’t exactly Navasky’s project, and though it was a mistake, The Nation, to its credit, stuck with it anyway because it is a magazine that stands by Victor’s word.  (And while we’re on the topic have there been any “Why I am for Kerry pieces” in the Weekly Standard or National Review?)  But rather than Christopher, read the edit TNR's too.  Also this too, “100 Facts and 1 Opinion: The Non-Arguable Case Against the Bush Administration,” by Judd Legum, here.

The Curse: Some history.  (Thanks Petey.)

Don’t go away mad, Ralph, PART XXXVIII

Why Does C-Span’s Book TV hate Eric Alterman?  When they put on my Aspen Institute talk on at 4:00 a.m. last Monday morning I figured they were saving it for this weekend.  But no.  What’s up with that?  Have I ever shown anything but love to you guys? 

Correspondents’ Corner:

Charles Pierce:  THIRTY DAYS OUT
Slacker Friday Edition -- October 22, 2004

Hey Doc;
Glad it's the Cardinals.  There's more history there -- and, more to the point, less starting pitching -- than there would've been against Houston.

Four years ago, when Katherine Harris was an unknown hack and the Supreme Court still had some reputation for fairness, "Republican campaign officials" -- *coughKarlRovecough* -- made a big show of how fat and happy they were with the whole business.  There was a useless trip to California, which C-Plus Augustus couldn't have carried against Vlad The Impaler, and some very loose talk about 350 electoral votes.  There were several polls cited to support this strategy.  Some of them were even reputable ones.  It was a towering bluff and, come Election Day And The Great Thereafter, a lot of someones came within Clarence Thomas' political integrity of looking really stupid.  OK, that's not very close, but you get my point.

You have noticed, of course, that we are in that period again.  I guarantee you will see a number of stories over the next 10 days -- attributed, as always, to anonymous sources -- about how confident the president is.  You will see polls to that effect, cited by Little Russ and the gang on Sunday.  Last night, Little Russ and Tom Brokaw, The Man Who Invented World War II, were chewing the fat over some poll or another and, I believe, gave C-Plus a fighting chance in Massachusetts.  Sit, Tim.  Fetch, Tom.  Good boys.

We had the trip to New Jersey this week.  We had the mini-vacation to Crawford that was so short that Himself didn't even have time to ignore a PDB, but which got them the visuals they wanted.  Like so much of the rest of the Republican campaign, this is about depressing (in every sense) the newly energized Democratic turnout by demonstrating through a pliant national media that the election is pretty much a foregone conclusion.  Who are you going to believe anyway?  Them or your own lying eyes?

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid to take a break from the election and talk about something more important.  Colin Powell has hit a new low.  It was bad enough the way he positioned himself on the Iraq war to look good regardless of how the war turned out.  You remember, he refused to resign in protest, but was happy to freely "leak" his contempt for the neocon's lack of diplomacy and lousy war planning.  At the same time, he leaked the story of how contemptuous he felt at the French's "betrayal" over Resolution 1441 and how he sided with the President against further delay.

Now he's pulling the same schtick in Darfur.  At a conference at Harvard last week, John Prendergast, who worked on African issues in the Clinton Administration, claimed that on the same day Powell declared Darfur to be a "genocide" he dispatched an envoy to the Sudanese government to assure them the declaration had no teeth (i.e., was only for domestic consumption).  (You can view the conference, which also featured modern day hero Romeo Dallaire and Samantha Power, here.) 

Whether or not this is true, Powell effectively did the same thing in a speech to Congress when he ruled out any U.S. intervention.  Powell and Kofi Annan looked oh-so-concerned when they made their high profile visit to Sudan months ago.  Since then all the pressure has been from Tony Blair.  Remember all of this when Powell is getting rich next year from his serve-and-tell book.  As for Darfur itself, has any foreign crisis in history received more hot air and less action?  The activist community is understandably frustrated and confused as to what to do next.  My suggestion: the president immediately appoint special envoy Bill Clinton, who can draw on his international star power and alleged guilt over Rwanda.  In fact, Clinton should beg for the chance. 

Name: Eric Rauchway
Hometown: Davis, CA
Eric,
You say you want to know what's wrong with those of us who like "The Plot Against America" because you can't even manage to read it.  My dear boy, as Oliver Cromwell said to the Church of Scotland, "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken."  I cannot say why you do not like the book but I can say why I, as a longtime admirer of Roth, do -- while recognizing that it is a different creature from his usual books.

Roth likes to show off his chops.  The normal Roth book takes place several degrees away from the writer:  Roth writes as Zuckerman writing about a story someone else told him, often while they were both drunk.  Unreliability abounds, the real becomes surreal -- it's a great way to ease into the fantastic episodes of American history like McCarthyism or the violence of the 1960s.  By taking us through several layers of consciousness, when we arrive at a truly bizarre episode -- American cities burst into flame under the pressure of race riots, say -- it hits us even harder because we remember that it actually happened.

Not so the Plot Against America.  The voice is "Philip Roth," and unlike "Philip Roth" in Operation Shylock it's a quiet, contemplative, realistic -- not to say real or even more real -- voice.  It sounds like the voice of someone recalling youth with a measure of self-awareness and guilt about the solipsism and irresponsibility of childhood.  Which is ordinary enough, only in this case the child has participated -- collaborated, perhaps we should say -- in a pogrom against his own people.  Out of selfishness, not out of cynicism.  Without revealing details I should say I think it is an extraordinary portrait of how, via a childlike set of qualities, ordinary people do perpetuate pogroms.

It is for this psychological portrait alone a terrific book.  It's also a nice reminder of what lay underneath the gentility of American public life in the 1940s, and the battle FDR and his allies had to fight for decency in their own county.  And yes, what lay underneath then still lies there.  Not long ago a deservedly distinguished and not especially old professor of U.S. history told me he didn't get much out of a particularly energetic seminar paper because he found the presentation "a little too Jewish, don't you think?"  The public pieties have shifted (Rochefoucauld again) but not long ago and not very far, Roth reminds us.

So yes, I and others are getting something out of it.  Maybe not you.  As Lionel Trilling admitted of his encounter with difficult books, possibly you could say, "I bored them."

Best, as ever,
ER

Name: David Baker
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland

Hello Eric,
Being the soccer fan that I am, I can tell you that France has never "beaten [West] Germany in a World Cup championship match" that I know of.  Both in 1982 and 1986, Germany beat France in the semi-finals of the World Cup - I remember both games vividly because I was a huge Michel Platini fan (the star midfielder for France) and France were robbed in both games of a deserved victory.

France did not qualify in 1974, nor in 1990 and 1994 and they did not play Germany in 1978.  They did win the World Cup in 1998, but beat Brazil 3-0.

They did beat Germany 6-3 for third place in World Cup in 1958, but that would make you 65, which I somehow doubt.

If I am correct in guessing that it was June/July, 1984 that you were in Paris, it would be EUROPEAN championship final, which was held in France that year, where they beat Spain in the final 2-0.

Eric replies: Merci beaucoup, David.  We at Altercation think ourselves even more manly for being able to admit our mistakes.

Name: Greg Costello
Hometown: Dallas, TX (but native NY)

Hey Eric:
I'm a big fan of yours, an everyday reader and occasional correspondent.  I decided to drop a line to you tonight to beg your mercy.

A large portion of the New Yorkers who make up much of your fan base are also fans of the Yankees.  I know that this team offends the sensibilities of many folks of our political mindset, with their huge payroll and didactic owner, but we love them because we always have.

I guess I can't ask you not to mention the ALCS, but please go easy on us.  Yankees fans have feelings, too.  Hear that, Pierce?  Alt?

October 21, 2004 | 12:00 PM ET

God proves existence
I was in Paris one night in my early twenties when France beat Germany in a World Cup championship match.  Nobody slept that night.  Boston was better.  The expense account restaurant exploded with Mr. Damon’s home run.  When the game ended the city-wide cheer was louder at first than I remember Paris, but over sooner; which was good because some of us have publicists who believe in 5:00 a.m. wake-up calls.  The 2004 Yankees will always be the team of the “super-choke.”  Justice is indeed a beautiful thing.

And guess what’s next?  Easy one, I know.  Here are the “Top 35 Trends that say Kerry will Take the White House in November."  #36 is the Red Sox last night.  (Yes I know it was the Rangers who rescued him from failed oil venture after failed oil venture but I’ve always thought of Steinbrenner as a kind of close Bush family relation.  I’m sure it’s in Kitty Kelly there somewhere.

Got this in the mail; don’t know who came up with it:

What's the difference between Vietnam and Iraq?
Bush had a plan for getting out of Vietnam.

See here: Iraq Vets against the war

The Horror of Horowitz:  I’ve been hearing about this scam of David Horowitz’s for a couple of years now on various speaking gigs.  In order to drum up attention for himself and no doubt, funds for his “Center” he finds some liberal or left-wing professor at a school at which he has been invited by the local conservative student group and seeks to destroy the reputation of said scholar with a series of McCarthyite accusations.  If the school is publicly funded, he will often find some troglodyte legislature to conduct an inquiry into the debasement of our children, or some such nonsense.   This story appears to confirm my suspicions and increases my hope in the existence of Hell so that Horowitz might now spend a few extra weeks there one day.

Anyone care to ‘esplain this? 

Were I insisting that only female geeks of the art film, political, graphic novel, literary, spiritual and countercultural variety -- those sharing my own antisocial obsessions -- applied, then that would be a valid criticism.  However, it should be noted that the geek-girl who has read the "Harry Potter" books a dozen times or possesses a shelf full of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" paperbacks is cute just as a girl with all seven books of Grant Morrison's "The Invisibles" or a carefully-highlighted copy of Eric Alterman's "What Liberal Media?" is cute.

I forgot to recommend these articles when they first appeared in the New York Review: Joan Didion, here, Stanley Hoffmann, here, and Rob Malley, here This one too, from Salon, called “The State Department's extreme makeover,” And Jay Rosen on Kerry and Sinclair here on the whole Sinclair mishigas.

Thanks to everybody who came to B&N last night despite everything.  Those who did, by the way, got a chance to give Mr. Pierce just a fraction of the recognition he has earned from all of us.  That was a thrill, guy.  Thanks.

Charles Pierce: THIRTY DAYS OUT
Day 13 -- October 21, 2004
Hey Doc --
From this day hence, can you, like, visit Boston every time there's a seventh game?  And, Siv Daddy, the next time you're at the Stadium, thank Joe Torre for me for trotting out Kevin Brown and Javier Vasquez seriatim last night, thereby fulfilling my lifelong dream of seeing what $25 million worth of manure looks like.

Hee. Hee.

If you can explain to me why in the name of Johnny Damon the Junior Senator spent the morning murdering waterfowl in Ohio, you're a shrewder political mind than I am.  And Mike McCurry?  If you're going to concoct a phony stunt like this, it would be better if you didn't go before the assembled hackdom on the plane and say that your campaign is trying to connect with some "regular-guy" stuff, thereby reminding all and sundry that he, you know, has to do that.  Can you imagine McCurry at any time in the previous Administration, explaining a Bill 'n Hill photo op thusly, "We have them holding hands because we needed to demonstrate that the president doesn't spend all his time shtupping the hired help."

I can't.

Look, folks, the guy is a war hero.  The guy killed people, for pity's sake.  Are we really at such an immature stage in this political culture that having done that isn't macho enough in the face of C-Plus Augustus and his manly-man Divine Duodenum method of governance?  The answer, of course, is yes, but I just thought I'd ask the question anyway.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Unstable Isotope
Hometown: Buffalo, NY

Missile Defense

I see that the missile defense is not going well.  Something that hasn't been widely reported is that the American Physical Society did a study and found that it wasn't possible.  Yet another example of how Bush misuses science.

From the executive summary, found here.

Our main conclusions are the following:

1.  Boost-phase defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) hinges on the burn time of the attacking missile and the speed of the defending interceptor rocket. Defense of the entire United States against liquid-propellant ICBMs, such as those deployed early by the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China (China), launched from countries such as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and Iran, may be technically feasible using terrestrial (land-, sea-, or air-based) interceptors. However, the interceptor rockets would have to be substantially faster (and therefore necessarily larger) than those usually proposed in order to reach the ICBMs in time from international waters or neighboring countries willing to host the interceptors. The system would also require the capability to cope with at least the simplest of countermeasures.

2.  Boost-phase defense of the entire United States against solid-propellant ICBMs, which have shorter burn times than liquid-propellant ICBMs, is unlikely to be practical when all factors are considered, no matter where or how interceptors are based. Even with optimistic assumptions, a terrestrial-based system would require very large interceptors with extremely high speeds and accelerations to defeat a solid-propellant ICBM launched from even a small country such as North Korea. Even such high-performance interceptors could not defend against solid-propellant ICBMs launched from Iran, because they could not be based close enough to disable the missiles before they deployed their munitions.

3.  If interceptor rockets were based in space, their coverage would not be constrained by geography, but they would confront the same time constraints and engagement uncertainties as terrestrial-based interceptors. Consequently, their kill vehicles (the final homing stage of the interceptors) would have to be similar in size to those of terrestrial-based interceptors. With the technology we judge could become available within the next 15 years, defending against a single ICBM would require a thousand or more interceptors for a system having the lowest possible mass and providing realistic decision time. Deploying such a system would require at least a five- to tenfold increase over current U.S. space-launch rates.

4.  The Airborne Laser now under development could have some capability against liquid-propellant missiles, but it would be ineffective against solid-propellant ICBMs, which are more heat-resistant.

5.  The existing U.S. Navy Aegis system, using an interceptor rocket similar to the Standard Missile 2, should be capable of defending against short- or medium-range missiles launched from ships, barges, or other platforms off U.S. coasts. However, interceptor rockets would have to be positioned within a few tens of kilometers of the launch location of the attacking missile.

6.  A key problem inherent in boost-phase defense is munitions shortfall: although a successful intercept would prevent munitions from reaching their target, it could cause live nuclear, chemical, or biological munitions to fall on populated areas short of the target, in the United States or other countries. Timing intercepts accurately enough to avoid this problem would be difficult.

The full report and additional information can be found here.

Name: Barry Ritholtz
Hometown:
The Big Picture
Hey Doc,
Some interesting, below the surface changes going on with key demographic groups in the present election.  All of these shifts are new to this election, and we do not know if they will be permanent.  The one thing we do know is that they all accrue to the benefit of the challenger and the detriment of the incumbent:

Cubans, Hispanics, Arabs: Are Key Demographic Shifting Party Affiliation?
( mirror)

"It's not a community that any party has a lock on," says Ismael Ahmed, the executive director of Access, the biggest Arab-American social services agency in the country, which is based in Dearborn. 

"Especially a community like this one where 60% weren't born here.  We're not really committed to either party."

"We were motivated when we backed Bush and we are motivated now," says Osama Sablini, Aapac's chairman and publisher of the Arab American newspaper, who backed Mr Bush four years ago. "The Bush administration has been a major disappointment to this community and we cannot afford four more years of this."
- Under siege since 9/11, Arab voters shift to Kerry

When the dust settles on this election, a significant shift will have taken place in several key demographics.  Due to a random twist of fate, this will be especially true in the swing states.

The resulting shift in traditional party affiliations could very well throw the election to the challenger.

Since early this year, we've been watching a number of key voting blocs "flip flop" (sorry) away from their prior voting patterns.  The demographic ethnic groups with the greatest potential to impact the 2004 Presdiential election are both Cubans and Hispanics in Florida, and the Arabs-Americans in the Midwest.

On numerous occasions this year, we have noted, Cuban American voters in Florida continue to be a potential problem for President Bush in the upcoming election.  Further, we similarly observed that the President's support among Arab Americans has tumbled, and significantly for this election, in the swing states.

Whether this is a permanent change of party affiliation, or just a reaction to the present regime, is unknown.  But it is clear that major changes are taking place. So says The Guardian:

You will find more Arab-Americans in California and New York, but you will not find a greater concentration of them than here. One in three people in Dearborn is of Arab origin; Detroit is the biggest Iraqi city outside Iraq.

It is by no means typical. "Unlike anywhere else in America, you could live your whole life in Dearborn in an Arab-American bubble," says Jennifer Salan of the Arab American Institute (AAI).

But, where electoral politics are concerned, it is important. The latest tracking poll shows the Democrats leading by four percentage points in the swing state of Michigan; Arab-Americans comprise 5% of the state's vote.

By luck rather than design Arab-Americans are a sizeable force in many swing states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. In a third of the states needed to win the electoral college, Arab-Americans make up more than the gaps between the two parties.

What is more they are up for grabs. In 2000 they backed George Bush.  This year they are leaning half-heartedly towards his Democratic challenger, John Kerry. In a close race which will be decided in just a few places, Arab-Americans are a rare and precious phenomenon: a swing constituency in several swing states.

While Cuban voters may shift by as much as 20% towards the challenger -- that's 80,000 votes out of 400,000 statewide -- Hispanic voters overall throughout Florida are a very significant bloc.

Colombians, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans are leaning toward Senator John Kerry, polls suggest, though many have registered as independents and the Democrats do not consider their vote a sure thing. Nicaraguans embrace President Bush, and Cubans, while still overwhelmingly Republican, may throw some support to the Democrats for a change.

Little wonder, then, that Florida's 3.2 million Hispanic residents - the state's largest minority group, tens of thousands of whom will be first-time voters next month - are among the most coveted voters in the nation this year. . .

A new poll of 800 Florida Hispanics by The Washington Post, Univision and the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute found Mr. Bush leading Mr. Kerry by 61 percent to 32 percent. Mr. Bush drew 81 percent of the Cuban vote, while Mr. Kerry won 42 percent of the Puerto Rican vote and 48 percent of Hispanics who were not Cuban or Puerto Rican.

There is one other demographic worth noting, only this one is nationwide:  Women voters. The challenger appears to have made very significant inroads among the so-called security moms:

Senator John Kerry appears to have reversed his slide among women who are voters and has taken a lead over President Bush in this crucial category, new polls show.

In early September, Mr. Bush led Mr. Kerry among women, 48 percent to 43 percent in the CBS News poll. As of Sunday, in The New York Times/CBS News poll, Mr. Kerry was leading among women who are registered voters, 50 percent to 40 percent. Other polls show Mr. Kerry with a smaller lead among women, but a lead nonetheless.

The polls may show a statistical tie, but the electoral college is how Presidents get selected.  As the internals firm, it is becoming apparent that a dead heat means a loss for the incumbent.

There are still 10 days, and anything can happen.  But unless we see a major event (How long does it take to defrost OBL?), the incumbent is in deep doo doo . . .

Sources:
Under siege since 9/11, Arab voters shift to Kerry
Gary Younge
The Guardian, October 16, 2004

Hispanic Vote in Florida: Neither a Bloc Nor a Lock
By Abby Goodnough
October 17, 2004

Polls Show Gains for Kerry Among Women in Electorate
By Katharine Q. Seelye
NYT, October 20, 2004

October 20, 2004 | 2:45 PM ET

Kerry Pulls Ahead:
Why does God (and his publicist) Hate Eric Alterman?  I'll be appearing at the Barnes and Noble on Beacon Street in Boston tonight, but I’ll talk fast.  If you feel bad about not seeing me, just buy the book somewhere and we’ll call it even.  (Dear Big Guy, I’ve been a good boy.  Please don’t humiliate me at this bookstore in vain.  Send the Evil Empire packing.  Then send those other Evil guys packing.  Justice, peace, love and understanding in one big package.  Just do those two things and I promise to be patient the next time the kid drops the remote control from one floor to another to see if it bounces…

You will note a turn in the smart-guy CW this morning in the direction I predicted last week. Slate's electoral map shows a Kerry victory and Zogby (See Barry I below) is predicting one too.  The smart guys at The Note are behind the curve on this, but we note that ABC News has already discredited itself from poll analysis with its deliberately misleading debate night poll that was actually designed to give their readers an incorrect impression based on biased polling.  (Ironic that MSNBC had the good taste to fire partisan pollster Frank Luntz, however belatedly, while ABC used techniques from which even Luntz might have shied away.)

Good sign from Florida?  I hate it when analysts analyze on the basis of how popular they happen to be, but hey, 400 people paid money to see yours truly at the Sarasota Ritz Carlton last night and nearly 300 of them bought a book.  That’s Katherine Harris country.  She and Jeb (and Teresa) are going to have to stay up real late to steal Florida this time.  And the media are going to have to be even less scrupulous than usual to let it happen again.

NYT Headline from last week: “Attorney General, Citing 'Misleading' Advertising, Stops the Sale of Sept. 11 Memorial Coins,” here.  When is Elliott Spitzer going to shut down the Bush presidency?

From The Book on Bush

  • George W. Bush on expanding his trade authority: “The terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, and we will defeat them by expanding and encouraging world trade.” [i]

  • George W. Bush on drilling for oil in Alaska: "I urge the Senate to listen to the will of the senators and move a bill," the president told reporters after a cabinet meeting in the White House. "The less dependent we are on foreign sources of crude oil, the more secure we are at home." [ii]

  • George W. Bush on the need for agriculture subsidies: “It's in our national security interests that we be able to feed ourselves." [iii]

  • George W. Bush on taxes and spending: “The terrorists want us to stop flying, stop buying, but this great nation will not be intimidated by the evildoers." [iv]

Speaking of which, has everybody read this open letter? from Security Scholars for a Sensible Foreign Policy?  Non-partisan, expert and intellectually unassailable.  No wonder Bush and company have no use for them.

How funny is my buddy Brad Whitford?

Sinclair caves:  Now could someone please give Mr. Lieberman a job?

How does Ralph sleep at night, PART XXXVI

If you’ve got AOL, by the way, you can watch a video of Jon Stewart’s mild-mannered destruction of Tucker Carlson. I sure hope someone high up at PBS has AOL…  [Ed note: Others can find it at iFilm.]

Charles Pierce:  THIRTY DAYS OUT
Day 14 -- October 20, 2004
Hey Doc --
Riot police because a few blockheads got upset with some fine, brave umpiring in the Bronx last night?  Couple of baseballs on the field and we get...riot police?  Everything did change on 9/11, I guess.  The object is to demonstrate overwhelming force at the first sign of trouble (or of dissent, I fear).  It was like watching a game televised from Argentina.  We don't believe in the Powell Doctrine in Baghdad, apparently, but we believe in it enough to use it at the ballpark, or in the streets, especially if this election goes as lunatic as it's shaping up to go.  We believe in it enough to use it against our fellow citizens.  Nice.

Which brings me to, well, fear.  We are hearing a lot of it from the White House these days.  They are, as you know, the party of hope and the party of optimism and the party of great rivers of strawberry wine in the sparkling sunshine down by the Dingly Dell.  (Thanks, Eric Idle, for that last bit.  The next line, as all Pythonophiles will recall, is "There, they sold prophylactics," and I guess the parallels to this White House break down.)  The problem for them, of course, is that they have used a great appeal to ill-defined, undifferentiated fear for so long that it's begun to turn on them.  The basis for their use of the 9/11 atrocities for domestic consumption and in service of their messianic vision of the world was twofold: they had to make us afraid, and they had to convince us that they were the only people who had things, you know, under control.  That's the ungainly straddling that enabled them to concoct the otherwise nonsensical political syllogism, "Terrorists Are Everywhere So Go To The Mall NOW!", which later was amended to "We're In A War On Terror So We Need Another Tax Cut NOW!", which made even less sense.

Well, things are pretty clearly not under control, here or there or anywhere else.  There were an awful lot of lies told for the purpose of ginning up a useful anxiety.  So what's left is the fear that was once so useful, and now seems to be seeking to revenge itself upon its creators.  So when we hear Dick (By The Way, His Daughter's A Lesbian) Cheney tell us on one day that John Kerry is using the politics of fear and then, on the next, tell us that only he and C-Plus Augustus can keep us safe from a suitcase nuke at the Orange Julius stand, we can conclude that the Avignon Presidency is reaching that perilous period of Bushite incoherency that we political historians like to call the Nitty Gritty Dirty Bird Band Stage  -- after that moment when ol' 41 was trying to be hip and come up with the name of, I believe, Edison Lighthouse, although I could be wrong.

Other Stuff:
This being the greatest city in the world by a long shot, I could not go to the opening of the new Jazz@Lincoln Center opening Monday night, nor to see Rod Steward at the Apollo because I needed to a birthday tribute to John Kenneth Galbraith (94) and Arthur Schlesinger Jr. (87) both born on October 15, at the Plaza, in a fundraiser for the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in Hyde Park, overseen and MC’d by William vanden Heuval.

It was really a marvelous and moving night.  After vanden Heuval thanked approximately a zillion people, we heard terrific speeches from Gailbraith, Roosevelt and Schlesinger children (and grandchildren), Ted Sorensen, Alan Brinkley, George McGovern, Bill Moyers, Arthur himself and believe it or not, Henry Kissinger.  The room was remarkably silent for the latter talk and applauded quite generously, particularly given the fact that a healthy number of people in the room would answer “of course” to the “war criminal” question.  (Next time you hear right-wingers complain of the incivility of liberals, remind them of this evening.) 

Anyway, I have a hard time of thinking of any two individuals who have been more right more often about the correct course of action for America than these two model patriots, scholars and citizens.  Don’t write to me and point out mistakes either one made.  We are talking about two careers here that span more than 120 combined years in the public and intellectual life of the nation.  We are incomparably richer for their respective contributions and would have benefited further had we heeded their advice more frequently.  (And could I have imagined I’d be happier to see Henry Kissinger than Gary Hart?  Oy.)

I’m sure I’ll be writing about the new home of Jazz@Lincoln Center a great deal in the future, but in the meantime, I want to give a shout-out to Chicago Jazz Ensemble for having the good taste to name the great trumpeter, Jon Faddis, as its new artistic director.  Carnegie Hall’s decided loss is Chicago’s gain.

Back when I lived in Washington in the early nineties, my social life revolved around a bunch of British hacks who, in addition to being better educated and more articulate than most of their U.S. counterparts, also knew how to have a better time than their American counterparts.  Those days are long gone and my friends Tom, Martin, Johnny and Ed have mostly returned across the pond, and another one who will go nameless for the time being, stayed in Washington but lost most of his bearings and squandered both his talent and energies. 

The age of British domination of smart American journalism is long over, but I do want to take this opportunity to salute of the original and classiest of its exports, Harry Evans.  At 76, Harry’s energy level makes most of us look slackeresque, as shown by this Independent profile and the second volume of his trilogy on this country’s history, this one focusing on its great innovators and inventors, and tilted "They Made America," and published by Little Brown.  Harry made a great mistake, in my opinion, in helping Mort Zuckerman get rid of Jim Fallows as editor of U.S. News.  Everybody who reaches for greatness must be allowed a few great mistakes.  Just ask Ted Turner, whom Harry interviewed the other night to great effect at a Broadway launch of the book, and who is now big media’s most eloquent and effective critic.

Alter-Review, 'Why the Long Face?’ by Suzzy and Maggie Roche
by Sal, NYCD
I have been a fan of The Roches from the get-go.  The first time I saw them live, probably at The Bottom Line right between the release of their debut and their follow-up "Nurds," I was floored.

They could be hilarious, and then minutes later would bring tears to my eyes.  To this day, seeing them perform "Hammond Song" from their first album is still locked in my memory.  I didn't think it was possible for three people to create such intricate harmonies with off-the-wall phrasing right before my eyes.  No one sounded like The Roches.

Almost 25 years later, 2/3 of the band, Maggie & Suzzy Roche, have released their new record, " Why the Long Face?" and it is a delight.  Not quite as quirky as their first few releases, but no less entertaining, "Why The Long Face" is solid.  The beautiful opener written by Mark Johnson, a frequent collaborator, sees the ladies in perfect vocal form.  "Who Cares" written by Suzzy shows that they can still make you laugh one minute and cry the next.  They even redo the classic "One Season," Maggie's piece of brilliance from "Nurds," their sophomore release, as well as a wonderful cover of Brian Wilson's "A Day In The Life Of A Tree."

I can't help but feel that this is one those records that will get lost in the shuffle and not get the attention it should.  But maybe, if you’re in the city, go check them out at Joe's Pub on Wednesday @7:00, you'll see what the fuss is all about.

Eric adds:  I am a longtime Roches fanatic, as well as a good friend of Suzzy’s.  She tells me that there will be a Roches reunion tonight and we’re the first to know.  I’d be there were I not humiliating myself in Boston.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Barry L. Ritholtz, I
Hometown: The Big Picture

Hey Doc,
The latest polling data is out from the Zogby/WSJ, and it reflects what most of the other polls show -- a dead heat on the national numbers, with the internals favoring Kerry in the key swing states.  It looks that Kerry will take a few that Gore lost in 2000.

Here are the details:

Projected Electoral College Vote: Swing States, 10/19/04
What's significant about this latest poll is the MOE -- margin of error.  Every lead the incumbent has is within the margin of error.  The President has not managed to garner a lead in a single battleground state won by Gore in 2000.  The challenger, on the other hand, is ahead in at least one 2000 Bush state -- New Hampshire, by 5.1% -- and is competitive in every battleground state Gore lost in 2000: Florida (-1.2%), Arkansas (-1.3%), Tennessee (-2.5%), West Virginia (-2.8%), Ohio (-3%), Missouri (-3.1%).  The swing state Kerry is furthest behind in is Nevada (-3.9%).

The outcome now depends upon turnout -- new voter registration and motivation of the base -- and how well each party executes on its ground game.

Here's the WSJ's observations:

With two weeks left until Election Day, President Bush posted his best performance since June in key battleground states, according to the latest Zogby Interactive poll.

In the wake of the second and third debates, Mr. Bush now leads in seven of the 16 battleground states, up from the three states he held two weeks ago, in a poll conducted after the first Bush-Kerry contest. But Mr. Bush's leads in several states -- including closely watched Florida -- are tenuous, and rival Sen. John Kerry managed to hang on to big, electoral-vote-rich states including Pennsylvania and Michigan.

All of the president's leads are in the margin of error. Of the nine states in Mr. Kerry's column, his leads are outside the margin of error in six. The margin of error varies from state to state and ranges between +/- 2.1 and +/- 4.4 percentage points per candidate. The battleground states Mr. Bush leads have a total of 85 electoral votes, while Mr. Kerry's states have 92.

The latest poll was conducted Oct. 13-18, starting after the end of the third presidential debate, which addressed domestic issues, and also includes the effects of the second debate, a town meeting in St. Louis. Many pundits said Mr. Kerry won the first debate, which focused on foreign policy, but the results of the later debates were more mixed.

The next week should see the incumbent's numbers remain frozen, barring an October surprise.  Expect the incumbent to start gradually moving up in approval, if not in the actual polling...

Sources:
Battlegrounds States Poll - October 19, 2004

Electoral College Analysis

Name: Barry Ritholtz II
Hometown:
The Big Picture
Hey Doc,
Did you happen to catch any of the Federal Reserve Chairman's comments about oil Friday?  What a coincidence, now that high gasoline prices are hurting the incumbent's approval rating.  Just because Oil has been climbing steadily for nearly 2 years, it's mere happenstance that the Fed Chief suddenly (and belatedly) developed an interest just three weeks before the election.  It has nothing to do with politics; I'm shocked, shocked at the mere suggestion.

Actually, Alan Greenspan is morphing from Federal Reserve Chairman to "Cheerleader-in-Chief."  He has an uncanny ability to "applaud" just about any situation, regardless of how bleak it actually is (remind you of anyone?).  Think the Economy stinks?  No, we merely encountered a "soft patch."  Are skyrocketing energy costs hurting consumers?  No, the impact of surging oil prices is actually "less consequential to economic growth and inflation than in the 1970s."   Uh, sure Alan, whatever you say.

While many people hang on the man's every word -- he is, after all, the most important person to the U.S. economy -- those of us who actually follow his prognostications for a living know better.  A long time ago, we learned this expensive lesson:  Greenspan's track record is awful.  For those of you who are not Fed Watchers, allow me to point out some recent highlights from Mr. Happy:

  • On July 20 of this year, Greenspan testified before Congress, where he stated that rising energy prices "should prove short-lived."  Well, it's nearly a half year later, and crude oil prices have risen another 15%, to multi-year highs.  It hit $55/barrel around the same time he gave his speech Friday.

  • Then there was Greenspan's amazingly bad call on natural gas in May 2003, when he warned of "potential shortages."  That turned out to be wrong, and natural gas prices actually plunged shortly thereafter.

  • My personal favorite was his horrific advice to would-be homeowners this summer, praising the virtues of adjustable-rate mortgages (!) at a time when fixed-rate loans were at half-century lows.  Lordy, that qualifies amongst the worst financial advice ever given.  Ever.

If you're thinking there's a pattern here, you're right.  There are many more examples here: " Ignore the Cheerleader-in-Chief."  ( mirror)

So Greenie does his soft shoe routine, telling us all is well with record high Oil prices.  His blase attitude don't fool me: The Fed Chief is VERY anxious about Oil prices -- while there are legitimate economic reasons for him to be concerned, I suspect his primary motivations are political.  After all, oil has been steadily rising for over 2 years, and his interest only seem to be piqued recently.  His well timed Happy Talk three weeks before the election is, well, Oily.

Incidentally, there is a remarkable correlation between Gasoline prices and Incumbent approval ratings.  We can go into more details tomorrow, but for those of you who simply cannot wait, here's a preview.

Next day...
Name: Barry Ritholtz
Hometown: The Big Picture
Hey Doc,
I am tired of all these ridiculous "theories" from analysts who, while pretending to be neutral, are actually partisans attacking John Kerry.  I refer to the economists, pollsters, and analysts who distort data to pursue their own agenda.  Putting aside for the moment the illogical, poorly reasoned rhetoric, I almost admire the creativity of these hacks who are able to ignore President's Bush's record while concocting their own half-assed theories on why his defeat spells the end of the world as we know it.

These people are the new "Grubmans and Blodgets" -- the telecom and dot.com stock analysts, who publicly touted stocks they privately knew were dogs.

Examples:  I have shown why the claim that stock market performance corresponds to the challenger’s polling numbers is false.  During the most correlated period (March 2004), the same underlying factors that dragged down the incumbent’s approval ratings (Abu Ghraib scandal, Iraqi insurgency) also spooked investors.  These external factors impacted both the election race and the market.  While observers noticed the correlation, they incorrectly assumed causation existed also.  They were incorrect.

In other words, it wasn't Kerry's success that was "hurting" the stock market, it was a policy failure of the President -- Sanctioned torture at Abu Ghraib -- that hurt both his approval 
ratings and scared off stock investors at the same time.

Consider also the obsession over Political Futures Exchanges.  It's foolish to rely upon these lagging indicators, as tiny as they are and lacking a compelling reason to believe they have any forecasting value.  Yet the hacks keep dragging these out as if they had value.

Then there are the pollsters.  I need to remind those short-memoried journos covering the horse race media that on election eve 2000, Gallup was predicting a double digit popular vote lead for then Governor Bush, who went on to lose the popular vote by more than half a million ballots.  Their flawed, 1950s based methodology now predicts a 4% lead for the incumbent.  Draw your own conclusion about what that suggests for the outcome of the race, as well as those "fair and balanced" folks who keep quoting Gallup.

Forget all these folks.  If you want an objective, clear eyed indicator to handicapping the campaign, I suggest you watch gasoline prices.  As this chart reveals, there is a high correlation between gas prices and the incumbent's approval ratings.  Strong causation also exists: Every driver feels the weekly bite of higher fuel prices.  This is not a theoretical abstract (such as the Federal deficit), or an emotionally vague notion (which candidate to have a beer with).  Rather, it is visceral, negative and immediate.

You can read more about this here:

Causation & Correlation: Gasoline vs. Incumbency

and here:

Gasoline $ versus Incumbent Approval Ratings

Perhaps this helps explain Fed Chief Alan Greenspan's sudden interest in Oil prices 3 weeks before the election.  Oil has been rising for nearly 2 years...

Name: Dave Elley
Hometown: Seattle (for now)

Eric,
Since you are on a 'Limey' theme today (Tuesday 19th) - follow the thread here on the resistance to an attempt to move some Scottish soldiers from the British zone and put them under U.S. command.  I think this is unprecedented in the post-war history of U.S.-U.K. relations (unless you count Vietnam when the wily Harold Wilson stiff-armed LBJ).
_________________________________________

[i] staff, “Bush Links Terror Attacks to Trade Bill,” New York Times, October 18, 2001, p. C6.

[ii]Katharine Q. Seelye, “Bush Promotes Energy Bill as Security Issue,” New York Times, October 12, 2001, p. A18.

[iii] George F. Will, “Steel and the National Security,” The Washington Post,  February 14, 2002, p. A33

[iv] Timothy Roberts, “President Bush: Pressing for Tax Cuts to Strengthen America,” San Francisco Business Times, October 17, 2001.

Return to top.

October 19, 2004 | 10:54 AM ET

My publicist hates me and has me flying to Florida before you wake up this morning and to Boston and back to Brooklyn before you wake up on the next two mornings.  So we’ll see what turns up here. In the meantime...

Postwar planning? No thanks.  We prefer to see Americans attacked and killed and Iraq in complete chaos.  No really.  In fact we plan to get elected on it. 

Yes, I agree, this is quite a country, with some very fine writers.  See below.  The following letters were sent to response to the Guardian’s campaign described in yesterday’s Correspondence Corner: 

Dear Limey as**oles
Last week G2 launched Operation Clark County to help readers have a say in the American election by writing to undecided voters in the crucial state of Ohio.  In the first three days, more than 11,000 people requested addresses.  Here is some of the reaction to the project that we received from the U.S.

Monday October 18 2004
The Guardian
...
Have you not noticed that Americans don't give two s**ts what Europeans think of us? Each email someone gets from some arrogant Brit telling us why to NOT vote for George Bush is going to backfire, you stupid, yellow-toothed pansies ... I don't give a rat's ass if our election is going to have an effect on your worthless little life. I really don't. If you want to have a meaningful election in your crappy little island full of s*tty food and yellow teeth, then maybe you should try not to sell your sovereignty out to Brussels and Berlin, dips**t. Oh, yeah - and brush your goddamned teeth, you filthy animals.   
Wading River, NY  
...
Consider this: stay out of American electoral politics. Unless you would like a company of US Navy Seals - Republican to a man - to descend upon the offices of the Guardian, bag the lot of you, and transport you to Guantanamo Bay, where you can share quarters with some lonely Taliban shepherd boys.   
United States  
...
KEEP YOUR F**KIN' LIMEY HANDS OFF OUR ELECTION. HEY, S**THEADS, REMEMBER THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR? REMEMBER THE WAR OF 1812? WE DIDN'T WANT YOU, OR YOUR POLITICS HERE, THAT'S WHY WE KICKED YOUR ASSES OUT. FOR THE 47% OF YOU WHO DON'T WANT PRESIDENT BUSH, I SAY THIS ... TOUGH S*T!   
PROUD AMERICAN VOTING FOR BUSH! 
...
Real Americans aren't interested in your pansy-ass, tea-sipping opinions. If you want to save the world, begin with your own worthless corner of it.   
Texas, USA  
...
Hey England, Scotland and Wales,
Mind your own business. We don't need weenie-spined Limeys meddling in our presidential election. If it wasn't for America, you'd all be speaking German. And if America would have had a president, then, of the likes of Kerry, you'd all be goose-stepping around Buckingham Palace. YOU ARE NOT WANTED!! Whether you want to support either party. BUTT OUT!!!   
United States  
...
Please be advised that I have forwarded this to the CIA and FBI.   
United States  
...
Keep your noses out of our business. As I recall we kicked your asses out of our country back in 1776. We do not require input from losers and idiots on who we vote for in our own country. F**k off and die as**ole!!!!!   
Knoxville, Iowa  
...
Who in the hell do you think you are??? Well, I'll tell you, you're a bunch of meddling socialist pricks! Stay the hell out of our country and politics. And another thing, John Kerry is a worthless lying sack of crap so it doesn't surprise me that a socialist rag like yours would back him. I hope your cynical ploy blows up in your cowardly faces, you bunch of mealy-mouthed morons!   
United States  

More here.

A world gone mad:  No, it’s not as bad as Bush being ahead in the polls, but The Plot Against America is the worst Roth novel since When She Was Good, and I’ve read them all.  I have had it since June and I literally cannot read more than a few pages at a time before falling asleep or wondering what’s in the fridge.  I know what's wrong with Philip Roth, but what the hell is wrong with everybody else?

From Salon: “Word History: NADER
Nader (NAY-dur) n. Low point, as of a celestial body that has declined from an exalted height."

In Memoriam:  There will be a memorial service for the great Sidney Morgenbesser on Sunday at 3:00 at Columbia’s Low Library, and it will unite the never-before seen trio of Noam Chomsky, Leon Wieseltier and Arthur Danto. 

The day before, nearby at the St. John the Divine, there will be a memorial for Dave Dellinger, with Tom Hayden, Grace Paley, Pete Seeger and others. 

I regret that time, space and energy constraints have prevented me from recognizing the deaths of Scott Muni second only to Vin Scelsa (and perhaps  Jonathan Schwartz) in the pantheon of my imaginary radio friends in the years 1972-1979, and James Chace, writer, editor and mentor to many others.

I don’t think Jacques Derrida really needs me to recognize his passing, but I will anyway.  I audited a course with him at Yale once, but it was in French, and so I missed even more than I would have in English.  I did wear black though.  And I think the Times obit—like the egregious obit that ran for Edward Said—is a perfect specimen in the argument for the almost neurotic anti-intellectualism that runs through high-fallutin’ journalism. I mean rhully, you’d think it was Paul DeMan who died.  Anyway, all these people are upset too, though I imagine for different reasons.  (If anyone wants in to try to do justice to Jacques or Mr. Muni, by all means.)

Charles Pierce: THIRTY DAYS OUT
Day 14 -- October 19, 2004
Hey Doc --
Yo, Siv V.  What say you drop down to The Stadium tonight and say hello to David Ortiz?  I think you owe him a Father's Day present.

Once, when I was a baby reporter for the "alternative" press -- and I still have my fatigue jacket, by the way -- I appeared on one of the Ur-pundit shows on local TV here in Boston.  There was me, and a liberal theologian from one of the local seminaries, and a married couple representing what has just become known as the "Religious Right."  At the conclusion of our polite little rockfight -- I believe I used against them Flannery O'Connor's Church Of Truth Without Christ, "Where the lame don't walk, the blind don't see, and what's dead stays that way." -- the moderator asked the conservative side what they would do if a candidate ran who shared their position on every issue, but who was an atheist.  Could they support him?  And there was great weeping and gnashing of teeth, and more than a little of the old Ralph Kramden hummina-hummina, until the couple determined that NOBODY could share ALL their positions without also sharing their God.  The divinity professor next to me made a sound like a man eating his face.  Then he told the couple that, in all Christian love and fellowship, they were as full of stuff as the Christmas goose.

One of the capital misinterpretations of the Bush "base" is the belief that, in it, politics stem exclusively from religious belief.  This serves to gussy up some retrograde social policies in shiny theological drag, thereby immunizing those policies from attack by the increasingly timid secular Left.  (No, Sensitive Liberal types, I don't have to "respect" every turkeyneck authoritarian yahoo just because he owns a clerical collar and a mailing list.)  It also provides a bottomless well of justification for conservative voters to support conservative politicians regardless of whether or not they're living the Gospel in their own lives.  All the average adulterer (Henry Hyde) or bagman (Tom Delay) or conspicuous public failure (Hail To The Chief) has to do is flap his gums about being "forgiven," and the "Christian" assembled will continue to vote for him in droves.  And that is ultimately a political decision, not a religious one, and, in many cases, it's an act of towering public hypocrisy, as well.  It is a faith of talking points, not of gospel.

Moreover, because it is a political decision, any attempt at outreach by liberal politicians is doomed to failure, and most of them are based in a fundamental confusion between religiosity and religion.  All of which is only part of the reason why the last couple of weeks, when the campaigns have regularly played the game of who's-holier-than-thou?  (Answer: I art.), my skin has begun to crawl.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Morton Mintz
Hometown: Washington, D.C.

If God speaks through Bush, as Ron Suskind reports he believes, does the president also believe, for example, that:

1. God flip-flops?  If not, to whom does he attribute his numerous flip-flops, such as first declaring that Osama bin Laden must be caught dead or alive, then saying he wasn't all that concerned about capturing bin Laden, and then denying that he'd said the latter?  Or first opposing and then supporting the 9-11 commission?

2. God wants him to erode environmental and workplace safety and health protections while taking huge amounts of money from polluters and reckless employers, although God has instructed man to be the steward of His earth and to love his neighbor as himself?

3. God believes that he does unto others as he would have others do unto him, when he appoints as his senior political adviser a man--Karl Rove--who has made character assassination a speciality of his long career?

4. God wanted him to campaign for the presidency by falsely promising to be a uniter, not a divider?

October 18, 2004 | 12:40 PM ET

So’s Your Daughter

“And it struck me as a low blow designed to weaken the Bush-Cheney team with right-wingers who might not know that Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter."
--Morton Kondracke on Fox News, here.

I have no idea whether John Kerry raised the issue of Mary Cheney’s sexuality as part of a diabolical plot to depress turnout among homophobic Christian fundamentalists, but I sure hope so—well, I would have if it had been effective.  If that had been the plan, it would have demonstrated the Kerry campaign was serious about winning the election; something of which we’ve seen little evidence up until now.  The crowing of the Republican conservatives would be comical if the media weren’t lapping it up so shamelessly.  An AP story I read on MSNBC.com began, “Mary Cheney typically works quietly behind the scenes on her father’s vice presidential campaign, but she was dragged front-and-center after John Kerry noted that she is a lesbian during his debate with President Bush.”  Oh Poor Mary.  As Atrios, among others, has pointed out, she is in fact, the BC'04 Director of Vice Presidential Operations.  Her father is happy to exploit the fact that she’s gay whenever it suits his purpose.  At a town hall meeting in Davenport, Iowa, Cheney explained,  "Lynne and I have a gay daughter, so it's an issue that our family is very familiar with.”  Why is what Kerry said: "We're all God's children, Bob. And I think 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" so much worse than that?  Why in the world is that deserving of an apology?  She’s here, she’s queer, and if the fundamentalist right-wing Republicans can’t get used to it, well, tough luck.  Let ‘em vote for Nader.

Reading the hysterics—not just from the dirty book writer, Lynne Cheney, who termed it a “cheap and tawdry trick.”--Lynne, lest we forget, is the author of  "Sisters," which is not expensive if you can find it, and seems to fit the description “tawdry” to a proverbial tee.  It’s been described by Newsweek as “a steamy bodice-ripper set in the 19th-century American West, featuring vivid tales of whorehouses, attempted rapes, a suspicious murder and several lesbian love affairs, of which Cheney writes approvingly.”  (And so would you, perhaps, if you were married to Dick Cheney.)

Anyway, back to the hysterics. On Fox, co-host of Fox and Friends, E.D. Hill compared Mary Cheney to a wino.  The Wall Street Journal accuses Kerry of having “outed” Mary, which, of course, is rather redundant in the case of someone who’s already out. William Kristol speaks of “cheap, cold, calculating cynicism--and cruelty,” here.   Cruelty? Hello, she’s gay. It’s only cruelty if you have a problem with that. Kerry doesn’t. Mary doesn’t. It seems to me rather cruel of her mom to get so upset about it as if there were something shameful about her daughter. If those now non-voting evangelicals do, well, tough luck. If they want to vote (nor not vote) their homophobic prejudices, that’s their right. If Bush and Cheney are going to court the votes of people who think gay sex is a cause for jail, or perhaps everlasting damnation—why in the world is it unfair for Kerry to point out that they don’t really mean it? They’re just playing with the rubes, while inviting the homos to live in their houses—and work in their campaigns—without forcing them to try to convert or embrace celibacy or something.

Hell Freezes Over:  I quote Andy unironically:

The Cheneys didn't respond to Jim DeMint's gay-baiting in South Carolina, or Alan Keyes' direct insult of their own daughter in Illinois.  They have not voiced objections to a single right-wing piece of homophobia in this campaign or the anti-gay RNC flier in Arkansas and West Virginia.  But they are outraged that Kerry mentioned the simple fact of their daughter's openly gay identity.  What complete B.S.  In the short run, this hurts Kerry.  Prevailing disapproval of homosexuality means that most people regard mentioning anybody's lesbianism as an insult and inappropriate.  But long-term, the Republican bluff has been called.  The GOP is run, in part, by gay men and women, its families are full of gay people, and yet it is institutionally opposed to even the most basic protections for gay couples.  You can keep up a policy based on rank hypocrisy for only so long.  And then it tumbles like a house of cards.  Kerry just pulled one card from out of the bottom of the heap.  Watch the edifice of double standards slowly implode.  Gay people and their supporters will no longer acquiesce in this charade.  Why on earth should we?

Oh and, the president of the United States is a dangerous lunatic at least as portrayed in this brilliant article by Ron Suskind, which, for the rest of the election, the paper’s reporters and editors will have to pretend they have not read.  ( Scowcroft thinks so too.)

Jeb has already begun to steal the election .  Does anyone care?

I read David Grann’s terrific profile of Mark Halperin and The Note in the New Yorker yesterday morning in the gym, which makes me cool enough to be the kind of person who “gets” The Note.  But people who “get” The Note are the same people who are helping to ruin our political system, because they are too cool to care about stuff like whether what a candidate says is true or whether his positions on a given issue match his rhetoric.  The Note is also too cool to care about this and even makes fun of people who do, as young Mr. Grann does a first-rate job of demonstrating.  So I’m not going to make a big deal about the piece, except to say it would be a better world if ABC News quit publishing polls that, if they were published by someone else, Mark Halperin would be the first person to tell you why they were too stupid to be believed.  That and oh yeah, thank God for Jon Stewart.

Quotes of the Day, Tucker Carlson and Jon Stewart:

Tucker Carlson: You always scold people like this at dinner at your house?
Jon Stewart: If they have a show that's as stupid as this one.
Tucker: You know, you're not as fun as you are on your tv show.
Jon: You know what, you're just as big a dick as you are on your tv show.

More here.

(Like it or Not, you Are our Leader, Sir.)
Quotation of the Day:

"PUBLIC SPLIT ON WHETHER BUSH IS A DIVIDER"
- CNN Scrolling Banner, 15 Oct 2004.

Here’s the MAN:

Charles Pierce:  THIRTY DAYS OUT
Day 15 -- October 18, 2004.
Doc -- Tough Saturday on the sporting scene.  Besides the Extended Unpleasantness at Fenway, Kerryphile QB Kyle Orton of Purdue -- the official Altercation Heisman Trophy candidate -- couldn't hang on to a 17-7 lead and lost at home to Wisconsin.

Just asking, but is there a more worthless, not-worth-the-meringue-to-hit-him-with-a-pie POS writing Saturday than that sniggering little homunculus, Mickey Kaus?  (Note to the extended Alter-family -- I am NOT taking nominations here.)  Over the weekend, typing as always with one hand and half his brain, he decided to have a little fun with women and John Kerry, whom he said reminded women of someone who never got to be their first husband because he bored them to tears on their first date, or some such rot that I'm sure goes over well at Open Mic Night at the Peretz Chuckle Hut.   

Two words, bee-yotch:  Morgan Fairchild.

OK, he's my colleague and my friend, and I'm proud that he's both, but Ron Suskind went beyond the call this past Sunday in the NYT magazine piece with which he completed his great Avignon Presidency trilogy.  (Part One was the Karen Hughes piece in Esquire and Part Two was the book he did with Paul O'Neill.)  Quite simply, this is the most important piece of political journalism of the past four years.

It is a documented exegesis of an incumbent administration that acts upon the advice of voices only it can hear, that considers itself an "empire" beyond constitutional limits and even beyond truth itself, that values its own illusions more than the reality it forces upon others, that has a scorn for enlightened discussion that belongs in the worst football frat in the Southeastern Conference, and that is moved by nothing deeper than a raging contempt for the system of government it seized in 2000.  We are being ruled by a Council of Elders that seems to include Padre Pio, George III, Louis the Simple, Vince Lombardi and Caligula -- and, worse, one that seems to exist only in the eccentrically furnished noggin of a man who didn't respect the people he works for enough to do even the rudimentary preparation to present his case to them.

We have no excuses now.  Suskind has laid out the stakes in this election as starkly as they can be.  I know that the Social Security bit at the end is going to create the buzz, but, ignore that.  What is at stake in this election is the answer to the following question:

Do we govern or are we governed?

Answer to follow, I suppose.

Alter-reviews
I don’t know if I disagree with David Hadju, a writer I do admire, about Brian Wilson’s Smile.  It’s difficult to take oneself out of one’s time and place and imagine how a new (but not really) work of art would have sounded thirty-seven years ago when it was (mostly) composed.  I never could make sense of the thing from the bootlegs and from the Beach Boys box.  I worried plenty after the reviews from London last year celebrated the work’s performance without really mentioning its quality much.  But I do think it coheres and I sense moments of fragile and almost transcendent beauty.  What’s more, there’s something so moving about Wilson’s performance after all this time, with his brother's death and his glory days seemingly having taken place a lifetime ago.

Anyway, the crowd at Carnegie Hall was extremely enthusiastic and everybody seemed to feel they were someplace special—even the guy next to me with the Yankees/Sox game in one ear.  And if you listen to the Nonesuch CD late at night, I don’t see how you can be anything but grateful that we finally have it and still have Brian.

Did I mention how terrific “I Get Around” still sounds?

Booklist Reviews:
When Presidents Lie, From Booklist
Although we are occasionally shocked upon learning that a president has lied, Alterman maintains that presidents routinely lie, often with consequences that shape and reverberate through our history.  Alterman focuses on four key presidential lies: Franklin Roosevelt and the Yalta accords, John F. Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis, Lyndon Johnson and the second Gulf of Tonkin incident, and Ronald Reagan and Central America in the 1980s.  Looking beyond the moral aspects of the deceptions, Alterman examines the destructive consequences: Yalta, for example, led to 40 years of cold war.  For each lie, he offers details of the particular deception and the long-term effects for the president, his party, and the nation.  "Without exception, each of the presidencies (or successor presidencies) paid an extremely high price for its lies," he notes.  The nation, of course, has paid a price as well.  He concludes with a chapter that examines President Bush's posture on the war in Iraq in the broader context of presidential deception.  A timely and insightful book.  Vanessa Bush

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Anonymous Texan
Hometown: Currently in Moscow, Russia
Guardian newspaper steals idea from Altercation, urging Britons to write to unaffiliated U.S. voters -

A couple of weeks ago, one of your best regular contributors (Stupid or Charles Pierce) mentioned that he had sent a handwritten letter about the election to a randomly chosen voter in....was it Missouri?  (Ed note: It was Stupid.)

Looks like the Guardian newspaper has appropriated his idea in a large-scale way.  This appeared in last Wednesday's paper.  The Guardian has urged its readers to "have a say in the U.S. election" by writing to an American (potential) voter.  They have devised an online system designed to match individual Guardian readers in the U.K. and elsewhere with unaffiliated voters in pivotal Clark County, Ohio.  The article is here and eloquent sample letters written by 3 prominent Britons are here.

I'm American but I'm going to use this system to find an unaffiliated Ohioan - and I'm going to send them a letter explaining why I think W has to go.  I urge all of your readers, particularly those who are geographically disenfranchised like me (A Kerry voter in Texas......) to do the same.

Name: Greg
Hometown: Baldwin, NY

Amid the hysteria surrounding Mary Cheney's well-known sexual preference, did any "mainstream" media outlet notice or report on an almost throwaway line in Bush's answer to the question about homosexuality as a choice?  I'm not sure which was more frightening, Bush's noxious, divisive stance, his glibness in promoting it or the bigfeet's complete obliviousness to it (when Lynne Cheney speaks, drop everything).

And the surest way to protect marriage between a man and woman is to amend the Constitution.  It has also the benefit of allowing citizens to participate in the process.  After all, when you amend the Constitution, state legislatures must participate in the ratification of the Constitution.

The first part of that passage is typical Bushspeak -- it is "the surest way" because we say it is.  The rest of it intimates that the Constitution of the United States exists as the backdrop for some sort of right wing fantasy camp themed to whichever group or practice bugs you (or we tell you bugs you) this week.  Two men somewhere in this vast country want to cement their bond?  By all means, have at them.  Your president hereby encourages you to screw around with this formerly sacred and serious document.

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