Today's Blogs

Survey Says…

Inspired by a raft of recent polls, bloggers discuss how President Bush is perceived by the public and treated by the press. They also buzz about a letter urging Oprah Winfrey to start recommending new books again and examine a new “mind-reading” machine.

Survey says…: Recent polls suggest a changing opinion of President Bush’s performance. A Gallup poll released yesterday indicates that half of Americans “say the Bush administration deliberately misled Americans about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.”

“You Can’t Fool All Of the People All Of the Time,” writes liberal Rod Carvel at Proof Through the Night. At Middle East-oriented Informed Comment, contrarian Juan Cole acknowledges the administration played fast and loose with weapons intelligence. “But it seems to me remarkable that so many in the public think they actively lied,” he marvels. Liberals are crowing. Corporate salesman Jazz, Running Scared from the GOP, says he’s “happy for you Americans who are now waking up to the reality and might be able to finally apply some critical thinking to the situation in a progressive fashion.”

Mixed among the sanctimonious hallelujahs are cries of foul coverage. At InstaPundit, law professor Glenn Reynolds sees “out-and-out-dishonesty” in a New York Times editorial that states, “Bush seized upon [democracy promotion] as a rationale for the invasion after his claims about weapons of mass destruction turned out to be fictitious.” Reynolds revisits his “link-rich refutation of this revisionist history,” made all the more shameful “given [the paper’s own] miserable performance on the war.” It might not be the president, says military blogger Greyhawk, writing at the Mudville Gazette; “the New York Times might be the ones who are hoodwinking you.”

Others find trends worth pondering in Bush’s general decline in the polls. At ThinkingBlue, Floridian Carolyn Ward says the numbers suggest the president has lost ground in fighting battles on behalf of Social Security reform and Terri Schiavo. At Politart, JamesDiG wonders why Bush’s national security numbers have held steady despite recent reports that terror attacks tripled in 2004. After Bush’s present 45 percent favorable rating (per Gallup), he adds, the next lowest presidential approval rating this far into a second term belonged to Ronald Reagan—at 56 percent. Others think the numbers might not be telling the whole story. Power Line pundit John Hinderaker discovers oversampling of Democrats and leading questions behind ABC News/Washington Post poll numbers that say Americans disapprove of Republican plans to disallow the filibuster on judicial nominees. (Erick Erickson at and Bulldogpundit from Ankle Biting Pundits have similar beefs). But count S.M. Dixon among the faithful. “Can you hear that sound?” he asks at progressive Political Strategy. “It’s the nervous gnashing of Republican teeth.”

Read more about the new Gallup poll here.

Dear Oprah:An open letter at literary consortium Word of Mouth praises media titan Oprah Winfrey and asks her to revive her list of contemporary fiction to rejuvenate the bleak landscape faced by fiction writers. “The terrorist attacks of September, 2001 are often cited as the beginning of a great downward shift” in fiction sales, the letter notes. But research by writer M.J. Rose “suggests that the drastic downward shift actually happened six months after the attacks: fiction sales really began to plummet when the The Oprah Winfrey Book Club went off the air.”

Plenty of bloggers rally to the cause. “What the hell, I signed it,” says author Martha O’Connor. “One hopes they delivered it via helicopter, with loudspeakers and naked people and sirens and promotional pencils (unsharpened, of course) falling out of the sky. That’s probably what it takes to get Oprah’s attention!” Happy Booker Wendi Kaufman suggests that Oprah’s online recommendation of Edward P. Jones’ The Known World might signal a return to highlighting contemporary books. 

Other lit bloggers have reservations about resuscitating the Book Club. “As wonderful as the book club was on a book-to-book, month-to-month basis, it didn’t have much of long-term effect,” Jennifer Weiner argues at SnarkSpot. “If it had, literary fiction sales wouldn’t be in such a sorry state. … Rather than praying for a successful, much-beloved talk show host to once again sprinkle their books with fairy dust,” she adds, “the literary authors would be better served figuring out how to make the connection themselves.”

Read more blog posts about the letter.

Mind meld: “It is possible to read someone’s mind by remotely measuring their brain activity,” reportsNew Scientist. Two separate studies have shown that scientists using “functional MRI scanning” can remotely monitor brain activity to tell which image from a pre-established set of images a subject is looking at.

“This work is clearly at the beginning stages, but the possibilities are enormous,” says law professor Adam Kolber. At fantastic planet, Gnostic Christian Jeremy Puma foresees mostly sinister applications for “the mind-reading machine.” Nevertheless, some are calling it bunk. The technology, called fMRI, “is fast gaining a reputation among molecular neuroscientists as little more than voodoo,” warnsfound_drama. “As consumers of science, we must be careful with studies like these. The unfortunate truth about fMRI is that many scientists doing this research are basically making it up as they go along.”

Read more about the mind-reading machine here, here, and here.

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