Sunday, October 31, 2004

It's Time--10 Questions
Article 19 readers, it's time to step up to the plate. A contest is called for. The winner will receive all the honor and glory that comes with knowing you have the brightest political mind among us.

Predict the following things before noon on Tuesday (just in case Drudge releases exit polls in the afternoon cheating.), Use the comments thread:
1. The final popular vote results, by percentage, including Nader.
2. The final electoral vote results. Electoral vote calculator here. Abundant state polls here Let us know which of the major tossup states are going which direction in your mind, that led to your EV prediction.
3. The closest state in actual votes. (among states with 5 or more electoral votes)
4. The state that provides the most surprising sweat (the closest state that was presumed in the bag one way or the other)
5. When (day/time) will we have closure in the race, including a victory speech and a concession speech?
6. Will a recount/legal challenge decide the outcome?
7. Pickups in the House (which Party; how many seats?)
8. Pickups in the Senate (which Party; how many seats?)
9. Upset special--any race or any state in the Pres. race.
10. Any other prediction you'd like to make.

Vote in as many/as few categories as you like. Individual and overall winners will be announced.
What it's all about
In my heart, I believe we're going to win on Tuesday, not because of polls, which at least aren't dissuading my belief, but because even here in Nashville I see and hear sentiments along these lines all the time, as relayed by Josh Marshall, from an email he received:
My job is to get people to the polls and, more importantly, to keep them there. Because they’re crazily jammed. Crazily. No one expected this turnout. For me, it’s been a deeply humbling, deeply gratifying experience. At today’s early vote in the College Hill district of East Tampa -- a heavily democratic, 90% African American community — we had 879 voters wait an average of five hours to cast their vote. People were there until four hours after they closed (as long as they’re in line by 5, they can vote).

Here’s what was so moving:

We hardly lost anyone. People stood outside for an hour, in the blazing sun, then inside for another four hours as the line snaked around the library, slowly inching forward. It made Disneyland look like speed-walking. Some waited 6 hours. To cast one vote. And EVERYBODY felt that it was crucial, that their vote was important, and that they were important.
There is a determination and energy on our side that is inspiring. We're not just choosing one policy direction over another, or one leader's personality over another. We know this election will define--for a long time--who we are determined to be as a country, and who we are determined not to be. The character of the President is taking a backseat. This election is about the character of our nation.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Osama tape hurts Bush
Its presence makes clear the truth of all of Kerry's main points about the "war on terrorism" and the war in Iraq. Bush dropped the ball. He could have had the hearts of Americans on his side in a persistent push to track down terrorists and build a more efficient, communicative intelligence network all around the world. Instead, his advisors couldn't resist the opening for a more conventional war against a bad man they hated. We shut down the lines of communication around the world instead of opening them, because hardly anyone else wanted to join the Iraq fiasco.

And now the face of that horrifically bad decision has popped back up on TV.

Team Bush? They consider this development, despicably, to be "a gift."

They are as shameless as they are bad for America. I honestly believe Americans will find in this tape a renewed disappointment with President Bush's failures. The Fox News pollster reports that in their tracking poll calls last night, Bush's numbers fell after the tape was aired. That would be a small sample, but it's true nonetheless.
Just say something memorable, facts be damned
Atrios has transcripts from yesterday's news programs to show just how much they pull things out of their collective asses. They just make stuff up. I wish they realized the role they play in shaping conventional wisdom. Clearly they could care less.
As further evidence that I should stop looking at, and writing about, polls, consider the Gallup tracking poll that came out on the eve of election day 2000 (via Kos):

Bush 48
Gore 43
Nader 4

We know how that one turned out.

Meanwhile, I'm saving the Article 19 prediction thread for Sunday night/Monday so get ready to prognosticate. For research, electoral calculator here, ridiculous amounts of state polls here, and you might want to use this.
Margin of Error discussion
In response to conversations in comments thread, I thought I'd link to the post that informed my thoughts about margins of error in polls. It also has a handy table. Of course, I have no background, so I don't know if he's right, and would welcome further insight from any of you statistics types. I'm throwing it out there to show why I worry about a 2 or 3 point deficit in a state poll even when it's inside the MOE. Other than just the fact that I worry.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Drinking the kool-aid
Good to know the Bible Belt has really evolved.

Screw the undecideds; it's about turnout
I've never quite believed in the argument that undecideds will break hard for the challenger this year, even though I've repeated it a few times. It seems to me that, like Pat Caddell says (and I loathe Pat Caddell), there would be an equal or greater inclination on the part of those who just haven't yet been convinced by Kerry to go with the known quantity and stick with Bush. I'm thinking/hoping many of them will decide not to vote, or even a Republican protest vote for Nader as opposed to Bush.

What seems like a more reasonable hope is that first-time voters will turnout in big numbers (although they haven't been in early voting in Tennessee). My fear is that the recent shocking move in Michigan polls in Bush's favor, after kerry seemed to have a firm grasp on it, is the undecided vote deciding to break for Bush, a foreshadowing of how they will go everywhere else. If we're not going to get the late deciders, we have to hope for a miraculous turnout of "unlikely" voters, motivated by a desire to kick the bum out.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Today's only post: a question [Still the question for Friday!]
I have a serious question, and would love for everyone who reads this to answer (leave the name blank, or make up one if you would prefer to stay anonymous).

People say this is the most important election of our lives. I agree. And it is consuming a good bit of mine. I thirst for polls, and especially news that Kerry has a chance to win. I worry. I'm anxious. I have feelings of dread over the prospect of another Bush term. And it occurs to me... those are pretty serious feelings. I don't think I'm alone, judging from the concern I hear and read about. Most weekends, this election has prompted me to do things I not only never do, but hate doing--waking up early on Saturdays, initiating awkward conversation with strangers on their doorstep or over the phone. Everything about that is contrary to my personality.

When I was in college, I just knew that my vote for President could and would change the world. Now, we've had Presidents I hated and Presidents I loved (well, one), and many of the same challenges and injustices face us that did when I first started voting. There are too many poor people. There are too many people with no health insurance. There is too much hunger in the world. There is too much greed. Too many nations, including our own, still execute its criminals. Too many nations subjugate women to horrible oppression, and those that don't still embrace a culture and economy that brazenly exploits them as objects of sexual desire (or worse). We still pollute the air and contribute to global warming more than we contribute to its solution. Being black, or brown, still poses far more obstacles--and more cruelty--than being white. And none of those things began with George W. Bush.

Will a new President really matter? Shouldn't we worry more, and work harder, for a city council election, or a school board race? Don't those have more direct impact on lives in our community? If so, why don't we? Maybe you do.

Is Presidential politics so much a spectator sport now, thanks to 24-hour news or whatever, that we care and root for basically the same reasons that we cheer for the Red Sox to win? A superficial, ultimately meaningless (sorry Kenny) way to fill out our personal identities, a purposeful distraction from really addressing our own lives? A chance to jeer (inside) at the other side?

I know you can list the standard policy reasons why a different President will make a difference, and those may be the reasons why you're on one side and not the other. But is that really why we care? Has the desire to win separated itself from those reasons?

So, my question to you (and Article 19 will consider all attempts to deflect with sarcasm as evidence of a character flaw. We should know - we invented that technique.) is this: assuming you care more about the outcome of this election than previous ones, why do you think that is? Why do you care so much about what happens on Tuesday?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Sorry for the cursing
This would be funny, maybe, if we didn't have to remember that--as Kos says--"this asshole is our President". Watch the video.
Who's gonna win?
Who knows. Zogby's state polls continue to give Bush a slight lead in OH (though a high undecided number, defying common sense), and a growing lead in Florida. CBS just took a poll in Florida that was so good for Kerry they got nervous and are sitting on it.

Zogby shows Kerry with a lead, 3 days in a row, in CO. No other poll shows Bush behind there. Zogby also shows a sizable lead for Bush in NM, where others (save the Republican-biased Mason-Dixon) show it very close, or Kerry ahead. At least WI has flipped to Kerry in Zogby's tracking poll. Holding on in MN as well.

Iowa sounds tied, no matter who you ask.

Pulling out wins in Iowa, Colorado and New Mexico (21 votes combined) would offset the loss of Ohio and give Kerry a chance to win even losing both FL and OH.

Meanwhile, Zogby's national tracking poll says that the last day was one of Kerry's best - up by 5.

Nobody has a clue what's going to happen. Experiment with electoral college scenarios here. You know, with the anxiety, you're not going to get any work done before Tueday anyway.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Eminem [UPDATED]

[UPDATE} The video is now number 1 on MTV. A DailyKos diarist has the best analysis of it I've read.
Gallup's Likely Voter test
You can take their test screen here. It's crazy. Take the test as if you are this year an enthusiastic, knowledgeable first-time voter, though you have been old enough before. Say you rate your own chances to vote a 10 out of 10. The screen still tells you that you are not likely to vote.

Meanwhile, polls show that first-time voters are heavily for Kerry, and early voting returns point to record turnout.
tuesday poll goodness [UPDATED--6 PM]
American Research Group has Kerry up slightly in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, in new polls.

New Survey USA poll also shows Kerry up by 2 in Florida.
[UPDATE] Also, new Survey USA polls show Kerry up 3 in OH and 8 in PA.

Monday, October 25, 2004

A little help from my friends
Somehow, I got lassoed into giving a lecture at school on the Beatles in a few weeks. I decided the thing college students most need to know, that can be introduced in 45 minutes, is how truly experimental they were musically--instrumentation, meter changes, recording techniques, music "videos," and many other things that show they weren't all just about "twist and shout."

But, I need a snappy title for my talk. Without being too campy.

Any ideas?
When Clinton comes to town
Atrios has a picture from the Clinton/Kerry rally today in Philly. A few people showed up.
We all know Bush is a raging fool. But I'm guessing he didn't actually sit down and make the war plans. Who the heck is in charge, and why did nobody guard the most dangerous stuff in Iraq? Does this all go back to the idiocy that thought we would be greeted as liberators? We figured Iraqis would not be interested in violence as soon as Saddam was gone? Was there any strategic thinking, or back-up planning whatsoever? It's like Kerry said in debate #2: "It's the military's job to win the war; the President's job is to win the peace." (Why do we not repeat our best lines endlessly like the evil ones do? This beauty sounds like it could have been the main line of attack. But I don't think I heard anyone say it again since.)

In my opinion, this story should seal the deal. This administration is incompetent, from the top down. And there is no leader to hold people accountable for getting the most important stuff done (like protecting our troops and Iraqi civilians from the most dangerous weapons in Iraq).

This was not Saddam handing over weapons to terrorists. This stuff was under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (they're the good guys). They told us this stuff was there, and we should secure it if we're coming in to take over. We did not. WTF??

Now that we know the President's response is that "he wants to know what went wrong," Josh Marshall has the best take:
The President wants to determine what went wrong.

This reminds me of when I wanted to know why my Palm Pilot stopped working after I dropped it in the bath tub.

Doesn't this capture Bush's entire presidency?

The thing happened more than a year ago, his administration has taken active steps to cover it up and now that the truth finally comes out, he 'wants to determine what went wrong.'

The idea of accepting responsibility for anything is simply alien to the man. He doesn't even have the good grace to scam us by finding a scapegoat to pin the blame on.
Hunter S. Thompson weighs in
Hard to pick just one quote from this Rolling Stone column, but here's one:
Back in June, when John Kerry was beginning to feel like a winner, I had a quick little rendezvous with him on a rain-soaked runway in Aspen, Colorado, where he was scheduled to meet with a harem of wealthy campaign contributors. As we rode to the event, I told him that Bush's vicious goons in the White House are perfectly capable of assassinating Nader and blaming it on him. His staff laughed, but the Secret Service men didn't. Kerry quickly suggested that I might make a good running mate, and we reminisced about trying to end the Vietnam War in 1972.

That was the year I first met him, at a riot on that elegant little street in front of the White House. He was yelling into a bullhorn and I was trying to throw a dead, bleeding rat over a black-spike fence and onto the president's lawn.

We were angry and righteous in those days, and there were millions of us. We kicked two chief executives out of the White House because they were stupid warmongers. We conquered Lyndon Johnson and we stomped on Richard Nixon -- which wise people said was impossible, but so what? It was fun. We were warriors then, and our tribe was strong like a river.

That river is still running. All we have to do is get out and vote, while it's still legal, and we will wash those crooked warmongers out of the White House.
I'm still shocked at the way this campaign has managed to turn the heroic anti-war movement from the sixties into a liability. Kerry was a hero among heroes to the young people that brought a merciful end to a terrible mistake of a war. But we're having to run from his involvement in that movement; it would seem to have no voice today at all. So, it's nice to hear Hunter backing his friend and fellow former protestor.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Tracking Poll Heaven
Here's a one-stop shop for national daily tracking polls. If you need it.
SNL lip-sync disaster?
Did anyone see the Ashlee Simpson performance on SNL? Was it as big an embarassment as it sounds? Just curious.
More battleground numbers
Zogby has started tracking polls in 10 important states. MyDD has the first day's results today. The bad news is it gives Bush the edge, in both Florida and Ohio, so the edge in the electoral race. But, the Ohio number especially is contradicted by lots of other polls showing Kerry running in the lead there. In fact, some have suggested Rove is giving up there.

The good news is that Bush doesn't poll 50% in a single state. As an incumbent, that's a pretty tough place to be, I hear.

Also, Kos believes he knows what the big "Monday surprise" is that is supposed to "devastate" the Kerry campaign. It's not all that big.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Battleground States
There's little denying that Bush has opened up something of a national lead. But it is not translating (yet) into leads in the battleground states. The mystery pollster has some encouraging analysis.

With OH and FL starting to look like they may break for Kerry and Bush, respectively (not that I'm giving up on FL, or taking OH for granted), the battleground would shift in that case to WI, NM and IA. Kerry needs to win WI or both NM + IA if everything else goes according to schedule. I feel much better about Wisconsin than Iowa.

I just can't believe there are that many evangelicals in the cheese state. Bush will need a new strategy.
World Series Predictions
Put your world series predictions/fears here in the comments. Will the Sox make history in a positive way? Will they discover new ways to unhinge us? How do you think it will play out?

Friday, October 22, 2004

Tom Waits Wisdom
From an interview in the new Magnet magazine:
On being original and human:
Anything you absorb you will ultimately secrete. It's inevitable. Most of us are original paintings, and it's a mystery as to what is learned and what is borrowed, what is stolen and what is born, what you came in with and what you found while you were here.
On George Bush:
I hope he gets voted out. I pray that we will be mobilized and it will be a landslide and everybody who's ever believed in these ideals that we're takling about will vote the bastard out. . . . I'm thinking that this is the last of our civilization. I think we are all going into the crapper waiting to be flushed. It just feels like the whole world's on fire right now.
He has an amazing new album out. I'm glad to report that age is not mellowing his sound, or his lyrics one bit.
It's official.
Send your congratulations in the comments thread or here.
TN Early Vote + New Registration Analysis
Tennessee early voting turnout totals by county have been released through the first 7 days. Taking each county's present totals and multiplying by its Bush-Gore percentages from 2000, I can project an estimate about the state of the vote thus far, based solely on turnout by county (of course by precinct would be far more accurate, but I don't have that info).

The early vote projection based on county turnout and the 2000 vote comes out to:
Bush 51.8%
Kerry 46.7%

This is slightly closer than the 52.2-46.2 that the first 4 days showed. Shelby County (Memphis) is picking up steam, and that should continue to narrow the gap. However, Shelby, still accounts for only 10.1% of the early vote, though it was 23% of the early vote in 2000, and just over 16% of the total 2000 vote.

Knox County has dropped back slightly, but at 9.5% of the vote, that heavily Republican county is causing the most problems. Davidson County remains just over 11%, slightly more than the 10% from 2000. This indicates to me that the turnout is up all over the state, and as Shelby approaches its level from 2000, I expect the result projection to also approach the 3% difference from Bush-Gore.

We can only hope that the increased turnout everywhere is due to a desire to throw the bum out, not an unreasonable theory.

But even new voter registration indicate this outcome. New registrations this year have been fairly evenly spread across the state, not remarkably in Democratic counties. Multiplying new voter registration by county by the 2000 results gives a similar result, 52.3-47%.

I was hoping the new registrations and early voting would be especially concentrated in Davidson and Shelby and other Democratic/Gore counties, but it's not the case. We still don't know who is voting/registering, or their motivations, but if Kerry is to show well in TN, he will have to be closing the Gore gap across many counties, including Republican ones (the same way Bredesen won). Turnout alone in traditionally Democratic areas will not get it done.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

More from the I didn't do it/say it, don't worry, be happy President
Who knew that Pat Robertson is a member of the reality-based community too?
"And I warned him about this war. I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, 'Mr. President, you had better prepare the American people for casualties.' "

Robertson said the president then told him, "Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties."
Via Atrios, Karen Hughes, who never lies, says:
I cannot imagine that that conversation would ever take place. I've never heard the president say anything of the sort.... So I can't imagine whether he misunderstood, or what happened. But I'm certain that the president did not say that remark.
Just like he never said he wasn't concerned about Osama, and never said the Iraq War was about weapons of mass destruction. Your memory really does have to be bad to be/work with this President, doesn't it?
Spring Break Fallujah 2005
via MyDD,
John Le Carre has a few opinions:
Maybe there's one good reason — just one — for reelecting George W. Bush, and that's to force him to live with the consequences of his appalling actions and answer for his own lies, rather than wish the job on a Democrat who would then get blamed for his predecessor's follies.
But please don't feel isolated from the Europe you twice saved. Give us back the America we loved, and your friends will be waiting for you. Here in Britain, for as long as we have Tony Blair singing the same lies as George W. Bush, your nightmares will be ours.
That was just the first and last paragraphs. The whole thing is powerful.
The Big Dog
This is what Kenny B is referring to in the comments.
Former president Bill Clinton will appear with Senator John Kerry at a lunchtime rally in Philadelphia next Monday in what Democrats hope will be a boost to the presidential ticket in a crucial battleground state.
I hope he goes to Ohio and Florida. Perhaps foolishly I think Pennsylvania is sewn up.
Red Sox Thread
Rate their chances vs. Yankees tonight. Rate your level of emotional investment.

The old baseball guy on ESPN, Peter Gammond, who seems to know what he's talking about, says that the game is essentially the most anticipated game in the history of baseball. Can that be? I guess taking into account the historic comeback from being down 3-0, plus the rivalry, but the biggest game in the history of baseball? Maybe so. What was bigger?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The Nightmare Scenario
Zogby Giveth; Zogby Taketh Away. Has Bush up slightly in both Ohio and Florida. Even with all the other wins, that gives Kerry just 264. An upset somewhere (CO? AR? TN!!??) would be needed if this happens.

In my heart, I believe in Florida this time around.
The Boss
You can watch Bruce's Vote For Change end-of-concert speech here. True, he's reading it from somewhere on the floor, but it's still good stuff.
O'Reilly Reviews at Amazon
The General has found the best reader reviews of Bill O'Reilly's new book for kids at, written in light of the blowhard's, er, trouble. Hilarity.

UPDATE: Looks like those have been erased at Amazon, which apparently doesn't suffer sarcasm lightly. At least the General has preserved them for your reading pleasure.
President Gore
Most of the problems President Bush has caused for this country stemmed not from his belief in God but his belief in the infallibility of the right-wing Republican ideology that exalts the interest of the wealthy, and of large corporations over and above the interests of the American people. It is love of power for its own sake that is the original sin of this presidency.
Gore's term is almost up. A Kerry win will be especially sweet for him, I'm sure.

Monday, October 18, 2004

New Zogby Battleground State Polls
Either Kerry is going to wipe the floor with Bush, or Zogby is going to have to re-think his new "interactive" polling method.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

From the NYT:
The president who lost the popular vote got a real mandate on Sept. 11, 2001. With the grieving country united behind him, Mr. Bush had an unparalleled opportunity to ask for almost any shared sacrifice. The only limit was his imagination.

He asked for another tax cut and the war against Iraq.

The president's refusal to drop his tax-cutting agenda when the nation was gearing up for war is perhaps the most shocking example of his inability to change his priorities in the face of drastically altered circumstances. Mr. Bush did not just starve the government of the money it needed for his own education initiative or the Medicare drug bill. He also made tax cuts a higher priority than doing what was needed for America's security; 90 percent of the cargo unloaded every day in the nation's ports still goes uninspected.

And more sanity (via a Kos diary) from the great state of Kentucky, an endorsement from Ballard Morton:
For nearly 50 years, I considered myself a Republican. I usually voted for Republicans, and I voted for George W. Bush in 2000. I have deep family roots in the Republican Party. My father, Thruston Morton, served as a Republican U. S. senator from Kentucky and also served as national chairman of the Republican Party. My uncle, Rogers Morton, also served as national chairman of the Republican Party, served as a Republican in the U. S. House of Representatives, and served in the cabinet under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

I cannot in good conscience vote for President Bush in this election. What he has done since his election in 2000 goes against the values I treasure both in terms of leadership and in our nation. He has not done what he said he would do. He has lost my trust and my respect.

He is not a strong leader. He is a creature of the neoconservative ideologues who surround him. He chose to go to war in Iraq under false pretenses, turning responsibility over to the military with no plan to win the peace. He refuses to admit mistakes, let alone learn from them. His campaign is based on fear.
Alot of good news could be coming from KY on Nov. 2. I think a win over Senator Bunning, looking more and more likely, will give Democrats the Senate.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Electoral Math: Too much time on my hands edition
A head cold kept me from going door-to-door today for Kerry, so I did a little calculating.

Start with this premise: 11 states are up for grabs. All the rest will go as expected. Perhaps one or 2 of these don't deserve equal toss-up status, and perhaps some (like PA) deserve to be tossups. But I'm going on the assumption that a PA loss leaves Kerry with little chance anyway. The 11 I'm counting as tossups are: FL, OH, MN, WI, CO, IA, WV, NV, NM, NH, ME. If the others go as expected, that gives Kerry 224 electoral votes, needing 46 to win.

Believe it or not, there are 8,192 possible win-loss combinations including those 11 states (giving 4 possible EV outcomes for CO with amendment 26: 0, 4, 5, and 9; and 4 possible outcomes for Maine, where the vote is split: 0,1,3 and 4).

The good news is that 5,084 of those possible combinations (62%) result in Kerry getting those 46 votes and the Presidency, while the other 3,108 give Bush the win.

Winning Florida is a part of 3,816 of those winning scenarios. So, 75.1% of the Kerry victory combinations require a victory in Florida. A win there raises Kerry's chances to 93%. The extension of that is that in winning Florida, Kerry only gives Bush 280 ways to win out of the 3,108 winning Bush scenarios. Losing Florida is bad for Kerry (dropping his chances from 62.1 to 31%), but it's worse for Bush (dropping his chances from 37.9% to 6.8%) with this set of tossup states.

Winning Ohio is a part of 3,207 winning Kerry scenarios. A win in Ohio raises the chances to 78.3%

Winning both OH and FL assures a Kerry victory.

Losing both OH and FL leaves Kerry with only 109 possible winning scenarios out of the original 5,084(dropping his chances to 5.3%). Of those longshots, all but 6 require winning both MN and WI. All but 3 require winning both NV and WV, perhaps the least likely 2 Kerry states on the whole list.
Bush's Holy War gets a boost
I will never understand why some say that muslim fanatics will try and sway the US election in Kerry's favor. They finally have the war they wanted, with recruitment material through the roof. Isn't that why Osama attacked? To provoke the US into a holy war? Why would they want to cut it back now?

So news like this can only help Bush's chances, whipping up Christians even more, and casting this conflict as the holy war Bush believes in.
Five churches were hit in a string of bomb attacks before dawn that seemed designed to intimidate the country's small but deep-rooted Christian community, already shaken by a deadlier series of bombings of churches that killed 11 people in August.

"If they don't want us in Iraq, let them say it and we will leave," said Samir Hermiz, 40, standing by a Catholic church reduced to ashes. "I'm really thinking of leaving Iraq."

Iraq's 650,000 Christians, about three percent of the population, are mostly Chaldeans, Assyrians and Catholics.
What reasonable argument says that targeting Christian churches will turn the American public against Bush? I assume just the opposite.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Calling any KY readers?
From here, it looks like Bunning has totally lost it. And the local papers are talking about it. Kenny T are you still out there? How does it look on the ground--is he going to win anyway? I read that Dems are swooping in with money.
Ugh. The South rises again.
The front page of the Tennessean today has a big headline: "Remark on Cheney's daughter draws fire"(the story is strangely missing from the website). Out of all the things Bush said that were outrageous: the lie that he "never said" he was unconcerned about Osama, the chuckle and sarcastic remark about 45 million Americans without health insurance ("I hope it's not the Administration's fault"), the media is now in full frenzy over Kerry invoking the Vice President's daughter in an attempt to humanize a discussion on homosexuality. She was probably the first gay person to pop into his head. And there's a reason for that: Dick Cheney himself has talked openly on the campaign trail about having a gay daughter, and it was an open issue in the VP debate, and Cheney seemed to have no problem with it.

So, their outrage is bizarre. But there is a very real visceral reaction against Kerry on this point. I've heard it from many people and felt a pang of grimace myself when he said it. Liberals (non-Southern at least) are missing the point of why this is costing Kerry so heavily. And it is. My fellow liberals are guffawing at how Republicans sound silly now defending the honor of gay people. But that's not what they are doing. The people who are offended are so on the parents' behalf. They think having a gay daughter is akin to having a child with a facial deformity, or a drug problem. So people here are angry and--to be sure--changing their vote because they think Kerry was impolite in his own ambition. Down here, that's the kiss of death.

But didn't Edwards get away with mentioning it? Yes, but remember he couched his reference in effusive praise for the Vice President and his wife and the way they've handled the issue. You could almost feel Edwards and the audience feeling sorry for the Cheneys. And the Vice President got to thank Edwards for his expression of sorrow. That's why it flew perfectly well here. Kerry, on the other hand, just stated it matter-of-factly. For the Southern sensibility, he might as well have said "even the Vice President has a horribly disfigured daughter. have you seen her?" Is that the totally wrong-headed way to hear both Edwards and Kerry's remark? Absolutely. But, many people who don't consider themselves anti-gay still frame homosexuality subconsciously as a difference of quality, that it's a "condition." So they can hear the remark as impolite, without feeling the anti-gay sentiment at the heart of that reaction. I even cringed myself--not sure if it was my own sense that he wasn't being polite, or just a recognition that it would become a political issue.

Is this really a stupid non-issue? Yes. It's bewildering that some undecideds could think this is an important revelation of Kerry's character in a way that all of Bush's lies, and irresponsible decisions, and demonstrated incompetence are not. But let's face the facts about these strange voters: by definition, someone who is still undecided thinks about very different things than you and I do. That's why if I was advising Kerry, I'd tell him to apologize. Get out on Saturday and offer an apology directly to the Cheneys for upsetting them, to get into the Sunday shows, and let's get this story over with. Remind everyone that it had been a campaign issue already so he thought it was a good way to humanize the issue within the conversation that the VP and Senator Edwards had already started, but he never intended to offend them.

The Cheneys "outrage" is what's truly offensive. They are the ones that in my opinion have slandered their daughter by treating her mention as an embarassment. But we've got to suck this one up. The truth is that Edwards knows how to talk around sensitive subjects to people in the South, and Kerry does not. He should probably be glad for that--the Southern brand of polity is a horrible curse. But today, it's hurting us.
Election Fraud Conspirator: Bush Regional Director [UPDATED]
Maybe this will help firm up New Hampshire and Maine against Bush:

The unindicted co-conspirator in a 2002 election fraud case, which has already yielded two felony guilty pleas, is none other than Jim Tobin, New England regional chair of Bush-Cheney 2004, according to court documents filed Thursday by the New Hampshire Democratic Party and now reported by the Manchester Union Leader.
[UPDATE]He resigned. Not because they just now found out, of course, but because it finally became public.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

2 New DNC Ads
Via Kos, there are 2 powerful Internet ads using last night's debate footage. I wish these would get on TV--afraid Internet ads are just friends passing to friends. But they're worth seeing. Check out "Not Funny" and "Exaggeration."
Something weird is going on
We watched the debate on a small TV last night, to keep an eye on the Red Sox on another tube, and so I missed what alot of people are talking about. More than one website, and not just the loony wacko left sites, has commented on Bush looking sad (like emotional sad), and having a bit of spittle hanging on the side of his mouth. He apparently also still had whatever thing has been on his back.

And now a lip reader claims that Bush said to Kerry he wanted to talk to him, people who have watched replays agree, at least in part.

Anyone else get a closer look at the debate and see anything funny? Probably nothing, but there's alot of weirdness surrounding the Pres.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The ad I wanna see
I have to admit, I thought Bush won this debate, but I'm glad most people don't agree with me. He seemed more energetic, kept Kerry on the defensive more than he was, and Kerry missed a boat load of chances to get really tough with him. And all that fluffy stuff at the end played to Bush's strengths and Kerry's weaknesses.

But the best part came sadly too close to the beginning, when Bush just flat out said he never said he wasn't worried about Osama, when he quite clearly said that. Can we please get a DNC ad on the air right away with those 2 things right next to each other?

UPDATE: Atrios has the video. Let's get it into an ad.
Lessig v. Ashcroft
Professor Lessig has a brief note aimed at the Attorney General, in advance of his case, Kahle v. Ashcroft, which will be heard later this month.
Will Bush float the Dred Scott decision again?
The issue of Supreme Court justices is sure to come up tonight. Will Bush go back to his "Dred Scott" answer from last debate? As many have pointed out, it was a wink and a nod to pro-lifers. If he does it again, I hope Kerry calls him on it: Mr. President, of course neither of us would appoint a judge who agreed with the Dred Scott decision, which affirmed slavery. But if you believe the Roe v. Wade decision for women's reproductive rights is somehow the same as the Dred Scott decision affirming slavery, and condemning blacks to be less than human, why not be straightforward and say so.

Either Bush backs down and looks wimpy to his evangelical base, or he steps into it and looks like a nutjob to moderates, offending all African-Americans in the process.
Final Debate Worries [UPDATED]
Since it's the last debate, I expect all kinds of crap to be flying from Bush, because he'll never have to answer for it again. There is standard, expected crap about Kerry being liberal (that's the new old strategy), and about his health care plan being a big government-run plan (which is of course totally not true), and I hope Kerry has some well-rehearsed simple ways of demonstrating that Bush is just not telling the truth. [UPDATE: on that score, check out Kevin Drum's list of the top 5 Bush lies about Kerry's domestic agenda from the last debate. We're likely to hear them again.]

While he's dodging crap like that, he somehow has to hammer home the flawed Bush tax cuts without raising the spectre of increased taxes across the board. Republicans win on taxes, no matter what the truth is. If Kerry can't successfully block the big-taxing liberal charge (and it's hard to beat), this whole "domestic issues" debate could be a big tax trap. Everything will turn into "how's he going to pay for it?" and "Raising taxes on just the wealthy won't pay for all his programs; he's coming for your money next."

But what I worry about the most is some total surprise, that Bush will broadside him with some new baseless attack/misstatement, probably about taxes or maybe homeland security, or gay marriage. I'm not worried about Kerry being wrong about something, but if it leaves him unscripted he could meander, nuance (can that be a verb?), sound like he's equivocating and let slip a loser phrase like "global test."

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Know your Republican candidates
It's a Tuesday matching game! Send it to your friends!

How well do you know your Republican candidates? The choices are: A. President George W. Bush, B. House Majority Whip Tom Delay, C. KY Senator Jim Bunning, D. OK Senate candidate Tom Coburn, E. NY House candidate John Kuhl, F. TN House candidate James Hart

Which Republican candidate:
1) Espouses eugenics?
2) is having fantasies about teenage lesbians?
3)shows clear signs of pre-senile dementia?
4)shows clear signs of senile dementia?
5)Threatened his wife with shotguns?
6)Has been admonished by the House Ethics committee 4 times, and faces criminal indictments?

Monday, October 11, 2004

Concert plus Documentary on Sundance Channel tonight
The Vote for Change concert tour comes to a close tonight in Florida, as all of the touring groups (Springsteen, Dixie Chicks, Pearl Jam, REM, Keb Mo, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, and others) converge for a final concert. It's on the Sundance Channel tonight, preceded by a documentary about the tour by Albert Maysles and D.A. Pennebaker. I've read the film is not always terribly flattering of the performers, but is an honest back-stage look.
Keeping the SIN in Sinclair
You may have heard the Sinclair Broadcasting Group (the people that brought us the protest of Nightline's recitation of the Iraq War dead a few months back) is requiring its stations to run an anti-Kerry film in the days leading up to the election. The film was made by Carlton Sherwood, whose claim to credibility includes a book "exposing" the US Government's persecution of Rev. Moon.

Josh Marshall has the letter written by former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt to Sinclair executives. Kevin Drum links to the complete list of Sinclair stations (there are 2 owned and operated in Nashville). Matthew Yglesias has the phone number ((410) 568-1780) with Sinclair's automated response to the controversy--seems they're trying to make this qualify as a "news event" maybe with interviews after or something ridiculous like that.

Today's Times has a piece on the fiasco. Atrios offers the contact info of Sinclair execs to allow us to express our feelings, and also reminds us of the Sinclair president's affinity for hookers.

I bring it all together so you don't have to.

My thoughts are that TV stations seem to respond much better to phone calls than to letters/emails. If you want to take some action, I'd suggest calling your local Sinclair station and encouraging them to pressure the corporate parents to back off. Ultimately the local folks will have little say directly, but if we can inspire a bit more shrillness in their protests upstairs, it might have an impact.

Owned and operated Sinclair stations in Nashville are Fox 17 (615) 244-1717 and UPN 30 (615) 259-5630.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

"Al Gore" Song + Honky Tonkers for Truth
At the Michael Moore event last night (6,000 in Nashville!!) were 2 great things in addition to Moore himself. One, the Music Row Democrats are pushing an anti-Bush country song they played for us over the loud speaker from "Honky Tonkers for Truth." If this were an established act performing it, it would be a big deal, but I don't expect much to come of it. Still the're trying to get it on the radio. You can hear "I'm Takin' My Country Back" here. The lyrics are here.

The other was a funny song called "Al Gore" by local guy Robert Orrall of Monkey Bowl. Orrall opened up for Steve Earle and he happens to live near the former Vice President here in Nashville. You can hear the song here. If you were at the event, make sure you listen until the end when Gore himself makes an appearance. I missed it with all the cheering going on.
Weekend Poll Info
The Good News: Kerry leads the new Zogby tracking poll, 46-45
The Bad News: Bush leads the Rasmusseen tracking poll, 50-46

Good News: ARG has Kerry in the lead in Ohio (48-47), Florida (47-45), Pennsylvania (48-46). SUSA has Kerry narrowly ahead in Iowa (47-46) and Maine (49-47) and well up in Michigan (52-42).

The Bad News: SUSA gives Colorado a widening Bush lead (52-44) and makes Arizona look pretty well out of reach (54-41). Rasmussen gives Bush the Florida lead (51-47), and a lead in Wisconsin (49-46), and shows Michigan to be tied at 46.

Not-Sure-What-To-Think News: Colorado's Amendment 36 is 46-45 in favor of splitting the state's electoral votes, according to SUSA.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Debate Thread
What did you think? I liked how Bush thought the Dred Scott decision was a simple difference of opinion about property rights. So he vows to appoint only justices to the supreme court who agree with him (and the constitution) on property rights. Comforting, no? (here's hoping we here from Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton both on that one.)

10 points out of 10 to the President's debate team for--after having 3 months to think over the inevitable reprise of the "have you made any mistakes" question--essentially came up with "no, not really."

Seriously, my 2 favorite moments:
1. Kerry telling the audience "It's the military's job to win the war. It's the President's job to win the peace."

2. Bush offering Charlie Gibson wood. Huh huh.
Terror Management
A new American Psychological Society article (thanks Stevie T!) looks into the relationship between political preference and reminders of our own mortality. I should leave it to those accustomed to reading psych to tell us how compelling this one is. I have to admit to a heavy skepticism of this kind of interview-based study. Wouldn't the subjects have a decent idea of what the interviewer is getting at and adjust accordingly? I'd like to know more details about how the study was conducted. But it's interesting as is.
students were asked to think about their own death or a control topic and then read campaign statements purportedly written by three political candidates in an upcoming gubernatorial election. The candidates varied in leadership style. The charismatic leader stated: "You are not just an ordinary citizen, you are part of a special state and a special nation." The task-oriented leader stated: "I can accomplish all the goals that I set out to do. I am very careful in laying out a detailed blueprint of what needs to be done so that there is no ambiguity." The relationship-oriented leader stated: "I encourage all citizens to take an active role in improving their state. I know that each individual can make a difference."

After reading these statements, participants selected the candidate they would vote for in an election. Results were striking. After thinking about a control topic, only four of 95 participants voted for the charismatic candidate, with the rest of the votes split evenly between the task and relationship oriented leaders. However, following a reminder of death, there was almost an 800 percent increase in votes for the charismatic leader (31); votes for the task-oriented leader were unaffected, but the relationship-oriented leader's votes significantly declined.
Order of questioning in polls is also known to have an impact on how people answer, but it seems to say more about the questioner-answerer dynamic than it does about the reality of the person. I wonder if that's not inplay here as well. Wouldn't it be impossible to hear the questions and not actively speculate on what the tester is getting at? We're so darned suggestible that self-assessment is so very hard at times. But for sure I think Bush/Rove have used fear to their political advantage.

But I don't know psychology, or polling.
Taking the lead
Kerry seems to have pulled even with Bush since the first debate. I think another strong performance, if it raises serious questions about Bush, would propel the Senator into the lead. I would like to hear him raise some older evidence, which hopefully we've been holding in the back pocket:

1. Bush making a mockery of the search for WMDs. Remember the President making jokes at the Press dinner about searching for WMDs and not finding them? It was an outrageous insensitivity (can you imagine if Clinton had done something like that??), and Kerry could use this at the right moment as further support for the idea that Bush is not in touch with the demands for sacrifice he is placing on the military, while making jokes of the inaccuracy of the stated reason for going to war. More than 1,000 troops have died, and it's more than reasonable to think that we would not have gone at all, if not for the inaccurate intelligence he was mocking. I would love to hear him try and defend that joke. Plus, I doubt he would be prepared for that one.

2. Bush making these same promises 4 years ago. I hope Kerry has some specifics and can ask people to remember Bush saying that the tax cuts would create millions of new jobs, that he wasn't interested in nation-building, that he was for a patient's bill of rights, promised to address rising health care costs, would be fiscally responsible, and would reach across party lines to unite the country. Bush's policies have had none--none--of the promised outcomes, either because he screwed them up (like by not funding No Child Left Behind) or because they are simply flawed policies. Bush's tax cut plan simply does not work. We don't need any fancy new projections to demosntrate that. Just look at what happened when he got his way--just what Al Gore said would happen: exploding deficits, raiding the social security trust fund, transfer of taxes to local bodies raising the middle class tax burden, for starters.

All of that goes hand-in-hand with these newest failed promises in foreign policy, like "we'll be greeted as liberators." This administration simply does not live in the real world - they are not able to project a policy into the future and predict the outcome with even the slightest accuracy. They don't understand the effects of their policies on ordinary Americans and on the world. They are blinded by their desire to see the world a certain way, unable to see it for what it really is.

3. His priorities. I would love Kerry to know exactly what the President's tax cuts on those making over $200,000 cost us as a nation. Instead of asking for sacrifices from everyone, Bush chose to go ahead with his tax cut plan, even after September 11, 2001. I wish Kerry could list all of the important things we could fund with that amount in homeland security or in Iraqi reconstruction/training. It's not just the international community Kerry would hope to unify in the fight against the terrorist threat, it's all Americans working together, and sacrificing what they can...even rich people. Instead, Bush decided the future can pay, and exploded the deficits.

4. "Mission accomplished." A campaign-driven photo-op masquerading as a foreign policy.

5. Letting Enron write the energy policy (in secrecy), and the drug companies write the prescription drug benefit bill.

6. "Bring it on." Now, they have.

7. Biggest of all. I want Kerry to mention that the President has watched poor intelligence communication lead to the largest terrorist attack in our country ever; watched bad intelligence all the way around lead us to war in Iraq thinking we were in danger, and that we would be greeted as liberators; watched the military dragged through scandal, and probably put in more danger, by the prison abuse scandals. And he has seen fit to fire nobody. Where's the accountability?

What do you want to hear Bush have to answer for?

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Via MyDD, watch this powerful speech on the House floor by Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan. They were debating a military draft proposal (that's right....a draft proposal), and the President has taken the opportunity to say he's against it and has no plans for a draft, against all common sense, when considering his military strategies taken to their logical conclusions. Understandably, rumors have been floating through the college student ranks about an inevitable draft under a 2nd Bush term.

Rep. Ryan responds to the Republican outrage over such rumors, and says exactly what needs to be said: we don't believe the President, and we have good reason not to. Having watched a little too much C-Span in my day I can say with true couch-potato-like authority that we can only wish the US House of Representatives might regularly be used for speeches this good.

While I'm on the subject of the draft, Howard Dean is offering a new online petition that reads: I demand to know how George Bush plans to guard the homeland, protect against threats abroad, and stabilize and occupy Iraq -- without resorting to a draft. Sign it here.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

New Zogby State Polls: better to be up by 0.5% than down.
Just released. Looking good but terribly close. Tennessee is basically tied again. Woohoo!

Still, if all these things actually happened, Kerry wins in an electoral college landslide.
Pot. Kettle.
Cheney on Gore in 2000:
"He seems to have this uncontrollable desire periodically to add to his reputation, to his record, things that aren’t true. That’s worrisome and I think it’s appropriate for us to point that out."

But, really, honest, Cheney presides over the Senate on "most Tuesdays" (if by most Tuesdays you mean twice in the last 4 years).

Yeah, it would be worrisome to have a serial exaggerator in the White House. He might overstate a threat, or claim a mission has been accomplished when it has not. Why, we could be taken to war unnecessarily should a known liar be in the Administration!

UPDATE: Remember the "hometown newspaper" Cheney referred to, that has "taken to calling" Edwards "Senator Gone"? Well, not really. Not really his hometown newspaper. Not really taken to calling him that.
Most Tuesdays
So we already know that Cheney made up the part about never having met Edwards before, how about the part where he said he is "in the Senate" (since he's the presiding officer...) on "most Tuesdays?"

Also, completely made up. In the last 4 years, Cheney has been the presiding officer on 2 Tuesdays. 2. How many times has Edwards himself been chosen to be the presiding officer in Cheney's absence on a Tuesday? 2.

Sure, it's a trivial point (as was Cheney's) compared to the serious problems the country faces. But it continues the confirmation of Cheney as a serial liar (WMDs, Saddam-9/11, no financial interest in Halliburton), who says whatever he thinks will achieve the intended result.
If you've tooled around online since the debate, you probably already have seen Cheney's 2 funnies. One is that not only has Cheney met Edwards before, they sat together at the National Prayer Breakfast. There are pictures.

But my favorite is Remember Cheney trying to direct people there? Click the link for a laugh. We can only hope that 400 million people visited.

I suppose he meant, not that that's a whole lot better for his position.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Meeting Cheney in the Senate
Missed Edwards opportunity...when Cheney blabbered about never meeting the Senator on the Senate floor, why not point out that Senator Leahy says meeting "F-You" Cheney on the Senate floor is not that great an experience.

Other debate highlight...Did Cheney actually say that the "antidote for poverty" is a "good-paying job"? Why didn't we think of that? All this time I had my money on unemployment checks being the cure....or maybe even minimum wage jobs. Who was right under our nose the whole time: good-paying jobs are the answer!
Tuesday afternoon reading/questions/thoughts
This was a much better post 5 minutes ago, but Blogger ate it, and there's no time to retype. Anyway:

1. Does anyone watch VP debates other than the fully-engaged-and-decided types? I think not. The goal is to not make negative news for tomorrow, and to try to get your opponent to. On that score, I'm predicting a draw.

2. We need(ed) more troops in Iraq, Bremer criticizes, then backs away. Rove must have incriminating photos.

3. New Tom Waits CD out today. Can't wait to hear it.

4. Quote of the day: "...there is no remaining shred of doubt that another four years of a Bush presidency would have a toxic effect on American politics. If George W. Bush is re-elected, unlimited corporate power, cynicism, and division will ride high in the saddle." Who said it? Liberal crazy? Campaign spinner? No. John McCain's advisor, who resigned and now endorses Kerry. It's another good link for wavering Republican/independent friends.

5. Is this the year? The answer starts at 4 PM EST.

6. Cool site/idea: Write letters-to-the-editor of papers that endorsed Bush in 2000. Remind them of what they said, and ask if they got what they expected. How about we each write one?

Monday, October 04, 2004

Will we be ready??
Stories like this one, about the avalanche of voter registration coming in, are everywhere. I am certainly biased but can't see how these new registrations, no matter where they are, could be a good thing for Republicans.

Is this just a reaction to the closeness of the 2000 race, where everyone on both/all sides knows now their vote could make the difference? Is this a September 11 after-shock, where everyone is now more aware of what's happening in the world? Are there so many new voters anxious to show their support for their President?

Until I'm proven wrong on November--if I am--I'm going to believe that the answer is simpler: masses and masses of angry, tired, ashamed, jobless, health care-less, war-torn Americans have had enough. They want to throw the bum out. And they will not be stopped. That's why I remain optimistic no matter what the polls say.

Would be nice if one of those polls asked for the preference of people who expect to vote, but never have before.
44 years later, stabbing victim dies
Luckily for me, I don't feel the same about Janet Leigh movies as I do about Elvis Costello records, though her last movie-in 2000-sounds like it would have already ended the love affair, had there been one (i'm guessing that film lived up to its name).

Luckily for American cinema, Gus van Sant's version of Psycho wasn't so popular that a whole generation of youngsters think now that Anne Heche is "the actress in the shower scene."

Also known as the mother of Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh was 77.
Deb--are you out there? now that your cellphone and email don't work, I've got no contact info. If you gave me your new phone/email I either lost or forgot, or both. The other people on this site can confirm my penchant for being both careless and forgetful. Insert personal testimony below. (on second thought, maybe not...)

Saturday, October 02, 2004

New Newsweek Poll...Kerry 49, Bush 46 [UPDATE]
Click the priceless face for more details.

Kerry narrowed the gap on which would better handle homeland security, and the war in Iraq, and now slightly leads in the categories of better handling foreign policy, and, my favorite, "more honest" 45-43.

I've always said, though, that no poll is more reliable than Gallup. Especially now that--one week after showing an 8-point Bush lead, they now show the race tied...49-49
Jane Roh: The world's dumbest reporter
Not surprisingly, she works for Her debate coverage (via Eschaton) includes quotes from Kerry supporters from "Communists for Kerry" and promises her readers that they "assured" her they were not a parody organization. A little common sense should assure her otherwise, and a tiny bit of research confirms the parody...

But not to stop there, later in the same story, she also quotes from a member of "Billionaires for Bush," another parody group. And while she refers to him as a Bush "supporter" (in quotes) she gives no other indication that it too is a parody group.

I would have thought that competition for world's dumbest reporter would have been fierce. Apparently not.
More Signs of Aging
Sign # 380: Awareness of culture's tectonic shifts. Your perspective allows you to notice gradual changes in things that you didn't use to think really moved.

When I started teaching, my kids were all mostly named things like Michael, John, Jeff, Andy, Christy, Laura and Melissa.

This year I have just over 80 students, and 70 of them are named Josh. Or that's what it seems like. The other dozen or so are Molly (or Mollie). Apparently, Josh is a long-term development. It remains at the top of the popular 2003 baby names. I have no kids names Lachlan, and never have, but it looks like I have that to look forward to in about 18 years.

Friday, October 01, 2004

But is it hard work?
I have a serious question. Obviously, part of Bush's pre-programmed message list included making sure we knew just how hard it is to be President. He said "it's hard work" 11 times. That aint' no accident. My question is: how exactly does that help him? What's the theory?

He didn't really respond to the substance of any of the charges Kerry made, other than to say essentially that Kerry's mixed messages were what could put us in a bad way; all he could say about his failures was that it's hard work. Is there some psychological angle I'm missing?
"When did it become good and when did it become old?"
Along with the Eternal Sunshine DVD that came in the mail on Wednesday, I also got the new Elvis Costello release, "The Delivery Man," and gave it a first listen last night before the debate. For those who aren't as familiar with his country proclivities, there may be some shock, or even dismay at times. But it's beautiful to me, the closest he has come in a recording yet to the way he sounds here in Nashville, on stage at the Ryman. He seems to love to croon Memphis-soul-country tunes here (or maybe he sings George Jones and Johnny Cash everywhere he goes?).

There were definitely a few throw-away tracks, but I was thrilled that he added on to the end of this pseudo-concept album his own rendition of his Oscar-nominated song from Cold Mountain. Wish he had taken his time with it a bit more, like he did live here last time I heard him. I love Alison Kraus as much as the next guy, but the expressive voices of Elvis and Emmylou Harris (!) make that little song much more alive. Would have been moreso a bit slower, but what do I know.

The sound of the first track blew me away--it's the one I can't wait to get back to right now. Unfortunately he never really gets all the way back to that modernized Delta blues texture. And, I am not the fan of Lucinda Williams that he is, so wasn't all that thrilled to hear her voice on track 3. But there are some brilliant tunes here, an album that's kind of a cross between his "King of America"(mostly) and "When I Was Cruel" (a bit) plus some new things.

Given his proclivity to grow on me over several hearings, I expect good things out of this, though the song-writing is maybe not as ambitious as North was, musically. Could be the first hearing is as good as it gets, you never know. Actually (sorry I'm rambling now) I've been looking forward to this one for a few years, since he sang "Heart-Shaped Bruise" and explained how it was going to be a part of a song cycle, or musical, that told a story called The Delivery Man. There isn't much overt evidence that he stuck with that plan, save the mysterious names that appear at the top of some of the pages of the liner notes, which I've decided are character names. I found his description of the project here:
Initially, Mr. Costello had planned "The Delivery Man" as an album that told a story, along the lines of Willie Nelson's "Red-Headed Stranger." The setting is a small town, perhaps in the South; the main characters are three women. "It's an imaginary place but so is everything these days," he said. "But they are three particular types of person. One who imagines herself wilder and more dangerous than she is. Another who is very restrained and pious. And a young woman, a young girl really, a teenage girl who hasn't decided which way she wants to go in life. And they all in different ways look for something that they don't have in this guy who just passes through their life."
The album was recorded quickly at Sweet Tea, a small stone building where the band set up and played as if it were on a stage. "No screens, no headphones," Mr. Costello said. "Using stage monitors. Just dealing with the bleed. You just turn up the instrument that's too quiet. That's all we did.

"It's the kind of rock and roll music that a man of my years can play without embarrassment. It doesn't sound processed. It's some guys playing in the room. I hate that expression good old rock and roll. When did it become good and when did it become old?"
I have to admit, I'm not much of a reliable source. There aren't many artists that can do no wrong for me. But I give alot of latitude to him (It took several Woody Allen clunkers in a row before I finally decided it was ok to call them that and to stop going to see them, and Elvis is nowhere near that). For reasons that probably wouldn't make much sense, his voice has become a kind of sacred life's blood for me. I need it about once a month, and new material once a year is perfect. Other artists speak to parts of me very clearly, but no others speak to all of me the way he does. Living in a world that didn't hold the promise of new Elvis Costello songs would be a grayer place indeed.