Political Animal


OSAMA BIN LADEN STILL ALIVE?….According to an AP dispatch, Osama bin Laden is alive and talking:

The Al Jazeera Arab satellite station confirmed it received an audio statement from Osama bin Laden which it said will air later Tuesday. Chief editor Ibrahim Hilal told The Associated Press the 16-minute tape was a message to Iraqis to remain steadfast in the face of a potential American attack.

….A headline at the bottom of the screen during regular programming Tuesday night read, “Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden calls on all Muslims to unite to defend the Iraqi people, in an audio message Al-Jazeera will broadcast later.”

(The story is developing, so the excerpt above will probably be replaced by other text as the day goes on.)

Only time will tell if this message is genuine, but if it is ? well, it’s a powerful weapon in the campaign to truly galvanize American opinion to invade Iraq. Thanks, Osama.

UPDATE: Here’s a BBC translation of the entire message.

BUSH AND EUROPE….Turkey has asked

BUSH AND EUROPE….Turkey has asked NATO to provide help in case it is attacked in a war with Iraq. France, Belgium and Germany have vetoed the request. George Bush is incredulous:

I don’t understand that decision. I am disappointed that France would block NATO from helping a country like Turkey prepare.

Those perfidious French, preventing poor little Turkey from defending itself against the depradations of Saddam Hussein. How could they?

This is absurd. Why would NATO agree to assist in planning for a war it hasn’t agreed to wage? George Bush now appears willing to bust up an alliance that’s of tremendous benefit to the U.S. over a war that he seems to think has been ordained by God.

Well, it hasn’t been. I’m personally persuaded that the only way Saddam Hussein will ever be reined in is by use of force. But the UN isn’t persuaded yet, NATO isn’t persuaded yet, the American public doesn’t seem to be truly persuaded yet, and the unsettling fact is that the fault for this lies directly with George W. Bush. If he had half the diplomatic skill and common sense of his father, he wouldn’t be in this mess.

There’s nothing wrong with Bush pushing hard for an agenda he believes in, but in the end, if he fails to persuade our friends, our allies, and the world, he should back off. I don’t mind making an enemy of Saddam Hussein, but I do care about making an enemy of half the world. George Bush should care too.


ALAN GREENSPAN DISAPPOINTS THE REPUBLICANS….Paul Krugman wondered aloud last week if Alan Greenspan would keep a bit of dignity when he testified before congress today, or whether he would simply confirm that he’s nothing but a shill for the Republican party. Apparently, he decided he’s had enough and rubbished the Bushies’ claim that economic growth would wipe out the deficit all on its own:

Greenspan dealt a blow to Republican hopes by apparently challenging this assessment, saying, “Faster economic growth, doubtless, would make deficits far easier to contain. But faster economic growth alone is not likely to be the full solution to currently projected long-term deficits.”

….Greenspan was unequivocal in his support of Bush’s plan to eliminate dividend taxes, saying it was “a sensible long-term program.” However, he also said such a plan should be “revenue neutral,” meaning Congress should find a way to make up the revenue lost by eliminating the tax.

Greenspan also disagreed with the notion, offered lately by some Republicans and economists in support of the President’s tax plan, that deficits can rise without having an impact on long-term interest rates.

“There’s no question that when deficits go up, contrary to what some have said, it does affect long-term interest rates, it does affect the economy,” he said.

Let’s summarize his testimony in normal English, shall we?

  • The war with Iraq is bad for the economy.

  • The proposed deficit is too large, and it’s bad for the economy too.

  • A big part of the deficit is caused by Republican tax cut proposals. Economic growth alone won’t get rid of the deficit, no matter how often they say it will.

  • Thus, taxes should not be cut right now. Eliminating the dividend tax is “a sensible long term program,” but only if other taxes are raised to make up for it.

In other words, virtually every single thing the Republicans are doing is bad for the economy. Not bad! The old guy still has a little bit of spine left in him.

Unfortunately, there was this too: “He also said he was not overly concerned with the risk of a decline in the price of housing….” So even after the stock market bubble of the 90s, Greenspan still doesn’t seem to be concerned about asset inflation, this time in the form of a housing bubble. Will he never learn?