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October 31, 2005

Paul Krugman: Ending the Fraudulence.

There¥s something Paul Krugman doesn’t quite get about us right wing small government types. In his piece today:

Let me be frank: it has been a long political
nightmare. For some of us, daily life has remained
safe and comfortable, so the nightmare has merely been
intellectual: we realized early on that this
administration was cynical, dishonest and incompetent,
but spent a long time unable to get others to see the

A good intro of course but for us libertarian (classical liberals if you prefer) this could and probably has been said by each and every administration all the way back to George Washington himself. Y’see, we think governments are always like this. Certainly, I recall people saying this about the last Administration, all the way back in the early 90s. You know, land deals, cattle futures, firing the White House travel office, the barber for goodness sakes, well, you see we’re not partisans at all, just realists about what people will do when they gain power over us and the mechanisms of the law.

What do I mean by essential fraudulence? Basically, I
mean the way an administration with an almost unbroken
record of policy failure has nonetheless achieved
political dominance through a carefully cultivated set
of myths.

That can also be said (and has been) about all and any previous administrations.

There’s more of the piece below the fold. Mostly a whine about why the media didn’t say all of this years ago. Might this be the point to say that much of it has been saying this?

Oh, and that first line? OK, you’re Frank.


Let me be frank: it has been a long political
nightmare. For some of us, daily life has remained
safe and comfortable, so the nightmare has merely been
intellectual: we realized early on that this
administration was cynical, dishonest and incompetent,
but spent a long time unable to get others to see the
obvious. For others -- above all, of course, those
Americans risking their lives in a war whose real
rationale has never been explained -- the nightmare
has been all too concrete.

So is the nightmare finally coming to an end? Yes, I
think so. I have no idea whether Patrick Fitzgerald,
the special prosecutor, will bring more indictments in
the Plame affair. In any case, I don't share fantasies
that Dick Cheney will be forced to resign; even Karl
Rove may keep his post. One way or another, the Bush
administration will stagger on for three more years.
But its essential fraudulence stands exposed, and it's
hard to see how that exposure can be undone.

What do I mean by essential fraudulence? Basically, I
mean the way an administration with an almost unbroken
record of policy failure has nonetheless achieved
political dominance through a carefully cultivated set
of myths.

The record of policy failure is truly remarkable. It
sometimes seems as if President Bush and Mr. Cheney
are Midases in reverse: everything they touch -- from
Iraq reconstruction to hurricane relief, from
prescription drug coverage to the pursuit of Osama --
turns to crud. Even the few apparent successes turn
out to contain failures at their core: for example,
real G.D.P. may be up, but real wages are down.

The point is that this administration's political
triumphs have never been based on its real-world
achievements, which are few and far between. The
administration has, instead, built its power on myths:
the myth of presidential leadership, the ugly myth
that the administration is patriotic while its critics
are not. Take away those myths, and the administration
has nothing left.

Well, Katrina ended the leadership myth, which was
already fading as the war dragged on. There was a time
when a photo of Mr. Bush looking out the window of Air
Force One on 9/11 became an iconic image of
leadership. Now, a similar image of Mr. Bush looking
out at a flooded New Orleans has become an iconic
image of his lack of connection. Pundits may try to
resurrect Mr. Bush's reputation, but his cult of
personality is dead -- and the inscription on the
tombstone reads, ''Brownie, you're doing a heck of a

Meanwhile, the Plame inquiry, however it winds up, has
ended the myth of the administration's monopoly on
patriotism, which was also fading in the face of the

Apologists can shout all they like that no laws were
broken, that hardball politics is nothing new, or
whatever. The fact remains that officials close to
both Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush leaked the identity of an
undercover operative for political reasons. Whether or
not that act was illegal, it was clearly unpatriotic.

And the Plame affair has also solidified the public's
growing doubts about the administration's morals. By a
three-to-one margin, according to a Washington Post
poll, the public now believes that the level of ethics
and honesty in the government has declined rather than
risen under Mr. Bush.

So the Bush administration has lost the myths that
sustained its mojo, and with them much of its power to
do harm. But the nightmare won't be fully over until
two things happen.

First, politicians will have to admit that they were
misled. Second, the news media will have to face up to
their role in allowing incompetents to pose as leaders
and political apparatchiks to pose as patriots.

It's a sad commentary on the timidity of most
Democrats that even now, with Lawrence Wilkerson,
Colin Powell's former chief of staff, telling us how
policy was ''hijacked'' by the Cheney-Rumsfeld
''cabal,'' it's hard to get leading figures to admit
that they were misled into supporting the Iraq war.
Kudos to John Kerry for finally saying just that last

And as for the media: these days, there is much harsh,
justified criticism of the failure of major news
organizations, this one included, to exert due
diligence on rationales for the war. But the failures
that made the long nightmare possible began much
earlier, during the weeks after 9/11, when the media
eagerly helped our political leaders build up a
completely false picture of who they were.

So the long nightmare won't really be over until
journalists ask themselves: what did we know, when did
we know it, and why didn't we tell the public?

October 31, 2005 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bob Herbert: Smoke Gets in Our Eyes.

Bob Herbert talks about Scooter Libby and how this shows that the entire Administration is simply a bunch of lying liars (copyright Al Franken).

Me? I think one of the remarkable things about the whole story is what is not being mentioned about Scooter himself. He used to represent Marc Rich. Yes, that’s the same Marc Rich that Bill Clinton pardoned on his last day in office. Libby actually said this:

Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff testified Thursday he believes prosecutors of billionaire financier Marc Rich "misconstrued the facts and the law" when they went after Rich on tax evasion charges.
"No, sir," Libby responded. "There are no facts that I know of that support the criminality of the client based on the tax returns."

Now that is simply laughable, totally hilarious. Vastly more ridiculous than anything he’s said during Plamegate or leading up to Fitzmas. It is so intensely stupid that I cannot believe that he remained as part of the Administration.

Yeah, I know I’m a pretty rightish kinda guy but that statement about Rich is simply absurd.

Still, don’t look for a replay of this in the major outlets anytime soon. No one really wants to remember the Rich pardon just now, not while we’re all pounding on the most lying liar Administration since, ooh, I dunno, Bill Clinton pardoned a man for tax evasion and trading with the enemy while accepting campaign, Presidential Library and furniture fund contributions from the man’s ex-wife.

Naah, it’s not news you see?

More Bob below the fold.


There's a reason so many top officials of the Bush
administration treat the truth as if it were

More than anything else, the simple truth has the
potential to destroy the Bush gang.

Scooter Libby was one of the most powerful figures in
the administration, Dick Cheney's most highly trusted
aide and a champion of the wholesale flim-flammery
that led us into the crucible of Iraq. I haven't heard
anyone express surprise that he would lie in the
service of the administration.

But if the federal indictment returned last week in
Washington is to be believed, Mr. Libby lied with the
kind of reckless disregard for his own interests that
would suggest he had become unhinged. It was as if
he'd waved red flags in front of the grand jury and
cried, ''Come get me!''

You will hardly ever hear of someone who is skilled in
the art of government, and a lawyer to boot, telling
the kind of transparent lies that Mr. Libby is accused
of telling the F.B.I. and a federal grand jury.

The indictment says, for example, that he told the
feds he'd had a discussion with N.B.C.'s Tim Russert
in which Mr. Russert asserted that ''all the
reporters'' knew that Valerie Wilson, the wife of the
former diplomat Joseph Wilson, worked for the C.I.A.
In fact, according to the indictment and Mr. Russert,
no such discussion occurred.

Mr. Libby himself was spreading the word about Ms.
Wilson and, as Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel
investigating the case, asserted, ''he lied about it
afterwards, under oath and repeatedly.''

Who knows why Mr. Libby did what he did. Misplaced
loyalty? An irrepressible need to be punished for his
sins? Maybe he's just a dope. Of greater consequence
for the republic is the fact that Mr. Libby is no
hapless functionary who somehow lost his way. He's a
symptom, the hacking cough that should alert us to a
dangerous national disease, and that's the Bush
administration's culture of deceit.

Scooter Libby was the main man of the most powerful
vice president in the history of the United States.
The most important aspect of the prosecution of Mr.
Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice is the
tremendous spotlight it is likely to shine on the way
this administration does its business -- its
relentless, almost pathological, undermining of the
truth, and its ruthless treatment of individuals who
cling to the old-fashioned notion that the truth

Condoleezza Rice, for example, gave us nightmare
fantasies of mushroom clouds and declared on
television that aluminum tubes seized en route to Iraq
''were only really suited for nuclear weapons
programs.'' Perhaps she forgot that a year earlier her
own staff had been advised that experts had serious
doubts about that. In any event, she would be promoted
to secretary of state.

Gen. Eric Shinseki met a different fate when, as chief
of staff of the Army, he dared to speak an
uncomfortable truth to a Senate committee: that it
would take several hundred thousand soldiers to pacify
postwar Iraq. There was no promotion for him. His long
and honorable career evaporated.

That's the game plan of this administration, to fool
the people as much as possible (not just on the war,
but on taxes, Social Security, energy policy and so
on) and punish, if not destroy, anyone who tries to
counter the madness with the truth.

Most members of the administration are more artful
than Scooter Libby when they send out the smoke that
is designed to hide the truth on important matters.
They dissemble and give themselves wiggle room, like
Dick Cheney when he said, truthfully but deceptively
on ''Meet the Press,'' that he didn't know Joseph
Wilson. The vice president didn't know him personally,
but he sure knew what was going on.

The art of Bush-speak is to achieve the effect of a
lie without actually getting caught in a lie. That's
what administration officials did when they
deliberately fostered the impression that Saddam
Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda and thus was involved in
the Sept. 11 attacks. This is an insidious way of
governing, and the opposite of what the United States
should be about.

It should tell you something that the administration's
resident sleazemeister, Karl Rove, who is up to his
ears in this mess but has managed so far to escape
indictment, continues to be viewed not as an
embarrassment, but as President Bush's most important
and absolutely indispensable asset.

October 31, 2005 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Lard Bucket on the Prime Minister.

Yes, it’s Roy on The Maximum Tone:

So he pursues his own bizarre philosophical course - not only by his personalised definition of civil liberty. Very clearly, the proposals in the education white paper - every secondary school in England autonomously managed, deciding its own admission policy, recruiting its own teachers at wage levels of its choosing and making its own decisions about syllabus and curriculum - are an example of his recent enthusiasm for epistemological experiment. If the plans are put into practice, they will be the first attempt at government-imposed anarchy since the Spanish civil war.

Slightly over the top don’t you think? Something approaching a market where consumers (or at least their parents) get to make choices is equivalent to POUM? Guess you just can’t stop an old socialist pining for the planned economy.

October 31, 2005 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Max Hastings on Fishing.

Sir Max has a piece on the ecological destruction being wrought by commercial fishing. He’s quite right and yet he manages to miss the larger point. We actually know how to solve this problem. Seriously, we do, we know how to solve the biggest of the short term environmental problems on the planet (the only larger one is climate change which is much longer term).

Ocean fisheries are a prime example, a poster child if you wish, of the Tragedy of the Commons. All such tragedies have two possible solutions, social (or as Garrett  Hardin pointed out, socialist)  or private. Looking around the world we can see three places which have managed to deal with this particular problem. Norway, Iceland and the Faroes. All of them have applied a solution which is more to the private side than what we here in the EU do. Fishermen own transerable rights to fish certain waters and certain species. These are long term rights which encourage sustainable practices.

There’s a few other things as well. Bycatch is not discarded as it is in the EU and the establishment of no fishing zones to protect breeding stocks also makes sense.

There are other problems with the species in the open seas (tuna, shark, marlin etc) in that no one actually has property rights over them but of all of the fisheries on continental shelves only one, in the Sea of Okhotsk, is not already within the 200 mile exclusive economic zone of a country. So each country can already bring in (except here in our EU wonderland of course) sustainable fishing practices.

We know how to do this, the legal structure is already in place and yet we don’t actually do it. That’s the real tragedy.

October 31, 2005 in Economics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Chomsky in the Groan.

An interview with Noam Chomsky in the Guardian. Very long and I’m afraid I gave up at this point:

Is there? It's clear, suddenly, that Chomsky's opinion can be as flaky as the next person's; he just states it more forcefully. I tell him that most people I know don't believe anything they read on the internet and he says, seemlessly, "you see, that's dangerous, too."

Para 8 before we identify Old Noam as flaky? And surely it’s seamlessly?

Update: Fortunately, Scott, fresh from his fundraiser, delves a little more deeply. He notes the way in which the reporter catches Noam in some of his more capitalist habits, further information on which can be found here.

October 31, 2005 in Idiotarians | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Helping the Luvvies.

As we know, Nu Labour just loves the luvvies. Snuggle up to the odd celebrity and bathe in the reflected glory sort of thing. So they did something for their ickkle fwends:

...in 1998 the government changed regulations for "entertainers" in order to benefit actors, also customarily freelancers. The idea was that their employers would pay higher levels of national insurance. The actors would then be able to claim jobseekers' allowance while "resting", the benefit being funded by the increased national insurance contributions.

Yep, every unemployed actor could get the dole rather than having to work as a bartender like their forbears. Quite wonderful, of course, maybe they’ll bring it in for freelance writers as well eh? Well, maybe not, for the effect was:

British orchestras face a £33m tax bill that, if collected, could "kill them all off in one fell swoop" according to one orchestra insider. "The problem is so gigantic that literally everyone would go bust," said another symphony orchestra source.

Yep, help the luvvies and screw every orchestra in the land.

Didn’t these people promise us "joined up government"?

October 31, 2005 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Doha Round.

Two little quotes to illustrate the truth behind the current talks on agricultural tariffs in the Doha Round:

Paul Wolfowitz, head of the World Bank, and Rodrigo de Rato at the IMF warned that "the stakes are too great to contemplate failure". In a veiled swipe at France, they said key governments had to "face down interest groups that would perpetuate high trade barriers" and "show flexibility".

"It is clear what needs to be done," they said. "At the heart lies agriculture. The sector remains riddled with trade distortions that penalise consumers everywhere.

That’s absolutely the point. It’s consumers, the 450 million PBI of Europe, who get shafted by these taxes and regulations.

France, meanwhile, suggested that Mr Mandelson had exceeded the limit of his powers. Jacques Chirac has made it clear that he is prepared to veto the deal to protect French farmers.

And L’Escroc is quite happy to shaft those 450 million people. Wonderful, eh? It reminds me of why it is quite so important for us to share our sovereignty with these people so as to be able  to punch above our weight in world politics. Or something.

October 31, 2005 in Trade | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Guy Fawkes

As we all know Guy Fawkes had something of the right idea, we all see stories and have days where we wish for the destruction of the ruling mafiosi of the country. As a TV program has worked out he was, umm, a little heavy handed in his application of the gunpowder:

The civil engineering firm Arup concluded that the blast would have propelled the timber floor upwards so fast that everyone in the chamber would have been killed.

Anyone who did manage to survive would have been finished off by the subsequent fireball, flying timber fragments or the impact of falling back to the ground.

October 31, 2005 in History | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Good God!

This is completely outrageous:

The Foreign Office has been left with a £500,000 telephone bill after a satellite phone belonging to a British diplomat was stolen in Baghdad.

It is understood that the thieves made thousands of calls to Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

The Foreign Office would not say who it suspected of stealing the phone but the nature of the calls suggested that the thieves may have taken it to contact terrorist networks.

Intelligence agents are believed to be working through the dialled numbers in an attempt to trace the recipients.

It is thought that the phone was sent from Britain to a senior diplomat in Baghdad via a courier but that it never reached its destination.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, was reported to be "absolutely furious" and has ordered an inquiry into how such a security blunder could have occurred in such a volatile region.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: "Following concerns about the misuse of one of our Thuraya satellite phones in Baghdad it was debarred from use by the company on 26 June 2005.

No, not that the phone got stolen, that happens. No, not that the thieves used it, that also happens. Sending a live phone, one that does not require further authentication, through the courier system is pretty foolish. No, what’s really amazing is the length of time they left it on. Half a million quid bill? Satellite phones are $3 or $4 a minute. 2 quid. So that 250,000 minutes....4,200 hours....173 days....that they used the phone continuously before someone noticed. That’s using the phone continuously for nearly 6 months before someone noticed the bill.

It looks like we really are becoming more European as that’s the sort of standard of accountancy we expect from the EU.

October 31, 2005 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 30, 2005

Britblog Roundup # 37

Here we are, once again, ready to plunge into the seething ferment that is the UK and Irish blogosphere to bring you the best, as nominated by YOU the readers, posts of the week.

As ever you can make suggestions for next week by emailing to britblog AT gmail DOT com. Any subject, any viewpoint (don’t let my stinking right wing libertarianism put you off) we just want to see the good stuff out there, the things we may have missed.

First up is a powerful piece from International Rooksbyism. I’m not going to describe it, you should read it whether or not you agree with any conclusions.

Another one of the occubloggers (occupational bloggers? Did I just coin that word? According to Google apparently I did) to add to the list, this time a London Underground Stationmaster, here talking about chasing the contractors around on the night shift. There’s also his mother out there blogging from the corner shop and raising money for the Make a Wish Foundation (A grand? Out of the Welsh? Congratulations indeed.)

Postman Patel has a piece on Uzbekistan by Craig Murray our former Ambassador to that country. Very much worth a read and as someone who’s worked in the CIS for the past 15 years I don’t find any of his description of business practices in the least abnormal. Which is one of the problems, of course. I am similarly unsurprised by the stories of torture although obviously repelled. The whole site is worth a scroll around.

Tampon Teabag on the smoking ban in pubs. I rather think he’s got it just right:

From the outset, New Labour's goal has been to find a compromise by which the government would continue to pry into other peoples' lives and boss them about,...

Twenty Major with another report from Dublin. One of these days he’ll tell us something truly unbelievable.

Martin Stabe on the law as it applies to bloggers and other online publishers. You might not like it, you may not even believe it, but we’re governed by the law where the readers are, not where we are. Worth remembering that.

Jamie K at Blood and Treasure picks up on the meme wandering about of "whither British blogging". I think he’s bang on in his description and I’ve no doubt I’ll steal it at some point. A saloon not a salon.

On an Overgrown Path with a neat little piece of town planning.

Tim shows quite how nefarious those rude country folk out Devizes way can be.

Stephen Tall writes in from Planet Lib Dem with a serious and sensible point. The recent Education White Paper is missing an important ingredient. School vouchers. The much vaunted parent power desired will come from purchasing power.

Liberal England is writing on the same subject and wants to try and work out exactly what a "Liberal" education system would look like. He’s also less than impressed with some Lib Dem MP’s takes on the matter.

Philobiblion asks "Where are the women in computing"? One answer given is that the sheer number of geeks uncomfortable with hte presence of women makes it an unappealing career but the question deserves a serious answer. After all, the first programming language was written by a woman. (Ada, Countess Lovelace if you must know, Lord Byron’s daughter I think.)

Natalie also has another intallment of her Diaries of a Lady of Quality posted and some delicious 19th century gossip.

A quick report on a relaxing weekend at the parentals in the countryside is followed by this comment from Chunky Monkey (and yes, I can reveal that in the book out in only 19 days [buy at the top right hand corner!] Ms. CM reveals all about her colonoscopy):

The last time I went home, I was chased by some fat methed-up rednecks for having short hair.

It’s an exciting life, eh?

Break of Day in the Trenches provides a detailed review of Battlestar Galactica. Not so much of the show but what it means from a history researcher.

Mind the Gap on that idiot competition by Zoo magazine to win a boob job for your girlfriend. I have to admit I don’t understand it either. How does any male manage to keep on living after saying "Yes, you’re lovely but your tits are all wrong"? Why is he not, within moments, sporting a large hatchet through his head? Either of them?

Jo Salmon notes a local councillor calling for the legalization of prostitution in Oxford. I’d note further that said Councillor is a taxi driver who ferries Johns at times. Not exactly a disinterested party.

GrumpyOldBookman has some excellent advice for wannabe novelists. As novels are about emotion it might be worth actually doing some research into what scientists are saying and have found out about emotions. You will also want to read the wonderful comment on this post. The third one. Makes me want to buy the novel. As does his comment here.

The Filter is simply brimming with good stuff this week. Start here with a discussion of the minimum wage and then go scrolling.

In meta blogging news Ken Owen wants to start a sportsblogging roundup. Here’s the announcement and entries to him please.

Once More has the Conservative Bloggers Roundup number 3, Wat Tyler (sorry, permalinks don’t work today) has a Bloggers for Davis Roundup and Pickled Politics has the Anglo Asian news of the week. If you’re running or launching something along these lines do let me know so that I can include it.

And that’s it for this week. Entries in for next to britblog AT gmail DOT com and until then:

Toodle Pip!

October 30, 2005 in BritBlog Roundup | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack