Iraqi Airways resumed international flights for the first time in 14 years, with a plane taking off Saturday from neighboring Jordan for Baghdad and another leaving the Iraqi capital for Damascus, Syria.
Ernest Miller has put together a good timeline of the CBS/Rather affair. Useful, clear, with good links. (Thanks to The American Thinker). Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times categorically condemns CBS and Rather. Powerline continues to keep on eye on it all. And Jonathan V. Last considers the role that blogs have had on breaking the story for the Weekly Standard.
Mac Owens considers the great battle that took place on September 17, 1862 at Antietam, near Sharpsburg, Maryland. Over 6,000 Americans died, and 19,000 were wounded or went missing.
Wall Street Journal has some useful graphs showing the post convention bounce of candidates since 1984. "A review by Gallup of pre- and post-convention polls back to 1964 shows a tendency toward larger convention bounces among Democrats over Republicans and challengers over incumbents, and the candidate whose party holds its convention first also tends to get a slightly larger boost. Interestingly, in four of the last six elections, the winning candidate was the man who had the smaller bounce in post-convention polls -- meaning either he was far enough ahead to ward off his charging opponent, or he came from behind to win in the months between the conventions and Election Day."
The Los Angeles Times runs this front-page article on Thursday: "Long a Republican Bulwark, a Growing Arizona is in Play." O.K., that may be possible. It talks about how the state has grown, how many Californians, and Hispanics, have moved to the state, etc. But somewhere in the middle of this disengeneuous piece you discover that Bush that according to the latest poll is ahead by 16 points! Patterico says this: "Bush leads Kerry by 16 points, and the headline says a ’Republican bulwark’ is ’in play.’
I got news for you, L.A. Times. In California, a recent Rassmussen poll shows Kerry leading Bush, 50% to 42%. That’s a mere eight-point difference -- half the spread between Bush and Kerry in Arizona.
I look forward to your front-page article tomorrow: ’Long a Democratic Bulwark, a Growing California Is in Play.’"
I think this is wonderful writing by David Brooks. Read it yourself, and you might want to do so aloud, to get the full flavor. It is a consideration of the 600 or so people in the inner ring of Kerrys campaign, and why this vast empire that is trying to craft Kerrys creed is failing. Even Michaelangelos cant sculpt "the melted marshmallow of Kerrys core."
Kane Webb reflects on Kerry’s "Hail Mary" shakeup:
"On the surface, the return engagement of Carville-Begala "for one show only!" smacks of political desperation. A Hail Mary heave of a staff shakeup. What with this being football season and Arkansas being football country long before it was Clinton Country, let’s continue the gridiron analogy: It’s like a head football coach changing offensive coordinators a week before the opener. Never a good sign.
Dick Morris has speculated that the Clinton troops have infiltrated Camp Kerry as a way to assure defeat and clear the debris for Hillary’s inevitable ’08 run. But having watched the Clinton campaign up close and too personal, I think something else is going on here: ego. The Clintonoids can’t help themselves. They remember the good old days of ’92 and ’96. They saw Al Gore make a Florida of things in 2000. And they can’t sit on the sidelines again. They’re kind of like Joe Gibbs coming back to the Redskins. They see the team making so many mistakes, and they know how to win. Plus, it’s a free shot." Later, Webb has someone say, "They need wit. Very badly. Those guys [Begala, Carville, et al] have it." Webb consludes: "But even the world’s greatest gag writer needs a front man who can deliver the lines. Because a celebrity political consultant can’t be a celebrity unless his client can be, too."
CBS is reporting that the president has widened his lead over Kerry since its last poll, which was taken immediately after the Republican National Convention. Bush now enjoys a nine-point lead over the challenger.
The breakdown of voters is particularly interesting. It seems that a full 20 percent of self-described liberals are supporting Bush, as are 39 percent of union members. Women favor Bush over Kerry by 49 to 42 percent, and independents favor the president by roughly the same margin.
Democrats enthusiasm for their candidate continues to fade. Only 40 percent claim that they "strongly favor" Kerry, down from 54 percent in July. By contrast, 63 percent of Republicans "strongly favor" Bush--this, too, however, is down from July, when 70 percent claimed to do so.
Terrorism continues to be the presidents strong suit. Half of those surveyed expressed "a lot" of confidence in his ability to protect the country from another terror attack, compared to only 26 percent for Kerry. 54 percent continue to believe that the Iraq war was the "right thing" to do, up from 49% in August. The same percentage believe that U.S. forces should remain in Iraq "as long as it takes" to create a stable environment there.
What is perhaps most striking is overall voter assessments of the candidates. Kerry has only a 31 percent favorable rating, compared to 47 percent for Bush. The unfavorables are closer--Kerry 42 percent, Bush 38. But a solid majority (60 percent) are uneasy about how the Democrat would handle an international crisis, and only 30 percent think that Kerry says what he believes (compared to 55 percent for Bush). Fifty-seven percent say they have no clear picture of what the Senator intends to do if elected president, while only 44 percent say the same of the president.
The New York Times reports on its poll showing that Bush maintains his lead, 51-42% among likely voters, and 50-42% among registered voters. Bush has gained one point and Kerry lost one from their poll of a week ago. Note that this figure appears in the middle of the story. But, also note this: "In one particularly troublesome sign for Mr. Kerry, a majority of voters said he was spending too much time attacking Mr. Bush and talking about the past, rather than explaining what he would do as president. In contrast, half of the registered voters said Mr. Bush had offered a clear vision of what he wanted to do in a second term.
That finding, combined with an rising unfavorable view of Mr. Kerry, underlines the complicated challenge the senator confronts as he tries to attack Mr. Bush without alienating voters put off by negative campaigning."
This is the CBS report on the poll. Note this: "Voters in 18 battleground states favor Bush over Kerry by 53 percent to 39 percent." Also this: "There is further evidence that John Kerry’s support may be softening." In July 54% strongly favored Kerry, last week it was 45%, and in this poll it is 40%. There is more, most of it massively to Kerrys disadvantage; read it yourself. The CBS story is better and more detailed, but you can get the whole poll through the New York Times.
I am gone for the rest of the day, Hadley Arkes is giving our Constitution Day talk tonight. You can listen to it live by clicking here. It starts at 7:30 PM (Eastern).
Although there has been no shakeup in the John Kerry campaign, the WaPo makes clear that Bob Shrum has lost influence. Well, I guess maybe there was a shakeup.
The Belmont Club has more on Iraq, including how the order of battle has changed. Long and serious.
Lucas Morel brings the Iowa Electronic Markets to our attention. Says Lucas: "For what it’s (literally) worth, check out the graph of the 2004 US Presidential Election Winner Takes All Market. This on-line political futures market is run by the faculty at the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business. Anyone can play this market with real money, buying and selling contracts tied to real-world events--the presidential election being one of them. The aforementioned graph shows the history of bid amounts for contract payoffs to be determined by the popular vote cast (not electoral colege outcome) in the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election. After the election, a holder of a contract for Kerry/Edwards will receive $1 if the Democratic Party nominee receives the most popular votes in the 2004 U.S. Presidential election, $0 otherwise. Ditto for Bush/Cheney contracts. As of yesterday, the closing price for a Kerry contract (DEMO4) was $0.402, compared with $0.597 for Bush (REP04). For more info, see the Iowa Electronic Market." And here is the graph he mentions.
But this Pew Poll has them almost even among registered voters, with Bush ahead, 47-46%, with polling done Sept 11-14. Bush was ahead, 54-38%, with polling conducted Sept 8-10.
Rasmussen tracking has Bush ahead by 4 points, 49-45%. "Today’s results match the President’s largest lead since the spring. Senator Kerry has not been ahead in the Tracking Poll since August 23." You figure it out.
Andrew Busch explains that Kerry has a problem in the way he talks about Iraq, and a choice to make: "With seven weeks to go until election day, John Kerry remains unsure of how to respond to George W. Bush’s lead. Looking for an issue with which to gain traction, Kerry has begun arguing that the Iraq war has drained national resources away from pressing domestic concerns.
He is tapping into a potential source of real discontent, the concern by many Americans over the deficit and the ever-higher financial cost of the war. However, it is not clear that Kerry’s message will overcome the muddle in his campaign thus far.
Kerry faces two key questions. He must decide whether to continue and sharpen this line of attack or drop it and try something else. If he decides to continue, he must decide whether to emphasize that war money could have been spent on domestic programs or that it ballooned the deficit."
Terrence Moore reflects on C.S. Lewis Abolition of Man: "In my frequent encounters with teenagers, I very often find that the most moral ones find themselves on the defensive in our anything goes culture. Moral philosophy is therefore perhaps more needed today than it ever has been. Yet the standard way of studying philosophy does not necessarily meliorate today’s moral predicament. The method of reading one philosopher after another and identifying their various schools of thought (Stoicism, Epicureanism, Utilitarianism, etc.) only seems to support the relativists’ claim that even philosophers cannot agree on standards of virtue and vice.
This Mason-Dixon poll of Minnesota shows that Bush is ahead, 46-44%. And this Los Angeles Times story on the Minnesota race reveals that this was "once Kerry territory," and it doesn’t even consider the Mason Dixon poll. The last Republican to take Minnesota was Nixon in 1972 (51% to McGovern’s 46%). NOTE: I edited (5:30 PM the original post in which I had made two mistakes, one stupid, one a misread of a figure. Thanks to readers Travis and Gary for pointing them out. Very sorry.
Tony Coelho says there is a "civil war" within the Kerry campaign. "There is nobody in charge and you have these two teams that are generally not talking to each other." And: "If [Sasso] is in charge then Goddammit, say it and stop having the speculation of whos in charge because that’s worse. It also starts to impact in regard to the whole image of leadership. If someone can’t control a message in a presidential campaign, how are you going to be a good president?" There is plenty more, including a bit about money; but read the whole thing. Also see
The Washington Times. And note this Democrats opinion on how money is spent by the Kerry camp. He reflects on this comment from Coelho: "In the Democratic Party the consultants get paid for the creation and the placement of [advertising]. Republicans only pay you for the creation." Kos is angry, I gather. "Do you want a punchline? Shrum (and his firms partners) will be getting a $5 million cut for Kerrys media buys (another $3 million will go to other media firms used by the campaign). While some of that is undoubtedly expenses for creating new ads, the vast majority is not.
The lions share of $5 million of your own contributions going not to defeat Bush, but to line Shrums pockets. Does that feel right to you? And dont forget that if Coelho is right, Bush can direct more of his dollars to bash Kerry and the Democrats."
This Ken Auletta, not exactly a Bush supporter, interview in the New Yorker is related to his long story in the current issue (not available on line, its title is "Kerrys Brain") on the Kerry campaign, focusing on Bob Shrum. Both should be read to figure out what is going on in the Kerry campaign, or, if you prefer, why it has collapsed. Note how tight and secretive the Kerry campaign is:
"But where he’s [Bob Shrum] probably wrong, I think, is that he’s done what generals often do: he’s repeated the same strategy for one war without realizing there’s a different war. When the Swift-boat attacks came, in early August, the Kerry campaign waited before fully responding to them. Shrum’s philosophy was that, post-9/11, people didn’t have the kind of tolerance for negative personal attacks. That has been proved false, because Kerry’s poll numbers, as they related to that topic, dropped. I think the Kerry camp misunderstood the nature of the modern campaign, where you have the Internet dovetailing with twenty-four-hour cable news, creating this kind of echo chamber."
"But actually, by contrast, the Bush campaign was, in some ways, more open to me in answering questions than the Kerry campaign was. For instance, I asked the Kerry campaign how many employees they had. They refused to answer, like it was a state secret, and the Bush campaign was totally open about it. It was quite stunning. I think that the Bush people are very shrewd politically. I’m not saying that a lot of the Kerry people are not, but the Bush people understood that if they continued with Fortress Bush going into a Presidential campaign, if they were not more accessible to the press—whom they need now, but didn’t in the first three years of Bush’s Presidency—they would be hurt by it, and people would be talking about the secretive Bush White House. So they tried to change that story line; if you ask the Bush people now how many real volunteers they have, they answer exactly. It’s like pulling teeth to get that out of the Kerry campaign."
I almost forgot to mention this very important story: Kofi Annan says that the U.S. war in Iraq was "illegal." And this: "I think in the end everybodys concluded its best to work together with our allies and through the UN. I hope we do not see another Iraq-type operation for a long time - without UN approval and much broader support from the international community." Thank you Mr. Secretary General, thank you. Thats another 100,000 votes for Mr. Bush.
Jonah Goldbergs has a few precious paragraphs on the meaning of the conversation between Dan Rather and Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post.
The Belmont Club considers the apparent rise in fighting and American casualties in Iraq. He notes that many in the media are giving the impression that the place is falling into chaos. Not so, he argues by way considering both the number of casulaties and their pattern. Detailed, thoughtful. He will have more to say in the days ahead. Worth marking.
This is a good George Will column that explains in about eight hundred words why Kerry will not be elected president. It would be unfair to try to summarize it. It is a well crafted work of art that works as a whole. Just note a couple of pregnant phrases. For example, Kerry is "a casualty of the Dean Effect," and "Kerry also is a casualty of nuance-itis, which is a kind of house mold prevalent in the north wing of the Capitol."
Here is Andrew Sullivans opinion, a Kerry supporter, of the CBS statement: "I have to say that the risible statement given by CBS News last night finally did it for me. Who do these people think they are? They have failed to find a single expert who will back the authenticity of the memos; their own experts say they warned CBS not to go with the story; Killians secretary thinks theyre fakes ... and yet Rather and Heyward say they stand by their story and will continue to investigate the provenance and dubiousness of the forgeries! This beggars belief. How do I put this to Rather: it doesnt matter if the underlying story is true. All that matters is that CBSs evidence is fake. Get it? End of story. For what its worth: I believe Bush got into the Guard because of his dads connections. I believe he probably didnt perform his duties adequately in his final two years. When I first read the CBS story, I thought the docs were "devastating." Im not backing this president for re-election. But all that is completely beside the frigging point. Journalists are supposed to provide accurate evidence for their claims. CBS didnt. And its response to the critics is to stonewall and try and change the subject. The correct response - the one theyd teach you in kindergarten journalism class - is immediately to check the authenticity of the documents as best you can, and if the doubts persist, to apologize immediately and yank the story. Can you imagine what CBS News would do if a government official found to be peddling fake documents refused to acknowledge it? And kept repeating his story nonetheless? Theyd be all over it. But, you see, they are above politicians. They are above criticism. And they are stratospheres above bloggers who caught them red-handed."
Ratherbiased carries all the information you need on the CBS story; follow the links, which includes CBS’s statement. Also see Powerline. Hindrocket at Powerline says this: "Here is my theory. The documents are forged; we know it, CBS knows it, everyone knows it. So that is the context in which CBS is trying to figure out its next move. The general direction seems clear--they want to say that the documents may not be authentic, but the sentiments they reflect are true. So what they have ’redoubled,’ in Heyward’s words, is their longstanding effort to get the goods on President Bush’s National Guard service. In short, they are going to retroactively try to create the story that they wanted, but couldn’t get, and therefore settled for the forgeries."
"Will it work? Yes, in the sense that they will be able to do something other than admit guilt, apologize, and fire Dan Rather. No, in that everyone will know that CBS prostituted itself to try to help John Kerry, and on one--that is, no one who is not already a virulent Bush hater--cares about Bush’s National Guard service, especially given that 1) he flew fighter aircraft, which everyone admires, and 2) he completed his service and was honorably discharged."
Don’t forget to note the Washington Post story on Kinko’s in Abiline. I expect more statements from CBS. And here is a Rassmussen poll on the Rathergate issue. Many interesting facts, but just note these: 27% believe the CBS documents are authentic; 56% believe they are forgeries; 42% of voters have a favorable opinion of Dan Rather, about the same percentage that Kerry will get in November.
Good morning! In a local CBS poll in Illinois, Kerry leads Bush by only 4 points, 49-45%. "The turn in this election tide could set up a political stunner. Illinois is a Democratic powerhouse in national elections, and John Kerry does maintain a small lead in our exclusive CBS 2 poll, but President Bush appears to be gaining support among voters.
Illinois no longer looks like a sure thing for Democrat John Kerry. His once 13 percentage point lead is now down to four points. Thats exactly our surveys margin of accuracy, meaning the contest could be a dead-heat."
And in New Jersey, it seems that Bush might be ahead by 4 points, 49-45%. No comment.
"Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guaranteed by the Constitution and the one which, united with that of personal liberty, has contributed more to the growth of civilization than any other institution established by the human race."
Here is his Dollar Diplomacy Speech, 1912.
Ratherbiased thinks that CBS (theyre supposed to make an announcement at 5 p.m. today) will stick with its story.
"While the release is being carefully crafted with the assistance of the Viacom legal department, Dan Rather and his associates are directing members of the media to an interview which Rather did with the highly influential New York Observer media columnist Joe Hagan in which the 72-year-old anchor blasts his critics in no uncertain terms.
I think the public, even decent people who may be well-disposed toward President Bush, understand that powerful and extremely well-financed forces are concentrating on questions about the documents because they cant deny the fundamental truth of the story, Rather told the paper. If you cant deny the information, then attack and seek to destroy the credibility of the messenger, the bearer of the information. And in this case, its change the subject from the truth of the information to the truth of the documents.
This is your basic fogging machine, which is set up to cloud the issue, to obscure the truth, he said."
Here is the Joe Hagan article mentioned.
Rome - A leading Vatican cardinal said on Tuesday that terrorism was a new world war and fighting it may involve the loss of some civil liberties.
"We have entered the Fourth World War," said Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vaticans Council for Justice and Peace, saying he believed that the Cold War was World War 3.
"I believe that we are in the midst of another world war," he said in comments published in Italian newspapers on Tuesday.
"And it involves absolutely everyone because we dont know what will happen when we leave a hotel, when we get on a bus, when we go into a coffee bar. War itself is sitting down right next to each and every one of us," he said. (Thanks to
Peter Kirsanow says there are a bunch of questions reporters should be asking of Kerry. One example. Question: You now state that Iraq was "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time," yet just a few weeks ago you stated that knowing what you know now you’d still authorize the war. Why would you still vote for a war that is wrong?
a. If the war was wrong, do you maintain Saddam should still be in power? If not, how would you remove him?
b. Which of the following is your primary objection to the Iraq war:
(1) that it shouldn’t have been fought?
(2) that it was in the wrong location?
(3) that the timing was bad?
c. If your answer’s either (2) or (3) above, where should the war have been fought and when?
Kerry talked with Imus this morning. I heard a bit of it. Very unimpressive. Later, another reporter asked Imus what Kerry said in response to Imus’ questions on Iraq. Imus said: "I don’t know." Imus still supports Kerry. It is not clear if he knows why.
According to Agence France-Press "Syria tested chemical weapons on civilians in Sudans troubled western Darfur region in June and killed dozens of people.
The German daily Die Welt newspaper, in an advance release of its Wednesday edition, citing unnamed western security sources, said that injuries apparently caused by chemical arms were found on the bodies of the victims."
ABC News has more, a lot more, on CBS.
"Two of the document experts hired by CBS News say the network ignored concerns they raised prior to the broadcast of a report citing documents that questioned George W. Bushs service in the National Guard during the Vietnam War." I have heard that CBS was to make some sort of announcement sometime today. It will not be pretty.
Sullivan nails it:
"This new story seems to me to show reckless indifference to the truth in the pursuit of political pay-dirt. Honestly, you cant make this stuff up. If a couple of years back, someone had predicted that a) Howell Raines would be brought down by a fabricating affirmative action hire; b) the BBC would lose its director-general because of shoddy anti-war propaganda tarted up as journalism; and c) that Dan Rather would flame out over forged documents designed to wreak revenge on the Bush family; then I would think it was Brent Bozell having a wet dream. But its all true. Bernie Goldberg, pour yourself a drink. Eric Alterman, just go home and cry."
Someone the other day predicted that this is exactly what would happen. The documents would be proven fake, yet their content would still be held true. Hence this
New York Times headline: "Memos on Bush Are Fake but Accurate, Typist Says." Perfect. The first two paragraphs:
The secretary for the squadron commander purported to be the author of now-disputed memorandums questioning President Bushs service in the Texas Air National Guard said Tuesday that she never typed the documents and believed that they are fakes.
But she also said they accurately reflect the thoughts of the commander, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, and other memorandums she typed for him about Mr. Bush. "The information in them is correct," the woman, Marian Carr Knox, now 86, said in an interview at her home here. "But I doubt, she said, pausing, "its not anything that I wrote because there are terms in there that are not used by Guards, the format wasnt the way we did it. It looks like someone may have read the originals and put that together."
Andrew Sullivan is on the affair dRather, and he is very harsh on CBS and Rather. As far as he is concerned Rather has already resigned. And, he is also very clear on what journalism is, and what bloggers do.
"Journalism is not a profession as such. Its a craft. You get better at it by doing it; and there are very few ground rules. By and large, anyone with a mind, a modem, a telephone, and a conscience can be a journalist. The only criterion that matters is that you get stuff right; and if you get stuff wrong (and you will), you correct yourself as soon as possible. The blogosphere is threatening to some professional journalists because it exposes these simple truths. It demystifies the craft. It makes it seem easy--because, in essence, it often is.
Bloggings comparative advantage has nothing to do with the alleged superior skills of bloggers or their higher intelligence, quicker wit, or more fabulous physiques. The blogosphere is a media improvement because the sheer number of blogs, and the speed of response, make errors hard to sustain for very long. The collective mind is also a corrective mind. Transparency is all. And the essence of journalistic trust is not simply the ability to get things right and to present views or ideas or facts clearly and entertainingly. It is also the capacity to admit error, suck it up, and correct what youve gotten wrong. Take it from me. Ive both corrected and been corrected. When you screw up, it hurts. But in the long run, its a good hurt, because it takes you down a peg or two and reminds you what youre supposed to be doing in the first place. Any journalist who starts mistaking himself for an oracle needs to be reminded who he is from time to time."
Tom Raum of AP writes a piece that will cause the Kerry campaign folks to lose much sleep. The piece is relatively carefully written, but is still too revealing and Kerry’s decline is now an entirely public matter. The conversation, the news, the matter of politics from now on until the election is that the Kerry campaign is crippled, or hobbling, or finished. Raum states this: Bush has put some states that everyone for many months--in hushed quasi-religious tones--had been saying were part of the battleground states out of play. Max, there are only ten battleground states left to fight over, and some of those are already out of play, in my opinion. They include: Ohio, Florida, Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, Louisiana, North Carolina, Washington, Maine, New Hampshire. Bush is now focusing on Michigan, Pennsylavnia, Minnesota, New Mexico. Kerry is now worried about the so-called second tier of battleground states, and within two weeks he will be worried about California and Oregon, and such, imho. Terrible campaign, terrible candidate. TV ads like this aren’t going to help Kerry. Amazing.
Unsurprisingly, I find the Belmont Club analysis of the Rathergate issue very good. See sections, "The End," and "The Truth Shall Set You Free." Of course, the links are worthy. He doesnt think that CBS can maintain the truth of their story one day longer. Good paragraph:
"Viewed from this angle, it is easy to see the role the alternative media has played in the conservative movement. As a mouthpiece or propaganda organ the Internet is, as Stanely Kurtz points out, still largely inferior to the Mainstream Media. But as an organ of accurately understanding the world, it is vastly superior. This has allowed conservatives to outmaneuver liberals time and again, to understand, for example, that neither Afghanistan nor Iraq were Vietnam; to see that the United Nations was a sham, among other things. In many ways the Mainstream Media is a liability to the liberal cause, a profoundly effective way of deceiving themselves. The Killian memos are fakes. And thats part of our world."
Scott Johnson of Powerline will be on Britt Hume tonight at 6 p.m. (Eastern) to discuss Rathergate. He says that he will not wear his pajamas.
Strategic Vision has Bush ahead in Ohio by 10 points (52-42), and has Kerry up by 4 only points in New Jersey. The Boston Globe reports that the Kerry campaign is looking more and more toward Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota, and less and less toward Ohio, for example. In short, they are conceding Ohio, in my opinion. Or, to put it more dcelicately: "In short, Kerry is no longer expanding into Republican turf as much as he is defending his own." Also note that the AP is reporting: "Sen. John Kerry on Tuesday hired Bill Clinton’s former press secretary, Mike McCurry, adding yet another adviser who worked for the two-time Democratic presidential winner." Oh, and one more thing: Gallup has Bush up in Wisconsin by 4 points, 49-45%. And then there is yet one more. In Pennsylvania Rassmussen has Bush up by 1 point, 49-48. That’s a shift of 5 points.
Eric Claeys’s post yesterday about Cass Sunstein’s critique of blogs brought to mind a column from last week’s Washington Post, brought to my attention by E. Frank Stephenson over at Division of Labour. The subject is a new book by Swarthmore University psychologist Barry Schwartz, in which the author claims that as the number of choices available to people increases, the less likely they are to be pleased with the choices they make.
A fair point, admits Stephenson. After all, wouldn’t shopping at Wal-Mart be a lot more pleasant for me if the shelves weren’t full of items I’m not interested in? But the problem emerges in determining what choices should be eliminated from the menu.
Even if by dumb luck the person or agency deciding on what products would no longer be available managed to correctly eliminate the infernal sweet potato from my choice set, some unlucky sweet potato lover would be worse off. Ultimately, we’re better off allowing consumers as wide an array of choices as their purchasing habits make it worthwhile for stores to provide.
Thune is leading Daschle, 50-47%. I also heard that the GOP is about throw big money into the race. It dont look none too good for Daschle, do it?
This might be worth noting. Israel has sent intelligence officers to Russia and is hosting at least two senior Russian officers in Tel Aviv.
The historian Lance Banning demolishes Gary Wills "Negro President": Jefferson and the Slave Power.
Gallup find that Bush is ahead in Wisconsin by 8 points among likely voters, and 4 points among registered voters. His lead has widened from the last poll just before the GOP convention when Bush led by 3 points among likely voters.
It seems that the ordinary media is catching up with the bloggers; note this from the Washington Post (title: "Expert Cited by CBS Says He Didn’t Authenticate Papers"). It will open the floodgates. Also see John Podhoretz. I am told that Dan Rather defended himself both last night and this morning. But Newsweek and others are already working on the story. Although they have been pushed into it--a little late--but they are now in it. It’s over for Dan and whatever moral authority he once had, thanks to the guys in pajamas.
I guess he is in Arizona today. The local GOP calls it his "farewell tour." This may not be too inaccurate given that Arizona went for Bush by 6% in 2000, and the polls have him ahead by 16 points, and Kerry has pulled his campaign ads. But Edwards is working on it. Where should he go next? North Carolina?
Evelyn Nieves writes a longish piece on what Teresa Heinz Kerry is doing with herself, or rather, what the campaign is doing with her. It turns out that--unsurprisngly--she is kept to small events; they are attempting to tamp down her profile; it is a balancing act, because she is a cause of "some concern" to the campaign. This ever-so-thoughtful, deep, exotic, but tempestuous woman who likes to talk about her third-world origins, speaks (whispers, really) about health care and womens issues to the already converted. Isnt she great, as this husband used to say, that is, before the chaos set in. We are now promised that she will soon, once again, speak to larger audiences, more publicly. We wait.
USA Today recounts the issues and questions surrounding the question whether or not the National Guard documents are forged. John Fund praises the guys in pajamas and says that CBS is stonewalling. Bill Safire recounts the whole messy episode, says there is a preponderance of doubt about the documents and suggests that CBS investigate. He recommends courage to Dan Rather. The pajama guys at Powerline continue to follow it all, of course. And Elihu Grant brings Madison, Jefferson and even Dante into it. Clever.
Andrew C. McCarthy takes apart John Kerrys position on the 9/11 Commissions recommendations. He thinks it is outrageous that Kerry wants the Commissions recommendations adopted tout de suite without elaborating. And, no one is asking him to. "After two decades in the Senate, Kerry is bereft of notable lawmaking accomplishments. Nonetheless, he has touted his membership on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from 1993 to early 2001 as a powerful presidential credential. But that stance could not be more at odds with the 9/11 commissions findings."
I had missed this Mark Helprin piece from 9/10 in the WSJ. A hard opinion:
"Three years after September 11, where do we stand?
Out of fear and confusion we have hesitated to name the enemy. We proceed as if we are fighting disparate criminals united by coincidence, rather than the vanguard of militant Islam, united by ideology, sentiment, doctrine, and practice, its partisans drawn from Morocco to the Philippines, Chechnya to the Sudan, a vast swath of the earth that, in regard to the elemental beliefs that fuel jihad, is as homogeneous as Denmark.
Too timid to admit to a clash of civilizations even as it occurs, we failed to declare the war, thus forfeiting clarity of intent and the unambiguous consent of the American people. This was a sure way, as in the Vietnam era, to divide the country and prolong the battle."
I received an updated Worldwide Caution statement from the US Consular office in Baghdad, which was issued by the State Department. Included in the message was the following:
The Department of State remains concerned by indications that al-Qaida and affiliated groups continue to prepare to strike U.S. interests abroad. Al-Qaida and its associated organizations have struck in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Future al-Qaida attacks could possibly involve non-conventional weapons such as chemical or biological agents as well as conventional weapons of terror, to include explosive devices.
This message supercedes a previous warning issued on April 29, 2004. I checked quickly on the State Department’s web site, but I could not find the old warning message, and therefore I could not confirm whether the prior message included the WMD language.
Too many of you are hitting me for saying a favorable word about the poet Ted Kooser for me to ignore. And John Derbyshire at NRO doesn’t hold back either:
I don’t want to rain on Ted Kooser’s parade, but that poem you posted was -- how should I say it? -- cringe-inducingly awful. Quite apart from the fact that it employs not one -- not one! -- of the huge inventory of tricks and techniques that English-langiage poets have so painstakingly built up this past 1500 years, it fails quite basic tests of grammar -- unintentionally, so far as I can tell.
Look at this, for instance: "her hair still damp at the neck / from washing it." Grammatically, this means that the lady’s hair washed her neck. I suppose that could be made to work as a poetic conceit, but there is no sign Kooser is trying to accomplish that (or could if he tried). The signs are, that he does not have a very good grasp of English grammar. Similarly with "a raincoat, an old one, dirty / from not having money enough for the cleaners," whose meaning is that the raincoat did not have enough money for the cleaners. Oy oy oy. This man is the representative of American poetry for the next twelve months? The Muse weeps.
Apparently, it was only about a year ago that scientists discovered how insects (water skimmers) walk on water; they’re not heavy enough to break the surface tension of water. Water striders move by pushing down on the surface of water enough to create valleys but not enough to break the surface. The water then bounces back like a trampoline to push the insect forward.
Now scientists have created a robot that walks on water: "With inspiration from nature and some help from research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a research team led by Carnegie Mellon engineering assistant professor Metin Sitti has built a tiny robot that can walk on water, much like insects known as water skimmers, water skaters, pond skaters or Jesus bugs." See this AP story.
A short interview with Ted Kooser of Nebraska, the new poet laureate. I like him. After making clear that he doesnt read much European poetry, he is asked this question: "As poet laureate, don’t you think you should be better acquainted with European poetry?" Kooser: "Think of all the European poetry I could have read if we hadn’t spent all this time on this interview." Here is one his poems, "Flying at Night."
Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.
Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies
like a snowflake falling on water. Below us,
some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death,
snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn
back into the little system of his care.
All night, the cities, like shimmering novas,
tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his.
R.W. Apple, Jr. writes in the New York Times
of Kerry’s problems in Ohio. He quotes Gerald Austen, long-time Cleveland Demo consultant: "I smell the same New England genius that I smelled in the Dukakis campaign in 1988. Kerry wants to run as a man of the people, and where do they put him for photo opportunities? Snowboarding in Sun Valley, shooting skeet in the Ohio valley, and windsurfing off that great working-class vacation paradise, Nantucket. Democrats - at least Ohio Democrats - play softball and touch football." Also notice Michael F. Curtin’s comment (publisher of the Columbus Dispatch) regarding whether or not Ohio is a bellweather state:
"Since 1948, Ohio has slowly become less of a barometer. On average, it has voted 1.7 points more Republican than the country has. The last Democrat to run stronger here than he did nationally was Lyndon Johnson in 1964."
Glenn Reynolds thinks comments like Austens may indicate that the Demo establishment is giving up on Kerry.
Mark Leibovich writes in the WaPo that Bob Shrum (Kerrys campaign chief), and his supporters--if he has any--are hoping to reverse the curse: Shrum is 0 for 7 in campaigns. Kerrys campaign is in chaos. If you give enough Maureens a typewriter, eventually they come up with a good essay; Maureen Dowd may have this time. "Its a remarkable feat, but teeter-tottering John Kerry is even managing to land on both sides of the ambition issue." And thats just the first line.
Tom Rosenstiel thinks, correctly, that network news has lost its authority. Powerline agrees but gives some deeper reasons: "We believe that the networks are still spinning and that the end of the era is the result of (1) the depths to which they are willing to sink and (2) the emergence of rival sources of information to point out these depths." I think these two points are essentially right. And I think the latter point--emergence of rival sources of information--is the most significant. We have known for a long while--remember Dan Rather in the ’80s claiming each and every night that the economy is going to collapse and that Reagan was in trouble?--that network news was badly slanted, but it is only in the last few years that rival sources of information (not only cable, but the internet) have emerged. Note how the latest mischief by CBS on the National Guard documents was immediately called into question by Powerline, Hugh Hewitt, and other bloggers. They can’t hide anymore. Here is Los Angeles Times’ recounting of how bloggers--less than an hour after the "60 Minutes" broadcast was off the air--ran with the story. But, of course, to get the L.A. Times story exactly right, you had better check with an authority like Powerline for clarifications and necessary additions. More, and with elegance, at the Belmont Club. "After all, mounted cavalry was the aristocratic weapon and the longbow that of the despised yeomen, the medieval equivalent of bloggers in their pajamas. It took Crecy, Poitiers and finally Agincourt to bring home the fact that the longbow threat was real."
How did Shakespeare become Shakespeare? Stephen Greenblatt thinks he knows, even though the ordinary biographical evidence is vague, to say the least. Although there are great dangers to doing what Greenblatt attempts, it is still irresistable reading. A sample: "After patiently sifting through most of the available biographical traces, readers rarely feel closer to understanding how the playwright’s achievements came about. If anything, Shakespeare often seems a drabber, duller person, and the inward springs of his art seem more obscure than ever. The work is so astonishing, so luminous, that it seems to have come from a god and not a mortal, let alone a mortal of provincial origins and modest education.
And yet one of the prime characteristics of Shakespeare’s art is the touch of the real. Even before a gifted actor makes Shakespeare’s words come alive, those words contain the vivid presence of actual, lived experience."
Greenblatt has a new book out, Will in the World, which Adam Gopnik considers favorably for The New Yorker. Also a good read. We are seeing Measure for Measure tonight with the Jane Austen Society, by the way. More on this later.
Here is Michael Barone’s short take on the Democrat’s real problem: Kerry’s change of positions.
Matthew Scully thinks that Clinton’s example (not his operatives) is what Kerry should use to re-group. "Bill Clinton - to offer a few comforting words for the patient - never gave the impression that the presidency was his by right. He never displayed that air of entitlement you sense sometimes in Kerry supporters - so full of loathing for Mr. Bush, and so surprised and indignant when others don’t share it." Even
Dan Balz admits that Kerry has a problem; Kerry has "a smaller battlefield upon which to contest the presidential election and a potentially more difficult route to an electoral college victory than his advisers envisioned a few months ago." He outlines Kerry’s problem; the numbers of battleground states have shrunk for him (that’s why they have pulled ads from Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, and Arizona.
Of course, its now common knowledge that there is mounting evidence that the memos CBS used to challenge the presidents Air National Guard record were clumsy forgeries. Instead of trying to rebut that evidence--a difficult task, I admit--some Bush-haters are choosing the ad hominem route by attacking the credibility of Sandra Ramsey Lines. Lines is an accomplished forensic scientist, a fellow of the American Association of Forensic Scientists; in fact, she is editor of a scholarly journal put out by the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners (yes, there is such an organization). Surely she is qualified to offer a judgment on the authenticity of the documents in question.
But wait! It turns out that Sandra Ramsey Lines has also donated money to a Republican organization called the WISH List. Aha, the left-wing blogosphere has exclaimed, Lines is a Republican, and therefore cannot be considered an independent expert. This is just another part of the vast right-wing conspiracy, right?
Well, not so fast. There is evidence that she has given money--$345, to be precise--to the WISH list. But is this some ultra-right-wing group, dedicated to God, guns, guts, and runnin out th librels? Hardly. At its website it bills itself as "Americas largest fundraising network for pro-choice Republican women candidates." And have a look at the list of contributors--it includes Planned Parenthood of Arizona.
Damn, Ill be glad when this election is over. My blood pressure cant handle much more of this.