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Thursday, September 30, 2004

Joshua Marshall has a long and very depressing post on Iraq.

I personally am naive enough to be shocked by the following passage

"Meanwhile, the Pentagon is sponsoring a PR campaign by hand-picked Iraqi-Americans and former CPA officials who will be speaking at US military bases around the country. The memo sent out to base commanders says the presentations will be "designed to be uplifting accounts with good news messages" and that commanders should try to get local news coverage for the speeches since "these events and presentations are positive public relations opportunities.""

Marshall claims that the Pentagon has ordered military commanders to try to influence the discussion among civilians during an election campaign. I note that he doesn't explain what document he is quoting or how he obtained it and that the most shocking passage is a paraphrase. Given his track record, I trust Marshall absolutely. I think the political use of military commanders is a threat to democracy.
September 30 average poll on the front page of

A newly reported Pew Poll withBush by 8 and a new ICR poll with Bush by 10 (ten!) moves
Bush to 48 6/7 Kerry 43 4/7 so, assuming about 2% Nader, kerry would win 49 1/7 to 48 6/7 if all undecided voters voted for Kerry, that is to conclude that the race is tied one would have to assume that 1 in 39 undecided voters would vote for Bush.

Also the Rasmussen tracking poll has move to Bush by 4, so it doesn't make much difference.

uh oh.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


I keep an ascii plain text version of my blog on my hard disk creatively named blog.txt. I update it occasionally. Today blog.txt passed 1 Mb to 1,116 Kb. That means over 1,116,000 characters (including spaces) many of them copied and pasted. A megabyte of blogging. A milestone.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

28 September average poll on the first page of
gives Bush 48 3/4 % Kerry 44 1/12 % so if Nader gets about two percent and all undecided voters vote for Kerry, Kerry wins by 0.5% If 5% of undecided voters will vote for Bush, the race is tied.
Rasmussen has Bush 47.9 % Kerry 46.3%. Including Rasmussen to consider the race tied one would have to expect 8% of undecided voters to vote for Bush.

The change at polling report is the new TIPP poll which shows the mutlicandidate race tied (Kerry ahead 1% in the two way race). As always, I take multicandidate if available (that is except for CBS and Fox) and Likely voter polls if available (that is except CBS and NBC/WSJ). The 12 polls in the average are Tipp, Gallup, ABC/WP, Time, Fox, CBS, GWU, AP, Marist, GQRR(Dem corps), NBC/WSJ and Zogby.
He who is first shall later be last part II

I get 1 gigabyte of free storage at, 100 mb at yahoo, unlimited at photodump, but my thoughts are important not like just any conversation between al Qaeda terrorists

Erich Lichtblau reports in the NewYork Times
"The investigation blamed in part the F.B.I.'s computer systems, long derided by Congressional critics as antiquated and unwieldy. The investigation found that limited storage capacities in the system meant that older audio recordings had sometimes been deleted automatically to make room for newer material, even if the recordings had not yet been translated."

Needless to say the fact that the FBI is overwhelmed doesn't mean it isn't crucial to repeal the 4th amendment so they can tape more. Philip Chenon and Carl Hulse report

"The House Republican bill, which was introduced last week, would grant fewer powers to a national intelligence director and would provide law enforcement agencies with powers that the Sept. 11 commission did not specifically recommend, including new authority to deport immigrants and to conduct electronic surveillance of terrorist suspects.

The House bill has been criticized by civil liberties groups, by members of the Sept. 11 commission and by Democrats. The Democrats say that by introducing a bill so different from the Senate version and including many contentious law enforcement provisions not sought by the commission, House Republican leaders may be trying to derail final agreement on any legislation to respond to the panel's findings."

The House Republicans certainly don't seem willing to shell out enough money to buy the FBI a semi decent computer system. It is clear to me that they are interested in counter terrorism measures *only* if they are unacceptable to civil libertarians, that is, they are playing politics with your safety.

The President lies like a rug says Reuters.

It seems that former TANG lieutenant G.W.Bush still thinks he can just decide that someone desn't need more training.

He [Bush] said nearly 100,000 "fully trained and equipped" Iraqi soldiers, police officers and other security personnel are already at work, and that would rise to 125,000 by the end of this year....

The documents show that of the nearly 90,000 currently in the police force, only 8,169 have had the full eight-week academy training. [snip]

Six Army battalions have had "initial training," ... National Guard battalions, 896 soldiers in each, Just eight Guard battalions have reached "initial (operating) capability," [snip]
Democrats on the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee...
estimated that 22,700 Iraqi personnel have received enough basic training to make them "minimally effective at their tasks," in contrast to the 100,000 figure cited by Bush [snip]

A senior administration official defined "fully trained as having gone through "initial basicoperations training

I hope that George Bush shows up at the debates "fully trained and equipped"

Monday, September 27, 2004

27 September's average Poll on the front page of
(plus Rasmussen)

Bush 48.2 % Kerry 43.6 % Nader still about 2 %
if WYSW(S)HG (0 undecided voters vote for Bush) then Kerry wins . If Bush gets about 13% of the undecided voters, the race is tied.

I should have kept track of the polls on the first page. Today multicandidate likely voter polls on the first page are Time, GWU, AP, Marist, GQRR(Democracy corps) , NBC/WSJ, Tipp. Also CBS Registered voter and two way and Fox likely voter and two way.

Also I should include at least the Rasmussen tracking poll which would make it
Bush 48.16 Kerry 43.92 so we would say that the race is tied if we thought Bush would get about 14% of the undecideds.

three updates only one important: Pollingreport has new polls from Gallup and ABC/WP and retired the Tipp poll so the current list are multicandidate Gallup, ABC/WP Time, GWU, AP, Marist, GQRR(Democracy corps) , NBC/WSJ and Zogby. Two way CBS and Fox. All likely voter polls except CBS and NBC /WSJ. The new polls are good for Bush and the retired poll was good for Kerry so the new polling report average poll gives
Bush 49.1 Kerry 44. For others including Nader around 2% Bush would just barely win even if all undecided voters voted for Kerry.

including Rasmussen makes 12 polls with Bush 49 Kerry 44.2 so we would consider the race tied if we excpected that 8% of undecided voters will vote for Bush.

The change is more than entirely explained by the change in which polling agencies are included, since all of Gallup, Time and ABC/WP show the gap narrowing although, shockingly Gallups RV poll is even more favorable to Bush than the LV poll.

With 12 polls, each with a "MOE" of 3 or 4 %, the standard error due to sampling alone of Bush-Kerry is about 1% so a 95% interval is Bush ahead by 2.8% to Bush ahead by 6.8%. Of course it is obvious that most of the error in polls is not sampling error.

Earlier today, pollingreport described the NBC/WSJ 2 way poll as a poll of registered voters and the multicandidate poll as a poll of likely voters. Looked like a typo but I didn't save a screen shot. Now they make it clear that NBC/WSJ is a poll of registered voters.

I left out Zogby. My list should have been Time, GWU, AP, Marist, GQRR(Democracy corps) , NBC/WSJ, Zogby, Tipp, CBS and Fox.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

The average Poll on the front page of today

is a silly concept. Consider the average of 10 polls likely voter if avalable, with Nader if available. The average of these 10 polls gives Bush has 47.9% Kerry 43.6 % Nader + others roughly 2% leaving roughly 6.5 % undecided. The standard errof of the difference Bush-Kerry slightly more than 1% that is 3 or 4 % divided by the square root of 10.

Now when people like Charlie Cook warn us to listen to him and not just look who is ahead in the polls, an important point is that undecided voters tend to split against the incumbant. The rough line is WYSW(S)HG what you see is what (s)he gets
(did I just invent the worlds first absurdly pc acronym ?). If this were literally true, then the average polls would predict a Kerry victory with expected Kerry vote 50.1 % expected Kerry-Bush of 2.2%. Given the standard error this just barely rejects, at the 5 % level, the null that, assuming WYSW(S)HG the race is currently tied, assuming WYSW(S)HG the average polls says chance that Kerry would win if the race were held tomorrow is about 95% . Now WYSW(S)HG is very strong. Another way of looking at it is that if Kerry is expected to beat Bush 5 to 1 among the undecideds, the race is tied. To me this means that, even assuming that undecideds break against the incumbant, Bush is slightly ahead at the moment.

Of course the idea of the average poll is silly anyway.
If polls differ only because of sampling error, the average result of 14 polls would be very reliable. However, there is no reason to believe that polls have an unbiased sample, since different people have different probabilities of refusing to respond, to not have a land line phone and to never be home. There is no reason to believe that the average likely voter filter is perfect. It is possible that Gallup is right and everyone else is wrong so Kerry supporters are markedly less likely to vote than Bush supporters. The average also includes polls of registered voters, so the assumption is that the average likely voter filter over does it, so averaging a few polls with registered voters gets it right. Finally the 2% Nader is partly an average partly a guess that the truth is somewhere in between results in polls where people are prompted for Nader and polls wehere they volunteer "other" not that it matters much at the moment.

In all a silly excercies and one I plan to perform compulsively until election day.
Maureen Dowd is at the top of her form which is very good.

She makes an important point which is obvious but which I haven't read before

"Mr. Bush doesn't seem to care that by using Mr. Allawi as a puppet in his campaign, he decreases the prime minister's chances of debunking the belief in Iraq that he is a Bush puppet - which is the only way he can gain any credibility to stabilize his devastated country and be elected himself."

and (after a few digressions concludes)

"Bush officials, who proclaim themselves so altruistic about bringing liberty to Iraq, really see Iraq in a creepy narcissistic way: It's all about Mr. Bush's re-election."

I even liked *both* of the obligatory pop culture references "

President Bush has his own Mini-Me now, someone to echo his every word and mimic his every action.

For so long, Mr. Bush has put up with caricatures of a wee W. sitting in the vice president's lap, Charlie McCarthy style, as big Dick Cheney calls the shots. But now the president has his own puppet to play with."

Oddly I think that Ms Dowd has the opposite of the usual problem with the 700 word format. I think she would be more comfortable with 200 words. This exists in Italy, Michele Serra has 200 words on the op-ed page or sometimes the front page of La Repubblica (one of Italies two leading newspapers). This excellent op ed is three or four related essays
1) Allawi is Bush's puppet and making this painfully clear to Iraqis shows that Bush cares more about a tiny boost to his campaign than severe damage to the effort to make Iraq a democracy.
2) The Republicans are saying totally outrageous things about Kerry soft on terror. This is clearly the party line not just a grammatically challenged Cheney.
3) Rumsfeld is giving up on Iraq, while Bush claims everything is fine.
4) Allawi is a dishonest thug so why should we care about what he says.

Essays 2, 3 and 4 have been written many times. Essay 1 would be excellent at about 200 words with padding (mini me would make it into the mini op ed) .

Now the op ed is excellent, the 4 points are all important and they support each other. However, Dowd is often off key because she makes one good point and 2 or 3 irrelevant ones.
She would be much better if edited down to just one stab of the stilleto .

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Why aren't there more whores for the Johns ?

is my way of asking about the hack gap regularly discussed by Matt Yglesias.
Also, if I were a Republican, I would have a "flush the Johns" bumper sticker on my car.
I like some of this article by Nick Anderson in the LA Times.

In particular I like

"Kerry, however, was trying to distinguish between a congressional action intended to give the president diplomatic leverage against a rogue state and a presidential decision to launch an invasion." Yes exactly.

However Anderson balances his refutations of Bush's dishonest distortions with By nit picklering Kerry. That is he quotes Kerry saying something absolutely true and then explains how Republicans could counter argue honestly (if they decided to try honesty for a change). the counterargument is, for some reason presented as evidence that Kerry absolutely true claims are inconsistent with the facts. I quote all of the comments on Kerry shorn of nit picklering

Statement: "One year ago, this administration asked for and received $18 billion to help the Iraqis and relieve the conditions that contribute to the insurgency. Today, less than $1 billion of those funds have actually been spent." — Monday, in New York

Context: It is true that Congress appropriated more than $18 billion last year to help rebuild Iraq. Of that sum, Republicans acknowledge, only about $1 billion has been spent.

[that is Kerry's claim is just plain true]. The nit picklering is that Republicans could argue that this isn't so bad because"But about $6 billion more is obligated to be spent soon, and planning for the rest is underway."

Statement: "Today they've announced the biggest deficit in the history of our nation…. [We] have a plan to cut the deficit in half, to restore fiscal responsibility." — Sept. 7, in Greensboro, N.C.

Context: The Congressional Budget Office announced ... indeed a record.
[so the claim of fact is just plain true]

Unlike Bush, Kerry is proposing a tax increase to help pay for his programs. That buttresses the Democrat's claim to be more of a budget balancer than Bush. But independent analysts warn that Kerry's healthcare and education proposals would be costly, and the Democrat has not seriously addressed a looming fiscal crisis facing Social Security and Medicare. [nor is the claim that he has to plan to cut the deficit in half a claim that he has a plan to resolve the looming medicare crisis. This is arguing that Kerry's claim is dishonest by changing the subject].

Kerry vs the facts is that Kerry says things that are just plain true, however there are other true statements which he didn't make. This is exactly what Atrios causes Nit Picklering.

When one guy is lying and the other is telling the truth, reporters have to decide which is more important balance or fairness.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Mark Kleimans brilliantness is well exemplfied by

"A candidate who speaks in soundbites: a spinmeister's dream.

A President who thinks in soundbites: a citizen's nightmare."

sooo true.

However, his effort to argue that Kerry's positions on Iraq are consistent is much less brilliant.

"But really and truly, what John Kerry has said about Iraq isn’t all that obscure.

It rests on one simple distinction: between the necessity (or at least the value) of getting rid of Saddam Hussein on the one hand and the urgency of doing so in the spring of 2003 on the other."

I think a much stronger case can be made. See this article by Nick Anderson in the LA Times

"Kerry did say in August that he would vote again for the force resolution, even if he knew that weapons of mass destruction would not be found in Iraq.

Kerry, however, was trying to distinguish between a congressional action intended to give the president diplomatic leverage against a rogue state and a presidential decision to launch an invasion."

See how simple it is ? Threatening to use force is not the same as using it even though the other guy gave in. Kerry's position on Iraq has been all too consistent from 1998 until today.
I might be wrong, but as far as I know, Kerry has relentlessly argued that a credible threat of invasion was necessary to convince Saddam Hussein to let weapons inspectors inspect and that this is the only reason he gave for threatening to invade or invading if Saddam Hussein refused.
There were also humanitarian arguments for an invasion which were important to Prof Kleiman, but, as far as I know, Kerry never let one slip out of his lips.

Personally I disagree completely with Kerry and disagree with Kleiman only about his conclusion. I was not convinced by the humanitarian case for invasion, but I wasn't sure it was wrong. I am absolutely sure that, if Saddam Hussein had kept WMD that would be a very strong argument against invading.

Mark Kleiman's argument is much more subtle and less convincing. I think the reason is simple. Prof Kleiman explains why Prof Kleiman's position on Iraq is consistent. This is much more difficult because Prof Kleiman has been much franker than Kerry and maybe because his position is less consistent.

Kerry is a self disciplined politician. He has carefully repeated the same line (whith varying emphasis) for years, avoiding self contradiction while keeping his options open. Many of the cases in which Kerry's statements have been distorted by the Bush team are cases in which he was asked a yes or no question and dodged it by repeating his standard message. The implication that a response to a yes or no question must amount to either yes or no is dishonest, but it is a kind of dishonesty that has been repeatedly used against Kerry because he dodges questions (as all politicians do). Mark Kleiman says what he thinks.

So when arguing against Bush's war in Iraq, Kleiman concedes that the cost of sanctions is an argument for invasion. I don't think Kerry ever said that. I suppose Kerry voted for the regime change resolution, but he was obviously pretending that he thought regime change could be achieved without an invasion. Thus I don't think he ever conceded that "getting rid of Saddam Hussein"means invading, even though it clearly does.

By the way, I don't agree with Kleiman on two points. He wrote

"The only way we and the rest of the world managed to figure out to keep Saddam Hussein from building weapons of mass destruction was to subject Iraq to economic sanctions so damaging that, once the Ba’athists had finished implementing them, thousands of children starved to death, or died of less spectacular forms of malnutrition, each month. That protected us, but it was pretty tough on the children."

I don't think this is true at all. The harsh sanctions were imposed to press Saddam Hussein to disarm and accept inspections. In those fields they had no effect from 1998 to 2003 and yet Saddam Hussein built no weapons of mass destruction during that period. This is true even though he diverted oil for food money and so had cash on hand. Sanctions aimed at directly interfering with purchase or development of weapons, combined with threats might have been enough. In short, I don't think the ban on purchases of anything but food and medicine was necessary. The costs of sanctions were the result of a political choice. I think the case that such heavy sanctions were necessary is that even with sanctions Saddam Hussein had kept his WMD, that is, it is a case which has been proven wrong since the invasion.

Now one might argue that, even if the sanctions should have been made milder they were in fact going to be kept tough so long as Saddam Hussein was in power, so we needed to invade to save Iraq from the sanctions. I find this an important argument., although it is one that was made by Kleiman (and me) and not, IIRC Kerry.

Kleiman goes on
"The only way to end the sanctions without having the WMD acquisition program start up again was to change the regime. I have seen no serious argument that the human cost to Iraq of war, occupation, and rebellion approaches the cost of the sanctions program. "

Well if this means that the suffering in the past year and a half is less than the suffering in the previous 12 years, I guess I agree, but that is not much of an argument. depending on the fact that1.5<12 If the argument is that the suffering that would have been caused by sanctions in the past year and a half is worse than the war etc seems crazy to me. My impression is that, aside from deaths and injuries in battle, conditions in Iraq are still slightly worse than they were before the invasion. That is the indirect costs in terms of infant mortality of the disorder and rebellion is greater than the costs of the same period of sanctions. Partly prof Kleiman might be assuming that if Bush had fought the war at the right time, then the suffering of war occupation etc would have been brief. Partly I think the costs of sanctions were emphasised by people arguing that they should be eliminated and the similar suffering in Iraq is not so emphasised, because no one has a plan for how to end it.

Also if one is talking about malnutrition one has to consider not just if the progress is positive but also if it is the best that can be achieved with $ 200,000,000,000.

To finally conclude (how do other bloggers discipline themselves ???) I think Kleiman makes a good case that Kleiman's views are consistent, but I think he shouldn't have presented his post as a discussion of Kerry.
ARG reports polls for 50 states and DC
Bottom line it's close. The American Research Group (ARG) calculates a national average weighting by state population and gets
Bush 47% Kerry 46%. This is interesting becasue their polls were all taken after the RNC and their sample of 30,600 is larger than that of all the national polls put together (less than 20,00). ARG does not report a standard error for their national estimate, because it would be embarassingly low.

It is not quite as low as it would be with a national sample of 30,600, since the 600 in, say, California each get a weight much greater than 1/30,600. I calculate the sampling standard error of as roughly 0.4% . This means that a 95 % interval for Bush is roughly 46.2%-47.8% and that the confidence interval for Bush- Kerry is roughly -0.6% - 2.6%. The number which corresponds to the +/- reported by pollsters is about 0.8%. I did the calculations with pencil and paper, so don't trust them.

Another way of putting it is that the ARG result counts like 25 national polls each with a sample of 600 or about 15 national polls with normal sample size each with Bush ahead by 1%.

If you decide to trust all polling agencies equally, the thing to do is to average weighted by the inverse of the square of the reported standard error. This means that estimates of Bush's lead in September would be roughly halved by the ARG result ! From 3 - 5 % to 2 - 3%. If you have decided to ignore Gallup, CBS and Time, you have to decide whether to ignore ARG too.

Why did I say embarassingly low ?
I think pollsters use small samples only partly to save money, and also to give themselves an excuse if their numbers are off. With a huge sample, a difference between the poll and the election would imply a more worrisome problem, either a biased sample, a faulty likely voter filter or a psychological difference between talking to a pollster and actually voting. It is clear that some or all sampling techniques give biased samples, because the spread of polls is to large to explain with sampling error alone. Polling agencies certainly don't want to spend money to prove that they are one of the agencies with a defective sampling technique.

In any case, my reaction is anything but ARG !

Update: I have managed to read the census estimates of populations for July 2003 (most recent on their website) into excel and can report that excel and I have roughly the same views about arithmetic. The +/- as reported by pollsters would be 0.868% (not wanting to square the fraction of people in all states + DC, I had rounded the effect of sampling error in, say, wyoming down to zero).

BTW The MOE as reported by pollsters is about one standard error of the difference Bush-Kerry. A 95% interval would be twice as big. They give 95% intervals for Bush support and for Kerry support the standard error of the difference is almost exactly twice the standard error for each candidate as saying one will vote for bush and saying one will vote for Kerry has correlation close to -1 (would be -1 except for the undecided and the Nader supporters etc)

Blix, Yglesias and Salaten

Like Matthew Ygleisias, William Salaten seems uninterested in the legal implications of the absence of WMD in Iraq. In an excellent article Salaten writes "Like many other Americans, I asked whether the enforcement of Security Council resolutions defied by Saddam was our unilateral right. I neglected to ask whether it was our unilateral responsibility." he has also neglected to ask if, given what we now know, the invasion of Iraq can still be construed as enforcing a Security Council resolution. As far as I can tell Iraq was in compliance with 1441, Saddam Hussein had taken advantage of the last chance offered by the Security Council and the invasion was in direct violation of 1441 combined with the UN charter and not an implementation of 1441.

Also Salaten quotes Bush lying without pointing out the lie. At the UN Bush said ""Finally, the Security Council promised serious consequences for his defiance. … And so a coalition of nations enforced the just demands of the world." This is simply false. The clause of 1441 to which Bush refers is a reminder so the threat must have been there before 1441 and not finally made in 1441. More importantly 1441 did not promise serious consequences for Saddam Hussein's defiance. It threatened serious consequences for *copntinued* defiance. At the time of the invasion Bush may have sincerely thought Saddam Hussein was continuing to defy the security councile because he had kept hidden WMD. However, we now can be almost certain that this is not true.

Bush himself has frequently described 1441 as giving Saddam Hussein one last chance to comply, but he seems to be claiming that he has changed his mind. I think someone in the Bush administratino has finally recognised that, if Saddam Hussein had been given a last chance, he clearly did everything he could to take advantage of it. As a result of this blated recognition, Bush has reinterpreted 1441 in a way even more grossly inconsistent with the actual resolution than his earlier interpretations.

I resume my argument with Matthew Yglesias about the legality of the invasion of Iraq. I personally don't care much about international law and don't necessarily oppose actions which are banned by international law. Legality is just the topic of this post and the post below.

When arguing that the Saddam Hussein regime violated UN sc res 1441, Yglesias quotes a statement made by Hans Blix early in the inspections progress. I don't think that any reasonable person (including Matthew Yglesias) really thinks that Blix' complaints amount to a finding of a violation. For one thing, Blix did not suggest that the security council should begin considering punishments for Iraq. However, assuming for the sake of argument, that Blix was claiming that Iraq had violated 1441. If he had claimed that, Blix would have been wrong. At the time he probably believed that Iraq had stocks of chemical and biological weapons, and her certainly suspected that they might. Given that suspicion his very mild complaints can be understood as a polite expression of disbelief in the Saddam Hussein regimes claims that they had no such stocks. However even if I were to concede that Blix said Saddam Hussein had violated 1441, I would not concede that Saddam Hussein had, in fact, violated 1441. If Blix said that he was wrong (as I was at the time).

We now know much more than Blix new then. As far as can be told, the empty list of banned weapons in Iraq was complete, and the list of arguably banned al Samoud missiles was complete. Iraq failed to provide enough documentation of how the weapons had been destroyed to convince Blix, but as far as we now know, they made a good faith effort to do so. As far as I know, further relevant documents have not been found after the invasion. They were clearly trying to convince everyone that they no longer had WMD. this is exactly what they were required to do by 1441 since they did not have WMD.

The invasion would have been legal if Iraq had violated 1441. If Blix had incorrectly inferred that they were violating 1441, he would have been wrong. A good faith error by an honest international civil servent is not a causus bellus.

Of course, I don't think Blix ever declared Iraq in violation of 1441.

To go over the facts as I recall them for the hundredth time (that is the part below is really really boring by now)

There appear to have been no WMD in Iraq known to the S Hussein regime. There were WMD that they didn't know about including undestroyed bombs that they dug up and surrendered later and two shells used to rig a non exploding roadside non bomb by people who thought they contained high explosives (as used they were harmless if they had contained explosives they wouldn't have been).

I might add thatafter fruitless efforts to WMD Blix seems to have changed his mind. I infer this from the fact that he said the inspections could be completed in months not weeks or years. This could only be true if Blix were close to concluding that there were no WMD. If Blix had then been confident that Iraq had WMD, he couldn't promise an end to the inspections process until they were found and couldn't have been sure of finding them in months not years.

Monday, September 20, 2004

1441 and Matthew Yglesias

Yglesias takes a pause from his usual brilliant blogging to present an absurd argument that the coalition invasion of Iraq was allowed under international law. This is obvioulsy false. A tip off should be that Bush argued that a new policy on when to invade countries was needed rather suggesting that he did not intend to stick to precendent. Amazingly Yglesias judges oltre petitio making a claim stronger than that made by an interested party -- Her Royal Majesties chief legal advisor lord something or other. Yglesias claims that UN security council resolution 1441 amounted to authorization to invade. This is absurd. Yglesias defends his interpertation of 1441 with no quotations of the text of 1441 none zero nada. This is easy to understand, since 1441 clearly was written so that it could not be interpreted as authorizing invasion if it were violated by Iraq.

The legal reasoning is, as follows, " By the same token, however, Saddam Hussein really was in violation of Resolution 1441 and by the terms of 1441 under the circumstances either no second resolution was necessary to make invasion legal, or else the factual situation obligated the Security Council to pass the necessary second resolution. As there isn't a great deal of (or necessarily any) precedent existing in this realm, the war had, if not the firmest legal basis imaginable, a pretty darn firm one as far as these things go. The reason no second resolution was passed, of course, is that the Security Council is not really a legal body like a court, but rather a policymaking body, and a majority of the council believed (correctly) that war was a bad policy under the circumstances."

IIRC the references to enforcement in 1441 are two (I am quoting form memory). First, as noted by Ygleisas, 1441 called for a report on hypothetical future violations to be submitted to the security council, which would then decide what to do. As noted by Yglesias, The Security council is not a court. It is not bound by earlier resolutions. Yglesias ignores this simple fact to suggest that it was possible that 1441 required the security council to do something. This is silly. If it had the security council could have resolved 1442 cancelling it. A legislature can bind a court to do something the judge would choose not to do. A council can not bind itself. This is obvious and Yglesias knows it. He also hints that 1441 might have made a further resolution unnecessary. This is clearly false. 1441 explicely declared that the next step would be a further referral to the security council. This was not a slip. The Bush administration and Blair government proposed a resolution with automatic enforcement and withdrew it because it would not have passed. There was a huge debate over this issue and Bush and Blair conceded. It is not possible to claim that, according to the intent of the security council or the plain meaning of words, this concession made no difference.

The second reference to enforcement, and the one to which Colin Powell appealed was IIRC "The Security council reminds the goverment of Iraq that it has been warned that non compliance could lead to serious consequences". Absurd of me to debate a text without looking it up, but I'm sure this clause of 1441 was grammatically incapable of creating a new authorization to invade as it was explicitely a reminder of existing conditional threats of serious consequences. The official UK analysis by lord whatshisname (IIRC Goldstone) was that 1441 *combined* with earlier resolutions and the cease fire agreement, constituted authorisation.

I think that according to every serious analysis of the text, 1441 added slightly less than nothing to the authorisation to invade that might have been there already. So why did the Bush amdinistratino vote for 1441 ? It is obvious, they made every possible concession on the text, because they planned to lie about what it said. They have done so and no one bothers to call them on it. I, for example, am not willing to bother looking up the text again. Niether, clearly, is Yglesias.

Yglesias makes other bold claims without any apparent foundation. He argues that Annan should not express an opinion on the issue, that is, if the secretary general concludes that some member countries have illegally invaded another member country, he should keep his mouth shut. I wonder, what exactly, the secretary general is supposed to do, if he is not supposed to mention what he perceives as a gross breach of the UN charter.

Also recall he claims that "Saddam Hussein really was in violation of Resolution 1441 " . Unsurprisingly, he presents no evidence to support this claim. I believe this is because the alleged violations of 1441 are trivial, clearly insufficient to amount to material breach. IIRC they are two nerve gas shells used in a roadside bomb set by people who clearly didn't know what was in the shell. There is no evidence that anyone in 2003 knew what was in the shells, so failure to surrender them would be a mistake not a deliberate violation. Someone had a test tube full of b. botulinus (a common soil bacterium) in his refrigerator. Someone had plans for and pieces of an old gas centrifuge burried under a rose bush. Both technically should have been reported, but might have been forgotten and neither is anymore a causus bellus than I know the plural of causus bellus.

The claim that Saddam Hussein was in violation of Resolution 1441 was that he had kept stocks of WMD hidden from UN inspectors. This is the basis for the interested UK legal judgement that the invasion was legal. A sincere belief that he had stocks of WMD does not, of course, amount to a violation of 1441. We now know he did not have such hidden stocks. Thus we now know that the invasion was not authorised implicitely by the cease fire agreement or by any security council resolution and was a violation of international law.

This is all obvious. I can't believe this is not clear to Matthew Yglesias.

Update 1: I forgot to link to the post here.

Update 2: Matthew Yglesias has a new post on this. However, he is not convinced the invasion was illegal. Also he doesn't link to any of his critics and I was really hoping for a link. There are 4 issues
1) did 1441 authorise invasion without a further resolution ?
2) Did the Saddam Hussein regime violate 1441 ?
3) is it bad politics to argue that the invasion was illegal ?
4) Is arguing that the invasion is illegal equivalent to arguing that the victims of this illegality are named Saddam Hussein ?

I note first and (and will note last) that points 3 and 4 are unrelated to points 1 and 2. The link in Yglesias' mind between claim 3 and claims 1 & 2 is very very typical of moderate liberals irritated with radicals (including me). It is not logical.

On 1 Yglesias has moved from a strong claim "by the terms of 1441 under the circumstances either no second resolution was necessary to make invasion legal, or else the factual situation obligated the Security Council to pass the necessary second resolution." to an actual quotation
"Recalls, in that context, that the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations." He doesn't concede explicitely that the quote proves the claim wrong. This is simple grammer. Recalling an previous threat can not be the establishment of new terms. If the invasion was authorised, it was authorised before 1441. He now writes "At any rate, one could make out an argument that the war was illegal, but such an argument would need to rest on the construal of "serious consequences"" This is very close to a concession. I think it safe to say that, in ordinary usage, serious consequences are considerably short of war. The history of negotiotion of 1441 makes it very clear that the vague "serious consequences" was used not a threat to invade, because a resolution with such a threat would have been vetoed by 3 permanent members.

Matthew Yglesias (may I call you Matt ?) argues "Nevertheless, under the circumstances, and in light of SCR 687 and other earlier Iraq resolutions (which, per Paragraph 1 Iraq was in material breach of, thus percipitating SCR 1441) which were adopted as part of a cease-fire agreement to halt an ongoing war, it's not at all implausible to regard this as authorizing the use of force unless SCR 1441 were to be superceded by another Iraq resolution, which it was not."
Here noting that any authorisation would have to be based on earlier resolutions. I don't see how Iraqs not doing what it promised in exchange for a cease fire agreement would imply authorisation to invade Iraq. The resolution authorising desert storm authorised all means necessary to liberate Kuwait. It did not authorise the desert storm coalition to invade Iraq unless Iraq disarmed. I would consider failure to disarm to authorise UN member countries to decide if further fighting was needed to free Kuwait. Clearly it wasn't.

2. Was Iraq in violation of 1441 ? Here Yglesias does not argue exactly. Instead he quotes from a report by Blix. This quotation is supposed to support the claim that Iraq was in violation. It is hard to argue against this interpretatin, because it makes no sense at all. I edit down the quotation

"In my earlier briefings, I have noted that significant outstanding issues of substance were listed ... The declaration submitted by Iraq on 7 December last year, despite its large volume, missed the opportunity to provide the fresh material and evidence needed to respond to the open questions. "

How the existence of "open questions" can be construed as closing the question is beyond me. More importantly, the question is no longer open. At the time, Blix clearly suspected that Iraq had hidden stocks of Anthrax and VX and had undeclared long range missiles. After the invasion, a very thorough investigation has demonstrated that Iraq did not. What Blix was saying is that Iraq had not proven that it was in compliance, not that it wasn't.

Yglesias quotes a lot from 1441. Oddly most of the quotes remind us of how Iraq complied with 1441 in particular by allowing inspections whithout interference (for the first time) and by surrendering weapons which were banned or arguable banned (two anthrax bombs found undestroyed at the site where the others were destroyed and the Al Samoud missiles).

Honestly trying to reproduce Yglesias' thought, I can imagine that the missing proof of destruction of Anthrax and VX might be interpreted as constituting an "omission" as in false statements and omissions. I think it is clear that the word "omission" in 1441 means "knowing omission". Surely the resolution can not be interpreted as meaning Iraq may be invaded if they do not know everything related to past weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I mean sloppy record keeping is bad but it is not a causus bellus. However, this is, in fact, the cause of Iraq's "omissions". They had destroyed the weapons but they did not keep detailed records. It now appears that Iraq destroyed its biological weapons before the rest of the world knew they existed, so they had no reason to know that they would need records of the destruction.

I really think that Yglesias concluded at the time of the invasion that it was legal but bad policy and didn't reconsider the issue in light of the absence of WMD stocks. At the time of the invasion, I believed that Iraq had violated 1441 by keeping WMD. Only later did I realise that the invasion was not allowed under intarnational law. Honestly believing that another country has done something which would make it legal to invade them is not a justification. If it were allowed that would be the end of international law.

I also think that part of the casualness of the original post is due to the fact that, like me, Yglesias doesn't think the end of international law would such a huge loss given how little international law has accomplished so far.

3. Is this bad politics? It sure is. Any sign of respect for international law is political poison in the US. The vast majority of Americans want a president who is willing to violate international law. However, the fact that, if Kerry made a claim then Bush would win the election does not imply the claim is false.

4. Yes I know the claim as written is grammatically incorrect. The argument that saying the invasion was illegal means saying the victim is Saddam Hussein makes no sense at all. International law does not exist to protect the power of heads of state. It exists mainly to reduce the number of wars, since wars are, in general, bad. Consider an analogy. I decide to shoot a ruthless criminal but, since I can't aim, I kill an innocent bystander. If my action is treated as a crime, does this mean that the prosecuter must prosecute me only for attempted murder of the criminal ? This is not the way the ordinary law operates and there is no reason to claim that, if international law operated at all, it would have to operate that way. Again it is hard to respond to an argument which makes absolutely no sense.

Robert Rips Rasmussen Report

The Rasmussen Report discusses data on good days (of the week) for Kerry and Bush. For some utterly mysterious reason, Rasmussenreports reports the average by release day "The data presented at the table to the left is based upon release days. Our data is released as a three-day rolling average, so the data is collected on the three nights prior to the release day (i.e.--results released Thursday use interviews conducted on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights)."

This means that Rasmussen reports the average of moving averages. This is crazy, Give 16,500 observations per week day, there is no need for a moving average. It is not possible to extract the results by day of polling from the moving average (and uninvertable ma). This not only makes it much more difficult to figure out what the numbers means but also reduces the precision of the following estimate.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Rasmussen reports the average of results for 3 week days. on average of average of moving average, Bush is up 2 2/3 % on such days. On Wednesday and Sunday, Rasmussen reports results from two weekdays and one weekend (respectively Sunday and Saturday). Kery is up on average 0.2%. On Monday and Tuesday, Rasmussen averages over two weekend days and one weekday. Kerry is up on average o.35%. On average to the fourth replacing a weekday with a weekend day helps Kerry slightly more than 0.3o8%. Each day is divided by 3 (in the moving average) so the estimated difference
(Bush-Kerry)_weekday - (Bush-Kerry)_weekday is slightly more than 0.924%. This is not a huge number.

However the standard errors of the release day averages are less than half of a percent (1/7*root(10)). The overlap of subtracted days and further averaging makes ... well the standard error of the 0.924% estimate very hard to calculate but small. If the point estimate extracted from Rasmussen's average of moving averages is correct, then the evidence of a weekday vs weekend effect is not statistically significant at the 5% level.

Let's pretend that Bush-Kerry is 0.9% lower on weekends then on weekdays. There are about 33,000 weekend observations and about 82,5000 weekday observations. For each observation the variance Bush-Kerry is almost exactly 1 (slightly less as don't know and other are worth zero but almost exactly). The variance of the average Bush - Kerry on weekends is 1/33,000. The variance of the average Bush-Kerry on weekdays is 1/82,500. These are two independent samples so the variance of the difference is the sum of the variance 7/165,00 so the standard error is 1/(100root(2.34)) that is 1/(root(2.34)) % which is a little less than 2/3. This means that 0.9 is slightly more than 1.35 standard errors. Evidence that weekdends are better for Kerry than weekdays, but not, according to the agreed convention, strong evidence.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Far from being a flip flopper on Iraq John Kerry is guilty of mental rigidity.

I just read the speach he gave before voting to conditionally authorize Bush to use force in Iraq.

"And I believe they made it clear that if the United States operates through the U.N., and through the Security Council [snip] If the President arbitrarily walks away from this course of action--without good cause or reason--the legitimacy of any subsequent action by the United States against Iraq will be challenged by the American people and the international community. And I would vigorously oppose the President doing so.
Let me be clear, the vote I will give to the President is for one reason and one reason only: To disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, if we cannot accomplish that objective through new, tough weapons inspections in joint concert with our allies.

I will support a multilateral effort to disarm him by force, if we ever exhaust those other options, as the President has promised, but I will not support a unilateral U.S. war against Iraq unless that threat is imminent and the multilateral effort has not proven possible under any circumstances. [snip] In voting to grant the President the authority, I am not giving him carte blanche to run roughshod over every country that poses or may pose some kind of potential threat to the United States. [snip] The threat we face today with Iraq does not meet that test yet. I emphasize "yet." Yes, it is grave because of the deadliness of Saddam Hussein's arsenal and the very high probability that he might use these weapons one day if not disarmed. But it is not imminent, and no one in the CIA, no intelligence briefing we have had suggests it is imminent. None of our intelligence reports suggest that he is about to launch an attack. "

This speach explicitely considers the possibility that Bush would abandon tough inspections because he wanted to invade Iraq for other reasons. Kerry said in advance that he would denounce such a course of action, which he clearly recognised was possible. Far from being inconsistent with Kerry's later position, the speach presents it in the hypothetical. The Republican operators who accuse Kerry of flip flopping have gone over this speach carefully. They are lying. No surprise there. Brave, honest, balanced and non partisan journalists would point out that their claims are lies, since there is no possible ambiguity.

Still Kerry's speach seems to me to be disconnected from reality. Did he really think that the wording of the resolution would make any difference ?

I think the problem is that, for political reasons, he decided to pretend that the difference between Bush and Clinton was not fundamental and decisive for all questions related to authorizing the President to do anything.
He should have known, he probably did know, that promises from Bush were worthless and that Bush would treat the resolution as "carte blanche to run roughshod over every country that poses or may pose some kind of potential threat to the United States." My sense is that he was making very sure that he had disproved in advance any attempt to call him a flip flopper if he later opposed Bush's choice to invade. Another problem might be the naive belief that rock solid proof that an accusation is false is worth something in US political debate.

I disagree entirely with Kerry's speach. I too believed that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons at the time. I considered that a strong argument against invading. Before the invasion I argued that an invasion would have enormously increased the risk of such weapons ending up in the hands of terrorists. Kerry did not even consider this obvious, and to me decisive, argument. I assume that the reason his argument is unsound is that he was voting yes for political not policy reasons, but it is just possible that he really didn't grasp that Bush was determined to invade Iraq and so, even if a credible threat would make Saddam Hussein cave (as it did) nothing would be gained. I hope he now understands who he is dealing with.

hooey from Howy .

Howard Kurtz, Michael Dobbs and James V. Grimaldi have an interesting article on the forged Killian memos. However, they let the White House communications director get away with an obvious lie. Bartlett claims two things. First that he honestly didn't know whether the memos were authentic and second

Bartlett said he caught the president leaving for a campaign trip that morning and showed him the memos. Bush had "no recollection of having seen them," Bartlett said, and would not necessarily have seen papers from a commander's personal file. "

One of the memos was apparently a direct order from Killian to Bush to take a flight physical. Bush did not take the flight physical. Bartlett would have us believe that, as far as he could know, Bush might have forgotten about a direct written order which he disobeyed. Bartlett's claim that Bush would not necessarily have seen a written order addressed to Bush is utterly absurd.

I wrote apparently above, because, in fact, it was a forged document which might or might not be an approximate copy of an authentic but lost direct order.

Bartlett is clearly lying. Kurtz must know this and has chosen not to mention it to his readers. The most likely explanation is that Bartlett invented the claim that Bush did not recall the memos, after they were shown to be forgeries, that is, after Marian Carr Knox said that she hadn't typed them.

A more interesting possible explanation is that the White House deliberately tricked CBS into going with the memos, so Bartlett's lie is his claim that he didn't know the memos were forgeries. The most interesting possible explanation is that the White House knew that the memos were forgeries because they had forged them. I think this theory is now barely within the borders of tinfoil hat land, but still within them.

The Washington Post article tends to support the Rove forged em theory.

"Half an hour later, Roberts called "60 Minutes" producer Mary Mapes with word that Bartlett was not challenging the authenticity of the documents. Mapes told her bosses, who were so relieved that they cut from Rather's story an interview with a handwriting expert who had examined the memos.
At that point, said "60 Minutes" executive Josh Howard, "we completely abandoned the process of authenticating the documents. Obviously, looking back on it, that was a mistake. We stopped questioning ourselves. I suppose you could say we let our guard down." "

That couldn't have been Bartlett's aim could it ?

"Mary Mapes had been trying to get her hands on the rumored documents for five years. "

Many people will know about a 5 year long effort. Some will be willing to forge documents. Suddenly finding something after looking very hard, should have made Mapes suspicious.

"Howard was struck by the fact that Bartlett, in his interview, kept referring to the Killian memos to support his argument that the president had fulfilled his military obligations.
"This gave us such a sense of security at that moment that we had the story," Howard said. "We gave the documents to the White House to say, 'Wave us off this if we're wrong.' " But Bartlett said CBS never asked him to verify the memos and that he had neither the time nor the resources to do so. "

Well CBS people are certainly trying to blame Bartlett for leading them astray. Bartlett's counterargument is feeble. Wouldn't he have, at least mentioned, that Bush had no recollection of the documents ?

4 hours after the broadcast, a Rpublican activist lawyer posted an argument about fonts and spacing to This sounds very much as if the Bush administration were attacking the authenticity of the memos via a surrogate.

You have to be paranoid to think it was all a trap, but not very very paranoid.

Friday, September 17, 2004

My condolences to the victims of Ivan.

I would hate to play politics with hurricanes, but I can't help thinking that global warming clearly will make hurricanes worse and that Bush's refusal to face this problem will kill Floridians.
Rasmussen knows Robert Guesses

Eric Rasmussen is going to discuss data on good days (of the week) for Kerry and Bush. The Rasmussen Report has good data on this by now. I am going to guess that weekends are good for Kerry and especially Sunday. If there is a Sunday effect, it is bad news for Kerry. I would guess it would be churchgoers are undersampled on Sunday (they are in church). They are known to be more likely to vote for Bush and won't be in church on November 2nd.

The other day of the week effect might be working vs non working women. I'm sure pollsters make sure they roughly match the population on gender and age. I would guess calling during the week, one oversamples housewives and welfare moms. The number of welfare moms has dropped sharply since the last Presidential election the pollsters got right (1996). I would guess weekdays good for Bush because housewives are oversampled.

I think pollsters really should call unanswered numbers after normal working hours, since polls stay open after normal working hours. I don't know if they do.

Now I am going to check Rasmussen to see if my guess on red days and blue days is correct.

Update: I'm right ! For some utterly mysterious reason, Rasmussenreports reports the average by release day "The data presented at the table to the left is based upon release days. Our data is released as a three-day rolling average, so the data is collected on the three nights prior to the release day (i.e.--results released Thursday use interviews conducted on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights)."

This means that Rasmussen reports the average of moving averages. This is crazy, Give 16,500 observations per week day, there is no need for a moving average. It is not possible to extract the results by day of polling from the moving average (and uninvertable ma). This not only makes it much more difficult to figure out what the numbers means but also reduces the precision of the following estimate.
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Rasmussen reports the average of results for 3 week days. on average of average of moving average, Bush is up 2 2/3 % on such days. On Wednesday and Sunday, Rasmussen reports results from two weekdays and one weekend (respectively Sunday and Saturday). Kery is up on average 0.2%. On Monday and Tuesday, Rasmussen averages over two weekend days and one weekday. Kerry is up on average o.35%. On average to the fourth replacing a weekday with a weekend day helps Kerry slightly more than 0.3o8%. Each day is divided by 3 (in the moving average) so the estimated difference
(Bush-Kerry)_weekday - (Bush-Kerry)_weekday is slightly more than 0.924%. This is not a huge number.

However the standard errors of the release day averages are less than half of a percent (19/7*root(10)). The overlap of subtracted days and further averaging makes ... well the standard error of the 0.924% estimate very hard to calculate but small.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

AFM 35-13 2-10

Gerald A. Lechliter answers Mark Kleiman's question see
ordered Bush to “comply with
para[graph] 2-10, AFM 35-13";108 paragraph 2-28, AFM 35-13, says the
following: “The officer suspended will acknowledge in writing that
he has received the orders indicating the time and date of receipt
according to paragraph 2-10b.”

It appears that Bush diobeyed this order, but it does seem like a very minor issue.

More interestingly, Lechliter argues that the records of Bush's alleged service after May 1972 are fraudulent. The reason is that Bush is credited with attending drills (UTA) in Alabama not individual makeup duty and the dates do not correspond to dates of drills of the 187th. Also
the record includes an alleged form 190 dated May 26 1973. The F190 was no longer in use on May 26 1973 and the form contains a clearly false statement.

"There was also a glaring error on the obsolete F190 from May 26, 1973: It
showed Bush’s “Aero[nautical] Rating” as “Plt On-fly,” although he
had been grounded since August 1, 1972.64 This error, together with
the obsolescence of the form since October 1, 1972, makes the
authenticity of this particular F190 suspect."

One of the documents is a fax sent in 1995. This is very odd for something which is supposed to be an official record dating from the early 70s.

CBS News has been rightly denounced for going public with documents that were clearly forged. When the White House released Bush's alleged ANG records, they did the same thing. The records are clearly fraudulent.

This is wonderful numerologically

on page 24 Lechliter is discussing Bush's transfer from the TANG to the ARPC

"Such a transfer is
governed, however, by specific criteria in Table 12-1 of this
chapter, and the only criterion that applied to Bush, a member of
the ANG, is Rule 8 which says the member “does not possess the
required military qualifications for his grade or specialty; or he
does not meet the mental, moral, professional or physical standards
of the Air Force (see note 4).”"

So did Bush get a Rule 8 transfer? Given his performance as commander in chief a section 8 discharge would have been more appropriate but it seems to amount to the same thing.

However, sad to say, "In the alternative, moving from the area of assignment also
qualified a member for a discharge from ANGUS and assignment to ARPC"
oh well.

This is good "It clearly and convincingly demonstrates intent to defraud the government both
on Bush’s part and those in the TXANG who approved the payments."
That is, not only did Bush dodge the draft and blow off his obligation to fly in exchange for $ 1,000,000 in training but he also cheated the US government out of a few extra bucks.

People really should read
"President George W. Bush’s Military Service: A Critical Analysis"
© 2004
Gerald A. Lechliter

Which is, by the way, the most boring document I have ever read.
I am stealing a great comment on Angry Bear

I think it should be put in REPUBLICAN perspective. President Bush is 8.3 million jobs short of what JIMMY CARTER produced in his 4 years in OFFICE. Now that might speak to voters.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Bacteriophage display is on of my interests

I suspect thatit doesn't interest most of my few readers (so this is a blog).
In short it is a technique for finding antibodies that stick to a desired target which does not involve mice.

I think it is possible to use phage display to detect protein binding. The idea is to make two libraries of phage so that a phage from the different libraries have to stick together to grow.
A way to do this is to make two phages each of which has one essential gene with an amber nonsence mutation so that they complement each other. Mix infect e Coli with highly diluted phage mixture plate on non amber supressor e Coli then scrape and grow in amber suppressor e Coli.

I have wondered why phage display is not used to find T-cell receptors (TCR) which stick to a desired target. At the end of this long post I get around to saying that the two complementary libraries idea above might be useful to find T-Cell receptors specific for a desired target.

A search of Pubmed for "phage display TCR" returns 11 hits only two of which are about phage display of TCRs. The others use phage display to find antibodies that are like TCRs in that they are HLA restricted.

Search "Bacteriophage display TCR" returns the same two articles (this time with 28 articles on other topics)

Weidanz JA, Card KF, Edwards A, Perlstein E, Wong HC.
Display of functional alphabeta single-chain T-cell receptor molecules on the surface of bacteriophage. J Immunol Methods. 1998 Dec 1;221(1-2):59-76.

Onda T, LaFace D, Baier G, Brunner T, Honma N, Mikayama T, Altman A, Green

A phage display system for detection of T cell receptor-antigen interactions.
Mol Immunol. 1995 Dec;32(17-18):1387-97.
PMID: 8643108 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Same for phage TCR
Same for phage display T Cell Receptor.

Onda et al hint as to the problem. The affinity of the TCR for its target is usually too low to be useful. They us a M-13 phage dsigned to present many copies of the TCR and still recognise that they got results only by luck.

"The process of T cell recognition involves a complex set of interactions between the various components of the TCR/MHC/peptide trimolecular complex. We have developed a system for exploring the specific binding interactions contributed by the constituent subunits of TCR complexes for components of their ligands. We utilized an M13 phage display system, designed for multivalent receptor display, to explore specific binding interactions between various TCR alpha chains and specific antigen in the absence of MHC. The multivalent TCR-phage display system was sensitive enough to reveal some TCR alpha chains capable of binding directly to antigen with the same fine specificity shown by the MHC-restricted T cells from which the alpha chains were derived. Cross-specificity analysis using two antigen-binding TCR alpha chains derived from T cells with different polypeptide antigen specificities confirmed the fidelity of this binding. In mixtures of antigen-binding and non-binding TCR alpha-displaying phage, specific selection was achieved at a starting frequency of 1/1000, suggesting that this system can be employed for selection and analysis of TCR-displaying phage libraries. While the binding specificities exhibited by these TCRs are unusual, they provide a novel perspective from which to study the specific binding interactions that constitute TCR antigen binding."

Now I had a thought that the TCRs could be made multivalent (but been done) . That is you want many TCRs on the phage near each other so when one drops the target the other grabs it.
A way to increase the number of TCRs stuck to each other is to stick bacteriophage together. This can be made to work as explained by Burge et al.

Burg M, Ravey EP, Gonzales M, Amburn E, Faix PH, Baird A, Larocca D.
Selection of internalizing ligand-display phage using rolling circle amplification for phage recovery. DNA Cell Biol. 2004 Jul;23(7):457-62.

Still the key thing seems to be that killler TCR binds antigen well only when the antigen is presented in the cleft of HLA class I antigen. Since Onda et al others have developed well the title says it

Le Doussal J, Piqueras B, Dogan I, Debre P, Gorochov G.
Phage display of peptide/major histocompatibility complex.
J Immunol Methods. 2000 Jul 31;241(1-2):147-58.

I think the two libraries made with phage which have mutations in different essential genes might be a way use phage display of peptide/MHC complex to select phage displaying the desired TCR.

Cases Closed

Memos on Bush Are Fake but Accurate, Typist Says

is a very clear headline to a very good article. CBS and Bush are both Totally irresponsible. I'd vote against Dan Rather if I could. Killian's secretary Marian Carr Knox says she never typed the documents. Amazingly, she also claims that Killian had secret personal files "she recalled Mr. Bush's case and the criticism of him because his record was so unusual. Mr. Killian had her type memorandums recording the problems [with Bush], she said, and he kept them in a private file under lock and key." She has a crazy nutso hypothesis which has the only virtue of being the only hypothesis that fits the facts "It looks like someone may have read the originals and put that together."

So that means there is a totally insane person out there. The Times also knows who he is

"one person at CBS, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed a report in Newsweek that Bill Burkett, a retired National Guard officer who has charged that senior aides to then-Gov. Bush had ordered Guard officials to remove damaging information from Mr. Bush's military personnel files, had been a source of the report."

This makes CBS look worse (if possible). Burkett's accusations of destruction of records may be true, but they are contradicted by the people Burkett cited as fellow witnesses. Dubious documents from him are doubly dubious duh.

Fire Dan Rather fire George Bush.
AFM 35-13

One of the few reasons the alleged Killian memos have anything to do with the issue of how inadeguate was Bush's national guard service (and therefore anything remotely to do with the decision of who to elect) was they the May 4 memo (page 2 here) was a direct order to take a physical which Bush disobeyed. Disobediance of a direct order is more clearly illegal than disobedience of a regulation in a manual (say para 2-10 AFM 35-13)

As I mentioned here linking to Mark Kleiman, before the alleged Killiam memos surfaced, the public record already included a direct order from the General Francis Greenlief (chief natinal guard bureau) "Off will comply with para 2-10 AFM, 35-13."

Amusingly notes that The Washington Times draws attention to this uncontested proof that Bush disobeyed an order by claiming that "There was no AFM 35-13 regulation governing physicals."

Finally in answer to Mark Kleiman's question it is clear that para 2-10 includes the requirement to have a physical and para 2-29m gives commanding officers the authority to ground flyers for non compliance. Greenlief makes two references to AFM 35-13 one of which is an order to Bush "Off will comply with para 2-10, AFM 35-13. Authority: Para 2-29m, AFM 35-13."

The second instructs his superiors to ground him as is shown by another uncontested document.
a September 5, 1972 order, signed by then-Colonel Bobby W. Hodges, commanding officer of Bush's 147th fighter group, stated: In accordance with paragraph 2-29m, AFM 35-13, failure to accomplish annual physical examination, 1st Lt George W. Bush, [blacked out], is suspended from flying status effective date 1 Aug 1972.

Bush clearly did not obey the order from Greenlief, which is also clearly an even more serious matter than not obeying a possible order from Killian and even worse than not having been seen by Turnipseed.

Really the only open question is how many vegetable officers the National Guard had back then and did Bush assault Marshall lettuceblossom ?

Monday, September 13, 2004

Tell It To The Marines

Lt General James Conway says in Today's Post that he was opposed both to the Marine's attack on Fallujah and the abrupt cessation. Anonymous officers in Iraq say the original order came from the White House. To a certain extent, this is the defence of the founder of the Fallujah brigade in a story about how it didn't work out so well, however it is striking how close to the edge uniformed officers are willing to go in denouncing the Bush administration.

I personally was most struck by the second to last paragraph of the story

"Conway's successor, Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, suggested that another incursion into the city would require not just the approval of Iraq's interim prime minister but also likely would involve the joint participation of Iraqi army units. "When we approach it next time, we will approach it a little bit differently," he said."

Sattler is evidently a simple man of action, who does not understand the concept of sovereignty as applied by the Bush administration to the "sovereign" transitional government of Iraq. It is odd that the organization which celebrates its actions "from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli" is the only body in the current executive which displays any respect for the concept of sovereignty.
The Bush campaign missed the deadline required to get on the Ballot in Florida.

Steve Bousquest of The St Petersburg Times writes

"State law sets a Sept. 1 deadline for the governor to certify a list of presidential electors for each party's candidates.

But Sept. 1 was also the day President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were being nominated at their party' convention in New York. Consequently, some of their paperwork did not arrive at state elections headquarters until Sept. 2, a day after Gov. Jeb Bush certified the candidates for president.

Paperwork problem?

No, says Secretary of State Glenda Hood's office.

Spokeswoman Jenny Nash said Friday the law is clear: The deadline applies to the governor and the list of presidential electors, not to the candidates themselves. The list of Republican electors released by Hood's office does not show a time stamp indicating when the document was received by the state."

So the only date on any document is September 2nd, one day too late. However " Democrats said they aren't so sure, but they won't challenge the Bush campaign's papers."

Michael Froomkin asks if the Florida Democratic Party has a death wish.

"Florida Democratic Party chairman Scott Maddox said he knew the president’s certificate of nomination did not reach the state until Sept. 2, but he said he decided not to make an issue of it."

hmm how to spin this one ? Robert Maddox would have sued and said (following advice of council Michael Froomkin).

"We are filing this suit for three reasons. First we wish to bring attention to the total incompetence of the Bush team. Many people think they may have trouble running the country but they are brilliant at handling politics. The fact is that they are just totally incapable of doing anything right. Second we feel that it is important to draw attention to the total hypocricy of the Republicans. In 2000 they argued that deadlines were absolutely important, more important than finding out who Floridians wanted to be elected President (as required by Florida state law). Now they don't care at all. A filing on September 2nd is fine. Secretary of State Glenda Hood's office argues that the important date is the date of filing of the list of presidential electors, but for some reason they didn't record when that list arrived at their office. I don't think anyone has any trouble guessing what that reason is. I, for one, assume the list arrived on September 2nd. Otherwise, why didn't they stamp the date. This brings me to the fundamental reason we are filing this suit. The Republicans who control the Florida State Goverment are using their office to help President Bush by any means legal or illegal. They attempted to keep their false felon list secret, then when it was proven invalid the instant it became public said it was a mistake. They sent armed police officers to intimidate senior citizens who are trying to convince their neighbors to vote. American Democracy is too important to entrust it to people who, time and again, demonstrate that they only care about winning by any means necessary.

The letter of the law implies that the name "George Bush" should not appear on the ballot. However, we are willing to accept any resulution, provided that Republican Politicians are prevented from breaking the rules again.

The idea is to publically offer to settle out of court in exchange for non-partisan scrutiny of further actions by the office of the Secretary of State. The Republicans would probably refuse and so they would be the ones making a mess and discussing under oath why no date was stamped on the list of Republican electors released by their office.

The Poor man is going to have to change his name if he keeps making bets like that

"Let me save everyone a whole lot of time. They [the Killian memos] are genuine. How do I know? Because the internet is currently awash in wingnuts claiming the memos are fakes. Ergo, they are for real. Q.E.D.

Some people may feel that I'm just being flip here. Is that so, some people? Tell me: how rich would you be right now if, every time something was posted on a right-wing message board, or everytime Drudge had an exclusive, or any time Rush Limbaugh revealed a secret truth that the liberal media won't tell you, you called up your bookie and put down $20 even money on "bullshit"? The correct answer is: "pretty fucking rich". The correct answer is: "I would never, never lose." So, if anyone doubts my methodology, I have a crisp new $20 bill that just told me that I'm 100% right and you're just too dumb to see it. If any of you champs out there think me and Andrew Jackson are both wrong, well then, today's your lucky day, because we're paying 2:1. If you need us, we'll be on the couch playing ESPN NHL 2K5. Peace"

Why didn't he tell me before I wasted my time ? Well actually he did and I wasted it anyway.
I should change my blog title to "The Time Wasting Man".

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Alleged Killian memos part IV

I really really will stop wasting time with this soon. However, I was struck by an ad for an IBM executive typewriter (which seems to date from 1954) posted by Their point is that it has curly quotation marks. In fact it also has curly apostrophes. While looking at one, I noticed that it looks a whole lot like a Microsoft Word document with Times New Roman (except the background is grey). I typed it (with the wrong tabs) printed as pdf read into adobe saved as bmp read into adobe resized and painted the background the shade of grey of the ad. Can you tell which is which (except for the tabs).

Update: answer below
PC Magazine has a much more challenging quiz. They present two samples and challenge the reader to tell "Which one was typed on a typewriter 40 or more years ago, and which one was typed on a word processor today." I answered wrong Wrong WRONG (I'm really pissed). Don't read the following until you take both my test and the PC magazine test.

What's wrong with my effort ? The 1954 ad does not match MS Word Times New Roman plain text. It is closer to MS Word Times New Roman Bold, but bold overdoes it so my sample (below with long tabs) is darker than the ad. But hey if it is easy enough that I could almost do it, it is very easy.

Now for the tinfoil hat part. Back 3 days ago when the word was that the alleged memos were grossly obvious forgeries I was very attracted by the idea that a Bush supporter (who conceivably might have a first name not beginning with K) had planted them counting on the incompetence of CBS to distract attention from Bush's going AWOL, his arrest record, his insider trading, his exchange of favors with the guy who bought the rangers, his refusal to commute the death sentence of a probably innocent person, his lies about the distribution of his tax cuts, the distribution of his tax cuts, his golfing on August 6th 2001 and well you know everything. It would explain the apparent clumsiness and the instant response of the right blogosphere.

Now it is clear that the memos are not obvious forgeries, although they might be forgeries. I wonder at the instant response. Obviously the most likely explanation is that the memos look very much like MS Word with defaults. However, the explanation that I find most emotionally satisfying is that the Bush administration knew the memos were out there (because they had removed them from Bush's file) and had prepared anti-memo talking points distributed through the vast righ wing conspiracy. Would be fun if true.
I just read that North Korea seems to have tested an atomic bomb.
I told Elisabetta (my wife). Then I tried to reassure her saying it has been suspected for a long long time that they have two atomic bombs and maybe this means they have only one left. She said "If they had only two what is the chance that they would blow one up?" I claimed that it is pretty high because they are totally crazy. Then I gave up trying to reassure anyone.

Good thing Bush was dealing with gathering threats in Iraq while Powell and Cheney argued about what to do about North Korea and never reached agreement.

Recall the North Koreans told the Bush administration that they had started a program to enrich uranium (to gradually replace the old program to extract Plutonium stopped by the agreed framework negotiated by the Clinton administration). The Bush administration did not bother to inform congress of the public because they didn't want any distraction from the Iraq resolution.

A Wide World of Trouble
While Bush pushes war against Iraq, new threats loom from Al Qaeda and North Korea. Can we fight on all these fronts?

by Michael Hirsh, Tamara Lipper and Michael Isikoff (With John Barry in Washington, Christopher Dickey in Paris, Joe Cochrane in Jakarta and Mark Hosenball in London) | Oct 28 '02

All these gathering dangers--and headaches--help explain another of last week's quandaries: why an administration that for months has been straining to prove that Saddam Hussein is developing nukes revealed only under pressure that it had ironclad proof of North Korea's nuclear program. The White House revealed it had learned over the summer that North Korea--like Iraq, a member of Bush's "Axis of Evil"--had a secret uranium-enrichment program for bombmaking. Even more amazingly, the White House said Pyongyang had admitted this two weeks before, on Oct. 3, yet the Bush team came out with the news only when reporters were about to break the story (officials say they delayed because they were consulting with allies on what to do). A day later White House reporters were told President Bush would not discuss North Korea, with one official acknowledging "it is not something we want to elevate." Said another: "This is an administration with a pretty full plate; we would like some things taken off.""


"JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, it's quite complicated. The White House tells us that North Korea is now admitting that it has an active nuclear weapons program, breaking a 1994 promise to the United States. As the administration debates what to do about that, the president's urgent focus remains on another member of what he calls the axis of evil, Iraq."

Have a nice day.

update: Seems the current guess is that the event was an accidental explosion of rocket fuel. Powell is convincing. Sorry to panic.
Alleged Killian memos part III

I am going to stop wasting my time psychoanalysing 30 year old typewriters --- uhm fairly soon.

I have to wonder why Martin Heldt (who IIRC is a farmer in Iowa) is running circles around the New York Times, the Washington post (both questining CBS) and CBS (ineptly defending itself)

"Yet independent researcher Marty Heldt notes that he had received an undisputed Bush military document in 2000 from the Vietnam era that clearly contains a superscripted "th." He also notes that when Killian's Aug. 14, 1973, memo is enlarged and the word "interference" is examined, it's clear the two middle e's rest higher on the page than the other two e's; that is not something a modern-day word processor would likely do."

The link in the Salon story shows that I did recall correctly in Alleged Killian memos part II to guess that the goods on Bush were posted by Martin Heldt "Called to read his countries memos Martin Heldt did leave the plow."

As noted in Alleged Killian Memos part I I noted that the August18th memo is not the only one to include the raised e which suggests it was typed " memo dated May 4 1972 [snip] The thing that struck me most was the e in "Colonel" under the signature. It is slightly higher up than the other letters in the word." I am honored to make the same point made by Martin Heldt.

Also, I repeat that the topical and important issue is that the Bush administration argued that it was OK for Bush to disobey the order to take a physical, since he thought it made little sense. The fact that the people who argued that still work for the Bush administration is proof that Bush is unqualified to serve as commander in chief.

Taxes and Economic Growth

There is an odd gap between the debate on public finance in congress and the press on the one hand and among academic economists on the other. The debate among policy makers focuses on who pays most and on whether revenues cover expenses. The academic debate focuses on effects on money metric welfare and on economic growth. I think academic economists have a lot to learn from politicians. In particular the strange phrase money metric welfare describes welfare if one has access to and applies optimal non distortionary redistribution, that is, it has little to do with welfare in any ordinary sense of the word. Unfortuantely, conclusions from academic research shorn of context and qualifications become useful talking points in the debate. This is a problem separate from the truly pathological and highly successful. efforts of the apostate economist Arthur Laffer to sell vague arguments which never had any currency among professional economists to politicians. A key issue, as hinted above, is the effect of taxes on economic growth. There are a large number of economic models in which positive taxes on capital income are bad for growth and money metric welfare. This result has clearly influenced the policy debate. However, as usual, the strong assumptions of these models are forgotten and the conclusions are distorted in translation.

There are excellent arguments that, in the long run, capital income should not be taxed (Judd 1985 Journal of Public Economics vol 28 pp 59-83). This conclusion holds even if one considers the distribution of wealth and assumes that it is very good to take from the rich and give to the poor. It requires strong assumptions about rationality, but there is no reason to think the result is very far from correct unless people are very irrational. The argument is fairly simple and follows. First sooner or later people (or their heirs) will consume. A tax on capital income is like a tax on consumption but a constant tax on capital income is not like a constant tax on consumption. Rather if one consumes in the distant future one pays more tax than if one consumes in the near future. If one consumes immediately one pays no tax. Thus a tax on capital income is like an ever increasing tax on consumption. There is a strong result that if all consumption can be taxed at a constant rate, it should be. Thus the tax on capital income should, over time, be cut to zero.

To maintain the same revenues, the tax could be very high at first then fall quickly. With no further assumptions it is best for the tax rate to be immense (well over one hundred percent) for an instance. In effect the result is that the best way to redistribute is to seize say a third of all privately held wealth and for the government to finance itself on the income of that wealth. That’s generally called socialism. It is the optimal policy implied by the Judd model.

In the real world congress can’t do anything quickly or by surprise. With additional assumptions, Judd concludes that, even if surprise is impossible, it is better to tax capital income at a very high rate for a while then to stop taxing it. The conclusion is that, if you want to soak the rich and spread it out thin, you had better do it very quickly. The model has nothing to say about the Republican practice of rapidly increasing spending and their proposal to eliminate taxes on capital income and replace them with nothing. This is impossible. Nor does it have anything to say about the honest version of the Republican proposal which is to eliminate taxes on capital income and replace them via a delayed increase in taxes on labor income. The academic literature simply says that if you want to grab the wealth of the rich it is best to do it instantly (if possible) and, in any case, as quickly as possible.

The argument appears to be that if a capital grab and zero tax on capital income is very good, zero tax on capital income with no capital grab is good. This argument makes no sense.

There is a much broader economic literature in which it is concluded that taxes on capital income are bad for growth. Oddly in this literature it is generally assumed tht labor supply is fixed and exogenous. This does not prevent the supply siders who stress the importance of incentives to work, save and invest from indirectly appealing to this literature. One might ask what difference does this make. The answer is that it can make quite a bit of difference. A standard model changed only to allow elastic labor supply can, in some cases, imply that it is optimal to tax capital income even if the revenues are completely wasted (Pelloni and Waldmann 2000 Journal of Public Economics vol 77 pp 45-79). More generally, if elastic labor supply and endogenous human capital accumulation (learning) is considered, the optimal tax on both capital income and labor income should go to zero. That is the government should run a huge surplus then live off its wealth (site Milesi Ferretti and Roubini 1998 Journal of Public Economics vol 70 pp 237-54). This is not exactly what the supply siders are doing in practice.

As noted above, the academic literature on taxes and growth is quite different from applied discussion of tax policy. In particular, the agents in most theoretical models are immortal individuals. There is a companion literature on inheritance and dynasties, but there is no mention of the facts that workers come in two genders or that labor supply is a family decision. Decades ago, Frank Ramsey demonstrated that the most efficient taxes (ignoring distributional effects) were on sellers or buyers (it doesn’t matter) of goods and services that are supplied and demanded inelastically, that is, such that the amount supplied and demanded depends relatively little on the price. The demand for the labor of men and women appears to be roughly equally elastic, since there is no major cyclical component to the gender gap. However, it is universally agreed that women’s labor supply is much more elastic than men’s labor supply. That is many women consider whether to join the labor market, while almost all men participate. This implies that, in an efficient tax system, the tax on mens’ labor income should be much higher than the tax on womens’ labor income.

In theory a revenue neutral shift of taxes from women’s labor income to men’s labor income should cause increased total labor supply. This is generally considered efficient, because it brings the economy closer to the grab it instantly first best. Such an increase in labor supply would cause an increase in the return on capital which should, in theory, cause an increase in the rate of economic growth.

So far I have ignored distributional effects. The effect of such a shift on income distribution would be to reduce inequality. Firstly, of course, some women are single mothers and they, and their children, are overwhelmingly the people most at risk of poverty. Secondly, and counterintuitively, women’s labor income reduces the inequality of labor income of two parent families. This is counter-intuitive because the variance of women’s labor income is huge, since many women have 0 labor income. It occurs basically because the variance of the average of two random numbers is less than the average of the variance.

Now look at the actual tax code. In practice women’s labor income is taxed at a higher rate than men’s labor income for a number of reasons which are well known (I’ll write this up if anyone asks me to).

An honest supply sider would focus on eliminating such gross distortions. Of course there are very few honest supply siders. (update with permission) I found one, but then I married her so, unless she divorces me for posting this, you'll have to find one of your own.