Whatever ( in Exile )

For when I break my Movable Type

Scalzi.com Down, Hopefully Not for Long
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The server my domain is on is having hiccups, so Scalzi.com will be down probably for a couple of hours.

Scalzi.com 404
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Hi, folks. My host for Scalzi.com is having problems with some of its Linux servers, including the one my domain is on. Hopefully the problems will be corrected soon. If not, I'll be back here later.

Back into Hibernation
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The Whatever in Exile is now shutting down until such time as it is again needed to save my bacon. If you're a reader here, please now direct your eyeballs to the original Whatever. Or, alternately, if you'd still like a friends feed, go to Scalzifeed.

Thanks!

Learning Curve = 0
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Steve Schwenk, late of wishing violent death upon the child of a New York Times reporter and then being shocked, shocked when that wish was publicized in the New York Times with his name attached to it, has posted an open letter to Daniel Okrent, the NYT's public editor, who is the one who outed Schwenk in his column.

I don't think much of it, and reading it I think less of Schwenk than I did before. Schwenk gripes about how horrible this whole ordeal has been for him and his family and about how awfully he's been abused by the Times when it published his name and the comment. But other than agreeing that what he wrote ("I hope your kid gets his head blown off in a Republican war") was "shocking and uncivil," I don't see Schwenk actually being sorry for what he wrote.

Oh, true enough, he regrets it, for various reasons: He's gotten a number of harassing phone calls, he's been exposed to national ridicule, and now anytime anyone Googles him, they're going to see his brief spike into national prominence, and for a not very nice reason. But as Schwenk formulates it, it's all about what's being done to him, and nothing about the outrageous comment which provoked the response.

For example, look how Schwenk formulates the Google complaint:

What won't go away for years, if ever, are the results of the Google search of my name every prospective employer, professional colleague, new friend or potential spouse is likely to conduct in the future. When you search my name now, you learn right away that the Public Editor of the New York Times called me a coward and a despicable person incapable of consideration of others. As Mr. Nagourney well knows, Google is brutal and unforgiving. It forgets nothing. And everybody uses it. And when people see in their search results that it is the esteemed New York Times that has branded me an inconsiderate coward, they are, ironically, likely to believe it to be true without any second thought.

What Schwenk conveniently glosses over here is that the Google-accessible chunk of text in which he is called a coward will also include Mr. Schwenk's actual quote. I suggest that future Googlers of Mr. Schwenk will be rather more convinced that he is a coward because he wished for the death of someone's child from the safe remove of 2,200 miles and e-mail delivery than the fact that Daniel Okrent, for better or worse, called him on the fact.

Yes, yes, I know, Schwenk says that it's out of context. But let me ask, and not for the first time: In what context can hoping someone's child gets his head blown off in a war be seen as anything other than cruel and monstrous? I'm racking by brain for that sort of redeeming context, and you know, I'm coming up with squat.

I'd also like to draw attention to this bit from Mr. Schwenk's letter:

In sending my angry e-mail to Mr. Nagourney, I never intended to cause him harm, and did not cause him harm.

Simply and baldly put: Steve Schwenk is a liar. Mr. Schwenk is apparently a parent, since he details how his children have been frightened by the aftermath of his outing in the Times. I find it utterly inconceivable that a parent -- particularly one who is now trotting out his own children to bolster his claims of persecution -- can wish another parent's child dead without recognizing the extreme power of that statement. This isn't your usual, garden variety "you're an asshole" sort of invective. It's the sort of language you use when you want to hit someone hard in their soft spots. You don't say something like that about someone's kid as part of a general suite of heated conversation. No, placing an image of a child's death in the mind of a parent takes malice aforethought.

Within the scope of Schwenk's ability to hurt Mr. Nagourney, the reporter whose child for whom he hoped for death, he went out of his way to do so. Some of the people jumping to Schwenk's defense (none here, thank God), have suggested that this kind of comment is "a mildly heated email to a Times reporter." Well, I call "bullshit" on that, and on Mr. Schwenk. You don't wish someone's kid gets their head blown off and then try to say that you went trying to hurt them. If Schwenk is not a liar, and he genuinely didn't know hoping for Nagourney's kid to die might not come back to haunt him, then he is so unfathomably stupid as to beggar description. But as I said, since he's canny enough to trot out his own kids to make his case, I don't think Schwenk can claim stupidity.

Here's the clincher for me that Schwenk doesn't really think he's done anything wrong:

Let me close by pledging that, henceforth, I shall write all of my e-mails as though they will be published in the New York Times. I shall write them with the care, consideration and respect for civil discourse that one would expect from the public editor of the nation's leading newspaper. I will write them as though I am writing a respected column that will be read by people around the world, and that will be captured in Google forever. My parting request to you, Mr. Okrent, should your choose not to do the honorable thing and resign, is that you pledge to never again write a column for the New York Times as though you are writing a private, angry and hostile e-mail to an audience of one.

In other words, "I'll never write another e-mail wishing another parent's kid dead because I don't want to be embarrassed again." Not "I'll never write another e-mail wishing another parent's kid dead because it's a horrible thing to do, and I was wrong for doing it."

What a schmuck.

Look, if I were Adam Nagourney, I would have dropped Schwenk's e-mail into the trash like it deserved to be trashed. If I were Daniel Okrent, I wouldn't have published Schwenk's name. If I were Okrent's editor, I would have strongly suggested his not put Schwenk's name in the article. Outing Schwenk is far from the New York Times' greatest moment. Schwenk should have been ignored, not held up for ridicule.

Having said that, in light of Schwenk's self-pitying refusal to acknowledge his sentiment was wrong, I again discover I have not a thimbleful of sympathy for him for the predicament in which he finds himself. It's nice he regrets sending that e-mailed sentiment to Mr. Nagourney. Would that he regretted it not for what airing the sentiment is doing to him, but for what sending the sentiment says about his soul.

Here's what I hope for Mr. Schwenk's children: That they grow up bright and beautiful and happy, and so very far away from the sort of death their father wished upon the child of another parent.

Like a Newbie, Fragged For the Very First Time
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My new DSL modem has provided me the first true low-ping environment I've had since I left the warm confines of the AOL LAN, lo those many years ago. So I cranked up my Unreal Tournament 2004, went looking for some local servers, and jumped into a deathmatch to see if I still had my 1337 deathmatch 5ki11z5, yo.

I don't. I got my ass handed to me over and over and over again; it's a reminder that people are smarter than bots and are not easily tricked by a crafty double jump or two.

Clearly, I need to spend more time re-establishing my 5ki11z5. If I can do without having Krissy murder me, so much the better.

Also: The DSL is, like, sooooo much better than the satellite modem. There's just no comparison. And it's cheaper, too. We're truly living in an age of miracles.

Ignorance is No Excuse
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Sweet Jesus on Pogo Stick, but I do get sick of ignorant people around here. One just popped up in the comment threads for The Election and Kerry's Shoes and dropped a wide load of ignorance on the proceedings; the item that's currently exercising my irritation is this little gem:

We are the infedels. The Koran instructs Muslims to bring the world to Islam or kill them. Since we will not convert...they will kill us anyway they can.

Yes, this is exactly what the Koran says in 60:8: "God forbids you not, with regards to those who fight you not for [your] faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them; for God loveth those who are just."

And let's get a load of this bloodthirsty passage from the Koran, 29:46: "And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, 'We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam)."

Hide the children! Clearly Islam wants us all stone dead.

"The People of the Book," incidentally, would be Jews and Christians, whom Islam recognizes as part of the same religious tradition and worshiping the same God. Rather than being forced to convert at the point of a sword, Jew and Christians within Dar-al-Islam are doctrinally protected from being forced to convert, and are supposed to be allowed to practice their faiths. Sadly this is often not the case, but I suppose it's not terribly surprising that people often don't live up to the ideals of their own faith. God knows it happens enough outside Dar-al-Islam as well.

So basically, that's that for the idea that the Koran encourages conversion at the point of the sword. If we want to talk about the history of forced conversion, it'd probably be better to talk about Christianity, whose record on that score is somewhat more colorful. But we don't need to get into that right at the moment.

Here's what offends me about this little bit of ignorance festering on my comment thread. First, that this fellow is ignorant at all; that he apparently uncritically swallowed this load of crap without inquiring whether it might actually be true. After all, it's not difficult to check for one's self: Go to Google, type in "Koran," and you'll find quite a few versions of the book online; here's just one. And here's a fine wikipedia article on Islam, you know, for extra useful context.

If one's feeling ambitious to get out of the house, one may even try one's local library; the tiny library in my little rural town has two English translations of the Koran. The library also has a few books on the history of Islam; heck, it's even got Islam for Dummies. The information is not difficult to find. But clearly this fellow doesn't feel he needs to actually discover things out for himself; someone said it, he believes it and that's that.

I can't remember at what age it was that I discovered that people are indeed willfully ignorant -- that they choose not to know things despite the ease with which knowledge can be acquired -- but I know that even at that young age I was agog at the idea. It still astounds me, even more so because there has never been another era in which so much information was so readily available. This ignoramus sits in front of an Internet-connected computer, the single greatest tool for the acquisition of knowledge in the history of the world, and uses it to show off his lack of knowledge rather than to use it to increase his knowledge. He might as well use his computer to squish bugs for all the good it's doing his brain.

The second offensive thing about this exhibition of ignorance is that this fellow is not content to remain ignorant and silent, which, if one must choose to be ignorant, is the ideal position to maintain. No, clearly he feels it's his duty to spread his ignorance, thus his appearance on my comment thread. It's possible he doesn't know he's ignorant, but I find that hard to believe: Most people know whether or not they've read a book. I'm pretty sure he knew that when he said the Koran said something, he knew he hadn't actually read it himself. So we're left with the conclusion that he knew he didn't know what he was writing about, but that he wasn't going to let a small detail like that get in his way (there's the third possibility that he has read the Koran, and his simply bald-faced lying about it, but in my opinion this is the most unlikely scenario). However you slice it, ignorance loves company, and this fellow was clearly trying to increase the ranks of the ignorant.

Well, you know. I don't want that for my site. I like it when people who have viewpoints that are different than mine come to the site, make their points from an informed position and participate in the give and take that comes out of that with other people in the comment threads. I don't like it when people with no more knowledge on a subject than any random chicken stroll by, vomit up a gout of nonsense, and try to pass it off as a useful contribution to the discussion. My readership deserves better than to be presented by this kind of crap.

Let me note that if this fellow had said something along the lines of "I've heard the Koran tells Muslims to convert or kill Jews and Christians," I would not be whacking on him like I am. We all have our list of received knowledge which may or may not be true; I like to think I'd be welcoming to anyone who knows he or she might not know something. If I can give them an answer, I'd like to think I'd try; if I couldn't, I'd like to think I'd point them in the direction of finding more knowledge on the subject. But this guy is purporting to know something he clearly does not, and trying to pass it off as fact. I bring out the mallets for people like that.

Which bring me to the third reason I find this stuff offensive: this fellow is trying to pass his ignorance to me. The implication here is that in his estimation I'm either ignorant or stupid enough to swallow this crap, and I resent that. Is there anything about this site which suggests I am credulous or dim? Do I appear especially open to the vacuous utterances of the woefully ignorant? Is there a blinking neon sign over the top of my head that says "Shovel Crap Here?" I'd like to think the answer in all three cases is no. But please, someone tell me otherwise if I am incorrect.

As I've said before and undoubtedly will again, I don't believe I'm always right, or that I know everything. I'm always excited to meet people who challenge my opinions and positions and make me think of the world in ways I may not have before. I like diversity of thought; I like to think I encourage it here in the comment threads. And I like to think the people who comment here also enjoy the challenge that comes from a diversity of thought.

But the key word here is thought. Coming to my site to spread ignorance insults me. It offends me. It demeans me. It means you think I'm as ignorant as you are. I'm not.

Reminder: There is no Such Thing as Private E-Mail
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Atrios gets tightly wound over the fact that The New York Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent named someone who had sent a nasty e-mail to a New York Times reporter. This is what Okrent said:

But before I turn over the podium, I do want you to know just how debased the level of discourse has become. When a reporter receives an e-mail message that says, "I hope your kid gets his head blown off in a Republican war," a limit has been passed.

That's what a coward named Steve Schwenk, from San Francisco, wrote to national political correspondent Adam Nagourney several days ago because Nagourney wrote something Schwenk considered (if such a person is capable of consideration) pro-Bush. Some women reporters regularly receive sexual insults and threats. As nasty as critics on the right can get (plenty nasty), the left seems to be winning the vileness derby this year. Maybe the bloggers who encourage their readers to send this sort of thing to The Times might want to ask them instead to say it in public. I don't think they'd dare.


Atrios says:

The fact that the NYT's public editor, the person who is supposed to represent the *readers*, has chosen to publish the name and a clipped quote from a reader who never intended his name or comments to be published, and made that desire clear multiple times, is disgusting. It doesn't matter what the person wrote to the reporter. As I've said, I've been aware of the identities of people who have not only sent me obscene and insulting emails, but who have made an effort to disrupt the comments of this site, for a long time. I never went as far as publishing their *personal* name/address/phone number/email. Why? Because it's an unfair fight.

In terms of personal handling of e-mail, I'm with Atrios: My personal policy has always been not to air the e-mail I get, unless it's anonymous or unless I get permission. Most of the time my truly nasty e-mail isn't worth responding to, anyway; anyone who's gotten as much hate mail as I have over the years has high standards as to what deserves to be shared with others.

However, I have not even a thimbleful of sympathy for Mr. Schwenk. For one thing, as Mr. Okrent points out, anyone who e-mails a reporter expressing a wish that a specific reporter's kid gets his or her head blown off has set up a sphincter kiosk on Asshole Avenue and is doing gangbuster business. Perhaps a little public shaming will do him some good, or least keep him from sending anymore e-mails wishing people's children would die. No doubt Mr. Schwenk is embarrassed and is finding out what it's like to be on the receiving end of asshole behavior at the moment, and maybe this possibility will give people pause before they send off an e-mail like Schwenk's. It's one of those "live by the sphincter, die by the sphincter" teachable moments.

For another thing -- and I don't believe we still have to make this point at this late date in the world -- there is no such thing as private e-mail. Certainly not in the case of an e-mail to a reporter; assuming the e-mail was sent to Mr. Nagourney's New York Times e-mail address, that e-mail is legally the property of the Times, not Mr. Nagourney, and it may do anything it wishes with that e-mail, including giving it over to the Public Editor to write about. Now, I think we can safely assume that as a general rule, the editors of the Times don't spend a lot of time combing through their reporter's e-mails looking for juicy bits to air. But legally speaking, it could, and that's worth drilling into one's head.

But we don't need to involve the Times as an institution in all of this, since there's simply the matter that once one hits the "send" button on the e-mail client, one loses all control of the e-mail one has sent. It's the recipient who has the privilege of deciding what happens to the e-mail, whether the e-mail is kept private, aired for the public edification or amusement, or simply plonked unread. In this particular case, I suspect that Mr. Nagourney shared the e-mail with Mr. Okrent, Mr. Okrent asked if he could use it, and Mr. Nagourney gave his assent. And why shouldn't have he? By writing to share his hope of the decapitating death of Mr. Nagourney's progeny, Mr. Schwenk made it pretty clear he has absolutely no respect for Mr. Nagourney, nor has he made any effort toward common courtesy. By the Golden Rule (a fine metric for human behavior), Mr. Schwenk should expect no less.

As Atrios noted, it's probably a fine guess that Mr. Schwenk didn't expect that everyone would learn he thinks it's just fine to wish death upon the children of people who write newspaper articles that are not to his liking. But I ask: So what? Once he sent that e-mail, it was no longer his choice to make, just as when I send someone e-mail, what happens to it from there is no longer under my control, either. When you send e-mail, you give up control of what happens to your words. If you don't want to give up that control, don't send the e-mail. Mr. Schwenk may have been ignorant of this little detail regarding e-mail, but I don't see how that should restrict either Mr. Nagourney or Mr. Okrent. In any event, he's not ignorant of it now.

Live it, learn it, love it: You have no expectation of privacy in e-mail. None. Ever. Presume that you do have an expectation of privacy, and you are going to be sorely disappointed (and, as Mr. Schwenk has discovered, possibly humiliated).

(Would I want some of the e-mail I sent in the past aired for public consumption? Well, no; Hell, there are some I've written in the last month I'd prefer not to have seen in the open. However, I recognize that I have no control over those e-mails; as a result, I don't think I've written an e-mail recently that I wouldn't own up to if it were aired.)

Atrios trots out the public/private individual thing, i.e., that evidence of Mr. Schwenk's jerkitude should have remained private because he's not, say, a New York Times reporter. But this isn't a libel thing, and unless there's a section of Times v. Sullivan I'm not aware of, there's no private v. public litmus test in revealing whether one has voluntarily been an ass to another person. After all, it's not as if Mr. Nagourney had to investigate to discover if Mr. Schwenk hoped his child dead; Mr. Schwenk affrimately offered up the hope himself, in writing, no less, with name appended. Atrios likewise suggests that it doesn't matter what Mr. Schwenk wrote, but I find it difficult to imagine a scenario in which Mr. Schwenk had written something complimentary to Mr. Nagourney, and Mr. Okrent had published it and Schwenk's name, and then Atrios (or anyone else) had worked himself into a rage about how mightily Mr. Schwenk's personal privacy had been violated.

I'm a little strict on these things, but I believe that one of the trade offs of free speech is the responsibility for your words. Should Mr. Schwenk be held publicly accountable for his words, even if he didn't expect he would be? Well, why shouldn't he be? One assumes Mr. Schwenk is a grownup and understands he's accountable for his actions. He wrote the e-mail, and he signed his name to it. Let him stand by his words or retract them. After all, what's the point in saying anything to anyone anywhere if we're not willing to either stand by those words, or admit we were wrong for saying them?

Because he's been outed as a jerk in the New York Times, does Schwenk deserve to be harassed and abused by other jerks? No, I think being called a coward in the New York Times is enough for most people. As I said, I don't doubt that Schwenk will be harassed and abused by jerks, and I do feel a measure of pity for him for that, since it's no fun to be abused and harassed by jerks. On the bright side, now he and Mr. Nagourney will have something in common.

As an aside, I'd just like to note that Democrats (or other political affiliations) saying something is a "Republican War" is no less odious than when Republicans were saying of Clinton that he was not their president. As Americans, we all own the current war; our government called for it, our military fought it, our people are dying in it. The question is what we do about it.

Random Blatherings 10/09/04
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Some thoughts that in themselves don't merit a full entry:

* So, here's the basic line coming out of the debate, so far as I can tell: George Bush neither drooled on himself nor shook like a palsied chimpanzee, and was actually reasonably composed, so he wins (and by "wins" we mean to say it's a draw, since Kerry apparently did just fine, too). Talk about the soft bigotry of lowered expectations. Also, and feel free to call me a snob here, but I want more from a president than that he didn't soil himself live on television. If a victory can be derived simply from not embarrassing one's self, it's time to explore new metrics of victory.

In response to yesterday's venting about Kerry, a couple of people noted in the comment thread that it's in the media's self-interest to make it appear the contests are close right down to the wire; therefore unless Dubya really did absolutely lose it, last night's pundit spin would be charitable no matter what. On reflection this has probably got truth to it, although I'm not entirely sure just how much the punditry out there realized it's trained itself to do this sort of thing; they do it as automatically as a short order cook flips a burger.

nsbook.jpg

* I went out and bought The System of the World Thursday, thus completing my purchase of Neal Stephenson's entire Baroque Cycle, but I have to admit that I haven't the slightest idea when I'm going to get around to reading the whole damn thing. I started Quicksilver not long after it came out, and was about 200 pages in when I realized that I'd basically read an entire novel's worth of nothing but set-up; I put it down and haven't picked it up since. Someone informed me that it does pick up somewhere around page 400, and I know I like Stephenson's writing in a general sense, so I planned to get back to it, and bought The Confusion and The System of the World on the basic faith that I would eventually settle down with them. But, jeez. 3,000 pages, and 400 pages to get things going. I just don't know. Especially since I've picked up Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which is not small book in itself (730-odd pages), but at least is its own thing. We'll have to see if I get to the Baroque Cycle sometime before I hit 40.

In the meantime, here's what I've been using the Baroque Cycle books for: Doorstops. Yes, really. Look, if you're going to write a book big enough to stop a door, don't be surprised if that's what someone uses them for.

* On the tech geek front -- where the hell is my DSL? All my modem fixin's were supposed to be here on Thursday, and now here it is, not Thursday, and I am still DSLess. This crap is beginning to piss me off.

Also on the tech geek tip: I ordered Half-Life 2 today through gamemaker Valve's "Steam" online download function, not only to get that game but because one of the packages also offers the games in Valve's archive, including the original Half-Life. I have half life on disc, of course, but it's so old now that my current computer just laughs at me when I ask it to run the game; it's like it won't lower itself to play a game designed to be played on Windows 98. The only problem I can see with the Steam delivery is that it appears to download the game a map at a time, and that's not necessarily a good thing when you have a balky satellite connection. All the more reason for me to have my DSL now, damn it.

The Election and Kerry's Shoes
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I want to be clear on this, so that there's no confusion. If John Kerry cannot beat George W. Bush in this election, he should be taken out and beaten to death with his own shoes. How can any major party candidate not beat a sitting president who is the first since Hoover to have the economy lose jobs on his watch? How can any candidate not beat a sitting president whose economic policies took the federal budget from massive surpluses to massive deficits in such an alarmingly short time? How can any candidate not beat a sitting president whose rationales for a war of choice have been shown over and over again to be false and reckless -- and because of that 1000 members of the US armed forces have no better reason for their mortal sacrifice than "presidential misadventure"? How can any candidate lose to the most incompetent man in living memory to hold the office of president?

Don't talk to me about the Republican smear machine, or stupid voters, or a complicit media. This is a candidate's job, to make his case to the American voters. John Kerry has been blessed with an opponent who makes Warren Harding look like a sharp tack, whose major policies have uniformly been one fat disgusting disaster after another, and who by most polls has lead the country in what most Americans view to be in the wrong direction. And here it is, 25 days before election day, and Bush and Kerry are still more or less statistically tied; Kerry's up today, but not enough that he won't be behind tomorrow if he doesn't ace tonight's debate.

This is appalling. It is unfathomable to me that at this late date in the campaign that Kerry is not more than a percentage point or two -- at best -- beyond the statistical error of the polls. I am reasonably confident that Kerry will be a perfectly acceptable president, certainly by comparison to his predecessor if nothing else. But as a candidate, he gives me the smacky shakes. I understand that this is his modus operandi in campaigns: to come up fast in the final quarter, just like he did in his senate campaign against William Weld in 1996. But look, Dubya ain't no William Weld. Bush doesn't have the 70% approval ratings Weld had. Dubya doesn't have the successful executive track record Weld had. That race deserved to be close. This one doesn't.

And let's also be clear on this: Kerry needs to win outside the margin of error. Bush got into the White House in 2000 because Gore, that stupid, stupid man, let the race get close; he lost his own home state, for God's sake, and then it all came down to Florida, where Dubya's brother was governor, and then got kicked upstairs to the Supreme Court. If it all comes down to Florida again, there will be riots and Disney World will burn, baby, burn, but it'll go to Bush again. Or what if it comes down to Ohio, home of Diebold and a Republican Secretary of State who attempted to disallow voter registration cards because of the weight of the paper until he was shamed into backing up? Come on, people. Do you really think if it's close that the Republicans will let it get away? When it comes to elections, you don't let the GOP get close. Letting them get close just means you can't see where they're planning to jam in the knife.

And you know what -- I totally respect that. In 2000, I enraged a rabidly liberal friend of mine by saying, basically, that the reason Bush was in the White House was quite simply that the GOP wanted it more. The Florida recount was a dirty business all the way around, and the GOP, rabid little powermongers that they were, were like the poor schmucks at a radio contest who were willing to dive headfirst into a vat of pig shit to get the sparkly prize, while the Democrats were only willing to get in to their knees and half-heartedly pick around, and complain that they shouldn't have to wallow in pork crap in the first place. Well, you know. That was the game at that point. If it comes to that again, you know the GOP has got the snorkels at ready.

This is why Kerry needs two have a two or three state margin (at least!) at the end of the day. This election needs to be incontestable; on election night, Dubya and the GOP have to look at the tally board and know that short of a military coup they've only got a few more weeks to enjoy the use of the Air Force One snack bar. Otherwise it will never end. I have entirely too much respect for the GOP's ability to pull an electoral rabbit out of the hat to be anything less than totally paranoid if Kerry continues to let Bush and his buddies keep it close.

And what if -- as is entirely possible -- Bush actually wins? Not by leaning on Jeb or his pals at Diebold, but definitively, by two or three states worth of electoral votes? Ach, the reckoning there will be then, my friends. Because then the only thing that Bush and the GOP will have learned from all of this is that competence simply doesn't matter, and if it doesn't matter, then why bother. As for the Democrats, the best they can hope for is that they manage to get 50 seats in the Senate and hold on for dear life until 2008, and I wouldn't count on either. And while the rest of us don't necessarily have to start stocking dry goods in the cellar, we should at the very least know where we can get our hands on a 55-gallon drum of beans when the time comes.

As for Kerry, I imagine he'll become one of the most reviled men in the country. He's already reviled by the folks on the right, simply as a reflex, so that much is taken care of. But the ones in the left and in the center will revile him too, because he couldn't close the deal against the manifestly worst sitting president in decades. And as I've said before, yes, George Bush is an utter incompetent. But think how much more incompetent you have to be to lose to him. Death by his own shoes would not be too fine a punishment for such an act.

I Got Dem Cozmic Swing State Blues Again, Mama
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Friends from California tell me that to judge from the campaign activities there, you'd hardly know there was a presidential election going on. You can't say the same in Ohio, 2004's appointed Really Important Swing State, where it seems the candidates are visiting just about every day, and where I'm getting tons of crap from both parties, in the mail and through the phone.

Yesterday the phone rings, I pick it up and it's an automated message. A folksy male voice with a southern accent says "John Kerry says he wants to be judged on the issues..." and that's as far as it gets before I hang up. I don't think I really need to hear the rest of that to know what's coming next.

Out to the mail, where a flyer with pictures of a middle-aged guy staring glumly at a pile of bills, and text that says "Under President Bush, Ohio has lost..." and then some number of jobs, plus a bunch of other dismal stats, accompanied by a picture of Bush in one of his more unpleasant expressions. Again, I don't think I really need to read the rest of this to see where it's going. It's in the trash before I get into the house.

Then to the phones again, where some alleged pollster wants to ask me a few questions. Which polling company do you represent? I ask. I can't tell you, says the alleged pollster. Well, then, I can't answer your questions, I say, and hang up. A small part of me is mildly interested in hearing the questions a push poller might ask ("Are you planning to vote for John Kerry, even though he's been caught on video tape biting the heads off of fluffy kittens?" "Did you know that voting for George Bush has been clinically associated with testicular cancer?"), but I'm also aware that the point of a push poll isn't to poll me, it's to push me. Well, I'm pushed, all right.

Unless one candidate or another gains a double digit lead in Ohio in the next three days and maintains it through the month, all this crap is simply not going to end until November 2. Because Ohio is the designated swing state. It makes me wish there was some sort of registry for people who already know how they're going vote to sign in on, so they could be left alone until it's time to vote (and you wouldn't even actually have to know how you're going to vote -- you could just say it so you didn't have to be bugged). And then, every time you did get bothered by one of the political campaigns or one of their duly-represented busybodies, you'd get $10. I'd be rich coming into November, I tell you.

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