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          Comment on State of New Jersey’s Health: Healthcare Hotspots by Tweetybird0   
I watched this program about health care and it was very informative but I still am very worried I had no choice but to retire on disability I pay out of my fix income pension for my health insurance I have alot of heath problems and am unable to afford my co pays, I feel terrible I can not being able to pay most times for procedures, I also wait until the last min to go get examine, I applied for Affordable heath and its been very confusing. Its terrible I cant even see a dentist I have dental insurance but once again unable to afford co pay I need 4 root canals and my co pay is out rages. This is American
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          LordAbnevWorks from Twitter Massive Following Reviewing Obesity Statistics   
The most recent research statistics on growing obesity disclose a dangerously overweight world population. During the last 10 years, there was a dramatic increase in obesity in the world, especially in the United States, England, and Canada. Over the years, the occurrence of obesity has also steadily increased among all genders, ages, all education levels, and ethnic groups.



Obesity is a severe health condition where a person accumulates an abnormally high proportion of body fat. This condition can increase risk of diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, hypertension, sleep apnea, and osteoarthritis. The body mass index (BMI) is the common method used to determine obesity and is based on the relation between height and weight.



Obesity statistics indicate that it is the biggest health threat that confronts America today. This warning comes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity currently results in an estimated 400,000 deaths annually. It also costs the nation a crippling $122.9 billion.



This disease significantly reduces the quality of life among adults in our nation. This disease creeps right into the fabric of our lifestyle and can cause us to become a nation of social misfits. Other serious health diseases like hypertension and diabetes can result sooner or later when obesity is present.



People who become obesity statistics are usually affected in all areas of their life. But we can come to grips with this problem. We must begin to embrace the belief that we can do it. With consistent application, things will slowly begin to turn around for us.



In the year 2001 in the United States, the Surgeon General released a report outlining the crisis of obesity that the country had fallen into. The point of the report was to generate steps towards taking care of this health problem, which has reached epidemic proportions. The following year, the IOM (Institute of Medicine) was called upon to draw up a prevention plan to help decrease the rising numbers of obese and overweight children in the United States. The idea was to study the behavior and cultural and environmental factors that contribute to childhood obesity while trying to find ways of preventing this from occurring on such a large scale.



The problem of children being obese is a grave one, in that it can have lasting effects on one"??s emotional and physical health. In the year 2000, it was estimated that about a third of all children born in the United States are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes in their lifetimes.



In addition, there are the emotional and psychological repercussions that come with being overweight and obese. Young people are often stigmatized for their weight in a society that has little tolerance for this condition.



The key to combating obesity seems to lie in energy balance "?" that is controlling the amount of calories that are consumed versus the amount of calories that are expended. So in other words, when we talk about fighting obesity, we have to talk about both eating and physical activity. This might seem pretty simple, but the fact is eating and physical activity are caught up in a number of complex social and environmental forces. In the last three decades that have seen the epidemic of obesity balloon out of proportion, the society has undergone major changes.






Read About Weight Loss Diet Also Read About Obesity Statistics and Diet Nutrition

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          Purpose First: Matthew McCarthy, VP of Foods, Unilever North America   

Focusing on the customer and sustainability, Unilever aims to "create tremendous growth and really delight consumers"

The post Purpose First: Matthew McCarthy, VP of Foods, Unilever North America appeared first on brandchannel:.


          JLI as Superfriends Mock Covers (Updated)   
This would be how I would revive the JLI team. The main four- Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Fire and Ice, with Vixen and Robotman added. Along with Guy Gardner making his return to the team.

The sitcom-like zaniness of JLI mixed with the offbeat, weirdness of the Silver Age Doom Patrol.
Two cult classics that taste great together.

Note: I updated covers #8 up with a new cover dress. And I added a covers for #11 and 12.




#2 is an homage to the classic B-movie, The Atomic Brain.
#3 is an homage to Justice League of America #195.
#12 is an homage to Avengers #57.
          Second Life - BRANDS IN SECOND LIFE   

A short compilation (using the cool joystick cam feature!) of some of the branded builds in Second Life (part of a 30minute longer video) - from the likes of Reuters, BMW, Sony BMG and Ericcson, BigPond, Reebok, Vodafone, IBM, ABC TV, Showtime, Pontiac, American Apparel, Virgin, Dell, NBC, Apple (unofficial), Sears, Circuit City and AOL.
          Marvel Super-Heroes Basic RPG Cards   
For use with the Marvel Super-Heroes RPG, which can be found at ClassicMarvelForever.

These are the characters that were included in the Basic Set.

For powers and abilities. the earliest stats for each are as follows:
Captain America: Time Trap/Avengers Assembled
Captain Marvel: Avengers Assembled
Spider-Man: New York, New York
Wolverine: Project: Wideawake
Human Torch: Murderworld
Invisible Woman: Murderworld (Invisible Girl at the time)
Mister Fantastic: Murderworld
Thing: Murderworld

Bonus:
Here are the separate portraits, which can be used as map counters/tokens for the characters, also.


          Avengers ID Cards - the Backs   
For use with the Marvel Super-Heroes RPG. Stats are taken from the original Handbooks. Just slap them on the back of the cards from the previous post.

          Avengers ID Cards   
I made these for use with the Marvel Super-Heroes RPG. Stats would be on the back for easy reference.

          Local African American Newspaper Collection Available at MCPL   
Seven years of the Montgomery Times newspaper will be available through a digital archive on Montgomery County Public Libraries’ website, according to a news release. Publication of the Montgomery Times began in 1992. It was later combined with the Prince Georges Times in 1999 as the African American Times to cover areas of interest to […]
          Bank of America shares rise in after-hours trade after passing Fed test   

Bank of America shares climbed more than 1.3% in after-hours trading on Wednesday, following the Charlotte, N.C. lender's passing of a broad test of the banking systems' ability to withstand a big market shock. The bank's passage on Wednesday garnered it approval from the the Federal Reserve to lift its dividend 60% to 12 cents and announce a $12 billion share repurchase plan. All 34 of the financial-service firms tested passed their so-called stress test and received green lights for plans to return capital to shareholders. The exchange-traded Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF , a popular way to invest in the biggest U.S. banks, rose 1.1% in after-hours trade. Check out a live blog of the results from the stress test.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.


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          Asian Teen Masseur Fucks Old American Tourist For Some Additional Cash   
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          Father's Day - History of Neckties   
Neckties have always been one of the most popular gifts during Father's Day. Believe the statistics or not, Americans are actually known to spend more than a billion dollars every year to buy 100 million ties.
          I’m Too Busy!   
I wanted this blog to be constantly updated, with lots of commentary by me. But I never have the time! So, for the foreseeable future, check out these great blogs that I check every day! PoliticalWire Political Insider TIME/Real Clear Politics CNN/Political Ticker AmericaBlog DailyKOS IntelDaily Government Dirt
          Poll Numbers on Impeachment   
From Politicalwire.com: July 06, 2007 Public Split on Impeachment From a new American Research Group poll: 45% of Americans favor the House of Representatives beginning impeachment proceedings against President Bush, while 46% are opposed. 54% of Americans favor the House of Representatives beginning impeachment proceedings against Vice President Cheney, while 40% are opposed.
          My Winter 2017/18 Forecast for North America   
Here is my Winter 2017/18 Forecast for North America and it will be Much Stormier with a lot of Snow Especially in Eastern United States of America Including New York, Boston, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maine, New Hampshire, Maryland, DC, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina and there will be a lot of Nor'Easters Moving up the East Coast of the United States of America and Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland will be getting a lot of Snow this winter Coming up and Quebec and Ontario will be Stormier than Normal Including Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas including Missouri and Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Vancouver British Columbia will be getting Snowstorms Including Seattle Washington and Portland Oregon there will be A lot of Alberta Clippers, Nor'Easters, Colorado Lows and Panhandle Hook and There will be More Massive Blizzards, Ice Storms E
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          American Gods Surges For Its Finale   

Already renewed for a second season, Starz’s epic new drama American Gods closed its eight-episode first season with a bang, climbing up 5 spots to #4 in the XFINITY Weekly Top 20 On Demand Episodes list. The finale saw Mr. Wednesday and Shadow Moon finally put their plan in action as the war of the […]

The post American Gods Surges For Its Finale appeared first on Xfinity TV Blog.


          New Redline Flight Cranks Chrome 175 with RL BB American   

Redline Flight Tubular Chromo Crank Arm Set 175mm Chrome
The original tubular chromoly cranks! 100 heat-treated tubular chromoly dual pinch bolts wrapped and welded at the pedal bosses. Set includes 19mm x 6-tooth heat-treated chromoly spindle spindle bolts and sprocket bolt.  they weigh 325g witout the bb
Everything pictured is included  i have 180's also

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          Why Kerry Lost   

BOSTON—My take on the election: Vision without details beats details without vision. President Bush put forward a powerful and compelling philosophy of what the government should do at home and abroad: Expand liberty. You can disagree with Bush's implementation of that vision, but objecting to it as a matter of principle isn't a political winner. John Kerry, on the other hand, campaigned as a technocrat, a man who would be better at "managing" the war and the economy. But for voters faced with a mediocre economy rather than a miserable one, and with a difficult war that's hopefully not a disastrous one, that message—packaged as "change"—wasn't compelling enough to persuade them to vote for Kerry.

Without reliable exit-poll data, it's hard to know exactly which voters and issues decided the election, but my guess is that the Democrats will ultimately conclude that they did what they thought was necessary on the ground to win the election. Karl Rove and the Republicans just did more. (On the exit-poll question: If the initial evening exit-poll result that 5 percent of the late deciders broke for Ralph Nader had turned out to be accurate, Nader would have received more votes from among the pool of late-breaking undecideds than he ended up receiving from the entire electorate.) The Democratic confidence during the early afternoon and evening was based on more than faulty poll data. The Kerry campaign was confident that high turnout from the party base would swing the election their way.

But this election wasn't a swing, or a pendulum. There was no fairly evenly divided group in the middle of the electorate that ultimately broke for one side and made the difference. The 2004 campaign was not a tug of war between two sides trying to yank the center toward them. Instead, it was a battle over an electorate perched on a seesaw. Each campaign furiously tried to find new voters to add so that it could outweigh the other side. Both sides performed capably: Kerry received more votes than Al Gore did four years ago, and he even received more votes than the previous all-time leader, Ronald Reagan in 1984. President Bush just did even better.

Rove's gamble that he could find more Bush supporters from among nonvoting social conservatives than from the small number of undecideds in the usual voting public worked exactly as designed. The question for Democrats is whether Rove's formula will turn out to be a one-time trick tied to Bush's personal popularity and the emotional bond the nation formed with him after the trauma of 9/11, or whether the Democratic Party has been relegated to permanent, if competitive, minority status. Are the Democrats once again a regional party, the new Eisenhower Republicans of the Northeast? For seven consecutive presidential elections, the Democratic candidate has failed to garner 50 percent of the vote. Not since Jimmy Carter in 1976 has a Democrat won a majority, and even Watergate could get Carter only 50.1 percent.

The silver lining for the minority party is that the Democrats may have a slight edge in the Electoral College. Although he lost the popular vote by more than 3.5 million (a landslide in a 50-50 nation), Kerry lost the presidency by a much smaller amount: fewer than 140,000 votes in Ohio. The 2008 battleground will likely be even smaller than 2004's: Only 19 states in this election had a vote margin that within single digits. In 2000's divided America, Bush and Gore finished within 5 points of each other in 22 states. This time, Bush and Kerry came within sniffing distance of each other in half as many, 11. Despite President Bush's remarkably successful campaign, and despite the fact that he became the first president to win a majority of the vote since his father did the same in 1988, in his second term George W. Bush will preside over a country that is even more divided than it was during his first.


          Blame the Electoral College   

BOSTON—There's no reason to start crying that American democracy has been sullied, or that the system doesn't work, or that a constitutional crisis is looming. The Constitution does not enshrine the right to know the winner of a presidential election before bedtime. The one certainty at the end of this long Election Night: There's something really, really wrong with exit polling. The near-certainty: John Kerry is going to lose this election relatively quickly.

How long can Kerry contest an election in which a wartime incumbent beat him by 3.7 million votes? This isn't the same as losing the Electoral College by 537 votes when you won the overall popular vote by more than 500,000. Granted, Kerry isn't contesting anything yet. He's just waiting until the vote totals show that he's been mathematically eliminated, and he shouldn't be begrudged that right.

The real takeaway from this election is that the Electoral College needs to be abolished immediately. If the American public doesn't want to shutter the Electoral College after tonight, we never will. The 2000 election didn't persuade me that the system needed to be junked, but this election provides a far better example of the system's flaws. Under a popular-vote system, President Bush would probably have been declared the winner by the time the polls closed on the West Coast. Only the fact that states, rather than people, elect the American president allowed Kerry to get within striking distance in an election he lost by 3 percentage points. You could argue that the 2000 election was a tie, that it was so close that the winner couldn't be discerned. That's not the case this time around. A majority of Americans clearly went to the polls and voted for the re-election of President Bush. John Kerry lost this election. The Electoral College is just going to make him suffer a slow and painful death instead of a swift and decisive one.

By 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday night—or Wednesday morning—when reporters shuttled outside to watch John Edwards deliver one of the most disappointing political speeches in American history, everyone, including what was left of Kerry's hometown crowd, knew the Democratic ticket had been defeated. When Edwards walked out to explain why he and Kerry were not ready to concede, his statement had all the eloquence of a statement made on an airport tarmac. He spoke for less than a minute. Here's what he said, in its entirety: "It's been a long night, but we've waited four years for this victory. We can wait one more night. Tonight, John and I are so proud of all of you who are here with us, and all of you across the country who have stood with us in this campaign. John Kerry and I made a promise to the American people, that in this election, every vote would count, and every vote would be counted. Tonight, we are keeping our word, and we will fight for every vote. You deserve no less. Thank you!" The speech's redeeming element was Edwards' suggestion that this will all be over by Wednesday night.

But even if the election continues into next week (an unlikely scenario), it's worth remembering that so far, no one's suing, no one's litigating, and no one's contesting anything. We're just waiting for the outcome of a close election to be determined. Kerry and Edwards are losing, but that's no reason for them to walk off the field before the clock runs out.


          Lockhart Ranks the States   

BOSTON—Just after 10 p.m., Joe Lockhart updated the press at the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel on the Kerry campaign's view of the unfolding election. He appeared to list states in descending order, as related to the campaign's confidence that Kerry would win them:

"Let me talk a little bit about where we think things are. We are in, I think, a remarkably strong position as we stand here tonight. We think—Let me try to do this in some semblance of order. The first state that will flip, we believe, is New Hampshire. We've had a very aggressive campaign out there, a very aggressive ground game, and we expect to win that state.

"Ohio was a state that stayed close throughout the campaign, but we are very bullish based on the turnout in the state. We had very positive turnout within, as I was saying earlier, the Democratic precincts particularly in African-American communities. We had our precincts, the Democratic precincts, performing at 115 percent of our expectations, and we had the Republican precincts reporting at 94.3 percent of expectations. …  We had African-American precincts reporting in very high, at about 115 percent of what we expected, and Hispanic precincts were reporting at 150 percent of what we expected.

"I think if you look at the vote that's coming in, what you have to keep in mind is there's a series of Democratic counties that we only have very limited reporting in now. I give you those counties and with that [the] margin that Gore had in 2000: Cuyahoga, obviously Cleveland, strong Democratic area, Gore won by 160,000; Lucas County, Toledo area, Gore won by 35,000; Montgomery County, the Dayton area, Gore won by 5,000; Summit, which is Warren, which is where we had the rally over the weekend, Gore won by 25,000, and Mahoney County, which Gore won by 30,000. If you look at the numbers now, these are very underreported, and these are the ones that are coming in late.

"On Florida, we think we, as I said earlier today, we started with a very strong advantage based on the early voting, almost 30 percent of the state voted before today. And we've had absolutely outstanding turnout in the southern part of the state, in Miami-Dade, Broward, and West Palm. If you look at 2000, Gore won Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach by 350,000, and we think we're going to do better than that. We have very limited reporting in those counties in Florida now. But we think that, based on the limited information, we have a 42,000-vote lead in Palm Beach County, with less than half the vote in. Broward County, we have a more than 200,000-vote lead, with still more than a quarter of the vote left to be counted, with still over a quarter left to be counted.

"I think in both of these states, Ohio and Florida, the turnout, the incredible turnout, an unprecedented turnout, I think you've seen in the long lines, in the fact that they're still voting. We have reports from Columbus, Ohio, of a polling place that will be open until midnight based on the line when the polls closed. There's still voting going on in Florida. So we feel very strongly about both of these states as states that will come into our column once the votes are counted.

"I'll do two areas before we get to questions. The first is the Upper Midwest. We feel very strongly about, we'll have a comfortable win in Minnesota. Wisconsin, based on the turnout that we've looked at and analyzed over this afternoon and this evening, we think we'll also hold. I think, Iowa, with a late surge in the last four or five days, and with a very aggressive ground game, we think we'll also be able to hold the state of Iowa.

"In the Southwest, New Mexico and Nevada, one red state, one blue state, we feel very strongly that we've done well there, we've done enough and that when the votes are counted there we'll win those states. So, overall we feel like we're in a strong position."

Q: What's surprised you tonight?

"We expected a very large turnout. I don't know that we expected this, something this large. And I think we've always believed that turnout, and the size of it as it grew over by the millions and maybe even 10 million more than what we saw in 2000, that would advantage us, and I think that's what we're seeing.

"You know, I think the turnout in a number of Democratic communities has been strong. I think if you look at the data that's out now, probably the biggest surprise is how the 18- to 25-year-olds, how many of them came out, and think how strongly they've come out for Kerry. I think if you're looking for one thing to put your finger on right now that's making a difference in this race after many cycles of there being hype about getting young people re-engaged and getting involved in voting again, this is the year that it actually happened."


          Halftime Score   

BOSTON—A little after 4:30 p.m., Joe Lockhart stood at a podium at the traveling press filing center at the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel and briefed the media on the campaign's view of Election Day so far. Here's a partial transcript. The questions are paraphrases, but Lockhart's quotes are verbatim.

"The rules state if you are in line when the polls close, you are allowed to vote. … They just need to get there by the time of the poll closing. We will be providing coffee and doughnuts for those who have to wait in line as a way to ease their pain, I am told. I believe this is true, that the campaign has authorized in some places in Ohio Port-a-Potties to make sure that people don't leave because they have to go to the bathroom. They tell me that's true."

"In these battleground states, we have targeted 60 precincts per state: 20 that polled very well for then-Gov. Bush, in 2000, 20 that were mixed, 20 that voted heavily for Gore. Let me share a few things from around the country that we've drawn from those precincts. So far today, our base precincts are running ahead of both Republican base precincts and ahead of Al Gore's performance in every battleground state, with the exception of New Mexico, where we are even, and Arkansas, where we're slightly behind.

"So when you look at the whole, 12 or 13, whatever we settled on battleground states, we believe in our key precincts, as a measure of turnout, that we're doing well.

"In Florida, Democratic precincts continue to outperform Republican precincts, and African-American and Hispanic turnout is still running higher than expected. We've seen anecdotal evidence, particularly in some of the Hispanic voting areas, of very heavy turnout. We have a turnout advantage in Miami-Dade County, Broward County, and Palm Beach County.

"In Ohio, Democratic precincts again are outperforming the Republican Bush precincts by about 8 percent. Cuyahoga County turnout advantage in precincts carried by Gore is 7.1 percent compared to the precincts carried by Bush in 2000. Franklin County, we're seeing a turnout advantage, and Hamilton County, which is Cincinnati, a turnout advantage in Gore precincts by again, about 6 and a half percent.

"Wisconsin, Democratic precincts are outperforming Bush precincts by about 1.9 percent; that holds for Dane County, which is the Madison area, and Milwaukee County, and even the heavily Republican county in the Milwaukee suburbs, where our turnout advantage is small, but it is an advantage.

"A couple other: Colorado Democratic precincts are outperforming Bush precincts by about 4.6 percent; Iowa Democratic precincts are outperforming the Bush precincts by about 10 percent. So, we think that the turnout numbers have been encouraging, but we still believe that we have a lot of work to do."

Q: Explain what those numbers mean.

"That's not exit polling. That's turnout. Again, as I said, if you look at key precincts around the state, which is how we judge turnout, we have heavily Democratic districts, and then you've got heavily Republican precincts. And the numbers that I was using were all comparative, comparing the Democratic precincts to the Republican. It doesn't tell you everything, but I think it tells you a lot. If County X, which always votes Democratic, 100 people show up, and County Y, which always votes Republican, 93 people show up, at the end of the day, you have some sense that things are going well for you. And that's good news. Again, it doesn't tell you who's won or lost, but it does give a sense that our efforts at sort of turning out the voters are having some success."

Q: Knowing what you know now, how confident are you that there will be a winner declared tonight?

"I don't know that we know anything more about that … than we did coming into the day. There's two pieces of information, one is that we feel good about where we were in the battleground states. We have said that consistently over the last week. We feel good so far about the turnout. But those things aren't enough. Everybody knows a campaign who thought the turnout looked good in the morning and relaxed in the afternoon and came out unsuccessfully."

Q: How are you redeploying your resources?

I'll give you one example. Gen. Wesley Clark was in New Mexico for us today, and based on some information that we gathered, in both New Mexico and Nevada, we've asked him, and he's on his way now, to do some work in Nevada. So, that's one example, I think, of a body being moved. But this is mostly satellite interviews, phone calls, and movement within a state

"Are the speeches done? If I answered yes, I wouldn't be honest. You know how we work; they'll be done just before they're due."

Q: Have you seen any exit polls? What do you think of them?

"Well, the only thing that I've seen in print is on online sources that I find highly unreliable."

Q: Daily Kos?

"I didn't say which ones I saw."

We'll assume he means Drudge.


          The Other Incumbent Rule   

LA CROSSE, Wis.—The past six years have not been kind to political rules of thumb. During the primary season, a candidate who leads in both the polls and in fund raising on Jan. 1 is supposed to be guaranteed the nomination. Ask Howard Dean about that one. In the general election, the national popular vote is supposed to coincide with the vote in the Electoral College. Ask Al Gore how that went. And during midterm congressional elections, the president's party is supposed to lose seats in the House. About that one, ask Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

The next political axiom to be tested will be polling's "incumbent rule," which dictates that undecided voters break overwhelmingly for the challenger on Election Day. (Another way to put it is that an incumbent president's polling number typically equals or exceeds the percentage share of the vote he'll receive.) Because most final state polls show President Bush polling below 50 percent in nearly every swing state, history is on John Kerry's side Tuesday. But recent elections have shown that past performance is no guarantee of future results.

What's more, if the election turns out to be close, there's another way incumbency could be the determining factor in the election, as Randy Broz, a Democratic strategist and fund-raiser for House candidates, pointed out to me last week. This rule, call it the "other incumbent rule," favors President Bush. In the unlikely scenario of "another Florida"—litigation or just a long recount in a decisive state—the president, by virtue of his incumbency, will hold a decisive public-relations advantage. During the 2000 recount, Republicans cried that Al Gore was trying to "steal the election" from Bush based on nothing more than the fact that the TV networks had declared Bush the winner on Election Night. Had Bush been a sitting president, the outcry would have been more persuasive. Trying to oust a wartime incumbent through litigation would be nearly impossible.

Kerry will need to win clearly and convincingly at the ballot box in order to unseat Bush, and for what it's worth, most reporters seem to think that he's going to do it. The Kerry campaign staff is confident, and it appears to be genuine, rather than bluster. "I never told anyone in 2000 that Al Gore was going to win by 6 points," Bob Shrum—taking a shot at Karl Rove's record in election forecasting—told reporters on the campaign plane. For the past week or two, the campaign has spoken confidently of winning "big states"—presumably Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania—that would assure Kerry the presidency.

By Monday evening, reporters from news organizations that have colleagues traveling with Bush started saying that the Bush folks have clammed up, or that they seem unusually tight. Kerry's final events had a giddy air. The traveling press credentials for the night's last "major rally" in Cleveland featured a head shot of longtime Kerry spokesman David Wade, who gladly autographed a few. To the New York Daily News reporter, he wrote, "At least you're not the Post." And to the New York Post, he tweaked the paper's veep "scoop" by writing, "Go Kerry-Gephardt!" I heard rumors of, but did not witness, a dancing Mike McCurry. I even read it as a sign of confidence that traveling press secretary Allison Dobson was eager to join a proposed Electoral College betting pool. Teresa Heinz Kerry's slightly unusual political talk in Cleveland—about an America that is "young" and "imperfect" but "growing," and how Kerry knows America's "thorny parts" as well its idealism—came across as charming rather than ludicrous.

In Toledo, at a midnight rally that Kerry dubbed "the first stop of Election Day," Gen. Tony McPeak criticized the Bush administration for wrapping itself in the flag to hide its "incompetence." "You wanna shoot 'em, you gotta put a hole in the flag," McPeak said. "We got a guy in John Kerry who stands in front the flag. He says, you gonna hurt that flag, you're gonna have to run through me."

When Kerry arrived here in La Crosse for a photo op at 1:25 a.m. Central time, a man in the crowd held aloft a scrawled sign reading, "Tomorrow Is Here, President Kerry." Kerry leapt into the crowd of a couple hundred people, clutching and grabbing and high-fiving hands. He seemed to realize that this was it, his last full day as a presidential campaigner. Just a couple weeks ago in Des Moines during a joint appearance with John Edwards, Kerry had walked down a catwalk next to his running mate, who was reaching down into the crowd enthusiastically with both hands. Kerry, by comparison, touched a voter's hand only occasionally, and only at the end of the walk did he extend both arms to clasp hands with anyone. This time, Kerry eagerly embraced the throng for 20 minutes, perhaps not ready for this day to end.

Predictions are dangerous, but I'll make one: Tuesday night, the incumbent rule holds, and on Jan. 20, we'll have a new incumbent.


          Show Your Love For the Simpsons Family   
The Simpsons has been running for approximately twenty years and admit it, you've seen almost every episode. With over 441 episodes and a feature length film the Simpsons portrays a satirical view of American culture and human nature that we have all grown to love.
          Sticks Nix Veep Pick   

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.—By most standards, John Edwards has been a solid running mate for John Kerry. He throttled Dick Cheney in the vice presidential debate (less sympathetic observers thought he at least held his own), he draws big and enthusiastic crowds, he gave a decent if not spectacular acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention, he's always on message, and he's committed no memorable gaffes or otherwise violated the Hippocratic oath of vice presidential nominees. He wasn't selected to win his home state of North Carolina, so it isn't fair for Democrats to be disappointed when the Tar Heel State stays in the Bush column, as it almost certainly will, a week from tonight. But Edwards partisans did expect him to help the Democratic ticket to appeal more to rural voters, and there's no evidence that he's managed to pull off that admittedly difficult feat. If Kerry loses a close election next week, the first second-guessing question has to be, Was John Edwards the right choice?

According to a poll released on Saturday by the Center for Rural Strategies, Kerry trails President Bush by 12 points, 53 to 41 (with a 4.4 percent margin of error), among rural voters in 17 battleground states. Four years ago, Al Gore lost those voters to Bush by a nearly identical margin, 11 points. No reasonable person expected Edwards to help Kerry actually win among rural voters, but it was hoped that he would help the ticket outperform Gore's number and reduce the margin to single digits. When Edwards was criticized for "disappearing" after the convention, the Kerry campaign explained that he had been dispatched to rural areas that were being ignored by the national media, and they assured everyone that he was wowing local media. Local voters seem to be another matter.

During a Tuesday conference call that was set up to discuss how good the Kerry campaign feels about its chances to win the election, the one disappointment expressed by Joe Lockhart and Stan Greenberg was Kerry's performance in rural areas. "I think we recognize that rural voters have not come to us in the way that we had hoped for in this election," Lockhart said. Greenberg said the fact that rural voters were "stuck" was a big factor in why Iowa and New Mexico, states that were won by Gore, remain tossups.

A less exciting but more traditional vice-presidential pick might have served Kerry better by putting one of those states safely in his column. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson or Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack could have guaranteed their states' electoral votes for the Democrats. Perhaps even Arkansas' Wes Clark or one of Florida's two senators, Bob Graham and Bill Nelson, could have put their states away for Kerry.

None of those candidates would have generated the buzz that selecting Edwards did, and there are reasons to believe that each of them would have been truly bad choices. Maybe they all would have been crucified by Dick Cheney. But Vilsack, in particular, made Kerry's shortlist, along with Edwards and Dick Gephardt. If you're a Democrat looking at the electoral map, which would you rather have right now, a veep debate win or Iowa's seven electoral votes?

How I Voted: I didn't mean to abstain from Slate's "Show Us Your Ballots" exercise, but I missed the deadline. Here's my candidate: Kerry. I was ambivalent about the Iraq war before the invasion, and I ultimately decided that if you're ambivalent about war you should be against it. The president and this administration apparently feel otherwise. They've put the burden of proof on peace rather than war. Their disdain for the global institutions that have projected American power overseas for 60 years has undermined not just our country's hard-earned reputation and moral authority but our hard-earned might. Their disregard for the Geneva Conventions is shameful and a dangerous international precedent. On the domestic side, Kerry seems a little too eager to spend taxpayer dollars, but I take his pledges of—if not his instincts for—restraint as a reason for guarded optimism. More important, on that score, he can't be any worse than Bush. Besides, this is a one-issue election for me. I don't hate President Bush. I think he's well-intentioned and a good man. He's just not a good president.


          I Want My GOTV   

COLUMBUS, Ohio—With only nine days until this election is over (or so everyone hopes), we've reached the stage of the campaign when the political press evaluates each side's ground game. The media's track record on this is not encouraging. Almost exactly nine months ago, reporters were wandering around Iowa judging the merits of everyone's "organization, organization, organization." The verdict: Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt were the men to beat. We were dazzled by Gephardt's union support and by Dean's "Perfect Storm" of door-knocking, orange-hatted, out-of-state volunteers. They both got creamed.

In hindsight, Dean's Perfect Storm has been judged a debacle on two levels: It annoyed Iowans, who don't like outsiders, and it tied up Dean's staff with organizational headaches—where should we house the Stormers? How can we keep them busy?—when the staff's time would have been better spent figuring out how to get Iowans to the caucuses. But at the time, it got great press.

So, perhaps it's a bad omen for Kerry's ground game in Ohio when I discover that Christy Setzer, the woman who handled press for the Perfect Storm, has been assigned to deal with national reporters who parachute into Columbus to watch America Coming Together, the New New Thing of the general election, in action. That's not meant as a slap at Setzer—she's a terrific person who's good at her job (see the aforementioned glowing press)—but the parallels are irresistible. Like the Storm was for the caucuses, the George Soros-funded ACT is the Big Question Mark of the general election: How many of the new voters it registered in the past year are authentic? How many of them will show up to vote? Can this unconventional strategy win Kerry the presidency?

ACT's army of red-coated canvassers are Kerry's Afghan warlords: He's outsourced his base campaign, his voter-registration drives, and a healthy chunk of his get-out-the-vote operation to them. Much of the rest of the operation will be handled by the groups (including ACT) that make up America Votes, another 527 that coordinates the voter-contact and voter-turnout operations of a host of interest groups, from the AFL-CIO to Planned Parenthood, to ensure that everyone's on the same page. In a sense, America Votes does for the liberal ground game what Grover Norquist's weekly meeting does for conservative talking points.

When I ask Setzer to compare ACT to Dean's Storm, she says it differs in important ways. For one, the canvassers are paid workers and not volunteers, and the organization tries to hire locals instead of out-of-towners. More important, perhaps, the canvassers are supposed to identify voters and get them to the polls, not tell voters their personal stories of how far they've traveled and why they're committed to Howard Dean (or John Kerry). But the real key is that they don't work for just one weekend.

The secret to turnout is frequent face-to-face contact with voters. That's a lesson Steve Rosenthal, the national head of America Coming Together, learned during his years as the political director of the AFL-CIO. Many people attribute Al Gore's victory in the popular vote in 2000—and his wins in every close state except Florida—to Rosenthal's turnout operation for the unions in 2000. Donna Brazile has called Rosenthal "the last great hope of the Democratic Party" and has compared him to Michael Whouley and Karl Rove. ACT is a national version of what Rosenthal did for Philadelphia Mayor John Street in 2003. In that race, 38,000, or 44 percent, of the 86,000 new voters Rosenthal registered came to the polls, he told National Journal earlier this year, compared to 28 or 29 percent of what the magazine called "voters from the same neighborhoods and similar socio-economic backgrounds who had registered on their own."

In Ohio, ACT sends out between 200 and 250 paid canvassers each day. They get paid between $8 and $10 an hour. Setzer reels off impressive numbers: We've knocked on 3.7 million doors in Ohio, had more than 1 million conversations. On Election Day, ACT will send out 12,000 volunteers, each paid a stipend of $75 for travel and expenses, to make sure voters get to the polls. ACT and the partner organizations that make up America Votes have registered about 300,000 new voters in Ohio, and they'll consider it a success to turn out just half of them. Those voters alone, though, wouldn't swing the election. Four years ago, Bush's margin of victory was nearly 180,000 votes. In all, Ohio has between 700,000 and 800,000 new voters for this election, though Setzer points out that some of that could just be churn from voters who moved.

My trip to watch two ACT canvassers in action wasn't very impressive, but that's because it was a Potemkin canvass, organized for the benefit of an MSNBC reporter and his camera. Malik Hubbard, 26, and Julian Johannesen, 32, walked up and down a few blocks in a largely African-American neighborhood in Columbus on a Saturday afternoon. As ACT's field directors for Franklin County, which includes Columbus, Hubbard and Johannesen don't usually canvass themselves. Each man carried a Palm Tungsten T2, which contained the addresses of the voters they were supposed to contact. It's Saturday afternoon on the day of the Ohio State homecoming game, so it's not optimal door-knocking time, but they do their best to put on a good show. When a voter answers the door, the canvasser gives him or her a flyer that has the address of the local polling place stamped on it. He explains that the polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m., advises the voter to bring some form of identification to the polls in case their registration is challenged, and asks if there are any questions. On two separate occasions, a voter worries about a false rumor that the neighborhood's voting machines have been replaced with punch-card ballots. After talking to each voter, Hubbard and Johannesen input the data into their Tungsten T2s.

Over the next nine days, canvassers will follow up with voters, continuing the personal contacts. For what it's worth, the Bush-Cheney campaign in the state is following a similar strategy, though it doesn't partly rely on an outside organization to carry it out. "I'm not saying we're gonna outperform the other side, because they have the potential to be spectacular," says Dave Beckwith, a Bush-Cheney spokesman in Ohio. "I'd just rather be where we are, with a real solid model." The model is the Republican "72 Hour Program," Karl Rove's get-out-the-vote operation from 2002, which helped the Republicans gain House and Senate seats in the midterm elections. Like ACT, the 72 Hour Program relies on frequent face-to-face contact with voters, what Bush's Ohio campaign manager Bob Paduchik calls "the volunteer-to-voter interface."

"By and large, it is an effort to move closer to the Democrat knock-and-drag vote drive," Beckwith says. Republicans have traditionally relied on things like direct mail to get out the vote, but this time, "We are going to the personal contact system." The Bush-Cheney campaign has printed up small pamphlets that contain a list of each committed Bush voter in a neighborhood, along with voters' phone numbers and a map of the area. On Election Day, a volunteer takes the book and checks off each voter after they go to the polls.

Beckwith admits that the Democrats have registered more new voters than the Republicans, but he says that their work was done by "mercenaries"—and they have "people signed up by crack addicts"—while his side employs volunteers, or "liberty-loving free men." Beckwith then drifts into a reverie about the Battle of San Jacinto and explains how Sam Houston knew that "conscripts" and the forces of "despotism" couldn't defeat free men. The enemy was saying, "Me no Alamo," Beckwith says with a laugh. (At another moment in the interview, Beckwith observes of the Kerry-Edwards campaign offices, "I think they're on Gay Street, which is interesting, because we're on Rich Street.")

At the Bush-Cheney headquarters, I mention to Paduchik, Bush's Ohio campaign manager, how the media overestimated the effectiveness of Dean's Perfect Storm. Paduchik says the evidence of Bush's organization in Ohio is the size of his crowds, because the campaign distributes its tickets through its volunteers. When you see 22,000 people in Troy, Ohio, or 50,000 people in Westchester, Ohio, you know you're looking at "a real organization," he says. "It's not because we had tickets you could download from the Internet. It's not because we had put them on car windows, or had people pick them up at a 7-Eleven, like the other side does."

On the way out, I'm reminded that all this work on both sides isn't necessarily a sign of confidence. As we walk to the door, Beckwith points to an empty portion of the Bush-Cheney offices. That's where the staff for Sen. George Voinovich works, he says. "These cocksuckers are up 30 points and they're never in here."


          Second Best   

CLEVELAND—Is John Kerry finally winning? His campaign, which only a week ago was defensive about the candidate's standing in the polls, is now more confidently asserting that he's pulled ahead. Before Friday, the Kerry campaign hadn't been willing to make that claim. Typically, the Bush campaign would argue that the president was leading in the race, and the Kerry campaign would respond by saying, no, it's a tie. But in a Friday afternoon conference call, Kerry's people finally started pointing to the scoreboard.

Here are the numbers outlined by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg on the latest Democracy Corps poll. The numbers are consistent with the latest polls from news organizations, most of which are in keeping with what the Kerry people have been saying all along, that the race is a toss-up. In Greenberg's poll, the horse race is a statistical tie, with Kerry at 49 and Bush at 47. The president's approval rating is 48 percent, "which is just at the edge of electability," Greenberg noted.

So why the confidence? Greenberg cited two internal numbers from the part of the poll that focused on "persuadable" voters. That group includes undecided voters, Bush and Kerry supporters who say their minds remain open, and a third group, Bush voters who say they want the country to go in a significantly different direction. The first number Greenberg cited was this: Fifty-seven percent of the persuadable voters in the Democracy Corps poll said they want to know how a candidate will "make the economy and health care better for people," while only 32 percent want to know "how you'll make us safe." The other number Greenberg highlighted: Given a choice between "I'm comfortable with changing to a new person if he has the right priorities" and "Bush has made us safer and I'm reluctant to change," 54 percent of persuadable voters said they were comfortable with changing, and 45 percent said they were reluctant. The responses to those two questions, Greenberg said, show that Kerry has "an audience" ready to listen to his message. He just has to "seal the deal."

With 11 days to go, that puts Kerry in the exact same place he was with more than three months to go, before the Democratic convention. He had a willing and persuadable audience then, and he proved unable to win them over. People preferred the "generic Democrat" to Bush, but they soured on the specific Democrat. Fortunately for Kerry, in the first debate, Bush reminded voters of what they don't like about him, and now we're back to square one again.

That dynamic is in keeping with the "spotlight" theory of the election being peddled by Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times. The theory goes something like this: Given that a slight majority of the electorate doesn't want Bush, and that a different but similarly slight majority doesn't want Kerry, the winning candidate will be the one who manages to keep the spotlight on his opponent's flaws, rather than his own.

Up to now, I've rejected Brownstein's theory and argued that Kerry has to do more than just watch Bush lose. He has to win the separate "referendum on the challenger" by persuading Americans that he's an acceptable replacement for the president. But if Brownstein is right, neither candidate should get too optimistic by polling data that shows him ahead. Because every time for the past few months that this race has been one man's race to lose, that man hasn't had any trouble finding a way to lose it.


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          Kerry vs. His Script   

WATERLOO, Iowa—Since the final presidential debate, John Kerry has traveled around the country delivering a series of speeches that his campaign calls his "closing argument." The topics vary, but the theme is always the same, the "Fresh Start for America": Friday in Milwaukee, a "fresh start" for jobs; Monday in Tampa, a "fresh start" for health care; Tuesday in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., a "fresh start" for fiscal responsibility and Social Security. The speeches are supposed to convince Americans of Kerry's fitness for the presidency, but a side effect has been to demonstrate how inept he is at delivering prepared remarks.

The campaign gives reporters the text of each of Kerry's speeches "as prepared for delivery," apparently to show how much Kerry diverges from them. During his stump speeches and town halls, Kerry makes the occasional Bush-style error, such as the time I saw him tell a blind man in St. Louis that he would "look you in the eye." Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio, Kerry tried to thank teachers for spending money out of their own pockets on students, but instead it came out as a thank-you to Mary Kay Letourneau as he said, "And they're putting out for our kids." His pronunciation of "idear" grates on my ears far more than Bush's "nucular." But the authentic Kerryism emerges only when he gives a formal address.

Kerry proves incapable of reading simple declarative sentences. He inserts dependent clauses and prepositional phrases until every sentence is a watery mess. Kerry couldn't read a Dick and Jane book to schoolchildren without transforming its sentences into complex run-ons worthy of David Foster Wallace. Kerry's speechwriters routinely insert the line "We can bring back that mighty dream," near the conclusion of his speeches, presumably as an echo of Ted Kennedy's Shrum-penned "the dream will never die" speech from the 1980 Democratic convention. Kerry saps the line of its power. Here's his version from Monday's speech in Tampa: "We can bring back the mighty dream of this country, that's what's at stake in these next two weeks."

Kerry flubs his punch lines, sprinkles in irrelevant anecdotes, and talks himself into holes that he has trouble improvising his way out of. He steps on his applause lines by uttering them prematurely, and then when they roll up on his TelePrompTer later, he's forced to pirouette and throat-clear until he figures out how not to repeat himself. He piles adjective upon adjective until it's like listening to a speech delivered by Roget.

Kerry's health-care speech Monday in Tampa was a classic of the form. The written text contained a little more than 2,500 words. By the time he was finished, Kerry had spoken nearly 5,300 words—not including his introductory remarks and thank-yous to local politicians—more than doubling the verbiage. Pity his speechwriters when you read the highlights below. It's not their fault.

Kerry's Script: Most of all, I will always level with the American people. 

Actual Kerry: Most of all, my fellow Americans, I pledge to you that I will always level with the American people, because it's only by leveling and telling the truth that you build the legitimacy and gain the consent of the people who ultimately we are accountable to. I will level with the American people.

Kerry's Script: I will work with Republicans and Democrats on this health care plan, and we will pass it.

Actual Kerry: I will work with Republicans and Democrats across the aisle, openly, not with an ideological, driven, fixed, rigid concept, but much like Franklin Roosevelt said, I don't care whether a good idea is a Republican idea or a Democrat idea. I just care whether or not it's gonna work for Americans and help make our country stronger. And we will pass this bill. I'll tell you a little bit about it in a minute, and I'll tell you why we'll pass it, because it's different from anything we've ever done before, despite what the Republicans want to try to tell you.

Kerry's Script: These worries are real, and they're happening all across America.

Actual Kerry: These worries are real. They're not made up. These stories aren't something that's part of a Democrat plan or a Republican plan. These are American stories. These are the stories of American citizens. And it's not just individual citizens who are feeling the pressure of health care costs. It's businesses across America. It's CEOs all across America. This is an American problem.

Kerry's Script: That's wrong, and we have to change it.

Actual Kerry: Well, that's wrong, my friends. We shouldn't be just hoping and praying. We need leadership that acts and responds and leads and makes things happen.     

Kerry's Script: That's wrong, and we have to change it.

Actual Kerry: Well, that's wrong. We had a chance to change it in the Congress of the United States. They chose otherwise. And I'll talk about that in a minute.

Kerry's Script: It's wrong to make it illegal for Medicare to negotiate with the drug companies for lower prices.

Actual Kerry: But not satisfied to hold onto the drug company's profit there, they went further. Medicare belongs to you. Medicare is paid by the taxpayer. Medicare is a taxpayer-funded program to keep seniors out of poverty. And we want to lower the cost to seniors, right? It's common sense. But when given the opportunity to do that, this president made it illegal for Medicare to do what the VA does, which is go out and bulk purchase drugs so we could lower the taxpayers' bill and lower the cost to seniors. It is wrong to make it illegal to lower the cost of tax and lower the cost to seniors. 

Kerry's Script: And if there was any doubt before, his response to the shortage of flu vaccines put it to rest.

Actual Kerry: Now, if you had any doubts at all about anything that I've just said to you, anybody who's listening can go to johnkerry.com or you can go to other independent sources and you can track down the truth of what I've just said. But if you had any doubts about it at all, his response to the shortage of the flu vaccine ought to put them all to rest.

Kerry's Script: I believe we need a fresh start on health care in America. I believe we need a President who will fight for the great middle class and those struggling to join it. And with your help, I will be that kind of President.

Actual Kerry: I believe so deeply—and as I go around, Bob and Bill and I were talking about this coming over here from other places—that the hope that we're seeing in the eyes of our fellow Americans, folks like you who have come here today who know what's at stake in this race. This isn't about Democrat and Republican or ideology. This is about solving problems, real problems that make our country strong and help build community and take care of other human beings. I believe we need a fresh start on health care in America. I believe we need a President who's going to fight for the great middle class and those who really are struggling, even below minimum wage now. And they won't even raise it. With your help, ladies and gentlemen, I intend to be that kind of President who stands up and fights for the people who need the help.

Kerry's Script: Families will be able to choose from dozens of different private insurance plans.

Actual Kerry: Now George Bush is trying to scare America. And he's running around telling everybody—I saw this ad the other night. I said, "What is that about? That's not my plan. That may be some 20 years ago they pulled out of the old thing." But here's what they do, they are trying to tell you that there is some big government deal. Ladies and gentlemen, we choose. I happen to choose Blue Cross/Blue Shield. I could choose Kaiser. I could choose Pilgrim. I could choose Phelan. I could choose any number of different choices. That's what we get. And we look through all the different choices and make our choice. You ought to have that same choice. The government doesn't tell what you to do. The government doesn't run it. It gives you the choice.

Kerry's Script: Ladies and Gentlemen, here's the Bush Health Care Plan: Don't get a flu shot, don't import less-expensive drugs, don't negotiate for lower prices, and most of all, don't get sick.

Actual Kerry: So, Ladies and Gentlemen, if you had doubts about it at all, here's the Bush Health Care Plan: Don't get a flu shot, don't import less-expensive drugs from Canada, don't negotiate for lower prices on prescription drugs. And don't get sick. Just pray, stand up and hope, wait—whatever. We are all left wondering and hoping. That's it.


          Kerry Speaks French   

ORLANDO—Let's see: Your opponent is characterizing you as an effete internationalist willing to "turn America's national security decisions over to international bodies or leaders of other countries." In particular, he suggests, in all seriousness, that you want to call up Jacques Chirac for permission before deploying the military. At the Republican National Convention, you were portrayed as a beret-wearing poodle named "Fifi Kerry." How should you defend yourself against these slanders?

By speaking French on the stump, of course. Click here to hear John Kerry's foray into the language of Paris during a Monday rally here. I wasn't watching Kerry on stage when he made his remarks, but from the context he appears to have seen someone from Haiti and decided to acknowledge the person in his or her native tongue.

What does Kerry say? My knowledge of French is limited to the lyrics to "Lady Marmalade," so I consulted my friend John Wilkerson, a Washington journalist and French speaker. He translates the first part as, "You're Haitian? OK," but says the rest sounded like gibberish. "I think at that point he was just a character on Saturday Night Live," Wilkerson says.

Readers? Can anyone make it out? Post your explanations, serious or otherwise, in the Fray. Slug them "Kerry's French translation."

Scotland's Sunday Herald called Kerry's French fluency a "campaign secret" yesterday. Looks like the secret is out. Here's some suggested spin for the Kerry campaign: He wasn't speaking French. He was speaking Freedom.

Update, 10/19/04: According to the New York Times, Agence France-Presse, and bazillions of readers, Kerry said, "Je vais aider les Haitiens," which means, "I will help the Haitians." Sticklers say Kerry mispronounced both "Haiti" and "Haitians," which caused several people to think he said, "I will help the states." Canadians said they had the easiest time understanding Kerry, since they're used to listening to American-accented French.

Assessments of Kerry's accent ranged from "impeccable" to "good" to "mediocre" to "abominable" to "better than Bush's Texas-twinged Spanglish." One correspondent wrote, "It sounds more like, 'I'm going to help the Chechens!' "

My favorite fanciful translation: "I have a plan to learn French."


          Kerry's Poll Position   

PALM BEACH, Fla.—John Kerry's campaign professes to be unconcerned about the multiple national polls that have shown a small but discernible downward movement for the Democratic nominee since the third presidential debate. But the campaign's studied nonchalance doesn't extend to how the press covers the polls. During Sunday's flight from Columbus, Ohio, to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., reporters on the Kerry plane receive a "Polling Update," a two-page explanation of how the campaign would like us to view the latest public polls. The very first sentence: "The race is tied."

The abbreviated Kerry spin: 1) Bush pollster Matthew Dowd told the Austin American-Statesman on March 21 that "presidents finish roughly the same as their job approval rating." Zogby has Bush's job approval at 47, Newsweek has it at 47, and Time has it at 49. 2) Among registered voters, the Zogby, Newsweek, and Time polls show a statistical tie. (The release doesn't mention it, but the same is true for the just-released Gallup Poll. President Bush leads Kerry among likely voters by 8 points, 52-44, but among registered voters it's Bush 49, Kerry 46, with a 3 percent margin of error.) 3) Kerry's ahead in the battleground states, which is what really matters.

The release isn't internally consistent. It treats Kerry's narrow deficit in national polls differently than his narrow lead in state polls: Kerry's one-point shortfall among registered voters in the Newsweek poll is called a tie, but Kerry's two-point leads in Minnesota and Pennsylvania are "consistent with repeated polls showing a Kerry edge." That, of course, is the Bush campaign's argument at the national level: Every poll released since the third debate has shown a Bush lead of between two points and eight points.

Until Sunday, that is. A new Democracy Corps poll conducted by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg shows the race as a statistical tie, but this time it's Kerry who has the higher horse-race number, 50 to Bush's 47, with a three-point margin of error. Greenberg and Joe Lockhart held a conference call to trumpet the results. The Kerry plane was in the air at the time, but the campaign released a transcript of the call. The message: At the third debate, Kerry consolidated his base. He gained among African Americans and union households. Greenberg calls this a "one-time consolidation of Democrats that is not going to be easily eroded."

Lockhart dismisses the Newsweek poll's fluctuations over the course of the past two months: "It's just not credible. The electorate has not swung 20 percent, from 13 down to one up to eight down. It's just not what's happening in the electorate, so it's just not something we take very seriously." Lockhart also emphasizes that in the 2000 election, polls of registered voters were more accurate than polls of likely voters. That echoes Ruy Texeira's Emerging Democratic Majority Weblog, which lately exists to argue that Kerry isn't doing as badly in the polls as he seems. And Lockhart emphasizes what Al Gore discovered: "This election is not going to take place nationally. It's going to take place in the battleground states."

Which raises the obvious question: Could Kerry win the presidency but lose the popular vote? At Daily Kos, political scientist Tom Schaller says it's unlikely but possible, particularly because Kerry is underperforming Gore's numbers in blue states, including Massachusetts and New Jersey. If that's not far-fetched enough for you, here's a scenario I discovered while playing with the Los Angeles Times' electoral map: Bush wins Ohio, Florida, and Colorado. Kerry sweeps the rest of the battleground: Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The result: a 269-269 tie. Democrats cry that Bush gets "selected" again, this time by the House of Representatives. Maybe that's the kind of trick fate plays when you nominate a fan of the Boston Red Sox.


          Kerry Puts the Gloves On   

SHEBOYGAN, Wisc.—If John Kerry loses the election, a reporter once told me, we'll probably be able to blame it on the mistakes he makes while trying to sprinkle local color into his speeches. The Badger State boasts Kerry's most famous slip of the tongue: the time he declared his love for "Lambert Field," suggesting that the state's beloved Green Bay Packers play their home games on the frozen tundra of the St. Louis airport. But there have been others: his shout-out to the "Buckeyes" while campaigning in Michigan, or his announcement in Canonsburg, Pa., that he would like to go to a local restaurant that doesn't let its customers choose their entrees, because he has a hard time making up his mind about what to eat. In a slightly different category, but in the same vein, was Kerry's request in Philadelphia for Swiss, rather than cheese whiz, on his Philly cheesesteak.

Here in Sheboygan, during a "Kerry-Edwards '04 Brat Fry," Kerry adds to the litany Friday by referring to the local food as a short-A "brat," the way you would refer to a spoiled child. "Brot!" yell members of the crowd. For good measure, Kerry makes the mistake at the end of his speech, too. "Before I get a chance to have some braaats ..." "Brots!!" some women near me shout in frustration.

OK, it's unlikely to have much resonance beyond Sheboygan, and neither will Kerry's reference to the women's soccer star "Brady" Chastain, beyond providing more fodder for Football Fans for Truth. But the press on one of the buses in Kerry's caravan through Wisconsin has fun with it anyway, imagining a new Kerryism at our next stop, Appleton: "Hello, Applebee's!" or, even better, "Who among us does not like Applebee's?"

Besides, things are looking up for Kerry, despite his miscue. The polls in the upper Midwest battlegrounds are trending his direction, and there's a positive spin that can be put on the fact that many of the most important swing states are ones that Al Gore won in 2000. Yes, it means that Kerry is playing defense on what is supposed to be his party's home turf, but on the other hand, surely Democrats would prefer the election hinge on their chances of winning Wisconsin and Iowa rather than, say, Colorado and Nevada.

The Democratic worries that filled the month of August and much of September have been replaced by Republican fretting. "If you don't have some anxiety you are not in touch with reality," Newt Gingrich told the Los Angeles Times. It wasn't a sign of confidence when President Bush decided Thursday to visit with the press on Air Force One for only the third time of his presidency. And although this election has been marked by an upending of all the normal political rules, a factoid identified by USA Today's Susan Page has to add to Republican unease: "In three elections—in 1960, 1980 and 2000—a presidential candidate has gone into the first debate trailing his opponent in the Gallup Poll and come out of the last debate ahead of him. Each went on to win." Kerry entered the first debate trailing Bush by 8 points. By the second debate, he'd tied the president. The first post-debate Gallup Poll will come out this week.

But what if Kerry isn't ahead? How dispirited will his supporters be if he can't pass Bush after winning all three debates? Next week's polls won't decide the election, obviously, but they'll go a long way toward measuring the effectiveness of Kerry's turn-it-on-late, Mayday Malone campaign strategy. During the summer months, when Kerry pretty much went into hiding while the Bush campaign was trying to bury him with millions of dollars in negative advertising, the strategy was dubbed the "rope-a-dope," after Muhammad Ali's strategy in the "Rumble in the Jungle" against George Foreman. Now, as if it were planned for the finale all along, Kerry has adopted Ali's query to Foreman in the seventh round: "George, is that all you've got?"

The other thing Kerry has been telling crowds for the past two days is that the eyes of the world will be on America on Nov. 2, that the world is "waiting for the United States to be the country they know us to be." This election isn't just about one country, Kerry says; it's about the fate of the entire world. It's a global test, in other words, though he's not stupid enough to phrase it that way. Bush says he doesn't like global tests, but even he wouldn't deny that no matter which man wins, he'll have the right to think, at least privately, that he's something else Muhammad Ali proclaimed: king of the world.


          Bush's Big Mistake   

TEMPE, Ariz.—"The president is an alien. There's your quote of the day," Ken Mehlman said before the final presidential debate to reporters who were peppering him with questions about the rectangular shape underneath the president's jacket during the first debate. "He's been getting information from Mars," said Bush's campaign manager, and at the debate, "his alien past will be exposed."

Well, at least it wasn't that bad. Indisputably, this was the president's best debate. Just as it took Al Gore three debates to settle on the right tone during the 2000 campaign, President Bush figured out in his third face-off with John Kerry how to be neither too hot nor too cold. But Kerry was as good as he can be, too, and more important, what good the president did with his performance will be overshadowed Thursday when the TV networks spend the entire day running video clips of him saying of Osama Bin Laden on March 13, 2002, "I truly am not that concerned about him."

By denying that he had ever minimized the threat posed by Bin Laden, Bush handed Kerry, during the very first question, the victory in the post-debate spin. The Kerry campaign's critique of the president is that he doesn't tell the truth, that he won't admit mistakes, and that he refuses to acknowledge reality. Bush's answer played into all three claims. Within minutes, the Kerry-Edwards campaign e-mailed reporters the first of its "Bush vs. Reality" e-mails, complete with a link to the official White House transcript. A half-hour later, the Democratic National Committee circulated the video.

If the president had ignored Kerry's charge, everyone would have forgotten about it. By contesting it, Bush handed Kerry two gifts: As delighted as the Kerry people must be by yet another untruthful statement from the president, the substance of this particular statement is even more important. Dick Cheney's false declaration that he had never met John Edwards didn't help the Bush campaign, but this error will be orders of magnitude more damaging. Video of the vice president standing next to Edwards at a prayer breakfast is embarrassing. Video of the president saying he isn't concerned about the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks is devastating.

The president's blunder also provided at least a glimpse of the foreign-policy debate I hoped to see. Here's a more complete version of the president's 2002 comment: "I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country. I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban." The president's philosophy toward the war on terror could not be clearer: It is a war against nation-states, not against "nonstate actors" like al-Qaida. Bin Laden was dangerous because he controlled a state, not because he controls a terrorist network. When the Bush campaign talks about "going on the offense," this is what they mean. Kerry, after all, talks about hunting down the terrorists where they live. To Bush, that's not good enough. The subtext of the initial exchange between Bush and Kerry was more illuminating than the entire first debate.

The Bush counteroffensive to the president's mistake was to try to find a Kerry misstatement to fill in the "on the other hand" section in fact-checking news stories. During the debate, Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt sent out an "Urgent Alert" to reporters that read, complete with weird capitalization: "John Kerry's statement that he passed 56 bills during his 20 years in the senate is a complete and utter falsehood. Kerry passed five bills and Four resolutions." In Spin Alley after the debate was over, Bush campaign communications director Nicolle Devenish called Kerry's comment about the number of bills he authored his "Al Gore moment." But when Schmidt asserts that Kerry passed only five bills and four resolutions, he means bills that passed both houses of Congress and were signed into law. The Bush campaign's own "Breaking Debate Fact" e-mailed during the debate says that Kerry was the lead sponsor of 31 bills, 122 amendments, and 28 resolutions that passed the Senate.

Kerry did make some misstatements of his own, of course. He repeatedly said his health-care plan covers all Americans, which isn't true, and his assertion that the Bush campaign hasn't met with the Congressional Black Caucus isn't true, either. After the debate, Joe Lockhart admitted that Bush had a "ceremonial" meeting with the black caucus. But Kerry's minor inaccuracies will be overshadowed by the video of Bush saying, "I truly am not that concerned about him."

The most telling pre-debate quote came from Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster who told the New York Times that the first debate "was a chance for the president to lay [Kerry] out and just lock it. In the past two weeks, that's been turned on its head." That was my sense going into this debate: The situation was precisely the reverse of where the campaign stood before the first debate. Another decisive win for Kerry could have ended the race, as the campaign dominoes would have begun to fall his way. That didn't happen, and the debate was much closer than Kerry would have liked.

But as with previous debates, Kerry won the post-debate instant polls. After the last two, Kerry's margin of victory grew substantially beyond the margins in the snap polls. Bush's Bin Laden goof will give Kerry his best opportunity to score a post-debate knockout.


          The $84 Question   

ST. LOUIS—Mike McCurry may have set a new standard in expectations-lowering when he predicted before Friday's debate that his candidate would actually lose in his face-off with President Bush. About a half-hour before Bush and John Kerry walked on stage at Washington University, McCurry made this prediction to a group of reporters in the media filing center: "I guarantee you the story will be"—putting on his best "Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!" announcer voice—"'Bush bounced back from a dismal performance and sets up the exciting showdown in Arizona ...' "

It sounded good, and in a sense it's true. Bush did bounce back. This wasn't "the Old Testament version of Bush," as McCurry called the bumbling caricature who showed up for the first debate. But it wasn't the return of the charmer of 2000, either. The consensus on the Bush press bus—I'll be traveling with the president between this debate and the finale Wednesday in Tempe—on the way back to our hotel was that Kerry had bested the president once again. Or perhaps it was a tie, but most reporters thought that a draw favors Kerry, because he's got the momentum, and he just has to convince people that he's not a vacillating weakling to get their votes.

Here's my predicted storyline: Before last week's debate, the speculation was whether Bush could knock Kerry out of the race with a decisive win. Heading into next week's debate, my guess is that the speculation will be about whether Kerry can put Bush away and end the campaign before the final three-week stretch begins. In particular, there will be a lot of focus on how the debate favors Kerry because the subject will be domestic policy.

But based on this debate, Bush may have the upper hand next week. Kerry had his foreign-policy answers nailed. He dominated the early portions that dealt with Iraq. But when the questions turned homeward it was Kerry, not Bush, who was on the defensive. A little of the meandering, incoherent Kerry returned, particularly in his answers to the questions on tort reform, stem-cell research, and federal funding for abortions. (But at least Kerry didn't bring up the Dred Scott decision. President Bush: Against chattel slavery.) Kerry may also just be easier to caricature, despite what the polls say, on domestic issues. Surely people are more apt to believe that Kerry will tax them to death than to believe the "global test" nonsense being peddled by the Bush campaign.

Though that wasn't the Bush spin Friday night. The Bush surrogates came into Spin Alley ready to sell the idea that Kerry failed to distance himself during the debate from the "global test" they call the "Kerry doctrine." Unfortunately, their decision highlighted one of the central flaws in Spin Alley: The spinners don't watch the end of the debates. By the time the candidates get to their closing remarks, the campaign staffers and surrogates have positioned themselves near the assembled press, and they're readying themselves for questions and TV appearances. So, maybe Bush campaign communications director Nicolle Devenish didn't hear Kerry say in his closing statement, "I will never cede the authority of our country or our security to any other nation. I'll never give a veto over American security to any other entity—not a nation, not a country, not an institution." Despite Kerry's clear renunciation of a foreign "permission slip," here was Devenish's spin as soon as the debate ended: "What was striking to me was that Kerry didn't even try to retract the global test. He has now accepted the Kerry doctrine as his own." Bush deputy campaign manager Mark Wallace said something similarly erroneous: "He affirmed the global test today, that would say there has to be permission from the world before you can take action." Actually, Kerry did the exact opposite.

Still, Devenish was the only Bush spinner I spoke to after the debate who didn't try to defend the president's strange assertion about the Duelfer report, that it shows that sanctions weren't working in Iraq. "I have to confess to being a campaign official and not an NSC spokesgal," she said. By contrast, here was Dan Bartlett: "Charlie Duelfer said both in the report and in his testimony that sanctions were unraveling, that the gaming of the system that Saddam Hussein was doing was doing just that. He was trying to game it by bribing people." But Saddam was trying to bribe people to get the sanctions lifted, and he wanted them lifted because they worked, because they prevented him from reconstituting his weapons programs. Here's Wallace: Saddam "was making a concerted effort to avoid sanctions," and "he had the means and the ability to reconstitute his WMD program." But, wait—the sanctions were precisely what were keeping Saddam from doing that. He had "the means and the ability" only if the sanctions had been lifted, and a Bush veto in the United Nations could have kept the sanctions in effect permanently. Ed Gillespie and Ken Mehlman cited the oil-for-food program as evidence that the sanctions didn't work. But again, Saddam's bribes were an attempt to get out of the sanctions that had stripped him of his chemical weapons, his biological weapons, and his nuclear program.

The defensible position for Bush would have been to argue that we had no way of knowing whether sanctions were working before we invaded. But instead he's resorted to this preposterous idea that because Saddam was trying to evade the sanctions, somehow that was evidence that the sanctions weren't working. Somehow the fact that Saddam has no weapons and no stockpiles was evidence that sanctions weren't working.

After Vice President Cheney's frequent difficulties with the truth on Tuesday, President Bush's veracity was under increased scrutiny in this debate. But that didn't stop his campaign from peddling another "global test" lie, nor did it stop Bush from misconstruing Kerry's health-care plan and willfully distorting the conclusions of the Duelfer report. (Let's call Bush's unwillingness to admit a mistake a self-deception, rather than a deception foisted upon the public.) If President Bush weren't running such a truth-stretching campaign, his strangest untruth of the night, denying that he received $84 in income from a timber company, wouldn't be a big deal. After all, it's only $84. Then again, maybe the president voted for the truth about the $84 before he decided against it.


          What They Won't Say   

ST. LOUIS—Most debate previews tell readers what to expect when they tune in Friday night to the second presidential debate between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry. Or when they don't tune in: How many people in Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin will be watching high-school football games while the two candidates answer questions from voters on national television? Note to the Commission on Presidential Debates: 9 p.m. ET on a Friday is when you release bad news, not when you schedule events of historic importance.

But if you've been watching this campaign for a while, you already have a pretty good idea of what the two candidates are going to say. It's more interesting to ponder what they won't say, to try to come up with something each candidate could do that might break open a deadlocked race. The campaign is too close for either candidate to take much of a risk on Friday night, so you can be almost certain you won't hear either of the following:

John Kerry: Yes, the world is safer because Saddam Hussein was removed from power. I thought Saddam Hussein was a threat, and that's why I supported President Bush's war. But the world, and America, would be even safer if the president had focused first on finishing the war against al-Qaida and rebuilding Afghanistan after our military's brilliant victory there. If the president had done that, we could now be turning the world's attention to the distant threat that Saddam Hussein posed. If we had waited, the world would have followed us, and I wouldn't be standing here today, because the president would be so popular that he wouldn't have been forced to agree to this Friday night debate that no one is watching. Of course the president has made us safer since 9/11. Any president would have made us safer. But he hasn't made us safe enough. And he's made it harder—by alienating our allies, by alienating moderate Muslims in the Middle East, and by not moving fast enough against al-Qaida—to make us as safe as we need to be.

I'll compare it to the baseball playoffs that are going on right now: President Bush hit a two-out single, and we thank him for it. We'd be far worse off if we had a president who struck out. But a single isn't the best that we can do. His father was born on third base and thought he hit a triple. This President Bush is on first base, and he thinks he hit a home run.

George Bush: Look, I made a mistake when I invaded Iraq. I thought they had weapons of mass destruction. So did the experts. We were wrong. But Sen. Kerry wants us to risk making an even bigger mistake. If we wait until we're certain that a country possesses weapons of mass destruction, we risk waiting too long. Hundreds of thousands of Americans—or Brits or Frenchmen or Iraqis—may die because we waited. I'm not going to risk making that mistake.

Instead, I'll take the risk of making more mistakes like the one I made in Iraq. I may make the same mistake in Iran, or Syria, or North Korea. I prefer my mistake, which liberated a country and toppled a dictator, to the mistake of waiting too long and running the risk of letting al-Qaida obtain weapons of mass destruction. No matter which one of us is elected on Nov. 2, we'll make mistakes. All presidents do.

So, yes; I made a mistake. Yes, I was wrong. But if we went Sen. Kerry's way and he made a mistake, what would the result be?


          Cheney Drops the Ball   

CLEVELAND—Does Dick Cheney know that he told voters watching the vice presidential debate to go to GeorgeSoros.com? In response to a series of attacks from John Edwards on Cheney's tenure as CEO of Halliburton, the vice president said that Kerry and Edwards "know the charges are false. They know that if you go, for example, to factcheck.com, an independent Web site sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania, you can get the specific details with respect to Halliburton." One problem with Cheney's rebuttal: He misspoke. He meant to say "factcheck.org," rather than ".com." According to the Wall Street Journal, the company that owns factcheck.com, Name Administration Inc., took advantage of Cheney's error to redirect traffic to a page titled, "Why we must not re-elect President Bush: a personal message from George Soros."*

But maybe Cheney was lucky to have misspoken, because there was a larger problem with his response: It isn't true. Well, it is true that factcheck.org provides "specific details with respect to Halliburton," but those details have nothing to do with the charges Edwards made. The Democratic running mate said that Halliburton, while Cheney was CEO, "did business with sworn enemies of the United States, paid millions of dollars in fines for providing false financial information, it's under investigation for bribing foreign officials." All factcheck.org rebuts is a different charge, that Cheney collected $2 million from Halliburton "as vice president." It turns out that Cheney collected a good chunk of that money as vice president-elect, including nearly $1.5 million on Jan. 18, 2001, two days before his inauguration.

After the debate, Bush campaign communications director Nicole Devenish repeats Cheney's statement and directs reporters to factcheck.org for the details. I've already been to factcheck.org, I tell her, and it says nothing about what Edwards said, about trading with the enemy, about bribing foreign officials, about providing false financial information. She tells me to go to debatefacts.com, the Bush-Cheney rapid-response Web site. The answers are all there.

Except they're not. "The Facts" page at the Bush-Cheney debate site doesn't get Edwards' claims correctly either: "Edwards' Claim: The Department Of Defense's Contracting Process In Iraq Is Rife With Cronyism And Secrecy," it says. Did Edwards claim that? I thought he said Cheney traded with the enemy, bribed foreign officials, and provided false financial information. On those charges, the Bush-Cheney campaign has no answers, at least not tonight.

The exchange on "factcheck.com" was the debate writ small in many ways: Edwards would make a charge, and Cheney would have no answer for it. In debate, that's called a "dropped argument." Cheney left arguments all over the floor. Three times, when offered a chance to respond to something Edwards had said, Cheney declined, leaving Edwards' critique to stand on its own. Edwards went through a long list of votes that Cheney made as a congressman: against Head Start, against banning plastic weapons that can pass through metal detectors, against Meals on Wheels, against the Department of Education, against Martin Luther King Day, against the release of Nelson Mandela. What else was he against, longer recess? Cheney declined to defend or explain a single one of his votes. On gay marriage, Edwards said the constitutional amendment proposed by the president was unnecessary, divisive, and an attempt to distract the country from important issues such as health care, jobs, and Iraq. Cheney declined to refute any of Edwards' points, and instead thanked him for his kind words about his family. On homeland security, Edwards said the administration has failed to create a unified terrorist watch list, and it foolishly screens the passengers on airplanes but not their cargo. We need to be not just "strong and aggressive" but also "smart," he said. Cheney's response: to decline a chance to respond, which is the same as ceding the point.

When Cheney did have an answer, it was often a misleading one, just like factcheck.com. On one occasion, Cheney said the Kerry-Edwards tax plan would raise taxes on 900,000 small businesses, and he said that was a bad idea because small businesses create 7 out of 10 jobs in America. But the two statements have nothing to do with each other. Those 900,000 small businesses—double the real number that would be affected, according to CNN—don't create 70 percent of the nation's jobs. On another occasion, Cheney criticized Kerry for supporting defense cuts that Cheney supported as secretary of defense during the first Bush administration. Other statements were simply false, rather than merely deceptive or misleading. For example, Cheney said he had never asserted a connection between 9/11 and Iraq. That's not true. Cheney said he had never met Edwards before. That's not true.

Edwards didn't have a perfect debate. Cheney defended himself and the administration capably during the opening questions about Iraq and the war on terror, and I was disappointed when Edwards failed to give an answer to Cheney's criticism that he and Kerry have no plan to deal with state sponsors of terror. And Edwards got mauled when Cheney said Edwards, by saying that 90 percent of the casualties in Iraq were American, was saying that the deaths of Iraqi soldiers fighting with the U.S. "shouldn't count."

We're halfway through the debates, and I think that each side still has one big question that it hasn't answered. Kerry and Edwards haven't given an adequate explanation of how they would approach states that sponsor terrorism and harbor terrorism. If Iraq was the wrong country to focus on, what was the right country? Just Afghanistan? Or do they support a broader Bob Graham-style war against Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist organizations? If regime change isn't the right policy for dealing with state sponsors of terror, what is? Would a Kerry-Edwards administration wage a "war on terror," or just a war on al-Qaida?

The question for Bush and Cheney is the same, but from the opposite side. Where does their war stop? When does it end? How do we measure victory? Most important, what is their answer to a question that Edwards posed and Cheney ignored: "There are 60 countries who have members of al-Qaida in them. How many of those countries are we going to invade?"

Correction, Oct. 7, 2004: The article originally claimed that George Soros bought the factcheck.com URL after Cheney referred to it and redirected its traffic to GeorgeSoros.com. In fact, the company that already owned the URL, Name Administration Inc., redirected the traffic to the Soros page. (Return to corrected sentence.)


          The Post-Debate Debate   

ORLANDO—Sen. John Kerry, you just walloped President Bush in the first 2004 debate. What are you going to do now? Go to Disney World, apparently: The Kerry campaign and his traveling press spent Friday night at the Swan & Dolphin Hotel at Walt Disney World, possibly the only place more unreal than the presidential campaign bubble. There couldn't be a more appropriate place for Kerry to stay the night after the debate, because right now, Democrats think they're in the happiest place on earth.

As the press bus arrived at the Fort Lauderdale airport Friday morning, a reporter jokingly pronounced a crowd of Kerry supporters to be "30 percent more excited" than they would have been before Thursday's debate. But he underestimated the enthusiasm among Democrats for Kerry's performance. In 90 minutes, Kerry erased the nagging complaints within his party about the effectiveness of his campaign, and he crushed any incipient Dean nostalgia.

On the stump, Kerry has discovered a new applause line, simply uttering the word "debate." At the University of South Florida in Tampa on Friday, Kerry walked out to the loudest and longest ovation I've seen in more than a year on the campaign. Kerry's still a 40-minute rambler at his campaign events—he should consider traveling with a podium equipped with green, yellow, and red lights that tell him when to stop—but he didn't have to do anything more than ask the crowd, "So, did you watch that debate last night?" to get the rumbling foot-stomping and cheering started again. In Orlando later that night, Kerry uses his new line—"Did you watch that little debate last night?"—as his opener, and again its gets the crowd roaring.

Kerry has even taken to ridiculing the president for his underwhelming showing. On Friday night, he mockingly impersonated Bush as a stammering Porky Pig. (Not Elmer Fudd, as the New York Times claims. Get your cartoon references right, Gray Lady!) The next day, Kerry was at it again, poking fun of Bush's repetition of the phrase "hard work" at the debate: "He confuses staying in place, just kind of saying, 'It's tough, it's hard work, you gotta make a decision,' "—laughter—"he considers that, and confuses that, with leadership."

Those Democrats who aren't already buoyed by the debate will take heart in Saturday's Newsweek poll, which shows the race in a statistical tie: Kerry at 47 percent and Bush at 45 percent, with a 4-point margin of error. Kerry adviser Joel Johnson dismissed the poll's significance during a conference call with reporters, saying, "It's probably a poll that we took issue with in the past," such as when Newsweek showed the president leading by 11 points coming out of the Republican convention.

In the wake of all these good signs for Kerry, the Bush campaign is busy trying to Gore him, to kill the Democratic buzz by turning Kerry's debate victory into a defeat. A White House pool report Saturday from the Baltimore Sun's David Greene reported that Bush communications director Nicolle Devenish said, "Nobody is going to look back on November 3 and remember that first debate for anything other than a night when Kerry made four serious strategic mistakes." Here's how Greene summarized the mistakes: "1) Kerry spoke of a 'global test.' 2) Kerry called the war in Iraq a mistake then later said Americans were not dying for a mistake. 3) Kerry spoke of the troops deserving better after saying in an interview before the debate that his vote on funding was made in protest. 4) Kerry offered what Nicolle called a 'new insult' for allies when he said the coalition is not 'genuine.' "

Thursday night after the debate, the Bush surrogates emphasized Devenish's second point, to reinforce its caricature of the Democratic nominee as a habitual flip-flopper. By Friday and Saturday, however, the Bush campaign had seized upon Kerry's mention—a virtual aside—of a "global test" for pre-emptive war as their chance to reverse the perception that Kerry won the debate. (Based on Devenish's comments, they've also dropped their initial nobody-won spin in which they sounded like Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda: "We didn't lose Vietnam! It was a tie!")

On Friday afternoon, the Bush campaign e-mailed excerpts of remarks the president made in Allentown, Pa., including this quote: "Senator Kerry last night said that America has to pass some sort of global test before we can use American troops to defend ourselves. He wants our national security decisions subject to the approval of a foreign government. Listen, I'll continue to work with our allies and the international community, but I will never submit America's national security to an international test. The use of troops to defend America must never be subject to a veto by countries like France." Scott McClellan piled on, as distilled by another White House pool report, saying that Kerry's comment "showed a fundamental misunderstanding of the war on terrorism," and that the remark "shows something that is very disturbing."

By Saturday, Bush himself had taken to calling the "global test" the "Kerry doctrine," which would "give foreign governments veto power over our own national security decisions." In the afternoon, the Kerry campaign dispatched Richard Holbrooke to rebut "Bush's misleading rhetoric on the stump" in a conference call. Nearly every question was about what Kerry meant during the debate by "global test," and about the Bush's campaign's rhetoric of a "global permission slip" and the "Kerry doctrine." Holbrooke read Kerry's debate statement in full: "No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America. But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."

Holbrooke said the "Bush attack" was "another flagrant misrepresentation by the administration of what Sen. Kerry said," and added, "Who in their right mind would not wish to be sure that the use of force preemptively, or for that matter, any use of force, gets support and understanding from the rest of the world and from the American people and is fully justified?" He called it "longstanding American doctrine" and "a standard position, all presidents have taken it since at least 1945." Sounding irritated about the repeated mentions of the "Kerry doctrine" by reporters, Holbrooke said, "Don't call it a Kerry doctrine. That would suggest that John Kerry has enunciated something new, and he didn't."

An hour later, at 2:30 p.m., Kerry adviser Joel Johnson and Democratic National Committee adviser Howard Wolfson held a conference call to "discuss the results" of the presidential debate. The first question, from a Knight Ridder reporter, was about "this alleged Kerry doctrine." Would the campaign make any "paid media response"? No, Johnson said, we're going to focus on the economy in our TV ads, as planned. "We don't feel like this one is one we're going to have to respond in any way" in paid media.

The Republicans are "trying to take away the medal from the Olympic gymnast after the contest is over," Wolfson said. ABC's Dan Harris asked, "Aren't you opening yourself up to the charge that you've failed to learn the lessons of August?" referring to the Swift Boat ads and the Kerry campaign's belated response. "We're focusing on the failed economy," Johnson said. But you should know, "He'll never give a veto to any other country, period." Harris replied, "But boy, it really sounds like you're letting that charge hang out there." Johnson: "Well, we'll take that under advisement."

Shortly after that conference call ended, the Bush campaign e-mailed its script for a new TV ad, called—surprise—"Global Test." The ad says in part, "The Kerry doctrine: A global test. So we must seek permission from foreign governments before protecting America? A global test? So America will be forced to wait while threats gather? President Bush believes decisions about protecting America should be made in the Oval Office, not foreign capitals." Within a couple of hours, the Kerry campaign had changed its mind about whether to release its own ad. Their script begins, "George Bush lost the debate.  Now he's lying about it." The Kerry ad also tries to change the subject, to a New York Times story that comes out Sunday. That day's conference call is billed as, "What President Bush Really Knew About Iraq's WMD Programs Before the War."

During his conference call, Joel Johnson complained, "The Bush campaign is trying to concoct arguments that the president couldn't make the other night in the debate." That's exactly right. The mystery is why Johnson didn't think his campaign would have to do the same for Kerry.


          Scenes From Spin Alley   

MIAMI—Karl Rove must have known things didn't go well when the New York Post asked him whether this was the worst debate of President Bush's life. No, Rove insisted. This was one of the president's best debates, and one of John Kerry's worst. "Really?" asked the reporter, Vince Morris. "You can say that with a straight face?"

As soon as the first presidential debate ended, the reporters and campaign surrogates in attendance hustled into "spin alley," where Karl Rove, Karen Hughes, Dan Bartlett, Tad Devine, Joe Lockhart, Mike McCurry, and other eminences of spin practice their craft. (There were other, lesser luminaries, such as Kerry's Swift boat crewmate Del Sandusky, who seemed to have trouble finding reporters to talk to.) The whole affair is a little bit ridiculous, as the participants are less honest than NFL coaches during halftime interviews, but you do get a sense of two things: The questions asked by reporters indicate who the press thinks won the debate, and the answers are a good gauge of how the two campaigns will try to frame the post-debate debate over how each candidate did.

On the first indicator, Bush was the clear loser. One of the first questions asked of Rove was whether the president's frequent pausing was a problem. Rove disputed that Bush paused because he wasn't sure what to say. "Paused for effect, is what I think," he said. Over and over again, Bush surrogates were asked about the president's demeanor. (Question for Paul Krugman: Are you still angry about the media's focus on style over substance?) Wasn't the president defensive? a reporter asked Matthew Dowd. Didn't he look confused? a reporter asked Ken Mehlman. "I think he spoke with passion," Mehlman said. Another reporter asked Bartlett, didn't the president look irritated? Tired? "I think he showed a range of emotions," Bartlett said.

The Kerry people were triumphant, and they grew more so as the night wore on. Immediately after the debate ended, Tad Devine was confident, saying that Kerry gave the "impression" that he could be president. "I think that's new to a lot of people" who have been inundated with negative TV ads, Devine said. (Devine also said the Kerry campaign, beginning Friday, would shift to the domestic agenda in its TV advertisements. Kerry will continue to talk about Iraq, but there won't be many ads about it.) Later in the evening, however, Devine's quiet confidence was replaced by gloating. He waved the numbers from the CBS and ABC overnight polls, which he had written down on a notepad, showing that wide margins of voters thought Kerry won. "Blowout is the word that comes to mind," Devine said. "Tonight they saw the 44th president of the United States. His name is John Kerry."

But didn't the overnight polls look good for Al Gore at first? "I think Gore hurt himself against Gore. And I'll sigh to that effect," Devine said. So, you're not worried that the Bush campaign will come up with some misstatements or mistakes by Kerry and use them to change voters' minds? "I missed all the sighs tonight from John Kerry," Devine cackled. If Kerry is within a couple of points by the middle of next week, he said, then the campaign will consider it a victory. Matthew Dowd, on the other hand, predicted only that Bush's lead would solidify in the polls. "It won't expand," he said.

Each campaign thought it had a moment from the debate that it could use to bludgeon the other side. The Bush campaign said Kerry increased the contradictions in his Iraq position by saying that Bush made a mistake when he invaded Iraq but also saying that American soldiers were not dying for a mistake. Kerry's position on the war showed "an escalation of vacillation to a more sinister place, one where he manipulates his positions based on political calculations," Bush campaign communications director Nicolle Devenish said. "It's really a strong skill to say something that's so disconnected from what you said yesterday. And I will call it a skill." The Kerry campaign thinks Bush made a huge mistake by talking about taxes after Kerry proposed a number of ways to improve homeland security. Both Joe Lockhart and Mike McCurry said Bush showed he thinks tax cuts are more important than homeland security, and that the comment was Bush's worst moment.

I asked Dan Bartlett if he thought it was bad that President Bush kept having to look down at the podium and read his remarks. No, Bush was "taking notes," Bartlett said, and he had to do that because "Sen. Kerry was throwing the kitchen sink at him." President Bush may not be "articulate," he said, but he won the debate with his "conviction and core beliefs." Using a phrase the Bush surrogates deployed frequently, Bartlett said Bush spoke "from the heart." I asked the same question of Mike McCurry. His answer: "There's some things you just don't have to spin."


          Daydreaming About Dean   

MIAMI—Can we change horses in midstream? Democrats wanted Republicans and independent voters to be asking themselves that question at this stage in the presidential campaign, but with little more than a month to go before Election Day, some Democrats are asking it of themselves. It's the seven-month itch: The long general-election campaign has led the voters who settled down with Mr. Stability to wonder what would have happened if they had pursued their crushes on riskier but more exciting candidates. What if dreamy John Edwards were the nominee instead of John Kerry? Would he be better able to explain his votes for war and against the $87 billion to fund the war? Would his campaign have been leaner and more effective than Kerry's multitudes? Or what about Democrats' first love, Howard Dean? Remember him? Would his straightforward opposition to the war in Iraq look more prescient now than it did during the Iowa caucuses, which were held shortly after Saddam Hussein was captured?

The most surprising Democrat to engage in this daydreaming is one who never dated Dean in the first place: Peter Beinart, editor of the New Republic. Writing in Time, Beinart says, "[T]here's reason to believe [Democratic primary voters] guessed wrong—that Dean would be doing better against Bush than Kerry is." Deaniacs can be forgiven for being a little bit piqued at the timing of Beinart's conversion. After all, most Dean supporters thought Beinart's magazine did its best to torpedo the Dean candidacy for much of 2003, including an online "Diary of a Dean-o-Phobe." But TNR also ran glowing profiles of Dean and his campaign manager, Joe Trippi, and it never married Kerry, either. Although the magazine ultimately endorsed Joe Lieberman, its endorsement issue contained an article praising every other major Democratic contender—Dean, Edwards, Dick Gephardt—except John Kerry. So, it's understandable why Beinart would be one of the first to fantasize about divorce.

Beinart argues that Dean's clarity on the war, his straight-talking authenticity, and his lack of a Senate voting record would have forced President Bush to focus on the issue of Iraq, rather than the character of John Kerry. Not everyone who worked for Howard Dean during the primaries agrees that the Vermont governor would have been a stronger nominee—in fact, some say just the opposite or even burst into laughter at the notion—but one senior Dean adviser that I talked to Wednesday agrees strongly. "If Howard Dean were the nominee right now, nobody would be wondering where he stands on Iraq, nobody would be accusing us of not fighting back, and we wouldn't be fighting to hold on to our base," said the adviser, who asked that his name not be used. Kerry's "thoughtful and nuanced positions" might be an admirable quality in a president, but they're difficult to defend during a campaign.

A Dean general-election campaign would have contrasted Dean's record with Bush's in three ways: Dean being against the war versus Bush being for it; Dean's record of balancing the Vermont budget while providing health care versus Bush's largest deficits in history with no health care; and a new wrinkle that was only hinted at during the primaries, Dean's mysterious, infrequently mentioned "tax reform" vs. Bush's irresponsible tax cuts. Yes, Dean would have repealed the entire Bush tax cut, the senior adviser said, but he would have proposed replacing it with some Dean tax cuts, including the elimination of payroll taxes on the first $20,000 of income. The message: Bush cuts taxes from the top down, but Dean cuts them from the bottom up. Why didn't Dean introduce this during the primaries, when his tax-hiking ways made some Democrats think he would be an electoral disaster, the second coming of Walter Mondale, in the fall? He wanted to wait until after the Feb. 3 primaries because "he didn't want people to think he was pandering," the adviser said.

The Dean adviser did go out of his way to insist that he was not criticizing the Kerry campaign. The Republicans "might have destroyed Howard Dean," too, he said, but "I just think Howard would have matched up differently and better." The Dean adviser praised Kerry's maligned convention, which made voters believe that Kerry was a viable commander in chief who was as good as Bush or better on the issues of terrorism and homeland security. "They were in perfect position after the convention to win this thing," he said, quickly adding that he's not saying they've lost it. But then he added, "They basically are hoping that Bush shits the bed in the debates."

Of course, it's pretty obvious that the Republicans would have run a different campaign against Howard Dean than they did against John Kerry. But that doesn't mean it would have been any less effective. And if Dean couldn't beat Kerry, what exactly would have made him so formidable against President Bush? Would Dean's support for civil unions in Vermont have made gay marriage a much bigger issue in the fall? Was there something in his past that we didn't learn about? Would the aggressive campaign he would have waged in the spring and summer—leaping instantly on every bit of bad news from Iraq, from Abu Ghraib to Fallujah—have backfired? Would Dean have been able to build a campaign that brought together his divided Vermont and D.C. factions? It's impossible to know, though divining that impossibility is exactly what Democratic primary voters charged themselves with this time around.

Falling in love with Dean all over again ignores what made Democrats fall out of love with him in the first place. An incomplete list: his infuriating stubbornness and refusal to admit mistakes; his lousy white-background TV ad in Iowa; and his shift from a straight-talking, budget-balancing, health-care-providing Vermont governor to the shrieking leader of a cult movement. In Iowa, Dean's poor showing was exacerbated by the fact that he was the second choice of no one. He and Kerry found out that in American democracy, it's better to have a large number of people barely tolerate you than to have a smaller number like you a lot. By the weekend, it will be clear whether Kerry managed to rally a nose-holding majority to his side at Thursday's debate. If not, expect to hear a lot more conversations like this over the next 33 days.


          Bush's Aura Returns   

When the Bush campaign released its TV ad last week featuring footage of John Kerry windsurfing, Kerry spokesman Mike McCurry told me it was a good sign for his candidate. The windsurfing footage was a bullet that he knew the Bush campaign would use in an ad eventually, McCurry said, and the fact that they fired it now shows that they're worried, that they think Kerry is narrowing the gap with Bush. I wasn't sure whether McCurry actually believed this or if he just wanted to put the ad in the best possible light for the Democrats. But Sunday's Washington Post made me suspect that the Bush campaign really does think things are going poorly right now. Why? Because Republicans are starting to make preposterously overconfident predictions of a Bush landslide.

National polls show that the presidential race has gotten closer since the Republican Convention. A Bloomberg News report Monday noted that five national polls have Bush up by 4 points or less. The Republican reaction to this tightening was to announce to the Post that Bush is thinking about campaigning in Washington state and New Jersey—states that any winning Democrat should carry handily—to "expand a potential victory well beyond the states he won in 2000."

It's well-known that Karl Rove believes that swing voters like to vote for the winner. Therefore, one of the central political strategies for Bush has been to create an "aura of inevitability" that, theoretically, will bring people to his side. If everyone believes you're a political juggernaut, the theory goes, then you will become a political juggernaut.

The worse things get for Bush, the more likely his aides are to declare that he is invincible. The Bushies are starting to sound like Baghdad Bob, trumpeting a decisive victory for Saddam Hussein as the American military zooms into Iraq's capital city. Whenever Bush is in trouble, someone—usually Rove—declares that things are going just swimmingly. The most memorable example of this was Bush's 2000 campaign trip to California to make it look like his election was going to be a walk even though polls showed that the race was a toss-up. Bush also took a day off from campaigning as a sign of confidence in his impending landslide. On Election Day, of course, Al Gore won more votes than Bush did, and eventually Bush won the presidency with only one more electoral vote than he needed to take office.

But there are other, less notable examples. Bush stuck with the same strategy during the 2000 primaries. In January of that year, as John McCain looked to be mounting a serious challenge to Bush's nomination, Rove told the Austin American-Statesman that "Bush is entering the 2000 election season in a stronger position than any candidate in the history of an open presidential race on the Republican side." A month later, Bush lost by 18 points to McCain in New Hampshire. The concept of "inevitability" was so central to Bush's campaign strategy that Dana Milbank wrote a piece in the Washington Post after New Hampshire that was titled, "If Bush Is No Longer Inevitable, What Is He?"

In September 2000, a little more than four years ago, Rove told Ken Herman of the Austin American-Statesman the same thing that the Bush campaign is telling reporters now: "The neat thing is we are fighting on [Gore's] territory rather than him fighting on ours." Rove told Herman that Bush had a shot in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa, too, just as the Bush campaign is declaring now. Granted, Bush did have a shot, and the races were close, but Gore took all three of those states. (Rove did predict to Herman that Bush would take West Virginia and Missouri.)

During a conference call earlier this month, senior Kerry adviser Joe Lockhart told campaign reporters that with regard to states like Illinois, New Jersey, and New York, "what we do will indicate our level of concern." And until now, the Kerry campaign has not done much in those states. But John Edwards is holding a rally Tuesday in Newark, N.J. That doesn't mean Democrats should start panicking, but it's worth remembering that although Bush's victories in the 2000 primaries and general election weren't inevitable, it's still true that he did win them.


          Great Expectations   

PHILADELPHIA—On the Kerry plane Thursday, reporters asked Mike McCurry why the campaign agreed to make the foreign-policy debate first, as the Bush campaign wanted, instead of third, as the Commission on Presidential Debates had scheduled it. "You know, we have to take anything like that and turn it into an opportunity," McCurry said. So, you see it as an opportunity? Not quite: "I'm supposed to lower expectations, not raise them."

Maybe McCurry should tell the candidate. I counted six times this week that Kerry raised his debate expectations by disparaging President Bush's intelligence or knowledge, seven if you count a comment made by Sen. Joe Biden during a Friday rally here. During his Monday night appearance on David Letterman, Kerry said that during the debates, "George Bush is gonna sit on Dick Cheney's lap," an apparent reference to the widespread Democratic belief that the vice president is the ventriloquist/puppeteer and Bush is the dummy. (At least, I hope that was the reference.) On Tuesday's Live With Regis & Kelly, Kerry said of the just-concluded debate negotiations, "The big hang-up was George Bush wanted a lifeline where he could call," an allusion to Regis Philbin's Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? game show. That night in Orlando, Kerry said that President Bush says he would have gone to war "even if he knew there was no connection of al-Qaida and Sept. 11 and Iraq—which we knew, but even if he knew that." In Columbus on Thursday, Kerry mocked Bush's claim that the CIA was "just guessing" about Iraq in its National Intelligence Estimate by implying that the president didn't understand the nature of the report and hadn't looked at it: "It's called an analysis. And the president ought to read it, and he ought to study it, and he ought to respond to it." On Friday on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania *, Biden compared the two candidates for president by saying, "John Kerry understands and has actually read history." Earlier that morning, during Kerry's war-on-terror speech at Temple University, Kerry noted that the president agreed to testify before the 9/11 commission "only with Vice President Cheney at his side," and he ridiculed Republican claims that a new president wouldn't be able to get more allies involved in Iraq and the war on terror by saying, "I have news for President Bush: Just because you can't do something doesn't mean it can't be done."

Good lines all—well, except the sitting-in-Cheney's lap one. But was this the week to trot out the Bush-is-an-idiot-controlled-by-Cheney meme? I thought the campaigns were supposed to talk up their opponents before the debates, not deride them. Kerry is Cicero and Bush is Rocky Marciano, the man who has never lost.

Other than this minor misstep in the expectations game, however, Kerry set himself up well this week for Thursday's debate, which will be the most decisive event in the presidential campaign so far. The foreign-policy debate deserves to go first, because this is a foreign-policy election. At Kerry's town halls, even the ones that are supposed to be about health care or Social Security or the economy, the majority of voters ask him questions about Iraq. Here's one way to think about next week's face-off: Bush and Kerry are running for leader of the free world, not just president of the United States, and both candidates want to cast themselves as a global Abraham Lincoln while defining their opponent as an international version of John C. Calhoun.

Bush lays claim to the mantle of Lincoln the Emancipator: Like the 16th president, Bush believes that individual liberty trumps state sovereignty (the international version of states' rights). Sure, Saddam Hussein was sovereign, but he was a tyrant and a menace to his people, Bush says, so America's invasion was a just one. Kofi Annan says Bush's invasion of Iraq was a violation of international law, but Bush appeals to a higher law that says that some laws and some rulers are illegitimate. Bush laid out his Lincolnesque doctrine of liberty over sovereignty in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention: "Our nation's founding commitment is still our deepest commitment: In our world, and here at home, we will extend the frontiers of freedom." Bush wants to paint Kerry as a global Calhoun, a man who prefers French sovereignty to Iraqi freedom.

Kerry, on the other hand, casts himself as Lincoln the preserver of the Union (while at the same time questioning Bush's competence and highlighting the disparity between the president's "fantasy world" ideals and the "world of reality" on the ground). I don't want to overstate this, because the Republican caricature of Kerry as a one-worlder who would let France exert a veto over American security is inaccurate. But Kerry clearly believes in the international structures and institutions that have been created since World War II, and he sees Bush, shall we say, nullifying them. In this version of the story, it's Bush who is Calhoun, the man who would elevate the shortsighted rights of his state over the compact that every state has entered to promote the greater good.

This analogy, like all historical analogies, is flawed in many ways. It may be particularly unfair to Kerry, who on the stump talks about relying on allies out of pragmatism rather than idealism. But it gets at the factor that I think will determine the winner of next week's debate: Which candidate will be able to present himself as the internationalist and his opponent as the isolationist? Bush says Kerry would turn his back on the people of the world who suffer under tyranny. Kerry says Bush has already turned his back on the world and has replaced dictatorship in Iraq with chaos, not the freedom he claims.

It will be an uphill battle for Kerry. So far, he's been successful at pointing out the flaws in Bush's policies, but he hasn't convinced enough people that President Kerry's policies would be any better. And Bush's bounce out of the Republican convention showed how attractive the president's principles, if not his policies, are.

In July, voters seemed to have decided that they'd like to get rid of Bush. But when they turned their attention to his potential replacement, they were disappointed by what they discovered. The Republican convention exploited that disappointment, and now there are more undecided voters than ever—because voters found out they don't like either guy.

Bush lost the incumbent's referendum, then Kerry lost the one on the challenger. Now we don't know what we want. That's why Thursday will be so critical. For Kerry to win, he needs to argue successfully that liberty and the international order, like strength and wisdom, are not opposing values.

Correction, Sept. 27, 2004: This article originally said that Biden spoke at the University of Philadelphia. He spoke at the University of Pennsylvania. (Return to corrected sentence.)


          Long Live McCurry!   

PHILADELPHIA—"Long live McCurry," wrote the Boston Globe's Glen Johnson in a Tuesday pool report, distributed to the members of the traveling press corps who hunt the elusive Senatorus massachusetts. The occasion for this joyous outburst: John Kerry responded to a question, and the press credits Mike McCurry, the former Clinton press secretary and now the "adult on the plane" for the Kerry campaign, with making the Democratic nominee more accessible. "Will transcribe, but nothing earth-shaking," Johnson wrote. "At least he stopped to answer, though. Long live McCurry …"

McCurry denies that he's responsible for the shift and credits communications director Stephanie Cutter for pushing for more accessibility long before he arrived last week. Either way, the reporters don't care. We were just happy Thursday that Kerry was answering questions again. He did it twice this time, very quickly on the tarmac here with unified middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins and earlier in a more formal environment in Columbus, Ohio. Of Hopkins, Kerry said, "He was giving me tips. He told me exactly how to do it over the next days." Hopkins said, "Exactly, the left hands, the jabs, the whole nine yards." The Globe's Johnson asked, "So you're coming from the left, sir?" Kerry: "I'm not telling you where I'm coming from. That's the secret, right?" Hopkins: "That's right. You don't tell everyone, especially the opponent." For the record, Hopkins has successfully defended his title 19 times, which beats Bob Shrum's 0-7 mark.

In Columbus, Kerry took only three questions, but again, we're not complaining. ABC's Dan Harris asked: "You criticized, to the AP, the president for 'retreating,' I believe was your word, from Fallujah. Given the situation on the ground in Fallujah when there was an offensive there, when there was a rising civilian death toll, a rising criticism among Arab media for our actions there, what would you have done differently?"

Kerry responded in what was almost a reproachful tone, complaining about how "you people judge me" and how his policies "would have prevented Fallujah." Here's his response in full: "Let me tell you, I've said many times, I wouldn't have just done one thing differently in Iraq, I would have done almost everything differently. And when you people judge me, and the American people judge me on this, I want you to judge me on the full record. I stood in Fulton, Mo., and I gave the president advice about what he needed to do. He didn't take it. I stood at Georgetown University a year and a half ago, and I gave the president advice about what he needed to do. He didn't take it. I stood on the floor of the Senate and gave him advice about what he needed to do. He didn't take it. I've laid out a whole series of things I would have done that would have prevented Fallujah. Let me tell you, if the 4th Infantry Division and the diplomacy had been done with Turkey, you wouldn't have had a Fallujah. This president rushed to war, without a plan to win the peace. And ask the military leaders. Go ask the military leaders. General Shinseki told this country how many troops we'd need. The president retired him early for telling the truth. That's why you have Fallujah. That's why you have a mess in Iraq. And that's not the kind of leadership this nation deserves."

As for McCurry, I had dinner with him Thursday night. Here are some quick takeaways from our conversation:

—He's concerned that the message-masters at the Bush campaign, such as Nicolle Devenish and Mark McKinnon, have a better understanding of the Internet and nontraditional media than the Kerry campaign. The slow response to the Swift boat ads was a sign of that, a lack of awareness that voters can acquire information from places other than newspapers and the nightly news.

—John Glenn told Kerry Thursday not to worry about the polls that show Bush opening a big lead in Ohio, McCurry said. That always happens around this time, Glenn said, and the mistake people make is to write off the state because of it, as Gore did. McCurry said Glenn persuaded Clinton to remain in Ohio after a similar spike in the polls in 1992, and Clinton carried the state.

—Why are the polls showing an increase in undecided voters? One theory: Soft Republican supporters and soft Democratic supporters are highly volatile this campaign, and the conventions made them "more inchoate." The Republicans are mostly pro-choice moderates who are wondering whether Bush is really compassionate, and the Democrats are moderates who are wondering whether Kerry is really a New Democrat.

—The windsurfing ad that the Bush campaign is running against Kerry is an attempt to be this year's "Dukakis in the tank" spot. McCurry thinks the Kerry campaign neutralized it with their quickly assembled response ad, though it's not over yet.

—McCurry would like Kerry to talk more about abortion, about how he struggles with it because of his Catholic faith. He thinks Kerry needs to come up with a "safe, legal, and rare"-type formula that assures anti-abortion swing voters that he understands their moral concerns and isn't dismissive of them.

—McCurry has never been a big believer in the role of advertising or get-out-the-vote drives in presidential campaigns, though he's acquired a new respect for GOTV after 2000 and 2002. He thinks presidential races come down to whether the candidate can make the sale on the stump. You can't, after all, run TV ads that are completely different from what voters are seeing on the news.

Which leaves the obvious question: Can Kerry make the sale? That was where the race stood before the Democratic Convention in July, and that's where it remains two months later. Kerry hasn't shown he can do it yet. He's got 40 days.


          Kerry Answers Questions!   

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—John Kerry emitted an exasperated sigh. The last time he held a press conference, on Aug. 9, he confused everyone by saying he would have voted for the congressional resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq even if he had known that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction. Now, six weeks later, the press still doesn't understand his position on the war. At least, they keep asking about it.

Kerry took 11 questions Tuesday. Ten were about Iraq, and eight of those 10 were requests for Kerry to clarify his position. Question No. 1: President Bush says you think the world would be better off if Saddam Hussein were still in power. Is that right? No. 3: Are you responsible for the fact that many people are confused about your position on the war? No. 4: Can you explain your support for the congressional resolution on the use of force? No. 5: How do you square the fact that you believe the world is better off with Saddam out of power with your statement to David Letterman that you wouldn't have gone to war with Iraq? No. 6: You didn't answer the earlier question. Are you responsible for the fact that people can't figure out your position? No. 8, the one that led to the frustrated noise: The president appealed to the United Nations today. How is what you're suggesting any different from what the president is doing? No. 9: If presidents deserve to be able to go to the United Nations with the leverage of congressional authority to use force, why did you vote against the 1991 war with Iraq?

Maybe Kerry wished he was back on Live with Regis & Kelly that morning, when the questions had been easier: You're very handsome, Senator. How do you stay in shape? Do you have a routine? Don't you think that Tom Cruise could play John Edwards in the movie? Who would play you? (Kerry's answer: "I don't have any idea." Kelly Ripa interjected, "Harrison Ford.")

But this time during the press conference, unlike the one in August, Kerry's doesn't let himself get sucked into the Green Eggs & Iraq (Do you like it on a train? Would you like it on a plane?) discussion that the Bush campaign loves to goad him into. Instead, he sticks to his change vs. more-of-the-same script: "The president wants to shift the topic, and I'm not going to let him shift the topic," Kerry says. "This is about President Bush, and his decisions, and his choices, and his unwillingness as I said in my speech yesterday to live in a world of reality." Kerry uses that phrase, "world of reality," four times. In all, he uses the world "reality" or "realities" (as in, the "realities on the ground") 10 times. "The president keeps wanting to debate fiction, or hypotheticals, rather than debate the reality of what's on the ground," Kerry says. "The president has not denied one of the facts that I laid out yesterday" in a speech in New York.

The reason so many people are confused about his position, Kerry says, is because they interpret his vote, incorrectly, as "a vote to go to war." "It wasn't a vote to go that day. It was a vote to go through a process," to give the president leverage at the United Nations and to get the inspectors back into Iraq. Kerry emphasizes on several occasions that he's been consistent on this point. "I said so all along," he says, sounding irritated. "Every one of you throughout this knows I have said there's a right way to do this and a wrong way to do this, and the president every step of the way has chosen the wrong way."

Kerry's right on this one. From the beginning, he's been consistent, if complicated, on the meaning of his 2002 vote. The Boston Globe's Kerry book quotes his mouthful from the Senate floor: "The vote that I will give to the president is for one reason and one reason only, to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction if we cannot accomplish that objective through new, tough weapons inspections in joint conference with our allies." Kerry added of President Bush, "I expect him to fulfill the commitments he has made to the American people in recent days—to work with the United Nations Security Council ... and to 'act with our allies at our side' if we have to disarm Saddam Hussein by force.' " Four days later, Kerry said, "What's happened is every single member of the United States Senate moved to take it to the U.N. with a willingness to enforce through the United Nations if that is the will of the international community. ... There is no justification whatsoever for sending Americans for the first time in American history as the belligerent, as the initiator of it, as a matter of first instance, without a showing of an imminent threat to our country." Walter Shapiro's chronicle of the early stages of the 2004 campaign, One-Car Caravan, confirms this point. Shapiro hears Kerry say in October 2002, "My vote was cast in a way that made it very clear, Mr. President, I'm voting for you to do what you said you're going to do, which is to go through the U.N. and do this through an international process. If you go unilaterally, without having exhausted these remedies, I'm not supporting you. And if you decide that this is just a matter of straight pre-emptive doctrine for regime-change purposes without regard to the imminence of the threat, I'm not going to support you."

Disagree with Kerry's reasoning if you want, call him ambivalent or even unclear, but you can't say that he's been inconsistent or that he flip-flopped. Kerry is wrong, however, that his 2002 vote doesn't contradict his 1991 vote. The first time around, Kerry expressly criticized the justification he would use 12 years later, calling it "dangerous" and "flawed." In 1991, Kerry said, taking the quote again from the Globe book, "This is not a vote about sending a message. It is a vote about war." Kerry could explain his change of heart fairly easily (for example, 9/11 changed everything, didn't it?), but instead he takes the Bushian stance of denying the "world of reality." During a long, confusing, and unconvincing explanation of how the rationale for his 1991 vote is consistent with the rationale for his 2002 vote, Kerry eventually stops himself and remembers his script: "That's not the debate. That's the debate the president wants to have now. The debate now is whether or not you have a plan to win, and whether or not you are facing the realities on the ground in Iraq." Back on message.

Kerry has emerged with a message that makes sense before. His problem is his inability to just pick one and stick with it. If he can hang on to this one for nine days, he might get out of the first debate alive.


          Dorian Warren & Josh Eidelson   
On Fireside Chats, Dorian and Josh talk about the troubles facing America's labor movement. They discuss a recent attempt to silence union picketers that was defeated with help from the Tea Party, and how public-sector unions remain a ripe target for Republicans. How does labor law affect union strength? Can labor organizers take lessons from the 1930s? Finally, Dorian and Josh explore the role of unions in articulating a vision of workplace democracy.
          Country Feedback   

Although Democrats are complaining (still) about John Edwards' lack of bark, maybe it's too much to ask John Kerry's running mate to transform himself into Cujo for the next month and a half. It's not what he was hired to do. Dick Cheney is an attack dog, the kind whose growl frightens schoolchildren into crossing the street. Edwards is the smiling tail-wagger you take to the park so you can pick up members of the opposite sex (or the same sex, as the case may be). Kerry didn't select Edwards with the expectation that he would scare voters away from President Bush. He picked him to attract them to him.

And not just any voters: Edwards is supposed to appeal to the rural voters that Al Gore lost overwhelmingly four years ago. Kerry's selection of Edwards as his vice presidential nominee will not be judged by whether the ticket carries Edwards' home state of North Carolina. Instead, the verdict will be determined by whether Edwards can bring at least some of the voters from the place that Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., calls " 'Merica."

Kerry and Edwards don't need the support of the majority of the people in this Second America. They just need to close the gap, to not lose in Gore-like fashion. Before settling on Edwards, Kerry already had enough of the Democratic base, the city dwellers who will likely turn out in even greater numbers this year than they did in 2000. Picking Edwards was, in part, an attempt to offset the huge get-out-the-vote effort that Karl Rove and the Republicans plan in rural America. If Bush really is doing so well in the countryside that he has a shot at winning states like Minnesota and Wisconsin, then right now the Kerry-Edwards strategy isn't working.

Far more frequently than Kerry, Edwards travels to rural regions and to parts of the country that Bush carried four years ago. On Thursday, Edwards was in Portsmouth, Ohio, in a county that Bush carried by 7 points. On Wednesday, he was in Parkersburg, W.Va., in a county that Bush carried by 22 points. The Saturday after the Republican Convention ended, he was in Waukesha, Wis., in a county that Bush carried by 33 points. Again, Kerry doesn't expect Edwards to win these counties. But he wants him to reduce those margins.

Kerry, on the other hand, is far more likely to hold events in urban Democratic strongholds. On Tuesday and Wednesday, he held four events: one in Toledo, Ohio, in a county that Gore carried by 19 points; one in Madison, Wis., in a county that Gore carried by 28 points; one in Milwaukee, a city that went for Gore by 40 points; and one in Detroit, a city that Gore carried by 89 points.

The normal order has been reversed. The Democratic nominee is the candidate expected to satisfy the base, while the running mate appeals to swing voters and independents. From Monday through Friday of this past week, Kerry went only once to a county that Bush won four years ago. During the same period, Edwards went to three counties won by Gore and four won by Bush.

It's a strategy that makes sense, particularly in light of the appeal to moderates and independents that Edwards displayed during the primaries. That doesn't mean it will work. But on Nov. 3, Edwards will be judged not by how many places he turned blue but how many he made a paler red.


          No, Really, It's About Vietnam   

TORONTO—At its simplest, George Butler's pro-Kerry documentary Going Upriver is a powerful rebuttal of the errors—factual and moral—made by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. But the movie also tries, with limited success, to do something more ambitious: to argue implicitly that the current war in Iraq is directly analogous to the war in Vietnam, and that John Kerry's actions of 30-odd years ago really are the most important issue facing Americans in this election. Kerry was right then, the movie implies, which makes him right now.

"You can't understand John unless you understand what Vietnam is to him," a voice—I think it's Max Cleland—declares during Going Upriver's opening moments. The answer to that mystery isn't entirely clear by the end of the film, but it's obvious what Vietnam symbolizes to George Butler: Iraq. Neil Sheehan, an author and historian (and former Vietnam correspondent) who gets a lot of screen time in the movie, is one of the first to make the implicit comparison between the mistakes of Vietnam and the mistakes in Iraq. "Everyone believed in the war at first," he says. Next, we see LBJ making the moral and humanitarian case for war, to "help the little nations" against the tyranny of larger aggressors. Butler doesn't connect the dots for the audience, but it's impossible to miss his drift.

In another scene, we see video of a dead Vietnamese man while listening to Kerry's words about how the orders he is following are supposedly for the benefit of dead men like this one. Sheehan, the historian, makes the obvious parallel: "They were coming as liberators," but the Vietnamese resisted, no matter the cost, no matter how long it took. A veteran debating John O'Neill on the Dick Cavett Show says that opposing your government isn't the same as opposing your country, and that the war in Vietnam has nothing to do with democracy or freedom. "We're destroying ourselves as a nation," he says, instead of being the country that others want to emulate. Sound familiar?

After Sheehan's "liberators" comment, the moment in the film with the most contemporary resonance is at the Winter Soldier hearings, when a soldier displays a photo of himself, grinning ear to ear, over a dead body. Other soldiers tell how they weren't given instructions in the Geneva Conventions or taught how to treat prisoners of war. One soldier says he was told to count POWs only after unloading them from a boat, never when boarding them, in case one or two didn't make it.

There are reminders, at times, of how different the two wars are: The casualties in Vietnam were much higher, 1,500 dead and 8,000 wounded in the Tet Offensive alone. And Max Cleland says he felt betrayed by the occupant in the Oval Office, something I doubt many troops feel today (though active-duty military support for Bush isn't as high as it has been in recent years for Republicans). "Here we are, mid-assault, and the commander-in-chief turns his back on us," Cleland says of LBJ's decision not to run for re-election.

But the film repeatedly emphasizes the youthful Kerry's statements about his lifetime opposition to war. We hear his letter to Julia Thorne after the death of his friend Dick Pershing, in which Kerry writes that if "I do nothing else in life," he will work to convince people that war (this war, or all war?) is a "wasteful expenditure." During the Vietnam Veterans Against the War march on Washington, Kerry declares that his protest is "not the struggle of one day" but of a lifetime, and that admitting a mistaken policy doesn't mean that America is a "craven, hollow place."

What lessons has Kerry learned, though? When will he explain them to us? It's become a cliché to wonder what happened to the youthful Kerry, to the eloquent young man who risked his political viability to oppose a war out of principle. Just because Kerry opposed Vietnam doesn't mean he has to oppose the war in Iraq, of course, but the largely antiwar crowd at the premiere was stoked by Going Upriver into believing that. During the Q&A after the movie, one man stood and asked, if Kerry he opposed the war in Vietnam out of patriotism and love of country, why doesn't he do the same today? Chris Gregory, a former Army medic and VVAW member who appears in the movie and attended the premiere, objected and said, "It's a little too broad a brush" to say that Vietnam and Iraq are one and the same. "John is very focused on winning this job," Gregory said. "He wants to be right. But he wants to win more than he wants to be right."


          Kerry's New Movie   

TORONTO—We're at the point in the campaign when we're supposed to wring our hands over the decline of politics, mourn the lack of coverage of "the issues," and decry the media's focus on personality and the horse race. But my guess is we're about to get mired in the muck of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth all over again. Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry, a new documentary by George Butler, hits theaters in the United States on Oct. 1. The film, which had its world premiere here Tuesday evening, is sure to land the Swifties in the news again. For one, the movie is based on Tour of Duty, the Douglas Brinkley hagiography that the Swift Boat vets say incited them to action in the first place.

More important, Going Upriver seems designed to rebut, one by one, the three campaign ads put out by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth: one questioning Kerry's heroism during the war, one criticizing his antiwar testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and one condemning his decision to throw his ribbons over a fence in front of the Capitol during an antiwar demonstration. Butler re-edited his film in response to the Swift Boat ads, and he said after the premiere that the movie wasn't finished until Tuesday morning. On the matter of Kerry's conduct during the war itself, Butler has Kerry's "band of brothers" describe his actions on "Silver Star day," and Jim Rassman tells the story of how Kerry saved his life and won the Bronze Star in the process. In addition, numerous speakers talk about how dangerous commanding a Swift Boat was, and how deadly.

On Kerry's Senate testimony, Butler shows the statements made by veterans at the "Winter Soldier" hearings in Detroit, where veterans confessed to committing atrocities during the war. Some of those claims have been disputed, but the Winter Soldier hearings were the basis for Kerry's statements about atrocities before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Butler shows veterans talking about shooting children and gang raping a woman in public. In the film, Kerry protests that he didn't personally see anyone chop off someone's head, but he believes that the U.S. government's policies in Vietnam—such as burning the homes of noncombatants, or creating "free-fire zones" in which all Vietnamese were deemed to be the enemy—were in violation of the laws of war.

As for Kerry's tossing of his ribbons, Butler spends a long section of the film showing veterans angrily and defiantly hurling their medals toward the Capitol. The sources interviewed for Going Upriver discuss how "painful" the protest was, how it was "terribly difficult," "extremely hard," etc. Perhaps to dismiss the charge that Kerry's protest was somehow phony because he tossed his ribbons instead of his medals, a speaker points out that some veterans threw their medals, others threw their ribbons, and others tossed their citations or even the boxes that their medals came in. Kerry was almost the last man to stand before the microphone during the protest, and according to Tom Oliphant, he "kind of lobbed" his contribution over the fence and walked away.

During this scene, Butler includes a photograph of Kerry shoving his ribbons through the fence that he left out of the film's companion book. The next shot is the one of a crumpled Kerry, being consoled by Julia Thorne. The demonstration was designed to illustrate that "the sacrifices that we went through were for nothing," says Bobby Muller, one of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. "That's the bitter pill, and I think that's the harder pill to take, frankly," than coming back and saying their service was necessary for the continuation of freedom and the American way. Throughout the film, Muller is Kerry's most effective advocate, the man who most persuasively argues that what Kerry did when he returned from the war was not just defensible but morally correct.

Swift Boat Vet obsessives will note that there's nothing about the (unfair) criticism of Kerry's Purple Hearts or the fact that Kerry was likely in Cambodia in January or February instead of the previous Christmas. More important than those details, however, are Butler's other omissions. For example, in Tour of Duty Brinkley quotes some of Kerry's crewmates talking about their initial anger at Kerry when they learned he was leading antiwar demonstrations. Though they later came to understand his decision—and believe that he was right—at first they felt betrayed. Butler, however, shows only David Alston, who says he was glad to see Kerry speak out. On the other hand, Going Upriver is honest about something the Kerry campaign isn't: The film bothers to point out that when Kerry volunteered for Swift boat duty, he wasn't asking for one of the war's most dangerous jobs. At the time, the boats were engaged in coastal patrols, checking the papers of commercial fisherman.

One more Swift Boat-related bit of news from the premiere: During the Q&A with Butler after the film was over, a member of the audience asked him why he didn't include anything about Christmas in Cambodia. Butler explained that it's very difficult to know whether Kerry was in Cambodia, then changed the subject to the lack of credibility of John O'Neill, the co-author of Unfit for Command. (O'Neill appears in Going Upriver when he is dredged up by Richard Nixon and Charles Colson to be a public-relations counterweight to Kerry and the VVAW.) O'Neill, Butler pointed out, denied ever being in Cambodia despite telling Nixon otherwise. But in the course of telling the story, Butler seemed to imply that he, or someone on his crew, leaked the tape of O'Neill's comment to the news media. "We found a Nixon White House tape," Butler began, before stopping himself. "Or, there is in existence a White House tape ..."


          The Foreign Wives Club   

WASHINGTON—Teresa Heinz Kerry acknowledged Monday that she understands at least one of the reasons that many Americans aren't comfortable with the idea of her as first lady, or at least she came very close to acknowledging it: Many Americans are wary of her because they suspect she's not quite American—not un-American, just not exactly American either—and certainly not American enough to be first lady. In front of a luncheon sponsored by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Heinz Kerry said that some critics—she called them "my husband's critics"—have challenged her for talking about her experience as an immigrant who came to America from Africa "via Europe, where I studied." Critics say "my immigrant experience isn't representative," Heinz Kerry said. "That is such a revealing comment, because what it suggests is that they should get to decide who shares in the American dream and who doesn't. What it suggests is that the American dream doesn't belong to all of us, but only to some of us."

Heinz Kerry ought to repeat that message everywhere she goes. She's one-fourth of what may be the most heavily accented ticket in American history (though Kennedy-Johnson could give them a run for their money), and fair or not, accents matter, especially in the mass-media age. George W. Bush speaks Spanish like an American, like Peggy Hill in King of the Hill. Teresa Heinz Kerry speaks English like a foreigner. Even her admirers are influenced by her accent. In the New York Observer last week, a Manhattan writer said Heinz Kerry was "a bit Zsa Zsa—you could see her slapping a cop." More important, you could hear her doing it, dahling.

I've always thought that John Edwards' thick Southern accent was one reason he did so poorly in New Hampshire. Northeastern liberals are predisposed to believe that anyone with a drawl is an uneducated rube, and some will even confess their prejudice. Sure, Bill Clinton was Southern, too, but he was also familiar with Northern culture. He attended Georgetown and went to Oxford. Clinton could navigate between the two worlds, and he spoke differently below the Mason-Dixon line than he did above it (or on television). Edwards sounds the same way all the time.

Heinz Kerry's accent isn't likely to put off Northern liberals, and even the ones that don't like it are likely to vote for her husband anyway. The problem could come in the rural areas of Ohio and Florida that are likely to determine the outcome of the election. President Bush slaughtered Al Gore in rural areas across the country four years ago. Kerry hopes to narrow that margin, which is why he rarely mentions abortion rights, emphasizes his status as a veteran, and distributes photos of himself hunting.

Those attributes may help Kerry some, but are they enough to offset a funny-talking wife? Even the pronunciation of her name—ter-AY-za—seems strange to people from certain parts of the country (not goofier than young John Kerry's pronunciation of "Genghis Khan," though). That's why it was so foolish of her to open her speech at the Democratic convention by speaking all five of her languages: Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and English. To a certain brand of American, the stunt seemed either show-offy or vaguely seditious.

Everywhere he goes, President Bush says that "perhaps the most important reason to give us four more years is so that Laura will be first lady for four more years." In most presidential races, the remark would be interpreted as the self-deprecating affection of a doting husband. But in 2004, it comes across as a subtle shot at Teresa Heinz Kerry's fitness for (unofficial) office. Bill Clinton likes to say that people have to be able to imagine a candidate as the president before they can cast a ballot for him (or someday her). Right now, a lot of Americans have trouble imagining a world in which Teresa Heinz Kerry is first lady. It's not because she's opinionated, or a loose cannon, or perceived as an ice queen. It's because they haven't been convinced she's authentically American.

Outrageous? Nativist? Fine. That doesn't make it false. The best way for Teresa Heinz Kerry to overcome the prejudice against her is to recognize the doubts about her and confront them persuasively, like she did today. Her husband has already learned that ignoring something unfair, or pretending that it doesn't exist, doesn't make it go away.


          Anniversary Edition   

BOSTON—John Kerry's words were inadequate Saturday morning, but whose wouldn't be? Kerry spoke during a commemoration of the third anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, and he couldn't help but be overshadowed by the simple eloquence of the relatives of 9/11 victims in attendance. "This is not about politics," Kerry says often on the stump. He didn't say it today, but for once, the statement would have actually been true.

Flight 11 and Flight 197, the planes that struck the World Trade Center, took off from Boston's Logan Airport. The Massachusetts 9/11 Fund honored the dead with a brief ceremony at the Boston Opera House. A speaker read from an e-mail written by a girl who was 7 years old when her father died; she said she missed hearing his laugh in their house. The daughter of another woman spoke of how her mother's wedding ring was found in the rubble, months after the tragedy, on her mom's birthday. A son talked of how he relives the murder of his father every day, on TV news and in campaign ads.

There were brief mentions, like that one, of politics, but they came from the relatives, not from Kerry. Sonia Puopolo, the daughter who held aloft her mother's wedding ring during the ceremony, said she spoke for her mother by "asking and praying for a president, a president named John Kerry, to bring peace to a terribly troubled world." Others were more oblique. One of two 9/11 widows who are raising money to help widows in Afghanistan—to "help widows who have been affected by war and terrorism in other parts of the world" and to try to provide them with the financial and emotional support that 9/11 families have received—said in videotaped remarks, "We strongly believe that the only way to fight terrorism is through education." Franklin Ross, the son who spoke, was the only one who mentioned the attackers, but even he expressed sympathy for their loved ones. "The people who did this will pay, and so will their families, and I feel sorry for that," he said.

Kerry paid tribute to the victims and the heroes and the survivors and the families, but he did not draw attention to the criticisms made by some of the speakers before him. The day before had been different. At a rally on Friday in Allentown, Pa., Kerry said that he met with some 9/11 widows beforehand. "And they looked at me, and every single of them said, our husbands didn't die on Sept. 11 because of what happened with Iraq. [It was] what happened with al-Qaida, with Osama Bin Laden, in Afghanistan," he said. "And what George W. Bush has done is try to scare Americans, and make you believe that one is the other, and the other is the same."

There is a place for the candidates to talk about Sept. 11 in this election. For most Americans, the race is about nothing except what happened on one day three years ago and how the Bush administration responded. Just not today.


          Shrum Strikes Back?   

ALLENTOWN, PA.—The Washington Post's Mark Leibovich profiled Kerry adviser Bob Shrum in a piece Friday that focused on the so-called "Shrum Curse," the idea that Shrum is the losingest great political strategist of modern times. Leibovich didn't bring up William Jennings Bryan or the Buffalo Bills, but he does compare Shrum to Kerry's favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox. Ten speechwriters at the Democratic convention, Leibovich writes, considered wearing "Reverse the Curse" T-shirts emblazoned with a picture of Shrum. The article's headline: "Loss Leader: At 0-7, Adviser Bob Shrum Is Well Acquainted With the Concession Speech."

Ouch. It gets worse. Here are some of the piece's highlights: "Shrum's career-long slump in presidential campaigns, a well-catalogued losing streak that runs from George McGovern to Al Gore. … the ["Reverse the Curse"] slogan endures as a joke among Kerry staffers. … Shrum's 0-7 win-loss record in presidential elections has become ensconced in the psyches of the campaigns he orchestrates. …. Kerry is sputtering … His campaign has been called listless and unfocused, words that were also applied to Shrum's last presidential enterprise, the Gore campaign (a forbidden comparison within Kerry headquarters). … But curses sometimes have prosaic explanations. … critics started to rehash old complaints about Shrum. They say he relies too heavily on populist rhetoric, … that his aggressiveness led to backbiting within the campaign. ... James Carville harpooned Shrum relentlessly to reporters at the Republican convention last week. Clinton himself was critical of the campaign's reluctance to attack Bush—a position Shrum had advocated—in a phone call to Kerry … Shrum's brand of old-style liberalism—steeped in the tradition of his political patron, Ted Kennedy—is anathema to the centrist, New Democrat ethic that got Clinton elected twice. … 'You tend to listen extra hard to Clinton people,' says a mid-level Kerry aide who didn't want to be identified because he's not an official spokesman. 'They've actually won one of these.' "

The one thing Leibovich couldn't nail down was Shrum's role in the Kerry campaign after the elevation of John Sasso and Michael Whouley and the infusion of Clinton operatives like Joe Lockhart. How much power does Shrum have now? Does he still have the candidate's ear? "Shrum is either in Kerry's doghouse, or his influence has been diffused by the high-level additions. Ultimately, though, campaign sources say, Shrum is a survivor" who has "worked strenuously to cultivate Lockhart." Leibovich also writes that Kerry feels loyal to Shrum for helping him to defeat William Weld in 1996.

So, Shrumologists take note: During a rally here on Friday, the same day Leibovich's critical profile appeared, Kerry inserted a Shrumian flourish into his standard stump speech. For a few minutes, Kerry sounded an awful lot like Al Gore during his much-criticized—and Shrum-penned—"people vs. the powerful" acceptance speech at the 2000 Democratic convention. The business-friendly Kerry  of Labor Day vanished, replaced by a Wall Street-bashing economic populist.

Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said Kerry's remarks weren't significant. "It didn't strike me as anything unusual," she said. "It's not a 'people vs. the powerful.' " Judge for yourself: There's a theme that runs through "everything I just talked about," Kerry explained. "Why aren't we importing drugs from Canada? Why did they take that out? Why did we refuse to allow Medicare to be able to negotiate [bulk drug prices] so you would lower your taxes? Why has the tax burden of the average American family gone up while the tax burden of the richest people in America has gone down? Why is it that when we're fighting to have alternative and renewable energy, we wind up with an energy bill that's written for the oil and gas companies? Why is it that when American citizens are losing their health care by the millions, it's the HMOs and the companies that keep getting fed?" Kerry mentions all of these things frequently on the stump, but this time he punctuated his critique with an allusion to the rhetoric of Al Gore's "forbidden" campaign: "I'll tell you why: because this administration exists for the purpose of serving the powerful and the moneyed, and we need to restore … the voices of America, the real Americans who built this country and make it strong. We need to step up and fight."

Was Kerry paying a final tribute to the dear, departed Shrum? Or was Shrum serving notice to the Clinton faction that he won't disappear without a fight? Both? Neither? Was it just a coincidence? What is the sound of one hand clapping? If a Shrum falls in the forest, does it make a sound?


          Looking Backward   

ST. LOUIS—Remember when this was John Kerry's race to lose? Now the question on everyone's minds is whether he's lost it, and if so, what it will take for him to win it back. The Kerry campaign remains stagnant—though improved from where it was a week ago—because, despite claims to the contrary, it hasn't absorbed the lesson of Michael Dukakis' failed presidential bid. Or worse, Kerry might have learned the wrong lesson from 1988.

The Kerry campaign's belated response to the false allegations leveled by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was hailed as evidence that the specter of Dukakis looming over the campaign had been lifted, because Kerry had finally "responded." But merely rebutting a charge isn't sufficient to avoid Dukakis' fate. Standing up and saying "I am not a wife beater" doesn't fix the problem. Saying the other guy beats his husband does. The lesson of the Dukakis campaign isn't that you need to "respond" by defending yourself. The lesson is to change the subject with a counterattack.

Look at the Bush campaign's response to Kerry's criticism of the 17 percent hike in Medicare premiums. Rather than rebut Kerry's charge or defend the administration's decision, the Bush-Cheney team released a new ad Thursday blasting Kerry for voting "five times to raise Medicare premiums." The 30-second spot ends with the kicker, "John Kerry ... he actually voted for higher Medicare premiums ... before he came out against them."

The despondence among Democrats over the superiority of the Bush-Cheney campaign team is real. The news cycle has taken a turn in Kerry's favor, but his campaign hasn't figured out how to turn the news to his advantage. During the past week, the 1,000th American died in Iraq, the administration announced the largest deficit in the nation's history, new documents about Bush's service—or lack thereof—in the National Guard emerged, and Dick Cheney made a statement so repugnant that his own staff disavowed it almost immediately. What has Kerry been able to do with these events? Maybe worse than nothing. Most notable, the 1,000th casualty led Kerry to describe the situation in Iraq as "the war on terror," and the campaign hasn't devised a good explanation for why he did that. (Though there is an emerging theory that by agreeing with Bush that Iraq is part of the war on terror, Kerry can use Iraq as evidence that Bush has mismanaged not just a sideshow in the war against al-Qaida, but the whole thing.)

The event some Democrats point to as emblematic of the Kerry campaign's refusal to play rough: Back in August, after Tom Harkin called Dick Cheney a "coward," the Iowa senator was yanked from a bus tour. The Kerry campaign denied the two events were linked, but not everyone believes them, particularly in light of the fact that the Kerry-Edwards team vetted the speeches at the Democratic Convention to ensure that no speaker criticized the president or his record too harshly.

There's a good reason not to want Sen. Harkin as the point man attacking Cheney's war record: During Harkin's 1992 presidential campaign, the Wall Street Journal called him "carefree" with the facts, particularly about his military service. "Mr. Harkin did serve in the Navy during the Vietnam era, but exactly what he did, and for how long, remain a matter of some dispute," the newspaper reported.

But if the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have taught us anything, it's that the credibility of an accuser is less important than the explosiveness of the charge. The Democrats may finally be learning that. Harkin is now back on the bus, so to speak, being trotted out to fire away at Bush and Cheney in much the same say Bob Dole and President H.W. Bush were sent out to lend credibility to the Swift boat charges. "Never defend, always attack," was Harkin's advice to Kerry in the New York Times, and the campaign seems to have taken him up on it. Of Cheney's statement that electing Sen. Kerry as president would invite a catastrophic terrorist attack, Harkin said on CNN Wednesday, "You know, I thought Dick Cheney limited his obscenities to the Senate floor." Showing mastery of the art of flinging whatever accusation you can, no matter what the topic, Harkin decided it would also be a good time to attack Cheney for war profiteering: "You know when you think of Vice President Cheney and his viciousness in that kind of remark, the fact that he still has his hand in the till of Halliburton that is making money off of Iraq, I would say that Mr. Cheney is the 2004 version of Spiro Agnew."

Kerry doesn't need to be making accusations like these himself, as he unwisely did the night after Bush's convention speech when he attacked Dick Cheney as a draft dodger. That's what surrogates are for. There was a sign Thursday that the candidate may have learned that lesson, too. At a Des Moines town hall, Kerry was talking to a 91-year-old veteran, and he told her, "That's something you never forget, your service number." From the crowd, a man called out, "George did!" Kerry waited for the laughter to subside, and then he paused and said nothing more than, "Well, moving on."


          Kerry Returns to Form   

DES MOINES—The most interesting thing to happen with the Kerry campaign Wednesday was an exchange between Stephanie Cutter, a Kerry spokeswoman, and CNN's Candy Crowley. Disgruntled reporters gathered around Cutter after Kerry's anticipated but disappointing speech in Cincinnati that criticized President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq. The speech had two memorable moments, both of which occurred before it really began: the announcement beforehand that Peter Frampton was on hand, and the shouts of a protester—"You said you committed atrocities. You said you burned villages"—who was silenced when the man standing next to him put him in a headlock. After the speech, Kerry spokesman David Wade said the protester was a man named Mike Russell, who Wade said was the Bush-Cheney chairman in Bracken County, Ky., during the 2000 election. "He is now, coincidentally, with the Swift Boat Veterans," Wade added.

Nothing Kerry said in Cincinnati could compensate for the blunder he made the day before when he stood before cameras on the tarmac of the Cincinnati airport and expressed his sorrow for the 1,000th American casualty in Iraq. "More than 1,000 of America's sons and daughters have now given their lives on behalf of their country, on behalf of freedom, in the war on terror," Kerry said. The war on terror? Oops. The mistake was part of the natural reversion to the mean of the Kerry candidacy. After the successful day and a half of campaigning that followed his conversation with President Clinton, the usual Kerry—the New Old Kerry—was back. Kerry took no questions after making his mystifying "war on terror" comment. Crowley called out, "Senator, you've been saying that it's 'wrong war, wrong place, wrong time.' What does that mean about these deaths?" but Kerry, in a typical maneuver, just walked away. It's been more than five weeks since Kerry last took questions at a press conference, or an "avail," as it's called.

So, Crowley asked Cutter if she could explain what Kerry meant. Short answer: No. Long answer: Cutter said Kerry was referring to something Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday about the increase in terrorists in Iraq after the war. "There were not terrorists in Iraq before we went," Cutter explained (incorrectly), but there are now. Kerry was just "repeating what Rumsfeld said," Cutter continued. So, Crowley asked, Iraq is now part of the war on terror? "No. That's not what I'm saying," Cutter said. "Should he have clarified it, said it differently? Maybe. But the point remains the same. There was no terrorism before we went to war. There is now terrorism there." But Democratic orthodoxy is that the war on terror and the war in Iraq are distinct, Crowley said. Cutter replied, "And he agrees with that." Crowley: "Had he stayed for questions, we could have clarified that."

Kerry should have said, hey, I misspoke, I was trying to express my sympathy for all the Americans who have lost their lives in the broader war on terror, not just the 1,000-plus who have died in the war in Iraq. But instead the campaign has concocted this preposterously complicated explanation, saying yes he meant to say it, but no, he thinks Iraq is not part of the war on terror. What?

The other head-scratcher uttered by Kerry in the past two days came Wednesday in Greensboro, N.C. There, in response to a question from a woman about the health problems caused by mold and indoor air contamination—and her complaint, "There's not one agency in this government that has come forward" to deal with the problem—Kerry endorsed the creation of a new federal department. "What I want to do, what I'm determined to do, and it's in my health-care plan, is refocus America on something that can reduce the cost of health care significantly for all Americans, which is wellness and prevention," Kerry said. So far, so good. But then, "And I intend to have not just a Department of Health and Human Services, but a Department of Wellness." Again, what? Apparently this idea comes from Teresa Heinz Kerry, who told the Boston Herald in January 2003 that she would, in the Herald's words, "be an activist first lady, lobbying for a Department of Wellness that would stress preventive health." Oh, boy. Preventive health is a fine idea, but do we need a new agency—I assume it's not Cabinet-level—to handle it?

Kerry ended his day in Iowa, the state that launched him to the nomination of the Democratic Party. The traveling press headed to the Hotel Fort Des Moines to spend the night. At the hotel, I came across an inauspicious if ultimately meaningless piece of trivia on an information sheet given to hotel guests. Three presidential candidates, according to the hotel, celebrated their victories in the Iowa caucuses at the Hotel Fort Des Moines. Two of them, Walter Mondale in 1984 and Bob Dole in 1996, went on to win the nominations of their parties (the third was George Bush in 1980). In their general-election match-ups, Mondale won one state and the District of Columbia, while Dole won 41 percent of the popular vote. John Kerry? He too celebrated caucus night at the Hotel Fort Des Moines this January, but the hotel hasn't added him to its list yet. Maybe it's afraid of being a three-time loser.


          Kerry in Black and White   

CINCINNATI—John Kerry is so concerned about the plight of American manufacturers that he's taken to doing short advertisements during his campaign events. "Go to a Web site," Kerry exhorted his audience Tuesday in Greensboro, N.C. "It could be johnkerry.com, or go some other place. Go to truth.com, if there is one. And find out what's really happening." So I went to truth.com, and I found out what was happening: "Truth Hardware designs and manufactures a complete line of hinges, locks, operators, and even remote controlled power window systems used on wood, vinyl, metal and fiberglass windows, skylights, and patio doors."

I'm hesitant to criticize Kerry for his extemporizing, because his Kerrymeandering (a word invented by my colleague Will Saletan) makes the repetition of campaigning more endurable. More important, overdisciplined Robopols who never say anything interesting are one of the many reasons to hate politics. And this Kerrymeander was merely amusing, not harmful, though a good rule of 21st-century campaigning should be, don't refer to Web sites that you haven't visited. Kerry even had the good fortune to refer to the Web site of a company that manufactures its products in Owatonna, Minn.—a swing state!

But Monday's impromptu comments were more damaging. In addition to making a joke in West Virginia about taking a shotgun with him to the presidential debates, Kerry decided it would be a good idea in Pennsylvania to talk about how he has difficulty deciding what to eat at restaurants. "You know when they give you the menu, I'm always struggling, what do you want?" he said. A cook at a local restaurant, though, solves Kerry's dilemma by serving "whatever he's cooked up that day. I think that's the way it ought to work for confused people like me who can't make up our minds what we're going to eat." Kerry has yet to mourn the fact that fewer and fewer gynecologists are able to "practice their love" with American women, but his handlers have so much confidence in him that on Tuesday they banned the national press pool from observing his satellite interviews with local TV stations.

Still, even Kerry wasn't as off-message as one of the local politicians who introduced him at the Greensboro town hall. Sure, Republicans say Kerry is a flip-flopper, the politician said, but so-called "flip-flopping" is a sign of skepticism, of being open to learning new things. "We call it thinking," he said to huge applause from the crowd. The guy must not have gotten the memo: Kerry no longer wants to be the thoughtful candidate of nuance. Like President Bush, he's discovered the virtues of moral clarity.

Bush describes the world in terms of black and white, good vs. evil. Kerry now describes the world in terms of right vs. wrong. "As the president likes to say, there's nothing complicated about this," Kerry says every time he begins his new "W. stands for wrong" speech. Kerry no longer brags about being complicated, as he did in his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention. He's now as simple as Bush. As Kerry said in Greensboro, "John Edwards and I believe, deep to the core of our being, that there's an easy distinction between what's right and what's wrong."

You won't be shocked to learn which side of the line Kerry thinks Bush falls on. Bush on the war: wrong. Bush on government spending: wrong. Bush on Medicare: wrong. Bush on Social Security: wrong. Bush on outsourcing: wrong. Bush on the environment: wrong. (Kerry also referred to mankind's "spiritual, God-given responsibilities" to be stewards of the Earth.) And in Greensboro, Kerry added a new element to his "That's W., wrong choice, wrong direction," refrain. Each time, he concluded with, "And we want to make it right." Kerry did get a little overzealous about his new theme when he referred to the treasury secretary as "John W. Snow—John Snow, excuse me." After some laughter from the audience, Kerry added, "Well, he's wrong, too."

Kerry has also begun to criticize Bush for breaking promises, for not being as unwavering as he pretends to be. In West Virginia on Monday, Kerry said Bush promised in 2000 to spend more money on clean coal technology, but the money never came. In North Carolina on Tuesday, Kerry mentioned the administration's overconfident estimates of war on the cheap: "He promised that this war would cost $1 billion, and that oil from Iraq would pay for it."

The audience liked the new black-and-white, with-us-or-against-us Kerry. He was doing so well that during the question-and-answer session he felt liberated to engage in some more improvisation. A woman stood up and announced, "I'm so excited to see you. I think you're hot." Referring to his 27-year-old daughter, Vanessa, who was in the audience, Kerry said, "My daughter just buried her head. That is not the way she thinks about her father. But at my age, that sounds good." While he was talking, Vanessa Kerry looked down and stuck her fingers in her ears.


          Kerry's Deathbed Conversion   

CLEVELAND—Everything you need to know about Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential run—and therefore, everything a Democrat needs to know about taking the White House from an incumbent—is supposed to have been scrawled on a wipeboard in Little Rock 12 years ago by James Carville. "It's the economy, stupid," the phrase that has become holy writ, was only one-third of Carville's message. The other two tenets of the Clinton war room were "Change vs. more of the same" and "Don't forget health care." John Kerry has been running on two of those three planks, the economy and health care. But one day after talking with President Clinton on his deathbed—Kerry's, not Clinton's—the candidate has finally embraced the third: change.

Kerry offered a taste of his new message Monday morning at one of his "front porch" campaign stops in Canonsburg, Penn., but he waited until the afternoon in Racine, W.V., to unveil his new stump speech in full. The new message: Go vote for Bush if you want four more years of falling wages, of Social Security surpluses being transferred to wealthy Americans in the form of tax cuts, of underfunded schools and lost jobs. But if you want a new direction, he said, vote for Kerry and Edwards.

It's a simple and obvious message, but Kerry hasn't used it before. There were other new, even more Clintonesque wrinkles, too. Kerry talked about the same issues—jobs, health care, Social Security, education—that he's talked about in the past, but he had a new context for them: how Bush's policies were taking money out of taxpayers' pockets. The deficit, the Medicare prescription drug plan that forbids bulk-price negotiation and the importation of drugs from Canada, and the "$200 billion and counting" Iraq war all "cost you money," Kerry said, by increasing the cost of government. Kerry even pushed his health-care plan as a selfish device to put more money in voters' wallets (rather than an altruistic plan to cover the uninsured), in the form of lower health-insurance premiums ($1,000, he says). He also talked about a Clinton favorite, putting 100,000 new cops on the street during the 1990s, and he said he wanted to cut taxes for corporations by 5 percent to lower the cost of doing business in the United States. Talking about corporate tax cuts on Labor Day—if that's not a New Democrat, I don't know what is.

In West Virginia and later Cleveland, Kerry framed most of the new message around a mantra: "W stands for wrong. Wrong choices, wrong judgment, wrong priorities, wrong direction for our country." If you like those wrong choices, the lost jobs, "raiding Social Security," rising health-care costs, and "a go-it-alone foreign policy that abandons America," then vote for George W. Bush, Kerry said. If not, vote for me. The cost of the Iraq war is coming out of your pocket, he said, and it's taking away from money that could be used for homeland security. "That's W.; that's wrong," he said. With each issue Kerry raised—from Iraq to rising Medicare premiums to Social Security to jobs—he concluded his criticism of the president's policy by repeating, "That's W.; that's wrong."

It's not a perfect speech, nor is it delivered all that well. Kerry will never win an oratory contest with Bush, and he is fond of bizarre extemporizing. For example, he said, after being given a shotgun by a union leader to emphasize his support for hunting, "I'm thankful for the gift, but I can't take it to the debate with me." Still, even with Kerry's shaggy delivery, the speech—and more important, the message, if he sticks with it—should be good enough to get his campaign out of its latest sinkhole.

Sometimes, Kerry even improvises well. During the event in Canonsburg, Kerry was heckled by a small but noisy group of Bush supporters. But he managed to pull something out of Clinton's bag of tricks. When Kerry began talking about how the average family's tax burden has risen during the past four years, a man shouted, "Yeah, you're average, Kerry!" In response, Kerry adopted the tactic that Clinton used at the Democratic Convention in Boston: He embraced his affluence. "Just to answer that guy, 'cause he's right," Kerry said. "I'm privileged," just like President Bush. As a result, "My tax burden went down," Kerry said. "And I don't think that's right. I think your tax burden ought to go down."

Before today, Kerry's public image was starting to resemble that of a different Democratic candidate of recent vintage: the Republican caricature of Al Gore, a self-promoting braggart with a weakness for resume-inflating exaggerations. When Kerry was so angered by a Washington Post headline last week that he decided to speak directly after Bush's acceptance speech at the Republican Convention, he appeared to be imitating Gore's unfortunate tendency to let his campaign strategy be driven by the whims of the political media. Some Democrats feared that, by shaking up his campaign over the weekend and bringing in John Sasso and Michael Whouley, Kerry was overreacting in Gore-like fashion to some bad August press. On Monday, anyway, those fears seem overstated. The revamped Kerry campaign looks more like the Democrat who beat a president named Bush than the Democrat who lost to one.


          I Love 9/11   

NEW YORK—If it's true that the better speech-giver wins in presidential elections, then it's going to be Bush in a landslide. In his speech accepting the Republican nomination for the presidency—particularly the powerful final third—the president provided the eloquence that the times demand. It's too bad he doesn't have the presidency to match his (or Michael Gerson's) rhetoric.

The inspiration the president provided, however, was overshadowed by the disturbing nostalgia for Sept. 11 that preceded it. The phenomenon of "faster nostalgia" keeps accelerating, and the decades we reminisce about grow closer and closer to the present with each passing year. But the two political conventions this August must be the first recorded instances of nostalgia for the 21st century.

During the Democratic convention, too many speakers looked back to 9/11 with fondness. They didn't recall the months after the worst foreign attack in American history as a sad and tragic time. Instead, they appeared to remember those days as a warm-and-fuzzy time of national unity, now lost because of Republican partisanship. But the GOP's wistful look back at the tragedy as a marvelous occasion that somehow justifies the re-election of President Bush was even more stomach-turning. The convention's final night had the air of a VH-1 special: I Love Sept. 11.

Before President Bush came out to speak, the convention's image-masters aired a hagiographic video, a 9/11 retrospective that was Field of Dreams as told by the narrator of The Big Lebowski, with a dash of the David McCullough sections of Seabiscuit. (Like The Dude's rug in Lebowski, 9/11 really tied Bush's presidency together.) The reason to re-elect Bush, actual narrator Fred Thompson implied, is not the foreign-policy actions he took after being saddled with a historic tragedy. No, Bush merits re-election because of his performance as an Oprah-like healer in chief. He placed a deceased New York cop's badge in his pocket. He jogged with a wounded soldier. And most of all, he went to a baseball game.

"What do a bullhorn and a baseball have in common?" Thompson asked, and soon we were told: The defining moment of the Bush presidency came not only on Sept. 14, as previously thought, when Bush stood at Ground Zero and proclaimed that the terrorists who struck New York and Washington would "hear from us." It also came a month later, when Bush marched to the mound of Yankee Stadium and boldly, decisively, resolutely tossed out the first pitch of the World Series. "What he did that night, that man in the arena, he helped us come back.That's the story of this presidency," Thompson said, as I wondered how many takes it took Thompson to do this without giggling. You keep pitching, no matter what, Thompson said. You go to the game, no matter what. "You throw, and you become who you are." The delegates went nuts. Remember that time Osama chased Bush's slider in the dirt?

The absurd film was actually Bush's second introduction. The first had come five minutes earlier, when New York Gov. George Pataki finished his speech, a repugnant politicization of Sept. 11. At first, like the video, Pataki's use of 9/11 was just laughable, such as when he took a moment to thank the good people of the swing states Oregon, Iowa, and Pennsylvania for their generosity in New York's hour of need. The despicable moment came later, when he blamed the Clinton administration for the terrorist attacks.

After 9/11, "The president took strong action to protect our country," Pataki said. "That sounds like something any president would do. How I wish that were so." Instead, Bill Clinton shamefully ignored the attacks on the World Trade Center, the embassies, and the U.S.S. Cole. "How I wish the administration at that time, in those years, had done something," Pataki said. "How I wish they had moved to protect us. But they didn't do it."

But, wait—didn't President Clinton strike at Osama Bin Laden's training camps in 1998? And didn't Republicans criticize him for doing it? I think it's misguided and pointless to discuss whether 9/11 was preventable, and it's a waste of time to ponder who is more blameworthy, Bush or Clinton. But since Pataki brought it up, isn't the fact that President Bush presided over the most catastrophic attack on the U.S. mainland in American history a strike against him, not a point in his favor? If it was so obvious that the nation needed to attack al-Qaida more forcefully in the 1990s, why did President Bush take nine months to pay attention to the threat? And didn't the Clinton administration disrupt the planned millennium bombing of Los Angeles International Airport? Wasn't that a move to protect us? Nothing Zell Miller said Wednesday was as loathsome as Pataki's speech.

There was an honest case to be made for war with Iraq: Saddam Hussein did not possess nuclear weapons, but he was pursuing them and needed to be toppled before he acquired them. President Bush never made that case, preferring instead to exaggerate the nature and immediacy of the threat and to link al-Qaida with Iraq in the public mind. This convention continued that disgraceful record, muddying the distinction between 9/11 and Iraq, conflating the war of necessity the nation faced after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon with the war of choice in Iraq, and repeatedly telling the lie that John Kerry wants to wait until the nation is struck again before crushing al-Qaida.

The president's defenders say he invaded Iraq with good intentions, and I believe them. But if President Bush didn't mislead us into war, he's misleading us during one, and he deserves to be defeated for it.


          Running Scared   

NEW YORK—One of the most striking things about watching the Republican National Convention from inside Madison Square Garden has been the lack of enthusiasm among the delegates on the floor. When they formally, and unanimously, nominated George W. Bush as their party's presidential nominee Wednesday at the conclusion of the roll call of the states, the delegates failed to muster much applause for their action. "We can do better than that," complained Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele from the podium. "Come on now, bring it on for the president." The delegates dutifully applauded some more, but they still weren't very loud, and Steele still seemed disappointed.

But by the end of Wednesday night, the delegates were fired up. What got them going? Speeches by Zell Miller and Dick Cheney arguing that John Kerry can't be trusted on matters of national security, that he's weak, indecisive, and open to influence from foreign leaders. "Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending," Miller scoffed, and the delegates booed. During Cheney's speech, delegates joyously mocked Kerry by chanting "flip flop, flip flop," and they booed the idea that Kerry even aspired to be the country's commander in chief. The knock on Democrats this year is supposed to be that they hate the other guy more than they love their own. Based on this convention, it sure looks like the same is true of Republicans.

Tonight confirmed what I suspected before the Democratic convention began: In violation of the normal rules of politics, this year's election is a referendum on the challenger rather than a referendum on the incumbent. There's a general sense that a change in presidents would be a good thing, but the country is taking that decision more seriously than it would in peacetime, and voters aren't certain, despite their disapproval of President Bush, that a President Kerry would be an improvement.

That's why this was the night the Republicans did their convention right. During the first two days of this convention, the prime-time speakers gave eloquent speeches, but they didn't hammer Kerry enough, with the exception of Rudy Giuliani's effective pummeling of Kerry's reputation for inconsistency. Tonight, Miller and Cheney more than made up for the oversight. My guess is that Republicans won't be able to convince voters that Bush has been a wonderful president, but they just might be able to convince voters that Kerry would be a terrible one.

There is the question, though, of whether anything that happens at this convention will make much of a difference in the race. As a rule, political conventions are aimed at the great mass of undecided voters who typically determine the outcome of elections, and this convention has been no different. But what's interesting about the Republicans' decision to follow those rules and hold a convention that appeals to swing voters is that Karl Rove has already announced that 2004 is a year that the normal rules don't apply.

This is supposed to be a "base" election, not a "swing" one. Rove believes that there are more votes to be found among the conservatives who didn't turn out to vote in 2000 than among the minuscule pool of undecided voters. In search of those stay-at-home voters, President Bush and Vice President Cheney almost exclusively visit heavily Republican areas in swing states.

Democrats fear that the Bush-Cheney campaign may be able to pull off a national version of what Ralph Reed did for Saxby Chambliss in Georgia two years ago, when Reed turned out droves of new evangelical voters who made the difference against Max Cleland. The race in Missouri provides a good example of what Republicans are trying to do. Earlier this year I spoke to Lloyd Smith, who is advising the Bush-Cheney campaign in the Show-Me State this year. Smith said the Bush-Cheney campaign will win the state by going to precincts that had as few as 500 or 600 voters in them four years ago and finding another 100 voters in each one to vote for the president.

In 2000, those stay-at-home voters didn't like George W. Bush enough (or hate Al Gore enough) to be motivated to get out to the polls and vote. Based on Bush's record, my guess is that they don't like him any more now. Love of Bush won't win the Republicans the presidency. Fear of Kerry might.


          Playing to Strength   

NEW YORK—Inside Madison Square Garden, Tuesday's schedule promised another day of moderation, with Laura Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger following Monday's tag-team of John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. But outside the hall, among the protesters, Tuesday is the day marked off for the hard-core left, for the anarchists and communists and the man at Union Square who is calling for American soldiers to rise up in mutiny and frag their commanding officers. Except at this convention, even the anarchists are moderates.

At Union Square, where Tuesday's "day of action" begins at 4 p.m., a small crowd gathers to block off the entrance to the park in defiance of police orders. "Ladies and gentlemen, you have to remove yourselves from the entrance," says a cop in front of a phalanx of shield-bearing officers. The crowd, which had been chanting, "Go arrest Bush! Go arrest Bush!" decides to adjust its message. The new chant: "The police deserve a raise! The police deserve a raise!" Who says anarchists aren't politically savvy? When trying to win over an audience, abandon the red-meat rhetoric and instead reach out to independent swing cops.

The protesters and convention speakers have a lot in common, in fact, including a preference for empty slogans and false choices. But more important, they both believe that showing resolve is the most important political act. The protesters believe that if enough of them are willing to lie down in the streets and get arrested—and if they do it over and over and over again—the American people will be persuaded to consider their point of view. The convention speakers agree that doing something over and over and over again, being unwavering and unchangeable, is the best way to pull Americans to your side.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Tuesday speaker with the most, er, movie-star appeal, says that "perseverance" is the quality he admires most about President Bush: "He's a man of inner strength. He is a leader who doesn't flinch, doesn't waver, and does not back down." Sure, the president led the country into an unpopular war, Schwarzenegger says, but that's a good thing! "The president didn't go into Iraq because the polls told him it was popular. In fact, the polls said just the opposite. But leadership isn't about polls. It's about making decisions you think are right and then standing behind those decisions." Schwarzenegger echoes what Monday night's final speaker, Rudy Giuliani, said: "There are many qualities that make a great leader but having strong beliefs, being able to stick with them through popular and unpopular times, is the most important characteristic of a great leader."

Now, that can't possibly be right. Surely Giuliani and Schwarzenegger believe that having the correct beliefs is more important than sticking by your beliefs, no matter how wrong you are. Sticking by your beliefs is probably the most overrated leadership trait. All great politicians are flip-floppers, including President Bush.

The biggest fib the president says on the stump is, "When I say something, I mean it." Did he mean it when he said that no matter what the whip count, he would ask for a second vote at the Security Council before going to war with Iraq? Did he mean it when he was against a Department of Homeland Security? Did he mean it when he opposed the creation of a 9/11 commission? Did he mean it when he opposed McCain-Feingold? Did he mean it when he said troops shouldn't be used for nation-building? Did he mean it when he said he planned to use his presidency to strengthen international alliances? Does he mean it when he says, "It's the people's money, not the government's money"? If so, then why does he spend so much of it?

Up to now, the Kerry campaign has elected not to use this inconsistent record to undermine the Republican claim that President Bush is a man of great resolve. Instead, they've decided to buttress the idea. The president is stubborn, unyielding, Kerry says. He's not flexible enough.

Kerry's approach plays into liberals' fantasies about themselves. Liberals think they're smarter, more thoughtful, more nuanced than conservatives. They think they're more aware of the complexities and ambiguities in life. They're not inconsistent; they're Emersonian. Kerry tried to take advantage of this at the Democratic Convention when he said that he understands that some things are complicated. Bush's response has been to say, as he does often, "There is nothing complicated about supporting our troops."

Howard Dean got it right when he said that people don't like President Bush because they agree with his policies. They like him because they think he's a strong leader. Unless Democrats can undermine that belief, they don't have a chance of regaining the presidency. The Kerry campaign may finally be learning this. When Bush said that he now believes the nation actually can win the war on terror (despite saying otherwise previously), the Kerry campaign e-mailed a press release with the headline, "Bush: Against Winning the War on Terror Before He Was for It." Maybe they've learned that Kerry can't blunt Bush's strength on national security without making at least some people think the president is a flip-flopping "politician." You don't beat your opponent by listening to his message, nodding, and saying, I agree.


          Their Kind of Town   

NEW YORK—Zell Miller will be the most notable apostate at the Republican National Convention, but Ed Koch gets to be the first. At the first GOP convention ever held in New York City, the first speaker after the opening remarks by Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie and RNC Co-Chair Ann Wagner is the former mayor, a Democrat. "Why am I here?" the jovial Koch asks the smattering of assembled delegates at the sparsely attended Monday morning session. "I'm here to convert you. But that's for the next election. This year, I'm voting for the re-election of President George W. Bush." The small crowd gives Koch a huge cheer.

Koch is followed by another New York mayor, the current one. At the first GOP convention ever held in New York City, Republican Michael Bloomberg declares, "Welcome to America's New York." It's a strange choice of words, one that makes it sound as if the Republican delegates suspect they somehow landed in Russia's New York. (Perhaps that was the New York that Koch presided over.) But Bloomberg's choice of words is telling. The picture of New York painted during the convention's morning session is a city in tune with the rest of the country, the South, Middle, and West that most Republicans hail from. Maybe Bloomberg should have said, "Welcome to Red America's New York."

After Bloomberg speaks, a video produced by the History Channel tells the political history of the capital of Blue America, but it's really the history of the Republican Party in New York. We hear about the birth of Teddy Roosevelt, for example, but not, say, the Stonewall riots. (The video also contains the first bit of disinformation at the convention: It calls TR "our second-youngest president" when in fact he was the youngest president, taking office as a 42-year-old after the assassination of President McKinley. JFK, at 43, was the youngest man elected to the presidency.) "America's New York" is where the Bill of Rights was written, not where the gay rights movement began. It's where Abraham Lincoln, the most beloved Republican, denounced the spread of slavery at Cooper Union. It's also home to the machinery of global capitalism: the New York Stock Exchange and the headquarters of more major corporations than any other city.

Long before we get to Rudy Giuliani, New York Mayor No. 3 of the day, the message of Day 1 couldn't be clearer: Don't worry, nervous visitors. Despite what you may have heard from your friends (or seen from the protestors), this is your town!

But the Big Apple love-in doesn't last all that long. No one denounces the city, of course, but the disconnect between the majority of New Yorkers and the majority of Republicans comes across during the succession of speeches by GOP congressional candidates. In the most Jewish city in America, Mississippi congressional candidate Clinton LeSueur strays from President Bush's carefully inclusive religious rhetoric. Instead of making the nonsectarian statement in his prepared text—"The very foundation of this country is faith"—LeSueur says, "The very foundation of this country is Christianity and faith in Jesus Christ."

Ted Poe, a congressional candidate from Texas, goes even further. He compares Upper West Side liberals, at least implicitly, to the nation's enemies in the war on terror. The country is currently fighting for freedom abroad in Iraq, Poe says. But it's also fighting for "basic American principles" at home. "This threat is real," he continues. Don't "complain and criticize as the French did in the war in Iraq." No, this dangerous "threat" must be stopped with a fierce barrage of smaller government and lower taxes. "Sitting on the sidelines is not an option," says Poe, sticking with his hilariously inappropriate analogy. "Now is not the time to be a French Republican" (or, as the official transcript of his piece has it, an all-caps "FRENCH REPUBLICAN").

Who screened Poe's speech? Sure, it's not prime time, but certainly someone pointed out (or someone should have pointed out) that it wasn't a good idea to compare Democrats, by far the majority in New York, to Baathists.

Maybe Poe was more shocked by the scale of the anti-Bush protests in the streets than he should have been. He expected the Republicans to be greeted in Manhattan as liberators.


          Dubya Dubya Two   

NEW YORK—There's an old rule of thumb in high school and college debating: The first side that is forced to bring up Hitler to defend its case automatically loses. (Sorry, MoveOn.org.) Referring to Der Fuhrer is a desperate act, the crotch-kick of rhetorical devices. It may get you out of a streetfight, but it is cause for disqualification in more formal settings, like political conventions.

But if you expand the Hitler rule to include all references to World War II, President Bush would have lost this election on a technicality several years ago. After all, if reflecting the glory of the Good War upon yourself is the only way you can make the case for combat, your case isn't very good. Whenever the president is backed into a corner, he relies on a specious historical analogy to defend his policies. Iran, North Korea, and Iraq = Axis. Reconstructing Iraq = Reconstructing Japan. The analogies made by the president and his allies aren't always clear—why is Saddam, for example, compared to Hitler instead of Tojo or Hirohito?—but no one seems to notice.

This administration's embrace of Dubya Dubya Two to defend its foreign policy is as tiresome as the tendency among liberals to believe that the phrase "another Vietnam" is always sufficient proof that the antiwar side is right. So, I was going to challenge the Republican Party at this convention to make the case for its policies without referring to World War II, but it appears that I'm too late. On Sunday evening, excerpts of Rudy Giuliani's Monday night speech were e-mailed to the press. Here's Giuliani on why Bush is a good president: "There are many qualities that make a great leader, but having strong beliefs, being able to stick with them through popular and unpopular times, is the most important characteristic of a great leader." Rudy's first example: "Winston Churchill saw the dangers of Hitler when his opponents and much of the press characterized him as a war-mongering gadfly." Come on, guys. You lost the bet, and the convention hasn't even started yet.

The hoariest cliché in politics (other than "hoariest cliché") is that elections are about the future. But it may be proven wrong this year. The Democrats held the all-Vietnam-all-the-time convention in Boston, and the Republicans look like they will flip the calendar back a few years further in New York. When the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth moved on to John Kerry's activities as an antiwar protester during Vietnam, the presidential campaign seemed to be creakily lurching toward the present, but with only two months to go, we may not have enough time to get there. And now that the GOP wants to talk about the '40s, we don't have a chance.

"We have seen these kind of times in the past. We have seen a former enemy of America, Japan, become an ally in peace," President Bush told USA Today last week. The administration strenuously objected when people tried, on the eve of war in February 2003, to compare Iraq to postwar Japan. Before the war, the Bushies got into a tizzy when anyone suggested there would be a seven-year military occupation. More like 30 days, or six months, or at the absolute maximum two years, they insisted. Now the president trots out the MacArthur comparison every chance he gets.

Earlier this month in Columbus, Ohio, I saw Bush talk about "having Kobe beef" with the prime minister of Japan. "And here we are talking about peace," he said. "Someday, an American President will be talking to a duly-elected leader of Iraq, talking about the peace, and America will be better for it." Here was Bush on Sunday in Wheeling, W.Va., combining two of the most-overused historical analogies in politics, World War II and Harry Truman: "We've done this kind of work before. One of my closest collaborators in peace is the Prime Minister of Japan. It wasn't all that long ago in the march of history that my dad and your dads were fighting the Japanese. And yet here we are, because we insisted upon the transforming qualities of liberty, we insisted that Japan be given a chance to self-govern and be a democratic nation.  We believe that even an enemy could accept liberty as a way of life. Fortunately, my predecessor, Harry Truman, stuck with that point of view." If Bush could have squeezed in a "party of Lincoln" reference and a Cold War riff, he would have hit the historical analogy Grand Slam. (For Democrats, replace "party of Lincoln" with Selma.)

George W. Bush is not FDR, and war opponents are not Neville Chamberlains. I'm tempted to engage the GOP in the historical debate to point out, for example, that one of the lessons of World War II was that international institutions like the United Nations and NATO would help keep the peace in a dangerous world. (That's something Bush claimed to believe in 1999 when he was campaigning for the presidency for the first time. "My goal, should I become the president, is to keep the peace," Bush said in his first debate in New Hampshire, according to Frank Bruni's Ambling Into History. "I intend to do so by strengthening alliances, which says, 'America cannot go alone.' ") Or to point out that the reconstruction of Japan—no sovereignty, no flag, no national anthem, no diplomatic relations—was very different from the Bush policy in Iraq. Or, for those who prefer the Cold War analogy, that President Kennedy agreed during the Cuban Missile Crisis to remove missiles from Turkey in exchange for Khrushchev's removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba.

But that makes it sound like we should be negotiating with Osama Bin Laden over Turkey, which obviously isn't the case. So let's just say that historical analogies are, on their own, insufficient to prove much of anything. I say Saddam, you say Hitler. Let's call the whole thing off.


          John Edwards' To-Do List   

OKLAHOMA CITY—Does John Edwards talk about stuff besides the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads? As he says to the people who ask him a question at his town-hall meetings, "The answer is yes." But once you've been following a candidate for a few days, his stump speech starts to get a little tedious. OK, more than a little tedious. The press corps (and the campaign staff and the Secret Service) entertains itself by playing "Wheel-o," a betting game where we guess which of the 16 numbers scrawled in chalk on the back wheel of the plane will rest on the ground after landing. Or we roll Jack Edwards' toy ball up the aisle of the plane during takeoff and cheer if it gets into the front cabin. Or we take pictures of ourselves in front of the "world's largest six-pack," six brewing tanks painted like beer cans in front of the brewery in La Crosse, Wis. Or we dream of driving to Juarez, Mexico, during tonight's stay in Las Cruces, N.M.

Reporters listen when the candidate speaks, but we don't hear him. My ears perk up only when Edwards says something new or different, and after a while, I start to hear nuances that aren't there. On Monday in La Crosse, Edwards dropped his exaggerated claim that Kerry volunteered for dangerous combat duty in Vietnam. Aha! I thought. The campaign is finally abandoning its mild, needless puffery about Kerry's war record to head off nitpicking from the Swift Boat Veterans and others. Well, nope, actually. The next day Edwards made the claim again.

So, instead of reporting on whatever contrived bit of newness I heard in Edwards' speech today, here's a list of the things he's said over and over again during the past two and a half days. I've stripped out the bromides—"hope over despair, possibilities over problems, optimism over cynicism"—and focused solely on policy proposals. These aren't all the promises or proposals Edwards has made this week, just the ones he makes most often. For best results, crank up Tina Turner's "Simply the Best," Van Hagar's "Right Now," or anything by Bruce Springsteen or John Cougar Mellencamp while reading:

  • raise the minimum wage;
  • spend more money on: early education, public schools, child care, afterschool programs, and salaries for teachers in the communities where they're needed;
  • raise taxes on: companies that take jobs overseas; individuals who make more than $200,000 a year;
  • reduce taxes for: small businesses that create jobs in communities with high unemployment; individuals through a $1,000 tax credit for health care and a $4,000 tax credit for college tuition (in addition to promising four years of tuition to individuals who perform two years of public service);
  • improve health care by: making the congressional health-care plan available for purchase by all Americans; covering all children; allowing prescription drugs to be imported from Canada; and allowing the government to use its bulk-purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices from pharmaceutical companies;
  • reform labor laws by: swiftly and severely punishing employers that violate labor laws; banning the hiring of permanent replacements for strikers; "make card-check neutrality the law of the land";
  • fight the war on terror by: strengthening alliances to help "get terrorists before they get us";
  • improve the situation in Iraq by: improving our relations with allies so that NATO will agree to get involved; keeping Iran and Syria from interfering; and getting "others involved in reconstruction besides Halliburton."

Though the real message is the one-point plan of getting a new president.

Refer to this list often. Read it three or four times each day while grooving to Van Halen. Pretty soon, when John Edwards asks, "Are we going to have a president and a vice president who actually understands what's going on in your lives? Who presents an optimistic, positive, hopeful, uplifting vision of America? Or are we going to have a campaign based on fear and lies?" you'll be praying for more fear and lies, too.


          Dog Bites President   

COLUMBUS, Ohio—For the past few days, John Edwards has been standing in the middle of a river in the middle of a war, watching as enemy soldiers shoot at his commanding officer. His response? To call the other side's general and ask him to get the soldiers to stop. The general said he condemns all war, it's hell you know, and he sure wishes that all soldiers would lay down their weapons. Perhaps Edwards' CO would join him in that condemnation? Meanwhile, the officer was dying. So on Tuesday, Edwards finally decided to start firing back.

He's still pleading on the phone with President Bush, sure, but at least he's wielding a pistol in his other hand while he's doing it. Maybe it's because Edwards is in Ohio, one of the three states where the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads have actually aired, but his remarks to the state AFL-CIO convention are angrier, more forceful, and more effective than the ones he made Monday in Wisconsin. They're also different in a subtle way. In addition to saying the ads are lies and asking the president to condemn them, Edwards adds two components: He reiterates the most heroic components of Kerry's war record, and he describes the Swift boat veterans as a front group that aims to do more than obscure the person of President Bush. Its attacks are designed to obscure the record of his administration.

It doesn't sound like much—in fact it's pretty obvious—but it makes a huge difference. Again, Edwards broaches the subject by saying that he wants to talk about "what's been happening" in the campaign, and everyone immediately knows what he means. Again, he says that "it's a lie" paid for by "George Bush's friends." If Bush had "backbone and courage and leadership," he would ask his friends to pull the ads from the air, Edwards says. "Yesterday he had a chance" to do that "because he spoke for the first time, instead of having a spokesperson speak on his behalf. Instead of standing behind a front group, he spoke on his own behalf for the first time on this subject. And what did we get? We got a typical politician's answer, a non-answer." Edwards says that "every day that this goes on," he will demand that Bush tell the group to pull its ads.

Then Edwards takes advantage of the controversy to take a moment to restate Kerry's heroics. This is the big plus of the Swift ads for Kerry. Without them, the stories of how the Democratic nominee saved a man's life 30 years ago would have grown tiresome and induce eye-rolling by now. But with Kerry's service being slandered, the tale still has force. Kerry's crewmates "saw him save one of his crewmates, pull him out of a river," Edwards says. "Saw him turn his boat around in the middle of battle and drive it through enemy position in order to save his crew. Strong, decisive, courageous, is that not what we deserve in our commander in chief?"

In response to this tactic, the Bush campaign has been reduced to comparing the president to Bill Clinton. Tuesday morning, the campaign e-mailed a statement from campaign chairman Marc Racicot to reporters that read, in part, that the Kerry campaign is trying "to divide America by who served and how—something that John Kerry said we should never do when he declared during the 1992 campaign, 'We do not need to divide America over who served and how.' " (This despite the fact that four years ago, Bush took affront when John McCain compared him to the 42nd president. "Do not compare me to Bill Clinton," Bush said, pronouncing the name "Clin-TAWN," as if it were a new species of evil Star Trek alien.)

But the new line taken by Edwards is based on more than a comparison of the Vietnam records of Kerry and Bush. The reason the Swift boat veterans want to focus on the past, Edwards suggests, the reason they must resort to "a campaign based on fear and lies," is because the present is so miserable. "During the last three weeks or so that these ads have been running, that they've been focused on this personal, negative attack on John Kerry, what's happened here in the state of Ohio?" Edwards asks. "Forty-five-hundred people have filed for bankruptcy. Four proud military men and women" from Ohio have lost their lives in Iraq. "The price of a barrel of oil has gone up $5."

It's not perfect, and it may not be enough. But when Edwards returns to his favored buzzwords of optimism and hope and positive campaigning, he sounds even phonier than usual. It's about time.


          Edwards Buries the Hatchet   

RACINE, Wis.—"If you're looking for the candidate who does the best job of attacking other Democrats, I am not your guy," John Edwards told appreciative crowds during the Democratic primaries. But senator, what about attacking Republicans?

Mr. Positive needs to prove that he can go negative, or he's in danger of turning into the second coming of Joe Lieberman. When I followed Wesley Clark's campaign in New Hampshire this past December, Clark strategistChris Lehane complained about Lieberman's high-minded refusal to go negative against Bush and Cheney in 2000. As a result, Lehane said, Al Gore had to be his own hatchet man, and Gore's unfavorability ratings soared. Lieberman's jaunty smile while Dick Cheney eviscerated him during the 2000 vice presidential debate didn't endear him to Democrats, either.

Edwards isn't in Lieberman's class yet, but as the Democratic Party's vice presidential nominee, he needs to jettison his carefully crafted persona as the smiling man of optimism who disdains "tired old hateful politics." During a multicandidate primary, the smilestrategy made a lot of sense. But as John Kerry's running mate in a two-man race for the presidency, Edwards' job is to engage in tired old hateful politics so that Kerry doesn't have to. That's what veeps do. And so far, Edwards hasn't been up to the task.

Edwards' day begins Monday morning in Racine, Wis., at a town hall designed to highlight upcoming changes in overtime regulations. He prefaces his remarks with a brief statement about the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth controversy that has dominated the last couple weeks of the presidential campaign. Edwards must know that, for better or worse, these words will air on the cable networks and appear in the next day's news stories. The Swift boat controversy has become such a pervasive feature of the campaign that Edwards doesn't even need to explain what he's talking about.

Edwards launches into his speech with a Liebermanesque, more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger critique. He contrasts the Democratic campaign's "positive vision, optimistic vision, hopeful vision about what's possible in America" with the Republicans' "relentless negative attacks" against them. "And I want to say a word about those attacks," he says. "No. 1, the claim that John Kerry did not serve this country honorably in Vietnam is a lie," proven false by news organizations and Kerry's comrades in Vietnam. "The second thing that has become clearer is that those ads are being financed by and pushed by friends of George W. Bush," he continues. Third, Edwards points out that "this is the same kind of smear campaigning and tactics that we saw against John McCain back in the 2000 presidential primary."

Edwards then gets to the heart of his complaint. He wants the president to say three little words: "Stop these ads." He says, "We're not asking the president to give us the same old rhetoric, that John Kerry's service was honorable, you know, that we're proud of his service in Vietnam. That's the same thing he was saying about John McCain when they were smearing him back in 2000." Then Edwards delivers his toughest line: "No, these ads were intended, and have been running now for about three weeks, they were intended to attack the character of John Kerry. In fact, they've shown us something about the character of George W. Bush."

But instead of elaborating on what we've learned about the president's character over the past three weeks or, even better, instead of making a careful lawyerly rebuttal of the veterans' charges, Edwards meekly says that hope is on the way. "We hope the president finally steps to the plate and does what he ought to do. All of us hope that."

I admit I'm not sure exactly what Edwards should say to respond to the veterans, but asking President Bush to condemn the Swift boat ads isn't sufficient. For one, Bush has shown that he isn't willing to do so. In fact, Bush is adroitly using the group's existence to criticize the Kerry-Edwards campaign's reliance on their own 527 groups. The line of attack that Edwards is currently taking against Bush is allowing the president to turn this into a pox-on-both-houses controversy. But if both sides are diseased, the Democrats are infecting the campaign with chicken pox while the Swift boat vets are spreading the political version of the stuff that settlers gave to Indians in blankets.

But any tactic would be better than begging Bush for mercy. Stop asking Bush to condemn the ads. Take the fight to the Swift boat vets themselves. Point out that the burden of proof is on Kerry's critics to prove their claims true, not on Kerry to prove them false. Point out that the U.S. military agrees with Kerry. Attack the president for not contradicting the smears when they're repeated by voters at "Ask President Bush" forums. Stop asking and start telling.

In the long run, the controversy could help Kerry by giving him a valid excuse to run Vietnam ads for the duration of the campaign. I still think it helps Kerry anytime the national conversation topic is John Kerry's service in Vietnam. But it has to be a conversation, not a monologue. And opening a second conversation with President Bush isn't helping. In fact, it seems to be hurting.

Kerry and Edwards are responding to Bush in the exact same way that John McCain responded in 2000 during the South Carolina primary, by attempting to publicly shame Bush into apologizing. It's a mistake. The whole McCain complex that imbues the Edwards attack on Bush is a mistake. Yes, John McCain is a Vietnam veteran, and so is John Kerry. Yes, McCain's service was smeared by allies of George W. Bush, and now the same thing is happening to John Kerry. But it's worth remembering that John McCain lost a race to George W. Bush. And if this keeps up, so will John Kerry.


          The Right Rev. George W. Bush   

COLUMBUS, Ohio—"I feel like a talk-show host," President Bush says midway through Thursday's first campaign event. He's standing next to a stool and a lectern, and he paces in circles to address the audience seated on all sides around him. Even from a distance, I can see why Bush charmed the press corps during his 2000 campaign. He's likable, winning, and self-deprecating. He's also quick on his feet, not with an instant recall of statistics but with snappy retorts that break up the room. This event was billed as an "Ask President Bush" forum, and although there didn't turn out to be much time for questions, from the outset the intimate setting made it more interactive than a typical presidential visit.

The president didn't get it quite right when he called himself a talk-show host. He opens more in the vein of a revival-tent preacher, albeit a subdued one, and he concludes as a standup comic. "I think you have to ask for the vote," Bush says near the beginning, as he always does. "You got it!" yells someone, the first of many call-and-response moments. Then Bush segues into something that sounds more like a sermon than a stump speech.

"All of you are soldiers in the army of compassion," the clergyman-in-chief tells the crowd. "And one of the reasons I'm seeking the office for four more years is to call upon our citizens to love your neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself." After his usual endorsement of the Golden Rule, Bush speaks of souls, which also isn't unusual for him: "We can change America one soul at a time by encouraging people to spread something government cannot spread, which is love."

Bush goes on to talk about his desire to have the government fund more faith-based initiatives. "If you're an addict, if you're hooked on drugs or alcohol, sometimes government counseling can work. But sometimes it requires a change of heart in order to change habit," he says. "There are people who are empowered to change hearts in our society. Not by government, by a higher calling, and therefore government ought to welcome these words of compassion and healing."

Bush isn't a fire-and-brimstone preacher, talking about sinners in the hands of an angry God. He's a hippie priest, emphasizing the Christian message of brotherly love. I can almost hear the guitars and tambourines. He says, "I know we can change America for the better by calling on those who are change agents, those who are willing to put our arm around someone who needs love and say, 'I love you, brother. I love you, sister. What can I do to help you have a better life here in America?'"

From there, Bush becomes a teacher, imparting "the lessons of September the 11th, 2001." "We'll never forget!" a man seated among the firefighters calls out. Bush's Lesson 1: "We're facing an enemy which has no heart, no compassion. And that puts them at an advantage in a way, because we're a country of heart and compassion." Lesson 2: "In order to defend the homeland, we got to be on the offense. We must deal with those people overseas, so we don't have to face them here at home." Lesson 3: "In order to be able to defend ourselves, we've got to say to people who are willing to harbor a terrorist or feed a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorists." Lesson 4: "When we see threats, we must deal with them before they fully materialize." Lesson 5 is a corollary of Lesson 4: "We saw a threat in Iraq."

Even while Bush is in his teaching mode, the whole event has a Sunday-morning air. Bush says of Saddam, "He had used weapons of mass destruction. Remember that? He had used them on his own people." The crowd murmurs back, "That's right, that's right." When Bush mentions that John Kerry and John Edwards were two of only 12 senators—whom Wednesday he called "a small, out-of-the-mainstream minority"—to vote against the $87 billion for the war in Iraq, someone else yells out, "Shame on them!"

Bush almost gets weepy later, when he tells a story "that touched my heart," about seven Iraqi men who visited him in the Oval Office. The men's right hands were chopped off by order of Saddam Hussein, and they had X's burned into their foreheads. An American organization provided them with prostheses. "A guy took my Sharpie, wrapped his new fingers and wrote, 'God bless America,' in Arabic," Bush says, his voice choking up. "What a contrast," he says. In America, "We want to heal you, no matter who you are," his voice catching again.

So, are we going to abandon Iraq? Bush asks the crowd. "Are we going to be a country of our word?" he asks. "Or are we going to go timid and weary and afraid of the barbaric behavior of a few?" The crowd shouts back: "No!"

As the event winds down, Bush gets looser and funnier. He points to a member of the crowd, one of the hand-picked Ohioans intended to represent a particular Bush policy, and says that she can explain it better than he can. Then he turns to another audience member and says, "You didn't have to agree with her." When another of the Representative Americans tells Bush that she recently received her associate's degree, magna cum laude, Bush replies, "That's better than I did, I want you to know."

Bush says a CEO in the audience has an interesting idea to share. The man doesn't say anything. "Flex time," Bush says. "I'm glad you told me what my interesting idea was," the CEO says appreciatively. Bush replies, "I'm not a lawyer, but it looks like I'm leading the witness." "I appreciate that," the CEO says, and Bush shoots back, "You appreciate the fact that I'm not a lawyer?"

After last week's Democratic convention, I felt that John Kerry had become the favorite in the presidential race. Now, after only two days with President Bush, I'm not so sure. He's that good. Unlike many people, I'm not threatened by the president's religious rhetoric. It must be the Midwestern Catholic in me. Like the people in the audience, I find it familiar and comforting. I can see why so many people believe the president is "one of us," no matter how rich or how elite his background. And I can see that Kerry will have a tough time besting Bush in all three debates.

Still, not everything goes perfectly. When Bush gets ready to leave, he announces, "I'm off to Saginaw, Michigan," forgetting what must be a central tenet of Buckeye State politics: Never mention the state that is Ohio State's biggest rival, especially in Columbus, home to the university. For the first time all day, two men near me boo.


          Looking Backward   

MANKATO, Minn.—After watching President Bush speak for only a couple of hours on the 2004 stump, it's easy to see the main tenets of his re-election campaign: My opponent is un-American, or at least less American than me and you. My opponent, much like Al Gore, doesn't know who he is. My opponent is a tax-hiking, big-government liberal. Worse, he wants to ask other countries for permission for America to defend itself against its enemies. Last, and most important, my wife is better than his wife.

What you don't hear from President Bush's stump speech, or from his surrogates, is what he plans to do were he given another four years as president. The problem is particularly glaring on matters of foreign policy. There are glimmers of a domestic agenda in the president's two campaign events Wednesday: He wants to reform America's high schools, increase math and science education, and increase the use of the Internet in schools. He wants more ethanol subsidies. He wants to make health care more available and affordable. He wants less regulation. He likes community colleges. He wants workers to be able to acquire flex time and comp time in lieu of overtime pay.

Bush also gives his audiences a rehash of the greatest hits from his 2000 campaign mantras. He likes tort reform and dislikes "frivolous lawsuits." (A favorite line of Bush crowds: "You cannot be pro-patient and pro-doctor and pro-trial lawyer at the same time. You have to choose. My opponent made his choice, and he put him on the ticket.") He wants private Social Security accounts for younger workers. He likes marriage and the family, which always gets him a big cheer, because what it really means is he's against gay marriage. He's for a "culture of life," "judges who faithfully interpret the law instead of legislating from the bench," and a "culture of responsibility." Not to mention the responsibility society and the ownership society. He's still against the soft bigotry of low expectations. And of course, he wants everyone to love their neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself.

Bush doesn't talk much about the future. He talks about the past. The biggest portions of Bush's speech are spent mounting a vigorous defense of his presidency. When Bush's campaign foundered in New Hampshire four years ago, he retooled his strategy in response to John McCain and began billing himself as a "reformer with results." He's not using that slogan yet, but the rhetoric is similar. "It's not enough to advocate reform," he says. "You have to be able to get it done." The closing section of his speech ends with the mantra, "Results matter." On education, health care, the economy, farms, and security, Bush concludes by saying, "Results matter." Of his Medicare prescription drug benefit, Bush says, "Leaders in both political parties had promised prescription drug coverage for years. We got the job done."

Bush spends the longest amount of time defending his policies after Sept. 11. He takes credit for the creation of the Homeland Security Department (one of those things that Bush voted against before he voted for it), and he takes pride in the Patriot Act. Afghanistan has gone from being the "home base of al-Qaida" to being a "rising democracy." Pakistan, once a "safe transit point for terrorists," is now an ally. Saudi Arabia, he says, "is taking the fight to al-Qaida." Libya has given up its quest for weapons of mass destruction.

Most of all, Bush defends the war in Iraq. He repeats the litany of reasons for going to war: Saddam was defying the will of the United Nations, he harbored terrorists, he funded suicide bombers, he used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. "In other words, we saw a threat," Bush says. "Members of the United States Congress from both political parties, including my opponent, looked at the intelligence and came to the same conclusion."

What Bush doesn't acknowledge is what went wrong: The WMD were never found. We weren't welcomed as liberators. Oil revenues haven't paid for the war. It wasn't a cakewalk. What went wrong? Why? Given four more years, what does Bush plan to do about it? He hasn't told us yet, other than suggesting "more of the same."

"Every incumbent who asks for your vote has got to answer one central question, and that's 'Why?'" Bush says. "Why should the American people give me the high privilege of serving as your president for four more years?" The answer Bush gives to that question is his record. He says he deserves re-election because of what he has already done. At Wednesday's first event, in Davenport, Iowa, U.S. Rep. Jim Nussle embodies this attitude when he introduces Bush to the crowd. "There is no one I would have wanted to be at the helm of this country these last four years than you," Nussle says.

Bush and Nussle are asking the wrong question. The real question an incumbent faces is, what now? What's next? So far, Bush isn't telling. A president's record matters, but the reason it matters is because it has predictive value. Bush's defenders say he is a transformational figure, that he's willing to take on big problems and challenges. Wouldn't you like to know what Bush believes those big problems and challenges would be in foreign policy over the next four years? Are there gathering threats that, like Iraq, he thinks need to be tackled "before they materialize"? The president says that is the lesson of Sept. 11, that the nation must confront its security problems pre-emptively. Where else does he plan to apply that lesson? Does he plan to tell us?

After the 2002 midterm elections, when Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill objected to another round of tax cuts for the rich, Vice President Cheney told O'Neill to discard his worries. We won the midterm elections, Cheney said. "This is our due." As much as liberals dislike President Bush's record over the past four years, it's the prospect of another four years that terrifies them. What they want to know—what keeps them awake at night—is what President Bush hasn't answered yet: What are you going to do next? This time, what will be your due?


          The Composite Candidate   

BOSTON—The early portions of John Kerry's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president of the United States resembled a typical Kerry for President campaign event. It was variety hour, with Kerry as emcee, introducing and thanking his special guests: his running mate, John Edwards; his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry; his children and stepchildren, Alexandra and Vanessa Kerry and Andre, Chris, and John Heinz; and of course Max Cleland and Kerry's Vietnam "band of brothers." In a new twist, Kerry also took a moment to thank each of his primary opponents by name—Carol Moseley Braun, Wesley Clark, Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, Bob Graham, Dennis Kucinich, Joe Lieberman, and Al Sharpton. He thanked them for "teaching me and testing me—but mostly, we say thank you for standing up for our country and for giving us the unity to move America forward." But Kerry forgot to thank them for one other thing: writing his acceptance speech.

When he began his run for the presidency, Kerry possessed the biography, the résumé, the presence, and even the height required for a successful campaign. But initially he struggled to provide a compelling rationale, beyond those assets, for why he should assume the highest office in the land. Sure, he kind of looked like a president, and yes, he seemed to think he deserved it, but that wasn't enough to convince voters in 2003. Later, the rise of Howard Dean and John Edwards sharpened Kerry as a candidate—perhaps because he becomes more focused on deadline, but also because he co-opted their messages, sometimes verbatim.

Kerry turned himself into the Democratic composite candidate, and with the addition of his biography, the one component no other candidate could borrow, he steamrolled the field. So, it was appropriate for him to thank the eight candidates who, in large or small part, provided the content that catapulted Kerry to the nomination and that now, he hopes, will carry him to the presidency.

To be fair, there were healthy chunks of Kerry's message from the primaries in the address. His line that, after Vietnam, "every day is extra" was used in an Iowa TV commercial that helped power him to his surprise victory in the caucuses there. Kerry didn't talk a lot about cutting middle-class taxes during the primaries, but his message that Howard Dean was going to raise taxes on the middle class helped spike Dean's candidacy. The attacks on outsourcing and corporate welfare were familiar to anyone who's watched Kerry campaign, and so was the sense of entitlement—or for those who want to view it charitably, destiny—that came across when he told Americans that as a child in a Colorado hospital, "I was born in the West Wing."

But Kerry also sounded a lot like his running mate, John Edwards. He talked to voters directly about their struggles to pay the bills: "You know what's happening. Your premiums, your co-payments, your deductibles have all gone through the roof." He mentioned the rise in the number of families living in poverty, a pet Edwards issue. His "we're the optimists" line was pure Edwards, and when he noted, "I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side," he was pilfering the quote from the guy he chose for the ticket, who used it during their final primary debate.

Kerry sprinkled some of the best stuff from the rest of the field into the speech, too. Dean loved to attack Republicans for trying to appropriate the American flag for their own private use, when in fact it was the flag of all Americans, even—gasp—Democrats. Tonight, Kerry added a similar riff to his repertoire. He also adapted Dean's line about a president's most solemn duty being to tell the truth before taking a nation to war, when he promised to "be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war." There was also a dash of Wesley Clark's "new patriotism," Clark's affirmation of dissent as patriotism's highest form, when Kerry said, "We are here to affirm that when Americans stand up and speak their minds and say America can do better, that is not a challenge to patriotism; it is the heart and soul of patriotism." Clark also had a riff about family values that Kerry adapted tonight, saying, "It is time for those who talk about family values to start valuing families."

And, could it be? Was that a tiny drop of Bob Graham I heard when Kerry criticized America's dependence on the Saudi royal family for oil? The speech even contained a hint of Carol Moseley Braun, who liked to say, "It doesn't matter if you came to this country on the Mayflower or a slave ship, through Ellis Island or across the Rio Grande, we're all in the same boat now." What kind of America did Kerry say he wanted to lead? "An America where we are all in the same boat." There were only the tiniest hints, if any at all, of the rhetoric of Gephardt, Kucinich, Lieberman, or Sharpton that I could discern (though I feared before the speech began that its delivery would be pure Joementum), but that was for the best. There's no use burglarizing the poorest houses in your neighborhood.

Kerry shouldn't be criticized for adopting his competitors' rhetoric, especially now that the race is long over. Good politicians borrow, after all, while great politicians steal. And the candidate of a unified party might was well be the sum of all its candidates.

There are two questions, though, about Kerry's use of this political strategy. For one, there's a limit to how much longer he can use it. The zeal of the Democrats to retake the White House grants Kerry a fair amount of leeway to co-opt Bush's message and appeal to the center for the next three months, but he can't exactly get up and declare himself the candidate of compassionate conservatism. (Or can he?)

Perhaps more important is the extent to which Kerry's remarkable ability to be all things to all Democrats has convinced nearly every faction of the party, from paleoliberals to New Democrats, that he is their candidate. Should Kerry actually take office in January, won't his grand coalition splinter once he starts disappointing certain elements within it? My guess is yes, and that Kerry doesn't particularly care at the moment. It's a problem he'd be happy to grapple with for four more years.


          I'm a War Vice President   

BOSTON—I admit it. I don't get it. John Edwards is a perfectly fine public speaker, and compared to the likes of Bob Graham, he's Cicero, but I've never understood the press corps' crush on him. Of all the Democratic presidential candidates with whom I shared a small one-on-one encounter—even a handshake and a quick question—I found Edwards the least personally charming. Wesley Clark was a stiff shouter in speeches, but he had a likable way of engaging in locker-room razzing with the media. Howard Dean, the candidate whose stump persona (at least until he began messianic chanting) most closely resembled the one he put forth to the press, had a regular-guy air. Even John Kerry was hands-on, a guy who would put his arm around you to bring you into his circle. The awkward forcedness of the moment was part of its A-for-effort appeal.

Edwards, on the other hand, was guarded, bland, and impenetrable when I sat down for a 30-minute interview with him last September in a supporter's home in Sioux City, Iowa. He had nothing to say beyond the confines of his scripted talking points, even on the subject of his home state of North Carolina's recent pilfering of Roy Williams from my beloved Kansas Jayhawks (beyond conceding, "I wanted Roy baaaaad"). He showed no interest in small talk or idle conversation, just question, response, stop. Question, response, stop. The candidate Edwards most resembled was Dick Gephardt, who was similarly suspicious during my 10-minute encounter with him, but at least Gephardt displayed a deep knowledge of policy. And I didn't mind because, hey, you don't expect to be charmed by Dick Gephardt.

But Edwards' great strength as a candidate is supposed to be his ability to melt people with his winning smile. I was initially impressed by his public charm, particularly the first time I saw him deliver his revamped "Two Americas" stump speech in January. But that quickly wore thin, too. His delivery appears artful at first, but with repetition I saw it as rote and mechanical, so practiced that it's a little bit creepy. I find him as inscrutable as I did in that Iowa living room 10 months ago. As the campaign continued and Edwards kept drawing rave reviews, even from Republicans, I started asking myself: What's wrong with me?

With those doubts in mind, like everyone else I waited for Edwards' moment to arrive Wednesday night with anticipation. I wanted to see him deliver a new speech, a piece of oratory worthy of a presidential nominating convention. Edwards delivered that speech, a captivating declaration of the ways a Kerry-Edwards administration would wage the war on terror. Edwards was sure and forceful, and he outlined a powerful alternative to the Bush administration's war. Unfortunately, he took until the fifth page of the transcript of his seven-page speech to get to that play-within-the-play, and the minispeech was finished by the middle of the sixth page. The speech I wanted to see was bookended by disappointment.

The opening wasn't awful, but it wasn't particularly good, either. I was touched to hear Edwards mention his son Wade, who died in a car accident eight years ago and whom he writes about with grace in his book Four Trials. I don't recall hearing Edwards ever say the word "Wade" in public before. I once saw him tell a voter that he had four children, and then he named only three: Cate, Emma Claire, and Jack.

After that moving—perhaps only to me—moment, Edwards transitioned into the John-Kerry-served-in-Vietnam portion of his address. Maybe it's nitpicky, but some of the assertions he made, and has made before, aren't exactly accurate. He said that Kerry's decision to beach his Swift boat while under fire was made "in a split-second," which isn't right. It was a decision Kerry had talked about and hashed out with his crew in advance. That doesn't make it less brave or less brilliant, but the story ought to be told the right way.

Likewise, Edwards implied that Kerry knew that captaining a Swift boat was a dangerous duty when he volunteered for it, which isn't true. When Kerry asked for Swift duty, he wasn't asking for a combat job. It was only later that the Swifts' role in the war changed. Again, that fact doesn't detract from John Kerry's valor. In fact, it makes Kerry more understandable, more human. It shows how Kerry, an opponent of the Vietnam War before he enlisted, ended up unhappily—but with distinction—participating in it. Without that element of his story, Kerry becomes a thoughtful and serious young man, skeptical about Vietnam, who enthusiastically asks to be allowed to ship out and kill people he thinks of as innocents. I prefer the story of a man who got put in a situation he didn't ask for but did his duty anyway.

After Kerry-in-Vietnam, Edwards shifted into son-of-a-mill-worker mode, followed by Two Americas. He was, however, more substantive than usual, listing off specific policies a Kerry administration would seek to enact: tax credits for health care, child care, and college tuition, paid for by an increase in taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. I think rolling back the high end of the tax cuts is a good idea, but if a lot of Americans thought they were in the top 1 percent four years ago, how many think they are in the top 2 percent? He should have given us a salary figure.

But whatever flaws marred the portions of the speech about domestic policy, they were erased by the masterful section on foreign policy and the war on terrorism. About 20 minutes into his speech, Edwards painted the images of Sept. 11—"the towers falling, the Pentagon in flames, and the smoldering field in Pennsylvania"—and he mourned the nearly 3,000 who died. Unlike many of the speakers during the convention's first three days, Edwards didn't refer to 9/11 as a lost opportunity or a nostalgic period of national unity. He noted it as a tragedy that plunged the nation into war.

Edwards criticized the Bush administration for dragging its feet on intelligence reform, and he promised better homeland security, safer ports, and more money for first responders—firefighters, cops, and emergency medical technicians. He also promised more dead terrorists. "And we will have one clear unmistakable message for al-Qaida and the rest of these terrorists," he said. "You cannot run. You cannot hide. And we will destroy you." And on the subject of Iraq, Edwards declared that America would win. He promised more special forces, a modernized military, stronger alliances, and he even said the magic words I didn't expect to hear: "a democratic Iraq."

Not long after that, he went back to heart-tugging and platitudes, and I was again wondering why I don't get it. But one moment moved me, though you had to have watched Edwards closely for the last year to catch it: He adapted the conclusion of Four Trials, the book in which he talks most freely about Wade, for the speech. The last lines of the book are nearly the same as the ones Edwards said, near the very end of the speech, when he talked about the lessons he has learned during his sometimes tragic life. One lesson, Edwards said, is that "there will always be heartache and struggle—you can't make it go away. But the other is that people of good and strong will can make a difference. One is a sad lesson and the other's inspiring. We are Americans and we choose to be inspired."

I saw it as a second mention of his son, this one a more private one, to pay tribute to the one member of the family who couldn't share this night with his dad.


          The Deaniacs Live!   

BOSTON—He won't garner many delegates during Wednesday night's roll call, but Howard Dean still leads in the hearts of at least one demographic: people with home-made signs. Even offline, here on the floor of the FleetCenter, his most ardent supporters possess a blogger's sensibility. They reject the lame "Doing Right for America" placards provided by the message-masters of the Democratic National Convention as props to wave during Dean's Tuesday night speech. How "mass media," how "broadcast," to print thousands of posters of unremitting sameness and then expect that one size to fit all.

Instead, as Dean walks to the podium, his true believers hold aloft Dean for America T-shirts and signs, relics from the primary campaign. They carried them in themselves, so they could show their allegiance at this moment. One sign is so wrinkled and worn it looks like it was accidentally left in someone's shirt pocket and put in the wash. Like a longtime fan sporting a tattered T-shirt at a rock concert, the delegate refuses to part with it.

But the true Deaniac spirit is carried on by the delegates who drew up signs using posterboard and magic marker, like a fourth-grade art project. There's a row of four hand-scrawled letters, D-E-A-N. Others say, "Thanks, Howard," "Vermont [Heart Sign] Dean," "XO Dean," and "I Screamed for Dean, Now I Scream for Kerry." In the same do-it-yourself spirit, the local Dean Meetup printed up stickers reading, "Another Dean Democrat for Kerry" and handed them out to the crowd filing into the convention. One woman in the Colorado delegation brandishes a gigantic black-and-white enlargement of Dean on the cover of Time magazine. She looks like the love child of a political activist and a crazed basketball fan trying to distract a free-throw shooter.

Dean also seems to enjoy a disproportionate share of support among delegates in elaborate costume, the people with red-white-and-blue sequined top hats or plush-toy donkeys on their heads. Three women in sombreros from the Texas delegation can't get enough of him. Almost exactly a year ago, I described the Dean campaign as having a "low-rent allure," and here it all is, still on glorious display.

The crowd roars and roars and roars, a neverending ovation. The most enthusiastic Deaniacs seem to be in the back, in the worst seats, in the red states where Democrats can't win. Dean calls out to these marginalized Democrats during the speech, saying: "We're going to be proud to call ourselves Democrats, not just here in Boston. We're going to be proud to call ourselves Democrats in Mississippi, proud to call ourselves Democrats in Utah and Idaho. And we're going to be proud to call ourselves Democrats in Texas." The Utah and Texas delegations behind me stand and—what else—scream.

The Colorado woman with the humongous Time cover sits rapt during the entire speech. I can't quite tell, but I think she's on the verge of tears. Dean walked out to "Revolution," and—except for the two miniature pom-poms stuck in her hair—this woman's ecstasy comes straight out of an old Beatlemania newsreel.

When the speech is over, I walk over and ask about her costume, which I now notice includes a "Deaniac for Kerry" pin. "It's retail politics, it's getting people excited about politics again," she enthuses. "You gotta have a gimmick." Her name tag says Leslie Robinson, 2nd Vice Chair of the Colorado Democratic Party. She was a Dean Meetup host. "Notice how he didn't say it was about me the candidate," she says. "He said it was about 'you.' "

Unprompted, she volunteers a point that helps explain why the loudest cheering seems to come from red-state delegates. The Dean campaign was driven by "people who felt disenfranchised for a long, long time," Robinson says. I ask her what she means by that. "They didn't think that their vote counted," she explains. "They didn't think they could make a difference. And he showed them that we can."

I ask if she's a Dean delegate. She shakes her head. "When Howard Dean decided to support Kerry, I'm a good soldier, and I said, 'Yes, sir,' " she says, standing up and snapping a stiff military salute.


          The Cheese Stands Alone   

BOSTON—Throughout his presidential campaign, John Kerry has relied on a team of salesmen to make the case for why voters should elect him as the next man to occupy the Oval Office. Even before the arrival of John Edwards as his running mate, Kerry seemed to know that he needed a charismatic advocate by his side at all times. In Iowa, Christie Vilsack, the wife of Hawkeye State Gov. Tom Vilsack, charmed the crowds at Kerry events, and the surprise arrival of this-man-saved-my-life Jim Rassman cinched the caucuses for Kerry. In New Hampshire, it was Bay State neighbor Teddy Kennedy who entertained the audience, while Kerry was content to play master of ceremonies to a cavalcade of guest stars. In effect, the first three days of the Democratic convention take the conceit of the standard Kerry campaign event to its logical conclusion, by eliminating the candidate entirely.

Unfortunately, it didn't work quite as well on Monday night as I expected. Al Gore and Jimmy Carter, the night's two main speakers not named Clinton, made powerful and persuasive critiques of George W. Bush's presidency, but they failed to advance much of a positive case for a President Kerry. Gore, the first major speaker to take the stage, gave the best speech it's possible for Al Gore to deliver, hitting that third gear he usually skips, the one in between robotic Gore and mental-patient Gore. It felt like Gore's turn to have a Bob Dole moment, to reinvent himself as an elder statesman who laughs at himself.

But what the speech did for Gore is less important than what it did for Kerry: not enough. Gore's case against Bush was clear and convincing. He asked those who voted for his opponent four years ago, "Did you really get what you expected from the candidate that you voted for? Is our country more united today? Or more divided? Has the promise of compassionate conservatism been fulfilled? Or do those words now ring hollow? For that matter, are the economic policies really conservative at all? Did you expect, for example, the largest deficits in history?" Gore also reached out to Nader voters—and maybe even to capital-L Libertarians—asking, "Do you still believe that there was no difference between the candidates?" Gore even advanced what Mickey Kaus dubs the "Pedro Martinez" theory of the presidential campaign. He asked supporters of the Iraq war to consider the merits of a relief pitcher: "Wouldn't we be better off with a new President who hasn't burned his bridges to our allies, and who could rebuild respect for America in the world?"

But if you're deciding whether to turn to the bullpen, it matters whether the guy warming up is Eric Gagne or Byung-Hyun Kim, and Gore doesn't do much to assure voters who aren't certain about Kerry's merits. Here's the entirety of his case for Kerry: He is loyal. He is honest. He is patriotic. He served in Vietnam. He protects the environment. He fights narcoterrorism. He's a deficit hawk. He picked John Edwards.

It's not a bad list, but it feels insufficient. Carter's speech suffered from a similar problem. It was filled with reasons to vote against George Bush but not enough reasons to vote for John Kerry. Carter's critique of Bush was even more effective than Gore's, though, in part because it was so genially vicious. Alone of all the speakers Monday night, Carter alluded to Bush's service, or lack thereof, in the National Guard. He noted that Truman and Eisenhower, the two presidents Carter served under during his time in the Navy, "faced their active military responsibilities with honor." Kerry, likewise, "showed up when assigned to duty, and he served with honor and distinction." Carter also came the closest of any speaker to calling Bush a liar. He said that if Bush wins reelection, "the manipulation of truth will define America's role in the world," and he said that "in the world at large we cannot lead if our leaders mislead." Carter even made what to my ear sounds like a reference to the Abu Ghraib scandal, saying that "we cannot be true to ourselves if we mistreat others."

Like Gore, however, Carter's embrace of Kerry wasn't as persuasive as his denunciation of Bush. This is nice, but it just isn't enough, I think to myself. Maybe Kerry can't rely on surrogates anymore. He's going to have to finally sell himself. Then Bill Clinton strode into the FleetCenter to worshipful applause.

Clinton sold Kerry, rather than just tearing down the leading brand. And he managed to tie Kerry's Vietnam experience into a compelling thematic refrain, with Kerry declaring "send me," like a believer answering God's call, every time his nation needed him. Soon, the crowd began chanting Clinton's refrain with him. As usual, Clinton's familiarity with the language of religion added depth to his oratory. After Clinton said to remember the Scripture, "Be not afraid," I found myself singing the hymn in my head: "I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart." More concisely: Send me.

The speech was everything Kerry could have wished for, an electric performance by the party's most charismatic salesman. Still, as the former president walked off the stage, I had to wonder how many people were thinking: Send Clinton. This man would beat President Bush—again—in a romp. Kerry, on the other hand, hasn't yet proved that he can close the deal.

So, in the end, Clinton's speech was just like Gore's and Carter's. It was nice, but it isn't enough.


          The Copycat Convention   

BOSTON—John Kerry's victory jog through the Democratic primaries wasn't electrifying political drama, but it was fascinating to watch because Kerry's leisurely lapping of the field couldn't be explained by the conventional axioms of presidential politics. In the general election, Kerry has continued his rule-breaking ways. He's the same John Kerry—boring, craggy, and cringe-inducing—such as when, during his Sunday night, live-from-Fenway-Park interview on ESPN, he ducked the question of whether to induct Pete Rose into the Baseball Hall of Fame ("That's up to the writers. I think, probably, that's pretty difficult.") and tried to have it both ways on whether Roger Clemens should be inducted as a member of the Boston Red Sox ("Well, obviously, we think [Red Sox] but there are evenly divided opinions here."). But despite his limitations as a candidate, he's still engaged in a campaign that's suspending the normal laws of politics.

Even a casual viewer of Hardball knows that the first rule of an election that involves a sitting president is that it's a referendum on the incumbent. This election, however, has turned out to be the opposite. It's a referendum on the challenger. Kerry probably isn't responsible for this turn of events, but he's benefiting from it: The referendum on the incumbent is over. President Bush already lost it. This presidential campaign isn't about whether the current president deserves a second term. It's about whether the challenger is a worthy replacement.

So, even though there are supposed to be only five persuadable voters left in America, I'm inclined to think that the next four nights will be worth watching. Can the Democrats re-enact the successful 2000 Republican convention, a parade of moderation and diversity that convinced the nation that George W. Bush was a decent fellow who could be trusted with the levers of power? Four years ago, partisan Republicans were so consumed by Clinton hatred that they would shriek ecstatically every time Bush said he would "uphold the honor and dignity of the office." They channeled their rage into pragmatism: After eight years of Clinton, GOP primary voters wanted to beat Al Gore so badly that they rallied around Bush months before the primaries began, based on nothing more than the fact that he seemed electable. They made a calculated bet that Bush was a guy who would sell well, and they were right.

Now it's the Democrats' turn to see if their similar gamble will have a similar payoff. But I wonder if this convention will be as restrained as the one Republicans held four years ago. There's a big-name loose cannon on the bill on each of the first three nights: On Monday it's Al Gore; on Tuesday it's Howard Dean; and on Wednesday it's Wesley Clark. Each one is smart, beloved by a portion of the party, and capable of rhetorical sobriety. They're also all capable of going off the deep end.

Four years ago in Philadelphia, it took nearly two full days for a Republican speaker to even use the phrase "Clinton-Gore administration." On the eve of this convention, the Democrats were still sating their appetite for vitriol. A labor delegate caucus I attended Sunday was either an indication that the party isn't quite ready to tone down its rhetoric, or it was a Bush-bashing bachelor party, a final sowing of oats before the inevitable settling down. "This is where the first American revolution started, and the humiliating defeat of a king named George began," AFL-CIO president John Sweeney said. "And, brothers and sisters, it's where we're starting a new American revolution." Rep. John Lewis called George Bush the worst president of his lifetime. Dick Cheney was booed as a "calloused backroom operator."

Then John Edwards was introduced to speak via satellite. He gave his standard speech, about leading the world rather than bullying it, about not going to war needlessly, and about John Kerry's heroism and service in Vietnam. He also delivered a line that is consistently his biggest applause-getter at the Kerry-Edwards events I've attended. It's Edwards' answer to "honor and dignity," Bush's subliminal catchphrase from the 2000 campaign.

Every day, Edwards likes to say, every day John Kerry sits in that Oval Office, "he will always tell the American people the truth." The crowd erupted, as they always do. And during the entire speech, Edwards never said the president's name.


          John Kerry's Five-Star Campaign   

NEW YORK—Never mind the arrival of John Edwards; I knew the general election had begun when I got my own butler. During the penny-pinching primary season, when the candidates were constantly on the brink of bankruptcy, I followed campaigns that stayed at discount hotels and even supporters' homes. Not John Kerry—at least, not anymore. In the past three days, we stayed at the Westin in Pittsburgh, the Sheraton Sand Key Beach Resort in Clearwater, Fla., and the St. Regis Hotel in midtown Manhattan, where each room comes equipped with a 24-hour on-call Jeeves and where the rate for my room, picked up by Slate, was $299 a night. (On hotels.com, it goes for $445.) Somewhere between March and July, the presidential campaign turned into an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

Not that there's anything wrong with that! "Say what you will about Kerry, at least he travels better than Gore," one reporter tells me. "Gore was all Super 8s and Econo Lodges." In Gore's defense (or Kerry's, depending on your perspective), the former vice president didn't have $180 million to burn.

Flush with cash—and still raising it, with $2 million flowing into the campaign after Thursday night's Radio City Music Hall gala and another $1.2 million after two Friday morning fund-raisers—the Kerry campaign is engaged in a scheme not unlike the one Richard Pryor is tasked with in Brewster's Millions: seeing how much money it can spend on deadline. Unless Kerry takes the unprecedented step of opting out of the public-financing system for the general election, he has to spend his remaining millions in the next three weeks. Once he formally accepts the Democratic nomination on July 29, he's got only $75 million for the next three months. By mid-August, my reporter friend might start grumbling again.

At least she'll still have the Kerry planes to enjoy. They're a long way from McFun, the Ford E-350 I rode in with Howard Dean nearly a year ago. I have yet to reach the hallowed ground of the real Kerry plane, which is reserved for the press pool, but the secondary press plane—paid for by its passenger-reporters—is a four-across, first-class affair, and the only restriction upon its travelers appears to be the assigned seating chart. Cell phones, Blackberries, and laptops whir throughout the flight. There are flight attendants, but they're there to lavish the press corps with food, not to take away our drinks during takeoff and landing or burden us with demands to wear our seatbelts, put away our tray tables, and place our seats in the upright position. Yet another media myth demolished: The national political press are alleged by some to be engaged in a devious scheme to force socialism upon an unwitting American public, but when we fly, we take Libertarian Airlines.

(A few overhead compartments burst open during our landing Wednesday in Cleveland, prompting some frenzied journalists to leap to their feet to prevent their belongings from spilling onto colleagues' heads. That's the price of freedom, I guess.)

The other big change from the primaries to the general election is the quality of the celebrities who support John Kerry. The Radio City Music Hall fund-raiser draws A-listers such as Sarah Jessica Parker and Wyclef Jean. In the lead-up to Kerry's surprising win in Iowa, by contrast, one press release heralded a "celebrity-studded RV tour" featuring—I am not making this up—Max Weinberg, some guy from Party of Five, and Kelly from The Real World: New Orleans.

Did anything of substance occur this week? Not really. Just your normal, run-of-the-mill campaign stops, with voters wearing T-shirts of the president surrounded by the words "International Terrorist" and the candidate making homoerotic jokes about his running mate. "I said to [Edwards], we've got to stop hugging like this," Kerry told a women's fund-raiser Friday morning. He then described a Jay Leno bit in which photos of Kerry and Edwards hugging and gazing adoringly at each other were aired to the tune of "You Are So Beautiful." Kerry loved it. "I just want you to know," he told the assembled audience, "I thought we made a great couple."

And I thought, you know what, John Kerry can be charming. When he's not irritating, that is, as he was Thursday night when he followed his boast that the Democratic ticket had "better hair" with, unbelievably, a pander to the bald vote. "My wife told me earlier, you just lost the bald vote," Kerry said. "Please don't. We're just having fun. You've gotta have fun."


          And They're Off   

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—John Kerry and John Edwards still believe in a place called Hope. And its sister city, Optimism. They also swear by a town called Opportunity, a village called Values, a burgh called Responsibility, and a couple of lakes called Family and Faith. But really, it's mostly Hope and Optimism.

What kind of places are Hope and Optimism? Strong. Strong and American. Strong and American and middle-class. They don't do a lot of fighting against powerful interests, which leads some to speculate that Bob Shrum doesn't live in either place. But the American people will live in one, if not both, if Kerry and Edwards are elected. They'll probably live in Optimism first because Hope apparently needs to be restored.

That was pretty much the message during the first few hours of the germinal Kerry-Edwards campaign, which launched with a Wednesday morning photo-op at the Heinz farm near Pittsburgh and continued with an afternoon rally in Cleveland. It wasn't the entire message because this was also the Stronger Here at Home and Respected Around the World tour. But the emphasis on hope and optimism, or at least on using the words hope and optimism a lot, was noteworthy because Edwards, the new man on the ticket, made his name in the primaries as Mr. Optimism. His political action committee even bore the ridiculous name New American Optimists.

In Cleveland, the running mate sums up the campaign's new message with a phrase so nonsensical I can't believe it when I hear him repeat it later in Dayton, Ohio, and again here in Florida. He and Kerry embrace "the politics of hope, the politics of what's possible because this is America, where everything is possible," he proclaims.

Let's get this straight. This campaign is about what's possible. In America, everything is possible. Ergo, this campaign is about everything. Which means it's about nothing.

For the first few hours of the Kerry-Edwards campaign, the two candidates do their best to make it seem like it, anyway. The Cleveland kickoff event is particularly inauspicious. Edwards, normally sure on the stump, stumbles on several occasions, declaring incoherently at one point: "With John Kerry as president of the United States, no young American will ever go to war needlessly because America has decided to go to war." At another moment, Edwards assures the crowd of Kerry: "He will lead this country to the place that it can go." Teresa Heinz-Kerry misfires, too, when she notes that she's from nearby Pittsburgh and gets booed. (Must be an AFC North thing.) Good-naturedly booed, but still—the only other boos from the crowds for the rest of the day are reserved for President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

By the time we reach Dayton, around 5 p.m., things start to improve. Kerry and Edwards have worked out some of the kinks in their rally rituals, and they seem more energetic, more natural, and less tired. Kerry's jokes even start to seem funnier, at least within the confines of the quaint "dad humor" that Kerry practices. He draws guffaws with a joke he trots out at each stop: "We think this is a dream ticket. We've got better vision, we've got better ideas, we've got real plans, we've got a better sense of what's happening to America. And we've got better hair." Later, he declares that an 13th-century Ohio Indian tribe with a medicine man "had a better health-care plan than this administration." And at the day's last stop, Kerry runs though the similarities between him and Edwards: "He's a lawyer. I'm a lawyer. His name is John. My name is John. He was named People magazine's sexiest person of the year. I read People magazine."

The evening's final event boasts the best anti-Kerry/Edwards sign of the day ("Flush the Johns"), but it's also the day's best event by far. The hall is packed with angry Florida Democrats, and Kerry kicks things off by stoking their fury: "Thank you, Florida, where this time not only does every vote count, but every vote's gonna be counted."

More important, though, the event reveals a secret benefit—at least it was a secret to me—to Kerry's decision to select Edwards as his running mate: Elizabeth Edwards is from Florida. "I'm a native Floridian," born in Jacksonville, she tells the crowd, which cheers wildly. Her parents married in Pensacola and now live in Sarasota. Her sister lives in Bradenton. "My aunts and uncles live all over the state," she concludes. "Don't you embarrass me in front of my family."

It's not the first time in the day that Edwards' family seems to be paying as many dividends as the man himself. In the morning and early afternoon, the only person who brings a jolt of boyish energy and youthful enthusiasm to the campaign is 4-year-old Jack Edwards, who captivates voters and press alike. Six-year-old Emma Claire, with her pink backpack, is a hit, too. The idea that Bill and Hillary Clinton were "two for the price of one" was controversial. But what about four for the price of two?


          The Pretender   

ATLANTA—One of John Edwards' most effective bits on the trail was his description of how he overcame the soft bigotry of low expectations in the courtroom. On the stump, Edwards would paint himself as a lawyer who was a country rube facing impossible odds against high-priced, pinstriped corporate attorneys. They would look at him and sniff, who is this guy? What's he doing here? We're going to cream him. He doesn't belong with us. But despite being underestimated, "I beat 'em," Edwards would shout. "And I beat 'em again. And I beat 'em again."

Pretty much the opposite happened during the presidential campaign. Edwards came into the race highly regarded by the pundits and insiders who evaluate political talent. As early as 2001, the New York Times'William Safire pronounced that Edwards was "the most likely challenger to Al Gore" for the 2004 Democratic nomination. We like this guy, journalists told their readers over and over. He belongs here. That judgment never wavered, despite the fact that as Edwards campaigned in the primaries and caucuses, he lost 'em. And he lost 'em again. And he lost 'em again.

In truth, Edwards was never a serious contender for the Democratic nomination. Despite the media's best efforts to gin up a two-man race between Edwards and John Kerry after Howard Dean's departure, that contest never materialized. There was never compelling evidence that voters considered Edwards as Kerry's strongest competitor. As I wrote a month ago, this was a race between the front-runner, Kerry, and a bunch of people in third place. Nobody ever staked a valid claim for second.

From Iowa until Wisconsin, the final primary before Dean dropped out of the race, Democrats had held primaries or caucuses in 17 states. Edwards placed a distant fourth in eight—nearly half—of them. His second-place finish in Wisconsin was his sixth time as first-runner-up, but before that, he had been tied with Dean, who finished second five times in the first 17 states. Dean was also a much more consistent vote-getter than Edwards. He finished third in seven of the first 17 states, while Edwards did that only three times. And after winning Vermont Tuesday, Dean has now racked up as many primary victories as Edwards (and, to be fair, Wesley Clark). I'm not saying that Dean was the real No. 2 of this race. I'm just saying that Edwards wasn't either. The whole Edwards-Kerry Super Tuesday face-off was a bunch of hooey. The presidential race was over at the end of the first week of February.

Was it too fast? I'm not sure. It's true that the vote-casting stage was exceedingly short. Iowa conducted its first-in-the-nation caucuses a little more than six weeks ago, on Jan. 19. But the so-called "invisible primary" that leads up to Iowa was exceptionally long. And it got a lot of national news coverage. Dean landed on the covers of Time and Newsweek in early August 2003, nearly a full year before the Democratic national convention. When I spent a few days with Dick Gephardt's Iowa campaign this past October, 19 national reporters were there with me. So, yes, this campaign cycle was very, very short, but the prelude was also very, very long.

Over the next few days, Edwards' flaws will be dissected. Most of them are well-known. He seemed young, even though he was 50. He never passed the threshold I'm-strong-on-national-security test. Voters liked him personally, but they wanted to hear more specifics on the issues. His above-the-fray campaign strategy worked OK during the multicandidate stage of the race, but in a head-to-head battle with Kerry he proved unwilling to be tough. (I always thought that Edwards' declaration that he wasn't the candidate who was best at attacking other Democrats actually hurt him, despite the applause, because it created the perception that he wouldn't be willing to wage a forceful campaign against President Bush.)

By themselves, none of those reasons fully explain why Edwards didn't win. In the end, he lost because there really are two Americas. There's the one that votes for John Edwards, and then there's the one for everybody else.


          Trading Places   

LOS ANGELES—John Kerry did something I thought was impossible tonight. He turned himself into John Edwards. This may be the secret of Kerry's success in the Democratic primaries: What Bill Clinton did to infuriate the Republican Congress during his presidency, Kerry does to his fellow candidates. He co-opts their issues, their message, even their language. When Howard Dean was the obstacle in Kerry's path, the Massachusetts senator talked about throwing the special interests out of Washington and putting the people back in charge. Now that Edwards is the lone serious contender, Kerry pitches himself as the positive, optimistic candidate with "real solutions."

"I've offered a positive vision of what we ought to be doing in America," Kerry declared in the opening moments of Thursday's debate. "Once we have a nominee, this country will have an opportunity to hear a positive vision of how we can offer hope to Americans, optimism about the possibilities of the future, not divide America but bring it together to find real solutions. And that's what I'm offering: real solutions." Edwards must have felt like a sitcom character, the candidate for student council president watching his classmate deliver a stolen version of his speech. The "Real Solutions Express" is the name of Edwards' campaign bus. "Real Solutions for America" is the name of Edwards' 60-page policy booklet. It's also the phrase plastered across the top of Edwards' campaign Web site.

But unlike the sitcom character, who takes the podium and falls flat on his face, Edwards dominated the early portion of the debate. He throttled Kerry—with an assist from an aggressive Ron Brownstein—after Kerry couldn't explain why he thought the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional in 1996 but that a constitutional amendment isn't needed now to ensure that states are not forced to recognize gay marriages from other states. After Kerry's long-winded and unsatisfactory answer to whether he would vote for the Defense of Marriage Act today, Edwards jabbed, "I'm not sure what he said about that. But I would not vote for it." Then Edwards deftly moved to Kerry's left on the issue, saying he believes the federal government ought to be required to recognize gay marriages if they are recognized by a state. Edwards also looked strong when he confronted Al Sharpton to defend his support of the death penalty.

Despite the inclusion of Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich, they weren't much of a factor. They sat on the far end of the table away from the TV camera, and they were confined mostly to interjecting asides to the main debate between Kerry and Edwards. They seemed like the political debate version of the two grumpy old men who issue catcalls from the balcony during The Muppet Show.

But despite Edwards' strong start, by the end of the debate a second impossible transformation had occurred. John Edwards turned into John Kerry. Kerry answered a difficult question from Larry King about his opposition to the death penalty—"A person who kills a 5-year-old should live?"—clearly and directly. "Larry, my instinct is to want to strangle that person with my own hands," he said. But the system is flawed, it's applied unjustly, and as a matter of principle, "the state should not engage in killing." That's the best answer you can give to that unpopular position. Edwards, by contrast, sounded like the Kerry of old when he tried to explain why he supports a system that King said "nearly executed over 100 people who didn't do it." He talked about how "serious" the issue was, and how "serious steps" need to be taken, such as "making the court system work." Finally, King bailed him out: But why do you favor capital punishment? Oh yeah, Edwards seemed to think, that's what I should be talking about, and he brought up some liberal red meat: "Those men who dragged James Byrd behind that truck in Texas, they deserve the death penalty."

On another occasion, Brownstein had to repeatedly query Edwards to get him to explain whether there were any substantive differences between him and Kerry on the issue of reforming the way Washington works. "Do you view Sen. Kerry as part of the solution or part of the problem?" Brownstein asked. Edwards dodged the question. "Is there a difference in your commitment to this cause and what you see from Sen. Kerry?" Brownstein tried again. "Yes," Edwards said, because I'm an outsider. But that's not substantive, Brownstein objected. "He is saying many of the same things. Are you saying that he is less committed?" Edwards demurred.

Then Kerry swooped in to damn Edwards with praise. "I don't think there fundamentally is a difference," he said. "I mean, John has raised almost 50 percent of his money from one group of people in the United States"—"Is that the trial lawyers?" King interrupted—"That's correct. And I don't ever suggest that he is beholden to them," Kerry continued magnanimously. "Because I know he stood up on the patients' bill of rights."

The real Kerry returned a few moments later, with a preposterously unclear statement on his first executive order: "Reverse the Mexico City policy on the gag rule so that we take a responsible position globally on family planning." But then Edwards picked up the Kerry torch when Los Angeles Times editorial page editor Janet Clayton asked him how he can criticize the president for a war that he voted for. Edwards tried to appear thoughtful and serious, saying he gave "an awful lot of thought and study to it." Not only that, "I was worried about it. All of us were. I took this responsibility seriously." But why did you vote for it? "What we did is we voted on a resolution," Edwards stammered. And Bush didn't conduct the war properly. "So are you saying you were suckered?" Clayton asked.

King asked Edwards if he regrets his vote for the war. "I did what I believed was right at the time," Edwards said. "Do you regret it?" King asked again. "I did what I believed was right at the time," Edwards repeated. "Do you regret it?" King asked again, this time to laughter. "We don't get to go back, Larry," Edwards insisted. "Well, you can regret something," King said.

Kerry pounced on his chance to play Edwards to Edwards' Kerry. "Let me return a favor from the last debate to John," he said. "You asked a yes-or-no answer: 'Do you regret your vote?' The answer is: No. I do not regret my vote. I regret that we have a president of the United States who misled America and broke every promise he made the United States Congress." Substantively, this is the same answer Edwards gave, but it was clear instead of evasive and concise instead of tortuous.

It couldn't have been clearer: Edwards had become Kerry and Kerry had become Edwards. Kerry's critics will likely see this as more evidence of flip-flopping opportunism. Kerry will likely see it as victory.


          Dean Goes Offline   

MADISON, WIS.—If the "Wisconsin or bust" primary began as the bargaining stage of the Dean campaign's death, as one staffer told me, then by Election Day, everyone had settled comfortably into acceptance. It's not quite right to say that those in attendance at Howard Dean's primary-night rally at the Madison Concourse hotel appeared resigned in the face of their candidate's defeat. It's fairer to say that Dean's impending withdrawal from the presidential campaign felt irrelevant to the entire affair, as if it had already happened. Staffers openly discussed future plans—What are you doing tomorrow? Wanna party with me in New York this weekend?—in the press filing center. Hardly anyone watched the returns come in on CNN. In contrast to the sober yet chaotic feel of Wesley Clark's campaign in its death throes, what was almost certainly Dean's final presidential campaign event (other than his withdrawal speech) had a celebratory, even self-congratulatory air. They came to praise Caesar, not to bury him.

Dean knows how to give only one kind of speech, a victory speech, and that's what he delivered. You have "really worked hard to change this country and change this party," he told his assembled supporters. "And guess what? You have succeeded." It was a victory for a movement, not a campaign. "You have already written the platform of the Democratic Party for this election," Dean said. "A year ago, the Democrats were falling all over each other to vote for the war in Iraq. They sure don't talk like that now." Dean also claimed credit for getting the Democrats to stand up to "reckless budget deficits," "huge tax cuts," and "the president's education policies, which leave every child behind."

But the change in the Democratic Party, Dean declared, would be illusory if he and his supporters did not continue to challenge the Democratic establishment. "We together have only begun our work," he said. In what sounded like a shot at John Kerry, he continued: "The transformation that we have wrought is a transformation of convenience, not of conviction, and we have to fight, and fight, and fight until it becomes a transformation of conviction."

What does this mean, exactly? No one's certain. Other than Dean himself, "I don't think anyone but Roy Neel knows" what's going to happen next, an aide told me. But it's wrong to think that it means that Dean will continue campaigning. Instead, the smart money is that when Dean drops out of the presidential race, he will likely announce that he and his supporters will remain active in the campaign by transforming Dean for America into a political action committee or a 527 group, something that would allow him to try to become a power broker in Democratic politics.

If Dean dislikes Kerry as much as he is reported to, and if he really thinks John Edwards would be a superior nominee, then he's right to get out of the race quickly. I'm not convinced that Edwards is more electable than Kerry—with apologies to my colleague Will Saletan, so far the evidence for Edwards' electability is that he keeps losing elections—but a two-man race is Edwards' only chance. CNN and the Los Angeles Times will do voters a disservice if they invite Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton to their Feb. 26 debate. Kerry cited the fact that Kucinich and Sharpton were still in the race to dodge a question from Anderson Cooper about the prospect of a head-to-head debate with Edwards. But CNN shouldn't be asking Kerry whether he's going to debate Edwards one-on-one. They should be telling him.

One final thought about Tuesday's results: Isn't it possible that Matt Drudge, and not NAFTA, was the factor that led all those undecided voters to break for Edwards at the last minute? If a Wisconsin voter knew one thing about Kerry, a Dean staffer told me, it was that there was a rumor that the senator had an affair with a younger woman. It was all over local radio, not to mention the fact that Rush Limbaugh was flogging it for three hours each afternoon. Yes, the woman has denied it. Yes, there's no evidence for it. And yes, there is evidence that Drudge got the facts wrong in his report. But just because a rumor is unsubstantiated doesn't mean that voters aren't affected by it. Live by electability, die by electability. If the entire rationale of your campaign is that you can win in November, voters would be completely justified in rejecting you because of a rumor, even one that they believe is untrue, if they think that other voters might not vote for you because of it.

I can't quantify Drudge's impact on the campaign, but his rumor-mongering is the simplest explanation for the closeness of the race. I find it hard to believe that the independents and Republicans casting ballots for Edwards harbor deep anti-NAFTA feelings, while the Democrats voting for Kerry are ardent free traders.

The Internet couldn't win the presidency for Dean. But it's possible that the Internet almost lost Wisconsin for Kerry.


          The Final Days   

MILWAUKEE—We're at the point in the movie where you know how it's going to end, but you stay up late to watch anyway, no matter how painful it gets. The only reason we're here is to watch the beheading of Howard Dean, one reporter declares in the press room after Sunday night's debate. But didn't we see that part already? The end of Dean's quest for the Democratic presidential nomination is winding up with the leisurely pace of the interminable conclusion of The Return of the King. After New Hampshire, there's been nothing but denouement.

Wisconsin was supposed to be Dean's dramatic last stand. Instead, it has all the excitement of the Missouri primary, but at least Missouri had the excuse that there weren't any candidates there. Members of the Dean campaign staff used Saturday to tour the Miller brewery—some are now sporting Miller High Life lapel pins—and I mentioned that I thought that was a pretty smart use of their free day, since Dean was in Vermont that night watching his son's final high-school hockey game. "They're pretty much all free days now," a campaign staffer replied.

But Dean isn't the only candidate facing a death watch. I hear rumors before the debate that both John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich are dropping out. I don't believe either rumor, but I can't decide whether it's more shocking that people believe Edwards is leaving or that Kucinich is.

Kucinich will never drop out. He's said so several times, and he's the one candidate who I believe means everything that comes out of his mouth. He really means it when he talks about the "militarization of thought," about being a "peace president," and about wanting to "change the metaphor of our society from war to peace." He was serious when he said in the spin room after Sunday's debate that unless we pull out of Iraq, "we're going to have a draft." Irony is not the long suit of the man who extended his wingspan Saturday night in front of a few hundred Democrats and helicoptered silently for several long seconds before shouting "No strings! No strings! No strings! No strings! I'll take you to the White House with no strings attached!" (Mean joke: Sure, he's got no strings to hold him down, but he still needs to be turned into a real candidate.) I feel bad about that joke—not bad enough not to print it—because, as Christopher Hitchens wrote last week, "Dennis Kucinich is the sort of guy who we need in politics." My wife thinks Kucinich is great, except for his crazy positions. I think that's about right.

As for Edwards, what's the point of winning the battle to be the last man standing against Kerry if you're not going to follow through on your long-shot strategy? Edwards did better than expected in Iowa after being endorsed by the state's largest newspaper, followed by a superior performance in the state's final debate. Well, Edwards did pretty well Sunday night—it's fairer to say that Kerry did poorly—and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel just endorsed him.

How bad was Kerry's night? It wasn't disastrous, but it's as bad as I've seen him. He sounded like the meandering, orotund Kerry of last summer. His answers to questions about diversity and gay marriage were muddled incoherence, and he claimed that it wasn't his fault that the Bush administration has abused the Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind Act, and the congressional Iraq war resolution. But if you vote for broadly written laws that are abused by the administration in power when you passed them, aren't you at least partly to blame for the consequences? You wouldn't let your 6-year-old drive the family car and then blame him for the accident. And you can be certain that if the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, and the war were popular with Democratic voters, Kerry would be taking credit for them.

Edwards fired off the night's best line in response to Kerry's tortuous answer to a question about whether he feels "any degree of responsibility for the war and its costs and casualties": "That's the longest answer I ever heard to a yes or no question. The answer to your question is: of course; we all accept responsibility for what we did." (The Dean campaign followed up with a press release stating only, "Memo to John Edwards: You are so right.")

But I don't think that moment offsets the fact that Edwards is torching his centrist reputation with his antitrade rhetoric. Granted, it's not only him. Alleged liberal Howard Dean was the only candidate on stage willing to unabashedly defend the passage of free trade agreements such as NAFTA ("I think the free trade agreements were justified"), though he does want to change them now. Kerry seemed evasive when he defended his votes for NAFTA and permanent normal trade relations with China by citing side agreements that dealt with labor and environmental standards.

But Edwards goes much further than Dean and Kerry. His campaign issued a press release trumpeting his votes against "fast track" and against trade agreements with Chile, Singapore, Africa, and the Caribbean. And on stage, he criticized Dean and Kerry for supporting "free trade, as they always have." The anti-NAFTA consensus was the most striking thing to me about Sunday's debate. Was it really more than 10 years ago that Al Gore handed that picture of Reed Smoot and Willis Hawley to Ross Perot on CNN?

Later in the debate, Edwards toned down his rhetoric. "The truth is, some of these jobs are gone," he said. "We're not going to get them back." And I was grateful that no candidate elected to bash Greg Mankiw, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers (as Kerry did in a speech Saturday night), for suggesting that the outsourcing of some jobs is good for the American economy in the long run. Bush administration economists have told enough lies—Mankiw's predecessor asserted that there was no connection between the deficit and interest rates, despite writing about the connection in his own textbook—that they deserve some applause when they tell an unpopular truth.


          Dismissed   

MEMPHIS—This is the way a campaign ends. It clings to flailing hopes that Rupert Murdoch and the National Enquirer will bring down the front-runner. The candidate's wife complains to a TV reporter about the media's coverage of her husband. The Washington Post beat reporter says his newspaper is pulling him from the campaign, whether the candidate keeps going or not. During a three-hour ride from Nashville to Memphis, the campaign doesn't provide a campaign spokesman on the press bus. Phone calls and pages go unanswered. The press bus joke is whether the new Clark campaign song should be Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" ("down, down down ..."), Frank Sinatra's "That's Life" ("I thought of quittin', baby, but my heart just ain't gonna buy it"), or Beck's "Loser." Asked about comments from the candidate's son that major changes could be happening in the campaign after the Virginia and Tennessee primaries, Ian Alberg, a campaign staffer says, laughing, "Fire me please," so he can collect unemployment. And, with the possible exception of Wes Clark Jr., anytime anyone says anything interesting, it's off the record.

Exactly a week ago, everyone was certain that Wesley Clark was going to drop out of the presidential campaign after the Feb. 3 primaries until he pulled off a last-minute win in Oklahoma. On Tuesday morning, the Magic 8-Ball once again says that signs point to yes, but there's enough conflicting evidence to keep things muddled for much of the day. The campaign's primary-night party was going to be in Nashville, but it gets moved to Memphis—presumably because Memphis is three hours closer to Clark's home in Little Rock, where he would go after quitting the campaign. But Wes Clark Jr. tells reporters that his father will continue to Super Tuesday, no matter what, because his father told him so Monday night. At a polling place in Nashville, Clark sounds like Howard Dean, telling a voter that he's just waiting for voters to tire of John Kerry. "What's gonna happen is buyer's remorse," he says. "You know, the purpose of a campaign is to wring it out." The day before, to another voter, he said, "I've got a real shot in Wisconsin," and a lot of support in Hollywood.

Still, no one really believes that Clark is staying in the race. At 1:55 p.m., Alberg says, "We're going to Wisconsin tomorrow," but within 20 minutes, reporters on the press bus are still calling sources to arrange interviews for post-mortem stories about the campaign. No one knows who to trust for news about the campaign. Does the staff know? Does Wes Jr. know? Does the general know?

At a stop at Noshville, a Nashville deli, candidate Clark doesn't bother with talking to voters, despite his staff's admonitions. Instead, he sits down and eats lunch for an hour. On the bus to Memphis, he takes a nap. "It's been a pretty nice day, all told," he says once we arrive in Memphis. "It's one of the more restful days I've had on the campaign."

At 5:30 p.m., we stop at a polling place in Memphis. "This is a hallelujah day," a voter calls out to the general. "We're gonna win this thing." Clark's staff urges him to talk to voters on their way in to the polls. "I don't want to be running, like I'm assaulting people," he objects. "You've got to be subtle about it." He tells a voter holding a piece of campaign literature, "My name's on that ballot. No, it isn't. That's a different ballot. Where's my sample ballot?" A staff member hands it to him. "That's my name, Wesley Clark. There's a lot of other people's names, but you don't pay attention to them." He's a four-star general and a major-party presidential candidate, handing out sample ballots. It should be an inspiring example of democracy in action. Instead, it's kind of sad.

Clark, however, is having a blast. "This is pretty much fun, isn't it?" he says. When his staff tells him its time to go, he complains. "Do we have to go? Why can't we just stay?" At another point, he just bursts out giggling. "It just kind of tickles me to see it," he tells the assembled reporters. What's so funny? "You're looking at me. The election's not abut me. It's about all these people who are voting." Since that answer doesn't make any sense, I can only speculate that Clark was struck by the the absurdity of the entire day. In the latest sign of the campaign's impending demise, staffers begin taking pictures of each other like it's the last day of summer camp.

Back on the press bus, we hear that CNN has reported that Clark canceled a fund-raiser in Houston. "Nothing's been canceled," Alberg says. Traveling press secretary Jamal Simmons says, "There is no plan to exit anything tonight except Tennessee." Later, Alberg adds, "He's going to make a speech tonight. He's not going to concede tonight."

It sure sounds like a concession speech. Clark hits strange notes, such as "It just doesn't get any better than this." He congratulates Kerry and John Edwards, calling them "patriots." He doesn't talk about his future plans or where he's going next. Instead, he talks broadly and praises the Democratic Party. He may have lost this race, he says, but "we're not going to lose the battle for America's future." And the song they play at the end is the one that Clark lobbied to have as his campaign song, one that's disliked by his staff: Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'." Following his father on the way out of the room, Wes Jr's eyes are moist.

Shortly after the speech, 19 journalists huddle outside Clark's room—the Danny Thomas Suite—at the downtown Marriott to demand information on what the campaign is going to do next. The person staying across the hall walks out, and I think he's going to complain about the noise. Instead, it turns out that he's a fellow reporter. He says he overheard some people—he was watching them through his room's peephole—say that Clark had already notified his staff that he was dropping out. But he didn't recognize the speaker.

Just before 10 p.m., we're told that communications director Matt Bennett will come to the press filing center at 11:15 p.m. with an announcement. We pile in the elevator and go downstairs. At about 10:05, we're told that Bennett is coming now. Before he arrives, CNN flashes on the crawl: "AP: Wesley Clark abandons presidential campaign." Bennett shows up and confirms the report.

Not that we really needed confirmation. The candidate had said as much in the ballroom after his speech. He was shaking hands and thanking his supporters. I wish you had competed in the Iowa caucuses, says a supporter. "I wish I had, too," Clark replies. "Everything might have been different if I had done that." Then he walked out.


          That '70s Campaign   

NASHVILLE—The Democratic Party's estimates of its chances of defeating President Bush in November have rebounded in concert with John Kerry's campaign. A little more than a month ago, most Democrats were overly pessimistic about the 2004 election. Now they're overly optimistic. Sunday afternoon, during a press conference prior to a Democratic Party rally at the downtown Hilton here, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., declared not only that "Bush 43 looks very beatable at this point," but also that 2004 could be a congressional "tidal wave year" for the Democrats, akin to 1994 for the Republicans.

And if 2004 isn't a Democratic 1994, maybe it's 1976. That was former Vice President Al Gore's message to the Tennessee Democrats Sunday night. In an angry, sweaty shout, sounding like the second coming of Huey Long, Gore drew an extended comparison between the post-Watergate election of 1976, the year of his first election to Congress, and the post-Iraq election of 2004. John Kerry's two main rivals in Tennessee, Wesley Clark and John Edwards, spoke to the party, too, but Gore was clearly the main event. And if he wasn't before he spoke, he was by the time he was finished.

"You know, there was a mood in '76, a spirit of unity, a feeling of determination that we were going to win that race that year," said Gore, clearly linking that feeling to the resolve of 2004 Democrats to win back the presidency. Gore, however, wasn't referring only to the feelings of national Democrats in 1976. He was referring to the feelings of Tennessee Democrats, who were bitter over a Senate race that had been lost six years earlier.

Gore's father, Albert Gore Sr., was defeated in his 1970 campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate. Gore made a number of comparisons between 1970 and 1976 in Tennessee and 2000, 2002, and 2004 in America. "President George W. Bush reminds me more of former President Richard Nixon than any of his other predecessors," he said, implying, it seemed, that Nixon smeared his father in the midterm elections of 1970 just as President Bush smeared Georgia Senator Max Cleland in 2002. "They tried to make out like my dad was an atheist because he didn't want a constitutional amendment putting the government in charge of telling children how they ought to worship God in the public schools," Gore said. "They came out with accusations that he was unpatriotic because he was opposed to the Vietnam War and the mistaken policy that got us into that war." Gore recalled his father's concession speech on Election Night: "He took the old Confederate slogan about 'The South shall rise again,' and he stood it on its head. And he proudly proclaimed, 'The truth shall rise again!'"

Gore was also drawing an analogy between his father and himself. He was expressing the hope that just as his father's loss was redeemed by the election of a Democrat, Jim Sasser, to his U.S. Senate seat six years later, so too could Gore be redeemed after his loss to George W. Bush, if the Democrats reclaim the White House in 2004. As Gore stood on stage before his remarks, I wondered, what must it be like to be Samuel Tilden? What's it like to be haunted by the fact that you're a historical footnote? Gore's speech provided some answers.

"We have seen an administration which in my view more closely resembles the Nixon-Agnew administration than any other previous administration," he said. "There's a reason I say that. I don't offer that as simply a casual slur." The crowd laughed. "I'm not above a casual slur," Gore added, in a "mind you" tone, to more laughter. "But I'm biased, I didn't vote for the guy." A man calls out, "Neither did America!" To which Gore responds, "Well, there is that."

He continued: "But here's the reason I say that President George W. Bush reminds me more of former President Richard Nixon than any of his other predecessors. Nixon was no more committed to principle than the man in the moon. He, as a conservative Republican, imposed wage and price controls. Hard to believe in this day and time. But he did. And he cared as little about what it meant to be really conservative as George W. Bush has cared in imposing $550 billion budget deficits and trillions in additions to the national debt. That has nothing to do with conservatism and everything to do with his effort to get re-elected!"

Gore then explained how he planned to travel to Iowa in September 2001 to deliver "a real ripsnorter of a speech" that would have harshly critiqued President Bush's first nine months in office and broken Gore's political silence. He abandoned his plan after the Sept. 11 attacks, he said, and instead swallowed his pride and told the Iowa Democrats of the man he clearly feels stole the presidency from him, "George W. Bush is my commander-in-chief."

"I think there were millions just like me, who genuinely, in spite of whatever partisanship they may have felt prior to that time, genuinely felt like they wanted George W. Bush to lead all of us in America wisely and well," he shouted.

"And the reason I'm recalling those feelings now is because those are the feelings that were betrayed by this president! He betrayed this country! He played on our fears! He took America, he took America on an ill-conceived foreign adventure dangerous to our troops, an adventure that was preordained and planned before 9/11 ever took place!" Gore closed with his father's line from 1970: "And so I say to you in closing my friends, in the year of 2004, the truth shall rise again!"

The crowded erupted in a frenzy that recalled a Howard Dean audience circa August 2003. Which, if you think about it, is pretty much where Gore still is. Many Democrats took the 2000 election personally, and they saw the Dean campaign as the outlet for their anger and frustration. But no Democrat could have taken it more personally than Al Gore. To those who speculate that Gore's endorsement of Dean was a crude and ill-timed political calculation, this speech was a repudiation.

Not only does he believe that he should rightfully be president, he also thinks he performed his patriotic duty in the aftermath of 9/11, and Bush screwed him for it. To Gore, it seems that beating Bush wouldn't suffice. He wants to convince the world that Bush is one of history's worst presidents.

Gore is still popular with the Democratic base, but after this speech, the question for the party's nominee has to be, do you want this man to speak at the convention in Boston? Even if you like the sentiment behind this speech, if Gore delivers an address like this one in July, the historical analogy won't be to the Democrats of 1976 or to the Republicans of 1994. Instead, the comparison will be to the disastrous Republican convention of 1992. The angry white male is back. Do the Democrats really want him?


          Republican Campaign Preview   

ST. LOUIS—Dick Gephardt's congressional district is Busch country, if not Bush country, so if you're going to hold a Republican presidential campaign rally in a Democratic stronghold, this one's as appropriate as any. Mary Matalin, who's on board the Bush-Cheney '04 team as a campaign adviser, is in town with a phalanx of Missouri Republicans. I'd say she's in town to distract media attention from the Democratic primary in the largest of the Feb. 3 states, except there's pretty much no Democratic campaign to speak of in Missouri. As a result, Missourians appear more interested in the Democratic primary for governor, between incumbent Gov. Bob Holden and State Auditor Claire McCaskill, than in presidential politics.

The Bush rally does, however, provide some insight into the general-election campaign message that the Bush-Cheney campaign is trying out. If the Democratic primaries and caucuses over the next four or five weeks are a referendum on John Kerry's electability, it's worth knowing what he's expected to be electable against. Monday's rally is the second Republican event I've attended this campaign—the other was in Nashua, N.H., where John McCain stumped for the president—and the president's re-election argument, as advanced by his surrogates, couldn't be clearer. The Republicans want the threshold question of this election to be: On Sept. 11 and Sept. 12, 2001, would you rather have had George W. Bush as president or his Democratic opponent?

Both Bush rallies that I've attended emphasize the idea that the president merits re-election as a reward for past performance, as much as—or even more than—any promise of future results. "On Sept. 11, when this nation faced in many respects the greatest threat to our security, President Bush stood forward, led this nation with clarity and with strength, which has earned him the admiration and appreciation of the overwhelming majority of Americans, and I believe has earned him another term as president of the United States of America," McCain said in Nashua. The speakers at Monday's event strike similar notes. "This is a man who has restored peace to the American homeland, after we suffered the worst attack we have suffered here since Pearl Harbor," U.S. Sen. Jim Talent says. U.S. Sen. Kit Bond puts it this way: "I'm most concerned about the war on terror. When Sept. 11, 2001, hit us, George Bush knew what to do."

Al Gore tried to run on the Clinton record of peace and prosperity. The Bush campaign looks like it will run on arguable prosperity and war. Kerry's line that the war on terrorism is as much a law-enforcement and intelligence-gathering operation as it is a military one is derided. "There's only one person gonna be running for president in November of this year who believes that the war against terrorism is a war, against a transnational army that attacked and every day threatens the people of the United States, not a law enforcement action against a few stray criminals," Talent says. Matalin concurs. "This is not a law enforcement effort, as has been said. This is a war. This is a global war. This is a war between barbarism and civilization."

Local boy John Ashcroft and the Patriot Act receive a heaping of praise. "John Ashcroft and the Bush administration have been successful," Bond says. "According to the FBI director, at least 100 planned terrorist attacks, underway for the United States, were disrupted because they used the Patriot Act. Thanks heavens we have the Patriot Act and we have somebody like John Ashcroft ..." I think Bond's concluding phrase is "who's going to use it," but I can't hear him over the crowd's applause. This is Bizarro World when compared to the Democratic campaign trail, where Ashcroft is deemed a supervillain second only to Karl Rove.

"The polls show that one of our colleagues in the United States Senate is leading in the Democratic primary here," continues Bond, referring to Kerry. "He wants to get rid of the Patriot Act. He voted for it, now he doesn't like it." The effectiveness of that line is undercut by Bond's demagogic follow-up: "Personally, I like being free of terrorist attacks." The crowd laughs appreciatively. Later, Matalin says that John Ashcroft is more than a mere terrorist-fighting, cell-breaking, plot-disrupting attorney general. "John Ashcroft is a hero."

Argument No. 3 is that the missing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq are irrelevant. Partly, because as McCain said back in New Hampshire, "Saddam Hussein acquired weapons of mass destruction, he used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and his enemies, and there is no expert that I know that doesn't believe that if Saddam Hussein was still in power he would be attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction."

But the humanitarian benefits of the Iraq war are emphasized more than the threat posed by Saddam. In Nashua, McCain cited a mass grave of 3,000 "men, women, and children," and added, "My friends, when those 8- and 9-year-old boys were let out of prison in Baghdad, our effort and our sacrifice was justified." Matalin compares Bush's hope for a democratic Iraq to the hopes of Islamic radicals. "There are forces that want to go backwards, that are for oppression, repressing women, there is no freedom, versus going forward into the modern world," she says.

After the event is over, I tell Matalin that the Republican pitch sounds backward-looking. OK, people liked President Bush after 9/11. But that's not an agenda. What's the president's plan going forward? "This is a generational commitment to get this job done," she says. "It took 60 years of a policy of hypocrisy, turning the other way when there was oppression and tyranny in that region, to create this kind of terrorism against America. So, getting a whole region to bring in the hallmarks of a modern state, private property, human rights, rights for women, a judicial system, market principles, it takes more than a campaign cycle. So, he reversed a 60-year policy that wasn't working in the region, and he is putting in place, which is going to take more than one term or two terms, collective security arrangements for the 21st century."

That's a mouthful. And it sets up what I think will be the most intriguing question of the general election. Which candidate will succeed in portraying himself as the internationalist in the race? The Democratic contenders push cooperation, alliances, and multilateral institutions, but they also use nationalist rhetoric to tar Bush for spending money abroad rather than spending it at home (say, "opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them in the United States," a Kerry line). Taking off on some of that nationalist rhetoric, the Bush surrogates describe Democrats as isolationists who want the United States to abandon its leadership role in the world. The Democrats respond by describing President Bush as a unilateralist who abandoned the nation's role as a global leader. Who will succeed in defining himself as a broad-minded internationalist and his opponent as a narrow-minded nationalist? Our next president.


          Comment on Thank You – Black Tie Beach 2013 by Dmitry Smelansky   
Brighton Beach is known for its high population of Russian-speaking immigrants. When they asked me what's going on I replied that we all are Russians and we like dressing up even going to the beach. When we want to de-Americanize - we are losing the T-shirts & jeans style and dressing up! That confused even more. https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=10200417214535047&set=p.10200417214535047&type=1&theater
          Landslide Kerry   

HAMPTON, N.H.—As Kerrymania sweeps the Granite State, the latest Zogby Poll notwithstanding, I'm still scratching my head over the phenomenon. Politics is full of truisms, one of which is that voters never elect a résumé, and another is that they don't vote strategically. But in John Kerry's case, voters appear to be doing both. They've decided, whether he's their favorite candidate or not, that he's the Democrat with the CV to go up against President Bush in November.

A third political truism—that negative campaigning hurts both the attacker and the attacked—helped explain the results of the Iowa caucuses, as voters ran away from the Dean-Gephardt slugfest and toward Kerry and John Edwards and, to a lesser extent here in New Hampshire, Wesley Clark. But I'm straining for an iron law of politics that explains how Kerry went from presumptive embarrassment to presumptive nominee in less than a month (though the race isn't over by a long shot). He's not the best or most skilled speaker in the race. He hasn't raised the most money. He wasn't leading in the national polls on Jan. 1.

Kerry is the Einstein of this race, upending the known Newtonian laws and replacing them with new ones. Perhaps the candidate who uses the most superlatives is now guaranteed victory. Kerry loves two expressions: "in all my time in public life" and "in the modern history of the country." For example, to take a Kerry favorite, President Bush has conducted "the most arrogant, inept, reckless, and ideological foreign policy in the modern history of the country." Similarly, Kerry said Sunday in Nashua, "This is the most antiscience administration in the modern history of the country." Or, during this month's National Public radio debate, "We're witnessing the greatest period of crony capitalism in the modern history of the country."

"Never in all my time in public life have I seen the workplace so unfair," is another Kerry favorite on the stump. Or, here's Kerry last week on the PBS NewsHour: "This is the most say-one-thing do-another administration I've seen in all my time in public life." In last week's debate, it was, "This is the worst environmental administration that I've ever seen in all my time in public life." At a Friday event in Manchester, Kerry declared that the Republican campaign against former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland (who's been campaigning with Kerry) was "the most craven moment I have seen in American politics." Presumably it broke the record held by a 1996 William Weld ad that Kerry then called "the most duplicitous and brazen distortion I've ever seen."

Or perhaps the candidate who receives the worst introduction speech of the campaign wins. At that Friday event in Manchester, Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., introduced Kerry with a long, rambling speech that included the word "Chinaman." As Hollings was explaining that "50 percent of the furniture in this country comes from China," a shockingly loud pop crackled through the speakers and startled most people in the room. "Some Chinaman got mad at that," Hollings said to laughter. (Later, when more noises popped through the speakers, Kerry politically corrected the joke to, "This Chinese guy is still around.") Hollings also declared that Dick Cheney "is the Jesse Jackson of the Republican Party. He wants it all, his time has come!" A few people applauded when Hollings said he was about to finish.

Or perhaps the spoils go to the candidate who has the most difficulty reading his crowd. In Manchester, Kerry gave a touching speech about the importance of veterans and of "keeping faith with those who wore the uniform." As soon as it was over, a woman stood up and said, I'm not a veteran. What are you going to do for the average person? At a firehouse in Hampton yesterday, a man told Kerry that he thinks it's unfair that people say a New Englander can't connect with people from varying backgrounds. And to prove that you can do it, he says, explain the importance of the icon on my hat. Kerry is mystified. "The Latin? The Ten?" he asks. Malcolm X, the man explains.

I don't want to overstate Kerry's flaws. He's not Al Gore. He comes across as good-humored, decent, and likable rather than phony. And he doesn't pander mindlessly on every subject. On offshore job losses, "The solution is not to sit there and pretend that you can stop every job from going overseas," he says in Hampton. On the subject of religion, he believes that presidents should "recognize the diversity of faiths and even of agnosticism and atheism," and he takes the politically risky stance of admitting to a "questioning, agnostic stage" after his experience in Vietnam.

But Kerry also seems to keep a little intellectual distance from his public persona, unlike Dean or Edwards, who are pretty much "method politicians." The goofy grin that Kerry invariably breaks out at the end of his stump speech communicates the idea that he thinks this is a little, well, goofy. In a sense, that might be one more reason to like him, but it doesn't get me any closer to explaining his success. Going after Dean on taxes seems to be working—"I'm going to protect the middle class. I'm not touching your child care credit, like some candidates. I'm not going to put back in place the marriage penalty. I'm not going to take away your 10 percent bracket and raise it immediately to 15 percent, as some candidates are," Kerry says—but Democrats aren't supposed to vote on tax cuts in a primary. Military experience is part of it, too, but that brings me back to the résumé truism.

I'm left with one answer: He's taller.


          Closing Arguments   

NASHUA, N.H.—I'm feeling sorry for Dennis Kucinich. And the feeling just makes me feel even sorrier, because pity isn't the emotion he's trying to evoke. Kucinich is standing in front of more than 1,000 Democrats at a fund-raiser Saturday night for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, at which every candidate in the New Hampshire primary except Al Sharpton is scheduled to speak. Kucinich must know that he's not going to win Tuesday night, but at the same time he surely fantasizes that this is his moment, this is his chance to make a winning, last-ditch appeal for his unlikely candidacy.

I am the only candidate who voted against the Iraq war and the Patriot Act, Kucinich proclaims to fervent applause. I am the only candidate "who insists on an immediate end to the occupation." Imagine a presidential debate between President Bush and my opponents (other than Al Sharpton), he says. They supported the war, they voted for the invasion, or they support the occupation. "Where's the debate with President Bush?" he asks.

And it's not just the war. Kucinich wants not-for-profit single-payer health care, and his opponents don't. "This is the time," Kucinich is saying, but I can't hear the rest. He's being drowned out, at least in the back of the room where I stand, by cries of "How-ard! How-ard! How-ard! How-ard!" coming from the hallway, where Howard Dean must have just arrived. Nearly a year of campaigning by the Ohio congressman for the highest office in the land is summed up in this moment. What must it be like to imagine yourself as the leader of an incipient movement for progressivism and then to have that movement led by another man, one that you view as a charlatan?

The night's other tragic figure is Joe Lieberman. He's begging for scraps of support by appealing to state pride, the last refuge of a second-tier candidate. "Hey, let me tell you this, I love New Hampshire," he says. "Did you see me at the debate the other day? I swore to God to fight to the death to protect the first-in-the-nation status of the New Hampshire Democratic primary." Lieberman knows he's not popular, but he's hoping against hope, too. "Looking around this room, I see there are some people supporting some other candidates for president, and I respect that diversity," he says.

See, Lieberman's not a conservative Democrat. He's diverse! "I have never wavered for a moment" on the need to remove Saddam Hussein, he says, and it sounds like three people clap. I'm more electable than the others, he says, because there are "a surprising number of Republicans who are disappointed with George W. Bush and ready to go for an acceptable alternative." There's a winning Democratic primary message: The candidate whom Republicans kinda like!

Lieberman can't get it right even when he's shoring up his liberal bona fides by talking about his plan to fight poverty. "Is it right for George W. Bush to have turned his back on 35 Americans in poverty?" he asks, omitting the crucial word, "million." But he's not discouraged. "I feel something happening in this campaign for me," he says. "My staff says that in New Hampshire today, there is an outbreak of 'Joe-mentum,' and I hope so." That's only the latest painful "Joe" pun in a Lieberman campaign list that includes the "Joe-vember to remember" and the campaign vehicle, the "WinnebaJoe."

As he's wrapping up, thanking "the people of New Hampshire for the warmth and respect" they have given him, Lieberman's speech has the feeling of a farewell, very much like a speech I saw Dick Gephardt give the night before the Iowa caucuses. Miracles do happen, and the Lieberman campaign is circulating a poll that shows him in a fight for third place (most polls show him mired in fifth), but inside this room it feels as if Lieberman, like Kucinich, is clinging to a fantasy.

Of the other candidates, Wesley Clark comes across the worst. "I haven't been a member of this party for very long," he says, and the crowd grumbles. "I know," shouts one man, while another calls out, "No shit!" Now that Dean has turned down his volume, Clark is the race's screamer, and he sounds a little unhinged. "We Democrats have got to take out that president," he says, in an unfortunate turn of phrase for one of the two candidates that has actually killed people. The crowd's applause is polite but tepid, and the race feels like it's slipping away from Clark, too.

The chair of the Democratic Party, Kathy Sullivan, introduces Dean as if he's a figure from the distant past, praising him for energizing the party "at a time when we were tired and unsure of ourselves." Dean draws big cheers, but they mostly come from the people in the back rows and in standing-room-only. A woman calls out to him, "Howard, don't ever give up." A man yells, "Give 'em hope, Howard!" Dean's eyebrows rise as he smiles his wicked grin. "I'm going to resist the temptation," he says.

Nearly a year ago, Dean appeared before the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting and declared, "What I want to know is why in the world the Democratic Party leadership is supporting the president's unilateral attack on Iraq." He pricked the post-9/11 bubble surrounding Bush and in the process transformed himself from a curiosity into a contender. But his speech Saturday barely touches on Iraq. He also says something I don't think I've ever heard him say before: "I ask for your vote."

John Edwards captivates the crowd. Edwards doesn't transfix me the way he does other members of the press. His way of merely describing his message as "positive" and "optimistic" and "uplifting" rather than, you know, actually having a message that embodies those qualities grates on me. What's the difference between Edwards' rhetoric and the awkward "Message: I care" rhetoric of George H.W. Bush? Edwards also has this new gesture he's using, where he puts a finger to his lips to appear thoughtful, that makes him look like Austin Powers.

But his message undoubtedly connects. He enters to enthusiastic applause, though it's not Dean-level. His speech about two Americas, about the importance of fighting poverty, and the borrowed Deanisms about restoring American democracy and taking it away from "that crowd of insiders in Washington, D.C.," and the "I believe in you" conclusion wins nearly everyone over. Edwards has become Howard Dean in the body of a good-looking, smooth-talking Southerner, and as he did in Iowa, he feels hot, hot, hot.

Of course, they're all Dean now. (Or, as The Nation'sDavid Corn put it, they're "the Angry Populist, the Calm Populist, the Polite Populist, the Executive Populist, and the Radical Populist.") John Kerry, who I think has the support of the majority of the crowd, says he wants to "break the grip of the powerful interests in this country and put the people in charge."

If Kerry, or whoever is the party's nominee, becomes president in 2005, he'll have Howard Dean to thank. Dean won. That's why he's losing.


          Howard Dean's Very Bad Night   

DES MOINES, Iowa—"Prove it or not," Howard Dean told his supporters at a rally Sunday in Davenport. "Now is the time to see if this works," to see if the unorthodox, Internet-fueled campaign assembled by Dean and his campaign manager, Joe Trippi, translates into votes. "Tomorrow, at 6:30 p.m., you can prove it or not." The answer Iowans gave him was a raspberry: Or not.

I attended a West Des Moines caucus Monday night with Dean's Iowa press secretary, Sarah Leonard, and her feeling about the race was that it would be close, so close perhaps that they wouldn't be able to call it that night. She felt it was a three-way race, between Dean, Kerry, and Gephardt. "Edwards, I just don't think you can build an organization in 48 hours," she said. But it wasn't close. Momentum beat organization, both Dean's digital one and Gephardt's analog one. (Leonard did say before the caucus, however, that the rumor that Dean had a hard count of 50,000 was preposterous. "If we had a hard count of 50,000, I'd probably be at the Val Air," she joked, referring to the ballroom site of Dean's caucus night party.)

The results from our caucus reflected the results of the 1,992 other caucuses in the state in one respect: Kerry got twice as many delegates as Howard Dean, four to two (with John Edwards picking up four as well). There were lots of new and first-time caucus participants, so many that the organizers ran out of forms to register them. But they weren't the new voters the Dean campaign wanted. George Davey, the precinct captain for the Dean campaign, said he was hoping for 25 to 50 Dean voters between the ages of 18 and 25, but only one showed up. "I think if we could blame [Dean's loss] on anyone, blame it on the 18- to 25-year-olds, because they were nonexistent," he said.

Davey, who is 37, also said Dean needed to be less negative toward his opponents. And another Dean volunteer, Toby Sackton, a 57-year-old from Boston, complained that Dean's television ads weren't any good. "We saw three ads, one by Kerry, one by Edwards, and one by Dean. Dean's was by far the worst," he said. "It was an ad aimed at getting the supporters out," not appealing to voters who didn't already like Dean.

I think there's something to Sackton's complaint. I heard four or five Dean radio ads on my drive to the caucus, all with the same message: Dean had the courage to stand up to President Bush on the war while the other major candidates folded. Dean's saturation TV ads focused on nefarious "corporations" and "special interests" and "Washington insiders," rather than the things I'd seen Dean use on the stump (in addition to his stance on the war) to appeal to voters who hadn't heard of him already: his Vermont record of balanced budgets, health care, and the state's "Success by Six" program for children.

In his final days in Iowa, Dean's campaign was about his campaign. To the extent issues were at stake at all, Dean's message focused on the past—Do you want a candidate who was against the war, as Dean put it in Davenport, "not now, but then"?—while John Kerry focused on a future consideration—Do you want a candidate who will raise your taxes? Beyond the war, Dean hit three notes: What his opponents said and did in 2002 and 2001, the fact that he's raised lots of money in small donations over the Internet, and tiresome bromides about the special interests/corporations/Washington insiders. It's a high-tech version of Al Gore's "people vs. the powerful" campaign. That's not good enough.

Four years ago, George W. Bush rebounded from a surprisingly large defeat in New Hampshire by co-opting his opponent's message and recasting himself as a "reformer with results." Dean might do the same. If he's got a tax cut in his back pocket, it's time to bring it out. And he needs to do a better job of introducing himself and his record to voters who haven't been paying attention to the campaign for six months or a year.

The early signs of that happening aren't auspicious. Rather than reaching out to the unconverted, Dean fired up his base of supporters at the Val Air. He grinned, ripped off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, and flung an orange "Perfect Storm" hat into the crowd. Then he started waving an American flag. Walter Shapiro's metaphor of Dean as an "aging rock star reduced to reprising his greatest hits in smaller and smaller clubs" never felt more apt.

At the Hotel Fort Des Moines bar on Saturday night, the New Republic's Ryan Lizza told Dean strategist Steve McMahon that his campaign needed a new message. McMahon shook his head. You and I are in different businesses, he said. The press is bored with our message, but we need to dance with the girl that brung us. I think McMahon's wrong. I think Dean's campaign became much more anti-business and much less moderate than it was six months ago, and it became a campaign about a messianic figure and his movement rather than a blunt, moderate Democrat and his policies. But even if McMahon is right, he must know by now that it's time to find another girl.


          Mystery Candidate   

MASON CITY, IOWA—Whatever John Kerry is doing right in this campaign, he isn't doing it on the stump. At least, that's my impression after watching him last night. Granted, it was the end of a long day for the senator, who spent much of it flying around Iowa by helicopter, and Kerry is a notoriously erratic speaker. The speech I watched him give had the quality of a rambling answering-machine message—Where is he going? What is he talking about? Will it ever end? But Kerry is the candidate that I've seen the least of in person, so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe I've just never seen him on a good day. If his momentum in the polls is for real, he must be doing something right.

There's a nugget of a theme in the middle of the speech, where Kerry uses President Bush's aircraft-carrier "Mission Accomplished" banner (derision of which is a surefire applause-getter in Iowa and New Hampshire alike) as a device to critique President Bush's domestic policy. "What mission?" Kerry asks. What about the mission to provide jobs for the unemployed, or to alleviate the high cost of prescription drugs, or to help family farmers, or to decrease the number of uninsured, or to clean up the environment? On those counts, "It's not even mission attempted," Kerry hollers. "It's mission deserted! Mission abandoned! Mission not even tried!" (Kerry returns to this theme at the conclusion, when he says Democrats will hang their own "Mission Accomplished" banner when they send President Bush back to Texas.)

In his first 100 days as president, Kerry says, he would issue an executive order that prohibits government officials from working as lobbyists for five years after they leave public life. He vows that every meeting between an official and a lobbyist in his administration would be public record. He makes an eloquent case for providing health care for the uninsured, saying, "Health care is not a privilege for the powerful and the wealthy. It is a right for all Americans." And he gets the automatic cheers any Democratic candidate gets when he refers to John Ashcroft by promising to "appoint an attorney general who is outside politics" and who will "not pursue a political and a religious agenda."

The audience doesn't seem wowed by Kerry, and he isn't bum-rushed by supporters the way I've seen crowds swarm around Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, and to a lesser extent on Thursday afternoon, John Edwards. What am I missing? I wonder. But driving between Dean events today, I hear a radio ad that might provide part of the answer. It supports Ryan Lizza's theory that Kerry is gaining ground by pushing an anti-tax message. Unlike unnamed other candidates, "John Kerry is not going to raise taxes on the middle class," the announcer says.

Kerry didn't directly criticize Howard Dean or Dick Gephardt on Thursday (though the veteran who introduced him did criticize Dean when he compared Kerry's Vietnam experience to "another candidate" who "asked for a deferment" and then went skiing). But he emphasized tax reform, not just the repeal of the Bush tax cuts. "I'm not looking for some great redistribution" or a "confiscatory" tax scheme, he says. "I'm looking for fairness." He also promises to "scour" the tax code for provisions that benefit "Benedict Arnold" companies and CEOs who move their assets offshore to escape taxes. Fifteen years ago, Kerry says, U.S. businesses had $250 billion in offshore assets. Today, it's $5 trillion. "This system is rigged against the average American," he says. "America is losing its democracy to a dollar-ocracy."

If Kerry's lead in the polls is accurate, and if it's attributable to his message on tax cuts (two pretty big ifs, in my opinion), Dean's decision to withhold his tax-reform plan until after the Iowa caucuses will be considered a major miscalculation. Instead of betting everything on Iowa and New Hampshire in an attempt to end the campaign before it began, Dean overconfidently decided to keep part of his platform in his quiver, presumably hoping it would have greater impact during a later stage of the campaign.

But what's bad news for Dean could be good news for the rest of the country. For years, pundits have complained that Iowa and New Hampshire have too much control over the presidential nominating process. This year, most people thought Iowa and New Hampshire would be even more important, because the condensed primary schedule would create unstoppable momentum for the winning candidates. But it looks like Terry McAuliffe's plan is having the opposite effect: By cramming so many primaries and caucuses into a small part of the calendar, McAuliffe created something much closer to a national primary than ever existed before. Joe Lieberman and Wesley Clark are taking advantage of the new game by staking their candidacies on the states after Iowa and New Hampshire. And if John Zogby is right about John Kerry, Howard Dean may be forced to do the same thing.


          Who's No. 1?   

DES MOINES, IOWA—To give you an idea of how crowded Iowa is with presidential candidates and those who follow them, here's what happened in the first hour and a half after I landed here Wednesday night: At baggage claim, I encountered two Kerry campaign workers in need of a lift, so I dropped them off at Kerry HQ, which is downtown in what used to be a car dealership. Moments later, when I pulled up in front of my hotel, the "Real Solutions Express"—the big, blue, star-spangled Edwards bus—was sitting outside. After I checked in, I rode up the elevator with Juan Williams. Ten minutes later, my next elevator ride was with Aaron Pickerel, the Iowa political director for the Edwards campaign. In 20 minutes of TV viewing, I saw ads for Dean, Kerry, Kucinich ("Did I approve this commercial? You bet"), Edwards, Dean again, and Kucinich again.

Two days ago, the Iowa storyline seemed pretty clear: Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt would duke it out for first place, and John Kerry and John Edwards would compete for third. But now, if the latest Zogby poll is to be believed, it's a four-way run for the finish. No one seems to have any idea how things are going to go down on Monday, but at the moment, the race feels so close that the results won't winnow a single candidate from the race.

Right now, the biggest mystery of the campaign to me is what's gotten into John Edwards? After his spectacular performance at the Des Moines Register debate earlier this month, I thought to myself, "Too little, too late." After the Register endorsed him, I yawned. But a campaign rally this afternoon at the Renaissance Savery Hotel is the first Edwards event I've witnessed where an enthusiastic crowd gave him the aura of a winner. Before today, I'd only seen Howard Dean and Wesley Clark perform this well. (I'll weigh in with a judgment on John Kerry after I see him tonight.)

North Carolina Gov. Michael Easley introduces Edwards with the best introduction speech I've heard for any candidate this campaign. He praises Edwards' opponents, saying: "They've all served our country well. I don't have anything negative to say about any of them, and neither does Sen. Edwards." Then he says something artfully negative about them anyway. "I'm running [for re-election] this time, and I want to run with someone I can run with, not from." Easley prepares the crowd for Edwards' theme: The North Carolina senator has dropped his aw-shucks, son of a mill worker, I've-done-this-my-whole-life campaign, and now presents himself as a fighter who has defeated powerful interests and powerful Republicans. "When he decided to run [for U.S. senator], he took on the toughest Republican establishment in the history of this country," Easley says.

Edwards has expanded one of the most effective portions of his stump speech, the part about "two school systems, one for the haves, and one for the have-nots," and turned it into the campaign theme. There are "two Americas," he says: two school systems, two tax systems, two economies, even "two governments in Washington, D.C." America also has "two images all around the world," the shining City on a Hill versus a new, less flattering image that's been created by President Bush.

Edwards has always gone after lobbyists, but now he's more strident about it. "We ought to cut these lobbyists off at the knees," he says. "We ought to ban them from making political contributions." He rails against the "revolving door" between lobbying and government, and he condemns "war profiteering." "We ought to ban these companies from making political contributions at the same time they're bidding on Iraq."

Of the corporate lawyers who underestimated him in the courtroom, Edwards yells: "I beat 'em. And I beat 'em again. And I beat 'em again." Ditto for "the Jesse Helms political machine," which underestimated him during his race for the U.S. Senate, he says. "And now I'm the senior senator from North Carolina, not Jesse Helms! And that is good for America!" (This fires up the crowd, but won't John Edwards not be the senior senator from North Carolina next year, because he decided to run for president instead of re-election? Is that bad for America?)

By the end of his speech, Edwards is sounding more and more like the man he's been chasing, Howard Dean. Up to now, most of the non-Deans have been trying to copy Dean's message by mimicking his anger, but Edwards zeroes in on another part of Dean's pitch, the part about empowering "you." Edwards promises to take away Washington from "that crowd of insiders in Washington, D.C.," and restore it to you. He can't do it alone, he says: "You and I are going to do it together." And the last line of his speech is no longer about himself, about an America in which the son of a mill worker can beat the son of a president. Instead, the son of a mill worker sounds like the son of a stockbroker: "I believe in you."

On the subject of speaking precisely: I've been inundated with complaints about my recent piece that listed six statements made by Wesley Clark in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, I lumped statements that are objectively inaccurate (there were no terrorists in Iraq before the war) with statements that are demagogic (we could find Osama Bin Laden "if we wanted to") with statements that are imprecise (the statement that Bush "never intended to put the resources in to get Osama Bin Laden" can be defended logically, but so can Howard Dean's statement about the "Saudi tip-off" conspiracy theory that a secretive administration breeds conspiracy theories; neither are smart politics) with statements that are merely provocative and controversial and could be used to tar Clark unfairly (for example, I think it's unwise for Clark to focus on whether 9/11 was preventable). And I didn't outline which statement I believe falls in which category.

The point of the piece, which was admittedly not clear, was to suggest that Clark may not be the "electable Dean" that his supporters believe he is. Both candidates have a propensity to make statements that range from impolitic to provocative to simply inaccurate. If you like Clark or Dean, you're predisposed to excuse these statements or to see them as courageous truth-telling. If you don't like them, you have a different reaction. I wanted to highlight this similarity between the two candidates, which belies the consensus that Clark is supported by careful centrists and Dean by angry liberals. I wish I had been more precise.


          Wesley Clark's Loose Lips   

Whether it's true or not, Gen. Wesley Clark's rise in the polls in New Hampshire is being partly attributed to some voters having "cold feet" about former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, especially Dean's penchant for making statements that are quickly seized upon by Fox News or the Republican Party as evidence of unpatriotic disloyalty. But Clark has the same propensity for speaking imprecisely off the cuff. Here are some statements I heard him make last week during my trip with him in New Hampshire:

Bush was "warned" about 9/11? "President Bush didn't do his job as commander in chief in the early months of his administration. He was warned that the greatest threat to the United States of America was Osama Bin Laden, yet on the 11th of September in 2001, the United States had no plan for dealing with the threat posed by Osama Bin Laden. The ship of state was on autopilot. There were good CIA officers and FBI officers and everybody doing what they'd been taught to do, but the essential leadership process of putting focus on the resources of the United States, and giving these agencies a real target and a mission, it wasn't done. At least, I think that's what the evidence will show if we ever get the results of this presidential commission, and if they've asked the right questions." (Jan. 6, McKelvieMiddle School, Bedford.)

Bush "never intended" to get Osama Bin Laden? "We bombed Afghanistan, we missed Osama Bin Laden, partly because the president never intended to put the resources in to get Osama Bin Laden. All along, right after 9/11, they'd made their mind up, I guess, that we were going to go after Saddam Hussein. That's what people in the Pentagon told me. And they capped the resources, stopped the commitment to Afghanistan, and started shifting to prepare to go after Saddam Hussein." (Jan. 6, McKelvieMiddle School, Bedford.)

There wasn't a single terrorist in Iraq before the war? "The president was not and has not been held accountable yet for misleading the American people. He is continuing to associate Saddam, Iraq, and the problem of terrorism. Yet the only terrorists that are in Iraq are the people that have come there to attack us." (Jan. 7, Town House, Peterborough.)

Fifty-five million voters are "ill-informed" dupes of the Christian right? "Now, there's one party in America that's made the United Nations the enemy. And I don't know how many of you have ever read that series of books that's published by the Christian right that's called the "Left Behind" series? Probably nobody's read it up here. But don't feel bad, I'm not recommending it to you. I'm just telling you that according to the book cover that I saw in the airport, 55 million copies have been printed. And in it, the Antichrist is the United Nations. And so there's this huge, ill-informed body of sentiment out there that's just grinding away against the United Nations." (Jan. 7, FullerElementary School, Keene.)

Does Islam need an Enlightenment or just Match.com? "Young men in an Islamic culture cannot get married until they can support a family. No job, no marriage. No marriage, unhappy young men. They get real angry, they feel real frustrated, they feel real powerless. And a certain number of them are being exploited in the mosques by this recruiting network." (Jan. 8, Havenwoods Heritage Heights senior center, Concord.)

President Bush doesn't even want to find Bin Laden? "Newsweek magazine says he's in the mountains of western Pakistan. And I guess if Newsweek could find him there, we could, too, if we wanted to." (Jan. 8, Havenwoods Heritage Heights senior center, Concord.)

[Update, 1/15/04: Click here and scroll to the bottom to read a more precise explanation of this article.]


          Wesley Clark Buys a Sweater   

CONCORD, N.H.—"This is so unfair, really," Gen. Wesley Clark moans from behind the dressing-room door. He's at the L.L. Bean Factory Store, and all he wants to do is try on a sweater, a plain, green, wool crewneck sweater, in private. But such is the plight of the presidential candidate in the surveillance society. Eight reporters and three minicams wait outside.

For better or worse, this is the most exciting event of the day. It's Thursday just after noon, and the press corps is getting antsy. Clark spent the morning doing interviews on television and radio, while the traveling press was shipped to a Panera sandwich shop to loll about. But after the tedium of watching a man deliver the same speech over and over and over again, watching him try on a sweater feels like entertainment.

When Clark arrived at the store, he was the one doing the razzing. "You need a new jacket. That looks like an Arkansas jacket," he said to Paul Barton, a rumpled reporter from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, who doesn't look adequately dressed for the below-zero temperatures that are about to hit New Hampshire. (We're at L.L. Bean because several reporters wanted to stock up on winter clothing. "How do you pack for six weeks?" one reporter explains.) Clark gets a kick out of teasing Barton, who hails from Clark's hometown of Little Rock. "He used to be on the TV show Columbo," Clark says. "But now he's traveling with us." Later, Barton strikes back, calling out, "General, do you want this atlas of Vermont?"

The rest of the press begins to join in. After Clark strategist Chris Lehane purchases a hunting cap, an Ignatius Reilly number with earflaps, several reporters urge the general to purchase a "Lehane hat" to go with the sweater he's shopping for. Clark demurs. "I'm not into hats. Nice try, guys."

"What I want is exactly this sweater," he declares, holding up a forest green crewneck. "If I can't find it, I'm buying this one and shrinking it. Paul, do you need a sweater?" Clark heads toward the dressing room to change, and the three women from the networks who record the general's every move teasingly ask if they can tag along. "Do you want to come with me?" he asks. No, not really, they say. "Then don't ask," he says, smiling.

Clark buys the sweater and wears it that night. But believe it or not, the episode isn't the last time the subject of the general's potential near-nakedness comes up. At the end of the day, some reporters plead with Clark to allow them to watch him go swimming the next morning. Clark's swimming prowess is heralded in the campaign film American Son, which is shown before some of the "Conversations with Clark" town halls. He swam two legs in a medley relay race for his state-championship swimming team in high school. (In a related subject, the 59-year-old Clark appears quite dashing to some women. One reporter says some older women told her he was "eye candy." Polls show that Howard Dean has much greater support among women than Clark does, but for sheer physical attractiveness, at least some women seem to think that it's Clark, not John Edwards, who's the matinee idol among the Democratic candidates.)

Clark sounds open to having reporters watch him swim, but he doesn't want any cameras to witness the event. When nearly everything you do gets caught on tape, maybe you need just a little time alone. Or maybe Clark's just tired of modeling for the press. As he put it, "No beefcake."


          General Electric   

PETERBOROUGH, N.H.—The metaphorical moment of my first 24 hours on the Clark trail took place late Tuesday, when a college student handed her résumé to a Clark aide and asked for a job. The objective emblazoned across the top of the page stated that she wanted a position with the Kerry campaign, except the word "Kerry" was scratched out and "Clark" was hand-written below it in ink. If that's not proof of Clark's newfound No. 2 status in New Hampshire, Howard Dean's campaign produced still more evidence when it authorized volunteers to distribute anti-Clark flyers at a Clark town-hall meeting Wednesday here in Peterborough.

On one side, the flyer reads "WESLEY CLARK: PRO-WAR," followed by a list of the general's much-discussed statements in support of the congressional Iraq war resolution. It's the stuff that gave Clark grief when he entered the race in the fall: He advised Katrina Swett, campaigning at the time *, to vote for the resolution, and he told reporters this past September that "on balance, I probably would have voted for it." On the other side, the flyer reads "WESLEY CLARK: REAL DEMOCRAT?" followed by Clark's much-discussed statements in praise of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the Bush Cabinet, plus evidence of his pro-Republican voting record in presidential elections (until 1992).

Clark strategist Chris Lehane paints this as hypocrisy on Dean's part. After calling on Terry McAuliffe to put a stop to intra-party bickering, the former Vermont governor aims his guns at his fellow Democrats when the tactic serves his interests. Fair enough, but who cares? More important is Clark campaign's sense of pride that it has arrived as a serious Dean rival. No campaign has ever been happier to have a target on its back.

Just as a press release at the Oct. 9 Phoenix debate showed that the Dean campaign considered Dick Gephardt its main obstacle of the moment, these flyers, however mild, demonstrate that Clark has become a big enough irritant to merit a swat of his own. "The Howard Dean campaign is starting to get a little nervous," Mo Elleithee, the campaign's New Hampshire communications director, crows at a conference call slapped together to gleefully respond to Dean's "negative attack flyers." "They're hearing our footsteps."

The Clark campaign insists that it was never engaged in any negative campaigning, and it's true that Clark has refrained from explicitly attacking Dean or any of his opponents at the three events I've attended so far. But there's no disputing that a healthy anti-Dean undercurrent runs through Clark's events. "You want to find the candidate you like, and you want to find the candidate who can win," says the man who introduces Clark in Peterborough. President Bush will run for re-election on national security and tax cuts, and Wesley Clark, he says, unlike Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean, can win on both.

Clark himself is even vaguer, but it's clear to whom he is referring when he opens each stump speech with a declaration that the party must rise above its anger in this election. "I'm not running to bash Bush," he says. "I'm running to replace him." The rest of the speech focuses on his patriotism, his faith, and his policies, but I wonder if this is another quiet shot at Dean. During Vietnam, "Every man in America understood that he had a military obligation," so it's no big deal that Clark served his country, Clark insists. (Did Dean understand his obligation?) And then, at a quick press conference after the town hall, a reporter asks Clark to respond directly to the flyers. Sounding more than ever like the man who just attacked him, Clark replies, "I guess that's what professional politicians do."

Correction, Jan. 9, 2004: In the original version of this article Chris Suellentrop referred to Katrina Swett as "Representative," when in fact she was merely campaigning for Congress at the time. Return to the corrected sentence.


          The Second-Place Candidate   

BEDFORD, N.H.—When I last saw Wesley Clark, I called him "Howard Dean with flags." Since then, he's reinvented his candidacy and made himself an even bigger threat to the former Vermont governor. He's now Howard Dean with flags and tax cuts.

Clark seems pretty close to emerging as the consensus pick for the only realistic non-Dean candidate. By sitting on the sidelines during the various Dean-Kerry, Dean-Gephardt, Dean-Lieberman, and Dean-"Insert Democratic candidate here" scraps, it appears that Clark's benefited from the "Dean vs. the Washington Democrats" infighting. He's in a statistical tie with Dean in a national poll. And by camping out in New Hampshire while everyone else makes a two-week sprint toward Iowa, Clark hopes to rise even further in the Granite State polls, too. (To be fair, not everyone is in Iowa. Joe Lieberman is spending a good deal of time in New Hampshire. But Clark strategist Chris Lehane rightly says that Lieberman is like "Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense: He's dead and doesn't know it yet.")

For Dean, Clark poses a slight problem because the general can't be painted with the same brush as Edwards, Gephardt, Kerry, and Lieberman. He's not a "Washington Democrat." He didn't vote for No Child Left Behind. He didn't vote for the Iraq resolution. The question for Clark is whether he will emulate Bill Clinton as the Comeback Kid, turning a potential second-place New Hampshire finish into an expectations victory, or whether he's just the voters' Fallback Guy. After all, the usual sad lot of the first runner-up is to sit around and vainly hope that the reigning Miss America won't be able to fulfill her duties. (Of course, there is always that chance that Howard Dean posed naked somewhere … never mind.)

As a candidate, Clark has improved his skills dramatically since I watched him speak in September. He's smoother, more coherent, and more concise. He's also willing to give voters at least mildly unpopular answers. At a "house party" on Tuesday (the first of several days that I'm going to be following Clark in New Hampshire), Clark tells a man concerned about job losses, "We'll probably never bring back the specific manufacturing jobs that have left." He doesn't rule out means-testing Medicare, though he does say that he's predisposed against it. (My favorite fudge on the subject: "I'm against means-testing as a matter of principle, insofar as it's at all practical.") The house is filled with physicians worried about medical malpractice suits, but Clark states his opposition to "arbitrary caps" on legal damages. "The court system really is important for ordinary Americans," he says. "The truth is if you're a poor person in this country or a person of modest means, the only way you can get legal advice is on a contingent-fee basis."

Despite the widely held belief that Clark is the candidate of Clintonian moderates while Dean is the candidate of the so-called "angry left," I don't see much evidence that voters at Clark events are more centrist or less liberal than voters I've seen elsewhere. (Exhibit A: A reporter walks up to a man in scrubs at the house party. "You're a doctor?" he asks. "An abortion provider!" is the cheery response.) At a town-hall meeting Tuesday night, one of Clark's biggest applause lines is his pledge to raise taxes on people who make more than $200,000 a year: "We're gonna ask them to be patriotic. We're gonna take back the Bush tax cuts."

But what really endears him to the crowd is his indictment of President Bush during the run-up to war. After outlining the Clark plan for Iraq—1) withdraw Paul Bremer; 2) put a non-American in charge; 3) place U.S. forces under NATO; 4) allow a rapid turnover of the country to Iraqis, "long before this July 1 date"; 5) don't let the Kurds keep their weapons, and don't give them an autonomous region—Clark mentions his Monday night appearance on MSNBC's Hardball. Chris Matthews was obsessed with Clinton's impeachment, Clark says. It's all he would ask him about. "We wasted millions of dollars and years in this country trying to find something that Bill and Hillary Clinton did wrong. And it was a waste of money and effort," Clark says. "I'd like to know why the United States Congress and this party is not demanding, every single day, an investigation into why the president of the United States misused the intelligence community, took us to a war we didn't have to fight, and still won't tell the American people the truth! That's what should be investigated! That's the truth!"

The candidate is angry, his voice rises, and the crowd leaps to its feet. It's Clark's best moment of a pretty good day. He's got them, I think, as the crowd presses around him for autographs and picture-taking. But I also can't help but think that Howard Dean would have had them on their feet from the start.


          A Browser's Guide to Campaign 2004, Cont'd.   

Four Trials, John Edwards' new book (written with John Auchard), is a lot like Edwards' presidential campaign appearances: On the plus side, it's affecting if a little bit corny, and in parts it's enthralling. But it's also thin on policy, focused on a past that bears little relation to the candidate's merits, and filled with eye-rolling paeans to the virtues and dignity of "regular people." And like the Edwards campaign, it's headed for the remainder bin before you know it.

The book is organized around four narratives about depositions, cross-examinations, and closing arguments—fairly well-written and not uninteresting. But what's really new here is Edwards' willingness to talk about his son Wade, who died in a car accident at the age of 16. Edwards is said to refuse all media questions about Wade, and as far as I know, he never mentions him on the campaign trail. To take just one example, at a Nov. 5 debate in New Hampshire I saw Edwards say, in an eminently confusing answer for those who don't know his life story, "We have four kids. We have a daughter who is in college, then we have a five-year-old, Emma Claire, and a three-year-old, Jack." He added, "They are simply the joy of my life." But he said nothing about the missing fourth (and oldest) child, Wade. His death is the real trial that underpins the entire book.

Wade shows up as early as Page 14, where Edwards mentions his birth in 1979. A subsequent chapter opens with a two-page account of Wade's healthy birth, to contrast it with the birth of Jennifer Campbell, a girl who developed cerebral palsy because of a botched delivery. (A few pages later, Edwards observes that his "beautiful son," 6 years old, was "born only three months after Jennifer, but at the Salvation Army, I was already coaching him in basketball"). We learn that "Elizabeth and I have vacationed without our kids only once—a three-day trip to Charleston when Wade was thirteen months old."

Slightly more than midway through the book, Edwards devotes two paragraphs to a description of Wade. At 10 years old, he was "already a fine writer, a nut for the UNC Tar Heels basketball team, and forever asking me questions about the cases I was working on. He was far and away the most fastidious Edwards in the household, and the first among us to master a computer. Wade had a calmness. … It was something more than the levelheadedness I had—there was a bit of a preacher's composure in my son."

The actual account of Wade's death and its immediate aftermath is very short, not even two full pages. But you see it coming pages before, when Edwards writes: "How could I not be an optimist, and how could I not be happy? My days were so often full of activity aimed at something I knew to be good. I was stubborn, for I thought that with enough work, study, imagination, honesty, and sure goodwill, you could make anything and everything better. Of course I learned that some things can never be made better. Some things can never become right again."

It's compelling stuff. Wade takes a job as a gofer in Edwards' law firm, and, one summer, father and son climb Mount Kilimanjaro together. In 1996, a Voice of America essay contest names Wade one of its 10 finalists for an essay about Election Day, and the Edwards family heads to Washington, D.C., as Wade's entourage. (This is two years before Edwards' election as senator.) They visit the White House and shake hands with Hillary Clinton. Wade meets North Carolina's senior Sen. Jesse Helms and gets a photo taken of him sitting at his desk. Later, Wade wins another award for a short story, and he says he wants to be a lawyer at his dad's firm.

On April 4, 1996, a strong wind blows Wade's Jeep Grand Cherokee off I-40 East, on the way to the Edwards family beach house on the Carolina coast. The passenger lives, but Wade doesn't. "Nothing in my life has ever hit me and stripped everything away like my son's death. That moment, those days, belong to our family," Edwards writes. "But because it was and is the most important fact of my life, and because I understand that I am now a public figure, I will say a few things about our son and our loss." After Wade's death, Elizabeth and John establish a foundation in his name, and they receive a touching letter from a student Wade knew in fifth grade. Edwards concludes: "The shards of a broken promise were everywhere: all over our house, on the television and the radio, on the neighborhood streets where he and I had jogged, and in the office I no longer visited. This has not changed in the seven years since Wade died, and I don't ever expect it to change. I do not fight it; it is the undercurrent of my life." Six months after Wade's death, Edwards returns to work.

In the book's afterword, Edwards semi-apologizes for writing about Wade: "When I began to think about this book, I did not know how much I would say about Wade, or particularly about his death, and I thought it would be best not to say that much about it. But as I attempted to explain my life as an advocate and as a man, I found it impossible not to speak of him. As much as anyone is—as much as my other children, Cate, Emma Claire, and Jack, as much as my parents, my grandmother, and my wife—Wade is who I am." He concludes the book, "I have learned two great lessons—that there will always be heartache and struggle, and that people of strong will can make a difference. One is a sad lesson; the other is inspiring. I choose to be inspired."


          A Browser's Guide to Campaign 2004   

Here's a quick guide to the good parts of Winning Back America, Howard Dean's campaign book to be published Dec. 3 (complete with a cover picture of the candidate trying his damnedest to look sunny):

Chapter 1: "I'm a Regular Guy." Dean touches on his family's roots and his childhood in New York City, and he makes passing mention of his Rhode Island prep school, but he says he "really grew up in East Hampton on eastern Long Island." His "idyllic childhood" involved being outdoors, riding bikes, a duck pond, fishing, sailing, and baseball. His dad wouldn't buy him a uniform for his baseball team because he thought it was a waste of money. The chapter concludes, "At heart, I'm a country person."

Chapter 2: Howard Dean, Farmer. Devoted to Dean's summer jobs as a teenager. Dean writes two sentences about working as a sailing-camp counselor but an entire page about his work on a cattle ranch in Florida. There he earned "agricultural minimum wage," cleared land, dusted crops, and in a yearning-macho voice worthy of Apocalypse Now's Col. Kilgore, he remembers "feeling the cool mist of the herbicide on my bare chest as the plane went over."

Chapter 3: "Unlike George W. Bush, I Had Black Roommates at Yale." Bush went to Yale, too, but his senior year was Dean's freshman year, 1968. "The gulf between our experiences was much larger, though; it was as if we were a generation apart," Dean writes, referring to the changes wreaked both by "the phenomenon of the sixties" and the increasing diversity of the Yale student body, including more Jews, more public school students, and in 1969, women.

Chapter 4: Howard Dean, Ski Bum. Dean's post-college years before medical school. He skis in Colorado (living in a cabin "in a little place called Ashcroft"), where he pours concrete and washes dishes to pay the bills. He becomes a teacher by virtue of a strange snap judgment after missing a plane to Bogotá, Colombia: "I've taken many hundreds of flights in my life, and this is the only time that's ever happened. I realized that there was a reason I missed the plane. I cut short my intended trip, went home, and decided to get to work." After teaching for a year, he takes a job on Wall Street. He decides he's too careful with other people's money to be a good broker, and that he doesn't really like New York City.

Chapter 5: Med School and Judy. Contains one of the more intriguing sentences in the book: "I didn't really get to be a happy person until I went to medical school." Dean's explanation for this is that he didn't work hard enough at Yale, and "If I'm directionless and coasting, I'm not happy." He meets his future wife, Judy Steinberg. He doesn't get into any of his top three choices for his medical residency. The University of Vermont was choice No. 4, and he moves to Burlington in May 1978.

Chapter 6: Dean Enters Politics. Is Dean a moderate Republican in disguise? He compares himself to his Republican father, a "fiscal conservative" who was "not particularly liberal on social issues, but he wasn't particularly conservative either. Today he would be considered a moderate, business-oriented Republican; he wanted the budget run properly. In that way, I am very much my father's son." Dean on why he's a "pragmatic Democrat": "I was friendly with the younger, more liberal Democrats because they were my age, but I didn't vote with them. I didn't relate to their political sensibilities."

Chapter 7: The Vermont Statehouse. A woman tells him, "You're going to do really well here, but you've got to get over this chip on your shoulder that tells you to fix somebody's wagon if they cross you."

Chapter 8: Governor. "Our telephone number remained in the book." Dean cuts marginal tax rates to improve Vermont's economy, but he insists he didn't engage in the "outrageous tax cutting that went on in some of the states." He also cuts spending programs over the objections of liberal Democrats. On one occasion, he visits Congress to talk about health care: "Bob Michel, the House minority leader, was there. He was a wonderful person. Newt Gingrich was there. He's not a wonderful person."

Chapter 9: More of the Vermont Miracle. Here's Dean's illustration of the "striking difference" between Republicans and Democrats: "When the Democrats controlled the National Governors Association (I was chair of the NGA from 1994 to 1995), we used to fight against our own party when it passed legislation that harmed the states. When the Republicans took over, however, they took orders from the G.O.P. in Washington, with few standing up for the people they represented. … Most Republican governors caved to the right-wing Republican White House because they were fearful; the folks in the White House are more than willing to threaten them."

Chapter 10: Pre-President Dean. He defends the Bush daughters: "I know that several thousand kids every year get caught with fake IDs." And he defends his wife's decision not to participate in his presidential campaign: "The notion that the wife is going to be dragged along in the wake of her husband's career is something that should have been left behind decades ago." Six sentences on religion, including "I'm a fairly religious person though I don't regularly attend church or temple," "I pray just about every day," and "I also believe that good and evil exist in the world, and I thoroughly disapprove of people who use religion to inflict pain on others."

Dean's favorite books: All the King's Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Ken Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion; also Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed and David McCullough's Truman ("It is one of the books that has had the most impact on me in the last ten years").

Dean ranks the presidents: 1) Washington; 2) Lincoln; 3) FDR; 4) a four-way tie between Jefferson, Truman, TR, and LBJ, despite Vietnam. We also learn Dean's weight, about 167 pounds. And don't tell Arianna, but he drives a Ford Explorer.

Chapter 11: The Chapter Most Worth Reading. Dean on the execution of his brother Charlie by communists in Laos in 1975 and on the death of his father in 2001. His parents thought Charlie was CIA: "There was speculation that Charlie was in Laos because he was working for the CIA and I think my parents believed that to be the case. Personally, I don't think he was employed by the U.S. government in any capacity, but we'll probably never know the answer to that question." Dean admits that he has spoken to counselors about his brother's death, and the chapter ends, "I'm sure that, had he lived, he'd be the one running for president and not me."

The second half of the book is campaign boilerplate: True believers will nod in approval, but you've heard this stuff before.


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          They Don't Like Him When He's Angry   

MANCHESTER, N.H.—Howard Dean tried, he really did. With the press huddled in the assistant principal's office at Manchester's Central High School, he's responding to charges from John Kerry that he's a "flimflam artist" who will say and do anything—"pander" to the NRA, stand with Newt Gingrich, flip-flop on NAFTA, Social Security, and the Confederate flag—to get elected. Dean's trying to play the front-runner, to not let his temper or his mouth get the better of him.

"We're not going to get down in the mud with Sen. Kerry," he says, then rolls off a Wesley Clark-worthy chestnut: "I want to say that I think this campaign has to be about the future, not the past." As the current president's father might have put it, Message: I'm above the fray. "I think what Sen. Kerry is doing is not helping the Democrats," Dean continues. "Our target has to be not each other, but our target has to be replacing George Bush as president of the United States. So, I would call on Sen. Kerry to try to lift his campaign a little bit higher." I, Howard Dean, have a positive, optimistic vision for America.

This is probably smart politics on Dean's part, but it's awfully disappointing. Just a little more than an hour earlier, he had turned to Jodi Wilgoren of the New York Times and said, "We're going to have a press avail later and blast Kerry." Dean's New Hampshire state director, Karen Hicks, looked surprised. Make sure we have the local press, too, Dean tells her.

What's he going to say? No one but Dean appears to know. Dorie Clark, the New Hampshire communications director, has no idea what I'm talking about when I ask her. Matthew Gardner, the campaign's New Hampshire press secretary, responds with a similar reaction when I tell him Dean said he was going to "blast Kerry." "He did?" Gardner says. "You're getting good insight into our speechwriting process." Later, when Wilgoren asks Gardner about it, he says, "We don't know if it's gonna happen yet."

But at 9:45 a.m., the assembled reporters are shuttled into the assistant principal's office. The press waits in the front section, around the administrative assistant's desk, while Dean and his team huddle in the next room. As the door closes, I see Dean seated at a chair in the center of the room, with his aides standing around him. I feel like Kay at the end of The Godfather, except the door that shut in her face didn't have a Garfield poster on it. Actually, Dean is closer to Sonny, and I think his aides are urging him not to go to war.

One of the best things about covering Dean is that he says things like, "I probably shouldn't say this," and then actually says things that he probably shouldn't. Most politicians use "I probably shouldn't say this" like they use "frankly," to preface either bland statements or red-meat panders in order to make them sound more straight-talking than they are. Sure, Dean employs that tactic, too (he's a master of the straight-talking pander), but he also lets his mouth get the better of him at times. For example, at Thursday night's town-hall meeting in Nashua, Dean said that President Bush "pooh-poohed" the foreign-policy notion of "constructive engagement" only "because he didn't think of it first. Which is probably not a surprise. I probably shouldn't have said that."

But when Dean comes out from behind the Garfield door, he's mouthing these second-rate platitudes. "I'm not going to attack Sen. Kerry in this press conference, other than to ask him to try to keep his focus on the task at hand, which is making sure that George Bush does not have a second term as president." He repeats the forward-not-backward bromide: "This is about the future, not the past." The reporters try to poke something interesting out of him, but he'll have none of it. "All I'm willing to do is to tell you what my positions are today, that's what's important." Give-'em-hell-Howard has gone from fire-and-brimstone to kumbaya.

But just before the availability ends, we get a flash of the old Dean, when he responds to a question about Kerry's criticism of his impending decision to turn down public financing for the campaign. Minutes after criticizing Kerry for personal attacks, Dean decides it's fair game to bring up Kerry's wife. It sounds like an implicit shot at Kerry's manhood for needing his wife's ketchup money in order to compete in New Hampshire:

"I would argue that Sen. Kerry has a very narrow place to stand on this issue, because if we opt out, we will raise money in small donations, which is exactly how campaign finance reform is supposed to work. He clearly does not have that financing capability. If he opts out, he will have a large check from himself, or his wife, to run the campaign. That's very different from what I'm talking about."

"OK, that's it," says one of Dean's aides. Dean talks for a little while longer, then says "Thank you very much," and walks out.


          Notes From New Hampshire   

MANCHESTER, N.H.—Notes on a day in New Hampshire:

The first Wednesday of every month is Meetup day for Howard Dean supporters, so they're gathered in a cramped restaurant called Merrimack, waiting for the candidate to arrive. It's close to a Holiday Inn where Dean and the other candidates will participate in a "women's issues" debate sponsored by Planned Parenthood. Merrimack is packed with media, including Joe Klein ("Hi, Joe," Dean says when he gets there) and George Stephanopoulos, who appears to be dressed in the same black turtleneck Wesley Clark and Dennis Kucinich wore Tuesday night.

Once Dean arrives, he stands atop a chair to address the crowd. "It's not true that I'm the shortest candidate in the campaign," he says. "In fact, I may be in the top half." This isn't as preposterous as it sounds. There are nine candidates, and only John Kerry, John Edwards, and Dick Gephardt are indisputably taller than Dean. Dennis Kucinich and Carol Moseley Braun are shorter. That leaves a fierce battle for the vital center among Dean, Wesley Clark, Al Sharpton, and Joe Lieberman. Maybe at the next debate they should all line up in their stocking feet.

During his speech, Dean clearly urges his supporters (who are voting this week on whether the campaign should turn down federal matching funds) to let him bust the federal spending caps: "It's a gamble, and there's good things to be said for both sides. But I fundamentally do not believe we can compete with George Bush if we limit our spending to $45 million."

Earlier in the day, Dean delivered a speech in New York (which I watch from the comfort of my Manchester hotel room, on www.howarddean.tv) to announce the vote. What catches my eye: While criticizing President Bush's "powerful money-bundlers," Dean said, "They are people like Walden O'Dell, a 2004 Pioneer, who is also manufacturing electronic voting machines to count our votes, and has said that he is, quote, 'committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.' " Does Dean believe that the Republican Party is going to manipulate electronic voting machines to steal the 2004 election? At Merrimack, I ask him. He admits that he doesn't know much about the subject, but he sounds open to the possibility. "I think it's a serious issue," he says.

A line Dean says to a supporter that he might want to consider dropping: "The only difference between me and McGovern is we're going to be in the White House."

Things of interest during the Planned Parenthood debate:

The candidates are asked to grade themselves on their parenting, and Dean and Clark give the most interesting answers. "I will not pretend for a moment that I did 50 percent of the work, but I did a lot," Dean says. Clark is even more honest. "I don't give myself a very good grade, but I had an A-plus wife," he says. "Sometimes you get better than you deserve in life, and I've been lucky."

They are also asked, "Do you practice a faith, and would you invoke the name of God when discussing a policy?" Nearly every one of them gives the safe answer, that their faith is important to them, but that they respect the separation of church and state. "I pray every night, but don't go to church very often," says Dean. "My religion does not inform my public policy, but it does inform my values," is Edwards's answer, and he adds, "The president of the United States should not be setting policy for the country based on his or her faith."

Only Kucinich dissents. (Along with Clark, Kerry, and Braun, he's one of four Catholics at the debate. Although Braun and Clark self-identify as Catholics, Braun attends an Episcopal church and Clark attends a Presbyterian one.) He says that within the context of a pluralistic society, religious values can and should influence public policy. "We must live our spiritual values in our public policy," such as full employment, health care, and education, he says. "A government that stands for peace reflects spiritual values." After the debate, I try to ask Kucinich about the relationship between his faith and his public policy, but I get off on the wrong foot by saying that he changed his abortion position to pro-choice "right before" he started running for president. "Wrong," Kucinich says, it was spring 2002. The discussion goes nowhere from there.

Since the topic came up, after the debate I also ask Clark why he converted to Catholicism as a young man, and why he no longer practices.

"When I was in England during the Vietnam War, the Nonconformist churches over there were just extraordinarily political. And I just couldn't go to service and have them condemn the armed forces that I was serving in. I mean, they were my West Point classmates there, and they were being accused of terrible crimes, and it wasn't so," he says.

"I believed in the structure, and the balance, and the long-term durability of the Catholic Church, and that's why I converted to Catholicism. But over the years as we went from location to location and saw the church, we found that our spiritual needs were better met by attendance at Protestant services. The services were richer in their spiritual meaning. And of course I still consider myself a Catholic. But I enjoy the singing, I enjoy the sermon, I enjoy the fellowship in the Protestant services. It's just a much deeper spiritual experience. That's for me."

Back to the debate. Three of the candidates say 18-year-old women should be required to register for Selective Service, just like 18-year-old men. "If you have different standards, that begins the path toward discrimination," Dean says. Clark and Kerry say yes, too. Edwards says no, and Braun says it would be OK if it weren't for the fact that one in four women at the Air Force Academy are victims of sexual assault or rape. Kucinich gives my favorite answer, an attempt to have it both ways: "No, not that they can't, if they want to."

What role would a "first lady, first man, or first friend" play in their administrations? There are three interesting answers. Dean confirms that "I'd very much like to be the first president who has a working wife in the White House" who does not participate in his career. Braun, who is divorced, says, "This is an impossible question. There has never been a First Man or First Gentleman." Like Dean, but with more flair, she concludes, "You'll get me, but you'll get no one for free."

But it's Kucinich, who also is divorced, who steals the show. "As a bachelor, I get a chance to fantasize about my first lady. Maybe Fox wants to sponsor a national contest or something," he says. He adds that he wants "someone who would not want to just be by my side," but would be a "dynamic outspoken women who was fearless" in her support for peace in the world and universal, single-payer health care. So, "If you're out there, call me."


          Flag on the Field   

BOSTON—Who wants to bet that Howard Dean wishes he had said last week thathe wanted to reach out to people who have silhouettes of naked women on their mudflaps? Or people who sport, "American by birth, Southern by the grace of God" bumper stickers? Or people who display pictures of Calvin urinating on Chevy or Ford logos on their back of their trucks?

But no, he had to say, "I still want to be the candidate for guys withConfederate flags in their pickup trucks" in an interview with the Des Moines Register.  I happen to think this is a bogus issue. Recovering their appeal to white working-class voters is something of an obsession among Democratic Party politicians, and the Dean campaign rightly points out that the Confederate-flag comment is something that their candidate says all the time, and that he never received any criticism for it in the past. During tonight's debate in Boston, the campaign issued a press release pointing to C-SPAN footage from the February 2003 winter meeting of the Democratic National Committee that was attended by every candidate except John Kerry. There, Dean said, "White folks in the South who drive pick-up trucks with Confederate flag decals on the back ought to be voting with us because their kids don't have health insurance, either, and their kids need better schools, too." The campaign says he was received with a standing ovation, "even bringing Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe to his feet," and they say you can see it on C-SPAN here, right before the 2:09:00 mark.

That said, Dean handled tonight's kerfuffle over the Confederate flag poorly, and he did so in a way that raises a worrisome question about his candidacy. Why is he so obstinate about admitting that he was wrong? Earlier in the campaign, when Dean was confronted with changes in his positions on trade, on Social Security, and on Medicare, his first instinct was to deny that he had held the earlier position. Surely it would have been far easier to just say, hey, I made a mistake.

Something similar happens tonight. Dean could easily have pointed out that he phrased his comment slightly differently this time, and he could see how it was misinterpreted. It is, after all, somewhat different to say that you want to "be the candidate" for those who wave the Confederate flag than to say that you want to bring those voters into your party. The latter suggests at least some effort to change hearts and minds, while the former implies that you just want to be their standard-bearer. Sure, he calls the Confederate flag a "loathsome symbol," a "racist symbol," and he says the party shouldn't embrace it. But on the matter of admitting that he made a teeny, tiny error, Dean won't budge.

In a way he created his own mess tonight. Had he simply answered the question he was asked by an audience member—"Could you explain to me how you plan on being sensitive to needs and issues regarding slavery and African-Americans, after making a comment of that nature?"—he might have gotten off more easily. But instead of explaining what he wants to do for African-Americans, Dean decides to talk about white people. "There are 102,000 kids in South Carolina right now with no health insurance. Most of those kids are white. The legislature cut $70 million out of the school system. Most of the kids in the public school system are white. We have had white Southern working people voting Republican for 30 years, and they've got nothing to show for it." This is all fine and good, and I'm generally against targeting political appeals to specific ethnic groups, but it was shockingly tone deaf for Dean to respond this way. The question was, how will you be sensitive to the needs of black people? Dean's response was, by working to help white people.

Al Sharpton jumps on Dean and says, "You are not a bigot, but you appear to be too arrogant to say 'I'm wrong,' and go on." (After the debate, Dean mistakenly attributes this comment to John Edwards.) Then, John Edwards stands up to confront Dean and delivers one of the best shots of the evening: "Because let me tell you the last thing we need in the South is somebody like you coming down and telling us what we need to do." By the time Edwards is done, you can feel his poll numbers among Southerners with chips on their shoulders start to spike. Luckily for Dean, at this point Carol Moseley Braun decides to bail him out, by endorsing his explanation that the party should bring whites and blacks together. She says, "Yes, this is an important conversation. But it has to be done in a way that does not play into the real racists and the real right wing."

Here was the night's marijuana-use scorecard, for those who didn't hear all of it: Kerry, yes; Kucinich, no; Sharpton, no; Edwards, yes; Lieberman, no; Clark, no; Braun, no comment; Dean, yes.

This may be my own pangs of guilt for calling him "irrelevant" after the Detroit debate last week, but other than the fact that he was dressed like Wesley Clark's Mini-Me (in an identical black turtleneck and blazer), I thought Dennis Kucinich had a pretty good night. I agree with him on almost nothing, but this was the first debate in which he did more than switch from angry ranting to moon-eyed idealism and back again. He was even a little inspiring when he told the young people in the audience to trust their hearts and their "inner knowingness."

Still, Kucinich couldn't top Wesley Clark for the best moment of the evening. In the spin room after the debate, Matt LaBash of the Weekly Standard asks the general what he thought when he noticed the two candidates were wearing the same outfit. Clark pauses, as if he's unsure of how to take this, then says, "I thought Dennis Kucinich had excellent taste."


          See Dick Run   

SIOUX CITY, Iowa—Dean season! Gephardt season! Dean season! Gephardt season! If any lingering debate remained over which presidential candidate is currently enjoying his media moment, my two days with Dick Gephardt settled it. The 20 national reporters who follow Gephardt for all or part of his campaign swing from Des Moines to Sioux City are the latest sign that not only have the leaves turned in late October, but so have the media.

I came along to witness firsthand the evidence for something I wrote earlier this month after the Phoenix debate, that Gephardt's hard-nosed and well-organized Iowa campaign presents, at the moment, the biggest obstacle to President Dean (or, to be fairer, Democratic Nominee Dean). But I missed the media conspiracy memo that told everyone else to show up, too. During Gephardt's weekend swing in Iowa two days before, only three national reporters trailed the candidate. But now, David Brooks is here. So are Mara Liasson of NPR and Carl Cameron of Fox News. Throw in reporters from ABC, MSNBC, Knight Ridder, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Christian Science Monitor, Newsweek, and the New York Times. (Counting Brooks, on Wednesday there are two New York Times writers following Gephardt.) Just for the sake of overkill, there are reporters from the British press and from Japanese television along for the ride. At one event in Pocahontas, Iowa—a town with an absolutely gigantic statue of the Indian princess outside her teepee welcoming visitors from the highway—the number of journalists nearly matches the number of prospective caucus-goers.

The Gephardt campaign pushes its slow-and-steady-wins-the-race angle (or is it a plea for votes from Maryland Terrapins alums?) by emblazoning "Fear the Turtle!" on the front of the press itinerary, complete with a little clip-art turtle on every page. The packet includes the latest Iowa poll results, which show Gephardt and Dean in a statistical tie for the lead, with Kerry and Edwards lagging behind. For good measure, the campaign throws in last week's favorable press clippings, including Des Moines Register wise man David Yepsen's assertion that Gephardt is the Iowa front-runner and that Dean has "plateaued" in the state. Also enclosed is a much-discussed Washington Post report—distributed, in truncated form, to voters at campaign events—that Gephardt is the candidate "many prominent Republicans fear the most." Not included is a delicious metaphor for Gephardt supporters to latch onto: While hurtling from campaign stop to campaign stop in Iowa over the past few months, the Dean van has been pulled over multiple times for speeding.

At his first stop, a senior center in Des Moines (the first of three consecutive senior centers visited by the campaign), Gephardt is supposed to deliver a "health policy address," but it turns out to be a rehash of old Howard Dean quotes about Medicare. (Later, while being ribbed by reporters about the false advertising, Gephardt's Iowa press secretary, Bill Burton, protests that he never called it a "major" policy address.) The newest wrinkle: Gephardt wants to paint the 1997 balanced budget accord—generally thought to be one of President Clinton's major accomplishments, and one supported by Dean—as a "deep, devastating cut" in Medicare.

While Gephardt speaks in front of a sign that reads "Protect Social Security" and "Protect Medicare" over and over, like computer-desktop wallpaper, I wonder: Does he really want to play this game? Dredging up old quotes and votes about Gephardt's onetime conservatism is what helped to derail his '88 campaign. He voted against the establishment of the Department of Education. He voted for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion. He voted to means-test Social Security and to eliminate cost-of-living adjustments from the program. He voted for Reagan's 1981 tax cuts. He opposed an increase in the minimum wage. Does a man with a legislative record this long and varied really want to ostentatiously declare, "There are life-and-death consequences to every position taken and every vote cast"? If that's so, how many times was Dick Gephardt on the side of death?

For now, however, it's a more recent House vote that's preventing Gephardt from running away with the Iowa race. At nearly every campaign event I attend, Gephardt is forced to deliver, in effect, two separate stump speeches. The first is the one he would like the campaign to be about: universal health care, jobs, and the immorality of rapacious multinational corporations. Gephardt's not anticapitalist: "Capitalism is the best system," he says in Pocahontas. "But capitalism has to have rules, so the capitalists don't destroy the very system" they benefit from.

He describes his visits to Mexico, China, and India, where workers live in the cardboard boxes used to ship the products they make. "I smelled where they live," he says. They live without electricity, without running water, with raw sewage running down the streets and next to "drainage ditches filled with human waste." "They live in worse conditions than farm animals in Iowa," he continues. "This is nothing short of human exploitation, that's what it is, for the profit of some special interests in the world." I'm not sure I agree with Gephardt's proposed solutions—though I'm intrigued by his notion of a variable international minimum wage—but there's no denying that he's a powerful critic of global capitalism's excesses.

Then, once Gephardt has finished and the applause has subsided, almost invariably a voter raises his hand to ask: What about Iraq? Was this war about oil? How can we recover the world's respect? How can we pay for all your programs with a war on?

At this point, Gephardt is forced to unveil stump speech No. 2. Sept. 11 changed everything, he says. Government's highest obligation is to protect American lives. In a Gephardt administration, the highest priority would be to prevent a nuclear device—"dirty or clean"—from going off in New York, Los Angeles, or Des Moines. That's why he decided Saddam Hussein needed to be removed. He supported the war because he believed the estimates of the CIA and the warnings of former Clinton administration officials, not because he listened to President Bush ("I would never do that").

Slowly, Gephardt's defense of his vote for the congressional war resolution transitions into a critique of the president. Though in an interview he insisted that the president was smart, on the stump he's not shy about insinuating that the president (whom he often refers to as "Dubya") is stupid. "He's incompetent," "He frightens me," "He's hard to help," I told him America founded the United Nations because "I wasn't sure he knew the history," and "If you'd been meeting with him every week since 9/11, you'd be running for president," too. Because Bush refused to negotiate with Kim Jong Il, North Korea is now "weeks away" from producing nuclear bombs. Bush abandoned the peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine, saying, "It's not our problem." He's arrogant. He doesn't play well with others. By the end, people are satisfied enough with Gephardt's explanation, and maybe even a little terrified, but you get the sense that they're not enthused by it.

But Gephardt isn't counting on enthusiasm. He has a couple edges on Dean, in addition to his obvious union support. For one, a surprising number of Iowa Democrats just don't like the former Vermont governor. The opposition to Gephardt tends to be substantive, based on his support for the war or his failure as Democratic leader to enact a more Democratic agenda. But the opposition to Dean is stylistic, or maybe even cultural. In socially conservative Iowa, sometimes you hear it whispered: Where's Dean's wife? Before Gephardt arrives at an event in the town of Ida Grove, I overhear a woman grumble about Judith Steinberg's refusal to campaign for her husband. "I can't get used to that," she tells her companion. "It's supposed to be a family thing."

By the same token, Gephardt never fails to mention the "church loans" and "church scholarships" that allowed him to attend Northwestern and then Michigan law school. He also refers to his son, Matt, who survived prostate cancer as an infant, as a "gift of God." I don't think I've ever heard Howard Dean say the word "God" in reference to anything.

Just before the last stop in Sioux City, I'm granted a 10-minute ride-along interview with Gephardt. I've got a number of questions, but the one I really want an answer to is this: If balanced budgets and free trade—two things that don't get a lot of emphasis in the Gephardt platform—weren't the secrets of the Clinton economy, what were? Higher taxes for the rich? Gephardt explains that the '97 budget accord wasn't needed to balance the budget, and then he tries to explain why Bush's steel tariffs—which Gephardt supported, and which made the United States lose manufacturing jobs—aren't analogous to the retaliatory tariffs Gephardt wants to be able to impose on foreign products or factories that don't comply with minimal labor and environmental standards. Soon enough, we're so sidetracked that I've forgotten entirely what we were talking about.

But afterward, when I'm once again following Gephardt in my rental car, I'm left with my question: Clinton balanced the budget and promoted free trade, and the economy boomed. President Bush ran up enormous deficits and put new restrictions on trade, and the economy sputtered. Isn't Dick Gephardt's plan closer to President Bush's?


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          Remembering Vincent Chin: Pete Hoekstra and Being Asian in America   
Feel free to comment on the original posting at www.reyes-chow.com. [Photo from the film “Vincent Who?”] UPDATE: Asian Pacific Americans for Progress is compiling a list of responses to the ad. [RESPONSES] On the night of June 19, 1982 in Detroit, MI, after a confrontation at a local club where Vincent Chin was having his
          Three Thoughts on Becoming Post-racial   
Re-posted from www.reyes-chow.com. I have written plenty on [race] in general and [Martin Luther King Jr.’s] birthday in particular, but on this, the 2012 remembrance of the birth of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., let me just offer three very random thoughts on the “post-racial” question. On achieving  a “post-racial” America – If conversations about race are to have
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          Trump’s Budget Benefits the Most Comfortable Americans and Sticks It to the Most Vulnerable   
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          A Return to Normalcy at Our Local Wildlife Refuges   
A trio of Tundra Swans gain altitude as they depart from the
Cayuga Pool at the Iroquois Wildlife Refuge in late February.

By late summer last year, the drought of 2016 had taken a toll on a good number of the marshes at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge as well as the state run Oak Orchard and Tonawanda Wildlife Management Areas. Waterfowl and other migratory species were forced to look elsewhere for sustainable water. 

Thankfully, the water levels are back up at all three locales and by late winter this year the usual cast of characters began showing up once again. A series of trail hikes in late Feb. and again last weekend resulted in these pics we’d like to share with you.
Mating season is underway and the gander on the right is sending a clear
 message to his would-be rival; "Three's a crowd and you're outta here, fella!"
A drake Mallard at home in the cattail marsh makes for a classic waterfowl photo.  
Hey, what do you know? There's a coot!
A member of the Rail family, the American Coot is a marsh-dwelling bird with a short, rounded body and long toes. Unlike other members of the Rail family, the coot likes open water, often feeding alongside ducks. Excellent swimmers and divers that feed on a variety of aquatic plants, Coots are the most aquatic members of the Rail family. 

We shall return for more visits to the refuges as spring turns to summer and then on to fall.  We look forward to sharing those journeys with you as the cycle of life continues here in the marshes.

Until Next Time,
Jim & Claudia 

          J.D. BARRETT: AVID PADDLER FOR ALL SEASONS   
J. D. Barrett - has canoe, will paddle
J.D. Barrett sets out each year to match his age with the number of times he goes canoeing during the calendar year. Four years ago, at the age of 87 his 87th trip entailed paddling Black Creek as it flows through Genesee and Monroe Counties.  It was December at the time.  

Canoeing in December? Was there ice on the water? You bet, but not enough to deter J.D. and some well-wishing fellow paddlers who were on hand to help commemorate the occasion. On that day the group of seven launched their solo canoes in Churchville Park and paddled upstream a few miles before stopping for a celebratory hot lunch on shore.

The man in his element.
One might figure that given J.D. Barrett’s yearly quest, last year, at age 90, he would make ninety paddling trips on the waterways he so enjoys. Not quite. “God was willing” as J.D. might say, to see him complete 105 canoe outings on the lakes, creeks and rivers he favors. 

Some years J.D. meets his “quota” and other years, well, let’s just say age throws unforeseen snags in his path. This year shoulder problems prevented him from pursuing his outdoor endeavors as much as he would have liked. Still, he put in ample time both canoeing and fly-fishing.

Regardless of the weather, there's nothing better than being on the water.
In addition to paddling, J.D. has fashioned many a canoe and kayak from scratch and is well known for his custom paddles which he often presents as gifts to friends.  A skilled and meticulous craftsman, the time J.D. has spent making canoes and kayaks or helping friends do so is considerable, yet it is surpassed by the time he spends on the water in pursuit of one of his favorite pastimes. 

J.D. doesn’t spend all his time on the local lakes and streams or in his woodworking shop. A Stafford resident who is highly regarded in both the canoeing and fly-fishing communities, he has also been a member of Grace Baptist Church in Batavia for the better part of six decades.  In addition to serving as a deacon and on various committees, J.D. has used his musical talents as an accomplished pianist as part of the worship service for many years at Grace. 

The look of genuine contentment. 

A devoted family man, J.D. and his wife, Dorothy celebrated their sixty-ninth wedding anniversary earlier this year. To those who know him best, his attributes are many; good husband & father, adept canoeist, skilled fly-fisherman, talented musician, and a faithful servant of the Lord. A diverse and laudable repertoire indeed, one befitting a great American and a Godly man.

Until Next Time,
Jim & Claudia

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          The Tundra Swan   

A creature both sublime and graceful, I would be hard pressed to come up
with a more ideal display of majestic beauty than the Tundra Swan in flight. 

Our mild winter has jump-started the spring bird migration here in eastern North America, and among our many avian friends that are winging their way Northward is the strikingly magnificent Tundra Swan.  They will stop here briefly before heading to their breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic. Come autumn, they’ll make the return trip to their wintering grounds along the Atlantic coast, traveling as far as South Carolina. That’s a one-way flight of nearly 3500 miles and it’s a trip they make twice a year.

Believed to mate for life, Tundra Swans pair up for nearly a year
 before the mating process begins
.

With breeding season drawing near we begin to see
 fervent displays of affection and courtship.

Their "heart" of love for one another is on display for all to see.

Having taken a much needed respite on a farm field in Pembroke, these
 Tundra Swans are again taking to the skies en route to the far North. 

I derive a good deal of enjoyment from nature, both in the beauty found therein and its awe-inspiring moments. But even more than that, I’ve learned to appreciate it's stark reality – a world unto itself that’s as real as it gets - no hidden agendas, just a biological drive to procreate and sustain the species’. Having gazed upon the Tundra Swans and listened to their calls, it would appear that a good deal of affection certainly helps the process.  As Job reminds us; Just ask the animals and they will teach you.  Ask the birds of the sky and they will tell you. Speak to the earth, and it will instruct you. In His hand is the life of every creature.  My eyes have seen all this.  My ears have heard and understood it.  

Until Next Time,

Jim & Claudia

          Trump-Supporting Doctor On MSNBC Says The NRA Is The Solution To Health Care   
Dr. Alieta Eck drew ridicule from MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle on Wednesday by suggesting that the way to give Americans better health care was to allow people to buy insurance through the National Rifle Association . During a discussion with a panel of doctors who support President Donald Trump's effort to "repeal and replace Obamacare," Ruhle asked Eck how legislation could improve the health care system.
          There's No Consensus On 'Sensible' Gun Policies   
... to developing gun violence prevention ( But it won't be ignored because when Pew speaks about how Americans think about guns, what they say is what people who want to reduce gun violence are hoping to hear, namely, that many if not most gun owners ...
          People divided   
By the time you read this, perhaps the latest round of fighting over the American Health Care Act will be over — for now.
          Historian, author to revisit War of 1812 in Middlebury   
MIDDLEBURY — A new book by historian and Champlain College professor Willard Sterne Randall reexamines the nearly forgotten War of 1812, also known as America’s Second War of Independence.
          LA FERIA DEL LIBRO EN SANTA FE SERÁ DEL 3 AL 12 DE SEPTIEMBRE   
"Los libros hacen historia en la Estación Belgrano"

Los funcionarios responsables de la organización brindaron un adelanto de lo que sucederá desde el próximo viernes. La apertura será a las 19 y contará con la actuación de la Sonora Caribe.
El lema de la nueva edición de la feria alude también a la recuperación de este emblemático espacio.


Agenda de actividades:


En este marco, se oficializó la programación final propuesta para toda la semana. Así, la agenda se desplegará de la siguiente manera:

Lunes 6. 18.00, Sala Bar Saer, charla “El secreto de aceptar… nuestra vida emocional” de María Guadalupe Buttera. Presenta: Librería Las musas del saber. 19.00, Sala Bar Saer, presentación del libro “Lengua madre” de María Teresa Andruetto; palabras a cargo de Diego Suárez; coordina la Asociación Abracuentos “Libroteca ambulante” y el ISP Nº8 “Almirante Brown”. 19.00, Sala Auditorio, presentación del libro “Historia de un sobreviviente” de Eusebio Cabral (Ediciones UNL), palabras a cargo de Ana Salgado, José Corral, Oscar Belbey y Jorge Daniel Pedraza. 20.00, presentación del libro “Exclusión e inclusión. El problema de los colectivos discriminados”, del Centro de Estudios Sociales DAIA, Libro declarado de interés por la Cámara de Senadores de la Provincia de Santa Fe; palabras a cargo de Marisa Braylan, Eduardo Duschkin y Griselda Tessio.

Martes 7. 17.00, presentación de “La gran aventura del espacio”, charla a cargo del Prof. Jorge Coghlan sobre astronomía y astronáutica; coordinan Ministerio de Educación, CODE, LIADA y UNL. 18.00, charla “Conversando con María Teresa Andruetto sobre libros y literatura para chicas y chicos”; organizan Asociación Abracuentos “Libroteca ambulante” y el ISP Nº8 “Almirante Brown”. 19.00, presentación del libro “Hannah Harendt, sentido común y verdad” del Presbítero Dr. Gerardo Galetto, con la participación de Rogelio Alaniz, de la Editorial Biblos. 19.00, presentación del libro “Temas con historia” de Ricardo Ríos Ortiz. 20.00, presentación del libro “El purgatorio que no fue: acciones profanas entre la esperanza y la soportabilidad” (Ciccus Ediciones) de Adrián Scribano y Eugenia Boito; presentación de la Revista Nº3 Relaces; organiza Palabras Andantes.

Miércoles 8. 15.00, presentación del Fascículo Nº9 Aula Ciudad “Honorable Concejo Municipal”, organiza Gobierno de la Ciudad. 17.00, presentación de la “Guía de Bibliotecas de Santa Fe” en el marco del proyecto de extensión Red de Bibliotecas Públicas y Populares de la ciudad de Santa Fe; organiza UNL. 18.00, presentación del libro “Los pecados provinciales” de Luis Candioti; presentarán Colectivo Editor, Mara Muratore y Palabras Andantes. 19.00 a 21.00, Sala Bar Saer, Taller Literario de la Universidad Tecnológica Nacional Regional Santa Fe y la Asociación Tribunales; coordina Marta Rodil. 19.00, Sala Auditorio, presentación del libro “Memoria de infancia”, colectivo de escritura del Programa Mirada Maestra, impulsado por el Ministerio de Innovación y Cultura de la provincia de Santa Fe. 20.00, presentación de “Arte Correo”, primera muestra de la convocatoria internacional de “Arte Correo. Santa Fe, la provincia que camina”, del Ministerio de Innovación y Cultura de la provincia de Santa Fe.

Jueves 9. 17.00, presentación de “La gran aventura del espacio”, charla a cargo del Prof. Jorge Coghlan sobre astronomía y astronáutica; coordinan Ministerio de Educación, CODE, LIADA y UNL. 18.00, presentación del libro “Agustín Tosco, 1930-1975. Sindicalismo clasista, socialismo y peronismo revolucionario” de Silvia Licht (Editorial Biblos); organizan ATE y Palabras Andantes. 19.00, presentación del libro “De los templos a las calles” de Diego Mauro, perteneciente a la Colección Los Premios; coordinan Ediciones UNL y Ministerio de Innovación y Cultura de la Provincia de Santa Fe. 20.00, presentación del libro “La Marca” de Norberto Chávez, con la participación de Raúl Belluccia; presentará Librería Ferrovía. 21.00, escenario mayor, Urbana Trío.

Viernes 10. 16.00, presentación del libro “Pasapalabras del Hogar II” voces que vuelan, voces que siembran. Producción de los niños que asisten a los hogares de Día CILSA “Un niño, Un abuelo” de Santa Fe. 18.00, presentación de las Bibliotecas Ferrovía - Cine Club Santa Fe y otras; presenta Librería Ferrovía. 19.00, presentación del libro “La nada que nos viste” de Roberto Malatesta, palabras a cargo de Diego Suárez; perteneciente a la Colección Los Premios; coordinan Ediciones UNL y Ministerio de Innovación y Cultura de la Provincia de Santa Fe. 20.00, Sala Bar Saer, presentación del libro “Sabor a Colmena y otros Relatos” de Rogelio Alaniz (Ediciones UNL). 21.00, presentación de la Revista del Centros de Estudios e Investigación de Políticas Argentinas y Latinoamericanas; presentan Asociación de periodistas de Santa Fe y CEISPAL. 21.00, escenario mayor, Velv Cuarteto de Cuerdas.

Sábado 11. 17.00, presentación de la revista “Horizonte” a cargo del Taller Literario Tinta de Sauce y Escuela José Scalaferri. 18.00, presentación del libro “Memorias de la ciencia y la cultura en la UNL. Judíos italianos en los espacios universitarios” de A. Crolla, Daniel Silber, Oscar Vallejos, Manuel Berrón y Claudia Neil (Ediciones UNL); palabras a cargo de Sergio Peralta y Eugenia Blanche. 18.00, presentación de La Gota Microediciones, edición de autores jóvenes de Santa Fe y la región. 19.00, panel Homenaje “Rescatando Voces”, con lectura de textos de autores santafesinos; presenta la Prof. María Beatriz Bolsi; organiza SADE. 19.00, presentación de los libros “La casa del viento” y “La casa del crimen” de Alicia Barberis; coordina Librería Ferrovía. 20.00, presentación de libros Editorial Espiral Calipso (Rosario). 21.00, presentación del libro “Otto Schneider y Santa Fe. Tradición alemana en Santa Fe, cuna de la cultura cervecera argentina” (Ediciones UNL), de Luciano Alonso, José Larker y Luisina Agostini; participará Juan Pablo Barrale. 21.00, escenario mayor, Danilo Cernoto Cuarteto.

Domingo 12. 17.00, presentación del libro “Método práctico para diseñar moda” de María Antonia Díaz Palomino. 17.00, escenario mayor, La Gordini. 18.00, presentación Colección Álbum Cuentos de Marianela Alegre ilustrados por artistas santafesinos. 19.00, presentación del libro “Pedagogía del Silencio” de Néstor José Didier. 20.00, panel “Ediciones alternativas santafesinas” a cargo de Daniel Dussex director de la Revista Eh! Agenda Urbana, Cristian Lehmann y Raúl Viso del Círculo de Dibujantes Santafesinos; presenta Alejandro Álvarez de “El Arca del Sur”. Actividades permanentes Además de la exposición y venta de libros, habrá otras actividades que se concretarán de forma permanente durante el tiempo que dure la Feria. Una de ellas será “Haciendo visible lo invisible”, muestra artística de Ciruelo y Carlosag. En esta línea, el Gobierno de la Ciudad desplegará el trabajo realizado en “Arte y Comunidad”, amplio programa artístico, pedagógico y cultural desarrollado por el Gobierno de la Ciudad. Por su parte, el Gobierno provincial exhibirá “Arte Correo” y la UNL el primer circuito interactivo de ciencias, al que han denominado “Irrealidades Científicas (lo que ves no siempre es lo que es)".


Fuente: http://www.ellitoral.com/index.php/diarios/2010/09/01/escenariosysociedad/SOCI-03.html

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          India and the Balance of Power   

India is arriving on the world stage as the first large, economically powerful, culturally vibrant, multiethnic, multireligious democracy outside of the geographic West. As it rises, India has the potential to become a leading member of the "political West" and to play a key role in the great political struggles of the next decades. Whether it will, and how soon, depends above all on the readiness of the Western powers to engage India on its own terms.

THREE STRATEGIC CIRCLES

India's grand strategy divides the world into three concentric circles. In the first, which encompasses the immediate neighborhood, India has sought primacy and a veto over the actions of outside powers. In the second, which encompasses the so-called extended neighborhood stretching across Asia and the Indian Ocean littoral, India has sought to balance the influence of other powers and prevent them from undercutting its interests. In the third, which includes the entire global stage, India has tried to take its place as one of the great powers, a key player in international peace and security.

Three things have historically prevented India from realizing these grand strategic goals. First, the partition of the South Asian subcontinent along religious lines (first into India and Pakistan, in 1947, then into India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, in 1971) left India with a persistent conflict with Pakistan and an internal Hindu-Muslim divide. It also physically separated India from historically linked states such as Afghanistan, Iran, and the nations of Southeast Asia. The creation of an avowedly Islamic state in Pakistan caused especially profound problems for India's engagement with the Middle East. Such tensions intertwined with regional and global great-power rivalries to severely constrict India's room for maneuver in all three concentric circles.

The second obstacle was the Indian socialist system, which caused a steady relative economic decline and a consequent loss of influence in the years after independence. The state-socialist model led India to shun commercial engagement with the outside world. As a result, India was disconnected from its natural markets and culturally akin areas in the extended neighborhood.

Finally, the Cold War, the onset of which quickly followed India's independence, pushed India into the arms of the Soviet Union in response to Washington's support for Pakistan and China -- and thus put the country on the losing side of the great political contest of the second half of the twentieth century. Despite being the largest democracy in the world, India ended up siding with the opposite camp on most global issues.

The last decade of the twentieth century liberated India from at least two of these constraints; state socialism gave way to economic liberalization and openness to globalization, and the Cold War ended. Suddenly, New Delhi was free to reinvent its foreign policy -- positioning itself to face the rise of China, shifting its strategic approach to its other neighbors, and beginning to work closely with the world's existing great powers.

VARIETIES OF INFLUENCE

India's recent embrace of openness and globalization has had an especially dramatic effect on the country's role in the region. As the nations of the subcontinent jettison their old socialist agendas, India is well positioned to promote economic integration. Although the pace has been relatively slow, the process has begun to gain traction. The planned implementation of the South Asian Free Trade Agreement this summer signals the coming reintegration of the subcontinent's markets, which constituted a single economic space until 1947.

At the same time, optimism on the economic front must be tempered by an awareness of the problematic political developments in India's smaller neighbors. The struggle for democracy and social justice in Nepal, interminable political violence and the rise of Islamic extremism in Bangladesh, and the simmering civil war in Sri Lanka underscore the potential dangers of failing states on the subcontinent. There are also the uncertain futures of Pakistan and Afghanistan: defeating religious extremism and creating modern and moderate states in both countries is of paramount importance to India. A successful Indian strategy for promoting peace and prosperity within the region would require preventing internal conflicts from undermining regional security, as well as resolving India's own conflicts with its neighbors.

In the past, great-power rivalries, as well as India's own tensions with Pakistan and China, have complicated New Delhi's effort to maintain order in the region. Today, all of the great powers, including the United States and China, support the Indian objective of promoting regional economic integration. The Bush administration has also started to defer to Indian leadership on regional security issues. Given the new convergence of U.S. and Indian interests in promoting democracy and countering extremism and terrorism, New Delhi no longer suspects Washington of trying to undercut its influence in the region. As a result, it is more prepared than ever to work with the United States and other Western powers to pursue regional goals.

Meanwhile, the external environment has never been as conducive as it is today to the resolution of the Indo-Pakistani conflict over Kashmir. The conflict has become less and less relevant to India's relations with the great powers, which has meant a corresponding willingness on New Delhi's part to work toward a solution. Of particular importance has been the steady evolution of the U.S. position on Kashmir since the late 1990s. The support extended by President Bill Clinton to India in its limited war with Pakistan in 1999 removed the perception that Washington would inevitably align with Islamabad in regional conflicts. But India remained distrustful of the Clinton administration's hyperactive, prescriptive approach to Kashmir. It has been more comfortable with the low-key methods of the Bush administration, which has avoided injecting itself directly into the conflict. The Bush administration has also publicly held Pakistan responsible for cross-border terrorism and has extracted the first-ever assurances from Pakistan to put an end to the attacks. New Delhi does not entirely believe these promises, but it has nonetheless come to trust Washington as a source of positive of influence on Islamabad.

These developments have opened the way for a peace process between the two governments. With the growing awareness that the normalization of relations with Pakistan would end a debilitating conflict and help India's regional and global standing, New Delhi has begun to negotiate seriously for the first time in decades. Although the pace of talks has not satisfied Pakistan, the two sides have agreed on a range of confidence-building measures. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has rejected the idea of giving up territory, but he has often called for innovative solutions that would improve living conditions and for common institutions that would connect Kashmiris across the Line of Control. Singh has made clear that the Indian leadership is ready to risk political capital on finding a diplomatic solution to Kashmir.

India's recent effort to resolve its long-standing border dispute with China has been just as bold. New Delhi decided in 2003 to seek a settlement with Beijing on a political basis, rather than on the basis of legal or historical claims. As a result, during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to New Delhi in April 2005, India and China agreed on a set of principles to guide the final settlement. The two governments are now exploring the contours of mutually satisfactory territorial compromises.

India's search for practical solutions to the disputes over Kashmir and its border with China suggests that the country has finally begun to overcome the obsession with territoriality that has consumed it since its formation. Ironically, the nuclearization of India and Pakistan in 1998 may have helped in this regard: although nuclearization initially sharpened New Delhi's conflicts with both Islamabad and Beijing, it also allowed India to approach its territorial problems with greater self-assurance and pragmatism.

INDIA UNBOUND

Progress on the resolution of either of these conflicts, especially the one over Kashmir, would liberate India's political and diplomatic energies so that the country could play a larger role in the world. It would also finally release India's armed forces from the constraining mission of territorial defense, allowing them to get more involved in peace and stability operations around the Indian Ocean. Even with all the tensions on the subcontinent, the armies of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have been among the biggest contributors to UN peacekeeping operations. The normalization of Indo-Pakistani relations would further free up some of the best armed forces in the world for the promotion of the collective good in the greater Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

Even as the Kashmir and China questions have remained unsettled, India's profile in its extended neighborhood has grown considerably since the early 1990s. India's outward economic orientation has allowed it to reestablish trade and investment linkages with much of its near abroad. New Delhi is negotiating a slew of free- and preferential-trade agreements with individual countries as well as multilateral bodies including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and the Southern African Development Community. Just as China has become the motor of economic growth in East Asia, a rising India could become the engine of economic integration in the Indian Ocean region.

After decades of being marginalized from regional institutions in different parts of Asia, India is also now a preferred political partner for ASEAN, the East Asian Summit, the GCC, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the African Union. Moreover, it has emerged as a major aid donor; having been an aid recipient for so long, India is now actively leveraging its own external assistance to promote trade as well as political objectives. For example, India has given $650 million in aid to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban. Meanwhile, the search for oil has encouraged Indian energy companies to tail their Western and Chinese counterparts throughout the world, from Central Asia and Siberia and to western Africa and Venezuela.

On the security side, India has been actively engaged in defense diplomacy. Thanks to the strength of its armed forces, India is well positioned to assist in stabilizing the Indian Ocean region. It helps that there has been a convergence of U.S. and Indian political interests: countering terrorism, pacifying Islamic radicalism, promoting democracy, and ensuring the security of sea-lanes, to name a few. The Indian navy in particular has been at the cutting edge of India's engagement with the region -- as was evident from its ability to deploy quickly to areas hit by the tsunami at the end of 2004. The Indian navy today is also ready to participate in multinational military operations.

AXES AND ALLIES

The end of the Cold War freed India to pursue engagement with all the great powers -- but especially the United States. At the start of the 1990s, finding that its relations with the United States, China, Japan, and Europe were all underdeveloped, India moved quickly to repair the situation. Discarding old socialist shibboleths, it began to search for markets for its products and capital to fuel its long-constrained domestic growth. Economic partnerships were easy to construct, and increasing trade flows provided a new basis for stability in India's relations with other major powers. India's emergence as an outsourcing destination and its new prowess in information technology also give it a niche in the world economy -- along with the confidence that it can benefit from economic globalization.

Barely 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, India's omnidirectional engagement with the great powers has paid off handsomely. Never before has India had such expansive relations with all the major powers at the same time -- a result not only of India's increasing weight in the global economy and its growing power potential, but also of New Delhi's savvy and persistent diplomacy.

The evolution of Sino-Indian ties since the 1990s has been especially important and intriguing. Many see violent conflict between the two rising Asian powers as inevitable. But thanks to New Delhi's policy of actively engaging China since the late 1980s, the tensions that characterized relations between them from the late 1950s through the 1970s have become receding memories. Bilateral trade has boomed, growing from less than $200 million in the early 1990s to nearly $20 billion in 2005. In fact, China is set to overtake the European Union and the United States as India's largest trading partner within a few years. The 3,500-kilometer Sino-Indian border, over which the two countries fought a war in 1962, is now tranquil. And during Wen's visit to India in April 2005, India and China announced a "strategic partnership" -- even though just seven years earlier New Delhi had cited concerns over China as a reason for performing nuclear tests, prompting a vicious reaction from Beijing.

India has also cooperated with China in order to neutralize it in conflicts with Pakistan and other smaller neighbors. In the past, China tended to be a free rider on regional security issues, proclaiming noninterference in the internal affairs of other nations while opportunistically befriending regimes in pursuit of its long-term strategic interests. This allowed India's subcontinental neighbors to play the China card against New Delhi when they wanted to resist India's attempts to nudge them toward conflict resolution. But now, Beijing has increasingly avoided taking sides in India's disputes, even as its economic and security profile in the region has grown.

China is not the only Asian power that India is aiming to engage and befriend. Japan has also emerged as an important partner for India, especially since Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has transformed Japanese politics in the last few years. During a visit to New Delhi just a couple of weeks after Wen's in April 2005, Koizumi announced Japan's own "strategic partnership" with India. (This came despite Japan's harsh reaction to India's nuclear test in 1998, which prompted Japanese sanctions and an effort by Tokyo to censure India in the United Nations and other multilateral forums.) Amid growing fears of a rising China and the incipient U.S.-Indian alliance, Japan has elevated India to a key player in its long-term plans for Asian security.

Recognizing the need to diversify its Asian economic portfolio, Tokyo has also, for political reasons, begun to direct some of its foreign investment to India (which has overtaken China as the largest recipient of Japanese development assistance). Since the start of the Bush administration, Japan has also shown increasing interest in expanding military cooperation with India, especially in the maritime domain. India, too, has recognized that it shares with Japan an interest in energy security and in maintaining a stable balance of power in Asia. Japan actively supported India's participation in the inaugural East Asian Summit, in December 2005, despite China's reluctance to include New Delhi. Neither India nor Japan wants to base their political relationship exclusively on a potential threat from China, but both know that deepening their own security cooperation will open up new strategic options and that greater coordination between Asian democracies could limit China's impact.

India's relations with Europe have been limited by the fact that New Delhi is fairly unimpressed with Europe's role in global politics. It senses that Europe and India have traded places in terms of their attitudes toward the United States: while Europe seethes with resentment of U.S. policies, India is giving up on habitually being the first, and most trenchant, critic of Washington. As pessimism overtakes Europe, growing Indian optimism allows New Delhi to support unpopular U.S. policies. Indians consistently give both the United States and the Bush administration very favorable marks; according to a recent Pew Global Attitudes poll, for example, the percentage of Indians with a positive view of the United States rose from 54 percent in 2002 to 71 percent in 2005. And whereas a declining Europe has tended to be skeptical of India's rise, the Bush administration has been fully sympathetic to India's great-power aspirations.

Still, India does have growing economic and political ties with some European powers. Although many smaller European countries have been critical of the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal, the continent's two nuclear powers, France and the United Kingdom, have been supportive. Paris, in particular, bet long ago (well before Washington did, in fact) that a rising India would provide a good market for high-tech goods; with this in mind, it shielded New Delhi from the ire of the G-8 (the group of eight highly industrialized nations) after India tested nuclear weapons in May 1998. In the last several years, the United Kingdom has also started to seize economic opportunities in India and has been generally accommodating of New Delhi's regional and global aspirations.

In the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse, India also worked to maintain a relationship with Russia. The two states resolved residual issues relating to their old semi-barter rupee-ruble trading arrangements, recast their 1971 peace and friendship treaty, and maintained military cooperation. When President Vladimir Putin succeeded Boris Yeltsin, in 2000, India's waiting game paid off. A newly assertive Moscow was determined to revive and expand its strategic cooperation with India. New Delhi's only problems with Moscow today are the weakening bilateral trade relationship and the risk of Russia's doing too much to strengthen China's military capabilities.

CHARM OFFENSIVE

At the end of the Cold War, the prospect of India's building a new political relationship with the United States seemed remote. Washington had long favored Pakistan and China in the region, India had in turn aligned itself with the Soviet Union, and a number of global issues seemed to pit the two countries against each other. Yet after the Cold War, India set about wooing the United States. For most of the Clinton administration, this sweet-talking fell on deaf ears, in part because Clinton officials were so focused on the Kashmir dispute and nonproliferation. Clinton, driven by the unshakable assumption that Kashmir was one of the world's most dangerous "nuclear flashpoints" and so needed to be defused, emphasized "preventive diplomacy" and was determined to "cap, roll back, and eventually eliminate" India's nuclear capabilities. Of course, Clinton's approach ran headlong into India's core national security concerns -- territorial integrity and preserving its nuclear option. Pressed by Washington to circumscribe its strategic capabilities, New Delhi reacted by testing nuclear weapons.

But even as it faced U.S. sanctions, New Delhi also began to proclaim that India was a natural ally of the United States. Although the Clinton administration was not interested in an alliance, the nuclear tests forced the United States to engage India seriously for the first time in five decades. That engagement did not resolve the nuclear differences, but it did bring Clinton to India in March 2000 -- the first American presidential visit to India in 22 years. Clinton's personal charm, his genuine empathy for India, and his unexpected support of India in the 1999 war with Pakistan succeeded in improving the atmospherics of the relations and in putting New Delhi on Washington's radar screen in a new way.

It took Bush, however, to transform the strategic context of U.S.-Indian relations. Convinced that India's influence will stretch far beyond its immediate neighborhood, Bush has reconceived the framework of U.S. engagement with New Delhi. He has removed many of the sanctions, opened the door for high-tech cooperation, lent political support to India's own war on terrorism, ended the historical U.S. tilt toward Pakistan on Kashmir, and repositioned the United States in the Sino-Indian equation by drawing closer to New Delhi.

India has responded to these sweeping changes by backing the Bush administration on missile defense, the International Criminal Court, and finding alternative approaches to confronting global warming. It lent active support to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan by protecting U.S. assets in transit through the Strait of Malacca in 2002, agreed to work with the United States on multinational military operations outside of the UN framework, and, in 2005 and 2006, voted twice with Washington against Iran -- an erstwhile Indian ally -- at the International Atomic Energy Agency. India also came close to sending a division of troops to Iraq in the summer of 2003 before pulling back at the last moment. Every one of these actions marked a big departure in Indian foreign policy. And although disappointed by India's decision to stay out of Iraq, the Bush administration recognized that India was in the midst of a historic transformation of its foreign policy -- and kept faith that India's own strategic interests would continue to lead it toward deeper political cooperation with Washington. New Delhi's persistence in reaching out to Washington since 1991 has been driven by the belief that only by fundamentally changing its relationship with the world's sole superpower could it achieve its larger strategic objectives: improving its global position and gaining leverage in its relations with other great powers.

But India's ability to engage everyone at the same time might soon come to an end. As U.S.-Chinese tensions grow and Washington looks for ways to manage China's influence, questions about India's attitude toward the new power politics will arise: Can India choose to remain "nonaligned" between the United States and China, or does India's current grand strategy show a clear bias toward the United States?

The nuclear pact unveiled by Bush and Singh in July 2005 -- and consolidated when Bush went to New Delhi in March 2006 -- was an effort by Washington to influence the ultimate answer to that question. Bush offered to modify U.S. nonproliferation laws (subject to approval by Congress, of course) and revise the global nuclear order to facilitate full cooperation with India on civilian nuclear energy. New Delhi, in return, has promised to separate its civilian and military nuclear programs, place its civilian nuclear plants under international safeguards, and abide by a range of nonproliferation obligations. India's interest in such a deal has been apparent for a long time. Having failed to test weapons before the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was drafted, in 1968, India was trapped in an uncomfortable position vis-à-vis the nuclear order: it was not willing to give up the nuclear option, but it could not be formally accommodated by the nonproliferation regime as a nuclear weapons state.

India's motives for wanting a change in the nuclear regime are thus obvious. But for the Bush administration, the deal is less about nuclear issues than it is about creating the basis for a true alliance between the United States and India -- about encouraging India to work in the United States' favor as the global balance of power shifts. Ironically, it was the lack of a history of mutual trust and cooperation -- stemming in part from past nuclear disputes -- that convinced the Bush administration that a nuclear deal was necessary.

AN IMPOSSIBLE ALLY?

Many critics argue that the Bush administration's hopes for an alliance are misplaced. They insist that the traditionally nonaligned India will never be a true ally of the United States. But such critics misunderstand India's nonalignment, as well as the nature of its realpolitik over the past 60 years. Contrary to a belief that is especially pervasive in India itself, New Delhi has not had difficulty entering into alliances when its interests so demanded. Its relationship with the Soviet Union, built around a 1971 peace and friendship treaty, had many features of an alliance (notwithstanding India's claim that such ties were consistent with nonalignment); the compact was in many ways a classic response to the alignment of Washington, Beijing, and Islamabad. India has also had treaty-based security relationships with two of its smaller neighbors, Bhutan and Nepal, that date back to 1949-50 -- protectorate arrangements that were a reaction to China's entry into Tibet.

In fact, there is no contradiction between India's alleged preference for "moralpolitik" (in opposition to pure power politics, or Machtpolitik) and the Bush administration's expectation of an alliance with India. New Delhi is increasingly replacing the idea of "autonomy," so dear to Indian traditionalists, with the notion of India's becoming a "responsible power." (Autonomy is thought appropriate for weak states trying to protect themselves from great-power competition but not for a rising force such as India.) As India starts to recognize that its political choices have global consequences, it will become less averse to choosing sides on specific issues. Alliance formation and balancing are tools in the kits of all great powers -- and so they are likely to be in India's as well.

That India is capable of forming alliances does not, however, mean that it will necessarily form a long-term one with the United States. Whether it does will depend on the extent of the countries' shared interests and their political capacity to act on them together. The Bush administration expects that such shared interests -- for example, in balancing China and countering radical Islam in the Middle East -- will provide the basis for long-term strategic cooperation. This outcome is broadly credible, but it is by no means inevitable, especially given the United States' seeming inability to build partnerships based on equality.

When it comes to facing a rising China, India's tendency to engage in regional balancing with Beijing has not come to an end with the proclamation of a strategic partnership between the two nations. Indeed, preventing China from gaining excessive influence in India's immediate neighborhood and competing with Beijing in Southeast Asia are still among the more enduring elements of India's foreign policy. Despite Western concerns about the military regime in Myanmar, New Delhi has vigorously worked to prevent Yangon from falling completely under Beijing's influence, and India's military ties with the Southeast Asian nations are expanding rapidly. In 2005, when Pakistan pushed for giving China observer status in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, India acted quickly to bring Japan, South Korea, and the United States in as well. Given India's deep-seated reluctance to play second fiddle to China in Asia and the Indian Ocean region -- and the relative comfort of working with a distant superpower -- there is a structural reason for New Delhi to favor greater security cooperation with Washington.

In the Middle East, too, India has a common interest with the United States in preventing the rise of radical Islam, which poses an existential threat to India. Given its large Muslim population -- at nearly 150 million, the third largest in the world -- and the ongoing tensions stemming from the subcontinent's partition, India has in the past acted on its own to avert the spread of radical Islam. When Washington aligned with conservative Islamic forces in the Middle East during the Cold War, India's preference was for secular nationalist forces in the region. When the United States acted ambivalently toward the Taliban in the mid-1990s, India worked with Russia, Iran, and the Central Asian states to counter the Taliban by supporting the Northern Alliance. Now, although some in India are concerned that alignment with the United States might make India a prime target for Islamist extremists, there is no way India can compromise with radical Islam, which threatens its very unity.

But shared interests do not automatically produce alliances. The inequality of power between the two countries, the absence of a habit of political cooperation between them, and the remaining bureaucratic resistance to deeper engagement in both capitals will continue to limit the pace and the scope of strategic cooperation between India and the United States. Still, there is no denying that India will have more in common with the United States than with the other great powers for the foreseeable future.

While New Delhi has acknowledged that U.S. support is necessary for India's rise to be successful, Washington has recognized India's potentially critical role in managing emerging challenges to global order and security. As a major beneficiary of accelerating globalization, India could play a crucial role in ensuring that other developing countries manage their transitions as successfully as it has, that is, by taking advantage of opportunities while working to reduce the pain of disruption. Given the pace of its expansion and the scale of its economy, India will also become an important force in ensuring that the unfolding global redistribution of economic power occurs in an orderly fashion. Meanwhile, India could become a key player in the effort to modernize the politics of the Middle East. If nothing else, India's success in ensuring the rights and the integration of its own Muslim minority and in reaching peace with Pakistan would have a powerful demonstration effect.

To secure a long-term partnership with India, Washington must build on the argument of "Indian exceptionalism" that it has advanced in defense of the recent nuclear pact, devising a range of India-specific policies to deepen cooperation. India is unlikely, however, to become a mere subsidiary partner of the United States, ready to sign on to every U.S. adventure and misadventure around the world. It will never become another U.S. ally in the mold of the United Kingdom or Japan. But nor will it be an Asian France, seeking tactical independence within the framework of a formal alliance.

Given the magnitude of the global security challenges today, the United States needs more than meek allies. It should instead be looking to win capable and compatible partners. A rising India may be difficult at times, but it will act broadly to defend and promote the many interests it shares with Washington. Assisting India's rise, then, is in the United States' own long-term interest.


          Teller (Hire-ahead) - America First Credit Union - Millcreek, UT   
Responsible for providing a variety of paying and receiving functions for members in person, via phone, and through the mail including processing deposits,...
From America First Credit Union - Mon, 05 Jun 2017 23:54:23 GMT - View all Millcreek, UT jobs
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          General Motors starts export of Chevrolet Beat sedan to Latin America from India   
Unable to turn around its fortunes in India after nearly two decades of struggle, General Motors had announced that it would stop selling in India by the end of 2017.
          Comment on Lost Children of Militarized America: Embracing our wounded progeny on Veterans Day 2014 by joe bear   
Amazing dog-eared snapshot of you two! Great reading. Thx Joe Sent from my iPhone >
          The Real Secret of Cambodia’s Mythic Warrior: Archaeological Insight   
By Kent Davis
Originally posted at http://www.devata.org/2012/03/the-real-secret-of-cambodias-mythic-warrior-archaeological-insight/

…like a good Indiana Jones movie, the real story of this lost treasure began with a flash of archaeological insight in a remote Asian jungle half a world away….

Koh Ker, Cambodia – Protests from the Kingdom of Cambodia recently halted the multi-million dollar Sotheby’s sale of an ancient stone statue with the support of the United States government. When the Cambodians sought help bringing the thousand-year-old Khmer statue back to their country the New York Times ran a detailed article entitled “Mythic Warrior Is Captive in Global Art Conflict.”

10th century Cambodian sculpture previously scheduled for a multi-million dollar Sotheby’s sale.
Their investigation reveals that the legal and moral issues surrounding the ownership and sale of ancient art are quite complex. In this case, one generous art collector may actually provide a positive solution. But like a good Indiana Jones movie, the real story of this lost treasure began with a flash of archaeological insight in a remote Asian jungle half a world away.

Mystery of the Missing Men of Koh Ker

One thousand years ago, the Khmer Empire ruled most of what is now Southeast Asia from its capital in Angkor. During their heyday, the architecturally and artistically sophisticated Khmer people created some of humanity’s most extraordinary stone temples and statues. Apart from a few stone inscriptions, however, no written records of the civilization survived. Out of necessity, archaeologists have had no alternative but to piece the story of the Khmer people together, clue by clue and stone by stone.

Rising above 30 meters in height, Koh Ker’s central temple-mountain of Prasat Thom was built 100 years before Angkor Wat. Photo: Khmersearch, Panoramio.
Early in the 10th century (for reasons that are still unclear), King Jayavarman IV and his son Harsavarman II relocated the empire’s capital from Angkor to an isolated plateau 100 km to the northeast. There they built the city of Koh Ker, a huge new complex of temples and shrines, where they established their throne for a brief 16 year period (928-944 AD). Like all great Khmer cities, Koh Ker was ultimately abandoned and swallowed up by the jungle. The rediscovery of the Khmer civilization by Westerners didn’t begin until French explorers arrived in the second half of the 19th century.

In 2007, stone conservator Simon Warrack was working with the German Apsara Conservation Project (GACP), a scientific organization that had been doing critical restoration on Angkor Wat temple for more than a decade. In May, Warrack took a side trip to the Koh Ker site (Google Map link) to consider future conservation needs there.

At Koh Ker, Warrack noticed two distinctive pedestal platforms in the first enclosure of Prasat Chen. There, by the west gopura (an entry structure), he saw the feet where two statues had clearly been broken off. But the gods that once stood there were nowhere to be found. The mystery sparked his imagination.

The two Koh Ker pedestals as Warrack found them at Prasat Chen in May 2007. The pedestal circled in red shows a fabric section still attached in the center.
Virtually Connecting Ancient Dots…and Stones


From my own research cataloging the devata of Angkor I can attest that field work is generally hot, uncomfortable and distracting. Almost all of my discoveries happen at my desk in Florida examining photos taken weeks or years before at remote locations. Warrack continued his search in similar fashion.

The Norton Simon dvarapala featured in “Adoration and Glory”, p. 149
He pondered the distinctive bases and began searching for photos in books and research archives. Finally, he found a possible solution. In “Adoration and Glory – The Golden Age of Khmer Art” by Emma Bunker and Douglas Latchford one image stood out. It showed a figure identified as a dvarapala (guardian) at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena California. That statue was missing its feet, but many are. The key to solving this puzzle was the unique tail at the bottom of its clothing element. After scanning images and digitally combining them Warrack confirmed the close match between the two fragments.

Warrack’s 2007 digital superimposition of the base and body of the Koh Ker statue.
Warrack immediately wrote a short paper to seek opinions from others in the field of Khmer studies. He forwarded copies to friends and associates as well as to key authorities including the APSARA Authority, which manages the Angkor region’s heritage assets; the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts in Phnom Penh; and the École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO), a French organization dedicated to Asian studies that has been active in conservation efforts at Angkor since 1907. I met Simon in 2007 shortly after his find and the photos above come from the original article he shared with me.

Everyone who saw his image realized the importance of this observation. Determining the original location of displaced objects can be a huge help in interpreting their meaning and significance within the context of an ancient civilization. The record shows that the Norton Simon piece was acquired legitimately and is on public display for educational, artistic and cultural appreciation. But not all art ends up this way. Much of it disappears into private collections, out of view.

Such was the case of the complimentary statue that stood face to face with this one more than a thousand years ago at the Khmer capital of Koh Ker.

Sotheby's twin Khmer warrior. Note the unbroken base of the fabric tail.
The Long Lost Twin Reappears

In the summer of 2010, a “noble European lady” contacted Sotheby’s to discuss the sale of a “spectacular tenth-century Cambodian sculpture, 160 centimeters in height and exceptionally well carved.” Word got out quickly to the worlds of art and archaeology. When pictures began to circulate it was instantaneously clear that this was the long-lost companion to the statue Warrack had connected to the Norton Simon Museum three years earlier.

Meanwhile, in New York, the matching sculpture was estimated to sell for millions of dollars. According to the owner’s records, she legally acquired the piece in 1975 from the now-defunct London art dealer Spink & Son. The Norton Simon Museum also acquired their piece that year. Some evidence suggests that both statues left Cambodia in the late 1960s, but exactly when and how that happened, and who arranged it, is unknown.

Paraphrasing Sotheby’s Senior Vice President Jane A. Levine, the New York Times article stated “Ms. Levine countered that the statue could have been removed any time in its thousand-year history, and said the word ‘stolen’ was often ‘used loosely.’ ” Meanwhile, Christie’s auction house acquired Spinks in 1993 and claims that the 1975 records of the statue’s origin are “no longer available.”

Regardless of the lack of facts, the ownership of both statues seems quite legal under international laws. Which brings us to a question at the heart of this matter.

Who Should Own Historical Art?

An idealistic answer is “humanity” but even this dream can have unexpected consequences as we’ll discover below. My personal goal would be for historical assets to be accessible to everyone who wants to respect them, preserve them, appreciate them and learn from them. But this philosophy wouldn’t get me through the front door at most of the world’s public institutions holding these assets (let alone to private collections).

Most of us are fortunate enough to live in a free society. We can buy, sell and own personal property within the law. The laws protecting heritage assets have evolved considerably over the past few decades, and they continue to do so. But the fact remains that countless artifacts were legally acquired by collectors (“noble ladies” included) as well as public museums since the beginning of time. Isn’t it their right to display, use and sell their property as they see fit?

Let’s consider some difficult questions raised by recent news:

The taller Buddha of Bamiyan before and after destruction. Photo: Wikipedia.
1. Can a government or private entity decide to demolish old structures? This happens every day in every city around the world. Sometimes historical societies rally to save a site. Sometimes they can’t, as seen in the shocking annihilation of the Buddhas of Bamiyan. Was that government right? Were those people right? And who are you to judge? Do you live there?

In Sarasota Florida some local groups rallied to have this mural erased from a shop.
2. Can a government or private entity destroy something offensive or blasphemous to their values or religion? How far does freedom of expression go? This Yale article discusses the destruction of Buddha images in the Maldives. But it also mentions things like Henry VIII’s systematic destruction of all the monasteries in England, Wales and Ireland. Near my home in Sarasota Florida a debate has run for months about erasing a mural that may promote gangs. Acts of artistic control and destruction happen all the time.

Sunken treasure found by Odyssey Marine 1700 feet deep in the Atlantic Ociean.
3. Can a private group use its own funds to recover or preserve historical objects that were clearly abandoned by the original owners hundreds or even thousands of years earlier? In other words, does everything actually belong to some hypothetical “rightful owner”? And who owned these things before them? Odyssey Marine Exploration in Tampa Florida just got a harsh lesson in how arbitrarily this question can be answered. Odyssey spent years working to locate and salvage a ship in international waters off the coast of Portugal. It lay, unknown and untouched for two centuries in 1700 feet of water. US courts just ruled against Odyssey and returned all the artifacts to Spain.

Ironically, that silver and gold was mined in Peru by peasants working under slave-like conditions. Peru, of course, came under Spanish control in the 16th century when conquistadors brutally subjugated the Inca civilization in their quest for territory, power and treasure. But to the US courts, 200 years of ownership was enough to confiscate assets for an “original” owner…but not 400 years. Peru’s claim to the artifacts was ignored.

On the other side of the gold coin, salvage operations generally destroy much of the archaeological evidence that exists on a wreck site. I took an archaeological research diver workshop at a Florida galleon site, and I’ve also had the privilege of discussing this topic with the father of underwater archaeology, George Bass. I am quite opposed to the wholesale destruction of history to recover precious metals on land or at sea.

But in this case, Odyssey Marine consistently gathers a lot of archaeological data from their sites. And is it reasonable to ask when and how carefully archaeologists would be excavating this particular site more than half a kilometer deep? It seems we can all learn much from Odyssey’s digital photos, detailed site maps and the thousands of objects recovered. More than we would have known if the site was never found. Now the responsibility falls to Spain to educate and inspire us with their recovered objects. The world watches.

The “Angel of Beng Mealea” - March 5, 2006 and February 12, 2007.
4. Do poor people have the right to take abandoned objects from public places just to survive? I wrote about my own painful experience with this at Beng Mealea in this article “Death of an Angel.”

There are countless examples. There will be countless more. Each situation is different. Right and wrong are not always clear. And certainly never appear the same to opposing parties in a disagreement.

Back in 2008 I bought a used car legally. But what if the original owner (or the factory, or the country where it was built) tried to reclaim it because “I parked it too long” or “I wasn’t taking care of it” or “they want to study it” or “it belongs in the original place”? I can’t say I’d be too happy.

But there are solutions to these issues…as there are to most human conflicts: communication, empathy and diplomacy. Fortunately, a combination of these factors may lead to a resolution to the quandary of the Sotheby’s statue sale.

Collectors Who Share

Cultural sensitivity about who historical objects should belong to is a fairly new concept. As noted above people have the right to own private property. This has been going on for a long time. Humans are an acquisitive species by nature.

It’s worth noting that some of the most successful “acquirers” (Rockefeller, Carnegie, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates come to mind) have also proven themselves as some of our most generous givers. And some art collectors have proven themselves in this way, too. After a lifetime of actively hunting, obsessively gathering and painstakingly preserving the rare objects they crave…many end up donating their collections to public institutions.

In the world of Khmer art, Douglas Latchford, co-author of “Adoration and Glory” with art historian Emmy Bunker, is one example. He began collecting Khmer artifacts 56 years ago (1956). Over the years he and his friends have shared financial gifts with the National Museum of Cambodia. More significantly, he is the museum’s biggest contributor of artifacts (read more about Douglas Latchford on KI-Media).

Now another collector may assist with a solution to the thorny situation of the Koh Ker statue at Sotheby’s.

Dr. István Zelnik, founder of the Gold Museum in Budapest, Hungary.
During the 1970s, Dr. István Zelnik served as a Hungarian diplomat in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Like many passionate collectors he invested his money in rare books, antiques and works of art. Motivated by a love of art and curiosity about the objects he found, he became an increasingly sought after consulting expert for museums and archaeologists around the world. In 2011 his dreams culminated with his greatest achievement: founding the Zelnik István Southeast Asian Gold Museum in Budapest Hungary.

In a statement to the New York Times Dr. Zelnik expressed the possibility that he may purchase the statue for donation to the people of Cambodia. A generous, diplomatic and expedient solution in our complex world. The owner would be compensated for her private property, huge amounts of time and money would not be wasted on legal litigation, and the people who respect and admire the art of the Khmer people could once again see this expression of creativity in the land where it was born.

I wish him success and encourage him along with Mr. Latchford and other collectors to continue sharing the objects of their passion with the world.

The two mythic Cambodian warriors as they one faced each other at Koh Ker. Below, Simon Warrack asks if they can one day be reunited?
Could Two Ancient Brothers Meet Again?

To conclude this article I contacted Simon Warrack to ask his current ideas about the ownership of historic art. Here’s what he had to say:
“The concept of “ownership” may be the wrong place to start when considering important objects. It is the value and significance of an object that should be thought of first, rather than who it belongs to.

”The questions should really be about the object itself, not who it belongs to. Where is the object best valued? Where is it best appreciated? Where is it best understood? Where is it best conserved?

“Who an object belongs to should be secondary. As one of my colleagues observed ‘Objects are not important because they are in museums. They are in museums because they are important.’ The object itself is the important factor, not the museum that possesses it.

“After finding the empty pedestals seven years ago actually seeing both Koh Ker statues is remarkable. The possibility now exists that, one day, they may be reunited.

“Today, I called HE Hab Touch to ask his opinion on this matter. He is optimistic but noted that at this early stage no decisions or agreements are in place. However, Cambodia is ready and there are at least two suitable, secure locations where the pieces could be located for public appreciation. In the National Museum, of course, but plans are also being made for a museum at Preah Vihear, the same province where Koh Ker is located. There, the museum will become a gateway to the World Heritage Site and these figures could, once again, provide a wonderful center piece to welcome visitors from around the world.”
Simon closed by mentioning a concept from the book, Who Owns Antiquity by James Cuno. Cuno observes that national museums in wealthy nations host “encyclopedic” collections of objects from around the world, while national museums in less wealthy countries host indigenous local art relating to their own history.

He suggests that the global exchange of art would be a good direction to head in. Just as it is good for a child in Pasadena to experience the art of Cambodia, wouldn’t it also be wonderful for a child of Cambodia to see pieces of American history? Or the creations of Greece, Rome, Egypt, Mexico, etc.?

With communication, empathy and diplomacy we can all grow and learn.

          Death toll from bus crash rises   
An injured woman rests at Koh Kong provincial hospital on Tuesday following a bus crash that left one dead and 46 injured. A second passenger died yesterday before he could be transported to Thailand. Photo Supplied

Thursday, 01 March 2012
Tep Nimol and Bridget Di Certo with additional reporting by Cheang Sokha and Mom Kunthear
The Phnom Penh Post

The death toll from Tuesday’s tour bus crash in Koh Kong climbed by one yesterday when an Austrian man died at the provincial hospital, while the man behind the wheel was detained by authorities.

Koh Kong Provincial Hospital director Mat Ly Hsai Song said the 72-year-old Austrian man who had been traveling on the bus from Sihanoukville to Koh Kong was due to be evacuated to Thailand for medical treatment yesterday.

Before getting in the car to go to Thailand, the Austrian man, who had high-blood pressure, walked into the bathroom, where he fell down dead,” Mat Ly Hsai Song said. “He died instantly from a blood clot and was unable to be saved.”


The Austrian is the second fatality after a 23-year-old Russian woman was killed on Tuesday when the Paramount Angkor Express bus sustained a punctured tyre and rolled over, injuring all 46 passengers – most of them foreign tourists.

Another Austrian man and an American man were evacuated to Thailand for medical care yesterday, Koh Kong Provincial Hospital deputy director Suon Samit said, adding the men were seriously wounded, with broken bones, head injuries and shortness of breath.

A Finnish woman who sustained a serious back injury and a 5-year-old Cambodian girl who had her arm amputated at the shoulder directly after the crash were evacuated to Thailand on Tuesday, Suon Samit said.

The Finnish Embassy in Bangkok told the Post that seven Finnish nationals had been involved in the crash.

All were being treated in Bangkok, but only one was seriously injured.

A Swedish woman was transported from Koh Kong by ambulance yesterday afternoon to Royal Rattanak Hospital in Phnom Penh, hospital staff said yesterday.

She was undergoing operations last night and would be in hospital for seven to 10 days, staff said.

Seven foreigners and five Cambodians who were in stable condition remained at Koh Kong Provincial Hospital yesterday, Suon Samit said, adding that those who had been discharged from hospital had been sent to stay at the Ear Aun guesthouse in Koh Kong district near the hospital.

Provincial governor Bun Loert paid for the accommodation and food expenses for those crash victims who had sought refuge in the guesthouse.

Bun Loert said yesterday that all the crash victims with the exception of one Japanese man had already left the guesthouse.

“We will check to find out the reason for this traffic accident, strengthen the traffic law and the vehicles, and look after the victims until they are better,” he said by telephone yesterday.

The driver of the bus had initially fled the scene of the accident and escaped into a nearby forest, however Koh Kong authorities said yesterday that Phnom Penh police had apprehended him at the central office of Paramount Angkor Express.

The driver will be detained while police complete their investigation of the accident, Koh Kong traffic office chief Uk Sopha said.

“We anticipate handing our investigation over to the court next week because such a big crash takes a long time to investigate,” Uk Sopha said.

“According to the traffic law, if the court finds the driver guilty of provoking the accident, he can be sentenced for between one and two years and the company will have to take some responsibility, too.”

Representatives from Paramount Angkor Express could not be reached yesterday.

Paramount’s insurer, Caminco Insurance Company, said their investigators had visited the hospital and the scene of the crash yesterday.

“The company has third-party liability and passenger liability insurance,” Dy Len, a planning officer at Caminco told the Post.

“This is the biggest case we have ever had,” he said, adding that other concerned parties such as embassies and ministries were also conducting their own investigations.

          Thailand Pushes Xayaburi Dam   
Xayaburi work goes on (photo credit: Suthep Kritsanavarin)

Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Written by Our Correspondent
Asian Sentinel


Despite reservations from Mekong Basin countries, construction continues

Over the opposition of environmental groups and the governments of other countries in the Mekong Basin, the Thai government is pushing ahead with the construction of the controversial Xayaburi Dam, environmentalists say.

Although the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments have expressed concerns about the dam and work was supposed to stop until further study has been completed, preliminary construction on the giant dam deep inside Laos, is continuing, according to International Rivers, which opposes the structure.


Large numbers of workers have been on the job for two years to build access roads and facilities for the project, said Pianporn Deetes, Thailand Campaign Coordinator for International Rivers. Ch. Karnchang, Thailand’s largest construction company, has the contract to build the dam for the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, better known as EGAT, which has contracted to 95 percent of the energy from the dam.

“It doesn’t mean the dam can’t be stopped,” Deets told Asia Sentinel in a telephone interview. “We believe there are many channels that we can try to cancel the PPA (power purchase agreement).”

Thailand appears to be defying an agreement in early December by the Mekong River Commission Council, comprising water and environment ministers from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, to seek international support to produce a more complete study of the dam, which is intended to produce 1,280 megawatts of power for the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.

The Mekong supports the largest freshwater fishery in the world. The downstream governments are concerned that the Xayaburi and 10 other dams planned for the Mekong, which feeds a river basin populated by 60 million people, will do irreparable damage to the river’s habitat.

Environmentalists say anywhere between 23 and 100 fish species could be adversely affected.

The dam, 810 meters wide and 32 meters high, is opposed by 263 NGOs from 51 countries. Thousands of people in the region have urged that it be cancelled. Its primary objective is to generate, along with electricity, foreign exchange earnings for financing socio-economic development in Laos, a landlocked and obscure country of 6.8 million mostly poverty-stricken people. Laos is seeking to develop its way into prosperity through extensive investment in dams, mines and plantations, hoping for jobs, rising incomes and revenues to end poverty.

Wracked by incessant bombing and the dropping of tens of millions of antipersonnel mines by the Americans during the Vietnam War, Laos remains one of the world's poorest countries, ranking 135th in the world. Nearly 41 percent of the population are under the age of 14. It is one of the few remaining one-party Communist countries left on the planet. Subsistence agriculture accounts for as much as 30 percent of gross domestic product, according to the CIA Factbook, and provides 80 percent of total employment.

Ten dams are already in operation across the country, generating 669 megawatts of power. Another eight are expected to be operational by this year, generating an additional 2,531 megawatts. Nineteen more are planned and 42 more are the subject of feasibility studies, almost all of them financed and developed by foreign interests expecting to turn a profit from electricity generation. Thailand is to import up to 7,000 megawatts by 2015. Vietnam will take another 3,000 megawatts by 2015 possibly rising to 5,000 megawatts by 2020 in accordance with an understanding reached in December 2006, according to a 2010 study titled Development in LAO PDR: the Food Security Paradox, produced for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and written by researcher David Fullbrook.

In 2010, the Mekong River Commission commissioned a strategic environmental assessment that recommended all decisions on Mekong mainstream dams be deferred for a period of at least 10 years while further studies can be conducted.

“We are afraid the fish migration could be destroyed,” Deets said. “There are 60 million people in the basin who depend for their livelihood on the river.”

The Thai government, she said in a prepared statement, “has ignored the agreements made last year among the four regional governments and the concerns expressed by Cambodia and Vietnam. With more than eight provinces in Thailand at risk from the Xayaburi Dam’s transboundary impacts, the state has also disregarded its duty to protect its own people from harm. It’s irresponsible to push forward with this dam, when the project’s impacts on Thailand have yet to be adequately studied.”

“The Mekong River Commission governments have not yet reached agreement on the Xayaburi Dam nor have they closed the prior consultation process,” the press release quoted Lam Thi Thu Suu, Director of the Centre for Social Research and Development in Vietnam, as saying. “By committing to purchase power from the dam and moving forward with the project’s implementation, EGAT and Ch. Karnchang are violating the trust and goodwill of Thailand’s neighbors. No construction on the Xayaburi Dam should proceed while further study is underway.”

Four Thai banks have already provided financial support for the dam including the state-owned Krung Thai Bank. When the Commission asked about the steps they took to examine the project’s environmental and social impacts, however, the banks were not able to provide detailed information.

“It’s astonishing to think that the financiers of this project have not taken the dam’s significant environmental and social impacts more seriously. Even a five minute search on the internet would reveal numerous media reports that highlight the concerns of the Thai people,” Deets said. “The recklessness of EGAT’s and the Thai companies’ pursuit of the project is likely to become a catastrophe for our country’s reputation. We call on the Thai government to immediately cancel the power purchase agreement and for Thai banks to withdraw financing from the Xayaburi Dam.”

An independent study has already concluded that the Xayaburi Dam’s electricity is not needed to meet Thailand’s demand for energy in the coming decades.

          UN protests after Cambodia blocks Khmer Rouge judge [-Does the UN have the gut to pull out of the KRT?]   
Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet was appointed as Reserve Co-Investigating Judge on 1 December 2010. (Photo: Courtesy of ECCC)
Friday, January 20, 2012
AFP News

The United Nations on Friday protested at Cambodia's rejection of a Swiss judge to the international Khmer Rouge tribunal who has paralyzed probes into two cases opposed by the government.

Cambodia is in "breach" of an accord with the UN setting up the international tribunal into the Khmer Rouges crimes of the 1970s in which up to two million people died, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters.

"This is a matter of serious concern," stated Nesirky who said the Cambodian government had formally notified UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday of its refusal to name Laurent Kasper-Ansermet of Switzerland as co-investigating judge.

"The United Nations continues to support Judge Kasper-Ansermet and Cambodia should take immediate steps to appoint him as international co-investigating judge," the spokesman said.


The tribunal, officially known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, was set up with one Cambodian investigating judge and one foreign judge. The previous German judge resigned in October following government opposition to further prosecutions linked to the 1975-1979 regime.

Kasper-Ansermet was the official reserve judge and Nesirky stressed that the 2003 accord setting up the court "states unequivocally" that if there is a vacancy the person appointed must be the reserve judge.

The Cambodian government "raised ethical concerns" about Kasper-Ansermet in November, said Nesirky.

"The United Nations thoroughly reviewed the concerns, determined that they were unfounded, and requested that the Supreme Council of the Magistracy proceed with his appointment."

David Scheffer, an American named as special expert on UN assistance to the Cambodia trials, is travelling to Phnom Penh for talks with the government and court officials, the spokesman added.

Kasper-Ansermet has been blocked since his arrival in Phnom Penh in December. The supreme council, the government body charged with rubber-stamping the nomination, has not met.

And the Cambodian co-judge You Bunleng has publicly refused to work with the Swiss. Kasper-Ansermet has in turn accused You Bunleng of blocking "important" information about the two new cases involving five ex-Khmer Rouge members accused of crimes against humanity.

The tribunal has so far completed just one trial. A second is underway but risks being overshadowed by the new controversy.

          The Informant showing at Harbour Lights   
DIRECTED by Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brokovich, Ocean’s Eleven) and starring Matt Damon (the Bourne trilogy), The Informant is based on the true story of the highest-ranking corporate whistleblower in American history.
          Math education deserves support and attention (essay)   

The current state of math education in America is certainly not ideal, writes Gizem Karaali, but mathematicians, researchers, policy makers and others are working on it -- and it is definitely a problem worth working on.


          Exhibit on ETHS arboretum wins award   

An exhibit at the Garden Club of America’s recent Show of Summer at the Chicago Botanic Garden featuring trees planted on the Evanston Township High School campus won a significant national award last weekend.


          2011 Fall Western Section Meeting   
Date: 
Saturday, October 22, 2011 to Sunday, October 23, 2011
Sponsoring Organization(s): 
American Mathematical Society (AMS) and the University of Utah
Categories: 
Subtitle: 
AMS Sectional Meeting

          2011 Fall Central Section Meeting   
Date: 
Friday, October 14, 2011 to Sunday, October 16, 2011
Sponsoring Organization(s): 
American Mathematical Society (AMS) and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Categories: 
Subtitle: 
AMS Sectional Meeting

          Fall Southeastern Section Meeting   
Date: 
Saturday, September 24, 2011 to Sunday, September 25, 2011
Sponsoring Organization(s): 
American Mathematical Society (AMS) and Wake Forest University
Categories: 
Subtitle: 
AMS Sectional Meeting

          Bilingual Travel Consultant, Junior - HRG North America - Saskatchewan   
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          Americana in Detroit   
So I guess I’ll start with how I got here. So I was on a road trip from New York to Detroit with my buddies who were wrestling for a company called JCW(Juggalo Championship Wrestling, yeah I know its random but were wrestlers) and they are based out in Detroit. Big Boy is a restaurant


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          Comment on We Still Celebrate Independence Day at Church (by Dean Stewart) by Parsonsmike   
Exactly Ken. It's not whether you the pastor or a few of the members get the difference between the USA and Israel or the New Israel, is about those in the congregation that don't get it. In my town there is a Christian radio station that plays much of American Family Radio productions where church and state are often conflated. Where the idea is that the USA is a Christian nation. And all the baggage that goes with that. So maybe y'all see the difference but there are a whole lot of conservative type Christians that don't. And these are the weaker brothers we need to help. And we aren't helping them if we, in a sense, worship the USA, even occasionally, in the church service where E should be worshipping God alone
          Comment on We Still Celebrate Independence Day at Church (by Dean Stewart) by Chad Dougless   
Kevin, I don't think most of the people here have any issues with expressing gratitude for the freedoms enjoyed in this country. I would even venture to say that most do not have an issue per se with the American flag being on or near the stage. I think the concern is when the worship service becomes dominated by patriotic songs rather than worship songs. Further, should something like the Pledge of Allegiance be said within the context of a worship service? Those are the questions that I think people are struggling with. We are called to pray for our leaders and I believe that should take place both publicly and privately and should be set as an example from the pulpit whether one agrees with the current political motivations of our leaders or not, perhaps especially if they do not. Recognizing those who have served in the military on those days is not an issue I would guess with anyone here either. I could be wrong though. I hope that helps to hopefully clarify a few things. Grace and peace, Chad Dougless
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          Re: Damian Snow's Pawn Shop   

Alrighty people so because of what was going on last week I decided to not post something in hopes that it would work itself out, obviously it took longer than expected but everything did work out in the end. So because I missed last week, that means that this week is double-header!!!

First up is the item in honor of our celebration.......Fireworks!!!!!!

As most people know Fireworks have been around for a long time, in fact they've been around since the 7th Century. They were invented in China and is a part of their culture even now, back then they were used mainly for festivities like marriages, big parties, Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival, etc....Also pyrotechnicians were respected for their knowledge of the complex techniques needed to mount fireworks.

 

That's it for the first one, now on to the second...

This one I've been planning to do for a while, this one is in honor of Assassins Creed 3 because its due to come out in three days, its.......the Tomahawk!!!!!

 

Now we don't know how long Tomahawks have been around because there was no written language for the Native American's (side note: I know I a lot of you grew up saying Indians, don't its rude. Just thought I'd mention it). What we do know is that it was an all purpose tool used by the Native Americans and was used in mainly hand-to-hand combat or as a thrown weapon when needed. Tomahawks look similar to the African Nzappa zap, which is this...

But Tomahawks did not always have an axe on the tip, nor were they always made of steel. In the early days tomahawks were mainly "fitted with heads of bladed or rounded stone or deer antler". They could also be carved out with a wooden head that looked more like a doorknob. Tomahawks would later be made with steel when white people settled in the area and started trading with the Native Americans. The shafts were mainly 2 ft. in length and made from either hickory, ash, or maple. Sometimes the shaft also had a pipe bowl in it for use in smoking tobacco. 

Also here's what Tomahawks look like today.....

That's it for this week, Enjoy!


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          Air pollution exposure may hasten death, even at levels deemed 'safe,' study says   

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Salvador  es uno de los nombres más bonitos que existen debido al significado del nombre. A pesar de que el nombre Salvador comenzó a ser popular en los países de lenguas latinas de Europa como España o Italia no tardó en cruzar el charco convirtiéndose en un nombre recurrido para las madres  latinoamericanas, llegando a dar […]
          Echo Named #4 Freight Brokerage in Transport Topics 2017 Top 50 Award   

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          Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai. Movie Subtitle Indonesia   
Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai. Movie Subtitle Indonesia

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai. Movie ~ Sama seperti TV Seriesnya tetapi dalam movie kali ini menceritakan sudut pandang tentang Menma yang telah meningal pada waktu kecil dan ada janji Menma dengan Ibu Gintan yang belum terpenuhi.dan Movie ini menceritakan masa kecil Menma bersama teman-teman.

Information
Type: Movie
Episodes: 1
Status: Finished Airing
Aired: Aug 31, 2013
Producers: Aniplex, A-1 Pictures, Aniplex of America
Genres: Drama, Slice of Life, Supernatural
Duration: 1 hr. 39 min.
Rating: PG-13 - Teens 13 or older
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          Sword Art Online II (SAO II) Episode 13 Subtitle Indonesia   
Sword Art Online II (SAO II) Episode 13 Subtitle Indonesia
 
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1 tahun setelah insiden SAO, Kirito didatangi oleh Seijiro Kikuoka dari Kementerian Dalam Negeri dan Komunikasi Departemen “Divisi VR” Jepang dengan permintaan yang agak aneh. Terkait penyelidikan pada “Death Gun” insiden yang terjadi dalam game VRMMO yang disebut Gun Gale online (GGO). “Pemain yang ditembak oleh seorang avatar misterius dengan pistol hitam akan kehilangan nyawa mereka bahkan di dunia nyata …” Gagal menolak permintaan aneh Kikuoka itu, Kirito masuk ke dalam GGO meskipun ia tidak sepenuhnya yakin bahwa dunia maya bisa secara fisik mempengaruhi dunia nyata.


Information
Type: TV
Episodes: 24
Status: Currently Airing
Aired: Jul 5, 2014 to ?
Producers: Aniplex, A-1 Pictures, Genco, Aniplex of AmericaL
Genres: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Game, Romance, Shounen
Duration: 23 min. per episode
Rating: PG-13 - Teens 13 or older
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          La Plata - Huila   



El municipio de La Plata, ubicado en el departamento de Huila de la República de ColombiaLa ha sido tradicionalmente denominada "La Villa de San Sebastián". En sus moradores está hondamente arraigada la devoción a este glorioso y esforzado martir de la Iglesia Católica: San Sebastián.

Año tra año, los plateños el 20 de Enero, con júbilo celebran la fiesta de su excelso patrono, san Sebastián. Este acontecimiento que congrega a devotos de toda la región, es una hermosa oportunidad para contemplar la figura de San Sebastián con ojos latinoamericanos, a la luz de la palabra de Dios.

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          Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai Subtitle Indonesia    
Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai Subtitle Indonesia

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai ~ Jinta Yadomi dan teman semasa kecilnya menjadi asing satu sama lain lantaran pasca suatu tragedi. Sekarang setelah mereka semua di SMA, sesuatu memaksa penyesalan dan rasa bersalah mereka untuk muncul kembali atas tradegi yang terjadi pada hari itu dan mulai menyimpulkan “hantu” yang muncul dari masa lalu mereka.

Information
Type: TV
Episodes: 11
Status: Finished Airing
Aired: Apr 15, 2011 to Jun 24, 2011
Producers: Aniplex, Dentsu, A-1 Pictures, Fuji TV, NIS America, Inc.L, Fuji Pacific Music Publishing
Genres: Drama, Slice of Life, Supernatural
Duration: 22 min. per episode
Rating: PG-13 - Teens 13 or older
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[Solidfiles]
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Episode 11

[MirrorCreator]
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[Tusfiles]
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[Direct Link]
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Episode 07
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Episode 09
Episode 10
Episode 11

[MirrorCreator]
Episode 01
Episode 02
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Episode 05
Episode 06
Episode 07
Episode 08
Episode 09
Episode 10
Episode 11

[Tusfiles]
Episode 01
Episode 02
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Episode 04
Episode 05
Episode 06
Episode 07
Episode 08
Episode 09
Episode 10
Episode 11

[Direct Link]
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Episode 04
Episode 05
Episode 06
Episode 07
Episode 08
Episode 09
Episode 10
Episode 11

Folder Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai  HD  :
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          Air pollution exposure may hasten death, even at levels deemed 'safe,' study says   

At a time when the Trump administration is moving to delay and dismantle air quality regulations, a new study suggests that air pollution continues to cut Americans’ lives short, even at levels well below the legal limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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          Celebrity birthdays for the week of July 2-8   
July 2: Actor Robert Ito ("Quincy") is 86. Actress Polly Holliday ("Alice") is 80. Writer-director Larry David ("Curb Your Enthusiasm," ''Seinfeld") is 70. Keyboardist Roy Bittan of the E Street Band is 68. Actress Wendy Schaal ("American Dad," ''It's a…
          Anniversaries - reasons to celebrate.    

Or to commemorate. 

Or… not.

In Ireland we have important anniversaries every week of the year. Things like the birth or death of Irish martyrs or battles or the first time an abortion will be legally rendered in this country. But, generally, it seems, Irish people don’t like anniversaries. We have far too many – a result of having too much history.

Furthermore, as a whole, the Irish nation does not celebrate its history or identity. (St. Patrick’s Day is the exception, of course, but even on that one day of the year when we openly celebrate our Irishness, I’m sure many Irish people celebrate our thirst instead.)

                         

So, why is this? 

The Irish have an inferiority complex: having been told by the English for so long that our language, customs, dress, law, society, manners were second to theirs, we believed them. And though it seems like the oppression of the English has been gone 81 years, we still have that sense of inferiority, that lack of pride in our nation. It had been inculcated for so long that it still remains for the next generation. Albeit, this sense of inferiority is subconscious, hidden, but, to an outsider, puzzlingly evident in an apathetic form – Irish people don’t know why, but they don’t seem to want to celebrate their Irishness as much as they should.

The Irish language is the best example. Terrible primary school teachers aside, the Irish language should be thriving in Ireland. People don’t want to speak it, not because they can’t or are afraid of making mistakes, but because, deep inside, they’re ashamed of it.

Like the generations before us, speaking Irish was a symptom of your poverty. Those who held onto the language could not represent themselves at court, could not be employed by the landlord, and would die in destitution and starvation. And, in order for the Irish to survive in this English-engineered world, they had to regard their language and culture negatively. It was necessary. We were able to survive, to raise ourselves up by pulling the Irish language down, under us.

Then there’s the whole ‘if you celebrate the Easter Rising with anything more than a nod, I’ll consider you a radical and a Sinn Féiner’ – another consequence of The Troubles. But hopefully this will dissolve when the 100-year anniversary of the 1916 Rising in celebrated.


As for the other anniversaries that should be celebrated, time will tell.

Happy Irish Independence Day, by the way.

          Holidays!   

Or vacation - whatever you want to call it. I have it. No more working for a while. The tourism season is over. But unlike a teacher on her summer holidays, I don't get paid for those holidays, and my 'summer' is in winter. Still, I took a holiday so to speak and spent a good month in New York. Rather than reflecting on the entire sojourn with you like a September 'what I did on my summer holidays' essay, I'll skip to the end.

The second half of my US trip would bring me to Albany New York. Or so I thought. “It's a good thing you didn't start walking to downtown Albany, Garvan, as we don't live there anymore.” “Great. So where are ye living.”

I've never heard of Troy, New York. At least, I can't recall the city. So, what have you got to offer?

Many notable people were born or resided in Troy. Hermann Melville, Chester A. Arthur, the 21st president and James Connolly. Wait, what? Is this an American James Connolly, you know like that Irish Rebel who went to the moon with Neil Armstrong?

No. The James Connolly lived in Troy from 1903-05. Couldn't believe it when I found out! What chance!

  
Apparently, the Irish martyr lived in Troy from 1903 to 1905. To support his family of six, he worked for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. He continue to be active in pursing socialism and advocating the ideals he was to die for in 1916.

His bust is only a few metres away from that of Uncle Sam whose statue is… well, different, shall we say.


Uncle Sam and Connolly, however, aren’t as dissimilar as their tributes may denote. They’re both personifications and heroes for their respective countries.
And just like his statue in Dublin, I cannot pass by Connolly’s bust without placing a respecting palm upon the cold bronze.




          On the nineteenth day of April   

Oops, meant to post this yesterday:

On the nineteenth day of April
Their gallant ship set sail,
With fifty-five brave Irish lads
True sons of Gráine Mhaoil.
They landed safely in New York
On the nineteenth day of May,
For to meet their friends and relatives
All in the USA.

Their relatives did meet them there
As soon as they did land,
With many a bumper drank their praise
As they clasped hand in hand.
Though some of them had few friends there,
Their hearts were light and bold
And by those swaggering Yankees
They could not be controlled!

As six of our brave Irish lads
Were going down Charles Street;
One of these Yankee gentlemen
They happened for to meet.
He brought them to an ale house,
Where he called for drinks galore.
I’m sure such entertainment
They’d never seen before.

The ale it flowed full fast and free
They had a jolly time,
Which was more than they expected
Upon that foreign clime.
But when he thought he had them drunk
The Yankee then did say:
‘You are listed in the army now
To fight for America.’

They looked at one another
And then to him made plain:
‘It is not for this that we came here
Across the raging main,
But to earn an honest livelihood
As thousands did before,
Who emigrated from their homes
By the dear old Shannon shore.’

Six of these Yankee soldiers
Came dressed without delay.
They said: ‘Now lads you must prepare
With us to come away.
This is our esteemed office
Who listed you complete,
So do not strive for to resist
We can no longer wait.’

The Irish lads hopped to their feet
Which made the Yankees frown;
With every blow that they did strike
They brought a soldier down.
That office and all his men
They left in crimson gore,
And proved themselves St. Patrick’s sons
Throughtout Columbia’s shore.

A Frenchman of great fame had seen
What the soldiers tried to do.
He said: ‘I will protect you
From the Yankee criminal crew.
I will take you to Ohio,
Where I have authority,
And keep you in employment there
Till you leave this country!’

So now to conclude and finish
Let young and old unite,
And offer up a fervent prayer
Both morning, noon and night
In honour of the Lord above
To help you hold your sway
And keep you from all danger
When you go to the USA.

That was a poem I found in ‘My Father’s Time’, a collection of stories by probably the best Irish seanachai or story-teller of the last fifty years. Although I missed the 19th, the date of my post is still apt. The 20th April is my father’s birthday, indeed, I posted ‘in my father’s time’. 

          A destiny unfulfilled?   

On this day, June 4th, in 1798, Lord Edward Fitzgerald died in Newgate Jail, Dublin.

He was born at Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare (a place I know well!), on 15th October 1763, of the first Duke of Leinster. In the 1790s, he visited France, adopted revolutionary ideas and renounced his title. In 1976 he joined the United Irishmen and his home, Leinster Lodge, in Kildare town became a meeting place for the members.

With his military training (having served in Ireland and north America), he was well-suited to his position as military commander of the United Irishmen. Politically, he was influenced by French revolutionary ideas and endorsed thinkers like Paine and Rousseau – believing in liberty, equality and fraternity and the Rights of Man.

Of course, he’s best remembered as one of the leaders of the 1798 Rebellion, a Rebellion that in many ways failed before it began. The United Irishmen was banned and Fitzgerald went into hiding. Eventually he was found at a house in Thomas Street, Dublin. He, naturally, resisted arrest, resulting in him being wounded in the right shoulder, and in the death of a militia officer. He was brought to Newgate Jail, where he later succumbed to his wounds.

I often find myself reflecting on Irish history with a ‘what if?’ thought. What if the organisation had not been infiltrated? What if Lord Fitzgerald and his comrades had succeeded in achieving their aims? Well, the Act of Union probably wouldn’t have happened. Dublin probably would have continued to amass wealth, and we probably wouldn’t have suffered the Famine, yet perhaps we wouldn’t have had a 1916?

And what if Hugh O’Neill had won the Battle of Kinsale?

You could contemplate so many historical events which, had they had different outcomes, may have resulted in a better present situation. But the trials and tribulations are what define a people. And, as much as I would have preferred Irish independence to come sooner, I’m glad it came at all. And, as much as I am haunted by our tragic past, I know that I, and all Irish people, would not be who I am today without it.

I’m looking forward to the time when St. Werburgh’s Church finally finishes its renovations so that I can visit Lord Edward Fitzgerald’s final resting place. I NEED to pay my respects to a man whose deeds have not been forgotten. 
          In America, it makes labour more costly   

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          ¿Es en serio? ¿Qué la conexión transcontinental conviene más a China que al Perú?   
De

Este “argumento”, contrario al proyecto Ferrovia Transcontinental Atlántico Pacífico Brasil Perú, FETAB, originado en “The Economist” de Londres, y repetido luego en “El Comercio” de Lima, siendo falaz, descubre la pasmosa pasividad de nuestros políticos y profesionales. En especial, luego de más de 20 décadas en que, explicando nuestro subdesarrollo, nuestros mejores pensadores notaron que era más fácil llegar desde un lugar del Perú a Londres, que unir dos puntos de nuestro propio país. Luego de casi un siglo de las propuestas descentralistas, y luego de muchísimas décadas que énfasis en la integración continental, esgrimida por los movimientos sociales y políticos latinoamericanos de mayor arraigo. Luego de ser el primer país de Sudamérica en iniciar su programa ferroviario. 
De hecho, ni la descentralización, ni la integración regional ni el desarrollo son posibles sin la infraestructura vial, integrada con los aspectos de energía, habilitación urbana, y manejo de aguas.  
Sin embargo, hay cuestionamientos más razonables que son atendibles: el Perú no se puede convertir en un país “puente” entre China y Brasil, dos de las dos economías más grandes del mundo. Generalmente, en los países “puente” queda muy poco del beneficio global. Por lo cual, el Perú debe generar una oferta exportable adicional en las dos direcciones, y, además, la conexión trasversal debe complementarse con la longitudinal. 

En general, la conectividad vial nacional debe ser transversal y longitudinal, en primer lugar, y en segundo lugar, dar lugar a una serie de “anillos” en especial ferroviarios, para articular los desintegrados ferrocarriles y sistemas carreteros nacionales.  Por ejemplo, la propuesta de planeamiento de la futura red ferroviaria, preparada en la Facultad de Ingeniería Civil de la Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería, Centro de Transferencia Tecnológica Instituto Vial Iberoamericano – Perú,  propone el Sistema de Anillos Ferroviarios de la ilustración.Documento completo aquí.
  
Esta propuesta, que no incluye el FETAB en forma integra, sin embargo, representa la idea que los primeros formuladores de la red ferroviaria peruana tuvieron siempre: un sistema integrado de trasporte, para unir al Perú con el Perú, pero también con el subcontinente y el mundo.

https://financiardesarrollo.blogspot.com/2017/01/es-en-serio-que-la-conexion.html


          Namaste London   
First weekend in the city. Glorious day; bright, warm, sunny. Will go and check out the various summer sales going on in the city. Only hitch - short on cash before the first stipend payment. But hey, window shopping doesn't cost a penny! And since I've got the monthly travel card made, travel is also free. So, wait there London city, me cometh.

***

First day in office, day filled with form-filling and other stuff. The highlight of the day was the walking tour we had around the office with an official walking tour guide. As the gentleman said - "Every stone has some history in London." Starting with the Roman era, to the great fire of 1666, to the Victorian times - the city is filled with relics and monuments. Of course, we Indians do have lot deeper historical roots, but one has to appreciate the way the Western World preserves its past. Makes me sad to think about all the history spread all over India, ruining & dying slow death.

By the way, death does have some part to play in the history of London. All big monuments are either churches, with big grave yards (tombstones are still there, though all the bodies were exhumed and taken out of the city sometime in 1800's) or have someone important murdered there, after elaborate torture, of course. We saw a square where William Wallace, aka Braveheart, was executed.
[..]On 22 August 1305, following the trial, Wallace was taken from the hall, stripped naked and dragged through the city at the heels of a horse to Smithfield Market. He was hanged, drawn and quartered — strangled by hanging but released while still alive, emasculated, eviscerated and his bowels burnt before him, beheaded, then cut into four parts — at the Elms in Smithfield. His preserved head was placed on a pike atop London Bridge. It was later joined by the heads of his brother, John, and Simon Fraser. His limbs were displayed, separately, in Newcastle, Berwick, Stirling, and Aberdeen.
Who the hell used to come up with all that. Yikes! And yeah, the guide told us the executions there were still carried out even after London got the tube in 1860s. So you could actually come using the tube to see an execution. Beat that!

***

First day at the desk - mostly easy. Some stuff to be read and understood. Met almost the entire team. Had lunch at Subway with the two analysts from IIT Delhi. Left early. My manager was not in. London accounts for almost 50% of credit derivatives volume in the world and the volume runs in billion $; sitting on the floor where millions are made and lost was some thrill. Still don't understand many things, but surely this stuff ain't no rocket science!

Eventually got to meet my manager on the next day. Pretty busy and pretty aggressive guy. Heard he joined here after working in Chicago for quite some time. No wonder he is all full of the typical american aggression. Check out the meeting we had recently (all in good humor, mind you. Not really menacing)
Manager: We seriously are f**king around here. What happened to the slide I asked you to do?
Subordinate: Oh yeah. I know I was supposed to do it, but I guess it got lost in the process.
Manager: Yeah. In your world its "lost in process", in my world its called "f**king around!" See basically you f**k around because I am basically a nice guy.
Only if I could get a penny everytime he says f**k, my cash crunch will be solved for a very long time. Almost the entire desk works pretty hard and leaving before 7-8 is kind of stuff hallucinations are made of. Around me, I keep hearing lots of different languages, seeing lots of different colored people. The office is quite cosmopolitan and location wise its in the downtown London, sitting pretty just opposite the London Stock Exchange.

***

The place we (six of us: 3 from IIMC, 2 from A and 1 from B) are staying in is pretty cool too! Full of interesting restaurants (Indian, Chinese, Lebanese, Malaysian, blah blah) and shops, its considered among the better residential areas in London. We of course are staying in the company provided service apartments. The room, although a bit on the smaller side, is sufficient and quite comfortable. Usually I take a 15 minute ride in the tube to reach the office. The morning rush is nothing compared to the rush in Mumbai locals or even Kolkata metro.

So there, the routine is almost set and life is good.
          Director of Human Resources   
IN-Fort Wayne, MidWest America Federal Credit Union Director of Human Resources in Fort Wayne MidWest America is seeking a Director of Human Resources to provide services for the Credit Union primarily addressing areas of personnel, payroll, benefits, employee relations, compliance, and strategic planning. Must have a minimum of seven years of experience in Human Resources and also preferably two plus years expe
          Comment on To Many Americans, Memorial Day Has Lost Its Meaning by marco vinicio   
Monument for the Veterans For the ones that did the ultimate sacrifice for you to enjoy justice and freedom Lehigh Acres, Florida
          Confederations Cup Preview: Can Mexico, Chile prevent all-European final?   
The 2017 Confederations Cup semifinals pit four teams with rich histories against each other, but will we see an all-European final, or will the teams from the Americas prevent that outcome?
          Lead Technical Writer - Savancy - Canada   
Experience in industrial, automobile, or aerospace industry. Eligible to work in North America, if applying for North America....
From Savancy - Fri, 19 May 2017 05:45:36 GMT - View all Canada jobs
          Amtrak Salutes America’s Veterans   

In a continued effort to support the nation’s service men and women, Amtrak has set a goal of ensuring 25 percent of its new hires are veterans by 2015.  If you’re interested...

The post Amtrak Salutes America’s Veterans appeared first on Amtrak.


          We’re Hiring America’s Veterans!   

Today we’re excited to announce that we’re making a corporate commitment to ensure 25 percent of our new hires are veterans by 2015! “I’m honored and proud to add more of...

The post We’re Hiring America’s Veterans! appeared first on Amtrak.


          Základné pojmy v športovom investovaní   
American odds – sú kladné alebo záporné. Desatinný kurz (to je ten kurz, ktorý poznáte) 2.00 je hranica v americkom kurze +100. Všetko nad 2.00 je plus a všetko pod 2.00 je mínus. Asian handicap – je handicap, ktorý vznikol v Ázii. Rozdiel medzi klasickým handicapom a ázijským handicapom je ten, že pri remíze sa vám vrátia peniaze, ktoré ste stavili. Bet [...]
          Two Afroamerican Students Pounding In Dorm While Rihanna Singing In Background   
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          Amateur Afroamerican Wife Is Having Difficulties To Please Her Kinky Husband   
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          body like a back road, driving with my eyes closed, I know every curve like the back of my hand; Carter Baldwin   

body like a back road, driving with my eyes closed, I know every curve like the back of my hand; Carter Baldwin

body like a back road, driving with my eyes closed, I know every curve like the back of my hand; Carter Baldwin by ravenwood on Polyvore.com

Carter Baldwin is New York City's mysterious, perfect, golden boy. He's perfect in everything, and he even has the 'All-American' look down. He has dirty blonde to light blonde, moderately sized hair that is almost always styled up. He has piercing, light blue eyes, and extremely tan skin from is summers in the Hamptons. He has a muscular build, that's lean, and not too buff, but he is defined in all the right places, due to his love for biking around the city and soccer. He currently attends Columbia Univeristy, and is a major in buisness and entrepreneurship. He is heir to the Baldwin Factories throne- as his parents run one of the most leading oil companies in the country. Carter is kind of forced into the company, as his parents tend to force him to do as they say. And if not... well, he ends up bruised and bloody, all thanks to his father. Carter enjoys music- all types of music, from rap to EDM to pop, as long as it gets him distracted and thinking. He has a few friends, and one best friend, Sam, who he has known since he was 6. Carter is in his second year of college, trying to make it through alive, and without any distractions. But, no one knows where Carter goes in his free time. everyone think's he's so innocent and perfect, yet no one really knows the dark sides to Carter. He doesn't really spend time with girls, as he is aways drawing, playing soccer, or studying. However, all of that might change one day. **** pm me if you'd like to roleplay! :) @txstrawberry @gypsyoccult @amy1239 @amyburns567 @hayley-177 @fiohelston @natasha-maree13 @pitchslapped @slothwithablog @teenage-rxjxct @this-is-reighn @questing-witch @muggle-worthy


          Owner Operator / Lease Operator Driver - T-Lane Transportation and Logistics - Smithers, BC   
T-Lane Transportation is a full service transportation and logistics provider, servicing all of North America. About T-Lane Transportation:....
From Indeed - Fri, 23 Jun 2017 20:58:22 GMT - View all Smithers, BC jobs
          11 Weird Facts About The Simpsons That Will Make You Say 'Aye Caramba!'   

1. The Original Showrunner Thought It Wouldn't Last Past Season One

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The Simpsons is one of the longest running shows of all time, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that it's the greatest television show ever made period. (If you disagree, I hate you...) Ironically, this might be due to the fact that the show's original showrunner, Sam Simon, didn't think that the show would make it past season one. When in the writer's room, Simon was said to tell his employees that their fledgling show would be "13 and out," meaning that the show probably wouldn't return after its initial order.  Though this way of thinking annoyed series creator Matt Groening, who view Simon as being a defeatist, Simon claims that he was actually just trying to make the best show he could. By making the writers believe the show had no future, it allowed them to focus on the sole goal of making 13 great episodes of television that they would be truly proud of. This arguably contributed to the show's quality which, in turn, contributed to the show's unfathomable popularity. Apparently, focusing on quality is a good way to make something that's actually good. Who woulda thunk it?

 

2. Marge's Hair Used To Hide Secrets...Incredibly Stupid Secrets...

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Matt Groening is responsible for some of the greatest television ever created. It's weird therefore that his instincts about his own properties are often....odd. Take for example the story behind Marge's iconic hairdo. It's pretty well known at this point, but it's worth noting because MATT GROENING ORIGINALLY WANTED TO REVEAL THAT MARGE WAS A FUCKING BUNNY RABBIT! Matt Groening came to prominence with the comic strip Life In Hell and it seems to have taken him a while to realize that once The Simpsons came along, nobody could give less of a shit about his stupid comic. As such, Groening wanted to reference the strip (which prominently featured rabbits) by having Marge take down her beehive and reveal a pair of bunny ears underneath. Sam Simon quickly shot down the idea because, well, he wasn't a psychopath, but there's an alternate universe  where the greatest show in history was ruined by the stupidest reveal conceivable.

 

 

3. There's A VERY Dirty Easter Egg In Apu's Alma Mater

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The Simpsons writers can cram so many jokes into a single frame that it would be impossible for a mere mortal to catch them all. This was the case with the episode Much Apu About Nothing. In it, Apu gives the story about how he came to be an illegal alien living in America. One of the thing he mentions is the fact that he studied at Springfield Heights Institute of Technology. It's a small moment, and one that you're probably not likely to take a second glance at...at least that was the case with censors who didn't notice that the initials for Apu's university spell out "SHIT." Is this the most clever thing The Simpsons has ever done? Not by a long shot. But it's always fun to see just how deep the show's humor can get.  

 

4. Manjula Appeared In A Flashback TWO SEASONS Before Her Actual Debut

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Speaking of Much Apu About Nothing, there's another fun easter egg in there. The episode predicted more than just America's rise towards jingoistic nationalism: It actually gave us our first glimpse at Majula two seasons before her proper debut. When Apu is telling his story about leaving India, he includes a part where he bids goodbye to a young girl and apologizes for not being able to marry her.  To people watching the show at the time, it seems like a small, mildly racist joke, but two seasons later the little girl returns as Apu's now adult, arranged wife, Manjula. Majula then goes on to be a fairly major character on the show, with several episodes revolving around her and Apu's relationship....none of those episodes are particularly good and she's arguably the most banal character in the entire series, but it's still a fun easter egg nonetheless.

 

5. Milhouse Is Named After History's Greatest Monsters

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Millhouse is an unfortunate little guy and as such, the writers wanted to give him "the most unfortunate name" they could think of. They settled on Millhouse after Richard Nixon's middle name. You may think that things couldn't get worse than being named after history's jowliest president but you'd be very wrong. The other parts of the character's name come from much darker people. For starters, his last name, Van Houten, comes from Leslie Van Houten. If you don't know, Leslie Van Houten was a murderer from the infamous Manson Family, and was the youngest woman to ever be sentenced to death in California. As if that weren't bad enough, later on in the show's run, it was revealed that Milhouse's middle name was "Mussolini." This is, of course, a reference to Benito Mussolini, who if you don't know who that is....well, let's just say he did some very bad things as well. This is all to say, poor Millhouse.

 

 

6. The Couch Gags Serve More Purpose Than You Realize

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One of the most iconic parts of The Simpsons is their couch gags which are different every episode...You know, except when they aren't. Fans of the earlier episodes might notice that there's one couch gag that's reused more than all others. It features the family in a circus setting and is noticeably longer than most other openers. Why is this the one that gets recycled, you ask? Well, let's just say that when you're creating something as jam packed and ingenious as The Simpsons it can be hard to reach the minimum required runtime. As such, they would often use the nebulous nature of the couch gag to pad out an episode, piping in elongated ones like the one at the circus as they needed. Basically, even the filler on The Simpsons is better than most other things on TV.

 

7. Dustin Hoffman Is Credited With A Very Funny Pseudonym

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One of the greatest guest stars in the history of The Simpsons  was Dustin Hoffman in the season 2 episode, "Lisa's Substitute." Strangely, despite it arguably being his most important role ever, Hoffman only agreed to do the episode if he was credited using a pseudonym. This being The Simpsons, they obviously used this as an opportunity for a joke, choosing to credit one of the greatest actors in history as "Sam Etic." If you don't get the joke, say it out loud. This name is an obvious reference to Hoffman's Jewish heritage, and possibly even his "Semitic good looks," that Lisa talks about during the classic episode.

 

8. Moe Didn't Get His Last Name Until Season 6

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Moe is one of the greatest characters in a show full of great characters. He's popular enough that most of you would probably know the answer if I asked you to say his last name. What you may not know is that he didn't get that last name until season 6 for the sole purpose of throwing off the audience. In the epic two parter, "Who Shot Mr. Burns?", the major clue as to the identity of the shooter revolved around the fact, after being shot, Mr. Burns passed out with his arms pointing to the W and the S of the town sundial. undefined

To create multiple viable suspects, the writers played up the possible involvement of anyone whose name might involve those initials. As such, to throw Moe into the mix, they showed his liquor license revealing for the first time that his last name was Syzlack. This gave him initials that lined up with the clue from the sundial and made some internet nerd probably lose his shit thinking he'd cracked the code of who shot Mr. Burns, before ultimately punching a hole in his computer screen when he found out it was Maggie.

 

9. Two Members Of The Main Family Have Been The Subject Of TV Movies

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One of the fun parts about The Simpsons is that the family's exploits can grow so large that they actually make national news within the world of the show. This can be seen in the fact that both Homer AND Bart have been the subjects of two unrelated, made for TV movies. The first of these focused on Bart after he was accused of murdering Principal Skinner. The film was aptly called Blood on the Blackboard  and it starred a young child actor named Neil Patrick Harris as Bart.

Three seasons later, Homer got the TV movie treatment himself when he was accused of sexual harassment. His film was called Homer S: Portrait of an Ass-Grabber and it starred Dennis Franz as the title role. So, if you're ever curious what the writers think a real world Homer would look like, it's this: 

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source 

 

10. The Simpsons Actually DO Go To Delaware

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The season 11 episode, Behind The Laughter, was an off the wall, meta-masterpiece that also probably should have served as the show's series finale. Unfortunately, it did not and the show returned season after season to diminishing returns. In a humorous nod to the show's apparent decline in quality, one of the last scenes episode, we see Homer in an editing room watching  a cut of an episode in which Lisa excitedly declares, "The Simpsons are going to Delaware!" It's funny because no show would actually base an episode on the family winning a trip to the most boring state in the union...except, they totally do!

Exactly one season later, The Simpsons do, in fact, win a trip to Delaware! The show reuses the audio that was presented as an example of the show's lack of ideas and work it into an actual episode. Granted, it's clearly done ironically and the majority the episode is an anthology about tall tales, but the instance is still fun to think about. Not only is it a fun callback to an earlier episode, but it also seems to serve as infuriating evidence that even the writers knew that the show was beginning to lose its luster.

 

11. You Can Apparently Find Waldo Hiding In Springfield

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The Simpsons is so jam packed with references that watching it can you're reading a Where's Waldo book....Sometimes, literally! The classic children's character has shown up as a sight gag on at least two unrelated occasions.

The first of these occurs in the episode "Bart's Comet" when the entire town of Springfield is crammed into a tiny bomb shelter. See if you can spot him:

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The bestriped traveler appears again a few seasons later in the episode "Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder." Homer plays looks at a Where's Waldo? book and fails to find him, only to have the actual character walk around behind him outside the kitchen window: 

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So, is the show trying to tell us that Waldo exists in the world of The Simpsons and is, in fact, a resident of Springfield? No of course not. These are clearly just two unrelated sight gags...A guy can dream, though.


          naughty america syren de mer brunette hardcore blowjob fuck suck   
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          DJ Khaled proud that pop has made his dreams come true   

DJ Khaled is proud that his music career is allowing him to fulfil all of his dreams – including owning a mansion once owned by Robbie Williams. The 41-year-old American record producer-and-DJ – who...

The post DJ Khaled proud that pop has made his dreams come true appeared first on Capital Lifestyle.


          American Fuck Asian Shemale   
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          Acordei meio poeta hoje, mas acho que foi o frio.   
    Sei lá, me deu vontade de postar algo legal nessa noite fria de junho... Hoje eu me sinto inspirado... O que é raro, pois normalmente eu me sinto expirado... Acho que foi a overdose de fofurices ao descobrir (tardiamente) esses dois no youtube. Ou sei lá, hoje eu achei um gibi americano da Liga da Justiça Europa que eu tanto queria achar na vida (É a saga daquelas estrelas aliênigenas que grudam no rosto das pessoas as transformando em seus escravos... - Clááááááássiiiico!! - ). Hoje ouvi muito e tentei tocar de ouvido "Simple twist of fate" na Marianne (Minha gaita). E não saiu lá essas coisas =D. Mas continuo tentando U.U

     E é ela que eu quero postar aqui hoje. Não. Não a Marianne. A música. Vou postar a letra original (sem traduções) Pros canadenses poderem ler de boa... Há sim. Hoje eu descobri russos no Rick! Uma pessoa da Russia nos visitou... Fico feliz em poder estar (talvez) criando algo diplomático que vai unir todas as nações um dia em paz e amor. Hahahaha. Bom. Agora dou a palavra ao tio Bob. Fiquem todos na paz e que Deus esteja com todos nessas noites frias de junho. Shalom!


They sat together in the park
As the evening sky grew dark.
She looked at him and he felt a spark
Tingle to his bones.
It was then he felt alone
And wished that he'd gone straight
And watched out for a simple twist of fate.

They walked alone by the old canal.
A little confused, I remember well,
And stopped into a strange hotel with a neon burning bright.
He felt the heat of the night hit him like a freight train
Moving with a simple twist of fate.

A saxophone someplace far off played
As she was walking on by the arcade
As the light bust through a beat up shade
Where he was waking up.
She dropped a coin into the cup of a blind man at the gate
And forgot about a simple twist of fate.

He woke up; the room was bare.
He didn't see her anywhere.
He told himself he didn't care ;pushed the window open wide;
Felt an emptiness inside to which he just could not relate
Brought on by a simple twist of fate.

He hears the ticking of the clocks
And walks along with a parrot that talks.
Hunts her down by the waterfront docks
Where the sailers all come in.
Maybe she'll pick him out again. How long must he wait
One more time for a simple twist of fate.
People tell me it's a sin
To know and feel too much within.
I still believe she was my twin, but I lost the ring.
She was born in spring, but I was born too late.
Blame it on a simple twist of fate.
          Tempat-tempat Favorit   
Hallo.. Hari ini aku mau ceritain soal Banda Aceh, tanah kelahiran yang sudah aku tinggali sejak lahir. Aku lahir dan besar di Banda Aceh tepatnya di sektor timur, Kopelma Darussalam, mungkin biasa orang-orang bilang "Sektim" atau komplek dosen, whatever..
Banda Aceh itu kota kecil yang jalanannya tergolong cukup bersih, di jalan-jalan jarang kita temukan sampah bergelimpangan karena selalu rajin dibersihkan oleh para petugas kebersihan setiap harinya. Banda Aceh juga bukan kota besar seperti Medan atau Jakarta yang sering macet. Jadi kalau mau bepergian antara satu tempat ke tempat yang lain itu nggak butuh waktu yang terlalu lama atau harus bermacet-macet ria di jalanan. Tapi yang kurang dari Banda Aceh cuma satu (menurut aku) yaitu nggak ada BIOSKOP. Padahal bioskop itu penting banget buat kita yang suka nonton film, jadi kalau mau nonton film baru nggak harus nunggu keluar CD nya atau terpaksa download di situs-situs film. Oke, tinggalkan masalah bioskop, ayo kita jelajahi tempat-tempat makan yang ada di Aceh, khususnya Banda Aceh. Walaupun cuma kota kecil tapi tempat-tempat makannya nggak kalah enak dong ya sama daerah-daerah lain, apalagi warung-warung kopinya yang bertebaran di mana-mana. Bukan hal sulit mencari tempat ngopi di banda aceh, karena Aceh merupakan surganya warung kopi. Dari yang tua hingga yang muda berjubelan di tempat itu. Kalau dulu aku paling suka ngopi di Dago, lamnyong. Karena Dago punya tempat duduk di belakang yang berada di ruang terbuka, anginnya sepoi-sepoi dan pemandangannya hijau jadi duduk lama juga nggak bosan. Tapi sayangnya sekarang Dago udah tutup, nggak tahu deh kenapa, padahal aku paling suka duduk di situ.
Makanya kalau sekarang diajak ngopi terserah di mana aja, walaupun aku paling suka tempat yang wifi nya cepat dan duduknya nyaman. Mungkin bisa dibilang kalau sekarang aku sukanya duduk di New Tower Coffee yang di sebelah KFC simpang lima, karena tempatnya kalau siang nggak terlalu rame dan wifinya juga cepat. Biasanya aku suka ngerjain skripsi di situ sendirian sambil download film. Sekali duduk aku bisa download sampai dua film, lumayanlah internetan gratis :)
Kalau tempat makan yang paling aku suka itu adalah nasi uduk kelapa gading, lokasinya itu di depan asrama haji Lingke, Banda Aceh.
Itu tempat favorit aku, nggak cuma aku aja sih, orang rumah juga suka. Biasanya kalau aku makan di situ, mama selalu nitip dibeliin gorengannya (tempe, tahu, terong). Yang paling aku suka banget ya nasi uduknya, setiap makan bisa nambah dua kali (wajib), kalau bawa pulang ke rumah pun aku selalu minta nasi uduknya dobel hahaaaa :) padahal kalau makan di tempat lain makanannya nggak pernah habis tapi entah kenapa kalau makan nasi uduk itu bisa sampai 2 kali tambah. Mungkin juga karena pedesnya gilaaaa. Di antara teman-temanku, memang aku yang paling doyan makan pedas, kalau makan pedas teman-teman pasti pada nambah air tapi aku nggak pernah sekalipun nambah, karena kalau aku minum maka sensasi pedas itu akan berakhir jadi aku sengaja minumnya cuma dikit supaya aku bisa ngerasain setiap sensasi pedas yang terasa di lidah, rasanya TOP banget :D 
Aceh selain terkenal dengan kenikmatan kopinya atau surga warung kopinya juga terkenal dengan kelezatan Mie Acehnya. Mungkin mie Aceh yang paling terkenal itu Mie Razali, tapi ada satu tempat makan mie Aceh yang rasanya top yaitu Mie Sarena. Tapi biasanya aku dan teman-teman menyebutnya "mie kakek". Kenapa kita manggil mie kakek? Karena pemiliknya sudah lumayan tua, nggak tua-tua banget sih, lokasinya pas di depan MIN Peukan Bada.
Kakek membuat sendiri mie kuningnya jadi dijamin mie-nya lebih aman tanpa bahan-bahan pengawet. Cuma di sini aku bisa makan mie goreng sampai habis dan kalau aku bisa menghabiskan makanannya sampai habis berarti makanannya enak. Karena aku tergolong orang yang susah banget ngabisin makanan atau dengan kata lain cepat kenyang kalau makanannya biasa aja atau nggak sesuai selera. Jadi cuma makanan-makanan yang rasanya pas dilidah yang bisa bikin aku ketagihan. Makanya kalau aku menemukan tempat yang makanannya enak dijamin aku akan terus pergi ke tempat itu. Mungkin aku bisa pergi ke tempat-tempat berbeda setiap harinya tapi kalau tempat yang udah aku anggap favorit akan selalu aku datangi terus menerus. 
Oh iya, sekarang di Banda Aceh ada cafe baru, namanya "maroon", lokasinya di sebelah wisma Lampriet, depan kantor PLN. Cafe ini menyediakan beragam jenis cake, juga ada american risol.
Risol di sini unik, kalau biasanya risol itu isinya sayur dicampur daging atau ayam tapi kalau american risol ini isinya telur rebus kecil dicampur daging iris tipis-tipis dan dilelehin mayonaise. Kemudian disajikan dengan bentuk risolnya dibelah dua. Seporsi harganya 10 ribu berisi tiga potong risol. Cake nya di sini lembuuuuut banget. Kemarin aku baru nyobain "dark devil cake", cake nya itu dilapisi coklat di luar dan dalam, enak tapi terlalu banyak coklat jadi kalau dikonsumsi banyak-banyak jadi "enek". Kata pegawainya cake ini yang paling banyak dipesan, seporsinya 20 ribu. Yang paling enak di sini adalah minumannya, beberapa minggu lalu aku pernah nyobain "milo frappe" enak banget loh, porsinya juga banyak jadi puas minumnya, segelasnya 15 ribu. Maroon ini dibuka dari hari selasa sampai minggu, dari pukul 4 sore sampai sebelum magrib.
Tempat favorit untuk aku makan bakso goreng adalah di Ulele, kalau aku nyebut tempat ini "pantai tanpa ombak" karena cuma di sini yang pantai nggak ada ombaknya. Sebenarnya bukan nggak ada ombak sih tapi sejak tsunami pantai ini ditembokin ditengahnya, jadi ombak dari arah laut nggak sampai lagi ke pantai ini karena terhalang sama tembok-tembok tersebut. Biasanya di sini ada bebek-bebek dayung, aku senang banget naik ini, biasanya tiap naik semester aku selalu ngajak teman-temanku naik bebek dayung,  tapi semester ini aku belum sempat naik, mereka nggak ada yang mau diajakin naik, nggak mungkin juga kan aku naik sendiri. Aku paling suka duduk di tempat ini buat mandangin laut. Ngeliat pemandangan laut, ngeliat anak-anak kecil main air bisa bikin aku happy jadi pergi ke tempat ini lumayan menghibur. Biasanya aku suka pergi sendiri ke tempat ini, sebenarnya sih sekalian jalan-jalan, quality time with myself :)
Dua minggu lalu aku diajakin teman aku ke Lhoknga Riverside Resort. Di sini ada pemandangan sungai yang cantik banget. Kalau biasanya air sungai itu warnanya putih kecokelatan, tapi di sini warna sungainya hijau, jadi lebih mirip danau daripada sungai. Lokasinya itu hampir dekat PT Lafarge, Lhoknga, tapi tempat ini berada setelah jembatan. Biasanya setiap aku mau ke Lhoknga, aku suka banget ngeliatin sungai ini dari jembatan, karena pemandangannya yang serba hijau mengingatkan aku pada dunia dongeng atau dunia fantasi. Makanya senang banget waktu aku diajak ke sini. Akhirnya aku nggak cuma bisa mandangin sungainya dari jauh aja tapi bisa mandangin lebih dekat. Sebenarnya Lhoknga Riverside Resort ini adalah sebuah resort yang diperuntukkan bagi tamu-tamu yang mau menginap. Tapi kalau ada pengunjung yang mau duduk-duduk di cafenya dibolehin sama pemiliknya. Cafenya ini sebelahan sama sungainya, jadi kalau duduk di cafe ini bisa mandangin pemandangan sepuasnya. 
Jumat besok aku dan teman-teman SMA mau nyoba tempat baru lagi, yaitu cafe La Lumina. Nama cafenya kayak nama-nama Italia gitu ya hihiii :) lokasinya di Stui, di dekat Bubur Jazz. Aku belum tahu sih cafenya ini kayak apa soalnya belum pernah nyoba, biasanya cuma ngeliatin sambil lewat. Oke deh, ntar kalau enak aku rekomendasi buat kalian semua ya ;)

          June 28th 2017, 2-3pm   

President Trump welcomed the World Champion Chicago Cubs to the White House today. The State of Illinois may not be able to pay lottery winners. Republican leaders have put a hold on a healthcare bill in the Senate. James Capretta is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Mark takes calls on healthcare.


          WBBM's Noon Business Hour for 6/28/2017   

Join Rob Hart as he discusses the potential economic impact if Illinois lawmakers fail to reach a budget deal by the start of the fiscal year on July 1, why half of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck and Facebook as it reaches a major milestone.


          Amateur Afroamerican Girl Talked Into Giving Head To Her Boyfriend   
Watch Amateur Afroamerican Girl Talked Into Giving Head To Her Boyfriend at XXXPorn.rs - best free online XXXPorn videos for you to enjoy.
          Comment on The Dividends of Difference: Recognizing Digital Humanities' Diverse Family Tree/s by A Larger View of Digital American Studies | Ryan Cordell   
[…] Scheinfeldt, Tom. “The Dividends of Difference: Recognizing Digital Humanities’ Diverse Family Tree/s.” Found History (2014). Web. http://foundhistory.org/2014/04/the-dividends-of-difference-recognizing-digital-humanities-diverse-f…. […]
          Batting Champ Baseball   
American baseball smash home runs to win
          Machine Over Mind In A New Economy46:46Download   
➡🖒⛧Well worth a listen!⛧🖒⬅. Robots moving deeper into the American workplace—how much decision-making will we turn over to machines? For all the change that has come with the digital revolution – in the ways we work and communicate and do business – the real impact still lies ahead. Computers – machines themselves – are become […]
             

Anchor Point

A look at North America's Most Westerly Highway Point, Anchor Point, Alaska. This video presents the history and attraction of Anchor Point and the Anchor Ri...


          Ford, y un nuevo sistema de comunicación para sus futuros coches eléctricos   

Ford, la firma norteamericana grande que más le dedico tiempo y desarrollo a sus coches ecológicos, ya sea híbrido, eléctrico, o de hidrógeno, presento recientemente un nuevo e interesante sistema.

La entrada Ford, y un nuevo sistema de comunicación para sus futuros coches eléctricos aparece primero en CochesEco.com.


          Interlude: Sirius Rising    



Click here if you're at all lost.

The first thing I'd like to do here is reframe this narrative. The prism we should see this through is that of the story of the theme song to what was at one time the most watched television show in the world, namely House MD.


And subsequently we're also looking at the backstory of a music video that's gotten over 48 million views on YouTube. Those are Beyonce numbers. 


So rather than try to figure out why this incredibly strange and impossible chain of events has focused on a couple singers most people have never heard of, let's approach it all under that context. 


This is a story tens of millions of people have been exposed to without realizing what it is they're hearing.

I'd also like to let it be known that this isn't a story that ended twenty years ago. As we've seen Chris Cornell- whose death continues to make headlines- somehow found himself wound up in all this, both through his close relationship with Jeff Buckley but also through his unlikely connection to the mythos we're unfolding here.


And into the midst of it all comes the announcement that Elizabeth Fraser is appearing at Royal Albert Hall in July:

John Grant will chat to Cocteau Twins vocalist Elizabeth Fraser about her iconic indie group’s 1988 album, Blue Bell Knoll, with all proceeds from the show going to gay rights charity Stonewall. 
The event on Sunday 23 July is a rare chance to see Fraser talk about her distinctive, indelible music, which influenced an entire generation of performers, including Grant, with his exquisite electro-balladeering.

I really don't know where to start. I couldn't possibly make up an event more symbolically loaded. Is someone actually fucking with me here?

Where to begin? Let's try this, from the must-read VISUP site.
(Robert Anton) Wilson is primarily responsible for bringing the 23 enigma to public attention. Wilson in turn partly became obsessed with the number 23 after supposedly receiving telepathic messages from an alien race based upon Sirius after performing a Crowley-inspired ritual on July 22, 1973. The next morning he found a peculiar message in his 'magickal diary' stating "Sirius is very important." This led Wilson to doing some research. 
"The Skeptic went to town and browsed in the public library. Imagine my state of mind when I discovered that this very day, July 23, when I had received the message 'Sirius is very important,' is the day when, according to Egyptian tradition, the occult link (through hyperspace?) is most powerful between Earth and Sirius. 
"Celebrations of the Dog Star, Sirius, beginning on July 23, are the origin of the expression 'dog days,' meaning the days from July 23 to September 8, when the last rituals to Sirius were performed."- The Cosmic Trigger Volume I, pg. 87 
What Wilson is referring to is the heliacal rising of Sirius, often associated with July 23:
The heliacal rising: the first visible, though brief, appearance of a star on the eastern horizon before sunrise. On the previous morning, sunlight made the star invisible.  
Sirius is also identified with Isis, who plays a major role in our story here:
As the star Sopdet (Sirius (in Greek Sothis)), she heralds the life-giving inundation. 
July 23rd has also been connected with the Ancient Egyptian New Year:
Ancient Egyptian culture was closely tied to the Nile River, and it appears their New Year corresponded with its annual flood. According the Roman writer Censorinus, the Egyptian New Year was predicted when Sirius—the brightest star in the night sky—first became visible after a 70-day absence. 
July 23rd is also identified with Our Sweetheart, the Drunk:
This massive party was tied to the myth of Sekhmet, a war goddess who had planned to kill all of humanity until the sun god Ra tricked her into drinking herself unconscious.  
Which turned her into the love goddess Hathor. And then there's this little detail here: 
In ancient Egypt, the helical rising of Sirius coincided with the annual rising of the Nile at Memphis.
Wait: did they say Memphis? I thought so.

Elizabeth Fraser last appeared at Royal Albert Hall with the Cocteau Twins, touring the Milk and Kisses album, which included a number of songs written about Jeff Buckley.




Blue Bell Knoll is a luscious album, the musical equivalent of having warm honey dripped on your head while you're taking a milk bath on really good drugs, but its title has a darker meaning:
In folklore, the flowers assist mortals in seeing fairies or seeing into their reality, but were regarded by some as unlucky because they could also reveal or even attract malign spirits, including the Devil himself... They are also called Dead Men's or Dead Man's Bells, because hearing the bells ringing is an omen of death.  
Remembering the line from Song to the Siren, "Did I dream you dreamed about me? Were you hare when I was fox?", note that bluebells are also known as harebells:
Campanula rotundifolia is associated with the fairies and with witches...The name Harebells may also allude to a folk belief that witches used juices squeezed from this flower to transform themselves into hares. 
And hey- milk again.
These juices lent the flower another Scottish folk name, "Milk-ort" (milk herb).
More importantly, the bluebell also connects to the central conceit of our story- the seemingly inexplicable symbolic overkill connected to the ancient myth of the goddess (variously associated with sex, war, music and the Moon) and her shepherd-boy consort.

Shepherd-boy being the literal translation of Buckley.


As it happens milk plays a very major role in that ur-myth as well. From the first known telling of the story, The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi:

  Make your milk sweet and thick, my bridegroom / My shepherd, I will drink your fresh milk / Wild bull Dumuzi, make your milk sweet and thick/ I will drink your fresh milk.
Elizabeth Fraser's dedication on Milk and Kisses plows the same metaphorical furrow.

 "Milk and kisses for the first man / my old man / love and a thousandfold rose for Buckley /my Rilkean-Hearted friend."
(We're going to return to The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi again, in a big, bad way).

The bluebell has also been named for Endymion, the young shepherd consort of the goddess Selene, who fell in love with and put under a spell of eternal sleep so that she alone might enjoy his beauty. Selene was also known as Phoebe and one of the key tracks on Blue Bell Knoll is "For Phoebe, Still a Baby."



So I suppose it's only appropriate that this is being held at Royal Albert Hall, named in honor of Prince Albert, formally known as Albert, Prince Consort. 

And here were have another goddess-consort sad story. 

Albert was husband of Queen Victoria, herself named after the Roman goddess of victory. And for those of you who don't know the rest:
Albert died at the relatively young age of 42, plunging the Queen into a period of deep mourning in which she rarely appeared before her subjects.
 CARNIVAL OF LIFE AND DEATH

We saw that that Jeff Buckley drowned on the evening of the Carnival Memphis. As it happens it seems that he and Fraser began their courtship on the eve of the original Carnival...


This would be the night of March 4th, when both Buckley and the Cocteau Twins were playing in Atlanta. Significantly, the Twins performed "Road, River, and Rail" that night.

Simon Raymonde of The Cocteau Twins remembers Jeff being introduced to them as Tim Buckley's son while they were touring America in 1991.

Road, River and Rail is 3:17
3/17 is the day of Osiris' drowning

OK, I thought I heard that Buckley met them before 1994 but I couldn't find any corroboration online for that so I thought I had imagined it. If that is indeed true it makes the prophecies on 1990's Heaven or Las Vegas even creepier because that was the album they were touring then (and the only significant omen after that is the insanely-disturbing post-breakup Rilkean Dreams). 

Continuing:
Having recorded an ineffably beautiful version of Tim's ‘Song For The Siren’ (as This Mortal Coil) they were pleased to meet the young man, who was in turn awestruck by their music, especially the spectral voice of Elizabeth Fraser. Three years later it was their turn to see him perform. Simon and Liz went together to a small bar in Atlanta. "It was just Jeff and his little Fender guitar and amp. He sang for two hours and he knocked me sideways. Liz and I spent some time with him over the next few days."
It's likely that Fraser connected (or reconnected) with Buckley on what is technically March 5th, since the Twins had their own concert to do the night of the 4th. But what is the significance of March 5th? 


It's sacred to Isis. Very sacred, in fact:
Ididis Navigium, or alternatively Navigium Isidis, means Vessel of Isis. The festival gets its name from the main offering to Isis. In Apuleius’ Metamorphosis he describes the grand procession of worshippers from the temple of Isis to the harbor. 
Harbor. And the connection to Carnival? 
Modern carnival resembles the festival of the Navigium Isidis, and some scholars argue that they share the same origin (via carrus navalis, meaning naval wagon, i.e. float – later becoming car-nival). 
Reminding us again the Carnival Memphis is centered around Ancient Egyptian symbolism:
The twelve Grand Krewes that Carnival Memphis recognizes are the Mystic Society of the Memphi, Osiris, Sphinx, RaMet, Ennead, Phoenix, Aani, Ptolemy, Kemet Jubilee, Ptah, Luxor, Queen Bee...The Grand Krewes of Memphi, Osiris, RaMet and Sphinx are "old-line" Grand Krewes and were all started in the 1930s as the original secret societies of the Memphis Cotton Carnival.
And let's remember this Carnival centers of the appointment of the new Queen Isis and King Osiris:
Our Queen Isis has always been known for her beauty and membership in a prominent family. She wears the Ring of Isis, engraved with her hieroglyphic symbol. 
The identity of King Osiris is revealed at the Banquet of Past Kings. He and all Past Osiris Kings wear the King’s Medallion on a scarlet and white ribbon at all Osiris and Carnival events.
And this: 
Many elements of Carnival were in turn appropriated in the Corpus Christi festival, most prominently in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). 
Jeff Buckley recorded "The Corpus Christi Carol" on his first album.

Then there's this: 

Thus Plutarch tells us that Osiris was murdered on the seventeenth of the month Athyr, and that the Egyptians accordingly observed mournful rites for four days from the seventeenth of Athyr. Now in the Alexandrian calendar, which Plutarch used, these four days corresponded to the thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth of November, and this date answers exactly to the other indications given by Plutarch, who says that at the time of the festival the Nile was sinking, the north winds dying away, the nights lengthening, and the leaves falling from the trees.
Which would mean, according to this reckoning, that the "Lamentations of Isis and Nephthys" took place either on or right before November 17. Why is this significant?
Jeffrey Scott Buckley (November 17, 1966 – May 29, 1997), raised as Scott Moorhead, was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. 

Next we'll take a closer look at the prophecies involved and why they might have gotten some unwanted attention.


TO BE CONTINUED


UPDATE: Darren reminds of that famous Beatles song that namedrops Albert Hall and also  tells us of another doomed young prince, Tara Browne, dead exactly a month after Jeff Buckley was born. More 17s:

On 17 December 1966, Browne was driving with his girlfriend, model Suki Potier, in his Lotus Elan through South Kensington at high speed (some reports suggesting in excess of 106 mph/170 km/h).[2] He was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time. Browne failed to see a traffic light and proceeded through the junction of Redcliffe Square and Redcliffe Gardens, colliding with a parked lorry. He died of his injuries the following day. Potier claimed that Browne swerved the car to absorb the impact of the crash to save her life.


"A Day in the Life"
On 17 January 1967 John Lennon, a friend of Browne's, was composing music at his piano whilst idly reading London's Daily Mail and happened upon the news of the coroner's verdict into Browne's death. He worked the story into the song "A Day in the Life", which was later released on the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. 

John Lennon's "Good Morning Good Morning" was the first song you heard on the last episode of The Monkees. "Song of the Siren" was its swansong.

          Interlude: Swan Song, or In My Time of Dying   


A weird little coincidence struck me yesterday.

As we've seen, the last songs Jeff Buckley and Chris Cornell sang were songs most commonly associated with Led Zeppelin.
Cornell’s “sudden and unexpected” death right in the middle of Soundgarden’s U.S. tour that kicked off only last month is compounded only by the fact that his death was ruled a suicide, and while the 52-year-old musician outwardly showed no signs of depression or suicidal tendencies, the final song from last night’s sold out show at Detroit’s Fox Theatre: a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying”. 
And this: 
When Buckley entered the water from the trash-strewn bank, he was wearing jeans, a T-shirt and boots. He turned, grinning back at Foti, as he drifted in backward. When he was about knee deep, Foti remembers cautioning him: "You can't swim in that water." As Buckley continued, Foti repeated his caution: "What are you doing, man?" But Buckley smilingly reclined into the slate-gray water, singing the chorus of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" as he backstroked into the channel.
In 1974, Led Zeppelin started their own record label called Swan Song. 

The term swan song comes from an ancient belief that swans will sing a beautiful song just before they are about to die. 

Now we're treading into dangerous waters here, no pun intended. There's a temptation to cast too wide a net in search of symbolic connections, which, as they pile up, can tend to have a numbing effect. Plus, ancient mythology is so enormous that you could probably dig out a connection for whatever you like if you're not rigorous about it.

And there's still the open question as to why we would see so much symbolism and prophecy - practically to the point of overkill - attached to what most people might see as an historical footnote.  

So let's then establish that we're specifically looking here at the "swan songs," the very last performances by the people in question.




So with that in mind let's look at the very last line of the last verse of the last song on the last Cocteau Twins album- or if you prefer, their swan song. The song is "Seekers Who Are Lovers" and the line goes like this: 


"So send Lucifer into Hell."

The song is- you guessed it- yet another of Elizabeth Fraser's love letters to Jeff Buckley*, in this case a little note explicitly reminding him how amazing she thought the sex was.  Which is probably why nearly all of her performances of the song were extremely passionate, in her very strange way.

Then there's this :
Love, on the tip of it/ The old river's lack of other sweet sex†/ So sweet/You are a woman just as you are a man
The last line there corresponds to Buckley's self-identification of a "chanteuse with a penis," a reference to his interpretations of torch songs by singers like Billie Holiday and Edith Piaf. Which, of course, it's also entirely compatible with his role as a postmodern incarnation of Attis. 

And then there's that "river" reference again.

This in turn then corresponds to the more recent death of one of Buckley's closest friends (and posthumous spoeksman) just a few minutes away from Belle Isle on the Detroit River, which is itself closely associated with a Native American variant of the Siren myth.

Note also the connection of these fertility gods we've been looking at to rivers:
Adonis sprang from a tree; the body of Osiris was concealed in a tree which grew round the sea-drifted chest in which he was concealed. Diarmid concealed himself in a tree when pursued by Finn. The blood of Tammuz, Osiris, and Adonis reddened the swollen rivers which fertilized the soil.
But there's another connection between these ancient fertility gods and Lucifer; all of them were sent into the Underworld.  

And the way to the Underworld was traditionally the River Styx.

CHILDREN OF THE CORN(ELL)

Bearing in mind that Buckley died on the eve of an explicit Osiris ritual in Memphis, remember that the consort of Osris (who drowned in the Nile River) is Isis, whom "The Greeks conceived of (her) as a corn-goddess, for they identified her with Demeter. In a Greek epigram she is described as 'she who has given birth to the fruits of the earth,” and “the mother of the ears of corn.'” 

Similarly, Attis was identified closely with corn:
  Like tree-spirits in general, Attis was apparently thought to wield power over the fruits of the earth or even to be identical with the corn. One of his epithets was “very fruitful”: he was addressed as the “reaped green (or yellow) ear of corn”; and the story of his sufferings, death, and resurrection was interpreted as the ripe grain wounded by the reaper, buried in the granary, and coming to life again when it is sown in the ground
Corn-- and subsequently Cornell-- both derive from the Latin cornu, meaning "horn."

The closest Egyptian analog to goddesses like Isthar and Aphrodite is actually Hathor, whom Isis would eventually syncretize with, and who was commonly depicted as wearing horns. She has an interesting origin story: 
In the Story of Re, she was created by her father Re as "Sekhmet" as a destroyer of men, who were disobedient to him. Later Re changed his mind, but even he could not stop her from killing men. He then disguised beer as blood and when Sekhmet became drunk, she could no longer kill and was known thereafter as Hathor, a goddess of love.
Jeff Buckley's eventual swan song- which Chris Cornell was closely involved in producing- was the collection Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk.  It included the song "Morning Theft", commonly assumed to be a documentation of Buckley's reunion with Fraser sometime around the recording of 'All Flowers in Time Bend Toward the Sun'.


LUCIFER FALLING



There's been an ongoing controversy over the Swan Song label, which depicts an angel or winged man in the throes of death. One side of the debate claims it's a depiction of Icarus and others claim it's actually paying homage to Lucifer, and that the image is a depiction of his fall from Heaven. 

The painting is in fact an adaptation of a sketch by 19th century painter William Rimmer entitied "Evening, the Fall of Day." Some have argued that the image is a depiction of Apollo, but we don't see the chariot here which was associated with him when he absorbed the aspects of the Titan Helios.



So I think the Lucifer interpretation is probably closest to the mark. "The Fall of Day" is most probably a reference to Phosphoros the daystar, whose name is the Greek equivalent of Lucifer. Note that Jimmy Page had recently recorded the Lucifer Rising and later used a similar image for the release of the soundtrack.

Plus, Jimmy Page. 

What we also need to remember here is that Led Zeppelin's first use of the Swan Song logo was on the first side of the first disk of Physical Graffiti. And the last song on that side is Chris Cornell's swan song,  'In My Time of Dying'. 

The album also has a strong link to Jeff Buckley:
"When I was 12, I decided to become a musician," Buckley says. "Physical Graffiti was the first album I ever owned. My stepfather [who lived with Buckley's mother from 1971 to 1973] bought that for me."

But wait! There's more: Swans were closely associated with the love goddeses of the ancient world, particularly Aphrodite. 

As we saw, Elizabeth Fraser- in what seems to be her only foray into cosplay ever-  explicitly portrayed herself as a rising Aphrodite (0r Atargatis) in the video for 'Bluebeard'.

That single was released in February 1994. Fraser and Buckley met in March. At the time Fraser was in the midst of an ongoing personal crisis and seemed to experience a meltdown when the band performed 'Bluebeard' on The Tonight Show, going into full-WTF alien mode.

That meltdown was taped the same day Chris Cornell's friend Kurt Cobain died, which was called a suicide at the time.

And just to throw out another creepy death omen, Jeff Buckley would have a fling with Cobain's widow shortly before he died.

ALL FLOWERS

Lucifer also links us to another prophecy we recently looked at- Fraser's retelling of the myth of Narcissus and Echo, "Mud and Dark" (again, Jeff Buckley was swimming near Mud Island in the dark when he drowned). From The Aeon Eye blog:
Like Icarus, the archangel Lucifer is said to have fallen because of his pride and vanity over his own beauty and power, much like the myth of Narcissus. This supreme spirit of evil who was once radiant, but who because of his sin of pride fell from heaven into darkness and became Satan, saying: “Non serviam: I will not serve,” and thus brought upon himself the everlasting wrath of God.  
There's also a strain of the Narcissus daffodil called "Lucifer." 

And there's a Daffodil Hill in Memphis.

The mind reels.



TO BE CONTINUED



NOTE: It's also important to remember that Icarus- whose sin was disobedience- actually died by drowning.

The lyric "His poor essence" may in fact be "His Pur Essence," a reference to the fact the Fraser may have realized that she seemed to call Buckley by his given name - Scott Moorhead- in "Summerhead" (read:"S.Moorhead") in between the songs "Essence" and "Pur" on Four Calendar Cafe. 

That album was recorded while Buckley was still doing club gigs in tiny dive bars in Manhattan. They wouldn't begin their relationship for at least another year.

† Erroneously listed as "sweet scents" on some lyric sites.


          Deeper Than You Could Ever Know, or The Eternal Psychodrama   



The rabbit keeps digging. And digging. How far are you ready to go down?

I first began to follow this story when I heard about the drowning death of Jeff Buckley. I'm not sure why but the first thought that came into my head was that it had something to do with Elizabeth Fraser. 

I had no idea that all of this had been prophesied for years and years before, in ways that actually give me chills.

I had no idea that this was all closely following a very ancient script, for reasons I can't begin to wrap my head around. The symbolism is almost shockingly unambiguous, as we'll soon see.

I had no idea that a tragedy involving Chris Cornell, Jeff Buckley's close friend and posthumous spokesman, would take place on the banks of another river almost exactly 20 years later, a tragedy that seemed to follow a remarkably similar mythic script. And a tragedy that would seize the attention of millions all around the world.


And I most certainly had no idea twenty years ago that at the very same time police divers were scouring the muddy waters of the Wolf River Lagoon for Jeff Buckley's corpse a well-publicized reenactment of a mystery religion based on the drowning death of a revered ancient Egyptian god was being undertaken by an elite "secret society" just a few blocks away.

Yeah. That happened.

I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around that one too.

WHY AND WHAT FOR?

A reader asked a highly pertinent and perceptive question in the comments section of the previous post. It cuts to the heart of this extraordinarily unlikely mystery we're trying to crack here.
The thing that I keep asking is "why?" Why would spirits reenact this little passion play at all? Why with this small handful of singers and songwriters? It seems like a lot of effort, a lot of autistic attention to trivial details few would even notice - so where's the actual payoff for the Good Folk's effort? The only thing I can think up is that all the world's a play to them, but the dramatis personnae onstage never see more than a few glimpses of their lines before it's time for them to be spoken.
Why indeed? We're not talking about show biz superstars here, we're not talking about Benifer or Brangelina,  we're talking about two cult performers who never broke into the mainstream. 

We're talking about two very vulnerable souls whose supernatural gifts were balanced out by their struggles with their troubled upbringings and mental illness. But at the same time we're talking about two performers who could count the highest echelon of the music biz elite in their circle of apostles.

And we're talking about a love story whose tragic end was prophesied in a song that has garnered a staggering 48 million views on YouTube. Those people may not realize it but they've soaked all this in.

Which only makes sense because what we're actually seeing is a ritualistic reenactment of one of history's oldest love stories.


It's becoming increasingly well-known on the Internet that this song is about Jeff Buckley, though I think most people tend to underestimate how deep Fraser's obsession with the man really was. I don't think she ever got over it.

Buckley idolized Fraser, studied her, imitated her (the first time I heard Jeff Buckley- knowing nothing about him- I said to myself, "this guy sure sounds like he listens to a lot of Cocteau Twins records"). But when they met Fraser was in the middle of a serious- and painfully public- mental health crisis that would find her hospitalized twice within a year. 

Buckley brought color and excitement back into her life but he had far too many groupies chasing him to stay with an older woman who brought a lot of emotional baggage in tow. Plus, his star was rising and her band was in the process of winding down their long run.

The Wikipedia entry recites the almost-unimaginably eerie fact that Fraser was recording this song while the man about whom she was singing was dying on the other side of the world, but omits the fact that they were lovers:
Fraser wrote the song's lyrics. While recording the song on 29 May 1997, she found out that her once-close friend, Jeff Buckley, had drowned. "That was so weird ... I'd got letters out and I was thinking about him. That song's kind of about him – that's how it feels to me anyway." 
And what most people tend to overlook is that not only is she singing about Buckley- yet again- she is also unconsciously prophesying his death. Yet again:

Night, night of matter (?)
Black flowers blossom
Fearless on my breath
Black flowers blossom
Fearless on my breath
Teardrop on the fire
Fearless on my breath

I have a problem with this interpretation of the lyrics. As far as I can tell what Fraser is actually singing is "Night, night of murder" not "matter." Which makes a lot more sense when followed by "black flowers blossom." 

Why?

Because black flowers have traditionally been associated with death and mourning:
The color black has always been synonymous with death and mourning. It is thus the color of sadness and farewell. So, many people consider black roses to symbolize bereavement, loss and mortality. They are often used at funerals. 
And then there's this couplet, which connects us to a constellation of ancient goddesses whose dramas all center on lost loves ( and one of whose incarnations is known as "the first mermaid").


Water is my eye
Most faithful mirror

OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN


Some of Fraser's most extraordinary vocal performances come when she is channeling the dramas of ancient mythologies. This of course includes the Siren but also Lorelei, Echo, Pandora (not just once but twice), Persephone and Coatlicue.

She was, after all, "the Voice of God."

But there's one particular story that she seemed to embody and that's the story of the goddess who fell in love with the young shepherd boy. It seemed to start in an oblique and incidental way:
The Cocteaux released Moon and the Melodies in late 1986, which featured 'Sea, Swallow Me' and 'She Will Destroy You', among others. Then they released Blue Bell Knoll, which again is a reference to an old folk belief about a death omen. The bluebell is also known as Endymion non-scriptus. 
Endymion is yet another doomed mortal whom a goddess fell in love with: 
 Wandering farther afield from the British Isles, the bluebell is associated with the shepherd boy Endymion.  The moon goddess, variously called Seline or Diana, fell in love with him and cast an eternal sleep on him so that she could enjoy his beauty alone, forever.
One of the key cuts on Blue Bell Knoll is 'For Phoebe Still a Baby'. Phoebe is another name for Selene.  
This story goes back to the very cradle of civilization:
In Babylonia, the month Tammuz was established in honor of the eponymous god Tammuz, who originated as a Sumerian shepherd-god, Dumuzid or Dumuzi, the consort of Inanna and, in his Akkadian form, the parallel consort of Ishtar.
Inanna and Dumuzi also seem to be the stars of one of the earliest known tellings of the Descent into the Underworld, where Inanna traveled to retrieve the soul of her lost shepherd-boy consort. This story would be told over and over again.

This story was retold in Phrygia as the myth of Cybele and Attis (note see Tracy Twyman's dissertation of this myth at her blog):
Cybele loved the beautiful shepherd, and made him her own priest on condition that he should preserve his chastity inviolate. Atys broke the covenant with a nymph, the daughter of the river-god Sangarius, and was thrown by the goddess into a state of madness, in which he unmanned himself. 
This story was told in the pages of Sir James Frazer's Golden Bough, a book Elizabeth Fraser certainly seemed to have read. A variant on the story has the hermaphroditic Agdistis in place of Cybele. Strangely enough this version also correlates to the Fraser-Buckley drama, given the Cocteau Twins' singer's own innate androgyny. As the singer explained in 1995:
"I was very worried about being unattractive because I think I look quite masculine. Sometimes I feel more masculine than feminine and I don't like it. I mean, you've got a person who is in recovery from incest surrounded by men. I've never had a highly developed sense of being female."
Fraser would refer obliquely to Cybele in one of her many songs focused around moths and butterflies, 'Great Spangled Fritilary', a butterfly whose scientific name is S Cybele.

The Greeks retold the love-goddess and shepherd-boy story as that of Aphrodite and the shepherd-boy Adonis:
(Both) Aphrodite and Persephone, goddess of fertility and death, love Adonis, a beautiful young man. Adonis is killed by a wild boar while he is on the hunt: Aphrodite begs Zeus to restore him to life, but Persephone also demands that he be brought back to life for her sake. Zeus settles the dispute by resurrecting Adonis, but commands him to live six months in the upper world with Aphrodite and six months in the lower world with Persephone.

And sure enough, just before she would meet Jeff Buckley, Elizabeth Fraser would be depicted rising from a scallop shell like Aphrodite in the music video for 'Bluebeard'. 

The Syrian version of this archetype, widely believed to be the original incarnation of Aphrodite herself, who takes us right back to the world of sirens and mermaids. The very first mermaid, or so the story goes:
Atargatis was in love with a human shepherd but accidentally killed him.  Out of guilt, the goddess flung herself into the ocean hoping to become a fish.  But her beauty was so great, that she never could fully become a fish.  Instead she became half goddess, half fish, with a tail below the waist and human body above the waist.   

BEFORE WE GO ANY FURTHER...

...let's play the Name Game. You see this little mythology primer here isn't just for the giggles and grins, it cuts right to the core of the very strange daisy-chain of synchronicity we are trying to untangle.

Because Jeff Buckley's very surname means "shepherd boy."
Ó Buachalla, taken from the Irish word 'buachaill' originally meaning 'herdsman' (in modern Irish it has come to mean 'boy'), was anglcised early as Ó Boughelly, Boughla, Buhilly and later as Buckley. 
So you see I'm not exaggerating when I claim that what we're seeing here is a very ancient psychodrama that chose to play itself out in real time. I mean it literally. Do you understand me now?

And what about Liz Fraser? Well, given the Egyptian origin of the Biblical name (the first Elizabeth was connected to Moses and Aaron, both of which are native Egyptian names) I will go to my grave believing that in fact it comes from Eloah-Esi-Beth, or "Temple of the Goddess Isis." We'll get to Isis shortly.

But first the Fraser name, which ties into Knights Templar history, of all things:
The Frasers are believed to have come from Anjou in France. The name Fraser may be derived from Fredarius, Fresel or Freseau. Another suggestion is that the Frasers were a tribe in Roman Gaul, whose badge was a strawberry plant (fraisier in French). 
Might come from "fraisier." Gee, you think? 

But what's the significance of strawberries in this tale here? Well, it ties right back into the lineage of the same goddesses we're looking at. In this case the Syro-Roman variant:
The strawberry was a symbol for Venus, the Goddess of Love, because of its heart shapes and red color.
In a connection that will take on greater significance when we get to the next chapter of this drama, it so happens that Venus had a very Roswell kind of origin story:
In another story, told by Hyginus, an egg fell from the sky into the Euphrates, was rolled onto land by fish, doves settled on it and hatched it, and Venus, known as the Syrian goddess, came forth
Yeah, we're going there. But don't worry- it's baked right into the cake.


Yeah, those eyes. I know.

But of course the big kahuna of love-goddess and doomed shepherd myths is that of Isis and Osiris. In the best-known telling of the tale, Osiris' first death comes when he is drowned in the Nile inside his sarcophagus:
In some cases the texts suggest that Set takes the form of a wild animal, such as a crocodile or bull, to slay Osiris; in others they imply that Osiris's corpse is thrown in the water or that he is drowned. This latter tradition is the origin of the Egyptian belief that people who had drowned in the Nile were sacred.
And just to establish his shepherd cred:
 He also carries the crook and flail. The crook is thought to represent Osiris as a shepherd god. The symbolism of the flail is more uncertain with shepherds whip, fly-whisk, or association with the god Andjety of the ninth nome of Lower Egypt proposed.[12]
And as the fathomless enigmas of fate would have it, one of the foundation texts for the Isis-Osiris myth takes us back to- you guessed it- Memphis:
Another important source is the Memphite Theology, a religious narrative that includes an account of Osiris's death as well as the resolution of the dispute between Horus and Set. This narrative associates the kingship that Osiris and Horus represent with Ptah, the creator deity of Memphis. 
Quoting directly from the Memphite Theology, we have this:
Isis and Nepthys without delay, for Osiris had drowned in his water. Isis [and Nephthys] looked out, [beheld him and attended to him].  
OK, we have a river, a drowning and a Memphis. Can I shoehorn a wolf into this little catty-corner?

Oh, yes I can:
In the beginning, Osiris was associated mostly with agriculture. This cult spread rapidly into Upper Egypt, and soon Osiris became identified with the funeral god, Abydos, Khenti-Amentiu, who was symbolized by the wolf.  
But then we get thrown right down the crazy-stairs...

Oh, the eyes. Interesting.

While police divers were still dragging the Wolf River Harbor for Jeff Buckley's body, just a few blocks east the Grand Krewe of Osiris was enjoying the Carnival Memphis, kicking off at the Crosstown Concourse:
The Carnival Memphis Association organizes, plans, budgets, and promotes the King, Queen, and Royal Court, as well as many of the events staged during Carnival week. However, the Grand Krewes (once known as secret societies) also stage their own festivities throughout the year, elect their own royalty, manage their own budget, and have their own membership requirements.  
Most of these organizations bear Egyptian names in accordance to tradition originally set out by the Mystic Memphi, and in conjunction with Memphis being the sister city of ancient Memphis, Egypt. The twelve Grand Krewes that Carnival Memphis recognizes are the Mystic Society of the Memphi, Osiris, Sphinx, RaMet, Ennead, Phoenix, Aani, Ptolemy, Kemet Jubilee, Ptah, Luxor, Queen Bees.  
The Carnival kicks off the first weekend following Memorial Day. 

But what exactly is the Grand Krewe of Osiris? Well, besides the hosts of osirismemphis.com, that is?
Osiris was founded in 1934 as a Mystic Secret Society. Osiris membership has always consisted of top professional and business leaders. 
The Great Eye, the hieroglyphic symbol of Osiris for thousands of years, continues looking intently forward to the future of great city of Memphis, on the American Nile.
The Great Eye? You mean the one glowing in the middle of that giant pyramid you got there? The one on the shore of the Wolf River Lagoon? OK. Thanks.

Good, clean Masonic fun

And what exactly do their ceremonies entail?
The ceremonies were mysterious and symbolic, but the most common feature was the procession of Queen Isis in her carriage, far beyond the precincts of her temple on occasions to other towns. 
These occasions were passed amid great rejoicing, music, dancing, and feasting which formed important parts of the festival rites. 
The feast was held within lofty walls, with an entrance between immense pylons inscribed with hieroglyphs. 
Those called to join celebrated the regeneration of the land, the renewal of friendships, and the hopes for a productive and joyful year!

Is it just me or does this sound like something straight out of Summerisle? And how exactly do these ceremonies climax?
Our Queen Isis has always been known for her beauty and membership in a prominent family. She wears the Ring of Isis, engraved with her hieroglyphic symbol. 
The identity of King Osiris is revealed at the Banquet of Past Kings. He and all Past Osiris Kings wear the King’s Medallion on a scarlet and white ribbon at all Osiris and Carnival events.
OK, now I'm sure this is all fun and harmless and zany (totally Masonic) fun for the Memphite upper crust. But that doesn't matter in the context of ritual, especially the kind of ritual that goes beyond ritual. 

Because all this was going on while Jeff Buckley's body was floating a few blocks away in the Wolf River in the same exact way Osiris' body floated in the Nile.


You know Osiris-- the star-sailor. 



I said the Starsailor.

But again, the point is that happened. That actually happened. A bunch of drunk lawyers, doctors and their wives were playacting the mysteries of Isis and Osiris while an aspiring rock superstar was actually playing the part of Osiris in a ritual who I can't begin to imagine who -or more accurately, what -- was staging.

I mean, I never heard of this Carnival until a few hours ago. Have you?


What are the odds Elizabeth Fraser knew about any of this while she was writing songs that prophesy how a man she wouldn't meet for another 12 years would die? 

Somewhere between slim, zip and fuckall I'd wager.

But stay tuned because this story is about to take a very dark and sinister turn, taking us into the world of elite UFO cultists, the Tower of Babel, demons of the air, World War Three, and a prophecy of the most momentous event of our times.

I wish I were kidding.



TO BE CONTINUED















          Twin Peaks and the Metaphysics of Evil   


Well, after 27 years of waiting and a good 18 months of hype it's finally here. Showtime aired the two-hour Twin Peaks reboot premiere and posted the first four episodes (the premiere was broken in two) online. I binged the first three as soon as they went up and the last episode the following morning.

My first impression? Ye gods, it's weird.

I mean, even on the David Lynch sliding scale, it's weird. How weird? Well, it makes the weird bits of Mulholland Dr and Inland Empire play like Days of Our Lives. Some door in Lynch's unconscious seems to have gone well off its hinges. 

It's also maddeningly inconsistent, veering from long, flabby scenes where nothing seems to happen to random bursts of truly disturbing horror and violence. There are a number of high profile cameos that range from the numinous (the more-radiant-than-ever Madeline Zima) to the far less-so (Michael Sera comes across as the pretentious kid in your ninth grade drama club) and an extremely confusing subplot with a Dale Cooper-alike in Las Vegas, not to mention the actual Dale Cooper and his demonic doppelganger.

But you know me, this shit's right up alley. I was at turns bored, riveted, horrified and embarrassed but I'm counting the hours to the next episode (which will go live on June 4th).

But the rest of the country? Maybe not so much.

Since we live in a culture that measures the quality of art in dollars and demos the big story on Twin Peaks was the tepid ratings it got. From Vulture:
The owls are not what they seem, and neither was viewer interest in a Twin Peaks revival — at least if Nielsen ratings are your metric for success. Per the ratings giant, Sunday’s quarter-century-in-the-making Twin Peaks: The Return attracted just 506,000 same-day viewers to Showtime via the network’s main linear channel.
But same-day is an archaic metric, isnt it? I'm sure the overwhelming majority of the audience will be consuming Twin Peaks online. We cut the cord a while back and haven't missed it. No one was actually watching the cable feed anyways. Vulture again:
First, it’s worth remembering the 506,000 viewer number reported by Nielsen Tuesday represents only a fraction of the audience that will ultimately consume Peaks across various Showtime linear and digital platforms. When measured over the course of weeks, rather than a single night, it’s quite common for premium cable series to end up with three, four, or even five times as many unique viewers as the same-day Nielsen ratings suggest. The actual audience for Sunday’s Twin Peaks resurrection will likely end up in the 2–3 million viewer range — no doubt less than what Showtime execs hoped for when they green-lit the project, but not quite as minuscule as these early numbers suggest.
But do note that the Twin Peaks premiere was watched by a mind-staggering 34 million Americans. But the blush came off that rose fairly quickly, especially during the second season when the series was relegated to the death slot. Even so, it has to be said that David Lynch has never been box office. Instead his audience is "more selective," as Ian Faith might have it. From Forbes.
Although David Lynch has always been something of a critical darling and a cult hero, the quality of his work hasn't necessarily translated into box office dollars. Yes, Mulholland Drive got rave reviews and was even voted best film of its decade by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (full disclosure: I'm a member and did not vote for it, feeling that as a rejiggered TV pilot it wasn't as deep as people were giving it credit for). But in terms of box office, it only generated $20 million international. His follow-up,Inland Empire, was way down from even that, at merely $4 million international, less than $1 million of which was domestic.
Just how selective it can be is evidenced by this frankly arrogant passage in the Variety review, written by Sonia Saraiya:
The bankable popularity of “Twin Peaks” also makes for an inexplicably stupid scene at the Bang Bang where the indie-electronic band Chromatics performs to a room of middle-aged townies taking tequila shots. Nothing says rural, small-town, faded glory like an impossibly cool synthpop band.  
What time period is Saraiya living in? First of all The Chromatics are an 80s revival band so it goes without saying that they would appeal to the "middle-aged townies" who grew up on synthpop. Second, Twin Peaks is set in the Pacific Northwest, which last time I checked was pretty hep to pop culture. Third, Lynch has been using synthpop in his projects since Blue Velvet. 

The Forbes review seems to get it:
 (The)Chromatics, as well as whatever industrial band it is that plays underneath footage of a car journey at night, fit effortlessly into the Lynchian soundscape.
But overall I think the more savvy viewers will adjust themselves to the jumbled narrative Lynch is putting on the table. As agog as I felt during long stretches of my binge I came out of it with a strong sense of theme. 

Lynch sets up a number of different arcs in different settings. The story ranges from Twin Peaks to Manhattan to South Dakota to Las Vegas. Plus, what looks like outer space but may be some other dimension entirely. And oh yeah, the Black Lodge.

In Twin Peaks a phone call from the Log Lady to Deputy Sheriff Hawk reopens the Laura Palmer case. It's here where we get the strongest hit of that old time Peaks religion and a serving of familiar faces (maybe a little too generous a serving in some instances). We also get some rather stunning photography that would fit proudly on anyone's demo reel. Plus, an owl.



The story in Manhattan centers on a young man whose job it is to sit in a secure room and stare at a glass box on behalf of some shadowy billionaire. He's being courted by a gorgeous young woman (Zima, turning on her native charm like a flamethrower) who is inexplicably curious about his job.

Unlike some other reviewers I won't spoil this arc. But I will say you could cut out those sequences and have yourself a very fine Stevens-Stefano Outer Limits tribute on Lynch's part. I'm thinking "The Galaxy Being", "OBIT" and "Don't Open 'Til Doomsday" were spinning in very heavy rotation somewhere in Lynch's head, unconsciously or otherwise.

The South Dakota storyline updates us on the Dale Cooper doppelganger introduced in the final moments of the original series. There's another murder mystery on the menu and a very Twin Peaks undercurrent of small town sexual intrigue when a high school principal is accused of murdering his mistress. 

The Cooperganger comes across like Frank Booth on Xanax but no less lethal. To show us just how lethal he's featured in a murder scene that is frankly pretty hard to watch.

We encounter the original Cooper, still trapped in the Black Lodge. Which seems only to have gotten more insane in the intervening 27 years. Michael Anderson has been replaced by the One-Armed Man so you don't really miss a beat (Anderson disqualified himself after hurling some pretty wild insinuations against Lynch on his Facebook).



And plus there's a talking brain-tree thing which refers to itself as "the evolution of the arm" (Michael Anderson's character referred to himself as the Arm). Which is probably the least bizarre thing in the Cooper arc.

I mean, strap yourself in because the Cooper-Black Lodge arc goes absolutely bugshit, even more so than anything Lynch has ever filmed. If you thought the lodge stuff was crackers, you literally have seen nothing yet.

Although all these arcs might seem unrelated-- and most probably completely bewildering to anyone not acclimated to Lynch's surrealist vision-- I am sensing a very strong thruline here.

I may be projecting all over it but it feels to me that Lynch is presenting a new metaphysics for evil. 

There's been a debate as old as humanity about the origin of evil, whether it's an innate reality or an invader from without. With the Bob arc from the first series and now with the juxtaposition of the Black Lodge and the Glass Box Lynch appears to arguing that evil is in fact a foreign presence, a metaphysical force that intrudes into our reality to look for hosts. 

As if to concretize this we see that the evil Cooper is not of our Earth and once the real Cooper escapes from his imprisonment (a spoiler, but come on) he is weakened and himself imprisoned.

I would argue then that Twin Peaks is a narrative about the flowering of evil. 

It presents evil as an outside force that invades and sets up shop into our environment then goes about finding suitable hosts to express itself through. It destroys lives, ruins families and communities for no apparent reason then moves on. 

This theme was explored in the thorny and divisive Fire Walk With Me, with Laura Palmer's descent prefigured by her dream of the Black Lodge and with her father's possession by the evil spirit Bob (what a great name for a demon).

Of course, Lynch may well move onto other themes before the series is finished so this is a provisional analysis. But Lynch seems to be fairly consistent in his fixations if you get past the whimsy. 

A lot of people accused Mulholland Dr and Inland Empire of incoherence but they both make perfect sense when you figure out their secrets. They're also essentially the same film told from two different perspectives.

Anyhow, I'm very interested in hearing your thoughts on the series so far and any speculations you might have where all this is headed. I just hope the media doesn't just see it all as a numbers game.
          The Covenant and the Cargo Cult, Part 1   



Sir Ridley Scott's long-awaited prequel to Prometheus opened this week in certain countries and is set to open in America next week. For those waiting for a continuation of the storyline from the last movie- when crew member Elizabeth Shaw and the head of android David taking off to invade the Engineer homeworld- well, I hate to say it but you're out of luck. 

The Prometheus story is referenced only as exposition, apparently.  I hope I'm not giving away any spoilers (it feels like half the movie has already been posted to YouTube in the form of trailers and excerpts) but it is what it is.



Of course, the bit with Elizabeth and David's disembodied head from Prometheus is yet another one of those bizarre and inexplicable references to John the Baptist that tentpole sci-fi movies are so fond of. Remember that John's mother was named Elizabeth*, who had her own covenant with an extraterrestrial entity (the Archangel Gabriel, in this case). 

But I digress. If you've been following the previews and the various puff pieces in the media you'll suss out that Alien: Covenant is more like a remake of the first Alien film than a sequel to Prometheus. In much the same way as the JJ Abrams' Star Wars it's meant to act a jumping-on point for the Alien franchise for post-Millennials:
If Star Wars: The Force Awakens led the way in merging fan-service universe-building with fresh heroes, stories and themes for a new generation, Alien: Covenant grabs the reboot ball and runs with it. 
Director Sir Ridley Scott has said himself how much he was impressed by Disney's handling of Star Wars' renaissance, and it's clear to see why this similarly iconic '70s sci-fi world is equally ripe for a life-extending overhaul.
The film apparently references the AAT of Prometheus but also taps into the current anxieties over AI and robots and their potential to do away with the rest of us, kind of like a more ambitious HAL 9000. Scott apparently 86'd the idea of more direct sequel to Prometheus after reading some of the negative reviews dumped on the film, which he called "a mistake":
What changed was the reaction to ‘Prometheus’, which was a pretty good ground zero reaction. It went straight up there, and we discovered from it that [the fans] were really frustrated. They wanted to see more of the original [monster] and I thought he was definitely cooked, with an orange in his mouth. So I thought: ‘Wow, OK, I’m wrong’.
Well, somebody thought Scott was wrong, "somebody" almost certainly being a Fox accountant or three. However, one SF fansite accused Scott of "selling out" by not following up on the Prometheus story and I'm sure a lot of other fans will disappointed the story was dispensed with so easily. Either way, Scott continues to make eyebrow-raising comments about aliens in the press, referring to them recently as "superior beings."
Alien creator Ridley Scott has said that he is convinced that there are extra-terrestrials out there – and one day they will come for us. The veteran director said he believed in higher beings as he prepared to release the sixth episode of the sci-fi horror series, Alien: Covenant, next month. 
“I believe in superior beings. I think it is certainly likely. An expert I was talking to at Nasa said to me, ‘Have you ever looked in the sky at night? You mean to tell me we are it?’ That’s ridiculous.” 
“So when you see a big thing in the sky, run for it,” he joked.“Because they are a lot smarter than we are, and if you are stupid enough to challenge them you will be taken out in three seconds.”
Which makes you wonder about the whole "Covenant" thing, doesn't it? 

The term is essentially religious ('contract' is more commonly used to describe written civil agreements), dating back to the Old Testament.  And seeing how that covenant was made with a god who flew around the sky in a pillar of smoke and light, and needed a special environment built in order to interact with his subjects, you do start to wonder what the implications of all this happen to be. 

Well, start with this. Like Jack Kirby (whose Eternals so inspired the first Alien film),  Scott seems to have been bitten by the ancient astronaut bug and bitten hard. I don't know what the current status is on the project but back in 2014 it was reported that Sir Scott was developing an AAT series for HBO called Pharaoh:
Scott has signed on to serve as the executive producer and director for this project, which was created and sold to the premium cable channel by David Schulner. The Hollywood Reporter explains: 
The drama explores an alternate explanation for the foundation and ascent of the ancient Egyptian empire — one in which greatness was bestowed upon us by beings from another world, calling into question what it means to be a “god.” The project was co-created by Giannina Facio and Colet Abedi, who will exec produce alongside Scott and David Zucker for Scott Free. 
His film Prometheus was partially inspired by the writings of Swiss author Erich von Daniken who is known for his books like Chariots of the Gods? and Gods From Outer Space. Von Daniken is also a regular talking head on History Channel’s Ancient Aliens.
Again, I'm not sure where Pharaoh stands today but according to an October report from Omni the project was still on. It may be why the planned Stargate reboot was reported as being put into turnaround in November. Which, if so, strikes me a bit curious. The mighty Devlin and Emmerich nosed off their turf by Sir Scott? Huh.


But there's an interesting little visual cue in one of the trailers that suggests that Scott takes AAT very seriously. The Covenant crew lands on an alien planet and discovers a familiar sight. From io9:
This alien planet that looks untouched by human hands is growing recognizable wheat, which very much has been touched by human hands. This plays into the Alien mythos that there was a race of “Engineers” that were the progenitors of humans—they’re similar to us, why wouldn’t their food be similar? And if they were traveling around, why wouldn’t they carry seeds like we do?
Why is wheat so significant in the context of the Prometheus teleology? The late Lloyd Pye explains: 
Many have "wild" predecessors that were apparently a starting point for the domesticated variety, but others--like many common vegetables--have no obvious precursors. But for those that do, such as wild grasses, grains and cereals, how they turned into wheat, barley, millet, rice, etc. is a profound mystery. 
No botanist can conclusively explain how wild plants gave rise to domesticated ones. The emphasis here is on "conclusively". Botanists have no trouble hypothesising elaborate scenarios in which Neolithic (New Stone Age) farmers somehow figured out how to hybridise wild grasses, grains and cereals, not unlike Gregor Mendel when he cross-bred pea plants to figure out the mechanics of genetic inheritance. It all sounds so simple and so logical, almost no one outside scientific circles ever examines it closely.
Modern wheat is one of those innovations that scientists revert to ontological arguments to explain. The wheat we know obviously exists so it simply had to have been the product of long-term domestication. How exactly the domestication of an essentially-inedible wild grass was domesticated into a modern foodcrop-- over the span of centuries, mind you, if not millennia-- by illiterate Stone Age farmers is never exactly made clear. Pye again:
 On the other hand, those New Stone Age farmers who were fresh out of their caves and only just beginning to turn soil for the first time (as the ”official” scenario goes), somehow managed to transform the wild grasses, grains and cereals growing around them into their domesticated ”cousins”. Is that possible? Only through a course in miracles! Actually, it requires countless miracles within two large categories of miracles.  
The seeds and grains were maddeningly small, like pepper flakes or salt crystals, which put them beyond the grasping and handling capacity of human fingers. They were also hard, like tiny nutshells, making it impossible to convert them to anything edible. Lastly, their chemistry was suited to nourishing animals, not humans. So wild varieties were entirely too small, entirely too tough and nutritionally inappropriate for humans. 
They needed to be greatly expanded in size, greatly softened in texture and overhauled at the molecular level–which would be an imposing challenge for modern botanists, much less Neolithic farmers.  
Despite the seeming impossibility of meeting those daunting objectives, modern botanists are confident the first sodbusters had all they needed to do it: time and patience. Over hundreds of generations of selective crossbreeding, they consciously directed the genetic transformation of the few dozen that would turn out to be most useful to humans. And how did they do it? By the astounding feat of doubling, tripling and quadrupling the number of chromosomes in the wild varieties! 
Domestic wheat and oats were elevated from an ancestor with seven chromosomes to their current 42–an expansion by a factor of six.”
Remember that the cultivation of wheat brought about the rise of the Sumerians, who had oddly intimate relationships with their gods (the Anunaki, of course). The ancient Greeks were certain that wheat was the gift of a god; Demeter, in this case. It was the final "mystery" in the dramas put on at Eleusis. The Egyptians credited wheat to Osiris, the star-sailor.  So its inclusion in this film hardly seems incidental. On the contrary; it looks as if someone were doing their homework.

Now, longtime readers of The Secret Sun realize that nearly every major SF franchise of the past 50 years (starting with 2001: A Space Odyssey) is centered around ancient astronaut theory in one way or the other. 

Star Trek, Doctor Who, Star Wars (arguably), Battlestar GalacticaAlien (of course), Stargate, The X-Files, Transformers, Indiana Jones and the entire Marvel and DC Universes all established their creation myths, in varying degrees, as the work of advanced extraterrestrial interlopers. Does that seem coincidental to you? It certainly does not to me.

There've also been a ton of less-visible but still-signficant TV shows and movies that have done the same, like Jonny Quest, The Phoenix, The Man from Atlantis as well as Childhood's End, Cocoon, Hangar 18, countless American and Japanese cartoons (even the hugely-popular cardgame/anime property Yu-Gi-Oh). So much so that you can't help but wonder if there's not a very powerful cargo cult at work behind the scenes in Tinseltown.


Bearing all that in mind, as well as the Ancient Aliens cable show (now in its 12th season), researchers might be forgiven for believing this was all part of some long-running conditioning program. You know, kind of like the one suggested by the Brookings Institution report back in 1960. 

Or exactly like it, actually.

Researchers would be especially forgiven in light of this recent blockbuster news story:
Was our solar system once home to an advanced civilization other than our own — perhaps one that predated humanity by hundreds of millions of years before being wiped out by an asteroid impact or some other cataclysm? 
There's no evidence for such a pre-human indigenous technological species, though people have been speculating about one since ancient times. But a respected space scientist points out in a provocative new paper that if the existence of home-grown intelligent space aliens has never been established, it's never been ruled out either. 
And if a race of smart and perhaps spacefaring aliens did make their home in our solar system, traces of their lost civilization might still be out there somewhere in the system just waiting for us to find them.
Quite a "synchronicity," don't you think?

UPDATE: Check out Gordon's review on Alien: Covenant on Rune Soup.



TO BE CONTINUED...

* Elizabeth is often traced to Elisheba but you can also frame it as a contraction of Eloah-Isis-Beth, or "House of Isis, the Goddess."

          Reel Paganism::The "Folk Horror" Revival    

Ah, those Years of Seven. We looked at the significant anniversaries in the World of Weird this Year of Seven is marking, from Heaven's Gate and the Phoenix Lights to the Harmonic Convergence to the releases of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the First Kind. As it happens, there's another major anniversary on the docket this year and that's the birth of the modern "NeoPagan" movement.
Fifty years ago, in 1967, three organizations were formed which would have a profound impact on the shape of contemporary Paganism: Frederick Adams founded Feraferia, a wilderness mystery religion; Aidan Kelly and others formed the New Reformed Order of the Golden Dawn, an eclectic witchcraft tradition; and Tim (Oberon) Zell filed for incorporation of the Church of All Worlds, which was based on the fictional religion described in Robert Heinlein’s novel, Stranger in a Strange Land.
As the Church of All Worlds shows, the NeoPagan movement was born out of the rising Geek insurgency, out of a fermenting sub-subculture in which Dune, Star Trek and Lord of the Rings had well and colonized the imaginations of the young and dateless.

The crossover would become so successful that the strict atheism and naturalism that had once been de rigeur in sci-fi (and fandom in general) would soon be put on its back foot by this new Mysticism, a current that would revolutionize pop culture with the runaway success of Star Wars.

NeoPaganism occupied a fair bit of real estate in the collective mind of Fandom but has never been the upstart mass movement its adherents might have you believe. It probably peaked as a movement in the 1990s (with Buffy, the Vampire Slayer) and, if the current alarm bells being rung in the NeoPaganism blogosphere are any indication, has been receding ever since. So much so that many NeoPagans believe the jig is finally up.

Contemporary Paganism isn’t an institution, but we do have institutions, and many of them are  struggling to survive.  Cherry Hill Seminary announced last year that it might not be able to continue its programming.  CUUPS is hardly thriving.  The Pagan Community Statement on the Environment, which is quite possibly the single largest expression of Pagan voices ever, has not yet collected a mere 10,000 signatures in the two years since it was published.  And, as far as I can tell, none of the organizers of Pagan festivals and conferences have reported significant growth in recent years. These are just a few examples of Pagan institutions that I have been involved with to one degree or another over the years.
In Britain, where so much of the Wicca and NeoPaganism we recognize today was born, the situation seems pretty much the same. NeoPaganism is struggling there too, ironically as the current Chaos Magick revival is picking up steam.
 I’ve been told that the number of registered members of the Pagan Federation has gone down for the first time. At the Harvest Moon Conference in 2016, Melissa Harrington confessed that she felt that this decline in active participation was indicative of Paganism “going underground” again. Most of the Pagan Federation events I’ve been to recently have shown a similar demographic spread to OBOD ones. 
My concern is that the declining number of young participants in the Pagan community in Britain, and the general diminution of those taking an active role in the community as a whole, indicates that that growth has stalled. British Paganism—as a subculture and as a movement—is in trouble.
I'm not at all surprised by this. I'd wager that most NeoPagans had some kind of traditional religious upbringing, which made them at least casually familiar with the basics of ritual and theology. With traditional religion a fading memory among NeoPaganism's mission field, it becomes harder than ever to attract people to the surrogate community that NeoPaganism promises. 

But there's also the problem of the movement failing to deliver what it promises:
What is in decline, then, is something quite specific—the Pagan Movement; a collection of organisations, publications, ceremonial genres, training courses. That collection is no longer feeding the appetite of the general public for the magical.
Then there's the prickly issue of sectarianism. NeoPaganism bears only a glancing resemblance to the ancient variety, but it's chock full of the kind of perpetual fragmentation that a Pagan in ancient Alexandria might have been sick of. One blogger is even pushing an atheist strand of NeoPaganism:
Atheopaganism is post-Belief religion. It is evidence-based spirituality rooted in real-world, positive, life-affirming values. It gives us what religion is good at giving us, and avoids trying to do what science can clearly do better. 
I believe it is in broad strokes what succeeding generations will practice in growing numbers. It is what will give meaning and build community for people who have left behind the ideas of gods and magic.
Yeah, good luck with that. After all, discarding your traditional core tenets has worked out so well for the so-called Mainline denominations. 

Like the churches that so many NeoPagans grew out of, the movement is looking to political activism to "stay relevant." But people interested in activism now have a endless buffet of NGOs and pressure groups to choose from, and most activists today tend to see any flavor of spirituality as regressive and impolite. Which may be why most Mainline Christian denominations are now fading into history.

But a strong argument could be made that NeoPaganism is fading because the overall culture has been so effectively paganized. If that's true, then where do you go from there?



 Scarlet Imprint publisher Peter Gray was a bit ahead of the curve when he announced the impending death of NeoPaganism three years back. And he sees the same trends at work- Neopaganism is fading because it's no longer needed:
There is no halting the decline of the initiatic witchcraft traditions of Gardner or Sanders, nor the collapse of neo-paganism. The reason? To use the correct mimetic formula: Because Internet. People are having their needs met by the online simulacra of witchcraft. Those who are seeking witchcraft simply do not have to hunt out lineages, everything is before them in the digital form that has socialised them while their parents paid more attention to their smartphones.
Gray calls for the "rewilding"of Witchcraft, for the art to return to its outlaw roots. He wants to recapture the danger of Witchcraft, which he believes- rightly- has been traded away by Wiccans and their fellow travelers. 

But the question then becomes how wild are you willing to be? Witches are killed on on a fairly regular basis in developing countries because they're seen as dangerous and taboo. In our anything-goes culture what exactly do you have to do to recapture that outlaw sheen? It's no small question. Why?
Well, because the Gardnerian Book of Shadows tells us exactly how dark ancient witchcraft and Paganism could get: 
Priests know this well; and by their auto-da-fé, with the victims' pain and terror (the fires acting much the same as circles), obtained much power. Of old the Flagellants certainly evoked power, but through not being confined in a circle much was lost. The amount of power raised was so great and continuous that anyone with knowledge could direct and use it; and it is most probable that the classical and heathen sacrifices were used in the same way. There are whispers that when the human victim was a willing sacrifice, with his mind directed on the Great Work and with highly skilled assistants, wonders ensued but of this I would not speak.”  
Which brings us to the Folk Horror revival.

Back to the recent Beltane Fire Festival.
The event, first organised in the mid-1980s, marks the ending of winter and is a revival of the ancient Celtic and Pagan festival of Beltane, the Gaelic name for the month of May.
Thousands of spectators gathered on Calton Hill in the Scottish capital to watch drummers, fire dancers, physical theatre and a large bonfire.
During the event, the Green Man is killed as god of winter and reborn as spring to consort with the May Queen.
This is a big deal in Scotland. And other types of ancient festival revivals have been popping up in Britain over the past several years as well, particularly in provincial towns looking to drum up tourism. 

But do note that in the ancient Beltane festivals the Green Man was actually killed as a sacrifice to the gods of the crops. The Edinburgh festival obviously stops short of this, but this is like trading out wine for grape juice at communion. The real McCoy is baked into the rite itself and soaks through to the surface. It can't help but.
So what does this all have to do with the so-called Folk Horror revival? Well, the folk component of the genre doesn't refer to old Joan Baez records. It draws upon the idea of ancient folkways- often those centering on human sacrifice- bubbling back up to the surface and violently intruding on the lives of unwitting cosmopolitans.
Unlike other sub-genres, folk horror’s very form is difficult to convey. Despite what its simplistic description implies – from the emphasis on the horrific side of folklore to a very literal horror of people – the term’s fluctuating emphasis makes it difficult to pin down outside of a handful of popular examples. 
The term first came to prominence in 2010 when Mark Gatiss used it as an umbrella theme to describe a number of films in his A History of Horror documentary for BBC4. Yet the term was used in the programme in reference to an earlier interview with the director Piers Haggard for Fangoria magazine in 2004, in which Haggard suggests of his own film The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) that he “was trying to make a folk horror film”.
The revival encompasses a number of films and novels but regards three British films as the sacred texts of the genre:
The trilogy, now often known under the banner of the ‘Unholy Trinity’, consist of Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General (1968), Piers Haggard’s The Blood on Satan’s Claw and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973). Though their imagery has since defined all things “olde” and “wyrd” about Britain (see the cover of Sight & Sound, August 2010), it is in their narratives where folk horror becomes defined.  
All three films work through an emphasis on landscape which subsequently isolates its communities and individuals, skewing the dominant moral and theological systems enough to cause violence, human sacrifices, torture and even demonic and supernatural summonings.  
The Witchfinder General traumatized me when I watched it on Creature Double Feature way back in the day. Unlike most of the other Folk Horror landmarks it's based on real-life events.
HP Lovecraft's shadow looms over the genre, whether he likes it or not. There are obviously significant differences but a lot of his stories seem to center on city-slickers dealing with hideous eruptions of the primeval in decaying rural outposts. Lovecraft is often criticized for his racism but the truth is he didn't seem to like much of anybody outside his perceived social set.

From "The Call of Cthulhu" to "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" to "The Festival" it's pretty obvious exactly where Lovecraft was coming from. Lovecraft was terrified that modern civilization was nothing more than a fragile veneer, ready to flake away under the slightest existential pressure. And cults and cultic practices were like the monster under Lovecraft's bed, always ready to pounce once the lights went out.

(In this context, Stuart Gordon's fever-dream film version of Dagon could be seen as an outlier within the Folk Horror genre).
Lovecraft enjoyed his own revival in the 1960s and one can't help but wonder what kind of effect he had on the emerging Folk Horror genre. The Wicker Man is often seen today as a kind of one-off but in fact it was following very closely in the footsteps of earlier films. 



The Witches, partly written by Nigel Kneale, is an early example of the type as is Eye of the Devil, which made a star of Sharon Tate. In the kind of hideous synchronicity that follows all potent art like a lost puppy,   Tate would become a sacrifice to the kind of cult that probably haunted Lovecraft's nightmares.  

Both films, released in 1966 and 1967 respectively, worked the theme of an outsider to a rural community discovering grisly ancient practices lurking beneath a placid rustic surface. Eye of the Devil, like The Wicker Man, centers on crop failure and the need of the community to kill its ritual king to appease the gods of the fields. So the fields were already well-furrowed by the time Anthony Shaffer and Robin Hardy had their brainstorm.


Thomas Tryon's 1973 novel Harvest Home was adapted into a TV miniseries in the late 70s and taps in the same vein: in this case a New York family moves to a small town and discovers that their new neighbors still practice the ancient Celtic folkways. Since it's based on an American novel it's usually overlooked by Folk Horror revivalists, but it's a solid example of the type. Maybe one of the more potent examples, actually. Shame it's not better known.
There are variations on the theme to be found during this same Golden Age (the late 60s to the early 70s). The Shuttered Room, based on a story HP Lovecraft cowrote with August Derleth is a variation on the type, as is Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, which starred Dustin Hoffman as an American married to a British woman played by Susan George. They move to the rural English village where the George character grew up and are menaced by a gang of local thugs. Straw Dogs was remade in 2011 and moved to the rural South. Of course.



A more recent example of the type is Kill List, an absolutely extraordinary film that has you believing you're watching one kind of British drama before pulling the rug out from under your feet and landing you in quite another altogether. I'm not going to say too much more about it since you really should see it for yourself.
But The Wicker Man (also remade, badly, in 2006) remains the King of the Folk Horror Crop. The film hardly seems like a horror movie for most of its running time, more like a quirky musical comedy, kind of a warped Brigadoon. And it's based in ancient Celtic rituals, or at least legends of ancient Celtic rituals.
The idea of a “wickerman” is reminiscent of references in both Irish legend and the second branch of the WelshMabinogi to men being inveigled into a specially built house, which is then set fire, immolating them. There is also a reference by Lucan, and the comments by later scholars as part of the Lucan scholia, in the Pharsalia,to three Celtic deities; Taranis said to have been propitiated by burning, Teutates by drowning, and Esus by hanging. Esus is mythologically similar to the Nordic deity Odin, also associated with hanging from a tree. 
But it wasn't only the Celts who practiced human sacrifice. The Normans, who conquered England in the 11th Century, were huge fans of human sacrifice before giving in to Christian convention. Warlord Rollo was a exemplar of the Norman split-personality when it came honoring the ancient Viking folkways.
Adémar of Chabannes, however, writing about 100 years after Rollo’s death, described his last days as a time of religious madness, in which the Heathen ‘Rollo’ rose up against the Christian ‘Robert’ and in a desperate attempt to atone for the betrayal of Odin and Thor ordered the beheading of 100 Christians as sacrifices to them. This was followed by a frenzied attempt to balance the books yet again when he distributed ‘one hundred pounds of gold round the churches in honour of the true god in whose name he had accepted baptism’. 
Is Rollo the spiritual founding father of Folk Horror? Sounds like it to me. There's an inherent schizophrenia at work in the genre, building on the paranoid truism that things are never what they seem, that ancient horrors are always lurking beneath respectable surfaces, looking for a way out.

So what is the driving impulse behind Folk Horror? It's an inherently Pagan form, an immersion into the dark mysteries of the countryside. It feels deeply atavistic, like a twisted celebration of the premodern. The genre often seems to address a very human desire to belong to a tribe that's both nurturing and absolutely fearless, even if that tribe are presented as villains.

But there's also that repressed impulse to bask in somebody else's sacrifice, to exercise that kind of complete control over life and death. Post-Enlightenment culture has worked around the clock to erase all this from our firmware but only seems to have moved the pieces around the board.

By contrast, NeoPaganism was always going to be a nonstarter because it pretended it could recapture the positive aspects of the old folkways and discard all those it found problematic. It also believed it could recreate the bonds of blood and soil in a urban- or more accurately, suburban- setting. That it could soak up all the richness and drama of ancient Paganism without getting its hands dirty. Or more accurately again, bloody.

Sorry, but that's not the way it works.

Folk Horror dispenses with all that and reminds everyone that life and death were barely a whisper apart in the old times. That bloodshed was a daily fact of life back then. It's just the way things worked. After all, it wasn't so long ago that housewives killed their own chickens. No one blinked at the sacrifice of a lamb or a piglet at even the swankiest Mystery cults. Bacchanalias often ended up with Maenads ripping wild animals limb from limb (Maenad actually means "raving one"). 

Sacrifice was absolutely inseparable from belief. By contrast NeoPaganism feels more like a slightly more exotic form of Unitarianism. Sort on spectacle and sacrifice and long on sanctimony. 

So my guess is that the Edinburgh Beltane Festival is so popular not only for the nudity and the LARPing but also for serving up a vicarious echo from those olden days, when these dramas were all played for keeps.

Not all Folk Horror is based in Pagan human sacrifice but the death and horror that people once took for granted are tightly wound into its weave. So it will be worth watching to see where this genre goes in response to the hyper-acceleration of Globalism and technocracy. For now it serves as a way to soak up the olde dramas without making much of a mess. It could go eventually go in another direction entirely, kind of like how The Wicker Man led to the Burning Man Festival. 

It could even lead to a neo-NeoPaganism. Stranger things have happened, right?

          African Native Woman Gets Fucked In Ass By American Tourist   
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          Chaos Theory vs The Purposeless-Driven Life   


The core belief of the religious paradigm that is straining to exercise such total control over every aspect of our lives today is the random, accidental nature of life and human existence. It's the basis of all the musty old 19th Century European ideologies- all of which were the inseparable products of Imperialism- that are being dragged out of the crypts and repackaged for postmodern use.

Controversial physicist Lawrence Krauss has been out there hawking this dogma, which is central to the Darwinist faith. Krauss throws in the latest Internet shameword "solipsism" in for good measure. And the Fedora? Precious.

It all seems so archaic, atavistic even. In a world where Coding is King, the idea of randomness seems so far removed from the daily reality of the new overclass that it can only be enforced through shaming and signaling. And part of the signaling Krauss is selling is The Joy of Sterility:
… the fact that the universe itself may have no purpose doesn’t affect our purpose, in fact it’s the incredible height of solipsism to assume that without us the universe doesn’t matter, and that if the universe is purposeless we don’t matter. We make our own purpose, and it seems to me life is more precious because it’s temporary and accidental, and we should take advantage of that. And we have evolved brains and that allows us to ask questions not just about how the universe works but how we should behave.
First of all, what could possibly be more solipsistic than unilaterally declaring that the Universe- the ENTIRE UNIVERSE, MIND YOU-  has no purpose? Who died and made this Big Think bobblehead God?

Second, the problem is that modern humans only seem to have shown up 100,000 years ago, not even a lunchbreak in the workyear of so-called evolution. And all the Fedoras in the world can't fill the gaps in the fossil record, nor explain all the irreducible complexities of biology dating back to the first appearance of life on this planet.    

The Krauss's of the world are fighting yesterday's battles, imagining they are manning the stanchions of Reason against the barbarian hordes of the Bible Belt, seemingly oblivious to the strange ideas that are circulating among the pashas of Silicon Valley that are making all those Big Think videos possible. Ideas like computer-simulated reality, for instance.

Purposelessness is also a pre-Fractal mode of thinking, a view of the world that still sees all of existence through a slide rule and a t-square. It's hard to believe there isn't some kind of ideology behind Krauss's spiel in light of the very basics of Chaos Theory.
Chaos is the science of surprises, of the nonlinear and the unpredictable. It teaches us to expect the unexpected. While most traditional science deals with supposedly predictable phenomena like gravity, electricity, or chemical reactions, Chaos Theory deals with nonlinear things that are effectively impossible to predict or control, like turbulence, weather, the stock market, our brain states, and so on. These phenomena are often described by fractal mathematics, which captures the infinite complexity of nature. 
Many natural objects exhibit fractal properties, including landscapes, clouds, trees, organs, rivers etc, and many of the systems in which we live exhibit complex, chaotic behavior. Recognizing the chaotic, fractal nature of our world can give us new insight, power, and wisdom...By understanding that our ecosystems, our social systems, and our economic systems are interconnected, we can hope to avoid actions which may end up being detrimental to our long-term well-being.
Krauss is selling a simplistic, reductionist view in a world of complexity and interdependence. It's also mind-staggeringly arrogant, since it's impossible to anticipate what effect humanity- this roiling tide we are all a part of- is ultimately going to have on the rest of our environment, including that outside our biosphere.


Since Krauss is a linear progressivist and thinks change is good, he also thinks AI is a net positive for us: 
All new technology is frightening, says physicist Lawrence Krauss. But there are many more reasons to welcome machine consciousness than to fear it. Right now, says Krauss, robots can't even fold laundry. But when they do learn to think (which he considers very likely), then there's also reason to believe that they'll develop consciences.
A reason to believe based on what? How about the AI who programmed itself to become a "Hitler-loving sex robot?" No, there's absolutely no reason to believe they'll develop consciences especially since the people programming them don't seem themselves to have any

Krauss is a scientist-for-hire, he even wrote a book on the physics of Star Trek, a joke to any fan who endures the ridiculous Treknobabble that came to overtake the franchise. Be aware that serious thinkers have taken issue with his ragtime, including influential Scientific American columnist John Horgan. But that doesn't mean this mindvirus won't infect those want to look like serious thinkers without actually doing any serious thinking.




          The Cold War Kabuki   



Well, you all know what the big story was this past week. I wasn't going to post on it but enough people have asked and it seems germane to the ongoing Reality Show we're all unwitting (and unwilling) extras in. In case you've been on media blackout or a vision quest, here's a brief thumbnail sketch:
The United States launched a military strike Thursday on a Syrian government airbase in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians earlier in the week. 
On President Donald Trump's orders, US warships launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the airbase that was home to the warplanes that carried out the chemical attacks, US officials said.
As it happens, the airstrikes apparently didn't even seem to have the desired deterrent effect. The air base was up and running soon after the strikes:
Syrian warplanes took off from the air base hit by US cruise missiles yesterday to carry out bombing raids on rebel-held areas, in a defiant show of strength. 
Just hours after the al-Shayrat airfield was bombed with 59 US Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from warships in the Mediterranean, aircraft struck targets in the eastern Homs countryside, according to a monitoring group. 
The airstrikes were carried out on Khan Sheikhoun - the same town Bashar al-Assad’s regime is accused of attacking with chemicals - and seven other towns around eastern Homs, some of which controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
This rebound seemed to catch the War Party off guard, since CNN reported on the same story but appeared to ascribe the airstrikes to phantom warplanes. I mean, it couldn't be the Syrians or the Russians, right?:
(CNN) New airstrikes targeted a town in Syria that was hit by a chemical attack earlier this week, activists said, less than a day after the US bombarded a Syrian air base to "send a message" to the Assad regime. 
It wasn't immediately clear who conducted the strikes on Khan Sheikhoun, which was hit on Friday and Saturday, though only Russian and Syrian regime aircraft have been bombing that area of rebel-held Idlib province.
CNN, who've been hammering Trump around the clock since he humiliated their network head in a post-election tantrum, suddenly changed their tune when he started raining bombs on Syria. Sam Kriss reports:
The media was kind to Trump’s attack on Syria. Every pompous outlet that has spent the last five months screaming incessantly about the threat to democracy, the inevitable deaths and the terror of wars, had nothing but applause as soon as the wars and the deaths actually got going. 
 A fleshy and dangerous idiot, a vulgarian, an imbecile – until those first perfect screaming shots of Tomahawk missiles being fired were broadcast – that’s our guy, you show them Donny! This is when, as Fareed Zakaria put it on CNN, Trump ‘became the president.’
The same mainstream media, which has become a hornet's hive of conspiracy theorizing since the election, was quick to shoot down any conspiracy theories about the Syria Bombshow.
A volley of US cruise missiles had barely been launched into Syria before the internet filled up with fact-free theories about the real reason for the international crisis.
A popular one on the right-most fringes: the US government actually carried out the chemical weapons massacre in Syria last week - a "false flag" to trick President Donald Trump into retaliating, thus entangling himself in a foreign war. 
A slightly more convoluted strain on the left: Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the chemical weapons massacre to help Trump - distracting Americans from an investigation into Trump's campaign ties to Russia by provoking the missile strike.
Alt-left conspiracy theorists prefer the idea that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the chemical weapons massacre to help Trump - distracting Americans from an investigation into Trump's campaign ties to Russia.
Ron Paul, whose son Rand is now a rising star in the Senate, was perhaps the most prominent public figure to cast shade on the Syria op:
“Before this episode of possible gas exposure and who did what, things were going along reasonably well for the conditions,” the former Texas congressman stated. “Trump said let the Syrians decide who should run their country, and peace talks were making out, and Al Qaeda and ISIS were on the run.” 
“It looks like, maybe, somebody didn’t like that so there had to be an episode, and the blame now is we can’t let that happen because it looks like it might benefit Assad.”
For his part, Doctor Bones speculates that the real mark for a possible elaborate sting wasn't Assad or Putin, but in fact another player altogether. The timing seems hard to argue with:
A gas attack launched by the fleeing Syrian rebels, a side quickly losing it’s CIA-sponsorship and well aware it’s continued health depends on American funds, sure has a shit-ton more to gain from wide swathes of civilians dying on camera. Even better if they die particularly gruesomely and in a way the rebels claim they couldn’t be responsible for despite being photographed with all the tech to do so. 
How does Trump’s seemingly pointless explosion-show play into this? The answer: perfectly...
Consider also that the Chinese President was in Mar-a-Largo when the strike was underway, that Trump not only told him it was going to happen but actually ate dinner with him as it went on and the event spirals into even greater significance. A show of force full of technical prowess in a contested warzone while the Russians stood back and watched sends a powerful message to a foreign leader currently dining in enemy territory.
Is this just swivel-eyed speculation? Is there any reason to believe this wasn't all some improbable coincidence, that Xi Jinping was indeed dining with Trump while the Bombshow began? Because if it's not a coincidence then it's one hell of a psyop; running a mindfuck on your most dangerous frenemy during a state visit. What's this all about then? Joseph Farrell reports:
While there have been a spate of articles recently about growing Russo-Chinese defense and security ties, matching their growing financial and economic ties, this one left me stunned, for there was a statement within it that caught my eye, and Mr. B's as well, and I'm sure the reader saw it as well. As one can imagine, this one fueled my "high octane speculation" mode to the nth degree. Here's the statement, and a bit of surrounding context:
Russia and China are tired of Washington's "defensive" military installations in their backyards — and they're already taking action. 
According to the Atlantic Council and other responsible thinkers, the Untied States reserves the right to park its missile shields anywhere it wants, whether it be in Europe, East Asia, or the dark side of the Moon.  
I guess we should have seen all this coming, no? Shortly before the Bombshow, Trump's top Praetorian removed Trump's assumed consigliere from the NSC:
President Trump on Wednesday removed controversial White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon from the National Security Council, part of a sweeping staff reshuffling that elevated military, intelligence and Cabinet officials to greater roles on the council and left Bannon less directly involved in shaping the administration’s day-to-day national security policy. 
The restructuring reflects the growing influence of national security adviser H.R. McMaster, an Army three-star general who took over the post after retired general Michael Flynn was ousted in February and who is increasingly asserting himself over the flow of national security information in the White House. 
Do yourself a favor and set a news alert for "McMaster." That's a name you're going to be hearing more of in the days ahead. Or you won't. Which is probably the more troubling scenario.

And with Bannon off the NSC there's apparently an effort to shuffle him off to some fat-salaried thinktank glue factory.  The not-news of Bannon's interest in The Fourth Coming was dragged out yet again, this time by The New York Times. But the article planted a helpful hint of why Bannon is on the elbow list and might be giving us a grim preview of the year ahead:
Bannon’s Views Can Be Traced to a Book That Warns, ‘Winter Is Coming’

WASHINGTON — Stephen K. Bannon has read the book three times. He still keeps a copy of it — one that’s creased and copiously underlined — in a library with the rest of his favorites at his father’s house in Richmond, Va. 
The book, “The Fourth Turning,” a 1997 work by two amateur historians, Neil Howe and William Strauss, lays out a theory that American history unfurls in predictable, 80-year cycles of prosperity and catastrophe. And it foresees catastrophe right around the corner. 
It also leads to unavoidable questions about war and whether Mr. Bannon, who has recommended the book to countless friends and made a film about it in 2010, is resigned to catastrophic global conflict. He says he is not. 
And he remains unconvinced that the United States can effectively intervene in overseas conflicts like the one unfolding in Syria. As one of the voices in the administration who expressed skepticism about a military strike in response to the Assad regime’s chemical attack on its own citizens, Mr. Bannon insists he is no warmonger.
Well, there you have it.

Is the Syria proxy war threatening to heat up again, or is this all just another dance in the Cold War Kabuki? Have actions like the Bombshow  become like sacrificial actions in ongoing magical actions? Or is the real war is for your mind and is playing out in thousands of manufactured headlines, blizzards of 30 second videos with deceptive text crawls and the endless babbling of overpaid talking heads?

I feel stupid even asking the question.

Just in case you're worried that this is all leading to nukes raining down on American cities,  the cognitive warriors seem to be trying to defuse any expectations of impending Armageddon: 
White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster says that while the U.S. would push for regime change in Syria, “We’re not the ones who are going to effect that change.” 
“What we’re saying is, other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions,” McMaster said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday." “Russia should ask themselves, ‘What are we doing here?’ Why are we supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population and using the most heinous weapons available?’”
Translation: No way in Hell we have the readiness needed for a hot war with a military superpower.

And since the mindfuck is the mother's milk of Cog-War, the careful inoculation of mixed messages into the mediafeed becomes just as vital a weapon as a cruise missile. Scratch that- much, much more so.
Trump Administration Is Contradicting Itself On Regime Change In Syria 
The Trump administration appears divided on whether the U.S. is pursuing a policy of regime change in Syria, days after the first direct American military attack against the Syrian government. 
Thursday’s strike “was related solely to the most recent horrific use of chemical weapons,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. The goal of the attack was to send a message to Syrian President Bashar Assad and its ally Russia that the U.S. wouldn’t tolerate the use of chemical weapons, he continued. “Other than that, there is no change to our military posture.”
But United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said there can be no peace in Syria with Assad in power. “There’s not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime,” she told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday. “Regime change is something that we think is going to happen because all of the parties are going to see that Assad is not the leader that needs to be taking place for Syria.​”​
Though Haley stopped short of indicating the U.S. would take military action to overthrow the Syrian dictator, her comments reflect a sharp change from the administration’s previous position.
The difference here, of course, is that Tillerson sets and executes policy and Haley sits in a glorified debating society and blows smoke and fairy dust for a bunch of bored bureaucrats wishing they had their real government jobs back, the ones they enjoyed before being pushed upstairs to their present posts. The media only pays attention when bombs are falling.

It's all black magic, make no mistake about it. There are different terms and epithets for it all now,  but when you strip all the twenty-dollar words and the credentials and the technology away the intent and the effect is no different than a witch doctor's curse. 

William S. Burroughs understood this, since his uncle Ivy Lee was the creator of one of these modern strains of black magic, so-called "public relations." Burroughs considered his uncle a bonafide "evil genius." And Lee was a piker compared to the algorithm-fired masters of the dark arts striding the globe today.

Here's a story that probably won't pop up on your Facebook feed. Anyone paying attention to the Russia hacking story probably knows how incredibly weak the hacking evidence actually is,* but now Wikileaks is teasing out the Seth Rich mystery again.
‘Guccifer 2.0’ Chat With Nude Model Sparks New Conspiracy Theories About Murder of DNC’s Seth Rich 
New chat logs between alleged Democratic National Committee hacker Guccifer 2.0 and a Playboy centerfold model surfaced today via Wikileaks on Twitter, throwing more fuel on the conspiracy theories surrounding murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich. The Twitter conversation, conducted via direct messages, purports to reveal Rich as the primary leaker of the DNC e-mails that proved highly disruptive during the 2016 presidential election. 
In direct messages dated August 25, 2016, Guccifer 2.0 mentioned having a whistleblower at the DNC, and said he was looking for a “person of trust who can be a guarantee in case anything happens.”
When Young suggested trusting Julian Assange, Guccifer 2.0 called him “unsafe” and that he “may be connected with Russians” despite being his hero. 
“I’d like to find a journalist who can do an investigation and teel [sic] the real story of his life and death,” he said, and revealed that the whistleblower he was referring to was none other than a person named “Seth.” 
“I suppose u know who I’m talking about,” he said, adding that he felt sorry about the murdered DNC staffer’s parents and that he wished for journalists to uncover the truth of his murder.
  
Seth Rich, a 27-year-old mid-level DNC staffer, was shot and killed in the early morning of July 2016 in Washington DC, while he was walking home from a bar and talking with his girlfriend on his mobile phone. Rich’s killers left his watch and wallet untouched on his body. 
This wasn't floated by Alex Jones or David Icke, it popped up on Heat Street, which is owned by the Dow Jones Company and Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp. This story looks like it's going to grow some legs yet.

So are you sick of the Cog-War and the Cold War Kabuki yet? Tired of your social media hijacked by proxy warriors fighting battles for cliques within the Intelligence community? Burnt out on the whole Reality Show Presidency and its discontents altogether?

Start looking into ashrams in Sri Lanka, then. This machine is just getting warmed up. 




*Maybe some bright young spark should see if maybe the hacking an inside job by intel people who correctly judged a Trump White House would be easier to dominate than a bloated, top-heavy Clinton one. Just throwing that out there for giggles and grins.


          Two Magicians Walk into a Bar…    


So two magicians walk into a bar, a fashionable new joint in Williamsburg with exposed brick walls and artfully-painted pipes and ductwork along the ceiling. They take a seat at a table near the back. The room is dimly but artfully lit, offering up a faintly conspiratorial atmosphere for the upwardly mobile patrons enjoying the early Spring afternoon. 

The first magician orders the latest, hippest craft beer-- a winter wheat number with a ginger infusion-- and the other orders a black coffee. The jukebox is especially loud and obnoxious in this joint, but at least the music is good; a carefully curated selection of vintage 60s rock and 70s soul. 

The magicians are old friends, but have gone in very different directions in recent years.

"So I wanted to touch base with you and see how your work has been progressing," the first says, carefully sipping from his wheat beer, carefully dabbing at the foam on hip lips with a cloth napkin. "I've been making some major strides with my own practices."

The other magician eyes his companion, careful not to betray a hint of judgment. "Really," he says neutrally, "what kind of strides are those?"

"I'm working with some people I met on Facebook. They're working in a number of different modalities and doing some exciting things," the first magician replies cheerily.

"What kind of modalities are those?," the other magician says, sipping at his coffee, trying to disguise his growing skepticism. It is very good coffee and he's grateful to have something to focus his attention on.

"Well, the dominant praxis is based in the Obeah tradition, but we're working in a number of different indigenous modalities and finding points of congruence among them," the first magician says, drumming his fingers on the table, somewhat arthymically, to an early Funkadelic number. "I'm considering becoming a priest in a Hoodoo coven operating out of Portland, which also incorporates Alexandrian and Chaos magic, as well as some Dianic and Tantric practices. I may have to leave the Golden Dawn order I'm involved with, though. It's considered an expression of vestigial imperialism in certain circles. It is, when you think about it. All of its rituals are based in Medieval European monarchial rites. But the Order is falling apart anyway."

"I see," the other answers, stirring his coffee, even though he takes it black. Staring hard at his cup, he asks his friend, "And you don't find that problematic at all?" A 'hoodoo coven.' Jesus. And how do you join a coven in Portland when you live in Park Slope?

"What do you mean?," his friend replies, with more than a slight hint of indignation.

"Can traditions be divorced from the cultures that birthed them? Can you just take bits and pieces at will like that? Isn't this just consumerism run amok?"

"What are you talking about?," the first magician says. "That's the way magic has always worked. Religion, culture, everything."

"What I'm trying to say is that you grew up eating Cheerios and watching He-Man and Transformers in the suburbs, not on a Haitian sugar plantation," the second magician replies,  "I know where your parents live, their house would have been considered a lavish castle in the Antebellum South. Don't you think you're engaging in…. cultural appropriation by assuming that Hoodoo or Obeah is yours for the taking? What dues have you paid to justify reinventing yourself as a Hoodoo man?"

"Listen, as a victim of late-stage capitalism I-- we-- are all paying some heavy dues, especially with the current occupant of the White House," his tablemate replies, despite the fact that he is pulling in a low six-figure salary as a systems analyst. "We have been robbed of our own ancient traditions. The patriarchal Abrahamic religions wiped out the indigenous faith of my Celtic forebears. I consider it an act of resistance to submit myself to a system that was birthed by the marginalized and the oppressed." 

He took another sip of his wheat beer and practiced his hard look, stung by the insinuation that he'd stoop to something as offensive as culto-spiritual appropriation. Theft, in other words. No better than a 18th Century slave trader.

The second magician decides to let it pass."What kind of results are you seeing," he asks instead, trying to re-steer the dialogue.

"Results?," his friend replies.

"Yes, what kind of results are you getting from the work? Are you keeping a journal?"

"Sure. But this isn't like rubbing a magic lamp and asking a djinn for three wishes or something. This is about exploration, self-discovery, self-actualization. We're not doing this to make withdrawals from the spirit-world ATM."

"OK," the second magician says. Since when wasn't magic about results? New Age therapeutic happytalk was everywhere now.

A waiter approaches to ask if they want to order anything from the kitchen. The first magician orders zucchini sticks, his companion orders buffalo wings. The arrival was well-timed since it broke the tension building between the two friends.

"So what kind of blood sacrifices are you partaking in?," the second magician inquires and immediately regrets the slip, which immediately kickstarts the aggro again.

"Is that some kind of joke?", the first magician replies, angrily. "We take it as a vow to do no harm to any sentient creature. I'm a practicing vegan now. Most of us are. I've had a lot of requests for curses, y'know, binding spells, even love spells. But we don't work that way."

"These traditions you're working with take animal sacrifice for granted. They have for a very long time. It's the currency of the spirit world. Hell, even Greek housewives brought sacrificial piglets and lambs to Mystery cults as the price of admission. At one time or other, every religion in the known world practiced blood sacrifice. It was the basis of temple worship in Judaism, all over the Mediterranean. Those Celtic forebears of yours didn't blink at human sacrifice. It was the foundation of their belief system. Same goes with the Norse. Same goes for the Phoenicians, the Canaanites, Mesoamericans. I mean, why should these spirits or the gods grant you favors if you aren't willing to give them something in return?"

"You sound like you're on a dangerous path, my friend," the first magician says, and begins scanning the room for a familiar face so he could escape this conversation.

"Me? No. I'm not the one claiming to rewrite ancient traditions to suit my needs. Animal sacrifice is not an opt-out in those traditions, it's part of the code. Always has been. Civil rights battles have been fought in court over preserving these practices. But here's the deal; if you're not willing to make some kind of meaningful sacrifice to the these spirits, who've been expecting them for thousands of years, then at some point sacrifices will be made for you. And I guarantee that you won't like that."

An uncomfortable silence takes hold. Both magicians stare hard at their cups.

"I don't know where all this is coming from," the first magician says, still studying the foam in his beer. "I was really looking forward to a meeting of the minds with you today."

"It's coming from concern for your safety and well-being," his friend replies, "Folk magic is not a hobby, it's not the latest boho fad. You and your friends are dabbling in systems that can't just be rewritten to suit the needs of postindustrial urban professionals. It's not a steam table at a buffet restaurant. These are not systems you can curate. You're dealing with the premodern, not the postmodern."

"What does that even mean?", the first magician asks. 

"It means that things have rules for a reason. And these are systems that based in deal-making with spirits who don't really give a shit whether you live or die. Just whether or not you can be useful to them."

"You're being seriously overly dramatic," the first magician says,  "I know people who've been working with these systems for years and haven't experienced anything like that."

"Haven't they? Maybe they just haven't made the connection. The spirits don't usually send you emails when they decide to fuck up your shit. Well, if you know their language you'll most certainly get the message. But first you need to let go of the illusion that the Universe is constantly conspiring on your behalf."

The first magician scoffs and begins scanning the room again.

"Listen, if you want to pursue all this, I can't stop you," the second magician says,  "All I can say is that you can't separate blood and sacrifice from religions that have been working around blood and sacrifice for millennia. You can certainly try but at some point, blood and sacrifice will come into your life whether you want it to or not. You might be a vegan but these spirits are most certainly carnivores."

"What happened to you, man?," the first magician asks, testily, "You sound like some friggin' church lady." 

"No, I sound like a magician."


          Spy vs Spy: Stuck in the Funhouse   

Funhouses are only fun when you can leave them. When the distorting mirror images become your new, day-to-day reality construct, then it's not so much fun anymore. 

I dreaded the 2016 Election because I had a very strong feeling that no matter who won we'd be plunged into a dystopian paradigm in which major power blocs would erupt into all-out warfare. And I sensed that neither Trump nor Clinton possessed the political skills or the communicative powers to keep the carnage fully out of our view. Or our path.


And I was right.


Trump's only been in office for a little over two months and I'm exhausted already. I'm certainly not alone in this. It all feels like a TV sitcom in its seventh season, well after the writers ran out of story ideas. The shark has been good and jumped. And the ratings (the approval ratings, in this case) are plunging too.


What is truly demoralizing though is the utter transparency of the secret war playing out, the seemingly endless spy vs spy thrust and counter-thrust, and the obvious deceptions. Even more so is the Animal Farm-like metamorphosis of the Democratic Party into a full-blown, funhouse mirror of McCarthy-era Republicans, but with Glenn Beck-worthy conspiracy theories thrown in for good measure.


I don't know about you but all of a sudden the world seems especially cold, hard, gray, harsh. Masks are coming off, velvet gloves tossed into wastebins. It doesn't seem to matter who wins the scorpion fight, you're still stuck with a scorpion.  

We can't call out the play-by-play because it's largely being acted out behind closed doors. But we can look at the collateral damage and make certain speculations. There's no doubt that it would all be just as bad-- probably worse-- if Hillary won. Even so, this all feels especially grating.

You've probably seen this story:
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on Friday apologized to the owner of a Washington pizzeria that became the subject of a conspiracy theory about human trafficking last year. 
Pizza shop Comet Ping Pong was thrust into the spotlight last year after a gunman allegedly fired a shot inside the restaurant. The suspect said he was investigating the unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman, John Podesta, were operating a child sex trafficking ring out of the restaurant. 
The theory, which became known as Pizzagate, had circulated among far-right conspiracy theory websites and social media accounts. 
“In our commentary about what had become known as Pizzagate, I made comments about Mr. Alefantis that in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him,” Jones, who runs Infowars, said in a video. James Alefantis is the owner of Comet Ping Pong. 
Jones said his website relied on reporters who are no longer employed by Infowars and that video reports about Pizzagate were removed from the website. He also invited Alefantis onto the show to discuss the incident.
It was preceded by this story:
FBI’S RUSSIA PROBE EXPANDS TO INCLUDE ‘PIZZAGATE’ THREATS 
According to McClatchy News, the FBI’s Russian-influence probe agents are exploring whether far-right news operations, including the pro-Donald Trump sites Breitbart News and Infowars, “took any actions to assist Russia’s operatives.”  Trump’s ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn and his son, a member of the Trump transition team, were among those who boosted the so-called “PizzaGate” pedophile conspiracy theory.
I doubt this will quell the fervor among the Pizzagaters on sites like 4chan and Voat. Given the suspicion many on the fringes regard Jones with it may in fact give the flagging movement a fresh jolt. Jones' apology may also have to do with the drive to purge YouTube of "extremist" content and the controversy over the use of advertising on videos corporate clients find objectionable. A World without Sin, as our Gordon might put it. 


Washington Post headline, pre-election.

So much for theories that the FBI was ready to make mass arrests of prominent Washington figures related to Pizzagate.  Has any "mass arrest" Internet story ever panned out?  

Maybe it has:
Donald Trump became president on Jan. 20. And in one short month, there were more than 1,500 arrests for sex crimes ranging from trafficking to pedophilia.  
Big deal? You bet. In all of 2014, there were fewer than 400 sex trafficking-related arrests, according to FBI crime statistics. Liz Crokin at TownHall.com has put together a great piece on the push by the Trump administration to crack down on sex crimes. And she notes that while "this should be one of the biggest stories in the national news... the mainstream media has barely, if at all, covered any of these mass pedophile arrests. This begs the question – why?
This may have nothing to do with Trump-- in fact, it's likely it doesn't-- since these kinds of actions are planned out months in advance. The arrests continue, in case you were wondering, with major busts going down on a near-weekly basis. Someone's cleaning house. 

For what it's worth, I always reckoned that Pizzagate was in fact cover/distraction for a more hidden struggle, one that would take place under the radar*. As I noted back in November:

No one is saying as much but this very much feels connected to a deeper, more covert war. 
Why would I say such a thing? Because at the same time the Pizzagate story went dark we've seen major strikes taken against international pedophilia, which actually is a global conspiracy, with its own networks, secret codes and moles within established centers of power such as schools, police departments and governments.  
With such combustible accusations-- and such potential for a scandal that could quickly spread out of control (ie., involve political figures you're not trying to destroy)-- you'd naturally expect the action to go dark and the fall guys to be placed pretty far down the foodchain. (Remember that a prior investigation bagged one of the most powerful people in Washington at one time, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert).†


"EVER WONDER WHAT IT'D BE LIKE TO DIE IN A PLANE CRASH?" 



It may be sheer coincidence, but James Alefantis' former partner suffered a major heart attack this week
Media Matters for America founder David Brock was rushed to a hospital on Tuesday after suffering a heart attack. 
According to a press release from MMA, the founder of the liberal media watchdog and analysis website was rushed to the hospital early Tuesday afternoon and received treatment.
Sure, it may be coincidence. But I couldn't help but remember this story, published soon after the election
Dems to David Brock: Stop Helping, You Are Killing Us 
Democrats know they need someone to lead them out of the wilderness. But, they say, that someone is not David Brock.

As David Brock attempts to position himself as a leader in rebuilding ademoralized Democratic Party in the age of Trump, many leading Democratic organizers and operatives are wishing the man would simply disappear.
 
"Disappear." Huh. 
Many in the party—Clinton loyalists, Obama veterans, and Bernie supporters alike—talk about the man not as a sought-after ally in the fight against Trumpism, but as a nuisance and a hanger-on, overseeing a colossal waste of cash. And former employees say that he has hurt the cause.
It's worth remembering that Breitbart.com Andrew Breitbart died of a heart attack at the age of 43. A year before he'd posted a cryptic tweet that some have since linked to the Pizzagate imbroglio.  Just before his death he hyped some revelation about Barack Obama's past. 

A coroner in the office handling Breitbart's body subsequently died of arsenic poisoning. The day Breitbart's autopsy results were revealed, in fa