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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Kinsley Retort

Michael Kinsley responds (sortof) to Brad DeLong's criticism.


Seems to me that you wildly misinterpret both of the columns that you say demonstrate my intellectual inconsistency. The column a few months ago about the Downing Street Memo didn’t reject the possibility that Bush & Co had “fixed the intelligence” in order to justify a war they were already committed to. It said that this particular document (the DSM) was not the smoking gun that proved the case. Tthe column yesterday did not assert that Bush & Co had fixed, etc etc etc. It said that the Bush administration now concedes that much of the intelligence used was wrong, and that this undermines the justification for the war whether or not the administration “fixed” it.

Where is the contradiction?

Ps Could you post this on your site? (And by all means reply if you wish.) Thanks.

Like Max, I am impressed by the power of Brad. Kinsley is much more important than the Weisman guy who ccd Brad an e-mail and is also slightly more polite. Brad slyly and effectively refutes Kinsley's claim that Brad misinterpreted Kinsley's original column by quoting the first two paragraphs of the column including "proof positive that President Bush was determined to invade Iraq the year before he did so. The whole "weapons of mass destruction" concern was phony from the start, and the drama about inspections was just kabuki: going through the motions. [snip] Developing a paranoid theory and promoting it to the very edge of national respectability takes a certain amount of ideological self-confidence..." My theory is that Brad is important enough for Kinsley to respond to his criticisms but not quite important enough for Kinsley to actually read those criticisms so that his response makes any sense at all.

I think my defence of Kinsley was much better than Kinsley's (except I wrote impossible when I meant possible)

Now I have a defence of Kinsley. My quote spliced two paragraphs. What if I had cut at the paragraph break ? Would this lead to a passage which made no sense ? Let's see

"Although it is flattering to be thought personally responsible for allowing a proven war criminal to remain in office, in the end I don't buy the fuss. Nevertheless, I am enjoying it, as an encouraging sign of the revival of the left. Developing a paranoid theory and promoting it to the very edge of national respectability takes a certain amount of ideological self-confidence."

Without the preceding paragraph it appears that the paranoid theory is that Kinsley is personally responsible for leaving a proven war criminal in office. This would indeed be paranoid. Now I would say a rule of interpretation is that if a plausible referent can be found within a paragraph one shouldn't look for a referent in the paragraph above. I'd say that is a good bit of what paragraphs (and sentences) are for.

Now reading the column it seems impossible [oops I mean possible] that Kinsley was discussing the theory that he, Michael Kinsley, was the key link in the chain mail protecting Bush. I'd say if Kinsley can come up with a few e-mails saying such a nutty thing, then he is off the hook.

Just an unfortunate misunderstanding that arose because he appeared to claim that the theory that the inspections were kabuki was paranoid. He was not willing to quote crazy e-mails in dead trees and this lead to unclarity.

I'd bet on Kinsley if you gave me 10 to 1 odds.

A commenter who calls herself Ellen 1910 markedly improves my argument

Doesn't it all depend on what Kinsley claims is the subject of the "paranoid theory"?

If I recall correctly, the column was written as a defense to the left blogoshere's charge that the MSM had failed to give the DSM the coverage and publicity it deserved. That was the "paranoia" he was refering to.

Kinsley's argument was that the memo did not rise to the evidentiary level required to prove the MSM's culpability. He made no judgment about whether the memo was true or about whether the Bush Administration had, in fact, "fixed the intelligence around" the decision to go to war.

The two columns are apples and oranges.

Posted by: Ellen1910 | November 29, 2005 at 10:17 AM

In fact, I'd bet on Ellen's interpretation of "paranoid theory" if someone were to offer me 2 to 1 odds.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Raw Story (via Think Progress)

Huge if true

The attorneys say that Rove’s former personal assistant, Susan B. Ralston -- who was also a special assistant to President Bush -- testified in August about why Cooper’s call to Rove was not logged. Ralston said it occurred because Cooper had phoned in through the White House switchboard and was then transferred to Rove’s office as opposed to calling Rove’s office directly. As Rove’s assistant, Ralston screened Rove’s calls.

But those close to the probe tell RAW STORY that Fitzgerald obtained documentary evidence showing that other unrelated calls transferred to Rove’s office by the switchboard were logged. He then called Ralston back to testify.

Earlier this month, attorneys say Fitzgerald received additional testimony from Ralston -- who said that Rove instructed her not to log a phone call Rove had with Cooper about Plame in July 2003.

Two things are clear, the sources said: either Rove will agree to enter into a plea deal with Fitzgerald or he will be charged with a crime, but he will not be exonerated for the role he played in the leak.

Ralston was Abramoff's gatekeeper before she became Rove's gate keeper. Fitzgerald seems to have caught her in a lie. Rove is not the only person in trouble, because of this.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Alito puzolente

Judge Alito was a member of Concerned Alumni of Princeton (and boasted of this in 1985)

In an unsuccessful effort to forestall this frightening development, the executive committee of CAP published a statement in December 1973 that affirmed unequivocally, "Concerned Alumni of Princeton opposes adoption of a sex-blind admission policy.""

Via Brad DeLong

in his confirmation hearings someone should ask Alito if he still favors gender discrimination and remind him that he is under oath if he tries to claim he never did so.
Wow I got a link from Malaysia. Thanks whoever you are (I can't figure out which words on the blog are the name of the blogger)
Long Suspected Now Proven

After the invasion the Ba'athists have allied with Zarqawi who has allied with Bin Laden

Police in the northern city of Kirkuk said they had arrested 10 men who had prepared car bombs and had written instructions from a former top deputy to Hussein to kill the judge who led the preparation of charges against the former dictator.

the arrested men were identified as agents in the former government -- and al Qaeda in Iraq, the insurgent group led by Abu Musab Zarqawi, according to police Col. Anwar Qader Mohammed in Kirkuk.

One of the arrested men was the son of a Zarqawi deputy. Among literature and instructions from Zarqawi's group, Mohammed said, police found a letter and statements apparently prepared by Izzat Ibrahim Douri, Hussein's former vice president. Douri is said to be leading resistance by Hussein loyalists to Iraq's new government.

Gr8 WAPO Rticle !

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Property Rights ?

One might imagine that property rights are human rights, natural rights, pre social rights like the right to freedom of speech. In this view, very well expressed by Locke, laws which violate property rights are unjust laws, bucause property rights are not established by laws but are rather recognised or discovered by just laws.

Another view, which I first read in "Just and Unjust Wars" by Michael Walzer is that property rights are only rights under the law and that different systems of property rights are to be judged by their consequences, that is as instruments. Shame on me for not having thought of it, but it seems obvious once it's mentioned that there are two kinds of rights natural rights and rights under the law, and that I personally agree with him that there are no natural property rights except as required to protect natural rights (it violates the moral law to seize printing presses because one doesn't like what was printed on them or to declare someone's car to belong to someone else ex poste facto and arrest him etc etc).

A third view is that property is theft and that alleged property rights do not and can not exist whatever is written in the law. The third view is not very popular these days and I won't discuss it further.

I think that, to this day, the best argument for natural property rights is due to Locke. Locke's argument is clearly invalid. He starts from assuming that we own ourselves and the fruits of our labor. He bases this on a very forced reading of a line in the old testament. There is no argument there of interest to people who don't accept the bible as authoritative. For this reason this claim is not contested. I think it is obvious that people do not have a natural right to the fruits of their labor, because this implies that it is just and fair to allow the unfortunate disabled to starve. To me rights must be equal and so one can not have the right to more because one was fortunate to be born able. Only if ability is the result of choices would I even consider the fruits of one's ability to be posessed by natural right. This would, of course, just shove the problemm back one step, since, for example, one's choice to learn a skill depends in part on ones ability to learn it and that depends in part on luck.

I think the claim that we have a natural right to the fruits of our labor is simply false. For the sake of argument I will concede it.

The problem for Locke is that, according to the existing laws, which he aimed to prove to be human rights, people owned things that they clearly did not produce, in particular land. Since Locke was aiming to advance the claims of the house of commons over the claims of the king, he had to focus on land ownership, since, when he wrote, the house of commons represented land owners. If there were a natural right to some property but not land, the house of commons would have no claim to rank above the tailors guild let alone the king.

Thus Locke claims that most of the value of land is the value of improvements in the land so that the value of unimproved land is neglegible. Here we see that Locke wrote before the dawn of economic theory. To anyone who keeps track, the claim is absurd. More importantly the relative value of unimproved land and improvements on land can not be the basis of a claim about human rights or natural law, since relative prices are clearly contingent on supply and demand. This was true in Locke's time. He simply chose to ignore this fact, that is, to lie.

Worse for Locke, he can explain how there might be a right to homestead so long as there is plenty of unimproved land available "as much and as good" but he refuses to notice that this can not in any way justify current land ownership. This is obvious. There was not "enough and as good" in England in 1683, therefore the last act of homesteading was imoral. But this means that no one could homestead after the second to last act of homesteading so there wasn't enough and as good after that and so by backwards induction all claims of property in land are, according to Lock, imoral.

Here I think he might have a real intellectual problem. I think he did not consider other legal institutions that freehold. For example, one could imagine a contract between a person and society in which society gives that person exclusive use of some land so long as there is enough and as good and, in exchange, the person allows society to redistribute the land with improvements when there is no longer enough and as good. This could lead to a distribution of rights to use land based on the scriptural principle that people have the right to the fruits of their labor so long as they don't sell them forward.

The principle of enough and as good does not imply that one has the right to land forever if there was enough and as good when you settled on it, thus it can not serve Locke's purpose.

Of course Locke new perfectly well that current land ownership had nothing to do with improving land and everything to do with being a decendent of an officer in the army of William the conqueror so the whole thought experiment is a utopian fantasy.

Now I might be wrong, it is possible that someone has come up with a better argument for the claim that there are natural property rights which are recognisably similar to current property rights under the law, but I doubt it, since Locke is still quoted.

I think the emotional power of the idea of property rights is (see post below) based on a failure to accept a difference between rights under the law and natural rights, so existing laws or laws from a century and a half ago are seen as descriptions of natural rights which can not morally be eliminated.

Also, I think, people switch back and forth between arguments based on respect for rights and consequentialist arguments without noticing. That is, a reasonable defence of existing property rights is that with such rights we have a prosperous society and countries which tried something very different ended up very poor. If one asks people to imagine a world in which collective ownership say leads to prosperity and decide if it would be just or unjust, they become irritated. Most people find the question of whether a law is a good instrument towards an aim or an expression of natural rights totally boring.

This it certainly is, but sometimes a refusal to consider the question leads to nonsense (see the post below).
Atrios and Yglesias agree that something is obvious

Record companies and their movie studio allies have managed to convince a shockingly large swathe of opinion that the purpose of intellectual property law is to prevent copyright infringement. In fact, the purpose is to advance the general welfare of society.
I would guess the average guy in the street would conclude that economists and philosophers are equally weird (as noted by Yglesias). Atrios notes that the constitution explicitly endorses yglesias's view.

Being brilliant as usual Yglesias has noted that people have trouble imagining laws different from current laws and that they tend to perceivel long established laws as moral principles and not as instruments to some other aim.

The law as it is establishes intellectual property rights. People confuse rights under the law with human rights and think that taking Mickey Mouse royalties from Disney is like torture. I can only mention that the confusion is even worse in countries were the word for "law" and the word for "right" are identical.

Another view is that there are some natural or human rights which have always been rights and were recognised not created when they were codified being nato non fatto (born not made) and that there subject to these rights laws are written to achieve some desireable consequence. Thus it is always necessary to decide it is morally acceptable to eliminate a right established by an existing law if that elimination serves some useful purpose.

Yglesias is quite firm in his view that there is no natural or human right to intellectual property. I would strongly suspect that he feels that there are no natural property rights and that absolute restrictions on taking of property only exist if they are necessary to protect some natural right. That is, I would say he finds taxes in general permissable but doesn't hold for seizing the printing presses of a newspaper whose editorial line displeases the authorities.

The really interesting thing is not that people disagree about which rights are rights under the law and which rights are rights above the law, but that they don't even consider the distinction.
Now one can say that the distinction is useless because there are no rights above the law, that is no human rights, for example if one is Thomas Hobbes or for another if one is a utilitiarian who can think straight. It is quite another matter to not grasp that there could be such a distinction.

I don't want to be rude, but I see a connection between thinking "file sharing might be good for society but it is wrong" and thinking "Torture is wrong but it might be good for society." The absurd extension of the idea of natural rights weakens it. We won't decide everything on the basis of respect for rights and damn the consequences, so if we don't declare some legal rights to be mere instruments of policy, we will not consider other rights to be absolutes which we must respect.
Certoriore dovrebb'essere certo

The Bush administration shifted Jose' Padilla from the brig where he was held as an enemy combatant under the "commander in chief" clause of the constitution which clearly states that the rest of the document is all a big joke and the President has absolute power to do whatever he wants so long as he says "wartime". Clearly they have done this to avoid review of this novel theory by the supreme court. They will argue that the case that Padilla has, you know, rights and stuff, is now moot.

They will be lying.

Mr. Freiman said he, too, had been told that the government reserved the right to detain Mr. Padilla again should he be acquitted.

I suppose the Bush administration will deny this, but I don't think such a judicial decision can be made on the basis of a disputed fact. The fact that the administration reserves the right to lock people up without trial even after they have entered the justice system is not in dispute

Indeed, the plea agreement Mr. Lindh signed contains an unusual provision. "For the rest of the defendant's natural life," it says, "should the government determine that the defendant has engaged in" one of more than a score of crimes of terrorism, "the United States may immediately invoke any right it has at that time to capture and detain the defendant as an unlawful enemy combatant."

The Supreme court may, in an act of depraved submission, refuse to hear the administrations absurd claims and note that they are absurd. However, I hope that this assault on the constitution will fail, because the assailants are too stupid to hide their determination to destroy it.

Also note there is still someone captured in the USA and held as an enemy combatant and note that the 5th amendment doesn't refer at all to the concept of citizenship.

Also note that, not only may we be in Iraq because we tortured Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, but we may be witnessing a direct assault on the constitution for the same reason

In the indictment unsealed Tuesday, Mr. Padilla was not charged with some of the most serious accusations against him, including plotting to explode a radioactive device, because the evidence needed to prove the case had been obtained through harsh questioning of two senior members of Al Qaeda, current and former government officials have said. The statements might not have been admissible in court and could have exposed classified information, the officials said.
Wow that use of "might" might be the most absurd in the history of the English language, as in two plus two might equal four. Let's try to count the reasons why such statements would not be admissible. First torture is wrong and must not be condoned or accepted. Second statements made under torture prove nothing accept a strong desire that the torture end. Admission of such evidence would ally the court with torturers and would interfere with the quest for the truth. Therefore, the court might not admit such evidence.

The courts have made clear, to people who can't read the constitution, that you can't lock someone up, because of something someone else said whle being tortured. As a result, the Bush administration concludes that they can do whatever they damn well please and can lock up anyone they choose.

Personally I'd call it kidnapping which is a high crime and an impeachable offense.

Friday, November 25, 2005

More information retrieval

The ex editor of Panorama Carlo Rossella is speaking in public about new information technology and journalism.

I hope to have a chance to ask him why he didn't google "Allele Habibou" before handing the forged Nigerien Uranium dossier over to the US embassy. One proof that the dossier was forged that someone signed a page of it Allele Elhadj Habibou , foreign minister and it was dated October 10, 2000.
Habibou was foreign minister of Niger from 1988 to 1989.
(sad to say this page has a build date of December 17 2003 and so it might not have been available when Mr Rossella was applying new technology to journalism).

If he had googled habibou might have found, as I did some time ago, that Habibou is not to be found in which publishes the names of all cabinet ministers in the world regularly (the Nigerien Foreign minister as of July 12 2005 is, of course, Aichatou Daoudou) . Sad to say, the CIA does not keep back issues of Chiefs of State and Cabinet Members of Foreign Governments on its web page.

Just googling Allele Habibou has become much more difficult now, since the web is full of references to the obviously forged dossier which displayed the signature dated October 10.
Searching for habibou niger -October seems to work generating this link as number 10.

Build date November 24 2005, so it has been revised since Panorama got the dossier.
Contemporary Africa Database writes " On July 24th 2001, we uploaded the first version of People." so it should have been there. I can see why they might suddenly add Habibou more recently, but I don't see why they would have added his predicessor and immediate successor.

Poking around the rubbish heap of history for Mr Habibou (who's career is much more successful that mine Mr Habibou sir just kidding about rubbish) I also found that the same forged document referred to "

"Allele Elhadj Habibou" of the Conseil Militaire Supreme.

What Google has to tell us is that the Conseil was abolished eleven years before the date on the document, and that Habibou was Foreign Minister in the eighties."
That is, it identified Niger as a military dictatorship when it is, at the moment, a more or less functioning Democracy (functioning better than the USA anyway).

Also the London News Review gets a probabionary bookmark.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Estimates of the percentage of priests who are gay have varied from as low as 10 percent to as high as 60 percent.

Wow. I had only heard of the lower estimate. Of course, since priests are supposed to be celibate, this is supposed to describe orientation not action. Still who came up with this 60% estimate ?
Blair Government Sacrifices Freedom of the Press to Hide the fact that they have allied themselves with an Insane Idiot.

Britain's attorney general yesterday told the Daily Mirror and other newspapers not to publish further details from a top-secret memo that detailed a meeting between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair in which Bush expressed a desire to bomb an Arab TV station.

The attorney general would be the Lord Goldsmith who concluded that an invasion of Iraq would be illegal before he concluded that it would be legal. His lordship might contemplate his place in history.

The Daily Mirror however, shows Judith Miller's Times and Bob Woodward's Post what a serious newspaper looks like

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

One long national nightmare is over

Daniela Deane reports in the Washington Post that

Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen held by the Bush administration for three years without charges as an enemy combatant plotting a "dirty bomb" attack in the United States, has been indicted on charges unrelated to any potential terrorist attack in this country.

Thus there are, at the moment, no US citizens arrested on US soil held indefinitely in prison without trial as a result of a decision made by the US president. The executive branch continues to hold non citizens without either trials of the Geneva convention protection for prisoners of war and the Senate has decided to restrict their right of habeus Corpus, but one bright line has been crossed heading towards the rule of law.

The optimistic can hope that in the not so distant future the USA will become again a free nation under the law.

Newly awakened from the nightmare of absolute presidential power, I fear that, if Padilla is acquited, he will be locked up again as an "enemy combatant" and the bill of rights will fall back into a coma troubled by the nightmares of arrogance and hypocricy.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Howdo I surf with no direction home ?

Alarmed by the Judith Miller fiasco (and greedy for technorati track backs) I recently switched my Netscape home from to Then I learned about mr Run Amok. Now where can I go for excellent news and information. I feel like Rolling Stone.

Keep it up and I will drop our journals of record for the journal of records

(dumb pun due to Michael Kinsley some time ago).

I learn

There was only one problem: It was all a lie. After a review of the sharp peaks and deep valleys on the polygraph chart, the intelligence officer concluded that al-Haideri had made up the entire story, apparently in the hopes of securing a visa.


as President Bush was about to argue his case for war before the U.N., the White House had given prominent billing to al-Haideri's fabricated charges. In a report ironically titled "Iraq: Denial and Deception," the administration referred to al-Haideri by name and detailed his allegations -- even though the CIA had already determined them to be lies. The report was placed on the White House Web site on September 12th, 2002, and remains there today. One version of the report even credits Miller's article for the information.

Miller also continued to promote al-Haideri's tale of Saddam's villainy. In January 2003, more than a year after her first article appeared, Miller again reported that Pentagon "intelligence officials" were telling her that "some of the most valuable information has come from Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri." His interviews with the Defense Intelligence Agency, Miller added, "ultimately resulted in dozens of highly credible reports on Iraqi weapons-related activity and purchases, officials said."

Finally, in early 2004, more than two years after he made the dramatic allegations to Miller and Moran about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, al-Haideri was taken back to Iraq by the CIA's Iraq Survey Group. On a wide-ranging trip through Baghdad and other key locations, al-Haideri was given the opportunity to point out exactly where Saddam's stockpiles were hidden, confirming the charges that had helped to start a war.

In the end, he could not identify a single site where illegal weapons were buried.

neglecting to mention a failed lie detector test would seem to render moot the distinction between deception and cherry picking no ?

Still more sureal, John Rendon, the founder of the Iraqi National Congress campaigned for McGovern before he campaigned for Chalabi (and they called Kerry a flip flopper). It doesn't look like the whole Rendon family has flipped since
Rendon's brother Rick serves as senior partner and runs the company's Boston office, producing public-service announcements for the Whale Conservation Institute and coordinating Empower Peace, a campaign that brings young people in the Middle East in contact with American kids through video-conferencing technology.
The flip flopper and they guy who loves flipper are brothers under the skin

More seriously the article shows, not only, that the Bush administration supressed key information when selling its war, but also that contracted out propaganda is official US policy and that, when it is denounced, only the acronym of the publicly funded propaganda agency is changed.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Swinging at a curveball

The Los Angeles Times has a huge article on Curveball. Any reader who is unfamiliar with mr Curveball should not bother reading on. The article is absolutely awesome and proves that intelligence was massively distorted. It is also, as mentioned massive. Kevin Drum, has, as usual selected the most informative bits. Achieving brevity, he had to leave out lots of really striking stuff. I will aim for a middle road and present a broader selection of the proof of gross misconduct. Also I will mention which bits are new. Obviously we now know curveball is a total liar, so I won't bother with the overwhelming proof of that.

How U.S. Fell Under the Spell of 'Curveball'
# The Iraqi informant's German handlers say they had told U.S. officials that his information was 'not proven,' and were shocked when President Bush and Colin L. Powell used it in key prewar speeches.

By Bob Drogin and John Goetz, Special to The Times

The German intelligence officials responsible for one of the most important informants on Saddam Hussein's suspected weapons of mass destruction say that the Bush administration and the CIA repeatedly exaggerated his claims during the run-up to the war in Iraq.

Five senior officials from Germany's Federal Intelligence Service, or BND, said in interviews with The Times that they warned U.S. intelligence authorities that the source, an Iraqi defector code-named Curveball, never claimed to produce germ weapons and never saw anyone else do so.


Curveball's German handlers for the last six years said his information was often vague, mostly secondhand and impossible to confirm.

"This was not substantial evidence," said a senior German intelligence official. "We made clear we could not verify the things he said."


Curveball was the chief source of inaccurate prewar U.S. accusations that Baghdad had biological weapons, a commission appointed by Bush reported this year. The commission did not interview ... the German officials who handled his case


The White House, for example, ignored evidence gathered by United Nations weapons inspectors shortly before the war that disproved Curveball's account. Bush and his aides issued increasingly dire warnings about Iraq's biological weapons before the war even though intelligence from Curveball had not changed in two years.

At the Central Intelligence Agency, officials embraced Curveball's account even though they could not confirm it or interview him until a year after the invasion. They ignored multiple warnings about his reliability before the war, punished in-house critics who provided proof that he had lied and refused to admit error until May 2004, 14 months after the invasion.


The senior BND officer who supervised Curveball's case said he was aghast when he watched Powell misstate Curveball's claims as a justification for war.

"We were shocked," the official said. "Mein Gott! We had always told them it was not proven…. It was not hard intelligence."


CIA officials now concede that the Iraqi fused fact, research he gleaned on the Internet and what his former co-workers called "water cooler gossip" into a nightmarish fantasy that played on U.S. fears after the Sept. 11 attacks.


Since the Iraqi had arrived in Munich, U.S. liaison with German intelligence was assigned to the local DIA team.


In DIA files, Iraqi sources were listed as "red" if U.S. intelligence could interview them. Curveball was a "blue" source, meaning the Germans would not permit U.S. access to him.

Curveball said he hated Americans, the Germans explained.

This is important because the DIA flagged curveball as a fabricator, while the CIA did not. The fact that the chain of communication was BND DIA CIA makes this a refusal to accept the conclusion of the people closest to the case.

In an e-mail to The Times, Robin Butler, head of the British inquiry into prewar intelligence, said "incomplete reporting" by the BND misled the British to assume the trucks could produce weapons-grade bio-agents such as anthrax spores. But Curveball only spoke of producing a liquid slurry unsuitable for bombs or warheads.

I note that the difficult step in weaponizing anthrax is grinding the clumps of spores into a very fine powder without killing them. Fermentors are easy and can be made as large or small as one likes. It is only because the step allegedly done on trucks is trivial that it was not obvious that it wasn't happening.

Curveball said he had helped assemble one truck-mounted germ factory in 1997 at Djerf al Nadaf, a tumble-down cluster of warehouses in a gritty industrial area 10 miles southeast of Baghdad. He helped the Germans build a scale model of the facility, showing how vehicles were hidden in a two-story building — and how they entered and exited on either end.


Curveball's reports were highly valued in Washington because the CIA had no Iraqi spies with access to weapons programs at the time.

One detail particularly impressed the CIA: Curveball's report of a 1998 germ weapons accident at Djerf al Nadaf. Powell cited the incident in his prewar U.N. speech. An "eyewitness" was "at the site" when an accident occurred, and 12 technicians "died from exposure to biological agents," Powell said.

Lawrence B. Wilkerson, then Powell's chief of staff, said senior CIA officials told Powell the "principal source had not only worked in mobile labs but had seen an accident and had been injured in the accident…. This gave more credibility to it."

But German intelligence officials said the CIA was wrong. Curveball only "heard rumors of an accident," the BND supervisor said. "He gave a third-hand account."


The BND, insisting Curveball spoke no English and would not meet Americans, introduced the doctor as a German. The CIA physician remained silent, because he was not fluent in German. He was surprised, he later told others, that Curveball spoke "excellent English" to others in the room.

Moreover, Curveball was "very emotional, very excitable," the doctor told one colleague. And although it was early morning, Curveball smelled of liquor and looked "very sick" from a stiff hangover.

German intelligence officials said Curveball didn't have a drinking problem.

this is interesting because it is evidence of BND deception. I'm sure they will argue with this CIA doctor, but the question whether someone is an English speaking drunk or not does not seem technical or open to various interpretations.

MI6 cabled the CIA that British intelligence "is not convinced that Curveball is a wholly reliable source" and that "elements of [his] behavior strike us as typical of … fabricators,'' the presidential commission reported.

British intelligence also warned that spy satellite images taken in 1997 when Curveball claimed to be working at Djerf al Nadaf conflicted with his descriptions. The photos showed a wall around most of the main warehouse, clearly blocking trucks from getting in or out.

From context this seems to be in early 2001, but the article is not clear. In any case there was proof curveball was a liar long before the Bush administration began presenting his claims as known facts.

More problematic were the three sources the CIA said had corroborated Curveball's story. Two had ties to Chalabi. All three turned out to be frauds.

The most important, a former major in the Iraqi intelligence service, was deemed a liar by the CIA and DIA. In May 2002, a fabricator warning was posted in U.S. intelligence databases.

Powell said he was never warned, during three days of intense briefings at CIA headquarters before his U.N. speech, that he was using material that both the DIA and CIA had determined was false.


In December 2000, after a year of Curveball's reports, another national intelligence estimate cautiously noted that "new intelligence" had caused U.S. intelligence "to adjust our assessment upward" and "suggests Baghdad has expanded'' its bio-weapons program.

But the caveats disappeared after the Sept. 11 attacks and the still-unsolved mailing of anthrax-laced letters to several U.S. states.

Iraq "continues to produce at least … three BW agents" and its mobile germ factories provide "capabilities surpassing the pre-Gulf War era," the CIA weapons center warned in October 2001.


Tyler Drumheller, then the head of CIA spying in Europe, called the BND station chief at the German embassy in Washington in September 2002 seeking access to Curveball.

[snip] The German officer warned that Curveball had suffered a mental breakdown and was "crazy," the now-retired CIA veteran recalled.

"He said, first off, 'They won't let you see him,' " Drumheller said. " 'Second, there are a lot of problems. Principally, we think he's probably a fabricator.' "

The above has been reported already. Notice this is before the NIE was sent to congress and before the vote. Did anyone say "hold the presses." Yes

Drumheller, a veteran of 26 years in the CIA clandestine service, said he and several aides repeatedly raised alarms after the lunch in tense exchanges with CIA analysts working on the Curveball case.

"The fact is, there was a lot of yelling and screaming about this guy," said James Pavitt, then chief of clandestine services, who retired from the CIA in August 2004. "My people were saying, 'We think he's a stinker.' "

This is the first time I read this. Until now, I couldn't rule the possibility that Drumheller kept the news to himself.

On Feb. 8, three days after Powell's speech, the U.N.'s Team Bravo conducted the first search of Curveball's former work site. The raid by the American-led biological weapons experts lasted 3 1/2 hours. It was long enough to prove Curveball had lied.


Curveball had said the germ trucks could enter the warehouse from either end. But there were no garage doors and a solid, 6-foot-high wall surrounded most of the building. The wall British intelligence saw in 1997 satellite photos clearly made impossible the traffic patterns Curveball had described.

Thus there was positive proof that curveball was lying before the invasion.

On March 7, 2003, Hans Blix, the chief U.N. inspector, told the Security Council that a series of searches had found "no evidence" of mobile biological production facilities in Iraq. It drew little notice at the time.

The invasion of Iraq began two weeks later.

Soon after U.S. troops entered Baghdad, the discovery of two trucks loaded with lab equipment in northern Iraq brought cheers to the CIA weapons center.


The DIA then ordered a classified review of the evidence. One of 15 analysts held to the initial finding that the trucks were built for germ warfare.


"Jerry had become kind of a nonperson," Scheuer recalled of their meeting.

Jeesus at the CIA they don't even know decent newspeak the word is "unperson" not "nonperson". Double plus ungood Mr Scheuer no wonder you had to resign.

The CIA had advised Bush in the fall of 2003 of "problems with the sourcing" on biological weapons, an official familiar with the briefing said. But the president has never withdrawn the statement in his 2003 State of the Union speech that Iraq produced "germ warfare agents" or his postwar assertions that "we found the weapons of mass destruction."
A Feature not a Bug

Read it here now. You probably didn't read it here 6 days ago.

Atrios seems interesting in a theory which I mentioned and described as crazy
We're in Michael Moore Territory Now

An investigative arm of the Pentagon has sent an Army Corps of Engineers whistle-blower's allegations of wrongdoing against Halliburton Co. to the Justice Department.

I've been trying to keep track of the Bush administration scandals, but, I admit the totally outrageous no bid contract (cleard by the VPs office) and removal of American heroine
Bunnatine H. Greenhouse slipped my mind.

So you thought you were in America ? America is Michael Moore territory now.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Kudos for Kennedy

Ted Kennedy has been strangely absent from the news (at least since he embraced no child left behind back when Bush was a compassionate conservative). Now he seems to have caught an excellent catch 22. Bush and Cheney claim that congress had access to the same intelligence as Bush in October 2002 when they voted to authorise him to do whatever he wished with Iraq.

Kennedy, in effect, argues that if that is so, there is certainly no problem with sharing right now with congress all of the intelligence information Bush received. If this was already done 3 years ago it can't help to redo it. Therefore he requested the parts of all presidential daily briefs which concern Iraq. Now obviously the Bush administration would rather do almost anything than release this information. Excecutive priviledge is a core value for them like tax cuts for the rich, torture lite and wars of choice. Also, even though I am sure the pdb's were scrubbed to remove doubts on Iraqi WMD etc, the enthusiasm with which they lied before the war probably means that they managed to say something inconcistent even with the CIA's efforts to tell them what they wanted to hear.

Now let's see how the Bush administration will argue that it would be dangerous to provide congress with the information given to Bush even though they saw the same information 3 years ago.
Taxes, Growth, Deficits and Balanced or
Balanced Budgets vs Balanced Reporting.

Advocates of tax cuts regularly claim that it is well known and obvious anyway that lower taxes cause higher economic growth. They have generally learned not to claim that this increase in growth will imply a large enough increase in revenues that lower tax rates imply higher tax receipts (remember the Laffer curve) since this claim has been solidly refuted by the evidence. Of course it was inconsistent with available evidence when first made, but the pattern of big tax cuts followed by big deficits followed by big tax increases followed by surpluses followed by huge tax cuts followed by huge deficits is too dramatic to deny.

Thus the advocates of tax cuts don't deny (or openly admit) that they are advocating increased budget deficits. I don't know if this is a strategic choice, but if it is, it is briliant, because it makes it possible for journalists and moderate commentators to write "on the one hand ... on the other hand ..." which seems to be what they like best.

In particular the following balanced assessment of tax policy is so common that I won't bother looking up examples.

Strawjournalist: "Republicans argue that this tax cut for the rich will cause increased economic growth. Democrats reply that it will cause the deficit to increase."

Strawpundit: "It is hard to know whether the further cut in my taxes is good policy. On the one hand it is agreed that it will cause increased growth on the other hand it is agreed that it will cause increased deficits. I care about growth more than deficits so go ahead cut my taxes."

The argument and counter argument seem to lead to the view that one should balance two aims -- high growth and balanced budgets. This position makes no sense at all. In particular, it is obvious that an argument based on the claim that too much emphasis has been placed on growth and too little on budget balance is doomed, because it should be doomed. It is nonsense. A budget deficit is not a bad thing in itself. It can be a bad thing because it has bad effects. Let's pass the mike to straweconomist

straweconomist: This tax cut is a bad idea because it will cause reduced growth. It will indeed reduce small deadweight losses due to the following incomprehensible Harberger triangles blah blah blah and will increase incentives to save. However in a closed economy it would reduce investment because the increase in public dis-saving will vastly outweigh the increase in private savings due to the incentive effects which are so tiny that, although I am required by my guild oath to swear I am sure they exist, I have never seen any convincing evidence that they are not zero. Thus, in a closed economy the tax cut would cause reduced investment and growth. In an open economy we can put off the day of reckoning so long as idiot foreigners buy dollar denominated debt, but they are gonna wise up sooner or later and that will cause extreme economic disruption which will imply that my neoclassical growth model will be about as useful as it was in 1937 and that geek down the hall who studies Argentina will be the only guy who can figure out what is happening with the USA which means huge negative growth and he will smirk at me in the elevator so you better not cut taxes again, because that would be totally unjust because once he came to a thesis defence without having read the document.

OK straweconomist has trouble with the English language but he is saying deficits are bad because they are bad for growth so to evaluate the effect of tax cuts on growth you can't pretend that they are magically balanced by spending cuts but have to consider the effect of the deficit on things that really matter.

At least he is more in touch with the real world than Hay economist

Hayeconomist grins and shakes his remarkably large head and acts puzzled as to why anyone thinks that there could be such a thing as a violation of an intertemporal budget constraint or a tax cut not balanced by a tax increase or decreased spending. Well you know the government does have an intertemporal budget constraint so you know (and everyone knows according to the rational expectations hypothesis) that for given government spending there can be no tax cuts or increases but only tax shifts. So, since the incentive effects of taxes are the effects of the public sector and the main reason that the government should be drowned in a bath tub, the only thing to do is to figure out how to stabilise tax rates since clearly optimal tax rates are a martingale because that's what the finance guys down the hall in a very cold boring city in upstate New York were always going on about. That kinda means that running huge deficits when there is no extraordinary need for spending (like more than the cost of the war) is like maxing out your credit card that is dumb.

Well Straweconomist and Hay economist clearly don't speak the same language and neither seems familiar with English, but they do agree on one thing. Strawpundit doesn't know what the hell he is talking about.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Wow Sounds Great "An experimental project in Canada to inject carbon dioxide into oil fields has proven successful, removing 5 million tons of the heat-trapping "greenhouse" gas, while enhancing oil recovery, the Energy Department said Tuesday."

(via rawstory).

A key point is that they get the C02
from coal gasification so they don't have to either run after cars or build powerstations with smoakstacks which reach oil fields. Thus the progress against global warming happens when the Synfuel is burned instead of burning the coal directly.

The story doesn't say if C02 has value to oil companies as an excellent gast to inject into oil fields or whether air would work just as well. Certainly if C02 is just like air for the drillers and almost certainly even if it is better suited to oil extraction subsidies or a tax on C02 emissions would be needed to make this happen on a huge scale.

It Depends on What Your Definition of Bombshell is.

A commenter who signed as "p lukasiak" posted this comment on this thread at on Nov 16, 2005 -- 03:23:07 PM EST

"Could we please put a lid on the "Woodward is a liar" crap?

Woodward spins, and he spins for continued access to the corriders of power. One can question his motives, and parse his statements in an effort to figure out what is really going on...

But the "I think Woodward is lying through his teeth" attitude is a bid much, and doesn't forward the discussion. "

I will assume that the commenter is P. Lukasiak and take the comment seriously out of respect for P Lukasiak. (also see the comment by Shaggydabbydo who wrote "Apparently, Woodwards source is Hadley:" and links to

Now I don't know whether the claim that Woodward is a liar forwards the discussion, but I think it is demonstrably true. The reason, of course, is the transcript from

Larry King on CNN on October 27, [snip]

"ISIKOFF: [snip]

"I talked to a source at the White House late this afternoon who told me that Bob is going to have a bombshell in tomorrow's paper identifying the Mr. X source who is behind the whole thing. So, I don't know, maybe this is Bob's opportunity.

"KING: Come clean.

"WOODWARD: I wish I did have a bombshell. I don't even have a firecracker. I'm sorry. In fact, I mean this tells you something about the atmosphere here. I got a call from somebody in the CIA saying he got a call from the best 'New York Times' reporter on this saying exactly that I supposedly had a bombshell. . . .

"Finally, this went around that I was going to do it tonight or in the paper. Finally, Len Downie, who is the editor of the 'Washington Post' called me and said, 'I hear you have a bombshell. Would you let me in on it.'

"KING: So now the rumors are about you.

"WOODWARD: And I said I'm sorry to disappoint you but I don't.

Woodward said this soon after Woodward told Downie that he had been told that Plame worked for the CIA before Libby told Miller. Downie told Wolf Blitzer that he knew before Libby was indicted (October 28). [see update]

I have trouble seeing how you can characterise Woodward's statements as anything but lies.

I will try. The only way I can think of is to debate the exact meaning of "bombshell". In this context, to me means explosive information. Woodward didn't just say he hadn't written a bombshell article or that he wasn't working on the case. He claimed that he didn't have one and that he told Downie so.

Now it is possible that among journalists "bombshell" means explosive information which you can use, that it is always an abbreviation of "bombshell article". If so, Woodward's claims become true, since he was (and is) unwilling to reveal more of the information than he has to.

I'm not convinced, but I recognise that the claim depends on the interpretation of slang which can be tricky.

Also notice that Woodward's statement is crazy. At that point, the truth was already coming out. I still think he lied and I think he liead at a time when it was clear that he was going to be caught soon and, in response to a qestion which he could have dodged easily by using the word "article" in place of the word "bombshell," that is by just saying that the rumored article was not being printed nor being written nor being researched.


update: Woodward's claim on 10/27/05 that he told Downie he had nothing is inconsistent with Downie's recent acceptance of Wolf Blitzer's claim that that Woodward had told Downie"a few days" before 10/28/05.

BLITZER: There were some days, though, that you could have. You're saying that this happened before October 28th, the day the grand jury expired. That was the day that Scooter Libby was indicted. He came to you a few days earlier. It wasn't until November 3rd that this source came to the prosecutor, to Patrick Fitzgerald and said, "I did have a conversation with Bob Woodward." So there was a period of a week, at least, I'm guessing, that this information could have been disclosed.

DOWNIE: During which time we were still under the confidentiality pledge, as we are as I sit here talking to you right now. [snipped blah blah blah which doesn't challenge Blitzer's assertion].

I think it is clear that Woodward's characterisation of what he had recently told Downie as being roughly sorry I don't have a bombshell was simply a lie, and note, he brought up his conversation with Downie without being asked. I think Woodward is not only a liar but also a shameless liar who lies when silence would serve his purpose just as well.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

1000 horsepower pony power

Confirming the editors fears of a pony glut making ponies to cheap to meter
and making him (the editors like to play with grammer) fear a plague of ponies,
The Washington Post had to decide today which huge new revelation about the Bush scandal (sorry administration) to give greater play.

The one about how "the chief executives of Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips" lied to the senate last week (not that anyone minds given the great jobs they have been doing lateley supplying gasoline at reasonable not to say ridiculously cheap prices).

The "decision by Commerce Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) not to swear in the executives." Doesn't mean they are out of trouble, because "a person can be fined or imprisoned for up to five years for making "any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation" to Congress." The decision does, of course mean that Torture Ted who should be strung up from the bridge to nowhere is an unindictable co conspirator.

I suppose the Post is glad they had that one to bump down the embarrassing revelation that their once hero investigative reporter has been stone-walling Fitzgerald. The new news that the Post won't explain clearly, is that Woodward was told by an official whose name he revealed to the grand jury but won't reveal to the public that "Wilson's wife" worked for the CIA a month before Novak publicly blew her cover.

This new twist doesn't undermine the indictment of Libby, but does guarantee that the investigation will have to continue for months as Fitzgerald tries to decide if Woodward is credible and if the official knew he was blowing a covert agents cover etc etc etc. Given how close Woodward got to the Bush administration by writing "Bush at War" I can see no way to guess who this official might be.

Woodwards credibility is markedly undermined by the fact that, like Judith Miller, he seems only willing to testify about what his notes might mean and claims not to remember what he said and heard. Also "the only Post reporter whom Woodward said he remembers telling in the summer of 2003 does not recall the conversation taking place."

Now I personally think that Woodward has done an excellent job recently, the puffery in "Bush at War" being necessary to get the goods on Bush as published in "Plan of Attack." It is his fault neither that tone counts for more than facts in the national debate, nor that people haven't read "Plan of Attack" so the fact that the path to war was blazed with lies remains news.

However, it is impossible not to note the similarities of Woodward and Miller at the moment.

update: Atrios (of course) has the goods on Woodward on Video on Larry King live on 10/27.

ISIKOFF: [snip]

I talked to a source at the White House late this afternoon who told me that Bob is going to have a bombshell in tomorrow's paper identifying the Mr. X source who is behind the whole thing. So, I don't know, maybe this is Bob's opportunity.

KING: Come clean.

WOODWARD: I wish I did have a bombshell. I don't even have a firecracker. [snip]

Now it is known that Woodward did have a bombshell but was unwilling to drop it. Thus Woodward lied to the public. This is clearly absolutely unacceptable. He could have just said that he wasn't reporting anything in the 10/28 Post then refused to answer when pressed.

Final days ? I doubt it, but it seems to me that if the Post were a serious newspaper they would also have reported today that Woodward was fired yesterday. I'm still grateful for what I leard from "Plan of Attack" but someone who lies to the public is not a journalist.

Later update: I feel like a fool for even considering the possibility that the Washington Post might be a serious newspaper. Josh Marshall quotes from an early edition of the article

from the Post article ...
Woodward's statement said he testified: "I told Walter Pincus, a reporter at The Post, without naming my source, that I understood Wilson's wife worked at the CIA as a WMD analyst."

Pincus said he does not recall Woodward telling him that. In an interview, Pincus said he cannot imagine he would have forgotten such a conversation around the same time he was writing about Wilson.

"Are you kidding?" Pincus said. "I certainly would have remembered that."

I just searched the current Post article. The word "Pincus" doesn't appear. Two Washington Post journalists have conflicting recollections and the Post revealed then supressed the name of one of them. Now it is theoretically possible that Marshall made a mistake and the Post is not hiding relevant facts from its readers. I realise that I find this possibility completely implausible and I trust Josh Marshall incomparably more that I trust the Washington Post.

Sounds like time for a conference on blogger ethics.

Maybe not the best way to convince Senators.

Nathan Newman makes a very convincing argument that the most appalling thing about Samuel Alito is his oppposition to the Warren court's position on reapportionment

But what is most striking about Alito's statement is this line:

In college, I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated in large part by disagreement with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause, and reapportionment.

For the non-lawyers out there, Alito meant he was against the Supreme Court decisions requiring that all state legislative districts be designed to guarantee "one person, one vote", instead of giving some districts with very few voters the same representation as urban districts with far more voters.

While I strongly believe that most judicial activism by the Warren Court was unneeded or even counterproductive for progressive goals since ongoing democratic mobilization was moving civil rights and feminist goals forward, the reapportionment cases-- Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Syms-- dealt with a problem that democratic voting inherently could not correct, namely the lack of real democracy in most state legislatures.

I fully agree that this is especially appalling, since it means that Alito wishes not deference to a democratically elected body but to an absurd anachronism in which different legislators represent very different numbers of people because their districts have not been changed to reflect demography. I agree with Newman that such a body ought to have no role in a democracy.

Still I am not sure this is the very best way to convince the US Senate not to confirm Alito.
He didn't want the ladies to have to endure his alito cattivo

"He wrote that he was also a member of Concerned Alumni of Princeton. Formed in 1972 to oppose the admission of women to the university,"

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Stritly Speaking II This Time It's Personal___

First I would like to thank Michael Froomkin for the link to my post begging Kevin Drum not to write "begs the question" so often.

Second I would like to hone in on his childhood hounehold noting that his little brother wrote this

"To the contrary, I see the press honing in on the lack of solid intelligence suggesting that Iraq had nuclear weapons and might give them to al Qaeda."

Now the press might be honing or sharpening their knives (or quills or keyboards) but they are not honing in. They are homing in.

The one or two regular readers of this blog will be amused at my enthusiasm for copy editing others given my casual grammer and roughly random spelling.

To be a bit less twitty, the sentence has another problem. The Bush administration never suggested that Iraq had nuclear weapons. If one wants to invade a country, it is very unwise to convince people that it has nuclear weapons. They tried to convince the congress, the public and the security council that Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program which could be nipped in the bud by an invasion when, in fact, it had already been blasted on the vine by desert storm (unforgivable mixed metaphor as I am looking out on a vineyard and know perfectly well that it goes bud, flower, grape so a bud is a much less advanced stage than the young grape which can be blasted on the vine).

The post in general is excellent (partly because the Post did a great job recently). Froomkin notes that Bush's speach on Iraq was basicallly a mass of lies and distortions too vague to amount to actual lies. His reply to's reply to Milbank in Pincus in the post is particularly excellent. I especially liked

And the White House again insisted that "congressional and independent committees have repeatedly reported no distortion of intelligence." While that's strictly true, it doesn't in any way refute Milbank and Pincus's point, which is that none of these investigations were authorized to even pursue that question.

heh indeed, strictly true and deliberately misleading. Notice that the sentence could have been written "congressional and independent committees have not reported distortion of intelligence" but that would not sound as much like "congressional and independent committees have repeatedly reported [that there was] no distortion of intelligence."'s argument begs the question, and in particular it begs me to ask "why didn't you add that "congressional and independent committees have repeatedly reported no martian kidnapping of Elvis ?" which would be equally true and equally a response to Milbank and Pincus's point.

Very late update due to critically split sides: Actually the very best part of Dan Froomkin's post was the very end which is this link.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Tinfoil Time

The NY Times has a must read op ed on how the US decided to torture. A program on how to resist torture was used to develop techniques.

M. Gregg Bloche and Jonathan H. Marks write

The Pentagon effectively signed off on a strategy that mimics Red Army methods. But those tactics were not only inhumane, they were ineffective. For Communist interrogators, truth was beside the point: their aim was to force compliance to the point of false confession.

Thus the US used techniques designed to extract false information. Thus my 16 month old fear that we might be in Iraq because we tortured Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi makes logical sense. I should point out that I have no way of knowing if the "aggressive interrogation techniques" amounted to torture or even if al Libi's fears were well grounded.

Digby has an interesting post as to how the Bush administration managed to make such a crazy choice. He considers two possibilities, that they didn't know what they were doing and that their true aim was torture for torture's sake to show our enemies how tough and ruthless we are. They amount to one explanation, since Cheney et al should have known that the American people would not stay angry enough to condone torture for long and we would just show how ruthless we aren't.

I have a totally paranoid theory. Techniques designed to extract forced confessions whether true or false were used because the Bush administration wanted confessions and didn't care about the facts. I really think they thought they knew what had to be done, invade Iraq, and were interested in intelligence mainly as a way of convincing others. Thus an approach to intelligence based on getting the answers they wanted whether or not they were true is plausible.

The reason I recognise that my theory is crazy is that I have no idea how this aim could have been communicated down to the SERE experts. I'd go for explanation 1 also favored by M. Gregg Bloche and Jonathan H. Marks who seem to think that the call to take the gloves off left the US military unprepared and they presented the only torture program they had.

I don't dare comment on Atrios's theory, since I am sure he is much much more expert on the phenomenon than I am.

Kevin I'm on my knees rasing please please stop using "begs" for raises as "question. it merely begs it" for "question. it merely raises it." I know you feel strongly about this and insist that language evolves, but you make me feel old.

Way back when you and I were young, it was agreed that to beg a question is to make an invalid argument which is vulnerable to that question. Just setting the stage for the question was called raising the question back when I learned English.

So "The Bush administration turned out to be wrong about many things and this proves beyond doubt that the Bush administration misled the country during the runup to the Iraq war." Begs the question, the simple fact that they were wrong about many things is not a false argument and can not beg a question.
Alito Cattivoi

The Washington Post reports that

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito wrote in 1985 that he was proud of his Reagan-era work helping the government argue that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion," documents showed Monday.

Alito, who was applying in 1985 to become deputy assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration, boasted in a document that he helped "to advance legal positions in which I personally believe very strongly."

The memo was released by the Reagan library. This should make it much more difficult for Judge Alito to get his supreme robe for three reasons. First it proves that, despitethe fact that "Alito, 55, has told senators in private meetings that he had "great respect" for the precedent set by the 1973 Supreme Court ruling, Roe v. Wade," he also strongly believes in overturning the precedent and is proud of his efforts to achieve that aim. Since most Americans oppose overturning Roe vs Wade this should lose him votes in the senate, not because senators didn't know his declarations of "respect" are worthless but because they can't claim they were deceived. Second, and very important for a possible filibuster, this shows how vital it is to have access to Alito's writings. The Bush administration will argue executive priviledge and Democrats should argue the point ad infinitum.

Finally the unsurprising revelation shows that Alito is dishonest and his word is worthless. His utter contempt for his solemn (sworn ?) promise to recuse himself from cases involving Vanguard, Smith Barney or his sister's law firm already showed this, but the link between dishonesty and Roe should make the issue critical.

Oddly the Washington Post does not cite the Washington Times which seems to have scooped them (via Atrios)

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Esame di Economia e Politica del Lavoro 11/11/05

Carrozzi 25
Casali 23
Cavallaro 27
Ceccarelli 27
Cencioni 21
Chiarello 21
Cirulli 25
Coletti 23
Coppcchioli 20
Costanza 25
Coto Cabaliero 23
D'Aguano 25
De Angelis 25
De Gioia 23
Dell'acqua 23
Di Claudio 25
Di Cuna 23
Di Mattia 20
0085888 non esonerato
Erdas 25
Favale 25
Fera 27
Ferro Conde' 23
Finiguerra 25
Fiori 25
Fiorelli 25
Francia 25
Fruci 24
Giuzio 23
Guidotti Mori 22
Iaccino 21
La Civita 23
Malandrino 23
0083939 non esonerato
Marra 24
Mauro 25
Mastropietro 23
Mazzone 26
Mingo Monsalvo 25
Ottaviani 25
Pellegrino 23
Palozza 23
Perera H. 25
Polidori 25
Quaranta 29
Rota 25
Rutilo 20
Sanchez M. 23
Sarrecchio 25
Schills 23
Scipione 23
Terzilli 27
Torchia 23
Trepiccione 25
Varrone 27

Authentic non spam comment pulled up here

out of how much? 30?

If so then congratulations to Quaranta.

Also that you guys still teach classes on "political" economy of labour is kind of cute, but we must strive to be scientific and therefore we cant have room for this "political" part, get on with the program!

7:27 AM

Robert said...

Thanks for a genuine non spam comment.
Yes out of 30 and I congratulate Quaranta (whose name means 40) too.

"Politica" means "policy" not "political" so this course is about labor market policy (there is a more introductory course on plain labor economics).

Now you might be concerned about the Italian language and ask how you say "politics" in Italian. This is pressing because Italias talk about it a lot (and also you know vote and stuff).

Sad to say "policy" is "politica col p maiuscolo" that is "politica with an upper case p (not literally it is ot a proper noun)" and politics is "politica col p minuscolo" that is "politica with a lower case p" finally politicking is "politica with an extremely lower case p". Sadder still to say, politicians accuse each other of "politica with an extremely lower case p" much more often than they talk about policy, but we are serious scietists and I didn't put the question "What does the Lindbeck Snower model have to tell us about the recet riots in France?" on the exam.

10:58 PM

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus wrote an excellent article on page A1 of the Washington Post which proves, although they are polite about it, that Bush lied when he claimed that his critics were trying to rewrite the history of the decision ot invade Iraq.

Milbank and Pincus are consistently excellent in that tiny fraction of their articles which I have read. I think the news, such as it is, is that this latest refutation of Bush's claims is not on page A16.

There is one point which they do not hammer in. Bush said "When I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support."

This is positive proof that Bush is a liar. At the time the resolution was approved, Bush claimed he had not decided to remove Saddam Hussein from power via an invasion.
At the time, he claimed war was his last resort and he hoped that forceful diplomacy would be enough to make Saddam Hussein comply with all security councile resolutions. When that alleged hope turned out to be well founded, he invaded anyway. Bush's claims that no decision had been made are well known. You can find them easily in this google search for bush & Iraq & invade & "no decision"

Now he has admitted that he was lying then. As noted by Milbank and Pincus He lied again when he claimed that, in 2002, congress approved the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power. The resolution said no such thing.
Can congress restrict the Supreme Court's interpretation of the constitution ?
The amateur constitutional scholar attempts to reply

Clause 1: The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;--to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;--to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;--to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;--to Controversies between two or more States;--between a State and Citizens of another State; (See Note 10)--between Citizens of different States, --between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

Clause 2: In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

ooooops looks like even the founding fathers managed to wiff one. The constitution is only effective as it is enforced by the courts when they declare laws or executive acts unconstitutional. the rest of the constitution was effectively voided by the words in bold. In defence of the convention it should be noted that the idea of a constitutional republic was new then and that all earlier constitutions which had any effect on anything had evolved over centuries and were full of contridictions.

I would argue, however, that the gross mistake of the founders has been remedied. The reason is that the constitution is not at all the last word on rights. It has been amended. Each of the amendments introduce principles which must be followed by courts even if congress passes a law which provides otherwise. None includes the provision that congress can make exceptions to the jurisdiction of the courts.

I think that the only interpretation of the constitution as it is is that any right described in the main body of the constitution can only be enforced by the courts if congress does not declare an exception to their jurisdiction. On the other hand all the rights in the amendments are not so restricted.

To be a bit originalist, I think that the intention of the convention was to describe the authority of federal as opposed to state courts. Note how often the word "state" appears in clause 1. Thus the exception the founders had in mind would be a declaration in support of states rights made by the federal congress.

This division of state and federal authority has been changed as the constitution has been amended and, in particular, was completely transformed by the 14th amendment. The 14th amendment is the principal basis for the supreme court's claims that it can review state laws and executive acts. It essentially overides article III section 2 clause 1. From the day that the 14th amendment was ratified any question of individual rights or immunities was a federal issue. Thus, I think the 14th amendment also overides article III section 2 clause 2 eliminating the role of congress in returning to state jurisdiction matters which might appear to be under federal jurisdiction.

Now the bit about "such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make" does not explicitely state that the issue is which court shall have jurisdiction, so the interpretation that it means that laws can exist without a governing legal authority whatsoever is consistent with the plain meaning of the words. However, it is inconceivable that any member of the constitutional convention meant to create such a nonsense. The idea, due to the dread enemy of republicanism Thomas Hobbes, that a law without a judge is an impossibility was certainly part of the common intellectual heritage of the founders.

There is no doubt in my mind that their intent was to define the jurisdiction of federal as opposed to state courts and, if I am not confused, there is no doubt in the mind of any serious constitutional scholar (a set with null intersection with the preceding set) that the 14th amendment completely revoked overturned and cancelled anything written the main body of the constitution on that issue.
Alito Cattivo or 3 outa 4 aint bad

Judge Alito swore that he would recuse himself from four types of cases. Cases involing Vanguard, cases involving Smith Barney, cases involving his sister's law firm and I forget what. He managed to break 3 of the four sacred oaths. I wonder if this is enough to make the Democrats face the dread nuclear option, as in, we get a filibuster the old fashion way, we earn it.

Now the wind whispers a possible defence of alito. In the sister's law firm case he just signed something saying he was present and he agreed with his 14 colleagues that an appeal was without merit. Wouldn't really have mattered if the decision was 14 to 0 not 15 to 0.

The avanguardia operaio case (avanti populi a la riscossa bandiera rossa etc) is less defensible. Here alito might claim that he didn't want to impose on any other judge the plaintif from hell. The plaintif was a lawyer representing herself. She had a fresh law degree from a not super top law school so one suspects she had plenty of time to spare. She was appealing a judgement that Vanguard did not commit a tort when it obeyed a court order.

Now oaths are sacred and all that but how exactly do you explain to the guy with the office next to yours that your concience requires you to send this plaintif to him ?

The subtle moral and legal issues are vague to me. One thing is clear. God is totally pissed that Bush claims to talk to him and he is making it totally clear that He has his little jokes and he does not let Bush in on them.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Oh Happy Day

An appalling bill is pulled by the House where Republican moderates are finally acting moderate. I would mention the fact that DeLay was indicted as one of the factors weakening the leadership. Also Susan Collins refuses to go along with extending absurd tax cuts for the rich.

Very nice the 90 decent Senators voted to make Rumsfeld report on secret prisons. This will further undermine in the farcical call to investigate the leak of this information, since leaking a secret which should not be secret is different and the Senate has now spoken.

I still suspect that one of the pro torture 9 was the leaker.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

It never ceases to amaze me that the idea that trade is good for workers in poor countries convinces no one but economists. I know that many people in rich countries don't give a damn about foreigners, but the weird thing is that people in rich countries who care seem to think that trade is bad for unskilled workers in capital poor human capital poor countries. I really don't get it.

I find the following argument very convincing. Foreign direct investment by multinationals in poor countries followed by free exporting to rich countries is a very good thing for world income and the world income distribution, since it means that people who would otherwise be very poor get jobs at low wages which are much higher than they would get otherwise. This is why I am for free trade. I was not surprised to learn that FDI is controversial, but if the firms were foreign based, I would have thought this would make all lefties pro free trade. I was surprised when I learned (age roughly 18) that the pro free trade view is considered right wing and, in particular, based on indifference to income distribution in rich countries (the idea that anyone cares about poor countries evidently being incomprehensible).

There are some possible explanations of why no one seems to take seriously the claim that free trade is good for not superskilled workers in poor countries. One, mentioned above, is that lots of people frankly don't care about foreigners. Another is that other people claim to care about foreigners but are lying. I am interested in explanations of the no global movement of people who care a lot about the third world poor and have the opposite view on the effects of FDI and trade.

They might be right. For example, I think that child labor is not only bad in the present but also terrible for development and growth. No country has gotten non poor without sending the kids to school. Getting them out of factories is key to this long term growth maximizing strategy. Also, I for one, am not willing to compromise on workplace safety or allow poor workers to do so (and I am still irritated at the Thomas Schelling for explaining the total incoherance of my views). Thus I have some sympathy for imposing child labor and workplace safety regulations as part of free trade agreements (although I suspect that any exception is mainly an opening for concentrated rich country interest groups to game the system to gain protection from trade).

Still this doesn't seem to me to make a case against trade, multinationals or FDI. The reason is that there are child labor and unsafe working conditions in autarkic poor countries too. So no explanation there.

I strongly suspect that a lot of the issue is the assumption that bad motives must lead to bad outcomes and the fact that FDI etc are motivated by greed.

I think the main thing is that people don't feel guilty about failing to help strangers but do feel guilty about benefiting from their misfortune. That is there is the idea that if there are poor people over there and we have nothing to do with them, we can send a few bucks to charity and we are OK, but if we wear clothes they sewed for low pay or something we acquire responsibility for their reduced poverty.

This argument makes no moral sense to me. It seems to me that if you can help someone you should whether or not he sewed your shirt.

OK no real point here. All written much better by others (see especially as always Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong). The only point is that I swear to god that I always thought that pro free trade was the leftist position and remain amazed again and again that the leftist case for free trade is rarely made and hardly ever taken seriously.
Judith Miller gets one right

JM on JM "I've heard of pushy broads, but this brings the pushy broad to a new level."

of course she thought she was being ironic.
Walter Pincus reports that the Specially Selected Subcommittee of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has reached agreement on how to investigate how the Bush administration reported and used pre-war intelligence on Iraq.

It is clear that his sources are Democrats, since the article suggests that Roberts has completely conceded everything. That their will be further testimony, that it is not enough to find some support for a claim in the raw intelligence but they must also consider whether relevant information (e.g. the only source of the info just failed a lie detector test) was kept from the public. The part that interested me most was the statement that the gross errors which will be examined will not just be those related to WMD but also to how everything has gone wrong during the occupation.

Yesterday, senators were given classified staff drafts of two other sections of what will be a five-part phase two study. One was to compare the prewar assessments of Iraq's weapons programs, and its relations with al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, to what was found on both subjects after the war. The second was to compare prewar assessments of what postwar Iraq would look like with the reality that has emerged.

This is very bad for Bush, because, while there was usually some neighborhood of the intelligence community that fell for each WMD story, no intelligence analyst claimed that the occupation would be a cake walk or neglected to mention things that could go wrong as most of them did.
Christopher Hitchens seems to have had a busy day yesterday, just after Chalabi's talk at the AEI. Two links to two different people who claim he made a total fool of himself two different ways in the same ride in an elevator (both via tpmcafe)

David Corn claims.

As the elevator doors closed, I noticed in the lift my former colleague Christopher Hitchens, ... the Plame/CIA leak scandal. There was nothing wrong with the leak, he said. The public had the right to know that the CIA was out to sabotage the administration and undermine its case for war.

Kris Lofgren writes that after his debate with Corn Hitchens talked with him about Ohio and

Hitchens then turned the subject back to Chalabi, his good friend. I asked him if he thought Chalabi had been passing American intelligence to the Iranians. "No," he insisted. "It's possible that with his training, you know, at [The University of] Chicago that with his own ability he was able to crack the codes. He is a mathematical genius. His expertise is cryptology. It is possible that he broke the codes himself." (This is a paraphrase since I was walking down M Street and crossing Connecticut Avenue all while being amazed that I was having an actual conversation with Christopher Hitchens at the time). Now, I don't believe this for one second. Why would Chalabi be trying to break American codes in his spare time anyway? Who does that if they are friendly to us? Suspicious, I say.

TPD reader TT notes that this argument is considereably less plausible than the argument that it is OK to out CIA agents in a feeble attempt to score debating points.

Now my question is why are all ex lefties such total nutcase idiots ? It's not like lefties are all idiots so, until Hitchens Horowitz etc etc etc turn their coats no one notice is it ?
Kevin Drum writes

THE STOLPER-SAMUELSON THEOREM....Over at Max's place, Josh Bivens tells us about something called the Stolper-Samuelson Theorem, which predicts that workers without a college degree always get screwed by expanded trade:

There was a big debate about this in the economics profession in the early 1990s. Not one single economist argued about the direction of trade's effect — it was universally agreed that it was negative for these workers. Some said that trade's effect was small, even very small. Some said it was large. But again, there was absolute unanimity that the net effect of trade on these workers was negative, and that trade had exacerbated inequality.

Obviously it matters a lot whether the effect is large or small or very small, but I didn't know that there was unanimity among economists that, regardless of the size of the effect, it's always negative "in absolute (not just relative) terms, and permanently (not just through tough 'transitions')."

That certainly puts a different spin on the standard thesis that free trade agreements are good for growth, doesn't it? If "growth" mean GDP growth, it's probably true. But if "growth" means growth in median wages, as I think it should, then it might not be. You learn something new every day.

I reply

The Stolper Samuelson theorem also implies that trade is good for foreign workers without college diplomas. The effects are symmetric. The USA is, by world standards, a highly educated country so college educated workers are not scarce in the USA and should receive relatively low incomes without trade. At the other extreme, manual laborers are even less scarce over there. Trade should, in theory, equalise payments to different people over the world and thus be good for manual laborers in other countries and college graduates in the USA.

Thus, if you care about equality and eliminating poverty, according to Stolper and Samuelson you should be rabidly pro free trade. The utter selfishness of looking only at the effect on Americans has no place on this blog.

As to growth, the model assumed 0 growth. If generalised, it assumes that growth is exogenous and that, in the long run, economies must always grow at the same rate no matter what the policy is. Thus Stolper and Samuelson (and I assure you the economists who agreed on the sign of the effects salaries of people without college diplomas) assumed that there was no effect on growth, or rather tried to measure effects after conditioning on economic growth.

I want to make two points. If you look closely at economic research, you usually find much less there than you expect as important questions are not answered and set aside using strong assumptions. More importantly, when you talk about trade you really must decide if non Americans count too. Looking at the USA only, it is reasonable to guess that free trade increases average real income and increases inequality. Looking at humanity as a whole, it is reasonable to guess that trade increases average real income and decreases inequality.

Ah yes that reminds me of an anecdote. One of the important figures in the 90s consensus on the sign of the effect of trade on salaries of college non graduates in the USA is Larry Katz who definitely concluded that the effect was small. Later Katz was undersecretary of labor for research (or something) and was in Mexico negotiation labor protection bits of NAFTA. Brad DeLong told me that Larry Katz told him that he saw Mexican workers protesting and had to restrain himself from reciting the Stolper Samuelson theorem to them.

Thanks to an anonymous commenter who pointed out that I failed to post this second hand anecdote on the first try.