Osama bin Laden has made no secret of his aim to drain the American economy, crowing over the trillions lost after 9-11. As a military plan, it makes sense.
"Al Qaeda cannot destroy the aircraft carriers that project U.S. airpower across the world, but jihadis can destroy the money that builds them and keeps them afloat," wrote Charles Heyman, editor of Jane's World Armies, last week. "The U.S. military requires US$378 billion during 2003 and over US$400 billion in 2005. The strategy therefore must be to concentrate on the destruction of value in the major economic indicators and make it more and more difficult for the U.S. to fund defense at this level."
In response, the United States, almost reflexively, is willy-nilly turning itself into Fortress Americawith the FBI one day issuing a warning about upcoming massive attacks and the White House pooh-poohing it the next. Trying for this effect or not, the government's policies keep the public in a constant state of jitters, and become a self-propelled rationale for strengthening the fortress. Each week the Bush administration goes further and further down this path, essentially taking Al Qaeda's bait. Last week, the steps toward dismantling democracy came in the form of proposals to construct a British-style MI5 organization, meshing under one roof intelligence agencies that spy on Americans with those tracking foreign nationals.
The more Bush seeks to defend the nation, the more scandalous his plan becomes. Consider the new homeland security legislation, which contains a payoff for drug companies peddling the smallpox vaccine. The new bill protects vaccine manufacturers, as well as professionals and volunteers who administer the doses, against suits from people who become ill or die after taking the shot.
Further, the plan cuts off citizens' ability to keep tabs on the government, by making it illegal for employees of the new department to disclose "critical infrastructure information" from private companies. These workers could be fined, dismissed, or imprisoned for up to a year. A provision like that would spell the end of whistle-blowing.
If Al Qaeda is out to sabotage the U.S. economy, it's meeting with some success. Already one key cog in the transport system, the airline industry, is crippled and cannot recover without large infusions of government cash. Talk of war is one factor keeping the stock markets depressed, lowering the general standard of living and sucking the value from 401(k) retirement accounts. Meanwhile unemployment continues to rise and consumer confidence to falljust what bin Laden wants.
He cut quite a figure, this American in Bahraintall, blond, once a hunk, a former Republican state legislator from Louisiana and candidate for governor, and a scholar to boot, with an advanced degree. Dr. David Duke recently arrived in Bahrain as the guest of Discover Islam, a group of business and professional people anxious to popularize the Islamic world. Duke's mission: to stump for the anti-Zionist cause.
Dr. Duke explained to the local Gulf Daily News that as a dissident, he didn't fall into what the paper called "the main American political streamline."
"Even now, many of my own people think of me as unpatriotic because I am critical of the Zionist lobby in the U.S. and throughout the world," Dr. Duke said. "But I primarily want to clear the air and to set the record straight about American foreign policy as it relates to the Middle East."
A few years ago Dr. Duke was president of the National Association for the Advancement of White People, and before that, leader of one of the most aggressive Ku Klux Klan chapters in the U.S. But all that is prologue. Today, professor Duke has an honorary degree in political science from the University of Kiev in the Ukraine, and currently serves as the president of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO).
His CV indicates he has been outspoken on such questions as immigration, crime, and eugenicsthis last, as the local paper explained, is "a form of genetic science designed to ensure that 'undesirable' genes are weeded out." Dr. Duke called the field's pioneers "scientific heroes."
"We are aware of his background," Mohammad Zuhair of Discover Islam told reporters. "We know certain things about his past. I don't know much about his views on Arabs. I am not sure if the term 'non-whites' includes Arabs."
In one post-election interview after another, pundits have pondered which Democrat might jump ship. Georgia's conservative senator Zell Miller? Louisiana senator John Breaux, joining his already turncoated House colleague Billy Tauzin? And, on the other side, would moderate Republican senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island become a Democrat?
When it comes down to specific issues, it often doesn't make much difference which member is in which party. Starting in the 1980s with Newt Gingrich's right-wing back bench, House members have worked across the aisle. For example, a left-right coalition of liberal Democrats and hard-line Republicans smashed the leadership of both parties and made an ass of Clinton by voting against free-trade legislation. More recently the same type of coalition was put together to fight the International Monetary Fund.
Today there are any number of possibilities, especially between moderate Northeast Republicans like Olympia Snowe and Clintonian New Democrats such as Connecticut's Joe Lieberman. The two forged ties through different groups. Among the Republicans, there's the Wednesday Group (Jim Kolbe of Arizona, Nancy Johnson of Connecticut, and Amo Houghton of New York). Among the Democrats, there's the Blue Dog Dems, many of them Southern conservatives, and a wider grouping of Clinton's New Democrats based at the Democratic Leadership Council; all in all, there are thought to be some 70 New Democrats in the House and 20 in the Senate. Then there's the Republican Main Street Coalition and the Republican Pro-Choice Coalition, both of which seek to separate themselves from the right-wing leadership.
Centrist Democrats hew to "third way" approaches, joining moderate Republicans to, for example, oppose a permanent tax cut. They've acted as something of a brake on Bush in the Middle East by arguing for a mildly "internationalist" version of war against Iraq, squelching at least for the time being Cheney's preemptive strike doctrine. The New Democrats worked with moderate Republicans to get more resources for schools in exchange for accountability. They approve of careful oil drilling on public lands, and can be as tough on crime as anybody in the GOP, with some of their members even urging that prison labor be made available to private corporations.
The following Philip Morris memo, dug up by the American Lung Association of Colorado and Tobacco Documents Online (www.tobaccodocuments.org), recently appeared on www.thememoryhole.com:
"Nine open Cambridge packs were examined to identify the insects causing the infestation. Live cigarette beetle adults were observed crawling throughout the sample bag, the open carton, and the individual packs of cigarettes. Copious amounts of cigarette beetles frass [i.e., debris and excrement] were found throughout each pack, the carton, and the sample bag. Extensive damage caused by cigarette beetle exploration and chewing was found in at least 80 percent of the cigarettes in any pack. Examination of the individual packs revealed 1-3 mm holes in the overwrap on and around the tax stamp on each pack. These holes, which were caused by the application of the tax stamp using heat, probably allowed entry of cigarette beetle adults into the packs. The presence of these holes indicates that the infestation occurred during distribution."
For the brave, selections from the Web site for the feds' Total Information Awareness (TIA) System, found at www.darpa.mil/iao/TIASystems.htm:
"Total Information Awareness of transnational threats requires keeping track of individuals and understanding how they fit into models."
"The TIA program strategy is to integrate technologies developed by DARPA (and elsewhere as appropriate) into a series of increasingly powerful prototype systems that can be stress-tested in operationally relevant environments, using real-time feedback to refine concepts of operation and performance requirements down to the component level."
"Planned Accomplishments: TBA."
Additional research: Waris Banks, Gabrielle Jackson, Rebecca Winsor, and Josh Saltzman
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.