Friday, November 1, 2002The Base's New Base The New York Times details the dramatic arrest of 9/11 planner Ramzi bin al-Shibh in Karachi, where Pakistani officials say local militants are trying to help al-Qaeda re-establish its network. In the apartment where bin-al-Shibh was hiding out, police found three satellite phones and five laptop computers.
"It is impolitic for U.S. officials to give their blessing on the record to regimes that skip judicial niceties and go directly to the gallows," writes Peter Maass, "but that is the reality of America's war on terrorism." Using Pakistan as an example, he warns that "Arbitrary arrests and executions, carried out by unloved governments at the bidding of the unloved United States, can lead to those governments being replaced by ones that support terrorists instead."
Intelligence officials tracking al-Qaeda tell USA Today that future terrorist attacks in the U.S. are more likely to resemble Bali than 9/11, with increasingly independent operatives working alone or in groups of twos and threes.
In a "NewsHour" interview, former senators Gary Hart and Warren Rudman discuss their recent Council on Foreign Relations' report, which said that the U.S. is "dangerously unprepared" for another terrorist attack.
Youssef M. Ibrahim, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that a possible U.S. war against Iraq has nothing to do with terrorism, but is an attempt to bolster the president's popularity and to turn Iraq into a private American oil pumping station: "Both will backfire and may indeed cost this president and his warmongering cabinet their sought-after second term."
MSNBC-obtained documents reveal a much deeper anti-terrorist alliance between the U.S. and Russia than was previously known, with Russia having opened up its rail network to the shipment of war supplies to U.S. bases in Central Asia.
A spokeswoman for the BBC's Asian Network, slams Al-Jazeera on news that it plans to launch an English-language channel in Europe: "Al-Jazeera is a sensationalist television station and they broadcast the views of the most extreme people in the world."
A new Human Rights Watch report accuses Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority of "political responsibility" for Palestinian suicide bombings. While the investigation found no evidence to support Israel's charges that Arafat had orchestrated attacks, it faulted the Palestinian leadership for failing to rein in and punish militants behind the bombings.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reportedly plans to ask Likud party rival Benjamin Netanyahu to become foreign minister in a government he hopes to form.
Ha'aretz reports on the hard-partying lives of stressed-out international aid workers in Jerusalem. Says one: "Some might think it's not normal to party in the middle of all this. But, that's bullshit."
With the SEC chairman facing a fresh round of resignation calls, The Rittenhouse Review asks "What kind of an idiot is Harvey Pitt?": Very special or just garden-variety? More Pitt from Jerome Doolittle and Paul Krugman.
Salon teases a "premium" article by Greg Palast, who reports that Florida's voter "purge" list from the 2000 election -- 90,000 plus people, half of them African-American -- is still in operation, even though the state knows that the list is wildly inaccurate.
In an Open Letter to the Democratic Party, Ralph Nader says it's the fairness, stupid.
A FAIR "action alert" issued earlier this week, called the New York Times and NPR on underestimating D.C. protest numbers. It prompted more than 1,100 letters to the Times or NPR, both of which have now corrected their stories. Plus: Times acknowledges reader complaints.
Monday, November 4, 2002
A Russian journalist details her negotiations with the Moscow hostage-takers, a second-generation of Chechen "sons" that she says is more committed to terrorist acts than the old guard.
Eric Margolis says that the hostage-taking was "a smaller act of terror within a greater one: Moscow's ongoing war to crush the Chechen independence movement, an inconvenient cause ignored by the outside world." Plus: Russia moves to curb news coverage of anti-terrorist operations.
A new report by Amnesty International charges that there is "clear evidence" that the Israeli military committed war crimes against Palestinian civilians in Jenin and Nablus during last spring's campaign.
UN worker arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle medicine to Syria, that was destined for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
The managing editor of Beirut's Daily Star on how Hizbullah came to be.
Privacy advocates say posters plastered along London's bus routes to assuage riders' crime fears are creepily reminiscent of "Big Brother." Plus: Homeland Security Bill amendment would make it even easier for government agents to obtain e-mail records from ISPs.
Chris Floyd examines a new organization that has been recommended to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. It would carry out secret missions designed to "stimulate reactions" among terrorist groups, provoking them into committing violent acts which would then expose them to "counterattack" by U.S. forces.
In reviewing two new books on Pakistan, Robert Kaplan writes that "The central drama affecting the future of South Asia is not the hunt for remaining elements of al-Qaeda or even the struggle over the fate of Kashmir, it is the continuing institutional decline of Pakistan."
Editorial cartoon sums up Minnesota's wild political week.
The Star Tribune endorses Walter Mondale and releases a poll putting him ahead by five points in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race, while the Pioneer Press endorses Norm Coleman and has him leading by six points in a new poll.
"Ordinary Senate candidates have to be briefed on things that happened two years ago," writes Slate's William Saletan. "Mondale puts current events in a historical context going back decades." Plus: Mondale and Coleman disagree on almost everything.
Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page speaks out against Robert Novak, who claimed that Page was eager to replace Paul Wellstone, but that the DFL didn't want to risk running an African-American in an overwhelmingly Caucasian state: "I find it offensive and unacceptable that forces beyond my control have used me as a vehicle to interject race into Minnesota's political debate."
The Daily Howler revisits the 1988 presidential primary, to debunk the ongoing myth that Al Gore was responsible for bringing Willie Horton into the race.
Sen. Robert Byrd continues his verbal jihad against President Bush and his administration.
On CNN's "Reliable Sources," "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart sets Howard Kurtz straight on the difference between news and entertainment, at one point telling Kurtz that "You guys [on CNN] are confusing yourselves with real journalists." Plus: Stewart goes off script.
A Miami Herald investigation finds that at least 37 children died of abuse or neglect in Florida over the past five years, despite warnings to the state's child welfare agency they could be in danger.
Tuesday, November 5, 2002
"Some pundits tell you that not much is at stake in this particular election, that the parties aren't really very different on the issues," writes Paul Krugman. "I don't know what planet they are living on: in reality, the parties are further apart than they have been since the 1930's."
BuzzFlash interviews Greg Palast on potential voter fraud in Florida, where "the issue is not Democrats versus Republicans, it is white officials suppressing the Black vote."
Danny Schechter, who directed "Counting on Democracy," a chronicle of Palast's investigation into voter fraud in Florida during the 2000 election, explains why PBS rejected his documentary.
Long lines expected in Florida after the timing of Miami-Dade voters on Monday found that the average person needed 20 minutes to work through the ballot.
A technological solution to voting problems that's easy to understand, surprisingly resistant to fraud and inexpensive.
A study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs found that between Labor Day and October 27, nightly network newscasts spent an average of 2.3 minutes covering midterm elections, compared to 8.1 minutes in 1994. The debate over Iraq was the topic of 265 stories, 163 stories featured the DC-area sniper and 66 focused on the midterm races.
According to the Tyndall Report, during the week of October 21-25, the nightly network newscasts spent a combined total of 132 minutes covering the sniper story and four minutes covering the 2002 House races.
Meet the new House, same as the old House.
Ad it Up A study of local television newscasts conducted between September 18 and October 24, found that on average, four campaign ads were aired for every one election-related story. Plus: $900 million and counting.
Debate coaches and political scientists critique Coleman vs. Mondale, with one saying "My first thought was that all debates, at the presidential level on down, should be this much fun." Debate transcript.
Mondale Takes Off the Gloves "During the debate, he talked to me about tone and the importance of a civilized bipartisan tone. But what Norm are we supposed to remember? Is it the guy we heard this morning or the guy who ran the trashiest campaign in modern American history?"
What Makes Jesse Run? "While the national media descended on Minnesota following Wellstone’s death and Mondale’s replacement, Ventura, who is accustomed to national reporters seeking him out, has been largely ignored. But his musing about the appointment, his anger over the memorial service and finally his dramatic announcement on Monday thrust him back into the story."
Theater Without the Boa Columnist tells of his "bit part" in Ventura's latest farce.
The authors of the new book "Downsizing Democracy: How America Sidelined Its Citizens and Privatized Its Public," write that "Increasingly, public officials regard us as 'customers' rather than as citizens, and there are crucial differences between the two. Citizens own the government. Customers just receive services from it."
The departing Commissioner of the IRS says that the wealthiest and most sophisticated tax cheats are beating the system and that the IRS can't keep up.
In an interview with the Times of London, Israeli Prime Minister Sharon calls on the international community to target Iran "the day after" any conflict with Iraq ends. Plus: Sharon's back door to Bush and "9 Days in Iraq."
Wednesday, November 6, 2002
On October 20, the Washington Post reported that Republicans had begun mapping out how they would use their new power if they won control of Congress. The Heritage Foundation's VP for government relations was quoted as saying that the mood among business lobbyists and economic conservatives was "guarded optimism, bordering on giddiness," as they laid plans to take swift advantage of a Republican trifecta.
Slate's William Saletan blogs the GOP's clean sweep and says that the story of the election was that the Democrats had no story.
A Maryland man who owns a .223 caliber semi-automatic rifle and drives a full-sized white panel van, had a surprise for FBI agents who showed up at his home during their investigation into the sniper attacks.
TomPaine.com interviews former New York Times' war reporter Chris Hedges, whose book "War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning," traces the transformation in people and societies as nations prepare for war: "The cause is always a lie. If people understood, or individuals or societies understood in a sensory way what war was, they'd never do it. War is organized industrial slaughter."
The addiction and seduction of war.
Hedges reported on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for Harper's in "A Gaza Diary."
As U.S. newspapers gear up to cover a possible war with Iraq, they appear to be unsure about how to cover the conflict at home.
An AP reporter accompanies 400 U.S. troops on a search and seizure operation -- the front line of the war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
An Islamist cleric with Taliban sympathies is poised to become Pakistan's next prime minister, after a six-party Islamic alliance and pro-democracy parties agreed to form a coalition government.
The hellfire missile that is said to have killed a senior al-Qaeda official in Yemen, was launched from an unmanned drone that was likely being controlled from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Plus: The remains.
Mark Hertsgaard talks to Salon about his new book, "The Eagle's Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World." He spent six months traveling throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia gathering impressions of the U.S., which he found to be much more multifaceted and sophisticated than the perceptions that Americans have of the rest of the world.
"The bin Ladenites know something Mr. Bush doesn't," writes Thomas Friedman, "that it is American optimism and soft power that really threatens them. American presidents, like J.F.K., F.D.R. and Ronald Reagan, faced enemies more evil than Saddam or Osama without losing touch with American optimism and communicating that to the world. The Bush team has lost it — and it's a loss for them and for America."
As McCain-Feingold takes effect, shadow organizations are set up to evade the intent of the law and continue the flow of unregulated "soft money" into campaigns.
Thursday, November 7, 2002
Where to Begin? The Rittenhouse Review does the post-election heavy lifting, with its must read sampling of bloggers' perspectives.
"One reason the Dems couldn't compete," writes David Corn, "was that they had no overarching theme that cut through the clutter of the campaign. Democrats did little to differentiate themselves from Bush and the GOP on war and tax cuts, and they made it easy for the Republicans to muddy the distinctions in issue areas where Democrats traditionally possess an advantage."
The other big loser? Slate's Daniel Gross says that it's the balanced budget: "We are now blessed with a Congress and executive branch devoted to the proposition that the government should spend, but not tax."
In an interview with Sioux Falls' Argus Leader, Tom Daschle says "I’ve been in this job for a long time, but this is the worst night I have had."
Fellow Republicans credit White House political adviser Karl Rove with masterminding the victory, as foreign diplomats in Washington react to an unrestrained Bush administration. Plus: "Don't misunderestimate me."
Media Spoils Now that the GOP gets to frame the debate, Steven Rosenfeld asks "how will dissenting voices, opposition voices, public interest voices, be heard in the mainstream press? It's not as if they were all that common before."
Howard Kurtz thinks that pundits and journalists -- most of whom miscalled the election -- might now be overinterpreting the results, since "a switch of roughly 29,000 votes in Minnesota, 11,500 in Missouri and 9,500 in New Hampshire would have produced a Democratic Senate and gobs of stories about how the White House blew it."
Norm Coleman was elected to the U.S. Senate with a strong finish, an opposing party that shot itself in the foot and an inadvertent boost from Jesse Ventura, but, without the support of Ramsey County, where Coleman served as mayor of St. Paul. Plus: How did Minnesota suddenly become such a Republican state?
It's the Stupid Democrats, Stupid! The creatively laid out "Wall of Frustration" at angrydems.com is the product of 15 hours of venting.
Betty Bowers praises the lord in her "GOP Victory Newsletter."
A founding partner of the GOP-connected PR firm that's spinning Pakistan, says that he's excited to be telling the story of how a "key ally of the U.S. in the war against terrorism" is moving closer toward democracy.
Pakistan's military regime abruptly postpones the first meeting of parliament since the 1999 coup.
Business Week says that the continued slowing of global economic growth and a U.S.-Iraqi war driving up worldwide oil prices, is a dangerous dynamic for Pakistan, where poverty already afflicts 30% of the population.
Selling human organs and luring women to sexual slavery are big business in Europe's poorest country.
The U.S. threatens to fine American companies that take part in an Arab led economic boycott of Israel.
Binyamin Netanyahu takes office as Israel's Foreign Minister, with a swipe at the American peace plan, saying that it's "not on the agenda" because of the likelihood of a U.S. attack on Iraq.
White House and Senate aides say they expect President Bush to renominate Charles Pickering and Priscilla Owen to appeals courts.
Friday, November 8, 2002
The New York Times and Washington Post headline the Justice Department's spin on terror arrests.
"In the next few months the Bush administration will once again demand tax cuts that benefit a tiny elite, in the name of economic stimulus," writes Paul Krugman. "The Democrats mustn't fall for this line again; they must insist that the way to stimulate the economy is to put money in the hands of people who need it."
E.J. Dionne thinks that "Most Democrats believe the Bush tax cuts are a disaster," but too many were afraid to say it. He prescribes learning how to oppose, organize and inspire: "In this election, they failed at all three."
After an election fought from the "meek and cynical center," that has left virtually every Democratic leader politically diminished, Peter Beinart predicts that "Things are about to get ugly in the Democratic Party--and it's about time."
Mickey Kaus challenges Beinart, proposes universal health insurance as a winning issue for Democrats.
Eric Alterman says that President Bush is a liar, but most of the mainstream media pretends not to notice: "Part of the reason is deference to the office and the belief that the American public will not accept a mere reporter calling the President a liar. Part of the reason is the culture of Washington -- where it is somehow worse to call a person a liar in public than to be one."
"When reporting and adjudicating matters that pertain to business," writes Lew Rockwell, "the widely held assumption is that these people will do anything for a buck, whether lie, cheat, or steal, but when it comes to foreign policy – even that of a presidential administration sitting on an oil fortune and heading a global crude empire – matters are entirely different."
Newsweek senior editor Michael Hirsh predicts that the U.S. will be at war with Iraq no later than March of next year, but cites the Bush administration's inability to link Iraq to al-Qaeda as reason to hold off, adding that "The war policy is a crock. This is a hugely risky operation for potential gains that probably won't justify the risk." Plus: Possible war triggers and iraqass, the movie.
As Peter Arnett prepares to return to Iraq as a 67-year-old freelancer, Michael Wolff assesses the state of war reporting: "Nobody is covering combat -- nobody is in combat. Armies, after all, don't invite reporters along to battle anymore; and the point about digitized combat is that there is nothing but an explosion (recorded by gun cams) to cover. Plus: Arnett speaks and Wolff on "War, Simplified."
Abdullah to G.I. Joe: "You and other U.S. soldiers have been in the Persian Gulf area for twelve years, and that's long enough. I know you freed Kuwait from Iraq's grip in 1991, and most Arab states are grateful. But now it's time you and your guys went home."
Egyptian purveyors of dates, a snack used to break the daily Ramadan fast, traditionally give pet names to different varieties. This year's include "Saddam Hussein's Weapons of Mass Destruction" and "Bush and Sharon."
Monday, November 11, 2002
A Newsweek article calls the Predator strike on an al-Qaeda operative in Yemen "a show of superpower force," but Spiked's David Chandler argues that "Summary justice delivered by CIA-operated unmanned drones seems to illustrate the problems of the USA's reluctance to take risks in the course of the 'war against terror' "
"The problem is that they are described as 'suspected al-Qaida,' " writes Charley Reese. "To execute suspects is to use the method of the death squad. It appeals to our childish sense of adventure, to our desire for quick and simple justice, but, unfortunately, it erodes the moral values of the United States."
The Washington Post reports on efforts to recover an unknown quantity of radioactive cesium 137 from the former Soviet republics. Says one nuclear expert: "You don't even need a bomb. Just open a can and people will die."
In an interview with Le Figaro, the head of Interpol warns that al-Qaeda operatives are preparing simultaneous attacks in several countries, including the U.S., and says that he thinks bin Laden is alive. Plus: Military support for getting Osama before Saddam.
Military analyst William Arkin examines the Pentagon's build up for a possible war in Iraq, which he calls "the logistical equivalent of loading up, moving and unloading everyone and everything in the city of Norfolk, Va. -- population 230,000 -- including all the automobiles, to the Middle East."
Sheldon Richman can't believe that the U.S. government is contemplating an unprovoked war against Iraq: "This is not what Great Powers do. On the contrary, when Great Powers want to go to war, they fabricate a provocation. Are Mr. Bush and his brilliantly talented advisors so unimaginative that they cannot come up with an incident?"
After Iraq? Eric Margolis writes that "The cookie-cutter pattern that worked for whipping up war psychosis against Iraq should work just as well against Iran, Syria or Saudi Arabia - and win the next national election."
Bob Herbert on what's behind the smile: "I think of the GOP as the costume party. It wears a sunny mask, which conceals a reality that is far more ideological, far more extreme, than most Americans realize."
Ralph Nader on the Democrats' look-a-like strategy.
Punditwatch observes Senator John Kerry in full-throttle campaign mode.
The St. Petersburg Times reports that to make sure Gov. Jeb Bush 's re-election would not be threatened by lawsuits or recounts, Florida Republicans had assembled a team of 350 lawyers to handle any possible courtroom battles. Plus: Frank Rich on the Democrats' misguided strategy to get Jeb -- "We're Not in Florida Anymore."
Jesse Ventura sideshow set to depart political midway.
Burl Gilyard examines Ventura's party-building legacy: "Let the record show that during his term in office, Ventura published three books, appeared twice on 'The Young and the Restless' and helped elect a single Independence Party legislator."
Garrison Keillor calls the election of Norm Coleman "a dreadful low moment for the Minnesota voters. To choose Coleman over Walter Mondale is one of those dumb low-rent mistakes, like going to a great steakhouse and ordering the tuna sandwich."
Poll finds that Wellstone memorial service may have hurt Democrats nationally, but major issue was that they were perceived as not being supportive enough of the war on terror. Earlier: President exaggerating the number of jobs a terrorism insurance bill would create.
Spinsanity asks: "Will the media finally hold the president and his staff accountable for their repeated evasions and dissembling?"
Salon follows the New York Times in reviewing two new books on Pakistan. One of the books, ''Pakistan: In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan,'' is by Mary Anne Weaver, who profiled bin Laden and Qatar and Al-Jazeera for The New Yorker.
Clinton administration' National Security advisers warn that al-Qaeda's metamorphosis into a virtual network, may make it a greater threat than when it was established in Afghanistan.
Tuesday, November 12, 2002
Representatives of companies exhibiting at the Baghdad International Trade Fair, describe the logistical nightmares arising from UN sanctions. They also say that Iraq is increasing purchases of medical supplies and emergency equipment in preparation for a possible war. IraqJournal.org/
Bush administration officials say that Iraq has ordered up a million doses of a drug that can be used to counter the effects of nerve gas.
Although intelligence agencies are predicting that Iraq and sympathetic Islamic elements will attempt to launch terrorist attacks against the U.S. in the event of war, the FBI is said to be dangerously unprepared to thwart attacks on U.S. soil.
Revealed: Iraq's secret plan to become the marijuana capital of the United States!
Drone Strike Intrigue Philip Smucker reports from Yemen, on how the Arabic-speaking U.S. Ambassador, Edward Hull, personally met with and paid off Arab tribesmen, to gather intelligence that led to last week's Predator strike. Yemeni officials are angry about that, and about U.S. defense officials taking credit for the hit, in violation of a secrecy agreement.
Ha'aretz's Yoel Marcus says that during Ariel Sharon's 20 months in office, Israel has gone downhill in every possible sphere: "The economy is six-feet under. More Israelis have been killed in Mr. Security's day than under any other prime minister. The man has never come up with a peace initiative. We've been turned into untouchables in the eyes of just about the whole world." And yet, everyone loves Sharon, "no matter how much he fails."
Two years ago, rioters in Bolivia protesting increased water rates forced the Bechtel Corporation to leave the country. Now the company is using secret World Bank proceedings to sue for $25 million, in a test case of local control vs. economic globalization.
Ethiopia's prime minister says the famine threatening his country could be worse than that in 1984, which killed a million people.
The New Yorker's Elizabeth Kolbert writes that "During the past two years, the Bush Administration, with remarkable single-mindedness, has set about undoing more than thirty years of work to protect the nation's air, water, and shrinking wilderness." The outcome of last week's elections is likely to accelerate that process.
The authors of the book "Partisan Hearts and Minds" offer some consolation for Democrats: "Last week's triumph may represent a missed opportunity for the Republicans: they won the election but failed to create a new image for themselves." Plus: Did Democrats miss the Greens?
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Joel Connelly says the news media is treating the Bush family like royalty, and that during the 2002 elections, the Bush administration "Through an array of considerations, blandishments and manipulation, made over our nation's elite media from watchdog to lapdog."
Bill Moyers calls this "a heady time in Washington — a heady time for piety, profits, and military power, all joined at the hip by ideology and money. And if you like God in government, get ready for the Rapture." Plus: Big money's big win.
As the Pentagon throws billions at a missile-defense program, anti-terrorism projects go begging.
Whassuupp with Let's Roll? Reason's Nick Gillespie examines the "increasingly curious afterlife" of the phrase "Let's Roll!", which has been adopted by Wal-Mart as an employee motivation slogan and by Florida State University as a theme for this year's football season.
See the list of "Let's Roll!" trademark applications.
Wednesday, November 13, 2002
A Jane's editor says that al-Qaeda's long-term goal probably revolves around "forcing the U.S. into an isolationist 'Fortress America' policy," and that their game plan for achieving it is to "cause significant economic damage to the U.S. across a number of sectors."
The Wall Street Journal traces the rise and fall of maalemaljihad.com, a Web site venture of Egyptian Islamic Jihad.
Revised version of Homeland Security bill does not include a proposal included in an earlier bipartisan Senate version, that would have created an independent commission to investigate the 9/11 attacks.
The Washington Post reports that the Bush administration has evidence suggesting that Pakistan assisted North Korea's nuclear weapons program as recently as three months ago, much later than previously disclosed.
Russian media shocked by President Vladimir Putin's "circumcision invitation" to a Le Monde reporter who questioned his policy on Chechnya.
Palestinian family tells of sharing their home with Israeli soldiers who moved in during Jenin sweep.
A little-noted provision on Iraqi "no-fly" zones in the UN resolution could be an early trigger for war.
A new report by British health professionals warns that a war against Iraq could kill half a million people -- mostly civilians. It also states that the "best-case" estimate for a short war is that 10,000 people would die.
Antibiotic-resistant "rogue" bacteria has medical profession on high alert.
Josh Marshall on the 2002 "whiffle bat election" and Howard Dean's 2004 presidential prospects.
Hillary vs. Condoleezza in 2008?
Thursday, November 14, 2002
William Safire follows up on recent articles in the New York Times and Washington Post, that detailed plans by the Defense Department's "Information Awareness Office," -- headed up by Iran-contra mastermind John Poindexter -- to develop what Safire calls a "supersnoop's dream," a virtual, centralized grand database on U.S. citizens.
The House passes a Homeland Security bill that does not include the establishment of an independent commission to investigate the 9/11 attacks. Sens. McCain and Lieberman say that's wrong, and push for an amendment to the Senate bill.
Daily Kos fears that "the truth about 9-11 is about to get buried by an administration that clearly has something to hide, and a party that will acquiesce to its leader's wishes."
Mark Fiore on the Predator execution drone: "Shoot first, ask questions later."
Robert Fisk speculates on where bin Laden is and why he has resurfaced now.
A former analyst in the CIA's counterterrorism center says that "I think we're in for some very unpleasant surprises. [Bin Laden] doesn't make idle threats." Plus: Could a bin Laden imposter fool voice authenticators?
Al-Jazeera's man in Islamabad tells how he obtained the bin Laden tape.
U.S. authorities are investigating the sniper suspects' possible ties to a militant Muslim group.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the daughter of Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who President Bush appointed as inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, is facing scrutinty for "allegedly politicizing her nonpartisan office, forcing out longtime career civil servants and mishandling a government-issue gun."
Garrison Keillor follows up on his Salon evisceration of Senator-elect Norm Coleman -- "Empty victory for a hollow man" -- with "Minnesota's shame." (scroll down)
NATO soldiers storm a film set in Macedonia after confusing actors with terrorists.
Friday, November 15, 2002
Terrorism analyst Peter Bergen says that the rebranding of al-Qaeda presages "a wider war against not only the U.S. but the West in general. This shift was precipitated by al-Qaeda's loss of its headquarters in Afghanistan. Deprived of a physical base, al-Qaeda has morphed into something at once less centralized, more widely spread and more virtual than its previous incarnation."
And where is bin Laden getting his ideas? Brendan O'Neill says they're coming from "our obsessive belief that he is behind everything bad that happens around the world and our notion that he is as strong as ever."
U.S. House passes a bill creating a commission to investigate the 9/11 attacks. The panel of ten private citizens will be evenly divided between appointees of Republicans and Democrats, but the Bush administration will choose the chairman and any subpoenas would have to be issued by at least six commission members, or, by the chairman and vice-chairman.
Homeland Security bill offers pork for pharmaceutical giants.
At the Washington Post, a reporter rewrites history and a columnist reinvents himself.
President Bush got his trifecta, now political opponents hope to get theirs, with an e-mail campaign aimed at convincing Senators Chafee, Specter and Snowe to switch to the Democratic party. Will McCain make a move?
Al Gore gives his first interviews since conceding the 2000 election and comes out in support of a single-payer health insurance plan.
Reacting to a Bush administration plan to place as many as 850,000 government jobs — nearly half the federal civilian work force — up for competition from private contractors, a union boss representing federal workers said President Bush had "declared all-out war on federal employees."
The Pennsylvania miners who were rescued last summer are facing a backlash from locals, who resent their celebrity and fear that they might file a lawsuit that could shut down the mine.
Industry group tries to convince a California town to change its name to Got Milk?
Stone Not Alone The attorney for former Rolling Stones' bassist Bill Wyman tries to intimidate music writer Bill Wyman into adding a disclaimer to his byline.
Anti-fur protesters crash Victoria's Secret show.
President Bush asks NOT what you can do for your country.
Read an excerpt from Bill Maher's "When You Ride Alone You Ride with Bin Laden."
The allegiance of a Palestinian journalist working for Israeli TV is questioned by both sides.
Monday, November 18, 2002
"Winnebagos of Death" The Los Angeles Times reports that the biggest challenge facing UN weapons inspectors in Iraq may be a fleet of nondescript trucks that are constantly on the move throughout the country and that Western intelligence believes is carrying biological weapons.
Saddam has reportedly paid Libya $3.5 billion to give political asylum to his family and leading aides in the event of a war or a successful internal coup.
Defectors disagree on how hard Iraqi army may fight.
As more details come out about last week's "Sabbath massacre" in Hebron, it is being seen as aimed at Israel's military, not a terror act against civilians as it was described initially. Plus: "Fear and loathing in Hebron."
With American bases increasingly coming under attack, a Time article asks: "Is Afghanistan slipping out of America's control?"
The UN says that it has found evidence that an Afghan warlord, General Abdul Rashid Dostam, tortured witnesses to stop them from testifying against him in a war crimes inquiry.
In Bob Woodward's "Bush at War," which details the feuding among Bush's advisers, the president is quoted as saying that "I do not need to explain why I say things. — That's the interesting thing about being the president. — Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."
Bush is also quoted as telling Pakistan's General Musharraf that "Seymour Hersh is a liar," in response to Hersh's New Yorker article claiming that the U.S. and Israel had contingency plans to take out Pakistan's nuclear warheads in the event of the country falling to fundamentalists.
During a CNN discussion (last item) of retired general Wesley Clark's possible presidential ambitions, columnist Julianne Malveaux said that "We've got a president who has not served, and you can't contest a president who has not served with someone who..." Wolf Blitzer: "Bush was in the guard." Malveaux: "That doesn't count." Blitzer: "What do you mean?" Malveaux: "Well, he went AWOL." Blitzer: "Let's move on, let's move on."
The Daily Howler offers "four easy lessons on current spin culture," including the incessant use of the term "San Francisco liberal" to describe House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Plus: Red-baiting and jargon attacks.
Doug Ireland on Pelosi's baggage of money and special interests.
U.S. Department of Justice begins probe into whether the country's two largest alternative newspaper chains -- New Times Media and Village Voice Media -- violated federal antitrust laws when they closed competing weeklies in Los Angeles and Cleveland.
Passage of the Homeland Security bill is being threatened by what Senate Democrats call Republican "special-interest goodies." Plus: Democrats find that some big items on the Republican agenda are immune to filibuster.
The Times of London reports that a soon to be released Pentagon study "is expected to say that 53.9% of U.S. military personnel over the age of 20 would be classified as too fat to fight under federal obesity standards." Previously: America, Land of the Fat
Tuesday, November 19, 2002
William Rivers Pitt writes that "It happens like clockwork these days: A significant piece of legislation comes before Congress that was ostensibly drafted to help defend the nation against terrorism. In the days leading up to the mandated Congressional debate regarding said legislation, terror warnings suddenly bloom like nightshade."
Paul Krugman looks at the Bush administration's plan to open up 850,000 federal jobs to private competition: "There's probably not a single politician or journalist in Washington who believes that privatizing much of the federal government is really motivated by a desire to reduce costs. So what's this about?"
Commentators say there's a 50-50 chance that Republican Senators McCain and Chaffee will switch parties if Democrat Mary Landrieu wins her runoff election in December.
Greens join Republicans in celebrating the 2002 election results.
Josh Marshall analyzes post-election polling data of voters who were asked which party was better at "keeping America strong." Republicans beat out Democrats by a whopping 59 to 19 percent. Plus: Selling security over vision.
Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix accuses U.S. hawks of conducting a smear campaign against him.
Read how the Pentagon managed the information flow during Desert Storm to "promote a vision of combat that was bloodless and antiseptic." Plus: Washington Post comes clean on the Pentagon's vetting of war news.
A Belgian actor shared a cage with a pig for three days, in the hope that the animal would reveal why there is so much conflict in the world.
Firefighters are outraged by allegations of looting that appear in William Langewiesche's new book "American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center." Read an interview with Langewiesche and 1, 2, 3 book excerpts that ran in Atlantic Monthly.
Phil Donahue is reportedly on his way out.
"The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart calls cable news "our saving grace" for the wealth of material it provides: "It's almost like having my own bank, because they've so destroyed the fine credibility or the fiber that was the trust between the people and what they're hearing on the air."
Tom Petty vents in Rolling Stone about what's wrong with the music industry and why television is worse: "I think watching the TV news is bad for you. It is bad for your physical health and your mental health. The music business looks like innocent schoolboys compared to the TV business."
The World Wildlife Fund has warned that if all of the fuel oil leaks from the tanker that has begun sinking off Spain's Atlantic coast, the spill will be about twice as big as the Exxon Valdez's. More photos.
Wednesday, November 20, 2002
As the Pentagon announces a plan to boost reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, David Corn writes that "The 'new era of hope' that Bush pronounced has not yet come to pass for many there. That should be kept in mind as administration officials and others tout war in Iraq, especially if such a war is to be waged not just to disarm Saddam but to 'liberate' the people of Iraq."
When the Taliban collapsed, reports of the grim conditions at an orphanage housing more than 800 children near Kabul brought help from aid agencies. But one year later, most of the aid workers are gone and the assistance has had little lasting impact. Photos here.
A Pakistani with a long history of involvement in making Afghan policy, warns of civil war in Afghanistan unless the Pashtuns get a larger role in the central government.
Iraqis are said to be "staggered" by the exhaustive list of demands from UN weapons inspectors.
Bush administration' hawks take out frustration on Hans Blix.
The Boston Globe's Mark Jurkowitz reports that the consenus among attendees at a conference of military reporters and editors "was that Rumsfeld's Pentagon has taken the art of information control to new heights. And that isn't likely to change in any battle for Baghdad."
Ted Koppel fails to sway veteran war correspondents with his circumstantial endorsement of military censorship in Iraq.
Is Osama in a ratings game with Saddam?
Joe Conason cites a passage from Bob Woodward's new book, in which President Bush tells Woodward that a story floated by members of his own staff -- an action plan for dealing with al-Qaeda reached Bush's desk by Sept. 10 -- is probably false.
Blowing Smoke Read how White House Drug Czar John Walters grossly exaggerated the potency of today's pot while campaigning against marijuana ballot initiatives.
"The breakdown of the Democratic party and the breakthrough of Eminem may not seem related," writes Richard Goldstein, "but they both reflect the mainstreaming of ideas that seemed extreme just two years ago. Bush's right-wing agenda and Eminem's violent misogyny were once considered over the line. Now they have crossed over and become the line."
TomPaine.com op ad asks Senate GOP moderates to "Pull A Jeffords -- Please."
Check out the war posters from Maher's "When You Ride Alone You Ride With bin Laden."
Israel's opposition Labour Party elects dovish former general as new leader.
Cash-strapped Salon is offering readers free access to a day's worth of premium content in exchange for viewing a Mercedes-Benz "Ultramercial." Take a test drive. Plus: Critics question Salon's claim that it's a "leading media company."
Thursday, November 21, 2002
Public Citizen says that the pharmaceutical industry spends close to $100 million a year on lobbying, with more than 20 former members of Congress among its 600-plus lobbyists in Washington.
A last-minute addition to the Homeland Security bill directs that a $120 million homeland security research center be housed at Texas A&M. The university's incoming president -- Robert Gates, CIA director under former President George H.W. Bush -- bragged to the Houston Chronicle that his Washington connections would bring home the bacon.
The Pentagon argues that the database being developed by John Poindexter under the Total Information Awareness Program, which will be used to monitor every purchase made by every American citizen, is a necessary tool in the war on terror.
FBI officials acknowledge that a watch list of people wanted for questioning after the 9/11 attacks has "taken on a life of its own," showing up on several Web sites and containing names of people who have been cleared of any connection to the attacks.
Former U.S. Senator Gary Hart writes that "Our approach to war making and homeland security in this new era is still ad hoc rather than strategic. We are scarcely safer today than when we were first attacked. But now we face the real prospect of a major war and the trigger that war will provide to those waiting for motivation and occasion to kill Americans in our homes and cities."
Al Gore says that President Bush's two-month campaign to "beat the war drums" against Iraq may have helped Republicans win control of Congress this month, but left the U.S. less secure against possible future attacks.
Brendan O'Neill asks: Is bin Laden really plotting a comeback attack - or just making the most of Western insecurities?
National Geographic survey finds that only 13 percent of Americans between the age of 18 and 24 can find Iraq on a map.
Read a review of "Uncle Saddam," a new documentary by a French filmmaker who gained access to Saddam's inner circles.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's editorial-page editor writes about his appearance on Bill O'Reilly's radio show, which ended when O'Reilly hung up on him: "If you criticize O'Reilly, the No Spin Zone becomes the No Talk Zone."
"What happens when Rush Limbaugh attacks those of us in public life is that people aren't satisfied just to listen," said Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle. "They want to act because they get emotionally invested. And so, you know, the threats to those of us in public life go up dramatically, on our families and on us, in a way that's very disconcerting."
In a jailhouse interview with the Buffalo News, James Kopp admits to shooting abortion provider, Dr. Barnett Slepian, but refuses to say if he received assistance from any person or organization. Defense lawyers call interview a "bizarre tactic."
This Bust's for You Cash-strapped police departments are being offered a free ride by a company that gives them patrol cars in exchange for the revenue generated from selling ads on the vehicles. Their patriotic pitch.
Bob Herbert writes that "Watching the fiscal crises gripping cities and states across the U.S. is like watching a chain-reaction auto wreck in slow motion. I don't think the general public has a good sense yet of the pain that will result from the carnage."
Mark Steele wants to know why oil tankers are the only ships that snap in half.
Friday, November 22, 2002
eDNA The New York Times reports that the Pentagon research unit that oversees John Poindexter's Information Awareness Office, considered but rejected tagging Internet data with physiological markers to make anonymous use of some parts of the Internet impossible.
Sen. Robert Byrd praises colleague Russ Feingold for casting the only vote against the Patriot Act.
Read the transcript of Byrd's remarks during the conclusion of the Homeland Security debate. He called the bill "An irresponsible exercise in political chicanery."
E.J. Dionne writes that the debate over the Department of Homeland Security "will long stand as one of the sorriest episodes in the history of partisanship... By turning domestic security into a divisive and partisan issue, President Bush helped win his party an election. But at what cost?"
Arianna Huffington says that on her first Sunday morning TV appearance after being elected House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi sounded like a character from "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" -- "a soulless pod person, an empty shell mouthing the kind of pallid, inoffensive, focus group-tested and cringe-inducing platitudes that have driven two-thirds of the American electorate away from politics." Plus: "Pelosi's First Dive."
Salon breaks the story of a secret meeting in which national security executives warned 25 airline CEOs that al-Qaeda has likely smuggled shoulder-launch missiles into the U.S. in recent months and may be planning to fire them at commercial jets.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that the al-Qaeda backed Ansar al-Islam, "Soldiers of God," has escalated the fight against Kurdish forces in northern Iraq.
"Bin Laden's messages are misinterpreted as unconditional threats and vows to attack. This is incorrect," argues psychologist Diane Perlman. "What is missed by media and political leaders, whether intentionally or unconsciously, is the conditionality, the centrality of our role in provoking retaliation or preventing retaliation and reducing terrorism."
Canada's Defense Minister told President Bush and the U.S.' ambassador to stop lecturing his country about increased defense spending. The Prime Minister's communications director also called Bush "a moron," for trying to push the war against Iraq to the top of NATO's agenda. The opposition party wants her head over the remark.
In a Prague meeting with Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel, President Bush reportedly said that "Contrary to my image as a Texan with two guns on my side, I'm more comfortable with a posse."
John Laughland contends that NATO expansion "is both a mechanism for extracting Danegeld from new member states for the benefit of the U.S. arms industry, and also an instrument for getting others to protect U.S. interests around the world, including the supply of primary resources such as oil. It is, in short, a racket."
Slate's "Saddameter" offers a daily handicapping of the prospects for war with Iraq.
Monday, November 25, 2002
The Boston Globe reports on recent CIA payouts of tens of millions of dollars to foreign intelligence contacts in the hunt for bin Laden and other top al-Qaeda leaders.
Four-thousand word letter called "extraordinary glimpse" into mind of bin Laden.
As the Pentagon's stealthily-funded $10 million Total Information Awareness project draws fire, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld assures that "Nothing terrible is going to happen." Sen. Dianne Feinstein wants hearings, calls on fellow Democrats to take off the gloves on a variety of issues.
FAIR on Rush Limbaugh's literal demonization of Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle.
Time reports on the war before the war, aimed at softening up and possibly toppling Saddam.
How Saddam gets "anything he wants" by using elaborate schemes to smuggle in contraband and defeat UN sanctions.
Mad sends up both Bush administrations with "Gulf Wars Episode II: Clone of the Attack."
Why the first major film to deal with the events of 9/11 is not coming to a theater near you anytime soon.
Leaked EPA documents say unexploded munitions at 16,000 inactive military ranges, including chemical and biological weapons, pose "imminent and substantial" public health risks and could require the largest environmental cleanup program ever implemented by the U.S. government. The area covered is said to be roughly the size of the state of Florida.
Disney Corporation employs Jiminy Cricket in an environmental program that promotes its brand to California schoolchildren, but forgets the cartoon character's lesson of conscience.
The Ploy of Pepsi An Oregon teacher comments on the soft-drink giant's squashing of a cheerleader's plan to raise funds by selling bottled water under her school's logo. Pepsi claimed infringement on the company's exclusive $5 million contract with the school district.
A left-leaning former army colonel who was jailed just two years ago for leading a coup, has defeated a billionaire banana magnate -- who outspent him by five to one -- to become Ecuador's new president.
Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Biotech critics submit patent application for creatures that are half man, half animal, as a way to draw the public's attention to the possibilities of genetically engineering humans.
Hiding in Plain Sight Time reports that al-Qaeda has set up shop in a tiny Afghan village along the border with Pakistan, after reportedly paying off locals with the help of a ragtag band of Pakistani border guards. Plus: U.S. trying to get peace on the cheap in Afghanistan.
New plan calls for confronting Saudis over financing of terrorism.
Go With the Flow Continued U.S. dependence on Saudi oil limits the Bush Administration's strategic options.
In "Why Oil Shieks Love a Good Hummer," Arianna Huffington concedes that SUV makers have won a few battles, but predicts that they" may be about to lose the war."
After watching the Rev. Jerry Falwell claim that "global warming is a myth" during a CNN debate on SUVs, David Corn argues that it's time for the media to deny Falwell an electronic pulpit.
Paul Krugman says that new air pollution rules announced last week by the Bush administration, likely "marks the beginning of a new era of environmental degradation."
In a Washington Monthly profile of Krugman, Nicholas Confessore writes that "when it comes to analyzing the intellectual underpinnings of the Bush administration, Krugman has no competition."
Krugman named Editor & Publisher's columnist of the year.
Military affairs analyst William Arkin warns that a Bush administration policy shift "blurs or even erases the boundaries between factual information and news, on the one hand, and public relations, propaganda and psychological warfare, on the other. And, while the policy ostensibly targets foreign enemies, its most likely victim will be the American electorate."
Robert Fisk criticizes his journalistic colleagues for parroting the party line: "The language of Middle East journalism has become so cowardly, so slippery, so deferential, so lofty of the phrases used by the State Department, the President, the U.S. diplomats, Israeli officials."
A National Governors Association report says that U.S. states are facing their worst budget crisis since World War II.
Flag Flap Georgia’s new governor has pledged to give voters a chance to ditch the current state flag. It could be replaced by one dominated by the Confederate emblem — a scenario that terrifies the state's business and tourism interests.
Ted Turner says that he almost "laid down and cried" over the election results: "My governor in Georgia was a great environmentalist but he got beat. And my poor senator. . .he's a war hero."
Wednesday, November 27, 2002
"Asking Henry Kissinger to investigate government malfeasance or nonfeasance is akin to asking Slobodan Milosevic to investigate war crimes," writes David Corn. "This is a sick, black-is-white, war-is-peace joke -- a cruel insult to the memory of those killed on 9/11 and a screw-you affront to any American who believes the public deserves a full accounting of government actions or lack thereof."
A Los Angeles Times editorial says that Kissinger is wrong for the job and the New York Times editorializes that "it is tempting to wonder if the choice of Mr. Kissinger is not a clever maneuver by the White House to contain an investigation it long opposed."
"Get Your War On" gets its Kissinger on.
Brendan O'Neill isn't buying "Buy Nothing Day."
"Holiday Cheer, Pompoms, Bombs and Refugees." Marc Herold revisits Thanksgiving 2001 in Afghanistan.
A Thanksgiving Day letter from Michael Moore.
How far did your turkey travel?
James Ridgeway handicaps the likelihood of President Bush picking his favorite Supreme Court Justice -- Antonin Scalia -- to become Chief Justice if William Rehnquist dies or steps down. Plus: "Chief Justice Roulette" and "In Defense of the Filibuster."
Although the president's budget calls for boosting national defense outlays to $442 billion by 2007 -- up by nearly 50 percent from 2000 -- the Pentagon is seeking an extra $10 billion a year for the next five years to fight terrorism.
The controversial Office of Strategic Influence is gone, but recent remarks by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld suggest that its programs are still in place.
Steve Chapman writes that "there is still a big gap between our resources and the administration's ambitions... Even a superpower will find out sooner or later that there are limits to what it can control in the world. At the rate we're going, it will probably be sooner."
Pierre Tristam says that the creation of the Department of Homeland Security should put to rest any doubts that the terrorists have won: "Like a Wall Street firm beholden only to its board room, the second-largest government department is now a proprietary arm of the presidency. It operates beyond congressional scrutiny and public accountability, and guarantees secrecy to its own machinations or to those of any private business with which it deals."
Jonathan Turley calls John Poindexter "the perfect Orwellian figure for the perfect Orwellian project ... Soon after Sept. 11, he appeared at the door of the administration like a J. Edgar Hoover vacuum salesman, promising a system that could digest huge amounts of information and produce neatly packaged leads on suspected citizens." Readers respond to Turley.
Joe Conason on Poindexter's rehabilitation from disgraced admiral to super spy.
Salman Rushdie is proud of all the other "Rushdies" that are springing up in the Muslim world, but critical of moderate Muslims for not speaking out on their behalf.
A French media literacy group is teaching Afghan women how to make documentaries, but Afghanistan's increasingly conservative state-run television refuses to air them, out of fear that they could be used as propaganda by the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
Why bin Laden is itchin' for war -- between the U.S. and Iraq.
David Corn lambastes Congress for fleeing Washington without tending to real homeland security and other crucial matters.
In an interview with The New York Observer, Al Gore criticizes Fox News, the Washington Times and Rush Limbaugh: "Most of the media [has] been slow to recognize the pervasive impact of this fifth column in their ranks—that is, day after day, injecting the daily Republican talking points into the definition of what’s objective as stated by the news media as a whole."
In response to a Frank Rich column -- "Do We Have to Call You Al?" -- suggesting that his new spontaneity is a charade, Gore said that "People do change, particularly in America. If you don’t learn from the experiences you have in life, then you’re not trying very hard, and if you don’t make mistakes, you’re not human."
Garrison Keillor speaks out about his anti-Norm Coleman screeds: "It's very seldom that one gets to write out of pure anger, especially at my age. You feel it so seldom. So when you do, it seems to me you ought to take advantage of it." (scroll down)
Three ideas that might have changed the election.
Home Growin' Police say that there are at least 50,000 houses in Canada that are now used exclusively to grow marijuana.