Thursday, December 6, 2007

Time Magazine on Bush

Wow, this really cuts into the man:

The NIE represented another promising opportunity missed. Imagine if the President had said, "This report means we don't want war. We want to talk, and everything — including lifting of the economic sanctions and our acknowledgment that you are a major regional power — is on the table so long as you put everything on the table too. That means not only your uranium-enrichment program but also your support for terrorist organizations." How could Iran have said no to that?

But that would have required some other President. This President appears to lack the desire, creativity and patience to engage in the most important diplomacy that a nation can face — with its enemies — over issues that could mean the difference between war and peace.


Here's the entire article:

Thursday, Dec. 06, 2007
Iran's Nukes: Now They Tell Us?
By Joe Klein

The President looked awful. He stood puffy-eyed, stoop-shouldered, in front of the press corps discussing the stunning new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that Iran halted its nuclear-weapons program in 2003. He looked as if he'd spent the night throwing chairs around the Situation Room. A reporter noted that he seemed dispirited, and the President joked, "This is like — all of a sudden, it's like Psychology 101, you know?" He added, "No, I'm feeling pretty spirited, pretty good about life, and I made the decision to come before you so I can explain the NIE." And then, defiantly, "And so, kind of Psychology 101 ain't working. It's just not working. I understand the issues, I clearly see the problems, and I'm going to use the NIE to continue to rally the international community for the sake of peace." And then he walked out.

In truth, Bush seemed as befuddled as everyone else about how and why the nation's intelligence community — the 16 federal agencies charged with spying — had issued an NIE that so profoundly undermined his provocative rhetoric toward Iran. As recently as Oct. 17, the President had said Iran's bomb-building program could be a precursor to "World War III." It was a statement that was both outrageous in its extravagance and very strange. Bush acknowledged that he had first heard in August that a new intelligence analysis of Iran's nuclear-bomb program was imminent, but — and here comes the strange part — he hadn't bothered to ask the Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, what it might contain. "If that's true," Senator Joe Biden opined soon after, "then this is ... one of the most incompetent Presidents in modern American history."

The moment certainly seemed historic. This was, quite possibly, the most assertive, surprising and rebellious act in the history of the U.S. intelligence community. The Administration seemed to have lost control of its secrets. Gone were the days when spymasters would come to the White House for morning coffee and whisper the latest intelligence to the President, and the rest of the world would find out decades later, only after numerous Freedom of Information requests had prized the buried treasure from the CIA vault. Now the latest intelligence evaluations were being announced worldwide, nearly in real time. "It's just mind-boggling," a former CIA officer told me. "The impact of the Iraq WMD fiasco is coming home to roost. The intelligence community was badly burned by that. And the various players never want it asked of them again, 'Why didn't you stand up to the Administration and tell it the truth?'''

The truth about Iran appeared to shatter the last shreds of credibility of the White House's bomb-Iran brigade — and especially that of Vice President Dick Cheney, who had been stumping haughtily for war. It was a political earthquake, reverberating through the presidential campaign. Within hours, Hillary Clinton was under renewed attack by her Democratic opponents for voting for a bellicose anti-Iran resolution in the Senate this year. But the unintended damage was to the credibility of the Republican presidential candidates, all of whom had noisily rattled sabers about Iran. Once again the black-and-white neoconservative view of the Middle East region had been proved wrong. At first the antique neocon Norman Podhoretz actually insisted, "The intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush, is doing it again. This time the purpose is to head off the possibility that the President may order air strikes on the Iranian nuclear installations." Soon, even Podhoretz was in retreat.

But it wasn't just the intelligence community that had been trying to prevent the war hawks in the Administration from bombing Iran. The Secretaries of State and Defense and the leaders of the uniformed military had decided that diplomacy was the best way to deal with an admittedly hostile and dangerous foe in Tehran. Almost exactly a year ago, after the firing of Donald Rumsfeld, the President met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the "Tank," the Pentagon's secure facility. Bush asked the Chiefs about attacking Iran. He was told that a bombing campaign could do severe damage to Iran's military and nuclear facilities, but the Chiefs said they were opposed to such a strike because of the probable "blowback." The Iranians, Bush was told, could make life very difficult for the U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq. They could shut off the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, thereby creating a global economic crisis. And they could use the threat of Iran-sponsored terrorist attacks on the American homeland

At about the same time, a new NIE on Iran was meandering through the intelligence community. A senior U.S. intelligence official told me last week that the report was prepared to say with a "moderate" degree of certainty that Iran had stopped its nuclear-weapons program, but the information wasn't very conclusive. That finding would have put the U.S. in the same camp as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) — deeply concerned about the Iranian efforts to enrich uranium but skeptical about the regime's efforts to fashion that uranium into a bomb.

The intricacies of nuclear proliferation can get very complicated very quickly, but under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), nations have the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes but they must do it in a transparent manner, under international supervision. Iran was, and is, a matter of real concern to the IAEA because it had been caught hiding part of its enrichment program — and because it was widely believed that Iran had a secret bomb-building program (which indeed it had, as of 2003). Even after the new intelligence assessment, Iran's uranium-enrichment program remains troubling to the international community because enrichment is considered the most difficult part of building a nuclear bomb. Iran claims it is enriching the uranium for a peaceful nuclear-power program, but — given its ocean of oil — most international observers don't believe it.

Iran has an opaque and nearly impenetrable government structure, and it's hard to know who exactly controls the levers in that country. There are two of everything. There is a popularly elected President (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) and a — more powerful — Supreme Leader (Ayatullah Ali Khamenei). There is an Iranian army and a — more powerful — Revolutionary Guard Corps. As recently as two years ago, a senior U.S. diplomat told me, "We don't know anything about what goes on inside that government." But that has changed fairly dramatically in the past year. A special CIA Iran-analysis group, which calls itself "Persia House," was split off from the agency's Middle East regional analysts. A major effort was made to recruit human intelligence sources inside Iran. And then, in June and July, the new Iran assets began to pay off. Some of the information may have come from an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps general named Ali Reza Asghari, who defected to Turkey in February. But a senior U.S. intelligence official assured me, "It was multiple collection streams. You don't get a 'high' degree-of-probability assessment without multiple sources."

In August, National Intelligence Director McConnell ordered CIA Director Michael Hayden to have ready by Labor Day a new intelligence estimate reflecting the latest information. Hayden said he needed more time. McConnell set a Nov. 30 deadline. Because some of the information sources were new, Hayden decided to launch a "red team" counter-intelligence operation to make sure that the U.S. wasn't falling for Iranian disinformation. In late October, the Persia House and red-team analysts offered their findings to Hayden and his deputy, Steve Kappes, around the coffee table in Hayden's office. The red team found that the possibility of Iranian disinformation was "plausible but not likely." That assessment led two of the 16 intelligence agencies, but not the CIA, to dissent from the final "high" degree of certainty that Iran had stopped its weapons program in 2003. On the other hand, there was general agreement on a "moderate" finding that Iran had not restarted the program. The National Intelligence Board met and reached its conclusions on Tuesday, Nov. 27. "The meeting took a little more than two hours," a senior intelligence official told me. "There have been times when it has taken multiple meetings that went on for hours and hours to reach a consensus, especially when dealing with one of Iran's neighbors."

Hayden and his senior Iran analysts briefed President Bush on the new NIE on Wednesday, Nov. 28. But it seems apparent the President made little effort to figure out how his Administration could leverage the shocking candor of the intelligence report to his advantage in dealing with Iran. "He could have said to the Iranians, 'This document shows that we're not rushing to war. We're not out to get you,'" said Kenneth Pollack, a National Security Council staff member during the Clinton Administration and author of The Persian Puzzle. "'But we — and the rest of the world — are very concerned about your uranium-enrichment program, and so let's sit down and talk about it.'"

Oddly, Bush didn't seem to ask for a delay in the release of the report. He could easily have requested a few weeks for his Administration to chew over the import of the NIE, discuss it with our allies, organize a new diplomatic initiative to negotiate with the Iranians. As it was, Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns briefed the U.N. Security Council members who had been considering a new round of sanctions against Iran about the same time that word of the NIE broke in the press. When it did, the Chinese, who had seemed surprisingly ready to approve the sanctions, started backing away from that position.

There was one key finding that the President didn't discuss and wasn't asked about during his White House press conference: that Iran had stopped its weapons program "in response to international scrutiny and pressure." Several intelligence sources told me they considered this the most important finding in the report. "Iran isn't impervious," said one. "Diplomatic pressure works. That's something we simply did not know before."

But diplomatic pressure has been embraced only reluctantly, if at all, by Bush and Cheney. Even when the President does get behind an initiative, as he did with the recent Annapolis conference to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, there is an ad hoc, unprepared quality to the effort — a transparent, last-minute rush to cobble together a legacy. What the NIE makes plain is that diplomacy, combined with the threat of international sanctions, has much greater potential when applied to the Iranians than it has ever had in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To be sure, dealing with the Iranians isn't easy. In 2000, President Bill Clinton tried to stage a handshake at the United Nations with then President of Iran Mohammed Khatami — but at the last minute Khatami was ordered to back down by his superiors in Tehran. The truth is, the Iranian mullahs have often been as reluctant to negotiate with the U.S. as Bush has been to deal directly with them — although there may have been an Iranian initiative in 2003, when it appeared that U.S. armies would soon be perched on two of Iran's borders, in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is a dispute in the intelligence community about whether that démarche, which came to the U.S. via the Swiss embassy and promised broad-ranging negotiations, was a freelance effort by Iranian moderates or had been approved at the highest levels of the Iranian government.

The NIE represented another promising opportunity missed. Imagine if the President had said, "This report means we don't want war. We want to talk, and everything — including lifting of the economic sanctions and our acknowledgment that you are a major regional power — is on the table so long as you put everything on the table too. That means not only your uranium-enrichment program but also your support for terrorist organizations." How could Iran have said no to that?

But that would have required some other President. This President appears to lack the desire, creativity and patience to engage in the most important diplomacy that a nation can face — with its enemies — over issues that could mean the difference between war and peace.

Toys from China and Christmas Charity

Heard this morning on KJZZ that local charities (like Toys for Tots) is having problems sifting through donated toys because the likelihood that some of the donations are recalled products with lead in them. Seems like an impossible task. Remember, its not just what the toy looks like, because the recalls are specific to particular batches. They probably have to throw out any toy that resembles a recalled one.

The Salvation Army has even stopped accepting toy donations due to the enormity of this task.

Very sad.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Gem on Jobs in the U.S.

Noni Mausa posted this on Angry Bear:

(Regarding the quote, )"There are more than enough jobs as evidenced by the want ads in 1000's of newspapers. And there is alway self-employment."

Here's the latest 50 from a local job search site. They are purely random listings, coming in the order they were added to the site.

Note the list is dominated by health aide, cleaning, waitering and gas station jobs. The pay for these runs from $8 to $12 / hour -- $15k to $22k per year if they were full time positions. Many of these in the list are part time.

There are a handful of higher paid jobs -- customer service clerk at $30k, RNs and LPNs at $25-35/hour (but the hours are limited, about half time).

I suppose someone has to do all these tasks, but none of them are anything to raise a family on, save for retirement with, or call a "career".

And as far as self-employment goes, here's a story: for decades a man worked for the town hall, polishing the brass cannon in the town square. He was very good at his work, and one day, emboldened by his prowess, he quit his job, bought a cannon and went into business for himself.

==== Fifty job ads, Nov 25 2007 ===

Automobile cleaner, Customer service agent, Moulded rubber products trimmer, Help desk technical agent,
Receptionist, Financial planner - personal finances, Customer service clerk, Customer service adviser, Custodian, Attendant for persons with disabilities - home care, Cleaning supervisor, House cleaner, Retail sales associate, Attendant for persons with disabilities - home care, Car wash attendant, Food and beverage server, Security guard, Pump attendant, Maintenance mechanic technician - industrial, Administrative assistant, Building maintenance worker, Restaurant counter attendant, Cashier, customer service, Line cook, Maid - cleaning services,
General labourer - manufacturing,
Registered nurse - public and community health, Fast-food preparer,
Waiter/waitress - food and beverage services, Propane gas attendant, Technical sales representative - wholesale, Canvasser - retail, Retail salesperson, Health aide, Cleaning services sales representative, Commercial construction painter, Floor cleaner,Registered Nurse, Licensed practical nurse, Health care aide,
Order picker, Delivery truck driver, Building exterior cleaner, Cnc (computer numerical control) programmer, Customer service cashier,
Automobile cleaner, Banquet server,
Security guard, Client care attendant - home care, Client care attendant - home care.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bush Guilty of Felony: CIA Leak Case

Former press aide blames Bush in CIA leak case
Tue Nov 20, 2007 9:13pm EST

By JoAnne Allen

WASHINGTON, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan says in an upcoming book that he was misled by President George W. Bush and other high officials into misinforming the press about a CIA leak case that fueled debate about the Iraq war.

McClellan says he publicly exonerated former top White House aides Karl Rove and Lewis "Scooter" Libby because Bush had called on him to help restore his credibility after the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"There was one problem. It was not true. I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff, and the president himself," McClellan said in an excerpt released on Tuesday.

McClellan, a long-time Bush aide, whose job as White House press secretary from 2003 to 2006 was to field questions from the press, was not available for comment.

His book "Inside the Bush White House and What's Wrong with Washington" is due out only in April, but the publisher, Public Affairs, posted the excerpt on its Web site as a teaser.

Asked about the excerpt, White House press secretary Dana Perino said: "The president has not and would not ask anyone to pass on false information."

A criminal investigation into who leaked the identity of former CIA analyst Valerie Plame reached into the ranks of top White House aides and resulted in the conviction of Libby on perjury and obstruction of justice charges in March.

Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, was sentenced to 2 1/2 year in prison. Bush commuted the sentence in July.

Plame's cover was blown after her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, accused the Bush administration of manipulating intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to build its case for war.

No one was charge with criminally disclosing Plame's identity.

Rove, Bush's former White House political adviser, was investigated but not charged, in the CIA leak probe.

On the day when Libby's verdict was announced, McCllelan was asked in an interview on CNN's "Larry King Live" whether he had been lied to by those involved.

He responded: I did speak directly with them and I was careful about the way I phrased it at the time, even though I believed what they had told me to be the truth." (Reporting by Joanne Allen, editing by Chris Wilson)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Certified E-Mail

Let it be known throughout the land, I received my first ever CERTIFIED e-mail today in Yahoo Mail. Will this be a turning point in web history? Soon, we can say goodbye to the possibility of some small single person startup competing against big business on the web. What comes to mind is a particular ad by IBM circa 2000 of a young kid with a chicken selling eggs competing against a major corporation, implying that online, there was no way to tell the difference. Now, perhaps a thing of the past.

The e-mail was from Build-a-Bear Workshop, so parents of young children are probably going to be the first to notice the trend.

Also see:

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Example My Evangelical Friends Were Waiting For

"Why should I worry if I have nothing to hide..."

Here you go:

FBI will have anyone you call a terrorist detained, or

Man angry with son-in-law fingers him as terrorist to FBI Fri Nov 2, 8:47 AM ET

STOCKHOLM (AFP) - A man in Sweden who was angry with his daughter's husband has been charged with libel for telling the FBI that the son-in-law had links to al-Qaeda, Swedish media reported on Friday.

The man, who admitted sending the email, said he did not think the US authorities would stupid enough to believe him.

The 40-year-old son-in-law and his wife were in the process of divorcing when the husband had to travel to the United States for business.

The wife didn't want him to travel since she was sick and wanted him to help care for their children, regional daily Sydsvenska Dagbladet said without disclosing the couple's names.

When the husband refused to stay home, his father-in-law wrote an email to the FBI saying the son-in-law had links to al-Qaeda in Sweden and that he was travelling to the US to meet his contacts.

He provided information on the flight number and date of arrival in the US.

The son-in-law was arrested upon landing in Florida. He was placed in handcuffs, interrogated and placed in a cell for 11 hours before being put on a flight back to Europe, the paper said.

The FBI contacted Swedish intelligence agency Saepo, which discovered that the email tipping off the FBI had been sent from the father-in-law's computer.

The father-in-law has been charged with aggravated libel.

He has admitted sending the email, but said he didn't think "the authorities were so stupid that they would believe anything. But apparently they are."

He said he "couldn't help the US authorities' paranoid reaction".


Impeachment in Conyer's Court!

This is absolutely amazing parliamentary play-by-play!!

Cheney Impeachment Resolution Sent to House Committee at the Washington Post

Public Education: 2nd Graders

In my kid's 2nd grade class, this really gives me pause:

1) There is a Capitalists Club (literally) for the kids. And to join, you have to sell a certain amount of Entertainment Books.

2) This week in writing they are focusing on, not poetry, but Brochures. As in, what makes a Good Brochure?

Free Trade and Exchange Rates

In some screeds I've written about free trade, I've deliberately ignored the complicating factor of exchange rate policy, in an effort to give mainstream Economics some benefit of the doubt. I'm willing to assume, for the sake of focusing the argument, that Ricardian concepts hold at some level.

But a scenario occurred to me this morning that made the exchange rate policy all the more significant. It is this. What if, after just about 100% of manufacturing (including pharmaceutical) is offshored, which might make bottom-line economic sense with the current exchange rate, the exchange rate starts to shift? What if, as is pretty well documented and understood, the Chinese have held their exchange rate artificially low, encouraging foreign capital investment, for a long enough time to dry up all remnants of capital investment in the United States? This is complicated by the fact that the US Dollar doesn't necessarily naturally float (although supposedly it does so much more freely than the Chinese Yuan).

But then, the Chinese stop artificially keeping the Yuan low. Prices skyrocket, and US Companies are paying much higher rates for the goods that are manufactured in China. In Ricardian Economics, US Companies should now start investing in capital back at home. But will they? How long will that take? Will instead the US, in order to protect all those companies that are getting screwed by the flux in exchange rate, modify its own exchange rate policy because it is politically popular to the wealthy interests (owners of Chinese capital)?

Friday, November 2, 2007

In China, Punishment Would Be Capital: CPSC

Two Heads of Product Safety Agency Accepted Trips From Manufacturer Groups

The agency's travel patterns during the Bush administration, detailed in internal agency documents, differ from those of the Clinton era. Ann Brown, who served as chairman from 1994 to 2001, traveled only at the expense of the agency or of media organizations that sponsored appearances where she announced product recalls, according to the documents provided.

For background:
Republicans Kill the Consumer Safety Product Commission

Also, previously on this blog:
Thoughts on the FDA

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Is This Where School Vouchers Will Lead?

In South's public school children are now mainly low income, the story focuses on the rise of poverty, but is it possible that there was a flight from public schools to private schools in the South?

Many Southerners say the erosion of wealth in the public schools also reveals deeply ingrained attitudes in the South, where strong legislatures, weak governors, fiscal conservatism, and racial stereotypes stymie school progress. "I don't know how many times I've heard that public schools are really for the black kids," says Neal Thigpen, a political scientist at Francis Marion University in Florence, S.C.

My Posts At Angry Bear

Recent posts of mine over at Angry Bear:

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bush Stops Going to Church

Oooh, another gem from Froomkin today, of note to me because, of the Bush supporters I have met, some of the most sentient have actually been those that voted for him out of appreciation for his religiosity:

Julie Mason blogs for the Houston Chronicle that Bush has apparently stopped going to church: "Another Sunday and President Bush skipped church. We can't remember the last time he went. He never used to miss church -- and we know, because we get Sunday pool duty all the time and have to get up in the dark and go with him."

Mason checks her files: "9/23 pool report: The president of America eschewed church on this fine Sunday and instead went for a bike ride in Virginia. . . . 9/30 pool report: The evangelical president did not go to church today, but he did go on a bike ride. . . . 10/7 pool report: (Bush gave a speech at the National Fire Academy) . . . . 10/14 pool report: (Bush was on his Crawford ranch) 10/21 pool report: Pool reported this morning and headed straight for biking, no church. . . . 10/28 pool report: No church, and uneventful bike ride at Fort Belvoir, Va."

Is the Election of Bush an Argument for Leninism?

While many people have been aware since 2003 of the fact that contractors in Iraq are not held accountable to any law in any country (I blogged about it years ago), it does seem like to the media it is a new discovery, or even a "loophole", as if "overlooked" by the Administration and not, in fact, by design.

Anway, Froomkin uses the media moment to showcase yet another example of how Bush Does His Job:

As it happens, President Bush has been aware of the hole for some time -- and deserves some of the blame for not fixing it earlier. Confronted about it in public more than a year ago, Bush literally laughed off the question -- and then, tellingly, described his response as a case study in how he does his job.

The setting was a question-and-answer session after Bush spoke at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in April of 2006. (Here's a video clip.)

One student, a first-year in South Asia studies, told the president: "My question is in regards to private military contractors. Uniform Code of Military Justice does not apply to these contractors in Iraq. I asked your Secretary of Defense a couple months ago what law governs their actions.

Bush: "I was going to ask him. Go ahead. (Laughter.) Help. (Laughter.)"

Student: "I was hoping your answer might be a little more specific. (Laughter.) Mr. Rumsfeld answered that Iraq has its own domestic laws which he assumed applied to those private military contractors. However, Iraq is clearly not currently capable of enforcing its laws, much less against -- over our American military contractors. I would submit to you that in this case, this is one case that privatization is not a solution. And, Mr. President, how do you propose to bring private military contractors under a system of law?"

Bush: "I appreciate that very much. I wasn't kidding -- (laughter.) I was going to -- I pick up the phone and say, Mr. Secretary, I've got an interesting question. (Laughter.) This is what delegation -- I don't mean to be dodging the question, although it's kind of convenient in this case, but never -- (laughter.) I really will -- I'm going to call the Secretary and say you brought up a very valid question, and what are we doing about it? That's how I work. I'm -- thanks. (Laughter.)"

Oh, and just because I am amazed nothing comes up in Google for this:
Election of Bush is an Argument for Leninism

Limits of Education as a Means to Equality

Stumbling and Mumbling has an interesting argument for a more equitable income distribution. It is in response to the often made claim that Education is the panacea.

Rich parents tend to transmit advantages to their children in all sorts of ways outside school: home tutoring; good genes; investment in activities and books; social networks; a culture that values learning; and positive attitudes.
To offset these advantages - that is, to create genuine equality of opportunity - poor children must get better schooling than rich ones, perhaps much better.
But this is not feasible. For one thing, it's expensive to improve schools; the link between inputs and outputs in education is weak. And there'd be huge hostility to this; just look at the outrage prompted merely by cheap ways to equalize children's chances of going to good schools. And even if poor areas did have better schools, richer parents would game the system to get their children into them.
Instead, a better solution might be to increase equality of outcome - not just through more progressive taxation, but by flattening organizational hierarchies. International evidence suggests countries with less inequality of income have greater social mobility.

One reason for this is that greater equality amongst parents would tend to reduce inequalities in investments in children. Another reason is purely mathematical. The narrower is the gap between the top and bottom quartiles, the more likely are people to move between them.

I would also add that it would alleviate the modern curse of the guilt due to underachievement well summarized in the first few chapters of Alain de Botton's "Status Anxiety"

Education, Over-education

A somber Krugman post today had me contemplating Democracy and, mixed with my recent enjoyment of MIT's free online lectures, especially Sylvia Ceyer's excellent Chemistry presentations
and the question of how to teach science to youngsters who are not blessed with mild forms of Asperger's,
led me to this post which echoed at least one recent Angry Bear feedback post on a Free Trade post, which begs the qustion of the purpose of education in an economy. This line from the referred to study abstract is significant:

"This adds to the relevance of preventing overeducation, and shows that being employed above one’s level of education contributes to workers’ cognitive resilience."

Essentially, you're happier if you are employed at a job JUST ABOVE your educational level than if you are employed at a job JUST BELOW your educational level.

And the aforementioned blogger, Zubin Jelveh, asserts that "the (U.S.) job market isn't built to help find a new job for a person who is stuck in a position that doesn't use their abilities efficiently.".

I still am left wondering, however, with each generation of scientific advancement and complexity, what percentage of the population can be expected to fully understand it (and thus contribute to it). I say this as one who considers himself cursed to being somewhere between the elites that do, and the those that don't. I think I understand enough to know where my capabilities end (somewhere in the mid-19th century...just before Maxwell's Equations).

And why are the Dutch seemingly the only ones studying these things?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Provocative Statement

I found this interesting point amongst an otherwise near scatalogical post. I think it brings together two of my interests very provocatively, Free Trade and History of Public Education:

If, as immigrationists often claim, the economy benefits so much from low skill workers, why continue to spend money educating native born Americans? Think of the economic boom to result if we stopped funding high schools and colleges in order to increase the homegrown pool of unskilled labor.

Libertarianism is Applied Autism

Ran into this gem of a statement today, originally attributed to a blogger named "AcrossDifficultCountry", and nicely showcased by one Steve Sailer.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Rush Limbaugh Blackmails Reporter, Threatens Reporter's Children

This is such a revealing offense by Rush Limbaugh that word needs to get out about this. He says to a reporter, by his own admission, "We're going to find out where your kids go to school..." in order to threaten the reporter into changing his/her story on him (and by Rush's admission, the reporter did in fact change the story).

Rush Limbaugh blackmails reporter, threatens Reporter's children

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Reaganomics Finally Trickles Down To Area Man

Well done, Onion!

Reaganomics Finally Trickles Down To Area Man
October 13, 2007 | Issue 43•41

HAZELWOOD, MO—Twenty-six years after Ronald Reagan first set his controversial fiscal policies into motion, the deceased president's massive tax cuts for the ultrarich at last trickled all the way down to deliver their bounty, in the form of a $10 bonus, to Hazelwood, MO car-wash attendant Frank Kellener.

"Back when Reagan was in charge, I didn't think much of him," Kellener, 57, said, holding up two five-dollar bills nearly three decades in the making. "But who would have thought that in 2007 I'd have this extra $10 in my pocket? He may not have lived to see it, but I'm sure President Reagan is up in heaven smiling down on me right now."

Leading economists say Kellener's unexpected windfall provides the first irrefutable proof of the effectiveness of Reagan's so-called supply-side economics, and shows that the former president had "incredible, far-reaching foresight."

"When the tax burden on the upper income brackets is lifted, the rich and not-rich alike all benefit," said Arthur Laffer, who was a former member of Reagan's Economic Policy Advisory Board. "Eventually."

The $10 began its long journey into Kellener's wallet in 1983, when a beefed-up national defense budget of $210 billion enabled the military to purchase advanced warhead-delivery systems from aerospace manufacturer Lockheed. Buoyed by a multimillion-dollar bonus, then-CEO Martin Lawler bought a house on a 5,000-acre plot in Montana. When a forest fire destroyed his home in 1986, Lawler took the federal relief check and invested it in a savings and loan run by a Virginia man named Michael Webber. After Webber's firm collapsed in 1989, and he was indicted on fraud and conspiracy charges, he retained the services of high- powered law firm Rabin & Levy for his defense. After six years and $7 million in legal fees, Webber received only a $250,000 fine, and the defense team went out to celebrate at a Washington, D.C.-area restaurant called Di Forenza. During dinner, lawyer Peter Smith overheard several investment bankers at an adjoining table discussing a hot Internet start-up that was about to go public. Smith took a portion of his earnings from the Webber case and bought several hundred shares in, quadrupling his investment before selling them four months later.'s two founders used the sudden influx of investment capital to outfit their office with modern Danish furniture, in a sale brokered by the New York gallery Modern Now! in 1998. After the ensuing dot-com bust, Modern Now! was forced out of business, and Sotheby's auction house was put in charge of liquidating its inventory. The commission from that auction enabled auctioneer Mary Schafer to retire to the Ozark region of Missouri in 2006. Last month, while passing through Hazelwood, she took her Audi to Marlin Car Wash, where Kellener was one of the employees who tended to her car. She was so satisfied with the job that she left a $50 tip, which the manager divided among the people working that day.

"This money didn't just affect one life," Laffer said. "It affected five."

Prior to joining Marlin Car Wash in 2005, Kellener worked for nearly two decades at a local Ford assembly plant that is now defunct. Before that, he was employed by the FAA as an air traffic controller until his union went on strike and Reagan fired him, along with nearly 13,000 others. This is the largest tip he has received in his professional life.

"I thought Reaganomics was nothing more than a mirage that allowed President Reagan to reward his wealthy support base," Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) said. "But two generations later I am seeing Reaganomics in action, and I like what I see. It just took a little longer than I thought it was supposed to."

The tip has not gone unnoticed by the economic team in the current administration.

"Had Mr. Kellener received that money in 1981, like the Democrats wanted, it would only be worth $4.24 today because of inflation," Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr. said during an official announcement of the economic policy's success at a press conference Monday. "Instead, Kellener has a solid $10 to spend right here and now. The system works, and our current president intends to keep making it work."

Kellener, who has cared for his schizophrenic sister ever since her federally funded mental institution was closed in 1984, said that he plans to donate the full $10 to the Republican presidential candidate who best embodies Reagan's legacy.

On the UK Dentist Story

How pathetic. In response to the national outcry for national health insurance, a story gets planted in the US Media going by headlines such as: "English 'pull own teeth' as dental service decays".

I am sure the rate of self-performed dentistry in the U.S. is a lot higher than in the U.K. Only, the U.S. government has no incentive to do such a study as was done in the UK.

As I understand it, what has happened in the US and in the UK, since about 10-20 years ago, modern dentistry had been a great success in cutting down on stuff that historically plagued teeth (cavities, I suppose) and that for a period of time it looked like much fewer dentists would be needed (witness the closing of dental schools in the US during the late '80's and 90's. ).

In the UK, they recognized that great success and created a new contract with dentists to cut down on the number of patients Dentists had to see.

In the US, the dentistry field recreated itself, doing lots of cosmetic dentistry (to make money).

In the UK, the new contract apparently backfired in unanticipated ways (yes, you always get those with government programs). But all in all it seems a temporary situation in Britain until they re-do the new contract. In the meantime, if you have enough money in Britain, you can still get dental work done, just like in the US.

UK Story on Dental Care Problem

Dental Care Crisis in United States

Monday, October 15, 2007

New Dinosaur Named for Corporation

From today's news:

Futalognkosaurus dukei's name is derived from the indigenous Mapuche language meaning "giant chief of the lizards," and the name of U.S. power company Duke Energy Corp, which financed a large part of the excavation in Argentina.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Angry Bear (see link to the side) has had some good posts lately. Please check that blog out.

Also, Eric Alterman writes:

There's zero proof that voters ever cared about Hillary Clinton's cackle or John Edwards' haircuts or Al Gore's sighs -- stories that consume so much of the press corps' time, energy, and interest. For instance, throughout the extensive cackle coverage, do you recall reading or hearing a single quote from an actual voter who expressed interest, let alone concern, about Clinton's laugh? Read more (below)


The Cackle joins The Haircut and The Sigh


The media's comical obsession earlier this month with the tone and frequency of Sen. Hillary Clinton's laugh didn't just represent another head-smacking moment in the annals of awful campaign journalism. It also served as a preview of what's likely to come in 2008.

Anybody who thinks that if Clinton wins the Democratic nomination that the Cackle narrative won't be revived has not been paying attention in recent years. That's why it's so important to take a moment to understand the press dynamics that allow a story like The Cackle to flourish, and why pointless stories like that -- and John Edwards' Haircut or Al Gore's Sighs during a 2000 presidential debate -- only affect Democrats.

You simply cannot find examples in recent years of Republican presidential candidates' physical ticks or trivial personal foibles that the press has pounced on and announced to be wildly important and deeply revealing. That's just not a distraction Republican candidates have to deal with. The media phenomenon only applies to Democrats and the phenomenon only exists because journalists manufacture it.

Meaning, there's zero proof that voters actually care about Sighs or Haircuts or Cackles, stories that consume so much of the press corps' time, energy, and interest. For instance, throughout the extensive Cackle coverage, I don't remember reading or hearing a single quote from an actual voter who expressed interest, let alone concern, about Clinton's laugh.

That was confirmed by the polling data released after the cascade of negative Clinton coverage. One prominent poll showed she had opened up a gaping 33-point lead over her closest rival. The press manufactured an accusatory storyline about Clinton's calculated laughs, and voters couldn't have cared less.

The reason the Cackle story had such legs is that the campaign press corps resents Clinton (and the large lead she's opened up in the polls), and that disdain anchored much of the coverage. Just like pundits and reporters do not like Edwards and his populist streak, and just like they didn't like Gore when he ran for the White House in 2000, which led to the Sigh news coverage.

You remember The Sigh don't you? During the crucial final stretch of the 2000 campaign, pundits and reporters announced that Gore's ill-timed sighs during a debate against candidate George Bush were not only rude and condescending, but they might cost him the election. The New York Times' Bob Herbert wrote, "If he can somehow force himself to stop sighing and interrupting and behaving condescendingly in front of the television cameras, Al Gore may yet get elected president."

It's true, as the Daily Howler noted, that every instant poll taken after the debate indicated that Americans thought Gore had won the debate, and won it easily. So where was the proof that viewers detested Gore's allegedly smug style? Journalists didn't need actual proof. They just knew Gore was disliked. By whom? By journalists, of course.

Edwards this year battled the same press bias with the never-ending Haircut coverage, which has also been barren of quotes from voters who claimed to care about the coiffure kerfuffle. But the press was certain that The Haircut told us a lot about Edwards the candidate (that he's a phony and a hypocrite), which justified the swarming media attention.

A quick check of Nexis shows The Haircut was mentioned 120 times in mainstream media news reports about Edwards ... within the last 30 days. For the year, the Haircut tally is north of 700 news mentions.

That brings us to The Cackle, which was covered earnestly by the best and brightest gathered inside elite newsrooms at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Cincinnati Post, National Public Radio,, Reuters, Associated Press, Politico, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, among others.

Why did The Cackle matter? Because, we were instructed, it showed how calculating and inauthentic Clinton really is; how unlikable she has become. Just like The Sigh proved Gore was a jerk and how The Haircut proves Edwards is a fake. And because anecdotes are so much more fun to cover than actual campaign issues.

Our pundits don't do policy. They do personality. And it's not just the much-maligned cable talkers who bypass substance in favor of fluff. Here's the number of New York Times columns, written by staff columnists, that have examined, in detail, Clinton's recently unveiled "American Health Choices Plan": 2. Washington Post: 1. USA Today: 0. Chicago Tribune: 0. Los Angeles Times: 1. Dallas Morning News: 0. San Francisco Chronicle: 0. New York Daily News: 0. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 1. Washington Times: 0. Boston Globe: 0

You get the idea.

In fact, when Clinton did talk about policy during her recent Sunday morning talk show swing in late September, The Washington Post mocked her for talking too much. It was reminiscent of the 2000 campaign when Gore met with columnists and editorial page writers at The New York Times. Afterward, Maureen Dowd complained in print that Gore had been so boring, droning on and on about heath care and the environment. Dowd had no patience for such banalities.

What else did The Cackle, The Haircut, and The Sigh have in common? They were all typed right off Republican talking points, which hammer the notion that Democratic presidential contenders are phonies. Yet during the Cackle coverage Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz kept trying to push the idea that it was liberal Comedy Central host Jon Stewart who hatched the laugh storyline (who "kicked things off") by airing a clip featuring Clinton's chuckles and suggesting they were pre-programmed. During a online chat, Kurtz specifically pointed to Stewart's role to deflect the suggestion that the press had adopted yet another negative, right-wing talking point about a Democratic candidate. Kurtz's claim though, was false.

Yes, Stewart's show poked fun at Clinton, albeit in a very mild way. Even Stewart conceded on-air that the idea of a Fox News host asking Clinton why she's so partisan was funny, which accounted for Clinton's uproarious response on Fox News, one of the most authentic belly laughs I've ever heard a politician uncork on national television. (No matter, the pundits huddled and determined the outburst had been phony.)

But days before The Daily Show chimed in, right-wing talker Sean Hannity had already been making fun of the "frightening" Clinton laugh, and so had Rush Limbaugh. Fox News' O'Reilly Factor had tagged the laugh "evil," right-wing news website the Drudge Report had hyped the laugh (complete with an audio clip), and the Republican National Committee had started the whole news cycle off by admonishing the Clinton laugh via a press release, which was sent out within an hour of her concluding her final Sunday morning interview on September 23.

The truth is that just like the Gore-invented-the-Internet attack from the 2000 campaign -- which began as an RNC press release, was picked up by the right-wing media, and then embraced by the mainstream press -- the Clinton Cackle story was written and produced at Republican headquarters. It's curious that Kurtz tried so hard to pretend otherwise.

The New York Times and its dreadful Cackle reporting

Back to The Cackle. It was the Times that led the charge among the serious press into the utterly trivial pursuits of Clinton's laugh, and specifically the use of the sexist term "cackle." The Times also forcefully assigned motivation to the wayward chortles.

Let's take a look at the lede of the Times' atrocious September 30 article, written by Patrick Healy:

It was January 2005, and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton had just finished a solemn speech about abortion rights -- urging all sides to find "common ground" on the issue and referring to abortion as "a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women."

Healy goes on to tell about how Clinton, once off-stage, laughed inappropriately "for a few seconds" to a reporter's question about abortion. (FYI, the story was re-told exclusively through the eyes of Healy; nobody independently confirmed the tale.) But note the date of the anecdote: January 2005.

If I were a news editor at the Times and for some reason OKed an article about candidate Clinton's use of a loud laughter in public forums and what it meant to her presidential chances, and a reporter filed a story that opened with an anecdote that took place 33 months ago, before Clinton was even a candidate for president, I'd send the article back for a re-write.

But that's just me.

Then there was this paragraph, in which Healy was busy reading Clinton's mind:

So, instead of alienating Iowans who might not vote for edginess, Mrs. Clinton goes for the lowest-common-denominator display of her funny bone: She shows that she can laugh, and that her laugh has a fullness and depth.

First off, Healy's reference to "Iowans" made no sense since most of Clinton's identified laughs took place on national television, which meant voters in every early-caucus and primary state were likely exposed to them. (i.e. Why would she be afraid of alienating just Iowa voters?) Also, that Hawkeye state reference came out of the blue; it was the first Iowa reference in the article. I assume its inclusion there was simply due to sloppy editing.

Secondly, notice how Healy, based on nothing more than his own keen powers of observation, concluded that Clinton's laughs represented a "lowest-common-denominator" attempt to win over voters. What was his proof? He had none.

Healy quickly adopted the unproven theory that Clinton unleashes her laugh when faced with difficult, probing questions as a way to divert attention and defuse the situation. It's the same presumption John Dickerson used at Slate, claiming the laughs constituted an obvious ploy, a "strategy" to distract attention away from tough questions that she's going to "dodge." Soon the Politico's Mike Allen chimed in, agreeing the laughs were "a way for the senator to deflect questions that either are tough or ... could be trouble." And days later The Washington Post's Kurtz reported, categorically, that the laugh represented "a calculated tactic to deflect tough questions and perhaps soften her image in the process."

To prove the point about the laugh being a pre-planned tactic, here's what Healy wrote about Clinton's appearance on CBS' Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer:

The Schieffer moment seemed particularly calculated because Mrs. Clinton has most certainly not laughed in other settings when she has been accused of pursuing socialized medicine.

Try to follow the logic at work here: Clinton laughed when she was asked by Schieffer about her health-care plan. To prove that The Cackle was designed to defuse difficult questions, Healy noted that on previous occasions Clinton had been asked the exact same question about her health-care plan and she had not laughed. But doesn't that in fact prove the opposite? Meaning, if the laugh was "calculated" wouldn't it occur every time Clinton was asked about whether her health-care plan was an attempt to socialize medicine?

And do journalists really think that Hillary Clinton, who has been campaigning for universal health care for the last 15 years and has become a leading expert on the issue, is so nervous about the topic and unsure of the facts that when she's asked about it on national television she deliberately hides behind a giggle in order to camouflage her response?

Also, recall that the interest in Clinton's laugh came after she spent the morning of September 23 appearing via satellite on all five Sunday morning talk shows, during which time she spoke for nearly an hour and answered approximately 60 questions. As best I can tell, within that marathon session of interviews Clinton laughed just a handful of times, and the laughs lasted, combined, maybe 30 seconds. But if the Healy/Dickerson/Allen/Kurtz theory were true, and Clinton laughed whenever she faced a probing questions -- and she faced them for nearly an hour that Sunday morning -- then Clinton would have uncorked laugh after laugh after laugh. Instead, just a handful were audible.

In other words, the media's lazy, contemptuous theory about Clinton's chuckle, that it's manipulative and calculated, makes no sense. And am I the only one who chuckled that Clinton, previously depicted by the press as aloof, was suddenly being ridiculed for laughing too much?

Meanwhile, did you notice what was missing from the Times piece and the Slate piece and the Post piece and every other article and television discussion that took place about The Cackle? What was missing was any reporting, or even second-hand speculation, that Clinton's Democratic rivals were using the laugh against her, or that they were even discussing it.

Truth is, nobody from the other campaigns was talking about the laugh -- they couldn't have cared less -- just like none of Edwards' Democratic rivals ever brought up The Haircut. Both stories were driven exclusively by pundits and reporters who stressed that the trivial pursuits were politically important even though they could not produce any evidence to support it. Neither voters nor opponents cared. Only journalists were intrigued.

Posted to the web on Wednesday October 10, 2007 at 11:10 AM EST

Friday, October 5, 2007

Personal Income Over Time

This chart is median income of 15 year olds or older, who have non-zero income.
(US Census Bureau)
1950(1950 $'s, 2004 $'s)1960(1960 $'s, 2004 $'s)1970(1970 $'s, 2004 $)1980(1980 $'s, 2004 $'s)1990(1990 $'s, 2004 $'s)2000(2000 $'s, 2004 $'s)2004(2004 $'s)
OverallMale2 570(17 077)4 080(22 051)6 670(28 100)12 530(27 206)20 293(28 439)28 343(31 089)30 513
Female953(6 333)1 261(6 815)2 237(9 424)4 920(10 683)10 070(14 112)16 063(17 619)17 629
WhiteMale2 709(18 001)4 296(23 219)7 011(29 536)13 328(28 939)21 170(29 668)29 797, (32 684)31 335
Female1 060(7 044)1 352(7 307)2 266(9 546)4 947(10 741)10 317(14 459)16 079(17 637)17 648
Black/African AmericanMale1 471(9 775)2 260(12 215)4 157(17 513)8 009(17 390)12 868(18 034)21 343(23 411)22 740
Female474(3 150)837(4 524)2 063(8 691)4 580(9 944)8 328(11 671)15 581(17 420)18 379
AsianMaleNANANANA19 394(27 179)30 833(33 820)32 419
FemaleNaNaNANA11 086(15 536)17 356(19 038)20 618

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Tax Surcharge for War Proposed

Democrats Propose Tax Surcharge for War
By ANDREW TAYLOR – Tuesday, October 2, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) — Three senior House Democrats proposed an income tax surcharge Tuesday to finance the approximately $150 billion annual cost of operations in Iraq, saying it is unfair to pass the cost of the war on to future generations.

The plan, unveiled by Reps. David Obey, D-Wis., John Murtha, D-Pa., and Jim McGovern, D-Mass., would require low- and middle-income taxpayers to add 2 percent to their tax bill. Wealthier people would add a 12 to 15 percent surcharge, Obey said.

The plan's sponsors acknowledged the tax measure is unlikely to pass, and admitted they lacked support from top Democrats, a fact immediately reinforced by the No. 2 Democrat in the House.

"This is not a policy which the Speaker or I have signed off on," said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

But Democrats have been seeking in recent weeks to contrast the approximately $190 billion cost of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars with the $23 billion increase that Democrats want in domestic programs.

President Bush has threatened to veto most of those domestic spending bills as too expensive. Those bills were largely written by the House Appropriations Committee that Obey chairs. Murtha chairs the panel's subcommittee that writes Pentagon and war spending bills.

"The war will cost future generations billions of dollars in taxes that we're shoving off on them and it is devouring money that could be used to expand their educational opportunities, expand their job training possibilities, attack our long-term energy problems and build stronger communities," Obey said.

At the same time, a group of Democratic allies, including unions and liberal advocacy groups such as and Americans United for Change, announced a grassroots and an advertising campaign urging Republicans to override Bush's promised veto of a bill expanding a popular children's health insurance program known as SCHIP.

The $3 million to $5 million campaign will be broadened to upcoming battles over domestic spending, including a measure boosting spending on education, health research and job training programs.

Democratic pollster Geoffrey Garin unveiled polling suggesting voters side with Democrats in the upcoming budget battles.

"This is a fight that Democrats ought to welcome, that Republicans ought to fear," Garin said.

"SCHIP and the battle over spending priorities is the most important fight since the showdown over privatizing Social Security," said Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "I don't think we need to remind Bush who won that battle."

But Republicans pounced on the tax surcharge idea.

"Americans will reject Democrat plans to take away their hard-earned dollars and will penalize the party that demonstrates an inability to win the War on Terror," said Republican National Committee spokesman Danny Diaz.

Obey also announced that Democrats will not pass a supplemental spending bill for the Iraq war until next year, when Democrats hope public pressure could force Bush to change the course of the war.

Democrats hope their chances of winning a battle with Bush on the war will be better next year as the election season heats up.

"The showdown is going to be in January or February," McGovern said.

The lawmakers said the tax surcharge was similar to policies put in place to pay for the Vietnam War and World War II.

"By putting together this bill we hope people will stop ignoring what this war is costing American taxpayers and call the president's bluff on fiscal responsibility," Obey said.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Free Trade: Low prices benefit claim is no longer valid

Free trade will and does keep prices low for goods from Wal-Mart. However, is there a threshold below which lower prices for these goods does nothing to benefit even the lowest wage earners? I suggest that there is a price point below which it may even harm US consumers (witness the glut of clothes and toys, so much so that even many Goodwill stores will no longer accept clothes as donations).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sherri Shepherd The world is flat

I like this. A new co-host of The View affirms her belief in the Bible, rejection of Evolution, and skepticism about the shape of the Earth. You have to admire her consistency.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Abizaid: World could abide nuclear Iran


Abizaid: World could abide nuclear Iran
By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer
Monday, September 17, 2007

Every effort should be made to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, but failing that, the world could live with a nuclear-armed regime in Tehran, a recently retired commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said Monday.

John Abizaid, the retired Army general who headed Central Command for nearly four years, said he was confident that if Iran gained nuclear arms, the United States could deter it from using them.

"Iran is not a suicide nation," he said. "I mean, they may have some people in charge that don't appear to be rational, but I doubt that the Iranians intend to attack us with a nuclear weapon."

The Iranians are aware, he said, that the United States has a far superior military capability.

"I believe that we have the power to deter Iran, should it become nuclear," he said, referring to the theory that Iran would not risk a catastrophic retaliatory strike by using a nuclear weapon against the United States.

"There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran," Abizaid said in remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank. "Let's face it, we lived with a nuclear Soviet Union, we've lived with a nuclear China, and we're living with (other) nuclear powers as well."

He stressed that he was expressing his personal opinion and that none of his remarks were based on his previous experience with U.S. contingency plans for potential military action against Iran.

Abizaid stressed the dangers of allowing more and more nations to build a nuclear arsenal. And while he said it is likely that Iran will make a technological breakthrough to obtain a nuclear bomb, "it's not inevitable."

Iran says its nuclear program is strictly for energy resources, not to build weapons.

Abizaid suggested military action to pre-empt Iran's nuclear ambitions might not be the wisest course.

"War, in the state-to-state sense, in that part of the region would be devastating for everybody, and we should avoid it — in my mind — to every extent that we can," he said. "On the other hand, we can't allow the Iranians to continue to push in ways that are injurious to our vital interests."

He suggested that many in Iran — perhaps even some in the Tehran government — are open to cooperating with the West. The thrust of his remarks was a call for patience in dealing with Iran, which President Bush early in his first term labeled one of the "axis of evil" nations, along with North Korea and Iraq.

He said there is a basis for hope that Iran, over time, will move away from its current anti-Western stance.

Abizaid's comments appeared to represent a more accommodating and hopeful stance toward Iran than prevails in the White House, which speaks frequently of the threat posed by Iran's nuclear ambitions. The administration says it seeks a diplomatic solution to complaints about Iran's alleged support for terrorism and its nuclear program, amid persistent rumors of preparations for a U.S. military strike.

Abizaid expressed confidence that the United States and the world community can manage the Iran problem.

"I believe the United States, with our great military power, can contain Iran — that the United States can deliver clear messages to the Iranians that makes it clear to them that while they may develop one or two nuclear weapons they'll never be able to compete with us in our true military might and power," he said.

He described Iran's government as reckless, with ambitions to dominate the Middle East.

"We need to press the international community as hard as we possibly can, and the Iranians, to cease and desist on the development of a nuclear weapon and we should not preclude any option that we may have to deal with it," he said. He then added his remark about finding ways to live with a nuclear-armed Iran.

Abizaid made his remarks in response to questions from his audience after delivering remarks about the major strategic challenges in the Middle East and Central Asia — the region in which he commanded U.S. forces from July 2003 until February 2007, when he was replaced by Adm. William Fallon.

The U.S. cut diplomatic relations with Iran shortly after the 1979 storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Although both nations have made public and private attempts to improve relations, the Bush administration labeled Iran part of an "axis of evil," and Iranian leaders still refer to the United States as the Great Satan.

Iraq expels American security contractor Blackwater

Blackwater was used in New Orleans after Katrina. For more on Blackwater, see the work done by The Nation's Jeremy Scahill.

Also see:
Private Contractors Outnumber US Troops in Iraq by T. Christian Miller of the Los Angeles Times.

Reasons contractors in Iraq are bad news:

  • Questionable wait, completely free from any legal jurisdiction, according to Order 17 Paul Bremer put in place just before leaving.

  • Hides true number of troops and casualties from American public

  • Breaks down military order...can refuse to provide troops needs when under fire

  • Morale buster. Minimum wage troops performing alongside contractors performing similar duties for much more money.

Iraq expels American security firm By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer
Monday, September 17, 2007

The Iraqi government Monday ordered Blackwater USA, the security firm that protects U.S. diplomats, to stop work and leave the country after the fatal shooting of eight Iraqi civilians following a car bomb attack against a State Department convoy.

The order by the Interior Ministry, if carried out, would deal a severe blow to U.S. government operations in Iraq by stripping diplomats, engineers, reconstruction officials and others of their security protection.

The presence of so many visible, aggressive Western security contractors has angered many Iraqis, who consider them a mercenary force that runs roughshod over people in their own country.

Sunday's shooting was the latest in a series of incidents in which Blackwater and other foreign contractors have been accused of shooting to death an unknown number of Iraqi citizens. None has faced charges or prosecution.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki late Monday and the two agreed to conduct a "fair and transparent investigation" and hold any wrongdoers accountable, said Yassin Majid, an adviser to the prime minister. Rice was expected to visit the Mideast on Tuesday.

Majid made no mention of the order to expel Blackwater, and it was unlikely the United States would agree to abandon a security company that plays such a critical role in American operations in Iraq.

A State Department official confirmed the call but said he could not describe the substance. The U.S. clearly hoped the Iraqis would be satisfied with an investigation, a finding of responsibility and compensation to the victims' families — and not insist on expelling a company that the Americans cannot operate here without.

Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul-Karim Khalaf said eight civilians were killed and 13 were wounded when contractors believed to be working for Blackwater USA opened fire on civilians Sunday in the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Mansour in western Baghdad.

"We have canceled the license of Blackwater and prevented them from working all over Iraqi territory. We will also refer those involved to Iraqi judicial authorities," Khalaf said.

He said witness reports pointed to Blackwater involvement but added that the shooting was still under investigation. One witness, Hussein Abdul-Abbas, said the explosion was followed by about 20 minutes of heavy gunfire and "everybody in the street started to flee immediately."

U.S. officials said the motorcade was traveling through Nisoor Square on the way back to the Green Zone when the car bomb exploded, followed by volleys of small-arms fire that disabled one of the vehicles but caused no American casualties.

According to, which obtained a U.S. incident report, a separate convoy arriving to help was "blocked/surrounded by several Iraqi police and Iraqi national guard vehicles and armed personnel."

American officials refused to discuss Iraqi casualties, nor would they confirm that Blackwater personnel were involved. They also refused to explain the legal authority under which Blackwater operates in Iraq or say whether the company was complying with the order. It also was unclear whether the contractors involved in the shooting were still in Iraq.

While Blackwater has recently undertaken an effort to improve its image by emphasizing its humanitarian efforts and vision for "a safer world," it didn't immediately step forward to defend itself Monday. Several messages left with officials were not returned, and vice chairman Cofer Black, a former director of the CIA's counterterrorism center, declined to comment when reached at his Virginia home.

The incident drew attention to one of the controversial American practices of the war — the use of heavily armed private security contractors who Iraqis complain operate beyond the control of U.S. military and Iraqi law.

The events in Mansour also illustrate the challenge of trying to protect U.S. officials in a city where car bombs can explode at any time, and where gunmen blend in with the civilian population.

"The Blackwater guys are not fools. If they were gunning down people, it was because they felt it was the beginning of an ambush," said Robert Young Pelton, an independent military analyst and author of the book "Licensed to Kill."

"They're famous for being very aggressive. They use their machine guns like car horns. But it's not the goal to kill people."

In one of the most horrific attacks of the war, four Blackwater employees were ambushed and killed in Fallujah in 2004 and their charred bodies hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River.

But Iraqis have long complained about high-profile, heavily armed security vehicles careering through the streets, with guards pointing weapons at civilians and sometimes firing warning shots at anyone deemed too close. And Iraqi officials were quick to condemn the foreign guards.

Al-Maliki late Sunday condemned the shooting by a "foreign security company" and called it a "crime."

Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani described the shooting as "a crime about which we cannot be silent."

"Everyone should understand that whoever wants good relations with Iraq should respect Iraqis," al-Bolani told Al-Arabiya television. "We are implementing the law and abide by laws, and others should respect these laws and respect the sovereignty and independence of Iraqis in their country."

Defense Minister Abdul-Qadir al-Obaidi told Iraqi television that "those criminals" responsible for deaths "should be punished" and that the government would demand compensation for the victims' families.

Despite threats of prosecution, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Alhurra television that contractors cannot be prosecuted by Iraqi courts because "some of them have immunity."

In April, the Defense Department said about 129,000 contractors of many nationalities were operating in Iraq — nearly as many as the entire U.S. military force before this year's troop buildup.

About 4,600 contractors are in combat roles, such as protecting supply convoys along Iraq's dangerous, bomb-laden highways.

Blackwater, a secretive North Carolina-based company run by a former Navy SEAL, is among the biggest and best known security firms, with an estimated 1,000 employees in Iraq and at least $800 million in government contracts.

In May 2007, a Blackwater employee shot and killed a civilian who was thought to be driving too close to a company security detail.

Last Christmas Eve, an inebriated Blackwater employee shot and killed a security guard for an Iraqi vice president, according to Iraqi and U.S. officials. The contractor made his way to the U.S. Embassy where Blackwater officials arranged to have him flown home to the United States, according U.S. officials who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The contractor has been fired and Blackwater is cooperating with federal investigators, company spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell has said.


AP correspondents Deborah Hastings in New York, Mike Baker in Raleigh, N.C., and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

Contractor Help Wanted Ads

'Help Wanted' Ad Belies Report on Iraq Security

By Walter Pincus
Monday, September 17, 2007; A17

A week ago today, Gen. David H. Petraeus started his rounds on Capitol Hill, reporting that security in Iraq was improving to the point that a small number of troops could begin coming home by year's end.

But 10 days ago, his commanders in Baghdad began advertising for private contractors to work in combat-supply warehouses on U.S. bases throughout Iraq because half the soldiers who had been working in the warehouses were needed for patrols, combat and protection of U.S. forces.

"With the increased insurgent activity, unit supply personnel must continue to pull force protection along with convoy escort and patrol duties," according to a statement of work that accompanied the Sept. 7 request for bidders from Multi-National Force-Iraq.

All of the small logistics bases, called Supply Support Activities, or SSAs, are "currently using about 50% of their assigned (currently less than 100% strength) military personnel for other required duties (force protection, patrols, escort duties, etc. along with performing 24 hour combat operations)," the statement says.

The contract proposal covers 10 of the logistics bases and another warehouse with chemical protective items. Although the initial request is for 101 individuals qualified in warehouse operations, "additional manning may be required and the contractor should anticipate possible increases," according to the proposal. Some locations may end up being "completely manned by contract personnel," the statement says.

The Supply Support Activities support day-to-day combat operations by providing parts and ensuring that stocks are received and distributed "in a timely manner." In addition, the statement notes that "tanks, aircraft, wheeled vehicles and other equipment" are getting increased use and require more repair parts than are typically available in the warehouses. The increased contract personnel will allow the parts to get back to a central depot and returned to troops more quickly. The proposal, which is for six months and has a six-month extension option, calls for some personnel to be familiar and experienced with "hazardous/radioactive material handling." At the same time, it states, "Contractor personnel are not required to have a security clearance to perform duties in the SSA." A comment on the Web site version of the proposal adds, "Ensure this is correct."

Many of the stocks involved are maintained in mobile vans on bases, and so "the majority of the work will be performed outside," the statement says.

The various bases hosting the warehouses will supply military transportation for the contract workers from their living area to the work site, but the personnel "will never be allowed to travel alone and will never be authorized use of a tactical or non-tactical vehicle for travel outside the base without a military escort and required force protection measures."

The work schedule proposed is "ten hours per day, six days a week to include holidays" with a lunch period of one hour. Living space will be provided by the military, though "in the short term that may be a tent with cots and shower and toilet facilities." When "living containers or hardstand buildings" exist, the contractors will be moved along with military.

Military dining facilities and bottled water will be free for contractors. They will also have access to the PX and any local recreation facilities on the bases.

Military medical facilities, however, are available only when "life, limb, or eyesight is jeopardized and for emergency medical and dental care" such as "broken bones, refills of life-dependent drugs such as insulin or broken teeth." Military medical facilities will not be authorized for "routine medical and dental care."

As noted in an earlier Fine Print column, the Army is exploring the possibility of hiring a private health-care provider to take care of its roughly 129,000 contract personnel in Iraq and lighten their use of military medical facilities.

Clinton was in fact All That Good

Listen up, all you Libertarians. Clinton finally gets his due from the Economics profession.

Greenspan Is Critical Of Bush in Memoir
Former Fed Chairman Has Praise for Clinton

By Bob Woodward
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 15, 2007; A01

Alan Greenspan, who served as Federal Reserve chairman for 18 years and was the leading Republican economist for the past three decades, levels unusually harsh criticism at President Bush and the Republican Party in his new book, arguing that Bush abandoned the central conservative principle of fiscal restraint.

While condemning Democrats, too, for rampant federal spending, he offers Bill Clinton an exemption. The former president emerges as the political hero of "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World," Greenspan's 531-page memoir, which is being published Monday.

Greenspan, who had an eight-year alliance with Clinton and Democratic Treasury secretaries in the 1990s, praises Clinton's mind and his tough anti-deficit policies, calling the former president's 1993 economic plan "an act of political courage."

But he expresses deep disappointment with Bush. "My biggest frustration remained the president's unwillingness to wield his veto against out-of-control spending," Greenspan writes. "Not exercising the veto power became a hallmark of the Bush presidency. . . . To my mind, Bush's collaborate-don't-confront approach was a major mistake."

Greenspan accuses the Republicans who presided over the party's majority in the House until last year of being too eager to tolerate excessive federal spending in exchange for political opportunity. The Republicans, he says, deserved to lose control of the Senate and House in last year's elections. "The Republicans in Congress lost their way," Greenspan writes. "They swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither."

He singles out J. Dennis Hastert, the Illinois Republican who was House speaker until January, and Tom DeLay, the Texan who was majority leader until he resigned after being indicted for violating campaign finance laws in his home state.

"House Speaker Hastert and House majority leader Tom DeLay seemed readily inclined to loosen the federal purse strings any time it might help add a few more seats to the Republican majority," he writes.

He adds three pages later: "I don't think the Democrats won. It was the Republicans who lost. The Democrats came to power in the Congress because they were the only party left standing."

Greenspan, 81, indirectly criticizes his friend and colleague from the Ford administration, Vice President Cheney. Former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill has quoted Cheney as once saying, "Reagan proved deficits don't matter."

Greenspan says, " 'Deficits don't matter,' to my chagrin became part of the Republicans' rhetoric."

He argues that "deficits must matter" and that uncontrolled government spending and borrowing can produce high inflation "and economic devastation."

When Bush and Cheney won the 2000 election, Greenspan writes, "I thought we had a golden opportunity to advance the ideals of effective, fiscally conservative government and free markets. . . . I was soon to see my old friends veer off to unexpected directions."

He says, "Little value was placed on rigorous economic policy debate or the weighing of long-term consequences." The large, anticipated federal budget surpluses that were the basis for Bush's initial $1.35 trillion tax cut "were gone six to nine months after George W. Bush took office." So Bush's goals "were no longer entirely appropriate. He continued to pursue his presidential campaign promises nonetheless."

Greenspan was intensely criticized for endorsing a large tax cut in 2001 in congressional testimony during the first weeks of the Bush administration. He notes that he was recommending any tax cut, even a smaller one proposed by some Democrats. But he acknowledges that those who had warned him about the perception he was backing Bush's plan were right. "The tax-cut testimony proved to be politically explosive," he writes.

Yet, he adds: "While politics had not been my intent, I'd misjudged the emotions of the moment. . . . Yet I'd have given the same testimony if Al Gore had been president."

By the end of last year, Greenspan writes with some bitterness, Washington was "harboring a dysfunctional government. . . . Governance has become dangerously dysfunctional."

However, he calls Clinton a "risk taker" who had shown a "preference for dealing in facts," and presents Clinton and himself almost as soul mates. "Here was a fellow information hound. . . . We both read books and were curious and thoughtful about the world. . . . I never ceased to be surprised by his fascination with economic detail: the effect of Canadian lumber on housing prices and inflation. . . . He had an eye for the big picture too."

During Clinton's first weeks as president, Greenspan went to the Oval Office and explained the danger of not confronting the federal deficit. Unless the deficits were cut, there could be "a financial crisis," Greenspan told the president. "The hard truth was that Reagan had borrowed from Clinton, and Clinton was having to pay it back. I was impressed that he did not seem to be trying to fudge reality to the extent politicians ordinarily do. He was forcing himself to live in the real world."

Dealing with a budget surplus in his second term, Clinton proposed devoting the extra money to "save Social Security first." Greenspan writes, "I played no role in finding the answer, but I had to admire the one Clinton and his policymakers came up with."

Greenspan interviewed Clinton for the book and clearly admires him. "President Clinton's old-fashioned attitude toward debt might have had a more lasting effect on the nation's priorities. Instead, his influence was diluted by the uproar about Monica Lewinsky." When he first heard and read details of the Clinton-Lewinsky encounters, Greenspan writes, "I was incredulous. 'There is no way these stories could be correct,' I told my friends. 'No way.' " Later, when it was verified, Greenspan says, "I wondered how the president could take such a risk. It seemed so alien to the Bill Clinton I knew, and made me feel disappointed and sad."

Known for his restrained if not incomprehensible public statements over the past several decades, Greenspan's direct criticism of Bush and his economic policies comes as the economy is emerging as an issue in the 2008 presidential race. And the man Greenspan praises so highly for fiscal probity is married to the current front-runner for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

The politically charged observations are scattered through the first half of the book, in which Greenspan offers a standard memoir covering his birth in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City in 1926 through his years as Fed chairman, from when he was appointed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan to his retirement in 2006. His theme is the unequaled power of free-market capitalism; Greenspan calls himself a "libertarian Republican."

The second half offers a graduate education in global economics that is at times lucid and at times dense. Greenspan occasionally slips into his notoriously complicated Fedspeak, touring the world with detailed analysis of the global economy and the prospects in Japan, Britain, France, China, Russia, India and just about everywhere else.

He clearly considers China the big economic question of the future. "I have no doubt that the Communist Party of China can maintain an authoritarian, quasi-capitalist, relatively prosperous regime for a time. But without the political safety valve of the democratic process, I doubt the long-term success of such a regime," he writes.

"The Age of Turbulence" is likely to be mined word by word on Wall Street, where the Masters of the Universe will seek clues to how to make billions. Greenspan dives deep into his economic data, his experiences, his philosophy and meetings with world political and economic leaders.

He explains how an advanced economy hinges on property rights, the rule of law, a culture of trust, contracts, debt, reputation, self-interest and "creative destruction" -- the scrapping of old technologies and processes.

He argues, for example, that the loss of manufacturing jobs in the United States -- from the steel, automobile and textile industries to computers and telecommunications -- "is a plus, not a minus, to the American standard of living." He maintains that immigration reform, "by opening up the United States to the world's very large and growing pool of skilled workers," will help reduce the inequality of incomes.

Without elaborating, he writes, "I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil."

Looking ahead to 2030, he predicts that the U.S. gross domestic product will be 75 percent larger than it is now. His most dire forecast is that if the Federal Reserve is prevented from constraining inflation, the 10-year Treasury note would be "flirting with a double-digit yield sometime before 2030, compared with under 5 percent in 2006."

Greenspan has nothing but praise for hedge funds, which he describes as "a vibrant trillion-dollar industry dominated by U.S. firms." He claims that hedge funds help eliminate inefficiency in the markets. "They are essentially free of government regulation, and I hope they will remain so." He scoffs at proposals to regulate them, declaring, "Why do we wish to inhibit the pollinating bees of Wall Street?"

For all his wonkish ways, Greenspan writes with delight about his marriage to journalist Andrea Mitchell and their travels, friends and mutual love of classical music. He knows how to enjoy a good Vivaldi cello concerto in Venice.

Though cautious about the coming decades, Greenspan ultimately shows a flash of hope at the end of his memoir. "Adaptation is in our nature," he writes, "a fact that leads me to be deeply optimistic about our future."

Brady Dennis and Evelyn Duffy contributed to this report.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Bob Woodward, an assistant managing editor of The Washington Post, is author of "Maestro: Greenspan's Fed and the American Boom," published in 2000. In his book, Greenspan acknowledges that in writing "The Age of Turbulence," he used interviews he had given Woodward.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Report: Bush knew Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction


Bush knew Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction
Salon exclusive: Two former CIA officers say the president squelched top-secret intelligence, and a briefing by George Tenet, months before invading Iraq.
By Sidney Blumenthal

Sep. 06, 2007 | On Sept. 18, 2002, CIA director George Tenet briefed President Bush in the Oval Office on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, according to two former senior CIA officers. Bush dismissed as worthless this information from the Iraqi foreign minister, a member of Saddam's inner circle, although it turned out to be accurate in every detail. Tenet never brought it up again.

Nor was the intelligence included in the National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002, which stated categorically that Iraq possessed WMD. No one in Congress was aware of the secret intelligence that Saddam had no WMD as the House of Representatives and the Senate voted, a week after the submission of the NIE, on the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. The information, moreover, was not circulated within the CIA among those agents involved in operations to prove whether Saddam had WMD.

On April 23, 2006, CBS's "60 Minutes" interviewed Tyler Drumheller, the former CIA chief of clandestine operations for Europe, who disclosed that the agency had received documentary intelligence from Naji Sabri, Saddam's foreign minister, that Saddam did not have WMD. "We continued to validate him the whole way through," said Drumheller. "The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming, and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy."

Now two former senior CIA officers have confirmed Drumheller's account to me and provided the background to the story of how the information that might have stopped the invasion of Iraq was twisted in order to justify it. They described what Tenet said to Bush about the lack of WMD, and how Bush responded, and noted that Tenet never shared Sabri's intelligence with then Secretary of State Colin Powell. According to the former officers, the intelligence was also never shared with the senior military planning the invasion, which required U.S. soldiers to receive medical shots against the ill effects of WMD and to wear protective uniforms in the desert.

Instead, said the former officials, the information was distorted in a report written to fit the preconception that Saddam did have WMD programs. That false and restructured report was passed to Richard Dearlove, chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), who briefed Prime Minister Tony Blair on it as validation of the cause for war.

Secretary of State Powell, in preparation for his presentation of evidence of Saddam's WMD to the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003, spent days at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., and had Tenet sit directly behind him as a sign of credibility. But Tenet, according to the sources, never told Powell about existing intelligence that there were no WMD, and Powell's speech was later revealed to be a series of falsehoods.

Both the French intelligence service and the CIA paid Sabri hundreds of thousands of dollars (at least $200,000 in the case of the CIA) to give them documents on Saddam's WMD programs. "The information detailed that Saddam may have wished to have a program, that his engineers had told him they could build a nuclear weapon within two years if they had fissile material, which they didn't, and that they had no chemical or biological weapons," one of the former CIA officers told me.

On the eve of Sabri's appearance at the United Nations in September 2002 to present Saddam's case, the officer in charge of this operation met in New York with a "cutout" who had debriefed Sabri for the CIA. Then the officer flew to Washington, where he met with CIA deputy director John McLaughlin, who was "excited" about the report. Nonetheless, McLaughlin expressed his reservations. He said that Sabri's information was at odds with "our best source." That source was code-named "Curveball," later exposed as a fabricator, con man and former Iraqi taxi driver posing as a chemical engineer.

The next day, Sept. 18, Tenet briefed Bush on Sabri. "Tenet told me he briefed the president personally," said one of the former CIA officers. According to Tenet, Bush's response was to call the information "the same old thing." Bush insisted it was simply what Saddam wanted him to think. "The president had no interest in the intelligence," said the CIA officer. The other officer said, "Bush didn't give a fuck about the intelligence. He had his mind made up."

But the CIA officers working on the Sabri case kept collecting information. "We checked on everything he told us." French intelligence eavesdropped on his telephone conversations and shared them with the CIA. These taps "validated" Sabri's claims, according to one of the CIA officers. The officers brought this material to the attention of the newly formed Iraqi Operations Group within the CIA. But those in charge of the IOG were on a mission to prove that Saddam did have WMD and would not give credit to anything that came from the French. "They kept saying the French were trying to undermine the war," said one of the CIA officers.

The officers continued to insist on the significance of Sabri's information, but one of Tenet's deputies told them, "You haven't figured this out yet. This isn't about intelligence. It's about regime change."

The CIA officers on the case awaited the report they had submitted on Sabri to be circulated back to them, but they never received it. They learned later that a new report had been written. "It was written by someone in the agency, but unclear who or where, it was so tightly controlled. They knew what would please the White House. They knew what the king wanted," one of the officers told me.

That report contained a false preamble stating that Saddam was "aggressively and covertly developing" nuclear weapons and that he already possessed chemical and biological weapons. "Totally out of whack," said one of the CIA officers. "The first [para]graph of an intelligence report is the most important and most read and colors the rest of the report." He pointed out that the case officer who wrote the initial report had not written the preamble and the new memo. "That's not what the original memo said."

The report with the misleading introduction was given to Dearlove of MI6, who briefed the prime minister. "They were given a scaled-down version of the report," said one of the CIA officers. "It was a summary given for liaison, with the sourcing taken out. They showed the British the statement Saddam was pursuing an aggressive program, and rewrote the report to attempt to support that statement. It was insidious. Blair bought it." "Blair was duped," said the other CIA officer. "He was shown the altered report."

The information provided by Sabri was considered so sensitive that it was never shown to those who assembled the NIE on Iraqi WMD. Later revealed to be utterly wrong, the NIE read: "We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in defiance of UN resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions; if left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade."

In the congressional debate over the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, even those voting against it gave credence to the notion that Saddam possessed WMD. Even a leading opponent such as Sen. Bob Graham, then the Democratic chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who had instigated the production of the NIE, declared in his floor speech on Oct. 12, 2002, "Saddam Hussein's regime has chemical and biological weapons and is trying to get nuclear capacity." Not a single senator contested otherwise. None of them had an inkling of the Sabri intelligence.

The CIA officers assigned to Sabri still argued within the agency that his information must be taken seriously, but instead the administration preferred to rely on Curveball. Drumheller learned from the German intelligence service that held Curveball that it considered him and his claims about WMD to be highly unreliable. But the CIA's Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control Center (WINPAC) insisted that Curveball was credible because what he said was supposedly congruent with available public information.

For two months, Drumheller fought against the use of Curveball, raising the red flag that he was likely a fraud, as he turned out to be. "Oh, my! I hope that's not true," said Deputy Director McLaughlin, according to Drumheller's book "On the Brink," published in 2006. When Curveball's information was put into Bush's Jan. 28, 2003, State of the Union address, McLaughlin and Tenet allowed it to pass into the speech. "From three Iraqi defectors," Bush declared, "we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs ... Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them." In fact, there was only one Iraqi source -- Curveball -- and there were no labs.

When the mobile weapons labs were inserted into the draft of Powell's United Nations speech, Drumheller strongly objected again and believed that the error had been removed. He was shocked watching Powell's speech. "We have firsthand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails," Powell announced. Without the reference to the mobile weapons labs, there was no image of a threat.

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell's chief of staff, and Powell himself later lamented that they had not been warned about Curveball. And McLaughlin told the Washington Post in 2006, "If someone had made these doubts clear to me, I would not have permitted the reporting to be used in Secretary Powell's speech." But, in fact, Drumheller's caution was ignored.

As war appeared imminent, the CIA officers on the Sabri case tried to arrange his defection in order to demonstrate that he stood by his information. But he would not leave without bringing out his entire family. "He dithered," said one former CIA officer. And the war came before his escape could be handled.

Tellingly, Sabri's picture was never put on the deck of playing cards of former Saddam officials to be hunted down, a tacit acknowledgment of his covert relationship with the CIA. Today, Sabri lives in Qatar.

In 2005, the Silberman-Robb commission investigating intelligence in the Iraq war failed to interview the case officer directly involved with Sabri; instead its report blamed the entire WMD fiasco on "groupthink" at the CIA. "They didn't want to trace this back to the White House," said the officer.

On Feb. 5, 2004, Tenet delivered a speech at Georgetown University that alluded to Sabri and defended his position on the existence of WMD, which, even then, he contended would still be found. "Several sensitive reports crossed my desk from two sources characterized by our foreign partners as established and reliable," he said. "The first from a source who had direct access to Saddam and his inner circle" -- Naji Sabri -- "said Iraq was not in the possession of a nuclear weapon. However, Iraq was aggressively and covertly developing such a weapon."

Then Tenet claimed with assurance, "The same source said that Iraq was stockpiling chemical weapons." He explained that this intelligence had been central to his belief in the reason for war. "As this information and other sensitive information came across my desk, it solidified and reinforced the judgments that we had reached in my own view of the danger posed by Saddam Hussein and I conveyed this view to our nation's leaders." (Tenet doesn't mention Sabri in his recently published memoir, "At the Center of the Storm.")

But where were the WMD? "Now, I'm sure you're all asking, 'Why haven't we found the weapons?' I've told you the search must continue and it will be difficult."

On Sept. 8, 2006, three Republican senators on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence -- Orrin Hatch, Saxby Chambliss and Pat Roberts -- signed a letter attempting to counter Drumheller's revelation about Sabri on "60 Minutes": "All of the information about this case so far indicates that the information from this source was that Iraq did have WMD programs." The Republicans also quoted Tenet, who had testified before the committee in July 2006 that Drumheller had "mischaracterized" the intelligence. Still, Drumheller stuck to his guns, telling Reuters, "We have differing interpretations, and I think mine's right."

One of the former senior CIA officers told me that despite the certitude of the three Republican senators, the Senate committee never had the original memo on Sabri. "The committee never got that report," he said. "The material was hidden or lost, and because it was a restricted case, a lot of it was done in hard copy. The whole thing was fogged up, like Curveball."

While one Iraqi source told the CIA that there were no WMD, information that was true but distorted to prove the opposite, another Iraqi source was a fabricator whose lies were eagerly embraced. "The real tragedy is that they had a good source that they misused," said one of the former CIA officers. "The fact is there was nothing there, no threat. But Bush wanted to hear what he wanted to hear."

-- By Sidney Blumenthal