Friday, December 02, 2005a memo has emerged in which Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito "outlined a strategy for attacking the 1973 Roe ruling without making a "frontal assault" that might prove unwinnable. "What can be made of this opportunity to advance the goals of bringing about the eventual overruling of Roe v. Wade and, in the meantime, of mitigating its effects?" he asked in the memo concerning a Pennsylvania case before the Supreme Court, Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists."
A large group of us always suspected that Miers was a stealth candidate put in place to overturn Roe, and the fact that Alito failed to detail his role in this memo in his Senate questionnaire just shows that these nominees have been instructed to fly under the radar when it comes to abortion rights.
Kind of makes you wonder what John Roberts has up his sleeve.
Newly Released Papers Energize Alito's Critics
Credibility Questions Are Raised Anew
By Charles Babington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 2, 2005; Page A02
Newly released documents by Samuel A. Alito Jr. touching on abortion and other issues have pumped new life into efforts to sharply challenge his nomination to the Supreme Court, liberal activists said yesterday.
Details of Alito's 1985 strategy to undermine the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling have energized abortion rights groups, they said, but broader questions about his overall credibility may eventually prove more problematic to the Bush administration's confirmation efforts. One Democratic senator demanded yesterday that Alito explain why he omitted references to a 17-page abortion-strategy memo in a questionnaire recently returned to the Senate Judiciary Committee, while another senator -- Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), the committee's senior member -- said that "a credibility gap is emerging with each new piece of information released on Judge Alito's record."
In a sign of Republican nervousness about the criticisms, Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) quickly scheduled a meeting with Alito for today, after which the senator will speak to reporters. Although Specter sometimes differs with President Bush, the White House credits him with stepping in to smooth out controversies in the previous confirmation efforts, for Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and White House counsel Harriet Miers, who ultimately withdrew and was replaced by Alito.
The flurry of events was triggered by the release Wednesday of the lengthy 1985 memo in which Alito, then a Justice Department lawyer in the Reagan administration, outlined a strategy for attacking the 1973 Roe ruling without making a "frontal assault" that might prove unwinnable. "What can be made of this opportunity to advance the goals of bringing about the eventual overruling of Roe v. Wade and, in the meantime, of mitigating its effects?" he asked in the memo concerning a Pennsylvania case before the Supreme Court, Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Alito did not cite the case in his responses to the Senate questionnaire, also released on Wednesday, which asked him to describe the most significant litigation matters he has handled. The omission angered Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, which will convene for Alito's confirmation hearing on Jan. 9.
"In light of your 17-page memorandum and the accounts of your former colleagues, your 'participation in the litigation' was clearly substantial," Schumer said in a letter asking Alito to explain. Citing a previously disclosed memo in which Alito successfully sought a promotion in the Justice Department, Schumer added: "In your 1985 job application, written only a few months later, you appeared to highlight your work on the Thornburgh case."
Although the Wednesday disclosures reinvigorated liberal groups hoping to block Alito's confirmation, Democrats steered clear of suggesting that they might form the basis of a filibuster, a tactic in which opponents could try to thwart the nominee even though Republicans hold 55 of the chamber's 100 seats. "The more we learn about Judge Alito, the more problematic this nomination becomes," said Rebecca Kirszner, spokeswoman for Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). "The Democratic caucus will wait for the hearings before any decisions are made."
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Republican Senator blames Democrats for deaths of children
by O.Kay Henderson
A Republican Senator is accusing Democrats in the Senate who oppose the death penalty of causing the deaths of children who're the victims of a kidnapping or sexual abuse. Republican Senator Larry McKibben of Marshalltown made his comments this (Wednesday) morning during a statehouse news conference.
McKibben says there's a "de facto death sentence for children" today in Iowa. "If you kidnap someone or rape someone, either one of those is life in prison without the possibility of parole. What is the next logical step move for the kidnapper and rapist to do? Simply murder the victim," McKibben says. McKibben repeatedly tried, without success, to get a Senate debate on the death penalty last spring. The Democrat Leader in the Senate blocked that debate. "I think by the Senate Democrats not allowing us to have that debate and have that discussion, they've de facto given us a death penalty and it's a death penalty for minor children in this state," McKibben says. "I think it's time that that ends."
McKibben argues that the death penalty for child killers would be a deterrent and save lives. McKibben says it's time to stop finding children "in rivers or in shallow graves or stuffed in cabinets." The body of Evelyn Miller, the girl murdered this summer in Floyd County, was found in a river and the body of Jetseta Gage, the Cedar Rapids girl raped and murdered allegedly at the hands of a convicted sex offender, was found stuffed in a cabinet in a mobile home.
McKibben is urging Iowans to lobby their legislators to enact a death penalty for anyone who murders a child.
"I think we need to tell the people of Iowa it's time to contact your local state senator and say 'We want (you) to have this debate in the spring of 2006," McKibben says.
Senator Keith Kreiman, a Democrat from Bloomfield, takes a shot back at McKibben. Kreiman says Republicans have refused to provide enough money to the state's child protective services system, and those budget constraints have ended up being a death penalty for some kids, too. Kreiman and McKibben are both members of a legislative panel that's meeting today (Wednesday) at the statehouse, reviewing Iowa's sex offender laws.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Sunnis Accuse Iraqi Military of Kidnappings and Slayings
By Dexter Filkins
The New York Times
Tuesday 29 November 2005
Baghdad - As the American military pushes the largely Shiite Iraqi security services into a larger role in combating the insurgency, evidence has begun to mount suggesting that the Iraqi forces are carrying out executions in predominantly Sunni neighborhoods.
Hundreds of accounts of killings and abductions have emerged in recent weeks, most of them brought forward by Sunni civilians, who claim that their relatives have been taken away by Iraqi men in uniform without warrant or explanation.
Some Sunni men have been found dead in ditches and fields, with bullet holes in their temples, acid burns on their skin, and holes in their bodies apparently made by electric drills. Many have simply vanished.
Some of the young men have turned up alive in prison. In a secret bunker discovered earlier this month in an Interior Ministry building in Baghdad, American and Iraqi officials acknowledged that some of the mostly Sunni inmates appeared to have been tortured.
Bayan Jabr, the interior minister, and other government officials denied any government involvement, saying the killings were carried out by men driving stolen police cars and wearing police and army uniforms purchased at local markets. "Impossible! Impossible!" Mr. Jabr said. "That is totally wrong; it's only rumors; it is nonsense."
Many of the claims of killings and abductions have been substantiated by at least one human rights organization working here - which asked not to be identified because of safety concerns - and documented by Sunni leaders working in their communities.
American officials, who are overseeing the training of the Iraqi Army and the police, acknowledge that police officers and Iraqi soldiers, and the militias with which they are associated, may indeed be carrying out killings and abductions in Sunni communities, without direct American knowledge.
But they also say it is difficult, in an already murky guerrilla war, to determine exactly who is responsible. The American officials insisted on anonymity because they were working closely with the Iraqi government and did not want to criticize it publicly.
Cunningham pleads guilty to tax evasion
LOS ANGELES - U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a California Republican, pleaded guilty on Monday to felony conspiracy and tax evasion for taking money from a defense contractor in exchange for help in securing Defense Department contracts.
Cunningham, 63, an eight-term Congressman and decorated Vietnam War veteran, had been under federal investigation for his ties to Washington-based defense contractor MZM Inc. since the summer.
In July he denied any wrongdoing but said he would not seek reelection in 2006. He is scheduled to be sentenced on February 27. He could be ordered to spend 10 years in prison and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
While there was no immediate word if Cunningham would resign from Congress, under House rules a member convicted of a felony loses the right to vote in the U.S. House of Representatives and in committee.
Cunningham's plea was entered at a San Diego federal court hearing following several months of investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, the criminal investigative arm of the Pentagon, the FBI and federal prosecutors.
"Yes, your honor," Cunningham said when Judge Larry Burns asked him if he had accepted bribes.
Cunningham pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and tax evasion. The last charge stemmed from the underreporting of his income in 2004.
Monday, November 28, 2005
I thought this was a suitable story to get the ball rolling again: a video (seen here) has surfaced of British contractors shooting up Iraqi drivers to the tune of Elvis Presley's Mystery Train.
Okay, maybe those vehicles really were trying to ram their convoy. Maybe. But the video makes it appear as if those vehicles are simply driving along and getting strafed by a bunch of assholes. The main issue is that we really have nothing to go on except for the word of the people involved, and they have absolutely no reason, whatsoever, to tell the truth, as the truth would damage their contract. They have no motive to be honest or upfront. Hell, it's probably better for business if they're known to be, by the people with money, hardasses with no regard for morality.
'Trophy' video exposes private security contractors shooting up Iraqi drivers
By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
A "trophy" video appearing to show security guards in Baghdad randomly shooting Iraqi civilians has sparked two investigations after it was posted on the internet, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal.
The video has sparked concern that private security companies, which are not subject to any form of regulation either in Britain or in Iraq, could be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent Iraqis.
The video, which first appeared on a website that has been linked unofficially to Aegis Defence Services, contained four separate clips, in which security guards open fire with automatic rifles at civilian cars. All of the shooting incidents apparently took place on "route Irish", a road that links the airport to Baghdad.
The road has acquired the dubious distinction of being the most dangerous in the world because of the number of suicide attacks and ambushes carried out by insurgents against coalition troops. In one four-month period earlier this year it was the scene of 150 attacks.
In one of the videoed attacks, a Mercedes is fired on at a distance of several hundred yards before it crashes in to a civilian taxi. In the last clip, a white civilian car is raked with machine gun fire as it approaches an unidentified security company vehicle. Bullets can be seen hitting the vehicle before it comes to a slow stop.
There are no clues as to the shooter but either a Scottish or Irish accent can be heard in at least one of the clips above Elvis Presley's Mystery Train, the music which accompanies the video.
Last night a spokesman for defence firm Aegis Defence Services - set up in 2002 by Lt Col Tim Spicer, a former Scots Guards officer - confirmed that the company was carrying out an internal investigation to see if any of their employees were involved.
The Foreign Office has also confirmed that it is investigating the contents of the video in conjunction with Aegis, one of the biggest security companies operating in Iraq. The company was recently awarded a £220 million security contract in Iraq by the United States government. Aegis conducts a number of security duties and helped with the collection of ballot papers in the country's recent referendum
Lt Col Spicer, 53, rose to public prominence in 1998 when his private military company Sandlines International was accused of breaking United Nations sanctions by selling arms to Sierra Leone.
The video first appeared on the website www.aegisIraq.co.uk. The website states: "This site does not belong to Aegis Defence Ltd, it belongs to the men on the ground who are the heart and soul of the company." The clips have been removed.
The website also contains a message from Lt Col Spicer, which reads: "I am concerned about media interest in this site and I remind everyone of their contractual obligation not to speak to or assist the media without clearing it with the project management or Aegis London.
"Refrain from posting anything which is detrimental to the company since this could result in the loss or curtailment of our contract with resultant loss for everybody."