Thursday, June 30, 2005


A while back I signed up over at Daily Kos, then sort of forgot about it. But today I followed a link over there and remembered that I should be able to post diaries now. And indeed I can.

So from now on, or until I get tired of it, I will be mirroring all my posts on here over on Kos. I will do this for two reasons - one, it will increase readership, and two, because Kos has a cool Poll functionality that I have been wanting to create on this page for a long time.

So head on over to my most recent mirror diary and have your say in my new poll - "Who Invented Shoes?"

Baffled by Zogby

Let me start off by saying I am not a big fan of polls like this one - it skates the line between legit polling and push polling to ask questions that begin with "If X factual thing were to be proven about Y person, would you..."

That said, this recent Zogby poll is fascinating to me on a number of levels. The key paragraph:

Impeachment is overwhelmingly rejected in the Red States—just 36% say they agree Congress should use it if the President is found to have lied on Iraq, while 55% reject this view; in the “Blue States” that voted for Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry in 2004, meanwhile, a plurality of 48% favors such proceedings while 45% are opposed.


Certainly there can be differences of opinion on whether the president lied us into war. His words in the runup to the Iraq invasion were weaselly enough that if you squint, you can see how maybe he thought he was telling the truth, even though in hindsight the presentation did not accord with the facts.

But only 48% of people in blue states favor impeachment IF BUSH LIED TO START A WAR? What the fuck is impeachment for, then?

This really casts the whole Clinton impeachment in a particularly funny light, considering that according to this poll, 70% of Republicans oppose impeachment if it is proven that Bush lied America into war. These are the same people that howled endlessly (and continue to howl to this day) about how we should have removed Clinton from office for answering the question "Did you have a relationship with Monica Lewinsky?" with the statement "There is no relationship."

I'm going to have to get my outrage meter recalibrated - seems it's jumping up into red numbers quite a bit these days.

The Underused Iraq Index

Unlike, apparently, 99% of reporters in the print media (and 100% of TV talking heads), I regularly check in with Brookings' excellent Iraq Index to see what the recent trends are in certain areas of the American war effort in Iraq.

This is interesting and informative, but it also leads to a lot of heartburn when I read the columns and articles of the myriad high-paid journalistic poobahs who have never laid eyes on the thing.

This morning I was chagrined to read an analysis in the Post that mentioned "near-daily car bombings" in Iraq. I suppose I shouldn't be so hard on Peter Baker and Dan Balz, who probably do not have enough time in their busy days to do the type of in-depth analysis that it takes to wrest the elusive car-bombing rate from the arcane text of the Iraq Index.

For those who do have massive amounts of time to do difficult, mind-bending research, here is the statistical process I use:

Step One. Open the Iraq Index (pdf).
Step Two. Turn to page 10.

Here you will find a chart titled "Car Bombs in Iraq," broken out by month. You'll notice that for the last three months (March, April, and May, with June numbers not yet available), the number of car bombings has greatly exceeded the number of days. In fact the average number of car bombs per day over the last three months is 3.75. In the last two months, it's over 4.

That's not "near-daily," boys and girls. And if you don't like Brookings, the AP did their own slightly different count in early June and found the same thing generally - that car bombings in Iraq are suddenly way up (and way more than once daily.)

But it's not just an issue of fact-checking. The massive increase in car bombings is THE story in Iraq right now. Anyone who was taking seriously his job to report on Iraq would know this without having to look it up. These guys have exposed themselves as worthless hacks with this lame error. It's not just like a baseball analyst misquoting Hank Aaron's career home run total, which would be bad enough - it's like a baseball analyst asserting that Hank Aaron was a spray-hitting second baseman. It reflects a fundamental unfitness to report in any way on the subject as a whole.

There is one other story that the Iraq Index suggests, one that I have not seen one single news article about since the data became available a few months ago. For some reason, in 2005 Iraq suddenly began flirting with hyperinflation. According to the Iraq index, inflation in January was double-digits, and in February it increased slightly. That's the last month we apparently have data for.

Now, 10% inflation in a month is a really bad sign, but it's probably not hyperinflation. For the non-economics people out there, hyperinflation is hard to define, but it basically means the point at which inflation is devaluing currency so fast that it ceases to become a useful medium of exchange.

To give you some perspective, with inflation running at 10% per month, a gallon of milk that costs $2.50 today would cost about $8 this time next year. So, not a good sign.

It's also a little ominous to me that after those two months, we don't have any data. As hyperinflation sets in, it becomes very difficult to measure inflation accurately because prices become extremely erratic.

Why should anyone care about hyperinflation in Iraq? If the Iraqi economy collapses (as it may already be), the U.S. will have to take back command of the entire economy, setting up the sort of totalitarian system that they probably should have created from the beginning. That means a massive appropriation for building command economy distribution networks, probably running into the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Which of course will never happen. The alternative is millions of people starving to death.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Speech that Wasn't

This from David Corn:

Bush's speech will not alter the landscape--here or in Iraq. It was the rhetorical equivalent of treading water. Before the speech, NPR had asked me to talk about the address afterward with a conservative pundit. Minutes before we were to go on, an NPR worker called. We've decided, she said, that there was not enough in the speech to warrant an analysis segment. I could hardly protest.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Bush's Churl Offensive

It's somewhat strange to me that a with Bush's approval ratings tanking once again, the White House has decided that the right way to deal with the problem is for Bush to make a televised speech.

It could, of course, be a sign of desperation, but I've given up interpreting this administration's actions as desperation, since the Bush folk always seem to bounce back. Unfortunately, I can't come up with anything better. So for now I'm just baffled.

One of the wierdest aspects of Bush's sort-of victory over Al Gore in 2000 was that Bush seemed to fit so perfectly in the role of the likable candidate, opposite the weird caricature of Gore that the Republicans (with subsantial help from print reporters and commentators) were able to turn into common currency.

What's odd about this is that Bush is amazingly unlikable and churlish on television. As a Bush opponent (though being an R-Lib at the time I had to think a little while about who really was the bigger fuckhead) I was immune to the whole "guy to have a beer with" aspect of the Bush campaign. Even at the time it was a little hard for me to understand how such large numbers of people could find Bush likable on television (I found him childish and annoying.)

In fact, the more I watch Bush, the more I realize the sublime genius of the Gore caricature, presumably engineered by Rove. The Gore caricature is Bush. Thinking about this will hurt your head. But recall if you will (if you need it, the archives of the Daily Howler have the whole story) what it was we were supposed to hate so much about Gore during the 2000 campaign. Gore the liar. Gore the exaggerator. Gore the man who needs personality consultants to tell him how to wear his hair, what color it ought to be, etc. Gore who wears too much makeup (seriously, what's up with Bush's makeup in those Oval Office speeches?) Bush exudes this stuff in waves whenever he appears on TV.

Above all, though, it's the schoolmarmishness, the condescencion, the pedantry that jumps out at me when Bush speaks - all characteristics, of course, attributed to Gore in 2000. Bush talks to Americans as if we were a nation of five-year-olds who just don't understand why daddy has to do certain things that we don't like. I half-expect Bush to tell us we'll understand when we're older why he had to lie about why and how he was going to invade Iraq.

So to my mind it's unlikely almost to the point of impossibility that this speech - in and of itself - is going to do anything for Bush. First of all, Bush's least popular policy position, the Social Security phaseout, is not even being addressed. Second, the White House has already said publicly that Bush is not considering any policy changes with regard to Iraq, which is baffling from the center-left talking head perpective (who still think we are in Iraq to promote Democracy), but makes a lot of sense from my perspective, since from the very beginning I have believed that Bush intends to keep a substantial American military presence in Iraq indefinitely, and that this was in fact the primary war aim.

[Once again I succumb here in brackets to the desire to point out that when you are working with a model that makes sense, there is usually no reason, even over a fairly long time, to change the model to fit the facts. Which is why my explanation for the US invasion of Iraq has not needed to undergo the same semiannual tune-up as those of more mainstream commentators.]

Thus Bush is not addressing his least popular policy position, and in the case of the unpopular policy position he is addressing, he's going to basically reiterate the same unpopular policy he's been pursuing. So the only thing that could possibly bouy Bush here is if he were somehow to come off as charming and affable, which is and always has been a fictional part of his TV persona. Bush is not capable of a televised charm offensive.

So what's the angle? Rove, presumably, knows all of this. I have to wonder if this appearance is something of a rope-a-dope, hoping to get some prominent Democrats to step forward and attack Bush in some sort of intemperate way, to give the Bush attack machine some sort of target to shoot at.

It's a thin theory, I recognize. But I can't think of anything that makes sense. So for now, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, June 20, 2005


This Mark Danner response to a Knight-Ridder letter really breaks it all down rather nicely. It is sickening, but not particularly surprising, that basically no editor at the major dailies has adopted this framework for investigating this story.

This point, for example, is extremely clear and does not seem to be that difficult to understand:

The Knight Ridder pieces bring up a larger issue. It is a source of some irony that one of the obstacles to gaining recognition for the Downing Street memo in the American press has been the largely unspoken notion among reporters and editors that the story the memo tells is "nothing new." I say irony because we see in this an odd and familiar narrative from our current world of "frozen scandal" -- so-called scandals, that is, in which we have revelation but not a true investigation or punishment: scandals we are forced to live with. A story is told the first time but hardly acknowledged (as with the Knight Ridder piece), largely because the broader story the government is telling drowns it out. When the story is later confirmed by official documents, in this case the Downing Street memorandum, the documents are largely dismissed because they contain "nothing new."

Once again I urge all bloggers in the BBA to familiarize themselves with the larger context of the Downing Street Disclosures and the resultant media coverage as described in this piece.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Still Missing the Point

All over the blogosphere I am still seeing folks harping on this one phrase about "facts being fixed around the policy." The reality is, this phrase is not a smoking gun. It's just the British perception of the American inattention to the details of selling the war. Jack Straw, C and others are merely saying that the Bush administration is being too ham-handed in their attempts to make a case against Saddam.

The smoking gun in the documents is elsewhere. Here is the question we bloggers, and eventually (once we embarrass them into it) the print and broadcast media, ought to be asking Bush:

Was disarming Saddam Hussein a primary war aim?

If not, why did you and your administration tell Congress it was?

If so, why did you and your administration repeatedly attempt to block inspections in Iraq, then withdraw the inspectors while Hans Blix, the head inspector, was reporting free and substantial access to all relevant inspection sites?

Why did you repeatedly lie and say that Saddam had not allowed inspectors into Iraq?

Why, after the war, did you fail to secure sites containing precursors for chemical and biological weapons?

In short, Mr. President, the facts seem to indicate that you were not concerned at all with Saddam's weapons capabilities except as a means to justify an invasion of Iraq. Do you have any facts that have not come to light that might contradict this rather obvious conclusion?

Taking a page from's book, $1000 to any reporter who asks Bush that series of questions.

OK, so I'm not that familiar with Kos

I can't tell exactly where Edkra's post is on DailyKos, but suffice it to say the site is big and the location is not that obvious. However, on Edkra's own blog, Why are we back in Iraq?, it's a regular blog post at the top of the page.

Here is the DailyKos version, which has generated some traffic today (thanks again Edkra!)

The Love Movement

Much love to DailyKos blogger Edkra, who has linked to The Ape Man's recent breakdown of the Downing Street disclosures. It's our first big-time link score and we're very grateful.

More love to any and all DailyKos users who are arriving expecting to find a slick, professional-looking blog and who are suddenly faced with... well, this. As you can see I'm not a Web guy, so I use the basic blogger template in all its weird ugliness.

Speaking of the template, I guess it's time to add a link to the DailyKos, which I should have done a long time ago, except that given the choice between editing (and probably butchering) the page and listening to John Ashcroft sing "Let the Eagle Soar," I would choose to eat a fly agaric mushroom and die of muscarine poisoning.

Anyway, welcome, and y'all come on back now, y'hear!

Seriously, I'll be updating the linked post as more docs become available, so check back periodically for updates (there's one today.)

March to July

The Sunday Times Online has a new Downing Street Memo, this one dated July 21, 2002. I've reproduced the synopsis, along with my synopsis ofthe original Downing Street Memo, in yesterday's post. My hope is that as more documents come out I can fill out that post to reflect a more complete picture of the joint US/UK war planning.

Again, we're focusing on the evidence that "disarming" Saddam Hussein's Iraq of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons was never a primary war aim of the Bush administration, only a convenient excuse for a war they wanted for other reasons.

July 21, 2002

Conditions for Military Action is a document produced by the UK Cabinet Office detailing the necessary conditions for a nominally legal invasion of Iraq. Key to the strategy, in the language of the March 18 memo on the Manning/Wolfowitz meeting, is the idea of "wrongfooting" Saddam by making inspection demands with which he could not comply. This strategy ultimately failed. Relevant quote:

It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject (because he is unwilling to accept unfettered access) and which would not be regarded as unreasonable by the international community. However, failing that (or an Iraqi attack) we would be most unlikely to achieve a legal base for military action by January 2003.

July 23, 2002

The Downing Street Memo itself is actually Matthew Rycroft's minutes, prepared for Ambassador Manning, of Rycroft's meeting with Richard Dearlove, then head of MI6, and MI6 underling (later promoted to the top job) John Scarlett. In the document "C" refers to Dearlove. Other allusions that might be unfamiliar to American readers are CDS - Centre for Defense Studies (a parliamentary committee), and FCO/MOD - Foreign & Commonweath Office and Ministry of Defense (analagous to the State Dept and Department of Defense). Relevant quote:

The Foreign Secretary thought the US would not go ahead with a military plan unless convinced that it was a winning strategy. On this, US and UK interests converged. But on the political strategy, there could be US/UK differences. Despite US resistance, we should explore discreetly the ultimatum. Saddam would continue to play hard-ball with the UN.

My italics.

Once again we see that contrary to revisionist histories spun by the White House (and, to a great degree, the press), the US never wanted to send inspectors into Iraq. The totality of the Downing Street disclosures make it much more clear why this rift developed between the US and UK - MI6 believed sincerely that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. It is not at all clear that the CIA belived this; in fact the evidence strongly suggests that the majority view in the Company was that Iraq's WMD capability was negligible.

The Bush administration should be asked now - Why was the US resistant to sending weapons inspectors to Iraq, if the aim of the war was to rid Iraq of banned weapons?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Links for Aspiring Iraq Sleuths

With all the new documents to sort through, I'm sure your heads are spinning. To help you out I've located a very straightforward chronology on American military and diplomatic policies toward Iraq going all the way back to 1990.

Here's the timeline.

You can use this timeline to give yourself a better sense of what the documents linked on Raw Story are all about. Here I provide them, with dates of authorship:

March 8, 2002

Iraq Options Paper. This document lays out the basic options that the British perceived as being on the table WRT dealing with Iraq in March of 2002. Relevant quote:

A refusal [by Saddam] to admit UN inspectors, or their admission and subsequent likely frustration, which resulted in an appropriate finding by the Security Council, could provide the justification for military action.

March 14, 2002

The US Ambassador's report on a dinner he had with Condi Rice. Here David Manning, the UK Ambassador to the US, describes his feelings of trepidation, speculating with some prescience that the U.S. officials do not have a realistic picture of the difficulties inherent in an Iraq invasion. Relevant (chilling) quote:

I think there is a real risk that the Administration underestimates the difficulties. They may agree that failure isn't an option, but this does not mean they will avoid it.

March 18, 2002
Manning again, this time reporting on a conversation with Paul Wolfowitz. The document sheds further light on the fact, already known because of public statements Wolfowitz made in 2003, that Wolfowitz considered ridding Iraq of WMD to be largely a public relations invention, rather than a primary war aim. Relevant quote:

Wolfowitz said he fully agreed [that it would be necessary to marshal strong public opinion against Saddam]. He took a slightly different position from others in the Administration, who were focused on Saddam's capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction.

March 22, 2002

Previously cited Ricketts memo to Blair. I've already gone over this one in some detail in the post below.

March 25, 2002

Jack Straw's assessment of the case for war on Iraq. Here we see a skeptical foreign minister effectively telling Tony Blair and his intelligence people that they are unlikely to gain much new information by going to the ranch at Crawford. Relevant quote:

Regime change per se is no justification for military action; it could form part of the method of any strategy, but not a goal. Of course, we may want credibly to assert that regime change is an essential part of the strategy by which we have to achieve our ends- that of the elimination of Iraq's WMD capacity, but the latter has to be the goal...

July 21, 2002

Conditions for Military Action is a document produced by the UK Cabinet Office detailing the necessary conditions for a nominally legal invasion of Iraq. Key to the strategy, in the language of the March 18 memo on the Manning/Wolfowitz meeting, is the idea of "wrongfooting" Saddam by making inspection demands with which he could not comply. This strategy ultimately failed. Relevant quote:

It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject (because he is unwilling to accept unfettered access) and which would not be regarded as unreasonable by the international community. However, failing that (or an Iraqi attack) we would be most unlikely to achieve a legal base for military action by January 2003.

July 23, 2002

The Downing Street Memo itself is actually Matthew Rycroft's minutes, prepared for Ambassador Manning, of Rycroft's meeting with Richard Dearlove, then head of MI6, and MI6 underling (later promoted to the top job) John Scarlett. In the document "C" refers to Dearlove. Other allusions that might be unfamiliar to American readers are CDS - Centre for Defense Studies (a parliamentary committee), and FCO/MOD - Foreign & Commonweath Office and Ministry of Defense (analagous to the State Dept and Department of Defense). Relevant quote:

The Foreign Secretary thought the US would not go ahead with a military plan unless convinced that it was a winning strategy. On this, US and UK interests converged. But on the political strategy, there could be US/UK differences. Despite US resistance, we should explore discreetly the ultimatum. Saddam would continue to play hard-ball with the UN.

My italics.

Now here's a fun project for all you sleuths out there in blogland - find some quotations from this period from Rice, Wolfowitz, or any other administration official and see how they stack up against what they were telling the British behind closed doors.

More Downing Street Memos

Raw Story has the scoop on several more documents coming out of the UK this week, including this informal note to Blair from Blair's Karl Rove, Peter Ricketts.

This note contains the clearest possible point on why the documents being released in recent weeks are so damning to the Bush administration:

Bush would do well to de-personalise the objective- focus on elimination of WMD, and show that he is serious about UN Inspectors as the first choice means of achieving that (it is win/win for him: either Saddam against all odds allows Inspectors to operate freelyk[sic]- in which case we can further hobble his WMD programmes, or he blocks/hinders, and we are stronger ground for switching to other methods).

Those are my italics.

This is the point which so far almost no one, including the blogosphere, is focusing on. Perhaps folks have forgotten (with a lot of help from Bush, who has repeatedly told false stories about this particular phase of the rush to war) that indeed Saddam did comply fully with inspections, against odds that were not in fact very long given Saddam's relevant past conduct, and allowed UN weapons inspectors access to his country's defense infrastructure (such as it existed) that was unprecedented in the history of nation-states.

This is the point that the right wing, including the White House, has gone to such great lengths to obscure. The reason is obvious - when we look at the facts, it becomes clear that rather than the Bush administration merely being wrong about Saddam's alleged weapons, the Bush administration never actually cared about weapons of mass destruction as a primary issue. There is a lot of evidence for this viewpoint that's been in the public domain for a while (witness the total lack of attention the White House gave to securing Iraq's weapons sites after the invasion), but this is the first time we see spelled out so clearly the logical case that was made before the war began.

FACT: Saddam allowed weapons inspectors into the country, and gave them the access that they asked for.

If you're not a news junkie, this may come as a major shock to you. After all, the president has repeatedly said the opposite. Here's Bush in the Washington Post in July 2003, to cite just one example:

Defending the broader decision to go to war with Iraq, the president said the decision was made after he gave Saddam Hussein "a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in."

If you read the article, the Two Danas note that this position "is at odds with several of his own aides;" they, uncharacteristically for print media, also note the more relevant fact that it's at odds with the factual record. To wit, here's Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector in Iraq, speaking in January 2003:

[The italicized portion is a correction - I had originally been looking at an abstract which did not do this. My apologies for this error, which was not in print for very long. I also deleted some related text below. Good work Danas.]

Since we arrived in Iraq, we have conducted more than 400 inspections covering more than 300 sites. All inspections were performed without notice, and access was almost always provided promptly. In no case have we seen convincing evidence that the Iraqi side knew in advance that the inspectors were coming.

This massive, easily disproven whopper by our president would be shocking if it weren't so unspeakably typical. Yet since the invasion, the press has seemed incapable of coming to terms, except for brief moments such as the article above, with the reality that our president took us to war on false pretenses, not simply presenting false facts but actually directly, materially lying about the motivations for and genesis of the Iraq war plan.

Now the press has a chance to partially redeem itself by pointing out what the newly released British documents show - that Bush cynically used UN inspections as a ploy to try to goad Hussein into defying the UN, and when Iraq in fact complied with the UN beyond anyone's wildest expectations, Bush invaded anyway, in contravention of the UN charter and thus in direct violation of Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, an impeachable offense.

The clock starts now, WaPo and NYT. If you'll forgive me, I'll use a calendar in leiu of holding my breath in anticipation. But the editors and reporters at these august publications must seize this undeserved opportunity for redemption, lest their credibility, already at a historical low point, be irrevocably lost.

The Gerald Ford Award for Ridiculousness

I hesitate to post this, because it simply has to be a joke. But this story has bbeen up for two days now and I can't find a refutation. Perhaps my readers can help...

Dick Cheney to give out journalism awards for distinguished reporting on the White House and National Security.

And yes, it really is going to be called the Gerald Ford award.

Must... suppress... urge...

[bangs head on table]

Friday, June 10, 2005

Uncle makes the point in the comments that Niblett's version of C's comments in the Downing Street Memo don't really make things any better. "Bolted on" sort of makes it sound like they weren't even trying to manipulate the evidence, they just took what they had and attached it to the idea of invading, even though it didn't have anything to do with their case, except in a vague, peripheral sense.

This point caused me to imagine the following exchange:

Bush: We've got to invade Iraq! It's a great danger and shit!

C: With respect, Mr. President, there doesn't seem to be evidence to support that position. If we're going to go to the British people with this we'll need some evidence.

Bush: Well, hell! We got piles of evidence! Saddam!! Al-Qaeda! Nuculer! Tearrrrr!

C: Sir, that isn't evidence. It's just words you're saying in a loud voice.

Bush: But lookee here! We got pictures! See these trucks? What's in 'em? We don't know! Could be anything, right? And look at this picture here! The trucks are gone! Where did they go? We don't know! Maybe to America! Maybe to England! Stick that in your file, Mr. British Fancy-Pants!

C: Ah, I believe I understand now. This is some sort of American TV program, correct? Am I being, erm, Punk'd? That raffish Ashton Kutcher is going to show up any minute, I suppose.


C: Is there someone else I could talk to about this? Is Mr. Cheney about?

Thank You, Sir, May I Have Another?

USA Today finally has a story about the Downing Street Memo. The story is at least partially about the fact that the mainstream media have not made any significant effort to cover the story. The reporter, Mark Memmott, even notes (as he should) that "Today marks USA Today's first mention."

Another win for - they got their money quote in the article:

“We want what the Michael Jackson, Paris Hilton and Star Wars stories have gotten: endless repetition until people have heard about it,” says David Swanson, one of the organizers of

Heh. Indeedy. USA Today is the first paper to my knowledge to find someone other than an administration official to give a lame denial:

Robin Niblett of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, says it would be easy for Americans to misunderstand the reference to intelligence being “fixed around” Iraq policy. “ ‘Fixed around' in British English means ‘bolted on' rather than altered to fit the policy,” he says.

For those unfamiliar with Mr. Robin Niblett, he has been the source of many content-free blandishments on the subject of the Iraq War going right back to the beginning. For a slice of Niblett's revealed wisdom from back in 2002, check out this old PBS transcript.

For those unfamiliar with the context of the passage which Niblett is trying to explain away, here it is:

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

So in Niblett's English-to-English translation, we get

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being bolted on to the policy.

Which, I think you'll agree, makes no fucking sense. God save us from these idiot experts.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Conason on Downing Street

Once again allow me to call your attention to an important contribution to the discussion of the Downing Street Memo (in accordance with my responsibilities as a Big Brass Alliance member).

This one is an article by the excellent Joe Conason called The Last Laugh. The piece, like the Sunday Times article I linked to earlier, is primarily a savage slap in the face to the DC press corps, pointing out that when Bush gave a nonsensical, juvenile and largely incoherent response to the question posed to him about the Downing Street Memo (which shows, in case you're just joining us, that the president of the United States lied to Congress), the assembled press laughed at Bush's rapier wit.

No one followed up.

It will be interesting to see the press circle the wagons, as they certainly will, over the next few weeks as this story gets bigger and bigger, and the meta-story of the mainstream press's attempt to kill the story becomes more and more embarrassing to the Washington Post and New York Times.

Unfortunately, it seems likely to this commentator that the principle that has guided the U.S. press for at least my entire lifetime will be upheld in this case - when mistakes are madein the service of power, there are no significant consequences.

Big Brass Lazy

I've been blogging for over a year now, and I've just now bothered to find out how to post pictures. This research project, which I put off undertaking for 18 months, took about 90 seconds. Ah, the perils of procrastination. A few more of those and I'll be dead.

Anyway, here is my first post upholding my responsibilities in the

Big Brass Blog is a coalition of America-haters and terrorist sympathizers who wonder if perhaps someone ought to ask the president why he told us he was trying to avoid war when in fact he was doing everything in his considerable power to bring it about, no matter whether his feeble justifications fit the facts or whether the facts had to be fixed around the policy of aggressive war at all costs.

Now it seems Bush has been asked, and it has created some embarrassing questions for both Bush and the American media. The Sunday Times attempts to posit some pretty pitiful excuses for the conduct of the U.S. press, but it's clear the report isn't very sympathetic to those excuses.

We here at the Ape Man can hardly blame them.

The US media, stung by a series of recent scandals involving reporters who made up stories, has also been implementing ever more cautious editorial policies about anonymous sources and unofficial leaks. The media that gave birth to Deep Throat – the legendary Watergate whistleblower – was in danger of becoming the media of Deaf Ears.

Ouch. Continuing directly:

One senior US editor frankly admitted this week that his paper hadn’t touched the Sunday Times memo because it hadn’t been able to obtain a copy from its own sources. Jim Cox of USA Today said his newspaper had tried calling Downing Street, but not surprisingly had failed to obtain "explicit confirmation of [the memo’s] authenticity".

"We can't do a story on this because the people implicated in launching an illegal war on false pretenses wouldn't explicity authenticate the incriminating evidence, though they didn't deny its authenticity." Some top-notch journalism there.

It was not until President Bush was asked about the memo on Tuesday that USA Today mentioned it to its readers for the first time. So frustrated were some of the President’s opponents at the US media’s silence that one left-wing website,, offered a $1,000 reward to any reporter ready to tackle the President on the issue. The Reuters reporter who posed the question on Tuesday was unaware of the reward and has no intention of collecting it.

Funny stuff. Kudos to on that little ironic joke.

Yet now the controversy is out in the open and there is no further doubting of the memo’s authenticity, or excuse for media foot-dragging.

Unequivocally introducing the WaPo and NYT to the Sunday Times' pimp hand. Ba-wap!

[The Ape Man recognizes that the use of the metaphor "pimp hand" is misogynist. But it's funny. The Ape Man regrets its antifeminist devotion to pimp comedy.]

This is Not Religion

This is a pathological fear of sex.

Oh, God.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

S-Lib Perspective on Corporations

There are a lot of dangers answering questions about left-libertarianism, because it is such a foreign concept that there is no background for understanding the answers. It sounds basically nuts.

The best way to understand left-libertarianism is to undertake a massive reading project, to gain an understanding not only of the philosophy behind S-Libism, but much more importantly the S-Lib perspective on the way things actually operate today. This function, of describing the current system accurately, is a much more important contribution than anything that could be done in terms of describing some ideal future society.

With that in mind, let me warily provide this basic overview, from a Chomsky interview, of the S-Lib perspective on corporations. Note that this is not a critique of the idea of corporations, but a description of how they actually operate in the real world. There is much here that will seem quite foreign, and of course many objections could be raised that are not dealt with in this short exchange. But hopefully we can have a bit of dialogue on what those objections are, and how they might be met.


Q: Could you tell us in detail how the corporation became so powerful?

How it became so powerful? Well, we know it very well. There were enormous market failures, market disasters in the late 19th century. There was a brief experiment, a very brief experiment, with something more or less like capitalism, not really but partially, really free markets, and it was such a total catastrophe that business called it off because it couldn't survive, and there were moves in the late 19th century to overcome these radical market failures and they led to various forms of concentration of capital: trusts, cartels, and others, and the one that emerged was the corporation in its modern form.

And the corporations were granted rights by the courts. I mean, I know the Anglo-American history fairly well - but I think it's pretty much the same elsewhere, so I'll keep to that one - in the Anglo-American system the courts, not the legislators, gave the corporate entities extraordinary rights. They gave them the rights of persons, meaning they have the right of freedom of speech, they can propagandize freely, advertise, they run elections and so on, and they have the protection from inspection by the state authorities which means that just as the police technically can't go into your apartment and read your papers, the public can't find out what's going on inside these totalitarian entities. They're mostly unaccountable to the public. Of course they are not real persons, they are immortal, they are collectivist legal entities. In fact they are very similar to other organizational forms we know and are one of the forms of totalitarianism that developed in the 20th century. The others were destroyed, these still exist, and later they were required by law to be what we would call pathological in the case of real human beings.

So they are required legally to maximize power and profit no matter what effect that has on anyone else. They are required to externalize costs, so if they can get the public or future generations to pay their costs, they are required to do that. It would be illegal for corporate executives to do anything else.

By now, in what are called trade agreements, which have nothing much to do with trade, corporations are granted rights that go way beyond the rights of persons. They are granted the right of what's called "national treatment." Persons don't have that right. Like if a Mexican comes to New York, he can't claim national treatment, but if General Motors goes to Mexico, it can claim national treatment. In fact corporations can even sue states, which you and I can't do.

So they're granted rights way beyond persons. They are immortal, they are extraordinarily powerful, they are pathological by legal requirement, and that's the contemporary form of totalitarianism. They are not truly competitive, they are linked to one another. So Siemens and IBM and Toshiba carry out joint projects. They rely heavily on state power; the dynamism of the modern economy comes mostly out of the state sector, not the private sector. Almost every aspect of what's called the "New Economy" is developed and designed at public cost and public risk: computers, electronics generally, telecommunications, the internet, lasers, whatever...

Take radio. Radio was designed by the US Navy. Mass production, modern mass production was developed in armories. If you go back to a century ago, the major problems of electrical and mechanical engineering had to do with how to place a huge gun on a moving platform, namely a ship, designing it to be able to hit a moving object, another ship, so naval gunnery. That was the most advanced problem in metallurgy, electrical and mechanical engineering, and so on. England and Germany put huge efforts into it, the United States less so. Out of associated innovations comes the automotive industry, and so on and so forth. In fact, it's very hard to find anything in the economy that doesn't rely critically on the state sector.

After the Second World War this took a qualitative leap upward, particularly in the United States, and while Alan Greenspan and others make speeches about "entrepreneurial initiative" and "consumer choice," and things you learn about in graduate school, and so on, this has almost no resemblance to the actual working economy. In fact a striking example of all this which we see very clearly at MIT, a main technological scientific university, is a recent shift in funding. When I got to MIT 50 years ago, it was Pentagon funded, almost one hundred percent. That stayed true until about 1970. Since then, however, Pentagon funding has been declining and funding from the National Institute of Health and the other so called health-related national institutes has gone up.

The reason is obvious to everybody except maybe some highly theoretical economists. The reason is that the cutting edge of the economy in the fifties and the sixties was electronics-based, so therefore it made sense for the public to pay for it under the pretext of defense. By now the cutting edge of the economy is becoming biology-based. Biotechnology, genetic engineering and so on, and pharmaceuticals, so it makes sense for the public to pay for that and to take the risks for it under the pretext of, you know, finding a cure for cancer or something. Actually what's happening is just developing the infrastructure and insights for the biological-based private industries of the future. They are happy to let the public pay the costs and take the risks, and then transfer the results to private corporations to make the profits. From the point of view of corporate elites it is a perfect system, this interaction between state and private power. There's plenty of other interactions as well. For example, the Pentagon isn't just for developing the economy, it's also for making sure that the world follows corporate friendly rules. So the linkages are quite complex.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


The Greatness asked earlier about references to left-libertarian thought, and wondered whether perhaps a lot of the proponents of left-libertarianism might not be just as far in the clouds as right-libertarians.

It's a fair question, and the reason I didn't deal with it right away is that it's very difficult to get into because the nature of left-libertarianism is that almost nobody agrees with one another closely enough to talk about a doctrine or a unified theory or anything like that. If there's one commentator in the discourse I track with most closely it's Chomsky, both with regard to his focus and his reasoning, but there are plenty of things we interpret differently.

The core principle of left-libertarianism is basically identical to the core principle of right-libertarianism, which is that the purpose of the government is to maximize the liberty of the individual while preserving above all the individual's right to life.

It's rather humorous that libertarianism, even if you add the right- and left- strains together, should be such a marginal point of view in the U.S., since the principle I just described is the stated mission of the government set forth in the United States Constitution. But presumably this is just some sort of misunderstanding.

Anyway, the differences between the philosophies of left- and right- libertarianism are subtle, but they lead to wildly different perspectives on the way the world works and how we can go about improving the condition of human beings.

A good place to start is with the writings of Rudolf Rocker (no relation to John) who was an anti-Nazi German who was basically the founder of Anarcho-syndicalism. You can probably get more than your fill of Rocker from reading his book online here.

But to get caught up in the high-level theory of anarcho-syndicalism is to miss what is the main modern current of left-libertarianism. Modern left-libertarianism as Chomsky exemplifies it is much more concerned with practical, moral matters than with a vision of an alternative society. This is naturally the case since left-libertarianism and anarcho-syndicalism specifically rejects the idea of imposing a top-down structure on society; thus the roots of a left-libertarian society must be planted within the existing society, and nurtured over many generations.

So while it might be fun to discuss the merits of anarcho-syndicalism as a theory in itself, it would be much more appropriate to talk about questions like: What would be the left-libertarian perspective on CAFTA?

Boeing Scandal Heats Up, Touches White House

This story about the corrupt Boeing/DoD deal seems like a small thing, and it probably is. But it's also the type of story that could become suddenly very big, depending on what's in those 45 sections:

In the copy of the report obtained by The Washington Post, 45 sections were deleted by the White House counsel's office to obscure what several sources described as references to White House involvement in the lease negotiations and its interaction with Boeing. The Pentagon separately blacked out 64 names and many e-mails. It also omitted the names of members of Congress, including some who pressured the Pentagon to back the deal.

I'll be interested to see how Fox News and the WH communications office justifies withholding this information.

Let's Drink

Like, I suppose, most people with my temperament and personality type, I know how to play about a dozen assorted songs on the acoustic guitar. Sometimes with these songs you get to a point where you actually prefer your own version, and it's hard to listen to it on the record. But there's another kind that you can never quite get right; there's something about the chemistry among the band members that creates a mood or a sound that is neither duplicable nor replaceable.

One such song for me is "Let's Drink to the Hardworking People," off of the Rolling Stones' Beggar's Banquet. The song is so strangely honest, extolling the virtues of the common folk while acknowledging that Mick and Kieth and the other megastars will never be able to understand what it's really like to be part of that "faceless mass of grey and black and white."

There's a feeling, a mood, a thread running through the song that is sorely needed in the Democratic party. The first step in bringing the "middle class" (a term generally used to refer simply to the majority of the population) back into prominence in the Democratic Party is to acknowledge that the Democrats have lost touch with the common people.

Uncle chides me sometimes for claiming to identify with the common people. I was, after all, born to college-educated parents, raised in the suburbs, and offered the opportunity to go to college on my parents' nickel.

But in other ways I have much in common with the sort of people who so often seem such a deep mystery to the pampered, millionaire liberals who make up the elected Democratic party. I don't talk about religion or God incessantly, and actually don't consider myself "religious" in the sense that I understand the word (and no, I'm not "spiritual" either), but I can't and don't identify with the weird reeligious phobia that seems to afflict so many on the left, including most of my IRL liberal friends.

I did not graduate from college, for a variety of reasons, and I've managed to rise to a fairly comfortable position through luck, some timely risks, with a sprinkling of white privilege thrown in for good measure. Which is, though we don't like to admit it, the way the middle class generally gets by.

I was born in the South, and I identify as a Southerner, right down to what, if I were louder about it, would probably be considered by most people to be a downright heretical interpretation of the history of the U.S. Civil War. I'm no Confederate sympathizer (though I went through a phase) but no war is clear-cut. Neither was that one.

My cultural beliefs are informed, at least, by my Southern upbringing, and I have always aligned myself with the most right-wing elements of society on the specific question of local control over the maximum range of public policy. This extends to schools, where I have never understood why it should be of any concern to me if a local school in Kansas wants to teach that evolution is an unsupported hypothesis and that intelligent design or creationism is a valid alternative.

Sure, we know these things are misleading at best, but I paid attention in high school history. I learned more lies and was fed more bullshit in that class than they ever could have crammed into a biology class. I survived, even made up my own mind about it. All that without the benefit of a college education. How about that?

Yet when I bring these things up with other liberals, they don't want to hear about it; they want to convince me to convert to a more proper liberal way of thinking. I'm not whining about persecution or marginalization; on the contrary, what makes it so interesting is that many of these people seem to be very interested in what I have to say in the general case.

But who is interested in hearing the perspective of a liberal, white, male, middle-class, Jesus-lovin' Southerner at a time when the liberal ideology is at a historical low point in popularity among white, male, middle-class Jesus-lovin' Southerners?

Bears thinkin' about, don't it?

Mendacious Mehlman

This transcript of Russert interviewing Ken Mehlman may contain the largest number of outright lies that I've ever seen someone tell in a public forum. It's quite astounding.

Mehlman: Here's the question--the fundamental question, the president believes, is when federal funding is involved, he believes it is wrong to destroy some life for the benefit of other life.

This one's not actually a lie, because it reflects the actual policy position of the administration. But I just like marveling at how stupid this principle is when you state it like that. It's wrong to destroy life when federal funding is involved? Whaaaaa??? In a weird way, the whole stem-cell thing was probably the worst tactical mistake the administration made. The idea was to have basically a throwaway issue on which Bush could pretend to think really hard and show that he was a serious man. But the solution he came up with, for reasons that are pretty obvious, made no sense. Now that people have started to ask tough questions about it, they are having to say some pretty stupid things.

MR. RUSSERT: But, Mr. Mehlman, it's gone from $218 billion surplus when George Bush took office to a $427 billion deficit. How can you call that Republican conservative economic policy?

MR. MEHLMAN: Well, what I would say, Tim, is what we've suffered, unfortunately, was an attack on this country. We've suffered a war, and one thing we know: Whenever our nation's faced war, whether it was in the 1980s when we were winning the Cold War or in the 1940s during World War II, the responsible thing to do has been to borrow money to win the war.

It's just unbelievable that they are still getting away with blaming the deficit on September 11th. But this is the first time I've seen a Bush official say that we have "suffered" a war. I personally opposed the Iraq war, protested against it before the invasion, spent a lot of time on it. I'm not happy we're there. But I haven't "suffered" the war. The people who have "suffered" our war of choice are the tens of thousands of people who have died in it , whose homes have been destroyed, their children blown apart by bombs, their mothers raped in our illegal prisons.

OK, now I'm too mad, I can't go on. Maybe more later. But you can read the transcript for yourself.

Democrats and the Iraq War

This post on MyDD sums up many of my feelings on the matter nicely.

Indeed, I continue to believe to this day that if John Kerry had had the guts to stand up and say "I supported this war, and I'm sick over it, because it was wrong and foolish" many people would have strongly identified with that. Polls showed throughout 2004 that many americans were coming to the same place.

Maybe he would have lost even worse, I don't know. But it would have been honest. A little of that would be nice for a change. The Democrats have got to figure out that they are never going to be able to out-lie, out-spin the Republicans. To quote a fairly hackneyed but nonetheless appropriate song, it's time to cut ties with all the lies we've been living in. And that goes for everything, across the board drug policy, the medical system, our idiotic foreign policy going back fifty years, all of it. We know all this stuff is based on lies.

Well, maybe Biden doesn't know it. But most of us do. What have we got to lose?

Monday, June 06, 2005

Smokin' Joe's Lament

Body punches don't play well with TV and radio announcers. That's why if you watch a fight on TV with the sound on, and the fight is between a short pressure fighter and a rangy boxer, you will probably be biased in favor of the taller, outside fighter.

I'm noticing this season that there is a similar problem in basketball with regard to post play. I'm listening to the Heat/Pistons game right now and Dr. Jack is beside himself talking about how great Dwayne Wade is playing, and he just said that "The Heat are getting the ball to Shaq, but Shaq is not having a lot of success."

Right now Wade is 5 of 11, and Shaq is 7 of 13. Having watched basketball, I know where Dr. Jack is coming from in his praise of Wade. Jump shooters just look more impressive than post players, so you can get carried away thinking a guy is having a great game when he's really only shooting OK. But give Shaq some credit. 7 for 13 is pretty good. You have to pay more attention than that.

I think that type of illusion's what sustains the careers of basically useless offensive players like Latrell Sprewell. Latrell could be a pretty good third option, and he's a good defender, but as a featured scorer he is awful, because he shoots like 42%, which just isn't the type of percentage you want to base your offense around.

Yet year in and year out there is always some team willing to use Spre and let him take 20 shots a game. I assume it's because Spre's 8 for 22 just looks prettier than some big guy banging around going 9 for 17. If a guy shoots 3 for 8 from 19 feet, it seems like he's shooting pretty well. But 3 for 8 sucks.

Joe Frazier had this same problem against Ali. Joe thought he probably should have won the second Ali fight, and if you watch the fight in real time, with the sound on, you wonder what the hell fight he was at. But if you slow it down, take the sound off, and really look, you can see he landed a lot of solid, clean shots to the body. They just don't look as good. Too bad for Joe.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Losing Control of the Message

The Bush White House is probably the most effective bully pulpit media machine in the history of the United States. It's hard to compare them to pre-TV administrations, of course, but regardless this White House's communications team has probably done more with less than any administration in history, parlaying a four-year litany of endless failures into an apparent victory in a high-turnout election.

But now, less than six months since the beginning of the second term, the Bush White House is in massive trouble. The media people are losing control, and with nothing underneath, things could get messy quickly.

Exhibit A is this AP report about the Pentagon/Newsweek Quran abuse fiasco. It's generously headlined, but the content is devastating: White House Plays Down New Quran Reports .

Some key passages:

"I think on this issue, they fell into a trap," [Joe] Lockhart said. "They saw a way to push back on a damaging story by making it look like it was just out-of-control journalists, and now they've had to admit that it has happened."


The Pentagon confirmed Friday evening — after the networks' evening news shows had aired — that a U.S. soldier had deliberately kicked a prisoner's holy book. The report also said prison guards had thrown water balloons in a cell block, causing an unspecified number of Qurans to get wet; a guard's urine had splashed on a detainee and his Quran; an interrogator had stepped on a Quran during an interrogation; and a two-word obscenity had been written in English on the inside cover of a Quran.

Pretty negative stuff from AP. But the real killer is the finish - Laura Bush's goodwill tour provides the money quote:

"We've had terrible happenings that have really, really hurt our image of the United States," she said. "And people in the United States are sick about it."

Somehow I don't think that particular talking point was on the card they gave her at the beginning of the trip.

Exhibit B is a Washington Post piece, Bush's Optimish on Iraq Debated. The subhead is "Rosy View in Time Of Rising Violence Revives Criticism."

The toughest graph in this one is actually unnecessarily "balanced;" the pro-administration lead sentence is editorializing. But in the end it serves to sharpen, rather than soften, the force of the blow to come:

It is not unusual for a president to put the most positive spin possible on U.S. policy, especially during a time of armed conflict when public support is crucial. But the administration's assertions about Iraq have been a source of controversy since the earliest days of the operation, from the insistence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction to Cheney's claim of links between Iraq and al Qaeda to the rosy forecasts about how welcome U.S. troops would be.

Exhibit C is not really on the same level as the other two, but it's included because of how it fits into the overall picture - it's probably not a good sign when the AP has two completely different stories running the wire getting headlines with the words "White House Downplays" in them

White House Downplays Missing-Arms Report.

McClellan said that the United States has helped to remove low enriched uranium and radioactive sources, offered jobs to weapons experts from Saddam Hussein's programs to keep them from taking their expertise elsewhere, and helped Iraq establish an independent radioactive source regulatory authority.

The somewhat humorous thing about the apparent White House strategy on this story is that the basic idea they are using is actually true - the only real serious WMD threat is nuclear. Biological and chemical weapons are a pretty minor proliferation threat, comparatively speaking.

But since the nuclear piece was always the very weakest part of the case for invading Iraq, and the best justification the White House can now use for the war is that Hussein could have theoretically started manufacturing chemical or biological weapons anytime (by definition, since they are easy to manufacture), it's got to be hard for McClellan to use this argument with a straight face.

I don't doubt he can do it, but the current media climate is finally making me skeptical that he will be able to get away with it. Four big news weeks coming up for the White House - they need a good June or they could be in big-time trouble.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

June Basketblogging

There is a certain phase of an announcer's career when he's too old to be trusted with real assignments but you can still catch the guy on, for example, ESPN radio. Dr. Jack has reached that phase of his career and it's pitiful as usual.

Dr. Jack just said "with Udonis Haslem playing so well, don't mess up what isn't broke."


Debating the "I" Word - Part One

Ralph Nader and another dude have an editorial in the Boston Globe calling for a debate on the impeachment of President Bush.

As I have a longstanding relationship with the president which has been characterized by my calling for various bad things to happen to him, I suppose I am a suitable candidate to fire an early salvo in this discussion.

Unfortunately unlike many ideologues, given my fairly strict reading of civic traditions and their application to political dialogue and discourse, I will begin at a level far more basic than many of my compatriots on the left will want to bother with, as indeed many on the right skipped over these sorts of niceties so easily when another president was in office.

In any event, we begin at the beginning: What is impeachment? Why does it exist? What are the legitimate reasons for resorting to impeachment, and what burden of proof is rightly incumbent upon those who would bring such an action against a sitting president? The former two questions will hold in any general case, of course, while the latter two must be answered at every step of the impeachment process.

The reason impeachment exists is because the president, being at the head of the executive branch of the federal government, cannot properly serve as president if he is under indictment by any court in the Unites States, state or federal. For a sitting president to be in court defending himself in a criminal case would make a travesty of American government.

For this reason we make a provision in Article II, Section 4 that

The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

The key phrase, "on impeachment for," brings us back around to the first question. What is impeachment?

Impeachment is the process by which a provisional apparatus is created to try an executive for a crime that would normally be tried in a court within the executive branch itself.

"Articles of Impeachment" are therefore brought to create such a provisional apparatus and to enter an indictment against the executive. This is done in one step - the apparatus is not created until prima facie evidence is presented implicating the president in "high crimes and misdemeanors," a phrase tantalizingly left to our own interpretation. It is to this question, of what constitutes an impeachable offense, that we will return if and when we determine that President Bush is implicated in the commission of a criminal act.

First things first. Clearly the main publicly voiced accusation against Bush, and the one that seems most loudly to cry for investigation and exposure, is the allegation that President Bush deliberately and materially lied to Congress about the deliberations taken by his administration in the months and years before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

[more to come, baby waking]

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

This is Going to Go Over Well

Muslims sold to US Authorities.

There will be plenty of apologia for this on the right and among government apologists generally. But one thing I think we can all agree on is that it does not look very good.

BTW, can we stop this Gitmo thing now? Dare I point out it seems to be doing more harm than good? How bout we shut it down? Any strong arguments to the contrary? No? Just silence and the status quo? Nice.

June 1st, 2005... A Watershed?

A modicum of sanity leaks through the doctrinal filter today, again on FOX News' website. You'll notice the source of this piece is the Cato Institute, a right-wing libertarian think tank.

Right-wing libertarianism is a weird discipline, but nowadays most people who self-identify as libertarian are right-wing libertarians, so most people when they think of libertarianism think of right-wing, rabidly pro-corporate ideology such as that which is practiced and promoted by Cato.

Libertarianism of the Cato variety is a key underpinning, you could argue THE key underpinning, of bourgeious Republicanism's (as distinct from proletarian Republicanism, which is mostly about emotional appeals to pseudopopulist crapola that Cato-ites find quite embarrassing) socioeconomic theory. So while few people out in TV-land know what Cato is, they are very influential among important Republican intellectuals.

Interestingly, Cato opposed the Iraq war pretty vigorously at the time. The reason that this did little or nothing to stop support from the war among folks who normally view Cato's pronouncements with something approaching ecstatic awe is open to analysis. But my point is the reverse - why did Cato, corporate capitalism's house organ, oppose the invasion of Iraq?

In my view, the answer to this question is that besides from being clearly morally bankrupt, dishonestly peddled, and incompetently prosecuted [I can find no way to enforce parllel structure here - suggestions for "bankrupt" synonyms that are also verbs will be taken in the comments], the Iraq war was completely fucking crazy.

From a 2002 policy analysis paper by Cato:

There are less costly strategies for dealing with Hussein than conducting a war. Hussein, while he may not act morally, is rational in the sense that economists and political scientists use the term. An examination of his past actions indicates that his principal need is to maintain his own physical and political survival. Using that knowledge, Washington can develop a strategy that would allow the United States to deter Hussein from taking actions detrimental to U.S. national security, without engaging him in warfare.

The free-market faithful may be somewhat deluded when it comes to macroeconomic theory, but sadly, their heads are apparently screwed on a lot straighter than so-called "mainstream" politicians and their boosters.

Something to think about.

Interesting Reading...

The AP has a story today that Yahoo headlines Iraq Concerned US May Leave Too Soon. What the story is really about is the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Kurdish former guerilla leader Hoshyar Zebari. It's Zebari who says, on behalf of the recently elected provisional Iraqi government, that he is afraid that the US may leave too soon, before the Iraqi government is able to defend itself.

This profession of fear seems a bit strange on its face, given two stories I happened to read in the past few weeks. One was a recent, fairly well-publicized statement by Dick Cheney that the U.S. presence in Iraq will be over by 2009, not exactly portending a hasty withdrawal.

The other story it called to mind for me was an early May report from Knight Ridder called Amidst Doubts, CIA Hangs on to Control of Iraqi Intelligence Service.

The Cheney article is pretty stupid; you don't have to read that one, and if you did already I apologize. But the KR article actually contains some interesting information. The most striking thing about the article is the idea, which I must admit had not occurred to me, of using the completely predictable (readers of the old blog will recall that I did, in fact, predict it in 2003) closeness of the new Iraqi government to Tehran as a pretext for maintaining control over the "Iraqi Intelligence Service," which of course is an Orwellian term for the secret police.

In other words, the U.S. invaded Iraq, installed a government that could never have wound up as anything but a Shi'ite-dominated theocracy aligned with Tehran, and is now using the Tehran issue as an excuse to maintain control. Quite fascinating.

But how does this tie in to this professed fear of the Iraqi Foreign Minister that the US might leave too soon? There appear to be no substantive reasons for believing that this might be the case. So what is the point of expressing this opinion? More analysis to come, once I decide what I think about all this.

Downing Street Memo Ignored in US

I don't often link to FOX News, not least because the site is really ugly and garish, but this report on the Downing Street Memo is a good one. Some key quotes:

Conyers says the mainstream media have ignored the story and let President Bush off the hook. He noted that liberal blogs and alternative media have been keeping the story alive.

This is fast becoming a useful Democratic trick - mention blogs and we all link to you. It works on me, apparently...

White House spokesman Scott McClellan has said there is "no need" to respond to the memos, the authenticity of which has not been denied.

Dante Zappala does not agree. For Zappala, the Downing Street Memo strikes a critical and personal chord. His brother, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, 30, a soldier in the Pennsylvania National Guard, was killed in Baghdad 13 months ago on what Zappala said was a mission to find weapons there.

Ouch. Did Bush forget to send Murdoch a Memorial Day card or something?