Mr. Ashcroft, exactly what does

Mr. Ashcroft, exactly what does America mean to you, then?
– Something very scary here from an AP story: “U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft on Friday praised Germany’s newly enacted law that allows authorities to ban religious organizations used as fronts for extremists, saying it was a necessary measure in the war on terrorism.”

Woa, boy! “Ban religious organizations!?” What the hell — or should I say, what in God’s name — do you think is the very foundation of our Constitution and country? Religious freedom, damnit — or should I say, darnit.

John Ashcroft — who’s better known for his prayer than for his success as prosecuting terrorists and protecting us from them — is now looking enviously at the idea of banning religous organizations. That is frightening.

I don’t mind if he spies on them. I want him to arrest terrorizing clerics. But if civilization has learned nothing in the last 200 years, at least, it’s that you can’t ban religion and legislating it only gets you in trouble.

Besides, it’s just plain unconstitutional — from the guy who’s supposed to protect our Constitution.

But I actually hope he keeps saying stupid things like that — and the things he said to Congress last week — and that he keeps messing up his real job of catching the bad guys so that soon, he can be seen as the liability he is and Rudy can get his job!

Let’s go to the videotape
Andrew Sullivan comes away from the bin Laden tape with two conclusions: “The first is that anyone who doubts the genuineness of this manís faith, the inextricability of a twisted fundamentalist Islam with this form of terror, is simply in denial. The second thing thatís obvious is that the only thing bin Laden respects is power. Notice how he predicts that there will be mass conversions to Islam after the massacre. He believes that people, especially those in his own backyard, suck up to the powerful…”

I’m going to dare to disagree with the first. I know that Sullivan is buttressing his own argument that this is a religious war and he’s not wrong about that. But to call what we see in bin Laden “faith” gives him misplaced credit and it gives God and Allah both a bad name. Along with “faith” of any stripe one has to see some moral structure, some belief in a greater good, some assumption that there is a divine will or plan or set of laws that rule what you do and why you do it. There is none of that here. Quoting scripture of one flavor or another is not an indication of faith. No, what is clearly genuine about bin Laden is only his hate — his engineered evil — and the religion is merely a thin veil over that.

Sullivan is instead quite right in his second conclusion: It’s all about power, about him and his side winning. Why did he do this? He believed it would impress his masses and bring them to his side, amplifying his power.

This is megalomania not theology.

– I haven’t seen the guy’s name in writing yet — sounds like “Gumby” — but the asskisser on the tape with bin Laden will have to go down in history as the biggest brownnoser in history. What a wipe.

– Best tabloid headline so far, the Mirror: YOU GLOATING BASTARD

– Bad news/good news in the L.A. Times analysis of the tape:

Several officials said Bin Laden’s claims that most of the hijackers didn’t know one another or even know the game plan until the final hours indicates Al Qaeda enforces strict need-to-know operational security. That makes early detection extremely difficult.

“It shows that unless you get to the right people at the right time, it’s tough to get at these guys and prevent an attack,” a U.S. intelligence official said. “We could have captured some of the hijackers on Sept. 9, gotten them to tell us everything, and we still wouldn’t know what they were going to do.”

But analysts also say Bin Laden’s detailed foreknowledge of the plot–assuming he spoke truthfully during what appeared to be an off-the-cuff dinner nearly two months after the attack–suggests he and a few key aides maintained some degree of direct operational command.

That means their capture or death in the Afghan war could significantly undercut Al Qaeda’s ability to launch major new terrorist attacks in the near future.

More video
– A show analyzing how the World Trade Centers collapsed was a surprise huge hit on TV in Britain, with a quarter of the audience.

– I agree with Joshua Marshall today that (a) the Indian terrorist attack is bigger news than the play it’s getting and, regarding The Tape, (b) “Not since Pamela Anderson has an ill-considered home video caused its subject so much grief.”