Friday, April 30, 2004

What Matt Drudge posts

McCain Letter to Sinclair Broadcast on Preemption of Nightline
Fri Apr 30 2004 11:29:49 ET

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) issued the following letter today to Mr. David Smith, President and CEO of Sinclair Broadcast Group, in response to the preemption of this evening's Nightline program:

I write to strongly protest your decision to instruct Sinclair's ABC affiliates to preempt this evening's Nightline program. I find deeply offensive Sinclair's objection to Nightline's intention to broadcast the names and photographs of Americans who gave their lives in service to our country in Iraq.

I supported the President's decision to go to war in Iraq, and remain a strong supporter of that decision. But every American has a responsibility to understand fully the terrible costs of war and the extraordinary sacrifices it requires of those brave men and women who volunteer to defend the rest of us; lest we ever forget or grow insensitive to how grave a decision it is for our government to order Americans into combat. It is a solemn responsibility of elected officials to accept responsibility for our decision and its consequences, and, with those who disseminate the news, to ensure that Americans are fully informed of those consequences.

There is no valid reason for Sinclair to shirk its responsibility in what I assume is a very misguided attempt to prevent your viewers from completely appreciating the extraordinary sacrifices made on their behalf by Americans serving in Iraq. War is an awful, but sometimes necessary business. Your decision to deny your viewers an opportunity to be reminded of war's terrible costs, in all their heartbreaking detail, is a gross disservice to the public, and to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. It is, in short, sir, unpatriotic. I hope it meets with the public opprobrium it most certainly deserves."
Innumeracy in the New York Times

Great wonderful important cancer treatment news slightly blurred by an odd approach to statistics of very small samples.

Compare and contrast the words and the numbers

"Stories about such rescues from death's door have given hope to tens of thousands of cancer patients who have tried Iressa, ...

At the same time, patients without the mutation might forgo Iressa, saving them or the health care system $1,900 a month for a drug that is not likely to help them. Still, some of the researchers said that the findings were based on small samples ...

"The question then is what if you don't have this mutation? I don't think there's enough information to say you shouldn't get the drug.""


"One research group found a mutation in all five of the tumors it checked from patients who had responded to the drug and in none from the four patients who had not responded. ...

The other study found the mutations in the tumors of eight out of nine responders, ... and in no tumors of seven nonresponders. "

So of 12 people with cancer and without the mutation one responded to Iressa. That's one out of 12. The article doesn't say what kind of cancer that patient had (from context I guessed lung cancer). A one out of 12 performance in treatment of patients where conventional treatment failed is outstandingly excellent. It is not as good as the 13 out of 13 performance of people whose tumors had the mutation, but it is crazy to even discuss the possibility of not giving the drug to people who lack the mutation based on a sampel with 1 out of 12 success.

The 1 out of 12 isn't the only data useful for estimating what fraction of cancers without the mutation respond to Iressa. The calculation of the overall response rate from a large sample (about 10%) and the fraction of tumors with the mutation 16 out of 103 are also useful information. After some complicated (and probably incorrect) calculations, which I will not bore myself typing up, I get a maximimum probability estimate that a cancer without the mutation will respond to Iressa of 1 in 16 which is still excellent.

Now if 0 cancers without the mutation had responded, the point about how the sample is so small that this does not reject the hypothesis of a clinically significant probability of response would have been valid. Clearly it was perfectly possible that none of the 12 treated patients with tumors without the mutation would have gotten lucky. In a sample of 12, one success makes a huge difference in the point estimate of the probability of success. Ignoring this case in the discussion is crazy.

Anyway ANDREW POLLACK and the doctor he quoted very briefly (perhaps deleting reasoning like the above) reach a reasonable conclusion. The article should be very prominent because it is important to spead the great news as fast as possible.

Ransom M Wardell writes

"Response rates were 18.4 and 11.8%, and disease control rates were 54.4 and 42.2%, " This means that the roughly 10% was very very roughly (and shows further disinterest in numbers even if they are very important numbers). It also reminds me that response and cure are different. I don't know how long people have to do OK to declare their disease controlled. 1/12 or 1/16 times 42.2% = still great for non small cell lung cardinoma.
Elisabetta Addis just said "Rabbits don't understand topology" and she meant it.

Our pet rabbit was grazing on a long leash which it had managed to loop around various trees, so the comment was practical. It made me wonder if anyone had ever said "Rabbits don't understand topology" in all of human history (pre-history is a snap since prehistoric people didn't talk much about topology).

I'm pretty sure that no one has ever written "rabbits know everything there is to know about topology".
In Front of his Nose

Paul Krugman almost wanders off the safe path of criticizing Bush into the minefield of attempting to propose a solution. Then he pulls back at the last moment at the cost of a near contradiction

"Some pin their hopes on a political solution: they believe that violence will subside if the U.N. is allowed to appoint a caretaker government that Iraqis don't view as a U.S. puppet.

Let's hope they're right. But bear in mind that right now the U.S. is still planning to hand over "sovereignty" to a body, yet to be named, that will have hardly any power at all. ...

I don't have a plan for Iraq."

The last quoted sentence is completely unconvincing given the paragraphs immediately above. Krugman clearly does have a plan for Iraq. He thinks that the US should transfer sovereignty not "sovereignty" to the interim government.

I agree with what I think Krugman thinks. We have reached such a desparate situation that the best slim hope for a non disasterous outcome is to have Brahimi choose an interim government and hand over sovereignty. Sovereignty includes the authority to order US forces to leave the country.

We have to hope that the people chosen by Brahimi have the spine to tell their countrymen that foreign security forces are still needed for a while, that they will not be Islamic loonies, that they will not be grossly corrupt and that they will be a whole lot more competent than the team appointed by the US Supreme Court.

My point (if any) is that Krugman should have the courage to propose a course of action so that he will have to defend it when things go badly (as they will in any case). Criticising is easy and makes Krugman look like a genius (did I mention that he is a genius'). How would he do if he were President ?

I'm trying to imagine President Krugman. When reality is too depressing to face I escape into fantasy.
As noted by Atrios, "Roger Ailes", and Ted at crooked timber, Mickey Kaus is making a fool of himself over an article by Robert Sam Anson in the New York Observer.

I really don't care about Kaus or Agnew. I want to know which "assistant something or other at the Pentagon [who] was away for the evening, but had left a key" to his Georgetown townhouse for Vietnam veterans against the war in 1971? I mean wouldn't it be nice to know who is going to be the next secretary of Defence ? [update Oatsie and Robert Charles].

The article itself is truly beautiful, although, like the works of Dostoevsky, it shows that just being nuts doesn't mean you can write well. Anson criticizes Kerry because there is a risk that he, like McGovern, will attempt to sound moderate and won't stand up for his liberal principals. This is the first time I have read that McGovern should have campaigned further to the left (I'm not young but I'm too young to have heard that).

Anson objects that McGovern's trimming had bad effects involving people like Carter and Clinton ? this makes it seem that Anson can't stand it when Democrats are actually elected President. Anson claims otherwise, but what else is one to make of the proposal "The solution? Well, for starters, friend of days gone by, lay your hands on a tape of your 1971 Senate testimony; have Bob Shrum turn it into a TV commercial. Air it morning, noon and night. " ? Come on Mr Anson, get your own soul into heaven, I want Kerry in the White House.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

I tend to try to avoid making predictions and I can understand why. My latest prediction "Abdul Aziz Al Hakim gets president of prime minister (whichever he prefers), Adnan Pachachi gets to be prime minister or president for being a Sunni moslem. Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talebani have to decide which is a vice president, one hopes without bloodshed. a Fourth Shi'ite completes the team ( Mohammed Bahr al-Ulloum or Ibrahim al-Jaafari)" was wrong wrong wrong.

According to As Zaman as translated and summarized by Juan Cole, Brahimi and the Bush administration are agreeing on a team of "technocrats" meaning non politicians without post transition ambitions. Also according to Juan Cole, the leading politician candidate for prime minister is Ibrahim al-Jaafari who came in tied for second in my confused rankings of Shi'ite politicians.

The ranking of politicians appears to be scheduled for after the elections (what a novel idea this Brahimi guy has). My prediction might still prove right with a delay until January. As Red Sox fans say "Waitill next year".

I still think Sistani in person would make a good transitional president preferably actually elected with a ration card based vote. My hope is that he is sincere in not believing he should be in office and so really would be transitional.
I agree with Ahmad Chalabi !

He said "It is unfair and astounding that I would be given such powers to affect a system."

Yes it was unfair to Iraqis and coalition soldiers to base policy on a crook's lies and astounding that such a person was allowed to have such influence on US policy.

Some might suspect that he meant "It is unfair to suggest and would be astounding if it were true that I was given such powers to affect a system" but I am sure that Ahmad Chalabi has repented.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

The Iraq occupation risks running out of money before the fiscal year ends, the Bush administration refuses to budget for next years spending until after the election. Meanwhile families of US soldiers are buying them body armor and soldiers are driving around in Iraq in un armored humvees. This is a life and death issue

Newsweek via defencetech via Brad Delong

"A breakdown of the casualty figures suggests that many U.S. deaths and wounds in Iraq simply did not need to occur. According to an unofficial study by a defense consultant that is now circulating through the Army, of a total of 789 Coalition deaths as of April 15 (686 of them Americans), 142 were killed by land mines or improvised explosive devices, while 48 others died in rocket-propelled-grenade attacks. Almost all those soldiers were killed while in unprotected vehicles, which means that perhaps one in four of those killed in combat in Iraq might be alive if they had had stronger armor around them, the study suggested. Thousands more who were unprotected have suffered grievous wounds, such as the loss of limbs."

I hate to be partisan while people are dying but I would hate more to let the death continue by allowing Bush to put politics above soldiers' lives. I think that Senator Kerry has to propose as an amendment to something else a supplemental bill providing more money for bolt on armor for Humvees and for latest model body armor for all US soldiers in Iraq. He would be required to say how he will pay for this. He should propose a tax on immense estates and very high incomes. Hell I think he should add an extra little tax cut equal for everyone to the bill.

To me Bush is currently riding high in the polls in an unarmored humvee with no body armor. One well aimed amendment and he is history.

This would not be exploiting the suffering of soldiers in Iraq for partisan gain, because they would be the first to benefit. That is, I think the amendment would not be just symbolic but would be a step towards getting something done. Bush doesn't seem to care as much as he should about US servicemen dying. I'm sure he cares a lot but not, it seems, enough. The fact that Kerry is using the issue to tear him to pieces politically would help getting some overdue action on the Vietnam era body armor un armored jeep disgraces.
Back to TANG and leading with their chin. The Bush campaign demanded that Kerry release his military records which are what one would expect for the winner of 5 medals. This was very dumb. Now he can bring up Bush's ARG records again. The Bush campaign should realise that this issue goes away because reporters get bored with it not because Bush has ever come up with a convincing explanation.

Some time ago on valentine's day, I thought reporters might keep on it "If there are gross gaps in the file released by the whitehouse (no copy of the discharge itself, no disciplinary response to the failure to take the flight physical-)" .

There were exactly those gross gaps plus the absense of a final officer efficiency evaluation. Nonetheless it took a boneheaded attack on Kerry on a front where he has the high ground (to put it mildly) to enable Kerry to get attention back on the gaps.

I am kicking myself for not posting the thought (which I really honestly had in February) that McClellan describing the file as "everything we have" made me suspect that they had avoided receiving everything in Bush's file. Josh Marshall has evidence that this is what happened.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Can you tell that I have posted something today ? Does it have something to do with an RSS feed detected by sour grapes ?

Friday, April 23, 2004

Emote like a butterfly think like a bee
the Bush campaign is quicker than Muhamad Ali

with a chin nose chin combination

First they argue that John Kerry should release his military records.
Then when he releases part of the records within a day of receiving them from the Navy, they object that he didn't release all of them instantly. Now when he puts all the records on the web

"Terry Holt, a spokesman for President Bush's campaign, said the issue was never Mr. Kerry's military service but what he said was Mr. Kerry's hypocrisy in calling for full disclosure of various aspects of Mr. Bush's presidency while Mr. Kerry had not released his own military records or the tax returns of his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry."

Wait, since they argued that the records should be released, aren't they supposed to argue that the records are of public interest ? I mean I always assumed that they were making an issue of it just to create a media vs privacy thing, but they're not supposed to admit it.

Keep it up guys, I'm afraid your country needs your help.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Just Do It

I'd say a certain junior senator from Massachusetts should propose an amendment to some minor bill appropriating money for the troops in Iraq, rasing taxes on the richest half percent to pay for it times two and cutting taxes for the less righ 99.5%.

This amendment wouldn't pass, wouldn't survive a conference committe, would be disrupting the normal budgeting process and would be "class war".

So ?

The Bush administration doesn't play by the informal rules, why should he ?

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

"Kerry Campaign Provides Military Records
4 minutes ago"

Note the byline Nedra Pickler.

Amazingly Republicans chose to attack Kerry on his military record. Isn't that leading with their chin ? Well how about a quick chin nose combination?

" Ken Mehlman, President Bush (news - web sites)'s campaign manager, accused Kerry's campaign of waffling on the release of his military records, saying the campaign's position on Tuesday to release the records in "due diligence" is contrary to Kerry's comments on "Meet the Press" that the records would be made public immediately.

"Senator Kerry's record of nondisclosure and his flip-flop on this issue should concern voters," Mehlman said. "

They never ever back down do they ? I can't help believing that this is going to hurt them. The degree of total vileness of the Bush campaign and administration never ceases to amaze me, and I can't help believing that millions of my country-people who have not been paying attention are going to notice between now and the election.
Polls arg

Josh Marshall has a good post on why we shouldn't panic over the Gallup/CNN/USA Today and WaPo/ABC polls showing Bush ahead. Unfortunately his link sent me to polling report where there is a new Invesors Business daily Christian Science Monitor poll showing Bush ahead.

Following Marshall I look at polls all or in part in April. Summing 8 polls without Nader, Kerry cumulates 13 points ahead so averages 13/8 % ahead with a sampling standard error of very roughly 1%. Summing a partly overlapping set of 9 polls Bush is 5/9 % ahead with a sampling standard error of very roughly 1 % (well I said it was very roughly).

Ignoring the fact that I am doing this because I was struck by an apparent change (data snooping bias),
the lastest 3 (with Nader) give Bush ahead by an average of 5 % and the previous 6 gave Kerry ahead by an average of 5/3 %. The stardard error of the change due to sampling alone is very very roughly 2% which implies that Bush's gain would be strongly statistically significant.

I warn again about data snooping. I saw what appears to be a pattern and asked if it is statistically significant using techniques which would be valid if I had decided to apply them before looking at the data. Such an approach leads to size distortion (rejection of the null at the 5% level more than 5% of the time).

I ignore my warning above.

What can people be thinking ?

One argument is that anything that makes people focus on terrorism, foreign policy or war helps Bush even if they are focusing because of disasters due to Bush's decision to invade Iraq and discussion of Bush's non response to warnings in 2001. It could be the effect of Bush's $ 40 million add buy. One other possibility, which is supported in answers on who would deal with economic issues better in the WaPo/ABC poll, is that the ancient news about employment growth in March is influencing people. In particular, if emplyment is still growing OK people might be influenced by the fact that someone they know found a job even if the numbers haven't been tallied.

This is grim. It is only April. If I am already this obsessed, I will be completely crazy by November. I don't even want to think of the possbility of another recount.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Woodward in the Post part III

This article is based on chapters which were leaked and discussed in the 60 minutes interview. The leaks and the headline confirm the hypothesis that the press considers Colin Powell's angst more important than the constitution. The concern Powell's preception that Cheney had a feaver. The do not concern who exactly was conducting US foreign policy in the Summer of 2002.

"Cheney decided that everyone was offering an opinion except the administration. ... It was highly unusual for the vice president to speak on such a major issue before the president, .... But Cheney couldn't wait. ...He spoke privately with the president, who gave his approval without reviewing the details of what Cheney might say.

At an NSC meeting, Cheney said to the president, "Well, I'm going to give that speech."

"Don't get me in trouble," Bush half joked.

Trouble is what Cheney had in mind.

"Cheney Says Peril of a Nuclear Iraq Justifies Attack," read the headline in the New York Times on Aug. 27"

Woodward asserts that the administrations policy was publicly declared in a speach which was not even read by the President. After Cheney's speech Bush had a choice between eliminating Saddam Hussein by whatever means necessary and publicly backing down, wimping out and retreating from the administration position decided and publicly stated by the Vice Presicent acting on his own and without the Presidents knowledge or approval of the decision to commit to war or humiliation based on the undread text of the speach not the approved topic.

Well enough about the constitution time for some gossip-

We all know that Wolfowitz was frozen in amber, obsessed with the decision in 1991 to let Saddam Hussein stay in power, but who could have imagined that he was so obsessed that he was still complaining on April 10 2003 after Saddam Hussein's army had been defeated.

" "We're all together. There should be no protocol; let's just talk," Cheney said when they sat down to dinner.

Wolfowitz embarked on a long review of the 1991 Persian Gulf War and what a mistake it had been to allow the Iraqis to fly helicopters after the armistice."

Frankly the man seems to be insane to me.

As in Richard Clarke's report on the PEOC on September 11th we see that the person who is really in charge is not Richard Cheney or even Rove but Lynn Cheney

""I want you three guys to shut up," Lynne Cheney said, pointing at Cheney, Wolfowitz and Adelman."

I have searched the US constitution and find no reference to the absolute authority of the spouse of the Vice President.
Where is William Safire when you need him ?

IMHO blogs are a threat to the EL (English language). The writing is often excellent, but the language is changing at an alarming speed.

IIRC way back before the www, it was relatively easy to keep up with changng slang. Now I am (really sincerely) impressed by the wit and clarity of the following sentence "But analysed as a debating tactic, which is what it is, it’s just ghastly; OCYWRSHSHIP is simply a version of LLLLLICHY."

All I can say is WTF.

Oddly my alarm turned to panic when I realised that one of the reason that "now that Kerry appears to have undergone a Vulcan mind meld with Joe Lieberman." is brilliant even judged by Billmon's frighteningly high standards is that after the publication of "The Rise of the Vulcans", the pacifist Vulcans are associated with the neocon hawks.

Now this should be a matter of concern for Safire for two reasons. The language is changing and Republicans are facing adversaries much more vigorous and witty that the natering nabobs of negativism in the SCLM. Why hasn't he complained about the
Accretion of acrimonious acronyms
in the left blogosphere ?
A very important article with the very odd title -- "Bush Officials Deny Money Was Diverted for Iraq War"

includes the following passages so why wasn't it entitled "Bush Officials Confirm Money Was Diverted for Iraq War" ?

"..., administration officials said Gen. Tommy R. Franks, then the top American military commander in the region, had submitted a list to the Pentagon in July 2002 of $750 million worth of contingency planning and preparatory work he wanted to do in the region.

But they said the Pentagon approved only a portion of the money at first. During August and September 2002, they said, the Pentagon released $178 million for projects..."


"Over several months after Congress adopted a resolution on Oct. 11, 2002, authorizing the use of force in Iraq, the Pentagon approved $800 million worth of projects intended to help plan and prepare for a possible invasion, the officials said."

Note that the resolution did not include the appropriation of funds as is clearly required for spending in the US Constitution "Clause 7: No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law"


Now I'e read the Washington Post article that could have been entitled "Bush Officials Confirm Money Was Diverted for Iraq War" but had the odd title "Powell Says He Was 'Committed' to Iraq War ". I guess Colin Powell's state of mind is more important than the constitution.
My amygdala is firing.

On an MRI it would look like a supernova.

In 1984 one of the partiy's two unrealised aims was to directly determine what people were thinking observing their brain. The New York Time reports that we are beyond 1984.
So much for Heraclitis

"You can't step in the same river twice" Heraclitis
"Waist deep in big muddy" Pete Seeger

Wasn't the second time supposed to be farce ?
Since he has not hidden under a rock and in fact appears in a taxpayer funded letter from Pete Sessions to his consituents, no one should forget that Grover Norquist fronted for indicted alleged financiers of Hamas and al Qaeda.

Msnbc reports that Grover Norquist president emeritus of the Islamic Institute and former registered agent of the Abdurahman Alamoudi helped the alleged helpers of al Qaeda.

Atrios, Mark Kleiman, Frank Gaffney twice, Free, worldnetdaily, Byron York, Tacitus and many others have already noted this.

Not, you will note, just the usual leftwing suspects. It seems to me that Sessions has chosen to link himself with a man who betrayed our nation's security for cash.

You might want to visit this web page.
Scott McClellan confirms Woodwards assertion about the Bandar oil deal.

Joshua Marshall asks if there is a clear answer in the The Bandar Oil Deal Gaggle...

I think he asks because the truth is made very clear.

"QUESTION: We’re missing the allegation here, which is that Prince Bandar and the Saudis have made a commitment to lower oil prices to help the President politically. Is that your --

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not going to speak for Prince Bandar. You can direct those comments to him. I can tell you that what our views are and what he said at the stakeout is what we know his views are, as well."


QUESTION: I’m not asking you to speculate either. Do you have knowledge of such a commitment?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m telling you what our views are ... [no response].

QUESTION: So you have no knowledge of such a commitment?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and expressed their view. I'm not going to try to speak for Prince Bandar. You can direct those questions to him.

QUESTION: The President is confident that the American elections are not being manipulated by the world's largest oil producer?

MR. McCLELLAN: Our view is that the markets should determine -- "

When specifically asked, McClellan refused to deny that he knew that Prince Bandar and the Saudis have made a commitment to lower oil prices to help the President politically.

I'd say it doesn't get much clearer than that.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Recently I objected to two articles in the New York Times which went to absurd lengths to avpid partiality for non perjurers. Now I see a news article by Linda Greenhouse which makes no attempt at all at impartiality. It is clear that she has a position -- indefinite detention without trial is not consistent with the US constitution. I am not a constitutional scholar but this seems to me to be simply a fact.

Now if I were to pretend that there is a common editorial policy behind the very different articles by very different journalists, I would conclude that the New York Times considers perjury no big deal but trampling on the US constitution to be going too far.
Well at least that's clear. Bob Woodward claims that Bush idecided to invade Iraq in January 2003 and that
Colin Powell was informed in a 12 minute conversation in the White House on January 13th (after Bandar bin Sultan had been informed). Condoleezza Rice but not Colin Powell has publically denied that this conversation took place. It is clear that it did take place. this means that, like Clinton, Bush told a direct lie to the American people, although about a slightly more important matter.

I never cease to be amazed at the amount of humiliation which Powell has been willing to endure in exchange for virtually zero influence on policy. I wonder if his little chats with Woodward will be enough for him to get fired even if he is unwilling to quit.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Matthew Yglesias is certainly right about at least some things in the post which I criticize below..

"Still, we're seeing a bit of the rosy glow of hindsight here. The anti-war discourse was filled with arguments that have proven totally false about massive casualties in house-to-house fighting through Baghdad and Arab regimes toppling left and right. Was this what the "majority" of people were saying? " I don't know about the majority of anti war discoursers but I made those arguments. It is certainly true that the consequences (so far) for Arab regimes have been much less severe than I feared and so, less severe than my subjective mean. Similarly, I feared that there could have been massive casualties in house to house fighting. Again things were better than my subjective mean. I might add that I also feared that a lot of Iraqi soldiers would have been killed without need in Highway of Death II the sequel. I have the sense that, partly due to Rumsfeld (yes Rumsfeld) the coalition approach minimized Iraqi military casualties -- a very good thing which I did not expect at all.

Finally I think the case against invading Iraq is much weaker than it seemed, because Iraq did not have WMD. Before the invasion, in my very first post on Iraq, I argued in no uncertain terms that WMD in Iraq were a reason to refrain from invading not a reason to invade. In retrospect this seems to me to be completely obvious. Given the total failure of coalition forces to secure such sites as the bombed out nuclear reactor, what chance is there that they would have secured all the WMD in Iraq. I’d say roughly zero. What chance would there be that WMD would have since been used by insurgents or terrorists. Not 100% but I would say clearly much higher than the chance that they would have been used if we had not invaded. I still think that the decision to invade Iraq was a mistake but I am much less sure than I was just before the invasion when I was 99% sure that there were chemical and biological weapons in Iraq or in 2002 when I was 99.9% sure that there were.

So all in all, I am somewhat less sure than I was that it was a bad idea to invade Iraq. The Bush administrations incompetence and limited devotion to nation building was not a major factor in my decision, and I would have opposed an invasion of Iraq in the impossible contingency that Clinton proposed it.

I don’t expect Yglesias to agree with the last point, but I think he should agree that Clinton would never have invaded and occupied Iraq, nor would Kerry nor, of course, would Bush Sr. Can he really imagine a President who would be both qualified to direct the invasion and occupation of Iraq and willing to do it without recent extreme provocation ?
I almost always agree with Matthew Yglesias, although I don't write 1% as well. Unusually, I disagree almost completely with his latest post on Iraq.

Yglesias writes "
1. The sactions/inspections regime was not sustainable over the long term.

2. Sometime after the sanctions/inspections regime collapsed, Saddam Hussein would acquire nuclear weapons and this would have an extremely adverse impact on the world.

As a result, it was necessary to implement a regime change policy of some sort at some point before Saddam's acquisition of nuclear weapons. There was, however, not only no reason this had to be done Bush's way, but (more important, in retrospect, from my point-of-view) there was really no reason it had to be done on Bush's timetable."

This doesn't really make much sense to me. What was wrong with Bush's approach, given that one is in favor of an invasion sooner or later. The main criticism I have heard was that Bush went in bilaterally (with the UK) instead of building a coalition. If a better invasion means a UN approved invasion with a large coalition, I don't see how that could be possible and a continued effective inspections regime could be impossible. the logic seems backward. Another problem with Bush's invasion was sending too few soldiers. This problem was not just due to Rumsfeld's egomaniacal stubborness. As noted, the US does not have all that many more deployable soldiers. Ygleisais would propose introducing a draft to prepare for an invasion of Iraq in the future. He must know that this falls under the category of "shit that ain't gonna happen."

Yglesias links to Daniel Davies, who basically argues that it would have been better to wait so that the US might have a non moronic president. Instead it seems to me that Davies hopes for an oxymoronic president, who would be willing to wait until the time was right and then use decisive force. Clinton was a very smart president, but the Kosovo war did not seem to be a brilliant operation at the time, totally aside from bombing the Chinese embassy. I think the reason is that Clinton is by inclination moderate and knew that there was not a compelling enough reason to invade for US public opinion to accept many casualties. This lead to a war of attrition until Milosevic caved. The analogous approach to Iraq would be bombing until hell froze over.

I guess my basic question is how long are you prepared to wait for a ground war of choice, started by someone who made it to the White House, and who is not an idiot ? I'd say it would have been quicker to bomb Saddam Hussein until he was as reasonable as Matthew Yglesias or Daniel Davies.

Clarke part XLVII

The New York Times would rather condone perjury than appear partisan. This is shocking. In their review of the results of the 9/11 commission's investigation, DAVID JOHNSTON and JIM DWYER give a they said they said presentation of the debate between the CIA and the Clinton administration as to whether Clinton ordered the CIA to kill bin Laden without faking an attempt to capture him -- "White House aides believed, for example, that President Clinton had authorized actions to kill Mr. bin Laden, but C.I.A. officers thought they were legally permitted to kill him only during an attempt to capture him." Now this shows special eagerness not to apportion blame, since it is simply aserted that each is telling the truth "believed" and "thought" not "claimed" or " asserted."

The questioning of Cofer Black and John Ashcroft makes it extremely difficult to stick to such a balanced assessment. Ashcroft and Black presented the CIA position that the MON was, at worst for bin Laden, unclear on this point. They were forcibly contradicted by Ben Veniste and Fielding (a Republican) who claimed that they were proven wrong by a Clinton administration document that the Bush administration had attempted to keep from the commission. This is a very important issue and it is not mentioned in the four cyberpage long article. If you want serious coverage, it would be better to look here.

Now it might be premature to conclude that the CIA witnesses to the 9/11 commission perjured themselves in an effort to blame the Clinton White House for their failure to transmit the President's orders to their subordinates, but the issue would not have be suppressed entirely by serious journalists.

On a much pettier note, Adam Nagourney and Eric Lichtblau appear to consider a little white lie no big deal in decided who are the "9/11 Hearings' Winners and Losers."

"On paper, at least, Ms. Rice did not appear to do particularly well. After her exchange with Mr. Ben-Veniste about the name of the Aug. 6, 2001, presidential briefing, she went on to minimize its importance, describing it as little more than a "historical" document. As it turned out, the briefing included evidence from as recently as May of that year.

But that has seemed to be more of a problem for the White House than for Ms. Rice, "

as it was unimportant compared to "Her cool, poised and very prepared presence...". Even in an article which is explicitly about (and pandering to) Washington superficiality this is extreme. Last I heard, cool poised and very prepared perjury was a felony.

Nagourney and Lichtblau's quotes are selected and edited with gross bias. They quote Matt Bennet (a Democrat) praising one Democrat (Gorelick) then criticizing two in a quote so blatantly removed from context that there is a pronoun without a referent "They were a little too combative, and it sort of came off as a nasty spat,". To what does the word "it" refer ? Not, I think to a piece of legitimate journalism.

They quote Vin Weber (a Republican) criticizing a Democrat (Ben Veniste) as the most partisan, when it should be clear that Rep Weber is not likely to be as hard on Republican partisanship, including, for example, communication on the day of a hearing with the White House Counsel and waving the just released transcript of a background interview. They also quote Rep Weber calling Rice a superstar to sum up their section on her.

They quote Rahm Emanuel (Dem) even-handedly praising a Democrat and a Republican. They quote Ben Veniste (the highly partisan Democrat) praising a Bush appointee. They quote John F. Lehman, a Republican defending a Democrat (Gorelick).

The most outrageous example of absurd bias is the quote summing up the section on Clarke ""He looks like a greedy, self-aggrandizing, bitter, score-settling political person," said Richard N. Bond, a former Republican national chairman."

Now, Mr Bond is not an important public figure, so no very useful purpose is served by illustrating the amazing irony blind hypocrisy of a RNC chairman accusing a civil servant of being "political" The point is that the only quoted words on Clarke and Rice, which are also the last words, are from Republicans with no claim to special expertise.

This can only be an effort to achieve balance between Clarke many of whose once controversial claims have been confirmed and Rice whose lie was promptly exposed.

The lesson can only be that the New York Times is the friend of liars and the enemy of the truth.

[Update] Immediately after posting the above I went to read what Bob Somerby had to say. I wanted to be sure that my post was not completely redundant. I was shocked to learn two things. First it was not redundant at all. His post was about the press corps going easy on Rice and being unfair to Ben Veniste. He presented outrageous examples not including the article by Adam Nagourney and Eric Lichtblau. Second my language was much more extreme than his. Somerby was careful not to accuse Rice of out and out perjury. Even more surprising, Bob Somerby was much gentler with the press corps than I. I never expected to write that.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

"U.S. may cut Afghan force size
Despite al-Qaida hunt, numbers may decrease after elections" (in Afghanistan) !!!

KABUL, Afghanistan - The United States, which has increased troops numbers in Afghanistan to hunt for Osama bin Laden and other militants, may cut their number after the country holds elections, the top U.S. military officer said on Friday.
“We’ve ramped up our presence here a little bit anticipating and trying to ensure that we have no more violence as we head towards elections,” Myers said, after arriving in Kabul from Iraq for a first-hand look at military operations.

“So we’re a little stronger, a little beefier than we have been. That does ebb and flow,” he told reporters travelling with him. “It’s quite likely we could go back down to lower numbers.

“We will see how events unfold. I think generally most of the country is pretty secure as a matter of fact,” he added.

Violence in the north and south and huge logistical challenges forced Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to postpone elections from June to September.

Myers added that increased troop strength in Iraq, where fighting in recent weeks has been the bloodiest since Saddam Hussein was ousted a year ago, would not reduce the availability of U.S. forces for operations in Afghanistan.


“There will be ongoing operations,” Myers said, referring to Pakistan’s military in the border area. “I’m not sure they are engaged right this minute but I think that you can anticipate that it won’t be too long before they are engaged again.""

Pakistan organizes the Taliban and sells nuclear technology around the world, then fights one battle, and they are major non Nato allies. Maybe they'll fight another battle if we let them into Nato.

by the way the current beefy force numbers 15,500. The 135,000 in Iraq would have had nothing to do given how peaceful Afghanistan is.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

9-11 commission 13 April 04
What with the presidential press conference and the Ashcroft attacks Gorelick strategic declassification, some might have missed
The following

It is interesting for two reasons. First the Washington Post's transcript is clearly incorrect since they have Pickard answering questions which were clearly asked of Black. Second Ben Veniste accused the Bush administration of using the classification process to cover up the fact that Clinton ordered the CIA to kill bin Laden without wasting effort making it look like an effort to capture him. Amazingly Fielding seems to share Ben Veniste's view. This is a man who represented Nixon concerning Watergate but he seems to have reached his limit.

Pretty thermonuclear.

"BEN-VENISTE: The request never came.

And finally with request with -- Mr. Black -- to the kill or capture answer that you gave earlier to Secretary Lehman: Are you confident that you saw all of the instructions signed by President Clinton as of late 1998 before you took up your duties at the CT center in mid-1999?

PICKARD: All of the memorandums of notification...


PICKARD: ... were retained by our lawyers. And I did have access to them.

BEN-VENISTE: Are you confident that you saw all of them, because, sir, you are mistaken with respect to your answer.

PICKARD: Well -- well, I don't know the universe of what -- I don't know what, necessarily, all the ones. I know the ones that were made available to me -- put it that way.

BEN VENISTE: The problem was that the one that we are referring to here was not made available to us until very recently. It was in the Clinton archived materials and was held very closely.

PICKARD: Yes. I don't know what you're referring to, so I would have to see it to confirm that I was aware of it. So I don't know, sir. ""

Also later


I believe in your statement, General Ashcroft, with respect to the failed capture policy of the prior administration that you may be incorrect.

I don't believe that you have seen the MON that we have recently received as of last week which had not been previously made available to us. And I will leave that for others to discuss; we've got to tip- toe around it for obvious national security and classification reasons. But you may be enlightened by reviewing that document.

And still later

FIELDING: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


You said in your prepared statement this afternoon, that in discussing the debate on the nature of the covert action authorities, that in February 2001, shortly after becoming attorney general, you reviewed those authorities. And your thorough review revealed no covert action program to kill bin Laden. Is that correct?

ASHCROFT: I believe that the covert action plan I reviewed was to capture bin Laden. And if he were to be killed it would only be in the eventual circumstance that there were some kind of inability to capture that resulted in a threat that required some kind of self- defense measure.

FIELDING: What briefings did you seek in February to review this whole situation?

...[Much question dodging by Ashcroft later]

FIELDING: Did you staff prepare a briefing for you? Was there any written documentation of the process that you went through to make this evaluation?

ASHCROFT: I'm not in a position to remember whether or not they did at this time.

FIELDING: We would request that you check that. And the reason I'm asking is I must advise you that we have received recent information in regard to MONs which I believe may alter your evaluation of existing authorities in February of 2001. "

What's going on ?

I'd say that the Bush administration is finally more desperate than stubborn.

Yesterday, President Bush more or less said that he on June 30 he will transfer Iraqi sovereignty to whomever is chosen by Lakhdar Brahimi.

"Q ... Mr. President, who will you be handing the Iraqi government over to on June 30th?

THE PRESIDENT: We will find that out soon. That's what Mr. Brahimi is doing; he's figuring out the nature of the entity we'll be handing sovereignty over."

Today, Brahimi said that he thinks that the IGC should be replaced by "a prime minister, a president and two vice presidents." To be "chosen by the United Nations, the current Governing Council, the coalition and a select group of Iraqi judges, according to the U.N. spokesman's office in New York."

Might not be what the President had in mind, but "L. Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, welcomed Brahimi's recommendations."

I sure hope it works out.

So my guess as to who is chosen by (list above which really means Brahimi, Sistani, and the Bush administration ): Abdul Aziz Al Hakim gets president of prime minister (whichever he prefers), Adnan Pachachi gets to be prime minister or president for being a Sunni moslem. Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talebani have to decide which is a vice president, one hopes without bloodshed. a Fourth Shi'ite completes the team ( Mohammed Bahr al-Ulloum or Ibrahim al-Jaafari).

Pachachi might have blown it by appearing on al Arabiya (or was it Al Jazeera reports vary).

The whole thing might go up in smoke if Bush decides that to accept such a major change proposed by a UN employed Arab would be irresolute.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

In "Which word didn't he understand ?" below I used the AP quote of Bush's statement. Mark Kleiman gives a more heroic effort to translate the statement into grammatic English.

"I am satisfied that I never saw any intelligence that indicated there was going to be an attack on America ? at a time and a place, an attack,"

So, far from being unable to tell that US means U.S. not us, Bush is a major cutting edge metaphysician who has conceived of a possibility unimaginable to me, that an event -- a terrorist strike -- can take place, but not at a time and a place. I thought that all events that occur, must occur at a time and a place.

I shudder to think that I might have prevented the President from responding to the threat spike in Summer 2001, since I too would have neglected to mention that the menacing al Qaeda strike in America was the sort of strike that would take place at a time and a place and not in in the realm of abstract ideas, which I had always imagined was alien to Bush.

Of course what is really going on,a nd not for the first time, is that Bush is trying to say something misleading but technically true and messing up the technicalities. He meant to suggest that for the August 6th 01 PDB to be a useful warning of an attack it would have to describe the time and place of the attack . He slipped and stated the conclusion he was attempting to suggest.

It is a family problem and the son of the man who said "message -- I care" should be more careful.

If he really can't manage the misleading but technically true, maybe he should just speak frankly.

Pity Dana Milbank is completely unemotional and objective. If I were in a position to savage the Bush administration, after it tried to make an example of me by freazing me out, I would be piling on, gloating, and generally having a blast.

I'm not criticizing Ms* Milbank. I mean he's a good journalist, but he's not made of stone.

*magazine subscriber
Shorter David Brooks

People are "unfairly" attacking Bush for disaster in Iraq so I better get into the act in my last four paragraphs.

Slightly longer David Brooks

It is logically inconsistent to argue that we should have bombed al Qaeda camps in
in 1999 and not have invaded Iraq in 2003 just as it is logically inconsistent to argue that we should have bombed Japanese aircraft carries in WWII but should not invade Canada.

Thomas Friedman asked "Are there any Iraqis in Iraq"

This is the answer

"What is striking is how much has changed in a week -- a week," said Wamid Nadhmi, a political science professor at Baghdad University. "No one can talk about the Sunni Triangle anymore. No one can seriously talk about Sunni-Shiite fragmentation or civil war. The occupation cannot talk about small bands of resistance. Now it is a popular rebellion and it has spread.""

Well good news as far as it goes. We professors usually don't know what we are talking about, but Prof. Nadhmi's claim is strongly supported by the rest of the article.
Sunni-shi'ite unity and an outpouring of national pride and public spirit mean that there is some hope for Iraq.

I don't think this new unity is totally ruined by the fact that Iraqi Sunnis and Shi'ites are united against us. They don't have to live with us, they have to live with each other.

The problem is that Iraqis, or at least Iraqi Arabs, are rushing to the aid of anyone who fights the US. The first to fight gains popular support. This is terrible because it strengthens violent extremists. I think it is necessary to end the occupation quickly to stop this process. Iraq is not ready for independence, but I fear that, as time passes it will get less not more ready.

I still think that the thing to do is to call an election for a very powerful temporary transition president. Just calling an election will undermine the argument that there is an occupation, which will last forever, if it is not fought.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Which word didn't he understand ?

George Bush said that the August 6th PDB entitled
"Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US"
contained "nothing about an attack on America."

Determined is a big long word, and US could be read as us not U.S., but I guess that Bush must have figured that Bin Laden was going to down tools until he got pay raise.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

You probably didn't read it here first. Maureen Dowd notes two mistakes in her last op ed.
I thank Hugh Hyatt for linking to me in his blog "Sour Grapes". I've just stared reading it, and it seems very good. For one thing Mr Hyatt seems to understand that brevity is the soul of effectiveness.
The Bush administration has released the August 6th PDB
This was admirably quick compared to the standard procedure of resisting for weeks or months
The Redaction seems to have been done very well under, among other things, time preassure.
I have no sense that I learned anything about sources and methods that would be damaging to operatives or would anger friendly intelligence services. I also have no sense that information relevant to the political debate was supressed using "sources and methods" as an excuse.

The memo shows that, although she will clearly not be prosecuted for perjury, Condolezza Rice certainly pushed the envelope. Already her testimony revealed that she considers [no threat information] to mean [they didn't tell the president the time, place and method of the attack] (I'm using [] for paraphrases). To make it more clear, she claims the President responded reasonably given the fact that the PDB didn't say that al Qaeda operatives were going to use planes as missiles against Washington and New York on September 11 2001.

I notice that the PDB does mention Washington and New York as possible sites for attacks and mentions no other cities. That is getting close to even Rice's definition of "threat information". Maybe she will argue that the Pentagon is not in DC but in Northern Virginia so the threat information was incorrect.

The "historical document" is full of assertions about the present. I offer an edited down version to spin it against Rice.

"Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US
...Bin Ladin implied in US television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef.
…Bin Ladin told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington,
…Bin Ladin was planning to exploit the operative's access to the US to mount a terrorist strike.

Al-Qa'ida members -- including some who are US citizens -- have resided in or traveled to the US for years, …

FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our Embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group of Bin Ladin supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives. "

That sure looks like threat information to me. Much is inaccurate such as "federal buildings in New York" and "with explosives" but it clearly describes preparations in the present for attacks in the future.

Rice claims that it is reasonable for the President to require information on time place and method in order to do anything, such as warn America of the al Qaeda risk on August 7th as opposed to telling journalists about the threat from, you guessed it, Saddam Hussein. I see now "planning", "World Trade Center", "New York", "Washington", "hijackings". What furthre information could a President seriously hope to get from the CIA ?

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Let's tell Sistani Sorry you were right and we were wrong so why don't you see if you can do a better job.

I am not joking. I am absolutely serious. I think this is the best way to end the war in Iraq. To be more specific, I think Iraq should have a ration card based election to elect a very powerful temporary transition president (VPTP). I am thinking of the approach of the Roman Republic to crises but I think "president" sounds better than "dictator". This VPTP would form a government to which sovereigny would be transferred quickly. Before calling such an election, we (Bremer) should ask Sistani to please run. If an only if he agrees, I would hold a first past the post one round election based on one ration card = two votes (for husband and wife) for VPTP. Recall that the imperfect ration card system seems to have advantages, or at least, that islamist have done very poorly in ration card based elections in Southern Iraq.

I am hoping that Sistani really meant it when he said he thought clergymen should stay out of politics. This is a hope not a guess, because, when he said that, the alternative was death. I am also hoping that Sistani not Moqtada al Sadr wins this election, that Sistani doesn't invite Moqtada al Sadr into a national unity government, that Sunni's accept a Shi'ite cleric as VPTP, that Sistani doesn't use his emergency powers to impose Sharia and a whole lot of other stuff.

In other words. I propose a desperate gamble. I think it is the best of a lot of bad options.
The Bush administration has surpassed the sophistry of the sophists and the causitry of the Jesuits in their attempt to argue that over 7 months of discussion were well spent improving Richard Clarke's Jan 25 memo to the September fourth draft NSPD. They have a problem with the title of appendix A of the memo. From the 8 April heariing

"In fact, since we're in the mood to declassify stuff, there was – he [Clarke] included in his January 25th memo two appendices -- Appendix A: "Strategy for the elimination of the jihadist threat of al Qaeda," Appendix B: "Political military plan for al Qaeda." "

So Clarke claimed it was a strategy not a list and least of all a laundry list More to the point the aim was "elimination" not "roll-back", "containment" or "law enforcement."

The draft NSPD's aim was also discussed on Thursday

"I was struck by your characterization of the NSPD,…, as having the goal of the elimination of al Qaeda.
Because as I look at it -- …-- it doesn't call for the elimination of al Qaeda.
And it may be a semantic difference, but I don't think so. It calls for the elimination of the al Qaeda threat. "

Under oath but fearless Rice stuck to the party line when answering Gov Thompson's first question

RICE:" …I said, "Dick, take the ideas …, put it together into a strategy, not to roll back al Qaeda" -- which had been the goal of the Clinton -- of what Dick Clarke wrote to us -- "but rather to eliminate this threat." "

I wonder how Clarke responded to the suggestion that his "Strategy for the elimination of the jihadist threat of al Qaeda," should be modified in to something "to eliminate this threat" ?

I think the Bush administration are down to the distinction between
“the elimination of the jihadist threat of al Qaeda” – Clarke 1/25/01
“the elimination of the al Qaeda threat” -draft NSPD 9/4/01
Clarke only wanted to eliminate the jihadist threat. After 7 months of discussion they decided to eliminate all the other al Qaeda threats such as …

Friday, April 09, 2004

Rice Vs Rice

Two tiny quotes of Rice's testimony.

"And tragically, for all the language of war spoken before September 11th, this country simply was not on war footing."

40 minutes or so

“And the president of the United States had us at battle station during this period of time”
Concerns Summer 2001 which was before 9/11/01.

OK what is the difference between “on war footing” and “at battle stations” ?

[update] It is clear that she meant that the executive branch was not on a war footing because in reply to Thomson's first question she said

"Well, I think that when I made the comment that the country was not on war footing, that didn't just mean the executive branch was not on war footing."

I realise that, even when a country is actually at war, soldiers are not always at battle stations, so it is possible to be on a war footing but not at battle stations. It is not, however, possible to be at battle stations but not on a war footing.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

When are they going to invent high irritation web so you can shout at posters and not just type stuff ?

Maureen Dowd writes well but she doesn't seem to be very interested in facts.

"Our diplomats in Baghdad don't know who they're handing the country over to next month. "

Since when is June 30 next month. It will be in 23 days. It isn't now. I think I may have found someone with more trouble with calenders than me. How does she meet deadlines if she thinks June comes after April ?

She also writes
"The marines had to fire rockets at a mosque in Falluja used by the Shiite followers of the radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr" . Now the challenging circumstances make a discussion of theology difficult, but it has been reported that the fighters in the Mosque are Sunni. Since, it is clear that attack helicopters are not suited to discussing the fine points of theology, journalists should not speculate about the opinions of said fighters about the eschatological status
if Imam Ali.

Still the substance of the article is excellent. It is hard to miss a target as big as the Bush administration's errors.
Zelikow = Zelig

let's settle on Zelik

The Asia Times (not widely read in Washington) has something interesting to say about Phil Zelikow as is noted by Brad DeLong who appears to read everything.

"he was part of the current president's transition team in January 2001. In that capacity, Zelikow drafted a memo for National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on reorganizing and restructuring the National Security Council (NSC) and prioritizing its work."

In his capacity as executive director of the 9/11 commission Zelik demands that the Bush administration turn this memo over to the commission.

"We absolutely must see that memo, answering the question of how high a priority terrorism was for the Bush administration is central to our mission. Furthermore, the downgrading of Richard Clarke under the title of "reorganization" is almost as important. Executive priviledge might cover the White House staff, but the transition team is legally a bunch of private citizens who certainly cannot claim executive anything. If you don't have the memo over here tomorrow, I will make sure that obscure Asia Times article is all over Washington"

Roberta Rice Replies to Brad DeLong

Now a really really tough one. I will try to reply to Brad Delong's questions for Condoleezza Rice.
To make it clear that I don't believe what I am typing I will refer to myself as Roberta Rice.

JBD: You stated that the proposals for attacking Al Qaeda that Richard Clarke submitted to you in January 2001 were a "laundry list," and that it took eight months of work to turn that "laundry list" into a coherent plan. Isn't that claim false? Wasn't the plan the NSC Principals discussed on September 4 in its essentials the same plan that Richard Clarke had proposed on January 25?

RR: I think your question puts a whole lot of stress on the distinction between a ?laundry list? and a ?list?. I am indeed sorry that I added the word ?laundry? to that which Richard Clarke calls a ?list?. Richard Clarke did present me with a long list of anti al Qaeda policy options drawing on the unique experience which was one of the reasons we kept him, the energy which was another reason and the intelligence which was a third reason. Being a civil servant, Richard Clarke would never imagine presenting the National Security Advisor with a take it or leave it offer. Rather he suggested we consider doing this, that and/or the other thing. It is true that, in the event, before 9/11, we decided to adopt each and every proposal on the list. This was not an easy choice as many of the proposals implied costs and risks. However, we decided that the threat from al Qaeda was so urgent that we should fight al Qaeda in every way we could imagine.

JBD: In retrospect, don't you deeply regret that you did not give Richard Clarke the NSC Principals meeting he asked for at the very start of the administration?

RR: I don?t see how a big meeting would have made a big difference. I don?t think meetings are the way to fight terrorism. I thought it was best to discuss the policy options one on one with the president [thinks: that would be in a setting with no agenda, transcript or minutes so unless George rats on me I won?t go to the slammer].

JBD: Why have you worked so hard to exaggerate the differences between what Clarke proposed on January 25 and what the NSC Principals discussed on September 4?

RR: I don?t think I have exaggerated anything. I have tried to give this commission and the American people an accurate picture of Bush administration policy and policy deliberations.

JBD: Do you regret requiring that Richard Clarke report to the NSC Deputies committee rather than chairing the NSC Principals committee? Didn't this greatly slow down policy development? Wouldn't things have been better if you had let Clarke do what he wanted to do--play the same role he played in the Clinton administration?

RR: Although he didn?t say anything to me the first time I discussed NSC organization with him in my new capacity of NSA designate, I?m sure Richard Clarke would have liked to have effective cabinet rank without Senate approval. A lot of people would like to have effective cabinet rank. I think that perceived favoritism and unfairness could impair the proper functioning of the NSC. In fact, I am fairly sure that Richard Clarke agreed that he would have to win the new principals? respect and admiration in order to, well, to be frank, boss them around as he had the Clinton administration principals. I think that is why he gave no hint of disagreement when I described how I planned to have the NSC operate as it had when we both worked for it.

JBD: What benefit was gained from forcing Richard Clarke to jump through bureaucratic hoops set for him by people like Wolfowitz who believed that Saddam Hussein was a much more important foreign policy concern than Osama bin Laden?

RR: I don?t think that Paul thought that Saddam Hussein was a more important policy concern than Osama bin Laden. He thought and thinks that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were working together to forward their common aim of destroying the United States of America.
[obviously Brad would follow this up too. Roberta Rice hopes that the discussion will never get back from a debate about an issue on which most Americans agree with her]

JBD: You have stated that in the summer of 2001 the Bush administration was at "battle stations". When the Clinton administration was at battle stations in the run-up to January 1, 2000, the NSC staff led by Richard Clarke shook the trees by having daily cabinet-level meetings on the terrorist threat, and demanding that cabinet officers probe deeply into their organizations looking for important but unrecognized information. There was no corresponding effort in the summer of 2001, was there?

RR: which secretaries did you have in mind ?

JBD: Freeh and Tenet.

RR: oh you mean cabinet level officers. Well since, as Richard Clarke has explained, George Tenet was as alarmed as he was and was telling the president about the al Qaeda threat every day. I don?t see how a daily cabinet level meeting could possibly have made George shake the trees any more than he was already shaking them. The only effect I see is that he would have less time to search for leads. You will, I think, have noticed from Richard Clarke?s book, that he and Louis Freeh didn?t work together very well. We thought it better for them to work separately.

JBD: When you say that the Bush administration was at "battle stations" before 911, aren't you misleading people who know what Richard Clarke's idea of "battle stations" is?

RR: Richard Clarke doesn?t have the copyright on the phrase battle stations. It should be clear that such a brief and metaphorical description of the posture of the Bush administration could not be precise and definitive. If you have a question as to what we were doing to protect the homeland from al Qaeda, I would be delighted to answer it.

JBD: Do you regret not giving Richard Clarke the authority in the summer of 2001 to do what he wanted to do--to "shake the trees" of the departments in an attempt to uncover information of unrecognized importance?

RR: Not at all for the reasons I have just explained.

JBD: Richard Cheney has claimed that before September 11, 2001, Richard Clarke was "out of the loop" on important counterterrorism matters. What important matters relevant to counterterrorism was Richard Clarke--the administration's counterterrorism coordinator--not informed of before September 11?

RR: You are referring to the interview in which VP Cheney said ?Well, he wasn't in the loop frankly on a lot of this stuff?. Frankly I don?t know what stuff VP Cheney had in mind. I think you will notice that VP Cheney was speaking informally. I guess he was thinking of policy implemented after Richard Clarke shifted to cybersecurity in October 2001, but you will have to ask VP Cheney if you want to be sure.

JBD possible follow up which doesn't follow: Whose policy decision was it that the counterterrorism coordinator would not be allowed to coordinate--would not be informed of--important aspects of counterterrorism?

JBD possible follow up which doesn't follow: Wasn't this keeping the counterterrorism coordinator from having the information he needed to do his job a really stupid idea?

JBD: [So you are saying that Richard Cheney is not trustworthy?

RR: I?m just saying that before you read all sorts of strange interpretations into the transcript something he casually said off the cuff when talking to Rush Limbaugh, you might ask him what he meant. I think that VP Cheney was saying something perfectly reasonable, which is entirely consistent with the fact that Richard Clarke was coordinating anti terrorism policy until he stopped be counterterrorism coordinator. Still if is so important to you to know, ask VP Cheney when he is here
[thinks: in private and not under oath trying to run out the clock before you get the president to show what an ignorant extremist he is]

JBD: Richard Clarke's counterterrorism proposals were taken to the NSC Principals on September 4, 2001. But isn't it correct that there was no agreement on how to fund Clarke's proposals reached at that meeting?

RR: as you know Congress appropriates funds. It is true that there wasn?t a specific budget proposal to fund the, as yet unsigned, NPDS. This is one of the things which it has in common with every NPDS ever signed.

JBD: When--if 9/11 had not happened--would the next NSC Principals' meeting on this issue have been scheduled?

RR: It?s hard to answer a hypothetical question. We don?t schedule very far in advance. I would guess roughly September 17th.

JBD: In May 2001, George W. Bush asked for a plan to destroy Al Qaeda. Richard Clarke told you he could have such a plan ready on two days. Was there any reason not to rapidly satisfy Bush's request?

RR: ?on two days? ? Don?t you mean in two days ?

JBD: yes.

RR: I?m sorry I don?t remember exactly what Richard Clarke told me that day [thinks:in our unscheduled conversation with no transcript so no way you can nail me]. I vaguely recall that he said something like ?If you would just get Wolfowitz to shut up and let me handle it, I could get a plan ready in two days?. I didn?t think that me transmitting Richard Clarkes instructions to shut up to Paul Wolfowitz would really have speeded the policy development process. When working with former diplomats like Clarke and Wolfowitz one has to be uhm diplomatic.

[thinks: Wolfowitz shut up has a nice ring to it. Wolfowitz shut up. Wolfowitz shut up. Wolfowitz shut up and move to Baghdad]

JBD: Why does George W. Bush believe that Saddam Hussein played a role in the attacks of September 11, 2001?
[this Q is checkmate by the way. Rice has to argue that Bush did not insist that Saddam Hussein played a role in 9/11, but she also must not shake the irrational faith of roughly half of America that Saddam Hussein did play such a role. If those Americans get over that irrational belief, Bush will not be re-elected, because his decision to invade Iraq will no longer seem defensible to them. I'd say the strategy for a partisan dem on the committee is to basically spend all of his (or her) time asking this question in various wordings, or maybe alternate it with do you think that shaking the trees as the Clinton administration didn in 1999 might have made the fact that (Massaoui had been arrested) fall into your hands, with all the things we wish Riceknew in parentheses ]

RR: President Bush wanted and wants to make sure that the intelligence community explore every possibility. President Bush knew that the CIA did not believe there was a connection. President Bush believes that one should never assume that one is right but should always be willing to reconsider one?s conclusions in the light of new facts.
Mr commissioner I don?t want to complain, but it is hard for me to concentrate on my testimony while you are rolling on the floor laughing.

JBD: Did you attempt to disabuse George W. Bush of this belief?

RR: What belief ? I did not try to convince president Bush that I know all the answers and that further investigation is pointless -- no.

JBD: Why not?

RR: I guess, mostly because I don?t think I know all the answers.

JBD: George W. Bush's belief that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 911 has had important consequences. In early 2002, to prepare for the war in Iraq, important elite American combat units were withdrawn from Afghanistan. Didn't this have a significant impact retarding out hunt for members of Al Qaeda?

RR: I don?t know why you interpret President Bush?s open mindedness about a possibility as a firm belief.
Would you please at least try to laugh a little less loud Mr Commissioner.

JBD: If these units weren't important, why were they sent to Afghanistan in the first place?

RR: They played a very important role in the astonishingly quick defeat of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afganistan. When almost all Arabic speakers in Afganistan had either been arrested (look in Guantanamo) or screened and found to be genuine humanitarian aid workers (0 of them) Donald Rumsfeld felt that there was no vital reason to keep Arabic speaking special forces in Afganistan. Paul Wolfowitz agreed
[thinks: Baghdad Wolfie I?ll visit you in Baghdad]

JBD: Aren't the steps we are taking now along the Afghan-Pakistan border steps that we should have taken in the spring of 2002--steps that we would have taken in spring 2002 if not for the administration's focus on Iraq?

RR: Pakistan is a vital ally in the war against terror. You have to understand the sort of pressure president Musharraf is under. Remember he has survived two assassination attempts recently. Given the extremely delicate political situation in Pakistan, and the long standing legal status of the semi independent Northern territories, it required a long diplomatic effort to coordinate US and Pakistani offensives on both sides of the border. It would have served no purpose for us to chase the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists into Pakistan. For the reasons I have mentioned, the hammer and anvil strategy could not have been implemented earlier.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

L.A. burning

Billmon notes that Bush has finally managed to be a uniter not a divider, uniting Shi'ites and Sunnis against him.
I agree that this is a major accomplishment.

I personally was glad that after the appalling sectarian attacks on Shi'ites by , presumably, followers of al Zarqawi,(remember that ancient history they were weeks ago) Shi'ites an Sunnis uniting in blaming America first for not protecting them from a Jordanian and his ruthless fanatical followers. I thought (I don't have this on tape) "fine, OK if they hate us, they don't have to live with us for long, we should be out of there in a few years, so long as they don't hate each other." They will have to learn to live with each other, we can stay out of Iraq (I certainly don't want to go there).

Now I remember the Los Angeles riots. That was grim too. I remember the one spark of hope I felt. It was when I read that. when the riots started Daryl Gates decided to go off to a fund raiser, fiddling while L.A. burned. I thought maybe maybe Black, White, Yellow and Beige los angelenos maybe maybe might decide that however much they hate each other, they hate Gates more.

Just a desparate grasping at straws, but there haven't been any riots there recently.

My desperate attempt to find something good in the past week leads me to note that Mogtada al Sadr appealed to the American people to side with him against the Bush administration. Maybe, maybe if we vote for Kerry he will decide that we are his friends. Maybe he will try to work with Kerry's ambassador to Iraq, negotiating one on one, face to face.

Then we can lock his butt in the basement of the embassy in Baghdad and let him out when hell freezes over.

Baby you gotta dream.
My personal nightmare

What if the USA were governed by a gang just as extreme, dishonest and generally bad as the Bush administration which also had a sense of the completely ridiculous ?

p.s. if Bill O'Reilly sues me for violating his trademark rights to "completely ridiculous" I will pay up admitting that he owns the title.
Clarke part XLVI

"A Sorry State of Affairs" indeed

Art Buchwald, Charles Krauthammer and Bill Frist agree

Art Buchwald
Tuesday, April 6, 2004; Page C04

Washington is in a frenzy and it's all because of Richard Clarke. In testifying before the 9/11 commission, he did the unforgivable, the one thing that no government official ever dared to do. He apologized.


When Clarke offered his mea culpa, the White House and Republican senators went ballistic. One leader said: "He had no right to say he was sorry. No one, not even the president, is allowed to apologize for anything that Washington does. It's treason." "

Senator William Frist
reported Friday, March 26, 2004

" In his appearance before the 9-11 Commission, Mr. Clarke's theatrical apology on behalf of the nation was not his right,"

By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, April 2, 2004; Page A25

"Indeed, one has to admire it -- the most cynical and brilliantly delivered apology in recent memory: Richard Clarke"

Poor Buchwald. Too much time has passed. His column has such a long lead time that his attempt at satire is totally dated, because, by the time it is published, the op ed page has already printed a more ferocious attack on the crime of apologising than he could imagine. Buchwald has made a brilliant career of exaggerating the hypocricy and nastiness of Washington politics. I'm afraid he has to find a new schtick because is is no longer possible to exagerate the hypocricy and nastiness of Washington politics.
From Juan Cole

"Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani's forces stopped them [mahdi army of al Sadr] from taking the shrine of Imam Husayn in Karbala (- al-Hayat)".

I didn't know that Sistani had "forces". I am glad as he has long seemed relatively reasonable. I think it is important (if true) that Sistani's forces blocked Sadr's. Sistani has a large following and a firmer position against Sadr's choice to fight would be very helpful. Also I think Sadrists in the mausoleum of Ali in Najaf are a major major problem and one major major problem is a lot better than two.

I hereby re-join the Ali al Hussaini al Sistani fan club.
The 5,000,000 % solution.

One of the favorite facts used by critics of social democracy was that the Swedish social democrats had such a complicated tax and transfer system, such high tax rates and such a low grasp of economics that, for a while, at some income range the effective marginal tax rate was 103 %

That's nothing. Ohio Republicans are working on a plan which would introduce a marginal tax rate of
5,000,000 %

"Kilbane's plan would dramatically penalize some taxpayers for only slight increases in earnings. For example, joint filers making $20,000 would not be taxed, but those making $20,001 would have all of their income taxed at 2.5 percent, a $500 hit, according to the tax department's analysis."

also those making $ 20,000.01 so taxes of 50,000 times the additional income or 5,000,000 %. Enough to make you wonder about Republicans' claims that there enthusiasm for tax cuts for the rich is based on their keen grasp of economic theory.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Tyler Cowen seems to have gotten a lot of attention with a stimulating post. Matt Yglesias and Brad Delong have responded so I suppose I really don't have much useful to add.

I'm not going to be as polite as Yglesias and especially Brad, so I'd like to thank Cowen now for a very interesting post and for opening an interesting discussion.

Tyler Cowen ...

" To draw another contrast with (some) libertarians, I don't believe that additional immigration is necessarily a win-win game at all margins. More immigrants will bring some very real fiscal burdens, ask anyone in California, or any hospital near the Mexican border. So if we want more immigrants, at some point it will cost us something. Furthermore the bigger the welfare state, the more the costs of immigration are socialized in an unfair, unsustainable, and undesirable way. So immigration and the welfare state are substitutes at the relevant margin. I choose immigration.


So that is a significant reason why I am not a liberal. I prefer high growth, minimum domestic transfers, and a higher rate of immigration. Growth plus resource mobility is the best anti-poverty strategy we are likely to find. And this recipe is closer to classical liberalism than to modern liberalism. I might also add that the United States, through immigration, satisfies the Rawlsian formula better than does Western Europe."

I agree with Cowan that restrictions on immigration are arbitrary and unjust. I think a just society would let anyone who wished immigrate. The only limits I would accept are a cowardly surrender to violent natavists who would get violent if there were too much immigration. My target immigration for say the USA is at least 10 million a year (still piddling compared to the problem but getting close the practical limit). By the way, I wonder if Cowan accepts pragmatic limits or wants totally free immigration ?

My problem is that Cowan's conclusion that he is not a liberal rests entirely on his unsupported assertion that "So immigration and the welfare state are substitutes at the relevant margin." I am sure Cowan does not make the case, but I am not sure what his assertion means. I will try

1: the trade off is fiscal I. Given current laws and programs, immigration would make the welfare system fiscally unsustainable.

As noted by Yglesias, this claim is based on a innacurate implicit description of existing programs. The main social welfare programs in dollars are old age pensions and medicare and immigrants are generally young. Immigration would help make current programs more nearly sustainable. The costs of increased welfare (tanf) food stamps and schools would be more than balanced. In (literally) old Europe, it is widely argued that immigration is needed or else the social welfare system will be unsustainable (of course it will be in any case). This is argued by everyone who has looked at the numbers. Europeans restrict immigration in spite of the problems with their welfare system not because of them.

2: The trade off is fiscal II. It would be impossible to provide the sort of generous social welfare that liberals want and have free (or massively increased) immigration.

First note above, that would have to be well beyond European levels of generosity.

Second it would be possible to have neither. Egalitarians do not have to choose between advocating more generous social welfare programs and advocating free(er) immigration. In no case will we win the political battles so thoroughly that we will hit the social budget constraint. The fiscal implications of athe combination politically impossible level of immigration and a politically impossible generosity of social welfare programs is not "relevant" to the real world.

Notice I am arguing about the sign of the interaction effect of immigration on the affordability of social welfare. At current and plausible future levels of welfare generosity, immigration and social welfare are fiscal complements not substitutes.

3. The trade off is political. We have to decide whether to fight for more immigration or to fight for more social welfare.

This sure does not support a libertarian position, which would imply fighting for less social welfare. More to the point, as noted by Brad, this is just not true for voters or campaign donors. I think that generally pro immigration politicians are also pro social welfare. I am sure that there is not a strong pattern which generally forces voters to choose one or the other.

(Humerous ?) Case in point G.W. Bush proposed a relative loosening of restrictions on immigration and forced through the biggest new social welfare program in generations.

4: The trade off is a rhetorical trick. Works for me.

Even if Yglesias and I are wrong, notice an anti quantitative trick. The argument is
I. there is a (one to one) trade off between immigration and social welfare programs
II. (One unit of ) immigration does more for the poor than (one unit of) social welfare programs.
III. Egalitarians should be against social welfare programs.

The conclusion requires the statements including the words in parentheses. However, the statements (with the words in parentheses) are not demonstrated. In fact, they are not even stated.

How about this version

A. For each addition twenty units of social welfare programs immigration is reduced one unit
B. One unit of immigration does ten times as much for the poor as one unit of social welfare
C Egalistarians should be for social welfare programs

ABC is as consistent with Cowen's argument as I.II.III except, of course, for the conclusion.
A bug in the system.

I am an entusiast for cyber retailing and even for the use of algorithms to personalize adds. Therefore I am dismayed to report that has a bug in their system.

I went there, because I wanted to look up a quote and have heard that you can do it on Amazon. Basically I try to figure out how to do that on Amazon while googling to pass the dead time of opening web pages and stuff until googling works. So far Google has always found the quote before I figure out

So I open and I saw this
"Hello, Robert Waldmann. We have Book Recommendations for you. (If you're not Robert Waldmann, click here.)

Trump Talks"
looks like they need to reprogram a bit.

Best of all (no way for to know this) I was looking for the exact context of "From each according to his ability to each according to his needs !"

Oh and when I write about a "bug" in their system I am not referring to Mr Trump

Monday, April 05, 2004

Blogistan might be represented in the US congress. Geez even Newt Gingrich (R-TV) didn't *say* he wanted to be the congressman from TV land .
Clarke part XLV

The January 25th memo described as a "laundry list" (Rice) not "comprehensive" enough (Hadley) and implemented by the Bush administration (Rice) is trying to be too overcomprehensive again "

"Mr. Clarke responded with a lengthy e-mail message on Jan. 25 that he describes as presenting a full plan to combat Al Qaeda. Ms. Rice viewed it differently. "It was a hodgepodge of ideas about how to make life miserable for Osama bin Laden," said an official who has reviewed the still-classified memorandum."

Someone sure has to get his or her story straight. For one thing the 9/11 commission has access both to the Jan 25 2001 memo and the September 4 2001 draft strategy and can see the fruits of 7.5 months of policy development.

I'd consider the NYTs respect fo the confidentiality of the unnamed "official" to be on the order of the protection of the identity of the "top Bush amdinistration national security principal who asked that her name not be used" mentioned by Matthew Yglesias a few months ago (I am quoting from memory).
I don't have anything useful to say about the Sadrist clashes with coalition forces in Iraq yesterday. Clearly this is potentially very bad news. I wish I had a good idea for what the coalition provisional authority (SCA) could do about it.

I toyed with the idea that, since Abdul Aziz al Hakim and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) stand to lose their very strong position is Muqtada al Sadr bcomes stronger through a conflict martyrdom vicious circle, that SCIRI and the coalition could work together to contain the trouble. After a tenth of a second of reflection, I realised that this was a terrible idea. If the SCIRI co-operates with the CPA , they will lose support for siding with foreigners against Iraqi Shi'ites. I think the best way that the CPA and SCIRI could help each other is to say rude things about each other for a while.

So I fall back on Ayatollah Ali al-Hussaini al Sistani. I think he might be able to prevent a slide into chaos by issuing a Fatwa against violence and violent protest. Given how angry he is with the CPA over the provisional constitution, he might not be willing to do this. If he does and is ignored, Iraq is cooked.

Finally, he is not immortal.

The clashes seem to have been triggered by the arrest of Mustafa Yaqubi. Some reports are that he is accused of the murder of Seyyed Abdul Majid al Khoie who was, like al Sadr, the son of a grand Ayatollah who was presumably killed by Saddam Hussein. I recall that soon after the murder of al Khoie, armed men surrounded the house of Ayatollah al Slstani who, extraordinarily, was not home. That is, I suspect that the Sadrists are capable of threatening or even using violence against Ayatollah al Sistani.

Basically, I think Iraq has only one Ayatollah al Sistani and that he shouldn't argue with violent Iraqis unless it is absolutely necessary.

So my new plan is just to wait and hope it all blows over.

[Update] On the other hand, this is very good news. Notice this is being done by a State Department employee, that it is based on ration card "registration to vote" and that the guy who just did it admits that the ration card system is imperfectly democratic.

"In the Dhi Qar elections the card allowed a husband and wife to vote if they also brought their identity documents. The ration card was stamped in red or blue for each gender, making it possible for a wife to come earlier or later than her husband.

"It's not universal suffrage," said Mr Bradley, as he watched local judges check voters' identities inside the school entrance in Tar. "The polling places are only in the town centre. Some families are larger than others and they all get two votes. But it's free and fair to a certain degree." "

Oh I get it, that is the problem with ration cards 1 husband + 1 wife get 2 votes, 1 husband + 2 wives get 2 votes. Not democratic I admit. On the other hand don't you think that maybe it is a little weird that Ayatollah al Sistani was arguing for elections based on ration cards and the CPA was arguing they were impractical and hinting that al Sistani wanted elections immediately because they would lead to Shi'ite rule by discriminating against polygamists beauxe of course westernised Iraqis are all polygamists.

I mean is the Bush-Bermer team even dumber than I thought ?