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Saturday, August 16, 2003

WRONG: I’m tired of the accepted myth, as Max Hastings writes in the Telegraph today, that Bush was motivated to take out Saddam because of 9/11 - :
“George Bush claimed to be troubled by a tyrant, al-Qa'eda, and weapons of mass destruction, when he simply wanted to punish somebody for September 11.”
And yet as this partisan piece recognises:
“go back to December 1999 when Bush was still governor of Texas and wasn't even the Republican candidate for President yet. Back then, Bush Jr. had said that if elected President of the United States he would use military force to "take out" Hussein and Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.”

BBC PARANOIA: Contrary to Instapundit and Idler postings, Tom Mangold has not actually filed suit against Newsweek, he’s merely instructed his lawyers to do so. Gilligan issued a similar threat against Phil Woolas, a labour MP over his accusation that Gilligan had misled the select committee . In light of the evidence the Hutton enquiry has heard to date, its not surprising that we haven’t heard any more about these proceedings. And I suspect we wont hear much more about this case.

Nonetheless this threat is probably more a good illustration of how the BBC works – it instinctively attacks anyone who questions its authority regardless of who they are. In this case this would seem to be a strategically stupid threat since Newsweek is not a natural enemy of the BBC and media friends is what the BBC needs right now. But if you’ve got a 4 billion dollar state guaranteed budget, who needs friends?

On the legal issue, under English law damage does not need to be proved if the libel is against a professional’s reputation. Whether English journalism is considered a profession I don’t know, but I certainly think it would be strange if it were. More importantly, libel proceedings have juries and are therefore notoriously capricious. So the question Mishon de Reya are probably asking their client now is, who do you think will have the more credibility in 18 months time, the BBC or Newsweek?

Interestingly Tom Mangold was a close friend of David Kelly and is going to make a film about him.

Friday, August 15, 2003

WHERE IS THE IRAQI ERHARD?: Samizdata posts an upbeat email from Iraq, but behind the upbeat bravado, a more depressing scenario is hidden:
The article highlights the fact that the fuel price are too low and this is a situation we inherited from the old regime. Whole Basra economy is based upon it and so it is very difficult to change in such a short time. Also, it is not in our mandate, we just provide security, currently means keeping fuel flowing. CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) are supposed to sort out bigger questions, such as pricing of fuel.
It is received wisdom that the Marshall plan revived post war Germany but the reality is that while this provided a prime, the real motivator was freeing prices, a policy introduced by Ludwig Erhard.
Looking over the wreckage from six years of total war, Erhard knew that only free market policies could get Germany back on its feet. To that end, he made two proposals: introduce a new currency, then insure its success by lifting wage and price controls.

None of the experts doubted the necessity of his first proposal, but lifting wage and price controls? That went against current orthodoxy. When General Clay, military governor of the American Zone, informed Erhard that all the American economic experts were gravely concerned about the consequences of scrapping the wage and price controls, Erhard replied, "So are mine."

Yet Erhard plowed ahead. He knew his history: more than 2,000 years of price and wage controls have always resulted in economic chaos. Not only do price and wage controls destroy incentives, Erhard pointed out, but they almost always transfer wealth from hard-working, patriotic citizens into the hands of cynics, bureaucrats, and those favored by the government.
More tellingly, Erhard realised that such a move would encounter resistence and so:
Taking the country by surprise, Erhard went on the air on a Sunday night in June 1948. First, he announced that each German would be given forty Deutschmarks (replacing the old Reichsmarks). This would be followed by a second installment of twenty Deutschmarks. Credits and debts would be converted into the new currency at the rate of ten to one, and people would have to prove how they came by sums that exceeded 5,000 Reichsmarks.

Erhard knew that his currency reform would be doomed if the new money, like its predecessor, faced bare store shelves and empty warehouses. To prevent this, Erhard announced the second -- and by far more important -- part of his program: most of Germany's wage and price controls would be dropped. First, controls would end on a wide range of consumer goods. Within six months, controls on food would be dropped. Erhard gained support for his measures by billing them as a patriotic move designed to replace a "foreign" economic system that had been imposed on Germany. The German people were astonished to hear that all these changes would commence the next morning.”
And the result:
Almost immediately, the German economy sprang to life. The unemployed went back to work, food reappeared on store shelves, and the legendary productivity of the German people was unleashed. Within two years, industrial output trebled. By the early 1960s, Germany was the third greatest economic power in the world. “
Is this an attempt to impose another history on a new scenario? I think not; the queues at petrol stations the media so keenly airs are not the queues of the needy consumer, but the queues of rapacious arbitragers – as recent ship arrests suggest, Iraqi petrol is not being consumed, it is being exported for gain. And since this is the most profitable business in town, no one bothers to set up any other kind of business.

The difficulty in rectifying this is set out in the post – the military lack the will as they want to do nothing that will inflame the populous, and as public servants, the ideals of the free market probably beat weakly in their hearts. But as Erhard’s strategy suggests, it would be possible to present the freeing of prices as a nationalistic break from the past. So it could be done. And if we want to avoid a quagmire, it must be done.


Wednesday, August 13, 2003

UH-OH: The BBC's case starts to unravel:
"Reporter Susan Watts told an inquiry into Kelly's death the scientist did not tell her in a telephone conversation that Blair's closest adviser Alastair Campbell transformed a dossier on Iraq's banned weapons to help make the case for a war most Britons opposed.

She also accused BBC bosses of pressuring her to make her report tally with that of her colleague, defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan."
And this as reported by the Guardian.

"Watts told the Hutton inquiry: "I feel there was significant difference between that he [Dr Kelly] said to me and Andrew Gilligan. He did not say to me that the dossier was transformed in the last week [before its publicaton].

"He certainly did not say the 45 minutes claim was inserted by Alastair Campbell or by anyone else in government."

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

ICH BEIN EIN BERLINER: Following in the footsteps of JFK’s vacuous assertion and the weasily 9/11 declaration in the French press that “we are all Americans”, now Silvio has a pop at it:
“Signor Berlusconi told Bild newspaper last week that he considered himself “almost a German”. Since German newspapers have caricatured him as the heir to Benito Mussolini, the comment did not go down too well in Germany.”

THE GILLIGAN: Gilligan has now stated, on record, that Kelly lied:-
“Lord Hutton then asked Mr Gilligan: “You put the question, ‘Was it to make it sexier?’ and Dr Kelly replied, ‘Yes, to make it sexier’.” Mr Gilligan replied: “Yes.”
Lord Hutton said: “Are you clear in your recollection that you asked how was it transformed and that the name Campbell was first spoken by Dr Kelly?” Mr Gilligan replied: “Yes, absolutely.”
Lord Hutton: “It wasn’t a question by you saying ‘Is Campbell involved in this?’ ” Mr Gilligan replied: “No, it was him. He raised the subject of 45 minutes and he raised the subject of Campbell.” …..
Mr Dingemans then read part of a letter sent by Dr Kelly to his line manager admitting to meeting Mr Gilligan. It confirmed that they had met on May 22 for 45 minutes.
Mr Kelly wrote that they met to discuss Mr Gilligan’s experiences of reporting the war in Iraq “and definitely not to discuss the dossier”.
Mr Gilligan contradicted Dr Kelly’s claims. Dr Kelly had written: “He brought up 45 minutes, it was not me who brought it up. He raised the issue of Alastair Campbell and, since I was not involved in the process . . . I was unable to comment. This issue was not discussed at any length.”
Mr Gilligan answered: “It was he who brought up Alastair Campbell. I asked him how did this translation come about, and he said ‘Campbell’.” ..
Mr Dingemans put it to Mr Gilligan that Dr Kelly had told the committee that he thought the question about the 45-minute claim had been raised by the reporter. “Are you sure you are not mistaken?” Mr Dingemans asked. Mr Gilligan said: “Absolutely. It’s one of the things I remember most clearly.”
This raises two questions; firstly, as Janet Daley, observes:
"So, thus far, it is the word of one man against another. And one of those men is dead. Even if we take Gilligan's account of their transactions at absolute face value, isn't there a problem with the logic of his defence?

If Dr Kelly lied to the FAC because, as Gilligan puts it, he may have felt that he had to "keep faith" with the Ministry of Defence (and had not intended to discredit the Government), why should we put so much faith in his accuracy as a source for the Gilligan story? Either he is an impeccable, unfailingly reliable witness or he isn't."
And so why was he allowed to rely on a single source?

Secondly, it casts a new light on the BBC’s reporting of Tom Kelly’s briefing that David Kelly was a "Walter Mitty" type. “Taking leave of their senses?” Mark Davies reported for the BBC. But according to the testimony today, it looks like the BBC is taking the same line – David Kelly was responsible for the "sexing up" of the BBC’s report - not Campbell or the government. Please explain.

NB apologies for the long quote of testimony, but I understand that many of you can't get the Times without paying. Just like the British can't own a TV without paying the BBC. Oh the irony, the irony.
NB2: It may be a good idea to keep copies of the BBC webpages you quote on this story as, well, the text has been known to change.
THE GOVERNORS: Day 2 of the Hutton Enquiry was more interesting, as the BBC notes:
the inquiry heard that the BBC governors had noted that Mr Gilligan's [report/story/editorial] had not used "careful language".
Yet in their July statement the governors concluded:
In summary, the governors are ultimately responsible for ensuring that the BBC upholds the highest standards of impartiality and accuracy. We are wholly satisfied that BBC journalists and their managers sought to maintain impartiality and accuracy during this episode.”
So did they think that this not “careful language” was accurate? The legalistic insertion of the word “sought” suggests that they didn’t think it was. Is this a Lie? No, but is suggests that the July statement was deliberately misleading - how could they be "wholly satisfied" with a report that was not careful? So it seems that instead of executing their duty to ensure that the BBC was impartial and accurate, the governors just wanted to give the impression to the public that the coverage was accurate. I hear the rustle of P45’s.

Monday, August 11, 2003

LITIGATION PSYCHOSIS: This is a strangely poignant tale of the dangers of litigation psychosis. While I have only worked on one similar case, I suspect that instances where a claimant goes mad as a consequence of pursuing a claim that some incident traumatised them are far more common than is often acknowledged.
“A psychiatrist suffering from schizophrenia stabbed to death a former colleague who was treating him. …The tragedy of a brilliant psychiatrist who developed the same condition as his patients began six years ago, in June 1997, when Geoffroy was held captive at knife-point for an hour and a half by a youth who was angry because he had not been paid a disability pension…

Geoffroy eventually managed to calm the youth, who was committed to a psychiatric hospital. But then the doctor began his own descent into madness. …Rather than the knife incident itself, it was the refusal of the authorities to accept his demands for compensation that seems to have triggered his mental condition.

He stayed at home for many months, sending a series of medical certificates to his hospital excusing himself from work, inundating Italy's health and safety agency Inail with demands for compensation, and denouncing the Italian public health service for lack of security at the workplace.

As petition after petition was rejected, his behaviour grew wilder. He insulted his lawyer, made threats against his landlord, punched a carabiniere who allegedly failed to help him, and even threw his elderly mother downstairs, claiming afterwards that "even she has gone over to the other side".

He lost his job, was struck off the medical register, and in 2001 was committed to San Paolo hospital in Milan for treatment as a schizophrenic.”

MOVING ON:
TRAGIC Ali Abbas yesterday said he was not bitter about losing his arms in a Gulf War bombing raid. Ali, 13, had his limbs blown off and was orphaned in the blitz of Baghdad. New pal Ahmed Hanza, pictured with him in a wheelchair, also lost a leg and right hand in another raid.

The lads rescued from the war are in Britain having artificial limbs fitted at the Queen Mary’s Hospital in Roehampton, South London. Ali, through an interpreter, said: “I will grow up to spread the message of peace around the world.

“I have no bitter feelings. I would like to thank the British people very much. I’m looking forward to studying here.”


THE KELLY ENQUIRY: It would appear that there was no sexing up of the dossier, even though there may have been some discussion about it’s contents:
THE way that key information in last year’s dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was presented caused concern to intelligence staff at the Ministry of Defence, the inquiry into the death of David Kelly was told yesterday. .However, the hearing heard no evidence to substantiate allegations by the BBC that Downing Street or Alastair Campbell, its communications director, had inserted information it knew was probably wrong to “sex up” the dossier.
“Then we have testimony that Kelly was acting outside his duties and breached government confidence in speaking to Gilligan:
Richard Hatfield, the Ministry of Defence director of personnel, said that that while briefing the media was effectively part of Dr Kelly’s job description it appeared that he had gone too far when he spoke to Mr Gilligan. “He appears to have had, on his own account, two meetings with Mr Gilligan, which took place off MoD premises, with nobody having any knowledge of them and even on Dr Kelly’s account of what took place at that interview, he clearly had strayed beyond providing technical information,” he told the inquiry. Using surprisingly strong language, he went on: “There is no security breach. My concern relates to the basic breach of confidence as to how he is supposed to behave towards his employer and the Government.”

Sunday, August 10, 2003

THE BATTLER: Paul Kelly has a brilliant article on the genius of John Howard, probably the most accomplished world leader today and with lessons to right wing opinion everywhere:
"In attacking the progressive interpretation of our history as "little more than a disgraceful record of imperalism, exploitation and racism", Howard delegitimised the elites and empowered the mainstream. For Brett, Howard then did what no previous Liberal had attempted: he stole for the Liberals the Australian legend with its working-class roots in egalitarianism, mateship, the fair go and practical improvisation. The legend was once ALP property. Now it is tied to Howard Liberalism, a breakthrough that enables Howard to relate to virtually all sections of our society. “
Incidentally, Paul Kelly is a much-underrated columnist as well.
USEFUL : The Guardian has some useful analysis for the Democrats:
“ Democratic party pollsters have identified single women as a key new demographic group that it must galvanise if it is to recover the White House next year. Nicknamed the "Sex in the City voters", single women are less likely to turn up to the polls than married women but more likely to vote Democrat if they do: a potentially rich source of votes if the Democrats can tap their concerns. “
Now I may be stupid, but I would have thought that the key to winning the next election for the democrats is winning over people who voted republican last time; tailoring their policies just to retain core constituencies by contrast seems, well, pretty defeatist. More worrying, though is the justification they give for adopting this approach. Single women, they claim are
"not just concerned with military security, but kitchen table economic security and social security. The government is a partner or safety net when you are going it alone. For women without husbands, Uncle Sam and Big brother are their greatest protectors."
So single women are just poor helpless saps who’d vote democrat just for the chance of being Kerry’s 40 millionth wife? Not a vote winning approach methinks.
DRINK: Is it worth it?:
“Workers who enjoy a drink earn more than their teetotal colleagues, according to a study of people aged 45. Moderate drinkers make, on average, 17 per cent more money than abstainers, researchers at Stirling University found…..Even heavy drinkers, defined as men who drank more than 50 units of alcohol a week and women who drank more than 35 units, earned five per cent more than teetotallers.”
So how should you drink yourself a pay rise? Well,
He warned that heavy drinking could hit earnings. "But you have to drink quite a lot for it to be a problem. The survey shows that if, instead of binge-drinking, you steadily soak yourself in alcohol it has no impact on your earnings."
Ah ain’t nothing like a beer bath on a hot summers evening.

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