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Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Daily Howler Howler

Somerby is good, but his eagerness to attack sometimes causes him to over reach. Here he praises and criticizes Matt Yglesias who is guilty of working for The Atlantic and, allegedly, insufficiently dogged in pursuing Whiz gate

Due to this unexplained “hack gap,” pseudo-issues tend to decide our elections. We’ve been discussing such issues forever. But guess what? As we continue, we learn that Matt doesn’t want to waste his time on these decisive pseudo-issues. Darlings, the lovely shall be choosers! Matt would rather spend his time working on things that he finds “interesting.” The gentleman wants an “appealing” way to spend his valuable time:
YGLESIAS (continuing directly): As a writer, though, I'd rather spend my time writing about things that I think are important or at least interesting. Harping away on haircuts, Bykofsky's appalling column, the way George W. Bush lied to the American public about what kind of cheese he likes on his cheesesteak (really!), etc. doesn't seem like an appealing way to spend my time. But the fact that the right has an army of people willing to pretend that this sort of thing is the most important thing in the world is a massive, massive impediment to having sensible policies about national security, taxes, health care, global warming, etc.
Darlings! Haircuts and earth tones decide our elections—and, thereby, the fate of the world. Their pre-eminence is also “a massive, massive impediment to having sensible policies about national security, taxes, health care, global warming.” But so what? Matt would rather spend his time writing about the things that are interesting! Writing about things that decide our elections “doesn't seem like an appealing way” for Matt “to spend [his] time.”

As we’ve said, you have to admire the frankness.

So Somerby denounces Yglesias for giving insufficient attention to what kind of cheese Bush likes on his Phiully cheese steak (presumably because such hard hitting coverage would reduce his chances of getting a nice gig at "The Atlantic". Mr Somerby, are you familiar with this thing called google ? Try googling [cheesesteak "whiz with" bush yglesias] and you will find that Yglesias flogging Whizgate like it was Al Gore mixing up which disaster he visited with James Lee Witt.

Also how about "If you want to know how the other side wins, we suggest you read this post very carefully. This post explains why the Very Serious Young People stayed politely silent during Campaign 2000, even as we did their work for them concerning those earth tones and all those fake quotes. (Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal!) As the darlings kept their distance, that right-wing distraction machine changed votes—and it sent George Bush to the White House. "

Mr Somerby, sir, in 2000 Matt Yglesias was 19 years old. Don't you think it is a bit harsh to condemn him for not saving the country from it's idiocy before he turned 20 ?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Rambling Man Why Don't You Settle Down

A Samefacts reader has one question and Three hypotheses

I have a question that’s been bothering me about the Ahmadinejad visit press coverage, and actually all coverage of middle-eastern political figures/terrorists, etc. I couldn’t figure out who to ask, so I thought I’d throw it out to you and the reality-based community to solve.

Ahmadinejad’s speech at Columbia was universally described “rambling”. Bin Laden’s last tape was described as “rambling”. Al Sadr’s speeches are invariably described as “rambling” Go back a couple of years and Google Saddam Hussein’s speeches, and THEY’re all described as “rambling”. Why is this?

Two bullets tagging 3 testable hypotheses follow. The one which has some, uhm empirical support is

* They all really do ramble. Is there something about being a dictator that discourages you from being concise? No one dares edit your speeches? If so, one would also expect a high incidence of rambling by faculty of Western universities. Oh, wait ...

I'm inclined to expand on that point for an hour or so, but I will resist and get to prof. Kleiman (who wrote a filibuster once and would know about hypothesis 3)

I have a fourth hypothesis [and a fifth], based on the fact that while the public seemed to like Bill Clinton's speeches, the press often described them as over-long (I don't know whether the word "rambling" was used): political reporters suffer from attention deficit disorder and dislike complex exposition. [* new paragraph needed] I also suspect that "rambling" is intended as a euphemism for "incoherent," just as "controversial" is journalo-euphemese for "crooked" or "scandal-prone."

The last suspicion is almost certainly correct. Such euphemisms are not just silly, they are dangerous as they make it possible for reporters to effectively libel public figures by calling them "controversial" because they are controversial and say a speech is "rambling" because it was rambling. Thus, for example, the totally obvious observation that Speaker Pelosi is, like all politicians of any stature, controversial, was a way to insinuate that she is "controversial" that is rapidly destroying her political career.

On the attention deficit disorder, I sympathize with the MSM journalists and appeal to Kevin Drum for his usual bit of MSM bashing bashing.

THE DEBATE....There are times when I really admire the fortitude of mainstream reporters, and last night was one of them. For the first time in a while I watched one of the Democratic debates, and by the end I felt like I was in a total fog. What would I have done if I had to write a thousand-word summary to make the next day's paper? I couldn't even figure out enough to say for a blog post.

They seem like hyperactive children, but they are in the tough position of having to summarize a lot of words with a few words. Thus every new topic raised is a new challenge. Once, I had the humiliating experience of listening to a speech by a prime minister and then being asked by a journalist what he said. She wanted a quick summary. I had just listened not separating the wheat from the chaf. This was around 199 something low and the point was the European community had better not cut aid to former Portuguese colonies to give it to Eastern (and Central) Europe in transition from communism. Also that the concept of social solidarity is very nice but better not get in the way of hard nosed policy making. On the spot, however, I was on the spot.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Battle is Joined. May the People of Burma be victorious.
The End of an Era

Someone has accused Bill Clinton of being insufficiently political !

That someone is the usually acute Matthew Yglesias who is clearly suffering from the mass pomposity on parade at the Clinton Global Initiative

Bill Clinton, at the opening ceremony for his meeting, defined the purpose of the Clinton global initiative as to tackle problems that "government won't solve, or that government alone can't solve." A worthy purpose, indeed, for a charity. And I really think there are things that fit that category. [snip]

That, though, isn't what this event is about. Instead, it's really about political issues: education, poverty alleviation, global public health, and climate change.

In those fields, it really seems to me that Bill Clinton could do much more good using his charisma and standing to try to convince rich guys and executives at big companies to take a more enlightened attitude toward the political process,

Uhm Matt, think that maybe Bill is doing good as a goo goo do gooder because he's given up on politics ? Or maybe he is trying to help Senator Clinton by do the most politicianlike of acts -- pretending to be outside of politics.

I guess he could have stayed home and baked cookies, but this is clearly as far as he is willing to get from politics. Why doesn't someone real real smart explain that to Yglesias.

Like maybe Yglesias

Now, obviously, despite my somewhat jaundiced views about charity as an approach to tackling big issues, this is a good thing. And, indeed, it seems to me that it's an especially good thing in that the "commitments" go beyond the merely financial. One of the best things about engagement in charitable activities -- especially if it's real engagement rather than mere check-writing -- is that it can get people emotionally invested in the issues they're working on which can, over time, help broaden perspectives and get people more involved with the need for systemic remedies. In principle, there's a possibility for conflict between allocating resources toward charitable giving and toward political advocacy, but in practice I'm not sure that conflict really arises -- if you build social capital and a sense of engagement, you tend to get both.

Yeah exactly. That's what I meant. Why didn't I manage to put it so well ?

Oh and Matt, are you sure that WiFi is an unmixed blessing ?
Being the Worlds Leading Bush Hater is Getting Hard

For example, I think I have some fierce competition from all Republicans in Congress after the Bush administration managed to get these two stories on the front page of *on the same day*.

"WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates will ask Congress Wednesday to approve nearly $190 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008, increasing initial projections by more than" the total cost of the SCHIP bill which Bush has threatened to veto and "which would spend $35 billion to give health insurance to 4 million more low-income children."

Looks like Mr Bush thinks it's unfair that he can't get re-elected and other Republicans can and he is bound and determined to do something about that.
I find myself in disagreement with Ahmedinejad (check) Matthews (check) and Greenwald (Hu waaaaht ?!?) and I agree with Pat Buchanan (make it stop please make it stop).

I basically agree with Greenwald (as I ly do) and think he is making a very important point (as he usually does) but he is letting Ahmedinejad and Matthews play a little fast and loose with the facts (as they usually do). In this case, they are stating the conventional wisdom. Buchanan acts as a knee jerk nationalist Eurohater (As always (I'm not like him I swear)) Let's role the tape

For that reason, it was actually refreshing to see the quite rational and fact-based discussion of U.S.-Iranian relations between Chris Matthews and Pat Buchanan on MSNBC Monday night, after Ahmadinejad's speech. The entire discussion is worth reading, but what was most notable about it was their recognition of indisputable facts which undermine the predominant American media narrative of the Evil, Hitlerian Iranian regime hating the angelic, freedom-loving, innocent, victimized United States (why do they hate us??):

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about a couple things. I thought -- you know, I'm not going to give him credit for anything big time, but he did score some interesting points. He said the United States backed Iraq in the war, the bloody horrible war with Iran that killed a lot of Iranians. That‘s going to help him back home, sticking it to us for backing Saddam all those years.

BUCHANAN: Right. . . . Chris, to your point, he said two things. The Western nations invented chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The Americans used them on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and they were used on our people in the war against Iraq, where you all supported Iraq against Iran. Now, all those are statements of fact, and they‘re very, very persuasive in the Arab and Islamic world in making his case.

OK Chris Ahmedinejad how did the US back Saddam in the war and for all those years ?
Geostrategists of all orientations agree that, after the fall of the Shah, the US turned to Saddam Hussein to protect our interests from the Islamic Republic of Iran. I claim the claim that the US and Saddam Hussein were allies is valid to (very roughly) about the same extent that the claim that Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda were allies. In contrast, the USSR was closely allied with Iraq until just about the end of the USSR. Also France was much closer to Iraq than the US was as were Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and etc.

First point -- not all administrations compromised with Saddam Hussein. The tilt towards Iraq in the war was a policy of the Reagan administration. St Jimmy is really innocent.

Second, the tilt consisted of meetings (like Iraq al Qaeda meetings) and intelligence sharing (different because the US has really really good technical intelligence but that is technology not policy). Plus there was a loan ostensibly to buy food made by the Atlanta branch of the BNL about which I can not speak as a former BNL fellow (a joke but I did get money for nothing from the BNL just like Saddam and Silvio Berlusconi and I'm sooooo proud).

In particular, in contrast to say France, the US never allowed the sale of weapons to Ba'athist Iraq. They did buy some unarmed helicopters (8 iirc) which they claimed were for civilian search and rescue and then armed. However, US arms flows to Iraq were absolutely dwarfed by French arms sales to Iraq. Less than 1% by value of arms sold to Iraq from 1980 through 1990 came from the USA. Don't ask me, ask SIPRI.

When Buchanan says "you all" he is not speaking Southern slang. He is stressing a fact which is widely forgotten by Europeans. he is exagerating (as always). Switzerland was neutral and so were many other fine countries, but the USA was no where near the top of the list of Saddam supporters.
Excellent Post by Quixote at Shakespeare's Sister

I have nothing to add or subtract

Monday, September 24, 2007

I'm older than Adam ......................... B of dailykos who wrote

"This provision, passed in 1996, is a relic of the pre-Internet era, during which the interactive computer services under consideration were large, corporate-sponsored sites like America Online, CompuServe and Prodigy."

OK Adam what do you think America Online and CopuServe were doing in the "pre-Internet era."

There was an internet before blogspot (painful as it is to remember).

and before that ahhh ever heard of a bbs mr B ? How about the "bitnet"

You young whippersnappers with your 500,000 hits a day have a thing or two to larn frum us here old timers (I even saw a punch card reader reading punch cards once).
Tough Question

"PELLEY: What trait do you admire in President Bush? "

Waldmannijad: hmmmm uhhhhh hmmmmmm I GOT it ! Stamina. I admire his stamina. I mean plain physical stamina. I read that Lance Armstrong was impressed after the went bike riding. Wow. Too bad Mr Bush is in the wrong line of work.

Damn Ahmedinejad managed much better than I could. That hurts. Can't call him Ahmed dim and bad until I think of a equally unfair nickname for his inteviewer CBS's own Scott Pelley [pot smelly isn't close].

I guess Pelley was deliberatel making Ahmendinejad look good and claiming that the onl good thing he can sa about Bush is that he is religious [like sure he didn't imagine that his question could be turned on him riiight]. What a traitor.

Doble Damn that Pelley bastard is making me think like a Freeper.

update: Snark aside Ahmed-dim-and-bad is a menace to Iran. Sure he scored a lot of debating points but at what cost

Bush: that bastard said I'm not a good Christian ?!? That islamofascist jerk said I'm not a good Christian ?!? Nuke Teheran !!!

I mean I love snark but let it chill for 16 months. Got to be careful when you share a planet with a superpower run by an insane immature idiot you know.
Snark Aside, the almost always acute Mark Kleiman mixes two arguments against mandator gun registration

It's true that if we had 10% as many firearms in private hands as is now the case, we'd have fewer homicides. But it's not true that reaching 90% of the current level would matter at all, unless the reduction came among people likely to use guns to commit crimes. One of the reasons Al Gore isn't finishing his second term as President is that he endorsed national gun registration (to compete with Bill Bradley in the New Jersey primary) even though all of the benefits of registration save annoying gun owners could have been achieved with much less controversial measures. That move cost him West Virginia, New Hampshire, Florida, and maybe Tennessee.

The first point is important, reasonable if overstated, and pure two hundred proof Kleiman -- the fact that something is bad [drug abuse, too man guns] doesn't mean that an effort to fight it is worth the cost. The second is a political calculation. I think it is important for bloggers to keep policy and politics separate. "Not worth the political cost", "worthless" and "costly on net" are different. Politicians have to censor themselves and act as if the don't believe things which a politically costly. The debate is damaged if commentators who are not running for office do the same.

An overheated example. Democrats decided it would be too risk to debate whether Saddam Hussein had WMD or whether this was acceptable since he was deterred. Dovish pundits followed their lead. The possibilities became unmentionable. The consequences were not good.

Another absurd analog : it is generally bad political strategy for a US politician to admit that he or she thinks that an other country [and especially France] is better than the USA in an way. Self censorship of such thoughts by pre blogging opinion leaders has done great damage to the debate about health policy

"Politicians seeking national office should not advocate national gun registration, as the huge political costs are not worth the benefits times the near zero probability of it happening." and "the benefits are small" are two separate statements and their should be a paragraph break between them

yes I am, among other things, attempting amusing absurdity by citicising Kleiman's punctuation.

I also think that there is a real issue of mixing up "politically unwise" and "false" and that it is important to be willing to say "I would advise a politician to never say this but it is true that ..." when speaking frankly among friends and it is important that the internet be used so that people all around the world can communicate frankly among friends with each other.

In this case "But it's not true that reaching 90% of the current level would matter at all, unless the reduction came among people likely to use guns to commit crimes." is overstated to the point of being an arithmetic error. One does not call a one in a thousand chance "likely". Ceteris paribus, taking ten percent of US guns from people each with a one in one thousand chance of committing a gun crime would prevent about seven thousand gun crimes per ear hardly "not an difference".

Not to mention what about accidents ? A ten percent reduction of gun accidents would save about three hundred lives a ear. I don't want to tell three hundred sets of grieving relatives a ear that there suffering is nothing.

In fact, I would interpolate the effect of fewer guns linearly as a first guess which would imply that a ten percent reduction would have huge benefits.
The Usually acute Mark Kleiman Writes

"Giuliani looks like an idiot comparing the Second Amendment to the First Amendment after his career-long devotion to gun control."

which can only be interpreted as suggesting that Prof. Kleiman thinks that, if Giuliani felt the same way about the second amendment as he does about the first then he would give a hoot for some so called "right to bear arms".

This would be the former mayor who said that’s ad criticizing Gen. Petreaus was out of bounds and hinted that the group should face some sort of sanction.

“They passed a line that we should not allow an American political organization to pass,” he said. “We are at war right now, whether some people want to recognize it or not.”

Seems to me that his coded message to gun control advocates is that he went up in front of the big bad NRA and told them that he has as much contempt for their idea that they have a right to bear arms as for MoveOn's belief that they have a right to criticize a general, and that, if he is elected, he will ban private ownership of firearms. Kinda his sister Souljah moment.

I'm tempted to say that I have just as much respect for Giuliani as he has for the bill of rights, but I'm trying to keep this blog civil.
Not Nice Alec MacGillis Bashes Giuliani

Gross still marvels at Giuliani's concern for his son, recalling how often the mayor visited the hospital, and watched as he took the same approach, on a much larger scale, after Sept. 11.

"I do think he rose to greatness after the World Trade Center, but it wasn't because he was an expert on terrorism but because he was an affected and obviously level-headed leader when we didn't need cheerleading, we needed honesty," Gross said. "That's the tone he set. But it wasn't because he was some kind of expert on terrorism."

I'm all for Giuliani bashing and the malapropism is ironic, but it is not nice to take advantage of people stumbling over words.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Update: The devil is in the details.

It's a pattern. Another appallingly worded poll question, another Murray article.
Given the number of dishonest polls, looks like Murray won't ever have bother with reporting again.

Steve Benen notes it too

So does Klein the younger who is not to be confused with Jung the smaller.

Ditto for Mad Matt who has finally posted a decent photo of himself

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Greg Sargent crticises Shailagh Murray of the Washington Post for writing an article on the political debate in which she quotes only Republicans. Also he argues, convincingly, that the Republicans are lying about US public opinion. One particularly egregious example is Murray's coverage of a recent Gallup poll

The piece descends deeper into absurdity:

GOP Senate offices circulated the results of a Gallup poll released this week that showed 54 percent of those surveyed think Petraeus's plan for removing troops is the right pace, or even too quick. One-third of those surveyed viewed the withdrawal as moving too slowly.

As it happens, the very same poll that Murray allows these GOPers to cherry pick from has a bunch of other numbers in it, too. It finds that 59% want a timetable for withdrawal and that barely one-third think the surge is having a positive effect. Indeed, the pollsters themselves conclude that most of the public's opinions on Iraq "run contrary to the message delivered by Petraeus to Congress last week."

I would add that I think that Gallup too misbehaved badly, as they mislead respondents with their question:

"Still thinking about this plan, do you think General Petraeus' plan calls for -- US troops to be withdrawn too slowly from Iraq, withdrawals to occur at the right pace, or US troops to be withdrawn too quickly from Iraq"

In the question, Gallup asserted that Petreaus specified a rate for his proposed troop withdrawals not a rate for the first 30,000 (that which he conceded, under oath, was implied by the decision to not extend tours of duty over 15 months) but for his proposed withdrawals in general. In fact, Petraeus presented no time dimension on his draw down figure. Therefore the Gallup question implies a false statement of fact.

It is clear from other Gallup questions that the public does not agree with Petraeus on the timing of withdrawal. The majority think it should be scheduled and he refused to do so (obeying his commander in chief of course).

Reading the Gallup question, someone unfamiliar with Petraeus' so called plan, would naturally assume that Petreaus presented a complete schedule. People so convinced might then say they agree with Petraeus, because they have been mislead by Gallup about his proposal.

via Atrios

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Feeding Matt's Trolls

It's refreshing to see lefties finally acknowledging that sectarian deaths are down (as are suicude bombings).

It's too much to expect you to admit why. But your bs won't wash.

No sooner was al Qaeda driven out of Anbar that Anbar became more peaceful. No sooner was al Qaeda driven out of Baghdad that Baghdad became more peaceful. No sooner was al Qaeda driven out of the Baghdad rings that they became more peaceful. Don't expect lefties to give credit where it is due.

So try explaining that the war which lefties claimed was lost is now being won.

Incidentally if Iraqi refugees are now 2 million this is less than half what they were when Saddam was in power.

Posted by Terry Gain | September 18, 2007 5:18 PM

The there's no one left to kill

dog won't hunt. Try this:

It was the Democratic Party threat of withdrawal that caused the Iraqi government to finally get their act together and end the civl war.

(Curiously they did it without meeting benchmarks)

Sectarian deaths are definitely not down. On August 14 there were over five hundred. MNF-I chose not to count them for unexplained reasons. One might argue that the horror of August 14 was an outlier and not useful for assessing trends, but no half way honest person who reads the papers can claim that sectarian deaths are down.

Also, and more importantly , according to all independent sources the rate of total civilian deaths have not declined.

Also no one honest or otherwise claimed that al Qaeda in Iraq ever was responsible for most sectarian killings in Baghdad [hint they kill Shi'ites and most of the dead were Sunni]

The decline in violence in al Anbar followed a US decision to give money to the people who used to kill our soldiers. No serious observer ever claimed that most US deaths were the work of al Qaeda. Our soldiers were killed by the people to whom we are paying protection money and the progress is that they a e willing to take our money.

Thomas Jefferson "Millions for defence but not one cent for tribute"

George Bush "Trillions for defence plus millions for tribute"

Makes me so proud. Couldn't stand the humiliation of getting the hell out of there instead of paying our enemies not to kill us.

Friday, September 21, 2007

How did we miss the worst terrorist attack since September 11 ?

MNF-I has provided their methods for measuring ethno-sectarian violence in Iraq to Talking Points Memo. The document makes it clear that deaths from bombings are supposed to be counted, so why didn't they count the over five hundred Yazidi dead in Qahtaniya. These deaths should have been counted, since the definition is

Ethno-sectarian violence is defined as an event and any associated civilian deaths caused by ... and all types of explosive devices identified as being conducted by one ethnic/religious person/group directed at a different ethnic/religious person/group, where the primary motivation for the event is identified as ethnic or religious

That is clear enough to show that deaths from the Qahtaniya bombings should have been counted. However all of the examples refer to Shi'ites killing Sunnis or vice versa. There is no mention of possible ethnic violence and no mention of religions other than Islam.

I assume that over at MNF_I they decided that Yazidi don't count, because counting them would make the August numbers look as awful as the reality. The methodology as described was clearly not applied.

Spencer Ackerman explains how the trends are so different from civilian deaths rates reported by independent sources

For executions, murders and kidnappings -- situations in which sectarianism may be difficult to determine -- MNF-I says it uses "host nation" reporting in addition to its own. Many media and non-governmental organizations consider information on casualties released by the Iraqi ministries to be self-serving, misleading or contradictory.

Basically the US military decided that the ethnic cleansers were a reliable source on the level of ethnic cleansing. This is nonsense as was shown by you guessed it Talking Points Memo. [TPM
I linked to you when you didn't link to yourselves. not that that's a *hint* or anything]

Notice the alleged improvement occurred just when Iraqi authorities stopped allowing the UN to see the raw data.

update: typo corrected.
This is pathetic.

The alleged fact checkers at the Washington Post note man lies told by Mitt Romney, then don't decide how many Pinnocchios, or Gepettos to give him !!!

I comment [typo corrected]

you a willing to do you homework, but you a e not fact checking. you had no trouble giving pinnochios for making allegedly unproven assertions, but you don't have the guts to note that the many lies Romney told are lies.

I give him 4 Pinnocchios and you 4 Jelly fish. Grow a spine.
update: oh my Kevin D um linked to me ! Thanks.

But since this will not just be read by my regular readers [both of them] I should be more uhm measured.

The article is mostly analysis and opinion plus review of facts known to blog addicts, but that's ok.

Graham did make a brave attempt to find facts traveling in Iraq without coalition military escort. He gets an A for effort and an A+ for courage. Unfortunately his prominent Sunni friends didn't tell him an thing that the haven't told the world -- the are eager to fight al Qaeda. Still virtue in mags is still virtue even if it doesn't lead to good quotes.

The article is mostly blog standard pessimism and Bush bashing. Convincing but extremely familiar to me.

My objections are, in large part, based on knee jerk anti anti Americanism and anti anti anti neoconserativism. Forced by evidence I am willing to concede that the US has done tons of horrible things, but I will not concede one micro-gram more than I have to. In particular, I don't like criticism of Democratic Presidents not named
Lyndon [when pressed I will admit that one committed tons no kilotons of war crimes].

The anti anti anti neo is newer. Graham claims that the reflexive belief that ever thing that neocons say is false leads knee jerk anti neocons to claim that Iran is not meddling in Iraq. I am such a knee jerk neoconophobe and I waste much of m time reading knee jerk neoconophobic blogs and I haven't read an such suggestion. Graham's position on Iranian actions in Iraq is identical to that found on the man liberal to leftist blogs that I read, so wh is he congratulating himself on the non jerkiness of his knee ?

as to the typos, I have a semi excuse. The day before yesterday the r and y keys of my keyboard stopped working. I use cntl c cntl v to cut and paste r o y, but then have to go through and look for the other missing ys o rs. I'll get it fixed soon.

I am disappointed by This article in McCleans by Patrick Graham which was recommended by Kevin Drum.

My main complaint is that it consists almost entirely of opinion with no new facts.

For example what about Iran ?

Just as one is accused of being a pro-Saddam, Baathist sympathizer if you crit­icize the government in Baghdad, so one is accused of being a neo-con if you point out how deeply in­­volved Iran has become in Iraq. The role Iran plays is as complex and shady as can be expected in a situation that is so murky on so many different levels, from neighborhood turf wars to world oil strate­­gies and a proxy war with America. But the U.S. government is right to be concerned, al­though it’s not clear they can do much except protest, threaten loudly, and fight a secret, dirty war.

Oh so it's murk to you too. Thanks. Glad you managed to stick in that swipe and un-named critics though.

Iraq, Iran’s neighbour to the west, is Tehran’s self-declared security zone. Iran has already been attacked once from Iraq—by a then-American ally, Saddam—and won’t let it happen again. Nor do the Iranians want, as the West does, a secular Iraqi government that could destabilize their own theocracy. For them, Iraq is a survival issue. U.S.-led invasions have conquered not only Iraq but Afghanistan on Iran’s eastern flank. The U.S. Navy is floating off Iranian shores. Every few weeks, Washington debates whether to bomb Iran. How could Iran afford not to be involved in Iraq? Following the American example, the Iranians have learned that it’s bet­­­ter to fight the U.S. on the streets of Baghdad than the streets of Tehran.

Huh ? Since when was Saddam Hussein a US ally when he invaded Iran ? That is absurd. At the time, Iraq was a Soviet ally. 1980ears late the US "tilted" towards Saddam, sharing intelligence and saying relations could improve at a rate chosen b Iraq. Come on you remember the photo of Donald rumsfeld shaking Saddam's hand. Do ou think Jimmy Carter sent rumsfeld as an envoy ? Or has Mr Graham forgotten when the Iran Iraq war started ? September 1980

Now a diplomatic opening is not an alliance, but in any case there were not even normal relations between Iraq and the USA in September 1980. Oddly, massive Soviet, Saudi and French assistance to Iraq is, more or less, forgotten while evasion in the US ban on money for arms is remembered. Check out the sipri database to find that less than 1 percent of arms sold to Iraq from 1980 through 1990, during the "alliance", came from the USA. France sold more than 22 times as much.

Also still no information on what, if anything Iranians are doing.

The real question is, [snip]

The actual influence of Iran on the Iraqi government is hard to gauge. [snip] thought to [snip]
These days, though, the biggest concern on the highways of Baghdad is not Sunni insurgent bombs, but the explosively formed penetrators that fire a molten copper slug through even American heavy armour. According to U.S. intelligence, they are provided by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps to Shia militias. Of course, U.S. intelligence accusations are now as suspect as the Iranian government denials that they provoke.

In other words he doesn't know squat. All he reports is what US intelligence says and that he doesn't trust them.

He does know that the US is behind everything bloody that is done by our non adversaries

"In 1994, the U.S. quietly helped to build up the Croatian army, allowing the Croats to sweep through Serb-held Krajina the following year, viciously cleansing it of the Serbs."

Does he know of an evidence of such building up ? I don't. I assume he writes "quietly " because he has no evidence.

Good lord he even claims that we created sectarian hatred in Iraq ?!?!?

Early on, the American-controlled occupying government created a “Governing Council” organized on sectarian lines, with money being funnelled through various groups according to their “ethno-sectarian” divisions. This only increased existing divisions, and once an actual Iraqi government was elected it governed purely along sectarian lines.

he means that rather that fight sciri the Bush admin tried to coopt them, which is one of the few sane things they ever did. Also what sect was represented by the Iraqi communist party ? "The Iraqi Communist Party opposed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 but decided to work with the new political institutions established after the occupation. Its secretary, Hamid Majid Mousa, accepted a position on the Interim Iraq Governing Council."

The council included many Iraqis not connected to sectarian movements and chosen because they tried to resist Saddam Hussein. Sectarian factions formed, because it was in Iraq not because it was organized that way by the Bushians.

I think Graham is forming his views on Iraq based on his relatively cosmopolitan friends and is out of touch with most Iraqis.

The article contains few facts and many of those which I can check are wrong. The guiding principle seems to be "always blame the Americans; you are right even if you are wrong."

This, however is impressive

A few years ago, I was asked to speak about Iraq at a conference on insurgencies. At the end of the day, participants were asked to guess what might happen in five years. I said I thought the U.S. would be allied with the Sunnis and fighting Iran. In a limited way, that has turned out to be the case. To some degree, the military has switched sides in the middle of the fight.

if you always blame the Americans, sometimes you are right
So much for Heraclitis

“You can’t step in the same river twice” Heraclitis
“Waist deep in big muddy” Pete Seeger

Wasn’t the second time supposed to be farce ?

from archives
One track minds

The Bush administration demonstrates 0 ability to chew gum and piss straight* at the same time (big surprise I know).

From Glenn Kessler and Robin Wright

Israel's decision to attack Syria on Sept. 6, bombing a suspected nuclear site set up in apparent collaboration with North Korea, came after Israel shared intelligence with President Bush this summer indicating that North Korean nuclear personnel were in Syria, U.S. government sources said.

The Bush administration has not commented on the Israeli raid or the underlying intelligence. Although the administration was deeply troubled by Israel's assertion that North Korea was assisting the nuclear ambitions of a country closely linked with Iran,

The current debate is about bombing Iran so Syrian nuclear projects are only interesting because Syria is friendly with Iran.

* the original Lyndon Johnson metaphor concerning Gerald Ford usually Bowdlerized to "walk straight"

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I am less pleased by the Washington Post's fact check than I was by the Thompson Brownback and Gravel fact check.

The fact checkers award move on three pinochios equal to the number given to Brownback for claiming that Gay marriage in Denmark caused the earlier increase in out of wedlock births in Norway . The rules of fact checking moveon are completely different. In the earlier cases, the fact checkers felt the need to prove that, under an possible interpretation, the claim is demonstrably false. This time it is enough that the claim is not proven. The conclusion

The data provided by Gen. Petraeus on sharply declining Iraqi casualty rates is certainly open to analysis, debate, and challenge. We plan to take a closer look at them in a future post. However, does not provide adequate factual support for its larger assertion that Petraeus is "constantly at war with the facts" and is "cooking the books" for the White House. In the absence of fresh evidence, we award three Pinocchios

what would happen to our debate if politicians were fact checked in this wa ? If an unproven conclusion were treated as equivalent to a false claim of fact ?

Also wh is it more urgent to check an advocacy groups claims than to check sworn testimon. The sa the will look at Petraeus's claims of fact some time, but the just had to do moveon first.

In the specifics of their case against moveon the equate unproven [in a tv ad] as equivalent to false, but the also do more amazing things, including repeatedl writing, in effect, "true but" in an alleged fact check. No WAPO reporters. you can debate the meaning of facts, but not present that as fact checking.

"With hindsight, Petraeus was overly optimistic in his 2004 assessment. But"

That's because, according to the New York Times, the Pentagon has adopted a bizarre formula for keeping tabs on violence. For example, deaths by car bombs don't count.

in the fact check no reference to the Times.

"True, the Post has reported this, quoting an unnamed intelligence official. Multi-National Force Iraq, however,"

get that ? the Washington Post is saying that is dishonest because the accurately quoted the Washington Post.

"True on U.S. military deaths. [snip] The data on Iraqi civilian deaths are much more controversial."

So the fact that facts in the ad are correct is not relevant to fact checking ?

More amazingly still, the fact checkers claim that contradictions between the claims of Petraeus and are proof that is wrong. Since their claim is exactly that Petraeus is cooking the books, this is bizarre. Whenever has a debate been judged on the assumption that everything one part in the debate sa s must be true ?

Thus on Iraqi civilian casualties

According to news reports, there have been more civilian deaths and more American soldier deaths in the past three months than in any other summer we've been there.


The data on Iraqi civilian deaths are much more controversial. Charts provided by Petraeus show a thirty per cent decline in Iraqi civilian deaths from the summer of 2006 (June, July, August) to the summer of 2007. It is difficult to reconcile this reported decline with an August 25 Associated Press report that war-related deaths in Iraq have nearly doubled over the last year, from an average daily toll of 2006 of 33 to 62 so far this year.

According to Iraq Body Count, an independent London-based organization that tracks civilian deaths in Iraq, overall levels of violence against Iraqi civilians have decreased since the last six months of 2006. However, Iraq Body Count also notes that the first six months of 2007 were deadlier than the first six months of any year since the invasion.

On the question of whether bombing deaths are counted. The Wapo "fact checkers" trust Petraeus "However, the Petraeus report specifically includes data for car bombs. (See Slide 4.)" This is a claim. It is also obviously false as I have shown in this blog.

Finally in an ad on Petraeus's testimony wrote

"We'll hear of neighborhoods where violence has decreased. But we won't hear that those neighborhoods have been ethnically cleansed."

In context this must refer to the testimony. The fact checkers contest the claim b noting something irrelevant which has nothing to do with Petraeus's dishonest

"Reporters based in Baghdad have reported that one reason for the declining violence is the ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods. See this useful New York Times graphic, for example. Petraeus did not dispute a New York Times report that 35,000 Iraqis have left their homes in Baghdad as part of ethnic cleansing."

In the testimony, Petraeus showed a slide in which there was no change the sectarian composition of Baghdad neighborhoods [see slide three]. There was no hint that the data did not correspond to the only dates on the slide. The slides hid the fact of ethnic cleansing which had been shown b general Jones.

I think the objection to is that over seventy senators denounced them, so saing their facts are facts, as the are, would be extremist. And, in particular Democrats have conceded that there has been security progress in Iraq, so it must be true. Thus

"the question is, how much progress? It seems difficult to dispute that there has been progress in some parts of Iraq, such as Anbar province. But will that be enough?"

That is the question debated in Washington, therefore debating a point agreed b both parties is crazy like claiming an event in Denmark caused earlier events in Norway.
Note moveon didn't claim that there has been no progress anywhere, but assessed progress overall. Thus the events in Anbar noted b the Post does not check an fact.

The Post is back to its tried and true slogan -- "Speak power to truth"

update: new and improved. now with added y's
God and Mammon (not in that order)

Dr. James Dobson thinks that Freddie Thompson is an idiot unfit to be President.
I never expected to agree with Dr Dobson. However, I am amazed by Dr. Dobson's belief that Jesus is opposed to campaign finance reform. Let's had the mike to the doctor

"Isn't Thompson the candidate who is opposed to a Constitutional amendment to protect marriage, believes there should be 50 different definitions of marriage in the U.S., favors McCain-Feingold, won't talk at all about what he believes, and can't speak his way out of a paper bag on the campaign trail?"

Look I know that Dobson is an unscrupulous political operative trying to use religion to help the Republican God and Mammon alliance, but he's not supposed to say so.

I diagnose Ralph Reed envy (ooooh those cheeks that smile oooooh)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I Like the New Washington Post Fact Check

here. They haven't really messed with top tier candidates yet, but the point is that they don't give passes for statements that the congnescenti know are false and consider rhetoric for the rubes, hence they check

"If you look back over our history, it will not take you long to realize that our people have shed more blood for other people's liberty than any other combination of nations in the history of the world."

Which doesn't get a pass for being clearly false and patriotic


"In countries that have redefined marriage, where they've said, 'OK, it's not just a man and a woman, it can be two men, two women,' the marriage rates in those countries have plummeted to where you have counties now in northern Europe where 80 percent of the first-born children are born out of wedlock... And currently in this country -- currently -- we're at 36 percent of our children born out of wedlock."

Which doesn't get a pass for being loony Christian and therefore a matter of religion.

and finally ""Americans are getting fatter and dumber."

Which doesn't get a pass for being harsh, contrarian and politically suicidal (and, as they note Gravel should know his dumb being an dumb as a rock)

Of course they will probably get around to nit picklering before it is over, but a good start.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bob Herbert may or may not be boring (I don't get Times Select) but Small, Loewenstein, and Slovic (2005) is fascinating and T.A. Frank of The Washington Monthly is almost as wonderful as R Frank of or Joe Frank my best friend from junior high school.

In the 1960s, the economist Thomas Schelling performed research demonstrating that people are more likely to be moved by single victims than by statistics. In 2005, the psychologists Deborah A. Small, George Loewenstein, and Paul Slovic found the limits of human compassion to be even more irrational and constrained. In their study, students at a university in Pennsylvania were paid five dollars to complete questionnaires on technology. Enclosed with the questionnaire was a seemingly unrelated letter soliciting donations to a hunger relief organization in Africa.

The study's first conclusion was what the researchers had expected: people are more compassionate when they are told about a specific victim. When respondents were asked to donate money to help feed a seven-year-old African girl named Rokia, they contributed more than twice what they did when just confronted with general statistics on hunger.

But then things got surprising. When Rokia was presented with the statistics, the donations fell by nearly half. Worse still, when the authors asked one set of subjects to perform mathematical calculations and the other set of subjects to describe their feelings when they heard the word "baby," the subjects who'd done math gave only about half as much to Rokia as the ones who'd thought about babies. Apparently, just thinking analytically makes us stingier. The authors of the study concluded that "calculative thought lessens the appeal of an identifiable victim."

I find the opposite effect, but I am eccentric.
I Like This

A very reasonable article in the Washington Post about Hillary Care 2.0.

The best part is the very last line

"Staff writer David S. Broder contributed to this report."

Finally they've found something he is qualified to do. Of course I know he is probably the grandson of the Dean.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Homage to Catalaunia

Weber was mistranslated as

In the outstanding works of our historical colleagues we find that today instead of telling us about the warlike deeds of our ancestors they dilate at length about "matriarchy," that monstrous notion, and force into a subordinate clause the victory of the Huns on the Catalaunian Plain...

I note that this is impossible, as the Huns were defeated on the Catalaunian Plain.

Brad DeLong goes deep into the weeds of Teutonic Philology

Gothic Print Hunnenschlacht Blogging

Thanks to Ian Maitland, who points out the wikicommons scanned version of Weber's Freiberg inaugural lecture, "Der Nationalstaat und die Volkswirtschaftspolitik", and thanks to the seventeen year old, who returns with a copy of I.F. Stone's The Trial of Socrates just in time to be of assistance, we decide that the right translation of Max Weber's reference to Aetius v. Attila:

...und die Hunnenschlacht auf den Catalaunischen Feldern in einen Nebensass gedraengt.


...and stick in a minor clause the Hun-battle on the Catalaunian field.

Weber doesn't say it is a victory of the Huns. He just says that it is a Hun-battle. And so we presume that the translator is ignorant of the history of the 5th-century Western Roman Empire.

I swear the quote from Gibbon wasn't there when I posted my comment.

This post exists only because I like the title.
New Cons for Old

In his review of Jonathan Chait's "The Big Con" Paul Krugman takes a trip down memory lane to the days before Aurthur Laffer drew a curve on a napkin.

Way back in 1964, in his famous speech on behalf of Barry Goldwater, Reagan talked about how crazy it was that the federal government employed 2.5 million civilian workers; nobody pointed out that two-thirds of those civilians worked either for the Pentagon or for the post office.

Indeed. Criticizing the bloated Federal Bureaucracy was the supply side economics of the 60s and 70s. Conservatives loved to cite Parkinson's law. There were, then as always, immune to facts. I think Krugman may assume that that Canard has been finally chained (or more likely doesn't want to waste pixels). Of course it hasn't. Many people in the USA think the Federal Government blows huge amounts of money on federal bureaucrats. This is so false that it is amazing. Back in 1964 there were about 2.5 million civilians working for the federal government. In 2005 there were 2,709,000 or less than 2% of total employment. Since 1964 total employment has more than doubled. The fear of Parkinson's law has lead to constant efforts to cut the size of the Federal Bureaucracy. They have been successful. It's not that way in most developed countries and is a wonderful thing (full disclosure my father is a high ranking federal civil servant who has been finding ways to beat the freeze for almost all of his adult life).

It almost goes without saying, that the small over all increase includes a small increase during the Reagan years and a large decline (about 10%) during the Clinton years. The reason, as noted by Krugman, is that the DOD accounts for much of federal civilian employment about 671,000 in 2005 down from slightly over a million in 1992.The Postal service has surpassed the DOD with about 803,000 employees in 2005 so together they are down from two thirds to slightly more than half of federal civilian employment.

The payroll was under $ 153 billion in 2005 out of a total budget of over $ 2,708 billion so less than 6%.

That was based on 5 minutes of googling and reading.

No wonder they had to start looking for a new scam.
FDA moving backwards on Lymphoma Therapy

So Says Terra Sigilata

The other day I fired off a quick post on the absurdity of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is proposing to cut reimbursements for two radioimmunotherapy drugs for lymphoma to less than their cost. The two immunotherapy drugs in question are Bexxar (I-131 tositumomab) and Zevalin (Y-90 ibritumomab) - both drugs target the CD20 protein on the surface of normal and malignant B-lymphocytes, killing the cells by the radioactive emissions of their respective radionuclides.

I personally am very very enthusiastic about a newer approach to targetting CD20 based on streptavidin conjugated anti-CD20, biotinylated glactosylated albumin and Y-90 DOTA-biotin. It is not even in trials because Aletheon Pharmaceuticals needs to find a partner/investor willing to put $6,000,000 into GMP synthesis of biotinylated glactosylated albumin and DOTA-biotin.

Just saying.
My Question for possible Attorney General Nominee Michael Mukasey

who "issued the first ruling in the Jose Padilla case after 9/11. While he ruled that “President Bush did have the authority to hold Mr. Padilla as an enemy combatant without charging him for a crime,” he also “ruled that the government must allow Mr. Padilla to see his attorneys.”"

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."

Which word didn't you understand ?

update: Holy mother of God

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., previously recommended Mukasey for a Supreme Court vacancy.

In June 2005, the liberal Alliance for Justice put Mukasey's name on a list of four judges who, if chosen for the Supreme Court, would show the president's "commitment" to picking someone who could be supported by both Democratic and Republican senators.

Doesn't anyone believe in Habeus Corpus anymore ? Mukasey's ruling places him well to the right of Scalia who held that Bush did not have the authority to hold Hamdi who was captured in Afghanistan not O'Hare.

update: Glenn Greenwald writes that Mukasey played an "impressive role ... in presiding over the Jose Padilla case in its earliest stages." So I take it all back. Never mind.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

More Nonsense from TPM

Josh Marshall seems to have decided that Talking Points Memo is a bit too excellent so he needs to water down original TPM reporting with crap from lower quality operations.

The section "More News from TPM" has had this link entitled "Korea-Syria Nuke Link" for some time. I just clicked it and learned from Yossi Melman at Haaretz that

During the '90s and following a deal signed with the Clinton administration, Pyongyang agreed not to further develop its nuclear program for military purposes, and received in return a joint pledge by the U.S., Japan and South Korea to provide it with fuel until electricity-generating power plants funded by the three were built.

The accord, however, did not last and a new crisis developed in 2000 when it was revealed that North Korea had continued to secretly produce plutonium.

Odd. I thought the new crisis developed in 2002 when North Korean negotiators allegedly confirmed that North Korea had a Uranium enrichment program. They later said that it was a misunderstanding and they didn't mean to confess (North Korean negotiators are like that).

In any case 2002 not 2000 (that is while Bush was President not Clinton) and Uranium not Plutonium, that is, a technolgically difficult operation which they have not yet managed not something that they had done already.

The Bush administration decided that the alleged Uranium enrichment program meant that the agreed framework was unacceptable and withdrew. Then, and only then, did North Korea start extracting Plutonium again (this is universally agreed to be true as the Yongbon reactor had been turned off and the spent fuel rods were under observation).

Last year the Bush administration got new intelligence (yeah right) that the Uranium program was no big deal and went back to the agreed framework. This is to this day their biggest foreign policy success (Clinton plus a few North Korean atomic bombs).

The fact that Melman's "analysis" contradicts the public record on these points convinces me that it does not deserve a link from TPM.
This Is Posted On October 1 2007 or maybe deep in December 2007

Don't let blogger trick you.

Listen to Jerry Orbach

Didn't work out, but we can try to remember and hope for Law and Order in Iraq.

OK I confess I don't have enough self discipline to be a blogger.

I've been trying to resist through the whole wonderful month of September 2007 when the grown up Republicans in congress were going to discover their conciences, judgment, sanity and self interest and joined with the Democrats to get us out of Iraq. I can't hold out. Also, although the blogosphere is weaker on show tunes than progressive rock , I don't want to get scooped.

Friday, September 14, 2007

As I said below Ezra Klein is a genius.
I now add that Mark Penn is a major menace to the USA and the world.

However as a member of the growing group of people rabidly envious of famous people half my age, I would like to point out an error in his devastating review of "Microtrends"

In a chapter called “Aspiring Snipers,” Penn explains, “It’s the rare moment when a poll stops me in my tracks and reorients my understanding of things.” One such poll was conducted last fall, when Bendixen and Associates asked 601 young Californians what they’d be doing in 10 years. About 1 percent—so, a handful—said they’d be snipers. Certainly, that’s an odd reply. But Penn never mentions that the Bendixen poll had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percent—four being a larger number than one.

Clearly there is something wrong here. The number of aspiring snipers in the population is definitely not less than zero. What's the problem ? The standard error depends on the true probability (p) that a given person is an aspiring sniper (that is the proportion of aspiring snipers in the population (p)). The number of aspiring snipers in a sample has a variance of p(1-p)N so the fraction has a variance of p(1-p)/N and a standard error of root(p(1-p)/N) or 100 root(p(1-p)/N)%. For some reason pollsters have decided to report the margin of error of polls based on the maximum of this value that is 100 root(0.5*0.5/N)% = 50 root(1/N)%.

For historical reasons, it has been decided that the margin of error is two standard errors because the probability that a normally distributed variable is two standard deviations or more from the mean is about 5% which is a nice fairly low number.

The margin of error of the poll just means that the sample size was roughly 625 and the number of aspiring snipers was roughly 6. It is clearly insane to detect a trend based on the fact that 6 people aspire to be snipers. However, the best estimate of the standard error of the number of snipers in the population is
100 root(0.01*0.99/N) percent or roughly 0.4% giving a margin of error of 0.8.

It makes no sense to use the normal distribution in this case. With the maximum likelihood estimate of the standard error it would still imply a probability of over 1% that the true number of aspiring snipers is less than zero.

So if "margin of error" is such a worthless number and just a function of the sample size, why do pollsters talk about it ? They are trying to intimidate the innumerate. This is what they do. Mark Penn seems to have done so with Hillary Clinton. This is very very bad news.

Look it's not just about Mark Penn's influence. Anyone who regularly talks to Penn and hasn't noticed that he is an idiot is not qualified to be President (unless the alternative is a Republican).
Exra Klein is a genius but I have no idea where he got the idea that organic food is healthier than other food.

What's with this "organic" business ? Are you aware of any evidence that organic fruit is more healthy than other fruit ? The case looks pretty weak

To change the subject, are you about to tell me that we need to eliminate preservatives from our food and also that we can reduce cancer and heart disease with anti-oxidants ? The second claim is supported by some evidence. The problem is that the words "preservative" and "anti-oxidant" are synonyms.

When I took organic chemistry in 1979 the professor seemed to really enjoy himself when he noticed that organic chemicals were mostly introduced in the 60's and we know from the case of cigarettes that there is a 20 year lag from increased exposure to cancer and bwa ha ha ha (I think he was a sadist).

Didn't work out that way. Instead we had a mysterious decline in death rates. So is there any evidence that preservatives prevent heart attacks well uhm yes

I should stress that I am quite serious and believe that organically grown food is no healthier than otherwise identical non organically grown food. I also genuinely believe that antioxidants in general (including BHA and BHT added as preservatives) reduce the risk of cancer and coronary artery disease. This second belief is based on the guess that Vitamin E has these effects because it is an antioxidant and not because it is, specifically, vitamin E which guess is based on theory and not evidence.
Petreaus Power Point Perjury Part 4

I was scooped by Smintheus at unbossed on the false colors on the map thing.

Update: Here are two clear examples of Gen. Petraeus caught in outright lies today.

First, examine the third of the slides he presented to Congress (on page 4 of this PDF). It presents four maps of "ethno-sectarian violence" in the neighborhoods of Baghdad since December 2006. These maps pretend that the ethnic/sectarian mix of various neighborhoods has remained constant during this period. In fact, as I've commented here and elsewhere, the Sunnis have been driven headlong out of many neighborhoods since December 2006. Despite the map, there are no longer either majority Sunni or mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhoods east of the Tigris. And west of the Tigris, Sunni-dominated areas have shrunk considerably.

The maps falsify one of the most delicate of issues: The failure of the "surge" to stem ethnic/sectarian cleansing of Baghdad. If that information were brought to the fore, it would call into question the claims by Petraeus and other spokespeople for the Bush administration that the "surge" is responsible for an alleged drop in violence in Baghdad. If there is any such drop, it may be due in large part to the success of Shia attempts to drive Sunnis from their homes and into exile.
Six or Seven Nato countries The Pleiades revisted

I think I may have solved a mystery. Spencer Ackerman wrote

Seriously, the State Department report (pdf, page 31) lists the 25, and then ticks the number up to 33 by adding the U.S., Fiji, and "seven Nato countries" that aren't -- aren't -- a part of Multinational Forces-Iraq: Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Turkey and Slovenia. Yes, you read that right: State says seven but only lists six.

This reminds me of a constellation the Pleiades or seven sisters which consists of 6 visible stars.

What gives ?

Now Josh Marshall knows more, but doesn't connect the non dots.

One way the president comes up with this number is to rope in something called the NATO Training Mission-Iraq (NTM-1).

As Spencer Ackerman notes here, most of the countries involved in this initiative have agreed to let Iraqis come to their countries for training, not the other way around. So for instance, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report, Spain "plans to train groups of 25 Iraqis in mine clearance at a center outside Madrid."

And who has boots on the ground in country? One example from the president's list of 36 is Iceland which has sent a single public information officer to serve as in the NATO mission in Baghdad. More robustly, Italy has 8 officers on the NTM-I mission in Baghdad, Portugal is considering sending "up to 10."

I think the 7th sister is Spain. Note they are in NTM-I with exactly zero personel in Iraq. I think someone at State decided to include NTM-I as part of the expanded coalition of the willing related program activities, then discovered that saying Spain had troops in Iraq was misleading and technically false.

They didn't work on it enough, since the claim that Iceland has troops in Iraq is also false. Another day and they would have came up with the correct wording as Marshall did"boots on the ground" which is fine so long as the bold Icelander, son of the Vikings, isn't currently hopping around after stubbing his toe.

update: I was wrong wrong wrong. The 7th NATO country is Hungary (the land of my paternal ancestors).
Refuting ABC easy as 123

ABC publicly announced ... to date, it was confident that all of Debat's reports for ABC had been vetted and multiply sourced and were standing up to scrutiny.


Sources provided multiple examples of stories that Ross—often with Debat's contributions—reported, only to be forced to run a correction the next day.

well yes they published corrections way back then, but now the stories are standing up to scrutiny.
The stars may be aligning again but Starr is not

I am very unimpressed by his post here.

I comment

You contradict yourself repeatedly. You note that setting up the "task force" and "working groups" caused unnecessary controversy and delay, yet you deny that the health care plan "got bogged down and delivered too late." You present overwhelming evidence that the delay was politically disasterous and completely unnecessary as Bill Clinton had already made his basic decision and knew that the details would be negotiated in congress. You note that reform seemed inevitable on January 20 and very difficult when the plan was sent to congress. What could have been accomplished in the interim that was worth the delay ?

You note the costly consequences of compromising unilaterally.
The Clinton administration started with a plan designed to appeal to centrists and irritate progressives, then found that centrists like Breux and Kerrey were not interested in a compromise that they hadn't negotiated. Clinton decided to do their jobs for them. This is not the way to deal with Senators. Then you note that the Clintons had to tack left at a time when the right was attacking them. The lesson would seem to be that one should not waste time negotiating with oneself. This is, of course, exactly what Hillary Clinton is now doing with your enthusiastic support. She must know that anything she proposes will be considered dangerously left wing by swing state senators. It seems obvious that she must propose something then concede to their demands that it be watered down. This is more difficult if she proposes weak tea to begin with. Your analysis strongly supports the conclusion that Hillary Clinton is making the exact same mistake her husband made in 1992. Yet you forget the lessons you learned from the past when you discuss the present.

You neglect to mention any alternative proposal. In particular, you present the choice of an extremely regressive financing scheme as inevitable. The key conflict with the treasury was over financing with a poll tax (following the lead of the great progressive Margaret Thatcher) and firm wide cap and financing with a payroll tax. How about you try to convince Prospect readers that the treasury was wrong on that one. Oh and while your at it how about making firms buy annuities for their workers and eliminating this silly FICA tax where the amount firms and workers pay increases with workers' incomes (can't have that).

I have read the claim that large firms turned against the plan because human resources managers didn't like the idea that their efforts to provide lowest cost insurance were forbidden and they would have to turn their jobs over to the "alliances". I'd say that management consultant Magaziner was sticking to the usual strategy of telling people that he can do their job better than they can. Since he wasn't convincing the boss but rather a President who can do nothing without congress, we have all paid very much for his absurd arrogance.

Oh and by the way, can you find anyone anyone but Bill Clinton who is willing to defend Ira Magaziner. Maybe the widespread (to universal) view that he was an appallingly arrogant idiot way over his head is based on fact.

I don't know much of anything about health policy. I don't need to know anything to refute your conclusion, since your own arguments refute it in advance.
Obesity and Global warming catturando 2 piccioni con una fava

Italy gets some attention

NO PASTA FOR YOU! Italians are on spaghetti strike today, refusing to buy all pasta in protest of a 20 percent increase in consumer prices, caused in part by demand for wheat as a biofuel. The average Italian eats pasta once a day, or 61 pounds of the starchy goodness annually.

While Italians might be incensed over expensive orchiette, the biofuel bull market affects food supplies all over the world, and developing countries will be hit hardest. In Mexico, where many poor, rural people survive on a diet built around nutritious corn tortillas, the ethanol rush is responsible for tripling and quadrupling the price of food staples. And ethanol production has a dark side in the United States' food system as well; the more corn we grow, the more we subsidize growing corn, which has already led to the massive, obesity-causing overuse of corn syrup in our diet. It's all food for thought the next time you hear a presidential candidate wax eloquent on the wonders of ethanol.

I comment

Watch out for typos. Italians are angry about overpriced Orichieti, Orchieti would be small testicles whose price is not affected by biofuels.

Also why not buy high fructose corn syrup for biofuels (for one thing fructose can be turned into a fuel which doesn't evaporate as easily as ethanol

Now it is possible to make bacteria which split sucrose into fructose and glucose and turn the glucose into ethanol leaving fructose, ethanol water and a nasty smell. distill out the ethanol and crystalize out the fructose then call the chemists.

Drive up the price of corn syrup as a replacement for corn price supports. Sounds good to me.

Sad to say I am totally ignorant. Corn Syrup contains glucose not sucrose.
Glucose is converted to fructose enzymantically.
So the story is convert glucose to fructose then call the chemists. Alternatively one could just make ethanol from corn syrup. The point is that ethanol subsidies should be used to drive up the price of unhealthy foods not healthy foods. So the subsidy should be to purchases of corn syrup for conversion to ethanol not on production of ethanol.

Also we should import ethanol of course.

The fructose derived fuel might be better than ethanol. I have no idea.

update: thanks Nancy
OK so why would any Democrat not listen to Edwards and Kleiman (see below) ?

I am reminded of Nixon's secret strategy to end the Vietnam war. His idea was that Communists thought he was insanely anti communist (pretending to be so was his successful secret strategy to become the youngest Vice President in US history). So they would be terrified and ready to accept a compromise. Nixon being secretly sane (at the time) would agree and there you have it. Didn't work but made some logical sense and would only work if kept secret.

Now we have Bush's not secret strategy to not end the war. He really is crazy. If forced to choose between no funding or a deadline, he will choose no funding and try to blame the Democrats. They know this. Basically there is an insane man who has 160,000 American hostages. He is perfectly capable of ordering them to stay in Iraq with no funding. He is much more capable of ordering people to spend money not appropriated by congress. The constitution is in grave danger. The hostage crisis will end on January 200 2009. A couple of hundred more deaths is really a small price to pay to not find out just how crazy President Bush is.

The logic is that it does not make sense to play chicken with a rabid bull on steroids.

I support the "no timeline. no funding. no excuses." approach with one month no timeline supplementals (the proposal of the moderate Markos Moulitsas who doesn't go as far as the radical Mark Kleiman. The aim is not to get out of Iraq before Janaury 20 2009, that is impossible, the aim is to force Republican senators in blue states to choose between utterly rejecting their party line and the Presidento and voting for the war and losing their seats. I think they will vote for the war and we will have a semi decent Senate and a sane president at the same time. Of course I'm dreaming.
No timeline. No funding. No excuses.

Click for Mark Kleiman's simple explanation of what this means in practice
Oh My

64% of registered voters polled by Fox news want all US troops out of Iraq within one year. Fox is, of course, Fox and phrased the question to minimize that number. They had no option for leaving some to say protect the embassy or to look for al Qaeda in Iraq. They gambled and lost.

"Based on General Petraeus's new report, do you think the United States should pull out all troops immediately, pull out all troops gradually over the next year, pull out after Iraqi troops are capable of taking over, or, send more troops?"

Pull Out Immediately 22%
Pull Out Gradually* 42%
After Iraqis Capable 24%
Send More Troops 2%
Unsure 10%

* notice that Fox is cheating with the header. They use the vague word "gradually" when the question was precise. "Pull out within one year" would have been an honest header. It would show that 64% of registered voters are way to the left of the Democrats in congress and all of the Democratic candidates except for maybe Kucinich.
The Republican hopefuls are fighting over the 26% who want to stay in Iraq.
Lying and misleading while telling the truth

I have argued that general Petraeus made (and presented graphically) false statements to congress. Very clumsy since no one thinks he is dumb. I think that the problem must be poor communication during the rush to cook the books, since the false statements are false descriptions of a figure he presented.

In contrast, when he is winging it, Petreaus is very good. I'm sure he is a fine general attempting an impossible task, but he would have made an excellent lawyer.

Consider this as summarized by David Cloud in the New York Times

General Petraeus told lawmakers during two days of Congressional testimony this week that his plan for reducing the American presence in Iraq by five combat brigades through mid-July was “fully supported” by Adm. William J. Fallon, the chief of Central Command and the senior American commander in the Middle East, as well as by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The general said, “There has been no recommendation I am aware of that would have laid out by any of those individuals a more rapid withdrawal.”

He acknowledged though that he and other top-ranking officers had begun “discussions about the pace of the mission transition,”

Now we know that the uniformed military decided not to present one proposal to Bush, presumably because the "discussions" have included uhm frank and useful exchanges. Basically it is clear that other top-ranking officers totally disagree with Petraeus (oh and they outrank him). However, Petreaus dodged the perjury trap. He presented no plan to congress for what to do after mid-July and only noted that Fallon agreed with him up till then (the vagueness of the withdrawal figure means it is consistent with both positions in the debate).

A team of officers was working on a competing proposal to present to the President. It takes time to plan a redeployment and they seem to have decided to take lots of time on a proposal they know the President will reject "Among Mr. Bush’s other senior military advisers, differences about how deep the cuts should go appeared to have been set aside with the decision to postpone further decisions until next spring". Thus no detailed proposal has been "laid out". Altogether an effort to mislead which was challenged by someone who knew about the controversy followed neither by retreat not perjury. No one doubts that the guy is smart.

His commander in chief, however, is not willing to compromise with reality. Glenn Kessler totally demolishes him. It is very good that the Washington Post is finally fact checking the President.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fascinating Fat Theory

Via the ringleader.

Professor Charles Courtemanchey of Washington University in Saint Louis not only has a cool name, he's also got a fascinating research result (PDF):

A causal relationship between gasoline prices and obesity is possible through mechanisms of increased exercise and decreased eating in restaurants. I use a fixed effects model to explore whether this theory has empirical support, finding that an additional $1 in real gasoline prices would reduce obesity in the U.S. by 15% after five years, and that 13% of the rise in obesity between 1979 and 2004 can be attributed to falling real gas prices during this period. I also provide evidence that the effect occurs both by increasing exercise and by lowering the frequency with which people eat at restaurants.

Hmm cool name indeed. French name I'd say. So he's got the time series, how about the cross section. In the USA gasoline is absurdly cheap and people are fat. OK
But the really interesting application is the mysterious fat states for Bush fact. Self reported obesity is significantly positively correlated with votes for Bush. Red states are more car friendly and would require pedestrians to walk a long long way. Hmmmmm. There have been huge changes in prices at the pump in non US developed countries due to excise tax increases. This is the way to test his model (the world price of oil is a world price and correlated with world trends in video game technology and high fructose corn syrup.

I know where the data are. Hmmmm. maybe ....
The 10 year old Stumps me Again

She was reading a book (in Italian) and ran into a word which wasn't in her vocabulary. She asked me what "Nestoriano" means. I looked at the context. It concerned a chicken who was convinced that she believed in the Nestorian heresy.

I very much regret to report that I don't remember what the Nestorian heresy was (in my memory I did get it down to two possibilities "I think it was either that Christ had a normal human body with a divine soul or maybe that Christ was purely divine with no mortal flesh (4th century heresies came in pairs with catholic orthodoxy achieving compromise at the cost of logical contradiction)." one of which is correct but didn't want to risk misinforming her on this crucial bit of information)

DC elite ringleaders beware, she is even younger than you are.
Petraeus Perjury Proof Part III

I am consistently commenting on TPM Muckraker not even raking conventional media pre raked muck. MNF-I just definitely claimed that deaths from bombings are included in their figures for ethno-sectarian violence. Thus that which seemed to me to be a confession of perjury has been clarified or retracted.

However, no matter how firmly MNF-I claims that they count deaths from bombings, it is obvious to anyone who pays attention to the news and looks at their numbers that they don't. That would imply an implausible decline in ethno-sectarian killings outside of Baghdad in August excluding August 14 from roughly 600 in July to 30 in August.

This is clear because there were an estimated 572 clearly sectarian murders in Qahtaniya on August 14 2007.

Now it might be reasonable to estimate the August average excluding the 14th (or Qahtaniya) as an outlier. I believe that the horrible crime and catastrophe could have occurred in any month for years and is not connected to the surge. However, to throw out data without mentioning that one has done so when you describe one's calculation is to lie, and, in this case, to commit a felony.

update: welcome back Hans
I thought that this by Gavin M at Sadly No was a bit sophomoric (isn't that the point) and disrespectful of Matthew Yglesias and Ezra Klein who are older than I am (that is the sum of their ages is
greater than mine).

McArdle: I’m going to hold this football here, and you guys come kick it, okay?

Yglesias: Okay.

Klein: Watch out, ’cause I’m really going to kick that football this time.

Then I read Ezra explaining that, when he admitted he was a member of the DC blogger elite he was being modest.

Alright, so long as people are actually linking to the Wall Street Journal article on DC's new blogging elite, I should probably explain what I meant by the term. My point, which got a bit lost, is that it's a bad thing.

OK but take some advice from an old timer. The key, Ezra is to make sure you get a really strong running start and follow through with the kick.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Petraeus confesses to Perjury

Under oath Petraeus claimed that his figures for ethno-sectarian violence included killings by bomb "it's not that complicated": if "al-Qaeda bombs a Shiite area," it's sectarian violence." This was perjury.

At the National Press Club this morning, Gen. Petraeus for the first time peeled back the curtain behind his questioned methodology for tabulating ethno-sectarian violence. Calling his methodology "pretty logical and rational," the general said he has a "three-page document" -- he read from it at his Press Club podium [snip] So what is a sectarian murder?

"Civilians who show signs of being blindfolded, tortured or being shot anywhere, and so forth."

OK so how does al Qaeda blindfold, torture or shoot people with bombs ? One claim, made under oath, is that deaths from bombings are counted. The explanation shows that this is not true. It is obvious from the numbers that this is not true. That's perjury.
Karl Rove Knows This

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a flier to combat myths about the flu vaccine. It recited various commonly held views and labeled them either "true" or "false." Among those identified as false were statements such as "The side effects are worse than the flu" and "Only older people need flu vaccine."

When University of Michigan social psychologist Norbert Schwarz had volunteers read the CDC flier, however, he found that within 30 minutes, older people misremembered 28 percent of the false statements as true. Three days later, they remembered 40 percent of the myths as factual.

Younger people did better at first, but three days later they made as many errors as older people did after 30 minutes. Most troubling was that people of all ages now felt that the source of their false beliefs was the respected CDC.

the fact that people remember the issue and forget if say the CDC says it was true or false means that it is always easy to confuse people with a controversy (say about John Kerry's military service). It makes it easy for someone who can get the right words into newspapers to change an issue from one where people disagree with you to one where they are confused.

I think the observation is not exactly new. IIRC it is actually one of the older results in psychology having been demonstrated by Edward Thorndike in an experiment in his lecture hall.

update: Thanks for links here and here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My 10 year old stumps me

She asked why we are in Iraq.

Then she said "at first I thought we wanted their oil" I said it would have cost less to buy it.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Petraeus Lies
update: is a perjurer.

This slide from General Petraeus's presentation to congress contains falsehoods.

The clearest is the graph of "ethno sectarian deaths" which shows roughly 600 outside of Baghdad in August 2007. This is very odd since on August 14th truck bombs killed an estimated 572 people (don't trust the Wikipedia here's CNN). Petreaus appears to be claiming that there were only about 30 ethno sectarian killings in August on days other than the 14th. Most of those killed on August 14th were Yazidis members of a small sect with beliefs based partly on Islam and partly on Mazdeanism (the ancient religion of Cyrys, Darius, Xerxes et al).

They are considered devil worshippers by some Moslems and Christians. Clearly this was a massive sectarian killing. We know already that the MNF-I figures exclude deaths in bombings (and perhaps people shot in the front of the head). However, the title of the figure is a clear statement. This statement is clearly false, that is a lie, that is perjury. Fiddling with definitions and using undefined terms is one thing. In this setting, a clear false statement is a felony.

Also the figures of Baghdad present no change since December in areas which are predominately Shi'ite and predominantly Sunni. This is a false assertion.

Finally the figure (not the graph) has the legend "to include car bombs". Clearly this means "not including car bombs at the moment" and is a bit of truth for once.

update: Petreaus made one thing clear yesterday (9/10/07). He is a felon. He made a clear claim about what was counted as a sectarian killing which clearly does not correspond to the graph he displayed. TPMuckraker reports "Gen. Petraeus offered his definition of sectarian violence for his tabulations: "acts taken by individual by one ethno-sectarian grouping against another." He added that "it's not that complicated": if "al-Qaeda bombs a Shiite area," it's sectarian violence."

So blowing up Yazidis if you aren't a Yazidi is ethno-sectarian violence. This explanation makes the claim that there were roughly 600 ethnosectarian killings in Iraq outside of Baghdad clearly false, that is perjury, that is a felony.

Sad so say, it seems no one noticed. The worst act of terrorism since 9/11 seems to have been forgotten.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Follow the Sheep no wait the purple dinosaur

It seems that Robert Kuttner thinks that we owe post WWII prosperity to the bold leadership of Ferdinand Pecora. Odd name for a bold leader as Pecora means sheep in Italian (odd that an Italian was influential in the USA in the 30s too no?). Also Ferdinand was the bull who didn't want to fight.

Now the sheep role is to be filled by Barney Frank (not named after the smiling purple T- Rex with a tougher sounding voice).

Frank is tough enough, but more people will have to lose their houses before any regulation gets anywhere (and how about reversing the morally bankrupt bankruptcy reform ?).

Friday, September 07, 2007

Josh Marshall asks I Obey

His bleg is my command.

Here's where we need your help. There's a real needle in a haystack quality to finding these AP statistics. You can see the ones we have above. If you'd like to help, we're trying to track down the numbers for 2006. If you can find them, send us an email with the subject "Iraq Numbers". In the email include the month, the number, the citation of the article where you found the number and the sentence -- word for word -- in which the number appears. If you have a link to an article online, all the better. If it looks like we've got one of the numbers for 07 wrong, by all means let us know that too.

Yes sir with google even

I get

The AP wire (AP)
Updated: 2006-12-31 09:02

December also appeared to be one of the worst months for Iraqi civilian deaths since the AP began keeping track in May 2005.

Through Friday, at least 2,186 Iraqis have been killed in war-related or sectarian violence in December, an average rate of about 75 people a day, according to an AP count. That compares to at least 2,184 killed in November at an average of about 70 a day, the worst month for Iraqi civilians deaths since May 2005. In October, AP counted at least 1,216 civilians killed.

Odd URL but it seems straight from AP.

confirmation URL

to add to the series from Talking Points Memo

The one set of numbers we've found that appears to go back some way (a couple years) and have a consistent methodology are those compiled by the Associated Press from police reports about deaths in Iraq. To further the confusion, though, the AP seems unwilling to assemble these numbers together in one place, so you need to go back and piece together the separate monthly numbers from individual stories.

So far, with some sleuthing yesterday by myself and Spencer Ackerman, we've got these numbers.

Jan 07: 1,604
Feb 07: 1,552
March 07: 1,572*
April 07:
May 07: 2155
June 07: 1640
July 07: 1760
August 07: 1809

update also

October death tolls climb in Iraq
High casualty numbers come as NSA advisor makes unexpected visit

By Steven R. Hurst (The Associated Press)

According to an Associated Press count, October has also recorded more Iraqi civilian deaths - 1,170 as of Monday - than any other month since the AP began keeping track in May 2005. The next-highest month was March 2006, when 1,038 Iraqi civilians were killed in the aftermath of the Feb. 22 bombing of an important Shiite shrine in Samarra.


Date: July 3, 2006
Author: Bassem Mroue (Associated Press Writer)
Source: EarthLinkNews

Of the 1,006 Iraqis reported killed in political or sectarian violence last month, 885 were civilians,


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The death toll among Iraqi civilians in insurgency-related violence last year was more than twice as high as the country's soldiers and police combined, according to government figures obtained Thursday by the Associated Press.

The Iraqi civilian death toll for 2005 was 4,024, according to figures compiled by the Health Ministry. The toll for the first two months of this year already is 1,093.

so now:
All 2005 4,024
Jan 06: <1,093
Feb 06:
Mar 06: 1,038
Apr 06: <1,093
May 06: <1,093
Jun 06: 885
Jul 06: <1,093
Aug 06: <1,093
Sep 06: <1,093
Oct 06: 1,216
Nov 06: 2,184
Dec 06: > 2,186 (2,186 reported on Dec 31)
Jan 07: 1,604
Feb 07: 1,552
March 07: 1,572*
April 07:
May 07: 2155
June 07: 1640
July 07: 1760
August 07: 1809