So the parents surprised me and got me a 20 gig iPod after all. Without hyperbole, I can say that this is the best object I have ever owned. Seriously, that’s not hyperbole. Consider:

– I collect music like George Bush collects diplomatic failures. In my collection are more than 1600 CDs and around 7000 MP3s – probably more than 30,000 songs over all.

– I work out, but have been slowly going crazy at the tendency of my burned CDs to skip after I’ve used them a few times on a treadmill.

– I like holding small metal things.

So this little marvel is making my life better every minute. Hell, I’m not even bothered by those monochrome iPod commercials any more, wherein silhouettes of young people bust out hot dance moves. That’s the thing about the iPod – you can swing your arms like an octopus, and the damn thing won’t skip. It’s just such a breath of freedom, like when you’re 10 and you realize gravity is different underwater and you use that to renact Chun Li’s hurricane kick from Street Fighter II.

Maybe I was the only one doing that. Whatever.


John Kerry for president

After literally weeks of hurdles and misteps, I finally received my Virginia voter registration card. And in 46 days, I’ll drive to Claremont Immersion School to punch a straight Republican ticket down ballot, and John Kerry/John Edwards at the top.

This easy decision is the end result of a long and gnarled path. In 2000, I voted Republican for congress, Democratic for senate and governor, and Green for president, in Delaware. Even then I had vague contrarian politics, but knew I didn’t like our current stodgy system. My education eased me rightward, and 9/11 mugged me and turned me into a war hawk. In 2002, I voted Republican for every office but governor, where I cast a Democratic vote – this was in Illinois, where the Republicans had left greasy stains on the state house and needed to be kicked out. Up through most of 2003 I supported George W. Bush for president. If this were Europe and he’d dissolved the government to call elections in, say, January 2004, I’d have voted for him.

But around that time it was becoming clear to anyone who paid attention that Bush was bungling the two most important duties of the executive: security and fiscal solvency. Boring stuff first – Bush had busted the budget. On the assumption that tax cuts would stimulate consumer confidence and help small businesses, Bush and the congress passed cuts in 2001 that did away with the projected budget surplus. This was a good idea for the time. Although the economy was stumbling (job losses had started in September 2000), stimulating growth with tax cuts was sound policy.

September 11th changed many things, but it did not change the Bush administration’s economic ideas. Since then the GOP majority has passed two more tax cuts and proposed extensive revisions to the tax system while at the same time growing government spending. The result has been a fast-rising debt, trade deficits, and an outlook sustained by foreign loans. At a time when Europe and China are offering stable currencies, the value of our currency has wavered. The administration has shown no signs of addressing or correcting this, or indicating it might be a problem, and even the expected and unexpected costs of foriegn adventures have had no impact on their program of tax cuts. We’re told that raising taxes – any taxes – or even failing to make the tax cuts permanent will “kill the recovery,” when the real worry should be what effect long-term deficits will have on our role in a globalizing, competitive economy.

This segues to my other worry. The war on Iraq, as Paul Wolfowitz has admitted, was predicated on three goals. The first was removing the threat of Saddam Hussein, who possessed and sought weapons of mass destruction. The second was creating a democratic bulwark in the Middle East that, unlike the current regime, would not support terrorism. The third was removing Saddam because he was a brutal monster.

Now, the first and second pegs of the reasons for war have been obliterated. The worthwhile humanitarian goal of liberating 20 million Arabs – which I’ve been in favor of my whole life – has been achieved with the corresponding effects of isolating the United States from traditional allies and leaving the future of Iraq uncertain.

If it were October 2002 again, and we were rearguing the war, I would have said: Let’s give the president the authority to conduct some brinksmanship this, but let’s not invade unless we have proof of a threat and the 1991 coalition behind us.

This is the position of John Kerry. The one that Bush campaigners and pundits make fun of for being “nuanced” or “shifting.” I think it would have been the position of a President John McCain or a President George H.W. Bush.

But the Bush administration, for pretty obvious political reasons, refuses to reevaluate its reasoning and change the situation on the ground or among diplomats. The result is a less safe world. This is true statistically, as the State Dep.’s figures showed terrorism increasing from 2002 to 2003. It is true anecdotally, as one of my best friends has been put in danger twice when bombs went off near embassies in the Central Asian country she’s living in.

On the merits of the issues that matter to me, I disagree with George Bush and agree with John Kerry. Moreover, I’ve been disgusted at how discredited partisan ax-grinders have smeared Kerry for his conduct in 1968 and 1971, when he fought in Vietnam and then came back to participate in a controversial anti-war group. They’ve tried to say he’s incapable in 2004 of leading troops – who are currently being terribly mislead – because he loudly opposed a war in 1971 and disgruntled some veterans in the process. To attack Kerry for this is as shortsighted and stupid as to attack Democrats – and people like me – for questioning George Bush’s leadership in the war on terror. It won’t rectify a thing for the veterans of that war, but it will prolong the suffering of the veterans of this one.

I disagree with Kerry and the Democrats on pretty much every other issue of substance. If I could put Kerry in charge of foreign policy and let Bush choose our judges, I would. But transient social and legal issues are not as important as our safety and our continued solvency as a superpower. Those are the issues this year, and that’s why I’m voting for John Kerry.


More Nader bullshit
This is probably the most ridiculous Nader spin you’ll read all week.

Curley argued that Nader cost Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore the election in 2000 by drawing away valuable votes from the Democrats.

A volunteer replied that Nader would have won the election using the Condorset (sic) method, an obscure voting system that allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference.

This is untrue. John Tabin applies the Condorcet method as follows:

If all Gore voters’ preference was Gore, Nader, Bush, all Nader voters’ preference was Nader, Gore, Bush, and all Bush voters’ preference was Bush, Gore, Nader, the winner would be Gore (Nader wins match-up with Bush; Gore wins match-up with Nader; Gore wins match-up with Bush). To believe that Nader would win a Condorcet election, you must believe that Bush voters would prefer Nader to Gore

The idea that Nader could have appealed to more Americans than any major party candidate – and would have, if the rules were fair – is a fanciful lie. Nader’s popularity, according to the Gallup polls in 2000, was around 40% positive, 34% negative. It’s decreased dramatically since then – in March, Gallup pegged him at at 30% positive, 48% negative. In 1954, Joe McCarthy’s favorable rating was 35%.


It Must Be (a) Summer (Movie Roundup!)
Despite the effort of Hollywood to poison me with bullshit, I see lots of movies. Here’s the stuff I saw this summer.

Spider-Man 2
For the reasons everyone else has expressed, from Roger Ebert to the Eltingville Science Fiction Fantasy and Horror Club. I mean, holy shit – a smart and ironic comic book blockbuster! When’s the last time you saw that? Not counting X-Men 2.

Napoleon Dynamite
Not “smart and funny,” like most movies of this stripe, but “stupid and funny.” Like some mysterious alien race found the ruins of an American high school movie and tried to reconstruct it.

Super Size Me and Fahrenheit 9/11
I’m a documentary whore, and enjoyed these despite their premises.

Open Water
Excellent in how its structure stripped away all the horror cliches that usually eliminate tension. Not that great on its other merits.

Shrek 2
Cute, but trite and rote. I mean, a CGI Joan Rivers at the red carpet? Wow, that’s so … 1998.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azerbaijenikanistan
Hey, let’s play the ending of the movie TWICE!

The Chronicles of Riddick
Mostly because everyone claims it’s the worst movie ever made. Actually, there’s as much awesome imagery and twisty fight scenes as two summer movies. It’s just really dumb.

Just a lot of wasted potential. Did anyone think the “Afternoon Delight” singalong was funny?

Van Helsing
I don’t know how you can take $170 million and three Universal monsters and make a piece of shit, but, hey Stephen Sommers has skills.

Garden State
Honestly, I got turned off by the trailers swooning over Zach Braff’s moony face as Natalie Portman learned how to love him. Everyone says it’s good, though.

Before Sunset
Richard Linklater = automatic interest.

Who doesn’t love paens to Chinese authoritarianism? Not me, fucker!

Alien vs. Predator and Exorcist: The Beginning
I’m not that smart.


Planet Tim Graham
Tim complains that Time didn’t ask Kerry hard questions. A hard question, in his mind, would be “In your 1971 Senate testimony, you said American soldiers committed atrocities daily with the full knowledge of their commanders. Will you apologize for that?” He forgets that Time’s Bush interview was possibly even softer. Personally, I want someone to ask him, “in July of last year,” you said ‘There are some who feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us [in Iraq]. My answer is bring them on. We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation.’ Do you regret saying that?”


Kerry’s pissed
Two things are making me feel like Kerry has figured out how to win. The first is this AP story.

Just as GOP efforts to question Kerry’s military record in Vietnam helped revive nagging questions about Bush’s service in the Air National Guard, the “flip flop” attacks on Kerry could boomerang against an incumbent running on his record and reputation as a straight talker.

“The guy who is the ultimate flip and flop is this sitting president,” said Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden (news, bio, voting record) of Delaware.


If he is a flip-flopper, Kerry has company.

_In 2000, Bush argued against new military entanglements and nation building. He’s done both in Iraq.

_He opposed a Homeland Security Department, then embraced it.

_He opposed creation of an independent Sept. 11 commission, then supported it. He first refused to speak to its members, then agreed only if Vice President Dick Cheney (newsweb sites) came with him.

_Bush argued for free trade, then imposed three-year tariffs on steel imports in 2002, only to withdraw them after 21 months.

_Last month, he said he doubted the war on terror could be won, then reversed himself to say it could and would.

_A week after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Bush said he wanted Osama bin Laden (newsweb sites) “dead or alive.” But he told reporters six months later, “I truly am not that concerned about him.” He did not mention bin Laden in his hour-long convention acceptance speech.

“I’m a war president,” Bush told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Feb. 8. But in a July 20 speech in Iowa, he said: “Nobody wants to be the war president. I want to be the peace president.”

Boom. By having top supporters (like Biden) push this line, Kerry is making it clear he wants to attack Bush’s “I’m a steady leader, and I never fuck up” strategy. I still think the best way of doing it would involve running footage of Bush’s dumb on-camera gaffes in TV ads, but this is a start. And so is this Time interview, in which he seems to have mastered, finally, the talking points jujitsu.

I will fight a more effective war on terror, and over the next weeks the American people will see the phoniness of the Bush efforts.

They haven’t done port security; they’re cutting cops; they haven’t taken assault weapons off the streets. Firehouses are opened in Iraq; they’re shut in the United States. Port security: 95% of our containers come in, and they are uninspected.

The fact is that these guys talk tough, but they haven’t done what is necessary to make America as safe as it can be. There have been more terrorist incidents around the world in the last months than any time in recent history. Whole parts of Iraq are under the control of terrorists, and they never were. Afghanistan is exporting drugs like opium like never before, and whole parts of the country are under the control of the Taliban and terrorists again.

Phony and unsafe: If Kerry paints Bush like that, he can neutralize his lead on national security/terrorism.

I think most observers missed the point of Kerry’s post-RNC speech. The substance wasn’t the chief lesson. The chief lesson was that Kerry is willing to take unthought-of tacks in campaigning and challenge Bush on everything he says, unlike Al Gore (pace SNL: “I uh-GREE with Governor Bush.”). This leads me to believe that when he finally shares a debate poduium with Bush, he’ll use his time to point out Bush’s failures and flip-flops and wait for the media to repeat them.


So, yesterday I’d expected to go into the city early to have lunch with a friend who’d come into town. She didn’t return my calls, so I assumed it was cancelled, and settled on going to a concert tonight and hanging out with another friend Sunday night.

Today I wake up late, having gone comatose after the concert. Three messages on my phone. I check them at 4:55.

1:) From Friend 1, 1 pm. She had car trouble and wasn’t here yesterday. Want to have an “early dinner” tonight?
2:) From Friend 2, 2:50 pm. He crashed his bike and was in the hospital. Can’t hang out tonight!
3:) From my parents, 4:50. Had I contacted any of the people who owe me money? Call back.

The point isn’t so much the misfortunes of the friends. The point is the hilarious timing of events.