Couldn’t sleep. Ohio still too close to call. How could it be so close? Perhaps the answer is in the story of Ms. Medvedeva, a young, brown-eyed and curvy, a pediatric dentist who quotes 19th-century poetry and cooks delicious meals. She lives near the Caspian Sea in southern Russia but is eager to travel.”

Ms. Medvedeva is one of scores, perhaps hundreds, of fictional characters in a resurgent Internet hustle that has become a Russian boom industry this year. Using fake names, forged visas and snapshots of young Russian women, a new crop of on-line swindlers is luring Western victims into highly successful confidence games.

Each is an escalating flirtation between an unsuspecting man and a Russian grifter masquerading as a young woman. It typically ends when the victim wires money to Russia to pay for visas and airfare for a consummation of the affair. Then the beloved disappears.

Is America like all those men standing at the airport, roses in hand, waiting for their Russian bride? There is no doubt that at least 50% of the population has fallen for an elaborate con game, involving a fictional character, false hopes, and that we will all end up poorer for it. Perhaps the myth of the strong, powerful, steadfast leader is simply too powerful for reality to get in the way?


In any case, it looks like it will take several weeks before we know the result of the election.

The election could hinge on as many as 250,000 additional provisional ballots — cast by voters whose eligibility was unclear on Election Day — as well as tens of thousands of absentee military ballots. The provisional ballots are counted if the voters are later deemed eligible, but under state law they cannot be counted for 11 days. State officials said last night they would not declare a winner if the margin between President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry was narrower than the number of provisional ballots.

Kevin Drum is not optimistic:

Last I heard, the Ohio secretary of state estimated that they would end up with about 175,000 provisional ballots. At best for Kerry — making some fairly heroic assumptions about the bulk of the provisionals being the result of Republican challenges and so forth — they might split in his favor 65%-35%. That would break down to 113,000 for Kerry vs. 61,000 for Bush, a difference of 52,000 votes.

In other words, Kerry needs to be within about 50,000 votes in order for the provisional ballots to have any chance of tipping Ohio in his direction. Right now, he’s behind by 140,000 with 99% of the precincts reporting, so getting within 50,000 seems like a rather forlorn hope.

The next few weeks should be interesting….