.. There surely is a God, and I wonder if He didn’t create this universe so it could lead up to the moment of absolute sublimity I am experiencing now. It’s not my surroundings that please, although they’re fine – the kitchen is clean, the dishwasher churning away, the flowers on the table still giving off a faint sweet scent. It’s not the knowledge that I can sleep an extra 15 minutes tomorrow morning and hence can watch some TV for the first time in five days when I’m done with this. It’s the three items to the left of my laptop: a small ration of Maker’s Mark, a wedge of Irish Cheddar Cheese, and some thin Italian meat derived from a pig. I’m not saying that the universe was designed solely to lead up to this moment of bliss, but I wouldn’t discount the idea right away.

Mmmmm. Man. That’s the other benefit of Atkins: cheese is no longer The Enemy. I’ve started exploring the options. I’ve always been cheese-curious, to be frank. But it’s a daunting world, and sometimes you commit to a wedge at the store only to find you don’t like it when you get it home. But this Irish cheddar – when I die, I want to be filled with this cheese. I want people to see the box lowered in the earth and think there goes a man who is great with cheese. If I’m going to feed the worms I might as well give them a banquet instead of sawdust and formadehyde . . .

Mmmm. Man. Wow.

I am tired. I am beat. Now that I’m on full-time dad duty I’m getting up three and a half hours earlier than I used to. But: Last year I needed a nap when my wife came home from work. No more. Hail Atkins! Have I mentioned that I have grown three inches and can speak Latin? Hail Atkins! But I think the diet has something to do with it; no more sugar highs and sugar lows, no more logy carb-processing sessions. Your mileage may vary, as the saying goes; I just know that before I was a pancake on the floor after a day with Gnat, and now I’m Bouncy Mc Bounce. Hail Atkins! Or the French Roast, which I am grinding so fine it actually disappears.

So . . . what’s up. What’s today’s beef. What’s today’s flavor. Ordinary March interval, chilly dank and rainy with teasing flashes of strong son. What else happened today?

Played. I can understand why some don’t like video games – what’s the point? All those hours spent clicking and mousing, and for what? I can see that; I feel the same away about opera: people striding around yelling in Italian. Does nothing for me. But I’ve been playing Halo again (on the Mac – a far superior experience than the Xbox version) and I realized that these games give you choices and situations real life never presents. Nevermind the fact that I will never find myself riding a commandeered alien vehicle and interrupt a battle between the Covenant and the horrid flood, and e forced to dismount and engage in a shoulder-mounted RPG duel. Goes without saying. But when the battle’s over, you scavenge for ammo. There’s lots of RPG ammo. There’s a rare sniper rifle, too. Since you can only carry two weapons, this means you’d have to drop your Trusty Shotgun for a sniper rifle, and your other weapon would be a rocket launcher. This is the worst combination you can have – two long-range weapons, nothing for close work when one of those gawdawful Flood bipeds comes running at you. But the game seems to suggest that this is what you should do, so you do it.

In a world where your choices are usually of the paper or plastic nature, this is a welcome change.

Parented. Spent the morning finishing a column while Gnat painted in her Bawbie coloring book and watched the Berenstain Bears. Odd, that; the Berenstains are a man-and-wife team, Stan and Jan, who did stuff for general-interest mags when I was a kid. They came up with the bears later in life, and that is their legacy to humanity, apparently. The Bear family consists of Papa, Momma, Brother and Sister. Understandable – but it’s unnerving when Papa calls his daughter “Sister,” and his son “Brother.”

The Berenstains were both born 80 years ago, and they’re still working. They’ve sold 240 million books. That’s astonishing.

Multitasked, domestically.

How the world has changed, con’t: picked up Gnat from preschool, went home to await her playdate guest. She shows up. Much squealing and running around and pink-pony parades while I put together some pictures in frames. (The house has nail-holes in all the right spots, and I’m gradually filling them all up.) Then it’s snack time; get the kids into the chairs, dole out cookies, pour milk, allow them to choose the straw whose hue pleases their sensibilities. Fights over the cookie. Meanwhile, the roofer has shown up to give me a bid on the garage. So here’s this guy who spends his time on roofs; runs a business, has his name on his hat. Former National Guard. A guy’s guy! And there I am putting together pictures and wiping up milk. Except . . .

He had his little girl with him too.

(Local note for people who listen to 1280, and wonder which roofer I picked from the two who advertise on the station: I did not choose the guy who has a reputation for ending his sentence on an inappropriate inflection;)

Cogitated & fumed. And here comes the politics, as Ben Affleck might say. Bail if you wish, but I advise you visit Photodude for perhaps the best end-all-be-all summation of the Martyrdom of St. Stern. Or check out the link of the week to the right, if you haven’t. Or just move along, giving me a jaunty wave that says “love the pop cult & domestic stuff, but sometimes you’re fargin’ nuts, you know? So I’ll be off now!” A cheery Irish-cheddar wave to you too. I do know this: I will try to be as reasonable as I can be, because we have eight months left until the election, and maintaining a vein-popping tone for thirty-two weeks is not something I wish to do. Look for me to go absolutely nuts in October, though. I mean gibbity-gibbity-gibbity nuts. My promise to you.

News wire story:

ASHINGTON - Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry called Wednesday for deeper tax cuts for the middle class than proposed by President Bush and described his Republican critics as “the most crooked ... lying group I’ve ever seen.” The chairman of Bush’s re-election campaign called on Kerry to apologize “for this negative attack.”

You really have to hear the recording for the full impact; Kerry drops his pitch, loses the patrician accent, and just sneeeeeers his words. (Apparently he thought the mike was off.) Hugh Hewitt wondered whether the story will be in the major media Thursday, and called it a “litmus test” for the papers and the news channels.

Well, I don’t expect anything aside from the NYPost or a few other papers, because it’s simply not going to register with the people who make news decisions. Here’s why: there’s an assumption that this is going to be bitter, mean, nasty, hair-pulling campaign summed up by the image of two monkeys in a cage flinging excrement at each other, and it’ll be tit for tat until election day. The truth of tit or tat isn’t the issueIf one party accuses the other of seeking a new low, well, that’s the story – not whether it actually was a new low. This puts the party that takes the high road at a disadvantage. If they don’t get down in the trenches, they get out-slimed. If they do get down in the trenches, they’re confirming what their opponent said about them, and what the media expected them to do. Or thought they had been doing all along.

If it’s played at all, I suspect this will be the angle: “it was a contentious week that began with the President’s controversial 9/11 ad, and ended with John Kerry’s unguarded characterization of his critics as deceitful.”

There you have it: tit and tat, the binary star system of modern political reporting.

AP has already decided that Kerry was talking about his critics, not the administration. Lede graf:

By MIKE GLOVER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (news - web sites) on Wednesday called for deeper tax cuts for the middle class than proposed by President Bush (news - web sites) and described his Republican critics as "the most crooked ... lying group I've ever seen."

And how does the AP reporter know that Kerry was talking about his “critics’”? Because the Kerry spokesman said so.

Kerry spokesman David Wade said the senator was referring to Republican critics in general. "The Republicans have launched the most personal, crooked, deceitful attacks over the last four years," Wade said.

Oh, well, okay! Move along, then.

Another story from the arena:

“Kerry, the Democratic nomination well in hand, is moving to engage Bush, and the president is returning the favor. The Massachusetts senator said Bush has resorted to personal attacks at an unprecedented early stage in the campaign.

"George Bush is running on the same old Republican tactics of fear — and they're already getting tired," he said. "But we have something better than attacks, we have the facts and we have the truth."

Okay: what are the personal attacks? Criticizing someone’s record is not a personal attack. “My opponent is a sad half-man who licks laudanum off the bellies of toothless syphilitic doxies” is a personal attack.

Let me put it this way: People say all sorts of things in elections. The underlings and infantry fire the cheap shots, and let the big dogs lope along the high road. But when the top officials of the party start slinging the slander, we’ve entered a different era. And no one seems to notice, because the story becomes the charge, not the nature of the accusation.

Accusing one’s opponent of treason is a personal attack. Al Gore accused Bush of “betraying this country.” Reasonable people could say he misled the country, or misruled the country, and make the argument to support the assertion, but “betrayed” is a word that has a special quality when talking about the President of the United States. I’ve heard General Wesley Clark question the President’s patriotism, and insist that his religious beliefs were misguided, because the Democratic Party is the party that truly hews to Christian doctrines. (Note to Hewitt: you HAVE to put that tape up on your site.) And of course we heard Governor Dean insert the “Bush was warned” meme into the body politic.

There’s nothing comparable on the other side. Nothing. I mean, the Bush team runs an ad that has a second of 9/11 footage, and his opponents pitch a carefully staged fit – because that’s all they have.

I’ll contribute $100 to the Heifer Project if Bush accuses Kerry of betraying the country. Another $100 if he accuses the Kerry camp of being corrupt liars. Oh, Kerry meant the GOP machine! Okay: $100 if Bush accuses the DNC of being corrupt liars. Oh, but he meant talk radio! Okay: $100 if Bush accuses the new liberal talk radio network of being corrupt liars.

I can imagine my mail already: Klymer! Clinton! Yellowcake! Plastic turkey! So I ask: imagine, if you will, that we’re at war. (Just pretend.) A Democrat president is attempting to pacify Krepistan, which has been shooting at American planes for a decade. The Republican candidate says he’s been in contact with foreign leaders who really want him to win, and is caught on tape telling a supporter he thinks the current administration is made up of crooked liars.

Think the New Republic might write a disapproving editorial or two?

Probably not. After all, didn’t the Democrat president note that his opponent failed to grasp the strategic importance of Krepistan? Tit. Tat.

Kerry’s said some amusingly tone-deaf things lately – wanting to be the second Black president, for example. I called it Senatitus in a Newhouse column – a condition characterized by an unnatural belief in the unimpeachability of your every utterance. Twenty years of saying anything in a room full of rich guys who aren’t really listening has to have an effect on one’s ego. No one ever stands up and shouts Balderdash! Poppycock! Fatuous twaddle, sir, and if you persist in this infantile display of specious drivel I shall ask for you to meet me on the field of honor at dawn. No one ever says “Hey, Bobby Byrd. Put a sock in it. Or put a hood over it. Whatever.” This might be why so few presidents have emerged from the Senate lately. Governors have to deal with state legislatures, whose composition ranges from the canny to the truly gruesome; they have to deal with local TV reporters. They have to deal with locals, period. Senators occasionally walk among the mortals, but they often have a hitch in their gait as through their robe snagged while descending Mt. Olympus.

One last thing: Kerry said this:

Though he always has opposed the death penalty, Sen. John Kerry said Tuesday that the Sept. 11 attacks made him realize that he would want to "blow Osama bin Laden's brains out."

And I agree wholeheartedly. So can we drop all the hand-wringing about Bush’s “Dear or alive” remark? We were told that this struck sensitive ears as “cowboy” rhetoric, after all. But you know, it’s more like the words of a sheriff who draws up the reward poster. Cowboys were not known for demanding the apprehension of criminals dead or alive. Wanting to “blow someone’s brains out” sounds like the words of someone who has the temperament of Paulie from the Sopranos.

And that is a personal attack. Sue me.
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