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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Why didn't I think of that ?
Hey I did right here

PNAS June 15, 2004 vol. 101 no. 24 9051-9056

ImmunologyTumor-specific Ab-mediated targeting of MHC-peptide complexes induces regression of human tumor xenografts in vivo
Avital Lev * , Roy Noy * , Kfir Oved *, Hila Novak *, Dina Segal *, Peter Walden , Dietmar Zehn and Yoram Reiter *,
*Faculty of Biology, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa 32000, Israel; and Department of Dermatology, Medical School Charite, Humboldt University, D-10117 Berlin, Germany
Communicated by Lloyd J. Old, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, New York, NY, May 7, 2004 (received for review January 19, 2004)
A cancer immunotherapy strategy is described herein that combines the advantage of the well established tumor targeting capabilities of high-affinity recombinant fragments of Abs with the known efficient, specific, and potent killing ability of CD8 T lymphocytes directed against highly antigenic MHC-peptide complexes. Structurally, it consists of a previously uncharacterized class of recombinant chimerical molecules created by the genetic fusion of single-chain (sc) Fv Ab fragments, specific for tumor cell surface antigens, to monomeric scHLA-A2 complexes containing immunodominant tumor- or viral-specific peptides. The fusion protein can induce very efficiently tumor cell lysis, regardless of the expression of self peptide-MHC complexes. Moreover, these molecules exhibited very potent antitumor activity in vivo in nude mice bearing preestablished human tumor xenografts. These in vitro and in vivo results suggest that recombinant scFv-MHC-peptide fusion molecules could represent an approach to immunotherapy, bridging Ab and T lymphocyte attack on cancer cells.

Ruy Teixeira notices the Gallup likely voter anomaly which I discussed in pre-blog 2000 and ,well, roughly every time Gallup poll.
"(Indeed, it's interesting to note that in the entire month of August only one poll--Gallup--showed Bush ahead among LVs and it did so three times and by almost identical margins. Must be something going on with that Gallup LV model.)"
My 7 year old daughter Kathy has a web page.
Is Michael Ledeen an Iranian Spy ?

Matthew Yglesias now seems to be fairly seriously considering the possibility that arch anti Iran hawk Michael Ledeen is an Iranian spy (or useful idiot). Again he links to Jim Henley. Neither note, as I have, that I accused Ledeen before either of them did.

Update: well actually correction: Jim Henley accused Ledeen both
Stop talking about fish or cut the bait and switch

Josh Marshall directs me to the notorious 527 ad which claims (correctly) that Bush is poisoning pregant women and the Republican response. The add was funded by the shadowy obscure Sierra club's obscure 501c3 (OK not quite 527 but still in the shadowy over 500s of the tax code).

If full the add shockingly argues that Bush will be responsible for mercury poisoning without saying anything false or even controversial. In full

NARRATOR: “Columbus, Ohio. Home of the state capitol, the Ohio State
University and a growing mercury pollution problem. Mercury is a poison that can
cause birth defects and learning disabilities. It comes mainly from coal-fired
power plants that rain down mercury pollution into our water, where it
accumulates in the fish we eat. The problem is so widespread that the Ohio
Environmental Protection Agency has advised people, especially pregnant women
and children, to limit eating fish caught from every lake and stream in our
-- including, for the first time, a stricter limit for the Big Darby, a
state and national scenic river in Franklin County. But instead of protecting
us, the Bush administration wants to delay cleaning up mercury pollution for
another decade. There is a better way, Mister President. Use existing
technology, enforce current Clean Air protections and protect Ohio’s women and
children. A message from the Ohio chapter of Sierra Club.”

Note that opposition to this add is not opposition to soft money financing (the ad is not funded a 527) it is opposition to freedom of speach. One could argue that eliminating the mercury pollution is not worth the cost, but one could not argue that there is no problem. In particular, by so arguing, Marc Racicot undermines the warning of the Ohio EPA and thus risks a (very small) chance that he might be personally responsible for a baby being born with a damaged brain. I agree that this is a small risk since no one is listening to him, but one really shouldn't deny the existence of a problem which people can deal with by not eating fish caught from every lake and stream in Ohio.

The Republicans respond with such laughable arguments that it is clear that they assumed no one would pay attention. Following Marshall's recomendation I did. Quoting RNC research which is quoting the Washington Times (to be balanced they also quote the Wall Street Journal editorial page).

"Mercury In Fish No General Threat To Children. “There is also no evidence of a general threat to infants and children from typical maternal consumption of fish with typical mercury concentrations. ‘No evidence of adverse effect from either pre- or post-natal exposure to methyl mercury,’ is how Thomas W. Carson of the University of Rochester School of Medicine characterizes the results of an ongoing study of children in the Seychelles Islands.” (Steven Milloy, “Fishy Warning About Mercury,” The Washington Times, 1/2/04)"

The Sierra Club ad referred to Ohio. Are the Seychelles Islands in Ohio ?

Harvard Study Found No Evidence Of Mercury’s Ill Effects On Swordfish Consumers. “Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health reported in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine [February 2002] that they could not find mercury-related health effects among a group of regular swordfish consumers.” (Steven Milloy, “Fishy Warning About Mercury,” The Washington Times, 1/2/04

How many swordfish are caught in lakes or streams ?

The Republican fishing expedition for something to balance the swiftvet lies uses a bait a switch. They respond to a claim about fish in rivers and streams in Ohio by noting facts about ocean dwelling fish and islands in the Indian Ocean.

And this is the best they could come up with.

Why are they so eager to convince me that George Bush is poisoning pregnant women ?

Monday, August 30, 2004

Bush's Leadership Style: Decisive or Simplistic?
By Mike Allen and David S. Broder

I think the headline accurately summarizes the article. Seems to me it argues at great length and with only the faintest nods at balance that Bush is unfit to serve as President. Striking, since Broder if the very embodiment of inside the beltway CW.

I guess Allen did most of the work. Broder has reached a position such that he doesn't have to fear Bush administration hacks not answering his calls. Still the last line seems to indicate he wishes he was in the still safer position of retirement "If they don't, they'll send me back to Crawford. Isn't all that bad a deal, by the way." Or maybe we are supposed to read that as it wouldn't be a bad deal for America ?

This isn't really related, but I have been wondering if the press will take out on Bush their resentment and humiliation over being cowed. This makes the polls key (notice the latest to be reported on Polling report Kerry up by 5% NPR 8/24 Bush 45 Kerry 50).

My guess is that, if the press herd decides that they can trample bush, they will stampede. I'm sure they haven't enjoyed presenting he said/he lied as he said/he said, nor fearing that if they let their view of the facts behind the debate show, they will be frozen out.

My guess (hope) is that if mainstream (not Fox not moonie) reporters think they have the power to defeat Bush (and they tend to overestimate their importance) they will.

Broder and Raines having reached invulnerable positions, seem to have sounded the charge.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Al Franken Knew. How ?

Last night I was re-reading "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right" published September 2003 and I noticed two very odd claims.

p 111. "Immediately after the embassy bombings, Clinton issued a presidential directive authorizing the assassination of Osama Bin Laden."

p 120 "Now on Aust 6, CIA director Tenet delivered a report to President Bush entitled, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." The report warned that al Qaeda might be planning to jijack airplanes."

Let's see, the first fact was hidden by the Bush administration when they sent to the 9/11 committee only 2,000 of 11,000 pages of Clinton administration documents identified as relevant by the national archives. It was revealed immediately before John Ashcroft's testimony and he wasn't alert enough to change his line even after a commissioner had mentioned the new discovery. How did tem Franken know in 2003 ? Franken did get the timing a bit off.

Over to you John Ashcroft and Richard Ben Veniste on April 13 2004.

John Ashcroft said (under oath) "Let me be clear: my thorough review revealed no covert action program to kill Bin Ladin. " and " Even if they could have penetrated Bin Ladin's training camp, they would have needed a battery of attorneys to approve the capture. "

Back to Ben-Veniste

MR. BEN-VENISTE: Good afternoon, General Ashcroft. I want to say hello to Larry Thompson, and to Mr. Olson my renewed condolences.
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 tiptoe around it for obvious national security and classification reasons. But you may be enlightened by reviewing that document.

Then on p 120 Franken quotes the title of the August 6th PDB. This was the document that the Bush administration fought hardest to keep from the 9/11 commission. The title was first publicly revealed by Condoleezza Rice on April 8 2004
"MS. RICE: I believe the title was "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States."
OK so he missed a "side", but how did he know all but one syllable of this top top secret title ?

Many bloggers have noted that the best TV news program is the Daily Show. Is Al Franken head of team Franken the best investigative reporters in the USA.
Two posts from Brad Delong

"Somebody who used to work for the Bush administration and knows his stuff writes to admonish me for concluding that the overtime rules change is likely to be a significant redistribution away from labor, and to say that we really do not know what the effect of the rules change will be: "


"Andrew Samwick, who just left the CEA for Dartmouth, has been arguing that we really don't know what the impact of the overtime rules will be--and that the Labor Department has fallen down on the job by failing to gather the information that would allow us to know."

hmmm sounds like the best protection of an anonymous source since the WaPo quoted a high ranking Bush Amdinistration foreign policy advisor who asked that her name not be used.
Johnny Carrera (my brother in law) told me about this great sloganator site (as featured on Wonkette). Just in case anyone else missed it.
Making Scott McClellan look good.

In the August 26th Washington Post Karl Vick, Naseer Nouri report

"On Wednesday night, policemen from the cheif's security detail barged into a hotel in Najaf and arrested more than 50 Iraqi and foreign journalists at gunpoint. The police officers beats some of the reporters and fired assault rifles in the lobby. After the journalists were brought to the main police station, Jazaeri denied they had been arrested and insisted they had simply been summoned for a news conference"

They don't report if any of the journalists asked tough follow up quiestions.
Hell this Jazaeri guy almost makes Arie Fleisher look good.
The Gallup likely voter anomaly. Enough said. I've been pointing this out for months. It makes a 4 point difference (Bush-Kerry)likely minus (Bush-Kerry)registered.

BUSH vs. KERRY: Among likely voters; with leaners, where available.

Bush Kerry

FOX 8/25 44 45

Gallup 8/25 50 47

GWU 8/17 47 49
Zogby 8/14 43 50

Gallup 8/11 50 47

ICR 8/8 48 48

Time 8/5 44 51

Registered voters
Bush Kerry

Gallup 8/25 47 48

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Can you count to 527 ?
The Collier county GOP has taken down the fund raising appeal for the GOP unaffiliated Swift Boat Veterans for Truth but they still have this on their site

"Must read of the ....well, period.Unfit for Command is the most important read period for anyone wanting to know about the real John Kerry. written by non-partisan Vietnam Vets who represent the vast majority of the people serving alongside Kerry, this is a tell all that will leave you disgusted that such a person could have gotten this far in American Politics..... Both the book itself and the ads for the book are being censored by the mainstream media. In addition, lawyers from the Kerry camp are threatening legal action against TV and Radio stations that run the commercial. The hipocrisy with regards to the treatment of this book and the treament the mainstream media gave, and is still giving, to Michael Moores "crockumentary" is staggering in its scope.... "

Living in a glass house, I nonetheless dare assert that they are guilty not only of hypocrisy but also of ilitaricy.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Private Insurance Companies claim that they can't compete with Medicare.

Maybe they mean they just don't want to.
"private insurers have told the Bush administration that they will not expand their role in Medicare if they have to serve large multistate regions, ...Large regions will force health plans to serve rural areas that they have historically shunned, administration officials say. "

I think they mean "would force health plans to serve rural areas if, for some strange reason, they were to decide to stop shunning them." Personally I am willing to believe the insurance companies that they can't serve large regions without losing money. This in spite of the fact that the Bush plan would pay them more per patient than medicare costs. It is well known that the assumption that the public sectro is always less efficient than the private sector does not correspond to this case.

It is also possible that Bush was not generous enough to satisfy them and that they want to be paid extra and allowed to cherry pick densly populated regions.

Now what will happen ? My guess is that Bush will flip flop again and abandon the large regions and claim the issue is unimportant.
Arcording to the not so swift vets Kerry is sooooo rotten that he ran away from enemy fire in an engagement in which there was no enemy fire. I know it is sooo last week to point out swiftvet lies but this is special because it is not based on old documents or past statements of swiftvets from months or years ago.

Their story about what happened on the Bay Hap river on March 13, 1969 make two points very clear.

They say there was no enemy fire here
"But the group says that there was no enemy fire, ... Asked why Mr. Rassmann recalled that he was dodging enemy bullets, a member of the group, Jack Chenoweth, said, "He's lying."
... A damage report to Mr. Thurlow's boat shows that it received three bullet holes, suggesting enemy fire, and later intelligence reports indicate that one Vietcong was killed in action and five others wounded, reaffirming the presence of an enemy. Mr. Thurlow said the boat was hit the day before. "

"Van O'Dell, a gunner aboard another swift boat said that as the patrol passed a fishing weir across the Bay Hop River, another boat hit a mine. O'Dell said he fired "a couple of hundred rounds" from a machine gun but did not see return fire. Two others who commanded other swift boats that day, Larry Thurlow and Jack Chenoweth, supported his version.
Thurlow, who also won a Bronze Star that day for coming to the aid of the wounded sailors in the craft that hit the mine, said that what Kerry did was routine. "One of the main criticisms is that there was no hostile fire"

here "Last month, Thurlow ... described Kerry's Bronze Star citation, which says that all units involved came under "small arms and automatic weapons fire," as "totally fabricated."
"I never heard a shot," Thurlow said in his affidavit...A document recommending Thurlow for the Bronze Star noted that all his actions "took place under constant enemy small arms fire which LTJG THURLOW completely ignored"

here (8/20/04 how do I get a permalink to today's daily howler ?)

"Here he was on Hannity & Colmes, a bastion of careful fact-checking:
O’NEILL (8/19/04): Not a single person was wounded after the original mine explosion. There's not a bullet hole in any of those three boats, not one."


"There was absolutely no fire coming from any direction," Van Odell, a gunner aboard a boat behind the stricken vessel told UPI. "There were no tracers, there were no bullet holes in the boats,"

notice by the way that Thurlow seems to have falsely characterized the citation for his own bronze star and that O'Neills claim and Odell's claim about bullet holes are definitely false.

The swiftvets also claim that Kerryfled from enemy fire on the Bay Hap river that day

here "from Tuesday’s Hannity & Colmes:
"There was only one boat that fled. That was John Kerry's boat. We never had anybody that would flee, Alan, never. Except John Kerry. The other guy stood to save PCF3. Kerry finally came back when it was apparent there was no fire,""

not objecting here (also via somerby) when admiral Crowe said
"I'd like to speak to the fleeing business. There were other boats there, ...If one of the boats fled, under fire and the other boats didn't bring him into account with a senior officer, that makes no sense whatsoever, that defies reason. Fleeing under fire, of course, is a general court martial offense. The Navy has ways to do that. What were these other skippers are doing? "

next statement from O'Neill
"O'NEILL: More than 22 POWs have backed our efforts. More than 60 people who won the Purple Heart in Vietnam signed our letter. And 254 people in our unit, including 17 of the 23 officers that served with Kerry have signed the letter. There's only one that backs Kerry out of 23. "

No objection to the claim that he says Kerry fled under fire.

"They also claim he "fled the scene" of the incident for which he was awarded a Bronze Star and the Purple Heart,"
""The truth is, the one who left everybody behind was John Kerry. Everyone else stayed," one of the Swift boat veterans said."

and here

"After the mine exploded, leaving swift boat three dead in the water, John Kerry's boat, which was on the opposite side of the river, fled the scene. US Army Special Forces officer Jim Rassmann, who was on Kerry's boat at the time, fell off the boat and into the water. Kerry's boat returned several minutes later -- under no hail of enemy gunfire -- to retrieve Rassmann from the river only seconds before another boat was going to pick him up. "

come on guys make up your minds.

Back in the 50s one of the things which perked the FBI's interest was premature anti-fascism. People who were outspoken fascists too soon were suspect communists. It appears that some people are suspicious of premature opposition to the invasion or Iraq. (via Atrios of course)

Friday, August 20, 2004

Friday cat Blogging

everyone's doing it.
RJW admits he is KJW

I admit it, I wrote a false after action report so that John Kerry could get a bronze star. My total corruption is demonstrated by the fact that I had already sunk so low at the age of 10.

The not very swift vets seem to be in a spot of trouble having been hammered by the Post and now the New York Times. In fact they seem to be grasping at straws

"Several veterans insist that Mr. Kerry wrote his own reports, pointing to the initials K. J. W. on one of the reports and saying they are Mr. Kerry's. "What's the W for, I cannot answer," said Larry Thurlow, who said his boat was 50 to 60 yards from Mr. Kerry's. Mr. Kerry's middle initial is F, and a Navy official said the initials refer to the person who had received the report at headquarters, not the author."

Hey two initials out of three aint bad, but the problem is taht the first letter is a smudged R not a K. I Robert J Waldmann wrote the report John F Kerry did not.
Mark Kleiman comes up with a great challenge

"Does anyone have a theory about how announcing a plan to reduce troop levels in South Korea, without getting any sort of promise in return from the North Koreans, is supposed to be a good idea? I'm not asking for anything definitive, just a hint about how this could possibly come out on the plus side."

Robert J Bush is up for anything
rjb- "Professor Kleiman you see we have to try to understand Kim Jong Il's beliefs, which is hard, because he is crazy. He seems to genuinely believe that the US might invade North Korea soon. This would explain the sudden acceleration of the North Korean nuclear program after Bush's axis of evil state of the nation address.
Matt Yglesias explains the issue much better than I could (he tends to to that).

"Thus North Korea found itself featured in the 2002 State of the Union address as a charter member of the “axis of evil” (...). The hawks hoped that the regime would fall apart before it built nukes. Things didn’t work out that way.
North Korean President Kim Jong-Il concluded that because Bush clearly meant to invade Iraq, had broken off negotiations with his regime, and was now lumping the two together as “evil,” he might soon find himself targeted. The result -- a result that even a moderately engaged chief executive would have foreseen -- was a North Korean rush to acquire nuclear weapons that could deter U.S. invasion before it was too late. "

This was a highly unfortunate outcome. It would have been nice to obtain North Korean concessions in exchange for the reduction of troop levels, but it is almost impossible to negotiate with North Korea. This unilateral gesture may have been the only way to convince them that we do not intend to invade them any time soon.

Then when we have lulled them into a false sense of security we can kick their butts. Who cares if they have a few nukes they can't nuke us."

Well I'd say rjb was doing OK until he lost control in that last sentence.
Oppo research fantasy

The Republicans complain that John Kerry is too nuanced, that is that he uses long sentences carefully qualifying everything he says. I wonder if this is not the cry of dispair of a desperate oppo research peon who keeps searching and searching for the inflammatory extremist things that Kery must just must have said when he was head of Vietnam veterans against the war. I am pleasantly surprised that they haven't found any. They have him referring to confessions of war crimes in a way that seems to sympathise with the criminals (oops that's extreme but backwards).

I really think the complaints about Kerry's verbal caution are sincere. It makes oppo research very hard, especially when journalists add back the rest of amputated sentences.

I can just imagins some poor oppo research drone who has been looking for signs of Kerry's intemperate you screaming "I can't stand it the guy is too nuanced.... Heeeeey the guy is too nuanced yes much much too nuanced."
Is Virginia Postrel happy now that the post has reported on the swiftvets and Kerry in page A1 ?

I don't think so either. Postrel wrote to "Campaign journalists"

"Come on, folks. If you can't find out any independent sources on Kerry's own story, at least report the "he says-he says" allegations. And help out your audience with some context: Dig up some more-or-less unbiased (or at least nonpartisan) sources to provide some historical context for the bizarre Cambodia story. Never mind John Kerry specifically, what were U.S. operations during that period? Are any of his various accounts plausible and, if so, which ones? Or give readers some background on the procedures for awarding medals during Vietnam. There was a lot of medal inflation and, presumably, some politics in how medals were awarded."

I think what she really felt was "so long as you can't find out any independent sources, report. I want you to print he says-he-says allegations because when you do you hurt the reputation of him and him and since O'Neill isn't running for office it is fine by me if, on the basis of no evidence, you damage the reputations of O'Neill and of Kerry." However, journalists can find independent sources, for example, John Kerry's official military records. They aren't really independent and they are subjective. Clearly these easily available documentary records are biased by the opinions of the swiftvets, since the glowing praise of Kerry in officer evaluations and the specific descriptions of the reasons for giving him medals were written by swiftvets.

However, if Postrel were willing to look up what they wrote at the time (took me 5 minutes) and take their word for it, she would have dismissed the swiftvet adds a lying slander as, I suspect, has any open minded not terminally lazy person who is willing to look at the facts (that's just a guess I don't know any open minded people).

In any case, the Washington Post has also obtained Larry Thurlows military records after a FOIA application (he refused to release them) and reports

""I never heard a shot," Thurlow said in his affidavit, which was released by Swift Boats Veterans for Truth. The group claims the backing of more than 250 Vietnam veterans, including a majority of Kerry's fellow boat commanders.

A document recommending Thurlow for the Bronze Star noted that all his actions "took place under constant enemy small arms fire which LTJG THURLOW completely ignored in providing immediate assistance" to the disabled boat and its crew. The citation states that all other units in the flotilla also came under fire.
"It's like a Hollywood presentation here, which wasn't the case," Thurlow said last night after being read the full text of his Bronze Star citation. "My personal feeling was always that I got the award for coming to the rescue of the boat that was mined. This casts doubt on anybody's awards. It is sickening and disgusting."
Thurlow said he would consider his award "fraudulent" if coming under enemy fire was the basis for it. "

As far as I know, Thurlow has not returned his medal. Oh and he claims he lost his citation (at least he didn't say his dog ate it).

Postrel asks about Cambodia in Dec 1968 "Never mind John Kerry specifically, what were U.S. operations during that period?" a hint can be obtained from the fact that Cambodia seized a US army landing craft in Cambodian waters on July 171968. Historians generally agree that there were covert US missions into Cambodia in 1968 and early 1969 as claimed by Kerry. As usual a few minutes on the web would have answered Postrel's questions if she were really interested in information.

I might add that Lt. James Rassmann a Republican who had not met Kerry in 30 years might count as an independent source, as are the FEC records which prove O'Neill a liar . They aren't independent, but the contradictions in the swiftvets' claims show they are lying.

It seems to me to be clear that Postrel is not interested in the truth about what happened over 30 years ago. Her desire for news articles on the swiftvets combined with a complete absence of any effort to evaluate their claims using the web (with which I suspect she is familiar) indicate bad faith. She wanted reporters to report without any solid evidence, because that would hurt Kerry.

Instead they collected solid evidence and reported it, thereby helping Kerry.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Blood clotting is very useful, but it is not equally desirable in all parts of our bodies. In particular it seems to me that blood clotting in our hearts (also known as heart attacks) is bad. I am sure there are heart specific antigens. I think it should be quite possible to make anti-heart antibodies and then use the Fab bit to direct anti clotting agents, such as heparin, to the heart. Ideally one would want them to be slow release and not active at first. I think this is possible if the heparin is attached packed in say glycogen (animal starch) which is slowly broken down into glucose. I really wouldn't be amazed if it were possible to protect against heart attacks with slow release heparin directed by anti heart Fab's.

A minor bother is that, since this is a peptide + starch drug it would have to be taken as nose drops not pills, but hey beats having a heart attack.
Democracy in Iraq

The New York Times reports that the selected not elected body assigned to prepare for elections and choose a provisional non elected advisory non-legislature has completed it's mission.

"After wrangling that saw smaller groups at the gathering accusing larger ones of hijacking the meeting, it ended by selecting, without voting, the 81 delegates who will occupy seats on the new body that Iraq's provisional constitution had set aside for election. An additional 19 seats were pre-assigned to members of the now-disbanded Iraqi Governing Council, an advisory body during the period of formal American occupation that ended seven weeks ago."

That is to say that this Iraqi body can't even fake democracy. Not promising.

Taegan Goddard presents state level evidence of the Gallup likely voter anomaly.

"Ohio: Kerry 50%, Bush 41% (Gallup, registered voters)
Ohio: Kerry 48%, Bush 46% (Gallup, likely voters) "

The Gallup likely voter filter tosses more Democrat supporters than Republican supporters. This is true of all likely voter filters and true of actual voting compared to polls of registered voters. However, the the effect of the Gallup likely voter filter is large or in this case huge.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Robert Waldmann expresses solidarity with Haley Waldman
whose first communion was declared invalid because the wafer did not contain wheat (which Waldman can't eat). This is bizarre, athough General J C Christian has an explanation.
Is Bush trying to lose ?

EDGESVILLE, W.Va., Aug. 17 - Saying he was "living in the future," President Bush promoted his plans for a missile defense system on Tuesday and said that its opponents were putting the nation's security at risk, as he courted aerospace workers in Pennsylvania before rallying supporters in West Virginia."We say to those tyrants who believe they can blackmail America and the free world, 'You fire, we're going to shoot it down,' " Mr. Bush told Boeing employees in Ridley Park, Pa., south of Philadelphia."I think those who oppose this ballistic missile system really don't understand the threats of the 21st century," he said. "They're living in the past. We're living in the future. We're going to do what's necessary to protect this country."

Advocating missile defence is unreasonable, but using the phrases "don't understand the threats of the 21st century" and especially "living in the past" when doing so is crazy, insane and beyond idiotic. Can he and his speach writers really be that dumb ? Maybe he is a Democrat mole whose mission is to destroy the Republican party. A tinfoil theory but you got to admit it answers a whole lot of nagging questions.

Amy Waldman (and Eric Lipton) agree with Robert J Waldmann

"The release of Mr. Khan's name - it was made public in The New York Times on Aug. 2, citing Pakistani intelligence sources "(via Kevin Drum and Josh Marshall) . Since they work at the NYT they should know.

It seems to me that some liberal bloggers jumped to conclusions based on an early Reuters reference to the orginal Jehl and Rohde article and to Condoleezza Rice flubbing an answer to a (not very) tough question.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Jim Tozzi and the Hermaphroditic Frogs would be a great name for a rock band.
Dave Barry take notice
as advertized by (among others) Brad DeLong "The Progress Report" is excellent. Via the progress report, here I learn that DCI nominee Porter Goss proposed that the CIA charter be amended to read
"the CIA “may not exercise police, subpoena, or law enforcement powers within the United States.”
except as otherwise permitted by law or as directed by the president.”"

Isikoff and Hosenball quote "“This language on its face would have allowed President Nixon to authorize the CIA to bug the Democratic National Committee headquarters,” Jeffrey H. Smith, who served as general counsel of the CIA between 1995 and 1996, told NEWSWEEK. “I can’t imagine what Porter had in mind.”"

Hmmm back to Brad who wrote "Eugene: It's self-parody--albeit not intentional self-parody. Consider two other, similar examples that I ran into today: The first comes from the Weston Kosova and Michael Isikoff review of Bill Clinton's My Life. ... .To ask Isikoff to review Clinton is like asking someone tone-deaf to review a performance of Beethoven's "Eroica". The element of self-parody--unintentional self-parody--is there, especially as Isikoff and his editors repeatedly fail to grasp that they are tone-deaf, and are thus not hearing and incompetent to review the symphony. Where others see the real business of government--real policies with complicated and uncertain effects on millions of real people's lives--they see only the Gedrosian Desert. ". I think maybe he owes Isikoff an apology (although Monica Lewinsky still has the right to be mad at Isikoff).

Still the Porter Goss confirmation hearings should be fun. Let's review (without bothering with links) : Goss says he will investigate the Plame outing if someone sends him a blue dress and some DNA, Goss says chemical and biological weapons are more dangerous than nuclear weapons and that, because Bush was tough with them, North Korea stopped their nuclear weapons program. Of course I don't disagree with everything Goss says. He told Michael Moores producers that he was not qualified to work for the CIA.

I think his skills would be better used if he were sent to inspect the Gedrosian desert for WMD.
Thursday the Washington Post reported that
that the Bush administration is nearing a deal to release Yaser Esam Hamdi soon after telling the Supreme Court that it was necessary for national security to keep him locked up without trial. and without

"Terms of the release are still being hammered out ... In addition, he may have to agree not to sue the federal government over whether his civil rights were violated"

Can they make that a condition for releasing him ? It sounds like kidnapping for ransom to me.
William Salaten has a very excellent article on the RNC on Kerry on Iraq.
(via Kevin Drum and Joshua Marshall).

The Republican National Committee (RNC) has spliced together video clips in an effort to convince people that Kerry has flip flopped on Iraq. This effort is comically unsuccessful. Admirably Salaten confronts the evidence rather than glibly dismissing it.

I certainly wasn't surprised by the fact that the RNC distorted the meaning of Kerry's statements by editing out the context. However, the distortions seem to me to be extraordinarily shameless and blatant. In four cases Salaten makes the thrust of the quotes completely different by restoring words which were edited out. The striking thing is that he doesn't have to look far afield. In one case they are the two sentences which follow the edited sound bite, in the second one sentence after the sound bite, in a third the RNC cut Kerry in the middle of a sentence cutting from "in the sense that" on, and, in the fourth case, the deleted statements came between two bits which were spliced together. On the last case Salaten writes "The RNC deletes the next seven sentences, so that Kerry's next words appear to be," . That is, it seems that the splice was not indicated by the video equivilant of an ellipses, so the clip is, in effect, fraudulent. No real surprise here.

This all means that the RNC does not consider easily available proof that they are distorting meanings by removing context a problem at all. They seem to have guessed (sensibly) that few journalists would bother to check the presumably web available transcripts and that no one would have made a big fuss about their dishonesty. This is not a surprise either.

The stranger thing is that the RNC chose to include four clips in which Kerry states and restates the same position. This is very odd in a video which attempts to present him as a flip flopper.

The video seems to contain one deviation from the standard Kerry line on May 3 2003 (that is 2 days after "mission accomplished").

"I said at the time I would have preferred if we had given diplomacy a greater opportunity. But I think it was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein. And when the president made the decision, I supported him, and I support the fact that we did disarm [Saddam]."

The first sentence is a re-re-re-restatement of the standard position. The second is anodyne, since it doesn't say which means should be used to disarm Saddam Hussein. Amost but not quite everyone publically claimed to agree that it was necessary to disarm Saddam Hussein. I didn't and I don't think I am the only one, but I can't find many other examples. The third is a declaration of "support" which is not the same thing as agreement. A standard view is that even if we disagree about going to war we must support the troops and their commanders up to and including the commander in chief. I don't think Kerry really shares this view,having been rather hard on a commander in chief or two, but saying he supports the President surely is different from saying he would have done the same thing.

Oddly the RNC video makes me concerned about John Kerry for exactly the opposite reason than the one they present. He seems to have an almost Bush like fixation with consistency even in the face of changing circumstances including the change in administration.

Feb 22 1998
"I am personally prepared, if that's what it meant. I don't think you have to start there. I think there are a number of other options. But what I hear from the administration, thus far, is if he doesn't comply, then we will hit him. The obvious question is, after you've hit him, have you opened up your inspections?"

Aug 5 2004
"I voted to hold Saddam Hussein accountable, because had I been president, I would have wanted that authority, because that was the way to enforce the U.N. resolutions and be tough with the prospect of his development of weapons of mass destruction. … Now, might we have wound up going to war with Saddam Hussein? You bet we might have—after we exhausted those remedies and found that he wasn't complying, and so on and so forth."

6 years have passed and John Kerry has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. He has kept his focus on the UN resolutions and inspections. He consistently supports the threat of an invasion and insists that it not be a bluff that can be called. It's not in the excerpts of quotes I posted, but Salaten correctly notes his persistent almost obsessive " calling for "heat," "inspections," "process," and cooperation with "allies.""

This is the standard establishment view clearly different from peacenics and neocon super hawks. The fact that it happens to be very different from my view makes it striking to me how little Kerry's thought evolved.
This is slightly worrying. It is not enough to make me prefer President Dean or (ugh) Gephart, but I would prefer a little better use of 6 years of new information.

a year and a half ago Daniel Davies famously issued the challenge

"can anyone, particularly the rather more Bush-friendly recent arrivals to the board, give me one single example of something with the following three characteristics:
1 It is a policy initiative of the current Bush administration
2 It was significant enough in scale that I'd have heard of it (at a pinch, that I should have heard of it)
3 It wasn't in some important way completely fucked up during the execution."

So far no one but no one has come up with an example, which makes me Robert Waldmann the winner.

Bush's manned mission to Mars was not completely fucked up during the execution.

In fact neither was Bush's privitization of social security, a major feature of his 2000 campaign totally fucked up in execution.

Now spoil sports may point out that the only reason these initiatives have not been totally fucked up during the execution is that there has been no execution whatsoever.

However I still claim the prize. I demand that Mr davies tell me if my mustache makes me look like a pillock.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

I am an atheist and opposed to the taboo on criticism of religion. Thus there is no risk that I might be offended by the op-ed by Sam Harris (via Kevin Drum). Indeed I agree with his basic argument. However, I do think he should check some facts, since he appears to be some kind of journalist.

Via Drum's excerpt I learned from Harris "there are no Palestinian Christian suicide bombers". My second google search was for (suicide terrorist "christian palestinian")
5th on list " Bethlehem, special forces arrested senior Tanzim commander Chris Benedict, a Christian Palestinian who coordinated and assisted Tanzim suicide bombers, including the one who carried out the bus attack in Jerusalem's Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood last year. "
Elapsed time less than 5 minutes.

I admit that Mr Benedict didn't personally commit suicide terror.

Now google (secular suicide bomber palestinian) 7th entry "Despite claims by the pro-Israel lobby of brainwashing by Muslim extremist groups, behind many suicide bombers lie real stories of despair, such as that of Wafa Idris, a secular Palestinian with no links to resistance groups. "

The source might be suspect, but the claim that young secular Palestinians are blowing themselve up is not.

also "the past six months saw the group [al Fatah affiliated secular al Aqsa martyrs brigade] engaging in an increasing number of suicide bombings inside Israel, literally outnumbering Hamas and the Islamic Jihad's suicide operations. The group was the first to use a female suicide bomber in a Jan. 27, 2002 operation."

While on Harris, he seems to have some other problems with little details as in his reference to "the New Testament book of Romans" which does not exist. He is probably referring to one of Paul's letter to the Romans.

also with reference to 9/11 he writes "Why did 19 well-educated, middle-class men trade their lives for the privilege of killing thousands of our neighbors?

9/11 report pp 231-2

Recruitment and Selection for 9/11
Saudi authorities interviewed the relatives of these men and have briefed us
on what they found.The muscle hijackers came from a variety of educational
and societal backgrounds. All were between 20 and 28 years old; most were
unemployed with no more than a high school education and were unmarried.
The three remaining muscle hijackers from Saudi Arabia were Satam al
Suqami, ....Suqami had very little education, "

Now shouldn't a journalist check some facts? This took me a total of about 20 minutes.

Mashall Metaphor watch

This is a serious one because Marshall calls it an analogy

"Sometimes in baseball a batter decides to take a pitch. He's decided in advance that he's not going to swing no matter what comes down the pike. But in most cases, when a batter steps up to the plate, he doesn't decide whether he's going to swing until he sees the pitch. Only an idiot decides in advance not knowing what he's going to face. And yet this is roughly what the Bush camp says was the only reasonable, or I suppose manly, approach to the Iraq war. "

This is a very bad analogy, because batter has to decide whether to swing as quickly as Richard Cheney decided to authorize NORAD to shoot down airliners

9/11 commission report P 41

" His reaction was described byScooter Libby as quick and decisive, “in about the time it takes a batter to
decide to swing.” The Vice President authorized fighter aircraft to engage theinbound plane."

A batter who reflects on the complexities of a pitch might as well leave his bat in the dugout. In contrast Bush had months to consider new information, but chose not to. Actually you know Kerry was discussing not just whether to swing (invade) but also how. A slightly unfair analogy would be Bush is a batter who swings with his eyes closed.

I would say a better analogy for Bush is a quarterback who calls a passing play in the huddle (ok relays instructions from his coach). The decision has been made, but should be secret. Quarterback Bush threw the pass even though the designated receiver ran into triple coverage then slipped and fell.
Kevin Drum and Matthew Yglesias criticize Dan Drezner who wrote

"In the meantime, check out Rand Beers' interview with Bernard Gwertzman over at the Council on Foreign Relations site. Beers is John Kerry's chief foreign policy advisor, and would likely become national security advisor in a Kerry administration.

Reading the interview, I was disappointed to see zero, zip, nada on democracy promotion. In fact, what was striking about the interview was the general lack of bigthink. On the other hand, there was a great deal of explication about the Kerry team's policy process -- pretty impressive for a campaign.

This leads to an disturbing question. Which is better: a foreign policy with a clearly articulated grand strategy but a f#$%ed-up policy process, or a foreign policy with no articulated grand strategy but a superior policy process? "

They are much much too kind to him. Rather they concede a vital and absurd claim for the sake of argument and still conclude that if Drezner had any sense he would have not trouble deciding that Bush is worse than Kerry. Yglesias is quite explicit "For the sake of argument, let's accept the premise." Drum is brief eloquent but not clear on that point.

I am not criticizing either, but I would like to point out that Drezner's premise is clearly false. Drezner clearly thinks that Bush has a grand strategy of democracy promotion. This is nonsense. Bush has a grand strategy of invading Iraq. Democracy promotion is just the remaining justification now that alleged ties to al Qaeda and WMD have run into some facts. "Democracy" is a powerful word and Bush is clearly eager to use it. However he is also clearly uninterested in promoting democracy. No person of normal intelligence can honestly claim to believe him.

First recall his stated contempt for nation building as stated with reference to Somalia during the presidential debates. Democracy promotion is an especially ambitious form of nation building. Bush has clearly explained that he thinks it is a bad idea.

Recall also the interview/quiz in which he couldn't name the dictator of Pakistan -- Pervez Musharraf. Without recalling the name he said that Musharraf was a general who had brought order to a situation of disorder. Of course, Musharraf overthrew an elected prime minister who was an incompetent war monger but whose government was stable until he refused permission to land to a plane carrying Musharraf. Now praise for a dictator for bringing stability via a coup might be good diplomacy, but it is hard to reconcile with a grand strategy of democracy promotion.

Bush did invade two dictatorships, so what about Afghanistan ? First, he seems virtually completely uninterested in actually promoting democracy now that the war is over. Recall that he most recently asked for 80 billion for Iraq and O for Afghanistan. the 1 billion was added by congress. More to the point, Bush has made it perfectly clear that he was willing to accept continual Taliban rule provided the Taliban broke with Osama Bin Laden. Back to the 9/11 commission report

P 331
At the September 13 NSC meeting, when Secretary Powell described Pakistan?s
reply,President Bush led a discussion of an appropriate ultimatum to the
Taliban. He also ordered Secretary Rumsfeld to develop a military plan against
the Taliban.The President wanted the United States to strike the Taliban, step
back,wait to see if they got the message, and hit them hard if they did not.He
made clear that the military should focus on targets that would influence the
Taliban?s behavior."

This is not the position of someone who has a grand strategy of democracy promotion. If Bush cared about democracy in Afghanistan, he would have concluded (before September 11 by the way) that an invasion was necessary. The view that the ultimatum was a sincere ultimatum and that strikes were intended to send a message implies that Bush found continued Taliban rule acceptable provided they satisfied the US concerning al Qaeda. If an extraordinarily repressive regime which massively supported anti US terrorism was, in principle, acceptable, democracy promotion was clearly not a priority. To say that Bush had or has a grand strategy of Democracy promotion is to say that he lied to the 9/11 commission.

Even in Iraq, Bush has no problem with a transition to democracy based on so called caucuses who are nominated by the nominees of the nominee of Bush.

Anyone with any sense knows that, for Bush, "Democracy promotion" is a slogan, the one slogan he can use to defend his decision to invade Iraq. Democracy promotion is not and has never been Bush's strategy.

The question Drezner should ask himself is "which is worse grandiloquent hypocritical rhetoric and a f#$%ed-up policy process, or a foreign policy with no articulated grand strategy but a superior policy process? "

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Angel in the morning

of 9/11

Brad Delong asked me how I was going with the 9/11 commission report and is interested in who decided that Air Force One (Angel) was threatened on 9/11. The commission deals with the issue in an uncharacteristic way. In the main text the report is very brief and firm

P 325 "After the attacks had occurred, while crisis managers were still sorting
out a number of unnerving false alarms, Air Force One flew to Barksdale Air
Force Base in Louisiana. One of these alarms was of a reported threat against
Air Force One itself, a threat eventually run down to a misunderstood communication
in the hectic White House Situation Room that morning.1"

However endnote 1 to chapter 10 is not a brief listing of sources like most footnotes to the report

P 554 Chapter 10 endnote 1 "... Notes from the morning indicate that Vice President Cheney informed President Bush in a phone conversation shortly after 10:30 that an anonymous threat had been phoned into the White House that was viewed as credible. At about the same time, news of the threat was conveyed on the air threat conference call.

The Secret Service intelligence division tracked down the origen of this threat and, during the day, determined that it had originated in a misunderstanding by a watch officer in the White House Situation Room. The director of the White House Situation Room that day disputes this account. But the intelligence division had the primary job of running down the story, and we found their witnesses on this point to be credible."

Notice that as with the authorization to shoot down airliners the first person which documents show said something is Richard Cheney.

This is in total contrast with the approach in the rest of the report. "The director of the White House Situation Room that day" shares with IIRC Khalid Sheik Muhammad and no one else the distinction of being directly contradicted by the conclusions of the report in the absence of any documentary proof that he (or she) was incorrect. It is odd that the word of people who were in the situation room seems to carry less weight than the testimony of un-named witnesses. It is also unique that the number of secret service intelligence division witnesses is not reported.

Also the English is not up to the standard of the rest of the report. There is a dangling modifier "White House that was viewed as credible." Surely they don't expect the reader to cling to the notion that the White House is credible all the way to page 554. The origen of a nonexistent threat can't be traced. Whoever wrote this bit of the report meant "the origen of this theat report."

Could it be the section was rewritten by someone senior whose limited literacy was balanced by his unlimited willingness to cover for Richard Cheney.
On message on 9/11

It is sometimes suggested that Bush cares more about politics than policy. The 9/11 commission report supports this hypothesis.

P 39
"Between 9:15 and 9:30, the staff was busy arranging a return to Washington,
while the President consulted his senior advisers about his remarks. No one in
the traveling party had any information during this time that other aircraft were
hijacked or missing. Staff was in contact with the White House Situation Room,
but as far as we could determine, no one with the President was in contact with
the Pentagon.The focus was on the President’s statement to the nation.The only
decision made during this time was to return to Washington."

P 325 - 6

"While the plan at the elementary school had been to return to Washington,
by the time Air Force One was airborne at 9:55 A.M. the Secret Service, the
President’s advisers, and Vice President Cheney were strongly advising against
it. President Bush reluctantly acceded to this advice and, at about 10:10, Air
Force One changed course and began heading due west.The immediate objective
was to find a safe location—not too far away—where the President could
land and speak to the American people. ...
The President’s military aide, an Air Force officer, quickly researched the options
and, sometime around 10:20, identified Barksdale Air Force Base as an appropriate
interim destination

When Air Force One landed at Barksdale at about 11:45,
[big snip]

At about 3:15, President Bush met with his principal advisers through a secure video teleconference."

That is when Bush stopped relying completely on Cheney to interpret and transmit his instructions or to act as commander in chief, if he saw fit.

The sad fact is that his performance on 9/11 made Bush widly popular and is the only reason he might conceivably be re-elected (perish the thought). The lesson for future Presidents is that, if you want to be re-elected, work on your speach and let the Vice President handly minor policy details like authorising NORAD to shoot down airliners which don't respond

Homenatje a Catalunya*

Kevin Drum quizzes on Blog languages and gets insta blasted simultaneously by two commenters

"4. Obscure micro-languages: Are there more Breton blogs or Catalan blogs?"

Catalan an obscure micro-language? Brace yourself for lots of flak on that one, Kevin. by: ogmb on August 13, 2004 at 8:52 PM PERMALINK

Catalan is an "obscure micro language"? Over 10m people speak it, and it is the mother tongue for two thirds of them! by: Andrew on August 13, 2004 at 8:53 PM PERMALINK

OGMB and I are NOT the same person, I swear! Posted by: Andrew on August 13, 2004 at 8:54 PM PERMALINK

I'm officially freaked out now, though. Thank God you used quotes around "obscure micro language".Posted by: ogmb on August 13, 2004 at 8:56 PM PERMALINK

* My recollection of the translation of "Homage to Catalonia" into Catalan.
The most striking thing about the 9/11 commission report chapter 9 "Heroism and Horror" is how much worse things might have been if the world trade center had not been attacked in 1993. As a result of the earlier attack people in the WTC were extraordinarily prepared.

P 316 "Several factors influenced the evacuation on September 11. It was aided greatly by changes made by the Port Authority in response to the 1993 bombing and by training of both Port Authority personeel and civilians after that time. ... The general evacuation time for the towers dropped from more than four hours in 1993 to under one hour on September 11 for most civilians who ewere not trapped orphysically incapable of enduring a long descent."
One shocking passage from the 9/11 commssion report chapter 9 "Heroism and Horror"
p 287 "Most civilians who were not obstructed from proceeding began evacuating without waiting for instructions over the intercom system. ... Others simply continued to work ..."
9/11 report
He who is first shall later be last.

I am reading the rest of the 9/11 commission report. One shocking aspect is the cost of technological lock in.
A key example is communication technology used by the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). Firemen were among the first to have mobile communications devices -- walky talkies. Now they have the worst mobile communications devices. While passengers in the high jacked airplanes had no trouble talking to their relatives on the ground, Firement evacuating the North tower of the World Trade Center (WTC) could not communicate with each other because the signal from their walky talkies could not penetrate dozens of floors of the WTC and because they were all trying to use the same freequency. This was a problem on 9/11 in spite of the fact that it had been a problem when the WTC was bombed in 1993 and the Port Authority had installed a special repeater specificially for FDNY walky talky signals. The repeater appears to have been knocked out when the South Tower collapsed. Also FDNY commanders did not know that there it provided two services amplification (turned on) and public address (never turned on). This means that Fireman did not all receive the order to evacuate. In contrast the NYPD managed to communicate with itself.

FDNY has a separate "command channel" used only by high ranking fire officers which was not overloaded. Obviously commanders should have the capability of over-riding ordinary walky talky communications with messages like "get out now the south tower has collapsed and the north tower might collapse soon." This should be technologically easy. The if the walky talkies received on two frequencies they could be set so the speakers give the signal on the standard freequency unless an over ride code is sent on the command frequency. Everyone and his cousin has a dual band cell phone so why did firemen die because their walky talkies could only hand one frequency at a time ? The FDNY has new portable repeaters but has not addressed the issue of freequencies overloaded with cross talk except, I suppose, by ordering firemen not to talk too much on their walky talkies.

The tech issue should not be over stressed of course. Many firemen died because they refused to evacuate before finding and warning all firemen in their squad and others because they refused to evacuate leaving injured civilians behind.

Another example of technological lock in was that some of the firemen in the north tower were among the last to know that the south tower had collapsed. Your average shmoe with a TV could have learned this before they did. Much poorer than average shmoes with a TV and no cable knew before they did. I knew before they did and I live in Rome. Italian television was, in this respect, a better source of information than the FDNY. This is partly because the main command post and communication center was abandoned for 10 minutes because it was threatened by debris of the collapsing south tower.

Many people in the WTC relied on 911 operators for information and advice. Unfortunately the standard advice was to wait for help. More strikingly neither workers in the WTC or 911 operators know what was on TV
p 296 "Those who called 911 from floors below the impact were generally advised to remain in place. One group trapped on the 83rd floor [North Tower] pleaded repeatedly to know whether the fire was above them or below them [it was probably above them the impace was on floors in the 90s], specifically asking if 911 operators had any information from the outside or from the news. The callers were transferred back and forth several times and advised to stay put. Evidence suggests that these callers dies."

Over in Rome I had decided that the impact to the north tower was on floors in the 90s before the south tower was hit.

Here I think part of the problem is that TV is not only an amazing communications device but also a terrible vice. Clearly allowing TV in a work place is considered to be like putting vodka in the water cooler.

Down in Virginia the "Arlington County:After Action Report" also shows the cost of technological lock in
P 315 "With respect to communications the report concludes, " [my snip] ... Radio channels were initially oversaturated.... Pagers seemed to be the most reliable means of notification when available and used, but most firefighters are not issued pagers.""
These are examples from chapter 9 of the report. Other examples from the report which show how the people who need communications and intelligence most are using the oldest least effective technology are
P 37 "Operators worked feverishly to include the FAA, but they had equipment
problems and difficulty finding secure phone numbers. NORAD asked three
times before 10:03 to confirm the presence of the FAA in the teleconference.
The FAA representative who finally joined the call at 10:17"

Here part of the problem is worrying about secrecy when speed was key.

P 40 "The President told us he was frustrated witht he poor communications that morning. He could not reach key officials including Secretary Rumsfelf, for a period of time. The line to the White House shelter conference room - and the Vice President - kept cutting off."

The FBI had it's own information network before the internet. Now it is slow and unrealiable, while eveyone else uses reliable e-mail. If the FBI and the CIA were willing to post information on the regular internet, a google search for al Mihdhar might have foiled the plot.

finally, I recall in the 80s that the Defence Department (which IIRC bought 70 or so of the first 100 computers) had the worlds oldest computer system and that it once mistook a flock of geese for a Soviet attack.

Friday, August 13, 2004

The Gallup anomaly again (from

BUSH vs. KERRY: Among likely voters; with leaners, where available. (See registered voters.)

Survey Bush- Kerry likely voters

Gallup 3

Time -7
Democracy Corps (D) -77
FOX/Opinion Dynamics -5

ABC/Washington Post -1

CNN/USA Today/Gallup 4

Registered voters

Gallup 1

Time -8


FOX/Opinion Dynamics -3

ABC/Washington Post -7

American Research Group -3

CBS -6

CBS -7

CNN/USA Today/Gallup O

Actually, these times, it is not just the Gallup likely voter filter which helps Bush only 2 and 3 % but also their sample. Still why isn't the Gallup anomaly famous ?

I think John Kerry trims his sails to the wind (ah I see why the current metaphor is "flip flopper"). However, the example of the vote on authorizing Bush to invade Iraq is obviously unconvincing. First, as Kerry has explained ad nauseum, the authorization had two effects, first it meant Bush could use the threat to invade for leverage, second it meant Bush was, in fact, free to invade. Bush chose to present congress with the choice between an unrestrained president (bad) and a president whose bluff had been called (also bad).

Furthermore Kerry's one vote was not decisive. He would have hurt himself politically tying the hands of a then popular president while achieving nothing if he had voted no. The fact that he is unwilling to hurt himself politically for nothing does not mean that he is not willing to hurt himself politically for something.

Kerry would certainly not have invaded Iraq if he had been president. Some Democrats would really be flip flopping if they argued against the invasion now (Leiberman and star flip flopper of all time Gephart). Kerry is clearly not one of them. His position on Iraq has been consistent. This is one of the things regularly reported in the Washington Post towards the end or articles which prominently display Bush distortions and tell only the patient reader that they are distortions. In this case the distortion was in a New York Times headline and the explanation that it is totally false in fifth from last paragraph of the long article "In fact, in interviews since the start of the year, Mr. Kerry has been relatively consistent in explaining his position.". (via of course).


The CBO tells us the shocking news that Bush's tax cuts heavily favor the wealthy. Since the congress is controlled by Republicans, the "non partisan" CBO has displayed courage and will probably be in trouble soon. The thing that interested me in the New York Times story is the extreme feebleness of the Republican effort to spin the news

""It doesn't matter who you are, the report shows that you are better off now than you were before the tax cuts,'' said a House Republican aide. "It's showing that everybody's tax burden has gone down as a result of the tax cuts.''" This is a lie, since the fact is that the taxes paid by each quintile have been cut and not that the taxes paid by each taxpayer have been cut (they haven't since many tax payers pay only FICA which has not been cut). The Republican aide claims that if someone's taxes are cut, they are better off. The aide did not explain why it wouldn't then be a good idea to eliminate taxes entirely, that is, he seems to have hoped that Edmund Andrews would be too lazy to find someone to note that a tax cut not balanced by a spending cut is really a tax shift to the future. I don't think that the fact that Andrews closes his article with just such a quote makes him a hero genius -- it is the obvious reply.

The thing that struck me most is that the House Republican aide seems to have asked that his name not be used. I can certainly understand that he didn't want to taint his name with a clearly false and stupid sounding assertion. This all reminded me of Joshua Marshall's list of feeble endorsements of Alan Keyes. I'd consider the spinner who dare not speak his/her name the feeblest spin I have ever seen, the political equivilant of a knuckleball.

Update: I am a knucklehead. I should have checked at least the Washington post before awarding the anonospinner the prize. This is the most feeble spin I have ever read
"The CBO answers the questions they are asked," said Terry Holt, a Bush
campaign spokesman. "To the extent the questions are shaded to receive a
certain response, that's often the response you get."
The question posed was a standard request for analysis of the type
members on both sides of the aisle routinely make of the CBO. In this case
... asked ... to estimate the distribution of the tax cuts among income
levels, and compare that to tax levels if none of the cuts were passed.

Clearly a trick question.

For a very very complete run down of contradictions and demonstrable falsehoods in the assertions of the swift boat veterans for (against?) truth see this page. Michael Froomkin sent me there.

I'd like to two bits which appear but are not contrasted on the page

"Larry Thurlow, who says he commanded a third Swift Boat that day, says "Kerry fled while we stayed to fight," and returned only later "after no return fire occurred.""

from USA Today

"Even those soldiers who didn't like Kerry had respect for him:
""He was extremely brave, and I wouldn't argue that point," Thurlow says.""

Well I guess after all, he would.

It is amazing that it is possible to demonstrate that people making claims about things which happened over 30 years ago in front of few witnesses are so clumsy that it is possible to prove that they are liars. The Swift Boat Veterans for "Truth" seem to have managed one of the most incompetent smears in the long and sad history of human nastiness and dishonesty.
CNN Unfair to the Bush administration.

CNN confidently asserts that someone in the Bush administration blew the cover of al-Qaeda web geek Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan who had been arrested and turned by the Pakistanis.
"The unnamed U.S. officials leaked Khan's name"

However, the evidence that Khan's arrest was revealed by someone in the Bush administration and not a Pakistani intelligence official is very weak. More or less two words "On background" repeated by Condoleezza Rice to Wolf Blitzer. This could have been confirmation of Blitzer's claim or it could have been a case of speaking without thinking.

Juan Cole has been on this story from the beginning and has zero sympathy for Bush. He reviews the evidence carefully and does not draw a firm conclusion. I too have zero sympathy for Bush, but I think a hypothesis should not be presented as a fact.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Why Group Think ?

The major error on Iraqi WMD has been blamed on group think -- the tendency for people to arrive at a consensus and for the opinions of people who disagree to be supressed often by themselves. Why do people do this ?

First it is overwhelmingly clear that people do exactly this. The experiments concern simple questions about which no semi normal person can have any doubt such as which of two lines on a black board is longer. When all but one person in a group invited to answer such a question are shills and give the wrong answer the one subject often goes along (I don't remember the cite on this). This might be a feature of how people act in weird situations in which everyone else must be crazy or lying. More generally, the opinion expressed by a group after discussion tends to be more extreme than the average opinion before discussion. This might be due to rational pooling of information. Together there is a strong case for group think. Another name for group think is herd behavior.

So why is there group think ? There are three simple explanations.

First people might systematically underestimate the quality of their personal information and over estimate the quality of the information of others in the group. This means that when arriving at a post discussion opinion they give too little weight to their own pre-discussion opinion. This seems unlikely, since there is strong evidence that people overestimate the quality of their personal predictions

Second if people are rewarded based on their forecasting performance compared to average forecasting performance and are risk averse, they will rationally state a forecast closer to the average than their sincere subjective mean squared error minimizing forecast.

Finally herd behavior might be, well, behavioral. That is we might have an inate inclination to agree with what other people are saying. This would make sense, since a group that is divided by different opinions risks splitting or being paralyzed.

I suspect the second and third explanation are both important. I think it is possible to decide which matters. In experimental settings, it is possible to change peoples incentives. For example if the prize given to the subjects is the same for each subject and based on the difference between the average forecast and the outcome herding would be irrational.

In contrast, as noted by Canice Pendergast, if relative performance valuation is important, one should see a contrast between apparently impetuous youths and sage old timers. The point is that if someone has a good reputation, they risk losing it by being more wrong than anyone else. If someone has no reputation, they have a chance to win big by being more right than anyone else. This theory fits the fact that the main stream of opinion is very narrow compared to, say, opinions you find on blogs.

For example when explaining the Washington Posts feeble resistence to Bush administration Spin on Iraqi WMD Howard Kurtz discusses the issue with Bob Woodward (who has high standing)

"Woodward, for his part, said it was risky for journalists to write anything that might look silly if weapons were ultimately found in Iraq. Alluding to the finding of the Sept. 11 commission of a "groupthink" among intelligence officials, Woodward said of the weapons coverage: "I think I was part of the groupthink." "
What is a Liberal ?

Not a left-liberal, not a classical liberal just a liberal. The UK Liberal Democratic Party (not the US Democratic party) is the oldest political party. They have been consistently (relatively) resistant to the concept of a party line (note liberals don't like the concept of a party line). It is very hard to decide what they believe. I would very roughly define liberal doctrine as follows: If John Locke and Charles Kennedy agree on something it is a core principle of liberal doctrine.
Hmm Josh Marshall notes that the Swift boat ad is quite effective in raising doubts about Kerry's war record. At the same time Sean Hannity is claiming (falsely) that the Bush administration has denounced the ad as is Jennifer Millerwise, Bush-Cheney '04 deputy communications director for regional media. This does not sound like a usual response to a winning strategy. Given Jerome Corsi's interesting opinions on all sorts of matters I hope this all works out as a net minus for Bush.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Christmas in Cambodia.

It appears that, to the right blogosphere, outing CIA agents and blowing covert operations is not only perfectly OK but also mandatory. They (and Fox) are enthusastic about the fact that John Kerry claims that he spent Christmas 1968 in Cambodia escorting a CIA officer who was looking for Viet Cong sanctuaries and that John O'Neill claims that he wasn't. The argument that he wasn't is based on the word of swift boat veterans (who have been caught in many contradictions on other issues already) and on the fact that there is no written proof in Kerry's military record, his diary or a letter he sent to his superiors.

All this proves the shocking fact that covert operations are covert. Since the US was denying that US personel were violating Cambodian sovereignty, the operation (if it occured) would hardly have been recorded in an official record. In substance Kerry is accused of not writing classified information in a diary which could be stolen . Clearly he is not an upstanding straight shooter like Scooter Libby and the people who blew the Khan operation. Kevin Drum notes that the diary entry appears to come as close as was legal or wise to recording the mission

war journal
mention[s] only that he was near the Cambodian border on
Christmas Eve, not across it. (Although the journal entry ends with a sarcastic
message to his superiors: "Merry Christmas from the most inland Market Time
unit" — at a minimum a reference to being right on top of the Cambodian border.
Then: "You hope that they'll court marshal you or something because that would
make sense" — possibly a reference to crossing the border.)

Jerry Corsi is stupid as well as dishonest and evil.

He just admitted to writing the appalling things he wrote on I don't think anyone could have proven that he was the one using the nickname without the freepers co-operation which would not have been forthcoming.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Brad DeLong is a flip flopper

He radically reverses his views on semantics and, indeed, on the very nature of truth. This post argues directly against this post.
Worst of all both posts are criticizing Matthew Yglesias.

Now Brad writes

"Yglesias believes that the words the neoconservatives spout are right "at the appropriate level of abstraction" because he is not yet old enough to have recognized that when neoconservatives use words, they do not mean what Yglesias thinks they mean. "

which is an attack on the views of Brad Delong who wrote

Matthew (and Atrios) are correct: the esoteric meaning of Hoagland's columns is
often very different from the exoteric meaning--and it is reasonably clear to me
that Hoagland believes in the esoteric meanings that are, as Matthew puts it,
hidden under "this veneer of reasonableness."
But where does Matthew get off saying that the unreasonable esoteric meaning is what the column is "actually about"? 99 out of 100 readers don't get the unreasonable esoteric meaning; what they get is the reasonable exoteric meaning. And isn't the important article not
the one that the writer writes, but he one that the reader reads?
I think Matthew Yglesias has mistaken the nature of reality.

Poor Matt, he spent 4 years studying philosophy and when he is not confused about the meanings of words he has mistaken the nature of reality. He has to fall into one or the other error whenever someone makes a statement with an esoteric meaning different from the exoteric meaning.

Now I agree with Brad that Matthew Yglesias is very young. Therefore he may be impressionable. I think Brad should consider the possibility that Matthew Yglesias has been lead astray on the issue of whether words mean what the dictionary says they mean because he was convinced by Brad's argument that the exoteric meaning is the true meaning. Indeed he responded to Brad's first critique by writing "Perhaps Brad is correct. Still, a writer ought to say what he means."

Khan part III

It seems to me the Reuters is qualifiying their earlier claim that a Bush administration official (on background) was the very first mention of Khan's name to a journalist.

"It is not clear who originally disclosed Khan's name, which first appeared in The New York Times last Monday and was then confirmed by U.S. officials."

It is possible that Rice's concession "On background." to Blitzer referred to the confirmation.

In any case, the Bush administration appears to, at least, share the blame. The allegation that the Bush administration requested the announcement of the capture of a high value target during the democratic convention would tend to be confirmed by the announcement on July 29 of the capture of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani . The capture of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was part of the same breakthrough as the capture of Khan so revealing it made it harder to keep the capture of Khan secret. Worse the extensive discussion of al "Qaeda documents maybe on paper maybe electronic" which were, in fact, Khan's hard disk, and the orange alert itself all made it very difficult to keep Khan's capture a secret. Even if the leak came from a Pakistani intelligence official, this official may have assumed that, given the behavior of the Bush administration, the secret was doomed anyway.

Senator Schumer is doing an excellent job of focusing attention on these important issues without claiming to know things he doesn't know.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Khan update

Juan Cole notes that Condoleezza Rice conceded to Wolf Blitzer that the Bush administration released Khan's name on background. I have no idea how Blitzer knew, since the New York Times story which exposed Khan cited a Pakistani intelligence official (see post below).

BLITZER: Let's talk about some of the people who have been picked up,
mostly in Pakistan, over the last few weeks. In mid-July, Muhammad Naeem Noor
Khan. There is some suggestion that by releasing his identity here in the United
States, you compromised a Pakistani intelligence sting operation, because he was
effectively being used by the Pakistanis to try to find other al Qaeda
operatives. Is that true?
RICE: Well, I don't know what might have been going on in Pakistan. I will
say this, that we did not, of course, publicly disclose his name. One of
BLITZER: He was disclosed in Washington on background.
RICE: On background. [snip]

Now I think the Bush administration probably knows who gave a background briefing to Doublas Jehl (the co-author of the story, David Rohde, is in Pakistan). This person should be fired.

It seems possible to me that the the Pakistani official denounced below, blew Khan first and that Rice, who claims profound ignorance about the issue, doesn't know.

In any case, the extensive Bush administration public statements about a trove documents including the floor plans of the world bank and the IMF risked tipping off al Qaeda if such a trove is to be found only on Khan's hard disk.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

The Wrath about Khan

I really hate to say this, but it is clear from the NY Times article by Douglas Jehl and David Rohde which burned Khan that the blame for the leak belongs to a Pakistani intelligence official, who clearly has many faults but does not work for the Bush administration.

I hate to say this because blowing a sting operation would have been enough to move the Bush is toast meter from extra crispy to charred cinder.

Still the article is clear

The figure, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, was described by a Pakistani
intelligence official
as [snip] A senior United States official would not
confirm or deny that Mr. Khan had been the Qaeda figure whose capture led to
the information [snip] Though Pakistan announced the arrest last week of a
Qaeda member, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian wanted in connection with
the bombings of American embassies in East Africa in 1998, the American officials
suggested that he had not been the source of the new threat information. [snip]
An account provided by a Pakistani intelligence official made clear that the
crucial capture in recent weeks had been that of Mr. Khan, who is also known as
Abu Talha. The intelligence official provided information describing Mr. Khan as
having assisted in evaluating potential American and Western targets for
terrorist attacks, and as being representative of a "new Al Qaeda."
The Pakistani official described Mr. Khan as a fluent English speaker who had told
investigators that he had visited the United States, Britain, Germany and other
countries. Mr. Khan was one of thousands of Pakistani militants who trained in
Afghanistan under the Taliban in the 1990's, the Pakistani official said.
If indeed Mr. Khan was the man whose arrest led the C.I.A. to new evidence,
his role as a kind of clearinghouse of Qaeda communications, as described by the
Pakistani intelligence official
, could have made him a vital source of
information. Since his arrest, Mr. Khan has described an elaborate communications system
that involves the use of high and low technology, the Pakistani official said.
American officials would say only that the evidence obtained by the
C.I.A. after the arrest of the Qaeda figure in Pakistan had provided a richer,
more credible source of intelligence than could have been provided by any single
individual. They declined to say whether the "documentary evidence" included
physical documents or might also include electronic information stored on
computers, like copies of e-mail communications. The Qaeda communications
system that Mr. Khan used and helped operate relied on Web sites and e-mail
addresses in Turkey, Nigeria and the northwestern tribal areas of Pakistan,
according to the information provided by a Pakistani intelligence official [the
same dork ? ed].
The official said Mr. Khan [snip] the Pakistani official said [snip]
Mr. Khan had told investigators [snip] Mr. Khan had told investigators [snip]
The Pakistani official said Mr. Khan [snip] Asked about the whereabouts of Osama
bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mr. Khan has told interrogators that even
the top Qaeda commanders do not know, the Pakistani intelligence official said.

I am not expert on NY Times unnamed source codes, but it seems that almost all of the damage was all done by one Pakistani intelligence official. The US sources should have asked Jehl and Rohde to keep the name Khan secret and shouldn't have said anything about a trove of documents which might have enabled al Qaeda to guess that Khan was involved, even without the name. Still the main story here seems to me that Pakistani intelligence is a very dubious ally in the war against terror, and we already knew that.

Now other (I assume) Pakistani intelligence officials are complaining to msnbc

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - The al-Qaida suspect named by U.S. officials as the
source of information that led to this week’s terrorist alerts was working
undercover, Pakistani intelligence sources said Friday, putting an end to the
sting operation and forcing Pakistan to hide the man in a secret location.

and reuters

ISLAMABAD/LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. officials providing justification for
anti-terrorism alerts revealed details about a Pakistani secret agent, and
confirmed his name while he was working under cover in a sting operation,
Pakistani sources say

note "confirmed".

update: Juan Cole seems to be quoting an earlier version of the reuters story which includes an innacurate claim about the Jehl and Rohde article. This slip (I assume by Reuters) helps explain how the story got so hot so quick on the web.

Reuters alleges,
"The New York Times published a story on Monday saying
U.S. officials had disclosed that a man arrested secretly in Pakistan was the
source of the bulk of information leading to the security alerts. The
newspaper named him as Khan, although it did not say how it had learned
his name.

Billmon and Kevin Drum are on the story.

Now how about anonymity. I agree with many bloggers that anonymous sources who lie should be identified. I also think that Jehl and Rohde should identify the talkative Pakistani intelligence official so that he can be re-deployed to an occupation more suited to his abilities.