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Thursday, September 30, 2004

I'm thinking about it 

I thought the debate was the best in years, if not the best in memory. Both candidates did well, and reinforced their best tendencies. Kerry pounded hard at the competence question, focusing particularly on the weakening of our alliances as the consequences of the war and its run-up. Bush was convincing in his argument that resolution is in and of itself essential to winning a war such as this. If I were in a snarky mood, I might say that Bush advocates resolution, and Kerry advocates resolutions. But no matter. Kerry's strength is his weakness, depending on what you think of retrospective argument. He points to the problems in Iraq and the failure to catch Bin Laden, and thinks he can identify bad decisions that Bush made that put us in that position. Perhaps, but by arguing from retrospect Kerry requires you to believe that decisions that he would make without the benefit of hindsight would be in some fashion superior, and I just do not see how he has made that case.

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I'm over at Spoons 

Spoons is live-blogging the debate, and I'm in the comments there.

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Lefty blog sneak attack 

Jane Galt has the goods, spilled by a Democratic activist with very little understanding of security:
A highly placed source close to Asymmetrical Information was riding back from Washington D.C. on the train today, sitting behind some chap with a cell phone who spent the entire trip yammering away. This gent apparently worked for MoveOn/George Soros, and used his enforced train confinement to elaborate their plans for a co-ordinated push on the lefty blogs tomorrow. The focus of this multi-blog push is to be a Joe Klein article in Time magazine, which argues that the Bush administration is deceiving the country about how well Iraq is going.

Heh.

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Allah knows all 

Allah explains why we must never take the the mainstream media at face value when it claims that a "moderate" Muslim cleric has turned against the United States.

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Ann detects a pattern 

Recent polls show Bush ahead of Kerry by 9 points (CBS/NYT), 6 points (Gallup) or 3 points (Zogby). One Pew poll even put Bush ahead of Kerry by 16 points. The average of national polls has Bush 6 points ahead. Apparently, just like in Vietnam, it's taken Kerry only four months to piss off everyone around him.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Da bears 

Here's 30 quick seconds of low-grade hilarity. Run your cursor over any bear.

CWCID: Parkway Rest Stop.

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William Shatner makes fun of Iowa 

Candidly, this hurts.

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GDP, junk bond spreads and the election 

"Jane Galt" declares "unpanic time" for the Republicans on account of rising GDP:
[The Commerce Department's] revised estimate is sharply higher than the earlier one -- 3.3% annualised growth, instead of the 2.8% they originally predicted. In some sense it's silly to be glad, because of course, the GDP was what it was, and having the Commerce Department stick a number on it doesn't make Americans any more or better off than they actually were during the April-to-June period. But nonetheless, I'm going to let myself heave a little sigh of relief.

Apart from headline statistics tossed around by the government, there are some similarly interesting clues to recovery in high-yield debt default rates, which have declined from more than 10% two years ago and 6% a year ago to around 3% for the last six months. The "spread" between new-issue BB loans and U.S. Treasury securities of similar duration has declined from almost 400 basis points (i.e., 4%) in the fourth quarter of 2002 to a little more than 200 basis points (i.e., 2%) for the last six months. Both of these figures suggest that the credit -- or at least the liquidity -- of middle-tier American companies has improved considerably this year, which would be virtually impossible without significant economic growth.

(Note: TigerHawk received the above data via an investment banking pitch two weeks ago, which is why I post no link. If the information is wrong, I will naturally blame the bankers.)

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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Fedex Field and the Pennant Race 

I must interrupt the impressive and weighty series of posts from Tigerhawk with a frivolity, but man cannot live on political commentary alone. I returned today from Monday Night Football at FedEx Field in DC, where the Skins lost a close one to Dallas by a score of 21-18. It was my first professional football game in 17 years, so I don't have a lot to measure it by, but I was surprised to find the atmosphere to be quite intense, almost a playoff atmosphere. It was LOUD, and not all of it was generated artificially (although some of it was).

I was also surprised at how many Dallas fans were there, brazenly wearing their colors. Their presence became increasingly heard as Dallas built a lead it would never relinquish. I just kept thinking to myself that this would never be tolerated at Yankee Stadium. If such circumstances occurred in the Bronx, a lot of people would have been ejected defending the honor of the house that Ruth built. I guess Dan Snyder hasn't built up that kind of loyalty yet.

My benefactor in this case happens to have outstanding seats, and so I was also able to come away with the belief that the Redskins cheerleaders are world class. For the skeptics among you, I invite you to do your own research.

Meanwhile, Boston clinched the AL Wildcard spot yesterday, which lets baseball fans everywhere commence with their analysis of Boston's chances of winning it all. Godd pitching staff, anything can happen in a short series, yada yada yada. The Sox best focus on their next opponent rather than on vengeance against the Yankees, because the Twins, their likely first round opponent, took their season series 4-2.

Meanwhile, for those hoping for at least the possibility of a potentially mythic Redsox-Cubs World Series, the Cubs hang onto their 1 game lead for the NL Wildcard with 6 games to play. There is no point in making predictions at this point, especially after their inexplicable series loss the the hapless Mets last weekend. Every game counts, and if they win out they are in.

If the Cubs fail to make the playoffs, or go out with a whimper, the story will be the incredible disappearing Sammy Sosa, who seems to have lost the ability to even make contact with a thrown baseball. His impotence was pronounced on Saturday, when he was offered two opportunities with the bases loaded and struck out and grounded into a double play in a game the Cubs lost 4-3 in 10 innings. Not terribly unlike Nomar Garciaparra with the Red Sox last season, now that I think about it.

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Read Hitchens now 

Pointing toward THK's dark speculation that Bush was keeping Bin Laden in a pocket somewhere for production between now and November 2, Christopher Hitchens exposes the real scandal:
What will it take to convince these people that this is not a year, or a time, to be dicking around?....

The unfortunately necessary corollary of this—that bad news for the American cause in wartime would be good for Kerry—is that good news would be bad for him. Thus, in Mrs. Kerry's brainless and witless offhand yet pregnant remark, we hear the sick thud of the other shoe dropping. How can the Democrats possibly have gotten themselves into a position where they even suspect that a victory for the Zarqawi or Bin Laden forces would in some way be welcome to them? Or that the capture or killing of Bin Laden would not be something to celebrate with a whole heart?

Read the whole thing.

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What are our options in Iran? 

The Belmont Club puts the question, and is very concerned about a strike that doesn't finish the job, but only takes out say, two-thirds of Iran's nuclear operation in a bid to delay a jihadist bomb:
But what Glick does not say -- though it would perforce follow -- is that any strike would make it logically necessary to subsequently topple the Teheran regime by any means necessary. A second Osirak would prove to the Mullahs that they would have to use any nuclear weapons that came to hand before they lost it, a danger avertable only by eliminating the Mullahs. Bombing sites in the hope of delay would be like swimming into an underwater tunnel on a lungful of air hoping for an exit on the far side.

I agree, but for what other purpose would the Isrealis need so many precision-guided weapons?

We had to go to war in Iraq to prevent even the possibility of Saddam obtaining nuclear weapons (among other salutory reasons), because Saddam had such a history of reckless miscalculations that no rational person could conclude that he was deterrable. Can the same be said of the mullahs of Tehran? Can Washington, Tel Aviv or Baghdad count on fundamentalist Muslim theocrats -- people who endorse suicide as a means of warfare -- to act rationally in the face of theatened nuclear retaliation? The West faces that question right now. As Wretchard makes clear, we had better not get it wrong.

UPDATE (5:30 pm EDT): James Dunnigan reports on Iranian efforts to round up some low-altitude radar:
Iran is dangling lucrative future trade contracts at India in an attempt to get India sell Iran a new radar system that could better detect low flying warplanes. The Iranians are concerned not just with an Israeli air raid, but with the possibility of an American attack. India has been considering the request (a $70 million sale), but is under a lot of pressure from the U.S. to not do the deal.

I see an easy solution here. We give the Indians a "lucrative future trade contract."

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Jimmy Carter: Partisan hack 

Jane Galt has exposed Jimmy Carter, Nobel Laureate and citizen of the world, as just the next result-oriented political partisan. Here's a tidbit, but you really should read the whole thing:
Mr Carter, if you are going to rhetorically lump the US in with tinpot dictatorships that stage elections, there are a few things you might want to consider, so that the effect redounds to the greater glory of yourself and your party, rather than alienating the unwashed masses who will be voting in this sham election....

2) You should not, immediately after lumping Florida in with places like Saddam Hussein's Iraq, lambaste the Republican Secretary of State for undemocratically, illegally, and unjustly . . . allowing too many political parties on the ballot.

"The top election official has also played a leading role in qualifying Ralph Nader as a candidate, knowing that two-thirds of his votes in the previous election came at the expense of Al Gore."

Your outrage at the idea of a supervisor brazenly allowing people to vote for someone other than Al Gore might give people the mistaken idea that you care less about having democratic elections than having Democratic elections.

Although John Kerry, the national press corps and the 527s have all worked diligently to persuade us that this election is all about Vietnam, I think that this election is all about the presidency of Jimmy Carter. The establishment of the Democratic party nominated Vietnam medalist John Kerry (after flirting with Wesley Clark) because with a war on the Democrats needed to exorcize their reputation for weakness in national security matters (even if it is bizarre to think that an anti-war activist would meet that requirement). Whence did that reputation come? Surely not from FDR, JFK (the first one), or even Bill Clinton, who bombed the shit out of any number of disgusting places. It comes from Jimmy Carter, who as his first act as president pardoned the draft dodgers, who thought that boycotting the Olympics would make the Russians quake in their boots, and who dealt with the Iran crisis by wasting our military in a fantastically subtle rescue mission rather than run the risk that they might kill some "innocent" Iranians.

This election is also about the Carter legacy in other, more subtle ways. Jimmy Carter established our reputation among the Islamists for fleeing at the first sign of trouble. We may very well be at war today because Carter did not just pound away at Iran until it released our people. It is also, finally, about the value -- or profound insufficiency -- of the brand of inclusive multi-lateral internationalism that he advocates alone among the former presidents of the United States (living or dead).

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Monday, September 27, 2004

Allies by treaty only 

From the International Herald-Tribune:
France said Monday that it would take part in a proposed international conference on Iraq only if the agenda included a possible U.S. troop withdrawal, thus complicating the planning for a meeting that has drawn mixed reactions.

Paris also wants representatives of Iraq's insurgent groups to be invited to a conference in October or November, a call that would seem difficult for the Bush administration to accept.

This is the equivalent of diplomatic recognition of the terrorists who are killing American soldiers and murdering innocent Iraqis, all to prevent representative government in Iraq. The French have gratuitously dignified and emboldened our enemies, and can no longer be considered allies of the United States.

I wonder if anybody in the national press corps will think to ask John Kerry whether he supports the French decision to condition participation in the international conference on Iraq on the legitimization of the decapitators and suicide bombers who are trying to destroy its prospects for representative government. Does he consider this the act of a "friend and ally," or is there some new reason why we should blame the Bush Administration?

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Bush's denial vs. Kerry's blame disease, and whom you'd rather work for 

The Democrats have picked up on the media's longstanding theme that the Bush Administration refuses to admit that it has made mistakes, and refuses to concede that there is anything wrong in Iraq. Google "Bush refuses to admit" and you get all sorts of hits. I have never understood why these people want to hear a public confession of error as long as changes in policy reflect that the President understands that the first decision has not worked out -- and there have been countless such "silent" changes of policy even in Iraq, which is to the Democrats the signal example of Bush Administration failure. Nevertheless, the Democrats -- and probably some other people -- seem to think that Bush's unwillingness to confess error in public reveals some huge character flaw.

But does it bother these same people that John Kerry demonstrates a persistent knee-jerk tendency to blame his staff, the further down the hierarchy the better? Overtaken by Events (via Spoons) has catalogued John Kerry's history of shifting blame, generally on to the little guy. Remember when he fell down on the ski slopes, and then declared "I don't fall down" and accused his "son of a bitch" secret service guard of sideswiping him? Apart from the arresting stupidity of insulting the guy who is supposed to take your bullet, is this any way for a president to act? What about his claim to Outdoor Life, later withdrawn, that he owned an assault rifle? His staff's fault. The absurd picture of Kerry in a space suit? NASA's fault. I think Overtaken by Events is on to something here....

Of course, Kerry supporters will argue that Kerry's petty mistakes are not equivalent to Bush's denial over the historic problems in Iraq. Perhaps, but we have not yet been so brave as to give John Kerry a serious job where he might make serious mistakes. We can only take his measure by the way he handles the unserious mistakes he can make on the job as a Senator who rarely shows up when it matters.

So which is more troubling? A President who does not admit mistakes but does change course when necessary, or a president who will confess to a problem but reflexibly blame the little guy? I'm not sure I know the answer, but I definitely know which person I would prefer as my boss.

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October surprise? 

The Jerusalem Post is reporting that we have one of the really, really bad guys:
Top Bin Laden deputy Ayman al-Zawahri has been caught in Pakistan, according to a report from the region quoted on Israel Radio Monday.

If true, this is tremendously good news. I can hardly wait to here what Teresa has to say about it....

UPDATE: Allah, as usual, has more. He is citing other reports that deny we caught al-Zawahri.

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John Kerry loses a vote in Wisconsin 

Ann Althouse explains how John Kerry lost her vote. Her journey on this subject is not far from my own.

I would add, though, that I think that Kerry has suffered terribly from the prevalence of so many people who will blindly vote for "anybody but Bush." It is strange to say it, because the popularity of that preference may exceed 40% of the electorate from the get-go. You would think that Kerry could have spent his campaign carving out chunks from the middle. But I think that Kerry is so surrounded by ABB folks that he has thought certain arguments were self-evident and thereby failed to make the case for them. For example, he has bleated for a year about Bush's failure to get the support of our "allies" before going in to Iraq, as if that were some sort of self-evident shortcoming of the war when it isn't at all. The countries in question are Germany, France and Russia. Russia hasn't been our ally since World War II. Germany and France certainly have been allies in the legal sense, but many Americans (including me) think of them more as "beneficiaries" of an American commitment to defend Europe from Soviet aggression. The other "allies" that sent soldiers and money for the last war and not to this one were Arabs. They were never going to help this time, because however much they might have wished for Saddam's removal they strongly oppose our grand strategic objective, which is the political transformation of the region. Some things you just have to do on your own, or with the friends you have, and Americans who are not ABB understand that.

Kerry has made no argument that he can get allies to help us now other than to promise that he will because he -- not being Bush -- will be liked by them. He has also not told us what these allies will actually do for us, and why it is in our strategic interests, and theirs. I think there are such arguments -- Tony Blair made them with his usual eloquence yesterday -- but Kerry has not made them, or explained how he will expand the list from the allies he has insulted as a "trumped-up, so-called coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought and the extorted." He may in fact be able to do so, but since he has made it a central promise of his political campaign he can be sure that the "allies" John Kerry has in mind will extract an awfully high price.

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Sunday, September 26, 2004

Is Iraq a "low key" war? 

James Dunnigan seems to think so:
The "war" in Iraq is a low key affair. In the last two weeks, there have been about 70 "hostile incidents" a day, resulting in one or two friendly casualties (nearly 90 percent of the them Iraqi) per incident. The U.S. Department of Defense still refuses to release any official numbers on enemy casualties (although data on this is carefully compiled), but the enemy losses are believed to be 3-4 times higher. Even Iraqi troops, benefiting from superior training (particularly in marksmanship and tactics) are giving much better than they are getting. Increasingly, the fighting is occurring around the towns and neighborhoods that the anti-government forces call home. Increasing amounts of information from pro-government informers in these areas has led to daily smart bomb and artillery attacks on specific houses or compounds being used by anti-government fighters. Fallujah has been particularly hard hit, and the al Qaeda men operating in that town are taking heavy losses. American and Iraqi troops are also moving closer to Fallujah, with raids being conducted to take prisoners and capture documents and weapons. (emphasis added)

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Hot potato: 300,000 degrees 

According to the Telegraph, Syria has given refuge -- specific sanctuary, not just the turning of a blind eye -- to a group of Iraqi nuclear scientists. Now it is trying to dispatch them into Iran before it gets caught red-handed.
Syria's President Bashir al-Asad is in secret negotiations with Iran to secure a safe haven for a group of Iraqi nuclear scientists who were sent to Damascus before last year's war to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Western intelligence officials believe that President Asad is desperate to get the Iraqi scientists out of his country before their presence prompts America to target Syria as part of the war on terrorism.

I'll bet.

And lest you think that the Syrians got stuck with these guys against their will, consider the efforts to which they have gone to help them out:
The Iraqis, who brought with them CDs crammed with research data on Saddam's nuclear programme, were given new identities, including Syrian citizenship papers and falsified birth, education and health certificates. Since then they have been hidden away at a secret Syrian military installation where they have been conducting research on behalf of their hosts.

Now, though, Syria's President Asad is worried that we will catch him red-handed and is trying to trade the Iraqi scientists and their data to Iran.

Another Iraqi atomic scientist explained in this morning's New York Times why we shouldn't write these guys off as a bunch of incompetent losers:
Was Iraq a potential threat to the United States and the world? Threat is always a matter of perception, but our nuclear program could have been reinstituted at the snap of Saddam Hussein's fingers. The sanctions and the lucrative oil-for-food program had served as powerful deterrents, but world events - like Iran's current efforts to step up its nuclear ambitions - might well have changed the situation.

Iraqi scientists had the knowledge and the designs needed to jumpstart the program if necessary. And there is no question that we could have done so very quickly. In the late 1980's, we put together the most efficient covert nuclear program the world has ever seen. In about three years, we gained the ability to enrich uranium and nearly become a nuclear threat; we built an effective centrifuge from scratch, even though we started with no knowledge of centrifuge technology. Had Saddam Hussein ordered it and the world looked the other way, we might have shaved months if not years off our previous efforts.

By the summer of 2002, of course, the sanctions regime was collapsing under the weight of smuggling through Iran, Syria, Jordan and Turkey, and Kofi Annan's profoundly corrupt oil-for-food program, the most destructive financial scandal in history. There is no argument that this was not the case. As these articles make clear, the sanctions were, as a practical matter, the only thing that kept Saddam from an atomic weapon. We have confirmed the contemporaneous fears of anti-Saddam hawks in the West.

Since the prospect of Saddam with a nuclear weapon could not be ignored, in the summer of 2002 we faced three meaningful alternatives.

Sanctions. We could reinvigorate the sanctions and prod the United Nations into cleaning up the oil-for-food program. But that effort stood virtually no chance of success. Not only would it have required successful persuasion or coercion of Iraq's bordering countries, which were "earning" enormous profits by smuggling, but there was tremendous pressure in the West to lift the sanctions entirely. Some of that pressure came from France, which stood squarely in the way of Bush Administration efforts to impose "smart sanctions," and some of that pressure came from the activist NGOs, which blamed the United States and the sanctions for the misery of the Iraqi people. And they were miserable -- the general economic condition of Iraq was far worse than we had estimated before the war, which goes at least some of the way to explaining why the postwar reconstruction is taking so long.

Deterrence. We could eliminate the sanctions, allow Saddam to get his nuclear weapons, and hope to deter Saddam from deploying the weapon. There were, of course, three problems with this idea. First, Saddam was a nut, and probably sufficiently crazy that he was not deterrable. Indeed, he may have been almost uniquely undeterrable. He had a long track record of taking ridiculous risks in his aggression for all sorts of bizarre reasons. No sane leader in the West or in the Middle East could assume that Saddam would be deterred by the threat of retaliation. Second, even if we could deter Saddam from deploying his nuclear weapons, the price of doing so would have been very steep. We would have had to extend the American nuclear guarantee over countries that we might not want to defend. Would we really want to shoulder the responsibility of nuking Baghdad in the event that Saddam dropped a mushroom cloud over Riyadh? Third, even if Saddam were deterrable in theory, and even if we were willing to guarantee the destruction of Baghdad in retaliation for an Iraqi nuclear attack, the fact of Saddam's nuclear capability would have given him enormous leverage in the region. Would we have risked Desert Storm if Saddam had had a nuclear weapon? Given what Saddam had done to Kuwait, could we have massed 750,000 coalition troops in the desert against the risk that he would incinerate them? Highly unlikely. Deterrence was not an option.

Regime change. With sanctions collapsing beyond the capacity for repair and deterrence so fraught with risk, the only option left was to change the Iraqi regime. This might be done by assassination or other decapitating strike, the inspiration of domestic insurrection, or invasion. Unfortunately, assassination probably was not feasible -- Saddam was famous for his paranoia and security apparatus and we were famous for our inadequate intelligence assets in Iraq. And even if it might have been possible to take out the father, Iraq would have exploded in a struggle for power between the two hideous sons. Democrats who falsely bleat that Iraq is a "haven" for terrorists today do not like thinking about the chaos in Iraq after Saddam's death, whether by natural causes or otherwise.

Insurrection from within was also not feasible, the silly promises of Ahmed Chalabi notwithstanding. Iraq's military remained formidable for the region, even if it was laughable compared to a well-equipped Western army. Previous attempts to overthrow Iraq had failed miserably without American military support. Even if we had persuaded the various groups hostile to Saddam to believe us this time and try again, they could not have succeeded without massive American intervention. Then where would we have been? We would have "owned" a very different mess in Iraq, a country liberated from Saddam via the combined efforts of various rival groups and the American military, only with even fewer troops on the ground and even less capacity to impose security. As difficult as the last 18 months have been for Iraqis, it is hard to believe that it is worse than the chaos that would have followed a civil war fomented by America.

Of course, that leaves us with only one remaining option -- invasion, the least bad alternative. The time and manner of the invasion might have been different, the public argument in favor of invasion might have been more articulate, and the planning of the peace might have been more intelligent, but it is hard to see any better alternative, then or now.

CWCID: Allah and Captain Ed, both must-reads.

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There has to be a Yale joke in here somewhere 

'Yale conference examines Michael Jackson' - headline, Associated Press.

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Saturday, September 25, 2004

Sharp elbows over new Security Council seats 

European "unity" is fracturing over, ironically, the United Nations. Specifically, Germany is after 60 years in the closet awakening as nation that wishes to project power. Its own unilateralist era having passed, we hope, for good, its ambition is to express that power as a permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations. Italy isn't so sure it likes the idea, and that really annoys the Germans.

The Germans think they have a shot at a new seat because Kofi Annan has put forth a proposal to reform the Security Council by adding new "permanent" members with veto power. Germany, along with India, Brazil, Japan and an African player to be named later have proposed to join as permanent members under a plan endorsed by Britain and France, but rejected by Italy (among others). Germany is appalled on behalf of all Europe:
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said Europe would lose out if it was the only region not to have a new representative on an enlarged council.

Of course, Germany's plan would leave Europe with four seats (counting Russia as European, which I'm sure the Germans don't but I certainly do) out of ten, which seems a bit rich compared to all the Americas with two seats and the great masses of Asia with three.

It seems to me that the first requirement for membership in the Security Council should be the ability, and the willingness, to provide security. And not just in your own country, or in the nations on your borders, but anywhere in the world where evil men may do their work. We should ignore petty politically collect regional sensibilities, and deny a permanent seat to any country that can't put at least 30,000 soldiers on the ground anywhere in the world on reasonably short notice. The Germans, by their own testimony, cannot do this.

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Raising the stakes 

HehPosted by Hello


Just in time, if you ask me.

It astonishes me when people argue that American support for Israel is not in our strategic interests.

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Corruption of blood 

The lefty bloggers are running with the old story that Prescott Bush traded with Germany during World War II, rendered "respectable" in this article from The Guardian. Never mind that the links are extremely tenuous:
While there is no suggestion that Prescott Bush was sympathetic to the Nazi cause, the documents reveal that the firm he worked for, Brown Brothers Harriman (BBH), acted as a US base for the German industrialist, Fritz Thyssen, who helped finance Hitler in the 1930s before falling out with him at the end of the decade. The Guardian has seen evidence that shows Bush was the director of the New York-based Union Banking Corporation (UBC) that represented Thyssen's US interests and he continued to work for the bank after America entered the war.

So Bush's grandfather served on the board of an international investment bank that worked with a German financier who supported Hitler before "falling out with him" before World War II began. It's enough to make you wonder whether the H.J. Heinz corporation has ever sold products in Iraq, or whether any of John Kerry's French cousins have worked for companies that traded with Iraq. And I simply refuse to be so snarky as to bring up Joseph Kennedy's sympathy for Nazi Germany.

The Guardian article is a fascinating exploration of the pre-World War II business ventures of Prescott Bush, although it is quite selective in the conspiracies that it uncovers:
Prescott Bush, a 6ft 4in charmer with a rich singing voice, was the founder of the Bush political dynasty and was once considered a potential presidential candidate himself. Like his son, George, and grandson, George W, he went to Yale where he was, again like his descendants, a member of the secretive and influential Skull and Bones student society.

Of course, John Kerry was also a member of Skull and Bones, so it is either bi-partisan in its selectivity and catholic in its influence, or it is neither.

It is interesting to me that a site called "Americablog" would promote corruption of blood, the ultimate un-American idea. The left is getting desperate.

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Surprising progress in Afghanistan 

Oxblog features an extended and detailed post from its "swashbuckling Afghan correspondent." The tone is arrestingly optimistic, considering how pessimistic many experts on the country have been:
A quick update on the imminent elections – the October ones, not the November ones. The last few months have been a thrilling and astonishing time for Afghanistan. A Karzai victory remains the most likely outcome on October 9, but the implications of that victory look rather different now than they did at the beginning of the year.

First: the clear losers of this election are the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and rebels against the Kabul government. With just over two weeks remaining before the Afghan presidential elections, the malcontents have already lost.

Read the whole thing.

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Friday, September 24, 2004

A university bans Michael Moore and offends the First Amendment 

California State University at San Marcos has banned Michael Moore from speaking there, on the grounds that he is a political partisan. Michael Moore is an anti-American who lies as often as he speaks, but I'm nevertheless unhappy that a state university could or would do this. A state university is an organ of state government functioning in public buildings on public land, and should not discriminate in favor of or against speech on the basis of its content.

The First Amendment would be a dead letter if it protected only speech that most of us agree with. The wonder of the First Amendment is that it protects speech that most of us detest.

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John Zogby forgets about the Civil War 

John Zogby, however skilled a pollster, is ignorant of history:
"I have been calling this the Armageddon election now for months because we are so polarized, so split culturally, politically, ideologically, demographically, like almost no other time in American history," Zogby, president of the Zogby International survey firm, told an audience of about 200 at his alma mater, Le Moyne College.

The last time the nation was this deeply divided over what course to take was the original Armageddon election of 1800, Zogby said.

"The last time the nation was this deeply divided" was 1800? What about the election of 1860? The national parties split by region, and armies mobilized as a consequence of the result.

Doesn't Zogby really mean that the nation is "closely" divided? Neither the election of 1800 nor the current race, in my opinion, reflects a "deep" division, however closely divided the balloting was then (the election was thrown into the House of Representatives, which ultimately elevated Thomas Jefferson) or will be now. Sure, there is a lot of passion over the personality of one of the candidates -- people either love Bush or they hate him -- but there is virtually no difference between their stated positions. Both candidates vow continued prosecution of the war on terror. Even the stated disagreements over Iraq turn on questions of execution, not grand strategy. Both candidates pledge to increase federal spending substantially. Both candidates promise relatively minor changes in the general level of federal taxation (true, Bush promises more cuts and Kerry promises both cuts and increases, depending on one's income). There are, of course, greater differences on social questions and one suspects that the two men would appoint very different regulators, but even these differences are relatively subtle. Kerry is opposed to gay marriage but won't do anything about it, while Bush is opposed to gay marriage and will go so far as to campaign for a constitutional amendment that has no chance of enactment. They have opposite positions on abortion, but the Supreme Court has removed that question from the democratic process. The stem cell debate has totemic signifcance, but the practical impact of a change in policy at the federal level would be trivial. For the life of me, I don't see where the "deep" division is, other than over passionate hatred of or support for George W. Bush, individual.

John Zogby, we can conclude, is like any other organ of the MSM -- he will say any ridiculous thing if it increases our interest in the intellectual property he peddles.

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John Kerry and the trashing of our allies 

As nearly as anybody can tell, the only difference between John Kerry's proposed Iraq policy and the Bush administration's actual Iraq policy is that John Kerry is claiming that he, unlike Bush, will be able to induce "our allies" to contribute soldiers or money -- it isn't quite clear -- to the security and reconstruction of Iraq. Since various of our allies, including particularly the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy and Japan have already done this, Kerry is really talking about France, Germany and Canada. Of course, France has said that under no likely circumstances will it send troops to Iraq, so that leaves Germany and Canada, both of which say they are committed to their capacity in Afghanistan. Other countries that might contribute soldiers, including Arab "allies," Russia, and Pakistan, are either undesireable for geopolitical reasons, unwelcome for their likely impact on Iraq's internal politics, or unavailable on account of their own domestic constraints.

This reality should be enough to discredit John Kerry's "plan" for Iraq. Fortunately for Bush supporters, though, the Kerry campaign is going the extra mile and working hard to alienate America's actual, as opposed to its erstwhile, allies. This is deeply offensive to the interests of the United States, would make it very difficult for a Kerry administration to deal credibly with any number of our allies, and is worse than any snarkiness from disgruntled Vietnam vets or sleazy conspiracy between Kerry's staff and CBS News. Cassandra is very, very angry, as well she should be (and she does not even mention Diana Kerry's hideous comments in Australia). Go soak in her rage.

UPDATE (4:40 pm EDT, Friday): Scrappleface weighs in:
Democrat presidential contender John Forbes Kerry today offered to give Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi a guided tour of Iraq to clear up misunderstandings that Mr. Allawi has about the situation in his own nation....

A spokesman for the Kerry-Edwards campaign said the tour will help Prime Minister Allawi to "see the ugly face of American foreign policy and petro-imperialism, and strip him of his misplaced optimism."

Heh.

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Thursday, September 23, 2004

Headlines 

What would dead men do without officials?

'Officials: Man Dead For 20 Years Registers To Vote' - headline, NewsNet5.com.
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Gargantuan stones award.

'Cheney "appalled" by Kerry's "lack of respect" for Iraqi leader' - headline, Associated Press.
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Better late than never.

'Iraqi Scientist Cautions About Nukes' - headline, The Guardian.
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Also considering bans on shoveling of snow, clipping of hedges, raking of leaves, manual carriage of gargage cans to and from the curb, and unassisted picking of noses.

'California bans hand-pulling of weeds' - headline, Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
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And chaos doesn't?

'Order raises hackles' - headline, Trenton Times.
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O'Reilly plays back John Kerry on December 11, 2001 

On tonight's O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly played back an old tape from the show of December 11, 2001 featuring an interview of John Kerry, then a potential presidential candidate. It was sufficiently entertaining that I backpedaled on Tivo and scribbled it down. Annotated, of course, for your reading pleasure.

O'Reilly described Joe Lieberman's hawkish views, and then asked if Kerry agreed with Lieberman.

Kerry - Essentially, yes. I'm not sure exactly what Joe means by that but we ought to put the heat on Saddam Hussein. I've said that for a number of years, Bill. I criticized the Clinton administration from backing off of the inspections when Ambassador Butler was giving us strong evidence that we needed to continue. I think we need to put the pressure on no matter what the evidence is about September 11, but we have to do it in a thoughtful, intelligent way. [Here, Kerry appears to agree with my view -- we needed to confront Saddam for reasons quite independent of September 11, or the war on terror.]

O'Reilly - Which is what? The guy is simply an out of control guy, and he's not going to respond to embargos, no fly zones... How would you put enough pressure on him to open up inspections?

Kerry - I'd reinvigorate that process as step number one, and I think the administration is now, suddenly, starting to move in that direction. [A bit snarky, all things considered. Bashing Bush, three months after September 11, for failing to focus on Iraq sooner!] I think we have to work our allies sufficiently to pull that component of the effort back together. But the second thing I would do and would not hesitate to do it is back opposition more openly and do it in a way that begins to put a counterinsurgency in the country itself. [This was always one of the alternative strategies for deposing Saddam. However, there were numerous problems with the "fostered insurgency" approach, as Kenneth Pollack addressed in detail in The Threatening Storm. The first objection was that Iraqi dissidents, having been burned once by the United States, would be reluctant to take mortal risks at our behest again. The second objection was that Saddam's military was powerful enough, even in its depleted state, to deal with a civil insurgency. The third objection was that the replacement of Saddam by fostered insurgency -- civil war, essentially -- would result in a dangerous power vacuum in Iraq that would be filled by Iranians Shiites, Sunni Islamists or an uncontrollable failed state that would work quite well as Al-Qaeda's next refuge. That may also turn out to be the result of the strategy ultimately used against Saddam -- full-scale invasion -- but it would have been the well-nigh inevitable result of the fostered insurgency approach.]

O'Reilly - So what do you do, drop heavy weapons to Kurds in the north and to Muslims who don't like him in the south?

Kerry - Bill, let me tell you, I was all for our following through at the end of the gulf war with the Kurd uprising and I thought it was a great betrayal in a sense that we encouraged them verbally, we gave them forces, we gave them weapons, we encouraged them and said we were with them and then we pulled out at the last minute because the Kuwaitis and the Saudis and others were unsure what might follow.

O'Reilly - That was a classic mistake, but if you arm the Kurds in the north of Iraq you're going to alienate potentially one of most valuable allies...

Kerry - I didn't say, necessarily, the Kurds. [Huh? I thought Kerry was "all for our following through ... with the Kurd uprising" after the Gulf War? The passing of intervening years seems to explain Kerry's flip-flop in Kerry's mind, but the passage of that decade would have had no bearing on the reaction of the Turks to the arming of the Kurds.] There are other members of the opposition. There are people who are outside the country prepared to go in [Was Kerry referring to the Iraqi National Congress and Mr. Chalabi? If not, somebody now should ask him if he can remember who he meant. Perhaps President Allawi, whom he savaged today.], there are others inside the country. I was in Safwan -- I went there when the signing of the armistice at the end of the war -- and I remember seeing that land which lent itself in my judgment considerably to the creation of almost an enclave which I thought we should have done then and which is one way to begin to approach things now, but there are other possibilities. The important thing now is that Saddam Hussein and the world knows that we think Saddam Hussein is essentially out of sync with the times. He is and has acted like a terrorist. [Here is Kerry linking a war against Saddam with the war on terror, back in 2001. This was long before any of the Bush Administration claims that Kerry now says "misled" him into casting his vote.]

O'Reilly - I still don't see the hammer....

Kerry - The hammer ultimately will be the evidence that we uncover as we go further down the trail that shows his support for terrorism and begins to build the coalition.

O'Reilly - Have you seen any evidence that's really compelling that hasn't come out yet?

Kerry - I have not seen any evidence yet with respect to the 11th, but there are avenues to pursue there. The important thing is that Saddam Hussein has used WMD, Saddam Hussein fired weapons on Israel, they took 29 or more Scuds without responding during the war. In addition to that, he has refused to live by the terms of the treaty that he signed at the end of the war in which he agreed to do certain things. He hasn't done those things yet, and the international community ought to hold him accountable for that. [The last point particularly was a compelling reason to dispose of Saddam's regime, and nothing that transpired in the following 15 months altered the fact of Saddam's lack of compliance with the original Gulf War armistice. If it was reason enough to remove Saddam in December 2001, it remained reason enough in March 2003.]

O'Reilly - But the IC won't. The international community are weenies. [Longer O'Reilly rant on weenietude of the "international community" omitted.]

Kerry - In the end we protect our own national security interests, and in the end I'm prepared for the United States to do what it has to do in order to do that. [Unilateralist!]


UPDATE (4:10 pm EDT, Friday): Captain's Quarter's is on the case. It looks as though Kerry was caught in another fib.

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Say Something Ketchuppy 

Yesterday in Best of the Web, Taranto linked to the Heinz "Say Something Ketchuppy" contest:

But we got to thinking: Why not a slogan that pays homage to Teresa Heinz Kerry, the outspoken ketchup heiress and philanthropist?


Predictably, readers responded today with some great stuff:


"Only an idiot would use mustard."
"Our flavor is stronger at home and respected in the world."
"Foreign leaders prefer ketchup."
"Ketchup: C'est magnifique."
"The taste that's smeared--smeared--in your memory."
"For your papases fritas, your pommes frites, your patate
fritte and your fritadas francesas."
"Mustard: The wrong condiment in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"By the way, served in your kitchen."
"Too good for the common man."
"Hunt's is for scumbags."
"It's red, like the blood John Kerry spilled in Vietnam."



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Your personality and your politics 

Do you support Bush or Kerry because you identify with them? Do you see yourself in either candidate? Take this test and find out. It is at least a little illuminating, and worth the ten or fifteen minutes out of your day (I mean, unless you have something really important going on, which you probably don't if you're reading this blog).

Yes, my perception of my personality correlates more closely to Dubya's. Which is frightening, if you think about it.

Feel free to comment below.

CWCID: Andrew Sullivan.

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More honors for Fry 

Only a month after being inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame, Hayden Fry has been awarded the 2005 Amos Alonzo Stagg Award. According to Hawk Central,

The award, which honors those "whose services have been outstanding in the
advancement of the best interests of football," will be presented to Fry at an
awards luncheon Jan. 11 during the association's convention Louisville, Ky.


The message I take away from this is that while 'Hayden Fry' is a damn cool name, it pales compared to the indisputable greatness that is 'Amos Alonzo Stagg.'



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By the skin of their teeth 

After a mostly up and down season in which they found a remarkable number of ways to lose close games, the Chicago Cubs are again winning the close ones in dramatic fashion. Last night against the Pirates, the Cubs managed a 1-0 victory, their only run coming on a 5th inning bases-loaded walk to Carlos Zambrano, the winning pitcher. The Pirates loaded the bases in the 8th and for a few seconds the game looked over when Ty Wigginton drove a sinking line drive into the right field gap, but Sammy Sosa saved the game with a diving catch. A bit of redemption for Sosa, who has been struggling at the plate and was recently demoted to the 6th spot in the batting order.

This game followed a wild win Tuesday night in which the Cubs blew a 4-1 lead to the Pirates, only to come back and win it in the 10th inning, scoring on a wild pitch.

And yet, they still trail the San Francisco Giants who, behind rookie pitcher Noah Lowry, found a way to beat Roy Oswalt last night, preserving their razor thin 1/2 game lead for the NL Wildcard.

Only 11 games to go, folks. Stay tuned.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Headline(s) 

In that order?

'Man shoots wife, mistakes her for monkey' - headline, Reuters.
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Plastic surgery and the campaign 

This is a slightly new twist on an old story.

I spent most of the afternoon in New York at a meeting of facial plastic surgeons. Me being me, I asked a couple of them whether they thought John Kerry had Botox injections last winter. The unanimous conclusion of my small and unscientific survey was (while chuckling) "of course" or "obviously," notwithstanding Kerry's protestations to the contrary:
Kerry "absolutely" denied receiving Botox treatments, and added: "I've never even heard it. Where did this come from? ... I've never even heard of it. Never heard of it."

Never heard of Botox? C'mon.

There has been much made in the last few days of Kerry's loss of the traditional advantage of Democrats among women voters. Various reasons have been adduced for this, including his perceived weakness in the face of Islamist terror. But could it be more than that? Could it be that women just think that he's full of it? I mean, it would be one thing to smoothly dodge the question about Botox with a self-effacing joke ("If this face were the product of Botox treatments the Allergan folks wouldn't be making so much money with the stuff!"), but that would require that Kerry be able to joke about himself, which he apparently can't. Instead, he "absolutely" denied having injections when all sorts of observant people believe that he has, and then destroyed the credibility of his denial by claiming that he has "never heard" of Botox. So the average female voter -- whatever she might look like -- might reasonably conclude that Kerry is either an insecure liar or hopelessly out of touch with American pop culture. Just like Bush 41 and the barcode scanner, only insincere.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Paul Campos thinks the average voter is an idiot 

Compared to him, anyway.

Paul Campos, a professor at the University of Colorado Law School, cites an article in The New Yorker (heh) as evidence that the "average voter is an idiot." Maybe. But both Louis Menand's underlying New Yorker article, to which Campos does not link (but which is, apparently, here), and Campos' reduction of it, are arresting examples of American academic liberal snobbery.

Menand's article is worth reading insofar as it is a good brief history of the study of voters and voting. And it is surely true that a significant percentage of voters -- more than enough to sway a presidential election -- cast their votes without anything like the analysis that Campos and Menand would require (have either of them ever voted for a Republican for president? - eds.). But Menand's examples of so-called voter irrationality betray his own inability to see all sides of an issue:
Rephrasing poll questions reveals that many people don’t understand the issues that they have just offered an opinion on. According to polls conducted in 1987 and 1989, for example, between twenty and twenty-five per cent of the public thinks that too little is being spent on welfare, and between sixty-three and sixty-five per cent feels that too little is being spent on assistance to the poor.

What's so stupid about that? Back in the day, before you had to work for your welfare, there was a huge goddamned difference between spending money on welfare and assistance to the poor. Had I been questioned in connection with one of those polls (in fact, I may have been), I definitely would have said that we were spending too little on assistance to the poor, and too much on welfare. The fact that Menand thinks that this inconsistency demonstrates the electorate's -- shall we say -- simplicity, as opposed to its wisdom, says a lot more about Menand than it does about the average voter.

There are other such examples, such as Menand's description of alleged voter irrationality over the estate tax:
When people are asked whether they favor Bush’s policy of repealing the estate tax, two-thirds say yes—even though the estate tax affects only the wealthiest one or two per cent of the population. Ninety-eight per cent of Americans do not leave estates large enough for the tax to kick in. But people have some notion—Bartels [the author of a study cited by Menand - eds.] refers to it as “unenlightened self-interest”—that they will be better off if the tax is repealed. What is most remarkable about this opinion is that it is unconstrained by other beliefs. Repeal is supported by sixty-six per cent of people who believe that the income gap between the richest and the poorest Americans has increased in recent decades, and that this is a bad thing. And it’s supported by sixty-eight per cent of people who say that the rich pay too little in taxes.

Of course, it does not occur to Menand (and perhaps not to Bartels, although I have not read his article) that people might oppose the estate tax as a means for addressing that inequity because they believe it is profoundly unfair. Lots of people think that it is outrageous that death should trigger another tax on assets that have already been taxed via income taxes and property taxes. Lots of people think that it is appalling that the estate tax randomly hits people who haven't taken advantage of sophisticated estate-planning strategies, when the really big financial wealth escapes taxation. Lots of people think that it is destructive to communities when farms, small businesses, and family newspapers have to be sold -- usually to consolidators -- to pay punitive federal and state estate taxes. And, of course, in any case it isn't the "rich" paying the estate tax, it is (for all intents and purposes) the heirs to the residuals of the estates of the rich, many of whom are not rich at all. Again, Menand's estate-tax paradox might well be understood to prove the deeper sophistication of the average guy, rather than the Camposian view that the average guy is a dope.

Whether or not Campos and Menand are correct that the average voter is an idiot (and one might well seize upon the recent popularity of Jim McGreevey as proof of same in New Jersey, at least), these examples and others they give hardly make the case.

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Headlines 

Rain or shine?

'Table games come to prairie meadows' - headline, TheIowaChannel.com.
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Is it suitable for framing?

'205 mph earns biker citation' - headline, St. Paul Pioneer-Press.
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What would Kerry do without transcripts?

'Transcript: Kerry answers questions at press conference' - headline, Washington Post.
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Heinz Kerry haughty and French-looking, but didn't serve in Vietnam

'Heinz Kerry's persona offsets Kerry' - headline, Associated Press.
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Turnabout is fair play.

'Kerry says Bush failed to level with the United Nations about problems in Iraq' - headline, Associated Press.
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All politics is local.

'Local Poll: Bush Beats Kerry Among Treasure Valley Voters' - headline, KBCI, Boise.
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This is a play on words, right?

'Roving voters could impact S.D. election' - headline, Midwest News.
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Could democracy survive without Paul Campos?

'Campos: The average voter is an idiot' - headline, RockyMountainNews.com.

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The New Yorker imitates Michael Moore 

Yesterday I wrote this post, which rejoiced in THK's potty-mouth. I linked to this article from The New Yorker, in which Judith Thurman wrote that THK "employed the word 'scumbags' to describe some of her detractors."

It turns out, though, that Ms. Thurman inched a slow one by The New Yorker's vaunted fact-checkers. Here's what ThePittsburghChannel.com (WTAE-TV) said last night:
A check of that tape shows that while Heinz Kerry did use the word, it came in the context of discussing what her son Chris called the "noble art of public service."

"I believe there is a nobility in public service. I believe every citizen can be a public servant. And should be," said Heinz Kerry.

Sally Wiggin asked, "Do you think some of the nobility has gone out of public service?"

Heinz Kerry said, "Oh, there is a lot of scumbags everywhere. Not just in politics. In everything. There are a lot of immoral people everywhere."

The author of the New Yorker article was allowed by Heinz Kerry to observe the original interview as it was taped.

Of course, our prior post, though fake, is still accurate: the sheer entertainment value of THK is still the most compelling reason to vote for JFK.

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Garden State deadlock 

The new Quinnipiac University poll, released a couple of hours ago, suggests that New Jersey is very close. Bush and Kerry are tied among "likely voters," and Kerry's lead among registered voters has diminished to four points. These results are similar to the Star-Ledger and SurveyUSA polls released last week.

The internal results show conflicting signals. Only 45% of New Jersey voters approve of the job Bush is doing, and 55% says that it was a mistake to invade Iraq. Nevertheless, Bush leads Kerry 54-37 per cent in the "acts like a leader category," and New Jersey voters believe 2-1 that Bush is doing a better job of explaining what he will do as president. Not surprisingly, therefore, the election is about Bush, not Kerry: 81% of Bush's backers say they are supporting him as opposed to rejecting Kerry, whereas 61% of prospective Kerry voters are "voting more against Bush."

Here's the rest of it from the Quinnipiac site:
Given four choices, 30 percent of New Jersey voters list terrorism as the most important issue in the presidential race, followed by 25 percent who list the economy, 24 percent who list the situation in Iraq and 16 percent who list health care. This is the first time terrorism has been the top concern in any Quinnipiac University poll.


Asked which candidate would do a better job on these issues New Jersey voters say:
55 - 38 percent that Bush would do a better job on terrorism;
50 - 44 percent that Kerry would do a better job on the economy;
49 - 44 percent that Bush would do a better job on Iraq;
55 - 36 percent that Kerry would do a better job on health care.

Only 2 percent of New Jersey voters say the U.S. economy is 'excellent,' while 38 percent say it is 'good;' 39 percent say it is 'not so good,' and 20 percent say it is 'poor.'

As I've written before, New Jersey will almost certainly break for Kerry in the end. But if it doesn't, the election is over.

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Monday, September 20, 2004

Does the Killian family have a good invasion of privacy suit? 

Jerry Killian's son is looking for an apology from CBS News:
Gary Killian, a Houston businessman who once served in the Guard with his father, said he initially questioned the validity of parts of the memos, then later became convinced they were all fakes.

Killian said he is angry with both CBS and Burkett.

"Do I take it personally? Yes," he said, adding: "I think, first of all, CBS and Dan Rather owe my deceased father and my family an apology."

Jerry Killian died of heart failure in 1984.

The younger Killian said CBS should go further that simply calling its reporting flawed. "I don't accept that this was an innocent mistake. I think it confirms what a lot of people already think: that there is a hidden agenda among some of the media," Killian said.

Apart from the obvious truth here -- CBS News should be begging the Killians for forgiveness -- if I were the network I'd be more than a little worried that the Killians have their lawyer banging out a complaint. I'm more an ex-lawyer than a lawyer so I'm weak on the specific elements of particular torts, but it seems to me that Killian, were he alive, could state a "false light" invasion of privacy claim, a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress, arguably intentional infliction of emotional distress, and perhaps libel. Any lawyers out there want to comment on which, if any, of these torts might be brought by the family?

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Editing Michael Moore 

Michael Moore's most recent "Message" is up. Interestingly, if you apply the same editing techniques to it that Moore uses against his opponents, you can find a lot to agree with.
Geez, this is embarrassing! The Republicans are laughing at us. Do you ever see them cry, "Oh, it's all over! We are finished! Bush can't win! Waaaaaa!"

True. You never see that. Here's another good point:
[Republicans] are relentless and that is why we secretly admire them -- they just simply never, ever give up. Only 30% of the country calls itself "Republican," yet the Republicans own it all -- the White House, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court and the majority of the governorships. How do you think they've been able to pull that off considering they are a minority? It's because they eat you and me and every other liberal for breakfast....

Moore also knows whining sissies when he sees them:
Look at us -- what a bunch of crybabies. Bush gets a bounce after his convention and you would have thought the Germans had run through Poland again. The Bushies are coming, the Bushies are coming! Yes, they caught Kerry asleep on the Swift Boat thing. Yes, they found the frequency in Dan Rather and ran with it. Suddenly it's like, "THE END IS NEAR! THE SKY IS FALLING!"

Truth, it seems, is breaking out all over.

Finally, Moore exposes his keen understanding of his party's nominee:
If I hear one more person tell me how lousy a candidate Kerry is and how he can't win... Dammit, of COURSE he's a lousy candidate -- he's a Democrat, for heavens sake! That party is so pathetic, they even lose the elections they win! What were you expecting, Bruce Springsteen heading up the ticket? Bruce would make a helluva president, but guys like him don't run -- and neither do you or I. People like Kerry run.

Yes, OF COURSE any of us would have run a better, smarter, kick-ass campaign. Of course we would have smacked each and every one of those phony swifty boaty bastards down. But WE are not running for president -- Kerry is. So quit complaining and work with what we have. Oprah just gave 300 women a... Pontiac! Did you see any of them frowning and moaning and screaming, "Oh God, NOT a friggin' Pontiac!" Of course not, they were happy. The Pontiacs all had four wheels, an engine and a gas pedal. You want more than that, well, I can't help you.

See what I mean? If you ignore all the context -- by which I mean entire sentences, paragraphs and arguments -- you and Michael Moore actually agree on a lot of things.

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THK remains the best reason to vote for Kerry 

The First Lady wanna-be definitely has a way with words:
Despite her linguistic prowess and her worldliness, Heinz Kerry has, at times, a deaf ear for the nuances of slang, code, condescension, and vulgarity in English—for the emotion of the language. “There are these bizarre moments that make you shudder,” the Kerry adviser said. “Like calling herself African-American to black audiences.” She dismissed voters skeptical of her husband’s health-care proposals as “idiots,” and, in a television interview with a Pittsburgh anchorwoman, employed the word “scumbags” to describe some of her detractors. I doubt that she knows the literal meaning of “scumbag,” but perhaps, after forty years in America, nearly thirty of them as a political wife, observing how the flaws and contradictions of a personality as complex as hers are melted down for ammunition by the other side, she should have learned it.

Heh. Next thing you know, she'll be calling Dick Cheney a schmuck.

UPDATE (6:45 am Tuesday): It looks as though The New Yorker did THK wrong.

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Res ipsa loquitor 

CBS News van, complete with anti-Bush sign in the window. Posted by Hello

Why anybody would believe anything published or broadcast by CBS News is beyond me.

Meanwhile, al-Reuters misses the point entirely:
Immediately after the report was aired last Wednesday, Bush supporters and competing news organizations challenged the authenticity of the documents.

"Bush supporters" indeed. The MSM is setting new standards in denial every day.

CWCID: Little Green Footballs.

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Snarkiest debate question imaginable 

In the absence of an unexpected bombshell (either literally or figuratively), the next big moment in this election will be the debates, particularly the first debate. According to Frank Luntz, "there is no example ever that the candidate ahead after the first debate eventually loses." I have no idea whether or not that is a true fact, but there is no question there will be a huge audience for that first debate.

Of course, there will be tremendous pressure on the various moderaters to keep the whole thing on the up and up, ask questions about the "issues that concern ordinary Americans," not dwell on the past, be serious and so forth. This will trigger an avalanche of empty soundbites from our two candidates, who will be playing to avoid a gaffe or a gotcha moment. God, that will suck.

So here's to hoping that the questioners slide into snarkiness. And if they are so inclined, here's the question that TigerHawk would ask both candidates:

In January 1977, as his first act as President, Jimmy Carter pardoned the Americans who had fled overseas to avoid being sent to Vietnam. Do you support President Carter's pardon of the draft dodgers, or do you deplore it?

Which candidate would squirm more? For sheer bi-partisan snarkiness, it is hard to imagine a tougher question.

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Kerry and the election in Australia 

We wrote about Diane Kerry's efforts to undermine support from our allies on Friday night, and the story took off over the weekend with links from Jane Galt's co-blogger, Arthur Chrenkoff and Captain's Quarters. Along comes John Marzan with an extended speculation that there may be a deal in the works between the Kerry campaign and John Howard's challenger Mark Latham.
[I] suspect the Democratic strategists and the DNC are now closely coordinating with the Latham campaign to help defeat the Australian PM.

And a Kerry-Latham deal could be in the works. In exchange for Democrats helping Latham win, Latham would return the favor by "doing a Zapatero." Meaning, denounce the war in Iraq is "illegal" and quickly announce an immediate Aussie troop withdrawal from Iraq around October, a crucial period where intense fighting is expected inside Iraq.

This move could portray the U.S. and Bush as being "further isolated" and "more unilateral" and hurt Bush in November.

Other than Diane Kerry's comments, and the fact that the Kerry campaign does not seem to have corrected them in the last 72 hours, there is no evidence that I know of to support Marzan's speculation. But this campaign is so harsh and bare-knuckle (on both sides) that it is plausible. Here's hoping the Aussie bloggers stay all over this like ugly on an ape.

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Bush's slim chances in the Garden State 

Last week we posted on Bush's recent strong poll results in New Jersey. This morning, the Trenton Times has a story that heavily discounts these results. The article's underlying argument, as channeled through various students of New Jersey politics, is that New Jersey will break late for Kerry unless Bush is on his way to a national landslide. Because of this, the Kerry campaign is saying that it won't spend more time or money in New Jersey.
The Kerry campaign says it is unruffled by those numbers.

"Rather than giving you some spiel, watch what we do. That will tell you about our level of concern," said Joe Lockhart, who was President Clinton's press secretary and who joined the Kerry campaign late last month.

The Kerry campaign simply has faith in the New Jersey voter:
Ted Devine, a senior adviser to the Kerry campaign, said the polls indicate the difficulty in unseating an incumbent president. Devine, who worked on a number of U.S. Senate campaigns, said poll numbers in New Jersey typically move dramatically toward the Democratic candidate in the concluding weeks of the campaign.

"In order for the president to win a state like New Jersey or New York, he'd have to defy all of the historical trending and precedents we know," Devine said.

That's certainly true. The question is whether the proximity of the September 11 attacks and the raw sewage in the statehouse might not break "historical trending and precedents." Probably not, but Kerry has so much to lose in New Jersey that it may be a measure of his weakness elsewhere that he is not defending himself here.

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Sunday, September 19, 2004

Blogging and ADD 

It would not surprise me if bloggers suffer disproportionately from attention deficit disorder. TigerHawk himself is often at the receiving end of comments such as "Jack apparently has not taken his ritalin this morning." While I view this slander as the price we pay for making the connections and propounding the insights with which blog readers excite their otherwise empty lives, this unfortunately candid post does nothing to dispel our reputation.

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Does John Kerry know enough about sports to be President? 

There's a new 527 in the hunt folks, and it's stooping to new lows. Yes, I'm talking about the Football Fans for Truth, a deeply unscrupulous organization that I naturally learned about from this woman.
FFfT believes the evidence it has collected is compelling. Last month, John Kerry lauded "Lambert Field" during a visit to Wisconsin. It is unknown what Kerry thinks of Lambeau Field, the historic home of the Green Bay Packers. John Kerry also praised the Ohio State Buckeyes football team--during a visit to Michigan.

For the many chilling angles on this story, read the whole thing (complete with photos, which I know you guys love).

Speaking of football fans for truth, could any ranked football team suck as stupendously as the Hawkeyes sucked last night? Goddamn.

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Saturday, September 18, 2004

France was the source of the forged Niger "yellowcake" papers 

Forged memos being a hot topic these days, this story might not explode quite the way it would have before Dan Rather made forged memos respectable.
The Italian businessman at the centre of a furious row between France and Italy over whose intelligence service was to blame for bogus documents suggesting Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy material for nuclear bombs has admitted that he was in the pay of France....

His admission to investigating magistrates in Rome on Friday apparently confirms suggestions that - by commissioning "Giacomo" to procure and circulate documents - France was responsible for some of the information later used by Britain and the United States to promote the case for war with Iraq.

Italian diplomats have claimed that, by disseminating bogus documents stating that Iraq was trying to buy low-grade "yellowcake" uranium from Niger, France was trying to "set up" Britain and America in the hope that when the mistake was revealed it would undermine the case for war, which it wanted to prevent.

I'm not holding my breath for the New York Times to say that the "yellowcake" memos were "fake, but accurate."

I've never been a Francophobe and often find myself defending France among my fellow travelers. But this article, if true, exposes its duplicity more profoundly than any bleating of Chirac or de Villepain. Why, after this, would we want their help in Iraq even if John Kerry could arrange it for us?

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Mark Steyn kicks a Dan when's down 

Ouch:
Dan's been play-acting at being a reporter for so many years now -- the suspenders, the loosened tie, and all the other stuff that would look great if he were auditioning for a cheesy dinner-theater revival of ''The Front Page''; the over-the-top intros: ''Bob Schieffer, one of the best hard-nosed reporters in the business, has been working his sources. What have you managed to uncover for us, Bob?'', after which Bob reads out a DNC press release. Dan's been doing all this so long he doesn't seem to realize the news isn't just a show.


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Friday, September 17, 2004

Is the Kerry campaign deliberately undermining the American war effort? 

It is if Kerry is trying to talk our allies out of Iraq. This is horrendous, if true:
JOHN Kerry's campaign has warned Australians that the Howard Government's support for the US in Iraq has made them a bigger target for international terrorists.

Diana Kerry, younger sister of the Democrat presidential candidate, told The Weekend Australian that the Bali bombing and the recent attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta clearly showed the danger to Australians had increased.

"Australia has kept faith with the US and we are endangering the Australians now by this wanton disregard for international law and multilateral channels," she said, referring to the invasion of Iraq.

Asked if she believed the terrorist threat to Australians was now greater because of the support for Republican George W. Bush, Ms Kerry said: "The most recent attack was on the Australian embassy in Jakarta -- I would have to say that."

Now, you can't hold John responsible for the random prattle of his sibling. After all, that standard would require us to hold this guy responsible for this guy, who traded on his relationship with the first guy to suck up to this guy.

But, we most certainly can hold Senator Kerry responsible for the fact that his dearest Diana is in charge of Overseas for Kerry. She has apparent -- if not actual -- authority to speak for the Kerry campaign overseas, and has exploited that status to encourage Australia to abandon the United States.

The Democrats have repeatedly attacked the Bush Administration for "abandoning our allies," and now the sister of their nominee, in an official capacity, is encouraging our allies to retaliate against us. TigerHawk tries not to lose his cool at campaign rhetoric, but this is the single stupidest statement to come out of the Kerry campaign this year.

Fix it now, Senator Kerry.

UPDATE (10 pm Saturday): Arthur Chrenkoff chimes in from Down Under.

UPDATE (6:30 pm Monday): Here's the link for Americans Overseas for Kerry. As you can see, Diana Kerry is the "chair" of that organization, and therefore an official spokesman for the campaign. That makes John Kerry responsible for her comments.

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Didn't they keep another copy? 

'Kerry accuses Bush of hiding troops plan' - headline, Associated Press.

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NL Wild Card Race Heating Up 

Ok, we've endured Swiftboat veterans and Rathergate for the last 4 weeks. It's time to focus on baseball, where with 19 games remaining, five teams are knotted up for the National League wild card: the Giants, Cubs, Astros, Padres and Marlins are all within 3 1/2 games in what could be one of the most entertaining races in memory.

The Cubs, currently 1/2 game behind the Giants, appear to be making it as interesting as they did last year, with each game tantalizingly close, even against the dregs of the NL Central. Last night it took three home runs from Aramis Ramirez to eek out a 5-4 win over the Reds. Tuesday, trailing 2-0 in the 8th, Corey Patterson slugged a 2 run homer to tie it, and returned for a solo shot in the 12th for the 3-2 win.

Over on ESPN's Page2, Eric Neel provides a very entertaining summary of each team's chances and what is at stake for baseball fans. Of the Cubs postseason possibilities, he writes:
You just know, given the chance, that Dusty's going to ride Prior, Wood,
and Zambrano in the postseason the way Slim Pickens rode the bomb in
"Strangelove," hell-bent and doomed. And at some point, one of their arms is
going to rip clean off, like a bloody, spurting stump straight out of Japanese
anime (this is one of those cons that, depending on your disposition, might also
be considered a pro). And you have to ask yourself whether you really want to be
a party to this kind of thing.

Read the whole thing!

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Only eyebrows? 

'Bikinis raise eyebrows at Miss America' - headline, Associated Press.

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Poll spinning 

There is going to be massive poll-spinning today. Reuters, which bends over backwards to be objective [What?! Are you insane? - eds.], dwells at length over two polls that show that Bush's post convention gap has closed.
The Pew survey sampled voters in two waves. The first poll of likely voters, taken September 8-10, found Bush ahead by 16 percentage points. The second poll on September 11-14, which had a 3.5 percentage point margin of error, found Bush with a statistically insignificant one-point lead. Among registered voters, it was deadlocked.

The Harris poll, which was conducted September 9-13 and had a 3 point margin of error, found Kerry with a one-point lead. A Harris poll in June gave Bush a 10 percentage point lead.

Reuters, however, does not mention the new Gallup poll released today under the Gallup Organization headline "Bush bounce keeps on going." It is unclear whether the Reuters article was published before or after the release of the Gallup poll.

In any case, Gallup's poll, which taken September 13-15 (overlapping the Pew and Harris polls, but shifted later) shows Bush with an 8 point lead among registered voters, and a staggering 13 point lead among likely voters.

There's a lot of interesting stuff buried in the Gallup poll. For example, Bush's lead has grown sharply among people younger than 49 and older than 64, but he has actually lost ground during the past month to the Vietnam generation -- people between 50 and 64. It is almost as though Kerry's strategy of "all Vietnam, all the time", which seems to have backfired spectacularly among most constituencies, actually might have worked with those who fought in the war or were at risk of it.

In any case, go read the whole thing.

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All worked up over a little pushin' and shovin' 

The rightosphere -- to which we proudly belong -- has been making much of this picture of a crying girl at Bush rally. According to press accounts, the little shreds of something in her hand are all that is left of her Bush/Cheney sign, it having been ripped up by a Kerry supporter. Leninists! Posted by Hello


Of course, a quick troll through the leftosphere turns up this picture, which purports to be of a Republican trying to crush dissent at a rally at some point in the last couple of weeks. All the lefty blogs are, or at least were, in very high dudgeon about this (NewMexico4Kerry, a commentor at JohnKerry.com, wrote "It feels like we're spiraling towards fascism.") So the little girl was payback. Brownshirts!
 Posted by Hello

TigerHawk believes that we all need to get a little perspective. We have lots of people who are passionately involved in the election -- both as activists or spectators -- and somebody is photographing their every public moment so we can all wring our hands about it instantaneously. If there's a little pushin' and a-shovin', what's the big deal? The TigerHawk heart softens at a picture of a crying little girl as much as anybody's, but she'll get over it. Indeed, if her family has any sense of humor at all, her meany older brother will trot this picture out at her rehearsal dinner twenty years from now.

Believe me, you can tell when politics becomes too violent. It looks like this:
 Posted by Hello

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Thursday, September 16, 2004

Copernicus blogging 

The TigerHawk son had to draw a picture of Copernicus for some undisclosed reason (non-disclosure being the modus operandi of teenagers). Here is his inspiration: Posted by Hello

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Annals of numismatics: New Jefferson nickel designs 

The United States Mint unveiled new commorative nickel designs, obverse and reverse. Check them out. Posted by Hello

From the press release:
The revamped nickels will be issued in 2005 with a new likeness of Thomas Jefferson, the third president, who will still be on the front of the two revised coins, while the 'tails' side will also get a new look including a side-view of an American bison, grazing, and a view of the water from a rocky coastline dotted with trees with the phrase 'Ocean in view! O! The joy!' a quote from explorer William Clark's journal, a reference to the Lewis and Clark expedition's quest to reach the Pacific Ocean.

"Front" and "tails side"? Please. Obverse and reverse.

The new "buffalo" reverse is arrestingly unoriginal, but it is very evocative of a time when our coins were actually beautiful. The first view of the Pacific, however, is a wonderfully subtle tribute to American triumphalism, disguised as a numismatic monument to the natural beauty of the Pacific coastline. Very, very smooth.

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Bush's massive stones 

'Bush: Kerry wants to expand government' - headline, Associated Press.

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Christian mortgages 

Apparently, there is a business in marketing "Christian mortgages." Even a fortnightly-during-the-school-year churchgoer like TigerHawk thinks that this is weird.

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This explains my great seats this year 

'Princeton stadium: Plenty of quality seats left' - headline, Daily Princetonian.

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Does Bush actually lead Kerry in New Jersey? 

According to this SurveyUSA poll conducted for big New York and Philadelphia TV stations (New Jersey not really having TV stations), Bush is up by four points among likely voters. I was not able to find any news story on this poll, so it may not really see the light of day. If accurate, or even close to accurate, the Kerry campaign will have to divert resources here at the expense of other states that also need attention. Adding some credence to the SurveyUSA poll, the Bush campaign suddenly seems to believe that New Jersey is worth some effort -- Laura Bush will be in Hamilton today for the first Bush campaign appearance here other than for the raising of money.

The poll itself involved more than 700 likely voters, and the margin of error is 3.7%, so the results are statistically significant. The pollsters noted two factors that may have bolstered Bush's results. First, the survey occurred over Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of this week, immediately following the anniversary of September 11. Second, the pollsters noted that it is "unclear what effect [McGreevey's resignation], if any, [is having] on vote for president in NJ." Well, there's no way it helps Kerry, even if it doesn't hurt him much.

Bush is ahead by 13 points among men, and behind by four points among women, so New Jersey continues to expose a huge gender gap. Bush is ahead in northern, central and southern New Jersey, although his lead in the north is very slim and probably not significant. Bush is also ahead by five points among "certain" voters, but behind by nine among "probable" voters. That also can't be good for Kerry, because it puts pressure on the turn-out effort in New Jersey when the whole party will be maneuvering over the transition in the statehouse. Bush hatred may overcome all of that for a few days, but the distraction can't help.

This is interesting, but less surprising to locals than to national pundits. The McGreevey administration -- a disaster in its denouement -- has been a mess since its inception, and the circle of corruption around him is well-understood in this state. Finally, those of us in the arc from Princeton to Camden, including Trenton, tend to watch Philadelphia television (especially if we have DirecTV, which delivers Philadelphia stations in its basic package), which means we've been seeing the Swifty ads that leak over the Delaware from Pennsylvania. Finally, the polls began to move for Bush before September 11, which strongly suggests that the intense local coverage of the RNC in New York actually helped him. If so, then the oft-derided decision to put the convention in Manhattan was smarter than it seemed at first blush if it helped put New Jersey into play.

There's a long way to go, and I will still be surprised if Bush wins New Jersey. But the problems here for the Democrats have the potential to spread Kerry's efforts, which will improve Bush's chances elsewhere.

CWCID: Glenn.

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