Saturday, September 30, 2006

Happy birthday to grand-nephew Alex on his
7th birthday earlier in September, with his sister,
Olivia, who will be 1 in November. Posted by Picasa

remembering my grandparents, Ignazio and Gioconda Severini,
both born at the end of September. Posted by Picasa
It Gets Worse

The Sunday Washington Post reports that Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert "was notified early this year of inappropriate e-mails from former representative Mark Foley(R-Fla.) to a 16-year-old page, a top GOP House member said yesterday -- contradicting the speaker's assertions that he learned of concerns about Foley only last week."

The admission resulted from some infighting and bad blood within the Republican leadership, leading the Post to conclude that : "Yesterday's developments revealed a rift at the highest echelons of House Republican ranks a month before the Nov. 7 elections, and they threatened to expand the scandal to a full-blown party dilemma."

In an even more directly damaging revelation the New York Times asserts that: "Top House Republicans knew for months about e-mail traffic between Representative Mark Foley and a former teenage page, but kept the matter secret and allowed Mr. Foley to remain head of a Congressional caucus on children’s issues, Republican lawmakers said Saturday."

Even after admitting hearing about Foley's emails, Hastert claimed neither he nor others in the leadership had ever actually read any. But that was soon contradicted by another House Republican in an interview in the St. Louis Dispatch (as discussed by Josh Marshall.) In the Times story, House leaders are still claiming that they did not know about the more sexually explicit email messages obtained by ABC News which seem to have led directly to Foley's resignation. We'll see if that claim stands, and for how long.

The Palm Beach Post writes that ABC News may have emails and instant messages from Foley to five boys.

So here's what we've got so far: The Republican chair of the Congressional caucus on children's issues, a champion of the fundamentalist Christian right, which demonizes homosexuality and considers itself the defender of innocent children, is caught for engaging in sexually explicit emailing with male minors. Foley at first denied the charge, then resigned. The Republican leadership of the House knew about at least some of this behavior for a year but kept it secret, and supported Foley in his continuing activities on childrens' issues as well as his re-election campaign. This includes the Speaker of the House, who denied he knew of the emails but had to admit he did know. The boys were congressional pages, and therefore protecting them was the specific responsibility of the Congress and its leadership.

Hastert has been credibly accused of other kinds of corruption in office, as have other Republican leaders and members of Congress. This may cast new doubt on their fitness for office.

Sunday Update: Democratic congressional leaders have called for the Attorney General to investigate not only whether Foley's behavior constitutes crimes (under legislation he wrote), but whether the House Republcan leadership coverup of his behavior was criminal. The Bush House defended the House leadership on Sunday talk shows, and said there was no need for an investigation.

Think Progress has developed a time line which shows that immediately after a member of the House leadership, Rep Tom Reynolds, learned of Foley's transgressions, Foley made an unusually large $100,000 donation to the National Republican congressional campaign committee, which Reynolds runs. So now the possibility of bribery or blackmail enters the sequence of sordid events and potential crimes.

ABC News moves the timeline's beginning back to at least 2001: it is reporting that five years ago, a GOP congressional staff person warned congressional pages to "watch out" for Foley.

2nd Update: The FBI has begun a preliminary investigation of Foley's emails. This same New York Times story reports that House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi's call for an Ethics Committee investigation of the conduct of the House Republican leadership has been joined by Republican Senator Richard Lugar who "agreed that the personal safety of the pages who work in the Capitol needs to be assured. “I would join Congresswoman Pelosi in saying an investigation ought to occur,” he said on CNN.

A Democratic lawmaker who sits on the page oversight board said she was not told about Mr. Foley’s e-mails. “This should be investigated objectively,” said Representative Jane Harman, Democrat of California, during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.” “I think the Democratic leadership should have been told 10 months ago. This was a very serious charge.”
Baghdad Lockdown

The entire city of Baghdad has been ordered locked down until Sunday by the Iraq government. It imposed a "curfew" that does not permit Iraqis to leave their homes all day Saturday.

As of late Friday, the reason for this action remains unclear. The government cited "intelligence information" on the "security situation." One US TV report suggested the government discovered plans for a military coup. Sectarian violence has increased recently, reports of the curfew noted, but that's been happening for some time.
It's Hitting the Fan

Update: A brief portrait of Mark Foley at Faithful Democrats, a site by people who are Democrats and Christians : "Foley made get-tough laws on sexually exploited children -- particularly exploitation over the Internet -- one of his primary crusades in Congress." He also was outspoken about his Christian (specifically Catholic) faith. The combination got his an 84% positive rating from the Christian coalition in 2004.

The site then says: Foley rails against the depraved; he is the depraved. Foley attacks the predators; he is a predator. Our question: where are the denunciations from the religious right? Where is Focus on the Family? Where is the Family Research Council? Do they only care about sexual misconduct when it's committed by a Democrat? The hypocrisy doesn't belong to Foley alone. The hypocrisy belongs to everyone who rails against sexual sin for political purposes then delivers a sermon of silence when the sinner happens to advance a right-wing, Republican agenda.

When a story this big (the sudden resignation of a Republican Member of Congress over sexually suggestive emails) grows by the minute, a lot of people get caught saying things they wish they hadn't, about five minutes after they've said it. This can vary from just getting beat on the story (like CNN did Chris Matthews: while Matthews guests were trying to figure out why Congressman Foley resigned over the relatively tame emails first released, CNN had the new and more explicit ones, and suddenly there was no mystery) to charges you're likely to regret real soon.

Like these from Republican loyalists in Florida: Ganter said she questions the timing of the reports, given the election is 39 days away. Ganter said it's suspicious that the e-mails have popped up shortly after Republican Virginia Sen. George Allen was painted as a racist."It's a big coincidence that all these things are happening to our fine conservative party," Ganter said. "It does make one wonder."

By Friday night it was becoming clear that the timing was months and perhaps a year late--that at least some of the Republican leadership knew about Foley's sexually explicit emails to under-age pages (or former pages), and Speaker of the House Dennis Hassert may have known for at least six weeks.

Or at least according to one high ranking Republican, who had second thoughts of a different kind about what he said. The Washington Post reported: " House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told The Washington Post last night that he had learned this spring of inappropriate "contact" between Foley and a 16-year-old page. Boehner said he then told House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). Boehner later contacted The Post and said he could not remember whether he talked to Hastert." Apparently their fine conservative party was going to help re-elect Foley anyway.

Friday, September 29, 2006

sunset from space shuttle Discovery. Posted by Picasa
Bad Days in the Bush House

Apart from his inspiring successes with his rubber stamp Republican Congress in getting his way on bills to expand detainee and rendition policy, give him absolute power to torture, and provide him with dubious legal cover for warrantless wiretapping, this is not a great week for Bush and the folks in the Bush House, and next week doesn't look it will be any better.

The good news for them statistically is that Bush's job approval has inched up in several polls. But it's not all good news. The Fox News poll does show him moving up 2 points to an otherwise dismal 42%; however, in congressional races this November, the voter preference for Democrats over Republicans has also risen, by 3 points. Nearly half (49%) favor Dems, while 38% favor GOPers.

Meanwhile, scandal has reappeared in the Bush House when a congressional committee report revealed that lobbyist Jack Abramoff, convicted of corruption, had logged in some 485 visits to the Bush House (and not the one or two the Bushites previously recalled), including 82 meetings with Karl Rove.

Reporting on the contents of revealed emails and other information has just begun, but already there are allegations implicating GOP campaign chair Ken Mehlman in getting a nomination killed at Abramoff's request, and Karl Rove in a scheme to deny a government job to the wife of a John McCain aide. A series of emails between Abramoff and ultraconservative Ralph Reed was called, "have you whacked mccain's wife yet?" These revelations are bound to be followed by others.

And there's another story that's just beginning, as the first dribbles of what may well become a flood of revelations from Bob Woodward's new book, State of Denial. First came the report that Woodward told 60 Minutes "that the Bush administration has not told the truth regarding the level of violence, especially against U.S. troops, in Iraq. He also reveals key intelligence that predicts the insurgency will grow worse next year."Said Woodward: "It’s getting to the point now where there are eight-, nine-hundred attacks a week. That's more than 100 a day. That is four an hour attacking our forces."

Then the New York Times reported that the book shows "dysfunction and division" in the Bush House over Irag, and specifically that Bush ignored an urgent request for more troops to combat a dangerously rising insurgency. And Think Progress quotes more of Woodward's 60 Minutes interview to air Sunday: The situation is getting much worse, says Woodward, despite what the White House and the Pentagon are saying in public. “The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse and, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon [saying], ‘Oh, no, things are going to get better,‘” he tells Wallace. “Now there’s public, and then there’s private. But what did they do with the private? They stamp it secret. No one is supposed to know,” says Woodward.

But at least for the weekend, the Bush House may have lucked out a little--a breaking story has Republican Rep Mark Foley, chair of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, resigning over the revelation of sexually explicit emails he wrote to several male congressional pages under the age of 18. When a scandal like that in your own party rescues you from too much attention, you know the Bush House is having a bad week.
The Day After...The Day of Shame

The most important and proximate dangers of the Bush indefinite detention and torture law will be to those who are swept up in current geopolitical terrorism, which mostly (but not exclusively) affects people from the Middle East or of Middle Eastern extraction, or who look like they might come from Pakistan, India--any place where people have vaguely nonwhite skin and dark hair, including Italy (and I say that with no irony at all, because I know of at least one such person pulled out of an airport line.)

But the future of the Bush indefinite detention and torture law can go well beyond that. And it takes little imagination, let alone paranoia, to see where it might go.

Glenn Greenwald in salon describes the general meaning of the law--and I do mean general, because it applies essentially to everyone in the world. He contends that it "would give the Bush administration the power to imprison people for their entire lives, literally, without so much as charging them with any wrongdoing or giving them any forum in which to contest the accusations against them. It thus vests in the administration the singularly most tyrannical power that exists -- namely, the power unilaterally to decree someone guilty of a crime and to condemn the accused to eternal imprisonment without having even to charge him with a crime, let alone defend the validity of those accusations.

The changes that the administration reportedly secured over the weekend for this "compromise" legislation make an already dangerous bill much worse. Specifically, the changes expand the definition of who can be declared an "enemy combatant" (and therefore permanently detained and tortured) from someone who has "engaged in hostilities against the United States" (meaning actually participated in war on a battlefield) to someone who has merely "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States.'

Expanding the definition in that way would authorize, as Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies points out, the administration's "seizure and indefinite detention of people far from the battlefield." The administration would be able to abduct anyone, anywhere in the world, whom George W. Bush secretly decrees has "supported" hostilities against the United States. And then they could imprison any such persons at Guantánamo -- even torture them -- forever, without ever having to prove anything to any tribunal or commission. (The Post story also asserts that the newly worded legislation "does not rule out the possibility of designating a U.S. citizen as an unlawful combatant," although the Supreme Court ruled [in the 2004 case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld] that there are constitutional limits on the government's ability to detain U.S. citizens without due process.)

Greenwald points out that despite what the Court says, there are American citizens already so detained, and he contends that this law will subject all American citizens to the risk of this treatment. And there is nothing in the law that says it applies only to those suspected of connections with Middle Eastern terrorists. Who else could it be used against?

Recall all those reports about Bush or Bush inspired survelliance of domestic peace groups, including Quakers. Even on the day this bill was passed by the Senate, George Bush himself as well as other Republicans were accusing their political opponents of harming America, of being disloyal and making America unsafe by opposing Bush policies. Recall as well the hatefilled anti-gay rhetoric coming from Bush-supporting fundamentalist Christian zealots, the veiled (and unveiled) racism, the intolerance for other points of view, the disregard for facts and reason, and the conscienceless attacks and violent threats made against opponents of reactionary right wing ideologies. These are the people in control of this government.

As for the future, David Roberts reminds us that until Middle Eastern terrorism became the Bushite rhetorical focus, the Bush partisans were redefining at least some aspects of protest and opposition to the environmental policies of Bush and his corporate sponsors as eco-terrorism. That's potentially the first step to a wider application of the term.

Sent to Gitmo for protesting greenhouse gas pollution? Seems incredible. But ask many of the people who supported the Patriot Act in 2001 whether they believed America would be the world's champion of torture a few years later, and hear what they say.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Day of Shame

It will be hard for future generations to pick a single Day of Shame, on which to mourn this shameful period in American politics and history, to review its hard lessons and to renew their commitment to ensuring that never again will America do these things: brandish cowardice as righteousness, use fear for political gain, make unnecessary war and continue it for bloody year after bloody year, and especially turn the clock back on civilization to conduct, justify and insist on brutality and torture that in the end yields nothing but emnity and shame.

Maybe they will choose the day the US invaded Iraq, or the day the first torture photos were revealed. But they might choose today as well, when the President of the United States made his second trip to Capitol Hill to lobby for a law allowing him to define what torture is, and when the US Senate voted to give him that power.

At least at this moment, that's the assumption, because a key vote on an amendment with the best chance of passing, and of denying Bush his power over international law and the US court system, failed in a close vote of the full Senate. Every Democrat but one voted against it, and five Republicans joined them. But it was not enough. And though some Democratic Senators--Kerry, Feingold, Leahy among the leaders--were aggressive and steadfast, in the end not even the Democrats could muster the courage to fillibuster the bill, purportedly for fear of being attacked by Republicans and their massive moneybags for being weak on terrorism.

Update: Senate Dem Leader Harry Reid issued this statement at the end of the Senate's day, stating that many of the worst provisions of the bill were put back into it after a so-called compromise was reached, and his belief that the resulting bill will be eventually found unconstitutional. Of course that will be many torture victims from now.

As Christy Hardy Smith writes at firedoglake, there are multiple reasons for the Bush push, all of them cowardly. Apart from whatever sad security the Bush cowards feel from torturing helpless people, there is the politics of election year--of appearing tough and castigating opponents of international outrages for being weak-willed, as if torturing someone you have imprisoned is brave, instead of as cowardly as it is useless in obtaining reliable information.

But I believe the third reason is really the strongest--Bush needs this law to keep himself and his buddies out of court, out of jail and maybe even out of this same Senate for an impeachment trial.

Smith quotes Jack Cafferty from CNN, and so will I, because this is a succinct summary of this ploy and its effects:

Cafferty: "President Bush is trying to pardon himself. Here’s the deal: Under the War Crimes Act, violations of the Geneva Conventions are felonies, in some cases punishable by death. When the Supreme Court ruled that the Geneva Convention applied to al Qaeda and Taliban detainees, President Bush and his boys were suddenly in big trouble. They’ve been working these prisoners over pretty good. In an effort to avoid possible prosecution they’re trying to cram this bill through Congress before the end of the week before Congress adjourns. The reason there’s such a rush to do this? If the Democrats get control of the House in November this kind of legislation probably wouldn’t pass.

You wanna know the real disgrace about what these people are about to do or are in the process of doing? Senator Bill Frist and Congressman Dennis Hastert and their Republican stooges apparently don’t see anything wrong with this. I really do wonder sometimes what we’re becoming in this country. "

There is really nothing more that needs to be said about how future generations will view this day. This is a day of Shame for the country and for everyone in it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I've begun collecting old comic book and sc-fi pulp magazine covers from the Internet. The appeal of all of them to boys is partly summarized in this very old one. Posted by Picasa
Failing Feel-Safe

Do Americans feel safe, or safer? Are they safer, or as the devastating National Intelligence Assessment reportedly says, have they been made less safe from terrorism by Iraq? Now that you mention it, how about those people who live in Iraq--the ones who were there before the U.S. brought its occupation force, its monumental bases and Burger Kings? How safe do they feel?

Well, obviously they don't feel safe and they aren't safe, and they have strong opinions on why, and what will make them feel safer. According to the Washington Post, a poll by the U.S. State Department shows that over 75% of Baghdad's people believe an immediate American withdrawl will make them safer. Overall, the Post reports, "A strong majority of Iraqis want U.S.-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their swift departure would make Iraq more secure and decrease sectarian violence..."

A separate poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland shows that 71% of Iraqis want Americans to cut and run within the year. But nearly 80% believe that the U.S. plans to permanently occupy the country.

Forget religion, forget ideology, forget cultural differences---that alone tells you why there is a growing insurgency in Iraq and in the Middle East. And why the National Intelligence Assessment concluded that Iraq is BushAmerica's gift to terrorism recruitment.

The Climate Crisis

Who's Paying? Who Will Pay?

Another week, another scientific study (this time by the National Academy of Science)showing the planetary temperature trending higher than in thousands of years. And another revelation (this time in the journal Nature) that the Bush adminstration suppressed science that doesn't jibe with its big money authoritarian agenda--this time by deep-sixing a study within the federal government linking more and fiercer hurricanes to global heating.

You can imagine how the Climate Crisis Deniers and other neocons are reacting to this. Actually you don't have to--Steven D at Bootrib tells you. Same old story.

So what's new? Maybe this trend: trying to hold the Climate Crisis Deniers accountable, first of all by identifying them and who is paying for it. Here's an article about Exxon-Mobil's efforts in the UK, and the implication of our old friend of Truth, the Philip Morris tobacco company.

It's clear to this little blog that some big money is being poured into Climate Crisis denying in the U.S. I'm getting regular emails from one of the bigger DC operations, out of the office of the Senate's Denier in Chief, James Inhofe, the chairman of the Senate Environment and Fossil Fuel Corporation Advancement committee. For them to find my email address and clutter my inbox tells me they've really got money to burn.

I've begun to suspect that some if not most if not all of the Deniers who show up here in the comments are paid to do so. Well, I have yet to make a nickel on this blog but I'm not going to stop advocating for the future. I'd like to see Climate Crisis Deniers identify who is paying for them. But I know who is going to pay for what they are doing: everyone in the future.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Pacific Spirit by Susan Point at Posted by Picasa
Q and N

It's the nail in the coffin of the Bush administration's war in Iraqnam, and its conduct of the war on terror simultaneously: a consensus report of 16 U.S. national security agencies that the warfare in Iraq has increased terrorism and made the world, and specifically the people of the United States, less safe than on 9/11/2001.

This conclusion of a classified report was published by the New York Times and the Washington Post, and confirmed in an Associated Press report carried in the Washington Post on Sunday.

The report concludes that the occupation of Iraq has helped create a new generation of radical Islamicist terrorists. Combined with the falsities that evidence shows were deliberate lies leading to the invasion of Iraq; with the evident misconduct of the aftermath of the invasion, the occupation and the warfare resulting in continung needless loss of life, and the relentless and accelerating drain on our military, our youth and our resources to the tune of a more than a billion dollars every week ; the official defense of a policy of torture that has inflamed the world and brought shame to America with no intelligence or security benefits, and the failures of Homeland Security and FEMA along with the billions lost in corporate corruption in Iraq, Homeland Security, FEMA and in Republican- run Washington in general; the Bush government is a tragic and continuing failure on a scale unknown in anyone's memory.

Yet reports persist that the Bush administration is deep into planning a repeat performance, this time exchanging the Q for an N by making war on Iran. Recent military movements as well as political whispers prompt some, including former Senator Gary Hart, to predict a Rovian October surprise, featuring the US bombing of Iran shortly before the November elections.

The stakes of such a reckless action should be self-evident, but how far they could go is outlined in a series of essays by Jeff Huber at E Pluribus Media. Others (including former CIA Larry Johnson) contend that the US started a shift of power in Iraq that moves it towards alliance with Iran. A U.S. war on Iran would simply accelerate the process. The Bush administration's policies and mistakes would be an even greater contributor to the causes of terrorism as well as to terrorist recruitment.

And while we wait for the other shoe to drop on torture, we are already seeing the strange fruits of Bush's dark and erratic policies on nuclear weapons: planning new ones for the U.S., helping India acquire more, while threatening to bomb Iran for nuclear weapons it doesn't have and can't develop for years. One result is this significant but under-reported event (covered by Think Progress ): the possibility that Egypt will embark on a nuclear weapons program.

For the Bushites, exchanging an N for a Q in their patriotism sandbag of voters along with the biennual fearmongering and tough talk on terrorism (we'll torture the world into a safer place for Americans) is part of the political calculation that is supposed to equal electoral victory in November. The ultimate price to the world and to every non-superwealthy American doesn't count.

Only when Americans stop falling for this cynical button-pushing--only when voters stop being played for saps--will it ever stop. It's got to stop now.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Flower stalls at Pike's Market, Seattle
photo: BK Posted by Picasa

Happy Birthday

And lots of flowers, to Margaret, and my sister Debbie (tomorrow)