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Monday, October 06, 2014

CDC Director Tom Friedan is a dishonest political hack

My "how to stop Ebola" post is about how to keep possible carriers from fleeing hot zones but the Obama administration is a million miles from even beginning to address such basic issues. Instead, Obama's CDC Director Tom Friedan is in full demagogue mode, pretending that a ban on travel from the Ebola hot-zone countries would block aid workers from traveling to those countries, as if it isn't in the administration's power to set up whatever restrictions, with whatever exemptions, are seen to make the most sense:
The approach of isolating a country is that it’s going to make it harder to get help into that country.
He is effectively declaring that any travel restrictions the Obama administration implements will be intentionally obstructionist so that they will have an excuse for not imposing any travel restrictions. Even the headline of the linked Puffington Host report contains the answer to the supposed problem with a travel ban:
Travel Ban From Ebola-Hit Countries Would Be 'Quick, Simple And Wrong,' CDC Director Says
A ban only on travel from Ebola-hit countries is outside the grasp of our CDC director, but obvious to a random Huff-Po headline writer.  Yeah, it's not really beyond Friedan's grasp. He's just a political hack intentionally blowing smoke.

Another infectious disease expert, Phenelle Segal, rides easily over Friedan's proclaimed stumbling block:
“I think as soon as we started seeing West Africa go out of control with Ebola, that was the time” to halt air travel from the region, said Segal, who supports exceptions for relief workers and aid missions.
Friedan is obviously aware of the possibility of exemptions for aid workers too. He's just a typical Obamaton, lying about anything at the slightest perceived rationale. It's what they do.

Establishing appropriate restrictions with appropriate exemptions would take some doing but that is the only hurdle: Friedan would have to actually do his job and implement appropriate rules. Of course such rules would impose some costs which, like all the other costs of mounting an effective medical response, would have to be met by the governments and NGOs that are seeking to mount an effective response. In particular, airlines will have to charge more if they are not allowed to take passengers back out of the hot-zone countries and if they are required to provide isolation for their crew members when they are on the ground in-country, but again, those costs only block aid if Friedan doesn't do his job.

As Director of the CDC he is supposed to design and implement our medical response to the health threat. Just as a matter of already-existing contingency planning he should have quarantine plans on the shelf that include all necessary exemptions, yet here he is making blatantly phony assertion that he can't impose a ban on travel from Ebola hot zones without blocking the flow of aid to Ebola hot zones.

Friedan also pretends that the Dallas contact-tracking example is confidence inspiring

The Duncan case demonstrates clearly the extreme outlay of highly competent manpower that is required to contain even one of the easiest  to contain cases, but instead of using this as an example of how easy it would be for containment to get away from us Friedan spins it as reason not to worry:
[W]e have no doubt that we will stop [Ebola] in its tracks in Texas. It's worth stepping back and saying how Ebola spreads. Ebola only spreads by direct contact with someone who's sick or with their body fluids. So the core of control is identifying everyone who might have had contact with them and making sure they're monitored for 21 days and if they develop symptoms to immediately isolate them to break the chain of transmission. ... [T]he work of the state and local departments with CDC assistance has been terrific. They have been able to assess all 114 individuals who might possibly have had contact. They were able to rule out that 66 did not have contact. They identified ten who appeared to have had contact with the individual when he might possibly have been infectious. Of those ten, seven are health care workers and three are family or community contacts. In addition, there are about 38 other people in whom we could not rule out that they had contact. So all of those 48 people will be tracked for 21 days to determine whether they have fever and if any developed fever, they will be immediately isolated, tested and if they have Ebola, given appropriate care and determine whether there were any additional contacts to their case. That's how we have stopped every outbreak in Ebola in the world until this one in West Africa. That's how we stopped it in Lagos, Nigeria and how we will stop it in Texas.
And what if just one infected contact slips through, say a drug user who vomits up a crack house, and Ebola starts passing from crack house to crack house? Enough with the idiotic "hope." The dire "changes" that are immediately possible need to be war-gamed and effective responses readied.

The first layer of protection is the border, which Obama has been working systematically to bring down. Now Friedan is lying that we can't restrict people from coming in without blocking them from going out.

Democrat lying is a fundamentally ingrained cognitive style

These a$$holes are going to get a lot of us killed. In Barack Hussein Obama's case that is very likely his intention, having been taught by his mentor the "ex-Muslim" Jeremiah Wright that Muslims living in infidel countries are supposed to lie about their religion, and for Muslims who follow this instruction, we know what kind of Muslims they are: they are followers of orthodox Islam, the religion that attacked us on 9/11, the religion of al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS and Khomeini too (Sunni and Shiite are the same on this).

But what is Friedan's motivation? I think it is just the habitual dishonesty of Democrat half of our political spectrum, the same habitual dishonesty that has allowed them for seven years to cover up Obama's mature racism (again under the tutelage of the out-and-proud anti-white racist Jeremiah Wright), along with his history as a paid professional Alinsky communist, to say nothing of his strongly evidenced Islamofascism.

Democrats control all of our information industries and they use that control constantly, habitually, and without exception, to advance Democratic party talking points. Their objective is never to tell the truth, it is always to support their partisan narratives, and anyone who lives within that Democrat-controlled information bubble comes to operate in the same backwards-thinking way, starting with preferred conclusions. It is a cognitive style.

This is what the term RINO refers to: Republicans who get their information from the Democrat-controlled media and are not even aware that there is a whole different alternate media available that doesn't edit information in support of an agenda but thinks frontwards, following reason and evidence. They don't even know what conservatism is. Their minds are controlled by the backwards-thinking Democrat opposition.

Friedan, being an Obamaton himself, is even more deeply a creature of the backwards thinking cognitive style and examples the extremity of its hold. Even as he confronts the facts about the extreme danger Ebola poses he is trying to spin them away in support of Obama's open borders agenda, pretending with complete dishonesty that we can't formulate travel restrictions that would still allow aid to flow to Ebola-hit African countries. Would a doctor really suppress medical necessity in favor of a political agenda? The answer is clearly yes, if he is a Democrat.

It's just like with the global warming scare where a whole cohort of Democratic Party voting scientists, receiving 100% of their funding from the climate bureaucracy set up by Vice President Al Gore, have promulgated blatantly a phony "science." Anyone who makes any effort to look at the facts for themselves quickly discovers that there virtually no evidence that CO2 causes more than a very small amount of warming. To account for late 20th century warming the small forcing effect of CO2 would have to be multiplied up several times by water vapor feedback effects, but there is no evidence that water vapor feedbacks are even positive.

Even the lowest IPCC-based assessments of the feedback effect are based on the assumption that late 20th century warming was caused by CO2, but the evidence actually points overwhelmingly to solar-magnetic activity. The IPCC dismisses this evidence on the anti-scientific grounds that we don't understand the mechanism by which solar-magnetic activity drives climate. The CO2-alarmists are using theory (their dislike of available theories of how solar-magnetic activity drives climate) to dismiss evidence, the exact opposite of the very definition of science, which demands that evidence trumps theory.

Our Democrat "scientists" are engaged in pure definitional anti-science on the grandest scale imaginable, demonstrating that once the backwards-thinking cognitive style takes hold there is no subject on which it cannot operate. Science and medicine are no barriers and this habitual dishonesty now defines our Democratic Party, leaving us without any effective leadership on anything, including Ebola, where Friedan is not even looking in the right direction.

What the African countries need is not outside personnel (who just end up getting infected) but strategy. We should be creating "negative atmospheric pressure" by paying the now-immune survivors to isolate and treat the sick and possibly sick (the subject of my first post), and we'd better get it figured out quick because the same imperatives are only a plane ride away from the United States itself. Thanks to the malignancy of Obama and the fecklessness of minions like Friedan there is a good chance we will not be able to keep our own Ebola outbreaks contained and will need to rely here at home on "negative atmospheric pressure" to limit the damage.

Crazy update

Story today from the U.K. Mail:
Dallas Ebola victim's stepdaughter - who took him to hospital as he was 'vomiting wildly' - is given all clear to return to work as nursing assistant
They are ignoring the 21 day quarantine period for people with known risk of exposure! The stepdaughter herself knows this isn't right and is insisting she will not go back to work yet. What the hell is wrong with the CDC?

Are they saying that there is no reason even for a person who had close contact with an infected person not to mingle with the general population unless and until they develop actual Ebola symptoms? "Don't worry about it, you're not communicable yet"? That's insane.

It means they are making no distinctions at all between different levels of "contact" with an infected person. Someone who directly attended to an externally hemorrhaging hemorragic fever victim only has to be monitored for fever for 21 days, the same as someone who only crossed the victim's path when he was beginning to show symptoms. No way.

If this woman comes down with Ebola they are going to have to do a whole new round of tracking. Who did she have contact with after they released her? Imagine if she really did go back to physical contact with numerous sick people every day, half of whom probably already have fevers from other causes. There would be no way to tell whether they were reacting to Ebola or not. They'd all have to be kept in isolation.

All for what? To give the impression that there is nothing to worry about? Look how lightly we are treating his, so you should too? On the contrary, they give us more to worry about every day.

More madness

West African family travels from Ebola hot-zone to Miami for family vacation, teenager quarantined with fever. Sure, we don't need no travel restrictions. What could go wrong.

3 weeks ago Obama said it was "unlikely" that someone with Ebola would reach our shores and that the chances of an outbreak here was "extremely low," all while following policies that make it all but certain that Ebola-infected people will be showing up here with substantial regularity.

The aggressive dishonesty and malignancy of this racist communist Islamofacist a$$hole of a president is astounding to behold.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

How to stop Ebola: create negative "atmospheric pressure" by paying Ebola survivors to treat the sick

Ebola rising, from Drudge today:
STUDY: Millions more at risk in Ebola outbreak... 
'Spreading like wildfire'... 
'Terrifying evolution' of virus...
The key to an effective response lies in the survivors, who are immune to re-infection (at least by the same Ebola strain, which is what would be circulating in their area). For those survivors who are undamaged enough for work, train and pay as many as are willing to tend to the sick, the dying and the dead. Non-immune people cannot do this work on a large scale. They are terribly encumbered and they still get sick, turning them into part of the problem.

Because treating the sick is so dangerous they are now receiving minimal if any care, causing mortality rates to be higher than they need to be. Using survivors to treat the sick would greatly increase the survivor rate, increasing the pool of survivors available to treat the sick. It is a self-reinforcing amelioration.

The immune would have to for the most part remain in isolation along with the sick. They couldn't touch stuff that other people touch, but supplies could be left for them and so long as they undergo rigorous disinfection before leaving isolation the sick under their care would would cease to be a source of infection.

Ditto for those who only might be sick with Ebola. These too could be tended to by Ebola survivors, whose first job would be to find out if they do have Ebola. Survivors, if they are make sure that the outsides of their bodies are as non-contagious as the insides of their bodies, can examine those with ambiguous symptoms and determine whether they need to be kept in quarantine or can be released to non-Ebola medical care.

Negative movement-pressure is critical

Most importantly, an army of survivors working to separate and treat the sick would drastically reduce transmission, which is the only way to keep the uninfected from fleeing hot zones and propelling further spread of the disease. That's the problem now. There is tremendous pressure to flee the hot zones, causing the disease to explode outwards.

No larger quarantine zone can hold under these conditions. The greater the external efforts at containment the more the pressure has to build before it explodes outwards but it will explode. Quarantine has to at least begin at the level of the individual patient. Stop local transmission from individual patients and then larger quarantine zones might work, if they are needed at all.

With an army of immune survivors to isolate and tend to the sick at the local level it becomes safer for uninfected people within the hot zones to stay where they are. Travel is dangerous because it exposes travelers to massed humanity, where contagion is amplified. Thus it would not be hard to make it safer not to flee, if a growing army of the immune were used to provide treatment-in-isolation for the sick.

Add people's interest in not losing their established homes and livelihoods the abnormal outward pressure of the infection would be eliminated. Economic devastation could also cause pressure to flee but this too would be reduced by paying survivors to care for the sick. There would be an inflow of disposable income that would keep the local economy propped up. Care for the sick would be a new industry, subsidized from outside. Somebody has to care for the caregivers, and the money would be there to do it.

Just as it takes negative atmospheric pressure to isolate an isolation room, so too if we want hot zones to remain isolated, whether or not they are quarantined, the motivational pressure for people inside to leave must be negative. Now the pressure to leave is strongly positive. Effective use of the immune-survivor resource can change that by isolating and treating the sick, stopping transmission and creating more immune survivors. Then even without formal larger scale quarantine movement would be greatly reduced.

The alternative is continued high rates of disease transmission, in which case no quarantine zone will be able to contain the epidemic. It will inevitably explode outwards, first across Africa, then anywhere else where Ebola is not dealt with rationally.

Addendum on the immunity of Ebola survivors to re-infection

From  Dr. Bruce Ribner, director of Emory University Hospital's infectious disease unit (via PBS interview):
DR. BRUCE RIBNER: The medical staff here at Emory is confident that the discharge from the hospital of both of these patients poses no public health threat. Ebola virus is a new infection on this continent, but our colleagues across the ocean have been dealing with it for 40 years now, and so there is strong epidemiologic evidence that, once an individual has resolved Ebola virus infection, they are immune to that strain, recognizing that there are five different strains of Ebola virus.

UPDATE:  The day after put up this post there is an Op-Ed in the NYT warning about mutation and spread of Ebola and calling, among other things, for using survivors to tend to the sick. From Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota:
The United Nations should provide whatever number of beds are needed; the World Health Organization has recommended 1,500, but we may need thousands more. It should also coordinate the recruitment and training around the world of medical and nursing staff, in particular by bringing in local residents who have survived Ebola, and are no longer at risk of infection. Many countries are pledging medical resources, but donations will not result in an effective treatment system if no single group is responsible for coordinating them.
I would leave the U.N. completely out of it. The U.N. is nothing but corruption. It is a well developed machine for siphoning off all monies that are channeled through it, maximally diverting every Dollar and Euro through its vast networks of sycophants, sinecures and profiteers. The U.N. is one gigantic "french drain," where pouring a flood in achieves at best a trickle out. Instead use the same Christian organizations that have been instrumental in fighting AIDS.

PEPFAR, the successful AIDS-fighting project that President Bush established in 2003, did not partner only with Christian organizations, but it did not discriminate against them, and in some ways favored them, because part of PEPFAR's mission was moral education, emphasizing that there would be no sexual transmission of AIDS at all if people were not having sex outside of marriage.

The resulting distribution of funding can be gleaned from PEPFAR's partner pages. Here, for instance, is the page for Nigeria in 2007. Maybe half of the partners, receiving half of the funding, are Christian (hard to tell because much of the money that went to secular organizations was distributed by them to Christian sub-partners). These groups actually try to deliver as much AIDS-fighting effect per dollar as they can. Similarly for the secular aid groups, which should also be employed, but U.N. is the worst. Maybe they will have to be paid off in some instances where they would otherwise use their reach to block aid, but there is unlikely to be any role in which the U.N. can do more good than harm.

UPDATES 9/20/14:  As predicted above, attempts at quarantine are motivating people inside the hot zones to flee. Instead of negative "atmospheric pressure," the attempt to impose quarantine on an out-of-control hot-zone is causing a powerful positive "atmospheric pressure" that will only get stronger until it explodes outwards like pressure-bursting pustule.

Also predictable, Obama is jumping on the chance to kill some U.S. troops and possibly bring Ebola to America by sending U.S. troops to the Ebola outbreak sites where there is nothing useful that they can do. Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, explains:
“What African troops are doing is shooting people who cross borders or violate quarantine,” Orient told WND, reacting to news of the U.S. troop deployment. “Is that what we plan to support?” 
She added, “Africans are already very suspicious of us. How will they react to an army setting up hospitals?” 
Orient called the planned U.S. deployment a “dubious mission,” warning that the nightmarish scenario could bring Ebola to America. 
“There is definitely a risk,” she said. “It seems irresponsible to send more people there when the ones already there are having trouble leaving. Probably anyone who has been exposed should be quarantined for 25 days since the last exposure.”
No, our troops will not shoot fleeing residents. They will instead deal with them up close and personal, and become vectors themselves:
“You can see that these doctors, who are highly trained people, got themselves infected,” said Dr. Lee Hieb, former president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. “So sending troops into an area, if they’re dealing one-on-one with a patient, they’re not going to be able to protect themselves very well. It’s not easy to [prevent transmission], because you get tired and you get careless and you make some simple mistakes. All it takes is one virus particle.”
The only way to stop the spread is to mobilize the Ebola survivors. Pay them to isolate and treat the sick in the hot zones so that transmission within the hot zones can be extinguished, making it safer to stay put than to flee, creating the necessary negative "atmospheric pressure" and saving a lot of lives inside the hot zones as well as outside.

If any quarantine enforcement is to be applied, Ebola survivors should be used for this to, unless the quarantine is to be enforced the African way: by shooting anyone who tries to approach the quarantine boundary. That leaves no role for the U.S. military, never mind that, in the words of Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin Ret., this mission would in any case be “an absolute misuse of the U.S. military.” But then Obama wants to find any mission for U.S. troops that will keep them away from the "new Caliphate" he has spent five-plus years creating.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Secular reason leads to the same moral law as Judeo-Christianity, but most people need Judeo-Christian help to get there

Atheism is an odd category of belief. I can understand thinking that it is irrational to believe, not just that an omnipotent and moral God might exist, but that a loving God does exist. Belief that god does exist implies certainty about something we have little or no direct evidence for one way or the other. That's why I rate myself "agnostic." Atheists agree with me that it is irrational to be certain that there is a god, but then they turn around and pronounce themselves certain that there is not a god.

Wait, what? I thought you just agreed with me that certainty about things we have no direct evidence for is irrational...

So I'm always wary about atheists, not that they must have a screw loose (any more than religious believers must), but that maybe they haven't thought things through very well, or don't know as much as they think they know. So I wasn't surprised last week to come across a self-proclaimed atheist claiming something very naive: that religious morality is based on appeals to authority, not on moral reason, which he regards as exclusively "secular" (or atheist). Here is Robert Tracinski, writing at The Federalist:
Every atheist has heard the old saw that it’s impossible to rely on a secular foundation for morality because if people are left to act on their own judgment, they will disagree about what is right and wrong and it will all be subjective. So we supposedly need a religious authority to settle the matter. 
Wrong. Christianity does not rely on any appeal to authority. What the founders of this nation meant by "natural law" was what could be determined by clear reason to be necessarily right, and they believed that these basic elements of right existed for us to discern because they are the product of a moral and rational god, some of whose ways we can discern thanks to our god-given brains (brains that, according to Genesis, are made in God's image).

The idea that believing Christians do not have rational foundations for their moral beliefs, but merely accept them on authority, comes from the non-religious, and it completely misunderstands Christianity. "Faith comes through the word of God," said Paul in Romans 10:17. That word is first and foremost the commandment of Jesus to love your neighbor as yourself. (See also Galatians 5:6: "faith worketh by love.")

The "law of love" is a call to account all value, to see the world as God would see it, loving everything there is to love, which is also the essence of moral rationality. It doesn't mean you don't give more priority to your own life than the lives of others. It means that you value everything there is to value and see where that takes you.

People who hear this word and practice its meaning find that this is right, that it is the way to approach life, and this is where faith comes from: a person's individual experience of the correctness of the word of Christ. Faith in the word isn't taken on authority but is found in the compelling substance of the word and in where it leads the mind, and this is the beginning of natural law. If you account all value, what can you say with certainty about what must necessarily be right?

This is why, in spite of being agnostic as to whether or not the God of the Bible even exists, I still call myself a Christian. Hey, the dude got the moral law absolutely 100% right. I call myself a Millian because I adhere to the several key points of moral reason that John Stewart Mill got right, and I'm not going to make up a new term and call myself a Jesusian just because I am not certain that Jesus was the divine Christ. I'm also not sure he wasn't, and I am glad to take the label that expresses the moral understanding I share with my fellow Christians.

The problem with atheists is that, after shunning the world's great fount of moral rationality on the false grounds that Christians accept moral rules on authority without moral understanding, few atheists are able through their own devices to find the moral rationality that Christianity espouses. Few are able to achieve communion with the law of love.

Some do, and Paul acknowledged this possibility in Romans 2:14-16, allowing that some who have never heard the word of Jesus may still "show the work of the law written in their hearts," and he says that these will be judged "by Jesus," meaning by the word (the law of love) that Jesus laid down. If without hearing this word some nevertheless find the morality within themselves to follow it, they according to Paul they will still be raised up by God on judgment day.

Even for those who hear the word, there is a strong case to be made that Christianity is not asking for belief in God, or belief that Jesus is the only begotten son of God, or faith that Jesus is God. Paul's criterion for salvation is by belief in "the faith of Jesus" (Romans 3:22): not belief in Jesus himself but belief in what Jesus had faith in, which on my reading is the law of love. Others see Jesus as having faith, first of all, in the promise of resurrection, but I think that has to be secondary. That is a self-centered thought while the central message of Christianity is to account all value.

Either way, the moral law that Christians are asked to follow is fully rational, and it is accepted on a morally rational grounds: by witnessing and comprehending its rightness and goodness in practice. The idea that Christian morality is embraced on irrational grounds is a product of ignorant imagination. I do not see grounds either to believe or disbelieve that Jesus was the Son of God / Son of Man, proclaimed by the Bible but I do have faith in the word, as Jesus spoke it (or as the Bible says he spoke it). That word--the Christian law of love--is the very core of moral rationality. It is not the starting point, but it is the central discovery.

The starting point is just the rationality of husbanding and following one's discoveries of where value lies and then in one's pursuit of value accounting each bit of discovered value wherever it is enough at stake to be worth accounting, as far as one is able. That secular foundation leads directly to the law of love because the big discovery, when we husband and follow our discoveries of what there is to value in the world, is that all men have this same moral capacity.

Like me, you are an engine for discovering and acting for value in the world and that moral nature, that bit of god-like substance in you, is what makes me love my generic neighbor as my self. We are all moral agents whose moral agency must be empowered. That is why liberty works, that is why gun rights work, because the great majority of un-stunted individuals have grown to maturity alert to value in its myriad forms and are driven to act for it, to bring it to market, to rescue it, to create it.

People can arrive at this moral development without religion. They just need to be instinctively rational, husbanding and following evidence of value until the world of value opens up to their mind's eye. Or they can arrive at it through the word of Jesus, to love thy neighbor as thyself, which is also in the Old Testament book of Leviticus (19:18).

Without that Judeo-Christian guidance the central tendency of atheism has been towards totalitarianism. The one epic-scale atheistic mass movement in history is communism, and to a lesser degree this same preference for government imposed solutions is strongly associated with what is today the the less-religious, less-Christian side of our political divide: Democrats are the party of big government, and this correlation between illiberal policy preferences and rejection of Judeo-Christianity is easy to understand.

Sure these illiberals think they are helping their neighbors. They know a thousand ways that their neighbors need to be forced to behave in order to live worthwhile lives. What they don't get is the priority of liberty, which stems from liberty's empowerment of moral agency. Judeo-Christians get this immediately. It is the animating spirit of the law of love, the reason you love your neighbors: because they are made in God's image, giving divine sanction to the empowerment of moral agency. Those who are made in god's image must be free, unless and until they freely choose to commit evils for which they must be locked away or put to death.

This is solidified by living according to law of love. When you look for what value there is to account in your neighbors you learn to recognize and love their moral agency. They are engines for the discovery and pursuit of value which should therefore be empowered, or free to act.

Judeo-Christian belief that man is made in God's image is what drove the Reformation and it is what ended slavery. It is a big central actor in the history of the Judeo-Christian world, affecting whole populations, while to grasp the fundamental importance of the empowerment of individual moral agency purely in moral theoretic terms is extraordinarily rare. There is probably not one moral philosopher per university who gets it, and there's not much indication that Tracinski gets it either:
For those of us who don’t believe in a deity or supernatural power, the way we try to settle arguments is by pointing to observable facts. Do human beings flourish better under capitalism or socialism? Let’s look at the history of the two systems and see how they turned out. 
That's better than nothing, but the lack of principled understanding creates a strong urge to slip a Judeo-Christian ladder under those dangling feet.

Of course not all religions are created equal. You're not going to find any law of love in Islam, which instead commands a law of hate: that Muslims are to love their Muslim neighbors but are to hate everyone else. Koran 48.29:
Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves.
Not a morally rational religion to say the least, but Christianity is the world history's greatest fount of moral rationality and America today is worse-off for the large fraction of its citizens who no longer understand this.

UPDATE:  A good example from the Washington Post of the idiocies that the anti-religious are prone to. This was in the comments on a story about the San Diego black man, Douglas McAuthur McCain becoming "the first American to die fighting for the Islamic State," where one John Cunliffe had this to say about Islam:

To which I replied:
Yes, lots of Christians beheading non-Christians. You see it all over the world. And that Christian law of love, the second commandment of Jesus, to love your neighbor as yourself, expressly extended to all mankind via the parable of the good Samaritan? Exactly the same as the Muslim law of hate: that Muslims are to love each other but are to hate everyone else. Koran verse 48.29: "Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves."

Law of love, law of hate, "what difference, at this point, does it make?" To people like John Cunliffe, who have a moral IQ of zero, it makes absolutely no difference at all. If this guy is the next American to show up fighting for ISIS, who could be surprised? He has NO moral compass.
Cunliffe's anti-religiosity suggests that he is probably an atheist instead of an agnostic, and the great majority of atheists almost certainly are anti-religious. Otherwise atheism is just illogical, as discussed in my opening paragraph. If a person rejects religious belief on the grounds that it is illogical to believe in (be certain about) what is unknowable, how can they turn around and believe in the equally unknowable proposition that there is no god? But anti-religiousity accounts for this logical contradiction. Atheists aren't being logical. They are just anti-religion, and Cunliffe manifests the likely outcome. He is totally ignorant about religious belief.

When Cunliffe says Christianity and Islam are the same, it is probably because he ignorantly thinks that Christians are supposed to accept Christianity on authority, making it as irrationally founded as Islam. Of course that still would not make them the same. Accepting the Christian law of love on authority and accepting the Muslim law of hate on authority are still polar opposites. But this is the problem with Atheism. Once someone like Cunliffe assumes that all religions are irrational, that's all he thinks he needs to know so he doesn't look any further, and never learns a) that Christianity is highly rational, and b) that it is opposite in almost every way to Islam.

Cunliffe cannot actually be ignorant of the vast difference between Islam and Christianity. He is just a willfully blind a$$hole who hates Christians more than genocidal jihadists because Christians are his domestic political opposition and the only thing he really cares about is political victory for "his side." The jihadists are slaughtering Christians across the entire Middle East? In his view that would be, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." He hates Christians so who cares? Better they be slaughtered over there than be allowed to come over here and vote Republican.

Tracinski doesn't share that politics so he is not aggressively ignorant about Christianity the way Cunliffe is, but he is still hugely ignorant. Like Cunliffe he assumes that Christianity, being religious, is a species of irrationality, and that is probably why he has never looked far enough into Christianity to understand how thoroughly it already incorporates "secular reason," which Christians understand to be god-given. His own secular reason, on the other hand, suffers from not availing itself of the moral understanding attained by Christianity.

I have a different criticism of Christianity: that its tendency to over-focus on salvation and resurrection (the alternative reading of "the faith of Jesus") makes it much too solipsistic. Jesus said to Pilate "I am here to be a witness for truth." If Christians are to follow Jesus, he is telling us here the method. The law of love is the substance that the method of truth arrives at. Trust in truth, husband and follow all evidenced of value, and you will find your own moral agency, and see the same moral agency in your fellow men, and arrive at the law of love.

Christianity today largely ignores the method that Jesus laid down for his followers. All of our society's information industries are today dominated by Democratic Party operatives who practice maximal dishonesty as they apply the maximum pro-Democrat anti-Republic spin that they can get away with on every issue. It is all demagoguery all the time. THIS war on truth ought to be the primary focus of Christians today. They should be exposing it at every turn with all their effort, but instead most Christian religious focus is on achieving salvation and eternal life.

When Christian proselytizers come to my door I always talk to them. I find out what they are focused on, which always turns out to be salvation, and I try to direct them to what they should be focused on, which is the method of truth and the war on truth that is being fought every day. "But we are fighting for the truth about salvation" they sometimes argue. "But that is not where truth is being attacked" I answer.

The most religious Christians have tremendous difficulty escaping the solipsistic inward focus that our churches are teaching. They need to turn their focus outwards and get into the daily fight for truth, but their apparent self-neuterization may not actually be self-directed. It is a fully predictable consequence of IRS rules that grant churches tax-exempt status only on the condition that they refrain from political speech. This tax law is a direct attack on the very core of what Christianity is supposed to be.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Boehner's wrong-target lawsuit would turn Obamacare into Bonercare

Liz Peek describes six things people really hate about Obamacare that just might doom the Democrats in November. I couldn't help mentioning the one really stupid way that all of these things people hate about Obamacare could sink Republicans every November for years to come. Speaker of the House John Boehner could win his boner of a lawsuit against Obama's non-enforcement of Obamacare, forcing full enforcement of what would henceforth come to be known as "Bonercare."

The correct issue over which to sue Obama over his failure to faithfully execute the laws is his blatant subversion of border enforcement and immigration law. That would have been a win-win for the GOP. Win the lawsuit and the result is something everyone in the country wants: some forced enforcement of the nation's immigration laws. Instead Bonehead chooses the win-lose lawsuit. If he wins the GOP will be blamed henceforth for forcing the full enforcement of Obama's disastrous socialization of one sixth of our economy.

Why did Bonehead choose the win-lose case? Because he is on Obama's side on border lawlessness. Stupid RINO. I wish we could launch this idiot into space. Completely immoral and just idiotic beyond belief, and he is supposed to be our party "leader"?

Republicanism is the system of liberty under law. At the most basic level that is just two simple components: liberty and the rule of law. That means no socialized medicine and it means enforcement of our immigration laws. How can Bonehead get both of those completely wrong in one fell law-suit?

The proper long-term goal is health insurance for NOBODY

Boehner's strategic imbecility on Obamacare leaves the question of what is the way forward on health care, but I have already answered that question. The only reason the health care market ever became dysfunctional in the first place is because government provided powerful incentives for people to buy health insurance and health insurance creates massive market distortions.

When health care is covered by third party insurance people no longer have incentive to shop for price so there is no longer a normal competitive market. To keep prices under control it becomes necessary to impose cost controls, either through government regulation or by monopsonistic domination of the market by insurance conglomerates, and this destroys the other side of the market, which is what had already happened pre-Obamacare. Government had already succeeded in channeling the great majority of medical care through insured financing where government had also created an elaborate system of public-private price regulation.

Instead of going deeper into government takeover we needed to follow the guidance that government is always supposed to follow when it interferes with markets at all: target the result that efficient markets would arrive at. There can be sources of market failure that are not created by government and government has warrant in these cases (in theory if not under the Constitution) to "fix" the market failure by trying to achieve the market result that would occur if markets were not imperfect. In the health care market that perfect-markets result is an insurance-free outcome, at least in the long run. This comes from the simple fact that insurance is expensive, not only because of the loss of price competition and the unavoidable distortions that price controls create, but because insurance also creates a huge parasitic bureaucracy that has to be supported. This expensiveness means that whenever they can, people will prefer to self-insure (to take the money they would otherwise spend on insurance premiums and use it to build up savings/wealth from which they can cover what unexpected expenses may arise). Self-insurance is the better deal (not larded with parasitic losses).

Now put this in the larger market context. When markets are efficient everyone's wealth tends to increase, which automatically increases their effective level of self-insurance, giving them less and less need for or interest in third-party insurance. Thus the natural tendency of a market system is towards progressively less third-party insurance and progressively more self-insurance. (This is not an obvious result when consumers are looking at imperfect market prices but if the external costs of the inefficiencies caused by insurance are internalized--and this is what we are shooting for, the perfect market result--then it is obvious.)

This movement away from third-party insurance yields further increases in price competition which continues to drive medical costs ever downwards even as care makes huge leaps forward, the same as happens with computers and every other competitive industry. These decreasing costs bring the cost of self-insurance further down, driving third party insurance ever further out, and this direction marks the long term objective that government policy should be aiming for: not third-party health insurance for everybody (as the GOP's proposed alternatives to Obamacare all target) but health insurance for NOBODY.

What about people who can't afford health care? Bill all aid to account of the recipient!

The common stumbling block to rational market reform is always, "but what about the people who can't pay?", as if making provision for the needy requires a socialist system of production and distribution. No it doesn't. The answer is very simple. Afford all crucial health care services to whoever needs it, no questions asked, and if they can't pay the bill have government pay the bill with pay it tax money and charge every penny of this aid to the account of the recipient, to be repaid with full market interest over the life of the aid recipient according to an ability to pay formula.

Of course not all such aid will be repaid in full. It will not just give loans but in the end will also forgive a portion of those loans, which makes the system costly.  The important thing is that, by keeping incentives as intact as possible, the system of billing aid to the account of the recipient yields more bang-per-buck than any other way of giving aid. In particular, it is vastly more efficient than giving aid away, which also has the perverse effect of making recipients think that they must be owed, or why would society be giving them stuff? No, you are not owed, you owe, and we are keeping track to the penny exactly how much you owe your fellow citizens for the aid they have already loaned to you.

All aid should be billed to the account of the recipient, not just health care. Look at the insanity now of paying people not to work (unemployment insurance). If this aid had to be repaid over the life of the recipient according to an ability to pay formula nobody would take such assistance unless they actually needed it, but if they do need it then it is there, and because people have incentive not to abuse it the conditions for qualifying for such aid could be made more generous and more flexible at far less expense than our present system of perverse incentives incurs.

The costs of the perverse incentives themselves are huge. People don't work who otherwise would, making themselves a drain on their fellow citizens instead of a support. Not only to they take rather than contribute tax dollars, but they withhold their productivity from the market place, making the supply of goods lower and prices higher. At this point we are actually paying people to act this way.

Philosophers can argue about what level of assistance to the needy should be but how the aid should be given precedes philosophy. It's elemental economics. Whatever aid is given it should be billed to the account of the recipient. Any other system gives less aid for any given level of cost. No matter what the level of spending on aid is, society should get the most aid as possible for that expenditure, and that means keeping incentives as intact as possible by requiring repayment according to an ability-to-pay formula.

I've been trying to tell the world this for 20 years (and a lot of other stuff too). Nobody pays any attention. Stupid world.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Carlo Bonini in COLLUSION with Joe Wilson’s treason

Alec Rawls' review of the book Collusion, by Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe D’Avanzo (Melville, 2007)

This is a detailed expose that I wrote in 2007. In the confusion about how it might fit in with the publication of my Crescent of Betrayal book it never got published. Better late than never. It's almost 8,000 words but the subject warrants the attention.

A month ago I saw Bill Moyers open an interview with Italian conspiracy theorist Carlo Bonini by repeating one of Joe Wilson’s “Bush lied” lies. Moyers asserted that the president’s 2003 State of the Union claim (that we had learned from the British that Saddam had been seeking uranium in Africa) “wasn’t true.”

Anyone who has been paying the least bit of attention knows that is was true. Saddam had been seeking uranium in Africa, and Joe Wilson knew it better than anyone.

A very brief background, for those who don’t know the details

Wilson went to Niger on behalf of the CIA in early 2002 to check out whether a superficially untrustworthy “memorandum of sale” of uranium from Niger to Iraq could possibly be real. Wilson was not told any specifics about the purported deal, but was able to confirm the unlikelihood that any such deal had been concluded. At the same time, Wilson learned from Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki that the Iraqis had tried to buy uranium from Niger (President Bush’s SOTU claim).

The 2004 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) report on pre-war intelligence summarizes Wilson’s Niger trip report to the CIA as follows (Chapter 2, part B, PP 17):
The intelligence report indicated that former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki was unaware of any contracts that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of yellowcake while he was Prime Minister (1997-1999) or Foreign Minister (1996-1997). Mayaki said that if there had been any such contract during his tenure, he would have been aware of it. Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999,( ) businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report said that Mayaki interpreted "expanding commercial relations" to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. The intelligence report also said that "although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to the UN sanctions on Iraq."
March 2003 (two months after President Bush’s SOTU speech) the International Atomic Energy Agency revealed that documents forwarded to it from the CIA (the “memorandum of sale” that Joe Wilson had helped to confirm the untrustworthiness of) had proved to be forgeries. Not a big surprise. If they weren’t real, they had to be forgeries. But this revelation presented Wilson with an opportunity. In a July 2003 op-ed in The New York Times (“What I didn’t find in Africa”), Wilson lied about what he found in Africa, claiming that his Niger trip debunked the president’s SOTU claims, when it actually provided evidence for them.

To make his accusations stick, and to make them more damaging, Wilson claimed in a series of interviews with high profile reporters that he had personally identified the forged documents on his trip to Niger and reported back to the CIA that “the names were wrong and the dates were wrong.”

Wilson would later admit to the staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence “that he, in fact, did not have access to any of the names and dates in the CIA’s reports.” His report did not mention any documents at all, and “[t]he only mention of Iraq in the report pertained to the meeting between the Iraqi delegation and former Prime Minister Mayaki.” (Chapter 2, part B, PP 20.)


Authoritative exposures of Wilson’s deceits (by George Tenet in July 2003, a week after Wilson told his lies in The New York Times, and by the SSCI report in 2004), have not stopped people like Bill Moyers from abetting Wilson’s lies for the past four years. Bonini’s interview with Moyers is part of this ongoing collusion with Joe Wilson.

As reported in his just published book Collusion, Bonini did substantial original investigation into the origin and trajectory of the forged documents. In a carefully scripted/edited back and forth with Moyers, Bonini describes the forged documents entering and bouncing around the intel stream, the whole time simply assuming that this phony intel is what the president’s SOTU speech was referring to. This was Wilson’s fraudulent accusation exactly, but Bonini was not claiming any new basis for it. He just went along with Moyers in pretending that there was no distinction to be made between the Bush/British claim that Saddam had tried to buy uranium (an established fact), and Saddam’s securing a deal to buy uranium (as the forged documents purport to show).

Someone would have to fact-check this new Joe Wilson so I held my nose and ordered Collusion, which Bonini co-authored with Giuseppe D’Avanzo. In addition to telling the story of the forged documents, Bonini (short, henceforth, for Bonini and D’Avanzo) also writes about the controversy over Iraq’s stockpile of aluminum tubes: whether they were missile bodies of centrifuge parts. This review only addresses Bonini’s central topic: the forged documents.

The forged documents

Bonini’s story begins in 1999 when Italian Intelligence (SISMI) intercepts a telex in which the Nigerien Ambassador to Italy tells his home office that an Iraqi ambassador will be coming to visit Niger. Because Niger’s only significant industry is uranium production, this trip is interpreted by SISMI as a probable attempt to buy uranium, and this intel is passed along to other intelligence agencies.

Bonini lands an interview with SISMI chief Nicolo Pollari who tells Bonini a story (accurate or not) of how the intercepted cable also got passed on to an Italian con-artist named Rocco Martino, who used it as an opportunity to concoct forged documentation of an Iraq-Niger uranium sale that he figured he could sell for big bucks to various intelligence agencies. Martino had had dealings with SISMI in the past and, according to Pollari, a SISMI agent named Antonio Nucera “wanted to help his friend.” Nucera went so far as to hook Martino up with some other small time SISMI hangers-on who broke into the Nigerien embassy in Rome at the beginning of 2001 and stole letterhead and other documentary materials for making the forged documents. (Bonini, p. 20-22.)

This seems a very long way to go to “help a friend,” but it is hard to come up with any other reason why SISMI would be involved in such a ruse pre 9-11. Post 9-11, Bonini suggests that higher ups at SISMI saw the Martino documents (whether they knew they were fraudulent or not) as a way to curry favor with the United States by providing a rationale for the United States to attack Iraq.

Incomplete as the story remains, the upshot is a mixed bag of intelligence reporting coming out of Italy, including real evidence of an Iraqi attempt to buy Nigerien uranium (the 1999 telex, which the CIA would reinforce with Joe Wilson’s real evidence of an Iraqi attempt to buy Nigerien uranium in 1999), clouded by phony documents about a deal that never occurred. As a review of the SSCI and Butler reports will show, U.S. and British intelligence did an admirable job of separating the real evidence from the phony evidence, and of carefully crafting their statements to refer to the real evidence (that Iraq had tried to buy uranium), without making claims that a deal had been transacted.

Bonini, however, is determined to tell a different story. He notes that the different intelligence agencies all regarded the Martino documents as untrustworthy, but wants to engineer the charge that the Bush CIA relied on these documents anyway, to give President Bush a pretext for war with Iraq. To do this, he has to first find a ways to dismiss the real evidence of an Iraq-Niger uranium link. If there was no real evidence, then concern about such a link must have stemmed from the phony evidence, and since everyone knew the phony evidence was probably phony, the implication is that the Bush administration knowingly took the country to war on false pretenses, as Joe Wilson charged.

Dismissing the real evidence

Bonini belittles the real evidence of an Iraq-Niger link by casting it merely as lending credibility to the Martino deception. “After all,” says Bonini at the outset (p.20), “every ‘fairy tale’ must begin with a documented fact.” But to make this spin stick, he has to find some way to interpret the real intelligence about the Iraqi ambassador’s trip to Niger as not really being about an Iraqi attempt to buy uranium.

This interpretation comes from the mouth of a high ranking retired French intelligence agent named Alain Chouet, who gains credence in Bonini’s story for helping to expose the role of SISME in perpetrating Martino’s fraud. Chouet offers two reasons to think that the ambassador’s trip has nothing to do with uranium. He argues that Saddam would never send an ordinary functionary on such a mission but “would have sent one of his sons for a deal like that,” and he claims that: “We already knew the reason for Wissam al-Zahawie’s trip to Niger.” The Iraqis, says Chouet, needed a place to dump “the Iraqi regime’s stockpile of toxic waste in exchange for cash.” (P.33.)

That seems implausible, given Saddam’s penchant for poisoning his own people by the region, but in any case, these arguments certainly do not apply to what Joe Wilson found in Niger: that Prime Minister Mayaki was approached by the Iraqis about uranium sales.

This 1999 contact was separate from the 1999 trip made by the Iraqi ambassador. It was not a formally pre-arranged meeting, but took place, according to Wilson, “on the margins of a ministerial meeting of the Organization of African Unity.” (Wilson, p.28, quoted by Bonini p. 67.)

In Wilson’s ironically titled book, The Politics of Truth, he tries to make this meeting sound insignificant, in part by not revealing that the person who talked to the Iraqis was Prime Minister Mayaki. Wilson only says that “one of his sources,” “a Nigerien friend,” had talked to “an Iraqi official,” not noting that this “friend” was even a government official, never mind the Prime Minister. (Wilson, p. 28.)

Bonini plays the same trick, simply quoting Wilson about the Iraq-Niger contact discovered by Wilson, but by the time Bonini writes about the incident, the 2004 SSCI report has already identified Wilson’s “friend” as Prime Minister Mayaki. Bonini has no excuse for withholding this information. He is just a Wilson abettor, which can be seen also in the fact that Bonini never mentions Wilson’s high profile lies about having identified the forgeries on his trip to Niger. That would seem to be a relevant tidbit for a book that claims to be tracing the various ways that the forgeries were misused.

Baghdad Bob

One detail that Wilson did include in The Politics of Truth is that his “friend” would later learn the identity of the Iraqi official that he met at the Organization of African Unity. Mayaki later saw the same Iraqi official on television, where he was identified as “Baghdad Bob,” the Iraqi Minister of Information who was the televised face of Saddam’s regime during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Bonini (p. 68) spins this as reason to dismiss the Iraqi attempt to buy uranium:
This is the stuff of comedy. Al-Sahaf was the so-called minister who stood on the terrace of the Palestine Hotel while the Bradley Fighting Vehicles were speeding into the streets of Baghdad, assuring the TV networks in all seriousness that "the Iraqis are winning the war."
Thus does Bonini elide the real import of the Baghdad Bob revelation: that the Mayaki meeting was a top level meeting, not just on the Nigerien side, but also on the Iraqi side. Bonini glosses over both sides, but he is fully aware of the import, having earlier cited Alain Chouet’s dismissal of the Iraqi ambassador’s Niger contact on the grounds that Saddam “would have sent one of his sons for a deal like that.” Now Bonini refuses to notice when it turns out that Saddam did in fact send one of his closest henchmen.

CIA analysts did not put much stock in Mayaki’s claim to have avoided discussing uranium with the Iraqis, since he would obviously say that to any American official, whether or not it was true, but either way Mayaki’s denial cuts against Chouet’s second reason for dismissing the Iraq-Niger link. If the actual purpose of Baghdad Bob’s overture was to pursue waste disposal services that were not forbidden under the sanctions regime he would have just said so to Mayaki, who in turn would have gladly reported to Wilson that the Iraqi interest was not in uranium (given his evident eagerness to allay any concern that he had talked about uranium). Yet Mayaki did not suggest that the Iraqis were interested in something other than uranium. He specifically stated that he did take them to be after uranium.

The Butler Report

Bonini certainly knows how to connect these dots. They go to the very heart of his central ploy: depicting all concern about an Iraq-Niger link as stemming from the Martino fraud. But not only does he decline to connect the dots, he shields the reader from them. Most glaring is his complete omission of any mention of the conclusions of the 2004 British Butler Report, which noted that British pre-war intelligence assessments (published in its September 2002 White Paper and shared with the Bush Administration) were careful to only state that Saddam had sought uranium in Africa and consciously declined to give credence to the suspicious Martino documents and the supposed deal that they represented:
We also note that, because the intelligence evidence was inconclusive, neither the Government’s dossier or the Prime Minister went on to say that a deal between the Governments of Iraq and Niger for the supply of uranium had been signed, or uranium shipped.” (Butler Report, section 500.)
The report specifically asserts that the intelligence assessments included in the White Paper and passed on to the United States were based on evidence that the Iraqi overtures to Niger in 1999 were for the purpose of buying uranium, that this evidence consisted of “intelligence from several sources,” and that these assessments were formulated before the British ever came into contact with the Martino documents. (Section 503.)

This is a flat contradiction to Bonini's flat assertion that the British Intel came from the Martino forgeries. When I saw Bonini on Moyers I thought that his book must contain some counter to the Butler report, but instead he just pretends it doesn’t exist! There is no mention of the Butler Report anywhere in the body of Collusion. Bonini only mentions it in his “chapter notes,” where he simply describes the report as “discredited” and “thrown together to blur Tony Blair’s culpability,” without informing his readers that it directly contradicts Bonini’s foundational assertions.
The British claim to have pre-forgeries intelligence from several sources about Iraq trying to buy uranium in Niger is perfectly credible. We ourselves had at least two such pieces of intelligence: the intercepted telex about Iraqi ambassador’s trip to Niger, and the overture to Prime Minister Mayaki that was reported by Joe Wilson. As the SSCI report concluded:
Conclusion 12. Until October 2002 when the Intelligence Community obtained the forged foreign language documents on the Iraq-Niger uranium deal, it was reasonable for analysts to assess that Iraq may have been seeking uranium from Africa based on Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reporting and other available intelligence.
Given that our human intelligence in the field was/is almost non-existent, the chance that we happened onto ALL of Saddam’s Niger contacts is nil. If the Brits are not as blind as us, they might easily have discovered more about the Iraq-Niger contacts.

The CIA got it right, and so did President Bush

The CIA’s position in the period leading up to the 2003 State of the Union was the same as the British one: we had good reason to believe, as President Bush asserted, that Saddam had tried to buy uranium, but were skeptical that any deal had been concluded (that is, we did not give credence to the phony Martino documents). This is corroborated by both the Butler Report and the SSCI report.

“In preparing the [September 24, 2001] dossier,” says the Butler Report, “the UK consulted the US. The CIA advised caution about any suggestion that Iraq had succeeded in buying uranium in Africa, but agreed that there was evidence that it had been sought.” (Section 497.) The SSCI report also shows the CIA taking just these positions. Before President Bush gave a speech in Cincinnati in October 2002 the CIA removed a claim that: “the [Iraqi] regime has been caught attempting to purchase substantial amounts of uranium oxide from sources in Africa," saying that the evidence for such a deal (the Martino forgeries) “was weak.”

On the other hand, the CIA was certain enough that Saddam had tried to buy uranium that they allowed President Bush to say so in his State of the Union speech. The above blockquoted “conclusion 12” affirms that before the CIA encountered the forged documents, agents had reason to believe Saddam was trying to buy uranium, and they had even more reason to believe it post-forgeries, thanks to the evidence Wilson brought back from Niger about the Iraqi attempt to talk to Prime Minister Mayaki about uranium:
(U) Conclusion 13. The report on the former ambassador's trip to Niger, disseminated in March 2002, did not change any analysts' assessments of the Iraq-Niger uranium deal. For most analysts, the information in the report lent more credibility to the original Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports on the uranium deal, but State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) analysts believed that the report supported their assessment that Niger was unlikely to be willing or able to sell uranium to Iraq. [SSCI report, Niger conclusions.]
Wilson’s report was seen as supporting the likelihood of a deal, but did not change people’s minds on that front, and here we see the continuing problem: that even the SSCI report fails to maintain the distinction between Iraq seeking a deal (what Joe Wilson found evidence for, and what President Bush asserted) and concluding a deal (what the Martino forgeries depict). Knowing that the Iraqis had indeed sought uranium, as Wilson affirmed, does make it more likely that Iraq concluded a deal (the question that the SSCI targets in “Conclusion 13”). But this is not the question that the Select Committee should have been looking at. They should have asked whether Wilson's report strengthened the conclusion that Saddam had tried to buy uranium in Niger, to which the only possible answer would be "of course." Their actual inquiry muddies the distinction between the real evidence and the phony evidence, and it is just this inevitable muddying of the water that Wilson and now Bonini use to level their unsupported charges.

U.S. intelligence made plenty of mistakes. The SSCI report details all kinds of confusion, like the INR analyst who quickly spotted things wrong with the Martino documents that pretty much showed they had to be forgeries, but somehow this assessment was never attached to the documents. Overall, however, it is clear from the Butler Report and the SSCI report that British Intelligence and the CIA both managed get their basic assessments right. Both affirmed that Saddam had tried to buy uranium while remaining skeptical of the supposed deal indicated by Martino’s forgeries.

This is most clearly revealed in the one place that matters most: in the properly limited statements made by President Bush and by Tony Blair. Thanks to the caution of our intelligence services, neither made any claim about Saddam making a deal, while both asserted correctly that he had tried to make a deal. This is what Wilson and Moyers and Bonini and a whole army of abettors are trying to make a scandal out of: that our intelligence agencies and our elected leaders got it right!

Legitimate criticism

There are some things to be skeptical about in the Butler Report. In particular, it is hard to believe the report's claim that the British assessments of the Iraq-Niger uranium link, published in the September 2002 White Paper, predated British exposure to the Martino forgeries.

The Butler report itself only says that the British received the intel about an Iraq-Niger uranium deal sometime in 2002 (section 495). It doesn't say whether this was before or after the White Paper was written. [You can tell that section 495 is about the Martino documents because it references the 1999 Iraqi ambassador's trip to Niger (the actual intercepted 1999 telex was included in the Martino forgeries to make them look real), and it references doubts that a deal had actually been made (which would seem to be a reference to the CIA's warning about claims of a deal).]

Rocco Martino says that his fake documents were handed to the British at the end of 2001 (Bonini, p. 48). SISMI itself only admitted that intel about the documents was handed over "to the intelligence agency of another allied nation" in April 2002 (Bonini, p. 52).

Whatever the exact date, it seems that the British must have had the forgeries before they issued their September 2002 White Paper. This is clear from the fact that the White Paper declined to suggest that Iraq had made a deal to buy uranium, after having been warned off of this claim by the CIA (section 497). They couldn't have been warned off of evidence that a deal had been made until they had evidence that a deal had been made.

But while this sequence belies the claim that the British Iraq-Niger assessements were untainted by virtue of preceding exposure to the forgeries, it supports the contention that the British assessments were ultimately untainted, thanks to being warned off of the forgeries by the CIA.

Bonini is uninterested in any such substantive engagement with the Butler report. One wonders if he even looked at it. It may well be that People like Wilson, Moyers and Bonini really do only see those parts of the story that can be made to fit their story line, like a panner looking for flecks of gold amongst the dirt. Everything that doesn't have that useful glitter is just dross to be discarded. Still, this kind of thinking cannot really be called self-deception, because its deceptions are so calculated. Consider an example.

The Battelli cable

Bonini is at his most deceptive in his account of a September 21, 2001 cable from SISME chief Gianfranco Battelli to the CIA. Bonini quotes the cable as conveying news of a trip “undertaken by Iraqi personnel to Niger in ’99, during which they had made inquiries about the production of crude uranium in that nation’s two mines, and asked how that material might be exported.” (p.31)

This cable would seem to be a reference to further reporting about the Iraqi ambassador’s trip to Niger in 1999. Alternatively, it could be about Baghdad Bob’s trip to Niger in 1999, or about some other Iraqi inquiry after Nigerien uranium in 1999. What it does not seem to be about is the Martino forgeries, since it says nothing about a deal being made, as the Martino documents purport to show, and the Martino documents say nothing about any “inquiries about the production of crude uranium in the nation’s two mines,” or about anyone “ask[ing] how that material might be exported.” (If you want to look for yourself, Cryptome.org has both photocopies and translations of the Martino forgeries.)

Even though it seems quite obvious that the Battelli cable does not stem from the Martino forgeries, Bonini simply assumes that it does, and never even considers the possibility that it could be about some other reporting. Bonini is also deceptive in how he goes about impugning the Battelli cable. First (pp. 31-32) he only insinuates that it is based on the forgeries by interweaving the story of the Battelli cable in with Chouet’s story about the emergence of the phony documents. Later (p. 44) Bonini relies on this earlier insinuation to explicitly describe the Batelli cable as stemming from the forgeries.

For this second step, Bonini lists the Niger intel that was transferred from Battelli to Nicolo Pollari (Battelli’s successor as head of SISME). Pollari was given the “Niger dossier,” says Bonini, and “the related note that Gianfranco Battelli had sent to Langley on September 21, 2001.” Then he comments: “As far as we can tell, nobody pointed out that the information was fraudulent.”

Some of the information was fraudulent, but not the Battelli cable, which could well be one of the real pieces of further reporting referred to in the Butler Report, where the British learned from "several sources" that the Iraqi ambassador had indeed tried to buy uranium in 1999. Bonini just asserts, with no supporting argument whatsoever, that the cable was based on the forgeries, and he is very tricky about it, first misrepresenting the cable by insinuation, then directly misrepresenting it by commission.

Bonini’s citation for the contents of the Battelli cable is imprecise. His chapter notes only say: “We know that Gianfranco Battelli sent a cable to Langley because Nicolo Pollari confirmed this fact to both Il Messaggero in November 2005 and to the Parliamentary Commission on Intelligence Oversight.” He presumably is quoting from one of these sources, since he does not describe talking to Battelli or Pollari anyone else about the cable, as he usually does for his first hand reporting, but if he is quoting one of these sources, the reference to “a cable,” instead of "the cable" is odd.

Searching for Bonini’s quote of the Battelli cable only turns up references to Bonini. That would make sense if Bonini had translated the quote, but wouldn’t a cable to Langley already be in English? If anyone knows of a publicly available source for the full contents of the Battelli cable, or knows where there is any further information about the Battelli cable, please contact me (alec@rawls.org). Bonini did talk with Pollari about Antonio Nucera, so it is conceivable that Pollari told him about the contents of the Battelli cable as well. If Bonini turns out to be a source of original reporting on this cable, then his quote of the contents of the cable is the most important revelation in the book by far, and to Bonini’s credit too, if he was in a position to lie about what the cable said but quoted it straight, even though it does not fit his story line (much as he tries to pretend that it does).

Chouet’s mis-statement

Bonini constantly uses the phony Martino intel to impugn the real intel, in effect trying to make the Martino fraud stick. Spinning the Battelli cable as stemming from the phony docs is only one example. He also finds quotable sources who are willing to abet Martino in the same way. One is the French agent Chouet. Another is Greg Thielmann, a senior analyst with the State Department’s intelligence group (the INR).

Chouet simply makes a mis-statement, lumping the real intelligence and the fake intelligence together as all the same thing, when he presumably knows better. Bonini certainly knows better, but he let’s Chouet’s misstatement pass without comment.

In recounting the repeated inquiries from the United States about a possible Iraq-Niger link, Chouet starts with the summer of 2001:
When the Americans came calling in the summer of 2001, I immediately rolled up my sleeves. I told my men in Africa to get down to work. … The results were totally negative. At the end of August 2001, we cancelled the alert. [P. 31.]
Chouet then tells a long tale about bogus documents pertaining to an Iraq-Niger uranium deal starting to turn up in the hands of different intelligence agencies. He describes the prima facie skepticism most showed towards the documents, and he describes how continued investigation only confirmed the documents to be fraudulent. Woven through this tale is the United States, coming back again and again in 2002 with further inquiries, first bringing details about what is in the suspicious documents, then with copies of some of the documents themselves. (Chouet dates U.S. possession of at least some of the actual Martino documents to the spring of 2002 (p. 36). This is a bit earlier than the SSCI report says, but certainly possible).

By the time the U.S. comes around with the actual documents, Chouet is exasperated, which comes out in the form of a clearly incorrect statement:

The [American] documents were identical [to Rocco Martino documents already in French possession]. We decided that Rocco was the source of the ‘bullshit’ palmed off on the Americans. The same nonsense that made the rounds in the summer of 2001.” [P. 34.]
Bonini knows full well that American inquiries from the summer of 2001 had nothing to do with the Martino’s forgeries, but Chouet’s mis-statement fits Bonini’s thesis that all of the concern about an Iraq-Niger link came from the forged documents, so he does not correct it. Later in the book (pp. 52 and 59) he informs readers that as of the summer of 2001, no whiff of the Martino documents had yet reached U.S. intelligence. It was not until October 2001 that CIA agents in Rome first got a hurried look at the Martino documents and were able to jot down some of their contents. But when Bonini quotes Chouet’s mis-statement, readers do not have the information to know it is a mis-statement, and Bonini uses this to advance his central pretense: that all concern about an Iraq-Niger link stemmed from the forgeries.

There is a very interesting contradiction between Chouet’s story and the SSCI report that is worth noting. Chouet claims that French investigations into possible Iraqi attempts to buy uranium in Niger all came up negative, but the SSCI report says otherwise:

U) On November 22, 2002, during a meeting with State Department officials, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director for Nonproliferation said that France had information on an Iraqi attempt to buy uranium from Niger. He said that France had determined that no uranium had been shipped, but France believed the reporting was true that Iraq had made a procurement attempt for uranium from Niger. [Chapter 2, section g.]
This French report should have nothing to do with the forgeries, because according to Chouet (p. 34) the French had determined by June of 2003 that the Martino documents were fakes, weeks before they ever saw them (having already been asked by the CIA to investigate the details of the documents). Thus if the French were claiming in November 2002 to have real intel of Iraq trying to buy uranium, they presumably did have real intel. Maybe the French were one of the Butler Report’s “several different sources” on the Iraqis’ 1999 attempt to buy uranium in Niger.

Why did Chouet leave this intel out of his story? Or did he leave it out? Maybe it is Bonini who left it out. Bonini has already shown that he is big on lies of omission. But then there is also that mis-speak by Chouet. It could be that his mis-speak was not so innocent. Maybe, like Bonini, Chouet is downplaying the real evidence of an Iraq-Niger link in order to support bogus accusations against the Bush administration. The French did everything in their power to obstruct our war against Iraq and might reasonably be regarded with suspicion.

In any event, more information is needed. Maybe Alain Chouet would be willing to shed some light on the French intel from November 2002, and tell us whether Bonini’s account of his remarks is accurate.

The strange case of Greg Thielmann

Thielmann at the U.S. State Department attached a footnote to the October 1, 2002 National Intelligence Estimate saying: “The suggestion that Iraq sought to acquire uranium in Africa is, in the judgment of the INR, highly dubious.” (Bonini, P. 71.)

This was seven months after Joe Wilson reported Prime Minister Mayaki’s view that the Iraqis he met with were trying to buy uranium. We also had the earlier reporting of the Iraqi ambassador visiting Niger, and it is possible that Thielman knew about the French intel and the Batelli cable as well. In sum, there was nothing dubious about Iraq trying to buy uranium. It was pretty much an established fact, and Thielmann’s statement to the contrary is just flat wrong, making Thielmann a very odd mixed bag.

He seems to have been the most correct of the U.S. analysts in terms of being the most skeptical about the Martino docs, but the wrongest in his failure to account the real evidence of an Iraq-Niger link. Was he just biased against all evidence of an Iraq-Niger link? From his reaction to the CIA’s first report on the content of the Martino documents, this seems likely. Thielmann gave two reasons for dismissing the purported Iraqi deal to buy Nigerien uranium, neither of which has anything to do with the bogus specifics of the Martino documents, and neither of which holds the least bit of water.

“The first reason,” says Thielmann in an interview with Bonini and D’Avanzo, is that: “We knew that Iraq possessed five hundred metric tons of enriched uranium in its warehouses at Tuwaitha, routinely authorized by the IAEA. A quantity sufficient to produce at least two nuclear devices. So it made no sense to for Saddam to buy a rather hefty amount of pure uranium in a country like Niger, where the mines are controlled by the French … the Spanish, the Germans and the Japanese.” (Bonini’s p. 57.)

But as Thielmann notes, the uranium already in Saddam’s possession was under watch by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Even after Saddam kicked out the United Nations weapons inspectors (UNSCOM) in late 1998, he would know that movements of tons of uranium could be tracked by satellite. Clinton already bombed some of his facilities in 1998 in retaliation for kicking out the inspectors, so Saddam would have known that he couldn’t go using his existing uranium stockpile without consequence. To pursue his nuclear ambitions Saddam would indeed have had reason in 1999 to find a source of uranium other than his existing stockpile. How could Thielmann not know that? If he is not driven by bias then he is plain incompetent.

Thielmann’s second reason for dismissing the intel in the Martino documents also has nothing to do with the bogus nature of the documents themselves. It isn’t really a reason at all: “You go with your gut instincts,” says Thielmann (p. 58). His actual problem with the Iraq-Niger intel seems to be that the CIA “kept repeating that Italian intelligence was certain that Iraq had at least attempted to buy uranium from Niger—as if that were an independent confirmation of the report.”

Of course Iraqi attempts to buy uranium are not independent confirmation that Iraq had completed a deal to buy uranium, but attempts to buy uranium are important in themselves, and it is the attempt to buy uranium (not the completion of a deal to buy uranium) that Thielmann dismisses in his footnote to the 2002 NIE. Thus he accuses the CIA of failing to distinguish between attempts to buy uranium and succeeding in making a deal to buy uranium, then makes this exact mistake himself. No one is that stupid. That is bias.

At the very least, Thielmann swallowed the “poison well” interpretation of the phony documents hook line and sinker. Of course you have to throw out the bathwater, but to throw out the baby at the same time is pretty weak for a senior analyst.

Lurid unsupported claims of pressure to phony up intelligence, with no mention of the authoritative debunking of these charges

Many of Bonini’s deceptions are well hidden, but his bias is completely overt, even ludicrous, when he starts ranting about “neocons” and leveling generic charges about intelligence analysts being pressured to produce the “right” conclusions, as if everyone already knows that “neocons” are some outrageously dishonest cabal. Here Bonini relies on pure antipathy to carry readers past his own blatant dishonesty.

“It was necessary to buttress the instincts of President Bush,” writes Bonini, “who had prowled the White House on the evening of September 12, ordering deputies to ‘see if Saddam was involved.’” (P. 41.) Horrors. The president wanted to know if Saddam was involved. The neoconservatives, suggests Bonini, were eager to cater to this demand, and hence “it was the neoconservative camp within the Bush administration that took over.”

But the Bush administration never claimed that Saddam was involved in 9/11. The U.S. put forward 27 reasons for war against Iraq, and Bonini goes conspiracy mongering after a rationale for war that was never asserted.

(There actually was at least one solid piece of evidence that Saddam WAS involved in 9/11. The Czech’s are still adamant that they surveilled Mohammad Atta meeting with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague in April 2001. The CIA’s reason for dismissing this intel—that someone used Atta’s cell phone and credit card here in the U.S. when the Czech’s say he was in Prague—is absurd. All a terrorist has to do to create sufficient alibi to throw off the CIA is let someone use his cell phone and credit card? Grounded airliners at Salman Pak, outside of Baghdad, used for training airline hijackers, was another strong indication of Iraqi involvement in 9/11. But we're supposed to believe that after declining to invoke these actual grounds for tying Saddam to 9/11, Bush was insisting that people fake-up some phony grounds to tie Saddam to 9/11, though he never did tie Saddam to 9/11.)

Another absurd Bonini charge of pressure to phony up intelligence comes in response to a typically careful Rumsfeld statement. “The absence of evidence,” Rumsfeld said about the failure to yet uncover Iraqi WMDs, “is not necessarily the evidence of absence.” “For spies,” Bonini writes, “this argument sounded like an order, a threat, and a piece of career advice.” Oh shut up you moron. You may be a Bush hating bigot, and other Bush hating bigots may jump the same Bush hating conclusions you do, but Rumsfeld’s statement is not evidence of anything but his typical clear thinking. Bonini’s accusations that intelligence agents were pressured to come to certain conclusions never rise above this level of absurd insinuation. Some “collusion.”

Hiding the SSCI and Silberman-Robb reports

Just as Bonini hides the Butler Report from his readers, so too does he hide the fact that the 2004 SSCI report and the 2005 Silberman-Robb report both investigated exactly the charges he is making about pressure to come up with the “right” intelligence conclusions, and found them completely unsupported. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was highly concerned about such charges and investigated them thoroughly, doing extensive interviews and issuing multiple separate calls for anyone who had been pressured to come forward. Their findings were stark:
The Committee was not presented with any evidence that intelligence analysts changed their judgments as a result of political pressure, altered or produced intelligence products to conform with Administration policy, or that anyone even attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to do so. When asked whether analysts were pressured in any way to alter their assessments or make their judgments conform with Administration policies, not a single analyst answered yes. Most analysts simply answered, “no” or “never,” but some provided more extensive responses.
The report then goes on to list several analysts describing the actual pressure they felt: to get their analyses right, and not be responsible for another devastating intelligence failure like 9/11. The March 2005 Silberman-Robb Commission Report came to the same conclusion:
The analysts who worked Iraqi weapons issues universally agreed that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter any of their analytical judgments. [Overview section.]
The Italian stinker simply refuses to acknowledge the existence of these authoritative refutations of his central claims. He is another Martino, completely comfortable with the most outrageous deceptions. He pretends to be the anti-Martino, while in fact doing his utmost to maximize the effectiveness of Martino’s dirty tricks, employing means every bit as dishonest as Martino’s. The difference is that Martino did it for money while Bonini’s deceptions are ideological. Martino is amoral (which is immoral), while Bonini is evil (or morally perverse).

Competitive intelligence

One of Bonini’s central metaphors is the echo chamber: when the different intelligence agencies asked each other about the information in Martino’s forgeries, they all would say “we heard that too,” but without sharing specifics, allowing them all to take reinforcement from each other without knowing that they were all looking at the same bogus source. Bonini cites a disgruntled ex-CIA officer named Robert Baer who charges that the CIA, in a method the Baer calls “competitive intelligence,” intentionally uses this echo chamber effect to seed phony intel, then get it “confirmed” by other intelligence agencies before passing it on to our elected leaders to justify a particular action. (P. 42-43.)

As a general matter, “competitive intelligence” sounds like an obvious enough counter-intelligence scheme for fooling other intelligence agencies. To say that our intelligence agencies have used it to fool our own elected leaders, or that our elected leaders have used it to fool voters, is a different thing entirely. This is a very serious accusation, made by an ex-agent who named his dog “Risen,” after James Risen, the treasonous New York Times reporter who has published leak after leak about our most sensitive terrorist surveillance methods. (See Bonini’s footnote on Baer, p. 43.)

Baer’s generic accusations aside, what we can say for certain is that no such “competitive intelligence” was involved in the Iraq-Niger reporting. The actual “echo chamber” effect in this case went in the opposite direction from what the “competitive intelligence” charge implies. The different intelligence agencies all warned each other off of the bogus documents, with the CIA in particular warning the British. There was no dysfunctional echo chamber upholding the phony documents, but only rational cooperation in identifying the forged documents as untrustworthy, getting them out of the way so that the real evidence of Iraqi attempts to buy uranium could play its proper leading role.

Bonini is completely oblivious to such logical inconsistencies. He knows full well that the different intelligence agencies were all telling each other not to trust the Martino documents. This is the foundation of his charge that, in nevertheless relying on the documents [Bonini’s false accusation], the CIA was knowingly phonying up a pretext for war. Then in the next breath Bonini pretends that the intelligence agencies were all affirming the Martino documents to each other. The inside of Bonini’s head is a logic-free zone. He embraces every interpretation that can be made to support his fraudulent accusations, no matter how mutually inconsistent.

In this typical can’t-be-bothered-to-think-straight style, Bonini points to Douglas Feith at the Department of Defense as a practitioner of “competitive intelligence” (p. 42-43). But the truth about Feith’s Office of Special Plans—what the Democrats tried to turn into a scandal this spring—is that, while the OSP doesn’t generate intelligence assessments (making Bonini’s imputations about trumped up intelligence assessments nonsensical), they did have the audacity to consider the implications of existing intelligence assessments without simply assuming, as the CIA was doing, that Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime would not work with Muslim religious fanatics like al Qaeda. In other words, Feith’s claim to infamy is that he broke out of the idiotic echo chamber created by President Clinton’s CIA to avoid seeing terrorist connections so that President Clinton would not have to deal with them. He was the echo chamber buster.

A real echo chamber

In one of Bonini’s typical summary paragraphs, he weaves several of his central deceits together:
American intelligence, under pressure to give the hawks what they wanted, suddenly found itself in possession of one report (Saddam is buying uranium in Africa) and two “allied” confirmations (the Italian and the British). In reality, of course the original report and its subsequent confirmations came from a single hand. And that hand belonged to the swindler Rocco Martino, manipulated and controlled by SISMI. It’s Robert Baer’s “competitive intelligence” at its very best. [p. 53]
Exactly backwards. The CIA actually did plant a bit of intelligence with the British that President Bush then cited in his State of the Union address. That bit of intel was the warning that evidence of an Iraqi deal to buy uranium looked to be bogus. In response, the British limited their Iraq-Niger claims to those that could be supported by the real evidence, and the President then cited this properly regulated assessment. Some scandal.

The details of this Bonini paragraph are just as errant as the thrust. No, American intelligence was not “under pressure to give the hawks what they wanted,” and no, the different reports about an Iraq Niger uranium link did not all come from the Martino forgeries. The Italians were distributing at least two pieces of real reporting (the 1999 telex and the Battelli cable). The British say that they had pre-Martino reporting from "several sources." The CIA had in addition both Joe Wilson’s report about the Iraqi attempt to buy uranium from Mayaki, and the French report from November 2002. Add the cautionary messages that the different agencies were sending each other about any deal having been made, and Bonini's entire paragraph is is seen to be carefully crafted disinformation: a neat little story concocted by expunging every hint of the real Iraq-Niger reporting.

Of course the fake documents prompted much investigation but they never were given credence. It is only by burying all the real Iraq-Niger reporting that Bonini is able to make that correct intelligence assessment look damning. "They knew the Italian documents were untrustworthy, and they still claimed an Iraq-Niger link!" But Joe Wilson has already been authoritatively exposed for making this same fraudulent accusation. Can the same lies really be retailed again and again, and be embraced just as enthusiastically each time, regardless of exposure?

Fool us once, shame on Joe Wilson. Fool us twice, shame on Bill Moyers and everyone else who is eager to uphold known lies.

What makes Bonini’s accusations about “competitive intelligence” especially rich is that Wilson, Bonini, Moyers et. al. really do engage in something like the “competitive intelligence” that Baer describes. They all employ the same central omissions in order to promote the same false accusations, and they all rely on each other for confirmation of these deceptions. The last piece of the echo chamber is Democrat-left readers who only want to hear the most unadulterated anti-conservative story that an author can tell, no matter how dishonest or even flatly illogical. It is a whole culture of despicable collusion, with bigots like Wilson, Moyers, Bonini and D’Avanzo as the ringleaders.

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