From http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/10/30/binladen.tape/index.html

An ironic attempt at censorship from the government, who would rather we believed what they tell us about Al Qaeda than what Al Qaeda is saying themselves:

The length of the tape received by the U.S. government is 18 minutes. Bin Laden spoke for 14 minutes and 39 seconds. U.S. officials would not comment on what else is on the tape.

The official said that once the embassy received the video, the U.S. ambassador to Qatar asked the government to use its influence with the management of Al-Jazeera to convince the network not to broadcast the tape.

"We are disappointed that the tape was aired," the official said.


The United States regularly complains to the Qatari government about Al-Jazeera's coverage and has often asked the government to use its influence to rein in the network.

Oh, sainted irony; now that we have 'liberated' Iraq... Need I say more? Okay I will. Can you imagine the outrage if Qatar came to us requesting that CNN not air certain types of content?



Bin Laden Taking Cues From David Cross?

This videotape sounds utterly ludicrous. But what else could we expect from a nutcase like OBL?
CNN.com - Bin Laden: U.S. security depends on policy - Oct 29, 2004

He underscored it was U.S. foreign policy that led to the attacks, saying, "Bush has told you that we do not like freedom. Then, why didn't we hit Sweden?"

Cross, from his album It's Not Funny.

"If the terrorists hated freedom, then the Netherlands would be fucking dust, ya' know? As would Denmark, and Sweden, and Switzerland, and New Zealand, and Canada, and every other country that's truly freer than we are. I don't think Osama Bin Laden sent those planes in to attack us because he hated our freedom. I think he did it because of our support for Israel and our ties with the Saudi family and all our military bases on the holy land in Saudi Arabia. You know why I think that? BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT HE FUCKING SAID."


Who's Jawbonin' Who?

from CBS:
Mr. Bush was critical of Al Gore in the 2000 campaign for being part of “the administration that's been in charge” while the “price of gasoline has gone steadily upward.” In December 1999, in the first Republican primary debate, Mr. Bush said President Clinton “must jawbone OPEC members to lower prices.”

As gas topped a record level of $50 a barrel this week, Mr. Bush has shown no propensity to personally pressure, or “jawbone,” Mideast oil producers to increase output.

A spokesman for the president reportedly said in March that Mr. Bush will not personally lobby oil cartel leaders to change their minds.

(Reuters)OPEC to U.S. - Use Emergency Oil Reserves

Purnomo Yusgiantoro, the president of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, said on Wednesday he had approached Washington to suggest the move to force prices down from $55 a barrel.

"We had communication with them. I asked them to use their reserves," Purnomo, Indonesia's oil minister, told reporters in Jakarta. He did not say what Washington's response was.

In Washington, a White House spokesman said the Bush administration would not use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to influence market prices.

Still no word on whether they'll continue to use it as a lever to promote drilling in the ANWR, as President Bush did in one of the three debates.


Desperation Made A Fool Out Of Me

Egads. So "activists judges" and legislatures should go ahead with civil unions, but should leave marriage alone? Bush himself wouldn't have supported civil unions during his gubernatorial term, and has barely said anything publicly affirming civil unions til a week before the 2004 election? Pitiful. It's not like the righty base won't vote for him because of this (even if they believe he believes it), but this is a good example of Bush trying to have two (nearly opposite) sides of an issue.
Compassionate conservatism, huh? Let's see if he puts his money where his mouth is a la his support of the FMA.

Bush Says His Party Is Wrong to Oppose Gay Civil Unions

President Bush said in an interview this past weekend that he disagreed with the Republican Party platform opposing civil unions of same-sex couples and that the matter should be left up to the states.

Mr. Bush has previously said that states should be permitted to allow same-sex unions, even though White House officials have said he would not have endorsed such unions as governor of Texas. But Mr. Bush has never before made a point of so publicly disagreeing with his party's official position on the issue.

In an interview on Sunday with Charles Gibson, an anchor of "Good Morning America" on ABC, Mr. Bush said, "I don't think we should deny people rights to a civil union, a legal arrangement, if that's what a state chooses to do so."


Recount Redux

A snipped of the New Yorker's endorsement of Kerry set me a-wonderin', what with the election looking pretty close so far: what if there's a Florida-2000 situation with recounts during this election? I know it's statistically really unlikely, but...what would happen if the 2004 vote were again decided by the Supreme Court in Bush's favor?

The New Yorker: The Talk of the Town: "Bush sued to stop any recounting of the votes, and, on Tuesday, December 12th, the United States Supreme Court gave him what he wanted. Bush v. Gore was so shoddily reasoned and transparently partisan that the five justices who endorsed the decision declined to put their names on it, while the four dissenters did not bother to conceal their disgust. There are rules for settling electoral disputes of this kind, in federal and state law and in the Constitution itself. By ignoring them - by cutting off the process and installing Bush by fiat - the Court made a mockery not only of popular democracy but also of constitutional republicanism."

Update: A really interesting WaPo article on why the SC needn't have been involved in decided in the 2000 election at all.

Bush v. Gore was a mistake -- one the people will over time forgive. If the court should make the same mistake again, forgiveness may be more elusive. It would be disastrous for our system if recourse to the Supreme Court became a feature of every presidential race; the already-politicized confirmation process for nominees to the court would become a guaranteed blood bath every time.
On Dec. 9, 2000, the Supreme Court stopped the Florida recount. In his opinion that day, Justice Antonin Scalia explained that allowing the recount to proceed would harm Bush "by casting a cloud upon what he claims to be the legitimacy of his election." Political legitimacy, however, is not a gift the court can bestow. At stake this year is the court's own legitimacy; a wrong decision may tumble it from its high seat, into a place where it will be regarded as neither infallible nor final.


I Don't Really Think About Him Much....Until Right Before the Election

washingtonpost.com: Afghanistan, Iraq: Two Wars Collide:

"Two months ago, a team of soldiers from a highly classified special operations squadron arrived in the southeastern mountains of Afghanistan, along the Pakistani border. They were back to hunt bin Laden, many of them after a two-year gap.
'We finally settled in at our 'permanent' location 8 days ago after moving twice in three weeks,' one team member wrote to a friend. 'New territory, right at the border, up in the mountains. Interesting place. We need to start from scratch, nothing operational in place. Guess we'll spend our whole time developing a basic structure for our ops.'
At the peak of the hunt for bin Laden and his lieutenants, in early 2002, about 150 commandos operated along Afghanistan's borders with Pakistan and Iran in a top-secret team known as Task Force 5. The task force included a few CIA paramilitaries, but most of its personnel came from military 'special mission units,' or SMUs, whose existence is not officially acknowledged. One is the Army squadron once known as Delta Force. The other -- specializing in human and technical intelligence operations -- has not been described before in public. Its capabilities include close-in electronic surveillance and, uniquely in the U.S. military, the conduct of 'low-level source operations' -- recruiting and managing spies.
These elite forces, along with the battlefield intelligence technology of Predator and Global Hawk drone aircraft, were the scarcest tools of the hunt for jihadists along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. With Bush's shift of focus to Iraq, the special mission units called most of their troops home to prepare for a new set of high-value targets in Baghdad."


Tortured Logic

on CNN.
Putin's logic is more than a little weird here. War on Iraq was a bad idea, but we can't let terrorist attacks there (terrorists, it should be noted, who were *created by said war!*) keep us from re-electing Bush. Oh, and instead of the war in Iraq inspiring more terrorists, it's actually not re-electing Bush that would create more terrorists? I don't get it. Maybe I should look into his soul?

Russian President Vladimir Putin says terrorist attacks in Iraq are aimed at preventing the re-election of U.S. President George W. Bush and that a Bush defeat "could lead to the spread of terrorism to other parts of the world."

And yet:

President Putin made it clear Russia remained opposed to the war in Iraq.
"Today, our views on that differ from the views of President Bush," he said.


Up is Down, Redux

Quick, what's the opposite of 'reality'? Hint: it's not 'faith'

Clip from Ron Suskind's excellent NYT piece on Bush's faith-based presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''


Swiss Meatballs and the Swedish Army Knife

(Al Gore-like) sigh. Suskind on Bush's faith in the NYT.

One congressman -- the Hungarian-born Tom Lantos, a Democrat from California and the only Holocaust survivor in Congress -- mentioned that the Scandinavian countries were viewed more positively. Lantos went on to describe for the president how the Swedish Army might be an ideal candidate to anchor a small peacekeeping force on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Sweden has a well-trained force of about 25,000. The president looked at him appraisingly, several people in the room recall.

''I don't know why you're talking about Sweden,'' Bush said. ''They're the neutral one. They don't have an army.''

Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: ''Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They're the ones that are historically neutral, without an army.'' Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.

Bush held to his view. ''No, no, it's Sweden that has no army.''


Arm in the Cookie Jar

WaPo story on the Kuwait/Carlyle/Baker/Albright 'debt relief' proposal.

If Carlyle had been hired by the consortium to manage Kuwaiti reparations funds, the firm would have made sure Baker would not have benefited from the business, (Carlyle spokesman Craig) Ullman said. "If it had happened -- and I say if, because it never did happen -- we have the controls required to make sure Baker was in total compliance with his agreement" with the U.S. government in his role as Bush's Iraqi debt envoy, he said.
Jamie Smith, spokeswoman for the Albright Group LLC, said the consortium has, as of yesterday, stopped pursuing business with Kuwait. "The proposal is clearly dead," she said.

Good stuff in the Klein piece about how Carlyle wasn't agitating for this plan (confirmed by the WaPo piece), but they sure wouldn't have minded if the plan had been adopted. And, y'know, no impropriety. But now the potential deal's dead because Naomi Klein wrote about it - even though no one did anything untoward or illegal, of course. Sort of seems to me like the carrot (this plan) and the stick (campaigning for debt forgiveness) are pretty obvious, here. But this is the New America, where no one should be shocked by something as blatant as this. After all, these important folks were just trying to help those poor, rich Kuwaitis.

Klein's piece in the Nation is here.

Who's The Not-So Nimble One?

David Frum on the third debate:
One thing I’ve learned from these debates: John Kerry is poised and well-spoken – but he’s not very mentally nimble. Over three debates, the president made a number of mistakes, some of them potentially very damaging. Yet Kerry almost never pounced on them, and when he did do so, his remarks were very obviously prefabricated.

This is a curious thing to say. If anything, Bush's less-than-stellar performance in each of the three debates (though he was much better in the 2nd and 3rd) showcased his lack of mental nimbleness. Yes, both candidates often gave 'prefabricated' answers to expected questions. And both candidates sometimes failed to swing for the fences when their opponent offered up an easy pitch.

Speaking of the easy pitch, here's Frum's assessment of Bush's performance.

The president was...OK. He knew his numbers, and made his points vigorously, often eloquently. He hit especially effectively on questions about affirmative action, taxes, and religion. But the president’s gorge continues to rise whenever Sen. Kerry spoke. For fear of scowling, he would pull his head back and freeze his face in a state of suspended animation, blinking rapidly. When he spoke, he over-relaxed and he often smiled at awkward and unexpected moments.



I'll wait a bit longer before posting my essay about why the SF DPT is so blatantly ridiculous. Consider yourself lucky. But this is a good summation of my feelings.

"Most big cities use parking tickets as a method of generating revenue, not for creating an environment of safety for drivers and pedestrians, the reason why parking tickets were invented," Bolofsky said.

SF Chron: Internet company contests parking tickets for individuals, corporations.


Debate Exposes Doubt. Or Not.

It's strange that Bush can't even think of any mistakes he's made. I mean sure, he's alluding to Clarke, O'Neill, & Shinseki when talking about appointing people as a mistake - because later they didn't agree with him on the budget, terror intel, or the war in Iraq. (Let's leave Bremer aside for the moment, though his editorial in the NYT today was a push for Bush.) And then there's the malapropism: "I did the right decision." Okay, leave it aside.

Bush is smart to tie Iraq and Afghanistan together, but he's wrong to do so. Can't say that's a mistake. It's a faith-based initiative. But would Bush ever admit any mistake, ever? About his failed businesses? About burned BBQ? I think not. He woke up on third base and though he hit a triple. And he's stuck with that ever since.

Was Kerry awkward in places? Yes. He did a terrible job of explaining Bush's $84 timber tax claim, and that's not the only example.

Debate Transcript via MSNBC.

RABEL: President Bush, during the last four years, you have made thousands of decisions that have affected millions of lives. Please give three instances in which you came to realize you had made a wrong decision, and what you did to correct it. Thank you.

BUSH: I have made a lot of decisions, and some of them little, like appointments to boards you never heard of, and some of them big.

And in a war, there's a lot of -- there's a lot of tactical decisions that historians will look back and say: He shouldn't have done that. He shouldn't have made that decision. And I'll take responsibility for them. I'm human.

But on the big questions, about whether or not we should have gone into Afghanistan, the big question about whether we should have removed somebody in Iraq, I'll stand by those decisions, because I think they're right.

That's really what you're -- when they ask about the mistakes, that's what they're talking about. They're trying to say, Did you make a mistake going into Iraq? And the answer is, Absolutely not. It was the right decision.

The Duelfer report confirmed that decision today, because what Saddam Hussein was doing was trying to get rid of sanctions so he could reconstitute a weapons program. And the biggest threat facing America is terrorists with weapons of mass destruction.

We knew he hated us. We knew he'd been -- invaded other countries. We knew he tortured his own people.

On the tax cut, it's a big decision. I did the right decision. Our recession was one of the shallowest in modern history.

Now, you asked what mistakes. I made some mistakes in appointing people, but I'm not going to name them. I don't want to hurt their feelings on national TV.


We're Just Gonna Keep Saying It Until It's True

Reuters via MSNBC: CIA report finds no Zarqawi-Saddam link

WASHINGTON - A CIA report has found no conclusive evidence that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein harbored Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which the Bush administration asserted before the invasion of Iraq.

And then, surprisingly...wait for it.....wait for it....

Earlier on Tuesday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan reasserted that there was a relationship between Saddam and Zarqawi.

“He was in contact from Baghdad with Ansar al-Islam in the northeastern part of Iraq. He had a cell operating from Baghdad during that period, as well. So there are clearly ties between Iraq and — between the regime, Saddam Hussein’s regime and al-Qaida,” McClellan told reporters.


NYT piece on Bush's new, revamped stump speech.

"Look, the decision's been made that the president just isn't going to get into an introspective mode of 'we could have done this better,' " said one administration official who sat in on many of the campaign's strategy meetings. Such concessions, the official said, would "play right into" Mr. Kerry's argument. There was a time for Mr. Bush to make such concessions, the official said, but "that moment passed months ago." To do so now, the official argued, would both undercut the campaign and the 138,000 American troops in Iraq.

Interesting that the President's unwillingness to be 'introspective' also plays entirely into Kerry's arguments against him. Good luck with that one, Dubya.


So So Many Links
MSNBC: White House on defensive after Bremer says too few troops in Iraq:

"McClellan ticked off a litany of what he said were links between Iraq and al-Qaida. Both were ''sworn enemies of the free world, including the United States,'' and both ''celebrated the Sept. 11 attacks on America,'' he said. "

Where does one go to become a "sworn enemy" of the "free world," anyway? What's the paperwork like? McClellan's really digging deep. Maybe he oughta mention something about Islam, too, just to cap it all off?

(Update: the boston.com story cut off the part of this NBC piece towards the end that begins "Al-Qaida links tenuous", so I'm linking to the mirrored MSNBC story)


Artificial Deadlines

One of Bush's recurring points in the debate last night was that Kerry was setting "artificial deadlines" for withdrawing troops from Iraq (the whole concept of which is misleading, since we're likely to have military bases there for the forseeable future). Bush, of course, was completely inflexible on the utterly artificial June 29, 2004 for the handover of power in Iraq to Allawi. Why are some artificial deadlines bad and others utterly necessary?

MSNBC - Presidential debate transcript

And so, the answer to your question is: When our general is on the ground and Ambassador Negroponte tells me that Iraq is ready to defend herself from these terrorists, that elections will have been held by then, that their stability and that they‘re on their way to, you know, a nation that‘s free; that‘s when.

And I hope it‘s as soon as possible. But I know putting artificial deadlines won‘t work. My opponent at one time said, “Well, get me elected, I‘ll have them out of there in six months.” You can‘t do that and expect to win the war on terror.

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