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I walked over to a neighbor’s house to retrieve Gnat’s Princess Barbie doll. She’d left it there earlier while playing. It was dank out. I like dank. October has its glories, but the real truth of the month is a night like Saturday saw – a vile wind, low skies, sodden heaps of leaves shining in the gutters like some indistinct and disorganized reptile. Half the trees are bare; they’ve gone ahead on their own schedule. A few trees have lost none of their leaves and all of their green. If each week is a cycle of breath, next week will inhale all the color, exhale only brown. And after that, bare wires scraping the cloud for contact. Then the snow.

So I walked along, looking at all the lawn signs. Kerry. Kerry. Kerry. Kerry. A Kerry sign in Spanish. “Hope is on the way.” That’s nice. I could use some. I had spent the previous evening dealing with annoying computer problems – had a backup drive go south, which makes two this year. Later I'd tried to edit some video, only to discover that the Canon Elura 40 MC has gone back to its bad old ways, scrambling the tape into jagged hash. That’s 2 weeks worth of stuff I’ll never get back. I have a service contract, but it is notably useless when it comes to rewinding the spool of time so I can recapture the moment when Gnat put on a crown at Burger King and did what appeared to be the Funky Chicken, the Mashed Potato, the Frug and the Batusi in one alarming spasm. People didn’t know whether to applaud or put a tongue depressor in her mouth.

And it got better! When I connected the fried drive to another Mac, it worked perfectly. Hope isn’t just on the way, it’s here! So I figured I’d transfer all the data to the backup Mac, burn it into DVDs, reformat the drive, put the data back. But the ancient backup Mac's CD drive has chosen this moment to expire. The drive tray will not close - it keeps sticking its tongue out like a robot programmed to imitate a Mr. Yuck sticker. It has joined the choir eternal, it has. Go to CompUSA; buy a new one. (Sixty bucks! Good Lord, China is making everything but a profit.) Install. Ah hah: the drive door is exactly 1/32nd of an inch larger than the faceplate of theold machine; the door will not open. Remove faceplate. Run drive. Ah hah! No Mac drivers available. I found some magical omnidriver program on a German site, installed, and crossed my fingers.

So yes, hope would be nice. I’ll take two scoops. With sprinkles on top. And a pony.

Walking to get the Barbie, I thought: I am cranky. Everyone was cranky. Gnat was tired and cranky; my wife was a bit cranky, the dog couldn’t find a pee spot, which made him frantic and annoyed. My rationale for crankiness was the least impressive; I was tired and somewhat ill. I had stayed up too late the previous night fast-forwarding through “28 Days,” waiting for the moment when a character says “you know, in retrospect, having a lot of guns about would have been bludey useful when you’re overrun by facking zombies, raht? Facking raht, mite.” But no matter how many times I watch the movie hoping it will improve, it always gets worse. And then there’s the cold. A brand new one, freshly coined. I zinced up enough to keep it from swamping the gunwales, but feeling slightly sick is a world away from feeling normally healthy.

But Hope is on the way! Perhaps it will be delivered door to door. Here’s your hope, sign here . . . and here . . . annnd here. Thanks! Enjoy your hope. Or perhaps we will claim our hope from the Central Hope Distribution Node, where ruddy grinning stevedores will sing union anthems as they toss out bales of hope from the back of a truck. It’s a new day, brothers! Marginal tax rates are goin’ up and Yassar Arafat’s on his way to the White House for Summit number one! My union would be there; they sent me a voter’s guide – paid for with my dues, of course – that convincingly established to my satisfaction that Bush wants to suck the bones of dead infants and blow spit bubbles with the marrow. Whereas John Kerry will create 10,000,000 new jobs. No specifics given in the union mailing, but do you need any?

Hope is on the way! As I pass each sign I wonder what sort of Democrats my neighbors are. Normal ordinary Democrats who want the best for everyone, and have come to the conclusion that higher taxes, more education spending, increased environmental regulation, more government involvement in health care, and greater integration into the European-led global order is the way to move us forward? Probably. But which ones are Michael-Moore fabulists, warmed-over Sixties sorts whose hearts hold a seething Chomskyite loathing for the West, and will countenance anything that rubs soot in our mad staring eyes? And by anything, of course we mean this sort of delightful commentary from the Guardian:

On November 2, the entire civilised world will be praying, praying Bush loses. And Sod’s law dictates he’ll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr - where are you now that we need you?

A benevolent God, you see, would prefer Bush dead and Saddam in power. Once the article got out in the world, the editors sounded the retreat. Oh, you silly Yanks who took us seriously. Original article has been flushed down the memory hole. The apology:

The final sentence of a column in The Guide on Saturday caused offence to some readers. The Guardian associates itself with the following statement from the writer.

"Charlie Brooker apologises for any offence caused by his comments relating to President Bush in his TV column, Screen Burn. The views expressed in this column are not those of the Guardian. Although flippant and tasteless, his closing comments were intended as an ironic joke, not as a call to action - an intention he believed regular readers of his humorous column would understand. He deplores violence of any kind."

You got caught, in other words. Look, you lackwits: we’re not that stupid. Of course it was an ironic joke, at least if you define “joke” as “mirthless adolescent japery along the order of drawing a Hitler moustache on your teacher’s yearbook picture.” What’s noteworthy is that it got through in the first place. Slid through like mercury down a mirror, probably. No one gave it a second thought. Stands to reason any sensible person would want the tosser done away with, no? Sure, assassination is rather crude and déclassé – the assassins usually have stupid motives, which changes the subject; who can forget the dismay one felt when Hinckley turned out to be a nutter stalking some actress? (On the other hand, that was helpful in an odd way, since one could go on hating Reagan without being lumped in with old daft John.) Sure, Booth was a little off, and granted he did shoot a President who was down on that ghastly slavery business, but he had a sense of style! Shouting a Latin maxim after he’d done Abe – count on an actor for that. And style counts. Image matters. Ask Che. Or rather the people who trademarked his picture.

Anyway, let’s tote up the number of American “TV writers” who’ve called for the assassination of Tony Blair. None? Of course. We’re too crude for ironic jokes.

But! Hope is on the way, if you’re Canadian. The CBC interviewed Bill Maher, penseur et savant, on the election, and he was quite clear. (Via Van Der Leun.)

CBC: First of all I have to ask you something that everyone wants me to ask you which is what are the five things Canadians should know about the American election?

I don't know about five things but I think what Canadians should know about the American election is that you're lucky you don't live here. You don't have to participate in this sham democracy we have, you know? I mean I could tell you about, I could tell you five ways we don't really have a democracy in this country

Is there a word for men who dis their wives in order to get into a naive teenager’s pants? No? C’est dommage. Here’s one of my favorite responses (the question is irrelevant, since they all tremble with horror that grips right-thinking people when they consider the Beast coiled beneath the peaceable kingdom of Manitoba.)

Maher: You're being logical, dear. You're not thinking like an American. OK? Johnny Depp said this was a stupid country. And then he made me very mad and he took it back. Well, I say it. I don't take it back. It's stupid. Really stupid. It's about the marketing, don't you know? It's not about what's real. It's about what they market to people. I mean, they were able to morph bin Laden into Hussein.

Yes, just like we morphed Tojo into Hitler. And here to my astonishment the interviewer interjected a long series of quote from newspapers and magazines from the 90s, all detailing the standard assumptions of the day about bin Laden, Hussein, terrorism, and the entwined tentacles that bound the two together.

Hah! Just kidding. The 90s never happened, except for a great economic boom that ended in 2001 when Bush took office and made everyone shut off their computers.

CBC: Why then do people, the polls indicate that this fear is leading more and more people to vote for George Bush or say they're going to vote for George Bush? Why would George Bush be the person they thought they would be safer with?

Maher: I refer back to my answer to question two, stupid country. Stupid. Because he appears to be resolute. He appears to be strong. He clears brush and he looks like the Marlborough Man.

(snicker.) Stupid Canadians who don’t know their cigarette brands. Stupid. Hey, got a Pleighers? Or an Egsport Eh?

CBC: I think there's been a couple of studies done about Canadians and this evangelical movement never got hold in Canada. We were just never, never, religion plays a very very small part –

Maher: To me, to me it's a real dividing line between people of intelligence and – not that there haven't been some intelligent people who are religious. I mean, T.S. Elliott was a great poet and he became a very devout Catholic… But I always call religion a neurological disorder. I really do believe that. I mean it's not criticizing. I'm just saying if you took religion out of it and somebody went to a psychiatrist and said you know I believe in you know this crazy, illogical thing, the shrink would say, well you have a neurological disorder. And you need to really get therapy or take a pill.

I love that – T. S. Elliott was intelligent because he was a great poet, you see. (Dr. Pound; calling Dr. Pound) The old hoary fallacy: achievement in art necessarily confers some sort of moral wisdom. Here you have Maher in all his fatuous glory – religion is a mental illness, but “I mean it’s not criticizing.” He’s just saying, is all. National Health Service passing out pills that suppressed your transcendental desires: Utopia!

Americans are dumb because Americans believe in God. Canadians are smart because Canadians believe in Canada. Bill Maher believes in Bill Maher. Print this out and put in your wallet for future reference.

Again, to repeat the point I’ve made in the last 3 years again and again: it’s not the dissent. It’s the thin, meretricious, self-satisfied quality of the dissent. This is like Tom Selleck giving an interview and saying, “Well, Americans are too stupid to see Clinton for what he is, and they can’t find Bosnia on a map, and the ones who can are all gay atheists, you know.” He'd be held up as a parochial idiot, but Maher's drivel resonates, because he is vibrating on the moonbat frequency. He's one step removed from the people who would see a mushroom cloud over Manhattan and blame it on Abu Ghraib. Ah well. These people will either have to prosper and live unmolested in a world they hate, or get the world they keenly seek. A rational sensible kindly peaceable world where evil can be regulated by pieces of paper and General Assembly votes. A world where “hope is on the way!” means that Kofi Annan has entered his private elevator.

Retrieved the Barbie. The father of Gnat’s friend said he’d enjoyed the Strib column about the lawn signs; I noted that the big Bush sign I’d mentioned had been defaced, then destroyed. He noted that his Kerry sign had been trashed, along with others on the block. We marveled at the idiocy of such things – who’s going to change their vote because a lawn sign was rearranged?

We left it at that. No need to proceed. We have at least two things in common – daughters and our neighborhood, and that’s enough. We’ll have them in common on November 3rd and 4th, and 5th and beyond. We’ll all get past this. Hope is on the way!

Barring recounts and legal challenges in ten states, of course. Unless you define “hope is on the way” as a fleet of lawyers fueled up and ready to shove their thumbs into the eye sockets of the electorial process and ensure that every president to come is regarded as an illegitimate usuper. Some do. How many, we’ll find out.